Thursday, March 24, 2005

Execution vs. euthanasia; John Paul II vs. G.W. Bush

I thought it was curious that we weren't hearing much from the Vatican about the Schiavo case. I eventually did catch an item where the Pope issued a statement comparing this instance of euthanasia to an "execution." I'm sure that Bush would gladly trumpet having the Vatican on his side where this issue is concerned, but the Vatican is saying that they don't care for Bush's cherrypicking: in other words, if the life of an invalid in a persistent vegetative state is sacred, then so should be the lives of death row inmates. This also sheds some light on Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who has not said much about how his defense of Terri Schiavo is rooted in his Catholic principles. I'm sure that if Catholic Jeb started defending her as a Catholic, the Holy See would feel compelled to ask, "So, Governor: when is your state going to outlaw the death penalty?"

Culture of life, culture of death... what's the difference with these people, really?

Monday, March 21, 2005

Save Toby!

This guy says he'll kill and eat his rabbit unless he gets $50,000 before June 30. I don't think he really intends to kill and eat that rabbit, but I admire him for an amusing scam. And it appears to be working: as of this writing, he's made almost $20,000 as it is. I'm half tempted to send him money.

The hate mail this guy's getting is fantastic. I wonder if this would work with a cat?

Peggy Noonan: Use Terri Schiavo!

So columnist Peggy Noonan has declared that she feels that conservative politicians should use Terri Schiavo as a political football.

I don't know what to say, apart from pointing out how depraved and mercenary this is. Wasn't it Matthew who said something about gaining the world and losing one's soul? Apparently Peggy Noonan is gunning for the world...

Here's the most chilling part of her article:

So let me write a sentence I never thought I'd write: Politicians, please, think of yourselves! Move to help Terri Schiavo, and no one will be mad at you, and you'll keep a human being alive. Do nothing and you reap bitterness and help someone die.

This isn't hard, is it?

That pretty much says it all, doesn't it?

Florida Politix on Schiavo

Here's a pretty good analysis on the Schiavo fiasco on Florida Politix. I think James Haywood is a little too hard on the Democrats, but I do like the fact that is analysis draws attention to the fact that Republicans are succeeding because they're using social issues over issues that actually have something to do with things that affect our lives and livelihoods.

Think about it. In the last couple of weeks, Republicans have pushed:

Unpopular revision of Social Security.
Bankruptcy laws that punish the poor and middle class while favoring the rich and businesses.
Drilling in the Arctic Refuge.

And what are the media shouting about? A twenty-year coma victim in Florida! Hooray! Social issues win elections! This has nothing to do with nearly every single person in the country, yet the Republicans have gotten us to—once again—ignore the issues that are important to our lives and focus on another triumphant distraction!

Terri Shiavo is suffering for our upper-class tax cuts! HOORAAAAYYY!!!!!!!!

Why is Terri Schiavo a federal case?

What's going on? Why is a Florida coma patient being made into a federal case?

It's all about politics, of course. Some Democrats have called their Republcian colleagues on it, and they're right to do so. This is nothing that should have involved Congress, but since it's got such a potential big political score for the Republicans, Karl Rove and friends are seizing on it. A memo has been circulated among Republicans stating as much, though Republicans all over the Hill have been denying that they've ever even seen this memo. At a time when Republicans have egg on their faces for their successful opening up of the Arctic Refuge for oil drilling, and while Republicans' revisions on Social Security policy are earning them resentment right and left, they need a feel-good distraction to make them look better in the eyes of their base, and a distraction that hamstrings the Democrats is all the better for them.

Word has it that this is designed to target Senator Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska), who has not fully embraced the conservatively correct agenda. Nelson is up for reëlection next year. Winning as a Democrat in Nebraska is tough enough; winning as a Democrat in Nebraska while you're being tarred for not supporting conservative social issues is probably a lot tougher. Hard to believe that this is the same state that gave us such forward thinkers as Bob Kerrey and Doug Bereuter, isn't it?

Friday, March 18, 2005

Rather odd, isn't it?

So it’s not news that the Bush administration has been preparing what they call “Video News Releases” (VNRs) which it’s been giving to TV news stations and paying them to run them. These VNRs are of course friendly to Bush policy, even though they’re passed off as if they were real news.

