Wednesday, May 30, 2007

So Sue Me?

Many apologies for the extended break from posting... regular posts should return shortly.

In other news, Joe Justice now has one more thing in common with Star Jones--I'm a lawyer.

I won't start charging for my posts though (JoeJusticeSelect?). Promise.

In the meantime read this Vanity Fair article about Crazy Rudy Giuliani and shake your head.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

St. Paul the Apostate

Ron Paul doesn't dare to play by the Culture of Countermand rules, and man it irritates Bush-mold Republicans.

Here are two of the aggressive questions Paul was asked in the last GOP debate, brought to you by two different anchors of the ever-balanced Fox News:

(1) Congressman Paul, you're one of six House Republicans who back in 2002 voted against authorizing President Bush to use force in Iraq... Now you say we should pull our troops out. A recent poll found that 77 percent of Republicans disapprove of the idea of setting a timetable for withdrawal. Are you running for the nomination of the wrong party?

(2) Congressman Paul, I believe you are the only man on the stage who opposes the war in Iraq, who would bring the troops home as quickly as -- almost immediately, sir. Are you out of step with your party? Is your party out of step with the rest of the world? If either of those is the case, why are you seeking its nomination?

Where to begin?

Most of the GOP debate analysis has revolved around the deeply misguided display of 9/11 rage from "America's Masquerader" Rudy Giuliani in response to Paul's answer to question (2) above. Paul essentially said American interventionist policies in the Middle East, going back tens of years (and probably more) helped to create deep resentment in that region against the U.S., a grudge of pure hatred, that undeniably led to 9/11. Rudy basically replied, "How dare you! 9/11 was not our fault! I was there! Take that back!" Ron Paul bravely and correctly wouldn't take it back (and he subsequently pointed to portions of the 9/11 Commission Report that completely supported his debate statements). Now some GOP folks want Paul out of the debates entirely.

The Republicans, as Paul Krugman writes so succinctly in his column for Friday, are all living in the "Bush bubble," and the party's negative reaction to Ron Paul's factual realism (and even the media's general negative reaction to Paul) reflects this horrible isolationism from reality (have you noticed that in the mainstream media Democratic nutcase Mike Gravel is just a sweet old guy bringing hard truths to his party, but Ron Paul is deemed out-of-hand crazy and not a real Republican?).

Listening to Paul in the GOP debate, and watching his treatment at the hands of Fox and the GOP (a team which Jon Stewart correctly called "redundant") it's easy to be convinced that it's definitely mourning in America. A recent Vanity Fair article claimed that the United States is quickly headed the way of Rome, thanks to our broad, thoughtless privatization that mirrors rigid quid pro quo governing of the ancient times, but it also seems that the unverified factual spin of Rome has bled into our modern discourse as well. Why have media at all if it allows the fight over Paul's mention of "blowback" and Rudy's subsequent attack to overcome any talk of the truth in Paul's words? It's not about blame, it is about accepting the consequences of history, and fighting enemies with hard truths on your side.

Paul Krugman writes today:

What we need to realize is that the infamous "Bush bubble," the administration's no-reality zone, extends a long way beyond the White House. Millions of Americans believe that patriotic torturers are keeping us safe, that there's a vast Islamic axis of evil, that victory in Iraq is just around the corner, that Bush appointees are doing a heckuva job -- and that news reports contradicting these beliefs reflect liberal media bias. And the Republican nomination will go either to someone who shares these beliefs, and would therefore run the country the same way Mr. Bush has, or to a very, very good liar.

This is why I haven't written much on the blog this week--between NPR's sickening Iraq reporting during my morning commute every day, the Robert Dallek "Nixon and Kissinger" book I read at night, and the general state of how the 2008 campaign is being reported--all image and cash, my friends--it's hard to imagine hope is on the way.

