Brandon Starr's blog. Updated daily since March 2003. Welcome. Make yourself comfortable. Have a hot chocolate.

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Some fun/useful/useless links:

The Internet Movie Database

My cousin back from Iraq, and how it changed me (my current favorite entry on this blog)

Zazzle.com

My Zazzle.com product page

Fun blogs:

infinitus opinio

Siren's Song

the mechanical jive

The Strange World

Thunderstorms in the Imajica

Librarianguish

Elven Sarah

Random Musings (Catcher)

Certifiable Princess (Sarah 2)
   

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Thursday, November 04, 2004
Predictions of trends for the next four years

These are some early thoughts on likely trends for the next four years under Bush.

I will refrain from the gloom-and-doom scenarios of massive terror attacks and so on that could happen under such an incompetent leader.  Actually, any massive disaster would pretty much wipe out these predictions anyway.

Let us be thankful that, unlike a king, we get a chance at new leadership every four years--assuming the Republican-built Diebold machine counts your votes.

Anyway, I'll start with the ones of general interest and end with the more arcane investing ones.

ENTERTAINMENT:

I think you'll see a couple of major trends here.

One is a trend towards escapist fare.  Thus comedies, musicals, and heroic war stories will do very well.  Horror can, too, if it doesn't require one to think too much.  This will be in place for as long as we're at war in Iraq and Afghanistan--that is, a good long time.  Sports will also do well, as a bastion for those who like fair play and rooting for the team.

Another is a trend towards pay systems.  Cable and satellite radio will do well, because they are free from the ever-more-oppressive FCC, which has been squeezing the "public airwave" broadcasters of all edginess.  Howard Stern will be the first, but he will hardly be the last of the major entertainment stars who will no longer be available free of charge.  We've already seen this trend in cable, where HBO wins massive numbers of Emmys and major audiences because their programming is free of the hand of the censors.  Note that freedom from censorship doesn't have to mean near-porn:  just look at "The Sopranos," for instance, which does have violence and occasional nudity, but is mostly a talky drama.  FULL DISCLOSURE:  I have some stock in Sirius Satellite Radio.

The internet will continue to gain steam as a major entertainment source.  It's been a little longer in coming than some folks thought, but broadband is nearing the tipping point, where enough people have it that some major new ways of presenting entertainment will be possible.  Also, the number of people on the internet in the U.S. and abroad will continue to climb, benefitting those companies such as Amazon, eBay, Yahoo! and Google, who already have a critical mass which gives them major advantages over their competitors.  FULL DISCLOSURE:  I have a bullish position in eBay.  Digital media, such as digital camcorders and cameras, will continue to eat away the traditional film media, which eventually will be relegated to artistic professionals and those who cannot  afford computers or refuse to switch.  FULL DISCLOSURE:  I have a bearish position in Eastman Kodak, which is a chemical film company trying to become a digital media company--I don't think they'll succeed well, but maybe I'm wrong.

POLITICS:

A little too ugly to write about now.  I will say this:  every major shift brings the seeds of its own backlash.  I have a hunch that, as damaging as the next four years will be, it will bring about a major move in the opposite direction.  We shall see.

BUSINESS:

Oil:  Supply is trying to come on line.  But for now, demand is still right at the supply limits.  Perhaps we've seen the short-term high for now, but it wouldn't take much of a supply crunch to make prices jump right back up.  And I highly doubt they'll settle in nearly as low as they did before the Iraq war--that is, the high twenties, or even where some experts seem to find likely, the mid thirties.  World demand is still climbing, and major oil finds are rare.  Only the fact that oil location and drilling technology continues to improve is keeping supply as good as it is.  Add to that the fact that we have a (failed) oil man as President, and I don't think we'll be seeing demand slipping due to alternative energy sources, even though he gave it lip service during the campaign.  FULL DISCLOSURE:  I have a position in Maverick Pipeline, which sells the pipes that will provide this new world oil supplies.

Interest rates:  Because oil has been expensive and slowing the economy, the Fed hasn't had to raise interest rates as quickly.  This means that:  1) housing stocks should do better than one would expect in a rising interest rate environment, 2) credit will remain cheap, 3) the dollar will remain weak, 4) because of the weak dollar, gold, silver and other commodities including oil will remain expensive.

Stocks:  I refuse to submit to my baser instincts and predict a market crater just because of Bush.  Actually, it's likely that stocks will do better--they almost couldn't do worse.  The low interest rates will help; the economic recovery has been very creaky, but hasn't yet slipped into a double-dip recession.  Jobs are still a concern; companies are still trying to improve efficiencies rather than hire on new people, which means they are still skeptical about the economy.  Oil stocks should do well; I don't think auto companies, which are highly dependent on gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs will do as well.  FULL DISCLOSURE: See oil disclosure.  Also, I have a bearish position in Ford.  The markets love Republican Presidents in the short term; that's why the market rallied today.  But historically the stock market does far better under Democratic Presidents.  Overall, I think the market will rise, but slower than the historic rate of 9% or so per year.  If inflation remains low, it'll be acceptable to most people, but hardly as good as the Clinton 90s.  The stock market is notoriously hard to predict in anything but the very long term; if I'm right, I'll be almost as surprised as anyone.  My method is to try to buy good companies cheaply, and I don't see any reason not to continue that general practice.

Silver:  As I mentioned above, I think the dollar will remain fairly weak.  This will help all commodities.  Silver is still operating at a net supply deficit--that is, the amount used up in manufacturing and jewelry is more than is pulled out of the ground in a year.  This deficit is expected to be 61 million ounces in 2005, and will be the 16th straight year with a deficit.  FULL DISCLOSURE:  I have a position in Silver Standard Resources, Inc., whose newsletter is linked above.

That's enough for now.  If I think of more later I'll do an entry on it.
 

