Archive for July, 2006

Sorry Joe, but Americans hate a (sore) loser

Monday, July 31st, 2006

Given that we have a Democratic political elite that seems at times to swim in bad ideas on matters of political strategy, to describe one such idea in particular as extraordinarily bad is really quite a slam: Sort of like calling someone a particularly obnoxious right-wing radio commentator — now that’s saying something!

But even when judged by such rarefied standards, Joe Lieberman’s decision to leave open the possibility of running as an independent if he loses in the Democratic senate primary in Connecticut to Ned Lamont was a truly monumental clunker. 

As Adam Nagourney wrote in The New York Times several days ago (via Mark Schmitt via Atrios):

Mr. Lieberman has said he will run as an independent if he loses to Mr. Lamont, an announcement that one associate said only further hurt his standing with Democratic voters and elected officials who already were questioning his loyalty.

Should Mr. Lieberman lose the primary, all indications are that most Democratic leaders will abandon him in the general election race against Mr. Lamont and the Republican candidate, Alan Schlesinger.

Early poll results that have (mostly) shown Lieberman winning a three-way race as an independent are next to meaningless at this point, since Lieberman losing in the primary, should that come to pass, will itself quickly become a transformative event in the race, working powerfully to Lamont’s benefit while tending to marginalize Lieberman.

It may be cruel, but the truth is that losers tend to disappear quickly in modern American politics.  If Lieberman does lose in the primary, he may well wake up the next morning to discover he’s become old hat.

How did that Eagles’ song put it again?

Everybody’s talking ’bout the new kid in town,
Everybody’s walking’ like the new kid in town
There’s a new kid in town
There’s a new kid in town
I don’t want to hear it
There’s a new kid in town
I don’t want to hear it
There’s a new kid in town
There’s a new kid in town
There’s a new kid in town

Lieberman should have made his stand as a Democrat and then accepted the results with grace; as is, he’s badly damaged his chances in the primary by “seeming” disloyal, all in an effort to keep open the option of a “third way” that was always likely to prove little more than an illusion.

A supreme disgrace

Sunday, July 30th, 2006

Long after the presidency of George W. Bush has passed into the annals of American disasters, Justices John G. Roberts Jr. and Samuel A. Alito Jr. will likely still be on the Supreme Court, working to advance a highly partisan, ultraconservative agenda. This is the subject of a remarkably blunt essay in today’s Washington Post by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

Kennedy accuses Roberts and Alito of dishonesty before the Senate Judiciary Committee. He points out that during their testimony the prospective justices pledged that they would be even-handed jurists, humble laborers in the vineyards of the law, without a partisan or ideological bone in their respective bodies.

Once they were safely on the Supreme Court with lifetime appointments, however, their actions became something quite different. Kennedy says:

Now that the votes are in from their first term, we can see plainly the agenda that Roberts and Alito sought to conceal from the committee. Our new justices consistently voted to erode civil liberties, decrease the rights of minorities and limit environmental protections. At the same time, they voted to expand the power of the president, reduce restrictions on abusive police tactics and approve federal intrusion into issues traditionally governed by state law.

The confirmation process became broken because the Bush administration learned the wrong lesson from the failed Bork nomination and decided it could still nominate extremists as long as their views were hidden. To that end, it insisted that the Senate confine its inquiry largely to its nominees’ personal qualities.

The administration’s tactics succeeded in turning the confirmation hearings for Roberts and Alito into a sham. Many Republican senators used their time to praise, rather than probe, the nominees. Coached by the administration, the nominees declined to answer critical questions. When pressed on issues such as civil rights and executive power, Roberts and Alito responded with earnest assurances that they would not bring an ideological agenda to the bench.

After confirmation, we saw an entirely different Roberts and Alito — both partisans ready and willing to tilt the court away from the mainstream. They voted together in 91 percent of all cases and 88 percent of non-unanimous cases — more than any other two justices.

One of the lessons to be taken from this, of course, is the need for Senate Democrats to show more backbone during any future confirmation battles. But the thing I can’t get out of my mind is the fact that for most of the rest of my life, maybe for all of it, two men will sit on the United States Supreme Court who are there only because of their willingness to lie about who they truly are.

