Thursday, December 31, 2009

Republicans use underwear bomber for political ends

I don't suppose anyone is really surprised that Republicans are using the recent foiled terrorist attack by the son of a Nigerian banker for short-term political gain. Republican gubernatorial candidate Pete Hoekstra is already exploiting this incident in ads, vowing to be hard on "weak-kneed liberals" if elected governor of Michigan this coming November. Fellow Michigan Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Snyder is falling in line, also resorting to this kind of sleaze.

Of course, it's not just two-bit Republican politicians who are pulling this. Former [Vice] President Dick "Dick" Cheney has also been making the same case, saying that the Obama administration and the liberals are putting too much faith in our justice system and not enough faith in martyring failed terrorists, and that we need to declare a Global Jihad for Christianity and White People or something. The Republicans seem to think that if they talk tough enough about terrorism and if they malign the Democrats enough as being soft on terror that they'll somehow manage to divide the country enough to pull off massive Republican victories in 2010. They seem to think that the Republican party has an unimpugnable record on security, and that the American people (read: right-wing base voters) will swarm to the polls on Election Day to reward this divisiveness.

Security is not a conservative/liberal issue. It's not a political football. Security should be politically neutral. If it isn't, we're putting lives and institutions at risk, as did the incompetent Bush administration. And it's not because the Bush administration was conservative or crypto-fascist or theocratic or anything like that (that's a different conversation altogether.) It's because the Bush administration was opportunistic, and used the September 11 crisis to shore up its marginal popularity and to bash the Democrats with the national security club. And now that the Bush administration is thankfully out of office, it's still doing it. And right-wing Republicans like Pete Hoekstra and Jim DeMint and Jon Kyl are doing it. And they'll keep on doing it until the White House starts answering their absurd accusations, at which point they'll probably continue to keep on doing it.

The White House has finally begun to respond to Cheney's attacks. It shouldn't have to be this way, but clods like Cheney have to be responded to. There's just no other way. National security is where the Republicans seem to be placing all their bets. They seem to want to reach out to the Teabaggers but are having trouble making inroads with them. After all, the Teabaggers want tax cuts for everyone, not just the wealthy; the Teabaggers also want crazier things, like isolationist foreign policy and a return to the gold standard which, as nutty as today's Republican party might be, are ideas that today's Republican party can't embrace and which today's Republicans can't pay lip service to without coming across as insincere.

When the Republicans controlled the White House and the House of Representatives, it was easy to bludgeon the opposition with the cudgel of national security. When the Republicans also controlled the Senate, it was easier still. Now that they control none of they above, it remains to be seen whether they can get any traction out of calling the United States government, the Pentagon, and the majority of its voters a bunch of weak-kneed terrorist stooges. Will it work? God, I hope not. The Obama administration's response to these scurrulous charges is a good initial sign. We'll find out how the Republicans' continued politicization of security stands up in 2010. If this is the best the Republicans can do against the Democrats, then I'll agree with the Teabaggers on one point: the Republicans need to be replaced with a new political party. With any luck that new party will be more in the mold of Lincoln Chafee and less in the mold of the John Birch Society, but I'm not optimistic.

Linked below is an excellent clip from the Rachel Maddow Show where she touches on many of the points I made, and inspired this little post of mine. It's Rachel at her best, and it's worth the ten minutes you'll need to spend watching it. I don't expect any right wingers to bother, but it's refreshing common sense. Toward the end is my favorite part, so if you don't have ten minutes to spare, at least check out the last half. Maddow clearly has her biases, but that doesn't mean that what she says is necessarily unfair. In fact, she's quite fair in her commentary in general, and in the piece linked below in particular.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Parker Griffith (D-AL) is now Parker Griffith (R-AL)

Freshman Democratic Representative Parker Griffith of Alabama has just quit the Democratic party and is now a freshman Republican representative.

No great loss, really. He represents Alabama's fifth district, which runs along the northern border of the state, and is heavily Republican. There are currently three Republicans running against him, and odds were very good that one of them would blow the freshman Democrat out of the water. Now that he's a freshman Republican, he's safe.

Griffith has been consistently voting against the Democratic agenda, so really, who gives a damn what this guy calls himself? The numbers in the House will change slightly, but the results of the votes won't. We can call a spade a spade now: Griffith is the Republican he always was, and now it's official.

Of course, the RNC is likely to pull its TV ad against Griffith. But does anything really ever die on the internet?

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Joe Biden: Pass the health care bill

Vice President Joe Biden has an editorial in yesterday's New York Times. He says we should pass the bill now and fix it later. An imperfect bill can be amended later on; a dead bill will leave us in the wilderness like we saw after 1994's health care attempt.

