O.K., We Have Cats, Too

Hey, maybe the N.Y. Times will cover us, too…or maybe adding some catblogging will tone down the political clenched-jaw-muscles a bit.

Hearns.JPG

This is Hearns, who was 18 in September. Her kidneys are failing, so TG gives her an IV of Ringers twice a week.

She had a twin, Hagler, who died of feline leukemia. Our other cat, Kit, is hiding or outside hunting as usual.

What Planet Is She Living On?

I’d been unhappy with the Federal prosecution of radical attorney Lynne Stewart, having assumed from a glance at the story that the acts she was being prosecuted for were a violation of the rules under which Sheikh Rahman was being held – but that they were acts that had some, dim, relationship to her role as his advocate for him in the U.S. legal system.

I don’t like it when prosecutors win by putting defendant’s lawyers in jail for defending them.

But then I read the facts – in a story in today’s New York Times – and realized what a dork I was.

Mr. Tigar’s line of questioning yesterday centered on Ms. Stewart’s decision, after a prison visit with the sheik on May 19 and 20, 2000, to telephone a Reuters correspondent in Cairo and release a statement in which the sheik withdrew his support for a three-year-old cease-fire by his militant followers in Egypt. Prosecutors have charged that Ms. Stewart relayed an order for terrorist war from her client when he was supposed to be incommunicado.

On the stand, Ms. Stewart acknowledged that her decision had been a “close call.” But she said that continuing to represent Mr. Abdel Rahman while he was in prison and after he had lost all his appeals had been “a team effort” she shared with Ramsey Clark, a former United States attorney general, and Abdeen Jabara, a lawyer who specializes in Arab clients. She said the lawyers believed that the special prison restrictions imposed on the sheik included a “bubble” that allowed the lawyers to continue to develop their own defense strategy and exercise their attorney-client privileges.

She said she had “an expansive view” of the prison rules, which she signed on to repeatedly after they were imposed in 1997. “I understood this meant we were permitted to do the necessary legal work to vigorously defend Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, who was incommunicado,” she said.

She relayed a message she didn’t understand, which was a clear call to violent conflict. And her response?

Her approach, she said, was to do whatever she could to keep the sheik “in the public eye,” with the goal of building political support to eventually send him back to Egypt to serve out his sentence, she said. Although she does not speak Arabic, she said she understood that the sheik’s May 2000 message was intended only to start a debate among his followers about the Egyptian cease-fire, not to end it.

“Did you think your client wanted people to pick up the gun and start shooting?” Mr. Tigar asked.

“No,” Ms. Stewart said emphatically.

Asked if she had ever passed to the news media an instruction from the sheik that “people should commit violence,” she said, “Absolutely not.”

She added: “It would not have been proper. We are not allowed to become part of the client’s effort to break the law.”

Ms. Stewart said she remained shocked that the government had made secret videotapes of her meetings with the sheik in federal prison in Rochester, Minn., and secret recordings of her phone calls to him. She said she had made diversionary comments in meetings when the sheik was dictating his cease-fire message to her Arabic translator because she distrusted the guards, whom she regarded as meddlesome.

Jail. For a long time.

And for me, a commitment to work harder at refraining from judgment until I read the whole story.

Leo Strauss and the Missing WMD

Laura Rozen, whose blog ‘War and Piece‘ I read regularly (and even agree with on occasion) has a column up at the Washington Monthly about the blindness of the neocons.

It’s called ‘Con Tract,’ and it lays the blame for the War in Iraq on … Leo Strauss.

I know, you’re shocked.
It stems from a community of academic/policy guys from the University of Chicago.

Shulsky and Schmitt [both U of C students] argue that such a belief system foolishly disregards the most important lesson from Strauss’s teachings: that the nature of the regime or government under analysis means everything in trying to predict its intentions. Rogue regimes and dictatorships, they argue, operate under totally different value systems and principles than do democracies like the United States. Tyrannies warp the very souls of those who live under and serve them. In fundamental ways, this makes subjects of tyrannies not like us. “Because of the importance of the regime, it would be foolish to expect to be able to deduce theories of political behavior that would be universal, i.e. that would apply to democracies and tyrannies alike,” Shulsky and Schmitt write.