Posted at 02:50 pm by brandonstarr
Your thoughts?  

Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Kerry calls to concede

Kerry calls to concede; Bush is gracious while reigning from on high

Osama bin Laden called the White House to congratulate his candidate on the victory.

This is also a victory for the irrational* and the poorly educated, both of whom vote Republican as though it were a reflex action.

And to the college kids who voted in numbers barely larger than last election:  enjoy paying off Bush's deficit for the rest of your life while having the specter of a draft bearing down on you.

So, now we'll have a conservative Supreme Court tearing down civil rights and allowing the increep of theocracy; we'll have a Republican Congress passing whatever they want in the way of protofascist corporate governance; and we'll have a President who makes mistakes as often as most people drink glasses of water, whom every other country in the world despises except Iran and Russia, and who enriches his cronies while running the most secretive Administration in history.

When I do my "what's next" entry, I'll cool down so I can keep this sort of Bush-bashing to a minimum, but I can't do it now.

This is going to have some ugly repercussions for our increasingly weakening democracy.

* Regular readers know that "irrational" means "religious," but also refers to others who go against reason, such as psychics, cultists, and so on.  In this context, it mainly refers to church-going irrationalists.

Posted at 10:02 am by brandonstarr
Comments (9)  

Interesting market reaction

Interestingly, my presumptions from last night have...well, not exactly been borne out.

Despite there being no winner, the markets are up.  Why?

Because the markets are presuming a Bush win.  That's the same reason the oil futures were up overnight.  I should've thought of that--if they're presuming for oil, they'd presume for stocks, too.

Believe me, if the election turns unknown again, the market will go down.  They're just figuring that because Bush is ahead in Ohio, and that's the important state left, that Bush will take the Presidency.

I wouldn't be too surprised if either the absentee votes or the provisional votes change things in one or more states.  I'm not sure what'll happen, exactly, but I'm having to let myself distance a bit emotionally--the cold I barely had the last couple of days is now full-blown.

Posted at 07:13 am by brandonstarr
Your thoughts?  

What next?

I'm writing this early Wednesday morning, all keyed up from the election.

You see, I haven't voted for a Republican or a Democrat for twelve years.  I forgot what it feels like to vote for someone who has a chance of winning, especially when it's close.

Right now it's extremely close, not looking great for Kerry overall.  However, there were a lot of provisional ballots in quite a few states--and if a lot of those were from Republicans challenging peoples' votes, one expects they will lean heavily towards Kerry.  So I don't think it's over yet, even if the regular polls show Bush ahead in the last couple of available states.

No matter who wins, when we have a decision I'll be doing an entry on what to expect economically and so forth.

In the meantime, what does a close election mean?  Well, it'll depend:

Close but not contested:  if the vote stays super-close but no major snafus or voter suppression, etc. are found, then the stock market will be shaky until there's a winner, but probably won't crater.  If it does, it is likely temporary until a winner is declared.

Contested:  if tons of litigation are going to come out of the election, the stock market won't take that well at all.  You can expect it'll go down, and it'll stay shaky or worse until a winner is declared AND all major litigation issues are settled in the minds of the market.  It may or may not recover at that point.  Actually, it probably will, but it'll depend on the situation.

Though it's too early to know for sure, it seems like so far it's in the "close but not contested" category.  As much as I would loathe a Bush win, if it's uncontested I think I'd prefer that over lots of litigation and the additional acrimony that would ensue.  I do think that Kerry should fight it until the end--no Gore caving this time, if you please.  Not with Bush on the other end.

Though no winner has been chosen, the markets are already moving based on the semi-probable Bush win.  Crude oil prices on the overnight futures are up on the belief that another four years of extremely fossil-centric energy policy will be forthcoming from Bush and Cronies.

Posted at 01:57 am by brandonstarr
Your thoughts?  

Tuesday, November 02, 2004
Did you remember?

VOTE.

Posted at 09:34 am by brandonstarr
Comments (1)  

Monday, November 01, 2004
#1 non-policy reason to vote for Kerry over Bush...and the winner is...

If you don't know what's up with this list by now, read the first few sentences under any of the other reasons.  I can't come up with yet another slightly-altered way of saying it.

Reason #10:  Kerry is hard-working, Bush is lazy.
Reason #9:  Bush is careless with his words.
Reason #8:  Bush is dangerously secretive.
Reason #7:  Bush refuses to listen to contrary opinions and is
     incapable of changing his mind when the facts require it.
Reason #6:  Bush is cruel.
Reason #5:  Bush uses fear as a weapon against the people of the United States.
Reason #4:  Bush refuses to take reponsibility for his actions.
Reason #3:  To avoid further damage from one-party rule over the Presidency, the
    Congress, and the courts.
Reason #2:  Bush lies, Kerry has told the truth under tough circumstances.

So here we are, at #1, the last day before the election.  Perhaps it would be something about Bush being unethical?  Or Bush abusing his power?  Well, I considered those, but you know, if you're undecided, those topics just sound ugly and negative and partisan--even though I'm Libertarian, rather than Democrat, but you know what I mean.

When you get right down to it, this is a hire.  You are the boss, as a voter, and you are deciding who is going to fill an important position.  If you ask me, nearly any of the reasons already covered would disqualify Bush.

But when you get right down to it, there's only one reason that always disqualifies someone from working for you, and it is:

Reason #1:  Bush is incompetent, and Kerry is competent.

How do you figure out if someone is competent?  You look at their history and, if they have experience in the position, how they did at the position.

Bush was a wastrel as a youth:  a heavy drinker who was the first person ever let into the Air Texas Guard as a pilot who didn't already have a pilot's license.  After not showing up for a simple physical, he disappeared, and the records are vague as to what he did next.  It seems he mostly worked on a few political races here and there.  Until he was about forty, he did next to nothing with his life.

