Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Michael: God Rejects Plan B

Susan Wood, director of FDA's Office of Women's Health, resigned in protest of the agency's indefinite delay (read: refusal) in making Plan B, the 'morning-after pill', available over the counter.

Once again, the Bush Administration has decided to elevate pandering to Christian conservatives above scientific merit and above womens' health and welfare. The worst hypocrisy is that by not making Plan B more widely available, unwanted pregnancies that could have been prevented will instead become abortions that could have been avoided. Nobody should want more abortions. But the holy logic of the 'culture of life' is above concern for such 'reality-based' consequences.

A process that should be grounded in medical science has instead been held hostage to a fine point of theological debate. Does life begin when the egg is fertilized (known in theological debates as 'ensoulment'), or when the fertilized egg is implanted in the uterine wall and begins to grow? Plan B prevents the latter from occuring, thus preventing pregnancy. But those who believe that 'ensoulment' occurs at fertilization see prevention of implantation of a fertilized egg as a murder. The simple fact is that an IUD does the exact same thing, but rationality has nothing to do with this decision. Thus Plan B gets punted down the road in order to pander to a fine point of theology.

People are upset and disappointed at the prospect that religious law may soon govern Iraq, but they would be do well to heed the creeping supremacy of religious law in America.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Michael: Accountability for Lake New Orleans

Accountability for Lake New Orleans levee breach and the flooding of New Orleans will be a major scandal for this Administration. The funding for improvements to the flood control district designed to mitigate the effect of a catagory 4 or 5 storm were diverted to other projects as a result of the elective Iraq war and homeland security boondoggles.

When this shakes out into the mainstream media, it is going to crush Bush like a bug. We don't yet know the scale of the human disaster in new Orleans and surrounding areas, but I suspect in a few weeks we will realize that hundreds, if not thousands, will have died. Those deaths will demand an accounting and this Administration is already overextended.

Michael: SHOW ME THE SCIENCE by Daniel C. Dennett

I don't often republish the work of others in its entirety on this blog as I can just provide a link, but in this case I'm making an exception. Daniel Dennett, professor of philosophy at Tufts, published an op-ed in the New York Times on the 28th that I found such a cogent knock-out of the Intelligent Design hoax, that just have to share the full text.

PRESIDENT BUSH, announcing this month that he was in favor of teaching about "intelligent design" in the schools, said, "I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought." A couple of weeks later, Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the Republican leader, made the same point. Teaching both intelligent design and evolution "doesn't force any particular theory on anyone," Mr. Frist said. "I think in a pluralistic society that is the fairest way to go about education and training people for the future."

Is "intelligent design" a legitimate school of scientific thought? Is there something to it, or have these people been taken in by one of the most ingenious hoaxes in the history of science? Wouldn't such a hoax be impossible? No. Here's how it has been done.

First, imagine how easy it would be for a determined band of naysayers to shake the world's confidence in quantum physics — how weird it is! — or Einsteinian relativity. In spite of a century of instruction and popularization by physicists, few people ever really get their heads around the concepts involved. Most people eventually cobble together a justification for accepting the assurances of the experts: "Well, they pretty much agree with one another, and they claim that it is their understanding of these strange topics that allows them to harness atomic energy, and to make transistors and lasers, which certainly do work..."

Fortunately for physicists, there is no powerful motivation for such a band of mischief-makers to form. They don't have to spend much time persuading people that quantum physics and Einsteinian relativity really have been established beyond all reasonable doubt.

With evolution, however, it is different. The fundamental scientific idea of evolution by natural selection is not just mind-boggling; natural selection, by executing God's traditional task of designing and creating all creatures great and small, also seems to deny one of the best reasons we have for believing in God. So there is plenty of motivation for resisting the assurances of the biologists. Nobody is immune to wishful thinking. It takes scientific discipline to protect ourselves from our own credulity, but we've also found ingenious ways to fool ourselves and others. Some of the methods used to exploit these urges are easy to analyze; others take a little more unpacking.

A creationist pamphlet sent to me some years ago had an amusing page in it, purporting to be part of a simple questionnaire:

Test Two

Do you know of any building that didn't have a builder? [YES] [NO]

Do you know of any painting that didn't have a painter? [YES] [NO]

Do you know of any car that didn't have a maker? [YES] [NO]

If you answered YES for any of the above, give details:

Take that, you Darwinians! The presumed embarrassment of the test-taker when faced with this task perfectly expresses the incredulity many people feel when they confront Darwin's great idea. It seems obvious, doesn't it, that there couldn't be any designs without designers, any such creations without a creator.

Well, yes — until you look at what contemporary biology has demonstrated beyond all reasonable doubt: that natural selection — the process in which reproducing entities must compete for finite resources and thereby engage in a tournament of blind trial and error from which improvements automatically emerge — has the power to generate breathtakingly ingenious designs.

Take the development of the eye, which has been one of the favorite challenges of creationists. How on earth, they ask, could that engineering marvel be produced by a series of small, unplanned steps? Only an intelligent designer could have created such a brilliant arrangement of a shape-shifting lens, an aperture-adjusting iris, a light-sensitive image surface of exquisite sensitivity, all housed in a sphere that can shift its aim in a hundredth of a second and send megabytes of information to the visual cortex every second for years on end.

But as we learn more and more about the history of the genes involved, and how they work — all the way back to their predecessor genes in the sightless bacteria from which multicelled animals evolved more than a half-billion years ago — we can begin to tell the story of how photosensitive spots gradually turned into light-sensitive craters that could detect the rough direction from which light came, and then gradually acquired their lenses, improving their information-gathering capacities all the while.

We can't yet say what all the details of this process were, but real eyes representative of all the intermediate stages can be found, dotted around the animal kingdom, and we have detailed computer models to demonstrate that the creative process works just as the theory says.

All it takes is a rare accident that gives one lucky animal a mutation that improves its vision over that of its siblings; if this helps it have more offspring than its rivals, this gives evolution an opportunity to raise the bar and ratchet up the design of the eye by one mindless step. And since these lucky improvements accumulate — this was Darwin's insight — eyes can automatically get better and better and better, without any intelligent designer.

Brilliant as the design of the eye is, it betrays its origin with a tell-tale flaw: the retina is inside out. The nerve fibers that carry the signals from the eye's rods and cones (which sense light and color) lie on top of them, and have to plunge through a large hole in the retina to get to the brain, creating the blind spot. No intelligent designer would put such a clumsy arrangement in a camcorder, and this is just one of hundreds of accidents frozen in evolutionary history that confirm the mindlessness of the historical process.

If you still find Test Two compelling, a sort of cognitive illusion that you can feel even as you discount it, you are like just about everybody else in the world; the idea that natural selection has the power to generate such sophisticated designs is deeply counterintuitive. Francis Crick, one of the discoverers of DNA, once jokingly credited his colleague Leslie Orgel with "Orgel's Second Rule": Evolution is cleverer than you are. Evolutionary biologists are often startled by the power of natural selection to "discover" an "ingenious" solution to a design problem posed in the lab.

This observation lets us address a slightly more sophisticated version of the cognitive illusion presented by Test Two. When evolutionists like Crick marvel at the cleverness of the process of natural selection they are not acknowledging intelligent design. The designs found in nature are nothing short of brilliant, but the process of design that generates them is utterly lacking in intelligence of its own.

Intelligent design advocates, however, exploit the ambiguity between process and product that is built into the word "design." For them, the presence of a finished product (a fully evolved eye, for instance) is evidence of an intelligent design process. But this tempting conclusion is just what evolutionary biology has shown to be mistaken.

Yes, eyes are for seeing, but these and all the other purposes in the natural world can be generated by processes that are themselves without purposes and without intelligence. This is hard to understand, but so is the idea that colored objects in the world are composed of atoms that are not themselves colored, and that heat is not made of tiny hot things.

The focus on intelligent design has, paradoxically, obscured something else: genuine scientific controversies about evolution that abound. In just about every field there are challenges to one established theory or another. The legitimate way to stir up such a storm is to come up with an alternative theory that makes a prediction that is crisply denied by the reigning theory — but that turns out to be true, or that explains something that has been baffling defenders of the status quo, or that unifies two distant theories at the cost of some element of the currently accepted view.

To date, the proponents of intelligent design have not produced anything like that. No experiments with results that challenge any mainstream biological understanding. No observations from the fossil record or genomics or biogeography or comparative anatomy that undermine standard evolutionary thinking.

Instead, the proponents of intelligent design use a ploy that works something like this. First you misuse or misdescribe some scientist's work. Then you get an angry rebuttal. Then, instead of dealing forthrightly with the charges leveled, you cite the rebuttal as evidence that there is a "controversy" to teach.

Note that the trick is content-free. You can use it on any topic. "Smith's work in geology supports my argument that the earth is flat," you say, misrepresenting Smith's work. When Smith responds with a denunciation of your misuse of her work, you respond, saying something like: "See what a controversy we have here? Professor Smith and I are locked in a titanic scientific debate. We should teach the controversy in the classrooms." And here is the delicious part: you can often exploit the very technicality of the issues to your own advantage, counting on most of us to miss the point in all the difficult details.

William Dembski, one of the most vocal supporters of intelligent design, notes that he provoked Thomas Schneider, a biologist, into a response that Dr. Dembski characterizes as "some hair-splitting that could only look ridiculous to outsider observers." What looks to scientists — and is — a knockout objection by Dr. Schneider is portrayed to most everyone else as ridiculous hair-splitting.

