February 24, 2006

Goin' South

I'm off to Virginia for the next couple days, so in the meantime please browse the archives, or make use of the many news, opinion, and activist links at The Hue and Cry to stay informed - and remain involved. And be sure and take the time to visit the many insightful (and underappreciated) writers that can be found under "Blogs of Note" in my sidebar.

You'll also want to check out the following items by Paul Krugman, Molly Ivins, Anthony Ioven, Joe Conason, everything by Juan Cole, and this absolutely shocking story via The Psychotic Patriot.

See you Sunday.

(NOTE: For those of you who are not yet subscribers to the NYT's "Times Select", Mr. Krugman's article is reprinted in the comments section below. Click "add your opinion" to access the full editorial.

Click here for details on purchasing "Times Select", and obtaining a 14-day free trial.)

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February 23, 2006

American Imams

I'm simply stunned. Speechless. Sputtering. The New York Times reports today that the South Dakota State Senate approved a bill Wednesday to outlaw ALL abortion, the only exception being cases where "the mother's life is at risk". Not if she has become pregnant as a horrific result of incest. Not if that pregnancy is the unimaginably traumatic consequence of being forcibly raped. The Times notes:
After more than an hour of fierce and emotional debate, the senators rejected pleas to add exceptions for incest or rape or for the health of the pregnant woman and instead voted, 23 to 12, to outlaw all abortions, except those to save the woman's life.
In addition, the bill's sponsors and supporters were obviously so confident that their judgment was "right" and omnipotent that "[t]hey also rejected an effort to allow South Dakotans to decide the question in a referendum." That's democracy for you - especially on a topic that would be of such trivial unimportance to citizens on an individual, private level. And I can't help but wonder just who the Hell these self-appointed arbiters of the most personal of personal decisions think they are.

Because make no mistake, kids. That's the real issue at stake in the abortion debate, and South Dakota's actions should send a chill down the spine of every person in America who values the right of personal choice in any venue. The implications of this action, and similar movements in a number of states, go beyond the un-Constitutionality of eliminating safe medical options for women not yet ready to raise a child, or the obvious arrogance and cruelty of adding to the trauma of a victim of sexual assault. With this bill, its backers have arbitrarily anointed themselves as holy interpreters of what constitutes the "right to life" of any woman who finds herself accidentally pregnant for whatever reason.

Abortion is quite possibly the most private, personal, gut-wrenching decision faced by an individual, even among genuine and committed pro-choice advocates. As such, it is simply nobody's goddamn business other than the individual directly involved. And it is certainly not the place of the State to make or forbid that decision for any free citizen. Period.

I'm sick to death of the characterization of pro-choice supporters as advocates of the "murder" of babies by alleged moralists who've granted themselves the delusional title, "Saviors of the Unborn". I've always maintained an intellectual respect for the right of pro-lifers to believe what they believe, even if I personally disagree with their position. That, after all, is what America is supposed to be about at its core. So, hey, if you don't support abortion, don't have one.

But by the same token, precisely because abortion is a matter of such personal choice, based oftentimes on wholly unforeseen circumstance, pro-choice advocates have an equal right to their beliefs in a truly free society, especially considering that they are in no way advocating the coercion of those who disagree to submit to the procedure. And because those who oppose the procedure do so on primarily religious grounds and not due to secular or scientific fact, their increasingly successful efforts to limit this choice are nothing less than the theocratic imposition of subjective dogma on the culture at large by a group of American Imams.

And that is simply un-American. At least, the last time I checked.

These same self-righteous individuals loudly decry the religious fundamentalist leaders of the Middle East for dictating codes of conduct in their nations that infringe upon the human and civil rights of their citizenry, especially as targeting Muslim women. Yet, this fatwah by our American fundamentalists to legislate specific "morality" on our society as a whole is no different, no less intrusive in areas where the State simply has no right to intrude.

Like I said earlier, if you don't support abortion, don't have one. But don't dare to criminalize the beliefs of those who don't agree. How can you even presume to make this decision for a young girl whose father is also her baby's father? Who the f#%k do you think you are to force a rape victim to bear her attacker's child? I hate to be crude, but if the daughter of one of South Dakota's anti-choice legislators were impregnated as a result of sexual assault, they'd both be on a plane headed to a New York Planned Parenthood clinic faster than you can say "Rapid City."