Kerry was a go-getter.  Though he came from the same sort of privileged background as Bush, he didn't avoid service.  Instead, he entered the Navy during Vietnam.  Then he volunteered for one of the most dangerous duties in the Navy:  captaining a swift boat, which meant taking a small, lightly armored boat up into the river deltas and trying to flush out enemies who were ambushing American and South Vietnamese forces.  While doing this, he earned a Bronze Star and a Silver Star.  For those not in the know, Bronze Stars are hardly common, and Silver Stars are really quite rare and are given for the most brave and dangerous actions.  When he came back from Vietnam, he had seen much which disturbed him, and he gathered the stories of many Vietnam veterans and the ugly things they'd seen, and brought it to the attention of Congress in 1971, when most of the country did not yet know how poorly the war was being conducted and how much damage it was doing to the people of Vietnam.  Interestingly, just as Kerry now faults Bush for poor leadership in Iraq, that was Kerry's point during this "Winter Soldier" testimony--that the soldiers were following orders as best they could, but the leadership was making it impossible for them to succeed.

To sum up:  Kerry killed enemies in action in Vietnam; Bush killed twelve-packs.

After Vietnam, Bush was eventually given the CEO position in four different oil companies.  All of them failed, even though he was drilling for oil in areas with large, well-known oil deposits.  He later was given a sweetheart deal as part-owner of the Texas Rangers, which was losing money until he arranged for the public to pick up the tab for the Rangers and he was bought out at a multimillion-dollar profit.  In other words, Bush was given everything in his businesses, and always failed or had to be bailed out.

After Vietnam, Kerry became a prosecuting attorney.  As far as I can tell, he must have been successful.  If not, Bush and company haven't exploited it in the least.  Later he became a lieutenant governor, and then a Senator.  As a Senator, Kerry led the Kerry Commission (discussed in the last entry).  He also has long been on the Foreign Relations Committee, and is now the ranking member of that committee.  He is also on several other committees and sub-committees, including the Small Business and Entrepeneurship Committee and the Finance Committee.  He has won quite a few awards.  Interestingly, many of them have to do with health care:  he was won the "Legislator of the Year" award from the National Health Association, the Visiting Nurse Association, and the Massachusetts Association of Home Health Care.  He also won an award from Time Magazine--the "Honest Man in Politics" award for being the only Senator up for reelection in 1996 to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act.  He was one of the first to look at the subject of acid rain, and his gathering of the research helped form some of the seminal air protection legislation of the early 90s.  In the late 90s, he wrote "The Next War," about the nuclear material going loose following the fall of the Soviet Union and how we have to keep it out of the hands of terrorists and rogue states.

So professionally after Vietnam, Bush was an utter failure bailed out by his connections; Kerry showed leadership and initiative, and worked hard to become successful in quite a few endeavors.

As President, Bush has shown an utter lack of competence:

1)  He was given a Presidential Daily Briefing early August 2001 that said that bin Laden was determined to strike in the U.S., and that the FBI indicated that hijackings were likely and that New York City buildings had been scoped out.  Bush's reaction was to go on vacation for the rest of the month.

2)   In 2001 he was warned that the system for creating vaccines was fragile and could lead to a shortage; in 2004 we have seen the fruits of Bush's non-action on this, trusting that just two companies would continue to successfully make all of the flu vaccines for the United States.

3)  Economists warned loudly and often that Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy wouldn't help make new jobs, because the wealthy would take their extra money and put it away.  They suggested instead a tax cut for the poor, who always put extra cash back into the economy.  Bush promised that five million new jobs would be created from his tax cut, and went ahead.  The five million jobs haven't materialized, and in fact jobs have been created during the "recovery" at an average rate lower than the growth of the job-age population.

4)  Bush's generals insisted that we should finish Afghanistan before going into Iraq, if we went into Iraq at all.  When Bush showed a determination to remove Saddam from power, they gave the numbers of soldiers and equipment they would need.  Bush used less than half.  This led to our troops being able to succeed only in taking land quickly, without securing any buildings or dangerous materials.  This led to the massive looting of weapons, explosives, valuables, antiquities, and items from important sites like power plants and the phone service.

5)  Bush believed that the troops would be greeted as liberators, that the oil would flow quickly and pay for a swift rebuilding of Iraq.  While it's fine to have a "rosy scenario" ready in case success comes that quickly, Bush utterly failed to come up with any contingencies in case a major insurgency came up, or other major problems occurred.  This despite the fact that such plans were in the State Department, and the State Department was clamoring for him to use them.  Bush ignored those plans, and now doesn't have any idea what to do next, except push democracy on the Iraqi people under a forced-march time line, and with a CIA operative as the interim Prime Minister.  The rebuilding has all but stopped, due to the bombings and kidnappings, and several cities in Iraq are now no-go areas for our soldiers.  Meanwhile, the troops pulled away from Afghanistan has led to warlords and even the Taliban taking over parts of that country, even as the first election is underway.  The overall effect?  Bush has caused not only to danger to our troops, but to a bonanza of new al-Qaeda and insurgency recruits.

One final way of determining whom you should hire:  see what the people who are experts think about the candidates.

Generals and admirals are historically very conservative--big Republican supporters.  Despite this, twelve retired generals and admirals have endorsed Kerry as a candidate for President.  No real surprise why.

Ten Nobel-Prize-winning economists (and a bunch of other economists) have endorsed Kerry.
The National Association of Police Organizations has endorsed Kerry.

I don't know if they're "experts," but 36 newspapers who backed Bush over Gore in 2000 now back Kerry.  (More recent articles seem to indicate the number is now 47.)  How many who backed Gore in 200 are now backing Bush?  Six.

And get this...

