Thursday, July 28, 2005
The Mouth needs a vacation
And now, the mail
My posting yesterday on the Democrats' search for identity elicited some responses. One reader, while agreeing with my contention that we need to focus on economic issues, isn't so sure about what my idea of steering clear of social issues:
I agree that while Clinton was on to something with "It's the economy, stupid", let's not forget that the Republican party has been really successful pulling out the Rove bag of tricks. Targeting middle America, they struck a core with subliminal messages such as "The Dems might have your wallet concerns, but look who they are, i.e. fags, atheists, pot-smokers (wink, wink). If they can hit a core with not just the economic concerns but also the social concerns (crime, abortion, ect.), then they might get back on track. The key is appealing to middle America. They already have the coasts.
I agree that we need to take a very centrist position on social issues. On the other hand, I don't think Middle America is as strongly Republican as they would like us all to think. One can look simply at the narrow margins in many heartland states to see that. Also, I don't believe we'll ever out-NASCAR the Republicans, so why try? Besides, why would we want to?
I'm certainly not the first to contend that a new political order seems to be works. Some call it the religious vs. secular or the Christians vs. God-haters. I would describe it more aptly as the orthodox and ideological vs. the pragmatic and reasonable. You can see this as old-line southern yellow-dogs go Republican and as a large segment of the wealthy take rather liberal views, both economically and socially. It'll be interesting to see how where this winds up.
A conservative reader had this to say:
Well written Mouth. But let's remember that, now, more than ever, you Dems are the party of Ted Kennedy, Al Gore, Michael Moore, Al Sharpton, Strom Thurmond (still), Barbara Boxer, Sheila Jackson Lee, and many other hate sputing far left wacko extremist. Guys like Joe Lieberman never stand a chance in your party, and well, the reason Clinton made it was because he could be all things to all people at any given time.
The Democratic party will remain the party of the far left until they start embracing "family values." I can't tell you how happy it makes me every time Howard Dean opens his mouth, and Michael Moore steps up to a podium. With leaders like those, you're sure to take the back seat in American politics for a while to come.
If we are the party of the far left, then I guess 48 percent of the electorate was perfectly comfortable with that last November. Now if we could just do something about the other 3 percent we need.
As you've pointed out, there are many Democrats who I'd prefer not to have associated with the party and whom I fear wield too much influence. Hopefully, some of the folks you mentioned will be more marginalized in the future. For the record, I like Al Gore, and frankly Ted Kennedy sounds increasingly reasonable and fair-minded considering some of the folks across the aisle.
Now allow me to list some folks who are among the top ranks of the Republican party: Tom Delay, Karl Rove, Grover Norquist, Jack Abramoff, Trent Lott and of course, our president. We don't have to look too far back in time to remember the foul and disgusting Newt Gingrich, Phil Gramm, Dick Armey, David Duke and all those crooks who served in the Reagan and Nixon administrations. I know you're proud of these folks and will go to great lenghts to defend them, and that's why the Republicans are in big trouble.
As for Strom Thurmond, I should point out he was highly dissatisfied with LBJ's stand for Civil Rights and left the party in 1964, deciding he would be more comfortable joining the Republicans in their stand for bigotry and intolerance.
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
A party that stands for something. Please.
Republicans justly point out that the Democrats never seem to have any alternative plan to the Bush administration's agenda. Obstructionism seems to be the end goal. Social Security certainly comes to mind as an issue where our obstruction has been merited, but not followed up with any meaningful ideas. You can also look at John Kerry's presidential run last year. His platform seemed to be I'm not Bush, so vote for me. A lot of Americans, many of them quite conservative, were highly dissatisfied with our president and actually looked to the Democrats for an alternative. Seeing little there, many held their noses and voted for Bush. What a squandered opportunity!
I bring this up as the Democratic Leadership Committee meets this week to try to figure out exactly what the party should stand for. We've been here before quite a few times. We know we don't want to return to our hippy-dippy wackiness of 1972. We also know we don't want to be the party of union thugs, urban machine crooks and populist pork-barrelers.
President Clinton deserves a great deal of credit in breathing life back into the party. He realized the importance of showing Americans that Democrats can be fiscally prudent, tough on crime and bold on defense, areas traditionally perceived as Republican strongholds. Unfortunately, Clinton was quite cozy with big business. His administration made the world safe for NAFTA, Clear Channel's near-monopoly of the public airwaves and the euphemistically named Freedom to Farm Act, which drove many family farms under and allowed the food giants like ADM and Tyson to grow even more intimidating. Through much of Clinton's administration, many liberals complained that it was like having two Republican Parties. Really, it's a wonder conservatives hate Clinton so much. I fear that as much as Clinton and the DLC helped shake much of the stigma attached to the Democrats over the last 25 years, their conservative approach emboldened and empowered the right-wing wackos to take over the GOP and push it to its current extremist position on the spectrum.
Standing in opposition to the DLC is the Howard Dean wing of the party, which he called the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. This group is fiery and defiantly liberal. They believe Democrats should take a stand for average Americans and fight for such issues as affordable quality healthcare, Social Security, and tax equity. I agree that these issues should be the core of the party's platform and my heart is often with this end of the spectrum, yet the left wing of the party is where all the ideologues reside, a group of people who can be every bit as tiresome and ridiculous as the kooks on the right. Here you find a bold stand for abortion rights, gun control and affirmative action, huge loser issues for Democrats that have cost us so much. We lost our southern base on these issues, and now we seem to be losing the Catholic vote. If nothing else, we need to ease up on our unyielding stance on these positions and adopt the kind of "big tent" approach of the GOP. Our other problem is Howard Dean, who fires up the base and alienates everyone else.
Although Clinton's actual policies didn't always show it, I think his '92 campaign people had it right when he said "It's the economy, stupid." In the long run, we need to focus on those issues that really affect middle-class America's standard of living and steer clear of unpopular stances on social issues. A renewed opportunity is presenting itself to Democrats. Most Americans remain unimpressed with the Bush White House and Republican Congress. Now the question is this: As the Republicans see diminishing returns from their unpopular platform, will the Democrats be ready to step in and offer anything else?
Sunday, July 24, 2005
Those @#$% latte-sipping, cabernet-drinking, bicoastal liberal faggots are persecuting us again!
In the meantime, a friend has sent me a piece praising Bernard Goldberg's book 100 People Who Are Screwing up America (and Al Franken is #37). You probably know Goldberg as the disgruntled CBS reporter who rebranded himself a right-winger so he could sell a lot of books saying bad things about his former employer. Anyway, this latest effort at sucking up to conservatives is a rather predictable Who's Who of every liberal hated by the right. You know, Michael Moore, Al Franken, all those Hollywood celebrities. The underlying message is the usual self-pity in which some conservatives enjoy wallowing, the self-aggrandizing delusion that they are being persecuted by "elites" on either coast.
So what do the Fed's report on poor job growth and Bernard Goldberg's flimsy little book have in common? Really, nothing, or at least they shouldn't, except that one can see the standard shell game the Republicans have been playing for many years now to sway the same average folks whom they screw year after year. Forget about the dwindling number of good jobs. They would rather we not consider that Bush's first term showed the first negative job growth since Herbert Hoover. They don't want us to dwell on the fact that instead of using President Clinton's budget surplus to fix Social Security, Bush chose to hand it over to the super-wealthy as tax breaks and further endanger Social Security by proposing some ridiculous private investment scheme. They don't want us up in arms over the high cost of healthcare or the administration's record on the environment or workplace safety. In fact, they would rather we forget about the endangered status of the American middle class, altogether. Instead, they say, let's just focus on Alec Baldwin, the "tenured radicals" in the universities and anybody to whom you can attach the adjective "latte-sipping."
