Thursday, July 20, 2006

A Therapeutic Rant

I’ve found it hard to comment on our collective “vie politique” for the last few days. Things don’t seem to be going well in the “Man’s Inhumanity to Man” department, and at least part of the blame seems to settle on the doorstep of three of the world’s most populace religions.

Here at home, welcome to the faith-based administration. The President believes that a collection of as yet undifferentiated cells in a petri dish is a little human being. (If that’s the case let’s give it a birth certificate, a social security number, and the last rites when it dies.)

His recent veto of stem cell legislation on religious grounds strikes me as a violation of the separation of church and state.

What we have here is another step toward the destruction of secular government …Christian Nationalism anyone? You might take a look at an interview of Michelle Goldberg that appears in AlterNet currently. (link)

Meanwhile, In Iraq, the Sunnis and Shiites are having at one another, largely on the grounds of a centuries-old animosity based on theological disputes.They are willing to kill their fellow citizens on the ground that heretics couldn’t possibly be their fellow citizens. So much for the possibility of a democratic Iraq.

In Lebanon and Gaza the Israelis seem to be following the rule I once saw posted in a company break room: The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves. Hezbollah…The Party of God…wants to create an Iranian-style theocratic state in Lebanon and in passing destroy Israel.

The Israelis, who believe that God promised them the land thousands of years ago, of course want to hang on to it and are willing to destroy large portions of Lebanon to do it.

What a world!


x4mr said...

I share your thoughts, Art.

My view is that it’s the “three steps forward, two steps back” as humanity crawls its way towards an organization that makes sense, and it will not be companies or countries or religions.

Despite his shortcomings, I think Clinton administration moved both country and world forward. Bush administration has destroyed all of this and worse.

The 2000 election was a pivotal moment in human history, and evil prevailed. The moron took office, and it will take decades to undo the financial damage, the cultural damage, the hatred he has unleashed, and there is no bringing back the innocent being slaughtered.

The good news is that in the long term perspective, at least so far, humanity has improved. Science crawls ahead, or runs, depending on your perspective, and religion screams in protest.

At least some of us are now saying that races and genders deserve equal rights. Most have figured out we're not the center of the universe.

Good news is that religion stands no chance and what is true and good about human spirituality will ultimately prevail. I don’t think we have truly recognized with this internet is going to become. I hope and pray that it becomes an unprecedented force for good that helps pull us back from the brink.

The bad news is that religion may push us over the edge and get us all killed first.

George Tuttle said...

You want a good idea on what this stem cell veto means to us, talk to Jeff Latas-his son is a core-blood transplant recipient.

Mister T in AZ said...

Sorry to intrude, but I've been posting this around today hoping to get some attention from local bloggers on it ..

The DNC is going to be voting on a state to be slipped between Iowa and New Hampshire in an attempt to improve the Pres Selection Process ...

The AZ Dem Party has been pushing this HARD for several months and now it seems that Arizona is a finalist from what I can gather.

I put a diary up on DailyKos hoping to get some exposure to this nationally and would love if all the local bloggers could head over there, vote in the poll, recommend the diary, and discuss it some there!

The link is

Art Jacobson said...

Mr. T...

No intrusion at all. Welcome. I've voted. I hope other Dataporters do too.


Art Jacobson said...

Thom Hartmanns’ review of Golberg’s book, “Kingdom Coming,” was posted to BuzzFlash Click Here

phx kid said...

“veto of stem cell legislation on religious grounds” The veto could have been on moral grounds. Is morality still legal in this “Brave New World.”

The law against murder is also one of the Ten Commandments. Does that mean we should make murder legal? Cannot a society still make decisions on right and wrong? Bush was completely within bounds to veto the bill.

sirocco said...

Phx kid,

Don't we already make murder legal, vis-a-vis the death penalty?

Anyhow, I disagree that taking something that is essentially the equivalent of an amoeba and using it to help save the lives of individuals is in any way immoral. Rather, it's immoral _not_ to do so.

x4mr said...

Thanks for the link to that book review. Pretty terrifying. You've made my evening. There is a certain irony that the most malicious force on the planet comes in the name of the highest.

Of course, why wouldn't it?


A technical understanding of this issue renders it a no brainer. This research harms no one and takes no life. Of course, since when did the Bush administration have the slightest concern about the truth or understanding anything?

I don't buy this veto coming from anything moral, sound, or ethical.

Liza said...

I'm glad that your rant was therapeutic. I wish I could find something therapeutic to contain my anger. I called the offices of McCain and Kyl and screamed my head off, but all that did was scare my dogs.

Someone out there please tell me again why we are supporting Democrats. Is it because they are not as bad as the Republicans? I wonder. Did anyone out there listen to what Hillary said in support of Israel? Please explain to me how she differs from John Bolton.

