Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Michael: Frist's Compassionate Borders

Senator Bill Frist is positioning himslf for a run at the Presidency in 2008 by swinging at another of the low-hanging policy pinatas Bush has left hanging during his Presidency: immigration. After a very good start of asking the GAO to investigate and track deaths of entrants along our borders, a job now only being done by our own Arizona Daily Star, believe it or not, Frist wanders off into Minuteman Project territory - more enforcement, more jails, fancier equipment for more deterance.

Let me first give praise where it is due. Frist leads off with a concern for the immorality of allowing needless, and even criminal deaths of entrants along our borders. Illegal immigration is a crime, but it certainly doesn't warrant a death sentence. I believe that Frist acknowledges this fact and he is at least talking about taking action to prevent innocent lives from being lost. It's somewhat sad that the GOP's priorities have become so upside-down that it seems somewhat extraordinary when a GOP polititician acknowledges such an obvious moral imperative, but there it is.

The 'tough on crime' rhetoric Frist follows with might well position Frist for the GOP primary, but it will not help help fix America's immigration problems. In fact, Frist makes clear by who he does not mention as a legislative ally in fixing immigration that he has no intention of creating a legal and safe illegal immigration alternative for supplying America's insatiable demand for low-wage labor. I'm surprised Frist didn't announce one of his colleagues in reforming immigration would be Tom Tancredo.

Until Frist and the rest of the GOP acknowledge that border enforcement is not an answer to the wave of illegal immigration coming into this country, we will make as much progress in the War on Mexican Peasants as we have made on the War on Recreational Drugs. Frist does not mention even once increasing enforment or penalties on the companies and industries which hire illegal immigrants illegally, which is the incentive that draws these immigrants to our country.

Starving and desperate people have little to lose, other than their lives, to keep them from trying to grab a peice of the American Dream. 5000 more border control agents won't make any difference. Spy drones and fancy cameras won't make any difference. More jails won't make any difference. Not having readily available jobs to support themselves when they arrive is the only thing that will make a difference. Until we get serious about cracking down on the industries that are using illegal entrants as a pool of peonage labor, or even as endentured servants, or in some rare cases, as slaves, the tide of illegal entrants is only likely to rise higher. You won't hear sensible talk about going after those who employ illegal laborers from the GOP because illegal labor has become integral to our economy in many industries.

Industries heavily using illegal labor

Concentrated Occupations

Concentrated Industies

Unsurprisingly, industries in which illegal labor is most prevalent are those requiring less education and providing lower wages. Use of illegal labor has two effects; increasing profits for the industry, especially where price is highly inelastic or where price competition is extreme, and depressing wages in the sector, by wage competition and keeping the workforce disorganized. Poor people in this country vote at extraordinary low levels, so most politicians aren't terribly worried about paying an electoral price for forcing poor Americans to compete with poor illegal Mexican immigrants on wages. It's widely said that the jobs illegal immigrants take aren't ones that Americans will do, but that only half the truth; they are jobs that Americans won't do at the price illegal immigrants will do them.

Many of these industries represent major fractions of the American economy, and they don't like to have their boats rocked. Since illegal immigration (especially from Mexico) took off in the 1970's these industries have become very comfortable with the power they have over a labor force that essentially exists on sufferage and cannot organize a union. Any movement by either party to vigorously enforce labor laws regarding citizenship, or to significantly curtail industry's access to a large pool of illegal labor is going to met with hostility. This is why you will seldom see a politician, especially one from the GOP, make serious proposals which will put a significant dent in the flow of illegal labor from Mexico or elsewhere. Pols may flap their gums about increasing border enforcement, but they know just as well as I that such measures will have only marginal effects, at best. If our government is serious about shutting down illegal immigration, the top of the agenda would be enforcing labor law enforcement vigorously in the industries which use illegal labor most heavily. Both Bush and Kolbe have put forth guest-worker programs, to their credit.

Enventually the compromise position between border enforcement and labor law enforcement will likely prevail and a new Bracero-style immigrant labor program will emerge. Industry will get their cheap labor, labor advocates will have a chance to affect the terms of the labor contract or even unionize the guest-workers, homeland security will get a chance to know who the new people in the neighborhood are, and illegal movement into the United States will abate because there will be a legal route to our labor market offering greater labor law protections, better wages, and possibly a path to citizenship. Everyone will be happy, except the poor Minutemen, who just want all the brown people to go home.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Michael: Groking Grokster

The net is abuzz with the implications of the Grokster case. In case you don’t know, MGM sued Grokster because its P2P file sharing software made possible widespread copyright infringement by Grokster’s users. The case was dismissed, in Grokster’s favor, by the lower court on a motion for summary judgement, holding that under the leading case in this area of copyright, the Betamax case (i.e., Sony v. Universal), there was no basis for liability. MGM appealed to the Supreme Court, which granted a hearing. The SC just handed down its unanimous opinion, in which it vacated the decision below and remanded the case, saying that there is room to find imputed liability for copyright infringement by Groksters users despite the Betamax case because Grokster solicited users to use their product specifically to violate copyrights.

What the SC did not do is lay down any clear rules between knowledge that copyright could be violated (which is OK and does not support liability) and soliciting for the purpose of violation (which now may support liability). They said, “It is enough to note that the Ninth Circuit’s judgment rested on an erroneous understanding of Sony and to leave further consideration of the Sony rule for a day when that may be required.” In essence, they punted.

We now know that advertising asking people to use your product for purpose of infringing copyrights is enough to impute vicarious liability, but we don’t know what actions short of that could trigger such liability. We know that the Betamax safe harbor of ‘substantial non-infringing use’ still exists, and we know from the soon to be famous footnote 12 of Grokster that, “in the absence of other evidence of intent, a court would be unable to find contributory infringement liability merely based on a failure to take affirmative steps to prevent infringement, if the device otherwise was capable of substantial noninfringing uses.” So just a failure to put in filters, or encryption, or a broadcast flag, or other copyright protection schemes isn’t evidence of intent. That’s a big relief, and potentially a significant victory. But the question remains what ‘other evidence of intent’ might look like, other than advertisements that solicit infringement.

