Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Bloomberg Doth Bestride the World Like a Colossus?

Sue Casey, at Huffington Post, states bluntly that if NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg enters the presidential race, he will win. No ifs, ands, or butts. (In-joke about his antismoking campaign. Get it?)

She doesn't have much of a case -- he's rich, he's independent, he's pragmatic. Um, okay. We're not sure these outweigh the mayor's own ironic self-assessment: "A short Jewish billionaire from New York? Come on!" Still, we at the Egg would be more than happy to believe Casey is right. Bloomberg is our mayor, and a damned good one. Apparently, "President Wesley Clark" is simply not going to happen, so we'll take Bloomie.

What's a bit odd to us is that Sue Casey (whose bio mentions that she "cut her teeth on New Hampshire primary politics") seems distressed by the possibility that an independent might run and win, because this means "the primary season could come and go and not matter one whit," and that Bloomie could be elected "without ever having to worry about such an old fashioned notions as party primaries."

Let's be frank, Sue. That's a good thing.

Why? Well, it's not as though party primaries are required by the Constitution. Far from it; "faction" -- by which they meant political partisanship -- was something the Founders earnestly, if naively, hoped to avoid in their nascent Republic. Nor are primaries proving to be an especially distinguished way of choosing candidates. Competition among states to feel important has led to a perversely early primary season, meaning in turn that we have to endure a long, pointless, and expensive campaign. The GOP's winner-take-all system means that the dissenting votes in larger states (Republicans in New York, Democrats in Texas) are effectively worthless, and the candidates are effectively chosen by swing states -- call this the "Electoral College fallacy."

Honestly, a candidate who can take some of the king-making power-madness out of New Hampshire, Iowa and their slew of wannabees will be doing the nation a favor. And if the same candidate is beholden to neither party machinery nor the wishes of big-time corporate donors, so much the better. If, unlike any of the announced candidates (including Giuliani!) the candidate has a solid track record of effective management in one of the most complex and challenging environments imaginable, all done without the usual political game of playing interest groups off against eah other -- well then, by gum, I think we might have a winner.

If I Were President Bush ...

... I'd be taller, wealthier and more aerobically fit than is in fact the case.

And if I learned that my trusted Vice President had been disobeying my direct orders, and pressuring me into unwise policy decisions by bureaucratic end-runs around my cabinet and staff, all leading to a series of bad judgments that imeriled both national security today and my legacy tomorrow -- well, I'd sit him down for a heart-to-heart.

And it would go like this:

"Dick, from now on you follow my orders. Dismissed."

Of course, I would also be smart enough to know he wasn't going to listen, and that -- feeling cut out of the loop -- he would be more dangerous than ever, both to America and to me personally. Because of that pesky Constitution, I can't fire the guy -- and yes, there's some irony in the fact that Cheney's job is protected by a document for which he has such evident disregard. So I'd take some steps to neutralize him. Which wouldn't really be that hard. First, I'd take away most of the funding for his office, staff, and cartoon-sized document safes. Second, I'd fire David Addington and any other Cheney hardliners. (What do you mean, "Can I do that?" I'm the freaking President.) Third, I'd make it clear that the Veep's job description now had two parts: (a) the Constitutinonal, which is to sit on his fat rump and wait for me to die; and (b) traditional, which is to attend funerals for foreign dignitaries. And that's all. (Okay, that's harsh. Maybe an occasional ribbon-cutting ceremony on a new stretch of interstate.)

I would take for granted, however, that even stripped of his staff, budget and official duties, Cheney would continue to undermine my authority and weaken America's long-term interests. And at the first sign that he was doing so, I would go to Plan B.

See, the President can't fire the Vice-President, but somebody else can. So I would quietly make it known on Capitol Hill, through low-level intermediaries at first, that the White House would offer no significant objection to impeachment proceedings. I'd start by talking to the moderate Republicans who were once supposed to be my core constituency, and have felt abandoned as my administration has swung rightward. They could parley with the Dems, while I sent some higher-level messengers to build enthusiasm on the right. It would take a while to build momentum, but not -- in a Democratic Congress -- all that long.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Our Sock-Puppet President

As the WaPo's Cheney blog continues, so does the shocked reaction in the blogosphere. Click the link for an especially good reflection on just how the Veep's machinations have undermined his colleagues in the Executive Branch (if that's really where he works) and how they have required Condi and Colin to accept indignities over which lesser public figures would have resigned in protest a thousand times over.

My favorite bit, though, is not in the blog post, but in a comment by somebody called "Ugh." I'm stealing it:

"I will just note that this series makes Bush look like a buffoon (not that that wasn't obvious before), is someone going to bring it up at the White House briefings (I would assume that happened today) or at his next press conference (assuming he ever holds another one).

" 'Mr. President, How does it feel to be the first figurehead President in United States history?'

