No More Apples
"Adam ate an apple from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. It's a shame we ran out of apples." -- The Sage.
"The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness." -- John Kenneth Galbraith
"Reality has a liberal bias." -- Stephen Colbert
We are proud members of the resistance.
Friday, June 11
BUSH ALWAYS SAID IT'D BE EASIER IF WE JUST MADE HIM DICTATOR...
Via Smirking Chimp, this from Bernard Weiner:
We used to make light of Bush's jokes about his fondness for running the show as a dictator; little did we know that shortly after 9/11 (and perhaps even before), his Administration would begin moving precisely in that direction.
The underlying philosophy behind the legal briefs and memos in question can be summarized thusly: The President is the Commander-in-Chief. The President says we're in a war. The Commander-in-Chief in a time of war can lay aside all laws and treaties, and do whatever he feels he has to do, in the name of national security.
What this means in practice is: Since in a war against terrorism, there is no definitive end, what the U.S. is waging is permanent war -- against the Al Qaida network and against those nation-states that the president deems worthy of being invaded, for real or invented reasons. Since the president is permitted to establish his own set of laws for the duration of the war, it follows that anyone who criticizes his actions ipso facto is giving aid and comfort to the enemy, and can be dealt with at any time by the police agencies of the state. Don't mess with us.
Can't get much closer to dictatorship than that. This is the world, and philosophy, of Pinochet, Stalin, Hitler. Or, closer to home, Richard Nixon, who claimed that when a president takes any action, because he is the president, by definition his actions are not illegal.
The ways they came up with, while morally and legally reprehensible, were ingenious. 1) We won't have "prisoners of war," which are covered under the Geneva Conventions; we'll invent new terms not covered, such as "enemy combatants." 2) We will claim a new universal right for the president: acting under his authority as Commander-in-Chief during "wartime," he can authorize whatever he wants, whenever he wants, and all will be justified under his oath to protect the national security. Therefore, whatever he authorizes is not unlawful, because he IS the law.
There's no question in my mind that Bush was not joking about wishing for a dictatorship. He might know that's not possible, but it surely is his preference. Dictators don't have to answer to anyone, dictators can retaliate against any opposition with impunity, dictators GET THEIR WAY -- and Bush, the spoiled son of privilege, doesn't like not getting his way. Be very sure, if this administration gets a second term, democracy as we know it in the United States is in great peril, because the Grover Norquists and Bob Frists of the world would be more than happy to support the Shrub in whatever it takes to help increase his power because that helps consolidate their own.
SOME SUPREMES ARE PARTISAN? AND THE NY TIMES JUST NOW CAUGHT ON?
This NY Times editorial is deeply disturbing, but not unexpected.
The Supreme Court did the right thing this week by staying out of a Colorado redistricting dispute. It properly deferred to the Colorado Supreme Court's ruling resolving the matter. What is troubling, however, is a dissent by Chief Justice William Rehnquist and two of his colleagues that argues for diving into the conflict. Given these justices' eagerness to defer to the states in other matters, the dissent smacks of partisan politics and raises new concerns about the court's neutrality.
Read it all.
HOW'S DEMOCRACY DOING IN AMERICA?
E.J. Dionne reports:
While the United States wages war to expand democracy around the world, how is our own democracy doing? Not very well, says a group of distinguished scholars.
"[T]he voices of American citizens are raised and heard unequally," declares a task force of the American Political Science Association. "The privileged participate more than others and are increasingly well organized to press their demands on government. Public officials, in turn, are much more responsive to the privileged than to average citizens and the least affluent."
Disparities in political participation, the report says, "ensure that ordinary Americans speak in a whisper while the most advantaged roar."
All citizens, especially politicians, should study the report of the association's Task Force on Inequality and American Democracy, which was released this week. The political scientists proclaim what many of us know instinctively: A government that ought to be helping ordinary citizens rise up tends to help those who are already up. But the report puts facts behind our instincts and shows how unfairness breeds more unfairness.
Since the early 1970s, the report says, we have seen "a massive mobilization into politics of advantaged groups that had not previously been active in Washington." With the decline in union membership, "the already privileged are better organized through occupational associations than the less privileged."
The report argues, rightly, that "[w]hat government does not do is just as important as what it does." In the not-so-distant past, government created programs to benefit broad groups of citizens -- Social Security, Medicare, the GI Bill, student loan programs and Pell Grant scholarships.
There have been few comparable innovations recently, and some of the traditional programs have been cut back. "The educational and training benefits for America's all-volunteer military are modest compared with those in the original G.I. Bill and, consequently, have made less impact in boosting the schooling of veterans to the level of non-veterans," the task force writes. So we praise and praise those who serve their country, but do little for them.