The "American Conservative" magazine, run by Pat Buchanan, endorsed Kerry!!  This despite the fact that the magazine promised it would then oppose the Kerry Presidency from day one!  Why?  Because a second Bush presidency would "discredit any sort of conservatism for generations."

And that's one of the ironies of this election.  Bush has caused so many problems at home, and burned so many bridges with our allies around the world, and created so many new terrorists and angered so many other people in the Middle East, that the next four years aren't going to be a picnic.  Fortunately, Kerry has said he's willing to do the job--even if Bush only finds it a lot of "hard work."  It's quite possible that whomever wins this election will lose the next, all because of the ugly hand Bush has dealt the next President.  But I'll still take four years of Kerry over four years of Bush and forty years of Bush-appointed Supreme Court Justices.

And so, we have the final reason...

Reason #1:  Bush is not competent, Kerry is.

Posted at 04:51 pm by brandonstarr
Your thoughts?  

Sunday, October 31, 2004
Non-policy reason to vote for Kerry over Bush #2: Bush lies

Only one more reason after today.  We're nearing the end of the countdown.

For those who might be joining this list late, this is a countdown of non-policy reasons to vote for Kerry over Bush.  Non-policy--because although there are plenty of important issues out there, when a man holds power who proves he is corrupt, inept, and unwise, it becomes important to remove him from power with all speed.  In the United States, we have always done this with the vote.  The main exception was Nixon, who did not have the protective power of a corporate media to act like a sort of semi-official mouthpiece of his Administration.

So it's up to us.  So far, the reasons we have are...

Reason #10:  Kerry is hard-working, Bush is lazy.
Reason #9:  Bush is careless with his words.
Reason #8:  Bush is dangerously secretive.
Reason #7:  Bush refuses to listen to contrary opinions and is
     incapable of changing his mind when the facts require it.
Reason #6:  Bush is cruel.
Reason #5:  Bush uses fear as a weapon against the people of the United States.
Reason #4:  Bush refuses to take reponsibility for his actions.
Reason #3:  To avoid further damage from one-party rule over the Presidency, the
    Congress, and the courts.

I have a bit of a problem.  I have three important subjects, and only two slots left.  Bush is an embarrassment of riches for a commentator.  No, I take that back--he's merely an embarrassment.

So, how do we handle this?  Well, let's let loose a little today and have some fun covering an age-old topic swirling around politics:

Reason #2:  Bush lies...and lies...and lies.

In fact, Bush lies so much that unless a fact is squarely in his favor, you can count on him to either lie about it, or put such a wild spin on it you wish he were writing novels instead of wasting his time being President.

I won't concentrate on Republican lies, Administration lies, or Cheney lies here.  Any one of those would simply require a book unto themselves.  Nor can I really handle all of Bush's lies.  Try going here if you want more--David Corn wrote a book about Bush's lies, and blogs regularly on that topic alone.

So, what can I do in one blog entry?  I can't hit all of the lies, but I can show some of the ways he lies:

1)  Bush lies by taking credit where none is due.

For instance, Bush often takes credit for record all-time home ownership, such as here, in his closing statements of the second debate.  The problem?  Home ownership numbers have never gone down from one year to the next for as long as those records have been kept.  In other words, no President can really take credit for "record home ownership," because it happens automatically for every President, every year.  Why does it happen?  Because the tax laws favor home ownership, partly, but mostly because the population of the United States rises.  In fact, that is one of the reasons the job numbers are so horrible--because even though the job-age population rises by roughly 150,000 per month--about 1.8 million per year--there are fewer jobs now than when Bush took office.  Considering we had a fairly short recession followed by a long, if relatively jobless, recovery, that's not a good record.  Apparently the wartime Bush tax break which went largely to the top 1% of income earners--other tax breaks went mostly to the top 20%--just got put straight into the bank.  Poor people who get tax breaks buy things.  Rich people who get tax breaks buy bonds.

2)  Bush lies about matters of life and death.

Not too hard to remember an example of this.  We know Bush was never planning on giving the international sanctions and the weapons inspectors (on the ground until their pullout hours before the Bush invasion) a chance to work, even though we now know that Saddam had no WMDs, no WMD programs, and no way of gaining either for as long as the sanctions were squeezing his economy.  Bush had a way of knowing, though--and instead, cherry-picked the intelligence, and removed the "ifs" and "maybes" from it as well, to sell it to the public and Congress.  (It worked on me--until I learned that he was lying.)  How do we know he wasn't about to give the weapons inspectors a chance?  Because 1) before Afghanistan was secured, and bin Laden captured, Bush started pulling troops away towards Iraq, 2) before the war even started, Halliburton got its first no-bid Iraq supply contract, and 3) Bush never fulfilled his obligations that Congress required of him when they authorized the use of force.

How about another example?  When 9/11 occurred, the White House pressured the EPA into downplaying the dangers of the air around Ground Zero.  Now we have a lot of brave and dedicated rescue workers, aid workers, and health workers with lung diseases.

3)  Bush lies by lying about Kerry.

I'm not talking about his hatchet men.  I'll just focus on Bush himself.

In the second debate, Bush said,

(Kerry just) said he's going to have a novel health care plan. You know what it is? The federal government is going to run it. 

According to factcheck.org, 97% of Americans would keep their same health care plan under Kerry's proposal.  Why?  Because it isn't a federal takeover of health care.  It is mainly a reworking of tax and business laws to make health care more easily widespread.  Some people would be added to Medicare/Medicaid, but it isn't most people.