" 'Mr. President, Should we just start adressing you as 'Mr. Sock-Puppet' from now on?' "

Monday, June 25, 2007

Coming Soon: "Cheney" by Gore Vidal?

Until Cheney followed in his footsteps, Aaron Burr was the last US Vice President to shoot a man. Perhaps not coincidentally, Burr was also the last Veep to be tried for treason against his country. It may be time for Cheney to follow in those footsteps, as well.

Mr. Cheney (click above for a series of Times articles) has shown a continuing contempt for the law, whether domestic or international, up to and now including the United States Constitution. Over the years, we have assumed that his agenda -- war, oil, profiteering in both; secrecy, torture, leaking the names of covert operatives -- simply reflected the priorities of the Bush Administration.

But now we're beginning to wonder.

New assessments and revelations depict a Vice President whose office pursues its own policy goals independtly of, and sometimes at cross-purposes with, the President. (See A WaPo think piece here: http://blog.washingtonpost.com/cheney/chapters/chapter_1/). This has been thrown into sharp relief by the VP's claim that he is not a part of the Executive Branch, and therefore not subject to an Executive Order which would require him to turn certain documents over to the national archives. That's right: Cheney doesn't think Bush is sufficiently secretive or unaccountable. So he's disobeying a direct order from the President, and concocting a novel (and ludicrous) legal justification for doing so.

No doubt coached by his legal Rasputin, David Addington, Cheney claims that the Vice-President, as president pro tem of the Senate, is part of the Legislative Branch. He had previously argued, of course, that as part of the Executive he was not required to respond to Congressional inquiries regarding the lobbyists who helped him make energy policy. So to whom does Cheney think he is accountable -- and by whom does he imagine that his treasonous and illegal pursuit of personal power can be checked or balanced?

The answer, of course, is Nobody.

There was a time when we considered impeaching Bush to be a reasonable course of action. But no longer. Horrible as it is to contemplate, Bush is the only thing protecting America -- and the world -- from the madness of Dick Cheney.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

So ... Rushdie is Lady Macbeth?

He is now Sir Salman Rushdie, and the Muslim world is -- once more -- afire with indignation.

Along with th predictable calls for his death ("If someone exploded a bomb on his body he would be right to do so," according to a Pakistani official) and insults to Queen Elizabeth ("the old Engish crone," according to a newspaper), there is also a curious remark by Lord Ahmed, the first Muslim peer.

"I was appalled to hear Salman Rushdie had been given a knighthood," Lord Ahmed is quoted as having said. "...This man not only provoked violence around the world because of his writings, but there were many people who were killed around the world. Forgiving and forgetting is one thing, but honouring the man who has blood on his hands, sort of, because of what he did, I think is going a bit too far."

Oh spare me, milawd. The guy writes novels. And, because of the astonishing inability of the Muslim world to grasp concepts like freedom of expression, his novel-writing has inadvertently made him an international symbol of a core Western value.

Blood on his hands? No. Zarqawi and bin Laden and Arafat have blood on their hands. Bush and Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz have blood on their hands. The people who blow up commuter trains and bus stations have blood on their hands, as do the people who look the other way while their subordinates commit war crimes. There is plenty of blood on plenty of hands these days. But not on Rushdie's.

The guy writes novels. Stories. He makes stuff up. He doesn't make policy. He doesn't command a militia. Nobody is forced to read Rushdie's little flirtations with blasphemy, any more than they are forced to consume the gory muck of mid-career Stephen King or the brand-name sadomasochism of Ian Fleming. At least for those of us who have finished high school English classes, the rule is simple: If you don't like a book, you don't have to read it. If it insults you, don't buy it. If you think it is really, really offensive, you might organize a boycott. Or better yet, write and sell a better book.

But let's face the facts, Lord Ahmed (and all the rest of you thin-skinned Sons of the Prophet). The poets and strorytellers aren't the ones with blood on their hands. The murderers are.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Spreading the . . . Love?

Isaiah Thomas is an actor. Generally, we at the Egg shy away from celebritainment stories, because they fall outside our "sex-religion-politics" catchment area. But we couldn't pass this up.

Mr. Thomas was fired from his job on a doctor show recently, after repeatedly using the word "faggot" to mean something other than a bundle of sticks. So we are amused, in a kind of sick-stomach way, when People magazine asks Mr. Thomas if there are any widespread misconceptions about him, and he says:

"I don't know. Maybe for 50 years and the history of media and television I represent something that's supposed to not exist. ... This happened to Malcolm X, this happened to Paul Robeson – this misconception can happen to any man of power that loves himself and wants to spread that love and that humanity throughout the world."

Yeah. You're just like Paul Robeson. If instead of a master entertainer and passionate advocate for civil rights and justice for the oppressed, Paul Robeson had been a second-string TV actor who dissed gay people.

