The Columbia Critic

A place to debate anything we want to. We'll talk Columbia campus issues. We'll talk up the homosexual problem. We'll talk China. And we'll talk without resorting to partisan rhetoric. We may be left. We may be right. But we aren't going to be quoting any party line. We're leading the discussion. But feel free to chime in. Hannity and Colmes this is not.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Republicans Whine Over Buffet Donation

I happened upon this post at Clara Magram BC'06’s 'libertarian' blog . I just had to write her a comment or two; Short comment turned into an hour of research and writing. National Review writer Mona Charen BC'79 proves there is no such thing as fair reporting; every written article is meant to be some kind of throat slitting dagger at the opposition. Let's begin.

"The liberals are forever hyperventilating about “corporate money” and “corporate America” — the font of all evil to judge by some of the rhetoric. Yet when corporate America donates billions of dollars to charity, who benefits? Liberal and left wing causes. The Gates Foundation is a generous supporter, reports the Washington Times, of the Planned Parenthood Federation, the National Council of La Raza, and the Clinton Presidential Foundation." - Mona Charen [National Review]

The “liberals are forever hyperventilating” over corporate America? Is that meant to be ridiculous or was that a joke?

I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything about people of the liberal persuasion not liking money. For me, and I would say for most liberals, a label that seems to have been turned by people on the right and on occasion Clara into the Boogieman, the problem is not money, the problem is lack of progress for closing the wealth disparity gap. Sure, the reality is some people make a lot of money and a lot of people don’t; this is caused by numerous factors stretching from personal motivation, luck, education, what family you’re born into, etc. There’s nothing wrong with money, we simply need to help to make sure that there is some minimal amount of support so that you are even able to make an effort, to have some potential to make decent money. This is a tangent, but I believe it is our responsibility as a society to provide basic education and healthcare for every citizen. If you want to argue about it and come from a libertarian point of view, I will argue with you till my face is blue.

Corporations exist to provide a service and to be paid for that service. Are they evil for that reason? Of course not. Corporations are given a bad name by the culture that is permeated by their chain of command. When Rick Wagoner took over as CEO of GM he had a modest salary. After presiding over GM, the layoff of tens of thousands, poor performance, general employee discontent, he upped his salary to around $10 million + stock options. Could that extra $9 million have gone towards other measures to improve GM, of course. To his credit, he cut his own salary in half this year because of even crappier performance as of late.

Corporate America is not looked down upon by liberals, I think most people in general know that the company is not looking out for their interests; it’s looking out for its own. That’s positively why there is no such thing as employee loyalty anymore.

Warren Buffet I would say is pretty liberal for that matter. He opposes the estate tax (says that he doesn’t believe in people being born into privileged positions) for one. I like to think when corporate America donates money, everyone benefits. It is silly in my opinion to pigeon hole the Gates Foundation, or imply that it is solely a supporter of liberal and left wing causes. Look at what the Gates foundation gives money to, Washington Assoc of Churches, Libraries, Medicine, Education, Community organizations, Developing Nations.

Is that liberal or is that just philanthropy? I can’t figure out why you are trying to turn one man’s philanthropy into a conversation on partisan politics. Who exactly is supposed to benefit from philanthropy? Right wing causes? Churches are well served by philanthropy, so is economic independence programs (promotion of small businesses and econ. info). Perhaps Mona Charen needs to cease with the pessimistic “I’m sure the gate’s foundation has done some good in the world” attitude and realize her research is decidedly one-sided.

The Gates foundation funds numerous Christian and Catholic schools as well as the Discovery Institute. The Discovery Institute is infamous for spearheading the anti-evolution campaign. Left, right? What the Gates Foundation funds is what they consider noble causes, they provide grants for global health, education, libraries, environmentally ravaged pacific, and other needs in that scope. Every grant needs to be looked at in context. Sure the Discovery Institute gets money, but it’s for transportation and ecological projects.

In the same light, Planned Parenthood does a lot of work concerning education and protection against sexually transmitted diseases. Many of their grants involve the reduction of HIV/AIDS in Africa. Money for the National Council of La Raza predominantly goes towards education for Latinos. Money for the Clinton Presidential Foundation goes towards bringing together world leaders to discuss pressing global issues (although the funding of their operating costs is to me an area where you could argue). Regardless if you are against abortion, rights for illegal immigrants, or Clinton, it is hard to look at the projects that these grants fund and disapprove (well at least to me).

