Saturday, November 27, 2004

Amend THIS, Pal!

by Rich Miles

November 27, 2004

There’s a very fuzzy line between elected officials’ duty to serve the needs of their constituents, and political cowardice and pandering. We’ve seen many folks in the elected classes cross that line recently, but never has the leaping back and forth been more evident or more egregious than in the arena of federal constitutional amendments.

In the past year, we’ve heard calls for amendments to our nation’s most sacred document on gay marriage and a repeal of a portion of Article 2 which requires that a candidate for president be native-born. A proposal from 1978 to give the District of Columbia genuine representation in Congress never passed, and it wasn’t too long ago that an amendment to prohibit flag-burning was being bandied about. And who remembers the ill-fated Equal Rights Amendment, first proposed in 1923 to make women legally equal to men, and which most recently wandered about in search of ratification for more than ten years before finally dying an ignominious and unheralded death?

Constitutional amendments require a 2/3 vote of both houses of Congress, plus ratification by the legislatures of ¾ of the states. In a Congress with a 54-46 party split in one house, 55-45 in the other, and in at least 38 state legislatures, we expect a level of bipartisan agreement that high on ANY issue, much less such emotionally-charged ones as gay marriage? I don’t think so.

So since it’s so unlikely that any of the current proposals will become law, let’s look at the noisiest ones currently gaining attention: leaving aside the institutionalized discrimination inherent in a federal anti-gay marriage amendment, let’s consider the flag-burning amendment, and the native-born amendment.

The flag-burning amendment was abandoned in part because it was discovered that burning was the method of choice of the American Legion for disposing of an old or damaged flag, and thus that people could have been arrested on federal charges simply for doing what the American Legion recommended.

The Article 2 proposal is really rather silly – it’s designed to aid ONE person: Arnold Schwarzenegger, who for some reason some people would like to see in the White House. It would, if passed, benefit others eventually, but in real terms, the only other person currently in national politics who would gain from it is Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm of Michigan, who was born Canadian.

That is, unless Henry Kissinger decided to run. Now there’s a scary thought.

You know the last time we amended the Constitution? In 1992, when the 27th Amendment was passed, requiring that there be an election between Congress voting itself a pay raise and the raise taking effect, so as to minimize conflict of interest. But Congress has gotten around the Constitution by voting themselves “COLA’s” almost every single year, because they’re not – technically – pay raises. Before that, it was 1971, when we gave 18-year-olds the vote, in an unsuccessful attempt to get anti-war demonstrators to believe they were part of the process, and thus get them off the streets.

The fact is that none of the current proposals for amending the Constitution are going to pass – and the people who author the proposals know that. The Framers deliberately made it hard to amend, in order to achieve the very goal it’s now achieving – to keep silly and dangerous laws off the books.

So don’t be fooled that your lawmakers are bravely standing up for principle when they say they favor a constitutional amendment on anything. It doesn’t require much political courage to stand up and shout for something you know is never going to happen, and in fact it usually offers an opportunity to attack your opponents when the plan falls apart. In that area, we are well-supplied with thousands of federal and state legislators across our country who lack political courage. In fact, I begin to believe it’s a requirement for the job.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Memo to: Red States

by Rich Miles
November 5, 2004

One of the things I've believed for a long time is that in political campaigns, Democrats tend to be far too polite. Among many other examples, as some of you may recall, in 2000, Al Gore just stood there on the debate stage while W repeated yet AGAIN that stupid lie about Gore having claimed to have invented the Internet, and Gore never challenged him on it there or elsewhere, because to do so he would have had to call W a liar. We Blue-staters don't like being rude, so we try to avoid such confrontational direct statements. John Kerry missed, or perhaps didn't even see, many opportunities to slip in the rapier and twist, once in the debates saying in effect that he doesn't use the "L" word - liar, despite its being the precise mot just at the time (it means the "right word" in - gasp! - FRENCH). His much-remarked New England reserve, in matters religious and elsewise, cost him the election in a nation increasingly dominated by the moral equivalent of snake-handling, speaking-in-tongues cultists. And the direct result of all our good breeding and manners is that we are currently living in a theocracy every bit as frightening as anything the Iran ayatollahs or Sunni imams could possibly cook up. If any of you think W's appeal in his acceptance speech to "all Americans", even those who voted against him, lasted longer than it took him to walk off the stage and smirk, you probably also believe in the Easter Bunny (a pagan symbol of fertility, from...oh, never mind).

