Friday, September 30, 2005

Recruitment continues to not go very well; Republican failures in the promotion of our national security

Via Atrios, this article from the Associated Press (via the Miami Herald) provides a summary of the military recruitment issue.

Key points for concern from the article:

1. 2005 is going to produce the largest shortfall in recruiting since 1979--at least as far as not meeting recruiting goals;

2. This occurred despite the military offering record bonuses (see my earlier post on this subject);

3. While my friend at Karmic Inquisition believes re-enlistment (as opposed to enlistment) is strong because people want to fight in the "cause" of a free Iraq, I found the comment from an army recruitment spokesperson, Lt. Col. Bryan HIfferty, intriguing:

"The factors working against the Army, Hilferty said, are a strong national economy that offers young people other choices, and 'continued negative news from the Middle East.' To offset that the Army has vastly increased the number of recruiters on the street, offered bigger signup bonuses and boosted advertising.'"

Isn't he really saying the military is the last resort for people with no economic prospects? The bit about the national economy doing well, though, is not quite accurate, particularly for those who do not have college degrees. Therefore, just imagine the recruiting results so far this year had the military not lowered its recruitment quota and not significantly increased its bonus offers.

Those who support an activist role for our military in Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, among other hot spots, owe it to the American people to say, "We need a draft." The Terrible President seems to want to make it a habit of sending our young people to various hot spots to put their lives on the line with not enough support in terms of people--and without providing adequate or enough equipment.

The only good news from the article in terms of recruiting is that the goals (lowered from previous years) on a monthly basis have been met since June 2005. However, a military sociologist from the mid-west was quoted in the article as saying the "future looks even grimmer" because, as the Army chief of staff admitted, the delayed entry recruits are going to be "the smallest in history"--which we must suppose means smallest by percentage or smallest in terms of numbers of delayed entry recruits compared to other years.

I guess the thing that most amazes me is this: Who would have imagined it would be the most right-wing presidency in the past 100 years that would do so much damage to the CIA and to the military? Really. At long last, can anyone who claims to be a Republican be proud of the record of this Republican-dominated Congress and the Terrible President? It's like everything they feared from a George McGovern presidency* has occurred: record budget deficits and debt accumulation, reckless governance as opposed to good governance, and a disrespect for the military and CIA.

* I admire McGovern and as a 15 year old, I supported him. I still think he'd a have made a better president than Nixon and would likely have pleasantly surprised "cultural conservatives" with a governance based upon one's love of one's country--including a respect for those who serve in the military to the police, fire, etc.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum, at the Washington Monthly, analyzes the latest bad news from statements made by military spokespersons who are vainly attempted to spin it to be a "positive." I would also note that the people who are declining recruitment most likely don't get the news about what is happening on the ground in Iraq from PBS or NPR or some "liberal" newspaper or even CNN. They get it, if my knowledge of past wars is a valid guide, from their neighborhood where they hear from the loved ones of those who are currently serving. This is why the 101st Fighting Keyboarders are full of crap when they try to say how it is "negative waves" (to quote Oddball in "Kelly's Heroes") that make it hard to recruit.

Oh, and I must say this: Karmic Inquisition's proprietor is not a member of that Keyboard squadron. He served in the military, unlike me, and he served well. And he is past the age to go back to war in any event. I don't like the chickenhawk argument for that reason, but I am talking about a certain type (Jonah Goldberg, John Podhoretz, and others) who didn't serve but rah-rah any war pushed by Republican leaders under any circumstances. That is what should be called out.

(Slight edit)

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Happy second class subjects in Saudi Arabia

...and the NY Times and Karen Hughes are surprised.

This article quoted a few women who showed up at a Karen Hughes photo-op in Saudi Arabia and said they like wearing head coverings, not being allowed to drive cars, etc. And the audience at one point "resounded with applause" when someone said to Hughes: "Well, we're all pretty happy."

One can't help but note the women who spoke were likely upper class. One may also reasonably speculate that some Washington DC public relations firm may have been involved the way the Kuwaitis used Hill & Knowlton to hire a mouthpiece to speak of Iraqi soldiers ripping babies from incubators as a way to rally Americans against Saddam in 1990.

The most pathetic thing is that Hughes gave some limp "politically correct" answer to these women--who remind me of particular "good" ladies in the US, in the early 20th Century, who stood up so "courageously" to denounce any amendment to the Constitution that would allow women to vote. Maybe if Karen Hughes had just read even one page of the Amnesty International web site on the Saudi Arabian government's treatment of women, she could have said:

"Oh I see. Because you like wearing a headdress, or don't want to drive, every woman in Saudi Arabia must be forced to do or not do those things. And even if a few of you are so 'happy,' too many other women in your nation are extremely unhappy with so much violence being theatened or perpetrated against them." That response would have shown commitment to open government and the best values of our nation. But no. The Terrible President and his minions, including Karen Hughes, are so lovingly supportive of the Saudi royal family they can't say anything except "Well, we need to hear each other and sing Kumbaya with a few star bellied Sneetches who like their gilded cages." (Mixing metaphors is justified in this instance, I hope)

Sheesh. Send Hughes home for some re-training as to how to respond to boot-lickers defending their oppressed status. And please spare me the whine about respect for "traditional" culture and "values." Violence and oppression of women are not a value any human being should support.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

A dialogue among blogs of a different feather

Karmic Inquisition answers my post from last week (Karmic Inquisition is the blog home page of Adam Sullivan). The title threw me off, I'll admit, as I thought I was going to be "impunged." Instead, the post should be read as "Impugning Motives" and, separately, "My Friend Mitchell Freedman."

Adam summarizes our differences over what to do with regard to the Iraq War. He then says something to which I do take exception (a fact and conclusion from a fact, not a personal statement about me or himself):

"Mitchell is also authentically concerned for the troops - concerned that their lives are being given in vain, and has a hard time understanding how we can ask another to give his. I didn't engage him on this point - I could see that he was authentically upset over that issue. As a former soldier who has many friends still fighting this war, I can say that we see the world , our responsibilities and our fate in an entirely different context. I won't speak to that right now, other than to say that record re-enlistment rates speak volumes regarding commitment to what we see as a worthy cause. These men and women, after all, aren't propping up a Diem regime. Democracy is messy business, and Arab democracy doubly so." (Italics added)

I disagree with the italicized portion as to why the re-enlistments are up (as we know, enlistments are down). The reasons for this year's spike appears to be related to the military offering major bonuses that can double one's annual salary as a soldier (some of it tax free--though see here for a slightly different bonus schedule that is not tax free). I also read that half the bonuses are paid up front. Also, if I understand right, if one re-enlists, one may not be automatically sent to Iraq (couldn't find link again--darn!).

Does this mean the re-enlistees are only motivated by the bonuses to reenlist? Of course not. There is definitely some patriotism involved. However, one cannot say, as does Karmic Inquisition, that the spike in reenlistment this year "speak volumes" about the reenlistees' "commitment" to the Iraq War. I will also say some people who have gone through harrowing or even challenging situations such as a tour in Iraq are sometimes more gung ho about returning to those situations the way people like the mere and far lesser "thrill" of skydiving. Others don't want to return for another tour in Iraq for all the money in the world. I would never say one or the other is less patriotic as I admire anyone who has served our nation in any military situation in the first place.

My point is that the motivations of people are complex. Therefore, the argument at Karmic Inquisition does not persuade in light of the above.

The post from Karmic also re-stated what Adam told me last week: That our nation is "far better off to have forces there (Iraq) than back here waiting on an insufficient Naval transport capability to get us back if we were want to act against Iran, and likely no Iranian border country with a defensible port willing to host us." (Parenthesis added)

Adam's statement was said in a context of my asking him, as a military veteran of some note, why the US can't do to Iran's nuclear facility what the Israelis did to the Iraqi nuclear facility in 1981. He replied that the Iranians' nuclear facility is hardened and could not be taken out with just about any air strike. If that is true, then I'd still want our troops out of Iraq to at least rest up and not keep getting picked off and battered every day in Iraq. As it is, I don't see how tired troops with low morale who are often-sitting ducks for suicide bombers and insurgents are supposed to be ready to invade Iran. As we have been reminded once again, an invasion of another country on the pretext of bringing "open government" turns even those opposed to the invaded nation's dictatorial government into saying, "Out with the foreign invader"--not always, but most likely in Iran, even more than Iraq.

So, if we can't invade Iran without strong, healthy, and rested troops (can't we speak to our "friends" in NATO and have our troops rest and train there?), and we can't bomb the facility with any success, I guess we have to be diplomats again. I don't like that solution here, however, as the Iranians seem hell bent on securing nuclear military weapons. I will therefore have to review more analyses from military sources on this question of how to act militarily against Iran.

