Friday, May 25, 2007

A Libertarian Challenge

Ron Paul's running for president and Nick Gillespie's interview on Bill Moyer's Journal got me thinking about libertarianism again.

My (perhaps naive) belief is that libertarians are naive in their belief that a libertarian system of government would keep large corporations from polluting the environment and abusing workers.

If we look back over history we can see innumerable cases of corporations doing horrible things to the working class. Monsanto spewing PCBs into the local environment and coal mining companies trapping workers in peonage/truck systems (e.g. follow this link and search for "Colorado miners") .

The historical correction for these abuses has been government regulation (e.g. EPA regulations, labor laws). Sure, the current system is riddled problems but nobody can deny that corporations get away with much less than they did 100-150 years ago.

My challenge to libertarians is for you to explain how libertarian policies would do a better job of preventing these corporate crimes against the public than the traditional approach of government regulation.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

What is the point?

Various news sources have reported

The White House wanted them to be “interviewed,” in private, with no transcript and no oath. That was in March. .
What, pray tell, is the point of having interviews if there is no transcript (everything said can be denied like this "uh, I don't remember saying that" or "uh, that is not what I said"). And why would they insist that the testimony not be given under oath unless they are planning to lie lie lie? How can anyone spin this positively? It is absolutely ridiculous.

The administration is essentially saying "we'll talk with you tell you what ever you want to hear as long as we can't be prosecuted for lying and we can later deny anything we tell you."

How can the 28% who still support Bush hear this and not be appalled?

We are not talking about a blow job here, we are talking about subverting the constitution. "The firings are unethical but not illegal" you say? If that is true then why did Monica Goodling (a lawyer who presumably understands the 5th amendment) refused to testify on the subject citing the 5th amendment? Doesn't that, at the very least, demand an investigation with open hearings and all testimony under oath?

In other News, James Comey has made it clear that Alberto Gonzoles lied or, at the very least, mislead congress.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Bill Moyers is back!

One of my most esteemed heros these days is Bill Moyers. He retired from doing his PBS show NOW with Bill Moyers in 2004 but has recently returned to PBS television with Bill Moyer's Journal. Mr Moyers is a religious man (he has a bachelors in divinity and was ordained as a minister) but he champions the principles of separation of church and state and religious diversity (including a respect for secularists).

I highly recommend you read a speech Moyers gave to the National Conference for Media Reform. If you are too impatient to read, watch or listen to the entire speech here are a few of my favorite quotes from the speech (with some emphasis added by me):


I came to believe that objective journalism means describing the object being reported on, including the little fibs and fantasies as well as the Big Lie of the people in power. In no way does this permit journalists to make accusations and allegations. It means, instead, making sure that your reporting and your conclusions can be nailed to the post with confirming evidence.


I told our producers and correspondents that in our field reporting our job was to get as close as possible to the verifiable truth. This was all the more imperative in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. America could be entering a long war against an elusive and stateless enemy with no definable measure of victory and no limit to its duration, cost or foreboding fear.


I came to see that “news is what people want to keep hidden and everything else is publicity.” In my documentaries – whether on the Watergate scandals 30 years ago or the Iran-Contra conspiracy 20 years ago or Bill Clinton’s fundraising scandals 10 years ago or, five years ago, the chemical industry’s long and despicable cover-up of its cynical and unspeakable withholding of critical data about its toxic products from its workers, I realized that investigative journalism could not be a collaboration between the journalist and the subject. Objectivity is not satisfied by two opposing people offering competing opinions, leaving the viewer to split the difference.


The point of the story is something only a handful of our team, including my wife and partner Judith Davidson Moyers, and I knew at the time — that the success of NOW’s journalism was creating a backlash in Washington.

The more compelling our journalism, the angrier the radical right of the Republican Party became. That’s because the one thing they loathe more than liberals is the truth. And the quickest way to be damned by them as liberal is to tell the truth.

This is the point of my story: Ideologues don’t want you to go beyond the typical labels of left and right. They embrace a world view that can’t be proven wrong because they will admit no evidence to the contrary. They want your reporting to validate their belief system and when it doesn’t, God forbid.


“I wore my flag tonight. First time. Until now I haven’t thought it necessary to display a little metallic icon of patriotism for everyone to see. It was enough to vote, pay my taxes, perform my civic duties, speak my mind, and do my best to raise our kids to be good Americans.

“Sometimes I would offer a small prayer of gratitude that I had been born in a country whose institutions sustained me, whose armed forces protected me, and whose ideals inspired me; I offered my heart’s affections in return. It no more occurred to me to flaunt the flag on my chest than it did to pin my mother’s picture on my lapel to prove her son’s love. Mother knew where I stood; so does my country. I even tuck a valentine in my tax returns on April 15.