Central to understanding the behavior of rogue regimes, Shulsky and Schmitt posit, is these regimes’ use of deception. Tyrannies are built on foundations of lies, and those who live under them must, for survival, speak in code, even when speaking the truth. The words and behavior of dictators and their henchmen, therefore, mask hidden meanings; they cannot be understood at face value. Rather than grasp this difference, they argue, conventional intelligence experts have adopted a flawed analytical strategy called mirror-imaging– “i.e., imagining that the country one is studying is fundamentally similar to one’s own and hence can be understood in the same terms.”

Shulsky and Schmitt have a point: Mirror-imaging is indeed a problem at the C.I.A. But nevertheless, much of their critique belabors a straw man. Mirror-imaging, though a real problem, is not a strategy which anyone at the C.I.A. or elsewhere in the intelligence community defends.

So, from Rozen’s point of view, our mistaken impressions about Saddam were amplifications of thin facts because of the (to her) Straussian attitude that finds deceit because it is expected.

The neocon policy intellectuals who came to power in the Bush administration were convinced that Saddam’s denials that he had reconstituted his nuclear or other WMD programs were an elaborate smokescreen. But unlike many other analysts, the neocons refused to be “fooled” by a general lack of hard evidence to this effect or that he had made alliances with Osama bin Laden. Instead, they imputed to stray bits of intelligence data–a reported meeting with a terrorist here, an aluminum tube there–an almost mystical significance, seeing each as evidence of Saddam’s boundless capacity for deceit.

Were the neocons fooling themselves? Or were they aware of the thinness of the evidence but willing to use it deceitfully to convince the public–and perhaps the president himself–to support the invasion? The neocons’ harshest critics believe the latter. They note, for instance, that Shulsky’s Special Plans office was borne out of the same Pentagon department where Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith once set up the equally mysterious “Office of Strategic Influence,” to send out disinformation to the enemy. That enterprise was quickly dismantled once lawmakers got wind of the fact that such an office could also–perhaps inadvertently –disseminate disinformation to the American public.

Rozen leaves one key factor out of this exercise which leads – me at least – to a far different conclusion.

And that is the fact that the ‘Con’ we ought to be discussing isn’t the ‘con’ in conservatism, but the one in con job.

Because, in the recent past, that just what was done to our intelligence agencies and diplomats. History, rather than philosophy might be a good discipline to study to see why the world was so sure Hussein had weapons.

Let’s go to the record, and talk about the flat misses by the intelligence community and the cases where deliberate misrepresentation led us astray – particularly about proliferation of various kinds.

Saddam himself:

Until 1995, Iraq denied having had any serious intention of building nuclear weapons, despite abundant evidence to the contrary uncovered by Action Team investigations. Then, after Hussein Kamel, Saddam’s son-in-law and head of the Ministry of Industry and Military Industrialization, defected in August 1995, his revelations about the scope and intensity of the nuclear weapons program threatened the credibility of the government’s denial.

In response to Kamel’s defection, the Iraqi government produced the so-called “chicken farm documents.” Several days after Kamel fled to Jordan, senior UNSCOM and Action Team officials were taken to Kamel’s farm, where a half-million-page cache of documents was stashed in a shed. The documents shed light on extensive programs to develop and build weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons.

The Iraqi government said it had not made a decision to manufacture nuclear weapons. The government said, in effect, that it had been duped–that Kamel had developed these programs without authorization and had hidden the incriminating evidence at his farm.

or this:

The international community discovered after Iraq’s defeat in the 1991 Persian Gulf War that Iraq had a much more advanced nuclear weapons program than either the United States or the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had suspected. The IAEA was charged with undertaking inspections to ensure that Iraq complied with disarmament requirements mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 687, but the United Nations withdrew the inspectors in December 1998 after Iraq stopped cooperating with them. The agency, however, reported in 1999 that, based on the inspectors’ work until that time, there was “no indication that Iraq possesses nuclear weapons or any meaningful amounts of weapon-usable nuclear material, or that Iraq has retained any practical capability (facilities or hardware) for the production of such material.”

And it’s not just about Iraq. Korea cheated, as well. India’s decision was a surprise to us – as he Rozen article itself notes. Libya has a more advanced program than we knew about until Pakistan started cooperating with us.

Given that less-than-stellar track record of compliance and certainty on our part, one thing that must be factored into the decisions made on the basis of incomplete information isn’t just the inherent philosophical bias of the decision-maker, but the facts as they are presented in recent history.

Everyone on my side of the issue is vulnerable on the issue of WMD; we have to acknowledge that the failure to find them or demonstrate he had them is material.

But it’s just silly to suggest that the suspicion was purely ideological, rather than practical.

