"Will" is a four letter word.
Friday, June 30, 2006
George Will, that is. His op-ed
yesterday praises the Supreme Court for striking down Vermont's fair elections law, but attacks the court for not going far enough. Several members of the Court were in favor of overturning Buckley entirely - and scrapping all regulations of campaign finance in the process. Will supports Thomas's contention that an incredibly complicated decision like in the Vermont case only opens up room for more cases. As such, Will believes that we should apply Occam's razor and entirely dispose of campaign finance regulations.
I will admit to one thing. It certainly would be simpler. Much easier to have no regulations on campaign finance than the delicate balancing act of free speech with political equality.
But I will go Will one or two further. If simplicity is our goal, why mess around? Why not apply his scalpel of policy simplicity to a few other issues? It would be far simpler to eliminate environmental regulations than to weigh individual property rights vs. the public interest. Why not ban women from the workplace so we don't have to come up with alternative child-rearing arrangements? Hell, wouldn't it be much more straightforward to eliminate the bill of rights altogether than to manage the conflict between public order and private liberty? And while we're cleaning up all these bothersome little messes, let's just appoint an absolute dynastic monarch rather than deal with all these tiresome debates?
Of course Will would say that I'm going to far, that he's not in favor of any of those things. Of course he's not. Nothing he or his favorite political party is tending in any of those directions, are they? No way.
Sorry George, but life is complicated. ]He chooses to focus on the narrowest definition of corruption (ignoring the rampant sleaziness on his side of the aisle) and ignore the broader problem of our present wealth test for office
. He ignores the problem of political equality because...well... he doesn't believe in equality at all.
Who's The Happiest Doggie In The World?
Democracy? We Don't Need No Stinkin Democracy!
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Ah, the Supreme Court. When they start issuing opinions, I have to reach for the maalox.
The most recent travesty is their decision to uphold the DeLay gerrymandering in Texas
. While the court has recognized that a grossly partisan gerrymander is grounds for throwing out a map, their acceptance of this plan - the most egregiously partisan imaginable - renders that theoretical position meaningless.
The decision also accepted the constitutionality of mid-decade re-districting, which will open the floodgates. In the future we can expect Republicans to re-draw the lines any time they have the opportunity. So far the Democrats haven't had the guts to do it, but I don't see how they're really going to have a choice now. People who tell me that we shouldn't do it because we "don't want to be like them" are going to get the back of my rhetorical hand. Be warned.
What's particularly outrageous about the Court's ruling is its singling out of the 23rd district for special treatment. If a map dilutes voting rights on racial grounds, that is unacceptable. But apparently making discriminatory decisions on political grounds is perfectly okay. Screw over Democrats, just don't harm racial minorities. Can someone identify the sense in this for me?
One could argue that the court was just following the Constitution - that there's nothing in it prohibiting re-districting more than once a decade. Look people, it's not like the Supreme Court hasn't reinterpreted the Constitution in order to take account for important factors like preserving democratic fairness and political equality. The Constitution does say that there will be a census and re-districting will happen afterward. The Court could have argued that this implies that re-districting will only happen then, except for exceptional circumstances. The Court could have argued that the founders could never have intended for the political maps to be used cavalierly as a political weapon, and that a due regard for fairness mandates some limit to gamesmanship. Hell, even the NYT
agrees with me!
But what to do now? New Donkey
suggests state constitutional amendments barring these sort of shenanigans. Assuming that such an approach is feasible it's probably a good idea. But I think it's long past time that we revisisted the entire process of political mapmaking. The problem is what. Independent commissions are inevitably going to be captured by the parties, and the Court is clearly no safeguard against abuses. I'm seriously contemplating moving to multi-member districts with a high threshold to dissuade 3rd parties and "spoilers." Perhaps the safest kind of map is to not have maps at all.
Hank Hill Isn't Going To Be Happy
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
You know how he feels about propane and propane accessories
, right? Well this
is going to outrage him.
If he existed, of course. Just saying.
Is This An Argument Or A Demonstration of Irony?
on the tracking of bank records:
1) It was legal
2) The NYT shouldn't have revealed it.