Joe's right. This bill is far from perfect--hell, a lot of it pisses me off--but still it's better than no bill at all. And we can make changes later. It won't be easy, but we can make changes later. It will be hard to, say, make changes to the abortion provision, but it will be impossible to pull the plug on health care in general.

My feelings are mixed, which is why I've refrained from commenting on it earlier, but I want this bill to pass. This week.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Jim Traficant is a bitter man!

Jim Traficant is out of prison and speaking up again. You just can't keep the guy down. Youngstown, Ohio's WFMJ TV has a forty-minute presser that Traficant recently gave. If you're not familiar with local issues in Trumbull County, Ohio, this might not interest you that much. But even if you have no connection with the area, I recommend heading to the twelve-minute mark and watching for a few minutes. Anyone would agree that that's where it gets interesting.

Jim Traficant's video events never disappoint. My hometown is right on the border of what used to be Traficant's district. My hometown is Hermitage, Pennsylvania, so there never was a possibility of being drawn into Traficant's Ohio district. But Traficant was immensely popular in the area. He used to have a Sunday morning TV show where he talked about whatever he wanted to talk about. My dad used to watch it. Dad also worked in Washington, DC for a while and told me that Traficant was a huge joke among his fellow representatives down there.

That said, Traficant was always taken immensely seriously in his district. He was convicted in 2002 and sent to prison before the election. During the decennial redistricting, Traficant's district was carved up, but his name was still on the ballot. Despite his being in prison, and his district having gotten cut into three pieces, he still won 10% of the vote. I happened to be in the area a couple weeks before the 2002 elections and there were pro-Traficant signs everywhere, many announcing, "You know he's right!" and similar sentiments.

This video is interesting. Traficant talks about local issues but can tie most of them to national issues (with the significant exception of the Youngstown Scrappers, the local minor league baseball team that he was instrumental in bringing to the area.) Crooked? Sure, maybe he is. But Traficant really does care about the Mahoning Valley, and many of the people there believe that. The local media--most conspicuously the conservative Youngstown Vindicator--indeed do not like Traficant much at all. But his support runs deep among the locals, prison record or no prison record.

I don't know if Traficant's going to run again, or if he's going to run as a Democrat again. Two of the representatives who occupy Traficant's old district are Democrats; one is a Republican. It would make most sense for him to make a play for the 17th district, though that might be difficult, because that's represented by Democrat Tim Ryan, who's very popular.

I don't know if Traficant would win an election, but (heh) I do know this: he'd do okay in an election, and would definitely draw supporters out to rally around him. Personally, I don't think I'd back Traficant. His support for casinos is something I have a big problem with; casinos are a lousy remedy for a flagging economy--and the Mahoning Valley definitely has a flagging economy. But as much as Traficant (and his toupée) might be a joke outside of northeastern Ohio, he's definitely a force in northeastern Ohio.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Nerding out on politics: Sarah Palin's 1896 parallel

We hear a lot about Sarah Palin's all-but-certain 2012 run for the White House. Some talk is about how cataclysmic that would be if she won, or about how great that would be if she won. I personally don't feel it's worth it to play out the scenario of her winning, since I just don't see that happening. I do think it's very possible that Palin will win the 2012 Republican nod, though.

If you've ever read this blog before, or if you know me at all, you'll know that I'm not at all a fan of Palin or of the modern Republican party. All the same, I don't see the benefit to the Democrats specifically or to the United States generally if she did run a loser campaign. Sarah Palin is capable of bigger things than merely winning the presidency. Sarah Palin is a movement.

Yes, a movement. She couldn't hope to become president herself, but she could well serve to move the party toward the Christian right. It's not like a party's never been moved like this before. In 1892 a man named James Weaver became the first nominee of the Populist party, also known as "the People's Party," which felt that the Republicans and Democrats weren't doing enough to meet their needs. With Weaver as the nominee, the Populists won 22 of the 444 electoral votes up for grabs that year, entirely in the Midwest, the Rocky Mountain states, and one electoral vote in Oregon. Not a lot, no, but enough to cause America's political establishment to stand up and take notice.

In 1896, the Democrats were nervous. They weren't sure whether to stand by incumbent president Grover Cleveland or to look for a fresh face. One fresh face won them over: a rising political star from Nebraska--William Jennings Bryan. Bryan understood the lay of the land, and that the Populists were the Democrats' natural allies. Bryan snared the Democratic nomination in 1896 and pulled the heads of the Populist party with him. There were many Populists who didn't want to go along, but the die was cast: the Populist movement was absorbed by the Democrats. The Democrats didn't just pay lip service, either: they embraced the Populists' policy agenda completely. Though Bryan would lose that election, the Democratic party was strengthened considerably and changed forever.

