Monday, October 31, 2005

White House talking points on Alito

And, according to the official White House talking points on Samuel Alito, Mr. Alito is painted as someone who had little to do with drafting the Casey vs. Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania decision, but rather that it was more like he was just following orders of other judges. Anyway, if you're interested in hearing what all the conservative commentators are going to be shouting in chorus about tomorrow, you should read these talking points today.

The link comes to you courtesy of the Is That Legal? blog, which I never heard of until today, but nonetheless looks pretty good. Check it out.

Is Casey different from Casey?

Some murmurs have come up recently about the 1992 court case Casey vs. Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania. This was a case in which Pennsylvania Governor Robert P. Casey, Sr., sued Planned Parenthood, challenging the right to abortion and the integrity of the Roe vs. Wade decision in general. This old case is coming up because Bush's attempt to smooth over his Harriet Miers nomination screw-up involves the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court instead, and Alito worked on this case.

This throws a whole new monkey wrench into the challenge of Robert P. Casey, Jr., to Senator Rick Santorum. I'd be surprised if this weren't already part of the Bush team's calculations. As much as I've been eager to see Santorum tossed out on his ear, I've never been more than tepid about Casey who, like his late father, opposes abortion rights as well. The emergence of this case sure won't help his national campaign, even though the fact is that a Democrat who opposes abortion rights is better for the Senate than a Republican who does, if for no other reason than the fact that even conservative Democrats count toward Democratic control of the Senate. It's kind of like the Republicans having Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island: Chafee may have principles that oppose those of mainstream Republicans, but since he's part of that party, he still helps them control the Senate.

We could do a hell of a lot better than Casey, but at this point it's too late. I don't want to have to wait until 2012 to eject Santorum from the Senate. I really think Barbara Hafer could have done the job better, but it's all spilt milk now.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Surviving Nixon, surviving Bush

The Republican Party is seeing some pretty tough challenges in the recent Bush scandals that are coming to light. It's easy to think that they'll cope with them, that if you consider that the Republican Party survived Nixon, they can survive this. But the thing is, the Republicans didn't survive Nixon. Nixon destroyed the party, and it could only continue to exist by recruiting new members somehow. Since moderates were too disgusted by what Nixon had done, they turned to evangelicals and bigots—groups whom they'd shunned earlier. Classic progressives like Nelson Rockefeller and George Romney were squeezed out of the party, while dirtbags like Nixon and Reagan took charge and sold out the future of the country.

The Democrats, on the other hand, had no problem "surviving" Clinton because under Clinton, there wasn't a genuine scandal, like Watergate, for example. While Ken Starr was convicting Clinton of getting a blow job, Clinton's popularity stayed strong, which was evidence that most people didn't think what had happened was egregious. Bush, on the other hand, is suffering as the flashlight is being shined on the cockroaches of his party. People know, on some level, a real scandal when they see one. And boy, do they see one.

Bush: worse than Teapot Dome, worse than the Tammany Ring, worse than Iran-Contra, and worse than Watergate. History will not remember Bush well.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Sketches of McCarthy...

...Eugene McCarthy, that is!

Pledge to force Washington to get serious about the Iraq War.

Iraq War vet and U.S. Senate candidate from Ohio Paul Hackett sent me the above link. Below is what I wrote when they asked me why I was signing. You should sign, too! So should we all! Let's have some accountability—for a change! I am disgusted that the American people were misled into this colossal quagmire, and that the Bush administration still hasn't come clean about its crooked motives for getting the United States bogged down in the desert for who-knows-how-long. With the death toll of U.S. soldiers at two thirds of those killed on 9/11, and with the death toll of Iraqi citizens at well over five times those killed on 9/11, we need answers from this White House, which dishonestly used 9/11 as an excuse to invade a country that had absolutely nothing to do with those attacks.

Warrant issued for Tom DeLay.

Bail set at $10,000. I bet DeLay has a few friends who can come up with that kind of scratch. Maybe Alcoa. Maybe Halliburton. Maybe an Oklahoma Indian casino, or something. Story here.

DeLay has accused Democrat Ronnie Earle of having partisan motives in this prosecution. He probably does. The ethics partisans are moving against the unethical partisans. I'm always willing to take sides in that fight.

Monday, October 17, 2005

The wealth gap continues to grow in the United States.

