Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Tim Botkin Recognizes Republican Strategies
Tim Botkin, columnist for the Kitsap Sun:
Most voters do not respect this [negative] approach, but may not perceive it during the heat of a campaign. But it has happened enough, at local and national levels, that a wonk like me has identified its salient points. Therefore, I hereby publish my Handbook for Spotting the Step-by-Step Destruction of Informed Democracy, the condensed version:
1) The Beginning: A well-intended candidate/official takes a position, call it the Cause.
2) Fault cultivation: Unable to refute its logic, the antagonist breaks out the microscope to find any fault(s) in his opponent's Cause. Faults become the new campaign mantra.
3) Perfect embellishment: Since there is no alternative proposed, the Cause with faults is unassailably compared to "no-fault" or perfection. In that light, only the faults matter.
4) Victim analysis: A search is conducted for any real, or potential, victims of the faulty Cause. Once one potential victim is found, the faults become dangerous.
5) New righteous transformation: The singular victim becomes "everyman." Be afraid, it is now a matter of your "rights", or worse, our "morals."
6) The Word: The attack is dressed up by attaching a phrase from our most fundamental documents — like the U.S. Constitution or the Bible. Never mind if the quote doesn't quite fit.
7) Bring it Home: Now wave the flag and thump the Book. This raises the original dirt above the fray. Words like "freedom, nation, democracy, Christian, right" — in any particular order — roll off the tongue.
8) Humble outrage: When a response is finally made, it is characterized as an attack on the very foundation of our civilization. Antagonists are appalled. And saddened. And ahead.
One of the beauties of this approach is that it also obviates accountability of the antagonist. The issues are lost. Reason is no longer important. We don't question it, we're just glad to be on the right side.
Trouble is, these things have a way of catching up with us. Here at home, we are legitimately concerned about future population growth — but stuck due to the apparent requirement to satisfy a group which seems in the business of never expressing satisfaction.
Tim Botkin served one term as a Kitsap County commissioner and was defeated in a reelection bid - very possibly by a better candidate. And I had the pleasure of meeting him recently. He may not be a great politician, but he writes some sharp articles. And he regularly raises the ire of local Republicans and that's OK by me. In this article he displays solid insight. Without a doubt, the letters to the editor will flow onto the paper's Op-Ed pages for the next several days.
Nice work, Tim.
Sunday, June 05, 2005
The Despair of Iraq
Rod Nordland at Newsweek:
What went wrong? A lot, but the biggest turning point was the Abu Ghraib scandal. Since April 2004 the liberation of Iraq has become a desperate exercise in damage control. The abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib alienated a broad swath of the Iraqi public. On top of that, it didn't work. There is no evidence that all the mistreatment and humiliation saved a single American life or led to the capture of any major terrorist, despite claims by the military that the prison produced "actionable intelligence."This disaster is directly attributable to the incompetence at the top - Rumsfeld, Rice, Powell, and Bush - and it flowed downhill from there. It was all based on lies that they believed no one would uncover. They thought it would be so easy, "a cakewalk" with their propaganda juggernaut using the WMD-imminent-danger red herring.
The most shocking thing about Abu Ghraib was not the behavior of U.S. troops, but the incompetence of their leaders. ... A few soldiers will always do bad things. That's why you need competent officers, who know what the men and women under their command are capable of—and make sure it doesn't happen.
... Basic services like electricity, water and sewers still aren't up to prewar levels. Electricity is especially vital in a country where summer temperatures commonly reach 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Yet only 15 percent of Iraqis have reliable electrical service. In the capital, where it counts most, it's only 4 percent.
The most powerful army in human history can't even protect a two-mile stretch of road.
The four-square-mile Green Zone, the one place in Baghdad where foreigners are reasonably safe, could be a showcase of American values and abilities. Instead the American enclave is a trash-strewn wasteland of Mad Max-style fortifications.
... There's no real choice but to stay, probably for many years to come. The question isn't "When will America pull out?"; it's "How bad a mess can we afford to leave behind?" All I can say is this: last one out, please turn on the lights.
A Conservative Examines the Issues Documented by Amnesty International
And he does it by actually examining those issues. Charles Bird (gee, that name sounds familiar) at Red State pushes aside the "gulag" rhetoric:
The larger point is that, just because a once respected international human rights organization goes off the deep end, we are not absolved from our own actions. Amnesty International should be responsible for holding all nations to the same standard, a responsibility they have shirked (more on that in Part III). However, we should be--and for the most part are--holding ourselves to a higher standard. We're the ones calling for change in the world. We're the ones encouraging the world to be more like us, i.e., free and democratic. Therefore, we're the ones that must set the example. That means we have to walk the walk. We have to set the tone. We have to lead.Why, indeed. These are charges of violations of law. None of them are outrageous or overexaggerated or dissembled. They're charges of violations of law. The administration's above-the-law arrogance has resulted in murder, maiming, and torture. These are facts that AI documents - as it likewise documents inhumane policies and practices committed by governments of other countries. So Bush dismisses the report as "absurd", thereby keeping his ignorant head firmly planted in the sand.
