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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Sleeping with the devil

More evidence that the Hard Right is adept at speaking out of both sides of its mouth (not that it hard to find that sort of thing these days).

Grover Norquist, whose "grass-roots taxpayers movement" Americans for Tax Reform proclaims itself the defender of the pocketbook of the average citizen, gets its dough from the other end of the lawn. And not just the tall grass, but the by exploiting players in the very evils the moral right professes to oppose -- gambling and smoking.

The Boston Globe also reveals that conservative political tenets, like scorn for trial attorneys, goes by the board when it comes to cash. Grover and his boys' largest single contributor is a trial lawyer who donated $4.3 million. Dickie Scruggs, the Mississippi Democrat who sues tobacco companies, was looking for a lobbyist to protect his settlements.

Coming days after Jack Abramoff, the pious pimp, learned he would be locked away for almost six years for shaking down Indian tribes (much the same way Grover does), this has to send an additional chill through the sanctimonious men who scorn liberals, sneer at our values -- all with the lucre provided them by corporate treasuries and the occasional self-serving Democratic snake.

Hypocrisy can only get you so far -- as even George Bush is learning.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A new attitude?

So is the Card resignation that sign of a new White House, ready to acknowledge its fallibility and work with others to get out of the mess created by its own incompetence?

I doubt it. It's more a reflection of the old line about smacking a mule with a 2-by-4 to get its attention.

The New York Times didn't waste a lot of verbiage to get to that point. David Sanger writes:

President Bush replaced his chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., with another longtime loyalist on Tuesday, a step unlikely to satisfy calls within his own party for fresh thinking to address the administration's troubles.

In turning to Joshua B. Bolten, his budget director, as the new chief of staff, the president stayed within what one close associate called a "circle of comfort" and what Mr. Bush's critics consider a closed world that brooks little doubt or dissent.

The Washington Post, in contrast, thinks the 2-by-4 may have done some good. Jim VandeHei writes:

... But the Card move is only the latest sign that -- with his presidency under the stress of low public approval ratings, an unpopular war and a stalled legislative agenda -- Bush is more often deferring to the expectations of Washington conventional wisdom.
The one constant the Bush White House and W himself has prided itself on is it knows what it is doing and everyone else is wrong. The fact that Rummy and Deadeye Dick are still influential -- never mind in Rummy's case still has a job -- is a reflection of that mule-like attitude. This move is not a sign of deferring to conventional wisdom.

Instead, it's a sign of that arrogant stubborness that says "OK, well maybe it's time to throw the critics a bone." Au revoir, Andy. But a sacrificial lamb is not going to cut it because the critics smell blood (three cliches in one paragraph -- yikes!)

Critics on the GOP side might actually become a teensy bit bolder (their own elections hang in the balance) and who knows, maybe Democrats will develop some nerve. Public opinion polls are unlikely to change much unless there is another cataclysmic event of the 9-11 type. And that leads us then to what happens as the intensity continues to build in anticipation of the midterm election.

Which begs the $64 trillion question: what about "Bush's brain"? As long as Karl Rove remains in the West Wing nothing is going to change. And unless Patrick Fitzgerald succeeds in frog-marching Karl out of the White House with an indictment in the Plame case, don't buy the idea that W is looking at anything close to fresh blood and a fresh start.

This Bush does not believe in kinder and gentler.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Not playing with a full deck

One less Card in the administration, but that's not going to change things a great deal.

Andy Card was the Quiet Man, the person who made the White House trains run on time. As long as Karl Rove remains in the West Wing nothing is going to change policy wise. Josh Bolten may as well be Josh Lyman as far as the change he will bring to an administration that is tired, out of ideas (and long since out of moral principles).

There was obviously quick speculation that Andy would come home and run for governor. Why? Kerry Healey has a better than even chance of winning the Corner Office. Card has been away from home for a long time and he is definitely not the same man who teamed up with current Democratic State Committee Chairman Phil Johnston to fight corruption. That Andy Card was a moderate idealist. He's long gone.

And check out Jon Keller's analysis of what Card's departure could mean to Massachusetts. It's a frightening but accurate scenario.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The next wedge issue

Republicans have a sixth sense that Democrats can only envy: when the smell trouble ahead, they know it's time to whip out a wedge issue and change the subject to the "moral values" they claim to represent.

It's been clear for some time that Republicans have a new issue to add to their pantheon of abortion, gay marriage and wardrobe malfunctions: immigration. Never mind that all of us, except Native-Americans are immigrants. The GOP feels they can win this election by getting rid of "those" people.

The Senate is prepared to discuss a bill that would allow "guest workers" to stay in the country for up to six years. Guest worker is the nice term that masks the reality that these are the people who handle the menial and back-breaking jobs that the rest of the public is alleged not to want. And of course they do it for menial wages, so employers can keep costs down and profits up.

But this is a far cry from the House-passed version, the Wedge Creation Act of 2006. Using xenophobia fostered by 9-11, the Hard Right House is proposing that we not simply do away guest workers. Rather, they would prefer we build a wall along our southern borders and make it a federal crime to live in the country illegally. (Memo to sponsors: have you checked the papers of your household staff?)

Funny thing though -- there are a lot of people who know they are being targeted as scapegoats in an effort to shift attention away from GOP stewardship of the war, the economy and the overall wretched state of the union. And they are making it clear they have no intention to take the blame.

