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Insane Musings

Virginia Governor's Race
Friday, October 14, 2005

I'm typing this as I'm on a conference call. If it doens't make any sense, that's my excuse.

The VA Governor's race is getting tight. For those who don't know, the election is on November 8th - NOT the 1st. There are two good diaries up at Daily Kos.

This one talks about the latest polling between Tim Kaine (D) and Jerry Kilgore (R). It's a statistical dead heat. Kaine trails Kilgore by one percentage point, well within the margin of error. Further, Kilgore's well-funded smear machine has lauched a host of despicable swift-boat type ads against Kaine and is trying to close in the final weeks. In the diary you'll find a link to the Raising Kaine PAC to donate some money to help defeat the big money smear tactics of the Kilgore campaign. Kaine needs all the help he can get.

Another diary talks about google-bombing the despicable Jerry Kilgore and sending everyone who googles him to this site instead of to his campaign website. If you can, link back to the diary. It may not help, but it sure can't hurt.

Finally, on a personal note - you don't have to be a Virginia resident either to donate or to help Tim Kaine in the final push to defeat Jerry Kilgore. You can donate to the PAC which I link above, you can do the suggested google-bombing (which I've done liberally and annoyingly in this post), and you can volunteer in the 20 for Tim program to contact potential Kaine voters. We know for a fact that Kilgore's campaign is using out-of-state resources to contact voters - we need the same level of effort at a minimum.

posted by RenaRF @ 1:01 PM, ,

Pictures I feel like posting
Wednesday, May 11, 2005

No real point to this. Just some pictures I have lying around in my photobucket account that I want to post here. :-)

I spent the last weekend with my parents in Hilton Head, SC. They have a beautiful home there.

I spent part of the time poking around in their yard. The bottlebrush was in full bloom and was simply lovely.

The view from the room they had built for me is also breathtaking. In the background across the water you can see Paris Island.

I did my day at the beach and it was SO peaceful - I needed that relaxation.

Is everyone aware that the FDA has put out a new food pyramid? I find this version slightly more user-friendly than the official version.

I also found a picture of a grungy toilet that was just fascinating.

Finally, I love animal pictures. I don't know what this kitten did, but he sure looks guilty to me.

THIS is why having more than one cat is a joy.

posted by RenaRF @ 10:16 PM, ,

My latest ShoeBlog

A little frivolity is welcomed in these trying times... Posted originally at DailyKos.

So I'm a little late with ths week's shoe diary. Frankly, I thought that there would be only ONE shoe diary until the response was just... overwhelming!! It makes me realize that me and my 90 pair of shoes really aren't a bad thing.

So last week I realized that many Kossacks have a secret shoe passion. We're so busy being brilliant activists and serious thinkers that we supress our inner Shoe Goddesses and Shoe Gods. I'm aiming to rectify this aggregious supression.

Here is my dream shoe of the week:

Are those not awesome? I would wear those with my black power suit and express my individualistic side through Shoe Power... At a retail cost of $430, I better do more power meetings.

I have also concocted a little shoe haiku for you fine folks.

Oh summer sandals
I dream of you on the beach
Sand in toes, water warm

Not great, but not hideous.

Here's a neat site on the history of shoes in ancient Egypt. It's not enough to love shoes - you must learn of their history and partake of learning.

Finally, I'll feature a pair of my shoes (my favorites this week) and shoes of a few other family members. I wore these all weekend at the beach:

Purchased for $10.99, they raise me to about 6 feet tall and I just love 'em.

My mother generally scoffed at my Shoeblogging. She thought it was "silly". However, when asked if she would like a pair of her shoes featured, she couldn't rush to the closet soon enough, where she spent an hour agonizing over her favorite "funky" shoes. Here they are, courtesy of my mom and Bruno Magli:

NOTE: She keeps all of her shoes in little custom shoe bags. Wonder where my obsession came from, huh?

And hopefully this will give all of you a laugh. Here are a pair of MR. RenaRF's shoes:

I'm not making this up. I pulled them out of his closet, which is remarkable because he prefers them on his feet. He wears them all the time. Somehow I think that precludes him from chiding me about my shoe obsession.

