Friday, September 29, 2006

Early analysis of our new Torture Statute

Some excellent analysis of our new Torture Statute is out:

On the other hand, the NY Times and Washington Post editorial pages are both silent on the matter. I can only assume, because they just commented on this right before the Senate took it up, and they are saving up post-passage whoppers for their Sunday editions.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Senate Also Votes, 65-34, for Arbitrary Detention, Torture, Admissibility of Evidence Produced by Torture, and Denial of Habeas Corpus

The Senate Voted, 65-34, for a bill that authorizes arbitrary detention, torture, convictions based on evidence produced by torture, denial of habeas corpus, and retroactive immunization from prosecution for past torture.

The voting was live-blogged here, with the good folks of firedoglake.

As one of the commenters said: Writ of Habeas Corpus: 1215-2006. It was nice knowing you.

Yes, 65-34, the absent Senator being Olympia Snowe (R-ME), meaning eleven Democrats lined up with the Republicans to betray the American Constitution. They included both Senators from New Jersey, both Nelsons, Landrieu, and of course, Lieberman.

And after all the huffing Specter did about the bill being clearly unconstitutional, he lined right up with the GOP when it came time to vote.

Now that the Senate has passed essentially the same bill as the House, it will be signed into law probably by next week.

Why such a strong reaction?

Although this bill is filled with antidemocratic provisions, such as the admissibility of evidence produced by torture, the worst of it is probably the combination of the following two provisions:

1. Enemy combatants are denied the writ of habeas corpus.

2. An enemy combatant is defined, in one option, as anyone deemed to be an enemy combatant by a tribunal constituted by the President or the Secretary of Defense, and their determination is final - with no standards of crimes or evidence thereof such a tribunal is required to observe.

So, the administration is now statutorily authorized to lock up anyone, whether a citizen or not, whether in this country or not, forever, without ever bringing charges against them, constrained by nothing but the administration's own whims.

The bill is certainly unconstitutional. It also purports to place enemy combatants beyond judicial review, and thereby purports to place itself outside of judicial review. To the extent any judge buys that, it will at least slow down the process of getting this odious legislation struck down. But nonetheless, an attorney for a detainee should be able to file a habeas petition based on the constitution with an argument that the statute plainly contradicts the Constitution and is void.

But no thanks to the Senate for creating this mess out of our democracy. This is the single worst law passed in U.S. history.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Torture Bill Protest at John Kline's Office

From the Dump John Kline blog:

"Protests against Kline's 'Torture Bill' will be held Thursday (9/28) from 7-9 a.m. at the office of John Kline. A media alert will be sent. Kline's office: 101 W. Burnsville Pkwy #20, Bring signs. Suggestions:“Kline Sponsored Torture Bill" “Tell XXX NO to Torture” “Call Rep. Kline: 952-808-1261" read on: ..."

"a tyrannical law that will be ranked with the low points in American democracy"

So says the New York Times editorial board of the "Military Commissions Act of 2006" that was passed by the House today. This editorial is a must-read. It runs down the frightening litany of dictatorial powers granted by the Military Commissions Act, including the authorization for indefinite detention for anyone at the executive branch's whim, with no possibility of judicial review other than at the whim of the executive.

House Passes Military Commissions Act, With Authorization for Arbitrary Indefinite Detention

Here's the bill, H.R. 6166 (pdf), was passed by the House today, complete with authorization for arbitrary, indefinite detention. Here is the rundown on how each House member voted, including some notable defectors from both parties from the party lines.

Some Constitutional law experts have already emphasized the point that this bill, as it was changed in the House before passage, appears to give administration-appointed combatant status review tribunals authority to designate anyone at all an unlawful enemy combatant, making anyone vulnerable to indefinite, arbitrary detention.

Look at sections 948a and 948d(c), on pages 3 and 8 on the above pdf file. An enemy combatant is defined in either of two ways, the second being "a person who, before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, has been determined to be an unlawful enemy combatant by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the President or the Secretary of Defense." (Section 948a.)

Once that determination is made, it is dispositive, i.e. it is settled or determined as final: "A finding, whether before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the President or the Secretary of Defense that a person is an unlawful enemy combatant is dispositive for purposes of jurisdiction for trial by military commission under this chapter." (Section 948d(c).)

