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From NBCSports:

NoReasonGiven

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Would old taxation be forgone
and sequestration spawn?
The Congress blurts out “No!” but, then
our Senate flibusters on.
To the 1% have ye sold your soul
ye cannot bear to think
of Reagan era taxation rates
Instead of the fiscal cliff?

Over the fiscal cliff we go
Over the fiscal cliff
Our Congress sucks, let’s send those fucks
Over the fiscal cliff!

Recently, the Hellman house has been singing the Groceries’ Part of the New America. Staffan has been picking out tune on the piano, and Aina has enjoyed saying that she has a practical, economical compact car, and that she stays away from imports and two seaters.

So join us for a good eye-winkingly sardonic romp through the 1982 pre-alternative New Hope music scene. Or, for those of you sufficiently advanced in both age and musical taste, a stroll down memory lane…

Part of the New America

I guessed 371, it turns out to be 365. Not a landslide but nt a squeaker, either. I simply cannot believe that Indiana voted for Obama. Perhaps it was the basketball effect.

In the aftermath of the election there’s a lot of discussion about why America voted the way it did. Was it a vote against Bush or just a vote for change? Was it a vote for higher taxes or for lower taxes? Was it a vote for peace or a vote for more war in Afghanistan?

The best line I heard was from Bob Herbert: “Voters said no to incompetence and divisiveness” That pretty much sums up my vote in a nutshell.

The most clueless line I heard was Senator McConnell saying “I think there will be substantial opposition to moving America dramatically to the left, higher taxes, more regulation, more litigation, the whole kind of laundry list of left wing proposals”

Um, note to Senator McConnell: Obama only proposed raising taxes on people earning $250,000 or more. And guess what? Obama won that demographic 52-48. So if you actually look at the numbers, rich people in fact voted to give themselves a tax increase.

Well why not make a prediction? I’ll say Obama 371, McCain 167, with the state of Georgia being the big surprise win for the Democrats.

In order to make 371, Obama would win battleground states Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. McCain would win Arizona, Indiana, Missouri and Montana. Jim Martin will beat Saxby Chambliss for the Georgia senate seat, and the Democrats will have 59 senate seats.

Also, for the next three months, FOX news will whine incessantly about how the election was stolen due to ‘voter fraud’. Ironically, while there won’t be any significant ‘voter fraud’, FOX news will find numerous stories of Republicans who ended up not voting because the lines at the polls were too long.

Voting technology problems will be rampant, and will be especially problematic in Pennsylvania, where Obama’s margin of victory will be much smaller than the polls would have indicated.

  

Yes We Can

 

Yes We Can

Wil Weaton says it well:

I want my country back, and I want the despicable campaign of hate, fear, lies, and division run by John McCain and personified by Sarah Palin to be repudiated by a massive Obama win. We can make this happen. The polls all say we’re going to make this happen . . . but I remember 2000 and I remember 2004, and even though the polls say that we vastly outnumber  the people who tragically support John McCain, we’ve got to get to the polls and make sure our votes count.

So. Make sure you get out and vote tomorrow, especially you younger people. You guys are overwhelmingly Democratic (yay!) but you’re also notoriously unreliable (boo!) so if you think you’re going to be in line for a long time and you’re going to get bored, bring a book, bring a DS, bring a PSP, bring a deck of cards, bring your cellphone and liveblog or Twitter the whole thing . . . just don’t get out of line and don’t leave without voting!

Kerry v. Bush: A Christian Perspective

In discussing my political views with firends, many are interested in how my Christian faith informs my opinions about the candidates. Here I collect my thoughts on these issues.

I have decided on five categories, Charity, Honesty, Abortion, Stewardship and Evangelism as the five primary topics of interest to Christians in the coming election, and award the candidates 5 points for each category.

Charity ( 5 points)

At its roots, charity means a redistribution of power — wealth, opportunity, rights — from those who have more to those who have less, and embracing our responsibility to care for those who cannot care for themselves.

Charity ought not be measured just in terms of the amount of food or money or basic necessities given to the needy, although such gestures certainly enter into our calculations. We count many other social programs as charity — providing educational opportunities for the poor as way out of poverty, providing for entitlements such as Social Security for elders, providing basic health care for all Americans, use of our armed forces abroad to promote peace and stability, foreign aid to help the suffering in other countries

And we should weight equally our charity for the needy who live in this country, as well as the needy abroad. And we measure our successes by our results — not by our efforts. That is, massive spending on foreign aid counts little if it does not actually reduce the suffering in afflicted areas, and reduction in poverty by decreasing unemployment counts equal if not more than reducing poverty by simple handouts.