What's next from our American Imams - the obligatory stoning of those who've had sex out of wedlock? Legislation specifying "proper" public attire for women, with harsh criminal penalties for disobedience? Or how about laws mandating clitorectomies for all female children at birth, to "save" society from the blasphemous scourge of wanton vixens and unbridled promiscuity?

Think I'm exaggerating? Why - because the leaders of this nation, on both a State and Federal level, have so clearly demonstrated their ability to separate Church and State in other related matters?! Already, these same arbiters of private conduct have made significant inroads in impeding the availability of contraceptives, and in obstructing the mere public awareness of the Plan B pill, which, if widely and commonly distributed, would prevent up to 80 percent of unwanted pregnancies resulting from sexual assault.

We should be outraged as a forward-thinking populace over this South Dakota bill, and the broader implications it carries with it. One has to wonder if the fundamentalist Right has spent too much time obsessing over the Middle East - especially when its acolytes insist on moving us closer each day to a theocratic junta which forces its own brand of morality on us all.

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February 22, 2006

Must read

A magnificent, tone-perfect essay by Star A. Decise at The Enigmatic Paradox on the incredible political and public relations bumbling of the Bush Administration regarding the pending sale of shipping operations at six major American seaports. Money quotes:
Criticism, though perhaps xenophobic and racist, is spreading like a bipartisan brush fire fed by gale force winds. It's uniting politicians who share almost nothing except an uncontrollable addiction to television cameras. The public, predictably, is responding to deal as if being asked to kiss a rattlesnake on the lips...

It's the latest political blunder by an administration that used to have the deft touch of a violin virtuoso. But in recent months Bush and company have seemed to have more in common with political suicide bombers. In one decision after another, they've sabotaged themselves and wounded their natural allies, provoking a backlash that increasingly threatens their stranglehold on Congress...

[The White House] seems increasingly out-of-touch with the public pulse and seemed to only make matters worse by claiming the president wasn't even aware of the transaction until critics found it useful as ammunition for political attacks. As Democratic criticism has become a bipartisan Congressional rebellion, Bush's remaining legislative agenda has turned into little more than the Washington equivalent of a Dear Santa letter.

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Powers of prognostication

Here's a piece worth reading from Barry Gordon in today's Op Ed News concerning the familiar scent of ongoing plans for military, possibly nuclear, attack on Iran.

As regular visitors to this site are well aware, I've been shouting for months about the similarities of this scenario with the current Administration's "justification" of our unwarranted invasion of Iraq. The same dubious evidence. The same belligerent rhetorical tone and reckless fearmongering. The same exaggeration of the immediacy of danger from Tehran - which, for the umpteenth time, doesn't have nuclear weapons!

It's up to the citizens of this nation to raise a cry against planned military intervention in Iran on the basis of... well, of nothing but the assurances of the Bush Administration that such a threat exists. This group has given us no reason over the last five years to place any faith in its powers of prognostication.

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Disconnected

I think the opening sentence in this AP story says it all:
President Bush was unaware of the pending sale of shipping operations at six major U.S. seaports to a state-owned business in the United Arab Emirates until the deal already had been approved by his administration.
Now, I'm sure that the President isn't necessarily briefed on every corporate buyout, or change in National Parks' employees, or local municipal ruling on the hours during which garbage collection is allowed! But this?! Seems like this should have been something that might have caught the attention of the self-proclaimed guardian of America's homeland security - if for no other reason than the expected PR fallout.

Disconnected, insulated, tone deaf, incompetent, uninformed, uneducated, UNBEARABLE. That pretty much sums up the man who'll be calling the shots in this nation for the next three years. Isn't it past time to demand a change, and put somebody in the Oval Office who's actually paying attention to the important things?

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February 21, 2006

Apologies

Unfortunately, I'm forced today to pay less-than-full attention to The Hue and Cry, because of that pesky day-job thing. Apologies to the faithful.

In the meantime, check out these articles by John Nichols, Star A. Decise, Cenk Uygur, Ruth Marcus, and The L.A.Times via The Higher Pie.