Calif. Propositions in detail: Proposition 1A, Local Government Finance

Proposition 1A is the latest aftershock in the Proposition 13 earthquake.

When Proposition 13 passed, limiting property taxes to 1% of value, and limiting increases to 2%/year, local governments were creamed – the property tax was their major revenue source for operations.

State government at the time was relatively solvent, so it diverted a substantial amount of state revenue to local school districts (the AB 8 bailout) to keep them from going bankrupt.

In the first rounds of the state fiscal crisis in the early 90’s, the state shifted more property tax revenues from local government to education, to reduce the state’s obligations. This combined with a reduction in the vehicle license fee, whose revenues were shared with local governments, to put local governments in a bind.

This is a part of the reason why Gray Davis reinstated the higher VLF, and was ultimately recalled.When Schwartzenegger was elected, his first act was to reduce the VLF – and thereby hammer weak local government revenues. The cities protested, and moved for a legislative constitutional amendment to prohibit such revenue-juggling, which makes local budgeting almost impossible.

1A is the result of that amendment, plus some negotiating, in which it was agreed that there is a one-time, $1.3 billion transfer from local government to the state.

Based on the rare consensus that it represents, and my own belief that state government has been using local government as a piggy bank, I’m supporting it.

California may be unique among states in that we have four levels of government that are material: State, County, City, and Special Districts. Each has it’s own complex revenue/taxation formulas, and each budgets independently – while relying on tax rates that may be set at and collected by another level of government.

One of the best things we could do in the long run here in California, is to create a ‘unified budget’ in which we rollup the various budgets and try over some multiyear budget cycle to make them conform to each other. That way we might have some idea of what’s really being spent, and begin to coordinate programs among the different levels.

Proposition 65 was a competing measure, whose backers have signed onto 1A, and now urge voters to vote against it as the proposition with the highest number of votes will be entered into law.

California Voters Get Propositioned

I’m still shoveling on the ‘Future of the Democrats’ post (there’s got to be a pony in there somewhere…), and realized that I need to cover the California propositions …

Here’s the full list and a brief summary, along with my quick position. I’ll follow up with an in-depth look at them as time permits this week.

For more information, I’ll recommend two sources: The League of Women Voter’s ‘Smart Voter‘ site, and the UC Berkeley IGS site. If you live in Los Angeles County, as I do, check out the Los Angeles County Bar’s Judicial Candidate Evaluations as well.Here are my recommendations:

1A – Restricts state government’s ability to swing sales tax revenues away from local governments; YES

59 – Constitutional amendment setting out a ‘right’ of public access to government records and proceedings; YES

60 – Limits open primaries (the parties counter to Prop 62); NO

60A – Designates that the proceeds from surplus property sales should go to paying down bonds; NO

61 – $750 Million in bonds to build, expand, equip, and furnish children’s hospitals; NO

62 – ‘Open’ primaries, in which the two top vote-getters in the primary will meet in the general, regardless of party; YES

63 – Expands mental health services by taxing the incomes of those making over $1 million; NO

64 – Limits the ability of attorneys and plaintiffs who are not actually harmed to sue; YES

65 – Similar to 1A, it’s backers have thrown their support behind 1A; NO

66 – Limits the applicability of ‘three strikes'; NO

67 – Funds emergency medical services with a telephone tax; YES

68 – Tribal gambling initiative #1; NO

69 – Authorizes the gathering and retention of DNA samples from anyone arrested for a felony to help create a state DNA database; STUCK IN THE MIDDLE

70 – Tribal gambling initiative #2; NO

71 – Stem cell research; NO

72 – Mandates that certain California employers provide health care coverage; STUCK IN THE MIDDLE

An Ally

Here’s a fellow Democrat I’m more than happy to stand alongside.

Phillip Klinkner, over at Polysigh (a very good group blog by poli-sci academics) got this in comments:

Sorry to have to say it, but the retro Nebraska and Kansas are, their university towns excepted, deeply insular places where the people have low levels of information and high levels of suspicion about the outside world. If approved sources–Bush, Fox news, evangelical ministers–say something is untrue, then those folks KNOW it is untrue. Their blinkered view of the outside world is a recipe for disaster. Sadly, It is their kids–from Fargo, Topeka–who are getting killed in Bush’s grand folly. I am sorry for them but, in a serious way, it is their fault. They have gotten exactly what an insular and ignorant vote is likely to get. By the way, I was born in the Middle West.

