Sports Watcher for the Weekend of 11/1-2 (with a Halloween bonus!)

All times PDT, or PST, as applicable. I briefly forgot I had set this for the morning…

5-7:30 PM: NBA Basketball, Bulls @ Celtics (ESPN). Whatever.

7:30-10 PM: NBA Basketball, Spurs @ Trail Blazers (ESPN). Without Oden it’s just “Spurs @ a non-playoff team that doesn’t have its much-hyped superstar that’s proving to be Sam Bowie 2.0”.

9-12:30 PM: College football, Miami (FL) @ Virginia (Raycom). Probably the only ACC game I’m going to spotlight all year.

12:30-4 PM: College football, defending 2008 BCS titleholder #2 Florida v. #11 Georgia (CBS). I’m going to be watching this but mostly writing my platform examinations. Speaking of which, due to rain any examinations I complete today won’t be posted until after 9 PM PT.

3-5 PM: MLS Soccer, Chivas USA @ Real Salt Lake (Fox Soccer Channel). The other two MLS playoff games today would have fit in perfectly well on one tripleheader, but only this game is on TV.

5-8:30 PM: College football, defending Princeton-Yale titleholder #1 Texas @ #6 Texas Tech (ABC). Watching this while writing examinations as well.

12-4:30 PM: NASCAR Sprint Cup Racing, Dickies 500 (ABC). You can tell we’re in the home stretch of the Chase when the start times start moving to noon PT.

5-8:30 PM: NFL Football, Patriots @ Colts (NBC). Without Tom Brady and the Colts being any good it’s just “a possible wild card contender with a nobody QB @ a total scrub team”.

The defense rests.

This was supposed to be the Closing Argument for this series. So naturally I didn’t get started until 1 AM, so it’s a piece of crap, AND it’s been raining at just about every time I’ve attempted to post at the near by, finicky connection that doesn’t have any cover, but the longer and more angering trip to a connection under cover, when I tried it once, saw no rain outside, which is almost enough to make one believe in a vindictive God that hates me for something. (It was clear for long enough to upload the strip, but I had to dash under a nearby cover to actually have it show up on the site, and then Buzzcomix started acting finicky on me when I attempted to update the status line.)

You probably think my platform reviews are boring. I think my platform reviews are boring. Honestly, I originally saw them as a fairly minor part of a larger plan, despite the obvious fact they would probably need to be broken up into multiple parts, and I’m going to be rushing to try and salvage anything from that plan. (It didn’t help that I got such a late start on them. They should have taken one week: no more. But if I were doing a half decent job of them I should be completing three a day.) But if you find them completely irrelevant and not even worth studying, I don’t know what to tell you. If you think it’s not worth it to study them, even when you know this is going to determine the direction the country is going to take in the next four years… then click the link at the start of this post. And click the link at the top of the page that appears. And read it. All of it. Tell your friends. Send it to friends in future elections. And if you think I could have done better, by all means let me know how.

Examining the Democratic Platform Part VI: “Advancing Democracy, Development, and Respect for Human Rights”, “Protecting our Security and Saving our Planet”, and “Seizing the Opportunity”

This is continued from Parts I-V of my examination of the Democratic Platform. Today was not a good day for work on my platform examinations.

“Advancing Democracy, Development, and Respect for Human Rights”:

No country in the world has benefited more from the worldwide expansion of democracy than the United States. Democracies are our best trading partners, our most valuable allies, and the nations with which we share our deepest values. The United States must join with our democratic partners around the world to meet common security challenges and uphold our shared values whenever they are threatened by autocratic practices, coups, human rights abuses, or genocide.

It sounds like the Democrats may be up for “joining with other democracies” as well – there may be some hints here that the Republican program of expanding democracy and forming a clique of democracies isn’t 100% disagreed to by the Democrats. But really, this sentiment and the actual position taken with it is very reasonable.

“Build Democratic Institutions”: “The Democratic Party reaffirms its longstanding commitment to support democratic institutions and practices worldwide. A more democratic world is a more peaceful and prosperous place. Yet democracy cannot be imposed by force from the outside; it must be nurtured with moderates on the inside by building democratic institutions.” I may have jumped the gun on making this point during my examination of the Republican Platform. We’ve seen what happens when democracy is “imposed by force from the outside” in Iraq: it doesn’t work and creates lingering resentment, and it doesn’t help that Iraq may not have had the cultural values that nurture a democracy.

“The United States must be a relentless advocate for democracy and put forward a vision of democracy that goes beyond the ballot box. We will increase our support for strong legislatures, independent judiciaries, free press, vibrant civil society, honest police forces, religious freedom, equality for women and minorities, and the rule of law.” Does that mean a “strong legislature” in the United States, where even with the opposition party in power Congress has basically rolled over for whatever the President wants? And the “rule of law” makes a comeback! And this all deserves a call back to the Republicans’ statement that “[s]ocieties that enjoy political and economic freedom and the rule of law are not given to aggression or fanaticism. They become our natural allies.” So the US has some interest in all of this!

These are all good goals but they touch on what I mean by being “culturally ready for democracy”. In some societies, “independent judiciaries, free press,” and “civil society” is unheard of; religious freedom is literally heretical; women have defined, inferior roles that are seen as the natural order of things; and minorities are naturally inferior. The cultural underpinnings of democracy, we sometimes forget, are almost all Western; trying to institute democracy on a very different culture with very different values, without understanding that culture and its differences, could be courting disaster. Democracy seems to be working well in India and Israel, but they are the exceptions that prove the rule, as they have had strong, historical Western influence.

“In new democracies, we will support the development of civil society and representative institutions that can protect fundamental human rights and improve the quality of life for all citizens, including independent and democratic unions.” Gotta plug those unions! If you know what civil society is, you may be wondering how government can “promote” it, since it consists mostly of institutions outside of government. This is pretty much all an agreeable platitude. “In non-democratic countries, we pledge to work with international partners to assist the efforts of those struggling to promote peaceful political reforms.” Sounds reasonable. Keep funding our pro-democracy programs as well, because that “reflects American values and serves our interests”. After the Democrats put in all their social programs, will there be any money to fund those programs?

“Invest in Our Common Humanity”:

To renew American leadership in the world, we will strengthen our common security by investing in our common humanity. In countries wracked by poverty and conflict, citizens long to enjoy freedom from want. Because extremely poor societies and weak states provide optimal breeding grounds for terrorism, disease, and conflict, the United States has a direct national security interest in dramatically reducing global poverty and joining with our allies in sharing more of our riches to help those most in need.

This all sounds reasonable and an important point. Compare the Republican statement that “Societies that enjoy political and economic freedom and the rule of law are not given to aggression or fanaticism. They become our natural allies.”

It is time to make the U.N. Millennium Development Goals, which aim to cut extreme poverty in half by 2015, America’s goals as well. We need to invest in building capable, democratic states that can establish healthy and educated communities, develop markets, and generate wealth. Such states would also have greater institutional capacities to fight terrorism, halt the spread of deadly weapons, and build health-care infrastructures to prevent, detect, and treat deadly diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and avian flu.

Sounds good and could help build our own prosperity. Certainly controlling terrorism and stopping weapons trafficking are important goals. “We will double our annual investment in meeting these challenges to $50 billion by 2012 and ensure that those new resources are directed toward worthwhile goals.” Could be considered throwing money away, especially when you consider all the other ways Democrats want to spend money, but then you feel like a bastard for not caring about people in third world countries. But: “We will work with philanthropic organizations and the private sector to invest in development and poverty reduction.” Sounds good – allow entities outside government to do their work – but would the government meddle in their operations? Nudging the private sector into development in third world countries is certainly good, though.

But if America is going to help others build more just and secure societies, our trade deals, debt relief, and foreign aid must not come as blank checks. We will recognize the fragility of small nations in the Caribbean, the Americas, Africa, and Asia and work with them to successfully transition to a new global economy. We will couple our support with an insistent call for reform, to combat the corruption that rots societies and governments from within.

What’s the carrot on the stick that will actually make them reform? At least the Democrats recognize the Republicans’ challenge when they said: “Decades of massive aid have failed to spur economic growth in the poorest countries, where it has often propped up failed policies and corrupt rulers.” But they don’t answer the Republicans’ “call for… greater accountability by recipient countries so as to ensure against malfeasance, self-dealing, and corruption, and to ensure continued assistance is conditioned on performance.” The Republicans supported democratization over token gestures of food and monetary aid, and the Democrats supported democratization in the previous section and “development” here. And education:

As part of this new funding, we will create a $2 billion Global Education Fund that will bring the world together in eliminating the global education deficit with the goal of supporting a free, quality, basic education for every child in the world. Education increases incomes, reduces poverty, strengthens communities, prevents the spread of disease, improves child and maternal health, and empowers women and girls. We cannot hope to shape a world where opportunity outweighs danger unless we ensure that every child everywhere is taught to build and not to destroy.

More throwing money away, but “bring[ing] the world together” implies that not all the money would come from the American government. This makes education sound like the “magic bullet” that will solve all the Third World’s problems. The Republicans just list education on a list of “core development programs” to give “greater attention” to, but they also listed “emphasizing literacy and learning” on a list of “high-impact goals” for aid, as part of their “no more handouts” program.

“Our policies will recognize that human rights are women’s rights and that women’s rights are human rights. Women make up the majority of the poor in the world. So we will expand access to women’s economic development opportunities and seek to expand microcredit.” The first half of the first sentence is a tautology; the second is simultaneously a tautology and bound to be controversial. Republicans also called for “microcredit funding for small enterprises” as one of the “foundations of economic development”, but that’s not really what the Democrats are talking about. “Women produce half of the world’s food but only own one percent of the land upon which it is grown. We will work to ensure that women have equal protection under the law and are not denied rights and therefore locked into poverty.” In places primed for the idea of women’s equality, where trying to “make women into men” won’t cause riots, that’s fairly common sense. The Republicans would reject the UN convention on women’s rights because it gave some sort of support to abortion, so the GOP could protect “traditional” “marriage and family”. I’m still smarting from that.