Factcheck.org is fascinating.  They are non-partisan, yet oh so many of their fact-checks uncover distortions and lies by Bush and his cronies rather than Kerry.  You'll find out there why Kerry is more a middle-of-the-road Democrat, not "the most liberal Senator."  You'll find reference to a Bush ad where he quotes newspapers without letting the viewer in on the fact that the quotes are from the editorials, not the news pages.  And you'll find in-depth checkups from each of the debates.  Yes, Kerry has a share of facts to be checked, but you'll find that a) there aren't as many as Bush's, and b) they aren't as far from the truth, on average, as Bush's.  At least, I sure did.

Anyway, Bush's more recent favorite way of lying about Kerry is by lying about Kerry's statements.

Kerry was asked what it would take to make Americans feel safe again.  Kerry said:

''We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance,'' the article states as the Massachusetts senator's reply.

''As a former law enforcement person, I know we're never going to end prostitution. We're never going to end illegal gambling. But we're going to reduce it, organized crime, to a level where it isn't on the rise. It isn't threatening people's lives every day, and fundamentally, it's something that you continue to fight, but it's not threatening the fabric of your life.'' (end quote)


In other words, beat the terrorists down to where they're a minor, rather than a potentially major, threat.  And you keep fighting them, even when they're down, so they don't become a threat again.  How did Bush talk about Kerry's quote?

"Just this weekend, Senator Kerry talked of reducing terrorism to - quote - 'nuisance' - end quote - and compared it to prostitution and illegal gambling," Mr. Bush said. "See, I couldn't disagree more. Our goal is not to reduce terror to some acceptable level of nuisance. Our goal is to defeat terror by staying on the offensive, destroying terrorists, and spreading freedom and liberty around the world."

Bush is implying that Kerry isn't taking terrorism seriously.  But Kerry isn't talking about what he'd do to get it to a nuisance.  He's always made it clear he'd go after terrorists hard.  No, he's talking about his goal for the future.  And is Bush's goal even remotely plausible?  "Defeat terror by staying on the offensive, destroying terrorists, and spreading freedom and liberty around the world?"  So far he's one for three.  He's on the offensive, all right:  he's all about being offensive.  But destroying terrorists?  He's caused more to be recruited than he's ever been able to kill.  Spreading freedom and liberty around the world?  The Middle East sure doesn't see it that way, and that's where Bush has been doing most of his spreading.

Another example is Bush saying in the first debate, "As well, help is on the way, but it's certainly hard to tell it when he voted against the $87-billion supplemental to provide equipment for our troops, and then said he actually did vote for it before he voted against it."

This has been a long-term lie.  There were two bills concerning the $87 billion supplemental.  One paid for it by rolling back Bush' tax break for the wealthy, and one just tacked it on to the national debt.  Kerry voted for the first, but not the second, based on the difference.  BUSH HIMSELF threatened a veto of the one that rolled back the tax break--so, in essence, Bush himself "voted against it before he voted for it."

Worst of all, even after this supplemental, Bush has done such a poor job that the troops still don't have the armor, ammo, and spare parts they need.  And this is a year later.

4)  Bush lies by misleading.

Boy, there's a million of these.  Here's one I bumped into while doing checking up on the debates:

Bush's ad says that Kerry's plan would cost $1.5 trillion.  However, there's no information to tell you that that cost is over ten years, and would make sure that more than half of the 45 million uninsured would be covered.  (From the same factcheck.org health care plan article linked above.)  Bush's plan?  Make minor changes around the margins.  The link is to Bush's health care plan page, and it contains lots of stuff not about health care:  promoting abstinence, promoting jobs and flex time (jobs are where most folks get their health care, but Bush's record on jobs is horrible), and fighting internet pornography.  It also contains information that sounds good, but isn't helpful:  health savings plans--but how can someone without insurance at all afford a health savings plan?  Allow small businesses to band together to buy health insurance--but they already do that.  Anyway, feel free to check it out.  But as Bush makes changes around the margins, it doesn't mean that things don't change.  Under Bush, 5 million more people are uninsured than when he took office.

Another one:  Bush still claims his tax cuts for the wealthy "mostly go to lower- and middle-income earners."  Not so, says factcheck.org.  And although the wealthy pay most of the income taxes, who else is going to?  The poor?  If Bill Gates makes $300 million in a year, that's the income of 12,000 people making $25,000 a year--and those people have to pay a much larger portion of their income just for rent, food, and other basics.

Well, I'd do more on this, but frankly, there's lots of other things I need to do.  So, just remember:  Bush is willing to lie about anything that isn't completely contradicted by the facts--and even then, he'll spin and spin and spin.  Apologies?  Never, we know that.  Honest talk about errors?  Nope.  In fact, after 9/11, we know he cowered in a school reading to kids after he knew that both Trade Center towers had been hit, and what did he do later?  Sold pictures of himself "looking Presidential" on 9/11 in Air Force One.
I'd say that's a pretty ugly little way of distorting the truth.  And a horrible way of milking a national tragedy.  Worse yet, we know that Bush has abused 9/11 in other ways, principally to get his Iraq war going so he could run for reelection as a "war President."

Kerry has taken the high road.  He's used all sorts of euphemisms, but he's never called Bush a liar.

I don't have such a compunction.  I'll call it like I see it:

#2:  Bush is a liar.

Oh, what about Kerry?  Well, as I mentioned before, factcheck.org went over the debates with a fine-toothed comb.  I personally saw that Kerry's errors and distortions were much smaller and less numerous than Bush's.  But you look it up, and make your own mind.

More importantly, we know that Kerry can be counted on to tell the truth in difficult circumstances--something utterly beyond Bush.  When no one was talking about the horrors being unleashed in Vietnam, Kerry took the stories of the veterans, and brought them to Congress in the "Winter Soldier" testimony.  Later, as a Senator, (gee, isn't Bush always implying Kerry did nothing as a Senator?) Kerry formed the Kerry Commission and uncovered everything about Iran-Contra, the Nicaraguan cocaine trade, Oliver North, and so on--including some important Democratic fundraisers, even though he was urged to let the matter drop.