We've been here before. How did we get here again?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Snappy Warriors

In case you missed it, the Meet the Press page at the re-designed MSNBC website now allows for a free stream of the most recent Sunday program, and also allows you to view past programs or transcripts featuring the 2008 presidential candidates. It's nice to know that if I'm away from TIVO, I can still catch Tim Russert & Company in a few lies on the fly.

This week's guest was Senator John McCain, who poured on the instant grump with irritable vigor, even before the questioning began.

Russert: Our issues this Sunday: Our Meet the Candidates 2008 series continues, an exclusive interview with Republican John McCain. He represented Arizona in the U.S. House for four years, for the past twenty years in the U.S. Senate where he now serves as the ranking member on the Armed Services Committee. He ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for president in 2000. This morning John McCain joins us for the full hour on Meet the Press. Senator McCain, welcome back to Meet the Press.

McCain: You didn't have to say unsuccessful; everybody knows that.

That's right—Russert should definitely know that with the Bush Republican Party every failure is a Mission Accomplished, and every setback a sign of progress. McCain's curt comment was followed by a wan semi-grin, but phony smirks can't hide the shear exhausted nature of McCain's campaign this time around. His eerie smile was nearly identical to the one the Senator deployed after this statement about Osama Bin Laden in the recent Simi Valley debate, " We will do whatever is necessary. We will track him down. We will capture him. We will bring him to justice, and I will follow him to the gates of hell."


While McCain's testy demeanor is what instantly sets him apart from all the other candidates running, his confusion between conviction and demagoguery is what really makes him stand out. The Senator enjoys implying that his one-track support for the Iraq War makes him courageous, not an oppressor. The exchange that follows is long, but it explicitly reveals what has happened to political leadership under the arrogant reign of Bush-Cheney & Co., an arrogance that McCain has now adopted in order to lead a nation he no longer understands (highlights mine):

Russert: But, senator, the Iraqi parliament, a majority of the Iraqi parliament, has signed a petition asking for a date certain for withdrawal of American troops. If the Iraqi parliament wants it, a majority in the Congress want it...

Senator McCain: Mm-hmm.

Russert: ...then why do you stand there and say, "No, you can't have it"?

Senator McCain: Because it's my job to give my best estimate to the American people, no matter what the political calculations may be, as to what's the best in our nation's national security interest. Young men and women are risking their lives as we speak in, in, in Iraq. And I know that they will be in greater harm's way if we withdraw from Iraq, as we keep debating over and over and over again. And I know what's best, in my mind, in my experience, in my knowledge, in my inspiration, as to what's best for this country. So political calculations such as polls, I understand that if the American people don't continue to support this effort that we will be forced to withdraw. But it's also my obligation to tell the American people and my constituents in Arizona that I represent, what the consequences of failure will be; and I believe they will be catastrophic.

Russert: But the duly elected people's bodies, the U.S. Congress and the Iraqi parliament, say they want a troop withdrawal. That's more than a poll. Isn't that the voice of the people?

Senator McCain: Well, the--as far as the Iraqi parliament is concerned, the Iraqi government obviously doesn't feel that way, their--the representatives in their government. Second of all, there is some, a certain amount of domestic political calculations involved there in what the Iraqi, quote, "parliament" said. The Iraqi parliament has their ability to, to voice their views, and I respect them. And I, as I say, I--I'll repeat again, I understand how democracies work. I saw it in Vietnam. I saw it in Vietnam. And I saw it in Vietnam, the predictions, that everything would be a worker's paradise in, in Vietnam if we left. And thousands were executed and millions went to re-education camps. So I, I believe that, that the consequences of failure, and particularly sitting on the large reserves of oil they have, particularly considering the influence of al-Qaeda is concerned, you will see enormous destabilization in the region, and that's my duty. That's my obligation. It's not my privilege. And political calculations should not enter into any information or position that I take on, on a, on an issue of national security.