“We will modernize our foreign assistance policies, tools, and operations in an elevated, empowered, consolidated, and streamlined U.S. development agency. Development and diplomacy will be reinforced as key pillars of U.S. foreign policy, and our civilian agencies will be staffed, resourced, and equipped to address effectively new global challenges.” I’m sure Republicans should sound relieved that the development agency would be “consolidated and streamlined”, but I don’t know what needs “modernization”. And there’s a lot of other stuff that needs to be “staffed, resourced, and equipped” as well.

Time to take another shot at Bush: “American leadership on human rights is essential to making the world safer, more just, and more humane. Such leadership must begin with steps to undo the damage of the Bush years. But we also must go much further. We should work with others to shape human rights institutions and instruments tailored to the 21st century.” What are the new challenges of the 21st century that current human rights institutions are not prepared for? “We must make the United Nations’ human rights organs more objective, energetic, and effective.” You already mentioned keeping human rights violators off the Human Rights Council, but good. “The U.S. must lead global efforts to promote international humanitarian standards and to protect civilians from indiscriminate violence during warfare.” Sounds good. “We will champion accountability for genocide and war crimes, ending the scourge of impunity for massive human rights abuses.” Would that include joining the International Criminal Court?

“We will stand up for oppressed people from Cuba to North Korea and from Burma to Zimbabwe and Sudan. We will accord greater weight to human rights, including the rights of women and children, in our relationships with other global powers, recognizing that America’s long-term strategic interests are more likely to be advanced when our partners are rights-respecting.” I’m not 100% sure what the connection is between respecting human rights and advancing “America’s long-term strategic interests”. But as a human rights-advancing move, it certainly sounds like a good idea to restrict negotiations and/or make tougher demands unless human rights abuses are tamped down (an approach the Republicans espouse on several specific occasions). It is worth noting that you just came close to the Republican position of making our diplomats “advance[] America’s values”. Although if you insist on the right to an abortion I know some people who will scream bloody murder. And I notice you finally name-dropped Burma in there.

“Global Health”:

Democrats will invest in improving global health. It is a human shame that many of the diseases which compound the problem of global poverty are treatable, but they are yet to be treated.

The HIV/AIDS pandemic is a massive human tragedy. It is also a security risk of the highest order that threatens to plunge nations into chaos. There are an estimated 33 million people across the planet infected with HIV/AIDS, including more than one million people in the U.S. Nearly 8,000 people die every day of AIDS. We must do more to fight the global HIV/AIDS pandemic, as well as malaria, tuberculosis, and neglected tropical diseases. We will provide $50 billion over five years to strengthen existing U.S. programs and expand them to new regions of the world, including Southeast Asia, India, and parts of Europe, where the HIV/AIDS burden is growing. We will increase U.S. contributions to the Global Fund to ensure that global efforts to fight endemic disease continue to move ahead.

More potential throwing money away, and this entire section will tie back into the Democrats’ health care plan. I know I’ll sound like a bastard again, but this has the added problem of being of unclear national interest, aside from the “plunge nations into chaos” line. It’s also worth noting that some people, especially Republicans, will tell you that there are cultural problems that make AIDS worse in Africa, and combating it more difficult.

“We also support the adoption of humanitarian licensing policies that ensure medications developed with the U.S. taxpayer dollars are available off patent in developing countries.” Not sure what the practical effect of that would be… “We will repeal the global gag rule and reinstate funding to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).” The “global gag rule” is the Republicans’ policy of refusing to provide any support to organizations that aid abortion in any way, which I tore to shreds in Part II of my Republican examination. “We will expand access to health care and nutrition for women and reduce the burden of maternal mortality.” Sounds good. A lot of good-sounding platitudes in here. “We will leverage the engagement of the private sector and private philanthropy to launch Health Infrastructure 2020a global effort to work with developing countries to invest in the full range of infrastructure needed to improve and protect both American and global health.” Obviously, very gimmicky.

“Human Trafficking”:

We will address human trafficking—both labor and sex trafficking–through strong legislation and enforcement to ensure that trafficking victims are protected and traffickers are brought to justice. We will also address the root causes of human trafficking, including poverty, discrimination, and gender inequality, as well as the demand for prostitution.

The Republicans preferred to take on human trafficking by establishing the gimmicky “Inter-Agency Task Force on Human Trafficking, reporting directly to the President”, prodding other governments to crack down, and extending the American policy of “publicizing the identity of known offenders” to international travel. The Democrats don’t have anything as specific but they do want to focus on the “root causes” in addition to their “strong legislation and enforcement”.

“Protecting our Security and Saving our Planet”: Yes, it’s a return to the topic of climate change, this time specifically focused on climate change and not just “energy independence”! But what does it have to do with national security and foreign affairs?

We must end the tyranny of oil in our time. This immediate danger is eclipsed only by the longer-term threat from climate change, which will lead to devastating weather patterns, terrible storms, drought, conflict, and famine. That means people competing for food and water in the next fifty years in the very places that have known horrific violence in the last fifty: Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. That could also mean destructive storms on our shores, and the disappearance of our coastline.

We understand that climate change is not just an economic issue or an environmental concern–this is a national security crisis.

I almost want to say, you better touch on climate change in both of the remaining parts as well. Before we begin, I want to make some clarifying remarks about “cap-and-trade” schemes. Back in Part II, I said I was deeply suspicious of cap-and-trade schemes but gave a description of them that was not necessarily accurate. At least some cap and trade schemes involve setting a hard limit not on each individual producer’s carbon emissions, but on the emissions of the whole economy. To produce any emissions at all, companies would have to purchase carbon credits from the government, and have to deal not only with other companies producing carbon but also environmentalists buying credits to lower emissions even further. It all sounds like a good way to move us towards a green future while raising money for the government and green research projects, but there are enforceability concerns and it encourages energy efficiency more than new energy sources. Anyway, enough talking; on with the show!

“Establish Energy Security”: The Democrats take an oblique shot at Bush and the Iraq war, saying “achieving energy security in the 21st century requires far more than simply expending our economic and political resources to keep oil flowing steadily out of unstable and even hostile countries and regions.”

Rather, energy security requires stemming the flow of money to oil rich regimes that are hostile to America and its allies; it requires combating climate change and preparing for its impacts both at home and abroad; it requires making international energy markets work for us and not against us; it requires standing up to the oil companies that spend hundreds of millions of dollars on lobbying and political contributions; it requires addressing nuclear safety, waste, and proliferation challenges around the world; and more.

For the most part, this all sounds good, but I notice the Democrats are also standing up for nuclear (sigh) but they are calling to address its “challenges”. Not sure what the problem with “international energy markets” is. “Democrats will halt this dangerous trend, and take the necessary steps to achieving energy independence. We will make it a top priority to reduce oil consumption by at least 35 percent, or ten million barrels per day, by 2030. This will more than offset the amount of oil we are expected to import from OPEC nations in 2030.” Once again, the Dems aren’t being ambitious enough. 35 percent by 2030? Ideally we should be able to get rid of our oil consumption almost entirely by then, between electric cars and mass transit – and we should, especially in the likely scenario we start running out of oil.

“Lead to Combat Climate Change”: This is the sort of sentiment I like to see from a major party:

We will lead to defeat the epochal, man-made threat to the planet: climate change. Without dramatic changes, rising sea levels will flood coastal regions around the world. Warmer temperatures and declining rainfall will reduce crop yields, increasing conflict, famine, disease, and poverty. By 2050, famine could displace more than 250 million people worldwide. That means increased instability in some of the most volatile parts of the world.

Never again will we sit on the sidelines, or stand in the way of collective action to tackle this global challenge. Getting our own house in order is only a first step. We will invest in efficient and clean technologies at home while using our assistance policies and export promotions to help developing countries preserve biodiversity, curb deforestation, and leapfrog the carbon-energy-intensive stage of development.

Not only the first sentence of the first paragraph, but most of the policy positions in the second, are “hear, hear” remarks. “[L]eapfrog[ging] the carbon-energy-intensive stage of development” almost takes the words right out of my mouth, and “developing countries” can’t just include third-world countries but also nations like China. I pretty much said as much in my hysterical anti-climate-change rant.

“We will reach out to the leaders of the biggest carbon emitting nations and ask them to join a new Global Energy Forum that will lay the foundation for the next generation of climate protocols.” Gimmicky but sounds like a good idea. “China has replaced America as the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Clean energy development must be a central focus in our relationships with major countries in Europe and Asia.” That’s a good approach. “We need a global response to climate change that includes binding and enforceable commitments to reducing emissions, especially for those that pollute the most: the United States, China, India, the European Union, and Russia.” Another good idea, but I hope the Democrats really will be willing to limit themselves under international pressure. As should the other nations listed. Unlike the Republicans, the Democrats aren’t whining that we shouldn’t “expect the U.S. to carry burdens which are more appropriately shared by all.” “This challenge is massive, but rising to it will also bring new benefits to America. By 2050, global demand for low-carbon energy could create an annual market worth $500 billion. Meeting that demand would open new frontiers for American entrepreneurs and workers.” Let’s try and create that demand and meet it pretty close to right now.

“Seizing the Opportunity”:

It is time for a new generation to tell the next great American story. If we act with boldness and foresight, we will be able to tell our grandchildren that this was the time we confronted climate change and secured the weapons that could destroy the human race. This was the time we defeated global terrorists and brought opportunity to forgotten corners of the world. This was the time when we helped forge peace in the Middle East. This was the time when we renewed the America that has led generations of weary travelers from all over the world to find opportunity and liberty and hope on our doorstep.

Hyperbole much? This “section” is really a summary of the whole part. I have a feeling it’ll be difficult for future generations to grasp the magnitude of the WMD threat today. Similarly, some people may not even realize that “the America that has led generations of weary travelers…to find opportunity and liberty and hope on our doorstep” even needed renewing, except from the Bush years. It sounds good that you’re going to “help[] forge peace in the Middle East”, but well, there’s a reason that would be “the next great American story”. But defeating terrorists and combating the climate crisis? That is the next great American story.

