Thursday, June 30, 2005

The Anti-War Movement's Folly

Alan over at the Yellow Line has a wonderful post about the folly of an immediate withdraw from Iraq. The anti-war movement, which includes organizations like The National Council of Churches thinks that simply pulling out will solve the problem of Iraq. In more than one conversation with those opposed to Iraq War some have likened the insurgents as nothing more than people who are defending their country. I tend feel that the peace movement just doesn't get it.

As Alan notes, a pullout will not mean the end of our problems. He says:

...withdrawal equals defeat. And defeat doesn’t mean we all go back to living in peace. This is not Vietnam where the enemy will cheer our departure and then set up a government that never really troubles us again. No, if the enemy wins in Iraq, you can be sure they will turn the country into a terrorist breeding ground focused at launching attacks at the Western world.

Bush made a blunder by making Iraq a new front for Al Queda. But our leaving won't make it any better. I could see Iraq becoming another Afghanistan with a Taliban style government, and training camps that would prepare a new breed of suicide attackers who would wreak havoc in London, Paris, New York, Chicago, Los Angles, you name it. The Peace movement is showing a deadly navite if it doesn't see that danger in leaving without having a stable government in place.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

I Think the President Gave a Speech Last Night...

So, I'm a little slow in giving my review of the President's prime time speech on Iraq. I did watch part of it on PBS and then listened to the rest on NPR while driving to an appointment. Color me not impressed. First, why he still needs to connect 9/11 to Saddam amazes me. We never found any WMDs, unless they are extremely well hidden.

Second, I'm just saddened that he isn't committing more troops to this venture. What he did was give us more of the same and we will only get more of the same results. Bush is known for his stick-to-it-ness. He never wavers from the course set out. Early on, this seemed like a welcome strategy as opposed to his predecessor who seemed to change tactics every moment. But now, it is not so wonderful. Some people have likened Bush to Reagan in that he sticks to his principles. While there are some similarities, Reagan at least knew how to make deals and when to change course when needed. Reagan did enter a costly arms race with the Soviets, but he also reached out to them and cut nuclear weapons. Reagan was principled, but he was also pragmatic. Bush has principles, but he bound by ideology. He has committed on a course and isn't about to change.

I will say it again: I never supported the invasion. There was not enough evidence to justify this war. If we had solid proof Saddam was planning to attack us, I would be first among many to say, warm up the Stealth Fighters. However, now that we are there, we have to win. Bush made Iraq the new front in the war on terror and if we lose this, we will have a failed state where Al Queda can incubate. Cutting and running is not an option. I think Bull Moose says it best:

The President again restated the tie between the overall war against terror and Iraq. Whatever one thought about the link before the intervention, it is certainly true now. That is why we must prevail in Iraq regardless of the validity of the original claim. With all of his errors, mendacity and demagoguery, the President has led us to the point to where there is no turning back. His domestic political opponents are placed in a position where they must hope for his and our nation’s success. Defeat would come at an unacceptable price for our country and result in a precious victory for the terrorist foe.

We have to win in Iraq. But to do that we have to win with overwhelming force and establish some objectives that will be guides as to when it is time to leave. But our President won't do any of this. And we might be consigning a nearly 30 million people to a fate decided by Al Queda.

These are truly dark days.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Why the Left Sucks (Not that the Right is any Better)

Mark Satin has a great essay/book review about the failure of the Left in America. Satin is a former leftie who visited the "Take Back America" conference held in Washington, DC earlier this year. He had a less than glowing opinion of the conference and the current makeup of the American Left.

He then reviews two books and shares what are the common themes needed for any political movement. Points 8 and 9 are telling:

8.) A willingness to develop and express a coherent, shared vision of a better future. Muravchik praises the role played by big-think pamphlets like The Communist Manifesto (1848) and Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (1878) and by visionary books like Clement Attlee’s The Labor Party in Perspective (1937). Weinstein observes that early U.S. socialists often promoted visions of what a “humane, egalitarian, post-capitalist” America might be like. By the late 1960s, though, he argues, our movement had begun to break up into militant single-issue groups -- anti-war, anti-death penalty, pro-environment, pro-busing, pro-abortion, etc. -- and by now that balkanization is complete. The Take Back America conference could be seen as Exhibit A. (If you want coherent political vision today, look at the five radical middle books I’ve reviewed HERE.)

9.) An insistence on expressing the shared vision in the form of a few clearly stated policy goals. All serious-minded socialists have done this (until the present period). Muravchik gives inspiring examples from the Second International’s various “Programs” and Attlee’s Labor Party in Perspective. Weinstein gives equally inspiring examples from early U.S. Socialist Party documents: “compulsory health, life, and unemployment insurance; . . . legal protection of labor’s right to organize . . . ; nationalization of industries organized on a national scale. . . .” The reason you rarely see this today is that the far left’s goals tend to read like laundry-lists -- desultory and autistic -- there’s no overriding vision (case in point: the cacophony of “demands” made by the speakers at Take Back America). For a contemporary version of the real thing, see the the policy goals rooted in vision in Halstead and Lind’s The Radical Center (2001) and in my own Radical Middle (2004).

The reason that the Left in America and its main political party, the Democrats, are not doing so well is that they don't make any sense. They have no coherent vision for the future. It's one of the reasons that John Kerry lost last year. I mean, Kerry really had no other message than, "Bush is bad, and I'm not Bush." What is interesting is that it is the center that is coming up with ideas, but they don't seem to be heard.If you know a lefty, make sure they read this. Stop the Bush-bashing and Sixites reverence. America needs a vision from the left.

I also think some of this could relate to moderate Republicans. What is our vision? How does it differ from the far right or the Dems? I hear things such as moderates being fiscally conservative or pro-environment, but we lack a coherent message. What is our vision for America? What is the centrist Republican message on foreign policy? The poor? Gay rights? We need to find something that captures the attention of voters because right now, we don't have anything that does.