"Moreover," the task force says, "rising tuition, the declining value of individual Pell Grants, and state budget cuts have made higher education less affordable to non-veterans at a time when its economic value has risen and its contribution to counteracting the bias in political participation is invaluable." The political system reinforces the inequalities of political participation by cutting off the less privileged from the tools that encourage participation.
WHERE'S THE COMPASSION?
Bob Herbert has a heartbreaking column about Republican "compassionate conservatism" today in the NY Times:
If you want to see "compassionate" conservatism in action, take a look at Mississippi, a state that is solidly in the red category (strong for Bush) and committed to its long tradition of keeping the poor and the unfortunate in as ragged and miserable a condition as possible.
How's this for compassion? Mississippi has approved the deepest cut in Medicaid eligibility for senior citizens and the disabled that has ever been approved anywhere in the U.S.
The cut in eligibility for seniors and the disabled was the most dramatic component of a stunning rollback of services in Mississippi's Medicaid program. The rollback was initiated by the Republican-controlled State Senate and Mississippi's new governor, Haley Barbour, a former chairman of the national Republican Party. When he signed the new law on May 26, Mr. Barbour complained about taxpayers having to "pay for free health care for people who can work and take care of themselves and just choose not to."
The governor is free to characterize the victims of the cuts as deadbeats if he wants to. Others have described them as patients suffering from diseases like cerebral palsy and Alzheimer's, and people incapacitated by diabetes or heart disease or various forms of paralysis, and individuals struggling with the agony of schizophrenia or other forms of serious mental illness.
The 65,000 seniors and disabled individuals who will lose their Medicaid eligibility have incomes so low they effectively have no money to pay for their health care. The new law coldly reduces the maximum income allowed for an individual to receive Medicaid in Mississippi from an impecunious $12,569 per year to a beggarly $6,768.
Now, with public clamor growing, the House (including most of the Republican members) is attempting to have the law reversed.
Representative Steve Holland, chairman of the House Public Health and Human Services Committee, told me this week: "My heart has been broken and crushed and stomped to pieces over this. I knew this was wrong."
He added, "This governor is my friend, but he's a Republican and his mantra is to starve this beast of big government in Mississippi."
I asked Mr. Holland if he thought Mississippi had a big government.
"Good God, no!" he said.
Wednesday, June 9
Tampabay: TIA now verifies flight of Saudis
It's about time they confessed the truth about the Tampa flight that took some unidentified Saudis out of the country two days after Sept. 11:
Tampabay: TIA now verifies flight of Saudis:
Two days after the Sept. 11 attacks, with most of the nation's air traffic still grounded, a small jet landed at Tampa International Airport, picked up three young Saudi men and left.
The men, one of them thought to be a member of the Saudi royal family, were accompanied by a former FBI agent and a former Tampa police officer on the flight to Lexington, Ky.
The Saudis then took another flight out of the country. The two ex-officers returned to TIA a few hours later on the same plane.
For nearly three years, White House, aviation and law enforcement officials have insisted the flight never took place and have denied published reports and widespread Internet speculation about its purpose.
But now, at the request of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, TIA officials have confirmed that the flight did take place and have supplied details.
Tuesday, June 8
BUSH'S KISS OF DEATH
Molly Ivins warns that every time Bush speaks highly of a program, its funding is almost immediately reduced or gutted.
Monday, June 7
LET'S KEEP THE REAGAN RECORD STRAIGHT: 66 (Unflattering) Things About Ronald Reagan
David Corn of The Nation is up to his usual Great Stuff. AlterNet: 66 (Unflattering) Things About Ronald Reagan:
"The firing of the air traffic controllers, winnable nuclear war, recallable nuclear missiles, trees that cause pollution, Elliott Abrams lying to Congress, ketchup as a vegetable, colluding with Guatemalan thugs, pardons for F.B.I. lawbreakers, voodoo economics, budget deficits, toasts to Ferdinand Marcos, public housing cutbacks, redbaiting the nuclear freeze movement, James Watt.
Getting cozy with Argentine fascist generals, tax credits for segregated schools, disinformation campaigns, 'homeless by choice,' Manuel Noriega, falling wages, the HUD scandal, air raids on Libya, 'constructive engagement' with apartheid South Africa, United States Information Agency blacklists of liberal speakers, attacks on OSHA and workplace safety, the invasion of Grenada, assassination manuals, Nancy's astrologer.