There is a lot of unknown territory between those borders drawn around liability and no liability, and therein lies the problem with this decision; the uncertainty will surely chill domestic investment and innovation in these important networking technologies. In some ways, it would be better if the Court had refused to become involved and forced the hand of Congress on the matter. There would be clearer rules in a shorter period of time. There could be evidence and argumentation from a variety of points of view. There would be clear signals to the market. But there is one critical way in which this result is better than Congressional involvement; in Congress the heavy purse of media owners desperate to strangle these technologies in the cradle would tip the scales of justice toward protecting copyrights at the expense of all other values.

With this decision to delay drawing a firm line in the law, the SC has given more time for entrepreneurs and users to prove the commercial and cultural potential of P2P technologies. I’m inclined to be grateful for at least that small favor. I never expected either the SC or Congress to make enlightened decisions on these matters when the profits of large media corporations hang in the balance - just the opposite, in fact. At least now there is the possibility, however remote, that these technologies will take root as deeply as e-mail or the web before the law can decide whether to apply fertilizer, or weed-killer.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Michael: X more years!

Why would Republicans sponsor a resolution to repeal the 22nd Amendment? The last time we heard rumblings about repealing the limit of two terms on American Presidents, it was Billy Clinton contemplating how much better job he could do than any of the 2004 candidates.

Now the Republicans seem awfully interested in repealing it, too. Could it possibly be that they think their lame duck, political capital wasting, barely squeaking back into office, 42% approval rating golden boy could wrest another term from the fates and the American people? Benighted by a rotten economy, a war most of us have had enough of (and believe the President lied to get us into), a mountain of debt that this Administration has the Treasury department lying about in an effort to cover it up, an explosion of growth in discretionary spending, and a chonic trade imbalance that has made us the largest debtor nation in the history of the world, GWB wouldn't even be renominated by his own party, if Republicans had any self-respect, or fidelity to any principle other than power. But even though some 85% of Republicans are still so misguided as to support him, he could never be elected to another term (of course I thought that in 2004, so what the hell do I know?).

The only explanation I can come up with that makes any sense to me, is that a lot of Republican Members are begining to miss the Clinton era and would like to have Billy back in the Oval. Personally, I think it's best to just move on. Eight years is enough for any man (or woman) to create a legacy with the most powerful office on earth. Any longer, especially an unlimited span, only threatens Americans' freedom by threatening to turn the Imperial Presidency into a Royal, Lifetime, or Hereditary one.

And besides, Republicans should be grateful for the 22nd Amendment's limit; it generally forces their Presidents to leave office before the indictments are served, neatly preventing the GOP from accumlating a well-deserved reputation as the party that puts criminals high political office. It's hard to execute the sort of political Ponzi grifts the modern GOP has used to gain power over the past 30 years if you can't stay one step ahead of the law, and the angry, cheated townfolk. Whether that deft sense of timing is going to serve Bush in avoiding the trainwreck that is hurling his way, I don't know, but I do know another term or two would only make things worse for him. Americans don't long suffer tyrants or fools, let alone both.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Michael: Cracking the Flag-Burning Amendment

John Scalzi says all there is to say about the proposed flag buring amendment. I really have nothing to add, so go read his post.

Michael: Bush vows to defeat Iraqi rebels

Speaking to reporters in an improptu press conference with troublesome Quisling Ibrahim Jaafari and what GOP insiders are calling the "Neo-Rough Riders", Mr. Bush said, "The enemy's goal is to drive us out of Iraq - they will not succeed." Then Bush whipped out an M-16 and brandished it around yelling, "I'm gonna whip those towl-heads myself, since our boys haven't been able to do the job yet."

Mr. Bush, along with his entire executive staff and cabinet, and including several key Neo-Cons from various think tanks and media organizations, are due to lift of from Brandenberg this evening for a night flight to Iraq. The President vowed that once he arrived, he would begin to withdraw US troops "with honor" as he and his crew of Neo-Rough Riders would be taking over all combat duties in Iraq.

Asked whether he thought that rather than quelling sectarian violence and defeating the insurgency, if American presence in Iraq was instead providing political cover for a civil war by Sunnis and swelling the ranks of the guerillas, Bush typically ignored the question and answered with a talking point, saying "This is not the time to fall back... we owe it to those who have made sacrifices to continue towards the goals." What those goals were, or when we might be expected to arrive at them, where left coyly ambiguous.

Asked whether he and his ill-trained and poorly equiped squad of aging armchair warriors had any hope of succeeding in forcing a military solution to the Iraqi insurgency when the full might of American arms had failed, Bush responded with typical bravado and uncharacteristic candor:

"I started this thing, and I'm gonna finish it, see? This whole mess is my responsibility and I'm not the sort of guy that asks others to fight my battles for me. The unfailingly wise American people have spoken. More than half of them think this war is a mistake. I'm putting my own butt on the line to prove them wrong. I'll either return with my shield, or on it."

Snap polls taken following the President's announcement are showing the highest favorability ratings for Bush since shortly after 9/11. Pollsters attribute much of the surge to people's positive reactions to Bush's promise to come back on his shield.

Michael: The Elephant Stampede

I am all for treating elephants humanely, but I wonder if 8.5 million for a new elephant facilty shouldn't be spent on more urgent public priorities. A cause this appealing may very well find sufficient private funding without government subsidy. The Council may have made hasty pudding of the elephant issue in a rush to please the pachyderms at the expense of thorough deliberation.

The American Zoological Association issued a directive that all suitable African elephants in US facilities should be bred in order to assist with species preservation efforts. A larger elephant facility is needed in Tucson only if our African elephant is going to be bred in situ at Reid Park Zoo. A male would have to be brought in (or artificial insemination used) and the new baby would require more privacy and more space than existing facilities provide. RPZ’s concern seems to be that if our African elephant must be transfered to another zoo to breed, our Asian elephant will be left alone (contrary to AZA guidelines for social animals such as elephants) and will also have to be transfered elsewhere, leaving RPZ without elephants indefinitely. That is why they are pushing hard to fund the new facilities: they want to breed elephants, and they want to avoid any risk of losing elephants as part of their collection.

