Monday, October 31, 2005

Michael: Will the real 'activist judges' please stand up?

Via New York Times

Who's the activist? The only quantifiable measure of a judges 'activism' is how often s/he invalidates a law duly passed by Congress. The resultant line up may or may not surprise you:

Thomas 65.63 %
Kennedy 64.06 %
Scalia 56.25 %
Rehnquist 46.88 %
O’Connor 46.77 %
Souter 42.19 %
Stevens 39.34 %
Ginsburg 39.06 %
Breyer 28.13 %

Generally, those who are touted as 'conservative' judges who 'strictly apply the law', do not such thing. They legislate from the bench by second-guessing Congress almost half the time, or more. I would be interested to see (Sc)Alito's scores on such a test. I'm willing to bet that he will be at least as 'activist' as his role-model Scalia.

Michael: Project Restoration Forum, Nov 3rd

A. Phillip Randolph Institute & Pima Community College's Desert Vista are presenting an open public forum and clinic on restoring the civil rights of people following felony convictions. Thousands of Arizonans are denied their civil rights, not the least of which being their right to vote.

A complex and slow process of restoration discourages many from achieving restoration after a first felony conviction. A permanent bar follows upon a second conviction. Easing restoration and ending the permanent bar of civil rights is a vitally important quality of life issue for those working to become members of society in good standing once again and an important issue of political disenfranchisement which disproportionately affects potential Democratic voters.

If you are interested in helping to eradicate one the last great sources of legal disfranchisement of American citizens, I urge you to attend this, or one the planned future forums on this topic.

6:30 - 8:30 PM

Desert Vista Campus

Ocotillo Rooms A & B

Thursday, November 3


  • Why are ex-offenders denied their basic civil rights even after they serve their
    time and paid their fines?

  • How do the denial of voting, jury and other civil rights affect hundreds of

  • How can people get their civil rights back under the current law?

  • How could the law in Arizona be improved?

  • How can I help my friends and family get their rights back?

Trained volunteers will assist people with felony convictions with filling out the proper paperwork to have their civil rights restored.

For more information, call (520) 623-9141

Sponsored By: American Friends Service Committee; ASU School of Social Work, Tucson Component; Casa Maria; Coalition of Arizonans to Abolish the Death Penalty; Inside-Out Project; League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC); Primavera Foundation; Sanctity Of Life;People Against Executions; Tucson Urban League, State Representative Ted Downing

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Michael: Organic Smorganic

US lawmakers watered down the 'organic' label by allowing some synthetics in the growth and processing of organic labeled food via a rider on the USDA spending authorization. The rider is designed to overturn a court ruling that refused to allow the use of a number of additives to foods labeled organic.

Consumers rights groups are saying the measure were strongly lobbied by agri-business in an effort to break into the organic marketplace - the quickest growing sector of the food market - without meeting the rigorous standards required for labeling. They warn that soon 'organic' on the label might mean no more than 'home made'.

The businesses which will be hardest hit by this new law will be those small family farms and businesses, whom Republicans claim to care so much about, who have pioneered and built the organic food sector for the past 35 years. They are going to find their business model made meaningless and agi-conglomerates move in to take their marketshare with the same poisonous slop under recycled labels bearing the magic word.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Michael: A Presidency on Life Support

Bush's Presidency is effectively over. He retains considerable constitutional powers, no doubt, but for the next 1000 days or so of his Presidency, he rules without the consent of the governed. In fact, Bush has become radioactive to members of his own party. That's not to say that he has no standing and no influence, but he will no longer be able to control his party to the extent that he needen't even pull out his veto stamp, as was the case for his first term.

Instead, when Bush tries to lead the nation, everyone, not just Democrats, are going to gauge his current prestige before deciding if they'll follow. And they will find him lacking. That means that any ambitious agenda Bush might have had laid out for his second term is simply not going to happen. Instead he'll be pushed about reacting to events rather than being the historical actor who has stepped out of the "reality-based community" to shape events whom he aspires to be.

It may be that conservatives will get what they've always wanted, but in a perverse fashion: a weak and ineffectual government that is due to a failure of President's ability to lead. When there is a vaccuum of leadership from the Presidency, Congress usually re-asserts its prerogatives to give the nation direction. You can see this happening with the deep social spending cuts now being considered by both chambers - though this is hardly a promising direction to lead us in, it does indicate that for once, the White House isn't calling the tune.

If the Democrats are able to capitalize on the scandals and failures of GOP Congressional and Presidential leadership to retake either chamber, we could see a re-vitalized Congress mounting a challenge to Bush for leadership of the nation and a Congressionally centered agenda for the final two years of Bush's term. Voters may well find such an arrangement superior to hoping the a fatally wounded Presidency will recover, or having faith that a lickspittle and corrupt GOP Congress can put the nation back on the right track.

Michael: I Bet That's Was a Telegenic Rally

Nursing moms are set to win the right to breastfeed in public. Recently, mothers rallied around a woman who was harrassed for feeding her child in public in Chandler, and won passage of only the second municipal law in the nation allowing a woman to breastfeed in public. Similar exceptions to public indecency laws are under consideration by the Tucson city council (there's an issue for the campaign...) and by the state legislature.

I'm all in favor of laws allowing a woman to be a woman without exposing herself to legal harrassment. I only hope that it leads to more serious consideration of the government's role in ensuring the health, welfare, and education of those children once they are weaned. With Arizona bringing up there rear on many metrics of child welfare, we need real leadership and focus on on issues of concern to parents - regardless of whether they have mamaries and intend to use them.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Michael: Miers Still Matters

OK. I get to say it. I told you so. So now prediction one of the unfolding Miers saga has come to pass: she didn't get out of committee.

Frankly, she never really got into committee. There is a reason for that. The GOP Right broke ranks with Bush on his outrageous "executive privilege" power grab. If Harriet had gone to committee, the Senate leadership would have backed a subpeona of Miers' White House work-product and caused a legal melt down in the DC circuit.

One of the reasons that Bush keeps tossing up nominees that have worked in the Executive branch is to have the opportunity to claim and reinforce his interpretation of "executive privilege" without serious push-back from Congress. That wasn't going to work with Miers, and the likely push-back on the issue of Bush's supercharged claims of "executive privilege" would have been seriously challenged by the only possible source of serious opposition on the issue: Congress. Key conservative Senators really wanted to have a look at Miers' paper trial and were not going to defer to the White House on the issue; that is the real reason Miers' nomination was withdrawn and the actual lever the Right used to get the White House to fold their hand.

