Thursday, June 30, 2005

Howard Dean and I are Getting Better

All Democrats, LISTEN UP! Get off Howard's back, and stay on his side. He is our Chairman, and, unless we want to switch to automatic weapons in our circular firing squad, we need to support him.

We all need to get better at expressing ourselves when angry, because we have reason to be angry a lot. We need to be productive in our anger, or we'll lose a lot of valuable time.

The Chairman was much improved on Hardball last night. Chris Matthews baited Howard pretty hard. "Come'on Governor, didn't the Veep sound like a wack-o with his over-the-top criticism." (not a direct quote, but exactly how it felt to me). Dean smiled knowingly, but didn't go after Cheney. I'll say it though, yeah, Chris, I agree with you. The Veep sounded exactly like the crazy fox he is.

Adam McKay covers our anger management problem really well over at the Huffington Post.
Seeing Dems descending on Dean for his comments was like seeing cops making fun of a mugging victim because he yelled "Help, Police!" in a weird high pitched voice. Dean didn't start a bogus war based on lies and Dean didn't dismantle the regulatory system and try and flood the courts with Nazis, uh...pardon me, fledgling fascists. So lay off! He'll get the hang of it.
I'm working on it, too, but I'm still human and still a Democrat ... but I repeat myself.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

We Have a Timetable in Iraq

John Kerry is finally succinct and, to me, totally reasonable about the situation in Iraq. His op-ed piece in today's NY Times spells out the problem.
The reality is that the Bush administration's choices have made Iraq into what it wasn't before the war - a breeding ground for jihadists. Today there are 16,000 to 20,000 jihadists and the number is growing. The administration has put itself - and, tragically, our troops, who pay the price every day - in a box of its own making. Getting out of this box won't be easy, but we owe it to our soldiers to make our best effort.
Kerry then lays out what Bush should tell the American people about the situation and the steps needed to get "out of this box". A key point goes to the Administration's recent hysterics about the dangers of setting a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq.
If Iraqis adopt a constitution and hold elections as planned, support for the insurgency should fall and Iraqi security forces should be able to take on more responsibility. It will also set the stage for American forces to begin to come home.
There is already a political timetable in Iraq, and tying the handover of security to the Iraqi government, especially the one scheduled to be elected in December, is not only logical, but should be up to that government not ours.

John, John, John well said. It makes me think of what might have b..., oh never mind.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

What's in it for America (W.I.I.F.A)

One of the nuggets of modern management wisdom, at least as it is taught in business courses, is that employees respond to leadership directives in proportion to the what's in it for me? (W.I.I.F.M.) factor. It's usually pronounced as wiff-em. Sounds kind of selfish when laid out directly, but it is also an honest acknowledgement of human nature.

I want to relate human nature in the same way to the ongoing conflict in Iraq and ask what's in it for America. Not just in purely selfish ways like oil, influence in the region, and business profits for highly connected corporations, but in terms of American democratic ideals and the desire we as a people have to spread those ideals globally?

First, American democratic ideals are far from clearly defined right now. Michael Ignatieff provides a great description of how and why that's the case in his piece today in the NY Times Magazine.
American democracy has ceased to be the inspiration it was. This is partly because of the religious turn in American conservatism, which awakens incomprehension in the largely secular politics of America's democratic allies. It is partly because of the chaos of the contested presidential election in 2000, which left the impression, worldwide, that closure had been achieved at the expense of justice. And partly because of the phenomenal influence of money on American elections.
Simply put, the American people are seriously divided about just what freedom and democracy actually mean to us, much less what of it we need to spread around.

Second, the cost in the bodies and lives of our servicemembers is just too dear when the outcome in terms of Iraqi political variables is so unclear. A structured withdrawal of our troops tied to the timetable we have already set for the development of an Iraqi government is not cutting and running as, of all people, a chicken-hawk like Karl Rove would say. It is acknowledging the realistic limits of what one people can do to free another.

