Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Thoughts on the Bill of Rights

Political Confusion
First off, welcome back Gabe!

Now to the meat of the discussion: I'm not going to argue their isn't certain amount of hypocrisy in those who argue that the war has always been about saving the people of Iraq, who lived in a brutal dictatorship etc. But I find it equally ironic that those who are opposed to the war, usually on moral grounds, argue that sanctions were preferable, and were working.
I don't remember much from my time at Swarthmore, but this I do remember: sanctions always hurt the poor first, and most. Food that is sent to the country? Always goes to the ruling class first. Monetary fines on the government? It didn't come out of Saddam's pocket.
So the true irony of the situations is that many pro-war (mostly Republican) supporters arguing that the war was necessary to free the poor, oppressed minorities, while the anti-war (mostly Democrat) opponents saying, if effect: "Sanctions were working, even if they end up causing mass starvation of the poor". In the word of Alanis, isn't it ironic?

I'm not even sure what to do with this random assertion that the war in Iraq "ruined the prestige of the dollar". I was under the impression that the dollar was still the preeminent currency in the world, and that the downturn in the exchange rate was actually due to the resurgence of the Euro, and good for American exports, lowering the trade deficit. I think I thought that because every major economist said so, but I could be wrong (ah, false modesty)

Next point: The honest conservatives. On this one, I think I have to pull a Judge Roberts and ask, I don't know what you mean by that phrase. Do you mean state's rights conservatives? Because I'm guessing they frankly don't care what happens in Alabama, unless they are from Alabama. Roy Moore is an elected judge, and if the people of Alabama object to his actions, they can vote his butt out. Second, I'm guessing Judge Moore wasn't any more or less religious, or religiously motivated, with the statute in or out. So one can't argue he became more fair as a jurist with the statute out. The primary argument seems to be... it made non-Christians uncomfortable? But the display of the Commandments at the Supreme Court doesn't?
This country was founded by men who strongly believed in the Judeo-Christian ethic. Understanding that belief system helps you understand how the law evolved. It's kind of like learning Marbury v. Madison; no one cites it anymore, but you have to learn it to understand how the law evolved from the Founding. If it makes you uncomfortable, well, suck it up. Seeing two guys (or really any two people who aren't hot movie stars) kiss in public isn't my favorite thing, but I'm not going to ban their doing so because it weirds me out.
By honest conservative, do you mean small government conservatives? Because I think you are starting to see their outrage at government spending as we talk about Katrina and its aftermath. Also, my guess is they don't want the government getting involved in state controversies anymore than absolutely necessary.
Do you mean the sort-of old line conservatives (aka Rockefeller Republicans)? I count myself as one of these, and I'd say we aren't really conservatives at all, at least not in the modern sense. We want government to leave us alone both economically and socially, for the most part, and really only get involved where necessary to protect basic rights. I'm not sure "not having to see the 10 Commandments" is one of those basic rights. Plus, since we already lost the fight about the government not taking over half our paycheck, now we either want (1) our money back OR (2) honestly, to see the government be a little more responsive to the people who pay the bills (which kind of sounds like the U.S. position on the U.N.

The Second Amendment: I think its important to understand how the phrase fits together, and how preambles affect language that comes after it. Split the amendment into two parts: (1) A well regulated militia and (2) keep and bear arms. The first part of the amendment describes why the second part is necessary. Would it have been clearer if only the second part had been in there? Sure. But remember, this is in a document with its own length preamble.
Also, why is this the only amendment that (most) liberals want to read strictly? For instance, the 6th Amendment guarantees counsel in all criminal prosecutions. It says nothing about appeals, but the Supreme Court has ruled that the right to free counsel extends to all appeals as of right. The 1st Amendment says that Congress shall not abridge the rights of free speech, etc. but no one would argue that doesn't extend to the states after the passage of the 14th (which makes no such explicit application). Liberals want these amendments read as broadly as possible, except the evil 2nd Amendment (oh, and I guess the 10th, but that's a discussion for another time)

Monday, September 26, 2005

Functionally Disarmed

I've come to put this blog in order.

There's videotape of both Dick Cheney and Colin Powell saying that Iraq was functionally disarmed after the first Persian Gulf war. One statement was made right after the war, and the other was circa 2000. I don't remember which went when, since both men were involved in the war and the 2000 election. And you know my policy towards "fact checking". Suffice to say, I'm just going to treat my foggy memory as an article of faith. The point is that, after 1991, Saddam was never a threat to you, me, or Israel.

