Monday, November 28, 2005

Beauty and the Beast

I'm supposed to be a Raiders fan, but the Colts are pretty exciting. It would be pretty exciting if I get to watch them win their 15th game against the Seahawks. Manning is pretty impressive.

Oh yeah, politics: Duke Cunningham is in some serious manure and the Abramoff scandal is running deep. I get no satisfaction seeing the GOP go down this way. It's sad that they have become so power hungry and corrupt. I'd rather face off against the GOP on policy issues. But their corruption and power craze permeates everything they do these days: from shutting off microphones to preventing Democrats from legitimate oversight; from preventing Dems obtaining space for investigative hearings to challenging patriotism of people with different policy positions. None of this is something worth celebrating. History will judge the current GOP harshly on so many levels.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Standards and Education Policy Incentives

Just a thought: Rather than punish schools for how they perform on national standards based criteria, why don't we punish the lawmakers instead? If the schools fail to make desired improvements, then we take a chunk out of the lawmakers salary.

If I were to become a Senator or Congressman, that would be one of my first pieces of legislation. When students fail, it is probably because we aren't doing everything we could do. Why should congress continue to get paid in full if they continue to fail?

Of course, most people in Congress are already wealthy so this probably wouldn't have much effect. I probably wouldn't be very popular either.

Friday, November 25, 2005

More On McCain

Over at TPMCafe, Nathan Newman elaborates on my view on McCain and the GOP agenda:
Dems need more than scandal; they need to take down the whole GOP agenda and make it clear that folks like McCain, despite his media image, is ultimately down with the whole conservative policy agenda.
The Nation article that Nathan links to has several pieces of important information on McCain (my emphasis):
Before the event he had endorsed teaching "intelligent design" alongside evolution in public schools, and he had expressed support for a rigid state ban on gay marriage that denies government benefits to any unmarried couple. After brief opening remarks, McCain took questions for more than two hours, referring to Reagan as "my hero," invoking the support of other conservatives on issues such as stem-cell research and immigration, and strenuously defending President Bush's Iraq policy.

...After the antitax Club for Growth began running ads against McCain in New Hampshire, a state he won in 2000, he reversed positions and supported a procedural repeal of the estate tax. He has endorsed conservative Republican Ken Blackwell for Ohio governor. At the suggestion of conservative activist and longtime nemesis Grover Norquist, he campaigned for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's failed referendum initiatives in California, particularly the "paycheck protection" provision targeting unions' political activities.

...In late September, as Bush's presidency tailspinned, McCain headlined a dinner of conservative intellectuals sponsored by The American Spectator magazine. "Campaigning with George W. Bush was one of the proudest moments of my life," McCain declared.

...McCain has signed a "No Pork Pledge," fought against wasteful bridges in Alaska and urged deep cuts to nondefense and non-homeland-security-related spending--cuts that Democratic Senate minority leader Harry Reid dubs "immoral." At a recent appearance before the ultraconservative Heritage Foundation, McCain described himself as a "Barry Goldwater Republican" who "revere[s] Ronald Reagan and his stand of limited government."
A McCain presidency isn't likely to protect women's rights, workers rights, or the increasing number of Americans in poverty. Nor would a McCain presidency have good ideas to ensure the protection of Social Security or health care.

Democrats would do themselves good if they challenged McCain's positions instead of those of the hard-right. Although I don't think McCain's positions are dangerous for America (he seems to be a real fiscal conservative), I think that his positions are bad for America. He's a conservative with positions that are not in-line with those of most Americans. The hard-right has already lost. It's time Democrats start challenging the "moderate" wing of the Republican Party because it's much further to the right--and less compassionate--then the Republican Party of thirty years ago. The Republican agenda is not an agenda that Americans care for--and this includes McCain's agenda.

Monday, November 21, 2005

McCain's True Colors

Sure he occassionally comes down on the side of moderates, but time and time again, Sen. John McCain has shown he is a true conservative--just look at his voting record. He also stated support for "intelligent design" in classrooms, something not even Rick Santorum states anymore. That aside, Atrios has some frightenening news about Sen. McCain:
Now we find out that McCain is speaking at a fundraiser for George Wallace, Jr, someone who gave a speech to the Council of Conservative Citizens four times, including once this year. Here's the SPLC on Wallace.
Like Atrios, I've never understood the Democratic fascination with this man. Nor do I believe there are truly moderate Republicans these days--though Lincoln Chafee and Arlen Specter probably come closest.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Welcome To 21st Century, Mr. Santorum

Via TPM, it looks like Rick Santorum has joined us from the pre-elightenment era:
U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum said Saturday that he doesn't believe that intelligent design belongs in the science classroom.

Santorum's comments to The Times are a shift from his position of several years ago, when he wrote in a Washington Times editorial that intelligent design is a "legitimate scientific theory that should be taught in the classroom."

