Saturday, April 30, 2005

Michael: GOP doesn't need 'The Hammer'... They need 'A Plumber'

Huffaker Cartoon

Perhaps it just wishful thinking on my part, but it certainly seems that the GOP has brought itself to an unfavorable tipping point. Unable to shed the offensively juvenile protest politics of a minority faction of their party, the party's agenda has been consumed in the popular mind by a succession of unproductive symbolic issues that fail to move America forward.

Of course, they still hold a majority in Congress, so they have been able to deliver the bacon to key narrow interests, such as the consumer credit industry's shiny new bankruptcy law and a few other key pieces of legislation that sacrifice the public interest at the behest of wealthy vested interests. Most importantly they been able pass a budget that Democrats weren't able to lay a finger on. When Americans learn that far from reducing the deficit, this budget expands it by over 600 billion a year for the next 5 years, and gets much worse from there, what will happen in the 2006 elections? The budget also alienates key GOP constitutencies, especially the elderly, with some of it's 'austerity' measures.

The Democrats haven't been very effective, save for some of Reid's strategic maneuvering in the Senate, but I'm begining to think that the GOP has done more to wound itself, especially among moderates in their own party, than Democrats could ever do. The fanatical intensity of the GOP's ideology, which has supposedly made them into a 'party of ideas', may prove their undoing as many American discover that they don't like those ideas at all.

Democrats may be unfocused, but at least they aren't insane.

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Friday, April 29, 2005

Please visit our store

cafepress store

Click the pic. You just may find something that you can't live without. And you shouldn't deny yourself; that's un-American! Get in there and consume to preserve the American way of unsustainable trade deficits and burgeoning consumer debt, soldier!

Michael: No free speech at

coffin stamp For a brief time flourished as a wonderful and wacky bastion of free speech. For a few bucks you could design a US postal stamp comemorating whatever and whomever you liked; most especially subjects and people whom the USPS would never come near. People created serial killer stamps, stamps mocking political and religious leaders, stamps deriding pop stars, depicting porn stars doing their jobs, and pretty much engaging in the choatic, quixotic, and rude business of unfettered free-speech.

Well, we can't have that. shut down thier custom stamp devision to retool. What they did was create a End-Use License Agreement (EULA); they brought in the lawyers to fix their problem of 'too much freedom'.

The result is this:

To upload, order for print, or otherwise transmit or communicate any material for any unlawful purpose or that is obscene, offensive, blasphemous, pornographic, sexually suggestive, deceptive, threatening, menacing, abusive, harmful, an invasion of privacy, supportive of unlawful action, defamatory, libelous, vulgar, violent, or otherwise objectionable;

In other words, you can express yourself, just so long as it doesn't actually communicate anything to anybody. I love the catch-all 'otherwise objectionable', just in case they hadn't been sufficiently exhaustive as to how someone might get offended.

Just to be sure that it was perfectly clear that no one was meant to have any fun, they added,

To upload, order for print, or otherwise transmit or communicate any material that depicts celebrities or celebrity likenesses, regional, national or international leaders or politicians, current or former world leaders, convicted criminals, or newsworthy, notorious or infamous images and individuals;

So you can't use anybody whom anyone might know, and you can't use any images that might be deemed 'newsworthy, notorious or infamous'. That cuts out expressing anything which might in anyway be deemed interesting. Basically, wants you to make stamps out of your ski vacation pics and photos of your kids, provided they aren't famous, or infamous.

Of course provides for their right to refuse to make stamps which violate their EULA and, just in case, they provide a little sweetener in case they choose to let your particular flavor of propaganda slip through: an extra $10 whenever they want to charge it.

You agree that if, in its sole discretion, determines that any material you upload may not meet these content requirements, may reject your order without explanation. reserves the right to charge a processing fee of $10.00 for each image, graphic or photograph that you submit as an order in the PhotoStamps service which violates our content restrictions.

We might let you be naughty, if you bribe us. Lord, you gotta love the 'free market'.

Stamps still aren't the people's media. The USPS would do well to step up on this untapped market and throw the whole stamp business open to public competition on the internet, no ideological holds barred. It would be better for the country, the USPS, and make buying, using, and collecting stamps far more interesting.

Thursday, April 28, 2005


April 27, 2005
Karl Rove in Tucson
Friday, 4/29, 11:00 a.m.
Tucson Country Club

Karl Rove is in Tucson to support Jon Kyl at a $500.00 plate fundraiser. Why? Because it fits in with his master plan to undermine Democrats where they are strong -right here in Pima County.

First they sent Swiftboat Veterans, then the President himself and now Karl, the master plotter is here! This will be only the first of many visits of Radical Conservatives to the Old Pueblo. They think that by employing this strategy they will undercut support for Democrats in the upcoming City Elections and therefore in next year's Governor's race. Let's let him know, he is not welcome!

City Council Candidates Steve Farley, Nine Trasoff & Karin Uhlich will be on hand to show their unity and to let Karl know his tactic will not work in Pima County!

What you can do: Gather just outside the entrance of Tucson Country Club Estates. Grant Rd. to Wilmot, N. on Tanque Verde, Left on Camino Principal. Let's be orderly, polite but steadfast. (There are businesses in that area and we do not want to disrupt their day.) Make a sign and bring it with you.

RSVP 326-3716 so that we can have a sense of how many people will be showing up.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Passion of the Frist

Frist the Hypocrite

Michael: R.I.P. Sam

Sam DuffPfc. Sam Huff will be missed. Her friends and family amply demonstrated the love and loyalty that this young woman inspired in those whose lives she touched in her far too brief time.

What is missing from coverage of the celebration of her life and the mourning of her loss is any questioning of the cause of this young woman’s death, and the deaths of over 1,600 other young people who likewise leave ragged holes in their families and their communities. Why did Sam Huff die? And do we really think that cause is worth her life?

The Administration line is now that our young people are dying for freedom and democracy in Iraq. Of course, it is much easier to support such a sacrifice once we are already deeply embroiled and invested in the conflict in Iraq. If Bush had told Americans that our soldiers needed to fight and die simply to ‘spread freedom,’ I dare say many fewer Americans would have supported the Iraq war.

The original reason given for attacking Iraq pre-emptively was that Saddam was hatching WMD that threatened our security. Just this week, the final verdict has come in on that rationale: there are not, and were not, WMD in Iraq, and no WMD were transferred to Syria or anywhere else.

Charitably, our soldiers are dying for a mistake. Uncharitably, they are dying because of a campaign of deliberate deceptions designed to lead us into an unnecessary war. I doubt that is the mission Sam Huff signed up for.

Now that the mission in Iraq has crept all the way to making the best of a complete fiasco, people need to be asking themselves, "is sacrificing Sam Huff for the political convenience of Iraqi politicians, the profits of American contractors, and the GOP’s ideology, in line with my values and ideals?" If the answer is yes, then carry on, your acquiescence to our continuing occupation of Iraq is ethically consistent. If your answer is no, however, you need to consider what you personally are going to do to prevent more innocent and patriotic young people like Sam Huff from being led to their slaughter in a mission that never was, and is not now, about protecting America.

Michael: Former AZ District 7 Representative David Burnell Smith still refusing to obey the law

David Burnell Smith’s motives are clearly not in the public interest based upon his own statements. He said The Clean Elections Commission "stabbed me in the back, and now I’m going to take that dagger and stab it in Clean Elections’ heart." Mr. Burnell Smith’s motives are no longer to vindicate himself, or even to test the constitutional validity of Clean Elections in good faith, but to vindictively hamper or destroy operation of the laws of Arizona and to have revenge upon a bureaucracy he feels has slighted him.

He said, "a group of five un-elected people cannot remove me from office. It’s going to take the Legislature to do that." Mr. Burnell Smith is clearly asserting an argument that the Commission does not have the legal authority to remove him from office; that only the legislature has that power.

Presumably, this contention will be the heart of a legal challenge to his removal. Mr. Burnell Smith is a lawyer himself, a judge in the municipal courts of Peoria and Wickenburg, in fact. He is not legally naive, and his public pronouncements on the matter can fairly be taken as advancing a good-faith legal theory, not just rhetoric.

Burnell Smith’s appeal of the Commissions’ directive to an Administrative Judge is essentially a test of whether the Commission has the legal authority to order Burnell Smith’s removal from office. In essence this is a quo warranto challenge of the Constitutional basis for the Commission’s authority. A Writ of Quo Wanrranto (literally, ‘on whose authority?’) is seldom used, simply because the allegation that a government official doesn’t have the purported authority to act is seldom colorable. Most lawyers won’t waste their time stomping on such well-trodden ground. The question of whether the Commission’s finding is Constitutional would certainly be a case of first impression in Arizona, but the results are quite predictable.

Arizona voters passed clean Elections as a ballot initiative. The law creates penalties for failure to comply with the law that include loss of an elected office. If a factual finding of the Commission triggers those penalties, then the candidate is removed from office by operation of law. The red herring that Burnell Smith is hoping to drag across this very clear authority is the idea that appointed officials don’t have the ability to remove an elected official from office.

The voters vested the administration of the Clean Elections Act in the appointed Clean Elections Commission. The only way that the members of the Commission could lack the Constitutional authority to remove elected officials is if the voters do not have that authority under the Constitution or if there has been an unconstitutional usurpation of power that is textually committed to another branch. This is the line of argument that Burnell Smith invokes when he claims that only the legislature can remove him from office.

