My Thoughts Exactly

Anti-Shame League holds its annual bash

In the spring of 1980 in Boston there was a murder trial of a notorious pair of thugs, ghetto low-lifes who had raped, murdered and robbed a young nurse in her own home. At the trial, the prosecutor asked one of the murderers about a certain boombox, proved to be the nurse’s, that was in the man’s possession when he was arrested. The exchange went something like this:

Prosecutor: You took that boombox from her apartment.
Murderer: Yeah.
Prosecutor: But when you were arrested, you said that it was your boombox.
Murderer: It is mine.

Now that is what the absence of shame looks like.

For a more recent example of brazen shamelessness, we have the annual dinner of the White House Correspondents Association.

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Posted in "A Republic, if you can keep it", My Thoughts Exactly | Also tagged , | 5 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Have The Senate Democrats Finally Learned?

With the Protect America Act (aka FISA on ‘roids) set to expire at 12:01 a.m. Friday, and the Senate deadlocked on the question of immunity for telcos, the Administration once again tried to employ its favorite strategy. Rather than support any kind of extension the Bush Administration is demanding that the Senate pass telco immunity or risk a veto. The conservative chorus brays how the Democrats are outing national security at risk. And why not play chicken with a vital issue of national security? This strategy has worked for Bush time and again, with no real consequences.

Still, the script did not go quite to schedule this time. When it became clear that the President could not force through the Senate Bill he wanted and get the needed changes in the House (the House Bill does not contain immunity for telcos), the President backed down and grudgingly agreed to a 15-day extension of the existing “Protect America Act.”

The question here is whether or not the Senate Democrats have learned that the temper of the country has changed. We all care about national security. But increasingly, the American people have grown disgusted with the way this Administration plays politics with national security and whittles away at civil liberties. But many Democratic leaders remain traumatized by the 2002 elections, when voters caught up in the post-9/11 scare and the hype in preparation for the invasion of Iraq decided to overlook things like the Enron and Worldcom scandals and voted out war heroes like Max Clealand who expressed even the slightest doubt about supporting our Commander in Chief in “this time of war.” And so, despite the election of anti-war Democrats in 2006, despite the President’s abysmal approval ratings, despite the fact that the majority of Americans now consider the Iraq War an enormous mistake and want to see it ended, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the President’s media cheer leading squad continue to use the same rhetoric as if it were still 2002, and too many Democrats still tremble.

Let us be perfectly clear. The one issue delaying this bill is the question of retroactive immunity for Bush’s telco pals. While I understand why Bush would go to the wire for his buddies, why any Democrat would voluntarily so undermine the rule of law baffles me. The one conclusion I can reach is that too many of them remain mired in the belief that if the Democrats are seen as “playing politics with national security” then they will lose in ’08.

But as Chris Dodd and some other Senate Democrats understand, and as the House Democrats understood when they passed a bill without the telco immunity provision, the universe has changed since 2002. Even if political exigencies justified such an abandonment of principle as granting telcos retroactive immunity, too many Senate Democrats have the political calculation wrong. With the Democrats chosing among candidates determined to end the war and both of whom have promised to fight telco immunity, and with Republicans poised to nominate the man who has consistently defied the Administration on torture and other issues where the Administration has played the “national security” card, the message from the people should be clear: The free ride for the Administration to savage our civil liberties is over! The panic is past, and our natural distrust of a government granted unlimited power to “protect us” has returned.

I hope that the members of the Senate, particularly the Democratic members who have supported telco immunity, will take these two weeks to learn this valuable lesson. Because if you act as if it were still 2002, and give the President everything he asks for, you may indeed succeed in setting back the clock. In 2006, the American people proved we had enough of wireless wire tapping, and that enough of us were finally willing to vote out a party that supported an assault on our civil liberties. Must we prove that lesson again in 2008, by once again voting out a party that, to praphrase Benjamin Franklin, seeks to trade liberty for security only to discover it has neither?

All the rights they promise — all the wrongs they bring
Stewards of the Judgment, suffer not this king!

Stay tuned . . . .

Posted in How Democracy Works, Or Doesn't, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , | 4 Comments (Comments closed)

My Thoughts Exactly

An expensive way to learn elementary-school civics

The Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece the other day, called The Lessons of Iraq, by one Erik Swabb, who, according to the journal, “served in Iraq as a Marine infantry officer.” Here’s the lede:

While the improved security situation in Iraq is changing views about the chances for success there, one common belief has remained unchanged: that the war is eroding U.S. military capabilities.

