10 August 2007

Moribund politics in America

When one examines the suite of Presidential candidates, political movements and the actual political parties themselves in America, one comes away with the feeling that something is highly dysfunctional with them. Lets take a few 'issues' from around the campaigns and parties to get a feel for what is not going on with them. Yes, this will be dull but, with any luck, instructive.

I will be using for this look at things from a few sites to get a feel for past and present outlooks. Getting the actual issues based stance, however, can be difficult as many campaigns and similar sites by candidates don't actually want to come out and say *what* their issue stance is... that alone should be worrying to those wishing to examine candidates. It is also possible that candidates will *change* their position from past times! Yes, on various outlooks candidates suddenly find a stance from 4 or 6 or 10 years ago to be 'out of step' with the voters. Amazing that one can change one's idea of marching from goose-step to duck waddle to something out of the Dept. of Silly Walks and still maintain integrity....

First up is health care, and as the folks at the Pew Forum seem to have a handle on organizing issues, I will use them first. Throughout I will do my best to just pick up a few random candidates so as not to skew this over much:

Hillary Clinton
Clinton has been a long-time supporter of universal health care that would provide government health insurance to all Americans. While first lady, she chaired an ultimately unsuccessful National Task Force for Health Care Reform. She has called universal coverage "a moral and health imperative" and says that she hopes to make health care "the No. 1 voting issue in the 2008 election." In the April 2007 Democratic debate, Clinton said that "we've got to control and decrease costs for everyone" and that the health care problem "is not just about the uninsured."

Mike Huckabee
After losing more than 100 pounds in two years while he was governor of Arkansas, Huckabee focused on eliminating obesity and improving public health. Huckabee calls the American health care system "irreparably broken" and calls for more preventative care. He is against universal health insurance coverage and says that the U.S. needs a system "where there are incentives for healthy behavior and for management of one's health-care expenses." While governor, Huckabee created the ARKids First program to provide health insurance for many uninsured children.

Bill Richardson
Richardson has said that if he were elected president and more Democrats were in Congress, he would enact universal health care coverage within the first year of his administration. To achieve this, he would offer tax credits for buying insurance and an option for 55-64-year-olds to buy coverage through Medicare. He would also "get out of Iraq" and redirect money from the military to health care. In addition, he would duplicate some of the public health measures he implemented in New Mexico, including reducing "junk food" in schools and banning smoking in most workplaces.

Mitt Romney
Romney supports making health insurance more affordable through market reforms. As Massachusetts governor, he implemented a major health care reform plan that required all citizens to enroll in Medicaid or purchase health insurance. The plan provides subsidies to help low-income residents buy private health insurance.
There, that ought to be a relatively quick concept between what the differences in the two parties are! Apparently we have one party that likes 'Universal Health Care' and the other that likes a 'government based market approach'. No, really I am SURE there is a difference there! I mean, if the government is going to get involved for EVERYONE then what is the difference between such bureaucracies? One is a 'soup to nuts' turning the soup into a very thing broth with bureaucrats tut-tutting everywhere and the other is a 'here is the soup can you figure out who sells the best can opener so long as we keep track of you' deal.

Yes, I suppose there is a 'dime's worth of difference' in there, someplace. But in each case you will: 1) register with the government, 2) fill out lots of forms, 3) have lots of bureaucrats added to the bureaucracy, 4) government overhead on 'managing' health care. Plus *more* money going from government taken from *you* to do these things! Is it any wonder why so many do without health insurance at all? Who really wants to give more and more personal information on themselves to the Federal government?

Hold that thought, lets flip over to something that should be a strong distinguisher between the two parties! For that the general foreign policy area will be used, which will exclude Iraq but look elsewhere to see what there is to be seen. Now some candidates get mighty picky about things so some generalization will be used where indicated with [..]:
Duncan Hunter - from his web site
Foreign Policy

20. Major foreign policy objectives and philosophy:
I believe in peace through strength. I believe in a policy that supports U.S. interests by spreading freedom within the limits of U.S. capability. I also believe in ending the one-way street on trade.

21. Advancement of human rights and religious freedom:
The greatest protection of human rights in this decade has been the overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Religious freedom is part and parcel of any free society the U.S. stands up.