Was he following the letter of the law? Was he illegally armed to some extent? No, and yes. But so what?

Perhaps the greatest chimerical ruse perpetrated upon the American people in our history was the false choice between "letting Saddam flaunt the law" and this enormous, expensive, and thoroughly bungled invasion. I'm sorry, but this war was neither inevitable nor neccessary.

First of all, just because he was illegally armed didn't make him a threat. He couldn't have packed much of a punch. At least 60% of Iraq was demilitarized by no-fly zones. He was neutered by sanctions. He was monitored by inspectors until 1998. And despite the fact that Saddam and his cronies were flush with cash, Iraq the nation was broker than a philosophy grad student. Kurdistan was better off under the no fly zone, and women were better off under Saddam than the newly ascendant Ayatollahs.

Second, no pro-war conservative has ever thought on paper about the opportunity cost of this war. You're supposed to be conservatives. You're not thinking about alternative uses for that money? Never? Honestly, the people you'd call "Bush haters" think you've all got a bit of a "Dear Leader" thing going on. We'll get out of that feral sandpit half a trillion in the hole if we're lucky. I wouldn't know how to find out for sure, but I reckon $200 billion dollars is already a huge understatement.

What about the second degree costs? Your man ruined the prestige of the dollar. For an ideology so obessed with maintaining the economic hegemony of America, this is foolish strategy. "It doesn't matter what France thinks." "Freedom fries, fuck 'em all." And so on. How can you be so cavalier towards international opinion?

The trust of the spy network? "Screw them, I heard one of those guys took an order from his wife." All to protect a goddamed treasonous felon? What have we come to? Every one of you has spent hours of your life that you'll never get back thinking of why Karl Rove's not a scumbag for what he did to Valerie Plame.

When are the honest conservatives going to jump ship en masse? And when are honest conservatives going to admit that the Roy Moore's of the world are precisely the people the Founding Fathers were worried about when they put the separation of church and state into the First Amendment? "But the First Amendment wasn't written to keep a judge in the Deep South from planting an enormous granite carving of the Ten Commandments at the epicenter of his fiefdom." Yes it was.

And how exactly does "thou shalt not worship false idols" fit into the Enlightenment ideals of the Constitution? This is America, I can worship an Allen Iverson bobblehead if I want.

Speaking of amendments where people willfully ignore the Founders' intent:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Playing with guns in the woods of Michigan doesn't make a bunch of fat guys a "militia". Paintballers face more peril. Are you telling me you can justify a ban on oral sex and birth control, by vote of the legislature; but any laws whatsoever regarding weaponry should be dismissed out of hand?

Anyway, Saddam Hussein was an old man. He'd have been lucky to outlive Castro had we not given him bodyguards and doctors. His sons were incompetent and crazy, respectively. What would have happened when he died? A violent upheaval, some religious strife, disruption of oil supplies, and then eventually a strongman takes over. Christ it would have been terrible if something like that had happened. And don't think we wouldn't have dirtied our hands in that fight, but it would've been much, much cheaper, and a metric shitload more moral.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Big Government v. Civil Society

I can't believe I find myself agreeing with Anne Applebaum, but here we are.

Whose Victory, Exactly?
By Anne Applebaum
Wednesday, September 14, 2005; Page A31

Last week my son's elementary school raised several thousand dollars for hurricane victims by washing cars. My other son's preschool announced without fuss that a boy from New Orleans would be joining the class. My employer is organizing help for the company's Gulf Coast employees, my local bookstore is collecting money for the Red Cross and my favorite radio station raised $54,000 last weekend. Every church or synagogue attended by anyone I know is, of course, raising money, housing evacuees or delivering clothes to victims.

To put it differently, nearly every institution with which I come into daily contact -- my library, my grocery store, my search engine -- has already donated time or money to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, and I don't think this makes me or my community unique. A Zogby poll conducted last week found that 68 percent of Americans had donated money to hurricane relief. An ABC News/Washington Post poll published yesterday found that 60 percent had already donated, and a further 28 percent intend to. Those percentages mean that donors must represent a huge range of political views, economic classes, even aesthetic preferences. Indeed, among the fundraisers listed in last weekend's Post were a jazz concert, a tea dance, a "Christian music" concert and a rehearsal of Verdi's "The Sicilian Vespers." No wonder the Red Cross has already collected more than half a billion dollars; no wonder it was impossible to get on to the Salvation Army's Web site at peak times last week.

