Conservative columnist Debra Saunders agrees that we should wave the white flag of surrender on the War on Drugs.
"It's a little incredible that prostitutes weren't involved"
- John Dickerson, on Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich's wide-ranging corruption indictment
If the words Silver Spoons, Diff'rent Strokes, and Facts of Life bring a sparkle to your eye, go here.
Ok, so the economy is tanking, everyone wants the government to spend, spend, spend, and the nation's bean counters are predicting that we'll soon need to dispense with the "b" and start using the "tr" to describe how many -illions of dollars the federal budget will be in the hole next year.
But whether you're a Keynesian or not, not all spending is good spending. Tough economic choices are coming and we'd better start thinking about them. I'm in favor an aggressive initiative for infrastructure spending, here are three suggestions for cuts that could partially offset that spending:
1. Surrender in the war on drugs. It's time to admit to ourselves that as a society we suck at fighting wars against common nouns - drugs, poverty, terror - to name a few. Billions to hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent on the war on drugs - in police work, border patrol, judicial process, and incarceration. Are Americans using them any less? This does not mean legalization of every illicit substance, but it does mean taking an honest look at what measures are effective in cutting drug use and which ones are a waste of money. Nonviolent drug offenders currently serving time should be released from prison. A pothead might move into your neighborhood. Deal with it.
2. Weaken national security. Even more politically suicidal than #1, but we simply can't afford the amount of money we spend in this country to make us think we're safe. We're not safe. Any rational observer understands that much of what the TSA does to the travelling public is little more than aesthetics, directly expensive to taxpayers and indirectly expensive from reduced productivity in the economy. Some cutbacks may slightly increase the risk of terrorist attacks. So be it. If it costs $100 billion to avert death by terrorism of an expected 10 people, while that same $100 billion would save an expected 10,000 people from dying of leukemia, which would you choose? Obama also needs to be ruthless about wasteful spending in the Pentagon, the discussion of which has been virtually off-limits for the past eight years.
3. Increase unemployment. Cuts to our whack-a-mole drug policy and the rituals of our "security theater" will uproot a lot of entrenched economies, public and private. Prison guards, TSA officials, military contracters will be out of work. Not to worry, though. Some construction jobs should be opening up.
This fierce-ass broad is our first lady! Yeah!!!
(Yup, it's Annie Liebowitz.)
According to this site, my blog has an "ISTP" personality type:
ISTP - The Mechanics
The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.
The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters.
They had me till "policemen".
The first time I ever gave money to any political candidate or cause was about a month ago to the No on Prop 8 campaign. Now having read the various post-mortems, it appears that I wasted my money on an incompetent organization. In the realm of advertising, what we got were abstract warnings about Prop 8 being "unfair" and "wrong" versus dishonest, emotionally charged, and ultimately effective messages about kids learning about gay marriage in public school, churches being forced to conduct same sex marriages, and the like. Outreach to the African-American community (which went 70/30 in favor of Prop 8), was deemed unnecessary until the last minute, and even then it was tone-deaf. Fliers put out by Prop 8 proponents deceptively suggesting that Barack Obama favored the measure went unanswered.
The No on 8 organization is the intellectual progeny of the largest gay rights group in the country, the Human Rights Campaign. I've had my doubts about HRC for awhile and have declined to support them. Andrew Sullivan, the gay conservative blogger I read on a daily basis, despises them. But also Markos Moulitsas, of the DailyKos fame, is highly critical of them, and even though I don't see eye-to-eye with Kos on a lot of things, he does know a thing or two about activism.
HRC burns through millions every year, to what effect? It would seem that their reputation for being more interested in selling teddy bears and bumper stickers than actually making a difference, for habitually treading lightly from a defensive crouch in their outreach and marketing, for being lapdogs of a certain politician who shares their initials, and that politician's husband, is deserved.
It's time for LGBT leadership that doesn't beat around the bush, sugarcoat its message, and endear itself to politicians who ultimately betray us with Don't Ask Don't Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act. Yes, pragmatic-minded folks such as myself understand that gay rights are a radioactive topic in this country and have acted accordingly. But at some point the waiting and the accomodating need to end. To borrow from a certain other politician: This is our time. This is our moment.
