Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Big Lie Behind the "Christian" Right

The entire underlying premise of the so called "Christian" Right is based on a lie. If you want to be kinder, you may call it a myth. I do not. It is an outright lie, and should be exposed as such.

Otherwise tolerant Christians were fed the big lie that their religion was under attack from the bogey man secular left. You know, those, nasty, rotten, elitist Liberals. This was the glue that has held the Christian Right together. It is the circle the wagons mentality, the "us" against "them" reflex. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The fact of the matter is the the United States is the most religious, and most religiously tolerant country on the planet. Exit polls from the 2006 election showed 83% of voters self identifying as members of Judeo - Christian religions. Another 6% identified as belonging to an "other" religion. Only 11% identified themselves as having no religion. Is the vast majority of Americans frightened about being under attack from that 11%. That's ludicrous on its face.

Nevertheless, this has been the basic underpinning of the Christian Right movement. What is under attack in this country is the separation of church and state. This is the very provision for religious freedom in the Constitution, the one that has allowed this country to be the most religious and religiously tolerant country in the history of the world. Those who would breach this wall should be very careful what they wish for. This provision was placed in the Constitution at the insistence of those who knew the sufferings of religious intolerance. Those who profess to believe in the wisdom of the Founders should ponder that.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Conservative Worldview Breeds Incompetence

Over at Rockridge Nation, they have up a particularly important post on the framing of the incompetence of the Bush administration. Every Republican on the planet is now backing away from Bush and declaring him not a true conservative. This is their explanation for his failures and incompetence in governing.

We need not concede that point. In fact, we can take that frame completely away from them. Follow me below the jump to see how we can do this.

Blog Florida Blue

Cross Posted from Florida Kossacks

From the Rockridge post:
What many conservatives are doing today is playing the "blame game," or the "bad apple" defense. It's all Bush's fault, these failures, not ours. We are different, better, competent. The Rockridge Institute pointed out in a piece last year,"Bush is Not Incompetent," that Bush wasn't a failure at all; in fact, by conservatives' standards, he is quite the success. He has achieved many of their goals; that these ended in apparent failure points not to incompetence, or a deviation off the golden conservative path, but to the failure of the conservative vision at its heart.

In a piece behind the firewall in today's New York Times, David Greenberg, a professor at Rutgers University, had this to say:
...if any president has tried to implement conservative ideals, it’s Bush... The result — in the assessment of not just liberals but also other observers — has been disaster: a mess of a war, the failure to plan for Hurricane Katrina, the erosion of the church-state wall, widening inequality, the loss of civil liberties including habeas corpus, and scores of other ills that readers of this column can list as easily as I. This was the fruit of modern American conservatism.

There is a basic reason for this. The conservative worldview is ill equipped to govern and therefore naturally breeds incompetence in governance. The view that government is bad ill prepares conservatives to actually run the government.

Even in their supposed strength in national defense, their management of the armed services and the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan has proved disastrous. The Secretary of Defense's famous statement about going to war with the army you have rather than the army you wish you had is a case in point. These conservatives started a war of choice with a military, that by the Secretary's own words, was not the military he needed to do the job.

Other areas of governance have proved even more grossly incompetent. Their inept reaction to Hurricane Katrina is but one example of this. Having political hacks change the reports of scientists and threatening scientists over global warming is another. Management of the environment by people who truly don't believe in the efficacy of environmental management is a proven method of insuring incompetence.

This appears to me to be an area where we could all do a better job in framing our message. It may be true that the current occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is particularly incompetent. However, this is by no means an aberration of conservative governance. We should not let the Republicans get away with framing this mess as if it were.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Bush's New Measure of Success in Iraq: A Timetable for Terrorists

In his post Iraq funding bill veto politicking (yes, Bush is playing politics with the troops), George Bush has come up with yet another measure for success in Iraq. There is something very remarkable about this measurement. It's one that has an extremely ironic twist.