Possibly a compromise would be to send our African to another larger facility to breed, and to find a suitable companion for our Asian elephant from another facility so that Tucson can still have elephants, but also doesn’t have to splash out 8.5 million for a new elephant breeding habitat. I don’t know if it is possible to obtain another elephant who needs a home, but it seems that RPZ is discounting the possibility very heavily and seems quite sure that if they transfer the African to breed that they will almost certainly lose the Asian as well. They may know all too well the odds against finding our Asian a suitable companion, or they could have a developed institutional tunnel vision focused on the exciting possibility of expanding the elephant habitat and breeding our African here. If it is the latter, then there may be a way for Tucson to save the money and keep elephants at RPZ, an outcome which all parties would likely accept.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Michael: I, too, am often guilty of vilipendio

Oriana Fallaci is not someone I would wish to be in the company of, or at least not for long. She has strong opinions that are often counter to my own: we'd end up on each other's nerves, no doubt. But despite differences of opinion, I certainly condemn her legal prosecution for those opinions.

Ms. Fallaci is being tried in Italy for the crime of vilipendio of a religion admitted by the state; to wit. Islam. She thinks that Islam is on track to take over Europe. Demographically she may not be far off the mark, but like any anti-clerical writer she took a bit more liberty than might be warranted, calling Isam a "pool that is never pure" in her book "The Force of Reason".

The Italian government should rid itself of such an odious law immediately. Let Fallaci say whatever she wants; she's the only one it can embarrass.

Michael: AZ Senate Ex-President Steps Forward for Savage Whupping

John Greene, former State Sentate President and Arizona Insurance Commissioner, today announced his intention to accept a savage beating in the GOP primary for Governor. Greene was upbeat in announcing that he was running against the popular Janet Napolitano despite having little chance of getting the nomination. Greene failed in his primary bid for Attorney General in 2002 and evidently figures he might as well fail upward. I don't know if he'll be running Clean, but given his well-known financial ties to the insurance industry, if he doesn't and gets elected, we'll finally have a GOP Governor who is owned by State Farm rather than land developers, mining companies, or car dealers, which will be a refreshing change of pace.

To Greene's credit he is an openly pro-choice Republican in a party increasingly poisoned by religious hypocrisy, giving him little chance of winning the primary nomination of his party, despite being the most credible candidate yet to emerge for the 2006 Gubernatorial race. To throw further fuel on the fire, Greene also opposes a proposed initiative to amend the state constitution to discriminate against gays who wish to marry. Conservatives have long pegged Greene as a RINO, and a supporter of other RINO candidates. However, should Greene make it through the GOP primary, he stands an excellent chance of appealing to moderates and doing the GOP the tremendous disservice of regaining the Governor's office for them. Of course, the evangelicals, homophones, and NeoCons controlling the GOP would never allow that, so Democrats can rest assured that Napolitano is safe come next election.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Michael: Propaganda as a Collaborative Endeavor

The politically rancid Little Green Footballs recently focused on a Syrian TV clip from a segment they entitled: "Palestinian Womb is a Factory for the Conflict" More interesting than the clip itself, in which a Syrian intellectual points out the perfectly obvious, perfectly racist, and frighteningly eliminatationist, connection between Palestinian reproduction and the Palestinian resistance, are the comments by LGFers. Her comment is essentially that the wombs of Palestinian women are factories of conflict given that they produce the next generation of warriors.

This is a horrid generalization and a hateful characterization of the legitimate and normal processes of life. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the commentary generated by LGF readers is viciously eliminationist, racist, and quite anti-life. Some of the choicest examples:

"palestinian womb -> palestinian bomb"

"Looks like its time to take out another factory...."

"It's like Aliens: human bodies as a breeding host for foreign death-machines."

"If only the little jihadis in training would blow themselves up IN the womb, we'd all be better off."

"As soon as Israel starts killing Palestinians wholesale, massive number will be meaningless. "

"Then it's time to bomb the paleo's warmaking capabilities."

"Almost as dangerous are the western mothers who breed the likes of Rachel Corrie."

"What a sick, demented culture the Palestinians have. They sacrifice their children in worship of death and perpetual hatred."

"The palestinian Authority is a "nation" founded by the damned Arafat and he has passed on his seed to innocents."

"I think we should drop bombs on all Islamic nations. Tons and tons of them."

"a palistinian child is an IED"

While such comments are not necessarily the opinions of the editors of LGF, it is fascinating how well they have judged exactly what meat to throw to the pack. What the readers make of this fare is quite telling. Few, if any, actually questioned the commentator's interpretation. They used it, as expected, as another factor in the dehumanization of the 'enemy'.

This sort of dehumanization of Middle Eastern people, especially those who resist imperial subjugation, is a fair example of the war-time psycho-pathology that allows citizens to tolerate and even support such activities as the indiscriminate bombing of civilian populations and the wholesale suspension of human rights, or in the case of the Palestinian-Iraeli conflict, to demonize the humanistic claims of the vastly weaker side to freedom and autonomy. Such depersonalization allows the advocacy of acts that would be unethical, even murderous, under the ethico-religious terms of the 'culture of life'. Of course, the 'culture of life' only applies to humans, and the 'paleos' have been conveniently defined out of the circle of humanity. Damned by an unjustified and unfounded characterization of their own acts and attitudes, based upon only the flimsiest of pretexts.

Nice to see LGF skillfully spreading such charming memes among the proto-fascists.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Michael: Support for GOP Agenda at New Low

NYT Story, Registration Required.

The movement of voters away from supporting the GOP has commenced. Polling around the 2006 mid-terms is strongly showing the trend. Especially telling are the very low approval rate for Congress and the increasing trend toward voting against incumbents and in favor of Democrats, as well as the strong wrong track figures.

Maybe Americans are finally getting sick of the thicket of lies and hypocrisy our public life has become.

UPDATE: A good NYT article about the laming of Bush's duck.

Michael: Gitmo, Too Much For Democracy to Handle?

In a telling and troubling quoteSenator Arlen Spector (R, PA) summed up the utter failure of Congress to fulfill its constitutional role of oversight of the handling of prisoners in the 'war on terror': "It may be that it's too hot to handle for Congress, may be that it's too complex to handle for Congress, or it may be that Congress wants to sit back as we customarily do."

The GOP controlled Congress isn't motivated to ride herd on an Administration which has proven all too willing to bend the rules. It's politically explicable, but that doesn't mean it's healthy. The Congressional majority are acting out of Republicanism, not Americanism. The GOP has gone to great lengths to stop the minority from unofficial public hearings, or form special committees (which allow equal representation of the parties), which have been traditional tools of minority agenda-setting. The House leadership has even gone so far as to restrict minority party Members from introducing their own legislation. In an environment where the minority is treated like a nuiscance on the Hill, a near majority of Americans are effectively denied representation in Congress. No wonder then that this Congress is allowing potential war crimes to stain this nation's honor.

