Monthly Archives: May 2004

Dumping Bush Is Only the First Step

I don’t usually write about local politics for one simple reason: I only have a couple of readers who live in Mass. The rest of you are scattered across the US–and indeed, the world; thanks largely to Tim Dunlop, I have more readers in Australia than I do in Massachusetts. That’s the nature of the internet.

But this latest development in the culture wars in Mass has larger implications than its local nature would suggest. First, let’s look at the story.

Three weeks ago, the decision of the Mass Supreme Judicial Court that banning gay marriages was in violation of the State Constitution took effect and the first legal marriage licenses ever issued to gay couples were signed by municipal clerks in the cities of Provincetown, Springfield, Somerville and Worcester. Many of those couples married almost immediately; many others waited until friends and families could gather. Rep Gov Mitt Romney, who is basically a moderate but plays to the radicals for effect (and votes), announced his opposition to the clerks’ compliance with the law as given in the SJC decision and warned them that they were guilty of flouting a law dating from 1913 that he had dug out of the tomb where it was resting comfortably and was now using to threaten any city clerk who dared to comply with the Constitution rather than with his stated position.

On Friday, May 21, Romney asked State’s Attorney General Thomas O’Reilly to stop the clerks on the basis of a 1913 law prohibiting couples from other states from obtaining marriage licenses in Mass ‘if they would be void in the state in which a couple resides.’

Romney said he expected Reilly to urge the clerks to stop issuing the licenses with calls and letters at first. If that does not work, Romney said, a court injunction might be warranted.

Reilly repeatedly stressed that under Massachusetts law, the governor has the power to prosecute all matters related to marriage without the help of the attorney general. “I want to recognize here and acknowledge that the governor of Massachusetts has special authority and jurisdiction when it comes to the regulation of the issuance of marriage [licenses], and enforcement of the marriage laws and process,” Reilly said. “I certainly understand that authority, and I respect that authority. We will take it in that context.”Romney said he has spoken to Reilly personally and that the two officials are “on the same page.”

What the Globe article carefully refrained from mentioning was that the 1913 law Romney is using as an excuse to stop out-of-state gay marriages was originally written to stop ‘mixed-race’ marriages. The SJC then had recently struck down the laws forbidding mixed-race marriages using the same reasons and referring to the same clauses in the State Constitution as the present SJC, and the State legislature promptly scurried through a loophole and passed a law preventing out-of-state mixed-race couples from ‘flooding into Massachusetts’, as one outraged Republican State Senator put it, to get married here when it was illegal in their home states.

This onerous law, ignored for 75 years and illegal by intent if not language, should have been repealed a long time ago, and probably would have been if anybody had remembered it existed before Romney disinterred it from its vault, dusted it off, and applied it to gays rather than to ‘miscegenation’. (Bigots have such harmless-sounding words for their bigotry, don’t they? ‘Miscegenation’. Such soft syllables. Almost sounds like something that happens to an undercooked pie.) For him to be using that law in this context is tantamount to an admission that gay marriage is in fact a civil rights isuue, not a ‘religious’ issue, and that Mitt is standing four-square with the bigots of yesteryear to deny a minority their rights.

The pressure, of course, is coming from radical conservative groups like the Mass Family Institute, and from the religious right who have been outraged by the SJC decision. They are key players in Romney’s constituency, having supported handsomely both of his failed senate campaigns against Ted Kennedy as well as his squeaker-of-a-win in the Gov’s race against the weak Democratic hack who was his opponent. They have a lot of influence with the Romney Admin and, as is usual with the radcons, they’re not shy about using it.

Unfortunately for them, Mass is a very Democratic state. While it’s a lot less liberal than its radcon attackers would have you know, it is definitely NOT a bastion of right-wing ideologues and bigots. The Mass GOP has in the past been fairly centrist in its leanings, an old-style moderate Republicanism that harkens back to people like Ed Brooke and Bill Weld, the kind of men (usually men) who defined the ‘fiscal-conservative/social-liberal’ model in the late 80’s and early 90’s (clarification: Ed Brooke was the first black US Senator from NE and was waaaay ahead of his time in pioneering the fc/sl model, an achievement for which he receives very little credit). They haven’t tended to the extremes and in the past have been known to hand radicals their walking papers. No more. Like everywhere else, radcons have hijacked the state GOP and used it to push moderates to the margins and their own radical policies to the center of the party platform, and like everywhere else, they have been none too dainty–or scrupulous–about how they did it.