So what I want to know is: since so many conservatives were calling for the head of Dan Rather and other CBS executives when he aired a slanted, poorly researched report on Bush’s military service, shouldn’t they then be calling for the heads of the station managers who are airing these partisan VNRs? I mean, think about it…

Thursday, March 17, 2005

The Magnificent Seven... or Eight.

So, an amendment killing all Medicaid cuts from the 2006 budget has passed in the Senate by a vote of 52-48. Voting for it were all 44 Democrats, independent Jim Jeffords, and seven Republicans, who are, in no particular order:

Gordon Smith (OR)
Arlen Specter (PA)
Olympia Snowe (ME)
Susan Collins (ME)
Lincoln Chafee (RI)
Mike DeWine (OH)
Norm Coleman (MN)

This list of Republicans is getting to be pretty common lately. Seven of these eight Republicans voted against the opening up of the Arctic Refuge yesterday (John McCain voted with his party this time.) Why aren’t they toeing the line for Bush, like Congress has been habitually doing in the past few years?

Answers are seldom simple. Motivations for these senators vary, I’m sure. Firstly, none of them come from solid Bush states; the only one of those states that Bush won was Ohio, and it was close. Several of them have elections to worry about next year, namely Snowe, Chafee and DeWine. Smith and Coleman are facing tough elections in 2008; Collins’ election might not be so tough. Specter is the only one on the list who doesn’t have to worry about reëlection; he was recently diagnosed with Hodgkins’ Disease, so he’s unlikely to seek another term when his current term is up in 2010.

So what’s going on? Does this indicate of some kind of moderation in the Republican Party? Or is this more due to fear of losing reëlection in states where constituents lean Democratic, and where they actually worry about Social Security benefits, responsible energy policy and environmental well being? I could only say for sure in the case of Senator Specter that it looks like he’s voting his conscience. Where the others are concerned, you can’t say for sure—but you sure can speculate…

The big question is: how long until Lincoln Chafee bolts from the Republican Party? And if he does, will he stay independent, like Jim Jeffords? Or will he join the Democrats? No doubt the Democrats would welcome Chafee with open arms—though no doubt they’d welcome either outcome.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Neocons to Watch Out For: Michael W. McConnell

The Tenth District is probably one of the most conservative districts in this country, and a likely source for Bush’s eventual Supreme Court appointees.. One justice of note is Michael W. McConnell, who’s on Bush’s Supreme Court short list, since one of these days they’re going to have to drag Justice Rehnquist’s crumbling body out of the chamber. On the plus side, McConnell is a big advocate for religious freedom, which means that he doesn’t back public religious displays—for any religion. Roy Moore and his Ten Commandments idol must be quaking.

So what does Bush see in McConnell? And what do all those conservative groups who are so enthusiastic about him see in him? Well, McConnell is a vehement abortion rights opponent, which is what Bush looks for in his court appointee litmus test. If there’s going to be a test of the nuclear option (which I bet there will be,) McConnell will be the plutonium for the bomb.

McConnell’s pretty intellectual for a conservative. It’d be great if he turned out to be a moderate, like David Souter, but I suspect that if he’s on Bush’s short list, his lunatic credentials have been vetted already. McConnell wrote a paper titled Prohibiting Same-Sex Marriage is Constitutional, so I’d say that it looks like McConnell is more like Robert Bork than David Souter or Sandra Day O’Connor.

Prepare yourselves for a clash of titans, once it comes time to start nominating. This is going to be one of the biggest frays that Congress has ever seen, and one that progressives can’t afford to lose.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Florida state legislature proposes thought mandates for universities.

According to the Florida Politix blog, Representative Dennis Baxley, a Republican on the Florida state legislature, has proposed a bill requiring that every time a university professor makes a politically loaded comment, he has to make a comment expressing the opposite sentiment. For example: if a professor says that some people believe women have a right to an abortion, he must also state that some don't. If that professor says that we're doing a good job in Iraq, he must also point out that some don't think so. If that professor says that Nazism was a blight on humanity, he must also point out that some thought that eugenics and genocide were the only way to properly advance civilization. He might have to note that Hitler thought that the Poles were subhuman—which would require that he mention that others thought the Poles were just as human as anyone else.