But those percentages also mean that it is important not to draw hasty conclusions about the ultimate political impact of this tragedy. More specifically, it's important to ignore the hasty conclusions that have already been drawn, both here and abroad, about the victory of "big government" and the death of a certain kind of American individualism. The German chancellor -- once again using American politics in his election campaign -- has already called the disaster an argument for "strong government." Polly Toynbee, a columnist for Britain's Guardian, declared that Katrina revealed "a hollowed superpower . . . a country that is not a country at all, but atomised, segmented individuals living parallel lives as far apart as possible." A Los Angeles Times article, headlined "A Comeback for Big Government," more objectively quoted lots of experts agreeing that in the wake of the hurricane, the administration will "put aside its interest in small government."

But while it is true that the government's relief effort looks set to dwarf anything it has tried before, consider what the actual experience of the disaster has already been -- not theoretically, not on paper, but in practice. Listen, for example, to volunteers who prepared 92 boats to help evacuate people from the rooftops of New Orleans. They were ultimately kept out by Federal Emergency Management Agency bureaucrats because, among other things, they didn't have life preservers. Or listen to the volunteers who organized 100 doctors to treat 400 sick people at a converted Baton Rouge warehouse -- until they, too, were told by the government to shut down, reopen and then shut down again. Or to the hundreds of firefighters who, according to the New York Times, responded to a nationwide call for help and were then "held by the federal agency in Atlanta for days of training on community relations and sexual harassment," while women were raped and lives were lost in New Orleans. Compare their frustration to the joy experienced by 8-year-olds across the country, washing cars for the Red Cross.

By the same token, consider the effectiveness of the relief strategies so far. With great fanfare, the federal government announced it would distribute debit cards to Katrina victims. The result was chaos, anger and expectations of fraud. Quietly, the Red Cross has been paying evacuees' hotel bills. The result is that 57,000 people have time to plan what to do next. Massive government efforts to get people into massive shelters have led to dissatisfaction, delays, long lines and frustration. But private initiatives -- ranging across the political spectrum from MoveOn.org's Hurricanehousing.org, which is advertising space in thousands of private homes, to First Baptist Church in Athens, Tex., which has just installed six new showers -- are helping people find better housing faster. Over the longer term, it's also pretty safe to bet that people who relocate thanks to a church, find a job thanks to a charitable Web site, and get by thanks to their extended families are going to do a lot better, economically and psychologically, than the people who hang around waiting to be helped by a government jobs program and a government trauma counselor.

I'm not saying anything radical here: I'm not calling for the abolition of FEMA, and I certainly think there's a role for government in disaster and evacuation planning. But it is true that the worst failures of the past two weeks have been big government failures. The biggest successes, by contrast, have come out of this country's incredibly vibrant, amazingly diverse and fantastically generous civil society. Sooner or later, it will be impossible not to draw political lessons from that paradox.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Roberts confirmation hearing (Part I)

Right now, as I listen to Sen. Hatch make his statement, I realized that, while it will certainly mark me as a super-legal geek, this hearings are going to be fun. Notice that Hatch is using direct quotes from other members on the committee, and uncontroversial nominees, probably in the hope of shaming other members into not asking exactly the questions we all know are coming, on topics like Roe v. Wade. I doubt it will work, but it will be fun to see...

Was Butler lying, too?

While I wait for the Roberts hearing to start, here's an article I came across. Not related to our current discussion, but interesting nonetheless

On Iraq, Short Memories
By Robert Kagan
Monday, September 12, 2005; Page A19

If you read even respectable journals these days, including this one, you would think that no more than six or seven people ever supported going to war in Iraq. A recent piece in The Post's Style section suggested that the war was an "idea" that President Bush "dusted off" five years after Bill Kristol and I came up with it in the Weekly Standard.

That's not the way I recall it. I recall support for removing Saddam Hussein by force being pretty widespread from the late 1990s through the spring of 2003, among Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, as well as neoconservatives. We all had the same information, and we got it from the same sources. I certainly had never based my judgment on American intelligence, faulty or otherwise, much less on the intelligence produced by the Bush administration before the war. I don't think anyone else did either. I had formed my impressions during the 1990s entirely on the basis of what I regarded as two fairly reliable sources: the U.N. weapons inspectors, led first by Rolf Ekeus and then by Richard Butler; and senior Clinton administration officials, especially President Bill Clinton, Madeleine Albright, William Cohen and Al Gore.

