Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The joy of the fall of the Duke-Stir.

Randy "Duke" Cunningham has admitted to accepting bribes and has resigned from Congress. I was hoping to see Tom DeLay go first, but I guess when you're exterminating insects, you have to take out a lot of the smaller ones before you wipe out the queen.

This has been simmering for a while. There was a write-up on the Dukester in the New Republic last year, back when the investigations started. It was pretty clear that he was guilty as sin, but there’s no conviction without a trial, of course. (Just ask Ken Starr.) However, what really lifts my heart is that after reading that article, I concluded that it would take something as earth-shaking as the downfall of Tom DeLay to take Cunningham down, and it felt like DeLay was untouchable. However, the reverb is echoing all over the place. Cunningham’s crocodile tears don’t fool me; if he wants absolution, he can call a priest. He can’t stop whimpering on national television too soon for me. Is there something about southern California that invites such mawkish sentiment in Republicans? Darryl Issa gave a similar performance when it became obvious that he wasn’t going to reap the benefits of the recall elections that he himself started. And who can forget Nixon’s famous “Checkers” speech? (Okay, I wasn’t born until seventeen years later, but still, it makes an impression.) I can’t wait for der Govuhner to weep openly at a press conference about some failed referendum. I can see the headlines already: “Kindergarten Cop in Tears,” “Running (and Crying) Man,” blah blah blah.

Anyway, the Dukester is the man of the hour, so I should stick to the subject. Cunningham’s newfound weltschmertz is the kind of thing that puts the freude in schadenfreude.

Joy to the world... except for YOUR kind...

It’s that time of year again—the air gets colder, the days get shorter, the stores get busier, and a good number of Christians get contentious and surly.

Yes, I’m talking about how Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) wants to call a Christmas tree a “Christmas tree.” Rep. Hastert says he’s tired of our calling that tree on the Capitol grounds a “Holiday tree.” He says it’s a Christmas tree, and that we should stand up and let non-Christians know that December 25 is not their holiday. Got it? Peace, joy and brotherhood—for us. Get your own damn holiday, heathens!

We’ll probably also hear more talk about struggle against the War On Christmas, where he complains that the modern, post-Enlightenment world is fighting to offend Christians by de-Christianizing Christmas. He appeals to tradition, saying that we should get back to the days when everyone said “Merry Christmas” to each other all the time. Whenever that was. Probably back in the days before these filthy foreigners started polluting our pure Christian society. “Happy holidays,” O’Reilly says, “absolutely does” offend Christians. Honestly, what probably offends Christians more is having such a bitter, sour man claim to speak for them. Me, I had a good Catholic upbringing, and O’Reilly’s mewling about “persecution” makes me ill.

Where do you get such faulty information? "Happy holidays" is NOT a new greeting. People in America have been saying that for YEARS! Listen to those old Christmas carols from the 1940s and you'll hear it. It's nothing new.

Further, with so many holidays happening during the coldest, darkest, and otherwise dreariest time of the year, doesn't it make sense that we should try to get as much well-wishing into as few words as possible? With two little words, "Happy holidays," you reach Christians of all denominations, Jews, recognizers of Kwanzaa, Moslems (at least until Ramadan moves into January over the next few years,) pagans, as well as atheists who still exchange gifts on the 25th and on Boxing Day, plus everyone who uses the Gregorian calendar celebrates New Year's Day (and if you're an American, that probably includes you.)

Joy to the world! Spread the cheer around! Whatsoever you do to the least of my people, that you do unto me—so treat 'em nice! Make someone happy, or at least wish them happy during the holidays!

Honestly, since when is Christmastime supposed to be the kind of time when you say, "I'm gonna wish you a Merry Christmas and if you don't like it, screw you." Did Jesus die on the cross for that? Honestly...

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Ed Rendell: The mystery of the missing appeal.

Today I read that Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell polls as the 35th most popular governor in the United States. That also makes him the sixteenth least popular, which sounds even worse.

