Monday, March 31, 2008

The State of Politics

Mikaela says:
Sorry about my extended absence here on m-pyre. I won't go into the whole thing, but it has to do with world weariness and personal changes and a fundamental questioning of whether it makes sense to share thoughts in a public sphere when I'm not a journalist and don't want to be.

After a talk with Marjorie, I've drawn the line for myself that those bloggers who try to make a living at this -- drawing revenue from ads, etc. -- incur the added responsibility for fact-checking. Those of us, like the ms on m-pyre, who are merely lay commentators, must trust our secondary sources. When we find them to be untrustworthy, we have to temper our reliance on them. And that's about it. Otherwise, I think we just have to call 'em as we see 'em from our limited, but sometimes helpful and sometimes more wide-angle lens, perspectives.

That being said, here's four tidbits that have me hopping today.

The first two come via Democracy Now's headlines:

Bush Jeered at Baseball Game

President Bush was met by jeers and cheers last night as he threw out the first pitch of the Washington Nationals baseball season. The Washington Nationals opened their season in a new $600 million stadium that was financed almost entirely by government subsidies.

Man do I want to see this footage! You can do that here. The two highlights are at about 35 seconds into the clip, when the boos first start and about 55 seconds, when Bush appears to GLARE at the crowd. The announcers don't say a WORD about the jeering. They just compliment his throw and move on... Not sure that counts as announcing so much as editing, but oh well.

80-Year-Old Deacon Arrested at Mall for Antiwar T-Shirt

In Long Island, New York, an eighty-year-old church deacon was removed from a shopping mall Saturday and arrested after he refused to remove a t-shirt protesting the Iraq war. Deacon Don Zirkel was handing out antiwar pamphlets when he was approached by security guards at the Smith Haven Mall. The guards placed him under citizen’s arrest after he refused orders to turn his t-shirt inside out. When the local police arrived they charged him with criminal trespassing and resisting arrest.

How awful is this? It brings to mind all the hoopla about anti-"gang" rules that malls adopted so they could harass and throw out youth, who misguidedly assumed, as most of us did, that malls are public space. Not so, apparently. They're entirely private, and they can mess with whomever they wish, unfortunately. In the planning sphere, this has huge implications about who actually "owns" the spaces where they public interacts, and what that implies about civic life. This latest story takes this to whole new and scary levels. What's next?

By the way, via another website, here's a description of the t-shirt at-issue:

Zirkel, a deacon at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in Wyandanch, said his shirt had the death tolls of American military personnel and Iraqis -- 4,000 and 1 million -- and the words "Dead" and "Enough." The shirt also has three blotches resembling blood splatters.

The third is from my ever-beloved This American Life, who this week took on the Bush Administration's abuse of power and perhaps lasting corruption of the executive office and its bureaucratic minions across our governmental system.

The Audacity of Government
Stories of the Bush Administration, its unique style of asserting presidential authority, and its quest to redefine the limits of presidential power.

We've noticed a trend in a number of actions taken lately by the United States government. Tiny things, things you probably haven't heard of, but with big implications. Harassing widows. Defying a century-old and utterly benign treaty—with Canada! So we've decided to spend an hour talking about the unrelenting, combative style of this Administration.

The show includes an interview with Charlie Savage, who single-handedly educated our nation about Bush's use of signing statements to by-pass Congress, which has significantly called our system of checks and balance into question. One interesting portion of the interview is hearing what the current Presidential candidates said their positions were on signing statements (McCain vowed not to use them; Obama and Clinton said they would) and indefinite holding of "enemy combatants" -- an entirely new designation created by Bush to get around the Constitutional requirement of habeas corpus and other international laws (I think all said they didn't agree the President had that power, even though the Supreme Court ruled otherwise for Bush).

The show also tells the story of how Immigration has bucked the law in order to deport widows of U.S. citizens. Even the interviewee can't quite figure out what's at stake for the government to fight so hard, and perhaps illegally, to do this, but it doesn't bode well, whatever the reason. The neat legal noose they use should scare us all, as it has implications for many levels of government, and it could signal the doorway to huge abuses of power that affect us all.

The last is via Dan Froomkin's White House Watch, my perennial favorite source for all things Bush related.

Brazilian Tells Off Bush

AFP reports: "Brazil President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said Thursday he told US President George W. Bush to fix his country's economic problems before they spill over and harm other economies.

"'Son, here's the problem,' Lula said he told Bush in a telephone call. 'We've had 26 years with no growth. And now that we're growing, you want to complicate things? Fix your own crisis!'

Doesn't that just speak for itself? Way to go, Lula!