Brooks and his Hobbyhorse

Just got through David Brooks’ piece in the Sunday NYT Magazine. I must admit, I’m a sucker for this kind of big-picture-reinventing-democracy fluff, and Brooks doesn’t disappoint. He’s defly woven his longtime hobbyhorse, “National Greatness Conservatism” into a more fleshed out agenda for where he’d like to see the Party of Lincoln in the 21st Century.

The first thing to note about this article is that, with the subtitle, “Republicans 200[8],” it’s meant to echo Matt Bai’s piece in July on the internal revolution in the Democratic Party. But whereas Bai goes out and reports on the progressives who are in the process of creating the change, Brooks pens his essay in isolation, meaning that either (a) the Democrats are further along in the process of post-Cold-War reinvention, or (b), Republicans don’t air out their dirty laundry, especially to the Times. Since I’m a progressive with a thorough and compete disdain for absolutism, I’ll argue it’s a little of both.
Continue reading Brooks and his Hobbyhorse

Pat Roberts’ Bold Move

Apparently Pat Roberts has come up with a doozy of a plan to dismantle the CIA and reform the American Intelligence apparatus.

I’m all for big changes at the CIA. The whole National Security Infrastructure is a relic of World War 3. And if, like some, you belive we’re in the middle of World War 4, it makes sense to change our defenses to suit a new enemy. For example, the first thing we learned after 9/11 is that the FBI’s focus on prosecuting domestic crimes clashes with the CIA’s focus on preventing international war. With the enemies of freedom at the gates (sorry, I realize I’m starting to sound like our president), splitting up domestic and foreign intelligence makes no sense.

So go forth, Sen. Roberts, get on with your bad self! The CIA is broken, and it needs a big fix. It’s too bad no one listened to John Kerry when he recommended cutting the CIA down to size 10 years ago! What a visonary that man is, I tell ya…

What I’m About

Hi folks,

As you know, Bruno and I are out not just to take the country back from the Morlocks, but to reenvision the future in a way the is meaningful, progressive, and achievable. Here’s a piece I wrote about my political views a while back.

Thought some of you might find it interesting.

Matski

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I am a bombastic neo-liberal not afraid to take cheap shots against both left and right. The core of my liberalism is my belief that government has only two proper purposes: (1) To correct market failure and (2) To enforce contracts, including social contracts. In this I see myself the heir to Bentham, Mill, and their ilk. My own twist on this classicism is that I believe that MARKETS ARE SOCIAL CREATIONS, and, therefore, government has the right and responsibility to regulate them in whatever way it sees fit, given sufficient provisions for efficiency concerns, etc.

I’m very Rawlsian in my belief that the biggest challenge for us in America is to ensure equality of opportunity (inequality of opportunity being an example of market failure), and that makes me very pro-education, pro-transit, pro-universal healthcare, pro-development.

I’m anti-command-and-control, but pro-incentivization. You’ll never convince me that globalization is anything but good in its outcomes, if not always in its means. And progress is a fact that we must accept and deal with. The challenge is not to stop progress, but to manage it in such a way that we can live with its bad side (the chip in my neck is coming, like it or not – do I fight it and let Ashcroft decide how the system is set up, or do I recognize the inevitability of the thing and work to ensure that I can live with what happens?).

I believe that there are certain inalienable truths about human nature, which too many liberals ignore. Peaceful utopia is only possible with complete and perfect free love and absolutely no resource scarcity, but that’s not going to happen in my lifetime, so we must seek to channel the more aggressive aspects of human nature to more productive, or, at least, less destructive purposes. This is why I support both the continued manned exploration of space and the furtherment of sports.

I have some atypical views, for a liberal. Unions can be a force for great good, but too often are the willing (if unconsciously so) partners to large corporations hell-bent on improving the bottom line (unions help the most skilled, most employable workers most … or, in the case of the teachers unions, create an intolerable situation where we’d love to pay the position itself more, but can’t possibly stomach paying many of the individuals who hold the position more). I’m for the abolition of affirmative action based on race (if we continue to have a legal definition of – and benefit for – racial separatism, then we will always have a group defined as “the other,” c.f. Hannah Arendt’s discussion of “The Origins of Totalitarianism” for a rationale as to why this is bad) and I also find myself being more and more pro-gun (else, who will fight for the left in the inevitable kulturkampf?).

One more thing: I hope never to let my strong and deeply held opinions get in the way of my right and responsibility to learn and to change my mind when I’m proven wrong. I expect regularly to eat crow, and – in the context of my responsibility to the program – seek only to do so in an entertaining fashion.

