Sunday, May 29, 2005

Modern Memorial

I was out the other night and met a couple of Marines who were out during fleet week.

After talking for a couple and learning they had served in Iraq, and were heading back soon. I thanked them for their service, saying that I had no way of knowing if my thanks were important, but that we appreciate their sacrifice on our behalf.

One of the Marines looked at me with a tear in his eye and said, 'you have no idea how much that means to us to hear.' It turns out that many of them had come to New York expecting to be villified. One of the guys I was talking to had recently been back home to Boston and had been asked to leave two bars.

I explained that my friends and I had been discussing that (despite being liberals who were againt them being sent to war) we hoped they were treated with the respect they deserved in our city. What's more, I feel like my duty to those serving in a war that I disagree with is to try and protect those soldiers.

These men went to war because the only way for us to be safe is to have soldiers who know how to follow orders. It is our job to make sure that their effort is not wasted. It is our job to keep the government and the military honest, to protect these soldiers and to keep the institution intact for those who may want to serve in the future.

That's my duty to the young officer from a little town in KY who had a week off from service and was scared to come to New York in a completely different way than he was scared to go to Iraq. Our soldiers deserve better.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Taking What Scraps We Can Get

So this is our victory.

Bush gets 5 of the 7 through, and we put the Religious extremists back in their box until the midterm elections. Most importantly, we prevent a Chief Justice Scalia...

It sucks, but you know a deal is fair when both sides are upset.

The best might have been the Nuclear Option losing on a floor vote, but the Senate would be forever scarred by the process. Plus we were taking the chance of losing, and losing our opportunity to block a Supreme Court justice.

One of the best things that comes from this resolution is that Frist didn't lose to Reid, he lsot to the moderates. If there was any chance for him to save face and be Senatorial (though I'm not holding my breath) is to have the perceived weakness coming from his own party. What's more, we no longer need to worry about President Frist - though McCain is looking more and more realistic, and he didn't need any help. But he still needs to win the primaries and the Religious Right will be gunning for him. 2008 is going to be a bloody Holy War on the right, and I can't wait for it. Also nice to see Rove's newest golden boy go down.

I'm beginning to think that this was Reid's intention. As much as these nominees are abhorrent and represent a horrible lack of jurisprudence, we have reserved the right to find someone to overrule them. By forcing this to a showdown, and getting to show that there are moderates in the GOP we force Bush to tread a little more lightly. I think this incident might show Bush that he can't force through Social Security reform.

We also have created a new group of Republican Senators (6 or 7) who are going to be attacked viciously by the Right, hopefully making them more amiable to compromising with us in the future. What's better, they're going to be slandered and beat up in their primary races by extreme conservatives - exposing the party for who's in control and weakening the downticket candidates.

On the Supreme Court seats, it does seem to me now that the Dems who didn't vote against Alberto Gonzales' Attorney General nomination were preparing for this. They see him as a somewhat safe option (as he is not an extremist) and felt that if they kept him clean through the nomination process then he'd be safe for Bush to nominate for the Supreme Court. I really appreciate the principled opposition that came from Boxer to oppose his nomination, but he might have to be what we have to settle for.

We'll have to take what we can get.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Nazis Are Bad

So I’ve been chastised in the past by my comparisons of the Bush administration’s tactics to those of Hitler prior to the holocaust. I recognize that evoking Hitler and/or Nazis is inherently inflammatory and a loaded reference, and this automatically undermines my intended meaning.

With the current Senate impasse, I'm now able to better articulate what I was thinking of by way of the idiotic Senator Santorum (who compared Democrats to Hitler in a bizarre reference to bombing Paris) and Senator Byrd (who spoke of the Nazis as totalitarians and compared their actions to those of the Republicans). This is where my comparison lies, not in the actors but in the state they sought, a totalitarian regime. Thanks to Hullabaloo for the link and helping me to put this in perspective. The following is a quote by Sen. Byrd:

But witness how men with motives and a majority can manipulate law to cruel and unjust ends. Historian Alan Bullock writes that Hitler’s dictatorship rested on the constitutional foundation of a single law, the Enabling Law. Hitler needed a two-thirds vote to pass that law, and he cajoled his opposition in the Reichstag to support it. Bullock writes that “Hitler was prepared to promise anything to get his bill through, with the appearances of legality preserved intact.” And he succeeded.

Hitler’s originality lay in his realization that effective revolutions, in modern conditions, are carried out with, and not against, the power of the State: the correct order of events was first to secure access to that power and then begin his revolution. Hitler never abandoned the cloak of legality; he recognized the enormous psychological value of having the law on his side. Instead, he turned the law inside out and made illegality legal.

People want to see Hitler as pure evil and beyond the pale so they are inherently reluctant to equate anyone with his reputation as they feel it exaggerates the person being attacked and minimizes the evil of Hitler. This is a fair point. In fact, people who are active in online forums mention how any Internet debates inevitably degenerate into name calling with the argument being lost by the first to resort to calling their opponents Nazis.

