Of course I'm liberal, I believe in liberty.

Friday, March 18, 2005

From My In Box

Respect the Sacrifice -- Protect the Freedom -- Stop Government Censorship Today

Dear Fellow American,

This past Veterans Day, ABC honored America's vets for a third straight year by airing "Saving Private Ryan."  But 66 local ABC affiliates, bullied by a small group of right-wing zealots who objected to the realistic violence and language in the film, asked the Federal Communications Commission for a ruling to protect themselves before proceeding. 

How did the FCC respond?  Silence.  They left the stations hanging out to dry.  And these 66 affiliates, fearing hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines, chose not to air "Saving Private Ryan," depriving one-third of the country from watching it.

Just a few weeks ago, the FCC finally ruled that the stations could air the film -- but it was too little, too late.  And in the meantime, the damage to our democracy had been done -- a small group of right-wing zealots had held these stations hostage, using the fear of fines as a political tool, and the FCC played along.

This kind of de facto censorship is wholly unacceptable.  We deserve a government that will stand up to these groups, leaving the decision about whether or not to watch these programs up to us.  That's our right as Americans.  That right was secured by the sacrifice of the fighting men and women portrayed in "Saving Private Ryan" and by all of us who have served in America's armed forces.

I urge you to email FCC Chairman Kevin Martin by signing my petition below and demand that he end this de facto censorship.  Tell Chairman Martin that we will not stand idly by as the government enables the erosion of one of our most precious freedoms.

And then invite everyone you know to join our cause.


Wes Clark

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Another American Century?

I stated in the comments that "I always knew the 'American century' would come to an end, but Bush is doing all he can to accelerate the process" and was asked for details. Here is how I see it.

The decline of the American century isn't just one or two things, it is how all the pieces play together. The deficit, the declining dollar, the weakest military since Vietnam1, the anti-Americanism, the decline of Pax Americana, the weakening of international law, the promotion of might makes right foreign policy, torture, the increased distribution of wealth to the rich and the largest corporations, and the increased difficulty of the world's brightest to study in the US all play a part.

Because of the declining dollar, low interest rates and our massive debt America is a relatively poor place to invest compared to other countries, just as we are directing more money to those Americans who can most easily invest elsewhere. Combine this with the huge decline of foreign students studying in the US and we face a world where US entrepreneurship declines while entrepreneurship in the outside world climbs to new heights, largely funded by US dollars.

Note this isn't the normal cycle of average Americans buying cheap stuff from overseas spawning growth in those nations and ours, this is a cycle of investment and return that ignores the bulk of America. Trade deficits don't bother me all that much. Other nations getting richer don't bother me at all; we all benefit from that. This is something entirely different, mega-rich international corporations controlled by a new international aristocratic class that answers to no nation.

As the EU, China and others (India?) become dominate players on the global scene, other countries have more options of whom they'd like to emulate and whom they'll go for their strongest aliances. If they go to the EU instead of the US, then our power decreases, but I don't mind the world outcome too much. If they go to China, it's a whole other story. I tend to believe China can't increase their push for capitalism and economic power while maintaining their totalitarian regime, but I don't really know that. But certainly they can maintain the balance for a while and woe be the world that choses to emulate that system.

For the first time in our country's history, America is no longer the place others look up to, no longer where the world sends it's brightest to learn, no longer the only obvious choice of where to immigrate, no longer the one country you want to imitate, no longer the beacon of hope for the world, no longer the one country you want to be when you grow up.

As I said, I knew the 'American century' would come to an end. While I'm a great believer in Pax Americana and think we've been very good to the world (on a whole, warts and all) I don't think the end needs to be all that bad; we have great power now to influence the new, emerging world. But right now, at that point of influence we are steering the world away from international law and towards a world of might makes right. How ironic that we push the might makes right doctrine so strongly just as our might starts to decline. And how horrible.

Now, as I've just stated these points it sounds like I believe the world is about to blow up or go to hell or enter the worst era of lawlessness we've ever seen. I don't believe this. There are many, many good things are happening in the world as well and these events are not the only actors. But these are the paths I believe Bush are leading us down. While we could be building towards a much better world, it is as if we desire the worst.

