Monday, October 31, 2005

Alito: Trick or Treat?

The media and the blogsphere is abuzz with the nomination this morning of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. Already, those on the left are saying that Bush caved in to the far right and gave them a Scalia-clone. Listen to what Bull Moose says:

The Alito nomination is evidence that Mr. Rove is once again riding high in the saddle. The Rovian solution to all of the Administration woes is a to give a hot-button treat to the base and attempt to trick the Democrats into alienating swing traditionalist values voters. Meanwhile, folks will ask, "Scooter who?".

The politics of polarization has been the governing philosophy of the Bushies. It got them re-elected and it is the only way they know to govern. With this understanding, the Alito nomination makes complete sense.

After Hurricanes Katrina and Libby, the President has now found a safe port in a storm. That may seem to contradict the fact that we are entering the ultimate confrontation in Washington. To the contrary, this is the type of chaos in which the Bushies thrive.

But is Alito really the far right's dream candidate? Well, I don't have time to go in detail, but Jazz Shaw and Ann Althouse decided to actually look at his records and the picture that emerges is a conservative, yes, but hardly the predictable associate justice that Scalia is and at least at the surface, sure isn't deserving of the title "Scalito."

I'm not willing to jump on board and say "confirm him now" but I think I see something that says, this guy is way off field. Of course, we need to have the hearings to get a good picture of this nominee. However, I wish both left and right would not jump to a conclusion on someone without even looking at the person's whole record.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Speaking the Truth

They [religious conservatives] -- they want a political judge. They want a judicial activist.
This business about judicial conservatism and somebody who decides the law, that's baloney. I mean, that's what they should want. That -- that is what the judge should be, somebody who interprets the law and not makes it. But forget about that. I mean, these people are just as activist as the People For the American Way and all those organizations.

Former Republican Senator (and ordained Episcopal Priest) John Danforth.

There has been much ballyhooing on the far right about wanting someone who doesn't legislate from the bench and will simply interpret the law. Riiiiiiight. They got that person in John Roberts and they were pretty cool towards him. Of course this is all about conservative judicial activism which is no better than liberal judicial activism.

I don't feel bad that Harriet Miers withdrew her nomination. She was a pretty bad pick for a justice and wasn't worth fighting for. The fear though is that Bush will now pick someone so far off the mainstream that it will not only cause the Dems to go nuts, but will turn off centrists like me. I like Roberts because he has a moderate conservative judicial philosophy. He is willing to play umpire, which is the role of a judge. A friend is betting that Bush will pick a Janice Rogers Brown type and I tend to believe that's a safe bet.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Miers Out

Harriet Miers has withdrawn her nomination to the Supreme Court.

Charging RINO has the latest on this. As they say in the blogging world, developing...

The Torture Debate

It seems that my post about torture has touched off a spirited and yet civil debate about the use of torture in relations to terrorism. In another post, I debated with a someone who thought you had use such methods in order to prevent terror attacks. That brought this response from the same writer:

It is always great to engage in debate, and I thank you for taking the time out to read my comment.

First, quite frankly I don't care about the show. I do not dislike it for very legitimate reasons but have not seen anything on it that attracts me. The underlying issue, I am all for a woman President but think this show is a very shallow effort to portray that possibility.

Moving on to more important things, I am as outraged as anybody by Abu Gharib. I am disgusted by the outright disregard of human rights. I do however recognize that Abu Gharib was not a legitimate exercise in torture. It was not condoned by anyone of any power and was conducted in the secrecy of the night by one very screwed up unit led by an equally idiotic NCO.

Torture that I approve of, and I believe Dick Cheney does as well, is done in a controlled and concentrated manner by those specifically trained to do so. The CIA has such capabilities (to cite sources I would have to wade through various texts) and uses "outsourced" assets as described in various articles. Torture does not and should not happen or be condoned in large military prisons etc etc .

This is what Dick Cheney wants and this is what I see as legitimate means to protect the United States and its forces.

France did do it in its last counter insurgency conflict. Torture is a tool in an effort to protect one's populace. There is no abstract principle that outweighs that. That which is arguably the first major reason for the creation of government. Torture is a tool that has been proven in the French and Israeli Wars. If treating prisoners with respect leads to the murder of one of our citizens... We did something wrong.

And that is why I want to reiterate that I do not support, and do not believe Dick Cheney does either, mass torture. Just someone who can use a tool. And I doubt the CIA will publicly release information about detained, tortured and thereafter killed suspects as you imply in the scenario you painted. Yes this does bring up issues of a deep dark government that is not transparent to the populace. But that is something that has been happening for literally all of our existence.

Also hearing of Muslims being killed in detainee camps also has negative repercussions. Rather than solely driving terrorist recruitment as you state, it may also serve the same purpose as publicized failed attacks, would be terrorists see what happens if you try to fight back and don't join. It's as logical as your argument.

So there it is, and will probably be followed up with a post on my own blog, my argument for Cheney's amendment to McCain's amendment.

That then brought another response, this time from a frequent writer named Mitch/Mike who began his repose by quoting Sholky, the first writer:

Torture is a tool in an effort to protect one's populace. There is no abstract principle that outweighs that.

That abstract principle is clearly laid out in our own constitution, i.e. the inalienable rights of human beings based solely on the fact that they are human beings.

One other thing: Senator McCain was tortured in Vietnam. He didn't give up any info under duress, or even when they offered him medical attention for his severely broken leg. If John McCain tells me torture is wrong, I will tend to defer to him because I, personally have never been subjected to torture. But he has...he knows better than any of us what effect it has.

A frequent writer named Brian picked up in Sholky's thoughts regarding the use of torture by the French:

Sloky is right that the French used it in the last counterinsurgency effort. It's worth recalling that conflict.

Probably one of the most powerful arguments against torture was made by the French Gen. Jacques Massu. Massu was head of French forces in Algeria during the infamous Battle of Algiers (made famous in the film of the same name). French forces practiced torture in the Battle of Algiers and elsewhere during the Algerian War. So he would know as well as anyone the pros and cons of torture.

A few years ago, Massu concluded that the use of torture was not only unnecessary but ultimately destructive both to the French cause and the French troops who were doing the torture... and even those who weren't. Furthermore, he found that information extracted from torture was very unreliable.

"A gagrene at the heart of the republic," is how I think he called the whole mess. Torture debases those who do it and those in whose name it is done... all without a shred of evidence that it provides any benefit, let alone a greater benefit than the terrible cost.

Sholky responds:

Yes but he was talking about torture used as a generic tool and used across the board as "just another tool".
Cheney is talking about a specific sector of the national security apparatus being able to use the tool. It would continue to be banned in the DOD and other sectors of government. In a timebomb scenario, I want the ability to torture whoever necessary in order to prevent planes crashing into buildings.

I will give Sholky credit for actually showing respect in this debate instead of taking the low road. It is good to see people talking instead of shouting at one another.

I will end this post with one more comment, this from Paul in Florida:

There is no justification, EVER, for the use of torture. There are other ways of gathering information, better ways of gathering information. Torture is the work of lazy, self-satisfied bullies who only care about results, no matter the cost and no matter the consequences.
If we allow torture to be condoned in any way shape or form we allow the bullies to win. NEVER.

Thanks to all who commented.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Crossing the Line

I was looking around on Andrew Sullivan's blog when he linked to a horrible post by a liberal blogger attacking Michael Steele the current Republican Lt. Governor of Maryland who is planning on running for the US Senate next year. Steele is African American, as is Steve Gillard, the person who posted. Gillard altered the image to put Steele in blackface and then started calling him "simple Sambo."

I don't have to tell you how racist this is and like David Scraub, I am amazed that someone would even think of doing this in the 21st century. I don't give a damn that Gillard is black. He should know better. This is image was used by whites to keep us down and how dare he use it all in the name of politics.

People have the right to disagree with Steele and his policies. That is what America is all about. But it is beyond the pale to use racial rhetoric to drag someone down. If a conservative blogger had done this, people would have rightly demanded for the person's head. I think that liberals have to call this person out. What he did was wrong and no one, no one should have to be subject to this simply because they have different views.

Thanks to

Robert George for pointing this out.