I think it would help if centrist Republicans looked at other moderate/conservative parties around the world for inspiration. One such example is the Christian Democratic/People's party movement. While it was based on Christian principles, it could be tailored to fit a more secular environment.

Here is a list of Christian Democratic principles from the Christian Democrats of Finland. Another one to look at is The Moderate Party of Sweden.

The Party is Over for One Guy

Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan: While I don't agree with everything in this op-ed (The whole Downing Street Memo is not the clear smoking gun that some believe) but I can understand his grief over how the GOP has betrayed its principles. It is a hallowed out party that no longer even believes in it's first principles. Those of us who are traditional Republicans are branded as traitors by the far right, even though they are the ones that aren't real Republicans.

I can understand this man's frustration. There are many days I just want to walk away and just become an independent. I've decided for now I'm not going to leave, but it is not easy for the soul to remain. The only reason I hang on is for something larger than my comfort: to bring a party back to the center. I don't think it's hopeless, yet.

If you want to see the spirit of the Republican party these days, we only have to see what anti-tax leader Grover Norquist had to say about some of the Republicans who were part of the "gang of 14:"

Speaking to the same group a few hours later, party strategist Grover Norquist lambasted three Republicans who broke party ranks over the issue of judicial filibusters. He referred to them as "the two girls from Maine and the nut-job from Arizona" – Sens. Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe and John McCain.

How wonderful. He makes a sexist remark, calling two women Senators "girls" and then disgraces a war-hero who spent five years in the infamous "Hanoi Hilton."

Conservativism should not mean being mean spirited. But it seems that this is the new GOP. Like the writer, I have to wonder what people will think of the GOP in 50 years or so. Odds are history will not be kind.

Addendum: Well, Charging RINO reports a fine retort from McCain to Norquist's comments:

"I assume he wants to provoke us, but it’s hard to work up much interest for someone who in his continued warm embrace of Jack Abramoff is doing a more than adequate job of marginalizing himself. Most Reagan revolutionaries came to Washington to do something more patriotic than rip off Indian tribes."

Good one.

Debt Forgiveness or Investment

Will debt relief really solve the problem of world wide poverty? Some think that if we just forgave the debt of the world's poor nations, then they would be able to spend their limited resources on health, education and other programs that would then help lift them out of poverty. I've always found that line of reasoning a bit too simple. Yes, I think it would be a good idea to relieve some of these nations of debt, but nothing will change if these nations are run by corrupt or inept governments, which is the case in some of the world's poorer nations.

An Op-ed from Canada's Globe and Mail highlights such concerns. The writer, Chuck Gastle, notes that when nations had their debts forgiven, the result was more spending by these nations, thus putting them into more debt. He also thinks foriegn aid alone won't help either. He notes:

But is debt relief and additional spending enough to create sustained economic growth within sub-Saharan Africa? The answer, sadly, appears to be no. Economist William Easterly points out that, between 1950 and 1995, Western countries gave $1-trillion in aid. He then created two tests to measure its effectiveness, the first of which was to determine whether there was a positive statistical association between aid and investment. Only 17 of 88 countries passed this test. The second test was to see whether aid passed into investment on a one-for-one basis. Only six passed this test.

He then took a look at debt relief, noting that total debt forgiveness for 41 highly indebted poor countries from 1989 to 1997 totalled $33-billion, while their new borrowing was $41-billion. On this and other measures, he notes that debt relief often is associated with an equivalent amount of new borrowing. If debt relief occurs in the absence of government reform, these countries may end up right back where they started.

So what's the answer to help these nations develop and alleviate poverty? Gastle believes a mix of investment strategies would make a difference, such loosening trade rules on such things like agricultural items. Nations in the First World have created an uneven playing field, paying their farmers subsidies. If Third World nations, especially sub-Saharan African nations could sell their goods on the world market, then they might be able to make some money. Gastle also thinks micro-lending on the lines of the Grameen Bank will help the poor as well as using whatever "wealth" the poor have already ala Peruvian economist, Hernando DeSoto.

In short, what's going to help the poor nations of Africa, Asia and South America is not aid, or charity or even debt forgiveness, but good, ol' fashioned capitalism. Of course this means the West has to give up its subsidies to farmers so that Africa can compete on the world market. It also means finding ways to help the poor invest and make money that can lift their families out of poverty.

I know that this method bothers some folks. They only see the bad effects of capitalism and think that if the government just spends a little more, things will get better. But you need both government and the markets to solve this problem. Government can and should be there to educate the populace, alleviate health problems and establish a strong infastructure. But it can't produce the wealth needed to lift people out of poverty. For that, you need markets.

I think at some point we have to stop seeing the Third World as a charity case and get them on the road to sustainability. I think a mix of capitalism and good government services such as health and education can do that.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Cut and Run?

Rick Heller over at the Centerfield Blog has a good post about new release from the National Council of Churches supporting a bipartisan resolution for a timetable to pull out of Iraq. Rick thinks this is not the wisest stragtey and has some choice words for the NCC. I would also agree that this is not a good strategy. Setting up a timetable might only make things worse than better. This would encourage the insurgents and they would then hit us harder to make us leave. But then, I fear that there has been a faction on the left that seems interested in leaving Iraq to its fate than anything else.

Of course, we wouldn't be in this mess had the Bushies used the old Powell doctrine of overwhelming force and defined objectives, such as how long to stay in Iraq. But then again, this wouldn't have been issue had we not gone there in the first place.

Sista Souljah, Part Deux

Alan, over at The Yellow Line has two interesting posts about the Rove incident. The first piece is about the Dems rejecting groups on the left that do fit Rove's definition of wimpy liberals like the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition. I think that's a good start, but I would also add Michael Moore and as well. The Dems need to do what former President Clinton did in his first run for the White House in 1992 to Sista Souljah. As you might remember, Sista Souljah was this rapper and activist who spouted some incidendiary and prejudiced comments related to the LA riots of that year. At a confernence, Clinton denounced her and her racist beliefs. It was seen as a moment where the Democrats were standing up to the far left that had hijacked the party. I think the Dems need to do that again with these groups that present the view that all Democrats or liberals are cowards.