Phillip replies:

Well, I’m from the Midwest (Iowa) and I find this kind of pseudo-intellectual, elitist BS deeply offensive. I’m voting for Kerry, but if Democrats see the majority of Americans as idiots, then they deserve to lose elections. Just on general principles, I woudn’t support someone who looks down their nose at me. I can’t comment at length, but I didn’t want to let this pass unremarked. More later.

John Schaar approves (from ‘The Case For Patriotism’):

“Finally, if political education is to effective it must grow from a spirit of humility on the part of the teachers, and they must overcome the tendencies toward self-righteousness and self-pity which set the tone of youth and student politics in the 1960’s. The teachers must acknowledge common origins and common burdens with the taught, stressing connection and membership, rather than distance and superiority. Only from these roots can trust and hopeful common action grow.”

And so do I.

Phillip and I may be on opposite sides of this election, but we’re certainly on the same side of the fence.

Kevin Drum and Me

Kevin Drum and I have known each other for a while; he’s one of the first other bloggers I met. I know I hold him in high regard even when we disagree, and get the same feeling from him (boy, do I have him fooled…).

He just blogged a snippet of our back and forth on my endorsement of Bush, with his own thoughts around them; go take a look.

He did leave out something from our dialog that I’ll toss up here; part of an email from me to him that pretty much sums up my position:

The difference is that you have to factor in the cost of the worst case, which in my mind is very bad indeed.

I’m 100% positive that Bush will damage the economy and polity in the next 4 years. But I’m equally positive that he won’t do anything that can’t be fought against and fixed.

I just can’t climb the mountain of doubt that I have about Kerry’s core values when applied to the current situation. At any other time, I wouldn’t be having this discussion, I’d just be bitching about how mediocre a President I felt Kerry would be. But this isn’t any other time…

I’m behind on ‘The Future of the Democratic Party'; I’ll try and have it up tonight.

Kerry vs Bush 3: The Balance of The Issues

The following is a list of the issues between the two candidates which have grabbed my attention over the last months. It’s not exhaustive, and I won’t pretend it is, but I’m trying to assemble the core charges/challenges made against each and set out my my quick thoughts on each subject.

Kerry as a flip-flopper

Does Kerry flip-flop? Of course. So does Bush, and so did Lord Keynes, who famously had a sign in his office that said “When I’m wrong, I change my mind. What do you do?”

The nature of legislative maneuver requires that you occasionally “vote against the bill before you vote for it,” or vice versa. And nuance, in the sense of framing positions in ways that minimally alienate potential allies, or are maximally inclusive, is important.

Bush has flip-flopped as well; against DHS, and then for it. Against nation-building, and then for it.

That’s what politicians have to do.I am concerned – in light of the seriousness of the issues of the war – that his [Kerry’s] position on the war is so nuanced that it’s indistinguishable from no position at all. That’s the risk with carefully nuanced positions. In accommodating the largest group, you are trapped and unable to move.

I’m more concerned – in Kerry’s case – that I can’t make sense of his political evolution, and track it to his biography. I’ve blogged this before. This leaves me – and I think others – with a disquieting sense that he’s Chauncey Gardner.

Bush as stupid

No one who plays in the big leagues is incapable of hitting a curveball. No politician who has a state or national level presence is truly stupid, and it’s not only offensive to bandy that charge about but itself foolish, because it leads you to get sandbagged by your opponent.

In the specific case of Bush & Kerry, there is personal history – including the schools they went to – that suggests that Bush is at least as smart as Kerry. In fact there are some objecting military records that suggest that he’s smarter.

Kerry and the Swift Boat Vets

In my mind the Swift Boat charges break into four categories:

1. He boosted his own ratings through manipulating the system.
2. He did not act as bravely as he claimed
3. He abandoned his men by coming home early.
4. He acted immorally when he came home and was a part of VVAW.

I have a hard time not believing #1. The mere fact that he put in for Purple Hearts for injuries that were inconsequential suggests that he engaged in resume-puffery.

I don’t buy #2. I refuse to parse the courage of someone who was under fire and in command of other men in that circumstance. Was he Audie Murphy? No. Was he LBJ, who essentially stole a Silver Star in WW II? Not even close.

To me, #3 is the one that requires the greatest explanation. If he had served out his year, and either maintained his extraordinarily rapid record, or simply coasted through it competently, I would unqualifiedly admire him for what he did. But he chose to take a bureaucratic out, and that, to me was wrong.

