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Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Crazed Nurses And Firefighters

Wow. Arnold's in trouble.

He's No Criminal

The left has come up with a target, and his name is Tom DeLay. He isn’t their first and won’t be their last, but for now he’s the Republican they hope to take down.

They’ve tried in the past to do the same thing to others. Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld and White House adviser Karl Rove have all been portrayed as ethically challenged and sleazy by the same folks who are now going after the House Republican leader from Texas. Trumped-up charges of illegality, paid ads and reports from ethics groups that are little more than fronts for partisan and ideological assaults on their opponents are all part of the now familiar pattern.

If the attacks on those who have come before are any guide, this will go on for some time and then subside as they find new targets on whom to vent their bile.

DeLay is far from perfect, but he’s no criminal and one doubts if any of his colleagues really believes he’s motivated by anything other than his strongly held principles and a desire to win. In fact, the argument that he’s essentially a venal inside-the-Beltway operator is probably the weakest part of the left wing’s case against him because, while one can picture him crossing the line to achieve his ideological objectives, it is impossible to visualize him doing so to make a buck.


A six-day trip to Moscow in 1997 by then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) was underwritten by business interests lobbying in support of the Russian government, according to four people with firsthand knowledge of the trip arrangements.

DeLay reported that the trip was sponsored by a Washington-based nonprofit organization. But interviews with those involved in planning DeLay's trip say the expenses were covered by a mysterious company registered in the Bahamas that also paid for an intensive $440,000 lobbying campaign.


The 1997 Moscow trip is the third foreign trip by DeLay to be scrutinized in recent weeks because of new statements by those involved that his travel was directly or indirectly financed by registered lobbyists or a foreign agent.

Media attention focused on DeLay's travel last month after The Washington Post reported on DeLay's participation in a $70,000 expense-paid trip to London and Scotland in 2000 that sources said was indirectly financed in part by an Indian tribe and a gambling services company. A few days earlier, media attention had focused on a $106,921 trip DeLay took to South Korea in 2001 that was financed by a tax-exempt group created by a lobbyist on behalf of a Korean businessman.


Untangling the origin of the Moscow trip's financing is complicated by questions about the ownership and origins of Chelsea, the obscure Bahamian-registered company that financed the lobbying effort in favor of the Russian government that targeted Republicans in Washington in 1997 and 1998. Those involved in this effort also prepared and coordinated the DeLay visit, individuals with direct knowledge about it said.

In that period, prominent Russian businessmen, as well as the Russian government, depended heavily on a flow of billions of dollars in annual Western aid and so had good reason to build bridges to Congress. House Republicans were becoming increasingly critical of U.S. and international lending institutions, such as the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the International Monetary Fund, which were then investing heavily in Russia's fragile economy.

Unlike some House conservatives who scorn such support as "corporate welfare," DeLay proved to be a "yes" vote for institutions bolstering Russia in this period. For example, DeLay voted for a bill that included the replenishment of billions of dollars in IMF funds used to bail out the Russian economy in 1998.


The wife and daughter of Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, have been paid more than $500,000 since 2001 by Mr. DeLay's political action and campaign committees, according to a detailed review of disclosure statements filed with the Federal Election Commission and separate fund-raising records in Mr. DeLay's home state, Texas.

Most of the payments to his wife, Christine A. DeLay, and his only child, Dani DeLay Ferro, were described in the disclosure forms as "fund-raising fees," "campaign management" or "payroll," with no additional details about how they earned the money. The payments appear to reflect what Mr. DeLay's aides say is the central role played by the majority leader's wife and daughter in his political career.

Mr. DeLay's national political action committee, Americans for a Republican Majority, or Armpac, said in a statement on Tuesday that the two women had provided valuable services to the committee in exchange for the payments: "Mrs. DeLay provides big picture, long-term strategic guidance and helps with personnel decisions. Ms. Ferro is a skilled and experienced professional event planner who assists Armpac in arranging and organizing individual events."

As with Terry Schiavo, it seems the ruthless liberals are determined to deny Monsieur Tom DeLay the nourishment he needs to survive --- the mother's milk of politics. And all because he loves Jesus.

Why next thing you know they'll be clamoring for an investigation or a special prosecutor or something. That's how low they are willing to sink. Is there no end to this religious persecution?

Update: Just as a point of contrast, read this story about the Mike Espy case in which Special Prosecutor Donald Smaltz spent over 17 million dollars to nail Espy for accepting some tickets to a football game and failed to get a conviction when it was shown that not only was there no quid pro quo, but Espy actually tightened the regulations on the people who gave him the tickets and assorted trinkets. Back in those days there was a lot of hugh minded Republican talk about the rule of law and the appearance of impropriety. We don't hear much about that anymore.

Mentor, Mentee

So, one of John Cornyn's schoolmates had wondered if his old acquaintance might have a little problem with the race issue when he ran for Senator against Ron Kirk. Unbenownst to most people, Cornyn had been an avid supporter of George Wallace:

I read a couple of weeks ago that John Cornyn had pledged to keep the issue of race out of his upcoming U.S. Senate campaign against African-American Democratic nominee Ron Kirk. That was a relief, because the John Cornyn I knew in high school was a big supporter of George Wallace and seemed oblivious to the dangers of Wallace’s racial demagoguery.

Cornyn a Wallace supporter? Why hasn’t Texas heard about that before? Cornyn and I graduated in 1969 from the American School in Japan, and I guess word of his early dabbling in right-wing politics never reached these shores. Besides, statements like this are not something I’d want to broadcast if I was trying to step into Phil Gramm’s shoes and join George Bush’s team in Washington.