Go figure, huh? In general, the Pennsylvania Republicans are sagging, but it seems to me that Democratic Governor Ed Rendell is benefiting from that sag only because he doesn't look as bland as he would if the Republicans were surging. Despite the Republicans' ill fortunes in Pennsylvania as of late, Pennsylvania remains a divided state. But in Pennsylvania, Republicans are like genital warts: they may go into a tolerable remission, but they'll come back surging sooner or later.

It doesn't seem like Rendell is very popular at all. My parents, (nearly) lifelong Pennsylvanians, loathe him. They find him sleazy, for the most part, but they're also upset about property tax increases and his having legalized gambling in order to drive up state revenues. Sure, it's the Neocons' "starving the beast" strategy that forced states to jack up tax rates, but that doesn't matter to most folks, and anyway, he really shouldn't have legalized gambling. I can't forgive him for that, myself. Legalized gambling has social costs that I find hard to overlook.

Another gripe might be the east/west divide in Pennsylvania: Rendell was the Mayor of Philadelphia, and my family, we're westerners. That doesn't mean we will always prefer a westerner over an easterner, but it's a plus. I remember all sorts of digs at Governor Casey about how good the roads are around Harrisburg, but in Hermitage, 200 miles to the west, the roads were like a mortar range. That said, there's plenty of love for Arlen Specter in the Pittsburgh/Erie corridor, as Democratic as that part of the world is. We just tend to prefer voting for one of our own. Tom Ridge was from Erie, you know. (On the other hand, Rick Santorum is from Pittsburgh, and there's not much love for him in da Burgh, which is fulla Democrats 'n 'at.)

I'm always surprised by the talking heads who mention Rendell as a possible vice presidential candidate. To hear them talk, you'd think there was a statewide case of "Rendell fever" in the Keystone State, but I can vouch that there isn't. It makes strategic sense for the governor of a large swing state like Pennsylvania to appear on your ticket, but Ed Rendell isn't the most... electrifying guy. He'll probably win reëlection next year by merit of the fact that the Pennsylvania Republicans can't seem to get it together, but I don't know how much of an asset he'd be to a Democratic ticket. Of course, he's a good fundraiser, so that might make him look better, and there's no way he'd outshine a presidential candidate. So maybe it would work out if the Democratic presidential nominee taps him as a running mate in 2008. He'll be term limited out of running again in 2010, anyway.

I moved out of Pennsylvania in 1996 and I'm probably not going back, but I still feel pretty involved with the state. Regardless, I can't say I feel much of a thrill when I see Ed Rendell talking or getting the national spotlight. Maybe I'd feel different if he were on a presidential ticket, but I have a feeling I'm not going to get to find out.

I originally posted this article on the Daily Kos

Ohio: the heart of the Republican scandals.

What’s been near and dear to my heart is what’s been going down in Ohio these days. Several corrupt Republicans have bitten the dust, and Governor Taft is mired in scandal. Thanks in part to term limits, he’s a lame duck that everyone hates. Even during last year’s election, Bush steered clear of him.

I was in Ohio yesterday, listening to the Ron Verb and Casey Malone Show, which is a moderate radio call-in show based in Youngstown, and the callers were furious. These are angry Democrats calling in, damning the Bush administration, the Taft administration, Mayor McKelvey of Youngstown (a Democrat who endorsed Bush last year, which has rendered him political dead meat,) and had plenty of venom for anyone who’s ever said anything even remotely nice about Bush or their state’s scandal-ridden politicians. Granted, this is northeastern Ohio, which is a heavily Democratic part of the world, but it’s also noteworthy that these aren’t the simpering, limp-wristed liberals that Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter tell you are in total control of the party these days. These are people who believe in the social mission of taxes and spending, who believe that government has a duty and a role. They ain’t Coastals; they’re strictly bread-and-butter voters who will turn out to the polls in fair numbers if they think someone’s going to take away their hunting rifles, but will turn out in droves if they can’t find work or if their government services are failing. And the latter is happening.