In other words, we have seen that Kerry can be counted on to have the instincts to do the right thing.

Posted at 03:56 pm by brandonstarr
Your thoughts?  

Saturday, October 30, 2004
Non-policy reason to vote for Kerry over Bush #3: Balance

We're nearing Election Day, and so too we are nearing the end of this countdown of non-policy reasons to vote for Kerry over Bush.

Non-policy--because although there are many important issues right now, sometimes a man in power is so corrupt, inept, or unwise that he must be removed from office immediately.

So far, we have...

Reason #10:  Kerry is hard-working, Bush is lazy.
Reason #9:  Bush is careless with his words.
Reason #8:  Bush is dangerously secretive.
Reason #7:  Bush refuses to listen to contrary opinions and is
     incapable of changing his mind when the facts require it.
Reason #6:  Bush is cruel.
Reason #5:  Bush uses fear as a weapon against the people of the United States.
Reason #4:  Bush refuses to take reponsibility for his actions.

And now...

Reason #3:  Balance.

Balance?

Yes.  Specifically, I mean balance in government.

(Today's reason is for all of you who would rather see less government.)

Right now, we have:

President:  Republican George Bush.

Supreme Court:  5-4 Republican-appointed--and, since they broke down along exactly those lines in Bush v. Gore, you can guess that all nine pretty much follow the lines of the President who got them in.

Senate:  51 Republicans, 48 Democrats, and 1 Independent.

House of Representatives:  227 Republicans, 205 Democrats, 1 Independent, 2 Vacancies.

Neither the Senate nor the House of Representatives is very likely to shift from Republican to Democrat this election.  Even if one does, the likelihood of both switching is vanishingly small.

The Supreme Court is currently conservative, but just by one vote.  Recent Supreme Court decisions have broken down along party lines (again, based on who nominated them) more than most years.

Here are the ages of the Supreme Court Justices as of Election Day, November 2nd, 2004:

John Paul Stevens, age 84
William Rehnquist, age 80
Sandra Day O'Connor, age 74
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, age 71
Antonin Scalia, age 68
Anthony Kennedy, age 68
Stephen Breyer, age 66
David Souter, age 65
and the baby of the group,
Clarence Thomas, age 56.

As if that weren't enough, William Rehnquist recently had thyroid cancer and has only recently been released from the hospital. (link is to AP article at Salon)  As if that weren't enough, three other justices have had cancer previously:  John Paul Stevens (prostate), Sandra Day O'Connor (breast), and Ruth Bader Ginsburg (colon).

If what I've read is accurate, most "experts" expect two, and perhaps three, Justices will be replaced during the next Presidential term.

So...

If Bush wins:  that also means that more of his voters got out and voted.  The likelihood of either the House or the Senate swinging to the Democrats is nil.  Bush then gets to select a couple of Supreme Court Justices.  All three branches of government belong to the Republicans.  This is what we've had for the last four years, and it has led to a lot of extreme actions being taken, both on the part of the President, and the legislation passing Congress, because little consideration of the other party has to be taken.  That's how Bush gets by putting industry lobbyists governmental positions where they "oversee" the companies they previously lobbied for.  It's why there isn't a clamoring to figure out who in Bush's Administration unmasked our CIA operative.  It's why Halliburton gets handed no-bid contracts without a whisper from Congress.  It's how a lot of rather shady things just slide on by.

If Kerry wins:  the Presidency becomes Democratic, of course.  One house or the other of Congress may also swing Democrat, since it means he got out the vote, but it is unlikely that both will.  Eventually, Kerry will get to pick some Justices.  But the likelihood of everything becoming Democrat is extremely small, almost nil.

So, if you think Bush does great unleashed and able to do pretty much as he wills, go ahead and vote Bush.  If you prefer more checks and balances, if not outright gridlock, you have a strong reason to vote for Kerry, even if you can't really make up your mind whether you prefer Kerry over Bush in other respects.

One-party government:  perfect for the USSR and the Third Reich, not so hot in a democracy.
 

Posted at 08:36 pm by brandonstarr
Comments (1)  

Friday, October 29, 2004
Non-policy reason to vote for Kerry over Bush, #4: Bush's irresponsibility

This is an important election for so many reasons.  Certainly, there are important issues out there.  But that isn't what this daily countdown is about.

Why?

Sometimes a man assumes power who is so inept, so untruthful, and so unwise that it becomes top priority to get that man out of office as soon as possible.  In the U.S.A., we do it by voting.  Let's make sure it remains so.

So far, the reasons are...

Reason #10:  Kerry is hard-working, Bush is lazy.
Reason #9:  Bush is careless with his words.
Reason #8:  Bush is dangerously secretive.
Reason #7:  Bush refuses to listen to contrary opinions and is incapable of changing his mind when the facts require it.
Reason #6:  Bush is cruel.
Reason #5:  Bush uses fear as a weapon against the people of the United States.

And now...

Reason #4:  Bush refuses to take responsibility for his actions or his inactions.

Not taking responsbility:  that is the sense of "irresponsibility" I am referring to, though certainly one can argue he is irresponsible in the sense of "reckless."

The Presidency of the United States is the single most powerful position in the world, whether elected, appointed, or gained by oneself.

The President affects nearly every life around the globe, and has a great bearing on the health, safety, and well-being of every United States citizen.

It is paramount that the President be responsible to the citizenry who elect him, lest he become a power unto himself.

That is why it is so dangerous that Bush refuses to take responsibility for his actions and his inactions.

Examples:

During the Clinton-Bush handover, Clinton made sure Bush knew he would be spending more time on terror than any other subject.  After all, Clinton and company had stopped a Millenium bomb plot, and a plot to simultaneously hijack multiple airplanes.