Local Republican politics is becoming as radical, arrogant, autocratic, and unsavory as its national Big Brother. Cockroach Master Tom DeLay, from his perch as House Majority Leader, ordered the Texas State Legislature to re-district the state to favor Republicans in defiance of a tradition that only allowed re-districting after each census because Republicans happened to control that legislature at the moment and DeLay was determined to see it stayed that way. In California, the RNC used a wealthy used-car dealer, Darryl Issa, to force a recall vote on Gov Gray Davis right after an energy crisis brought on by big corporate Republican donors running energy companies in Texas had stolen $Billions$ from the state by illegally manipulating the market, causing an artificial shortfall that all but bankrupted the state coffers. They used the recall to blame Davis for the energy crisis, and when people turned against Davis because of it, they used Davis’ weakness to foist The Terminator on a punch-drunk state reeling from the Republican-engineered body blows. In Georgia, radcon-elected State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox tried to force a school curriculum that replaced evolution with creationism, and in Colorado, they tried the same re-districting trick the Texas Republicans had succeeded with only to be slapped down by the courts.

You probably knew about those, but here’s the sort of maneuver becoming standard for radcons that doesn’t get much press: Jeff at Notes On The Atrocities lives in Oregon and reports on the machinations of its far-right Speaker of the House, Karen Minnis, who has just ordered the House to meet in a special sessionwithout the Senate.

It’s an unprecedented move and has no legal standing. Without Senate approval, no legislation can go through. But Minnis isn’t afraid to use whatever tiny reserve of goodwill that remains to try to rend the state further apart. We will now watch the GOP spend days or weeks passing phony laws and calling Dems rat bastards–all on the government dime. (Hey, fiscal responsibility is only good when you’re cutting programs that benefit Democratic constitutencies.)

Minnis, who has a background of dirty tricks and slimy campaign tactics that would rival Saxby Chambliss’ for sleaze (read Jeff’s post for details), is typical of the rising radicalism in local GOP organizations across the country who have used Bush’s popularity and the excuse of the ‘new reality’ since 9/11 to ram through extreme right-wing programs that would be DOA if offered fairly and openly. They have crow-barred their way to power and they have no intention of letting it slip away just because the standard-bearer is self-destructing.

With his own party turning against him, the Cult of Personality that was built up around Bush over the past four years may be crumbling but its purpose has been to some degree served: radical conservatives now control not only the national GOP but many of the local party mechanisms as well. Rejecting Bush will weaken but hardly destroy them. For those who may be thinking that if we just get rid of Junior everything will be alright, think again. That’s only half the battle. The other half will have to be fought right in our own home towns.

In the words of Han Solo, ‘Don’t get cocky, kid.’ We’ve got a long way to go before we can rest.

Signs of the Apocalypse–Ultimate Poker Babes

I’ve said before that ours is an adolescent culture focused on the sex, simple answers, and mindless hedonism of the teen-aged years. It seems obvious to me when I see how we vote (and who we vote for) and what we like to watch on tv. Apparently, cable tv producers think so, too.

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (AP) — You’ll have to expose more than a poker face if you want a spot on “Ultimate Poker Babes.”The producers of “Ultimate Poker Babes” are looking for eight young woman to play strip poker as part of a pay-per-view cable series. Open auditions will be held Wednesday at a Hollywood hotel.

The poker babes don’t have to know the difference between a straight and a flush, but what they will have to do may make some blush.

The producers say those participating must sign an agreement to appear partially nude during the audition and the game.

As for poker prowess, the producers say lessons will be provided.

I like that last part. Lessons. We have our priorities, we do. Stripping comes first. The sacred game of Poker descends into Hell to play with Satan. Sad.

A Poem for Our Time

I find it very difficult to enthuse;

Over the current news.