Friday, June 15, 2007

What You Mean "We," White Man?

That's the punchline to one of my three favorite jokes. Thank you, Lenny Bruce.

I think of it because I just read an article in the Seattle "Spokesman-Review" that begins:

"Although it's not the regular vestment for Lutheran clergy, Bishop Martin Wells often wears a clerical collar. The collar – often worn by Catholic and Episcopal priests – makes the church more public wherever he goes, said the leader of the Eastern Washington-Idaho Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. These days, the clerical collar has become a way for Wells to show solidarity for Catholic priests, as well as other members of the Roman Catholic Church."

The rest of the story is about some Papist sex scandals. And while we at the Egg are touched by Bishop Wells' desire to show solidarity for the Seattle diocese, we're a bit stumped by that opening line. Clerical collars aren't a "regular" part of a Lutheran pastor's clothing? Says who?

In fact, distinctive clerical attire -- the collar and its various predecessor garments -- have always been customary among Lutherans, excepting only those regions affected by Pietist anticlericalism. Granted, that's a lot of regions, but still. Here in New York, our synod assemblies look like penguin conventions. And you can look through the old Confirmation Class photos in any parish archives, often dating back to the beginning of photography, to see the penguins of prior generations. (Oh, and our bishop wears the traditional purple, which is really a sort of red).

As I say, these things are regional. But i wonder if the Spokesman-Review did much homework for this story, because it certainly doesn't seem to know much about the subject. "Vestments," for example, are properly speaking liturgical garb, not street clothing such as a cassock or collar. And at least in Scandinanvia and Metro New York, the penguins rule.

Hilary Takes Texas

Well, not takes, exactly. A poll suggests that, if the vote were today, Senator Clinton would tie either Senator McCain or Imperator Giuliani . . . in Texas. (Obama doesn't do quite as well).

Andrew Sullivan muses, "I wonder if the Republicans know what is about to hit them." Fair question. After all, as red states go, Texas is pretty damn red. On the other hand, it is (or was) the home of Ann Richards, Molly Ivins, Kinky Friedman and LBJ. So there is a tradition of homegrown Democratic -- even progressive -- sympathy down there.

But there are a couple of considerations. First, let's remember that Clinton isn't really all that progressive, at least not by the standards of Democratic hardliners. She's a smidge to the left of her husband, who basically ended welfare. She lacks his personal magnetism, but like him, she is a committed pragmatist and policy wonk. These are good things, both for running and for governing; but they also put the kibosh on any idea of a sudden liberal upswell in the Lone Star State.

Second, let's be clear about what is driving the poll results. According to The USA Today, "In the poll, nearly two-thirds of Texans said the country was on the wrong track. Four in 10 called the Iraq war the nation's most important problem. One in 10 cited immigration."

In other words, Texans want a solution to the Iraq disaster. They want it four times as badly as they want a new immigration policy. And despite the fact that Obama was out front in his opposition to the invasion, Texans seem to believe that Clinton is the one best able to deliver the goods.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

American "Justice"

Henry King, Jr. prosecuted Nazis at Nuremberg. You remember Nazis -- genocidal fascists who tried to take over the world. So this is a man who knows from fighting against monsters.

And he says the Bush Amdinistration's military tribunals are a betrayal of American justice.

According to Reuters, King recently said, "The concept of a fair trial is part of our tradition, our heritage. That's what made Nuremberg so immortal -- fairness, a presumption of innocence, adequate defense counsel, opportunities to see the documents that they're being tried with." He was "incredulous that the Guantanamo rules left open the possibility of using evidence obtained through coercion."

"To torture people and then you can bring evidence you obtained into court? Hearsay evidence is allowed? Some evidence is available to the prosecution and not to the defendants? This is a type of 'justice' that [Robert jackson, the architect of Nuremberhg trials] didn't dream of," King said.

So, how do you think the Bush Administration will handle this guy? Will they call him "increasingly irrelevant," the way they did Carter? Or will they snicker that his vision of justice is "quaint," their preferred word for the Geneva Conventions? I guess the details don't matter; we know they aren't going to listen. They are going to continue trashing the ideals and virtues that made our country great, and by doing so fritter away what little is left of our moral authority in the international arena.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

While We're Doing Litmus Tests ...

... let's make a game out of it, shall we? Bishop Tobin says he can't suport a pro-choice candidate, whose position is a "defection" from Roman Catholic teaching.

So let's ask ourselves: For whom should a party-line Romanist vote in 2008? That is, if they want a candidate whose life and policies will both reflect the Church's values and teachings? (Click the link to compare their positions.)

Let's establish some basic criteria. Rome is loudly and publicly opposed to both abortion and capital punishment, so the winning candidate must also oppose both. That eliminates most Democrats on one count, and most Republicans on the other. (To his credit, Sam Brownback admits to being "conflicted" about the death penalty, but he nonethless supports its use in some cases. See Bishop Tobin's comments, below, regarding Pilate). At this point, Ron Paul may be the last man standing.

