Monday, December 31, 2007

Run Bloomberg, Run

I love the idea of a Michael Bloomberg run for president — not because I’m dying to vote for him (I don’t know enough to make that kind of judgment) but because the very thought of such a candidacy is already ruffling feathers on both sides. Hyper-loyal Democrat Paul Krugman poo poos the idea and Republican propagandist Scott Johnson is equally as dismissive.

You see, nothing irritates a partisan quite like knocking over and rearranging his carefully stacked and sorted opinions. Independents, by nature, don’t sign on to pre-approved platforms and tend to see those who do as, well, lacking the good sense God gave them. What really disturbs the partisans is the fact that they really don’t know how many independents they have in their own party. A lot of people with party affiliations, even loyal ones, are independent of mind and thus subject to change that mind. If enough change, those carefully arranged platforms will get scattered, making a huge mess for the parties and their true-blue (or red) believers.

Dismissing Bloomberg as a egotist or out-of-touch billionaire provides the partisan mind a sense of comfort. But if Bloomberg marches on, expect more fearsome attacks. This isn’t a Ralph Nader or Pat Buchanan whose candidacies clearly stole from one party over the other. This is a guy who could steal from all sides and neither party wants to be the one who loses the most voters.

Just watching the parties have to compensate for Bloomberg would make the mayor’s presidential run worthwhile. Political parties are at their best when they stay dynamic. A strong independent candidate could force both parties to do just that.

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Undecided, and It Feels So Wrong

O.k., it’s a matter of hours before 2008 and I have no idea who I’m supporting for president. Still plenty of time before November, you say? Are you kidding? In a month this whole thing will be whittled down to two (maybe three) candidates. Then I’ll just have to hold my nose and pick.

Now’s the time to get on a wagon. Even if your guy comes in 8th in Iowa, at least you can spend the rest of the year saying “well, I was really for_________.” So, here’s where I’m at on the top contenders:

The Democrats

Barack Obama: Maybe. He seems to me to be a conservatively tempered liberal, which makes me think he’d be a pragmatic leader. He has the intelligence to make up for his lack of experience. But his stated desire to bring unity to the nation seems in conflict with his uninspired, liberal Democrat policy positions.

Hillary Clinton: I don’t think I can do it. It’s not that I think she’d be a bad president or even that I greatly disagree with her policies (she has some reasonable ideas). But after two decades of Bush/Clinton/Bush and the accompanying divisiveness, I’m ready for a change.

John Edwards: Nope. I supported him in 2004 because he seemed to be a centrist who keenly saw America’s inequalities and had practical solutions. Since then he’s drifted much further left and is now more of a liberal crusader (like a reconstituted, genetically altered Robert Kennedy) than a leader I’d want.

Bill Richardson: Quite possibly. I know he’s not a contender and he’s had some wishy-washy answers on national security, but he was my favorite Dem from the start. I like his experience and his independent, Southwest attitudes.

The Republicans

Rudy Giuliani: A slight maybe. I supported him early on but my enthusiasm has waned considerably. He panders too often and too poorly and he really doesn’t seem to be running on anything expect his extraordinary leadership in the 9/11 aftermath. That’s certainly compelling, but it’s not enough. He’s got to show us a lot more.

John McCain: A definite maybe. McCain irritated me last summer with his clumsy attempts at pandering and his carefully parsed statements, so unlike the straight-talk for which he was once famous. But he’s regained a bit of his mojo and he just might be my favorite Republican at the moment.

Mike Huckabee: Unlikely. He seems to be overusing religion to mask his deficiencies as a leader. He supports the Fair Tax plan (which is intriguingly bold) and recognizes the health care system is broken (which is unusual for a Republican) but he seems to be running for pastor-in-chief more than president.

Mitt Romney: No. He’s a phony. Says what he thinks needs to be said to get elected. Loved his Massachusetts health care plan but I can’t trust this guy.

Fred Thompson: Possibly. But I only say that because I know so little of the man. He’s rather bland, isn’t he?

Ron Paul: A slight maybe. See here.

So, there you have it. I’m flummoxed. At least I don’t feel compelled to give anyone money – or pester my friends with candidate info. Maybe I will just have to wait until there are just two options from which to choose. Or hope this quixotic effort produces results.


