Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Here I Go Defending Hillary Again...
Let me continue this trend by coming to Senator Clinton's defense with her supposed flubbing of the following question:
Tim Russert: Senator Clinton, Governor of New York Eliot Spitzer has proposed giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. He told the Nashua, New Hampshire, Editorial Board it makes a lot of sense.
Why does it make a lot of sense to give an illegal immigrant a driver's license?
Clinton: Well, what Governor Spitzer is trying to do is fill the vacuum left by the failure of this administration to bring about comprehensive immigration reform. We know in New York we have several million at any one time who are in New York illegally. They are undocumented workers. They are driving on our roads. The possibility of them having an accident that harms themselves or others is just a matter of the odds. It's probability.
Senator Clinton's answer here is admittedly not completely responsive to the question. She won't just come out and say that giving illegal aliens a drivers license is a good thing. Senator Clinton is pointing out a problem which does need to be addressed without sticking her neck out too far and saying that Governor Spitzer's particular remedy is the best answer.
Russert: Does anyone here believe an illegal immigrant should not have a driver's license?Before I start tearing into Dodd too much, let me just say that his leadership in the Senate lately is really much appreciated and I hold him in high esteem for that alone. However... Dodds answer to this really is a mystery from my perspective. He is progressive on immigration issues but illegal aliens should not be given the privilege of a drivers licence. We do not live in some Utopia where illegal aliens can harmlessly beam to work and home each day. Even if we did live in that Utopia, I am certain that there would be an enormous controversy over illegal alien beaming privileges. So If Dodd wants to take a progressive stance maybe he should start by recognizing reality and trying to figure out a way to cope with it.
(Unknown): Believe what?
Russert: An illegal immigrant should not have a driver's license.
Dodd: This is a privilege. And, look, I'm as forthright and progressive on immigration policy as anyone here. But we're dealing with a serious problem here, we need to have people come forward. The idea that we're going to extend this privilege here of a driver's license I think is troublesome, and I think the American people are reacting to it.
We need to deal with security on our borders. We need to deal with the attraction that draws people here. We need to deal fairly with those who are here.
But this is a privilege. Talk about health care, I have a different opinion. That affects the public health of all of us.
But a license is a privilege, and that ought not to be extended, in my view.
Frankly if Dodd can be brought to support giving illegal immigrants health care because that "affects the public health of all of us", why can't he see the use in having people who are going to drive passing tests which demonstrate a basic grasp on the rules of the road and ability to drive safely. The system New York and the rest of the nation is laboring under seems far more dangerous than trying to insure that people who are going to drive be identified and prove their worthiness behind the wheel. If you don't want to call the end result a "drivers license", fine! Call it a provisional drivers certificate or some other such euphemism.
Clinton: [T]he point is, what are we going to do with all these illegal immigrants who are driving...Despite the triangulation and unwillingness to stick her neck out too far on a very hot issue, I think Clinton does very well in this back and forth. It seems like everyone agrees that there is a problem, so the only controversy is over the degree of the solution. If we recognize that we are not going to deport 12 million illegal aliens, lets find some formula that starts to address the problem.
Dodd: That's a legitimate issue. But driver's license goes too far, in my view.
Clinton: Well, you may say that, but what is the identification?
If somebody runs into you today who is an undocumented worker...
Dodd: There's ways of dealing with that.
Also, when Clinton says "if somebody runs into you today" that brings the issue home to the average American. We don't all get into car wrecks everyday, but it is enough of a reality in our lives that we take steps to mitigate the problem. So Senator Clinton's tactic of making us wonder what we would do if we were hit by an illegal alien with no i.d. is a good way for her to drive the debate. I think she does well with that line of logic.
Dodd: This is a privilege, not a right.It's like Dodd is convinced N.Y. can not figuratively chew gum and make licenses at the same time. I can't imagine a state which does not have multiple layers of licensing covering various circumstances. For example I live in Oregon. My state has three different types of commercial drivers license. Oregon offers a provisional drivers license to drivers under the age of 18. Beyond that, our standard license is hardly uniform, with various coding on each regarding a persons legality to drive without corrective eyewear, and the willingness of the driver to be an organ donor. Despite all these different license types and individual permutations, I have not heard any news about the total collapse of the Oregon bureaucracy surrounding the Department of Motor Vehicles. I suspect Oregon is probably not much different than most of the rest of the states in this particular regard.
Clinton: Well, what Governor Spitzer has agreed to do is to have three different licenses, one that provides identification for actually going onto airplanes and other kinds of security issues, another which is another ordinary driver's license, and then a special card that identifies the people who would be on the road, so...
Dodd: That's a bureaucratic nightmare.
Clinton: ... it's not the full privilege.
After the debate Chris Matthews was dialed up to 11, telling the world that Clinton had just handed the Republicans next years general election if she won the nomination. And it appears to be accepted as a foregone conclusion by the entire talking head set that Senator Clinton flubbed her response on this issue. Admittedly, I may be the one out of touch here, but I thought she made perfect sense.
Frankly, after months of media prodding Senator Clinton to take a stand on this or that issue, I think this episode has been a sad example of why she may be reluctant to do so. She took a controversial stand based upon sound logic, (even those disagreeing with her say there is a problem) and we have the pundits declaring her to have thrown the election because of it.
Now if she would just come out and apologize for being so freaking wrong about the Iraq war...
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Hillary Keeps On Keeping On, Is Obama Arabic For Dukakis?
Marc Ambinder blogs for The Atlantic, and today he posted about an aspect of the horserace which casts Senator Clinton in a positive light.
Another two weeks, another impressive navigation through ever-trickier waters. Hillary Rodham Clinton now has nine serious opponents -- four on the Democratic side (only Bill Richardson isn't making a compelling case against her right now) and five on the Republican side (counting Mike Huckabee).One reason Bill Clinton is regarded so fondly by Democrats, and conversely is so detested by the right, is that he did not fold in the face of the Republican slime operation. Now his wife is proving her mettle when it comes to taking the heat, and Senator Clinton to this point has proven very durable.
If Senator Clinton wins the nomination despite the months of attacks by everyone in the race, including Democrats, what better testament can there be of her tenacity in a campaign? There is no other personality out there taking the heat she is, and she is not just surviving, but she seems to be thriving.
This leads me to the reflections of Talking Points Memo reader KB:
Why are the republican presidential candidates the only ones going after their opposite numbers in the other party?I know that Clinton could score some major points with the left by slamming around Rudy and the gang... but does she really need to at this point? Senator Clinton is doing fine, so why fix it if it's not broken. For everything there is a season, and Senator Clinton has demonstrated enough of a knack for campaigning that I'm certain she will take those shots when it is best that she do so.
Rudy and the gang have gleefully used Clinton, and to a lesser extent Obama and Edwards, as foils and rhetorical ploys in their daily campaigning. But the Democrats running for President never name any of the Republican candidates. Obama could gain serious points by going after Rudy and his wacky team of neocon advisors. Why not do it? What does he have to lose? It would at least put Clinton on the defensive about Iran and force her to comment on the latest Podhoretz nonsense.
It leads to a larger question: at this late date, after all that has happened in Iraq, why are the neocons not on the defensive within the context of this presidential season? Given current public opinion polling, the neocons should be hiding under a rock, and the Democratic candidates for president should be the ones who put them there.
I think the candidate who needs to get the gumption to take on the Republican frontrunners by name is Barack Obama. In fact, Senator Obama has been handed an issue which is ready made for him to show some backbone and fight on. The Republican nominees, and Mitt Romney in particular, have made a point of repeatedly "mistaking" Obama's name with Osama Bin Laden's name. The last time this happened Mitt Romney extensively paraphrased a position taken by Osama Bin Laden and repeatedly labeled that position as coming from Obama. In fact Romney actually had to (mis)correct himself from originally getting the name right to mistaking the name and sliming Obama.
Senator Obama's response to the Romney slander was to say that he did not pay attention to Mitt Romney. If Obama will not fire back at that overt defamation, what sort of provocation will it take to get a decent reaction out of him? Obama's reaction reminded me of the '88 campaign, when Bernard Shaw started a debate by asking Michael Dukakis if his wife were raped and murdered by some perp, would Dukakis still oppose the death penalty? Dukakis gave an ideologically correct talking points answer which would have made a typical robot seem emotional by comparison. That unemotional, highly intelligent, technical approach defined Dukakis, who would have made an absolutely fantastic President, but was a decided failure as a campaigner.
Senator Obama only cemented this perception on my part by announcing for the record that he was about to take the gloves off and go after Hillary. Then he released a campaign commercial which indirectly challenged her on Social Security, and featured Obama giving a litany of what fores and where nots on Social Security. That is the best Senator Obama can do when it comes to going after Senator Clinton? I'm as unimpressed with the promised tough Obama as I was with the dismissive Obama in the face of Romney's smears.