In short, no science. Indeed, no intelligent design hypothesis has even been ventured as a rival explanation of any biological phenomenon. This might seem surprising to people who think that intelligent design competes directly with the hypothesis of non-intelligent design by natural selection. But saying, as intelligent design proponents do, "You haven't explained everything yet," is not a competing hypothesis. Evolutionary biology certainly hasn't explained everything that perplexes biologists. But intelligent design hasn't yet tried to explain anything.

To formulate a competing hypothesis, you have to get down in the trenches and offer details that have testable implications. So far, intelligent design proponents have conveniently sidestepped that requirement, claiming that they have no specifics in mind about who or what the intelligent designer might be.

To see this shortcoming in relief, consider an imaginary hypothesis of intelligent design that could explain the emergence of human beings on this planet:

About six million years ago, intelligent genetic engineers from another galaxy visited Earth and decided that it would be a more interesting planet if there was a language-using, religion-forming species on it, so they sequestered some primates and genetically re-engineered them to give them the language instinct, and enlarged frontal lobes for planning and reflection. It worked.

If some version of this hypothesis were true, it could explain how and why human beings differ from their nearest relatives, and it would disconfirm the competing evolutionary hypotheses that are being pursued.

We'd still have the problem of how these intelligent genetic engineers came to exist on their home planet, but we can safely ignore that complication for the time being, since there is not the slightest shred of evidence in favor of this hypothesis.

But here is something the intelligent design community is reluctant to discuss: no other intelligent-design hypothesis has anything more going for it. In fact, my farfetched hypothesis has the advantage of being testable in principle: we could compare the human and chimpanzee genomes, looking for unmistakable signs of tampering by these genetic engineers from another galaxy. Finding some sort of user's manual neatly embedded in the apparently functionless "junk DNA" that makes up most of the human genome would be a Nobel Prize-winning coup for the intelligent design gang, but if they are looking at all, they haven't come up with anything to report.

It's worth pointing out that there are plenty of substantive scientific controversies in biology that are not yet in the textbooks or the classrooms. The scientific participants in these arguments vie for acceptance among the relevant expert communities in peer-reviewed journals, and the writers and editors of textbooks grapple with judgments about which findings have risen to the level of acceptance — not yet truth — to make them worth serious consideration by undergraduates and high school students.

SO get in line, intelligent designers. Get in line behind the hypothesis that life started on Mars and was blown here by a cosmic impact. Get in line behind the aquatic ape hypothesis, the gestural origin of language hypothesis and the theory that singing came before language, to mention just a few of the enticing hypotheses that are actively defended but still insufficiently supported by hard facts.

The Discovery Institute, the conservative organization that has helped to put intelligent design on the map, complains that its members face hostility from the established scientific journals. But establishment hostility is not the real hurdle to intelligent design. If intelligent design were a scientific idea whose time had come, young scientists would be dashing around their labs, vying to win the Nobel Prizes that surely are in store for anybody who can overturn any significant proposition of contemporary evolutionary biology.

Remember cold fusion? The establishment was incredibly hostile to that hypothesis, but scientists around the world rushed to their labs in the effort to explore the idea, in hopes of sharing in the glory if it turned out to be true.

Instead of spending more than $1 million a year on publishing books and articles for non-scientists and on other public relations efforts, the Discovery Institute should finance its own peer-reviewed electronic journal. This way, the organization could live up to its self-professed image: the doughty defenders of brave iconoclasts bucking the establishment.

For now, though, the theory they are promoting is exactly what George Gilder, a long-time affiliate of the Discovery Institute, has said it is: "Intelligent design itself does not have any content."

Since there is no content, there is no "controversy" to teach about in biology class. But here is a good topic for a high school course on current events and politics: Is intelligent design a hoax? And if so, how was it perpetrated?

Dennett has delivered a body blow to the ID hoaxers. As an added benefit, Dennett's idea of teaching students how to recognize psuedo-scientfic flim-flammery has a great deal of merit. If there were better education about how to spot bullshit wrapped in a scientific disguise, it would improve science education considerably. A welcome side-effect may be that people would save loads of money that is currently wasted on junk-science-based diet aids, herbal flaccidity cures and other snakeoil hokum foisted on a scientifically illiterate public via infomercials. Such quackery is to real medicine as ID is to evolutionary science.

Michael: The anarchists

It's hard to take the long view about suicide bombers. It behooves us to reflect that terrorism is not a new or unique phenomenon, however. We can learn from and gain perspective on the policy challenges of terrorism by an examination of history. Surprisingly, the current wave of ideological violence has an approximate historical precedent: the anarchists of the late 19th century. The anarchists too were international in scope, revolutionary in purpose, and homicidal on a devastating scale.

The anarachists racked up an deplorable number of assinations of heads of state and other political leaders, as well as their share of sheerly random acts of terrorist violence against innocent civilians - including bombings. In France they were even known as dynamitards.

The most salient parallel is that almost universally the response to anarachist terror were exactly the ones we are now seeing in response to jihadi terrorism; restrictions on free speech and association, serious curtailments of civil rights, xenophobic laws to deport and detain foreigners, and a relaxation of criminal standards of proof regarding association with known or suspected terrorists. The instructive aspect of this frenzy of legal zealotry in response to anarchist terrorism is that it was almost completely ineffective.

The increasingly draconian laws failed to curb anarachist violence or net terrorist plotters in any numbers, nor penetrate nor disrupt the anarchists' terror campaign. The networks were too diffuse and too clever. The increasing repression may only have fueled greater radicalization of recruitment populations, further exaserbating the problem. What actually soothed the rash of anarchist violence was that history moved on and made the anarchist credo irrelevant.

If we work to make the ideological appeals of Al Qaeda and their ilk irrelevant to the people of the Middle East, we'll ultimately do much more to end jihadi terror than could any criminal law or military operation.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Michael: AZDP Endorses Meaningless Iraq Statement

I recognize that politics is the art of the possible, and it is seldom possible to get everything you want. Still, one might think that in the midst of a war that the great majority of Americans no longer support, and that many thought, rightly, was folly from the start, it might be possible for the opposition party to make a strong statement against that war.

You'd be wrong.

At the recent Arizona party convention, some people whom I know to be good and honorable people brought to the convention a strong and uncompromising statement against the war. It read:

"Whereas the United States government, in its preemptive attack and subsequent occupation of Iraq, a country which had neither attacked nor threatened the U.S.:

1. Violated international law, the United Nations Charter, the UN Declaration of Human Rights, the Geneva Accords and the Nuremberg Principles;

2. Caused the deaths of an estimated 100,000 Iraqis and more than 1,700 U.S. soldiers and the wounding and disabling of tens of thousands of Iraqis and U.S. soldiers;

3. Misused over $300 billion of U.S. taxpayers money which should have been used for health care, affordable housing, environmental protection, etc.

4. The continuation of this war and the continued misallocation of funds will cause grave harm to the people of the United States.


1. Withdraw all U.S. troops and military bases from Iraq;

2. Cease all attempts by the U.S. government and corporations to control the economy, government and resources of Iraq;

3. Ensure that returning veterans receive adequate compensation, health care and education, disability, and rehabilitation benefits; and

4. Reduce the U.S. military budget and allocate that money to programs that provide for health care, education and environmental protection."

Right. Now we're getting somewhere.

This original draft does some vital work. It recognizes that Bush's 'pre-emptive' war was illegal under normative and positive international law. It acknowledges the wanton and useless death not only of our own people, but also of innocent Iraqis. It deplores the ruinous, war-profiteering costs of this misbegotten war and demands we re-align our spending. And it uncompromisingly demands an unconditional withdrawal of all American military personnel and equipment from Iraq, including any planned bases.

This sort of statement clearly draws a distinction between Democratic plans and principles and those of the Republican party. This is a statement that a political campaign can effectively use to mobilize support and to criticize the opposition. It even allows a candidate to hedge somewhat, if needed; and I recognize that hedging will be needed. But it also bolsters those who would take an uncompromising and critical stand. We need to give our champions cover to do the hard work of taking the truth to the people - this draft would have done that, what resulted from the convention process will not.

The version which eventually passed was so watered down by the party apparatchikis as to be vitually meaningless, and completely lacking of any political courage. It could be the statement of an average Republican with the addition of a strategic word or two. Not only does it fail to clearly criticize the Bush policies which led us to this disastrous war, it fails to call for withdrawal except with a loophole attached that's big enough to drive a Bradley through.

"Whereas the AZ Democratic Party is supportive of our Men and Women in military service and supportive of their families;

"And whereas the AZ State Democratic Party opposes the reasons previously stipulated by the Bush Administration for war in Iraq, the method of prosecution of the war, and its failure to have an adequate exit plan from Iraq;

"Be it resolved that the AZ Democratic Party calls upon the Bush Administration and the US Congress to support the families of our service people and to fully fund veterans and military benefits for our service personnel, and to remove our troops from Iraq in as responsible and expeditious a fashion as possible."

Note the tone of pre-emptively cringing psuedo-patriotism and the obsfucating generalizations of the preamble in comparison to the orginal clear and factual statements. Note too, the weak-kneed "in as responsible and expeditious a fashion as possible." You could toss a, "if it's not too much trouble, please, Sir, if you feel like it, that is..." in there without it looking out of place.