Under the Arizona Constitution the legislature is given the power of regulating its membership, removing members upon 2/3rd vote ("Each house may punish its members for disorderly behavior, and may, with the concurrence of two-thirds of its members, expel any member"), or impeaching any official in the House, with a trial to follow in the Senate. Presumably, it is Burnell Smith’s contention that these provisions constitute a textual commitment of removal of elected officials from office to the legislature.

The first possibility, that the voters haven’t the right to remove official from office outside of an election, is patently false. The voters of Arizona are specifically granted the power to remove legislators for any cause by the Constitution. Article 8, Section 1 states, "Every public officer in the state of Arizona, holding an elective office, either by election or appointment, is subject to recall from such office by the qualified electors of the electoral district from which candidates are elected to such office." Thus the Constitution clearly contemplates in it’s most basic structure that the power to remove elected officials is not textually committed to the legislative branch, but is also vested in the voters.

The power of voters to restrict the tenures and remove elected officials is also enshrined by a Constitutional amendment passed by referendum - Term Limits. The voters adopted term limits by which legislators can be removed from office by operation of law at the end of their maximum term. If the voters can remove legislators from office by the effect of a initiative limiting their terms, even should those officials be elected by the people, why should voters not be able to remove officials for violating the State’s election laws as adopted by the people? Presumably, Mr. Burnell Smith will also be challenging his term limitations if the time ever comes as part of his same principled crusade against the tyranny of voters?

Further, the power of the voters to remove officials is made superior to the powers of the legislature in the Constitution. The Constitution specifically denies the legislature the power to deny or repeal voter-made law. Voters restricted the legislature's power to repeal initiative or referendums by amending the Constitution to read, "[t]he legislature shall not have the power to repeal an initiative measure approved by a majority of the votes cast thereon or to repeal a referendum measure decided by a majority of the votes cast thereon."

Not only is the right of voters to remove officials outside of elections textually recognized, but also the people’s own laws passed by initiative are protected from, and superior to, the legislative authority vested in the state legislature. In all ways, the voters of Arizona are Constitutionally superiors to the elected legislature, including in the discipline and removal of elected officials, as there are no predicate conditions required for a recall. Burnell Smith’s contention that Administrative bodies, created by the people’s own laws, cannot remove officials from office is unfaithful to and disparaging of the spirit of our Constitution.

Nor do the discipline and impeachment clauses of the Arizona Constitution in any way exclusively commit the power to remove officials to the legislature, There are many other ways a legislator can be removed from office that are outside of the discipline and impeachment powers. We have already discussed the power of voters themselves to remove officials under the Constitution. In addition, an official could become ineligible by failing to meet one or more constitutional eligibility requirements, or violating restrictions on concurrent office-holding, while in office. For instance, if a member where appointed to another Federal or State office, stopped being a citizen of Arizona, or moved to another county while a member of the legislature, he or she would have to surrender their office by operation of law. The Legislature cannot therefore be said to be the sole arbiters of it own membership outside of the narrow confines of misconduct or impeachment.

No one contends that violation of the Clean Elections law is grounds for impeachment or discipline for misconduct. The violations of the law Mr. Burnell Smith has been found guilty of, and indeed has admitted to, are set outside of the purview of the Legislature’s power by Arizona law. The legislature is not the only body that could discipline Mr. Burnell Smith, indeed, in this case, it is the wrong forum to decide Mr. Burnell Smith’s punishment.

Clearly, removal of legislative officers by operation of law as administered by the Clean Elections Commission does not violate the Arizona Constitution’s design. The powers exercised by the Clean Elections Commission are within the power of voters to mandate and, most importantly, clearly accords with the popular will. Mr. Burnell Smith’s legal challenge will certainly fail. I suspect he knows that, and is just working the clock. Mr. Burnell Smith’s continuing intransigence is not likely to produce any positive results for anyone but himself, which is a betrayal of the trust voters gave him by electing him. Indeed, his stubborness only serves to perpetuate what seems to be an all-to-common dementia of our political leaders in these times: their conviction that they are above the law.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Michael: Bush Not Serious About Spreading Democracy

Image hosted by Photobucket.comThe recent visit by the Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah illustrates more clearly than almost anything else could how Bush is not serious about spreading freedom and democracy in the Middle East. The fact that the summit passed without demands, nor even public mentions, of liberalization and human rights in Saudi Arabia by Bush speaks volumes about his real priorities in Middle Eastern politics.

Christians were recently prosecuted in Saudi Arabia simply for practicing their faith, yet Bush says not a word to Abdullah. Reformers were jailed for a year for petitioning the government for a constitution, yet Bush says nothing to Abdullah. The Saudi Regime is in many ways more repressive and brutal than Saddam’s regime was, but Bush is focused solely on increasing and protecting Saudi oil production, and any agenda item that might detract from that goal is ignored. Instead, meaningless gestures such as the recent local advisory council elections are pointed to as progress, when any Saudi or serious observer of Saudi politics discounts them as mere public relations.

Bush’s hypocrisy on Middle East politics does not stop with the Saudi ‘special relationship’, however. In Lebanon, the Administration is bringing pressure to bear to curtail anti-American student demonstrations at our embassy. In Afghanistan, the Administration pressured the UN Human Rights Commission to fire Cherif Bassiouni, the monitor for Afghanistan, in clear retaliation for issuing a report accusing the U.S. forces and contractors of extra-legal detainments and widespread rape and torture of civilians. In Pakistan, Bush slapped the wrist of worst nuclear proliferation ring in the world and coddles an unconstitutional dictator. The Bush Administration continues to look the other way regarding Israeli abuses in the occupied territories, including grave and routine human rights violations and the continuing expansion of illegal settlements, while allowing Israel to effectively walk away from the negotiating table.

The lesson to be drawn from this is that while many of Bush’s supporters are serious about seeing democratic reforms, human rights and civil rights spread in the Middle East, there is no real evidence of the Bush Administration’s commitment to that goal. Even the crown jewel of Middle East democratization - the Iraqi elections - were seriously flawed by any standard of electoral integrity, and the government, once formed, will lack any real sovereign power or legitimacy in the eyes of many Iraqis. The new government in Iraq is little more than the same sort of democratic window dressing that the Israelis have allowed in Palestine to make it seem as if they are dealing with an equal partner when, if fact, they are dictating terms to a occupied people.

Once you scratch the surface of the propaganda about democratization in the Middle East, you find underneath the same coddling of dictators who offer stability and ‘reliable’ military assistance in the GWOT, not to mention economic advantage for favored constituencies, at the expense of repression and stagnation for the region’s people that has been the foundation of American foreign policy in the region (and arguably most of the world) for the past 60 years. Bush has not changed the political equation in the Middle East significantly, and the same catastrophic failures that have plagued American policy in the region in the past will await future Administrations as a result of Bush’s policies.

4/25 Ben Miranda Press Conference

Latino Caucus and Allies Talk About Failure To Charge Reservist

Go to this link to view story, press conference and interviews:
This link is being widely circulated. Feel free to post this link to your website.


Rick Romero, Sr.
Finis Communications Company
Arizona Democratic Progressive Caucus
Peace Productions

Michael: URGENT - Tell Clear Channel "No"

A final vote is scheduled for April 26th in the Arizona Senate on SB 1193, the bill that would make it all but impossible to remove illegal billboards on the south side of Tucson and in other parts of the community. This bill is designed to override the Arizona Supreme Court ruling in February that upheld the city's authority to enforce, which our neighborhoods had been pressing the city to do for years. Late Friday, our District 29 Senator Victor Soltero said that he had not made up his mind on the bill. He had, however, given an indication to a full time-lobbyist earlier that he might be supporting the bill.

This bill would be the equivalent of writing a check for $20 million to Clear Channel Outdoor, one of the most right-wing corporations in the country, and would continue to keep the south side in a second-class status. Please call Sen. Victor Soltero immediately and urge him to vote no on SB 1193 and to not support this far right-wing corporation, which even most Republicans voters do not support. Make sure to say that you are a District 29 constituent, if you are, or that you live in Tucson, and leave your address. You might also mention, if applicable, the neighborhood association or other organization you are with, including being a Democratic PC.

The toll-free telephone number is 1-800-352-8404. When prompted, push "3" and when further prompted, punch in the last five digits of his telephone number, "65342". Or you can just call the direct long-distance number at 1-602-926-5342. Please do this today, no later than 11:00 A.M. this morning.

Michael: War Zealots

Image hosted by Photobucket.comThe term ‘war criminal’ is unfortunately chosen. Criminals usually act out of venal motives or naked self-interest. As such, it is easy to condemn them. War criminals act out of what most people consider to be admirable motives - patriotism, nationalism, and loyalty. People who commit attrocities in the midst of conflict would be better termed ‘war zealots’.

When one decides that one’s goals and ideals are the highest possible good, any action seems justifiable. History has shown that when people decide that right is irrevocably on their side, the possibility of torture, genocide, and crimes against humanity increases. Those who ordered the Inquisition, the Holocaust, and the numerous other genocides and war crimes of this and past centuries, would all offer justifications that their fellow patriots and co-religionists would not only approve, but applaud.

We in the United States now face the test of judging those who may have crossed the line while pursing goals that most of us support and applaud. Human Rights Watch is calling for an independent investigation of the culpability of our senior leadership in the torture at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and other detention facilities. As Special Counsel Reed Brody points out, when he deals with foreign governments about rectifying and investigating human rights abuses, the most common response he now gets is, "What about Guantanamo?" When the leader in world affairs begins to routinely ignore ethical standards, how surprising is it when the world follows?