The Democrats devote another two very short paragraphs to a past when America was a beacon of hope around the world instead of a flashpoint of hatred, and call for America to return to the former, but I’m going to “seize the opportunity” to look back on the part and whether the Democrats met their goals. They said “today’s threats” “come from weapons that can kill on a mass scale and from violent extremists who exploit alienation and perceived injustice to spread terror.” So the Democrats will take steps to reduce and hopefully end any worldwide need for nuclear weapons, and secure materials that could be used to make them. They have a superior strategy to the Republicans’ (provisionally) in dealing with Iran, but the Republicans are tougher on North Korea. But my biggest problem I have with the Democrats here is that I’m not sure they’re willing to invest in actually preventing biological and chemical weapon attacks, only in reducing their impact. The Democrats might be soft on cyberterrorism as well. As for terror, the Democrats are superior to the head-in-the-sand Republicans on Pakistan, but their real strength lies in their quest to restore America’s integrity and likability, and in their quest to aid development in countries prone to the message of extremism. The one concern I have is whether the Democrats have a system to monitor terrorists that won’t impinge on America’s civil liberties.

They come from rogue states allied to terrorists and from rising powers that could challenge both America and the international foundation of liberal democracy.” This is a vague sentence, and sometimes the Democrats address it and sometimes they don’t. “They come from weak states that cannot control their territory or provide for their people.” So the Democrats put a focus on development and democratization to build up third world countries – goals the Republicans espouse as well. “They come from an addiction to oil that helps fund the extremism we must fight and empowers repressive regimes. And they come from a warming planet that will spur new diseases, spawn more devastating natural disasters, and catalyze deadly conflicts.” And both of those are dealt with in the same way. The Democrats are far superior to the Republicans in combating the urgent matter of climate change. There is plenty of room for improvement and they take a liking to a number of alternative energies I don’t like, but realistically, given the choice between the Democratic or Republican plan, I would rather take the Democrats. I’m just concerned they might not have an urgent enough stance on the problem.

Short part, isn’t it? Well, the Democrats’ Part III is right around the bend – we might be entering the home stretch here as well!

Examining the Republican Platform Part VI: “Health Care Reform: Putting Patients First”

This is continued from Parts I-V of my examination of the Republican Platform. I say I made good on my guarantee because this is before I went to bed.

The rest of the Republican platform deals with social issues, starting with Part VI, “Health Care Reform: Putting Patients First”, which will cross over with the Democrats’ favorite topic. The Republicans’ treatment of it begins with empty praise for the personnel and resources of the medical system, and the need “to build around them the best health care system. Republicans believe the key to real reform is to give control of the health care system to patients and their health care providers, not bureaucrats in government or business.” Does that mean you would junk the current private health care system that even Democrats want to retain? Is this something where privatization is not the answer?? Here are the problems the Republicans see with the current health care system:

  • Most Americans work longer and harder to pay for health care. 
  • Dedicated health care providers are changing careers to avoid litigation.
  • The need to hold onto health insurance is driving family decisions about where to live and work. 
  • Many new parents worry about the loss of coverage if they choose to stay at home with their children.
  • The need – and the bills – for long-term care are challenging families and government alike.
  • American businesses are becoming less competitive in the global marketplace because of insurance costs.
  • Some federal programs with no benefit to patients have grown exponentially, adding layers of bureaucracy between patients and their care.

Gotta love the shots taken at trial lawyers and the size of the bureaucracy. The Republicans claim “It is not enough to offer only increased access to a system that costs too much and does not work for millions of Americans. The Republican goal is more ambitious: Better health care for lower cost.” Your stance intrigues me, and I wish to learn more.

“First Principle: Do No Harm”: “The American people rejected Democrats’ attempted government takeover of health care in 1993, and they remain skeptical of politicians who would send us down that road.  Republicans support the private practice of medicine and oppose socialized medicine in the form of a government-run universal health care system.  Republicans pledge that as we reform our health care system:

  • We will protect citizens against any and all risky restructuring efforts that would complicate or ration health care.” The Republicans seem to think it’s impossible to “cover all”, as the Democrats want, and still offer complete coverage, as the Democrats want. Not sure how the Democratic plan would really “complicate” things – you choose between a number of providers.
  • “We will encourage health promotion and disease prevention.” So do the Democrats; this is presumably a defense against the notion that they wouldn’t do those things.
  • “We will facilitate cooperation, not confrontation, among patients, providers, payers, and all stakeholders in the health care system.” I’m intrigued as to how.
  • “We will
    not put government between patients and their health care providers.” Unless “health care providers” refers to private insurers instead of doctors and hospitals, I’m not sure how the Democratic plan “puts government between patients and their health care providers”.
  • “We will
    not put the system on a path that empowers Washington bureaucrats at the expense of patients.” Fair point.
  • “We will
    not raise taxes instead of reducing health care costs.” The Democrats did say their rollback of the Bush tax cuts would pay for their health care plan, but they are also concerned about “reducing health care costs” if I recall correctly.
  • “We will
    not replace the current system with the staggering inefficiency, maddening irrationality, and uncontrollable costs of a government monopoly.” Given some of the weak spots in the Democratic plan, fair point.

    Radical restructuring of health care would be unwise.  We want all Americans to be able to choose the best health care provider, hospital, and health coverage for their needs.  We believe that real reform is about improving your access to a health care provider, your control over care, and your ability to afford that care. 

    We will continue to advocate for simplification of the system and the empowerment of patients.  This is in stark contrast to the other party’s insistence on putting Washington in charge of patient care, which has blocked any progress on meeting these goals.  We offer a detailed program that will improve the quality, cost, and coverage of health care throughout the nation, and we will turn that plan into reality.

Very intrigued. You want further simplification of the system and you think the Democratic plan complicates it? Your – presumably very different – plan follows the “quality, affordable” tenets of the Democratic plan, but with less reliance on government? I want to know more!

“Patient Control and Portability”: “Republicans believe all Americans should be able to obtain an affordable health care plan, including a health savings account, which meets their needs and the needs of their families.” Well, here’s the beginnings of it, but I still want to learn the details of this “health savings account” Where would the money come from, how does it differ from a regular savings account? “Families and health care providers are the key to real reform, not lawyers and bureaucrats. To empower families, we must make insurance more affordable and more secure, and give employees the option of owning coverage that is not tied to their job.  Patients should not have to worry about losing their insurance. Insurance companies should have to worry about losing patients’ business.” The substantive parts of all of that sound good, but they sound similar to the Democratic plan. Although I don’t know how easy the Democrats make it to change health care providers.

“The current tax system discriminates against individuals who do not receive health care from their employers, gives more generous health tax benefits to upper income employees, and fails to provide every American with the ability to purchase an affordable health care plan.” Democrats did call for employers to “have incentives to provide coverage to their workers”, and all of these are fair points – and only the last, vague one mirrors the Democratic plan. “Republicans propose to correct inequities in the current tax code that drive up the number of uninsured and to level the playing field so that individuals who choose a health insurance plan in the individual market face no tax penalty.” The Democrats did say that “[c]overage should be made affordable for all Americans with subsidies provided through tax credits and other means”, but didn’t directly address “inequities in the current tax code”. “All Americans should receive the same tax benefit as those who are insured through work, whether through a tax credit or other means.” Sounds fair, but I see no incompatibility with the Democratic plan.

“Individuals with pre-existing conditions must be protected; we will help these individuals by building on the experiences of innovative states rather than by creating a new unmanageable federal entitlement.” Democrats wanted to bar insurers from barring people with “pre-existing conditions”, so they wouldn’t necessarily have to enter the “federal entitlement”, but it does consist of more of that “regulation” Republicans hate so much. I want to know what these “innovative states” have come up with; the Democrats had a similar line there as well. “We strongly urge that managed care organizations use the practice patterns and medical treatment guidelines from the state in which the patient lives when making medical coverage decisions.” Sounds somewhat obvious.

Then the Republicans start harping on semi-tangential “values” issues. “Because the family is our basic unit of society, we fully support parental rights to consent to medical treatment for their children including mental health treatment, drug treatment, alcohol treatment, and treatment involving pregnancy, contraceptives, and abortion.” Some people might disagree, but this seems reasonable to me.

“Improving Quality of Care and Lowering Costs”: And “help[ing] Americans – men, women, and children – live longer and healthier lives”.

“Prevent Disease and End the ‘Sick Care’ System”: Sound like Obama calling for “a health care system, not a disease care system”? “Chronic diseases – in many cases, preventable conditions – are driving health care costs, consuming three of every four health care dollars. We can reduce demand for medical care by fostering personal responsibility within a culture of wellness, while increasing access to preventive services, including improved nutrition and breakthrough medications that keep people healthy and out of the hospital.” The Democrats cited a similar stat and vowed to “promote healthy lifestyles and disease prevention and management especially with health promotion programs at work and physical education in schools. All Americans should be empowered to promote wellness and have access to preventive services to impede the development of costly chronic conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension.” How would the Republicans “foster[] personal responsibility within a culture of wellness”? Why do I have a sinking feeling those “breakthrough medications” are a giveaway to pharmaceutical companies? If you need them great; ideally, you don’t need them.

“To reduce the incidence of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and stroke, we call for a national grassroots campaign against obesity, especially among children.” The “party of small government” should know that a “grassroots campaign” started by government is a contradiction. “We call for continuation of efforts to decrease use of tobacco, especially among the young.” I will never understand how people my age could possibly start smoking despite being bombarded all their lives by messages about how bad it is and considering how bad it stinks. We’ve been on an anti-tobacco crusade since, what, the 70s now? Do you think maybe we should start thinking about changing tactics, or at least adopting new ones?

“A culture of wellness needs to include the treatment of mental health conditions.  We believe all Americans should have access to affordable, quality health care, including individuals struggling with mental illness.  For this reason, we believe it is important that mental health care be treated equally with physical health care.” These three sentences are almost redundant and give the impression that the Republicans are committed to mental health when they give no specifics.

“Empower Individuals to Make the Best Health Care Choices”: “Clear information about health care empowers patients.  It lets consumers make better decisions about where to spend their health care dollars, thereby fostering competition and lowering costs.  Patients must have information to make sound decisions about their health care providers, hospitals, and insurance companies.” Question is, will they even look at that information? I don’t think I saw anything in the Democratic platform concerning this. This may be the most substantive part of the Republicans’ alternate plan so far, but because many Americans get their coverage from their employer, it lacks a foundation.

