Thursday, December 14, 2006

Chafee Tells All

Former Senator Lincoln Chafee gave an engaging interview last night on Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Chafee gave a good view of what traditional Republicanism is and how the Bush Administration and Republican-controlled Congress walked away from their conservative principles.

It was sad to see Chafee lose last month. He did much to oppose where the current GOP was headed, and I hope he remains to be a conscience within the party.

If you have an hour to kill, please give this a listen.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Will It Play in Manchester?

John McCain and Mitt Romney might want to take notice of this study. The "small l" liberatarian vote is crucial if the the GOP wants to get back to its winning ways:

President Bush and the congressional Republicans left no libertarian button unpushed in the past six years: soaring spending, expansion of entitlements, federalization of education, cracking down on state medical marijuana initiatives, Sarbanes-Oxley, gay marriage bans, stem cell research restrictions, wiretapping, incarcerating U.S. citizens without a lawyer, unprecedented executive powers, and of course an unnecessary and apparently futile war. The striking thing may be that after all that, Democrats still looked worse to a majority of libertarians.

Because libertarians tend to be younger and better educated than the average voter, they're not going away. They're an appealing target for Democrats, but they are essential to future Republican successes. Republicans can win the South without libertarians. But this was the year that New Hampshire and the Mountain West turned purple if not blue, and libertarians played a big role there. New Hampshire may be the most libertarian state in the country; this year both the state's Republican congressmen lost.

Meanwhile, in the Goldwateresque, "leave us alone" Mountain West, Republicans not only lost the Montana Senate seat; they also lost the governorship of Colorado, two House seats in Arizona, and one in Colorado. They had close calls in the Arizona Senate race and House races in Idaho, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, and Dick Cheney's Wyoming. In libertarian Nevada, the Republican candidate for governor won less than a majority against a Democrat who promised to keep the government out of guns, abortion, and gay marriage. Arizona also became the first state to vote down a state constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman.

Presidential candidates might note that even in Iowa libertarians helped vote out a Republican congressman who championed the Internet gambling ban.

If Republicans can't win New Hampshire and the Mountain West, they can't win a national majority. And they can't win those states without libertarian votes. They're going to need to stop scaring libertarian, centrist, and independent voters with their social-conservative obsessions and become once again the party of fiscal responsibility. In a Newsweek poll just before the election, 47 percent of respondents said they trusted the Democrats more on "federal spending and the deficit," compared to just 31 percent who trusted the Republicans. That's not Ronald Reagan's Republican Party.

It's interesting that Mitt Romney is trying to be the social conservative candidate, when he probably would be more appealing if he was his old, libertarian self. Same goes for John McCain, who hasn't gone as far as Romney has, but is starting to piss off a lot of potential voters with his trying to pick up the Bush legacy (if you can call it that).

For the past six years, the GOP has followed the Karl Rove strategy of energizing the base and getting just enough moderates to win. The thing is, the Bushies and their allies in Congress got people so angry, that they lost the very moderates they needed to win. Romney and McCain, who are currently the frontrunners for the GOP nomination, are afraid of the power of the far right to do anything to lose those important primary votes. However, relying soley on the far right which resides in mostly in one Region of the country, the South, is not a winning strategy. Instead it's a nice way to become a regional party, playing second fiddle nationally to the Democrats.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan won with a coalition of religious conservatives, libertarians and Reagan Democrats. The Rovian strategy dismantled this coalition and we saw the results in 2004 and 2006: a narrow presidential victory (that was far from a mandate, if I may say so,) and "thumping" this year in Congress.

What the GOP needs is another Reagan, someone who is a coalition-builder. Dubya turned out to be nothing more than a lapdog to the far right and I fear that Romney and to a lesser extent McCain are following in those footsteps. If they do, it's a sure road to being a permanent minority.

h/t: Andrew Sullivan.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Stupid Comment of the Day- December 12, 2006

I guess this guy thinks Silk is more than Soy, it's gonna turn ya sissy:

There's a slow poison out there that's severely damaging our children and threatening to tear apart our culture. The ironic part is, it's a "health food," one of our most popular....the dangerous food I'm speaking of is soy. Soybean products are feminizing, and they're all over the place. You can hardly escape them anymore...

Soy is feminizing, and commonly leads to a decrease in the size of the penis, sexual confusion and homosexuality. That's why most of the medical (not socio-spiritual) blame for today's rise in homosexuality must fall upon the rise in soy formula and other soy products. (Most babies are bottle-fed during some part of their infancy, and one-fourth of them are getting soy milk!) Homosexuals often argue that their homosexuality is inborn because "I can't remember a time when I wasn't homosexual." No, homosexuality is always deviant. But now many of them can truthfully say that they can't remember a time when excess estrogen wasn't influencing them.

I'd like to know where this guy got his "research." I guess if I eat more beef or something, I can buck up my testosterone. I might die of a heart attack, but at least I'd be a a god-fearing straight man.

I'd needed a laugh today.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Good Fruits; Evil Seeds

Sometimes good things can come from bad people. Sometimes.

Michael Shifter writes in yesterday's Washington Post about the good impulses that have come from two of Latin America's worst leaders: Cuba's Fidel Castro and Chile's Augusto Pinochet, who died yesterday. Shifter notes that Castro helped spur interest in uplifting the poor through social programs and Pinochet helped orient the region towards a more market-based economy. Shifter doesn't ignore the enourmous human rights abuses that took place under Castro and Pinochet's regimes and he isn't saying countries should follow their leadership examples. He simply says that the impulses of social progress and market-based economies found in the region today flowed from these two leaders.

I agree with Shifter, but it would have been nice if Latin America had two better examples than these two specimens of humanity.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Social Security: The Solution

My partner (a Democrat who thinks about the issue) says there is an easy way to fix Social Security, one that probably will get both sides upset. It's done in two easy steps:

  • Raise payroll taxes.
  • Cut benefits.
Neither conservatives nor liberals like this perscription. Conservatives don't want to raise taxes and liberals don't want to cut benefits. While it's politically unpalatable, it's better than the solutions both parties have come up with (private plans from the Republicans, and well, nothing from the Democrats).

Liz Mair over at GOP Progress, is upset that the Bush Administration might be considering raising the payroll tax in a deal with Democrats to fix Social Security. She regards this as a bow to big government social conservatism.

Fiscal conservatism does not mean, we never, ever raise taxes. It means being good stewards of the public purse for future generations. As of late the Bush Adminstration and the Republicans in Congress have done a piss poor job of being fiscally responsible. If raising taxes mean keeping this program's fiscal house in order, then we should consider this. And I aslo think we might need to consider cutting benefits, raising the retirement age, and raising the amount of income taxable.

It's time to get serious, stop thinking about ideological solutions and get to work to help future generations.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Center's Love Affair with the Dems

Looking over the blogs lately, it's pretty clear that what has been talked about in the newspapers is pretty true:centrists and independents left the GOP in droves and voted Democratic. Without going into a whole lot of detail, that includes myself. The centrist blogs seem to be in love with the coming Democratic majority in Congress and that's understandable: let's face it, the GOP messed up big time and George W. Bush will be blamed for ending the conservative hegemony which began with the election of Ronald Reagan as president in 1980.

Andrew Sullivan, who five years ago in the wake of 9/11 was calling the Left in America a "Fifth Column," (which I thought was apalling)now gushes about the Dems and thinks conservatives and libertarians have a home there. Paul Silver cites that with the election of moderate Democrats to Congress, moderate Republicans should pledge to work with them. While I do agree that moderate Republicans should try to work with Dems where possible, I am not one that is ready to hastily greet the Dems and I'm not saying that soley as a partisan.

I think it's a little to early to start thinking that the Democrats are going to reach towards the center because of this election. Maybe that could happen, but I'm not holding my breath. Why? Let's go back to 2000.

George Bush campaigned saying he would be a "different kind of Republican." When he took office, I had hoped that because the closeness of the election, he would steer a more moderate path. Instead, he veered right and followed a formula that pleased the ones that "brought him" to the dance. What we learned from that was that the far right had control in the party and Bush was their handmaiden.

In the last few years, we have seen the decline of Clintonism and the rise of the old liberal base in the Democratic party. This year, the "Kos wing" of the party was more or less silent, but I'm curious to see what happens once the Democrats take office in January. Will they steer a centrist path, or listen to the base? Will they do attainable things like a raise in the minimum wage and allowing the government to negotiate with drug companies under Medicare, or will they go for things like impeachment hearings on the President? I do hope they go centrist, but I know the push for any politician in either party is to please the base and the Dems listen to the base as much as the GOP.