So an enemy combatant is anyone the tribunal appointed by the administration says is an enemy combatant - end of story. Other parts of the act specifically remove the right to speedy trial, etc. Presto, there you go: authorization for arbitrary, indefinite detention.

Is it any wonder that Charles Taylor adopted the GOP's "enemy combatant" rhetoric to crack down on dissidents in Liberia, to the complete neglect of law and order? Such a nice fit for dictatorships.

The administration and its mouthpieces like John Cornyn love to accuse anyone who worries about any standards of law and order of coddling the enemies, without ever acknowledging a possible distinction between being accused of being a terrorist and actually being a terrorist. I guess the wording in the House bill just accurately reflects that equivalence in the minds of its proponents: accusation equals guilt - the same standard all to familiar from the Inquisition and the trials for witchcraft.

Never mind that a large majority of the people held at Guantanamo were not captured by U.S. forces at all, but turned in by locals in exchange for hefty bounties, and many of whom have been definitively shown and acknowledged to have been perfectly innocent. This bill cures what the administration has apparently seen as the grave defect of those persons' innocence coming to light.

Although the House has already passed this grave offense to the core ideals of America, the Senate is taking it up for debate. The current Senate version, though bad enough, still does not have the worst provisions that were added to the House bill in its final maneuvers. Now is the time to rain down our concerns on the members of the Senate. Call them, email them, fax them, let them know the abuses this bill would allow, and urge them not to pass it - either to make dramatic changes, or far better, just to hold the thing up for the short while it would take to keep this odious bill from going anywhere before the coming recess. I've already called my senators. Now is the time. It's hard to think of a single worse blemish on the history of the U.S. House of Representatives than its passage of this bill today. Don't let the Senate make the same mistake.

GOP Presidential Convention Headed to Twin Cities, Home of Shotgunfreude

This ought to be fun. I guess they figured taking the battle directly to the stomping grounds of Shotgunfreude was the key to the '08 elections.

Stay tuned right here in September 2008 for the Shotgunfreude live blogging of the GOP Presidential Convention.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Republican Campaign Strategy Spoiled by Reality and its Well-Known Liberal Bias

"Bush to Declassify Parts of Intelligence Assessment on Iraq"

"President Bush said today he has grudgingly ordered declassification of parts of a leaked intelligence report that concludes that the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq has fueled Islamic extremism and contributed to the spread of terrorist cells...

"Bush charged at the news conference that political opponents leaked select parts of the National Intelligence Estimate to media organizations last weekend 'to create confusion in the minds of the American people' in the weeks before the Nov. 7 mid-term elections."

The fulcrum of both the national GOP campaign, and of the justification for this presidency, is flatly contradicted by the consensus of all sixteen federal intelligence agencies - clearly, this is just a confusion of the mind. Lie down with some smelling salts and Fox News for a few hours, and you'll feel much better from that confusing brush with "reality". Pay no attention to those facts behind the curtain.

It gets even better. How do we know the invasion of Iraq actually supported rather than exacerbated the "war on terror"?

'"You know, to suggest that if we weren't in Iraq we would see a rosier scenario, with fewer extremists joining the radical movement, requires us to ignore 20 years of experience," Bush said. "We weren't in Iraq when we got attacked on September the 11th. We weren't in Iraq and thousands of fighters were trained in terror camps inside your country, Mr. President. We weren't in Iraq when they first attacked the World Trade Center in 1993."'

Keep in mind, Bush admitted just a couple weeks ago that Iraq had "nothing" to do with 9/11. But now, we had not invaded it prior to those attacks, ergo, because we have invaded, attacks like that will be prevented.

You know, we also had not invaded England, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Sweden, Canada, Estonia, Uruguay, Botswana, Bhutan, or Vanuatu when we suffered those attacks. How can we remain safe even though we still leave them uninvaded and unoccupied - just like they were on 9/11?! In fact, some of the 9/11 hijackers had actually studied in Germany, giving that country a closer tie to the attacks than Iraq. How can we leave these other nations dangerously uninvaded?

On the occasion of those prior attacks, we also did not have colonies on Mars, we had not completely eliminated the estate tax and social security, and we still allowed political parties other than the GOP to remain organized in the United States. Yet we persist in not ensuring those differences in some aspect of the world relative to the state of existence prior to 9/11. How can we leave these changes undone, under the inexorable logical force of post hoc ergo propter hoc?

