Figureheads Change but the Song Remains the Same

When former Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales resigned in disgrace last year, it was hoped that his successor, Michael Mukasey would return professionalism to the Justice Department.  The Department of Justice traditionally sidesteps the partisan politics that plague other departments.  Charged with enforcing the laws of the land; their duties can and sometimes include prosecuting the very people responsible for appointing them.  Which is why the politicization of the Department under Gonzales’ direction (who most likely was taking orders from Karl Rove), was viewed so harshly, ultimately leading to his resignation.

Originally, Mukasey was seen as a staunch conservative with essentially the same worldview as Bush but still, a man that could act independently enough to do the job he was appointed for.  This is what Glenn Greenwald wrote when Mukasey’s name first surfaced as Gonzales’ replacement,

There is no question that Judge Mukasey, a Reagan appointee who served as the Chief Judge for the Southern District of New York before retiring recently, is close to the far right on the judicial spectrum. He undoubtedly holds many legal and political views which most Democrats would find objectionable, perhaps even intolerable. But that will be true of any nominee Bush selects, and it is true of the current Acting Attorney General, Paul Clement, who will remain in place if no nominee is confirmed.

I want to highlight one extremely relevant consideration concerning Judge Mukasey — the impressive role he played in presiding over the Jose Padilla case in its earliest stages. After Padilla was first detained in April 2002 and declared an “enemy combatant,” he was held incommunicado, denied all access to the outside the world, including counsel, and the Bush administration refused to charge him with any crimes. A lawsuit was filed on Padilla’s behalf by a New York criminal defense lawyer, Donna Newman, demanding that Padilla be accorded the right to petition for habeas corpus and that, first, he be allowed access to a lawyer. That lawsuit was assigned to Judge Mukasey, which almost certainly made the Bush DOJ happy.

But any such happiness proved to be unwarranted. Judge Mukasey repeatedly defied the demands of the Bush administration, ruled against them, excoriated them on multiple occasions for failing to comply with his legally issued orders, and ruled that Padilla was entitled to contest the factual claims of the government and to have access to lawyers. He issued these rulings in 2002 and 2003, when virtually nobody was defying the Bush administration on anything, let alone on assertions of executive power to combat the Terrorists. And he made these rulings in the face of what was became the standard Bush claim that unless there was complete acquiescence to all claimed powers by the President, a Terrorist attack would occur and the blood would be on the hands of those who impeded the President.

Unfortunately, Greenwald’s optimism proved to be unfounded.  The first cracks in Mukasey’s “independent” façade occurred with his confirmation hearing when he refused to declare the interrogation technique of waterboarding as illegal.  It only went downhill from there.  Included among his exploits are, his apparent lie in support of Bush’s blatantly un-Constitutional and illegal spying on Americans, and his refusal to enforce the Congressional subpoenas issued to White House aides, Harriet Miers, Joshua Bolten and Karl Rove.

And now, if there was any doubt left that he’s no more than a Bush loyalist, eager to do Bush’s bidding, Mukasey has publicly announced that he won’t pursue the prosecutions of Justice Department officials that were guilty of politicizing the department, the very scandal that removed Gonzales as Attorney General.  Unbelievably, Mukasey’s explanation, in a speech before the American Bar Association, was that the people involved have suffered enough, (h/t Think Progress)

That does not mean, as some people have suggested, that those officials who were found by the joint reports to have committed misconduct have suffered no consequences. Far from it. The officials most directly implicated in the misconduct left the Department to the accompaniment of substantial negative publicity. … To put it in concrete terms, I doubt that anyone in this room would want to trade places with any of those people. (emphasis added)

Since when is it the Attorney General’s job to decide exactly what punishment lawbreakers deserve?  That’s supposed to be the job for a judge not the prosecutor.  His rationalizations only get more confused,

I am well aware that some people have called on me and on the Department to take even more drastic steps than those I have described. For example, some commentators have suggested that we should criminally prosecute the people found in the reports to have committed misconduct. Where there is evidence of criminal wrongdoing, we vigorously investigate it. And where there is enough evidence to charge someone with a crime, we vigorously prosecute. But not every wrong, or even every violation of the law, is a crime. In this instance, the two joint reports found only violations of the civil service laws. (emphasis added)

“Not every violation of the law[] is a crime?”  From which parallel universe is that true?  A violation of the law is the very definition of a “crime,” and it certainly can’t be argued that these “violations of the law” were too minor to be concerned with; this scandal is one of the biggest to hit this country in recent memory.  That it isn’t the biggest scandal is only because of the unmatched lawlessness of the Bush administration overall.  Clearly it’s to Bush that Mukasey’s loyalties lie, rather than to the Constitution, the rule of law or the very people he’s sworn to serve.  Mukasey has yet to show any of the independence or integrity his position deserves.  In fact, Mukasey has proven to be no better than his disgraced predecessor.

Nuance vs. Simplicity

I didn’t watch the Rick Warren Saddleback forum.  I’m not exactly sure why Barack Obama agreed to do it in the first place.  Obviously Obama would like to get a piece of the Evangelical vote and he certainly would like to shed the image that he’s a Muslim, a mischaracterization that many still believe.  But what really did he expect to gain from appearing before a group of people that aren’t going to vote for him anyway?  By all accounts, the perceived winner was the candidate you supported to begin with.

McCain supporters liked his short, quick answers, often delivered before Warren had finished asking the question.  Op-ed columnist Michael Gerson predictably picked McCain as the clear winner,

What took place instead under Warren’s precise and revealing questioning was the most important event so far of the 2008 campaign — a performance every voter should seek out on the Internet and watch.