On the other hand, can we live with a nuke-armed Iran? Probably. We live with a nuke-armed Pakistan, who, if memory serves, ought to make every American boiling mad as the Pakistani government gave nuke secrets to North Korea and Iran. And we worried about Saddam Hussein's non-existent nuclear program as a reason to invade Iraq? Sheesh.

Again, however, the argument that we should keep losing American men and women in Iraq in case we want to have a quick deployment to Iran fails to persuade. It is time to get our troops home--or at least to NATO--for rest, re-training and re-evaluating our interests and options as a nation. I have been clear, at least since I supported the Terrible President's invasion of Afghanistan in 2001: We as a nation should be focused on fighting Al Queda and armed Islamicist fanatics.

And I must repeat my prior blog posts: If we impeached Terrible President and Mr. Other Priorities, and sought to engage the rest of the world against Al Qudea, we'd have a lot more credibility and would more likely cause Iran to tread lightly in moving forward with the nuke program without direct military action--maybe. Considering the screw ups and lies from the current administration, it's the least we should do as a nation.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Pat Tillman was a fan of Noam Chomsky?!?

Apart from the lies told by the Terrible President about the death of Pat Tillman, the NFL player who died from friendly fire while fighting in Afghanistan, it is quite stunning to learn he was critical of the Terrible President and the Iraq War II, and was a fan of Noam Chomsky. (Thanks for link from Daily Kos)

So here we have a guy who opposed the war in Iraq, disliked the Terrible President, and liked to read Chomsky who enlisted and went off to war for his nation.

And then, of course, we have college Republicans who clamor for more war in Iraq and other places, but have plans to become pharmaceutial industry lobbyists.

Individual people are complex creatures after all. And maybe, next time, when Ted Rall has an idea for a comic-strip column about an American soldier dying in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc., he might pause and not make the type of mirror-image assumptions favored by Ann Coulter (And if you read Ted Rall's particular but odious comic strip from May 3, 2004, you'll note in panel two, he says something we now know is false, and in panel three, wrongly states Tillman was in Iraq when he was in Afghanistan).

P.S.

As the original link in this post about Tillman comes from a self-described independent conservative who have I read in the past, I have, in my desire to reengage with thoughtful people who describe themselves as conservative, added the Cunning Realist to my links list.

(Edited)

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The "Jewish" solution to AIDS

Who knew? There's a whole bunch of mohels running around going, "See? I save people from getting AIDS!"

Oy vey.

Really, though. This study seems ridiculous on its face. From the article:

"The Soweto study, was conducted by French researchers between 2002 and 2005 with more than 3,000 healthy, sexually active males between 18 and 24. About half the volunteers were circumcised by medical professionals, and the rest remained uncircumcised.

"All the men received counseling on AIDS prevention. But after 21 months, 51 members of the uncircumcised group had contracted HIV, the AIDS virus, while only 18 members of the circumcised group had gotten the disease."

Um, didn't they wonder whether the guys who underwent circumcision were embarrassed to have sex with anyone after that--or, having had what is a surgery, thought about AIDS prevention more than the ones who just listened to a seminar on AIDS? People are complex creatures and have all sorts of motivations and personalities.

It's hard to tell which is worse: The leadership in Africa that lives in denial about this disease or the wealthier nations providing little assistance while this epidemic continues to main and kill tens of millions in Africa.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Good for the protesters of this unjustified war

About 150,000 says someone later in this article in the Washington Post. It's a good start, at least (Don't be switched off by the Post account because the Post and the NY Times have often undercounted protest rallies relating to the Iraq situation since before the war began).

...And no, I don't support A.N.S.W.E.R. or Ramsey Clark. The problem, though, is that A.N.S.W.E.R. has often done the hard work in organizing protests against this war in Iraq. They often help with getting permits, communicating the times and dates, getting the press releases out, and helping keep things moving--and yes, peaceful--at such rallies as today's rally. It is a damning commentary on us "nice" folks who merely type at a keyboard or say at a barbeque or cocktail party that the war is wrong--and I personally take that heat.

That is why I will offer the following qualified defense: A.N.S.W.E.R. or Ramsey Clark, as ridiculous and lacking in perspective and integrity as many of their statements have been over the years (e.g. the quick charge of "war criminal" against our nation's leaders, but not people such as Milosecvic) are still not the "equivalent" of the Ku Klux Klan or American Nazis. Attacking those of us who oppose this particular war and this particular president by saying "we" support these other folks is a dishonest and petty attempt to divert our nation from one hard fact:

The Terrible President's war in Iraq is a cluster bomb of incompetence and lies. This war has led to the unnecessary and terrible deaths of too many people and has wasted the monetary, budgetary and military resources of our nation. Therefore, this war has to stop. NOW.

And let's be clear about something else: Impeach Bush and Cheney. Any other leaders in any business or other endeavor who were as wrong and misleading as these two in this important instance would have been forced out by such business entities' boards of directors long ago. That's what the impeachment mechanism is for.

UPDATE: David Corn of the Nation, writing in the LA Weekly this evening, disagrees with my position. His article is well worth reading. However, I still don't buy his position because where are the unions, the mainstream progressive groups, and churches (didn't the last Pope oppose this war going in?) etc. in putting together rallies against a war that the majority of Americans already no longer support? If we don't have rallies, we don't get traction against a Republican dominated White House and Congress. David is also naive to say he wants more than rallies when he can't tell us what else to do. We're on our asses in front of a computer, David. The least we can do is not take pot-shots at rallies that bring out large groups of people who have nothing to do with A.N.S.W.E.R. and Ramsey Clark.


UPDATE #2: Chris Bowers at MyDD has colorfully harsh words for A.N.S.W.E.R. that I agree with, but, unlike David Corn, he said it was still necessary to show up at the rally in D.C. Why can't union, Democratic Party and church leaders allow a few of their employees to take some time off, get together, and plan a rally that isn't run by whack-jobs who defend mass murderers such as Miloscevic and on occasion, even Saddam Hussein? I do believe Corn and Bowers are correct that if mainstream organizations recognized the American people already have had it with this war, the rallies would contain many more people. But that would be due to the mainstream organizations stepping up and getting through to the major media where even Rush would have to talk about it. The goal of national rallies to "rally" enough people in various places to show politicians it is more politically dangerous to their next campaigns for office for them to continue to support rather than oppose this war.

(Edited)

Bruce Bartlett starts to understand Ralph Nader

Maxspeak reprints the Reaganaut tax cutter Bruce Bartlett's speech before the Senate Democratic Policy Committee. Yes, you read that right, which is why I italicized it.

Please read it before continuing because it is fascinating and reveals how principled economic conservatives and good government conservatives ought to be appalled by this administration led by the Terrible President and Mr. Other Priorities--plus the Congress led by the Future Convicted Felon (Representative Tom DeLay) and a Senate led by a potentially future convicted felon, Senator Bill Frist.

Mr. Bartlett's testimony is particularly striking because he suddenly thinks the welfare state is inevitable. Has he been also affected by the Republicans' inept execution and expensive nature of the war in Iraq and their politically motivated destruction of FEMA that exacerbated the effects of Hurricane Katrina? It is an interesting question to ask him. Anyway, Mr. Bartlett has decided that a value added tax (VAT), as they have in Europe, is necessary to stabilize the nation's finances and to fund growth of entitlements for which people are going to be clamoring. I hate to say it, though, but Mr. Bartlett has long advocated a national sales tax to replace the income tax--and a VAT is essentially, though not the same as, a sales tax (as the link explains). He is clearly doing his best to respond to the circumstances of the moment and the trends of years to come.

Part of the reason we are in this mess, however, is because the Republican leadership followed Mr. Bartlett's advice and cut income (but not other) taxes. The tragedy, though, is that the lock-step voting Republican majority controlling Congress recklessly ignored the other side Mr. Bartlett's advice about cutting spending--and the Terrible President failed to stem that recklessness. For even Mr. Bartlett recognizes that income tax cuts create massive deficits and debt in the first few years after enacting such income tax cuts.

Mr. Bartlett, who is not a dummy, obviously realizes that wars cost the government money and may adversely affect the use of money in the private sector. He must further realize that if the government fails to adequately plan for and respond to natural disasters, the result will be far greater and massive costs in terms of cleanup and rebuilding. I guess he has decided that the only thing worse than "tax and spend" liberals is conservatives who both "borrow and spend" and fill important government positions with unqualified cronies.

Unlike Grover Norquist, the Terrible President and Mr. Other Priorities, people such as Mr. Bartlett actually believe that a healthy US government is a necessary part of supporting our nation's well being and growth. I admire Mr. Bartlett's clarion call. We need this sort of dialogue. I can't agree to his particular solution (particuarly without evaluating related policies affecting the so-called "welfare" state). However, I strongly urge Mr. Bartlett to engage his fellow Republicans if they are to save our nation from ruin and to incidentally save their own party.