So, I'm not going to go gaga over the Dems, not because they are Dems, but because I've been here before. Best to just watch and see what happens.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

What Jim Webb Said

One of the things I've learned from all those Sunday school classes, is that we love our neighbors as ourselves. The sad thing in American society circa 2006, is that we have made a sport of hating that which is not like us. Conservatives see liberals as destroying American society as we know it and say horrible things about them (ie: Ann Coulter). Liberals think Conservatives are leading us to a theocracy or fascist state and say bad things about them (ie: Michael Moore). Five years after 9/11, liberals and conservatives can't see the other as a fellow American.

I've been reading some of the aftermath of a "conversation" between President Bush and Senator-Elect James Webb of Virginia. You can read the unofficial transcript, but let's just say it wasn't a pleasant chat. There are some who are glad that Webb sassed back at the President, faulting Bush for even asking about his son. One blogger even said that such an attitude might win over independents.

Before I say anything more, you should know I've not been a fan of the president. I think he has been incredibly incompetent and is in line for being on of the worst presidents in American history. That said, I don't think what Mr. Webb did was heoric or cool or whathaveyou. It was pretty petty and childish.

Yes, conservatives have been incredibly uncivil over the past few years and that includes the President. While such behavior might be deserved, it does nothing to further governing, unless all that governing means is stopping the other party's agenda.

Mr. Webb's comments might make people feel good, but what will it do to solve the problem in Iraq? Not a damn thing. But hey, he mouthed off the President, so that's all that matters.

I would love to see leaders disagree without being so disagreeable. I would love people to stop acting like children and work like adults. I'm not expecting that Mr. Webb pals around with Mr. Bush, heck I don't like the president. But I do expect that all elected leaders show some sense of civility around others, even those they may not like.

America faces some big issues and it need leaders from both parties to act like...well grown ups.

Stupid Comment of the Day

As most of you know, I live in Minneapolis. My soon-to be representative- will be Keith Ellison, who will be the first Muslim in Congress. (His political views are way too far to left for me, but this is Minneapolis.) I guess he recently said that when he takes the oath of office, he wants to place his hands on the Koran instead of the Bible. Makes sense to me, since he know, a Muslim. However, Dennis Praeger seems to think this will play into the hands of Osama bin Laden:

Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible. If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don't serve in Congress. In your personal life, we will fight for your right to prefer any other book. We will even fight for your right to publish cartoons mocking our Bible. But, Mr. Ellison, America, not you, decides on what book its public servants take their oath.

Devotees of multiculturalism and political correctness who do not see how damaging to the fabric of American civilization it is to allow Ellison to choose his own book need only imagine a racist elected to Congress. Would they allow him to choose Hitler's "Mein Kampf," the Nazis' bible, for his oath? And if not, why not? On what grounds will those defending Ellison's right to choose his favorite book deny that same right to a racist who is elected to public office?

I dunno, maybe Mr. Praeger is too busy to read the Constitution, but I thought there was no state religion in the United States.

Does anyone really care what book Mr. Ellison places his hand on? I don't. Frankly, we shouldn't have anyone place their hands on any holy book- our Federal officials are asked to uphold and defend the Constitution, not the Bible or the Koran or any other sacred text.

What's scary is that Mr. Praeger has lifted up the Bible to some kind of cultural text. The fact is that it holds special significance to a portion of the American population, but not all of it and it holds no political value.

Mr. Ellison's placing his hand on a Koran is not going to destroy our American values, but Mr. Praeger's chauvanism just might.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Another Gay, Republican Blogger...

...and he likes football! (Though, I'm a basketball man myself.) Read Land of Fruits and Nuts. You'll enjoy it.

Trent Lott: The Return

What I'm about to say might shock some people:

I'm okay with Trent Lott being the Minority Whip in the Senate.

I say this knowing what he said back in 2002; praising outgoing Senator Strom Thurmond on his 100th birthday. The same Thurmond who was a staunch segregationist back in the day and ran against President Harry Truman on a segregationist presidential ticket.

I'm not raising a big stink because frankly, he can do the job he was gunning for; counting votes. As Slate's John Dickerson reports Lott knows how to get things done and knows how to work with the Democrats. I don't think this is a sign of the GOP "not getting it" as much as it is a sign that the Senate GOP might and I stress, might be moving away from being nothing more than a handmaiden to the President. Under outoging Senator Bill Frist, we saw someone who nothing more than President Bush's man in the Senate who defining point was when he "diagnosed" Terry Schiavo by viewing a videotape. Many people had hoped that in the wake of Lott's racially insenstitive remarks, Frist would be a breath of fresh air. Nope. Frist may not be a racist, but he was inept as a leader and to willing to carry the Bushies water.

Listen, if staunch liberal Ted Kennedy can get along with Lott, then maybe he can do something worthwhile in actually getting work done.

As an African American, I can't forget what he said in 2002. But his record shows he can work with those he doesn't agree with and get things done and so I'm willing to let this pass while not forgetting it, either.

However, Mr. Lott better be careful what he says in public. There are many people with cameras waiting for him to say something stupid again and upload their finds to You Tube. You are on a short leash with me, Mr. Lott, so don't mess up.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Can the GOP Change? Should it?

There is an old saw that Democrats and the mainstream media hold on to: that is, that the GOP has expelled its moderates and will never, ever change. Some believe that moderates should just become Democrats.

In reality, while it is very, very true that the GOP's moderates are fewer in number than they were in the days when moderate and liberal Republicans like Nelson Rockefeller and Jacob Javits were in power (and even fewer after last Tuesday), moderates still exist and still are getting elected. Arnold Schwarzenegger was just re-elected this past Tuesday in ultra-blue California. The far right does control the party, but moderates, to paraphase Monty Python, aren't dead yet.

I'm not trying to paint a rosy picutre, just one that isn't as bleak as some point it out to be.

I sometimes think that Democrats want to have a Republican party that is as far to the right as it can be. They think that if the party is sooooo reactionary, people won't want to elect them and the Democrats will remain in power in a permanent majority much like the Social Democratic parties in Scandanavia.

The reality, is that the GOP has veered right for decades and people still elected Republicans who can be very reactionary. The thing is, in America, the electorate is more volitile than it is in places like Sweden and grows impatient when the party in power behaves badly. If the Dems don't satisfy the public, they will go for the other viable option even if it is radical. If you want an example, see the elections of 2000, 2002 and 2004.

We need to have two parties that reach towards the center, not just one. We need to have both a center-left party and a center-right party. We need to do that so that when one party loses, we know that there won't be people foisting a radical agenda on the public.

And that's why I remain in this party. Yeah, we needed to be spanked on Tuesday and thankfully we were. This might make the party reach out towards the center and kick Karl Rove's "divide and govern" strategy to curb. I want to be a voice for change.

I'm thankful that Dems decided to listen to the center, but I'm not satisfied with only one party doing that. We need to get rid of the radicalism on both sides of the isle and get people who are interested in acutally governing the nation than in push their ideological agendas on people.

Republicans can change just as the Democrats have done. Whether they decide to that in the coming days and months, remains to be seen.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

And There was Much Rejoicing in the Land...

CNN is reporting the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is stepping down.


The Day After

The earth moved last night.

The people have spoken and the House is now in Democratic control with the Senate still being determined. I won't give the entire rundown of all the races, but I do have a few thoughts:

The Democrats Understood the Center. The Dems finally wised up and didn't totally rely on their crowd. The Democrats recruited centrist and even conservative candidates that were able to win in some conservative areas. Republicans would be wise to work on that. One wonders if those liberal Democrats will be able to work with their more centrist and conservative brethren. Related to this is another observation:

The Center matters. Led by Karl Rove, the GOP decided to focus almost exclusively on the socially conservative base and hoping to get enough independents and moderates to win. The Dems have realized that the Center does matter and moderated their message to some extent. The Republicans will have to learn that there is a vital center and they must be reached.

Republicans might want to take a page from the "Terminator." This morning as Republicans wake up to such a loss, they need to look West and take a page from California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Republican governor was elected as a moderate in 2003 and then veered right in 2004-05. Voter referendums backed by the Governor were defeated in 2005, and Scwarzenegger then steered towards the center with initiatives backing a boost in the state's minimum wage and combatting global warming. The result is that he coasted to victory. After this spanking by the public, will the national GOP reach out towards the center? That remains to be seen.

The LA Times right: President Bush is the real loser. This morning's LA Times is correct that the President is the loser today. I agree with them that if there are any plans to move towards the center, it's about six years too late. He went from lame duck to a nearly dead one by ignoring the center being so divisive. You live by the sword, you die by the sword.