I predicted that next Bush would choose an ultra-conservative with a proper Federalist Society and anti-woman pedigree who is hell-bent on striking down Roe. We'll see about that one soon. Given that O'Connor has agreed to stay on the court until a replacement is found, it may be awhile before a nominee is named. The White House doesn't want an announcement to come on top of the Fitzmas indictments' news cycle and going down in flames. They'll want to wait until Fitz moves. However, Fitz has gotten judicial permission to extend his investigation, so indictments might issue in a dribble rather than in one shot. The White House may have to wait a very long time indeed to get clear of the collateral damage of Plamegate.

Despite their planning, they might be forced to nominate while under assault from the press over Plamegate. I thought the Democrats would have to filibuster the White House's fire-eating conservative nominee, but I'm starting to suspect that the Right will simply lose this vote as moderate Republicans bolt from the President's cause, either in disgust over his involuntary appeasement of the Right, or as a tactic to distance themselves for 2006. The GOP will get their bullshit 'up or down' vote, and they will simply lose.

If all this comes to pass, I might have to start making more of these predictions. Perhaps I'm actually making these things happen instead of just predicting them? Just in case, I predict that next week Bush will have an aneurism that will leave him a babbling idiot - and no one will notice.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Michael: Remote Control for Humans

The Japanese have developed a remote control to steer humans using electrical disruption of the inner ear. Surely, our military labs already have something far superior. And finally we have an explanation for the gaping chasm between W's words and actions.

"I will conduct a humble foriegn policy." "I don't believe in what they call 'nation building'." "My Administration will return integrity to the White House." Obviously, Donald Rumsfeld and Cheney got themselves some prototypes from the DIA spooks and went to town on choirboy Bush. At least we now have an explanation for what that thing between Bush's shoulderblades is...

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Michael: the torture question

This week's FRONTLINE addressed the use of torture in the "war on terror". It is an eye-opening account of how torture became mainstreamed into military culture over the past 4 years.

Often when addressing torture in the context of terrorism, those who seek to justify its use pose a particular hypothetical to demonstrate the moral neccessity of torture. The scenario is that there is a WMD hidden in a major American city and you have a prisoner who knows where that device is hidden. You are presented with a choice, torture him for the information or let X number of people die. This hypothetical was played out over and over again in the popular television series '24' before millions of viewers. The only right answer is, of course, to torture the bastard and make him talk. The problem is that conclusion is that the hypothetical seeks to generalize a false dichotomy into real world conditions.

The real-world hypothetical, reflecting the real-world intelligence environment, would be that instead of one person who you know has the information you seek, you instead have 10,000 people in custody, one of whom might have the information you seek. Most of the rest, if not all of them, are completely innocent and have no useful information. Now, do you torture all 10,000 on the mere possibility that one or a few of them have actionable intel regarding that WMD? No longer a clear-cut moral choice, is it?

In GITMO, Afghanistan and Iraq our government answered this real-world hypothetical by proceeding to torture those 10,000 for the scraps of intel hidden in that human haystack. Our forces swept up people nearly at random for detention and interrogation. Some were enemies, surely, but many more were just caught up in an indescriminate sweep. The problem, and the worst crimes, came where an indiscriminate policy to use 'harsh' techniques to interrogate prisoners met the chaos, emotions, prejudices, and fear of field conditions. The resulting abuses are so deep, so bad, and so common, that the full story will probably never be compiled by Western media; we simply don't want to know. And when something approximating the full story is told by Al Jazeera or a similar source, we simply won't believe it.

What is already known makes my blood boil when I think about it. If you watch this FRONTLINE, it will have the same effect on you. There are banal little war criminals sitting in our Pentagon and Defense Department as I write this. Honor will not be satisfied until they are instead sitting in a Federal prison for a very long time.

Michael: Having Their Cake and Shitting In It, Too

Bush claimed that the occupation of Iraq isn't the cause of rising rates of terrorism world-wide. He claims radicals were spreading their ideology before the invasion and will continue to "exist after Iraq is no longer an excuse." Sure, but they won't have such kick-ass recruiting pitches then, either.

As I see it, Bush is trying to have it both ways; claiming that Iraq is a sort of terrorist pest strip, attracting would-be terrorists so that we can kill them there rather than having them knocking at our borders, yet also claiming that the occupation doesn't encourage terrorism. It's one or the other, Bush. You don't get to take positions that are mutually exclusive.

Or maybe that is what being a Republican is about these days, logical inconsistency.

It certainly seems that Congressional Republicans have taken to logical inconsistency in a big way. They are seeking to cut revenues by 70 billion (mainly to the benefit of the wealthiest 0.1% of Americans, in the form of killing off the Dynasty Tax) even as they scramble to cut Medicare/Medicaid, student loans, foster care and food stamp benefits for the poorest and most desperate Americans by 35 billion (in the Senate) to 50 billion (in the House) in order to still fail to come anywhere near balancing the budget, which has basically become a checkbook full of blank, pre-signed checks for whatever cause might stall Bush's political free-fall and stuff pork into the maws of GOP districts and donors.

The largest non-defense discretionary budget increases in history have been under this Executive, and still the only thing that draws the threat of a veto is a defense authorization bill containing an anti-torture provision. All the anti-enviroment, anti-consumer, anti-justice, anti-civil rights, industry-written, pork-laden, waste that has been passed by this GOP Congress, and the only thing Bush cares to veto is spending for the bullets and armor our troops need because it also says we shouldn't torture people. With 140K American troops in harms way, targets painted on their backs, stuck in the middle of an incipient civil war, you might think their CiC would want them to have rock-solid coverage under the Geneva Convention, but that would be logically consistent - and this Executive just doesn't do logical consistency (they leave it to the reality-based community).

As the GOP becomes increasing piratical, cutting middle class and low-income benefits in order to blatantly decrease revenues from wealthy and corporate America (or just ignoring the gaping deficits altogether), they are handing a pre-made theme to Democrats in 2006 and beyond. It is ironically the same theme that the GOP rode to power - smaller government. Only now, people have gotten a glimpse of that philosophy in practice which the bumper sticker leaves out - smaller government and more taxes for those who need government help, bigger government and less taxes for those who can afford to finance political campaigns.

Unfortunately, this piratical attitude isn't confined to the GOP. It abides in the apparatchiki suckling at the teats of the Democratic Party, too. The DLC's New Democrats have much the same views on the role of government as the GOP; not as a servant of the average citizen, but as hand-maiden to industry and wealth. They may be less blatant about their whoring, but they are on their backs none-the-less. Think hard about that before you decide what Democratic candidates to back. You might just be replacing a tick with a leech.

Michael: Is Mary Peters an Alien?