First, the forum previewed the stylistic battle lines of the contest ahead, and it should give Democrats pause. Obama was fluent, cool and cerebral — the qualities that made Adlai Stevenson interesting but did not make him president. Obama took care to point out that he had once been a professor at the University of Chicago, but that bit of biography was unnecessary. His whole manner smacks of chalkboards and campus ivy. Issues from stem cell research to the nature of evil are weighed, analyzed and explained instead of confronted. (emphasis added)

Gerson’s anti-intellectualism is showing.  In a society where education is supposedly valued, Gerson’s most stinging jibe is that Obama “smacks of chalkboards and campus ivy.”  Many, if not most, American parents aspire to send their children to college but to Gerson, apparently a college education is a liability in a president, or at least acting like you have one.  Moreover, in Gerson’s world, understanding a problem and confronting it are mutually exclusive activities, “Issues from stem cell research to the nature of evil are weighed, analyzed and explained instead of confronted.”  As if it’s not possible or desirable to analyze a situation before acting on it.  To conservatives like Gerson, nuance is a sign of weakness while bold action based on instinct is a sign of strength.  Bush is famous for this, “we don’t do nuance,” of course his approval ratings are so embarrassingly low that even McCain has tried to distance himself from him.  It’s Bush’s lack of nuance, his lack of respect for intellectualism that has caused him all of his troubles.  Bush was warned by many bright and talented people not to invade Iraq but he refused to listen, instead, trusting his instincts, he decided on a course of action that now, most Americans agree was foolish but don’t try telling that to either McCain or Gerson.

For Obama’s supporters, McCain’s answers were seen as “canned,” as quick sound bites designed to score points rather than illuminate.  Obama was seen as “thoughtful” and as even Gerson admits, “Obama was fluent, cool and cerebral,” again, apparently undesirable qualities in a president.  In Sally Quinn’s column, she summed up Obama’s performance like this,

That kind of nuance is hard to understand sometimes — it’s unclear, complicated. Obama’s world can be scarier. It’s multicultural. It’s realistic (yes, there is evil on the streets of this country as well as in other places, and a lot of evil has been perpetrated in the name of good). It’s honest. When does life begin? Only the antiabortionists are clear on that. For the majority of Americans (who are pro-choice), it is “above my pay grade,” in Obama’s words, where there is no hard and fast line to draw on what’s worth dying for, and where people of all faiths have to be respected.

I would rather live in McCain’s world than Obama’s. But I believe that we live in Obama’s world. (emphasis added)

And that’s what it’s really all about.  We all want to live in that fairy book world where good and evil are clearly defined, where all the answers are easy and unambiguous.  But wishing doesn’t make it so.  Our world is complex, our actions often have unanticipated consequences, and it’s not always easy to distinguish between the good guys and the bad guys.  And it’s in this world where we need the best and the brightest to lead the way.  The ones who understand the nuance, who can distinguish between the shades of gray, will be the ones providing the answers we seek in this dangerous and confusing world.

I think once again the “Know Nothings” are running the asylum in the Republican camp and MUST constantly reframe the vast (and embarrassing) intellectual (and “age” and “hipness” and “modern”) contrast between the candidates as something unattractive.

I’m still shaking my head that the R’s have McCain as a candidate in the first place. It’s insane. The only conclusion I can draw is that he is really just a figurehead and they have to get *someone* in there with an “R” behind his name so that they can protect the status quo and have at least another four years to bury the bodies, burn the evidence and hide the money.

Meanwhile, I think the greatest form of dissent would be to continually contrast, in a realistic way, the differences between candidates – and get past this FunHouse full of mirrors.

Those writers/bloggers with an audience need to remind everyone how stupid McCain is (and how stupid Dubya is), and how anti-intellectualism has the potential to destroy our nation, and not for the first time.

John McCain: The Wrong Choice for Working Americans

If there was still any doubt that a John McCain presidency would mean four more years of Bush’s disastrous economic policy, a recent interview with conservative radio host Laura Ingraham should serve to quell any lingering uncertainties, (h/t Think Progress) (emphasis original)

INGRAHAM: And now look: the dollar’s weak, we have serious competition from abroad, government is running a deficit. … What are the Republicans going to do if China ultimately overtakes us economically and does that matter?

MCCAIN: I still believe the fundamentals of our economy are strong. We’ve got terribly big challenges now, whether it be housing or employment or so many of the other – health care. It’s very, very tough times. It’s very tough. But we’re still the most innovative, the most productive, the greatest exporter, the greatest importer.

You don’t need to be an economist to see through the ridiculous assertion that our economy is fundamentally strong, as the same Think Progress story demonstrates,

– Inflation is rising. The U.S. economy is currently experiencing “the worst 12 months of inflation in almost three decades.”

– Real wages are declining. Americans are experiencing a “de facto pay cut.” “Almost everything costs more, even as [Americans] have less money to pay for it.”

– Unemployment is increasing. Americans have experienced “seven consecutive monthly declines in employment.”

– Cost of food is rising. Food prices are quickly increasingand even school lunches across the country will be more expensive in the coming year.

– Optimism about economy is declining. “Optimism in the U.S. economy among CEOs of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies” is at a 16-year low. Americans are similarly pessimistic.

– Foreclosures are still increasing. Home foreclosures were up 55 percent over last year in July and “17 [percent] of all homes for sale in the U.S. are repossessed properties.”

The economy has trumped terrorism, national security and the Iraq war as one of the top issues concerning Americans and yet McCain appears to be unaware that families are hurting and frightened that things will only get worse before they get better. 

The fact that we’re facing what may the worst economic period since the Great Depression spells only bad news for Republican prospects, McCain’s included, given that it’s their failed policies of excessive tax cuts, free trade and deregulation that have precipitated this mess.  Yes, Democrats bear their share of responsibility too but it’s the Republicans who are trying to perpetuate this failure so it’s hardly surprising that McCain would attempt to paint a rosy picture of our current outlook by saying the fundamentals are still strong.