Our senior civilian military and civilian leadership who planned and approved the torture and ‘mistreatment’ of detainees in military facilities around the world, and the rendition of prisoners to nations who openly engage in torture, must be investigated independently. If our leadership is truly innocent, they have nothing to fear from an independent investigation; in fact, they should welcome it as a chance for complete exoneration.

International law we created, and past precedents for independent investigation of possible criminal activity by our political leadership, recognizes that ‘war zealots’ must be judged by the international community or independent investigators, not partisans or underlings of the accused. It does not matter whether we approve the ideals and aims which inspired the unlawful activity, demanding possible ‘war zealotory’ be investigated objectively and independently is a hard choice that morality demands of a people of conscience.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Michael: Dean Misdiagnoses Iraq

Demonstrating the power of the other pro-war party's establishment to suck the good sense out of anyone, DNC Chairman Howard Dean declared that we cannot pull out of Iraq now that we are there. I respect Dean's opinions, and I think his change of mind (UPDATE: Upon reviewing the record, I don't think it's really fair to even characterize Dean's recent statement as a change - he has always maintained that we need to make the best of a bad situation) is well-intentioned, but don't agree with him on this.

Dean lays out three reasons why we must continue to occupy Iraq: the possibility of a Shi'ite theocracy, the destabilization of Iraq by the emergence of an independent Kurdistan in the north, and the Sunni triangle becoming a Taliban-style terrorism incubator.

The problem with his reasoning is that our continued military occupation does not effectively address any of these possibilities, and may in fact make one or more of these scenarios more likely. It is an unfortunate flaw of planners in a military hot-spot like Iraq to believe that military force can accomplish every mission. To a hammer all the world looks like a nail, as they say.

All three of the dangers Dean astutely recognizes are really political problems, not readily soluble by military means: especially not with the relatively light force we have available in Iraq. Really, the only scenario which is amenable to military action is maintaining security in the Sunni triangle, preventing terrorists from setting up military training camps. Consider, however, that the insurgents have been able to effectively plan, train, marshall forces and materiel, and carry out terrorist and paramilitary operations despite our best efforts to stop them; one can hardly have confidence that future operations are going to be more effective.

The utility of maintaining a static occupational force in Iraq even as a counter to terrorist cell activity is questionable, at best. If America is going to bring our Iraq misadventure in for a smooth landing, it will be due to our skillful handling of Iraqi politicians, and the elimination of fraud and waste in the reconstruction, not to the force of our arms.

To my mind, the presence of our armed forces in Iraq is now more of an irritant and distraction than it is a guarantor of security. An appropriate time table for withdrawal of our armed forces, save perhaps for a highly internationalized training force, would be a spur to political progress and a sign of good-faith to the Iraqi people who have suffered the most in the process of removing the Ba'athist regime and now overwhelmingly wish us to leave.

In short, Dean has correctly identified the major hazards to the mission in Iraq, but misdiagnosed the means of avoiding them. Of course, the underlying assumption of all of this reasoning is that the Bush Administration's aim is to create a democratic and independent state in Iraq. This is a faulty assumption. The most important reason to oppose prolonging the military occupation of Iraq is that it gives the Bush Administration greater leverage to accomplish their genuine goal: the permanent subjugation and occupation of Iraq.

All Democrats should oppose prolonging American occupation of Iraq for one simple reason: Bush does not have the best interests of Iraqis in mind, and never did. Dean apparently still gives Bush the benefit of the doubt. That is perhaps mandatory for a person in his position. It's not mandatory for regular people like us.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Michael: The Lie Factory

Seemingly coordinated with the news that ExxonMobil spent at least 8 million dollars to subsidize propaganda designed to convince the public that global warming doesn't exist, a new study of a century of data on the ice fields of Antartica shows the retreat of polar ice to be an incontrovertable fact.

The evidence for global warming is conclusive, even if what to do about it, or the exact extent of the problem, might not be perfectly clear. The earth has warmed very slowly since the last ice age - by about 1/2 a degree every 1,000 years for the last 10,000 years - until recently. In the last 100 years the earth's average temperature has warmed by 1 degree, twice that average increase for 1,000 years since the last ice age, and according to ALL the experts is on course to increase by as much as 6 degrees in just the next century. There is no scientific disagreement as to the cause of this radical acceleration of the warming trend or that it is happening; the oil and coal companies just would love for you to think there is.

I note a pattern of denial and lies here that is hard to ignore, and difficult to reconcile with common sense or good public policy. There is no scientific debate as to the fact the global warming is happening, nor that a significant portion of that warming is caused by industrial processes releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, yet there are some who are driven by financial interests and/or ideology to deny the nose on their face. This desperate attempt to deny the facts is quite reminiscent of the struggle to keep evolution out of our schools and to supplant genuine scientific facts with faux-science in the form of Intelligent Design Theory (sic). Over and over we see such a pattern of lies and propaganda finding their political home in Conservative politics.

One might even consider a general theory of politics based on that pattern: modern consrvatism is a philosophy based on denying the facts and pedaling lies to a gullible public. All in all, it doesn't seem like a political philosophy with a very bright long-term future.

Michael: Shown the Door in Iraq?

The Bush Administration may refuse to consider a time table for withdrawal in Iraq, but it may soon find itself with few other options. An American soldier is reported in Al Hayat to have assaulted a member of the Iraqi parliament who was trying to enter the Green Zone to attend a meeting. The Member, al-Shaikh, a member of the Muqtada al-Sadr bloc, announced this allegation in a tearful and angry session of parliament and the incident is recieving close attention in the Middle Eastern press. The Iraqi parliament voted unanimously to demand an appology from the American government. Unsurprisingly, the story has recieved almost no play in the Western press.

The Bush Administration is refusing to appologize for the event, of course. It seems that disrespecting and abusing Iraqi government representatives is S.O.P. for this Administration. Big deal, right? Let the Sadrite cry-baby weep all he wants. We're trying to fight an insurgency and all those suicide-bombing wogs look the same to us, right? But consider that in a very short time a status of forces agreement, which will govern the future legal status of our troops in Iraq, will be up for review by the very Member whose neck an American soldier stepped on, as well as the other Members who voted to demand an appology and were ignored.

This is just one instance of the hubris of this Administration and its distain for the national pride of the Iraqi people that may well result in bringing our troops home ahead of the Administration's expectations. For that reason, I can't lament the incident too much. I only hope that the Bush Administration is wise enough to make our expulsion a peaceful one.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Michael: Can Democrats Be Anti-Abortion and Pro-Choice?

I am against abortion, but I am not in favor of criminalizing it. I steadfastly believe that women must have ultimate control over their own reproduction, not just as a matter of civil rights, but also for the good of society as a whole. It never ceases to amaze me that so many people are so politically simple-minded as to think that criminalization will eliminate abortion, any more than criminalization has eliminated drug use. To eliminate abortion as a contraceptive technology will require much more than moral outrage or a misguided attempt to legislate sectarian religious doctrine into our criminal law; it will require a comprehensive reformation of the way America deals with reproductive rights, sex education, and the provision of health care. Abortion won’t be eliminated because we make it illegal, it will be eliminated only if it is made unnecessary.

I don’t approach the abortion issue from a position of pre-conceived beliefs. I don’t claim to know when a human life begins. Certainly, I think the Catholic doctrine of ‘ensoulment’ is not the proper basis for public policy – I think that to use such a doctrine in policy would constitute an establishment of religion. There are many landmarks upon the developmental path of the human animal that could demarcate the arrival of the human being with attendant ethical rights and obligations, but I don’t think there is any scientific basis upon which to judge the matter. The simple fact is that our society has not, and likely will not, be able to agree on what landmarks to choose. Any attempt to choose an arbitrary legal marker, after which an abortion cannot be performed, is likely to run afoul of the constitution.

Rather than dicker over the number of angels on the head of the proverbial pin, it is better to directly reduce the incidence of abortions by making sex education realistic and useful (instead of the current ‘abstinence only’ double-bind), providing contraceptives widely and cheaply (rather than pretending that sex isn’t happening among our youth), and to stop restricting access to abortifacients such as RU-486 and large dose progestin pills. Preventing unwanted pregnancies, and ending them earlier will serve to reduce the incidence of objectionable and invasive dilation and extraction procedures, and should be the common goal of both ‘pro-lifers’ and ‘pro-choicers’. One wonders why so many in the ‘pro-life’ community are on the wrong side of each of these issues if they truly want to reduce or eliminate abortions, as opposed to just running political campaigns against the issue. And one wonders why so few in the ‘pro-choice’ community will speak out about reducing abortions.

Rather than legally coerce women into carrying unwanted children to term, often under difficult or unacceptable conditions, we should make the natural impulse to “choose life” as easy and painless as possible. We should invest in a support system for young, unprepared mothers providing education, excellent health care, financial and housing assistance, counseling, and adoption services if we have a real ethical commitment to reducing and eliminating abortions.

Finally, what sort of life will the child lead if the mother decides to raise it? Recent studies revealing the causal relationship between the ‘legalization’ of abortion in 1973 and the large drop in the crime rate in the 1990s (almost exactly 18 years later), tells us what that outcome has too often been in the past. We must provide health care and an excellent education to every child. We must ensure a living wage for even the poorest among us and equal pay and opportunity for women. We must learn to accommodate work and child rearing with only one parent in a household. If we as a society are prepared to make this sort of complete and practical commitment to all of our children, even those unexpected or unwanted ones, only then can abortion will pass away as the barbaric tool of a less-enlightened age, without criminalization or coercion, and without placing the burden of our ethics upon the backs of the women and neglected children of our nation.