Just when you think that at least the outlook is so black that it can grow no blacker, it worsens,

And that is why I do not like the news, because there has never been an era when so many things were going so right for so many of the wrong persons.–Ogden Nash

Culture Wars

Frank Rich: How (and why) the right is blaming Abu Ghraib on Time/Warner:

It sounds laughable, but it’s not a joke. Some of our self-appointed moral leaders are defending the morally indefensible by annexing Abu Ghraib as another front in America’s election-year culture war. Charles Colson, the Watergate felon turned celebrity preacher, told a group of pastors convened by the Family Research Council that the prison guards had been corrupted by “a steady diet of MTV and pornography.” The Concerned Women for America site posted a screed by Robert Knight, of the Culture and Family Institute, calling the Abu Ghraib scandal the ” `Perfect Storm’ of American cultural depravity,” in which porn, especially gay porn, gave soldiers “the idea to engage in sadomasochistic activity and to videotape it in voyeuristic fashion.” (His chosen prophylactics to avert future Abu Ghraibs include abolishing sex education, outlawing same-sex marriage and banishing Howard Stern.) The vice president of the Heritage Foundation, Rebecca Hagelin, found a link between the prison scandal and how “our country permits Hollywood to put almost anything in a movie and still call it PG-13.”

Women Blog, Too! 2

This week’s featured female blogger is ‘melanie’ of Just a Bump on the Beltway.

Melanie, like Seattle, posts long excerpts from articles or news stories she finds significant or telling. Saturday’s posts, for example, include an item that CNN is suing Florida for access to its ineligible voter list, an article on the breakdown of discipline in the White House, and a piece all but buried by the mainstream media that Pat Tillman was probably killed by friendly fire, among others.

Also like Seattle, she doesn’t write much, usually containing herself to a sentence or two after the excerpts, but what she writes makes up in pith and vinegar what it lacks in length.

On an NYT article about the sham ‘sovereignty’ in Iraq:

Good puppet press that it is, the Times is attempting to find the pony in a room filled with horseshft. The people of Iraq are not liable to be equally fooled. If Americans and the US press want to pretend that this fake sovereignty actually means something, than we can also pretend to be surprised by the violence which follows on.

On an Andrew Greeley essay on how the WOT makes us less safe:

This is the real story of the Global War on Terror: it’s all yack.

On Ashcroft raising the warning level without telling Ridge, whose responsibility it is:

If this is the best they can do to get the preznit re-selected, they should be displaid in public stocks on the capital Mall this holiday weekend. If I were voting for cheap goods like this, I’d rather head to my local dollar store. At least I’d arrive home with some new coasters or something similar.

She’s concise, well-informed, and sports just enough sass to be a fun read. A good way to start your day with a rounded look at what’s coming ’round the corner.

Denial Hurts the Military

Tom Engelhardt in his Dispatch titled ‘State of Denial: AbuGrabbed in Washington’ is taken by the level of denial in Bush’s ‘lackluster Iraq speech’ as illustrated by his promise (spurned by the IGC) to tear down the offending building as if it were the building that was at fault.

In terms of the President’s speech, the strangest thing about his prison offer is that he’s so ready to shuck blame for our torture regime (though not Saddam’s) off on the building itself.

The essence of whatever was “new” in his speech lay in odd lines that popped up every now and then and were clearly meant to pass for a reckoning with Iraqi reality. In half an hour of otherwise forward-thrusting turns of phrase, all few of these swipes at reality were cast in the passive tense as if, out of a blue sky, something — call it history, call it chance — had done George in. Our own President, it seemed, had been Abugrabbed.Here are more or less all of those lines:

“There are difficult days ahead, and the way forward may sometimes appear chaotic….In the last 32 months, history has placed great demands on our country and events have come quickly… History is moving and it will tend toward hope or tend toward tragedy.”

In other words, if it goes wrong, history’s what done me in.

Apparently they’re running out of individuals to blame and Rove has now decided to just blame ‘history’. ‘History’, after all, can’t talk back. History can’t defend itself or go on tv or testify in front of a Congressional committee or write a book explaining how the Bush Administration ignored its advice, denied its reality, and twisted its facts. From the Rove perspective, ‘history’ is the perfect scapegoat, especially if you’re busy re-writing it in your favor almost as soon as it happens.

When the President didn’t shift the blame for events to Abu Ghraib or history in the speech, he unerringly found someplace else for it to lie. On troop levels in Iraq, for instance, he had this curious comment:”Our commanders had estimated that a troop level below 115,000 would be sufficient at this point in the conflict. Given the recent increase in violence, we will maintain our troop level at the current 138,000 as long as necessary.”