A month before 9/11, President Bush got a Presidential briefing titled "bin Laden determined to strike in U.S."  It includes this sentence:

"FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York."

Bush's reaction to this frightening information?  He spent almost all of the rest of August on vacation.  On September 9th, when Congress proposed a boost of $600 million for antiterror programs, Bush and Rumsfeld threatened a veto because the money would take away less than 1% from the missile defense program.  On September 10th, Ashcroft sent his Justice Department budget request to Bush, which included spending increases for zero programs dealing with antiterror (and 68 that did not), and listed terrorism nowhere among Ashcroft's top seven priorities.  (Al Franken, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them:  A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right, p. 131)

In other words, Bush and his Administration were asleep at the switch.  It would have taken a major stroke of luck to prevent 9/11 with Bush's attitude.  Such a bit of luck didn't happen, and 3,000 died.

Did Bush take his share of the blame?

Never.  It was all the terrorists' fault.  Not a bit of blame to be found in the shirking of his duties.  Not a bit of blame in his laziness.  In his lack of foresight.  In his failure to heed the warnings.

When we invaded Iraq, incurring the displeasure of the Western world and the fear and hatred of the Islamic world, all for WMD programs the "evidence" for which he cherry-picked, and which didn't in the end exist at all, causing thousands of deaths and major wounds to our soldiers, and by some estimates, 100,000 civilian Iraqi deaths, did Bush take the blame?

No.  He blamed his generals (who actually advised him to go in with more troops, when they saw they couldn't stop him from going ahead with the invasion at all).  He blamed Saddam.  He blamed anyone he could, but never shouldered his part of the responsibility.

Instead of an "I'm sorry," what do we get?  Bush hides the coffins and funerals of our troops from the public, attacks anyone horrified at his lies as unpatriotic, and claims that removing Saddam was part of the war on terror, even though Saddam had no part in 9/11 and no alliance with al-Qaeda.

Bush, in fact, admits to no mistakes since 9/11:  when asked by a reporter, he went through a litany of decisions he made that he was happy with, then said, "I don't want to sound like I've made no mistakes.  I'm sure I have.  But you just put me under the spot here."  When he was asked a similar question later, during the debates--presumably after having plenty of time to now think of an answer, he said,

I have made a lot of decisions, and some of them little, like appointments to boards you never heard of, and some of them big.

And in a war, there's a lot of -- there's a lot of tactical decisions that historians will look back and say: He shouldn't have done that. He shouldn't have made that decision. And I'll take responsibility for them. I'm human.

But on the big questions, about whether or not we should have gone into Afghanistan, the big question about whether we should have removed somebody in Iraq, I'll stand by those decisions, because I think they're right.

That's really what you're when they ask about the mistakes, that's what they're talking about. They're trying to say, "Did you make a mistake going into Iraq?" And the answer is, "Absolutely not." It was the right decision.

Bush continued on this course for a while longer before finally concluding:

Now, you asked what mistakes. I made some mistakes in appointing people, but I'm not going to name them. I don't want to hurt their feelings on national TV. (end quote)

In other words, he stands by the lies he told to get us into his Iraq war, and all other mistakes, if he made them, either will only be evident to historians, or are based on appointments he made that he won't discuss.

This is hardly the stance of a principled, ethical man.

What happened more recently, when 380 tons of high explosives were found to have been looted at Al-Qaqaa?  Well, even though the U.S. was warned about the explosives, and the explosives were definitely there when the U.S. troops invaded, they weren't contained.  The sole focus of Bush's invasion "plan" was to take the land as quickly as possible.  No plans were made to secure important sites, except for the Oil Ministry.  Thus, even though the Bush Administration had the information to keep these explosives out of the hands of insurgents and terrorists, they failed to do so.

Apology, Mr. President?

No.  Instead, he tries to claim Kerry was attacking him without knowing all the facts; that Kerry was somehow blaming the troops, even though Kerry was clearly blasting the Bush Administration's failure in leadership; that the explosives may or may not have been there at the start of the war.  Trouble is, the "may or may not be there" argument was based on a misleading reading of one of the news stories--so neither was Kerry jumping to conclusions nor was there any chance that the explosives were anywhere but in al-Qaqaa when Saddam was ousted.

And who was blaming the troops?  Bush's Republican pal, Rudoph Giuliani:

"No matter how you try to blame it on the president, the actual responsibility for it really would be for the troops that were there," Giuliani said on NBC's "Today" show. "Did they search carefully enough? Didn't they search carefully enough?"  (end quote)

Disgusting.  Like the troops, who were told to take Baghdad at all speed, were going to go against their orders and search and protect all buildings on the way.  No, this is a failure of planning from those who should be doing the planning--Bush and his Administration.

So, when you think "who blames the troops," it isn't Kerry.  It's Republicans.

And when you think "lack of accountability," think Bush.  Because he won't take the blame for any thing, any time, any place, any way.

That's fine if you're a dictator.  Not so great if you're a leader of a free republic.

So now we have...

#4:  Bush refuses to take responsibility for his actions.

Posted at 03:16 pm by brandonstarr
Comments (2)  

Thursday, October 28, 2004
Non-policy reason to vote for Kerry over Bush #5: Bush's fearmongering

This is an important election for so many reasons.  Certainly, there are important issues out there.  But that isn't what this daily countdown is about.

Why?

Sometimes a man assumes power who is so inept, so untruthful, and so unwise that it becomes top priority to get that man out of office as soon as possible.  In the U.S.A., we do it by voting.  Let's make sure it remains so.

So far, the reasons are...

Reason #10:  Kerry is hard-working, Bush is lazy.
Reason #9:  Bush is careless with his words.
Reason #8:  Bush is dangerously secretive.
Reason #7:  Bush refuses to listen to contrary opinions and is incapable of changing his mind when the facts require it.
Reason #6:  Bush is cruel.