Centrist Republicans might be more prominent in the coming years. Maybe. Last night was not a good night for Centrist Republicans. Charlie Bass of New Hampshire, Nancy Johnson of Connecticut and Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island all lost. In many cases, it wasn't because they were bad leaders, but because this was a year that voters were made at a political party and wanted to vote out any Republicans, even those they might have like. Voters wanted change.

That said, again the LA Times thinks that centrist Republicans will step up to leadership in the aftermath of yesterday's election. They write:

The Democrats have captured the House, but the most intriguing power shift in the aftermath of this election may not be from Republicans to Democrats but from Rove's socially conservative base to more centrist GOP leaders. One of the ironies of Tuesday's results is that it increases the leverage of moderate Republicans such as Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. Even as this election claimed so many of their kind, such moderates have the upper hand heading into 2008.

There are those that think the GOP will become more conservative after this defeat (that's my fear), but they might be right. The hard right has been discredited. Maybe this means that the "soft right" that remains will present a more truly conservative agenda that will be a step away from the Karl Rove Republicanism. We shall see.

Some Republicans I'm glad to see go: Don't let the door hit you on the way out:

  • Rick Santorum.
  • Richard Pombo.
  • JD Hayworth.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Midterm Update

Some interesting things going on tonight. First in my adopted state of Minnesota:

The North Star state gets its first female US Senator as Democrat Amy Klobuchar, the Hennepin County Attorney, wins over Republican, Mark Kennedy.

Minnesota has a small African American population. However the 5th district, which is made up of Minneapolis and some surrounding suburbs, is sending the state's first nonwhite representative to DC. Keith Ellison, a Democratic state representative won. He is also the first Muslim to go to Congress.

Sadly, Rhode Island Senator Linc Chaffee, the last of the liberal Republicans, lost against Democratic challenger Sheldon Whitehouse. Chaffee was pretty independent, having voted against the Iraq War and even admitting he didn't vote for President Bush in 2004. But this is not a good year for anyone with an "R" behind their name. He was a good guy and I thank him for his bold stances on the environment and gay rights.

Speaking of gay marriage, Virginia is turning out not to be for gay lovers. One of the more radical gay marriage bans in the nation is winning. Same goes for Wisconsin.

You know, 50 years from now, these laws will look as stupid as miscegination laws do today.

Vote, Dammit!

As the saying goes, if you don't vote, you can bitch. So go out and vote today.

I did that this morning with my partner. I vouched for my partner who just moved from North Dakota so that he could get registered to vote (Minnesota is one of a handful of states that allows same-day registration). We did our civic duty and got our red "I voted" sticker.

We are all busy, but take the time to vote. It's democracy in action. I mean, where else can you potentially vote in or vote out your bosses?

Go and vote.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Is This Ad Racist?

Andrew Sullivan seems to think so. He says that this ad implies that a "dark-skinned" man wants to rape your white wife. Now, I'm not so optimistic to think that there a campaign wouldn't stoop to using racist tactics, but I just don't see that here. Sully sees a "dark-skinned" man, but it's hard to tell if that hand really is "dark-skinned" or not. And one can't determine that the person with their mouth covered is going to be raped.

I don't have any truck for the whole "family values" tactic that the GOP leadership is using, but I really think that Sullivan is reading more into this than what is actually there. My guess is that Sullivan is so dissaffected by the current leadership with it's gay bashing and spendthrift ways, that he is now projecting every bad thing onto the GOP.

Sully can be frustrating to read at times- a few years ago he was projecting everything wrong with society on the Left (remember his assertion of a leftist "fifth column" after 9/11) and now he doing the same thing on the Right. It's not the critism that bothers me- I'm glad he takes on both the Left and the Right- but it's his running hot and cold that bother me. One moment he thinks that someone is the greatest person in the world and then the next that person is the most evil one. It would be nice if Sullivan exhibited some of the doubt that he preaches.

I'm curious to see how long will it be before he starts castigating the Democrats if they win tomorrow.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Maverick No More?

I know I'll probably get a ton of mail saying I'm an idiot to believe in John McCain or any Republican for that matter. Whatever. But I am sad that McCain wants the Presidency so bad that he would stoop to this:

To quote Andrew Sullivan, it breaks my heart.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

"Heckuva Job."

George Allen has cost the Republican Party two members in Texas. And one in Staten Island. It breaks my heart, but I won't soil my name by supporting this party anymore. Winning isn't so important that we should stoop this low, and if this team has forgotten that, then it's not a team I want to be on.

-From the Russell Record.

*insincere applause*

You know, it's one thing to piss off people like me, I mean, I'm a moderate to liberal Republican and well frankly, many don't think I'm a real Republican anyway. But it's another thing to piss off the solid conservatives that I know. I have seen a lot of fellow Republicans who are far more conservative than I am leave the party in disgust. Chesty is a Marine and a self-avowed "X-con." He is hardly a liberal Democrat. You'd think the party would be doing all it can to keep him in their camp.

I'll say it again: this party needs to lose. BIG. For it's own sake and for the sake of this nation.

The GOP leadership is doing a wonderful job of attracting voters, dontcha think?

Why My Party Needs to Lose.

Five days to Election Day. In five days, we will see if the GOP will hang on to power in Congress or lose one or both houses. All indications show that the GOP is about to get hit with a 2x4 come November 7th.

And I think that's a good thing.

Even if it means having a Speaker Pelosi (shudders).

Even if it means losing good moderates like Chris Shays and Linc Chafee (sigh).

The Republican party is in dire need of a course correction. It is a party rife with corruption, incompetence, opportunism and obscurantism.

Six years ago, I had some hope that the current GOP leaders wouldn't do that much damage. I thought with the closeness of the 2000 election that Bush would govern more as a centrist and live up to the words of being a "uniter, not a divider."

Boy, was I wrong.

The president and the GOP has done a horrible job at running this country since 2001. This doesn't mean that conservatives can't govern at all, but this gang can't do the job.

I wanted to say more, and I've tried many times. All I can say is that hopefully a good shellacking will do a few things. It will force the party to sit down and reflect on what went wrong. It has been said that after the resignation of Richard Nixon and the Watergate wave in 1974, the Republicans decided to sit back and think. The result was the Reagan Revolution which became ascendant in 1980. That needs to happen again. I'm hoping it will happen on the morning of November 8th.

Friday, October 27, 2006

An They'll Know We Are Christians...

The Family Research Council has spoken about the New Jersey ruling on gay marriage. Here are a few choice selections and my viewpoints:

This decision is nothing more than an act of veiled judicial activism and is completely out of step with the recent string of court decisions which upheld the basis for traditional marriage in promoting the well-being of children.

So, I guess the New Jersey court isn't supposed to think for themselves, but just follow what all the other states are doing. Forget deliberation.

Did you fall asleep during civics class?

The legislature should ignore the court's ruling and follow the lead of 20 other states that have already passed amendments to protect this sacred institution. Otherwise, the legislature will become nothing more than the lackeys of an activist judiciary.

Okay, so it's judicial activism when the court rules against you. So, what is it when it rules in your favor?

And why does the state need to protect something that is "sacred?" I didn't know God needed protection.

Again, you all seem to forget your civics lessons: there are three branches of government, not two. The court interprets the law created by the legislature. If the court says a law is unconstitutional, the legislature can come up with another law to see if it will pass muster, or challenge the ruling. Simply ignoring it threatens the very nature of our system of governing and is not an option.

As to the legislature being "lackeys" what a bunch of crap. They are not lackeys. They make tons of laws that the court doesn't say anything about. I will say this again, the court's role is to interpret the law and make sure it is passing constitutional muster. They are a check against the legislature and the executive. But then again, since you tend to tend to ignore checks and balances (again with the civics), I guess I should not be surprised that you think the court should be nothing more than handmaiden to the legislature and executive.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Pluses and Minuses of a Republican Loss

It's becoming conventional wisdom that the GOP will be losing its hold on Congress come November 7th. And as much as I don't like the sound of "Speaker Pelosi," I think will be a good thing if this happens. However, I also think there will be some downsides as well.

First the good things. Let's face it; six years of one-party rule from one end of Pennsylvania Avenue to the other, has resulted in a inept governance from both Congress and the President. Republicans got used to being power and walked away from first principles. A party that preaches fiscal conservatism, has allowed the deficit to skyrocket; a party that preaches small government, has allowed the government to grow faster than it did under Democrat Bill Clinton. A party the preaches federalism has put its nose in state matters, such as the Oregon Physician Suicide law. A party the preached pragmatism in foreign policy, got involved in a war in a far away place it had no business being involved in. A party that preached equality, now openly castigates gays and immigrants.