If principled Republicans have this discussion, it will help give strength to those of us in the Democratic Party who are also pushing for a similar internal discussion as to how to restore our manufacturing base so we continue to build material things of value*, how to rebuild our cities and re-develop our rural areas, and how we go about paying for it through public and private investment over time. Principled Democrats and Republicans cannot merely discuss this with each other because our disagreements will be ignored by the Jim Carvilles and Karl Roves who continue to dominate the respective parties (Carville is not quite as bad as Rove, but they inhabit the same world of pursuing a cynically minded destruction of our discourse). Those who seek to discuss policy solutions from different perspectives must fight inside our own respective groups, dominate there, and then go face to face with each other. When people would not step out to support Nader in 2000, I learned that third parties are just not going to work at this point. Could they work in the future? It is a question that just makes me sad when I ponder it.

The key is saying "Right on, Mr. Bartlett" and building on his courage against the Terrible President. For us, the fight is against the K Street cabal that continues to dominate the national Democratic Party as well as the Democratic Party leaders (I'm talking about you, Biden; and you, Hillary; and you, Joe Lieberman, just for starters) that continue to undermine the Democratic Party in the fight against the Republican Party's leadership, which Republican Party leadership is focused on politcial zero-sum campaigning and reckless policy-making while in power.

* If we largely forget how to design and build planes and electronics products, and leave that to other nations, say, China, will we be able to continue to build effective military equipment for our nation? In addition, and just as importantly, if Republicans such as Mr. Bartlett continue to support the modern Republican political operative party structures in the continued devaluation of scientific endeavor, to the extent the Republican leadership continues to "win" elections, will we as a nation lose our ability to design and build the machinery and electronic products to maintain our supremacy?

(Editing for clarity and grammar)

Friday, September 23, 2005

Hack law professor looking through the wrong end of the telescope

One of the hacks--oops, law professors--at the Volokh Conspiracy has again raised one of his favorite hobby-horses: That because the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931 aka "prevailing wage laws" was motivated in part by white racists within the building trades unions at that time in order to keep segregated black workers from undercutting union wages, we should not support Davis-Bacon today in terms of paying decent wages.

Nathan Newman answers this point with some detail and shows that the forces who want to repeal Davis-Bacon, since the Civil Rights Era of the 1960s, have been the forces of economic royalty--who are more often willing to undermine civil rights for blacks, if not support outright racist policies (i.e. (modern Republicans and corporate Democrats). In other words, the racist forces of the past who were a part of the coalition that passed the Davis-Bacon Act now have turned around to work with those who oppose and want to repeal it. Meanwhile, the union folks and civil rights groups are on the same side wanting to uphold and enforce the law.

The hack law professor is looking at this through the wrong lens of the telescope. His argument is akin to saying, "Don't be a Democrat! My God, don't you know the Democrats supported slavery from the early 19th Century through the Civil War? Don't you know that the Southern Democrats through the 1960s supported segregation?"

Um, yeah. But why don't you turn the telescope around and look at it through the larger lens?

The truth is that the Davis-Bacon Act was passed to avoid having unions compete with exploited and exploitable people who would take lower wages and undermine unions--no different than why unions today oppose illegal immigration where destitute workers work for a pittance. In the early 1930s, black skinned people were segregated due to our society's pervasive racism. Henry Ford was famous for using blacks as strikebreakers. That is how many blacks first moved from the South to Michigan in the early 1900s. That some in the leadership of the building trades (and Representative Bacon) were motivated by their racism, there can be no doubt. But the source of acting on that racism (one cannot include Bacon here) was something that is not racist: Passing laws that will allow workers to receive higher wages. That "workers" meant white in that time, again, there is no doubt. But once we entered the Civil Rights Era, worker means at least as often black.

Therefore, to repeal Davis-Bacon is to harm black workers, which, in the analysis suggested by the hack law professor, makes him a racist. Of course, he is not a racist. That is why his argument fails and frankly, why he is a hack for economic royalists.

(Edited)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Why I'd let Roberts be appointed, but still impeach Bush

In a post dated July 22, 2005 on the subject of the Terrible President's nomination of Judge Roberts, I said the following at the end of the post:

"My sense, so far, of Roberts is that he's much more right wing than O'Connor. Let's not confuse personable with reasonable in terms of judicial philosophy. The best solution is to put Roberts on the shelf until Rehnquist retires. Replacing Rehnquist with Roberts is a wash, judicial philosophy-wise."

In my post dated August 24, 2005, I stated the following:

"If Judge Roberts was replacing Rehnquist, I'd say give him the seat. Now. But, we just had a very close election where even Republicans who voted for Bush II a second time around want to maintain the right to privacy (not merely Roe v. Wade); do not want to have the Court return to a crabbed, non-originalist, late 19th Century view of the commerce clause, nor want to give the executive a wide-open deference with regard to personal (as opposed to economic) liberty. Replacing O'Connor with Roberts on two of these three main constitutional issues moves the Supreme Court further right (I'd even say on the commerce clause, Roberts could be more right-wing than O'Connor, based upon his "contracts" clause law review article)."

I haven't veered from that view after the hearings and information the White House released regarding Judge Roberts.

John Nichols of the Nation does a solid job, with an extensive reprint of Senator Ted Kennedy's statement in opposition of Judge Roberts, of setting forth reasons to oppose Judge Roberts.

But, at the end of the day, I disagree with John Nichols and Senator Kennedy for a very simple and basic reason: Judge Roberts is no longer replacing O'Connor. He is replacing Rehnquist. The elections of 2000 and 2004 were razor-thin close in a nation of 280 million people. I think the Terrible President's political party is entitled to replace Rehnquist with someone more likely to be a "Rehnquist-type." While I hold out a limited hope that Judge Roberts, once he ascends to the Supreme Court, will find his inner O'Connor or perhaps even Souter, I have no illusions about either occurring.

The failure of the Senators in both parties to set forth a principled, yet still political position is what causes these contortions with Leahy saying Robertts "is a man of integrity..." as if that needs to be a criteria we should have to discuss at all, or Harry Reid opposing Roberts because he essentially admits he wants to shine his bone-fides to pro-choice groups that don't trust his often anti-abortion position.

It is not defeatist to let Roberts replace Rehnquist. I have been consistent from the start here: The fight is about stopping the Terrible President from replacing O'Connor with someone even more pro-modern Republican ("conservative" just doesn't tell us what I'm talking about here) than she was. Leahy deep down must know this as does Reid, Kennedy, et al.

The "best" reason I can think of to oppose Roberts is the desire to ready the Democratic Party rank-and-file to oppose any nominee to replace O'Connor who is to the right of O'Connor. But I don't agree with that because I think the "base" is already watching and will immediately be geared up for battle--and demanding a filibuster--if the Terrible President nominates a Rehnquist, Scalia, or Thomas type to replace O'Connor.

So I'm not signing any pledges or petitions to stop Roberts. I believe, if anything, the Democrats in Congress would be much better off preparing articles of impeachment against the Terrible President and the Vice President aka Mr. Other Priorities for reasons concerning Iraq (both planning and especially execution), the demolition of FEMA and misuse of scientific research. And let's add to the Terrible President's impeachable offenses (and perhaps the VP, too) complicity in covering up the leak of the disclosure of the identity of a CIA agent. These two executives have also shown themselves to be incompetent and betraying even the principles of their own political party. If the Republicans can impeach a president for the reasons they did with Clinton, they have no reason not to impeach these two guys, right now.

That would admittedly "rally the base," though, again, that's not the issue and shouldn't be. We should do things because of what we believe in and what we think is fair within the political process as a whole. I detest Karl Rove and have no use for Jim Carville or his Republican operative wife. We need a better balance of the political and the principled--and the leading political operatives in both parties have helped knock us out of balance for quite some time now.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Small world, mending fences

It's a small world after all. Turns out that Adam Sullivan of the Karmic Inquisition has one of his sons in the same Boy Scout troop as my son. I had not known of his blog and he did not know of my political obsessions or blog until a week ago. Funny thing, Adam's been a hero of mine since my son joined the troop earlier this year. He's a military veteran, currently a software company president and an all-around great guy.

After last week's meeting, we each checked out each other's blogs and decided there are significant differences between us, but also somewhat significant common ground.

Tonight, after our scout meeting, we discussed the fact that there was a time when the liberal-left and libertarian-right blogs spoke in a civil and engaging manner with each other. We differed over when that ended, however. He said the engagement ended during the 2004 election campaign. I said the engagement ended during the build up to the Second Iraq War in the fall of 2002. There was already bad blood beforehand due to Andrew Sullivan and Instapundit questioning the patriotism of Atrios, TBogg and Daily Kos, among others after 9/11/01.