Though proclaimed as a victory by Progressives as a victory, and rightly so when compared with the vast wasteland of complicity and indifference by most Democratic officials up to now, this result illustrates how weak and pusillanimous the Democratic party as a whole remains on what will be the central issue in the voter's minds in 2006 and 2008.

Surely, we can do better at presenting this vital issue to voters as a real choice, instead of as a mealy-mouthed afterthought. If we don't do so, I don't want to contemplate what will become of the Democratic party, let alone of the American military and Iraq which remain firmly in the crosshairs of the Bush Administration's rocket-launcher of I-wish-it-were-so's.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Michael: The Un-Christian Barbary Treaties

In the waning years of the 18th century, a young American Republic under Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson waged war against the piratical depradations of the Barbary Coast states. One result was the creation of the Treaty of Triploli of 1796 which was duly signed and passed by unimous consent of the Senate, becoming the highest law of the land after the Constitution. Article 11 of that treaty proves conclusively that the Founders did not consider America a Christian nation, nor did they consider it to have any sort of religious mission.

"ARTICLE 11. As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion,-as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen,-and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

Those who would argue that our laws are based on Christianity, or the Ten Commandments, are quite simply dead wrong. Not even those worthies who were present and held political power at the creation and infancy of our government held such a view, and they had no hestitation declaring this fact publicly and in a legally binding fashion.

Today, our religious 'leaders' have become so swollen with their own perceived self-importance and hubris that they feel justified in issuing Fatwahs of death against foreign leaders, and family physicians, from their televangelistic bully-pupits, while their fawning political and legal errand-boys beseige the wall of separation between religion and the government beneath a ruse of combatting religious discrimination.

This is not a Christian nation, never has been, and was never meant to be; this is a nation where Christians of all creeds, as well as all other religions, are free to worship in peace, free of persecution. Nor is this a nation that will tolerate any combination of religous factions annexing our government to their diocese.

No god commands that religion must not eat the fruit of the Tree of Power, which grows all unguarded in the garden of America. But any religion that does so will find the fruit is impossible to stop eating, even as the body of the Church withers. The fruit cannot provide the spiritual sustenance religion requires. Thus, even if gorged with the fruits, religion will starve to death amidst plenty while stripping the Tree of its entire harvest and depriving its norishment to those whom it could benefit. That is not to say that no believer may eat the fruit, just that if it is eaten solely to further spiritual purposes, it is a deadly trap for the foolish and zealous, and always has been.

Michael: Sheehan a Problem for DLC Dems

I seldom agree with Pat Buchanan on anything, but I think he nails the problem that the Iraq war and Cindy Sheehan presents to the Democratic leadership.

...Sheehan has helped turn the focus of national debate back to the war at a moment of vulnerability for the President. According to Newsweek, support for Bush’s handling of the war has fallen below 40%, to 34%, with 61% now disapproving of his leadership. Put bluntly, the bottom is falling out of support for Bush as Commander-in-Chief...

Why is this not good news for the Democratic Party?

Here’s why. Cindy Sheehan clearly has the courage of the liberal Democrats’ convictions. In their hearts, many of them never believed in this war in Iraq, though their leaders voted for it...

Why is no leader in the Democratic Party giving voice to the antiwar cause with the perseverance and passion of Cindy Sheehan? Why are they all hiding in the tall grass, or making statements about how they support the war and the troops, but just disagree with how Bush has managed it. If polls are to be believed, half the nation now agrees with Cindy Sheehan.

She is temporarily filling a vacuum in American politics that been unfilled since the Iowa caucuses, 18 months ago, when the wheels came off a Dean campaign most pundits thought would take him to the nomination.

The problem for the Democrats is this: All their potential nominees -- Hillary, Biden, Kerry, Edwards, Warner, [ed.-- don't forget Clark] -- supported the war in 2002. All support the war today. One day soon, a national Democrat, a Gene McCarthy [ed.-- can you say Russ Feingold?], is going to break publicly with the DLC crowd and the party establishment on the Hill, stand up and say, “Enough! It’s time to bring the troops home.”

When that happens, the antiwar movement and its new leader will split the Democratic Party right down the middle between “Stay-the-course!” hawks and “Bring-the-boys-home!” doves, just as it did during Vietnam. And if memory serves, Vietnam eventually did far more damage to the Democratic Party than it ever did to the Party of Nixon, Reagan and Bush.

And that's the problem. The Democratic leadership is far to the right of their electorate regading war in Iraq in an effort to court non-existent moderate independents. Over 70% of independents disapprove of Bush's handling of the war. Or are DLC pols trying to win Moderate Republicans? I've got news - there basically aren't any left. 85% of Republicans support their boy king despite all his foul-ups, and even the remaining 15% would rather cut off their voting arm than vote Democrat. They'll vote for McCain or Hagel, depending on the view of the war, or just stay home.

What this country needs is opposition leadership that is not afraid to question to dubious Conventional Wisdom that our presence in Iraq is vital to our national interests, which the Bush Administration has built. If this debate happens now, instead of in the heated rhetorical environment of a Presidential primary campaign, there is a chance to educate America and lead public opinion toward a solid majority for withdrawal. If we wait, or allow the same bozos who have led Democrats to slaughter for the last few election cycles to stampede us into the 'defeat is not an option' corral, we will lose seats in 2006, when we should gain, and lose the Presidency in 2008, when we should hand the GOP their collective asses on a platter.

Michael: Sheehan's Speech on Returning to Texas

Sheehan addresses the crowd upon returning to TX (audio/mpeg). This clip starts with the end of a performance by Joan Baez. Mrs. Sheehan is blunt and honest and real in her communication; the mirror opposite of Bush and his cronies. Like Gandhi, MLK, or Granny D, she is becoming a leader simply because she is an honest, unassuming, and uncompromising truth-teller.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Event: Drinking Liberally

There will be Drinking Liberally this evening, Thurday 8/25, 6PM @ the BoonDocks on First and Ft. Lowell. First liberals to arrive get a round on the hosts (Mike and/or Jim and/or Juan).

For your amusement:

"Lance Armstrong is going to come down to the ranch -- the controversial Lance Armstrong -- and Bush is thrilled about this. He's like a kid. He said how many times do you get a chance to go biking with someone who's been on the moon?" --Bill Maher

"If they ever pass a new constitution in Iraq, the name of Iraq might change. They might pick a new name for the whole country. I have an idea... How about Vietnam?" --Jay Leno

"The pope is in his native Germany. He's actually promoting his new movie, the 80-year-old virgin. He spoke at a synagogue in Berlin that was destroyed by the Nazis and apologized for the destruction. Then he politely wondered if, by any chance, during the rebuilding, anyone had found his wallet." --Bill Maher

"Bush woke up this morning, saw his shadow and now -- six more weeks of vacation." --Jay Leno

"It's very sad. They tried everything to get these people to leave. They tried water cannons. They tried special forces. They tried wire cutters, and finally, as a last resort, they had a black family move in next door, and they just (got) right out of there." --Bill Maher, on the Israeli pullout from Gaza

"Over the weekend, President Bush threw out the first pitch at a Little League play off game, and that must have been exciting. I mean that's something those kids will remember until they are old and gray and have no Social Security." --Jay Leno

"Eight cities in Texas are competing with each other to be the location for the George Bush Library. It's BYOB -- bring you own books. ... The George Bush Presidential Library -- that shouldn't take up too much space: a box of cliff notes and pop-up books. ... The only thing Bush ever checked out of a library was Laura." --Jay Leno

"How come you're so wrong, my sweet neo-con? / You call yourself a Christian, I call you a hypocrite / You call yourself a patriot. Well, I think you are full of shit!" --a refrain from the Rolling Stones new album

"Whenever they made fun of my makeup, it was because the newspapers colorized my photograph." --Rep. Katherine Harris

"We actually misnamed the war on terror. It ought to be the Struggle Against Ideological Extremists Who Do Not Believe in Free Societies Who Happen to Use Terror as a Weapon to Try to Shake the Conscience of the Free World." --President Bush, no, really, I'm not kidding, Aug. 6., 2004.

See you through the bottom of a mug :)

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Michael: Bacevich Calls It a Day

Andrew Bacevich, author of "The New American Militarism," wrote an excellent op-ed in WaPo the other day. (free subscription req.) He argues with great good sense that we will do less harm by leaving Iraq immediately than by staying any longer. I strongly recommend a read.

Bacevich is a refreshing anodyne to the Pollyannaish nonsense of the Neo Cons. Military power alone cannot achieve all our political aims in the world. The sooner Americans learn that lesson, the better place the world will be. Bacevich explores the damage that excessive militarism is doing to our politics, our economy, and our national character in his book.

He makes some recomendantions about how we can begin the work of recovering from generations of excalating militarism:

  • Heed the Founders- We must restore the ideals which animated the founding of our nation as specified in the Constitution. Nothing in our Constitution mandates or encourages our government to employ military power to save the rest of the world, or remake it in our image - just the opposite, in fact. We are enjoined to "provide for the common defense." The concept of national security has become so enlarged as to become meaningless. Bush I's 1992 incursion into Somalia, Clinton's 1999 war in Kosovo, or Bush II's crusade against Saddam Hussein, can only be held to be vital to defense of the nation if that concept is empty of any meaning. We need a military policy that focuses on defending the nation against agression instead of world dominance.

