Sunday, December 31, 2006

Our Founding Fathers Gift to Us

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The Founding Fathers laid out for us exactly why we have a government. This is why. These 52 words, the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America says it all. And that is their greatest gift to us all.

Happy New Year

We the People

This government is being formed by the people of the United States of America. The Declaration of Independence states it clearly:

Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,
This government was not some charter granted to us a foreign potentate. This government is a compact by of and for the people who consented to be governed by it.

in Order to form a more perfect Union

We had, of course, already secured our independence form Great Britian through the Treaty of Paris ending the Revolutionary War. The original compact beteween the thirteen original states was the Articles of Confederation . After the Revolution, the myriad problems with the Articles quickly made themselves manifest. The result was a call for a Constitutional Convention to create a govenmental compact to form a more perfect union.

establish Justice

After the who (We the People) and the what (to form a more perfect Union), the first why is to establish justice. It is important to note that the founding fathers found the idea of justice so compelling that it would be first i the list of they why's for creating this government. Perhaps it is especially noteworthy in a time when we have just so callously dumped habeus corpus.

insure domestic Tranquility

It was also clearly important to the Founding Fathers that our citizens be able to live in peace, free from domestic strife. We are agreeing here to bind ourselves together under a set of rules so that we may live in "domestic tranquility" or peace.

provide for the common defence

The Founding Fathers also recognized that it was a dangerous world out there. It was seen by bitter expererience that the most effective form of defense was a"common defence" as opposed to 13 seperate secretaries of defense. Maybe with Rumsfeld in there, 50 secretaries of defence slowing things down might not have been a bad idea.

It really is important to point out to my progressive friends that defense of the Constitution of the United States is one of the paramount jobs of government. It is not to carry a big stick, or to throw our weight around. But the sad fact is, there are people out there who reject everything our Constitution stands for and would kill enough of us to thow it onto the trash heap of history if they could. If the ideas represented here are not worth defending then you might as well kill me right now.

promote the general Welfare

I think this is the one that our Conservative friends seem to forget most about. Let's read this again:

promote the general Welfare
Imagine that. The government exists to promote the general welfare? Not the welfare of the multinational corporations or the large campaign contributors? The general welfare? Yeah, that one sort of baffles them. Kinda goes against the grain of their "government is bad" meme, doesn't it.

and last, but certainly not least,

secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity

The government was formed to secure the blessings of liberty? How can that be? Government is anti-liberty. Less government is liberty. Well, not according to our Founding Fathers. They recognized that in order to secure the blessings of liberty, there must be a government in existence to ensure that those blessings are not given, sold or otherwise seduced away from us. So, when Newt Gingrich suggests that we ought to give up our First Ammendment Rights for a little security, be sure and point he and his friends towards the ultimate reason we have a government:

to secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our

Thursday, December 28, 2006

John Edwards 2008 ???

John Edwards announced his candidacy for President of the United States in New Orleans today. To paraphrase a line from my favorite movie, Casablanca, "I'm shocked, shocked to hear there is campaigning going on here. And here are your delegates, Senator." Edwards has been practicallyliving in Iowa for the past two years. It has been paying off for him. He has been leading the polls there until being tied by Barack Obamain the most recent poll.

The line up of Democratic primaries in 2008 is very much in John Edwards favor. He is well positioned to win Iowa and Nevada. He need not worry so much about New Hampshire, but must do well in South Carolina. Winning 3 out of the 4 first contests in 2008 would make Edwards the clear favorite for the 2008 nomination. That kind of success potential should give Edwards a real leg up in the money primary as well.

The Edwards message is one that he has been honing for the past 3 years. His "two Americas" message has been reinforced by his One America PAC. He has already put a video up on >YouTubeand live blogged at DailyKostoday. He is doing a Live on Line Town Hall Meeting tonight, from, you guessed it, Des Moines,Iowa. If this is not a nod to Time Magazine's Person of the Year, you, I don't think we'll ever see one.

I was leaning towards former Virginia Governor Mark Warner until he took himself out of the running before the 2006 mid term elections. Since then, I have been sitting back trying to see if someone will really grab my attention. In 2003, I was intensely curious about Howard Dean. But when it became clear that Bob Graham was going to run, there was no question in my mind who I was going to support.