Or could it be that the president is once again insinuating without explicitly claiming that Iraq was behind 9/11, after conceding repeatedly that there is no such link? How else do you explain "We weren't in Iraq when we got attacked on September the 11th... We weren't in Iraq when they first attacked the World Trade Center in 1993"? Who is "they" here?

Taken with the president's prior explanations, we're supposed to fill in the blank, that the "they" two words away from the word "Iraq", with no mention of other entities, refers to terrorists unconnected with Iraq. But the GOP campaign depends crucially on one sleight-of-hand above all others - conflating Iraq with the defeat of the pre-existing terrorists. So, the president persists in being incapable of discussing national security in the role of the president of the United States, providing leadership on actually defending our country, and instead can only talk in the role of Republican campaigner-in-chief.

Some good news: "Congress unlikely to pass wiretapping"

"Congress is unlikely to approve a bill giving President Bush's warrantless wiretapping program legal status and new restrictions before the November midterm elections, dealing a significant blow to one of the White House's top wartime priorities."

We'll see how President Bush's top priorities are handled in January when the House Judiciary Committee chairman is John Conyers.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Mark Kennedy: the reek of desperation

Minnesota Senate candidate Mark Kennedy laid out an interesting new theory in his televised debate yesterday: he accused the Star-Tribune of completely fabricating its recent poll showing Amy Klobuchar ahead of him by 24 points. (The Star-Trib reports on his comments here.) Apparently, in the world inside Kennedy's mind, the editors of the Star-Trib gathered together and conspired to publish a "pure fiction" of a polling result, to favor Klobuchar's campaign.

What would have led a group of senior editors to betray their duty as journalists, and a for-profit corporation in California to risk discrediting the newspaper it owns? Because Klobuchar's dad was once a columnist for the Star-Trib, of course. And he was such a great guy, or somehow exerts such control over his former employer, that it is willing to lie, cheat & steal to help out his daughter's political campaign.

Kennedy protested that if his father's company had published a poll, it would have shown him to be ahead. Is that because your dad is also adept at publishing complete fictions, Mark?

His ludicrous, childish attack on this poll can only damage Kennedy more than the poll itself did. Who does he think he's going to persuade when his best response to negative news about his campaign is with wild, no-evidence conspiracy theories?

John Kline and his district director issue belligerent non-apologies for use of racial epithets

As the Star Tribune discloses, John Kline's campaign manager, Mike Osskopp, was caught on film harrassing veterans attending a Coleen Rowley event and complaining about how many of them drove a "Jap car". (Hey Mike, I've got two "Jap" cars. Want to come over to my place and scream about them through that megaphone?)

Naturally, once he is actually caught in the act of his slimy take on campaign tactics, Osskopp had no choice but to publicly apologize. But how did he phrase this apology?

"I apologize if my words offended any Americans of Japanese descent, including my sister-in-law," Osskopp said. "I allowed my emotions to get the better of me and used a phrase commonly used in my youth, but which is now inappropriate and offensive."

That's right... it's not really a slur at all, you see, it was perfectly acceptable in the past, and I just have a hard time keeping up with these crazy politically correct novelties they've rolled out the past few years, he implies. Apparently he really doesn't think slurring Japanese is a problem at all - it's the damn PC police that are the problem.

Pretty classy "apology", Osskopp.

Kline also "apologized" with the same sort of belligerent non-apology:
"That's unacceptable now," Kline said. "We've all seen the John Wayne movies about World War II, and then it was acceptable. Now it's not, and [Osskopp] knows that."

See, back in our day, it was perfectly acceptable. But I guess if you crazy bleeding-heart liberals insist on condemning it, we'll be okay with that...

Sorry Kline, that is worse than the original epithet. You might recall a whole lot of other racial slurs that were entirely "acceptable" fifty years ago that are now universally recognized as abhorrent - but that does not mean they were any less offensive to their targets, and morally abhorrent, when they and the attitudes they reflect were considered acceptable by a wide range of the socially advantaged.

