Tuesday, May 29, 2007

On the Road to Serfdom: The Venezuela Edition

Every so often, some of my liberal friends talk about how America under the Bush Administration is a dictatorship. As much as I don't like the Bushies, and as much I do think they have danced to the edge if not gone right over the edge when it comes to civil liberties, I don't think we are heading towards people being "disappeared" ala Chile in the 70s and 80s. Last I checked, we are having an election next year to replace the current President and odds are that the Democrats will win. That doesn't sound like a dictatorship to me.

What's funny is that very few on the left are screaming about what is going on in Venezuela under Hugo Chavez, who is taking more and more power and grabbing more and more freedoms from the people. The latest is that an independent TV station was shut down after the Chavez government refused to renew its license. It was replaced by a state-backed channel that will obviously be friendly to "El Presidente."

Many will say that he has helped the poor. Maybe, but he has done it at the expense of freedom and that isn't any better than trying to make people safe at the expense of freedom.

Rudy and Realism

My blogmate, Pete Abel, is not as enanmoured with GOP Presidential Candidate Rudy Giuliani. He is also upset that social conservatives are still more concerned about...social issues than about other issues. He is also concerned about Rudy's apporoach on foriegn policy, a hesitation with Rudy that I share.

This brought up a few things:

First, we should understand that in many ways the "realist" school of foreign policy is no longer prominent in Republican circles. The voices we hear now are those from the Ron Paul-Pat Buchanan school (the isolationist/non-interventionist school) and the neoconservative school. Even though the NeoCon school has failed in Iraq, they are still powerful because of writers and institutions that support their "America alone" approach. Ross Douthat notes:

The vacuum that (Ron)Paul currently occupies is supposed to be filled by an internationally-minded realism. Indeed, it's precisely the coexistence of realism and idealism in Republican foreign policy, the fruitful tension between the two strains of thought, that has long made the GOP the party to be trusted in international relations - because the idealists elevate the realists, and the realists keep the idealists grounded. When the pendulum swings too far in one direction or another, this tension has usually produced a correction, of the kind that, say, the original neocons and then Reagan provided to the cynical machtpolitik of Kissinger. But there's no sign of a realist corrective in the current GOP field: There were ten candidates on that stage besides Ron Paul yesterday night, and not one of them was willing to call the Iraq War a mistake, which seems to me like the place that a serious realist critique of his Presidency's foreign policy needs to begin.

The fact is, we don't have a Brent Scrowcroft school of foriegn policy in the GOP anymore, or at least not in the number that they once were. There is no realist candidate in the GOP field. A realist would have long ago decided that the war in Iraq was going no where and would find a way to extricate themselves from the situation. There is one potential canidate out there that could be the person Pete (and I) are looking for: Nebraskan Senator Chuck Hagel. It would be nice if he got in the race, because he is the voice in the GOP we need at this time. Neocon foriegn policy has not worked. It's time flip the script.

If we are interested in getting a "realist Republican" running for President, then maybe people should join the "draft Hagel" movement. (I'm looking at you, Pete.)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Sir Charles Does It Again

“I think if they want to get married, God bless them. Gay marriage is probably one percent of the population, so it’s not like it’s going to be an epidemic.”
-former NBA Player, Charles Barkley.

Being a basketball fan, I was never a big fan of Charles Barkley. But after reading this article, you can count me as a fan.

It's important to hear things from leading sports figures like this. Even more important, it is really important to hear these words from a black man. As a African-American man who is also gay, I have had my share of anti-gay remarks from young black gay men. We need to hear more black straight men who are comfortable enough with their sexuality to speak up for gay people.

Kudos to Sir Barkley.

Ron Paul's Crazy Train

I'm a little shocked by the response of the Centrist blogosphere to the quixotic campaign on Republican representative and presidential wannabee, Ron Paul. He is considered principled on the notion that America got hit on 9/11 because we were hitting Iraq for 10 years.

Andrew Sullivan sees the guy as a "breath of fresh air." Others say he is what conservatism used to be about and even throw in Uncle Ronnie to give Paul some creedence.