Adam believes we should try to re-engage, though I admit to being less hopeful for any reconciliation anytime soon among various bloggers who each feel betrayed by the vitriol that has passed among us. I also take the side of most of the liberal-left bloggers who were deeply and reasonably offended with the right blogosphere's attack on their patriotism. I know I have not quite gotten back with certain very GOP oriented friends since the year 2003 as a result of our differences over the Terrible President's handling of just about everything and my view that the Terrible President has betrayed the best ideals of Goldwater and Taft.

However, I have taken his hopeful comment to heart and decided I must make a better effort to expand my links beyond its current political tilt. I therefore added Adam's blog to my list of blogs and added one of Adam's other links, Andrew Apostolou. I also added the Volokh Conspiracy even though I find some of Eugene Volokh's co-conspirators to be party-line hacks posing as law professors (not something that is limited to a particular political party line--though at the Volokh Conspiracy, it is right wing or libertarian-right). In this regard, I note that I have continued to defend Eugene Volokh despite his flip endorsement of torture and his recent less than politically correct discussion of homosexual rights. Eugene is, in my personal experience and reading of him, genuine, brilliant, humane, and interested in argument and the engagement of argument. He has also bucked any shallow party-line which deserves more respect from the liberal-left blogosphere (he defends the jurisprudence of the 9th Circuit on the Pledge of Alligence, for example). I may add a few more right leaning blogs over the next few months, though I admit I am looking for mavericks rightists--something I am admittedly not doing when it comes to the liberal-left bloggers in the links section of my page.

What are the chances of two bloggers finding each other in the same relatively small suburb? Probably higher than I ever thought before. But in the end, my abhorrence for the Terrible President may require that, in order for us to reach common ground, he agree with me that the Terrible President is indeed terrible. That may end the common ground before we begin...Am I too strident on this? Perhaps. But again, I stood up against Clinton for betraying the New Deal. Why are not more conservatives screaming at the Terrible President's betrayal of the principles enunciated by Teddy Roosevelt, Barry Goldwater, and Bob Taft? This may be the reason why engagement has not been fruitful from the perspective of those of us who did step out of Democratic Party ranks during the 1990s and through the 2000 election. If there were more of those folks screaming at the Terrible President's betrayal and looking for common ground as to oil drilling, personal and civil liberties, and avoiding excessive foreign entanglements based upon propaganda, and restoring our manufacturing base to sustain our nation through the 21st Century, then we may truly re-engage. So far, though, there's little more than crickets croaking in the fields after dark.

(Slight edit)

George Will jurisprudence: "Whatever I want it to be"

George Will has written another one of his columns where he dons the cloak of a legal scholar,and the result is the usual travesty.

A short version of his article attacking Justice Stephen Breyer's vision of the Constitution is this: "Breyer is a judicial activist because he won't overturn laws passed by the legislature that I don't like."

Since the Kelo decision on eminent domain, Will has said in this latest article, as well as in one previous article, that "judicial activism" is when a judge refuses to overturn a law passed by the legislature. But then, when it comes to something Will opposes, such as abortion rights, Will defines "judicial activism" as occuring when a judge overturns a law (an anti-abortion statute) that he happens to like.

In the Washington Post article on eminent domain, Will admits the following at the end of the article:

"Conservatives should be reminded to be careful what they wish for. Their often-reflexive rhetoric praises "judicial restraint" and deference to -- it sometimes seems -- almost unleashable powers of the elected branches of governments. However, in the debate about the proper role of the judiciary in American democracy, conservatives who dogmatically preach a populist creed of deference to majoritarianism will thereby abandon, or at least radically restrict, the judiciary's indispensable role in limiting government."

Yes, George, and that applies especially to you because you continue to use politically loaded phrases such as "liberal", "conservative", "strict construction," "judicial activist," to attack particular decisions you don't like. You don't like "excessive" uses of eminent domain, but 20 years ago, you were telling the Oakland city managers to exercise eminent domain against a football team that wanted to move out of Oakland.* You don't think government should be involved in social matters, but because your child has Down's Syndrome, the more money spent by the federal government to study Down's Syndrome, the better (no link to these as these positions were espoused by Will during the pre-Internet 1980s and there were no links I could find).

* Of course, when he was recently on the board of directors of the San Diego Padres, he openly supported the team's extortion of public funds to build a stadium in downtown San Diego. As usual, the team had threatened to leave town if they didn't get subsidized by the government as if they were...a poor welfare mother.

Finally, George once wrote a book saying that Congressional term limits were appropriate--while admitting in the beginning of his book that the Founders specifically rejected the Virginia Plan during the debates over the language of the Constitution. The Virginia Plan included term limits for congressmen. As with "judicial activism," George Will has only so much fealty to the "original intent" of our Founders.

At the end of the day, George Will has no judicial philosophy. He merely has a political philosophy that he wants us to think is a judicial philosophy. In other words, he is a hack; something most of know already, but which may not be as known when it comes to his pronouncements on the American judiciary.

(Edited)

Sunday, September 18, 2005

It depends upon what the definition of "unemployment" is...

Maxspeak reminds us of the differing definitions of unemployment and how our nation's leaders decided to understate the total number of unemployed--while Germany and other European nations may be overstating their unemployed figures.

Next time someone tells you about "sick" Europe, and cites the high unemployment rates of Western Europe, please feel free to ask the complainer to define "unemployment." One may reasonably conclude that person cannot define "unemployment" even in the USA.

Sigh.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Julian Sanchez responds re: Hugo Chavez

In an earlier post, I had discussed how the right wing and business-oriented libertarians want to see Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez leave office...by any means necessary.

Julian Sanchez, whose article I linked to for readers to understand why these right wing and libertarian folks feel this way, honorably and publicly replied to my post as follows:

"I do not think you could possibly have chosen a stranger example than my Chavez article to make your point. As I explain there, I wrote about him because he was in the news and wanted to forestall the assumption that because Robertson is a fool, Chavez is a good guy, as so many on the left here seem convinced. You don't need to resort to speculation to figure out why I think this; there are quite a lot of perfectly good reasons laid out in the piece. And I say outright that for all we should be concerned about him, overt U.S. government hostility is probably counterproductive. I apologize for not speaking out against Pinochet, but I'm afraid I was eleven years old when his regime ended. And since my father only narrowly escaped imprisonment (and possibly worse) at the hands of the Franco regime by fleeing to Britain and the U.S., I'll confess I'm frankly slightly offended to be lumped in with that regime's apologists."

I have found Mr. Sanchez's blog and link to it here, as is only fair (As with many libertarians, I can agree with them at least 40% to 60% on the issues generally discussed in corporate-owned media).

My response is as follows--and Mr. Sanchez is free to reply on my web log:

Mr. Sanchez,

I did state in my post: "...I don't recall (Sanchez) ever being as upset by other would-be right wing dicators in Latin or Central America. I also don't recall him screaming about Pinochet...Perhaps he was too young for Pinochet." I should have better Googled your true age and for that I apologize. However, your reply is silent as to any right-wing leaders in Latin or Central America (or other places around the world) whose policies and tactics upset you, which was my fundamental point about the selectiveness among the right and libertarians when criticizing Chavez.

Let's also recall my post was entitled "A fascinating, yet cautionary article on Hugo Chavez," which was initially referencing a reasonably critical article on Chavez by the noted Latin American reporter, Anna Guillermoprieto.

Re-reading your article on Chavez, and comparing it with your reply, you want to appear as if you are against overthrowing Chavez, who remains very popular, was elected in a fairly open election and survived a US supported referendum to try to kick him out of office. Here, though, is how you ended your article:

"Flush with revenue bolstered by record-high oil prices and imbued with a bizarre vision of himself as a kind of Latin American Don Quixote, Chávez may be a clown—but he's a scary clown whose regional influence is deadly serious." (Italics added)

You are 26, but I am 48 years old. And I must say I have lived long enough to recognize such language about "regional influence" and being "deadly serious" as very similar to Cold War-era commentary that prepared the way for various US governments to overthrow Third World leaders, whose "crime" in the eyes of such American leaders was that these Third World leaders demanded more money from our nation's corporations in order to pursue land reform and better care or feed their people.

Let's be blunt about where we disagree: I believe our nation's leaders should, at this time, treat Chavez with some respect and speak in favor of his pursuit of land reform and providing health care and schooling to his people. It is only then, I believe, that our nation's concurrent criticism of his sometimes oppressive tactics will have more credibility with both him and the majority of Venezuelans. I don't sense you want to do anything other than see Chavez leave office--now. And the sooner that land reform and other "giveaways" stop, the better. Your article, after all, was in Reason on-line and you work with the Cato Institute. These business-oriented libertarians tend to worry more about excessive government in the US when our nation considers enacting national health care, supports unions, or maintains Social Security, than at the PATRIOT ACT or police brutality against poor people.