I have also realized that shoes really do say something about their owner - the owner's personality, flamboyance, preferences, demeanor and what have you. So I perused my shoes and came to the conclusion that I am schitzophrenic. :-) Got some shoes that perfectly express who you are today? Fantasy shoes? Some shoe poetry or article about shoes? Share!

posted by RenaRF @ 10:13 PM, ,

And the best new addition: SHOEBLOGGING
Tuesday, May 03, 2005

A strange thing has happened on dKos. The subject of shoes, pictures of shoes, discussions of shoes, lamentations about shoes has popped up in the strangest of places. Cheers and Jeers seems to have been the first place that shoe fetishes snuck in to the otherwise topical posts (see related thread here). Most recently, lengthy discussions of shoes have appeared in Carnacki's Got a Happy Story? series (check here for the comment thread). It's time that we put shoes and things shoe-related into proper perspective. Shoes deserve their own diary and shoe-lovers deserve a place where they can share their podiatric passions. It's time for us shoe-lovers to put them on and come out of the closet with them.

So here you go. First, I'm going to feature a shoe that I desire, one that I would LOVE to acquire. This week it's:

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

AHHHH. Manolo Blahnik "Flower Bag" summer mules. At $300.00, it's a bargain and these are obviously a must-have. Note the reasonable heel size, the sleek lines, and the abundance of colors leaving a variety of coordinating outfit options. As far as I'm concerned, it's an investment worth making.

Check here for the shoe site of the week. Surprisingly, it's difficult to find a site dedicated to shoe lovers as opposed to shoe shoppers, but this one's a peach. It takes you through, well, a century of shoes!! Shoe history, fashions, examples, etc. It's a priceless shoe site!!

I also think that shoe poetry is approrpiate. I am NOT, however, adept at poetry just yet, although I am envisioning a bit of shoe haiku. While I get those poetic juices flowing, however, I HAVE found a shoe poem to contribute to this little diary:


She took off her green pastel shoes,
"What shall I do with them?"

She held her shoes in her hands.
I was wondering why this concern
Over a matter so commonplace.

I replied, "Throw your green shoes
On the white rug, green and white
Often make exciting combinations."

She looked at me, puzzled and perplexed.
I thought it might be something psychological,
Her giving all this attention to shoes.

So I suggested that if she did want
To confront the evidence that she was barefooted
To throw the shoes under the bed.

She said, "You do not understand."
I could not understand what she referred to,
What was it that I could not understand.

She threw the shoes into the air;
The green shoes stayed suspended in the air.
Then I knew I did not understand. I did not understand.

~ Duane Locke

And finally, I'm going to highlight a pair of my own personal shoes as a part of this diary. Extracted from Thursday's C&J post, I choose to feature these shoes:

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

These are 7" lucite platform shoes, bought in South Beach, Miami. I remember being down there for a conference, about a month before a band in which I sing was to premiere. The band is a funk band, so super retro platforms are oh-so-appropriate and I wanted to find a pair. Lo and behold, I'm walking by this store in Miami and the entire front window is wild platform shoes. I walk in - funky clothes are on the racks and the walls are lined with shoes. Now, my feet aren't small - depending on the shoe, I wear a 9 1/2 or a 10. Sometimes those are difficult sizes to locate. Well, this store had tons of 10s... and 11s... and 12s... and 13s... Plus all the funky hip dresses were too big. Didn't figure out until one the fellow conference-goers who took the walk with me pointed out that it was a drag queen store!! So I own drag queen shoes... AWESOME.

Share your shoes.

posted by RenaRF @ 2:48 PM, ,

Catching up: Diary from April 25 (posted at dKos)

Gulf War POWs get F'd.

This story has been low on the radar screen today.

It shouldn't be.

I remember where I was when I saw the Gulf War began. I was on a treadmill in a gym in my apartment complex and the TV was tuned to CNN. What ensued was a spectacular display of military pyrotechnics, and one which left the viewer with the impression that American service personnel were far from the action and largely out of harm's way.

More on the flip.

Not all of them were, of course. American soldiers were captured and taken prisoner by Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Ironically, one of the places they were held was Abu Ghraib prison, but I digress. These POWs were repeatedly subject to torture - some were starved, beaten, suffered broken bones - they received intensely inhumane treatment.

The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, however, granted these POWs the right to sue Iraq and the regime of Saddam Hussein. In 2002, they leveraged this legal opportunity. They were awarded $653 million in compensatory damages and another $306 million in punitive damages. If you're counting, that's just under $1 billion awarded to the POWs for the harm they suffered and that many of them continue to suffer, both emotional and physical. In a report done by Mike Wallace of CBS' 60 Minutes (find the text here), the POWs explained that a large block of assets seized by the US when sanctions against Iraq were put in place would have more than covered any anticipated award. The seized assets totalled $1.7 billion, so it turns out that their assumption was correct. Moreover, the court, in awarding damages to the POWs, cited more philosophical reasons than simply compensating the POWs. Here's what the presiding judge, Richard Roberts had to say about the decision:

POWs are uniquely disadvantaged and deterring torture of POWs should be of the highest priority. Only a very sizable award would be likely to deter the torture of American POWs ... in the future.