What does it say about the state of our democracy when one of our Senators thinks that a critical issue of foriegn policy is 'too hot', or 'too complex' for our national legislature to handle? It means a failure of leadership and failure of will by Congress to fulfill its duty as a sovereign body. One has to wonder, is this just a failure of the those leading the institution, or of the institution itself? The answer isn't facile. If the roles of the parties were reversed, would Congress be doing a better job? I'd like to think so, (Democrats do tend to snipe each other more than Republicans, after all) but I have sincere doubts.

If we must rely on partisan antagonism for our government to work, then we are ruled by parties, not by the constitution. If democracy is to work, it must provide for the right of the minority to question and bring to task the majority for illegal conduct. The principal political organs of our federal government are so brutally majoritarian that it is highly unusual for a minority to be able to stop a determined majority. This is why the propect of eroding the rights of the minority to filibuster in the Senate is so alarming; it is one of the few checks to majority power.

The obvious counter to abuse of power and illegal behavior in a democracy is the ballot box. But with micro-gerrymandered districts and a 98% retension rate, even in the most hard-fought election seasons, the likelihood of the electoral discipline of an out-of-control majority is low. Does that mean that democracy is failing us? I don't think so, but the times we are living through demonstrate that the majority can seriously abuse its position before the electorate responds to issues that are, frankly, less than bread and butter. This is a strength - think Roosevelt's New Deal that saved the nation but was so hated by a vocal minority they actually planned a coup - and a weakness - the currently leadership is able to pretty much ignore half the country with little backlash. The leeway given to a strong, or even a slight majority, by our system is extraordinarily broad and growing as the Executive finds ever more ways to parlay the advantage of initiative and broad discretion over international affairs and defense into ever more power.

What is the answer to America's rather primitive winner-take-all electoral system? Maybe nothing can realistically be done. But I think in a very significant way the growth of Independents, to the point where they are now the largest bloc of voters, points the way. Americans must become, and in fact, are becoming, less strongly attached to party affiliation. More ready to swing their vote from one party to another quickly and often. In the abscence of viable third parties (an artifact of our districting system) to act as governing coalition partners and discipline the two major parties, maybe it is incumbent on the voters to be less attached to the two parties to in order to compensate. In the current environment, that duty of independence calls upon Republicans who truly love their country, not just their party, to use their votes and the voices to discipline a party leadership which is out of control and have slipped the fetters of the Constitution.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Michael: The 'Out of Iraq' Caucus forms

The Downing Street Memo Meeting (Real Player link) is a real rip-roarer. It will be in the history books as the real begining of the end of the Bush Administration's reputation, if not it's rule. You owe it to yourself to watch this, especially if you support the mission in Iraq.

Avoiding factual information doesn't make it go away, it just makes it more painful when it finally sinks in. I dare anyone who supports this war to watch this meeting and come away without any doubts about the 'fixing of the facts and intelligence around the policy.'

Following this meeting, we saw the shameful spectacle of a group of United States Congress Members being denied access to the White House by a terrified Administration. Conyers and his delegation, bearing a letter demanding answers from the Administration and a petition signed by over 560,000 American citizens, were stymied in the attempt to deliver their message on purely pretextual grouds.

When asked why they had failed to respond to Conyers' letter, signed by 105 members of Congress, the White House replied through mouthpeice McClellan:

"Why not? Because I think that this is an individual who voted against the war in the first place and is simply trying to rehash old debates that have already been addressed. And our focus is not on the past. It's on the future and working to make sure we succeed in Iraq."[emphasis added]

The White House is obviously terrified of addressing these issues head-on, not to mention unable to do so. They are trying to characterize a letter signed by the legal representatives of millions of Americans, and bearing the signatures of 560,000 more of us, as the act of an individual with an axe to grind. They are going to bury their collective heads in the sand and act like the DSM and all the other damning evidence outlined in The Meeting doesn't exist, hoping that this blows over and the MSM gets distracted by something else. I for one applaud their choice of strategy, and hope they keep it up.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Michael: Support Our Jingos

via 100 monkeys typing:

I just hate those magnetized car ribbons. They have become the mildly coersive substitute for looting the shops of your enemy and burning various symbols on thier lawns. But no lawsuits and no late night rallies, everything properly American.

It's not original to note that the droped pronoun of "Support the Troops" makes it ambiguous whether the slogan is a declarative statement, as in "I Support the Troops" or the imperative verb form, as in " You had better Support the Troops, or I'll report you to Homeland Security." What so often amazes me is the lack of any depth of thought behind these declaration/commands.

Here's a suggestion for a flier you can print out and lodge beneath those beastly things, as suggested (with minor modifications by myself) by a commenter on 100 monkeys:

"I've often seen 'Support the Troops' magnets such as yours and they got me thinking about the war and the troops. I decided we should have an 'Undermine the Troops' magnet for all those who don't yet have a 'Support the Troops' magnet on their vehicle.

Here's how the troops are undermined:

Start a war of choice based on a pack of lies;
send a force that's undermanned and underequipped;
create an instant guerilla force of 400,000 well-trained and well-armed men by disbanding the enemy army without jobs or prospects;
fail to search out and confiscate major stockpiles of highly destructive weapons for that guerilla army to use;
alienate every ally;
provide no exit strategy;
hold elections in which the leadership of the most violent opposition forces refuse to participate;
abrogate the Geneva Convention;
humilate, abuse, and kill the natives' civilian population;
institute stop-loss orders and back-to-back deployments;
shortchange veterans on care, benefits, and pay;
condemn all patriotic dissent;
and above all, shield the civilian leadership from paying any price for their mistakes and crimes.

You may object to these proposals - as do I! - but they do possess one great advantage; they require zero change from present official policy."

Maybe that would shake a few people awake?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Michael: Schiavo's Autopsy Finds Right Wing are Ghouls

Schiavo's autopsy concludes that her condition wouldn't have improved with treatment or time. The massive amount of tissue loss found by the autopsy puts the lie to the horrible innuendoes that Shiavo was conscious, or communicating, that her husband was trying to kill her off, or that had any hope of recovering any significant mental or physical faculties.

