Sunday, November 26, 2006

Saving Idiot Democrats From Themselves

An article in today's New York Times talked about how with the Democrats controlling both houses of Congress, that earmarking -- the wasteful spending on such projects as Sen Ted Stevens (R - Alaska) proposing a $250 million bridge to nowhere -- would change from a Republican flavor to a Democratic one. If so, that would be a mistake.

The Democrats can't get too cocky here, or they will get bitch-slapped in 2008. Yes, they won the House, but either by running conservative candidates in Red States or replacing liberal Republicans with Democrats in Blue States. In terms of the Senate, the Dems picked up VA because George Allen may have run the worst senatorial campaign in history; they picked up Ohio because the state was awash in corruption; they picked up Missouri because McCaskill ran a skillful campaign and Talent barely won his seat before; they picked up Rhode Island because Dems control the state and could not risk a well-liked Republican returned to the Senate; they picked up Pennsylvania because PA is a pro-life, but Democratic state; and they picked up Montana because Burns ran an awful campaign and Tester is a conservative Democrat.

In other words, this was no ideological revolution. Voters were angry with the war and corruption. They also want a government that works.

OK, so the first thing Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi does is back Jack Murtha against Steny Hoyer for her second-in-command. The media mada a big deal of her "losing", but I think she may have scored points with Murtha and his supporters for loyalty, which will come in handy.

But, the Intelligence Committee chair is another problem. Pelosi and Jane Harmon don't get along. Harmon is actually term-limited, but replacing her with Alcee Hastings is not a good move (not with his past impeachment as a federal judge). A good compromise would be NJ Representative Rush Holt, who has experience in intelligence in the state department.

Appointments aside, the key becomes the legislative agenda. The Democrats have to forget any thoughts about impeachment or major, time-consuming investigations. An examination of possible graft in expenditures in Iraq (like, what happened to the missing $12 billion) would be fine, but re-fighting why we are in Iraq is pointless. The focus needs to be on the future.

So, push an increase in the minimum wage law.

Eliminate the cap on social security contributions. Right now, if you make a salary more than $125,000, you have no more social security taken out. Eliminate the cap. The people will see that as fairness, and a way of helping to fix social security.

Keep all the tax cuts in places, except for those making over $250,000 per year. Restore the rate to its 2000 level. Link that with an indexing of the alternative minimum tax. The argument becomes that letting the wealthy off the hook while jamming up more people with the alternative minimum tax is unfair.

Push legislation to fix the so-called "donut" in the prescription drug plan -- the period of time when the benefit runs out and seniors have to pay full price for their prescriptions. Find the money for that with savings by fixing loopholes in the law that don't allow for cost-savings strategies, such as competitive purchasing of drugs.

Start a serious program of alternative energy. Explore sugar-cane-based ethanol, which is much cheaper than corn-based ethanel (ask Brazil). Raise the economy standards for Detroit (and any imports) in terms of fuel efficiency, and put the industry on a short leash. They have been fighting this since the 70s.

There are other ideas, which I will come back to another time.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Idiot Election ... Thank God It's Almost Over 2

Well, as political prognosticators go, I am no seer, but not a complete idiot, either. It appears that I will ultimately get the number of seats in the Senate correct (MT and VA look to go Democratic by the slimmest of margins). But, I underestimated Whitehouse in RI and overestimated the momentum of Petersen in AZ. I was right about the Democratic momentum. J.D. Hayworth got voted out of office and voters rejected a gay marriage ban.

Apparently, a number of RI voters would have easily returned Chaffee to the Senate had he been a Democrat, but just could not bring themselves to vote for a Republican.

In terms of the House, I underestimated there. As I write this, the Democrats have 27 confirmed seats, and at least a couple more leaners. Patrick Murphy in PA has a 1000+ vote lead over Michael Fitzpatrick, and, while that race hasn't been called yet, I think that's one for the Democrats.