"With the continuing concentration of power in the hands of the inept Democratic and Republican parties, it is time for a change," Cornyn wrote in our student newspaper just before the 1968 presidential election. "Cast your vote for a strong America. Vote for George C. Wallace on November 5."

Well, old George wasn't just a one note samba. According to Rick Perlstein he had a lot of interesting things to add to the political discourse. Like this:

9/27/63 George Wallace apears on Today for twenty minute interview with
Martin Agronsky and adresses 16th street Church bombing in Birmingham.
Shows him surveillance photos of "known subversives.... The supreme
Court, the Kennedy adminsitraiton and the civil rights agitators are
more to blame for this dastardly crime than anyone else."

Seems Cornyn was much, much more influenced by Wallace than he ever let on. As are a good many of the southern Republicans (or should we call them Dixiecans?) I'm afraid.

I'm telling you, there is nothing that the mainstream of the modern Republican party is doing today that their most virulent racist, extremist fringe wasn't advocating forty years ago. I haven't heard anything about flouridation in the water lately, but it's only a matter of time.

I'm Not Like Them. Really.

Perhaps I'm unduly cynical, but I simply cannot take this David Brooks column seriously. Brad Plumer and Mark Schmittt seem to think that he's really on to something, while Matt Yglesias takes issue with it. I think it's just the usual GOP projection bullshit combined with a little CYA sleight of hand.

I don't think it's wrong to say that Democrats should embrace the big ideas. I think we've all agreed that our approach has been a bit too long on programmatic details and a bit too short on the vision thing. But the mere idea that the Republicans derive their strength from diversity just cracks me up. Yeah. And FoxNews is fair and balanced. Tipsy disagreements at cocktail parties don't count as diversity.

Brooks says that Republicans are strong because they argue all the time amongst themselves in a congenial way and everybody is open minded and understanding that they can't have everything they want. It's one big philosphy seminar over there in GOPland. Liberals, on the other hand, are so obsessed with our ever expanding list of big complicated government programs that we haven't given a moment's thought to the kind of big thinking that evidently goes on among cosmopolitan Republican intellectuals who represent all those heartland values we are supposed to revere.

Why, he asked the unnamed head of a big liberal think tank who his favorite philospher was and he never called him back with the answer. Imagine that. (And here I thought we all knew that the only appropriate response to that question was "Christ --- he changed mah heart.")

Brooks says that we should emulate the right's unruly but friendly fractiousness and spend more time arguing philosophy. He says that's what they did when they were completely out of power and it's shown to be very healthy for their big happy tentful of civilized individualists. This entire discussion about media infrastructure and message discipline is wrong because that is not where the real strength of the right's political dominance lies.

The rule of thumb for all Republicans giving advice to Democrats on op-ed pages is to assume the opposite. This means that message discipline and the right's media infrastructure is exactly where the strength of the right's political dominance lies. And I would argue that regardless of the friendly philosophy seminars in the break room at NR or The Weakly Standard, their governing philosophy can quite easily be summed up as a strong belief in no taxes on wealth, laissez faire capitalism, coercive Christianity and a huge police/military infrastructure. There are only a couple of philosophers who lead you in that direction, and it's a place that I don't think America knows it's going.

He further says that we have a hard time understanding the big philosophical ideas because liberal theorists are so "influenced by post-modernism, multiculturalism, relativism, value pluralism and all the other influences that dissuade one from relying heavily on dead white guys."

This means that we are on the right track because understanding post-modernism, relativism and the rest is the single most important key to understanding how the right is operating right now. Any party that can win the presidency by saying that hand counting uncounted votes is inherently unreliable compared to the machines that failed to count the votes in the first place cannot be said to be a party that doesn't understand relativism. Michel Fouccault is a much better guide to modern politics in the radical Republican era than John Dewey could ever be. We should be dragging all those ivory tower Derrida-ites out of the classrooms and hiring them at think tanks to deconstruct Republican rhetoric. (In fact, the most valuable person in the Democratic party may be Michael Berube.)

It's funny, the last I heard liberals were elitists for being a bunch of pointy headed intellectuals who spent too much time watching PBS and not enough time burning rubber and eating at Red Lobster. There was no end to the lectures telling us that we libs were out of touch with everyday real Americans and we should take our heads out of our nancy-boy literchur and open up the Bible for some real inspiration. And now Brooks says we should be holding a non-stop series of undergrad rap sessions. Man, it's so hard to know what we should do to be more like Republicans. My head is spinning.

Brooks says that we should embrace disunity. Like the Republicans have. He must be talking about stuff like this:

Conservative leaders across the country are working now to make sure that any politician who hopes to have conservative support in the future had better be in the forefront as we attack those who attack Tom DeLay," he said."

I think that is what's at work here. Brooks has been recently embarrassed by his GOP cronies in a number of ways and now he is trying to excuse his affiliation with them by saying that the Republican party is one big bunch of iconclastic thinkers so don't even try to say that he's like them. But hey, you hang around with mangy dogs you get it too. He's one of them whether he likes it or not.

Update: Jonathan Chait says:

If you look at the major organs of conservative opinion, you'd start with the Standard and National Review, add in The Wall Street Journal editorial page, and probably include columnists like Brooks, George Will, Charles Krauthammer, and Robert Novak. You could toss in The Washington Times editorial page and, arguably, talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Depending on your definition, you could add or subtract from this group and have a good sense of all the opinion outlets that wield any significant influence over the conservative movement and the Republican Party.

So, what major issues do these conservative intellectuals disagree on? They all supported the Iraq war, with the exception of Novak, who has tellingly muted his criticism. They all supported every one of Bush's tax cuts and Social Security privatization. They all clucked their tongues at Bush's Medicare drug benefit but, like the White House, have refused to recognize any connection between the deficit and Bush's tax cuts. They all passionately supported Bush's judicial nominees. They all basically endorse Karl Rove's political strategy. They all see Bush as a towering Churchillian figure of compassion, wisdom, vision, homespun virtue, and basic decency.