“Use Health Information Technology to Save Lives”:

Advances in medical technology are revolutionizing medicine. Information technology is key to early detection and treatment of chronic disease as well as fetal care and health care in rural areas – especially where our growing wireless communications network is available.  The simple step of modernizing recordkeeping will mean faster, more accurate treatment, fewer medical errors, and lower costs.  Closing the health care information gap can reduce both under-utilization (the diabetic who forgets to refill an insulin prescription) and over-utilization (the patient who endures repetitive tests because providers have not shared test results).

There’s a germ of substantive policy in there. The Democrats did call for, more specifically, “driving adoption of state-of-the-art health information technology systems, [and] privacy-protected electronic medical records”. All pretty common sense stuff.

“Protect Good Health Care Providers from Frivolous Lawsuits”: It’s Take-Shots-At-Trial-Lawyers Time!

Every patient must have access to legal remedies for malpractice, but meritless lawsuits drive up insurance rates to outrageous levels and ultimately drive up the number of uninsured.  Frivolous lawsuits also drive up the cost of health care as health care providers are forced to practice defensive medicine, such as ordering unnecessary tests.  Many leave their practices rather than deal with the current system. This emergency demands medical liability reform.

And that medical liability reform would be…? This is another thing the Dems don’t touch on, and it’s starting to form the germ of lowering the cost of health care, at least as described. But more is still to come.

“Reward Good Health Care Providers for Delivering Real Results”:

Patients deserve access to health care providers they trust who will personalize and coordinate their care to ensure they receive the right treatment with the right health care provider at the right time.  Providers should be paid for keeping people well, not for the number of tests they run or procedures they perform.   The current cookie-cutter system of reimbursement needs restructuring from the view of the patient, not the accountant or Washington bureaucrat.

That certainly sounds reasonable – do you reimburse providers more for keeping costs down? Well, you don’t say that. And what about what the Democrats call “insurance discrimination”? This sounds like a way of doubling that – one way to get “paid for keeping people well” is to keep out the people who aren’t!

“Drive Costs Down with Interstate Competition”:

A state-regulated national market for health insurance means more competition, more choice, and lower costs.  Families – as well as fraternal societies, churches and community groups, and small employers – should be able to purchase policies across state lines.  The best practices and lowest prices should be available in every state.  We call upon state legislators to carefully consider the cost of medical mandates, and we salute those Republican governors who are leading the way in demonstrating ways to provide affordable health care options.

Um… okay, this is an odd proposal. Does this mean that one or two states will be providing the health care for the entire nation? Wouldn’t this render state-by-state policies meaningless? Why don’t you just take away the state-by-state policies and pass the best ones on a national level? Don’t you like the states?

“Modernize Long-Term Care Options for All”:

The financial burdens and emotional challenges of ensuring adequate care for elderly family members affect every American, especially with today’s aging population.  We must develop new ways to support individuals, not just institutions, so that older Americans can have a real choice whether to stay in their homes. This is true not only with regard to Medicaid, where we spend $100 billion annually on long-term care, but also for those who do not qualify for that assistance.

And those new ways would be…? I’m not even sure what you would look at here.

“Encourage Primary Care as a Specialty”: “We believe in the importance of primary care specialties and supporting the physician’s role in the evaluation and management of disease.  We also encourage practice in rural and underserved areas of America.” No word on how, though. The Democrats provided more detail on how they would support primary care workers, but surprisingly, didn’t mention the last sentence either in my Part I or in their “rural America” section.

“Funding Medical Research”:

We support federal investment in basic and applied biomedical research.  This commitment will maintain America’s global competitiveness, advance innovative science that can lead to medical breakthroughs, and turn the tide against diseases affecting millions of Americans – diseases that account for the majority of our health care costs. The United States leads in this research, as evidenced by our growing biotechnology industry, but foreign competition is increasing.  One way government can help preserve the promise of American innovation is to ensure that our intellectual property laws remain robust.

So, would big bad government actually directly fund this research? Certainly the Democrats talk about that. “[E]nsur[ing] that our intellectual property laws remain robust” certainly sounds good. The Democrats support research as a way of enhancing their health care plan, not so much as a way to fight diseases in and of itself. They accused the Republicans of stonewalling “biomedical and stem cell research”, but the GOP mentions “biomedical research” here and doesn’t mention anything that looks like a control (although I’m not done with the section yet).

“Federal research dollars should be spent as though lives are at stake – because, in fact, they are.” I guess big bad government is getting into the spending business, but this certainly makes it sound like a worthy cause. “Research protocols must consider the special needs of formerly neglected groups if we are to make significant progress against breast and prostate cancer, diabetes, and other killers.” What are these “formerly neglected groups”? Are they Democratic special interests? What are we talking about here?

Now come the political flashpoint issues.

Taxpayer-funded medical research must be based on sound science, with a focus on both prevention and treatment, and in accordance with the humane ethics of the Hippocratic Oath. In that regard, we call for a major expansion of support for the stem-cell research that now shows amazing promise and offers the greatest hope for scores of diseases – with adult stem cells, umbilical cord blood, and cells reprogrammed into pluripotent stem cells – without the destruction of embryonic human life.  We call for a ban on human cloning and for a ban on the creation of or experimentation on human embryos for research purposes.

“Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout, Democrats? We love stem cell research! We just don’t like embryonic stem cell research that destroys life.” No permutation of the word “clone” appears in the Democratic platform, but I don’t know enough about cloning to know where the controversy is, other than religious and philosophical questions. What’s your position on “embryonic human life” that would be “destroyed” anyway? There are no mentions of assisted suicide in the Democratic platform either: “We believe medicines and treatments should be designed to prolong and enhance life, not destroy it.  Therefore, federal funds should not be used for drugs that cause the destruction of human life.  Furthermore, the Drug Enforcement Administration ban on use of controlled substances for physician-assisted suicide should be restored.” What’s your stance on people suffering from incurable terminal illness, other than brushing it off with “let’s do more research so it becomes curable”?

“Protecting Rights of Conscience”:

The health care profession can be both a profession and a calling.  No health care professional – doctor, nurse, or pharmacist – or organization should ever be required to perform, provide for, or refer for a health care service against their conscience for any reason.  This is especially true of the religious organizations which deliver a major portion of America’s health care, a service rooted in the charity of faith communities.

What’s this referring to, abortion? Since most of these services can be gotten elsewhere this seems reasonable, especially as a logical outgrowth of the First Amendment.


Its projected growth is out of control and threatens to squeeze out other programs, while funding constraints lead to restricted access to treatment for many seniors.  There are solutions. Medicare can be a leader for the rest of our health care system by encouraging treatment of the whole patient. Specifically, we should compensate doctors who coordinate care, especially for those with multiple chronic conditions, and eliminate waste and inefficiency.

Most of the Democrats’ talk about Medicare comes closer to the end of their platform, in a part I haven’t gotten to yet. For now know that they want to “allow[] Medicare to negotiate for lower prices” which would be one way to cut costs. This proposal sounds reasonable and logical so far. “Medicare patients must have more control of their care and choice regarding their doctors, and the benefits of competition must be delivered to the patients themselves if Medicare is to provide quality health care.” Sounds good, but don’t know what to make of it and keep in mind we’re talking about seniors. “And Medicare patients must be free to add their own funds, if they choose, to any government benefits, to be assured of unrationed care.” That sounds reasonable as well, at first glance, but it means rich people would get better care than poor people. “Finally, because it is isolated from the free market forces that encourage innovation, competition, affordability, and expansion of options, Medicare is especially susceptible to fraud and abuse.  The program loses tens of billions of dollars annually in erroneous and fraudulent payments.  We are determined to root out the fraud and eliminate this assault on the taxpayer.” Sounds good, but how do you plan to do that and what long-term structural reforms do you plan to institute without rendering Medicare at risk to economic downturns and changes in government? And didn’t you just say “the benefits of competition must be delivered to the patients” and now you’re calling Medicare “isolated from…free market forces”?


Our Medicaid obligations will consume $5 trillion over the next ten years.  Medicaid now accounts for 20-25 percent of state budgets and threatens to overwhelm state governments for the indefinite future.  We can do better while spending less.  A first step is to give Medicaid recipients more health care options.  Several states have allowed beneficiaries to buy regular health insurance with their Medicaid dollars.  This removes the Medicaid “stamp” from people’s foreheads, provides beneficiaries with better access to doctors, and saves taxpayers’ money.  We must ensure that taxpayer money is focused on caring for U.S. citizens and other individuals in our country legally.

The Democrats have even less to say about Medicaid; they mention extending it to more HIV-positive Americans and then don’t mention it again until a section titled “Virgin Islands” virtually at the end of the entire platform! So presumably they’re willing to let the Republicans’ doomsday scenario happen. The idea of letting Medicaid beneficiaries buy whatever health insurance they want with their Medicaid dollars certainly sounds like a good idea. One more sentence of harping on illegal immigration at the end there.

“Building a Health Care System for Future Emergencies”:

To protect the American people from the threats we face in the century ahead, we must develop and stockpile medicines and vaccines so we can deliver them where urgently needed.  Our health care infrastructure must have the surge capacity to handle large numbers of patients in times of crisis, whether it is a repeat of Hurricane Katrina, a flu pandemic, or a bioterror attack on multiple cities.  Republicans will ensure that this infrastructure, including the needed communications capacity, is closely integrated into our homeland security needs.

I seem to recall the Republicans may have mentioned this before, back in their national security discussion. This sounds like an important thing to do, to the extent you kind of wonder why we’re not doing it already.

We’re under 4,000 words, let alone 5,000, but the section on education started going so long it wasn’t particularly plausible to stick it in this part without either threatening the 7,000 word barrier, or causing a contradiction by breaking in the middle of the education section for the GOP but not for the Democrats (with a firmer break with the latter to boot). So more Republican fun is still to come… and you may see two Democratic examinations before the next Republican examination.

A new way to look at election results!