A loss in 12 days might help the GOP see how far it has fallen. A Fortune Magazine article notes that losing an election might help a party reform itself, getting rid of the fat that comes from being in power so long. Cait Murphy notes:

Power may be corrupting, but it is also addictive. That's why no party likes to lose an election. But the truth is that sometimes a loss is just what is needed to regain a sense of purpose and energy. And that's why the Republicans need to lose in November.

In 1974, for example, Britain's Conservative Party lost. Disillusioned Tory voters failed to turn out and more than a few, tired of the tired Edward Heath, decided what the hell, and voted Labor.

In the aftermath, small groups of Tories, both in and out of government, sat down and thought. In think tanks, and party clubs, through pamphlets and speeches and arguments and chats over tea, they set out to define what it meant to be a Conservative. The answers - lower taxation, rolling back the state from the private economy, a reassertion of British confidence - brought the Tories four straight wins.

(hat tip: Andrew Sullivan.)

So, a loss could drive a lot of Republicans to start talking amongst themselves and figure out what kind of party they want to be. As Murphy says in her article, it has happened among the GOP before. In the aftermath of Watergate, the party's conservative wing began talking and deciding what it meant to be a Republican. The result was Ronald Reagan's win in 1980. This is also what happened to the Dems in the late 80s and early 90s after losing three presidential elections in a row. The result was a win by Bill Clinton in 1992.

Such a conversation is truly needed at this point. The fear is whether or not the GOP is ready for such frank talk. You see, a loss on November 7th could also make party leaders and rank and file believe that they weren't pure enough. If they were more purely "conservative" and were able to get the social conservatives out to the polls, they would have held on. This might only cement the relationship the GOP has with the far right. Remember that the lesson learned by the GOP from the closness of the 2000 election was not to make an appeal to the center as conventional wisdom would have taught us, but to bring out as many social conservatives to the polls with issues like gay marriage. We could very well see the party thinking it didn't connect with the Religious Right and that it needs to be more faithful.

I'm hoping we see the former. We need to face some hard truths about ourselves. But I'm enough of a pessimist to think we might choose the easy route, instead.

If conventional wisdom holds, we will find out on November 8th.

The Fox Effect

Reason Magazine's Hit and Run Blog reports that the ad showing Michael J. Fox advocating for stem cell research is having an effect in this years midterms.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Have You No Shame, Mr. Limbaugh?

Yet another example that Rush Limbaugh really is an idiot.

The ad is below, in case you want to see it. How you could not have some pity for Mr. Fox is beyond me.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Hundreth Post : Chris Shays' Meltdown

There are some interesting posts in the blogosphere about the troubles in the GOP as of late.

First off, is the sad turn of seeing moderate Republican congressman Chris Shays of Connecticut self-destruct. Shays has a good record on many issues like gay rights and the environment. He has been part of a small bulwark of good Republicans against the far right. This year he is in a tight race against a Democrat who is hammering Shays for his support of the Iraq war. It seems that all the pressure is getting to him, because in the last week he has made some stupid comments about the Foley scandal and the abuse of prisioners at Abu Gharib. On the Foley issue, Shays lashed out, saying that at least no one died in this scandal, making a reference to Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy and the Chappaquiddick affair, circa 1969.

Okay, that was a comment that at least I could let slip (said in the heat of the moment and all). However, then he unleashes this:

U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays was under fire yesterday after saying in a debate earlier this week that the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison was not torture but rather a "sex ring" involving National Guard troops.

Note to Mr. Shays: if you a running as a Republican in a Democratic district where there is a lot resentment over a certain war conducted by a certain president of your party, it is wise to not do anything that will rile up those important voters that you need to win.

Shays may have very well sealed his fate with that statement. I can just see Democratic operatives producing ads with his incredibly stupid statement.

As Joe Gandleman notes, Shays feels he has to defend the GOP since he is being linked to the party. Maybe. But wouldn't Shays win more votes in saying expressing his outrage at the Foley scandal or saying that Abu Gharib was a sad statement in American history? It seems at this point he needs to assert his independence from the party leadership (something he has done in the past) than trying to prop up a failing party. Saying what he has said already will only make his Democratic opponent more attactive.

I think it would be a shame to lose Mr. Shays. He is one of those great "Yankee Republicans" that the party needs to counter the radical right. But if he loses on November 7th, he only has himself to blame.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Wanted: National Coming Out Day For Gay Conservatives

So now, in the wake of the Foley scandal, there are moves afoot to out gay Republicans staffers and lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Frankly, I've found all "outing" by a bunch of self-righteous gays on the left to be repugnant. Time and time again, these outings don't do anything to further gay rights. No one should be dragged out of the closet.

That said, I think it's high time for gay Republicans working on the Hill to come out. As Andrew Sullivan has noted, many Republican lawmakers know they have gay staffers and don't care, so why stay in the closet?

Well, one reason is that many lawmakers and staffers are afraid of the Relgious Right. Lawmakers especially are worried that groups like the Family Research Council will come after them in the primaries. But the staffers and lawmakers need to realize the far right isn't as powerful as we all like to think. Case in point? Jim Kolbe. As Scott Olin Schmidt, aka Boi from Troy notes the retiring Arizona congressman has been out and proud since 1996 and he was never driven out by the religious nuts. Schmidt says just as much:

For their own political interests - and that of equal rights, in general - it makes sense for gay Congressmen, mayors, Senators, state and local lawmakers who are in the closet to come out now. Being gay should no longer be a deep secret every Republican has to keep. One man has been sending suggestive messages over the internet to teenagers - Mark Foley. So, right now, to Republicans, being gay is de minimus compared to being a gay who cruises teenagers.

Any Republican coming out now would see barriers - perceived or real - to higher office fall by the wayside. Such an announcement would be also be critical for the cause of gay civil rights. It would remind America that being gay does not mean being a pedophile and maybe remind people that, in fact, 98% of pedophiles are heterosexuals.

Many will fear that supporting tolerance of gays and lesbians will endanger the votes of the Religious Right - but evidence is to the contrary. After all, where would they go? To support the Party of Hillary Clinton and Barney Frank?

Indeed. Why do we give these people so much power? They are only powerful because we fear them, and in reality, they really can't hurt us- at least not politically.

Schmidt adds that his Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, hasn't suffered in the opinion polls because his support of gay rights.

So, why are gay and gay-friendly Republicans bowing down to people who frankly don't share Republican views of limited government in such an area as love? These people aren't true conservatives, so why should we care what they think? To quote "Mr. Conservative" himself,

The conservative movement, to which I subscribe, has as one of its basic tenets the belief that government should stay out of people's private lives. Government governs best when it governs least - and stays out of the impossible task of legislating morality.

I don't think conservatism or the GOP are inherently anti-gay. However, many of us are cowards for not standing up for justice when it is demanded that we do so. If more Republicans came out, if more Senators and Representatives stood up for their gay staffers, hell if more Republican parents publicly supported their gay children, the gay rights movement would progress light years from where it is now and the religious right would be sent packing.

Outgoing Executive Director of Log Cabin Republicans, Patrick Guerrerio, wrote an impassioned essay last year calling for gay conservatives to step out into the sunshine. He concludes:

For many conservatives, coming out will come with real and profound sacrifice. Thankfully, we can find role models in and inspiration from a new generation of Log Cabin members who are coming out in some of America's most conservative places, joining new Log Cabin chapters in places such as Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa, Kentucky, New Mexico, and the Carolinas. They are coming out to family members who sometimes turn them away from the Thanksgiving dinner table if they insist on bringing their partners, in towns where they're the only openly gay person, in traditional churches where they've heard intolerance from the pulpit, in high schools without gay/straight student alliances, and in workplaces where there are no protections that prevent them for being fired for simply being gay. They are the real heroes of today's LGBT movement and they need and deserve to be given a helping hand in the days ahead.

That helping hand needs to come from gay conservatives. We hold the key to changing the hearts and minds of fellow Republicans, conservative Democrats, and people of faith. In the not too distant future, the history books will record who had the courage to come out of the closet and lead us to victory when it mattered most. Only with the help of gay conservatives can our movement achieve victory over the radical right. Only with the help of gay conservatives can we prevent the radical right from hijacking the Republican Party. Only with the help of gay conservatives can we defeat the voices of fear and intolerance that are feverishly working to deny any and all civil recognition for gay families. The history books will note not only those who had the courage to stand up, but sadly also, those who remain silent. The time is now.