So based upon the events of the last couple of weeks, I find myself being drawn to the candidacy of Senator Clinton, if for no other reason than that she is showing the ability to take the heat and thrive for the experience. I am not ruling out supporting any other candidates, but someone else needs to be able to present a viable challenge and show some gumption while taking heat.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Mormon Jihadists? Republicans Go There
The letter which starts the Crowley article leads to an extremely rare occurrence for yours truly: I find myself rising to the defense of Mitt Romney, a candidate who has precisely zero chance of getting my vote. In fact, this letter is so out there that I not only rise to the defense of Mitt Romney, but I rise to the defense of an entire religious movement which I do not believe in! Here is Crowley's description of the letter which I find so objectionable:
"Mormons in Contemporary American Society: A Politically Dangerous Religion?" The letters depicted Mormonism as based on "hoaxes" and ridiculed the church's founder, Joseph Smith, as a "gold digger turned prophet. " The mailing also provocatively dubbed Smith "the Mohammed of the West." "Like the prophet of Islam," it said, "Smith founded his religion upon prophecies and revelations which commanded him to become a polygamist and warlord. Many centuries apart, these two men became the focal point of large religions that blurred the lines between religion, war, domestic life and politics."Modern political battles are permeated through out by questions on how this or that candidate will handle the "war on terror". The vitriolic poison spread by the right wing noise machine about Islam and Muslims is a fundamental aspect of the Republican outlook on the world. Calling Joseph Smith a religious "warlord" and "the Mohammed of the West" is frankly atrocious. What next? Television commercials featuring oil paintings of Joseph Smith which slowly meld into images of Mohammed? Maybe toss in some explosions and some Osama footage... because Mitt Romney is a Mormon and the two are somehow related.
I might not be a Mormon (my wife is, and has been all her life) but I still wonder at how they will react to the right wing smear mongers who purport to be their political allies, but then are so savage in denouncing them on religious grounds to score cheap political gains. Make no mistake about it either. The most inflammatory denouncers of Mormon theology are not atheists or liberal Christians. It is the right wing evangelicals who bitterly denounce Mormonism, and then benefit from Mormon votes. When you look at the political map, there is no redder state than Utah. Idaho, which also has a large population of Mormons is also deeply red.
My impression of Mormonism is that their beliefs have a decidedly Old Testament flavor. Many Mormon institutions and precepts are directly taken from Old Testament roots. Mormons have guidelines on dietary matters and appearance which would fit very well in the books of law passed from God to the children of Israel. In fact Mormons trace their lineage back to old Israel, and if a new member can not be placed in a tribe of Israel by lineage they will be adopted into one from the Mormons perspective.
This leads to a decidedly 'old time religion' flavor for what is actually a very new sect of Christianity. When I attend Mormon services (I've promised my wife I will on certain big occasions) they sing songs that have been standards for decades. The entire congregation goes in their Sunday finest (the only time since my childhood I've been formally dressed was for these church services... and my wedding). Attending a Mormon service is to step into a time machine, and go back to any church service in the middle of last century (save a good old southern Baptist black church I suppose). My point in all this is that Mormons are not wild eyed, hippified, revolutionary apostates, or sharia preaching Muslim holy warriors, even if most of what they believe is not conventional Christianism.
This traditionalism extends to the Mormon view on society and politics. Harry Reid is a rarity: a liberal leaning Mormon. Those liberal Mormons can be found I'm sure, but every Mormon I have met and discussed politics with has been politically conservative. In fact they tend to feel very strongly about their political leanings in my experience. Indeed, after several years of living in Eugene (famous the world over for our liberal ways) and a year and a half of living with yours truly, my wife is still a hardcore libertarian conservative. She does not like Bush, but the chances of her voting for Hillary are about the same as my ever voting for Mitt. Which as I said before is a big fat zero.
So the right wing evangelical freaks do themselves no favors by slamming around Mormonism for short term political gain against a Mormon candidate. Especially when they go off half cocked about Joseph Smith being a Mohammed like warlord... Mormons may be politically conservative, but I believe they place an even greater weight on their religious views. If this type of inflammatory anti Mormon garbage is going to be a big feature from the right in order to tear down Romney, I can't help but wonder what effect it will have on the typical Mormon who is then asked to vote for the same people who have defamed Mormon leaders and beliefs in order to claw out the nomination.
I don't think Mormons will ever vote for liberal and moderate Democrats in any great numbers, but if the right makes a point of slamming them around too much they may find cause to just stay home. Especially if the guy who benefits from the slanders on Mormonism and wins the nomination is a thrice married, pro choice, pro gay marriage candidate...
Friday, October 26, 2007
McCain Slams Giuliani On Waterboarding, So Will He Vote Against Mukasey
Senator John McCain responded to Giuliani's prevarication's thusly:
“All I can say is that it was used in the Spanish Inquisition, it was used in Pol Pot’s genocide in Cambodia, and there are reports that it is being used against Buddhist monks today,”I suppose this is the perfect time to point out that Giuliani would obviously agree that those examples do constitute torture, because those were not American interrogators. It's like McCain is trying to make Giuliani's point or something!
Regardless of those pesky technicalities, McCain seems to have a certain belief that waterboarding is torture. So some enterprising journalist needs to ask how, or even if, McCain intends to vote on the nomination of Mike Mukasey for Attorney General.
Mukasey's nomination has hit a bit of a snag with Mukasey being sent a letter from leading Senate Democrats asking that he clarify his belief on whether or not waterboarding is torture. I for one find it difficult to believe that the Democratic leadership is not taking Mukasey's "massive hedge" as prima facie evidence that he will not end the practice. But they are extending the clock on his answer, giving Mukasey every opportunity to get it right, and trying their best to forgive and forget Mukasey's transparently wrong headed response to the question.
The entire world, except for Republican koolaid drinkers, knows that waterboarding is torture. How is it that Mukasey and Giuliani evidently have the same wrong headed opinion? It turns out that these two have a history with each other, to the point that Mukasey has promised to recuse himself from any matter dealing with Giuliani if he is confirmed as Attorney General. Mukasey's son works at Giuliani's law firm. So when Giuliani was asked about his take on waterboarding being torture, he was echoing his pal Mukasey in yet another massive hedge on the question.
I highly suspect that Mukasey's response to the Democrats letter on waterboarding will only extend his past obfuscation. So if the response is anything other than a flat out rejection by Mukasey of waterboarding as torture, can McCain in good conscience vote to confirm him as Attorney General. I know that the Presidential candidates are missing lots of votes while they campaign, and I suppose that will be one out for McCain. But if he really feels strongly about this issue (which is a big if considering McCains support the the MCA last year) how can he justify missing that particular vote. If this issue is as important to McCain as it should be, he will make a point of voting against Mukasey.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Maling It In, Thanks To Larry Craig
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
When Can The President Legally Break A Law? No To Mukasey
On the second day of confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr. Mukasey went further than he had the day before in arguing that the White House had constitutional authority to act beyond the limits of laws enacted by Congress, especially when it came to national defense.Does Mukasey believe that Article two of the constitution is pre-iminent over the rest of the document? The President draws his war time powers from article two, but no one can cogently argue that the rest of the constitution is somehow subservient to that article, least of all the nominee to be Attorney General.
He suggested that both the administration’s program of eavesdropping without warrants and its use of “enhanced” interrogation techniques for terrorism suspects, including waterboarding, might be acceptable under the Constitution even if they went beyond what the law technically allowed. Mr. Mukasey said the president’s authority as commander in chief might allow him to supersede laws written by Congress.
In the case of the eavesdropping program, Mr. Mukasey suggested that the president might have acted appropriately under his constitutional powers in ordering the surveillance without court approval even if federal law would appear to require a warrant.
“The president is not putting somebody above the law; the president is putting somebody within the law,” said Mr. Mukasey, who seemed uncomfortable with the aggressive tone, occasionally stumbling in his responses. “The president doesn’t stand above the law. But the law emphatically includes the Constitution.”
If the rest of the constitution is to be held in equal value to article two, we need to look at how a law becomes a law in order to determine if that law must be followed. This can be found in article one: Congress passes the law, and if the President thinks, for whatever reason (including the belief that the law violates the constitution) that the law is not acceptable, he/she may veto it. If the law is vetoed Congress may override that veto by a two thirds margin. The only further recourse at that point would be for the President to challenge the constitutionality of the law in the judicial system. Thus, when Congress passed FISA, and the President signed that law... the issue for all intents and purposes must be considered settled.
If a future President were to consider a particular law unconstitutional, does that give him the right to defy the constitution in turn, by proceeding as if article one were not in effect? How can we allow the President to be the sole arbiter of what is or is not constitutional if while making that determination he blatantly violates fundamental constitutional precepts, and tries to do so in secrecy so that his illegality is never exposed to the separate branches of government.
Mukasey also makes a dubious point regarding the President's war time powers to determine the treatment of captives in time of war. Far from gaining rights in this particular area from article two, the treatment of prisoners is particularly designated in the constitution as being guided by rules determined by Congress, in the same clause which gives Congress the sole ability to declare war.