The Star-Trib article keeps getting better: it also reveals that Kline's congressional office keeps a file on at least one critical constituent of his, Paul Bartlett, in which they save not only the emails he has sent to Kline - but Kline also has a staffer searching the Internet for and saving the same guy's blog posts critical of Kline (hat tip Inside Minnesota Politics.) As Bartlett points out, this appears to put Kline alongside J. Edgar Hoover, Joseph McCarthy and Richard Nixon in the exclusive club of American officials who felt the un-American need to keep an "enemies list". And all on our tax dollar - another terrific "fiscally responsible" expenditure by a charter member of the party that is spending away our children's future earnings like drunken sailors, and that dares not utter the phrase "fiscal responsibility" for apprehension of reminding everyone of back when they could claim to be the champions of fiscally responsible without getting laughed out of the room.

And to top it off, as the Star-Trib reports, Kline's chief of staff compared Bartlett to David Duke - because Bartlett complained about the racial slur.

So let's get this straight: Kline "apologized" for his district director's use of racial slurs by objecting that no one had a problem with the slur in the good ol' days, and has his chief of staff smear someone who objects to the slur by comparing him to David Duke.

Until recently, I was pretty neutral about Kline. I had tremendous respect for him as someone who had served our nation as a Marine, and I didn't really see anything about him that was worse than serving as a spear-carrier in the general GOP decline into subservience to K Street and a dictatorial administration. He seemed like just the sort of decent, mainstream Republican I would have been excited to vote for back in the '90's, when the GOP still stood for something.

Now I see I am represented in Congress by a guy who issues a non-apology not-too-subtly assigning blamelessness to an aide using a racial slur, and using my tax dollars to troll for and compile secret files on people who make negative blog posts and commentary about him - which I suppose includes me, if this is a halfway serious effort. (Hi there, McCarthyist Kline staffer! Sleeping well?) Well congrats, John; I wasn't really focused on my House race before, but you've made a dedicated Rowley campaign activist out of this former Republican.

When can the Minnesota Second get a representative that cares about anything at all other than passing whatever shameful tax giveaways it takes to keep the cashflow coming in from the lobbyists and from his convicted-felon-fellow-Congressmen?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Will the Democrats take over the House... by more than 40 seats? Or only by 20 or 30?

It cracks me up to see prognosticators still wondering whether the Democratic Party will gain a majority in the House of Representatives or not. The Cook Political Report lists 44 House races (pdf) in the "lean" or "toss-up" ratings as of their last update - with 35 of those currently held by the GOP and 9 by the Democrats. They also list 11 "likely Democrat" races and 20 "likely GOP" races.

But even at that, their ratings are probably still skewed to give the GOP too much benefit of the doubt. For example, on the Senate side they still list Minnesota as a "toss-up" (pdf) - even though every single poll I know of has shown Amy Klobuchar with a double-digit lead that has only grown over time, to a 24-point spread in the latest Star-Trib poll. It's an odd sort of "toss-up" that is discerned from a nearly two-to-one spread.

Another example is the Minnesota Second district, which was solidly blue until four years ago, and where the latest poll shows Coleen Rowley within three points of incumbent John Kline - effectively a tie, since the margin is about the same size as the sampling error. [UPDATE - This poll was taken in only part of the district.] Considering that virtually no incumbent House member was re-elected with less than a five or ten point spread in the last few elections, and the anti-GOP prevailing wind, and the state's and district's traditional Democratic lean, and the fact that Kline's campaign manager was shouting racial epithets at veterans going into a VFW station the other day... this is a damned competitive race.

And yet, the Cook report doesn't even have MN-02 listed at all, even as likely Republican - meaning they haven't even considered it to be competitive.

MN-02 is a genuine toss-up - but apparently it is still less competitive than the sixty GOP-held seats that the Cook Report considered competitive enough to list so far.

Given that, the only big question left in the House elections are how many dozens of seats the Democrats will have to pad their majority.

As an aside... I watch almost no television, but I happened to be in a restaurant yesterday that was showing Fox News, and an ad ran for the Kennedy campaign where he spends the whole ad smiling and snuggling with senior citizens. Which of course immediately raised the question: what does it tell you about his confidence in his own campaign if a GOP candidate feels like he has to spend money to appeal to senior citizens who watch Fox News? That is the most telling indication I have yet seen that the Kennedy campaign faces certain doom.

To follow along with the Minnesota races, here is a round-up of a few other Minnesota blogs. Check out Follow John Kline's Money, MN Publius, Dump John Kline, DFLSenate blog, minvolved, the Power Liberal, Centrisity, and for Minnesotan diversion, Pharyngula.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Is McCain alienating Republicans... or is Bush?