I think Molly Ivins summed it up best when she said, "Keep your eye on the shell with the pea under it." Your well-being and the nation's should come first, and the pundits' attempts to divert attention from the real issues are nothing but cheap politics. Quite simply, they know they haven't got a chance with most Americans when it comes to the issues that really matter, so they throw out red flags and red herrings like Janet Jackson's nipple, gay marriage and flag burning.
This was the essence of Thomas Frank's 2004 book What's the Matter with Kansas? He asks the question, how can so many Americans sell out their best interests in the face of cheap hot-button demagoguery and this kind of calculated reverse snobbery? Throw out a few platitudes about family values or express outrage over rap lyrics and many Americans will hand over the keys to their own demise. Frank puts it best here:
"The trick never ages; the illusion never wears off. Vote to stop abortion; receive a rollback in capital gains taxes. Vote to make our country strong again; receive deindustrialization. Vote to screw those politically correct college professors; receive electricity dereulation. Vote to get the government off our backs; receive conglomeration and monopoly everywhere from media to meat packing. Vote to stand tall against terrorists; receive Social Security privatization. Vote to strike a blow against elitism; receive a social order in which wealth is more concentrated than ever before in our lifetimes, in which workers have been stripped of power and CEOs are rewarded in a manner beyond imagining."
Bernard Goldberg's list illustrates Frank's point (and mine) perfectly. It's made up of the usual suspects designed to send many right-wingers into a frothing rage. Many of these people I dislike myself, like Paris Hilton and Eminem. But seriously, how do these two bozos affect your immediate and future well-being? Other names on the list are calculated to press the hot buttons of some red-staters' insecurity, the idea that somebody in Manhattan might be looking down on them (Why they should care, I don't know). Simply mention the name Barbra Streisand, and so many conservatives fly into a rage. Associate a liberal position on any issue with people sitting in hot tubs and many votes are guaranteed. Goldberg shows his ham-handed desperation at making some kind of point by putting some of the farthest-out, most wacko liberals on his list, a transparently cheap tactic that would be akin to my arguing that Tim McVeigh proves the sinister nature of conservatism. I wouldn't do that; not only would that be unfair, but I need only point to the White House and Congress to show you how far out and extreme the right is these days.
One listed name in Goldberg's book that's especially laughable is Jesse Jackson; for years I've referred to the right-wing outrage machine's pundits as the Jesse Jacksons of the right for their incessant need to dredge up isolated outrages. In the right-wing example, isolated instances of buffoonery and idiocy are thrown out and tied together as alleged proof of a vast conspiracy to undermine America. If you've listened to any of these guys on the radio for more than 10 minutes, you know what I mean. Have you heard about that principal in Florida who wouldn't let a student bring her Bible to school? Did you hear what those PETA protesters in San Francisco did? I can't believe that Harvard professor who compared the U.S. to Nazi Germany! And so forth.
In the meantime, the Federal Reserve's outlook on job growth in America isn't improving any, nor is the outlook for middle-class America. But you'll never hear that from ace reporter and media critic Bernard Goldberg. He's too busy reporting on more important matters, like how much he hates Michael Moore.
Quotes of the Day
"What if you said something like, if this (a terrorist attack) happens in the United States, and we determine it is the result of extremist, fundamentalist Muslims, you know, you could take out their holy sites."
- U.S. Rep Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., advocting a bombing raid on Mecca.
"I wonder: Am I the only one who feels that lately - 'lately' described as, 'since Sept. 11, 2001' - the nation seems overrun by yahoos?"
- Syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts on Tancredo and his ilk.
One reader responds to my calling President Bush a "lying sack of you-know-what."
I thought you weren't calling the President a liar?"
Whoops. Well, I guess that makes me a lying sack of you-know-what.
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
At least it's not Priscilla Owen
He's certainly not the man I would pick to defend our Constitution, but knowing Bush as we know him all too well, he could have picked a real whackjob extremist. I think we liberals were flat-out expecting that. Roberts is certainly conservative, and if appointed, I'm sure I will disagree with him frequently. At the same time, he seems to be a conservative like Rehnquist, and not a conservative like Scalia. In other words, the sum of his opinions puts him somewhere on the right, but he's not an activist pushing some ideological agenda.
Examining Roberts' record briefly today, I couldn't find too many instances of frightning rulings or tortured logic exercised to fit a preconceived end goal. On some of his decisions where he has fallen on the right, I would actually agree. I'm opposed to abortion. I think race-based affirmative action is unfair and should be based on one's economic background. I also think the forced busing of the '70s and '80s severely undermined public education and ripped apart our cities.
Still, a few bits and pieces from Roberts' past have trouble me. He is reported to be actively involved in the Washington Legal Foundation, a right-wing group that appears to be pro-big business to everyone else's detriment. Click here to see what they stand for:
As part of the Reagan-era Justice Department, Roberts supported a 1980 Supreme Court decision diluting the Voting Rights Act and claiming that it was OK to discriminate during elections as long as you didn't mean to. As acting Solicitor General under George H.W. Bush, he argued in court in favor of mining 4,500 public acres in which recreational activities were ongoing. As a private attorney, he successfully defended Toyota in a workplace injury claim, essentially arguing that carpal tunnel syndrome does not entitle a worker to workplace accomodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Roberts also filed an amicus brief in a case
Roberts' paper trail isn't anywhere near as frightening as what I know we would have seen with some of the others Bush was considering for the Supreme Court spot. Enough is there, however, to make me quickly realize that this guy probably wouldn't stand in agreement with some of the values I hold dear: stewardship of the environment, justice and a fair shake for average Americans. Besides, how sad is it that we have a president who stands so far off on the political spectrum from where average Americans stand that we're relieved that Bush nominated a garden variety right-winger and not an orthodox radical?
Also troubling is the thinness of his record. There doesn't seem to be much there to examine. Could we be confirming a stealth radical? That's certainly how Bush ran his own 2000 election campaign. On the other hand, he could be a sore disappointment to conservatives. Much to their consternation, they have a lengthy track record of nominating pragmatists in ideologues' clothing. Consider Earl Warren and O'Connor, for examples.
For now, Roberts seems to be about as good as we can expect. The old-line liberal organizations, the ones who send you mail with screaming warnings if you've ever donated as little as $1 to a leftist cause, are naturally outraged and vocal already in their opposition to this guy. I'm not exactly thrilled, myself. But who did they expect, Hillary Clinton?
That's the percentage of Americans who think the president is trustworthy, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center, down from 56 percent in April. By contrast, 46 percent of Americans find Bush to be a lying sack of you-know-what. OK, actually I believe the poll results merely used the expression "not trustworthy." The "lying sack of you-know-what" part represents my own biased opinion.
That's the portion of self-described Republicans who think Karl Rove should resign, according to the same poll. Thirty-nine percent said he should not. So much for Republicans standing up for values, huh? An additional 42 percent of Republicans couldn't turn off "Nanny 911" long enough to form a coherent opinion.
That's the portion of Americans who have a favorable opinion of daily newspapers, according to the Pew Center's polling. How can this be? According to the right-wing spin, America has given up trust in the mainstream media and has decided to use Sean Hannity as a primary news source. Also, 54 percent of Americans say these so-called liberal rags are too easy on Bush.
That's the percentage of those who believe the war in Iraq has actually made us less safe from terrorism, according to the most recent CNN/Gallup/USA Today poll. Forty percent of Americans believe that the war has kept us safe from the evil-doers.