Hopefully, I'm just plain wrong. Or perhaps I've got the trends right, but some of the trends Bush actually intended are also there; certainly the pro-democracy movement in the Middle East is heartwarming. Perhaps once some grownup cleans up after all of Bush's messes what remains of his presidency will be positive; the bad cop that got the bad guy talking; the kick in the rear that got everyone moving; the example of how bad America can be that will help the world appreciate how good we normally are. I'm an optimist by nature, I can't really help myself, so I'm beginning to believe we may see some good from all this yet. I sure hope so.

1In terms of our ability to respond to any emergency, the military is extremely weak right now because they are deployed, but it is more than that; the perception of power has weakened as well.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

City Superviser Blog Vs Newspaper

San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly and the SF Chronicle have a long running feud, so Daly starts his own blog to reach the public directly. Great! But he's using taxpayer supplied equipment to do it. Is that a problem? Legally it is only a problem if he uses the blog for political campaigning, not public communication. But laws like this tend to show how stupid laws can sometimes be. Seriously, what can a politician do that isn't for political gain, that isn't campaign related in one sense or another? Legally, it would make much more sense if our representatives were simply given a small budget for communication and that was that. Don't worry if it is political self promotion or not, at some level it will be anyway. Again, laws that try to micromanage just don't work very well.

This reminds me of the injured reserved (IR) list in the NBA. Teams are only allowed to have 12 active players, but up to three injured additional players may be on the IR list. So what happens? Every team has a few extra players that have "back spasms" or some other such injury that always miraculously cures just when another player is taken off the roster to place on the IR. In other words, every team cheats and everyone knows every team cheats. Just drop the dang injury requirement and have a reserved list!

Anyway, back to the issue at hand, here is what the Chronicle says about Daly's blog:
Daly is the first of the city's elected officials to create a blog, short for Web log, and do it on the government's dime by using San Francisco's official Web site -- a move that's caused City Attorney Dennis Herrera's office to start drafting a list of dos and don'ts.
The supervisor joins the likes of Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown, who launched a blog in February, and East Bay Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, who in October became the first state legislator in California to start a Web log.

In both their cases, their blogs are not part of a government Web site.

Ethical and Internet experts say Daly will have to walk a fine line with his new online journal.

"Anybody who does this has to be careful not to cross into campaign territory," said John St. Croix, who took over as executive director of the Ethics Commission about six months ago.
And here is what Daly says in response:
But today the Chronicle did weigh in under the headline "Public picks up tab for Daly blog - District 6 supervisor first official to keep diary on city's dime" (they have since softened the headline online). Talk about obscuring the issue. In order to avoid discussing policy issues that I have raised or even covering the enhanced content of this site, the Chronicle has decided to attack me yet again (yawn), implying that I am misusing public funds. Without making specific allegations, Ilene Lelchuk writes about the possible legal issues of government web sites. "Questions remain then about whether the city can be held liable for postings on the blog or for any links listed on Daly's Web site that take visitors to noncity Web sites." Ilene, do you mean, for example, my links to your venerable publication?

City Attorney spokesperson, Matt Dorsey, tells me that the Chronicle had inquired to their office about any wrongdoing but that there was none.
If I were Daly, I'd move the blog to a private site just to avoid any potential legal issues. It's not like it's hard -- I don't pay for my site!

(Via Wizbang!)

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Our Grandchildren Deserve Social Security Too

Two guest bloggers, Jonathan Chait over at Talking Points Memo and Brad Plumer over at Washington Monthly both caught this uplifting conclusion to a Post article on Social Security:
By and large, the elderly do understand the president has promised not to touch their Social Security checks, according to polling.

But that is not relevant to their political opposition, Smorodin said, noting that older people also worry that pension benefit cuts will hurt their children and grandchildren.