I know this is kind of short notice – I’ve been sidetracked by my ongoing platform examinations – but I’m wondering if anyone wants to help me track the results on election night? Ideally I would have some sort of PHP and MySQL system set up for inputting and tracking results, but because of Freehostia’s restrictions that would mean letting people into my Sandsday MySQL account, so I may have to rig something up on Wikipedia. I had trouble keeping up with the results on Super Tuesday, which was actually about on the order of the number of presidential races on election day proper. Trying to keep up with that, plus Senate and House races, would take me forever. I’m thinking 25 races per person would be more than a workable number; that would mean two people to do the presidential races, one to do the Senate, and 17 people to do the House, for 20 total and I would be one of them. I don’t think I have 20 visitors a day, let alone that many willing to volunteer, so I may have to double up some of the work on some people. Comment on this post or e-mail me at mwmailsea at yahoo dot com if you’re willing to refresh pages all night.

If I can’t get anyone, I’ll just put all my Presidential race work on Da Blog, mostly just my projected electoral vote counts (and if I get only one or two volunteers I may just give them an Excel file and have them post work on their own blogs). The sources of semi-raw vote data with all candidates I relied on in primary season might not be available anyway, which probably means the dreaded patchwork of sources.

The reason I’m planning on doing this is to provide a demonstration of my projection system. There’s more explanation here, but the idea is to take race projection at least partly out of the hands of potentially biased analysts and making it less reliant on possibly flawed exit polls. It’s based on one thing and one thing only: the results themselves.

Rather than one level of projection, which favors an early rush as networks fall over themselves to project and then boredom most of the rest of the way, this creates three, two of which are based on objective mathematical formulas:

Projection: Only invoked when the race appears to be a sure thing but the mathematical formulas haven’t confirmed it yet. This occurs only at my discretion, and is based on the results themselves, not invoked the instant the polls close (unless the candidate is unopposed).
Autoprojection: Invoked when %1 > %2 + (1-P), where %1 is the vote percentage of the first place candidate, %2 is the vote percentage of the second place candidate, and P is the percentage of precincts reporting. 1 represents 100%.
Confirmation: Invoked when P * %1 > P * %2 + (1-P), using the same values as above.

If I feel like it, I may have more tomorrow, but I’m already late in trying to get home and see the Obama infomercial when it airs on the West Coast!

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 8

NBC’s Sunday Night Football package gives it flexible scheduling. For the last seven weeks of the season, the games are determined on 12-day notice, 6-day notice for Week 17.

The first year, no game was listed in the Sunday Night slot, only a notation that one game could move there. Now, NBC lists the game it “tentatively” schedules for each night. However, the NFL is in charge of moving games to prime time.

Here are the rules from the NFL web site (note that this was written with last season in mind):

  • Begins Sunday of Week 11
  • In effect during Weeks 11-17
  • Only Sunday afternoon games are subject to being moved into the Sunday night window.
  • The game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night during flex weeks will be listed at 8:15 p.m. ET. (Note: Last year, NBC listed a tentative game for Week 17; they are not doing so this year.)
  • The majority of games on Sundays will be listed at 1:00 p.m. ET during flex weeks except for games played in Pacific or Mountain Time zones which will be listed at 4:05 or 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • No impact on Thursday, Saturday or Monday night games.
  • The NFL will decide (after consultation with CBS, FOX, NBC) and announce as early as possible the game being played at 8:15 p.m. ET. The announcement will come no later than 12 days prior to the game. The NFL may also announce games moving to 4:05 p.m. ET and 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • Week 17 start time changes could be decided on 6 days notice to ensure a game with playoff implications.
  • The NBC Sunday night time slot in “flex” weeks will list the game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night. (Note: Again, excluding Week 17.)
  • Fans and ticket holders must be aware that NFL games in flex weeks are subject to change 12 days in advance (6 days in Week 17) and should plan accordingly.
  • NFL schedules all games.
  • Teams will be informed as soon as they are no longer under consideration or eligible for a move to Sunday night.
  • Rules NOT listed on NFL web site but pertinent to flex schedule selection: CBS and Fox each protect games in five out of six weeks, and could not protect any games Week 17 last year. Unless I find out otherwise, I’m assuming that’s still the case this year, especially with no tentative game listed Week 17, and that protections were scheduled after Week 4.
  • Three teams can appear a maximum of six games in primetime on NBC, ESPN or NFL Network (everyone else gets five) and no team may appear more than four times on NBC. A list of all teams’ number of appearances is in my Week 4 post.

Here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:

Week 11 (November 16):

  • Tentative game: Dallas @ Washington
  • Prospects: The Cowboys managed to gut out a win and will get Tony Romo back for Sunday night after a Week 10 bye. This game might still be very appealing.
  • Likely protections: Ravens-Giants, Titans-Jaguars, or nothing (CBS) and Bears-Packers (FOX)
  • Other possible games: Chargers-Steelers is looking lopsided and is another nominee for protection. It’s out. Broncos-Falcons doesn’t look that hot.
  • Prediction: For the moment, this game still has the best chance to keep its spot. If Dallas wins, I honestly don’t see a scenario where any game can knock it off, especially given the strength of the division, pedigree of the teams and rivalry, and market sizes. But the Cowboys are playing the Giants, and if they lose it’s down to .500 for them – but they still might not be replaced. Titans-Jags, if unprotected, might look appealing if both teams win, but that would only get the Jags back to .500. Because Dallas has three losses, a 3-loss team might come into play – if the Ravens beat Cleveland, Ravens-Giants gets revived if unprotected, and Broncos-Falcons might be alive if both teams win. But there’s little compelling reason to go with any of these games. Bears-Packers would look appealing if it wasn’t quite likely protected. Tune in on Monday for my final prediction.

Week 12 (November 23):

  • Tentative game: Indianapolis @ San Diego
  • Prospects: Both teams are below .500. NBC probably didn’t anticipate the decision to flex this game out looking this obvious.
  • Likely protections: Eagles-Ravens (Fox) and Jets-Titans (CBS).
  • Other possible games: Panthers-Falcons still looks good, but the Falcons are 16th in NBC’s power rankings and the game might be starting to look lopsided. Giants-Cardinals is probably in front. Patriots-Dolphins is still in it but in a heap of trouble.

Week 13 (November 30):

  • Tentative game: Chicago @ Minnesota
  • Prospects: 4-3 v. 3-4, Chicago is 11th in’s latest power rankings, and a big game with big NFC North implications. The Vikings probably need to improve, however.
  • Likely protections: Giants-Redskins (Fox) and either Steelers-Patriots or Broncos-Jets (CBS).
  • Other possible games: It’s Thanksgiving Weekend, so more teams like the Cowboys and Titans aren’t available. Panthers-Packers is strong and getting stronger. On the off chance Steelers-Patriots isn’t protected it might still have to deal with Panthers-Packers. If it is, Broncos-Jets is no longer much of a draw. Falcons-Chargers is fading with the Chargers. Look for Saints-Bucs to potentially emerge as a dark horse.

Week 14 (December 7):

  • Tentative game: New England @ Seattle
  • Prospects: The Seahawks are just too terrible for this game to keep its spot.
  • Likely protections: Cowboys-Steelers (FOX) and if anything, Jags-Bears (CBS).
  • Other possible games: Redskins-Ravens has a chance to still be alive, so the Eagles and Giants shouldn’t change those tickets yet. Jags-Bears is a very dark horse if it’s unprotected, and Falcons-Saints could emerge as one.

Week 15 (December 14):

  • Tentative game: NY Giants @ Dallas
  • Prospects: This is why I had Fox protect Bears-Packers Week 11: so they could leave this week protection-free and maximize their chances of getting a marquee NFC East matchup back. And this game might be alive again. Their first matchup this week will do a lot to determine its prospects.
  • Likely protections: Steelers-Ravens, Broncos-Panthers, Bills-Jets, or nothing (CBS).
  • Other possible games: Packers-Jaguars is still in it but may be a long shot, and Bucs-Falcons is not looking as good. All of the potentially protected games pit 2-loss teams against 3-loss teams. If things break right, Vikings-Cardinals is a dark horse.

Week 16 (December 21):

  • Tentative game: San Diego @ Tampa Bay
  • Prospects: It’s 3-5 @ 5-3, and the Chargers are fading fast. Way too lopsided.
  • Likely protections: Panthers-Giants or Eagles-Redskins (FOX) and Steelers-Titans (CBS).
  • Other possible games: Cardinals-Patriots is still strong, but Falcons-Vikings and Bills-Broncos are both fading, so the only thing stopping Cardinals-Pats could be the game Fox didn’t protect.

Week 17 (December 28):

  • Playoff positioning watch begins Week 9.

Examining the Democratic Platform Part V: “Revitalizing and Supporting the Military, Keeping Faith with Veterans” and “Working for Our Common Security”

This is continued from Parts I-IV of my examination of the Democratic Platform. To make up for not having an examination yesterday or even shortly after midnight, I guaran-damn-tee two examinations today and maybe even three. So naturally I’m getting a late start with this one…

“Revitalizing and Supporting the Military, Keeping Faith with Veterans”: Well, if it wasn’t obvious before, this section makes it blatantly obvious that the Democrats are not the party of pacifism, especially the Orwellian sentiment that “A strong military is, more than anything, necessary to sustain peace.”

Ending the war in Iraq will be the beginning, but not the end, of addressing our defense challenges. We will use this moment both to rebuild our military and to prepare it for the missions of the future. We must retain the capacity to swiftly defeat any conventional threat to our country and our vital interests. But we must also become better prepared to take on foes that fight asymmetrical and highly adaptive campaigns on a global scale.

We will not hesitate to use force to protect the American people or our vital interests whenever we are attacked or imminently threatened. But we will use our armed forces wisely, with others when we can, unilaterally when we must. When we send our men and women into harm’s way, we must clearly define the mission, listen to the advice of our military commanders, objectively evaluate intelligence, and ensure that our troops have the strategy, resources, and support they need to prevail.

We believe we must also be willing to consider using military force in circumstances beyond self-defense in order to provide for the common security that underpins global stability–to support friends, participate in stability and reconstruction operations, or confront mass atrocities. But when we do use force in situations other than self-defense, we should make every effort to garner the clear support and participation of others. The consequences of forgetting that lesson in the context of the current conflict in Iraq have been grave.