It's almost a pointless game these days to point out pro-administration bias in the Washington Post (inconsistently at least), but this biased headline deserves special mention: The Washington Post gives us a clear McCain's Stand On Detainees May Pose Risk For 2008 Bid - Opposition to Bush Could Alienate Republican Base. Is that the other Republican base that does not include John Warner, Lindsey Graham, Chuck Hagel Lincoln Chafee, Olympia Snowe, Colin Powell, and every traditional Republican who cannot recognize the massively intrusive government and unprecedented budgetary freefall that have been championed by the weird legion that has taken over both Washington and the GOP the past six years?

How about this headline: "McCain leads ever-widening rift of traditional Republicans shown to be alienated by Bush".

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Actually Mr. President, that's the Third Great Snooze Button

Joel Achenbach at achieved this week's High Point in Blogging with a post that made my brain smile.

After discussing a report on observing galaxies at a new record proximity to the origin of galaxies and stars, and a new book on our second-most underappreciated Founding Father of America, George Mason, Achenbach ties such hallmark Enlightenment legacies into contrast with George Bush's world:

The president says we are having a Third Great Awakening...

Here are a few things we didn't know when Jonathan Edwards & Co. ushered in the First Great Awakening:

1. The world is billions of years old.
2. There are hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy and at least tens of billions of galaxies and the whole shebang is expanding at an accelerating rate and there may even be other universes outside our own.
3. Life evolves and all living things come from a common ancestor.
4. Continents drift.
5. Complicated stuff involving Relativity.
6. Really complicated stuff involving Quantum Mechanics.
7. Stuff so complicated it cannot even be alluded to.

Maybe the real awakening will come when, after staring into a telescope at a galaxy 12.88 billion light years away, and studying the world around us, we finally grasp our humble place in the universe and our good luck in having evolved in a place that has remained habitable for something like four billion years. And then we'll decide to take better care of it.

Thank you Joel!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Hooray for Keith Ellison, Mike Hatch, and Lori Swanson!

Congrats to Keith Ellison, Mike Hatch, and Lori Swanson on their primary victories yesterday. Minnesota DFLers made absolutely the right choice in each of these three races.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Swiftboat Path to 9/11 Exploitation

David Brin compellingly turns the tables on ABC's right-wing propaganda exploitation of national tragedy, "Path to 9/11" (which Bill Clinton has now blasted), which prompted me to respond thus (cross-post):

As for the potentially libelous depictions of Democratic officials that are apparently featured in ABC's Swiftboat Path to 9/11, John Dean made a compelling argument two years ago that Kerry should have immediately sued the "Swiftboat Veterans for Truth" - not only for the direct purpose of the disinfecting sunlight a court can bring to bear of the otherwise hopeless disputes between different flavors of truthiness, and dissuading against the use of similar tactics in the future, but also to immediately prove a public relations point - that we are confident enough that you are lying your ass off that we are sure the truth will come out on our side.

The various defamed Clintonistas should have filed just such a suit against Disney as soon as the facts on this came out, with a motion for a temporary restraining order against showing it and seeking relief in the form of a permanent injunction to the same effect, and in case it is shown, for a massive damage award and an injunction against further distribution and to issue public retractions. I don't think there's any really good argument against this plan, and again on a public relations perspective, it would give the public the idea, like no amount of bloviating and indignation would, that there is something seriously wrong with the way the facts are being depicted.

And, if one of the defamed officials can come up with standing to sue in someplace like the U.K. or Australia with far more severe standards and penalties for defamation, which shouldn't be too hard, we could compound ABC's reasons to regret their September Surprise.

As for the idea of more reverse September/October surprises, like the new Senate report showing the intelligence indicated no connection, and in fact active enmity, between Saddam and al Qaeda, the release of which was apparently engineered by the Senate Democrats - anyone want to venture what other closet doors Democrats, journalists, or critics of the administration will be able to yank open before the election?

On the other hand, the GOP Congress is pretty effectively pulling a September Surprise against itself - when their political lives are on the line, they've accomplished far less this term than the infamous Do-Nothing Congress of 1948, and the nation is beset with compelling concerns - they parody themselves with a torrential debate about what to do with aging horses, for what even the GOP majority leader referred to as "the horse-shit bill". Are they just trying to get swept? (For what it's worth, I used to eat fried horsemeat on a stick from the corner friet stand when I lived in Belgium. Naturally, it tastes like chicken.)