The precedent that a bill like this sets is unthinkable. If this bill passes, the state of Florida would likely set itself up for another bill which would mandate that for every moron elected to the state legislature, you'll have to elect an intelligent person, too. And vice versa. This will double the size of government, but it would be worth it, in order to balance out Rep. Baxley's influence.

Seriously, if this sort of mandating of thought can happen in a university, then wouldn't Baxley be mandated to speak up for a liberal idea for every one of his conservative ones? Where do these idiots come from?

Anyway, go to Florida Politix for the complete story on this insanity.

Look, Hillary Clinton will never run for president.

After my disastrous predictions of the 2002 and 2004 elections, I'm pretty much through with the predicting game. However, there's one prediction I'm ready to make: Hillary Clinton will never run for president.

I really wish this blather about Hillary Clinton running for president would stop. She's never going to run! She'd never win, either, and I'm sure she knows it. Oh, she'll have no problem winning reëlection to the Senate in New York next year, but since presidential elections include those other 49 states as well, I'm sure she's not going to go through the unrealistic procedure of shooting for the White House.

All the talk about her running is pushed by Republicans, who would love to see her run, and who use the mere mention of her name as a big fundraising tool. They'd love to see her run because as a presidential candidate, she'd be even more divisive than George W. Bush, and she'd unify the Republicans against her. Come 2007, when the Democrats are filing papers and announcing their intentions, Hillary Clinton will be starting her second term in the Senate, legislating in Washington, and she will not be among them.

Don't encourage the right wingers who keep mentioning her as a likely presidential candidate; she's not going to do it. You want some actual Democrats who might run? Okay, here's a list:

Democrats Sen. John Kerry (MA)
Sen. Joe Biden (DE)
Gov. Mark Warner (VA)
former Sen. John Edwards (NC)
Gov. Mike Easely (NC)
Gov. Phil Bredesen (TN)
Sen. Evan Bayh (IN)
Gov. Tom Vilsack (IA)
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (KS)
Gov. Bill Richardson (NM)
Gov. Janet Napolitano (AZ)

Republicans Gov. Mitt Romney (MA)
Gov. George Pataki (NY)
former Gov. Tom Ridge (PA)
Sen. John Warner (VA)
Sen. George Allen (VA)
Gov. Jeb Bush (FL)
Sen. Bill Frist (TN)
former Gov. Mike Huckabee (AR)
Sen. Chuck Hagel (NE)
Gov. Bill Owens (CO)

Conspicuously absent former Gov. Howard Dean (D-VT)
Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA)
Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT)
Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT)
Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY)
former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (R-NY)
former Sec'y of State Colin Powell (R-NY)
Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA)
Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC)
former Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-GA)
Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL)
former Att'y Gen. Janet Reno (D-FL)
former Vice Pres. Al Gore (D-TN)
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)
Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D-MI)
Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL)
former Gov. Jesse Ventura (I-MN)
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA)
Gen. Wesley Clark (D-AR)
former Sen. Dale Bumpers (D-AR)
Sec'y of State Condoleezza Rice (R-AL?)
former Sen. Gary Hart (D-CO)
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)
Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)
Gov. Arnold Schwarzeneggar (R-CA)
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA)

The eleven Democrats and ten Republicans are the likely presidential candidates in 2008. The 27 people in the "conspicuously absent" list are those whose names keep coming up for whatever bizarre reasons when the next president of the United States is discussed. All of them are either unelectable, uninterested, ineligible, or some combination of those adjectives—and are aware of it. (I can't imagine how John Edwards would think of himself as electable at this point; still, the scuttlebutt about a 2008 bid for the White House seems to have some substance to it. I hope I'm wrong about this one.)

