Monday, February 26, 2007

Empire for Sale- American Style

It is an occasional intellectual game to compare the American Empire to the Roman Empire and to ask if, like that first world power, we might not be in a period of accelerated decline. Our prestige and efficient use of power outside our borders seems in decline while inside a subtle corruption of our core political values appears to be underway.

An exact description and analysis of the latter event is still to be done, but it is in part characterized by a loss of interest and participation in the political life of the nation (how many vote anymore?) and a willingness to give up personal freedoms in return for “security.”

It’s ironic that we are willing to give up some considerable measure of those freedoms and liberties to a political system and government in which a majority of us no longer has sufficient trust or belief to participate.

This Rome/America comparison came to mind as I chewed on the consequences of the 100 Million dollar price tag to run for President.

In the year 193 AD the Roman Empire, in the person of the position of emperor, was put up for auction by the Praetorian Guard. It had long been the practice of newly established emperors to offer the guard a “donative” to assure their allegiance, but this was a flat out auction…who wants to be an emperor? Marcus Didius Julianus did.

The Praetorians effectively held the key to the empire. Who in the American empire might our praetorians be? It is tempting to point out the leaders of corporate America, but I’d suggest that our praetorians are the media---television, print, radio, and the political mercenaries who feed them. These are the primary recipients of most (if not damn near all) of the one hundred million dollars the candidate pays for his key to the empire. You can’t get elected without them.

The Left is nearly always fascinated by the prospect of publicly financed federal elections, but such elections still pay the praetorians and the Supreme Court has decided that money equals free speech which effectively allows end runs around campaign finance limits.

What, then, is to be done? Considering the political passivity of most Americans I don’t look for massive street actions. There is a seductive fascination in the net but except for fundraising I’m not sure there is evidence of its real effectiveness except in raising money for the praetorians.

What is the Left to do?

Saturday, February 24, 2007


The Data Port surfaces after a short vacation from jiggery-bloggery. I have noticed with pleasure that my fellow lefty bloggers have been doing an excellent job of commentary and reportage--- such a good job that nothing I might have posted would have added anything new. R-Cubed continues to be sprightly in reporting all the news the local dailies don’t recognize as news.

I did notice that two leading Democratic presidential candidates have already signed up for the traditional circular firing squad and that Tom Vilsack has popped for the old inventory strategy of first in, first out. It seems the financial air was being sucked out of all his fundraisers. The “leaders” are vulturing around trying to pick up his Iowa experts. Who knows? He might have had something interesting to say.

If you have the patience for an extended analysis of the 2006 election and the coming presidential conflict of 2008 I’d recommend a piece by Steve Fraser at AterNet.Org, “On The Road to 2008.” Let me know what you think.

Vilsack had a very nice website that’s now nothing more than an historical artfact.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Too Many Candidates

I got a nice e-mail from Bill Richardson the other day. He’s running for President, he’s “in it to win,” he’s eager to serve his country in its time of need… or some such thing.

In this earnest appeal for my support (and my money) there isn’t a nickel’s worth o
f difference between him and:

Joe Biden
Hillary Clinton
Chris Dodd
John Edwards
Mike Gravel
Denis Kucinich
Tom Vilsack
Barak Obama.

And those are just the Democrats. Over in the Republican camp we have:

Sam Brownback
John Cox
Duncan Hunter
Michael Smith
Jim Gilmore
Rudy Giuliani
Mike Huckabee
John McCain
Ron Paul
Mitt Romney
Tom Tancredo
Tommy Thompson.

At the bottom of Bill Richardson’s e-mail was a button I could click to unsubscribe. When I did this a little box popped up asking why I had done that. My reply: “Too early in the election cycle. Come back just before the first primary.”

The truth of the matter is that none of the pre-primary political rhetoric is going to make one iota’s difference in national policy or the fate of the nation. Each candidate will struggle to raise the required war chest of a rumored one hundred
million dollars.

That money will not be spent on the poor, on providing health care, on educating the young or preserving the environment. It will largely enrich television production units, TV stations, assorted political mercenaries, and consultants.