But on Saturday, the Republican said that, "Science leads you where it leads you."
With eight out of eight pro-ID Dover School Board Members getting voted out for pro-science/pro-reality candidates, this move isn't a surprise. Be on the lookout for Kansas School board members to follow suit.

This isn't a political win, this is a win for science. Science shouldn't be subject to the whims of political sentiment.

Monday, November 14, 2005

A Plan For Iraq

The New York Times reports that the Senate is getting serious about executive accountability on Iraq. Of course this is similar to what Democrats have been saying and what Harry Reid reiterated. I think Harry Reid was right when he says, "It is essential that the Bush administration submit an unclassified strategy for success in Iraq to the Congress and the American people specifying how and when our troops can begin coming home." He goes on to list a few things Bush must provide Congress and the American people, including:
  • The number of Iraqi battalions that must be able to operate independently or take the lead in counterinsurgency operations
  • The number of Iraqi special police units that must be able to operate independently or take the lead in policing
  • The number of regular police that must be trained and equipped
  • The ability of Iraq’s Federal ministries and provincial and local governments to independently sustain, direct and coordinate Iraq’s security forces
Of course, I'd like to see more details on reconstruction efforts, which is important.

Not to pat myself too much on the back, but this sounds a lot like something I said five months ago. If some inexperienced schmoe like me can can come up with a similar plan in a few minutes, why the heck did it take the Senate so darn long? I was asking for this in July. How many troops and Iraqi civilians have died since? We could be much farther along if these damn Senators had done something as simple as requiring a little executive oversight!

Shedding Light On Alito

I've been reserving judgement on the Alito nomination until more information becomes available. Nothing through last week convinced me that he would be a bad choice. Then of course, the New York Times publishes a pretty damning article:
"I am particularly proud of my contributions in recent cases in which the government argued that racial and ethnic quotas should not be allowed and that the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion," [Alito] said.

...In the document, Alito also declared himself a "lifelong registered" Republican and a Federalist Society member...

In the document, Alito said he drew inspiration from the "writings of William F. Buckley, Jr., The National Review and Barry Goldwater's 1964 campaign."

"In college, I developed a deep interest in constitutional law, motivated in large part by disagreement with Warren Court decisions, particularly in the areas of criminal procedure, the Establishment Clause and reapportionment," he said.
OK, he appears to be hostile to affirmative action (I say that because conservatives often use the euphemism of "racial and ethnic quotas" to refer to affirmative action generally rather than merely quotas, which is a more complex discussion) and privacy rights (which Roe is founded on).

Of course, what I find even more troubling than that is that he appears to be proud to be a member of the Federalist Society and that he was inspired by Buckley, The National Review, and Barry Goldwater. Read that again: a member of the Federalist Society and inspired by Barry Goldwater. And of course he seems opposed to the Warren Court.

I've got no qualms about votes against him now or even a filibuster against him. Alito now appears to be a very dangerous nominee to the Supreme Court. He's on the record as being opposed to abortion but has told Senators, including Arlen Specter, that he has "great respect" for precedent. But how can he support precedent if he truly does not believe in the constitutionality of the precedent?

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Moderate Myth

Is there such a thing as a GOP moderate? Perhaps, but I'm not convinced that they care to bring the party to the middle. First, let's start with the House and Senate. Until last week, the so-called moderates went lock-step with the conservative wing that now has our economy in a perilous situation (with trade and budget deficits posing an enormous problem), has rolled back consumer and environmental protections, curtailed Congressional oversight and has politicized science (amongst other things). Sure, they have a token vote every now and then against the ultra-conservative wing, but there are enough of them that our country could be in a much better footing then we are now if they voted against the ultra-conservative wing.

The so-called GOP moderates in Congress let things get out of hand. Even some of the "triumphs" we had were often overturned during conference committees. Of course, now that Bush and the ultra-conservative wing are a liability, they are going to run to the middle. But they should have done that a long time ago because it's right--it just so happens that it is good politics.

The Washington Post is now talking about how so-called moderate Republicans are unhappy but sticking with the GOP. What I think is important is that the moderates are a minority in the party but don't really care about the right-ward drift of the party:
First, conservatives in their party still outnumber moderates (55 to 39 percent in the most recent survey). Second, few moderates currently see the Democrats as an appealing alternative...80 percent stuck with the GOP.
So, moderates are "unhappy", but are completely willing to get right in line with the hard right-wing of the party and keep them in power.

Over at Washington Monthly, Kevin discussesed the divergence of the GOP activists from the "center". Here is the figure here:

You can find his complete post here and a more thorough analysis of the GOP activists divergence from the center here.

