State of the Union (2)

(this is the second part of the speech which begins here)

We live in an information age, and so education and the intellectual capital of Americans are the key to our future. Each of us cares about education because it primarily affects our children and their future, and no one is more important to each of us and no dream is more important than that of a better, more secure, more prosperous life for our daughters and sons.

We in the federal government have tried many things and spent a lot of your money on education. Some of it has worked, and some of it hasn’t. We haven’t seen the ‘bang for our buck’ that we’d like, but neither have we seen an alternative but to spend what it takes to get our children educated. We’ve neglected one key factor. There is no substitute for involved, caring adult family members – parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles – in determining a child’s future success in school. In case any of you missed that, let me repeat it. There is no substitute for involved, caring adult family members – parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles – in determining a child’s future success in school. No government program, no physical facility, no library, nothing we can buy with money can be as effective as involved parents and the culture of achievement they can instill.

But not every child has those, and we refuse to leave them behind because of it. The glue that holds America together is hope; that hope is for mobility and a better future for ourselves and our children. Education and the opportunity for jobs that it brings are what brings both.

To that end, we are proposing a senior mentor program, in which neighborhood seniors can get training and part-time jobs as mentors to families and children. This is a small answer, and it may not ultimately be the right answer to this difficult problem; but the solution is in a constellation of small answers like this one. We intend to challenge and fund promising programs designed from the school districts upward, to monitor the success or failure of those programs closely, and to expand and extend the programs that work, and close the programs that don’t.

Which brings me to a broader issue. We in government propose programs; we live to solve problems or we wouldn’t be here. Not all of them work, and others of them outlive their usefulness. The Democratic leadership has met and agreed that we will hereby offer to work with the Republican leadership to prune unsuccessful and unnecessary programs from the Federal budget. We will commit that for every new dollar of expenditure (tax or direct) we propose, we will find at least fifty cents in savings to offset it, and will work to do so from programs traditionally supported by the Democratic constituencies. We challenge our Republican colleagues to do the same thing.

Each of our parties has sacred cows which we preserve simply because we always have. The challenges we face today are simply too great to keep doing business as usual, and we have to agree – both Democrats and Republicans – to look hard at ours and work to cull those that provide no real benefit.

The challenges we face today are driven largely by external events, which brings me to the topic of the hour. What do we do about Iraq?

First, let me be clear that the moment the first aviator flies her jet from its aircraft carrier, we will be at war, and we will stand behind our president and our troops. But we are here to advise the President, and to make sure that when we act we do so as a nation, because we must act together or not act at all.

The President must make a clear case for why we must invade Iraq, and what we will do once we win.

What we cannot do is to look at Iraq in isolation.

We cannot look at it in isolation from our allies.

We cannot look at in isolation from the rest of the Islamic world.

Elements of the Islamic world are at war with us, make no mistake about it. The acts of September 11 were not isolated; they were the culmination of a long chain of warnings and actions that struck at our people, symbols, and interests abroad.

The acts of September 11 were acts of war. If they had been committed by the soldiers of any nation, that nation today would sit under American military authority, and the leaders of that nation, had they survived, would face imprisonment for their crimes.

This government exists to defend the people of the United States from just such an attack as we have suffered, and no government could allow such an attack to take place without responding, or having suffered this attack, risk more terrible attacks without action.

The question is what action should we take? Is invading Iraq the right one?

Legally, we believe that the United States has grounds for war. Saddam Hussein had violated – and the United Nations inspectors have confirmed his violation – the terms of the cease fire that he signed after he invaded Kuwait and our troops and the troops of our multinational alliance defeated him.

But the President has not yet connected the dots.

He has not yet laid out his best facts in support of invading Iraq…we know this because we have seen some of them. But it isn’t enough for him to say “trust me” or for me to say “trust us” based on partial information. This is a decision that must be made in the full light of day.

He has not laid out his plan for what we will do once we win, and how defeating the armies of Iraq – who I ly pray will be intelligent enough to immediately surrender and not stand in the way of or try to harm our fighting forces – leads us to defeating the shadowy forces of terrorism.