Since 2000, Americans have increasingly been told, on issues big and small, that elected officials (or appointed cronies) know best, and no matter what subsequent elections or polls portend, these individuals are not required to utilize the people's desires when making policy or spending decisions. Terrorism is the worst enabler for a governing group that thinks it knows best, because this governing group controls a majority of the facts that the people need to make rational decisions, thus the governors can exercise random impositions of generalities or fear in order to achieve their we-know-best ends. What McCain misses in his democratic calculation above is that while it may be his obligation to advise the people as to what is best, in his mind, when the people take this advice and continue to voice an opposing conclusion, that conclusion should almost definitely be heeded. The obligation is to advise, not to command. Once that advice is processed by the entire population and responded to, then a democratic leader must adopt that response and temper his or her decision-making with that reality.

The Iraq War has given the GOP another empirical opportunity to demonstrate their 21st Century philosophy, what could be termed a Culture of Countermand. From conception to death, the Republican Party primarily concerns itself with over-ruling the decisions, both personal and communal, of others, all under the guise of "we know what's best" or worse, of those illusory "values." Unfortunately, that is not government in the sense of administration, which I suspect the Constitution envisions, but government-by-domination. Government-by-domination leads to significant mismanagement, because pronouncements do not produce results. Americans can be told repeatedly that progress is being made in Iraq, that our homeland is protected, that No Child Left Behind works, that the economy is booming, or that our values are under attack from the Left--but these declarations are as useless as they are dangerous when it comes to government. A government of the people should not constantly inform the people that all is well, but rather constantly ask the people if everything is functioning as it should.

Apparently Senator McCain wants to take the Bush-Cheney philosophy one step further, adding indignance to the imposition. Bothered with having to explain himself he believes that if he smiles at the end of his annoyed declarations, then what preceded the smile will thus be beyond reproach.

He's wrong, and has attached himself to a failed approach to modern governing that is suffocating our democracy.

Everybody knows that.

Friday, May 11, 2007

American Legion

A new job, a slow news week and a general ebb in my political frustration level has left me with so little to say on here, it's appalling (to me).

But I found one tiny thing! Courtesy of Time magazine, please note the photo to the left--it appears Mitt Romney will win the Iowa Caucuses based purely on the ground-force his own family can provide. (Superficial note to Romney campaign: is allowing a picture like this to circulate the best way to alleviate voter's concerns about Mormanism?).

Seriously, though, their family Christmas must be awful for Mitt's wallet, no? But great for the national economy? Strikes me funny, is all.

More to come...

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Life Gets In the Way

To my few, dearly devoted... a fresh, long-ish post should appear sometime Thursday morning, PST.

Update: Friday... with apologies.

Until then, enjoy our President with the Queen.

Tea and cracker, indeed.

Monday, May 07, 2007

81 degrees by 9AM

It's getting hot out here... must be the residual heat left over from that blazing Republican debate in Simi Valley.

Or maybe it's just climate change.

This mini-heat wave is nothing compared to the hot seat John Edwards was placed in yesterday on This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Senator Edwards was asked about everything from Iraq to No Child Left Behind to off-shore tax havens. I briefly noticed some of the folks over at Daily Kos thought one of two things: 1) George Stephanopolous is a hack who attacked Edwards' relentlessly, and 2) the questions were fair and Edwards did a good job. I'd vote for camp 2.

The show got me thinking about presidential candidates who have personal histories filled with genuine professional risk, and the perils of having a president who never encountered a sustained period of life where complicated professional judgments needed to be made, judgments that implicated his or her bottom line and thus personal or familial security. Pundits from and other Right-based outlets like to harp about Edwards' wealth, especially the fact that it was made from his being a trial lawyer. They lament how his wealth either makes him unable to relate to lower or middle class voters, or even worse how his wealth in and of itself somehow taints his character. I am always frustrated that neither Edwards nor his supporters make a forceful counter-argument using the facts available to them.