The battle lines here are a bit odd. Bush, McCain and Kennedy are on the same side, as is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The other side is the hardest of the hard right feeding off the xenophobia they created in border states, using images of men in turbans sneaking across the border from Mexico and Canada to blow us up.

Of course their real target is the men, women and children who risk everything to cross the Rio Grande in the hope of a better life that might come from picking crops or cleaning bathrooms.

The cynicism of the anti-immigrant movement is breathtaking Take for example, Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR):

"These are a lot of people who don't vote, can't vote and certainly aren't voting Republican if they do vote," he said.
But instead of matching the cynicism, the other side is responding: with people and a show of outrage that far surpasses anything exhibited against the Iraq War. And there's some equally good rhetoric on this side.

"It's an entirely predictable example of the law of unintended consequences," said Joshua Hoyt, executive director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, who helped organize the Chicago rally and who said he was shocked by the size of the turnout. "The Republican party made a decision to use illegal immigration as the wedge issue of 2006, and the Mexican community was profoundly offended."
Watching this one play out will be fascinating. The wedge just might wind up heading in the other direction.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Moment of truth

The Bush administration is about to see whether it is going to get the payoff they were counting on when it packed the Supreme Court with John Roberts and Sam Alito.

There really is a lot at more at stake in this debate than the rights of Osama bin Laden's former chauffeur. Despite the repeated straw man argument raised by Bush and his cronies, liberals do not want to coddle terrorists nor do we believe that the government should not take all legal efforts to protect us from terror.

Where we draw the line is the word "legal." Liberals believe that we should not run roughshod over the constitutional rights we claim to be fighting for. That means no torture, no usurpation of power with the flip claim that "we're at war."

I wish I could be sanguine that the Supreme Court will agree. High courts, even "liberal" ones, have a history of siding with the executive, even liberal ones, in wartime, even if history later proves the decision to be morally wrong. Note the use of the word "hysteria" in describing the national mood then, a mood this administration has worked hard to foster.

Add to this the fact Roberts is already on record as siding with administration arguments in this case. While he must recuse himself, one can't help but be a bit concerned about the court's definition of recusal based on recent histories of Justices Scalia and Alito. And of course there's Alito's near-slavish devotion to executive power to consider.

With all these caveats, it is still hopeful that this court -- minus these two justices -- maintained some skepticism about administration claims of wartime power.

In the end it comes down to the basic question -- must we shred out rights in order to save them? I'd like to think the answer is no but we will soon arrive at that moment of truth.

Oh, that family!

Now we know which families are the focus of GOP efforts to promote family values.

This is such a tangled web that you need a bar chart to star to make sense of the interlocking pieces of sleaze.

And while you're at it, don't miss this plaintive wail from another one of the family advocates.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

They should have listened to Barry

"Sometimes I think this country would be better off if we could just saw off the Eastern Seaboard and let it float out to sea." Barry Goldwater, 1961
There's some sensible rumblings coming from this part of the United States that Barry and the Hard Right could not saw off two generations ago. The only problem is not a lot of the right folks are listening.

The Washington Post notes today that a lot of us here "near Paul Revere country" are talking impeachment. Unfortunately the Fools on the Hill, aka the Democratic Party is, for the most part, not listening.

The evidence continues to pile up about the incompetence, venality and outright lies of the Bush administration. It is true, as some legal scholars say, that the bar for high crimes and misdemeanors is a high one. Whether Bush's lies about weapons of mass destruction, his abuse of the constitution's protections against illegal search and seizure and his disdain for the Geneva Conventions rises to that level is the all important question.

That's what an impeachment trial is about.

We can start with the obvious statement that this idea is a no-go. The corrupt Republican leaders of Congress would never allow it to get that far -- not to mention they think they can make political hay by tarring supporters as denizens of the loony left. And it is that fear that drives the weak-willed Democrats into an embrace with their mortal enemies.

But, to paraphrase Ted Koppel, frankly elected Democrat, you just don't get it.

The Rabid Right waged a two-decade jihad to get to where it is today, fouling up the levers of power. It started small -- school boards which decreed evolution is a crackpot theory -- until it swept into Washington. The march was highlighted by true believers who never hesitated to sound off about their beliefs, no matter how loony they seemed at the time.

Led by the Robertsons, Falwells, Gingrichs -- and backed by the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Foundation among others -- they established a core set of values to guide (or misguide) their every step.

Democrats and liberals (not necessarily synonyms)? Nope. Will Rogers' line still holds true: "I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat." Core values? What are those?

What the Beltway-bound Democrats fail to recognize is that impeachment is a vehicle for discussing the Bush failures, the type of vehicle the Right used to gain power.

The GOP knew full well what it was doing when it railroaded the Clinton impeachment. (Please let us consider that he was impeached after being forced to give up his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination when asked about marital infidelity before a grand jury. Can someone cite where that has ever happened before in US history?) It was a chance to highlight what they saw was the lack of Democratic moral values.

Instead of stepping up and launching a discussion about the legitimacy, honesty and competency of the Bush administration, the Democrats cower, as usual, fearful of snotty remarks by GOP political leaders like Ken Mehlman that equate expressions of 1st Amendment free speech rights with treason.