Let me take a moment to speak to American Muslims and to Muslims the world over. Horrible acts are being done in your name and in the name of your religion and deity. I reject the notion that this is a war between the Muslim world and the West. But you undermine my case when your official media broadcast hate and incitement, when your governments turn a blind eye to terrorists and their sponsors, and when you allow those who strike at the people of this nation – not with words, not with economic boycotts or peaceful action, but with violence – to act in your name without raising your hands or voices – you risk the wrath of the American people. We are a tolerant party in a land of tolerant people, but we must have partners for peace on the other side. You cannot broadcast hate in Arabic and then turn and speak of peace in English and expect us to ignore it any longer.

Great leaders bring forces together; they unite people, interests, and nations in great causes. We expect greatness from our Presidents in general, and we demand that greatness from our President today.

We expect nothing less, and the times demand nothing less.

We stand as the loyal opposition, ever ready to challenge the specifics – the means – but in full support of the goal – of a great and united United States in a peaceful, free, and prosperous world.

Thank you.

No, thank you

(edited for grammar)

The State of the Union

We don’t have TV in Casa de Armed Liberal, so I didn’t get to read the State of the Union speech and the Democratic responses until this morning, when I read them on the New Laptop which is important, because I was so damn frustrated with the weak-ass Democratic response that I was tempted to chew on the screen, but restrained myself because the machine was so expensive.

Middle Guy, my 16 year old son, noted my frustration, and in the warm, supportive style we share as a family suggested “Geez, dad. If they’re so weak, why don’t you write a better one.”

So here were the comments Rep. Joe Democrat should have made last night:

Thank you for taking the time tonight to listen to this critical dialog about our nation’s future.

We know how many of you have been turned off by the ugly politics of the last decade, and how easy is to be distracted from what goes on here in Washington. But right now is the time when, more than ever, we need an informed and engaged citizenry as we confront critical issues of war and peace, the economy, and national security.

Let me talk first about national security.

We in the Democratic Party have been and are the strongest defenders of individual expression and the 1st Amendment. We believe that there is a wide gap between political speech and political action on one side, and terror and violence on the other. We have a judicial system to stand between them, and most important, to act as a check on the power of the Federal Administration, as the Founders intended.

And we cannot accept the notion that U.S. citizens or resident aliens arrested on U.S. soil can be treated outside that system.

Our troops faced enemy combatants in Afghanistan; including, sadly, a U.S. citizen. We are not asking for our legal procedures to apply on the battlefield. But the cities of the U.S. are not a battlefield, and while there may well be terrorists in our cities today, we will not accept the notion that we must deal with them extrajudicially when they are on U.S. soil.

I take this position first because the Federal Government cannot fight and defeat terrorism alone. It will take the combined efforts of local police and public safety officials, an active, informed, and alert citizenry along with the Federal security forces to win this fight, and the structures of justice are in place to use them today. It will also be critical that when we win this fight we survive as a nation founded on the public and just application of law and the notion that we have no sovereign who stands beyond the gaze of citizens and the laws that bind us all.

We will move to require that all U.S. Citizens and resident aliens suspected of terrorist activity or conspiracy be dealt with through the legal system, and to ensure that political speech and actions as opposed to terrorist conspiracy are fully protected.

We recognize that we face many threats from outside, and we believe that it is important to first combat the ones that are obvious and easy, as opposed to unlikely and hard. The interests that would injure us do not have ballistic missiles that can reach our cities. The threats we face will arrive by commercial airliner, container ship, and delivery truck.

We cannot afford to spend the billions of dollars it will cost to develop a relatively ineffective missile shield against a threat that does not today exist. Not when we are still too open and vulnerable to terrorist threats which remain all too easy to carry out.

To that end, we propose reallocating the bulk of the funds proposed for ballistic missile defense implementation, as opposed to research, to strengthening the technology and personnel who can secure our ports, airports and highways against terrorist attacks.