Of course, all of this can only reduce or eliminate optional abortions undertaken to avoid having an unwanted child. There will always be areas of medical necessity when an abortion is required to save the life or health of the mother in the opinion of a medical doctor. There can be no elimination of such a tragedy; sometimes we must simply choose one life over another. In such cases, the state has no business dictating to the mother or her family what choice must be made. A true ‘culture of life’ includes respecting the autonomy of every life, even as to the time and manner of its end.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Michael: Billboards for DeLay

DFA sponsored a contest to choose a slogan for billboards to be placed in Tom DeLay's district. The field has been winnowed down to thirty and it is time to vote for the winner.

One of the finalist slogans is the one I submitted. I won't say which; I wouldn't want to affect your vote, but you're free to guess which is mine, if you like.

Michael: Time To Stop Picking Our Battles

Arizona’s Democratic Governor is immensely popular. The Republican Arizona legislature is immensely unpopular. Napolitano has stood up for the values of Democrats against the budgetary extremism of the legislature.

Governor Schwartzenegger of California’s favorability rating has fallen below 50%. Internal Democratic polls show that California citizens overwhelmingly support the Democratic legislative leadership on every issue area regarding the state budget. Elected Democrats in the CA executive branch, such as State Treasurer Phil Agelides and Attorney General Bill Lockyear, both of whom openly oppose and criticize everything Schwartzenegger does, are also very popular.

The lesson is pretty clear: standing up for Democratic values is popular.

The conventional wisdom in DC among congressional Democrats is that they will be punished by voters if they are perceived uncooperative or obstructionist to the Republican agenda. They fear a backlash if they stand on principles. Perhaps that is why some Democrats have crossed party lines to vote for bills as onerous as the new bankruptcy act, the repeal of the estate tax, the MTBE liability waiver, and drilling in the ANWR. These are all betrayals of everything the Democratic Party should stand for, yet Democratic office-holders are voting for them. Perhaps they think that Republicans will remember them in the voting booth: unlikely, but Democrats certainly will.

It’s time for our Congressional Democratic leaders stand up against the Republican agenda every time, instead of choosing to stand firm only on strategically selected issues. We Democrats put these people into office to represent our views on every issue, not just those they think will sell across the aisle.

What congressional Democrats are afraid of is not exactly clear. Congressional GOP caucuses led by increasingly out-of-the-mainstream and discredited figures like DeLay and Frist? A President who is a lame duck even as he embarks on his second term, who has the distinction of having the lowest second-term approval in modern history, and who is deeply distrusted on his chosen signature issues?

Now is the time to stand up and offer America a Democratic vision of America’s future. We cannot win if Democrats do nothing but obstruct the GOP, but neither can we win if Democrats give the GOP political cover by acquiescing to their ideologically inspired agenda, or by facilitating political payoffs to their most powerful constituencies.

Michael: Faux American Quote Quiz

Let’s play the Faux Quote Challenge. I quote it; you guess who said or wrote it. I’ll give you some likely cadidates for each quote to help you out.

"You are an American. You should treasure your homeland higher than anything else in the world. Your first responsibility in this world is to be a good American. You must not beg for the rights of your citizens, but demand them. Heaven blesses only those who use their fists to secure their rights."

- John Ashcroft? Tom DeLay?

"Citizenship rights belong only to those who are worthy and have American blood. America citizenship must become the powerful cement which binds together everything American throughout the world."

- Tom Tancredo?

"In America, the press, art, and literature will not be free, but handmaidens of the State in order to educate the people to a sense of honor and decency."

- Sam Brownback? Rick Santorum?

"We want this state to be based upon true Christianity. To be a Christian does not mean a cowardly turning of the other cheek, but a struggle for justice and a fighter against all injustice."

- George W. Bush? Tom DeLay?

"A culture of life must therefore begin by raising marriage from the level of a continuous defilement... and give it the consecration of an institution which is called upon to produce images of the Lord.... The culture of life must make up for what everyone else today has neglected in this field. It must set life in the center of policy. It must take care to preserve life... It must be considered reprehensible to withhold healthy children from the nation. Here the state must act as the guardian of the unborn in the face of which the wishes and the selfishness of the individual must appear as nothing and submit. It must put the most modern medical means in the service of this knowledge."

- Bill Frist? James Dobson?

"Force determines the way of life. Right exists only when it is created and protected by power and force. It bespeaks the greatness of a people if it can find the strength to raise itself upward."

- John Bolton? Paul Wolfowitz?

"The idea of struggle is as old as life itself, for life is only preserved because other living things perish through struggle.... In this struggle, the stronger, the more able win, while the less able, the weak lose. Struggle is the father of all things. Only through struggle has man raised himself above the animal world. Even today it is not by the principles of humanity that man lives or is able to preserve himself above the animal world, but solely by means of the most brutal struggle. As it is with the individual so it is in the destiny of nations. Only by struggle are the strong able to raise themselves above the weak. And every people that loses out in this eternally shifting struggle has, according to the laws of nature, received its just desert. A worldview that denies the idea of struggle is contrary to nature and will lead a people that is guided by it to destruction. The road that must be traveled by a people which wishes to develop itself still higher is not the road of comfort and ease, but the road of relentless struggle. For if you do not fight for life, then life will never be won."

- Richard Perle? William Kristol?

"It would today be a far more statesmanlike achievement to drum once more into this American people a new faith than gradually to squander the only faith they have.... The more you bring a people back into the sphere of faith, of ideals, the more will it cease to regard material distress as the one and only thing that counts."

- Dick Cheney? Karl Rove?

"I must not measure the speech of a statesman to his people by the impression which it leaves on a university professor, but by the effect it exerts on the people. And this alone gives the standard for the speaker's genius."

- Ari Fleischer? Scott McClellan?

"The Republi can party should not become a constable of public opinion, but must dominate it."

- Tommy Thompson defending the use of Federal money for propaganda?

"How to achieve the moral breakdown of the enemy before the war has started -- that is the problem that interests me. Whoever has experienced war at the front will want to refrain from all avoidable bloodshed."

- Gen. Tommy Franks or Donald Rumsfeld speaking of the "Shock and Awe" campaign?

"Any alliance whose purpose is not the intention to wage war is senseless and useless"

- Dick Cheney on the use of ad hoc alliances in foriegn policy? John Bolton speaking of the UN or NATO?

"How fortunate for leaders that men do not think."

-Karl Rove? Norman Podhoretz?

"The broad masses of a population are more amenable to the appeal of rhetoric than to any other force."

- Karen Hughes? Ari Fleischer?

"The leader of genius must have the ability to make different opponents appear as if they belonged to one category."

- Karl Rove? Ken Mehlman?

"The victor will never be asked if he told the truth."

- George W. Bush? Donald Rumsfeld?

"Who says I am not under the special protection of God?"

- Tom DeLay? George W. Bush?

"I believe today that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator"

-George W. Bush?

"It is always more difficult to fight against faith than against knowledge."

- Jerry Falwell? Judge Roy Moore?

"Demoralize the enemy from within by surprise, terror, sabotage, assassination. This is the war of the future."

- Donald Rumsfeld? Richard Perle?

"I use emotion for the many and reserve reason for the few."

- Bush Speechwriter William McGurn? Bush’s First-Term Speechwriter Michael Gerson?

"This human world of ours would be inconceivable without the practical existence of a religious belief."

- Fellowship Foundation member Senator Jim DeMint? Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma?

"For the political leader the religious doctrines and institutions of his people must always remain inviolable."

- Dr. Rick Scarborough? Phyllis Schlafly?

Nope to all the above. As plausible as many of these attributions may seem, every single one of these quotes is from the writings or speeches of Adolph Hitler. Small modifications have be made in some quotes to fit them to current terminology and Neo-Con catch-phrasology, but the underlying meaning remains unchanged.

I hate to sucumb to Godwin’s Law votuntarily, but someone has to do it. Welcome to the American Reich... er, Right.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Michael: Coulter's Cream Pie

Coulter used her fact-free bomb throwing column today to accuse the Pima County Attorney's office of prosecuting selectively based on the ideology of offenders and victims. It's a serious charge and a potentially libelous one.

Coulter may find the dismissal of misdemeanor charges against the UA pie throwers inexplicable, but the simple explaination is that Coulter failed to cooperate with prosecutors and failed show up a trial, as did the arresting officer.

No matter how zealous a prosecutor may be, it's hard to get a conviction with uncooperative or indifferent witnesses. Given that Coulter is supposedly a lawyer, one would think she would recognize that her failure to cooperate in the case might be the actual cause of the dismissal without prejudice (charges can be re-filed if Couler gets off her butt). Instead of admitting her own culpability for the case having been dropped, she finds it more convenient to libel a respected public official in her home-town newspaper.

As Coulter acted with actual malice in printing that Barbara LaWall "let them walk" because they were liberals (she knew the truth and published her lie anyway), I hope that LaWall decides to sue Coulter. It would be exactly what she deserves for having slandered so many in he ignominious and shabby career.

Coutler accuses liberals of arguing with pies, but Coulter argues with lies.

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Thursday, April 14, 2005

Michael: Be Very Afraid... DeLay's Coup Declaration

"I blame Congress over the last 50 to 100 years for not standing up and taking its responsibility given to it by the Constitution. The reason the judiciary has been able to impose a separation of church and state that's nowhere in the Constitution is that Congress didn't stop them. The reason we had judicial review is because Congress didn't stop them. The reason we had a right to privacy is because Congress didn't stop them."