... We need to address this issue better. Why? First, because our mistreatment of prisoners/detainees is wrong. Second and less importantly, because it's bad politics. We're suffering damage by thousands of small political cuts, seemingly daily. By insufficiently addressing the problem, we are exposed politically and it opens the door to outrageous charges and overexaggerations and dissembling made by our detractors, both domestic and international. The anti-Bush crowd has seized the issue and they're not going to let go. The liberal agenda is to damage, neutralize or impeach Bush. Why give the left this kind of ammunition?
Impeachment? Compare violations of U.S. and international law resulting in loss of lives against lying about a personal sexual tryst. And that doesn't even address the Downing Street Memo.
Oh, yeah, one other item: The grownups have taken over. That's real comforting.
Tacitus Is Back
And he's returned in fine form with an article entitled The Shirkers wherein he examines the arguments of calling out the chickenhawks to put up by enlisting in the military or shut up. This has generated hundreds of debating comments worthy of perusal. And he hasn't abandoned his position at Red State.
Tac's conservatism doesn't mean he follows the template of the frothing fools at Free Republic or Little Green Footballs, or the intellectual dishonesty of Power Line. His writing is intelligent. He examines an issue without first forming a conclusion and then developing an argument to support it. And sometimes his conclusions do not fall in line with the neocons. Also important is that he attracts a number of mostly intelligent (and civil) readers that participate in the comments.
So he's back on my blogwool.
Sunday, May 29, 2005
Republicans are like WWF Wrestlers
Paul Feig at the Huffington Post:
Okay, so let me get this straight. By striking a compromise that guarantees an "up or down vote" on three of President Bush's five controversial judical appointees, Democrats had somehow said that they were now also going to give the rubber stamp of approval to ALL of the President's appointees? Apparently that was the case if you see all the outrage and indignation coming from the Republicans over the Democratic delay of a vote on United Nations appointee John Bolton.
Many Republicans have always reminded me of professional WWF wrestlers. They come into the ring all pumped up and acting like they're invincible and that they're going to destroy their opponent. Then they get hit once and fall down and roll around in agony and suddenly seem immobilized by pain, calling for the ref to intervene. In the ring, this display of injury usually allows their opponent enough time to pick them up by the hair and perform a pile driver on them. While the Democrats have hardly ever seemed able of late to follow through with the pile driver on a "wounded" Republican, it's this mock indignation and outrage from the Right every time they get hit with any roadblock or accusation of ill that makes them come off, well ... kinda like a bunch of crybabies. C'mon, you guys. Toughen up a bit. I know it must be in the conservative playbook somewhere to defend yourself through the use of total sputtering indignation, but it's sort of making you look like a bunch of sore losers. Especially when you're not really losing.
Thursday, May 26, 2005
Don't I Wish
The Take Back America Conference:
The Take Back America Conference brings thousands of progressive activists, thinkers and leaders together to discuss our vision, unite our groups and train our campaign organizers.I've never been to an event like this and I'd love to go. But ...
Another Local Makes Good
Dave Neiwert's new book is published.
Can He Truly Be That Dumb?
The Washington Post Editorial dismembers Tom Delay:
DURING THE DEBATE in the House on Tuesday over the stem cell research bill that passed on a bipartisan vote, Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) leveled a remarkable accusation: Supporters of liberalizing President Bush's restrictive approach to funding stem cell research, he said, were voting "to fund with taxpayer dollars the dismemberment of living, distinct human beings for the purposes of medical experimentation." Mr. DeLay called embryonic stem cell research, which may promise lifesaving treatments for various devastating conditions, a "scientific exploration into the potential benefits of killing human beings."The natural response is to ask the question, Can he really be that dumb? The more disturbing question is, How did he arrive at a position of leadership?
... It's hard, however, to be dismembered if one has no limbs -- being merely a cluster of a couple of hundred non-differentiated cells.
Again, I ask, What is it about the U.S. House of Representatives that makes it such a legislative backwater?
What He Says (again)
Rob Salkowitz does it again.
And that's just a short highlight. Read the whole thing.