According to the CIA Factbook, nearly "Since 1975, practically all the gains in household income have gone to the top 20 percent of households." Rising poverty is a sad state, and usually the symptom of a problem with the system. The growth of wealth only happens to those who are already wealthy, which means that something is clearly out of whack in this, the richest nation in the world.

Perhaps there's a certain danger in having faith in meritocracy. I mean, in spite of the fact that it's only the rich who get richer these days, some will insist that the wealthy are wealthy because they deserve it. The corollary of that is that it's somehow the fault of the poor that they're poor, right?

Perhaps it was my good Christian upbringing, but looking at it that way just makes me uncomfortable. However, I'm also a liberal, so that means I've got to consider all points of view before I commend or condemn them, so here goes. Let's suppose we as a nation accept that the poor are in a lower caste, and that they're there due to circumstances over which they have absolute control, but which they aren't doing anything about. Social Darwinists (or Social Intelligent Designers?) would hold that until they get cracking like the Vanderbilts and the Rothschilds, they're going to have to stay poor, and if they starve or die of slightly costly diseases, then so be it. On the other hand, the good, Christian thing to do would be to increase social programs to help these poor people who are poor because of what are apparently moral failings which hopefully they can overcome some day, so shouldn't we help them keep it together until they get it together?

Of course, you may have guessed that I subscribe to neither school of thought. I feel that a rising tide should lift all boats, and if some seem to be more buoyant than others, chances are it's because there's an inequality in the condition of the various boats in the harbor. We as a society have to decide whether we can afford to let those small craft sink during the next storm. Maybe it's because I'm descended from people who suffered from Appalachian (and Carpathian) poverty, but I couldn't sleep at night if I said, "Let 'em sink!"

For the record, my income has gone up considerably over the past ten years, and you know what? I'm still having a hell of a time making ends meet. I'm keeping my head above water, but saving money? It's impossible. I've got a 401(k), but still... And I wouldn't even consider myself to be poor, either.

This post of mine originally appeared on the Zogby political forums. Click here to read the whole thread.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Rove called before a grand jury again.

Karl Rove has been called before a grand jury again for his involvement in the Valerie Plame leak scandal. They promised that "there's no guarantee" that Rove won't be indicted. Luckily for Bush, this indictment didn't come up until well after the election in which he got elected president for real. It doesn't seem like an accident to me that they put it off until this year.

In related news, pending Rove's trial, there was that business about an alleged subway bomb threat that turned out to have been a hoax backed up with flimsy evidence. Seems to be in par for the course, according to MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, who has compiled a list of the preceding thirteen instances in which the Bush administration deflected scandalous news coverage by raising the terror alert about something which, it always turned out later, was nothing to worry about. The New York subway threat was nothing different.

I can only wonder what terrible terrorism threat we're going to have to face once we hear more about Rove's testimony. Man, those terrorists sure hate to see the Bush administration in hot water, don't they?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Bush photo op: in flagrante delicto!

Er... thank you for introducing yourself, Vernon. I'm glad you consented to join True or Better. You'll no doubt provide the balance we need, much like the New York Times needs David Brooks. (See? Isn't that a better comparison than your Hannity & Colmes idea? You can think of me as... uh... Paul Krugman?)

Speaking of rats, Bush has apparently been ratted out of his cheesy choreographed "conversation" with U.S. troops in Iraq. I'm glad this abuse of journalism has been exposed, but it's disturbing that they do this kind of thing in the first place. I'd count this as off-year campaigning, frankly.

Bush interviews a bunch of Army captains on TV, but he doesn't approve of journalists conducting interviews with soldiers and Iraqis on their own. Y'ever feel déjà vu? Because this reminds me a lot of the way Nikita Khruschev asked Yuri Gagarin if he'd seen God while he was in outer space, and Gagarin yukked it up with the premier. There's some comfort in the fact that the Bush administration is so damned incompetent at this, but on the other hand, it's a dead certainty that they've gotten away with this kind of crap before.

All I want is a decent, above-board, accountable government. Is that too much to ask? Apparently so.

Making True or Better fair and balanced

Some of you have been complaining about the obvious slant of this blog. Anyone who's ever seen an episode of Hannity & Colmes knows that you can't say anything's fair or balanced unless you have the conservative point of view represented. Kurt couldn't take the constant harping on the part of we Republicans and other conservatives, so he finally broke down and let me join the blog and rebut his slant. So, hello. I'm Vernon the Rat, and I'm here to provide balance.

