Friday, June 16, 2006

Bashing Lieberman

Sen. Joe Lieberman’s political fortunes have certainly taken a turn for the worse since he was riding high as Al Gore’s vice presidential nominee. He is currently facing a serious primary challenge in Connecticut that may cost him his seat this November.
While I am no big fan of Lieberman’s right now, I am disturbed that liberal bloggers seem to be so fixated on defeating his re-election above all the others. If Ned Lamont ousts Lieberman in November, that’s great. But it is not going to help Democrats regain the majority by replacing one Democrat with another.
This promises to be a good election year for Democrats.
I’d like to see the liberal blogosphere get more excited about defeating Repubican incumbents this fall. Rather than obsessing so much over Lieberman, how about some excitement over the Pennsylvania Senate race where Democrat Bob Casey leads Repbulican Sen. Rick Santorum 49% to 40%; or the Rhode Island race where Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee is neck-and-neck with Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse; or in Ohio where Democrat Sherrod Brown is leading incumbent Republican Mike DeWine in the polls.

If the House is Rockin’ Don’t Bother Knockin’

I don’t know that much about it, but I’m having a hard time getting too worked up about the Supreme Court’s decision to allow evidence in a case where authorities failed to follow a rule that they knock before executing a search warrant. I guess I’ve seen too many movies where a cop knocks on the door and then ducks as the bad guys start blowing holes through it. Maybe their excuse in this case that they were afraid of getting shot has some credibility.
The troubling thing for me, of course, is that the four justices that I most respect are on the other side while the four justices I least respect are on this side. But I think I may have to go with Anthony Kennedy who is proving to be the new swing vote on the court taking the role once occupied by Sandra Day O’Connor.

Last week, Kennedy was the deciding vote on a case that allows death row inmates to use DNA evidence to challenge their convictions. That one seemed so obvious that I’m still floored that the conservative justices think they can rationalize coming down the other way. If the scientific evidence can demonstrate that someone is innocent, why on Earth would you vote to go forward with the execution anyway? Outrageous!

Iran/Iraq policy

One good thing that might have come from the debacle in Iraq is that it may have forced the adminstration to deal more realistically with Iran and North Korea.
Not too long ago, the Bush administration started banging the war drums and rattling their sabers at Iran. Many conservatives were ready to jump on the Bomb Iran Bandwagon. But the logistical nightmare we are facing with most of our military resources currently bogged down in the Iraqi quagmire made such a move not just unwise (which would not have been enough to stop this administration) but practically impossible.

So now we find the administration pursuing an Iran policy that is very similar to the one the Clinton administration
used in regards to North Korea. Amazing how that works. We are actually forced to use diplomacy, rather than military muscle to push Iran in the direction it needs to go to stay in good graces with the rest of the world. I’m quite certain that if President Gore or President Kerry were pursuing this exact same policy with Iran today, conservatives would be absolutely hysterical.

What this reminds me of is the conservative’s “Starve the Beast” policy with regards to domestic politics. The idea there is that by allowing the federal deficit to balloon out of control, lawmakers are forced to stop spending money on new domestic programs and cutback on funding current programs. Could it be that the Bush administration has inadvertently created a “Starve the Beast” situation with regards to U.S. foreign policy by miring our military in the Iraqi tar pit such that we cannot use them to address other world crisis’ as they crop up? This could be both good and bad. Good if diplomacy is the most desirable option and this situation forces administration hawks to go that route. Bad if such diplomacy requires a credible threat of force which is now lacking because people can see that our military is pre-occupied with the mess in Iraq.

AFI Top 100

Oh, Goody! The American Film Institute has another list out. This one called AFI's 100 YEARS...100 CHEERS denotes the most inspirational American films of all time.
Here is the Top 10:
1 It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
2 To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
3 Schindler's List (1993)
4 Rocky (1976)
5 Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
6 E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
7 The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
8 Breaking Away (1979)
9 Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
10 Saving Private Ryan (1998)

So far, that means they have come out with the Top 100 Movies; Top 100 Action/Adventure Movies; Top 100 Comedies; Top 100 Dramas; Top 100 Stars; Top 100 Heroes and Villains; Top 100 Movie Songs; Top 100 Movie Scores; and Top 100 Movie Quotes.
Phew! What else can they come up with?
How about the Top 100 Animated Movies; The Top 100 Family Movies; The Top 100 Documentaries; The Top 100 Westerns; The Top 100 War Movies; The Top 100 Tearjerkers; The Top 100 Sequels; The Top 100 Movies That Started Out as TV Shows...

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Local activism

The local chapter of Drinking Liberally (DLSA) will be getting together on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. to watch Al Gore’s new movie “An Inconvenient Truth” at the Bijou Theater at the Crossroads Mall in San Antonio. They will be joined there by the San Antonio Area Progressive Action Coalition.

The DLSA group, hosted by Bill Livermore, meets on the second Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. at the Blue Star Brewery, 1414 S. Alamo St. The SAAPAC meets on the first Saturday of each month from 1-3 p.m. at Grady's  Barbeque at 6510 San Pedro (at Jackson-Keller).

