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Vote Baby Vote

Okay, so yesterday’s post was a bit of tongue-in-cheekery, but with a very serious undertone.  As a matter of fact, today Kat, Carolyn, and I went to a doctor’s appointment, then to vote, and then out to lunch.  When we got back, there were two voice mail messages.  I laid 3:1 odds that they were both political, and yes, they were both GOP ads.  While we were retrieving those messages, another message landed in our voice mail box—this one also from the GOP.

The flood of political calls has been, not to put too fine a point on it, infuriating.  I signed up with the Do Not Call list for a reason, geniuses.  I’m doubly glad to be on it now that we have Carolyn.  I’m not especially concerned that the phone will wake her, bless her heart; once she goes to deep sleep, you could practically send a marching band through her room to play “Columbia, The Gem Of The Ocean” at full volume and she’d continue snoring.  (Such cute little snores they are, too.)  But some nights, especially when the teething is particularly bad, she never really gets to a deep sleep.  The last thing I want is for her to be woken up by a ringing phone and experience more pain because some politician or political activist thinks I really need to hear from him (or her).  I don’t.  Stop bothering me.

Now, I’ll admit that my vote for President was never in serious doubt.  It was easier to justify, though, on the grounds that Kerry and his allies had invaded my family’s privacy to a lesser extent than did his opponents.  It’s a classic “lesser of two evils” rationalization, but hey, any port in an electoral storm.  It’s also a metaphor for the Bush administration’s stance on social and privacy issues, now that I think about it.

And why was my vote never in serious doubt?  I can explain that in ten words (16 words and three letters if you count the names).

General Tendencies
Social Fiscal
Eric A. Meyer Liberal Conservative
George W. Bush Conservative Liberal
John F. Kerry Liberal Liberal

That’s it in a nutshell.  I’ve had a number problems with the Bush administration’s policies and actions, and most of them stem from the differences in philosophy that table summarizes.

There’s another reason I voted for Kerry, though: the Congress is almost certainly not going to be controlled by the Democrats.  Thus, the only things that will get through the legislative process are those with broad support.  Most observers feel that should Kerry win, he’ll have to set aside some of his grander (read: more expensive) plans for at least the first two years of his administration.  That’s just fine with me.  Since a Republican-dominated government apparently can’t show a sense of fiscal restraint, I’d be happy to have it arise as a side effect of an opposite-party government.

Well, not exactly happy, really, but hopefully you know what I mean.

It’ll certainly be interesting to watch how all this plays out.  Now, if you haven’t yet, get out there and vote!

Making A Call

Dear President Bush,

How are things going?  I hear you’ve been very busy, doing a lot of traveling, that sort of thing.  In a way, it’s too bad you don’t fly on commercial airlines, because you would have a whole pile of frequent flyer miles.  You could probably earn three or four round-the-world trips.  Though now that I think about it, you probably don’t really need that kind help getting around, do you?

I’ve long been an undecided voter, thanks in no small part to the choice of candidates this time around.  I’m sure you’re a very honorable man, at least to the extent your office will permit.  Nonetheless, about half your policies have been deeply dismaying to me.  On the other hand, about half your opponent’s positions are no more appealing to me.  On the whole, as I’ve complained from time to time, I’ve had a very difficult time making up my mind how to vote.  It’s true that I’m traditionally a liberal type, but that’s mostly in the social arena.  That, incidentally, should provide a good indication of which half of your policies have dismayed me.

As a resident of a “battleground” state, or “swing” state, or whatever it is we’re calling them these days, I’ve been getting a lot of phone calls these days.  I imagine you know a thing or two about that; after all, your mother and your wife both called.  So did Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Also Gwyneth Paltrow and Sarah Jessica Parker, although they of course weren’t calling on your behalf.  In addition, I’ve heard from a number of dire-voiced men warning me about the terrible dangers inherent in electing you, or your opponent, to the White House.  Over the past month, I’d estimate that I’ve received at least fifty calls from campaigns, political parties, 527 groups, and so forth.  In one recent night, three such calls came in the space of twenty minutes.  I’d most certainly have gotten more calls, but I was out of town for a week.

Anyway, I thought I’d let you know that from what I can tell, the organization of your campaign, and of those efforts aligned with you, has been more effective at reaching voters in my area.  At a rough estimate, calls from your campaign, the Republican Party, and various 527 groups close to your side of the ideological spectrum have outnumbered those from the other side of the spectrum by about a third.

Accordingly, I’ll be casting my vote for John Kerry.

Circus Time!

The circus came to town yesterday, specifically to the Case campus.  It had in fact been arriving for the past few days, but things really started to kick into high gear yesterday.  So Jim, who has a parking pass to the most conveniently-located garage on campus, and I decided to make a mid-day pilgramage to campus and enjoy the sights.  And hey, why not share them with you?  Maybe you love circuses as well.

Even before noon, the Lyndon LaRouche folks had set up right next to one of the access points to the “public discussion area” (otherwise known as the “free speech zone”).  From what I could tell the table was manned by college students.  I had no idea there were college students that wacked out.  So far as we could tell, they were obeying all of the posted rules, but the day was still early yet.

