Sunday, October 29, 2006

Selfish Moralism

Welcome to

In the aftermath of Vice President Cheney’s hunting accident, some have questioned why the liberal response was over the top. After all, it was a private incident, right?

The answer is as painfully simple as a muzzle full of buckshot to the cheek. It’s because this is just another in an endless chain of hypocritical expectations, but one that has clearly broken the proverbial camel’s back. Cheney’s bad aim is as much a private incident as was President Clinton’s sexual bad aim, if you will. Yet one resulted in someone’s heart attack and lifelong scarring while the other was an indiscretion that happened 100,000 times in the last 24 hours… between consenting adults. Hiding one we’re supposed to allow; hiding the other—not the act, the hiding of it—was impeachable. Yeh, right.

We’re sick of the hypocritical judgment. Judgment that’s being sold to the public as a superior set of values when in fact it is nothing more than pandering to peoples’ lowest values and motivations: self-preservation, self-righteousness, greed and fear. And the pièce de résistance of this political spinmanship? This pile of lowbrow logic has been successfully marketed to Middle America as morality. Bravo Cheneyrovebush!

What the other 49% of us are upset about is that it is not morality. It is selfish moralism, and on a presidential scale. Make that a global scale, a scale that has eroded, in one decade, 200 years of American leadership in morality… eroded honor and humanity that were present even in war… eroded our sharing of wealth and progress despite our insatiable engine of consumption… eroded our global goodwill despite our mistakes.

We’re sick of the sanctioned limbaughism, that in which being a moderate is labeled as a failure to take sides, a failure of commitment, a failure to have guts or worse, to think. Yes, terrorists acting like barbarians are rightly labeled extremists, but think about labeling moderates as cowards. If such venomous spewing is not the very definition of extremism… the seeds of Fascism, I can’t imagine what is.

We’re sick of the anti-science, the anti-intellectualism, the fear mongering, and the way you pronounce “nucular.” We’re sick of the ignorant, macho war that “didn’t cost $200 billion,” which now costs 450. We’re sick of an administration that doesn’t believe in—and can’t successfully manage—programs in America, yet has put itself in the peculiar position of having no alternative but to succeed rebuilding a hostile land.

We’re mad as Hell and yes, we’re going to take it for another two years, but that doesn’t mean anyone should expect us to be nice or fair or God forbid, moral about it.


Please copy this and send it to everyone who needs to learn the phrase "selfish moralism" as a way to properly label the hateful, destructive politics that it is.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Executive Branch and Job Creation

For all the years of the Bush administration the drumbeat has sounded that the economy—or more precisely the supply and demand for jobs—is a puzzle, but I'll tell you otherwise. A Feb. 2004 Philadelphia Inquirer front-page story asserted that the executive branch is powerless to influence the quantity of jobs available in America, what with the influence of offshore outsourcing, an intractable Congress, and the impenetrable logic of long-term business cycles.

Some would have us believe that we are at the mercy of an immovable force, but nothing could be further from the truth. Hardly a powerless pawn, the executive branch is actually the single most important means for the US to surmount such challenges. To liberals this was abundantly proven during the last administration, as record surpluses were amassed; to its detractors, the last administration was simply the beneficiary of the Internet boom… a once-in-all-history financial windfall.

Believe whichever version of reality you wish, but the bottom line is this: the conservative values that are currently determining our country’s direction are unsuitable—counterproductive actually—to the new global dynamic of international competition among countries. In recent years, with the unrelenting trend toward global free trade, the rules that govern corporate competition increasingly apply to countries… but conservative policies fail in the heat of this competition.

In contrast to the notion that the administration is only a fringe player in the game of job creation, its guidance determines three key factors in steering the ship toward either more jobs or fewer. The presidency, more than either the legislative or judicial branches, chooses between 1) short-term and long-term goals, 2) self-interest or shared, synergistic interests, and 3) conservative or innovative directions. Let’s examine each item.

The single most important value judgment made by any administration is its bias toward either short-term or long-term values. Short-term values mean plundering our natural resources and employing fiscal devices that sell our future short in the hope of quick pain relief. These very strategies, mainstays of the current administration, would be dismissed as financial suicide in today’s corporate boardroom. Liberals by contrast believe that every dollar—tax dollar—directed toward protecting the environment or using it more efficiently, repays itself many times over.