I recall being particularly affected by the book Butler published in 2000, "The Greatest Threat: Iraq, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and the Growing Crisis of Global Security," in which the chief U.N. inspector, after years of chasing around Iraq, wrote with utter certainty that Hussein had weapons and was engaged in a massive effort to conceal them from the world. "This is Saddam Hussein's regime," Butler wrote: "cruel, lying, intimidating, and determined to retain weapons of mass destruction."

A big turning point for me was the confrontation between Hussein and the Clinton administration that began in 1997 and ended in the bombing of Iraq at the end of 1998. The crisis began when Hussein blocked U.N. inspectors' access to a huge number of suspect sites (I'm still wondering why he did that if he had nothing to hide). The Clinton administration responded by launching a campaign to prepare the nation for war. I remember listening to Albright compare Hussein to Hitler and warn that if not stopped, "he could in fact somehow use his weapons of mass destruction" or "could kind of become the salesman for weapons of mass destruction." I remember Cohen appearing on television with a five-pound bag of sugar and explaining that that amount of anthrax "would destroy at least half the population" of Washington, D.C. Even as late as September 2002, Gore gave a speech insisting that Hussein "has stored away secret supplies of biological weapons and chemical weapons throughout his country."

In his second term Clinton and his top advisers concluded that Hussein's continued rule was dangerous, if not intolerable. Albright called explicitly for his ouster as a precondition for lifting sanctions. And it was in the midst of that big confrontation, in December 1997, that Kristol and I argued what the Clinton administration was already arguing: that containment was no longer an adequate policy for dealing with Saddam Hussein. In January 1998 I joined several others in a letter to the president insisting that "the only acceptable strategy" was one that eliminated "the possibility that Iraq will be able to use or threaten to use weapons of mass destruction." That meant "a willingness to undertake military action" and eventually "removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power." The signatories included Francis Fukuyama, Richard Armitage and Robert Zoellick.

About a year later, the Senate passed a resolution, co-sponsored by Joseph Lieberman and John McCain, providing $100 million for the forcible overthrow of Hussein. It passed with 98 votes. On Sept. 20, 2001, I signed a letter to President Bush in which we endorsed then-Secretary of State Colin Powell's statement that Hussein was "one of the leading terrorists on the face of the Earth." We argued that "any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq." That letter, too, was signed by Fukuyama, Eliot Cohen, Stephen Solarz, Martin Peretz and many others.

I recall broad bipartisan support for removing Hussein right up to the eve of the war. In March 2003, just before the invasion, I signed a letter in support of the war along with a number of former Clinton officials, including deputy national security adviser James Steinberg, ambassador Peter Galbraith, ambassador Dennis Ross, ambassador Martin Indyk, Ivo Daalder, Ronald Asmus and ambassador Robert Gelbard.

I recall a column on this page by my colleague Richard Cohen on March 11, 2003, shortly before the invasion. He argued that "in the run-up to this war, the Bush administration has slipped, stumbled and fallen on its face. It has advanced untenable, unproven arguments. It has oscillated from disarmament to regime change to bringing democracy to the Arab world. It has linked Hussein with al Qaeda when no such link has been established. It has warned of an imminent Iraqi nuclear program when, it seems, that's not the case. And it has managed, in a tour de force of inept diplomacy, to alienate much of the world, including some of our traditional allies."

Despite all that, however, and despite acknowledging that "war is bad -- very, very bad," Cohen argued that it was necessary to go to war anyway. "[S]ometimes peace is no better, especially if all it does is postpone a worse war," and that "is what would happen if the United States now pulled back. . . . Hussein would wait us out. . . . If, at the moment, he does not have nuclear weapons, it's not for lack of trying. He had such a program once and he will have one again -- just as soon as the world loses interest and the pressure on him is relaxed." In the meantime, Cohen wrote, Hussein would "stay in power -- a thug in control of a crucial Middle Eastern nation. He will remain what he is, a despot who runs a criminal regime. He will continue to oppress and murder his own people . . . and resume support of terrorism abroad. He is who he is. He deserves no second chance." I agreed with that judgment then. I still do today.