There can be no doubt as to the legality of waterboarding based upon the fact that the United States has prosecuted people as war criminals for that particular act. It would be inconcievable that a war crime, if commissioned by another nation, is allowable if it is the President who orders it. The President is lawfully obligated to treat detainee's humanely both by international treaties ratified by the Senate and laws passed by Congress which cover the treatment of these prisoners.
The notion that Mukasey is positing giving the President rights in contravention of the constitution and duly enacted laws should be an automatic disqualifier for Mukasey's nomination.
Hamas Trained Eye Rolling Mean Girls Defacto Turrists!
Last week, on October 18, 2007, our hero [Nonie] Darwish spoke at the all-female Wellesley College as the guest of Hillel on campus.This is the first sign of trouble for any "Islamofascist Awareness" speaker. Muslim girls wearing headscarves! It seems to me that head scarf wearing Muslim girls ought to be precisely the audience Darwish is interested in addressing. She used to be one herself. But evidently not, because from Darwish's perspective Muslim girls wearing head scarves signifies trouble.
About 80-100 students came. Far more Muslim than Jewish students came and “so many” of the Muslim girls were wearing head-scarves.
According to Darwish, the female students in head-scarves did the following: As she spoke, they made exaggerated, “mean girl” faces at her. They rolled their eyes, practiced “disbelieving” facial expressions—did everything but stick out their tongues.Noooo! Mean girl faces and disbelieving facial expressions! What has western civilization come to?! These headscarf wearing Muslim girls are obviously out of control... but wait! It gets even worse.
And they continued to talk to each other in loud whispers while Darwish spoke: “How can she tell such lies!” “I was never, ever indoctrinated against Jews!” “Can you believe what she is saying?” “We do not call Jews pigs and apes, how can she lie about her own people?”Where do these headscarf wearing Muslim girls think they are anyway? At the movie theater? We can only thank the good lord in heaven that one of these headscarf wearing Muslim girls didn't have the temerity to leave their cell phone on. We can only imagine the anguish THAT would have caused our hero.
In addition to the “mean girl” faces and the continual loud whispering, one by one, at least four to five head-scarfed girls, got up to leave the room during Darwish’s speech. This meant that each girl took two minutes to move to the end of her row, physically causing the other students to get up or twist aside, causing the entire room to look at the departing student, not at their invited guest—and then each girl did precisely the same thing when she returned two minutes later, presumably from a bathroom break.Four to five? Is our hero not able to count once she goes past the fingers on one hand? The only way we could fix these disruptions for future events is to install potty training devices under each seat for immediate use when an audience member can no longer hold it. What Darwish describes with such certainty as a choreographed attempt to disrupt her speech can be expected by anyone giving a speech. For example, during my father in law's memorial I developed an itch in my throat and felt the need to go into a coughing fit. As I left the proceedings I was stifling coughs, causing various snorts and huffing, but only the most uptight member of that audience would have mistaken my efforts to make it outside before being wracked by a coughing fit as an attempt to disrupt the proceedings. Not only that, but there were other occasions during the memorial when people left the proceedings and returned, presumably after a bathroom break. Now that I think about it, I wonder why so many people who I thought loved my father in law chose to protest his memorial in such a craven way!
They quadruple-teamed Darwish and did not stop until Darwish ended her lecture. Twenty to thirty minutes of soft-core, well-choreographed, goon squad behavior. “They are Hamas-trained” says Darwish.I was giggling the entire time I read this post, but this is where I let out the belly laugh. Headscarf wearing Muslim girls making mean girl faces and getting up to go to the bathroom are Hamas trained? That statement is prima facie evidence that Darwish has lost her senses. If Hamas were actually training people in America, we would have to consider ourselves to be very very lucky if the extent of that training was how to make mean girl faces and go to the bathroom!
One must not expose Islam’s long record of gender and religious apartheid and if one does, one is treated as a traitor and a liar and silenced in violent ways.Erm... yeah. If an Arab speaker were to cast the religion practiced by the vast majority of her own people the way Darwish does, then she should expect to be called a liar and traitor, among other things...(but mean girl faces or any of the other slights perceived by Darwish in this particular speech really do not qualify as part of the "silenced in violent ways" in my humble opinion). Even if what she is saying is 100% entirely accurate, she can still expect that treatment. In fact she should bear those taunts with pride if she truly believes what she is saying. Just by way of example, if a Catholic were to carry on ad nauseum about the Catholics being wrong about everything, then that person could expect to be characterized badly by the Catholic church. Is that really so mystifying? This is not a function of the veracity or goodness of the message in question. If Darwish is going to go off labeling Islam the way she does, why would she be surprised that she is opposed, even vehemently so, by those who follow Islam?
Ironically, the flyer describing Darwish’s visit advertised her speech as one about “peace.” Darwish was the last to know about it. Still, she rode the wave. “We can’t have peace unless each group engages in self-criticism which is what I am doing.”Darwish was the last to know that her speech was peaceful? Did she somehow perceive a riot? Was she physically assaulted? If the worst disturbance Darwish encounters while giving her speeches are audience members going to the bathroom and making mean girl faces then that is a testament to the peaceful nature of those who she perceives are protesting her, not proof of violence. Darwish is seriously out of touch.
The link I provided above goes to Pajamas Media, which is a site largely dominated by right wingers. So the fun continues in the comments of the post as the outraged wing nuts pile on to express their horror at the harsh techniques which Darwish had to endure at her speech:
gs :Yeah! Those headscarf wearing Muslim girls making mean girl faces are organized thugs. We need to record these events and detain the headscarf wearing Muslim girls who are thugishly making those mean girl faces... and also the ones going to the bathroom.
Presentations like this should be recorded, including the audience behavior. There's something to be said for respecting the audience's privacy even in a public event, but that is preempted when organized thuggery is being practiced.
Brett :There is seriously someone out there who thinks that headscarf wearing Muslim girls who make mean girl faces should be expelled from Wellsley for that. Can you even imagine how that conversation would sound? Dean: "Yes Ms, we have a recording here of you attending a speech... Let us look at the tape shall we? Right... here you can clearly be seen rolling your eyes and making a mean girl face... PACK YOUR BAGS!!! That type of outrage will not be tolerated on this campus... YOU HAVE GONE TOOO FAR!!!" I mean sheesh people... seriously these right wingers need to get a grip.
This is intimidation. The college should expel the girls and their advisors should be kicked off campus.
No, that would not be discrimination against muslims; it's intolerance of hooliganism.
Many students are punished for much less.
Here is THE weirdest comment in the whole thread. Prepare thyself:
Gary Ruppert :That comment is just so out there that I don't know how to form a cogent response. De facto the same as terrorism? How many mangled bodies had to be taken to the morgue after Darwish was targeted by these Hamas trained defacto terrorists? In fact, what does the term "de facto the same as terrorism" mean anyway? This seems to me one of those times when you either are, or are not a particular term. For example, you can not be "de facto the same as pregnant". So if a persons intent upon going to a particular event is anything other than spreading indiscriminate death and destruction, they are not a terrorist, or "de facto the same as" a terrorist".
The fact is, the intimidation used by Jenny Jihad here gave me a chill down my spine and a cold pit of fear in my belly. Liberals might not want to be friends with people who use such tactics, and will use them on them too not just those the left disagree with and try to silence there free speach. These thugs should be put into camps. The headscarves, intimidating gestures and rudeness from the audience is de facto the same as terrorism.
Here is yet another comment that had me rolling my eyes, and thereby joining the Hamas trained "de facto the same as" terrorist thugs, in the fevered imaginations of the fantatacal right anyway:
Vinny Vidivici :Brown-shirt thuggery?! These guys have called for students to be expelled for going to the bathroom and making mean girl faces, they have equated them to terrorists for it, said that they have been trained by Hamas... yet somehow it is the headscarf wearing Muslim girls who are the Brown-shirt thugs. Has there ever been a more apropos time to call for people to remove the log from their own eye before pointing out the mote in their neighbors eye... even if the mote in the other eye is extremely noticeable, because they keep rolling that eye in a Hamas inspired ritual that is de facto the same as terrorism?
I guess a deliberate attempt to interfere with the free assembly rights of others -- like trashing a Starbuck's at an anti-globo circus -- is just another form of 'dissent', eh?
Now that outright assault or heckling speakers off the stage on college campuses is being exposed to the wider world for the brown-shirt thuggery it truly is, time to find another way, preferrably one which deftly games the West's cultural practices, its legal and media institutions and and its current grievance fetish.
What a shakedown.
Finally let me note that this post on Pajamas Media is no joke, believe it or not. I mean it really is hilarious parody, but it is not intended to be so. Phyllis Chesler posted later with an article titled: "Mean Girl" Behavior is No Joke
I agree with that title actually. The joke is the positively hilarious response from the right wing freaks who took offense to the head scarf wearing Muslim girls, who made the mean girl faces.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
What Say You Obama?