Basically, these organs agree on everything--certainly every major political issue of the last five years. Even if you follow Brooks's bizarre definition and include Reason and The American Conservative, you'll get some dissent on judicial nominations and the war and a less worshipful view of Bush as a man. But you'll still have basic agreement on all the major domestic policy questions.


Brooks insists, "Conservatives have thrived because they are split into feuding factions that squabble incessantly." In fact, on every important debate of his presidency, Bush has enjoyed a solid phalanx of conservative pundits all repeating the same talking points on his behalf. It's a successful arrangement. It also worked for the Comintern, for a while. I'm sure the communist intellectuals who relentlessly backed Moscow's every move liked to flatter themselves by insisting they were a bunch of squabbling freethinkers, too.

And Ezra adds:

...where's the refusal to face up to big disagreements and ideas? For that matter, what serious factions are missing and therefore leaving converts no place to join up? Is there no DLC, no MoveOn, no place for liberals and greens and law-and-order types and moderates? Because, correct me if I'm wrong, but don't Marc Cooper and Al From pledge allegiance to the same ticket every four years, but spend the intervening periods screaming at each other?


In recent months, various folks -- notably Mike Tomasky -- have called for liberals to learn or relearn their history, to understand their evolution. They're right to do so. But they've been joined and, in some cases, mixed up with the David Brooks and Jonah Goldbergs of the world, conserva-scolds who wear their semi-functional knowledge of Hayek and Hobbes on their sleeves, all the better to allude to the moral and intellectual grounding they've got that progressives don't. It's ridiculous, and we shouldn't buy into it. Knowing our history is critical to understanding the genesis and thus root causes of contemporary problems, but that imperative shouldn't be expanded to transform politics into a game of trivial pursuit. If philosophers aid your understanding of your values, fine, great, I suggest you read them. But no Republican needs to know Burke's views on the French Revolution in order to comprehend his movement and no liberal needs to rattle off philosophers to conservative columnists in order to have her beliefs judged legitimate.

Read thewhole thing. It sizzles.


Monday, April 04, 2005

"You had to have a sit down, you had to have an OK, or....you'd be the one who got whacked."

I think Yglesias exactly nails the brutish logic of Cornyn's "warning" earlier today. These guys are selling protection, saying that they would hate to see something happen to these judges who won't cooperate but sadly, unless they do there's not much they can do about it.

His hope -- along, it seems, though less clearly -- with Tom DeLay's is that judges will begin to operate under a cloud of intimidation. They may not like the idea of buckling under to whatever it is Cornyn wants them to do, but Cornyn is making it clear that he's the judges' friends. He doesn't want to see them killed, or maimed, or assaulted. He's trying to save them. Trying to warn them. Warning them that unless they change their ways someone -- someone who has nothing to do with John Cornyn or the Texas cabal running the country, mind you -- just might decide to do something crazy. But here's Cornyn offering a safe harbor. Confirm all of Bush's nominees, no matter how incompetent, corrupt, or inept they are, no matter how unsound their view of the constitution. And for the others, try to conform your views to those of Bush's new appointees. Do it and you'll be safe. If you don't do it, well, then, certainly John Cornyn wouldn't advocate killing you, he's just pointing out that it will happen.

The term "Texas mafia" is no longer metaphorical.

I was particularly intrigued to see that Cornyn's statement very specifically mentions the Supreme Court but makes no distinction amongst the Justices. He might want to start being a little bit more specific lest some anti-judicial activism nut fails to distinguish between the good guys and the bad and blows away the wrong judge. This is just sloppy, very sloppy.

Back To The Future

I don't know who this group of hippie protester strawmen are in Kevin Mattson's cautionary tale in this months Prospect, but I've not had the pleasure. I don't think there exists a vast number of nostalgic baby boomers and utopian youngsters out there who are planning to launch another Summer of Love, unless he's specifically talking about the anti-Iraq war protests, which of course, he is, but won't admit it. That's because those war protesters weren't trying to hop on a nostalgic magic carpet ride back to the days of Hanoi Jane, they were participating in a worldwide protest about a very specific unjust war being launched by an illegitimate president --- a war which the "fighting liberals" like he and Peter Beinert foolishly endorsed. I suppose the fact that millions of people all over the globe also marched merely means that they too were recreating the alleged glory days of People's Park.

People will always take protests to the streets from time to time. The 60's liberals certainly didn't invent the tactic and the fact that liberals are associated with protesting has a lot more to do with an image propagated by the right than any real danger of a resurgent Yippie movement.

My instinctive reaction to this entire line of paranoid ramblings about the wild and crazy lefites making a big scene and ruining everything is that if this guy thinks that a bloodless, wonkish liberalism is ever going to compete with the right wing true believers he's got another thing coming. American liberalism grew out of a passionate progressivism and a worldwide union movement, both of which featured plenty of "protest politics" in their day. And if he thinks that the modern GOP's political might hasn't drawn much of its power from pulpits and talk radio demagoguery, then he hasn't been paying attention. Nobody does political theatre better than the right wing.

He very generously offers that he doesn't agree that Move-On should be purged from the coalition because they are, after all, learning that street protests are bad form. As long as they "behave" they can stay. (And all that money they raise can stay too, presumably.) The author fails to realize, however, that just as the rabble on the right took to the airwaves, the rabble on the left is taking to cyberspace. This ain't no hippie protest movement, dude. It's as modern as modern can get.