The Mouth and his friends have been engaging in some lively debates lately, especially over God and politics. Click on "Comments" at the bottom of each day's posting to see what folks have to say. I hope you too will participate in our discussions. And don't forget to keep reading and to tell your friends about The Mouth. Before long, I'll be able to count readers on both my fingers and toes.
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Examining the architect
It was a minor, rather juvenile stunt from Rove, then a disciple of Donald Segretti, Nixon's "dirty tricks" operative who ended up in prison over Watergate. But it serves as a harbinger of bigger, grander political misdeeds to come over the next 35 years as Rove rose from College Republican rabble-rouser (Lee Atwater was a close CR colleague) to the GOP's head smear artist and sleaze peddler, the amoral bad cop behind Presidnet Bush's magnanimous-sounding good cop. Rove, of course, has surfaced as the shadowy figure who outed Valerie Plame as a CIA operative. Everybody figured as much, and this certainly isn't the first time we've heard about Rove and his rotten tricks. But this time is different. Rove's e-mail regarding the Plame outing serves as a smoking gun, perhaps the first time we've ever gotten the goods on this guy, who never leaves fingerprints.
Of course, Republicans and conservatives make excuses and moral equivocations, while silently keeping their fingers crossed that the whole thing will blow over, and they can again fall back into their old means of winning at all costs. A curious worldview for people who say God is on their side. One letter writer to this blog stated last week, "I really think that your bitter, bitter hatred for Pres. Bush, Tom Delay, Carl Rove, or anyone else who progresses the policies of the Republican party is just..well, sour grapes." I appreciate the statement as it fully illustrates the moral relativism and ethical double-standard that serve as a rhetorical crutch to many Republicans and conservatives.
So am I just full of sour grapes, or am I correct in saying that Rove years ago crossed over the line into what any reasonable American would consider sleazy and immoral? Funny thing about Rove. He's so good at what he does, you never can prove he did it. Yet Rove always seems to be hanging in the shadows when these things happen. Is it any coincidence that when he's running a campaign, the sleaze begins to gush forth? Consider:
*In 1986, mere weeks before the Texas gubernatorial election, Rove announced that bugging devices had been found in the offices of hs client, Republican candidate Bill Clements. Nobody ever determined that incumbent opponent Mark White's people ever had anything to do with the bugs, and a strong suspicion exists today in Texas that the bugs were planted by Rove himself. But the resulting damage of the accusation served as a contributing factor in White's defeat. Clements who had already served one term as the state's chief executive, went on to cement his place in history as one of Texas' worst-ever governors.
*In 1994, Karl Rove ran the campaign of Republican judicial candidate Harold See in Alabama. Rumors began ciruclating that Democratic opponent Mark Kennedy was a child molester and had used a children's welfare nonprofit as a front to mask financial misdeeds. A Kennedy campaign commercial showing him holding the hands of the children he was helping through the nonprofit was used as evidence to support the child indecency allegations. Kennedy ultimately won, but barely.
*In 1994, Texas voters began receiving telephone calls asking this question about Democratic Gov. Ann Richards, who was running for her second term against George W. Bush: "Would you be more or less likely to vote for Governor Richards if you knew her staff is dominated by lesbians?" This of course is an example of a "push poll," a fake poll that is not intended at all to measure voter sentiment but is merely designed to plant negative thoughts about an opponent in voters' heads. These polls have been a tactical mainstay for Republicans and conservatives. In this case, it helped to defeat Richards and send Bush on his ascendancy to the White House. By the way, who was Bush's campaign manager? Why, Karl Rove, of course.
*Rove is believed to be behind the 2000 smear campaign to discredit Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., as he ran against Bush for the Republican presidential nomination. Whispers passed along the Beltway grapevine and out into the media accused McCain of fathering an illegitimate black child (In truth, McCain adopted a black girl) and willfully consorting with his North Vietnamese captors when he was a POW.
*During the 2000 elelction debacle as Florida bureaucrats were bumbling their way through their vote count, Rove loaded buses with "protesters," essentially a group of Beltway Republican insiders pretending to be an angry mob of "disenfranchised Republicans," and held a "protest."
I could go on and on. In researching this posting, I was confronted with an embarassment of riches when it comes to examples of Rove's deeds. It's no wonder that Bush's nickname for his head thug is "Turd Blossom." I certainly can't argue.
And if you think that Rove is just some campaign operative who then goes away after the inauguration, you thought wrong. This guy is very much a part of Bush's inner-circle with a real influence on the policies that come out of the White House. Next to Dick Cheney, probably nobody has as much sway with the president as Rove.
"Karl is enormously powerful, maybe the single most powerful person in the modern, post-Hoover era ever to occupy a political adviser post near the Oval Office," former Bush adviser John Dilulio told Esquire magazine after he resigned in 2001.
I'm sure some angry conservative will respond with the usual litany of obfuscation and deflection. You know the old story. The Democrats are no better. Everybody's doing it. Well, what about Bill Clinton? And so forth. I would respond with a question I ask often, If conservatives are the Godly paragons of moral virtue they claim to be, when do they plan to start acting like it? Indeed, we shall know them by their fruit, not to mention the company they keep.
Read more about it:
Here's a transcript of PBS "Frontline" episode on Rove. You can also watch the actual episode:
Now I'm not saying rotten.com is the most trusted source of journalism in America today, but they did put together a good factual bio on Rove:
Britain's liberal Guardian newspaper had this good article:
Numbers, numbers, numbers
-The portion of Americans who think the Bush administration is cooperating with investigators over the Plame leakage, according to an ABC poll released yesterday, down from 47% when the inquiry began last September.
Quote of the Day
"If someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration."
- President Bush on Monday, revising his statement last month that he would fire anyone associated with the Plame outing.
"It appears that an administration that came to office promising 'honesty and integrity' and to avoid 'legalisms' is now defining ethical standards downward. In this White House, apparently no aide will be fired or forced to resign unless and until the jail cell door is locked behind him."
- Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich, on Bush's announcement yesterday that Rove can be as sleazy as he wishes as long as he doesn't break the law.
Monday, July 18, 2005
You lose again, Missouri (and again, again and again)
From day one, Matt Blunt has boldly and bravely stood up to average Missourians, determined to conquer their unreasonable and outrageous demands such as access to healthcare and honest, open government (please note my June 26 posting "Missourians Blugeoned by a Blunt"). As I recall, Blunt's victory margin was less than one percentage point. But like his role model in the White House, neither a slim margin nor low approval ratings (35 percent for Blunt this month!) should ever deter the ideologue from defeating the selfish special interests of regular working folks. His untiring commitment to improving life for the downtrodden underdogs of corporate Missouri - homebuilders, insurance companies and railroads, to name a few - is truly inspiring.
Let's examine his ongoing efforts for further inspiration:
1) Blunt signed a law making any complaint filed with the Missouri Department of Insurance a closed record. Until now, complaints against insurance companies have been a matter of public record here in Missouri. Essentially you, the average citizen, could request access to any complaints filed against any insurer. I myself have examined such records when purchasing an insurance policy to ensure that I'm dealing with a reputable company. Well, not anymore. You lose, Missouri.
2) Blunt signed a law prohibiting discount brokers from placing a homeseller's property on Multiple Listing Service for a one-time fee. This service has allowed a homeowner who wants to sell his own home an opportunity to bypass real estate agents, yet have his listing out there for the public to see it. Now a homeowner who wants an MLS listing must go through a traditional agent, who inevitably will insist on an exclusive contract and a cut of the sale. The bill was so egregiously anti-consumer and anti-competitive that the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department requested a veto from Blunt. But the Missouri Association of Realtors ponied up $50,000 in a one-time lobbying fee to Blunt family friend Greg Hartley, a former top aide of the gov's dad, U.S. House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo. Hartley, it should be noted, has close ties with Tom Delay and lobbyist/crook Jack Abramoff. You lose again, Missouri.