Drug tests, lie detector tests, Fawn Hall, female appointees (8 percent), mining harbors, the S&L scandal, 239 dead U.S. troops in Beirut, Al Haig 'in control,' silence on AIDS, food-stamp reductions, Debategate, White House shredding, Jonas Savimbi, tax cuts for the rich, 'mistakes were made.'
Michael Deaver's conviction for influence peddling, Lyn Nofziger's conviction for influence peddling, Caspar Weinberger's five-count indictment, Ed Meese ('You don't have many suspects who are innocent of a crime'), Donald Regan (women don't 'understand throw-weights'), education cuts, massacres in El Salvador.
'The bombing begins in five minutes,' $640 Pentagon toilet seats, African-American judicial appointees (1.9 percent), Reader's Digest, C.I.A.-sponsored car-bombing in Lebanon (more than eighty civilians killed), 200 officials accused of wrongdoing, William Casey, Iran/contra. 'Facts are stupid things,' three-by-five cards, the MX missile, Bitburg, S.D.I., Robert Bork, naps, Teflon. "
WHY DO REPUBLICANS DENIGRATE ACTORS IN POLITICS?
The irony must be striking everyone, but I haven't seen it mentioned in print, on broadcast, or in blogtopia (yes! Skippy invented the term). Ronald Reagan, former president of the United States, was an actor for most of his life. The Republicans worship him, the media cantonizes him, and right-wing talk radio rates him just a little lower than the angels. George Murphy, former U.S. Senator(R) from California, was a Hollywood song-and-dance man. Fred Grandy (Gopher on The Love Boat) became a Republican Congressman from his home state Iowa.
Yet little more than a year ago, Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Martin Sheen, the Dixie Chicks, and other serious, accomplished actors and entertainers were castigated, even vilified, by Republican/right-wing representatives as unAmerican, even traitorous for opposing the proposed invasion of Iraq. And, interestingly, almost none are Democrats -- they are mostly Libertarians.
Dennis Miller has been rewarded for his switch to Republican politics with a (dismal) show on MSNBC. Michael Moore, it is charged, has been rewarded for his anti-Bush documentary Fahrenheit 911 with the top film award at Cannes (those French just love to humiliate the U.S.-- oops! only one of the nine-person judging panel was French). Bill O'Reilly is the former TV tabloid host of Inside Edition, and has been a huge ratings success for Fox. Every day entertainers, actors and hard-to-define celebrities are giving voice to their political positions. And why not? Only the Republicans seem to have a double standard regarding this issue. I've never heard a Democrat challenge the right to any actor's asserting his/her privilege of free speech. I've never heard a credible Democrat oppose an entertainer's stance merely on the basis of the entertainer's profession.
And this is just one of the more obvious of the hypocrises practiced by the GOP. If you're an entertainer and a Republican, you're an American hero. If you're a non-Republican and an entertainer, you have the right to free speech, but you're anti-American and deserve whatever vilification and boycott campaigns they can devise.
GOOD PARENTS DON'T HATE THEIR CHILDREN
The meme, "Democrats/liberals/whoever-opposes-Bush blame America first" is such an old theme that I can't believe it still is getting traction. If you were a parent and discovered that your child was stealing/cheating at shool/doing drugs/bullying other kids/having premarital sex, etc., and corrected or tried to discipline your child, would the right-wingers point to you and say, "There is a parent who hates his child"? I don't think so. So why is it considered by the right as an article of faith that any American who points out a flaw in our policy is to be considered a blame-America-first-er? Since so many Republican voters (especially the Christian right) are obsessive parents, why not present the issue in that light?
What part of American life, whether it be our government, our schools, our families, or our religious institutions can be deemed perfect as it now stands? Isn't the point of life to progress, to constantly re-evaluate and improve? And isn't it proof of the greatest love (the conservatives seem to love the "tough-love concept") that one can see the ugly truth and still love?
I love America. I love the Declaration of Independence, our Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I love representative government. I love our melting-pot of people. I love that we have a history of gradual amendment, of correcting our faults and moving forward. I loved America when as a young deep-South teenager I was a cast member of "Up With People," mixing with and learning from our diverse cultures and then having to bear the prejudices of my townspeople for being seen walking downtown with "colored people." I loved America when one of our town heroes, a surfer named Dink Mills, returned from Vietnam with no legs and the government for some reason denied him prosthetics until the protests grew too strong and publicly embarrassing. I loved America when our presidents supported covert CIA coups of duly-elected foreign governments.
I suspect that Americans who truly "hate America" are very few and far between. Most are like me -- we love America, "right or wrong," but believe that true love does not mean "never having to say you're sorry," but that it means always trying to keep America as a "shining city on the hill," constantly improving and always with the goal of creating a society that will inspire its own populace and the peoples of the world. Accomplishing that goal requires honesty, devotion to our core principles, and leaders who will not pander but demand the best of all of us. George W. Bush and his Republican sycophants will never meet that challenge. But John Kerry will do his best.