And so we come to...

Reason #5:  Bush uses fear as a weapon against the people of the United States.

Fear has become the preeminent tactic--lying excepted--in the Bush public policy arsenal since 9/11.

The longest-standing tactic of fear has been the color-coded terror level alerts.  Not once since 9/11/01 has the terror level been below "yellow."  In New York City, it has never dropped below "orange."

Despite this, advisories to the public on actions they can take to make themselves safer or to help defend against terrorists are few and far between.  We have the "duct tape and visquine" advisory, and a few advisories about schools or about insurance companies or a couple of others.  But generally, the terror level alerts serve to do nothing but increase the anxiety level in the people of the United States.

This is in Bush's best interests.  Ever heard of Maslow's hierarchy of needs?  It's pretty common-sense, actually.  It basically says you have to take care of the basics of your life before you can go on to more lofty goals.  In other words, you can't work on maximizing your potential as a human being if you're scrounging for food.  Safety is very low on the hierarchy--it ranks just after the basic body needs of food, air, water, and so on.  In other words, if you don't feel safe, it becomes difficult or impossible to take care of things you might want to take care of, such as love, self-esteem, or the improvement of yourself.

By keeping the population at a constant low level of anxiety, Bush creates out of his own actions a perceived need for himself.

Thus, fear has become used elsewhere in the Bush Administration.  What was one of the main reasons for Bush's invasion of Iraq?  Saddam had WMDs, Saddam might use WMDs, Saddam might turn WMDs over to terrorists, Saddam might help terrorists gain their own WMDs.  Since the invasion, we've learned that 1)  Saddam's old stocks of WMDs were destroyed after the Gulf War.  2)  The international squeeze on Iraq's economy led to the destruction of Saddam's WMD programs, and 3)  Saddam had no ties to al Qaeda, and the few meetings they had led to the secular Saddam rejecting the offers from the fundamentalist terrorists.  But Bush's cherry-picked intelligence given to Congress and the public made the threat look real, and thus, the fear seem palpable.

Thus, fear has been used to both create a false need for Bush's "services" and to create a need to invade a country that was anything but an immediate threat.  But more recently, fear has been used against the Kerry campaign:

On Tuesday (10/19/04), Cheney told Republican supporters in Ohio, "The biggest threat we face now as a nation is the possibility of terrorists ending up in the middle of one of our cities with deadlier weapons than have ever before been used against us -- biological agents or a nuclear weapon or a chemical weapon of some kind to be able to threaten the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans."

Cheney called it the ultimate threat," and suggested that Sen. John Kerry is not the man to deal with that threat: "For us to have a strategy that's capable of defeating that threat, you've got to get your mind around that concept," he said.  (end quote)

In other words, vote for us...or else.  This is the ultimate threat, and the ultimate use of fear.

But does that stand up?

Kerry is not a cowardly man.  He's a Silver Star-decorated soldier who volunteered for one of the most dangerous duties within his branch of the Armed Services.

Kerry is not a stupid man.  By all accounts, he is highly intelligent.

Kerry is not a man who sees a problem and does nothing about it.  He proved that with the "Winter Soldier" investigation, and with the Kerry Commission as a Senator.  He has detailed plans for every major issue put out in the public, which you can check out at his web site.  Maybe you don't agree with every point of it, but you'll find that national security is right at the top of his list.  And this is the man who, when asked in the first debate

If you are elected president, what will you take to that office thinking is the single most serious threat to the national security to the United States?

KERRY: Nuclear proliferation. Nuclear proliferation. There's some 600-plus tons of unsecured material still in the former Soviet Union and Russia. At the rate that the president is currently securing it, it'll take 13 years to get it.

I did a lot of work on this. I wrote a book about it several years ago -- six, seven years ago -- called "The New War," which saw the difficulties of this international criminal network. And back then, we intercepted a suitcase in a Middle Eastern country with nuclear materials in it. And the black market sale price was about $250 million.

Now, there are terrorists trying to get their hands on that stuff today.

And this president, I regret to say, has secured less nuclear material in the last two years since 9/11 than we did in the two years preceding 9/11. (end quote.)

So not only do we know Kerry has extensively worked on this issue, we also know that Bush has fallen down on the job.

I don't plan on doing my own fear-mongering.  But look at the facts.  Bush has been extremely aggressive overseas.  This has been the backbone of his "offense, not defense" anti-terror plan.  But Afghanistan was his main success, and that was limited by his removal of military units to Iraq even as the troops were pushing out the Taliban.  Now the warlords and the Taliban itself control large sections of Afghanistan.  All this lack of success was part of the price of Iraq, which doesn't have any bearing on the war on terror.  Or, I should say, it didn't at the time of Bush's invasion.  Now there are many terrorists there, attacking our soldiers and anyone seen as helping the U.S., and the Iraqi invasion has been a boon to Islamic terror recruitment throughout the world.

Meanwhile, here in the United States, about 5% of cargo containers are inspected as they come into the U.S.  And last month, three years after 9/11, Time magazine ran a cover story saying that America's borders are just as porous as ever, even though there is evidence that terrorists are starting to use the Mexican and Canadian borders for entry attempts into the United States.

Again, I would never say that if you vote for Bush, you're putting yourself in danger.  I will say that I will sleep better at night knowing that an intelligent, wise man like Kerry who can see all aspects of an issue, and has a history of taking action where action is needed, will be on the job.  Now that's a way to combat terror.

And do you really want to live through another four years with a man who wishes us all to live in fear just so he can hold onto power?

That's today's non-policy reason to vote for Kerry over Bush,

#5:  Bush uses fear as a weapon against the people of the United States.




Posted at 05:03 pm by brandonstarr
Comments (2)  

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