As for your Dad, he sounds like a very brave man to have earned the enmity of Francisco Franco. If he is among the living, does he share your concern that Chavez represents a serious danger at this time? If so, then I would respectfully disagree with both of you. However, I cannot automatically assume your Dad would agree with you any more than the late, great California Supreme Court Justice, Otto Kaus (a New Deal liberal), agreed with his son, Mickey, who built a journalism career pounding on welfare mothers.

I am probably being more harsh than I should, but I chose your article as an example of a hostile article about Chavez precisely because it contained detailed factual information (via links) for a reader to understand the sometimes oppressive tactics of Chavez against his opponents. It was well-written and the most sophisticated right-wing attack on Chavez. However, your difference with Pat Robertson is merely over tactics. Both you and Robertson share an inordinate fear and loathing of Chavez and his rule in Venezuela, especially compared to the current situation in Ecuador or the continuing violence by both government and guerilla forces in Columbia (to stay in the "region").

(slight edit for clarity)

Suitors to purchase LA Times?

The LA Times reports that music and film magnate David Geffen, real estate magnate Eli Broad, Haim Saban, another entertainment magnate, and junk bond king and now philanthopic entrepreneur Michael Milken are each interested in purchasing the LA Times (now owned by the same company which owns the Chicago Tribune).

I guess any of them would be better for the City of Los Angeles and Southern California. The LA Times, for all its internal loss of morale (I too have my sources), remains one of the top three newspapers in the nation. It does need, however, a local ownership if for no other reasaon than to understand its reporters who are reporting on California and more local political and cultural events.

Each of these magnates is an essentially Clinton Democrat (culturally liberal and economically corporate-minded), which is not noticeably different from the LA Times' so-called "liberal" Republican op-ed sensibility over the past three decades. However, if any of them wanted to publish Digby, Kevin Drum, TBogg, and me (all West Coast bloggers located on my Links section of this blog), I'm sure each of us would take their calls. Heck, I will volunteer to help prepare the legal documents for the purchase!

Again, the LA Times needs a local ownership that is truly embedded in Southern California--even though its national and international reporters are excellent and important for our nation as a whole.

Friday, September 16, 2005

The Terrible President up to his same old tricks

Digby offers a corrective to those who think the Terrible President has found his inner FDR. Can anyone take the Terrible President seriously when he puts Karl Rove in charge of the rebuilding of New Orleans? Karl Rove?!?

Friday morning roundup and thoughts about God

My friend, Betsy Angert, at be-think, has a very intriguing post about the Pentagon's climate change study in 2004 that raised the issue to a national security level--and how the Terrible President ignored it. She also links to articles that wonder at how much climate change affected the strength of Hurricane Katrina. My view of the climate change debate is that while climate change may not be as clearly proven as its advocates assume, what will the Terrible President and Rush Limbaugh and others say if those advocates are correct? "Oh, I'm sorry the ozone layer is permanently ruptured. Oopsy!" On the other hand, there is some good news this morning as to the ozone layer from the UN, here.

David Sirota has written an article as to the sickness that are tax cuts for the most wealthy interests in the nation in a time of war and natural disasters. What is truly dismaying is the Democratic Party leadership's silence and worse, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who still has an undeserved label of "maverick," saying he's gung-ho for repealing the estate tax, even after the destruction of New Orleans and the massive cost of rebuilding it.

Also, check out MaxSpeak's funny post about how the Terrible President is financing the rebuilding of New Orleans and then, take a look at Kevin Drum's point about how the Terrible President continues to avoid the "hard" choices in a way that would make Lyndon "Guns and Butter" Johnson look like he's the height of fiscal responsibility.

Oh, and the Terrible President spoke last night. Yup. And here's something interesting he said:

"Across the Gulf Coast, among people who have lost much, and suffered much, and given to the limit of their power, we are seeing that same spirit -- a core of strength that survives all hurt, a faith in God no storm can take away, and a powerful American determination to clear the ruins and build better than before."
(MF italics)

Forget the hypocrisy and cynicism of that statement coming from a draft-dodging, arrogant jerk who doesn't give a damn about anyone but his rich cronies.

This statement has also been made by people of genuine feelings and faith. Yet, when I hear such sentiments as an adult, I am often reminded of that heretical and tough Randy Newman song where he has God laughing at us for His causing bad things to happen and how we still revere Him. It's called "The God Song: That's Why I Love Mankind":

"Cain slew Abel, Seth knew not why
For if the children of Israel were to multiply
Why must any of the children die?
So he asked the Lord
And the Lord said:

"Man means nothing, he means less to me
Than the lowliest cactus flower
Or the humblest Yucca tree
He chases round this desert
'Cause he thinks that's where I'll be
That's why I love mankind

"I recoil in horror from the foulness of thee
From the squalor and the filth and the misery
How we laugh up here in heaven at the prayers you offer me
That's why I love mankind

"The Christians and the Jews were having a jamboree
The Buddhists and the Hindus joined on satellite TV
They picked their four greatest priests
And they began to speak
They said, "Lord, a plague is on the world
Lord, no man is free
The temples that we built to you
Have tumbled into the sea
Lord, if you won't take care of us
Won't you please, please let us be?"
And the Lord said
And the Lord said

"I burn down your cities-how blind you must be
I take from you your children and you say how blessed are we
You all must be crazy to put your faith in me
That's why I love mankind
You really need me
That's why I love mankind"

I admit to finding that song too difficult for me, as a believer, to listen to. Yet, my logic side compels me to try to respond to the point about why so many horrible things happen in this world and why God allows it to happen, whether it be natural disasters or the mass murder that took place throughout the supposedly enlightened 20th Century. Why can't God come down to us every 25 years or so and say, "Be nice to each other. Stop worrying about your different ways of praying. And, by the way, watch your asses. Eternity is a long time for me to be kicking your butts." Wouldn't that stop people from listening to most of the Republican mantras about tax cuts, war and gutting government programs that had been designed to actually help people? Wouldn't that cause some dictators around the globe to be just a little nervous and hesitant about what they do?

To say it is "presumptuous" of us to say this or that we don't understand the "ways" of God are ultimately evasive. The Jewish answer is that we are entitled, since Abraham argued with God about Sodom & Gomorrah, to "wrestle with God." But at some point, we should want to say, "Stop this madness! You have the power! At least say something clearly and powerfully to us."

Oh well. Wife and children's needs call and therefore, I'm off to work. Too cosmic to think about, isn't it?

Thursday, September 15, 2005

A fascinating, yet cautionary article on Hugo Chavez

The President of Venezuela may be bringing some good things to his people in terms of health care, land reform, schooling, and medical care. However, as one of the greatest reporters in Latin America (and a former Washington Post reporter) Anna Guillermoprieto explains in her excellent NY Review of Books article on Hugo Chavez, we who value good government in terms of process should be very wary of Chavez.

Still, we should not currently support the right wing efforts in our nation who seek to dislodge Chavez precisely because of what I started out by saying. The article I linked to here is by Julian Sanchez, who is a right wing liberatarian who I don't recall ever being as upset by other would-be right wing dictators in Latin or Central America. I also don't recall his screaming about Pinochet when he was in power or Pinochet's minions following Pinochet's fall from power. Perhaps he was too young for Pinochet. But too many American leaders in the Republican Party wooed and wined and dined Pinochet and don't seem the least bit phased or held accountable for it. And, as I also pointed out recently, it is important to recall the fawning treatment by right wingers such as William Buckley over Francisco Franco in Spain during the 1950s through the 1970s.

"Life is not always a choice between good and bad guys," our right-wing leaders tell us when they support dictatorships in China, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Singapore, Kenya, Ecuador, Haiti, and other places around the world. Well, why doesn't that point work when one sees a would-be dictator with 80% approval ratings that are not faked polls, and who seems to be providing some assistance to his people from an economic standpoint? The motives of Julian Sanchez, Pat Robertson, and the Terrible President cause me to put the burden on them that their hostility against Chavez is not based upon his Marxist or Socialist rhetoric and his land reform program.

And let's also reject the following thought that may occur to us as I write the above: Is Chavez Stalin? Is he Hitler? Is he Mao or Castro? The answer is "no" to all of the above. He may be a Peronist, though. And, if, someday, he becomes a Castro, one can bet dollars to donuts that our nation's right-wing elements and the Bush administration will have been of great help to him through their talk of and possible material support for Chavez's assassination or removal from power through a coup or other illegal means. The patterns formed during our nation's 20th Century foreign policy history are reason enough to believe this is quite possible. See: William Blum's admittedly one-sided analyses in Killing Hope and Rogue State. However, Blum's books are thought-provoking and help one balance the other one-side analysis that passes for "objectivity" in our corporate owned media of an America that means well, but just seems to make a lot of "mistakes." The truth is somewhere between "mistakes" and "intent," with the history of each instance involving a particular country closer to one end or the other. And the saddest part is that our mistaken or intentional efforts to support right wing dicators who impoverish their people so often backfire--or blowback.

