Monthly Archives: April 2005

Please Harry, Don't Do It!

WASHINGTON – Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid is quietly talking to the Senate’s chief Republican about confirming at least two of President Bush‘s blocked judicial nominees but only as part of a compromise that would require the GOP to end its threat to eliminate judicial filibusters, officials say.


WHY!? Why compromise! 60% of Americans disagree with ending the filibuster…. 60%!!! Call their bluff, just like you did on Social Security.

Putin on the Merits

Russian President Vladimir Putin told the nation Monday that the collapse of the Soviet empire “was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century” and had fostered separatist movements inside Russia.

The minute I saw this, I could hear the right-wing hackles, couldn’t you? I’m no Putin fan, but I know this comment will be received in a way that will raise the DefCon at the Heritage Institute.

But before we get into analyzing what meaning Putin was trying to telegraph, let’s think about his claim. Is it correct?

No, it’s not, but it contains a kernel of truth.

First, the geopolitical fallout from the fall of the Soviet Union was not the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the [20th] century. That easily takes a backseat to the rise of the Soviet Empire and the fall of Weimar Germany.

But on to the meat of the claim: was it a catastrophe at all? No, it was a wonderful moment. But the power vacuum created by the fall of the Soviet state has indeed been calamatous. It has left the United States as the lighting rod for anti-super power angst, especially in the muslim world. Fallout from this fall has occurred in the Balkans, the Caucasus, Afghanistan, Iraq, Cuba, and North Korea. The United States has been left to be the world’s cop in the rest of the world, and we have done a shitty job in many respects.

In other words, it sure has caused catastrophes, but it wasn’t itself one.

Thoughts on the filibuster.

The filibuster is an undemocratic tool of an undemocratic branch of government.

It allows a group of 41 senators, possibly representing the 21 least populated states to prevent anything from happening. To put that in perspective, that means that if all of the senators from WY, VT, AK, ND, SD, DE, MT, RI, HI, NH, ME, ID, BE, WV, NM, NV, UT, AR, KS, MS, and one from IA got together, they could stall the government. And they represent only about 33 million people, or LESS THAN the population of California alone.

That’s what I call bullshit. If you consider that it only requires a 50.000001% majority of that 33 or so million, then we’re talking only 16 or 17 million people potentially ruling the other roughly 280 million, and why? So that Yankees won’t come and take away someone’s plantation?

If the filibuster were an implement of the House, I would be singing a slightly different tune.

So, if I were drafting the Constitution today, it’s not the filibuster I would take out, it’s the Senate (with appropriately strengthened 9th and 10th amendments).

But in the rough and tumble of today’s political world, this has nothing to do with increasing democracy. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s an attempt by an ideological minority to control yet another undemocratic branch of government, the courts, with their own activist partisans.

If I’m forced to choose between “activists” like Earl Warren, who to appropriate a phrase came to fulfill the Constitution, not to end it–and “activists” like Clarence Thomas who would repeal the twentieth and nineteenth centuries (how that’s gonna work out for him, I’m not sure–a low-tech lynching?), I’ll take the former.

The problem with people like Kaus is that for all of his criticisms of liberals and Dems, he never gives an equally tough rundown of the otherside. We’re hypocrites because we’re “non-nuclear” just because the Republicans are in charge?

Bumpkus. We’re hypocrites if we’re pro-nuclear when we have full knowledge that the result will be several lifetime appointments meant to go against everything that liberals stand for. Vote for me, I’m pro-whatever, but only on a floor vote? If there are any abstractions in the way I’m not?

It’s exactly this kind of self-doubt inducing analysis–the kind only Democrats get caught up on–that lets them win.

You dirrrrrty Rat-zinger.

I knew when I got an IM from a friend this morning that there was white smoke that it was Ratzinger. Too quick for a consensus to build around an opposition candidate.

Now, I’m not going to engage in left-wing AnnCoulterism and call him a nazi. He wasn’t. He was just a kid, and in his defense, he deserted. No, that’s not my problem.

My problem is that this is a guy who complained that nothing “stands fast” in the Church during II Vatican Ecumenical Council. There have been, I believe, over twenty ecumenical councils, or, more than one per century. These councils change things. We he go back on the Council of Trent?