Is short, the autopsy proves the Right Wing are a bunch of power-hungery, privacy invading ghouls. Everyone who gullibly accepted the completely counter-factual propaganda deployed by the Right Wing to hijack Terri's right to a dignified death should hang their heads in shame and beg the forgiveness of those they impugned, smeared, and ostracized in their quest to destroy the rights of families everywhere.

I will concede that most had their genuine faith and convinctions used and twisted by their 'moral' leadership's attempt to cynically use Terri's parents to prolong Terri's suffering and further their irrational and immoral agenda. But, even so, they were all too willing to be decieved; after all, the autopsy simply confirms what every independent doctor who ever examined her and every court that examined the case had said. We can, with perfect condor and the highest integrity, say to those who enlisted in the zombie cult of death which blazed a trail through American politics, "We told you so!"

Terri Schiavo should stand as a beacon, warning us of what can happen if we succumb to faith-based medicine, faith-based jurisprudence, and faith-based public policy that takes one side's faith as the Gospel truth. More charitable people than I will probably suggest that at this jucture we sit down and calmly reconsider the law of medical support and orders. That's a fool's errand. The law is already reasonable and balanced, having been thrashed out through the courts over the past 20+ years. There should be no room at this table for extremists, and the ghoulish leadership of the GOP are the extremists here. Let them wander in the wilderness for another 30 years - and forget the way back.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Michael: A Shameful Session of the Legislature

I could hardly contain the derisive laughter that those rose in my throat like vomit as Bee and Tully claimed a successful session of the Legislature on the Star’s opinion page. If you define success as whoring for every special interest swinging a sawbuck, bashing gays, and scapegoating immigrants as the root of all evil, then perhaps the 47th session was, indeed, a big success. I choose to call it shameful.

When a prostitute claims she’s just ‘pro-business,’ one is right to be skeptical. The GOP tried to trade away Tucson’s constitutional rights to Clear Channel this session. They tried to prevent Arizona’s cities from taxing the monopolies of cable companies to help fatten corporate bottom lines. They even tried to strip Arizona’s largest cities of their share of state revenues. They threw special tax breaks and give-aways at every special interest that looked like they may have a buck, riddling our tax code still further with iniquitous loop-holes. The only thing that stopped their rampage of slatternly behavior was the veto badge of Sheriff Napolitano and the constant censure of the good town folk of the Democratic Caucus.

When the spokesmen of the GOP have to dig down to line items of less than 10 million dollars in an almost 10 billion dollar budget to find any good they did, you know there is a problem. 1.5 million for beds at shelters, 3.8 million for indigent health care, 4 million of Alzheimer’s research - please! This is the best they can do to highlight their beneficence? They even have the temerity to claim credit for funding the opening of the new medical school in Phoenix that Napolitano had to confiscate from their mean little fists at the Budget Corral! They even repeat yet again the bald-faced lie that it was Napolitano, and not themselves, who reneged on the budget deal.

The Arizona GOP Caucus are like a gang of thugs with the power to make laws. This session they chose to harass and terrify the defenseless immigrants and gays. Who will they target next? Sheriff Napolitano kept the gang from harassing folks too badly, vetoing their worst excesses and riding herd on the skittish voters they kept trying to stampede. But their malign intent is measured by their actions. Tully and Bee specifically blamed Napolitano for vetoing a measure to make local law enforcement responsible for immigration enforcement that nary a single lawman in Arizona favored. The police and sheriffs were outraged at the attempt to load yet more responsibility on their already overloaded possés, but the GOP still chooses to try to make rhetorical hay of the issue.

It should be apparent to all that the GOP’s intent is to inflame the issue of immigration, making it into a prairie fire the purpose of which is to cover their misdeeds, failures, and give cover to russlin' the people's cattle. They don’t care about Arizona. They only care about power. They are drunk on it, and are running rampage through Main Street filled with lobbyist purchased hooch, firing their weapons randomly (demanding the right to bring their guns into your saloons), disrupting public order, and endangering the safety of everyone with their hate-filled agenda. They need to be put the hoosegow where they belong for a nice long drying out period, not given license to stampede the herds through Arizona’s law code for another session.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Michael: Amnesty International and Guantanamo

The amount of Right wing bloviation about Amnesty International officer Irene Kahn's comment that Guantanamo is the Gulag of our time, has not only been set up as a strawman for an Administration desperate to discredit AI's report fingering us as major human rights abusers, but been completely mischaracterized by the press.

First, the comment doesn't mean that Guantanamo is the same as a Gulag. It means that the word 'Guantanamo' has become an international shorthand for human human rights abuse in our age, as the word 'Gulag' was in the age of Stalin. It's surprising that the Bush Administration has been able to effect such a swift transformation of the word Guantanamo, formerly most associated in the popualr imagination with Cuban nationalism and the peace movement (and to a lesser extent the American naval base), into a watchword for imperial overreach and secretive torture.

The Administration and its appologists have purposefully mistaken the meaning of Kahn's comment in order that they may react indignantly to a rhetorical strawman. No one implies or believes that Guantanamo's Camp X-Ray is comparable in conditions, intent, or practices to Soviet Gulags. The evil of the Gulags has been matched in world history, but not often, and certainly not by Americans. But nobody connected with Amnesty International has ever suggested that. Only Administration officials and Right wing commentators maintain any literal equivalency exists between Guantanamo and thhe Gulags.

Despite this temporary smoke screen, the Administration is going to have to account for the mistreatment, torture, and deaths of prisoners in American military detention camps around the world. The simple fact is, for all their outrage and bombast, all they have accomplished is to set the hook firmer in the public's minds: Guantanamo is the Gulag of our time.

Michael: Rice Shot Down at OAS

I think most people would agree that saying one thing at one time and place, and then saying the exact opposite at another time and place, is potentially hypocritical. One might even reasonably suspect an ulterior motive was being served, rather than any honest interest in the topic you are addressing in such a hypocritical manner.

If, for instance, the Bush Administration were to attack Non-Governmental Organizations’ (NGOs, also sometimes called civil society groups) participation at the U.N. and international relations generally, and then turn around and announce that Latin American governments should be monitored by through the Organization of American States by, in Secretary Rice’s words, "the impatient patriots" of civil society NGOs, one might wonder if there were hypocrisy afoot.