A little bit later on, we came across the Freedom Frankenstein, lumbering across the landscape like a big, scary, primary-color boogeyman.  Or something.  Okay, it was one of the decorations for the MTV concert area.  At least we think that’s what area it was in.  The people setting it up didn’t actually know, and crowd members seemed to be confused about which event was being held where.  Actually, the crowd members seemed to be confused about a great many things.

The football field just outside Emerson Gymnasium, the site of the debate, was covered with transmission trucks.  As we approached the field perimeter, we got the once-over from some grim-looking gentlemen in suits and shades.  A more normal-looking guy near the barrier line looked up at us and said, “You can’t take pictures here.  The Secret Service guys won’t allow it.”  So we retreated a bit, gained higher ground, and took the picture anyway.  Which drew the attention of a couple of Secret Service guys; as they started walking in our general direction, we decided it was time to check out the other side of campus.  It’s great to know that the media uplink trucks of the world are so well protected, you know?

The two books pictured were just sitting next to a crosswalk on Euclid Avenue.  There was nobody within thirty feet of them besides us.  We couldn’t quite work out if they were freebies (despite having cover prices) or if picking one up would activate some sort of hidden box trap.  We decided to leave them alone and go check out the Hardball rehearsal at the MSNBC stage.  Demonstrators for various causes and candidates had already staked out space, despite it being four or five hours before the show itself would air.  Chris Matthews came down and talked with the people along the fence line, and some volunteers practied handing out Krispy Kreme donuts.  Apparently that’s something they do during the show.  Or else did.  I didn’t watch it.

I’ll say this much: Chris Matthews looks a lot less healthy in person than he does on television.  I didn’t get a chance to ask him if Zell was still demanding that they duel.

In all, it was a fun time.  All it needed was some monkeys and maybe a juggling act, and the day would have been perfect.

It’s A Sign! It’s A Sign!

Back on September 10th, liberal Tom Toles published a political cartoon equating the hurricanes pummeling Florida this season with a message from God regarding the 2000 election.  Now, thanks to Photo Matt, I’ve now laid eyes on a map that kind of makes the joke seem more real.  Assuming the storm tracks and election results charted there are accurate, and from what little information I’ve been able to gather they appear to be, that’s kind of… spooky.  Hey, if God does indeed have a presence in this world, you’d think he would have dominion over the course of hurricanes; given that, you have to wonder if maybe he’s trying to tell us something.

Especially since the prediction about Ivan turning west is actually coming true.  Having dissipated over the continental United States, the low-pressure remnants of Ivan have managed to get all the way back to the Gulf of Mexico and are re-forming into a tropical storm.  Ivan is currently projected to bring flooding to Louisiana and Texas.  Seriously.

Hmmm…..

(All right, all right, if we must be serious about this, here’s the Snopes rebuttal.  But please note the categories for this post.)

Do I Have To Pick One?

Every now and again, I feel good about our city’s main paper, The Plain Dealer.  Today was one of those days; they published a Spinsanity-like piece that dissected the distortions coming from both U.S. presidential candidates.  I was going to lnkblog it, but it turned out they’d split the piece in two on the Web, so I’ll link to them here.

I’d have linked to the printer-friendly versions, except they contained a window.print call, and I wasn’t sure if they’d force a print in some browsers or not.  At the least, they’d call up a print dialog, which is kind of annoying.

The views I expressed in Partied Out are just deepened by this sort of thing.  I know, it’s nothing new.  That doesn’t make it any less depressing.

Antispinward

I’m just throwing this out as a general advisory: if you have any interest in the American Presidential campaign, or in analyses of spin and distortion in general, make it a habit of stopping by Spinsanity.  Or you could subscribe to their RSS feed.  I’ve had to fight the urge to just repost links to everything they write, so consider this a recommendation.  They do a great job of analyzing rhetoric from both campaigns, pointing out inaccuracies in media reporting on politics, taking on books and documentaries, and more.  The non-partisan stance and rigorous insistence on getting to the truth come as a welcome antidote to, well, just about everything else about the campaign.

Recent favorites:

Heck, they’re all good.  Right now, the site’s authors are pushing their new book “All The President’s Spin” pretty hard, which probably lends to the perception that they’re a left-wing group.  I haven’t seen any leftward shift in their posts, though; they’re still taking on both sides and the media itself.

So like I say, if you’ve any interest in these sorts of things, go sign up for the feed or add them to your bookmarks.  The lessons in spin, deception, and media distortion you’ll receive are well worth the investment of your time.

Partied Out

By rights, I should be a Republican.  No, I’m not kidding.  Bear with me for a moment.

If the Republican Party actually carried through on the core principles it espouses, I’d pretty much have to register that way.  I’m all for a decrease in government’s interference in the personal lives of its citizens, and that goes for silent intrusion as well as active meddling.  I’m all for the government being as small as it needs to be, and no smaller.  I believe that the government provides a number of critical services, and those should be funded, but that there should be intelligent restrictions on its growth.  I also believe in fiscal responsibility, in eliminating deficits, and in returning any surplus to the taxpayers (once all debts are paid off and services are funded).