It is true that repeated deployments have caused considerable strain on service members, equipment and our ability to respond to other contingencies. These problems, however, only tell half the story. The Iraq war is also dramatically improving the military’s understanding, training and capabilities in irregular warfare. Since this is the preferred method of Islamic extremists, the experience in Iraq is transforming the military into the force required to help win the Long War.”

The article goes on to make the case that the war is not all bad for the fighting forces, because now they really “get it” that they’re not in a big war against Soviet armoured divisions on the plains of northern Europe.

As a former Peace Corps Volunteer, I find this embarassingly thin gruel. In fact, it borders on noxious.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

GOP To America: All Well In Cable-Land! Skyrocketing Rates and Lousy Customer Service All In Your Mind! Forget What We Said Last Summer About Needing COPE!

I must applaud the Republican House Commerce Committee members for their willingness to stay bought. Why else would 23 of the 26 Republicans on the House Commerce Committee send this letter celebrating the perfection of the cable industry in the United States and opening a can of whoop-ass on Kevin Martin for daring to suggest otherwise? Because if that letter came in response from hundreds of constituents complaining that their cable service costs too little and the service is too good, I’ll eat my lap top.

God knows, with the number of issues on their plate and with their party’s standing plummeting in the polls, you’d think Republicans would decline to publicly defend the cable industry. What with rates consistently rising faster than inflation (and despite increasing profits-per-subscriber until the last quarter or so), cable operators have raised rates every year – whether they need to or not. As if that were not enough, the customer service records of the major cable companies are abominable (or why would Mona “The Hammer” Shaw have attained folk-hero status?). So with us heading into an election, and the Republicans weighed down by all the baggage of the Iraq War, corruption scandals, accusations of cronyism and mismanagement, and a general anti-special interest sentiment in the electorate, you wouldn’t think the Republican party would rise up en mass to defend the cable industry from one of their own?

And yet that is precisely what 23 Republican members of the House Commerce Committee just did. Upset that Kevin Martin has proposed several items for the next FCC meeting that limit cable market power, the Commerce Committee Republicans have leaped to the defense of the cable industry. “Shame!” They have cried to Kevin Martin. “All is well in cable-land! The industry is intensely competitive, prices are low, service is wonderful, and consumers are bursting with happiness! How can you even think of regulating the cable industry?”

Mind you, these are the same Republicans who in the summer of ’06 were so gosh darn concerned about the lack of cable competition that they were all set to completely rewrite the Telecom Act to help phone companies get into video. Because God knows if we didn’t deregulate phone companies we couldn’t get any competition for cable, and Lord knows we needed competition for cable. But when you are a member of the Republican Party and you see a special interest and regular campaign contributor in need, you don’t worry about such fiddlin’ details as consistency with your past positions. Either that, or we should assume Mr. Barton, Mr. Upton, and the rest that championed the “we must deregulate the phone companies to bring competition to cable” bill in 2006 believe that the whole competition thing worked itself out, so that is now — in the words of the 23 Commerce Committee Republicans — “significant competition in the video programming marketplace.”

So now we see the delightful sight of Mr. Barton, Mr. Upton, and the rest of the Republican Cable Commerce Cheering Squad, who last summer couldn’t vote fast enough to deregulate because we needed cable competition, taking FCC Chairman Martin out to the woodshed for daring, DARING to suggest that cable has market power and that therefore the FCC should take steps to address this problem, or at least bloody recognize the reality. (Apparently, flip-flopping is not a problem if it is bought and paid for flip-flopping.)

So rest assured America, in the fight between your personal well-being and the profit margins of GOP campaign contributors, you can always count on the Republicans to stay bought and stand up for special interests.

Stay tuned . . . .

Posted in Cable, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , , , | Comments closed

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Of Intellectual Property and Neo-Imperialism

As a U.S. Citizen, I would like my country to enjoy respect abroad and to inspire others with the ideals that I beleive make this country great. Sadly, this is often compromised in our diplomatic dealings with other countries.

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Posted in General, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Tales From the Sausage Factory: Saddam and Howard Dean

I seem to be the only one in America who fails to see the link between the capture of Saddam Hussein this week and the 2004 Democratic Presidential Primary. Or so says an op ed in today’s Washington Post. On the other hand, I do see this as a classic example of media group think.

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Posted in General, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , | 2 Comments (Comments closed)
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