When you learn that the Administration has been trying to muzzle dissent by demanding organizations distributing U.S. humanitarian assistance money go through USAID to be cleared to speak to the media, and that the Administration is intimately connected to NGO Watch (an initiative of the Neo-Con heavy American Enterprise Institute and the Federalist Society, from which numerous Bush officials have been pulled), which says "The extraordinary growth of advocacy NGOs in liberal democracies has the potential to undermine the sovereignty of constitutional democracies," you might be led to think that NGOs are just short of terrorist organizations.

But wait, Secretary Rice is calling for NGOs to be given a greater voice in the affairs of the O.A.S. so that "[t]he elected governments that do not govern democratically should be held accountable by the O.A.S." Well that sounds pretty swell, doesn’t it? But doesn’t that contradict what the Administration has been saying about the need to reduce the influence of these NGOs in international affairs?

Which NGOs would participate in criticizing and questioning ‘problem governments’? Well, according to Rice a great example would be Sumate. Sumate was instrumental in creating the recall vote in Venezuela, which President Hugo Chavez won easily. They are also accused of being complicit in the 2002 coup which briefly deposed Chavez, but was defeated by popular uprising. And, of course, Sumate is being funded by millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars to stir the pot. So Sumate is the sort of NGO which is good for democracy, but all others (presumably those NOT receiving money from us) are bad for democracy?

Are you seeing any ulterior motive, yet? The O.A.S. member states did too, and told Secretary Rice exactly where she could stick her proposal. I’m not surprised, but apparently Mercela Sanchez of the Washington Post didn’t get that memo.

Michael: Carol West Decides to Ditch the Parties: Or Have the Parties Ditched Her?

Councilperson Carol West is now where she belongs; in the vast unnamable political landscape we just call Independent, for lack of any better term. She wasn’t the most reliable Democrat, but she certainly was one. I've moaned and groaned about her votes occasionally. But despite that, I am sad to see her jump ship. Her colleagues could count on her to try to counter the smashmouth partisan brawling that has become too commonplace in city politics. Really, West’s leaving the party is all for the better, it won’t hurt her support, nor cause her to reconsider her ethics, beliefs, truths, or loyalties in the community. We knew West to be of an independent turn of mind before her making it official. People, Including me, have faulted her on that; sometimes justly, sometimes otherwise. But when it comes down to it, it is unlikely to change the way she governs one whit.

What does concern me is that West going independent may be a sign that we are thinning our own herd of the 'weak' and fractious in an effort to be more like the GOP in policy orthodoxy. Perceived ideological weaknesses of our officials are often used by the GOP agenda to scare or enrage the herd; so we think we must become strong and homogeneous to withstand such assaults. All too frequently, the rhetorical attacks fo the Right force us to destroy, or hide all the diversity and independence of mind which are what's best about us. West, for instane, grew up on a horse ranch and was a Republican until she decided Democratic ideals where closer to her own while teaching Hispanic children. That sort of revelation is not commonplace, yet even as we need stories like West's badly to make connections with voters outside the liberal base, Carol is taking her story away from the Democrats because we haven't used it well.

Carol renouncing her party affiliation should be for Democrats much more than a chance to revile the independents as standing for nothing, or blasting Carol as a traitor, but rather a chance to begin to understand what it was in West’s heart that finally separated her from her political home of 33 years. I really want know, because I'm not confident that we will continue to win elections in Arizona without independent voters responding to stories like Carol's. A new ruling coatition will never consist of GOP and Dems working together; it will be Dems working with independents, or the GOP doing so. Winning means growing the party, opening the tent, and telling the best stories. One of ours just left the tent, and we need to pay heed to that fact.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Help Howard give'em hell

What's wrong with this picture? Howard Dean tells the truth about the GOP and it's the Washington Democrats who run for cover?! Show those Democrats that it's their base they need to worry about, not Republicans or the SCLM. Show them that we support- and they should support- a leader who tells the truth and gives the GOP hell.

If you haven't already, follow the link
and stand up for Howard Dean - who isn't afraid to tell the truth about the GOP. Donate to the DNC.

Tack a penny on the donation and leave a message supporting Dean. Also, while you're there, tell them what you think of pusillanimous Democrats like Biden (and Kerry and Edwards) who seem more afraid of offending Republicans than supporting Democrat


P.S. $11330.11 donated in the first day. Let's move that figure higher.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Michael: Supreme Court puts a nail in the drug war's coffin

I have long advocated for a cease fire in the drug war. Many will see the recent decision by the Supreme Court under the supremacy clause, giving the federal government the go-ahead to prosecute marijuana growers and sellers even if licensed by a state medical marijuana law, as a victory for drug war proponents. To the contrary, the decision is one of the first bricks in the tomb of the drug war.

The power of the federal government to prosecute those whom the states will not begs the question of where the resources will come from to police and prosecute these 'crimes'. Will the federal Controlled Substances Act now be enforced more often against medical marijuana? Will DEA agents be busting down doors in the 10 states (and growing) which allow medical marijuana? No one expects that, simply because of the limited resources of the federal government in this area.

In fact, profligacy in other areas has prompted Bush to eliminate a $634 million grant program for state and local police departments and cut anti-drug spending in High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas from $226 million to $100 million. The federal budget for drug law enforcement domestically is likely to continue to be reduced across the board, simply because the funding's only constituency is the recipient police forces. Bush's drug war budget is 12.4 billion this year, up by 2.2 percent, but an increasing share is going to overseas interdiction and supply disruption, instead of local governments.

This pattern of spending is likely to erode still further the enthusiasm of local and state governments to cooperate in the drug war. If these activities have to be funded by local tax increases instead of transfer payments from the federal government, some drug interdiction programs are likely to wither. If the federal government is dumping more responsibility for funding and enforcement in the states' laps, while at the same time refusing to recognize state laws for medical use which polling shows that the majority of Americans support, it simply adds impetus to the already growing skepticism about the drug war. As in my last article, I believe the drug war will only come to end when states throw up their hands and say, "Enough!", dumping the full wieght of the problem on the coffers of the Federal government. These recent developements bring that day closer.

