Wednesday, April 27, 2005
( 6:53 AM )
I'm not sure if most readers of the Oregonian, or the Oregonian staff, caught the most recent "1984" example of how our community is eating itself alive. But this household caught it.
On Friday, the newspaper announced that Intel, one of our biggest corporate residents, had achieved a sweet deal: for the next 15 years, the huge computer chip manufacturer will save $580 million in property taxes (translation: the corporation doesn't have to pay property tax while the rest of the residents have to take up its slack). Another example of communities held hostage by corporations. Of course the biggest hit gets taken by the area schools, who are funded by those property taxes.
Intel asked for the extension in February and received broad support from civic officials and business leaders in Washington County, who welcome the prospect of continued corporate investment. The company's annual payroll in Washington County tops $1.5 billion.
Social activists and education boosters are more wary, concerned Intel isn't paying for the burden it creates in the community and schools, but there have been fewer objections than when Intel signed its last deal six years ago. Washington County commissioners and the Hillsboro City Council plan to vote on the new agreement after a public hearing May 17.
Intel hasn't actually committed to any new Oregon investment, and, as with the existing package of tax breaks, the exemptions apply only to money the company spends in Washington County. Also, like the current agreement, the new deal would require Intel to pay millions in fees to the county and to Hillsboro but nothing to the area's schools.
Then, yesterday the Oregonian ran an article about "entrepreneurial vision" where it interviewed a departing chief of Intel's venture capital wing about what it takes to keep entreprenurism and corporations alive and happy in a community. The Intel guy's main complaint about the Portland community? Why, the poor state of the schools, of course!
What are one or two concrete things you think the state or local governments could do?
At the risk of simplification, I'd say there's two things: One is to establish both the vision as well as the funding mechanisms to lead in K-12 education. . . . The second thing is to develop a set of policies for the formation of new businesses that at a minimum does not competitively disadvantage a business in Oregon relative to anywhere else in the world.
Are corporations paying their fair share financially?
Everything begins with jobs and education. People get educations, they get good jobs. They get good jobs, they buy nice houses. Property values go up, property taxes flow into the school system, and that's kind of the circle of life in my book. . . . I think what you want to do is bring the best jobs you possibly can to your neighborhood. It's that simple. . . . You can't competitively disadvantage businesses if you wish for them to locate in your state.
... Irony. It would make you laugh if you weren't so busy trying to pay the extra
Sunday, April 24, 2005
( 9:05 AM )
A New Hero
Marla Ruzicka's funeral was today. If you don't know who she is, please learn about her. A young woman, cut down by a car bomb in Iraq at age 28, she was passionately working for truth and justice by gathering as much information about civilian casualties in that country as she possibly could. She knew it was dangerous, but she cared about the people and she cared about the truth. Her organization, CIVIC (Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict), started as a one-woman effort to speak for those who do not have a voice when the powerful wage war.
Above all, Marla Ruzicka had a mission. She believed deeply that the families of civilians killed by the U.S. should receive compensation. She forcefully argued that the U.S. government had a duty to all innocents injured by its weapons, especially children who needed urgent medical care from decent hospitals. These simple principles cut straight to the heart of our collective responsibility during wartime.
She lobbied Congress, raising the most uncomfortable questions about our involvement in Iraq, and then demanded justice for the people forgotten in government policy. She won. Tens of millions of dollars were set aside to assist Iraqis who were the victims of the war.
But Marla didn't stay in Washington. How many innocent people have been killed by U.S. forces? Marla wanted to know the answer to that ugly question and so she returned to Iraq. She started looking for the truth by going door to door in Baghdad, taking a survey. She just started asking Iraqi families how many people they were missing. Of course, it was so simple -- this was her human approach.
Marla spent a great deal of time trying to help Iraqis who lost family members to the war. During the first siege of Fallujah, I once found her screaming at the director of the Iraqi Red Crescent, demanding that he organize a way to bring supplies to refugees. She was furious at his apathy. It drove her crazy.
