Tuesday, November 27, 2007

So Quotas Are OK, Now?

A reporter from the Christian Science Monitor interviews Mitt Romney:

I asked Mr. Romney whether he would consider including qualified Americans of the Islamic faith in his cabinet as advisers on national security matters, given his position that "jihadism" is the principal foreign policy threat facing America today. He answered, "…based on the numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population, I cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified. But of course, I would imagine that Muslims could serve at lower levels of my administration."

So now Republicans are for quotas? Apparently so, given that, according to Mitt Romney himself, cabinet positions in a Romney administration would be doled out, not according to the candidate's qualifications, but rather according to the percentage of the population that shares that candidate's faith (and race? sex? sexual orientation?).

(Via: Crooks and Lawyers)

Monday, November 26, 2007

A few comments

I've been off the blog for a few days, so I'll just throw out a few pithy remarks concerning some of the items I've come across over the past few days that have caught my eye.

The first item of note is Fred Thompson's newest campaign commercial which features the Senator in a "local bar" setting casually chatting with the camera and delivering down home, common sense, wisdom on the hot button issues of the day (mostly immigration). Unfortunately, the guy really comes off looking and sounding as phony as a Bartles & Jaymes commercial from the 1980s, with even his "thanks for watching my message" postscript seeming to ape "Bartles & Jaymes" trademark "thank you for your support."

Through Andrew Sullivan I learned that Grover Norquist is endorsing a constitutional amendment to prevent dynasticism in American politics. It would prevent the children, siblings or spouses of presidents from immediately succeeding them. And while such an amendment could be debated on its merits, such a proposal is simply laughable coming, as it does from a man who worked tirelessly to promote the presidential candidacy of George Bush the younger in 2000. More likely Norquist is merely trying to sew seeds of discontent with Hillary Clinton's candidacy in a manner that he hopes might stealthily traverse party lines. In all honesty, I doubt there's a single seed of intellectual integrity to the man, or that he is capable of serious political reflexion and contemplation. Rather his single, overriding goal, his life's mission, his raison d'ĂȘtre is, always has been, and likely always will be the reduction of the tax burden on wealthy Americans. Everything utterance that escapes Norquist's lips, every flourish that leaves his pen is geared toward securing that goal. So: nice try, but no cigar.

Next was this piece in Slate concerning the politicization of the Thanksgiving holiday. It would be just as much a mistake to think of the trend as advocating the "Christianization" of Thanksgiving as it would be to view the whole "war on Christmas" polemic as promoting the same (let's face it, neither of the two holidays has any strict Biblical basis, which is why some ultra-fundamentalist Christians eschew Christmas and "Satan Clause"). The simple fact is, the debate has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with the politics of divisiveness. The Right in this country long ago realized that the way to forestall measures that would promote social and economic justice in this country is to divide the working class among religious and racial lines. Recently other issues such as sexual preference have been added to the mix, but the essence of the strategy remains the same. As long as the lower classes can be set at war against themselves, the Republican party can prevent them from demanding fair wages and universal access to health care with a unified voice (and a unified vote). Sorry for the Marxist rhetoric, but despite the spectacular failure of centrally planned economies, much of the Marxist critique of laissez-faire Capitalism and the dehumanization effects it has upon labor (AKA: people) remains just as valid as ever.

More recently I stumbled across this video clip from an interview that Charlie Rose conducted with Karl Rove. Rove has a new book out and has been hired by Time magazine to write a column of political commentary. The brand of commentary that Time can expect is likely foreshadowed in the interview in which Rove, quite stunningly claims that the Bush administration would have preferred that the 2002 Iraq war authorization vote not have taken place at the time it did to avoid the sense that it was being politicized in the context of the upcoming elections. And while I am prepared to believe that the administration would have preferred the vote not take place, the idea that the administration eschewed politicizing the impending conflict is simply laughable. Assuming that the administration did, indeed, wish to avoid such a vote, the motives were more likely driven by a political calculus that saw the Democratic party as more vulnerable to defeat if such a vote had not yet taken place. This is because it would be easier for the Administration to attack vulnerable Senators (and to a lesser extent congressmen) as being too pacifistic to protect the country from "the immediate threat of Saddam Hussein's Weapons of Mass Destruction" (or somesuch) before they'd had a time to vote to authorize the president to takes the measures he saw as necessary. And while I would have much preferred a bold and coordinated strategy of defiance (and a little backbone) from the Democrats, however their far less praiseworthy strategy of voting to authorize the war likely prevented a few more Senators from suffering the same fate as Max Cleland, the Vietnam Veteran double-amputee who was defeated in his reelection bid by an opponent who questionaed his commitemnt to defend the country and ran ads featuring side-by-side images of Cleland and Osama Bin Ladin.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

What's the best thing about Thanksgiving this year?

