Thursday, February 24, 2005

One State, Two State, Red State, Blue State

February 24, 2005

I'm a conservative. Really! I believe in as limited a government as possible, as much reliance on personal responsibility as America can stand. I don't believe in government-funded living for those too lazy to work, but I don't think a run of hard luck should starve anyone in America either. I think taxes should be applied equally and used only rarely as a regulatory nudge, not as a tax-and-spend bludgeon. I believe that the more governmental regulations there are directing my behavior, the less free I am. I am against big government.

George W. Bush is not a conservative. He belongs to the wealthy and unscrupulous class of Neo-Conservatives who took helm of the Republican party when Bob Dole tanked. Bush's government is reading your e-mail. Bush is proposing a Social Security reform that will pretty much wipe out free public benefits. Bush uses taxes as a political tool, to hand out favors to lobbyists and curry votes from middle-class people who could actually really use a $300 refund RIGHT NOW, regardless of what it does to the deficit. Bush thinks that the more regulations there are directing your behavior, the safer America is. Bush has presided over the greatest increase in government, both in terms of the perceived duties of government and in terms of sheer organizational scope, since the Departments of War and the Navy were combined into the Department of Defense in 1947. Bush IS big government.

Every week I sit down at this computer and I generate a rant, usually a character assassination piece regarding one of Bush's many minions. Usually it goes something like "John Negroponte was America's ambassador to Honduras during the Iran-Contra scandal and TO THIS DAY disavows all knowledge of the political death squads documented by his Carter-appointed predecessor and exposed to the world in scandal. Bush appointed him ambassador to the United Nations in his first term when we wanted to ignore them, and now he's serving as the American intelligence czar. Expect to hear even less about the ongoing American human rights abuses being videotaped in Guantanamo Bay and around the world."

Some weeks I'll take a policy shot and point out that "Bush's social security plan completely annihilates the 'social' part of Social Security, replacing it instead with a system of government-mandated personal retirement plans. Social Security was conceived and implemented as a way to ensure no one went hungry once they were too old to work, not as a universal retirement plan that would cover expensive prescription drugs and visits to see the grandkids. If Bush truly wanted the people to have control over that money and could give it to us without decreasing benefits, he'd just cut taxes and declare himself a working-class hero. Again." And all of that is true.

This looks like a couple of pretty straightforward attacks on the opposing party when you're trapped in the modern two-party mentality. When someone tells you things you don't want to hear about "your guy," your first tendency is to get defensive because he plays for your team. I want to remind all the real conservatives out there that the Neo-Conservatives are not your team.

The red-state/blue-state mentality is a function of the propaganda machines cranking out conflict to generate ratings, trying to tie your salary, your shopping habits, and what kind of car you drive to your voting habits. (And the Republicans are in fact tracking all those facts with their Voter Vault software, called Bush's secret re-election weapon and revealed to be now in use by the Conservative Party in England also.)

Let this serve as a reminder that Bush is not the face of conservative ideals. He does not speak about overblown government or the importance of a free market. He expands the scope of the government's duties and uses the government to funnel public money back into the private sector, thus imposing Uncle Sam as an unnecessary and expensive intermediary on behalf of citizens presumed too dumb to invest their own money wisely.

Even if you hate John Kerry and Howard Dean and Barbara Boxer and all the other commie liberals, remember that they are the opposition to the anti-freedom legislation the Neo-Conservatives in charge of the Republican Party are trying to get through.

E-mail if you have something to say.

You can also mail me comments you'd like read and discussed on 91.7 FM KNWD Friday mornings from 8:00 to 10:00. for sources on surveillance, Negroponte, and Voter Vault.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Three Easy Pieces

February 17, 2005

The Pentagon is planning a TV channel. I'm not making this up. Pentagon TV will be in the living rooms of DishNetwork's 11 million American subscribers, 24/7, as a "public service" intended to inform and entertain. It will include information on strategic operations and pieces on the everyday lives of military personnel (reminiscent of Stalinism and Jude Law's character in "Enemy at the Gates.") This is scarier than just the establishment of an official American propaganda mouthpiece. This is indicative of an expectation of prolonged, violent conflict, about how the American viewpoint must be tightly controlled. The Pentagon calls this "restricting and directing the flow of information." I call it the beginning of the end of free press.

Don't get me wrong, the Pentagon channel may fizzle and die very quickly, less watched than even C-Span2 or the NASA channel (both of which DishNetwork cheerily pumps into my family's living room back home, also as a public service.) The precedent of the channel's creation alone, however, is truly terrifying. America now has an official government news source. It is emphatically NOT the job of the Pentagon to make the American populace aware of its activity; it IS the emphatic duty of the Pentagon to keep track of its activities and make its records available to the public (as national security permits, of course, though such claims can be highly suspect.) Countries like Libya and Iran and North Korea have official news outlets, government papers, and military TV channels, NOT AMERICA! Government organizations shouldn't be concerned with their public image to begin with. They are organs of society, not brand names with a stock price to worry about.