Alan also has a second piece about how Rove's comments were a trap for Democrats. Good read.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Rove, Dean and Loose Lips

We seem to have a problem in this country with people who can't control their tounges. Instead of being simply critical with those who disagree with them, but instead these people decide to decimate the opposition and make wide sweeping generalizations of the other side. On the Democratic side we have people like Howard Dean who talks about hating "Republicans and everything they stand for," or about how Republicans never working a day in their lives. On Wednesday, White House strategist Karl Rove excoriated liberals about how they were rather weak on 9/11. Like Howard Dean, this was a wide swipe. Yes, there are liberals that are pretty weak on defense issues, but that doesn't mean you take out all liberals. And it's just a lie to say that all liberals were weak in the knees. As Alan at the

People like Dean and Rove love giving their bases "red meat." However, such rhetoric doesn't bring America together, it divides. Yellow Line notes:

All but one elected Democrat in congress voted for the military action in Afghanistan. For goodness sake, even FRANCE supported military action.

Andrew Sullivan notes:

Sure, there were some on the hard left who really did jump to blame America for the evil perpetrated by the monsters of 9/11. I took names at the time. But all "liberals"? The New Republic? Joe Lieberman? Hitch? Paul Berman? The Washington Post editorial page? Tom Friedman? Almost every Democrat in the Congress who endorsed the war in Afghanistan? You expect that kind of moronic extremism from a Michelle Malkin, but from the most influential figure in an administration leading a country in wartime?

He is correct. I would add the New Republic magazine as well. Yes there are a few who do excuse the terrorists. But again, that's not all of them.

And you might want to see what that pacifist Jeff Jarvis says.

This is yet another indication of the loss of the political center in America. The Deans and Roves of this world only care about the base. We need more centrists that can come forward and speak out, bringing more healing voices and less hurtful talk.

Update: Rick Heller of Centerfield makes a compelling argument for how Roves words were even more hurtful than Howard Dean's. He notes:

These are vicious remarks, and they are worse than Howard Dean's about Republicans. Dean's remarks were merely insulting, but they were not insidious, because no one would believe that most Republicans have never done an honest days work in their lives. What Rove is doing, by contrast, is a more calculated smear, conflating the sins of the far left, and applying them to mainstream Democrats.

I have agree. He has basically said the opposition are traitors-something you can't knowingly apply to all Dems.

It's one thing to criticize the Dems on foreign policy. I've done that. But I've never called them traitors. Rove should be ashamed, but he isn't. I'm saddened for how callous American politics have become.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Pity for a Bigot

Now that the trial of Edgar Ray Killen is over, I have a few thoughts on the trial and the murder of the three civil rights workers. There are tons of editorials and blog entries about how late this ruling is, how this will go a long way towards racial reconcilation and so forth. I think it would be fair to say that there is very little love for this man. I do find it hard not to have feelings of contempt for this man, and this comes from someone who takes the words of Jesus who says "love your enemies." However, when I look at pictures of Mr. Killen, another emotion comes to mind.


You see an old man in a wheelchair ravaged by age. But he looks far older than his eighty years. You see no hint of joy and happiness in his eyes. What you see is a life that has been shaped by hatred. He looks rathered distored by prejudice and bigotry. Eighty years wasted.

I pity him because he has chosen to live a life that was less than fuflillng. He put his energies into diving people instead of building up. I pity him because he chose to hate and that hate robbed him of life. He chose a road that lead towards death and that death happen long, long ago.

Mr. Killen will now spend the rest of his short life in jail. It is just and necessary. But I won't take any joy in it. Instead I feel sadness for a man who could have chosen to learn to love those who are different and instead chose a way that lead to death. This is what hatred does; it kills not only the object of that hatred, but the person who hates.

I never know if such trials ever really heal anything. There can't be any closure for such crimes, no price that could ever be enough. All we can say is that justice was finally done, and crime was finally answered for.

Support Fair-Minded Redistricting

Charging RINO reports that Tennesee Republican Zach Wamp has signed on to bill introduced by fellow Tennessean, John Tanner, a Democrat. The bill, called the Fairness and Independence in Redistricting Act. Under the bill, states would form bipartisan and independent commission to reapportion congressional districts every 10 years. As it stands now, redistricting is a purely partisan affair. Witness what Tom Delay did in Texas last year only two years after the state did redistricting.

If you want to know why there are so few centrists in Congress these days, you only have to look at how we apportion those districts. As someone once said, it used to be that the voters chose the representatives. Today, it's the representatives who chose the voters. The election of extremists on both sides have led to a Congress that is ineffectual and doesn't work for the good of the nation. Districts that were more balanced would mean electing representatives that have to work for all the people and not simply the far right or far left. The money quote comes from former House member and presidential candidate, John Anderson:

“It's just wrong to allow politicians to help their friends and hurt their enemies in what should be a public interest process. Seeking redistricting reforms in states can be valuable but too often is motivated by partisan calculations. We need national standards for elections that affect all of us.”

Adds Congressman Tanner:

“We must return to a fair electoral system that gives a voice back to the people.”

Amen. Please contact your congressperson and ask that they support this bill, especially if you live in a district represented by a moderate Republican. Let's get the House back to workiog for the people and not the parties.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Wise Words on Gitmo and Other Prisoner Abuse

"We can’t let the abuses, however rare, just pass into history. I don’t care if they were perpetrated by so-called “bad seeds.” I don’t care if all the problems have been 100% corrected. What I care about is that it happened. And letting it slide without debate, without seriously looking into it means we are willing to tolerate it. And we simply can’t be America and tolerate abuse. That’s just not who we are. Period."

