Thursday, September 29, 2005

DISINTEGRATION: Tom DeLay Steps Down

September 16(29), 2005
In a stunning development yesterday morning, a Texas grand jury charged Congressmen Tom DeLay (R, TX) with counts of conspiracy to violate electoral fundraising laws. The offense is a felony, and, if convicted, Mr. DeLay could face up to two years in prison and a $10,000.00. Yesterday, in accordance with House ethics rules, the Congressman “temporarily” resigned his position as House Majority Leader, though not his Congressional seat. He leaves one of the most powerful offices in the United States government. The House Majority Leader, in conjunction with the Speaker of the House and the Majority Whip, acts to round up votes on key legislative issues, broker compromises (or take a hard line) with the minority party, and coordinate essentially any issue that comes through the House.
It has been an incredible rise and an equally incredible fall for a man who started out as an exterminator and whose Congressional tactics often mirrored the standards of his first profession. Nicknamed, “The Hammer,” for his aggressive legislative and fundraising styles, DeLay became one of the most powerful people in the country, a man who, whether you loved or hated him, you had to concede was a political genius.
Mr. DeLay was the chief engineer of one of the most ambitious political coups in American history.
After coming to Congress in 1984 and overseeing the Republican takeover there a decade later, DeLay became determined to increase his party’s already substantial majority. Returning to his home state of Texas, he formed a political action committee (Texans For A Republican Majority) to bolster Republican influence in the Texas general assembly. At the time, many wondered why DeLay, a member of the U.S. Congress, was focusing on a state legislature. By 2002, however, his plans became clear.
With an overwhelming number of Republican lawmakers in Austin, DeLay orchestrated a redistricting overhaul that remains controversial in its own right, irrespective of seedy financial dealings. The redistricting, when it was done, disenfranchised a number of Texas Democrats, dividing them into districts with primarily Republican populations. The result was that, in the 2002 Midterm Election, Republicans captured a large amount of Texas Congressional seats and added to the national influence of the Right. Using this new legislative muscle, DeLay passed through the House a flurry of bills that favored business interests and the wealthy.

Continuing Story

Monday, September 26, 2005

March on Washington

The Washington area was jammed on Saturday with thousands of protestors who converged on the capital from all parts of the country. 100,000 men and women poured onto the National Mall, addressing their grievances to a silent and uncaring White House. President Bush, away in Colorado to supervise hurricane recovery efforts, did not acknowledge what amounts to the largest protest in D.C. since the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
The enormous crowd seemed to mirror the dissatisfied masses of a nation, both in sheer size and in the diversity of the participants; in addition to the inherent leagues of college students with their Polo shirts and ponytails, the pristine white walls of our finest public institutions were besieged with nuns, parents of killed soldiers, former veterans, and regular American citizens (the “Heartland” voters who gave Bush a second term in office) who were protesting for the very first time.
It is the legions of ordinary people who make the most powerful statement, not the flaming liberals with their fiery signs and colorful attire.

Continuing Story

Monday, September 19, 2005

Skewed Priorities

It seems like a simple answer to a very complex problem. One feels that, both fiscally and logistically, it just makes sense. When there is a problem and the government is in need of more revenue, what is to be done? The traditional solution has always been, “Raise taxes.”
This was the avenue advocated by former President Bill Clinton (whose economic record was sterling) while being interviewed on ABC’s “This Week,” by George Stephanopoulos. “They [the Democrats] should continue to oppose it,” Clinton said, referring to the hundreds of billions of dollars in Bush tax cuts going to the wealthiest 1% of Americans that continue to burden the foundering U.S. economy and national budget. “And they should make it an issue in the 2006 election, and they should make it an issue in the 2008 election.”
Indeed, it seems that they certainly will. With thousands dead in the Gulf, another hurricane on the way, a federal government blatantly incapable of responding to any major crisis, an unpopular war in Iraq that is draining billions of dollars from relief efforts, and a President whose approval rating has hit a stunningly low 40%, the Democrats are faced with a nearly ideal situation, if only from a political standpoint. The fact that Mr. Bush has declared his tax cuts “off the table” in terms of paying for Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath has enforced the view among many ordinary Americans that he is an elitist who cares for the whims of the upper class above everyone else. Even the typically smooth and refined Bill Clinton was flustered by what is largely perceived a callous and irrational stance.
“Tax cuts are always popular, but about half of these tax cuts since 2001 have gone to my income group. I’ve gotten four tax cuts. They’re responsible for this big structural deficit, and they’re not going away, the deficits aren’t.”
Clinton went on the vehemently criticise the Administration for borrowing foreign money to finance the Iraq war rather than looking practically to things that could be adjusted at home, saying that such a policy had “never in our history,” been implemented before. “We’re pressing the Chinese now, a country not nearly as rich as America per-capita, to keep loaning us money with low interest to cover [the] tax cut.”
Is it worth it? That is a question that has been on many Americans’ minds. Are these breaks for the wealthy worth sacrificing our national integrity, worth cutting funding to programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and inner city institutions that essentially give the poor the hope they need to live from day to day?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