John Green says his potential rival for the GOP Gubernatorial nomination Mary Peters doesn't meet Constitutional requirements to be Governor. Greene points out that Peters bought a house and registered to vote in Virginia two years ago after she was appointed to head the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) by Bush. Our Constitution requires that a candidate for Arizona Governor, or any elective executive office, have been a citizen for the five years prior to his or her election. It is possible that Peters may have changed her citizenship at that time.

The issue is far from settled by Greene's allegation, however. State citizenship is one of those murky areas of law that contains few bright line rules. Citizenship is largely, if not entirely, a matter of domocile. One changes ones domociliary status by moving to another state with the intent to remain, so just moving to another state, or even registering to vote there, does not change one's domocile unless you also have the requisite intent. Intent is an innately subjective standard, so it can be hard for a court to determine if one's testimony as to one's intent is contested. There are, of course, objective criteria which might indicate having such an intent, such as buying real property or registering to vote, among others.

This is likely to be a continuing issue of contention, possibly even litigation, if Mary Peters intends to stay in this race for the duration. It is also possible that this issue effect the first elimination from a crowded field of GOP Gubernatorial hopefuls.

If Peters stays in the race it will be interesting to see what is done with the rich mine of oppo research that her time at the FHWA represents. Consider also that the much-criticized and pork laden transportation bill was passed on her watch. Such a widely reviled spending bill might become an albatross around her neck with small government conservatives. Her strong advocacy of using toll roads and bridges as a means of upgrading Americas aging transportation infrastructure may alienate Democrats and Independents who could view such privatization as a yet another means of empowering profiteering contractors at the expense of the public welfare.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Michael: Bluing America

Blue states are where the majority of voters disapprove of Bush's handling of the Presidency. Purple are at 50/50, and Red states still cling to a narrow net approval of the Worst President Ever.

Makes for a very different looking map than the one the "permanent majority" idiots were drooling over in 2004, doesn't it?

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Michael: Tucson Begging for Leadership

"I begged and begged and begged and begged and begged."

That pretty much sums up the political philosophy of Kathleen Dunbar, incumbent candidate for Tucson City Council. That's how Dunbar describes her leadership role in refurbishing Jacobs Park; as a beggar. Government's proper role in her view is to beg for crumbs off corporate America's table while sticking the least among us with heartless fees for essential services. This isn't leadership through government, this is government as a PR operation to polish the 'community profile' of major corporate donors.

No surprise, really, given Dunbar's professional background and Associates degree in Marketing, that she seems to think that being the "best friend of business" is her highest calling as a representative of the people. She says of this sort of fawning private-public parnership, "That's what this job is all about."

Excuse me if I disagree. Election as a representative of the people of Tucson is not a license to beg, it is a license to excercise the will of the people to make Tucson a better, stronger, more desirable place to live. I don't think that can be accomplished by begging. Leading means that you have to get out in front of the pack and give it direction. It means taking on the entrenched interests who profit of the status quo and resist any change. It means rallying the people behind goals they believe deeply in. None of these things are possible for a timorous, beholden, perky servant of power like Kathleen Dunbar, whose leadership mantra is, "I begged and I begged..."

Michael: An Imposter Sheds Her Disguise

Formerly Democratic State Representative Cheryl Chase has stopped being a crypo-Republican and has officially joined the Republican Party. She says that she is more in tune with the GOP on reproductive issues and natural resource usage. No shit.

Frankly, we're better off without her - as her voting record demonstrates amply. She was rated by AZ Right to Life at %100 and by Planned Parenthood in 2003 at %0. The Cattlemen's Association gave her an A+ for facilitating the destruction of our public lands, while the Contractors Association gave her %100 for helping to pave over what was left. The Christo-fascists at The Center for Arizona Policy awarded Chase a rating of %100 for licking the boots of the Christian Right so nice and shiny.

It's not that there aren't a few bright spots in her voting record, there are, but it is so polluted with inky darkness that we shouldn't have tolerated her for this long. It was not as if she was ever a Democrat in any way but the (D) after her name, so her loss to the GOP just makes official what had been apparent from the begining - that Chase evidently had no idea what party she belonged in to begin with.

Lucky for us, District 23 enjoys a considerable Democratic registration advantage. We Democrats had better swat Chase's deeply red ass out of that Democratic seat next election. We need to demonstate the ability, and the will, to discipline imposters like her at the ballot box. After the re-election of Janet and Pederson, the humiliating defeat of Cheryl Chase should be Arizona Democrats' top priority in 2006.

Michael: A Halloween Fright for Mr. Burnell Smith

Judge Colin Campbell has set a hearing for 10 a.m. Oct. 31 for Mr. Burnell Smith to show cause why an order removing him from office should not be entered.

By 11 a.m. there will be a list of replacements on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisor's desks. My guess is that Smith's name will be among them. If they are stupid enough to choose Mr. Smith to replace Smith's scoff-law self, there will be yet more lawsuits that Mr. Smith will lose.

The voters, who support Clean Elections overwhelmingly, will not be charitable toward such shenanigans. We have all had quite enough of politicians, from either party, who think that the rules shouldn't apply to them. Across the country I hope to a house cleaning and perp walking of all such men who think that our republic is their plaything.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Michael: Miers' SuperfundGate

A Texas panel awarded Miers $5 a square foot for Superfund pollution cleanup land worth .30 a square foot. Land condemnation sometimes overvalues land taken by the state. Jurys can be... what? No jury?

Nope. The condemnation was valued by a three-member panel staffed by a personal friend of Miers and a hard-core property rights activist, who were appointed by a judge that Meirs' law firm gave $5,000 in campaign donations. Appearance of impropriety anyone?

Let's just agree now that "SuperfundGate" is a great name for a scandal derailing a Supreme Court nominee, given the moat of toxic sludge the GOP has built around the beltway.

Michael: Dunbar's Towering Listlessness

Ted Prezelski thinks the GOP Tucson city council imcumbents' campaigns are "listless". I would be inclined to agree if the measurement were general enthusiasm, fund-raising, volunteer activity, phone calls, mailings, television buys, radio spots... um, well, OK, he's got a point.

There is one campaign facet in which Kathleen Dunbar, at least, seems very active indeed: outdoor advertising. No, she doesn't have a lot of yard signs, or even more street signs than usual. What she has got is billboards. I've spotted two of them myself, and have little doubt there are others. Dunbar's pixie mug, looming 20 feet tall, grinning down at me with all her painfully earnest enthusiam as I drive to and from work, is almost enough to make me break down and vote for her. But I've long since voted by mail, and am thus imune to her goddess-like billboard manifestations. It makes quite an impression, though. Nothing "listless" about it.

I don't think I've ever seen a city council candidate take out multiple billboards. That has to have cost quite a chunk of Dunbar's lackluster war chest. I wonder if it is any coincidence that Dunbar seems so very motivated to make the potential lawsuits against billboard quasi-monopolist Clear Channel over their illegal billboards quietly go away?