Marla told me how hard it was to try to wring compensation payments from the U.S. military and what it was like to lobby Congress for Iraqi civilians rights. To get her projects through, she described to anyone who would listen the cases of injured Iraqis and the families of those killed. She would lean on her point, even when surrounded by experts who were supposed to know the deal.
When will humanity begin to care more about the most vulnerable rather than about power? I don't know if that will ever happen, or if that is even possible with human nature. I'd like to believe it is. But it is always the powerful making war and more tragedy and always the tiny - young women like Marla or Rachel Corrie - who dare to stand in the way of injustice.
It is sad that only in her death did many people find out what she was doing. I hope her work will continue so that at least some part of humanity can be redeemed out of our invasion of Iraq. The ongoing tragedy is that we still have no idea what has truly happened in Iraq, how many are truly suffering, and what we really COULD be doing to help them. People like Marla will always be striving against the machine to shine light in the dark places. I wonder how many of us would be willing to join her?
The only thing we can say now is at least she died doing what she wanted, doing what she really, really believed in. If she were still here, she'd be most worried now about her driver's family and who will take care of all the other Iraqi families she was working with.
She would point out, this happens to Iraqis every day and no one notices or even cares. There are no newspaper articles or investigations into what happens to them. For most of them, there was only Marla.
Friday, April 22, 2005
( 1:32 PM )
Just Say No
Today Portland became the first city in the nation to withdraw cooperation from the Joint Terrorism Task Force. B!x has the whole and ongoing story.
Tom Potter, our new mayor, had insisted that either he be given the clearance to particiapte in the JTTF's mission and know what Portland police officers are involved in, or the police should not participate. The argument, in this citizen's point of view is cogent: The citizens, as represented by the mayor, should know what our cops are up to. And the JTTF isn't into anything but secret and manipulative tactics. Our police in this city have enough problems and it seems like a smart idea to put our cops back where they belong. The agreement reached between Potter and the JTTF ensures ongoing communication, cooperation and support in the fight against terrorism. Our JTTF doesn't have the most stellar reputation, and while some people (Lars Larsen) believe our Portland streets are running rampant with would-be terrorists, for the most part, they are unwelcome in this community. Now, all we have to do is get the police to respond to the drive by shootings in Northeast and quit ignoring us.... maybe if we said they were terrorists...
( 1:30 PM )
Happy Earth Day!
Go Celebrate. Mother Earth is celebrating for us here in Portland - bright, sunny and 75 degrees. Ah, Spring!
Thursday, April 21, 2005
( 11:22 AM )
I will be taking a class this coming summer on how to teach economics. I confess I've never been fully comfortable with economic science, though I have read many books and talked with many people who know far more than I do. If you're looking for cogent economic analysis, I HIGHLY recommend Maxspeak. Of course Atrios himself is an economist as well and always has a very concise and understandable spin on things.
Why I bring this up is the news today that Greenspan has now sounded the alarm about our deficits. This appears to me to be very hypocritical. I was wondering a couple of years ago why he hadn't already rung that bell. When Clinton was in office, Greenspan was constantly warning about deficits. But then when Bush took office, Greenspan seemed fine with lowering revenue (taxes) even though it would create much larger deficits. Now it appears that those deficits, which are growing exponentially, are close to being out of control. Time to put on the breaks.
On the fiscal front, Greenspan said the persistence of swollen budget deficits in the years ahead "would cause the economy to stagnate or worse" unless the situation is reversed.
The budget deficit is a problem because it is projected to rise significantly as the first of 78 million baby boomers start to retire in 2008.
Last year, the government produced a budget deficit of $412 billion, a record in dollar terms. The deficit this year is projected to shatter that record, coming in at an estimated $427 billion.