Gee willickers, he went back on II Lateran, then priests could marry! Where do we draw the line at what’s Orthodox? I think the answer is, whatever was decided by these councils!

I had high hopes. I had hopes that the new Pope would be someone that could bring people back into the fold and use the Church as a positive force in the world. There are few institutions in the world that have the organization and membership that the Church does, and if used correctly could be so positive, especially now that America has adbicated its role as the morally progressive leader of the world.

In fairness, he was elected to be a transition pope. He’s old. So, the real fork in the road for the Church has been put off, but it won’t be put off for long.

TPM Nails It.

When it comes to strategy and tactics, the current Democratic party is like a drunk in the early stages of recovery or a man or woman who keeps ending up in the same bad relationship again and again with different people. For folks like that, strong medicine is required. Indeed, they usually require steps, correctives, lists of dos-and-don’ts more drastic than anybody would ever need who didn’t have a problem.

Exactly. Go read.

I think that was powerfully, if not eloquently captured by the Bush campaign’s “flip-flopper” label. It could have applied to almost any of the Dem candidates (except Dean.)

I think people realize that the Republicans are going to be friendlier to corporations than they’d prefer, more militant than they’d prefer, but they know that. People think Democrats are going to raise taxes (rightly or wrongly), overregulate small business more than they’d like, and be less militant than they’d maybe like.

Taxes need to be raised from time to time. If you’re trying to sell something and you’re arguing over the tax part of it, you’ve lost. Argue the substance. For example, think we’d have much getting to votes for a tax for national defense if it somehow had to be separately authorized?

After the extremes of the Bush years, Democrats would be well advised to settle on a them and stick to it. Explain everything that way. I’d say “common sense answers, not radical ones” would be a good theme (if not a bumper sticker motto).

Sometimes, we’ll raise taxes; sometimes we’ll lower them. Sometimes we’ll bomb; sometimes we won’t. Whatever’s best for America.

On Reviving a Democratic Political Party

The recuperation of the Democratic Party in the state of Oregon in the 1950s is a minor legend that has probably grown a bit too perfect in the retelling over the years. The essential strategy, however, bears repeating. A group of young activists took over the state party apparatus and found that

“the party was fatally burdened by crooks, drunks, has-beens, never-wases and stumble-bums. Our party was not taken seriously by voters in those days. Too many of them knew that it served as an auxiliary to the Republican Party, drawing its financial backing from moneyed Republicans, who thus guaranteed themselves a docile adversary which could either be defeated or managed…. My job as state chairman from 1952-56 consisted mainly, then, of riding the bums out, recruiting first-rate candidates and giving the public competing points of view to choose between. The merit of this approach shows in the election results.”

Those results were that Democrats came back from the dead and won the governorship, all but one congressional seat; won one Senate seat and convinced the maverick Independent (and ex-Republican) Senator Wayne Morse to join up with them, thus giving them both Senate seats.

The current moribund national Democrats are similar to the Oregon Democrats of the first half of the twentieth century. Already younger activists have figuratively taken the helm in the person of Howard Dean. It is harder to get enough money from other sources to completely feed from a different trough than the Republicans, but there is still enough room to offer a competing, positive vision. Republicans are finding that Bush got reelected less for his ideas than for scaring people to the point that they weren’t comfortable with John Kerry. There is still room for better ideas to allow America to make up for the frightened ‘04 vote.

Danneels for Pope

Here’s to hoping Gottfriend Cardinal Danneels of Belgium is elected the next Pope.

Some say the next Pope should come from somewhere where membership is increasing, not declining. Danneels’s moderate social views would do more to bring people back to the Church than merely relying on an increasing number of people in countries like Nigeria and Brazil where people attend Catholic churches in the morning anf evangelical churches in the night.

The next Pope needs to heal the church in the First World while using the organization of the Church in the Third World to improve the lot of it, and bringing Europeans and Americans back into a closer community with people in Africa is a perfect way to accomplish that.

Dems should "delay" Tom's downfall.

It’s April 2005. I have to think about what people were thinking about before Veggie-rama and the Papal succession. (By the way, the papal succession is a legitimate news event—this is the spiritual leader of one billion people after all.)