At 69, Gene Wallace knows the White House's proposal would have no impact on his Social Security check, but if Bush believes that will silence the Republican mayor of Coldwater, Mich., Wallace grumbled, "he's all wet."

"I'm a parent as well as a grandparent. Somewhere along the line, they are going to be eligible for retirement assistance," he said, with all the energy he could muster three weeks after open-heart surgery. "It's everybody's concern what happens to this country."
In other words, those that know Social Security the best understand the program works and want to make sure their children and grandchildren have the same great program available for them as well.

Is The Chinese Communist Party In Trouble?

Daniel Drezner notices the Epoch Times is pushing a story that over 200,000 Chinese have quit the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in four months. Here are some details:
On November 19, 2004 The Epoch Times published in Chinese the first of “The Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party”. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been scrambling ever since to find a way to respond.

The “Nine Commentaries” are a book-length set of nine editorials that tell the true history of the CCP. Written under the auspices of The Epoch Times editorial board, the authorship is anonymous.

The “Nine Commentaries” lay out the Party’s crimes: its campaigns of mass murder, brainwashing and terror; the 80 million plus unnatural deaths; the avoidable famines; the degradation of the environment; the corruption that goes from top to bottom, and much more....

On December 3, 2004 The Epoch Times established the Tuidang (“withdraw from the Party”) website in order to give the people of China the opportunity to renounce their membership in the CCP and its related organizations, such as the Communist Youth League (CYL).

On December 4, the website received its first solemn declarations by Party members who wished to renounce all ties with the CCP. In December the rate of such statements was a few hundred a day. But the rate has increased exponentially. On March 7, the Tuidang website recorded over 22,000 renunciations. The website has been limited in the number it can post by its ability physically to keep up with the huge volume of statements....
As I mentioned during my recent trip to China the Chinese people seem to have no love for the Communist Government. But they do have a love for China and have completely embraced Modernity1:
  • When talking to people about what's happening here it is all "the government is planning this", "the local government is doing that". In the world of us and them, the government is "them". It's like the government is just another corporation.

  • At the museum today someone mentioned Chinese history is all about Dynasties, each intended to last forever. None of them lasted. The lesson seemed obvious... They know.

  • The people I've met have completely embraced Modernity and are looking forward to better and brighter days and they are willing to work hard to get it. China will be a major source of competition in the coming years and decades.
Still, it is my guess that the CCP won't fall anytime soon. The reason is people are experiencing real progress and gaining new freedoms, though mostly economic freedoms. All of this will lead to a demand for democracy and we will see a democratic China in the future, but it will take time. Freedom is addictive (in a good way), the more they have the more they will want, but as long as progress is continually made in that direction their addiction will be sated. They have so much further to go on the economic side they can probably avoid the political side for quite some time. That's my guess, at least.

On the other hand, I'm not sure they'll ever put up with another Tiananmen Square incident, so I may be only one big event away from being proven wrong. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

(As a side note, I was in college during Tiananmen Square and saw all the Chinese students studying in America helping out those back home with faxes, emails, phone calls, etc. It was all very exciting until it all came crashing down. To me, and probably only me, purely by chance of what I was into at the time, Buffalo Springfield's song For What It's Worth will always be about Tiananmen Square. The association is strong enough the song still gives me shivers.)

1So, does one blockquote one's own writing, or is it considered okay to plagiarize one's self? I guess I'll be safe and go with the blockquote...

Monday, March 14, 2005

Bankruptcy 'Toons

(Tip: TPM)

Sunday, March 13, 2005


Over on the left I've had a link to the Clark Community Network since I first added links to this site. While that site was still extremely active, it was basically just left over from the old Wes Clark campaign. Well, over the past couple of weeks they've completely updated the site for long term use. Also, Clark now has a new WesPac site.

Does all of this mean Clark is preparing for a 2008 campaign? I don't know. By all counts he was bitten by the political bug last year so I'm sure he's interested. But so far this seems to be mostly for advocacy and promotion of Clark's ideas. I doubt even he knows were it will lead just yet, but obviously they are spending time and money on it. Anyway, go check it out.