  • Revitalize the sepration of powers- The constitutional principle that Congress has the sole authority to wage war has been essentially abdicated by politicians too craven to stand up for their Constitutional prerogatives and from generations of standing toe to toe with a hostile superpower. Those days are gone and the authority to commit the nation to armed action that the Executive has acreted must be withdrawn.

  • View force as a last resort- We must renounce the Bush Doctrine of preventivie war for what it is: a policy of naked aggression. By placing ourselves above the normative values of international law as embodied in the UN Charter, we risk fatally weakening those norms upon which world order truly rests. This is not a policy of pacifism. The U.S. reserves the right, as do all nations, to act in its own defense, unilaterally if necessary - we could have struck against al Qaida well before 9/11 under this principle. Nor need the U.S. tolerate behavior posing a proximate threat to itself or its citizens - we clearly had the right to topple the Taliban regime for their support of al Qaida. Finally, we have the right to act in concert with other nations to wholesale violations of human rights and immediate threats to international peace.

  • We must work to enhance U.S. strategic self-sufficiency, especially in energy- Americans have come to believe that their safety and well-being requires a guaranteed right of access to the world's resources - any threat to that access, real or imagined, has more often than not elicited an armed response. This notion underlies the entire rational of the 25 year long World Oil War in which we have engaged sporadically since 1980. Only by putting significant resources into severing our ties of dependency to the Middle East can we address the underlying cause of the current crisis in international affairs.

  • Organize U.S. armed forces explicitly for national defense rather than power projection- This implies jettisoning the elastic concept of "national security" in favor a military doctrine focused on defense of American territory. We should shed outdated and unecessary defense obligations and press allies to take up the full burdens of their own defense. This entails bringing home American troops from bases abroad and closing those bases where an immediate for them need no longer exists. The purpose of such a strategic withdrawal is three-fold: to reduce the prospect of being dragged into distant conflicts in which our interest is marginal or non-existent; to allow us to choose where we will engage our forces instead of ceeding that decision to an enemy, and; to treat our allies as partners instead of vassals. Our defense alliances, such as NATO, may stand, but should make our allies truly equal partners.

  • Devise an appropriate gauge for determining the level of U.S. defense spending- The method of budgeting which has prevailed for the past decades - more than the prior year no matter the cost - must end. We should peg expenditures to realistic threats and what others are spending. On the current budget trajectory, we are on course to spend more than the rest of the world combined soon. We cannot sustain such a pace forever.

  • Enhance alternative instruments of statecraft- To view force as a last resort, we must enhance the power and effectiveness of alternatives. We currently undervalue the soft-power alternatives that we have and give them little budgetary priority. Our humanitarian aid comes to 1/10 of 1% of our budget, far less than other Western nations. Such expenditures reduce the sources of conflict and serve our interests directly; foriegn aid is not a luxury or charity, it is self-interested. If the federal government spent its foriegn aid with the creativity, accountability, and entreprenuerial creativity of the Gates Foundation, we could truly change the world. We must also reduce or eliminate foriegn military aid as currently constructed.

  • Revive the moribund ideal of the citizen-soldier- The military has become increasingly isolated from civilian life. Citizens who prefer an American republic to an American empire should view the trends underway in military culture as worrisome. We need to make the military more representative of the populace and encourage service. We need a new GI Bill that ties federal education grants more closely to service. Those who serve should recieve free college education.

  • Reconcile the American military profession to American society- The officer corps must go through a liberal education in America's universities primarily, with all officer candidates training at military academies after graduation. Military personnel should be paid so that government housing is not required. Soldiers should live among their fellow citizens, not in insulated enclaves.

Bacevich admits his prescription will be tough to swallow. He writes that have become so reflexive in our resort to military force to solve problems and achieve our aims that it can fairly be termed an addiction. Recovery from our national addiction to militarism begins with acknowledging the disease. Denial merely postpones the day of reckoning.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Rev. Straatemeier: Arizona Democratic Party Says, “Mr. President, bring our troops home - and BTW, please fully fund their benefits.”

Let us as Democrats take the lead to bring the US out of this quagmire.

This past weekend, amidst the cool Northern Arizona pines in Flagstaff, AZ, some very significant progress took place within the Arizona Democratic Party at its quarterly State Committee Meeting.

A resolution passed unanimously, asking the President and Congress, in support of our men and women in uniform and their families, to withdraw our troops from Iraq “as expeditiously and responsibly” as possible, and to fully fund veterans benefits. Arizona has thus became the seventh state Democratic Party to pass such resolutions, joining California, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and New Jersey.

Also, keeping in mind Joseph Stalin’s sage words that, “Those who cast the votes decide nothing; those who count the votes decide everything,” the State Committee heard a presentation by an election protection research group, AUDITAZ, who had discovered voting fraud in Pima County, Arizona, working with other groups, including AZ Citizens for Fair Elections, DFA (Democracy for America) Tucson, and AZPC (Arizona Progressive Caucus) Pima County. A recent article in the Tucson Citizen, “The Mother of Security Holes in State Voting System” has details.

After hearing the compelling reports from Dr. Tom Ryan, and Dr. David Griscom, a state level election integrity commission was formed under the leadership of the newly elected state party Chair, AZ State Senator Harry Mitchell. The presentation was led by State Rep. Dr. Ted Downing, whose voter protection amendments to the voting bill in the last legislative session were voted down, but who is determined to come back with even stronger protections this next term, now supported by the entire Democratic Party. This is a major step forward in making sure that every ballot cast is fairly counted and every citizen’s right to vote is protected.

Then, at lunch, in one corner of the large meeting room, a new 45 member “Progressive Caucus,” was birthed within the AZ State Democratic Committee, led by AZ State Committeepersons from PDA ( and its state-level affiliate AZPC (, who champion progressive causes within the political process. A cheering crowd heard presentations by Sen. Harry Mitchell, asking for our vote as party chair, and Bruce Wheeler, a charismatic Democrat running for Secretary of State, and signed a roster to stay in touch between meetings. Several states have already contacted PDA and AzPC to discuss doing this within their own state party, and the author has been invited to be on a panel to discuss this when PDA meets in Washington DC during the massive peace marches and lobbying efforts over the weekend of September 24-26.

All in all, not a bad day’s work for a day that was to be “routine.”

What happened?

Several days before the State Meeting, AzPC progressives statewide got wind of a resolution being proposed by two State Committee members from Sedona’s “Red Rock Democrats,” to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq. Marv Stalcup and Haskell Fishell, the authors of the resolution, with the support of many statewide grassroots groups and progressive leaders within the State Committee, worked with the state and county leadership of the party to a wording, below, that won the UNANIMOUS approval of the State Committee.

Grassroots Democrats from AzPC invited members as they came in to read the Red Rock resolution and to wear a maroon sticker supporting a YES vote on the resolution. By the time the voting actually got underway at 1:00, a sea of maroon stickers decorated the room, and the will of the people was very clear: “Bring our troops home!”

The determination of the people was also clear: by the time the Red Rock resolution finally came up for vote, it was very late in the afternoon, and, remarkably, at least 150 delegates had remained solely to make sure their voice was heard on this issue, “Bring our troops home!”

So, it was unmistakable that the negotiations about the final wording of the resolution, conducted through the resolution authors, the County Chairs, AzPC and PDA members, progressive Arizona Representative Ted Downing, and former Dean AZ campaign manager Frank Costanzo, only acted to make the final vote unanimous, although several key provisions had been tabled to make that unanimity possible.

At issue, with a commitment to take a full pulse of the grassroots in town hall meetings throughout Arizona before the November meeting, were some vital elements. It is felt by those who brought the resolution that the grassroots may surprise the party leadership by overwhelmingly supporting even stronger wording than what was tabled. To be addressed within town halls...

  • the illegality of the pre-emptive war, with resulting US and Iraqi deaths
  • misallocation of OUR taxpayer funds to an illegal cause
  • leaving no permanent US military-controlled bases in Iraq
  • eliminating attempts by US government and US corporations to control the economy, government, and resources of Iraq
  • reducing the U.S. military budget to allocate that money for domestic programs and environmental protection

The final wording of the resolution passed by the Arizona Democratic Party follows:

Whereas the AZ Democratic Party is supportive of our Men and Women in military service and supportive of their families;

And whereas the AZ State Democratic Party opposes the reasons previously stipulated by the Bush Administration for war in Iraq, the method of prosecution of the war and its failure to have an adequate exit plan from Iraq;

Be it resolved that the AZ Democratic Party call upon the Bush Administration and the US Congress to support the families of our service people, and to fully fund veterans and military benefits for our service personnel, and to remove our troops from Iraq in as responsible and expeditious a fashion as possible."

Out of the challenges of coordinating grassroots efforts around the state on short notice, and working with the party structure to build consensus on both the election protection commission and Iraq withdrawal resolution, the idea of the progressive caucus was born and took root. The intention of the caucus is to form a solid progessive network within the State Committee, which will caucus early in the day before every State meeting, and take time between meetings to be in touch with each other, to adequately plan “progressive” policy initiatives, presentations, resolutions, and candidate support to present to the full State Democratic party. Eventually, there may be progressive caucuses as well at the county and legislative district levels to support progressive local Democratic candidates and policy initiatives.