People need to feel things about politics, not just think. It's a grave mistake for political types to insult and marginalize those who have passion and wish to express that publicly. These jittery fellows who are so afraid of "the left's" overheated energy need to remember that their golden post war age was populated by a people who had just been through a crushing economic upheavel and a cataclysmic war. They were willingly docile and conformist for good reason. Don't expect that to be present in other circumstances in a thriving democracy. It isn't natural nor should it be desired. It only lasted a very brief time even then.

And remember, the favorite candidate of the wonkish cold war liberals was Adlai Stephenson who warmed the blood of at least 43 upper west side society matrons and a couple of college kids in Cambridge. Other than that, even in Stepford America of the 1950's they picked the man who looked good in a uniform. All the wonky goodness in the world doesn't necessarily translate into votes. You've got to resonate on a deeper level with people and while I appreciate the need for an elegant foreign policy argument, I frankly wonder if this public wonkfest isn't just going to reinforce the Republican image of us as a bunch of weenies. In today's political climate nothing spells defeat for Democrats more than the image of a bunch of fey, ivory tower eggheads running the military.

Furthermore, it should be remembered that until JFK's assassination, there was plenty of theatrical and violent public rhetoric coming from the right. It may be that that violent impulse found its catharsis in the assassination, and massive social opprobrium required a severe ratcheting down of anti-communist demagoguery. Could it be that the benign institution building for which the Republicans are now being canonized as visionaries was actually a pragmatic reaction to the country's disgust with their vocal extremism? Regardless, it's ridiculous to completely place the Republicans as some sort of calm, reasonable suburbanites in contrast to us crazed extremists on the left then or now.


(link here for larger version)

Yes, the New Left was a bunch of wankers, but you know, that wasn't news even at the time. And it's true that much of the peace protesting of the 60's were pretty much a reflection of a large youth demographic and an unpopular military draft. There was a lot of babble but in the end the radical political movement of Tom Hayden et al mostly collapsed because its raison d'etre, Vietnam, collapsed as an issue. But, underneath that Chicago convention circus a bunch of really important other things were happening that are glossed over by these newly minted men in the grey flannel suits with patronizing lip service to "idealism". He acknowledges that the world before the 60's was unequal and starkly illiberal for many people and says that nobody wants to go back to those days. But he then scribbles a long essay about how the protest movement was terrible for liberalism.

These critics of the unwashed rabble just can't seem to recognize that with great prosperity and political power the time had come for liberalism to act on its long overdue responsibility to fully extend the rights and responsibilities of the American experiment to women and racial minorities --- to use, as Dear Leader would say, its political capital. The social changes that were ratified in the 60's and 70's were arguably more important to the lives of more than 50% of Americans than anything that had happened in the previous century. That's not hyperbole. The women's rights movement alone is one of the greatest progressive leaps forward in human history.

My 36 year old mother couldn't get a mortgage in her own name in 1955. She had to have her father sign the papers. Birth control was illegal in many parts of the country until 1965. Women were routinely denied slots in education and were openly and without shame discriminated against in employment. African Americans, we all know, could be denied the right to enter even public buildings in many areas of the country until 1964. Their "right" to vote was a joke. I needn't even mention the fact that they were dismissed socially as second class citizens without a moment's thought by very large numbers of Americans until quite recently.

That is the world that the "fighting liberals" were protecting. And that is the world that was changed irrevocably during this allegedly frivolous time of liberal protest politics in 1960's. And it was done though the means that this writer seems to find so distasteful --- while he perfunctorily agrees that the ends were all in all a good thing. I'm sorry if all those changes subsequently made it difficult for policy wonks to make a good national security argument, but you know, tough shit. Sometimes you have to do hard things and there is often a price to pay for it.

You don't make radical quantum leaps in social equality without there being a reaction. The reverberations of all of that are still being felt in the culture wars of today and it has made things difficult for Democratic party politics. However, the energetic political activism of the 60's resulted in tangible, everyday improvement in the lives of vast numbers of Americans who fought for and won the right to be equal under the law in this country. That betterment of real people's lives is what liberalism is supposed to be about.

The lauded "fighting foreign policy liberals" of the 50's were the dying dinosaurs of an establishment that was rapidly losing its energy in a stable, wealthy, globally dominant America. As the writer acknowledges, it was quite easy for them to ride the back of the liberal consensus because they were the inheritors of it --- a condition that does not exist today. It's harder now. That's the reality that we are facing.

I don't know where this vast horde of reborn hippies worshipping at the feet of Jerry Rubin are but I do not see them. What I do see is modern political activism that is demanding change in modern ways. It seems to me that it isn't "the left" that is nostalgic for the past, it's these centrists who for reasons I cannot fathom have decided that their grandfather's political methods are the ticket to political dominance in the 21st century.

Sure, policy wonks should be developing a cohesive and persuasive voice on foreign policy. Have at it. But to try to create some quasi "movement" from a very brief and quite uninspired --- even at the time --- political era strikes me as strangely reactionary. As the author writes in his first paragraph, "examining ... history can mean recycling good ideas and tactics. But what if it means recycling bad ones?" Excellent question and one that I would suggest he ask his colleagues in the "let's take a trip back to 1948" club.

We're progressives. We're supposed to progress. We don't do nostaligia. Let's leave that to Pat Buchanan.

correction: hoard,horde,whored

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Teachable Moment

Via Kevin, I see that Andrew Sullivan's question has been answered as to what the Republican party has in mind when it comes to personal freedom. He quotes Eric Cohen's piece in the Weekly Standard in which he claims that "people cannot be allowed to revoke life simply because it is theirs' to revoke."

We still possess dignity and rights even when our capacity to make free choices is gone; and we do not possess the right to demand that others treat us as less worthy of care than we really are ... [T]he autonomy regime, even at its best, is deeply inadequate. It is based on a failure to recognize that the human condition involves both giving and needing care, and not always being morally free to decide our own fate.