Who am I? Well, like Kurt, I live in New York City, but I don't live with him. I live on the West Side of Manhattan, somewhere under 34th Street or Ninth Avenue, usually near a Chinese restaurant or a bar. My big gripe are the sanitation codes that the Democrats put in place that make it harder for us to eat. I mean, rats gotta eat too, you know. The Democrats don't care about rats, though, because most of us are Republicans. And because most of us don't vote. Rat suffrage is still a long way off, partly because the Democrats aren't working to grant it, and partly because we rats are too lazy to do anything about it.

Anyway, to sum up my introductory post, I have to say that President Bush is doing a great job! Increased gaps in income means increased poverty, and increased poverty means more slums! Great breeding grounds for ratkind! I support President Bush's slashing of federal funds to the state, because it's the damned state that keeps spraying rodenticide on the station where the 2 and 3 trains go. Defund state pest control! Don't let these lunatics continue to poison ratkind!

I look forward to bringing a rat's-eye point of view to this blog. I wanted to say that I'm like Sean Hannity and Kurt's like Alan Colmes, but he told me he'd kick my ass if I did. So I won't say it. (Even though we are.)

The George W. Bush/Tony Blair fan club!

I've had a political conversion following a severe concussion a couple of days ago, and whenever I can control the drooling, I'm a devout Republican! Support our troops!

This conversion has prompted me to join the George W. Bush/Tony Blair Fan Club!!! This is sure to work wonders for transatlantic relations!

If you want to join, go to that link. If you want to get in touch with the fan club, we can be reached at the following addresses. If you sign up, you can get stickers and tee shirts and magnetic ribbons for your SUV. For more information, get in touch with the following enthusiasts:

Tarquin Mumpingarse
7 Muggleton Lane
Pratt's Bottom, Hertfordshire
UK

Roscoe Plunkett
1620 Hogfat Rd.
Grunchler's Bend, Mississippi
USA

Kurt Kaletka
Cardboard-Box-Behind-the-Burger King
I-78 Exit 56
Newark, New Jersey
USA! USA! USA!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Is that an Apache helicopter, Papa Smurf?

Apparently UNICEF has commissioned some rather unorthodox commercials. Happy Smurfs have their village bombed to rubble in an air raid. The message is one of peace, of course, and really, this isn't terribly different from what Gargamel had planned.

What next, Tintin embedded with the U.S. Army? Oh, wait...

Monday, October 10, 2005

Bloomberg and Ferrer—what's a New York Democrat to do?

So we New Yorkers have our two major-party mayoral candidates worked out: incumbent Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer. Bloomberg, presumed dead in the water earlier this year, is currently the favorite in this election, and will probably win a second term. Some might think it unusual that New York, one of the most Democratic spots in the United States, would not only elect Republicans as mayors, but that it would be on the brink of electing a Republican for the fourth time in a row.

Indeed, New York City hasn’t gone for a Republican presidential candidate since Calvin Coolidge, some 81 years ago. But out mayors: notably LaGuardia, Lindsey, Giuliani and now Bloomberg, are sometimes Republicans. Really, I wouldn’t call this unusual. While national Republican politics are usually far from liberal, New York City politics are quite different. Mayor Giuliani was a Republican, sure, but he never would have won that office if he weren’t in favor of gay rights, abortion rights, and spending on public works projects. Same with Mike Bloomberg.

Me, I’m a Democrat, and I haven’t voted for a Republican since I was living in my native Pennsylvania and voted for Tom Ridge for governor in 1994. For the next six years, I would have voted for a Republican that I liked, but one that I liked never came up on any ballot after that. And after 2000, I figured I wouldn’t vote for a Republican on principle, since the party had been taken over by Bush, and so a vote for a Republican was a vote to strengthen the Bush agenda, and I couldn’t tolerate that. Hell, Clinton and Reagan tolerated dissent in their parties, but Bush is different, and I can’t tolerate that. With Bush in office, I couldn’t bring myself to back any Republicans at all. It was just too dangerous, and I still think that’s an appropriate synopsis.