Let's recap: US military service personnel, in fulfilling their duty to their country, were taken prisoner and tortured as a result of the 1991 Gulf War. These service personnel continue to suffer emotional and physical effects of that torture. After the Gulf War, the US imposed sanctions on Iraq and seized $1.7 billion in Iraqi assets. Iraq was, at the time of the seizure, under the control of Saddam Hussein. The US Congress passed legislation in 1996 that enabled military personnel to sue foreign governments and regimes for their treatment while in captivity. 17 such personnel did exactly that, and were awarded just under $1 billion in compensatory and punitive damages for the harm they suffered, all of which was payable out of the money seized from Saddam Hussein's Iraq and was not going to be paid out of US taxpayer dollars.

So - all's right with the world, yes? No. Fast forward to 2003 and the US invasion of Iraq and subsequent toppling of the regime of Saddam Hussein. This is where it gets ugly.

When Saddam Hussein's regime fell, the Bush Administration had the $1.7 billion in seized Iraqi assets frozen and transferred them to the US Treasury Department. The POWs were shocked but undaunted. They filed a lawsuit against the US Treasury Department to collect the compensatory and punitive damages awarded to them by the Federal court. Enter the Justice Department. Their argument? That once the President had confiscated the frozen Iraqi assets they were no longer assets of Iraq. From the 60 Minutes report:

And that money, said the president, was needed to assist the Iraqi people and to rebuild Iraq. The government did acknowledge that the president had the authority to use that money to pay the POWs but that he did not choose to do so.

Nice. Through a sleight of procedural hand that would be revered by Houdini himself, the Bush Administration stepped in to legally deny these POWs the restitution that they not only deserved, but that the law had allowed. The POWs, however, were not upset and not greedy. The 60 Minutes report tells us:

"I support that reconstruction. Take the money, give it to Iraq. But give us a process to settle these claims," says Tice [one of the POWs]. "We made an offer that was completely ignored by the Justice Department."

Molly Poag, a lawyer for the POWs, explained the offer:

"Our clients came forward and said, `Please, use the money now, as long as you, the U.S. Government, agree to replenish this fund later from Iraqi funds.' Because Iraq has the second largest oil reserves in the world, in the future there will be funds. And we need not shut out the POWs."

Would the POWs accept less money? Yes, Poag says.

Not only would they take less, but, if they were to get any money at all, the POWs had set up a foundation to help future POWs, and had committed a chunk of the award to that foundation.

The Administration not only denied them their award but sought to have the original judgment thrown completely out. No compromises, no future promises - just erased. Gone.

Today the POWs lost their final legal battle. Says an article in today's Los Angeles Times:

The justices heeded the advice of the Bush administration and let stand an appeals court ruling that threw out a nearly $1-billion verdict won by the Gulf War POWs two years ago.

The court's refusal to hear the case spares the administration from having to go before the Supreme Court to argue against American POWS who were tortured.

And THAT is how we treat our service people.

Our government, my government, just reinforced their agenda for military personnel:

  • You were a POW? FUCK YOU. We value tax cuts.
  • You were a POW? FUCK YOU. We're too busy blocking gay marriage.
  • You were a POW? FUCK YOU. We want to break the filibuster.
  • You were a POW? FUCK YOU. We're going to give you nothing. We're not even willing to promise you something at some future date. Your suffering means nothing.

I, for one, am disgusted - and ashamed.

[editor's note, by RenaRF] I wrote this diary because I know one of the POWs in question. I can't believe it's come to this, to such bald-faced abandonment of the people we rely on to put themselves in harm's way.

posted by RenaRF @ 2:29 PM, ,

Catching up: Diary from April 21 (posted at dKos)

Children Better Off in a F**cking ORPHANAGE than w/Homosexuals

I was scanning recent diaries posted and was stunned to see that this item hasn't been written about yet. If I missed one, let me know and I'll delete this.

Today, under the umbrella legislation to revamp the Texas Child Protective Services (CPS) agency, Robert Talton (R-Pasadena) introduced legislation that will ban homosexuals and bisexuals from becoming foster parents.

