Friday, March 30, 2007

Dancing with the Devil

Color of Change has launched a campaign to let the Congressional Black Caucus know what people think about their co-sponsorship of a Presidential debate with right wing smear artists Fox News. I urge you to sign their petition and also to contact members of the CBC directly. My congressman, John Lewis, is a member of the CBC and below is the letter I sent to his office.

Congressman Lewis-
I am writing to express my displeasure with the CBC Institute's decision to co-sponsor a Democratic presidential debate with Fox News. As you know, Fox News is not an unbiased reputable news organization. It has a clear Republican agenda that runs from the top to the bottom of the organization. One should expect no less from a media outlet headed by a former Republican media consultant.

Fox News exists solely to propagate Republican talking points and slander Democrats. They have shown their true colors over and over again, most recently with their lies about Senator Obama. Not only did they claim that the Senator was educated at a madrasa, but also called his church racist. Not only were both stories factually false, but they had clear roots in the right wing noise machine.

There is absolutely no reason for the CBC Institute to legitimize Fox News' propaganda. This is not only a principled position, but also a practical one. Over 80% of Fox News viewers supported the re-election of President Bush in 2004. There is absolutely nothing to be gained by hosting a debate on this network. In fact, it provides Fox with unwarranted legitimacy and allows their talking heads more opportunity to launch unsubstantiated attacks on our candidates.

I hope that you will use your influence to reverse course on this incredibly wrong decision on the part of the CBC Institute.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Form Over Substance

Here's a shocker- talking about how Christian you are is more important than how you live your life, according to evangelical leaders. Just try to wrap your mind around these two comments about a Thompson candidacy coming from Focus on the Family leader James Dobson and his spokesman.

"Everyone knows he's conservative and has come out strongly for the things that the pro-family movement stands for,[But] I don't think he's a Christian; at least that's my impression."

Dobson "has never known Thompson to be a committed Christian—someone who talks openly about his faith."

Now, these comments were made while at the same time Dobson was praising Newt Gingrich. For those of you who have somehow forgot, Gingrich is a serial adulterer who pressed his wife for a divorce while she was in the hospital recovering from throat surgery. And this is the man who Dobson feels would make a good Christian president.

If you needed any more confirmation that the Religious Right is a corrupt, self serving group of charlatans, now you have it.

Friday, March 23, 2007

More Media Musings

I just love alliteration, don't you? Anyway. I have been thinking more about the media and why it continues to do such a poor job of covering the news. I've also given some thought to the incredibly negative reaction some media-types have towards those who offer criticism from what might be termed the Left. I believe that both have the same root cause.

For the past twenty years or so, conservatives and the GOP have made an all out effort to discredit the media. From charges of liberal bias to the creation of Fox News, there is a pattern of behavior that is not mere chance. It has been their mission to delegitimize the press, thus preventing objective and accurate criticism of conservative/GOP policies and agendas.

At some point these critiques became valid for some members of the media, and certainly for their corporate bosses. Now, there are certain members of the media whose objectivity ought to be questioned merely because of their relationships- Chris Matthews' brother was a GOP congressional candidate; Howie Kurtz's wife is a Republican fundraiser; Daryn Kagan dated Rush Limbaugh; Terry Moran's brother runs one of the most trafficked right wing blogs; etc. But beyond these folks, there has been something more than a reluctance to challenge GOP narratives.

It is, or ought to be, the media's job to report and analyze the news. And that means to consult experts, talk to politicians and their staffs, etc. and then report their results. Instead what today's media tend to do is play a game of he said, she said. Left out is any notion of objective analysis or expert opinion.

Indulge me a somewhat strong hypothetical- Republicans say the universe is geocentric, Democrats say it is heliocentric. The story would read in a fashion similar to watching a tennis match. Instead what we ought to expect is a story recounting what each side claims, but with a predominating strand of scientific evidence that the universe is, in fact, heliocentric.

It is the media's unwillingness to call a spade a spade that has led us to where we are right now. A land where Karl Rove and Tony Snow can construct reality out of whole cloth. And their media lapdogs merely print their latest talking point.