Greenspan's call for fiscal prudence touched a nerve with Democrats who still sting from Greenspan's endorsement of President Bush's $1.3 trillion tax cut in 2001. It was proposed at a time when the government was expecting a decade of budget surpluses, which didn't materialize.
"I was wrong like everybody else on the issue of surpluses," Greenspan said.
I don't really know the practical reason why Greenspan holds so much power when it comes to the country's economics - it seems like a mixture of myth and politics. I don't know if it is all that wise to have one person be able to dictate so much for the country. Especially when he is wrong. Most people could tell 3 or 4 years ago that we were making the wrong choices when it came to how we budgeted money for the country. But Greenspan maintained support for the tax cuts and other decisions made that have increased our debt many times. It does worry me that China holds so much of our debt. It does bother me that we don't really know how many people are unemployed becuase they've changed the rules and people now just drop off the rolls. It bothers me that Americans are still hungry and without basic needs while the Congress tries to push through an energy bill that is full of giveaways to corporate polluters. How we spend our money says a lot about us as a country. It always has. Put when those in charge are simply more concerned about power and their own future with money than they are for the caretaking of their citizens, I doubt that our national budget and financial priorities will ever change much.
The problem is that we see ourselves as all powerful and dictating the economy of the world. While that has been historically true this last century, I wonder how truly true it still is while we've allowed our economic priorities to become so inflated against humanity. But humanity and the rest of the world isn't as enamored of Greenspan and our economic impact as we think they are. I always liked that quote from Argentina's newspaper, the El Cronista after Greenspan had raised interest rates several years ago: "Greenspan Raises Rates a Half Point and the World Continues to Turn."
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
( 2:12 PM )
I shared the following quote with my students yesterday and asked them to reflect on it and respond in writing:
"As I stood before the gates I realized that I never want to be as certain about anything as were the people who built this place."
-Rabbi Sheila Peltz, on her visit to Auschwitz
What were the Nazis so sure about? I asked my students. When they began their reign, did anyone question their certainty?
I then shared with them this picture (scroll down). Those white people, their faces twisted in hate and anger, gathering to keep 9 young black children from going to school. They were very certain about why they were there.
What I don't want these 18 year olds or any other American to do is to go through life not questioning when someone is so certain about something. If we are unwilling to explore the possibility that we could be wrong about something, that someone could have a point that we haven't yet heard, that perhaps there are other paths available, then we cannot learn and we cannot grow. Most especially, if you do not question authority and what it demands of you, then you are in danger of becoming a victim to certainty. Questioning and dissent are not wrong and not treasonous. If there had been more questioning, more dissent, how much state-sponsored terror and opppression could have been avoided throughout history?
When questioning authority becomes a crime, we are doomed. That our president, who is supposed to represent all of us, continues to tour the country and appear at specially organized pep rallies where no one who dissents is allowed to hear their president argue his case or to question him and his non-plan for Social Security, is a sign that we are letting things slip. Simply stopping the publication of an uncomfortable terrorism report, or pretending that we are "winning" a war that has been a quagmire from the start, or any number of other things are not policy decisions - they are evidence of certainty over truth and honesty and good policy.
Just some thoughts today. I'm probably thoughtful about it because today I turned 34. I want to be a lifetime learner and never be so certain about anything that I am unwilling to question. And I believe that if I stop questioning, and I do not teach my child to question, and you stop questioning, and if enough people stop questioning, that is the foothold oppression needs.
Certainty isn't worth Auschwitz ... or Little Rock ... or a flawed "war on terrorism." It never can be.
Monday, April 18, 2005
( 9:40 PM )
Making us Safer!
For almost 20 years, the State Department has published an annual report on global terrorism. It lists terrorist groups that are on its watchlist and counts how many terrorist attacks occur throughout the year around the world. In its recently released analysis for 2004, it reported that more terrorist attacks occurred last year than in any year of the previous 19 reported on.
The Bush administration's response to this disturbing news? To cancel publication of the report, of course!
