Tuesday, October 31, 2006

May It Please the Court

So Salon is reporting that a number of Federal Judges who were subsequently appointed to the federal bench made campaign contributions to Republican candidates. In fact, “At least two dozen federal judges appointed by President Bush since 2001 made political contributions to key Republicans or to the president himself while under consideration for their judgeships, government records show.” As I recall, judicial ethics require that judges do everything possible to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. It seems to me that blatently giving cash to the President to ensure your appointment to the federal bench is not only unethical but actually illegal. Some of these judges gave money directly to Bush after he officially nominated them. This is the very thing that trial court judges in Brooklyn are going to jail for. It should be no different with federal judges.

Hopefully this isn’t one of those scandals that Nancy Pelosi deems “off the table.” At the very least there should be a congressional investigation and those judges who were shown to have donated directly to the President either while their nominations were being considered or after they took the bench should resign. The following judges are implicated in this scandal and should resign: Judge Thomas Ludington of Michigan gave Bush $1,000, after being nominated in September 2002. Judge P. Kevin Castel of New York gave Bush $2,000 after Bush nominated him in March 2003. Judge Paul Crotty of New York gave $1,000 to Bush in June 2003, the same month he met with Bush officials about the judgeship. Judge Mark Filip of Illinois, who had volunteered as a Republican election monitor in Florida during the disputed 2000 election, gave the president $2,000 after Bush nominated him in April 2003.

The White House issued a standard vague denial but seemed to defend the practice by asserting that, “[w]e are not aware of any law or regulation that prohibits a federal judicial candidate or nominee from making political contributions." A strong and independent judiciary is the cornerstone of a healthy society. We haven’t had one in several years. The judicial branch, like Congress and the laws it passes has been bought by corporate interests and functions as a tool of the capitalist power machine.

Monday, October 30, 2006

A Quote From Gandhi

Via Andrew Sullivan's blog:

"Seven blunders of the world that lead to violence: wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice, politics without principle," - Mahatma Gandhi.

Distributivism 101

In contrast to the economic systems of Capitalism and communism there stands a third alternative known as distributivism. Much of the following is paraphrased from Wikipedia: In the distributivist system, the ownership of the means of production are to be spread as widely as possible among the people, rather than centralized under the control of a few state bureaucrats (socialism) or a minority of resource-commanding individuals (capitalism). A summary of distributism is found in G.K. Chesterton's statement: "Too much capitalism does not mean too many capitalists, but too few capitalists" ("The Uses of Diversity", 1921). The articulation of Distributist ideas was based on 19th and 20th century Papal teachings, beginning with Pope Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum. Distributist thought was later adopted by the Catholic Worker movement, conjoining it with the thought of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin about localized independent communities.

The critique of capitalism advanced by Distributionist thinkers is familiar to students of social theory but Hilaire Bellock, one of the founders of the movement approached capitalism from a different angle. Belloc believed that Capitalism was incapable of achieving its own economic equilibrium for two reasons; divergence from its own moral theory and from insecurity. The moral theory of capitalism is freedom, at least the acceptance that a free market will necessitate a free and democratic state. The problem with this belief is that in a capitalist system property tends to accumulate in the hands of a few owners. As these owners retain more resources they consolidate their political power to perpetuate their wealth. The state increasingly becomes a tool which the ruling capitalist class employes to retain its power by validating and enforcing so-called wage contracts, which by their nature are contracts of inequity and adhesion. The state, in theory a judge and passive observer can no longer be a neutral arbiter between the classes but rather becomes a defender of the class with the power and means of production. This seems clear to see when one considers the agenda of the present government and the extent to which corporate influence dominates the government.

Distributism promotes a society of artisans and culture. This is influenced by an emphasis on small business, promotion of local culture, and favoring of small production over capitalistic mass production. A society of artisans promotes the distributist ideal of the unification of capital, ownership, and production rather than what distributism sees as an alienation of man from work.

Speaking of alienation, I have to get back to work.

