Friday, September 24, 2004

Bush follows Cheney's lead -- do I act surprised?

Hot off the presses:

Bush calls out Kerry for his comments on Iraqi PM Allawi: "You can't lead this country if your ally in Iraq feels like you questioned his credibility."

Kerry campaign response (maybe they are reading CNB -- someone has to): "There's a gap between what these gentlemen are saying and what is actually going in Iraq."

CNB: Nice try, W, but (as CNB noted earlier today) this is a losing argument (though I fear one that will resonate with morons across our country).

"Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?" Chico Marx in Duck Soup (not Groucho, as many think)

Things I Don't Think the President Understands

Always out to help others, CNB proudly presents a few helpful hints for President Bush:

1) When people say that the US should pull out of Iraq, they don't mean that no one should replace them. Rather, what folks generally suggest is that a multinational force (for clarification, you could ask your dad about this), which would include the US, should comprise the military presence.

2) On that same note, the word "coalition", which you used again in your recent UN speech, implies that the US is less than 85% of said coalition (the US has 140,000 over there, with 25,000 from other nations). For the sake of accuracy, you might call it the "US-UK Alliance", or the "US-UK Coalition", or "Yanks and Limeys - Together Again". This in no way insults the nations (who have not left) who are still there, but instead just clears things up.

3) We all have televisions that work, and many of us also have internet access. Thus, we are not actually relying upon you for a status on how things are going in Iraq - even if we did not want to. This is not a situation similar to when you would BS your high school English teacher by telling her that your paper was coming right along, and then staying up all night the night before to get it done.

4) On that same line of logic, ignoring a situation and its gravity does not, in fact, make it go away. Your meeting with PM Allawi combined (3) and (4) and took them to their collective logical extreme, where you both seemed to think that stating what you would like to be true will somehow make that desire a reality. Sorry, champ, but I've tried that many times - it never works.

Oh, what the hell - let's all try it: Every day, in every way, Iraq is getting safer and safer. Every day, in every way. . . (apologies to the late Emile Coue)

5) Refusing to admit you made a mistake (or even that you bear some responsibility) is not a virtue -- it is just plain stubborn. My 3 year-old has a better ability to admit his errors (or even the possibility that he committed one) than you.

6) Following up on that, changing your mind is not a sign of weakness. In fact, changing your mind can show a thoughtful consideration of different sides of an issue, rather than merely being a flip-flop.

7) Speaking of flip-flops, you and Cheney need to watch out how much you use that term, in light of your own history of changing your mind. People in glass houses. . .

If you vote, the terrorists win

From the AP:

U.S. officials are worried al-Qaida might try to replicate the influence terrorists had in Spain, where the governing party that supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq was defeated at the polls after March 11 train bombings in Madrid killed 200 people.

"We remain concerned that al-Qaida continues to demonstrate its intent and desire to carry out an attack that will effect the democratic process," Homeland Security Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said.

The terrorists would affect the democratic process by causing people to vote out Bush?

Allawi keeps his end of the bargain -- Cheney rushes to his defense

Yesterday, John Kerry (along with most people whose eyes and ears are working correctly) criticized Iraqi PM Allawi suggesting that large portions of Iraq are happy and trouble-free.

Cheney's commentary: "I must say I was appalled at the complete lack of respect Senator Kerry showed for this man of courage, when he rushed to hold a press conference and attack the prime minister, a man America must stand beside to defeat the terrorists. John Kerry is trying to tear down all the good that has been accomplished, and his words are destructive to our effort in Iraq and in the global war on terror."

PM Allawi says "It's a tough struggle with setbacks, but we are succeeding" and Cheney has the cojones to criticize Kerry. How about criticizing the guy who calls frequent beheadings, constant and increasing attacks on American troops, and lack of control over significant parts of the country "setbacks"? Boy, I'd sure hate to see what Allawi thinks a "problem" is.

In addition, even though Cheney would not agree, CNB was shocked when Allawi said "We are fighting for freedom and democracy — ours and yours. For the struggle in Iraq today is not about the future of Iraq only, it's about the worldwide war between those who want to live in peace and freedom, and terrorists, terrorists who strike indiscriminately at soldiers, at civilians, as they did so tragically on 9/11 in America." (emphasis added).

I see. So now they have Allawi making the completely unsubstantiated Iraq-9/11 blurring. CNB notes that in the Executive Summary of the 9/11 Commission's report, the term "Iraq" does not even appear, although the report does note that "Saudi Arabia has been a problematic ally in combating Islamic extremism." Hell, even Bush admitted last year there was no link. (Cheney, however, keeps that truck a-rollin' every chance he gets - 1, 2, 3, though oddly arguing here that it is the fault of the media). Maybe Allawi wanted to make sure the checks did not stop coming?