But other current and former officials charged that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's office ordered "Patterns of Global Terrorism" eliminated several weeks ago because the 2004 statistics raised disturbing questions about the Bush's administration's frequent claims of progress in the war against terrorism.
"Instead of dealing with the facts and dealing with them in an intelligent fashion, they try to hide their facts from the American public," charged Larry C. Johnson, a former CIA analyst and State Department terrorism expert who first disclosed the decision to eliminate the report in The Counterterrorism Blog, an online journal.
Rep. Henry Waxman (news, bio, voting record), D-Calif., who was among the leading critics of last year's mix-up, reacted angrily to the decision.
"This is the definitive report on the incidence of terrorism around the world. It should be unthinkable that there would be an effort to withhold it - or any of the key data - from the public. The Bush administration should stop playing politics with this critical report."
Of course, the State Department says that no such thing is happening. They just think the methodology is flawed and the report shouldn't be released anymore. Funny how it worked for them when they liked the results but when the report was corrected for 2003 to show that there were indeed more terrorist attacks than previously counted, it made Bush look really bad. And now 2004 is even worse. What do you do with evidence that you're screwing the world and making everyone less secure? Get rid of the evidence!
Wow, another brilliant tactic in our president's ongoing fight for freedom. I feel more secure already. Of course, he had me at pre-emptive war...
Friday, April 15, 2005
( 1:10 PM )
You've GOT to be kidding me...
Kos hits it on the nail: "This is going to get ugly." The radical right is starting a campaign that involves Sen. Frist and James Dobson to convince Christians in a TV special that the filibuster is being used to discriminate against "people of faith." They are two-faced devils. On the one side, they claim that the judiciary must be impeached when it doesn't make decisions they like, and on the other side, they are saying that Congress isn't approving enough judges! In fact, Congress has only disapproved 10 of George Bush's judicial nominees, while it denied Clinton 55 of his nominees in the same time period. Let's get serious here. The fundamentalists' move to take over the government is very real. They do it by lying and obfuscating. Their beliefs have nothing to do with what Jesus taught, and everything to do with wanting what the Wahabist House of Saud has: a country ruled by a fundamentalist minority with all the wealth and power centralized and democracy gone the way of the Enlightenment.
UPDATE: A Kossack uses Photoshop with style - "American Taliban: It isn't Oppression if you Voted for it."
Thursday, April 14, 2005
( 12:33 PM )
Let the Kids Pay for the Gas!
The whole gas issue seems both overdone and ignored at the same time. Mostly because people don't seem to have a problem continuing to pay higher gas prices, so the government isn't motivated to make any changes or introduce new ideas for energy. As long as the teeming masses are willing to fork over the cash, why should the government have to do anything to change the status quo?
Here in Oregon, the gas prices are predicted to affect a lot more than people at the gas pump. Because of the way budgets are written, it could be that soon, kids will have to pay to ride their school busses, or travel to sports games or on field trips.
Well before gas and diesel got so spendy, the district canceled afternoon kindergarten classes to make fewer bus runs. It also reduced field trips. Classes now must raise the money themselves -- or send parents the bill -- if they expect to take a bus on a field trip, says Robin Biden, director of transportation for the district.
Jay Rowell, superintendent of the La Grande School District, says his district spends about $200,000 busing children. The amount will increase about $20,000 this year because of the higher gas prices and other factors, Rowell said.
My students don't understand why the government doesn't invest in research and production of alternate fuel sources like hydrogen fuel cells. They are growing up into the future, and they don't get it why the people in charge of the country aren't looking at the future either. It makes sense to invest in new fuel sources - it creates jobs, it motivates higher education avenues, and it makes us independent in terms of fuel.
I tend to agree with my students, of course. But while it's the oilmen who run the country and fill the pockets of those who maintain the government's status quo (Democrats included), then we'll never take that step into the future. The door is open for us. So much of the research has already been done. We know how to do it, we know what we can do. So why don't we do it?