The Politics of Character

In the wake of the scandal surrounding former Representative Mark Foley, Democrats are now looking into the lives of GOP challengers to get some political ammunition.

On one level, I can understand this. My own party has made character asassination an artform. In short, it's karma time for the GOP. But on another level, I find this annoying no matter what party is doing this. It seems to reflect the times: one party portrays themselves as virtuous, and the other side is the bride of Satan.

Frankly, character or virtue is not that important except in extreme cases, like the now disgraced Foley. No one, I mean no one, is a saint. We aren't electing angels to office but fallible human beings, so we have to cut people some slack.

I think both parties need to lay off the character plank. As we are seeing with the GOP, trying to pass yourself or party off as perfect tends to bite you in the ass sooner or later.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Mark Foley Doesn't Speak for Me: A Gay Republican Speaks

The Mark Foley scandal threatens to make life hard for gay men in general and gay Republicans in particular. The former congressman's salacious instant messages with teenaged boys have unleashed stereotype of gay men as sexual predators ready to feast on innocents.

But it also paints a very distorted picture of gay Republicans as self-loathing, closeted individuals who knowingly support anti-gay politicians. Recently, David Corn, a writer for the Nation, questioned why gay Republicans, well why we exist:

Let's be clear about one thing: the Mark Foley scandal is not about homosexuality. Some family value conservatives are suggesting it is. But anytime a gay Republican is outed by events, a dicey issue is raised: what about those GOPers who are gay and who serve a party that is anti-gay? Are they hypocrites, opportunists, or just confused individuals? Is it possible to support a party because you adhere to most of its tenets--even if that party refuses to recognize you as a full citizen?

Of course , Mr. Corn was talking about gay staffers on the Hill, but he might has well been talking about gay Republicans in general since I've heard that argument before.

Well, let me tell you MY story.

I am an out gay Republican man who lives with his partner in a house in North Minneapolis. (My partner is an ardent Democrat, and somehow we maintained a truce. He's too cute to argue with.) I'm a pastor and I don't hide my sexuality. I'm not putting it anybody's face, but I'm not hiding. For nearly five years, I've been part of Log Cabin Republicans. As a part of Log Cabin, I've worked on campaigns of those candidates who are "fair-minded" and support gay rights. Along with others, I've spoken out against Republican politicians who support policies that hurt gay Americans.

The question always comes, how can you support a party that doesn't like you? This again brings up the image of someone who just blindly support anyone with an "R" behind their name. Since this question usually comes from Democrats, let's turn that question around: do you support the Democrats because they like you? I would think most gay Democrats support their party for many reasons ranging from social programs to the environment to national security. Neither I nor any of my gay Republican friends support Republicans who are anti-gay. We believe in many of the values of the GOP: limited government, low taxes and a strong national defense (though the argument can be made that these days, the current leadership doesn't reflect these values anymore). However, gay Republicans, at least most Log Cabiners, won't support someone who wants to limit our rights as Americans.

Log Cabin Republicans want to change the party's stance on gays. It does us no good to simply leave the party and allow the far right to control the party. We want to send the bigots packing the same way that Democrats did to Southern segregationists four decades ago.

It is not easy to be a gay Republican. You are attacked by the Religious Right and by other gays. Try having a booth at Gay Pride. Every year for several years, our local chapter has had a booth at Twin Cities Pride. Many times you will recieve dirty looks and even sometimes slurs from people. We are constantly characterized as the equivalent to "Jews for Hitler." While I do agree that gay Republicans should be out, because that helps the cause of gay rights, I can understand why some chose to keep a low profile; no one wants to face the verbal assault from fellow gays.

Mark Foley is a sad individual. For years, he denied being gay. He finally did only when he was caught red handed. Foley might be a gay Republican, but he sure as hell doesn't represent the many gay Republicans that I know who are out and proud and are NOT trolling the internet to have virtual sex with people who weren't around during the Reagan Administration. He should not be viewed as the template for all gay Republicans. He chose to live in the closet and it is now the closet that has destroyed him.

I would ask those who lean more to the left to actually get to know some gay Republicans. Listen to them. We are not apologists for the far right. We live out in the open and work hard for equality. Don't allow one pathetic lawmaker from Florida be the only example of gay Republicans.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Liberal Conservatism? Sign Me Up.

Los Angeles Times columnist Niall Ferguson has another great column about the rise of "Liberal Conservatism," a strain of conservatism that is socially liberal and pragmatic instead of partisan and narrow in its social vision. Ferguson talks about how this kind of conservatism is taking root in Europe, primarily in the British Conservative Party and the Swedish Moderate Party.

It's also starting to take root here in America, with elected officials like California governor, Arnold Scharzenegger, who backed a hike in the state minimum wage and combating global warming. Ferguson didn't talk about this, but I think another politician that is exhibiting "liberal conservatism" is John McCain. Read his speech to the UK Conservative Party Conference recently and you can see some of this in action.

In my own personal view, the current Republican party is bereft of ideas and without any principles. From Iraq to Katrina, we have seen a party more interested in short term political gain than in ideas that will benefit this nation for years to come. A party that was once committed to fiscal disciplne has run up the nation's credit card. A party that believed in small government, has in turned favored big government. As many have said, this isn't the party of Roosevelt, Goldwater or Reagan, but the party of Dobson, Santorum and Katherine Harris.

What's needed is a new and vigorous conservatism, that is less ideological, more humble and basically efficient and pragmatic. I think our British brothers and sisters are showing the way. When the dust clears after November 7, the Republican Party needs to take a serious look at this more open minded conservatism.

For Conservative Party Leader David Cameron's "Liberal Conservative" foreign policy, please read here.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

A sign of the Apocolypse?

I'm not a big fan of Fox News. Don't get me wrong, unlike liberals, I think they have a right to broadcast their news which tends to be pretty biased towards the right, I just decide not to watch it. All very libertarian.

That said, when Fox News says something like this, you know that it's pretty bad for the GOP.

I will blog more on the Foley scandal, but my short take? Hastert should step down. Not for the good of the GOP (even though I'm a Republican and I'm not crazy of having a Speaker Pelosi, I think the GOP needs to have their clock cleaned), but because he was in a position to do something about all of this and didn't. If the situation was reversed, the GOP would demand the head of a Democratic speaker and we should ask for no less.

Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Lose Ben Stein's Mind

I've always liked comedian Ben Stein because of his monotone delievery. He was always the scense stealer in the Wonder Years, the sitcom from the late 80s-early 90s.

I think that's gonna change after this tirade:

We have a Republican man in Congress who sent e-mails to teenage boys asking them what they were wearing, and an entire party, the Democrats, whose primary constituency, besides the teachers' unions, is homosexual men and lesbian women. I hope it won't come as a surprise to anyone that a big part of male homosexual behavior is interest in young boys. (Take a look at anyone renting Endless Summer next time you are at the video store.)

Don't get me wrong. My very best friend is gay. I have many gay friends and they are great people. But how the Democrats, the party of gays, can be coming down this hard on a MC who's gay is simply beyond belief. One of my top, favorite congressmen, Barney Frank, is openly gay. Might he say a word in defense of his fellow gay MC right about now? Hmm, I thought not.

Yeah, there's nothing better than after finishing a sermon, kicking back with my partner and watching some kiddie porn and chatting with fifteen year old boys online.

Please. A man who says he lives in Beverly Hills and Malibu should know a thing or two about real gay men than peddaling these lies.

Churchill and the Golden Rule

"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."
-Matthew 7:12, aka The Golden Rule

Niall Ferguson writes in today's LA Times about the recent bill passed by Congress that might very well allow torture. He cites examples of countries like Japan, which during WWII reinterpreted the Geneva Convention to treat POW's rather inhumanely.

Ferguson does understand why Congress and the American public in general might support torture. I understand it as well: we are only five years after the nightmare of 9/11 and frankly, we are scared. But Ferguson also notes that while these law might make Americans feel safe, it might very well expose us to torture. He cites why a very famous conservative opposed torturing his enemies:

...Winston Churchill insisted throughout the war, treating POWs well is wise, if only to increase the chances that your own men will be well treated if they too are captured. Even in World War II, there was in fact a high degree of reciprocity. The British treated Germans POWs well and were well treated by the Germans in return; the Germans treated Russian POWs abysmally and got their bloody deserts when the tables were turned.

