Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Another New Blogger

Just wanted to let people know of another sensible Republican blogger out there. Check out The Russell Record.

Arnold Flips the Script

I was out of town the past few days and busy with church and work, but I did find this op-ed in Monday's Los Angeles Times interesting. After not having a good 2005 politically, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has decided to move back towards the winning center and might just win another term as governor in November.

It's nice to know that some Republicans do learn from their mistakes unlike a certain leader in Washington, DC...

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Comment on "Who Watches the Watchers"

Paul, a frequent commenter, brought up a great quote by Denzel Washington in a movie called The Siege, a 1998 movie that talks about a wave of terrorism that hits New York by Islamist terrorists. At some point, the government starts locking up many Arabs who had no connection to the terror in the name of security (kinda prophetic, huh?). Here's Denzel's quote (which was given as a General played by Bruce Willis plans on tortuing a suspect) which could easily apply to modern day America:

"Come on General, you've lost men, I've lost men, but you - you, you *can't* do this! What, what if they don't even want the sheik, have you considered that? What if what they really want is for us to herd our children into stadiums like we're doing? And put soldiers on the street and have Americans looking over their shoulders? Bend the law, shred the Constitution just a little bit? Because if we torture him, General, we do that and everything we have fought, and bled, and died for is over. And they've won. They've already won!"

Kinda scary how true that quote has become.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Who Watches the Watchers

I saw something on Balloon Juice yesterday that sums up how I feel about the government tapping phone lines without a warrant and tracking phone domestic phone calls:

The most common retort against privacy advocates -- by those in favor of ID checks, cameras, databases, data mining and other wholesale surveillance measures -- is this line: "If you aren't doing anything wrong, what do you have to hide?"

Some clever answers: "If I'm not doing anything wrong, then you have no cause to watch me." "Because the government gets to define what's wrong, and they keep changing the definition." "Because you might do something wrong with my information." My problem with quips like these -- as right as they are -- is that they accept the premise that privacy is about hiding a wrong. It's not. Privacy is an inherent human right, and a requirement for maintaining the human condition with dignity and respect.

Two proverbs say it best: Quis custodiet custodes ipsos? ("Who watches the watchers?") and "Absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Cardinal Richelieu understood the value of surveillance when he famously said, "If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged." Watch someone long enough, and you'll find something to arrest -- or just blackmail -- with. Privacy is important because without it, surveillance information will be abused: to peep, to sell to marketers and to spy on political enemies -- whoever they happen to be at the time.

Privacy protects us from abuses by those in power, even if we're doing nothing wrong at the time of surveillance.

For if we are observed in all matters, we are constantly under threat of correction, judgment, criticism, even plagiarism of our own uniqueness. We become children, fettered under watchful eyes, constantly fearful that -- either now or in the uncertain future -- patterns we leave behind will be brought back to implicate us, by whatever authority has now become focused upon our once-private and innocent acts. We lose our individuality, because everything we do is observable and recordable.

This is the loss of freedom we face when our privacy is taken from us. This is life in former East Germany, or life in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. And it's our future as we allow an ever-intrusive eye into our personal, private lives.

These are exerpts from Bruce Schneier, chief technology officer writing in Wired Magazine.

The problem I have with the Bush Administration and those who see no problems with this is that we are being asked to simply trust that the government is operating in our best interests. "Trust me," the Executive branch says. "We are good and work for your interests." But the thing is, we live in a democratic system where there is checks and balances. That means that each branch is looked on by the other. There is nothing in the constitution that asks the nation to simply trust those in authority. In a democracy, our leaders are not all-knowing gods, but humans that have to govern with the consent of the governed, and no, just because you win re-election doesn't mean you get to do what you damn well please.

The other problem I have is that we are being offered a false choice between liberty and security. If we fret about civil liberties, well we just don't care if the terrorists attack again. Balderdash. I do care about security and that is important. I would like to reduce the chance of another 9/11 as much as possible. But not at the expense of our hard won liberties.

For those who think they have nothing to hide, what happens when a future government starts snooping into other things? Would it be okay for the government to track your book or library purchases? What if they see you reading books that are critical of a certain President? What if they track your bank accounts? What if they question what groups you give money to? As the old saying goes, when you have a hammer, you start to see a lot of nails.