On the count of choosing between self-interest and shared interests, the conservative agenda has recently shown itself to fall decidedly on the mean-spirited side, casting a distinct vote in favor of not being “our brothers’ keepers.” Increasing the gap between haves and have-nots might have been a bearable strategy during the late 1900’s but this is a new millennium. Just as companies have learned that synergy is the magic oil that makes capitalist organizations hum smoothly, so too must we as a country. For instance, the liberal point of view is that we are all paying for healthcare no matter who writes the checks, rich or poor. Not coincidentally, the single most important thing we can do to foster job growth—no, it’s not the elusive myth of retraining—is to get employers out of the healthcare business. Only the executive branch can provide the leadership to effect such change by rallying the whole of government toward comprehensive healthcare coverage. (I personally believe that healthcare must be split into three problems [prevention, acute care, catastrophic/long-term care] because it's too big to be solved as one.)

Finally there is the balance between conservative and innovative forces. Conservative leadership offers a federal government that leads only militarily (and when it serves its purposes, moralistically). Liberal leadership, on the other hand, is associated with “programs,” known by other names such as activism or progressivism. Though not identical to the business world’s notion of innovation, these liberal values inarguably result in new things happening… new things that enhance everyone’s health, pull the poor up from the bottom, and push business to new levels of safety. While it’s nice that these things make the world a better place, the importance is that they return more wealth to society than they consume, keeping us at the forefront of global competition despite automation and offshoring.

Deride this as idealism if you want, but that is exactly what the executive branch was created for. Only individuals can have ideals, and our founding fathers knew enough to place one at the top, for tough times such as these that call for nothing less

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Fossil Fuel

Thu, Aug. 24, 2006, LAGOS, Nigeria - Kidnappers freed six foreigners, including an American boat captain, who had been abducted in a nightclub raid in Nigeria's southern oil region, the government said.

The Philadelphia Inquirer on ran this AP story, barely noticed among the top stories, of the kidnapping in Nigeria of some Americans. Three days later a lead business story told of efforts to make a gasoline substitute from plants. Both stories are about our obscene addiction to oil.

The circumstances of the kidnapping might be obscure to most readers, but they are perfectly predicted in a multi-part Chicago Tribune story by Paul Salopek about oil, and how the same problems of the Mid-East are playing out around the globe, wherever we buy oil. In Nigeria, where the people live on pennies, the inequity is rapidly feeding social upheaval.

Although alternative fuels will be a component in solving the long-term dilemma, focusing on them really misses the point. For both the short term and long term we need to eliminate the excessive need for fuels, particularly fossil fuels. First of all, fossil fuels are so valuable that we need to stop burning them. Never mind that burning them destroys the only home we have, they are much more important for producing goods that can only be made from petroleum.

For the short term, we need a strategy that offers the potential to reduce oil consumption by an order of magnitude. Our greatest proportionate use of gasoline, in a single category against which we can strategize, is commuter travel. This is an immense problem that we’ve spent 50 years creating, leaving public transportation to decay and commercial suburbs to proliferate.

Carpooling is nice, but individual efforts won’t forestall a problem this serious; only leadership and creativity can. Only by solving the commuting problem, not by hoping for some miraculous oil substitute, can we wage a decent battle.

Then we can worry about the longer term war.

Will the Real Root Cause Please Go Away?

The incessant, divisive vitriol from Cheney-Rove-Bush Republicanism has convinced many that the mere use of the term "root cause" is equivalent to snivelling, pandering—treasonous even—defeatism and weakness. But the conversation will have to go on until things get better.

Oppression... or even the perception of it, that is the root cause of our problems. Unpopular in the extreme to talk about, it is hard for many to acknowledge and harder still for affluent white Americans to understand, but let me try to explain it.

In the days shortly after 9/11, two black men called a local radio station and independently expressed the same sentiment, one that lays bare the feeling deep at the heart of the Arab revolution now upon us. It is a sentiment ugly to many, but the callers were forthright and courageous to voice it even in relative anonymity: they said they could understand how the terrorists did what they did. They were quickly dismissed by even the moderate moderators as frivolous, incendiary statements.

Yet they were anything but frivolous. Their point was that they understood how maddening it is to be oppressed, and how deep is the hatred it breeds. There’s a common denominator here with the phenomenon of the O.J. Simpson trial in which his guilt seemed secondary to the power struggle. For supporters of both OJ and the terrorists, immediate justice was immaterial… their symbolic victories gave the big, bullying US a black eye and a greater justice was served at the expense of even innocent lives—the same logic we now use in Iraq.