This is a very strange sort of defense. He could make the case that under the Patriot Act (boo!) the President has the authority to conduct surveillance of private bank records in order to obtain information on terror cells. That's fine. As a general matter, it's no secret - I remember when there was discussion about it when the Patriot Act was up in the first place. Of course, the last time I checked you were supposed to get a warrant before doing so - which as usual the President has not done.
But if this program was legal and authorized by the Patriot Act, why keep it secret? The law is a matter of public record - anybody can look it up. If spying on bank records were in accord with the law, then it wouldn't matter if the NYT talked about it. Bush's reaction in this instance could have been "so?" and left it at that.
The fact that Bush attacks media organs that revealed the existence of the program is an implicit concession that it is illegal
. Papers aren't supposed to reveal the details of military and intelligence tactics, but this was neither of them. They weren't "burning a source" - they were presenting a general strategy in the war on terror.
No, I think Bush & Co. know that the program of warrantless data collection against American citizens
is illegal. They are lashing out at the NYT in order to change the subject. This is their basic - in fact their only - political tactic: attack, attack, attack. Trampling on civil liberties? Undermining the Constitution? Hey, to them that's just part of the fun.
I Saw That One Coming
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Just as I was afraid of
, the Supreme Court has struck down
Vermont's campaign finance law. The law limited expenditures to $300,000 and restricted the size of donations. Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy wanted to overturn Buckley vs. Valeo. Somehow I don't think their reason for doing so squares with mine. Maybe they want to eliminate any regulation of campaign spending whatsoever!
As repugnant as I find the Buckley decision equating money with speech, it's probably a lost cause to pursue it through the courts. Apparently even the "liberals" on the court have decided that rich people have a right to dominate elections. It's time that the left pursue the public financing route, which while expensive would do more than anything to even the political playing field.
I just wish I could trap those justices in a room and get them to explain to me how America's wealth test for office is consistent with Breyer's stated concerns about the "constitutional risks to the democratic electoral process."
I have more in common with Gatsby than I thought
Monday, June 26, 2006
You Are a German Shepherd Puppy
Intelligent, quick witted, and a bit aggressive.
You've got the jaw power to take a bite out of anyone you choose.
Cat in a Bag
Friday, June 23, 2006
At least it wasn't a garbage bag, I suppose.
Reasonableness on Iraq
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Yesterday I actually watched portions of the debate on the Kerry and Levin resolutions. For those of you not paying attention, Kerry (& Feingold) are calling for withdrawal by July 1 of next year, while Levin and most of the Democrats are calling for a benchmarked withdrawal and redeployment. The Republicans mainly talked about how wonderful Iraq was doing (are those explosions in the background?) and portraying both proposals as a cowardly retreat.
and some others on the left have condemned the Levin position, embraced by most of the Democratic caucus, as "shameful straddling." I'm afraid that I have to disagree. There is a reasonable difference of opinion on whether the U.S. military presence is exacerbating or limiting the violence in Iraq. I think that it is quite possible that the place is going to descend into civil war no matter what we do, but I can certainly see how a pull-out date certain would be construed as a victory by the rebels.
I also fail to see any real substantive difference between a benchmarking system and a fixed withdrawal schedule, besides the flexibility the former provides. What annoys me about the Kerry-Feingold position is that while it obviously appeals to the peaceniks in the party (for whom the solution to Iraq is to pretend we'd never gone in), it undermines the Democratic rhetorical position on the war without really breaking any new ground. As such it looks either naive or cynical - neither of which is good politics.
Harry Reid is trying to come up with a sensible Democratic position on Iraq that is both good policy and political defensible. We're going to have enough trouble not being assailed as cowards without a proposal for unilateral retreat on the table, the presence of which the Republicans will use to smear all Democrats with.