More on the flip.

'It is our responsibility to make sure that we protect our most vulnerable children, and I don't think we are doing that if we allow a foster parent that is homosexual or bisexual,'' said Republican Rep. Robert Talton, who introduced the amendment.

Well then. Perhaps we should also ask prospective foster parents if they ever argue, raise their voice, or curse. Those would be protective actions as well.

From Texas Says Gays Can't Be Foster Parents,

Under the Texas House bill, anyone who applies to be a foster parent or a foster parent whose performance is being evaluated must say whether he or she is homosexual or bisexual. Anyone who answers yes would be barred from serving as a foster parent. If the person is already a foster parent, the child would be removed from the home.

My emphasis added, and hopefully for obvious reasons.

Talton further went on to say:

They (gays) are teaching something that is not conducive to our traditional families," Talton said Wednesday. "God created man, and he created woman, and he created marriage, and there is a reason for that. It's a tried and true method.

Here's the kicker: It passed the Texas State House by a vote of (brace yourselves) 135-6. Mind you, that is the total CPS bill of which the ban on gay foster parents is a part. The legislation now moves to the Texas Senate.

Naturally, this is getting a lot of attention - it caught mine through a report on CNN. Various homosexual advocacy groups are getting in on the action and putting voice to their outrage.

Ultimately, it's the children in the Texas State foster care system who suffer, and the system itself would suffer financially from such a move. Moreover, adoption by homosexual parents is not illegal in Texas (at least not yet). Children currently in the foster care system would suffer a lessened chance of being adopted under this new legislation.

There's a good summary article in The Houston Chronicle on the subject, and I'm sure more coverage will be forthcoming.

Now for my rant:

HOW do the Republicans consistently get away with donning the mantle of morals and values when they act to harm children in such a way? Be very clear on what this legislation proposes: Foster children already in foster homes where the parent(s) are homosexual or bisexual will be removed. I have looked everywhere online and can't find the quote that originally caught my attention. Paraphrased, the quote indicated that children would be better off in orphanages than in home where the parent(s) is homosexual or bisexual.

Of course, there's a way around it - it's a question on the application to be a foster parent. The individual can simply select "no" when asked the question. There's Texas - shoving gays RIGHT back into the closet. Further, is it Constitutional to ask someone their sexual orientation as a means of qualification for fitness?? I'm not an expert, but this just seems wrong to me.

I don't usually use strong language in diaries (though I'm not opposed to it), but FUCK THOSE HYPOCRITICAL ASSHOLES that would take a child out of a stable and caring home to feed their political advancement. Fuck all of them who think that children are better off in a lonely, anonymous orphanage. Fuck them if they think they're doing any good towards stabilizing or solidifying the "traditional" family.

My only hope now is that the Senate sees the light, and/or other similar laws, struck down on Constitutional grounds in other states, turn the tide on this terrible, inhumane law.

posted by RenaRF @ 2:26 PM, ,

Catching up: Diary from April 17 (posted @ dKos)

ACTION ALERT: The Thematic Imperative

I am a firm believer in the idea that, when defeated, an initial post-mortem action should be to determine
how you were defeated and then promptly steal the tactics of the winning side and adapt them to your cause.

As Democrats, we should be no different. I know there are a laundry-list of items that we could/should deal with in accord with my statement above. I'm only going to deal with one such issue and then I'm going to ask for participation from the Kossack community.

Throughout the '04 Presidential election you would constantly hear the talking heads comment on how disciplined the Republicans were in staying "on message". So much so that they put Kerry and other campaigning Democrats in the position of being continually poised in reactive mode. I am fully aware that the majority of the dKos community has borderline contempt for the media and the talking heads that front the media, but they're a reality. As we seek progressive change across institutions we must also deal realistically within institutions as they exist today. Therefore, what the talking heads say and the impressions that they plant in the minds of Joe and Jane America matters - they are a means to an end if we walk the talk.

With the '06 elections looming, can you (without looking) articulate the central organizing theme of the Democratic Party? What is the one, unified message that all Democratic candidates can use in their campaigning to add cohesion and organization to individual campaigns and the goals of Democrats and their constitutents while simultaneously hitting Republicans on their weaknesses? Do you think the DNC has a central organizing theme?

