The LA Daily News reports that a few more congressmen have joined up with a bid to repeal the 22nd Amendment’s two-term limit for presidents. Doesn’t seem to have a chance, and it’s hard to get worked up over one way or the other, but I do think the country would be a hair more democratic without the amendment. I generally think it’s a good thing for us to have social norms against third terms of the kind that already existed before 1947, but that’s a decision for primary and general election voters to make for themselves (or, in the case of FDR, not to) in each election year, not one for another generation to make for us. And it’s a norm individual voters should each decide to uphold or reject in their own selections, not grounds for a current or past majority to deny members of a minority or future majority the chance to vote for the candidate of their choice (same goes for the far less sympathetic ban on foreign candidates, especially in an era when the ostensible threat some English prince using his wealth and residual pro-British-empire sympathies as a springboard to the Presidency is that much less of a reasonable concern…). As Aaron Sorkin once wrote, when the system works, “we have term limits in this country: they’re called elections.”

The real implications of term limits are far greater here in Mexico, where elected officials at all levels are government are limited to single terms. I heard a convincing lecture here at UDLA last week echoing what some political scientists in the US have warned about term limits: they shatter the already-fragile subject-agent relationship between voters and candidates, in which voters do their best to evaluate the performance of their representatives and reward or punish them at the voting booth. That’s why the conventional wisdom we’ve heard repeated non-stop recently is that your first term as President is for re-election, and the second is for history – a charming idea, maybe, but not a very democratic one. And it becomes much worse when no one’s term at anything is concerned with getting elected again. Defenders of the term limits I spoken to here argue that in a parliamentary system where voters are choosing parties rather than candidates (a set-up the lecturer is opposed to as well, though I’m not), this makes little difference, even holding voting based on parties constant, in a scenario without term limits voters have the chance in party elections to reward or punish incumbents, and if those incumbents make it to the top of the party’s list, then all voters get the chance to take performance into account. This professor isn’t the only Mexican I’ve spoken to here who identifies term limits as one of the reasons they feel ignored by their elected leaders, who are looking ahead not to re-election but to currying favor with party elites to make it onto the ballot for a different office (Mexico also seems to provide support, incidentally, for another hypothesis about term limits: that they reduce institutional conflict between different branches of government as you see more of the same people cycling through different offices). Of course that concern is also heightened by the overwhelming perception of party corruption, which is itself the main argument I’ve heard from Mexicans for keeping term limits in place. So earning faith that the system works seems the first step here towards convincing voters here that elections are term limits enough.

Not much new to say about the State of the Union Address because, well, it didn’t say much new. Substance-wise, it was more of the same, rhetorically, it was flat, and as for the delivery – well, no surprises there. Bush is still trying to pull a fast one on the American people with his social security numbers; when he said that FDR could not have imagined today’s economy, it was hard not to wince at the steady rollback of the New Deal of which Bush’s agenda is but the latest example. His allusions to FDR in defending his foreign policy were equally unpersuasive. If Bush expects plaudits for courage for politely suggesting to his allies in Saudi Arabia that their people get more opportunities to express themselves (meaning what? Voting for American Idol?), then we really are defining deviancy down. The moment shared between the Iraqi and American women was indeed poignant. It was, I couldn’t help thinking, an interesting echo of the moment shared between grieving Iraqi and American mothers in Farenheit 9/11. Whether one agrees more with George Bush’s or Michael Moore’s view of the architects and consequences of that war, there’s a great deal of chosen and unchosen sacrifice and suffering that should be sobering for all of us. Bush’s stated commitment to the advancement of liberty, of course, didn’t stop him from once more floating the writing of bigotry into the constitution. Just another reason that Bush’s eager exclamations of liberty fell as flat as his last line about the long and twisting road to freedom, a pale shadow of a truly great American’s promise (more urgent and more seemingly distant than ever) that “The arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice.”

Republicans are now plotting to replace the dime’s likeness of FDR, who (for all his illiberal faults) presided over a historic expansion of the conception of government as a force for social justice, the end of a Depression, and a war against Nazism, with one of Reagan, who presided over historic government deficits, the expansion of the military-industrial complex, the erosion of civil liberties, and the turning of the government’s back on the suffering in society.

No surprise there.

To those of you sent here when you googled…

aclu supports internment camps
Sorry, but no. Zinn argues that in the 50s the ACLU “withered” and muffled its criticism of McCarthyism to remain politically viable – heavy charges that I don’t have the background to support or refute. But the ACLU was one of the few groups to visibly and stridently condemn the Japanese interment – raising the contemporary ire of Ann Coulter, who argues that it’s hypocritical for a left organization to support J. Edgar Hoover’s left stances (opposition to internment) and not his right ones (opposition to privacy and democratic oversight). I should apologize for already having given her argument too much ink back in July when she wrote it – as well as her equally silly one that since Democratic FDR shamefully caved to conservative animus towards Japanese-Americans in supporting internment, Conservative Republicans must be the real defenders of civil liberties. For anyone who still believes Coulter that FDR and the ACLU (and, for that matter, everyone from Bill Clinton to Cynthia McKinney) get their marching orders from the same playbook (care of Karl Marx), I should perhaps also clarify that the ACLU also opposes HOLC red-lining and the racial segregation of blood donations.

Kissinger the war crimminal

That about says it right there. That, and lemme know if you want to take a trip with me to look through his archives after his death for some tidbits about the full depravity of the man.

IBEW chatroom

Is there one? Hot. Sign me up.

