Friday, December 02, 2005

Bush cronies overruled Justice Department

Wow! Bombshell story in the Washington Post today.

What this memo says essentially is that the U.S. Justice Department had overwhelmingly rejected Tom DeLay's mid-term re-redistricting scheme in 2003 but they were overruled by Bush appointees.

Justice Department lawyers concluded that the landmark Texas congressional redistricting plan spearheaded by Rep. Tom DeLay (R) violated the Voting Rights Act, according to a previously undisclosed memo obtained by The Washington Post. But senior officials overruled them and approved the plan.

The memo, unanimously endorsed by six lawyers and two analysts in the department's voting section, said the redistricting plan illegally diluted black and Hispanic voting power in two congressional districts. It also said the plan eliminated several other districts in which minorities had a substantial, though not necessarily decisive, influence in elections...

The 73-page memo, dated Dec. 12, 2003, has been kept under tight wraps for two years. Lawyers who worked on the case were subjected to an unusual gag rule.

This is truly disgusting. I really don't know what more there is to be said about it except that this has to be the most corrupt bunch of yahoos to ever hold political office in our nation's history.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Keeping track of the corruption

With so many Republican scandals happening all at once it is getting difficult to keep track of which Republican politicians have been indicted, which have pled guilty and which are still under investigation. Meanwhile, Republicans are trying to take advantage of the confusion by claiming falsely that this tsunami of corruption is evenly spread between Republicans and Democrats.
So to help things out a bit I’ve started a list of politicians who have been convicted, indicted or are reportedly under investigation for various crimes in just this past year.

Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, R-Calif.
Michael Scanlon, former aide to Tom DeLay
Former Gov. John Rowland, R-Conn.
Gov. Bob Taft, R-Ohio

Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, former House Majority Leader
Lewis “Scooter” Libby, top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney
David Safavian, a former Rove business partner serving as the top White House procurement official
Jack Abramoff, GOP lobbyist

Under Investigation
Karl Rove, top aide to President Bush
Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas (again)
Rep. Robert Ney, R-Ohio
Rep. John T. Doolittle, R-Calif.
Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont.
Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., Senate Majority Leader
Rep. William Jefferson, D-La.
Kenneth Tomlinson, former Republican Chair of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting

And there are many more who have been linked to various scandals but are not yet under investigation (as far as we know) including a few Democrats. But as this list should make absolutely clear, the vast, overwhelming majority of the corruption is confined to Republicans and members of the GOP (Greedy Old Party).

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Bait and switch

As anyone can tell from his well-researched op-ed in the local paper, my friend Bill Crawford is deeply committed to supporting the war in Iraq. He devotes the bulk of his blog to highlighting the good things that the U.S. military accomplishes in Iraq everyday.
I don’t take issue with the facts that Bill lays out in the article. I will grant that good things are indeed happening in Iraq. And I will acknowledge that they do not always get as prominent of play in the national media as the negative events such as kidnappings and suicide bombings (although not for the reasons that Bill espouses).
Who could be upset by our efforts to “repair the Iraqi education system” and provide textbooks to underprivileged Iraqi schoolchildren? What kind of Scrooge would denounce our work at reparing that nation’s electrical grid, roads, bridges, health system, water system and oil infrastructure?
Surely, these are all good things that are being done. So what is the problem?

The problem is that this whole Iraqi invasion has been one giant bait and switch from the very beginning.
All of these wonderful things that Bill likes to point out each day (while ignoring all the bad things that are happening) are completely superfluous to the reason we invaded Iraq in the first place.
We did not go into Iraq to carry out a massive humanitarian mission and nation building project. If that had been the stated reason, most Republicans I know of would have been opposed to it - including George W. Bush who ridiculed Al Gore during the 2000 campaign over the notion of “nation building” projects. Republicans and conservatives have never been big on foreign aid spending and that is what this misadventure in Iraq amounts to today - a massive foreign aid program.
Imagine if President Clinton or President Gore had proposed sending our troops into some blighted region of the world to help overturn a repressive government and give assistance to the disadvantaged people living there. Republicans would have gone absolutely nuts opposing such an operation. This is the U.S. military, not the Peace Corps, they would say.