I think the Democrats do have the capacity to take the offensive on this issue. Paul Begala
for one has a good suggestion: de-emphasize our own differences and focus on the Republicans' thick-headed "more of the same" strategy. I also think we should keep asking the Republicans where their plan for victory is, other than just hoping things turn out okay. They'll respond with how great things are going, which will make them all seem like the asses they are. Or they'll say that they are pursuing a benchmarking strategy, which will give Democrats the ability to either a) assail them for incompetence, b) blur the differences between the parties, removing a Republican weapon, depending on the particular race in question.
I also think that Democrats should focus on Bush's desire to keep troops there permanently - in other words to make Iraq a client state so that he can make his oil buddies happy. Democrats are united in their opposition to this idea, as are most of the American people. Highlighting this issue will force the Republicans to repudiate their own President or look like they went to war for oil.
To re-interept an old military dicta, the whole art of politics consists of uniting one's own supporters and dividing one's opponents. So far Democrats have been focusing on what divides us rather than figuring out what divides us from the Republicans and the Republicans from each other. That's just no way to run an election campaign.
It's Hot and I'm Tired
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Our 5 course dinner last night:
1) Cheese & crackers
2) Bottle of wine
Is that wrong?
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
The Iraq war should serve as a lesson to liberal bloggers.
At the very moment when it becomes clear that the liberal blogosphere is beginning to emerge as a significant political force, there suddenly emerges accusations that they have sold out
, are shills for corporations
, and are fanatics
. More important is the decision to destroy the egalitarian nature of the internet
itself. It's no coincidence. Apparently the right has figured that they can afford the loss of their tools on the conservative side of the internet if they can shut down the increasingly formidable left.
The Theocons are determined to destroy or coopt any and every institution influenced by liberals. There are only 2 remaining: academia, which is under direct and indirect assault as we speak, and the blogosphere, which the left is now using as an organizational tool (rather than just as propaganda).
In other words, we're next.
Obama in '08?
Monday, June 19, 2006
Just when the draft Gore movement crescendoes, yet another liberal hero begins to be mentioned as a potential candidate in 2008. This time it's Barack Obama. Last weekend the Post
had a front-page article outlining the possibility that Illinois' 1st-term superstar Senator might run for the Presidency - and way ahead of schedule, I might add.
Now I for one don't think he's going to run. He's a very shrewd politician and knows how difficult it would be for him to squeeze past Hillary. My bet is that he's hoping that Hillary doesn't get the nomination and that he gets picked for a running mate. Either way, 2012 or 2016 is probably better for him. In the meantime it doesn't hurt to keep his profile high. The more the press treats Barack as a nominee-in-waiting, the more likely it is he'll become one.
Why is it that Barack is so attractive to so many Democrats, me among them? The Post article identifies the fact that he is a "fresh face." Yglesias
notes that Barack - unlike most American politicians - is an effective orator. This asset made John Edwards a major player in 2004, and is what has made Obama what he is. Yglesias wonders why it is that there are so few talented speakers in contemporary politics. I would suggest that it is because that being a good speaker doesn't have much to do with getting elected these days. The chief criteria are fundraising ability and the ability to speak in sound bytes. The first has nothing to do with good rhetoric, and the latter positively inhibits it.
Barack is certainly a very talented orator, as evidenced not only by his 2004 convention speech by more recent statements
. Although I might quibble with his failure to enunciate an overarching positive theme (he reverts to the same boring laundry list), he is devastatingly effective in his critique of conservative philosophy.
But despite his many gifts, I don't think that it is just Barack's oratory that has made him an attractive presidential candidate now. Or rather, it's not his oratory in isolation. The fact is that many Democrats are deeply dissatisfied with the prospect of Hillary Clinton as a nominee. Many are frustrated with her nods to the right, and many others just don't think she can win. They are casting around for an alternative, and have yet to settle on one of the other potential candidates. Hillary's formidably strong position makes it very unlikely that she will be denied the nomination, so those who oppose her candidacy need a real superstar to defeat her. Hence the flirtation with Gore (who doesn't seem to want to run), and Obama (who thinks it is too early).
