Monday, May 30, 2005

The Deal That's Not

It's not even a week since the Senate reached it's overblown, over-hyped compromise over judicial appointments and the filibuster and already its foundation may be crumbling. The deal, brokered by the bi-partisan Gang of 14 led by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), gave the Republicans the three judicial appointments they wanted most--Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown and William Pryor--with the Democrats promising not to filibuster. In turn, the Republicans agreed to have Majority Leader Bill Frist back off the "nuclear option" threat and allow the filibuster to continue only under "extraordinary circumstances." Everybody kissed and made nice-nice, and beamed that even this contentious Senate can rise above the fray and do what's best for America. Sure. And if you believe that, I have a Tikrit timeshare I'm looking to unload. The GOP is now hellbent on pushing through the nomination of William Myers to the legendary 9th Circuit Appeals Court and is going to use this as the extraordinary circumstances Litmus test. This will be an extremely important showdown, as it not only proves how frail the compromise was/is, but moreso it sets the stage for the battle over Chief Justice William Rehnquist's replacement when he most likely retires this Summer after the Supreme Court ends its current session June 27. The GOP desperately wants to tip the Court scales far to the right, and will stop at nothing in order to do so. Compromise? There is no compromise. Anyone who believes the Democrats will be able to filibuster without Frist first threatening again and then exercising the nuclear option...well, how about that Tikrit timeshare? This is going to get ugly, folks. Andy

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Sen. Sellout (R-OH)

Sen. George Voinovich is one giant sellout when it comes to the John Bolton hearings. His votes contradict the strong convictions he's so eloquently stated on the Foreign Relations committee. Voinovich thinks very little of Bolton, stating he's one of the worst possible choices for UN Ambassador that President Bush could've made. Why then does he refuse to filibuster Bolton into obscurity? Instead, he repeatedly votes to send the matter to the full Senate for an up or down vote, knowing that the Republican majority all but assures his confirmation. Given Voinovich's intense dislike for Bolton and his belief that his appointment would damage our reputation on the world stage, you'd think he'd do everything in his power to join the Democrats in keeping the guy from ever sitting at a UN desk. But while Voinovich believes one thing, his votes tell a different story. He refers to Bolton as "the poster child of what someone in the diplomatic corps should not be," but then defends his cloture votes with "I am not so arrogant to think that I should impose my judgment and perspective of the U.S. position in the world community on the rest of my colleagues." This is a very misguided position. Imposing his judgment and perspective is exactly what he's supposed to be doing. Did his Ohio constituents vote for him so that he can vote the judgments and perspectives of George Bush, Bill Frist and Tom Delay instead? If Sen. Voinovich really believes that a Bolton ambassadorship would be harmful to the U.S. then he owes it to all Americans to vote his conscience and stop using his position of power to make meaningless statements of principle. Andy

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Senate Compromise: Savior or Sellout?

Late yesterday the Senate reached a compromise deal, termed the "memorandum of understanding," over the controversial Bush judicial nominees. We give the Republicans Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown and William Pryor, and they in effect abandon William Myers, Henry Saad and the "nuclear option" on the filibuster, the 200-year-old political weapon that has been the lifeblood of the minority party to ensure against an imbalance of power. A good deal for Democrats? On some level. For one thing, the filibuster has been saved, at least for the time being. Further, Majority Leader Bill Frist, who's running for president in 2008, will be taking it on the chin from the Christian conservatives, whom he all but promised full up or down votes on all Bush nominees. Lastly, Bush himself was sent a strong message that he'll need to confer with the Senate in the future and send more compromise nominees to the Judiciary Committee or he'll face another battle. Yet on another level I feel like the party sold out, and was unwilling to fight tooth and nail for what it believes in. And that's been the biggest Achilles heel of the Democrats: that they don't stand for much. Owen, Brown and Pryor are bad news, and the Senate compromise does little to make them any less undesirable. The deal also stipulates that future filibusters will occur only under "extreme circumstances," which is quite subjective. Who'll get to define "extreme circumstances?" Will this set the stage for yet another round of Republican bullying? Backing off the filibuster fight demonstrated that we expected to lose, and would be unwilling to carry out the shut-down threats levied by Minority Leader Harry Reid (NV). This has weakened the Democrats' position. When Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist finally steps down, most likely this Summer, do we think Frist and the GOP will sit idle while the Democrats filibuster Bush's ultra-conservative replacement? It appears we may have lost a very important battle this week. I hope that's not a sign that we've also, more importantly, lost the war. Andy