If you sense a certain holding back with my enthusiasm for Baracks approach, let me affirm your perception. While I would love to be able to jump on and ride the Barack bandwagon to a better place, I am unwilling to join the cause with another principled Democrat trying to take the high road to the White House. After watching national campaigns from the 88 smearing of Michael Dukakis through the swiftboating of Kerry in 04, I am convinced that we need a hard hitting fighter who will not take the crap being thrown at him from the right during the campaign.
Barack Obama has been handed his chance to respond to a viscious attack from the right, and if he wants to appeal to the wizened old lefties who think like I do, he will take this chance to come back fast and hard with a response and do so immediately.
Yesterday Osama Bin Laden released an audio tape in which he exorted Muslims to join the fight against the West in Iraq. Here is what Mitt Romney said of this in Greenville North Carolina earlier today:
"Actually, just look at what Osam, uh, Barack Obama, said just yesterday. Barack Obama calling on radicals, jihadists of all different types, to come together in Iraq. That is the battlefield. That is the central place, he said. Come join us under one banner."This is a continuation of a pattern by the right wing freaks "mistaking" or flat out associating Obama and Osama. Frankly, I'm outraged by it, and I'm not particularly beholden to Obama as a supporter. What I am is sick and tired of the unfounded smears and lies spread by the right to chew up Democrats. So Obama could score major points for those who, like me, are worried about backing another non responsive Democrat only to see him/her be eaten alive by Republicans. He can score those points by immediately slamming Romney back and doing it hard. He should not rely upon a statement from his campaign spokesperson to do this. Obama needs to give it right back to Romney and it needs to be in this news cycle if possible or the next at the very latest. The response also needs to come directly from Barack, and he needs to get some fire in his belly about this, pure and simple. If he can't muster up a half decent response to this slander right here and now, what does that tell us about him if he wins the nomination?
[Update: Here is Obama's initial response: "I don't pay too much attention to Mitt Romney."
I am underwhelmed. If ever there was a chance for a Democratic leader to show some vim and vigor, this was it. I'll back Obama to the hilt if he wins the nomination, but the more he tries to take the high road to victory, the less likely it is that he will go anywhere but down in flames.
Maybe this is just a fundamental difference between Republicans and Democrats. Republicans spend most of their time attacking Hillary, Obama, and anyone else to the left of Mussolini. The Democratic candidates spend an obligatory minute or two popping off on how bad Bush is, and then they go to their 12 point plans for better government with enlightened leadership. My perception is that the negativity is far heavier from the right to the left than from the left to the right. Obama had a golden opportunity to slam around one of the Republican front runners, and he just let it go by dismissing Romney as inconsequential. I'm frankly dissapointed. ]
Monday, October 22, 2007
On International Precedent And What Is Anti American Anyway?
The first story may be gaining little publicity, but if the nation of Ecuador had it's way you can bet the controversy would wreathe your televisions in smoke and flame for weeks on end. The headline of the story blares: Ecuador wants military base in Miami.
The duly elected President of Ecuador is going to terminate the United States lease on the Manta Airbase, unless the United States consents to allow an Ecuadorean military base in Miami. Can you imagine the furor that would erupt from the likes of Tancredo, Buchanan and Holz if we allowed a foreign military base on American soil?
I suppose the thought of how Americans would react to a foreign military base on our soil should give pause when considering how other nations would feel at having our forces based in their nations. Small wonder that our allies in Iraq have given Vice President Cheney a negative message on permanent bases in Iraq, and that was a "big fat no, N-O".
The next story that caught my attention revolves around the liklihood that Turkey is going to move into northern Iraq in response to Kurdish incursions and attacks. The latest attack was Sunday resulting in 8 Turkish soldiers being captured by Kurdish fighters. Around 40 members of the Turkish military have been killed in clashes on the Turkish frontier in recent days. Public opinion in Turkey is overwhelmingly in favor of sending forces across the border in response to the attacks. The United States is pressuring Turkey to exercise restraint and not send troops into northern Iraq.
It should be noted here that Turkey is a member of the NATO Alliance, and a long time ally of the United States from since the early days of the cold war.
I find the response by the Bush administration to the Turkish/Kurdish crisis especially questionable when compared to the administrations reaction to the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah in the summer of 2006. That conflict was triggered when Hezbollah attacked an Israeli military patrol, killing several soldiers and taking two hostage. Far from counseling restraint in that case, the Bush administration goaded Israeli Prime Minister Olmert to attack Lebanon, even declaring that the resulting war was a part of the west's war on terror. The resultant debacle was a strategic defeat for the Israeli's and strengthened Hezbollah in the region.
While the Bush administration was itching for a fight between Israel and Hezbollah all along, by focusing on the provocation provided by the capture of the two soldiers as the cause for the war, they have provided a marker for other nations in similar circumstances. How is the case provided by the Kurds Vs. Turks different from the case provided by Hezbollah Vs. Israel? In both cases our allies have been attacked across their border by forces which are not being controlled by the sovereign government of the nation from which they were attacked.
If America faced a similar situation from either Mexico or Canada, our allies calling upon us to restrain ourselves would have precisely zero effect on our response.
I might happen to think that the Kurdish cause is far more worthy than the Hezbollah cause in the two examples, but the similarity of the circumstances which may touch off a regional conflict is self evident. It would have helped our cause now to be more even handed in our approach to this type of provocation in the past.
Now on to the anti American question. Gerard Baker has an interesting piece in The Timesonline titled The US is a great place to be anti-American. I wonder if the opinions which I expressed up til this part of my post would be termed "anti American" from Bakers perspective as written here:
The truth is that America not only harbours the most eloquent and noisy anti-Americans in its own breast, it provides a safe haven for people to come from all over the world to condemn it.By the standard which Baker seems to apply for the label anti American, it would seem that anyone disagreeing with American foreign policy at any particular point in time are deserving of the label. However, that can not be true simply because the same group can be relied upon to agree with foreign policy as favored by one President, and vehemently opposed to the approach taken by the next one. How can someone be "anti American one day and patriotic the next, solely dependant upon the President in power? I would never dream of calling the conservatives who railed at Jimmy Carter over his response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan or the Iran hostage crisis as anti American. But those same conservatives had no difficulty in labeling anyone who disagreed with Reagan's central American policy, or his siding with Iraq in the war with Iran as anti American.
Take a stroll through almost any American university campus and you will hear a cacophony of voices in a hundred different languages, slamming everything America does, from fast food to hedge-fund capitalism. For years one of America’s most celebrated academics was Edward Said, the Palestinian agitator-cum-professor, who lived high on the hog at Columbia University, near the pinnacle of the American intellectual establishment, dispensing his wisdom about US wrongs in the Middle East.
Simply having a different take on what is best for this nation than the President in power at any given time should not be enough to be labeled anti American in my point of view. You can go back less than a decade and find example after example of Congress critters wailing about casualties because of Clinton's involvement in the Balkans who now are steadfast backers of continuing ad infinitum in Iraq. Was John McCain anti American when he tried to introduce resolutions forcing Clinton to put a timeline on the Balkans involvement? I don't think so.
So, are only liberals who disagree with conservative Presidents anti American? Unfortunately from my perspective, that is the standard line of thought from the right of late. How else could the President actually express the opinion while campaigning in last year elections that if the Democrats were to win the terrorists would win, and America would lose. I might think it is the President who is misguided, and his policies are the ones strengthening the terrorists. That doesn't mean I'm going to blast him for being anti American.
There actually is one issue upon which I consider the President to be anti American. That one issue is the torture of detainees in the war on terror. Simply redefining the meaning of torture is not an acceptable figleaf to escape this stain either. America has a record going back to our foundation of officially treating prisoners with dignity. To be sure, there are times when we have fallen short of that goal, but never because of an official determination to mistreat our prisoners. The Bush administration has overturned centuries of continual American idealism in this one regard, and to me that is the core definition of what it means to be Anti American. I'm certain they are doing this from a warped sense of what is best for this nation, but that does not excuse the behavior, and the damage they have caused us.
To be sure, Baker would most likely label me anti American for expressing that opinion. I just wonder how that can be when it is my side of the torture debate which is trying to uphold the American ideal from the start of this nation until the Bush administration overturned that ideal.
Friday, October 19, 2007
By way of explaining the following post, today I was bopping about the intertubes searching for something to write about. Frankly I was drawing a blank, until I stumbled over the White House site and saw several messages to Congress from the President. Anyone as much into politics as I am knows that the most famous messages to Congress are given to a joint session by the President... so I was inspired to post my imaginative take on what a typical Presidential message to Congress would look like, if it were given in the most famous circumstances. So the following post is an admittedly weak attempt at creative writing using my perceptions of modern day politics from a truly mundane message to Congress by President Bush. Click the title for a link to the official message upon which the following bit of fancy is based on.
The House Chambers are buzzing with the gathered dignitaries and guests. The media pool camera sweeps the crowded hall, occasionally stopping to focus on a famous politician or news worthy personality. The first lady is sitting in her appointed seat and beside her sits the Ambassador of Columbia. Behind the lectern Nancy Pelosi is trying to engage Richard Cheney in pleasantry, but his body language and curt responses portray his intense desire to get this over with.