So no more being polite: at the literal risk of at least my peaceful enjoyment of my home, and possibly, considering that you have more guns than we do, my freedom or my life, herewith some hard truths that the man who tried so hard to save the country from itself either would not or could not set forth in a way that you in the Red states could understand:

1) You know that "Eastern intellectual elite" you so scorn, the ones you think are too big for their britches, a bunch of eggheads who use big words you don't understand, and try to make you think but only manage to make your head hurt, and just don't "know", much less believe in, the One True God? There is a reason such people are known as an "intellectual" elite (the eastern part is a misnomer - we're everywhere, but mostly on the two coasts): it's because we're smarter than you. It's because we are more educated (remember education? it's supposed to be important), and are paying attention to what W does to dismantle our democracy and eliminate government protections for average Americans, while patting you on the head and telling you he will protect your right to be religious bigots. It's because we see that his "born-again" pose is one of two things: either a pretense to get votes, and in no way part of his real personal beliefs, or if he does believe what he says he does, he seems to us Blue voters the best advertisement imaginable for atheism. Not that we on the Left are all atheists, any more than your people are all snake-handlers - there are a few of each on each side. But if what W does is what a godly man does, then many of us want no part of him.

2) George W. Bush is a liar and a flip-flopper. He will say or do anything to get elected. He is not a good man, and he is not a strong leader. He is not "like you", any more than John Kerry is - they both went to Yale, Bush went on to Harvard Biz School, both come from generations of old money (Bush far more so than Kerry), and both were members of that heathen society, Skull and Bones. He will not keep you safer, in fact, his policies have created a world situation where we are much MORE likely to be attacked both at home and abroad than we have ever been. He has no idea what it means to send soldiers in harm's way, because he's never been there himself. He has managed to take us from a day when even the French said "Today, we are all Americans" to a place where our government, and now, increasingly, our people, are roundly hated even by those who were our allies as recently as four years ago. You do NOT know where he stands and what kind of man he is. And he does not want "only to keep you safe", unless there's money in it for him or his cronies. We in the Blue part of the country, we "reality-based" folks (now there's a scary dichotomy!) have hundreds, perhaps thousands of pieces of evidence of the above statements, and we do our best to get them into your hands and heads. But you "faith-based" folks have had that evidence available to you just as we have for 4 years, and you haven't absorbed any of it yet, so we despair of ever getting you to take a serious look at what we know is true.

For example, to put things on a simplistic level you can understand, I would bet that not many of you know that, a couple of weeks before the election, W said that civil unions for gays weren't a bad idea, but that the states should decide - a complete reversal of everything he'd ever said about the topic before. What happened to his support of a federal constitutional amendment? Or that he didn't ban stem cell research outright - he just banned federal funding for research that would lead to the development of new lines of stem cells (is it wrong, or isn't it? It can't be both.) Or that, due to W's faith-based ideas on birth control and sex education and the policies that stemmed from them, the number of abortions performed during his administration has actually increased by nearly 20% relative to the previous four year period. Or that he said that the war on terrorism can't be won. Or that he said there would be "no casualties" in Iraq. Or that there is NO evidence whatever that Saddam Hussein had anything to do with 9/11 or Al Qaeda.

I'll bet you don't know that, the day before the election, ONE DAY before, the government announced that record borrowing would be necessary to keep it afloat in the first quarter of '05 - $145 billion, and that number is almost certain to be higher than estimates, and is on top of the $442 billion we borrowed in the last year, which is on top of...well, even you folks can get the picture. Or that an alarming portion of that money is being loaned to us by foreign nations, including Saudi Arabia, China, and other countries that don't have America's best interests at heart. Do you really want COMMUNIST China holding the mortgage paper on the American government? You don't know that even with a Congressional majority and a conservative Supreme Court, there is almost no way that abortion is going to become illegal. You don't know that Red states have more divorces, more out-of-wedlock births and yes, more abortions than Blue ones, or that it's your children, and ours, who are going to end up without Social Security benefits when they reach retirement age, if he pushes through his "reform" of SocSec. All you know, and you don't really know that, is that W is "a good, godly man". Isn't there a lot said about hypocrites in the Bible?

You see, those are the kinds of things you learn when you read the paper, other than the comics or the sports page or the right-wing rags that only tell you what you think you already know, and when you watch news other than Fox. But it's too late for all that now. You've betrayed America, and we who voted for Kerry are deeply angry with you about it.

However, if nothing else can get through your thick heads, we ask that you look at one piece of evidence that perhaps even you can grasp: where is Pat Robertson? He's still alive, as far as I know, and he still is considered one of the leaders of your faith - but does he have the same almost at-will access to the president of the United States that he had before he said something on national TV that W didn't like? I think you'll find that, since those remarks, he has become essentially a "non-person" as far as W is concerned. And that's what happens to everyone - even you, if you are so bold - who disagrees with W or anyone he likes or is related to. Perhaps there is someone in your own church who has said something against him - is that person now pariah, even on your local congregation level? Is that the inclusive, all-enveloping spirit of love and tolerance that the Bible tells us is the teaching of Jesus?