We are not imperialist. Through our success, staggering natural resources, and the course of 20th century history—events forced us to be dominant—we simply influence, control, and now police the world. Nor do we seek to oppress… our oil policies in the Middle East have simply resulted in as much. The sheiks and Saddams of the world might be the executioners, but the American industrial behemoth is the oppressor, the wizard behind the curtain, to whom we think the world should pay no attention.

I didn’t invent this notion that it boils down to our policies, I am simply suggesting the precise target, in focusing on oppression. Newsweek explained brilliantly “Why They Hate Us,” (Oct. 15, 2002): our oil thirst has been quenched by striking deals with oppressive tyrants. And the Thomas Freidmans and Trudy Rubins of the press have made quite clear that anti-modern thinking, poverty, and our own diplomatic bungling have put impoverished young Arab men over the tipping point.

I seek root causes because I believe that long-term problems can only be remedied by striking at the proper target. Targeting terrorism alone cannot and will not rid the world of, well, terrorism. Though there certainly are some outright evil-doers on the loose, most of the terrorism we are seeing is simply the last resort of desperate people. Perhaps if you or I were down to our last resort, we would write a pamphlet or live a life of quiet desperation. Perhaps not.

But we should not fear the terrorists, for our enemies can only kill us. We, on the other hand, the industrialized nations with our ever-increasing fossil fuel combustion habit, can leave the world fit for only insects within 50 years; many Americans talk about, acknowledge, and understand this. It is time for our leadership to, as well. And to address the root cause of terrorism, our next battle must be to use our influence, not our fists, to modernize—if not democratize—the strangling sheikdoms that we have nurtured.

Why the Republicans Can’t Create Jobs

If like me, you’re wondering where the jobs are going or if your retirement savings will inevitably dwindle down to nothing, you must be concerned about our country’s economic guidance. It’s really not my desire to engage in partisanship, so let me offer this as a question: Is it possible that Republican values are simply unable to solve our current economic downturn? (And remember, when one says ‘economy’ one usually means “Do I have a job?”) I see five reasons why this may be the case.

Reason #1. War is now much, much smaller than our economy. President Bush, in thinking that the best defense is a good offense, is also hoping that war is good… financially, that is. Wrong. War, at least the kind we have now, is so much smaller than the current American economy that it barely makes a dent. The Second World War might have been big enough at its time, but things are very different now. To start with, we already have the machinery of the next war built, probably three times over. And no significant growth of the research-and-development world will be spurred by any upcoming war. Yes, many new military inventions may have money heaped upon them, but the logistics will hardly fuel our economy.

Which brings us to Reason #2: the age of resource consumption is over. The military buildup of previous wars involved huge physical generation of materials—metal, ore, chemicals, and so on. Yes, war and other commerce still takes plenty of natural resources, but our economy—job growth—is no longer driven by the amount of material we harvest and move. Job creation now is more closely tied to creative and commercial activities than material-intensive industries. The administration’s strategy of unfettered corporate access to natural resources might lead to some jobs but not to meaningful or stable economic growth. Even while we seemingly still have natural resources to plunder in the name of jobs, there is a reason that it doesn’t translate well to jobs.

And that is Reason #3, automation. In the 70’s we all wondered if automation would sweep away jobs in huge, painful swaths. The answer now is clear. No, the phenomenon will occur surreptitiously with each downturn in the economy, so we won’t even notice the relationship to automation. The telecommunications collapse is a good example. (If you aren’t aware, telecommunication workers describe their industry as an employment catastrophe.) The economic crest of the Internet boom enabled huge ranks of workers to temporarily join a service industry that has very little true need for labor. When the dollars of the boom years disappeared, countless thousands became unemployed. Our economy as a whole absorbs the shock, but not so for the individuals.

The Republican value that “what’s good for business is good for the economy” won’t help a lot of those unemployed individuals because of Reason #4: business is no longer busy-ness. The strength of our commerce is solving problems by creating goods and services, and there’s still more of that going on here than anywhere but China. But, left entirely to its own machinations, as Republican values seem to espouse, American business is increasingly focused on mergers and monetary manipulations. From Enron to Worldcom there’s pressure on all businesses to concentrate less on creating productive activity—busy-ness—than playing the money game. The rules are so lax and our values are so skewed to short-term “paper results” that we can barely detect where the manipulation has occurred. We need to force business back to basics… that’s neither liberal nor conservative, socialist nor capitalist, it’s just good business.

