There’s No Do-Over’s Dubya

George Bush promises a “”better and more effective response” to hurricanes one year after Katrina.

In related news, George Bush promises increased security at Pearl Harbor in case of another attack from Japan, a rapid rescue attempt should the Titanic sink again, and promises not to sit around reading a children’s book should the World Trade Center be attacked by terrorists again.

Posted in George Bush. Tags: . 3 Comments »

Kerry on Changing the Voting Laws

This story from earlier today on John Kerry is so poorly written I didn’t even bother to link to it earlier, until I found that it has received considerable attention in the blogosphere. Kerry sent out an email supporting Ted Strickland, who is running against Ken Blackwell for Governor of Ohio. Kerry noted problems with voter suppression in Ohio:

On one side is Ted Strickland — a good man admired by Democrats and Republicans alike. On the other side is his Republican opponent, Ken Blackwell, who has used his office to abuse our democracy and threaten basic voting rights.

This isn’t just rhetoric. As you know, in 2004 while serving as a co-chair of George W. Bush’s 2004 Presidential campaign in Ohio, Secretary of State Blackwell oversaw the state’s 2004 election. He used the power of his state office to try to intimidate Ohioans and suppress the Democratic vote. Is he ashamed of what he did? No — he’s emboldened by it.

Since 2004, he has twisted the election process even more, adding new voting regulations that have created confusion and controversy. His legacy as Secretary of State? Putting partisanship ahead of the electorate’s fundamental right to vote. That’s not just a reason not to promote him as Governor; it demands a grassroots mission to stop Ken Blackwell from getting a further grip on power in Ohio.

The article confuses the issue by reporting, “ Multiple lawsuits by outside groups were unsuccessful in challenging Ohio’s 2004 election. One case filed by the League of Women Voters is still in U.S. District Court in Toledo. It claims Ohio’s election system discriminates against minority voters.”

This confuses two separate issues, voter suppression and claims that the election was “stolen” and leads to analysis which fails to understand the situation such as this from Decision ’08:

So Kerry didn’t contest it, a recount showed Bush won by over 100,000 votes, and no lawsuits contesting the results have been successful either – yet John Kerry, a sitting U.S. senator, doesn’t mind sowing public distrust of the democratic process for temporary political gain, at a time when voter cynicism is sky high.

Some like Robert Kennedy, Jr.along with some irresponsible bloggers are making noise with unsubstantiated claims that the election was stolen. They continue to spread absurd arguments about the exit polls and stealing of votes. This is not what John Kerry is talking about here.

John Kerry has been speaking out about measures which suppress the vote since the election. He is not saying the election was stolen. There is no way to know to what degree these measures affected the result. He is not even saying that all of the measures are illegal. The problem is that Blackwell’s actions may have been llegal under Ohio law, but should not be. Therefore the comments on court decisions are irrelevant to Kerry’s argument. What Kerry is saying is that changes are needed in the laws, and that the way to accomplish this is to elect Ted Strickland rather than Ken Blackwell.

Creative Accounting

I actually heard of this a while back, but it has suddenly been a topic of discussion in the blogosphere (such as here and here). In order to make it appear the Republicans aren’t running up as huge a deficit, they are going to delay making government payments from late September until October. That means that Medicare will hold up the checks paid to doctors and hospitals for services performed in September:

That way, point out the gleeful budgeteers and Medicare pooh-bahs, all of whom presumably are glowing with health, Uncle Sam’s Medicare tab this fading fiscal year will be $5.2 billion less than it otherwise would have been. Or at least would seem to be $5.2 billion less — in Washington, as we all know, appearance and reality are not invariably the same phenomena.

Of course, this oh-so-clever stratagem would mean that next fiscal year’s Medicare bill will be $5.2 billion more than it would have been. But, not to worry, those indefatigable financial watchdogs in the Office of Management and Budget and their henchmen in the uppermost reaches of Medicare are on the case. And we have every confidence that next year they’ll make up for any untoward increases in costs by ceasing to send checks to doctors, hospitals et al. in August or even July, if necessary.

Actually the Bush Administration can’t even take full credit for this idea. Several years ago they placed a permanent delay of around a couple of weeks into payment of Medicare claims. This gave the appearance of a one time reduction in expenses. Ever since then Medicare claims have continued to take a little longer to be paid than other payers. They’ve also considered temporary delays of this type in the past.
If this really helps keep the government out of a financial mess, so be it. I just have one question. May I delay sending in my quarterly federal income tax estimate from September until October when I receive payment from the government?

Posted in Health Care. Tags: , . 1 Comment »

Republican Policy of Perpetual Warfare for Political Gain Failing

E. J. Dionne, Jr. wonders, by election day, “how many Republican candidates will have come out against the Iraq war or distanced themselves from the administration’s policies?” The latest prominent example is that “Rep. Chris Shays (R-Conn.), one of the most articulate supporters of the war, announced last Thursday that he favored a time frame for withdrawing troops.”

Dionne expects more Republicans to distance themselves from Bush’s failed policies in light of the New York Times poll which shows that a majority do not believe that “the struggle for Iraq was not connected to the larger war on terrorism. They thus renounced a proposition the administration has pushed relentlessly since it began making the case four years ago to invade Iraq.”

The problems for Bush are even worse than Dionne states. Those who realize that Iraq is a diversion from the real problems of terrorism are less likely to support Republicans. On the other hand, even many people who still do see Iraq as part of the struggle against terrorism also see Bush’s failure in Iraq as being a failure against terrorism. This helps undermine what had been Bush’s strongest point politically, even if never deserved.