Over the tumult is heard a succession of three loud raps. The ambient noise decreases immediately, and the great double doors open. Through the doors steps a formally dressed older gentleman. He takes approximately 10 steps down the center aisle, stops and announces in a loud and authoritative voice: "Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States!"
President George Bush enters the Chambers as the ambient noise revives to a crescendo, smiling and pausing to shake the hands of the politicians lining both sides of the aisle. Notably, Senator Lieberman is especially effusive in greeting the President, at one point breaking his beaming smile to purse his lips and kiss the ring on the President's hand. While the President is greeted pleasantly by members on both sides of the aisle, the personal interchanges seem to be more abrupt, except for the vaguely creepy interaction with Lieberman, making his walk to the podium much quicker than past such occasions.
Reaching the dais, the President greets Richard Cheney and acknowledges Nancy Pelosi, who flashes a tightly wound smile in his direction. The President then turns to the microphone and waits for the gathered crowd to take their seats and for the noise to die down.
"Mrs. Speaker, Vice President Cheney, members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens: Section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act, 50 U.S.C. 1622(d), provides for the automatic"... (the President seems to pause for dramatic effect, peering intently into space as he formulates the next word) "termination... of a national emergency unless, prior to the anniversary date of its..." (another pause, with the President now seeming to squint at the teleprompter) "declaration, the President plubishes in the Federal Register and transmits to the Congress a notice statings that the mergency is to continue in 'fect beyond the anniversry date."
As soon as the President finishes the sentence, the right half of the chambers leap to their feet and erupt in wild applause. It is almost as if they are applauding the President for being able to read a complete sentence in a mostly coherent manner. Plubishes vs publishes and getting the tense wrong here and there? If thats the worst Bush does this evening his speech will be a tour de force! Oddly enough however, the left side of the chambers remains sitting in stony silence, with the notable exception of the wildly cheering Joe Lieberman.
As soon as the right wing of the chamber settles back into their chairs the President continues: "In accordance with this porvision, I have sent the enclosed notice to the Federal Register for pubilcation, stating that the mergency declared with respect to signifcant... (here the President pauses again, with a look that is almost a question on his face,) "ner-coat-iks... traffkers" (a low twitter can be heard from the left side of the chambers, but the President's expression again takes the self assured smirk so familiar to the nation as he ignores the interruption) "centered in Colombia is to continue in effect beyond October 21, 2007."
The entire right side of the chambers again erupts in effusiveness. The Republicans can tell that this speech is difficult for the President, not because of the subject matter, but because of the difficult words interspersed by the speech makers. They are willing him through sheer force of approval to get through this speech without too many major phonetic catastrophes. They know though that theirs is a lost cause.
The right side of the room settles down, but for several seconds after the apparent calm one person on the left side of the aisle continues cheering from his feet, apparently unaware of the embarrassing scene surrounding his display. Eventually the President holds his palm up in that direction, and Joe Lieberman again takes his seat, all the while with a beaming smile.
"The circumstancial that led to the dekelration on October 21, 1995, of a national 'mergency have not been resolves."
Another low hummed twitter is heard from the left of the chambers.
"The action of significant ner-coat-iks (the President recognized this word from the previous reading, which meant he did not have to pause to try to work out the phoenetics) traffkers centered in Colombia continue to pose an unusual and strordinary threat to the national security, forn policy, and economy of the United States, and to cause unperlleled violence, kruption, and harm in the United States and abroad."
Again the right hand side of the hall is swept by rapture, while the left hand side fidgets silently, save the exuberant Joe Lieberman.
"For these reasons, I have termined that it is necessary to tain ecomic pressured on significant ner-coat-iks traffkers centered in Colombia by blocking their property and interests in propertied that are in the United States or within the possessions or kintrol of United States personificators and by deprahving them of ack-cess to the U.S. market and finances system."
At this point a low hum is heard around the chambers, with the Republicans looking a little bewildered. It appears the President is wrapping up his speech...
"And may God bless the United States of Merka!"
The President stares into the teleprompter with a look of near shock on his face.
The Right side of the room sits slackjawed in their chairs looking in bewildered amazement at the podium. A stunning awareness is racing around the chambers... someone forgot to include a mention of 9/11 in the speech!
The entire left side of the chambers erupts into joyous applause as the President turns to leave the podium. That is, the entire left side of the chambers, with the notable exception of Joe Lieberman.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
The Newswarp From The Right
American troops killed their own commanders so often during the Vietnam War that the crime earned its own name - "fragging."My post is not an examination of the fragging issue, or near non issue as it turns out. This post is to examine the delusional rant the article generated from the right wing water carrier The Confederate Yankee.
But since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the military has charged only one soldier with killing his commanding officer, a dramatic turnabout that most experts attribute to the all-volunteer military.
Both Roland and Anderson said today's all-volunteer military, compared with soldiers being forced into duty in Vietnam, is the primary reason why fragging attacks are almost nonexistent in Iraq and Afghanistan. The conditions in Iraq are also much less conducive to the crime, Roland said.
"There's not as much isolated operation," Roland said. "One of the things about Vietnam was the extremes of small-unit activity, where a squad or platoon would go out on patrol and it was just them and the jungle. They were out of sight of other Americans.
"In Iraq, you never know when a helicopter might be going over or a newsman comes along," he said.
The hysteria starts with the title: "Media Laments Lost Opportunities In Iraq". Somehow, in the fevered and overwrought imagination of the C.Y., the reporter has expressed regret that more 'fraggings' are not being seen in Iraq. How C.Y. gets there from here (and there is a long long way from any semblance of reality) is a mystery to me, but the fact that he does get there is quite instructive of the outlook taken by these neocon fanatics. The A.P. simply reporting on 'fragging' is cause enough for these reactionary Bush backers to start slandering the reporters.
In the copy and pasted portion of the article in C.Y.'s post, I can only see one instance in which an editorial leaning can be found one way or the other. The A.P. writers denote that 'fragging' is a "crime". Well... duh. Yet it seems to me that if the writers were trying to make 'fragging' somehow seem like a good thing they would have written about the "act" or, even worse, the "statement"... or some terminology like that. I suppose that the frothing wingnuts would argue that the A.P. writers are pro crime, because that is the level of discourse one may expect from C.Y. and his ilk. But sane folk understand that in the one characterization used by the writers to describe fragging, they cast the act in a negative light.
The rest of the article in C.Y.'s post is simply quoting two experts, one a historian, and the other a Vietnam Veteran. At no point in reading the whole article or the portion pasted at C.Y. do these experts advocate the goodness or wholesomeness of 'fragging'.
C.Y. ends his post with a paraphrase of a tried and true Clintonism: "You can almost feel their pain." Well... if you get worked up enough by a fevered imagination, and somehow the target of your irrational anger actually carries the opinions you baselessly ascribe to them... maybe.
For the life of me I can not see what it is about this story that has C.Y. frothing at the mouth about the A.P. writers wanting to see officers fragged. It would be career suicide for a reporter from Raleigh N.C. to express the kind of opinion C.Y. tries to give them. This is just another example of an unfair attack by a lunatic rightwing blogger based upon absolutely nothing.
Standing On A Sidewalk: A Crime In N.Y.
The arresting officer noticed the group standing on the sidewalk, noting "numerous pedestrians in the area had to walk around defendants" and asked the group to move along. When Jones declined the officer tried to arrest him, leading to a brief foot pursuit and additional charges against Jones for resisting arrest. Jones pled guilty to the charge of disorderly conduct and the other charges were dropped. Upon further consideration, Jones decided to contest the charge he pled guilty to (unwittingly giving Larry Craig a helpful chart to navigate future legal waters).
To clarify, this isn't about loitering laws or blocking public access to buildings and so forth. Jones was charged with disorderly conduct because he stood on a sidewalk, and pedestrians had to walk around him, plain and simple.
This story may not get alot of play from the lefty blogoshpere, but I think it should. N.Y. law enforcement has a long and rich history of spying on and repressing demonstrators, profiling and abusing minorities and so on and so forth. Now they are arresting people for standing on the sidewalk. Most folks who follow the news think it is some other group who is being targeted by the cops when these types of stories break. But everybody has stood on a sidewalk and never given a second thought about avoiding law enforcement for doing so.
The officer is not claiming that Jones was being abusive or causing any sort of untoward inconvenience for passers by. He was simply doing what many folk do every day on sidewalks around the globe. The reporter went to the scene of the "crime" just prior to rush hour, when foot traffic is much heavier than the early a.m. hours, and noted the following activity taking place:
a man eating clams out of a Styrofoam container; two men smoking cigarettes together; a man waiting for a woman to finish a phone call [I wonder who should be arrested on that, the woman holding up the phone or the guy waiting for her... or both?! ]; a guy looking at a map; a young woman sending a text message; two men handing out tour brochures; and a family of five, including an infant in a stroller, who stopped to look at the brochures.The judges who heard the case seemed a bit incredulous about this as well:
“Isn’t that lawful conduct?” wondered Judge Robert S. Smith. Later he added, “Your conduct can’t be illegal just because an officer noticed it.”The N.Y. times approaches this story as a light hearted human interest type article, but I think this goes to something far deeper in society. How much freedom are we willing to give up to the authorities in these times? Can they really just arrest you now for just being a regular person who catches their attention. Disorderly conduct charges for leading absolutely normal lives. Even as you read this post people are standing on the very sidewalk Jones was arrested on, and apparently if a police officer felt like it, they could be arrested for doing so. It might cause us to roll our eyes and chuckle as we read about the Jones case in particular, but I do believe this case has a bearing on each and every one of us.