These beer-drinking, football-watching, meat-eating children of factory workers are furious. Tom Noe’s Coingate scandal is tarnishing the several Republican gubernatorial candidates who are running right now to snag the nomination in May’s primary. The major Republican candidates are Bush administration sop Ken Blackwell and right-wing drone Jim Petro, both from the Cleveland area. Blackwell and Petro are already sniping at each other, and hopefully they’ll knock each other down but good. Currently, Petro is down in the polls, but still, Blackwell’s campaign web site is going negative on Petro. The Democrats seem to be coalescing around U.S. Representative Ted Strickland, a minister whose religious background will likely neutralize that exclusive contract that Republicans like to claim to have on God, and the fact that he’s 64 years old but could pass for forty doesn’t hurt, either. Strickland’s from socially conservative and fiscally liberal south central Ohio, and an energized northeastern Ohio would be glad to vote for the guy—even though he’s probably a Bengals fan.

Republican Senator Mike DeWine is also in trouble, threatened by a couple of Democrats who are gunning for his seat. Some say that the favorite is Paul Hackett, an Iraq War veteran from the (heavily Republican) Cincinnati area who almost won a special House election recently. If he can do that well in Cincinnati, goes the logic, he’ll all but electrify Youngstown and Cleveland. After that, Democratic Toledo, mixed Columbus and conservative Xenia (and environs) are all academic. If any of that works out, we’ll see, but with DeWine as the incumbent, who will have support from the very bipartisanly popular Senator George Voinovich, the election might not be the cinch that some predict it will be. U.S. Representative Sherrod Brown is also challenging Hackett, so if that campaign gets ugly, it could help out DeWine. However, Brown and Hackett are currently running a race that’s so polite it would be nauseating to watch, if I were a Republican. Brown is running on his own ideas and record (and an endorsement from Ted Strickland) while Hackett is running on his own ideas and military record (and an endorsement from U.S. Representative Tim Ryan of Niles, Ohio, who is one of the true rock stars of politics these days. Ryan isn’t old enough to be president yet, but will be in a couple of years, and if he ever runs, he can count on my support. In the meantime, it’s nice just knowing that Ryan is there in Congress. Hopefully Hackett will be there soon, too.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Republicans mock Murtha resolution.

The tragedy continues. The Republicans are fighting against using debate to settle big issues that affect our country and everyone in it—as well as much of the rest of the world. That's how they got their war, and they're doing it again. An airing of grievences and different points of view might get us somewhere; shutting down all discussion right away will not.

At issue this time was Rep. Jack Murtha (D-Pennsylvania)'s proposed resolution that Congress set a time table to get us out of Iraq. Congressional Republicans fought against discussion by creating a parody of Murtha's proposal and writing their own, which called for an immediate pullout from Iraq. That's not at all what Murtha wanted, but that's what the Republicans are trying to say he did.

Congress spent more time talking about Terry Schiavo than this. And they spent much more time about gutting Medicaid benefits than this (and managed to get away with that one, too.) Republicans owe it to America to be embarrassed about this. They continue to buy this war and are happily taking our country down with them. The War On Discussion will continue, but if they think this is the end of the debate, they're sorely mistaken. Just like those were who voted to invade Iraq.

However, the Republicans' stunt failed. The idea was to get the Democrats to fracture, and to have some of them vote for this parody of Murtha's proposal, and to have some vote against it. What happened was that nearly all the Democrats in the House voted for it (apart from those few who didn't vote.) And although every Democrat who voted in this sham voted against it, five Republicans joined. The sham resolution to pull out immediately passed 212-210, with the Democrats looking good afterward, and the whole thing blowing up in Duncan Hunter and Henry Hyde's smug faces.

Another bill, this time the resolution calling for the immediate pullout (instead of the aforementioned vote to add a line to the bill calling for immediate pullout—confused yet?) failed 403-3. There's no serious sentiment to pull out pell-mell, but the Republicans' political strategy hinges on people believing that that sentiment exists. They want to boil it down to a simple stay-or-go debate, but it's really not that simple, and while the war has grown unpopular, how many people really just want to pull out?