"Free trade" meets Soylent Green

Remember the film, Soylent Green?

Well, we're getting mighty close for comfort here...

Gotta love that "free trade" exlixir that promotes corporate power backed by oppressive governments, starting with Wal-Mart's favorite nation-state, China. You know, there's an old, and quite silly, right-wing book from a few decades ago whose title sounds eerily appropriate now: "None Dare Call it Treason."

Thanks to David Sirota for the link to the original article on the Chinese "company" using the skin of executed convicts as an ingredient for cosmetics.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Excellent article on Roe v. Wade in LA Times

This LA Times feature article tells a fascinating background story of how Roe v. Wade was developed and decided at the US Supreme Court.

My criticism of the article concerns particular conclusions drawn. First, the article overstates the question of whether Blackmun meant to allow "abortion on demand," particularly because there was little effort by pro-life groups or anyone to define a woman's "health" needs as was allowed under the companion case, Doe v. Bolton. Second, it overstates whether Blackmun cared about female autonomy. The writer states:

"Blackmun voiced disdain for feminists who said women deserved control over their bodies. "There is no absolute right to do with one's body what you like," he said. But he agreed that the Texas law was extreme and said it did "not go far enough to protect doctors."

Blackmun merely said there was no "absolute" right for bodily autonomy. That is not disdain for women or feminist views of personal autonomy. Also, one must read the decision, where it expressly states in 410 U.S. at 453 of its opinion:

"This right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment's concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or, as the District Court determined, in the Ninth Amendment's reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy. The detriment that the State would impose upon the pregnant woman by denying this choice altogether is apparent."

After listing a variety of factors, the majority opinion stated: "All these are factors the woman and her responsible physician necessarily will consider in consultation."

Does this sound like Blackmun's opinion is disdaining of a woman's personal autonomy?

The article reaffirms that Blackmun's experience as general counsel for the Mayo Clinic and his own historical research on abortion laws had much to do with the structure of the opinion. What was particularly interesting is Justice Powell's personal experience:

"For Powell, the issue was personal: When he was a lawyer in Richmond, Va., a young man came to him in despair. His pregnant girlfriend had tried to abort her fetus with his help, and she had bled to death. Powell went to the authorities to explain what happened. Thereafter, he was determined to see abortion made safe and legal."

And here's a bigger surprise: The most judicially "liberal" Justice of the time, Justice William O. Douglas, was originally pushing for a more limited ruling that merely held that only first trimester abortions were constitutionally protected on privacy grounds, obviously consistent with common law rights of abortion until "quickening." The article states:

"Douglas disagreed. 'I favor the first trimester, rather than viability,' he said. He was outvoted, however, and Blackmun said he would revise the opinion over the Christmas holidays."

My theory is that Douglas was afraid to rear the head of "substantive due process," which was used by the capitalistally biased Justices of the late 19th Century and early 20th Centuries to overturn wage and hours laws that had been designed to protect workers.

Anyway, contrary to most of the legal commentators, Blackmun's opinion is a fine work of jurisprudence that understands the importance of original intent (does anyone believe our Founders or the 14th Amendment drafters thought a fetus is a person under the law?). It also understands historical precedent in recognizing the ambiguous and often turn-the-other-cheek sensibility in antiquity, religious history, and common law regarding abortion, and how the laws on the books regarding abortion were written at a time when the motivation was not to save a fetus, but to protect the health of the mom when abortions were dangerous. When one adds these to the issue of the right to privacy, Roe v. Wade flows both logically and factually from historical experience.

This was why so many anti-abortion activists went nuts against Charles Fried, who the leading anti-abortion groups had hired to argue against Roe in the Supreme Court during the 1990s. Fried refused to attack the right to privacy and even Scalia was supposedly visibly upset at Fried's statement during his oral presentation before the Court. I couldn't find a link, but it was well reported at the time in legal journals.

Contrary to the rhetoric, Roe is probably the first decision to give the government the explicit right to protect a fetus. Using the wisdom of James Madison and Chief Justice John Marshall, and Oliver Wendell Homes, who said experience, not logic is the ultimate guide to jurisprudence, Justice Blackmun's decision used medical consensus as to drawing lines of when a fetus is viable and thus entitled to personhood that must be balanced against the woman carrying the fetus to term. Again, why we don't have laws that define what it means for the woman's health as a reason for or against an abortion in the second or third trimesters is something that probably more than anything else surprised Justice Blackmun. It is why the political fights regarding abortion have never gone away.

Too bad. Justice Roberts will probably vote to overturn Roe no matter what he says. But I consistently said in this blog that if he were to replace Rehnquist, I'd support him. I continue to believe that, no matter what I read in the New York Review of Books.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Trial lawyer questions to Judge Roberts

I've been in mediation on a case all day and haven't seen a thing. I just read a part of the transcripts and so far, I'm unimpressed with the questioning.

If Judge Roberts says he can't say what his view of Roe v. Wade is because it might come up again, one may ask the following questions:

"Judge Roberts, have you ever set forth your opinion of the holding in Roe v. Wade to anyone (outside of your wife, if we want to apply a marital privilege)?"

If he answers, no, one can ask a few different questions with the same point to show he is obviously not being forthcoming.

If he answers yes, then one simply asks, "Then if your friends or acquaintences know your view of the holding, then you owe it to the Senate, which must pass on your nomination, to tell us that view. Therefore, Judge Roberts, what has been your view of the holding of Roe v. Wade?"

As for the commerce clause, all we can do is educate him by citing Chief Justice Marshall's early opinions on the very wide scope of the commerce clause, as well as Federalist Paper no. 10 which talks about the "essence of modern legislation" being the "regulation" of a variety of economic interests. But it's worth the joust.

Also, one may have some fun with "originialism" with the language from Federalist Paper no. 37 and the fact that vague words were purposefully used to be decided upon by decisions coming down then-future courts.

Again, so far, I'm not seeing any kind of sharp, trial lawyer head on questions. Even when some approach it, he just bats it away per the transcript.

I feel, however, like a person who heard the Nixon-Kennedy debate over the radio...

UPDATE: Roberts will likely be confirmed, which I have said is not bad as he's now replacing Rehnquist, not O'Connor. Let's fight against a nominee who is to the right of O'Connor if we're going to have a fight over a Supreme Court nominee.

Corporate media admits complicity in creating Bush positive image

The Washington Post article, "Now they tell us," is too cute for the serious admission that the corporate owned media allowed itself to positively spin the image of the Terrible President for too long.

Compare the treatement by these same media folks to...oh, I don't know...how about Gore and Kerry, or even Clinton who was continually described as someone who had a hard time running a chaotic ship of state, a chaos to which he contributed.

Does anyone doubt that if the corporate-owned media, particularly the broadcast media, had honestly reported what Bush's own aides were saying about Bush within a year of 9/11 (this was fairly clear to some lonely reporters shortly after 9/11)--or stood up for the truth about what Paul O'Neill or Richard Clarke were saying, instead of letting them get slimed by Republican talking points operations--that at least several more voters might have recognized how the Terrible President is unfit to command?

Well, perhaps this is a sign that the corporate owned media will begin, finally, to report what they observe and hear--and not let public relations control them for fear of losing access to controlled leaks. Maybe.

Monday, September 12, 2005

In Defense of Freda Kirchwey

This is deep inside baseball of old 20th Century left politics, so forgive me if this makes no sense about why I feel so strongly about someone most people have never heard of:

Freda Kirchwey was the editor of the Nation from the 1930s through the mid-1950s. She is, however, generally and unfairly regarded as someone too embarassing for polite company by the likes of even Nation writers, Eric Alterman and Victor Navasky, who have this year repeated the slander that she was somehow "pro-Soviet Union" during the Stalin years. This slander against her must be avenged (though I will note that Alex Cockburn has admirably done so in the past when Victor has seen fit to say not so nice things about her, and therefore, Cockburn should be given dispensation this time).*

How people such as Alterman and Navasky reach this conclusion regarding Kirchwey continues to baffle me. They have obviously not read carefully, for example, Kirchwey's insightful and brilliant essay from the May 27, 1939 issue of the Nation entitled "Red Totalitarianism." In it, Kirchwey made two fundamental points that Navasky and Alterman should know Izzy Stone, their and my hero, agreed with: (1) the Reds in America were a hateful and dangerous bunch, but (2) they were very helpful, in their "Popular Front" phase, in moving the New Deal forward because they had passion and were there to lick the envelopes, get-out-the-vote, and often worked hard to organize rallies and marches.**

What should embarass those of us who revere Izzy is that it was Kirchwey, of all people, who personally tried to stop Izzy Stone from signing one of those horrid petitions that said the Russian Soviets were the "bulwark" against war and aggression and stood for Western oriented procedural freedom--all in the fight against fascism. Izzy signed that petition just a week or two before the infamous Nazi-Soviet pact (or Hitler-Stalin pact for those who want the names of the dictators). In a marvelous opinion article that appeared in the same issue as the petition to which Izzy lent his name (along with another Nation writer and true Stalinist Maxwell Stewart), it was Kirchwey who pointed out the folly of signing petitions that said anything positive about what was happening in Stalin's Russia. And it was Izzy Stone's worst moment in his public life.