My opinion? I think that anyone who wants to be President should run whenever they think they can. If Gore wants it, he should run now. If Obama wants it, he should run now - I don't think his lack of experience is really much of a liability (I think Edwards would have been the nominee in 2004 if not for 9/11). History is littered with potential presidential candidates who waited when they should have run, and who latered rued their own timidity. The worst that can happen is that they lose the general election (losing the nomination never seems to hurt anybody but overwhelming frontrunners) - which means that the only thing that happens is that they're not President. Which is exactly the same situation if they don't run at all.
Dog On Duty
Friday, June 16, 2006
Gatsby has very definite feelings about noise - any noise - from the hallway. The slightest noise and...
When you tell him to stop barking his only reply is, who me?
Rambling Blog About Me
Thursday, June 15, 2006
I've been delaying posting today, in the same way that I've been delaying doing anything. Brazen Hussy and I just moved to Uville. She's wading into her new job, learning lots of new things and becoming acclimated to a very different life. My life is different too - except it mostly consists of sitting around the house waiting for the phone to ring and filling out job applications.
It's gotten me to thinking about the ambiguous but ultimately essential role the work plays in our lives. We don't necessarily like doing it, we bitch about it, but take it away - and we immediately are adrift and even guilty. When Brazen and I were in New York, I had a job and Brazen was looking for one. She was employed, but it was temporary, and much of her psychic energy was wrapped up in looking for something more permanent. Now I'm the one looking, and she's the one with work. And now I see a little more clearly how anxious she was.
Like many people, I would rather not be working. I would rather be playing. One of the amazing things about being required to perform a task is that no matter how much one loved doing the task before, it instantly becomes drudgery the moment it is no longer strictly voluntary. Other activities - any other activities - suddenly become much more intesting.
I have always lived for the weekend, the day off, the vacation, or at least quitting time. Sure I did my job as well as a could, but I couldn't say I really enjoyed working. It was more a matter of some jobs being unendurable and others being simply tedious. The idea of sitting around doing nothing seemed like heaven. You know the guy in Office Space
- that was me.
Or so I thought. Now that I don't have to be somewhere in the morning, I'm bored out of my mind and desperate for something constructive to do. Contrary to my expectations, it's not "all I thought it could be." I should have known, because Brazen was always laughing at me for wanting to "do nothing" on the weekends, but then immediately coming up with a long list of things to do.
We work, therefore we are. It's not just the money. Even if I had a million in the bank, I would still have to do something. We hate working, but we have to do it. I don't know if it's genes or environment, but it sure does seem fundamental.
Whatever Happened to Moderate Republicans?
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Once upon a time there there was such a thing as the "Eastern Establishment." Based in the Northeast, it was internationally minded, fiscally conservative, pro-business, pro-civil rights, and socially tolerant. It provided the intellectual, political, and financial leadership for American conservatism, and produced some of our country's greatest leaders: Alexander Hamilton, Daniel Webster, and Theodore Roosevelt, just to name a few. They were not "liberals" per se, but they were nationalists who believed in a strong government and a unified society. They also understood that conservatism required an acceptance of change - history must be adapted to, not ignored or repealed.
The last real leader of the eastern establishment was Nelson Rockefeller, who lost the 1964 Republican nomination to Barry Goldwater and with it the soul of the Republican party. George Bush's defection to Reaganism in the 1980's symbolized the complete collapse of a long and proud tradition. It had a great run, but we need to recognize reality - it is dead, dead, dead.
This isn't to say that there still aren't a lot of moderate Republicans running around, people like Sarah Chamberlain Resnick
. What they lack is an institutional presence of any real power in the Republican coalition. What the Mods really provide is the frosting on the conservative cake, the yummy stuff that convinces people to eat something so bad for them. Moderates provide the extra votes needed for the Republican majority - what gets them from 40% to 51%. But any real influence? Forget it.
Resnick's op-ed in the Washington Post lays out all the old themes of fiscal restraint, a respect for tradition, and creative solutions to new problems. But to hear her describe the agenda of the Mods makes one wonder why she remains a Republican at all:
Nancy Johnson of Connecticut and Fred Upton of Michigan have spearheaded the effort to protect critical investments in education and health-care programs during this year's budget process. Efforts to curb skyrocketing gas prices through tough new legislation on price gouging have been championed by Heather Wilson of New Mexico. Mike Castle of Delaware and Jim Gerlach of Pennsylvania have led the way on ethics reform designed to restore and protect the integrity of the legislative process.