Sunday, December 30, 2007

Bhutto's Future Was Brighter Than Her Past

Ambivablog directs us to a fascinating Christopher Hitchens piece which reminds us of Benazir Bhutto’s many failings while still concluding her death is a major disaster. Yes, as prime minister, she aided the Taliban and helped Pakistan acquire nuclear weapons BUT

There is at least some reason to think that she had truly changed her mind, at least on the Taliban and al-Qaida, and was willing to help lead a battle against them.

I would add that by providing a viable, non-Islamist challenge to Musharraf, she gave her nation and the rest of the world hope that Pakistan could forge a future separate from both the current autocratic rule and Islamic fundamentalist rule. Now her cause must go on without her.

Today’s appointment of Bhutto’s disreputable husband as acting party leader (until Bhutto’s 19 year-old son finishes school and can take over) does not bode well for Pakistan. Of course, he too may have changed, evolving from an unflaggingly corrupt official into someone who cares about the greater future of his nation. We can hope.

Throughout the course of the war on terror, Pakistan’s possession of nuclear weapons has been one of the gravest concerns. We simply cannot afford a radical Islamic party to take control of that nation – not only because such a government might be more inclined to deploy their weapons but also because possession of nuclear warheads would give the fundamentalists and their allies such as al Qaeda a devastating bargaining chip.

Bhutto’s death is a tragedy. Hopefully others will be able to rise and carry on the democratic objectives she promised.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Benazir Bhutto Assassinated

A sad, tragic day. And a scary one. We can only hope the aftershocks of this event die down quickly. Now, more than ever before, we’ll find out if our steadfast support of Musharraf has been wise or dangerously foolish. His leadership right now may be all that stands between a functional nation and chaos.

The world lost a very brave woman today. We should all take a moment to mourn.

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Mitt Romney "Must Be Stopped"

So says New Hampshire's capital city newspaper.

They call him a phony, which is pretty much what I've thought all along.

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Why Ron Paul Matters

Today, I visited the Ron Paul website to collect reasons why not to support him (yep, I started from a biased position). Over the last few months, his limited but fanatical followers have grown ever more intense while the candidate himself has maintained his low-key presence, arguing for policies that, in my uniformed opinion, seemed to alternate between the unduly pessimistic to the naively optimistic.

There are a lot of reasons not to support Ron Paul. But after an hour on his site, I found myself wanting to join the chorus of “Liberty! Liberty!” Let’s face it, Paul is the only candidate in the whole race who understands the need to decrease government power and stop the government from selling off our liberties to unelected bodies such as major corporations. Paul wants to give the people more control over their lives. That’s intoxicating.

Yes, his economic ideas are cerebral to the point of being impossible to execute. Yes, his foreign policy is overly isolationist and far too distrustful of international organizations. And, yes, his immigration solutions border on the draconian. BUT…

It is so refreshing to see a politician who, instead of proposing more regulations and more government programs, actually wants to eradicate the clutter of detrimental, unjust, corrupt and just plain stupid policies. For example, he is the only candidate I know of who understands that the first step to fixing our healthcare system is removing the nonsensical restrictions and government mandates placed on healthcare providers as well as those seeking insurance.

I wouldn’t call me a Ron Paul supporter – I can’t get past some of his more outlandish ideas and positions. But I completely support what he’s trying to do. We need someone fighting for a personal liberty agenda. We need someone who understands that our ever-expanding government is stripping away the rights and powers of the individual. We need Ron Paul the candidate. Even if we may not need Ron Paul the president.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Cross(ed) Signals

First Mike Huckabee and now John McCain have used the image of a cross in their Christmas ad. Huckabee actually denied the use of a cross many claim appears floating in the background – McCain’s use is explicit and admitted. Whatever the use, I have two reactions: who cares and so what?

Who cares if a candidate who is Christian uses a cross in their Christmas message? You’d prefer Santa Claus? There is nothing inherently offensive about the cross, just as there is nothing inherently offensive about the Star of David or the Muslim crescent or a Ganesh statuette. Anyone who thinks the use of a cross signifies a candidate’s desire to impose theocracy is either willfully stupid or a partisan looking for any advantage, however disingenuous.

Then again, so what if a candidate uses a cross? Personally, I have no need for my elected officials to share my religion or have any religion at all, so long as they share my basic values. Sure, my values are based on Christianity but so are the values of a lot of people with whom I vehemently disagree. Being a fellow Christian doesn’t mean we share the same values. I realize that and I’m sure the evangelicals realize that. If either Huckabee or McCain think the image of a cross will win them any extra support, they are almost certainly mistaken.