Interestingly enough Planned Parenthood still gets money from Title X from the federal government. Alternatively, abstinence education programs have been funded by the government disproportionately at $400 million (Clinton’s funding for it was about $100 million). THE GOVERNMENT! Ironically enough, Title X and Planned Parenthood’s funding was set up by George H.W. Bush. Just so you know $50 million is given to programs through Title X. ARE WE NOT SUPRISED YET?

Is the liberal witch hunt over yet? It’s getting old and tired.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

why waste time?

After losing the 2000 presidential election, Al Gore began touring the world giving speeches on Global Warming. I hope it's not too late; I do not want to be trudging around in the snow like Jake Gylenhaal in The Day After Tomorrow.

"I have said consistently that global warming is a serious problem. There's a debate over whether it's manmade or naturally caused. We ought to get beyond that debate and start implementing the technologies necessary … to be good stewards of the environment, become less dependent on foreign sources of oil…".- George W. Bush

President Bush is absolutely correct; we need to get beyond the debate over global warming and begin to implement methods to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We need to begin now. Bush also had this to say in 2000:
"I think it's an issue that we need to take very seriously. But I don't think we know the solution to global warming yet. And I don't think we've got all the facts before we make decisions. I tell you one thing I'm not going to do is I'm not going to let the United States carry the burden for cleaning up the world's air."-George W. Bush

That quote was made in 2000 and to be frank, not much in terms of policy has been done. If something has been done, I haven't heard about it. What I have heard about is the Bush administration's terrible environmental record. Even Field and Stream magazine was pulling out their hair about their environmental policy.

This is a graph created by Robert A. Rohde that shows our carbon emissions. I think it's pretty obvious that this is not normal and has a lot to do with humans (cows did not burp that into the atmosphere). Carbon emissions are at record levels and the last decade has been the hottest years experienced to date. How many more Katrinas must we experience, how many more hurricane seasons when we run out of letters and have to use the greek alphabet must we go through before we acknowledge that there is a problem?

As I have pointed out many times in the past, Bush runs the country the only way he knows how, like an MBA student (and not a very good one, look how Arbusto and Spectrum 7 turned out). For climate change, we cannot rely on companies to self-regulate themselves, hope market conditions give incentive to be cleaner, to loosen environmental regulations so that companies make more money and can retroactively be cleaner. Competition is not going to reduce energy consumption or cause a switch to alternative energy; what is needed is sound political policy and public pressure.

Bush is wrong on many points, we know what is causing global warming, it is not a natural phenomena. It is ridiculous that global warming was raised in the 2000 election by Bush and has been ignored to date. To deal with global warming we need to wake up and accept that global industry is responsible, with a large part of the blame lying with the US. We need to move forward with any and all technology that we have at our disposal.

While I was studying at Columbia University I went to university wide lecture given by Klaus Lackner as he described the research he has been doing on carbon sequestration, which involves collecting carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and putting it somewhere else; this is a method often touted by Bush but there is more to it. Bush has been primarily focusing on the technological aspect, and it’s particularly hard to admit as an engineer, technology will only take us so far and we require sound policy changes to make technology effective in the long run.

Carbon sequestration is a quick fix (an expensive one). Global warming is not a one-time phenomenon that we can fix by readjusting CO2 levels to previous averages. Carbon emissions will continue to increase at an exponential rate as the United States continues to skirt sound environmental policies and increase energy consumption; at the same time, industrializing countries like China will require huge amounts of energy. Digging a whole and putting the carbon into it isn’t going to work well if we have to put more and more carbon into the atmosphere every year, the earth can only absorb so much carbon. We are not solving a problem, we are ameliorating the symptoms. We can use carbon sequestering, but in conjunction with demanding increased fuel efficiency from car manufacturers, planting more trees, and implementing a plan to reduce emissions through the next decade.

As the most powerful country is the world it is our responsibility to take the lead on global warming. Kyoto was a flawed step in the right direction, but although we did not join we can still lead the way. Bush declared that he would not make the United States carry the burden of climate change, but we have to. It doesn’t matter that we are the largest contributor to the problem; we must take on the problem because we have the means to do so. For six years we have had no legitimate plan for approaching global warming; in the process of stagnation, oil companies have reached record profit and the atmosphere has not improved. There is no debate over the origin of global warming, we need to begin action now.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Hamilton on the protection of liberties.