You might think that an organization that for most of the first of its not yet two centuries of existence was the world’s most notorious proponent of startlingly unconventional forms of wedded bliss would be a little reticent about issuing orders to the rest of humanity specifying exactly who should be legally entitled to marry whom. But no. The Mormon Church—as anyone can attest who has ever answered the doorbell to find a pair of polite, persistent, adolescent “elders” standing on the stoop, tracts in hand—does not count reticence among the cardinal virtues. Nor does its own history of matrimonial excess bring a blush to its cheek.
Has anyone been discussing starting to put donations for Obama’s 2012 run in escrow, to be released upon the accomplishment of certain goals—eg, on Iraq, health care, energy, etc.?
It would take a ton of effort and wrangling to set up. And I haven’t thought it through at all, particularly the various legalities involved. Just off the top of my head, I think you’d have to set up a vote on whether he’d succeeded and the money could be released. I’d also guess you’d might have to require each person to specify a second choice organization for the money to go if Obama fails, so they wouldn’t just get it back and be able send it to the campaign anyway.
Interesting thought experiment but I don't think much more than that. Accepting campaign donations contingent upon accomplishing certain goals amounts to making a pledge. ("I take a pledge not to raise taxes", "I pledge to guarantee health care to every American", and so on.) Perhaps they'd be even more coercive than mere pledges, since politicians tend to value cold, hard cash above that fluid, airy-fairy currency known as integrity.
So if conditional campaign donations are like pledges, only more effective, what's wrong with them? They're a bad idea for the same reason that pledges are almost always a bad idea in politics. A politician taking a pledge is performing an act of ideological hubris. If elected, the politician needs to face changing real world conditions. Fine, so you're a lefty that wants to ensure that America gets out of Iraq in X months. But what about constantly changing facts on the ground over just the last year? Do you really want to enforce such rigidity in foreign policy? Foreign policy needs to be flexible and adaptive to be effective. And if that doesn't bother you, imagine what the Republican activists would do with their conditional donations. Republicans who wanted to get through the primary would undoubtedly need to pledge not to raise taxes. (Many already do this, but don't currently have to put their money where their mouth is.) But sometimes taxes need to be raised, no matter your ideology. If George H.W. Bush had been beholden to a large sum of campaign cash in addition to that famous fiscal promise that rolled off his lips in 1988, would he still have raised taxes? And if he hadn't, would the country be better or worse off?
Barack Obama faced a similar dilemma in the run up to this year's election. Back in his days of ideological purity on campaign finance, he made a pretty clear promise to accept public funds in the general election if his Republican counterpart agreed to as well. Then he built a staggering fundraising machine based on mostly small, grassroots internet donors. The whole premise of public financing (preventing disproportionate power by a few moneyed interests) had been largely obviated. But to carry this remarkably democratic donor base into the general election, Obama had to break his promise. (His explanation for doing so, that the campaign finance system was "broken", was pretty lame.) It was, in my view, the lowest point in his campaign.
It is understandable that the extremes of each party would welcome the opportunity to have a money-back guarantee. Indeed, it's always a bit tragic watching our leaders have to voice squarely partisan views during the primary and then tack to the center in the general. But the problem is not that elected leaders are insufficiently beholden to their base - it's that they're too beholden. Just because the far-left/far-right position is articulated before the centrist position does not make it the more legitimate one. It just makes it the first one.
A few images from the anti-Prop 8 rally in San Francisco. Similar rallies were held in every major American city. The fight endures.
You hear a lot about Obama being an embodiment of "change", but something clicked in me this morning that brought it home in a small way.
I was reading an AP article about how Obama was in the midst of staffing his White House, and the piece went on to say that he was "working to build a diverse Cabinet". An unexceptional goal, until you realize the article was talking about ideological diversity: "That includes reaching out to Republicans and independents — part of the broad coalition that supported Obama during the race against Republican John McCain. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been mentioned as a possible holdover."
Could it be that Obama's Cabinet will not be careful calibrated to a politically correct mix of race and gender? Could it be the first Cabinet in a generation driven first and foremost by meritocracy? Could it be that President Obama will strike a mortal blow to identity politics?
Change we sure would like to believe in.
Well, I guessed Obama would garner 353 electoral votes; now that North Carolina looks like it will be added to his column, he will end up with 364.
I got everything right except Indiana.
"We have been spoiled, first with Bill Clinton and then George Bush. And here's a president now who -- he's not stupid. He's not angry. He's not a phony. He's not fat. He's not cheating on his wife. Who needs a jerk like that around for the next four years?"
- Bill Maher, trying to find a comedic angle on President-elect Obama
Obama wins with 353 electoral votes.