And that’s a hard thing let go of.

Update in response to the comments: I share everyone’s frustration over the failure of the Democrats in the Senate to put up an effective opposition to Roberts and Alito.  In fairness, however, it should be noted that Kennedy voted against Roberts and helped lead the failed filibuster effort against Alito.  So it probably isn’t fair to suggest he simply accepted their testimony at face value.  

A “frivolous” lawsuit almost everyone can love

Saturday, July 29th, 2006

This guy won’t win this lawsuit against Fred Phelps and the rest of the fun loving folks from the Westboro Baptist Church.

And under the First Amendment he probably shouldn’t win.

But in the meanwhile, give ‘em hell.

The Times to Lieberman: Time to pack up and go

Saturday, July 29th, 2006

I doubt the endorsement of The New York Times will carry much weight among Connecticut primary voters, but The Times endorsement of Ned Lamont is a truly staggering slap in Joe Lieberman’s face. It should also discredit for good the claim that the opposition to Lieberman is nothing but the grumblings of angry liberal bloggers.

You don’t get any more establishment in journalism than The Times.

A Senate Race in Connecticut

If Mr. Lieberman had once stood up and taken the lead in saying that there were some places a president had no right to take his country even during a time of war, neither he nor this page would be where we are today. But by suggesting that there is no principled space for that kind of opposition, he has forfeited his role as a conscience of his party, and has forfeited our support.

Mr. Lamont, a wealthy businessman from Greenwich, seems smart and moderate, and he showed spine in challenging the senator while other Democrats groused privately. He does not have his opponent’s grasp of policy yet. But this primary is not about Mr. Lieberman’s legislative record. Instead it has become a referendum on his warped version of bipartisanship, in which the never-ending war on terror becomes an excuse for silence and inaction. We endorse Ned Lamont in the Democratic primary for Senate in Connecticut.

There’s ordinary expediency; then there’s McCain expediency

Saturday, July 29th, 2006

Is the GOP being a bit too clever on the minimum wage?

Saturday, July 29th, 2006

Am I the only person who believes that in addition to being morally reprehensible, it was also politically stupid for congressional Republicans to combine the vote for raising the minimum wage with one cutting the estate tax?

I mean, for years the GOP talking point for not raising the minimum wage, presently set at the pathetically low level of $5.15 an hour, has been that doing so would result in businesses eliminating low paying entry-level jobs. 

This has always been disingenuous, of course, based upon evidence of good job creation in states with higher than average state minimum wage laws (the last series of increases in the federal minimum wage back during the Clinton administration were likewise accompanied by vigorous job growth).  But the job loss boogeyman has unquestionably provided at least some political cover for Republicans on this issue for many years.

So, what are they going to argue now — that although raising the minimum wage is bad because it will cost low income workers jobs, this is okay as long as multimillionaires get some more tax cuts out of the deal?

Republicans in the House are feeling quite pleased with themselves about this:

Representative Zach Wamp, Republican of Tennessee, said Democrats were upset with the legislation because Republicans had found a clever way to link the two. “You have seen us outfox you on this issue tonight,” Mr. Wamp told Democrats in the floor debate.

Well, if there’s such a thing as being too clever, this may be it.

Democrats should hold firm in demanding an up or down vote on the minimum wage bill without the estate tax poison pill.  Then, when the GOP refuses to allow it, the Democrats should go to the voters with the simple (and now undeniable) truth that the Republicans in Congress care so little about the problems of working Americans that they won’t even allow an up or down vote on a modest increase in the minimum wage unless their wealthy campaign contributors first get a huge payoff in exchange.

Then let’s ask the voters: Those are the Republicans’ values, are they yours?

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Can’t the neocons screw up only a little sometimes?

Friday, July 28th, 2006

Now for a few words about the airlines

Friday, July 28th, 2006

Let’s talk about airlines for a moment: Here’s my take: The #*$%#*@#*ing airlines can #*$%#*@#* themselves and the #*$%#*@#*ing horse they rode in on as far as I’m concerned. 

There, I feel much better now. 