Frankly, I'm afraid of what would happen if we did just pull everyone out. While I still think we should never have gone in in the first place, what would happen to Iraq if we abandoned it? It would probably split up, with a Sunni state maintaining friendly politics with Iran, a Shiite state that's friendlier with the Arab states, and a Kurdish state that would inspire instability in eastern Turkey. Turkey, being one of the West's strongest allies, wouldn't appreciate that. I have mixed feelings on it, myself. On one hand, I don't like the idea of infuriating Turkey, but on the other, I've always felt that the Kurds deserved their own state.

We've really made a hash of the Middle East. The answers aren't simple, and the Republicans' talking points that they are that simple are really hurting what they want to accomplish—whatever that is. We can't afford to go on without a real debate on this, now more than ever. It was a lack of real debate that got us involved in Iraq in the first place. Failing to air this out among Congress and the American people (as well as among other countries) will only compound problems. For all the complaints people make about the mess that the European colonialists left, this one promises to be more of an open, bleeding sore.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

President Bush's dangerous state of mind.

Yeah, we all feel crummy and sullen sometimes, but most of us don't have access to nuclear weapons:

President Bush has gone reclusive.

He's only communicating with Laura Bush, Barbara Bush (mother, not daughter,) Condoleezza Rice and Karen Hughes. What the hell is happening when even the Washington Times is reporting stuff like this?

It's no secret to regular readers of this blog that I don't like Bush at all, but the fact is that I'm really, really scared about this.

New York's anti-terrorism funds pulled.

Congress has decided to take back the $125 million it promised New York in 2001 to pay for added security against terrorism. New York City's only member of Congress, Vito Fossella, said that this amounts to "something of a promise broken."

Yeah, Congressional Republicans will talk and talk and talk about security, but when it comes to actually doing anything about it, they can't be bothered. Meanwhile, the counterterrorism spending in Wyoming is beating the per capita spending on New York City. The next time there's a terrorist attack in New York, it'll be safe to say that the party in power did nothing to prevent it.

The Republican Party's gratuitous exploitation of the victims of the terrorist attacks in 2001 is all the more shameful now that they're defunding the program. How any New Yorker can even consider voting Republican is impossible to imagine. Republicans are scum.

San Francisco has banned handguns.

The conservative reaction to the San Francisco gun ban is appallingly disingenuous, and reflects what a bunch of self-serving hypocrites the gun-booster movement is. When it comes to legalizing guns, they say that it’s a question of community standards, and that what’s safe in Carter County, Kentucky might not be safe in Manhattan, so Carter County will have its standards and Manhattan will have its own. But when San Francisco (or New York or Chicago or Los Angeles) tries to pass its own gun laws restricting gun ownership, all of a sudden community standards and states’ rights aren’t relevant anymore, and we need to make sure the folks in Compton have as much access to weapons as the folks back in Carter County.

It’s an uneasy compromise, this patchwork of gun regulations, but it’s the best option we’ve got. It happens that people buy cheaper, easier-to-get weapons in Virginia and drive them up here to New York City—it’s only a five-hour drive, if there’s no traffic—and will commit crimes that way. Virginia’s lax gun laws are hurting New York, and unless we pull over every car on the New Jersey Turnpike and search it from trunk to glovebox, there’s not a damn thing we can do about it. However, we can’t tell Virginia to control its handgun regulations, or to make them stronger so that it will be harder for outlaws to have guns, so next time some poor bastard gets gunned down in the South Bronx, his family can take comfort that the dearly departed died protecting a Constitutional right, for which our forefathers packed powder and wadding over two hundred years ago, the whites of their eyes, remember the Alamo, God bless America, blah blah blah.

There’s no easy solution, but I’d say the first step ought to be to ban the plainly dangerous and ultimately useless weapons that are fancied by hobbyists but serve no purpose to anyone else but, say, the police, who need guns to protect themselves from lawbreakers who have guns. Hunting rifles aren’t a threat, of course, and no one really says that they are or could be, apart from the NRA, who have created an artificial sense of siege surrounding them. When people rob liquor stores, they’re going to use a handgun, not a hunting rifle. The NRA might have a point if they could prove that handguns and hunting rifles are used interchangeably for crimes, but they’re not.