OH YEAH? LISTEN TO MY REPUBLICAN MOTHER-IN-LAW
Gore continues to blast Bush:
Gore said responsibility for the treatment of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison could be traced back to the highest levels of the administration.
"The abuse of those prisoners came directly from the abuse of the truth in the run-up to the war," he said.
He also said the White House has granted corporate interests unrestricted and secret influence on energy, environmental and foreign policies.
"This is wrong, it's anti-democratic. It's anti-American and we ought not to stand for it," he said.
State Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance said Gore's criticism of the Bush administration is foolhardy.
"I think that ultimately the Democrats' anger is going to be their undoing," Vance said. "The more they yell and scream, the better for us. The majority of the American people are not as angry as these liberal Democrats are. They aren't angry at all."
Oh yeah? My mother-in-law, a born-and-raised Texan and lifelong Republican told my husband a story on Memorial Day that we couldn't believe.
Having been a donor to Republican causes for the past 40 years, she received a call a couple of weeks ago from the GOP asking if they could expect her usual donation. "I don't think so," she replied.
"Well," the caller seemed taken aback, "you are going to vote for president Bush, aren't you?"
"After what he's done to my country, I'd have to be CRAZY to vote for him," she stated. The caller abruptly hung up.
Now if my conservative mother-in-law feels that way (and she's never deviated from the Republican cause for one moment in her 79 years), the pResident has a problem. She sure sounded angry to me.
Kerry Casts Himself as Solid Realist and Bush as Dreamy Idealist
This is an interesting tactic on the part of the Kerry campaign:Kerry Casts Himself as Solid Realist and Bush as Dreamy Idealist
Colorado GOP Loses Supreme Court Redistricting Appeal (washingtonpost.com)
Hooray for the Supremes!Colorado GOP Loses Supreme Court Redistricting Appeal (washingtonpost.com):
Colorado Republicans lost a Supreme Court appeal Monday over whether a congressional map favorable to Democrats is permanent until after the next census in 2010.
A fractured court refused to consider replacing that map with a GOP-drafted redistricting plan, a defeat for Republicans who have sought to reopen the boundary-drawing process in several states to protect their control of the House.
Prediction: The Texas GOP, who redistricted in a most blatant manner to increase the number of Republican Congressman, will be surprised in November when their tactics prove unattractive to voters. Governor Rick Perry has devastating poll numbers, and the state is in a mess. Though Bush continues to poll well, I suspect that he will have very short coattails, and the Repugs will pick up fewer seats than anticipated by Tom DeLay.
Traders Honor Reagan With a Rally????
Oh come on. This Reagan-worship is ridiculous, and as a man whose best quality, other than a perfectly wonderful smile, was his disdain for Soviet-like personality-idolatry, I suspect he'd be embarrassed.Traders Honor Reagan With a Rally (washingtonpost.com) AS IF traders are concerned with anything other than profits (and I speak as a former broker myself, married to a former broker).
BUSH WOULD LIKE TO BE REAGAN JR. -- BUT REAL REAGAN JR. SAYS NOT HARDLY
George W. Bush would like to be seen as the second coming of Ronald Reagan.
The New York Times > Washington > Campaign 2004 > Reagan Legacy Looming Large Over Campaign
In France, Mr. Bush heralded the late president as a "gallant leader in the cause of freedom," and lionized him in an interview with Tom Brokaw. In Washington, Mr. Bush's aides said that it was Ronald Reagan as much as another president named Bush who was the role model for this president, and they talked of a campaign in which Mr. Reagan would be at least an inspirational presence.
Lionized him? I distinctly remember Bush saying in the Brokaw review, when asked if he thought of himself as a "Reagan Republican," Bush responding that no, he thought of himself as a "George W" Republican. Despite his lack of life accomplishments, George W is a man with a super-sized ego. Reagan was his role model AS MUCH AS another president named Bush? Heaven forbid that he should honor his own father in any overt way. I've got to say, every time Bush is asked about his own father, he seems to want to denigrate him in some way. This man has some real father issues.
Mr. Bush's advisers said Sunday that the intense focus on Mr. Reagan's career that began upon the news of his death on Saturday would remind Americans of what Mr. Bush's supporters have long described as the similarities between the two men as straight-talking, ideologically driven leaders with swagger and a fixed idea of what they wanted to do with their office.