Monday Morning

I attended the State Island peace rally on Saturday. The combination of the rainy weather and the cold kept away most of the crowd, but there were a few interesting speakers, most notably Dan Berrigan who at age 80+ is still able to command attention from everyone in the crowd. I stopped attending street protests and rallies a few years ago because I never thought them very successful; there were millions in the streets prior to the Iraq war and a lot of good that did. I am more sympathetic to anarchist direct action such as chaining oneself to a recruiting station and so forth. Perhaps my legal education has toned down my natural inclination toward radicalism. Although I must say that when I graduated from law school and started working for the City it didn’t take long for me to realize that the practice of law was just another fools game and that whatever outcome the ruling class wants it usually gets. Common law based legal systems are the epitome of institutionalized power. The law develops along a certain line because it gives a veneer of legitimacy to the powerfull. Examples in the law abound: Treating a corporation as a person, for example, or equating the desire to get money out of politics as infringing upon free speech. All smoke and mirrors, I’m afraid. My little break from seriously practicing law is going into its fifth month and I’m not sure if I want to go back. I will never go back to work for a firm where I have to live my life in six minute intervals and defend the powerful against the people. I had enough of that at the City and at C&D. One has to accept certain realities about money and such, however. The interesting side of the law involves issues of constitutional and international law which don’t pay too well and are tough to crack into. A true lawyer’s paradox! I’ve been contemplating starting my own firm and using any money generated to start a non-profit designed to provide immigration legal assistance to migrant farm workers in rural areas of upstate New York, but this is in the high fantasy stage. I think I need to knuckle down and start writing some papers for law reviews so I can get my face out there more. The weather has been unusually freaky this week-end. Raging winds, hurricane like rainstorms, clear cold nights. I’m not too sure what to make of it. I have been slowly realizing that the most important social and policy issue is clearly the environment. No matter what we are doing to one another it pales compared to the consequences we stand to reap if we keep screwing around with the eco-system. Already the oceans are telling us that things are getting out of hand; 40% of the worlds coral reefs are dead or dying and in another 20 years there won’t be any. The diversity and quantity of sea life is also declining. We should listen to the oceans, they are our canary in a coal mine.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


I gotta tell you kids I’m having some trouble shaking this bug I picked up last week. Tonight marks the 6th day I’ve been afflicted with the most hellish gastroenteritis I’ve ever had. If it doesn’t stop soon I don’t know what I’m gonna do. This is seriously cutting into my carousing-around-town-drinking-wine-and-holding-forth-on-political-topics time.

Just when you thought the Islamic clerics couldn’t go off and do something even dumber then kill a nun over a misinterpretation of the Pope, you have this from the Daily Mail:

“A Muslim cleric's claim that women who do not wear the veil are like 'uncovered meat' who attract sexual predators sparked outrage around Australia yesterday.
Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali, the nation's most senior Muslim cleric, compared immodestly-dressed women who do not wear the Islamic headdress with meat that is left uncovered in the street and is then eaten by cats… In a Ramadam sermon in a Sydney mosque, Sheik al-Hilali suggested that a group of Muslim men recently jailed for many years for gang rapes were not entirely to blame.
There were women, he said, who 'sway suggestively' and wore make-up and immodest dress "and then you get a judge without mercy and gives you 65 years. But the problem, but the problem all began with who?" he said, referring to the women victims.
Addressing 500 worshippers on the topic of adultery, Sheik al-Hilali added: "If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it, whose fault is it - the cats or the uncovered meat?
"The uncovered meat is the problem."
He went on: "If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab (veil), no problem would have occurred. Women, he said, were 'weapons' used by Satan to control men. "

Here’s where cultural relativism dies for me and the ugly side of biblical literalism shows its face. If Islam is to be accepted in Europe, its mullahs have to read a few books other than the Koran and understand that living in the West means, at the very least, that you cannot publicly espouse a view that equates women to meat left out for stray alley cats. It does nothing to advance the cause of interfaith dialogue and makes you sound like a lunatic.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

May It Please the Court

Again apologies are in order readers. Today is my first day back at work after what I fondly refer to as my “re-booting” and I’ve been playing catch-up at the office. I haven’t really been following the news and the daily political scene but have been more focused on healing and thinking pleasant thoughts about the medical-industrial complex, which is at least as nefarious as its military cousin.

Did anyone catch the comedy duo of Anton Scalia and Sam Alito over the week-end? They appeared side by side at a discussion of judicial independence sponsored by the National Italian American Foundation. Scalia used the occasion to rail away at the executive branch’s attempt to marginalize the Court and increase its own power in violation of the constitution. Nah, only kidding. Instead, Scalia spent a good portion of his speech railing against the way the Supreme court is portrayed in the press. "The press is never going to report judicial opinions accurately," he said. However, he also apparently thinks that the average Joe isn’t savvy enough to understand a well written judicial opinion because, in his view, "nobody would read it if you went into the details of the law that the court has to resolve." Huh? Let me get this straight. If the press reports on a decision they invariably get it wrong, but if they reported the entire decision no one would be able to understand it? No one knows more than me that judges have an inflated view of their own importance, but this guy takes the cake. What would be his solution to disseminating his precious bon mots to the dirty masses? A made for TV movie?

Tag in Sam Alito. Apparently Alito doesn’t think much of mass communication mediums like the internet. Free speech advocates take notice: "This is not just like somebody handing out a leaflet in the past, where a small number of people can see this," Alito said. "This is available to the world. ... It changes what it means to be a judge." Someone should tell this guy that being a strict constructionist doesn’t mean he has to ride in a buggy and write his decisions with a quill pen. While I occasionally claim the neo-luddite mantle for myself, the fact that the Court is ruing the dissemination of its legal reasoning by electronic means seems somewhat paranoid.