However, that is beginning to change as liberals continue to challenge the media and the quality of its work. Groups like Media Matters for America (see box on right hand side of page) and blogs like Crooks and Liars have shined the light on untrue and unfair reporting. And that is where the backlash against blogs and liberals begins. See, many media elites think of themselves as being enlightened and somewhat liberal. They are accustomed to those silly Right Wingers bashing them, but have never expected substantive criticism from people with whom they agree. (And part of the reaction may also be the result of over-inflated senses of importance.)

But all we are asking the media to do is its job. All we expect from them is fairness and accuracy. Our desire is not for a liberal equivalent of Fox, but solid and serious journalism. We do not expect every journalist to be a policy expert in matters on which they cover. We do, however, expect them to consult with the people who are experts and provide some sort of depth to their coverage. In short, we expect the media to be something more than what they are today. We want them to speak truth to power and to fulfill the role that our Founding Father's envisioned for a free press.

Why Does the Press Suck?

Stories and framing like this drive me insane. Without any evidence, David Lerman asserts that Senator Webb is a "maverick senator" who wants to "steer his party toward a centrist path." But the long quote from Webb used in the story reads-

``If the Democratic Party gets back on that message, I think they have a very strong chance in red-state America."

What you might ask is the message to which Webb is referring? Well, that is provided in the story as well- "a diplomacy-based national security strategy, greater accountability in government, and new economic policies to narrow the gap between rich and poor." There is nothing in that list of policies that is not embraced by the Democratic Party at large.

Please, Mr. Lerman, explain to us how these three principles run counter to anything that the Democratic Party has been advocating over the past six years. Do you really believe that Jim Webb is closer in thought to "centrist" Democrats like Joe Lieberman and Hillary Clinton than to the Democratic base? Clinton and Lieberman both supported, and continue in varying degrees to support, the failed Iraq War. Jim Webb does not. Hillary and Joe cast their lot with the corporatists of the DLC. Jim Webb is an economic populist. Joe refused to hold the Bush administration accountable for their failures related to Katrina. Webb demands accountability.

What Lerman is doing here is the buying into the frame that because Webb is a former Republican and former Marine that he is somehow to the right of the Party base. But his economic populism and anti-war position are clear indicators that Webb is not some Lieberman-clinton "centrist." All Webb has called for is a return to message for the Democratic Party as a means of becoming even more competitive in Red states.

Worse than Nixon?

As the evidence of politicization of the DOJ continues to accumulate, it is a legitimate question to ask. Not only do we know that eight US Attorneys were pushed out of office because of either their failure to bully Democrats with specious investigations and prosecutions or their investigations into Republican corruption, but new information suggests that other cases and areas of the department may have been compromised. Yesterday's revelation that political appointees trumped career prosecutors on the tobacco litigation is another nail in the coffin for the rule of law.

The extent to which politics affected the mission of the DOJ is still unclear. But it leads one to wonder about the handling of the NH GOP phone-jamming case and the Abramoff prosecutions, to name just a couple. It would seem that the Bush White House has used the DOJ as an adjunct of the RNC. There surely is a pattern between the prosecutorial and personnel decisions made at DOJ and Republican politics.

But that may just be the tip of the iceberg. Who is to say that the warrantless wiretapping was not used on domestic political opponents. Sensible folks claimed that was ridiculous last year, but is it as crazy to wonder given what we know now. And just why did the administration request the power to replace US Attorneys without Senate confirmation? This i not some minor provision, dreamed up by an overzealous midlevel offifical at DOJ. This is part of a concerted effort to enforce political discipline among the corps of US Attorneys.

This administration has been hell bent not only on amassing power in the Executive, but in using any means possible to consolidate that power. They have been willing to toss aside the Constitution, democratic norms and the rule of law. Their sole animating value is power. All other professed values are merely tools to be used towards that end. 9-11 merely served to expedite their march towards authoritarianism.

And yet they still retain a certain percent of the population as their apologists. These 25-30% of the country are part of a cult of personality, nothing more. There is simply nothing that will persuade them to move away from this administration. Bush and Cheney could rape dead babies in the Rose Garden and these dead-enders would still sing their accolades.