Friday, October 21, 2005

Michael: Democracy's Temple Broken

Public libraries are the real temples of our democracy. Not the capitol buildings, not the courts, not the governor's mansions. They are all but reflections and servants of the public's sovreignty. No, where the spirit of the res publica resides is in the informed, curious, and educated minds of our citizens. Without public libraries, the self-cultivation required for an informed and engaged citizenry would be a cruel mirage.

I usually have half a dozen books checked out of our public library at any one time, for pleasure and for edification. Our libraries teach adults to read, children to love learning, provide universal access to the bottomless well of knowledge that the internet can be, and give the community a place to gather and engage the issues of the day.

Public libraries are the temples of our democracy. So why does our local government fund them as if they were public toilets? Here in Tucson our libraries are funded at a level of just over $20 per capita. The national average is more than $30 per capita. That is a scandalous neglect of the public interest that I have not heard a single cadidate for local office address.

What propted this rant is the disrepair of the Main Library facilities. Apparently, their budget is so strained that they are unable to repair the curtain gate that separates the parking garage access from the rest of the library. It has been out of commission, causing great inconvenience, for almost 2 months, and there appears to be no money for the repair. It's shameful that the doors to our civic temple are broken, and we cannot bother to fix them.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Michael: Olbermann Lowers the Boom on Fearmongers

Quickly becoming one of my favorite journalists, Keith Olbermann questions the nexus (video/quicktime Object) between politically inconvenient news and government announcements of terrorist threats. Olbermann's blog posting lists 13 questionable 'coincidences' that could plausibly be characterized as use of terrorist fear mongering for political manipulation.

Critical journalism like this is starting to become more and more common, though certainly still far from commonplace. I'm not sure if this apparent trend flows from the Bush Regime's current unpopularity and looming legal meltdown, or if it is a reaction to the relentless pressure from internet sources keeping critical stories alive. Either way, I recently find myself actually enjoying some real news coverage almost as much as I enjoy viewing the Daily Show and the Colbert Report.

Michael: Pausing to Smell the Failure

Don't get me wrong. There is plenty that is screwed up in the world and causing me discontent and worry; and that's really what this blog is - a puddle of discontent and worry (with an occassional silver lining).

But today, I don't know, there is something sweet in the infosphere. It is the taste of wrack and ruin for the Bush Regime. So, just for today, I'm letting it all slide. There are plenty of things to complain about (the vote in Iraq for one), but instead, I'm taking the day off.

I'm savoring the taint of desperation eminating from the White House and the leadership offices of Congress. Call me ghoul, I don't care. Today, I'm just breathing in the whiff of failure rolling off the corpse of the Conservative Revolution.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Michael: Dunbar's and Ronstadt's Sugar Daddy

I got a mail piece from Tucson city council candidates Kathleen Dunbar and Fred Ronstadt recently. These candidates have both opted out of Tucson's publicly financed campaign system. They both feel that public financing is a waste of public money and think that private interests should be relied upon to fund the election of our public officials. I haven't got any problem with a person following their conscience in such matters, but they should be consistent, right?

Well, in this case, not so much. On the flipside of the Dunbar/Ronstandt mailer is the mug and the endorsement of none other than Arizona's Senator John McCain. McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law shepherd John McCain. Supporter and defender of Arizona's Clean Elections law John McCain. So why are two candidates who oppose public campaign financing accepting the endorsement of John "Campaign Finance Reform" McCain? Why did he offer his support to dirty candidates?

I suppose the moral of this story is that party loyalty is stronger for GOP pols than is principled adherence to basic political convinctions about the nature of the public's interest.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Michael: The Real Dominos in the Middle East

UPDATE: This article was chosen as a Political article of the week.
Bush gave a speech before the National Endowment for Democracy that was widely panned as a hoary rehash of worn themes. It certainly wasn’t effective at rallying support for his Iraq policy (currently hovering at 40% or less) or at convincing people that terrorism is job #1 (only 7% of the public think it the most important issue). What it did do was describe the new specter said to be haunting the Middle East: a pan-Islamic movement bent on global domination and competition with the West whose revolutionary vanguard is al Qaeda network terrorists.

How realistic is such a bugaboo? What are the prospects of what is essentially the negative correlative of the Neo-Con democratic domino theory for the Muslim world?

The lands with majority Muslim populations, especially those of the Middle East, have long been home to super-nationalist sentiments. The imperial past of Islam under the Caliphates is a golden age to the minds of many. Such internationalist sentiments have historically taken the form of pan-Arabism - an appeal to the allegiance to the common ties of language, culture and history – embracing people from North Africa to Mesopotamia. The very party we just toppled from power in Iraq, the Ba’thists, were the failed secular embodiment of that aspiration. However, in recent history it is pan-Islamism that, much like Christo-Conservatism here in the U.S., seems to have gained populist traction among average people.

There is a growing tendency to see the possibility of a pan-national political entity born of the religious affiliation among the people of the Middle East. Certainly, al Qaeda and its ilk are a product of, and proponent of, such dreams. The threat of an extremist, international, and totalitarian Islamic Superpower brought into being by a violent and revolutionary vanguard has a toehold in reality, but little more.

Such a dystopian vision suffers a few key delusions: it vastly overestimates the political appeal of radical fundamentalist Islam to the average Muslim; it vastly underestimates the strength and resiliency of national governments and the secular order in the Muslim world; it assigns far more power and resources to violent terrorist organizations than they actually possess; and it overestimates the political appetite among Middle Eastern people for confrontation with the West. In short, it is a boogyman with far less substance and reality than the Red Menace of the Soviets which it is intended to replace in the American political lexicon.

I’m not going to defend my assertions in detail, I’m too lazy, and anyone who is seriously interested in these subjects can easily research them, but there is one aspect of Bush’s boogyman I will consider more closely. Al Qaeda is supposed to play the role of a violent revolutionary vanguard in Bush’s fantasy. This would be somewhat akin to abortion clinic bombers getting all the Protestants in the world to follow them and throw down their governments in their name. The political support of such violent extremists may be intense, but it is neither broad enough nor deep enough to sustain a political revolution – though it may spark and excite the political mobilization of a large constituency with more modest goals – again like the Christo-Cons in America.

Ironically, it may be the minority of Muslims, the Shiites, rather than the majority, the Sunnis, who pose the most immediate threat to American security (if defined by Carter’s Persian Gulf Doctrine). Al Qaeda and their most closely aligned supporters in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt and elsewhere are Sunnis. An Islamic state under the majority sect holds little appeal to Shiites, who are often considered not to be Muslims at all by the more purist of the 90% of Muslims who are Sunni. The inspiration for pan-nationalist Islamic political unification for the Shiites is the revolutionary Islamic Iranian state, not al Qaeda. It is to the political Mecca of Tehran that Shiites turn; and that constitutes a serious political threat that Bush’s invasion of Iraq has only inflamed.