How ironic? Follow me below the fold.

Cross Posted from Florida Kossacks

In November 2005, George Bush defined victory in Iraq this way:

Victory in Iraq is Defined in Stages

Short term, Iraq is making steady progress in fighting terrorists, meeting political milestones, building democratic institutions, and standing up security forces.

Medium term, Iraq is in the lead defeating terrorists and providing its own security, with a fully constitutional government in place, and on its way to achieving its economic potential.

Longer term, Iraq is peaceful, united, stable, and secure, well integrated into the international community, and a full partner in the global war on terrorism.

In a speech delivered on May 24, 2004, at the U.S. Army War College, in Carlisle, PA, Bush outlined the steps for success in Iraq:

There are five steps in our plan to help Iraq achieve democracy and freedom. We will hand over authority to a sovereign Iraqi government, help establish security, continue rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure, encourage more international support, and move toward a national election that will bring forward new leaders empowered by the Iraqi people.

Now on May 2, 2007, in a speech to the Associated General Contractors of America, George Bush unveiled his latest definition for success in Iraq:
the definition of success as I described is sectarian violence down. Success is not, no violence. There are parts of our own country that have got a certain
level of violence to it. But success is a level of violence where the people
feel comfortable about living their daily lives.

I heard Bush go on to say that sectarian violence staying down for some period of time would be his measure of success. That sounds very much like a timetable to me. Listen to what Bush had to say about timetables in the same speech:
imagine what a thinking enemy is doing when they hear timetables. Oh, you've got to be out by a certain date? Well, why don't we just wait.

Imagine what George Bush just said to the sectarian militias and insurgents. All you have to do is lay low for a while and we'll declare success and go home. Sounds pretty much like a timetable to me. Why is that any different than the type of timetable that was in the bill he just vetoed? As a matter of fact, the benchmarks in the vetoed bill were a lot more substantial than
sectarian violence down

Isn't George Bush afraid that after these bad guys lay low and sectarian violence goes down, that these bad guys will then not just follow us home?

Monday, April 30, 2007

Candidate Review Wednesday: Overview

This time 4 years ago, I was firmly committed to Florida's favorite son, my former boss, Senator and former Florida Governor Bob Graham. I had taken a look at Howard Dean and liked what I saw. I was not enamored of John Kerry (more on that later) and I thought John Edwards suffered from premature ejaculation (er, uh, candidacy).

This cycle, I am much more conflicted. There is not one candidate who stands head and shoulders above everyone else, in my opinion. Maybe the best candidate isn't even in the race. Maybe the best candidate is ineligible to run again. There are at least two candidates who I would be equally happy to have as my party's nominee. This is the embarrassment of riches we seem to be suffering this year.

Today, I am launching a series of diaries to try and get the fencepost out of my ass. This series is going to be a little bit like examining my navel, something I have successfully avoided doing to this point in my life for the most part. I hope at the end of the day to have developed a coherent reason to support one candidate over all the others.

There are a couple of caveats I should make here. I am going to support the Democratic nominee. Period.

I want to become a paid employee of, or consultant to, the campaign I end up choosing to support. I could repeat my pattern from the last presidential cycle and spend my energy on the Congressional level. That happened after my first choice, Bob Graham, decided he couldn't sustain a viable campaign. This cycle though, I hope I wind up catching on with the ultimate nominee.

There are two top level criteria I am going to use to evaluate the candidates. The first is their ability to win the nomination. The second is their ability to win the general election. You can't have one without the other. That's what happened to Howard Dean in Iowa last cycle. Iowans came to the conclusion that Dean could not win the general. They also came to the mistaken conclusion that John Kerry could, so what do they know?

In my attempts to evaluate candidates chances to win the nomination, I am going to look at these factors:

  • Values projected in the Message
  • Stance on issues
  • Fundraising ability
  • Staff competence
  • Primary strategy
  • Does this candidate make me feel it?