I don't get it. People are going gaga over a man who basically wants the United States out of the UN and NATO, has condemned the 9/11 Commission and wants another one, waxes on about a "North American Union," and has said not so kind things about African Americans and Jews.

I'm sorry, but someone who goes around saying that only five percent of African Americans have "sensible politcal views" and assumes 95% of black males in Washington, DC are criminals or semi-criminal is not someone that I think will revive the GOP.

I am not one that wants to silence Paul or block him from debates. He has every right to present his views and he belongs in the party like anyone else.

Listen, I can understand the the American right is in a sorry state and needs revitalization. We need new leaders for a new time, especially after the current presidential administration has done such a bad job on almost everything. But Ron Paul isn't the answer.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

What Does It Say About Us?

Two events on the same day reminded me how screwed up we are these days. The first was the reaction to Rev. Jerry Fawell's death on Tuesday. That same evening, almost all of the GOP contenders for the presidential nomination seemed to endorse using torture in the War on Terror. Concerning Fawell, it was disturbing to see how many people in the gay community were downright mean concerning his death. It was also disturbing to see so many Republican presidential candidates (inlcuding Rudy Giuliani, my leading favorite) seem not to have a problem with using tactics like waterboarding on terror suspects.

It's interesting in this age where we are so self-reveling about every level of our lives, with blogs and services like YouTube, we don't seem to be so interested in examining our lives and how we live. We are wonderful at telling others how to live, but not so interested in wondering how we are living our own lives.

For example: torture. Many of my compatriots on the right side of the spectrum seem to not have a concern with torturing someone for information. "If it saves lives, then it's okay," they seem to think. They forget the adage that Senator John McCain, who happens to know about torture in a very intimate way, that torture does damage to our reputation more than it provides information to prevent a terrorist attack. The funny thing among a lot of conservatives is that we don't seem to care one way or another about the consequences. There is a certain amount of smugness among some on the right in that America is great, not because of how we live our lives in the world, but by who we are. America is good because it is America. That is a dangerous conotation, because it ignores the fact that people are judge as good or bad by their actions, not by who they are. Some kid in Iraq or Iran is not going to ignore how we treat prisoners. You can rest assured that someone like bin Laden will use such moral failings to prove his point that America is evil and needs to be destroyed. The GOP presidential candidates, minus McCain, are basically doing bin Laden's work.

Now to Fawell. I have to be honest and say that I didn't miss Fawell, but I didn't see his death as a good thing either. Maybe what has saddened me is to see the gay community show such gracelessness towards this death. I can understand the anger, but I have a hard time understanding the basic lack of humanity.

Many in the gay rights movement have talked about the connections between our struggle for rights and the struggle of African Americans. They leech on to the legacy to Dr. Martin Luther King and talk about our movement as the same moral struggle as the civil rights movement. As an African American and as a gay man, I can say this is complete bullcrap. My gay brothers and sisters are clueless to the true meaning of that movement. Dr. King did preach justice for African Americans and condemned those that blocked the progress of African Americans. But you know what? He also loved those same people. He loved them enough to believe they could be redeemed. His Christian faith taught him to seek the wholeness of both the oppressor and the oppressed.

Sadly, most gays and lesbians do not show the same grace that King and many African Americans did back in the 50s and 60s to those that hated them. Instead of showing love when one hates, we have decided to hate them as much they hate us. We celebrate when they die.

Dr. King was working for the redemption of America. He saw racism as this nation's original sin, and wanted to find ways to not only bring freedom for African Americans, but to heal the entire land. His nonviolent campaign of love is responsible for the change that has happened in our society. No, racial progress hasn't been easy, but it has happened.

Frankly gay people need to learn to care for those that oppose us. No that isn't easy. But we need to have more pity for them than hate. I am more sorrowful that Rev. Fawell never understood that we gays were not the threat he thought we were, than scornful of him. True justice won't happen, by "winning" against the far right, but by urging them to repent. Love, seeing the enemy as a human being loved by God or whatever higher being, is what changes society. Storing up wounds does nothing but hurt us.

In both cases, people need to do some introspection. We are not righteous in our own being. We are judged by how we live our lives. Yes, terrorists and bigots are judged, but so are we. Torturing someone, or rejoicing in the death of someone you don't like says a lot more about your moral character than it does your enemy.