If it’s pandering, it’s bad pandering. If it’s a sincere show of faith, there’s nothing much to criticize. Either way, it’s not a big deal and doesn’t require hand-wringing on either side.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Clinton v. McCain Lacks Excitement

Iowa’s largest paper, The Des Moines Register, has endorsed Hillary Clinton and John McCain, saying the two are their respective party’s most prepared candidate.

That seems accurate. I don’t think I can argue that Clinton and McCain have a level of experience and federal governmental expertise that outmatches their competitors’. Both certainly possess the intelligence to be president and have that tried-and-true feeling about them. But, really, how boring.

After months and months and oh-my-God endless months of campaigning, The Register endorses the original odds-on favorites. After Obama’s glow, Romney’s money, Huckabee’s insurgence and Edwards’ indefatigability (not to mention the delightfully nonconformist campaigns of Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul), we’re back to where we started: the curmudgeonly conservative and the plastic liberal. Wheeee.

Hopefully The Register’s endorsements portend nothing. The Republicans should at least give us a race interesting enough to end in someone other than McCain. Or Giuliani. Those two have done a heck of a job obfuscating their moderate instincts while crushing their once-formidable integrity under months of transparent pandering. They might still lead national polls (Giuliani) and win establishment approvals (McCain) but I think the Republican Party will end up with someone else.

Over on the Democratic side, Obama is the only viable threat to Clinton, but that’s a serious threat. He may not have the kind of experience so-admired by The Register, but he has an authenticity of character and an originality of voice necessary to overcome Clinton’s perceived inevitability.

I hope some excitement comes out of this insanely long election season. I have no horse as of yet, so I’m hoping some drama illuminates these carefully guarded candidates. Even if that doesn’t help me come to a decision, it’ll at least be more entertaining than the kind of election The Des Moines Register recommends.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Donklephant Service Announcement

Over at Donklephant, site-founder Justin Gardner is having a little fundraiser. The goal is to raise a modest $3,000 to upgrade the site, purchase a more secure hosting plan and even pay a couple bloggers a little stipend to help keep the content constantly updated. If you’re not a reader of Donklephant, you’re missing out on the best Centrist-leaning group blog. If you are a reader, consider dropping a few dollars into the collection jaw.

You can read all about the efforts here.

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Nothing on TV and That's OK

I watch a lot of TV – during any given week I’ve got a good 10-15 shows being taped by TIVO. Or I should say I HAD 10-15 shows being taped. With the writer’s strike, the number of programs with new episodes is quickly approaching absolute zero. That’s fine. I will endure the dearth of good television and the reality show diluvian as long as it takes the writers to get a fair agreement.

You don’t have to know anything about the studio’s position to know that they are trying to screw the writers. Writers always get screwed. That’s the way it is and has always been. In many ways, it’s unavoidable. Stories are not like paint on canvas. Stories breathe and evolve on their own, separate from their creator. The very best of them all but divorce the original writer completely, becoming a part of the cultural fabric. Just ask Shakespeare.

Over the long haul, a writer cannot reasonably own a story or a character. But they should absolutely be allowed to profit from the original content’s distribution. A writer who creates a great character for Law and Order will never see a penny from that character’s exploits in later episodes not written by the writer. So shouldn’t the writer at least profit from the sale and resale of the original episodes he or she wrote? Isn’t that basic fairness?

The studios disagree. They want to carve out an exception for so-called new media distribution (a.k.a. anything sold and transmitted through the Internet and its iPod, cell phone, futuristic ocular implant receivers). Despite the fact that it’s clear to anyone with any sense that Internet distribution will continue to grow exponentially, the studios claim that since they aren’t making any money on it this second, they want to “wait and see” before giving writers a reasonable cut on future profits.

The writers, not wanting to get stuck with the same bum deal they got for VHS and DVD sales (when they bought in on the studios’ first use of the “wait and see” b.s.), are standing their ground. Yes, they are basically going on strike to earn themselves a percentage of a number currently below zero, but they understand the future.

The Internet will be the primary form of entertainment distribution. If the studios want to be a part of that, they will have to share the proceeds. If they don’t want to share, they can try to survive the transition without writers. Hey, there will always be a demand for stories. There doesn’t always have to be a demand for major studios. For once, maybe the writers actually have the upper hand. They at least have my support – for how ever long it takes.

*disclosure* Yes, I am a professional writer but I am not a member of any union.

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