It’s easy for me to criticize, you may say. I was never in the military and never had to face what he faced. But the draft was an issue for me in my first year of college, and had I been called – once my deferments were done – I had decided that I would either go and serve or go to jail. Kerry had those choices as well; he chose to serve – but only for a little while.

As to #4, I don’t think he acted immorally when he came home and participated in VVAW. I do think that he acted rashly, and hurtfully, and carelessly; and that a great man – which he is not – could have threaded that needle and done what Kerry did with honor. I do find it inexplicable that he wouldn’t have – at some point in his career – acknowledged the immaturity of what he did and said, and reached out to his fellow veterans, which would have added significantly to his stature (and elect ability).

And, to be honest, since one of the major jobs of the President is to be a communicator (yeah, I know, I know), that tone-deafness that kept him from making that speech is part of why I look at him and just can’t get confident that he’ll grow into the role of a leader.

And, in addition, someone qualified to run a high school ASB president’s campaign could have predicted the charges, and would have packaged a response and been ready for them. And again, that leads me to look at him and feel my confidence leak away.

Bush and the Lost Jobs

This is one of the most infuriating, bullshit-laden charges against Bush that I know of. How did you spend the 90’s? I spent the latter part consulting for a bunch of dot-coms, who were (not deliberately – usually) playing a giant Ponzi scheme with investor money. Five twenty-six year olds would get $15 million, rent 15,000 square feet of Class A space, hire 150 people at outrageous salaries, and it was never going to end. They bought cars, houses, Time-Warner, and we unsurprisingly had a boom. Add to that the financial engineering going on in Corporate America, and the stock market was headed for a 20,000 Dow, and we were all spending like rock stars.

But then the drugs wore off and we discovered that we had more of a bubble, actually. And I am just plain puzzled when smart economists like Brad Delong don’t acknowledge the powerful impact of the bubble, not only on the economy, but on fiscal policy – as the exploding economy grew, tax revenues grew, and the government was suddenly – with very little pain – solvent. Yes we had productivity growth, but as someone who sat in boardrooms while hiring and spending decisions were made during that era, I’ve got to say that my personal observation is that astronomical stock prices – created through ‘irrational exuberance’ and financial engineering – drove many if not most of these decisions.

And as a consequence all of us had jobs. Good-paying jobs, since the companies were making so much profit it didn’t hurt to dish some around to make sure the talent stuck around.

Then the bubble popped, and we were all subject to gravity once again.

We haven’t felt the last of the consequences, no matter how hard Mr. Greenspan tries by keeping real interest rates at zero or below.

So when someone blames Bush for the tepid rate of job creation since 1999, and does so in the framework of the phoney bubble that preceded him, I’ll take the charges more seriously.

Do I like Bush’s jobs policy? Well, first he has no explicit jobs policy. I do think that as my first glance is that many of his policies favor large over small businesses (tax policy, trade policy, agriculture policies), and I believe that small business are the likely engine for domestic job creation, that his jobs policies aren’t great.

Neither were Clinton’s, by that standard, and I have no reason to believe that Kerry’s would be better.

Kerry and the UN

Kerry keeps coming back to the UN as the tool that’s going to save us in Iraq and drive our foreign policy to a new, ‘city on the hill’ kind of a shining future.

I look at the UN and think of Rwanda, Srebinca and Darfur. I think of quiet deals in good restaurants in which the right to buy oil at below-market prices is offered to the powerful and the sons of the powerful.

And I scratch my head at Kerry’s claim, which might have made sense in the 1960’s, but makes none at all today.

Early results from the weekend’s general election showed that five years of UN rule had only deepened ethnic divisions as Kosovo’s voters signaled their despair with the Balkan province’s administrators.

Bush and the Lost Allies

Who, exactly are we talking about when we talk about the ‘lost allies’? In reality, we’re talking about three countries: France, Germany, and Russia.

The ability of each of them to add meaningfully to the troop levels is highly questionable (except for Russia, and as we’ve discussed, it’s questionable whether Russian troops in Iraq is a good idea.

What is being talked about is the ‘legitimacy’ in international diplomacy that would come from international consensus. As noted, that consensus can be very very expensive in terms of operating successfully. And, given the facts of Oil-for-Food and the interest of the EU and Russia in restraining the ‘hyperpower’ that is America, it’s not clear such a consensus could have been reached, regardless of the facts on the ground.

