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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Chastized, I return

One of the New Year's messages I received this year was this:

Happy New Year Jill. Now update your Patriot blog or something!

This may very well count as "something"... Why haven't I been writing?

a) got busy
One of the reasons I feel politics is so important is that when that system is running correctly, it gives us the freedom to go off and chase whatever rainbow we wish (no matter how pedantic or silly). Once I felt like things were going to be all right after all, I wandered off to chase my only silly and/or pedantic dreams...

b) stopped being so angry and scared
When it seems that not only does the emperor have no clothes but the peasants are also DEAF because they can't hear me screaming, I get on my blog. When it seems like everyone's got it together, I see a shiny thing and move on (see "a").

c) I found Daily Kos and Facebook
Maybe I should always have written on Kos, joined in the general convo instead of playing alone in this sandbox. And I've even posted what might have been a blog post on my Facebook page as a note.

d) I couldn't be balanced because I (heart) Obama like SOOO MUCH!!! I don't feel comfortable writing commercials for candidates. However, after the 20th, he will be OUR PRESIDENT, to be judged on his merits and given a chance to succeed for the good of us all, and I look forward to writing about it!

But I do miss our conversation, so I am returning as LMP!

What's bugging me right now is what always bugs me:

  • Are we going to hold the Bush Administration responsible for their mistakes and crimes to avoid future claims of "precedent"? (and continuing kudos to Congressman John Conyers and The Wax Man for staying on this!!!)
  • Are we going to clean up the affected agencies (which seems to be all of them) from their partisan-strangled and wrong-headed tactics?
  • Speaking of which, are we going to clean up the Justice Department and the Civil Rights Division and the insane gerrymandering so that we can actually believe the election results? Because if that part is BS, then the whole system is worthless and hardly worth railing about.
  • Are the Republicans ever going to find something to be right about? Because I would love to write about that if that were to happen.
Let me leave you with a parting thought:

I like to use school vouchers as an example of a perfect political argument. We all want a better education for our kids. Because we see the world differently, we have a few different ideas about how to achieve that. Logical arguments can be made on both sides-- and to be clear, a logical argument begins with a worldview, develops an overarching philosophy, and finds solutions based on that philosophy that honestly attempt success and see to "destroy" nothing. You may feel that innovation is key to success, that removal of government influence is key to innovation, and suggest school vouchers as a way to support innovative charter schools. Or you may feel that running off in all directions, rather than working together to bring innovation and improvement to one public education system, weakens our communal efforts for the common good, that allowing parents to take their education funds out of the local school in the form of a voucher weakens the school for those left behind, and suggest we put more money into the system we already have bought into. Both sides can argue the finer points as they work toward a solution, understanding that we all want what is best for our kids. There's no demagoguery or demonizing of the other side-- how can you demonize someone for wanting school vouchers (or not)?

This issue is more complex than I have laid it out, and hours could and should be spent debating and coming together. But it is a perfect example of what politics should be: logical arguments about solutions to our collective problems. I applaud Obama for having a similar view. Let us lay down our arms and let politics be as boring as the last paragraph.

Happy New Year!

Friday, April 11, 2008

We don't Fearmonger, but the Scary Bad Guys Who Want To Kill You do

Honestly, I don't even know what I'm listening to. I turned on the TV and DHS head Michael Chertoff is giving a speech or press conference regarding threats from pandemic flus and/or bioterror. I just don't have time today to chase down quotes and all, but this is what I heard, paraphrased except if I put quotes:

I'm concerned that the public isn't concerned about this. Right after 9/11 and the antrax attacks [which, BTW, jerk, no one ever solved] there was a push to protect the public against bioterror. But then the "fear-mongering" started up, telling the public that we were being too hasty and "spending too much money", and the issue was moved to the back burner. So to dispel what you might have heard, let me tell you about the types of people who still want to use bioterror in the US and what their serious plans are.

At which point he went into the part of the speech that did just that.

While I'm not quoting, I'm also not being flippant. I might have some of the actual words wrong, but this is exactly the tone and the calm explanation that the public has been "scared off" of the bioterror problem and so to clear that up, here is a list of the bad guys and what they want to do. I'm not taking a speech that said one thing and just giving you my take on the subtext, this is the actual text, the upfront line. People, you have been scared into not being scared enough, so let me tell you who wants to kill you so you will be scared of the right things again. It's this kind of crap that makes me want to take a nap.

Check it out, I'm sure it's on CSPAN, I'd get you a link if I wasn't so crazed today (only 12 more days until Shakespeare's Birthday!!!).