We invaded Iraq because the Bush administration insisted that Saddam Hussein posed an imminent threat to U.S. security and the only way to prevent an impending attack was to go in and strike first. I, along with many other Americans, suspected this was a lot of B.S. at the time, but we did not have access to the same intelligence reports that the President did. So many folks, including a lot of Democrats in Congress, felt pressured to give him the benefit of the doubt and support a resolution authorizing military force as a last option. Now we know that a military invasion was the first option for the Bush team almost from day one.
Since then, we have learned that Bush relied on faulty intelligence reports when making his case for launching an unprecedented pre-emptive invasion. Not only were the reports flawed, but other intelligence reports that countered or questioned the ones the Bush administration was touting were either ignored or covered up. We now know that Hussein was a delusional old man who had never fully recovered from the whooping he received during the first Gulf War. Most of the crimes Hussein was accused of were actually committed prior to Gulf War I while he was being supported by the Reagan and Bush I administrations. The U.N. sanctions had been effective in limiting and degrading Iraq’s military structure to the point that Hussein was actually less of a threat to the U.S. by 2003 than he was immediately following the end of Gulf War I.

There was no need to invade Iraq in 2003. I don’t care how many new schools or hospitals we build, it was not worth the cost in blood or dollars that the American people have been forced to make. President Bush should have declared victory and brought our troops home a long time ago. The fact that he is still running around the country making speeches and trying to bone up support for the war three years later is a sure sign that the wheels have fallen off this cart.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Moral equivalence

In his Nov. 25 column, Mark Harden takes great exception with a Nov. 18 column by Mansour El-Kikhia. Mark is incensed by what he sees as “anti-Western vitriol” in El-Kikhia’s writing. In particular he cites El Kikhia’s reference of a reported case of canabalism during the Crusades of the 11th Century as being offensive to non-Muslims. He also accuses El-Kikhia of trivializing the Holocaust by comparing it to the Crusades.
While I think Professor El-Kikhia fails to make his point by using these two examples, I do not believe that he intended them as an “insult to the Jewish people” and I think Mark goes way over the line in equating him with Holocaust denier David Irving. El Kikhia’s point is to try and equate the suffering of the Arabs with the Jews and show that they both view themselves today as victims of past wrongs.

What I find most objectionable in El-Kikhia’s column, however, is his assertion that Western societies have forfeited their moral standing in the world due to the past actions of people 50 and 1,000 years ago. If I were to critique El-Kikhia’s column, I would start with this statement:

“ is strange for Western society to claim to uphold lofty social, religious and political values when its history is replete with valueless adventures that brought misery and injustices to many in the globe.”

So we are not allowed to uphold lofty values today because we still bear the sins of our fathers some 1,000 years later? What kind of nonsense is that? Does he expect me to walk around all day long with my head held in shame because one of my ancestors may have participated in some ancient atrocity? And if that is the case, which nation or culture could possibly live up to that standard with a blemish-free past?

As far as comparing the Holocaust with the Crusades, I think it is a silly and useless excercise. Does the fact that fewer people may have been killed during the Crusades make them any less heinous? Do we consider a mass murderer who butchered 10 people to be 10-times more righteouss and upstanding than someone who killed 100 people? Of course not!
Furthermore, the actual body counts have more to do with the times when these atrocities occurred and not with the moral rectitude of the people responsible for the crimes. You can be sure that fewer people would have died if the Holocaust had occurred in 1096 if for no other reason than fewer people were around back then. Likewise, if the Crusades had occurred in 1944 there would have been far more casualties because of the technological advancements in moving armies great distances and in creating weapons of mass destruction.