Or, just scroll down and choose any post at random. Sadly, not much has changed - we just keep adding to the list. More later, when I come up for air...

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February 20, 2006

The view from the balcony

Yesterday, I got into a wee bit of a disagreement with blogger GreyHair at Bending the Third Rail over the decision by Paul Hackett to withdraw from the Senate race in Ohio, and the Major's subsequent decision to trash the Democratic leadership for their "betrayal" of his campaign. Rather than give you a blow by blow account, I do ask that you read here and here for a bird's eye view of our difference of opinion.

If nothing else, our debate serves as a good example of civil discourse on a topic about which both participants feel passionately. Kudos to GreyHair for several thought-provoking arguments throughout his comments, and some especially good points concerning "political calculation" and "the tactics of triangulating."

I will, however, say the following in general: even a week after Major Hackett's announcement of withdrawal, the Liberal blogosphere is unfortunately still buzzing with condemnation of the Democratic Party as a whole for its allegedly "heinous" act of backstabbing. Senatorial candidate Sherrod Brown has taken a hit in the polls as well; in my opinion, this is due in some definite part to the vitriol being spewed against the Party by the Major's loyal supporters, not to mention Mr. Hackett himself.

We are, after all, the Party that historically loves eating its own - and then wondering aloud why the GOP continues to control all branches of government!

Paul Hackett was indeed a refreshing voice of candor and passion, in a Party that seems to have lost too many of those admirable qualities, and I'm saddened by his decision to walk away from politics altogether. Nevertheless, that very decision is an indication to a large extent of his political inexperience. And I would still contend that it's a sign of his true level of commitment - or, more accurately, quasi-commitment - to public service as an elected official.

And that's OK. God knows, the man has more than fulfilled his obligations to serve the nation, even if he'd never tossed his hat into the political ring in the first place. And it is certainly his right to have dreamed of becoming a U.S. Senator, and to settle for nothing less.

But he's gone now, gang. He's decided to leave the fight to others, and simply go home. The uphill battles in the Buckeye State to unseat Mike DeWine and Jean Schmidt are still there to be fought. So I hardly see the logic in continued attacks on the Democratic Party by Democrats themselves, especially when the Party strategy in Ohio could have yielded two Progressive wins come November, one in the Senate and one in the House.

Until, that is, the Major decided to call it a day.

As I've mentioned in this column before, one of my oldest, childhood friends happens to be the Democratic Hamilton County Commissioner in Ohio's 2nd District. He recently was selected as Vice-Chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party. And make no mistake - this is not just some party hack who waltzed to that position through cronyism or nepotism or favoritism or whatever "ism" you can think of.

This is an individual who not only talks the talk, but walks the walk. A Democrat who was elected not once but twice to his office in Ohio's redder-than-red 2nd District - the first Dem to win that office in 37 years. In fact, in 2004 he received more actual votes than George Bush in the uber-conservative Southwest corner of the Buckeye State.

Obviously, the Commissioner is someone who knows how, even as a Democrat, to connect with voters on all sides of the political fence. Interestingly, he, too, was approached at an early stage about running against DeWine. And, in conversations I had with him last week via phone and e-mail, he provided an insider's view of the Hackett "situation," expressing his disappointment not only in the Major's decision to withdraw from politics, but also in Hackett's disparaging public comments, which are only serving to fuel infighting within the Party at the precise time we need unity to reclaim our nation.

The Commissioner's most recent e-mail to me elegantly summarizes, I think, Ohio's commitment to gaining some Progressive representation in Congress this November:
Out here in the heartland we are hoping that our key Democratic leaders are doing the right thing including actually working to bring the Party together; to heal wounds and to elect progressive voices to office. That is what I am trying to do and what Ohio's new party Chair, Chris Redfern, is trying to do.

The case of Major Hackett is one where there is still much time left to do the right thing, even if that does not include Hackett avenging his loss to Schmidt last summer after her own version of "Swift Boating" him. I know that Paul had his heart and his mind set on running for the Senate. In the end, I have to believe he knew he could not beat Sherrod Brown in the Primary, and so, he withdrew. The reality is Paul had about one tenth of the money on hand that Sherrod did and the big pockets of Democratic votes are largely in the northeast part of the state where Brown has won repeatedly and has served with distinction as a respected Member of the United States Congress.