-from Alan at theYellow Line.

The whole subject of prisioner abuse, be at Guantanamo, Iraq or Afghanistan has been an issue that has bothered me. It has bothered me to hear, and in some cases see, evidence of US personnel abusing prisioners. But what has set me off even more is the response of some Americans to the abuse. Every so often you will hear something like, "Well they behead Americans. Why are you complaining about what we do?"

This bothers me because we are starting to base our treatement of prisioners based on how the enemy treats us. It's lowest common denominator policy. That's wrong.

I am not some wimpy left-wing peacenik who rants about the United States as an evil nation. I take the war on terror seriously. And because I do take it seriously, I take how we treat our enemies seriously. America is a nation of laws and not of men, as President Ford once famously said. President Bush has said that the enemy hates us because of our freedoms. Well, our freedoms are not some airy thing, they are enshirned in our Constitution. A part of our constitution called the Bill of Rights guards against "cruel and unusual punishment." In short, we don't torture. Now, I know some will say that this only applies to Americans, but if we can't apply it to how we treat our enemies then what real meaning does it have?

America is a place where we believe torture and abuse is wrong. Heaven knows we are not perfect on this issue, but we try. The people we are holding in various places around the world very well might be criminals with intent to harm us. If so, we must punish them. But punishment doesn't mean abusing them. Their treatment of Americans is not an excuse. Septemeber 11th can't be an excuse either. We have to do this within the rule of law or else they will win. The goal of terrorism is to instill fear and weaken democracy from within. If we accept abuse, then we are bascially giving al Queda and the insurgents a wonderful recruiting tool.

Let's fight this war on terror, but let's to do it by the rules.

Monday, June 20, 2005

The Reformed Church in America: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished.

On Saturday morning, I got several emails regarding a Rev. Norman Kansfield. Rev. Kansfield is an ordained minister in the Reformed Church in America and was until recently president of one of the denomination's seminaries in New Jersey. Norm has a daughter who is lesbian and lives in Massachusetts. You all know where this is going. Last year, he married his daughter to the woman she loved. His reward for this was being let go of his job and as of Friday night suspended from ministry and stripped of his status as a professor of theology in the church. The suspension can be lifted-if his views fall in line with church teaching. (For more info on the RCA's position on homosexuality, please go here.)

I happen to know Norm. We've never met in person, but we have chatted by phone and email. He's sent me mailings of interesting theological articles. So for me, this is personal. Again I have to ask, what is so moral about going after a pastor who married his daughter? If he had disowned his daughter, would that have been lionized?

It's disgusting what people do in the name of Christ.

Men in Dresses. Brought to You by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels.

If there is any proof that we are seeing just how far off the mainstream the religious right is, one need not go any further than the latest action alert by Concerned Women for America. The Republican Governor of Indiana, former Bush Administration offical Mitch Daniels has a policy in his office of not discrimating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. For CWA, this is going to far. The lead paragraph in the action alert reads:

Indiana may soon begin hiring men in dresses in order to satisfy the governor’s affirmative action plan. That’s a possibility because of an April 26, 2005, policy statement issued by Republican Gov. Mitchell E. Daniels Jr.

Hmmm. Here in Minnesota, we do have anti-discrimination laws that cover sexual orientation and gender identity, and I don't see a whole lot of guys wearing dresses. I mean, I would have to shave my legs and well...I'm not about to do that.

One could look that this action alert and simply say that CWA is off its rocker and it is. But there is a deeper issue at work here. Concerned Women for America, is one of many that loves to talk about values and morals. So, we need to ask those who seem so hell bent on shoving people on me back in the closet, what is so moral about firing an employee because they are gay? What is so moral about letting six linguists who are fluent in Arabic go because they like people of the same sex, especially at this time post 9/11? What is so moral of not allowing the same sex partner of a spouse to not see their loved one when they are in the hospital?

These are the questions those of us who believe in gay and lesbian equality need to be asking. Far too often, the gay rights movement fights a rear guard action and simply talks about equality as if it was just a nice thing to have. I don't think we fight this as much with our hearts. Gay rights is not about special rights or about overturning society. Heck, what do gay people want to do today? They want to get married, join the Boy Scouts and join the Army. This is radical? My liberal friends might not like it, but the gay rights movement has become conservative. Not a Pat Robertson kind of conservative, but more an Edmund Burke style. Gays have accepted and want to enter the institutions of society, they don't want to turn them over.

For those of who are gay as well as those who support gay eqaulity, we should be asking those who wrap themselves in the flag and the Bible, what makes their crusade so moral. I'm a devout Christian, and nowhere does Jesus seem to endorse firing people from their jobs, taking their children from them or not allowing one partner not see another when they are sick. That is what we need to be throwing back at the religious right.

Friday, June 17, 2005

The Gospel of John (Danforth)

Charging RINO has an interesting post this morning about religion and politics. Being an ordained minister myself, I found it all worthwhile, especially today's Op-ed piece by for former Missouri Senator John Danforth. The Republican and ordained Episcopal priest, talks about the importance of religion and how some conservative Christians have used faith to divide and not unite people. He says:

People of faith have the right, and perhaps the obligation, to bring their values to bear in politics. Many conservative Christians approach politics with a certainty that they know God's truth, and that they can advance the kingdom of God through governmental action. So they have developed a political agenda that they believe advances God's kingdom, one that includes efforts to "put God back" into the public square and to pass a constitutional amendment intended to protect marriage from the perceived threat of homosexuality.

Moderate Christians are less certain about when and how our beliefs can be translated into statutory form, not because of a lack of faith in God but because of a healthy acknowledgement of the limitations of human beings. Like conservative Christians, we attend church, read the Bible and say our prayers.

