Saturday, November 8, 2008

A proposal on Marriage

As you may have read on DailyKos, there's a movement to separate marriage from civil unions. Marriage would be a strictly religious observance while civil unions would be granted by the state.

When my wife and I were married last year, we filled out two separate contracts. One was the North Carolina issued forms and entailed the legal benefits and responsibilities of our union. The other was a contract known as a "ketubbah" that is signed by husband and wife in the Jewish tradition and indicated our spiritual bond. Our wedding was performed by a rabbi, but she had to be licensed by the state to do so as well.

From our experience, it already seems to be that there are two separate institutions. Why not make it official? Churches and other houses of worship would not be forced to issue their religious marriages to anyone (e.g. a Catholic church would likely have refused to marry me and my wife), and civil unions will be available to any pair of consenting adults not already civilly united with someone else. Problem solved, marriage is saved, and everyone is treated equally under the letter of the law and our nation's constitution.

I'm considering crafting a petition to this effect, but don't know who to send it to, how to get signatures, and what other organizations to involve. I'm already a member of HRC and recently joined straight FOR equality, but don't know if there's a better place to start than with them. If you have ideas or would like to help out, please contact me. Let's make the world a better place together.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama's first 100 days

Here is what I would like to see Obama and the new congress focus on during the first 100 days after they're sworn in next year:

  1. Get his tax policy onto the floor of congress and passed so we can start working our way back toward a surplus a.s.a.p.
  2. Work with Congress, the governors, and state legislatures to redefine marriage as a strictly religious institution. The government will instead issue Civil Unions to each pair of consenting adults with all the current benefits.
  3. Begin troop draw down in Iraq, increase presence in Afghanistan. Ideally, capture bin Laden.
  4. Meet with G[7/8], NAFTA, and appropriate U.N. councils to:
    1. Define worldwide emissions standards and get them onto the floor of congress to be passed a.s.a.p.
    2. Get Russia out of Georgia, replace their troops with U.N. peacekeepers.
    3. Expedite and improve aid to African Union troops in Darfur.
  5. Revive the SCHIP coverage debate and get that back on the floor of congress so he can sign it into law.
  6. Implement strict restrictions on line item vetoes to avoid their abuse by any future president.

The future of the GOP

With President-elect Obama's major victory and the Democratic gains in House and Senate, we will likely see a shake-up in the Republican party as they work to appeal to a larger portion of the electorate.

Here's my prediction- the Republican party will swing back towards the causes championed by the fiscal conservatives rather than the social conservatives, thus drawing back in a portion of the Libertarian vote (Ron Paul will have a hand in this, or at least be a target for assimilation by the Republican leadership even if he doesn't take part). A portion of the religious right will be so put out by being sidelined that they'll either form their own party or join another one as appropriate. Some of the evangelical leaders will even as independents, though this will be about as effective as the Green Party has been on a national level.

Two years from now: Democrats will retain a majority in house and senate, losses will be minimal if they exist at all. Republicans may make gains on the state level in several places across the country. Evangelical split will be beginning- at least two high profile races tracked by the networks will include one of the religious right candidates in addition to a Democrat and a Republican.

Four years from now: The Social/Fiscal conservative split will be well under way - Palin will be with the socials, of course. She will have a "party position", though likely not the candidate for president even though she'll run for it. Some other figure from the religious right will win their support and get approximately 5% of the popular vote in the general election. This will be enough to give Obama a second term as it eats into the base for the Republican candidate. Democrats will lose a few seats in the senate and house but retain a majority.

Eight years from now: The social and fiscal conservatives have tried to reconcile and made some limited success. Still the bruises and scabs from the hateful rhetoric of the past six to eight years will be difficult to fully heal from and the Democratic candidate will have an advantage going into the presidential election. Still, the pendulum will have started swinging back and it will be a tough fight. Some segment of the social conservatives will have splintered off and will be (pardon my French) absolutely bat-guana crazy. We'll all have a good laugh, though be scared at the same time.

I wouldn't bank money on this, and I haven't been around as long as other folks on this list probably have, certainly, but I think it's at least a reasonable starting prediction. Feel free to adapt and update based on the output from your crystal ball and tea leaf readings.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Tax plans

If you're interested in the differences between the tax plans Senator Obama and Senator McCain have proposed, you'll probably find the Washington Post's Obama and McCain Tax Proposals as informative as I did.

I'm particularly interested in the fact that McCain's tax break percentage increase as income increases while for Obama tax breaks increase and income decreases. Given the increasing disparity in wealth between the extremes, I believe Senator Obama's plan is the most equitable given this data.