America thinks of itself as so progressive and advanced and ahead of the world. Yet it seems we prefer to sit back in the middle ages and argue over who can and can't get married and who can and can't decide how to end their own lives instead of making forward-seeking choices that truly would make us progressive and advanced. And the world leader we seem to think we are.
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
( 3:37 PM )
Now You See It; Now You Don't
Our President took some time out of his busy Bamboozlepalooza Social Security Tour of Desperation today to don his snazzy military/sporty jacket and thank the troops at Fort Hood for their service and sacrifice to the country. How nice. How thoughtful and supportive of him.
"Whether you are coming or going, you're making an enormous difference for the security of our nation and for the peace of our world," Bush told them. "I want to thank you for extending freedom to millions, and I want to thank you for making America proud."
Meanwhile, back in Washington and almost simultaneously, his party's leaders in Congress beat down a proposal to use some of the additional money he's asking for Iraq and Afghanistan to be spent on VA Hospitals.
The first debate came Tuesday over a proposal by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., to provide an additional $1.98 billion for veteran's care. She said VA hospitals are underfunded and overcrowded.
"There's a train wreck coming," Murray warned.
Republicans denied the VA had such serious problems. They noted the Bush administration said the additional funding wasn't needed and that it had enough money to cope with emergencies.
Murray's proposal was defeated in a 54-46 vote, mostly along party lines.
Instead, they'd rather spend some of this extra money on making sure states don't give driver's licenses to illegal workers. Hmmm. Way to support the troops, Mr. President. Republicans: leading the way for veterans.
UPDATE: Voice of a Vet notes that vets now can apply for tax-free combat related compensation - but they have to go after it to get it, and most don't know it's available.
Friday, April 08, 2005
( 3:23 PM )
Dear Portland International Airport:
One of our favorite simple pleasures is going to the airport and watching the airplanes up close. My 3-year-old son absolutely loves airplanes and now that Southwest has painted all their planes purple (his favorite color), it has become even more of a thrill to watch them. However, when we went to the airport the other day, we found that all the windows in all the public areas have been covered over with this transluscent (but not transparent) covering. So the light gets in, but no one can see out. It was horrible, we went everywhere and couldn't find one window to look out. I flagged down one of the TSA agents [(is it just me or are they all now drunk on the power of funneling people into lines to strip and go through the metal detectors? and here in Portland, there seems to be about 3 TSA nazi's to every normal person in the airport)]. He then informed us that you have covered all the windows "so people can't figure out the patterns of the airplanes."
Oh for crying out loud. This is really the last straw.
A. You can't see any "patterns" from the restaurant windows. If you're loooking for take off and landing patterns, watching from the airport doesn't help, you'd just drive down to the lookout at the end of the airstrip and get what you wanted. There is literally nothing to see from the public area in the airport (since no on can go to the gates anymore if they're not flying) except airplanes taxi back and forth - something that is pure delight for little children.
B. Did you have to cover up the ENTIRE length of the windows? They are floor-to-ceiling windows, so why not leave 2 feet at the bottom opoen so little kids can still see out? Then adults crouching for long time to watch the planes would obviously be suspicious. Shouldn't be too hard for the hoards of TSA agents to figure out that adult was out of place.
C. Give me a break. You don't even check any of the cargo getting onto planes, the airlines are outsourcing all the mechanical work on the planes, and you're spending money on covering up and removing the only pleasure that's left in the aiport?
It's a sad day when one of the few free pleasures in life is taken away because of stupidity. Of course, since that seems to be the course this entire country is on, I suppose it is little surprise. When I tried to explain to my young son that the airport wouldn't let him watch planes anymore because they don't want bad people to see them, he responded, "but I'm not a bad man, mommy." The statement we're all increasingly making as our rights, freedoms and simple pleasures are slowly stripped away.