Scratching my head a little bit, I remember it’s Michael Jackson. He might be back for a while, but I’m getting the impression people don’t care anymore. They certainly don’t care about Scott Peterson anymore (who?).

I personally wonder if all of the hullaballoo about Tom DeLay is some sort of Karl Rove sanctioned sacrifice to cover the crash-and-burn Social Security repeal of the Bushies.

But anyway, Trent Lott’s odd-ball commentary had close to zero effect on the 2004 election only 11 months later. Tom DeLay’s downfall in April of 2005 thanks to the itchy trigger finger of Shay-partisans will likewise have little or no impact on the 2006 elections.

Democrats should vote against this bankruptcy bill and use its passage as an example of the cash and carry politics of the DeLay Congress. Run a national campaign and do your best to capture those necessary seats to make Nancy the Speaker.

Democrats should do nothing to accellerate the downfall of Delay. They should simply say “The Republicans run Congress—they’re in charge, they should discipline people!”

If his face is on every mailer in October of 2006, there’s a chance that the effective end of Bush’s second term will come sooner than 2009.

"Liberal Catholic" is not a contradiction in terms.

On the April 8 edition of CNN’s Inside Politics, CNN hosts Wolf Blitzer and Judy Woodruff discussed Pope John Paul II’s funeral with Crossfire co-hosts Paul Begala and Robert Novak, both Catholics. Blitzer opened the segment by suggesting that while “I’m sure Bob is a good Catholic, I’m not so sure about Paul Begala.” In responding to Blitzer, Begala took exception to on-screen text* earlier in the program that characterized many Catholic doctrines as “conservative.”

(From Media Matters)

Ignorance reigns. Memory fails.

Father Philip Berrigan just died 3 years ago, his brother Daniel is still alive and we somehow identify Catholicism with conservatism. We properly identify Catholicism with anti-abortion and anti-gay positions, but there isn’t much else that America’s right wing shares with the Church.

The Church is opposed to the materialistic culture that corporations like CNN peddle in order to foster this type of stereotyping ignorance. The Church (see below) is in favor of living wages, universal health care for workers. The Pope opposed the Iraq war. The Church is fundamentally opposed to the death penalty.

If you’ve been sucked into the narrow mediocrity of the leaders of the American Church, then all that matters is abortion. And yes, these men were almost all appointees of John Paul II. And yes, the Church’s position on condoms in Africa is incomprehensible—but assuming that people like Bob Novak are good Catholics and people like Paul Begala aren’t is ignorance through and through.

As opposed as I am to the government regulating abortion, moral behavior is exactly the sphere of the Church. As equally opposed as I am to the government disadvantaging or persecuting gays, sexual relations are the essence, the very source of, religion.

I’m a person that most people would consider a liberal. It’s as about an accurate descriptor as the pope being catholic. Whereas I would not have invaded Iraq, if I was President on 9/11/2001, I may well have used nuclear weapons against Afghanistan. There are many other ways I don’t easily fit the stereotype.

That said, I find much to admire about the moral positions of the Church, and, theologically I agree with it much, I personally believe that that it is, along with the Orthodox Church, in fact the “true” Christian church; I agree with its apostolic authority, as opposed to the so-called Biblical authority of some Protestant churches; I absolutely reject the notion that grace alone saves you, a notion developped in a knee-jerk reaction to the sale of indulgences that implies a dangerous solipsism; I reject the idea that the church should schism because a megalomaniacal animal needs a divorce.

So, me and Begala, man. Me and Begala.

Who Wrote This?

The next time that Methodist “Cowboy” from Texas plagiarizes one of JP2′s ideas, maybe he should read the following, advocating for a living wage, family leave, workers’ compensation, free health care for all workers, social security, and unions.

And no, this isn’t Marx or some “liberal” writing, Mr. Limbaugh, this is the pope in LABOREM EXERCENS (On Human Work). We know that because of abortion the conservatives in this country are going to try and appropriate this pope. Do so at your peril, conservatives. The Church’s social agenda is not what you have in mind. Also, American Catholics, join up with the evangelical neo-fascists at your peril as well.