3) Blunt signed a law requiring that a homebuyer can't sue a builder over shabby construction without first allowing the builder to fix the problem or mediating the dispute. On the surface, the law sounds commendable, but it requires the buyer to jump through an interminable series of legal hoops, and if the i's and t's aren't dotted and crossed perfectly, the homeowner's right to a fair hearing in court is forever forfeited. Yes, I'm afraid Missouri that you lose yet again.
4) Blunt remains hellbent in his efforts to give away a bridge on Missouri's Katy Trail to Union Pacific Railroad. For those not from Missouri, the Katy Trail is a hiking and biking trail on abandoned Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad right-of-way, running across the state from St. Louis to Kansas City. The trail is hugely popular and a national treasure. The one gap in its length is an abandoned lift-span bridge over the Missouri River at Boonville, where the middle span has been raised indefinitely for 20 years. The city of Boonville has raised money to fix the bridge for public use, but Blunt stands in the way. He insists on handing the bridge over to Union Pacific (which owns the bridge, but legally must keep it in place as long as the rail line is used as a hiking trail). UP wants to tear down the bridge and sell it for scrap, and it's probably no coincidence they've hired an active Republican fund-raiser, Ted Kettlewell of Fulton, as a contractor to do the job. We learned yesterday from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Blunt has ignored and tried to hide legal advice from a lawyer he hired to study this affair who said that the bridge should not be removed. Missouri, you haven't lost this one yet. But you might still.
Now lest I beat up too much on the Boy Governor, let me take issue with the Democrats. The first three items I've discussed here deal with legislation passed by the state's General Assembly. None of these votes broke down on partisan lines. In fact, the real estate listing law passed unanimously. Where the hell are the Democrats when we need them? We know where the Republicans stand. Are we to assume that we now have two parties who care not a lick about the average Missourians best interests?
"While I didn't invent negative politics, I am among its most ardent practitioners."
- Lee Atwater, architect of the GOP's ongoing strategy of dirty tricks and skullduggery.
Saturday, July 16, 2005
Great commentary on capital punishment. All too often, the conservative evangelical Christian's logic on capital punishment is stupefying. What we are really telling society is that we would rather dispose of the murderer than rehabilitate. That he is beyond society's help. Thank God that Jesus Christ did not have that attitude with the human race. Let God be the sole ultimate authority on the disposal of life. Capital punishment does nothing but fulfills the base human instinct of bloodlust, and weakens society's value of life.
Thanks, TD. Isn't it funny how so many self-professed Christians never seem to ask the WWJD question?
Frequent reader and infrequent sleeper Brian M. went on quite a letter-writing binge in the wee hours of this morning. Unlike the average right-wing pundit, I'm an equal-time kinda guy, so I'm going to let him have his say today. He had this to say about l'affaire Rove.
O.k., lets get this right, shall we? You say in your blog that Pres. Bush said that he would fire anyone who was involved in a leak, and then you directly quote him as saying he would "take care of" anyone who "violated the law." The next time you speak for the President, please be sure to use his words, and not yours...
Yes, indeed, let's get this right. I said the Bush administration vowed to fire the leaker, not President Bush, himself. To support that, I quoted Scott McClellan who said, "If anyone in this administration was involved in it, they would no longer be in this administration."
Brian M. writes on my quote from Grover Norquist who likens bipartisanship to date rape:
You know, I have to say, if you think about it, that is quite a acute statement. For quite a while what seems like a minority of us conservatives have been warning Pres. Bush not to "get in bed" with you dems. Bush, being the conciliatory and warm hearted person he is, assumes that you dems are o.k. (which, on a personal level, many of you are), and that if he just opens himself up to you, and spends some time getting to know you (date), then you'll be reasonable and we can work together despite our differences. But alas, time after time our President has asked you Dems in for a nightcap only to be raped. President Bush, hear this clearly, "When it comes to politics, Dems are not your friends!"
I give President Bush lots of credit this week for his bipartisan solicitation of input into whom he should nominate to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court. I hope it results in a candidate who pleases reasonable Americans. But prior to this week, please give me one example of an attempt Bush made to reach consensus with opponents in a gentlemanly way, instead of his usual means of running them over with his bulldozer approach - an approach that doesn't seem to be working too well these days.
Brian M. responded to my quoting of Rush Limbaush, who said that Christian liberals hate God:
Hmm...well, if this is an accurate quote, (and, I actually doubt that it is, since Rush seldom discusses anything concerning religion) I'll have to disagree with Rush. Although, while there are Christians on the left, it is a comfortable HOME of those who despise Jesus Christ.
The Mouth doesn't make up quotes; right-wingers ensure that I never need to. Now, who exactly are these people who you say despise Jesus Christ? What did they do, disagree with you and James Dobson?
A second letter on religion addresses my thoughts on capital punishment:
Concerning your comments on the death penalty...yes, there are problems with the execution (no pun intended) of the death penalty. However, lets not throw the baby out with the bath water. The death penalty, instituted by the God of the old and new testament for the Isrealites, is not only an instrument of order, but of justice. While I'll agree with you that justice is not, and will not be perfectly just in this world, God has set forth those in authority (governments) to establish order and justice on this earth (Romans 13:1), and, according to the NEW testament, carry out that justice with the SWORD. I'll include the actual text here for the benefit of our nonchristian friends:Romans 13:4"But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he [the government]does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer."So, there is your one verse justifying capital punishment. AND, I have to say, that I did not see any argument against capital punishment in the verses you included. If you'll be more specific, I'll be glad to address the passages. For instance, I'm guessing that you're arguing that Jesus was against the death penalty because he sent away the guys wanting to stone the prostitute. However, an understanding of Hebrew law shows this not to be the case (and the fact that Jesus did not tell them not to prosecute the girl, but rather disqualified them as judges). The law of Moses reqired two or more witnesses for someone to be put to death, (Deut 17:6; 19:15; Matt 18:16; John 7:51; 8:17,18) and, by this account, there were no witnesses.(By the way, I am against cap. punishment on the basis of circumstantial evidence or on the basis of one witness) Further, because the stoners had not brought the male adulterer (death for both participants was mandated for adultery (Lev 20:10, and Det 22:22)), the woman could not legally be stoned, even if she did have two or more witnesses, and this also showed the stoners true intent of trying to trap Jesus.
You make very good points. Regarding Romans 13, is this sword to be taken that literally as a means of capital punishment or is it symbolic merely of punishment? As for your interpretation of Jesus and the prostitute spared by the stone, do you really think this story is included in the Bible to merely illustrate some technical point of law? I think Jesus had a much a larger picture in mind, and I don't really see Jesus as a legal nitpicker.
Brian M. also is shocked and dismayed that I dislike President Bush:
What a sad, sad commentary for you, Mouth, that you have such disdain for what may be the most God fearing President of the 20th and 21st Century. I really think you need to examine your heart on this! I've seen absolutely no proof, or even evidence that suggest that President Bush has ever lied or played loose with the truth. Rather, he has been a man of his word, sometimes even to the dismay of some Republicans. Pres. Bush means what he says, and he says what he means (in quite a stark contrast to Clinton).