I asked myself that same question without going to the DNC website to see what (if anything) they were saying. I couldn't name the DNC's theme. I know what I think the theme should be, from my perspective:

Give Power Back to the People
tagline: Stop the Republican Abuse of Power

It's a theme that generally resonates across all areas where Democrats can hit Republicans hard. A few ideas:

Give power back to the people: protect individual choices for peope and their families

Give power back to the people: Ensure that ruling parties don't disenfranchise millions of Americans by eliminating the voice of the minority party

Give power back to the people: Guarantee that the real issues of real Americans have a voice in Congress

Give power back to the people: Stop the assault on your rights and those of your children

Give power back to the people: Protect your sacred right to vote and the integrity voting systems

Give power back to the people: Turn the tide of anti-individual pro-business legislation that erodes your ability to work and to be paid fairly for that work

Give power back to the people: Say "no" to those in Congress who feel it's all right to assault working class families

Give power back to the people: Ensure the free exercise of your morals and values without government interference or influence

Give power back to the people: Protect the air you and your children breathe, the food you eat and the water you drink from Corporate pollution

The theme sets the overarching strategy of the Democratic party as a whole. Tactics will specifically hit the Republicans on unpopular issues and stances, as follows:

Give power back to the people: protect individual choices for peope and their families
- Invoke Terri Schiavo and general disapproval of the American public at this extreme over-reach.

Give power back to the people: Ensure that ruling parties don't disenfranchise millions of Americans by eliminating the voice of the minority party
- Multiple purposes: The filibuster can be invoked here. So, too, can the issue of DeLay, ethics, and the rules committees that set the agenda for when Congresspeople are investigated.

Give power back to the people: Guarantee that the real issues of real Americans have a voice in Congress
- Invoke pocketbook issues: the price of gasoline; the rise in inflation; the stagnant growth of jobs and wages; outsourcing. Republicans have given little time to these issues while they have intervened in right-to-die legislation, nomination of judges, and Social Security privatization.

Give power back to the people: Stop the assault on your rights and those of your children
- This opens a discussion on the Patriot Act and a host of other legislative items that can be adapted to a candidate's individual needs.

Give power back to the people: Protect your sacred right to vote and the integrity voting systems
- This can be used to demand paper trails in electronic voting systems and can generally address disenfranchisement and voting reform.

Give power back to the people: Turn the tide of anti-individual pro-business legislation that erodes your ability to work and to be paid fairly for that work
- This is a catch-all which will allow Democrats to hit hard on the issue of tax reform, Corporate welfare and healthcare to name only a few.

Give power back to the people: Say "no" to those in Congress who feel it's all right to assault working class families
- This opens the door for discussion of taxation, Bankruptcy reform, and wages.

Give power back to the people: Ensure the free exercise of your morals and values without government interference or influence
- This one's tricky. The goal is to set the stage for a values/morals argument from the perspective of not allowing values and morals to be legislated.

Give power back to the people: Protect the air you and your children breathe, the food you eat and the water you drink from Corporate pollution
- It may be obvious, but it's a point that needs to be made over and over again. Our water supply has not be secured. Our air is being polluted by Corporate greed and has also not been secured from biological/chemical attacks. Our food is not being adequately secured and our children are being poisoned by pro-Corporation legislation that eases restrictions on food producers.

Those just kind of came off the top of my head. For every point, which I tried to frame positively at the strategic level, Democrats can cite real efforts on their part to deliver these powers and point out real intrusions on the part of Republicans at the tactical level. I tried to keep the list primarily to what I consider the "weak spots" in the current Republican regime.

The list is not exhaustive - I am not a PR person so chances are it's not even very good. That is where the ACTION ALERT part of my title kicks in.

I would welcome (hell - beg for!) input from the dKos community. What should the central theme of the Democratic party be as we move towards the '06 elections? The theme should be broadly applicable to the platforms of Democrats campaigning at the local, State, and national levels. Personally, I adhere to the 80/20 rule. 80% should be common to all National issues, it can be applied at State and local levels with very little effort while always having the national issue (which will be better-known) to fall back on for emphasis.

I would like to send this to Howard Dean and the DNC once (if) I get enough comments to make it worthwhile. I'm sure I'm not alone in the general eye-rolling every time a Republican mouthpiece comes on the TV and spews yet another litany of talking points. Often these points are only barely relevant to the questions they are being asked. But I'm big enough to recognize that it's an effective strategy, and would love for Republicans to be rolling their eyes at the degree to which Democratic candidates and mouthpieces are on-message.