Does anyone in this government remember the Geneva Conventions particulary the ones that address civilian populations? Can someone explain to me why it is okay for Israel to destroy the entire country of Lebanon?

No one in our government seems to be able to speak out in defense of the Lebanese people. No one in our government seems to think it was even reasonable to suggest that perhaps a humanitarian crisis would be the result of allowing our "ally" Israel to destroy the infrastructure of an entire nation. Is the Jewish lobby that powerful?

God help us.

Dogma said...


Amen... and stop scaring the dogs ;-)

In an absolute sense, yes, Democrats are the lesser of two evils; but Hillary isn't a good example. She is just a politician maneuvering to get a presidential nomination and selling her soul in the process, which is exactly what McCain has been doing lately too.

Liza said...

The entire Senate and all but eight members of the House agree that Israel has the right to "defend" itself and should proceed in Gaza and Lebanon without restraint. Russ Feingold, the darling of the Progressives, spoke out in defense of Israel.

There aren't many examples of good Democrats left. Hillary may be one of the worst, but her pro-Israel speech was a real wake up call for me. I'm wondering why we are so naive. Do we really believe the Democrats are capable of changing the direction we are headed? Or do we just believe its the only chance we've got?

Right now I feel like a major sucker for believing in the Democratic Party. I'm going to register as an Independent. They can find another sucker to replace me.

Dogma said...


Your frustration is understandable, but the problem is more systemic than the current state of play and/or personalities in our only viable, organized political parties.

This is just my view, but my thought is the basic problem is with the very structure of our current system. Our two-party flavor of representative democracy is very problematic. Not only are there arguments over what elected representatives are supposed to represent (i.e., do we elect them to vote as the electorate wants them to or as their personal beliefs dictate?), but the underlying winner take all nature of the proposition is very undemocratic.

On the former issue, Bush’s veto of the stem cell bill is a good case in point. If you believe he should represent the majority of the electorate, then his veto was wrong in that he’s going against the will of the majority. If you believe we elect folks to make their own best judgments on issues, then there’s nothing wrong with this veto.

On the latter issue, neither McCain, Kyl nor Kolbe comes close to believing or supporting positions close to my own on many important issues of our day. The result is that I am effectively not represented by anyone in the US Congress. Is that really democracy?

While it’s much messier than our system, proportional representation is a better construct if the desired result is for everyone’s views to have ‘some’ representation in the elected government.

I’ve gone through several periods of being a registered Independent. While there’s some solace in that, I’ve always found it very unsatisfying because there’s no power in it. No power in the sense that, without an organized political party, you’re still stuck with voting or not voting for the same major-party candidates and have no vehicle through which you can express your views (i.e., you’re just along for the ride). At least if you’re active in the party that comes closer to your beliefs, there’s some chance of policies you half agree with to be enacted and at least have a place to vent ;-)

x4mr said...

Posts and threads like these are what I love about TDP. Of course I appreciate the frustrations expressed here, and could not agree more with Dogma’s use of the words “systemic” and “structure” to get at what we are having to deal with. I truly do believe that most people are basically good and not out to screw others, and that if the problems were easy to solve, we’d have solved them already and entire planet would be organized in a system of governance that provides sustainability, appropriate equity, and opportunity to contribute to society and reap rewards for doing so.

I am an independent--always have been. I think there is some baby bath water, Liza, if you dismiss the democrats due to Israel position. Duly noting the African holocaust that seems to avoid the attention one might anticipate (perhaps due to lack of perceived sparks towards nuclear escalation), the Middle East is the world’s biggest cluster. What a mess.

Israel is organized around and its behavior comes from being a hated entity with a gun at its head and its back against a wall. They wake up every day with their existence at stake and history has ingrained this into the marrow of their bones.

Not to sound gloomy, but there really is cause for fear. As humanity expands on this fixed ball, it is as if the ball were being compressed tighter and tighter, the pressure growing. We are inside a pressure cooker. Things/peoples/entities etc., are going to be crushed. There used to be room (more or less) for Islam to do its thing, Buddhism its thing, Christianity its thing, and obviously this is WAY oversimplified because of course there have been conflicts since beginning of it all.

In a certain respect, I think those days just went bye-bye, and the religious fanatics and their followers really don’t care what has to happen to see their particular viewpoint prevail. We talk about Afghanistan and the Taliban. What about the United States?

I remember Pat Buchanan’s 1992 speech at the Republican convention about a religious war. Freaked people out and probably helped Clinton. I guess Pat just had to wait eight years to get his war.

Liza said...

dogma and x4mr,
I absolutely agree with you about “systemic” problems within the Democratic Party as well as your points on representative democracy.