I was surprised by CT. I thought the support by Republicans for Lieberman would help the Republicans like Nancy Johnson and Rob Simmons. I was wrong. Johnson got thumped by Chris Murphy, and Joe Courtney has a razor-thin 180 vote lead over Rob Simmons. The Lieberman vote may have helped Chris Shays against Diane Farrell.

I missed by one governorship. I thought Charles Fogarty would beat Don Carcieri in RI, largely based on the superiority in numbers of the Democrats. But, Carcieri ran a good campaign, and deserved to win.

So, not bad predictions. Looks like I got the Senate right, the House right in terms of win, and was only one off in terms of governors (and, I must say, I was delighted to see Ted Strickland bitchslap Ken Blackwell 60-37 in OH, especially after Blackwell tried to insinuate that Strickland had a deviant sexual lifestyle). Still, none of the pundit shows are calling me with contracts for 2008.

Oh, well. With my luck, I'd have to appear with Ann Coulter. Now, if I can just find those stakes for her heart ...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Idiot Election ... Thank God It's Almost Over

I am so glad to see this election almost over. Over $2 billion was spent on political ads -- mostly negative (over 90% from Republicans, over 80% from Democrats). Two 2008 presidential contenders took themselves out of the running -- John Kerry with his "botched joke" that came out as a slam against the intelligence of the troops in Iraq, and George Allen, who ran the worst Senate campaign in perhaps the last three decades. We saw in Tennessee the most racist campaign ad since Willie Horton, and we saw truly bizarre media coverage (like MSNBC reporter Contessa Brewer referring to the race in PA, where William Casey was leading *incumbent* Rick Santorum by 13 points as "tight" and "coming down to the wire", while in TN, where Bob Corker led Harold Ford by 12 points in an open seat, the race was "over.")

Anyway, before the polls close, here are my predictions, for what they are worth:

We'll see how good at politics I am.

House -- Democrats net 24 seats. Let the investigations begin!

Senate - Race by race (ones that are even remotely competitive):

PA: Casey over Santorum
OH: Brown over DeWine
MO: McCaskill over Talent
MT: Tester over Burns
TN: Corker over Ford
RI: Chaffee over Whitehouse
NJ: Menendez over Kean
MD: Cardin over Steele
AZ: Petersen over Kyl
VA: Webb over Allen
MI: Stabenow over Bouchard
MN: Klobuchar over Kennedy

Dems net 6.

RI and AZ are against conventional wisdom, but Chaffee has the momentum in RI and Petersen has closed to 2 in AZ and Kyl is not over 50%. Also, the anti-gay marriage amendment in AZ may go down to defeat, which helps Democrats. There are also three House races in AZ that should go Rep but look like Dem upsets.

Normally, I would be concerned that a Chaffee upset would suppress Dem turnout in AZ, but I think that race won't be called until the wee hours of the morning because Chaffee will win by less than a percentage point. Whitehouse should have coasted to victory in such a Democratic state, but he sucks as a candidate.

Thank goodness that the election is this Tuesday, because Cardin has not run very well (he is exciting as watching wood warp), but should hold on. Casey has also run a pretty tepid campaign, but in the last week has run an ad with his family in it (his daughters are shown talking about his virtues) and it's the one ad that makes him look human. McCaskill squeeks by in MO because Talent is on the wrong side of the stem cell initiative.

Of course, the Democratic elation over the Senate victory is short-lived. In January, Rumsfeld steps down. The Republicans call in their markers for helping Joe Lieberman win his independent bid in CT, and ask him to be Secretary of State. Lieberman accepts, and CT Governor Jody Rell, a Republican, picks a Republican to replace Lieberman. The Senate goes to 50-50 and Darth Cheney gets to cast deciding votes.

Dems pick up 7 governorships, so there'll be 29 Dems and 21 Reps in state houses.