Sullivan adds:

So let us be plain: the theoconservative vision would remove the right of individuals to decide their own fate in such cases, and would exclude the family from such a decision as well. Indeed, the law might even compel the family to provide care as long as they were capable of doing so. My "what if?" is a real one. And the theocon right has answered it. They want an end to the "autonomy regime." They have gone from saying that a pregnant mother has no autonomy over her own body because another human being is involved to saying that a person has no ultimate autonomy over her own body at all. These are the stakes. The very foundation of modern freedom - autonomy over one's own physical body - is now under attack. And if a theocon government won't allow you control over your own body, what else do you have left?

I would imagine that there are more than a few women who are slapping their foreheads at that and saying ..."duh!" And there are probably some distressed "pregnant mothers" who would argue that it is quite strange to suggest their six week old fetus has more autonomy over the body it lives in than she does. Certainly the principle has never stuck me as particularly compelling.

The "autonomy regime" is not absolute, but it's pretty damned clear that the government, with its grandstanding morons running for the microphones, is hardly equipped to make the delicate decisions at the margins. It's been very convenient for politicians and self-righteous moralists to take pot shots at those who found themselves in the unenviable position of having to make such decisions as abortion. Perhaps now that the Schiavo case has filled in some of the blanks about what the "culture of life" really means, maybe a few people will understand why it is such a tremendous insult to women to tell them that Trent Lott and Pat Robertson are the ones who will decide what they can and cannot do with their own bodies.

Helloooo DC!!!!

So I hear from Weldon Berger that the National Press club has had a change of heart:

John is welcome to attend, as are any bloggers, as long as they’re not going to disrupt the proceedings.

Well, yes, we simply can't have anyone disrupt the gripping ass-fucking discussion.

Apparently bloggers really are considered the barbarians at the gates --- unrefined, undisciplined and uncivilized. We can't even be expected to behave like adults in public.

Isn't that great? I always wanted to be a rock star.


Not Exactly "Swing Low Sweet Chariot"

The indispensible Crooks and Liars made me watch this thing and I'm pretty sure that that I'm now in a persistent vegetative state.
Randall Terry singing a soulful ballad at Terry Schiavo's memorial service. It is so strange and creepy that I just feel dirty. I think FCC complaints should follow.

Here are the lyrics to what seems to me to be an incestuous love song. I don't remember any hymns I sang talking about God caressing me and running his hands through my hair, but maybe I'm just out of date:

When I feel the waves crash over me
And my heart is overwhelmed with pain
Help me, find me, seek me, hide me
In the scars you bear
Caress me in your embrace
Run your fingers through my hair
I believe in you

Thank You Jesus

Ok, I believe. I finally got that post posted, which I wrote yesterday afternoon and have been trying to post pretty much ever since then. Jayzuz. Blogger really wants us gone, don't they? Too much traffic? Legal liability? Dearth of cute cat pictures?

I dunno, but they clearly are not interested in offering this free service anymore. Too bad.


Saturday, April 02, 2005

"It's a Sicilian message. It means Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes."

Morton Blackwell, Republican National Committee member from Virginia and a member of ACU's board, said Republicans are being told support for Mr. DeLay is mandatory if they want future support from conservatives.

"Conservative leaders across the country are working now to make sure that any politician who hopes to have conservative support in the future had better be in the forefront as we attack those who attack Tom DeLay," he said."

This Tom DeLay mess is really getting interesting, isn't it? While I appreciate the "don't fire 'til you see the whites of their eyes" strategy, after some thought I've decided that it's probably a good idea for the Democrats to put pressure on Delay right now. As a matter of fact, I think it will ensure that the wingnuts continue to support him and that he stays in the news and in his post well into the 2006 election cycle. Nothing will make the radicals more vociferously defend their wounded leader than a bunch of Democrats attacking him. And I think that we want the extreme rightwing to be defending Tom DeLay, especially the Randall Terrys and the James Dobsons, as often as possible.

We especially want to see those guys on Fox News. A lot. And here's why. Something happened during the Schiavo circus, I think, and it was something significant. But it wasn't that the nation saw that politicians were all a bunch of craven opportunists. They already knew that. It was that the Republican professional class, the libertarians and some common sense types saw FOX News and talk radio as being full of shit for the first time. I have nothing but a handful of anecdotes to back that up, but I think Schiavo may turn out to be the first big tear in the right wing matrix.

For instance, a conservative doctor of my acquaintance was stunned by the Schiavo matter. This man watches nothing but Fox news and could not believe the anti-intellectual religiosity of their coverage. This is a matter that he knows intimately and he could see clearly that the coverage wasn't "fair and balanced." Indeed, it wasn't true. It's as if a veil fell from his eyes.

My conservative Rush loving neighbor was heard complaining the his hero didn't know what he was talking about on the Schiavo case. That is a first. This guy is a true believer --- who also has a very sick wife.

My nurse sister-in-law (also a born again Christian and avid FOX watcher) insisted that all the news be turned off in the house because she couldn't stand the exploitation of the patient or the sideshow outside that hospice. She's very depressed about all this.

See, the right isn't like us. They think that the so called liberal media is irretrievably biased but believe what they see, read and hear on their own media. We on the left, on the other hand, have no faith in any mainstream media, really, or any alternative media either for that matter. We have developed the habit of culling from various sources and analyzing the information ourselves as best we can. Even then we are very skeptical. Nothing that the media could do would particularly shock or disappoint us. No so with the other side. A fair number of them are actually hurt and bewildered by what they saw in the Schiavo matter.