Dionne gives several more examples of Republican candidates who are distancing themselves from Bush. This is the best sign that the Republican policy of perpetual warfare for political gain is failing. While we expect little from George Bush intellectually, or from Dick Cheney ethically, it is hard to believe that the majority of Republicans would have supported such a disastrous policy as Iraq on their own. The authoritarian mind set of the modern Republican party kept them in line, and many supported Bush as long as they saw this as politically beneficial. Republicans were rewarded in 2000 and 2004 for placing politics above the good of the country. It appears they can no longer win this way.

Iranian President Challenges Bush to Debate

CNN reports that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called on George Bush to meet him in a televised debate so he could present the Iranian viewpoint. He must have watched George Bush get creamed by John Kerry in the Presidential debates. No way the United States will allow Iran to attack us at our weakest link.

Hollywood and Religion

The Economist sees Paramount’s dumping of Tom Cruise, as well as Mel Gibson’s problems, to be  a sign that Hollywood does not like religion. Conservatives like to claim that Hollywood is hostile to religion, but using Tom Cruise and Mel Gibson hardly supports this argument.

Mr Cruise’s latest vehicle, “Mission: Impossible III”, performed relatively poorly in part because filmgoers disliked his relentless promotion of Scientology, along with some other eccentric conduct. Mr Redstone blamed Mr Cruise’s behaviour for the film’s box-office take falling short by perhaps $150m. Mr Cruise’s people agree the decision to split was motivated by financial concerns, but insist the star is adopting a radical new business model, whereby hedge funds will invest in his filmmaking.

Certainly Scientology is an odd religion. Adherents give serious sums of money to the Church of Scientology and accept the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard, a science-fiction writer. He maintained that humans are spirits that were trapped in ice and banished to earth 75m years ago by Xenu, the ruler of the Galactic Confederation. Mr Cruise is in good company in swallowing this type of nonsense. Many wealthy Hollywood stars have turned to Scientology to plug a spiritual gap.

John Travolta, another high-profile member and vocal advocate of Scientology, also came unstuck in his efforts to promote the religion. Mr Travolta’s “Battlefield Earth”, based on a book by Hubbard, was widely regarded as a dreadful film and bombed at the box office in 2000. But while the public’s taste for Scientology is limited other religious films have fared better.

Mel Gibson, an Australian star, failed to find Hollywood backing for “The Passion of the Christ”. No big film company was ready to take on a film with dialogue in Aramaic, Hebrew and Latin. But it made over $370m even without a large Hollywood distributor. Audiences were drawn by the overt Christian message; younger fans liked the gore.

The problem with Tom Cruise and Mel Gibson isn’t that they are religious, but the manners in which they express their religion. Movie goers who might tolerate mainstream religion are turned off by a bizarre cult such as Scientology, and the anti-Semitism of Mel Gibson. As they note, other movies dealing with religion have been successful:

“Recent ones such as “The Da Vinci Code”, which attacks some central tenets of Christianity, or “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”, an adaptation of C.S.Lewis’s Christian allegorical novel, have made good money.”

South Park Republicans Rebelling Against GOP

It’s getting hard to tell whether we should be watching soccer mom’s, security mom’s Walmart Republicans, Starbucks Republicans, or the Investor Class. John Tierney has written about yet another group, South Park Refugees. Andrew Sullivan previously labeled them South Park Republicans, however they no longer look like they plan to vote Republican:

I have bad news for the G.O.P. regarding that promising new bloc of voters, the South Park Republicans. It turns out they’re not Republicans, at least not anymore.

According to Wikipedia, which would definitely be these voters’ encyclopedia of choice, South Park Republicans are young Americans who “hold political beliefs that are, in general, aligned with those that seem to underpin gags and storylines in the popular television cartoon.” The encyclopedia summarizes these beliefs with a quotation from one of the show’s creators, Matt Stone, which includes a crucial expletive I must elide: “I hate conservatives, but I really … hate liberals.”

Republicans thought this added to their big tent, not reallizing that they have chased everyone except the far right out. They hoped that the young could vote along with the religious right while feeling more comfortable watching a show like South Park. It turns out that the creators of the show are actually libertarians, and not the type of libertarian who goes along with the GOP:

Stone and Parker were never thrilled to be G.O.P. poster boys and said they weren’t sure what a South Park Republican was. They were generally reluctant to be pigeonholed ideologically, but last week they clarified it by headlining at a Reason magazine conference in Amsterdam, the libertarian version of Davos. Stone and Parker said that if you had to put a label on them, they were libertarian — and that didn’t mean Republican to this crowd.

The G.O.P. used to have a sizable libertarian bloc, but I couldn’t see any sign of it at the conference. Stone and Parker said they were rooting for Hillary Clinton in 2008 simply because it would be weird to have her as president. The prevailing sentiment among the rest of the libertarians was that the best outcome this November would be a Democratic majority in the House, because then at least there’d be gridlock.

“We’re the long-suffering, battered spouse in a dysfunctional political marriage of convenience,” said Nick Gillespie, the editor in chief of Reason. “Most of the libertarians I know have given up on the G.O.P. The odds that we’ll stick around for the midterm election are about as good as the odds that Rick Santorum will join the Village People.”

In the past the Republicans received support from libertarians who were fooled into believing their rhetoric supporting small government, freedom, and the free market. Once they took power, however, Republicans have become the party of big government, a more authoritarian government, and corporate welfare instead of capitalism. Increasingly libertarians are considering voting for Democrats or staying home rather than voting Republican. This includes many of the people the Republicans thought were South Park Republicans.