Archive for October, 2006

Question of the day: What do hardcore Republicans you know say about Iraq?

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

In my life they fall into three categories:

First, there are the deniers who insist things are actually going peachy keen in Iraq and that it’s the damned liberal media that’s making everything look so bad;

Second up are the Rumsfeld haters — people (often current or former military) who realize Iraq’s a disaster, but who can’t bring themselves to blame Bush or the GOP in general, so they’ve declared Donald Rumsfeld to be the personification of all evil; and

Third, are the growing ranks of the realists who recognize Bush & Co. screwed up horribly and just want the US to get the hell out as soon as possible. 

So what do the hardcore Republicans you know say about Iraq?        

Maybe the word marriage can wait

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

Let me admit up front that as hard as I may try to be empathetic, as a heterosexual I can probably never fully fulfill Atticus Finch’s condition that “you never really knew a man until you stood in his shoes and walked around in them” on this issue.  But I still have to say that from the standpoint of political reality, the actual state of the nation as opposed to the one we would like, there is much to commend the compromise reached today by the New Jersey Supreme Court on gay marriage.

(AP) NJ court stops short of gay marriage OK

TRENTON, N.J. - New Jersey’s Supreme Court opened the door to gay marriage Wednesday, ruling that homosexuals are entitled to the same rights as heterosexuals, but leaving it to lawmakers to legalize same-sex unions.

The high court gave lawmakers 180 days to rewrite marriage laws to either include same-sex couples or create a new system of civil unions for them.

The ruling is similar to the 1999 decision in Vermont that led to civil unions there, which offer the benefits of marriage, but not the name.

I can understand how any discrimination, including that implied by a different name — civil union rather than marriage — must be extraordinarily offensive to those most personally affected.  But again we live in a world governed by reality.  And the truth is that in reality, in most places, the push for gay marriage has actually cost gays and lesbians rights, rather than securing them.

I remember a year ago standing in the voting both, finding myself surprised by the degree of my sadness, as I read the anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment that was guaranteed to pass notwithstanding my vote against it.  It was such a hateful thing: And these so-called “men of God” who pushed it onto the ballot were frauds at heart: Like most gay marriage amendments passed across the country, it was sold as being pro-traditional marriage, when in truth it was anti-gay, and intended to be so.

Not only did the amendment outlaw gay marriage, but it also forbid recognition of civil unions — without expressly saying so (why mess things up with full disclosure) and went even beyond that.  Frankly, even in my red state, I doubt the rest of that crap would have passed on its own, but the title gay marriage led it all to “glory.”

Civil union can be a bridge, perhaps not a fair one, but an effective one.  It guarantees all people full civil rights now and affords society the opportunity to get comfortable with alternative loving relationships: The term marriage will then come into play over time naturally and unstoppably.

Again, these aren’t my shoes we’re walking in, but it’s certainly seems worth considering.

Question of the day: How much of what Rush says does he actually believe?

Tuesday, October 24th, 2006

Rush Limbaugh is back in the news these days, of course, as he continues his mud wrestling contest with Ann Coulter for bragging rights for the most obnoxious right wing blowhard in America.

So here’s the question: How much of the crap Rush spews do you think he actually believes?  And how much of it is just a show?

Personally I think he’s 90 percent snake oil salesman.  He probably is politically conservative, but ideology isn’t what drives him.  He says whatever he thinks will sell Brand Rush. 

And, yes, I am speculating here: But at least I’m not accusing someone of exaggerating a horrible illness for show.

So what do you think?  

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Another shoe drops on torture

Tuesday, October 24th, 2006

We knew it was coming.  And sure enough we now have confirmation.  Other countries are now using the United States as an excuse for their own mistreatment of detainees.

(AP) Many follow U.S. example on detainees

Several governments around the world have tried to rebut criticism of how they handle detainees by claiming they are only following the U.S. example in the war on terror, the U.N. anti-torture chief said Monday.

Manfred Nowak, the U.N. special investigator on torture, said that when he criticizes governments for their questionable treatment of detainees, they respond by telling him that if the United States does something, it must be all right. He would not name any countries except for Jordan.

“The United States has been the pioneer, if you wish, of human rights and is a country that has a high reputation in the world,” Nowak told a news conference. “Today, many other governments are kind of saying, ‘But why are you criticizing us, we are not doing something different than what the United States is doing?’”

The “good news” is that the United States is still leading the world on the subject of human rights.  The bad news is that increasingly we’re leading it in the wrong direction.

Is that accountability moment coming at last?

Tuesday, October 24th, 2006

Who could ever forget George W. Bush’s words about elections, Iraq and accountability spoken after the 2004 election?

(Washington Post, Jan.16, 2005) Bush Says Election Ratified Iraq Policy

President Bush said the public’s decision to reelect him was a ratification of his approach toward Iraq and that there was no reason to hold any administration officials accountable for mistakes or misjudgments in prewar planning or managing the violent aftermath.

“We had an accountability moment, and that’s called the 2004 elections,” Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post. “The American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me.”

These are words we definitely need to remember now as Bush and the Republicans (and Joe Lieberman) bemoan the politicization of the Iraq War in this year’s congressional elections.  It’s funny, isn’t it, how much they seemed to like the concept of political accountability over Iraq back when they thought it worked in their favor?