As for VP Cheney, CNB is unable to figure out how best to respond to this without using profanity. Let me try: saying that someone is ignoring the reality of his own country does not mean you are attacking him. On the contrary, it is merely commentary, just like the kind you frequently provide on Sen. Kerry. Please contact CNB with any questions.

As for the comment that invading Iraq is about American democracy and freedom, CNB will likely address that at another time.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

We are at war, but dammit - we HAVE to protect the Pledge of Allegiance!

In another stunning example of misplaced priorities, the House of Representatives today passed legislation that strips jurisdiction from all federal courts -- including the Supreme Court -- over any constitutional claim involving the Pledge of Allegiance or its recitation. The bill, H.R.2028, the "Pledge Protection Act of 2003," bars all federal courts, including the Supreme Court, from reviewing cases involving the Pledge of Allegiance.

Full disclosure: I am a lawyer. Please do not stop reading. I only tell you this because the author of the bill, Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) is a self-termed "avid student of the U.S. Constitution". (Not surprisingly, Rep. Akin received a 100% rating from the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian - not necessarily redundant - organization, whose website contains a policy paper on the necessity of a Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.) I spent a good deal of time studying the Constitution, both in college and law school, as well as Constitutional and legal history. I cannot comment for Rep. Akin on that part.

Text of the bill:
No court created by Act of Congress shall have any jurisdiction, and the Supreme Court shall have no appellate jurisdiction, to hear or decide any question pertaining to the interpretation of, or the validity under the Constitution of, the Pledge of Allegiance, as defined in section 4 of title 4, or its recitation.

Rather than offer a lengthy diatribe (that no one will read anyway - just like the rest of this blog), here are a few things to consider on this issue:

1) The phrase "under God" was added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954. The Knights of Columbus made a national push to ensure that the Pledge showed that we were not godless heathens like those Soviets (this was actually stated in the amicus curiae brief filed by the K of C in the recent Newdow case in California). Thus, Mr. Akin's statement that removing "under God" would have"emasculated the very heart of what America has always been about" ignores the fact that the Pledge is not only comparatively recent (written in 1892) but also that inclusion of the phrase "under God" has only been around 50 years. Absent the Civil War, the US appears to have survived somehow without either the Pledge, or certain phrasings thereof.

2) In West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943), the Supreme Court struck down a WV law that mandated schoolchildren to recite the Pledge, facing expulsion from school, prosecution, and fines for failure to comply. The Supreme Court held that: "To believe that patriotism will not flourish if patriotic ceremonies are voluntary and spontaneous instead of a compulsory routine is to make an unflattering estimate of the appeal of our institutions to free minds . . . If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high, or petty can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion." 319 U.S. at 639-40.

That was in the heart of WWII. Did something change that I missed?

3) The Supreme Court LAST MONTH in Circle School v. Pappert, 2004 WL 1852953 (3rd Cir. Aug. 19, 2004), stated that: "It may be useful to note our belief that most citizens of the United States willingly recite the Pledge of Allegiance and proudly sing the national anthem. But the rights embodied in the Constitution, particularly the First Amendment, protect the minority -those persons who march to their own drummers. It is they who need the protection afforded by the Constitution and it is the responsibility of federal judges to ensure that protection."

Both of the cited cases protected the rights of patriotic Americans who did not wish to be compelled to say the Pledge, while IN NO WAY infringing upon the rights of other equally patriotic Americans to say the Pledge. If Rep. Akin and his ilk have their way, no federal court, not even the Supreme Court, will be able to issue such a ruling. In other words, if you love the Pledge as is, and Congress changes its mind and removes "under God", there would be nothing you can do in a federal court about it, if the Senate were pass this bill.

All that said, this might just be an election year strategy, in that those who vote against it are deemed to be anti-religion. I am pleased to say that my representative, Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL) (you can now figure out where I live) voted against this bill. However, I noted that she did vote for the first version of it (which I don't think was smart) that stripped the lower federal courts of jurisdiction but not the Supreme Court, but she voted against the version that included the Supreme Court -- she stated that the "issue today may be the pledge, but what if the issue tomorrow is Second Amendment (gun) rights, civil rights, environmental protection, or a host of other issue that members may hold dear?" Nice quote, but she should have voted against it the first time, also.

On top of the scary jurisdictional thievery, I just cannot fathom how this (not to mention all the crap about gay marriage) became a priority while we are at war in two different countries. I am not being facetious -- why is this such a big deal right now? Did the federal deficit go away while I slept last night? Were a whole bunch of jobs created that I missed hearing about?