So, by Tuesday (or maybe Wednesday, or maybe Thursday, or maybe by Thanksgiving), I will either look like I know something about politics, or be a complete idiot.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

On the other hand ... Idiot Limbaugh Again

As much John Kerry really blew it with his ill-timed and inarticulate comments about education and military service on Monday, it is really a bit much to hear Rush Limbaugh go off on the Senator, especially his attempt link the media coverage of the Kerry comments (Rush believes Kerry is getting a pass by the "drive-by" media) and the media coverage of Rush's attack on Michael J. Fox (Rush accused Fox of exaggerating his condition on ads supporting Senate candidates who support federal funding of embryonic stem cell research).

For one thing, John Kerry may be elitist, but he volunteered to go to Vietnam and serve his country heroically, earning several medals to prove it. Rush Limbaugh's service record -- well, he doesn't have one.

Limbaugh today attacked Kerry's grades in college. Kerry average a C in college, but graduated with a degree from Yale University. Rush's grade point average at college -- well, he didn't graduate from college.

Limbaugh claims Kerry has never been a success at anyting except marrying rich women. (I guess winning Senate races don't count). Well, Limbaugh's record prior to 1987 a complete series of failures in radio and with the Kansas City Royals.

His post-1987 success in radio is a bit of a historical fluke. His radio show in Sacramento became popular just as the Federal Communications Commission was getting rid of the Fairness Doctrine (requiring that issues of controversy in a community be covered in a fair and balanced way), and expanding the number of radio stations that groups could own (virtually gutting those restrictions within the next 10 years). Had Limbaugh's show appeared five years earlier, it would not have been the success it had because any station carrying it would have had to balance his show with a liberal equivalent. Most stations would have done with they did when they had to cover issues in a balanced way -- they wouldn't have bothered. Instead, Limbaugh, by tapping into anger and frustration of a core of conservative listeners (aka "dittoheads") drew high enough ratings that these ever-growing radio groups -- way more interested in profit than public service -- were all too willing to have him (and, later, his copycats) on air. So, Limbaugh's success (if you can call diminishing the level of political discourse a success) is in large measure just dumb luck.

In terms of comparing the media coverage of Kerry to the media coverage of Rush v. Michael J. Fox, it's just amazing to see Limbaugh trying to paint himself as a victim of the "drive-by" media.

Michael J. Fox suffers from Parkinson's Disease. He got the disease through no fault of his own. He doesn't claim to be a victim. He also doesn't deserve to have Rush Limbaugh mock him on air, as the video of Rush's broadcasts show him doing. If Rush is a "victim" of the "drive-by" media, then he only has himself to blame.

Then again, that's part of his history. Rush Limbaugh lost his hearing and required a cochlear implant because he is a recovering junkie. At the time he finally admitted he was a drug addict, Limbaugh reportedly was taking as many as 60 OxyContin pills daily, as well as other drugs, including Vicodin and Lorcet. In such high doses, hearing loss is side effect. Limbaugh has no one to blame for that physical affliction but himself.

So, Rush can spend from now to election day slamming Kerry and Fox. The problem is that in both instances, he lacks any credibilty whatsoever.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Idiot John Kerry

To John Kerry,

Please go away. You lost the 2004 presidential election because you couldn't make up your mind about important issues (like voting for the $81 billion for the troops before you voted against it). You couldn't even make up your mind about whether or not to attack the slimy Swift Boat group.

Now, two years later, you still can't get things right. On Monday, you state before a group of California college students: "You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."

Then your office says that you had misread your prepared remarks, which allegedly were: "Do you know where you end up if you don't study, if you aren't smart, if you're intellectually lazy? You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq. Just ask
President Bush." In addition, you were trying to make a joke.

You misread the remarks? Yikes, it appears you have a *major* problem reading, because the two statements are almost totally different.

In terms of making a joke, Mr. Kerry, you have no sense of humor. Don't try.

Then, instead of apologizing for what most reasonable people (not just "stuffed shirt spokespeople" and "doughy Rush Limbaugh") would see as a slam against our troops, you want to demonstrate that you finally have the cajones that you lacked in the 2004 campaign, and come out swinging against your critics. While I am delighted to see you found your backbone, you need instruction in when to display it.

So, please do us all a favor. Apologize for your remarks, and then take a vacation -- at least until after November 7.