In short, tolerance is a precondition to a successful democracy. If you arrive at a place in your thinking where your political opponents are not simply mistaken, but evil, treasonous, or in opposition to divine principles, then the rights and privileges one accords to them under a democratic system become not just irrelevant but positively diabolical. If there is one Right, one Truth, and one way to accomplish God’s will, why engage in any discussion? Why extend the least respect to views that are in error?
Those who claim their political views emanate from higher truth rather than resulting from the fallible (and correctable) process of human reasoning don’t see themselves as an interest group in a pluralist society, engaging in a give-and-take of democratic process. They don’t see the rules governing civility and respect for minorities as applying to them, because they’re Right, and their rightness suspends the obligation to entertain dissenting views. In the worst cases, the failure of anyone to subscribe to the fundamental belief set (or signify those beliefs in public) inherently renders any opinion they may have illegitimate and irrelevant. Tribal, religious or ideological identity comes to supersede common citizenship – in opposition to the basic precepts of Constitutionalism – and civil society proceeds to fracture along irreconcilable sectarian lines.
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Getting Away With It
Erik Kancler at Mother Jones:
Seventeen states have now voted to ban the use of MTBE in gasoline, but the battle over phasing it out nationwide has been held up in Congress by disagreements over who should pay for the mess. Companies responsible for MTBE pollution are counting on congressional allies, not least House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, to make sure things stay that way.The article details how petroleum polluters are able to buy immunity from Congress. The results are predictable.
... In late 2003, three House Republicans, DeLay, Billy Tauzin, and Joe Barton, introduced a waiver in the House energy bill that would exempt MTBE producers and distributors from the liabilities they were being exposed to in the courts. Not coincidentally, both DeLay and Barton hail from a state, Texas, with six of the nation's largest MTBE producers, which account for over 80 percent of all MTBE produced in the U.S. (Most of the rest is produced in Louisiana, Tauzin's home state.) Also not coincidentally, oil and gas has been a top industry contributor to both representatives for over 15 years, having raised $558,000 for DeLay and $931,000 for Barton since 1989. In the 2004 election, Lyondell and Valero—two of the top MTBE producers—were among their biggest contributors.
Assuming that MTBE will eventually be phased out, Congress has set aside $2 billion to enable oil and gas companies to transition into new fuel sources. But the phase-out date for MTBE—set for December 31st 2014—isn't even assured; the energy bill contains three exemptions that could allow companies to use MTBE indefinitely.How nice. Not only do they buy immunity from responsibility, but you and I get to pay for their conversion to other fuels - that they will sell to us at a profit. Don't you just love our system government?
While the Senate has asked that risks of future additives be adequately assessed before they're approved for use, the House has rejected such language.What is it about the House of Representatives that makes it such a legislative backwater? Why is it that every news report on their latest activities generates among the electorate a collective shaking of heads, a string of expletives, or laughter? It seems a prerequisite for leadership within the Congress is a combination of greed, lies and hypocrisy.
You and I, ladies and gentlemen, have done this to ourselves.
Where They Don't Belong
A friend in the Army, currently stationed in California, and I have been exchanging e-mail for some time. She returned from Iraq four months ago. Yesterday and today we joked about the U.S. Representatives that want to restrict women in combat. With 14 years experience behind her, she's well informed of the issues. Her response: "Chickenhawk politicians shouldn't meddle in something they know nothing about and don't belong."
If they were to abide by that standard, they wouldn't be politicians.
Soviet-Style Control Over Political Prisoners
Amnesty International's annual report has just been published. The chapter on the United States informs us of nothing new. And they spare no quarter with regards to Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib.
By the end of the year, more than 500 detainees of around 35 nationalities continued to be held without charge or trial at the US naval base in Guantánamo Bay on grounds of possible links to al-Qa’ida or the former Taleban government of Afghanistan. ... Neither the identities nor the precise numbers of detainees held in Guantánamo were provided by the Department of Defense, fuelling concern that individual detainees could be transferred to and from the base without appearing in official statistics.This administration controls the judiciary and determined that these prisoners are not subject to either U.S. or international laws. This administration is itself not subject to U.S. or international laws, and is not answerable to any other branch of government, any foreign government, or to the American people.
In a landmark decision, the US Supreme Court ruled in June that the US federal courts had jurisdiction over the Guantánamo detainees. However, the administration tried to keep any review of the detainees’ cases as far from a judicial process as possible.