There are still a few more days in 2006 left. The question now is, do I become a 2006 supporter of (fill in the blank), or do I stay on the sidelines watching the game unfold? It had been my intention to wait a while to see what developed. But I have submitted a question to the Edwards Town Hall meeting tonight. I asked the same question of John Kerry in March of 2003. There is no way that Edwards can fail to give a better answer than Kerry gave, but I am going to reserve judgement until I get an answer to my question:

Senator, the Republicans win because they win a solid South. How do you
plan to win in the South?

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

How to Talk to Small Business People

Today we are back on track. The last two weeks have been spent on How to Talk to the Main Stream Media. While I personally thought they would be very useful, they did not get overwhelming responses. That's OK though, it was good exercise for me to run through my own personal do's and don'ts when dealing with the media.

How to Talk to Small Business People has a more "traditional" goal. Once again we will be trying to convince people who should be agreeing with us that we have the better ideas, and that our candidates are the better ones because they espouse these ideas and values. We need to do this in such a way as that our subjects will not be immediately turned off to our arguments before we even get started.

Speaking of getting started....

Cross Posted at Florida Kossacks

Small businesses create more jobs and are the sources of more innovations than any other segment of our society. They have a very strong sense of self reliance and personal accountability. Community is highly valued by Small Business People. The operate their businesses and employ people in our communities. They raise their families and worship together with us in our communities. They give back to their communities by serving in Kiwanis, Optimists, and all other manner of civic organizations, both international and local in scope.

Small Business People also vote overwhelmingly Republican. They are mistaken in their understanding of what the Republican Party stands for (by its deeds, not by its words). Most Small Business People are moderate by nature - they want their products and services to be sought out by the widest range of potential customers possible. Time and again, that has been shown to be in the "broad middle".

Define the Overarching Strategy

What is the best strategy to use when deciding How to Talk to Small Business People? It is not much different than in talking to any other segment of society you wish to persuade. The first thing to do is to identify which among your values is most applicable to this subject. Emphasize those values that are shared by the subjects, in this case Small Business People. Any facilitator of conflict resolution worth his or her own salt will first seek to identify areas of common agreement. We should view this exercise no differently.

Small Business People value personal accountability. They know full well that given an even chance, they and they alone, are responsible for their own success or failure. Small business people value community. They raise their families, worship and run their businesses in their communities. They are the backbone of the Kiwanis, the Optimists and other civic organizations. They run for City Council, belong to the Chamber of Commerce and support their churches and local charities.Small Business People value independence and freedom from over burdensome governmental regulations. Their trade group is the National Federation of Independent Businesses. The issues that are important to them include competition, government and regulatory reform and tax relief. The NFIB website proudly proclaims:

Advocacy is a top priority for NFIB.
Their list of legislative accomplishments includes tax relief and "tort reform" amongst others.

Define the Terminology

Small Business People tend to self identify as Republicans because they believe the Republican Party is the party of business. They are only partially correct. The Republican Party is the party of big business. The Gopers give a lot of lip service to small business but that's about all they really give them. All the major legislative efforts of the Republicans have been centered on benefiting big business. Very little is actually done with small business people as the major focus.

Tax rollbacks on the very wealthy are a good example. The Republicans claimed that rolling back the tax cuts for the very wealthy would negatively impact small business people, and therefore hurt job creation, the economy, mother hood and apple pie. The truth of the matter is that most small business people are able to arrange their financial affairs in such a way as to not show very high taxable incomes. Where they are running into real problems is with the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) . This is a tax scheme that was devised to keep the super rich from avoiding paying taxes at all. It has not been modified to keep up with the times, however. So now it is going to ensnare people it was never meant to cover. We can go a long way to getting small business people on our side by making AMT reform a priority.

Fair competition is another area that small business people are getting lied to by the Republicans. I am going to use Wal Mart as an example only here. Small business people don't like the idea of welfare or government subsidies. Because of their sense of community, most of them want to provide and many do, health and other benefits for their employees. What they don't realize is that companies that hire primarily part time employees and pay them no benefits and low wages are getting subsidized by the government. These part time employees get free health care from the government when they get sick. Many of them are on food stamps and Aid to Families with Dependent Children. Even though they are working, many work 2 or more jobs, their incomes are still low enough to qualify for government assistance.

When you explain to a small business person that the big company he is competing with is getting these subsidies from the government, they tend to get very unhappy. Usually when they think about welfare, they only think about the Welfare Queens ripping off the government. They don't stop to think that their competition is benefiting from the welfare system by having the government pick up the spread between a living wage and what they are actually paying their employees. When you explain that to a small business person, the idea of a living wage begins to look a whole lot more reasonable to them.