The Bible states that we need to look at the planks in our own eyes instead of the specs in our brother's eyes. It's time for gays and conservatives to do some heavy-duty introspection, to save their own souls.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Ins and Outs of Rudy G.

Of all the GOP candidates for President, the one that I tend to like is former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani. I like that he is fiscally conservative and socially liberal. But his authoritarian streak and his seeming willingness to use torture in the War on Terror is something that still bothers me, so I am not going to say I am a Giuliani guy just yet, though I am leaning in that direction.

I don't think Rudy is perfect, for the reasons stated above. But I think he represents a strain of the GOP that has long been moribund and needs to be revived- that of the Northeastern, moderate Republican.

Longtime Democratic analyst, Thomas Edsall has an interesting article on how Rudy is bringing the GOP to his viewpoints. Acutally, it's more that the times are a-changing. Homosexaulity is being more tolerated in society and there is a new generation that isn't as scared about two guys holding hands than previous generations.

A side note on Ron Paul. I have respected him for his views on Iraq, but he is hardly a candidate for Republicans who don't care for the current administration could rally around. I don't think I'm that crazy about his views. He's against the Federal Reserve, against NAFTA, CAFTA, the UN and any other alliance, and seems to have a very hard-line immigration policy. It's perfect for a hardline libertarian, but I think a lot of people want to see the government as a partner in solving problems, not simply have it dissapear.

So, no, I'm not going to have a link to Giuliani at this point, but I do know I won't have a Paul link ever.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Let Rudy Be Rudy

Kudos to Rudy Giuliani for being honest about his pro-choice stance.

This is a gutsy move for Rudy, since it means that he is going against the grain of what has been expected of GOP Presidential candidates.

Why is he doing this? It can be summed up in one word: California.

The Golden State has moved the date of its primary to early February, along with two other big states, Flordia and Giuliani's home state of New York. All of these states are full of moderates which could influence the outcome of who will be the next GOP nominee. In a climate where there was only small states like South Carolina and Iowa, you had to be more right-wing because the primary goers tended to be more socially conservative. With these larger states in the mix, it allows a moderate like Giuliani to gain the upperhand.

There has been much consternation about the front-loading of the primaries and I can understand that. There is something about the candidates chatting with people in the town halls of New Hampshire and the farms of Iowa. But this speeded up process just might allow the moderates in the GOP to actually have a say in....well, probably decades. We might finally stop focusing on issues like going after gays and more on terrorism, health care and global warming.

Rudy knows this so, as Time Magazine says, he is more than willing to take a gamble. And the thing is, he might be able to get more people into the process. I know a lot of people who are basically Republicans, but they get tripped up on the current GOP's stances on abortion and gay rights. Knowing that there is a candidate that mirrors their views might just get them to the primary polls and caucuses.

When he was told that his views might cause not be acceptable to some Republicans he responded, "I guess we are going to find out."
How refreshing to hear a Republican that isn't trying to denounce or ignore his former views to appease a few religious fanatics.

He might make a supporter of me yet.

Retreat is A Fine Republican Tradition

The way some ardent war supporters act, they tend to think that all Republicans have stood strong when it comes to national defense instead of doing in the words of the immortal Kenny Rogers (before his dreadful facelift) to "know when to fold them" and to "know when to walk away."

The fact is, Republican leaders in the past have known when it was time to walk away from what appeared to be an intractable situation. Steve Chapman notes the historical nature of Republicans "cutting and running:"

During last week's Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Library, Rudy Giuliani cited the 40th president as a model of fortitude in dealing with enemies. Among "the things that Ronald Reagan taught us," he declared, is that "we should never retreat in the face of terrorism."

No one present was impolite enough to mention that far from spurning retreat in the face of terrorism, the Gipper embraced it. After the 1983 terrorist bombing in Beirut, which killed 241 American military personnel, he recognized the futility of our presence in Lebanon and pulled out...