I’ve never attended either group’s meetings and unfortunately won’t be able to attend the movie on Saturday, but I think it is great that there are actually groups of liberals still active here in San Antonio that haven’t yet been rounded up by Alberto Gonzalez and the NSA.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A local treasure

As much as Express-News cartoonist Leo Garza’s right-wing politics sometimes irritate me, his Nacho Guarache comic strip is indeed a local treasure here in San Antonio. This one featuring loud-mouthed Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is destined to be a classic.
I’ve said before that Garza deserves to be syndicated, but then that would probably take his focus away from local issues and that would be unfortunate.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Karl Rove slips the noose

I have to admit that I was extremely disappointed to learn this morning that Karl Rove has been told he will not be indicted in the CIA leak case.
There are still some folks who hold out hope that Rove may have avoided indictment by cooperating in the investigation, possibly targeting an even bigger fish like Dick Cheney, but I’m not going to put any stock in that theory until I see hard evidence of it.
At this point, it looks like the Bush administration successfully skirted justice in this egregious case. Cheney’s top aide Scooter Libby is still under indictment for perjury and obstruction of justice, but no one has ever been charged with the actual leak of Valerie Plame Wilson’s role as a covert CIA agent.

Now some folks may recall that I agreed to a particular wager in this case with one Nigel Tufnel, the lead guitarist for the band Spinal Tap, and might conclude that I must now pay up. While I will readily congratulate Nigel on being right in his insistence that Rove would not be convicted of a crime in this case, that is not the wager we agreed to.
To refresh, here is the key item that I agreed to.

Let's say that if Rove is not indicted, or is indicted but not convicted of a crime related to the Intelligence Identities Protection Act because it is determined that Valerie Plame was not considered covert under the law, then I will author a mea culpa piece for ATC.
Or regardless of what happens to Rove, if it is determined through the course of the investigation that Plame was not a covert agent under the law, I would concede and admit that I was wrong.

From the beginning, I have conceded that Rove might get off without being indicted. My contention all along was to shoot down the conservative talking point that that said Plame wasn’t really a covert agent. And today, in most every story reporting Rove’s non-indictment status, Plame is referred to as a covert or undercover CIA agent.
So it appears that Nigel and I were both correct, but I’m sure that he is happier about it than I am.

Byrd dethrones Thurmond

I was pleased to learn yesterday that Sen. Robert Byrd, D-West Virginia, is now the longest serving senator in U.S. history, taking the title away from the late Strom Thurmond.
Thurmond, the Dixiecrat-turned-GOP stalwart, set the record a while back after living to be 100. Byrd, by contrast, is still a youthful 88 and looks to extend the record quite a ways. He is favored to win re-election to another six-year term this November.
Byrd recently said that the vote he is most proud of in his long career was the one he cast in 2002 opposing the “blank check” that Congress gave President Bush to wage war in Iraq.

Monday, June 12, 2006

DeLay: Partisanship is good

Tom DeLay is the Gordon Gekko of American politics. At least he was for one brief moment as he made his farewell speech on the floor of the House of Representatives last week.
Let’s compare.
Here is DeLay, praising excessive partisanship without compromise as a virtue of American politics:

"Because partisanship, Mr. Speaker — properly understood — is not a symptom of a democracy's weakness, but of its health and strength — especially from the perspective of a political conservative."

Now, here is Mr. Gekko, the corporate raider as played by Michael Douglas in Oliver Stone’s movie “Wall Street”:

“The point is ladies and gentlemen that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of it's forms - greed for life, for money, knowledge - has marked the upward surge of mankind and greed - you mark my words - will not only save Teldar Paper but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA. Thank you.”

So one man praises partisanship and the other praises greed. But are these things really all that different? Isn’t partisanship at its core essentially greedy. A demand that everything has to be done just your way and no way else?
We are all guilty of partisanship in one form or another, and indeed there is a point to be made that staying true to your principles is a good thing. But compromise has always been the glue that has bound this country together and it is astonishing to hear the leader of the major political party today denouncing compromise as if it were some kind of vice.

Here is Tom DeLay speaking about compromise:

"It is not the principled partisan, however obnoxious he may seem to his opponents, who degrades our public debate, but the preening, self-styled statesman who elevates compromise to a first principle. For true statesmen, Mr. Speaker, are not defined by what they compromise, but what they don't."

Rick Casey had an excellent column in the Houston Chronicle the other day in which he recalls a defense of the art of compromise made by the historian Gary Wills in 1975.

His essay was titled "Hurrah for Politicians," whom he praised for "virtues that ignorant people take for vices."
The first among these was "compromise of principle."
As DeLay pointed out, sometimes compromise is necessary. But, Wills argued, "The true test of a politician comes when he does not have to compromise, yet finds a way to do so."
By compromising when he doesn't need to, a politician makes friends of associates he will at some point be forced to oppose, and he gathers debts of varying force that he can call in the service of his constituents.
Most importantly, said Wills, "compromise is just another name for the discipline all vote-getters must profess. It is representation. Without compromise, a politician would not represent anything or anyone but himself."

Perhaps that is the best way to sum up Tom DeLay. He successfully represented himself. He is a Christian conservative, so everyone has to be a Christian conservative and do things his way.