Arizona State Committeewoman Sherry Bohlen, also National Field Director of PDA, and recently returned from a week in Crawford, Texas at Camp Casey commented happily, "It was a banner day for progressives in Arizona! Progressives from many groups and locations in Arizona showed up ready to work in solidarity to champion the people's agenda! Passage of the resolution to withdraw US troops from Iraq, support of the newly formed Election Integrity Committee, and the kick-off of an official Progressive Caucus within the Arizona Democratic Party were all major steps for the progressive community and for the Arizona Democratic Party."

Hope is thriving in Arizona!

Monday, August 22, 2005

Michael: Bush Hits New Low. Drags Kyl With Him?

Bush is polling at an all time low for a second term Presidents with an approval rating of just 36%. Disapproval of Bush's handling of the Presidency is now at 58%. So much for mandates.

This is the lowest approval rating of any second term President in the 20th century, and it bodes ill for the GOP's chances in 2006 and 2008 unless the party starts to slink shamefacedly away from Bush and his policies. Already, a major contender for the 2008 nomination, Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, is publicly repudiating Bush's Iraq policy and comparing Iraq to Vietnam. Bush's major policy initiatives, such as Social Security plan and immigration reform, appear dead in the water and one doesn't hear any blather about 'spending the capital he earned in the election' flowing from the White House these days. One wonders if Bush will have the swing to pass anything other than log rollers and pork barrels for the next three years.

Here in Arizona, a bellweather race will be Senator Kyl's 2006 re-election bid. Putative challenger Jim Pederson is already polling at 26% to Kyl's 44% with a large and juicy undecided column, and Pederson hasn't even formally announced or begun to campaign. Any time an incumbent is below 50% against a challenger this early it's a big danger signal. Pederson lacks name recongnition, but his considerable fundraising potential (he has about 6 million bucks worth of good will chits to call in among Arizona's elected Democrats) and his personal wealth will ensure that particular impediment doesn't remain a problem for long. The polling indicates that Pederson has surged 19 points among independents in recent weeks, who are the major movers in Bush's softening support (over 70% of independents now disapprove of Bush).

Kyl's record will make it easy to paint him as a sychopant and yes-man to Bush, the Neo Con pollyannas, and the religious right. With Bush sliding toward bottoming out into his 'base' (my guess is he'll wind up in the low 30's, possibly lower if Iraq ends up as a theocratic state aligned with Iran, as now seems likely), Kyl seems suprisingly vulnerable to being dragged down with Bush in 2006.

Event Notice: Judy Norsigian in Tucson Sept. 12th

The UA National Center of Excellence in Women's Health (CoE) invites the Tucson community to hear nationally known speaker, Judy Norsigian, on “The Media and Women’s Health: Sorting Fact from Fiction”.

Judy Norsigian, co-author of Our Bodies, Ourselves, helped spearhead the women's health movement in 1970 with the publication of this bestseller. Now in its 8th edition, Our Bodies, Ourselves, is noted for its groundbreaking discussion of the total picture of health care issues that affect women. Norsigian has appeared on numerous national television and radio programs, including OPRAH, DONAHUE, the TODAY SHOW, GOOD MORNING AMERICA, and NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw.

All are welcome to attend this free event on Monday, September 12th from noon to 1:00pm at University Medical Center, Duval Auditorium, 1501 N. Campbell Avenue in Tucson. Reservations are not required.

For more information, call 520-626-5660.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Michael: World Oil War

Many believe that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are part of a larger Global War that we have been fighting since 9/11. That’s partly right. But 9/11 wasn’t the opening salvo of a new World War; we’ve been fighting this World War for 25 years already. 9/11 just opened up a new front on American soil. Iraq, Afghanistan, and terrorist bombings around the world are just a new phase of the World Oil War. That’s just one of the insightful conclusions of Andrew Bacevich’s book, “The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War,” that I have been reading.

The WOW was launched on January 23, 1980 by President Jimmy Carter with the declaration of the Carter Doctrine:

”An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”

The roots of American involvement in the Middle East has roots that extend back to the 1940s following WWII, and intensifying after the English withdrawal from Suez, but we didn’t define the region as a vital national interest until Carter did so in 1980. His declaration came in response to the Soviet threat to the region via the invasion of Afghanistan, and to a populist threat in the form of the toppling of one of the ‘twin pillars’ of American Middle East policy via the overthrow of the Shah of Iran. The vital interest of America in the region is, of course, the oil supply. Every President since Carter has acted accordingly to protect this vital interest, involving America every more intimately with Middle Eastern affairs.

Just before the creation of CentCom in 1983, its first commander, Lt. General Robert Kingston, gave his basic mission as, “to assure the unimpeded flow of oil from the Arabian Gulf.” (Washington Quarterly, Spring 1982) Being no fool, the General knew perfectly well that his mission was to maintain the American way of life, and he knew exactly what was strategically necessary to accomplish his mission.

Those who locate a causus beli in 9/11 need be reminded that we were already at war in the Middle East on 9/11, and many thousands had already died of that war. The campaigns of WOW are known to all: Desert One; Marine “peacekeepers” in Lebanon and the Beruit bombing; the strikes on Tripoli and Benghazi in April 1986; the tanker war of 1984-88; covert assistance to Afghani mujahadeen resulting in the growth of al Qaida; the first Gulf war to restore Kuwait to its rulers. Only when these engagements are placed in proper context of America’s larger struggle to dominate the Middle East in order to protect the oil supply, do they form a sensible narrative that strips the mythology away from our current conflicts. In the 1990s, with the first Gulf War, the resultant changes in U.S. military posture converted the Persian Gulf into the epicenter of American grand strategy and the principle theatre of operations of the WOW. The root of it all is the overriding interest of the United States in the energy reserves of the region: not preventing the spread of WMD, not preventing terrorism, and certainly not freeing the oppressed masses or bringing the blessings of liberty.

The irony is that the ultimate strategic goal of WOW is not one that demands a purely military solution. But the only response policymakers seem ever to explore in our overly-militaristic political environment was how to move American forces to the region faster and sustain them there longer (even if that presence deeply goads the hosts into a homicidal rage). The deeper issues of dependency of the American economy on foreign energy sources and the prospects for strategic self-sufficiency, which might undercut the brutal logic of the WOW entirely, are sadly still unaddressed in our impoverished political discourse.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Michael: A Pill to Kill the Goose that Layed the Golden Eggs

With a quarter billion product liability judgement in the bag, and thousands of other equivalent Vioxx lawsuits pending you may be sure that it won't be long before Congress rides to the rescue of negligent drug manufacturers by offering them statutory protections from liability.

The GOP dominated federal government has already thrown several bones in the direction of the medical industry: so called 'tort reform' on medical malpractice litigation, immunity from liability for the drug industry on particular products, and moving mass class actions suits (which are most often product liability) to the federal courts. The prospect of bleeding out billions in equity and profits from the Vioxx cases, and other looming negligent drug marketing cases, is bound to send drug industry lobbyists scrambling to the Hill.

I'll even predict their likely rheotrical attack. Without legal protection against irresponsibly large jury awards, our drug companies will be forced to be overly cautious, or even fail to distribute some life-saving drugs, reducing the quality of Americans' health care and harming American drug manufacturers competitiveness in the world. If we don't cap non-economic damages in drug-related product liability suits, the entire industry will suffer irreparable harm. Oh, yes... and plaintiff's lawyers are scum.

It's all nonsense, of course. Our products liability system is the best means of encouraging self-regulation by industry. And effective self-regulation is the cheapest and most efficient means of regulating an industry. The FDA is too captured by the industry, especially in post-approval monitoring, and has proven quite extraordinarily ineffective at protecting consumers in this and other cases. Given the possible routes for politics to enter into any regulatory agency, this isn't really surprising.

If we allow our lawmakers to abrogate the consumers' last line of defense, active and zealous plaintiff's attorneys eager to champion the cause of those harmed by faulty products and negligent manufacturers, then the industry will have little incentive to rigorously police themselves to ensure that the public aren't harmed by their products. Harm to the public becomes just another cost of doing business. Without severe punitive damages available for willful negigence and malicousness, companies do not face the dire and strongly motivating prospect of being driven out of business by really bad decisions. In the interest of short-term profit, we will lose the excellence and accountability that make the American pharmacuetical industry a leader in the world and some of the most profitable business enterprises on earth.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Michael: On the vanities of moral attention

Perhaps moral exhibitionism plays some role in selection of heavily-covered media stories? We all want to think of ourselves as moral and good people, even if we're not. People tend to gravitate toward narratives that cast them, or a proxy for the self, in a positive light.

The story of Ali Abbas, who was brought to England for medical aid after having his arms blown off by an American missile during the invasion of Iraq, was headline news for months because it played directly to people's moral exhibitionist tendencies. "Our invasion may have killed thousands of innocents, but we care enough to save Ali!" There is now even a book about him. Through Ali's story we were allowed to share in a collective and largely undeserved good feeling about ourselves and to reaffirm our essential morality in the midst of a vile war.

The Niger famine, however, is a bad story from a moral exhibitionist standpoint and thus receives scant attention, even though the 'human interest' angle is far more dire than Ali, if less personal. Western nations do little or nothing to prevent or allieviate the suffering of the Nigerians and people like them. One is prompted to ask, "Shouldn't I do something about all those starving people? Shouldn't we all do something?" One cannot derive moral satisfaction from failure or inaction. But without the pricking of our collective conscience, we may never do anything to ameliorate the suffering of so many.