I am going to go back to square one and do my own research on all these factors. I am a devotee of values based decision making, so I am going to start with that navel gazing thing. I am going to have to come up with a set of criteria to evaluate how each candidate's message resonates with my values (That's the first and the last criteria on the list above.) Those criteria are, by their nature, subjective. The other criteria are more objective in nature. At the end of the day, it is going to come down to my gut feeling as to which candidate makes me feel it more.

That's how I intend to proceed. It should be an interesting journey.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Iraq Withdrawal - Post Veto Frame

Our Fearless Leader, Georgie W, today reiterated his plan to veto the Iraq Supplemental Appropriations bill passed by Congress this week. You know, the one with the goal of removing US troops from Iraq by the end of March 2008. What's to worry, you say. The American people are on our side on this.

Well, maybe. They are on our side, if we don't stick our foot in our mouth. Or let the other side frame the debate. Is this a slam dunk? Hardly.

Follow me and you'll get my take on how to play the next inning.

We have got to come out of the gate saying:
The President just refused the money needed to get our troops home safely from Iraq. He is now playing politics with the troops lives by refusing to take this money and refusing to plan a safe redeployment.

The numbers seem to be on our side. 71% of Americans disapprove of Bush's handling of Iraq. 64% believe we should set a timetable for withdrawal. 57% believe Congress should have the final say on Iraq troop levels. Sounds pretty good, huh? Well, not so fast, Skippy. Take a look at this:

"The Democrats in Congress have proposed to fund the Iraq war only if the U.S. sets a timetable for troop withdrawal, too. George W. Bush has stated he will veto that proposal. If George W. Bush does veto it, what should the Democrats in Congress do next: should they try to withhold funding for the war until George W. Bush accepts a timetable for troop withdrawal, or should they allow funding for the war, even if there is no timetable?"

56% say Congress should allow the funding after the veto.

That is why we must drive home this point:
Bush refused the money.

Congress gave him the money he asked for, along with reasonable conditions for its use. Bush did not want to be bound by those conditions, so he refused the money. We must not allow the debate to be framed as Congress withholding the money. Congress voted for the money. George Bush refused the money. He is putting our troops lives at risk by refusing the money and refusing to plan a safe redeployment of our troops.

Just say yes, Georgie.

Friday, March 9, 2007

The Big Lie - Iraq - Again - Part II

So many lies, so little time. I was going to write next about the lie that all these horrible consequences would necessarily follow a withdrawal of US troops from combat duty in the Iraq Civil War. I still intend to deal with this topic. However, a new Big Lie has emerged from the Iraq War Supporters.

I am sure you've have heard it. Any mention of placing conditions , or restrictions on the supplemental funding for the war brings forth immediate cries of "micromanagement" from the Iraq War Supporters. Is this really true, or is it just one more Big Lie?

Come below the fold where we'll deconstruct this one and perhaps find some Truth....

Let's start off by defining micromanagement. gives us this:

mi·cro·man·age : –verb (used with object), -aged, -ag·ing.
to manage or control with excessive attention to minor details.
[Origin: 1985–90]
—Related forms
mi·cro·man·age·ment, noun Unabridged (v
1.1)Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.

House Republican Leader John Boehner had this to say about a recent plan by John Murtha to place restrictions on the use of funds in the upcoming Iraq supplemental funding bill:

“His aim, he made clear, is not to improve readiness but to ‘stop the
surge.’ So why not straightforwardly strip the money out of the appropriations
bill -- an action Congress is clearly empowered to take -- rather than try to
micromanage the Army in a way that may be unconstitutional? Because, Mr. Murtha said, it will deflect accusations that he is trying to do what he is trying to

Not to be outdone, Condoleezza Rice said:

proposals being drafted by Senate Democrats to limit the war amounted to "the worst of micromanagement of military affairs."

Even Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Lateline program is getting in on the act. They quote :

ROY BLUNT, REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN: It's hard to imagine a group less capable of making tactical decisions about specific troop deployments than 535 members of Congress.

Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Lateline, in the same story, also had this:

NANCY PELOSI, DEMOCRAT HOUSE SPEAKER: No more blank cheques for President Bush on Iraq. Our taxpayer dollars must go to protect our troops, to keep our promises to our veterans and to provide for the safety of the American people. In light of the facts, President Bush's escalation proposal will not make America safer.
and this:

TOM LANTOS, DEMOCRAT CONGRESSMAN: We are not fighting terrorism in Iraq. We are attempting to referee a religiously based civil war, which saps our strength and destroys our fabric as a society.
So what is all this talk really about? Does Congress in fact have the power to set policies that control how the military operates? Has it been done before?

Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution:
The Congress shall have Power to ...provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States...
To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces; To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union...To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States

So it would appear that Congress does indeed have the power to govern the military. In fact, Congress has done just that from the inception of the republic. There is 5 USC CHAPTER 99 - DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE NATIONAL SECURITY PERSONNEL System passed in January 2005 (For those of you not paying attention, this was in the Republican controlled Congress). Then there is 10 USC TITLE 10 - ARMED FORCES. This entire title of the code is devoted to the governance of the armed forces of the United States. It covers everything from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.

So Congress has indeed exercised its powers under the Constitution
To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
They have done it under Democratic and Republican controlled Congresses. They have done it before there were Democrats and Republicans. And they should continue to do so now.

So, when you hear your Republican friends talking about Congress micromanaging the Iraq war, just point them to Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. If that doesn't work, direct their attention to 10 USC TITLE 10 - ARMED FORCES. If none of that works, you know you've got the type of Republican who voted for Allan Keyes for the Illinois Senate seat now held by Barak Obama.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

How to Talk About Universal Health Care Insurance: Part 2

In How to Talk About Unviersal Health Care Insurance: Part 1, I talked about how the main crisis is not health care delivery, rather it is health care insurance.

This conversation was sparked by the response to another diary of mine published in December, How to Talk to Small Business People . Almost all the responses from small business people mentioned health care. They told me they are looking for a good way to get affordable health care insurance for themselves, their families and their employees. Of course these responses came from small business people who are progressive enough to comment and / or post on Daily Kos.

This diary is for people who want to advance the cause of Universal Health Care Insurance by persuading others. So let's get started...

Cross Posted from Florida Kossacks

If you have seen any of the other How to Talk to diaries, then you know the drill. If you are new to this, here is how we go about the task of talking to people already on our side. The purpose is to give them the tools to persuade people who should agree with us, but don't, that our ideas are the better ones.

The first thing to do is to define the values that relate to the task at hand. Here is my list of values applicable to this subject:

  • Community
  • That the promise of America is equal opportunity for all and special privilege for none
  • Mutual Responsibility
  • Inclusion
  • Work and Family

We then have to incorporate those values into an argument that fits into these tasks:

Define the Overarching Strategy

Define the Terminology

Mangle the Memes

We start with the strategy.

Define the Overarching Strategy

When you talk to the other side, you should start with your goal in mind. So first, you need to define your goal. Only then can you determine the best overarching strategy to achieve your goal without compromising your values.

As in most of these tasks, our goal is to persuade people who should agree with us but do not yet. We need to do this in a way that does not lose our audience at hello. The target community must receive our message in a way that resonates with them on a personal level. This can best by done by research and real world examples. First, some research.

Some of the best and most persuasive resarch done in this field has been has been done by physicians themselves. This research covers topics ranging from the huge administrative cost of our current system, taxes and who actually pays for these costs, and the sad fact that we already pay for national health care insurance, but don't get it.

If that isn't impressive enough, consider the research done by medical students . If the physicians already working in the health care delivery system and the medical students working to join them are in agreement, why would anyone else tell them that they are wrong?