The Democratic Leadership that finds itself bearing the brunt of criticism from Hackett and supporters alike did what it did out of the best interests of the party. After all, Party faithful have been insisting since the end of the last election that we place the best candidates with the best chances of winning in the races we can win. That was one of the big lessons of Colorado, where the Democrats turned the party around and began winning elections.

In this case Democrats have a great chance of winning both seats. But the pragmatic reality is Hackett would likely lose the Primary, but in the process would bruise Sherrod Brown - weakening him in the race against DeWine. Under that scenario we lose both races, instead of positioning ourselves in a way where Democrats win two seats in Washington D.C.

Personally I hope Paul will not withdraw from politics. He has been a rising star. And he had the ability to beat Jean Schmidt in a race that the existing candidates would have gladly stepped aside for Paul to run. That fact became known on Thursday.

The thing that is distressing is reading all of these e-mails bashing the Democratic Party because it did not support Paul in his bid, but instead "played favorites" in the race. Of course, "playing favorites" is exactly what the Party did in favor of Paul last summer. In that race the Party pulled out all of the stops for him and it almost resulted in Hackett upsetting Schmidt last August. The Party would gladly play that favorite again. Unfortunately Paul never gave us that chance.

Paul, of course, has the right to do whatever he wanted to do and to run in any race he desired. In the end the decision on whether to run or not was his and his alone.
Oh, I know what some of you are thinking: "Typical management spin!" But I've always known the Commissioner to be a rare individual of unimpeachable honesty and integrity, and an interesting source of frank political wisdom. Just check those credentials again. So I see no reason he would now choose to spin a tall tale.

Especially when he himself - like every political office holder - has had disagreements with Party leadership at several crucial junctures in the past. In that light, the most significant single thing he said to me last week, a simple fact that I think we should all recognize as being at the heart of any Hackett discussion, was this:
"The Party doesn't always do what we'd like, so I do understand Paul's frustrations. The difference is that I didn't quit."
A great deal of the lionization of Major Hackett is certainly deserved, and we are diminished by the loss of his voice. But the continuous demonization of Democratic Party leaders, and, by association, the remaining Ohio Senate and House candidates, is almost masochistically counterproductive.

If we on the Left want to get agitated about something, we should focus our energies on trying to convince Paul to rethink his decision, and help to put another Dem in the House. We should direct our attention to supporting Sherrod Brown with every weapon at our disposal, and speak out on behalf of all other Democratic candidates for offices large and small in the Buckeye State. And we should remember that our opponents are Mike DeWine and Jean Schmidt, and stop the misdirected, self-destructive squabbling amongst ourselves.

No matter how aggrieved he feels, Major Hackett made a choice. He decided to go home. Time for the rest of us to move forward with a unified voice, and hope that Paul keeps rooting for us from the balcony.

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February 19, 2006

Late-night reading

I've been racking my brain this weekend, trying to imagine some interesting new ways to describe the same old list of missteps, lies, and crimes of our Ruling Party to no avail. How many different ways, I wonder, can we present the same things, can we ask the same set of deliberately unanswered questions before madness takes hold?!

I sometimes feel that all of us in the blogosphere could simply post, "FOR THOUGHTS ON WHAT'S RELEVANT TODAY, PLEASE JUMP TO ARCHIVES" on any given day and be perfectly current and accurate. Good God, the list never ends - in fact, it only grows longer by the hour.

So while I struggle to regain contact with my inner originality, be sure to check out these thought-provoking articles from around the web:
UpdateAmerica/604 on the U.S. double standard toward Israel and Hamas.

firedoglake on what Quailgate tells us about the gulf between President and Veep.

The Enigmatic Paradox takes a critical look at anti-earmark crusader John McCain's own slice of prized pork.

Professor Gene Gerard decries the similarities between the U.S. and Iran when it comes to denying basic human rights to the gay community.

MacDonald's Animal Farm reports on "open debate" at Conservative blog sites.