The media flatters their readership's moral vanity by allowing stories like the Niger famine to fade from view after a respectable mention; such stories make people feel bad about themselves, and we can't have that. But does the media miss the opportunity to make us a kinder and more moral society by catering to our moral vanity in this way? There must be a reason why America spends only one-tenth of one percent of our nation's budget on humanitarian assistance - several times less than what other affluent nations give. Perhaps the media's coddling appeals to our moral vanity are part of why our foriegn policy has strayed so far from our moral compass?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Michael: China-Russia war game a possible American invasion

Joint Chinese-Russia war games are simulating the amphibious invasion of a coastal area and the interdiction of sea traffic in advance of an assualt of urban centers (read, counter-invasion against American intervention in Taiwan...), further cementing those nations' security alliance under the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

The military manuevers are only the sexiest aspect of the deepening relationship between these traditional rivals. The economic relationships among the five nations of the SCO are also deepening, especially between the two massive achors of the organization, Russia and China. Joint military operations may foreshadow the development of a NATO-like security alliance in Asia that could become an attractive counter-weight to American predominance for traditionally non-aligned countries and those wary of recent American unilateralism.

It is inevitable that the more America throws its considerable military weight around without sanction that other nations will seek security in an alliance with nations that are percieved, rightly, to be immune to American bluster. There is a very good chance that several Asain nations would flock to the shelter of a Russian-Chinese umbrella, if it were offered. Prime among nations likely to seek security and trade within the SCO are Iran, Syria and North Korea, and possibly even Pakistan. I will not be surprised when the press release comes anouncing the membership of one or more of these nations in the SCO, and their participation in more military manuevers simulating an American foe.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Michael: Senator Feingold Shows Leadership on Iraq

Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) called for a target date for pulling out of Iraq in 2006 . The Senator thereby became one of the few Democrats providing genuine leadership on resolving the slow, superating wound that Iraq has become.

The hackeneyed rationale of the Administration for staying in Iraq, that a withdrawal date signals to the insurgency that they can outlast us, is countered by Feingold's eminent good sense that a clear timeframe instead undercuts the insurgency by denying them use of the open-ended American occupation as a recruiting tool both inside and outside Iraq.

Feingold will be releasing more details of his proposal in town hall meetings in Wisconsin. Finally, reasoned voices of opposition to this disastrous occupation being heard in this country.

There are two things that the Right just doesn't get about this war.

First, those who oppose this war support our troops in the ways that matter; not by jingoism and unquestioning support for our leaders, but by fulfilling their duties as citizens - questioning, demanding answers and accountability, and insisting that our military personnel and their families be treated with honor and fairness. We do not seek to undermine the military or national defense, on the contrary, we are afraid that is what Bush and the Neo-Cons are doing with thier reckless policies.

Second, the Right seems to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of the enemy. The notion that we can prevail militarily in Iraq reveals their general, though not universal, ignorance. Armed resistance to the American occupation is coming largely from Sunni militias and Ba'athists. This resistance is self-replenishing. We could be in Iraq for a generation or more without overcoming this faction. The only solution is political.

International terrorists are certainly present, but they are almost entirely drawn by the targets of opportunity a foreign occupying army presents. If we bugged out, so too would most of the international terrorists. There are Sunnis trying to spark a sectarian war by targeting Shiite communities with terrorist attacks. These terrorists are highly unlikely to be affected in any way by the prescence or abscence of American troops. We simply have not made even a dent in these Iraqi-Iraqi terrorist attacks. Nor have we the intelligence resources or will to do so.

Finally, there are is the military potential in Iraq that we are not currently fighting: the Kurdish militias (Peshmergas) and the Shiite militias (currently being trained and armed by Iran). The only way these forces will become beligerent is if we try to destroy them (like the Sadrite militias) or if we try to force a political settlement on them which they cannot live with (such as taking away hard-won Kurdish federated rights). In any case, we don't have nearly as much pull with these factions as our leaders like to think. Iraq will look to its own interests, as will the major factions in Iraq, regardless of the American occupation. Already the Shiites are looking beyond the American occupation and aligning with what they rationally view as a more reliable and comfortable long-term ally: Iran.

It is unclear what the American military occupation is intended to accomplish at this point. If, as it seems, it is just to hunker down to await political accomodation, our soldiers are in harms way for no real reason. If it is to prevent the natural development of the Iraqi political process to favor American interests, or to prevent an alignment with Iran, we are closing the barn door after the horse has bolted. Democracy in a unified Iraq will always favor Iranian interests and tend to favor an Islamic state. This is an easily determined fact, and one not amenable to alteration by force, even by the 'world's only remaining super-power'.

Feingold has the right idea. We need to leave Iraq. Every day's delay only leaves more American blood on Iraqi soil to no avail.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Michael: A Vigil For Casey

Please join others working for peace this Wednesday night for a candlelit vigil.

Get the details on a vigil in your area. Already hundreds have signed up. The response reflects how deeply ambivalent people are about this war, and the cost some are paying for it.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Michael: Drinking Liberally in Tucson

Drinking LiberallyDrinking Liberally has come to Tucson. Drinking Liberally is a social network for liberals who like their politics neat over ice. There are no agendas or talking points, just some people hanging out with like-minded people over a few drinks.

Meetings are Thursdays at 6pm at the BoonDocks Lounge on 1st and Ft. Lowell (3306 N. First Avenue). Hope to see you there.

Michael: Judge Blocks Homeland Security's Work Rules

The work rules passed under the Homeland Security Act of 2002, stripping our federal first responders of their rights of contract and to collectively bargain, have been suspended by U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer. The Judge wrote (pdf), "The regulations fail because any collective bargaining negotiations pursuant to its terms are illusory: the secretary retains numerous avenues by which s/he can unilaterally declare contract terms null and void, without prior notice to the unions or employees and without bargaining or recourse."

This exactly what Democrats were warning of in 2002 when the Homeland Security Department was being stitched together and Bush decided to politicize the contract rights of federal first responders for the GOP's jingoistic purposes. Indeed, it is standing up for the principle that we ought to treat our first responders with respect and fairness, that got a real hero, Max Cleland, demonized as a bin Laden supporter, kicked out of his Senate seat, and replaced by the courage-challenged GOP jellyfish Saxby Chamblis.

With other labor unions having filed challenges to a Pentagon plan to revise DoD rules in a similar fashion, it won't be much longer before the Bush Administration's particular genre of federal employee union-busting is found to be not only reprehensible and unfair (which we already knew), but also quite illegal.

As is too often the case with today's GOP, this Administration not only failed America's first responders, they failed to stand for the laudable principles that conservativism has always stood for, because those principles had become politically inexpedient. In this case, the GOP pushed with reckless abandon for a law that made a mockery of the sanctity of contract. As the court wrote, "[w]hen good-faith bargaining leads to a contract that one side can disavow without remedy, the right to engage in collective bargaining ab initio is illusory." That is just unfair, and certainly not in keepin with conservative values, however you might choose to try to justify it.

Michael: The 'We Told You So' Moment

This Administration, which sees itself as whatever the opposite of 'reality-based' is, has begun leaking anonymously in an effort to lower expectations regarding democracy in Iraq. On the threshold of the deadline for a new constitution, such expectation engineering is tantamount to a tacit admission of failure. "We set out to establish a democracy, but we're slowly realizing we will have some form of Islamic republic," said an unnamed Administration official.

Really? Color me unsurprised. A bunch of ideologues with no sense of the history or culture of Iraq, or even basic geopolitical facts on the ground, barreled in and dismantled a nation. Now they are surprised when it doesn't fit back together in the way they planned at their think-tanks back in D.C.? They estimated the war would last for weeks, that it would pay for itself with oil revenue, and that Iraqis would be glad to become a wholly owed subsidiary of American-based multi-national corporations and the GOP. Now when the gap between that much maligned concept, 'reality', and the bubble of denial the Administration has built around itself has grown so pronounced that over 60% of Americans aren't buying what they're selling, they drop the truth on us like a cluster bomb. "Guess what, folks? Iraq is not going to be a paradisical democracy like we said. Your children and spouses and parents are dying to create another Islamic state."

Well, it's little comfort now, but we told you so. Sometimes, it sucks to be right.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Michael: How many Nogunri Incidents will be legacy of Iraq War?

New evidence surfaced recently confirming the intentional massacre of hundreds of civilian women and children near the Korean village of Nogunri on July 26, 1950 by American G.I.s.

There is no doubt the tragedy occured, it has been extensively documented and President Clinton appologized to the Korean people in 1998, giving compensation to the families, however inadequate it might have been. Nogunri is an example of the sort of attrocity that occurs in every war, even one launched out of a noble intention of protecting the people. Even one in which the results has been unarguably positive for many of the citizens involved, and their progeny.

How many psychic landmines, like Nogunri, will we stumble upon in the coming years as we begin to understand the vast human cost of Bush's lies and aggression in Iraq? We are only begining to reckon the cost of the use of depleted uranium munitions from the first Bush War. The uncounted human cost of the decision to destroy Iraq's infrastructure will not be fully appreciated for years to come, even as the cost in lives of the ill-considered embargo on Iraq has become searingly apparent. The human cost of modern war is certainly immense, and the sheer scale is one very good reason the Pentagon is not counting the cost in Iraqi lives.

Travesties such as Abu Graib, the destruction of Fallujah, and the collateral damage of the Shock and Awe bombardment have already come to light. But Nogunri makes it clear that it can take generations before some attrocities are acknowledged, or widely known. The number of unreported or concealed incidents that are likely still awaiting public scrutiny in Iraq makes me shudder at the full horror of what is being done in our names.

