Saturday, March 11, 2006

As if he doesn't have enough trouble

President Bush's domestic policy adviser and former Homeland Security deputy Claude Allen gets arrested for stealing from retailers. This is a man who until last month worked for the President of the United States and was so petty that he stole from Target. He abruptly quit on Feb. 9, pulling a Safavian so he wasn't arrested while still on staff at the White House.

This is so unbelievably stupid that it only could come from this adminstration.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Republicans wasting our time, again

Tennessee. The Volunteer State. It's currently beset by the "Tennessee Waltz" investigation into corrupt legislators, a poor health care system, rampant obesity, and a lower average death age than most every state.

So, what are legislators doing to combat these various ills?

They're banning the sale and use of sex toys.

Let's keep in mind, there are exceptions in this law. Exceptions for doctors and psychiatrists to prescribe them for patients, exceptions for college classes to study them, and exceptions for school libraries (WTF?).

First of all, this ban won't work. It's called the Internet, people, or just taking a drive over state lines. Secondly, how do you enforce such a ludicrous ban? This is a violation of Griswold, because it goes into the bedroom once again and attempts to regulate such private behavior.

Most importantly, though, it's going to be reviled by many (and let me tell you, sex toy use, like porn, is not for those among the minor few. It's huge, whether you like it or not) and it's a complete waste of our time and money. With all these problems, once again Republicans are trying to stir up a "moral issue" while ignoring the real moral issue, the issue of lives. Letting people die because we wasted time on banning sex toys instead of fixing a broken health care system is the real immorality here.

Sunday, March 05, 2006


I typically try to stay levelheaded about the latest news. But I'm an emotional person, and it's hard to not get pissed when you're watching your country that you love fall deeper into the abyss that the Founders fought so hard to prevent.

Example A: The White House decides to intimidate reporters into stopping their reporting about the "national security" issues surrounding warrantless, illegal wiretapping, severely flawed and manipulated intelligence (and I say manipulated because we evidently bit hard on forged documents sold by an Italian intelligence official), and the Plame outing.

Example B: Bill Frist, enraged that Jay Rockefeller has enough votes from Democrats AND Republicans (because Republicans have to be involved for anything to pass) to begin an investigation into the depths of the wiretapping, tells Harry Reid (thanks, Glenn) that he may just unilaterally change the intellience committee's fundamental rules for the first time since the committee's inception post-Church investigation, making the committee just like the other, more partisan committees. Once again, party politics trumps everything, including our security, our rights, Congress' constitutional role as the oversight body, etc.

President Washington said in his farewell, "The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissention, which in different ages & countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders & miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security & repose in the absolute power of an Individual: and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty."

Does this sound familiar? Kind of like politics today. The people elected an all-Republican government, who in turn have abdicated their responsibility and their oaths so they can seek security in the form of President Bush. Bush, meanwhile, is doing is best to give us that more formal, permanent despotism. When an anti-torture law is signed into being, followed by a claim that x, y, and z are exempt and/or the law can be broken because the President says so, despotism is being formalized. When people are wiretapped without a warrant, even when a warrant can be retroactively granted, despotism is being formalized. When Congress abdicates its responsibility, and makes laws and rules based on what is best for the party and its leader instead of what is best for the nation, despotism is being formalized.

Because, in the end, I am not Democrat or Republican. I am American, and I want my leaders to do their damn job and follow their oaths. Back during Iran-Contra, even Reagan's chief of staff, Howard Baker, said that the senior Democrats were not being adversarial, and would make agreements with the White House. For instance, they wouldn't bring up impeachment unless a witness brought it up. They worked with the White House to knock down an article making all sorts of claims about Oliver North's actions.

In contrast, ten years later, the Republicans tore Clinton apart over sex.

Those Democrats were patriots. The senator who voted not to convict Andrew Johnson in his impeachment trial was a patriot. The congressmen who stood up against Joe McCarthy were patriots. And for everything awful that Richard Nixon did, he was a patriot. He made us more secure with his opening to China. He created the EPA. He fought for other legislation that would make him fairly liberal by today's standards. He didn't try to make religion an issue, telling his advisors in 1960 that he did NOT want to use JFK's Catholicism against him, when he was urged to do so. He did have honor in him, and anyone who reads The Final Days should come out of that book with enormous sympathy for the man.