I consider myself of old fashioned Burkean conservative in that I respect the power of government. It's power is coercive; it has to be. I'm not anti-government, but it means that we have to respect its power and use it wisely. That is why we have the system of checks and balances-to keep government from taking on too much power and usurping ours.

I think we need to work hard to get the surviellance genie back in the bottle. We need to find ways to be secure without giving up our liberty, or else people like bin Laden will win, with the result a soceity that is less free.

As I've said before, somewhere in some cave, bin Laden is smiling.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

We are All "Values Voters" Now

First off, I want to apologize about the limited posts. There's a lot of stuff I want to talk about, but I'm fighting a nasty spring cold, which kind of makes me not in the mood to pontificate on matters. I'm still trying to get motivated to start planning Sunday's worship service.

My physical health aside, I did run accross a great column by George Will, that bust the myth of the so-called "values voter." Actually, it's not that he busts the myth, it's that he believes we all vote our values. Here are some choice quotes:

An aggressively annoying new phrase in America's political lexicon is "values voters." It is used proudly by social conservatives, and carelessly by the media to denote such conservatives.

This phrase diminishes our understanding of politics. It also is arrogant on the part of social conservatives and insulting to everyone else because it implies that only social conservatives vote to advance their values and everyone else votes to . . . well, it is unclear what they supposedly think they are doing with their ballots.

Agreed. Some of my liberal friends vote because of their beliefs on poverty or budget issues and they will say it's because of moral reasons. Sounds like a values voter to me. Will continues:

Conservatives should be wary of the idea that when they talk about, say, tax cuts and limited government -- about things other than abortion, gay marriage, religion in the public square and similar issues -- they are engaging in values-free discourse. And by ratifying the social conservatives' monopoly of the label "values voters," the media are furthering the fiction that these voters are somehow more morally awake than others.

Today's liberal agenda includes preservation, even expansion, of the welfare state in its current configuration in order to strengthen an egalitarian ethic of common provision. Liberals favor taxes and other measures to produce a more equal distribution of income. They may value equality indiscriminately, but they vote their values.

Among the various flavors of conservatism, there is libertarianism that is wary of government attempts to nurture morality and there is social conservatism that says unless government nurtures morality, liberty will perish. Both kinds of conservatives use their votes to advance what they value.

I think Will is correct in blaming the media for falling into this use of "values voter" to describe only social conservatives, when most of us vote our values. No vote in my view is value-free, so why let one group hog all the "values?"

And now, I will head back to my cave and heal.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

From the "Oh No You Didn't!" Dept.

Here's the latest chatter from the so-called "Republican base" regarding how America deals with the 12 million illegal immigrants already in the United States:

Not only will it (massive deportation) work, but one can easily estimate how long it would take. If it took the Germans less than four years to rid themselves of 6 million Jews, many of whom spoke German and were fully integrated into German society, it couldn't possibly take more than eight years to deport 12 million illegal aliens, many of whom don't speak English and are not integrated into American society.

Usually people try to use the Nazis to show how bad the other side is. This is one of those rare occassions when someone raves about the efficiency of Nazis.

What a bunch of loons. And bigots to boot.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

And a Maverick Shall Lead

Congrats to Alan Stewart Carl who was tapped last weekend to be the Excutive Director of the Centrist Coalition. Godspeed, Alan.

From a "Cowering" Centrist Republican

Earlier today I was perusing Mat Pruitt's blog. He has an interesting post called "It's Our Party Too" where he talks about the need for moderates in the GOP to come up with a vision. He made some sense until he reached the last paragraph:

I am sick and tired of centrist Republican groups that have been the true heart of the party since Abraham Lincoln, cowering to the self righteous right wing that has led this country in the wrong direction.

As someone who has been part of Log Cabin Republicans and Republicans for Environmental Protection, I was taken aback by Mathew's comments. I know people like Martha Marks, the founder of REP, who are not cowering to the far right, instead they are challenging them and willing to fight back against the right wing. Then there are people like Log Cabin and it's current President, Patrick Guerriero, who took a brave stance in 2004 and chose not to endorse the President for his support for the federal marriage amendment. (Guerriero wrote a great op-ed last year urging closeted gay conservatives to come out.)