But for us, the only absolute standard of behavior is the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. Repeatedly in the Gospels, we find that the Love Commandment takes precedence when it conflicts with laws. We struggle to follow that commandment as we face the realities of everyday living, and we do not agree that our responsibility to live as Christians can be codified by legislators.

He is right in that Christians are called to follow an ethic of Love and not rules. In the Gospels, we found Jesus reaching out to those that were considered outsiders and shameful people and loved them. It was the religious folk of his day that created rules that divided people. Jesus sought to unite people.

Moderate Christians need to be more forceful in showing their faith. Fundamentalist Christians have had the loudest voice and in the end make it seem as if all Christians are like them which of course is not the case. In the end it makes people think that Christianity and maybe all religions are full of narrowminded people who have no room for love.

I'm thankful for this oped not only as a fellow Christian, but also that a fellow Republican is speaking out against the Religious Right that has such a hold on our party, which too often is neither.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

NOBODY Expects the Fundamentalist, Er, Spanish Inquisistion!

Ximinez: NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our chief weapon is surprise...surprise and fear...fear and surprise.... Our two weapons are fear and surprise...and ruthless efficiency.... Our *three* weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency...and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope.... Our *four* *Amongst* our weapons.... Amongst our weaponry...are such elements as fear, surprise.... I'll come in again.

The Spanish Inquisition, by Monty Python.

Charging RINO reports that several leaders of the religious Right plan to interview the 2008 GOP presidential candidates. One can only expect that they plan to give the imprimateur to those who toe their line on issues such as gay rights and abortion. While I can expect someone like Bill Frist, doing this, I agree with RINO that I hope moderates like Hagel, McCain and Guliani stay far away from this group. No one really likes a candidate that basically does the bidding on a narrow special interest group.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Email of the Day, Part Two

As noted in the preceding posting, the GOP message has been hyper-distilled down to "standing for tax cuts." This problem is that this isn't even true anymore, given the Neo-Conservative tendancy toward paying for their form of social engineering by slashing and burning all of the programs created and supported by their Democrat rivals for the past thirty years.

That's not tax relief, it's just a re-distribution of public wealth to support a different cause.

Moderate Republicans need to re-define not only their own, pragmatic approach to taxing and spending money but the approaches of both right and left sides of the spectrum as well. The left has been labeled "tax and spend liberals" for years by the right - and with great effect. The right, however, should be labeled what they are: "tax and spend conservatives." We've got to divorce the notion of fiscal conservative from social conservative.

The Moderate Republican point of view should be based on a simple, consumer concept: value. We should support politicians who see a need for constant reform of how we tax and where we spend in order to make sure we're getting the best value (in terms of goods and services) for our money. This allows us to take the most appealing aspect of fiscal conservatism (e.g. "who, in their right mind would pay $700 for a hammer?") and marry it to a position of reform and creativity.

And we better be creative in our approach. Without creativity we'll get stuck in the same debate as the rest of the political spectrum and that will doom our Moderate message to failure. Our ideas and positions have to be bold, imaginitive and engaging to succeed.

Kicking them around on blogs such as this is a great way to test them out and identify the best ones for further discussion and exploration.

I couldn't agree more. Cutting taxes is not what makes a Republican: wise use of the resources (ie:money) government recieves from the people is. Just because a Republican votes for a tax increase doesn't put them in same boat with liberals who seem to want to tax for no other reason than to tax. I don't want to go back to the days when the upper income tax rate was at 90 percent, but I also don't want to have horrible roads or inadaquate police protection either. All of that costs. A fiscal conservative will cut spending as much as possible, but doing that alone doesn't always cover a debt. Raising taxes when necessary as well as cutting them when needed is a wise approach. Mindlessly raising or cutting taxes for no other reason than ideology is silly and an unwise use of resources.

One of the note. If anyone who raises a tax is not a Republican, then you would have to disqualify Ronald Reagan, who did raise taxes during his presidency.

Emailof the Day, Part One

If a Republican doesn't stand for tax cuts, then what else? At least half of the areas that government is in, it should not be in.

Another question. I'm curious as to why you refer to the "far right" folks who are mainstream conservatives? When I think of the far right, I think of David Duke, not Grover Norquist. If they are so "far right", then why do they control the White House, both chambers of Congress, most governorships and most state legislatures? Perhaps you are the one out of step with your party? Spoken by someone who is an independent herself (and leans Democrat), but come on here.

However, I concur with your urging centrists to be better organized. Definitely much needed.

Grover Loses in the Old Dominion

Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform, has been a thorn in the side of Republicans who happen to govern. His orgainzation oppose any and all tax increases and he goes after those who even think of raising a tax. Last in year in Virginia, several moderate Republicans broke with the party to support tax increases to fund some important projects. Norquist went after those legislators, finding far right candidates to challenge them. You would think that today I would be reporting that those six moderate Republicans all went down to defeat in yesterday's primaries.

And you would be wrong.

TheWashington Post reports that one of those six lost their primary. It was a stunning defeat in many ways. First, the anti-tax movement could only find seven people to challenge the 17 Republicans who broke ranks. Second, of the seven challengers only one brought down an incumbent. In another Washington Post story, it shows that while anti-tax PAC funded the challengers, centrist Republicans and business groups came together to form a rival PAC for the incumbents.

This second story had an interesting ending:

"The races are somewhat a test case of how viable this anti-tax movement can be," said Mark J. Rozell, a professor of public policy at George Mason University and co-editor of "The New Politics of the Old South: An Introduction to Southern Politics." "If we judge them by the criterion of winning primaries, we ultimately may judge them failures after tonight. If the criterion is their ability to foster debate and send a signal to incumbents, they might be considered successful."

I think there are a few lessons here. First, moderates have to be as organized as the far right and support centrist candidates. We need to see more moderate PACs out there that will support pragmatic Republicans. Second, we have to be good a crafting a message that reminds people of the need for good government services, like a well-running transportation system. While Republicans want to keep taxes low and reasonable, we have to wiegh that against making sure that we have an efficient government. Having low taxes but an ineffective government does no one any good.