Few, if any, American soldiers currently find themselves in enemy hands. But in the long war on which Bush has embarked, that may not always be the case. The bottom line about mistreating captive foes is simple: It is that what goes around comes around. And you don't have to be a closet liberal to understand that.

In short, Churchill lived by the Golden Rule; act how you would like to be treated. What's interesting is that today's so-called "conservatives" seem to talk a lot about the Bible and yet don't live out some of the words that Jesus said.


Thursday, September 28, 2006

9/11: Who's Really Responsible

"The idea of trying to cast blame on President Clinton is just wrong for many, many reasons, not the least of which is I don't think he deserves it...I don't think President Bush deserves it. The people who deserve blame for Sept. 11, I think we should remind ourselves, are the terrorists -the Islamic fanatics-who came here and killed us and want to come here again and do it."

The person who said this is talking about September 11, 2001 and is the one American politician that knows that dark day intimately...former New York Mayor Rudy Guliani.

There has been a lot of hullaballu over who is to blame for not stopping 9/11 with conservatives trying to tar President Clinton which gets liberals up in arms, and liberals (such as President Clinton) blaming President Bush (remember all the "My Pet Goat" stories?).

It's pretty pathetic that five years after this horrid event where 3000 people were killed in the space of 90 minutes conservatives and liberals are still trying to score political points about who is to blame. There is really only one person or group to blame: Osama bin Laden and his ilk. What's past is past. We can't change what happened. All we can do is try better in the future to prevent the fanatics from doing this again.

Guliani continues:

"Every American president I've known would have given his life to prevent an attack like that. That includes President Clinton, President Bush...they did the best they could with the information they had at the time."

I frankly don't give a rat's behind which president slipped. I think both Clinton and Bush could have done better and I also think they tried. But pinning blame on either does nothing to stop the terrorists from planning another 9/11.

I wish that more politicians would follow Guliani's example and stop using such a horrific event for political gain. The times are too important to be wasted on a pissing match.

Joe Gandleman has a worthwhile if somewhat biased piece on Guliani's run for the Republican presidential nomination.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Hyperbole or Right on Target?

Andrew Sullivan is an interesting guy. Early in the Bush Administration, he was a defender of the president, but these days, he is solidly against the Administration. Sometimes he is incredibly insightful, and at other times, he is given over to hyperbole-his postings being nothing more than rants.

Today, he continues to express his objections to the torture "compromise." I agree with him on this, but then he veers into this:

Whatever else this is, it is not a constitutional democracy. It is a thinly-veiled military dictatorship, subject to only one control: the will of the Great Decider. (emphasis mine.) And the war that justifies this astonishing attack on American liberty is permanent, without end. And check the vagueness of the language: "purposefully supported" hostilities. Could that mean mere expression of support for terror? Remember that many completely innocent people have already been incarcerated for years without trial or any chance for a fair hearing on the basis of false rumors or smears or even bounty hunters. Or could it be construed, in the rhetoric of Hannity and O'Reilly, as merely criticizing the Great Decider and thereby being on the side of the terrorists?

So, the question is, has democracy ended here? Is it 1973, when Augusto Pinochet overthrew the elected Chilean government and took over?

If this was a few years ago, I would have easily dismissed this. But hearing more and more about how the Bushies have sought diliberately to enlarge excutive power makes me at least wonder. However, I don't think we are a dictatorship; unless Bush and Cheney are planning to halt the 2008 elections or something. I do believe that the Bushies are eroding democracy in our country, but I don't think it has left us.

I'd like to know what others think. While I don't trust the Bush Administration anymore, I have a hard time seeing this as the end of American democracy. Please don't send rants. I want to hear reasoned speeches. Thanks.

Monday, September 25, 2006

On the Torture "Compromise" or Battle Without Honor or Humanity

The views on the agreement between a maverick group of Republicans led by Senator John McCain and the White House are all over the map. Some are just yelling, screaming positions we've already heard before. I've found two commentaries that are thoughtful and worthwhile. First up is Jeremy Dibble of Charing RINO. He states in his Saturday post, about how the Bush Administration basically pretended to compromise and then decided to go their own way. Jeremy writes:

...I think the senators (McCain, Lindsey Graham and John Warner)did get a great deal more than they had originally, and they forced the White House to give up some major points. However, I'm afraid that they took the negotiations at face value, and while it pains me to have to say it, I can draw no other conclusion but that this Administration headed by this president is incapable of good-faith negotiation and honest dealing(emphasis mine)... McCain, Warner and Graham deserve some credit for wringing water out of a stone. Unfortunately, it's clear now that that water is undrinkable.

Andrew Sullivan draws the same conclusion about the Bushies, and gives some speculation about why McCain "gave in:"

I've long tried to give McCain the benefit of the doubt on all of this. He has been the sole figure able to resist this president's permanent seizure of emergency powers - to detain any person at will without charges or recourse to courts and to torture them at will. McCain is, I believe, a good man. But he has obviously decided that he cannot win this one. He has decided that the best he can do is prevent a formal breach of the Geneva Conventions, keep the military itself away from torture, while allowing domestic law to be reinterpreted to allow all the torture techniques previously used by the CIA. It is easy to condemn him. Too easy, perhaps. He may have done as much as he possibly can to prevent torture without playing directly into Karl Rove's hands. It is clear that if McCain continued his opposition, the Bush machine would have done all it could to kill his nomination prospects. And if he fails to win the nomination, and a Christianist Rove-backed candidate seizes it, then the future for American liberty and a decent conservatism would be even darker than it already is. I'm guessing that's how he has rationalized it. He's not dumb enough to trust the good word of George W. Bush. And he's not dumb enough to fight a battle he cannot win - now.

Then there are more cynical interpretations. It is in McCain's interests for the Republicans to do very badly this fall, so he can position himself as their savior in 2008. By taking the torture issue off the table, he removes one of Rove's key weapons in the campaign: to portray the Democrats as too cowardly to torture the perpetrators of 9/11 and therefore too weak to defend the nation. It's b.s., of course, but that's beside the point. It works. So this deal may temporarily help the Democrats in November (which may explain their own supine cowardice on the subject).

I know there are some that think McCain, et. al are wimps. I tend to like McCain and I think he really does want to make sure our government doesn't torture. But I also think he is probably a realist. This administration, led by Karl Rove, would go after McCain as hard or even harder than they did during the presidential campaign of 2000. The problem here is not that McCain gave in or the Democrats didn't stand up, but that this Administration cares nothing about the rule of law. It thinks that because it won an election, it can do what it likes and damn the Congress, Geneva Conventions and the like. It is shocking to see conservatives, who philosophically believed in law and tradition, doesn't seem to care about those long-held Burkean traditions.

So, kudos for the McCain gang for standing up to the president. It's too bad that the President and his gang have no honor.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Who Would Jesus Torture? OR What Part of "Violence to Life and Person" Don't You Understand?

Article 3

In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:

1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.

To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

(a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

(b) Taking of hostages;

(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;

(d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

2. The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.

An impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict.

The Parties to the conflict should further endeavour to bring into force, by means of special agreements, all or part of the other provisions of the present Convention.

The application of the preceding provisions shall not affect the legal status of the Parties to the conflict.

The Geneva Convention. Article 3.

The Bush Adminstration thinks that Article 3 of the Geneva Convention is vague. Does anything in the above paragraph even looks vague? It seems pretty clear: treat prisoners humanely. What Bush wants to do is make Geneva vague to give the military cover as the use "agressive interrogation."

What's interesting is how the president's far right base is reacting to this. This group that loves to talk about how pro-life they are seems to support the use of torture. The Traditional Values Coalition, led by the Rev. Lou Sheldon, is urging Congress to back the Bush plan. Here is what Mr. Sheldon says:

TVC Chairman Rev. Louis P. Sheldon said American military and intelligence experts are hampered by a vague "outrages upon personal dignity" statement in Article Three of the Geneva Convention of 1950.

"We need to clarify this policy for treating detainees," said Rev. Sheldon. "As it stands right now, the military and intelligence experts interrogating these terrorists are in much greater danger than the terrorists. Civil suits against our military personnel are tying their hands as they try to get vital information which will save the lives of our young military people and the innocent."

"Our rules for interrogation need to catch-up with this awful new form of war that is being fought against all of us and the free world. The post -World War II standards do not apply to this new war.

"We must redefine how our lawful society treats those who have nothing but contempt for the law and rely on terrorizing the innocent to accomplish their objectives. The lines must be redrawn and then we must pursue these criminals as quickly and as aggressively as the law permits.

We have to redefine how we treat our enemies? This from the group that worries about my partner and I getting hitched would "redefine marriage?"