The regime has been changed in Iraq at the cost of thousands of American lives. It is now both reasonable and natural to ask what's in it for America to continue indefinitely the present level of military involvement there. The falling support of the American public should be accepted and understood by the Bush administration for what it is, the political equivilent of a bottom line assessment in business. The cost now outweighs the perceived benefit, so there's not enough in it for America.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Karl Rove Can Keep His Apology

If Karl Rove apologized, it would not be sincere, so he can keep it. I believe Senator Durbin was sorry for any offense he may have given our American servicemembers, and he expensed his remorse emotionally when he apologized on the floor or the Senate.

Any emotion coming from Karl Rove would seem pure artifice to me because I've never seen him express anything I would call genuine feeling.

If his words had not been so divisive, I even be glad he was openly showing his true colors. I can't express those colors as well as James Wolcott, though I have had similar thoughts, so here's a taste of his take on Rove's desperation.
What amazes me is that more Americans now blame Bush for provoking the war with Iraq than blame Saddam Hussein. That's not an argument I've heard anyone make on cable talk or on the op-ed pages. Somehow Americans drew that conclusion all on their own! The tide of popular opinion turning against the war is washing away walls we didn't even know were there.
But, read the whole piece. It's a good one.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Bush, Al-Jaafari Let Truth Slip

I'm guessing I heard a couple of things in the Bush al-Jaafari presser today that won't make it to the evening news. Both men let slip more of the grimness of the situation in Iraq than the overall talking points optimism of the event probably intended.

Al-Jaafari thanked Americans for standing with Iraq during these "terrible times". Not those terrible times, these. That was telling to me regarding what the Prime Minister really thinks of the present state of security in Iraq.

For Bush's part, when he was asked to reconcile Dick Cheney's assertion that the insurgency was in its "last throes" with General Abizaid's report to Congress that the insurgency was growing faster, and was no weaker, than six months ago Bush rambled on about the willingness of insurgents to die for their cause and how hard it was to stop them. Without saying he agreed with Abizaid, his response convinced me that he did.

Generally he was his indirect and inarticulate self. I'm curious to see how the MSM portrays his performance.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Rove Offensively Defensive

Karl is at his lowest, meanest, and most hateful in New York.

As I commented at Fact-esque, is it too paranoid to think Rove is trying to provoke a witch-hunt against the left of McCarthy-like proportions?

For Karl, there may even be thoughts of generating an internal American crisis that would require the administration to seize control of our government for good, pure, and patriotic reasons.

It's starting to scare me, and that makes me mad. How do we stop such anti-American divisiveness?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Bennett Upfront About Social Security Scam

I just heard Senator Bennett admit to David Gregory on Hardball that he is introducing a Social Security bill without private accounts to attract Democrats, aka the bait. He is also introducing another bill with private accounts, aka preparation for the switch.

I'm thinking the Republicans are welcome to any Democrat foolish enough to bite this bait.

Stem Cell Research Needs Support

I think it's time for our government to actively support stem cell research. One of the pioneers in the field, James Thomson, sees a lot of promise at the end of a lot of hard work. Here's his prediction for the future of embryonic stem cells.
It will be a pervasive research tool that anybody interested in understanding the human body will use. And that will lead to knowledge, for the development of new drugs or whatever, that has absolutely nothing to do with transplantation. This will change human medicine in ways that don’t make the front pages. And people will not even realize it’s happened.
It is time for Bush-Rove to quit playing politics with emerging science. If they really believed what they say about fertility clinic cytoblasts, they would shut down the clinics rather than see excess cells destroyed or grow old in storage. Stem cell research would seem a more humane option (at least an option with prospects of helping humanity) for the culture of (some) life crowd.

Of course I know they don't believe it, it's just another carrot they have to keep dangling in front of the religious right.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Durbin Apologizes for How Others Feel

Now that Senator Durbin has apologized for hurting the sensitive feelings of assorted (right)wingnuts, who'll address the ugly behavior the FBI reported in the memo he quoted?