Accountability is important in democracy, of course; in fact, a good argument can be made that accountability is democracy.  So it should be more than a little troubling that we’ve had so little of it lately. 

You’ve read about it in all the papers — and in those dastardly “new media” outlets, as well — of all the barriers that have been built into the system to prevent true accountability: Noncompetitive congressional districts; undue power and influence by special interest groups; the power of incumbency; the prohibitive cost of running against entrenched power and on and on.

So along comes late October of the year of our Lord two thousand and six, when two things suddenly seem indisputable: First, that there is an overwhelming need to hold the current government accountable; and, second, that the general public recognizes this need.

The need for accountability can be dealt with in short order: First and foremost, of course, there’s the fact we are suffering through a disastrous war in Iraq that was brought into being through the deceit of the Republican president with the aid and comfort of the Republican Congress and was then prosecuted by them with a criminal level of incompetence.

But there’s plenty more mendacity and stupidity where that came from, including the betrayal of New Orleans, the widespread corruption in both Congress and the White House and the way, even aside from frank criminality, both of these branches of government have been reduced to little more than cash and carry operations where corporate lobbyists routinely write their own congressional legislation and executive regulations and make their own appointments to regulatory bodies.

I could go on, of course, but why depress ourselves unnecessarily.

As to the public’s recognition of the need to bring accountability to this mess, again no need to dawdle: According to the most recent polling, independents now favor Democrats over Republicans by a two-to-one margin.

So contrary to what most pundits are saying, the big unknown in this election isn’t whether all of the carefully constructed walls designed to assure continued Republican rule will be sufficient to hold back the growing Democratic wave.

No, the real question is whether our system of democratic accountability is still functioning at all and, if not, whether we can even fairly continue to call ourselves a democracy.   

Question of the day: Can the Republican Party be redeemed?

Tuesday, October 24th, 2006

I’ve always been a Democrat: But I’ll admit that a little of that is luck.  The very first election I can recall was the Kennedy-Nixon contest of 1960; I was five-years-old.  My sister, who was a few years older, announced that she was for Nixon (a choice made strictly at random).  Out of pure orneriness, I then announced that I was for Kennedy.  I’m sure that if she’d said she favored Kennedy, I’d have gone for Nixon.

So thanks sis for helping me dodge that bullet.

In election years that followed, thanks to Democratic parents, I was never again at risk of slipping over to the dark side.

Still, back in those early days, at the end of the Eisenhower Administration, being Republican was respectable — dumb, but certainly respectable.  Unfortunately, the Eisenhower era pro-business, skinflint and socially moderate Republicanism is now as extinct as the dodo and the T. Rex.

So here’s the question of the day: Can the Republican Party be redeemed?  Is it possible to reconstruct a GOP that will be freed from its present ideological extremism and corruption?

Always the optimist, I’ll say yes.  But it will take a complete public repudiation of the party’s current nature over several election cycles for the long process of reform even to begin.

What are your thoughts?

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As though I needed more evidence Rush is a pig

Monday, October 23rd, 2006

I always thought there was nothing Rush Limbaugh could do that would be so low it would surprise me.  I was wrong.

From Media Matters:

On the October 23 edition of his nationally syndicated radio program, Rush Limbaugh accused actor Michael J. Fox, who has Parkinson’s disease, of “exaggerating the effects of the disease” in a recent campaign advertisement for Missouri Democratic Senate candidate Claire McCaskill. In the ad, Fox endorses McCaskill for supporting embryonic stem cell research, which her opponent, incumbent Republican Sen. Jim Talent, opposes. Noting that Fox is “moving all around and shaking” in the ad, Limbaugh declared: “And it’s purely an act. This is the only time I have ever seen Michael J. Fox portray any of the symptoms of the disease he has.” Limbaugh added that “this is really shameless of Michael J. Fox. Either he didn’t take his medication or he’s acting, one of the two.”

Now, in fairness, later in the broadcast Limbaugh backed down and apologized, but it was a graceless retreat as he continued to attack Fox for doing the ad. 

All class that Rush.

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24 years is silly for a white-collar crime

Monday, October 23rd, 2006

I know many progressives who generally agree with me will disagree strongly on this one, but, as I’ve said before, warehousing white-collar criminals is stupid.  For someone like Skilling, the possibility of 5 years in prison would be every bit as great a deterrence as 24 years.  He didn’t do the crime because he could do the time; he did the crime because he was too arrogant to imagine he could get caught.

We are sending far too many people to prison for far too long in this country.  Only truly dangerous criminals, those who commit violent offenses, should be warehoused.

At this point, Skilling is no threat to anyone. 

Yes, his sentence was proper under the guidelines, but the guidelines are moronic.  It’s the same thing that happened with drug crimes.  We end up with ludicrously long sentences for non-violent offenders because no politician will ever vote against a sentencing increase.  Super-tough is always good politics; it’s only rarely good policy.

In a sane world we would have taken away all of Skilling’s money, sent him up for a few years, added several thousand hours of community service and called it good.  Instead, we pay to warehouse him most likely until he dies.

My proposed Democratic campaign ad

Monday, October 23rd, 2006

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Tom Tomorrow on Joe Lieberman

Monday, October 23rd, 2006

If the polls are right, we may be stuck with Joe Lieberman after the election (although I haven’t given up hope), but at least we’ll still have Tom Tomorrow (latest cartoon at Salon).