And finally, Reason #5 is that the Republicans, despite chest-thumping “we’re pro-business,” don’t believe in the biggest business on the face of the planet. It’s the most accomplished organization civilized society has ever seen, having created more jobs, provided more services, and fostered more health than any other business. It’s the American Government, and however much we all love to bash its red tape and bureaucracy, you can’t deny its record. The first stated purpose our Constitution’s is to “create a more perfect union,” and the fifth is to “promote the general Welfare” but the current administration wants to dismantle 200 years of gains in the public sector. This is ostensibly in the name of efficiency but really from a philosophical aversion to federalism… this after the most affluent 15 years in American history. Like it or not, the government is our largest job engine, not just for its direct payroll but for the money it disperses more widely than the free market alone would do. Yes, every few years we need a belt-tightening—not just in the private sector but the public sector—to weed out waste, but the current diet is seeing the patient wither away. Simply pushing all social responsibility to the states destroys the gains that have been made and squanders our country’s greatest advantage against all opponents, social or political… economy of scale. We’re throwing out the baby with the bath water.

Getting to the true root cause of job creation ultimately boils down to two items: creating wealth and spreading it around. With each passing day it seems, less and less of our financial news centers around creating wealth. Instead we suffer endless circular news about the value of the dollar or investor confidence. These are results of wealth, not the causes. For causes, look to technology, alternate energy, health improvement, education, environment-saving, and peace-making! As for spreading the wealth around, this gets to the taboo “S-word,” socialism. As we tighten our economic belt we are increasing the gap between the haves and have-nots. It is a purely political choice how wide we want the gap to be, generally driven by whether “I” have a job, how strongly one supports the fifth purpose of the Constitution, and what type of country you want us to have.

We need a war to fix our economy, but it’s one against fossil fuel consumption (not just where we get it from). Most Americans seem to understand this but it’s something Republicans are loathe to do. Now that’s a war that’s big enough to help our economy.

Olbermann's "Beginning of the end of America"

On Wednesday, October 18th, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann said exactly what approximately half of America feels about the hypocrisy and danger of our present administration.

"Your words are lies, Sir.
They are lies that imperil us all...."

Read this incredible, gutsy speech at:

I keep an archive copy of this great work. If it's ever inaccessible, just ask.

What this Country Needs is a Well-Regulated Militia

By the time you read this, another toddler will probably have killed his sibling, daycare-mate, teacher, or entire family with a gun... not just any gun, but a handgun. In fact, that’s likely to be the very reason you're reading this, as we struggle for answers… answers to the latest tragedy that secures, for a few more years, the United States' position in the Guinness Book of Records for "statutory stupidity."

How such a tragedy can happen will not be answered in the psychologist's office or our jails. The immediate answer is simple: it is too easy to kill people with handguns—so easy a four-year old can do it. There's more than enough pent-up aggression in our society to spark the flame of gunfire, no matter how well adjusted most of us are. Mankind has a million-year heritage of ferocity to call upon when he needs to pull the trigger on someone… it won't easily go away. But that's only the answer, not the much more difficult solution.

Finding our way out of this nightmare has eluded us because our strategy has been weak—much too weak to counteract a Constitution that has gone unchanged through industrial revolution, and three or four other revolutions for that matter. We must target the Second Amendment wall behind which the National Rifle Assn. hides our millions of handguns, by working through and into the wording, not around it:
"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."
I'm not a staunch advocate of the so-called anti-tyranny defense, but one must at least understand it to effectively build a successful ploy against handguns. In Cambodia, millions were killed by a fascist regime, a story indelibly etched by the movie The Killing Fields. Second amendment advocates argue that we need guns to prevent such uprisings here, whether by our government becoming too heavy-handed, or any other insurgency. Unseating this logic will be difficult because, at the core, it bears merit. That's why the wording in the Constitution is so broad and incontrovertible: literally taken, that word infringe means we can't even control, track, or improve guns if the purpose is to limit them in some way.