The Southern provinces of Iraq have Shiite majorities and contain the greater part, about 70%, of Iraq’s oil reserves. The Shiite majority is determined to control the revenues from those resources. With those resources the Shiites will have a power base from which to dominate Iraqi politics, or to accomplish a de facto secession from Iraq. The economic and military ties between the Shiite provinces of Iraq and Iran are already established and growing stronger fast. Before too long, the dream of a pan-national Islamic state may be a reality in all but name. But the real prospect of pan-Islamic unification is among Shiites led by Iranian mullahs, not among Sunnis led by terrorist radicals which the President claims are the paramount threat to our security. How does the President get this most important dynamic exactly backwards?

Persian Gulf ResourcesThe Arab-Persian alliance under a Shiite theocracy would be the most populous nation in the Persian Gulf by far, controlling both Iran’s and a the majority of Iraq’s oil resources, as well as the most productive and viable aquifers in the region (an often overlooked strategic asset). But that is not the worst of it. The geographically contiguous Eastern province of Saudi Arabia is also majority Shiite: it also contains 80-90% of Saudi oil fields and reserves. It generates most of that nation’s wealth, but receives little of the benefit. The nominally Sunni House of Saud is highly unpopular, not only among these Shiites of the east, but also among average Sunni Arabs. There are already places in the Shiite majority east that are no-go areas for Saudi national security forces. It is not unrealistic to expect that an expansionist Shiite theocracy, emboldened by success in southern Iraq, would decide to foment the overthrow of the House of Saud in the hopes of peeling off the majority Shiite east in the fray. Nor is it unrealistic to expect that they may be successful in doing so.

The only dominos likely to fall in the Middle East are the Shiite majority areas controlled by superannuated Sunni oil sheiks around the Persian Gulf. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Dubai and Qatar, all have substantial Shiite populations and sclerotic political institutions ripe for destabilization by populist movements. Without us being able to do much more to stop it than we could have done about Iran itself in 1979, a theocratic Shiite pan-national alliance, led by Tehran, could dominate the Gulf region and the great majority of the Middle East’s oil. This is the real pan-Islamic threat that America should be concerned about. Instead, Bush rants about his fever vision of a grand pan-Islamic superpower stretching “from Spain to Indonesia” led by Osama bin Laden, or someone like him. Bush won’t talk about the real threat, because that chain of dominos is one that his own rash invasion and occupation of Iraq tipped over. Bush is setting America up to be blind-sided by the most important security development in the Middle East since decolonization. Bush isn’t providing leadership on national security, he’s doubling up on a bet he’s already lost, and hoping we don’t notice.

Michael: Bush Family Values

Warrants for the arrest of 28 officials from Allawi's Bush-engineered Iraqi Administration, including the former Defense minister, have been issued over the theft of over $1 billion of government funds. The Iraqi's method of plundering the state is refreshingly direct in comparison to Bush's own Executive, but the fundamental similarities of their thorough-going criminality will become ever more apparent as the warrants issue for top American officials over the coming weeks and months.

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Allawi's transitional government was brought to fruition by the Bush Executive. The rot now revealed at the core of that fruit is now plain for all to see. It won't be long before Bush will have to begin lopping the limbs off his apple tree in the vain hope of saving the trunk (and tusks... to mix a metaphor) from the rot he allowed to settle into the heartwood of his Presidency. Safavian is just the first branch to fall; many more will follow as the greed, venality, and even treason, that have always lurked below the bark, burst out into ulcerous cankers for all the world to see.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Michael: Miers Matters

I gotta say, I'm delighted by the Miers nomination. I think it is simply wonderful.

In other words, it is the absolutely worst thing Bush could have done: appoint a facially unqualified crony for the nation's highest court. This move reveals Bush at his absolute worst. He is treating a lifetime Article III appointment to the Supreme Court like a patronage position in the Executive. It reinforces symbolically everything that is wrong with the Bush Executive.

What makes it even better, is that the Left gets to keep its powder dry on this nomination while the Right eats its own with the whole nation looking on during the confirmation hearing. I'm practically squirming with anticipation.

I've got no reputation for accurate prognostication to protect so, screw it: Miers won't get out of committee and it will be the far Right that will torpedo her. This will touch off a political battle royale that will set the stage for 2006 and 2008.

The clamour on the Right for fully litmus-tested ideologue who is sure to strike down Roe v. Wade at the earliest opportunity is going to strengthen the Left's political hand when Bush's next nominee is revealed. Chastened and weakened by his humiliation from his right, that person will be highly groomed Federalist Society fascist with a solid paper-trail and will have to be filibustered.

Frist, recognizing his possible future in DeLay's disgrace and discredited with the moderates and the ambitious in his own party, won't have the cojones to pull the nuclear pin, and Bush will have to make a third nomination. This time it will be a moderate pre-cleared by the Senate minority to fill O'Connor's seat. Bush's Presidency will essentially be over with this massive defeat on the thing the Right most wanted from his Presidency.

The confirmation battle will be a huge issue in the 2006 elections, and a overwhelmingly losing one for the GOP. Packing the court with ideologues has never been a popular move; even FDR got shot down when he attempted it.

I'm begining to suspect that the writers at West Wing have either really good sources or a crystal ball. The storyline of Vinick's false promise to the Right to appoint litmus tested judges nailed the most important issue of the week; the Right's hissy fit in demanding only an absolutely Roe-negative judge.

You can glimpse the naked fear peeking through the Christo-fascists' bluster. They think, rightly, that this is their last chance to lock in a conservative majority on the Supreme Court before the tide of populist evangelicalism recedes back into the history books. In their desperation, the true believers of the religious wing of the GOP are going to overplay their hand and reveal the Taliban robes beneath their bespoke suits. The majority of Americans will recoil at the sight and vote accordingly for genuine secular government.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Michael: Stupid Socialists!

You know what really cheeses me off? Socialists. I hate those socialists. They undermine everything this country stands for with their non-market, collectivized solutions for everything.

Take roads for instance. The socialization of road building and maintenance is one of the great evils to have befallen this nation. All roads should be privately built and maintained. They should financed properly with tolls, distributing their cost to those who actually benefit of them, in the proportion that they are benefited, and returning profit to those who site their roads most usefully. Private companies will receive the right market signals about where we actually want roads to go: only where we will pay the most to get to.