You would think such obvious attack-the-messenger misdirection would be transparent to the media and public alike, but Americans' capacity for gullibility is seemingly limitless.

Sorry, I have to just sit here be disappointed for a while.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Fair Draft is Better Than Predatory Recruiting

Bob Herbert is all over the recruiting techniques being using to sell our kids on the military.
Let the Army be honest and upfront in its recruitment. War is not child's play, and warriors shouldn't be assembled through the use of seductive sales pitches to youngsters too immature to make an informed decision on matters that might well result in their having to kill others, or being killed themselves.
On Al Franken's show today he even readily admitted his support for a draft ---if we are to continue engaging in wars like Iraq. That's what I'm talking about.

I see a fair draft as the only way to get a fair idea of who in America really supports our military actions. Unless the human sacrifice is spread broadly throughout the population, we can never have a true measure of how we feel about a particular military conflict. How we feel deeply and personally because our family, friends, neighbors, and we ourselves will never be far removed from intimate contact with the death and injury war inflicts, war's human cost.

The Open-Minded Dick...Cheney

Is it fair to say if you don't agree with administration policy Dick isn't listening?:

"Those who are most urgently advocating that we shut down Guantanamo probably don't agree with our policies anyway," Mr. Cheney said.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Rumsfeld and Cheney are Losing the War

Cheney and Rumsfeld do a good job of defining the administration's high ground on Gitmo. It seems to be that denying due process to a majority is okay if you catch some "bad guys" in the minority.

It jibes pretty well with the history of their might-makes-right regime. Put simply,if anything positive can be rationalized in the end; then, of course, the means were justified. They don't want to be that way you understand, but the unconventional nature of the enemy requires it.

I still insist that the extent to which we lower our moral, ethical, and legal standards in response to this enemy, is the extent to which they are victorious. The same is true of the extent to which we act out of our of fear and anger. We lose our moral position in the eyes of each other and the world. Bush and company don't seem to understand how that costs us the PR battle, and how that, in terms of terrorist recruitment alone, can cost us this "war".

Don't get me started on how this attitude contributes to the loss of our national moral clarity! (I like that phrase, moral clarity, so I kind of forced it in here)

Monday, June 13, 2005

war powers, War Powers, WAR POWERS

Congress, please repeat. Over,and over, and over again. "The power to wage war is mine; the power to wage war is mine, the power..." Keep your war powers. The Bush administration was complacent about deciding to invade Iraq months (years?) in advance because they knew Congress could be pressured into giving the President the power to pull the trigger.

Here's a constitutional option for you. Let Congress keep, and guard jealously, their power to declare war, and not pass it off to the executive as soon as the heat comes on in the kitchen. Heck, then there might even be a 'war on terror', the congressional declaration of which is real foggy to me.

War powers for Congress. Say it, and mean it.