So what we must do is facilitate the militia itself. We must get all the gun nuts together, far from any metropolis, to play with their guns. After all, we need their protection. We should give them the best assault weapons. If they want to keep their handguns at these militia outposts, let 'em. By securing our free state with these well-regulated militias, we can then fairly impose the following sanity on our metropolitan areas: NO HANDGUNS IN A 50-MILE RADIUS OF METROPOLITAN AREAS. Exactly what penalty we impose on violators is secondary, but there's a nice logic to one solution: break the law and you are banished to serve your country with ten years at our well-regulated militia. Notice I don't suggest limiting rifles—even assault weapons—anywhere. We must make this concession to have a chance of enacting the legislation. The recent onslaught of senseless killings is not from assault weapons or rifles, and our abhorrence of their proliferation is a distraction from the goal.

This is not meant to be a frivolous suggestion. Rather, it is a shrewd strategy against a frivolous but deadly antagonist. Only by working toward a well-regulated militia, and respecting the anti-tyranny defense, can we get the handguns out of our towns and deliver our children from handgun hell.

Keillor's "We’re Not in Lake Wobegon Anymore"

Garrison Keillor's "We’re Not in Lake Wobegon Anymore"
The following article is the most perfect statement of the disappointment, disaffection, and frustration felt by all those who object to the recent direction of our country. Every time I read it I laugh out loud.

I keep an archive copy of this great work. If it's ever inaccessible, just ask.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Vacationing in Republicanville

For our vacation this year, I’m taking my family to a place of unimaginable beauty, prosperity, and bliss, Republicanville, USA. In Republicanville, global warming is unheard of, despoilment of the environment is unseen, and disparaging remarks of any sort are unspoken. It’s hear no–, see no–, and speak no evil in Republicanville… there’s just hope, happiness, and carefree consumption.

In R’ville (as in “our-ville” not your-ville to the locals) everyone agrees with one another. Well, there were some who disagreed, but they turned out to be unlawful combatants and we “disappeared” them—er, I mean they disappeared. Oh yes, and there were some treasonous complainers. They used to be called liberals or Democrats, but like that Republican hero, Archie Bunker did to his bleeding-heart wife, Edith, they were stifled out of the county. Different points of view are a good thing in R’ville as long as you agree with me.

In this tranquil, isolated little corner of the world, business is business and business is doing just fine, thank you. For instance, corporate abuse, which seems rampant in the liberal press, isn’t an embarrassment at all. In R-ville it just plain works. Companies merge with cheerful abandon and jobs for CEOs are plentiful and prosperous. In fact, one computer company runs the whole world and that’s a good thing, because it’s an American company. For the techies out there, this means that all of the software viruses can be both spawned and killed from one lucrative site.

But wait, it gets better. Deregulation has made air travel the cheap, safe adventure of which the Wrights could only dream. Privatization has fulfilled the promise of reliable, environmentally-sound energy because the hot air blowing over R-ville goes right to Europe, apparently to France. And with the states now free of that insidious federal red tape and economy of scale, they have become the lean, mean, social progress machines we knew they could be. And money? No problem! It’s absolutely unlimited; it can be borrowed indefinitely from young R’villers who will simply print more of it. That’s futuristic thinking, R’ville style.

In fact, things are so wonderful in R’ville that the only problems are those caused by the previous leaders.


I can't recall our country being so decidedly divided in philosophical terms, as it is now between Democrats and Republicans.

Republicans believe in self-reliance, guns, jails, fetal rights, military dominance, unfettered capitalism, and minimal governmental control (except as it concerns intoxicants, faith-based initiatives, corporate tax breaks, protectionist economics, and so on).

Democrats believe in the public welfare, general healthcare, women's freedom over their bodies, affirmative action, environmental welfare, workers' rights, and so on, however much governance it takes. Beyond that, Democrats—liberals—don't seem to agree as easily with one another or have a common stance on issues as Republicans seem to. I can olnly attribute that to one thing: when you're simple-minded, it's easy to agree.

Is there a common theme here, a greater logic that explains what this deep river is that divides us? Perhaps it might be short-term versus long-term values. Is that any more accurate? And if it is, is it any better? I accuse Republican minds of valuing short-term interests at the expense of our future. We are currently mortgaging our kids futures and the environment to corporate greed. Economists of every stripe seem to agree that recent policies are just plain unaffordable.