... On 22 June, after the leaking of earlier government documents relating to the “war on terror” suggesting that torture and ill-treatment had been envisaged, the administration took the step of declassifying selected documents to “set the record straight”. However, the released documents showed that the administration had sanctioned interrogation techniques that violated the UN Convention against Torture and that the President had stated in a central policy memorandum dated 7 February 2002 that, although the USA’s values “call for us to treat detainees humanely”, there are some “who are not legally entitled to such treatment”. The documents discussed, among other things, ways in which US agents could avoid the international prohibition on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, including by arguing that the President could override international and national laws prohibiting such treatment. These and other documents also indicated that President Bush’s decision not to apply the Geneva Conventions to detainees captured in Afghanistan followed advice from his legal counsel, Alberto Gonzales, that this would free up US interrogators in the “war on terror” and make future prosecutions of US agents for war crimes less likely. Following the presidential elections in November, President Bush nominated Alberto Gonzales to the post of Attorney General in his new administration.
The U.S. government for decades criticized the Soviet Union and other tyrannies for exactly these same tactics. This administration is no better than the Soviet Politburo. The Imperial Bush and his neocon retinue have pulled our government down to a level that would have made McCarthy blush - and they're proud of their work.
Saturday, May 21, 2005
Quote of the Day
"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."
Theodore Roosevelt, 1918
Friday, May 20, 2005
The Imperial Presidency: An Empty Suit
Horse's Ass has become a daily read for me (time to rearrange the blogpool). From a link on Goldy's page to another, I found an article at Chronicles Magazine. This publication has a number of conservative authors but they don't all agree with the current neocon hypnosis. Clyde Wilson is but one example:
We have entered into the stage of imperial decadence in which a clueless inheritor of the throne is a tool of his courtiers, though, like all courtiers, they must occasionally endure an outbreak of petulant self-assertion or manage a tangent of eccentricity by their lord.[Emphasis mine]
...In a blog discussion on the Chronicles website a while back, I was rather severely taken to task by an anonymous correspondent for slighting the accomplishments of President Reagan. For this writer Reagan represents the most valued “presidential legacy” of his lifetime. Set aside that Reagan’s legacy includes a failure to deliver on every promise he made in regard to the internal affairs of the Union. Why do we need a “presidential legacy” to make us feel good? Why should a democratic people have any regard for a president’s legacy other than whether or not he had faithfully executed the laws of the country? My reply was that at this time in our national life it is vitally necessary to desacralize the government by giving up the sentimentality of “presidential legacies.”
How did we get to this state of emperor worship—the need to identify with “our” president, as if he were the father of our one big happy family? It would seem that for millions of Americans now, to criticize “our president” is to commit treason against what they imagine to be a family. Well, the President is not “my president.” He is a rather mediocre and troublesome man who has acheived temporary (let us hope) power through a corrupt and irrational process that required of him neither an admirable character nor proven services to the country. The President is most certainly not “my commander-in-chief.” He is merely during his term of office head of the Armed Forces established by law—that is, he has the responsibility for directing their operations. He is not commander-in-chief of the United States. Constitutionally considered he is not even commander-in-chief of the federal government, which was supposed to be a government of divided powers.
... Beginning certainly with Kennedy, though with intimations at least as early as Teddy Roosevelt, the presidency was absorbed into the corrupt American culture of celebrity. The president is no longer a hero/patriot but a celebrity. When the country was under the most devastating foreign attack in its history, Commander-in-Chief Bush was performing his celebrity routine for elementary school children. The masses today would likely run screaming in fear if confronted with a real hero/patriot as a leader.
Millions of Americans are now unable to make an elementary distinction between society and government. This means that the state apparatus is no longer the servant of society, but that society is merely raw material for the emperor and his retainers.
Powerful stuff, this. And when coupled with the article to which Goldy linked, it makes for a powerful statement about the American electorate.
Yes, the electorate. We are to blame. You and I.
We put these people - from Bush to Frist to DeLay and all their retinue - into office. We believe the vile and bilious B.S. of Limbaugh, Hannity, Savage/Weiner, O'Reilly, Prager and Wilbur. We keep returning to the lies and delusional rantings found at Free Republic, Little Green Footballs, and Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiller. We accept without question the "institutions", the non-profit (except for it's high-profile directors, executives and consultants that play the revolving-door game with government) "think tanks" that produce lies that are translated into talking points that are repeated endlessly and eventually believed. Personal attacks have supplanted logic and debate. We believe what they say, though suppressed common sense tries to be heard behind the noise.
And we wonder why the federal government doesn't address our pressing needs, but instead tries to figure out how to screw the other side.
You and I are to blame. You and I.
John Cole at Balloon Juice provides his list of reasons for abandoning the Republican Party. From the comments, it appears that he's not a lone voice in the wilderness.