The truth is, Republican presidents are not known for staying the course in the face of adversity. Dwight Eisenhower ran on a promise to end the Korean war, which he did -- on terms that allowed the communist aggressors to remain in power in the North. Richard Nixon negotiated a peace agreement with the North Vietnamese government, which provided for a U.S. pullout. Gerald Ford presided over the fall of Saigon and the final, humiliating American evacuation.

In those instances, the presidents came to grips with the unpleasant truth that sometimes, you can't achieve the desired outcome without an excessive sacrifice, if at all. But when it comes to Iraq, Republicans insist we should be ready to pay any price in pursuit of a victory that has eluded us for so long. In their view, weighing the costs against the benefits, or acknowledging that we don't have a formula for success, is tantamount to appeasement.

What Republicans stood for in the past was a sober realism about the limits of our power and our good intentions. That spirit is absent today. They act as though slogans are a substitute for strategy. What they claim as steadfast resolve looks more like blind obstinacy.

The thing is, if we really wanted to win in Iraq, we should have committed more than the small number of troops that were offered at the beginning of this war. It is silly, as Chapman notes, to say we need to stay and fight and yet not being willing to commit the necessary resources.

For me, it seems that what we need to do is find a way to get out of this war in a way that doesn't screw the Iraqis. I don't think we should just leave and damn the Iraqis as some on Left would say, but we can't stay forever, no matter how noble the mission. Yes, leaving does have consequences- Al Queda assumed that our leaving Lebanon in 1984 and Somalia in 1993 meant that the US was a paper tiger that could be cowed after a terrorist attack- but so does staying. Americans will not stand for being in a war with no end.

Many Republicans revere Reagan for standing up to the Soviets. Well, he did, but he also found ways to negotiate with the Russians and ended up making peace with them. In the end, Reagan was not the ideological hawk that so mamy Republicans think he was, but a hard realist who knew when to fight and when to make peace. That is something that the current Republican president, members of Congress and the current slate of presidential candidates has seemed to forget.

Surely there has to be a way to get out of Iraq by saving some face. The sad thing is that the President will not listen and the GOP will pay the price for his staying the course which looks less like fortitude and more like someone not grounded in reality.

Retreat doesn't have to mean failure.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

From the "Hell Has Frozen Over Dept."...

"Barring some calamitous mistake by the Democrats (and true, that can never be ruled out from the "war is lost" party), the GOP enters the 2008 election cycle at a serious disadvantage. If we want to win, we have to offer the American voter something fresh and compelling. I think most of us understand that. And yet at the same time we are demanding that our candidates repeat formulas and phrases from two and three decades ago.

Yes, the GOP needs candidates to display higher-quality leadership than they have exhibited till now.

But if we want higher-quality leadership, maybe we also need higher-quality followership."

I don't think I'd ever agree with David Frum, but I agree with him here. Listen, I like Reagan too, but the GOP needs to basically let some fresh air in and start coming up with ideas to solve the problems we face today. I mean it's sad that we someone like Mitt Romney (whose father was the governor of my home state of Michigan)try to contort himself into some far-right family-values clone to satisfy the crazies in our party when this guy was able to create a universal health care program that uses a public/private mix to make sure everyone in Massachusetts is insured.

Frankly, we don't need another Reagan. He was good for his time, but we need someone new-someone that can inspire and isn't interested in trying assuage a small part of the general electorate. Maybe someone like the new French president, Nicolas Sarkozy:

"I want to launch a call to all those in the world who believe in the values of tolerance, of liberty, of democracy and of humanism, to all those who are persecuted by the tyrannies and by the dictators, to all the children and to all the martyrized women in the world to say to them that the pride, the duty of France will at their sides, that they can count on her. France will be at the sides of the Libyan nurses locked up for eight years; France will not abandon Ingrid Betancourt; France will not abandon the women who are condemned to the burqa; France will not abandon the women who do not have liberty. France will be by the side of the oppressed of the world. This is the message of France; this is the identity of France; this is the history of France."

Now THAT'S what we need to hear from the GOP candidates. But we aren't because they are more concerned about telling the base that they don't believe in evolution.


Friday, May 04, 2007

What Would Mark Bingham Say?

For those who don't remember, Mark Bingham was one the passengers on United Flight 93, the plane that crashed in rural Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001. Mark was believed to be among the passengers that took the plane back from the terrorists that planned to use the plane as a weapon.