So perhaps we should call Nazis totalitarians and point out how they created a totalitarian state.

I could go on and on about the similarities, but the bottom line here is that Totalitarians consolidate power by appearing to act within the rule of law while subverting the rule of law. Saying that the Senate should break the rules in order to enforce the rules shows just the sort of capriciousness that has typified the current Right Wing. The only important rules are the ones that support their worldview.

So what’s the point, don’t believe the rhetoric – these people will not stop until they get their way. The centrists in the Senate are seeking to strike a bargain – whereby 5 of the 7 contested judges would get to serve as long as the Republicans removed the nuclear option from the table. And what do the Young Turks on the Right do? They claim that the fact that we’ll compromise shows that our motivation is solely political and shows the Dems hypocrisy. There are a responsible group of centrists (on both sides) looking for a solution and everyone knows in a compromise both sides sacrifice. But the mainstream on the Right sees weakness in compromise, and try to take advantage of it.

These people want nothing less than control of everything in government, yet they’re savvy enough to know they must use a pretense of legality in order to keep the public pacified. We must deny them the right to use that pretense.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

It's about checks and balances

I have never been prouder of a politician who represents me than I was with Chuck Schumer yesterday. Taking the floor of the Senate yesterday, our senior Senator took up the debate.

The most salient point that the Senator made was about the Republican Senators’ voting record on Bush’s Appeal Court nominees. Sen. Schumer put up a sign that read 2703-1, and explained that this is the cumulative voting record for every Republican Senator on Bush’s Appeals Court nominees.

He went on to explain who the one down vote was from, Trent Lott. The down vote was in response to a black judge that Clinton had nominated to the 4th Circuit but had never had an ’up or down vote’ when Bush took power. Bush renominated, and Lott voted against the nomination. This is not advice and consent; as Schumer said, this is a RubberStamp.

Is there not one Republican Senator who had any qualms about any of the nominees? Or is the party machinery so strong that no one would commit the political suicide of speaking out? Or are Bush’s nominees really that perfect?

Speaking after Senator Schumer was Senator Conrad Burns from Oklahoma who has a stunning 4 months in office that clearly qualifies him to obliterate the rights of the minority in the Senate. Burns went on to tell us that all of Bush’s nominees were eminently qualified to serve and that every single Republican has supported them as they reviewed their record and decided they wanted them to serve. This is not about 55 drones taking marching orders from Karl Rove, but 55 principled men and women who are so principled that they have identical principles. In fact, if 55 of our ‘leaders’ think the same, I guess we can imply we should all think the same.

How are we to know that these Senators are doing their job, actually considering the candidates?

I guess we’re to presume that since Bush deigned to nominate them, and he was elected president by an overwhelming 1% margin (dripping with sarcasm), he made sure these candidates really represented the values of this nation.

Or maybe, just maybe, the Senate has lost its spine and is about to hand over its constitutional authority to advise and review to the White House. I’m sure they’ll be rewarded by more money from the fundamentalists – and be even more beholden to them next time they ask for a favor.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

You've heard the talk about the nuclear option?

UPDATE: I've anchored this post at the top of the page since it is giving a background to the posts that follow it, after we see how things play out, I will let it move down the page. If you've already read this post, please check below for newer posts.

Basically, Bush renominated 5 very conservative Appeals and District court judges that the Dems filibustered last session. They passed in committee and now they are being debated on the floor.

After the standard debate time of 50 hours (they're working on two nominees right now so it'll be 100), Frist will call for a vote of cloture. When the Dems attempt to filibuster, he's going to claim that the filibustering of nominees is unconstitutional as Senate has the right to 'advise and consent'. He's claiming this means that each candidate needs a vote as per the constitution.

Cheney will make a motion as President of the Senate that this is correct and then there will be a vote as to the Constitutionality of the filibuster. Simple majority wins, so the Dems need to get 6 GOP Sens to vote against it. Currently, the count is at 8 or 9 that may vote with the Dems, I think that McCain and Chafee are the only ones on record that they'll vote against, but McCain sounds like he's backtracking.

If the rule is found unconstitutional, then a simple majority will be able to place any nominee. Traditionally, rule changes require a 2/3 majority, but this is a move to work around it. If the change occurs, the Dems are threatening to slow or halt all unnecessary legislation by taking advantage of their right to each speak an hour before each vote. Every minor bill will therefore have to sit on the floor of the Senate for at least 22 hours, grinding things to a halt.

While this will supposedly only apply to judicial nominees, who's to say it stops there (a la Lakoff's 'Right Wing Power Grab'). This will essentially turn the Senate into the House of Representatives where a simple majority will rule.

The debate over the two nominees (two women, one black - look how inclusive the GOP is!!!) started today and there is going to be a lot of angry rhetoric before the moment of truth comes next Tuesday or Wednesday - check out CSPAN when you have some time, it's pretty fascinating.

Bottom line, Frist is taking his marching orders from James Dobson of Focus on the Family on this one, with the implicit understanding that this will ensure him the fundamentalist vote when he runs for Prez in 08.