Why Liberals are Better at Fighting Terror

Wonderful op-ed in today’s L.A. Times on fundamentalism of all stripes. Mr. Harris starts out by arguing that even a constitutional ban on Gay Marriage wouldn’t satisfy those who believe in writing the Bible into American law:

Leviticus 20:13 and the New Testament book of Romans reveal that the God of the Bible doesn’t merely disapprove of homosexuality; he specifically says homosexuals should be killed: “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death.”

God also instructs us to murder people who work on the Sabbath, along with adulterers and children who curse their parents. While they’re at it, members of Congress might want to reconsider the 13th Amendment, because it turns out that God approves of slavery — unless a master beats his slave so severely that he loses an eye or teeth, in which case Exodus 21 tells us he must be freed.

The first thing that comes to mind, of course, is how this directly echoes Jeb Bartlett in Season Two of The West Wing:

I’m interested in selling my youngest daughter into slavery as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. She’s a Georgetown sophomore, speaks fluent Italian, and always clears the table when it was her turn. What would a good price for her be? While thinking about that, can I ask another? My Chief of Staff, Leo McGarry, insists on working on the Sabbath, Exodus 35:2, clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself or is it okay to call the police?

That aside, Harris continues:

As a man believes, so he will act. Believe that you are a member of a chosen people, awash in the salacious exports of an evil culture that is turning your children away from God, believe that you will be rewarded with an eternity of unimaginable delights by dealing death to these infidels — and flying a plane into a building is only a matter of being asked to do it. Believe that “life starts at the moment of conception” and you will happily stand in the way of medical research that could alleviate the suffering of millions of your fellow human beings.

President Bush likes to quote the Gospel of St. Matthew when discussing homosexuality: “I am mindful that we’re all sinners, and I caution those who may try to take the speck out of the neighbor’s eye when they got a log in their own,” he has said.

Indeed. And it is therefore impossible for us to entrust this vital War on Terror to a political party that is so tied to it’s own brand of religious fundamentalism, for they, too, have a mighty big log in their eye when it comes to the subject.

It’s time for us liberals to quit bitching from the sidelines and get in the game. As secularists, only we posess the moral clarity to create a true global democracy. Because a war on fundamentalism is too important to be left to the fundamentalists.

McGreevey

Aside from Matski’s parenthetical below, I don’t have much to say about NJ Governor Jim McGreevey’s announcement that he’s resigning due to an affair with another man. But this photo and caption struck me as a little snarky on the part of the news bureau:

Pakistan and Orange Alerts

You know, I’m willing to buy into the idea that it was Pakistan, not Karl Rove, pushing for the “July surprise.” And yet, if Pakistan knows that it will make Bush happy to produce a HVT at the end of July, does that make Bush any less complicit?

In a lot of ways, it’s like the CIA’s relationship with the Administration after 9/11. Cheney, Rumsfeld, et. al. must have made if very clear that they wanted to find a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda and/or WMD. And the CIA delivered, despite the evidence to the contrary.

I don’t really believe that Osama’s in a can and Bush is going to pop him in October. I don’t want to believe that.

Still, I’m not satisfied.

I’m very disappointed that Tom Ridge felt the need to mention, in last week’s news conference, that the al Qaeda intelligence was “the result of the president’s leadership in the war against terror.”

It’s that extra bit of partisanship that comes out of this Administration. Smarmy, over-the-top partisanship that you’d never see out of a Democratic administration. It’s the same smarminess that leads to the IRS colluding with the GOP to produce press releases, or the Administration producing fake TV news clips touting the Medicare bill.

No Democrat would be that audacious and think they could get away with it. Would Howard Dean or Michael Moore be that partisan? Absolutely. But you’d never see such cynical manipulation out of a Democratic President or his cabinet. Heck, you’d never see it from a rational Republican administration. But here, everything’s fair game to be politicized, it seems.

So when we’re skeptical about terror alerts, it’s not unfounded, as some would suggest. It’s because we have ample evidence of extreme hubris coming from the White House and the Cabinet.

I’m convinced it’s because this administration doesn’t have a mandate, and they know it. So they have to be very agressive in staying on message and running an intense PR campaign. I don’t think they’re trying to scare me into voting for the president. No, it’s more like the huckster who’s trying to sell me a product I don’t need. He needs to heap on the hard sell because the product doesn’t exatly sell itself.