I did wind up visiting the DNC website to see if I could find a theme. Ironically, "Stop the Abuse of Power" is one of the headlines on the DNC front page, but only as it pertains to the filibuster. As far as an over-arching theme is concerned, I didn't find one.

Our adversaries have given us plenty of winning tactics which we can steal and then adapt. I think the theme, being consistently on-message across all Democratic campaigns is a good one that we can easily 1) identify; 2) adapt; and 3) turn against the Republicans and build a winning strategy.

Your turn. I would appreciate ideas as to theme/strategy and, if you so choose, associated tactics.

posted by RenaRF @ 2:16 PM, ,

I've been cheating with another blog
Tuesday, March 08, 2005

I've been posting over at Daily Kos. I figured I'd summarize and link to my Kos diary entries here, if anyone's interested.

Mr. Blogger Goes to the White House

How Bologna Changed My Life: Or, Why Your Food is Killing You

Bush Administration: A Culture of Contradiction

Propagannon: My Letter to the Editor

A Letter to Keith Olbermann. I Couldn't Stand It Anymore

Religious Encroachment & Public Power
The Bush Tapes: Let the Spin Begin

Bill Maher & Compelling Thoughts
Democratic Reform & Special Interests

Talk about some mis-spent time. ;-)

posted by RenaRF @ 4:58 PM, ,

This Has Been Bugging Me
Saturday, February 19, 2005

A Free Press
Thomas Jefferson said,
"Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost."
Indeed, throughout history and strictly before what we today consider Democracy, great thinkers, philosphers and statesmen were adamant on their opinions of the importance of a free press. Take this quote from Junius (I can't find an approximation of its date),
"Let it be impressed upon your minds, let it be instilled into your children, that the liberty of the press is the palladium of all the civil, political, and religious rights."
I agree. Say what you will about the press - that it's overly-liberal; that it's overly-conservative; that it's overly-commercial. But a free press and the struggle for freedom to report, discover and account has been at the heart of many a revolution and movement and has signaled great changes throughout the history of the available printed word. It causes accountability across the board. A reporter may hold a public official accountable through the press. The reporter herself may be held accountable for incorrect or unsubstantiated reporting. But an accounting is demanded and met through a free and unfettered press.

Our founding fathers understood this. They had seen and experienced repressions and controls that taught them what was non-negotiable, and freedom of the press was one of these. I am deeply troubled by the juxtaposition of a variety of seeming smaller issues occurring today. The first would be the possibility that two reporters, Judith Miller of The New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time Magazine, will be forced to reveal their sources in the Valerie Plame issue or face jail time. A reporter's source is their stock-in-trade. The Watergate scandal would have never been brought to light without confidential sources. It doesn't matter that we don't like what we find - the point is that, through the press, we can peel back the layers and find what we don't like. To compel journalists, legitimate journalists, to reveal their sources or face jail time is a deliberate attempt to erode the power of a free press.

The second issue I raised in my earlier post and it regards Jeff Gannon, the White House Correspondent to the newly-created Talon News. The real issue with that is the security breach. But an equally important issue is the question of whether or not Mr. Gannon was planted, or at least allowed access that should have been denied due to his likelihood to ask "softball" questions. Now think about the President's capaign events throughout the 2004 Presidential campaign: tightly controlled as to access, structure, who would ask questions, whether or not questions would be approved prior to their asking, etc. All carefully controlled and staged. Add to that revelations that radio talk show host Armstrong Williams acknowledges having accepted money from the Department of Education to promote "No Child Left Behind".

It seems to me that this Administration sees the free press as a nuisance, not a treasure. They miss the larger point, I think, in being hesitant to allow uncomfortable questions to be posed. There would be no Presidency or Democracy without the integral role of those who told the truth and spread it through reporting. It keeps people honest and accountable and, although there's a lot of trash out there, any one of us can check for ourselves and form our own opinions, thanks to our free press.

I don't know what worries me more - the Administration's seeming willingness to cast this aside, or the press' relative lack of outrage at these increasingly regular attempts at manipulation, control, and supression.

posted by RenaRF @ 12:34 AM, ,

Things on my mind
Friday, February 18, 2005

National Sales Tax
This is a pseudo-response to Appalachian Intellectual, who pointed me to information on a National Sales Tax. I appreciate the reference information and have skimmed it (can't profess to have read it in-depth just yet).