Not only is McCain trying to ignore just how deep our troubles are, his prescription for what ails us is to do more of the same.  The Republican mantra that raising taxes on the rich and regulating markets will only result in job loss has been repeated time and again over the past three decades but it’s precisely these policies that have resulted in a spiraling deficit and the current Wall Street meltdown that threatens to bring our whole economy down with it.  But rather than abandon the failed policies of the past, McCain insists that we stay on the same course, all the while parroting the same misleading talking points as Dean Baker’s article, Swift Boat Economics points out,

Senator McCain now faces a similar situation in this election. He is stuck running on the record of a president who is presiding over an economy that is sinking into recession and is facing the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. By contrast, Senator Obama can claim the legacy of the strong economy of the Clinton years.

Tarred with the most dismal record of job creation and income growth of any president since the Great Depression, it would be reasonable to expect that Senator McCain would be defensive on the economy; but not in Swift Boat America.

Instead Senator McCain is filling the airwaves with commercials telling the public that Obama’s tax increases will slow growth and cost the economy jobs. It’s pretty scary stuff to anyone who takes it seriously.

Of course, there’s no truth to Senator McCain’s Swift Boat economics. During the eight years of the Clinton administration, when rich people paid the same tax rates proposed by Senator Obama, the private sector added 15.8 million jobs. By contrast, in the seven years and six months of the Bush administration, when rich people paid the Bush-McCain tax rates, the private sector has added just 3.5 million jobs. And, it is losing jobs at the rate of almost 100,000 a month as President Bush prepares for retirement.

Baker goes on to point out the reasons behind economic success or failure go beyond simple tax policy but the fact remains that not only do higher taxes not automatically result in slow growth but in fact the economy can, and has, thrived while everyone pays their share of the tax burden.  And adequate regulation does not have to impede growth but rather, can reign in the kind of greed that led to the housing bubble, Wall Street’s problems and the oil bubble that has lined the pockets of a few while wreaking havoc on the economy in general.

America has, more or less, followed these economic policies for over thirty years now and the result has been not only financial uncertainty in our own lives but also to mortgage our children’s futures.  It’s time to say no to McCain and his failed supply side economics and to begin crafting policies that make sense for working Americans.

There’s Good News and Bad News

First the good news, Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention was a truly inspirational address that’s certain to rally his supporters as well as win over many of those on the fence, including many of the hold out Clinton supporters, the so called PUMAs.  While it takes a lot more than good speeches to change the direction of a country, it’s vital that before you can change the course of a nation you must first change the national conversation.  The tired rhetoric of defense and patriotism has been replaced with talk of jobs and hope.  Calls for tax cuts for the wealthy and privatization of Social Security have given way to demands for the expansion of the middle class and universal healthcare.  These are the issues that need our attention.  If we hope to have this country work for us again then the focus must be on the issues that affect our lives rather than lapel pins and pastors, patriotism and bowling scores.

Obama took it squarely to McCain, accusing him of being out of touch with working Americans while backing the same stale policies that Bush and the Republicans have been pushing for years,

And next week, we’ll also hear about those occasions when he’s broken with his party as evidence that he can deliver the change that we need.

But the record’s clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush 90 percent of the time.

Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but, really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than 90 percent of the time?

I don’t know about you, but I am not ready to take a 10 percent chance on change.

The truth is, on issue after issue that would make a difference in your lives — on health care, and education, and the economy — Senator McCain has been anything but independent.

He said that our economy has made great progress under this president. He said that the fundamentals of the economy are strong.

And when one of his chief advisers, the man who wrote his economic plan, was talking about the anxieties that Americans are feeling, he said that we were just suffering from a mental recession and that we’ve become, and I quote, “a nation of whiners.”

The last part is particularly significant because it’s an outlook you’ll hear echoed over and over in the weeks to come by pundits, McCain supporters and Washington insiders alike.  The denial that the economy is in freefall and that working Americans are struggling is directly tied to the desire of the powerful to maintain the status quo, something Obama clearly understands,

For over two decades — for over two decades, he’s subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy: Give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else.

In Washington, they call this the “Ownership Society,” but what it really means is that you’re on your own. Out of work? Tough luck, you’re on your own. No health care? The market will fix it. You’re on your own. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, even if you don’t have boots. You are on your own.

Well, it’s time for them to own their failure. It’s time for us to change America. And that’s why I’m running for president of the United States.

Also reflected in Obama’s speech were his centrist or moderate views such as his position on healthcare.  Clearly Obama supports serious reform in healthcare but still favors a system that utilizes a useless and counter productive private insurance industry that not only needlessly drains off healthcare dollars that could be better spent elsewhere but is so often at odds with healthcare consumers.  Obama doesn’t mention private insurance specifically but it can be inferred by what he did say,

If you have health care — if you have health care, my plan will lower your premiums. If you don’t, you’ll be able to get the same kind of coverage that members of Congress give themselves.

And — and as someone who watched my mother argue with insurance companies while she lay in bed dying of cancer, I will make certain those companies stop discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most.

Preventing insurance companies from denying coverage to those with preexisting conditions is a nice sentiment but doing away with private insurance altogether would eliminate the problem completely.