An enlightened zeal for the energy and efficiency of government will be stigmatized as the offspring of a temper fond of despotic power and hostile to the principles of liberty. An over-scrupulous jealousy of danger to the rights of the people, which is more commonly the fault of the head than of the heart, will be represented as mere pretense and artifice, the stale bait for popularity at the expense of the public good. It will be forgotten, on the one hand, that jealousy is the usual concomitant of love, and that the noble enthusiasm of liberty is apt to be infected with a spirit of narrow and illiberal distrust. On the other hand, it will be equally forgotten that the vigor of government is essential to the security of liberty; that, in the contemplation of a sound and well-informed judgment, their interest can never be separated; and that a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government. History will teach us that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism than the latter, and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants.

This, I believe, should serve as a warning to the ACLU who have in my opinion long been overstepping their bounds - whether by defending the activities of NAMBLA (Curley v. NAMBLA), opposing Megan's Law, arguing against the criminalization of child pornography (New York v. Ferber) or trumping the rights and privacy of parents (Polovchak v. Meese) even claiming that children have a standing right to privacy from their parents (AAP v. Lungren). Most aggregiously it has attempted to censor even the smallest mention of any religion under the guise of separation of church and state, completely misinterpreting and misrepresenting the intent of the First Amendment.

On other First Amendment news:
Idiots. Just idiots. I can't believe this almost passed. This illustrates congress taking a First Amendment issue too far in the OTHER direction. Never NEVER should the U.S. constitution be used to LIMIT a freedom, particularly speech, I don't care how horrendous it may be. This goes along the same vein as enacting a wide-ranging law to protect funerals from protesters - while protesting at military funerals is a horrendous act, we must take care that any anti-picketing laws are not so far reaching that they overstep their bounds by outright preventing the expression of opinions under the First Amendment.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

If you sit on your cards, you can't play

One of my professors reminded our class that when we graduate from college and move on to become industry professionals, we must retain our integrity and moral compass. Our product designs, if flawed from being rushed our other pressures could result in any number of deleterious effects on the company and the general public. The reminder was that greed and pride should not stand in the way of being the whistleblower when ethical misdeeds happen right in front of our face.

In our nation's highest office, the question that often arises is who will police the police? Perhaps the most publicized account from our parents' generation was Mark Felt's (Deep Throat) leading Washington Post reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein to lead the media's uncovering of scandals and misdeeds of the Nixon administration. In the 1970s presidential administrations had not yet learned how to strong arm the mass media, it was a time when investigative journalism was championed by a nation plagued by a credibility gap in its nation's highest ranks. Could Nixon have given himself immunity by citing extensive Presidential powers?

Actually he did.

Well, when the president does it that means that it is not illegal... Exactly. Exactly. If the president, for example, approves something because of the national security, or in this case because of a threat to internal peace and order of significant magnitude, then the president's decision in that instance is one that enables those who carry it out, to carry it out without violating a law. Otherwise they're in an impossible position. - Richard Nixon

However, the media was not afraid. The overreaching of the Nixon administration did not go unnoticed or unpursued; Mark Felt's information led Nixon to become the first President of the United States to ever resign from office.

The Bush administration has been extraordinarily clever in this regard; the media has been reduced to a cowering group of journalists desperately hoping that the White House does not completely shut them out. Their response to investigative efforts by the new Woodward and Bernstein, the tag team of the traditional mass media and internet bloggers, has been to become increasingly insulated.

You can't hold someone accountable if nobody knows about it. However the only reasons why the Bush Administration would need to keep secrets is if disclosure of information was a vital matter of national security or if they were doing something wrong. To be fair, I want to believe that withholding information is a matter of national security; BUT why then has the administration disregarded following the legal means to perform such actions? The question as to why they would ignore the FISA courts which was specifically set up to authorize, even retroactively, such secret policies has been beaten to death by everyone who cares without informative answer. I think the more important question is if the domestic spying, financial spying, secret torture camps, etc. are so important, why have so many internal entities leaked information about them to the press?