We live in a truly frightening time. Not only do we have an administration marching towards authoritarianism, but we have a portion of our population who see this as right. It is fertile ground such as this that give us brutal dictatorships supported by a fraction of the population. That is not to say that the situation in the US is akin to the last days of the Wiemar Republic, but an honest assessment shows that we are moving in that general direction.

Our freedoms and our system of government have been cast aside with not much more than a whimper from society at large. It is shocking and sad to see a country that was once so proud and a citizenry so engaged become one teetering on the moral abyss driven by apathy and fear. Even Nixon did not push us this far towards the cliff.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Get Well Elizabeth

I'd be remiss if I failed to note today's announcement by Elizabeth and John Edwards that her cancer had returned. Not only has Elizabeth's cancer returned, but it is uncurable. But, the good news is that it is treatable.
My heart goes out to the Edwards family during this difficult time.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Just Getting It In

Today is/was Back Up Your Birth Control day of activism. So, if you want to know more, just click on the handy button to your right. I don't have a whole lot to say about EC except to say that its availability is under attack from the same Right Wing crackpots who want to take away all of our other reproductive freedoms. Don't fall for their bullshit about EC being the same as an abortion. EC does not end an existing pregnancy. It prevents pregnancy through the use of the same hormones in regular contraceptive pills, albeit in a much higher dose.

Monday, March 19, 2007


Regular readers of this blog know that I generally side with Israel in the Arab-Israeli conflict. But over the past few years I've become more and more distressed by the demands of AIPAC and other members of the Jewish lobby. This latest bit regarding Obama's lack of support among AIPAC types just throttles me. This bit captures the essence of his lack of appeal:

The root of the matter, as some observers of American Jewish politics see it, may be that Obama’s rhetoric and themes of reconciliation and common ground – the heart of his national popularity – sound off-key and even naïve in the context of a grim, confrontational moment in the Middle East.

Ahh yes, heaven forbid there should be reconciliation in this world. I'd mention the lion laying down with the lamb, but then I might be labelled anti-Semitic, as I would obviously be implying that Israel was the lion. Apparently Obama's voiced support for Israel is simply not good enough for some Jews. Perhaps if he issued a full-throated call for the destruction of the Palestinian people he could garner more Zionist support.

It is ridiculous that AIPAC holds the sway it does over American politics. There is no other organization that politicians of both parties so blindingly and habitually kowtow to. It is time to break free from the AIPAC addiction. There is simply no reason for our foreign policy to be driven so pervasively by Israel's interests.

Aiming for Mediocrity

Mark Kleiman had a good post about public education. I believe his main point, and one which I agree with him completely, is captured by this paragraph:

One of the many bad features of NCLB is that it focuses entirely on the bottom of the distribution. Our smartest students are being systematically cheated. That's less true in rich neighborhoods than in poor ones, but it's true everywhere.

In email follow up, Mark said that, "the logical implication of no child left behind is no child allowed to get ahead." This is something true not only of NCLB, but of modern education policy in general. Since at least the late 1960's the US public education system has poured funding into special and remedial education programs, to the detriment of gifted and talented students. Though I fully support special education, and have worked in that field, I realize that education funding is a zero sum game. Though we can argue and agitate for more education funding, in the end the pie is of a fixed size and every dollar going to the one student is not going to another.

This is a sensitive subject because of the prejudices people infer when you call for greater resources for gifted and talented students. This is especially so because up until more recent times, students with special needs were cast away by our public schools. And what I am arguing for is not a return to those days. But what I am calling for is an understanding that gifted and talented kids have special needs as well. Just as a slower learner needs assistance in keeping up with his/her peers, a more advanced learner needs materials and challenges to keep him/her occupied until the rest of the class catches up.

Until we recognize the needs of advanced learners and begin to provide resources for their educations, our entire system will be one that shoots for mediocrity. Just look at NCLB as an example. The focus is on bringing the slower learners up to some standard. Now, one can argue about what that standard ought to be, but it hovers somewhere below the mean. It would have to in order to ensure that a majority "succeeds."