The bad news however, goes deeper than Obama’s willingness to appease those who prey upon working people, though that is part of it.  In an email newsletter published by author and populist advocate David Sirota, he talks about how even when things change they still remain the same.  While dining with some progressive activists friends after Wednesday’s convention activities, Sirota made this observation,

Over the course of about 10 minutes, a few Obama advisers trickled into the restaurant, followed by a flood of some of the biggest sharks that swim in the murky delta where money and Democratic politics meet.Among others, Bob Rubin (Citigroup chair), Larry Summers (former Treasury Secretary), Jim Johnson (political rainmaker) and Laura Tyson (former Clinton economic adviser) filed in and sat down at a long dinner table – clearly some kind of economic pow-wow with Obama officials, leavened with other political celebrities like former-vice-president-turned- corporate-board-member Walter Mondale and journalist Al Hunt. (emphasis added)

Real change will not come to this country until the power structure changes.  As long as the golden rule still applies-those who have the gold make the rules-nothing is ever really going to change.  And no matter what actually resides in Obama’s heart, so long as power is derived from the wealthy, as evidenced by Sirota’s dinner observations, and not the people, we can expect Washington to operate in the same manner that it has for decades.

Additionally, in the same email, Sirota makes another troubling observation,

Perhaps most troubling has been the involvement of government security agencies in trying to repress those protesting and reporting on the corruption. During a walk through downtown at lunch today, the police were (as they have been all week) patrolling the street in full riot gear.

While I understand the need for security at events like this, the visual expression of force – the billy clubs, armor, helmets, and military-style patrols – are clearly designed to intimidate anyone from raising any kind of uncomfortable questions in any kind of public way. And that intimidation includes jailing reporters.

ABC News reports that just yesterday, “Police in Denver arrested an ABC News producer today as he and a camera crew were attempting to take pictures on a public sidewalk of Democratic senators and VIP donors leaving a private meeting at the Brown Palace Hotel.” ABC caught the whole thing on tape – and it perfectly captures the obscene use of Denver’s municipal government to trample the First Amendment and cover-up brazen corruption.

There’s a long history of using the police to suppress dissent and protest, even when conducted peacefully and legally.  As much as we want to believe the authorities exist only for our protection, from union busting to infiltrating law abiding protest groups, law enforcement not only protects life and property but also the existing power structure as well.

In fact it gets worse.  Reported in Glenn Greenwald’s column are events far more troubling than those seen at the Democratic National Convention.  This is what’s going on in preparation for the Republican National Convention,

Protesters here in Minneapolis have been targeted by a series of highly intimidating, sweeping police raids across the city, involving teams of 25-30 officers in riot gear, with semi-automatic weapons drawn, entering homes of those suspected of planning protests, handcuffing and forcing them to lay on the floor, while law enforcement officers searched the homes, seizing computers, journals, and political pamphlets. Last night, members of the St. Paul police department and the Ramsey County sheriff’s department handcuffed, photographed and detained dozens of people meeting at a public venue to plan a demonstration, charging them with no crime other than “fire code violations,” and early this morning, the Sheriff’s department sent teams of officers into at least four Minneapolis area homes where suspected protesters were staying.

This is an example of the blatant use of power to intimidate those who want only to exercise their constitutional right to assemble freely and protest.  And while the greatly increased severity of this intimidation occurring at the RNC over the DNC was certainly no accident, the fact remains, no matter where you are any real attempt to topple the existing power structure in this country is going to be met with fierce resistance.

This resistance has been emboldened by Bush’s lawlessness and disregard for the Constitution.  From warrantless spying on Americans to the suspension of habeas corpus, the powers that be now have the legal ability to peek into anyone’s private life and to imprison indefinitely anyone deemed undesirable.  These un-Constitutional powers were enacted ostensibly to keep us safe from terrorism but will ultimately and inevitably be used against Americans desiring only to make their government work for them rather than just the privileged few.  After witnessing the overwhelming use of power against those who’ve done nothing, can anyone deny this?

Speaking truth to power has always been challenging, not to mention dangerous, and it will be even more so now.  And while there’s absolutely no question that putting Obama in the White House is far superior to allowing McCain to perpetuate the same failed policies that have all but destroyed this country, don’t forget that the police state we now live in came to be with the full support of the Democratic Party.

What Goes Around Comes Around

In what can only be seen as a rather pathetic attempt to win over some of the Clinton supporters, McCain has chosen for his running mate, a woman by the name of Sarah Palin.  The reasons this is so pathetic are several.  McCain has continued to slam Barack Obama for his lack of experience and yet his choice for Vice President is someone who has an embarrassing lack of experience herself.  Before governing one of the least populated states in the union, Palin was mayor of a town of about 6000.  Palin has no foreign policy experience and, unlike Obama, has shown nothing in the way of vision for this country beyond spouting the same tired talking points coming from the religious right for so many years now.  Conservatives are quick to point out that she still has more experience than Obama but for McCain, a 72 year-old man who’s had two bouts of cancer, to criticize Obama’s lack of experience and then choose for this country’s second in command someone with as little experience as Palin, is hypocritical to say the least.

Palin is unlikely to win over many Clinton supporters either because unlike Clinton, who has been a champion for women’s rights for years including fully supporting a woman’s right to control her own body,  Palin has emphatically come out against women’s right to abortion even in cases of rape and incest.  This no doubt will please many on the right but Clinton supporters are looking to increase women’s rights not decrease them.

Palin bills herself as a reformer, willing to take on large corporations and corruption in politics but the reality may be less inspiring.  Palin is currently under investigation for abuse power for allegedly attempting to have a state trooper, her sister’s estranged husband, fired and when that failed, firing his boss for refusing to fire the trooper.  Palin is intricately linked to Senator Ted Stevens who happens to be under indictment for taking bribes from oil pipeline company VECO, a company that has donated to Palins campaign as well.  There’s currently nothing to suggest that Palin has been involved in anything improper here but her strong connections to Stevens hardly qualifies her as a champion against corruption.  And then there’s the infamous “bridge to nowhere,” a pork barrel project that would have cost $398 million and served about fifty people, that Palin bragged to Congress she opposed, saying “thanks but no thanks.”  Except that she was in favor of the bridge until it became clear that it wasn’t going to happen.