It's interesting to watch people rewrite history, even their own. My father recently recalled for me a line from Thucydides, which Pericles delivered to the Athenians in the difficult second year of the three-decade war with Sparta. "I am the same man and do not alter, it is you who change, since in fact you took my advice while unhurt, and waited for misfortune to repent of it."

Robert Kagan, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Transatlantic Fellow at the German Marshall Fund, writes a monthly column for The Post. A version of this article appears in the Weekly Standard.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

"He's your President, not ours" --Dick Armey

Well my friend, I'm not going to get into a mudslinging match with you vis-a-vis levee funding. I'm familiar with your post, and I've read evidence to the contrary. We're dealing with the labyrinthine world of the federal government's budget here, and as Homer Simpson so wisely put it, "You can use statistics to prove anything, 14% of all people know that".

So I'm just going to go ahead and cede you this point. It's beautiful outside, and I'd rather flunk than do my homework. But I do have the following information from a trusted mutual friend working in Alabama right now:

"Oh... and the "it's the state's responsibility" stuff is empty. The Louisiana National Guard is around the most depleted in the country. My understanding is that their only available unit had been returned just that week. And the issue isn't really bodies, it's equipment.
All our national guard equipment is overseas. So Louisiana had no means to use their guard resources, because they were either in Iraq, or were soldiers 2 days back from Iraq.
So what did Blanco do? The smart thing. On Saturday, August 27, she struck a deal with Janet Napolitano of AZ for Arizona to send their guard and equipment to Louisiana. Here's where things get interesting. Guardsmen within their own state are under the control of the Governor. However in order to cross state lines, they require Presidential approval. That request was sent Saturday the 27th and was not approved until the afternoon of Wednesday the 31st." Maybe there's a good reason for this, but if the dates are factual than this reeks of malice.


As for "hating" President Bush, this assertion is pretty misguided. The only people I hate are Celine Deon and those two guys who mugged me a couple of weeks ago. Although they took my cash and gave me back my wallet, so I'm even having a hard time hating them.

I dislike President Bush. I think he's profoundly unqualified for the office both intellectually and morally; and I think his flowery rhetoric about freedom is rendered empty by his actions. And I agree that there are people whose reactions to him amount to knee-jerk antagonism, but I suspect that said response is really an in-house Democratic phenomenon. There are people who will give him no points for anything because there are so many Democrats who, sadly, are willing to give him credit, or the benefit of the doubt when he doesn't deserve it, just so they can seem reasonable.

In addition, Bush has earned peoples' distrust. This is in stark contrast to Clinton. Clinton did a good job by any number of Republican metrics, so you invented all sorts of phony scandals to attack and impeach him for. Bush is an abject failure by most Democratic metrics, and is treated accordingly. So I ask you, can you really equate Republican and Democratic contempt for the sitting President from the opposition party?


ps- I like the changes.

pps- **Update, I also hate these bastards posting advertising in the comments section. Brilliant assholes, may your teeth fall out and your women become barren.**

New Orleans

Interesting...

From: State Leads in Army Corps Spending, but Millions Had Nothing to Do With Floods

By Michael Grunwald
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 8, 2005; Page A01

"But overall, the Bush administration's funding requests for the key New Orleans flood-control projects for the past five years were slightly higher than the Clinton administration's for its past five years. Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, the chief of the Corps, has said that in any event, more money would not have prevented the drowning of the city, since its levees were designed to protect against a Category 3 storm, and the levees that failed were already completed projects. Strock has also said that the marsh-restoration project would not have done much to diminish Katrina's storm surge, which passed east of the coastal wetlands."

I get it -- You hate President Bush

Though I'd like to return to our line of posts down the road, I wanted to make a note of something I read in the Washington Post this morning, and get your take on it: (the article can be found at "Work on Rights Might Illuminate Roberts's Views" http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/07/AR2005090702394.html)

In particular, I was drawn to this paragraph:

Ralph G. Neas, president of the People for the American Way Foundation, which opposes Roberts's nomination, said the FCC documents "underscore the need for the Bush administration to stop stonewalling and turn over the solicitor general's memos."