Well, dogma, I believe you have made the best argument there is in favor of term limits for members of the Senate and the House. First of all, I’m in the same position you are because McCain, Kyl, and Kolbe are my “representatives.” As I see it, one of the worst problems with representative democracy as practiced in the United States is the power of incumbency and the three aforementioned gentlemen are perfect examples. Getting elected to Congress is a really sweet gig with good pay, excellent benefits, fabulous perks, celebrity status, and much more. No one seems to want to give it up unless they’re aiming for something even better such as the presidency. And, incumbents almost always get re-elected unless they have somehow managed to run afoul of their party or major contributors. Other than that, an incumbent almost has to be a “Duke” Cunningham type of crook to come to the attention of the electorate. The net result is that large segments of the electorate go for decades without representation from their own state or district.

I really believe that term limits would change the whole political culture. I see no real advantage in having any Congress person around for more than eight years. I would bet right now that when you think of Bush and Cheney, the first thought that comes to your mind is, “only two years and five months left.” Well, the same should apply to Congress. Without term limits, their strongest incentives are to serve the special interests who bankroll them and to tow the party line.

As for the Democrats, I will admit to being impatient and extremely angry about their enthusiastic support for the Israeli bombing of Lebanon that has caused the deaths of civilians, destroyed the country’s infrastructure, and has created a humanitarian crisis. (Does anyone happen to know if there’s a contract in this somewhere for Halliburton?) However, I see all of this as just another manifestation of their weakness as a political party and their inability to stand for much of anything. Our Democratic representatives went along with a resolution that didn’t even ask Israel to use restraint. The neo-cons, of course, are reborn and using this neo-con moment to embellish their case against Iran. Iran, they say, is not only trying to develop nuclear weapons but they were behind the Hezbollah attack (border skirmish) and this proves that Iran is the source of instability in the Mideast. The seeds of “democracy” cannot flourish in the Mideast until Iran has been dealt with. Well, the smart money says that the neo-cons will prevail and the Democrats will go along like so many lap dogs. How can they turn back now?

The systemic problem that I see here is that the Democratic Party is essentially weak and ill defined. I can tell you right away what Republicans believe in, but I’m not sure I could say the same for the Democrats even though I am one. For the past six years, the Democrats haven’t even been able to do damage control let alone legislate anything. Yeah, its tough being the underdog but I also remember those days when Bush had high approval ratings and the Democrats kept their heads down and towed the Republican party line. Their greatest fear is not being re-elected by bringing attention to themselves by going against the grain and ultimately losing the source of the bankroll that enables them to enjoy their sweet gig.

I think that a lot of us have flocked to the Democratic Party thinking that much needed reform is possible. At least it’s not Republican and it’s the only realistic alternative. However, without term limits I do not believe that it’s possible to populate Congress with people who will not succumb to greed, special interests, and the perks and pleasures of power. There will be a few, of course, but they are aberrant. Maybe we can start with the eight in the House who did not support Israel’s destruction of Lebanon.

I think I have finally lost my ideals in that long tunnel of time, to paraphrase Jim Croce. My sympathy right now is mainly with the children whose lives have been taken from them as well as for those children who have yet to die, but will. Completely innocent human beings who are just simply caught in the crossfire of radical, apocalyptic forces.

God help us.

Art Jacobson said...

My two cents on term limits: I'm reasonably sceptical about term limits.

If we have a legislator who is wisely representing us, why should we replace him...or her...with a new person who will simply have to reacquire the necessary "institutional memory" of what has been done in the legislative past?

Then, too, the important work of Congress is accomplished in committee. There is some value, I think, in having some very senior legislators serving on key committees. The alternative is the risk that paid staff will have undue influence over the relative newcomers.

My own solution would be to mandate re-districting so that Congressional Districts had as close as possible an equal number of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. That would go a long way to netralize the value of incumbency.

Good discussion, guys.


x4mr said...

Somewhere I’ve read term limit material similar to what Art just wrote, and agreed with it then and still do, especially that part about term limits shifting influence to seasoned staff. There has to be better way that provides for retaining the valuable wisdom, etc., of highly experienced officials. My opinion is that the solution will ultimately involve how we organize around money and the role that money plays. The current system stinks, and I’m not just talking about government. Just as important are Corporations and their relationship to everything else. Not saying that film is great, but it sure fits the bill for thought provoking.

Money is neither evil nor the root of it, but how we organize around money determines so much of what is happening, and that is a global statement. In the context of elections, reducing the role of money and the incumbent advantage would certainly help.

I’m not saying all of the atrocities on the planet are the result of a small number of people padding their already stuffed wallets and insuring their continued ability to do so, but unfortunately I think this simple dynamic goes a long way to explaining many of them. Add in religious self-righteousness and intolerance, ethnic self-righteousness and intolerance, and we’ve captured a lot.