Hello! Conservative Republicans don't care about those things! They will never do more than talk about solving those problems, and only when they absolutely have to.
The fact is that the moderates are simply in the wrong party. When they support the southern-friend Theocons now controlling the Republican party, they are selling out their own principles for... nothing. They get no respect from their Republican allies, and none of their ideas ever become law. The "Hastert rule" guarantees that they will never, ever play any meaningful role in the GOP.
There is an alternative, however. It is the Democratic party that thinks seriously about dealing with health care, the democratic process, and energy policy. It's a Democratic party largely purged of its old "big government" leanings, and it's a Democratic party that has consistently done what the mods say they want to do - provide incremental change and fiscal responsibility.
I think in the long run all of these "mods" are going to leave the GOP. The exodus has already begun, as we see in Kansas
, where the old Dole-Kassebaum Republicans have been run out of the party. Rather than quit politics altogether, they have become Democrats. The mods in the rest of the country will either follow the example of the Kansas Mods, or they will be defeated in an election - either by a Democrat in the general or a wingnut in the primary.
Republican mods must accept the grim truth that they have lost their battle for the Republican party. They have been completely defeated. The sooner they recognize this reality and adapt to it, the sooner they can save their political futures, their principles - and their country. Because Democrats can't do the job without them.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
I just finished Kevin Phillips' American Theocracy
. I don't know what's scarier - the fact that he has a bunch of doomsday scenarios for the U.S., or the fact that I find such scenarios perfectly plausible. If you're in the mood to look into the abyss, check it out.
Speaking of empires
Monday, June 12, 2006
(thanks to Addy N
- I think)
Which Princess Bride Character are You?
this quiz was made by mysti
Imperialism Isn't Popular
There's a way to strip Bush of his foreign policy credentials while not appearing to look weak. Part of that approach is to accuse him of ignoring the War on Terror (Why are we not inspecting items coming into the U.S. again?). But the other part revolves around the ingrained resistance of Americans to foreign entanglements. Via the NYT
Mr. Bush on Friday made clear that the American commitment to the country will be long-term. Officials say the administration has begun to look at the costs of maintaining a force of roughly 50,000 troops there for years to come, roughly the size of the American presence maintained in the Philippines and Korea for decades after those conflicts.
How much political support do you think there is for this sort of adventure? I'm guessing that if you asked most people, they'd wonder why we were still in Korea or Europe. Bush's proposal gives the lie to the "democracy-building" justification for the Iraq War. Democrats and the media should demand an explanation. I posit that Democrats could win real dividends by making an issue out of the permanent occupation of Iraq, because nobody but imperialists and oilmen want to stay there forever.
Plus Ca Change
Friday, June 09, 2006
So we've moved halfway across the country (okay, it just feels like halfway), and despite our huge new apartment (okay, it just feels huge), Gatsby is still moping on the couch.
There's just no pleasing some people. Or dogs.
Naming Something Twice
Thursday, June 08, 2006
In a recent post
Kos tries to enunciate his vision of a sort of liberalism that is more attuned to the West. His basic notion is a good one - that we need to break out of our overly East coast, big-city liberalism and reach out to rural and western regions of the country. I couldn't agree more with his strategy. It's his execution that I wonder at.
Kos defines himself as a "libertarian" Democrat - one who really wants to defend individual liberties, and who realizes that big corporations are as much a threat to one's freedom as big government. I think that Ezra Klein
is right when he says that libertarianism negates collective responsibility, which is what we should really be aiming for. But my critique is broader than this.
The fact is that there is already a word for what Kos is describing, and the word is liberal
. Liberals are interested in defending personal liberties, are no friends to intrusive government, and have a healthy respect for the damage that the free market can do, left unchecked. Kos's original moniker of "Lib Dem" is freudian, because it is liberalism - not left-libertarianism- that he is describing.