It's true that after the Populist/Democratic merger of 1896 the Democrats only won two presidential elections before 1932 (and even then, 1916 was a very close election, while 1912 was more a Democratic year, which Woodrow Wilson would have won even if Teddy Roosevelt hadn't run.) But what's more relevent is that the Democratic party built on the Populists' progressive movement during this time, and got much of their agenda passed: the election of senators, women's suffrage, prohibition, a graduated income tax, an eight-hour workday, the abandonment of the gold standard and, eventually, Social Security. While they might not have won the White House as often as they'd have liked, their movement saw great leaps forward as a result of the Populist/Democratic union.

Once the Democrats had the old Populists at their core, they became essential to winning elections. Note that in 1904, when the Democrats nominated "goldbug" Alton B. Parker, they got crushed, since they alienated the "free money" wing (those are the opponents of the gold standard) of the party. They made the same mistake with John W. Davis in 1924 (another "goldbug,") which caused a huge defection to the Progressive party's candidate Bob LaFollette. When Bryan was the candidate (in 1896, 1900 and 1908) the Democrats tended to do better, and better still with Wilson (in 1912 and 1916,) but James Cox (1920) and Al Smith (1928) were only slightly stronger candidates than Parker and Davis. When Franklin Roosevelt came along, part of his success came from his great charisma, and part came from the dire times the country was in, but he wouldn't have had the staying power he did, Depression or no Depression, without a vision for the country to stand on, which is what the Democrats had been building for the past thirty-some years.

I think Sarah Palin might well get the nomination in 2012, but what scares me isn't that she'll get elected--I just don't see that happening. What I'm scared of is the movement she'll be fronting. Granted, if she does get elected, the silver lining at least would be that her likely disastrous term would discredit the right-wing agenda she'd push, but who really thinks that's worth four years of damaging the country. Palin would glom onto the Teabaggers, pulling the Republican party closer and closer toward a bloc of voters that believes that taxation is always bad, that government has no business providing services of any kind to its people, and that compromise on any issue is never tolerable. Whatever you think of the Republican party today, with a person like Sarah Palin in charge, it would get a whole lot worse. And if Palin manages to win the nomination and lose the election, her vision will alter the course of the Republican party for at least a generation, if not longer. American politics does not need her influence. We've got enough trouble as it is.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Picking up where Idi Amin left off

You might have heard that a Ugandan legislator has proposed a bill to make being gay a crime punishable by death, and that making knowing someone is gay but not reporting him or her to the authorities a crime punishable by up to three years in prison. This Ugandan legislator, whose bill is likely to become law soon, based his legislation on the "findings" of a one Dr. Richard Cohen, who has written a book about what causes gayness, how to degayify yourself, and what kind of threat gays are to our children. Mr. Cohen, like that Ugandan legislator, is a disgusting vermin.

Richard Vermin Cohen, who claims to be a "cured" homosexual himself, had the balls to go on the Rachel Maddow Show Tuesday night and defend his book against Ms. Maddow, who is gay herself (as Mr. Cohen feels he must point out,) though she seldom talks about it. Maddow takes down this fraud who pretends to be a psychologist, despite his having been kicked out of several psychological associations in the United States and Canada.

The interview lasts 17:56, and is worth every minute. I recommend keeping an eye on Rachel's facial expressions during the interview; they say a lot.

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435 rotten things in Denmark?

So apparently Congressional Republicans, opposed to halting climate change, feel they should all get to go to Denmark to negotiate America's part in the Copenhagen treaty. They claim that the Constitution gives them the right, which is true, except for the part in the Constitution where it says that "He [The president] shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur." That means that the president negotiates the treaty and then brings it before Congress, who can approve or reject it. This is how it's been done only for the past 222 years or so.

Now America's Congressional climate change supporters feel that the only way to negotiate our position in international treaties is to fly all of Congress around the world to give their own two cents each time. Honestly: doesn't the proscribed way to change the Constitution involve submitting amendments or something like that?

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Is the hiatus over?

So I've been away for, like, a year. The post made here Tuesday was made when I was in my graduate class, giving a presentation on blogs and how they work. I think I'll let it stay.

And now I'll post other things.


Tuesday, December 08, 2009

I am posting now

Lookit this throwaway post.