In education, and perhaps society in general, we are uncomfortable with inherent variations in intelligence. That intelligence is distributed on a bell curve (not to be confused that racist tome) makes us queasy. We want to believe that all children can get to the same place educationally, assuming we provide them with adequate resources. But in reality, this can never hold true. Intelligence is no different from athletic or artistic abilities.

These natural variations provide fertile ground to examine our values. Do we believe in equality of opportunity or equality of outcomes? If we believe in the former, then we should not be uncomfortable with some students achieving more. After all, we regard varying degrees of musical ability in children as unremarkable. Why is it that education drives us to regard unequal outcomes as inherently bad?

Two possible reasons come to mind, one rational, the other emotional. On the rational side, our country has a history of pervasive racism, more than a dose of sexism and institutionalization of special needs children. This fuels a perception that the variation in outcomes we see is the result of socio-cultural factors. Maybe we believe that if not for those factors, variation would be minimal. Or, we simply feel that intelligence is not normally distributed. Maybe we are unwilling to accept that reality.

No matter what the driving force behind our belief in equality of outcomes, we must resist that urge. There simply is no possible way to achieve that goal. Not only that, but many strategies aimed to reduce variation are actually attempts to enforce mediocrity. In our attempts to lift the boats of those less gifted we have abandoned all of those whose ships are not only floating, but cruising.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Pathological Disdain for Others

This bit about Barbara Bush (from today's Frank Rich column in NYT Select) speaks volumes of how pro-war Republican elites think of soldiers:

March 18, 2003
Barbara Bush tells Diane Sawyer on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that she will not watch televised coverage of the war: “Why should we hear about body bags and deaths, and how many, what day it’s going to happen, and how many this or what do you suppose? Or, I mean, it’s, it’s not relevant. So, why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?”

Indeed. Why waste your beautiful mind of such trifling concerns as people's lives? So a few thousand men and women died, who cares. You've got better things to worry about, like the weather in Kennebunkport in the summer.

What is it with the Right and their pathological disdain for others. Whether it is soldiers fighting in their ill-advised wars or poor people in New Orleans, the Right fosters nothing but indifference at best, contempt at worst, for others. Anyone outside of their social circle and class are given the same value as machines or animals.

How anyone can have so little compassion for the soldiers whose lives are at risk every day in Iraq simply escapes my comprehension. To Republican elites, these soldiers are mere pieces on the board of a war game. They view the loss of life as no more tragic than losing a pawn in a game of chess at the club.

Yet, those of us who oppose the war and want to bring the troops home are labelled as anti-solider. In order to accept this conceit, one must believe that those who've brought about the loss of thousands of soldiers' lives and allowed them to be treated in third world quality VA hospitals are the true patrons of our fighting men and women. And that those who want to remove our soldiers from harm's way somehow secretly hope for more military casualties. It defies all logic to accept such an absurd series of claims.

This administration and its supporters have been at best cavalier about the lives of thousands of our sons and daughters. They have displayed a pathological disdain for soldiers and their families. The Republican elites have been unmasked as modern day aristocrats who view others as no better than peasants. One need only to listen carefully to hear the echoes of "let them eat cake."

Saturday, March 17, 2007

In Defense of Elitism

Elitism has become something of a dirty word over the past several years. It first came under attack by the Know-Nothing wing of today's GOP, who sneer at higher learning, science and rationality. As has been noted before, the GOP and its mouthpieces in the media have used appeals to "common sense" as brickbats to discredit expertise and the scientific process. But lately the progressives, at least as represented by the netroots community, have launched attacks on notions of elitism. The critique from the progressives is substantively different, as they are generally predisposed to science and rationality.

Perhaps what is actually happening is that the two sides are fighting two different classes of elites. To the Right, the elites are intellectuals, experts, artists and other sundry learned folks. The criticism directed at these elites is based upon said elites' policy differences with the conservative worldview. For example, the conservative movement has made the corporate agenda primary in their politics. Now, science has shown that global warming is real and that it is driven by human factors. Because all but a few scientists accept this as fact, the Right is left with little defense to support its corporate compadres. Therefore they attack the basic notion of fact and scientific process that has been a bedrock of society since the Enlightenment.