I understand the benefits of a national sales tax strategy, and I understand as well the poverty-level adjustment to address the regressivity of most sales taxes. My concerns are really outside of the letter of the national sales tax as laid out in the link you provided (and which I have re-linked above for anyone else who wants to check it out). First, I don't buy the (in my opinion) secondary point that the site makes that income taxes somehow lead to exports on jobs. The exporting of jobs is a complicated issue and eliminating income tax would in no way eliminate job exportation. Our trade policies (for example, a willingness to import goods from countries where human rights abuses occur in the workforce) as well as our internal wage and worked policies (unions, minimum wage, etc.) and our lack of willingness to control the cost of benefits contribute much more to the average cost of workers in the US vs. overseas. Eliminating an income tax isn't going to keep jobs in the US - if only it were that simple.

Another issue I have is with the very consumption-orientation of a national sales tax as the sole means of financing the Federal government. Understand before I say this that my educational background is economics, so I think like an economist when these issues arise. Economies are, by their nature, cyclical. We'll have cycles where consumption is high and not very price-sensitive and we'll have other cycles where consumer confidence and therefore consumption is relatively low even as prices and employment remain stable. That puts the government is a position of being dependent on the consuming (and not saving) nature of the average American - makes them almost invested in the idea. The US government should not be as volatile as the average consumer goods markets - it would create havoc and instability and would dramatically affect our ability to compete economically with other nations as well as secure credit when required in more difficult times. It's just too narrow an approach with too much exposure from my perspective. Sorry to disagree so strongly, but there's so much about it that is wrong that I can't possibly put myself behind it - though I do appreciate the opportunity to learn about it, and thank you for that.

The "Jeff Gannon" Files
Is it only me who is watching the Jeff Gannon issue with such shock? I'm stunned in some respects that the MSM hasn't grabbed ALL the details of "Jeff Gannon" more feverishly. For those who don't know, quick overview:

"Jeff Gannon" (this turned out to not be his real name) was getting daily White House press passes to attend White House press briefings. The White House exclusively vets who receives any kind of pass, permanent ("hard") or daily. The guy worked for Talon News, and online news service now known to be underwritten and directed by the founder and financier of GOP USA. Further, talon News hadn't been in existence for more than 90 hours prior to "Jeff Gannon" receiving his credentials. That's an eyebrow-raiser right there. Then "Jeff Gannon" lobs his very softball question at the President of the United States and the gloves are off - as near as I can tell the reason why it drew such attention was because it was factually incorrect. One thing leads to another and it's discovered that "Jeff Gannon" is a pseudonym, that his news organization is a GOP mouthpiece, and the humdinger: "Jeff Gannon", aka Bulldog2, was, as recently as 2003, an gay prostitute. Here's the best part: some bloggers out there have diligently searched and discovered archives of his "escort" ads and associated pictures.

I don't have an issue with his being gay or even with his having been (being?) a prostitute. I do have an issue with his having so easily made it through the credentialing process. It smacks of "shill" and at least begs the question as to whether or not the White House is seeding its briefings with "friendlies". When you add to this the other recent information about radio personalities and others being paid by the administration to advocate certain programs, you have to wonder how deeply they are manipulating the press and whether or not this is ethical. I've never much respected their willingness to speak when they feel like it and fall mute when they don't, but if they're deliberately skewing news coverage and attempting to make it look legitimate, it's a whole new level of abuse.

It will be interesting how this plays out. My prediction is that it will continue to pick up steam - blogs like Daily Kos and others have gotten hold of it and continue to turn over new information on "Jeff Gannon". The White House and others will, when they feel the time is right, vilify the liberals for persecuting "Jeff Gannon" because he is gay. They'll try to take the gay issue and (seemingly) gay advocacy for themselves in an effort to try to baffle us with bullshit and get our attention away from other more potentially costly questions - who gave this guy credentials and why? Why would you give a gay prostitute access to classified information on the Valerie Plame case? Don't lose sight of these real questions no matter how deep the BS becomes.

posted by RenaRF @ 4:37 PM, ,

The DNC my response to a fellow blogger's comments on a national sales tax
Friday, February 11, 2005

Well, it would appear that my blog has been discovered by at least one other blogger on this site and we are in a politically friendly (albeit generally oppositional) discussion on a few subjects. Check out his blog here. Since I'm using really good stuff to reply on his site, I figured I'd post over here for a bit. ;-)