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but what this paragraph seems to say is, "We're already opposed to the nomination no matter what's in the documents, but we want to see them anyway." Why? So they can be even more opposed? I know the rational response is so they could show them to others to try and convince them that Roberts is a bad choice, but is there anyone still on the fence? And do you think for even a second that if the memos portrayed Roberts as a crusader for civil rights they would change their mind about him? No, of course not. Because this is no longer about Roberts -- it probably never was.
I think many on the left, both Democrats and otherwise, have fallen victim to the same problem that plagued many conservatives in the late 1990's. Back then, their hate of President Clinton blinded them to everything else. Everything he did was wrong, or immoral, or corrupt -- no matter the event, Republicans found a way to use it in their criticism of Pres. Clinton. He could have been revealed as the Second Coming, and Republicans probably would have professed to have been closet Jews the whole time.
Sound familiar? It should. While reading the Post over the past couple of weeks, I have come to realize that I'm starting to skip Opinions entirely, and even some of the articles. Why? Because I get it -- you hate Pres. Bush, everything he does, and everything he stands for. But instead of remaining even-keeled about it, agreeing with him where you do, and opposing him where you don't, the Democratic machine has gone into opposition overdrive.
There was even an article today about how Katrina has fueled the anti-war movement. And yes, I understand the resources argument. But the more likely truth is that a group who opposed Bush for one reason is using this as a pretext to further their original goal. I dare you to find an article that mentions how slow the state response to Katrina was. Or even one that mentions that the Governor controls the National Guard -- so any delay in their response rests firmly on her shoulders.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

State Government

Given Clinton's success with socially moderate, business oriented, small government Republicans--why not just be a Democrat? Is it because you're afraid of even trying to do business with the old left wing should they regain control? That's reasonable, since that's precisely the reason so many Kerry voting Northeasters won't entertain perfectly sane paleoconservative ideas. There really is a lot of compromise potential in America. But we need to change the questions we ask.

There is something in the nature of modern business that frightens people. It's sheer scope is somehow unsettling. And now, with the end of oil and questions about sustaining our way of life gaining prominence, the institutionalized rapaciousness of corporations, and their humanity before the law, may need to be rethought.

We are not anti-business in the sense that we are fundamentally opposed to trading goods and services, or creating wealth. But it does seem to some people that some other people have a lot of money, and quite a lot of explaining to do too. There are other ways to create wealth, there has to be. Communism was about equal distribution; tomorrow's about equal contribution, or really the opportunity to contribute. The Washington Consenus has failed. Not miserably, but more than enough for people who don't have a few generations to sit around and wait to notice. Now, I'll be the first to admit I don't have the first fucking idea how this should be done, but I am sure George Bush's neo-Ricardian wet dream isn't it.

Back to the issue: State vs Federal government. This is just light years off the radar. Honestly, if that was really what's at stake here, and not defending ourselves from your lunatic fundamentalist cousins and their "Our lives suck, yours should too" revolution, legions of Clinton Republicans would come back to the table, and you could get control of your party back.

Most of us small "d" democrats believe in both smaller government and a "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" ethos. Smaller government is a good principle in general, although our faith in it isn't dogmatic. We also believe that success begets success, and that success begets opportunity. Thus we believe social castes calcify over time, and that that's a bad thing, because access to opportunity should be egalitarian (although not outcomes--there's a marked difference between the two).

The examples you chose as basic Republican mantras are a little ironic though, since the current incarnation of the Republican party believes in neither smaller government nor good old fashioned elbow grease. The first point is fairly self-evident, this is big bacon meets Boss Tweed government at its worst, coupled with a knack for cutting relatively inexpensive social programs for effect. Although I don't fault you for believing GOP somehow still represents you on this issue, since even small government luminaries like Stephen Moore and Grover Norquist remain willfully blind to the very obvious in this respect.

Secondly, the Republican party believes in rewarding wealth, not work, which hardly jives with the whole idea of "picking yourself up by your bootstraps".

I don't want to dwell on New Orleans, but I thought we should mention it. This page should be casual, but not culturally tone deaf. While I agree with you that things have moved along at a reasonable pace after a chaotic start, I don't think that's what's angered so many Americans. There are two problems that are the federal government's fault, and they embody everything that's wrong with the Bush Administration.

The first is flagrant cronyism. "Brownie" is an old friend of Bush's, Joe Allbaugh's college roommate, and a heavyhitting fundraiser. And he may be the nicest guy in the world for all I know. It's irrelevant. Having been a lifeguard for 5 years, I personally am more qualified to run FEMA than Brown. He was forced out of his job as a horse lawyer, so Bush put him up at some government agency where he wouldn't attract that much attention--or so he thought.

