31 August 2006

Offer to the sincere and decent Republicans

Doctor Brin, with another excellent essay, this one titled "TIME TO GET TO WORK" in regard to the upcoming November election.
In some ways, the coming November elections are more important than any presidential year that we have known. If ever there was a need for at least one house of Congress to be controlled by a different party than the one occupying the White House, this is that year.

Please. Even if you are a Republican... even if you (for some mind boggling reason) have convinced yourself that President Bush and his friends are doing a great job... even so please ponder how often you praised divided government back in the old Clinton days.

Didn't you (once upon a time) claim to believe that unaccountable and unquestioned power corrupts? That it will corrupt anybody, even your side?

Aren't you even a little disturbed by an administration that -- while controlling every single lever of power --has dropped over us a veil of secrecy deeper than we knew during the deepest depths of the Cold War? Take just one example. When one party in power feels free to abandon all of the contract and accounting and competitive-bidding rules, in favor of ten thousand "emergency" no-bid contracts... contracts that always go to their pals (coincidence!)... don't you think that somebody, somewhere, ought to be asking questions?

You won't see questions being asked in the present Congress of the United States, amid their pork barrel feeding frenzy. A Congress which has held fewer days in session, fewer committee meetings, fewer inquiries, fewer debates, and issued fewer subpoenas than any other in the last hundred years.

A Congress that intentionally dissolved all of its own nonpartisan scientific advisory staff, in order to spend ten years of dogmatic monomania, avoiding hearing anything that its leading members do not like to hear?

Is this really what you want? Even as a lifelong Republican?

Especially as a lifelong Republican? For a century, the great American political tradition was one of independent legislators, only marginally beholden to party leaders. Do you really want an era when The Party controls and dictates everything from on high? Didn't we see enough of that in the failed Soviet Union?

No, even if you despise liberals and hate Democrats, this is a time when the opposition simply has to be given some back some power. Enough power to throw open the doors and windows, to let in some light, to ask questions, hold hearings...

...and if those hearings uncover bad things, well? Do you really prefer that bad things stay hidden from sight, to fester and sicken our republic? Was all of your earlier, Clinton-era talk about accountability just a sham?

No, this is the time when even conservatives... that is, conservatives in the tradition of Dwight Eisenhower, Barry Goldwater, even Bob Dole... need to decide what's more important. Partisanship and endless "culture War"? Or letting some healthy light and air onto the nation's bitter wounds.

With the presidency not at issue... this is the time to overwhelmingly change our legislatures, demanding that they get back to business, back to supervision and professionalism and asking hard questions. Back to Advice and Consent.

Upon reading this, I thought our resident Neocon… …or any other die hard Republicans still in support of the Bush administration…

24 August 2006

If the average Californian doesn't like his congressman, the only option is to call the moving vans

Or just about any other state, including Arizona, as this well written Economist article titled Congressional redistricting or "How to rig an election" details:
All in all, reckons Charlie Cook, a political analyst, with four-fifths of the states having issued their new district plans, there will be fewer than 50 competitive races this time (meaning races in which the candidates are only a few points apart) compared with 121 ten years ago. Of those 50, only half will really be toss-ups. This is worsening existing trends. In 1998 and 2000, nine out of ten winning candidates in the House of Representatives won with 55% of the vote or more. That was the lowest percentage of close races of any election year since 1946, save one. In other words, redistricting is becoming a glorified incumbent-protection racket. And that is having all sorts of odd effects.

For one thing, it means the Democrats probably cannot take over the House this year unless a miracle occurs. The House will be decided by the toss-up seats. Roughly half of them are Democratic, half Republican. To overcome their current six-seat deficit, therefore, Democrats will have to take three-quarters of the closest seats — something they cannot do unless there is a dramatic change in the national mood.

The 2002 redistricting plans are making an already change-resistant Congress even more immutable. Only six sitting congressmen were defeated in the general election in 2000, a re-election rate of 98%. Such a result, which would hardly shame North Korea, is becoming the norm: the re-election rate has averaged more than 90% since 1952. Not surprisingly, congressmen are reluctant to leave their warm nests. Only 28 have announced their retirements so far, compared with 64 in 1992.

The combination of larger numbers of safe seats and increasingly expensive election campaigns is undermining the quality of American politics. There are now two categories of House races: the overwhelming majority, where the incumbent is a shoo-in and which national parties ignore, and a tiny number of competitive races into which the parties pour all their money and energy. Of course all politics is local. But in the current political arrangement, the local concerns of a handful of seats are inflated by a vast amount of national attention and end up deciding the balance of Congress.

Just examine the Arizona 2004 Congressional election results. The closest race was for the seat in the district which I reside, where Trent Franks coasted to a victory margin of 20%. The only seat seemingly in play for 2008, is CD8, for Jim Kolbe's soon to be vacated seat.

12 August 2006


Stealing a line from odious hate monger radio host Michael Savage, President Bush, in the aftermath of the arrests of 21 alleged extremists in Great Britain in connection with a plot to blow up US-bound commercial airliners, said "it is a “stark reminder that this nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom.”.

That remark drew attention from all sides — including domestic critics and Muslims around the world.

Fascism is defined as a "system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism". Now, one could make a great case for Hussien's Iraq as a fascist model, but a global set of jihadists, unified by what they view as an immoral enemy just doesn't fit. I'm not a fan of total societal subordination to theocratic edict, but it's not fascism.

The indiscriminate and inaccurate dropping of the fascist moniker serves the neoconservative movement in two-fold fashion. It fits into their "axis of evil" story and paints our side as lovers of "freedom", but more important it trivializes or conceals our own country's slow march to fascism, and state driven erosion of "freedom". Indeed, notable conservative luminaries argue for the end of "probable cause" and other neoconservative banner unfurlers believe the Constitution should be stomped over, all in the interest of a vague, perpetual "war on terror".

As an addendum here, checkout Why Hezbollah has "Rocketed" to Success.

The other night, as I watched the engrossing, if challenging, film Syriana, I was struck by the portrayal of the grim, shabby lives of the oil workers for the vastly wealthy Saudi families -- those "pliant dictators in oil-producing countries" enabled by U.S. intelligence operations, "the American penchant for military intervention," and Texan oil CEOs (whose idea of recreation is a canned hunt on Texas ranches, an apt metaphor for how they like to set up their business deals).

The CEOs, the Middle East dictators, and the U.S. and Israeli policy makers -- utterly removed from the low wages, terrible housing, lack of health care, and family crises of their worker bees (including minimum wage workers in the U.S.) -- think that military might, invasions, and submissive compliance of their own citizens, by ratcheting up fears of terrorist attacks, will keep their populations in check.

Syriana "opens with a shot of desi oil workers struggling to get onto a crammed Tata bus. Later in the movie, a shady oil company merger triggers layoffs. A Sikh foreman gets on a megaphone to Pakistani workers, telling them they've been fired, they must surrender their badges, and unless they find another job soon they have to report to immigration within two weeks and be deported."

In the Lebanon crisis, while the U.S., Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and other nations fail to "get it," Hezbollah has emerged victorious -- not because of its daily rain of rockets on Israel but because it has grown grassroots support in the alleys and streets of the less-advantaged Shiites of southern Lebanon.