The split between state and federal governments demonstrated by these trends points to a coming subsidence of enthusiasm of state governments for carrying the bulk of the cost of conducting the domestic drug war. It is just such a split between federal and state governments that will lead to an increasing federalization of the drug war, and it's increasing unpopularity among civil libertarians, states rights advocates, and cultural conservatives, ever distrustful of federal intrusion. The changes required for the political realignment needed to finally kill the drug war are still inchoate, but the Supreme Court's medical marijuana decision is a favorable development, not a tragedy. At least, not a tragedy for foes of the drug war; it certainly is a tragedy for those poor people who need marijuana for medical uses.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Michael: Gulag in a Teapot

Amnesty International released its 2005 world report, including the U.S. country report highlighting abuses at U.S. military detainment facilities, and immediately drew irate criticism from the Administration. But it was not the report, nor its substance that the Administration challenged; it was the statement of one Amnesty official, Irene Khan, during the presentation of the report that has drawn fire. She stated that Guantanamo had become “the gulag of our time.” Obviously, she meant that the word Guantanamo had become shorthand for human rights abuses and illegal detention. Ignoring the substance of the report, Cheney homed in on Khan’s statement, “I was offended by it. For Amnesty International to suggest that somehow the United States is a violator of human rights, I frankly just don't take them seriously.” Unusually, in that he usually leaves the trash talk to Cheney, Bush weighed in, too, saying, “It's an absurd allegation. The United States is a country that promotes freedom around the world. When there's accusations made about certain actions by our people, they're fully investigated in a transparent way.”

The word ‘gulag’ appears nowhere in Amnesty’s report. But despite that, the Administration has successfully diverted attention from the substance, which is rightly a scandal, to a scandal of their own invention. It is not at all unusual for a government accused of human rights abuses to attack the critic rather than address the concerns raised, so the Administration’s tactic of killing the messenger is not unexpected, nor unprecedented. Despite any hyperbole on the part of Amnesty International’s officer, and despite the Administration’s dismissive attitude, Guantanamo Bay and other military detention facilities represent a very serious human rights problem, and a stain upon the honor and repute of the United States in the eyes of the world.

The plain fact is that the Administration has worked very hard to carve out an extra-legal status for these facilities in which neither the U.S. Constitution nor international laws of war and human rights apply. Whenever such extraordinary power is claimed, extraordinary responsibility and accountability is rightly demanded by our own citizens, and by the international community. Clearly, we need leeway to develop intelligence to prevent and combat terrorism. Given our very limited hum-int capability in the region of concern, prisoners represent the best source of information available to us. But when given extraordinary power over others, it is imperative that accountability for misbehavior and abuse be extraordinarily rigid. This Administration seems to have chosen the exact opposite tack, not only tolerating abuses, but also actually suggesting them. Now the Administration is attempting to protect anyone politically important from taking responsibility for their desperate, and unwise, policies.

The Red Cross and Red Crescent and other independent humanitarian organizations have been allowed to visit, but not inspect or investigate allegations at these facilities. The only investigations have been by the military itself. Such closed systems of accountability are inherently untrustworthy, and world opinion simply reflects a healthy skepticism about any procedure of self-investigation by our military or this Administration or its proxies. Even so, the military has found credible evidence of torture and even homicide in the camps, though not all of the evidence has been made publicly available. Such serious infractions of military discipline and the rules for the treatment of prisoners, whether covered by the Geneva Conventions or not, warrants independent inquiry into these matters. Nothing short of that will restore the honor, integrity, and any claimed transparency in the oversight of these facilities.

I wish I could say that the Administration’s striking out at Amnesty is anything more than a desperate ploy, but the report makes clear, despite any rhetorical excesses by Amnesty officials, that the Bush Administration has turned the United States into a serious violator of human rights on an international scale. Until we summon the will to investigate the many allegations of abuse, independent of people and organizations with a vested interest in protecting this Administration and the GOP from embarrassment, or even criminal liability, we will remain a focus of concern in Amnesty’s future reports, and a symbol of hypocrisy and the corruption of power to the world.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Michael: Watergate/CoIntelPro in perspective

The 'Break-Ins' that formed the core of the CoIntelPro and Watergate scandals are now the subject of some linguistic wrangling among the chattering class. Did Nixon and Hoover and Felt really mean 'break-in' literally, or were they speaking 'figuratively'. It seems there is a little wiggle room in the historical record. But more important than their intent at the time, is the legacy their actions left in American legal and political history.

In hindsight, the issues at the heart of Watergate and CoIntelPro seem almost ridiculous. 'Break-ins' that once brought down the government and resulted in the indictment of high-level FBI officials, are, in fact, the exact same sort of paranoid hunting expeditions that happen every day now under the Patriot Act's 'Sneak and Peek' provisions providing for warrantless searches. The GOP could well be using such searches to target political enemies, and might even succeed in keeping it quiet. Creating a dossier on political dissents for investigatary purposes, once a scandalous practice smacking of Stalinism, is now a common-place 'precaution' by the government. The coordinated harrassment, illegal detainment, purposeful injury, and even killing, of political protestors in street confrontations has become a federally-subsidized (remember the Florida free trade conference and the New York RNC conventions) speciality of police forces in major metro areas around the country, rather than the basis of a national scandal (recall the 1968 DNC convention). One has to wonder whether the same behavior or revelations of Watergate/CoIntelPro today would result in the resignation of a President and the indictment of high-level Administration officials; Given the reaction to Plame, Gitmo/Abu Ghraib, and other scandals, I suspect not.

Most shocking is how much we resemble the proverbial frog in a pot in regard to our basic civil liberties and political rights. Scandals that would have had the frog shooting out of the pot, handing down indictments, and bringing down the goverment a generation ago (assuming frogs have ever been known to do such things), have come to seem routine and almost unremarkable now. Police burgarizing our homes under an unconstitutional law, harrassing politically involved citizens at the behest of politicians, and targeting street protestors for detainment and injury, are now fairly unremarkable (unless you're some kind of bleeding heart pinko, terrorist sympathizer, of course).

What will American civil liberities and political rights look like in another twenty years, I wonder? Will there even be such things, or will our rulers be having frog legs for lunch?

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Michael: American Hate-Based Politics

History has proven again and again that the skillful demonization of a despised and feared group of outsiders, or a fifth column of insiders, is a great means of consolidating authority over a society and ensuring obedience. The Nazis used the Jews primarily, but also homosexuals, and gypsies, and to a lesser extent anyone who wasn’t properly Aryan as the bogeymen of their political psychodrama. The Stalinists used the petit bourgeoisie and the Kulaks. The Red Chinese used intellectuals, professionals and, ironically in hindsight, capitalist-roaders. But never has there been an odder, more cobbled together, and highly selective out-group and unlikely set of internal traitors than those presented for the voter’s wrath and revilement by the modern GOP.