President Bush Takes Responsibility for Relief Fiasco

President Bush, in a move of political necessity and public appeal, broke with his own White House's tradition today and openly accepted responsibility for the disaster that recovery operations in the Gulf states have been.
"Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government and to the extent the federal government didn't do its job right, I take responsibility," he said, abandoning previous political maneuvers with a touch of honesty and humility that the public has rarely seen from this Administration. Its sincerity has come into question, however, particularly in light of the President's falling approval ratings and the fact that, as recently as yesterday, Bush was deriding all attempts at establishing liability as Democrats and journalists playing, "the blame game."
"I'm not gonna play the blame game!" our Chief Executive has exclaimed on numerous occasions since the hurricane struck. Indeed, the term has become yet another of the Administration's tired catch-phrases, along with "freedom," "fighting the terrorists over there so we don't have to fight them over here," "supporting the Constitutional option," and "appointing judges who won't rule from the bench," among others.
This time, however, the American people are in no mood for empty rhetoric or meaningless platitudes designed to distract attention away from the titanic shortcomings of the current government. The average person will tolerate such evasiveness with regards to an Iraqi war that is taking place thousands of miles away. They will tolerate it with Supreme Court nominees who seem far removed from their every day life. They will tolerate it with regard to Democratic presidential nominees who are supposedly "flip-flopping" but they will not tolerate it when disaster knocks on their front door.
With a large portion of the American South in ruins and thousands dead, the electorate want answers, NOW. On this issue, at least, all of the Administration's traditional tactics and fallbacks are null. Michael Brown's long needed resignation is the first of many. Now, this Administration will have to answer to its own public.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Completely Unprepared

In its handling of the hurricane disaster, the entire federal government has proven itself disastrously ill-equipped to manage any sort of large-scale crisis. The President, while not personally responsible, bears a bit more blame than we here at ConservativeDemocratNews (and Americans in general) initially thought. The problem lies with Michael Brown, the man who Mr. Bush nominated to be the head of FEMA in 2003. In what seems to have become a disturbing trend in the Administration, many high level government positions are filled with people who are either unqualified or unscrupulous, while anyone with even an ounce of all-around credibility and talent is discarded (Colin Powell). Michael Brown is not the first, but he is certainly among the worst Bush appointees, among whom are included:
*Alberto Gonzales, Attorney General of the United States, who has advocating torturing terrorist detainees
*Karl Rove, the President’s chief political adviser, who leaked the name of an undercover CIA agent to the press
*John Ashcroft, former Attorney General of the United States and a key architect of the Patriot Act
*Michael Chertoff, the Homeland Security Chief, whose response to Hurricane Katrina had been pitifully inadequate
*Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, who has been accused of ignoring the recommendations of military commanders in favor of politicking

Brown, however, is now coming under more scrutiny than anyone else in the Administration (excluding, of course, the President himself) for apparently falsifying records on his resumé, exaggerating previously held positions and in some cases even outright lying about what his qualifications are. That the fact Brown had essentially none of the experience needed to run an agency like FEMA is just coming out now is indicative of the general state of incompetence and chaos in which this Administration finds itself. Mr. Brown’s fabrications should have been detected long before he ever came before the Senate for a confirmation hearing, not after the worst natural disaster in our country’s history. Indeed, when one takes even a cursory glance over everything that Brown did not do, one wonders why in the world President Bush would have nominated him in the first place.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