Emailof the Day

Regarding my post on torture:

As in that horrible show, using the tool of torture earned results in the form of actionable intelligence. Those coming out against torture as disregard the immediate and tangible benefits of using it.


Guy tries to set off IED. We catch him. CIA talks to him to try and get names and locations of the rest of his cell. Choices: 1) sit around and slowly break him over a week, plenty of time for his cell to move. 2) torture him until he spits out the information and then toss him aside and kill 5 more bad guys.

It is great in theory to be nice to our enemies, but when boots are on the ground you cannot put them in a rut. Finding and catching bad guys one by one with independent intelligence sources is not the appropriate way to fight terrorism.

Everyone who faces the major threat of terrorism does it. The entire civilized Middle East does it. Europeans would do it if in our position.

Abstract principles are one thing. Preventing terrorist attacks is a major part of upholdong our principles.

Hmmm. First, I wasn't saying "Commander in Chief" is some great work of fiction. But, it was an interesting episode. I do wonder why this person finds the show objectionable. They never said why.

Okay, beyond that, I want to know what proof he has that torture has brought results. I was listening to a professor from Ohio who was in the Israeli Army. Even this gentleman said that what is extracted from torture is not usually correct. So, what happens if you beat some guy to a pulp and find out he gave disinformation or had no information?

The writer also needs to explain such things like Abu Gharib. Some of those who were abused, had done nothing. Was it worth it?

Second, the "everybody does it argument" is despicable. I haven't heard the Germans or the French doing this and even if they did, that doesn't matter. We in America have a tradition of not using torture. Those "abstract" principles, the writer talks seems to dismiss are enshrined in the Constitution. Please spare me the argument about how it doesn't apply to them. I don't care about that. It does apply to us as Americans. We have principles that say we treat prisioners with respect. Our principles mean nothing if we are breaking them to supposedly save ourselves. Also, to agree to torture then puts us in the same boat as wonderful bastions of freedom like Iran and China.

Finally, I will return the old conservative belief that "ideas have consequences." Yes, beating up supposed terrorists does feel good. But lets say we end up killing someone in detention. Maybe the writer doesn't care about that. But the fact is, the rest of the world is watching. Hearing reports of Muslims dying in American detention would only drive more people to join the very cells we are trying to shut down. Torture will only feed the beliefs of the terrorists that we are some kind of "evil empire." Anyone who thinks that toture would serve as some kind of deterrant are not thinking.

I know in the eyes of this writer, I am more concerned about being "nice" to the terrorists than I am to protecting us from the terrorists. Let this person think that. I am concerned about prevent future attacks, but I don't want to do it by shedding our constitutional liberties. This writer might think they are cumbersome, but they are what separate us from our enemies.

Veep for Torture

I finally had a Tuesday where I wasn't busy and was able to watch the ABC-TV drama Commander in Chief. This is of course, the show where the first woman assumes the office of President. In this episode, President Allen is informed of a terrorist being caught at the Canadian border. He was part of an Al Queda-style group who planned to blow up an elementary school in Missouri. Being that this was an Al Queda style group, they knew there were going to be simultaneous attacks within 24 hours. One of the president's aides kept saying that the US needed to get tough with the captured terrorist, meaning torture him to extract where the other targets were. President Allen is against that option and instead works with the National Security head to find the base camp that might shed light on the proposed attacks as well as where the other cells are located. In the meantime, the President allows for a more forceful interrogation, but said she didn't want to hear about torture. Long story short, the military operation was successful and the terror attacks were averted. But in the meantime, the terror suspect was tortured.

President Allen was mad. The female aide showed no shame as she said she took that to mean, she didn't want to hear of torture, not that it was forbidden. When asked if the suspect was still alive, she remarked barely. The aide argues with the President saying that the Constitution should not protect the "bastards." President Allen counters saying it wasn't meant to protect them, but to protect Americans, saying the use of torture harms our credibility. In the end, Allen fires the aide.

In the real world, we sadly have an administration that believes in exceptions for torture. In a stinging editorial, the Washington Post sets its sights on Vice President Dick Cheney's role in trying to water down the anti-torture amendment, sponsored by Sen. John McCain. He wants to exempt the CIA from the amendment despite the fact that the intelligence agency has been faulted for several lapses in human rights. The Post notes:

The CIA is holding an unknown number of prisoners in secret detention centers abroad. In violation of the Geneva Conventions, it has refused to register those detainees with the International Red Cross or to allow visits by its inspectors. Its prisoners have "disappeared," like the victims of some dictatorships. The Justice Department and the White House are known to have approved harsh interrogation techniques for some of these people, including "waterboarding," or simulated drowning; mock execution; and the deliberate withholding of pain medication. CIA personnel have been implicated in the deaths during interrogation of at least four Afghan and Iraqi detainees. Official investigations have indicated that some aberrant practices by Army personnel in Iraq originated with the CIA. Yet no CIA personnel have been held accountable for this record, and there has never been a public report on the agency's performance.

The paper then note's the veep's past role in the treatment of enemies:

It's not surprising that Mr. Cheney would be at the forefront of an attempt to ratify and legalize this shameful record. The vice president has been a prime mover behind the Bush administration's decision to violate the Geneva Conventions and the U.N. Convention Against Torture and to break with decades of past practice by the U.S. military. These decisions at the top have led to hundreds of documented cases of abuse, torture and homicide in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Cheney's counsel, David S. Addington, was reportedly one of the principal authors of a legal memo justifying the torture of suspects. This summer Mr. Cheney told several Republican senators that President Bush would veto the annual defense spending bill if it contained language prohibiting the use of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by any U.S. personnel.

The editorial goes on to say that the Senate ignored the Vice President's threats and overwhelmingly past the McCain Amendment. The Post had words of praise for the Senate and these words pertaining to Cheney's legacy:

As for Mr. Cheney: He will be remembered as the vice president who campaigned for torture.

I've heard some say that in light of what happened on 9/11, these guys had it coming. But then, taking that approach suggest we are interested in vengance, not justice.

But that is what the Bush Administration has done. They have made this personal, forgetting that there is something larger at stake: our reputation. Our use of torture weakens any argument we have against the terrorists and will only produce more recruits for Al Queda, not less.

Principles matter. If they can't matter in times of crisis, then one wonders if they ever do matter.

What is annoying is that no one has be punished for these abuses save some low-level officers. I guess to paraphrase the memorable quote from the movie Love Story: being part of the Bush Administration means never having to say you are sorry.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

More on "Bird Flu"

Anne Applebaum has a great op-ed in the Washington Post about the American response to the Avian Flu and its potential threat to humanity. She focuses on a few problems that don't allow the government to handle this potential situation in the right way. I want to focus on one of them.

Applebaum talks about the general disgust people have with pharmaceutical companies. I personally think some of it is well deserved, given the amount of money the charge the American consumer and also how they have kept disturbing news from the American public (ie: Merck with Vioxx).

With that said, it has been "Big Pharma" that has come up with some wonderful drugs that have helped people. Currently, I'm on two antidepressants and Lipitor, the cholesterol-lowering drig. The pharmacuetical companies have their drawbacks, but they also make drugs that improve people's health. We need to find ways to get them to produce drugs and vaccines that can innoculate us from pandemics, whether it's the bird flu or smallpox release by a terrorist group. That means the government might have to give them some money to aid in their research. Yes, you may not like giving money to a big company like Pfizer, but they maybe what stands between us and something ala The Stand.

I would also add that I think Congress and the President need to get cracking on passing some kind of bill that gives pharmacueticals immunity from litigation. This is one of the reasons the drug companies don't do much by way of vaccine work. Anyone can tell you that any vaccine runs the risk of affecting the people who take it. That leads to people then wanting to sue the company who makes a vaccine for whatever disease, which then leads companies to abandon research. Lawyers and some anti-corperate groups might not like it, but there needs to be some kind of shield or at least limit from lawsutis to allow these companies to make vaccines.

Vaccines are important. We have seen them end polio and other childhood diseases and even deadly ones like smallpox. Many are saying that the only way to stop AIDS is to develop a vaccine. So, government should be working with drug companies on this. I know this phrase is overused, but we need a "Manhattan Project" to combabt bio threats. We need to have plans so that as Applebaum said, vaccines can be made in weeks, not months of an outbreak.