Mark Bingham is seen as hero to many.

Mark was also openly gay.

On September 22, 2001, Senator John McCain delivered a eulogy at Mark's memorial service. He noted then,

"I love my country, and I take pride in serving her. But I cannot say that I love her more or as well as Mark Bingham did, or the other heroes on United Flight 93 who gave their lives to prevent our enemies from inflicting an even greater injury on our country. It has been my fate to witness great courage and sacrifice for America's sake, but none greater than the selfless sacrifice of Mark Bingham and those good men who grasped the gravity of the moment, understood the threat, and decided to fight back at the cost of their lives.

"In the Gospel of John it is written "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." Such was the love that Mark and his comrades possessed, as they laid down their lives for others. A love so sublime that only God's love surpasses it.

"It is now believed that the terrorists on Flight 93 intended to crash the airplane into the United States Capitol where I work, the great house of democracy where I was that day. It is very possible that I would have been in the building, with a great many other people, when that fateful, terrible moment occurred, and a beautiful symbol of our freedom was destroyed along with hundreds if not thousands of lives. I may very well owe my life to Mark and the others who summoned the enormous courage and love necessary to deny those depraved, hateful men their terrible triumph. Such a debt you incur for life.

"I will try very hard, very hard, to discharge my public duties in a manner that honors their memory. All public servants are now solemnly obliged to do all we can to help this great nation remain worthy of the sacrifice of New York City firefighters, police officers, emergency medical people, and worthy of the sacrifice of the brave passengers on Flight 93.

Note that McCain says he probably owes his life to Mark and the others who fought back. Not also that he said he incured a debt for life.

Mark Bingham died defending his country. He wasn't in the military, but he was defending it just the same.

So, it is a big puzzle that when asked about allowing gays to serve in the military, McCain would say that he wouldn't support overturning "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." He states:

"I believe polarization of personnel and breakdown of unit effectiveness is too high a price to pay for well-intentioned but misguided efforts to elevate the interests of a minority of homosexual service members above those of their units. Most importantly, the national security of the United States, not to mention the lives of our men and women in uniform, are put at grave risk by policies detrimental to the good order and discipline which so distinguish America's Armed Services."

Uh huh.

Senator, it was a gay man who probably saved your butt six years ago. I don't think you cared back then that he slept with men, you were just glad he did what he did. Have you forgotten what you said at Mark's service? Were those mere words? Do you want the Presidency so bad that you will turn your back on Mark's legacy?

For shame, Senator. For shame.

On Hate Crimes Laws

I'm going against the grain in saying this, but I have a problem with Hate Crimes Laws.

Now, as a gay man, I should be in support of it, and believe me, I have tried to see the value in support them. But in the end, my conservative/libertarian values kick in and in good conscience, I can't.

The reason is this: the fight for gay rights, is at its basis, about equality. We don't want to be treated different than others, we don't want to be treated special, we want to be treated in the eyes of the law like everyone else. We want to have the same legal protections that straight couples do. If we get beaten up by some thug, we want to know that the scofflaws will be prosecuted. Hate crimes laws in effect treat people differently. A crime where there seems to be no bias, is treated differently than one that does. In essence, gays get special protections that others don't. As someone who has fought to be treated equally, I get disturbed about this.

I think sometimes the reason hate crimes laws whether they are based race, gender or sexuaulity are so popular, is that some think this will deter people from committing hate crimes. I tend to disagree. Hate is something that is irrational. I doesn't make sense, it is based on emotions. When someone chooses to gay bash, they are doing it out of fear of their own homosexual tendencies or fear of being gay. I really doubt that someone that decides on beating up a gay man is thinking about the consequences. Laws can't change the human heart. I wish it could, but it does not.

In a way, this line of reasoning coincides with those who think that the death penalty is a deterrent. Again, people who commit murder are usually not thinking about whether or not they will get the chair for this. Murder, like bias crimes, are not rational.