And Three Wise Men righteously complains that the Press and the People have allowed themselves to be convinced that the Abramoff scandal affects both R's and D's equally, when nothing could be further from the truth.
Oh, and if you've seen my mind lying around anywhere, please contact me through this site! Thanks.

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Culture of life

Ken Grandund of Common Sense offers this excellent piece, that takes a look at the heated debate over using frozen embryos (most of which are destined to be discarded) for purposes of stem cell research - and the illogical stance of our "culture of life" Hypocrite in Chief. Excerpts:
Such scientific advances would seem to promote life for already living humans, or cure humans who are hanging to life in precarious medical situations, something that Bush and his party seemed eager to advance during the whole Terry Schiavo grandstanding last year. So, according to their actions in the Schiavo case, it would seem logical to assume that Bush would support this research.

But as with many things from the Bush administration, logic is not at the forefront of their decision-making processes. Despite the president's desire to see things as either black or white, right or wrong, the fact is that the world is seldom that accommodating...

In his 2006 State of the Union speech, Bush proclaimed that, "Human life is a gift from our Creator -- and that gift should never be discarded, devalued or put up for sale." Yet when it comes to frozen embryos, this is hardly true. In fact, such embryos are created in a petri dish in a laboratory by human scientists. And they are discarded with regularity. And the president knows it. Why then can they not be used to advance the science of medicine that would better the condition of human life? For a man willing to sacrifice the living in poorly thought out wars, why the hesitation to use that which will never be life to help heal the sick or cure the diseases that plague humanity?
Bravo, Ken, bravo.

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Job performance

Daily KOS weighs in with a few words about Michael Chertoff, the other Mike who should be standing in an unemployment line right now for his ineptitude as Director of the DHS. KOS notes:
The kindest thing said about Chertoff's approval of outsourcing our port security was that it was "unbelievably tone deaf" - and this from Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. Democrats Barbara Boxer, Evan Bayh and Robert Menendez were not quite so kind, with Boxer calling for legislation to limit the nation's infrastructure protection to American companies, Bayh calling for an in-depth look at the company and Menendez proclaiming this administration "just does not get it." Amen.
And later:
Now if Democrats and the few reality-based Republicans can challenge this administration on its myopic blunders and idiot statements, perhaps our national security and disaster preparedness can move from the realm of "feel good" talking points into a real-world stance of ensuring the safety of Americans. Outsourcing port security and restructuring FEMA - despite the howls we can expect from the administration - seem two solid places to start.
I'm disgusted that Chertoff still holds the position he does. I mean, if you had performed as well at your job as the pathetic Mikey C has at his, would you still have yours?

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Traditional (?) marriage

Today's New York Times has a clever little "pop quiz" on marriage, to demonstrate that "most of what 'everyone knows' about what matrimony used to be and just how it has changed is wrong." Of the 13 true or false questions and answers, some of which are genuinely surprising, there are two that should be of particular interest to those fighting same-sex marriage on the grounds of "protecting the foundation of society":
  • The preferred form of marriage through the ages has been between one man and one woman. True or False?
FALSE. The form of marriage that has been approved by more societies than any other through the ages is polygamy - one man and many women. That family form is the one mentioned most often in the first five books of the Bible. In some societies, one woman could marry several men... For most of history, the main impetus for marriage was getting in-laws and managing property, not love or sex.
* * *
  • Throughout history, philosophers and theologians have always believed that strong marital commitments form the foundation of a virtuous society. True or False?
FALSE. Ancient Roman philosophers and medieval theologians thought that loving your spouse too much was a form of "adultery," a betrayal of one's obligations to country or God. The ancient Greeks held that the purest form of love was between two men... Early Christians thought marriage was inescapably tainted by the presence of sex. According to the medieval church, virgins ranked highest in godliness, widows were second, and wives a distant third.
As I've said repeatedly, definitions of wedlock, family, and child rearing have evolved in the same way that societies have evolved with the advance of civilization. Isn't it time for this nation to reject once and for all the myth that there is such a thing as "traditional" marriage, and allow committed, monogamous, same-sex couples to share the joys, recognition, complications, and benefits of this constantly changing institution?

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