"Americans are going to be focused on President Reagan for the next week," said Ed Gillespie, the Republican national chairman. "The parallels are there. I don't know how you miss them."
Well now, I'm sure there are some parallels, but neither president would be complimented, I'm sure, if I pointed them out. Neither is Ron Reagan Jr., the closest of the Reagan children to his parents. See this excellent year-old interview with the Reagan scion -- Salon.com News | Reagan blasts Bush:
"The Bush inner circle would like to think of George W.'s presidency as more of an extension of Ronald Reagan's than of his one-term father's. Reagan himself, who has long suffered from Alzheimer's disease, is unable to comment on those who lay claim to his political legacy. But his son, Ron Jr., is -- and he's not pleased with the association.
'The Bush people have no right to speak for my father, particularly because of the position he's in now,' he said during a recent interview with Salon. 'Yes, some of the current policies are an extension of the '80s. But the overall thrust of this administration is not my father's -- these people are overly reaching, overly aggressive, overly secretive, and just plain corrupt. I don't trust these people.' "
But Reagan has strong feelings about Bush's policies, including the war in Iraq, which he ardently opposes. "Nine-11 gave the Bush people carte blanche to carry out their extreme agenda -- and they didn't hesitate for a moment to use it. I mean, by 9/12 Rumsfeld was saying, 'Let's hit Iraq.' They've used the war on terror to justify everything from tax cuts to Alaska oil drilling."
Reagan says his mother shares his "distrust of some of these [Bush] people. She gets that they're trouble in all kinds of ways. She doesn't like their religious fervor, their aggression."
Reagan says his family feels particularly alienated from the Republican Party over its opposition to embryonic stem cell research, which could have significant benefit for Alzheimer patients like his father. "Now ignorance is one thing, ignorance can be cured. But many of the Republican leaders opposing this research know better, people like [Senate Majority Leader] Bill Frist, who's a doctor, for God's sake. People like him are blocking it to pander to the 20 percent of their base who are mouth-breathers. And that's unconscionable -- there are lives at stake here. Stem cell research can revolutionize medicine, more than anything since antibiotics."
What if a group of concerned citizens approached him and helped raise money for his entry into politics -- would that make a difference? "You mean like they did with George W.? 'Hey, you've got name recognition, that's all that matters -- we'll give you millions of dollars to run!' Imagine coming to a man with just two years' experience in public office, and a ceremonial one at that. Imagine installing such a blank slate in the presidency of the United States! This is a regency, not a presidency.
"And they told us, 'Don't worry about W. not knowing anything, good old Dick Cheney will be his minder.' Dick Cheney? And this was going to be compassionate conservatism? Dick Cheney is to the right of Genghis Khan, he wants to drill in your backyard, he wants to deny black people their rights --it was all there in his voting record for us to see. What were we, rubes?"
While Reagan rejects a political career, he clearly doesn't shy from speaking out. What if GOP conservatives, who still lionize his father as the greatest president of the 20th century, pressure him to shut up? "That wouldn't be a smart thing for anyone to do."
Sunday, June 6
WATCH THE TRAILER -- "THE HUNTING OF THE PRESIDENT"
Taxes, gays, abortion targeted by Texas GOP platform
This year's Texas Republican Party platform is, as usual, filled with hysterical, exclusionary language and calls for abolishment of the IRS.
From the HoustonChronicle.com: The new platform not only condemns homosexuality -- 'the practice of sodomy tears at the fabric of society' -- it also advocates felony penalties for anyone issuing a marriage license or performing a marriage ceremony for a same-sex couple.
Platform committee chairman Kirk Overbey of Austin said the panel received more resolutions from Republican activists demanding action on gay marriage than on any other issue.
Reacting to two walkouts by Democratic legislators, who fled to Oklahoma and New Mexico last year to delay action on a Republican congressional redistricting bill, the platform has a new section on 'AWOL Legislators.' It calls for automatic resignations and loss of pay for lawmakers who flee the state under similar circumstances.
Delegates adopted a plank that strongly supports the war in Iraq. Another plank re-emphasizes long-standing conservative antipathy toward the United Nations by calling for the United States to rescind its membership in the U.N. and physically evict the U.N., which is headquartered in New York, from U.S. soil.
An anti-big-government attitude pervades the document with various planks calling for reduced spending, tax cuts and abolition of the Internal Revenue Service. The platform proposes replacing the federal income tax with a national retail sales tax.
The document also includes a plank calling for new restrictions on lawsuits brought over exposure to asbestos.
The platform also calls for repeal of the hate crimes law, repeal of the minimum wage, opposes the provision of reproductive health services, including condoms, in public schools and proposes the death penalty as a punishment option for rape. "