Our country has already been attacked with biological weapons – the anthrax-laced mail that was sent to this House two years ago – and we have discovered how fragile our public-health system has become through decades of bipartisan neglect. We are seeing increases in communicable diseases in almost all our major cities, and our ability to predict, track, and respond to those is a major defense against the most frightening type of terrorism.

We propose substantially increasing the budget for public health to create mechanisms to defend us against the possibility of both natural and man-made diseases.

The health of our economy is also our best defense, and touches all of us within the US and also people outside as it directly affects their economies and as it affects our ability and resources to act both militarily and charitably.

A healthy world economy is the ultimate cure for terrorism. Jobs, security, and a better standard of living will reduce the pool of unemployed, hopeless young men that feeds the terrorist stream.

A healthy U.S. economy is the answer to a number of our problems as well. We respect the President’s commitment to reducing the tax burden on individuals and businesses in the U.S., and want to work with him to help nurture the economy.

But we think he’s going about it wrong.

The biggest impacts on consumption will come from reducing the tax burden on the middle class. They pay Federal and State Income taxes, as well as sales, property, and a host of other taxes, and taxes saved translate directly into spending.

We want to retarget his changes in the tax rates downward.

The repeal of the estate tax was an expensive mistake. We want to undo it.

We support a reduction in corporate taxes as well, and would support his effort to eliminate taxes on dividends, as long as it was combined with a tax on ‘mailbox’ corporations that do business and are truly headquartered in the U.S., but maintain fictitious addresses in foreign tax havens.

We also want to examine the subsidies built into the tax codes for the largest corporations, and retarget those at the true engines of prosperity and job growth, the small and regional businesses that are the backbone of American wealth and well-being.

For too long, we have tolerated fiscal mismanagement at the state and local level, and compounded it with unfunded mandates. We need to sit down in an open dialog with state and local governments and look hard at the fiscal crisis that they are facing today. These are the services and jobs that directly face most of us, and we need to find ways to put them on a firmer financial footing.

We propose a national task force on local government finance, with a deadline of next year and the honest charter to find a way to keep the states and local cities from going bankrupt.

This Administration is missing the boat on issues affecting the environment. The American people have shown, over and over again that they expect us to be better stewards of the natural riches we have been blessed with.

To that end, we want to move to do several things.

We need to improve the efficiency with which we use energy. Our overdependence on Middle Eastern oil is limits our freedom to react to the threats and politics there.

The President’s proposal to experiment with hydrogen is a good one, but we believe that there are two things we can do to move our cars and trucks in the direction of greater efficiency.

Natural Gas is clean-burning, widely available, and can be blended with hydrogen as a first step toward a hydrogen-based energy economy. We propose to incentivize the automobile manufacturers, gas and oil companies, and consumers to build, fuel, and buy cars and trucks powered by natural gas. We in government need to lead the way. To that end, we will propose the entire Federal civilian vehicle fleet be transitioned to natural gas over the next five years, and that a series of tax and regulatory incentives be put in place to encourage the use of natural-gas powered vehicles.

We propose to end the subsidies to fuel-inefficient small trucks and SUV’s.

Look, we believe in free choice.

But the reality is that Chevy Suburbans and other similar vehicles are subsidized by regulatory loopholes which need to be closed. We use them like cars, let’s treat them like cars.

We believe that we have to continue the exploration and exploitation of domestic energy resources. We will look carefully at drilling in the ANWR. But let there be no mistake about it. Twenty years ago, this Congress approves the trans-Alaska pipeline, premised on the promise by the Administration and the oil companies that the oil that flowed through it would feed the energy needs of the U.S. It was less than ten years later that we were shipping that oil to Japan.

We won’t make the same mistake again. If we are going to drill in the ANWR, the energy extracted must be for our domestic use. Period.

And now, education and the threat of war….

(break for commercial)

…to be concluded tomorrow.