I suppose it's possible that this will fade and that nobody will remember the bizarre spectacle of these urbane, cosmopolitan news celebrities on television spouting lines from Elmer Gantry or Rush clumsily sputtering about the culture of life, but once people have been shocked like this they don't fully trust again. I think there may be quite a few Republicans who were surprised by the complete abdication of responsible coverage by their own trusted Wurlitzer.

It's one thing to get behind jingoistic nationalism and shut your eyes and ears to anything that disturbs that vision of your government. Most wingnuts have a bizarre belief that the government must know best when it comes to national security, despite all evidence to the contrary. But, to see your trusted media blow it so hugely on a personal issue about which most of us have very definite opinions and are pretty well informed, must be quite jarring.

Liberals have been hung for decades with the alleged radicalism and extremism of the new left of 35 years ago. But it's not as if we ever made Abbie Hoffman the majority leader of the House. Tom Hayden never ran for president. Today we have a corrupt GOP congressional leader who is now actively embracing a shift in the separation of powers and he's being supported by an active extremist constituency inside the Republican party. The fringe appears to be wielding a tremendous amount of power.

Via Sandrover over at Kos I read that four senators have sponsored an act that "makes it possible for the Congress to charge any judge with a crime who disagrees with the concept that all law, liberty, and government comes only from God."

"The Constitution Restoration Act of 2005 - Amends the Federal judicial code to prohibit the U.S. Supreme Court and the Federal district courts from exercising jurisdiction over any matter in which relief is sought against an entity of Federal, State, or local government or an officer or agent of such government concerning that entity's, officer's, or agent's acknowledgment of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government.

Prohibits a court of the United States from relying upon any law, policy, or other action of a foreign state or international organization in interpreting and applying the Constitution, other than English constitutional and common law up to the time of adoption of the U.S. Constitution.Provides that any Federal court decision relating to an issue removed from Federal jurisdiction by this Act is not binding precedent on State courts.

Provides that any Supreme Court justice or Federal court judge who exceeds the jurisdictional limitations of this Act shall be deemed to have committed an offense for which the justice or judge may be removed, and to have violated the standard of good behavior required of Article III judges by the Constitution.

Sen Brownback, Sam - 3/3/2005
Sen Burr, Richard - 3/3/2005
Sen Craig, Larry E. - 3/8/2005
Sen Lott, Trent - 3/8/2005

The House has 18 co-sponsors for their versions of the same bill.

As much as the Republicans may hate judges these days, this guy surely warms the cockles of their lil' hearts:

"When someone walks by the commandments, they are not studying the text. They are acknowledging that the government derives its authority from God."

Now if they can just pass that law that forces all judges to march to Uncle Nino's tune then everything will just be hunky dory. Funny, I thought "we the people" were the sovereign source of law, liberty and government. Silly me.

Apparently, we are entering a new phase in the culture war that should be startling to even those who didn't see that partisan witch hunts, bogus impeachments and stolen elections indicated a certain, shall we say, imaginative interpretation of our constitution and a willingness to radically exceed any previous limits on partisan power. As the brilliant Dahlia Lithwick puts it in her review of the latest bestselling Regnery toilet paper Men in Black: How the Supreme Court Is Destroying America (aka Thanks For Bush vs Gore But What Have You Done For Me

...Levin pays some lip service to the idea that the federal bench needs to be stacked with right-wing ideologues in his penultimate chapter. But he betrays early on his fear that even the staunchest conservative jurist is all-too-often "seduced by the liberal establishment once they move inside the Beltway." Thus, his real fixes for the problem of judicial overreaching go further than manipulating the appointments process. He wants to cut all judges off at the knees: He'd like to give force to the impeachment rules, put legislative limits on the kinds of constitutional questions courts may review, and institute judicial term limits. He'd also amend the Constitution to give congress a veto over the court's decisions. Each of which imperils the notion of an independent judiciary and of three separate, co-equal branches of government. But the Levins of the world are not interested in a co-equal judiciary. They seem to want to see it burn.

Now that these nutcases have political power it becomes clear that their beef with the judiciary has actually always been that it operates more or less independently of the political process and that means they cannot completely control it, which is the real problem. When you are running a strongarm operation, ("the time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior") partisanship or ideology really doesn't matter anymore. It's a pure power game and it clearly applies to conservative Republicans as much as it applies to liberal Democrats.

From a political perspective, this is very interesting. I don't think that the Federalist Society Borg have quite come to terms yet with the monster they've unleashed. Neither has big business. These people may have a different vision of how the government ought to run than I have, but they must maintain a reasonable belief in a judicial system in which the various parties involved can have faith in the outcome. They are, after all, lawyers, judges and scholors. And business, particularly, simply has to have a system of arbitration that is considered fair and impartial or they are going to have a tremendous problem on their hands. It isn't just a bunch of hippies filing bogus lawsuits in the courts. The vast majority of cases are businesses suing each other.

So, we are dealing with a very powerful constituency of religious nuts now doing the muscle work for a criminal political gang. And it would appear that nobody is safe, not even those who sign the blood oath to the Republican Party. The slimy criminals and the self-righteous religious zealots have formed their own power center right smack dab in the middle of the Republican Party.

I say let the games begin. This has been brewing for quite some time. This undemocratic streak in the GOP waxes and wanes but it has been dramatically on the upswing for the last decade or so. But this time the radical Republicans are piping their revolution straight into homes and cars and offices all over this country and it's starting to freak out the normal people.

I've been shouting myself hoarse about this for more than ten years. These self-proclaimed revolutionaries are exactly what they say they are and they do not respect the spirit of democracy, the rule of law or our constitution. That they are supported by so-called conservatives just makes the irony that much richer.