The enemy is evil, so we need to be as ruthless as we can be. Please. Our nation has faced Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, two of the biggest threats of the past century and we never compromised our values.

The threat from terrorism is real. And I agree that we have to be agressive in trying to stop these people from harming us or other lawful societies. And yes, people like Kahlid Sheik Muhammad, are heartless monsters. But we as a nation have a history of treating even monsters with respect, not because they've earned it, but because we are America, and we adhere to certain values that other nations ignore. Treating our enemies with respect proves we are more moral than we are.

I am not a pacifist, but it seems to me that Christians need to follow the example of Jesus who loved everyone. Jesus calls us to treat even our enemies with respect. Seems like Rev. Sheldon forgot to read Matthew 5:43-48.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Liberals, Neoconservatives and Terrorism

Alan over at Maverick Views has a great commentary about Ambivablog's take on left of center blogger Jack Whelan's view on the current age we live in.

(I know, there is a lot of the he-said-that-she-said-that-he-said going on here, but trust me, there is a method in this madness.)

To sum up Whelan's view, the reason we have Islamic fundamentalism is because of the US presence in the Middle East. If we just leave them alone, then the terror will stop.

Alan, sums it better than I can:

This is, as Amba says, a seductive worldview. For one, it puts all the power in our hands and very little in our enemy's hands. It's a worldview where our own actions determine our fate completely. If we want to protect ourselves from terrorism, we need only change our actions towards the societies from which terrorists spring. Our enemy’s actions are merely subsets of our actions. If we change, they'll change.

He also adds that the neoconservative viewpoint of things is basically the mirror opposite:

This is, not surprisingly, just about the opposite of the neo-con worldview which believes that changing ourselves is unnecessary and even pointless. Neo-cons contend that we need to force or at least strongly encourage changes in the societies that breed terrorism.

The problem is, the alternative view, the neo-con view, has been misplayed and mishandled and now seems even more naïve than the standard liberal view. Key neo-cons like Rumsfeld and Cheney have too often minimized the consequences of our own actions while maximizing the villainy of our enemies. To make it worse, this administration chose a very military-centric path towards changing the Middle East. A path that has created a great deal of bloodshed and is still very far from success.

What we have here are two competing ideologies centered around how they view the US: one side, the neocons, view America as the paragon of virtue, the nation that can do no wrong. It can send suspects to nations that torture without worrying about how it will look in the wider world because America is pure and in a just fight against agents of evil. It can use tactics such as waterboarding which, if they aren't torture, dance pretty damn close to the line, because it is America. In this view, America answers to no one and whatever it does, it does for the right reasons.

On the other side is the more liberal view of America that sees the nation as an oppresive bully that seeks to establish a hegemonic empire. This America oppresses people around the world, especially in the Middle East. In their view, the reason 9/11 happened was because of stand towards Israel, or the war in Iraq, or the fact that we have bases in the region. If we just let people in the Middle East or Latin America, just live their lives, then everything will be okay.

My own take is that both views are way off the mark. America has been considered a paragon of virtue because we have held ourselves to high standards not because we are Americans or blessed by God or what have you. What the neocons fail to understand, is that we are in an ideological struggle and we must work to show Muslims worldwide and in the Middle East in particular that America is not the satanic power bin Laden and his ilk say we are. This is not simply a struggle where we can bomb people into submission, but we must work to pursuade. An example is how the US helped Indonesia after the Christmastime tsunami in 2004. The view of America in the world's largest Muslim nation rose several points because of our acts of kindness. If we had more images of Navy helicopters giving good to greif stricken Indonesians instead of those horrid images from Abu Gharib, we would do more to combat Islamic fundamentalism than any "alternative" interrogation techniques.

Liberals, on the other hand, have to start taking the Islamic fundamentalist threat as seriously as they do Christian fundamentalism. Both fundamentalisms seek to roll back the values that we in Western liberals societies hold so dear. Liberals rightly worry about people like James Dobson, who want to put gays back in the closet, but downplay Islamic fundamentalists who frankly want gays executed and aren't too friendly towards women's rights.

Liberals also have to stop thinking that we aren't the cause of everything bad in the world. Yes, America has many sins, I'm not denying that. But it is not as simple that the 9/11 hijackers or Osama or any other extremist is doing bad because we treated them terribly. It was because they bought into a dangerous theology that told them that to be holy and righteous, one must kill innocents whose only crime is their nationality. Liberals have to stop this sort of dualistic think that views America as wholly evil, while viewing others around the world as pure innocents. There is evil in the world and sometimes America is guily of it. But sometimes so are others.

America is neither a saint or a devil. We are a nation that tries to do right but at times makes mistakes and sometimes even big wrongs. We need to develop a worldview that seems America and the world as it is-not as we would like it to be. In this struggle against terror, we need to be clearheaded and not looking with glasses that fit our ideologies.

Monday, September 18, 2006

"They've Already Won."

Andrew Sullivan shared this You Tube link today. It's comes from the movie, "The Siege" that talks about terrorists attacking New York and the American response. The movie came out in 1998, long before 9/11, but the images of the naked Arab man ready to be tortured ala Abu Gharib and Denzel's prophetic speech make this scene ever the more timely.

Iraq: Land of Hacks

A few months ago, I came to the conclusion that history will judge the Administration of George W. Bush poorly, not because of his policies, as much as because of the poor execution of those policies.

One example is Iraq. I opposed the invasion, as did others, but even if it wasn't wise, the president and his administration had the chance to prove people wrong and make Iraq a functioning democracy with a stable society. The Bushies blew that opportunity and as this Washington Post story shows, when it came to rebuilding Iraq, political patronage trumped experience more often than not.

I agree with Justin Gardner: you need to read the whole story to get a glimpse at how the Bushies doling out jobs to people basically knew nothing about the task they were given.

But at least voted they for the President.

As Andrew Sullivan notes, this administration only cares about politics and getting their friends in power. Yes, this happens in all administrations in some degree, but with Bush, it has become an artform. From Katrina to Iraq, we see incompetence on a grand scale.

I'm looking forward to 2008, when we can elect an adult for President.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

It's Time for Them (Republicans) To Go

Washington Monthly, (which is a liberal magazine) has an interesting series of articles by conservatives that are looking forward to seeing the GOP lost control of Congress because the movement has lost its way. I haven't read all of the articles, but here a sampling of what I read so far.

The first is by Jeffrey Hart, a former speech writer for Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan:

The United States has seen political swings and produced its share of extremists, but its political character, whether liberals or conservatives have been in charge, has always remained fundamentally Burkean. The Constitution itself is a Burkean document, one that slows down decisions to allow for “deliberate sense” and checks and balances. President Bush has nearly upended that tradition, abandoning traditional realism in favor of a warped and incoherent brand of idealism. (No wonder Bush supporter Fred Barnes has praised him as a radical.) At this dangerous point in history, we must depend on the decisions of an astonishingly feckless chief executive: an empty vessel filled with equal parts Rove and Rousseau.

Successful government by either Democrats or Republicans has always been, above all, realistic. FDR, Eisenhower, and Reagan were all reelected by landslides and rank as great presidents who responded to the world as it is, not the world as they would have it. But ideological government deserves rejection, whatever its party affiliation. This November, the Republicans stand to face a tsunami of rejection. They’ve earned it.

While Hart takes a more philisophical viewpoint, former congressman Joe Scarborough shoots from the hip:

During the 1990s, conservative Republicans and the Clinton White House somehow managed to balance the budget while winning two wars, reforming welfare, and conducting an awesome impeachment trial focused on oral sex and a stained Gap dress.

The fact that both parties hated each another was healthy for our republic’s bottom line. A Democratic president who hates a Republican appropriations chairman is less likely to sign off on funding for the Midland Maggot Festival being held in the chairman’s home district. Soon, budget negotiations become nasty, brutish, and short and devolve into the legislative equivalent of Detroit, where only the strong survive.

But in Bush’s Washington, the capital is a much clubbier place where everyone in the White House knows someone on the Hill who worked with the Old Man, summered in Maine, or pledged DKE at Yale. The result? Chummy relationships, no vetoes, and record-breaking debts.

