Catch-Up time…

Yipes. February goes by too fast. Next thing I know it’s March, Dean is out, Clark’s out, Edwards is out and the field is nothing but Kerry, Kucinich and Sharpton. Interesting how when the voters made their choice they went left. What’s that you say, how is choosing Kerry going left. Well, have a look here at Politicalcompass.org. John Kerry is, based upon their criteria, the furthest to the left-libertarian corner of the compass of all the so-called mainstream Democratic candidates who have stood for election this primary season. Granted, Kerry’s far right-authoritarian from Kucinich and Sharpton’s positions on the compass, but as my wife says “duh.”

While you’re there take the quiz and see where you fall on the compass. I retook the quiz myself for the first time in about a year and was surprised to see that I’ve wiggled further into the left-libertarian corner than ever before. I blame Dubya. The further he pushes the US government to the authoritarian right the further I retreat in the opposite direction. I suspect that’s a bit of what’s going on with the Democratic electorate as well this year. Dubya’s going to try to paint Kerry as a traditional liberal to scare voters away from him. I doubt that strategy will work. I think what we’re seeing is the mainstream response to seeing our country pulled too far to the right. The people are pulling in the opposite direction.

Another thing that March brings with it is Spring Training. I actually listened to my first professional baseball game of the year yesterday. It was Oakland vs. Anaheim. The Angels started their big off-season pitching acquisition, Bartolo Colon. Colon didn’t even make it through the first inning and was pulled after throwing forty pitches. By the time it was all over with the A’s had shellacked the Angels 26-3. Granted, Garrett Anderson, David Eckstein, and Vlad Guerrero were held out of the game so they could tackle some extra batting practice, but sheesh. Even the third stringers from the A’s were whackin’ ’em out of the park. Graham Koonce got a home run, fer cryin’ out loud. Anyway, it was a nice way to start the spring.

Speaking of Spring Training, I’m going myself this year. I’ll be headed to Phoenix at the end of the month to catch a few A’s games, a Giants game, an Angels game and a Brewers game. Oddly enough I’m looking forward most to the Brewers game. Why? Because Milwaukee brings the Sausage Race with them to Spring Training. Sad, I know. A grown man is excited about watching people in novelty sausage costumes run around a baseball field. I’m just wacky that way I guess.

Paul Krugman’s latest column puts the lie to the latest rantings by the neo-cons about Social Security. One hoped that Alan Greenspan would stay out of the fray, but he chose, instead, to leap into it headlong by declaring that Social Security benefits must be cut in order for the system to survive. That is unadulterated nonsense. Even the most dire projections about Social Security show no fiscal problems for the system, with no change to the way it’s funded, until 2077. What’s going on here is that the wingnuts in the GOP who have had as one of their prime agendas the dismantling of the Social Security system for 50 years are now in the driver’s seat in the US Government and in most official financial institutions. As Krugman says, we can now count the US Treasury as one of the ideologically driven institutions determined to dismantle Social Security.

Folks, this may seem like something that is only interesting to wonks and blabbermouths like yours truly, but that is simply not the case. The Social Security system was created to provide what it says, social security for everyone who worked and contributed to the system once they enter retirement. The conservatives, whether they be Republican or Democrat flavored, are determined to return us to the status quo circa 1930, when only those who were able to stockpile personal wealth were able to retire or end their lives without being a burden upon their children.

So, while the presidential candidates are sparring and jabbing at each other about Iraq, same-sex marriage or any other issues that, while definitely important, are ultimately remote from the lives of most Americans, this is the one we have to force both candidates from the major parties to address honestly – what will you do to or with Social Security if you’re elected in November. There’s one right answer and one wrong one. The wrong one is the one that mentions anything about personal investment accounts or privatization of Social Security. Nuff said.

Since I last wrote Ralph Nader has also chosen to mount a campaign for the White House. Color me conflicted. I happily voted for Nader in 2000. I did so not only because he was the only candidate running whose views came close to mirroring mine, but also because I really hoped his candidacy could give the Green Party the 5% of votes nationally they required to be granted status as a major party, thus eliminating the need for their future candidates to qualify to be on the ballot in all fifty states. This time I am finding it very hard to see why Ralph is running. He chose to run as an independent, which makes it highly unlikely that he will qualify to be on all the ballots. It also means he has no national organization to get his message out there to the voters. So, why run? Some pundits have suggested that Nader is running out of sheer ego and vanity. I’m disinclined to believe that. I think Ralph is running because he feels strongly that the voice he brings to the election is an important one. I like Ralph Nader. Always have. But I have to wonder why he’d put himself and his supporters through this knowing, as he surely does, that his voice is likely to be absent from most public forums and his name equally absent from a good number of the ballots.

I don’t believe, as many folks do, that Ralph Nader cost Al Gore the election in 2000. For one thing, Al won. He didn’t lose to Bush in any arena other than that of the US Supreme Court, who tarnished that body’s credibility by weighing in on the Presidential election race with a very partisanly divided voice. Had the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the recounts in Florida were illegal then I’d feel differently, but that’s not what happened. The five conservative justices voted thusly, with the four liberal justices disagreeing. One of the great Chief Justices of the past might have chosen to keep the court mute in a similar situation, seeing that it was not in the best interests of the country or the court to involve itself in partisan politics. Unfortunately, William Renquist is hardly in league with any of his great predecessors.

No, Al Gore lost the 2000 election for himself. Nader didn’t even factor in in Florida, where many folks like to point out that far more people voted for Nader than the number Bush took the state from Gore by. That’s just nonsense. The Florida votes in 2000 were rigged. Thousands of black voters were prevented from voting. Even Pat Buchanan pointed out the squirrelly nature of the Florida ballot when he pointed to the heavily Jewish districts that appeared to vote heavily for him as the Reform Party candidate. Even Buchanan knows that Jewish voters are about as likely to vote for him, an outspoken critic of Israel, and someone who has occasionally been labeled a Holocaust Denier, as black voters are to vote for David Duke. Something was very rotten in Florida in 2000, and it had nothing to do with Ralph Nader.

Had Al Gore waged a tough campaign, and risked the ire of the voters by calling Dubya out on his neo-con leanings instead of playing nice with that smirking chimp there may have been enough distance between him and Dubya in November 2000 that even Jeb Bush couldn’t help to close.

The thing is folks, we need to be concerned and vigilant with this year’s campaign. A second term for Bush in the White House could make the last four years look like a garden party. Much as I loathe conspiracy theories I’m beginning to seriously worry about the Diebold voting machines that are replacing punch card voting all over the country. In the California Primary most of the Diebold machines simply did not work. That’s bad. Many people showed up at their polling places, waited for an hour or two and then simply left without voting before the machines were brought online. I’m starting to think that those of us who want our votes counted need to fill out absentee ballots.

Anyway, I’m rambling. Too many threads to follow for one entry in this here blog.

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