The DNC and Howard Dean

I'm not in a discussion with anyone on this issue, just wanted to editorialize a bit while it was fresh on my mind. I am a Democrat and would characterize myself as a liberal (proudly). I was not, however, a Deaniac. I think he's smart, I think he's interesting, and I think people of a variety of political bents listen to him because he doesn't pull any punches. I do think, however, that he's left of my viewpoints. I was not in support of our invasion of Iraq. Having gone through the process, however, and thusly invaded, I don't think it's right on either a moral or political basis to "pull out". I never thought that message would resonate in the 2004 campaign. Most Americans recognize that a course taken cannot be
untaken. On a personal level, I don't confuse the "war effort" with the "warfighters". Persons in service to our country, following orders and potentially paying the highest price are to be revered and respected. Always. Period. They didn't choose to invade Iraq. That responsibility lies with the Administration and the Legislature. I won't go into that angle in this post - suffice it to say that summarily pulling out of Iraq, leaving a country we turned on its head with no assistance and in chaos would be repulsive and decidedly unAmerican.

Having said that, I think the choice of Howard Dean to lead the DNC is both surprising and potentially invigorating. Now is the time for Democrats to stand for
their values - to draw a line in the sand and not compromise and not abandon Democratic principles. If nothing else, Howard Dean won't shy away from a fight and Democrats are standing together as they seek to recapture, election by election, the hearts and minds of Americans. While I may disagree point by point with some of Mr. Dean's views, I can't argue that he has them and will defend them. I hope the same for his abilities when defending those of the larger Democratic party.

Tax Reform
Every time we, as a nation, start discussing "tax reform" and "tax simplification", the specter of a national sales tax arises in some quarters. I am not an advocate of excess on any front. Excessive taxes are bad. Excessive tax cuts are bad. Excessive protectionism is bad. Need I go on? I don't believe that the wealthy in this country should bear an excessive tax burden. However, I
do believe that those who benefit most, financially, from being an American owe a fair share back to the system which enabled their success. A national sales tax works in complete opposition to that basic belief in that it is wholly regressive. If, as some espouse, a national sales tax would simplify the tax code, then the logical conclusion is that there are NO exceptions to the sales tax. Use as an example two identical people. They live in the same area, are the same gender, and buy the same amount of products. They both have the same basic needs (ala Maslow's Hierarchy) - food, clothing, shelter, safety, etc. The only difference between these two individuals is their income. One makes four times as much as the other. Yet, by this example, they pay EXACTLY the same amount of taxes. The person with lower income has less disposable income left to save, to send their children to college, to pay for healthcare and for anything unanticipated which comes their way. They can't realistically stop eating to save that money. They can't realistically wear fewer clothes to save that money. The person with the higher income effectively gets a tax break with this example that allows them to get further and further ahead while the person with the lower income can't ever seem to come out on top, widening the class and income gap.

Why should someone who makes $37,500 a year pay roughly the same in taxes as the person who makes $150,000 a year??
If you say, then, that the solution is to exempt necessities, then you have to legislate what constitutes a "necessity". Is ground beef a necessity but steak not? Are bananas a necessity but kiwis not? Is a car a necessity vs. a luxury? If you buy your clothes at Wal Mart are they tax-exempt vs. buying them at The Gap? Is a home made out of brick a luxury compared to one with aluminum siding? You get the point - it's trading one series of complications for another in an effort to keep the system fair. And that, by its nature, is essentially unfair.

We are a nation of optimists. People come here because they believe that if they work hard they can secure a better future for their children and generationally improve ownership, investorship, and entrepreneurship. Not true with a regressive tax system, though.
A more reasonable approach is a flat tax on income. The percentage would be the same, no exceptions, no credits, no exemptions for individuals or corporations. That would be simple, and proportionate. There are even models out there that show how it could work. You might think that it requires a high percentage that disproportionately burdens the lower income brackets, but that doesn't need to be the case with the closure of high-income and corporate tax loopholes and shelters. I'm not a fan of the "loophole pander" - there are a lot of credits and incentives, both corporate and individual, that are frivolous and frankly unethical. But there are others intended to stimulate very noble items: fuel efficient cars, for one. Energy-efficient corporate innovation, for another. Volunteerism and charitable giving.

The net result is that a national sales tax is regressive and unfair and therefore unconscionable. A flat tax rate, while simpler, is trading simplicity against innovation, inventiveness, and giving. The tax code
can be simplified but it will never be simple. And, as long as we allow lobbyists and special interests to corrupt our political system, it will never happen. The answer to a great deal of our ills is to rid the political system of special interest money and let public servants return to that for which they were elected - to serve the public.

posted by RenaRF @ 4:06 PM, ,