The Clinton impeachment failed to oust the president because the public saw the charges as illegitimate. But it did not backfire as a political tactic. The proof of that is sitting in the Oval Office today. The potential charges against Bush are substantial -- and certainly have not been manufactured by the political opposition.

As the Democrats continue to melt into a puddle of self-pitying goo, the forces of the Right grow stronger even as the mess up. Another set of elections last 2000, 2002 and 2004 and the GOP may just have a saw large enough to cast the Eastern Seaboard adrift (especially because they could probably stop around New Jersey).

Does anyone with a "D" after his or her name have a backbone?

And oh yeah, check out what Barry had to say about religion and politics. The man would be shunned by his party today.

Friday, March 24, 2006

You can't make me...

Like a petulant child insistent on getting his own way, George Bush insists he is the law and will do whatever he wants. The question is whether anyone in Congress or the courts have the courage to stop him.

The latest example of his determination to say he knows best (and we certainly have plenty of examples to show that he does not) is a "signing statement: where he tells Congress he doesn't need meet the congressional reporting requirements contained in the Patriot Act.

Another glaring example of this above-the-law attitude is his flouting of the FISA statute that requires him to seek judicial approval (even after the fact) for all domestic wiretaps of suspected terrorists. And of course he told Congress (and John McCain) that he could torture anyone he wants, whenever he wants.

For a man with the courage of his convictions, Bush chose his own stealth route -- signing the statement in an undisclosed location after the media and congressional "leaders" had departed the Patriot Act signing. It read in part:

''The executive branch shall construe the provisions . . . that call for furnishing information to entities outside the executive branch . . . in a manner consistent with the president's constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch and to withhold information . . . "
The most important question is: does anyone plan to do anything about it?

Vermont Democrat Pat Leahy has thought about it (as has Russ Feingold through his hotly debated censure resolution).

''The president's signing statements are not the law, and Congress should not allow them to be the last word," Leahy said in a prepared statement. ''The president's constitutional duty is to faithfully execute the laws as written by the Congress, not cherry-pick the laws he decides he wants to follow. It is our duty to ensure, by means of congressional oversight, that he does so."
The most interesting question is will a Republican Congress that has behaved like a puppy in need of a tummy scratching finally stand up to this bald-faced challenge to its constitutional perogative to write the law and have the president "faithfully execute" them?

Fearing for their re-election prospects, a handful of senators and representatives have taken the first steps to standing up to Bush's bullying -- sinking the Dubai Ports deal. But I'd be pessimistic there will be a groundswell of courage in the Capitol.

And that leads up back, eventually, to the Supreme Court, where Sam Alito has made a judicial career of backing unfettered executive authority. Add that the power grab contained within Bush v. Gore you have a very scary scenario.

Republican actions during the Clinton years -- including impeachment -- represented nothing more to some than an attempt at a bloodless coup. The more conspiracy minded among us could ask if Bush can flout the Constitution as he sees fit, why would he feel compelled to leave office in 2009?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Showtime

George put on a show yesterday and from the snippets I've seen, it was one of his better performances. Without the trademark smirk and the endless repetition of the same points, he may have actually scored a few points for his side, particularly with some long overdue candor about what he sees as the duration of the US troop commitment.

Oh yeah, and he might have really succeeded if he had a fresh argument.

The repeated refrains about the media focusing too much on the bombings and not on the construction of schools is classic Bush misdirection. The bombings ARE the daily existence of Iraqis, who are growing increasingly pessimistic about their future, according to interviews done around this third anniversary.

Their pessimism does not derive from seeing bombs go off on American television. It comes from witnessing them live and in color. Ayad Allawi has a closer and better perspective on civil war from Baghdad than George does from his Washington bubble.

The straw man of the US being in Iraq to fight al Qaeda and Musawi manages to obliterate the reality that the terrorist and his organization did not have the type of free reign in Iraq until the US tossed out Saddam Hussein without a plan to replace him. Musawi flowed in to fill the vacuum created by the US half-planned action.

Another favorite Bush straw man trotted out was his unconscionable position of turning debate guaranteed by the Constitution into suggestions of treason against the opposition.
"I did notice that nobody from the Democratic Party has actually stood up and called for getting rid of the terrorist surveillance program ... they ought to stand up and say the tools we're using to protect the American people shouldn't be used."
The reason you noticed that is because no one suggests we get rid of terrorism surveillance -- foreign or domestic. Opponents are not soft on terrorism but strong on the Constitution you took an oath to protect and defend, George. All we want is for you to obey the law in doing this task.

In some ways it was refreshing to see him -- after repeated smacks in the head with the proverbial two-by-four -- acknowledge he is spending his vaunted political capital on this ill-formulated venture.

But that momentary candor -- along with equally candid declaration another president will likely decide when the troops come home -- was wiped out with the mule stubborn insistence on defending the indefensible defense secretary.

Prediction: there could be a momentary bump up in ratings from the low to mid 30s to around 40 percent. But the gosh darn media's insistence in covering news of a civil war will eventually send it back down.

That's the way it goes George.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Romney leadership

Mitt Romney loves to run around the country proclaiming how he is different from the liberal Democratic crowd that runs the Legislature.

Here's a rather glaring example of how that is just not true.

It's about the lies

George Bush laments that people aren't seeing the success stories in Iraq because of the constant car bombings and assassinations. Well, duh.