His colleague Judge Eugene F. Pigott Jr. questioned what other violations might attract law enforcement attention.
“All I could think of was a bunch of lawyers from the New York City Bar Association standing around trying to figure out where to have lunch,” Judge Pigott said. (The association has offices a block and a half from Times Square.)
Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye seemed likewise nonplused. “This is at 2 a.m.?” she asked, wondering how many pedestrians it would have been possible to inconvenience at that hour. “I guess I’m not in Times Square at 2 a.m. very often.”
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Terror Chief Retires Citing Medical Reasons
Redd evidently needs to have surgery on both knees, and the recuperation is expected to take an extended period of time. Let us give credit where it is due: at least that is a more creative excuse than the typical "spend more time with the family" hokum we are normally plied with.
You may detect a slight bit of scepticism from yours truly when it comes to this, which perception would be correct. Why would I be so cynical as to not believe that Redd has legitmate medical concerns leading to his retirement? Because just the day before yesterday Redd committed truth by telling NBC News that the U.S. was probably not safer from terrorism today than before the invasion of Iraq.
Telling the truth is just not acceptable behavior if you are a big shot terrorist fighting Bushie.
All you have to do is look at the casualty lists to determine if the United States is in more danger now than before the invasion. Let us first establish that our military members (not to mention a good percentage of the private contractors we are paying for) are Americans. Next let us establish that the Bush administration tells us on a daily basis that Iraq is a central front in the war on terror, and that we are fighting the terrorists there so we won't have to fight them here... and so on and on and on. Connect the dots and it is patently obvious. Nearly 1000 more Americans have died in Iraq than died in the attacks on 9/11. In fact many many more Americans, by a factor of thousands, have been wounded by terrorists BECAUSE of Iraq, than were wounded on 9/11.
On that basis alone, it is obviously true that this nation is in greater danger now than prior to the invasion. This is not just a result of having troops deployed overseas either. For example, Americans are not in greater danger than before our involvement in the Balkans under President Clinton's leadership despite being deployed there.
Now the right wing koolaid drinkers will come back with "but we have not seen an attack on American soil since 9/11". Frankly, if I were the family member of a soldier serving in Iraq, or even worse a family member of one who had been wounded or given their life there, I would be just a bit cheesed at that logic. Is that family member somehow less American for having risked their life or spilled their blood because they did so in Iraq? That American is just as American as the people who died in the towers on 9/11. The sacrifice of our military families is hard enough without having to hear some cheesy Republican crowing about how safe Americans are even as Americans give their lives on a daily basis in George Bush's disastrous blunder in Iraq.
The sad part of this is that Iraq was entirely unnecessary. No amount of post invasion obfuscation and goal post shifting can change that fundamental truth. More Americans have died needlessly in George Bush's foreign blunder than died on 9/11, and we are supposed to think that we are safer?
Unfortunately telling the truth is no way to thrive in the Bush Administration, and Admiral Redd is just the latest to find that out the hard way.
On Safe Sex: Any Risk Is Unacceptable To Huckabee
Huckabee generated that headline by answering a question about whether or not his religious views would stop him from funding programs sponsored by the U.N. to combat aids. These programs promote safe sex practices including the use of condoms in order to stop the spread of aids. Huckabee responded by saying:
"If we really are serious about stopping a problem, whether it's drunk drinking...we don't say "Don't drive 'as drunk'?" ...This is an illogical thing that we apply to that one area that we don't apply to any other area. And I'm open-minded to all the arguments, if someone can convince me a little reckless behavior is OK. Maybe that's the message. But it would seem to me that if we're consistent in saying reckless behavior is undesirable we should ask people to move their behavior to the standard and not move the standard to the behavior...We don't say that a little domestic violence is OK, just cut it down a little, just don't hit quite as hard. We say it's wrong."Huckabee uses the wrong analogy here. Encouraging condom usage to combat aids is like encouraging drunk people to take a taxi home. A very small percentage of these drunks will be involved in traffic accidents during their ride home, simply by dint of being in a vehicle travelling on the roadways. But the vast majority of the carnage caused by drunk driving would still be alleviated, and the same is undeniably true when it comes to using condoms to stop the spread of aids around the globe.
(Following is a reprise on the effectiveness of abstinence only vs condom usage to combat aids. Folks who are familiar with the arguments on both sides may find this tendentious and/or boring.)
Justifying opposition to these aids prevention programs on the grounds that the methods being used are not effective 100% of time is a very thin veil cast on a fundamentalist outlook. By that way of thinking, if even a very small percentage of those dying now will die after the preventative measures are funded, then those measures are a failure. The only answer is to promote an unrealistic approach, which, if entirely successful, would be effective at stopping aids. But the fundamentalist approach actually leads to increased death rates because abstinence programs are ineffective at stopping premarital sex.
In reality, the true objection is the theocratic notion that promoting condom usage somehow encourages extra marital sex. Accordingly, only a reliance on programs promoting sexual abstinence are acceptable, no matter how unrealistic it might be to expect everyone to lead chaste lives until marriage. I disagree strenuously with this conclusion. No one is forcing anyone to wear a condom and have sex. If a person wants to live a chaste life until marriage that is wonderful, and I wish them well. But that doesn't mean that the rest of humanity must live in ignorance and disease as the well meaning Americans preach the wonders of abstinence, all the while watching the aids epidemic wipe out millions of fornicators.
The question should be, will mankind ever be able to reach, or even approach perfect uniformity of abstinence before marriage. If the answer is no, (how can you honestly give a positive answer to that question) then it stands to reason that we should acknowledge reality and do our best to stop the spread of aids by encouraging condom usage. In fact, that seems like the real pro life view.
There may be people who hold fundamentalists views and somehow believe that aids can be stopped via humankind as a whole being brought to chastity. But those people ignore the whole of human history while holding an unrealistic outlook which contributes to the spread of a deadly disease. We are witnessing the results of this type of idealogically blinded outlook from the current resident of the Oval Office, and I don't think the nation cares for it.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
The Next Column David Brooks Should Pen
Not only are they forced to run campaigns which make their own mothers ashamed, but the grind between campaigns to raise money for the next election also wears these hapless politicians down. With Democrats going to a longer work week in Congress, there is just no time left to spend with family.
Brooks paints a sympathetic portrait of a politician struggling to maintain her humanity as she is buffeted by the rough and tumble of modern day politics and campaigning, but he doesn't offer any solutions to the problem. So the next column which David Brooks should pen (from the humble perspective of yours truly) is a solution to the problem he so eloquently describes. If Brooks sees the problem so clearly, does he propose a solution? Not in today's column...
Thinking that maybe in past columns Brooks used his elevated position in national punditry to call for some sort of political reform, I searched the Brooks archives in vain his solution. Searching for the key words campaign finance reform in the archives of Brook's NY times editorials only turns up one match: A column in which he disparages John Kerry's approach to various issues as not being tenacious, as opposed to the example provided by John McCain on campaign finance reform. Searching those same archives for campaign reform returns zero matches. The same applies when searching for the keywords election reform.
To be sure, Brooks is a conservative and campaign finance reform is a tricky subject for them. John McCain is taking plenty of heat for his efforts at campaign finance reform. Just mentioning McCain/Feingold is red meat for the rabid Republican crowd. So who can blame Brooks for shying away from a solution even as he gives voice to the despair wrought on the pols by the current system.
Who am I to call upon a Brooks proposal without giving one of my own? To me the obvious solution to this problem is public financing of campaigns. Somehow free speech is now equated with massive spending by interest groups and political parties in advertising drives. By that standard however, only the very wealthy are truly able to speak, as represented by their ability to be heard through advertising. Ordinary folk are effectively muzzled by our inability to be heard on the same scale. Meanwhile our politicians spend every waking moment grubbing for filthy lucre from these moneyed interests and can be counted on to vote in their moneyed favor. This process costs us taxpayers far more than if we would just pony up some money in the budget to publicly finance campaigns. Then the pols would be beholden to we the people for the financing necessary to run their campaigns. And all of us little people would be given a more equal say in the process.
I freely admit that by decrying the current campaign equation that I stand in contravention to the Supreme Courts interpretation of the first amendment. But if we know that the current system is working against the best interests of the nation, and then frame the debate as dealing with commercial speech, we might be able to work out a solution which would pass muster in the Supreme Court.