Of course, there is the argument that the leaders of the Right are merely using anti-elite rhetoric as a way of driving low information and less educated voters to their corporate and Christianist causes. There is ample evidence to suggest that many conservative leaders view their followers as rubes, easily led into voting against their own best interests. Certainly the corporate and religious leaders of the Right qualify as a type of elite class.

And that is what the progressives are fighting against. They are not railing against scientists, public policy analysts and other rational decision makers. They are trying to dismantle the corporate elite. The progressives truly believe in people-powered politics. They think that the collective wisdom of the masses is greater than the wisdom of the elites. There are no calls to ignore science and experts on the Left. In fact, central to their people-powered politics is good information that would drive good decisions.

This where I part ways with the netroots progressives. I believe in the idea that there is a distinct class of people more suitable to governing and making decisions for the masses. I do not trust the average voter to make good choices, partly because there is simply no way to ensure that all voters have high quality information. And this information asymmetry creates distortions in politics, just as it does in markets.

In addition, some people in our society are simply not equipped to handle objective decision-making. They have inherent biases that tend to amass in crowds, rather than be diffused and diminished. The push back argument is that elites would also have biases, unless we're dealing with some Platonic ideal of elite citizens. To that I say the notion that the masses will all be well educated and informed is no less of an ideal. The ability of people-powered politics to drive good policy outcomes is premised on the conditions that people will be informed, that they will take the time to become informed, and that they have access to information. To me, those are unattainable and unrealistic conditions.

Even if a small, but significant, portion of the population fails to meet these conditions, outcomes are skewed and suboptimal. If our goal is good educational policy, then it should be made by experts. The same is true for other policy areas. It does not follow, however, that there ought not be democratic checks on these elite decision-makers. As we do not live in a world of Platonic ideals, these elites would be susceptible to bias, driven by protecting their entrenched interests, etc. And we need a strong democratic process to keep these behaviors under control.

But we do not need some sort of uber direct democracy, where policy decisions are made by the masses. This is why I oppose lawmaking by referendum. Direct democracy begets the trampling of minority rights.

I think that the netroots should look at what the people have supported for the better part of the past seven years. Do we really want to turn the reigns over to them? I certainly do not.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Just Wow

This is about all you need to know about the attitudes of the South and the folks who form the base of today's GOP. Georgia's Senate is about to pass a bill to make April "Confederate History" month. They want to honor the sacrifices of Georgians who fought against the Union. Of course, this comes at the same time Republican leaders have rebuffed attempts at legislation that would have the state apologize for slavery.

But what is the most revealing of the psyche of the typical Republican in the South are the comments left by readers. Here are some excerpts.

"Lez be teachin Ebon'ics in'sted of da Con'fedracy so we kin al git a-long wit eech udder"

"NAACP should be more focused on keeping their constituents out of jail and off the 11 pm news and not on preventing a History Month where people might actually learn something."

"Quit your griping already. If you haden't been sold by your own people and brought to this country you'd still be standing there with a toga & spear complaining how hot it was, not driving an Escalade with booming speakers."

"They should start April off by posting all known photo's of black confederates in every newspaper in the state of Georgia. This would really give the NAACP a fit."

"While watching the local news one morning in February I noticed the top four crime stories all centered around SW DeKalb, all murders. They'd report a murder, then break into a commercial for black history month. This happened not once but four times. I found it very amusing. How's that for social contribution. CRIME."

And they say racism is dead. Ha!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

P 2008 Musings

It's hard to believe that at this time next year, we will be most of the way to picking a nominee (given the front-loading) for the White House. I have been unable to make up my mind about who to support. Each candidate has their strengths, yet they also have weaknesses. Plus, one of my favored candidates, Wes Clark, has yet to decide whether he is even running. This all would have been easier had my first choice, Russ Feingold, not chosen to remain in the Senate.