And even if you can get past the daily images of a civil war between Shiites and Sunnis -- killing themselves and the American soldiers there to separate them -- there's the other reality. The duly elected government of Iraq is behaving like our own, incapable of getting past religious-based partisan bickering and doing what's right for the country.

Then there's the heart of the matter. Leaving aside for the moment the potential for the success stories to be fleeting, why SHOULD we believe anything W and his minions tell us?

There's the laughable litany of false statements from W, Deadeye and Rummy about how victory, much like Herbert Hoover's promise of opportunity, is right around the corner. There's the less than laughable cases of lies in the pursuit of spin or image, like the death of Pat Tillman. And there's the work of the Freaking Bumblers and Incompetents (FBI).

The Iraq War was based on a pack of lies -- WMDs, Hussein conspired with Osama about 9-11 being the highlights. It has been pursued and justified with a continuing pack of lies and other legal violations, such as illegal wiretapping of American citizens. Some of the most egregious lies have also been the demeaning and disparaging of people who exercise their right to disagree.

So W, look in the mirror when you express frustration that the success stories aren't getting out through the filter of the bad news imposed by the media. Wipe that damn smug smirk off your face, give praise that Congress is too corrupt to impeach you for lying the way they did Bill Clinton and think about how your sins will haunt you in your after life.

How do you sleep?

Monday, March 20, 2006

"If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is."

The Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld team was out in full force yesterday, doing what they do so well, blaming someone, anyone else for the current status in Iraq. Unfortunately for them, they forgot to share the message of the day with everyone.

"What we've seen is a serious effort by them to foment civil war, but I don't think they've been successful," Cheney said on CBS's "Face the Nation."

Deadeye Dick, whose previous predictions have ranged from the three-year-old classic "we will be greeted as liberators" to his assertion 10 months ago that the insurgency was in its "last throes" had a ready explanation for the failures of the facts to match the reality on the ground: the liberal media. As he explained,
"I think it has less to do with the statements we've made, which I think were basically accurate and reflect reality, than it does with the fact that there's a constant sort of perception, if you will, that's created because what's newsworthy is the car bomb in Baghdad."
Memo to TV station owners: don't hire Deadeye Dick as your news director. He doesn't believe that if it bleeds it leads.

Rummie, of course, used the dad-gummed enemy to make his point, writing an op-ed in the Washington Post, following through on the Saddam as Hitler theme and declared leaving Iraq would be the same as "the modern equivalent of handing postwar Germany back to the Nazis..."

One problem with all this spin: they forgot to tell the team. For example, Ayad Allawi, a hand-picked former prime minister, told the BBC:
"It is unfortunate that we are in civil war. We are losing each day, as an average, 50 to 60 people through the country, if not more. If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is."
Or Chuck Hagel on ABC's "This Week":
"I think it's important that we stop this talk about we're not going to leave until we achieve victory. Well, what is victory? We achieved victory: Saddam's gone, the Iraqis have a constitution, they had an election, it's now up to them."
But the Bush boys were not content to rest on their tarnished laurels. As a sign of their desperation , Cheney took on the favorite conservative Joe Palooka doll: Ted Kennedy.
"I would not look to Ted Kennedy for guidance and leadership on how we ought to manage national security. . . . I think what Senator Kennedy reflects is sort of the pre-9/11 mentality about how we ought to deal with the world and that part of the world."
I would suggest, Mr. Vice President, that very, very few people in history have less credibility to discuss, much less offer guidance and leadership on a topic like national security than you. The next time you make an accurate statement about this war will be the first. Go back to your undisclosed location and play with your guns. Just don't shoot anyone else.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

It's official

Deadeye Dick Cheney says Iraq is not in the middle of a civil war.

Mark down the time of that pronouncement as the official start. No word yet on when the insurgents will really be in their last throes. And nothing from Rummie on the flower petals.

Three years. three years I thought about it....

One of the safest and surest pieces you can do as a reporter is an anniversary retrospective. And there certainly have been a lot of them in the last few days as we mark three years since the invasion of Iraq. What's one more?

Three years ago we began a war where we were hailed as heroes entering Baghdad, flowers strewn at our soldiers as they dismantled the weapons of mass destruction that Saddam used to terrorize his population. With Saddam gone, terror wilted and Iraqi democracy flowered in the glow of a rebuilding effort financed by Iraqi oil sales.

Where do I begin?

About the only thing the same as it ever was is the attitude of W and his boys -- they are right and you'll go to your grave knowing they believe it. Lies, distortions, miscalculations -- along with torture, a lost focus on the real terrorists residing in the Pakistan mountains and a shredding of trust and respect for Americans just 3 1/2 years after 9-11.

But surely things are better at home, right? The compassionate conservative administration has used the budget surplus to reward hard-working Americans with tax relief while improving education, health care (particularly for the aged). They've protected citizens for natural disasters and responded quickly and efficiently when Mother Nature lashed out all the while defending the environment.

At the same time, our "uniter, not a divider" has presided over a cool and rationale debate over American values, installed judges who don't make the law but interpret it. Our citizens are safe from government intrusion in their personal lives -- except in unusual circumstances where judges look at the facts and authorize surveillance.