I suppose if judges are getting paranoid these days it is because movements are afoot to strip them of their immunity and jail them when they clearly abuse their discretion. The basic principle of the “jail4judges” initiative is to create special grand juries to investigate specific acts of judicial corruption. These grand juries would have the power to indict, and provide for the trial, conviction and sentencing of judges when it can be proven that the judicial officers committed acts of willful corruption. The reasoning of the proponents of this sort of system is that it takes the disciplining of the judiciary out of the hands of, well, the judiciary and puts it into the hands of the citizenry. This would be paid for by a tax on sitting judges salaries. This proposal is actually on the ballot in South Dakota and stands a good chance of passing.

I have to admit that when I first heard of the movement I thought it was a good idea. In my five years of litigation practice in Brooklyn and Manhattan I appeared in front of judges who were psychotic, abusive, ego-maniacal, or just plain stupid. I have also appeared before a few, a very few, judges who were so thoughtful and intelligent that they reminded me of why I went to law school in the first place. Unfortunately these are the exceptions rather than the rule. However, the one thing that would rankle me more than seeing a bad judge get away with incompetence on the bench would be seeing a good judge be brought down by a litigant who filed a case looking for revenge when his own case went the wrong way. The average citizen does not have the mental acuity to sit and play Monday morning quarterback about results of complicated cases; that’s what appellate courts are for.

Monday, October 23, 2006

My Brain is Fried

Sorry I’ve been absent for the last several days my friends, but the Patriot was laid low by a plate of “Soya Sticks With Black Mushrooms over Rice” that he purchased at The Vegetarian Dim Sum House on Pell Street in New York’s Chinatown. The Vegetarian Dim Sum House is the sister restaurant to the House of Vegetarian over on Mott Street; I have been eating at both of these establishments for about fifteen years and this was the first time I ever got sick. I guess that’s not too bad a track record, but I’m going to stay away from the mushroom dishes for a while. Something tells me that I got a bad one. I was out of work Friday and I’m still home today; the week-end was spent thrashing around in a delirium and making frequent trips to the can. The fact that the pipes haven’t, shall we say, returned to their former level of functionality has concerned me somewhat, hence my scheduled five o’clock appointment with doctor Jing Zhang. And no, the irony of going to a Chinese doctor to resolve this problem is not lost on me, I assure you.

So what has been going on the last few days? Iraq descending into greater sectarian violence and the Republicans in total denial about losing the election? Speaking of the elections, Leslie Stahal did a hatchet job on Nancy Pelosi last night on 60 Minutes. The woman is a crappy interviewer; she kept trying to paint Pelosi into a corner and portray her as a loose cannon liberal which is hardly the case. There are no true liberals left in Congress with the exception of Charlie Rangel and Ted Kennedy. I may not agree with Pelosi on a few issues but I’d rather have her than Hastert (or any Republican for that matter) in that seat. What is a liberal anyway? It seems to depend more and more on which special interest group you identify with. Ok, I’m not making any sense and the thermometer is still reading 101 so I’m going to take a nap.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Habeas Corpus Revisited

Lest we forget that the new detainee law is in effect, a Times editorial today (here) related how, “within hours, (of the Bill being signed) Justice Department lawyers notified the federal courts that they no longer had the authority to hear pending lawsuits filed by attorneys on behalf of inmates of the penal camp at Guantánamo Bay. They cited passages in the bill that suspend the fundamental principle of habeas corpus, making Mr. Bush the first president since the Civil War to take that undemocratic step.”

For the record, in the early 1870s, President Ulysses S. Grant also suspended habeas corpus in nine counties in South Carolina as part of federal civil rights action against the Ku Klux Klan under the 1870 Force Act and 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act, so technically Bush would be the second President to suspend the writ since the Civil War, but I digress. The Times editorial also got it wrong when it claimed that the law does not apply to US Citizens. From Nat Hentoff’s piece last week in the Voice: “[T]he Republicans' Military Commissions Act can not only remove this bedrock of our liberty (Habeas Corpus) from prisoners outside the country but can also strip habeas protections from legal immigrants here, as well as from American citizens. This last-minute insertion into the bill was worked out in a closed-door conference at the White House between Republican congressional leaders and presidential advisers, including Dick Cheney and his chief of staff, David Addington.”

As Hentoff pointed out, it will take at least a year for the matter to reach the Supreme Court, a year during which I plan to do a considerable amount of praying for the health of 86 year old Associate Justice John Paul Stevens, the author of the Hamden opinion.