The cast of cretins includes welfare mothers (‘queens’ in New Speak); drug dealers and their reliably criminal users; sexual deviants of all sorts; homosexuals and lesbians (though arguably they are just a stop on the slippery slope to pedophilia and bestiality in the GOP’s eyes, especially the ones who try to marry each other); unwed mothers, unless they are lesbians, in which case they should cannot be wed and should become nuns; anyone seeking an abortion; the doctors who perform those abortions, or who allow people to die with dignity (Euthabortionists); immigrants (especially of the Mexican [meaning any brown skinned] variety; foreigners in general (but especially those with brown skin and Qurans); anyone who might use violence or property destruction as a political tool (terrorists, especially Muslims, especially Arabs, and especially Environmentalists or Animal Rights activists, but NOT right-wing nationalists or racists); intellectuals are suspect unless they work for a Right wing think-tank or Christian college; intellectuals who appear in the print, audio, or video media and question Right wing orthodoxy are the worst of the internal enemies and form the corporate enemy – the Liberal Media Establishment. Where it is established is a topic that is not an acceptable subject of inquiry.

Recent additions to the internal enemies list are traitorous whistle-blowers in the diplomatic, executive, or intelligence services. All are jealous and disappointed hacks who have documented major flaws and errors in policy to embarrass and weaken the United States in eyes of our enemies. Worst of all internal enemies are the dastardly and cowardly men and women who claim to have served our country in our glorious armed forces and have come back with tales of war crimes, human rights abuses, environmental nightmares, ill-health, mental breakdowns, and any other sort of counter-revolutionary folderol. Shame on them. They have been given the opportunity to put their lives on the line for poverty wages, lacking proper protective equipment (apparently, dead soldiers were cheaper than armor until recently) and, damn it, they should be grateful, not shooting their mouths off and asking for expensive medical treatments, asking questions of their superiors, or asking for ‘conscientious coward’ status.

If you were to gauge the greatest danger to America by GOP rhetoric, it wouldn’t be who you might expect, like Ossama bin Laden, whom we have had ‘on the run’ for almost 4 years now (you’d think a sick old man would have gotten tired by now from all that running). No, America’s enemies are poor lesbian Latina immigrant mothers on WIC, pregnant and headed for an abortion clinic, with an illicit Klonopin addiction, who have converted to Islam, are members of Earth First! and/or PETA, hold Ph.D.s in media studies from Berkeley, are officers working in any of the Defense intelligence agencies with the dirt on the Bush Administration, and the will to use it.

The left isn’t entirely free of this sort of nonsense, either. The bogeymen of the left are foreign workers who are taking our jobs (not untrue, but enmity toward working people anywhere isn’t an answer); Christians who are intent on overthrowing our Constitution (very few Christians are that extreme in their politics – many are outraged about a few issues, but most wouldn’t dream of supporting a revolution of any sort – the beliefs of many would put them in the Democratic party but for a few wedge issues); political operatives skulking about and rigging elections (I’ve seen little direct evidence of actual voter fraud, though the resistance to auditable electronic elections by the GOP is very suspect), and big corporations out to dominate our lives and our government (well, even paranoiacs have enemies – I think corporations are out of control, any economic force that big is bound to have a very distorting effect on public life if not carefully and vigorously held in check).

We must be careful not accede to the Siren’s song of the politics of fear and hatred, or we too could find ourselves too far down the radical road to find our way back. We can only lead the GOP back from the edge by setting a positive example, not by emulating their poor one, no matter how successful it may be.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Michael: Limbaugh's Deep Throat

The Radical Right are attacking Mark Felt, a.k.a. Deep Throat, as a traitor, an opportunist, and a liar. Limbaugh's attack is representative, radical rightists around the dial and throughout the bsphere are denigrating Felt. Why would the radical Right feel a need to attack an old man who had done a great service for his country at great personal risk by stopping an Administration that was engaging in illegal acts? Well, that's somewhat of a rhetorical question, isn't it? With whistleblowers creeping out of the woodwork to drop the dime on the illegal and immoral shenanigans of the Bush Administration, it is simply self-preservation to try to demonize leakers and whistleblowers, regardless of their motives.

To the Rightists, the model American is one who marches in lockstep with his political leaders, regardless of where they are being led, and regardless of the objective truth of what they are told. The good American doesn't question, keeping his head down, and his mouth shut.

But mainstream Americans know that the greatest security America can have is an actively questioning citizenry that follows their conscience, not their political party's ideological pronouncements. We know that to question, even to violate procedure by revealing 'official' secrets, is an essential check on the abuse of power. The personal conscience and ethics of America's people is what keeps America safe, not blind loyalty to some electoral idol with feet of clay.

The dittoheads will no doubt attempt to lump Felt in with people have have leaked information or broken the law, not to safeguard the public interest or to stop officials from breaking the law and abusing the trust we give them, but simply for partisan advantage. They will compare Felt to someone like Brett Kavanaugh, a member of Starr's staff, now up for an Article III judgeship, who leaked what was essentially grand jury testimony in an effort to harm Clinton politically. An investigation was already under way! It isn't as if Starr had any motive to conceal facts about Clinton's Administration from the public, but there were limits on when information could be released, and so a leaker was needed. Kavanaugh was simply acting a political hit man for Starr, not as a whistleblower of the Administration's secrets.

Rush Limbaugh even characterizes the scandals floating around Abu Graib and Gitmo as similar kinds of 'leaking', and as nothing more than partisan attempts to 'get' Bush. It has come down to this: in the minds of the radical Righties, there is no longer any public interest or higher purpose to government. It is all a game of who 'gets' who. To the Righties whistleblowers, leakers, and confidential sources no longer serve a legitimate purpose of keeping the government accountable to the public by providing information those in power would rather we didn't have. They are all nothing but partisan hacks aiming at political advantage, personal aggrandizement, and the main chance. The main thing that disguishes one from another is whether they're on 'your' side.

Time to ask yourself, especially if you consider yourself conservative, "Do I agree?" Or do you believe that the individual citizen of conscience still has a role to play in keeping the government, and our leaders, in check and accountable?

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