Let's stop planning short term and let's look down the road instead.

Talk About a Faith Budget

via Andrew Sullivan is an interesting take on the lack of fiscal responsibility from today's so-called Republican leadership. This comes from an interview with former Senator, Connie Mack, who is President Bush's "go to" guy on tax reform. This is the money quote:

Q:Well, the U.S. government has to get money from somewhere. As a two-term former Republican senator from Florida, where do you suggest we get money from?

A:What money?

Q:The money to run this country.

A:We'll borrow it.

Q:I never understand where all this money comes from.

When the president says we need another $200 billion for Katrina repairs, does he just go and borrow it from the Saudis?

A:In a sense, we do. Maybe the Chinese.

Q:Is that fair to our children? If we keep borrowing at this level, won't the Arabs or the Chinese eventually own this country?

A:I am not worried about that. We are a huge country producing enormous assets day in and day out. We have great strength, and we have always adjusted to difficulties that faced us, and we will continue to do so.

Mack seems to be saying just to have faith that everything will work out. That works in my line of work as a pastor, but when you are a politician, faith won't do.

Mack seems to think that America will always be the most powerful country and will always have a strong economy. But the future isn't promised to us. This might bother some on the far right, but we will not always be a superpower. Things change. A century ago, the British Empire was strong and one of the world's superpowers at that time. The wave of anti-colonialism and the rise of new nations from former colonies, brought an end to Britian role as a superpower. Britian is still a power in the world, of course, but it is not the power it was back in 1905.

Or take Spain. Back in the 1500s, it was the leading power of the day-until the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588.

Countries ascend and descend all the time. The United States is sadly not immune to this. I don't ever forsee us not being an important power, but we may not be a superpower. All one has to do is look to China and maybe India as the next superpowers.

This also means, we may not have as commanding an economy. It will always be huge, but let's face it: China is bigger and it's economy is growing. Other countries like South Korea are forging ahead on technologies like stem cell research that we are not moving ahead on.

This is a long way of saying that we can't rely on our position in the world as some kind of IOU. But sadly, we can't expect that the Republicans anymore will be the ones who really worry about the future. My party is acting like a spoiled teenager with a credit card, spending left and right and expecting "daddy" to pay for it. This party has become so allergic to the word "tax" that they can't think of placing a tax. Taxes are only to be cut and if government has to pay something, just charge it on the credit card.

One hopes the Democrats would be more fiscally conservative, but since the Clintonistas are no longer in power, I have very little hope that the Dems now controlled by the Dean/MoveOn faction will be interested in placing America on a sound fiscal path.

We really need another Ross Perot. And soon.

Rosa Parks: 1913-2005

Cross-posted on Oscar the Pastor:

Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant, Rosa. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive her into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Flu Fears

I happen to watch the season premiere of South Park last night as it took on all the Katrina mess and press (and blogger)irresponsibility. The gist of the episode is that Kyle and Cartman steal a boat and crash it into a beaver dam thereby flooding the town of Beaverton. Everyone decides to play the blame game, ignoring the poor citizens of Beaverton. The news media decides that global warming is to blame and everyone goes nuts running around the town fearing that global warming is upon them. The press widly exaggerates that million have died and only add more fuel to the paranioa.

I bring this up, because that's what I'm feeling when people are talking about the H5N1 virus that is affecting chickens in Asia. This week, it was found in Europe and it might not be too long before we find cases of it affecting chickens in North America.

I want to say off the top, that we should be concerned. This virus could become as bad as the 1918 virus that everyone talks about. So, public health officials world wide should start planning for something.

However, I feel that people are going overboard with this, just as the residents of South Park did last night. Reminiscent of some of the outrageous statistics from Katrina, where New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said 10,000 people could have died, we have people from the World Health Organization saying 150 million could die worldwide and 7 or 8 million could die in the US alone.

Andrew Sullivan, who seems to not be concerned when poor people developing countries are denied HIV retrovirals because of patents, seems prefectly willing to have the government come in a break the patent that Swiss pharmaceutical Roche has with the antiviral drug, Tamiflu. That's consistent, Andrew.

Again, we need to be vigilant, but we also need to put this in some perspective. First only 60 people have caught the virus and died from it. Second, it is still hard to catch even when it has been trasmitted person to person. Third, this might be the virus that becomes the superflu, but it also might die out.

This article in the Washington Post offers a reality check to the Avian Flu. It's a good read and worthwhile.

Andrew Sullivan's reaction reminds me of something. Right now, AIDS a pandemic that is taking place under our noses, is killing scores in Africa. Kids are living without parents who have succumbed to the disease. Yet, I don't see the world sounding the alarm. However, we devote much ink on a virus that might be a threat, but might not be. It might affect us, but maybe be not.

I'm not saying we should ignore the Avian Flu. But I wish we were as worried about the AIDS pandemic in developing countries as we are about this.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Judgement at the Green Zone

Today, is the day that a lot of people, especially many Iraqis, have been waiting for: the trial of Saddam Hussein. It is good to see a tryrant be brought to justice and yet there are some concerns about how the trial is going to be conducted. Some human rights groups are concerned if this will be a fair trial. Blogger Bull Moose seems to wave away some of these concerns:

Many have quibbled with the trial of Saddam Hussein. Some who normally promote the trial of war criminals, take offense with the perceived flaws in the Iraqi justice system. Some believe that it is a Shiite/Kurd vendetta against the Sunnis. Heaven forbid! Those populations have suffered immeasurably over the past twenty years and now some urge that we must be hyper-sensitive to not offend their former oppressors.

The souls of Halabja who died in agony must feel differently. The Marsh Arabs must be satisfied. The long suffering Kurds must get immense pleasure watching one of their own sit in judgment of Saddam. And progressives who stand with the oppressed should be pleased.

Well true, we should all be pleased that a bully is getting his just desserts, but don't we need to be concerned with making sure that we are applying justice on Saddam and not simply revenge?

One of the "quibblers," Human Rights Watch, has issued a report airing its concerns that the trial of the Arab dictator might not be viewed as fair. The problems includes:

• No requirement to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
• Inadequate protections for the accused to mount a defense on conditions equal to those enjoyed by the prosecution.
• Disputes among Iraqi political factions over control of the court, jeopardizing its appearance of impartiality.
• A draconian requirement that prohibits commutation of death sentences by any Iraqi official, including the president, and compels execution of the defendant within 30 days of a final judgment.

It should also be noted that Human Rights Watch is not a lover of the former regime. They too want justice:

Human Rights Watch has spent years documenting the crimes of Saddam's regime and has repeatedly called for the perpetrators of these atrocities to be brought to justice. On the basis of our field research on the extermination of the Kurds, I spent a year in 1994 trying to persuade governments to bring a case of genocide against the Iraqi state. So we welcome efforts to investigate and prosecute former Iraqi leaders. But the evolution of the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal over the last two and a half years has given rise to serious concerns about its capacity to conduct fair trials.

So, why should people care about giving a fair trial to one of humanity's most heinous leaders?

Because how he is treated will affect the future of Iraq and the Middle East. If this trial is nothing more than a show trial or a way of getting back at Saddam or the Sunni minority, then there will be resentment among Sunnis and no chance for reconcilation and healing. Saddam may not deserve a fair trial, but if we want Iraq to a nation established under the rule of law, it has to be fair and impartial. If it follows the rule of established international law, then it will rob Sunnis of any chance to claim victimhood and hopefully move forward. Do it wrong, and it will only exacerbate ethnic tensions.

I think it's wrong for Bull Moose to assume that those who have some issue with how the trial is being conducted don't care about those who suffered immensely under Saddam. Groups like Human Rights Watch have worked hard to bring such atrocities to justice at a time when most of the world, including the United States were turning a blind eye. These people are passionate about bringing wrongdoers to justice, but they want it done in a way that is fair. They want to stress justice and not vengence.