So San Francisco takes its laws into its own hands and the NRA fanatics, who are usually states’-righters, scream blue murder about their scummy double standard. So what’s it going to be, bulletheads: local control, or national standards? Really, you can’t have your cake and shoot it, too.

I think handgun ownership is a slippery slope, anyway. If we let people own them, what next? They’ll want more and more dangerous weapons, no doubt. Then they’ll demand machine guns, and then hand grenades… why, pretty soon, the NRA’s going to be fighting for the right for all of us to own nuclear weapons! We’ve got to stop them before this gets out of control, and we’ve got to stop them now.

George Bush stumps for Mark Kennedy in Minnesota

Seems a little strange, doesn't it? After the conventional wisdom says that the recent gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia were lost because of the Republican candidates' links to George W. Bush, we're seeing a Republican Senate candidate seeking out Bush's help to raise funds for his 2006 campaign for Minnesota's open Senate seat. What gives? Bush is still loved in Alabama, but Minnesota? Blue-leaning, peace-loving, progressive Minnesota? Inviting George W. Bush to a $1000-a-plate dinner? Again, what gives?

I suspect that those of us who have been declaring that Bush cost Forrester the New Jersey election and that Bush cost Kilgore the Virginia election are overestimating his effect. Sure, I think Bush did put a sour taste in the mouths of some voters and that he may well have swung a few over to the Democrats' side, but to call our very unpopular president the main factor in these elections is ludicrous, and draws away from the fact that the Republicans just ran lousy candidates. Doug Forrester ran in New Jersey, which is strongly Democratic, and against a popular senator, but still, Mr. Forrester grouses that if Bush hadn't been so unpopular, he would have won. Poppycock. Forrester was a crummy candidate with an unappealingly wooden personality. Add that to a platform that didn't really appeal to enough people, and you've got failure. Bush didn't even campaign for Forrester, so poor Mr. Forrester needs to face the fact that the voters just didn't want him as governor.

Jerry Kilgore, down in Virginia, was even worse. His campaign had almost no substance to it at all, while the winner, Lt. Governor Tim Kaine, was supported by a popular incumbent governor, and the Kaine campaign was more substantial, to say the least. There were other factors, too, but it's reaching to pin Kilgore's loss to Bush's popularity, and to Kilgore's having invited Bush to stump for him during the last couple of days of the campaign. It would be tempting for Kilgore to say such things, though; that would feel better than admitting to himself that either he ran a dud of a campaign or that he was a dud of a candidate.

Bush's diminished popularity certainly does diminish his value as an asset to his party's campaigns, but he's not useless. I think Bush could wind up helping candidates during the 2006 campaigns. Oh, he won't be anywhere near the asset he was during the 2002 campaigns, but I wouldn't call him useless, even though we hear some Republicans saying they'd rather not have Bush stump for them.

Rep. Kennedy's move to have Bush come to Minnesota and raise funds for him is a good one, I'd say. Kennedy's going to need all the cash he can raise, because although Minnesota is a pretty divided state, it does lean Democratic, slightly. Kennedy's advantage is that the Republicans have united early around a candidate, and that that candidate is him. His disadvantage is that he's a lousy campaigner with a tin ear. He won his House seat in a very strongly Republican district by the narrowest of margins against Democrat Patty Wetterling. His personal attacks on her left a terrible taste in Republicans' mouths. The Democrats haven't unified around a candidate yet. That candidate could well be Wetterling, but it could also be Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar (whom I like better, anyway.) No matter who stumps for him, Kennedy's going to face a tough race.