If we are all able to agree that these policies are vital to our security, why have internal employees found it so desperately necessary to make sure that the public knows what is happening? Obviously more than one person is having an ethical dilemma; a dilemma so strong that they are in a way sacrificing national security.

"You actually deprive the decision makers and the president of the ability to get the full range of advice because - if the president has to worry that talking to people who have important things to say is going to result in something getting out - he's not going to have that conversation. And that's going to drive exactly the kind of insularity that the press claims they don't like"- Michael Chertoff

What Chertoff doesn't acknowledge is that the administration is already secretive and insulated. Most news organizations have been driven to the point where they are afraid that they will get blacklisted and forever cut off. Simply doing their job endangers their livelihood. So much for depending on the media to function as an independent check on the branches of government. Perhaps the White House would be wiser to observe that its pre-existing lack of transparency (and explanation for that matter) and ethically questionable behavior is the root cause of increased governmental leaks, investigation by the media, and public distrust. I don't know how long they can keep playing this game until the American public loses all patience.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A reevaluation of Iraq
In his journal article Chuck Pena makes some interesting points. Let me take it piece by piece.

First the comparison of Bush's War to Clinton's War. Its important to
note that the original justification for invading Iraq was the presence of WMD's, later shown to be fallacious. (Yes WMD's were found hidden in Iraq this week, perhaps evidencing a credible threat, but let us, for now, maintain the assumption that it had not been a credible threat). Bush invaded Iraq and successfully toppled a dictator who was performing atrocities intermittantly, but had not committed mass genocide for a while. An unstable country with a very bad (dare I say evil?) leader indeed, but likely not an imminent threat to U.S. interests or even to the sum of the Iraqi population. Clinton sat tight on the balkins for quite a while, some say too long, before deciding to intervene, and the decision that was made, after the crisis reached epic proportions and thousands and thousands of refugees were fleeing certain death, consisted of a bombing campaign, inserting quickly to incise the leadership, and leaving a NATO ground force to pick up the pieces. Both these instances have some severe faults. One might say Bush went in prematurely, while Clinton entered the arena far too late. In any case, one key difference between Kosovo and Iraq is that Kosovo occurred in a time of relative quietude for US National Security. Iraq occurred in the midst of the 'Global War on Terror.' I would argue that the invasion of Iraq was called for before 9-11, for similar reasons that the Balkans war was called for, in addition to the pontential WMD threat. Post 9-11 however, our concerns needed to shift drastically. They did when we went into Afghanistan. But we extended our reach in the invasion of Iraq, and thus overlooked some other serious prospects for our counter-terrorism efforts. It is fair to say that having Saddam's Iraq out of the picture allows us greater mobility in the region and our continued presence has positioned us strategically to reach farther and deeper into AlQueda as well as other terrorist threats abroad. But in evaluating the price (both in $$ and military functionability), I seriously question its cost effectiveness thus-far. Essentially our distraction with Iraqi affairs has hampered our ability to take advantage of the opportunities that exist given our massive physical presence in the region.

Our military is still the best equipped and best trained to perform the duties in what has been termed the Global War on Terror. I have a problem, though, with even that term. "The Global War on Terror." It is imprecise at best and misguided at worst to call this struggle or collective action a "war." The invasion of Iraq was a war. The main action in Afghanistan was (perhaps in that case still is...) a war. The occupation of Iraq, while quite necessary, is not a war but a security and nation-building effort. Our greater efforts against Al Queda and terrorism, while absolutely necessary, are not a war. Why? Because they involve so much more than the requisite military involvement, and because this is not state-on-state action. Calling it a War only serves to legitimize Al Queda. A 'War' implies one state (a government representing a static population inhabiting some delineated region) fighting another state. Al Queda does not represent a people. It is an organized criminal association. A world wide mafia. Now, we do not have a world-wide police force, and so the most effective means we maintain is our military and those of our allies (via NATO not the UN). The militaries are integral to our counter-terrorism policing efforts, more I would say than any other single component.

And here is where I get to the crux of the problem with the author's position. It is outdated by at least a couple of decades. Why? Globalization. Increased connectivity. "The spreading of the Western disease of modernity". Whatever you want to call it. We cannot afford to leave any part of the world alone to its own devices any more than
they can afford to separate themselves from us and the rest of the world. Trade agreements, alliances, ultra-fast communications, worldwide emigration - all of this requires some apparatus to ensure security and stability. The most effective solution on its face would probably be some sort of responsible world body that could perform
policing actions and operations abroad with a certain legitimacy. Unfortunately the UN is toothless, ineffective, and downright stupid. A second best might be NATO, and while I am still hopeful for this organization, it is at present transforming too slowly to meet current security needs.