I would feel better had Saddam been tried by some UN Court in the Hague, or if there was some UN/Iraqi hybrid court, but that isn't going to happen. In the end, a flawed trial is better than no trial at all.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Quote of the Day

"During the 18 years I served in the Senate, Republicans often disagreed with each other. But there was much that held us together. We believed in limited government, in keeping light the burden of taxation and regulation. We encouraged the private sector, so that a free economy might thrive. We believed that judges should interpret the law, not legislate. We were internationalists who supported an engaged foreign policy, a strong national defense and free trade. These were principles shared by virtually all Republicans.

But in recent times, we Republicans have allowed this shared agenda to become secondary to the agenda of Christian conservatives. As a senator, I worried every day about the size of the federal deficit. I did not spend a single minute worrying about the effect of gays on the institution of marriage. Today it seems to be the other way around."

Former Republican Senator John Danforth.

I am reminded of these words thanks to Booker Rising. This quote is related to something blogger Bull Moose said today. In talking about the current rifts in the GOP over the Miers nomination he said this:

Who can bring this party back together again? Or will a new GOP emerge from this fratricidal war?

My hope is on a new GOP. The Bushies and the far right have done enough to pull the GOP away from the party Danforth describes. I think this will happen when people like John Danforth and Christie Todd Whitman get some courage and speak out. I'm thankful that these two former public servants have decided to stand up and be counted. They are presenting an alternative vision of the GOP, one that existed, but has gone out of favor long ago. Moderates need to present an articulate version of a new centrist GOP. It's my hope that there are others who are willing to do that.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Take from the Poor to Give to the Poor

National Public Radio has a good story about an attempt to stem the tide of red ink by cutting programs that affect the poor while leaving tax cuts intact. What is fascinating is that this is shaping a battle royale not only between liberals and conservatives, but also between moderate and conservative Republicans. The moderates want to put everything on the table including tax cuts, while the conservatives are balking at that idea.

My own view: sacrifice the tax cuts. Tax cuts are not a bad thing, but in a time when the feds will have to spend big bucks to rebuild a major American city, it seems rather unfair to balance the budget without asking upper income Americans to bear some of the burden. The Bush Amdinistration has spent money like there wasn't a tomorrow. However, it is wrong to say that they poor have to pay for the reckless spending by the Bushies, while leaving the rich barely affected. Balance the budget, but make sure everyone pays, not just the poor.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Black and Gay: Some Questions

Shay, over at Booker Rising, has an interesting response to a post I made one Tuesday about how straight Republicans need to speak out more against the anti-gay right. In that post I said this:

The reason the GOP started was on the cause of equality for African Americans. It is a shame that 150 years later, this party is making a name for itself by supporting discrimination for another group.

That quote brought this reaction from Shay:

While I support gay rights, to equate the black quest for civil rights with the gay quest is highly problematic. Race is generally quite visible, sexual orientation generally is not. Race is genetic, while sexual orientation is at least partly out of choice. Such leeching off black history also turns off potential black supporters.

Now, I wasn't intentionally trying to link the two together. What I was trying to say is the Republican party was founded on the premise that African Americans were people and should be treated as equals. That has been the heritage of this party. Now, it is being known for discrimination against another group. To me, that seems odd.

Some African Americans get a little peeved when white gay leaders try to tie the two movements for equality. I can understand to a point, because there are some differences. Foremost is the fact that blacks can't hide who they are while gays can.

However, one would be remiss to not see the similarities. Both groups have not been treated as equals by the larger society. Both have been prevented from doing things such as marrying.

Also, I think it's a little hypocritical for African Americans to get all in a huff about gays "leeching" on black history, when we have done the same thing in regards to Jews. How long did we see ourselves like the Israelites slaves of old seeking to be let loose from the shackles of Pharoah? I haven't seen any Jews saying we should stop linking the two.

I also think there is a bit of homophobia involved. This is the dirty, little secret in the black community. Whenever there is a stink about something relating to gays, the race card is used. You will hear a lot about white gay leaders as if black gays like myself don't exist. There are black gays like me, who can see the links. My not being able to marry is similar to my Dad not being able to eat a restaurant or sleep in hotel. They are not the same, but they are similar. I think many blacks still see homosexuality as some kind of evil plan by whites to kill of blacks.

Shay talks about how linking black and gay rights might turn off black folk. But, how are they going to get involved in working for justice if they don't have something to relate to? In my view, those who don't like the linking of gay rights to the struggle for African American rights, are dealing more with their own homophobia. If you think being gay is sinful and dirty, then you don't want to talk about the similarities between the two civil rights movements.

I'm not saying there is no racism in the gay community. It's full of humans and there are a lot of white gays so, yeah, there is some racism. But please, some black people need get over themselves and check yo'self. Gays, no matter their race or color, want to be left alone and not have the government trying to bar them from living their lives. Black folk should get the chips off their shoulders and work with gays for equality or else be honest and say they don't like gay people. But stop this don't-link-black-history-with-gay-rights-talk. This has less to do with the sensitivties of blacks than with some people's homophobia.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Kanye West Inverted: Black People Don't Care About George Bush

The poll also revealed overwhelming opposition to Bush among African-Americans. Only two percent said they approved of his performance as president, the lowest level ever recorded in that category, NBC television reported.

Two percent? You have to wonder who they are and what are they smoking. He lost me a loooong time ago, sadly.

Special hat tip to Andrew Sullivan.

The Miers Meltdown

Well, if I was wary about selecting Miers, I'm now more and more opposed to her selection, especially after yesterday's announcement by President Bush that one of the primary reasons Ms. Miers was selected was because of her faith. Here's what he said to reporter yesterday:

"People ask me why I picked Harriet Miers...They want to know Harriet Miers's background. They want to know as much as they possibly can before they form opinions. And part of Harriet Miers's life is her religion."

Whoa, flag on the play.

Now being a minister, I don't hide my faith. I'm openly share with people that I am a Christian. That is one of the beauties of American society; people can openly worship whatever God they choose (or no God at all). Religion is one of the strengths of American society and that should be celebrated. But, this all said, I don't really care if a Supreme Court justice has a faith background or not. It's not important to the position.

The president is of course trying to persuade his base and has dropped the whole "wink and nod" approach that gave quiet assurances to the far right that this person was "one of them." But this will fail because such rhetoric scares the sensible center. We are opposed to faith, but we don't want our government officials, especially those who are going be deciding major constitutional issues, to be chosen primarily on their faith. I want to know if they have the accumen to handle the job. I don't care if she has gone to church every Sunday or hasn't gone since last Christmas. The only place where religion should matter is...well in a job like mine.

Of course, some on the religious right who imagine a Taliban on the Potomac are saying that the Senate better vote for a Christian. Here is what the Reverend Pat Robertson said:

Television evangelist Pat Robertson warned Republican senators not to vote against Miers, noting that most of them had voted for Ruth Bader Ginsburg -- whom Robertson described as a former American Civil Liberties Union lawyer -- when she was nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1993. "Now they're going to turn against a Christian who is a conservative picked by a conservative president and they're going to vote against her for confirmation?" he asked on his show. "Not on your sweet life if they want to stay in office."

This should make anybody nervous. We are America, not Iran. A person's faith should not be a factor in picking a new justice to the nation's highest court.

The more I hear about Miers and Bush, the more I can't support this nomination. Start over, Mr. Bush and find a justice in the mold of John Roberts.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Republican Road to Perdition

The Washington Post has a spot-on commentary by columnist David Ignatius about how the Republican party has failed to be a governing party even though they are dominant in Congress and in the White House. He talks about all the woes afflicting the party as self-inflicted. He notes:

The Republicans come to their present troubles from different directions: President Bush thought he was making a safe, pragmatic choice in nominating Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, but this soulless maneuver enraged the party's right wing and set it on a fratricidal binge. Tom DeLay thought he was ramrodding a permanent Republican government, but he managed to get himself indicted and, well before that calamity, had angered House Republicans who concluded that "The Hammer's" leadership style was marching them off a cliff. Looming over all these little problems is the crucible of Iraq.

What's interesting is that most of these wounds are self-inflicted. They draw a picture of a party that, for all its seeming dominance, isn't prepared to be the nation's governing party. The hard right, which is the soul of the modern GOP, would rather be ideologically pure than successful. Governing requires making compromises and getting your hands dirty, but the conservative purists disdain those qualities. They swim for that beach with a fiercely misguided determination, and they demand that the other whales accompany them.