How much responsibility do civilians bear when soldiers of their country destroy the civilians of another nation? I don't know if there is any settled moral calculus to solve that equation, but it certainly doesn't zero out. Before those of you who believe that this war is justifiable dismiss any remaining balance as being compensated by the goal of a 'free' Iraq, consider what we have actually wrought in Iraq, not what the Neo-Cons foolishly hope for.

If wishes were fishes, nobody would ever starve. Aspirations are not achievements; they are really nothing at all. Consider that, despite the intentions or hopes of our 'leaders', what we have likely achieved by attacking Iraq is another Muslim Theocracy in the diplomatic orbit of Iran, or the disintration of Iraq into three parts, the wealthiest and most populous being another Muslim Theocracy in the diplomatic orbit of Iran. Either way, in the zero-sum game of geo-politics that this Administration insists is the only way to keep score, the score of Bush's War is Iran 1, U.S. -1.

If you can live with the untold suffering and death we have caused Iraqis just to deliver them into the clutches of theocracy, you have a stronger stomach than I.

We can't change the political fact that the Shiites find Iran a more credible ally. We can't change the fact that the Kurds' nationalist aspirations have been loosed. We can't kill the Sunni insurgency militarily and we can't force a political accomodation by the other two factions sufficient to end it. As odd as it many sound, America is now a secondary political player in Iraq. Despite having the most powerful security and fighting force in Iraq, it avails us nothing - except to lay those psychic land mines for the future at an increasing cost of treasure, American soldiers well-being, international presitige, and innocent Iraqi lives.

As many retired American command officers and top diplomats have warned, we've already lost the war in Iraq, we just haven't realized it yet. The longer we stay, the higher the cost of defeat.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Michael: GOP defends its dirty-tricksters

The GOP, despite a stated zero tolerance policy of voter rights suppression, is paying for the defense of James Tobin. Tobin was Bush's 2004 New England campaign chairman who is accused of felony conspiracy to violate the rights of voters for the jamming of Democratic and labor union phone banks during the election of 2002.

The GOP's excuse for spending the better part of a million bucks so far to defend Tobin's actions is that he did nothing criminal. Well, like Bush's backpedal from his vow to sack anyone in his Administration who leaked Plame's identity into his lame duckish squawk about firing anyone found guilty of a crime, this is a convenient distinction without a difference. There is no doubt that the call spamming happened, or that it prevented get-out-the vote efforts, or that it likely damaged voter's rights, or even that Sununu is probably in the Senate because of this chicanery. So, if the only real question is whether Tobin is guilty, isn't it tolerating the suppression of voter's rights to pay for the defense of the person accused of the crime? Shouldn't the GOP be like Ceasar's wife on this matter, and let Tobin stand or fall on his own if they want to uphold their pledge?

Well, there's the rub. Much like Arizona's own GOP dirty-trickster Nathan Sproul, whose own indictments may be coming any day now, the GOP can't afford not to defend such Rove-wanna-bes. Rats like Tobin and Sproul pose a very weighty threat to the GOP leadership and the Bush Administration: state's evidence. If the GOP fails to defend these finks, they may testify as to their orders from higher up the food chain to save their own worthless skins. Crimes now safely contained as the overzealous actions of some expendable and deniable consultants, might very quickly become the sort of high-level political scandal that resulted in Nixon's dirty tricksters bringing down the Administration.

We can only hope... and encourage the GOP to stand by its pledge, instead of on the side of democracy's muggers.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Michael: Bush's Big Box o' Pork

Bush Box of Pork

Bush presented the nation the transportation bill he spinelessly passed out of the great pork sausage machine known as Congress. In all, the legislation includes funding for some 6,000 pet projects for lawmakers in their home districts, known euphemistically as earmarks. The formula for the bill's passage is easy to derive: a minimum of $14 million dollars in earmarks per member of Congress, $40-60 million per transportation committee member, and $90 million or more apeice for the GOP leadership.

The 286.4 billion dollar bill is emblematic of Congress at its worst excess, and the Presidency at its most craven. In return for that vast expenditure Americans get one of the worst, most aged, and least efficient transportation networks of any modern nation.

If there is going to be pork, at least it should be spread around with something approaching fairness. Instead, Alaska netted a whopping $720 million, some $1150 for every man, woman and child in the state (including a $150 million dollar bridge serving an island with 50 inhabitants), while our own state of Arizona (pdf) only got $142 million, some $27 per capita. Chump change. You gotta wonder why such a GOP heavy delegation couldn't pull down more chedda' for their homies. Where's the love?

Equal 'merit' ought to bring equal funding. For instance, Congress saw fit to approve an earmark for the National Packard Museum in Warren, Ohio to the tune of a cool $3 million. Did they also fund the eminently worthy Franklin Museum in Tucson, Arizona a like amount? No. We got bupkiss.

All joshing aside, this bill and the atrocious energy bill are just more of the same cozy backscratching and corruption that soured the nation on Democratic control of Congress. With such monuments to greed as Bush's Big Box o' Pork Transportation Omnibus and the Paen to Petroleum Energy Subsidy Act, it won't be long before voters figure out that the GOP is just more of the same, and lot more of it besides.

Bush certainly sounds like a Keynesian pump-priming New Dealer Democrat when he talks about the transportation bill. "Highways just don't happen," Bush said. "People have got to show up and do the work to refit a highway or build a bridge, and they need new equipment to do so. So the bill I'm signing is going to help give hundreds of thousands of Americans good-paying jobs." Not that he's wrong, mind you, but given his well-known views on the role of government in the economy, he's certainly a hypocrite to justify Congress' out-of-control spending spree in this way.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Michael: Let Them Eat... Rat Poison?

A federal judge rebuked Bush's EPA for reversing Clinton era rules on rat poison safety without a "'scintilla of evidence' justifying its reversal" of the rules. Bush's EPA decided in 2001 to drop provisions requiring bittering agents and marking dyes to discourage ingestion of rat poison pellets and powder by children, who sometimes mistake the poison for candy.

It's a stunningly shameless and cynical move, even for the Bush Administration, to put the wishes of poison manufacturers above the safety of children. His Administration has raised the amount of mercury our children may be exposed to and cut the funding for lead exposure prevention, so why not make rat poison more palatable? Of course, statistically Latino and African-American children constitute a disproportionate share of the rising numbers of rat poison incidents. So I guess Bush doesn't care because those kids aren't part of his 'base,' so let them eat cake, er, rat poison.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Michael: "What Have We Done?"

Dahr Jamail reports from the Veterans for Peace convention in Dallas. The genuine voices of the soldiers who have fought this war shine through in his report. I strongly recommend a read - especially if you don't mind a good cry.

Between the VFP national convention, Cindy Sheehan's moving protest in Crawford, and new poll numbers indicating approval of Bush's handling of Iraq has fallen to just 38%, I think it won't be long before we realize that this weekend in Texas was the begining of the end of the Iraq war.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Michael: This is Terror Too

An AWOL Israeli soldier killed 4 in an Arab town when he opened fire aboard a bus. The soldier was Eden Tsuberi, who abandoned his unit two months ago after refusing to participate in the planned evacuation of Jewish settlers from Gaza. One guess what his beef was.

Did Tsuberi subscribe to a dark vision of political bondage and love of death, as Bush contends that all terrorists do? Did he hate the freedoms of the innocent Arabs he murdered? I doubt that. Nor does true Judaism preach hatred, intolerance and holy war.

Many Christian Dominionists, who advocate the abolition of secular government and carry out the assinations of abortion doctors, are terrorists, or potential terrorists. Do they represent the Christian faith? Do they represent all WASPs? All Americans? No.

Terrorists are simply people dedicated to the point of sacrificing their lives and murdering others for an ideological goal they cannot achieve through any political process. Their political views are often grounded in the dogmas of religious belief. Their political goals are not necessarily illegitimate; but when they can find no way to advance their cause, they turn to murder. It doesn't mean their religions are evil; just that some believers have twisted their faith into an instrument of hatred and death.

Our leaders do us no favors by further demonizing those who are properly our enemies. That only prevents understanding, which is the vital key to defeating any enemy. We must fight and defeat religiously inspired political radicalism of all creeds, but in the spirit of jihad, not Schwartzkopf. More killing won't always fix the underlying problem and, as we are seeing in Iraq, can even exacerbate the problem. When the terrorists political cause is just and achievable, legitimizing those political goals can remove the causes of terrorism - the IRA for example. When the political cause is unjust and impossible, ending terrorism neccesarily begins to look more like attrition than negotiation.

Failing to distinguish between those two very different species of terrorism is the difference between leadership and simply being reactionaries; it's also what made the 'War on Terror' fold its tent so quickly. The Pentagon and State Department officials who promoted the Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism at least recognized that economics, diplomacy, and negotiation are necessary weapons if America is to lead this struggle. Unfortunately, it looks as if Bush is sticking to his rhetoric, and his disasterous tactics.

The problem isn't really the slogan, or even the violence; it's the extremism, stupid. If one simply tries to destroy the violent extremists, without also engaging the extremists who aren't yet violent, one is only fixing symptoms, not addressing causes. It is the great missed opportunity of the Bush Administration that our best chances to address the causes of Middle East terrorism have already been squandered.