Friday, June 10, 2005

A Tale of Two Directions

Direction #1: Paul Krugman gives us a good look at how and why the middle class is sucking wind right now:
Baby boomers like me grew up in a relatively equal society. In the 1960's America was a place in which very few people were extremely wealthy, many blue-collar workers earned wages that placed them comfortably in the middle class, and working families could expect steadily rising living standards and a reasonable degree of economic security.
But as The Times's series on class in America reminds us, that was another country. The middle-class society I grew up in no longer exists.
Working families have seen little if any progress over the past 30 years. Adjusted for inflation, the income of the median family doubled between 1947 and 1973. But it rose only 22 percent from 1973 to 2003, and much of that gain was the result of wives' entering the paid labor force or working longer hours, not rising wages.
Meanwhile, economic security is a thing of the past: year-to-year fluctuations in the incomes of working families are far larger than they were a generation ago. All it takes is a bit of bad luck in employment or health to plunge a family that seems solidly middle-class into poverty.
But the wealthy have done very well indeed. Since 1973 the average income of the top 1 percent of Americans has doubled, and the income of the top 0.1 percent has tripled.
Why is this happening? I'll have more to say on that another day, but for now let me just point out that middle-class America didn't emerge by accident. It was created by what has been called the Great Compression of incomes that took place during World War II, and sustained for a generation by social norms that favored equality, strong labor unions and progressive taxation. Since the 1970's, all of those sustaining forces have lost their power.
Since 1980 in particular, U.S. government policies have consistently favored the wealthy at the expense of working families - and under the current administration, that favoritism has become extreme and relentless. From tax cuts that favor the rich to bankruptcy "reform" that punishes the unlucky, almost every domestic policy seems intended to accelerate our march back to the robber baron era.
It's not a pretty picture - which is why right-wing partisans try so hard to discredit anyone who tries to explain to the public what's going on.
These partisans rely in part on obfuscation: shaping, slicing and selectively presenting data in an attempt to mislead. For example, it's a plain fact that the Bush tax cuts heavily favor the rich, especially those who derive most of their income from inherited wealth. Yet this year's Economic Report of the President, in a bravura demonstration of how to lie with statistics, claimed that the cuts "increased the overall progressivity of the federal tax system."
The partisans also rely in part on scare tactics, insisting that any attempt to limit inequality would undermine economic incentives and reduce all of us to shared misery. That claim ignores the fact of U.S. economic success after World War II. It also ignores the lesson we should have learned from recent corporate scandals: sometimes the prospect of great wealth for those who succeed provides an incentive not for high performance, but for fraud.
Above all, the partisans engage in name-calling. To suggest that sustaining programs like Social Security, which protects working Americans from economic risk, should have priority over tax cuts for the rich is to practice "class warfare." To show concern over the growing inequality is to engage in the "politics of envy."
But the real reasons to worry about the explosion of inequality since the 1970's have nothing to do with envy. The fact is that working families aren't sharing in the economy's growth, and face growing economic insecurity. And there's good reason to believe that a society in which most people can reasonably be considered middle class is a better society - and more likely to be a functioning democracy - than one in which there are great extremes of wealth and poverty.
Reversing the rise in inequality and economic insecurity won't be easy: the middle-class society we have lost emerged only after the country was shaken by depression and war. But we can make a start by calling attention to the politicians who systematically make things worse in catering to their contributors. Never mind that straw man, the politics of envy. Let's try to do something about the politics of greed.

Direction #2: Regarding empire building and robber barons, here's an example of why the wealthy and corporate elite are doing victory laps right now:

JOHN PERKINS: Well, the company I worked for was a company named Chas. T. Main in Boston, Massachusetts. We were about 2,000 employees, and I became its chief economist. I ended up having fifty people working for me. But my real job was deal-making. It was giving loans to other countries, huge loans, much bigger than they could possibly repay. One of the conditions of the loan–let's say a $1 billion to a country like Indonesia or Ecuador–and this country would then have to give ninety percent of that loan back to a U.S. company, or U.S. companies, to build the infrastructure–a Halliburton or a Bechtel. These were big ones. Those companies would then go in and build an electrical system or ports or highways, and these would basically serve just a few of the very wealthiest families in those countries. The poor people in those countries would be stuck ultimately with this amazing debt that they couldn’t possibly repay. A country today like Ecuador owes over fifty percent of its national budget just to pay down its debt. And it really can’t do it. So, we literally have them over a barrel. So, when we want more oil, we go to Ecuador and say, “Look, you're not able to repay your debts, therefore give our oil companies your Amazon rain forest, which are filled with oil.” And today we're going in and destroying Amazonian rain forests, forcing Ecuador to give them to us because they’ve accumulated all this debt. So we make this big loan, most of it comes back to the United States, the country is left with the debt plus lots of interest, and they basically become our servants, our slaves. It's an empire. There's no two ways about it. It’s a huge empire. It's been extremely successful.
Anyone think the Beltway Boys and Girls Club, in cahoots with their corporate cousins, aren't capable of this kind of , er, um..., business plan?