He goes on to note that the GOP was more interested to play to its base than doing what is best for the nation. What's interesting is that the Democrats, in search of an winning strategy, is looking to the GOP and copying the act of playing to its hard left base. As we are seeing, this is bound to fail. What is good for the base is not necessarily good for the nation. The nation is more moderate and is wary of anything they percieve as extreme. That is why Bush's Social Security plan died earlier this year and why Clinton's Health Plan died in 1994.

If one focuses soley on the President, you can see someone who talked a good centrist game, but once in office, worked hard to court the base to avert the fate his father suffered. It worked in the short run, but when you run so close to the base you become beholden to them and woe to the politician who doesn't give the base everything it wants.

I think the President and Congress could have used this moment to create a moderate conservative agenda that would work for the good of the nation. Instead, they were interested in power for power's sake and the route to power was to placate people like James Dobson.

And now the chickens are coming home to roost.

I think this presents the party with an opportunity. We need a governing strategy, not more of the same old let's-appease-the-religious right-and-business interests. We need Republicans who have solid ideas on Social Security, National Security and Balancing the budget.

Bull Moose chats about this today and also links to a Wall Street Journal article about one Republican who does have a governing strategy: John McCain. I won't say much about this article except that you should read it. I disagree strongly with McCain on gay marriage, but I do think that he presents a governing philosophy that is right for this nation at this time. I do want to highlight one quote:

Conservatives celebrate the individual; liberals emphasize the use of government for the collective good. Mr. McCain's military tradition melds the two with a message of service that calls on the individual to spend at least part of his or her life serving the nation and that collective good.

For some reason, this reminds me of another war hero who became President, John Kennedy. After all, it was Kennedy who said "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." He spurred individuals to come together for the good of the nation.

Both liberals and conservatives today are more concerned with what we can get from government, whether that is more government programs or to use it to discriminate. We need a political parties interested in pulling the country forward and asking Americans to join.

As I've said before, it's time for the centrist insurrection to begin.

Opposing Miers

Mathew Pruitt has an excellent post explaining why he can't support the nomination of White House Counsel Harriet Miers to the fill the seat on the Supreme Court being vacated by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

His reasoning? Ms. Miers is unqualified:

I couldn't help but to stick my nose in the air, and point out that the President had made his bed with the Conservatives, now he would have to sleep in it. This administration articulates a centrist message while winking at the right, and as a moderate Republican I have grown tired of the double talk. That is no excuse. As Simon so appropriately pointed out to me, to support a Supreme Court nominee because I enjoy watching Conservatives not get what they want, is simply wrong.

A friend called me the other day... She is a law student in her second year, and a moderate to Conservative, pro-choice Republican. I asked her what she thought about Miers. Her response was that she didn't think the Supreme Court was a place for the President to appoint his friends and their was little reassurance that Miers was capable of writing sound legal decisions, regardless of politics. Just as I was about to go off on a tirade about the fair weathered conservatives, it hit me... She was right... Harriet Miers has no business on the Supreme Court.

He goes one to say:

There are questions about Harriet Miers because she has a lack of judicial experience and there is little evidence that she can provide the level of legal opinion writing and logical thinking that Americans deserve on their Court. I know all the lawyers out there believe they are capable of being Antonin Scalia or Thurgood Marshall, but just because one was a litigator doesn't necessarily mean that they will be a good judge, and an appearance or two arguing before the Supreme Court would at least help... Harriet Miers has not even done that. There is little doubt in the minds of most that there are several, if not many individuals, who are better qualified than the current nominee.

Harriet Miers is an incredibly intelligent women, and I think those that refer to her as lightweight are diminishing what are clearly great accomplishments for political purposes; however, when it comes to the highest court in the land, incredibly intelligent and successful don't necessarily cut it.

I haven't made up my mind on this nomination, but I am leaning towards opposition. Like Mathew, I think Ms. Miers is an excellent adminstrator. She lead a law firm and the state bar. You can't be a lightweight by doing either. However, that doesn't mean that you have the acumen to be a justice on the highest court in the land. Also, those who say that she will "learn on the job" tend to forget that it takes even seasoned judges years to get their bearings. Because of Miers lack of judicial experience, let alone not even arguing in front of the Court, it might take longer for her. Do we really want that?

Mathew also has something to say about cronyism past and present and the need for a more professional government:

George W. Bush may or may not have found a talented individual to serve on the Court, regardless, what he also did was nominate a passionate and loyal political supporter who could easily be classified as his personal friend. Many will tell us that LBJ nominated Abe Fortas, and FDR, as well as Lincoln, were not above nominating close friends. However, LBJ, FDR, and Lincoln were wrong, and so is President Bush. We shouldn't accept historical trends just because they happened.

Men like Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson fought hard to reform government and create the Civil Service... At the time, a Federal job was nothing more than a handout to a family member, financial contributor, or close friend. The Civil Service instilled the simple concept that when it comes to a salary that is paid for by public tax dollars, there must be an open competition for that job, and candidates must satisfy qualification standards in order to be hired. We do this because the public has the right to know that their money is going to workers who are best positioned to do what they were hired to do.

There is a lot more to read in this post. All in all, it is an articulate explanation by a moderate Republican as to why this nomination should be pulled.

One would hope Mr. Bush would try again and put forth a better nominee, but this is a President that doesn't like to change his mind.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Say It Loud, Say it Proud

It makes my heart glad when I see straight Republicans say they are in favor of gay rights. Why? Because when we gay Republicans, say it, we are attacked by the far right as sinful and not real Republicans, while the left call us apologists for said far right faction.

So it is nice to hear from people like Mathew Pruitt over at West Sound in the Center. On October 5, he wrote this about two antigay senators:

I support gay rights, I am a Republican, and I am not the only one. Great Republicans like Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt would be apalled by the actions of some in the GOP who have gone so far as to propose constitutional amendments that would for the first time deny rights, instead of expand them. I am even willing to say that I am a better Republican than Sam Brownback and Tom Coburn, who out of one side of their mouths talk about making government small enough to drown it in the bathtub, while out of the other side promote legislation that is aimed at engineering society in their own image. Mark my words, these men will be remembered for being on the wrong side of history, just as the Southern Democrats are for opposing Civil Rights legislation in the 60's.

He also has some words for the other party:

The other party may be a tad better on this issue, but not much. As Boi from Troy points out all of the time, there is a difference between those that actually support gay rights and those that pay it lip service. After all, John Kerry and John Edwards stood with the religious right, supporting anti-gay marriage initiatives in Missouri and Ohio. Where I come from, we have a word for those who are on your side when it suits them, but are nowhere to be found when the flames get too hot.

I think it's wonderful to see a straight Republican taking a stand like this. There needs to be more. The reason the GOP started was on the cause of equality for African Americans. It is a shame that 150 years later, this party is making a name for itself by supporting discrimination for another group.

The more that straight Republicans begin speaking out and telling the homophobic right where they can stuff it, the less power the far right will have. Gay Republicans can't do this alone.

New Blogs

I wanted to share some new blogs that I've found out about and a new blog of my own. First there is Elephant in Exile, written by former staffer to a Republican congressman. Second is the blog West Sound in the Center by fellow Republican Mathew Pruitt from Seattle. Both blogs are examples of the growing Centrist (and Centrist Republican) blogosphere.

Finally, I want to introduce a blog I'm starting that will focus more on theological issues. As many of you know, I am an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). I also happen to be the co-pastor of a new church start here in the Twin Cities called Community of Grace Christian Church. I've been flirting with having a blog where I could post my sermons and also muse on the interesection of faith and life. So, now I have a companion blog called Oscar the Pastor. Hope you enjoy it.

Monday, October 10, 2005

A Progressive Insurrection?

There have been a flurry of posts and articles over the weekend calling for a new Progressive Movement in America.

When I say "progressive" I don't mean it in the way that the word is being used now, namely, to refer to ideas and groups on the far left. I am referring to the originally meaning, those group of reformers who came of age in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These were people who wanted a government that was effiencent and professional. They wanted capitalism to flourish, but they also wanted it to treat workers with respect and get rid of such abominations like child labor. This form of progressivism presented itself in the presidencies of Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.