People will be enabled by the market to purchase the level of road service they want and can afford. Some people will opt for express lanes with latté shops, built in car washes, and RFID toll passes that lead to exclusive destinations like the best restaurants, health spas, and exclusive specialist clinics. Others will opt for lesser quality roads to the local HMO office or emergency room. Still others will opt for more basic services, such as a footpath to the nearest strawberry patch with a hedge witch or their neighbor’s backyard herb garden. To each according to his means, without regard to his need. That is how a proper road system should be run. And if you can’t afford the tolls, well then, just stay home.

Of course, I’m not really lampooning roads, but our healthcare system. The proposal that we need more private roads to solve our transportation problems wouldn’t be taken seriously. And with good reason; it’s not a serious solution. Putting more private market financing into a system that suffering horrible inefficiencies, largely because of private financing, is simply stupid. Yet policymakers on the Right continue to offer up such panaceas, such as medical savings accounts, with a straight face, even as they dish out old school socialized medicine plans like the Medicare drug prescription ‘benefit’ -- so long as they can prevent collective bargaining, which would control costs, in doing so.

Like roads, excellent and affordable healthcare for all is a basic social need. Public roads, even though they eat tax revenues, confer great efficiency gains on the public, even though there are few ‘market mechanisms’ to prevent their abuse or overuse. People can drive 24 hours a day without paying additional taxes or fees, or drive with off-road tires which cause additional wear on road surfaces, or live in places where expensive public roads serve only a few people. Why do we tolerate such inefficiencies? Because a comprehensive network of roads that allows travel to almost everywhere has become an integral part of our economy and quality of life, even of our sense of freedom as citizens. Without such a network, transacting business, going to work, delivering goods to market, patrolling neighborhoods for safety, getting to the location of emergencies, and just going to see Grandma, would become intolerably more complex and expensive affairs.

Under our current healthcare system, the simple maintenance of one’s health, especially if one is blessed with one of modern America’s plagues of chronic health conditions, becomes a Kafkaesque nightmare that consumes an indecent amount of time, effort, frustration, and expense. The amount of planning and worry that goes into ensuring the continuity of one’s medical care when moving between jobs, careers, or even locations, is a severe brake on the flexibility and efficiency of our economy, and detracts terribly from American’s quality of life. Imagine if you had to have a referral from your primary mechanic to get your car’s brakes fixed? But you couldn’t go to the nearest Brake Masters; you have to go to the single Meinike franchise across town, which doesn’t have an opening for two months. You will have to pay additional tolls to get there, and you have to pay an outrageous use fee because one of the roads is owned by a toll company outside of your network. Well, in the interim, your brakes fail and you slam into an open air market killing a dozen people, including yourself. We wouldn’t allow such slapstick in our transportation network, but we routinely tolerate it, and our laws actively encourage it, in our provision of healthcare.

Some goods should be universal because it is best for everyone individually, and best for society. Take universal public education for an example. It built America into a literate and skilled middle- and working-class nation. Sure there are ways to opt out through private schools and home-schooling, and there still inequities in the system, but universal, tax-financed primary and secondary education has been a resounding success for Americans.

Some services are just too crucial to public health and welfare to leave to private ownership. Municipal ownership, which is a form of socialization, of water, sewer, electricity, and now even wireless internet, provide key services at reasonable and stable regulated rates, because these services are too critical to public welfare and convenience to be left to the tumult of speculative markets. Enron and the manufactured California energy crisis were just a reminder of the wisdom of allowing the free play of ‘market forces’ in some sectors.

Banking insurance, much mortgage insurance, flood insurance, Social Security old age income insurance and many others, are examples of how America has come to realize through long experience and trial and (lots) of error, that some insurance systems are just too important to be left entirely to private markets. It is time to recognize that health insurance falls into this category.

If America, one of the world’s wealthiest nations, is to claim its rightful place as one of the world’s healthiest nations (which we sadly are not) then we are going to have to ensure that all our citizens have access to our excellent healthcare services. There is no sensible way to accomplish that goal without a national, portable, single-payer, health insurance system in which every American can participate.

It is a deeply American and democratic idea -- as education, roads, and host of other public goods and services attest.

It is a workable idea -- as the national health insurance systems of nearly every industrialized country, besides ourselves, prove.

The crazy-quilt system we have is not working for the best interests of our nation and is as backwards as a interstate highway system of private toll roads for a modern industrial power. The only ones profiting from our utterly archaic current system are the toll collectors.

Oh, and I don’t hate socialists. That was just a hook to get conservative readers interested in reading a contrary point of view.

Michael: Leal scared off taking matching funds

From the Star:

Steve Leal will run his unopposed campaign for a fifth term on the City Council without taxpayer dollars.

In a reversal from an earlier decision, the South Side Democrat won't take about $42,500 from the city's public matching fund program.

"I don't need to," he said, explaining that the cost of his re-election bid will not be as high as initially anticipated.

The move won immediate praise from fellow Democrats and Republicans. "I'm sure it was a tough decision because his goal was to get people in his ward more involved in the process," said Nina Trasoff, the Democratic council candidate in Midtown Ward 6. "I applaud him for doing it."

I don't applaud Steve for caving to frankly rather superficial pressure to forgo almost 50K of legal campaign funding which he could use to counter independent committees and help turn out the vote in Tucson. I think his backing off the point has made a poor precedent that future candidates will feel bound by, and will certainly be judged by. His timidity will hamper cleanly funded candidates in the future.

If his critics don't like the law, they should be challenged to change it, not be allowed to browbeat Clean candidates into surrendering what they are legally entitled to. There will be hundreds of thousands of unaccountable independant campaign dollars sloshing around the Old Pueblo this election season; why should Leal have to cut his life preserver in half just because the GOP fielded a complete idiot, Vernon Walker, who couldn't stay in the Ward 5 race for more than a few days due to his shady past?

Leal's political instinct to compromise to avoid a fight has led him down a primrose path. He's done ecxactly what his opponents and critics had hoped he'd do; unilaterally disarmed with no consessions by his foes. In my book, this is a fight lost before the enemy was even engaged. Leal should have taken the money and busted heads with it. Instead, he's harmed Democratic fortunes in the coming elections, and undermined Tucson's publicly financed elections system by validating the GOP message that the system is wasteful of taxpayer money.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Michael: Columbus Day or Genocide Day?

As another Columbus day is upon us, a lot of people continue to wonder, with good cause, just what the heck this day is supposed to celebrate. Surely, as a culture, we must not continue to celebrate the voyages of Columbus? Many people are conflicted about, if not simply outraged by, celebrating our civilization's origin in the genocide of the native people who were previously here.

