Today’s soulless Republican Party

March 6th, 2010 by Steve

Trying to pick the single most troubling aspect to our current toxic — downright spooky, actually — political environment is sort of like trying to pick the most obnoxious feature of Dick Cheney’s persona: there’s just way too much material out there to choose from. Still, if forced to pick the single scariest thing about today’s politics, I’d probably bypass the usual suspects, such as right wing teabaggers and gutless Democrats.

No, at the end of the day, the scariest thing about our politics today has to be the state of the Republican Party itself.

This nation has just two major political parties. That’s it — no cornucopia of choices, just two. And all talk of third parties notwithstanding, it’s likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future. So it is a cause for some alarm that one of those two parties, the Republicans, seems to have lost all interest in serious governance. Republicans don’t even pretend anymore.

The modern GOP isn’t about policy. It’s about smash mouth politics, fear tactics and lies. To take just one example, most informed people believe that global warming constitutes one of the greatest threats in human history. Do inside the Beltway Republicans disagree? A few do. But most privately recognize the validity of the scientific consensus about climate change. More than a few publicly acknowledged the problem back when it was politically viable for a Republican to do so. Not so today. Today, Republican leaders think that the appropriate response to climate change is to make fun of Al Gore.

Saving the world, you see, is no longer seen as good politics in the Republican Party. And to today’s Republicans that’s all that matters.

By the same token, you might think that given the fact this nation is facing its greatest economic challenge in over 60 years Republicans, as one of the nation’s two “great” political parties, would look for serious solutions to the crisis (even if they are conservative solutions). But once again, of course, no such luck. The GOP’s response to the current crisis has been little more than a repetition of worn out talking points. And the same goes for health care, financial regulation and for just about everything else — everything that is other than protecting a few super-wealthy families from have to pay a few dollars in estate taxes. Now there’s a policy they’re ready to fight for.

Republicans today simply have no interest in serious governance — of actually trying to accomplish something for the nation. They want power, alright. They just have no particular interest in using that power to make the lives of the American people better.

And yet, with people angry over the economy, the GOP looks ready to stage at least a temporary resurgence. So, we may be on the verge of putting into power (at least in Congress) a group of people who aren’t simply wrong in their judgment about what needs to be done to solve this country’s problems — but who have little interest in even trying.

And, yeah, that’s damn scary.

Note to readers: Sorry about the absence of posts. I’m currently in a very long trial that has been sapping all of my time. I’ll try to do better.

No, not fire nor even ice: stupidity will end the world

February 11th, 2010 by Steve

Well, I guess it’s official. Meaningful climate change legislation — and with it, quite possibly, the last real hope for humanity’s future — is dead in Congress for the foreseeable future: killed, at least in part, incredibly enough, by the current blizzards on the East Coast. You see, if it snows a lot in Washington, D.C. in February this proves that the scientific consensus on global warming is wrong, or so the talking points go. And this is true even though extreme winter weather, just like that reflected in these storms, is predicted to occur under climate change models.

But then why should we care about all that pointed-headed intellectual scientific stuff anyway? After all, we always have Sen. James Inhofe to set us straight.
Robert Frost once famously wrote:
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice. 
How ironic that it turns out that probably neither fire nor ice will do the world in: instead, mind numbing stupidity will do the job – or perhaps, more accurately, the soulless manipulation of that stupidity.
The truth is, of course, that something much worse than mere stupidity is at play here — something more along the lines of criminal selfishness. Sure, there are plenty of just plain dumb (or at least ignorant) folks out there — some stupid enough to buy into the current GOP blizzard-based campaign of global warning denial. Those, however, aren’t the people responsible for selling out this planet.

At the end of the day, global warming legislation isn’t being killed by tea partiers, Rush Limbaugh or even Matt Drudge (although intelligent public discourse is). It’s being killed by our elected representatives in Washington, a majority of whom fully understand the threat climate change poses, yet have chosen not to act. In the case of the GOP, they’ve made the political calculation that it will help their party in the upcoming elections to obstruct all of Barack Obama’s proposals, including those relating to climate change, regardless of their merits. And as to congressional Democrats, all too many seem to have made an equally immoral political calculation that it is simply too politically risky to fight back on this issue.

These politicians, knowing full well the danger we face, are placing a higher priority on their own personal political interests than on the safety of the earth and the future of human kind.

That goes beyond craven — beyond immoral even. It’s nothing less than a crime against humanity. And if there were any justice they’d all burn for it.

Sadly, however, it will probably our children and grandchildren who will burn in their place.

Surely nothing could be sillier

February 10th, 2010 by Steve

Could there be anything sillier, or anything more absurd, then having the “Dean” of all Beltway insiders lecture us regular “folk” about what constitutes effective populism?

We’re Number . . . 61!

January 27th, 2010 by Steve

According to a new survey, the United States now ranks 61st among the world’s nations in environmental performance. Kind of makes you proud, huh?