And of course, the Red State-Blue State divide has been eliminated, thanks in large part to a thoughtful and hard-working Congress and its ethical, incorruptible leadership.

Congressional motions of censure -- and weak-willed Democrats too afraid to stand up for anything -- can't change what the military boys like to call the reality on the ground. Our honor, morals, values, civil liberties and reputation is in tatters, not to mention our budget, our social safety net and the good-natured bipartisan spirit that guided this country through past crises,

Happy Anniversary to you, W, Deadeye, Rummie and the gang. You sure must be proud of what you have accomplished. I'm sure history will treat you well -- assuming Iran doesn't trigger World War III despite your measured, temperate rhetoric.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Fiscal responsibility

Grover and Barbara say no to the health care assessment. Why that's good enough for me. I'm sure it's all Mitt needs to know.

Grover Norquist, becoming better known to Americans as a Jack Abramoff enabler, is president of Americans for Tax Reform, a quaint phrase which roughly translates as "starve the beast." Barbara Anderson is head of Citizens for Limited Taxation, which means "businesses don't want to share the burden."

The dynamic duo is urging (former) Governor Romney to line item veto the health care bill when it finally emerges from conference. Why? Because it calls on businesses to pay a share of the cost of providing health care for their employees. Right now, deadbeat companies foist that responsibility onto Barbara's taxpayers.

Why the concern about the fee in a bill that is expected to require everyone to buy insurance? Because that fee could hurt Mittsy's political chances with right wing nuts across the country.

The utter naked hypocrisy of the proposal is reflected in these quotes, which talk about how a line-item veto of the assessment would easily be overridden.

''That would be the best of both worlds," Norquist said, asserting that the governor would get his healthcare bill while standing up to the Democrats.

''It's not his responsibility that the Republicans are in the minority in the Legislature," Norquist said. ''If he gets overridden, that is not his fault. It could be a centerpiece of how he governs in a state with strong opposition party."

Leaving aside for a moment that the tiny band of Republicans of the Massachusetts Legislature is far from a "strong opposition party," Grover's naked preference for bad politics over good policy is emblematic of his boy George's reign of fiscal terror on our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Go back to shaking down Indians, Grover.

Barbara is at least consistent. Since the early days of CLT as a tool of the Mass. High Tech Council, she has opposed virtually anything and everything that has called for business to pay its fair share. And let's see who's against the assessment: could it be the High Tech Council?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Have it my way

Gotta love Mitt Romney, the (former) governor of Massachusetts. Always looking out for the best interests of the people who elected him.

Well, maybe I'm being too harsh here. In his desire to pander to the right wing nuts who decide the Republican presidential nomination, the Mittser is trying to defend deadbeat Massachusetts corporations while also trying to take credit for something, anything that happened on his watch.

The case in point is health care, and Romney's fear that making firms pay something, anything for the health care provided their employees will harm him the rabid right's eyes. Thankfully legislative and responsible business leaders who have done the hard work toward compromise are not buying it.

The proposed assessments of $62 per employee on firms that provide health insurance and $295 per employee on those who do not is an effort to make sure everyone -- individual and corporation -- pays a piece of the massive health care pie. Right now, companies that don't provide insurance leave their employees at the mercy of Mass Health or the free care pool. Put another way, the taxpayers pick up the tab for these deadbeat companies.

The fees -- along with a proposal to require everyone, including the healthy young, to buy insurance if they can afford it -- is an effort to spread the pain. But of course, in the No New Taxes (or is that No Newt Axes?) GOP World, everyone doesn't include the corporate world.

Romney will probably veto any compromise that emerges, then claim credit. It's a tactic that has worked time and again for George Bush.

And this kind of flip flop (much like his one constantly changing position on gay adoption) should not come as much of a surprise. This is a crowd that can't be honest about anything -- including political ambitions.

Hey, Mitt why don't you just drag that other foot out of the Corner Office and let us get on with being a state with some leadership.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Bunker buster

I'll ignore the cheap shot about how the travails of the Bush administration were sandwiched on the front page of The New York Times between stories about the cluelessness of Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic. OK, so maybe I won't.

The Times and the Post both look at the cranking up of John McCain's Straight Talk Express -- and that straight talk should give pause to any liberal inclined to back the maverick Arizona Republican. His strong defense of the Bush mistakes suggests either a man sucking up to the conservatives who control the primaries or someone who indeed tells the truth.

While there may be a little suck-up to the people who torpedoed him in 2000, there should be little doubt that McCain is more of a truth-teller than his GOP colleagues. He looks good only because he sits closer to the center of a party that has veered sharply to the right.

But the more intriguing Times piece is on the inside. It is downright Nixonian in portraying the increasing distance between this administration and reality. Critics are neither seen nor heard. Dubya displays his usual stubbornness in believing only he has the answers and the rabble should just take him as the fount of wisdom.

The image is brought into sharp focus by looking at the standing of Andy Card and Karl Rove, who have been there from the beginning and who -- based on the strings of political disasters going back to Katrina -- are clearly burnt out and should go.

But, nay, says W. The more folks push to dump Card and Rove (who could have honorably walked away after the first term -- although it is hard to use the words honor and Rove in the same sentence) the more W digs in and threatens to hold his breath until he turns blue.

That of course was the same attitude on display in the colossal gaffe over Dubai Ports World; the same insistence that New Orleans is just a few gazillion dollars away from recovery; you know the litany by heart.