(edited for emphasis)

WONDERFUL LIFE (with apologies to Spephen Jay Gould)

(From Doonsebury)

…and the problem with this would be?
Here’s the deal; we’re in a changing world right now, and the changes are going to hit the ‘creative’ businesses pretty hard. Jimmy’s right that the world supported by mega-acts in turn supported by mega record sales…requiring mega-distribution, mega-promotion, and mega-corporate structures to support ‘the star-making machinery behind the popular song’ is probably going to get a lot smaller. It is already.
Is that a bad thing, though? The market for estates on the Costa Smerelda in Sardinia may get a little smaller; but a new door opens as an old one closes.
I’ll argue that it ought to be more possible to make a ‘middle-class’ living as a musician or writer.
In the case of music, bands, playing small venues, supported by regional fan bases and direct sales of their music, ought to be able to generate middle-class incomes for their members. You can have kids. If your SO works, you could buy a house.
I’m under no illusion that it wouldn’t be damn hard work to get there and every day once you were there. But most jobs are hard work, and the idea that an independent artist could monetize what they do on an ongoing basis…
…rather than playing Music Industry Lotto and working for nothing for years in the hopes of hitting it huge…
…strikes me as a damn good thing. I say this as a consumer of music who long ago gave up going to stadium shows in favor of clubs.
I think the same model applies in books, video, and potentially games. the current channels won’t go away. The Britney Spears’ of the world we will always have with us, sadly. But new alternatives will open up; we’re on the verge of an explosion of new models, content, and possibilities.
Most of them will vanish, but some may just survive.
I should make a disclosure, and comment that I have a substantial personal investment in a startup aimed at making just this happen. So you could say I’m shilling for my interests.
Or that I’m putting my money where my mouth is.


It’s been seven days since Orange County Democrat Ann Salisbury has posted…
…coincidence, or Republican suppression of dissent??
Republicans suppress dissent. Orange County is Republican. Ann lives in Orange County. Do I have to spell things out??
We will be dispatching inspectors, and may invade Orange County if we don’t like what we hear…

Taxes and Liberalism: A Comment

A comment over at pointed out an interesting distinction that explains a lot about the difference between the liberal and conservative view of taxes:

The first analogy is BS. Taxes pay for government services. Most of these are consumed relatively evenly, while the social services are consumed mostly by the poor and less as you travel up the income scale. The fact that someone can afford to buy additional services after paying taxes means nothing.

Are taxes a form of fee-for-service?

…or are they the cost of operating a complex society?

There is a school of ‘literalist’ conservatives (and of course, libertarians) who argue that taxes should be simply fees for services rendered…national defense, police, fire, sewers, parks.

But…liberals like me would argue that there are a broader class of ‘services’ which are somewhat harder to track, and which lead to the operation and maintenance of a desirable society. I fully acknowledge that it’s difficult to reach consensus on what’s desirable, and as I’ve pointed out incessantly, the hand of government doesn’t always accomplish the desirable without significant costs.

But a ‘fee for service’ society would be one that I think few of us would really (as opposed to in costless assertions on the Internet) choose to live.

Winning the War With Arms Isn’t Enough

Look, let’s face it.

We’re going to go to war. The machine has been started and set on track, and stopping it is at this point virtually impossible. No one is going to debark tens of thousands of men and women and thousands of tons of materiel and then throw their hand up and go “Just Kidding!”

The Left in America and the West has done an immense disservice to their stated cause of peace by embracing a wooly “anything but war” stance instead of making any attempt to grapple head on with the problems that are presented by radical Islamism and the failed kleptocracies that are embracing it.

As a side note, “anything but war” neatly captures what I see as the failures of modern liberalism, which seems to only stand for “anything but…” a long list of things. But that’s another subject for another time.

I’m deeply conflicted by this war that’s coming soon; unlike my blog-mates, who seem to have pretty much made up their minds.

If this was Risk, or a war game, I’d be all for it. But I’d be for it for a different reason than the one you probably think; not because it wouldn’t involve real blood and death, I’d be for it because I knew we would stick it out. What I know about people tells me that they are good at sticking to things when the costs are low. But as any decent gambler can tell you, it takes heart and stomach to stay in when the stakes get significant and painful.

And this is not going to be a test of our arms; Trent and Joe have covered many of the reasons why in the blog below. This is absolutely going to be a test of our stomach and heart, and I am worried about both of those.