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Christians, It's Time to Get Angry

It's time for Christians in America to get angry. Time to fight back. Time to stand up, and stand tall, and send a very strong message to the Bush administration and Republicans everywhere that not every good, conscientious, law-abiding, God-fearing Christian is a conservative. The time is now for Christians--both those on the left and the moderates on the right--to take back their faith from the opportunistic, polarizing, sanctimonious religious zealots who've hijacked God and religion. Time was when God belonged to everyone, whether Christian, Jew, Muslim, liberal, conservative, et al. But since the 2000 election, politics has changed all that. The GOP has masterfully cast itself as the party of God, and its constituents the only people of faith. And it has also masterfully painted Democrats as New York Times-readin', NPR-listenin', Volvo-drivin', Bierkenstock-wearin' atheists. We all remember the GOP commercials last year that highlighted these vile stereotypes. Christians, take back your God. Take back your religion. Take back your faith. Wake up Monday and flood the White House, the Senate and Congress with your phone calls, faxes and letters. Remind them that God belongs to all, and that people of faith exist on both sides of the aisle. And that they vote. Tell them Republicans don't speak for you as a Christian. Tell them you don't like being represented by radical, extremist evangelicals. Tell them you believe in the Separation of Church and State. Tell them that activist judges do not belong on the Supreme Court. Tell them you're sick and tired of seeing the sacred teachings of Jesus being used as a smokescreen for discrimination and the erosion of civil liberties and the balance of power. Shout it. Scream it. Again and again. Maybe then they'll hear. Andy

Friday, May 20, 2005

Rick Santorum and the Politics of Hate

The Senate battle over the filibuster continued yesterday with the same partisan vitriol levied by the Republicans in their bloodthirsty quest to seize ultimate control over judicial appointments. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) compared the Democrats with Adolph Hitler, making an asinine analogy that the Left's defense of the filibuster is equal to this murderous Nazi's 1942 defense of the allies' invasion of Paris, which he occupied at the time. This is the same Sen. Santorum who earlier this year publicly vilified Sen. Robert Byrd (D-VA) for his comparison of President Bush to Hitler. So, as usual, it's just more of the Republicans' do as I say, not as I do philosophy of ethics and morality. Like Sen. Byrd, Santorum this week showed a gross error in judgment by referencing the most vile, murderous figure in world history to make his political points. He demonstrated a colossal insensitivity to the millions who perished under the brutal Nazi regime, and the loved ones they left behind who still live with the horrible memories of the Holocaust. And lastly, Santorum continues to show that he is an irrational, hypocritical, right-wing extremist. Let's all remember that Santorum is best known for equating sexuality between consenting gay adults with bestiality between humans and dogs. When you view comments such as this one, and also that of freshman Senator Tom Coburn from Oklahoma, who believes doctors who perform abortions should be executed, it's pretty easy to see why, with the Republican leadership we currently have, we're defending the filibuster so passionately. The stakes are quite high. America's future, our freedom, and the balance of power could be altered forever. Andy

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Newsweek and the Bush Arrogance

First Dan Rather, now Newsweek. If conservatives have their way, in short time the only thing left to read, watch and/or listen to will be The Weekly Standard, The O'Reilly Factor and Rush Limbaugh. Ok, so Newsweek screwed up. Big time. Not the first time that's happened in the media, and certainly won't be the last. But the real problem here is the Bush administration's reaction to the blunder. True, the newsweekly's now-unsourced story that the holy book Koran was being desecrated and defiled by U.S. guards to rattle detainees at Guantanamo Bay sparked death, global riots and outrage in the Muslim community. Newsweek has since backtracked, admitted the inaccuracy and offered its regrets. But the Bush administration is not happy with just a full retraction. Through White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan today, it's telling Newsweek to write a "positive" story on how the US Military respects the Koran and Muslims. This demand, in their overall campaign to literally control the media, has taken the Bush arrogance to new heights. Where does it get off telling an independent news magazine what to write? McClellan said "The report had real consequences. People have lost their lives. Our image abroad has been damaged." This coming from an administration that--using and manipulating inaccurate intelligence--all but unilaterally invaded a sovereign nation, overthrew its leader, tortured its civilians, and caused the deaths of some 1600 U.S. soldiers/2000 Iraqi policeman/20,000 Iraqi civilians, and wounded and/or maimed tens of thousands others. And they have the audacity to blame Newsweek for the damage to America's standing in the Muslim world? Where is the apology from Bush for his grave error in judgment and leadership that has wreaked such havoc in Iraq? British PM Tony Blair already issued his, yet hell will freeze over before we get a mea culpa from Bush. If our standing in the Muslim community has been seriously marred, as I believe it has, Newsweek is but a pimple on the proverbial elephant's ass. Shame on Bush for attempting to portray it otherwise. Let's put the blame squarely where it belongs...on the arrogant, war-mongering heads of Bush, Chaney, Rumsfeld, Condi and Wolfowitz. Andy