Thanks to eRobin at Fact-esque for putting me onto Perkins.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

The Great Commission and Government

I have always thought evangelism, spreading the gospel message, is at its best a personal responsibility. In action, day-to-day, I think of it as striving to make that little part of the world I individually encounter somehow better by my compassion. My goal is feeling and showing compassion towards everyone I deal with each day -- though I most often fall short.

Thinking this way, I naturally appreciated the piece Buzzmachine turned me on to in the Christian Examiner. Jordan Ballor, speaking from an evangelical position, warns of the danger lurking when we try and wield the government as an instrument of morality.

Invoking the Great Commission,
All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world (Mt. 28:18-20 ASV).,
he reminds me of my duty to profess my beliefs rather than trying to impose them.
A far better way than coercing others to adhere to objective standards of morality is to convert them to those standards. It is ultimately only through proclamation of the gospel that the culture and the nation will be redeemed. For the church is to engage the world not with the sword of the government, but with “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”
Amen, Jordan, in me you have a witness. Check out the whole piece for a reasonable Christian perspective on today's political milieu.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Warm Words, Empty Gestures Club

Welcome, Africa, our latest member. The Scotsman reported yesterday that BushInc's latest lip service to African aid was met with something less than enthusiasm.

"Africa doesn't need yet more warm words followed by empty gestures," said a spokeman for Oxfam.

But gee, why should they be any different than our veterans, our seniors, our school children, our teachers, our environment, our unemployed, and I really could go on.

This administration's motto could and should be "warm words followed by empty gestures" in reference to any social or moral context not somehow perceived as business friendly.

Bush Losing Ground on Iraq, Terrorism

People are seeing through the smoke. The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll numbers show a comprehensive and significant decrease in support for the Iraq war, and increasing pessimism about its effect on our security. I'll quote here from the MSNBC summary since it doesn't require registration.
Perhaps most ominous for President Bush, 52 percent said war in Iraq has not contributed to the long-term security of the United States, while 47 percent said it has. It was the first time a majority of Americans disagreed with the central notion Bush has offered to build support for war: that the fight there will make Americans safer from terrorists at home. In late 2003, 62 percent thought the Iraq war aided U.S. security, and three months ago 52 percent thought so.

I think another number is even more ominous, however. It remains to be seen whether for President Bush or for the American public.
While Bush has shelved his routine speeches about terrorism, and Congress has turned to domestic issues, fear of terrorism has receded from the public consciousness. Only 12 percent called it the nation's top priority, behind the economy, Iraq, health care and Social Security.

I'm not so sure I want this administration to think we're not scared. In the past, our fear and anger has opened the door for their belligerence and aggression. They seemed to relish it and thrive on it. Since only "12 percent called it the nation's top priority", don't be surprised if something fearful happens soon.

I'm not saying it will; just that I won't find it surprising.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Drumming on the Downing Street Memo

Repetition strengthens and confirms. At least, it is strengthening my conviction that the 'memo' should be bigger news, and confirming my view that the administration's march to war was outrageous.

There are some drum beats from Congress. John Kerry is holding forth. John Conyers is weighing in.

Tim Russert stuck NBC's toe in the water on Meet The Press on Sunday.

Are you out there Network News? CNN? MSNBC?

United Airlines, General Motors, and All of Us

The writing is on the wall and everywhere else. We have to do something about healthcare costs in this country. It has been sinking the un- and under-employed for years, and now it's rapidly sinking businesses.

United Airlines has dumped its pension liability on the public in bankruptcy. GM announced today it will close plants and lay off 25,000 due largely to the $1500 a vehicle it spends on healthcare.

We have to do something. Sandra Lilley at NBC inludes some options in a timely piece today.