Even before this gets to the Supremes, we have to work out a plan and get it passed. One of the greatest obstacles in the way is the media as a whole. The mass media will hardly be gung ho to change the current system, and who can blame them really? Each election season sees billions of dollars spent by the campaigns and special interests buying publicity, and that money flows directly to the media. They have a very real monetary interest in keeping the status quo.
So there is a good lefty solution. I would look forward to reading a Brooks column that touches on possible solutions to the problem from his perspective, but based upon past articles as demonstrated by archive searches I won't hold my breath.
Monday, October 15, 2007
In Defense Of Hillary, From The Left
Be that as it may, I am heartily sick and tired of Hillary Clinton catching it from both sides. We know she's got it coming from the right wing freaks, and that is as it should be. If the neocons started touting her that would cause me concern. But my brothers and sisters in liberalism are giving her grief for not being lefty enough. While I might agree with my compatriots when it comes to Sentaor Clintons take on several issues, I don't think that ideological purity from a liberal perspective should be the end all be all when considering who we support for President.
I think Senator Clinton has her eyes on the ultimate prize, not the way points along the way to that prize. The ultimate prize is winning the majority of the vote in the general election, not just winning the majority of the vote in the primaries. She is trying to make herself acceptable to centrists, and trying to peel off segments of the Republican coalition, even before she wins the nomination.
George Bush took this tactic in the 2000 election, which he admittedly lost but would have lost even worse if he had not presented himself as a bipartisan uniter, compassionate conservative, against nation building, humble foreign policy candidate. Bush said what he had to say to get selected and then ran the show like he freaking well pleased once he was given his prize.
The Republicans find themselves in a dicey spot because to win their nomination one must appeal to the right wing freaks who have done so much to turn off the rest of the nation. We will see a stark before and after in the Republican nominee. Before wrapping up the nomination the candidate can't get away from President Bush's failed policies or he will be rejected by the wingnuts. After the nomination is a done deal that candidate will race to the center or be rejected by 2/3 of the American electorate. Senator Clinton is calculating that she can appeal to the 2/3 right now, getting a big head start in winning hearts and minds. She is presenting an acceptable alternative to the insufferably rabid crowd on the right right now, even as the Republicans actively promote their pro Bush credentials, which most of the nation rejects.
Barack Obama would like to do this as well, but he wants to do it by playing nice and trying to bring harmony to the nations political scene. I certainly think this is a wonderful goal and I very much anticipate the day that our disparate pols link arms and sing kum bay ya as we forge a bipartisan consensus on the nations business. BUT... I am not looking forward to throwing my support behind another idealistic campaign which stays above the fray as the nutso right tears them to shreds. If Obama wins the nomination, I'll be there supporting him to the hilt, but I'm certainly not going to follow his high minded example and disarm in the hopes that the other side will start playing nice.
Senator Clinton on the other hand is not disarming from the partisanship, but she is trying to make it possible for sane members of the Republican coalition to cast votes for her in the general election. She is polarizing because that is true of any candidate the Democrats nominate. Does anyone think Obama or Edwards will not be unfairly nuked repeatedly by the Republicans in the general election? It was not Democrats unfairly belittling John Edwards haircut during a debate. That was Mike Huckabee who is trying to be the nice guy in the Republican nomination. The slanders against Obama (OSAMA... oops we meant obama, attended a madrassa, is a Muslim as if that should automatically of itself be an automatic disqualifier... etc etc etc) have come from the right wing of the political divide as well.
So Senator Clinton knows what is coming, and she is trying to take votes from the Republicans even as she weathers the storm. This is triangulation, and that is a dirty concept for my fellow lefties. At this point however I am willing to forgive the centrism and obfuscation necessary to follow this strategy in order to put a Democrat into the White House.
I understand liberal dissatisfaction with Senator Clinton on various issues. But I ask you to consider what will actually happen if or when she takes office in 2009. She will nominate a Secretary of Defense, and I can assure you it will not be Donald Rumsfeld. Picture Eric Shinseki as Sec Def. How about Joe Biden as Secretary of State with Bill Clinton globe trotting as an emissary trying to patch things up following the Bush disaster. This applies to all the other cabinet and executive offices as well. Even if Senator Clinton tries to run the country like Bush III, she would have to fight her own administration every step of the way to do it. Do you think a Sec Def Shinseki is just going to roll over and let Clinton start poking the Iranian hornets nest? I am convinced that having Democrats running the executive will result in markedly better policies than we have labored under with President Bush, even if Senator Clinton is a bit to the right of the standard liberal line of demarcation on sundry issues.
I suppose this all boils down to a simple question. How badly do my fellow liberals want to put a Democrat into the White House? Do we want it badly enough to accept some ideological impurities (many of which may be in the name of triangulation in order to reach the ultimate goal)? Or will we assist tearing down our front runner from the left as she is also savaged from the right?
Besides which, wouldn't it be fun to have Hillary Clinton, who has only married once, run against some Republican who has married multiple times? (The only way that doesn't happen is if Romney manages to win the nomination, and that looks less likely with each passing Romney gaffe.) I can not imagine how maddening it will be for the rabid evangelicals to have the Clintons as an example of the very family values which their own candidate is so obviously a wretched failure at. And won't it be fun to watch the Malcoulhanireillynites melt down with Hillary as President?!
Friday, October 12, 2007
Just What Are We Doing In Iraq? The Case Of Sultan Hashem
Hashem is in U.S. custody, and our forces refused to turn him over at the appointed time of his execution. Spokespeople for General David Petraeus have affirmed that Hashem will be turned over to the Iraqi's if an Iraqi court makes the request properly. Senior Iraqi officials are insistent that the proper channels have been followed and that the Americans are misinterpreting Iraqi law by claiming further approval is necessary. It is noteworthy that another rationale given by the United States for not handing over Hashem is the public disapproval of his death sentence by President Jalal Talibani and Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi. Talabani is against the death penalty on principle in all cases.
Hashem is a Sunni who is well respected by many of the former military members who served under Saddam. There is a fear that if Hashem is executed it will inflame passions, and lead to further sectarian troubles.
Here is what I believe is the real crux of the issue from our military's position. Hashem is credited with assisting the United States by minimizing the resistance of the standing Iraqi army during the invasion. A former CIA agent told Time that handing Hashem over to be executed "would be a gross miscarriage of justice." The story further quotes other defense department personnel as saying that Hashem's actions during the invasion "saved American lives, and perhaps the lives of quite a few Iraqi troops as well".
Additionally consider the manner of Hashem's surrender to American forces.
If the U.S. military does in fact hand Hashem over for execution, the move would stand in jarring contrast to guarantees of safety and security given to the Iraqi personally by Petraeus when Hashem surrendered in 2003. Hashem was one of the very few top Iraqis to surrender himself voluntarily to the United States. Petraeus, then commander of U.S. forces in northern Iraq, personally arranged his capitulation, guaranteeing his safety and medical treatment. "I officially request your surrender to me," Petraeus wrote in a personal letter to Hashem, noting his "reputation as a man of honor and integrity is known throughout this country."I suppose handing Hashem over to the Iraqi's so that they may kill him would not result in Hashem being harmed under Petraeus' care, but the distinction is more technical than real.
Then Petraeus declared: "You have my word that you will be treated with the utmost dignity and respect, and that you will not be physically or mentally mistreated while under my custody."
So I think there are some very valid concerns with handing this fellow over to be executed from the American military perspective. To briefly touch on those concerns, his execution may cause sectarian violence, he helped us when we invaded, and our commander promised him safety in return for his surrender.
Yet Hashem has been convicted of directing the notorious Anfal campaign. This was the campaign in northern Iraq in the late 80's in which the chemical weapons were used against the Kurds. That campaign included the notorious gas attack on the village of Halabjah.
Hashem appears to be a mass murderer, the very sort of monster the United States sent our forces into Iraq to rid the world of.
When I read this story I found myself, in a very esoteric moment, wondering what in the world are we actually doing over there? Sultan Hashem's situation is, for me, emblematic of the mess in which we find ourselves in Iraq: caught in a sectarian struggle, not knowing whose loyalties lie where, our honor being called into question and the reasons for our insertion into that situation long since forgotten, with death seeming to be the constant companion, past present and future, for the players in this tragedy.
Ralph Nader Wins Nobel For Political Idiocy
Let me firstly warn my lefty friends that the following will be a screed, containing inflammatory attacks against Ralph Nader. If you are a fan of his, read at your own risk.Al Gore winning the Nobel Peace prize for his work on expanding awareness of the science on global warming has given me the urge to launch another broadside against Ralph Nader.
Before Nader became a useful idiot for the Republican party, I used to admire him. He stood for the little guy against corporate fat cats. He was a veritable lion of the left. I will remember the days when I eagerly looked forward to hearing about the next Nader project with bitterness, in light of what followed.
Ralph Nader is directly responsible for the selection of George Bush to be President. I am more than happy to give my reasoning for that assertion if pressed. In my opinion, throwing the Presidency to Bush makes Nader indirectly responsible for the Iraq war. How do you suppose Nader feels every time he hears about the newest civilian massacre or looks at a list of American casualties... all of this needless death simply because Nader had to take the role of a Republican party tool.