I think that El-Kikhia is trying to make a good point by saying that Muslims need to get past their feelings of victimization and “rely on their own power, hard work and intellectual sweat.”
But I also think that he is undermining his own point by focusing on things that happened 1,000 years ago and expecting to draw meaningful corelations from ancient history. I mean, what reaction did he expect to get by raising the specter of canabalism?
I also think he is being unfair to Western societies by expecting them to be totally free of discrimination as waves of immigrants continue to pour into their countries looking for a better life. Certainly, there is room for criticism in the treatment of these immigrants in many cases. But does El-Kikhia really believe that Arab nations would be any better if the situations were reversed? If, for instance, the European nations were poor and the Arab nations were prosperous we would expect to see a flood of European immigrants going in the opposite direction. Would the Arab nations be more accepting of these non-Muslim immigrants and do more to integrate them into their societies? Does El-Kikhia seriously believe there would be no backlash against these immigrants from right-wing nationalists in those countries?

Confronting the "liberal media"

While I was out, two of my blogging buddies and political sparring partners had back-to-back op-ed pieces published in the local newspaper. Congratulations to both Mark Harden and Bill Crawford for their tenacity in getting their views published. Despite their misgivings about the “liberal media,” both have been willing to work through this medium in a pragmatic way in an effort to affect changes that they deem necessary.
While I may not agree with them about the changes they want to make, I think it is highly commendable that they have chosen a proactive approach rather than withdrawing in disgust like so many other people do - canceling subscriptions and refusing to read newspapers or other media apart from right-wing radio shows.

I will be posting my own thoughts and reactions to Mark’s and Bill’s op-ed pieces later today.

Monday, November 28, 2005

I love a parade

I recorded NBC’s coverage of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York while I watched the coverage on CBS (ABC did not bother to cover the parade at all).
That was fortunate because as it turned out, CBS gave about the same amount of coverage to the parade as ABC did. Instead, they used the parade as a backdrop for their endless promotions of CBS sitcoms and interviews with various celebrities. Throughout the three hours of their parade broadcast I would guess you might have seen about 10 minutes of actual parade coverage, and that was mostly the brief snippets as they were fading to or coming back from a commercial.
NBC did slightly better in their coverage, although it was mostly confined to watching actors dance and lip-synch to current Broadway show tunes. The only way to get the TV cameras to pay attention to any of the floats was to have some current pop star onboard ready to lip-synch on cue to their latest “hit.” Funny how I had never heard any of these songs before and they all sounded the same. I guess that means I’m getting old.

I always loved watching the Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day parades when I was growing up so it is really upsetting to see them get such short shrift today. I don’t particularly like big crowds, so the thought of actually going to a big parade is not high on my list of things I want to do, but it looks like that is what I may have to do if I want my children to ever see a real parade.

Here is what I would like to see a network do with its parade coverage: Set up a camera in one spot and show the floats and bands and balloons as they pass by. That’s it. If the announcers don’t have anything interesting to say about the particular float or band that is on camera at that moment, then have them put a sock in it because I could really care less about whatever it is they were gaggling about the other day.

Isn’t She Lovely

When the nurse handed me my daughter just moments after her birth last week the radio in the operating room was playing “Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder .
I really can’t think of a more appropriate song for the occasion.
I remember about two years ago in that same room when they handed me my son for the first time the radio was playing “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” by The Police. That just happens to be one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite bands and one that I included on a tape of music that I recorded for my wife when we first started dating.
She is lovely, indeed. And everything about the birth of my son and daughter has been magic.

I did not intend to be absent from blogging for this long but with the combination of a new baby in the house, lots of friends and family coming by and the Thanksgiving holidays upon us, the time just kept slipping by. And then my computer crashed.
Last night we reformatted the computer and after long struggles with uncooperative software it seems to be stable once again. I have much that I would like to blog about during the next few days as I can get to it.