22. The nation of Israel and the needed steps in the Middle East:
As House Armed Services Chairman, I recognize Israel as America’s most important ally in the Middle East region. As a result, I strongly support Israel’s right to exist and efforts to defend itself and I have consistently voted in favor of providing federal funding for Israel’s defense systems, including missile defense.

I also strongly support U.S. efforts to establish free societies in Iraq and Afghanistan.
International Law & Institutions

23. Changing our relationship with the United Nations:
I would increase the burden-sharing by member nations other than the U.S. In addition, I voted in favor of H.R. 2745 (Hyde-IL), the Henry J. Hyde United Nations Reform Act of 2005, implementing significant reforms that will create a more accountable and focused United Nations.

24. The use of UN Conventions or other treaties to control domestic matters such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child:

Treaties that infringe on basic U.S. sovereignty should be rejected while international treaties that rein in tyrants may be of value.

For many years, I have been concerned with the United Nations’ programs that promote abortion as an acceptable alternative in family planning efforts. Since 1973, U.S. law has prohibited the direct use of federal funds to pay for abortions overseas and I have supported restrictions, known as Mexico City Policy, which prohibit federal funding to international family planning groups that provide abortion or counseling services.
I have also supported the Bush Administration's decision to withhold funding from the United Nations Population Fund Agency (UNFPA) [..]

Joseph Biden -
from his website
Using Diplomacy to Keep America Safe: Joe Biden knows that the Bush Administration has left the next president with virtually no margin of error diplomatically. With decades of experience on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and now its chairman, Joe Biden is the most qualified candidate to clean up the mess George Bush has made. Russia is rising on the world stage using oil as a weapon and China is becoming a greater force, both politically and militarily. Democracy is struggling in Latin America and oil has empowered dictators around the world who hold us hostage with their high prices. We need to end the genocide in Darfur as well as check Iran and North Korea's progress on nuclear weapons and prevent them from increasing their nuclear arsenal. America needs a president with Joe Biden's experience to address these global challenges. As president, Joe Biden's foreign policy will draw upon all of America's strengths, including our ideas and our ideals, as well as our military might. A Biden Administration would:

Rebuild Relationships: Joe Biden knows that the most effective way of fighting radical fundamentalists is working with our allies around the world. Joe Biden will rebuild alliances in international law enforcement, intelligence and financial circles, strengthening our forces in the fight against radical fundamentalism and restoring America's standing in the world

Secure Weapons: Joe Biden knows loose nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union and other weapons of mass destruction pose a grave threat to the United States if they fall into the hands of extremist networks. As president, Joe Biden will work to disrupt these extremist networks and improve detection systems to seek out these weapons before they harm the United States or our allies.

Advance Democracy: Joe Biden believes that democracy cannot be forced on any people and he will work to help build the political infrastructure to support democracies and prevent extremists from taking hold of weaker, growing democracies.

Joe Biden: A Career in Foreign Relations
Ending Genocide in Darfur: [..]

Securing and Eliminating the Worst Weapons: [..]

Working for Peace and Justice in the Balkans: [..]

Increasing Alliances: When the Cold War ended and new democracies that emerged in Eastern Europe, Joe Biden led the effort to expand NATO to include Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. and why he's been a strong supporter of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Fighting Terrorism: Joe Biden knew before 9/11 the threat extremism posed to Americans and urged the Bush Administration to refocus efforts on terrorism he predicted would come “in the belly of a plane.” As president, Joe Biden will continue efforts to secure American ports, rails, chemical plants and infrastructure.

Supporting Funding and Accountability for the United Nations: Joe Biden has been a strong supporter of UN funding and fought to pass groundbreaking legislation providing for payment of U.N. arrears based on organizational reform.

Keeping Drugs out of the United States:[..]

John McCain -
from his web site
A Strong Military in a Dangerous World

In a dangerous world, protecting America's national security requires a strong military. Today, America has the most capable, best-trained and best-led military force in the world. But much needs to be done to maintain our military leadership, retain our technological advantage, and ensure that America has a modern, agile military force able to meet the diverse security challenges of the 21st century.

John McCain is committed to ensuring that the men and women of our military remain the best, most capable fighting force on Earth - and that our nation honors its promises to them for their service.