But now, with apparent fractiousness in the Republican Party, it might be time to reconsider. Furthermore, on the local level, it’s understandable to vote for a member of a party you might not approve of nationally. Should I consider voting to reëlect Mayor Bloomberg? I’m actually willing to do so. On the whole, he’s been a decent mayor, funding public works, keeping education afloat (though New York City schools need loads of work,) and he keeps well clear of the grating imperiousness of the Giuliani administration. And, in light of the fact that I think that the Democratic nominee Ferrer is a buffoon, I have to say that I think that Bloomberg is the more attractive option, even though his party still makes me gag.

But I can’t do it! No, it’s not that he’s a Republican; on the mayoral level, I’m sure I’m over that. No, what bothers me is the fact that Bloomberg poured loads of time and money into constructing a new stadium for the New York Jets football team, which he wanted to build on the already-crowded West Side of Manhattan. This would have been a civic nightmare, clogging traffic and consigning real estate that could have been used for something better to do duty as a stadium for a team that already has one! I mean, if Bloomberg wanted to build this stadium in Queens or somewhere where there’s wide open space that could accommodate the traffic and parking and increased stress on mass transit then I’d have been all for it, but as it was, he had to push for this ill-planned stadium, and so I can’t forgive him enough to vote for him.

However, I can’t bring myself to pull the lever for Ferrer, either. So what I’m planning to do is to write in Congressman Anthony Weiner, the runner-up in the Democratic primary, whom I voted for in that primary—unless someone can convince me otherwise. For now, that doesn’t seem likely. But four weeks from tomorrow, I’m going to have to have made up my mind.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Subway guys with guns

There was a terrorist threat reported. Apparently there's a somewhat specific threat aimed at the New York subways, which I ride every day, which is supposed to happen sometime this month. Bag checks are escalated (though I did carry a large shoulder bag right past a checkpoint this morning and the cops didn't check me, since I apparently don't look like a terrorist, I guess.)

We were discussing this in the office this morning. Someone said, "There were army guys with rifles in the subway this morning. I like that. It makes me feel safe."

"Not me!" said someone else. "Yeah, it makes me feel nervous," said a third. "One of those guys could go crazy with the guns." I chimed in, saying that a guy with an M-1 wouldn't be able to do anything about someone carrying a bomb in a black shoulder bag of the kind that I had with me this morning, for example.

What was interesting about this is that the person who was pleased to see the army guys on the subway is a conservative, while the two others I mentioned who don't like it are pretty much apolitical. And then there's me, whose politics you know if you've been reading this blog long enough.

I don't think it's likely that the army guys'd lose their nerve and start shooting people, but I don't see what they could do to protect us, and just seeing them there doesn't do anything for me. It depresses me, in fact. I remember the first time I saw an army guy carrying a rifle in the subway. My heart just sank. I'm more used to it now, but it still brings me down.

Anyway, it's curious that it's only conservatives who are thrilled about seeing armed soldiers in the subway, while the rest of us aren't fazed at all. Or maybe it's not so curious. It's things like this that convince me to take these "threats" less and less seriously.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Al Gore in 2008?

Check out this excerpt from a speech the former vice president gave yesterday:

It is important to note that the absence of a two-way conversation in American television also means that there is no "meritocracy of ideas" on television. To the extent that there is a "marketplace" of any kind for ideas on television, it is a rigged market, an oligopoly, with imposing barriers to entry that exclude the average citizen.

The German philosopher, Jurgen Habermas, describes what has happened as "the refeudalization of the public sphere." That may sound like gobbledygook, but it's a phrase that packs a lot of meaning. The feudal system which thrived before the printing press democratized knowledge and made the idea of America thinkable, was a system in which wealth and power were intimately intertwined, and where knowledge played no mediating role whatsoever. The great mass of the people were ignorant. And their powerlessness was born of their ignorance.

It did not come as a surprise that the concentration of control over this powerful one-way medium carries with it the potential for damaging the operations of our democracy. As early as the 1920s, when the predecessor of television, radio, first debuted in the United States, there was immediate apprehension about its potential impact on democracy. One early American student of the medium wrote that if control of radio were concentrated in the hands of a few, "no nation can be free."

As a result of these fears, safeguards were enacted in the U.S. -- including the Public Interest Standard, the Equal Time Provision, and the Fairness Doctrine - though a half century later, in 1987, they were effectively repealed. And then immediately afterwards, Rush Limbaugh and other hate-mongers began to fill the airwaves.

If he keeps giving speeches like that, I might just go out and campaign for him. Remember what it was like to have a president who was also a statesman? Wasn't that great? Ah, those were the days.