- Tom DeLay in an interview with The Washington Times

Update: DeLay reads the Constitution like he reads his Bible: literally and uninformed by any sense of context or historicity. The only way to read out of the Constitution a secular government, judicial review, and the right to autonomy and privacy (which is just a code for abortion to DeLay), is to read it without any knowledge of our culture, our history, or any of the documentation surrounding the creation and evolution of our Constitution.

The overwhelming consensus among historians of the Constitution is that the historical record strongly supports that judicial review was intended. Eugene Rostow wrote in his landmark work "The Sovereign Perogative":

"As far as the American Constitution is concerned, there can be little real doubt that the courts were intended from the beginning to have the power [of judicial review] they have excercised. The Federalist Papers are unequivocal; the Debates as clear as debates normally are."

I have read much of the Debates on the Constitution and the Papers. The founders were not naive; they were far-sighted and experienced men. The issue of whether the judiciary was too powerful, and of whether its anti-majoritarian nature might become oppressive, was often raised. Many of the criticisms of the anti-judicial faction of our current politics were leveled at the founding, too. The consensus, and the reason why judicial review developed as it did, was that despite these criticisms there was no other effective way to protect against tyranny by a democratic majority.

To successfully execute a constitutional coup, such as breaking down the barrier between church and state, one's first goal would be to entrench one's faction in elective offices insulated against adverse public opinion. The Republicans have worked assiduously to ensure their districts are gerrymandered and safe (though no congressional seat can really be considered insecure with a 98% retension rate). The next project of a faction intent upon a coup would be to attack and destroy the power of the judiciary if it could not be effectively dominated. Only when the judiciary's ability to limit and define the legislative power is destroyed can the settled contitutional order be uprooted and supplanted with one foreign to American soil.

Michael: Sgt. Patrick Haab to pay for the 'Minuteman' PR Stunt

It never seems to be the idiot who is running with scissors that gets hurt; it's the innocent bystander that ends up getting stuck. In the case of the 'Minutemen' vigilantes, the guy who ends up perforated will almost certainly be army reservist and Iraq vet Seargent Patrick Haab who is accused of detaining 7 immigrants at a highway rest stop near Sentinel - nowhere near the border.

I don't know what happened that night - only Haab and the 7 aliens know that - but I have no reason to prefer the aliens' version of events to that of one of our own soldiers. According to what Haab has said, he felt threatened and took the 7 foreign nationals into custody at gun point and contacted the Maricopa sheriff's office. According to Haab, he was not acting as part of the 'Minuteman Project' and had only limited awareness of that group's existence or activities.

Did Haab over-react? Maybe. He is on medication for battle stress. Did Haab act like a soldier, rather than a civilian? Likely. If he did, it may be understandable given the sort of missions our troops are asked to accomplish in the Iraq occupation. Was he being a knucklehead by fighting illegal immigration with a gun? I doubt it. Of course, the most important fact is that no one was injured in the incident - except possibly Haab. And this is where we get to the scissors and the idiots.

Under normal circumstances this incident probably wouldn't have even been a blip on the media's radar. It might have gotten a bare mention, but the Maricopa County Attorney's office would likely not be looking at charges given all the circumstances, and the national media certainly wouldn't have picked up the story. Because that bunch of weekend warriors are playing at being soldiers on the border everyone views Sgt. Haab's actions in a completely different, and very likely unjustified light. As a result of the 'Minutemen', a real soldier is jammed up; instead of training for Afghanistan, he's hiring lawyers in Arizona.

Great job 'Minutemen' - your PR stunt is really enhancing our national security.

Michael: John Birch... er, Bolton

Wow. What a freak. Just watch video footage of him speaking, ranting really, at a preofessional conference about how the "UN doesn't exist" and you would be hard-pressed to invent a character who was more manifestly unsuited to the role of UN Ambassador than John Bolton.

This is the man who is leading us into another pre-emptive war, this time in Iran, by setting an unrealistic, and extra-legal, conditions on the Iranian nuclear power sector. As Under-Secretary of Defense for Arms Control he swore before Congress, with no factual support whatever, that Iran has a nuclear arms program.

This is the man whom Bush refered to as "the equivalent of dropping a neutron bomb" on the UN, and who ran the food for oil smear campaign. And this person is supposed to work with the Secretariat and diplomats of other nations? This is the man who continues to spin the lie that Lybian consessions had anything to do with our aggression in Iraq, and to claim that threats work better than engagement despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Bolton's only virtue is that I can't really claim that he is worse in any relevant dimension than Negroponte was. Of course, the single most notoriious lie, costing America immense amounts of goodwill and trust in the world and plunging us into a ruinous war, happened on Negroponte's watch, so that's not high praise.

Bolton has already demanded that Iran must abandon all efforts to enrich uranium fuel, contrary to their rights under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. And now he is being sent to the UN to ramrod through a sanctions regime against Iran for the Bush Administration and to grease the skids for making war on Iran at Bush's discretion. The Congress will be too cowed to do anything but rubber-stamp more international aggression, if they are even allowed the courtesy of voting on whether we go to war.

The Senate will almost certainly confirm Bolton along partisan lines, unless the Democrats decide to filibuster the vote. They won't so long as Bolton does't start screaming and beating the Senators with furniture while ranting about the black helicopters and the chips in his head: then again, even that might not stop his confirmation.

The Administration's purpose, marching us toward a needless war in Iran (and maybe Syria too), is practically written across Bolton's forhead. Yet Senate Democrats, and even Republicans who should know better, continue to act as if all is business as usual. The Senate is fiddling as the world order, built by our fathers with 70 years of sacrifice and toil, is torched by this ammoral Administration.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Michael: The Lebanese Hypocrisy

Bush insists that Syria end its military presence in Lebanon before any elections, yet we had troops in Iraq during the recent elections there, and there are no plans to pull out before the elections at the end of this year.

Bush acknowledges that elections require freedom of assembly, multiple candidates, free access by those candidates to the media and the right to form political parties. Yet the during the recent Iraqi elections our forces imposed virtual martial law on the country, restricting assembly and movement, and the party lists were anonymous until the day before the election, making the elections a no more the a plebiscite on those parties fielding candidates.

Is it only me that detects a certain hypocrisy in the disparity between Bush’s demands in Lebanon and his actions in Iraq?

Some think that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza serves as a model for the Bush Administration’s strategy for creating a ‘democratic occupation’ in Iraq. Administration Neo-cons fully expected a very short military phase of the occupation and were rudely surprised by the strength and effectiveness of resistance to the occupation. The costs of the Iraqi adventure skyrocketed beyond those originally projected in both financial and human terms. In response Neo-cons scrambled to deal with the burgeoning crisis. They found the answer right down the road. Just as the Israelis outsourced providing for the humanitarian needs and policing of the occupied population to the Palestinian Authority while keeping control of most of the land and resources, the Neo-cons are attempting to create a compliant civil government with some degree of democratic legitimacy in Iraq, while preserving American prerogatives.

In both occupations the bedrock of ‘democratization’ is just self-management as an occupational cost-control measure, not genuine self-determination. There is one thing no Iraqi or Palestinian government under occupation will be allowed to do - ask the occupying forces to leave. In Palestine, there is another constraint on autonomy imposed by Israel - control of water and land resources that might conflict with Israeli or settler interests. In Iraq, the analogue is control of and access to petroleum reserves by the corporations that are proxies of American interests.

The monstrous hypocrisy of Bush calling for withdrawal of Syria’s 14,000 troops before any elections in Lebanon while holding ‘free’ elections in an Iraq occupied by 150,000 Coaliton troops is not challenged in our press because we are being trained, as the Israelis already have been, to not even see such clear double-standards as hypocrisy any more. Instead, there are just naturally two different standards; one for us and ours, and one for everybody else.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Michael: Please Stop The Cable Monopoly Enrichment Act

From FreePress.Net:

"Immediate action is needed in Arizona. Last month, big cable companies pushed two bills through the legislature designed to strip millions from local government budgets and cripple community media centers. Thanks to your phone calls and letters, one of these bills was defeated. But the other is still alive - and headed for the governor's desk.

"HB 2563" passed the House by three votes - and squeaked through the Senate last week by just one. At any time, the Senate-amended bill could be approved by the House and be sent Governor Napolitano. We need you to call the governor's office - right now - to ask for a veto.

The cable companies behind the legislation claim they're doing this to lower your monthly bills. Don't believe it. Cable prices only go in one direction - up and then up some more. Cable bills have skyrocketed an average of more than 40 percent nationwide since 1996, and cable giants are recording record profits.

This new legislation, even as amended, would slash "franchise fees" that cable companies pay to cities - the "rent" they're charged for digging up city streets and profiting from public rights-of-way. If they succeed, the cable companies will pocket millions that now go to city services, meaning less money for police, fire fighters and public safety.

The bill would also take away public access and educational channels - the last bastions of truly local programming - that the cable companies agree to provide to cities in exchange for their TV monopoly. Don't let the cable lobby line its pockets by shirking its public obligations.

Here's what to do:

1. Call the governor right away at (602) 542-4331. You'll likely speak to a staff assistant. Say:

"I'm calling to ask Governor Napolitano to please veto House Bill 2563, the 'Cable Tax Reduction Legislation.' Local voices and public safety are more important than the profits of cable companies. These companies have never lowered bills before, and they won't do so now. Don't allow them to profit by silencing local voices across Arizona. Thank you very much."