Is the difference how we value safety? Or security? We can kill every zealot out there and there will be plenty more where they came from, whether they are disenfranchised Americans or Arabs. We will be making more every day until we start dealing with the root causes, ... underemployment and oppression (?).

Or is it independence and responsibility that Republicans believe in? That's why background checks for gun ownership is so offensive?

Sadly, I think the river is selfishness. That's the only conclusion I can come to. I've looked for other, more politcally correct names for it, more constructive names for it, but I can't find any. Someone please tell me I'm wrong, and how.Tell me that Republican ideology isn't just plain selfish.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Bush’s Legacy

What will be the legacy of George Bush?

Is it that he has borrowed half a trillion dollars from our children, with no intention of paying it back? No, we’re OK with borrowing money in America.

Is it that he has undertaken the biggest civics experiment in the history of the cosmos—building a democracy within a dictatorship amidst a thousand-year tribal hatefest? This, from the man and party that have naysay-ed nation building lo these many years. No, we’re OK with hypocrisy in America. That’s why wach of us is given a mouth with two sides.

Is it that he has blasphemed the election process, accusing his opponents of cowardice when it is he who evaded service, let alone combat? No, we’re OK with hideous deceit in America, as long as you wrap it in a macho voice. (On a side note, this neocon skill of accusing your opponents of your own greatest weaknesses has set the bar for political strategy to a record height that will not be bettered for a long, long time. This will indeed be part of the Bush legacy, but not the object of this essay.)

Is it that he decimated 40 years of environmental protection progress? No, Mother Nature is resilient in the extreme, the very definition of resilience. Even if we swamp the continents, the cockroaches and sharks will survive to merrily continue the cycle of evolution—I mean intelligent design—over again. At least there’s intelligence somewhere.

Is it that he alienated us from the community of nations, laughing at international treaties and finding no reason to at least act like a united nation?

Is it that he made it much more discouraging for Americans to travel freely, by his preemption doctrine, rather than enlisting the support and adulation of the world with more inclusive and justifiable strategies? No, we hired him as our PR guy. We get what we paid for. Those who didn’t vote for him must accept the cards that were dealt.

Is it that he dishonored—and commensurately endangered for the next two generations—the American military to an extent like never before, with the torture in Iraqi prisons? Well, yes, that’s a legacy but only within the secret community of the military. And they’re conscripted, not by draft, but by healthy adjustment of mind to ignore any monumental blunders of the Commander in Chief. So he gets a Get-Out-of-Abu-Girab-Free card on this count.

Is it that he nurtured our addiction to oil by refusing to be a leader and press for legislation such as higher fuel economy? Puh-lease. Would you people stop it with this global warming crap? We can always use nucular.

Is it that he talks about improving education…with butchered grammar and diction? Not legacy-worthy, just funny.

Is it that he failed to protect our soldiers adequately, in many ways? I think this might be one of his gravest failings, but only a couple of thousand families will long remember this.
Is it that he blundered miserably at disaster preparedness and response? Pshaw! He didn’t cause that hurricane.

Is it that he has undone decades of social progress, and attempted to erase words 26 through 29 of the Constitution, “promote the general Welfare”? No, “those people” are sucking the life out of this great country.

Is it that he was “at the wheel” when our country had perhaps its most substantial attack ever? No… many, many Americans failed to prevent this. I was once told a wonderful aphorism that applies here: mistakes of omission are generally shared.

Or was it that he failed to punish the attacker? Hmmm. In the future light of “popular history,” perhaps this will be his legacy. Cartoonists will draw him searching in the night, with a candle against the wind and rain, looking under rocks for WMD and OBL.

Was it lying about WMD to avenge what he perceived to be his father’s unfinished legacy? No, lies are just another name for politics or even diplomacy… take your pick. He thought that the best defense was a good offense. If you thought that he really cared about WMD then the only lying was the lying done between your own ears and your brain. Sorry, but he wasn’t a liar so much as you were a fool.

Was it completely ignoring his father’s advice not to unseat a dictator and create an untenable situation (AKA quagmire). No, who doesn’t struggle with his own father’s advice. Now, if Barbara had told him to be nice and not fight, the world would be a different place today, eh?
Was it that he skirted one of our most sacred rights and wiretapped without asking permission? Well, that’s pretty bad, but he stayed one quarter-inch away from being indictable on this one because of the “foreigner” component. We’ll award one special dispensation here (and a gold star for technique).