Pena says that if the US would stop meddling in the affairs of other countries, middle eastern countries in particular, it would avoid these attacks. I say that this is unlikely. US involvement runs too deep, and in fact cannot be controlled with good conscience by the U.S. Government. Companies will continue to trade, people will continue to emigrate and immigrate, and the government will be continually pushed and pulled towards involvement by the brute force of economics. It is in no way feasible for the U.S. to "stop meddling in the affairs of these countries," just as it is in no way feasible for them to cease their relationship with us. Anti-american resentment would be helped very little if we left Iraq today, or we halted all trade with the arab world (if that were even possible). I will agree that the obsession with arab oil and with saudi arabia is tedious, annoying, and largely unnecessary, and that the close ties between the U.S. and the Saudi royal family should be abandoned. I do think that, ideally, we should reach a level of fuel consumption that would require NO dependency on arab oil, indeed on foreign oil altogether. I do think that we should reevaluate our position on and involvement in the Israel-Palestine affair (we are not non-partial, nor should we be, but someone else could be - perhaps the Swiss? They don't do much any more). But I do not think that any of this would greatly decrease the likelihood of Al Queda targeting the United States Al Queda and other terrorists, anarchists, and uber-fundamentalists have opinions ranging from strong disagreement to visceral hatred for our version of progress, for globalization, for modernization, for many of what we consider to be basic human rights, and yes for life. Perhaps we should update our foreign policy, and reaffirm that for which we stand. But let us not forget that for which they stand: religious fundamentalism, politico-social isolation, and unadulterated terror.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Iraq - potential, but maddeningly unrealised

Polls are polls. Sampling of public opinion. But I am a firm believer that one should not run a country by polls. It causes a government to be slow to react and allows short term concerns to override long term planning.
That being said, there are important and valid reasons behind the grand decline of public opinion. And they should be taken into consideration.
The original primary reasoning presented for going into Iraq was falsified. The choice to move forward despite this may have been a necessary one. But the truth of the matter is that the war in Iraq is a monetary hindrance and a drain on our forces and resources. While we cannot remove ourselves from the conflict immediately, we must have an exit strategy for a large portion of our forces (minus the small permanent presence that will remain). I understand the President's reticence to disclose such information to the public, but nevertheless a strategy must be well established and constantly updated if still kept confidential.
Further, the Iraq conflict does have the potential to affect positive change in the region. But in its current state it does little on its face to promote our counter-terrorism goals, particularly if one considers the cost of the war and occupation and the drain on current force resources. I suggest that it may be possible to garner some positive benefit from our presence in Iraq if we are careful to look for and take the opportunities that are presented to us. Our strategic position in Iraq and Afghanistan, flanking Iran, places us within a physical sphere of influence in the region and allow for potentially unprecedented force projection in our efforts to infiltrate terrorist cells, hunt down enemies, and extract information. But our current immersion in Iraqi affairs serves to impair this potential advantage. This of course is due to the aforementioned poor planning and execution of the post-war occupation suggested by Keith.
We are in Iraq. Our forces are operating at an OpTempo that cannot be sustained for much longer. We have a few paths that we can follow towards force reduction and increased sustainment capabilities, and potential exists to take better advantage of our current strategic position. One thing is for certain - we must not remain with the Status Quo. My fear is that the ineffectiveness and unresponsiveness of Congress in conjunction with the annoyingly inflexible steadfastness of the Executive Branch will result in just that.

In summary: I still believe there were potential advantages to going into Iraq. But I believe that few if any of those advantages have been realized...and with the costs involved in our postwar efforts that, ergo, our efforts in terms of strategic repositioning and force projection have not had and likely will not have the opportunity to come to fruition.

War of Necessty

Everyone thinks they know what is happening in Iraq. Thinking is a luxury of the leisurely classes. In truth, Iraq is an event with many questions surrounding it. Even if America puts all its might into it, perhaps the country still goes into chaos. Perhaps if we pull out now, it will self-stabilize. There are a lot of maybes.