President Bush's popularity ratings probably won't always remain below 40%, and even if they do, he's still useful to some Republican candidates in some places. Further, he's always good for raising cash from the party faithful. In close races, the president's presence could make a difference one way or the other, but we can't overestimate it. The 2006 midterms are a whole year away, and a year is an extremely long time in politics, so it's hard to predict what Bush's worth will be by then. The only thing we can say for sure is that Bush's unpopularity is hurting his party's recruitment and fundraising now. The repercussions of this will certainly hurt the Republicans' prospects in 2006, but whether Bush will still be useless or even a poison pill for many races remains to be seen. I'm not about to predict that—not yet, anyway.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

2006 election rundown

This week's elections do have some hints of things to come. The victory in New Jersey was not at all unexpected; Corzine's double-digit victory was. All the experts figured the gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia would have been closer than they were. Since predictions of Corzine's narrow victory fell short of his big victory, and since predictions of a close election in Virginia were off the mark where Kaine's comfortable victory was concerned, Democrats are energized. Whether their energy will keep going for the next year remains to be seen, but it looks like good news for them for the moment, at least.

This week's elections do have some hints of things to come. The victory in New Jersey was not at all unexpected; Corzine's double-digit victory was. All the experts figured the gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia would have been closer than they were. Since predictions of Corzine's narrow victory fell short of his big victory, and since predictions of a close election in Virginia were off the mark where Kaine's comfortable victory was concerned, Democrats are energized. Whether their energy will keep going for the next year remains to be seen, but it looks like good news for them for the moment, at least.

Bush proved to be poisonous in Virginia, a state which he won comfortably enough both in 2000 and 2004. Even if you don't put much stock in the idea that Bush's visit to support Kilgore actually increased support for Kaine, the fact that Bush didn't do much campaigning at all for Kilgore throughout the election is telling. This is the same president who felt no shyness at all about getting involved in Senate and gubernatorial elections in 2002, 2003 and 2004, when he was unquestionably an asset in certain parts of the country. He never could have done much for Forrester in New Jersey, but in Virginia, in happier times for the Republicans, Bush would have been a big, big help. Democratic recruiting is in better shape, while Republican recruiting has been weakened.

-Until this summer, no one was talking about taking on Senator Mike DeWine (R-Ohio,) but now there are two Democrats vying for his seat.

-Senators Jon Kyl (R-Arizona) and Conrad Burns (R-Montana) are also facing challengers. The races still favor DeWine, Kyl and Burns, but remember that these are seats that were until recently considered close to hopeless by the Democrats.

The weakness (and absences) of Republican challengers is more dramatic: Democratic senators who were once touted as vulnerable aren't facing much in the way of opponents.

-No Republican heavy-hitters are stepping up to challenge Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida,) whose seat was until recently regarded as low-hanging fruit for Republicans.

-Strong Republican challengers are conspicuously absent in Nebraska, where instead of challenging Senator Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska,) they're all running for governor.

-Claire McCaskill looks strong againt Senator Jim Talent (R-Missouri.) This should be a good race.

-Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania) is considered to be the most vulnerable incumbent this year, with State Treasurer Bob Casey, Jr. challenging him, having been recruited by Chuck Schumer himself to run for the Senate, instead of holding back and running for governor in 2010, when Governor Rendell is term-limited out of the job.

-Governor Joe Hoeven is thought to be the only Republican strong enough to take on Senator Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota,) and he's not even going to try.

-The theoretically vulnerable Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington) doesn't have a significant challenger this year; prominent Republicans have backed out.

-No one is stepping up to take on Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-New Mexico) or Senator Robert Byrd (D-West Virginia.)

The open seats in Minnesota and Tennessee are up in the air, and at this moment, I'd say they lean kinda Republican, but it's way too early to call these races. And James Webb, Reagan's former Navy Secretary, is talking about challenging Senator George Allen (R-Virginia,) who was previously regarded as unassailable. Chuck Schumer says there's another viable candidate in Virginia, but he's not giving names (Mark Warner, maybe?)

I haven't been following the House seats as closely, but the scuttlebutt is that things look better for the Democrats. I've heard that a few seats in Ohio could flip Democratic, particularly a seat held by a retiring Republican, and the Democrats are expected to pick off a few Republican seats here in New York, targeting one on Long Island and, as ever, New York City's sole House Republican, Vito Fossella, who represents Staten Island and a sliver of Brooklyn. I can't see the Democrats winning enough to actually take the House; that depends on who controls which state legislatures in 2010. If the Democrats can take and/or hold on to the governor's mansions of a few select states through the 2010 elections, they'll get to control the redistricting processes there, and 2012 could look good for the Democrats. The states that could be reäpportioned under such situations in 2012 are New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, Florida and California, all of which saw their last reäpportionment under Republican administrations and most of which were redrawn under Republican state legislatures. (The reason I include California in this list is because although Governor Davis was a Democrat and although California had a Democratically-controlled legislature in 2000, Davis let the preëxisting boundaries stand as a result of a compromise with the Republicans in the legislature, so those 1990 boundaries were drawn by a Democratically-controlled legislature under a Republican governor. Just for the record.)

