Monday, October 23, 2006

The Will - And The Money - Of The People: A New Idea That Has NO CHANCE!

Here's a quick and simple campaign finance reform - Require that any contributions to a candidate MUST designate THAT CANDIDATE and THAT ONE CAMPAIGN as the ONLY permissible beneficiary of that money. The donor would indicate on, and at the donation, for whom it was intended and for which one campaign it is to be used.
Candidates could raise as much as they want in this manner, without limit, but any excess funds (after all expenses and debts are extinguished) could NOT be used in any other campaign, even a later one by the same candidate. Maybe, by rule, any excess that did remain would need to be donated within a specific time period, e.g., 3-4 months after the campaign ends, to some well known charitable concern(s), perhaps from an approved list.
This would prevent the most popular (or controversial) candidates amassing huge war chests and then acting as sugar-daddies to other candidates in their party, or perhaps using the funds themselves to finance an early start on their next campaign, e.g., a run at their party's Presidential nomination. In fact, it would eliminate the rationale for raising excessive funds in the first place, certainly something "devoutly to be wished".
Because donors would not see their $$ used at a different time and place - to say nothing of it being used for a different politician - than they'd originally intended, this reform would reflect the "will of the people" much better. And think of the many positive ripple effects. First of all, in some races, probably much less fund raising would be needed because so much less could be used. Second, what would occur would be distributed much more broadly, i.e., far less concentrated in terms of who controls that money. And, it would be much more targeted based on the "will of the people", or at least on the will of the donors. Of course, funds donated to a political party could not be limited as to the candidate who benefits, but at least the campaign season could be limited to the current one, so there'd be no carry-overs allowed into a later years' campaign.
In as much as money is free speech, as the Supreme Court has told us, this form of free speech would suddenly be a far more accurate reflection of the public will. But, alas, many ideas (at least, many of mine) are both good and, realistically speaking, thoroughly hopeless of enactment. This is just one more.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Mark Foley, Congressional Pages and Revisiting a Silly NonIssue

Some months ago I wrote about a silly non-issue - the fact that our Senators and Congressmen sometimes miss recording their votes on issues because they're not physically present on Capitol Hill. I raised the point that, in the year 2006, that's about the silliest thing there is.
Give me a break - if you need to vote but are not there at the moment, just fax it in, e-mail it, Blackberry it, for God's sake, "beam it up" to the Hill. Heck, if I can pay my bills every month via the Internet - and not end up in debtor's prison - surely Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, or another of our super rich wizz kids, or their progeny, can figure out a simple, modern way that our august legislators can transmit their Yeas and Nays electronically, from anywhere on earth, without fraud or failure, to the hallowed halls of Congress. Missing votes because of absence is truly a phony issue and avoiding a vote by conveniently being out of town is nothing more than a fake maneuver!
But now, because of the Mark Foley scandal, are you telling me we have Capitol Hill Pages who still act as messengers and couriers doing errands and physically running messages throughout the building? No wonder one of our Representatives, Illinois' Ray LaHood, has raised the idea of suspending the Page Program to re-evaluate whether it is anachronistic and way out of date in 2006 and, if it's still needed, whether it should be modified in some way to be more contemporary.
Makes sense to me. For sending information back and forth, what's the matter with the telephone, the fax machine or e-mail, to say nothing of IM - Instant Messaging? They're all faster and e-mail is a precisely documented and confirmable way for our senators/representatives to communicate with each other. Online conversations are captured exactly as written with an exact time/date stamp.
So, maybe LaHood is right, and if we do automate their communications to the 21st century, then we could finally put a welcome end to the nonsense defense they like to throw up at us when they happen to be (ever so strategically) absent from the floor of the House or Senate at crucial moments for key votes.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Iraq is Bush's Personal War, No One Else's