That said, it is interesting to see that the White House is threatening a veto on the proposed federal hate crimes bill soley on its addition of sexual orientation. I agree with Andrew Sullivan on this one: the President and his allies on the Christian Right can't have it both ways. Either hate crimes laws should extend to everyone or to no one. This "everyone but the fags" approach only shows how hateful the Christian Right is towards gays and how much the President is willing to lick their boots. Saying it's wrong to attack blacks or Jews, but that it's okay to pick on gays makes no sense. You don't have to like gay people to know that hurting them is wrong.

Jesus loved the sinners he encountered. It would be nice if those who claim to be his followers did the same.

Hate the sin, but love the sinner my ass.

Dale Carpenter explains why he is against the hate crimes laws. He's gay and he was gay bashed nearly 20 years ago.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Because It Worked So Well for the Republicans

The old saw among some Democrats is that the Democratic party is the home for moderates these days and that we moderate Republicans should just become Democrats. (Never mind that there are some major ideological differences between moderate Republicans and Democrats, but that's another story.) The underlying theme is that the Dems are more tolerant of differences than the current GOP. While I do agree that there isn't much room for differences in the GOP, one might be careful to see that the Dems might start becoming just as narrow-minded.

If you haven't read Jonathan Chait's piece in the New Republic about the netroots, you should. He has an interesting story about the "netroots." They have studied the Christian Right and how went on to dominate the GOP. They are fascinated by this and have sought to create the Democrats in their own image.

Three things have come to mind:

First, karma is definitely a bitch. The GOP might finally get a taste of its own medicine and it will not taste good.

Second, moderates in the Democratic party better watch their backs. We might start hearing about "DINOs" in the same way the Christian Right went after "RINOs."

Finally, in all that is true and right, are the Dems out of their freaking minds? Listen, the Christian Right were able to control the GOP and wield power like never before, but it hasn't got us very far. Maybe if there were more dissident voices in the GOP, we wouldn't be in this stupid war in Iraq. The other fact is that a Democratic Party that is only interested in attaining and holding on to power, will be just as bad as the GOP circa 2001-2006: a corrupt party making laws that don't really help Americans, but does help the base (ie: the Medicare Drug Bill). The other thing, is that the Christian Right created a party that doesn't play well with others. The Netroots are doing the same thing and the thing is, our government is set up in a way that for anything to get done, people have to cooperate and compromise. These days the partisans seems to frown on working with the other party, seeing it as tantamount to treason. Well, let's see what was done when both parties cooperated:

  • The Civil Rights Act;
  • The Voting Rights Act;
  • The Interstate Highway System;
  • The Clean Air Act;
  • The Endangered Species Act;
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act;
  • The 1981 Tax Cuts;
  • The 1986 Tax Reform.

These days, not much has got done. We are more interested in being right and pleasing a rabid base, than in actually doing something.

I wish the Dems would turn away from the netroots. But I think they won't and that's sad, because we all know how the story ends- we are seeing it right now.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Time to Make a Change

Andrew Sullivan links to a British Tory who is giving some good advice to his conservative cousins (read: Republicans) accross the pond, in the wake of the pounding we recieved in 2006 :

  • It won't get better. It will get worse. And it will keep getting worse until you do something.
  • You have to be very honest with yourself about what voters think. It may not be the same as what you think. Confusing these two things is very easy. Untangling them is vital.

  • Nothing should be unthinkable. Everyone makes compromises. Failing to compromise with reality is not an option.
  • Core voters will forgive a winner a great deal.

There is a lot to unpack here, but it all makes sense to me. Right now, the GOP knows it's in deep doo-doo, but I think it's scared you-know-whatless to do anything. I also think many of the leaders are living in the echo chamber that is the conservative movement and not really understanding what the public thinks about various issues, being Iraq or global warming. Just because one might say we need to start thinking about pulling out of Iraq or that we need to tackle global warming doesn't make one a liberal. As for the core voters thing, I think on the whole that's true. There's a reason that people like Tom Tancredo or Sam Brownback are not front-runners even though they are in sync with the base.

Will the GOP listen? In time, I think they will because at the heart of it all, a political party wants to win. That said, I agree with my blogmate Pete Abel in saying in might take till 2010 or even 2012 for the GOP to get a clue.

But why listen to me? I'm just a nutty RINO...