So what do we have instead?  A party that proposes amending the Constitution to prohibit some kinds of marriage, that keeps increasing the size of the government, and that runs up massive debts while cutting off income.  Their leaders and highest-profile supporters tend to be the most annoying brand of hypocrite: preaching morality and decency while not acting in accordance with those ideals, publicly or privately.

As for debates about national security and terrorism, the more often I hear right-wingers respond to questions and criticism with accusations America-hating, the more I start to think that they have no rational policy, and their lame rhetorical attacks are meant to obscure this weakness.  It’s probably an unfair perception, but it’s hard to avoid.

Then, of course, we have the Democrats.  They’ve traditionally been in favor of increasing spending in order to provide expanded social services, which in any sane fiscal environment requires an increase in taxes.  Thus the old cliché of “tax-and-spend liberal”.  (To which I usually reply, “Well, duh, if taxes are levied then the money should be spent”.)  But the last Democratic president, faced with a surplus, used it to get government debt under control.  He didn’t try to blow it all on entitlements, at least not after the universal health care proposal died, or try to fund some massive boondoggle.  He actually used it to reduce the fiscal burden on future generations.

The usual argument is that he didn’t do this of his own volition, but was forced into it by a Republican Congress.  I no longer accept that claim, because I’ve been watching the current Republican Congress.  No real signs of fiscal discipline there, I’m sorry to say.  So it would seem that the party of smaller government and fiscal responsibility is, in reality… the Democrats.  Say what?

As for national security, the left has been great about asking tough questions, but not all that good at formulating a decent policy—or, if they have one, then they’ve done a terrible job of promoting it.  It’s one thing to criticize what’s being done, and quite another to propose a workable alternative.

And that leads us up to the 2004 Presidential election.  I’m reminded of the 1988 election, when I seriously considered flipping a coin to determine my vote.  Neither choice really made me happy.  Same thing here.  I’m no fan of President Bush or his policies, but I’ve yet to see that Kerry is a worthwhile alternative.  I know some people who say “Anyone but Bush,” but I categorically refuse to pick the leader of the country that way.  I know some people claim nobody could be worse than Bush, and I’m glad they do, because it makes their reality-distortion tendencies more obvious.  There’s plenty of people who could be worse than Bush.  The question in my mind is whether or not John Kerry would make a better leader than George W. Bush.

It would be nice if I could get a clear picture along those lines.  So far, any hope of finding out has been obscured by the fountains of venomous bile the two sides keep spewing at each other.  Back in late 2000, I wrote:

…I’m finding that every time a campaign spokesman from either side opens his mouth, my opinion of him drops.  Every time. That’s just, you know, depressing.

It’s no less true, or for that matter less depressing, at present.  And pundits wonder why voter apathy runs so high.  I honestly think it’s because most of us just don’t want to waste any more time listening to the shrill schoolyard taunts that pass for political debate.

It doesn’t help that most taunts are equally applicable to both sides, thus deepening the sense of futility.  To take just one example, the Republicans keep painting John Kerry as a “flip-flopper”.  How droll.  He has been a senator long enough to have voted in myriad ways, it’s true.  In some cases, it’s because one bill is worth supporting, and another is not, even though they’re ostensibly about the same thing.  In others, it might be that he’d changed his mind.  Most humans do, at some point.

Thing is, Bush is no less a flip-flopper.  He’s been against trade barriers like steel tariffs, and then for them.  He’s been against education reform, and for it.  He’s been against nation-building, and for nation-building.  He’s been against independent inquiries into the 9/11 attacks, and for them.  He’s been against negotiating with the North Koreans over their nuclear program, and in favor of negotiating with them.  Those are some pretty major changes of position.  And I’m generally okay with that; a pragmatist must sometimes change stance to get things done, and any intelligent person will change their mind if new and compelling information comes to light.  I will gladly accept a leader who changes his mind when it makes sense to do so, or even when they have become convinced of the need to do so.  Still, doesn’t it seems rather hypocritical of Bush and Cheney to excoriate Kerry for changing positions when W and company have been doing the same thing in fairly big ways?

It’s hard to take either party seriously any more.  I sometimes wonder if there will be a serious political party in my lifetime—either because one of the existing parties grows up, or due to a serious-minded third party actually gaining traction and becoming a force in national politics.  Both seem about equally unlikely.

And so I face the prospect of forcing myself to the polls, participating in the election process only because abstention is unacceptable to me.  Thus a right and a duty becomes a frustration and a chore.

That’s probably the worst part of all.

Reagan’s Dead? Really?

Okay, Ronald Reagan died.  I got it the first six hundred times.  I grew up in the Eighties; I remember the Reagan years quite clearly.  He did a lot of good things, a lot of bad things, and a lot of ambiguous things while President, just like every other President I can remember, but frankly, at this point I think people are starting to go a little overboard.  As usual, Jon Stewart nailed it squarely (if I may paraphrase): “The ones I pity in all this are Ford and Carter. Because they’re watching this and thinking, ‘When I die, no way am I getting that.’  My advice to them: die while saving a baby.”

Still, I think the way the Liberal Media has totally ignored his death is just a travesty, don’t you?

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