One other fact I haven't been able to find yet is how Senator McCain plans to finance his tax cut. Folks used to complain about the "tax and spend liberals". I think it's time they started worrying about the "borrow and spend conservatives" who have driven up the debt and deficit over the past eight years.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Statistics and trends

I've taken to following as many of the daily polls and statistics tracking the upcoming election as I can. My cousin recommended the site to my parents, who passed it along to me. It's hard to argue with cold mathematical prediction models or to skew them to your liking. The only thing you can affect is the questions asked, and with the slew of polls they track that noise is hopefully canceled out. I recommend taking a look if you don't feel you're getting your daily dose of campaign updates already. From their FAQ, here's a bit on their goal as a site:

What is the mission of this website? Most broadly, to accumulate and analyze polling and political data in way that is informed, accurate and attractive. Most narrowly, to give you the best possible objective assessment of the likely outcome of upcoming elections.

For the other end of the objectivity spectrum, there's the Washington Post, as discussed by Chris Bowers in his post "A 2.2% McCain lead is greater than a 13.8% Obama Lead."

I also took a look at the latest ABC/Post polling data and was intrigued by one of the results they called out:

                              Vote preference 
among likely voters
More important Obama McCain
Positions on issues (49%) 68% 29
Personal qualities (39%) 34 61

As one of the 49% of folks who is more interested in the candidates' positions on the issues they'll face as leader of the free world, I may admittedly be a little bit biased here. However, it does strike me as telling that those who are more interested in the candidates' positions are overwhelmingly Obama supporters. We've already had one president that folks would like to have a beer with, and his approval rating is now lower than Richard Nixon's worst (also from the ABC/Post poll).

True, a president must be an able diplomat with foreign leaders, but only 2% of those polled said that foreign policy was the most important issue in choosing a president. True, a president needs to be able to broker deals with both house of congress, but Obama holds an edge as a "stronger leader", 54% to 40%. What personal qualities are those polled considering? I don't see the raw data for the question in the report broken down by candidate, so it's difficult to glean any more data here. If you have any insight, please do let me know!

Friday, October 3, 2008

On debating: Palin's tactics

In last night's debate, Governor Palin decided that she could take a lifeline out at any time by simply deciding not to address the questions posed to her. Toward the beginning of the debate, she said, "And I may not answer the questions that either the moderator or you want to hear, but I'm going to talk straight to the American people."[1]

That is no way to have a debate. I'm one of those American people you mentioned, Governor Palin, and I would have been very interested to hear you address the deregulation question Senator Biden was discussing before the above quote, as well as a dozen other questions you decided to simply ignore.

Let's be very clear - as leaders of the free world, the president and vice president do not get to decide what issues to address. They are responsible for all of them. Playing ostrich and dodging issues you don't like is exactly what got us into the economic mess we're in. Pundits were saying you merely had to hold your own last night, but I believe you had to show you were capable of governing a nation after having governed a state with a population lower than that over a dozen cities in the lower 48 states. In that respect, you have failed to convince me you are ready to serve as vice president of the United States.

Moreover, your broad interpretation of the powers and duties of the office of the vice president are frightening and dangerous. As previously mentioned in "Ongoing Investigations", you consider yourself to be above the law. No citizen of the country is ever above the law, and no citizen in their right mind wants a vice president who puts themselves above the law. To directly quote:

IFILL: Governor, you mentioned a moment ago the constitution might give the vice president more power than it has in the past. Do you believe as Vice President Cheney does, that the Executive Branch does not hold complete sway over the office of the vice presidency, that it it is also a member of the Legislative Branch?

PALIN: Well, our founding fathers were very wise there in allowing through the Constitution much flexibility there in the office of the vice president. And we will do what is best for the American people in tapping into that position and ushering in an agenda that is supportive and cooperative with the president's agenda in that position. Yeah, so I do agree with him that we have a lot of flexibility in there, and we'll do what we have to do to administer very appropriately the plans that are needed for this nation.[1]

I think not, Governor Palin. Please reread our Constitution.

[1] Transcript of Palin, Biden debate

Sunday, September 28, 2008

First Debate wrap-up

The debate on Friday night was very interesting, and showed both that Senator Obama and Senator McCain agree on several issues, and have very different strategies on others. However, only Senator Obama seemed willing to admit that he agrees with Senator McCain on several points.