Our scorecard: Kerry 3, Bush 2

Both candidates will likely pursue policies which will generally help the American economy. Both candidates are committed to Social Security and some form of basic health care availability. Both candidates are committed to foreign aid and military intervention, although they may differ over particulars.

President Bush loses the tie breaker to Senator Kerry because his administration has brazenly given a tax cut to the richest Americans. Instead of calling on the wealthiest of us continue paying its larger share of the tax burden on America, President Bush has shifted that burden to the poor and middle class, and he has presided over four years of a widening gap between rich and poor in America. Senator Kerry has made reversing this shift one of his stated platform goals

Honesty ( 5 points)

It is always tempting to expect the worst from politicians in the honesty department. We have come to expect that dishonesty is simply part of the political process. Nevertheless, having a potential of 5 points to award for honesty is valuable: if we do not award all the points, it is at least a measure of how low our expectations are.

Our scorecard: Kerry 2, Bush 0

Sadly, we cannot award President Bush any points in this category. His administration has made a practice of encouraging and awarding dishonesty. Contrarily, when members of the administration have tried to express the truth which may be at odds with the Administrations viewpoint, they are suppressed. Some examples:

A) In the runup to the passing of the Medicare prescription drug bill, the administration knew that the true cost of the bill would be more than 100 billion dollars than their publically stated figures, and they released this information only the day after the bill passed.

B) In planning the occupation of Iraq, most military professionals ( including General Shinseki, then the US Army Chief of Staff ) estimated that the number of troops required to maintain peace during an occupation of Iraq was much higher than the administration figured was politically convenient. Rather than acknowledge the concerns of professionals, the Bush Administration suppressed opposing viewpoints, at great peril to the success of the mission

C) In the aftermath of 9/11 and the runup to the War in Iraq, there was much controversy over alleged links between Al Qaeda and Iraq. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the Bush Administration continues to insist that close ties existed between the two as part of its justification for the war. This behavior can only be described as complete contempt for the concept of honesty.

D) Rod Paige, the Secretary of Education, has been under fire for cooking the books during his tenure as Texas Superintendant of Schools. While in this position, Texas schools apparently showed a dramatic improvement, with rising test scores and falling dropout rates. In fact, it was because Paige rigged the system and encouraged School Principals to report phony numbers. As the self-styled “Education President”, Bush has pressed for more school accountability and increased testing. Continuing to Support Rod paige as his Secretary of Education can only be interpreted as a colossal disregard for honest accounting.

While we have little basis to think that honesty would be a top priority in a Kerry Administration, there is plenty of evidence that there would be improvement. In contrasting the advertisements of the Bush and Kerry campaigns, Kerry’s ads may stretch the truth, but Bush’s ads contain outright distortions. Kerry’s record in the Senate has shown a willingness to confront complex problems with balance. Lastly, Kerry’s record as part of Vietnam Veterans Against the War shows a willingness to confront reality, even when it is the ugly truth of the atrocities committed by Americans in Vietnam.

Abortion

Of the moral dilemmas facing the country, none is as complex as abortion. Both candidates are on record as being personally opposed to abortion, and as acknowledging that the numbers of abortions performed in the country are embarassingly high. President Bush is in favor of stricter laws to restrict abortion, and has indicated that any candidates he would nominate for the Supreme Court would be in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade. Senator Kerry is in favor of maintaining abortion as “safe, legal and rare”. He advocates education rather than legislation as the better tactic towards reducing this evil.

Our scorecard: Kerry 3, Bush 2

Both candidates get two points for opposing abortion and having a plan for addressing the issue. Senator Kerry gets the third point for having the more realistic plan.

We have looked at historical data for the number of abortions performed in the United States since 1980. Abortion numbers stayed fairly constant during the 1980’s. In the 90’s, under the Clinton administration, the numbers of abortions ( and the ratio of abortions to live births) steadily declined. Since 2000, however, the numbers of abortions seem to be increasing once again ( sources: Centers for Disease Control. See also the article “Pro-life? Look at the fruits” by Glen Stassen of the Fuller Theological Seminary — http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=sojomail.display&issue=041013#5) .