Michael: Poll Finds Wingnuts want their beliefs taught as science

Astonishing results in the American Family Association poll on whether kids should be forced to listen to religion masquerading as science! 95% think they should! Wow. Now that's a revelation.

Bush's quasi-endorsement of Intelligent Design 'theory' under the guise of exposing kids to different ideas (except for the ones they don't like, of course, such safe sex education, tolerance, etc., etc. etc.) is bound to re-energize the assault on America's science ciriculums by the new geocentrists. Teaching our children fairy tales rather than science isn't going to help our global competitiveness any, even if it does make evolution-deniers feel relevant.

The fact is that religion is on the back foot regarding the science of life. Pope John Paul II drew the real and final line in the 'debate' between science and faith about the origins of life. He placed that final redoubt of faith at the creation of the divine soul of man. He admitted that evolution has brought together so many multi-disciplinary threads of validation (geology, archeology, genetics, biology, zoology, etc.) that it was elevated far beyond the status of just a theory. The intellectual hicks promoting Intelligent Design are kicking against traces that cannot be broken with their shabby rhetoric and obsfucation.

Evolution is a fact. There is alot of spirited scientific debate sorting out details of the theory, but there is less debate among serious scientists about whether evolution is a fact, than over whether the solar system is heliocentric. When teachers are encouraged to 'teach the debate,' they are in fact being subborned into injecting the propaganda of a religious sect into the schooling of all our children. If creationists are so set on indoctrinating their kids, they should teach them at home, and leave ours alone to learn valid science.

Bush is an enabler of culture war that is an easy path to power. Fortunately, history has shown such reactionary politics also to be a quick route to the exit in a democracy, once people get fed up with your pre-rational antics. Bush and his Right Wing crowd of kooks may be riding high now, but there are lots people of faith who are getting spooked by this sort of theocratic nonsense. Enough, I hope, to put the extreme right back on the street-corners holding signs for the Apocolypse, instead of in the White House actively plotting its arrival.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Michael: Corporate Welfare from the ground up In Arizona

Arizona taxpayers subsidize Wal-Mart employees healthcare. Nearly 10 percent of Wal-Mart's workforce qualify for state aid.

Here in America Inc. we are used to seeing wealthy and powerful corporations raking in welfare benefits in the form of subsidies, guaranteed loans, bailouts, tax breaks, and various kinds of pork and sweetheart deals proferred by greed-head politicians (a distinction without a difference, I'm afraid). But the growth of corporate welfare from the grassroots is a fairly unexamined phenomenon. Nearly half of those recieving state assistance are employed, mostly by food and service companies.

How much does it cost taxpayers every year to subsidize the chronic underpayment of American workers? Wouldn't it be more efficient and fair to require employers to pay a living wage and supply healthcare benefits and pass those costs on to their customers, rather than to all taxpayers? Wouldn't it be more ethical to require employers to provide wages that people can live off, rather than making working people take poverty benefits just to get by?

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Michael: Bye Bye Bayh

The best thing a Democratic Presidential hopeful can do is call his party weak on defense - according to Sen. Evan Bayh. Positioning himself at the head of the 'Blame Democrats First' self-flagellation brigade, Bayh ripped Democratic credibility on security issues, saying, "Unless the American people know that we will be good stewards of the nation's security, they're unlikely to trust us with anything else."

Brilliant. Exactly the sort of outside-the-box thinking this party needs. Bayh apparently wants to be 2008's Joe Lieberman. But I'm pretty sure Joe still has the Joementum to be Joe in 2008, Evan. Bayh's message to voters will apparently be, "Don't think the GOP is dropping enough tonnage on the brown peoples? Vote for me; the tough guy from the party of weaklings!" This isn't an electoral strategy, it's a death wish.

Bayh's brand of Scoop Jacksonite out-hawking the hawks only serves to undermine any real alternative approaches to Iraq and the Middle East in 2008. Demonizing anyone who thinks there may be better ways to achieve American policy goals than more efficient killing ensures that the Democratic candidate will be trapped into becoming Iraq's LBJ, if elected.

The problem is that there is no such thing as party discipline on the issue of Iraq. If the Democratic candidates all ran with a consistent message of ending the occupation of Iraq as soon as possible, competing on who has the best plan to accomplish that goal, instead of in-fighting to see who can be most unrealistic in their confident pronouncements that, "I really can win in Iraq!" Democrats might actually win in America in 2008.

With Bayh trying to play like he's tough, he'll only serve to undermine anyone who really wants to do the serious work of building peace in the Middle East. Politically expedient pronouncements (which stink of desperation to voters) like, "many people don't think we have the backbone [to use force]," legitimizes the GOP's likely message in 2008 of, "More bombs! More bullets! Fewer Iraqis! Fewer Democrats!"

Bayh ought to do us all a favor and join the GOP if he thinks Bush's neaderthal policy in Iraq can be salvaged. Switch parties and run for the GOP nomination, Bayh. Go swing your dick in face of the GOP voters; apparently they like that sort of thing (despite that they protest a bit over-much, me thinks...).

Michael: Tort Reforms™ an Attack on Bill of Rights

I have written before about compensation caps on damage awards, marketed under the trade name Tort Reform™ by the GOP, and the damage it does to those harmed by medical and other negligence. But the ideas behind Tort Reform™ raise far more serious and fundamental challenges to the role of the jury in the administration of justice and protecting American freedom.

I’m not alone in this opinion. James Madison said that trial by jury “is as essential to secure the liberty of the people as any one of the pre-eminent rights of nature.” Yet the right to have the facts of a civil dispute, including compensation, decided by a lay jury, is so offensive to corporate interests that they would have you believe that our best and brightest are unable to design safe products, deliver quality medical care, or perform a host of other activities unless we gut one particular of our Bill of Rights – the Amendment VII, which reads:

”In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved…”

The right of access to jury to determine the facts is a basic human right that goes back to the Magna Carta in our own culture’s immediate history, and back to the Greeks and the Romans during some of the earliest civilized periods of human history. For all that time citizenship has included the unimpaired right to have the facts of your plight, including the necessary remedies, decided by a sample of your peers. “Juries represent the layman’s common sense and thus keep the law in accord with the wishes and feelings of the community,” said USSC Chief Justice Rehnquist (in one of the few instances that I agree with him wholeheartedly).

And therein lays the problem. Multinational corporations and mega-conglomerates have no desire to answer to the wishes and feelings of the communities they operate in. It was a similar motive that led to the ‘reform’ of class action suits by removing them to the federal courts earlier in 2005. Less local bias is said to exist in the federal courts because judges are less biased (i.e. not elected popularly) and the juries are said to be more sophisticated (i.e. from metropolitan areas), but there are much greater delays in the overworked federal courts, preventing many from receiving timely relief.

Bit by bit, the Tort Reform™ advocates seek chip away at our Amendment VII constitutional rights. Call it what you will, but when an organized group engages in a systematic campaign to deprive Americans of their rights under the Constitution by lies and deceit, scare tactics and economic extortion to achieve pecuniary gain, I call it treason - a creeping, wheedling, two-faced treason, which conspires under the cloak of business justification to cut the beating heart of our personal and economic freedoms out of the body politic.

The great Blackstone, in his commentaries on the common law wrote:

”The very essence of civil liberties certainly consists in the right of every individual to claim the protection of the laws, whenever he receives and injury. One of the first duties of government is to afford that protection…”

The party currently in power, and many DINOs as well, have abdicated their role as the protectors of citizens’ rights in pursuit of the siren song of bigger profits and fatter campaign coffers. Instead of insisting that compensation for all damages caused a victim remain in the capable hands of a jury of citizens, they want to set arbitrary caps that allow negligent corporations to plan and budget for their own irresponsibility more effectively.

The duty of a responsible person is to take reasonable care so as to avoid doing harm to others in the first place, and thus avoid liability; this is the bedrock of our system of torts. Arbitrary caps allow corporations to plan to do harm, while still ensuring their liability exposure is limited. Arbitrary caps not only remove the incentives for responsible behavior, but leaves many families without the compensation they need to take care of loved one properly, possibly for a lifetime, or to replace the income lost to the family by a wrongful death or disablement.

Who will pay for those losses? The one who is responsible in the eyes of the law? No. Under Tort Reform™ nobody is responsible for anything above the politically arrived upon formula. Without full and adequate compensation an injured family will suffer and fail, have to rely on charity, or get government assistance just to survive. The very idea of personal responsibility is casually disposed of by Tort Reform™ advocates. Compensation caps transfer the cost of harms from the responsible party to the innocent party who is least able to afford the loss. It’s simply unjust.

There are no externalities one can dump into a tailing pond and forget about for 50 years in personal injury cases, especially medical malpractice cases. The abrogation of the financial liability of tortfeasors in such cases results in imposing often unbearable burdens on a family, or on a state agency and thus taxpayers, or on a charitable concern – when the burden properly belongs to those who negligently caused the harm. For a party that prides its self on its respect for the value of self-reliance and responsibility, the GOP is certainly abetting and encouraging just the opposite for corporate and professional persons by attempting to insulate them from the full responsibility for their negligent business activities.

A final thought on the 7th Amendment right of juries to decide civil cases:

“Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel.”
-Patrick Henry (1788)

To those words of wisdom I would add:
“Doubly so if they are bearing loupes and cleaving mallets, speaking of how they plan to remove the excesses.”

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