I wonder if one day our grandkids, as they examine the devastation we’ve left behind, will appreciate the fact that at least we’ve beaten out Tunisia. It’s ranked 74th — fu*king slackers.

Iceland is number one, by the way. But hell, it’s easy for them: it isn’t like they have a climate that requires generating power for home heating or anything.

Thanks Joe (Lieberman), I needed the break

January 26th, 2010 by Steve

God love him, Joe Lieberman always manages to find a way to change my focus when I’m feeling down. Here I sit, lost in a deep funk over the current Twin Sister’s of Progressive Despair — feckless Democrats and right wing hack Supreme Court justices – and along comes Joe Lieberman and changes everything, for a second or two anyway.

It seems that Joe is once again talking about running as a Republican in 2012.

From Think Progress:

HOST: Could you see yourself being a Republican or is that…
LIEBERMAN: It’s possible.
LIEBERMAN: Yeah, yeah. No, it’s possible. A good old-fashioned New England moderate Republican.

Go, Joe, go! Do it — run as a “moderate” Republican! Lay it all on the line for the principles you hold dear (which these days seem to amount to taking joy in rubbing Democrats faces in it)!

I’m sure you’ll forgive progressive Democrats — a bunch desperately in need of a little diversion these days — if we take the opportunity to sit back and enjoy the show (popcorn please!) as your “new” party turns on you. First, of course, will come the teebagger inspired primary challenge, to be quickly followed, on the off chance you somehow survive there, by wholesale slaughter in the general election.

You may not have noticed it, Joe, what with being so busy enjoying the warm embrace of the inside the Beltway media, but the voters of Connecticut — the folks who will actually decide your fate — hate your guts. And I mean they hate your guts. We’re talking irreconcilable differences here. You have about as much chance of being re-elected in 2012 as Clarence Thomas has of being named civil libertarian of the year by the People for the American Way. (In the old days I would have referenced the ACLU, but fu*k ‘em.)

So, thanks Joe. Thanks for not going quietly into the night (although my guess is that in the end you’ll still decide to retire and cash in with all your big business buddies, but let’s keep pretending you’ll actually run). Thanks for the gift that’s sure to keep on giving. Thanks for giving all of those Democrats whose lives you’ve taken such relish in making so miserable in recent years something priceless — the chance to see you go down in flames.

Gloating under such circumstances will, of course, be below our dignity.

In this particular case, however, I’ll be more than willing to make an exception.

Useful idiots of the coup

January 22nd, 2010 by Steve

This is clearly not the time to mince words. So let’s say it out loud. The Supreme Court’s holding in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, handed down yesterday, wasn’t just a bad decision. It was a coup d’état — the latest and most decisive phase in a slow rolling judicial coup that began nine years ago with Bush v. Gore, when five intellectually dishonest right wing justices decided to substitute their choice for president for that of the people. It gained traction when John Roberts, having been appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court by that very same judicially anointed president, committed perjury — yes perjury — to gain confirmation by falsely claiming to the Senate that he’d be a cautious jurist, respectful of precedent. And now, at long last, it has reached its culmination in a decision by that Court that effectively destroys what little is left of American democracy.

From now on, thanks to these five fanatics in black robes, corporations will be free to spend their bottomless treasuries, without restriction, to influence elections. Remember what Sollozzo said to Don Corleone in the first Godfather movie? “I need, Don Corleone, all of those politicians that you carry around in your pocket, like so many nickels and dimes.” That was small potatoes compared to what’s coming now. Thanks to the Supreme Court majority, behemoth corporations are now entirely free to buy and sell politicians with the same reckless abandon — and utter disregard for the public interest — with which they consume smaller companies, swallowing them whole.

And if any politician gets in their way, they’ll be no need for anything so crude as putting a horse’s head in their beds to bring them into line. The threat of spending a few million bucks — a drop in the corporate bucket — against them in the next election will more than suffice.  

And yet, even as I stare at the rubble of what was once our democracy, strangely, the people I find myself angriest at aren’t the corporate barons themselves, or even the five judicial fanatics who have done so much to empower them. Instead, I find that my fiercest rage is directed against those so-called civil libertarians who have become the useful idiots of this coup, providing intellectual cover for the destruction of what is best about our system of government.

I won’t bother to name them all. They certainly do not represent the entire civil liberties community, but they’re out in strength. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve probably seen them yourself. One was on display on Olbermann last night, Jonathan Turley. While admitting the decision presents some troubling real world concerns, in the end, he asserted that he had to come down on the side of the First Amendment. Jesus, with friends like that the Bill of Rights doesn’t need any enemies. I’m sorry, but anyone who can’t see the difference between a living, breathing human being expressing his beliefs and a corporation using other people’s money to buy influence is a moron, regardless of his academic rank or scholarly credentials. 