Vote Early and Often

One example of how the Democrat’s permissive attitude toward voter fraud has emboldened Republican campaign operatives is being played out in California in the campaign of Tan D. Nguyen, a Republican challenger to Democratic U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez. The LA Times reported on Wednesday that Hispanic voters were receiving letters in their mailboxes warning them that it was illegal for them to vote and that they would be arrested and deported if they showed up at the polls. The actual text of the flyer, written in Spanish states: "You are advised that if your residence in this country is illegal or you are an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that could result in jail time." Of course there is no law preventing immigrants with legal status to vote. It is also noteworthy that only registered Democrats received the letters.

The story in the paper precipitated a federal and state investigation which revealed today that the letters were linked to Republican Nguyen’s office. Nguyen declined to comment on the illegal mailing. Look for more of these sleazy illegal tricks to come oozing out of tight races all over the country. Speaking of dirty tricks...

While Daily Kos and other lefty bloggers have dedicated their recent postings to the analysis of every poll showing upward Democratic movement in tight Congressional races, arguably the more important story about the potential for massive voter this fall has gone underreported. The Times had a great story on the issue in today’s paper; just follow this link. The most salient point made in the story from my perspective is that “votes in about half of the 45 most competitive Congressional races, including contests in Florida, Georgia and Indiana, will be cast on electronic machines that provide no independent means of verification. “In a close race, a machine error in one precinct could leave the results in doubt and the losing candidates won’t be able to get a recount,” said Warren Stewart, policy director for VoteTrustUSA, an advocacy group that has criticized electronic voting.”

Remember, they stole two presidential elections already so what’s to stop them from a little fraud during the mid-terms?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Evening Rant

The Patriot is tired. Tired of the lack of passion in the citizenry and tired of Americans replacing their sense of righteousness and equity with shiny things and rich food. Where are the pioneers of labor and the tireless advocates of justice? Where are the Joe Hills and the Dorothy Days? Where is the IWW and the spirit of the collective? Have we become so anesthetized by our television, cell phones and computers that we are incapable of feeling the pain of the other? Americans have let the notion of individualism overcome their natural tendency to compassion. We are so insulated in our cocoon of wealth and privilege that we cannot conceptualize the suffering that the Middle East and Africa experience as normal on a daily basis. Does it ever occur to anyone that the result of the world rising to the American standard of living means that the world’s resources would be exhausted within a generation? In order for the world to survive, Americans need to learn to make do with less. This means embracing a fundamental shift in what it means to be an American. Limitless opportunity was a grand concept when we were a struggling country shaking off the constraints of European monarchy with thousands of miles of land at our fingertips. As the 300 millionth American is born there is little talk of sacrifice and belt tightening. No one is asking Americans to sacrifice for anything; not for the war and not for the future of the planet. Simplicity and frugality are thought to be quaint relics of a bygone age and anyone who advocates them is ironically considered to be Anti-American. As I write this the TV is blaring in the background and the people in my living room are sunk into the couch watching a meaningless sports game with eyes glazed over and energy being sapped from their bodies. Is this the benefit of modern technology? Endless distraction and wasted time? A study came out yesterday which linked excessive television watching to autism in children; I can only wonder what it does to adults. It is a palliative, not unlike the morphine prescribed to unhappy housewives in the 19th century. And what is the message the One Eye beams into the living room hour after hour? Buy. Consume. Use. Drink. Forget.

Nader in 2008

I have been reflecting on the state of the nation recently and have come to the conclusion that most Democrats are almost equally undeserving of being elected to office as the Republicans they are seeking to replace. As my friend over at political-spazz noted in his 9/30/06 posting, Democratic candidates who run on the concept that the Iraq war is distracting the country from the “war on terror” are too suspect on civil liberties to warrant election. What is the basis for the centrist Democrat’s belief that the only electable candidates are the ones who support the War on Terror? The War on Terror is a fraud, perpetrated by the government to distract the people’s attention from the whole scale looting of the country by business interests which ultimately control both political parties. As an extra bonus to the Halliburtons and the mighty righties, the recent terror bill cedes almost unlimited power to the executive to decide who is a terrorist. Once the decision is made, that person can be made to disappear down the rabbit-hole, never to be charged with a crime or face an accuser, or if charged, convicted on secret evidence that the accused can never see by an anonymous judge.

The Democrats allowed this to happen. They did not consider the greatest constitutional rights rape since the beginning of the republic to be worth filibustering. I find their position untenable. I am almost at the point where I’m thinking of tossing in the towel and sitting this one out. What do the Democrat’s supporters think is going to happen if they take control of Congress? A repeal of the Patriot Act? Of the Bush tax cuts? I wonder. Maybe they’ll serve a few subpoenas and set up their grand centrist victory for 2008.

