Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

Quote of the year

This is one of those rare moments that I’m completely speechless.

“‘I urge the Congress to be very careful about running up enormous costs for future generations of Americans,’ Bush said at a White House meeting on the economy and taxes.

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Note to Self

If anyone questions (again) why I would not consider voting for John McCain for president, it’s this.

He genuinely appeared to earn his “maverick” title in 2000.  He said things that made sense, even when they weren’t popular, and he gave people a sense that he valued, well, values over politics.  Since Al Gore was still a wooden stick figure back then, it’s quite likely I would have voted for McCain had he not been sabotaged by the Bush campaign in the South Carolina primary.

In the intervening years, unfortunately, he has relinquished any claim to his independence.  He has joined the ranks of the Party Over Country Republicans, voting against what I can only assume is his conscience (although perhaps he’s lost that too).  It was less than a year ago that he voted against another anti-torture bill only to remain silent while the president slipped another of his “this doesn’t apply to me” signing statements into it.  Now that he’s trying to capture the far right vote he has abandoned even that thin veneer of the appearance of moral certitude. He’s in full pander mode now, willing to say or do anything necessary to attract the votes of people who think gay marriage is the biggest problem our country faces.

So that’s it in a nutshell.  The Republican party is in a dangerous state of groupthink right now, and the result is the present state of affairs in our country.  I’ll be glad to consider them again for positions of leadership once they demonstrate that they’ve turned over a new leaf.  In the meantime, I’m not holding my breath.

Years from now when we’re looking back at the politics of this decade I hope we will be able to point to this week as the turning point in what had been a familiar congressional game of empty threats and paper tigers.  The US House finally did what Harry Reid and his Senate couldn’t muster the courage to do – they stood up to Bush.  What terrible tragedy befell them for their unthinkable insolence?  They won.

Despite all the laughable posturing and despicable fearmongering that we’ve come to expect from this administration, not to mention the overinflated importance of a bill that clearly had little to do with protecting us and much to do with administrative ass-covering, the House stood on principle and refused to be browbeaten into submission yet again.  It’s far too early to declare that fundamental change is at last underway, but it’s a heartening sign of the potential of things to come.

The progressive wing of the Democratic party, with which I am allied because they appear to be the only political contituency left that cares about the Constitution and the rule of law, is making great inroads into ousting old-school Democrat incumbents and replacing them with fresh progressive faces – Donna Edwards in Maryland’s 4th being the most recent example.

Lots of interesting things going on that lend themselves to a hopeful attitude.  The pragmatist in me says “just wait, the Dems will bork it up like they always do” but the long-absent and very well rested optimist in me believes we’re in a fundamental shift right now that will become more apparent as the weeks go by.

I’ll be interested in seeing the eventual analyses of this period, specifically the conditions that led to such change.  Was it Bush fatigue, Obama’s emergence, global warming, some combination of those and other causes?

Who knows.  What matters most right now is that little light at the end of the tunnel.

Happy FISA Day

Today is the day that the United States Senate, led by Harry Reid, sells the rule of law to our telecommunication companies for a few million in campaign donations.  This afternoon, without any knowledge of what happened or who the government wiretapped, our brave leaders will retroactively immunize the telecoms for breaking several laws that were enacted specifically to stop the activity they engaged in.

For Republicans to support this is a given; they’ve followed Bush in zombie-like lockstep throughout this disaster of a presidency.  What’s really disappointing is that the Democrats can’t muster enough votes to oppose this painfully obvious end-run on the rule of law and the wishes of the people.  Their desire to “go along to get along” is in stark contrast to the two-thirds of America who are clamoring for them to put a stop to this bullshit once and for all.  As Glenn points out today:

Analogously, in 1973, The Washington Post won the Pulitzer Prize for its work in uncovering the Watergate abuses, and that led to what would have been the imminent bipartisan impeachment of the President until he was forced to resign in disgrace. By stark and depressing contrast, in 2006, Jim Risen, Eric Lichtblau and the NYT won Pulitzer Prizes for their work in uncovering illegal spying on Americans at the highest levels of the Government, and that led to bipartisan legislation to legalize the illegal spying programs and provide full-scale retroactive amnesty for the lawbreakers. That’s the difference between a country operating under the rule of law and one that is governed by lawlessness and lawbreaking license for the politically powerful and well-connected.

I know one day this will get corrected, but it will be too late.  The constant fearmongering we’ve lived under for 7 years will be a distant memory, and no one will quite understand why the decision was made, but no one will be held responsible regardless.  The telecoms will have skated away with fistfuls of cash for their selfless cooperation (which, incidentally, ceased when a bill for $30k wasn’t paid on time) despite laws that clearly state what they did is illegal no matter who authorized it – President or otherwise.

On the bright side, this episode confirms a suspicion I’ve had for some time.  Every time Cheney comes out of the woodwork to rattle the terror cage, the topic is something uncomfortably close to administration wrongdoing.  In this case, were the telecom lawsuits permitted to proceed, we would learn the extent to which the White House violated the law in the years prior to warrantless wiretapping’s legalization. Thus, Cheney is revived and dispatched to some hyperconservative gathering to generate headlines that will remind the nation of the terrorists who are hiding under our patio tables and park benches.

When it comes to White House lawbreaking, Cheney is the canary in the coalmine.  Watch for his next appearance and try to figure out what he’s drawing attention away from.  50 points to the winner!