“Unilaterally if we must”? “We must also be willing to consider using military force in circumstances beyond self-defense”? Read those two things and you might think there really is no difference between Democrats and Republicans! But both have caveats attached to them: we should always have allies whenever possible, we should make clear exactly what we intend to do, and pay attention to the information we’re given. Common sense stuff; maybe the part about allies isn’t common sense but it’s wise anyway.

“Expand the Armed Forces”: Army +65k, Marines +25k, which “help[s] units retrain and re-equip properly between deployments and decrease[s] the strain on military families.” Decreases the strain on military families?!? At least they didn’t earlier claim we already had “the best-manned…military in the world” in the introduction to the section like the GOP.

“Recruit and Retain”:

A nation of 300 million people should not struggle to find additional qualified personnel to serve. Recruitment and retention problems have been swept under the rug, including by applying inconsistent standards and using the “Stop Loss” program to keep our servicemen and women in the force after their enlistment has expired. We will reach out to youth, as well as to the parents, teachers, coaches, and community and religious leaders who influence them, and make it an imperative to restore the ethic of public service, whether it be serving their local communities in such roles as teachers or first responders, or serving in the military and reserve forces or diplomatic corps that keep our nation free and safe.

The Republicans only talk about “retention of combat veterans” and pretty much slide past the issue of recruitment, though they do address it indirectly. The Democrats also sort of slide past the issue of recruitment by going from that to general community service. But all in all, an agreeable sentiment.

“Rebuild the Military for 21st-Century Tasks”:

We will rebuild our armed forces to meet the full spectrum needs of the new century. We will strongly support efforts to: build up our special operations forces, civil affairs, information operations, engineers, foreign area officers, and other units and capabilities that remain in chronic short supply; invest in foreign language training, cultural awareness, human intelligence, and other needed counter-insurgency and stabilization skill sets; and create a specialized military advisor corps, which will enable us to better build up local allies’ capacities to take on mutual threats. We also will ensure that military personnel have sufficient training time before they are sent into battle. This is not the case at the moment, when American forces are being rushed to Iraq and Afghanistan, often with less individual and unit training than is required.

All those seem to be reasonable, if potentially expensive, goals. Although weren’t “advisors” how we first started slipping into Vietnam?

“Develop Civilian Capacity to Promote Global Stability and Improve Emergency Response”:

We will build the capacity of U.S. civilian agencies to deploy personnel and area experts where they are needed, so that we no longer have to ask our men and women in uniform to perform non-military functions. The creation of a volunteer Civilian Assistance Corps of skilled experts (e.g., doctors, lawyers, engineers, city planners, agriculture specialists, police) who are pre-trained and willing to aid in emergencies will involve more Americans in public service and provide our nation with a pool of talent to assist America in times of need at home and abroad.

Sounds reasonable; jobs should be done by the people best suited to do them. And I’m pretty sure the Republicans don’t even acknowledge this issue. But this suggests we might be doing more “nation-building” in the future… Not addressed in the Democrats’ improvements in our military, at least so far: medical care for “injured military personnel”, speeding along the process of National Guardsmen’s return to civilian jobs, women in the military, and military culture. If you’re thinking “damn, the Democrats are secretly kind of heartless”, they may be sliding together care for veterans and care for the active military in the next section or two.

“Do Right by Our Veterans and Their Families”: “We believe that every servicemember is a hero who deserves our respect and gratitude, not just on Veterans Day or Memorial Day, but every day. When they put on their uniforms, these servicemembers all become all of our daughters and all of our sons, and it is time we started treating them as such.” The Democrats then take the opportunity to take yet another shot at the Bush administration for the events at Walter Reed and “growing numbers of homeless and unemployed veterans”.

“We will build a 21st century Department of Veterans Affairs that reflects the reality of America’s all volunteer military and has the resources, without returning every year to fight the same battles, to uphold America’s sacred trust with our veterans.” Sounds good, but too vague for me to really consider whether the Republicans are thinking about the same thing. “We will make sure that members of our Armed Forces have a fair shot at the American Dream by implementing the new GI Bill.” Gah, even the Democrats talk about “our Armed Forces”! The Republicans liked the GI Bill as well and wanted to “build” on it. “We will ensure that every veteran has access to quality health care for injuries both physical and mental, and we will require that health professionals screen all servicemembers upon their return from combat.” The Republicans did not specifically reference the latter in their platform, but did come close; they did pretty much copy this sentence into a paragraph.

“We will aggressively address Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury.” The Republicans did talk about “an unprecedented incidence of traumatic brain injury, which calls for a new commitment of resources and personnel for its care and treatment”, without the obnoxious capitals, but did not directly reference PTSD. “We will work to ensure that every veteran receives the benefits he or she has earned and the assistance he or she needs by making the disability benefits process more fair, efficient, and equitable.” The Republicans wanted the VA to “eliminat[e] its disability backlog and reduc[e] waiting times for treatment”, and that its “current disability compensation formulas need to be restructured and modernized”, but those are the only references to “disabilities” in my Part I. Everything’s too vague for me to properly assess. But the Democrats would also “dramatically reduce the backlog of disability claims”, indicating they would do it themselves instead of palming it off on the VA (bad! Government meddling!), or alternately, would actually get it done instead of saying “the VA must” do it, although for all I know the Republicans would have an actual plan to get something done. So why isn’t it getting done?

“We will combat homelessness, unemployment, and underemployment among veterans and improve the transition for servicemen between the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.” The former is good and pretty much something the Republicans said; the latter is good, and not a Republican topic, but short on details on why it’s necessary. “We will continue to honor our promises to all veterans, including the Filipino veterans, especially with regards to citizenship and family reunification.” Well, that’s out of left field; I wonder if the Republicans would object to the “citizenship” line.

“Lift Burdens on Our Troops and Their Families”: “We must better support those families of whom we are asking so much. We will create a Military Families Advisory Board to help identify and develop practical policies to ease the burden on spouses and families.” Sounds gimmicky but reasonable. “We will protect our military families from losing their homes to foreclosure. We will work for pay parity so that compensation for military service is more in line with that of the private sector.” Both of those sound reasonable, again. “We will end the stop-loss and reserve recall policies that allow an individual to be forced to remain on active duty well after his or her enlistment has expired, and we will establish regularity in deployments so that active duty and reserve troops know what they must expect and their families can plan for it.” Sounds good for soldiers and their families, but how does it affect our men and women in the field and how they do? The Republicans basically devoted a sentence to this.

“Support the Readiness of the Guard and Reserve”: “Democrats will provide the National Guard with the equipment it needs for foreign and domestic emergencies and provide time and support to restore and refit between deployments.” Sounds reasonable, and should help our men in the field.

We will also ensure that reservists and Guard members are treated fairly when it comes to employment, health, education benefits, deployment, and reintegration. We will do this by adequately funding reintegration programs to assist returning service members and by enforcing the Service Members Civil Relief Act and the Uniformed Service Employment Rights and Readjustment Act, laws too often observed in the breach today.

The above is important because reintegration is the main thing the Republicans focused on in their discussion of the Guard and Reserves. The Republicans, however, “call[ed] for greater transition assistance from employers” but the Democrats are doing something about it. Of course, they’re spending a lot of money in the process, which is typical. “To ensure that the concerns of our citizen soldiers reach the level they mandate, Democrats will elevate the Chief of the National Guard to be a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.” That’s a good idea, especially if the Guard is being sent to Iraq.

“Allow All Americans to Serve”:

We will also put national security above divisive politics. More than 12,500 service men and women have been discharged on the basis of sexual orientation since the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was implemented, at a cost of over $360 million. Many of those forced out had special skills in high demand, such as translators, engineers, and pilots. At a time when the military is having a tough time recruiting and retaining troops, it is wrong to deny our country the service of brave, qualified people. We support the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and the implementation of policies to allow qualified men and women to serve openly regardless of sexual orientation

This is a big difference between Democrats and Republicans. Recall that the Republicans declared that “[e]sprit and cohesion are necessary for military effectiveness and success on the battlefield. …we affirm…the benefits of traditional military culture, and the incompatibility of homosexuality with military service.” Democrats say if you keep out the gays, you’re keeping out what could be valuable skills and reducing the military’s manpower when it’s needed most. Republicans say that “homosexuality” is “incompatib[le]” “with military service” and would destroy “traditional military culture”. Which is a bigger loss, the loss of the “necessary” “[e]spirit and cohesion”, or the loss of the raw manpower and skills? Which is more important, camaraderie among the men or more of them? I don’t know. I just don’t know. (But if you put a gun to my head, I’d go for the raw manpower and skills, but then again I’m a hardcore loner.)

“Reform Contracting Practices and Make Contractors Accountable”: “We believe taxpayer dollars should be spent to invest in our fighting men and women, not to fatten the pockets of private companies. We will instruct the Defense and State Departments to develop a strategy for determining when contracting makes sense, and when certain functions are “inherently governmental” and should not be contracted out.” Hopefully they won’t be biased in either direction, and are there cases of “inherently governmental” jobs that are being contracted out? Would government doing those jobs have resulted in waste? “We will establish the legal status of contractor personnel, making possible prosecution of any abuses committed by private military contractors, and create a system of improved oversight and management, so that government can restore honesty, openness, and efficiency to contracting and procurement.” So Democrats would crack down on shoddy contracting jobs and make sure contractors actually do the job they were hired for, and institute other systems to prevent future abuses, but don’t call for an end to no-bid contracts as directly as Republicans. And this issue gets the same paragraph the Republicans gave it.

“Working for Our Common Security”:

To renew American leadership in the world, we will rebuild the alliances, partnerships, and institutions necessary to confront common threats and enhance common security. Needed reform of these alliances and institutions will not come by bullying other countries to ratify American demands. It will come when we convince other governments and peoples that they too have a stake in effective partnerships. It is only leadership if others join America in working toward our common security.