Was Kirchwey's view in 1939 a "late" conversion? No, it was not. Kirchwey was fairly consistent throughout the Thirties in denouncing Stalin's dictatorial crimes against humanity. The worst one may say of her is that she allowed a couple of writers like Louis Fischer or Maxwell Stewart to parrot a Soviet Party line while the Popular Front was going on--even while she and others at the Nation were fairly clear that the Soviet Union was not a free society and that American Communists were not as freedom-loving as they appeared in their public displays of rhetorical affection for an open society.

It is also little remarked that while Kirchwey was willing to denounce the Stalinist purges of the mid-1930s, the New Republic was far more willing to be indifferent or supportive of these notorious so-called "show trials" and mass murder during the real time of the purges. Yet, it is Kirchwey who continues to be attacked by writers who should be defending her.

In Eric Alterman's blog on September 12, 2005 (scroll down), he attacks former Red, Mike Davis, for referring, in a new article in the Nation, to Arthur Schelesinger and other Cold War liberals as "hellhounds of the Cold War." Alterman rhetorically exaggerates that there was "week after week" apologies for Stalin in the Nation under Kirchwey. He further claimed there was "no discrening of truth" about Stalin's regime, when that is simply not true. Such rhetoric is not worthy of a Nation writer when discussing Freda Kirchwey.

Also, isn't it true that Schlesinger's judgments during the Truman-to-Johnson era as to much of America's foreign policy were at best naive and worst no different than what we are seeing from Christopher Hitchens and Paul Berman now with Bush's Iraq War? In other words, wasn't Schlesinger at that time more interested in punishing heretics of the Cold War than standing up to the abuses being done by the powers that be in the US, domestically and increasingly in foreign affairs (starting in Greece, Vietnam, Guatemala, and Iran), in the name of "freedom?" Freda Kirchwey was fairly prescient in her denouncing of the trends of the first few Cold War years and again saw things fairly similarly to Izzy Stone.

Another failure of perspective during such discussions is the fact that the US, after World War II, was actively recruiting real live Nazis to run various positions in West Germany and the US and introduced them to think tanks. And if one were to use the nomenclature of the Cold War against the Right, the same nomenclature that continues to burden the Left, what is one to make of William Buckley's childish and dangerous support for Franco and countless dictators who merely claimed to be against something they called "communism?" Or what to make of the Dulles brothers who were "fellow travelers" of Nazis before, during, and after World War II? Ever read John Foster Dulles' defense of Nazi and the military regime in Japan's aggression in Harper's during the 1930s--or his support for a "Christian Peace" with Hitler during the war, for example? Are there more charitable ways to view the Dulles brothers and Buckley? Yes, but why not the same natural charity for Freda Kirchwey?

Again, if we're going to defend Izzy Stone--and by God we better--from right wing attacks, the least we can do is to give a better balanced view of Freda Kirchwey, who, almost alone, during the Holocaust, was vocal about what was happening to Jews under Nazi Germany, had fought for women's right to vote and other rights, strongly supported the New Deal and was for entering World War II at a time when communists and others on the left were joining anti-New Deal isolationists such as Lindbergh and Vandenberg.

* I take no part in the continuing feud of Cockburn and Alterman because, as a reader of the Nation, I find both compelling and interesting. On their policy differences, I would probably side more often with Alterman, however. As to the Alterman-Adam Schatz feud, I'd like to hear how Adam Schatz disagrees, policy-wise, with Alterman's friend, MJ Rosenberg. Adam Schatz seems merely to like to read some of the folks Alterman doesn't like and hence, Schatz is read out of, again, polite company. I also happen to admire Schatz as a person and as editor of the Nation book review section.

** Did Kirchwey adhere, in that same article, unfortunately, to a Herbert Matthews view of the Spanish Civil War? Yes, but most people at that time did not see the truth of Communist Russian treachery of siding with the right-wing business interests within the Spanish Republican side against the Anarchists and other leftists also fighting for the Republic--which treachery worsened the split that helped lead Franco's Fascists to victory in Spain in 1939. CORRECTION: Kirchwey's defense of the Communists who fought "side by side" with Anarchists and Socialists in the Spanish Civil War was not in the article, but in a reposite in a later issue of the Nation where she was sparring with Sidney Hook. Hook's letter to the editor attacking Kirchwey was typical Hook: long on philosophical syllogisms and short on practical analysis.

(Edited; and corrected)

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Dandelion Break

As any reader may tell, I've been particularly angry this past 10 days at the rank incompetence and mendacity of the Terrible President and the intellectuals/commentators who spin for him.

When things would get rough in Bloom County, the best solution tended to be a "dandelion break."

My own, private dandelion break tends to be music. Not just any music, however. It must be a music that is joyful and uplifting and must reveal the artistry of human beings on our best days.

Ralph* Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) is perhaps my all-time favorite composer and personifies this description. Here are three partial selections of his many works that provide reflective and kind waves in an often discordant world (thank you to the Ralph Vaughan Williams Society for the links to snippets of his wonderful music):

Fantasia on a Theme By Thomas Tallis


The Lark Ascending
(a personal favorite of favorites though one should rush out and listen to the whole thing--with Hugh Bean's violin solo with the London Philharmonic Orchestra)

A Pastoral Symphony (No. 3)


I adore Williams' work, whether it be concertos, symphonies, quartets, and, yes, his hymnal music. Ironically, I must note that Bertrand Russell, a contemporary, described Williams as "the most frightful atheist," which seems hard to fathom based upon other things I've read about Williams. More likely on point was another contemporary who described Williams as a "happy Christian agnostic." In another one of those ironic twists, it is also worth noting that Williams' great-grandfather was Erasmus Darwin, grandfather to Charles Darwin. Yet, Williams wrote truly soulful and moving hymns and choral music, which shows us once again the complexity of human personalities that should, in this dandelion-break moment, give us hope for our own future.

Regardless of his ancestry or personal views on religion, I heartily recommend most of Vaughan Williams symphonies and concertos, starting with the three above.

* He pronounced his name in the old English way: "Rafe"

Intelligence vs. idiocy

In my previous post, I wish I'd have been clearer that when I speak of the idiocy of modern so-called "conservatives," I speak of their intellectual representatives, not rank and file folks. We who are obsessed with things historical and political are expected to know what we're talking about to some extent, unlike the rank and file who do not wish to get lost in the minutiae of public policy arguments. In fact, I have often found that audiences I speak with who think themselves "conservative" are less "conservative" than they believe, particularly the religious right folks when we start to talk about the distribution of wealth in our nation. I must also say the same about "liberals" who, when I speak of unions, several flinch and go, "Do I really have to support unions?"

Anyway, here is nice example of what I was really talking about in my previous post:

Two articles concerning the tragedy from Hurricane Katrina from the September 11, 2005 op-ed of the LA Times. One is by David Helvarg, a noted environmentalist writer, and the other by Dennis Prager, an unfortunately "noted" radio talk show host and commentator.

Compare and contrast as to who is more enlightening and helpful, who understands the various levels of policy-making--or, to take it another way, who is the serious and thoughtful person and who is the clown?

As a personal aside, I am always nauseated when I hear my fellow Jews at Temples around the nation swoon over Dennis Prager. I have never understood his appeal for a people who are known as a "People of the Book."

(Edited)

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Bush Should Have Listened to Clinton

Atrios, dean of the liberal-left blogosphere, quotes from page 428 of Clinton's autobiography:

"... I went to Florida a few days after President Bush did to observe the damage from Hurricane Andrew. I had dealt with a lot of natural disasters as governor, including floods, droughts, and tornadoes, but I had never seen anything like this. I was surprised to hear complaints from both local officials and residents about how the Federal Emergency Management Agency was handling the aftermath of the hurricane. Traditionally, the job of FEMA director was given to a political supporter of the President who wanted some plum position but who had no experience with emergencies. I made a mental note to avoid that mistake if I won. Voters don't chose a President based on how he'll handle disasters, but if they're faced with one themselves, it quickly becomes the most important issue in their lives." Bill Clinton, My Life (p. 428)

The first president Bush had his problems with FEMA organization and disaster help in an election year, 1992. At the very least, the Terrible President should have learned from his father's experience in messing up planning and responding to a natural disaster--and definitely should have listened to Clinton, who Michael Moore has reasonably stated was the best Republican President of the 20th Century (I'd say "best Republican president of the 20th Century after Teddy Roosevelt," but perhaps that is a quibble...).