The GOP has all the makings of a classic novel: Just imagine Bush as Lt. Cmdr. Philip Francis Queeg, rolling those steel balls in his hands, searching for the strawberries. The difference between this real life drama and The Caine Mutiny is the lack of heroes willing to tell the boss he's lost his grip.

Oh yeah, that and the fact that Lt. Bush, unlike Queeg, failed to report for duty.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Separation between church and state

The decision by Boston's Catholic Charities to stop arranging adoptions because Massachusetts law prohibits discrimination against gays is correct, if regrettable. No one is above the law and if you can't play by the rules, leave the table.

The talk by Republican presidential candidate and (former) Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney to change the law is predictable -- and just as regrettable. It reflects the continuing improper insertion of religious dogma into secular life -- one faith's dogma being placed ahead of all others.

Let's start with the obvious: an organization that condoned pedophilia and protected pedophiles for years has no moral standing to talk about violence against children. That fair-minded Catholics are willing to stand up against the hypocrisy should be celebrated.

All it takes is a quick look around the world to pick up a theme: Islamic fundamentalists wish to impose their version of 7th Century life; Jewish fundamentalists claim a biblical right to a piece of ground tote around weapons -- offensive and defensive -- against Muslim fundamentalists who strap weapons to their bodies and kill innocents to defend their claim to the same piece of ground. An elected leader of a religious state spouts anti-Semitic remarks at the same time he rushes to create a nuke. Muslims and Hindus feint nuclear war along a perpetually tense piece of land.

The Founding Fathers of the United States had the right idea when they laid out the Constitution: government should be neutral on the question of religion, allowing people to practice their faith -- or lack of it -- as they see fit.

Religious zealots have fought an extended battle in the United States to overturn that principle. They started with local school boards and today they have the perfect empty vessel: a president who was the epitome of a spoiled, drunken child of privilege until he had an epiphany.

More power to George Bush for straightening out his life. But his power (and that of Benedict XVI, Osama bin Laden, Ehud Olmert, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Adolph Hitler et al) to impose their vision on those who do not agree does not exist. THAT is what freedom is about and that is a freedom worth fighting for.

The Massachusetts Legislature is ridiculed -- often for good reason -- as being an ineffective bunch of fools. But they have an important role to play in this latest round of god wars. They must defend the separation of church and state.

It is, as I said, regrettable that the Catholic Church refuses to adopt the attitude of their Protestant and Jewish brethren and place social services over dogma. But they are free, under the law of the land, to practice their faith within their walls.

But so are the rest of the citizens of Massachusetts, United States and the world. We may or may not all be God's children. But we most assuredly are not all Catholics. Or Muslims. Or Protestants. Or Jews. Or agnostic. And the Constitution protects that diversity of opinion.

This explains a lot

Now we know why the Bush domestic policy shop was devoid of any ideas or action. It's former top guy was too busy filling out refund coupons.

You know, Jon Stewart and company should pay the federal treasury for the wealth of material they are being fed. The deficit would be wiped out in a heart beat.

Memo to John: Don't do it

John Kerry is thinking about another run for president. So he's running for president before he doesn't run for president, then is running again?

Yes, the Democratic Party has a bad history of eating its young and shunting off one-time losers into oblivion after they have gained the knowledge they need to win. But John Forbes Kerry was a flawed candidate, is a flawed candidate and will always be a flawed candidate.

The magnitude of his flaws and failings will make him a target of Leno, Letterman and Stewart -- not to mention a GOP desperately searching for a life preserver.

Add to that the perception among the right wing nuts who operate the slime machine that Mitt Romney is not conservative enough:
''I thought he was outstanding and he's definitely running" for president, said Era Jennings, a Republican activist from Jackson, Miss. ''But I just think someone from Massachusetts doesn't have that much of a chance. I really don't know how he could do it. He's very dedicated, but just being from that state -- the party is just not ready."
Bad enough Mitt will make us the butt of bad jokes by people from "that state" before losing. John you've done enough on that score. Run for re-election before we decide we have had enough of you, period.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Guess who blinked?

OK, so maybe George does know when to cut and run after all.

Faced with a revolt from the meek flock of lambs known as the Republican Congress George Dubai Bush backed down on his insistence that the administration and done due diligence when it selected Dubai Ports World to manage our coastal entry points.

Don't know which is more shocking -- Congress showing some backbone or Dubai maintaining his perfect record of never vetoing legislation.

This latest sorry episode in the sorry history of this administration will have no terms implications -- beyond anything Democrats might be able to do with it. George Dubai's' hypocritical rhetoric about opponents being anti-Muslim aside, this is yet another source of inflammation between cultures which don't understand each other and don't want to try.

And here's an interesting take -- one that suggests our economy could suffer as the foreign investors who buy up our bonds to finance the massive Bush deficit opt not to put their dollars in a zenophbic country.

Way to go Dubai.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

I've got a secret

Two front page stories in the Washington Post today typify the openness and honesty of the Bush administration and the federal government it oversees.

First, you have the Army finally admitting there may be criminality involved in the death of Pat Tillman, the former football player killed in a fratricide incident in Afghanistan. And then, on the same page, a report about the CIA and the Justice Department cracking down on leaks -- and the media who print them.