Makes sense as stated, if possibly distorting of the Republican position. It’s not worth it to have an alliance that says “do what we say or we go ‘regime change’ all over your ass”. That’s not an alliance, that’s a vassal. All this sounds like a good idea, and it’s telling that “alliance” occurs only once in my Republican first two parts. The devil, as they say, is in the details. The Democrats promptly take a shot at Bush (“Too often, in recent years, we have sent the opposite signal to our international partners”) and list some examples of Bush ignorance of the rest of the world: European opposition to the War in Iraq and leadership on climate change; “belittl[ing] South Korean efforts to improve relations with the North” (?), failing to confront the problems of Latin America, and standing idly by while genocide broke out in Darfur.

“Support Africa’s Democratic Development”: While the Republicans started their discussion of Africa by listing the well-known problems and tooting their own horn, the Democrats start things out by reflecting on Africa’s place in the world economy. “We recognize Africa’s promise as a trade and investment partner and the importance of policies that can contribute to sustainable economic growth, job creation, and poverty alleviation. We are committed to bringing the full weight of American leadership to bear in unlocking the spirit of entrepreneurship and economic independence that is sweeping across markets of Africa.” If it’s already “sweeping across markets of Africa”, hasn’t it already been unlocked? Other than that, that’s an incredibly important point.

“We believe that sustainable economic growth and development will mitigate and even help to reverse such chronic and debilitating challenges as poverty, hunger, conflict, and HIV/AIDS. We are committed to bringing the full weight of American leadership to bear to work in partnership with Africa to confront these crises.” A good, compassionate point. (Of course some might argue, “It doesn’t affect me.”) “We will work with the United Nations and Africa’s regional organizations to prevent and resolve conflict and to build the capacity of Africa’s weak and failing states. We must respond effectively when there is a humanitarian crisis–particularly at this moment in Sudan where genocide persists in Darfur and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement is threatened.” Sounds like a good approach, although I hope you’re also willing to work with the actual sides in any conflict, and if a state is structurally deficient do you really want to prop it up? Although then the alternative would be barging in and instituting regime change… and how did the Clinton administration deal with the genocide in Rwanda, eh? How would you rather government “respond effectively [to] a humanitarian crisis”?

(Fun fact: I was alive at the time, and still didn’t hear about the Rwanda genocide in a way that made me remember it until I did a research project on the country in middle school.)

Many African countries have embraced democratization and economic liberalization. We will help strengthen Africa’s democratic development and respect for human rights, while encouraging political and economic reforms that result in improved transparency and accountability. We will defend democracy and stand up for rule of law when it is under assault, such as in Zimbabwe.

Ah, so finally the Democrats mention the “rule of law”! You’re basically stating a lot of goals without saying a lot about how you would achieve those goals. Republicans just devoted a sentence to expanding trade with Africa, and that was the extent of their coverage outside Darfur and Zimbabwe. Republicans actually specified they wanted sanctions and pillars of democracy to be reinstated instead of just name-dropping the situation. The Democrats actually want to work things out with other African nations to get them involved in Darfur instead of just demanding it, though.

“Recommit to an Alliance of the Americas”: What? What is it?! Is it NAFTA II?! Is it an American Union?!? “We believe that in the 21st century, the U.S. must treat Latin America and the Caribbean as full partners, just as our neighbors to the south should reject the bombast of authoritarian bullies.” Wow, them’s fighting words! The Democrats blandly call for building on our bond with Canada. “An alliance of the Americas will only succeed if it is founded on the bedrock of mutual respect and works to advance democracy, opportunity, and security from the bottom-up.” I still don’t know what this “alliance of the Americas” is, but those sound like worthy goals independent of how they are to be achieved.

“We must work with close partners like Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia on issues like ending the drug trade, fighting poverty and inequality, and immigration.” Fairly bland, get-done-with-it-and-move-on sentence. Those seem to be worthy goals though, but by “immigration”, do you mean strictly illegal immigration? Are you talking about lowering the need for immigration or are you just saying “help us keep the brownies out”? Certainly not as much of a focus as the Republicans on “narco-terrorism”. “We must work with the Caribbean community to help restore stability and the rule of law to Haiti, to improve the lives of its people, and to strengthen its democracy.” Sounds like a good idea, and not touched on at all by the Republicans.

“And we must build ties to the people of Cuba and help advance their liberty by allowing unlimited family visits and remittances to the island, while presenting the Cuban regime with a clear choice: if it takes significant steps toward democracy, beginning with the unconditional release of all political prisoners, we will be prepared to take steps to begin normalizing relations.” The Republican approach to Cuba was to call on the other nations in the region to “lay[] the groundwork for a democratic Cuba”, “restrictions on trade with, and travel to, Cuba as a measure of solidarity with the political prisoners and all the oppressed Cuban people”, transmitting American propaganda into Cuba, the gimmicky “Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba”, and helping more Cuban refugees into the US. Most of these aren’t really touched on in this sentence by the Democrats, but introducing more Cuban refugees into the US is probably the only part that’s both uncontroversial and substantial.

Republicans want to maintain restrictions on trade and travel to show we’re sticking up for the people of Cuba; Democrats think allowing such travel will “help advance their liberty” and “build ties” and is only using “normaliz[ed] relations” as the carrot on the stick to drag Cuba into democracy and releasing political prisoners. It seems like that’s not enough of a carrot to drag Cuba in, unless there’s a virtual embargo on trade that isn’t travelling in and out but that almost seems to be a loophole. And it’s possible that the current confrontational approach is retarding progress to a Democratic Cuba – isn’t most of the Republican plan what we’ve been doing for the past 50 years? But I’d need to know what’s the base of the Castro government’s power and what the Cuban economy runs on to make a firm decision one way or the other as to what’s the best strategy…

“Lead in Asia”: We need to maintain our relationships with nations with which we have them, and build relationships with “vital democratic partners, like India” to help build “a stable and prosperous Asia”. “We must also forge a more effective framework in Asia that goes beyond bilateral agreements, occasional summits, and ad hoc diplomatic arrangements.” Good idea, but hopefully it’s one that doesn’t amount to the US lording over Asia. “We need an open and inclusive infrastructure with the countries in Asia that can promote stability, prosperity, and human rights, and help confront transnational threats, from terrorist cells in the Philippines to avian flu in Indonesia.” Those sound like good goals.

We will encourage China to play a responsible role as a growing power–to help lead in addressing the common problems of the 21st century. We are committed to a “One China” policy and the Taiwan Relations Act, and will continue to support a peaceful resolution of cross-Straits issues that is consistent with the wishes and best interests of the people of Taiwan.

A “One China” policy is inherently pro-PRC, because there is no way the government in exile in Taiwan is going to ever become the government in charge of all of China, so that might contradict being committed as well to “the wishes and best interests of the people of Taiwan”. The Republicans also supported the Taiwan Relations Act and that “all issues regarding the island’s future must…be acceptable to the people of Taiwan.” The Democrats have no call to prevent unilateral steps to shake up the status quo, or pledge of support to Taiwan in defense or as an ally (other than the TRA). Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

It’s time to engage China on common interests like climate change, trade, and energy, even as we continue to encourage its shift to a more open society and a market-based economy, and promote greater respect for human rights, including freedom of speech, press, assembly, religion, uncensored use of the internet, and Chinese workers’ right to freedom of association, as well as the rights of Tibetans.

Good things to support but (unlike the Republicans) short on specifics. “Chinese workers’ right to freedom of association” sounds like a shout-out to unions. Nothing here on Burma or anything more than a name-drop of Japan. The Democrats do want to keep the military junta in Burma under control and/or bring it towards democracy, right?

“Strengthen Transatlantic Relations”: “We support the historic project to build a strong European Union that can be an even stronger partner for the United States.” Hopefully not in a way that threatens the sovereignty of EU members. NATO has done a good job of turning into a peacekeeping organization, “but today, NATO’s challenge in Afghanistan has exposed a gap between its missions and its capabilities. To close this gap, we will invest more in NATO’s mission in Afghanistan and use that investment to leverage our NATO allies to contribute more resources to collective security operations and to invest more in reconstruction and stabilization capabilities.” Shouldn’t other NATO members also invest more in Afghanistan?

(Incidentially, a correction from my Republican Part II, when I said in jest that if “all democratic nations who share our values” could join NATO, so could such far-flung nations as Israel and Australia, but the rest of that sentence, which I quoted, involves “meet[ing] the requirements for NATO membership”. Israel and Australia might not do that.)

“As we promote democracy and accountability in Russia, we must work with the country in areas of common interest–above all, in making sure that nuclear weapons and materials are secure.” A worthy goal, but will that weaken our attempts to “promote democracy and accountability”? “We will insist that Russia abide by international law and respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its neighbors.” Obviously, but how will you make sure Russia actually does that? The Republicans would try and shut off Russian acceptance in various “world organizations”.

We are committed to active Presidential leadership in the full implementation of the Irish Good Friday Agreement and St. Andrews Accords. We will seek to strengthen and broaden our strategic partnership with Turkey, end the division of Cyprus, and continue to support a close U.S. relationship with states that seek to strengthen their ties to NATO and the West, such as Georgia and Ukraine.

This is more coverage given to Cyprus and Northern Ireland than in the Republican platform.

“Stand with Allies and Pursue Diplomacy in the Middle East”: America has long had the leading role in negotiating peace in the Holy Land. “Our starting point must always be our special relationship with Israel, grounded in shared interests and shared values, and a clear, strong, fundamental commitment to the security of Israel, our strongest ally in the region and its only established democracy.” So much for courting the support of groups that want Israel wiped off the face of the Earth.

That commitment, which requires us to ensure that Israel retains a qualitative edge for its national security and its right to self-defense, is all the more important as we contend with growing threats in the region–a strengthened Iran, a chaotic Iraq, the resurgence of Al Qaeda, the reinvigoration of Hamas and Hezbollah. We support the implementation of the memorandum of understanding that pledges $30 billion in assistance to Israel over the next decade to enhance and ensure its security.

Gah. And you wonder why people say there’s no difference between Democrats and Republicans. The Democrats even use the same “qualitative edge” phraseology as the Republicans, which I tore to shreds in my examination of the Republican platform. At least here it’s “national security” and “self-defense” that are the given reasons for that “qualitative edge”. For Israel to defend itself against those threats is important if it has the right to exist, but…

“It is in the best interests of all parties, including the United States, that we take an active role to help secure a lasting settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a democratic, viable Palestinian state dedicated to living in peace and security side by side with the Jewish State of Israel.” The Democrats want a two-state solution as well! Why don’t we have it already then? But it needs to make sure the people of that Palestinian state are just as dedicated, and that means changing hearts and minds and holding Israel back from antagonizing the Palestinians. It also means, as I said in my Republican examination, making sure Jerusalem is accessible and open to people of all faiths that wish to come there.