George W. Bush and today's GOP leaders are devoid of true patriotism. They practice the patriotism of emotion, anger and blind faith. They equate religion with government, when the two should keep a safe distance from each other. They do whatever they think is right, regardless of what the laws say. Their actions open the door to that despotism that Washington so feared from party politics. Because once a precedent is begun, if it is won, anyone can use it in the future, and those who fought for it now might very well suffer deeply later on. That is why that Pandora's box should never be opened, because how do you contain it once it's out?

The War on Terror may be won in safety from those who seek to harm us from overseas, but it is lost in that al-Qaida has forced us to change as a society. It is lost in that our government saw fit to toss away our liberties, our rights, for temporary safety from one enemy. What happens when someone else attacks? Do we go to martial law? Hell, Bush has said he'd use martial law if bird flu broke out here in America in large numbers. What would stop him from doing so otherwise?

Republicans (including some friends of mine) call these thoughts hysterical, far-fetched, unlikely, and moonbatty. But ten years ago, who would've thought we'd have a law called the Patriot Act which RESTRICTS liberties? Who would've thought a President would have had millions of communications intercepted without a warrant from a court? Who would've thought a President would threaten the use of the military to combat an illness? Who would've thought we'd invade a nation preemptively?

Most of us, ten years ago, couldn't have imagined any of this. The battles were domestic, and even six, seven years ago, we were prosperous and peaceful, and the biggest issue was blowjobs in the Oval Office. And for every Republican who said Clinton failed to preven 9/11, let's remember that the Republican Congress refused to fund Clinton's antiterror efforts or pass his initiatives to combat it. Orrin Hatch said after the first WTC bombing and Oklahoma City that existing laws were enough to catch terrorists. Newt Gingrich, Trent Lott, Hatch, and others said after the embassy bombings that our retaliation was Clinton trying to "wag the dog" and get attention off Monica.

The documents are there to prove that Clinton wanted to do much more to get bin Laden, but Republicans in Congress, so filled with hatred for Clinton, did not give him what he wanted. But Bush, being a Republican, gets everything he wants, and if he doesn't, he takes it and Congress shuts up. The double standard is alarming for the future of our national security. And when anyone talks about how bad Bush is, they get tagged as "unpatriotic," "treasonous," and "too angry." At least in this case, the anger is far more justified than it was against Clinton. He lied about sex.

Bush lied about not knowing about the levees could be breached before Hurricane Katrina hit, he lied about his wiretapping program, he lied about torture (because cases keep leaking out about torture by Americans even though he keeps saying America doesn't torture anyone). I won't say he lied about Iraq, but he certainly misled by withholding a lot of information from Congress and letting them draw a false conclusion.

The Founders' fears are coming true, and I wonder if by the time we hit our 300th anniversary as a nation whether we will even still be the democracy we spent the first 200-something as. And no, that's not being shrill, moonbatty, or crazy. It is an entirely logical conclusion based on who holds our debt, how our laws are slowly being turned against individual rights, and how our President is claiming supreme power over Congress, whom the Constitution clearly vests the top power to. We are a nation of checks and balances, and politicians are putting party about law, eroding those checks and balances, and turning us into the despot nation we fight against overseas. The irony might be funny if it wasn't so scary.

Update (11:08 p.m.)-Turns out the courts are joining in this formalizing of despotism, putting us at risk. The amount of sealed dockets in federal court cases has doubled in the last two years. From the article:
"When the sentences are sealed, that's a con on the community," said Lexi Christ, a Washington defense lawyer for a man acquitted in a crack cocaine case. "Cooperating witnesses are pleading guilty to six or seven murders, and the jury doesn't know they'll be sitting on the Metro (subway) next to them a year later. It's a really, really ugly system...."

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press found the U.S. District Court here has 469 criminal cases, from 2001-2005, that are listed by this court's electronic docket as "no such case." An AP survey over a shorter period found similar numbers here and got oral acknowledgment from the clerk's office that the missing electronic docket numbers corresponded to sealed cases. However, these figures include an unknown number of sealed indictments that will be made public if arrests are made.

"That's horrifying," said Loyola's [Laurie] Levenson. "When I was a prosecutor from 1981 to 1989, I never heard of secret dockets."

The Sixth Amendment guarantees the right to a public trial, a right that is being shortchanged more and more as we go on in this decade. Now even judges are participating in taking away our rights, and scarily, perhaps even making us less secure.