2. Next, call 1-800-352-8404 and ask for your state representative, as the House may still be in debate. (If you don't know who your state representatives are, go to and type in your address.) When you reach his or her office, say:

"Please vote no on House Bill 2563, the 'Cable Consumer Tax Reduction Legislation.' Local voices and public safety are more important than the profits of cable companies. These companies have never lowered bills before, and they won't do so now. Don't allow them to profit by silencing local voices across Arizona. Thank you very much.""

Allowing these cable operators to unilaterally dictate the terms of their future contracts instead of bargaining competitively is profoundly anti-free market and disrespectful of the sanctity of contracts. These are ideas that conservatives once respected, but which this Arizona legislature apparently don't find terribly compelling when lobbying money is in the offing.

Arizona's cities will be impacted in a non-trivial fashion by loss of revenues when their existing franchise agreements expire. Franchise fees will be capped at 5% of cable operators' revenue. Tucson's contracts expire in 2007. Tucson’s cable tax collections would decline by $940,000 in FY 2008, $1.5 million in FY 2009 and FY 2010. Scottsdale would see its cable franchise fees decline by an estimated $720,000 in FY 2008, $750,000 in FY 2009, and $777,000 in FY 2010. Phoenix's contracts expire in 2009. Phoenix would lose $5.0 million in cable revenue in FY 2010, which is as far forward as revenue estimates project. Most Arizona cities’ franchise agreement expiration dates range from May 2010 to October 2018, so the bill’s impact on them would occur further into the future than is projected by legislative analysis.

At the same time, this bill greatly reduces the channels of communication available to community groups (especially non-profit and religious organizations that make disproportionate use of such facilities) to excercise their First Amendment rights, and to local governments which provide vital public information at low cost with these channels. Tucson's cable operators, for instance, now provide, I believe, 9 channels for public and government use: this bill would cut that number to just 2 channels per operator. The potential new costs to local governments imposed by this bill include the value of current in-kind services that would require payment to the cable operator after passage of the bill. Public education and government (PEG) channels are the most significant of these potential expenses. At an estimated annual cost of $250,000 each, a city choosing to provide two PEG channels would incur an additional fiscal impact of approximately $500,000 per year.

Provision of the money and facilities to enhance the public's access to the television media and public information was a central part of the bargain between localities and cable operators for use of the public rights of way and monopoly market position. Allowing the cable operators to drop their end of the bargain so they can squeeze in a few more revenue-producing channels makes uncertain the freedome of contract and their enforcement. What's next? Will every contractee be at the legislature looking for the Republican majority to relieve them of their obligations next? Will road contractors be lobbying to be allowed only to build two lanes of new roads for the agreed price, instead of the four specified in their contract? Will private prison operators be shoving money at lawmakers in the hope of being allowed to release prisoners and keep charging the state for confining them?

Shame on the cable operators and shame on the Republican legislature for betraying their own ideals and their constituents' interests.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Michael: The Coming Theocracy’s Jurisdictional Strip Tease

I hope that most Americans were appalled, as was I, by the venality of some members of Congress in their handling of the Schiavo controversy. Of course, only those now convinced that the courts sentenced Terri to death, and that Congressional machinations were intended to ‘save’ her, were the intended audience. The Theopublicans need a lot people to hate the courts so they will blindly support destroying the basis of the federal courts’ power and independence: judicial review - the ability of the courts to strike down acts of Congress as unconstitutional.

Last week the Traditional Values Coalition held a big conference at the capital, entitled Confronting the Judicial War on Faith. The conference centered on stopping the federal courts’ supposed threat to ‘traditional Christian values.’ The speakers list was chock full of Congressional leaders from the Right, including Tom DeLay, whose recent incendiary charges and thinly-veiled threats against the judiciary shocked many.

But the worry is not just conferences and speeches, several bills have been introduced, and some passed, this session, which seek to strip the jurisdiction of the federal courts to review certain subjects or specific acts of Congress. For instance, the Protection of Marriage Act purports to exclude the Defense of Marriage Act from judicial review. One bill introduced this session, the so-called ‘Constitutional Restoration Act,’ could be interpreted to prevent any federal court from taking jurisdiction of any suit in which a government official claims to be acting in name of any God, and imposes impeachment as a remedy if a judge exceeds his or her jurisdiction. The Congressional Accountability for Judicial Activism Act seeks to allow Congress to directly overturn a Supreme Court decision by a 2/3 vote. In all, I count 10 bills this session, and an equal number last session, seeking to work some degree of jurisdiction stripping.

Can Congress do this? It’s a question Congress has generally been wise enough not to ask; it has always accepted judicial review. Were Congress free to change the jurisdiction of the courts as they please, they could easily evade judicial review. But case law suggests that the Supreme Court will not allow Congress to use its power over federal jurisdiction specifically to escape judicial review, denying Americans any forum to challenge a new law - such a move would essentially render the federal judiciary and the Supreme Court powerless. When it comes down to it, the Supreme Court would just have to invalidate any attempt to strip them of jurisdiction as unconstitutional and rely on our respect for the institution for enforcement - hence the Theopublicans’ desire for as many people as possible to dislike the courts.

But aside from the question of interpreting the text of the Constitution, allowing Congress to, in effect, set some of its acts beyond the reach of the Constitution, and become the sole interpreter of the Constitution, is unwise. The potential for a simple majority of Congress to seriously abuse the constitutional rights of citizens is manifest. Congress could inter all Muslims, establish a state religion, or ban the opposition party, and immunize even such clearly unconstitutional acts from judicial scrutiny or injunction. The only remedy would be to vote out the offending majority, or storm The Hill and throw them out; clearly the ballot, or the bullet, alone is not a sufficient nor civilized means to protect our constitutional liberties. The mechanism in our political culture for enforcing our rights as citizens and protecting the continuity of the law is vested in our courts, not in our Congress.

So why are some members of Congress, sworn to uphold the Constitution, so intent upon destabilizing our constitutional order? I don’t believe that the Theopublicans actually think that they have a prayer of establishing an unconstitutional Christian caliphate, nor that they will succeed in challenging the jurisdiction of the federal judiciary in such an obviously manipulative fashion. But they want their supporters to believe these things are possible. What is most disturbing about these tactics is that attacking the settled constitutional order in such a fundamental way has historically been a device of demagogues in declining democracies. Only when some large portion of society has become sufficiently disillusioned with, or hostile to, the existing constitutional order do such tactics accomplish anything but marginalizing the user. Far from marginalizing the Theopublicans, such tactics have brought them to the very pinnacle of power in today’s American. That says something about the state of our democracy that should give us all cause for grave concern.

Update 4/11/05: Salon has a story on the conference I referred to in this post.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Michael: Barton the Fink

In what has to be the oddest twist on an already weird story, one of the self-styled 'leaders' of the 'Minuteman Project', 25 year old Bryan Barton, ridiculed an illegal immigrant by taking video of him holding a tee shirt, which read "Bryan Barton captured an illegal immigrant and all I got was this lousy shirt", for a reality show he is producing around his unlikely run for Congress in California's 53rd District. Bryan was subsequently, and laudably, expelled from the 'Minutemen' for his stunt. How much lower can you get when even the 'Minuteman Project' doesn't want you? As it turns out, a bit.

Young Master Barton came to the border for the first installment on his reality series, about which he is "in discussions with larger networks for exclusive television rights." Tasteless? You bet. Master Barton likes it that way apparently. While editor at The Koala, a student 'newspaper' at UCSD, he did an issue titled “Jizzlam, An Entertainment Magazine for the Islamic Man,” (PDF) that featured illustrated articles such as “The Jizzlam guide to sexual positions during prayer” and “The Miss World Jizzlam burkini contest,” which got him in a bit of dutch for insensitivity to the Muslim community. Master Barton said at the time, "People need to let loose. I hurt people’s feelings, but that is the price you have to pay for free speech.” Apparently, Master Barton cannot be free unless he's belittling and humiliating others. There is also one issue devoted entirely to Barton's apparently rather commodious ego. (PDF)

But Master Barton moved on from such childish amusements to head his own media empire in San Diego, including the City Beat and the Student Job Guide among other properties and projects, one of which is apparently to finance a campaign for Congress as a Republican using the same inimitable humor and eye for publicity that inspired "Jizzlam" and countless other jokes more tastless than humourous. Thus are we are all treated to the humiliation of another human being as part of the 'Minuteman Project' to amuse Master Barton's constituents, whomever they might be, and to sell his reality program to the networks.

This is exactly the sort of crass self-promotion and exploitive behavior of which the 'Minuteman Project' was designed to take advantage. These people are not interested in finding solutions to difficult problems, or even discussing issues, per se. Just like the whole Schiavo fiasco, their antics are the media equivalent of baring your ass in public to humiliate and shame some, while egging on and encouraging the worst proclivities of others. Seems Master Barton is just the ass for the job. Unfortunately, I cannot endorse Master Barton for public office; there is no office of class clown in America. It's unfortunate, really, maybe such an office would give people like Master Barton a useful place in government.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Michael: Time to Leave NCLB Behind

The Attorney General of Connecticut is considering whether to sue the Federal Government over the constitutionality of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Our own Attorney General, Terry Goddard, should join the suit, if so.

