Adam Rice

My life and the world around me

Category: current events (page 6 of 18)

Who hates freedom?

So, in our “war” on terror (it’s not a war, it’s a “war”), against those who “hate freedom,” the current administration has curtailed the freedom of U.S. citizens. On that basis, it sounds like the other side is winning.

As part of this, err, war, about 400 men, some rounded up in conflict areas and some not, some of them citizens of our allies in this war, are being interned indefinitely at Gitmo under the convenient legalism of “enemy combatant,” freeing the administration from providing them with even the most rudimentary due-process rights accorded to prisoners of war. So they have no recourse to any kind of court where they might be able to contest their enemy-combatant status. We have only the current administration’s word on it that they are, in fact, enemy combatants. Who supposedly “hate freedom.” We’re not doing a very good job of showing our respect for freedom or even the rule of law. Their case is before the Supreme Court right now. The administration’s argument is that the courts have no review over the executive and legislative branches’ actions in matters of war. So much for that pesky checks and balances.

Meet the new jefe

So just a few days after the shocking bombings in Madrid, the ruling right-wing party, notorious for its support of the war, has gone down to defeat in Spain’s elections.

Although the government initially blamed ETA, the Basque separatists, it looks more and more like it was Islamic militants behind the attack. If nothing else, the fact that the date fell exactly two and a half years–or 911 days–after 9/11 seems too symbolic to overlook.

I ask myself how American voters would swing if this country suffered another attack right before our elections in November. Something tells me a large number of people would rally behind the president. Some swing voters would probably vote against him in disgust, and perhaps even a few solid Republicans would as well, but I feel there’s something fundamentally conservative in the collective American unconscious right now that would get people out to the polls to support the commander in chief.

The war with Iraq was much less popular in Spain (indeed, everywhere) than it was in the USA, and that might explain the difference, but I wonder if that’s all there is to it. I hope we don’t have a chance to find out.

I voted

For Dean. Hey, he’s still on the ballot, and he’s the guy I wanted to vote for. I realize the vote is symbolic, but perhaps not a completely empty symbol. Kerry’s got the nomination locked up, but at this point, every vote for someone else is a reminder to him: “Hey, there’s a constituency out here that you need to address.”

At the sign-in table, there was one Republican judge, one Democrat, and two other guys who didn’t have any party role to fill. As I walked up, one of them asked me if I was voting Democrat; another said something like “he couldn’t possibly be a Republican.” There was some more partisan joking. The lone Republican kept his tongue. This was the first time I could ever recall election judges publicly making partisan jokes, and I have to admit, it struck me as a little unseemly. But very interesting. I live in a pretty progressive neighborhood, and this seems like a sign that the general election will be extremely polarized (not that it would come as much surprise).

Putting gay marriage into perspective

An article in today’s NY Times does a good job of putting the debate on gay marriage into more productive terms, and comes to the same conclusions I do, but gets there by different means.

The writer, Nathaniel Frank, helpfully clarifies that the “for” and “against” sides are talking past each other–the against side pitches its argument in terms of marriage’s social role, the for side in terms of individual rights–and he points out that both aspects are relevant.

My main disagreement with Frank is brought into sharpest relief by this paragraph:

The argument is not so much that individual straight couples are threatened by gay marriage, but that the collective rules that define marriage are being undermined. Instead of feeling part of a greater social project that demands respect, people will feel that breaking their vows offends only their spouse, not the whole community. Knowing that their friends and neighbors no longer hold marriage sacred can make it easier for people to wander.

The problem with Frank’s argument here is that he fails to acknowledge that this dread is ultimately rooted in bigotry: if the “greater social project” is somehow debased by gay marriage, it is because some feel that homosexuality is icky, and do not want to be forced to acknowledge the legitimacy of a gay relationship.

For a long time, I was ambivalent about gay marriage: on the one hand, I was inclined to be tolerant, on the other, the idea inspired cognitive dissonance–it didn’t fit my notion of marriage. Then, about ten years ago, the Economist published a cover story (as they are doing again this week) making the case for gay marriage–“Let them wed” the headline read. And I realized that my objections were hollow.