A Final Blow

There are some things that one would believe are above politics. A tragedy as enormous as that of Hurricane Katrina would rightly be considered to be among these few, but, unfortunately, it is not. Whether President Bush deserves it or not, whether he is personally at fault or not, whether the government discriminated or not, this hurricane has become a political firestorm much larger than Katrina itself, a raging inferno of anger and accusation that is on the verge of permanently sinking an already beleaguered Administration. In the week that it's taken the Army to fully occupy New Orleans, Mr. Bush has been accused of racism, of deliberately ignoring the suffering the hurricane victims simply because they were black.
The idea that a U.S. president, no matter how reactionary, incompetent, stupid, or even outright unscrupulous, would intentionally stand by while thousands of his own citizens died is preposterous and a disgrace.
Rappers such as Kanye West (who declared anrgily at the VMA's that, "George Bush does not care about black people.") are quick to cry racism, when in fact they themselves are the racists for categorising most whites as intolerant and for meeting any criticism of their culture whatsoever with exclamations of, "Discrimination!"
The only racial issue that needs to be addressed in New Orleans is why so many of the looters (that is, those taking things other than food and water) are black.
Of course, it does not matter that Mr. Bush did not do these awful things. What matters is that the public perception has been firmly fixed by an scandal-hungry media that invented the issue and a community of racist African-American intellectuals who seized on yet another opportunity for exploitation and indiginity.
This is not to say that the Administration's response wasn't slow, that FEMA performed inadequately, because the reaction was hopelessly insufficient. This is to say that lack of organisation, rather than racism, was responsible for the sluggishness of the federal agencies.
Whatever actually went on, the American people have had enough. The President's approval rating is at 31% and dropping like a stone. All of his other mistakes (and they are many and grievous) have been at once magnified by this, the ultimate failure. It is one thing to see images of ruin in Iraq; it is quite another to see it here.
The Administration, like New Orleans, has sunk, and the back of the Republican majority has been broken.
Even prior to this, Democrats were expected to make fairly significant gains in 2006. Now, it would not come as a terrible surprise if they gained a majority in Congress, and that a Democrat will win the White House in 2008 is a near certainty (discounting, of course, a run made by a moderate like John McCain).
The United States on the verge of a dramatic political realignment. The majority now in power owes its existence to nationwide constituencies that are largely evaporating. Any type of mandate is gone. All we can do now is wait and see.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

UNIMAGINABLE HORROR

As time goes on, the situation in New Orleans seems to degenerate further and further, getting much worse before it can get any better. The Big Easy is a truly a city stricken, placed in such dire straits that its current condition can be compared only to that of Manhattan after 9/11 and London after World War II. Even these powerful allusions, however, fail to capture the nightmarish situation that has descended on the metropolis. If ever there was a Hell on Earth, Louisiana would certainly be that place.
These are the places and these are the times that are romanticised, villified, or reflected upon by all human beings, for these are the places and these are the times that define what humanity is. These are the places and these are the times that evoke passion, despair, empathy, and heroism, as well as savagery and disgrace. New Orleans is what makes every movie, every poem, every story strike a chord in someone's heart, for it is mankind at its barest. This is what we are, and even in humdrum America, we are not immune from it.
What we know now serves to hearten as well as to distress. The city of New Orleans is 80% underwater, flooded in many places to a depth of fifteen feet. "Thousands," in the worlds of Senator Mary Landrieu (D, Louisiana) are dead, and still thousands more remain trapped within. Patients in New Orleans hospitals are dying because the electricity needed to power their ventilators and the water needed to keep them hydrated are simply not there.
Looting, meanwhile, has exacerbated an already awful situation and created even greater suffering. Attempts to evacuate the Superdome, where 20,000 refugees were stranded without food or water, have been delayed because shots from the crowd were hitting incoming rescue helicopters. To make matters worse, two massive fires are now blazing in New Orleans, one in the French Quarter and the other in the Superdome itself, were the tossed and torn masses have been forced out into the submerged streets to wait for busses that will take them to the Astrodome in Houston, Texas.
The African-American community of New Orleans has shown true audacity, exploiting the monumental tragedy for all it's worth and looting everywhere they can, carrying off big-screen televisions that won't turn on for want of power and jewelry that is effectively worthless as the city's most valuable commodity becomes food and water. Not only that, these delinquent thugs have gotten ahold of firearms and are now shooting at the very soldiers sent to protect them. They are a shameful display and insult decent Black people all across the United States with their barbarity.
These supposedly "oppressed" men and women have shown their neighbors (both black and white) inconceivable callousness by contributing to the chaos and terror in New Orleans. Their selfishness and rampant materialism are now taking lives, as police officers have been diverted from rescue operations to put down the looting.
Seldom have so many been victimised by so arrogant, careless, and hypocritical a segment of society as have the people of New Orleans been victimised by these hordes. The governor of Louisiana, furious, is giving her National Guardsmen authorisation to use, "any means necessary" to restore law and order, and well she should.
At the same time, there are rays of sunshine, like the story of a person who stole a school bus ("The Rogue School Bus"), picked up stranded refugees throughout the city and then drove to the Astrodome independent of authorities. What a kindhearted, good individual.
May God help them all.