David Dreier's problems - but consistency evidently ain't one of them

It has been reported (here and here) that conservative Republican (and no, that is not redundant) Rep. David Dreier is in the process of being "outed" as (insert gasp here) a homosexual. What makes this "news", beyond our Puritanical sexual curiosities, is that Rep. Dreier has a significant voting history that could be viewed as not exactly "rainbow-friendly".

I thought to myself that if it is true, this would appear to be one of the most self-hating gay men since Roy Cohn. My wife (who's clearly the smart one) pointed out to me that if Dreier is indeed a self-hating gay man who doesn't believe in gay rights, then he's not really a hypocrite.

Daily Show does it again -- best political satire out there

JON STEWART: Well Stephen, what do you think is going to happen now at CBS News?
STEPHEN COLBERT, Daily Show Senior Media Correspondent: Well Jon, there's got to be some accountability. Dan Rather is the head, the commander in chief, if you will, of his organization. He's someone in the ultimate position of power who made a harmful decision based upon questionable evidence. Then, to make things worse, he stubbornly refused to admit his mistake, choosing instead to stay the course and essentially occupy this story for too long. This man has got to go!
STEWART: Uh ... we're talking about Dan Rather...?
COLBERT: Yes Jon, Dan Rather. CBS is in chaos, it's unsafe, riven by internal rivalries. If you ask me, respected, reputable outsiders need to be brought in to help the rebuilding effort.
STEWART: ... at CBS News?
COLBERT: Yeah, at CBS news! What possible other unrelated situation could my words be equally applicable to?! Now people need to be held accountable: the commander in chief, the vice president, the secretary of defense, the national security adviser -- everyone at CBS News needs to go! I can tell you, Jon…Jon, I can tell you - somewhere, Walter Cronkite is rolling over in his grave.
STEWART: Walter Cronkite is still alive.
COLBERT: Not according to my sources ... at CBS News.
The Daily Show, 9/21/04

Jimmy Swaggart makes a funny

In a September 12 broadcast, Jimmy Swaggart discussed his opposition to gay marriage. Swaggart said "I've never seen a man in my life I wanted to marry. And I'm going to be blunt and plain: If one ever looks at me like that, I'm going to kill him and tell God he died." The congregation laughed and applauded. You can view it here.

On September 21, Swaggart said he has jokingly used the expression "killing someone and telling God he died" thousands of times, about all kinds of people, including other preachers. He said the expression is figurative and not meant to harm.

However, CNB (that's my new third-person reference to the Cleverly Named Blog - not to be confused with the CMB of New Jack City) notes that Mr. Swaggart did seek to be taken literally when, in 1988 after his penchant for patronizing prostitutes was discovered (which occurred a scant few months after he took Jim Bakker to task for his own infidelities), he publicly told God "I have sinned against You, my Lord". For the sake of convenience, as noted in a prior CNB entry, Mr. Swaggart could have just spoken to George W. Bush, who appears to have the Lord on speed-dial.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

What would Jesus do? I dunno, but his dad seems to be fond of W

I have no problem with the religious or spiritual (which can be, but are not necessarily, the same). However, I find it curious when a person claims to have an ability to communicate directly with God, such that God's intentions are elucidated (to W: look that word up here) to that person. It would seem to follow that, if we could all just get an official transcript of even one of these holy conversations, many of the theological and philosophical questions that have plagued humans for centuries would be answered.

Fortunately, our fearless leader seems to have just that ability, and he is willing to share. Here are the President's greatest hits on his pipeline to the Almighty:

1) In June 2003, Mahmoud Abbas, then the Palestinian prime minister, said that in a conversation with Bush, the president told him: “God told me to strike at al-Qaida, and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did.” Find it here and here.

2) In 1999, W told Southern Baptist James Robison (a TV evangelist, if you were not aware) “I feel like God wants me to run for president.” Find it here and here. That article on Robison makes clear that even though Robison still asks for money in his television show, he now gives some to humanitarian projects.

3) After his inaguration in 2001, W said "I believe that God wants me to be President" according to one present, Richard Land (president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission). Find it here and here.

It has been widely reported (citations omitted) that Pres. Bush told a group of Amish farmers in Lancaster County, PA on July 9, 2004, "I trust that God speaks through me." The link to the Lancaster New Era article is no longer available in full format, and the White House denies it. Although this would seem to be a shared tenet of all religious folks, the implied regularity of God's ventriloquist act through W is what made this so noteworthty. Thus, as it is technically unverifiable, I shan't officially include it in the greatest hits, even if it is true.