Dana Milbank puts this Congress's lotus-eating in shocking perspective:

"Even before the horse bill, House leaders had been a bit sensitive about their legislative pace. The People's Representatives have been in session for all of 80 days this year, and with 15 days remaining on the legislative calendar, the House is on pace to shatter all records for inactivity. The "Do-Nothing" House of 1948 was positively frenetic by comparison, passing 1,191 measures in 110 days in session.

The current House has passed barely 400 measures..."

Come to think of it, it seems like the Disney shareholders may also have a decent lawsuit to bring against Disney, for its officers violating the business judgment rule and their duty to maintain and increase shareholder value, by (apparently) pouring tens of millions of dollars into a knowingly defamatory program that is fraudulently represented as being true to the 9/11 Commission Report despite factually contradicting it, and that any reasonable manager would have foreseen would offend and alienate from Disney the two thirds of Americans who disapprove of the Bush administration, thereby damaging the goodwill and customer loyalty attached to Disney and restricting the market for its products and services.

This would be all the more damaging if it turns out, as it now begins to appear, that Disney's production was effectively co-opted by an internal group explicitly dedicated to right-wing propaganda - you know, as opposed to profits, which the corporate officers are responsible for protecting and generating.

Disney might mitigate that liability if they yank the miniseries, although the money has been spent and the damage is already underway.

Of course, shareholder lawsuits aren't my thing, but I'm looking forward to seeing what a corporate lawyer type thinks of this.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Quality Advertising is Job One

One of the great things about Slate is its fierce dedication to witty titles and captions. Today they gave us this charmer: "Have you driven out a Ford lately?"

It was terribly embarassing and an ill omen to hear Alan Mullaly, in his introduction as the new honcho, respond to the inevitable question of what he drives right now: "A Lexus... but I can't wait to drive a Ford." He could not quite come anywhere near pulling off an impression of sincerety in that patently ridiculous assertion. And knowing the inevitable need for him to trade down, and with them having had a few months to prepare for this, could he not have picked up a Ford ahead of time? Taken an early lifestyle hit for the sake of his new corporate charge?

Although the greedy UAW deserves some blame too for overreaching, I remain convinced the old Big Three American automakers were maimed into permanent decline by decades of poisonous American management culture - one that regarded technological products as static commodities, scoffed at R&D, and put all effort and emphasis into salesmanship - the attitude of the new executive who takes over a company and says, "I have no idea what a [widget X] is, but we're going to sell more of them!" (This is a straight paraphrase from an incoming manager at one of America's largest corporations about 25 years ago.)

Meanwhile, Toyota and Honda had the radical ideas that cars are technological works in progress, that you can sell more in the long run if you do the R&D to make them better - and while your focus is on engineering instead of vacuous, no-value-added, quarterly-earning-obsessed sales gods, it makes sense to have engineers promoted from within also running the company.

And who knew, but pouring your effort into constant betterment through engineering also happens to make for a more efficient economy.

Besides other recent failures - thinking genetic dynasty was somehow a qualification to run one of the world's largest companies, thinking the SUV craze was going to fly indefinitely in the face of long-term trends in oil prices and public attitudes toward the environment - the question is, when, if ever, will Ford and GM complete the cultural shift to the Honda mindset that they need to survive? Probable answer: when Kerkorian succeeds at clearing out the top spot at GM to make room for superhuman auto executive Carlos Ghosn - who happens to have risen up through the ranks of engineering R&D.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Shorter GOP: concern for national deficit or for crunch on nation's middle class = "class warfare"

Another cross-posting from comments to The Fix - if there's one trope I can't stand that I haven't said anything about yet, it's the GOP rhetoric that any opposition to their squeezing out the middle class and grinding the nation's finances into the most ludicrous debt in the history of the world, is "class warfare". Jeez. Real class warfare in the 1800's meant French peasants and servants taking up arms against the aristocrats and both slaughtering each other - kind of like actual "warfare". But naturally the same people who insist the sectarian bloodbath in Iraq "is not a civil war!" have no problem slinging around rhetoric of "class warfare" to shut down any debate on Congress's feverish addiction to filling out every credit card offer they get for another Great Big Bank of China Credit Card.