Why does John Ashcroft hate America?

A pirate posting of a recent Vanity Fair profile of John Ashcroft makes for an interesting read (it’s long but worth reading–you might want to print it out). It doesn’t have a lot of profound insights, but it does have numerous alarming anecdotes from people who have worked closely with the man.

One point in particular jumped off the page at me, though:

He has supported an additional 10 amendments to the Constitution (including one to make it easier to amend).

Here’s the thing: America is an unusual country in that at its root, it is founded on a document, the Constitution. Older countries–France or Japan, for example–are at root basically big tribes: they are countries because there are more-or-less cohesive ethnic/linguistic groups within their borders. France and Japan have been through any number of different forms of government–monarchy, military dictatorship, republic, etc–but nobody would ever dispute that each was the same country throughout. Many newer countries, for better or worse, are artifacts of colonialism or European tussles, with artificially drawn borders that artificially group together nationalities that probably wouldn’t choose to share citizenship with each other. We saw that with Yugoslavia before, and we’re seeing this in Iraq right now.

The idea behind the USA is that people are made American by their choice to accept a certain set of rules for what it means to be American, and that set of rules is expressed in the Constitution. Change the Constitution and you change the country. Right now there are 7 articles and 27 amendments to the Constitution and Ashcroft would add 10 more? Clearly, he is not happy with this country as it is constituted and wants it to be something very different. Rather than radically change the country to suit his tastes, he’d be better off finding a country that’s closer to his liking and moving there. The rest of us would be better off, too.

Something to hide?

A recent Metafilter discussion on the rumor that dare not speak its name led to a helpful link to the Texas State Republican Party platform. What’s perhaps most interesting about this is that it is hosted at the Texas Democrats website; apparently the state Republicans have not made it public. One can only speculate as to the reason why.

It’s an interesting grab-bag. Following is my grab-bag from their grab-bag. These quotes are in no particular order and are not contiguous in the original.

Here are a few things that jumped out at me where I agree with them (at least with what they’re saying, if not the intent behind it).

A perpetual state of national emergency allows unrestricted growth of government. The Party charges the President to cancel the state of national emergency and charges Congress to repeal the War Powers Act and declare an end to the previously declared states of emergency.

We support regulations based on proven science and support congressional oversight over administrative edicts.[though something tells me they want to the arbiters of what’s “proven.”]

support…prohibition of internet voting and any touch screen voting or other electronic voting which lacks a paper trail

But the hateful, weird stuff is so much more plentiful. This is hardly complete–just the stuff that struck me as particularly interesting or evil.

We believe that human life is sacred because each person is created in the image of God, that life begins at the moment of conception and ends at the point of natural death, and that all innocent human life must be protected. [Note that all life is sacred, but only innocent life must be protected.]

The Party supports needed legislation to restore integrity to the voter registration rolls and to reduce voter fraud. Furthermore, we support the repeal of all Motor Voter laws [translation: we want fewer voters, especially black ones]

The Party opposes any so-called “campaign finance reform” [don’t you love the disdain?]

The Party urges repeal of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances law.

The Republican Party of Texas reaffirms the United States of America is a Christian nation [This makes me feel ever so welcome]

The Party acknowledges that the church is a God-ordained institution with a sphere of authority separate from that of civil government; thus, churches, synagogues and other places of worship, including home Bible study groups, should not be regulated, controlled, or taxed by any level of civil government, including the Social Security Administration and the Internal Revenue Service. We reclaim freedom of religious expression in public on government property, and freedom from governmental interference. [go ahead, put your megachurch in my neighborhood!]

Our Party pledges to do everything within its power to restore the original intent of the First Amendment of the United States and dispel the myth of the separation of Church and State. [yeah, where did that crazy idea come from?]