Monday, March 10, 2008

You're lucky this isn't in iambic pentameter

I've gotten quite busy with what I should have been doing all along-- working with the Austin Shakespeare Festival. For more on what happened to ASF in the past few years, read Richard III, it's the same story. But now I'm back with ASF, teaching and learning, and consequently I've been too busy to write.

And it would seem that despite the endless string of scandal and horrifying acts on the part of this Administration (The Current Occupant, as Garrison Keillor calls Bush), most news cycles have coalesced to two stories: the Next Occupant, and the economy. We don't hardly even talk about the wars anymore, except to repeat mindlessly that "the surge is working"-- even though no one can agree what that means and how it's even true.

I confess I don't know anything about the economy. I will say that we bought a lovely house in a new subdivision in the bedroom county just south of Austin-- and the extra 7 minutes down the highway seemed like nothing-- until gas went up. I paid $3.06 a gallon yesterday, and I got lucky. Suddenly all this driving "up to town" and back (a tank a week for the full-time employee in our family) is eating all our money. We thank the good lord every day that we got a regular fixed mortgage we could afford and that none of that mess involves us directly. I know my story isn't unique, and harder times have hit others, but my story is all I have, not being an economist.

And I've avoided talking too much about the election because I wholeheartedly and with great joy chosen a candidate-- and while I wasn't sure it was appropriate to say so here, I also knew I couldn't write about this topic at all without revealing it. So, here goes: I have a crush on Obama, too. We've just voted here in Texas, and don't let anybody spin you-- Obama GOT MORE DELEGATES in the primary and will get more in the caucuses when they're finished being counted. We love him here.

But you know what my main concern has always been, and remains to this day: the Unitary Executive, the power grab of the presidency, and how this idea that "if the President does it, it's not illegal" leads inevitably to other shocking behavior, including tampering with the vote, so that we can't even "throw the bums out" because they've gerrymandered and lied and cheated and stolen votes so that they will retain power forever.

We all rest easy knowing that there are checks and balances and in the end, if it's really that bad, we can impeach and remove. Only if they have succeeded in tipping the balance and removing the checks, and have tampered with the vote, then none of us can rest easy.

And it's not enough to get rid of this bunch of crooks, because crookery knows no philosophy other than the search for power. It's not "just Republicans"-- it's Republicans today. Tomorrow, it could be anyone.

Perhaps I misspoke-- it's not that crookery has no philosophy, it's that it can co-exist with any other philosophy. Why, take a look at the latest crooked televangelist or high-powered Christian leader embroiled in scandal (there's always a new one)-- his crookery* is hiding behind the Christian philosophy of "love your neighbor". So yes, a Democrat may be running on Democratic values (and may intend to enact those values), and a Republican on a different platform-- but they could both be actually seeking a Unitary Executive, power-grabbing, undemocratic (even unrepublican, since in small "r" republics we're supposed to be able to legitimately elect our representatives in government), unchecked office. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and I don't care if you're for universal health care or trickle-down economics, if you're wiretapping your opponents and keeping me from electing someone else next time.

*yes, I KNOW that's not a word, but I like it and I can't find the right word so deal with it!

So while the News these days is the election ("Obama vs. Clinton in the Thrilla in Manilla!") and the economy ("Giving Up Starbucks for Gas Money!") or even that Governor Spitzer likes to pay for it (unless that headline means he's a pimp)-- news for me comes down to two things:

  1. What are the candidates views and what are their telling actions regarding the Unitary Executive? Will you be another Bush, pushing out of your branch and controlling rather than being checked by other voices? Will you tamper with elections? Will you restore the Justice Department or continue to pimp it out for your own gains? Will you allow scientists at the NIH, CDC, and EPA to give their honest opinion, or distort their findings with your own spin? Will you wiretap me and then forgive those who conspire to transgress with you? Who are you, really?
  2. What are we doing right now to check and punish those who have colored far outside the lines in the current administration? Where are the hearings?
Since I led into point #1 with detail, allow me to close with an overview of point #2.

I believe that it is critical to punish those who have acted inappropriately in the past (or what will soon be the past once the elections are over) because it is far too easy for future generations (or even the next President) to build upon what has happened to justify his or her own corrupt behavior.

Incredible as it may seem, it doesn't take many years for crimes to be softened in memory into precedent-- precedent like we use in court cases, to build upon for future use, "In Blah v. Blah, the courts upheld that..." The difference is, those precedents are decided on by a judge and are subject to appeal. In this case, what is "upheld" or "allowed" is whatever was not prosecuted and died out in the minds of the public. If the public ignores it, or "moves on", then it is considered precedent, even though we never actually decided it was OK to do such-and-such, we just got distracted by something shiny and never got back to it. And yet, just as Bush uses what Nixon did to justify his own actions, someone else will inevitably say, "Just as Bush did the right thing by [fill in crime here], and history has accepted that, so must I do [fill in futuristic crime here]."

