Saturday, January 28, 2006

Bush to Palestinians: Good for you!

On Thursday, for those of you who do not pay any attention to international news, (unfortunately typical for many Americans), Hamas, a terrorist organization posing as a political party, won a strong majority in the Palestinian Parliament. Apparently, Palestinians felt that the Fatah party was not doing enough to establish a Palestinian state and wipe out the nation of Israel. There was almost a universal reaction to this fair democratic election, shock and awe. However, President Bush chose not join the rest of the human race in expressing displeasure with the choice made by the Palestinian people to give Hamas control of the Palestinian parliament. In fact, Mr. Bush essentially praised the Palestinian people for giving a well-known terrorist organization control of their government.

What the heck is going on here? This same man has made it his personal mission to spread democracy across the Middle East by any means necessary. I guess he has his wish, except the catch is a democratically elected Hamas. Does the President really believe it is OK for a terrorist group to have control of a democratically elected government? What would have happened if a similar result had occurred in Iraqi elections while at the same time American troops were attempting to provide security? Does anybody really believe that this President would have simply proclaimed it was the right of the Iraqi people to give control of their legislature to extremists? Maybe the party platform of Hamas is not clear enough for President Bush, which calls for the destruction of Israel, anti-Americanism, and Islamic fundamentalism, not to mention being one of the most prominent terrorist groups in the world, second to al-Qaeda. Why did not President Bush simply denounce this election and hold the Palestinians accountable for this faux pas like the rest of the world, not to mention his own cabinet? Does the establishment of a Palestinian state remain a goal for Mr. Bush? Imagine a democratically elected government both sponsoring terrorism and backed by President Bush, how ironic!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Lobbying Reform: K Street Style

This sudden movement to reform lobbying practices in Washington has a peculiar feel to it. First, Congressmen are walking around acting like they are in shock from all the recent scandals, because they have never happened before. They are talking about this being the most corrupt Congress in our history and proposing new restrictions on lobbying that feeds the “culture of corruption.” The problem is these Congressmen are part of the problem, and corruption has been around long before many of them were born. They are trying to convince us that this is a new and unique situation, and that there proposals will somehow prevent future scandals involving lobbyists and lawmakers. The Democrats are especially being disingenuous when they claim this problem is purely a Republican scandal, because they are in the minority. They act like the Democrats have always been in the minority, not acknowledging that their party prior to the 1994 mid-term elections, were the majority for many years, and lost that majority for the same "culture of corruption" that has now been created under Republican leadership. The Abramoff scandal has shed new light on a very old problem. Ironically, none of the new proposals by either party would have prevented the Abramoff situation from occurring, because everything he did is in fact currently illegal. All the fixes being proposed by the current corrupt lawmakers address currently legal and common practices by lobbyists and their lawmaking cohorts.

The only thing truly unique about the current corruption under Republican leadership is something called the K Street Project, dating back to 1995 and championed by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. This project rewards lobbyists with influence in drafting legislation in return for contributions to fund-raising specifically for the Republican Party and for hiring Republicans to top positions in their lobbying firms. The direct link between Wall Street corporate interests and Washington Republican lawmakers via Washington lobbyists has never been more blatant or disgustingly appalling. While this practice continues, it has never been as robust as it was under Rep. Tom DeLay’s leadership before his indictments and resignation of his leadership position in the House. Additionally, the K Street Project essentially allowed businesses to write government regulations benefiting their own industry, as was allegedly the case under Dick Cheney’s energy task force. Whatever is good for the capitalists must also be good for Democracy, right? In that case, if all corporations are trustworthy enough to regulate their own industry, and are beholden to no one except their own share holders, why even have a government? We don’t need an overarching bureaucracy watching over other narrowly interested corporate bureaucracies, right? Just ask Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Domestic Surveillance

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was created in 1978, and intended to give the President the power to wire-tap telephone conversations relating to suspected criminal activity of foreign origin. President Bush has correctly argued that FISA is outdated and too restrictive in the post-9/11 world. However, the President is given incredible leeway to obtain a warrant in order to legally wire-tap. Not only does the President have a 72 hour emergency window after a wire-tap to get a warrant from a judge, which are rarely rejected, in war time the President has 15 days to notify Congress without the need for a warrant, and can then ask for an indefinite extension to continue the surveillance legally. Unfortunately, the President decided against approaching a judge or Congress after 9/11 to invoke his FISA powers in the interest of national security. He violated the separation of powers as defined in the Constitution and broke the law. This behavior is decidedly not conservative because it is an unequivocal expansion of federal and executive authority.