The Party believes that the practice of sodomy tears at the fabric of society, contributes to the breakdown of the family unit, and leads to the spread of dangerous, communicable diseases. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans. Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable “alternative” lifestyle in our public education and policy, nor should “family” be redefined to include homosexual “couples.” We are opposed to any granting of special legal entitlements, recognition, or privileges including, but not limited to, marriage between persons of the same sex, custody of children by homosexuals, homosexual partner insurance or retirement benefits. We oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values.

We also believe; that no homosexual or any individual convicted of child abuse or molestation should have the right to custody or adoption of a minor child, and that visitation with minor children by such persons should be limited to supervised periods. [note how gays get lumped together with child-abusers]

Because of the personal and social pain causes by abortions, the Party calls for the protection of both women and their unborn children from pressure for unwanted abortions. [pressure?]

Corporal punishment should be used when appropriate and we encourage the legislature to strengthen existing immunity laws respecting corporal punishment.

The Party believes that scientific topics, such as the question of universe and life origins and environmental theories, should not be constrained to one opinion or viewpoint. We support the teaching equally of scientific strengths and weaknesses of all scientific theories – as Texas now requires (but has yet to enforce) in public school science course standards. We urge revising all environmental education standards to require this also. We support individual teachers’ right to teach creation science in Texas public schools. [somebody needs to clue these guys in as to what is science and what is not]

A one world government is in direct opposition to the basic principles of the United States of America eroding our sovereignty and our goals for leadership in world affairs. [Funny, I thought Lyndon LaRouche was a Democrat]

Kevin Drum has a helpful shorter version of the platform

Talk about scandalous

In case you need any help decoding this story, the governor being mentioned is our own Rick Perry, who, as rumor has it, was caught by his wife in flagrante delicto with a young man.

Now what?

So Dean has dropped out. I think it’s a damn shame–I didn’t even get a chance to vote for him. Some people are pinning the blame on Joe Trippi for being out of his depth, others on other Democrat muckety-mucks to smack down the non-annointed and over-popular candidate. Both these arguments seem to have merit.

But Dean’s Internet-oriented organizing and fundraising approach has paid off for Ben Chandler of Kentucky.

The Wired article in the second link quotes the guy behind the Daily Kos as saying “What I fear is that candidates will see blog readers as ATM machines.”

It could happen, but I’m hopeful that it won’t. Implicit in making a pitch to bloggers is being responsive to them; bloggers are happy to say what they like and don’t like, and are accustomed to immediate feedback. So politicians start putting the touch on the blog community, I predict they’ll be held up to pretty close scrutiny, and will have to give something back.

The more interesting lesson here is that the Internet makes it a lot easier for a local candidate to raise funds from everyday people who aren’t in that location, but feel they have a stake in the outcome. I keep meaning to donate money to the guy running against Tom Delay…


I suppose I should be used to it by now, but I’m not.

When it comes to policy matters, the mainstream media will sit on its thumbs indefinitely, taking a position that purports to be objective but is in fact a form of cowardly post-modernism–that there is no true and false, no right and wrong, but that there are simply two sides to every story.

But when a juicy personal scandal comes along–one that is tangential or irrelevant to policy, then the press extends its claws.

I speak, of course, about Bush’s history in the “champagne unit” of the Texas Air National Guard, his, uh, undocumented presence for duty, and the newfound interest in it.

It’s a bit of a mystery to me why this wasn’t an issue in 2000, or before for that matter. It’s been known, and it’s been covered intermittently since then, with some interesting angles. Something–I don’t know what–poked the press in the side and whetted their interest in this. Which is fine in and of itself: as a bellicose president, Bush of all people should be held up for close scrutiny when it comes to his own military service. But there have been so many issues of more immediate concern during the past four years that went underreported that the renewed interest in investigative journalism comes across as tawdry.

It’s about fucking time!

So said Jon LeibowitzStewart of the White House press corp’s recent conversion from stenographers to journalists, with regard to the President’s murky National Guard service record.

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