Numbers Don't Lie: A Warning to Republicans

The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll out today should be a huge red flag to the Republican party: only 33% of Americans are happy with Congress while 51% are not. Further, in the upcoming '06 mid-term elections, only 40% want another Republican-controlled Congress while 47% would rather see Democrats rule. When also factoring in that roughly 60% of Americans now feel the Iraq war wasn't justified, together with Bush's low approval ratings, the mid-terms could spell disaster for conservatives. As I often do to monitor the Right, I briefly listened today to Sean Hannity's radio program. One of his guests, the venerable conservative icon Pat Buchanan, went head-to-head against Hannity on issues ranging from the budget and trade deficits, immigration and especially the war in Iraq, which Buchanan believes is a disaster for America. Buchanan is old school Republican; a conservative's conservative. A proponent of small government, fiscal conservatism, states' rights, and isolationism on the foreign policy front. He is no more a classic neo-con than Howard Dean. And it is precisely this breed of traditional Republican that is growing more and more disenchanted with the GOP, and with these radical neo-cons and religious fundamentalists that have hijacked the party. The party is split, but few will discuss it publicly. But the numbers don't lie. Republicans in Washington are too obsessed with God, Gays, judges and the filibuster that they're forgetting why the average Joe voted for them in the first place. At this rate, they will implode come November '06.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Bush, Iraq and a Very Interesting British Memo

Have you heard about or read the Downing Street Memo that still seems to be flying under journalists' radar here in the U.S? In it Matthew Rycroft, a British foreign policy aide, summarized the minutes of a July 23, 2002 Prime Minister's meeting to Tony Blair's Foreign Policy Advisor Sir David manning. This meeting was held a full 8 months before the U.S., together with Great Britain, invaded Iraq on March 20, 2003. The document is quite a smoking gun for conspiracy theorists who claim the Bush administration thumbed its nose at the UN; manipulated intelligence to fit its lust for war; intentionally ignored evidence that disproved Iraq's WMD threat; and then calculatedly sold this charade to the American public. It also shows there was no real plan to deal with the ensuing chaos once we invaded. The document suggests that Bush & Co. knew that Saddam was not a real WMD threat, and that he had essentially been marginalized and contained. From the memo: "C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and fact were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action." The memo continues with: "It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea and Iran." The Times of London printed the text of this document on Sunday, May 1, 2005, and supports its validity, stating, "British officials did not dispute the document's authenticity." So I ask, where is the outrage here in the States? Where is the accountability for this military debacle and insurgent nightmare? When will someone, anyone, in the Bush administration pay the price for orchestrating this unjust invasion of a sovereign nation--one which posed no real threat to the U.S. or its own neighbors--and which has cost us dearly in human life, $300+ billion, and in countless goodwill currency throughout the world. And, there's no end in sight. Where is the outrage....Andy