But the sad part, indeed the saddest of all of the many outright tragedies that will result from this aberrant behavior, is that you folks - you Red-staters - will pay, on average, far more for this choice than we will. Just a few for-instances: Blues are, on average, better-educated and earn more money than Reds. Therefore, Reds will continue to pay for the tax cuts that favor the wealthy - many of whom are us! W even said, repeatedly, that raising taxes on the rich is a bad idea because we have lawyers and accountants to help us beat paying taxes - as he certainly knows from personal experience. Blues tend to be urban dwellers, and thus are more used to a certain degree of air pollution (we don't like it, but it comes with the territory), but Reds, as one can see from the electoral map, live in most of the few remaining pristine wildernesses in this country - so when Bush's environmental policies blow up in all our faces, you'll lose more than we will. Blues have higher average incomes, and thus can more often afford to purchase our own health insurance, while Reds will wait till Hell freezes over for Bush to do anything significant for you in this area. And finally, at least finally for now, Blues have, on average, fewer children, and more reasons for those children not to join the military as a career choice. Therefore, more children of Reds will fight and die in Iraq and Afghanistan, and wherever else Bush's conscienceless foreign adventures may lead us.

As I look back over what I've written, I know that the people to whom it's addressed will almost certainly never read it. Perhaps it's just one deeply angry person's attempt to let the rest of the world - the "reality-based" ones among us - know that not all Americans have gone stark, staring mad. In fact, only 50.7% of us are lunatics.

And hey, here's a thought - now that he can't run for re-election, and no longer needs you Red-staters, he may even abandon you, as he has us Blue folks. Watch for signs of it. Signs like, oh, I don't know....666?

Why We Won't Need A Draft

by Rich Miles

November 5, 2004

One of the little factoids that slipped by rather quickly in the ongoing debate about George W. Bush’s military service or lack thereof in the Vietnam era is that, while it’s unquestionable that he never saw combat, and pretty unquestionable that he was never likely to do so as a member of the Texas Air National Guard, he was a strong supporter of President Nixon and the Vietnam War.

So here we are, 35+ years later, and the man who didn’t serve in combat, who may have unethically avoided combat (we still don’t know with certainty), who was all for other people fighting in Vietnam, and who has engaged American troops in foreign combat with impunity on specious evidence, is president of the United States.

And the man who volunteered for service, and was wounded in combat, and came home to make some pretty rash but not necessarily untrue (we still don’t know with certainty) statements before a Senate committee about American troops’ behavior in combat, has seen that protest of that distant war become one of the factors in why he didn’t become president of the United States.

So here’s a modest proposal for supporting our nation’s choice for president in time of self-inflicted war: if you’re a Bush supporter, and an Iraq war supporter, and one of those who subscribes to the bloodthirsty, jingoistic, “we’re America so to hell with the rest of the world” foreign policy your president is so proud to espouse, then you have but one course clear to you: in order to help the president’s policies succeed, you must immediately enlist in the Armed Forces.

I mean all of you – all 62 million of you who voted for Bush – of all ages. Drop what you’re doing, right now, and go to the nearest recruiting office, and sign up for some form of military service. It’s your duty as Americans.

Some of you will say that you’re too old for military service – no excuses, do it anyway! While those gung ho young men and women are off in the deserts of Iraq dying for President Bush, we’re going to need lots of support people back here at home to make sure our brave soldiers are well equipped with unarmored vehicles and Halliburton MRE's. Join the National Guard, just like your idol did in his youth. Reactivate your reserve status. Do something besides sit on your backside in your pickup truck, listening to Rush Limbaugh tell you what a patriot you are because you voted for the best president we’ve ever had.

Some of you will say that it’s too much trouble – that it will disrupt your lives too much here at home to enlist in the armed forces. Now that’s not very patriotic of you, is it? Surely you don’t believe that it’s only the other guys who have to make such sacrifices? If you’re willing to wield the weapon of a vote for a man who makes war on nations that are no threat to us, surely you have the courage to step up and wield a real weapon in defense of your right to cast such a vote. America’s prestige is at stake here. We don’t want to look weak in the eyes of the French, do we? If we can’t kick the butts of a bunch of heathen ragheads who have to blow up their SUV’s to fight us, then what kind of nation are we anyway?

You have no choice – you must support your president in this way. He promised the nation there would not be a draft, and you have to do your part to make sure he doesn’t have to flip-flop on that promise. And besides, all of those brie-eating, wine-sipping, New York Times-reading peaceniks who voted for Kerry sure aren’t going to do it. They’re mostly rich people who will find ways to keep their kids out of the service if Bush is compelled to reinstate the draft. Just like Bush’s family did all those years ago.

We’re running out of cannon fodder, folks. Our forces are stretched way too thin all over the world. If another country threatens us – somewhere like, say, Albania, or perhaps Belize, or maybe a real threat like North Korea or Iran – we might not have enough firepower to show them what America is made of. With an army of more than 59 million, we could probably even whup the Chinese! Man, they could mow us down like rice stalks, and we'd still keep a-comin'!

So do your part, and show the world that America is not a bunch of warmongering Neanderthals who only talk a good game. Enlist in the Armed Forces today. Your president needs you.

And besides, the gene pool needs a good cleaning.

"Sure we'll have fascism in America, but it'll come disguised as 100 percent Americanism."

Huey P. Long