The other argument that Republican use against raising the minimum wage or a living wage is that it will cost jobs and put small business people out of business. Many states have a higher minimum wage than the Federal Minimum Wage. In Florida, we passed a State Constitutional Amendment raising the minimum wage and indexing it for inflation. Florida is still leading the nation in job creation. Scratch that argument.

Small business people understand economics. After they get that the government is subsidizing below living wage paying employers, they are susceptible to another argument. That is that if you can't afford to pay a living wage ( not get the government to subsidize you), economically you should not be in that business. A truly free market would force you out of business without the government subsidies. Small Business People really get that argument.

Mangle the Memes

You are not going to get through to Small business People unless you can get past the memes that they have bee indoctrinated on since birth. Use examples to show them that the Republican Party is not the party of rugged individualists, but is instead the party of corporate welfare.

Small Business People tend to be on the patriotic side. Be ready to show them that Dems are competent to keep us safe from terrorists and will otherwise protect our national security. After all, most people now get that Dumbya did not make us safer by invading Iraq.

Don't let them get away with calling us "tax and spend" Dems. Remind them that it was a Dem President who balanced the budget and left office with a surplus. Also, it is the Dems in Congress who are bringing back pay - go budgeting. That's something small business people really understand.

We have more in common with the Small business community than most people think. We have a lot more in common with them than the Republicans really do. The Gopers have just done a better job of convincing the small business community that they share their values. In fact, we share more values in practice than the Gopers do.

If you can remember to speak to small business people in terms of our shared values, you have a very good chance to get them away from the Dark Side. You will at least have made them think about it.

And that's a start.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Iraq: What We Should Really Do

I have stayed away from diarying about Iraq. Lots of very bright people have been writing about it. I have been focused on the 2006 elections, nationally and here in Florida. I just didn't want to do it.

The elections are over now. WE WON!!! Unfortunately, we didn't win everything we wanted. I dearly wanted Jim Davis to win in FL-Gov. It was not to be. But, we did win a giant referendum on Iraq. Now the President is acting like he is leading a different country than the one that just soundly rejected his vision for Iraq.

So, here I am. I have no excuses for not writing this. Some of you are not going to like what I have to say. Others might. In any event, here is my two cents worth...

First thing, I ought to tell you a little about me. I am old enough to have spent 4 years in the Marine Corps and 13 months in South East Asia. (Viet Nam mostly, but also some other places in that general neck of the woods.) Up until the last few years, I thought this country had actually learned some lessons from Viet Nam. Until ole George W got into his mach0 act.

I long ago came to my own terms with Viet Nam. It was a mistake to have gone there in the first place. We didn't fight the war in a way that would give us a chance to "win". But the men and women who served there did so honorably and felt they were serving the best interests of their country at the time. It was not until several years later that I saw how wrong it was for us to have gotten involved there. But our involvement there did figure into the larger scheme of events and in its own way contributed to the eventual freedom of Eastern Europe. All part of history.

I was not in favor of this war from the beginning. I did not believe that Iraq was an imminent threat to the national security of the United States, and couldn't fathom why Dumbya did. But neither am I a pacifist. There are people out there who want to harm us. I have no problem whatsoever doing it to them before they can do it to us. I would just prefer we focus on the real bad guys out there. There are certainly enough of them. We didn't need to invent any new ones.

On that score, I was in complete agreement with Senator Bob Graham. During the debate for the Authorization of Use of Military Force in Iraq (AUMF), Senator Graham introduced a substitute amendment. The Graham amendment left the Iraq request intact. It added other trouble makers such as Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Syria etc. Graham, who was Chair of the Senate Intelligence committee at the time, urged his colleagues to approve his amendment because there were other bad actors out there who had in fact already killed Americans and wanted to kill some more.

Well, the Graham amendment was defeated. The Bush administration did not want the focus on Iraq to be diluted. Senator Graham's speech the next day on the resolution that ultimately passed should be required reading for every critic of the war.

tonight I am going to vote no on this resolution. The reason is this
resolution is too timid. It is too limiting. It is too weak. This resolution
fails to recognize the new reality of the era of terrorism. And that reality is
that war abroad will, without assertive security actions, increase the prospects
of terrorist attacks here at home. In fact, war on Iraq alone leaves
Americans more vulnerable to the No. 1 threat facing us today, those
international terrorist organizations that have the capability to inflict upon
us a repeat of the tragedy of September 11.