Last year, the Arizona Legislature nearly decided to withdraw from NCLB, but did not, because the Republican leadership did not want to embarrass the President in an election year. One of the central figures in that fight was Senator (then Representative) Karen Johnson (R-18), who recounts how she was leaned on rather hard to leave NCLB alone. She received calls from the White House and even VP Dick Cheney telling her to back off the issue. Colleagues assured Senator Johnson that many other legislators on both sides of the aisle were behind her on the issue, and would support the issue this year. She introduced SB 1304, this year, which would allow charter schools and public school districts with withdraw from NCLB, but it was killed in committee by Senator Toni Hellon. No Republican leaders would pressure Hellon to step off the bill.

The determination to kill NCLB in Arizona will not go away, though, especially among those on both sides of the aisle who feel that NCLB is a gross violation of federalist principles, an unfunded mandate and poorly implemented, to boot. Senator Johnson says she will introduce a bill next year exempting schools that do not receive federal money, such as charter schools, from the requirements of NCLB. Senator Johnson is also planning to schedule a meeting with Terry Goddard to encourage him to join the Connecticut suit.

The complaints that state officials around the country have against NCLB are summed up by a report of the National Conference of State Legislatures. The report makes several recommendations for improving the law and its acceptance by the states, but it also speculates that the law is not constitutional.

The report contends that the U.S. Constitution does not explicitly define a role for the federal government in K-12 education, thus the constitutionality of the program rests upon the Spending Clause. A 1987 U.S. Supreme Court decision, South Dakota vs. Dole, is leading authority on the Spending Clause and outlines the requirements for using conditional grants to implement laws in areas where the Constitution doesn't explicitly provide for a federal role.

A Spending Clause program must meet the following criteria:

  1. Be in pursuit of the "general welfare;"

  2. Be related to federal interest, in particular national projects or programs;

  3. Not be prohibited by other constitutional provisions;

  4. Be unambiguous in describing the conditions on the states’ receipt of federal

  5. funds; and
  6. Be a financial inducement and not coercion.

The report charges that the NCLB violates the last two Dole requirements: it is ambiguous and coercive. The report’s conclusions will likely form the basis of the constitutional claims of the CT case.

In support of the charge of ambiguity the report points to protracted periods of negotiation between states and the Department of Education and ongoing amendments to state plans in response to changing federal guidelines. The Department of Education has allowed some states to proceed with their accountability programs after having rejected similar plans for other states. An inference may be drawn from these facts that the law is unconstitutionally ambiguous.

The report supports its charge of coerciveness with the additional education money states stand to lose by non-compliance. Quoting from the report,
"...failure to participate in No Child Left Behind would jeopardize not only the additional money available to states for NCLB, but also the tens of millions of dollars they were receiving before NCLB. The fact that the federal government has increased the stakes for not participating in Title I programs, while expanding its scope without commensurate funding increases, creates a coercive relationship between states and the federal government."

Whether the Federal Courts, and doubtless the Supreme Court, ultimately, will find NCLB in violation of the Dole test, I can’t say. This does seem like the sort of opportunity for scaling back the scope of unenumerated Congressional powers that the High Court has been using of late to reign in the Congress on social policy. Even if the conservatives on the court have to rap the knuckles of their pet Administration to do it, it might be worth the trade-off in their eyes.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Pope John Paul II interfaith memorial and me and my socks

Well, yesterday was an unexpected pleasure, although a comedy of personal challenges too. The clergy of the Tucson MultiFaith Alliance were graciously invited to participate last night in a remarkable memorial for Pope John Paul II at St. Augustine’s cathedral, hosted by the bishop. And it was a beautiful multi-faith, multi-cultural, multi-media event that focused on John Paul’s legacy of reconciliation between all religions, his love for all people and especially his work for the poor, for refugees, for youth. I do want to share that with you, and you can skip down to “the memorial” if you want... but I want to speak, humorously I hope, of my personal experience, as a nontraditional woman clergy, and busy at that. Pomp and circumstance is not a regular part of my life...most of you know me fairly well, and will smile along with me, and for those that don’t I hope I don’t seem too undignified.

At first I thought I couldn’t go. I was scheduled to host a DFA (Democracy for America) meeting at our home about the national Social Security initiative scheduled for April 14 at our congressional offices. I was preparing for that, but at midafternoon registration was almost nil, so at 3:00 I canceled it, RSVP’d for the memorial, and set about trying to get to the service. I was to be at St Augustine’s by 7:30, in the clergy room.

But our boys needed to be at the doctor’s office by 4:30 in Oro Valley, 45 minutes away at that hour. Still 45 minutes to get ready, I thought. Then, unexpectedly, I had to go pick one of them up at the bus stop at 3:30, which takes 15 minutes each way. Already you can see the math doesn’t work. I picked up the boy. Back home at 3:45. I took a quick shower, put my hairdryer and my ceremonial robes and clerical stole in the car and set out with the boys, late of course for the doctor. I’d dry my hair at the doctor’s office and change clothes at a restaurant. My robes weren’t the kind you just slip on over your clothes, and robes just don’t work at the doctor’s office.

So, we got out of the doctor’s office at 6 pm, and thankfully Darwin could take the boys home. I breathed deeply, made a few phone calls I had postponed earlier in my mad rush, and set out to find a restaurant downtown where I could grab a salad and relax. Then, at 7:15, I went into the restaurant ladies room to change my clothes and I found I had forgotten...stockings... OMYGOD, now what? Go barefoot in sandals, or wear the black socks I had on with my jeans? I decided socks, pulled them up as high as they would go, and the long robes might cover my faux pas if I walked very carefully. Probably the people wouldn’t look at my feet as we walked down the center aisle.

At St. Augustine’s, a splendor of faith leaders putting on robes or prayer shawls and waiting to process...happily, I know about half of the people there, including the one other woman clergy thank goodness, and two Sikh women
friends, who were being interviewed by the media. I am feeling really privileged to be included. A convivial buzz of greetings, the bishop is thanking each of us personally in his usual warm and graceful manner, and we are each welcoming the new Imam, spiritual leader of the Islamic Center, whom we are all very pleased to see in Tucson.

Another faux pas for Gerry. Well, a clatter of cultures. Most of the clergy are men. They were all introducing themselves and shaking the Imam’s hand, he was smiling and so were they, so I offered my hand in turn and gave my name...and he pulled his hand back. I had forgotten that in Muslim tradition men and women don’t touch. I was just following the other clergy. I blushed, withdrew my hand, bowed to greet him, and went outside for some air.

Finally, time to go in! Uh, what shall we two women do with our purses? You can’t exactly hang them over your shoulder as you walk in solemn procession, the men just have their wallets in their pants pockets. It is agreed to lock the clergy room during the service. After some instruction about who sits where and how to line up, at last Rabbi Sam Cohon of Temple Emmanuel sounded the Shofar from the dais as our call to worship. As the choir was singing “On Holy Ground,” we followed the candlebearers into the packed and beautifully decorated sanctuary two by two, with dignity I hope (despite the socks). The crowd was as varied as Tucson, and as the deep love of this pope for all the people would beget.

The memorial - While the lovely pictoral displays on the screen at the front of the room changed to show John Paul at various times of his life, the service included excerpts from the writings of the beloved late pope given during his many visits to different parts of the world – Africa, Oceania, Asia, America, and prayers were offered in 8 or 9 languages, interspersed throughout the service. Reflections were given by Pastor Grady Scott of Grace Temple Missionary Baptist church, Rabbi Tom Lochheim of Or Chadash, and Rev. John Fife from Southside Presbyterian church.

Pastor Grady likened the Pope’s transition to his own beloved family’s recent airplane flight away from him on family business– gone from sight, but welcomed at the other side. Rabbi Tom told of the pope’s visit to the Holy land, of his praying in a Jewish synagogue in Rome, and of saying that the Jewish people were elder brothers to the Christian religion. The Imam, Mohammed El Farqoori, chanted from the Koran of the Annunciation to Mary of the coming birth of Jesus, emphasizing shared Christian/Muslim beliefs. The Imam’s words were translated into English by professor Muhamed Asa’ad, who told of his own mentor’s close personal friendship with this pope, and their mutual prayer life together, including reading each others’ “books.” There were beautiful Sikh prayers chanted by Nirvair Kaur Khalsa and Sat Bir Kaur Khalsa. Rev. Fife spoke of the pope’s love especially for the poor and for immigrants and migrants, of John Paul’s comments on our responsibility to see to it that everyone can make a living in their native land and thus stem the necessity of migration, and yet the inherent human dignity and worth of the migrant. Of course, these comments are relevant to our own border. Rev. Thomas Buechele, from Bisbee’s St. John’s Episcopal church, spoke of standing at the border with “Women in Black,” in silent witness to the Minutemen project, at the exact hour of the pope’s passing, before offering prayer. At the end, a young woman read his last words to the people, a letter to young people, encouraging them basically to never give up, written on Palm Sunday of this year; very moving.

A beautiful and very poignant memorial to a unique human being, you could not miss John Paul’s abiding love of the earth and all its peoples, his deep-seated commitment to social justice, and his compassion and respect for ALL of life, that did not end at birth. Of course, we know he opposed abortion and even birth control, and stood against the ordination of women or the marriage of priests. But, his culture of life included ALL of life. He was profoundly opposed to the war in Iraq, and said so both privately and publicly to President Bush and the world. He was intensely opposed to the death penalty. He taught with deep conviction that it was the responsibility of those who are privileged and powerful to care for the poor and disenfranchised, to give them the means of not just survival but the means to thrive. He was greatly saddened by famine, preventable disease, human rights abuses, and genocide, around the world, and used his office to intervene as much as possible on many occasions. His own personal demonstration of reconciliation between people of all faiths, of acceptance and respect for all roads to God by whatever name led the way for the work that we do in our own Tucson community through the MultiFaith Alliance, and many other groups. His voice and witness will be sorely missed.