And now, Palin, who opposes sex education for our young people and is a tireless defender of “family values,” has just revealed that her seventeen year-old, unmarried daughter is pregnant.  Republicans of course are crying foul now that Palin’s pregnant daughter has become a big story but what goes around comes around.  Ordinarily I would consider this to be no ones business.  I for one, would love to see a complete end to stories of flag pins and bowling scores, sexual scandals and religious affiliations but the Republicans just won’t let this stuff die, just ask McCain about the “black baby scandal” pushed by none other than Karl Rove, king of the dirty tricks campaign.  If you’re going to campaign on “family values,” it’s probably a good idea to actually live them.  But even beyond the obvious hypocrisy is the fact that Palin’s daughter is living proof of the failure of the very policies Palin, McCain and Republican Party expound.  Even worse, Palin’s daughter no doubt, will still have the opportunity to finish school and with the support of her family, go on to do whatever she wants to do with her life.  But what of all the pregnant teens who lack that kind of support structure?  It’s easy to tell others how to live when you are one of the ones with choices but those who’s options are limited need just the kind of education that Palin opposes.  The hypocrisy of Palin and her ilk is obvious but what is far more troubling is her lack of support for those needing it the most.

Just to fill in some gaps, Sarah Palin does in fact have foreign relations experience. Not only being the only state of the Union that shares borders with two nations (which comes with many agreements that are enforced on the state level), Alaska is a part of the Pacific Northwest Economic Region, which includes Canada. On the scale of foreign relations experience, her two years as governor is (at the minimum) on par with Obama’s world tour over the Summer.

As far as her daughter being pregnant and your comments regarding family values, I do not see how this is contradictory. Her daughter is keeping the baby and is getting married, which is in line with the underlying theme of responsibility within family values. Palin, no any other parent (legally), can not stop her children from engaging in risky behavior. All she can do is share her beliefs with them, and then be supportive if they find themselves in trouble (as is the case here). So I don’t see how that is hypocritical in any sense.

But you are right though. Not all of the children out there have the support structure that Bristol has. We need to work to bring “family” back into the mainstay of society. However, that cannot be done by the government but by society itself. We lost something back in the sixties and need to reclaim it. It goes back to responsibility.

I think if you asked Martin Luther King if he “LIKED” the 1950s he would disagree with you. Your argument is purely subjective. What evidence (beyond anecdotal) can you offer to support this statement?

The prosperity of the 1950s was a result of the HUGE increase in jobs and US Government Spending during World War II.

If I remember correctly, both Unemployment and Inflation were well into double digits at the time Ronald Reagan took Office (from a Democratic President). By the end of the 1980s the Economic Policies that “favored Big Business” had reduced Unemployment and Inflation to numbers very similar to what we have today (during our HORRIBLE recession).

Obama has lots of Opinions. He is even very gifted at expressing them. But, I have Opinions as well. That doesn’t make me qualified for President of the United States.

At least Sarah Palin has developed a plan and successfully executed it!

BKB

BTW – If you check Pregnancy Rates for the various States, you will find that demographics has a much higher correlation than Sex Education Programs (http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/2006/09/12/USTPstats.pdf). Interestingly, you will find Alaska is near the middle of the pack.

McCain’s Recipe for Change: Just another Pig in a Poke

For anyone familiar with the Atwater/Rove school of campaigning, all of the fuss over Barack Obama’s “lipstick on a pig” remark comes as no surprise.  In what was a clear reference to McCain, Obama’s comment was a harmless phrase meant to point out that no matter how much McCain dresses up his policy proposals as “change” they are in fact, just more of the same tired Republican talking points.  The McCain camp immediately seized upon the remark accusing Obama of making a sexist slur against Palin based on the slim, overreaching connection to a Palin comment, “‘What’s the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick.”  Palin’s reference to lipstick may have indeed put the bug in Obama’s mind to use the “lipstick on a pig” remark but only those with little regard for the truth would suggest that Obama’s target was Palin rather than McCain and the Republicans in general.

This scenario of Republicans diverting attention away from actual issues and on to meaningless “scandals” has repeated itself so many times, for so many years, that the only thing surprising is that anyone still falls for it.  For decades the Republicans have had nothing of value to offer working Americans, supply side economics-cutting taxes for the rich, deregulation and free trade-have failed to keep the promise of prosperity, for those other than the wealthy that is.  So, when truth is not on your side, that leaves you with, well, everything else.  Palin loves to call herself a reformer even if she has to lie to sell it.  The “bridge to nowhere” boondoggle she likes to tell everyone she opposed, “thanks, but no thanks,” when in fact she was strongly in favor of it until it was clear it wasn’t going to happen.  Nor did Palin have any problem spending the money that was “earmarked” for the bridge.  When Palin says she’ll help reform Washington and bring and end to earmarks, apparently she just meant for everyone else.

Little wonder then why McCain picked Palin for his running mate, being no stranger to hypocrisy himself.  There’s the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy that McCain called “irresponsible,” only now he’s in favor of them.  McCain once described the religious right as “agents of intolerance” but that didn’t stop him from seeking out the endorsement of one of their standard bearers, Pastor John Hagee, a man that is the very embodiment of intolerance.  There is virtually nothing in McCain’s message that represents the kind of change that middle and lower class Americans are desperate for but that doesn’t stop him from endlessly using that word in his campaign speeches.  Again, when the truth doesn’t sell, then sell the lie.  When attention towards your policies reveals only that you have nothing to offer, redirect the focus to cheap and tawdry scandals that, true or false, have no bearing on the lives of the electorate.  The Iraq war, the tanking economy, sky high prices for food, fuel and healthcare, these are some of the real issues on the minds of Americans but far from having any answers for these problems, Republicans are mostly responsible for them, so therefore it is imperative that they divert the national discussion to meaningless clichés, tie pins, bowling scores and false accusations over patriotism and religious affiliation.  That is the real pig here, the pig in a poke that is the McCain platform for change.