A Frustrated Mama
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
( 8:01 AM )
John Conyers remains faithful to the American people and the republic.
That was to be a subtle message. It is unfortunate that today my message must be less subtle because things are very quickly spinning out of control.
First, the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Tom DeLay, made the outrageous statement, and apparent threat, that "the time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior." When given repeated opportunities to disavow the interpretation of his comments as a threat or incitement to violence, DeLay has repeatedly declined to do so.
Tonight, my staff showed me a quote from Senator John Cornyn (found on Americablog) that speaks for itself: "And finally, I – I don't know if there is a cause-and-effect connection but we have seen some recent episodes of courthouse violence in this country. Certainly nothing new, but we seem to have run through a spate of courthouse violence recently that's been on the news. And I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters on some occasions where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in -- engage in violence. Certainly without any justification but a concern that I have that I wanted to share."
This apparent effort to rationalize violence against judges is deplorable. On its face, while it contains doubletalk that simultaneously offers a justification for such violence and then claims not to, the fundamental core of the statement seems to be that judges have somehow brought this violence on themselves. This also carries an implicit threat: that if judges do not do what the far right wants them to do (thus becoming the "judicial activists" the far right claims to deplore), the violence may well continue.
If this is what Senator Cornyn meant to say, it is outrageous, irresponsible and unbecoming of our leaders. To be sure, I have disagreed with many, many court rulings. (For example, Bush v. Gore may well be the single greatest example of judicial activism we have seen in our lifetime.) But there is no excuse, no excuse, for a Member of Congress to take our discourse to this ugly and dangerous extreme.
My message is not subtle today. It is simple. To my Republican colleagues: you are playing with fire, you are playing with lives, and you must stop.
Senator Cornyn and Congressman DeLay should immediately retract these ill considered statements.
Better yet, they should immediately retract themselves from Congress.
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
( 2:05 PM )
My infrequent posting and then total disappearance the last few weeks is over. I have returned to blogging. I have probably lost some readers and though I thought about putting up a short explanation of why I wasn't posting, I just didn't want to go near the blog. I got so incredibly fed up with what was happening in our country and in the news, I simply didn't want to comment. I tried at first to talk about other things besides Terry Schiavo, but it became overwhelming -- it was all that anyone would talk about anywhere on the news, on the radio, in the paper. I just simply felt weary trying to shout against the wind. And then, on Palm Sunday when Congress and the President decided to conduct their midnight moratorium on federalism and the separation of powers, I just lost it. I could not believe that this had been allowed to happen right in front of us and no one seemed concerned. I just decided to take a break. It's extremely frustrating to me that Tom DeLay and his ilk continue to betray the values this Republic was based on and that there is no power that is willing to stop this spiral.
But I'm back now. There are voices in the wilderness. Even my own students recognize the ridiculous - they can tear apart NCLB without any help from an adult, they can argue very convincingly for the right to vote if they pay taxes because they work, they can see that the politicians care more about money than anything else. It's time for the adults in this country to start acting like adults. How can we even attempt to raise children if we're not fighting for the world they deserve to grow up in? Anyway, I just needed a break from it all. Mental health sabbatical. It's good to be back.
( 1:14 PM )
Crossing the Rubicon
You may know that the Rubicon is a small river in northern Italy. During the time when the Roman Republic was at its prime, it was the boundary that protected Rome from its own imperial armies (a couple of centuries BC). The standing rule was that no soldiers marched past the Rubicon into Rome. Of course Julius Caesar was the first to take his army across the Rubicon into Rome, plunging it into civil war and leading to the ultimate destruction of the Republic and the beginning of the Roman dictators. So now the phrase "crossing the rubicon" refers to starting on a course of action from which there is no turning back.
In his recent article in In These Times, Chalmers Johnson uses the story of the Rubicon to describe this administration's foreign policy - in his words, "alarming."