As is this university. The state legislature has wisely determined that a higher quality Louisiana college grad makes a Louisiana college diploma more valuable, and as such they have required Louisiana public universities to raise the bar a little in terms of admissions. NSU has deftly dodged this fiscal bullet by exploiting a loophole: community colleges aren't affected by the change. NSU has therefore brought the Bossier Parish Community College to Natchitoches, under the auspices of which an incoming student can duck the academic requirements and then, after a single semester of satisfactory coursework, transfer to NSU, thus ensuring that we don't lose any delicious tuition money. In spite of this betrayal of the public good to fiscal concern, the University has further frozen all news hires for fear that enrollment will drop. This means applicants for several positions that will certainly be filled (including the position Fraser Snowden, NSU's senior professor of philosophy, will shortly be vacating) will not be notified of the University's intent to hire for weeks to come. Meanwhile, ideal candidates are likely to take a more definite offer delivered sooner. Where is the logic in a blanket hiring freeze when some positions absolutely must be filled and excellent candidates have already been identified? Perhaps instead of funding a loophole fix, the administration should concentrate on making itself an institution that will attract students who meet the new requirements - which includes STAFFING THE UNIVERSITY!

Which brings me to my final and most incidental rant: I saw a religious license plate on the front of a University maintenance vehicle last week. You can look for it yourself; it's a small beige truck, toolboxes and racks on the sides, with a state license plate on the back that says "public" above the number 154898. I object to the religious reference, even if the maintenance worker who drives that truck paid for the plate himself, even if he puts it on every morning and takes it home with him at night. It's not as though it's a simple cross pin on his lapel or an Ichthyus (more commonly known as the "Jesus fish") on his personal vehicle; that truck was purchased with public funds, serves the public interest, and has the seal of a public university on its doors. This is clearly a violation of the separation of church and state, not that I expect a state that still gets away with mandatory student prayer at mandatory pep rallies for all-but-mandatory high school football games to fix the problem.

Fridays, 91.7 FM from 8:00-10:00 AM to hear me rant. Visit for some tasty reading and contact me at to shoot your mouth off. WARNING: I shoot back.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Gonzales Climbs Political Ladder

February 3, 2005

Thirteen Democrats in the Senate voted "no" at Condee Rice's Senate confirmation, including the party powerhouses Ted Kennedy, John Kerry and Barbara Boxer, all of whom gave her quite a grilling in the committee hearing. A president has not faced such opposition to his choice for Secretary of State in more than 175 years, but I think this is just the opening volley in the political war America is about to witness. And that is as it should be.

The Judiciary Committee's near-refusal to pass torture-monger Alberto Gonzales is the next test of the Democrats' resolve to rescue our republic from demagoguery. You remember Alberto Gonzales, right? The man who told the president that the Geneva Convention is "quaint" and "outdated?" The man who engineered the legal policies that have kept prisoners in Guantanamo Bay without lawyers or access to the outside world for YEARS now? The one Bush appointed to the Texas Supreme court, bribed, then promoted to the Justice Department? Yeah, that Alberto Gonzales.

Gonzales graduated from Harvard and went to work for the prestigious Houston firm Vinson & Elkins, whose largest clients were Enron and Halliburton. When Bush was governor, Gonzales got him out of a jury duty assignment that would have required him to disclose a 1976 arrest for drunk driving. Bush shortly made Gonzales Secretary of State, then appointed him to the Texas Supreme Court where he, along with several other justices, took money from and rendered verdicts in favor of Halliburton. In light of this "loyalty," Bush has decided to take him along on his rise to the top. No longer simply counsel to Gov. Bush, Gonzales is about to become the arm of American justice.

This is a laughable image. In spite of ongoing investigations attempting to determine whether Abu Ghraib torturers were operating under orders from higher up the chain of command, Gonzales maintained definitively in his committee hearing, "This was simply people who were morally bankrupt having fun. And I condemn that." In regards to the actual abuses themselves, he said "I obviously don't want to provide any kind of legal opinion as to whether or not that conduct might be criminal." So much for American justice!

All eight Democrats on the Judiciary Committee voted against Gonzales's approval, even though only two had told the others they planned to do so at their meeting the evening before. The 10 remaining committee members, all Republican, were unfortunately enough to confirm him as nominee, and this party-divided majority win will likely be the case in the senate. In 2001, John Ashcroft faced 42 votes against his confirmation, all Democrats, but the margin of the win was widened by eight party defectors who voted to approve him. I suspect we will not see a similar defection this year.

The Judiciary is soon to be overrun by Bush appointees and the House of Representatives has filibuster-busting bylaws, leaving Senate Democrats as the sole remaining governmental opposition to the Bush regime of any significance. The Constitution balances the parts of government against one another specifically to stop people like Bush from screwing things up too badly. Though there is little to be gained from even unanimous opposition to Gonzales' nomination in light of the backing party's majority, I hope Senate Democrats will take these nominations as a chance to dig in their heels as a real opposition party and begin the task of truly opposing the Republicans.

By the time you read this, Gonzales will be Attorney General. The question is how.

Write to Listen to 91.7 FM The Demon this Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. Check for links to my sources. Conform. Consume. Obey.