The fact that there are those on the left that believe we need to adopt some lefty brand of libertarianism says a lot about how confused we are. It's one of the reasons that I have resisted the current fashion of calling liberal democrats "progressives." Progressives are upper middle class, good government, issue-oriented reformers who think that the solution to every problem is another bureaucracy by the federal government. While I am middle class (sort of), and I certainly believe in issues and good government, I think that progressive are just too enamored of the federal government and bureaucracy, and far too wed to an urban vision of the good life.
Liberalism is bigger than progressivism. While all progressives are liberals, all liberals are certainly not progressives. There are populist liberals, and pluralist liberals, and other sorts as well. To say that the left needs to adopt some form of libertarianism in order to say that we want to defend civil liberties and resist "big government" is to buy into the right wing critique of liberalism. It's long past time we reclaim and defend the the title "liberal," rather than hiding from it or dressing it up in new clothes.
P.S. (Via Suburban Guerilla
) More evidence
of the right's campaign to destroy and/or coopt the academy. Apparently now having an opinion
disqualifies you from a high-level faculty appointment.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Francine Busby lost the special election in California's 50th House district last night, 50-44. And it is not good news. Of course I'm sorry for Francine, but I'm more sorry for the Democratic party's chances of re-taking the Congress this year.
One could argue (and they undoubtedly will) that the results of this election should not be over-interpreted. After all, it is a Republican seat, and Busby did make mistakes late in the election, and Busby did improve dramatically on her previous performance, and Bilbray did have very high name recognition from his previous service in Congress, and the Republicans did spend a lot of money, and, and and.....
It's all just a bunch of excuses, isn't it?
The fact is that Kerry won 44% of that seat 2 years ago, and Busby won an identical margin. Forget the 2004 Busby results - that was against an incumbent. In an open seat, Busby received the same share that Kerry did. Corruption, Iraq, high oil prices all amounted to the Democrats still coming up short again. And don't sing yourself to sleep with the lullabye that the Republicans outspent Busby, because the Republicans will always
Of even more concern is the low turnout in these primaries across the board. We expect low turnout among Republicans, given their manifest disaffection with Bush and the Congress. But with the scent of victory in the air, why aren't Democrats showing up to the polls? Because if we don't have high turnout on our side, it won't matter if their side doesn't show up either. A wash is a loss in this case.
Last week I saw a speech by a Democratic member of Congress to a group of liberals. He was challenging the idea that the Democrats should draw bright lines between themselves in the Republicans. According to this congressman, the Democratic strategy was to keep the Republican base quiescent by not putting up too much of a fight. If the dispirited conservatives are absent from the polls, then the Democrats would enjoy a huge advantage and win.
And now we are beginning to see the fruits of this strategy. It doesn't just demobilize Republicans, it demobilizes Democrats too
. To put up no fight at all is to make Democrats just as alienated from their leadership as the Republicans are from theirs.
I am persuaded that Democrats should hold off on any impeachment or censure drives, because they are naked assaults that would gin up the Republicans. But I must say that there are intelligent ways to attack the other side that will split the Republicans - such as deficits, civil liberties, and social tolerance - if these issues are properly represented. I can understand the rationale for muting the differences on cultural issues, or foreign policy, or even economics in some cases, but to erase the distinction in every area
is to demoralize one's own base and give independents the idea that the 2 parties are all the same.
Defend civil liberties, emphasize port security, champion social tolerance and attack the other side for fostering hate, assail crony capitalism and corruption - give us something
. I don't want a perfect 100% liberalism, but give me some evidence that you've got a spine. Because if you don't show that you'll fight for them, why do you think voters and activists will fight for you?
We Have Arrived
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Brazen Hussy and I have finally reached Uville and settled down into our new college town existence. She is off to work, leaving me home to wonder why I don't have a job. But while I am without gainful employment, I have had the pleasure of unpacking and fixing my sick computer - which looks to finally be well again.
As for political news, all I have to say about Bush's redux of the gay marriage debate is: nice try, but no dice, you can't step in that river twice. Hey, it's a rhyme!