The global war on terrorism, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, threats from rogue states like Iran and North Korea, and the rise of potential strategic competitors like China and Russia mean that America requires a larger and more capable military to protect our country's vital interests and deter challenges to our security. America confronts a range of serious security challenges: Protecting our homeland in an age of global terrorism and Islamist extremism; working with friends and partners overseas, from Africa to Southeast Asia, to help them combat terrorism and violent insurgencies in their own countries; defending against missile and nuclear attack; maintaining the credibility of our defense commitments to our allies; and waging difficult counterinsurgency campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.

John McCain understands national security and the threats facing our nation. He recognizes the dangers posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, violent Islamist extremists and their terrorist tactics, and the ever present threat of regional conflict that can spill into broader wars that endanger allies and destabilize areas of the world vital to American security. He knows that to protect our homeland, our interests, and our values - and to keep the peace - America must have the best manned, best equipped, and best supported military in the world.


As President, John McCain will strengthen the military, shore up our alliances, and ensure that the nation is capable of protecting the homeland, deterring potential military challenges, responding to any crisis that endangers American security, and prevailing in any conflict we are forced to fight.

Fighting Against Violent Islamic Extremists and Terrorist Tactics

The attacks on September 11th represented more than a failure of intelligence. The tragedy highlighted a failure of national policy to respond to the development of a global terror network hostile to the American people and our values. The 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 1998 attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the 2000 bombing of the USS COLE indicated a growing global terrorist threat before the attacks on New York and Washington. On the morning of September 11, 2001, Osama bin Laden's declaration of war against the United States hit home with unmistakable clarity.

America faces a dedicated, focused, and intelligent foe in the war on terrorism. This enemy will probe to find America's weaknesses and strike against them. The United States cannot afford to be complacent about the threat, naive about terrorist intentions, unrealistic about their capabilities, or ignorant to our national vulnerabilities.

In the aftermath of 9/11 John McCain fought for the creation of an independent 9/11 Commission to identify how to best address the terrorist threat and decrease our domestic vulnerability. He fought for the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security and the creation of the U.S. Northern Command with the specific responsibility of protecting the U.S. homeland.

As President, John McCain will ensure that America has the quality intelligence necessary to uncover plots before they take root, the resources to protect critical infrastructure and our borders against attack, and the capability to respond and recover from a terrorist incident swiftly.

He will ensure that the war against terrorists is fought intelligently, with patience and resolve, using all instruments of national power. Moreover, he will lead this fight with the understanding that to impinge on the rights of our own citizens or restrict the freedoms for which our nation stands would be to give terrorists the victory they seek.

John McCain believes that just as America must be prepared to meet and prevail against any adversary on the field of battle, we must engage and prevail against them on the battleground of ideas. In so doing, we can and must deprive terrorists of the converts they seek and teach the doctrine of hatred and despair.

As President, John McCain will take it as his most sacred responsibility to keep America free, safe, and strong - an abiding beacon of freedom and hope to the world.

Effective Missile Defense


Increasing the Size of the American Military


Modernizing the Armed Services


Smarter Defense Spending

John McCain has worked aggressively to reform the defense budgeting process to ensure that America enjoys the best military at the best cost. This includes reforming defense procurement to ensure the faithful and efficient expenditure of taxpayer dollars that are made available for defense acquisition. Too often, parochial interests rather than the national interest รข€“ have guided our spending decisions. John McCain supports significant reform in our defense acquisition process to ensure that dollars spent actually contribute to U.S. security.


Taking Care of our Military Personnel and their Families


Honoring our Nation's Commitments to Veterans and Military Retirees


Barack Obama -
from his web site
As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Obama has fought to strengthen America's position in the world. Reaching across the aisle, Obama has tackled problems such as preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction and stopping the genocide in Darfur.

Strengthening American Security in the 21st Century


Obama rejects the notion that the American moment has passed and believes that America must neither retreat from the world nor try to bully it into submission. Obama believes that America must lead the world, by deed and example, and that America cannot meet the threats of the century alone and that the world cannot meet them without America.

Under his leadership America will lead in five specific ways: First, we will bring a responsible end to the war in Iraq and refocus on the critical challenges in the broader region. Second, we will rebuild and transform the military to meet 21st-century threats. Third, we will marshal a global effort to secure, destroy, and stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Fourth, we will renew the alliances and partnerships necessary to meet common challenges, such as terrorism and climate change. And fifth, we will strengthen impoverished, weak and ungoverned countries that have become the most fertile breeding grounds for transnational threats like terror and pandemic disease and the smuggling of deadly weapons.