It used to be, at least in my experience, that if an airline cancelled your flight or otherwise made you miss the last flight out, even if the problem was weather related, they would try to take care of you — you know, stuff like getting you a motel room (even paying at least part of the cost) and booking you onto another carrier if that would get you home sooner.  It wasn’t that the delay was their fault; it was just customer service.

Man has that changed.  Last night, with about 7 or 8 million people stranded in O’Hare, it was made very clear to me that in today’s world in the event of weather related flight problems they believe they owe us nothing, not even respectful treatment. 

Forget the fact that I had to pay for my own room.  The amazing thing was their attitude about using other carriers. 

I was flying the fucking (oops, I mean #*$%#*@#*) friendly skies. 

I needed just one leg of around 750 miles to reach my “final destination.”  They were booked up and could offer no flights for nearly two full days.  Eventually, one option opened up — but it involved flying three — count ‘em — three legs, thus virtually guaranteeing something else would go wrong with that many connections, not to mention making the trip incredibly miserable. 

Meanwhile, a perfectly delightful seat was available on a direct American flight, but the aforementioned #*$%#*@#* friendly skies people advised that since it was a weather delay not only would they not transfer me to a competing airline, they would not even refund the unused (return) portion of my roundtrip ticket.  I either took whatever they gave me or forfeited the ticket.

There was an almost Godfather like quality to their attitude toward the weather stranded: “You are dead to us now,” as the corporation metaphorically ripped a piece of its clothing.

Since it was a business trip (I wasn’t paying myself) and I had to get home (and there were no rental cars available) I blew $600 for a one way ticket on the American flight and here I sit at home at last.

But have I mentioned the #*$%#*@#* airlines?

Café stuff

Friday, July 28th, 2006

I was stuck at the airport all day yesterday in Chicago only to have the last flight cancelled after they kept us there until 11:00 PM.

I tried to be a good little blogger, really I did: O’Hare supposedly has wireless internet, but apparently my money is no good because I could never get it to work.

Anyway, I’m finally back from what was supposed to be a one day trip — thus the lack of posting and delay in clearing comments.  I’ll try to get things moving again.

As to Episode 49, I realize it hasn’t been handled all that well, what with the indefinite delays and all.  I’ll try to get the concluding part up early next week.  Thanks for hanging with me.

Meanwhile, to anyone I’ve irritated in this regard to the above, see the airline post above to assure yourselves that cosmic punishment has been served upon me.

Peace, dope and rock and roll.

Well, rock and roll anyway.

Dump Lieberman for democracy

Wednesday, July 26th, 2006

Just what is this problem Lieberman supporters have with democracy — you know, the will of the people and all that? 

A little history is probably in order (I’ll keep it short so no one gets a headache).  As you likely already know, the people themselves didn’t always get to elect their senators: Up until May 31, 1913, the constitution provided for the selection to be made by a vote of the state legislature

But then along came an earlier generation of liberal troublemakers in what came to be known as the Progressive Era.  These malcontents (without blogs even) had the audacity to suggest, among many other things, that maybe, just maybe, the democratic process should be used in selecting senators.  And thus was born the 17th Amendment to the US Constitution:

Clause 1. The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.

(My emphasis)

Shocking!  The people themselves, in all their unwashed glory, getting to directly pick who represents them in the United States Senate.  It’s a wonder the Republic has survived for as long as it has.

But, alas, I suppose it’s the fate of liberals (who by definition are supposed to be optimists about human nature) that people will often end up disappointing us, at least a little.  And to be honest, the 17th Amendment hasn’t exactly worked out the way our ancestors hoped it would.  Far from becoming a vibrant new playground for democracy, the direct election of senators has been perverted into little more than a bought and paid for travesty, where only those who can (often by dubious means) raise huge mountains of other people’s dollars (or spend huge mountains of their own) have any chance of gaining election.

And yet, something very special is rising up out of the rubble right now — an honest to God popular uprising against a well entrenched incumbent.  Joe Lieberman, who is not only a three term incumbent (and thus by definition a made man), but also a former Democratic Party vice presidential candidate, is facing the very real possibility of losing in the primary to an upstart (a richer than double-fudge cheesecake upstart, to be sure, but then you can’t have everything).