I believe that on November 2, 2004, the United States crossed its own Rubicon. Until last year’s presidential election, ordinary citizens could claim that our foreign policy, including the invasion of Iraq, was George Bush’s doing and that we had not voted for him. In 2000, Bush lost the popular vote and was appointed president by the Supreme Court. In 2004, he garnered 3.5 million more votes than John Kerry. The result is that Bush’s war changed into America’s war and his conduct of international relations became our own.
This is important because it raises the question of whether restoring sanity and prudence to American foreign policy is still possible. During the Watergate scandal of the early ’70s, the president’s chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman, once reproved White House counsel John Dean for speaking too frankly to Congress about the felonies President Nixon had ordered. “John,” he said, “once the toothpaste is out of the tube, it’s very hard to get it back in.” This homely warning by a former advertising executive who was to spend 18 months in prison for his own role in Watergate fairly accurately describes the situation of the United States after the reelection of George W. Bush.
Johnson argues that by re-electing Bush, we crossed the rubicon as a nation. We can no longer explain away our behavior toward the rest of the world by saying this administration does not have a true popular mandate. Though slim, it does now carry the electoral mandate it so desperately wanted. And because of that, we are now all responsible for understanding that the ship we're sailing has suffered unalterable blows - and we are responsible for immediately doing what we can to fix it.
Johnson names three main problems that must be solved in order for the US to play a more positive role in the world. First, it must resolve its fiscal crisis. The looming bankruptcy of the nation and the massive trade and fiscal deficits are something that Americans and their elected leaders have so far been quite adept at ignoring. But they are very real, and our financial ails are enough to limit or completely destroy our ability to make choices for ourself as a nation.
Second, our citizenship in the international community must be addressed. Johnson says this is not so much about reforming our policies, but more about "reforming our attitudes." The more our attitude belies little concern for the rest of the world: (our approval of abduction and torture, the appointment of offensive people to posts that should show our respect to the world, our contempt for international law and international courts, our bullying based on ideological stances that have nothing to do with the world's needs (insisting that abortion be part of every decision made in giving financial aid to health organizations)), the more our policies won't even matter anymore.
Finally, if the above two things can be resolved, THEN we can look to trying to reform our foreign policies. New approaches to global issues are badly needed, and we are still stuck in cold war/bilateral ways of thinking. For example, we are consumed by our cold war habit of needing an external enemy in order to foment internal peace. We have turned to this new "war on terrorism" with gusto, instead of changing our whole approach to dealing with the new global dynamics that face us. We're so intoxicated by our status as "sole world power" that we will lose hold of that status before we even have a chance to use it in a positive way. We are a young nation that has achieved its empire earlier than many other nations in history. But if history tells us anything, empire is ephemeral and if we do not change the way we think and the way we approach the world, before we know it we will be left behind.
I encourage you to read the article by Johnson. If anything, he provides details of these three arguments for improving our foreign policy.
I don't know if I agree that our Rubicon was crossed on Nov. 2, 2004. I tend to feel it was crossed two weeks ago, when the Legislative and the Executive branches declared war on the Judicial branch. The sometimes balanced, sometimes wavering separation of powers is the bedrock on which our Federalism is based. Our own Republic, only 200 years young, exists because we chose not to make one branch more powerful than the others. With the massive powers of the Executive and its agencies, and the increasing intransigence of the Legislative, the judicial is left facing abuse from all sides (Congressional leaders want their guys appointed, but when their guys don't make the judicial decisions they like, they want to just get rid of them). How did we get here? How did we all sit quietly while Congress and the President strode into Washington at midnight on Palm Sunday and decided they had the right to temporarily end federalism for their own purposes?
If we simply continue on the path we are taking now, we will reach a point where we can't stop, and our Rubicon will have been irreversibly crossed. If it hasn't been crossed already.
UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias expounds (very well, as always) on the Legislative Branch's continued assault on the Judicial branch.