Ed Rendell hoagie photo

Populism is not about eating a hoagie better than John Kerry (although I don’t know who eats a hoagie worse than John Kerry). Populism is about wanting to see the Democratic Leadership Council go the way of the AFL-CIO’s CIA-tool the AIFLD. Populism is most certainly not having the DLC choose Philadelphia for its annual celebration of prostitution to big business and scorn towards the American people to celebrate you as the kind of Democratic candidate that will reassure the bosses that they have nothing to worry about from the Democrats. Oh yeah – and the Philly soft pretzel is the real icon, not the hoagie or the cheesesteak.

Matt Naclerio

Should run for Mayor of New Haven.

Katie Krauss

Should’ve gone for Ari Fleischer’s job while it was still open.

Schwarzengger and antisemitism

The most thorough and judicious article-length discussion of Schwarzenegger’s relationship with Kurt Waldheim I’d say is Timothy Noah’s here. Schwarzenegger’s refusal to condemn a member of the Wehrmacht “honor list” for the Kozara massacre – or even his actions – raises troubling questions about his political courage and his sense of justice. Although on the question of how he’d govern the state of California, this is more disturbing.

auth cartoon philadelphia inquirer israel, auth antisemitism, etc.

I think I spilled enough (virtual) ink on this here. Josh Cherniss’ thoughts to which I was responding (a response to my original piece here), are here. If he posts a response to mine, it’ll be posted here – I suspect we’ve both exhausted the topic for now however. If you’re one of the several who entered one of the searches above and you want to talk more about it, lemme know.

Al Franken and Arianna Huffington’s political show in bed

It’s been too long. Bring it back. Maybe we could get Arianna Huffington, Cruz Bustamante, Peter Camoje, Gray Davis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill Simon, and Gary Coleman in bed together on TV – who says the American people don’t have the patience for substantive political coverage?

verizon cwa strike

Read about smart tactics, support from Senators, and what you can do to help.

arianna huffington verizon

Know something I don’t?

Lynda-Obst Bitch

Now I don’t know the woman personally, but that’s just not nice.

Interfaith religious symbol

I have been known on occasion to refer to James Baldwin as God…But I have to say Jim Lawson really wowed me this weekend. So he may be my nominee. Unless you found this site thinking it was an interfaith religious symbol, in which case sorry to disappoint…

And for all of you who came here searching for

wild bouquet

If you’re looking for a gift, get something here. Trust me – it’ll make him/her swoon. Or buy me something and make me swoon…

Ann Coulter’s latest column demonstrates all the talents that have so endeared her to her fans – farcically forced fury, painfully flat humor, recklessness with facts and incoherent logic. A choice selection:

Absurdly, liberals claim to hate J. Edgar Hoover because of their passion for civil liberties. The left’s exquisite concern for civil liberties apparently did not extend to the Japanese. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt rounded up Japanese for the internment camps, liberals were awed by his genius. The Japanese internment was praised by liberal luminaries such as Earl Warren, Felix Frankfurter and Hugo Black. Joseph Rauh, a founder of Americans for Democratic Action – and celebrated foe of “McCarthyism” – supported the internment.

There was one lonely voice in the Roosevelt administration opposed to the Japanese internment – that of J. Edgar Hoover. The American Civil Liberties Union gave J. Edgar Hoover an award for wartime vigilance during World War II. It was only when he turned his award-winning vigilance to Soviet spies that liberals thought Hoover was a beast.

Here Coulter employs a favorite tactic – citing illiberal choices made or perpetuated under Democratic administrations and using them, despite contemporary criticism from the left or pushes from the right for even more draconian moves, as evidence of the moral bankruptcy of the left as a whole (she does this masterfully with segregation, for example). The fact that FDR, bowing to the pressures of fear and jingoism within and outside of the government, betrayed the values of the left and trampled on the Constitution and principles of human decency in signing Executive Order 9066 simply demonstrates that FDR was neither as courageous nor as Left as history makes him out to be. The fact that a man like Daniel Pipes, who refuses to condemn internment, is considered a distinguished scholar and an ally of this administration in foreign policy, and that a man like Howard Coble (R-NC), who came out in support of the camps last February, chairs a house subcommittee on domestic security raises troubling questions about the agenda this administration (Republican, for those of you keeping score at home) wants to lead this country. Coulter, for her part, spent her last column gloating about a Department of Justice report acknowledging abuse of immigrants detained after September 11 as evidence that the government isn’t letting details like the constitution get in the way of the Bush Doctrine (but this is the same woman who maintains both that we should “bomb their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity” and that conservatives are the most compassionate suffering people in the world). Coulter, in fact, seems not to have ever met a regressive policy towards immigrants that she couldn’t countenance, spin, and celebrate – but at least she’s against internment camps… Congressman John Rankin famously declared, “I’m for catching every Japanese in America, Alaska, and Hawai’i now and putting them in concentration camps…Damn them! Let’s get rid of them!” He was also instrumental in securing the place of the House UnAmerican Activities Committee in American Government.

The final lines excerpted above raise the self-parody to an even higher plane. Faced with the information she provides – the leftist ACLU praised Hoover for opposing FDR assault on civil liberties and condemned him for later launching his own – a logical person might conclude that the left supports protecting civil liberties – maybe even that some on the left are willing to condemn political allies who pursue regressive policy and work with political opponents for shared progressive goals (the ACLU’s coalition against the PATRIOT Act – one of Coulter’s favorite pieces of legislation – is a contemporary example as well). Instead, Coulter judges the left as hypocritical for supporting Hoover’s left-wing moves and opposing his right-wing ones. One can understand why this might bother Coulter – for her, personality trumps politics every time.