I'm sure there are names that I've left off the first two lists, names of people who might throw their hats into the ring later on. You never know. But I'm certain that anyone who shows up on the list of the 27 unelectables will never run. So if you want to sound smart, like you know what you're talking about, bone up on these people and amaze your friends! Next time someone says, "Oh, I wonder how the Hillary/Condi race is going to turn out?" you can blow them away by saying, "Well, I think it's much more likely that either party will nominate a governor. New Mexico's Bill Richardson is a likely choice for the Democrats—popular and Hispanic—while the Republicans might nominate Mitt Romney, provided he can win reëlection in 2006. Otherwise, they might be stuck with Bill Frist. I think America will be too tired of Bushes to nominate Jeb—at least, I hope they are!" Gosh, you'll sound smart! Wouldn't that be cool?

Get people to think you're smart: acknowledge that Hillary Clinton isn't running for president in 2008, or probably ever. She's staying in the Senate, and as a New Yorker, I'm glad for that. But those of you in the other 49 states won't have the pleasure of seeing her name on the ballot, I'm afraid.

Republicans say steroids more important than economy.

Has anyone out there been watching the Sunday morning talking-head shows on TV? All this talk about steroids in professional sports! Look: professional baseball has a commissioner, and so does football and every other sport. Why does Congress have to involve itself in this? I don't vote to send people to Washington to talk about steroid use! It's already illegal, and that's fine. Let the regulations do their job; this is irrelevant, and a good idea for Republicans and their toadies to use to divert attention from the draconian anti-bankruptcy bill that Republican and many Democrats rammed through last week—not to mention the criminal dismantling of Social Security that Bush is pushing for.

Tim Russert ought to be ashamed that he's flogging this issue above real issues. And Reps. Tom Davis (R-VA) and Henry Waxman (D-CA) ought to be ashamed for having helped.

Yes, it's too bad that athletes are using steroids. But it's not Congress's job to fret about that, and it's certainly not the president's. It's bad enough that Bush took steroids onto the campaign trail last year, but really, if anyone needs to avoid serious issues, it's Bush. But the rest of Congress, who actually have a future to concern themselves with, ought to know that they do, just like the rest of us. They have no excuse.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Saddam Hussein debunking probably fake.

I apologize for yesterday's entry, which I posted a little too eagerly. I should have waited to corroborate the evidence. There's nothing to back up the claim that they didn't find Saddam Hussein in a hole. Sadly, I'm just too used to the Bush administration lying, so every time something comes to poke a hole in its claims to have done anything, I'm prone to suspect it's true.

I'll leave that entry up so you can see what I'm talking about. I apologize for any confusion. We all need to be vigilant, and truth is what's important above all. Otherwise, we're no better than the liars who told us that Iraq was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Saddam Hussein's capture was faked.

Saddam Hussein found in "modest house," says Marine.

So apparently U.S. Marines didn't find a desperate, flea-infested Saddam Hussein hiding out in a hole in the ground. The whole thing was staged, according to one Marine. I expect there to be more evidence that the "capture" was faked up. I mean, in light of the faked-up Jessica Lynch story, the faked-up tearing down of the Saddam Hussein statue, and of course the faked-up weapons of mass destruction lie, I can't say I'd be surprised.

Can't the Bush administration do anything without smoke and mirrors?

Friday, March 04, 2005

Anti-Democratic philippic: whither the suffix?

Those of you who have ever heard a right-wing politician speak, or tuned in to Fox News or Rush Limbaugh, might wonder why they can’t seem to speak the full adjective we use to neutrally refer to the oldest surviving political party in America. Why can’t they pronounce it right? Are they stupid? Well, no; they just sound that way.

Those of us in that party call it the Democratic Party, which is its name. These folks will say Democrat Party, as if they meant a celebration thrown by some members of that party. This is ridiculous, particularly in light recent elections, which haven’t given the Democrats much reason to celebrate. So why do they do it?

Well, the whole Democrat Party thing started in the 1950s. It was a desultory term thrown about by the famously paranoid Senator Joe McCarthy (R-Wisconsin). The idea was to pluck some of the dignity from the Democrats, by abridging their name. It also seemed to suggest that the Democrats couldn’t possibly be democratic, since they’re so lousy with creeping socialists. They divorced the name from democracy, making Democrats seem like something alien from democracy. These louts took the Democrats’ name away from them.

This weird habit trailed off after Senator McCarthy’s decline into alcoholism. It started to make a comeback in the 1970s, when the Republicans started shifting to the right, and felt they needed to get nasty again. They still do it. It’s little more than a snub.