I think the general public wants pragmatism over rigid ideology, but centrists have to be better at delivering that centrist, pragmatic message.

But last night we were reminded that moderate Republicanism is still showing some signs of life. Let's hope this is the first of several good stories.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Senate Apologizes for America's "Strange Fruit"

The summer between my junior and senoir year in college, I was getting ready to leave for a concert near Detroit. I was going with two friends of mine from high school, two white women. My dad expressed some concern with me going with two white women. I blew it off. These were my friends. It's not like there was anything going on romantically or sexually (which was damn near impossible since I'm gay).

But my Dad grew up in Jim Crow-era Louisiana. He was a little kid during the time when lynchings of mostly black men were common. I've never asked my dad if he ever heard of lynchings, but I have to think he did. And it must have played in his apprehension of me being a pal to white women.

Yesterday, the Senate apologized for not doing anything to stop racially- motivated lynchings. As the Washington Post editorial says, many anti-lynching bills were introduced in Congress and many Presidents urged for a bill. Anti-lynching bills passed the House three times, but died in the Senate because of southern Senators who were opposed to such bills, using federalism as their fig leaf.

So it was only fitting that two southern Senators, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and George Allen of Virginia, would sponsor a resolution to apologize for a past generation's lack of courage. An apology won't bring back the dead, but it will go a long ways towards healing our nation's racial divisions. Congress hasn't done a lot of the people's business as of late, but I'm glad they took time to do this.

Monday, June 13, 2005

On the Downing Street Memo

It's interesting how one sees what one wants to see. This "Downing Street Memo" is a case in point. It's hard to read what this memo meant. It could mean that the intelligence was being "fixed" as in set up or contrived, but it could mean something else entirely. We don't know.

But that hasn't stopped people from making this memo the "smoking gun" to show that Bush lied, about going into Iraq.

Now, I was against the invasion of Iraq. I remember no knowing if there were weapons or not, but I did think inspections were a good idea. I wanted the UN teams to do their job a little while longer.

Was the Bush Team lying about the reasons to go to war? I dunno. There is no hard evidence saying that. I think those who view the President not simply as a bad leader, but as some malevolent force, spreading evil throughout the world think Bush did lie and sent nearly 2000 Americans and goodness only knows how many Iraqis to their deaths.

I think Bush did rush to war without really planning what to do once we took over. And he has done a poor job after the invasion. Those things he can be blamed for. But this memo is inconclusive to those of us who want facts. To those who have already made up their minds, it is the truth. But then, it seems like they would be guilty fixing the intelligence around the facts, wouldn't they?

Dean Esmay has a great take on the Memo, as do the guys over at the Yellow Line here and here.

Friday, June 10, 2005

A Moderate Republican Primer

A few years back, Paul Peter Jesup, a New England Repubican who worked on the staff of Maine Senator Susan Collins, ran a website called, He has since gave that up, and passed it on to me. You can find it now at Jesup wrote a primer on just what is a Moderate Republican. It's a good description of what this stripe of Republican really is. We are NOT the "Republicans in Name Only" that so many on the far right claim us to be. You can find out about Moderate Republicans by going here.

By the way, I'm always looking for writers for the website. If you are interested, let me know.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

A Moderate Republican Manifesto, Part Two

Okay, here is part deux of my manifesto on what it means to be a Centrist or Moderate Republican:

Centrist Republicans respect and honor religion. They also honor the long standing tradition of separation of church and state.

Republicans and conservatives in general, respect religion. The church is seen as one of those important institutions that help make a society stable. Republicans also believe that people should not have to leave their faith, whatever that may be, at the door when they enter the public square. We understand that faith is an important aspect, no, it shapes a person's life. It can't simply be hidden under a bushel, but freely expressed, as the Constitution guarantees.

But our Constitution also guaratees, that there is not be a merging of church and state. It's one thing when a religion advocates on a particular issue, it's another when it starts to run the show. The current GOP leadership seems a little too cozy with one particular variant of Christianity. In a country that is religiously diverse as we are, we can't afford to only pick one religion. We must be a place where one can worship freely and where one religion can't use government to enforce it's agenda.

Centrist Republicans believe in a strong military and are not afraid to use it when necessary. However, Centrist Republicans believe in working with Allies instead of going alone.

It was the late Republican Senator Arthur Vandenburg, from my home state of Michigan once famously declared, "Politics stop at the water's edge." Vandenburg believed that partisanship should have no role in devising American foriegn policy. Centrist Republicans still believe in that approach. In this time that we face a threat from an enemy determined to kill as many Americans as it can, Centrist Republicans want to work with Democrats to fashion a foreign policy for this new 21st Century enemy: Al Queda and it's minions.

Centrist Republicans also want to work with their long standing Allies in Europe. While both sides may not always agree, they will work on ways to deal with common threats that will not damage relations. In the War on Terror, we need the help of France, Germany and Spain. As last year's Madrid train bombings showed, Al Queda is a problem for the whole world-not just America. As large and as powerful as America is, it can't fight this fight alone. It needs help from it's friends.

Centrists Republicans will also be willing to hear all sides when it comes to fashioning a foreign policy, be it through diplomacy or military force. Again, partisianship should have no place in the security of this nation.

More later...

An Open Letter to Democrats from a concerned Republican

To my Democratic Friends,

I'm a little concerned about you lately. Well, I'm more concerned about the person you selected as your leader. You need to find someway to rein in former Governor Howard Dean. To call him a loose cannon is putting it mildly. In the past few months, he has decided to fan the partisan flames by making wide generalizations about Republicans. He has said, "I hate Republicans and everything they stand for" and that Republicans have never worked an honest day in his life. Only recently he has said that the GOP is mainly a "white Christian party" ignoring the fact that many persons of color voted for Bush last year. Heck, the person writing this letter is a person of color.