In fairness, while even Republican governors praised Clinton's FEMA appointee, James Lee Witt, for his performance as FEMA Director, it is also true that Witt worked with Clinton in a similar position while Clinton was governor of Arkansas. "Crony"? To some extent, but at least Witt had direct experience in handling natural disasters in Arkansas and had previously been a contractor, presumably with some practical idea of how buildings must be shored up to withstand a natural disaster. Here is also a Nation editorial that quotes Witt at length voicing concern to Congress in placing FEMA under the Homeland Security Department.

And for anyone who thinks the Terrible President is not guilty of criminal negligence, here are two graphs from a Washington Post op-ed by a local Pacific Northwest writer, entitled "Destroying FEMA" (August 30, 2005):

"Indeed, the advent of the Bush administration in January 2001 signaled the beginning of the end for FEMA. The newly appointed leadership of the agency showed little interest in its work or in the missions pursued by the departed Witt. Then came the Sept. 11 attacks and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. Soon FEMA was being absorbed into the 'homeland security borg.'

"This year it was announced that FEMA is to 'officially' lose the disaster preparedness function that it has had since its creation. The move is a death blow to an agency that was already on life support. In fact, FEMA employees have been directed not to become involved in disaster preparedness functions, since a new directorate (yet to be established) will have that mission."

Read the entire short op-ed piece. And for those who don't know what the "Borg" is, check here.

Friday, September 09, 2005

To Bush and his friends, poor means black

The Daily Howler sometimes wants to be contrarian to a fault. This is one of those times.

Bob Somerby, who runs the Daily Howler, writes that "psuedo-liberals" are wrongfully saying The Terrible President doesn't care about "black" people. He points out that Jefferson Parish and another nearby parish actually contain a population that is mostly white--as if Bush & Co. actually knew that.

Well, first, Bob, agreeing with the rapper and (amazingly enough) Imus, that Bush doesn't care about black people doesn't mean so-called "liberals" don't recognize that Bush doesn't care about poor people in general. Bob thinks there's a difference when I see different layers of the same truth.

Bob also misses something else that perhaps he simply has not seen over the decades: For too many so-called "conservatives," poor means black. That's what goes through their stupid, little heads when they think "poor." They think "black."

How do I know this? From my experience as a public speaker for the Democratic Party in the 1980s and 1990s in Orange County, California where I'd go up against Republican speakers at high schools, colleges, and civic groups. I'd love asking my mostly right wing audiences, "Which 'race' is the predominant group on welfare?" And you know the answer they gave, don't you? They thought it was "black." When they found out it was white, then they'd start to listen as I explained how little money was actually given out in welfare benefits each year compared to total subsidies for agribusiness, McDonald's and other corporations. They would hear me tell them that over 70% of the women on welfare had two or less children, contrary to the myth of the baby-producing rip off artists so favored by Ronald Wilson Reagan (Mr. 666 himself). (I don't have time to find a link, but at least find the late Michael Harrington's "The New American Poverty" (1984), where these stats are from).

And let's make one more point that seems cruel, but is more often true than not: Ask yourself. How many so-called modern "conservatives" know a lot of actual facts about public policy questions of economics compared to modern "liberals"? Policy wonks tend to run from liberal-left to moderate-right. The hard core right wingers know next to nothing about public policy and really, sociology. It's like asking an environmentalist in the woods to read a balance sheet, right? Well, that's how we get to the conflation of poor equals black in the minds of too many of these folks.

So get it straight, Bob: The rapper and Imus were right. The Terrible President, and let's say his name here, George W. Bush, doesn't care a whit about black people for the same reason he doesn't care about poor people. We can retain both conclusions in our heads and we can defend both conclusions, too.

It is people such as Bush who think most blacks are poor (and again contrary to perception, most blacks are not poor, but still face barriers we white folks don't face and largely don't understand) and that they make up most of the poor in "poor" urban areas. The sad truth is that GW Bush is a rich, arrogant, jerk who would rather put more money in the hands of Paris Hilton by ending the estate tax than provide support and leadership to have lessened the loss of lives of mostly poor people in the New Orelans area.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Chauncey Alexander (1916-2005)

Chauncey Alexander was a local, Southern California activist who helped veterans after World War II secure the medical and other benefits they needed, and thereafter fought locally and often successfully for racial, religious, and cultural minorities. Mr. Alexander also protested unjust wars in Southeast Asia and, in the last two years, recognized the folly and danger of the latest Iraq War long before many other Americans who receive media attention.

Chauncey died at age 89 on August 30. As I no longer reside in Orange County, I did not know of his passing until reading his obituary in the LA Times today.

I wrote a letter to the LA Times to say some necessary words about Mr. Alexander. I hope the Times prints some letters from people who knew him. Here is my letter in case mine doesn't make the cut:

"Chauncey Alexander was that most patriotic of Americans: A committed activist on behalf of the most vulnerable people in our society. Mr. Alexander was not an activist who shouted or made headlines. Instead, he earned a reputation as someone possessing grace and an unflinching courage to stand up on behalf of military veterans, civilian workers and those without shelter, food, clothing or education. I was privileged to know Mr. Alexander and his wife, Sally, well enough to be able to say hello to them at rallies, meetings or get-out-the-vote efforts. With the Alexanders, you knew if they were present, they would provide helpful and constructive ideas for those of us who lacked their experience in organizing for social change--from workers' rights to civil rights to equal access to education and health care. Chauncey Alexander would be the first to say that we should not miss him and that we should continue to fight for the best ideals upon which our nation was founded. Permit us to not listen to him this time, in order to recall Mr. Alexander's warmth, genuineness and strength to fight for a better world."

My wife and I were always honored that Chauncey and Sally remembered us when we saw them. One of the last times we saw Chauncey and Sally was at the Southern California Library for Social Studies & Research--a wonderful organization, by the way. The Alexanders were always smiling, yet intense at the same time. You felt their energy and strength and were glad to be with them. They came out of a generation of activists that had withstood the Red Scare and had never given up fighting for justice. They were and are truly great people.

Drunken Daddy Party

For the last two decades, when people tell me that the Democrats are the Mommy Party and the Republicans are the Daddy Party, I always respond: Well, not quite. When the Republicans give money to rich people who don't need it and cut programs that keep poor people afloat, when they subsidize agribusiness and China, but don't protect our manufacturing base, and when they put poor, minority Dads in jail for possession of marijuana and crack cocaine, but not well off white folks who use a supposedly "more refined" form of cocaine, well, that's a Drunken Daddy Party.

Digby has an excellent post that helps us understand that the Republican's claim to being a Daddy Party is now officially over. The Republican Party can't even protect us when they are supposed to do so.

And if you don't know about how firemen from around the nation who traveled to Louisiana to help people instead found themselves roped into a photo-op for the Terrible President, then read Digby's link above the photograph shown on his post. It is beyond disgusting that the Terrible President is only "good" at propaganda, telling lies, and practicing a politics based upon a zero-sum game for the wealthy elite against everyone else and a politics that plays up, rather than helps harmonizes, the cultural differences we have with each other as a nation.

Impeachment, impeachment, impeachment. That is the solution to the Terrible President's misadministration. And that goes for the Other Priorities VP too, who was supposed to be the "brains" of the outfit.

(Edited to correct links and grammar)

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Supply & Demand

The revered comic, Robert Klein, once said of the oil companies and an earlier oil crisis during the 1970s, "It's all about supply and demand, people. Don't you understand? The oil companies are simply saying, 'We have all the supply, so we can demand whatever the F*** we want!"

The reason the oil companies (including the ones that are supposed to be known as "American" oil companies) are making big profits is that they have become very successful at manipulation through just-in-time inventory. They perfected this starting in the late 1990s but really started to use it to manipulate prices during the reign of The Terrible President (GW Bush).

Why we as a nation allow private, multi-national companies to control the supply and distribution of oil is something I've wondered about since the 1970s, back when I was in high school and this country went through the first so-called "oil shocks."

David Sirota links us to an article showing that at least one Senator, Byron Dorgan (D-ND) understands what needs to be done at a minimum: tax the bastards' profits. I wish we could just regulate these bastards more or...perish the thought...consider nationalization.