Graham closed his speech with this:

Of all the issues we care about, and those issues over which we have
some capability to determine the outcome, in my judgment, the No. 1
priority should be the war on terrorism and its threat to the people of
the United States in our homeland. Our top targets should be those
groups that have the greatest potential to repeat what happened on
September 11, killing thousands of Americans. Passing this timid resolution, I fear, will only increase the chances of Americans
again being killed. That is not a burden of probability I am prepared
to accept. Therefore, I will vote no.
I close with the words spoken in one of the darkest periods of the
history of the Western World. In 1941, Winston Churchill said:

Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and
easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can
measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter.
The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that
once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of
policy, but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable

Now to the nub of it. What should we be doing now? There are all these dire predictions of the region falling into chaos if we withdraw precipitously. Sounds a lot like the old "domino theory" to me. We all now that didn't come to pass. , But maybe we just got lucky that time. Maybe this is a different set of circumstances.

Here is my proposal. I don't want to lose a single more American life refereeing the civil war going on in Iraq right now. Neither do I want to risk that the bad actors adjacent to Iraq will use our absence to their advantage. My proposal is that we immediately inform the Iraqis that they are responsible for their own internal security. We will pull our forces back to the Iraqi borders or into Kuwait and / or Turkey. We will provide external security to Iraq for a limited time period.

This should deter Iraq's neighbors from making mischief in the area. At the same time we should be talking to all of Iraq's neighbors to get them to buy into a solution for Iraq's external security that will allow us to remove all our combat forces from Iraqi soil. This should begin immediately.

So there you have it. It has some elements of the Murtha plan. It has some elements of the ISG report. And it has ideas borrowed from elsewhere. If I were in a position to advise the President, that's what I would be telling him we ought to do. I am not, so I am suggesting this alternative to you.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Please Allow Me to Introduce Myself

I am relatively new to this world of blogging, but I am rapidly becoming that most dangerous of people - a commited convert. Just like those that have quit smoking (something I have yet to master), I am becoming not quite a rabid convert, but I have to remind myself not to allow that to occur.

I am a Democrat, make no mistake about it. I am a Democrat because I believe that the Democratic Party is the one that best explemplifies the Greatest Commandment: "Love thy neighbor as thyself."

To fully carry out that commandment, one must be more than tolerant with those who disagree with them. They must seek to understand the nature of the disagreement. They must seek to find some common ground upon which to begin to understand each other.

This is at the core of my value system. I believe in a values based policy and political decision making system. If one stays true to ones' values, the policy decisions that are made will almost always be intellectually defensible. Even if the decision is made with the value of faith alone.

The mission of this blog is to provide a place to discuss and debate the best ways to come together in this country to make it a better place. All who wish to make this country a better place will always be welcome here.

Catch the Next Big (Moderate) Wave

Surfers are constantly on the lookout for the really Big Wave, the "Perfect Ride". Democrats seeking to win the White House in 2008 should be no different. The next Perfect Ride into the White House is going to be made by the candidate who catches the Moderate Wave with just the right board, at just the right moment.

Exit polls show that fully 47% of the voters in the 2006 mid-term elections categorize themselves as Moderates. The exit polls also show that 32% of the voters call themselves Conservatives and only 20% call themselves Liberals.

Democratic candidates for the US House of Representatives captured the Moderate vote by 22 points (60% to 38%). 20% of the Conservatives and 87% of the Liberals also voted for the Democrats for Congress. Moderate voters increased by 2% in 2006 growing from 45% in 2004. This increase came from the Conservative ranks which decreased by 2%.

John Kerry won the Moderate vote in 2004, but only by 9 points (54 to 45). Kerry also managed only 15% of the conservative vote. The electoral lesson here could not be more clear. Whoever appeals greatly to the Moderate voter and can peel away enough Conservative voters will be the next president of the United States. This candidate will also have to take care to not alienate enough of the Liberal voters to siphon off votes into a leftist third party candidate coffer (can you say Green Party?).

Democrats should read the 2006 election results tea leaves very carefully. The common wisdom postulates that the great issue in 2006 was the Iraq war. The question really becomes was it the war itself or the way it has been managed? That question arises because initially a majority of the voters supported the Iraq war. Exit polls from the 2004 election showed that voters approved of the decision to go to war in Iraq by a margin of 51 to 45%. The 2006 exit polls show that voters now disapprove of the war in Iraq by a 14 point margin, 56 to 42%.