Update: I think Jesse Lee's analysis of the Delay political situation is probably quite right. But I think that if Rove is going to work any magic and dump Delay he'd better work quickly. It sure looks to me as if Delay has jumped directly into the arms of the religious right and they are more than happy to receive him. He's always been a good extremist for their cause. Junior, on the other hand, is wobbly on gay marriage, as is Cheney. The zealots may very well feel they have a better chance with Delay.

Correction: Contrary to the quote above, the proposed law doesn't give congress the right to charge judges with a crime. It provides for the removal of judges if they "exercise jurisdiction over any matter in which relief is sought against an entity of Federal, State, or local government or an officer or agent of such government concerning that entity's, officer's, or agent's acknowledgment of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government."

So, People for the American Way or the ACLU would no longer be able to get a hearing in court on the constitutionality of Judge Roy Moore proclaiming from the bench --- or a Mayor Osama bin laden, perhaps --- that the law derives directly from God. This is spite of the fact that our constitution explicitly states that the government should establish no religion and that the law is derived from "we the people."

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Why do you suppose they didn't mention God in all that?

This Week

This has been the worst week of blogging since I started. Blogger has been constantly bloggered and when it wasn't, my cable has been offline. Since last Tuesday, I've barely been able to read Atrios, for gawds sake, much less post one of my own brilliant observances. I hate blogging in coffee shops, I just hate it. But I'm here and if I don't keel over from caffeine poisoning before blogger eats my post, I'll hopefully have something brilliant up soon. Or not.

The good news is that there has never been more riveting news coverage on television than these last few days, has there? I mean, who can take their eyes off of that spine tingling long shot of The Apostolic Palace with the three lit windows. I could stare at it for hours and hours and hours. And hours. Talk about a story made for TV.

And I don't know about you, but after listening to the last three days of non-stop pre-eulogizing by such brilliant minds as Daryn Kagan and Miles O'Brien, the latter of whom seemed simply bowled over yesterday when informed that the Pope talked to Jews just like they were normal, I'm truly on pins and needles wondering what they will all say for the next week of ritual and observance. It's been so spritually uplifting to listen to Kelly Wallace's remembrances of things people passing on the street said about Pope John Paul. (They mostly liked him. Plenty.) And who can forget Lester Holt's moving daily tribute to the Holy Father's popemobile?

What can they possibly do to top themselves? I'm thinking Judy Woodruff and Aaron Brown could get into some serious self-flagellation. And I think Paula Zahn would look smashing in a hair shirt. (She looks good in anything.) And clearly, the only appropriately reverent response from Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity would be taking vows of silence. Since everyone on television agrees that the pope was the most awesomely terrific pope ever, I'm pretty sure that's what he would have wanted. I know I'm praying for it.


Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Expert Witnesses

I've been busy and bloggered for the last day or so and missed the latest blogging panel and GG kerfluffle. My goodness, the mainstream media certainly is having a difficult time understanding what both blogging and prostitution are. And you'd think they could figure it out since they practice certain elements of both pursuits on a daily basis. No wonder they don't question the Bush administration's lies. They just aren't very bright, apparently.

Others have more than adequately discussed the usual frustrating lack of informed liberal bloggers on the panel and the absurdity of inviting GG to represent "blogging." Clearly the press is having a little bit of difficulty understanding these internets and it's going to take some time to educate the poor dears.

But this is not just another blogging confab, is it? Jimmy Jeff on the panel represents a unique opportunity to discuss some of this "new journalism" stuff if they really want to do it. It's a blog that broke the Gannon story and it's a blogger who knows all the details. John Aravosis owns this story and if GG is given a forum to tell his side of the story, Aravosis should be invited also to ensure that he isn't allowed to continue to deny that he was a hooker who sold himself on the internet as a "military" man while he was "reporting" from the white house press room.

See, this is a real goddamned story that, for reasons that elude me, has become lost in some sort of Victorian delicacy that certainly wasn't evident during the Monica Lewinsky scandal when reporters and pundits regularly speculated about whether the she and the president had both experienced orgasms during their trysts. I recall a panel on one of the shoutfests drawing pictures of penises to illustrate whether the president of the Unites States might suffer from Peyronie's disease as Paula Jones alleged (wrongly it turned out) in her bogus lawsuit.

This is not a matter of intruding into someone's private life. Guckert was selling himself on line for profit. Perhaps I missed it, but I am unaware of any interviewer who has pinned him down on that fact. Now, because they haven't done their job, this guy is actually rehabilitating himself as a representative of "new media" and is called to discuss the role of the internet in modern journalism. It's ludicrous. I'm beginning to think that the whole Jeff Gannon story is really a reality show cooked up by Hollywood to snooker the entire country. He's really Jamie Kennedy.

Here's the deal. Jim Guckert, male prostitute, operated as a reporter who got very unusual privileges in a Republican White House that is so enamored of the Christian Right that the GOP is now writing one time only laws on their behalf against the will of 80% of the American people. That's what we are dealing with. And it is clear that the extremist minority that is basically running the country has not heard about this male hooker in the White House because Fox (purveyor of pornography) and Rush and Pat Robertson have not told them. Someone should. For the good of the country.

I'm glad to see that they've included Matt Yglesias who will likely make a persuasive case that blogging is merely a new technological tool for specialists and professionals to communicate, much as academics and journalists do now in their respective fields on paper. I don't agree with that view, but I do think that it could provoke an interesting discussion at the blogging panels that we haven't already heard a thousand times before from the usual suspects. And he is a real blogger who's been writing serious political posts for years now. He might be able to at least school some of these bimbos in the press about what constitutes a real blog. Good luck to him.