Fox News with egg on its face:

The details from James Fallows.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

What you're allowed to believe...

As one who's been following the recent happenings in the Republican presidential primary I've come to a curious conclusion about what you're allowed to believe and what you're not allowed to believe if you want to remain a member in good standing of the Republican party.

What you're not allowed to believe is that American intervention abroad in any way contributed to the events of 9/11. See, that's Congressman Ron Paul's position and a principal reason why he wants to withdraw the U.S. from Iraq. He feels that, by waging a "pre-emptive" war of choice against a Muslim country that had nothing to do with the events of 9/11, we are generating the sort of hatred abroad that could well come back to haunt us sometime down the road, culminating in another terrorist event on U.S. soil. But that's also a principal reason why Ron Paul is reviled within his own party, why his supporters have been banned from Republican leaning discussion forums and why he's only polling around 3%. Apparently, to be a Republican in good standing you have to believe that the U.S. was attacked because terrorists hate out freedoms, and even the least interventionist foreign policy imaginable would not have prevented the World Trade Center attacks.

However, being a Republican in good standing with the party does not mean that you must ascribe sole responsibility for the events of 9/11 to the terrorists themselves. You can still blame America if you want, but you have to ensure you blame the right people in America. U.S. foreign policy is off-limits, but U.S. domestic policy is fair game. So its OK, for instance, to say that 9/11 was, in part, God's punishment for our society's permissive attitudes toward gays, toward abortion rights, and toward the separation of church and state. The latter is what Pat Robertson believes. And today, the front-runner for the Republican nomination, Rudolph Giuliani, who leads the Republican field with 10 times as many supporters as Paul, won a prize he's been eagerly and relentlessly pursuing for the past few months: Pat Robertson's official endorsement.

So again, for those of you keeping score. If you're trying to prove your GOP credentials:

Not OK to believe: U.S. foreign policy breeds the sort of resentment that manifest itself on September 11, 2001.

OK to believe: U.S. society's permissive social mores provoke an angry God who responds by green-lighting the sorts of terrorist events we witnessed on September 11, 2001.
And that, my friends, is today's GOP.

Monday, November 5, 2007

American Hero

John Stewart's been a hero of mine for a while, but even moreso now.

In a show of solidarity with his fellow scribes, the Daily Show host has told his writing staff that he will cover all their salaries for the next two weeks, according to a well-placed source. He has also vowed to do the same for writers on The Colbert Report. A Comedy Central spokesman referred my inquiry about this to Stewart's personal publicist, who has yet to respond. Stewart's intention, says the source, is to ensure his writers will face no financial hardship should the strike, which kicked off at 3 a.m. local time, conclude within that timeframe

Friday, November 2, 2007

Let them [the kids] eat lead.

Just a few days ago we learned that the head of the Bush administration's Consumer Products Safety Board was lobbying congress not to increase funding of the agency and expand its oversight capacity. This was stunning for many reasons, chief among them the long list of tainted consumer products that have been showing up on retailer's shelves these days (Halloween teeth made in China and colored with lead based paint being the most recent example) . Indeed, in an atmosphere of evident need for greater scrutiny and regulation, how could the agency in charge of regulation and inspection reject expanded funding?

The reasons, of course, are principally ideological. Nancy Nord, the head of the agency, was an industry lobbyist before taking the reins at the CPSB. She's just another example of this president appointing an agency head who is fundamentally opposed to carrying out that agency's core mission.

What's more interesting is that today it has been learned that Nord has accepted some 30 travel junkets (to places such as beach resort Hilton Head, SC) paid for by the industries she supposedly regulates. What's most amusing, however, is the explanation for accepting these dubious gifts:

Government-wide travel regulations state that officials from agencies such as the CPSC should not accept money for travel from nonfederal sources if the payments "would cause a reasonable person . . . to question the integrity of agency programs or operations."

But CPSC officials defend the industry-paid trips as a way for the agency to be in contact with manufacturing officials and hear their concerns despite a limited travel budget.

So a few days ago the agency was rejecting an proposed increase in funding as somehow detrimental to the agency's core function, whereas today the agency insists that agency heads were forced to accept travel gifts from industry lobbyists due to the agency's limited funds?

Pretty much what you'd expect to hear from a Bush appointee.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Whohoo, Iraq

Everything's going great in Iraq as evidenced by the rush of career State Department diplomats scurrying to secure one of the prestigious few remaining postings there. No doubt the ambassadorship will be handed over to the next party's biggest and bestest campaign contributor.