So what changed in the past two years to bring about this change? The 2006 exit polls show that the voters believe the Iraq war has not made us safer by a whopping 24 point margin, 59 to 35%. That questions the basic competency of the Republican Administration in prosecuting the war on terror. The Hurricane Katrina relief fiasco also plays into the voters view of this administration as incompetent. Add in Republican corruption scandals and the Mark Foley - House Page scandal, and you have the perfect storm for the change of control of Congress that occurred on November 7, 2006.

What does this all mean for 2008? Some of the answers can be found by taking a close look at the Democrats who were newly elected to Congress. They are hardly a band of liberal fireaters. The New York Times took a look at the incoming Congressional freshmen in an article titled "Incoming Democrats Put Populism Before Ideology". Here is how the Times summarized their conversations with the newly elected Democrats:

in interviews with nearly half of them this week, the freshmen -- 41 in the
House and 9 in the Senate, including one independent -- conveyed a keen sense of
their own moment in history, and a distinct world view: they say they were given
a rare opportunity by voters, many of them independents and Republicans,
who were tired of the partisanship and gridlock in Washington. (Emphasis mine)

Voters are "tired of the partisanship and gridlock in Washington." In 2008, voters are going to be looking for a pragmatic problem solver, who will place progress over partisanship. Voters are absolutely fed up with the partisan sniping and gridlock in Congress, aided and abetted by the Bush administration. This is reflected in the 61% disapproval rating of Congress and a 57% Bush job disapproval rating voters reported in the 2006 exit polls.

What problems are the voters looking for their elected leaders to solve? Fully two thirds of the voters reported the Iraq war was extremely or very importatnt to them. 72% of the voters reported that terrorism was extremely or very important to them. During the next two years, the Iraq situation is likely to be well on the way to resolution. How much of an issue the Iraq war will be in 2008 is going to be a function of how far along the path to resolution we get by then.

Terrorism is doubtless to still be an issue in 2008. Democrats cleared an important hurdle in 2006. 51% of the voters reported that Democrats "would make us safe". 59% reported that Republicans "would make us safe." The so called "security gap" is thus down to 8 points. Significantly, a slight majority now believes the Democrats "would make us safe." Clearly , a successfull Democratic candidate in 2008 will have to present a smart, tough plan to combat terrorism.

Hidden by all the smoke of Iraq and corruption and scandals in 2006 may be the biggest lesson of these mid term elections. In 2008, it is very likely to be "the economy, stupid" again. While the exit polls showed the electorate evenly split on the condition of the economy, other questions revealed an opprtunity for a hopeful message on the economy for the 2008 campaign. 59% of voters reported their family's economic situation as worse or the same. 67% of voters say their family has just enough or are falling behind. And 68% see life for the next generation as worse than today or about the same.

The incoming Democratic freshman lawmakers seem to be tied to a common theme. Here is what the New York Times reported about some of them:

... many of these freshmen Democrats are hard to pigeonhole ideologically.
Even among the most socially conservative, there is a strong streak of economic
populism that is a unifying force.

Heath Shuler, for example, the former
professional football player and newly elected House Democrat from North
Carolina, is anti-abortion and pro-gun, but sounds like an old-style Democrat on
economic issues.

"I was taught at a very, very young age about faith and
personal responsibility, and through that, that responsibility was about helping
those who cannot help themselves," Mr. Shuler said. "If you look at what the
Democratic Party stands for, it is about helping others who can't help

Like other Democrats, he supports legislation to increase the
minimum wage and make college tuition tax deductible. He also opposes trade
agreements that he says have led to a 78 percent loss in textile industry jobs
in his state.

Similarly, Ms. Boyda of Kansas, a first-time office holder who
relied on lengthy newspaper inserts to make her case to the voters, said, "The
rural economy has been left out." She added: "A lot of my district feels a great
deal of insecurity about their jobs, their health care, their business, their
family farm. They feel like they're just kind of hanging out there."

Carol Shea-Porter, a social worker and new House member from New Hampshire who
considers herself a populist, said, "The theme of my campaign was, I'm running
for the rest of us." She added that no matter how much the Bush administration
boasted of job growth, her voters "understood those were Wal-Mart jobs." And,
she said, "They understood when they talked about the stock market boom, that
half of Americans aren't even in the stock market."

This economic populism is the common story of most of those who were successfull in getting elected for the first time in 2006. A successfull presidential candidate in 2008 will be a pragmatic, problem solving economic populist, who also presents a tough and smart stance on the war on terror.

Who will be the candidate who catches this next big wave and gets the "Perfect Ride" into the White House in 2008?