Define the Terminology

Defining the terminology is akin to choosing the battlefield. If you let the other side define the terminology, you will be fighting your battle on the other guys’ battlefield. Any tactician will tell you that he who determines the battlefield has the much better chance of winning the battle.

We also must remember our audience. We are not preaching to the choir here. Out goal is to reach out and create a majority coalition in support of Universal Healthcare Insurance. Our target audience to get this coalition into the majority is twofold:

  • Small Business people who already know how hard it is to obtain affordable health care insurance in the current inefficient market.
  • Middle class taxpayers who mostly already have health insurance through their jobs.

The best way to reach this audience is to craft arguments where our values intersect with theirs. As we saw in Part 1, the census bureaus's research brought us these two telling tidbits:

  • 73% of the uninsured in the workforce worked sometime during the year.
  • 63% of the uninsured who worked during the year worked at companies with fewer than 100 employees.

This data give us the first things we can say about Universal Health Care Insurance - Most people who are uninsured are actively in the workforce. We are not talking about some giveaway program going mainly to those who are unwilling to work. We are talking about folks who work for a living just like you and I. Also, nearly 2/3rds of the uninsured in the workforce work for small businesses. This is just one more area where small businesses get the short end of the stick in this country.

So who are the uninsured? They are folks in our community who mostly work for small businesses. One would think that in a country that values entreprenuership, work and family, that we would take care of our workers and their families by making sure they all have equal opportunity to access quality, affordable health care no matter the size of the business they work for.

The other argument that should resonate particularly with small business people is the inefficiency of the current system. Health care insurance is ridiculously expensive, particularly so for folks who are not part of large byuying groups (big business, unions, professional associations, etc.). One of the reasons for the heavy cost is that the private insurance delivery system is incredibly inefficient in delivering the product. Small buisness people know better than most how crucial it is to control costs. The big business of health insurance delivery seems to believe thay can just pass these cost along to us.

What most of us don't know is that the government is already paying the lions' share of health insurance costs in this country.

the amount of public health spending in the U.S. is greater than the combined public and private spending of nations which provide universal comprehensive health insurance. A single-payer system could provide such coverage to all Americans with no need for additional health dollars.

So we could provide equal opportunity for an all inclusive health care insurance sytem without spending additional tax dollars. Is that not a win-win for middle class taxpayers and small business people?

So why do we not already have such a sytem?

Mangle the Memes

The first thing to understand is that there is a powerful lobby in this country that is determined to maintain the status quo. One of the main ways this lobby goes about maintaining the status quo is by demonizing the alternatives. So let's talk about what we are not suggesting.

We are not talking about socialized medicine. Remember, this discussion is about health care insurance. The main problem is not with our health care delivery system. So do not let anyone get away with telling you that it is.

We are not talking about some inefficient government bureacracy deciding who gets what health care procedure and when. In fact, an efficient health care insurance system will put even more of the choice for health care decisions back into the hands of the doctors and their patients. Doctors and patients will take back the decision making from some faceless private insurance bureaucrat.

How do we do that? With a single payer universal health insurance plan, we would wring the waste out of our health care insurance delivery system. Turns out this is a case where private industry is less efficient than government.

administration consumes 31.0 percent of U.S. health spending. Average overhead among private U.S.
insurers was 11.7
percent, compared with 1.3 percent for Canada’s single-payer
system and 3.6 percent for Medicare.

Who would have thought that the US government provides health insurance administration at one third the cost of private insurance?

We have a mutual responsibility to include working families in the health care insurance system. Healthy communities are productive communities. W can provide equal opportuity for access to affordable health care insurance at no additional costs to taxpayers. Ultimately we will have the luxury of seeing health care insurance costs falling for everyone.

So, get away from the keyboard and get out into your communities. Deliver thse messages to your elected officials and other opinion leaders in your community. A concerted netroots / grass roots campaign for single payer universakl health care insurance could get this issue past the tipping point.

What are you waiting for, someone else to do it? Start today.