Here he repays history for its indignities with a good, stiff jab to the jaw. At the Army War College, in front of an audience of military men some of whom must have been squirming with anger, he managed to wipe out his administration’s rejection of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki’s prewar suggestion that several hundred thousand troops would be needed to occupy Iraq. Now, it’s the “[military] commanders” themselves who made the only real mistake he manages to acknowledge, however indirectly — not Donald Rumsfeld or Paul Wolfowitz who laughed Shinseki out of the service. As it turned out, I guess, history (division of rewriting) had its uses after all.

The damage of denial grows by the hour and spreads from one area to another like weeds in a neglected garden. One of the most serious–and least talked-about–of its effects is liable to be on the state of the US military itself. When Generals like Tony Zinni and Eric Shinseki get fired for their honest evaluations and are promptly replaced by yes-men like Myers and Kimmet who will faithfully regurgitate the political-party line without questions, express no doubts, refer to no reality in their assessments beyond the capacity of the ‘presidential bubble’ to understand, you inevitably create a military unable to respond effectively to anything.

History has desperately tried to teach the Bushies a lesson or two, and it has been spurned like a clueless CEO spurns his tech expert because she’s an ‘egghead’ who doesn’t understand the cold realities of the business world; refuse to listen, though, and before long all your systems crash.

There are, as Wanda wrote, new stirrings about the necessity for a draft again to keep America’s many adventures around its empire stocked with a steady supply of cannon fodder, and it may come. But the alternative–and it’s happening right now–is even worse: a privatized army–highly paid mercenaries hired to do the dirty work in our colonies around the world as another George hired Hessians 240 years ago to put down the insurgency in that other upstart colony full of terrorists who fired at you from behind trees and then blended back into the population so you couldn’t tell who was who. Using mercenaries is a tacit admission of empire as well as an unavoidable signal that government has become a corporation and war is now a business expense.

The proud tradition of the US military, while inevitably marred from time to time by the political uses to which it has been put (see Gen Smedley Butler for detailed examples), has by-and-large been able to believe that it serves the nation’s interests for love of country, not love of money. What happens to that belief when it sees itself replaced by much higher-paid mercs in the field? when its logistics are serviced by corporate contracts given without a bidding process to companies that have ties to govt officials? when more money is thrown at the latest unworkable high-tech battlefield gadget while their health care, travel expenses, death benefits, hazardous duty pay, combat pay, and personal equipment budgets are being cut to the bone and their families are having bake sales to buy their body armor for them?

Recruitment apparently remains at its usual levels but the number of re-ups is diving toward the cellar. The call to help protect and defend our country is as strong as it ever was but when soldiers see how the Bush Administration is mis-using and abusing their sacrifices, many more than ever before decide they want out after a single hitch. The National Guard–a home-grown, part-time militia intended, like the Minutemen, for defending against an invasion–has become little more than the maid service for a stretched-thin military, filling in gaps, cleaning up after it, and getting no respect.

Once again, what has happened is the result of standard corporate attitudes held by the ex-CEO’s and high-level corporate flunkies with which Bush has filled the govt, men–and women, at least one–who see the military as they have always seen it: a corporate asset whose only legitimate use is to further their business interests, and to do so as cheaply as possible and shut up about it. Can it really surprise anyone that when young men who join believing they are serving their country discover that in fact they’re serving Halliburton, they turn away in disgust?

We are looking at the potential creation of a privatized, corporate military serving at the exclusive pleasure of the business interests of the dominant companies, a sort of US East India Company that is expected to function according to the highest corporate values: No military analysis is to contradict stated corporate policy; no military department is to exceed its budget and every budget is to be cut; anyone dissenting from the corporate goals will be considered disloyal, negative, and ‘not a team member’ and will be disciplined accordingly; no military employee is allowed to express a personal opinion not in line with the corporate agenda; all military employees must sacrifice any and all benefits for the good of the corporation; no corporate goal, agenda, or business plan is to be discussed by the employees in public or private; no employee below the executive level has any rights whatever beyond those granted by the corporation–and the corporation grants NO rights.

In short, we are witnessing the US military being turned into Wal-Mart, which Dick Cheney called ‘one of our nation’s best companies’, blithely ignoring little things like ‘its poverty-level wages, mistreatment of workers and repeated violations of…law.’