And then there is my friend Jim. Jim is a quiet unassuming guy around my age who is gay and a life-long Republican. He is a Republican in the moderate tradition. Now, you need to know that the GOP in Minnesota is controlled by the religious right, with moderates being a dying breed. The GOP has been solidly behind efforts to get a so-called marriage amendment in this state. It was in this context, that Jim went to his district convention and wrote a resolution condeming the marriage amendment. It did surprisingly well. Jim and I know it won't change the party platform or policy, but he had some balls to do what he did.

In all of these examples, I don't see anyone cowering. What I see are people that are trying taking on a herculean task and doing their level best.

Mathew says that it's his part too and he is right. But if it is, then do something to take it back from the far right, don't just sit there and bitch, and please don't castigate the people who are doing a thankless job of working for change in the GOP.

On an aside, withdrawing support from moderate elected officials because they are in the same party as the nutcases it a silly idea. It's not as much that these seats will go to the Dems, but that we will lose those moderate voices in the party. And don't think that "destroying the village in order to save it" is going to work. All it will do make the social conservatives think they weren't conservative enough.

Some of our fellow bloggers on the Left have come up with an agenda of sorts and there is the Euston Manifesto which was written by British lefties who wanted to find a way to respond to our current post-9/11 world instead of using the tired old "America is evil" line. In my own humble opinion, I think it's time for centrist Republicans to come up with something if their own. So, I ask my fellow Centrist Republican bloggers: are you up for the challenge? I dare you. I double-dog dare you.

I'll be interested to see who takes the bait.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Moussaoui's Verdict

Being the cynical person that I am, I really expected the jury in this case to give Moussaoui the death penalty. So, I was surprised that the jury opted for life in prison. Good for them. I oppose the death penalty, although being human, there are times I feel some should get it. This case was a sham from the start. Moussaoui is a bad man with bad thoughts and intents, but that alone doesn't warrant the ulitmate punishment.

I could say more, about how I think the Bush Administration is messing up the War on Terror with symbolic victories and not really bring justice to our enemies, but it's late. Instead, I will leave you with some good links:

Joshua Marshall's take.

An LA Times story about how the government tries smaller fish instead of the bigger sharks in the world of terrorism.

Slate's legal correspondent Dahlia Lithwick praises the jury for making the right decision.

One final note: I'm very thankful we don't have to hear Moussaoui's odious rants ever again.

Update: Here is my previous post on the whole Moussaoui trail.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Yet Another Post on Crunchy Cons

Hank Steuver of the Washington Post has a worthwhile profile of Rod Dreher, the man behind the "Crunchy Conservative" movement. It a good read.

Illegal Immigrants: A Cost-Benefit Analysis

Think that those who come to the US illegally are draining social services and adding nothing to our society? Think again:

...immigrants aren't flocking to the United States to mooch off the government. According to a study by the Urban Institute, the 1996 welfare reform effort dramatically reduced the use of welfare by undocumented immigrant households, exactly as intended. And another vital thing happened in 1996: the Internal Revenue Service began issuing identification numbers to enable illegal immigrants who don't have Social Security numbers to file taxes.

One might have imagined that those fearing deportation or confronting the prospect of paying for their safety net through their own meager wages would take a pass on the IRS' scheme. Not so. Close to 8 million of the 12 million or so illegal aliens in the country today file personal income taxes using these numbers, contributing billions to federal coffers. No doubt they hope that this will one day help them acquire legal status — a plaintive expression of their desire to play by the rules and come out of the shadows.

So these so-called leeches are actually contributing to America in a very American way, filing personal income taxes.

They are also helping us with our Social Security and Medicare programs as well as provide income for states and cities:

What's more, aliens who are not self-employed have Social Security and Medicare taxes automatically withheld from their paychecks. Since undocumented workers have only fake numbers, they'll never be able to collect the benefits these taxes are meant to pay for. Last year, the revenues from these fake numbers — that the Social Security administration stashes in the “earnings suspense file” — added up to 10 percent of the Social Security surplus. The file is growing, on average, by more than $50 billion a year.

Beyond federal taxes, all illegals automatically pay state sales taxes that contribute toward the upkeep of public facilities such as roads that they use, and property taxes through their rent that contribute toward the schooling of their children. The non-partisan National Research Council found that when the taxes paid by the children of low-skilled immigrant families — most of whom are illegal — are factored in, they contribute on average $80,000 more to federal coffers than they consume.

So, who is theleech here? The immigrants or Americans who are taking their income to pay for government services we don't want them to use?

Something to think about.