You criticize Republicans for calling Clinton a liar, but, the difference is, that Clinton IS a liar! Even Dems in congress marveled at how he constantly lied with such ease, and, we also know that he lied UNDER OATH!I really think that you bitter, bitter hatred for Pres. Bush, Tom Delay, Carl Rove, or anyone else who progresses the policies of the Republican party is just..well, sour grapes. You still think that somehow the election was stolen from you in 2000, and you're still shell shocked that, with the strongest push libs have ever even conceived, you lost again to Pres. Bush in 2004. Man, and..I can't imagine how much every thing inside you must scream out at the thought of us conservatives placing up to 3 Supreme Court nominees on the bench!Ease up Mouth! You may hate Bush's policies, and all the things us conservatives are doing, but just like you, he's a good guy, just staring down a different pair of spectacles.
Yikes. That must have been very cathartic.
I'm sorry you're so outraged at the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll numbers, which find that a plurality of Americans think the president isn't being very truthful. But why are you attacking me? I even went out of my way to state my opposition against calling the president a liar. I'm even on record on this blog stating strong dislike for President Clinton. Instead, you should direct your anger at the average American, who apparently doesn't mind calling Bush a liar.
I've noticed that it's 1:30 a.m. as you write this. I'm sure the late hour is just making you cranky.
Thursday, July 14, 2005
The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released yesterday shows that more Americans think President Bush is playing hard and fast with the truth, as opposed to those who think ol' W is the straight-shootin' Texan he pretends to be. Asked whether Bush is "honest and straightforward," 45 percent of those polled said he is not, while 41 percent said he is. Bush has suffered in this area since January when the same poll showed that 50 percent said he was honest and strightforward and 36 percent said he was not.
I think you know how I feel about Bush. I won't call him a liar, because I have more respect for the presidency than the right-wingers who threw every childish name they could think of at Clinton. But let me paraphrase Honest Abe and say that Bush shows his utmost devotion to the truth by using it sparingly.
As for Bush's overall job performance, numbers look equally dismal. Forty-nine percent of those polled expressed their disapproval. Forty-six percent said they approve of his performance. The same poll given in May found an even 47-to-47-percent-tie on Bush's overall performance.
“It’s a bad period for the president,” said Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, who conducted the survey with Republican Bill McInturff. Hart attributes Bush’s problems to “one part the economy, two parts Iraq, and one part everything else.”
Speaking to NBC News, Hart expressed surprise that Bush's numbers had not taken a bounce in the positive direction in the wake of the London bombings last week.
Lest we Democrats get too smug, respondents heaped equal amounts of scorn on both parties for their behavior and ability to get things done. To those results, I would echo a big amen. Let me put it this way: Currently, the Democratic Party is not as detestable as the GOP, but they're plenty awful, too.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Pro-life, even for the bad guys
Today I'm wading out against the overwhelming weight of popular opinion to discuss capital punishment.
I bring this long-running debate up today as headlines surface that we may actually have killed the wrong man here in Missouri a decade ago. St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce plans to reopen the investigation into the 1980 shooting death of Quinton Moss for which Larry Griffin was executed in 1995. Seems that a second man shot alongside Moss and who was never asked to testify at Griffin's trial says it was not Griffin who shot him or Moss.
Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee is considering a bill that would speed up the death penalty appeals process and make it easier to execute someone. In spite of all the highly publicized instance in recent years of innocent men freed from Death Row, our Congress wants to speed up the line to the gurney.
The reopening of Griffin's case is quite remarkable, and for Joyce to agree to this is quite laudable. Capital punishment proponents often make the factual, although dishonest, argument that no documented case exists of a wrongful execution. The reason this has never happened is because, until now, no official attempt has ever been made to investigate allegations that they killed the wrong guy. In fact, prosecutors on at least three occasions in both Texas and Virginia successfully fought to destroy possibly exulpatory DNA evidence after questions arose that they got the wrong man.
So let's quickly run through the arguments why capital punishment is a bad idea and flat-out un-Christian:
*It's quite easy to execute the wrong person. Although numbers seem to vary, we can document over scores of innocents who have been freed from Death Row. Some were placed there due to prosecutorial misconduct. Others landed there because they were represented by really bad lawyers. Do you really think that no innocent person has ever been executed?
*It costs too much to execute, what with years of appeals and whatnot. Let them live out their lives in prison. Sounds worse than death to me. For years, Texas lawmakers refused to enact a life-without-parole sentence, because they knew too many jurors would be quite comfortable with imposing it. As long as even the worst killer could be possible for parole in 40 years, lawmakers figured, jurors would be more likely to send them to Death Row.
*It's not proven to be a deterrant. I'm aware of no study that directly links raises in capital punishment with lowered crime rates. I've looked at a lot of studies today in researching this issue, and so many try to play games with cause-and-effect. They give arguments like the fact that crime went down in Texas as the Lone Star state's death machine cranked into high gear in the 1990s. Those researchers can't explain, however, why crime rates also fell precipitously in Michigan, a state with no death penalty, and New York, a state that enacted capital punishment in the '90s but has not yet used it. Were there other extraneous factors leading to this lowered crime rate? Probably so. Besides most murder are committed in passion and are not pre-meditated.
*It defies the teachings of Jesus Christ. Grab your Bibles and turn to John 8; Matthew 7; Luke 6:35-37; Romans 12:14-19. Death penalty advocates like to ignore these verses and take a pair of scissors to the Old Testament, picking and choosing the verses that best suit their agenda. The Hebrew law of the Old Testament and the teachings of the New Testament often appear to stand in opposition (Matthew 5; Galatians 3:21-25). I don't have all the answers as some Christians say they do, but I choose to err on the side of the New Testament, where I see not one verse justifying capital punishment and quite a few criticizing it.
*You cannot be pro-life and pro-capital punishment. To be truly pro-life means to oppose abortion, oppose capital punishment, stand up for economic and social justice, support only military action that passes the test of "just war" theory, and always fight for human dignity. So many professed pro-lifers try to rationalize capital punishment. They aren't really pro-life, merely anti-abortion. The right to life is the most basic right we enjoy; it applies even to bad people.
These arguments aren't necessarily the easiest to make. I admit that I sometimes feel great satisfaction when I hear that a thoroughly foul person has been executed. I would argue that this person even deserves to be executed. Still, for us to do it is wrong, and if we think we're satisfying agendas beyond bloodlust, we're simply lying to ourselves. I know I'm in the minority on this position, but let's see what comes of this investigation of Larry Griffin's case. You might be agreeing with me before too long.
Read for yourself:
Catholics Against Capital Punishment:http://www.cacp.org/pages/585134/index.htm
Open Hand Capital Punishment Page:http://www-personal.umich.edu/~spragge/capital.html
Capital Punishment in Missouri:http://www.missourideathrow.com/
U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics:http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/cp.htm
Since I believe in your free will to make up your own mind, here's a pro-death penalty page. The writer makes some good arguments, while sometimes resorting to predictable conservative name-calling:http://www.wesleylowe.com/cp.html
Texas is our most-frequent user of the death penalty. That state's Department of Criminal Justice has a heavily detailed page with all sorts of stats and info. on people who have been executed and who currently await execution. Ghoulish but fascinating:
The past couple of days, I've been sharing quotes from the Bush administration from a couple of years ago, showing their vow to fire anyone responsible for the outing of an undercover CIA agent. With Karl Rove's outing this past week as the leaker, here's what Bush spokesman Scott McClellan had to say yesterday:
"Any individual who works here at the White House has the president's confidence. They wouldn't be working here if they didn't have the president's confidence."
"Everybody who is working here is helping us to advance the agenda and that includes Karl Rove in a very big way."