All that said, the oligarchs are making sure that power is concentrated into a few hands and that wealth is secured only for those who are already wealthy, so unless something is done about this trend, we're going to wind up irreversibly screwing up the American economy and society. I was just back in my western Pennsylvania hometown this week and saw a couple of long-established local retailers and grocery stores going out of business because of the second WalMart built in town. Maybe I'm wrong, but what I've been seeing lately hasn't made me too optimistic about the world that we're creating for today's children and the children yet unborn.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

And the LORD shall smite thee, Dover, Pennsylvania!

Pat Robertson has promised divine retribution from God on Dover, Pennsylvania, which recently fired eight of the nine Republicans on its school board, which had been bringing Intelligent [sic] Design into the public eye.

Funny how Intelligent [sic] Design advocates have been saying that their theory isn't necessarily religious, but then it's people like Robertson who get so hellfire upset about its setbacks. Go figure, huh?

Monday, November 07, 2005

Jerry Kilgore's dangerous stance on immigrants.

Jerry Kilgore has been using the immigration issue in Virginia to gain ground. He's complained about how Virginians have to listen to people speaking something other than English in the Old Dominion, and he's claiming that these immigrants are using up valuable services that we native-born deserve. This is what political scientists refer to as "hogwash." It sure ain't Virginia ham, anyway.

I guess I should say that Kilgore's railing against illegal immigrants and not all immigrants. However, it's not hard to be against something illegal, and when your campaign doesn't have a heck of a lot to run on, how much substance do you need?

Indeed, as much as I favor immigration myself, I'm against illegal immigration, and solving a problem like this requires more than a smiling reactionary shouting, "Send 'em back!" But one of the most dangerous planks in Jerry Kilgore's platform is his desire to deny the children of illegal immigrants access to state colleges. This is dangerously short-sighted. To hear Kilgore say it, you'd think poor people in Guatemala and Ecuador are saying to themselves, "I'm going to move to America so that twenty years after my kids are born, they can go to college on the state dime." While I don't have the ability to read every immigrant's thoughts on the matter, I strongly suspect that they're coming here to find work in construction or service jobs that pay better than what an unskilled laborer can find in Guatemala or Ecuador but that Americans don't want because they don't pay enough. Then these immigrants come to America and have their children and raise them—and then, years later, their children, who are now Americans and Virginians, can't better themselves? Come on! These children don't have connections back in their parents' countries, and if they were to be shipped "back," they would be in worse shape than their parents were when they left those countries. Further, these children, if born here, are legal citizens, and they're going to stay, like it or not. Does Jerry Kilgore really think it's wise to pass legislation that would effectively encourage an underclass of undereducated, disenfranchised, legal citizens?

I don't think Jerry Kilgore is thinking this through. But if he is, then he's a colder, more calloused man than I previously thought. Virginia would do very well not to elect this suit who is so cavalier toward the lives and welfare of others. If there really is such a thing as "compassionate conservatism," Kilgore is not it.

Vote for Tim Kaine, Virginians—as if I really needed to say it.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

My schadenfreude about a Howard University event

Last week George Bush headed over to Howard University, a largely black college, to do a little PR business and to stump a little for Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele's Senate campaign. Steele's running for the open Senate seat in Maryland, and would be the only black Republican, if elected. Currently Steele is trailing in the polls, but he's got a whole year to turn that around. We'll see.

Anyway, you know how in Laurel & Hardy movies how everything that can possibly go wrong does go wrong? And how it's remarkable that everything goes so utterly, completely, perfectly wrong, as if with Swiss watch precision? Well, that's kind of how Bush's trip to Howard went. But I can't hope to do it justice, so I'll leave that to the Washington Post article linked here.