Now, I am going to offer a hypothetical which in its model negates the most important aspect of war, life. So I apologize if it is overly coarse. But I'd say there are so many maybes that it doesn't matter which way we go. It doesn't matter if we pull out, or if we stay, or if we have a timetable. Iraq as a country will continue to exist, its presence in the world will always be flagrant, but only vaguely capable of really affecting Western society. And so the question in Iraq is, more likely, how do we feel about our involvement there? If we are comfortable with it, then it works for us as a nation; we can pretend it really solves our security concerns. Or we can pull out, save a few billion dollars, and serve as an advisor to Iraq, while letting the country deal with its own growing pains.

The Iraqi war is fought and over. What remains is a belief that we can eliminate all opposition, that our national pride is on the line like in Vietnam so we must show our true might. But insurgents will be there for awhile, they see Iraq as a symbol. But more importantly insurgents have not shown themselves capable in almost every case of being able to win over the hearts of Iraqis and thus will relegate themselves to being outsiders. Our concerns are valid, but they are concerns manifested by our ego, and not our needs. What we need? To believe as a nation, and not just sectors of one, that what we are doing is for the best for our country. And polls, I believe, suggest something different.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Iraq reconsidered

It's 3 am and I just finished George Packer's account of the pre- and current periods of the Iraq war and occupation/rebuilding process. The book is a masterpiece of journalistic reporting, with its unflinching look at the failures of the Bush administration to plan or execute the war in a manner that was best for the American or Iraqi people. Throughout the pages, as he spends time with grieving fathers, courageous soldiers, and policy makers, Packer weaves tales of hubris, ignorance, and hope. But one thing he leaves untouched at the end is judgment on the war. He condemns the execution of the post-war plan, but leaves the reader with a final quote from the idealistic Kanan Makiya: "I think it was Ahmad who once said of me that I embody the triumph of hope over experience." I'd like to now declare this post an open thread for discussion of Iraq as it stands today. Where are we going, where have we been, and what do you see in Iraq's future?


Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Bush Syndicate

In the realm of politics, Republicans know how to win and they are willing to sacrifice themselves for the 'noble' cause of getting their candidate elected. In a lot of ways, Bush campaign financers remind me of the cast of the Sopranos. When the organization is going to take a hit, there is always someone willing to go down with the ship and do prison time; they never reveal anything about Tony Soprano or other members and they are rewarded when they finish their time behind bars. Keeping 'the family' safe is just as well as lucrative.

During George W. Bush's 2004 run for re-election for President of the United States, Bush and his supporters raised upwards of $360 million (according to and spent $306 million for his campaign. This was an unprecedented amount of donations and Bush had his "Pioneer ($100,000)" and "Ranger ($200,000)" fund-raisers to thank. Among the ranks of those that had attained Pioneer and Ranger status were Jack Abramoff and Tom Noe. These fund-raisers are especially important as it is almost a given that the candidate with the most money will win; it is difficult for even the most charismatic and well-intentioned candidate to compete with an onslaught of heavily researched and spun TV and radio spot ads turning the smallest nick into a glaring weakness.

The final outcome is important. Bush raised $360 million and he won. He has enjoyed almost six years of plush White House living and has shaped American politics into a form that will leave a significant mark in history textbooks for our children to read about. Jack Abramoff has pleaded guilty to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials and Noe has been found guilty of conspiracy to violate federal campaign laws and violating them.

Jack Abramoff will spend a few years in jail. Tom Noe faces 24-30 months in jail. Bush however is President, mission accomplished. It is almost inconsequential and of little celebratory value that the guilty have been brought to justice as they have already realized the fruits of their actions and the Bush administration can wipe its hands clean of any involvement. These men are and will continue to be heroes in the eyes of the GOP; they did their jobs and after some jail time will continue to be awarded.