A few of the best debate wrap-up articles I've found are the following:

  1. New York Times fact checking: Refuting some of the more outlandish claims and misquotes by each candidate.

  2. New York Times live debate blogging: Summarizing the highlights.

  3. Politico's roundup: Another good summary of the highlights.

The most powerful lines that stuck in my memory were both by Senator Obama:

“You said we knew where the weapons of mass destruction were. You were wrong,” Obama said about the Iraq war. “You said that we were going to be greeted as liberators. You were wrong. You said that there was no history of violence between Shia and Sunni. And you were wrong. If the question is who is best-equipped as the next president to make good decisions about how we use our military, how we make sure that we are prepared and ready for the next conflict, then I think we can take a look at our judgment.”[1]


"I've got a bracelet, too."[1]

In addition, as quoted in Senator McCain campaign's YouTube video that came out just after the debate last night, Senator Obama several times indicated that he agreed with Senator McCain. Why would Senator McCain see this as a negative trait? It shows bipartisanship, a spirit of cooperation, and rational thought.

The quote from Senator McCain that stayed with me was his repetition of "Obama doesn't understand." Unfortunately for Senator McCain, Senator Obama's performance in the debate proved otherwise. They both understand the situation, they just disagree on the best resolution.

I agree with the snap polls- this debate was a win for Senator Obama.

[1] McCain on offense; Obama plays it cool

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Legislative accomplishments

In my earlier post "Candidates Respond on Bailout", I included a quote from Senator Obama on his intention to reduce government spending on private contractors by 10%. I found an analysis of the bills and amendments sponsored by both Senator McCain and Senator Obama over the past four years that help depict how Senator Obama may do just that.

Several times over his tenure as a US Senator, Obama has sponsored amendments to bills that would proscribe large contracts from being issued using "procedures other than competitive procedures."[1] These types of contract awarding procedures will make sure that the federal government hires contractors at a competitive rate, instead of the no-bid contracts that, frankly, do not make sense.

If you were going to have the roof of your home replaced or perform a major remodel totaling several thousand dollars, you would of course get multiple estimates from different contractors, likely after asking folks you trust for references. Why would the government spend 1000 times that amount or more on a contract that they hadn't done similar comparisons on? If the answer is just "expedience," that's not good enough. Our government needs to do the most with the money it collects from us, and that entails getting the best deal for the buck.

The Washington Monthly link below lists off numerous other legislative accomplishments of both senators and is well worth reading.

[1] Political Animal: Compare and Contrast

Candidates respond to the bailout

Though certainly not the only problem facing our nation today, the federal bailout plan for the financial crisis is certainly making headlines. Both major party candidates have issued statements on the proposal, and there are some striking similarities. As MSNBC reports:

Both called for greater oversight; for ensuring that taxpayers benefit if repackaged loans are sold at a profit or the bailed-out companies recover; and for limiting the pay of executives at firms covered by the bailout.[1]

Beyond that, though, there are some differences. In particular, the two have different tax cut plans.

"Obama said his proposed middle-class tax cuts remain 'absolutely necessary.'...McCain says he still plans to extend Bush's tax cuts for high-income Americans..."[1]

Other parts to their proposals follow similar lines. Senator Obama called for "boosts to subsidies for health care, education, retirement savings, renewable energy and other priorities," [1] the first three of which would directly benefit individuals, while the fourth would help bring the cost of energy down in the long term. Senator McCain "favors increased federal spending for nuclear power and control of greenhouse gases" [1]. While more investment in nuclear power might help bring down the cost of energy in the long term, measures to control greenhouse gases will likely raise it in the short term. In addition, such federal spending would only indirectly benefit consumers while directly benefiting power companies.

As such, it seems from the MSNBC article that Senator Obama's plan is more focussed on assisting the individual citizens while Senator McCain is calling for assistance to the wealthy and to corporations. Senator McCain's top financial advisor Doug Holtz-Eakins said McCain is working on "policies to create jobs in America and get the economy going,"[1] a strategy that, combined with the above, smacks of trickle-down economics.

From an article on Fox News, we learn that Senator McCain seems to have given more ammunition to his detractors, since "McCain, who only a week ago said the economy was fundamentally sound, now says the U.S. financial system is facing a major crisis."[2] However, he also "called for a bipartisan oversight board for the proposed bailout, to be headed by Warren Buffet or another broadly respected business leader."[2]

Senator Obama "vowed to slash federal spending on private contractors by 10 percent in an effort to cut costs to help the failing economy, singling out Haliburtion."[2] As such, it seems that he intends to fund his initiatives outlined above by ensuring "Washington starts taking responsibility for every dime that it spends."[2] Senator Obama also calls for bipartisan oversight of the bailout.[3]

In summary, Senator McCain and Senator Obama agree that the current bailout plan needs more oversight. Senator Obama has endorsed middle class tax cuts, more spending on programs that directly aid citizens, and reducing government costs by increasing accountability. Senator McCain favors extending the President Bush tax cuts to the wealthy, more government spending on nuclear power and greenhouse gas control, and a committee including business leaders to oversee the distribution of federal funds to other business leaders.

