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Wednesday, August 04, 2004

assorted tidbits

Guest Blogger Paul Parker

Its been nearly a year since Rodger started this blog. In that time, he has developed a loyal following with his insights and writings on international affairs. As a guest blogger, I run the risk of blogging about stuff that is not relevant to why you are here. Or, interferring with his excellent posts, like this one on Democratization. What’s a guest blogger to do? How about mixing and matching? I’ll be back in the next couple days with more on framing and the 2004 election and beyond.

1. Newsweek is reporting that in the immediate shadow of 9/11, aides to Douglas Feith suggested Secret Proposals: Fighting Terror by Attacking ... South America?. And I still have failed to see the Iraq/AQ connection.. the idea was to catch Al Qaeda off guard, and not tip the hand that we would go into Afghanistan, while also attacking terrorists thought to be funded in part by Hezbollah. But apparently sounder heads prevailed.

Other proposals got greater traction. The 9/11 Commission says the idea of attacking Iraq also was pushed in a Sept. 17 memo by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. Wolfowitz argued that the odds were "far more" than one in 10 that Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 attacks, citing in part theories by controversial academic Laurie Mylroie that Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, was an Iraqi intelligence agent. (The commission's report found "no credible evidence" that Iraq was behind the 1993 attack—and no Iraqi involvement in 9/11….)

Loyal readers will recall Rodger’s preeminent work on the trouble with Myrolie.

2. From Wednesday’s LA Times (registration required) : Democrats Claim Mantle of Fiscally Responsible Ticket. The article notes how both Kerry and Edwards are campaigning on this issue:

"This affects people's lives," [Edwards] said in Alexandria, a small town on the Red River. "And the deeper and deeper we go into deficit, the more and more Social Security is at risk. We are leaving our children with a debt and a responsibility that's not theirs."
Like Kerry has sought to do, Edwards framed the matter as one of "values."
"Talk about values, and our moral responsibility to our children and grandchildren?" Edwards asked. "How would you feel … if you were leaving your child with $20,000 in debt, instead of leaving them better off?"

Still, this has the Republicans on the defensive, and it should. Political scientists talk about "issue ownership" by political parties -- think military for the Republicans over the past 30 years, and social programs for the Democrats, and the dramatic efforts to wrestle thoseissues away by Lt Kerry and the prescription drug bill, respectively. The economy has generally favored the Republicans in peoples' minds. But Reagan, Bush and Bush have priovided the Dems with an opening. Clinton infuriated many liberals early on by a tax increase instead of the middle class tax cut, but most Dems are happy for the economic performance his adminstration caused (coincided with? pick a word. Ah yes, that framing stuff) And last week on PBS’s Wall Street Week, most panel members (but not the guy from AEI) made the point that the Democrats have a nice track record of managing the economy. Here is some previous discussion of evidence showing the economy has performed better under Democrats than Republicans. And on Thursday, the Washington Post ran an article about "Political Fissure in the Corporate World."

Its not clear just how Kerry would do reduce the deficit, of course (maybe he has a secret 2,500 page study, like
Arnold?) – the proposals to resurrect the line item veto and to trim pork are laughable to anyone familiar with the driving forces of our 2.3 trillion dollar budget: social security and medicare take over one-third (and that will soon rise more with the full implementation of prescription drug benefits), the military about 20% and debt service about 15% (and rising quickly as deficits are forecast into the future). I want more fiscal responsibility, and if I were an undecided voter, "fiscal discipline" stuff of pork barrel and line item veto would irritate me more; as it is, I’ll chalk it up to the difference between campaigning and governing, and give Kerry a pass (especially after that whole compassionate conservative thing). Not all will, but Kerry is prepared. Again, from Wed LATimes:

By Bush campaign estimates, Kerry's proposals would leave a $1.3-trillion budget hole over the next 10 years.
Sarah Bianchi, Kerry's national policy director, said Kerry "doesn't need a lesson on fiscal discipline from the most fiscally reckless administration in American history."

3. Sadly, the Vote for Change Tour will not bring Springsteen to MissouriSt. Paul, at seven hours away, is the closest bet. And that’s a school nite. Some of the other big name acts include Pearl Jam, the Dave Mathews Band, John Mellencamp, John Fogerty, REM, Bonnie Raitt, and the Dixie Chicks. From the LA Times,

"Do I think we are going to get bashed?" said Springsteen. "Sure, in this political season, that's coming. But I have written about very basic American principles for 25 years. I wasn't kidding when we're on that stage. And there are particular moments when you have to [say], 'This is the moment when you take your place on the playing field and the chips are going to fall where they may.' "
Springsteen also had an op-ed in Thursday's NYT which includes the following:

Through my work, I've always tried to ask hard questions. Why is it that the wealthiest nation in the world finds it so hard to keep its promise and faith with its weakest citizens? Why do we continue to find it so difficult to see beyond the veil of race? How do we conduct ourselves during difficult times without killing the things we hold dear? Why does the fulfillment of our promise as a people always seem to be just within grasp yet forever out of reach?

I don't think John Kerry and John Edwards have all the answers. I do believe they are sincerely interested in asking the right questions and working their way toward honest solutions. They understand that we need an administration that places a priority on fairness, curiosity, openness, humility, concern for all America's citizens, courage and faith.

4. Tuesday, Missouri became the first state to amend its Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman.
Wednesday, a King County [WA] Judge rules in favor of same-sex marriage. Now, more states will probably be motivated to jump on the constitutional amendment bandwagon. King County Superior Court Judge William Downing ruled Washington state's Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and then stayed the ruling until the case is reviewed by the state supreme court. (Superior Court is the major trial court in Washington.)

Downing characterized the reasons for banning same-sex marriage and then refuted them as follows:

• "Morality requires it." Downing countered: "... Americans have differing views as to what morality requires in the definition of marriage. It is not for our secular government to choose between religions and take moral or religious sides in such a debate.

• "Tradition compels it." Downing cited the Massachusetts Supreme Court's opinion that "it is circular reasoning, not analysis, to maintain that marriage must remain a heterosexual institution because that is what it historically has been."

• "The institution of marriage is threatened." The judge said threats to marriage — notably a shortage of commitment and an excess of selfishness — come from inside the institution, not outside it.

5. Don't overlook the little things that might matter in an election. From Thursday's Washington Post: Kerry Detour to Visit Town Skipped by Bush
Reg Weber, one of three brothers who run a sausage factory on the edge of town, was waiting for Bush that day in May when he breezed past and was there waiting again this time when Kerry bounded out of his bus to work the rope line, a gesture that seemed to make all the difference. "By God, he's my man now," Weber said of Kerry. "All he had to do was stop and he got my vote. He recognizes the little people."

After losing the Reg Weber vote in Wisconsin, the GOP is Courting the Amish Vote in PA and OH.

6. The Thursday New York Times' web obit of Henri Cartier-Bresson runs five pages. Cartier-Bresson made the 35mm roll film camera famous soon after its invention in the late 1920s. As the most famous street photographer, he popularized the notion of photographers making great photographs by capturing the"decisive moment" . The photo accompanying the Times' obit exemplifies this idea, with the sutter snapped just before the man's foot hits the water. You can see more of his pix at the webpage of Magnum Photo.

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