Taking Weapons Out of Terrorists' Hands

Today, 80 percent of the world's spending on armaments is on conventional weapons not nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. These conventional weapons are a threat to our security. Since the 1970s, more than 40 civilian aircraft have been hit by shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles, and in recent conflicts around the world, small arms have caused four out of every five casualties. There are countless caches of mortars, landmines and other weapons spread across the globe. Insurgents in Iraq have used these caches against our troops by converting older munitions into roadside bombs.


Stopping Nuclear Terrorism

The greatest threat our nation faces is a nuclear weapon falling into terrorists' hands. The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed 650 cases of illicit trafficking in nuclear and radiological materials worldwide between 1993 and 2004. As little as four kilograms of plutonium - about the size of a soda can - can potentially be enough for a fissile nuclear bomb.


Preventing an Avian Flu Pandemic

Senator Obama was one of the first legislators to recognize the dangers of a potential avian influenza pandemic, and was successful in securing $25 million that U.S. agencies in Southeast Asia are currently using to combat and contain widespread outbreaks of avian flu. He also worked with other Senators to provide $4 billion in funding to the Centers for Disease Control to combat avian flu which included more than $3 billion to build a stockpile of antiviral drugs that had been in short supply.

Ending the Conflict in Congo


Stopping the Genocide in Darfur


Bringing a Brutal Warlord to Justice

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor has been accused of committing war crimes by international prosecutors. [..]
Well that was a bit longer than I would have liked... but we do get the idea here! Whenever any of these candidates mention the following on Foreign Policy, you will know they don't know what a President has as assigned duties: modernizing the Armed Forces, sizing the Armed Forces, committing the Armed Forces overseas for any length of time, homeland security. These are all done by Congress. Perhaps they should try running for an office in that august assemblage... oh, wait!

Yes, whenever you hear intervention in: Darfur, Congo, 'failing Nations', or even properly fund treaty obligations like the UN or weapons restrictions via negotiated treaties; you have just heard an individual that is clueless in wanting the job of President. Those are all things requiring a mandate by Congress as the Clinton Administration found out with its ill-advised concept of sending US Armed Forces everywhere on 'peacekeeping' missions and then wearing them down as Congress was unwilling to pay for such things. Guess what? If Congress doesn't mandate it, then it doesn't get paid for, so unless one is willing to talk about US military intervention to get things done via the regular Armed Forces, they are barking up the wrong tree.

A few things that are brought up that Presidents *can* do is Alliances, negotiating treaties and such. Favorites appear to be nuclear devices and other WMDs. I have some bad news for these future Presidents - there are some Nations out there that are unwilling to sign treaties on these things or abide by them. These include: Syria, Iran, North Korea. Up and coming problem spots include: Russia, China, Venezuela, Columbia, Argentina, Somalia, Thailand, Indonesia, Pakistan... a whole raft of Nations heading into troubled waters via WMD, terrorism and just not wanting much to do with the US on some things. Congress is proving to be very, very unhelpful in funding treaty obligations to a few of these places and, in others, the US has already been swindled by regimes. Like the $5 billion in aid to Syria for the Gulf War, back in 1991, which bought us ZERO good will, ZERO signature on the Chemical Weapons Convention and the building up of a nuclear processing and refining capability. That was the big THANK YOU for playing 3-card monte with Syria. North Korea has been even less nice and good about adhering to treaties.

As Mr. Obama brings up conventional weapons, the idea of trying to stop the international arms trade with 'treaties' is nuts. It cannot be done because the suppliers are truly global in scope. Not just Russia, China, France, UK, USA, Spain, Italy, Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, Czech Republic, but also such fine places as the previously mentioned Syria, Iran, Libya, South Africa. There are ways to do this, but not without a wholesale re-orientation of US Foreign Policy, which none of these candidates nor any of them are proposing.

The main and over-riding problem with Presidential candidates is not understanding the role of the Executive Branch in the Federal Government. Presidents Administer the Law and create Foreign Policy, but Treaties only come into being with the Senate and regularization by Congress. This also goes for things like health care and all sorts of other issues, of which Presidents can talk and propose to do many things, but their hands are tied by the Federal system and division of powers.