On the way home, in my robes and socks (they had by this time rolled down to my ankles), I stopped for milk at the grocery store – teenaged boys drink a lot of milk - enduring pointed stares from the young staff on hand at 11 pm at my wrinkled black ankles and bare pink leg showing as I walked quickly down the aisles, and came home to make amends for whatever I had not taken care of in the intervening eight hours.

The pews were hard, the service long, but I am so glad I went. It was an experience not to be missed, and I am glad you came along.

In peace, gerry

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Michael: The Vatican Menace

The wagers are already plunking on who will be the next Pope. The favorites at the moment are Diongi Tettamanzi, an Italian Cardinal who is Arch-Bishop of Milan, and who ghost-wrote one of John Paul's encyclicals, and Francis Arinze, an African Cardinal who is Archbishop of Nigeria and a social arch-conservative. But there is a saying at the Vatican that, “one goes in a Pope and comes out a Cardinal.” In other words, those favored at the start are seldom elected. This election may violate conventional wisdom due to the new electoral rules put in place by John Paul II, allowing the election of the next Pope by simple majority if there is no 2/3 candidate after 12 days of Conclave.

But the real issue is why so few get to vote on who becomes Pope? With the Religious Right pushing religion further and further down the throat of secular government in this country, why shouldn’t the secular world intrude upon religious governance? Why shouldn’t the world insist on a transparent and democratic transfer of power within the Catholic Church?

The world must insist on the Church widening the franchise, to give some weight to the preferences of average Catholics here and around the world. The voices of the many are shut out of the process of electing the Vicar of Christ. This must not stand.

Why limit the world’s choices to a bunch of old men from Europe and the Third World? Most of the current Papabilis are well into their late 60's and 70's because of the unwritten ‘rule’ that the successor of a Pope should not have been elevated by him to the College of Cardinals. This leaves a very thin field indeed when you consider that 117 of 135 currently in the College were elevated by John Paul II because of his long reign (the third longest in the history of the Papacy). Can we allow the election of the next Pope to dominated by just 18 old men?

Technically, any member of the Catholic Church may become Pope, even if not a priest. The Church can be a true democracy. The last several hundred years of tradition have cemented into an ossified and authoritarian habit of picking only high Church officials as Pope. Wouldn't it be extraordinary if any member of the Church, including women, could stand for election to the Papacy - not just by the College, but by a vote of all Catholics? That would make the Pope much more reflective of a body of the Church. In fact, it might just make the Papacy the democratically-elected office representing the largest number of people in the world.

But the College will never surrender their carefully hoarded dictatorial powers willingly? No. They will Conclave and name their Pope in secret unless the world does something to stop their outrageous grab for power.

We must invade and occupy the Vatican City.

It is the only way that the Catholic Church can be made safe for democracy. Inside their secretive cloisters, we have solid intelligence sources (code-named Screwball and Unreliable) who indicate that the Cardinals and the Curia are plotting to call down a plague from God upon us all, once they have manipulated the hand of their chosen candidate into the Fisher’s Ring. If we hesitate now, the first sign of their plot could be the angel of death flying over and killing our first-borns. These Red Garbed Menaces threaten our way of life. They would outlaw war, tax us all 10% of our incomes, and force us to care for the poor and unfortunate, possibly even make us touch Ebola victims. Only if we strike now, and strike hard, can we ensure the freedom of Catholics everywhere and the safety of the free world.

The first non-Cardinate candidate from the United States for Pope has already announced his intent to run and has the backing of the U.S. Government: The Honorable Antonin Scalia.

For the humor impaired: yes, this is a satire. No, I didn't want to use weapons of "Mass" destruction... too obvious :)

Update: Cross-posted at BlogCritics and DailyKos.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Michael: Public Opinion of Arizona's Governor Riding High, Republican Legislature Stuck in a Ditch

Polling data from the Social Research Laboratory at Northern Arizona University indicates that Arizonans strongly support Napolitano, and are, at best, ambiguous about the Republican controlled legislature.

Q: Do you approve or disapprove of the way Janet Napolitano is handling her job as governor of Arizona?

  • Approve: 70%

  • Disapprove: 17%

  • Don’t know: 13%

What about the state legislature? Do you approve or disapprove of the job the state legislature is doing?

  • Approve: 38%

  • Disapprove: 32%

  • Don’t know: 30%

Methodology: Telephone interviews to 423 Arizona adults, conducted from Mar. 23 to Mar. 26, 2005. Margin of error is 4.8 per cent.

It's clear that Arizonans approve of how the Governor has stood up for working families and children in the budget battles, and disapprove of the Republicans' philosophy of tax cuts uber alles, immigrant and minority bashing, privatizing our schools and prosthelytizing our children.

It is not uncommon for the public to have a clearer concept of the job a high-profile executive is doing in comparison to an amorphous and compromise-riddled deliberative body. That difference in reflected in twice as many people not having any idea of whether they approved of the legislature's work. But the over 30% greater positives for Governor cannot be attributed solely to her natural advantage as an executive; this large a difference between approval rates is indicative of a genuine agreement with her priorities and values.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Michael: Minuteman Project - Civil Border Patrols are the Temperance Movement of the New Millennium

Some see an all too familiar pattern of xenophobia and racial intolerance underpinning the “Minuteman Project” militia border patrol. People fear that the same poison flows beneath the surface of civil border patrols that permeates much militia activity. I see something different. I see the sort of well-intentioned, but uninformed, patriotic zeal that might make one, faced with the imminent collapse of a dam, rush dam-ward with spackling and fingers akimbo, anxious to hold back the waters. Rather than working to determine why the dam failed, using available resources to minimize the attendant loss of life, and planning for a better way to manage the watershed in the future, their solution is manly action. Masculine fun, perhaps, but futile and dangerous.

I see the “Minuteman Project”, in the main, as a bunch of gung-ho patriotic guys too amped on testosterone to realize that they, with their ATVs, hunting rifles, and night scopes, are not the solution to the busting dam on our border with Mexico, but just more potential casualties to worry about. They remind me of the hatchet-wielding temperance ladies of Prohibition in their authority-pricking vigilantism, their moralistic zeal, and their complete naivté. There are elements in their movement harboring motives more atavistic and ugly than their leaders care to acknowledge, but that is not the well-spring of their creed: boyish dreams of being a crusader in a righteous cause are.

The hydraulic pressure pushing people north is the very structure of the American economy and the logic of black markets, such as drugs and people smuggling, not any grand conspiracy to take over the country, or ruin our way of life, as too many of the Minutemen believe. Attributing the problems of illegal immigration to the moral failings and individual choices of those caught up in the hydrology of illegal immigration is like blaming individual molecules of water for a collapsing dam.

The failures that lead to the many tragic outcomes along our border occur far from our border, where the system to manage the natural tendency of people to flow north was designed and is maintained. Our problems will not be solved with spackling, fingers, sponges, or any other remedy that seeks to shore up the dam, or soak up and expel the people who cross our increasingly porous border. Our problems will only be solved once people realize that the policy equivalent of a dam, no matter how well reinforced, won’t work; people are far more clever and resourceful than water at finding a way downstream. The calls for a massive, militarized wall along the border are the product of rigid thinking, they are just stronger dams with the same flaws. The people will still come, but they will bring with them even higher costs; more crime, more deaths, and more corruption.

Proposals for managing our border with Mexico via a legal guest-worker program to better monitor and document the flow of people are sensible alternatives to fighting the same losing battles more strenuously. Any such system must serve not only our needs - cheap labor and decreased crime and violence along the border - but also the rights and aspirations of the people who participate, and the nation of Mexico. Many who wish to come to the United States naturally aspire to stay here and become citizens. Whether via a path to citizenship or permanent residency, or by working with Mexico to make American citizenship comparatively less attractive, those natural aspirations must also be addressed.

Only when economic immigration to the United States is decriminalized will the terrible exploitation, crime, and deaths associated with the illegal trade in people across the border finally end. Whenever there is a strong and enduring demand, criminalizing the supply of that want will not eliminate the thing demanded, it will only ensure that the profits of that trade finance criminal enterprises and the crimes in which they engage.

Prohibition should be a stern warning to American policy-makers, but the clear results of that experiment are too often ignored. Prohibition was promoted by the moralistic zeal of a grass-roots temperance movement that was well-intentioned, but too narrowly focused to have any perspective. The grass-roots anti-immigration crowd are similarly motivated by well-intentioned, but ill-informed, concern for the nation’s security. The crisis of violence, corruption, and deaths along our border is directly analogous not only to a failing dam, but also to our failed ‘War on Drugs’ of today, and the Prohibition of the past. They all sought unwisely to hold in abeyance the laws of the free market instead of working with market forces. Attempting such a feat brought the Soviet Union to its knees. China is still afloat only because its leaders chose to be carried with the flow of the market, rather than swim against the tide of history.

What makes us think that we will fare any better in our own futile attempts to hold to anachronistic anti-market policies like drug prohibition and criminalized economic immigration? Immigration policy is closely associated with and inextricably bound to the drug trade, both conceptually and practically. Until American policy-makers embrace solutions that respect and work with the market forces that drive both issues, neither can be effectively addressed. The "Minutemen" patroling in the desert isn't going to fix the border, nor cause the government to do so; it is simply childish immitation of a policy approach that has already failed completely.

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