It’s not even a question of whether to go to war.

As I’ve said before, I think we’re in a war; in an anti-modern, anti-Western war led by elements of our own intelligencia on one hand, and by the enraged, disenfranchised population of parts of the Third World, led by dictators who find that railing against America buys them time to loot their countries by selling their natural resources and moving the money to Switzerland or Panama.

And we really have no clue how to respond. Oh, we’ll go kick the hell out of whatever organized or semi-organized military forces are out there.

But then what?

It’s “Yes, but…” this and “Yes, but…” that and the only consistent vision of the Western-led future looks to many of the average people of the world a helluva lot like the masts of yachts seen from the outside of a marina fence littered by a stack of annual reports and deposit slips to Bermuda banks.

Our failure of vision and nerve has brought this about. We founded America to get the little guy out from under the thumb of the oppressive nobles, and instead of offering the average person in the rest of the world a path they could follow, we turned around and cut deals with their nobles so we could have cheap gas, Nikes, and chipboard. (I know, this is hyperbole, but I’m trying to make a point here…)

This isn’t some lame-ass “give peace a chance” argument; we are not at peace today, and if we brought all the soldiers home from the Middle East tomorrow and forced all the Jews out of Israel on the day after, we’d still be at war.

I’m standing here waving words in your face because if we are to shed American blood, I’d really like to feel like we’re getting something for it. And that something needs to be a lasting peace. And to accomplish that peace, we need to rediscover some basic American values in order to export them. It’s never really been done before. And we have no choice but try.

I’ve never been a soldier. Even my dad, who got medals in WWII, got them while sitting and basically running a Hollerith card-sorting machine over in India. He was a cryptographer in Army Intelligence (yeah, I read “Crytonomicon” pretty damn intently, thank you), and the only guns he ever saw were on the Rangers who were there to keep him and his peers “at least 200 miles from any known or suspected enemy activity”.

But I’ve been honored to know a fair number of soldiers…particularly of “pointed end of the stick” kind of guys who I’ve trained with and been trained by in my various martial hobbies. And I keep thinking about them and their attitudes as I try and figure out where I stand in this mess.

And the principle I keep coming back to is this: How do we make their sacrifice…of their own blood and of the blood of others they will have to shed…actually lead to a change? How do we do this in a way that won’t mean that we’ll be back next year, and the year after, and the year after that?

Because otherwise, we’re playing King Canute, lashing the tide as a demonstration of the limits of our worldly power. We can push back our enemies. We can weaken them. We can even kill them all, if it comes down to that.

But can we stick this out long enough to make peace with them? Or rather, to fight them hard enough and long enough and still have the stomach and heart to offer the average person on the ground in Tikrit or Jakarta something worth living for? Because that’s what it will take to have a chance that they will make peace with us.

This is uncharted territory. I can’t think of an example in modern history where it has worked.

I think we’ll readily win the clash of arms. But as the Israelis have discovered, I believe that this is more a war of stomach, heart, and backbone than one of arms.

January 25: Shabbat Shalom!

Tick, tock goes the clock. 3 DUPBBSNIT (Days Until President Bush’s Big Speech, Not Including Today; acronym appropriately pronounced: “dub-snit”).

Most Saturdays here on Winds of Change.NET are “good news” days, where we put aside our normal conversations and focus on Sufi wisdom, heroism, and promising new discoveries. Today’s thoughts are a bit more somber. All of us can see what’s coming, and understand its necessity. Doesn’t mean we have to like it, though. And there’s other news we’d rather not have heard.

Folks who prefer our regular rotation may find value in some of yesterday’s exchanges, from Celeste’s post about responsibility in the face of a sometimes-hostile world to Armed Liberal’s meditations on taxes to Trent Telenko and I having a bit of a back and forth over France.

Today’s Blogs:
  * Winning the War With Arms Isn’t Enough
  * Taxes and Liberalism
  * Sufi Wisdom of the Week: Hodja on the Battlefield
  * “That’s the kind of world…”: Condolences to the Sensings
  * “That’s the kind of world…”: U.N. = Unimaginable Negligence