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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, June 30, 2006

Independence Day, Part 2

Am I too cynical about the ability of Congress to rise about its hyper-partisanship and try to govern a nation it has helped to divide?

I don't think so.

Not content to rail against the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal for printing a story about a "secret" organization with its own website, the House voted to condemn the media for exercising its 1st Amendment right.

In one of the better ironies for this humor-challenged body, the vote came the same day the Supreme Court handed down its Guantanamo Bay ruling and the day before the 35th anniversary of another historic ruling that challenged the assertions of a lawless administration.

In keeping with the "my way or the highway" approach of the GOP, this "debate" did not even allow for amendments from Democrats. So was the purpose of the vote to express honest outrage -- or set up yet another straw man issue (gay marriages, flag-burning) for a do-nothing Congress to try to run on.

I report. You decide.

Independence Day, Part 1

Score One for a co-equal branch of government as we approach the 230th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. And let's hope the other co-equal branch finds some lost spine, admittedly a highly dubious hope.

The Supreme Court's 5-3 decision rejecting the Bush administration's broad "l'etat, c'est moi" philosophy (that's "I can do anything I want" philosophy to you Freedom Fries lovers) is a preciously rare victory for those of us who believe in the Constitution.

In very clear terms, the High Court (with the usual Bush-electing dissenters plus Scalito) said the administration does not have the unbridled right to ignore US and international law in the pursuit of terrorists.

That means the justifiably noble battle against people out to destroy America and its democratic way of life cannot be waged on terms that destroy that democratic way of life. In effect, the High Court has told the Bush administration that if they have proof that someone is a threat to our safety, "bring it on."

As Bruce Fein, a Reagan Justice Department official told the Washington Post:
"What this decision says is, 'No, Mr. President, you can be bound by treaties and statutes. 'If you need to have these changed, you can go to Congress.' This idea of a coronated president instead of an inaugurated president has been dealt a sharp rebuke."
There's one big problem with planning a massive celebration. The court also told the administration that it needs to work with Congress to find the right balance. You know, Congress, that servile, supine, corrupt body that thinks flag-burning is the greatest menace to the nation.

Congress has worked diligently, in the name of the GOP conservative crusade, to tear down its constitutional responsibilities of sane budgeting, executive oversight and representing the rule of law.

As long as Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld and their ilk remain in office, the chances of returning to true democracy, with co-equal branches of government, is a romantic notion -- like baseball, hot dogs, fireworks and band concerts on the town green.

If the democracy-busters in the administration are not checked, we'll see their image of American life on display on Independence Day. That runs to hauling missiles on trailers down Pennsylvania Avenue in a show of force. It's an image the Soviets favored, right up to their collapse.

Income tax rollback?

Here's a sobering report for anyone who advocates rolling back the state income tax to 5 percent.

Demagogues (make that Republicans) are quick to say people are overtaxed. The trillion-dollar giveaway efforts by congressional Republicans out to eliminate the "death tax" are the prime example.

These same folks are also quick to find ways to spend money -- often off budget -- to hide the true state of affairs. Billions in fraud and trillions in debt will haunt our children and grandchildren as a result.

We already face a national disaster of tremendous proportions by the GOP bankruptcy policies. We don't need to compound them in Massachusetts.

I've always opposed the idea of balancing the state budget on the backs of public employees who (for the most part) earn less money than they can in the private sector. So, I've been opposed to the idea of raising the health insurance co-pay.

No more. This report lays out a scary future. Everyone needs to make a contribution. That means no income tax rollback and taking some of the suggestions mentioned in the story -- like higher co-pays and a trust fund for pension liabilities.

Not as sexy as banning flag burning or gay marriage. But far more important.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Cut and run?

Let's see now -- Republicans who supported a congressional resolution to set no timetables for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq were, in the words of the GOP, opposed to the Democratic penchant to "cut and run."

So what to make of this trial balloon so clearly tied to an election timetable? Another example of GOP "fear and smear" I would think.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Part-time gover(nor)

Since we don't pay his salary, we should be happy to pay the cost of his new job search. That's the essence of Mitt Romney's argument in defense of his use of state troopers to "protect" him while he auditions for a new job. Voters of America, be afraid, be very afraid.