One misconception about our miserably-managed Iraq War is the notion that this war is identified with, and somehow "owned" by, the Republicans more than it is by Democrats. Yes it certainly appears that way, and is treated as such, by common observers and commentators. But the truth is that it's neither party's war, nor in any real sense is it America's war. The Afghanistan war, yes it was; the Iraq war, no.
I contend that no other even remotely electable Republican on the national stage, both then and now, if put in President Bush's position back in 2002/2003 would have made the decision he made to attack Iraq. Think about it - all things considered, who else would have said "Go"?
- Not Geo. Bush senior - we know that pretty much for a fact, due to how he pulled out of Iraq in his time. And I think we can all agree, nor would his sidekick, Dan Quayle (woefully unfit as he was for the "heartbeat" post of VP), have invaded Iraq, for lack of the requisite fortitude, if nothing else.
- Not Senator McCain, no matter how fiercely hawkish he sounds now. Indeed, his natural hawkishness, and first-hand knowledge of real war, would have stood him in good stead re: Afghanistan. From that worthy effort, he never would have "cut and run" as Bush did the first chance he got, to take up our now purposeless, and seemingly endless, venture in Iraq.
- Not former Senator Graham of Texas, being such an advocate of limited governmental powers, not Chuck Hagel, Orin Hatch, Arlen Specter nor Richard Lugar, not Colin Powell and not Condi Rice, nor would any other Republican national leader you can name (not even Jeb Bush) have gone forward into Iraq militarily. (OK, Cheney I'm not sure about, but I said "electable" national figure. On his own, Cheney would have lost severely and been seen as a national joke in the process.) Of course, it goes without saying, that no Democrat would have.
Nope, I contend that, due to two intensely personal reasons, George Bush junior was uniquely vulnerable to the neocon's campaign to attack Iraq:
1)  Junior's well-documented and long-standing troubled relationship with his father
2)  Saddam Hussein's unsuccessful attempt to assassinate the elder Bush
These factors were not solely responsible for George's jr's fateful decision, but they were the difference makers, they pushed him over the fence. Absent these factors, as would be the case for anyone else on earth, whether a Republican, Democrat, Independent or none of the above, we would never have engaged in the Iraq war.
Without resorting to complicated psycho-babble, suffice it to say that, on balance and in the end, our President took us to war for his own personal reasons. How does that grab you?
This is even worse than many other politicians' wars we've been sucked into in the name of patriotism (that "last refuge" of scoundrels). This conflagration, I contend, is, on balance, one-man's war, almost a personal vendetta, foisted upon as a by-product of the adversarial political machinery of government we live under.
If my hypothesis is correct (now that's a book project someone should take on), then Iraq is truly NOT the Republicans' war any more than anyone else's war, but the Grand Old Party continues to harpoon itself as long as it makes lame excuses for the war. History will take Bush down for this, but the GOP is taking such a selfish and short term focus that it's apparently more than willing to go down the historical tubes with him.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Bill Schneider Falls into All-Too-Popular Habit of Mindless Commentary

Did you see where the pollster, Bill Schneider, who generally does such a good job bringing, and interpreting for us, the latest poll data, committed that same conventional wisdom faux pas over the weekend when he closed his oral report by saying (I paraphrase slightly): "...but no one has offered a plan for Iraq." 
This is lazy commentating that just grabs hold of some convenient (but woefully wrong) conventional wisdom instead of doing some homework to get it right. As most of us know, that statement is simply flat wrong on its face, since there are many examples of politicians, experts and commentators who have done just that - think Brzezinski, Senators Murtha, Kerry,  and I bet Sen. Hagel, Rep. Slaughter, etc. But most ironic of all is the fact that on that very day I happened upon a current (March 2006) edition of Reader's Digest and guess what the cover story was about?
It featured interviews with Senators Biden and McCain in which each gave his recipe for what to do next in Iraq. Like their plans or hate them, there they are in print, for all to see across the USA. What is Reader's Digests circulation these days?
As the late Senator Moynihan famously reminded us:  we're entitled to our own opinions, but not to our own facts. So, old Bill, I think you need to stick to your polling facts, where you have the hard numbers right in front of you.
I am fighting this little item because it contributes to public cynicism, which might be OK if and when it's based on truth, but in this instance it is clearly not. Besides, I'm just damn sick and tired of commentators who take the easy way out by falling back on old, standby slogans instead of doing some original work on an issue, not to mention giving it some original thought.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Health Care and Private Enterprise

Have you ever donated money to the effort to boost research on household refrigerators? How about donating to the cause of developing new products in the frozen food category? ...or for the building trades, for better wheelbarrows, roller coasters or bicycles?
If you're saying "That would be silly!", I ask you if you'd also say it's silly to donate to the Heart Association, to Cancer research, for epilepsy, diabetes, lung or breast cancer, AIDs, leukemia, muscular distrophy, etc., etc.?
What's the difference between these two groups of "causes"?
Why don't we give to the first, but we consider, and many of us actually do, donate to the latter, sometimes rather generously?
I submit it's because the former is not perceived to need extra money, while every one of the causes in the latter group is believed in need, often sorely so. Also, because many of us are touched in our personal lives by real cases, many very sad and tragic indeed. We perceive that causes like those in the second group don't get enough $$ otherwise, so more voluntary giving is needed, which we widely applaud.
But wait, if you think that USA health care should be (and should remain) a private enterprise matter, not a publicly funded endeavor, what gives with all these medical "causes" knocking on my door all the time asking for money??
Why don't they have enough through our private enterprise health care system -- we don't see the refrigerator makers asking us for donations, do we?
Try to explain this glaring inconsistency to me, please!