Will I vote in the primary? Sure. Will I vote in the general election? Well, I always have. But until September, 2008, my dears, I plan not to give a damn.

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Tucson Mayoral Race…What Are the Issues?

There’s been considerable speculation about who will throw a hat in the ring to become Tucson’s next mayor. What’s been missing to date is any speculation about what the key issues will be…or what they ought to be.

Tucson Symphony Conductor George Hanson (in a Star guest editorial) has suggested a topic:

“The vision: a performing arts, education and technology center, celebrating our Native American, Hispanic and European heritages — the centerpiece that is missing from the Rio Nuevo table. An 1,800 seat concert hall, easily converted into a ball- or showroom; a renovated Tucson Music Hall, perfect for opera and Broadway shows; a shared plaza with restaurants, coffee shops, a taqueria and open gallery space; a jazz club nearby; education and technology facilities to bring the enormous benefits of the performing arts to young people, and to thos
e who can't afford it.

“What's wrong with this vision? No one else sees it.

“Perhaps it's tunnel vision: bridge, arena, science center. But none of those projects can compete with the economic impact, dollar for dollar, of the performing arts.”

I think this is worth making a key issue of the election. It bears not just on the economic viability of Rio Nuevo and downtown re-development, but on what kind of city Tucs
on wants to become.

Do we want to be simply a great place for conventions (the Walkup vision, apparently) or do we want to grow as a great cultural center--- the Athens, if you will, of the Southwest. Do we want businesses to come here because the land and labor are cheap, or do we want businesses to move here because the cultural dy
namic attracts the leadership of those businesses?

However it plays out this idea should be a major issue in the coming election.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Arizona CD 8’s Giffords Co-Sponsors Resolutions/Possible Iraq Trip

Since her swearing-in Congresswoman Giffords has been a co-sponsor of 14 House Resolutions and has addressed the House five times.

The first six House Resolutions were part of the Democrats’ “1st Hundred Hours” push. She co-sponsored resolutions to implement the 911 Report, raise the minimum wage, permit human embryonic stem cell research, require government negotiation of drug prices for Medicare recipients, reduce interest rates on student loans, and to develop alternative energy resources and emerging energy technologies.

The details on these votes and the eight other resolutions she co-sponsored are available here.

The Arizona Capitol Times has a long interview with Congresswoman Giffords. Here are two excerpts:

What are the main issues affecting your constituents in southern Arizona?

Being one of 10 U.S. Mexico border districts, certainly the impacts of immigration are greatly important to the 8th Congressional District. We're basically carrying the burden. We know it because of our first responders - issues in terms of law enforcement, also our hospitals and our schools. The federal government needs to step up and take responsibility. Immigration is a top priority for the district.

The district also has two very important military installations. Fort Huachuca, which houses the Army Intelligence Center, which is becoming increasingly important as we fight issues pertaining to international terrorism. We also have Davis-Monthan, a very large and important Air Force base. Southern Arizona is home to one of the largest veteran populations. We need to make sure that the men and women who sacrificed to serve our nation are taken care of. So that's a big area of concern.

Also, I have to mention the University of Arizona - our economic driver, in terms of keeping global competitiveness at the forefront - making sure that we graduate engineers, scientists, mathematicians, and technical people that continue to help lead the United States into this 21st century and our global economy.

You were recently appointed, as you mentioned, to the House Armed Services Committee. What would you like to see happen with the U.S. military in Iraq?

I support a strategic redeployment plan. The president convened the Baker Hamilton bipartisan working group that set forth recommendations of how we should be dealing with the situation in Iraq. I believe that we should be following those recommendations.

I hope to travel to Iraq in the near future to have a chance to spend time with constituents, with not only folks from my district but the leadership to get a better understanding about the challenges we face. I also believe that we need to focus on Afghanistan. We are losing ground. The al Qaeda terrorists that attacked the United States were trained and had real ties to Afghanistan.

And, last, a short housekeeping note. I’ve re-established a second version of The Data Port, cleverly named Data Port Two. That’s where I’ll post all the non-political stuff so it doesn’t clutter up righteous lefty haranguing.The first post is up here