McCain Stands for the Worst Excesses of the Bush Administration

With the economy tanking and the financial sector in meltdown the discussion has focused, rightly so, on which candidate, Obama or McCain is the right person to clean up the mess.  Regulation, or more accurately, re-regulation has become the buzzword of the day and McCain has taken to selling himself as a strong proponent of using regulation to restore order and integrity to the financial sector.  It’s a dubious claim at best given that he’s historically supported deregulation including this recent gem published in the current issue of Contingencies where McCain argues that the best way to reform our healthcare system is through deregulation so that the healthcare industry can perform as well as, get ready for this, the financial industry,

Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation. (emphasis added)

That John McCain would say one thing one day only to completely contradict himself the next comes as no surprise to anyone actually paying attention.  But in an economy facing its worst crises since the Great Depression, where Americans are genuinely worried about their futures, as troubling as McCain’s double talk on the economy, one would at least expect some connection between his actions as president and his rhetoric as a candidate.  With the entire country clamoring for the reigning in of Wall Street even a deregulation robot like McCain has to concede that something has to change.  So, as disturbing as his two-faced talk of financial regulation is, what is far more disturbing is where McCain’s words and deeds are in agreement.

Of all the crimes and improprieties of the Bush administration, and there have been numerous, the worst of all has been Bush’s utter disregard for the rule of law.  As bad as it was for Bush to lie us into a war, or his warrantless spying on Americans, his most un-Constitutional acts have been his attempts to circumvent the investigative authority of Congress.  Arguably the most important function of Congress is to keep the Executive branch in check by investigating any potential improprieties that may surface.  Integral to this function is the power of the subpoena.  Without the ability to compel witnesses to testify under oath as well as to produce any pertinent documents, Congress’ ability to reach the truth is effectively nullified which is precisely what has happened under this administration.  Bush’s refusal to allow Harriet Miers and Joshua Bolten to comply with Congress’ legal subpoenas in the federal attorneys firing scandal has not only thwarted Congress’ investigation into the politicization of the Justice Department, the department charged with enforcing all of this country’s laws, it has sent the clear message that this administration considers itself above the law, and Congress’ acquiescence in the matter has made it a reality.  If Congress is unwilling or unable to conduct investigations, that leaves the Executive branch free to do as it pleases without regard for the Constitution, the rule of law or the wishes of the American people which is exactly what the Founding Fathers set out to prevent.  They were well aware of dangers of an unchecked monarchy which is precisely the reason they drafted a Constitution which empowers the Congress to conduct investigations.

When the McCain camp announced that Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin would not comply with any subpoenas issued by the Alaskan state legislature regarding the “Troopergate” investigation, McCain was signifying that he has no more respect for the Constitution or the rule of law than Bush does.  McCain’s transparently ludicrous rationalization for this was that the investigation, conducted by three Republicans and two Democrats was “tainted.”  How nice it must be to decide which investigations are worthy of your acknowledgement.  What if every citizen had that power?  Of course that’s what the rule of law is all about; everyone is responsible for complying with law, nobody gets to decide which subpoenas they’ll honor and which ones they won’t, no exceptions, not even the president.  Bush has already thumbed his nose at this concept and now McCain has followed suit demonstrating exactly how hollow his promises of “change” really are.  Republicans love to paint Democrats as elitists but how elite must you be to decide which laws you’ll obey.

* * * * * 

Unrelated to today’s topic but too compelling to pass up is Glenn Greenwald’s post where he aptly summarizes what the AIG bailout really says about how this nation operates.  The entire post is worthy of reading but there’s one point I wanted to highlight here,

Can anyone point to any discussion of what the implications are for having the Federal Government seize control of the largest and most powerful insurance company in the country, as well as virtually the entire mortgage industry and other key swaths of financial services? Haven’t we heard all these years that national health care was an extremely risky and dangerous undertaking because of what happens when the Federal Government gets too involved in an industry? What happened in the last month dwarfs all of that by many magnitudes. (emphasis added)

When it comes to healthcare, something every American needs but few can fully afford, any suggestion of a national health insurance plan is met with cries of socialism from the right but hardly a peep is heard when the nation’s largest insurance company is nationalized in order to bailout a relative handful of greedy investors.  Wealthy Wall Street investors took extremely risky gambles with the market but as it turns out, it wasn’t their money they were risking, it was ours.  We had no chance whatsoever of reaping the rewards of taking such risks but was there ever any doubt we’d be on the hook for the losses when the risks no longer paid off?  Moreover, will any of the millions “earned” by these investors be returned to help offset the losses?  Don’t count on it because just like lawbreaking by the political elites there’s virtually no chance of them being held accountable for their actions.

Health Insurance Reform: A Turning Point

For more than a year now we’ve watched Congress debate healthcare reform, or more accurately, health insurance reform, with all its fits and starts, twists and turns with increasing frustration regardless of which side you’re on.  For those on the left the aggravation has been particularly acute with the one system, single payer, whose success worldwide at providing comprehensive healthcare to the most people at the least cost has been completely ignored by those charged with reforming our current system.  This debate has also demonstrated beyond any doubt just how broken our democracy is when a minority of senators can effectively block any real change, and where even one senator’s ego can thwart the reform that working Americans so desperately need.