It is no longer if, but when; not just when, but how, are we going to address the real number one crisis in our nation, the runaway cost of our healthcare system.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Correction for Alan Stewart Carl

Attention in the interest of full disclosure, I have corrected a post from earlier today. I also want to publicly apologize to Alan for having previously transposed his name(s)in my post, The Center's Case Stated. It has been edited, so if you missed it; you missed it.

Keep up the good work at The Yellow Line, Alan.

Beware the Juggernaut of Wealth and Privilege

Thanks to Melanie Mattson at Judging the Future for turning me on to this 'fire'em up' talk by Bill Moyers. Bill calls for progressives to protect our democracy from the "juggernaught of wealth and privilege". Here's just a taste.
So what do you do? What do you do? Well, progressives have to be like the Irishman who was walking down the street and saw a brawl and said, is this a private fight or can anybody get in it? (Laughter, cheers.) Well, you’ve got to go home and jump in. You’ve got to tell the truth about the other side. You’ve got to fight the corruption of the system. But don’t stop with reporting how bad they are. It’s not enough to say how bad they are. Show us a new vision of globalization with a conscience. Stand up for working and middle class people and those in the middle and those who can’t stand alone. Don’t be cowed, intimidated, or frightened. You may be on the losing side of the moment, but you’re on the right side and winning side of history.

Fired me up anyway.

The Center's Case Stated

Alan Stewart Carl over at The Yellow Line does all political discourse proud by clearly and concisely saying where he stands. What a concept!
Reform Redistricting: In 2004, only five incumbents in the House of Representatives were defeated and only 22 of 435 contests were decided by a margin of less than 10 percent. This is due to rampant gerrymandering. The two major parties have colluded to turn almost every district into a “safe” district. This is absolutely not the intent of the Founders. Districts should be laid out by geology, not ideology. Competitive elections are essential to good government. We must change the way this nation redistricts.

Open Primaries: Every American should have the opportunity to vote in either party’s Presidential primary. Over 40% of Americans are registered Independents and in many states, they aren’t allowed to vote in primaries. The election of our President is too important to allow the partisan party bases be the sole determiners of who gets to run. We must convince states to open their primaries to all registered voters, regardless of political affiliation.

Reduce the Influence of Special Interests: Single-issue interest groups wield far too much power in government. While the membership in any given interest group includes only a small percentage of the American people, they use undue influence and threats of political retribution to push congressmen and women to vote in favor of special interests rather than American interests. Average Americans must come together and let our representatives know that we don’t want the special interests to rule Washington.

Strengthen the Center in Congress: We must let Centrist members of Congress know they have a wide and deep base of Centrist voters. They don’t need to appeal to the partisan wings because they can find support right in the middle. This is how John McCain won 77% of the Arizona vote last election. We must encourage the Centrist congressmen and women to vote their convictions first. We must encourage them to stick together and keep the balance of congressional power centered.

Change the Tenor of Political Debate: Too many members of the media and the electorate have bought into the two party’s polarization of politics. Instead of civilly discussing ideas, we too often fall into partisan spin and propaganda. If we are to continue to move forward as a nation we must begin discussing our differences reasonably and without the name-calling, smear campaigns and exploitation of wedge issues. The wide, nearly limitless variety of opinions in America is what makes us strong. But we squander that strength if we lose the ability to come together and act reasonably.

I suggested there, and repeat here, that if both political poles were required to state their cases in no more words that this, we may find more of a political center than most thought existed.

Downing Street Memo Makes a Move

Tim Russert on Meet the Press confronted Ken Mehlman with a couple of real questions about BushInc's early decision to invade Iraq.

Atta way, Tim. Finally some MSM attention on the 'memo'. Now let's get on the evening news where a lot of the Bush fan base turns to see what they are getting away with.

Some good commentary along with the transcript can be found here.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Hart on History and More

I'm pretty much down for some family time, but I appreciated this piece. It's a little more optimistic than I am right now though.

History, discernment, and prophecy from Gary Hart at Huffingion.