I really want the moderate Republicans to become the dominant faction, but I don't think it's going to happen. What's worse, even though the faction that controls the party is going further and further to the hard-right, the moderates are letting them get away with it. I think the country works best when the two parties work together. That just can't happen with the far-right wing of the GOP (hence the lack of Congressional oversight, their prevention of Democrats being able to find space in the Capitol to have hearings, etc.). The country is going to continue to spiral out of control if the GOP middle doesn't assert themselve. Let's hope that their recent revolt is the beginning of that assertion and not just a temporary political ploy.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Blood and the Dixie Chicks

Give blood for life at the Palo Alto Blood center. It's quick and easy. Plus, you get a free cookie when it's over.

A couple weeks ago I found an old Dixie Chicks CD I had in storage and thought I'd throw it in the rotation. I realized that I like their music. Plus, I think they are really cool. I remember when Clear Channel was kicking them off their stations and sponsoring CD burning parties. They took a lot of flack for saying they didn't like George Bush that much. Now that Bush is one of the least popular persons in the country (not to mention world), I wonder what their critics are saying now.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

my feelings exactly

inspired by DKos, when the results were just starting to look like they do now (Congrats everyone!):

an enormous waste of money.

I Want To Go To Sleep...

But I can't. I had to bail from the great event that Margot and Stanford Students for Choice put on to go to a Palo Alto City Council event that wasn't nearly as exciting. I bailed on that. (Sorry, Sid.) So here I am: At home, pressing the refresh button on Internet Explorer when I'd rather be asleep.

At this point, Prop. 76-80 are already declared huge losers. Prop. 74 will be a big loser, but not quite a huge loser. I'm still up because I think 73 is extremely dangerous, regardless of your personal stance on abortion. I think 75 is extremely unfair and those of us not in unions shouldn't be able to dictate union policy.

There are a handful of elections that I can already discuss that I think are important: The Virginia Governor's race, the St. Paul mayoral race, and Prop. 76. First, the VA governor's race shows that a strong Democratic candidate can win in a staunchly Republican state. Bush's last minute appearance with Kilgore, the GOP candidate, didn't seem to alter the race. The 6 point win by Kaine is actually stronger than I would have thought possible and good news for red state Democrats. This was Kilgore's race to lose and he lost it by running an ugly campaign and running on GOP ideology as opposed to effective government. Dems have a lot to learn from Kaine, who really impressed me.

The St. Paul mayoral race shows that embracing Bush is not good campaign policy. It riles up Democrats and Independents. Currently, most polls show that Independents are flat out rejecting the GOP platform. Save for a few hot-button issues that Dems can address a little more effectively, a lot of Republicans reject the GOP platform as well.

The embarassingly lopsided defeat of prop. 76 says that a huge majority of California flat out rejects Schwarzenegger's leadership and priorities. This is bad news for his reelection campaign. The other propositions were about bad policy, but prop. 76 was all about the state's trust in Schwarzenegger. Even in conservative San Diego, they rejected him. If he wants a chance to win in '06, he's going to have to abandon a large part of his GOP/Bush policies--which is nearly everything he stands for.

OK, The Chronicle just declared EVERY proposition a bust. With only Alameda and LA counties left, I think it's safe to say that all the propositions failed. With the exception of Karen Holman for PA City Council, I was a pretty good determinate of the general electorate!

Monday, November 07, 2005

The Ugly Side of Prop. 73

The No on 73 website has a section on real stories worth a few minutes time. One narative is particularly chilling:
I was taken way into the outskirts of town to a remote two-story building. Two men in black suits ushered me into a dimly lit room, which was empty except for an examining table with stirrups. They told me not to look at them. I looked down to the floor. I was told to get on the table and keep my eyes shut or I would be blindfolded. My arms were strapped down to the table. I was then told if anything went wrong that they couldn't help me and I could die, but that usually didn't happen.

One of them told me to open my mouth so he could put a piece of wood between my teeth. I was to bite down hard on the stick when the pain got bad and not to make any noise. My heart was racing and hammering in my ears. The pain was excruciating. I bit down on the stick harder and harder, tears streamed down my cheeks. I didn't dare make a sound. I kept my eyes shut tight so they would know that I hadn't seen them. I wanted my Mama holding my hand to make me feel safe, but there was no way she would have accepted me being pregnant. Now she would never know.
I'm not a big fan of abortion, but this is precisely why so many people fought to make it legal 30 years ago. Unfortunately, too many people are more content on making abortion illegal as opposed to reducing the number of abortions.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

I Do Care About The Other Props!