I think what this country desperately needs in time for 2008 is a working, well-funded third-party that can wrest control of the liberal base from the Democrats thereby leaving the party with its natural supporters; timid, mediocre centrists. To a large extent I agree with the approach taken by Ralph Nader who ran in 2000 on a platform of political reform (get the money out of politics) and who eschewed traditional Democratic and Green constituencies to focus on the larger issues. This approach has led a number of remorseful Democrats to blame Nader and his supporters for the loss of Florida in 2000, despite the fact that the Democrats actually won the election but were too chicken-shit to follow through and actually take power.

The Democrats again exhibited a distinct lack of back-bone in Ohio in 2004. Again there was widespread evidence of voter fraud and again the Democrats decided not to fight for their victory. The penchant for Democrats to avoid claiming their victories has emboldened the folks over at Diebold the voting machine makers. In fact, 80% of all votes in America are counted by only two companies: Diebold and ES&S. This fact is even more startling when one discovers that the Vice-President of Diebold and the President of ES&S are brothers. It is well known that the CEO of Diebold at the time of the 2004 election was actually a major Bush campaign organizer and donor who wrote in 2003 that he was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year." The fact that every American wasn't hearing about this in the days immediately following the election is a travesty.

While it has been entertaining watching the Republicans wander around like drunken fratboys who can't find their car keys over the course of the last few weeks, Democrats would be well served to remember the elections that they actually won, but were too paralyzed by fear and indecision to claim.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

America RIP

Today George Bush, a small minded incurious man with no understanding of history or law, signed an anti-terrorism bill which effectively eviscerates the Constitution of the Unites States and sets our people off down the road to totalitarianism. The 911 attacks have succeeded beyond the terrorists wildest dreams as our nation and leaders fall prey to paranoia and fear. This day will be remembered in history as the day the United States turned its back on its most cherished principles and succumbed to the easy allure of security at the expense of its civil rights
"The president can now, with the approval of Congress, indefinitely hold people without charge, take away protections against horrific abuse, put people on trial based on hearsay evidence, authorize trials that can sentence people to death based on testimony literally beaten out of witnesses, and slam shut the courthouse door for habeas petitions," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero.
"Nothing could be further from the American values we all hold in our hearts than the Military Commissions Act," he said.
The Democrats, who inexplicably failed to filibuster this bill, are also undeserving of support in the coming election. Their willingness to sacrifice the constitution for their own political futures renders them unfit to hold office. Shame on them, and shame on all of us for not doing enough to stop this bill from becoming law.

Monday, October 16, 2006

28 Months in the Federal Pen for Practicing Law

Freedom was dealt another blow in a Manhattan Federal courtroom today as Criminal Defense lawyer Lynn Stewart was sentenced to 28 months in prison for zealously defending her client, the blind terrorist sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman. The Federal prosecutors are claiming that the jailing of the 67 year old lawyer who is still recovering from cancer treatments is a “major victory in the war on terror”. The government intended to send a message by prosecuting Stewart and they certainly got their point across: Lawyers who take on the representation of suspected terrorists may find themselves subject to prosecution and imprisonment.

It was incredibly sad to witness Stewart, a staunch defender of Unites States political prisoners and garden variety unpopular defendants, grovel to a federal judge as she sought a reduction in the life sentence she was subject to under federal law. Stewart argued that the government's characterization of her was wrong and took unfair advantage of the "hysteria that followed 9/11 and that was re-lived during the trial." I don’t see how anyone could disagree with the fact that her prosecution was politically motivated and that she was indeed swept up in the governments fascist post 911 rush to strip its citizens of their basic civil liberties.

The prosecutors must be disappointed at the judge’s failure to punish Stewart more severely but again, the message they sent was clearly received. Stewart was immediately disbarred after being convicted of a felony and has been scraping together funds to assist in her legal defense. What lawyer in her right mind would take on the representation of a suspected terrorist with the threat of federal prosecution and a long prison sentence hanging over her head?

It is unlikely that a case like Stewarts will ever occur again. Under the legislation passed last week by Congress a defendant like Abdel-Rahman is unlikely to ever be tried in a regular court-room, never mind actually having access to counsel.

Those of us in the legal profession should not treat the government’s attack on the rule of law and individual attorneys with anything than utter contempt, to echo the contempt with which the President and his “Justice” Department showed for Lynn Stewart, a tireless champion of freedom.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Politics and Religion

On Monday a book is going to be published which reveals that Bush and his cabinet have been using the evangelicals to further their own political agenda while mocking them as “nuts” in private. This revelation is coming on the heels of the new Gallup poll which found that the percentage of evangelicals who think that Republicans govern "in a more honest and ethical way" than Democrats has plunged to 42 percent, from 55 percent at the start of the year.