It's just not reasonable to portray these two plans in an equal light - one of them is likely to actually assist individuals while the other is likely to assist corporations and businesses.

[1] Obama, McCain wary about financial bailout
[2] Obama, McCain Question Wall Street Bailout
[3] Show Your Support for a Responsible Economic Recovery Plan

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ongoing investigations

According to CNN, Governor Sarah Palin "has halted her previously promised cooperation with the Legislature's investigation of the July dismissal of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan". [1] Palin's husband Todd and several of her top aides have refused to comply with subpoenas, CNN reports.

On Fox News, they cover the story as well. Of particular note is a quote by Anchorage attorney Kevin G. Clarkson, who said, “There is no nonpartisan reason to complete this investigation until after the election." [2] One could just as easily argue that there is no nonpartisan reason to delay or interfere with the bipartisan investigation.

At this point, Governor Palin's reasons for firing the public safety commissioner has sadly become a secondary issue to the interference with the investigation. No citizen of the United States of America is above the law. When issued a subpeona, citizens are expected to appear in court, not complain of "an inconvenient travel schedule". [3]

Granted, there is much more to leading this nation than managing an enormous staff. However, it is crucial that in performing all of the other responsibilities of the office of the president or vice president that a citizen so honored with that position remember that he or she is still just a public servant, subject to all of the laws of the land.

[1] Republican lawmaker says Palin inquiry should go on
[2] Republican Lawmakers Sue to Stop Palin Inquiry
[3] Investigator: Palin probe to end before election

Friday, September 12, 2008

New ad from the Obama campaign

According to the Associated Press, there's a new ad from the Obama campaign.

One of the sentences quoted states that Senator McCain "admits he still doesn't know how to use a computer, can't send an e-mail, still doesn't understand the economy, and favors two hundred billion in new tax cuts for corporations, but almost nothing for the middle class."

Of those statements, only the last two on tax cuts reflect on policy. Not understanding the economy could also be a relevant issue, though is not as direct as the policy notes. As for not knowing how to use a computer or send e-mail, that doesn't necessarily imply a lack of ability to lead or serve as president.

I would prefer to see the ad lead the sentence with the policy critique as that's more relevant to the differences we'll see between an Obama and McCain presidency.

That being said, I'm glad to see in the last paragraph of the article that mainstream media in Virginia is focussing more on Senator Obama's planned policies than the lipstick hoopla. Also, it's refreshing to see that he plans continue to highlighting issues in his message and that the ad contains no outright lies or distortions unlike Senator McCain's have.[1][2][3]

[1] Fact Check on Senator McCain's speech
[2] Fact Check on Sex Ed
[3] Fact Check on Senator McCain's misuse of Fact Check

Lincoln Chafee sees grey regarding Sarah Palin

Over at The Washington Note there's an interview with former Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee from Rhode Island. Please take the six minutes to watch it here.

The key quote that makes us at Grey Politics repost is: "That's not in our long term best interests. It's a dangerous planet -- nuclear weapons -- a tremendous capacity of destruction exists. It's going to take some wisdom and ability to see gray sometimes, and lessons of the Cold War are that sometimes containment can work."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

On Lipstick: An Open Letter to Senator John McCain

Senator McCain,

Shame on you. When Senator Obama said

"John McCain says he's about change, too - except for economic policy, health care policy, tax policy, education policy, foreign policy and Karl Rove-style politics. That's not change. That's just calling the same thing something different. You can put lipstick on a pig - it's still a pig."[1]
your first response should not have been to air a web ad claiming:
CHYRON: Barack Obama On: Sarah Palin
BARACK OBAMA: Well, you know, you can, you know you can...put...uh...lipstick on a's still a pig.[2]

From Barack Obama's remarks, it's clear he's referring to John McCain's policies.

Instead, your response should have been something along the lines of: "Senator Obama claims that our policies are no different from those of President Bush. He's wrong- here's what's different, here's what's the same, and why."

Misquoting, slandering, and phony outrage over a comment that John McCain himself has used[3] are horrible and shameful politics. Your attacks show me that your estimation of the average American's intelligence is approximately that of a pig wearing lipstick, or possibly a pit bull.

Please get back to the issues.

Grey Politics

[1]The Caucus Blog
[2]John McCain's official campaign site
[3]YouTube video of McCain