Was it that he outed a CIA agent? Naaah. Technicality. Too many unprovables here, despite the fact that they knew exactly what they were doing and did it. Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge. Another gold star, but definitely not history book… not even an asterisk.

Is it that he’s catered to peoples’ basest motivations, selfishness and greed, by continually promising tax cuts? Or fomented hatred and divisiveness by appealing to moralistic “wedge” issues? That’s not a legacy, that’s a craft. I call it “the seeds of fascism.” To appreciate those seeds in full flower, listen to talk radio, where you can hear “moderates” derided as those who “can’t decide.” By providing leadership that itself stoops to such a level, he has legitimized this sort of ignorance. Legacy, definitely, but too subtle for textbooks.

When you look at this laundry list of blunders, bombast, and bombs, I’m reminded of that phrase often attributed to the Hippocratic oath, “Do no harm.” Mr. Bush would not make a good doctor. But damn, does he have good bedside manner. (Let me give you this nice, leather “Mission Accomplished” jacket with that prosthetic, young man!)

So, which one is it? The answer: none of the above. George Bush’s legacy and principal crime against the heritage and people of America is the trashing of due process. No special dispensation for national security, or doing it offshore at Gitmo, or even the phantom CIA jails in Europe, though that’s pretty slick. And no slack for invoking the “enemy combatant” rule.

In fact, if you read very, very carefully the Bill of Rights (that’s the first ten amendments to the Constitution, George), you’ll notice a fascinating and subtle difference between the fourth and fifth amendments. The fourth (against unreasonable searches) begins with the phrase, “The right of the people…” whereas the fifth begins, “No person…” The fifth is where it goes on to promise due process, and the founders specifically avoided narrowing the matter to “the people.” Now constitutional scholars might argue that it says the right of due process is only for “criminal” cases, but at this point we move from interpretation to intention. If you think the founders would allow anyone to be locked up and deprived of due process simply by saying it’s not a criminal matter, then we’re all subject to incarceration… we’re no better than Argentina where thousands of citizens were called “the disappeared.”

To clarify, even the disgusting scum, José Padilla and Zacharia Moussaoui, must be given due process. If you and I don’t fight for their right to due process, what right do we have to protect that right for ourselves? If they did something suspicious or wrong, there must be some evidence or justification, however meager, for rounding them up. If we simply swept up people in the midst of a conflict, and that’s the only basis for confinement, then a lawyer has a right to obtain that sole fact and argue its merits to a court of the people. If the evidence was collected in an illegal fashion or is so vague as to be inadmissible, well, that’s the cost we pay for liberty.

A recent letter to the Philadelphia Inquirer, from Vincent Mallardi of the Canadian-American Chamber of Commerce used a great expression to characterize this wealth of Bush foibles… “crude indispositions.” Well, many of them could be generously labeled indispositions, but stealing from us due process is more. It is an outrageous affront to the very essence of our nation. That is not liberalism. That is liberty, the very word that George Bush waves like a flag, yet undermines as no president has done before. And that is his sad and dangerous legacy.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Thomas Jefferson, Genius, Statesman, Fortune Teller

Two hundred years ago, when Thomas Jefferson crafted the most powerful sentence ever written by man, not only was he demonstrating his genius at writing but he was proving to be quite a seer. The most powerful sentence, if you don't know, is the second amendment of the US Constitution:
"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."
Why is it so powerful? Because countless thousands have died under its spell. If you include suicides 30,000 people died by guns in a recent year. Multiply that by a few years back, even ignoring the 12,000 suicides and you'll see that the numbers dwarf most wars. But bear in mind, wars aren't generally under the purview of a single sentence.

Jefferson surely anticpated that two hundred years after writing it, inner city drug lords would mow people down with abandon, in service to their militia.

  • And I'm sure he foresaw that deranged men would walk into schools, line up our children against the blackboard and mercilessly assassinate them.
  • And I know for a fact he was smart enough to presage that six-year-olds would bring guns to school and kill their classmates.
  • And that 10-year-olds would use their guns to kill their principals and teachers.
  • And that an unbalanced young man would invade a school and machine-gun an entire class of kindergarteners. [Dec 15, 2012]

And that people would view this insanity and continue to mindlessly chant "guns don't kill people, people do. If we put the criminals in jail, this will stop."

Quite a guy, that Tom.