The following is my simple thoughts about each and where they stand on my preference list.

1. John Edwards; Barrack Obama(tie)
I was an Edwards supporter in 2004, after Clark left the race. He is an attractive candidate and his focus on poverty really moves me. His willingness to admit the error of his Iraq War vote is a welcome change from the current occupant of the White House. However, he his resume is a bit sparse, having served one term as a Senator. In addition, his campaign bumbled a bit through the whole blogger controversy.

I was cool to Obama up until recently. Too often he seemed to buy into the right wing narratives about the Democratic Party, especially with respect to how the Party views people of faith. He also needs to explain his support of Lieberman last fall. But his fighting spirit of late has certainly impressed me. He slammed Fox and its lies about him attending a madrasa as a youth. He also called out the Australian PM after his comments about the terrorists hoping for an Obama win. Plus, let's face it, the guy has an amazing resume. Probably the most qualified candidate for the White House in quite some time. Oh, and you can't forget the transformative nature of his candidacy.

2. Bill Richardson
I like the NM governor quite a bit. He's another person with a stellar resume. He's been outspoken on progressive issues and would also provide an historic opportunity for the US to elect a non-caucasian to the White House. I could imagine ultimately being a Richardson supporter, but I need to see more of his campaign still.

3. Someone else
Self explanatory

4. Chris Dodd
Let's face it, he's a second tier candidate who trails in his own state. Not much going on here. Though I do think he is a decent Senator and did support Lamont over Lieberman. Kudos for that.

5. Joe Biden
While Biden is relatively strong on foreign policy, he is lackey for banks, especially the credit card industry. Waste of time.

6. Hillary Clinton
Well, she's got a good last name. But the more I watch her, the more she is Joe Lieberman with a vagina. She refuses to admit her Iraq War vote was a mistake. She refused to say that homosexuality wasn't immoral. She supports keeping 75,000 troops in Iraq indefinitely. To be honest, I really wonder if she's running for the Democratic nomination or the Connecticut for Lieberman party's nod. She is everything that has been wrong with the Democratic Party for the past several years and it is time for her and her corporate Democrat cadre to fall by the wayside.

7. Dennis Kucinich
Why is he even running? As much of a vanity candidate as Nader, but with less potential to hurt the Party.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Realignment and Missed Opportunities

The huge gains made by Democrats in the 2006 elections were fueled by several factors. Combined they provided the chance for a significant realignment of the the nation's politics. If the opportunity were seized the Republican Party could successfully be marginalized as a regional party of the South. However, I will argue that some of this opportunity has already been squandered, simply by a failure to push for an end to the Iraq War.

Last year's political climate provided fertile ground for Democrats to reclaim the majority. From the failed war in Iraq to slow economic growth to eroded civil liberties, people were open to new approaches and ideas. There were two particular strains of disaffection with the GOP. One part was driven largely by a war that many have come to see as spiraling out of control, costing the lives of too many young men and women. In these traditionally more conservative areas you had Democratic challengers who openly opposed the war and called for its end. The key to their success, though, was in their own populist economic messages and, to some degree, social conservatism. Yes, there were open liberals able to win in red areas of the country, but in large part we were victorious in these places because voters were given the choice of someone who shared their "values" as well as opposed the war and someone who enabled the president's failed war.

Then you have the more traditionally moderate areas of the country. These are places where folks vote Democrat for president, but are willing to cross party lines and support a "moderate" Republican for Congress. However, the events of the past couple of years have shown that these Republicans were more beholden to their party and president than to the voters in their districts. These voters are clearly uncomfortable with giving their support to "moderates" willing to abet the erosion of reproductive rights, vilify homosexuals and establish a theocracy.