NO doubt some of you like all this Republican-bashing. Of course, being a Republican, I'm not too crazy about it. I'm a Republican who happens to be gay and of African American and Puerto Rican heritage. I work 40 hours a week as a legal assistant and I also work part time as a minister. I stand for fiscal responsibility, a strong military, fairness and equality. You see, I don't fall into Mr. Dean's neat little stereotype. Republicans are varied and different, just like there are varied Democrats.

But I'm more concered that this shows a lack of ideas among Democrats. It might feel good to bash us Republicans, but what ideas do you have? For example, you bash the President's Social Security plan. I do agree it has a lot of flaws. However, you offer no ideas of your own, and we need some. The Baby Boomers are getting ready to retire and that will put pressure on the system. How will we handle that?

The Democrats have lost their research and development arm. In a way, you are still using ideas that were developed 40 to 70 years ago. The world has changed and you need to find ways to keep your values and yet do something new.

Listen, all this red meat might do well with the true believers. But it does nothing to reach out to middle America. How are you reaching out to the so-called "red states?" President Clinton could do that, but Howard Dean can't.

You really need to get rid of this guy. Yes, he has a loyal following. But all he is a cheerleader. He preaches to choir. You need someone who can help foster new ideas and who can talk to the family in Nebraksa as much as the single person in Los Angeles.

I say this because I think we need two strong parties. I don't agree with you guys all the time, but I would like to have an opposition party that presents a credible alternative. Right now you haven't done that.

I'm busy trying get my own party to become more sensible, so I can help you. So, you need to do this. Please stop speaking to the converted and make a choice to reach out. Take care.

-The Moderate Republican

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

A Moderate RepublIcan Manifesto, Part One

There's been a lot of talk in the Centrist blogoshphere these days about what is Centrism. It's all good. But part of me wants to get more specific. What is Republican Centrism like? Some Dems see moderate Republicans as cowards, and the far right doesn't even consider us real Republicans. There has been a lot of talk about moderate Republicans, but what is we should stand for?

Well, I have a few suggestions off the top of my head:

Centrist Republicans believe in Fiscal Responsibility. This should be a no-brainer for Republicans. But, we have seen how the current President and the current Congress continues to borrow and spend. Instead pursuing a sound fiscal policy, the party has supported a tax cut 24/7. We continue to borrow at a time of war.

Centrist Republicans believe in fiscal disciplne. We believe that while tax cuts are nice and can spur growth, they should not be done at the expense of future generations of Americans and not at a time when we have men and women fighting and dying abroad. Centrist Republicans would find ways to control spending and pursue a fiscal policy that won't leave future Americans with the bill.

Centrist Republicans believe in a strong economy and a strong environment. The two are not mutually exclusive. The GOP used to be at the vanguard of environmental protection. Teddy Roosevelt started the GOP's green agenda and it was picked up by people like Richard Nixon, who started the Environmental Protection Agency and also signed several landmark laws like the Clean Water, Clean Air and Endangered Species Acts.

But all of that seems like a century ago compared to the more recent record of the GOP. Republicans seem less green, tending to believe that breathable air and potable water are liberal issues.

Centrist Republicans believe free markets can make free citizens. But free citizens also need air to breathe and water that is safe fromn pollutants. Centrist Republicans will find ways to protect the environment that will not sacrifice jobs. Instead of focusing on punishing business, Centrist Republicans will use more "carrots" or incentives and only use the "stick" as a last resort.

Centrist Republicans believe in diversity and equality. America is a diverse, nation. We are filled with people from different ethinicites and religions. Centrist Republicans honor this diversity and want to allow people to express their unique individuality without interference from the state. Centrist Republicans allow gays and lesbians to live freely and to have the same rights as all Americans. Centrist Republicans respect faith and believe that all persons of faith, regardless if they be Christian, Muslim, Hindu or Jew, should be free to worship and they believe that government must not favor any particular faith, but allow for all people of faith to follow their consciences.

That's all for now. More later...

The Bush Administration on the Environment: Teddy Roosevelt Must Be Spinning in His Grave.

One only look at the President's views on stem cell research to see that the Bushies are bascially taking their orders from the extreme right. Well, now we can see that when it comes to climate change, it seems that they are basically following the wishes of the oil industry.

Today's New York Times reports that aide to the President has repeatedly edited documents concerning global warming so that it plays down the link between emission and climate change.

The aide, Phillip Cooney, who once worked as a lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute, heads the Office on Environmental Quality. This is the office that helps "devise and promote" the administration's environmental policy. There's no crime in working for the oil industry. However, it should give you pause when it lead the fight against global warmning. Here's what the story says:

The American Petroleum Institute, where Mr. Cooney worked before going to the White House, has long taken a sharply different view. Starting with the negotiations leading to the Kyoto Protocol climate treaty in 1997, it has promoted the idea that lingering uncertainties in climate science justify delaying restrictions on emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping smokestack and tailpipe gases.

It's one thing to be pro-business. The Republican Party believes that captialism can lead to a strong society and I agree with that. However, there is a big difference in giving business the freedom to grow and expand the market, which are good thing, and basically flaking for an industry. A leader has to balance the need for a strong economy with a clean environment. Teddy Roosevelt understood that. Roosevelt understood that preserving the environment was "a great moral issue." He knew it was important a century ago to perseve the wild spaces so that future Americans (you and I) could enjoy the our great land. He supported a free market, but not pure greed.

Creating workable solutions to prevent global warming is away we can help future generations enjoy this earth. However, this administration doesn't seem to care about that. It is more concerned that its donors get special treatment, than it is about the health of the planet. This administration talks a lot about a "culture of life" but I wonder how moral it is to bring up a child in a world affected by global warming.

It's not very moral in my book and not very Republican either.

Texas to Gays: If You Don't Like it, Leave.