If this is the meaning of progressive, then I am one. I think we have to go beyond the small government v. big government argument. I don't think government should be big, but it has to be efficient. I believe in our capitalist system, but I also think government has to provide some checks against the excesses of the system. Writer Joel Kotkin explains what progressivism is:

As many owned property themselves, they naturally advocated not the redistribution of wealth but such middle-class measures as antitrust legislation and federal loans for farmer and homeowner mortgages. The Progressives were politically pragmatic rationalists who helped make this nation the most powerful and successful large society in world history. They fostered the creation of our great national and state parks, pushed the development of water and power systems, promoted agricultural conservation and state-supported education.

If anything can be said to define the Progressives, it was their commitment to governmental efficiency. They embraced neither the contemporary conservative notion that government could do no right, nor the current liberal conceit that governmental ineptitude is acceptable as long as it's in service of well-intentioned ideological causes or aggrieved minorities.

Their ideal, formed in reaction to the political corruption and corporate dominance of the era, was government operated in a businesslike and rational manner. The pro-labor New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, who served from 1934 to 1945, didn't hesitate to make exacting demands on public employees, leading some to liken him to the Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. As he famously proclaimed: "There is no Republican or Democratic way to clean streets."

The Progressive legacy provides an excellent framework for responding to the challenges facing 21st-century America. As we do today, the early 20th-century Progressives confronted a society beset by a widening chasm between classes and fearful of growing foreign competition. They addressed these challenges by fostering education and science, and also by modernizing basic infrastructure -- roads, bridges, public transit, water, ports and power systems. Many great construction projects of the 20th century were the result of their peculiar political vision.

New York Times writer David Brooks (Oh, how I miss him) describes his version of Progressivism:

"After a while, you get sick of the DeLays of the right and the Deans of the left. After a while, you tire of the current Republicans, who lack a coherent governing philosophy, and the current Democrats, who are completely bereft of ideas. After a while you begin to wonder: Did I really get engaged in politics so I could spend months arguing about the confirmation of Harriet Miers, the John Major of American jurisprudence?

"And when you begin thinking this way, you find yourself emotionally disengaging from the exhausted clans that dominate the present. You find yourself going back to basics and considering the fundamental questions: What visions originally excited me about politics and government? If it were completely up to me, where would I plant my flag?

"Here's where I would plant mine.

"I believe in the lost tradition of American politics, the tradition of Hamilton, Lincoln and the Bull Moose. In other words, I believe that social mobility is the core of the American experience. I believe that society should be structured so that as many boys and girls as possible can work, and rise the way young Hamilton and Lincoln did...

"I know, having learned it from Lincoln and Roosevelt, that individual initiative should always be tied to national union. I know we need a national service program to bind our segmented youth through citizenship. I know we need to protect the natural heritage that defines us. I know America has to persevere in its exceptional mission to promote freedom, and the effort to promote democracy in the Arab world is one of the most difficult and noble endeavors any great power has undertaken.

"When I cut myself loose from the push and shove of today's weary political titans, and go back to basics, I find myself strangely invigorated.

"It's time for an insurrection."

Bull Moose adds:

Buckle up, fellow Mooseketeers, we are headed for some turbulence - and that is a good thing. As the Bushies implode, who willl take their place? Will it be a reformed Republican Party? Will the Democrats get their act together and convince the mighty middle that the party is not beholden to its liberal interest groups?

Will a force emerge within or outside the major parties that puts the national interest first? A faction which comes forth that argues that we must have a strong national defense, reform entitlements, requires national service and promotes progressive, pro-capitalist economics? Independent voters have largely given up on this Administration, but do they have anywhere to go?

I think it is time for a new progressive movement that might work with both parties but isn't tied to either party. They are more concerned with putting the nation first instead of the parties.

My own party has done me wrong with its business cronyism and far right hate filled politics, but I'm not ready to support the Democrats with it's interest group liberalism. We need something that is new, that doesn't look to the past (the Dems look back to the 1960s and 70s and the GOP to the 50s and 80s), but is interested in what America can become.

I'm ready to join that fight.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

He Could Have Been a Contender

IT should have been the crowning moment of his administration, the opportunity to exercise one of his most important privileges as President by picking two new judges to serve on the Supreme Court, thereby stamping his mark on American society for the next few decades, as only a few presidents have done before him. Instead, President Bush’s astonishingly short-sighted decision last week to nominate a close colleague with no judicial track record for the Supreme Court, following an earlier uninspired choice, risks condemning his administration to being remembered as the most debilitating since the sorry rule of Jimmy Carter in the late 1970s. There is no pleasure in recording this. This newspaper is second to none in its pro-American sentiments; in the early Bush years it devoted much ink to defending the President against the often malevolent and ignorant attacks of a congenitally anti-American European media. But we know a lost cause when we see one: the longer President Bush occupies the White House the more it becomes clear that his big-government domestic policies, his preference for Republican and business cronies over talented administrators, his lack of a clear intellectual compass and his superficial and often wrong-headed grasp of international affairs – all have done more to destroy the legacy of Ronald Reagan, a President who halted then reversed America’s post-Vietnam decline, than any left-liberal Democrat or European America-hater could ever have dreamed of. As one astute American conservative commentator has already observed, President Bush has morphed into the Manchurian Candidate, behaving as if placed among Americans by their enemies to do them damage.

I know just how you feel. Really.

Special hat tip to Andrew Sullivan, who feels the same way.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Spring Cleaning?

Centrist blogger Bull Moose has an interesting take on all the problems besetting the GOP: conservatives should welcome a GOP crack-up before the '08 election. Conservatism has been corrupted by a plutocratic, crony unprincipled crowd. There is a need for a cleansing. If the right can cast-off the Bushie-Delay establishment, there is a chance that it can re-emerge with reform conservative leaders in time for the '08 Presidential election.

Intelligent conservatives will realize that this is not a strange scenario, but rather a tremendous opportunity to save their souls and even retain power. Hope for the worst, and build for a better tomorrow!

The Moose might have a point here. It might be a good thing to get rid of some of the more corrupt and just plain nutty portions of the GOP and be left with a more reform-minded party. Of course, this means that moderates and as the Moose calls "smart conservatives" need to have a governing strategy of their own.

I would hope that good Republicans like Chris Shays and John McCain are getting together and formulating a new Republican strategy for America. The Old religous right/plutocracy coalition is crumbling.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

This is NOT 1993

With all the smell of scandal taking place in the Republican controlled Congress, there has been talk in among Democrats and the press that we are reliving 1993, the last days of a Democratic Congress. Those who focus on the scandals are reminded of how scandal-ridden the Democrats had come and see that as what brought the Dems down. I have to admit that even I have sucumb to this view.

However, an editorial in today's Los Angeles Times reminds us that what brought the Republicans to power in 1994 was not simply Democratic malfesence, but also an idea: the Republicans introduced the Contract with America, a simple set of ideas that Americans could grab onto. The Times notes:

...a weak GOP does not a strong Democratic Party make. Before the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid order new stationery, they should ask themselves whether their party has any new ideas that can propel it to victory over the next three years.

In 1994, when insurgent Republicans took the reins of power on Capitol Hill, they had a set of ideas and goals that both energized and united them. Two years before, the Democrats had captured the White House with a wonkish candidate who talked about a "third way" of governing. Bill Clinton not only charmed the nation, he preached a new type of Democratic politics that was less reflexively anti-business and more attuned to the importance of personal responsibility.

In short, the Times is saying that its ideas that carry the day for the most part. As I've said before, all the Democrats seem to have these days is a hatred for all things Bush. That isn't going to get anybody anywhere.

I've been criticized in the past for not putting forward ideas. Well, I don't think I should have to tell the Dems what to do, but here are some ideas:

Fiscal Responsibility. My own party has made a mockery of being fiscal conservatives. We are spending money, as John McCain puts it, like "drunken sailors." It would behoove the Democrats to come up with a way to put the budget back in order. Bill Clinton was able to break the idea that Democrats love to tax and spend w/o a concern for the deficit. Maybe it's time for the Dems to start picking up that message again.