He claimed the company “exemplifies some of the very best qualities in our country—hard work, the spirit of enterprise, fair dealing and integrity.” He failed to mention the 60 federal complaints against the company for workplace violations, Wal-Mart’s decisions to lock workers into stores and charges that it doctored hourly employees’ time records in order to skimp on wages. Instead, he parroted the Wal-Mart executives, the same ones who are bankrolling the Bush-Cheney campaign, and called for “litigation reform,” saying the problem afflicting America is pesky workers who have the nerve to challenge corporate malfeasance in court.

If the BA is allowed to continue the way it’s going, the US military may well become the equivalent of Wal-Mart security guards. Does that make you feel safer?

Saturday Blog-Browsing

#Matt Yglesias at TAPPED on Mickey Kaus’ accusation that Kerry ‘flip-flopped’ on the question of putting more troops in Iraq.

Well, there was a third school of thought represented by George W. Bush, who exercized his patented strong leadership in times of change by refusing to acknowledge that the problem existed at all. As a result, the situation continued to deteriorate. Eventually, things got so bad that Bush was forced to cede political control to the UN in exchange for nothing at all.

#John McKay at archy finds a Hannity comparison between and the Ku Klux Klan wanting, and notes with satisfaction the IGC’s decision on razing Abu Ghraib.

#David Neiwert at Orcinus investigates the source of the BA’s decision to flout internmational law and comes up with a less obvious candidate than Alberto Gonzales.

However, I think that while the initial paper trail points to the OLC, there has to be at least one significant suspect as the actual source of this legal stratagem, namely, Solicitor General Ted Olson — Clement’s boss, and the architect of nearly the entirety of the Bush administration’s legal strategy in the war on terrorism.

Important reading.

#Stirling Newberry at BOP goes after NY Times ‘reporter’ and Chalabi/Mylroie/Rove mouthpiece Judith Miller and doesn’t mince a lot of words in the process.

Miller’s arrogance, to the point where one must question her sanity, is, lamentably, all too common. In a world of uncertainty, many people rise by making the best decisions, but many people rise by simply muscling their way to the table, grabbing other people’s chips, and betting on 22. Miller is one of these people, it is time to call security and take her out of the casino.

#Wanda at Words on a Page writes a heartfelt post about the rising spectre of a re-institution of the draft.

How do we face the reality that ‘staying the course’ means the probability of a re-instatement of the draft? How do we ask young men and women to go unwillingly to fight in a war they do not believe in or support? Are we prepared to face the disfranchisement of the thousands of young people who will refuse? The children of today are not as naively loyal as they were 30 years ago. Do you remember the nightmare that Vietnam wrought on this country? Fathers turned against their sons. Brothers against their brother. All for a war that in the end we lost. What did we accomplish? What are we accomplishing now? We are suppose to be bringing liberty and freedom to Iraq but we are willing to enslave our young to do so? That’s what the draft is, afterall, because if you force them go against their will, that is slavery.

#Jesse at The Gotham City 13 lays out the resume of the new Iraqi Prime Minister. It ain’t pretty.

#Alan at Southerly Buster, my second favorite Aussieblog, links to a Wall Street Journal article re-published on the Global Policy Forum website that proves all of junior’s protestations and promises today about ‘full sovereignty’ for Iraq was so much Bushwah.

This is just another proof of how incomplete the transfer of complete sovereignty is going to be. These tactics are authorised by by Articles 48 and 49 of the transitional administrative diktat. It’s only a guess, but I wonder how much of UN Envoy Brahimi’s difficulties in constructing a government are due to the CPA making these appointments over his head. The defence minister, for instance, has a fixed 5-year term and cannot be removed by the prime minister or the presidency council.Without basic changes, the interim constitution is simply unworkable.

#And Bert at That Colored Fella’s Weblog (who has redone his site again) has a long list of convincing reasons why Bush is at the bottom of a long uphill slog.

However, not on Bush’s agenda, but on the country’s schedule is the 9/11 reports and the Wilson Spy Scandal. Not to mention the ever-widening abuse scandal inching its way up to Rumsfeld and the coming toll of gas prices on a recovering economy – new job’s number box score. But, what of the recently penciled in Ahmed Chalabi? If he proves to be more of a media hound than Chuck Shummer, it should be interesting how the Right spins the elite Liberal media’s manipulation after supplying ample incriminating file footage of the future (now former) Hamid Karzai of the new Iraq.