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
Please pass the salt, or at least several grains of it
My intentions were not to deceive you, the kind reader. But in retrospect, I believe I should have discussed the background and motives behind the Center for Justice and Democracy, which financed the study. If you look on the group's web site, you will read that the organization's stated intention is to fight the tort reform movement:
That alone makes them less than a dispassionate, neutral party. Now, I don't think their interest in the matter makes this group sinister. In fact, I'm equally suspicious of right-wingers who doth protest lawyers too much. While, I do believe we need to attack the sleazy ambulance-chasing lawyer problem that detracts so much from our civic and personal lives, I also see the tort reform movement as a trojan horse brought forth by pro-industry right-wingers, who would leave the average American without recourse to fight corporate wrongdoing. Yet, the question remains, can we trust this study?
With that in mind, I took a look at CJD's board of directors, and these folks look fairly straightforward. I don't see any trial attorneys listed. I do see Erin Brockovich, that darling of the left and bane of the right; law professors from many of our top universities; and people who head consumer advocacy groups. I then took a look at the bios for each of the staff members, and their backgrounds seem to be in liberal activism and not tort law. So with these facts in hand, I gave CJD the Mouth's stamp of approval and offered their study on my blog as further evidence that at least some of the anti-lawyer furor is orchestrated and calculated to justify dubious ends.
This is a dilemma any responsible citizen makes in examining statistics and arguments from sources known to be less than impartial. Organizations with agendas are often not very trustworthy sources of information. Advocacy groups play games with the numbers and publish quite scholarly sounding "research" in which the gathered facts miraculously and precisely match the researcher's hypothesis. We find these studies to be laughably inept when they come from an outfit that opposes our perspective and worldview. How many times have we liberals shrugged off reports from the Heritage Foundation as propaganda? Ah, but when Common Cause speaks, the truth has thus been etched in granite.
Still, just because the research comes from a group that supports a certain cause do we summarily dismiss it? Just as I should have disclosed CJD's agenda on Saturday, was I equally errant in choosing not to add an item about the Parade magazine poll showing that 58 percent of Americans support stem cell research and only 29 percent oppose it? Such an item would certainly support the central thesis of this blog that our nation has been highjacked by right-wing ideologues. When I learned that the poll was actually commissioned by Research!America, an organization that strongly advocates stem cell research, I reluctantly deleted the item from that day's posting. In retrospect, I should have reported this poll, but merely disclosed Research!America's background. After all, Research!America is highly reputable and boasts a board composed of physicians and scientists from leading research institutions as well C. Everett Koop, perhaps the most trusted doctor in America.
So, here's my promise to you, the kind reader. I will continue to vet research and polls for reliability, discussing the ones I believe are reliable and leaving out the ones that are ridiculously partisan and ideological (Yes, even when they support my view). Regarding information from somewhat credible organizations with known agendas, I shall report what they have to say and disclose whatever agendas I might be privy to. I want you to always feel that I'm being straight with you, and that I will try never report questionable numbers or research. We'll let spin and partisan crap be the modus operandi of the right wingers.
A reader describing himself as a "Northside Mouth" had this to say about this blog:
Hey! I just started reading your blog today. Very compelling -- I look forward to keeping up with it
Thanks, Northside Mouth. Please do keep reading, and tell all your friends. I believe I now have more readers than fingers on either hand.
Quotes of the Day
Let's go back and recall what the White House said would happen to anyone found to have been behind the leaks that outed an undercover CIA officer:
"If there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated the law, the person will be taken care of."
- President Bush, Sept. 30, 2003
"If anyone in this administration was involved in it, they would no longer be in this administration."
- Bush spokesman Scott McClellan, Sept. 29, 2003
And what did McClellan have to say about Karl Rove's involvement at a briefing yesterday?
"The White House is not going to comment on it."
On our Republican-led Congress' silence in this matter:
"If there were evidence of such a serious breach during the Clinton administration , there is no doubt that our committee would have immediately demanded that the deputy chief of staff testify at a hearing. This would have been the right course of action then, and it is the right course now."
-Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.
Monday, July 11, 2005
Your right to know
It's gratifying to see those rare instances when liberals and conservatives unite for a common cause. It's also quite astounding when the larger principle is so profound that activists on the right are willing to take a stand against the president they so dearly love.
In this case, we're talking about the Bush administration's assault on the public's right to know how its government is conducting itself. You see, Bush and his cronies would prefer you not peer into the sausage-making process at the White House. Trust us, they say. We know what's best for you. More likely, the less you know, the more they can get away with.
Even conservatives say enough is enough and have stepped in with a bill before the Senate to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act, known as FOIA, which gives us Americans the right to request and view government records. Sponsor John Cornyn, R-Texas, is plenty conservative, yet as attorney general in Texas was very much a champion of that state's Open Records and Open Meetings acts (The Democratic co-sponsor by the way is Patrick Leahy of Vermont). In fact one of the bill's champions is the right-wing Heritage Foundation's Center for Media and Public Policy. These guys understand that we the people should never have to ask permission to know what the White House is up to. And the current regime has fought the public every step of the way.
We saw the Bush administration's willingness to conduct itself openly and transparently when it refused to turn over records from its Energy Task Force. We essentially know that the task force was little more than a platform for oil industry insiders to air their views with Dick Cheney providing the rubber stamp. We certainly know that no other interested parties such as environmental or consumer groups were invited to participate in the proceedings. However, we'll never know the extent of this lopsided gathering of input, because the White House doesn't want us to know exactly who attended these meetings. Apparently their Nixonian executive-privilege argument worked. In spite of attempts by the conservative organization Judicial Watch (You probably remember them for suing the Clinton administration almost weekly) to learn who exactly was invited to the task force meetings, the Supreme Court overruled and allowed Bush and Cheney to keep their dirty secret. Once again, the public loses.
We saw the Bush administration's contempt for our right to know when, during the weeks after Sept. 11, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft ordered that henceforth, the FOIA burden of proof would be placed on the person filing the request. In other words, if you request a government document you must prove which specific act of Congress, presidential order, whatever, allows you access to that document. Can you cite the cite the specific law that allows you to know what kinds of substances are coming out of those smokestacks at the edge of your neighborhood? I can't either. Bush and his pals know this, and they know that therefore, you'll be too flummoxed to even bother to ask. Ashcroft's ruling reversed Janet Reno's 1993 directive placing the burden of proof on the government. In other words, before 2001 all you had to do was ask for the document, and the government could only deny its release if there was a specific mandate preventing it.
Bush himself thumbed his nose at future generations' right to pass historical judgment when he issued an executive order in 2001 that denies access to presidential papers. The order came just as the National Archives was preparing to release Reagan administration papers and effectively revised the 1978 Presidential Records Act, a post-Watergate reform. We saw this disdain for public disclosure when Congress passed a law in 2000 in the wake of the Firestone tread-separation scandal that mandated manufacturers to publish safety complaints and claims and the Bush administration a couple of years later ordered a FOIA amendment to classify that information. Under Bush, the FAA now keeps secret most airline safety records that previously were available online. The CIA used state secrecy as an excuse to have a discrimination case dropped against one of its officers. In fact, the number of classified documents has risen precipitously under Bush. These days if Bush doesn't want you to see it, his people simply classify it.
"The Bush administration is mounting the most sustained assault on open government since the early Reagan administration or perhaps even since President Gerald Ford vetoed the FOIA amendments in 1974," argues Tom Blanton, director of the nonpartisan National Security Archives at George Washington University, told the right-wing Insights on the News magazine.
But when confronted with this assault on the public domain, then-administration spokesman Ari Fleischer said, "The press is asking a lot of questions that I suspect the American people would prefer not to be asked or answered." In other words, If you try to hold us accountable, you're a bad American.