The Republican strategy is decisive, unethical, and it works. It will also work like a well oiled machine in 2008. We are already seeing signs of the transition that must be made for 2008 success, the abandonment of dead weight and political liability, George W. Bush. The economic floundering, War in Iraq, consumer dissatisfaction, squabble with Iran, failure to capture Osama Bin Laden, and general dissatisfaction will be squarely placed on Bush’s shoulders and his alone. FOX News has always seemed to have unwavering support for the President, though this morning as I was casually flipping channels I heard a FOX News morning show anchor ask her audience, "how many of you are tired of the Clintons and the Bushes?” The audience laughed and all raised their hands, the anchor laughed as well and went to commercial. One commentator chimed in "the first President Bush was unpopular and it is obvious that George W. Bush is losing popular favor, I don't think the country wants to see Jeb Bush run." (I don't have the transcript, but I think that is pretty accurate). Everyone has their job to do in the road to the win; some people raise money, those who do it illegally may get caught, but they have served their purpose. Now Bush's responsibility is to get out of the way and the Republicans will abandon him when the time comes. A win is a win. Isn't it?

Harry Reid. Stupid Stupid Stupid

How do Americans feel about politicians at the moment? Look at the Gallup… maybe the Pew poll? I’m willing to hazard that the answer is pretty obvious. In an era of political scandal, corruption, and dishonesty (who am I kidding, I meant scandal, corruption, and dishonesty that the public KNOWS about), our faith in government is low. Democrats have tried to paint their opposition, the Republicans, as the Repuglicans; a party that has weathered one disgrace after another, from Duke Cunningham to Jack Abramoff to Katherine Harris all the way to Ann Coulter. It was almost as if a miracle had dropped into the Democrats’ laps, saving them from the impending death that many had predicted as inevitable after the 2004 Bush re-election victory. All they have to do is take the open wound that is Republican scandal and wiggle their finger in it…. That and offer America an alternative path, a guiding light of leadership.

A good first step was the adamant push for reforming lobbying rules. The Republicans had offered soft reform; limiting gifts to be under a particular dollar amount. It was pretty clear to the American public, at least to those paying attention, that that was a half hearted attempt that put into perspective just how lucrative and how used to gifts and incentives that congressional representatives had gotten.

"Now we're going to say you can't have a meal for more than 20 bucks," said Senator Trent Lott, Republican of Mississippi. "Where are you going, to McDonald's?"

Democrats offered a solid lobbying reform plan. Ban gifts of all types from lobbying groups. That sort of idea seems to make sense as it is my belief that we do not want our lawmakers unduly influenced by the green colored influence of large and small corporations and interests. It was clear that Jack Abramoff was guilty of bribing and taking bribes from Indian tribes. It was not so clear when right wing blogs and media outlets tried to paint Senator Harry Reid as part of that same scandal. Reid is the Senator from Nevada; his job is to work closely to balance Indian casinos with Las Vegas gambling interests. He is after all the author of the Indian Gaming Act which is opposed to off-reservation Indian Casinos, although it makes you wonder why Reid accepted money from Indian tribes.

The fact of the matter is that congressional votes and positions should not be able to be bought, nor should congressmen give the impression that they are being influenced. For Harry Reid to say that Jack Abramoff is a terrible person for taking money from the Indian tribes when Reid also accepted at least 30% of total donations is silly. Reid may not have been influenced by the tribes money, he does not even need to change his political position on off-reservation gaming, he took money and that gives the impression to everyone that Indian hands are in his pocket.

Reid is again in the midst of a holier than thou predicament. The AP reports that in 2004-2005, Reid accepted 3 ringside seats to professional boxing matches from the Nevada Athletic Commission. The NAC was trying to sway Reid away from creating a federal boxing commission, as they feared federal oversight would harm their ability to regulate fights. Again the issue is intention and appearance. Reid says he committed no ethics violation by accepting the tickets and did so to observe the sport that he is trying to sponsor legislation over. Reid says it was just research, I’m inclined to believe him, but intent is irrelevant. What is the point of lobbying reform if congressmen can justify themselves by saying that they were not influenced and meant no harm? Reform minded parties cannot justify their reception of gifts as acceptable because they have faith in the strength of their own character, it is blatantly hypocritical. Being a Democrat does not make it ok to be the exception to the lobbying reform rule, one should not be swayed by gifts nor should one give the impression of it by accepting gifts. How exactly are the Democrats going to convince America that they are the party to stand behind, that they are reform minded, ethical, and guided by the strength of their convictions if they are consistent with their own policies? Democrats need to keep their eyes open, they are in a prime position to take control of the Senate and the House, but all it will take for things to fall part is inaction and hypocrisy. If they have no plan, a Republican will enter the stage, denounce the Bush administration and its scandal ridden constituents, and poof! Nail in the coffin.