A strong and smart national security policy. Democrats need to realize that we have to take terrorism seriously. The Bushies have had a haphazard approach and in the case of Iraq, might have made the situation worse in the long run. How do we prevent ourselves from future 9/11s? Also, in light of how bad FEMA acted during Katrina, how we can beef up response when a terror attack happens?

An Energy Policy. America doesn't have one. The GOP for the most part has kowtowed to the Oil and Auto Industries in that regard. The Dems would be wise to put forward programs that stress conservation and alternative sources of energy. Maybe expand tax credits for fuel efficient cars and such things as solar, wind and geothermal energy. Also, raising the gas tax might force automakers to produce cars that conserve fuel and persuade consumers to buy these vehicles. You could throw in that a strong energy policy means less dependence on countries like Suadi Arabia that could be funding terrorism and countries led by psuedo-democrats like Hugo Chavez.

That's just a few ideas. Simply watching as the GOP emplodes might feel good, but that doesn't mean people will go over to the Dems. They need to give people a reason to believe in them.

UPDATE: Former Clintonista Bruce Reed has a good article in today's Slate about three Democrats who actually do something more than talk about hating Bush-Rove-Delay-et al. He highlight another former Clintonista and current Congressman Rham Emmanuel of Illinois:

MR. RUSSERT: So was it a mistake for Democrats in the Senate and House to vote to authorize the (Iraq) war?

REP. EMANUEL: Given the information that we were given them, they made their decision. What has been a mistake is to let this type of administration basically run a policy of incompetence when it comes to Iraq. Let me address, though, the future of this country. I'll give you five quick ideas. One, we make college education as universal for the 21st century that a high school education was in the 20th.

MR. RUSSERT: And who pays for that?

REP. EMANUEL: The American people, because it offers--Let me get to it. Second, we get a summit on the budget to deal with the $3 trillion of debt that's been added up in five years and structural deficits of $400 billion a year. Third, an energy policy that says in 10 years, we cut our dependence on foreign oil in half and make this a hybrid economy. Four, we create an institute on science and technology that builds for America like, the National Institutes has done for health care, we maintain our edge. And five, we have a universal health-care system over the next 10 years where if you work, you have health care. That says fiscal discipline and investing in the American people by reputting people first. The policies that the Republicans have offered have gotten us in the ditch we have today.

Now you may think these ideas are pure bunk or just old liberal nostrums, but they are at least ideas. Better than saying Bush is a terrorist. Gets more votes too.

Then there are the words of another person from the Land of Lincoln, Senator Barak Obama. He offers a cautionary warning to those who are more fueled by poisonous partisanship:

According to the storyline that drives many advocacy groups and Democratic activists - a storyline often reflected in comments on this blog - we are up against a sharply partisan, radically conservative, take-no-prisoners Republican party. They have beaten us twice by energizing their base with red meat rhetoric and single-minded devotion and discipline to their agenda. In order to beat them, it is necessary for Democrats to get some backbone, give as good as they get, brook no compromise, drive out Democrats who are interested in "appeasing" the right wing, and enforce a more clearly progressive agenda. The country, finally knowing what we stand for and seeing a sharp contrast, will rally to our side and thereby usher in a new progressive era.

I think this perspective misreads the American people. From traveling throughout Illinois and more recently around the country, I can tell you that Americans are suspicious of labels and suspicious of jargon. They don't think George Bush is mean-spirited or prejudiced, but have become aware that his administration is irresponsible and often incompetent. They don't think that corporations are inherently evil (a lot of them work in corporations), but they recognize that big business, unchecked, can fix the game to the detriment of working people and small entrepreneurs. They don't think America is an imperialist brute, but are angry that the case to invade Iraq was exaggerated, are worried that we have unnecessarily alienated existing and potential allies around the world, and are ashamed by events like those at Abu Ghraib which violate our ideals as a country.

Obama knows his public better than so-called progressive groups that supposedly speak for the people. Americans aren't satisfied by what they see with Bush, but they don't want more red meat rhetoric about how bad Bush is or how evil America is. Right now, they are worried about rising gas prices or how they will be able to heat their home this winter. They are worried about what is going on in Iraq and about how to save for their future.

It is hopeful to see some Democrats are not buying the Daily Kos-Howard rhetoric and are coming up with real ideas. We shall see if it is enough to make a difference next year and in 2008.

A Government of Laws, Indeed

Our constitution works. Our great republic is a government of laws, not of men.

-President Gerald Ford, shortly after assuming the Presidency.

I believe President Ford said this just after his predecessor, Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace. Watergate exposed a president that thought he was above the law. President Ford's words remind us that in America, no one is above all the law and that it is the law, not a person that is the bedrock of our great land.

I reminded of these words after the stunning victory in the Senate of the anti-torture amendment sponsored by Arizona Republican, John McCain. The vote wasn't even close, 90-9. The White House is threatening a veto on the whole Defense Appropriations bill because of the amdendment.

The Bush Administration has been playing fast and lose with the rules regarding how we treat prisoners and detainees. I'm not certain that the Administration is creating the conditions that allow such shameful acts as Abu Gharib, but they have done nothing to stop them. Turning a blind eye to such horrific acts is as bad as authorizing them and shouldn't be tolerated. It's sad that it took Congress to do what the White House should have done at least a year ago.

The hero of hour has to be John McCain. The Senator, who was was a prisoner of war himself spoke eloquently about the necessity of this amendment:

Mr. President, war is an awful business. I know that. I don’t think I’m naïve about how severe are the wages of war, and how terrible are the things that must be done to wage it successfully. It is a grim, dark business, and no matter how noble the cause for which it is fought, no matter how valiant the service, many veterans spend much of their subsequent lives trying to forget not only what was done to them and their comrades, but some of what had to be done by their hand to prevail.

I don’t mourn the loss of any terrorist’s life nor do I care if in the course of serving their ignoble cause they suffer great harm. They have pledged their lives to the intentional destruction of innocent lives, and they have earned their terrible punishment in this life and the next.

What I do regret, what I do mourn, and what I do care very much about is what we lose, what we -- the American serviceman and woman and the great nation they defend at the risk of their lives – what we lose when by official policy or by official negligence – we allow, confuse or encourage our soldiers to forget that best sense of ourselves, our greatest strength – that we are different and better than our enemies; that we fight for an idea – not a tribe, not a land, not a king, not a twisted interpretation of an ancient religion – but for an idea that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights.

I have been asked before where did the brave men I was privileged to serve with in Vietnam draw the strength to resist to the best of their ability the cruelties inflicted on them by our enemies. Well, we drew strength from our faith in each other, from our faith in God, and from our faith in our country. Our enemies didn’t adhere to the Geneva Convention. Many of my comrades were subjected to very cruel, very inhumane and degrading treatment, a few of them even unto death. But everyone of us knew, every single one of us knew and took great strength from the belief that we were different from our enemies, that we were better than them, that we, if the roles were reversed, would not disgrace ourselves by committing or countenancing such mistreatment of them. That faith was indispensable not only to our survival, but to our attempts to return home with honor. Many of the men I served with would have preferred death to such dishonor.

The enemies we fight today hold such liberal notions in contempt, as they hold the international conventions that enshrine them such as the Geneva Conventions and the treaty on torture in contempt. I know that. But we’re better than them, and we are the stronger for our faith. And we will prevail. I submit to my colleagues that it is indispensable to our success in this war that our servicemen and women know that in the discharge of their dangerous responsibilities to their country they are never expected to forget that they are Americans, the valiant defenders of a sacred idea of how nations should govern their own affairs and their relations with others – even our enemies.

Those who return to us and those who give their lives for us are entitled to that honor. And those of us who have given them this onerous duty are obliged by our history, and by the sacrifices – the many terrible sacrifices -- that have been made in our defense – we are obliged to make clear to them that they need not risk their or their country’s honor to prevail; that they are always, always – through the violence, chaos and heartache of war, through deprivation and cruelty and loss – they are always, always Americans, and different, better, and stronger than those who would destroy us.

God bless them as he has blessed us with their service.

When I've talked to fellow Republican friends about this, some have said that because of the tragedy of 9/11, and the fact that many children don't have parents because of that. we shouldn't care about how we treat prisoners. The long and short of it: they didn't treat us with respect, so why should we?