The book, Tempting Faith, was written by David Kuo, a former Special Assistant to President George W. Bush and Deputy Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. Kuo reportedly became disillusioned when he realized that the White House was using the evangelicals to advance a secular agenda with no connection to the policy desires of the religious right wing. According to Kuo, Karl Rove's office referred to evangelical leaders as 'the nuts’ and asserts that, 'National Christian leaders received hugs and smiles in person and then were dismissed behind their backs and described as 'ridiculous,' 'out of control,' and just plain 'goofy.' "
Again according to the author, “White House staff didn't want to have anything to do with the Faith-Based Initiative because they didn't understand it any more than did congressional Republicans . They didn't lie awake at night trying to kill it. They simply didn 't care."
The administration, while clearly needing the votes from its evangelical base to retain its power was loathe to provide any funding. One exchange was memorialized as follows:
Bush: "Eight billion in new dollars?"
Kuo: "No sir. Eight billion in existing dollars for which groups will find it technically easier to apply. But faith-based groups have been getting that money for years."
Bush: "Eight billion. That's what we'll tell them. Eight billion in new funds for faith-based groups."

Kieth Olberman at MSNBC is reportedly working this up into a big story and the Kos reports that the revelations in the book will be featured this Sunday on 60 minutes. Hopefully this will turn the steady stream of votes floating away from the Republicans into a flood. You can lie all day to your enemies but you really shouldn’t lie to your friends, especially when those friends have the votes to run you out of town on a rail.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Poll Smoking

A New York Times/CBS poll released this morning reveals that the Foley scandal may cost the Republicans dearly in November and that the scandal has also eroded the perception that the Republicans are the party of “moral values”. Curiously, yesterday the Times gave play to a story that seemed to show the exact opposite; that self-identified born-again Christians placed most of the blame at the feet of Mr. Foley rather than at the Republican congressional leadership. The story also opined that it was simply possible that people’s opinion of Congressional leadership was incapable of sinking any lower than it is no matter what the scandal. Congress’s approval numbers is running several points lower than Bush’s, and his are nothing to write home about.

Nevertheless the results of the poll taken at the end of last week reveal that the number of Americans who approve of Mr. Bush’s handling of the so-called “War on Terror” dropped from 54 to 46 percent over the last two weeks, perhaps showing that the increase in violence in Iraq and the Foley scandal have had a negative effect on the President’s numbers despite the White House propaganda machine’s incessant drum beat that the Democrats are the modern day equivalent of Nazi appeasers.

The poll also showed the Country evenly divided on the issue of whether the Democrats or Republicans can better handle the “terrorist threat”. This is the first time since Bush took office that a larger number of voters trust the Democrats more on this issue. This is interesting on a number of levels because it seems to reveal that either the voters are starting to believe that the threat is overblown or that the Republican’s constant lying and misrepresentation of material facts have led to a crisis of confidence among the electorate.

My favorite numbers to come out of this poll, and the ones the Republicans should be very concerned with, deal with the issue of who better reflects the voter’s personal moral values. The Democrats won this one by a good 9 points. The question was actually, “Does the Republican party or the Democratic party come closer to sharing your moral values?” Democrats 47, Republicans 38. Hmmm. I am assuming this result doesn’t mean that moderates in the heartland have suddenly developed a taste for gay marriage and abortion, but rather that the swing voters view the handling of the Foley scandal and, one hopes, the war in Iraq as moral issues on which the Republicans have so gracelessly dropped the ball. Clearly the handling of the Foley issue has had an effect on how the electorate views the morality of the Republican Party.

The final question in the poll asked whether the house leadership was more concerned with protecting the teenage pages or their leadership’s own political standing. 79% of the respondents said the principal concern was ass covering (Hastert) rather than ass protecting (the page).

Hastert’s failure to resign has been a boon to the Democrats. Hopefully he will continue his self-absorbed power grab up right up to the November elections.

Monday, October 09, 2006


Why has religion been such a source of violence and strife in the world of late? All religions, after all, accept some variation of the Golden Rule which at its simplest means that we shouldn’t bomb our brother’s country lest he turn around and bomb ours.

Usually the genesis of this violence doesn’t arise among the rational educated classes but can be traced to fundamentalists long on faith but of limited intellectual means. Taking a literalist approach to a written work with as many inconsistencies as the Bible or Koran is a recipe for temporal as well as spiritual disaster. And yet those that wave their holy books the highest are often the ones firing up the people to commit violent acts in the name of defending their way of life (be it economic or religious) and consolidating their own power. Religion is used by many people in many different ways; politicians use religion to win elections and to cover their irreligious acts with the veneer of faith, radicals use religion to consolidate their power and to motivate populations to action. Individuals like Gandhi used religion as an effective tool to advance a positive political and social agenda. With the recent rise of radical fundamentalist Christianity and Islam, it behooves us to take a critical look at the effect these religions have had on the level of violence around the world and examine the more peaceful philosophies and belief systems which may be pressed into service to temper the effects of their radical brethren.