Finally, Bruce Bartlett thinks a GOP loss this year will good for the Republican party in the long run and also force the Democrats to show its cards:

Divided government has... advantages... For one, it restrains government spending. The budget surpluses of the late 1990s resulted mainly from Bill Clinton’s unwillingness to support the Republican Congress’s priorities and its unwillingness to support his. For another, it improves our foreign policy. We had divided government during 36 of 55 years between 1947 and 2001, which meant that both parties had to take responsibility for the wars in Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq (the first one). America is much more effective in the international arena when it has a high degree of bipartisanship in its foreign policy. In the not-too-distant past, Republicans including Arthur Vandenberg and Democrats including Daniel Patrick Moynihan understood this. With the current war in Iraq, however, Democrats who support the war are forced to oppose it, and Republicans who oppose the war are forced to support it. This makes other countries unsure of our resolve and commitments.

Those who worry that divided government would compromise our efforts in Iraq shouldn’t be overly concerned. As the minority party, Democrats today are free to criticize our efforts in Iraq without having to offer constructive alternatives. But put them in the majority, and they’ll suddenly have to put up or shut up. Let them defund the war and implement an immediate pullout if that’s what they really think we should do. At least it would force the administration to explain itself better and face some oversight, for which the Republican Congress has essentially abrogated all responsibility. Polls will quickly indicate which side has made the better case.

Finally, on a purely partisan level, I believe that loss of one or both houses will strengthen the Republican Party going into 2008. It will force a debate on issues that have been swept under the rug, such out-of-control government spending and the coziness between Republicans and K Street, home of Washington’s lobbying community. Afterwards, the party will emerge stronger, with better arguments for keeping control of the White House. Also, Democrats may well be placed under so much pressure from their left-wing fringe that they’ll be forced into politically self-destructive acts such as trying to impeach President Bush. Every Republican I know thinks Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are the best things they have going for them. Giving these inept leaders higher profiles would be a gift to conservatives everywhere.

Losing might be the best way to get the GOP back to its conservative roots. We will see come November.

Monday, September 11, 2006

In Memoriam

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingAlabanza: In Praise of Local 100
by Martín Espada

for the 43 members of Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Local 100,
working at the Windows on the World restaurant, who lost their lives in
the attack on the World Trade Center

Alabanza. Praise the cook with the shaven head
and a tattoo on his shoulder that said Oye,
a blue-eyed Puerto Rican with people from Fajardo,
the harbor of pirates centuries ago.
Praise the lighthouse in Fajardo, candle
glimmering white to worship the dark saint of the sea.
Alabanza. Praise the cook's yellow Pirates cap
worn in the name of Roberto Clemente, his plane
that flamed into the ocean loaded with cans for Nicaragua,
for all the mouths chewing the ash of earthquakes.
Alabanza. Praise the kitchen radio, dial clicked
even before the dial on the oven, so that music and Spanish
rose before bread. Praise the bread. Alabanza.

Praise Manhattan from a hundred and seven flights up,
like Atlantis glimpsed through the windows of an ancient aquarium.
Praise the great windows where immigrants from the kitchen
could squint and almost see their world, hear the chant of nations:
Ecuador, México, Republica Dominicana,
Haiti, Yemen, Ghana, Bangladesh.
Alabanza. Praise the kitchen in the morning,
where the gas burned blue on every stove
and exhaust fans fired their diminutive propellers,
hands cracked eggs with quick thumbs
or sliced open cartons to build an altar of cans.
Alabanza. Praise the busboy's music, the chime-chime
of his dishes and silverware in the tub.
Alabanza. Praise the dish-dog, the dishwasher
who worked that morning because another dishwasher
could not stop coughing, or because he needed overtime
to pile the sacks of rice and beans for a family
floating away on some Caribbean island plagued by frogs.
Alabanza. Praise the waitress who heard the radio in the kitchen
and sang to herself about a man gone. Alabanza.

After the thunder wilder than thunder,
after the booming ice storm of glass from the great windows,
after the radio stopped singing like a tree full of terrified frogs,
after night burst the dam of day and flooded the kitchen,
for a time the stoves glowed in darkness like the lighthouse in
like a cook's soul. Soul I say, even if the dead cannot tell us
about the bristles of God's beard because God has no face,
soul I say, to name the smoke-beings flung in constellations
across the night sky of this city and cities to come.
Alabanza I say, even if God has no face.

Alabanza. When the war began, from Manhattan to Kabul
two constellations of smoke rose and drifted to each other,
mingling in icy air, and one said with an Afghan tongue:
Teach me to dance. We have no music here.
And the other said with a Spanish tongue:
I will teach you. Music is all we have.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Walmart and the Democrats

My parents and I are a study in contrasts...sort of.

I'm a centrist Republican, they are dyed-in-the-wool New Deal Democrats. I drive a late model Volkswagen made in Mexico, they are retired autoworkers who are proud United Auto Workers members. Where these contrasts get a bit strange is where we shop for discount goods: I tend tend to shop at Target; they shop at Walmart.

Walmart. This behemouth of a retailer is considered basically evil by many people. I've decided not to shop there because of some of their labor practices. My parents are quite aware of this, and yet shop there anyway. In fact, when the visited me here in Minnesota recently from my native Michigan, they got gas at the local Sam's Club because they are members and it's cheaper than regular gas.

I don't understand why my parents shop at a place that seems antithetical to their beliefs, but they do and maybe I don't have to understand.

What's interesting to me is that many of the people who object to Walmart tend to be more middle-class. People like myself like to go to Target which tends to market itself as an upscale discounter. Walmart appeals to the working class folk like my parents who don't care about design, they just want something at a good price.

All of this has led to me to wonder if a lot of the protest against Walmart has more to do with class than it has to do with things like health care or wages. I mean, Target probably pays the same wages that Walmart does in markets where they both compete. Walmart is even getting into the organics business,joining the trend among retailers to offer healthier and sustainable foodstuffs.

The Los Angles Times has a worthwhile editorial about how the Democrats are shamefully demonizing Walmart. Here's a choice quote:

At an anti-Wal-Mart rally last week in Iowa, [Joe]Biden noted that the retailer pays people $10 an hour, and then asked: "How can you live a middle-class life on that?" It's clearly the company's fault, at least from a skewed senatorial perspective, that all Americans cannot live a comfortable middle-class life. How dare it pay prevailing retail wages? Bayh, who appeared at another rally, was quoted as saying that Wal-Mart is "emblematic of the anxiety around the country." That may be true. But if it's the emblem he's worried about, he should stay in Washington and work to make healthcare more affordable for working families.

The gusto with which even moderate Democrats are bashing Wal-Mart is bound to backfire. Not only does it take the party back to the pre-Clinton era, when Democrats were perceived as reflexively anti-business, it manages to make Democrats seem like out-of-touch elitists to the millions of Americans who work and shop at Wal-Mart.

The fact is, many working class joes, like my parents, shop at Walmart. They care about issues, but they tend to want their government to solve those issues. They aren't that concerned about how evil a company is. Which gets me back to class. Are those who rail against Walmart really concerned about worker wages or are they just looking down at a retailer that caters to people that aren't as trendy? And are the Dems making a mistake in taking up a cause that is championed by people who may not really be in tune with the realities of the American working class?

The Times seems to be making that point:

One reason the Democrats may have a tin ear on this subject is demographic. Certainly most of the party's urban liberal activists are far removed from the Wal-Mart phenomenon. The retailer has thrived mainly in small towns and exurbs, which is one reason a Zogby poll found that three-quarters of weekly Wal-Mart shoppers voted for President Bush in 2004, and why 8 out of 10 people who have never shopped at Wal-Mart voted for John Kerry. Denouncing the retailer may make sense if the goal is to woo primary activists, but it's a disastrous way to reach out to the general electorate. Or to govern, for that matter.

The fact is, a lot of my friends who dis Walmart are people like myself: we shop at more upscale places like Ikea and Trader Joe's. These places are precieved as being more upper middle class; Walmart is more working class; and despite all the talk of caring for the less off, I would bet that a lot of those who profess Walmart as Satan and shop at these more upscale places wouldn't want to be caught dead with those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

These days, I still don't shop at Walmart as much. But my opinion of how to deal with them is changing. Maybe instead of demonizing them, we should try to find ways to work with them. It's a good thing that Walmart is pursuing the organic market and that should be praised. Maybe we should also work with them to find ways to provide better living standards instead of always fighting with them. Maybe if politicians are so concerned about low wages and inadaquate or no health care, they should work for a better minimum wage and affordable health care in Washington (and not just bring it up during election years).

I think that if the Democrats want to become a majority party again, then it needs to actually become the "lunch box party" again. When I see more Kerry bumper stickers in more affulent areas than in working class areas, you know the Dems have a class problem.

As for those who detest Walmart; maybe we need to go there once in a while just to see "how the other half lives" instead of sitting in our comfortable areas talking about stuff we don't really know anything about.