We all know that a great deal of information must be kept secret for the sake of national security, and exceptions are always made for such things pending litigation, pending real estate transactions and personnel matters. However, these exceptions should always be few and far between. Knowing what our government is doing and how it conducts itself is an essential responsibility that comes with citizenship. Remember, it's your government, your tax dollars paid for those records, and you should see the documents that belong to all of us. If your government tries to keep you from knowing, you should ask, What are they trying to pull?
Secrecy is for losers, indeed.
Here are two excellent stories that encapsulate Bush's disdain for your right to know:
The FBI recently released reproductions of documents now available online. The documents come from the files of hundreds of people from celebrities like Elvis Presley to bad guys like Al Capone (2,400 pages on Capone alone!). They're fun to read, and you get details like, "(John) Lennon appears to radically oriented, however he does not give the impression he is a true revolutionist since he is constantly under the influence of narcotics." Click below to waste a great deal of time:
"Bipartisanship is another form of date rape."
- conservative activist Grover Norquist
Sunday, July 10, 2005
mail and more
One reader takes issue with my assertion that "so many conservatives have little grasp of the concepts of restraint and keeping a cool head." He responds:
What? Excuse me? Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! You know, I don't see conservatives causing disruptions at liberal meetings, or rioting at events, or throwing pies at liberals, or writing books with titles like "Rush Limbaugh is a big, fat idiot," but I do see liberals, festered with the hate that always seems to be present with their views, doing exactly these things. I think that perhaps you are, projecting.
The Mouth would like to argue that the crowd of anarchists and misfits who usually show up at these G8 meetings to disrupt otherwise peaceful protests represents the mainstream of liberalism the same way that the guys in white hoods burning crosses represent the mainstream of conservatism. The Mouth should also point out that of the thousands of people who marched in Scotland, only about 30 were arrested, demonstrating that the vast majority of these folks are law-abiding and peaceful. By the way Al Franken's book "...Big, Fat Idiot" is nine years old. Are you having to go back that far to find examples of liberal's not being nice?
A reader disagrees with my 4th of July prayer of thanks that our government traditionally has sought to stay out of religious matters:
Here we have a common misunderstanding that the government CAN be neutral on religion. Factually, the determined abscence of religion, is in itself a religion, atheism, as defined by the Supreme Court of the U.S. Also, while I would agree that God doesn't desire a government that "forces" one to believe in Him, do you think God, assuming that you're refering to Jesus Christ, would rather our nation not "take sides?" And, if our government is of the people, by the people, and for the people, and the people, that is, 90+% of them, at least proclaim to be Christians (obviously a much smaller % of them actually are), then shouldn't our government reflect that in its laws, its representatives, and its actions?]The constitution does NOT institute religious equality, but rather, religious freedom. I AM thankful for that, but I fear that if the trend of Judicial legislating at the Supreme Court continues, that eventually that will cease.]
Another reader disagrees with the above missive:
I do believe that God doesn't want us to take sides, if that means how we treat other people. Should I treat you better or show you more respect just because you are Christian?
The Mouth joins in: Just because a majority of us is Christian doesn't mean the government should recognize our religion as supreme. Instead of trying to use the government as a tool to further our own personal religious ends, perhaps we Christians should get off our lazy butts and work to change the world through our own hard work.
Quote of the Day
Yet more proof of the right's ugliness. I could easily add a quote like this every day.
"People are fed up and tired with the extreme radical fringe - America-haters, family-haters, Christian-haters."
-Genie Aldrich, organizer of a conservaitve film festival presented in response to Michael Moore's in Traverse City, Mich.
Saturday, July 09, 2005
Odds and ends
Yet another reason to hate Wal-Mart
We have known for some time about Wal-Mart's practice of posting fliers in employee lounges giving instructions on how to sign up for Medicaid, an obvious maneuver to shift the company's employee benefit expenditures onto us taxpayers. This morning, an editorial in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that more than 10,000 Wal-Mart employees in Tennessee and 12,300 in Florida are on the Medicaid rolls. We don't know how many Wal-Mart workers receive Medicaid in Missouri or how much this is costing us American taxpayers because not every state collects data on how many employees of large corporations receive Medicaid.
A bill before Congress, the Health Care Accountability Act, would require states to collect and publish the number of Americans who receive Medicaid yet work for large corporations who have the resources to provide benefits. The Post-Dispatch editorial reports that fewer than half of all Wal-Mart employees are enrolled in the company's health plan. Wal-Mart requires that full-time emplyees work for six months to be eligible for benefits, as opposed to the customary three months, and that part-time employees must work for two years. Part-timers also can never enroll family members on the company's health plan.
Certainly no law exists that any company provide health insurance to employees, but Wal-Mart's health care stinginess puts the company at a strategic advantage over competitors (mainly unionized supermarkets) who provide their employees with fair access to benefits. What kind of messge are these competitors getting from Wal-Mart? Screw the worker and win the free enterprise game? If so, how long can any of us expect to receive affordable and viable health care from your employer?
Seems that the Health Care Accountability Act would at least provide a platform to launch and focus dialogue on what to do with health care. It seems that corporate America has as much interest as anyone in doing something about this problem. But don't expect the bill to go anywhere. Its sponsors are all Democrats, and Republicans frankly don't seem interested in doing anything about widening accessibility to the quality healthcare all of us rightfully expect.
As for Wal-Mart's eagerness to lower costs by directing its workers toward Medicaid, the Post-Dispatch put it best: "Customers may be getting bargains at Wal-Mart. But they're paying for it on April 15."
Speaking of healthcare
We've heard about all these doctors who are forced to pay high premiums on their malpractice insurance, a problem often blamed on ambulance-chasing attorneys. Many physicians are forced to move to more judicially friendly climates to practice medicine while others have to drop specialties like obstetrics and rule out certain procedures. It's no doubt a real problem and a valid concern for the doctors and for us, the patients.
However, we learned last week that at least here in Missouri, doctors are being gouged by the malpractice insurers themselves. A study from a former state insurance director, Jay Angoff, and commissioned by the American Center for Justice and Democracy finds that malpractice premiums in Missouri have risen by 120 percent while claims payouts have risen by 5 percent. Insurers hiked their premiums even as projections indicated that in the future, payouts would be decreasing. The report goes on to note egregious examples of gouging from many individual insurers.
I have no love for sleazy trial attorneys, and I fully support the idea of capping medical malpractice awards. But do you think we should also do something about sleazy insurance companies? Hmmm. Just a thought.
Read the report in PDF form:
Or read about it in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
Quote of the Day
"The religious left . . . hates and despises the God of Christianity."
-Rush Limbaugh, who also asserted that liberals are "soulless" because "souls come from God."
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
The Mouth goes literary
"Cheney Says Iraq Insurgents Are in 'Last Throes'"
-by Calvin Trillin, reprinted from The Nation magazine
When rockets fly and battle smoke is thick.
It's good to hear from "Four Deferments Dick."
He's always sure. He knows what warfare is-
Enough to know it's not for him or his.
Insurgents somehow, though they're in the throes,
Kill more GIs - but no one Cheney knows.
A quick peek into the mailbag
Frequent reader Throat Deep responds to my Independence Day prayer from yesterday:
Excellent sumnation of our American Experiment. We are such a unique country with a unique history - we've changed the world in so many ways, mostly for the better. I hope we remember what our core values truly are...to practice what we claim to preach. Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. The forum to exchange ideas and create an atmosphere to become your most complete self.
