Friday, December 16, 2005

I Spy

Why are we even bothering with a debate over the Patriot Act if President Bush is just going to do whatever the hell he wants to do anyway?

The National Security Agency has eavesdropped, without warrants, on as many 500 people inside the United States at any given time since 2002, The New York Times reported Friday.
That year, following the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush authorized the NSA to monitor the international phone calls and international e-mails of hundreds - perhaps thousands - of people inside the United States, the Times reported.


I have to agree with this poster at Daily Kos:

I think the last few days of revelations regarding multi-agency spying on American citizens comes as no surprise. In an administration that has authorized secret prisons, planted propaganda, fought restrictions on torture, and argued consistently for the right to detain whomever is deemed suspicious without recourse to trial, spying on American citizens seems both obvious and pedestrian....

...for true rank-and-file conservatives, this should bring on a crisis of conscience and self-examination. Distrust of the government and its motives runs deep in American conservatism; witness the recoil from relatively benign "nanny state" interventions such as social welfare programs and anti-smoking laws. How much more repugnant is wiretapping, surveillance and massive record-keeping by the feds?

So, are there any ‘true conservatives’ left in this country?

Maybe a few. Instapundit isn’t too happy about it.
And then there are a few Republican senators still willing to stand up for freedom, liberty and the rule of law in our own country:

"There is no doubt that this is inappropriate," said Specter, R-Pa., calling hearings early next year "a very, very high priority." He wasn't alone in reacting harshly to the report. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said the story, first reported in Friday's New York Times, was troubling.

But for the most part it would seem that true conservatism is dead, or at least comatose, and has been replaced with a right-wing radicalism that likes to masquerade as conservatism.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Levee repair

Now that the horses are all gone, the Bush administration is finally getting around to fixing that barn door.

Maybe $3.1 billion is enough to do the job right, I don’t know. But I can’t help but point out that it is less than we spend each month on our never-ending mission to rebuild Iraq.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Redistricting fiasco revisited

Republicans should be very worried about the Supreme Court's decision to revisit the Texas redistricting fiasco. They have a much weaker case than many of them assume.

There have been a few significant developments since a three-judge panel (2 Republicans and 1 Democrat) approved Tom DeLay's dream map for keeping himself in power.
First, there is the little matter of Tom DeLay being indicted for the money laundering scheme that helped get his map into law in the first place. Second, and more significant, we now know that the judges were lied to when told that the Justice Department said the map did not violate the Voting Rights Act. The non-partisan experts in the Justice Department were unanimous in saying that the plan would dilute minority voting strength, as indeed it has.

The Washington Post looks at why that is...

The voting rights suits point to two districts in particular, Doggett's old 10th District, which covered one county and now stretches eastward to Houston, and Republican Rep. Henry Bonilla's 23rd District.

In 2001, the voting-age population of the 10th District was 55 percent non-Hispanic white, while Latinos and blacks made up 39 percent. Now, the white voting-age population is nearly 70 percent, while minorities are just over 25 percent. A district that gave Doggett 84 percent of its votes in 2002 gave Republican Michael T. McCaul 84 percent two years later.

The federal courts had deemed the 23rd District a Latino opportunity district, but Latino groups have said that white voters gave Bonilla his razor-thin margin of victory in 2002 over a Latino Democrat. That year, the voting-age population of his district was 63 percent Latino and 33 percent non-Hispanic white.

For Republicans in Austin, Bonilla's victory was too shaky. After redistricting, he cruised to victory with 69 percent of the vote. That time, the Latino population was 51 percent, while the white population had climbed to 45 percent.

"To dismantle a Latino-majority district for the explicit purpose of making sure they can't elect a candidate of their choice is a violation of the Voting Rights Act," said Nina Perales, southwestern regional counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Bolstering that case are the Justice lawyers. A December 2003 memo obtained this month by The Washington Post shows that six staff lawyers and two analysts from the voting section concluded that the Texas plan should be rejected because it would harm black and Hispanic voters. Senior Justice officials overruled that recommendation and issued an approval a week later.

People need to remember that the Voting Rights Act is concerned with the voters in the district and not with who they elect. A majority white district can elect a minority candidate, but that does not make it a minority district. My City Council District, for example, is overwhelmingly white, but nevertheless elected a black man, Art Hall, as our representative. But that doesn't mean you could count my district as a minority voting district.

Despite the election of one additional black following the re-redistricting process, the fact remains that in the end two minority voting districts were eliminated to help give Republicans their ultimate partisan advantage. Once the power of incumbency wears off as established members leave office, the full impact of the GOP scheme will become evident.
The Supreme Court will be hard-pressed not to knock this down when faced with the opinion of the Voting Rights experts at Justice who were muzzled by political hacks these past few years.

Very, very good news

Supreme Court to review Texas political map

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court said Monday it would consider the constitutionality of a Texas congressional map engineered by Rep. Tom DeLay that helped Republicans gain seats in Congress.

I’ll have more to say about this in a bit.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Redefining terms

So what is a "conservative" today?

This letter in the New York Times the other day makes a good point about how the definition of conservative has changed over time.

To the Editor:

Re "Running Out of Steam," by David Brooks (column, Dec. 8):

There's a simpler explanation as to why the conservative agenda has stalled. Conservatives are no longer conservatives.

Twenty years ago, I was a conservative and believed in balanced budgets, limited foreign intervention and limiting the government's encroachment upon individual liberties and freedom. Today, I believe in balanced budgets, limited foreign intervention and limiting the government's encroachment upon individual liberties and freedom, but now I'm called a liberal.

Conservatives of yesteryear respected state sovereignty and believed that torturing prisoners was only what the Communists did. Today's conservatives have no compunction about using their federal muscle to overrule state courts. It's repugnant that we are even debating the merits of torture.

Joel S. Peskoff
Baldwin, N.Y., Dec. 8, 2005

I think the answer is quite simple, really. The radical right has usurped the term for their own sake even though there is very little in their activist agenda that could truly be described as conservative.