So it’s no great surprise that healthcare reform has devolved into heath insurance reform and while there are many good aspects to the final legislation, rather than breaking the strangle hold that health insurance corporations have over our healthcare system, their power has only increased.  Not only was single payer off the table from the start, people were actually arrested for daring to suggest that it be part of the discussion.  And even the milquetoast alternative, a public option, failed to make it in the final bill, for now at least.  The fact that a public option which would have only been available to the relatively small number of individuals buying their insurance from an exchange was considered such a threat to the insurance giants and therefore excluded in the final bill demonstrates both the power and influence corporations have over our government, and the absurdity that the free market is superior to, and more efficient to any government program.  If that were actually true then the public option would be no threat to private insurance.

So in light of the weakness of the legislation signed into law, is there any reason to be optimistic about our future?  I believe the answer is yes.  The corporatist Republicans threw absolutely everything they had to defeat any type of reform from passing and they failed.  Some may see that because the outcome was far less than what Obama’s base wanted, it was a victory for the right but if that were true Republicans would now be sighing with relief rather than vowing to overthrow this bill in any way possible.  Former Bush speechwriter David Frum was recently fired from the conservative think tank, American Enterprise Institute for criticizing the GOP’s over the top opposition to healthcare reform.  It was Frum’s position that Republicans should have negotiated with Democrats rather than simply attempting to obstruct anything Democrats proposed.  Frum noted that the final bill wasn’t much different than previous GOP healthcare proposals and that by going for “all the marbles,” “[w]e ended up with none.”  Frum declared, “Conservatives and Republicans today suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s. It’s hard to exaggerate the magnitude of the disaster.” 

Was Frum correct, about compromising I mean?  Should Republicans have accepted their minority status and tried instead to negotiate an outcome more in line with their beliefs rather than “go for all the marbles?”  I believe the answer is no.  I believe the Republicans were terrified of any type of reform, if only subconsciously, because they understand, again if only subconsciously, that the Reagan revolution is finally over and their influence over American politics has finally come to an end.  For thirty years now Americans have bought into the conservative meme that greed is good, that if you get government out of the way of the wealthy that we all would prosper.  But we didn’t prosper, not most of us anyway.  Before Reagan we were the largest creditor nation in the world, now we’re the largest debtor.  Before Reagan our manufacturing industry was the envy of the world, now that envy goes to China.  Before Reagan an average single earner family had more disposable income than the average dual income family has today.  After World War II, and until the folly of Viet Nam, we had a strong, stable economy.  After Reagan, we’ve had a series of boom bust cycles culminating into the worst collapse since the Great Depression.  After the disastrous presidency of George W. Bush, after the smoking ruins the GOP has left this country, any change in direction, no matter how slight, would give lie to the Republican orthodoxy we’ve been subjected to over the last three decades.  They knew that reforming healthcare, or anything else for that matter, would be a net benefit to working Americans and a net loss to the right’s corporate masters and they had no choice but to fight it with everything they had.  It may take a little while, but Americans will see that “Obamacare” won’t usher in Armageddon or that none of the other ridiculous hyperbole emanating from the right wing noise machine will turn out to be true either.  In fact, the health insurance reform just passed will actually have a positive effect if only slightly and may very well lead to actual healthcare reform.

We’ve reached a turning point in this country’s history.  The recent spate of violence may be a harbinger of worse things to come or it may just represent the last throes of the evil influence that has dominated our culture for the last thirty years.  I believe the latter.  I believe the Republican’s defeat is America’s victory.

Health Insurance Reform: A Turning Point

For more than a year now we’ve watched Congress debate healthcare reform, or more accurately, health insurance reform, with all its fits and starts, twists and turns with increasing frustration regardless of which side you’re on.  For those on the left the aggravation has been particularly acute with the one system, single payer, whose success worldwide at providing comprehensive healthcare to the most people at the least cost has been completely ignored by those charged with reforming our current system.  This debate has also demonstrated beyond any doubt just how broken our democracy is when a minority of senators can effectively block any real change, and where even one senator’s ego can thwart the reform that working Americans so desperately need.

So it’s no great surprise that healthcare reform has devolved into heath insurance reform and while there are many good aspects to the final legislation, rather than breaking the strangle hold that health insurance corporations have over our healthcare system, their power has only increased.  Not only was single payer off the table from the start, people were actually arrested for daring to suggest that it be part of the discussion.  And even the milquetoast alternative, a public option, failed to make it in the final bill, for now at least.  The fact that a public option which would have only been available to the relatively small number of individuals buying their insurance from an exchange was considered such a threat to the insurance giants and therefore excluded in the final bill demonstrates both the power and influence corporations have over our government, and the absurdity that the free market is superior to, and more efficient to any government program.  If that were actually true then the public option would be no threat to private insurance.

So in light of the weakness of the legislation signed into law, is there any reason to be optimistic about our future?  I believe the answer is yes.  The corporatist Republicans threw absolutely everything they had to defeat any type of reform from passing and they failed.  Some may see that because the outcome was far less than what Obama’s base wanted, it was a victory for the right but if that were true Republicans would now be sighing with relief rather than vowing to overthrow this bill in any way possible.  Former Bush speechwriter David Frum was recently fired from the conservative think tank, American Enterprise Institute for criticizing the GOP’s over the top opposition to healthcare reform.  It was Frum’s position that Republicans should have negotiated with Democrats rather than simply attempting to obstruct anything Democrats proposed.  Frum noted that the final bill wasn’t much different than previous GOP healthcare proposals and that by going for “all the marbles,” “[w]e ended up with none.”  Frum declared, “Conservatives and Republicans today suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s. It’s hard to exaggerate the magnitude of the disaster.” 