Thanks, TD. Couldn't have said it better myself. Truly practicing what we collectively preach is the most American thing we can do.
Monday, July 04, 2005
A prayer for America
I am thankful to live in a country where every citizen has an equal stake, where everyone is invited, encouraged and even morally obligated to participate. I pray that every citizen may someday commit to this responsibility.
I am thankful to live in a country where everyone is encouraged to exercise his conscience be it politically or spiritually, where everyone is an equal partner regardless of his religion, where everyone can practice (or choose not to practice) without any fear that government institutions will take sides and declare this to be a nation by, of or for any particular faith. I am thankful that this religious equality is constitutionally protected and not merely a privilege given at the pleasure of the majority. I pray that we commit ourselves to Your principle and design of free will.
I am thankful to live in a country where a vast range of philosphies, creeds and political orientations fall within the realm of what one could reasonably call "Aemrican." I am thankful that I can speak out without fearing my words will be deemed un-American by any reasonable person. Moreover, I am thankful that my opinions can even be extreme (within certain limits) and unreasonable, and yet I am still an American. I give thanks that I need never apologize for my beliefs with the weak preface, "Well, I'm as patriotic as the next guy, but I believe..." I am an American, and I never need to justify my citizenship. I pray that we remain mindful that every American is entitled to his opinion, no matter how wrong they might be.
I am thankful to live in a country populated largely by reasonable, even-tempered people, slow to revolutionary destruction, quick to endorse pragmatic, peaceful governance. Sometimes, demagogues rise, but ultimately they fall, and the reasonable center continues its prevalance. I pray that we always remain a civil nation, united by moderation and temprance.
I am thankful to live in a country where I can peaceably discuss my views with fellow countrymen. Our arguments might be loud and sometimes angry, butI never fear violence or intimidation from those with whom I disagree. I pray that we rein in the often-uncivil discourse that has become all too frequent in our country and learn to speak more softly and listen more intently.
I am thankful to live in a country where upon earning citizenship, anyone from anywhere in the world becomes one of us and an equal partner in the American experience, where one can exercise the full set of rights and the same expectation of social inclusion that any native-born American enjoys. I am thankful that millions of people around the world hope and pray for this very opportunity. I pray that we always appreciate the value and richness added to our country by those who have come from other nations.
I am thankful to live in a country with a strong national conscience and resolve to do the right thing. At times in our history, we have inflicted gross and tragic injustices on others. I know that injustices continue today and will continue in the future. Still, our history has shown a consistent willingness to identify these wrongs, loudly and publicly debate them and then rectify them. I pray that we never lose this unrelenting self-criticism and commitment to justice.
Father, I pray that You find us in Your grace, not because of our hollow politicized words, but through our good actions and intentions, our commitment to justice, freedom, peace and life. I pray that we seek not to relegate You to our side, but to make ourselves worthy of standing on Your side.
In Your Son's name I pray,
Saturday, July 02, 2005
If you're a Molly Ivins reader, you know that's one of her favorite lines. And for good reason. If you're an American who cherishes fair play and justice, there's so much that should piss you off these days, and there's so little space and time to blog about it. And so much of it is that little stuff that maybe doesn't deserve much of my time or yours, but still gets under my skin. So today, let's see how many little things I can rant about today in as short a time as possible. OK, here goes:
A friend sent me a link to a Cal Thomas column calling for an end to the partisan sniping. Cal doesn't really call for an end, so much as he takes pot shots at liberals, then makes excuses for the GOP's meanness campaign that has gone on now for the better part of two decades, then finishes by saying let's move on to more important things like, say, getting to the bottom of why it took so long for Michael Schiavo to call 911 and whether Texas cheerleaders need a law preventing them from shaking their money-makers. Anyway, here's a link to the column:
By the way, no, we can't move on until right-wing pundits learn some manners.
That brings me to the topic of this MoveOn petition calling on all of us to exercise restraint and keep cool heads in response to 9/11. I know that many conservatives find that treasonous. They're having a field day with it, which doesn't surprise me considering that so many conservatives have little grasp of the concepts of restraint and keeping a cool head. The very suggestion that we should restrain ourselves from beating the first dark-complected person we encounter on the street or that we should attempt to separate the good guys from the bad guys before responding with devastating force is a betrayal to everything Godly and American, as many on the right see it. We might as well just sit in a circle and sing communist work songs with a bunch of terrorists, they tell us. Seems to me that cool heads and restraint are the most important attributes separating us from Osama bin Ladn. Ever notice that people who talk loudest about how much they hate the terrorists so badly try to take on some of their characteristics?
Instead of being pissed off, I was actually pleased to hear that Matt Blunt is one of only about five governors pushing for a state law reining in the use of eminent domain for private use, something that's grown out of hand and an abonimable practice the Supreme Court upheld last week. I hope something actually happens here, and it doesn't go the way of the Boy Governor's promise to "study" drug importation from Canada. Have I mentioned that I'm still pissed off that his staff never bothered to return my e-mail?
I was saddened to hear about Sandra Day O'Connor's retirement. While I disagreed with her on many occasions, I respected her intelligence and her common sense. It seemed like she consistently strove to navigate a reasonable middle ground that always managed to infuriate the kooks on both the right and left. If you're infuriating the kooks, you're probably doing a good job. I shudder at the prospect of what kind of radical idealogue Bush plans to nominate for a replacement. I'm sure Bush's choice will leave all reasonable Americans almost nostalgic for Robert Bork.
It's no secret that conservatives are outraged at the Supreme Court these days with murmurings about impeachment. Here's what I find odd. How can they be so unhappy when six out of nine justices were nominated by Republican presidents?
One last word on Cal Thomas. I saw him on Bill O'Reilly several days ago talking about how agrieved he is over this liberal media that we've been hearing is running roughshod over us God-fearing red-staters. As a case in point, he noted that Bill Moyers had only had him on "Now" one time and that he'd never been invited on "Meet the Press." This just proves that the left's pernicious agenda governs the mainstream airwaves, Cal said. To which I say, come now, Cal, is is liberal bias that keeps you off these shows or your utter predicatibility, mediocrity and complete lack of anything to say that's even remotely challenging or provocative? Be honest, Cal, do you really write your own columns or does Scott McClellan?
OK, I admit it. That last item was a little over the top. But it was therapeutic. I feel better already.
And now the mail
I thought I'd check in. I'm sometimes Left, I'm sometimes Right. I'm always Americian. What bothers me about the Left is that they never seem to step forward with a solution to the problems that the Right has created. I believe that had Kerry done this, he would be president today. What do you think?
Also, I think that the Left should promote for the general population the Thrift Plan that benefits Congress. The Left complains bitterly about Bush's plans for Social Security, but they never offer a good, solvent program such as their own Thrift Plan. The Left also complains bitterly of the energy policy, but they never seem to step forward and say, "we must conserve our way out of this mess." I really believe that if the Left would step up with postiive, productive plans, that the country would be better. What are your ideas on why this never seems to happen?
I think you make an excellent point. It's a matter that really frustrates me. It used to be that liberals had all the ideas, while conservatives sat back and smugly obstructed any initiative, but it seems these roles have reversed in recent years. I know so many centrists and even conservatives who last year told me they so desperately wanted to vote against Bush but justifiably felt that Kerry offered nothing but a choice as the anti-Bush. Feeling they needed something more than just At least I'm not Bush, these folks either stayed home or held their noses and voted for Bush. I suspect Democrats have been so badly beaten up over the last 25 years, that there's not enough organization these days to even generate ideas. I fear liberals and Democrats can expect to lose many more times unless we start thinking out what we ourselves would do with some of these key issues.