Rome supports the Ten Commandments, including the prohibition against adultery, which it interprets as also prohibiting remarriage. This knocks out McCain, Giuliani (repeatedly), Gingrich and Delay. Probably a bunch more, too.

But Rome also favors the just-war theory, which specifically prohibits pre-emptive warfare; and in fact, John Paul II publicly denounced the Iraq invasion as immoral. So the winning candidate must have, at a minimum, failed to support the 2003 attack. (Ideally, he or she will have publicly opposed it, as did the Pope and millions of protesters all over the world). This eliminates most Republicans, as well as Clinton and Edwards.

Now, those are the most readily-defined issues. And they already leave us without one clear candidate for our sisters and brothers of the Roman persuasion. But if we take into account the Roman Catholic social teachings on justice for the poor, and especially immigration, things get even murkier. We need a candidate who is either faithful in marriage or celibate in singleness; who opposed Iraq and votes against capital punishment; with a track record of support for programs that aid the poor and protect the rights of immigrants. (This is where Ron Paul hits the theological skids. Up to here, Nancy Pelosi would be ideal; sadly, of course, she is a defector on the question of abortion.)

Well, readers, good luck to you all, as you enter play the Candidate Game. And good luck to Bishop Tobin, as he searches for a candidate. Please write if you find the Magic Contestant. And if, by election day 2008, you still haven't found one, then let me propose something else: not using religious doctrine as a litmus test for electoral poitics.

Roman Bishop Supports Adultery

This is, at least, one possible interpretation of an article by Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, on the subject of Rudy Giuliani.

Seems the bishop was invited to a Giuliani fundraiser. He doesn't know why: "I don’t know the mayor; I’ve never met him. I try to avoid partisan politics. Heck, I’m not even a Republican. But most of all, I would never support a candidate who supports legalized abortion." Writing in the The Rhode Island Catholic, Tobin goes on to excoriate Giuliani for his pro-choice "defection from the Catholic Faith." He considers Giuliani's position illogical as well as immoral. His sharpest barb is probably this one: "I can just hear Pilate saying, 'You know, I’m personally opposed to crucifixion but I don’t want to impose my belief on others.'”

But here's what jumps out at us: Tobin doesn't say a word about adultery, which Giuliani has committed often and publicly, nor about his several subsequent divorces. Nor a word about capital punishment, which Giuliani supports (and which was, we might point out, Pilate's actual crime).

It may be that Bishop Tobin doesn't know enough about Giuliani to be aware of the many other areas in which he has defected from Roman Catholicism. Or it may be that he does know, but is so single-minded in his focus on abortion that none of the other issues matters to him. (He tells he won't support a pro-choice candidate; would he support one who endorses executions, or admits adultery? Because there are plenty running this year). And isn't his refusal to condemn those practices really just a tacit endorsement?

Saturday, June 02, 2007

"Mere Monotheists"

Fine sermons on the Holy Trinity are tough to come by. Here's one.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Dems Hide Clark Under a Bushel

Okay, that's as obscure a tagline as I've ever written. But here's the beef: Wesley Clark has the military training, the high-level command experience, the Washington-insider chops and the personal temperament (read "guts") to be one hell of a President, especially at a time in history when national security looms large on the screen. No other announced candidate, Democrat or Republican, mixes those characteristics into quite so potent a cocktail.

And yet Clark barely got a tumble from his party in the last primary season, and has basically been ignored in the current run-up. "I think about running every day," he says, wistfully, to a reporter. But he's not running, at least not in any meaningful way. And why? Because the Democrats are fixated on a showdown between two junior senators, one a virtual newcomer on the national scene, the other toting so much baggage that Wonder Woman couldn't lift it. Oh, and if those two wind up in Mutual Assured Destruction (as they probably will), the Dems' backup plan is a good-looking ambulance chaser whose entire history of public service is one term in the senate.

Memo to Dems: Senators love running for President -- but Americans hate voting for senators. Fact of life. The only senators in history elected to the White House were JFK and (ugh!) Warren Harding. And we don't much care for lawyers, either -- which is what Clinton, Obama and Edwards really are.

Memo to Dems, Part 2: If the Republican disarray pays off, and you take power in '08, remember that you'll still have to govern. And yes, we know how good you all are at managing economic policy, education, and so forth; we even trust that you have some solid ideas about trade, hi-tech, and health care. But a big part of governing will involve the deployment of US troops in a way that projects American power while rebuilding at least a little bit of our shattered American prestige. Oh, and actually keeping us safe from a determined and decentralized enemy. That is not work for lawyers or senators (any more than it has been, obviously, for a baseball franchisee). It is work for a soldier.

So why don't you draft one?