The question of what place religion should occupy in a rational, modern scientifically advanced world is one that has occupied my thinking for a long time. During the last several years I have gone back and forth on the question of whether society would be better off without religion at all; I have wrestled with the idea that monotheistic religion is a dangerous hindrance to human development and a vestige of our superstitious past which should be consigned to the dustbin of history along with Newtonian physics and the pseudo-science of alchemy. This seems to be the more intelligent view considering that religion has little utilitarian purpose; the time and energy spent at church related activities could be better spent building houses or feeding the poor. Yet religion occupies such a huge place in the human psyche that to ignore it would be as ill-advised as to embrace it. Over the next few weeks I’ll have a bit more to say on this issue. Politics is starting to wear on my nerves.

Now its Freakin' Korea

If you want to see first-hand how the disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq have decreased American influence in the world you need look no further than North Korea. The Stalinist state went ahead and tested an atomic weapon yesterday, something they never would have done had the United States not been bogged down in the middle-east trying, and failing, to manage the Iraqi civil war.

Back when this country engaged in diplomacy to solve international disagreements, North Korea could be satisfied with a few bags of rice and occasional multi-party talks. Now that we are refusing to engage in dialogue with rogue states like North Korea and Iran, they see no further advantage in cooperation and are moving ahead to develop the weapons of mass destruction that Sadaam never had.

The Bush administration’s obsession with Iraq is incomprehensible in light of the threat posed by the Koreans obtaining nuclear technology. What leverage do we have over the North Koreans now that they have decided to travel down this path? For one thing we can immediately institute sanctions and try to starve Kim Jong Ill out of power. This policy is not without risks; an invasion of South Korea being a distinct possibility if things get too severe.

Since George Bush won the presidency in 2000, the Administration rejected calls from Pyongyang for bilateral talks, and made it clear that it did not support the Clinton administration's 1994 agreement with Pyongyang under which the regime was to freeze its nuclear program.

Bein a hawk on Korea has failed to stop North Koreans from continuing its program of uranium enrichment and weapons development, in fact it probably accellerated it. Jong-Il no doubt learned a lesson from watching the invasion of a soverign Iraq and decided that if the United States came knocking on his palace door it would be greeted much less hospitably than it was in Baghdad. Now it appears as if the test will ignite a local arms race and put more WMDs in the hands of even more countries. Iran will almost certainly see the Korean’s success as a green light to move ahead with its own weapons program.

The administration’s failure in Iraq and resulting overextension of the military has weakened the United States diplomatically. The administrations contempt for diplomacy has taught the leadership of rogue states that since they stand to be invaded by the United States for creating a WMD program, they have nothing to lose by accelerating their nuclear programs and hoping to develop a bomb before the US army shows up on theor door-step. Once again, the administration has made us less safer in an increasingly dangerous world.

Thursday, October 05, 2006


I have to tell you its getting very difficult to keep an up-to-the-minute blog going on when the Foley/Hastert case keeps dealing one surprise after another. CNN is now reporting that the FBI is interested in interviewing NY Congressman Reynold’s ex-aid Kirk Fordham who has made it perfectly clear that he doesn’t intend to roll over and take one for the team. Fordham has recently revealed that he notified speaker Hastert of Foley’s inappropriate behavior with male pages in 2003, which makes Hastert out to be a big fat liar. I think that Hastert and Reynolds are both toast.

As much as I am enjoying the spectacle of seeing the Republicans embroiled in an underage gay sex scandal, it pains me to see the media hammering away at this story at the expense of the arguably more important issues like Iraq and the elimination of habeas corpus. The Iraq quagmire has been getting more deadly by the day and Bob Woodward’s revelation that Henry Kissinger has been a shadowy figure at the White House makes the comparison of this debacle with Viet Nam all the more clear. Nevertheless, the issue that is resonating with heartland voters is the Foley matter. The Republicans, rather than addressing the issue head on, are throwing to the sharks anyone in the party they can get their hands on. This “every man for himself” philosophy is guaranteed to engender disgust back in the home districts while revealing to the voters the Republican leadership’s obsession with power.

"Everyone knows that Congress people are assigned to committees based on their great weakness. Why would Senator Ted Stevens---a man more comfortable in the horse and buggy era---be in charge of regulating the Internet, which he believes is a series of tubes? A series of tubes though which other congressmen can reach through and fondle 16-year-olds."---John Oliver on The Daily Show

Plans for the party are proceeding apace. Becky was up until 12:30 this morning making empanadas. I took tomorrow off to deal with food and beverage issues. Hope more of you are planning on coming.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

You've Got(ten) Nailed!