The War Card

The folks at publicintegrity.com have assembled an incredibly comprehensive reference site detailing the runup to the Iraq War. The first sentence on the front page:

President George W. Bush and seven of his administration’s top officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, made at least 935 false statements in the two years following September 11, 2001, about the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

This is definitely one to bookmark for the next time someone tries to obfuscate and deflect blame onto the CIA, Congress, war opponents, or pretty much anyone else except those actually responsible. It’s amazing how clear the entire charade becomes when it’s laid out in a timeline. Browsing through it brought back those “has the entire country gone MAD?!” feelings of disbelief all over again.

While the topic of the war would be better served by a congressional investigation, it’s painfully clear that the current Democratic residents of the Hill are both incapable and unwilling to pursue any of the charges leveled at this administration, much less the most serious of all. (Note to future historians: we’d love to know why the Dems don’t have the sack to perform even their most basic constitutionally-appointed duty of executive oversight.  Please find out why so it doesn’t happen again. America thanks you.)

It’s the Economy, You Fucking Moron

How’s that for an attention-grabber? 🙂

The media has finally started focusing on the state of the economy, and only a few years late – good job guys.  Somehow there was no “emotional center” to a story about an ailing economy perilously balanced by record debt and insane mortgage lending practices, at least not until the house of cards started tumbling down.

Now all the talk is about how to fix things.  And, as usual, the people in the White House are ignoring the advice of experts on how to go about doing that.  Rather than listen to our own Federal Reserve Chairman, the Administration’s proposal provides -ZERO- relief for those below the lowest income tax bracket.

Why? My gut suspicion is that conservatives are appalled at the idea of giving tax rebates to people who don’t pay income tax in the first place.  It’s not an unreasonable position in and of itself, but once again the conservative ideology is incompatible with the larger-scale reality of what’s happening.  So incompatible, in fact, that the GOP would rather cut off its nose to spite its face.  If rescuing the economy involves giving some money to people disproportionately to what they paid in, the thinking goes, it’s not worth it.  (It’s also worth pointing out that these people do pay taxes, just not on income, so this isn’t a free giveaway. But even if it was a free giveaway to the almost-poor, would you really prefer a national recession over that?)

FACT: it’s in everyone’s best interest to have a strong and vibrant economy, be they rich or poor.
FACT: people with lower incomes are much more likely to spend a rebate than those with higher incomes.
FACT: business tax cuts have only modest effects at best, according to the Fed’s own economists, and they also have adverse effects on state budgets.

The White House needs to put ideology aside and propose a solution that will have maximum effectiveness.  That means swallowing their pride, admitting that, while it sucks, low-income people really are the key to turning this ship around, dispensing with the petty counterproductive arguments over fairness, and putting pen to paper with the resolve of true leaders rather than ideological extremists.

Authoritarian Watch

I lied on Tuesday. The urge to vent has returned with this story.

So our Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell, believes that the government should be able to read any email and intercept any file transfer from any and all Americans. Without a warrant. Money quote: “Americans will have to trust the government not to abuse the authority it must have in order to protect our networks, and yet, historically the government has not proved worthy of that trust.”

You’re goddamned right they haven’t proved worthy. There is one fundamental principle of governing that has remained unchanged for centuries: those with power will use it to their advantage, and those with the ability to conceal their actions will abuse that power even further. The past 7 years have literally been a case study in that phenomenon, one that will be examined for many decades to come.

This principle is the reason why people like me get very angry when our elected leaders become opaque and secretive, because it almost certainly means they are doing something they don’t want to be caught doing. It’s also why people like me get even angrier when said officials use the “state secrets” or “security/terrorism” excuses because claiming to protect people while you secretly work against them makes their assertions that much more despicable.

Transparent government is a requirement for freedom. If only we had a competent media establishment in America, it could explain these basic principles to those frightened by the Bush administration into believing they need to be spied on for their own good.

Meh.

I haven’t written lately because there isn’t much inspiring to write about.  I thought about tying last week’s Strait of Hormuz incident back to my prediction from last year that we’d be at war with Iran by this March.  I decided to let it ride and see how things play out first. If history is any indication, here’s what most likely happened: nothing unusual or out of the ordinary happened on that day, but civilians in Washington seized the opportunity to inflate (and distort) the incident into a fabricated crisis with the goal of flaring tensions between our two nations.  With nerves frayed, anything becomes a reason to attack – be it real, imaginary, or an outright lie (see Gulf of Tonkin and yellowcake uranium for historical examples).

I’ll probably be relatively quiet for the next few weeks.  Ultimately I’m burned out on politics until this stupid, stupid tradition of presidential primaries has run its destructive course once again.

Your caucus is showing

After delivering John Kerry in 2004, Iowa has at last redeemed itself.  Hillary’s 3rd place finish confirmed that people are sick-and-damned-tired of the same old establishment candidates.  While I’m not yet convinced that Obama is substantially different, he has at least identified that fatigue and made it a centerpiece of his campaign strategy.

It was also nice to see Huckabee win for the GOP.  I disagree with just about 100% of his beliefs, but his background suggests he doesn’t have the authoritarian mindset that most of his colleagues proudly possess.  He is also the only GOP candidate thus far to suggest that the past 7 years weren’t perfect, which in any other alternate universe wouldn’t be noteworthy but in this one is downright scandalous. If he’s willing to say something like that in the primaries, then perhaps he would act differently as president – perhaps he would even reverse some of the constitutional damage Bush and Cheney have wrought.

But I digress… using the current administration as a benchmark for the next one does all of us an injustice (I believe Bush referred to it as “the soft bigotry of low expectations.”)

Benazir Bhutto

Pakistan’s most promising chance for recovery just died in a bomb blast. Global security and chances for peace keep taking hit after hit after hit…