Was Frum correct, about compromising I mean?  Should Republicans have accepted their minority status and tried instead to negotiate an outcome more in line with their beliefs rather than “go for all the marbles?”  I believe the answer is no.  I believe the Republicans were terrified of any type of reform, if only subconsciously, because they understand, again if only subconsciously, that the Reagan revolution is finally over and their influence over American politics has finally come to an end.  For thirty years now Americans have bought into the conservative meme that greed is good, that if you get government out of the way of the wealthy that we all would prosper.  But we didn’t prosper, not most of us anyway.  Before Reagan we were the largest creditor nation in the world, now we’re the largest debtor.  Before Reagan our manufacturing industry was the envy of the world, now that envy goes to China.  Before Reagan an average single earner family had more disposable income than the average dual income family has today.  After World War II, and until the folly of Viet Nam, we had a strong, stable economy.  After Reagan, we’ve had a series of boom bust cycles culminating into the worst collapse since the Great Depression.  After the disastrous presidency of George W. Bush, after the smoking ruins the GOP has left this country, any change in direction, no matter how slight, would give lie to the Republican orthodoxy we’ve been subjected to over the last three decades.  They knew that reforming healthcare, or anything else for that matter, would be a net benefit to working Americans and a net loss to the right’s corporate masters and they had no choice but to fight it with everything they had.  It may take a little while, but Americans will see that “Obamacare” won’t usher in Armageddon or that none of the other ridiculous hyperbole emanating from the right wing noise machine will turn out to be true either.  In fact, the health insurance reform just passed will actually have a positive effect if only slightly and may very well lead to actual healthcare reform.

We’ve reached a turning point in this country’s history.  The recent spate of violence may be a harbinger of worse things to come or it may just represent the last throes of the evil influence that has dominated our culture for the last thirty years.  I believe the latter.  I believe the Republican’s defeat is America’s victory.

When Should Journalists Reveal Their Sources

Back in 2004, Judith Miller was cited for contempt because she refused to name the source of the leak that identified Valerie Plame as an undercover CIA operative.  Miller ultimately spent nearly three months in a New York City jail until finally, after receiving permission from her source, revealed the name of the person who leaked the information to her-one Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff.

The story sparked quite a controversy due to the circumstances surrounding the case.  Many felt that Miller was correct to protect her source, citing the duty of a reporter to protect their sources as sacrosanct, while others argued that a reporter is under no obligation to protect someone who has deliberately lied in order to use the press to disseminate propaganda.  Complicating the issue further was Millers’ previous journalistic misconduct when she published stories regarding Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs that proved to be utterly false.  Miller was clearly biased in favor of going to war with Iraq, causing her to regurgitate White House press releases as if they were in fact, independently investigated reports.  This didn’t endear her to many who might have otherwise been inclined to stand with her.

Fast forward to the present and we find ourselves entangled in the same controversy all over again.  In an apparent suicide, government scientist Bruce E. Ivins died Tuesday, just as the Justice Department was preparing to charge him with sending the anthrax laced letters that caused the deaths of five people back in 2001.  Or so we’re told anyway.  The case against Ivins may not be as open and shut as many would have us believe.  But there is one thing that happens to be perfectly clear-the anthrax laced letters were in no way connected to Saddam Hussein as was widely reported in the beginning.  Brian Ross of ABC News reported back in October 2001 that traces of the chemical bentonite, a signature element of Saddam’s weapons program was found in the anthrax samples.  From a Wikipedia entry on the attacks,

In late October, 2001, ABC chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross several times linked the anthrax sample to Saddam Hussein; on October 26, “sources tell ABCNEWS the anthrax in the tainted letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle was laced with bentonite. The potent additive is known to have been used by only one country in producing biochemical weapons – Iraq…. it is a trademark of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s biological weapons program…The discovery of bentonite came in an urgent series of tests conducted at Fort Detrick, Maryland, and elsewhere,” on October 28, stating that “despite continued White House denials, four well-placed and separate sources have told ABC News that initial tests on the anthrax by the US Army at Fort Detrick, Maryland, have detected trace amounts of the chemical additives bentonite and silica.”, and several times on October 28 and 29.

But if in fact the anthrax came from U.S. government labs as would have to be the case if Ivins was responsible, then the “source” of Ross’s story had to have been lying.  The reason for the deception is obvious, linking Hussein to the anthrax letters was arguably as important as any of the lies told to move public opinion towards going to war in Iraq.

And this is where these two stories converge.  In the case of Plame, an undercover intelligence operative’s identity was compromised while in the anthrax attacks, five people actually died, but in both cases the issue has morphed into something far more significant, that the media has been deceived and manipulated into spreading propaganda resulting in a war that has caused the deaths of literally thousands including more American lives lost than were killed on 9/11.

And this is why the question, when or if it is appropriate for a journalist to reveal their sources, must be visited.  It must be understood that the entire purpose of protecting sources in the first place is to serve the reader’s need for the truth.  Protecting a source after all is simply an inducement to have those in possession of important information to reveal what they know, safe in the knowledge that their identity won’t be revealed.  But the sanctity here isn’t in the hiding of a person’s name; it’s in bringing the truth to light.  And the moral and ethical imperative isn’t protecting the source but rather, informing the reader.  The journalistic vow to protect their sources is vitally important and is not to be taken lightly but not to the point of forgetting that it’s the search for the truth that is paramount.

In both of these cases the sources deliberately lied in order to manipulate the press into advancing their agenda.  When it becomes clear that the source is intentionally lying, particularly when high ranking government officials are involved, no longer can they be considered sources.  When it’s revealed that the government is in fact lying to those they’ve sworn to serve, that then becomes the story.  No longer are reporters obligated to protect their identities, their obligation is now to reveal their identity.  This is the nature of a transparent democracy as well as the profession of those entrusted to keep it transparent.