In the context of the present there is no more important way for securing a just relationship between the worker and the employer than that constituted by remuneration for work. Whether the work is done in a system of private ownership of the means of production or in a system where ownership has undergone a certain “socialization,” the relationship between the employer (first and foremost the direct employer) and the worker is resolved on the basis of the wage, that is, through just remuneration of the work done.
***

This means of checking concerns above all the family. Just remuneration for the work of an adult who is responsible for a family means remuneration which will suffice for establishing and properly maintaining a family and for providing security for its future. Such remuneration can be given either through what is called a family wage–that is, a single salary given to the head of the family for his work, sufficient for the needs of the family without the other spouse having to take up gainful employment outside the home–or through other social measures such as family allowances or grants to mothers devoting themselves exclusively to their families. These grants should correspond to the actual needs, that is, to the number of dependents for as long as they are not in a position to assume proper responsibility for their own lives.

Experience confirms that there must be a social re-evaluation of the mother’s role, of the toil connected with it and of the need that children have for care, love and affection in order that they may develop into responsible, morally and religiously mature and psychologically stable persons. It will redound to the credit of society to make it possible for a mother–without inhibiting her freedom, without psychological or practical discrimination, and without penalizing her as compared with other women–to devote herself to taking care of her children and educating them in accordance with their needs, which vary with age. Having to abandon these tasks in order to take up paid work outside the home is wrong from the point of view of the good of society and of the family when it contradicts or hinders these primary goals of the mission of a mother.[26]

***

Besides wages, various social benefits intended to ensure the life and health of workers and their families play a part here. The expenses involved in health care, especially in the case of accidents at work, demand that medical assistance should be easily available for workers and that as far as possible it should be cheap or even free of charge. Another sector regarding benefits is the sector associated with the right to rest. In the first place this involves a regular weekly rest comprising at least Sunday and also a longer period of rest, namely the holiday or vacation taken once a year or possibly in several shorter periods during the year. A third sector concerns the right to a pension and to insurance for old age and in case of accidents at work. Within the sphere of these principal rights there develops a whole system of particular rights which, together with remuneration for work, determine the correct relationship between worker and employer. Among these rights there should never be overlooked the right to a working environment and to manufacturing processes which are not harmful to the workers’ physical health or to their moral integrity.

20. Importance of Unions

All these rights, together with the need for the workers themselves to secure them, give rise to yet another right: the right of association, that is, to form associations for the purpose of defending the vital interests of those employed in the various professions. These associations are called labour or trade unions. The vital interests of the workers are to a certain extent common for all of them; at the same time, however, each type of work, each profession, has its own specific character which should find a particular reflection in these organizations.

John Paul II

By the time I wake up in the morning after this post, there’s a good chance that I will see that John Paul II has died.

When Ronald Reagan died last year, he got a lot of credit for the downfall of communism in Europe (or in the “world” as we think of it). And I don’t deny that’s true, but if there was one man that had the most to do with it, it wasn’t Reagan. It was either Gorbachev or Pope John Paul II.

It wasn’t on accident that a Pole was named Pope in 1978 after the brief tenure of John Paul I. It was in Poland, after all, where things started to fall apart in the Eastern bloc. The Church and its agents were certainly not mere bystanders.

And because of this, the suspicion that Eastern bloc intelligence services were behind the assassination attempt on the Pope in 1981 has been confirmed. The East German stasi, and, therefore, probably the KGB were the puppet masters.

I don’t agree with the church on abortion; I don’t agree with the church on homosexuality; and I don’t agree with their reaction to the abuse scandals. But as someone pointed out during the 2004 election, there are those one or two things that the Catholic church agrees with Bush on, and then there are the other 35 issues that they agree with Kerry and the Democrats on.

If the church is going to survive into the 22nd century, it will need to apply the teachings of Jesus and not those of the Old Testament or of Paul to those three issues. But these problems are mainly issues in America anyway. Catholic countries in Europe with established churches ironically seem to have a better secular vision.

Yup, those problems are America-centric; just like the notion that Ronald Reagan alone vanquished communism, despite the heroic efforts of many, many others and the continued existence of communist regimes throughout the world.