The other is sheer fiscal recklessness. Everyone who studies these things knew the levees needed repair, and that it had to be a priority. But, in an attempt to appease the small government crowd with some symbolic cuts amid the build-up to the Iraq war, Bush gutted the requisite funding. Of course, fixing the levees would have cost hundreds of times less than this clean-up will, although probably more than the aforementioned bridge to nowhere in Alaska that doesn't seem to bother you, or Grover.

Liberals are not trying to blame the hurricane on Bush. That's a pretty basic Rove-style misrepresentation of the reality-based community's position. While the hurricane does raise questions about global warming, responsibility to future generations, and the like, they are beyond the scope of this post. But we are saying that this didn't have to happen like it did. Sober, rational funding decisions, in conjunction with political appointments based on merit, not who your roommate in college was, would have saved thousands of lives.

The Politics of Compromise

I begin with the most recent post, since I think it can be summarized and responded to in one sentence each: Democrats are blaming Bush for Katrina (or to be fair, be slow to respond) (ok, the response may take two sentences)
Response: (1) The National Guard is controlled by the Governor, not the President, so any delay in response is tough to blame on Bush -- though I know it won't stop you from trying. (2) The images on TV are of people in desperate need of help, and the government can and should do everything it can to help; keep in mind however that these are the same people who ignored an order to evacuate, and that the levee didn't breach until the day after Katrina passed, so the government couldn't start working until Wednesday... and 60 hours (Wed AM - Fri PM) to evacuate fully a major, flooded US city doesn't seem that terribly unreasonable to me. (Ok, it was run-on sentence)

But I think this transitions nicely into how I can stomach getting my way 85% of the time and still look at myself in the mirror. Oddly enough, usually I'm blamed for being unable to compromise, and not for compromising to readily, but still...
I think that, even at its best, a political part can't be any more than a gathering of people who, roughly, believe in some of the same principles. And here, I mean broad principles, like "smaller government" or "pull yourself up by the bootstraps". In many ways, the modern Republican party was caused by Democratic success in the 1960's and 1970's. Back then, the Republican party really was controlled by socially moderate, business-oriented, small government Republicans. And, as a result, we kept getting our butts kicked in congressional elections, because we had no coalition. We also learned that the Dems were never going to let us get rid of major parts of the federal government in favor of state control, so we might as well make the federal apparatus work for us. And so on to the present day.

So in the end, can a successful political party be any more complicated than a coalition of similar, if not the same, ideals? Probably not, and maybe that's a good thing, since it keeps government honest. Face it, if it weren't for the difficulty of governing a coalition party as the modern Republican party has become, our control over all parts of the government (what with our majorities in every body) would be absolute.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

The Big Talking Point

History is unfolding in New Orleans. This disaster ties together so many loose ends, so many seemingly random real-world mishaps. Because this isn’t really a story about a natural disaster; this is the story of an incompetent government with sincerely perverted priorities. This administration is a toxic mix of unwarranted certitude and an idiotic devotion to symbolism. This is the final triumph of politics over policy.


I'm all f'klempt, talk amongst yourselves...

The Price of Loyalty

Are old school liberals better off now? Of course not. Are they really worse off though? I kinda doubt it. They experienced in the 1990's what many honest Republicans are going through today: the cannibalization of their beliefs by the trappings of power. Is it better to have your party or the opposition implement legislation you hate?

O.G. Liberals are functionally neutered regardless of who's in charge, and their beliefs are alien to the Kerry-voting Northeast. I personally have little time for yellow-dogs and the Democratic dinosaurs of the Tip O'Neill era. Why on earth would I vote for a party that's both culturally conservative and economically xenophobic? Besides, I'm sure you're well aware of the unrest that stirred on Clinton's left flank for eight years.

Let me ask you a question. What if, on paper, the Republican Party represents your views on about 85% of their positions; but, you find their positions on certain things to be completely antithetical to your sense of morality? And what of the inverse? Say the Democrats get most things wrong, but stand firm and don't budge on those issues closest to your heart?

At the top of this page you characterize yourself as a "solid Republican", although you're pro-choice, pro-stem cells, and would never stoop to half-witted dittohead cliches like "there's never been a successful government program in the history of this country", or, "the world will be awed by my artistic prowess when they get a load of the ties I'm designing". What exactly keeps you in Bush's corner? Are you sticking around for the hundred gazillion dollar medicare bill, the $240 million bridge to nowhere in Alaska, or the impending crackdown on pornography?