Silence = acquiescence. Only investigations, hearings, and ultimately punishment will keep this from happening again.

And yes, we might only get the lower-down lackeys and not Cheney and his man-sized safe. But as long as we prosecute the crime, for history's sake I don't know that it's as critical we get the right person for it. I could be wrong, and tell me if you think I am, but as long as we've clearly stated, "It is NOT OK to ignore FISA and wiretap Americans," I don't think it matters as much if some poor middle-management type is the one who goes down for coming up with the end-run around FISA in the first place. Sucks for him, but for history, I think what's most important is that it gets said.

So... what to do? Well, first, I have to give it up for Congressman Henry Waxman, who has something like 20 open investigations. Go, Henry, Go! If you'd like to follow the check and balance part of the show, follow the Wax Man. I hope to do the same thing here at LMP, give you updates on how it's going. Today's headline, for example, was "Democrat requests Blackwater inquiry" and it didn't surprise me at all that it was Waxman. Maybe if time is on my side, I'll work up some kind of chart or list of all the things he's working on. Also, Congressman John Conyers is another important player in this fight.

Second, start taking a look at our slate of candidates with a careful eye to their views on the Unitary Executive and their overall temperament. I hope to walk you through what I've learned so far in the near future, but in the meantime take a look at an older but still relevant Boston Globe article from 2007. I've referenced this article before but it's even easier to read now that there's only three candidates left. (You could look at the questions and how everyone answered them, or look by candidate at how they answered all the questions.)
Hillary Clinton Q & A
Barack Obama Q & A
John McCain Q & A
What I remember from reading it before is that only Romney was crazy enough to admit he was crazy in the survey. You will no doubt find carefully parsed language here, but I encourage you to take a critical look at their opinions.

I often run across little news tidbits that are generally overlooked that pertain to this issue-- now that I've caught you up on what my focus is going to be, for the most part, I hope to drop you those links and show you the picture I'm getting.

Punish the past and hold the future to a higher standard, that's all I ask. Oh, and civility, and kudos to Obama and McCain for their efforts remain dignified. (Ahem, Mrs. Clinton.) Then we can all get back to a nice rousing discussion of mundane things like how the government can address the problems of our citizens without fearing for the life of our nation.

Watch the skies...

Unitary Executive links:
SourceWatch, Wikipedia, UE & the FY2009 Budget,, DailyKos

Friday, January 04, 2008

Nice Guys Finish First

Hooray for the Nice Guys! Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee both won their perspective caucuses last night in Iowa. (I was going to make that a link, but really, if you found me you're capable of looking up or Googling "wins Iowa".)

The two men who faced negative attacks and refused to sling mud in return wiped the floor with their supposedly inevitable opponents.

The two candidates who were told they'd never make it, because they didn't have the money or the right color skin, because they openly embraced their faith and/or dared to organize their communities for a better tomorrow, because conventional wisdom said the other candidates had "inevitability"-- those candidates soared ahead on the one thing greater: the belief of voters too smart for all of that.

One woman asked Mitt Romney in the hours before the caucus, will you keep running negative ads in the general election? Without hesitation, the candidate replied with a hearty "yes". That's because he believes in these "contrast ads" as being important parts of a campaign-- but the spirit in the room sagged like a poor soufflé when he said it. Because we're tired of evil. We want someone who for heaven's sake is at least NICE, and trustworthy. Last night, we got two, one for each side. Thank you, Iowa!

I am a registered Democrat, and while I hope that I am centered, balanced, fair, moderate, and willing to see the other side of a debate, it does mean I'm following the Dem side more closely. The GOP can pick whoever it wants and it's not really any of my business. I guess I feel the need to point this out because I will sometimes sound like I support Huckabee (cuz, shuckabee, he's keen) while at other times I might criticize him or his policy ideas. The thing is, he's a Republican I like while still disagree with on many issues. But as I've said before, at least I can trust that a debate with Huck would end in a prayer and a salad, not a wiretap and rendition.

And as you'll hear me say time and again, those of us who love our country and are interested in policy and governance have more in common with each other, even on different sides, than we do with our fellow citizens who don't care. So yeah, I like Mike. I'm not going to vote for him, and I'll tell you why as the election draws near, but today, I'm nothing but happy.

Two fine people showed that money and mudslinging don't win elections. And we couldn't have gotten a better gift from Iowa or a better message to start off the primary season of 2008.

Today, be happy. There is hope.

Oh, hey, I didn't even talk about the main attraction last night, but Mr. Obama not only walked away with Iowa at 38%, but gave a speech that reminded us of why we all fell in love with him back in 2004. If you've been wondering where that Obama went, he's back.