The Patriot was right on-the-money (shot) again folks. More Foley IM communications have just been released by ABC which reveal that Mr. Foley was doing more than the people’s business in Washington the last few years; in this latest exchange, Foley takes time away from a House vote to have cyber-sex with an underage page. This new exchange took place in April of 2003. I The exchange continues in which Foley and the teen both appear to describe having sexual orgasms.It appears that if the House had done the barest of investigations it would have discovered this behavior long ago, but, alas, they didn’t do anything. The responding letters on ABC.com are pretty much all calling for the resignation of Hastert and anyone else who was sitting on this story. Hoisted on their own petard! Is there anything as sweet as this

Family Values II

We have now had 13 people RSVP for Saturday so its shaping up to be a great party. The great thing about e-vite is that it tells you who has read the invitation and when. Scary technology. The sooner you all respond the better idea we’ll have about how much food we’ll need, hint, hint.

The Foley story is turning out to be the gift to the Democrats that keeps on giving this election season. Nothing energizes the Republican base more than a little sexual scandal. Unfortunately for the Republican House, the base is being energized against its representatives. No less a conservative bastion than the Moonie-run conservative paper The Washington Times has called for Speaker Hastert’s resignation in the wake of revelations that Hastert had been notified of the “sick, sick, sick” e-mails Foley sent to a 16 year-old page over a year ago. After being caught lying about having seen these initial e-mails, Hastert is proffering the dubious excuse that he didn’t think there was anything about them that merited concern. The Times wasn’t having it: “Either he was grossly negligent for not taking the red flags fully into account and ordering a swift investigation, for not even remembering the order of events leading up to last week's revelations -- or he deliberately looked the other way in hopes that a brewing scandal would simply blow away.”Either way, he’s fucked.

The best part of this is that as more salicious e-mails and IM’s are released, the Republicans will be wholly unable to divert the media’s attention towards the election. As David Gergen noted yesterday, “"This story is going to trace itself up to just exactly who exactly in the leadership of the Republican Party knew what when. And that is going to keep the story alive for day after day, and keep the Republicans on the defensive, with the election just around the corner." I find a certain amount of irony and poetic justice in the fact that a sex scandal may very well sink the Republicans at the polls this fall. After the crap they put Bill Clinton through and their incessant bleating about the ten commandments and family values, at the end of the day their hypocracy is so transparent as to disgust even their most ribald conservative base. Joseph Farah, editor of the ultra-conservative WorldNetDaily commented yesterday that he has “concluded Republicans are unworthy of retaining control of the federal government.”

The Republican leadership’s desire to sacrafice 16 year old boys to save their own political asses is the kind of amoral shit thatdoes not play well in soccer-mom red state America. The Democrats have been somewhat silent on this one, following the old political adage that you don’t try to murder your opponants when they’re already committing suicide. Let’s just hope that the media plays true to form and keeps flailing away at this for a few more weeks because its bound to attract the interest of the moronic masses more than Iraq or indefinite detention.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Family Values

Happy Monday everyone. I see that Becky attached a link to this blog on the e-invitations to Saturday’s party. I’d like to encourage you all to come out to Staten Island and spend a relaxing fall evening basking in the gentle harbor breezes which caress our humble island. We’ll have food and drink and if the weather abides we’ll be taking cocktails in the back yard as well as the house. The ride on the ferry is free and fun, and rides to the house can be arranged.

On to the daily rant! Rep. Mark Foley has entered alcohol rehab where he will attempt to recover from the compulsion of sending sexual e-mails to 16 year old pages. Wonder how he’s going to make amends to the Republican Party? As The Daily Kos reports today: “House Republican leaders stand accused of allowing a sexual predator to work directly with adolescent boys and girls and lead a committee on child Internet safety, while those same Republicans knew he was making lewd and unwelcome advances to teenage boys for years.” Family values, Republican style! I suppose one can draw a distinction between the conservative voters who will demand an investigation and the right wing sociopaths who will do everything in their power to forestall any inquiry until after the election. If these two factions set to fighting, who do you think will win?
Another interesting example of the religious right’s complete detachment with the modern world was brought to my attention this morning. The story originates in, where else, Texas. The New York Times reports that a popular art teacher with 28 years in the classroom is out of a job after leading her fifth-grade classes last April through the Dallas Museum of Art. One of her students saw nude art in the museum, and after the child’s parent complained, the teacher was suspended. Kind of reminds me of Ashcroft covering the scales of justice statue, a more symbolic act than anyone knew at the time. Can’t we move all of these right-wing nuts off to their own compound or something? Let’s just give them Texas and some other interior states so they can start their little theocracies. According to a statistic quoted in Sam Harris’s “Letter to a Christian Nation”, 45 percent of the American people believe that Jesus is going to come roaring down on a cloud in *the next 100 years*. Gives a whole new meaning to the idea of “permanent tax cuts”. I suppose that there hasn’t been any hope for rationalists and atheists in this society since Bush and his evangelical army took power. Although I confess I don’t really understand what the loonies find objectionable about nude statues. Are they afraid that someone is going to get turned on by a piece of marble in a museum? I really don’t get it.