I haven't mention them because it seems pretty obvious. In a few sentences, here's what I think of the non-77 propositions:

  • Prop. 73: Making abortion illegal won't reduce the number of abortions. To reduce the number of abortions, we need to do much more than making it illegal or making it harder to get one. This proposition doesn't address the issue of reducing the number of abortions (more on that some other day). Further, this prop. puts extremely vulnerable young women in danger, since they will turn to whatever means necessary including unsafe "procedures". I'm happy to talk about reducing the number of abortions, but this won't do it.
  • Prop. 74: Two years for tenure is a little too early for my liking. However, I think we should work with teachers to come up with a way to ensure quality teachers rather than imposing the will of education "analysts" who probably never taught or haven't in a long time. This doesn't address the education problems and demeans teachers who really care.
  • Prop. 75: I'm not in a union so I shouldn't have any say in their internal workings. Nor should anyone else not in a union. The point that Schwarzenegger isn't making corporate California do the same deserves reiteration. It's already been settled that workers don't have to be members of a union--even though they probably owe their pay rate, insurance, etc. to their union counterparts. This creates an expensive impediment to the unions. Forcing unions to send out and process hundreds of thousands of forms every year doesn't seem fair.
  • Prop. 76: We saw what Schwarzenegger's priorities were the last time we gave him unilateral authority on the budget. We need checks and balances between branches of government, this removes those.
  • Prop 78: Not much to say about this other than the fact that big Pharma is pumping tens of millions of dollars into this. This will not help curtail drug costs.
  • Prop 79: I've read this and am not entirely convinced of it's efficacy. We need a bit more than this to make a difference.
  • Prop 80: This was thrown in by the Schwarzenegger opponents. I think we do need to do something about the energy situation. Is this the best we can do? I do like some aspects of it, though.

I'd like to propose that we make it mandatory that 50% of all eligible voters approve of a ballot measure to pass it. That might make it less likely to get horrible and misleading initiatives on the ballot. Plus, it would make it less likely that governors would call special elections deliberately designed to have low voter turnout. And it would save us tens of millions of dollars.

This Statement Is False

I don't have cable, but do get a handful of channels. This means that I get spared the bombardment of campaign ads. Yay! However, I did get to see the "Yes on Prop. 77" add featuring John McCain. It made me feel like I was in intro logic all over again.

My views on Prop. 77 should be well known so I won't discuss that. I did find it ironic, though, that Sen. McCain managed to jump into California politics to basically say that we can't trust politicians. I was left wondering if I could trust what Sen. McCain said. After all, he is a politician himself.

Letter to the Daily

The letter to the Daily about their endorsement of Prop. 77 (modified to include links):
As a registered Democrat who can legitimately be construed as a Party activist, I will not state my position on Proposition 77. But I would like to take issue with the a statement that the editorial board made on Friday in support of Prop. 77: "We think this plan will make elections more competitive". It was a little disappointing not to see any facts to back up this statement, since "independent commissions" in other states exist where this statement could be evaluated. I'm sure the editorial board did their homework on this, but I figured I'd share some of the homework I did on the subject.

The (AIRC) Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission is widely praised as a model for how redistricting should be done, and is similar to the idea presented in Prop. 77. If removing politicians from the drawing of district lines increases competition, as the editorial board suggests, then we would expect that the AIRC drawn districts would increase the competition in Congressional and State Senate races (state House representation is multi member, and are not considered). In fact, the actual numbers, easily obtained from the Arizona Secretary of State website indicate otherwise. Not only did all Congressional incumbents retain their seats, but their average margin of victory actually increased from the "gerrymandered" districts of 2000 (28% in 2000 to 35% in 2004 by my arithmetic). The numbers for 2000 can be found here; for 2004, here. I'll leave it as an exercise to see how many state senate seats changed hands.

Proponents of the constitutional amendment proposed by Prop. 77 seem quite set on incessantly chanting the "153" number for California. Yes, I think that is bad. But commission-based redistricting have not preformed much better, without any Congressional districts drawn by commissions changing hands. It's dishonest--or lazy--not to fully discuss the successes or failures of the alternatives. Additionally, Prop. 77 proponents fail to mention that 90% of incumbent Senators retain their seats--and no "gerrymandering" takes place for these races. It seems more likely that their is an inherent advantage to being an incumbent, such as name recognition and fundraising advantages.

Nearly every proponent of Prop. 77 explicitly state that it is not perfect and lacking. Furthermore, results from commission based districting states such Arizona and Iowa (where no Congressional seats changed hands, and competition decreased between 2004 and 2002) indicate that the success of these programs haven't been able to generate drastic changes in competititon--decreasing competition in Arizona.

The editorial board and proponents of Prop. 77 want me to put legislation into the state constitution that they admit isn't likely to be the best, while similar initiatives resulted in demonstrably poor results. That seems like a reckless way to treat the constitution. I tend to regard the constitution in high regards and shudder at the thought of putting something so dubious into it. I also disagree with the thought that a Proposition can make it into the constitution with 50% plus one of actual votes, which is likely to be a low percentage of the total voting population since this is the fifth election in the last two years. Shouldn't we hold constitutional amendments to a higher standard than this? Apparently, the editorial board doesn't think so.