Vielen Spaß zum Schade!

I'm just wild about Harry!

Harry Reid's having called a closed session of Congress yesterday was one of the greatest things I've seen the Democrats do in ages. If they keep this up, I just might find myself saying I'm proud of my government. Which would feel funny. And anyway, I'd be proud of some of my government. Bush and his ilk would still embarrass the hell out of me, I'm sure.

I doubt the resulting bipartisan committee on the intelligence abuses used to justify the Iraq War will lead to the convictions that we as a democracy need, but that's beside the point. At least some light has been shone on these cockroaches that have been stonewalling the investigation nigh on eighteen months now, and that's progress.

Besides, if the Republicans could call a closed session on something as important as Bill Clinton's marital indiscretions, I'd say something like this certainly qualifies.

Religious Americans: to tolerate or to not tolerate?

It seems to me that since America's progressive movements largely grew out of socially progressive religious movements in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century England, we would do well to remember this when reaching out to religious voters. Many of them have been manipulated to vote based on empty social issues like abortion or gay marriage or prayer in schools, but that's no reason to openly condemn them. They can be won over to progressivism if we remind them that it's all about treating people decently. Reacting with hostility toward religion and religious people only clouds the issue and causes us to hand control of the debate over to those who work so hard to get the poor to vote against their own interests. How to get this all done without America's progressives sounding like Jim and Tammy Bakker is a challenge. But I have to say, as an agnostic, that when it comes to tolerance and treating people decently, Jesus had the right idea.

Frankly, I'm more comfortable with not discussing religion in the public forum, particularly where politics are concerned. And I think we shouldn't. However, a number of people are doing that, so we've got to find a way to flank them. Hostility toward religion is not healthy, I'm sure we agree. Talking about what religion is supposed to accomplish (decent lives for people, social equality, etc.) is the way we can do it. Focusing on the minutiae (posting of the Ten Commandments, prayer in school, who you ought to marry, etc.) is allowing ourselves to get drawn into their kind of fight, and lets us get distracted from the real issues while those in power turn their eyes heavenward and vote for another upper-income tax cut.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Harry gives 'em hell: special closed session of Congress called

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) called a special closed session of Congress today to investigate why congressional Republicans are more interested in protecting the White House rather than investigating the intelligence failures in the run-up to the Iraq War.

"'The United States Senate has been hijacked by the Democratic leadership,' said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee). 'They have no convictions, they have no principles, they have no ideas.'" Senator (and Doctor) Frist is currently being investigated for insider trading of stocks in a private hospital chain that his family owns, which serve his home state of Tennessee. Say what you want about Senator Frist's principles, but as far as the insider trading goes, he's got no convictions yet, either.

Senator Trent Lott (R-Mississippi) has complained that Senator Reid's move violates the Senate's tradition of courtesy and consent. This is a curious thing to hear from someone whose party wants to hear nothing about the discussion of Supreme Court nominees, who doesn't want to run potential nominees by the loyal opposition first, and who wants to eliminate the filibuster option altogether. So much for tradition, huh?

Is this a stunt? Well, it sure has some of the markings of one, but on the other hand, the Republicans in Congress did run roughshod over Senator Rockefeller (D-West Virginia) and others who wanted to investigate whether the Niger papers and their ominous talk about yellowcake uranium were justifications of war with Iraq or B-grade forgeries. Now that it's been proven that they're forgeries, and considering that they were the United States' cassus belli in the first place, wouldn't an investigation be called for? Better late than never, anyway. Kos has a good timeline of the events that Senator Reid is concerned about.

Tom Daschle would never have done this, someone has pointed out. To that I say, "Damn straight! We got a party chief with some balls now!" It wouldn't surprise me at all if the Republican leadership is bashing their heads against the wall right now for having worked so hard to help John Thune defeat Senator Daschle last year. I think I'll start referring to Thune as Senator Pyrrhus. It seems to fit, doesn't it?