Unless some way can be found to change it, this decision, far from protecting free speech, will eventually destroy meaningful personal liberty, including freedom of expression, in this country. Perhaps these self-appointed “civil liberties” purists haven’t read the relevant history, but if they had they’d have discovered that civil liberties tend not to do very well in times of plutocracy. Hardly surprising. Why would our corporate overlords want to put up with all the fuss? 

And as for the assertions that we can fix the problem with fundamental changes of other kinds, like publically financed elections, this is pure fiction. Sure we need those things. We also need invisible fairies who fly around and grant our every wish, but we aren’t going to get that either. If we couldn’t accomplish such change before we completely handed the keys of our government over to the superrich, why would anyone think that we could do so now?

As a lawyer, I deal with folks like this all the time: people who aren’t nearly as smart as they think they are, who dig so deep into an intellectual conundrum that by the time they come up for air they can’t tell the difference between a hand full of diamonds and a fist full of manure. They make fools of themselves, while all the while toasting to their own brilliance. Unfortunately, this time it is American democracy that will end up holding the manure.

The ACLU signed on in favor of corporate America in this case, by the way. They even submitted an amicus brief in support of the plaintiff’s position. As it happens, I got my ACLU membership renewal papers in the mail the very same day Citizens United came down. I haven’t sent them an outraged letter resigning from the organization (they like that too much; it makes them feel noble). But I’d suggest they not count on my membership fee next year.

I don’t give money to useful idiots.

Time for Obama’s Churchill moment

January 20th, 2010 by Steve

4 June, 1940: The Phony War was over. Germany, having easily occupied much of France, was on the march. As Winston Churchill rose to speak, the situation seemed hopeless. Yet, with just this one speech, often referred to as Churchill’s finest hour, he rallied England and the rest of the free world and defined the war to come.

Churchill’s “We shall fight them on the beaches” speech.

We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France,
we shall fight on the seas and oceans,
we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be,
we shall fight on the beaches,
we shall fight on the landing grounds,
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
we shall fight in the hills;
we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

Losing a senate seat in Massachusetts is hardly comparable to the trials and tribulations of World War II. Yet, were one to judge by the panicked response of many Democrats in Congress so far, it would be easy to think otherwise. My God, don’t these people ever get tired of being scared? Wouldn’t you think that once — just once — they’d want to respond to political adversity (real or imagined) by doing something other than running away while screaming “please don’t hurt me?”

For better or for worse, there is one and only one person positioned to end this stampede of gutlessness — and his name, of course, is Barack Obama. From a political standpoint, at least, this is his hour, an hour that will make or break, not just his presidency, but the future of progressive politics for years to come. This must be Obama’s Churchill moment — his hour to stand and fight. And if he doesn’t respond, he’s damn unlikely to ever get a second chance.

Democrats still hold overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress. They have one year to demonstrate to the American people the power of positive progressive change. If they succeed — if they can pick themselves up off the ground and fight back forcefully and decisively — they can still carry the day politically and do a great deal of good for this nation in the process. If they don’t — if they tuck in their tails and hide — then all that’s left is to wait sullenly for the slaughter sure to come in November.

So we wait for Obama. We wait to see if this will be his Churchill moment.

So much for Rush’s opinion

January 15th, 2010 by Steve

It would appear that Rush Limbaugh’s (crazy and obscenely cruel) pronouncements carry less weight than he thinks.

Contrary to his advice, contributions by Americans to relief efforts in Haiti are setting records. Good.

Give to Haitian relief

January 14th, 2010 by Steve

This is almost certainly the largest humanitarian crisis in modern history. Please be sure to give what you can. Here’s how you can do it.

Roeder is going down

January 13th, 2010 by Steve

I know there’s a lot of concern out there that Judge Wilbert, a judge who sits right here in my home town of Wichita, Kansas, will send the case against George Tiller’s killer to the jury with manslaughter as a possible verdict. Speaking as a lawyer in Kansas (though not a criminal lawyer), let me give you my take.

People in Kansas don’t like it when lunatics kill people: go figure.

My guess is that the judge won’t ultimately instruct on manslaughter. Even if he does, however, Roeder will be convicted of first degree murder by the jury. There’s always the small possibility of a holdout juror (a stealth fanatic who manages to sneak onto the jury), which might necessitate a second trial. The chances of even that happening, however, are extremely low. And that’s about as bad as things could realistically go for the prosecution. Manslaughter isn’t even a remotely likely verdict.

I’ve seen this sort of thing play out before. I was once tangentially involved in a tax protest prosecution. The defendant was allowed to put into evidence the movement’s literature (the income tax is unconstitutional and all that). He was convinced he’d be acquitted. After all, who likes paying taxes? The jury, of course, convicted him in about ten seconds flat. They pay their taxes and they figured he should do the same.

Well, the folks on the Roeder jury will be people who — by some massive exercise of self-restraint — manage to not kill the people they disagree with. They will expect the same of others.

Roeder has confessed to the murder. He’s going down.