"Texans have made a decision about marriage and if there is some other state that has a more lenient view than Texas then maybe that's a better place for them (gays and lesbians) to live."

-Texas Governor, Rick Perry after signing a bill allowing for a vote to ban same sex marriages.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Bush on Darfur: Every Embryo is Sacred, but not Every African

You have to hand it to the New York Times columnist, Nick Kristof. He has led a virutal one-columnist crusade to make the world pay attention to the situation in the Darfur region of Sudan. Today's column is a good one where Kristof is again asking our government to get off it's duff and do something to stop the killing. The common excuse given is that we don't want to see another Somalia, where American troops were sent and a resulting debacle took place that has been captured in the movie and book, "Blackhawk Down." The other excuse is that our military is stretched pretty thin, and we can't afford to send more troops to another part of the world.

But as Kristof notes, we don't need to worry about another Somalia or Iraq. The African Union already has troops in the region and has done what they can to stop the killing. What we need to do is not send troops as much as giving the African Union the resources it needs to to strengthen it's presence on the ground. The US could also lead by going to the UN and establishing a no-fly zone in the area to prevent the Sudanese from straifing villages.

The fact is, American doesn't have to send soliders to Sudan. We do need to send aid and a little leadership.

President Bush has talk a lot about a so-called "culture of life" but has done little to help those who are suffering under the terror of the Sudanese government and the janjaweed milita. Kristof nails it when he says:

Mr. Bush values a frozen embryo. But he hasn't mustered much compassion for an entire population of terrorized widows and orphans. And he is cementing in place the very hopelessness he dreads, by continuing to avert his eyes from the first genocide of the 21st century.

All I can say to that is amen.

Monday, June 06, 2005

The Opportunity Society:Revisted

A few posts back, I talked about the Opportunity Society, a move away from the New Deal/Great Society programs. When my partners at the Yellow Line talked about this, they were short on the details, but had some good outlines. If you are looking for something that is more fleshed out, you might want to read The Radical Center by Ted Halstead and Michael Lind. They offer some great ideas that will rankle both liberals and conservatives, but will offer delight to Centrists. I would also consider The Real State of the Union which is edited by Ted Halstead. This book is a collection of essay from Atlantic Monthly and includes policy wonks from the New America Foundation, a centrist think tank. I've read both and they give some great ideas.

An Muscular Centrist Agenda

Far too often, Centrists are accused of being mealy mouthed milquetoasts who have no passion and no core beliefs. I don't buy that, and neither do other centrists.

The Yellow Line, one of the best centrists blogs out there, if I do say so myself, has outlined what could very well be a centrist agenda. It's worth the read. Now, if we could just get centrists organized...

Another sign of "God's Own Party"

Texas Governor Rick Parry signed two bills yesterday; a parental consent abortion bill and one that would allow a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. It's not that surprising that he signed the bill; Texas Republicans are among the most right wing; but what is interesting is where he signed the bills. He signed them at a Christian School. The Governor's spokesman responded to criticism about the place of signing by saying that no one would protest if he the governor signed a bill at business or a hospital. He then adds a whopper by saying:

"It's not a political event. It's a bill-signing."

Can somebody please tell me when bill signings were apolitical? Of course this is political. He signing it at a Christian School, which is probably a very conservative school. Parry knows he can't sign it at a church (at least, not yet) but he can sign it at a place where fundementalist Christians would still see as a religious setting. It would show them that the GOP in Texas is committed to their values. The governor says as much:

"A church is an appropriate place to come together and celebrate a victory for the values of the people of Texas."

But whose values? Does he think all Christians think the same way? What about Jews? What about Muslims?

This is yet another sign of the GOPs increasing slide towards theocratic thinking. Conservatives should respect religion and I do like that the GOP tries to do that. But it should not get involved in religion, and it shouldn't pick sides. Sadly the party is showing that it caters to only one base, the far right. Parry's move will win him votes next year as he runs for governor, but will the party survive if it pushes itself so far out of the mainstream? The past few year have been good to the GOP, partially because of 9/11. But as 9/11 fades, and as people look to government to deal with social issues, will the center put up with the GOP's daliances with thecons.

Time will tell.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

"Opportunity Society" vs. "Welfare State"

One thing that has bothered me about liberals is there longing for Europe. American liberals tend to think that Europe is some kind of political nirvana, with womb to tomb care and where people sit in cafes talking about Camus.

Okay, I was lying about the Camus part.

David Brooks chats about the recent referendumns in France and the Netherlands concerning the proposed EU constitution. Brooks thinks that Europe is sliding economically because of its clinging to an expensive entitlement system that these nations can't afford anymore. Most American liberals want a wide array of government programs without thinking about how we are going to pay for them without slowing down the economy. The Democrats still want some kind of welfare state here, even though most Americans aren't that interested and even though such a system was more suited to an industrial era.

This doesn't mean that government should get out of the business of helping people. Sadly, pols from my party have taken to slashing the safety net and expecting that non profits like churches can help the poor. While I support limited government, one can't say that society must ignore the hungry or the person without healthcare through no fault of their own.

What has to be done is to pick up again the mantle of a "safety net" something that both affirms our market economy and also makes sure that people don't fall though the cracks when that market fails to provide for a person or a family.

The Yellow Line talked about establishing an "Opportunity Society" last month. There were no clear plans, but the emphasis is to create policies that would amount to finding ways to help people help themselves.

What I believe moderate Republicans must do is to fashion an idea where government doesn't get out of the way and doesn't do everything, but is a partner in helping people not become homeless or hungry or without health care. Maybe instead of crafting a large Canadian-style health care system, pols could fashion a way that health care could be more portable and maybe matched by the government in paying premiums. I don't know how or where this would lead, but Centrists need to find a way for government to provide help to Americans beyond the choice of Big Government of Liberals or the choice of ignorance or callousness from Conservatives.

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