Do I sound bitter? Well I freaking am!
Look at what Gore has done when he left Government. Now let's pretend for one blissful moment that Gore had become President, and George Bush had become a private citizen after the 2000 election. Who believes that Bush would have championed causes to further the betterment of the world? Bush would have done one of two things: Further his political career with a run for office as a right wing freakazoid, or gone onto yet another failed business venture.
Now imagine the difference if the last 6.5 years had been overseen by a President Gore. There are four major differences I can think of immediately: President Gore would not have gone tripping into the Iraqi quagmire, we would be light years ahead of where we are now on environmental concerns, our constitution would not be under daily assault by a lawless gang of thugs in the top levels of American government, and the U.S. budgetary debt would be a pittance of what it is now.
So Ralph Nader, once the corporate gadfly who took up the cudgel for the little guy and who big business hated with a passion for good reason, is responsible for bringing untold wealth and power to those very same privileged interests. The corporate fat cats have gone from hating everything about Nader to owing him a tremendous debt of gratitude. Well done Ralph, you freaking moronic tool. Sporting an ego the size of those fat wallets you once raided, you insisted that the two party system must be uprooted for the good of American Democracy... and in it's place you helped bring us a one party plutocracy. Well done!
The Republic will probably survive the disaster Nader helped bring us, but there are dead people numbering in the hundreds of thousands who will not. In a very real sense, Nader has blood on his hands. It is as if he willingly gave the keys to a drunken driver. Maybe Nader wasn't the one driving the vehicle when it plowed into the crowd of innocent bystanders, but he's the one who gave the driver the where with all and thereby commissioned the slaughter.
There is no further proof needed of Nader's destructive role in modern politics than to consider who finances him when he runs for office. It is a veritable who's who of Bush pioneers and Republican interests. Make no mistake about this. These corporate shills and Republican power brokers are not pouring money into Nader campaigns because they suddenly realize how wrong headed they have been all along, or to somehow balance the books by giving equally to the left and the right. They are doing it because Nader is their tool to split the left. The service he provided in the 2000 election was worth every penny multiplied by millions.
Let me wrap this up with heartfelt congratulations to Al Gore for winning the peace prize. I've been holding my fire on picking a Democratic nominee to back with the hopes that Gore would hop into the fray. My hopes in that possibility are waning with each passing day.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Clinton V Bush: For Rep Candidates It's A Clinton Landslide
"The panel of questioners made direct mention of President Bush (or the "Bush administration") seven times... Yet in their responses, Bush's name did not escape the lips of any of the candidates with even a ghost of a chance of capturing the Republican nomination. And this omission occurred over two hours -- longer than the usual 90-minute face-offs."That little tid bit brought to mind the headline that's been front and center at the Huffington post, which is a quote from Hillary Clinton: "It's Kind Of Nice To Have All These Men Obsessed With You"
So I ran a quick control F search of the debate transcript and found six occasions in which the candidates mentioned Clinton. This does not include the several times when Giuliani was educating Romney on the line item veto battle, when President Bill Clinton was referenced... in the context of Giuliani being one of the only Republicans to ever defeat Clinton, even if it was just in court.
But just searching for Clinton does not give the full picture. Search for Hillary and you'll find another five examples of the Republicans referencing Senator Clinton by her first name alone... with "Hillary care" being a favorite line. That makes a total of eleven times the Republican front runners mentioned Hillary Clinton, or some permutation there of.
Even Ronald Reagan received less attention than Senator Clinton. Reagan was only mentioned three times by one of the front runners.
I would really love to see the results of a poll pitting Senator Clinton's nationwide popularity vs. George Bush's. Is there any doubt that Hillary would win that popularity contest in a landslide? No wonder the Republicans are dropping her name every chance they see.
It speaks volumes about the sorry state of Republican party politics when they have to develop amnesia about the current President of the United States, and the huge issue from their perspective is Hillary.
Are Congressional D's On Bush Like R's Are On Abortion?
The Democratic Congress has proven ineffective at stopping many of the Presidents most controversial policies. Not only have these programs not been stopped, but in many cases the President has actually been able to gain further authorization from Congress despite widespread disapproval of the programs in question. It is especially galling that America now has substantially more troops occupying Iraq than were there prior to the midterm elections.
Congressional Democrats point to the razor thin majority they hold in the Senate and plead that without a fillibuster proof majority they can not force through their agenda. The predictable reaction from the left to this pro Administration impasse usually includes variants of the word spineless.
When we consider the politics of all this, another possibility comes to mind. On a purely political level, maybe Democrats are taking the path which was trailblazed by the Republicans, on the issue of abortion. Raise a hullabaloo about the issue, but don't do anything substantial about it even as they continue to gain politically from raising a stink about the issue.
Democrats are prospering politically because of the disaster which Republicans have led this nation into. While the general public holds the Congress in very low regard right now the internals on those polls demonstrate that Democrats are widely favored compared to Republicans, and that most people blame Republicans for the current poisoned state of affairs in national politics. This leaves Democrats looking at the next election and thinking that if things continue on this course, they will be swept to power in a continuation of the 2006 midterm tsunami.
Part of keeping things static until the next election is not helping out the Republicans by fixing their mistakes. Think of it this way. If you are in business and you see your main competitor making a mistake which sends some of their customers your way, are you going to take a humanitarian approach and set your competitor straight? Even if in the course of erring, the competitor turns a few customers off to whatever product or service you both offer, most businesses would not step in to save their competitor and dry up their own increased profits.
To be sure, this is a particularly cynical take on the outlook of Congressional Democrats. But it is one explanation for their baffling inability to put an end to some of the worst policies forwarded by the worst President in this nations history.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
The World Freedom Tour's Twisted Morality Play
It is inherently difficult for liberals to argue against the expansion of social and political liberalism in oppressive parts of the world -- though, in a fever of Bush hatred, they try their best.Gerson, who retired as Bush's speechwriter in 2006, should consider what the Iraq quagmire has done to American interests. If we are going to provide leadership in a global drive for freedom weakening this nation hardly serves the best interests of democracy movements around the world.
The argument that liberals must support the President in his Iraq quagmire or, by default, find ourselves opposed to freedom and democracy around the globe is sophomoric, and easily refuted. How is it that wanting oppressed people to be free means that liberals must support an occupation? Occupy them to bring them freedom... it sounds like the very definition of oxymoron.
Does Gerson believe that being a liberal means necessarily supporting a gigantic growth in the military in order to support military interventions on behalf of oppressed peoples the world over? Thats what it would take if you follow Gerson's logic regarding "expansion of social and political liberalism in oppressive parts of the world" to conclusion.
Gerson is absolutely correct in noting a fever of Bush hatred from the left, which fever I freely admit drives my perspective. In fact I am proud of this deepset loathing of what this President stands for in the name of America. It is our duty as patriotic Americans to defend our ideals and our constitution, and it is Bush's attack on these ideals which drives my attitude towards the President. I will trumpet this repudiation of President Bush from the rooftops and do so with pride.
Gerson himself gives a tiny insight into why liberals hold this President in such ill repute. Look at how Gerson describes the very worst traits of tyrants:
At the most basic level, the democracy agenda is not abstract at all. It is a determination to defend dissidents rotting in airless prisons , and people awaiting execution for adultery or homosexuality, and religious prisoners kept in shipping containers in the desert, and men and women abused and tortured in reeducation camps. It demands activism against sexual slavery, against honor killings, against genital mutilation and against the execution of children, out of the admittedly philosophic conviction that human beings are created in God's image and should not be oppressed or mutilated.[bold and italics added by me]
I for one wonder why Gerson would pick these particular atrocities to demonstrate what we are fighting against. He is describing several policies which the world full well knows President Bush has authorized against human beings. Gerson is making a plea for liberals to agree with going to war in order to stop several policies taken by President Bush, but he wonders why we detest the President.
Not to mention the fact that we are allied with many nations which routinely practice all of those atrocities, and the Bush administration carefully fosters these alliances because of the war on terror. I wonder how Gerson would feel about invading Saudi Arabia, or Egypt in order to overthrow those repressive regimes and occupy those lands in the name of freedom? Of course he would oppose it. So would Liberals who, despite that opposition, would keep their morals, regardless of not supporting those moves in the American drive to bring liberal democracy to the world.
It seems to me that the militant democracy drive as envisioned by today's neocon is aimed mainly at overthrowing long time enemies of the United States rather than against all tyrants. They are trying to hide a virulently militaristic approach to our historical enemies in the cloak of America driving a world wide freedom train.
Liberals need not feel morally obligated to hop on the neocon bandwagon, no matter how enticing they try to make it seem in the name of spreading freedom around the world. We couldn't accomplish that mission even if we drafted every able bodied person of fighting age and occupied most of the known world.
It is up to the peoples of these nations to bring themselves democracy, if they want it badly enough. It is up to us to support these freedom movements diplomatically even if they form in repressive nations which are allied with us.
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