To do so, we must help Israel identify and strengthen those partners who are truly committed to peace, while isolating those who seek conflict and instability, and stand with Israel against those who seek its destruction. The United States and its Quartet partners should continue to isolate Hamas until it renounces terrorism, recognizes Israel’s right to exist, and abides by past agreements.

Now “isolating” Hamas is better than just refusing to negotiate with them. Refusing to negotiate prolongs conflict; isolation hastens productive negotiation. But we also need to destroy the underpinnings that strengthen Hamas and its anti-Israel stance, and isolation might make Hamas stronger, not weaker. We need to provide economic development to the Palestinians so they will be less inclined to support terror. It was the Democratic approach everywhere else, why isn’t it here? “The creation of a Palestinian state through final status negotiations, together with an international compensation mechanism, should resolve the issue of Palestinian refugees by allowing them to settle there, rather than in Israel.” Well, if we’re going to have a two-state solution that would seem to be a good idea. “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel. The parties have agreed that Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations. It should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths.” The last sentence is pretty much what my stance is, but I remain concerned about naming it the capital of Israel. Almost everything here is virtually identical to the Republican plan, with some details added to ease the concerns I had when the Republicans stated it.

I just passed 5,000 words, but I press on because the last two subsections are very short. “Deepen Ties with Emerging Powers”:

We also will pursue effective collaboration on pressing global issues among all the major powers–including such newly emerging ones as China, India, Russia, Brazil, Nigeria, and South Africa. With India, we will build on the close partnership developed over the past decade. As two of the world’s great, multi-ethnic democracies, the U.S. and India are natural strategic allies, and we must work together to advance our common interests and to combat the common threats of the 21st century. We believe it is in the United States’ interest that all of these emerging powers and others assume a greater stake in promoting international peace and respect for human rights, including through their more constructive participation in key global institutions.

There’s not much for me to say here. Of course working with major powers, including the new ones, is important to properly deal with international issues like climate change. Inserted into this is an empty platitude about our relationship with India of the sort the Republicans broke into an entire heading. Note to the Democrats and Republicans: India does not vote in this election.

“Revitalize Global Institutions”:

To enhance global cooperation on issues from weapons proliferation to climate change, we need stronger international institutions. We believe that the United Nations is indispensable but requires far-reaching reform. The U.N. Secretariat’s management practices remain inadequate. Peacekeeping operations are overextended. The new U.N. Human Rights Council remains biased and ineffective. Yet none of these problems will be solved unless America rededicates itself to the organization and its mission. We support reforming key global institutions —such as the U.N. Security Council and the G-8—so they will be more reflective of 21st century realities.

I’m a bit surprised the Democrats would include a call for UN reform, which is more of a Republican calling. In fact they’re even more specific about the UN’s problems. And now that you mention it, I do recall hearing stories about the HRC being staffed by the fox guarding the henhouse, the sort of people that should be condemned by the HRC instead of being on it. The Republicans didn’t call for America to “rededicate[] itself to the organization and its mission”, so how would they propose solving these problems?

There are areas the parties disagree and I agree with the Democrats. There are areas the parties disagree and I agree with the Republicans (though there aren’t that many). But there are also a good number of places the parties agree. Is there a difference between Democrats and Republicans? Depends on where you look. More climate change fun ahead!

The Angst-O-Meter: Day 5

(From Ctrl+Alt+Del. Click for full-sized mixed emotions.)

First, with the election approaching, for at least four of the next five weeks Tuesday will become webcomics day again on Da Blog, counting this post. Second, I’m linking to this post from here and here, so expect at least a slight bump in traffic.

With this apparent resolution, we can, presumably, all take a sigh of relief, and the Angst-O-Meter can come back down to 52%.

My frustration with Tim Buckley and the strip, however, is higher than ever.

Last time, I could have justified an Angst-O-Meter reading higher than the one I actually gave; this time, I could justify one lower than this, as there isn’t really much left to patch up. Zeke is still headless and Lucas still doesn’t completely trust Kate, but the main problem was always Ethan’s problems with Christian and Lilah. Those appear to have been taken care of, so for the moment at least, everything is back to some semblance of normal.

But the way things returned to normal, in a single strip, with a ridiculously expedited, bad-sitcommy, almost deus ex machina ending, that still does not sit well with me. Hell, this resolution is almost a single panel, and Buckley did such a good job of convincing people (well, me) that Christian’s words of departure were 100% correct that this resolution almost comes across as out of character. More to the point, it seems to prove CAD‘s critics right once again: the strip revolves around Ethan and nothing bad can happen to him for very long. The entire story arc may no longer represent a descent into First and Ten Syndrome, but only because it may have been turned into something far worse: the same as every other CAD story arc, only with a tease that it would be different.

If things immediately return to the status quo before this storyline it gives the impression that Buckley really is a bad sitcom writer who doesn’t really aspire to more than cheezy soap opera writer. If things immediately return to the status quo before the pregnancy and miscarriage, then people will pretty much riot. The only way for Buckley to save any face from this resolution – and there’s no way he can save face entirely – is for Ethan to realize he almost lost Lilah and perform some sort of soul-searching. But one of the points CAD‘s critics have long held is that real “change” is anathema to the CAD cast, especially Ethan.

The first time I ever wrote a post on Ctrl+Alt+Del, I said that the core of the strip and its popularity was not in being a gaming comic, but in being what Buckley called a gamer comic, in Ethan, Lucas, Lilah, and the rest, and their relationships. When Buckley performed the miscarriage, he said he wanted to “stress-test” what was in many ways the central relationship: that between Ethan and Lilah. I also said that too much emphasis on the “craft” elements of storytelling and art tended to miss the point and try for masterpieces when “kinda good” would do. Tim Buckley is hardly Charles Dickens or Rich Burlew, but he didn’t need to be. I was attracted because I became engaged in the plot, and because I wanted to see what happened next. I didn’t care about the accusations that Ethan was a Mary Sue or that he never really changed from being a manchild despite having impending changes that would require an actual adult to deal with. Those are nitpicks. All that matters, if you’re not going for the funny (which CAD is when it wants to be), is whether the plot is entertaining and/or compelling – no matter what era you’re in. And CAD passes that bar.

But this? This is insulting your audience. This is getting them emotionally invested in a story, wondering how Ethan could possibly extricate himself from this situation, if he ever did… and then pulling the rug out from under them, waving a magic wand, and putting everything back to normal.

I’m not leaving Ctrl+Alt+Del. Not yet. Let me at least see where Buckley is going with this. But this may be a situation where the right thing to say is “fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

College Football Schedule: Week 10

You know the drill about the updated rankings and the lineal titles. Matt Sarz seems to have done a relatively sloppy job this week – one game has its game time disagreeing with CBS, another has a disagreement on which team is the home team and which is on the road, and three games don’t have “PPV” eliminated. See the SEC section below for one such game whose TV details I did NOT get from Mr. Sarz. All times Eastern.

Top 25 Games
#1 *Texas @ #6 Texas Tech 8 PM ABC
#2 *Florida v. #11 Georgia 3:30 CBS
Washington @ #4 USC 6:30 FSN
#23 Nebraska @ #5 Oklahoma 8 PM ESPN
#7 Tulsa @ Arkansas 2 PM Gameplan
Arkansas State @ #8 *Alabama 3 PM Gameplan
#9 Missouri @ Baylor 3 PM
Iowa State @ #10 Oklahoma State 3:30 ABC
#12 Boise State @ New Mexico State 7 PM CSD.TV
#17 *Utah @ New Mexico 9:30 mtn.
#18 Iowa @ Illinois 3:30 ABC/ESPN
Northwestern @ #19 Minnesota Noon ESPN2
West Virginia @ #20 Connecticut Noon BEN (ESPN+)
#25 Florida State @ #21 Georgia Tech 3:30 ABC/ESPN
#22 BYU @ Colorado State 6 PM mtn.
Watchlist and Other Positive B Point Teams
South Florida @ Cincinnati 7:30 TH ESPN
Wisconsin @ Michigan State Noon ESPN
Miami (FL) @ Virginia Noon Raycom
Fresno State @ Louisiana Tech 2:30
Arizona State @ Oregon State 7 PT FSN
Oregon @ California 3:30 ABC
Houston @ Marshall 8 PM TU ESPN2
This Week’s Other HD Games
Buffalo @ Ohio 7 PM TU ESPNU
Air Force @ Army Noon ESPNU
Central Michigan @ Indiana Noon BTN
Michigan @ Purdue Noon BTN
Kansas State @ Kansas 12:30 FSN
Auburn @ Mississippi 12:30 R’com/Y’hoo
Pittsburgh @ Notre Dame 2:30 NBC
Temple @ Navy 3:30 CBS CS
Clemson @ Boston College 3:30 ESPNU
Tennessee @ South Carolina 7 PM ESPN2
Louisville @ Syracuse 7 PM ESPNU
East Carolina @ Central Florida 8 PM SU ESPN
Kentucky @ Mississippi State 2:30 Gameplan
Big 12
Colorado @ Texas A&M 2 PM
Duke @ Wake Forest 3:30 ESPN360
Eastern Michigan @ Western Michigan 2 PM CSD.TV
Kent State @ Bowling Green 2 PM CSD.TV
Mountain West
San Diego State @ Wyoming 2 PM mtn.
Conference USA
UAB @ Southern Miss 8 PM CSS
Washington State @ Stanford 5 PM
Hawaii @ Utah State 3 PM ESPN+
San Jose State @ Idaho 5 PM CSD.TV
Sun Belt
North Texas @ Western Kentucky 4:30 ESPN+
Florida International @ Louisiana-Lafayette 5 PM CSD.TV
Troy @ Louisiana-Monroe 7 PM CSD.TV
Bowl Subdivision
Tulane @ LSU 8 PM Gameplan