Our gallivanting CEO, the Globe tells us, has made 45 trips to 20 states in the not-quite first six months of this year. He has spent 33 full weekdays and part of 18 other weekdays on the road. That's more than six weeks of vacation time and more than three weeks of partial days in less than six months. Anyone else have benefits like that?

Of course it doesn't necessarily include trips to his vacation homes in New Hampshire and Utah. Good thing he doesn't take a salary: otherwise we'd have to fire him. Oops, we can't. He quit.

Here are a couple of good perspectives:
"The people of Massachusetts are essentially funding his presidential campaign, whether they like it or not," said Mary Boyle, Common Cause's press secretary in its Washington, D.C., headquarters.
And then there's this one from Michael Dukakis, who was maligned for his presidential aspirations while governor by the same media that now virtually ignores Romney.
"I never traveled with a trooper ... It always seemed to me that the troopers should be out catching criminals, not holding my coat."
Or arresting illegal immigrants.

Next time Mitt leaves, do we have to let him back in? At least we should check his papers.

Pack a lunch

Memo to Jarrett Barrios: If you don't like what your son is served for lunch in school, pack him something.

The ability of Massachusetts politicians to generate national ridicule for this state is renowned. Michael Dukakis and the tank will always be No. 1, though Paul Tsongas in a Speedo should never be that far behind. Bill Weld's full-clothed plunge into the Charles proves bipartisanship lives when it comes to wacky headlines.

But for sheer imagery nothing matches Barrios' call to limit school servings of Marshmallow Fluff in schools -- and Kathi-Anne Reinstein retort calling for making the Fluffernutter the official state sandwich.

You can't make this stuff up -- no matter how hard we try. So, which one is fluff and which one is nuts?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Happy Birthday Mr. President

Let's see, the president who has said he is the Decider who determines which part of the Constitution to obey, has a complaint with "activist judges" in Massachusetts.

The contradiction speaks for itself.

Monday, June 05, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

The most depressing moment of An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore's movie about the reality of global warming, is not when you realize the data about C02 levels and temperature increases and the dramatic images of shrinking glaciers mean we're in deep doo-doo (to quote a different Bush).

Stark as that reality is, the most depressing moment comes when you compare Gore's declaration that the topic is the most important moral issue of our time with the reality of America today. Because at virtually the same moment, George W. Bush, and the "Moral Majority" -- once known as "compassionate conservatives" -- declared that banning gay marriage is one of the major moral imperatives of our time.

I've been suffering from outrage fatigue lately. Writing about the lies, distortions and venalities of the Theocons who seized control of our government provided an outlet for a lot of pent up anger at the sad state of affairs that has come to characterize this nation can be satisfying, if you see results. But there aren't many and so I'm fatigued.

Fatigued by the lack of accountability for people who condone wars fought under false pretenses (and the killing of innocents -- both soldiers and civilians) while proclaiming they are the only ones with "values."

Fatigued by the indifference to those who trash our Constitution with illegal spying (when legal options are easily and readily available) all in the name of preserving our liberties.

Fatigued with the lack of outrage toward those who loot our treasury, offering handouts and sweetheart deals for the friends, protecting their own assets from taxation while dumping the burden on our children and grandchildren.

Fatigued by incompetents such as the Army Corps of Engineers who stood by as New Orleans was washed away or the cronies at the Department of Homeland Security who declared there are no national icons in New York, only Omaha.

But mostly fatigued with the incessant stream of lies and propaganda from people who deny clear and convincing evidence and continue to lead us on a path of fiscal, physical and moral destruction.

Say what you will about Al Gore -- he's stiff, he's humor challenged and he can get on your nerves with his sense of self-righteousness) sort of like the White House occupant who stole the job).

But he has compiled a damning collection of evidence that the peril is real and closer than you think.

And what's been the media reaction to the movie? Much as is has been to the issue itself. In trying to be "fair and balanced," the media has given greater credence to the cranks who downplay the issue (or edit unpleasant truths) than the scientists who say the phenomenon is real.

And when the media do look at the issue it is inevitably through a political lens. In one sense that is fair. Al Gore is a politician, one at the center of what will likely be the most controversial election in this nation's history.

But given the political media's preference for horse races over issues, the questions invariably turn to whether Gore is using the book to tee up for 2008. Or what this does for him in a hypothetical race with Hillary (subscription required).

I'm also fatigued with a media that, like an incurable addict, looks for the easy story. When we will take this issue seriously?