This seems very counter-intuitive — why would abortion rates decline while a pro-choice President is in office, and rise again with a pro-life president in office? The explanation seems to be that legislation is unlikely to have an effect on abortion rates. Rather, abortion rates are linked to poverty levels. Women choose to have abortions for various reasons, the leading one being that they feel like they can’t afford to care for a baby, a decision affected by the cost of health care as well as their personal economic situation. Under the Clinton Administration, the number of women living in poverty decreased, and the cost of health care for poor women and their children rose only a small amount. Under the Bush Administration, the number of women in poverty has increased and the cost their health care has skyrocketed.

The result is that even though President Bush advocates stricter abortion legislation, his economic and health care policies are actually encouraging more women to choose abortion. As Christians, we certainly value pragmatism over piety: if the more liberal policies of the Democrats actually result in fewer abortions than the pious policies of the Republicans, Christians ought to support the Democrats.

Stewardship

Stewardship is about preservation of resources, both natural and abstract. The measure of success in stewardship is in what we will have to entrust to our children and grandchildren. A clean environment, a functioning and corruption free civil service, the respect of foreign nations, a debt-free national treasury, a strong and sustainable economy and a world free of crime and terrorism are the goals of the good steward.

Our scorecard Kerry 4, Bush 1

Both candidates get a point for their positions on crime, terrorism and building a strong economy. John Kerry gets the balance of points for his stance on the environment, his ability to win back respect abroad, and President Bush’s poor record of deficit spending.

On the environment, Bush’s record is embarassing. The former Director of the EPA, Chistine Whitman, said that she was ridiculed for wanting to consider scientific evidence when formulating environmental policy. Instead, it is acknowledged that the EPA has changed from an agency whose mission is to protect the environment into an agency which is committed to helping big business profit from our wealth on natural resources.

On the matter of respect from abroad, President Bush has managed to squander worldwide sympathy for the United States in the aftermath of 9/11, and the US is now reviled more than ever in the international community. On the contrary, John Kerry has at least shown that he is able to navigate foreign affairs with skill, and appears to be committed to doing so in the future.

Lastly, President Bush has also squandered the reputation of the Republican Party as the party of fiscal discipline. While accusing the Democrats of being the ‘tax-and-spend’ party, he has turned his administration into a four-year-long ‘spend-and-spend’ party. With a House and Senate both controlled by Republican majorities, the President cannot use Congress as an excuse for his spending, especially as he has never once used his veto power to block a spending bill ( although ironically he threatened to veto the $87 billion military spending bill that he ridicules Senator Kerry for switching his vote on ). While the Kerry Administration will likely not be a model of fiscal discipline, it is difficult to imagine a performance worse than that of President Bush.

Evangelism

Evangelism is about being a role model, about proclaiming the truth, about spreading the Christian principles of freedom and liberty throughout the world. And indeed, even though Christianity can succeed without American-style liberties, Christianity is strengthened by the spread of freedom and democracy. This is especially true because most of the world considers the United States to be a “Christian” nation, despite the fact that religious diversity florishes here more than in any other country. For better or for worse, America is the world’s missionary as much as it is the world’s policeman.

Our scorecard Kerry 3, Bush 2

Both candidates are committed Christians, and lead model lives of faith. Both candidates are committed to the spread of Amercan ideals overseas, and both have a profound respect for American liberties such as Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religious Expression and Democratic Government.

The extra point goes to Senator Kerry because of President Bush’s arrogance in dealing with foreign relations, resulting in a worldwide loss of respect for the United States, and for the Presidents having turned this country into such a sharply divided nation.

Christian evangelism has been dealt a serious setback by the Bush Administration’s foreign policies: Because of the perception that America is a Christian nation, increased hatred of the United States abroad directly translates into hatred of Christianity. We can only hope for better from a Kerry Administration.

Lastly, a divided America does not make for a good role model for the world. President Bush, who in 2000 campaigned under the slogan “I’m a uniter, noit a divider” has managed to turn a nation brought together by the national tragedy of 9/11 into a nation torn apart by war, mistrust and deception. This is not the vision of modern Christianity that Americans want to display to the rest of the world.

Totals: Kerry 15, Bush 7

Some may express surprise that I have avoided the hot-button topic of Gay Marriage I have avoided it because it has already been talked about too much this election season, and because it is a discussion which is ultimately unproductive. It is an unproductive discussion because the victor of the election won’t impact the issue at all – it is an issue which will be fought in state courts for the next decade. It is also an unproductive discussion because there are much more important things that Christians should be concerned about.

Or in other words, if you think that Gay Marriage is more important than charity, honesty, abortion, stewardship or evangelism, then this is probably an indication that you think too much about sex.