The argument made by the President to justify his actions may be well intended and honorable on its face, but why didn’t he simply get a warrant, which he most certainly would have been granted immediately following 9/11? The secret FISA court grant wire-tapping warrants ex post facto on a regular basis, and rarely challenge such requests. President Bush argues that FISA would not act quickly enough for the number of warrants that would have been required, and Congress may not have granted all of his requests for reforming and updating surveillance rules. President Bush has not even made an attempt to improve FISA, like what was done for domestic law enforcement and intelligence gathering through the PATRIOT Act, which was passed into law in a matter of days after 9/11. Congress would have easily and quickly approved any changes to FISA the President requested in the days following 9/11, maybe even having it as a part of the PATRIOT Act. All it would have taken was a submission by the President to Congress outlining the provisions he would like to see in the revised act. Why didn’t President Bush and his Administration propose FISA reform four years ago when the domestic surveillance began and subsequently became illegal with no congressional or judicial oversight?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Bush Becoming a "Compassionate" Conservative?

I must give the President some credit over the last couple of months for the various speeches he has made where he has been more open to moderate criticism of his Iraq policy. This is most certainly in stark contrast to the overall attitude the Administration has stubbornly held ever since the very beginning. The perception that the neoconservatives had effectively hijacked the Republican Party and the Bush Administration had gradually gained credibility up until now. Although there remain some stubborn elements within the Administration, particularly Mr. Rumsfeld, and Mr. Cheney, President Bush appears determined to change this perception and assert "compassionate" conservatism as he had promised during his 2000 campaign. This new direction by the President really began shortly after Hurricane Katrina when the President boldly promised massive aide to rebuild New Orleans and the affected areas. When President Bush took responsibility for the failure of the federal government to respond quickly enough, and then followed up with concessions about failures in his Iraq policy in recent speeches, it demonstrated his "compassionate" conservative side.

However, yesterday the President took a step backwards by attempting to set boundaries for the debate over the Iraq war. He disingenuously grouped the extreme left who talk about conspiracies for oil and the alliance with Israel as reasons for going to war, with moderates who blame the intelligence community for mishandling the information pertaining to WMDs in Iraq. You cannot have it both ways, Mr. President. Either the American people are allowed to express their dissenting views in times of war openly and without fear of being accused of providing comfort to the enemy, or all dissenting opinions or suggestions are disregarded and a change of course in the tides of war is blocked, therefore preventing any possibility of success in Iraq.

I believe the most recent remarks accusing certain dissenters of aiding the enemy is purely a political move to scare swing voters into keeping Republicans in power for the upcoming midterm congressional elections, because otherwise those Democrats will cause failure in Iraq by pulling out before the job is done. The problem with the argument is that in fact a majority of Democrats in Congress are not in favor of leaving Iraq on a whim. The votes tallied that were opposed to the Iraq Resolution presented by Republican Senator Duncan Hunter in response to Democrat Senator John Murtha's call for redeployment of the troops prove this point. Although many liberals may prefer a quicker withdrawal from Iraq than the President, including DNC chairman Howard Dean, this is not indicative of any effort by Democrats on the Hill to end this war before the Iraqi government is stable enough to handle its own security.

We all want the same thing, which is success in Iraq. Even the harshest critics of Bush's Iraq policy, which include former members of his Administration, not just Democrats, want America to succeed in making Iraq stable and secure, but may have another way to go about it. All the criticism and dissent over Iraq is about bringing alternative ideas and strategies at a critical juncture of this war. Now is not the time to play politics by accusing these patriotic Americans of aiding the enemy, Mr. President. Please get back on board your train of compassionate conservatism and keep an open mind to the criticism that may provide an alternative route to true victory.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

A New Year For Corporate America

After taking a month off from my blog, I have decided taking a break from politics can do wonders for the spirit. In the future, I plan to keep my individual blog entries shorter in hopes that I will have the energy and motivation to write more frequently.

Now that the "War on CHRISTmas" is over, we can move on to more important issues, such as the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Alito. It never ceases to amaze me the amount of garbage that comes out of the mouths of ideologues who are dead set on a particular viewpoint, regardless of any evidence that may serve to undermine their arguments. In general, paranoia, cynicism, stubbornness, ignorance, and apathy seem to be the primary characteristics of such individuals and groups. In fact, just about any special interest group could be found guilty of spreading empty rhetoric or misleading propaganda that has little supporting evidence at one time or another. I believe this to be the case from both the supporters and opposition groups to Judge Alito's confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court. Whenever these groups run an ad about Alito, they manage to leave out details that may lead the viewer or listener to a different conclusion than what they intend. One way to discern the truth is to do the research, such as at Unfortunately, not many citizens seem to have the time, energy, or motivation to question what they hear in the media, especially if what they hear fits their own particular point of view. This problem of bias is difficult to overcome and perhaps inherent to human nature, but is only reinforced by how media ownership is currently structured.

Nevertheless, media reform is an ongoing process, and will take time. I like to think I play a small part in this, but that may be wishful thinking. Anybody who reads my blog should remember that I can't change things on my own, but writing can inspire others to join in and create a real movement of change. My intention is not to destroy capitalism or corporations, just to bring about a broader involvement from informed citizens in the process of making public policy decisions shaping our media, rather than leaving it up to the corrupt technocrats in Washington.