What is even worse is that the generalized outlook given by candidates, when they give any at all, which in things like health care and law enforcement seem to be lacking, is that it immediately devolves into lovely programs. Lots of programs. Which, by-the-by, have to be written into law by, yes, Congress. The very old cliche is exactly dead-on here: "The President Proposes, Congress Disposes."

The main value of a President is outlook and guidance, plus administration and enforcement of the laws and regulations, plus leading government and being Head of State. Unless a President wins a true, 60%+ 'landslide' victory and gains substantial majorities in both Houses of Congress to actually enact laws to carry out the vision he or she has for the US, it is very, very difficult to get new programs started and even harder to kill old ones. By not offering a clear set of goals and objectives that can be defined, then laying out an administrative basis for them *without* adding new programs, a President is very much stuck with whatever Congress wishes to do in most areas of government.

When new political movements, like the 'netroots' or 'Movement 2.0' come along, and they propose *programs* without defining what the goals of them are and the coherent and consistent ideology they are enacting, then all you are seeing is the same old 'divide and conquer' factionalization of the voting public that has been going on for over four decades. Programs and programmatics and 'policy wonks' have come to mean one thing to the American Public: increased government, decreased oversight and higher taxes. By not being able to state clearly and succinctly what the purpose of government actually *is*, all of these fine programmatics turn into a sticky mass in Washington, DC that get funded and expanded forever, but without any clear idea of just what, exactly, their end purpose is for. The United States existed for nearly 140 years without very much thought given to things like: retirement, health care, education, medications.

As in Zero Laws.

Now we hear the *problems* facing the Union and what are they? Social security, health care, education, illegal drugs... hmmm...

Yes, we can now definitively say that the problem IS Washington, DC as the trend is so close to 1:1 as to not be funny. Whenever the Federal government has tried to *help* it then creates a *problem* which, apparently, only the Federal government can address if we just hand it lots more money. The two Party system is now the single Party of the Emirs of Incumbistan for a reason. Neither Party bothered to take a look in the mirror to recognize the problem. The last President elected who vowed to cut government, be a veritable 'Chainsaw Al' to this monstrosity did not show up with a chainsaw. He showed up with a wheelbarrow of manure and a rake, plus a watering hose. The last majority that won on a 'small government platform' soon found all sorts of things that government just *must* do, and threw away the idea of limited government for its more flexible and expansive form.

The Incumbistanian form.

Now the American People are faced with two Big Government Parties that only differ in how much will be going to government and the rate of expansion of government interference in our lives. There is no lovely 'Movement 2.0' or 'netroots' or similar to express this as the Incumbistanian concept has so disgusted the Citizenry that we now see that we are just subjects in a vassal state called Electistan. This is the result:

The above taken from US Census datasets.

Congress cannot even interest 50% of the population to VOTE FOR IT. Presidential years are hovering in the 55-60% range for decades. That means that the majority of Americans and an overwhelming plurality see NO CHOICE AT ALL between the two parties. This is *not* a 50/50 Nation. At best it is a 30/30/30/10 Nation with that last 10% the perennially disaffected that has hovered between 5-10% on an ongoing basis. And for Congressional elections it turns into a 22/22/46/10 Nation with the trendline being steadily downwards.

Saying that 'only those interested enough to vote should govern' misses the point that this very same attitude is one to turn OFF as many people as possible so that it is only those committed as partisans and lobbyists that see any reason TO VOTE. That is also not a definition of 'representative democracy', as those that are strongly partisan do NOT represent those that feel marginalized by the two Parties, now become one Party. This hyper-partisanship is lethal to democracy which requires a cacophony of voices to be heard well. We no longer hear that as the two Parties have no need to represent everyone and, with their views on programs, now find newer and better ways to say they are doing things *for* the disaffected, but ignore that they are not being voted for by them. That is not 'democracy'. That is using the power of government to bribe people into submission.

It is authoritarianism.

It is on a path to despotism and tyranny of rule by the few over the many.

The strangest thing in the world at this point in time is to see the Armed Forces of the United States helping to knit together a broken society and teach in grassroots democracy, so that they can self govern. All the while we are losing that exact, same thing here in the US. Perhaps we need to stage an invasion to rebuild American society and democracy. A good place to start would be the tiny seat of power of Incumbistan, so that poor Electistan can be freed to learn democracy again.

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