Your vote on November 2 matters to Christianity as much as it matters to America.

Use it wisely.

I’m surprised the Bush campaign has started with the negative ads so early in the campaign, and I’m doubly surprised that the ads are so misleading. Those Apache Helicopters that Kerry allegedly voted against? Well, Cheney opposed them, too. As Defense Secretary, Cheney also wanted to eliminate Bradley Fighting Vehicles and F-14s and F-16s from the budget. The message is clear. The Bush campaign thinks the swing voter is really, really, dumb.

There are a few names that are getting a lot of press as a Kerry running mate — John Edwards, a Southerner with good name recognition and good looks who could give the campaign some Southern cred, There are a few midwesterners, including Dick Gephardt, Dick Durbin and Evan Bayh who could pull a few middle America votes. But none of these is an impact choice. None of them would change the face or the feeling of a Kerry campaign. In other words — yawn. Can you say Lloyd Bentsen? Sure, Bentsen outclassed and embarassed Dan Quayle, but he did little to change the agenda of the campaign.

On the other hand, Kerry could make a more daring choice and try to actually make the campaign something more than Kerry v. Bush — something more than democrat v. republican. Here are three choices:

1) Retired General Eric Shinseki. Shinseki is a class act. 4 star general. Decorated Vietnam vet. Lots of foreign policy experience (NATO, Bosnia, UN). Respected by his peers in the military in a way Wes Clark can only dream about. Asian heritage would be a significant draw in California. Would solidify the National Defense angle of the Kerry campaign. Shinseki could legitimately tell Bush/Cheney that their war plan failed: “I told you the occupation needed 300,000 troops. It went all wrong because you didn’t listen to me”.

2) Former Texas Governor Ann Richards. A fearsome political force in Texas. Bu choosing Richards, Kerry would send the message that Bush is not even safe in his home state. She could legitimately raise issues with Bush’s mismanagement of the State of Texas when he was governor. As a woman who is fairly conservative for a Democrat, she could paint a very non-radical yet progressive face to the Democratic party.

3) Senator John McCain. Officially a Republican, McCain is increasingly getting ticked off at the Bush administration, and no one would be surprised if he defects. As a Vietnam vet and POW he could legitimately raise the details of what it is like to be tortured — and then accuse Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz of being the torturers. However, McCain is running for reelection to the Senate, so its unlikely he would accept if Kerry asked him.

It is one thing to know that your country is making a mistake going to war, on the gut feeling that it wrong. It is quite another thing to see just how wrong it can go.

Even The Army Times weighs in with a damning editorial — A failure of leadership at the highest levels :

How tragically ironic that the American military, which was welcomed to Baghdad by the euphoric Iraqi people a year ago as a liberating force that ended 30 years of tyranny, would today stand guilty of dehumanizing torture in the same Abu Ghraib prison used by Saddam Hussein’s henchmen.

Meanwhile, the folly of the Administration seems surreal. Bush says that Rumsfeld is doing a great job, but meanwhile, some top Army brass seem to be itching to get fired. Maj. Gen. Swannack of the 82nd airborne is on record saying that we are losing the war. Note to Rummy: If your generals are talking to the press saying things like that, its probably because they think that you weren’t listening to them when they told you the same thing over and over for the past three months.

The administration is saying that abuse of Iraqi prisoners is limited to a handful of soldiers, and yet it is clear that responsibility runs clear to the top. For example, the man who oversaw the reopening (“under new management”) of Abu Ghraib was himself under investigation by the Justice Department following a prisoner cruelty episode in one of his jails in Utah. According to the New York Times, he was part of a team chosen by John Ashcroft to rebuild the Iraqi justice system. Note to John: I’d start by trying to rebuild the American justice system that you have been dismantling for the past two years.

Paul Wolfowitz, meanwhile shows every indication of being out-of-the-loop. The Boston Globe writes :

Wolfowitz said he does not think the United States is losing in Iraq, and said no senior officer has expressed that thought to him either.

Meanwhile, the verb ‘Shinseki’ has been catching airtime. As in this quote from John McCain:

Now, look, one of the reasons why I think many of these Army guys may not have been—and I emphasize may not have been—as forthcoming as they should, because perhaps they didn‘t want to be Shinsekied.  General Shinseki testified before the Armed Services Committee that we needed several hundred thousand.  He left his job.  Not one single civilian in the Department of Defense attended his retirement.  That was a signal to others in the Army.

Speaking of which, Ret. Gen. Eric Shinseki would make a great running mate for John Kerry.