Tillman, you will recall, was lionized in death by the Bush machine before it was forced to come clean about the friendly fire nature of his death. As in the case with Jessica Lynch, the propaganda needs for the war effort outweighed the value placed on the human beings who, while making significant sacrifices, were not quite the heroes they were portrayed to be.

And of course, Scooter, Karl and Deadeye Dick were quick to launch an attack on Valerie Plame when her husband had the temerity to question 16 words in a Bush speech.

On the flip side, the Bushies have been fighting tooth and nail to prevent the world from knowing about its disdain for the Constitution -- secret wiretaps, secret prisons and torture to name a few.

Here, the media and the public are clearly the enemy -- trying to bring light to questionable legal and moral actions by an administration that claims it gets its direction straight from Upstairs.

This administration is as bankrupt, corrupt and immoral as that of Richard Nixon. The desperation to manipulate events and minds (all terror, all the time) has contributed to a significant stain on America in the eyes of the world and has coarsened the dialogue at home.

Yet I am struck, yet again, about what recourse there might be. A corrupt Congress? A packed Supreme Court? It is up to each of us to stand up and expose the hypocrisy of their "do as I say, not as I do" assault on morality.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

To your health

Good news out of the Statehouse in the form of a compromise that will allow expansion of health care coverage to thousands of Massachusetts residents. But there's a fly lurking in the ointment, as usual.

The compromise hammered out by Senate President Robert Travaglini and House Speaker Sal DiMasi would finally end an intolerable situation involving deadbeat companies -- firms with 10 or more employees who don't provide coverage for the workers. Those folks are then forced to find health care either through Medicaid or the free care pool -- in effect providing a massive public subsidy to the companies and imposing a burden on taxpayers, hospitals and everyone who pay higher health insurance premiums.

The compromise reportedly includes a $295 per head assessment on companies of 10 or more who don't provide coverage. It also reportedly calls for an mandate that everyone to purchase insurance -- a Romney requirement -- and calls for private insurers to provide stripped-down health plans that are more affordable.

The fly buzzing around (in Utah, when last we looked) is our absentee governor, you know the one who has made health care legislation a priority for his presidential campaign. The one who pulled the PR stunt of going to Trav and Sal at home on a Sunday and asking them to work harder.

When last we looked, Governor Flip-Flop was saying bad things about an employer assessment, backed by a segment of the business community -- the Massachusetts High Tech Council -- that had traditionally thought nothing of taking state aid while rebelling at the thought of paying its fair share.

Mittsy desperately needs something to make him stand out in a field that includes such GOP stellars as Chuck Hagel and Sam Brownback. The ability to claim a major victory in health care -- something national Republicans currently place as a lower priority than aid to the Gulf Coast -- would be a plus.

But it's that pesky business "tax" -- a compromise much closer to the Senate proposal than the House's call for a stiff payroll tax -- that will cause Mittsy to waffle. How can a good GOP candidate ever deign to make business pay its fair share, by, shudder, raising taxes?

The good news is when legislators finish up the bill and report it out, it is likely to pass with veto-proof majorities. That would actually also be a win for the Mittser, in a true Bushian manner -- take a stand on "principle" (read that showboating), then claim credit for the law when it goes into effect. Flip. Flop.

But it would also be a win for others too: the folks who can't afford to care for themselves properly and the responsible businesses (the vast majority) that believe they need to do their fair share.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Mihos musings

Christy Mihos' decision to run as an independent adds a new wrinkle to the governor's race -- as long as he doesn't self-destruct too early.

The biggest loser in his decision to reject Kerry Healey's offer to allow him on the ballot is Healey herself. The offer to guarantee him 15 percent of the convention delegates was a reflection of her belief she could take him in a primary where the party is dominated by Romney-Healey loyalists.

Mihos' decision to go independent -- should he get the signatures -- adds a third name in November and one that could take away votes from Healey. And there is a strong sentiment that a solid independent could do well among Massachusetts voters, who actually do skew, by registration, to the unenrolled or independent label.

That Hurt Healey scenario assumes the Democrats emerge with a nominee who has not been beaten about the head by his opponent -- always a dubious assumption in this state. But it would give a wounded Democrat a little extra cover to recuperate in the short window between the September primary and the general election.

It also assumes the Mihos doesn't commit political suicide by tongue. Mihos stepped on his own message with a premature slip one day before a formal announcement. It could be argued he bought an extra day of attention (and a front page story) but it also reveals a certain lack of discipline.

The bad one-liners about his wife also reveal a brain and tongue that need better coordination.

Tom Reilly has made some seriously flawed decisions but is given good odds at surviving because of better name recognition and a track record. Mihos doesn't have that cushion.

(Oh, and kudos to Joan Vennochi and remember you read it here first :-))

Criminal negligence

You know Brownie, maybe you did a heckuva job after all.

The videotape of a FEMA meeting in the hours before Katrina, obtained by The Associated Press, is a smoking gun about the lack of engagement by George Bush. Strikingly, the much-maligned former FEMA Director Michael Brown, appears fully engaged, aware of the potential for disaster and the inadequacy of the resources for response.

''We're going to need everything that we can possibly muster, not only in this state and in the region, but the nation, to respond to this event," Brown warned. He called the storm ''a bad one, a big one" and implored federal agencies to cut through red tape to help people, bending rules if necessary.