It is as if we all learned that our births were the result of the brutal rape of our mothers. You can't bring yourself to condemn the rape entirely -- without it you would not exist; but neither does it make one relish celebrating your birthday... or more aptly for this strained comparison, the day of your conception.

Even the Catholic Church, in whose name the Conquistadors pulled down the 'heathen' civilizations of the New World, eventually recognized the vast evil that had been done in its name. The great debate at Valladoilid between Las Casas and Sepulveda made manifest the moral cancer that was the whole project of colonization. Despite the fact that greed and inertia won the day in the end, we should not blind ourselves to the great wrong that our ancestors participated in, any more than we should ignore the history of slavery in the New World.

Perhaps it would be best to officially change 'Columbus Day' to 'Indigenous Peoples Day', as some would have it. But that would be to focus on the victim to the exclusion of the crime. It's like calling 'Pearl Harbor Day' 'U.S.S. Arizona Day'; it discards the context. 'Genocide Day' is a more fitting name for 'Columbus Day'. The day should be one of reflection upon the inestimable value that unbridled human greed and ambition can destroy, instead of a celebration of what wonders we have constructed on top of the mass grave that is the New World.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Michael: A Little Life (on the) Left?

Watch as the GOP holds open a 5 minute vote for nearly an hour and Democrats chant "Shame!" on the House floor. (Quicktime) It seems the GOP needed to twist a few arms to float an oil industry subsidy through the House on the bloated bodies of Katrina's dead.

Once again, a bill to line the pockets of a chosen industry was wholly rewritten in the GOP House caucus, from which Democrats are excluded, and circulated just hours before a vote was scheduled, giving Democrats, and even some Republicans, no time to even read the bill. Our House is being run like a seedy third-world junta.

After the Democrats rose repeatedly to voice their outrage with points of parlementary inquiry, the acting Speaker closed the vote after three swing Republicans were finally browbeaten or bribed into changing their votes. One wonders how many ethics admonitions this shameful chapter in Congressional history will generate. As Speaker gaveled the vote closed, the Democrats chanted angrily, "Shame! Shame! Shame!" For a moment, it felt like we live in a nation with a functional democracy.

But then I recalled that the ones abusing our democratic process won once again, and the Democrats' justified rage was futile. I hope voters will begin to feel that same anger at the dictatorial tactics the GOP are using to service K Street's boundless lust for pork and preference, and vote accordingly in 2006.

Michael: Rove V. Wave: The Grand Jury

West Wing producer and commentator Lawrence O'Donnell points out, the latest appearance (the third, I believe) of Karl Rove before a Grand Jury investigating the Plame Affair without any grant of immunity, is not the act of an innocent man trying to set the record straight: it's an act of pure desperation.

Rove's lawyer would never allow his client to appear before a Grand Jury that had been investigating a conspiracy Rove may have been involved it, without said lawyer by his side (because they are wisely not allowed in GJ proceedings), without an agreement for use immunity, and with a record of previous statements under oath on which to impeach him, unless he was sure a indictment was coming and he was betting on a Hail Mary pass to save the day.

So when Rove's lawyer said, "the special counsel has confirmed that he has not made any charging decisions in respect to Karl," he was speaking lawyerese for, "Fitzy told me that Karl is certain to be indicted, but he hasn't printed out the indictment for the Grand Jury foreman to sign, yet."

So Luskin promptly arranged for King Karl to put the moves on the Grand Jurors personally, to see if he can yet keep his keister off the bench. I'm sure his unindicted co-conspirators, W and the VP, are cheering for him to score a touchdown.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Michael: Army not punishing refusnik reservists

The Army is not punishing reservists who won't go to war. Despite repeated refusals to report for duty by at least 73 Individual Ready Reservists, these technically AWOL soldiers are simply getting persistent polite reminders of the need to do their duty, not visits by MPs.

In light of the unpopularity of Bush's handling of Iraq, and majority opinion saying we need to be winding down this war, not winding it up further, it comes as no real surprise that the Pentagon doesn't want a big noise about war resisters in uniform. The way this Executive is playing these desersions fits perfectly with a desire to keep the soldiers who serve, or refuse to do so, off the radar as much as possible. The last thing Bush wants is anything in the news that smacks of a draft.

Or maybe Lt. Dubya just has a personal sympathy for reservists who don't want to fulfill their obligations.

Michael: If you suspect you won't succeed, change, change the rules

In a moved calculated to ensure passage of the new Iraqi constitution, Shiite and Kurdish representatives adopted an interpretation of election rules under which the constitution will fail only if two-thirds of all registered voters - rather than two-thirds of all those actually casting ballots - reject it in at least three of the 18 provinces.

This is a stunningly cynical move. It essentially assigns two mutually exclusive meanings to the same term of Iraqi election law, depending entirely on the desired outcome. It also all but ensures civil war as the Sunnis now have no political process with which to block the adoption of a constitution that gives them no security.

I suppose I really shouldn't be surprised. After all, the Iraqis are supposed to be building a democracy based on our own model. Changing the rules when they don't favor your desired outcome is exactly what the GOP has done in Bush v. Gore, the move to kill the filibuster, DeLay holding roll call votes open for hours, the torture memos, and countless other occasions. If our own politicians engage in such fudging, why wouldn't Iraqi politicians also feel free to play only by the rules they make up as they go, and that ensure the exact outcomes they want?

UPDATE: The Iraqi Parlement reversed its bid to disenfranchise the Sunnis. The result will likely be that the new constitution will not be ratified and drafters will have to try again. Sometimes a step back can be a step forward.

Michael: Kyl slips VAWA a poison DNA pill

Kyl never ceases his inventive assaults on Americans' civil liberties and the public good. Now, mostly likely in a backhanded effort to kill the Violence Against Women Act, Kyl has proposed an amendment which would require the DNA of those who are arrested, but never accused or convicted of any crime, to be placed in CODIS, a national DNA database for law enforment agencies.

A vote for Kyl is a vote for more such underhanded and vile ploys to infringe on our Constitutional rights.

For instance, remember those thousands of protestors who were arrested during the GOP convention in NY and never charged? Who in fact sued for violations of their civil rights and won? Consider all those abortion protestors or peace protestors arrested for trespass or on other pretextual bases to get rid of them. Well, under Kyl's little amendment, all those people's DNA would be permantently on record in CODIS now.

Kyl's amendment is a massive violation of Americans' Fourth Amendement rights. Kyl's amendment sucks up the DNA evidence of terror suspects (and we know how discriminating the Federal authorities and armed services have been in detaining terror suspects), illegal immigrants, and anyone accused of many crimes (even petty offenses such a perjury or disorderly conduct), and never spits it out. It would even make giving a DNA sample a condition of bail.