It’s kind of useful, though. Any person or media that refer to the Democrat Party can be written off as unreliable. One caution there is that the British and French say Democrat Party, too, but that’s probably more due to the fact that since there’s no party in those countries called the Democratic Party, but there is the word democratic in both languages, so it’s reasonable that there could be confusion in those countries.

I suppose we should be a little grateful to the right wing for identifying themselves so readily by shooting out this little jibe. It annoys me, yeah, despite the shorthand it offers in decoding a speaker, news article or TV broadcast. And besides: when was politics ever polite in the first place? This is more of your caustic Republican nastiness, displayed through overt disrespect for those who are not of their group. In other words: it’s just Republican business as usual.

Dean? Resign?

Tim Russo of the Democracy guy blog thinks Howard Dean should resign as DNC chairman, which you can read at this link. A decent analysis on Mr. Russo's part, though I’d say he considers the American people a bit more serious about the way they look at politics than they actually are.

Mr. Reynolds says that Dr. Dean has made a reputation for himself as a goofball, and that that will be a hindrance. Dignified Americans everywhere will look at him as a joke, he fears, and ridicule his party at a time when it needs strong leadership more than ever. How could the party elevate a guy like this to its highest position at a time like this?

I felt the same way about the sleazy Newt Gingrich, who divorced his wife on her deathbed, and who was deservedly a laughingstock. He was an embarrassment! But the man had organizational skills, and he whipped his party into shape. I know he wasn't the RNC chair, but he worked wonders when it came to railroading the Congressional Democrats, embarrassing the Democratic president, and controlling the national debate.

Gingrich was a disgusting, loudmouthed circus unto himself, but he sure knew how to get the job done. Dean can, too—except he's got some goofy stuff in his history while Gingrich had sleazy stuff. In the end, these things don't mean much to those organizing parties.

If Dean were to run for president (like he's promised he won't,) it would be a disaster, and I think he knows that. At least, I hope he knows that. I suspect he won't throw his hat into the ring, but you never do know. Regardless, his strategy of letting local Democratic organizations have more say in which candidates to choose and how to choose them will, I believe, serve the Democrats well. All this press about Dean will only help to draw Republican muck away from actual Democratic candidates. If Dean does decide to run for president, he'll have to say so in 2007 some time. If he does that, it'll screw up the mission of his office and rightly earn him the resentment of Democrats everywhere. Howard Dean must know that. If he didn't, I can't see how he could have gotten as far as he did in the Democratic organization.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Supreme Court bans death penalty for minors.

All right! A victory for the opponents of the death penalty! Today the Supreme Court banned the execution of minors! The Reuters’ article reads as follows:

In a five to four vote, today the United States Supreme Court abolished the death penalty for those convicted of crimes committed before they were eighteen years old—a notable victory for opponents of the death penalty.

In declaring the death penalty for minors unconstitutional, the Court’s decision will affect about seventy death row inmates for crimes perpetrated when they were sixteen or seventeen years old.

This may not make us an entirely civilized nation yet, but it’s a start.

French jounalist turns up on tape.

Florence Aubenas, a reporter for the French paper La Libération, has appeared on a videotape after disappearing January 5. Ms. Aubernas (or “Florence,” as the French papers refer to her,) looks pretty bad, but after two months in captivity, what do you expect?

Naturally, this would be a bigger story in France than in the U.S., much like the Daniel Perle story was bigger in the U.S. than anywhere else. But this got me thinking: you don’t hear much about kidnapped journalists in Iraq anymore. Not kidnapped American journalists, anyway. (Sure, Perle was kidnapped in Pakistan well before the Iraq adventure, but I brought him up to illustrate a different point.) Why is it the French and the Italians who are trying to get the real story in Iraq, while Americans are hanging out in their “green zones” and hobnobbing with the U.S. troops? The U.S. media aren’t interested in the story, aren’t interested in seeing how the occupation has affected daily life in Iraq, aren’t interested in the attitudes toward our occupying forces.

The media have too much of a stake in this, I guess. If we had more independent media in this country, we might just find a critical voice out there, willing to report the facts and criticize the administration. What could be more American than that?