Anyway, the whole speech is damned moving. Here's the full text of Al Gore on the threat to democracy. Check it out.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT) receives corruption award.

How's this for local pride? Montana's Republican senator, Conrad Burns, has been named one of the thirteen most corrupt members of the U.S. Senate by a group called CREW.

CREW are Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, crusading against "government officials who sacrifice the common good to special interests." I hope they keep up the good work. And I hope to see Big Sandy native Jon Tester moving in to Burns's office fifteen months from now. Montana's already got a great governor who, I can say with no exaggeration, provides truly inspired leadership. It's got one good senator, as well, so why shouldn't it have two?

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Laffeystock: A possible Democratic pickup in Rhode Island?

Stephen Laffey, the mayor of Cranston, Rhode Island, has decided to challenge incumbent Senator Lincoln Chafee in next year's Republican primary. It looks like Laffey could do it, too, because Rhode Islanders are largely Democrats, and those that are Republicans tend to be conservatives, and they're the type who'd be more likely to vote to throw out an incumbent if he weren't conservative enough—which is a common complaint that Republicans have about Chafee.

Republican strategists had tried to discourage Laffey from running, out of fear that he couldn't win in the general election, and would thus essentially hand a Republican seat over to the Democrats. The iconoclastic Laffey is going ahead and running, anyway.

I'd have figured that Chafee's safee, but the National Republican Senate panel apparently doesn't think so, as Laffey's own site states.

I still think Chafee will move on to the general and probably keep his seat, but it's hard to say. Last year, Pennsylvania incumbent Arlen Specter faced a tight primary challenge from Republican Representative Pat Toomey, and was nearly ousted in his primary. Like last year's Pennsylvania race, Rhode Island's will be decided in the Republican primary. Rhode Island's Democratic contenders Sheldon Whitehouse and Matt Brown poll about evenly, so I'd bet that the winner of the Democratic primary would beat Laffey and would pose a strong challenge to Chafee. Chafee vs. Brown or Chafee vs. Whitehouse would be interesting; run Laffey against either of those guys and it's a blowout, with another Democrat heading to Washington and Laffey heading back to Cranston.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Why was David Dreier's play for DeLay's job blunted?

With Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) stepping down temporarily as House Majority Leader, House Republicans had to find someone to do his job for Mr. DeLay until he can beat this rap. Two leading candidates emerged: Rep. David Dreier of California, and Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri. Blunt got the job.

"Okay, Kurt, so what? I can watch CNN's Headline News myself." Good point. But what the Republican leadership didn't say was that Mr. Dreier didn't get the job because, well, he supports stem cell research and opposes the heterosexual marriage amendment for the Constitution. Oh, and his gayness might have had something to do with it.

Yes, David Dreier is a gay Republican. He's a 24-year veteran of Congress, largely moderate (apart from some socially reactionary votes) and has recently been part of an outing campaign by blogactive.com.

I think the social conservatives would have grabbed control anyway, even if the fiscal conservatives had tried to get a straight man nominated. Regardless, this is just another example of how the Republican Party is sinking into a morass of intolerance, chasing out all the old moderates and the live-and-let-livers. Lest you think I'm a hypocrite here, let me clarify that I don't believe in "outing" except in the cases of politicians or other public figures who make their way by fighting against gay rights. While I laud Dreier for opposing the Constitutional amendment for heterosexual marriage, I admonish him for having backed the loathesome Defense of Marriage Act.

If this ruins Dreier's career, or at least makes the Republican Party look at itself more closely, then I'd say the outing is well worth it. I'm not entirely sold on the idea that Dreier was passed up primarily because he's gay, but the fact that blogactive.com had been planning an outing campaign on Dreier for the past couple of weeks probably figured into it at least somewhat.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Karen Hughes' brilliant plan

Link linked by way of kos:

Karen Hughes, the new Condi Rice, is setting out to make more of a hash of things than the administration has already done, which would be quite an accomplishment. She says that if the terrorists just understood us, they wouldn't be terrorists anymore. This is strange enough, but particularly strange in light of the fact that whenever one suggests that our intelligence forces try to understand the terrorists' minds and motivations, accusations of molly-coddling start to fly.

By the way: nowhere in the American Constitution does it say that we're "one nation under God," and I defy anyone to show me where it does. I have my own copy of the document, current as of 1991, so I can double check any answers anyone tries to slip past me.