From my experience as an assistant in a small plaintiff's firm in Washington, D.C., I have seen that being a trial lawyer is a risky and extremely stressful career. Such an attorney makes daily decisions to dedicate hours and hours of work to a cause or case knowing the financial reward is not guaranteed and, if any, is always delayed. To be successful at this, listening to clients and determining who is a valuable risk, demands a sustained patience and assuredness. To be successful at this and to be on the side of a low-income, aggrieved plaintiff battling a large, cash-rich corporation involves insane optimism and self-confidence. That Senator Edwards has never, to my mind, made the case for what his career taught him, and what his success required of him, is a sad oversight.

In a similar vein, I would love to hear more from Barack Obama about his community organizing days and how it fuels his current ambition (not just in the pages of his books), or from Hillary Clinton about her years as an attorney. Presidential candidates point to their public offices as proof of their worthiness and experience, and I am never sure that the existence of these electoral victories reveal much about their leadership or motivation to enact certain policies. In "real" life, when a candidate is interviewed for a job, he or she is asked repeatedly to illuminate past positions and decisions even more than why they want the current job. It would be remarkable if the United States could move past questions like "Raise your hand if you've ever owned a gun" when choosing a president, and worry a little more about whether the candidates have ever owned their own circumstance.

Friday, May 04, 2007

The Audacity of Water Polo

Sitting behind an SUV at a red light today, I noticed the US Water Polo sticker and for a moment was confused...

Grand Old Pity

Republican "revolution" poobah Newt Gingrich was on Fox News last evening quietly weeping over the way America picks a President. "I think that it is so absurd to have this much attention paid to an office that doesn't get filled until January of 2009, that I really think this is exactly the wrong model for this country," Newt complained. (Wait-- is he talking about America's Next Top Model? I was so pleased Britney got booted this week, what a whiner!). Newt also said this, "If anything would convince me to lean away from running, it was watching all of those guys with too little time, with too many Mickey Mouse questions from the reporters. It's exactly the wrong way to pick a president, and I think it doesn't help the country much."

Sort of like the 1994 GOP Revolution helped America?

The sad, listless state of the Republican Party is evidenced by the fact that men like Gingrich or Fred Thompson actually believe they can step in and save the day. Where Gingrich is all ambition, Thompson has none. While Gingrich desperately wants to be perceived as the policy wonk, Thompson is undeniably comfortable being viewed as a superficial hunk. If these two are the potential Party saviors, the elephant in the room is more than just an elephant.

Watching the GOP debate last evening, with the Reagan-hugging, Iran sword-rattling, the 3 who disbelieve evolution and Tommy Thompson's endorsement of firing someone solely for being gay, it was hard not to love Ron Paul:

MODERATOR: Congressman Paul, you voted against the war. Why are all your fellow Republicans up here wrong?

PAUL: That's a very good question. And you might ask the question, why are 70 percent of the American people now wanting us out of there, and why did the Republicans do so poorly last year? So I would suggest that we should look at foreign policy. I'm suggesting very strongly that we should have a foreign policy of non-intervention, the traditional American foreign policy and the Republican foreign policy. Throughout the 20th century, the Republican Party benefited from a non-interventionist foreign policy. Think of how Eisenhower came into stop the Korean War. Think of how Nixon was elected to stop them in Vietnam. How did we win the election in the year 2000? We talked about a humble foreign policy: No nation-building; don't police the world.That's conservative, it's Republican, it's pro-American -- it follows the founding fathers. And, besides, it follows the Constitution.

Take that, Senator McCain.

Newt Gingrich is half right--this is no way to pick a President. But not because we're having debates this far out from a vote. The real reason is that the Republican Party refuses to stand for anything but low taxes and War now-a-days. The media love to label the Democrats as issue-less, but that 2008 debate last week was filled with talk of health care, education, energy independence and removing the troops from Iraq. The GOP meandered around Ronald Reagan, abortion, morality, immigration, Iraq and Iran. One part optimism, the rest parts painfully aggressive absolutes. These candidates seem to forget there's an America inbetween the bedroom and the border that needs help.