Bush and the Deficit

It’s clear that the war – which will certainly cost $200 – 300B before it’s over – blew a hole in the budget. And so did the drop in tax receipts post-bubble.

I’d like to believe that Bush is simply and consciously priming the demand pump, and will stand behind a podium and announce “We are all Keynsians now.”

But more likely, Bush is clearly following Reagan’s precept of approving all the spending it takes to make his corporate base happy, and enough spending on social programs to defer all-out war with the Congressional liberals.

This, in my mind is one of the worst things Bush has done. Like Reagan, he’ll leave office as a model to the conservative movement who will conveniently ignore this bit of history.

Kerry and Social Security

We have a pretty clear fiscal and demographic crisis coming along as our population ages, and so pension and health care costs go up, while the younger cohorts of workers are increasingly a) working outside the economy, and so not paying full taxes; and b) making lower salaries, and therefore paying less taxes.

Combine this with a stupidly low national savings rate, and things look interesting.

Bush has a proposal – one that I have some problems with because a) it’s a gift-wrapped present to Wall Street who will rake in fees and profits as a whole new block of resources steps in to buy securities; and b) it presents risks, and one has to wonder what will happen to the folks who make bad choices in their self-directed retirement accounts. Will we just let them starve?

Kerry’s position, as I see it, is well summarized in this column in Salon (it’s not worth sitting through the ad) by James K. Galbraith. Here are some of the salient points:

Social Security is not running out of money. Here are the facts.

1. Social Security is part of the government. It cannot run out of money unless the whole government also runs out of money. And the government of the United States cannot run out of money. That is not my opinion, it’s an economic fact.

2. Social Security is an entitlement. Not even Congress can easily interfere with its payments. Congress would have to vote to default on the bonds Social Security holds for benefits to fail over the next 40 years.

6. If the Trust Funds eventually have to be adjusted in order for full promised benefits to be paid, minor adjustments will suffice. And they will be good policy. When payrolls are relatively small, why not tap other revenues to pay pensions? The tax increases in any decade from the ’50s to the ’80s would have been adequate to plug the gap. Suppose, for example, that the estate tax were not repealed but instead credited to Social Security?

8. When NBC’s Andrea Mitchell accused John Kerry of pandering on Social Security after the debate, she reflected the mind-set of the coddled rich. Yes, it may be necessary someday to touch a little more of her income to cover all the bills. But frankly, Mrs. Greenspan, it’s worth it — both to protect America’s elderly and to watch you squirm.

9. After that lousy preface, Schieffer asked a good question. Privatization of Social Security would divert payroll tax revenues into private accounts. And that would blow a huge whole in the budget. Bush simply ignored this fact, as he always does. The fact is, Bush wants to gut Social Security. He made that clear Wednesday night.

Kerry’s answer on Social Security wasn’t pandering. He said that we can keep the system we have. He said we must not privatize it — “an invitation to disaster.” He said our priority should be to create jobs, the best way to pay for the system. And he said that we can well afford to wait until later to see if some minor changes would be wise. Kerry was right on all of these facts.

Sorry for the long clip, but I wanted to make two points.

The first is that in Social Security’s history, one clear theme has been part of our understanding; that it isn’t a transfer payment, but rather a self-funding retirement program.

Galbraith here just casually dismisses that with a handwave.

The second is that his assumption is that benefits always trump our ability to pay them. This is also something I’ve heard from Kerry before: “You spend what it takes.”

Clinton rejected that premise, and so managed to begin to craft a Third Way in domestic politics. Kerry would wind the clock back, to the formerly dominant branch of the Democratic Party – the branch of McGovern, Mondale, and Dukakis.

Are there any ‘killer’ issues here? Not to my view. Putting these in a basket and shaking them, you get Bush’s mediocre economic policies (which have the sole redeeming feature of being economy-priming) against Kerry’s unrealistic foreign policies.

We’ll skip the obvious social issues differences, and simply stipulate to them. yes, Bush is bad for gays, and probably for women. With due respect, both groups will survive, and in fact thrive as the underlying social changes that lead to greater acceptance will continue, regardless of who is in office and what specific policies they may promulgate.

I’m not sure whose polciies would be worse for the underclass, except that it’s likely that Kerry’s team would care about them. Sadly a lot of damage has been done by people who care.

In a pre-9/11 world, this balance would have certainly tipped me toward Kerry.

Sadly, I live in a post 9/11 world. I wish I didn’t, and that none of us did.