This is an assault on every American's freedom to be left alone, not a needed crime-fighting measure. The amendment's sponsor will claim that there will be ways of removing your DNA from the database under certain conditions. Don't believe it. Once the government has it's claws on your DNA, they will find ingenious bureaucratic means of making sure it stays there which mere mortals cannot confound. Kyl's bill is just another brick in the wall of the police state that he and his Neo-Con confederates are busy building around us all under the pretext of keeping us safe.

Kyl is not just Big Government Conservative; he's a Big Brother Conservative and he wants your DNA. NOW!

Michael: DeLay catches new indictment with possible life sentence

DeLay was indicted on new charges of money laundering and conspiring to launder money by a newly empanelled Grand Jury. The charges carry a potential sentence of life in prison.

This comes as somewhat of a surprise to me. The last indictment charging conspiracy, but no underlying offense, I suspected was a prelude to a pre-arranged plea bargain agreement with DeLay. I suspected that DeLay would get a slap on the wrist after getting a chance to bellyache and put his own spin on his plea, and the conspiracy charge would be very ceremoniously dropped. Earle is a hero, DeLay is vindicated (sort of), and everything is tidy.

But these new charges change the game entirely. It now looks like Earle is playing for keeps. Earle must have cut his deal with one of the co-conspirators and been given testimony and possibly documentary evidence to back these charges up.

DeLay is now blustering about Earle trying to "pull the legal equivalent of a 'do-over'". The only sense I make of this line of defense is some sort of misbegotten double jeopardy pleading. But double jeopardy doesn't attach until the petit jury is sworn, and does not apply to Grand Juries, so Earle could have the Grand Jury hand down 100 indictments on the same facts and it wouldn't matter until he had first gone to trial or plead out. DeLay's accusation of "prosecutorial abuse" by Earle on this very vanilla use of a Grand Jury is pushing the boundaries of ethics -- but that is where DeLay lives anyhow.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Michael: Paris Hilton, American Princess

Paris Hilton recently announced that, "I'm the closest thing to American royalty..." At first, I was annoyed. Then, I was sickened. Then, I decided that she was right.

Royalty has often been held to personify the zeitgeist of a time and place. An American peerage should likewise serve as an exemplar of our times. Certainly, they could not serve any overt political function, but rather they could serve to embody the strongest trends and actual (rather than professed or aspirational) values of our society, writ large and made flesh, so that we can be reminded of what sort of society we are creating.

In that case, Paris is perfect for elevation to the American peerage. Scion of dynastic family wealth she had no part of creating, sporting a name that functions as a brand, vain to the point of self-obsession, possessed of the moronic beauty of youth, superficially glamorous but morally and intellectually impoverished, famous mainly for public lewdness and exhibitionism, owning the mating habits of a Bonobo, and sporting a massive air of entitlement, Paris is eminently qualified to be a member of America's theoretical peerage. In fact, she is a strong candidate for America's Princess.

However, I don't think it is a title of any honor, as Paris evidently believes it to be.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Michael: Am I a bad person?

Taking pleasure from the misfortune of others certainly must be a character flaw. I'm afraid I'm suffering of it extravagantly. The Germans, who always have a term handy for the more neurotic crevices of our emotional lives, call it Schadenfreude.

Tom Delay indicted. Frist under SEC investigation. The poll numbers of Bush and the GOP Congress are in the toilet. Members of the Bush Executive are arrested, or soon will be indicted. How can a Democrat fail to take delight in these misfortunes? Still, I shouldn't I feel naughty for doing so?

But is Schadenfreude a vice when those whose misfortune delights you so richly deserve their fate? I certainly take no delight in those bereaved or made homeless by Katrina. Nor am I tickled by the thought of how much Americans have suffered, and will suffer in coming years, under the misguided policies of the Bush Executive. No, I am only joyous at the discomforture of those who brought themselves low by their own corruption and ineptitude.

Perhaps what I'm enjoying is the opposite of Schadenfreude: Justice. Given how rare justice has been in the past five years, it might have grown unfamiliar to many of us. It is the feeling you get when people get exactly what they deserve. If taking delight in justice makes me a bad person, then I choose to be bad.

Michael: A Finger in the Air

Political change is an odd duck. When the winds of change sweep in and rearrange the landscape like so much lawn furniture, it sometimes takes awhile before people realize that the world has been made anew. We may marvel the specific events that have transpired -- Katrina sank New Orleans, New Orleans sank Bush, DeLay drowned in corruption, Frist drowned himself, and the outing of Plame hovers like a political tsunami just off-shore – but we may not immediately recognize that these discrete changes add up to something much bigger.

That something is a political realignment in 2006 that will dwarf 1994 or 1980. Everything the conservative movement has built over the last 30 years has been upset in the space of merely a month. The narrative of a mighty morality play has fallen into place; it’s just a matter of time before the actors realize what scene they’re in.

The tale is about people who promised reform, conservative government, smaller government, responsible government, and instead delivered big-money corruption, secret deals, inept governance, the largest strategic blunder in American history, and a ballooning deficit. The players are ready to play their starring roles in this political tragedy; the Congressional leader who bought influence with corporate cash, the Senatorial leader who put his personal interest ahead of his ethics, the President who raised expectations for once in his life and spectacularly failed to meet them, the political hatchet men standing behind it all selling out the nation’s vital interests to carry out a petty political vendetta, and an entire Administrative chorus line so out of touch with reality that they lost a war and didn’t even realize it. Like all great tragedy, one fatal flaw links the protagonists: hubris.

This isn’t a matter for argument. It is just a feeling. It is a sense of momentum following the pause at a tipping point. It isn’t just a few enumerated things; it’s everything. There is a new feeling in the air. Certain truths that once had to be argued over are now eye-poppingly obvious. There is a wrong-footedness in everything the Republicans do, complementing nicely their perennial wrong-headedness, that wasn’t there before. Where once there was cunning, there is now only mean. Where once there was a formidable foe, there is now just a ham-fisted Bluto, whom it’s hard to take too seriously. Not everything is going the Democrats way – indeed, there is little evidence that our Popeye has yet swallowed his spinach – but bits are starting to fly off the Republican spin machine with alarming regularity.

The month of September now has an undeniable political resonance for all Americans. A September morning in 2001 changed the political fortunes of a floundering George W. Bush forever. As he put it, he “hit the trifecta” on that day. How fitting then, that it is September of 2005 that will be remembered by history as the month that undid the conservative movement and set the stage for the political sea change of 2006?

UPDATE: Now that I'm looking for more signs, I think one of the most promising trends is the likely pickup of major Governorships in 2006. This could broaden our future Presidential bench, and most importantly, ensure that the redistricting following the 2010 census is fair to Democrats and undoes the recent mid-term gerrymandering of the GOP.

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