Because we are America, that's why. Because we believe that all people are endowed with inalienable rights and that all are created equal. Because, we have a long history of treating even our enemies with respect.

But, don't take my word for it, take the words of Captain Ian Fishback who helped expose another tale of prisoner abuse:

Some argue that since our actions are not as horrifying as Al Qaeda's, we should not be concerned. When did Al Qaeda become any type of standard by which we measure the morality of the United States? We are America, and our actions should be held to a higher standard, the ideals expressed in documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.


If we must fight a war on terror, let us do it with the ideals that we say we are fighting to uphold. The Bush Administration should allow this amendment to pass and become law. I join with Andrew Sullivan in asking people to contact their Congressperson in the House to pass this amendment.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Judicial Activism and the Lost Art of Persuasion

Back during the John Roberts confirmation hearings, one of the Democratic Senators, I believe it was Joe Biden, asked if Roberts would be on the side of "the little guy." The now-Chief Justice answered that if the constitution favored "the little guy" then he would vote in favor. If it favored the large businesses he would vote in that favor.

This brief exchange is proof-positive of how liberals have seen the courts as a way to make law. However, this isn't just the province of liberals. Conservatives are starting to see the courts as a way to prevent changes they don't like and even make law themselves.

This rush to the Courts to me is a tell-tale sign of the lack of civility in society. Rather than trying to perusade each other, we see the other as evil, and use the Courts to stop "them."

William Galston wrote an informative piece in Blueprint, the magazine of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council. While his article is more geared to liberals, it could be a cautionary tale to those conservatives who want to use the courts to shape their agenda as well. He notes that Democrats have forgotten what the courts are for:

The judiciary is supposed to be a check on the legislature, not an alternative source of legislation. In recent decades, however, Democrats have failed to preserve this distinction carefully enough, and they've paid for their carelessness. We should not assume that because the people reject Republican attacks on an independent judiciary, they support Democrats' understanding of the judiciary's role in our republic. The politically resonant attack on Democrats as elitists reflects, in part, an unwise reliance on the courts to do what Democrats could not accomplish -- not readily, perhaps not at all -- through the legislative branch.

He then adds that Brown v. Board, the landmark case that struck down segregation, was an exception to the rule, not a template for liberal social policy:

Brown v. Board of Education was a wager on history. It rested on the hope that the executive branch would enforce school desegregation against local resistance, that the U.S. Congress would accept at long last its responsibility to enforce the 14th Amendment, and that when faced with a stark choice, the American people would endorse the moral imperative of equal citizenship for all. Liberals won that bet, but they misunderstood their victory. They concluded that Brown represented, not an exceptional moment in the history of the republic, but rather a template for rapid social progress in the face of opposition that could thwart majoritarian processes.

During the ensuing decades, liberals increasingly resorted to the courts to achieve results they could not obtain through legislatures, on issues such as school prayer (Abington v. Schempp, 1963), criminal procedure (Miranda v. Arizona, 1966), and abortion (Roe v. Wade, 1973). But these legal victories came at a price that mounted over time. Many citizens who had been part of the New Deal coalition came to believe that the courts were cramming decisions down their throats without even consulting them, let alone gaining their assent. And they came to believe that the courts were doing this at the behest of political and academic elites whose sensibilities were at variance with those of the American people. As a result, opposition to a court-centered politics became a staple of the conservative populism (pioneered by George Wallace and skillfully appropriated by Richard Nixon) that has done so much to turn Republicans into a national majority.

The result was that the people were left out of the process. And in many ways, they are still being left out today. Issues such as gay marriage and abortion are trying to be settled not by legislatures, but by courts. I would agree with the writer that people should be wary of using the courts to achieve social progress. Take gay marriage. The far right has an issue when they talk about judges granting gay marriage through rulings and bypassing the legislature. Some on the left have only poured gas on the fire by trying to use the courts to get gay marriage on the books. As Galston notes, doing something like this is basically shoving an issue down the people's throats whether they like it or not. It will make people resentful and will ultimately backfire.

The judiciary should not be a backdoor legislature. We vote for representatives to do to one thing: legislate. The court is there to make sure that legislatures and executives are playing by the rules. They can't be concerned with being for or against "the little guy." I do however, expect my representatives to do that, not my judges.

I believe that Centrists must be the ones who lead the charge to get back to having the legislature legislate ( what a radical idea!). Centrists tend to be more willing to persuade than partisans on the left and right who can't trust each other. Centrist politicians must be willing to speak out on the danger of using the courts for what they were't intended for. Centrist rank and file must hold all representative's feet to the fire to actually do their job and not expect a bunch of people in black robes to make law.

It's time let the courts be the courts.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Justice Miers?

The reaction to the selection of Harriet Miers to fill the seat being vacated by Sandra Day O'Connor is pretty much against her. Michael Stickings at The Reaction has a great take on the choice of Miers to the High Court. His take? Not a good choice.

As I said in my post yesterday, one doesn't have to be a judge to be a justice on the Supreme Court. However, as a friend pointed out last night, it would help to have been a legal scholar. Michael adds it would have helped had this person worked in the Justice Department or was a politician, something that showed this person wresteled with the Constitution. As far as one can tell, Miers hasn't been a position where she had to actually think about some of these vexing issues such as abortion or gay rights in a legal setting. It doesn't mean she's dumb. After all, one can't be an idiot when you run a large law firm or head the state bar association. But that doesn't mean you can handle constitutional issues either. As today's Minneapolis Star Tribune notes:

Appointing a non-judge to the highest court is not new. Chief Justices William Rehnquist and Earl Warren most conspicuously came straight to the highest court. But Miers' résumé is extremely rare for a high court appointee in that it is confined almost exclusively to private practice in corporate law; she has no Justice Department experience or background in legal scholarship that would give her more than a nodding acquaintance with many of the constitutional issues that are the bread and butter of the Supreme Court.

Another thing that I've been thinking about is just how unconcerned the Bush team is with how this all appears. In light of former horse judge-cum-FEMA Head-cum former FEMA Head, Michael Brown, you'd think the Administration would try not to even appear to be playing the cronyism card. Again, I don't know if Miers is or isn't qualified, but picking someone who has been a loyal Bush friend smells of cronyism.

As others have noted, the pick of Miers shows that Bush may not have any fight left in him. As early as last spring, Bush was willing to fight for the nominations of people like John Bolton. But now, he picks a person that is even worth a fight. Bush may have realized that he doesn't have to run for office anymore and doesn't have to please his base as much.

If he has lost his fight already, it might mean that the White House will be on autopilot for the next three years.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Harriet the Justice

President Bush has nominated Harriet Miers as an Associate Justice to the Supreme Court, filling the seat of retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

As I said with Roberts, I will wait until the hearings to make an opinion. Some are complaining about the fact that Miers isn't a judge, but history shows that a good number of justices have served on the High Court without ever being a judge. Such examples are:

Chief Justice Earl Warren

Justice Louis Brandeis

Justice Felix Frankfurter

Justice Abe Fortas

Justice Owen Roberts

Justice Charles Hughes

Being a judge doesn't make one qualified to be a justice on a court. It does make it easy to examine a paper trail and find out a legal philosophy. Because we don't know who what she thinks, the Senate needs to ply Ms. Miers about her judicial philosophy, NOT how she would vote on certain issues.

It is interesting that in light of the whole "Browniegate" affair, the charge of cronyism is coming up since she was White House Counsel and has been close to the President. Some have said this is the most unqualified candidate since the above mentioned, Abe Fortas. Some on the right are also upset because Miers isn't the firebrand ala Thomas and Scalia they hoped for.

As for cronyism, there might be some charge to that, but unlike former FEMA Head Michael Brown, this woman has some qualifications. She is a lawyer that has headed a major firm and was also the head of the state bar association.

There was one note of caution in hearing the annoucement this morning. In talking about Miers, President Bush mentioned several charities she has been involved in, including one called Exodus Ministries. Some fears went up because it sounded like an ex-gay ministry with a similiar sounding name. Via, Andrew Sullivan, the Human Rights Campaign notes that Exodus Ministries is a group that helps ex offenders reintergrate into society.

Will Miers, cut the mustard? Time and the Senate will tell.

!-- End .box -->