The Democratic Party ought to be able to keep the latter voters fairly easily. Their eyes have been opened to the realities of today's GOP. However, the former camp is the one we have to worry about. We need to hold onto these seats in 2008 and beyond if we want to maintain our majority. Yet, in future elections they are going to have a choice between a candidate who more surely shares their "values." These voters gave us a chance largely because of Iraq. And, as time passes and nothing changes, the troops have not come home, etc. they are going to be unwilling to return a Democrat to Congress. We would have failed these voters. And they will surely punish us for it. We can be certain that the GOP has learned the lesson that economic populism sells in these areas. You can bet to hear more about "values" and less about tax cuts in 2008. You should also expect to hear about how the Democrats failed to end the war. Heck, you could be a GOP challenger and run against the war!

If the leadership in Congress does not take some decisive action on Iraq sooner than later, they risk becoming the minority once again in 2008. Sure, Bush's unpopularity and the relative lack-luster crop of GOP contenders for the White House should give us the executive branch. And maybe those coat-tails will be long enough to retain our majorities. But, if we fail now, we risk all that. Instead of increasing our majorities, we may be fighting to retain them.

We must act NOW on Iraq.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Government as Criminal Enterprise

Is there any other way to describe how the current administration operates? Nothing has made this more apparent than the firings of several US Attorneys. Some were sacked for their unwillingness to pursue specious voter fraud cases; others were canned for investigating Republicans; some were axed for failing to indict Democrats before the elections. This level of politicization of the DOJ is nothing short of amoral, unethical and unheard of.

There were those who noted the tendencies of the Bush-Cheney cabal long before it became accepted wisdom. They were the ones who spoke up before the Iraq War debacle. Some eyes were finally opened when the Abu Ghraib pictures came to light and the dog and pony show over banning torture. More people became aware of the amoral underpinnings of the administration through the Libby scandal. And many others have become aware through smaller, though no less important, machinations such as the administration's silencing of scientists or abuses of the Patriot Act.

For the past six years this administration has made a concerted effort to consolidate federal power in the executive branch. They show little regard or respect for Constitutional limitations on their power and openly defy Congress via signing statements. They have even tried to play their game with the Courts, though with much less success.

Though the pattern of abuse is clearly established, the question remains as to why. Is it simply because they need this power in order to conduct their war(s) in whatever manner they want. Or, is there an actual principle guiding their belief in executive hegemony? I would make the argument that it is actually the latter, with the former used as a smokescreen. Cheney has a long record of supporting an imperial presidency. September 11 (the day that changed everything) served as a useful tool to obfuscate the administration's true intentions. While Americans came together as one, Bush-Cheney were busy implementing their war plans and their overarching strategy of consolidating power in the White House.

Anyone looking for examples needs go much further than the Office of the VP. The level of secrecy is astounding. They have refused to list the names of their employees, their titles or their salaries. The OVP has its own intelligence shop, ready to cook up whatever was necessary to justify the Iraq War. The OVP has made the claim that it is neither part of the Executive or the Legislative branches, because the Office has roles in each. The end result of this argument is that the OVP is actually a separate unit of government, a fourth branch if you will.

Now, I have read the Constitution more times than I care to remember, and I do not recall any fourth branch. Cheney and his supporters have crafted this notion out of whole cloth. It is an audacious and amazing grab of power. But it becomes sort of a fallback claim for the OVP. In fact, the OVP has largely run the show int he administration on matters of intelligence and foreign policy. So why Cheney et al feel the need to assert this extra-constitutional power is unclear, at least to me.

It is possible that such claims are part and parcel of the overall unitary executive paradigm. What I do know is that it will take historians and political scientists years to decipher exactly what this administration has done to our political norms. Not to mention the work that future administrations will have to do to repair America's standing in the global community.

It's unfortunate that it would be impossible to indict Bush and Cheney under RICO statutes, for their administration has been no less criminal than the Gottis. In fact, its damage is much more widespread and pervasive than anything a crime family has ever inflicted upon its victims.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Perception v. Reality

One of the main truisms about Democrats is the one that says Democrats are weak because they are liberal. But is there really any truth to it, or is it a mere canard. Or, perhaps it is truthiness.

The leadership of the Democratic Party is almost uniformly moderate. Don't believe me? Take a look at pre-2001 Gore, Kerry, Senator Reid, Representative Emanuel, etc. All have sort of muddled along offering little in the way of fight. On the other hand, the liberal wing of the Party, as represented by the netroots, are full of fight. Take a look at DailyKos or Eschaton and you will find plenty of liberals who are willing to get down in the mud and go tor to toe with the GOP.