“So what’s this doing here? Well, I put it on to take it back. The flag’s been hijacked and turned into a logo — the trademark of a monopoly on patriotism. On those Sunday morning talk shows, official chests appear adorned with the flag as if it is the good housekeeping seal of approval. During the State of the Union, did you notice Bush and Cheney wearing the flag? How come? No administration’s patriotism is ever in doubt, only its policies. And the flag bestows no immunity from error. When I see flags sprouting on official lapels, I think of the time in China when I saw Mao’s little red book on every official’s desk, omnipresent and unread.

“But more galling than anything are all those moralistic ideologues in Washington sporting the flag in their lapels while writing books and running Web sites and publishing magazines attacking dissenters as un-American. They are people whose ardor for war grows disproportionately to their distance from the fighting. They’re in the same league as those swarms of corporate lobbyists wearing flags and prowling Capitol Hill for tax breaks even as they call for more spending on war.

“So I put this on as a modest riposte to men with flags in their lapels who shoot missiles from the safety of Washington think tanks, or argue that sacrifice is good as long as they don’t have to make it, or approve of bribing governments to join the coalition of the willing (after they first stash the cash). I put it on to remind myself that not every patriot thinks we should do to the people of Baghdad what Bin Laden did to us. The flag belongs to the country, not to the government. And it reminds me that it’s not un-American to think that war — except in self-defense — is a failure of moral imagination, political nerve, and diplomacy. Come to think of it, standing up to your government can mean standing up for your country.”

One of the first guests on the new Bill Moyers Journal was Jon Stewart (another hero of mine and a hero to many others I'm sure).

Even if Moyers had not adapted to the internet it would still be a blessing to have his show available through the traditional medium of broadcast TV. Luckily for us though video, audio, complete transcripts and blog postings with audience feedback are available.

Monday, April 09, 2007

How can someone take the 5th ...

When no crime has been committed? Monica Goodling of the Gonzales' Department of Justice has refused to testify before congress regarding the firing of US attorneys citing the 5th amendment right that prevents a person from incriminating them self. We keep hearing from various quarters (even from anti-Bush pundits) that, while the firing of the attorneys may have been unprecedented and unethical, it was not criminal.

There are a few possible explanations:
  • Goodling is incompetent and consequently doesn't understand either the 5th or what constitutes criminal conduct (not likely).
  • Goodling knows that crimes have been committed. Not legal but slimy ethical violations which don't afford protection under the 5th amendment but actual crimes.
  • Goodling knows no crime has been committed and is invoking the 5th amendment under false pretenses.
Is there a loophole here? Is it legally acceptable to claim that you thought there was 1 in 1000 chance that you are criminally liable and use this claim as a basis for taking the 5th?

Any way you slice it something is foul in Alberto Gonzales' Department of Justice.

Quote of the Day

In a harsh condemnation of the U.S. mismanagement of Iraq, former Iraqi government minister Ali Allawi writes, "The corroded and corrupt state of Saddam was replaced by the corroded, inefficient, incompetent and corrupt state of the new order."

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Election 2008

I have seen the future of US leadership and the future is Barack Obama.

Well I hope it is anyways. There are a variety of compelling reasons why Obama may not win the 2008 presidential election
  • he lacks political experience
  • he is black (clearly no southerner nostalgic for days of Jim Crow is going to vote for him)
  • his intelligence will alienate the simpletons who voted for Bush and are fond of aphorisms like the terrorist hate us because we are free
Despite all of these reasons why Obama will fail to win the election I have never been so excited about a presidential candidate as I am about Obama.

We all know that being atheist is political suicide so it is no surprise to find out that Obama is a devout Christian. What is a surprise is to hear him speak about atheists (he uses the term secularist) without denigrating them. I am a devout atheist and I find it frustrating that my beliefs are not just marginalized but frequently denigrated by those with strong faith in Christianity. Barack Obama is a man who truly understands the tolerant and inclusive motivation behind separation of church and state!

I urge you to listen to his podcasts (most are 5 to 7 minutes long) and decide for yourself what you think of the man. For me, I've decided that this is the man I want to be my country's next president. If, after hearing him speak and reading about his position on the issues, you decide that he is the best choice for president then please make a campaign donation.

Because I feel strongly that Barack Obama is the best man for the job of U.S. president I signed up for a recurring monthly donation to the Obama presidential campaign. Even if he loses the general election (or even the primary election) the country will gain much from having a well funded Obama campaign participate in a debate of the issues facing our country.