Friday, May 13, 2005

Curious George and the Beltsville Bike Ride

Two days ago a couple of unsuspecting yo-yo's flew a small private plane into restricted air space in Washington, D.C sending the Capital into red alert, the highest terror warning, and causing a chaotic evacuation of the White House, the U.S. Capitol and the Supreme Court. The plane failed to respond to a Homeland Security helicopter, came dangerously close to the White House, and then, after military jets fired warning flares, finally changed course. This was scary stuff. Federal agents and cops screamed "run, run, get out" to anyone in sight, and some were so quick-footed they left their shoes behind in their tracks. And where was our president during all this? He was 30 minutes away in Beltsville, Md riding his bicycle. That in and of itself is not the problem. The problem is that a decision was made not to inform him what was going on in the Capital. The reason being, he was safe, so there was no reason to unnecessarily upset him while getting his daily exercise. That is, of course, unless we choose to neglect the fact that he is also Commander in Chief of the US armed forces, for God's sake, and this was a red alert on our nation's Capital. And what about the safety of everyone else in the Capital? The country? Am I missing something here? Can you say "My Pet Goat?" We all remember how our fearless leader of the free world sat idly by, with that deer-in-the-headlights-look, for seven minutes reading this children's book to a bunch of wet-nosed schoolkids in Florida while bin Laden was wreaking havoc in our country. Now four years later, while our citizens are frantically fleeing the most sacred symbols of our great Democracy, Curious George is riding his bicycle around Maryland, oblivious to the chaos in DC. How on earth can the administration attempt to justify not telling him? Did they fear his reaction would be inept? Did they envision another 20 befuddled laps on the bike before he'd finally get off and react? Did they honestly not think--and this is the key question here folks--that the president of the United States, the Commander in Chief, should not be informed that its Capital appears to be under terrorist attack once again? White House press secretary Scott McClellan did his ineffectual best to minimize the situation. He said a review was underway regarding the handling of the situation, but added that Bush wasn't upset that he was not informed. I guess, to Curious George, riding a bike around Maryland takes precendent over making critical decisions like whether to shoot down the plane, shut airports, call up the military and other grave choices in time of crisis. Nice to know his priorities.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

An Important Break in the Ranks?

The Log Cabin Republicans, a Gay group, and the Republican Majority for Choice, an abortion-rights group, have broken ranks with the GOP and are advertising in a Capitol Hill newspaper and in newspapers in the home states of moderate Republicans, denouncing Bush's judicial nominees on the basis of their extremist views on Gay rights and abortion, claiming these judges' views are "profoundly out of step with American legal thinking." This is a watershed moment, folks, as it could finally be the signal we're all waiting for. That being, that moderate Republicans are finally tiring of their party's narrow and extremist views by those in control. Perhaps the more people like these who realize their party has swung too far to the right, the better we'll do in '06 and '08. Remember, just 80,000 more votes for Kerry in Ohio and we'd have a different man in the White House right now. I certainly suspect there's a heckuva lot more than 80,000 Gays and abortion-rights advocates in this country. This is just the beginning. Let the demogogues and idealogues pursue their extremist goals. In the end, just like in the 90's, it may be their ruination. Andy

We Are Indeed The Party of "No"

I received an email from GOP head Ken Mehlman today with a link to their new propaganda video, Wanna "No" Something? Just ask a Democrat. In short, it paints us as obstructionists; a party of negative naybobs with no plans for anything save for blocking President Bush's agenda. We'll, at least they're half right. We are the party of "no" indeed. We say no to breaking down the sacred principle of checks and balances in this country. We say no to rampant violations in the separation of church and state doctrine. We say no to the growing legions of religious demogogues who are trying to turn America into a Christian theocracy. We say no to idealogues like Bill Frist who desperately want to strip Democrats the right to filibuster and thus block the appointments of right-wing extremist activist judges. We say no to rogue politicians like Tom Delay who use Congress as a forum to spread their own religious dogma; who change the rules because they don't like the current results; and who circumvent the laws we so cherish. We say no to the religious fanatics who want to dominate our secular society and tell women what to do with their bodies; tell us who can get married; and what families should do with their dying loved ones. We say no to President Bush, who wants to all but erase the memory of FDR and the legacy of the New Deal. We say no to Bush's misguided plan to cut Social Security benefits and put our seniors' retirement savings at risk. We say no to rich White politicians who seek to eliminate every social service and entitlement program that helps the poor and middle class. We say no to those in power who believe every American should not have adequate health care for themselves and their families. We say no to the new breed of Republicans who rack up historic US debt, record gas and oil prices, and then tell us it's a great economy we have here. We say no to war-mongering bullies like Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Condi Rice, Dick Cheney and Bush who think they can arbitrarily send our young men and women off to die in an unjustified war and not have to pay a price for their pig-headed mistakes. Yes, we are truly the party of "no." And we're gonna keep saying no as long as these oligarchs in Washington try to ram their extreme politics down our throats at every turn. And you know what? I'm damned proud to call myself a Democrat because of it.Andy