Way back when, as Ron Paul reminded us, conservatives actually demanded a smaller government that stepped back from bedrooms, boardrooms and doctor's offices and let America function based on principles of privacy and true freedom. There was a lot to disagree with back then, don't get me wrong, but the old GOP wasn't spinning around a centrifuge of danger and fear. Last evening it was obvious the current crop of candidates share the core value of pandering to the Right, above all else (and no matter how silly-sounding--take it away, Mitt!). A party where Rudy Giuliani leads the pack (his abortion answer was intellectually insane and his 9/11 drum-beating louder than ever) is in trouble.

A refreshing moment came when Sam Brownback was asked if he would support a Party nominee who was pro-choice and the Senator said "Yes." This might have been a kiss-up to Rudy--funny how all these tough white guys are so afraid of Giuliani and Schwarzenegger--but the mere fact that one of the actors on stage revealed a side of modern-day realism made for a precious moment. The fact that Brownback is allegedly the most Christian Conservative of the bunch made it even more telling.

Perhaps Brownback can teach the rest how to proceed: nation-building starts at home.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Apples and Orange Alerts

How about some revisionist history for your Wednesday break... check out this exchange from Hardball with Chris Matthews.

Bill Maher on the GOP: The only thing the Republicans can run on now is the opposite--fear. It's the only card they have in their deck, it's a false card, but that's the only card they can play. They can't run on their record... they can't run on them being fiscally responsible people... they can't even really run on fighting terrorism anymore because the public doesn't think they're good at that now either. But they can run on the idea that there's a wolf at the door, and that we're the only people who know how to kill it, even though that's wrong.

Chris Matthews: The sad thing is, Bill, is you've got a lot of truth to that, but that's what Gore ran on against Bush--fear. Fear of what he would do to the economy, fear of everything that would go wrong, the lockbox and all that... and it didn't work. Didn't sell, did it?

Maher: Well... fear of the economy is one thing, fear of your life is a little something different.

My Second Veto

by George W. Bush

America, today I, the Decider, decided, and this decider said "No."

I simply cannot spread democracy throughout the world if I am constrained by democratic principles. The best way to spread the democracies is with the singular vision of an autocracy. There's no strategery here, just plain good thinkin'.

Some people say that we should retreat and sell off our children and our lands to the Canadians and possibly to Brazil. I strongly disagree. This veto will prevent the troops from having the funds they need to fight terra and thus terra-ism. The best offense is a good defense, and I always defend America.

The other day Laura said to me that I am like Russell Crowe in the "Gladiator" movie, standing up to the Democrat Congress and their horrible demands that I enter the coliseum of honest debate. Well, I ask you: are you entertained, America? Speaker Pelosi may force my veto, but she can never take our freedom.

This is my second veto, ever. My first was for the tiny stem cell babies, who deserve freedom in the same way innocent Iraqi stem cell babies do. But this veto means so much more than babies, it's about adults.

Adults that love freedom.

Four years ago I announced that America had accomplished the mission in Iraq. Thousands of dead Americans later, I think you can all see my conclusion was not only correct, but was true. The Iraqi government has made progress towards forming democratic institutions that Prime Minister al-Malaki can then ignore, just like I do here in this great nation.

One thing my opponents in the Congress say is that I am going against the will of America. But in the 2006 elections, the Americans resoundingly spoke and they said that it was time for America to win. And win we will. Victory is in the eye of the holder, and hold that victory we will. Our eyes are opened, and holding.

With my pen I veto this spending bill, full of pork and conditions and artificial timelines. Dates won't solve Iraq. We cannot tell the enemy we are leaving because they will only follow the troops home. And as you saw with Katrina, we are not ready to defend the homeland here. We defend it there so we can be offensive here, forever.

God Bless you America, and God Bless the troops I have now refused to fund.


The President

May Day Cracker Watch

April Showers bring May flowers...

White lilies, that is!

As viewed on the homepage at 945am PST, Tuesday, May 1:

White Guys: 16

White Ladies: 6

African-American Lady: 1 (next to a link "Politics of Race")

Courtney Love: 1