''Go ahead and do it," Brown said. ''I'll figure out some way to justify it. . . . Just let them yell at me."

And the words of Bush flak Trent Duffy are equally stark: who are you going to believe your eyes or me? (Hey, where's Stonewall McClellan?)
''I hope people don't draw conclusions from the president getting a single briefing," presidential spokesman Trent Duffy said, citing a variety of orders and disaster declarations Bush signed before the storm made landfall. ''He received multiple briefings from multiple officials, and he was completely engaged at all times."
The "uncurious" George Bush we often hear about is on full display here. The awkward manner when he is disengaged or uncomfortable with the setting. Platitudes instead of the tough questions one would expect of a hard-charging CEO giving direction to his managers.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has dismissed the administrative problems to "the fog of war."

The only "fog" is the smokescreen the Bushies have tried to throw up, withholding documents and testimony from a congressional hearing. Once again, executive privilege has been cited to protect incompetence from being exposed to the public.

Sadly, there's nothing that can be done here. The administration continues to stonewall and the Republican Congress, at its present rate, may develop a spine by the 24th century. This is a government that condones and celebrates incompetence and deception.

And the American people have no one to blame but themselves for buying into an election promise that the Bush administration would protect us. Too bad more than 1,300 people have had to pay for their lives for this lie.

Courage of their convictions

There's a lot of rhetoric in these highly charged times about morals and acts of conviction. An overwhelmingly amount of that talk is nothing but superheated air. So when someone -- let alone seven people -- stand up for their convictions with action and not mere words it is worth praising.

The Archdiocese of Boston -- you know, the one that honors children by protecting their molesters -- wants an exemption from Massachusetts anti-discrimination law that would allow its Catholic Charities arm to to refuse to allow gay couples to adopt. The hypocrisy of these words from an organization that condoned pedophilia and protected the pedophiles -- unmarried priests, not monogamous loving couples -- cries out:
...Edward Saunders -- executive director of the Massachusetts Catholics Conference, which represents the bishops -- has said that church doctrine on the issue of gay adoptions is unequivocal. The document, written in 2003, states that allowing children to be adopted by same-sex couples ''would actually mean doing violence to these children." It ends by saying that gay adoptions are ''gravely immoral and in open contradiction to the principle . . . that the best interests of the child, as the weaker and more vulnerable party, are to be the paramount consideration in every case."
It would be one thing if the hypocrisy ended there -- but it does not. The same church leaders who in effect are condemning 13 couples who have taken in and are loving special needs or foster children want the government to step in and give them a special break.

Let's repeat that: the church, which steadfastly resists any government action it opposes as an unwarranted intrusion on separation of church and state, wants special interest legislation. A favor. A break. A deal.

Enter seven highly principled Catholics whose commitment to their faith is such that they give freely of their time to serve it beyond Sundays. I suspect many would find it highly ironic these people come from the tightly intermeshed world of media, politics and public relations, spheres not often equated with morality and principle.

In a highly public (and no doubt painful) stand against their church and its leader, these seven say they cannot support the church's stand that in effect repudiates its teaching that all people should be loved under their God's eyes.
We ''cannot participate in an effort to pursue legal permission to discriminate against Massachusetts citizens who want to play their part in building strong families," the seven members said in a statement.
That is a profile in courage that should be honored and celebrated. I salute them.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Unmaking of the President

The signs continue to mount that this administration is quacking like a seriously lame duck.

The polls are one sign -- Bush's popularity is sinking faster than a ship in port and even Republicans are abandoning him on as he holds his breath and turns blue about port security.

Then there's a classic dodge for presidents under fire at home -- leave the country. Of course India and Pakistan are not likely to be as welcoming as the tight security at Bagram. Will he take in some torture while he's in country? Will he enjoy the street life of New Delhi? Is there a stop scheduled with Osama in Pakistan?

But then there's the classic image -- rats leaving a sinking ship. The massive ports miscalculation, coming on the heels of illegal domestic spying, the nightmare of Medicare Part D, the horrific failures and fingerpointing of Katrina, the coming civil war in Iraq are causing Republicans to abandon Bush a lot quicker than Deadeye Dick admits shooting his friends.

Maybe George is lining up a post-White House job in an Indian call center?

Flip flop, flip flop

The term flip flopper is usually applied to liberals. Conservatives have firm beliefs, liberals pander, so they say. Apparently no one has met Mitt Romney, whose flopped so far to the right he's in danger of falling off the map.

The former governor of Massachusetts (OK, he has about a year left but he's been gone quite awhile already) took yet another step toward his run for the White House (polite demurrals on Fox Sunday News notwithstanding).

You may recall the elected "leader" of the Commonwealth has made us the punchline of his tour of GOP hotspots in South Carolina, New Hampshire, Iowa (he's not running for president, remember?) Vegan at a beef eaters convention or some such drollery.

But the man of action has also flopped on issues like abortion (first he's choice, now he's "pro-life). Of course he has been true to his Mormon roots by declaring marriage is between and man and a woman and that he's against gay marriage.

So it would be only natural that his next step on the Pander Express is to flip flop on the issue of gay adoption. First you say so you, then you don't. They you say you will, then you won't.

Careful Mitt. You're actually following in some liberal footsteps on this one. Care to reconsider?