Unfortunately, these fighters have not been the face of the Party to any large degree. And when they have received attention, it has been of the negative variety, aided and abetted by the wimpy moderates of the Party. The so called centrists of the Party have tried to marginalize the fighters of the Party, all the while fueling the notion of Democrats as wimps.

It's time for the DemoWimps to step aside and let the fighters take over. We need to take the fight to the GOP and capitalize on our victories of last fall. BushCo and the GOP are on life support and it is time to pull the f*cking plug. No more Mr./Ms. nice Democrat.

Freebie for the Non-Romney

Here is a free ad script for any of the Republicans running against Romney. Thank me later.

A conservative from Massachusetts? Well, that's like a jumbo shrimp.

A conservative from Massachusetts wants the government to take only half your money.

A conservative from Massachusetts only allows gay marriage on Saturdays.

A conservative from Massachusetts supports school prayer, as long as it's kept on the playground.

A conservative from Massachusetts won't take away all your guns, just the ones with bullets.

A conservative from Massachusetts isn't a conservative at all. It's just a liberal with a little bit more sense.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Alrighty Then

The other day, in the parking garage at my gym, I saw a bumpersticker that read "Not a Redneck Just a Southerner with an Attitude" complete with a Confederate flag. I was tempted to leave a little note, but I wanted to get home and shower. But it got me to thinking- what sort of attitude does that person have? Is it the attitude that black people should be property instead of citizens?

Now, I'm sure s/he would trot out the old canard about states' rights, etc. Followed up, of course, with something about rebellion. Look, I probably have more problems with authority than just about anybody I know. So I understand rebellion. But I think there are other symbols of protest/rebellion that are not associated with the practice of slavery.

I am going to make up my own bumpersticker. It's going to have Piss Christ with the words- Not Anti-Christian Just an Atheist with an Attitude.

Who's a Faggot?

By now, everyone is well acquainted with this past weekend's Ann Coulter moment at CPAC. After the fallout and the distancing by some Republicans, there are at least two important takeaway points to be made. [I should make it clear that I do believe it is a positive development that companies are pulling their ads from Coulter's website and that many conservatives are distancing themselves from her remarks.]

First, the notion that Coulter's comments were somehow surprising of shocking is more than disingenuous. Coulter has a long history of making racist and homophobic taunts as well as violent statements. She wished for the blowing up of the NYT building; wished for the bombing of the Supreme Court; spoke of her chance to shoot Bill Clinton; etc. In other words, it should hardly come as a shock to anyone with a functioning brain that Ann Coulter would say something offensive. In fact, that is what makes her so popular on the conservative circuit. And it is why CPAC and other right wing confabs bring her back again and again.

And that brings us to my second point, which is the popularity of Coulter's brand of racism, homophobia and nativism within the conservative movement. Her faggot comment was met with approval, just as her "raghead" comments were cheered last year. This sort of "thinking" is what drives much of today's conservatives. It is outright hatred and xenophobia. And people like Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin are stars of this world, in large part because they are attractive females who legitamize the hatreds of their largely male followers.

It should come as no surprise that the rightwing has sought out, and promoted, women and minorities whose views would be less acceptable with a white male face. Malkin, herself likely an anchor baby, has spewed forth some of the most nativist rhetoric this side of the John Birch Society (she even wrote a book defending the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII). Dinesh D'Souza, an Indian-American, has given voice to many of the Religious Right's most outlandish views, such as America had it coming on 9-11 because of its tolerance of homosexuals and reproductive choice. There are numerous other examples, but the point has been made.

Coultergate has displayed to all Americans what many of us already knew. That the modern day conservative movement is nothing more than old fashioned racism, sexism and homophobia cloaked in new threads. The reality is that the far right, fueled by anger, intolerance and hatred, has unalterably corrupted our politics and our democracy. Maybe now more Americans will wake up to this reality.