Who's actually waging class warfare while casting blame elsewhere, as opposed to being blamed for it? The Bush-GOP Congress team has done more damage to the U.S. Gini coefficient than at any time since George III, thanks in large part to tax breaks overwhelmingly tilted to the highest incomes coupled with a deficit-fueled decline of the dollar and passing on the tax burden to the states with unfunded mandates, and in large part to this GOP crew's fervent practice of cronyist economics as opposed to actual free market capitalism - how many hundreds of billions of federal tax dollars have they doled out to their good buddies among the wealthiest few through sweetheart corporate welfare tax breaks, no-bid contracts, federal land natural resource extraction leases at pennies on the market value dollar, and federally legislated windfalls for big pharma (medicare part D) and wall street (privatized social security, they hope) - right down to the ludicrous tax avoidance / wealth transfer scam of Barbara Bush earmarking a "charitable donation" to be funneled to Neil Bush's Ignite software company by way of the Katrina (Slush) Fund.

That is the difference between the classically liberal free market economics of Adam Smith and of the U.S. laissez-faire conservative tradition, as opposed to the wealth-accumulation-by-government (i.e. central planning economics) of the current GOP, who have gone full circle in their economic philosophy back to what was considered "conservative" in Adam Smith's day - for the lion's share of economic rewards to be doled out by diktat to the nobles and the king's other buddies in the form of royally granted monopolies, import patents, and sinecures. Sound familiar?

The reality is, the economic policy that emerged from Clinton-Gore and a less extremist GOP Congress forced to work together was a thousand times more faithful to free market capitalism than the disastrous all-GOP Bush/extremist-Congress team has been.

A single-issue election: Whither the American rule of law?

Cross-posted from comments to Chris Cillizza's The Fix - which got me on a roll about the upcoming election.

I am one of those who are far more enthusiastic to vote this year than in most previous elections - and while I voted almost straight-ticket Republican through the 2000 election, I have since re-registered as an independent and am now enthusiastic to vote for, and contribute to, Democratic candidates.

While I still value many of the stances Republicans traditionally espoused prior to 2000, the party under this administration has been hijacked into extremist policies bearing little resemblance to anything that attracted me to the GOP in the first place - like, say, a prudent fiscal policy, or wise and effective use of the military, or the overriding principle that government's primary job is to stay out of our business - all of which are now anathema to the Republicans in charge.

The way I see it, this is a single-issue campaign. The Republicans now in power have embraced, as their primary policy, an aggressive opposition to the Bill of Rights, to the separation of powers, to the rule of law - in short, to the Constitution that has been the foundation of America since its beginning. Their only political philosophy now is to fantasize that the Founding Fathers of America intended to create a presidency even more powerful than the office of king under George III - that they fought a war of revolution because they just couldn't bear being ruled by a chief executive who didn't hold enough arbitrary power over their lives.

While most Democrats have not had enough spine to take a stand on this (with a few terrific exceptions), nevertheless the Democrats, simply by default, have become the party of *not* vigorously trying to tear down the American rule of law. That is the only issue for me. If that fails, we have nothing.

Even before learning a single thing about what the Democrats have to offer, I cannot imagine how any thinking person of whatever American political tradition could listen to a rhetoric that is founded on surrendering all competing interests to overriding fear, and equating the large majority of Americans who disagree with the administration's policies with Nazi appeasers, and boasting of secret CIA prisons as a campaign highlight to excite their base, and not feeling the overriding need to run them out of office.

And with a president who campaigns based on letting Osama bin Laden dictate our entire foreign policy, despite having said before the election four years ago that "I don't know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don't care. It's not that important. It's not our priority", and who has been unable to do anything about this one lousy guy despite having a military that has gone through a cumulative budget of over two trillion dollars since 9/11 and that has the cooperation of the governments of both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and who let a great American city be largely destroyed even with all the advance warning of a disaster that one might hope for, assuring disaster managers from his vacation hideaway that everything would be just fine -- it seems impossible that any thinking person might still be suckered into the GOP sales pitch that they are somehow a better option for national security, rather than be aghast at the breathtaking military incompetence of this administration, and desperate to return to the kind of administration that actually proved itself in Kosovo to be a master of military effectiveness with no U.S. fatalities and no degradation in military readiness or diplomatic standing -- the kind of administration that understands and responds to the reality-based world rather than just grand theories, grand photo-ops, and grand soundbites.