However, by virtue of Guckert's presence this blogging panel is probably not the place to discuss such dry academic subjects. While it is required by law evidently, that all blogging discussions include at least two panelists who write frequently about anal sex, this one actually features a guy who made a profit at it. Matt may not be able to add much to that discussion because I don't think he's been following that story very closely. Maybe Wonkette could be persuaded to pin old Jeff down on his professional activities, but she might be a bit too focused on the what, not the who. Or they could just invite Aravosis who might actually be able to get to the truth. If, of course, that's what they're interested in --- a big if.


Monday, March 28, 2005

Strange Bedfellows

Commenter Ken Cope catches the fact that the Nader press release, featured in the post below, and the fellow he has partnered with in condemning the Schiavo decisions, both emanate from The Discovery institute, home of crackpot, creationist drivel.

Wesley J. Smith wrote a couple of consumer books with Ralph back in the early 90's but has since made quite a career fopr himself as a self-anointed bioethicist and expert in "life" issues. (He also has a sub-specialty in knocking the "dangerous" animal rights movement.)

So the chief anti-stem cell, cloning hysteric on the right, it turns out, is involved with the Discovery institute which has a broad agenda to discredit science:

On March 3, 1999, an anonymous person obtained an internal white paper from the CRSC entitled "The Wedge Project," which detailed the Center's ambitious long-term strategy to replace "materialistic science" with intelligent design. The paper describes the CRSC's mission with a sense of urgency:

"The social consequences of materialism have been devastating. As symptoms, those consequences are certainly worth treating. However, we are convinced that in order to defeat materialism, we must cut it off at its source. That source is scientific materialism. This is precisely our strategy. If we view the predominant materialistic science as a giant tree, our strategy is intended to function as a "wedge" that, while relatively small, can split the trunk when applied at its weakest points. The very beginning of this strategy, the "thin edge of the wedge," was Phillip Johnson's critique of Darwinism begun in 1991 in Darwinism on Trial, and continued in Reason in the Balance and Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds. Michael Behe's highly successful Darwin's Black Box followed Johnson's work. We are building on this momentum, broadening the wedge with a positive scientific alternative to materialistic scientific theories, which has come to be called the theory of intelligent design (ID). Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions."


Phase I, "Scientific Research, Writing, and Publicity" involves the Paleontology Research Program (led by Dr. Paul Chien), the Molecular Biology Research Program (led by Dr. Douglas Axe), and any individual researcher who is given a fellowship by the Institute. Phase I has already begun, the paper argues, with the watershed work of Phillip Johnson, whose Darwinism on Trial sparked the intelligent design movement. The Center hopes that more Christian scientists will step forward and engage in research that would support the intelligent design theory.

Phase II, "Publicity and Opinion-Making" involves communicating the research of Phase I. The Center plans to do this through book tours, opinion-making conferences, apologetics seminars, a teacher training program, use of opinion-editorials in newspapers, television program productions (either with Public Broadcasting or another broadcaster), and the printing of publications to distribute. Phases I and II are to be implemented over the next five years (1999-2003). Phase II is

"to prepare the popular reception of our ideas. The best and truest research can languish unread and unused unless it is properly publicized. For this reason we seek to cultivate and convince influential individuals in print and broadcast media, as well as think tank leaders, scientists and academics, congressional staff, talk show hosts, college and seminary presidents and faculty, future talent and potential academic allies. Because of his long tenure in politics, journalism and public policy, Discovery President Bruce Chapman brings to the project rare knowledge and acquaintance of key op-ed writers, journalists, and political leaders. This combination of scientific and scholarly expertise and media and political connections makes the Wedge unique, and also prevents it from being 'merely academic.' Other activities include production of a PBS documentary on intelligent design and its implications, and popular op-ed publishing. Alongside a focus on influential opinion-makers, we also seek to build up a popular base of support among our natural constituency, namely, Christians. We will do this primarily through apologetics seminars. We intend these to encourage and equip believers with new scientific evidence's that support the faith, as well as to "popularize" our ideas in the broader culture."

Phase III, "Cultural Confrontation and Renewal" begins sometime in 2003 and may take as long as twenty years to complete. It involves three things: (1) "Academic and Scientific Challenge Conferences"; (2) "Potential Legal Action for Teacher Training"; and (3) "Research Fellowship Program: shift to social sciences and humanities". The white paper describes Phase III as the renewal phase because it seeks to fill the void left behind by materialistic evolution (attacked in Phase II) with its own intelligent design model:

"Once our research and writing have had time to mature, and the public prepared for the reception of design theory, we will move toward direct confrontation with the advocates of materialist science through challenge conferences in significant academic settings. We will also pursue possible legal assistance in response to resistance to the integration of design theory into public school science curricula. The attention, publicity, and influence of design theory should draw scientific materialists into open debate with design theorists, and we will be ready. With an added emphasis to the social sciences and humanities, we will begin to address the specific social consequences of materialism and the Darwinist theory that supports it in the sciences."

The plan is working.

Battle on Teaching Evolution Sharpens

Propelled by a polished strategy crafted by activists on America's political right, a battle is intensifying across the nation over how students are taught about the origins of life. Policymakers in 19 states are weighing proposals that question the science of evolution.

The proposals typically stop short of overturning evolution or introducing biblical accounts. Instead, they are calculated pleas to teach what advocates consider gaps in long-accepted Darwinian theory, with many relying on the idea of intelligent design, which posits the central role of a creator.


"It's an academic freedom proposal. What we would like to foment is a civil discussion about science. That falls right down the middle of the fairway of American pluralism," said the Discovery Institute's Stephen C. Meyer, who believes evolution alone cannot explain life's unfurling. "We are interested in seeing that spread state by state across the country."

Some evolution opponents are trying to use Bush's No Child Left Behind law, saying it creates an opening for states to set new teaching standards. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), a Christian who draws on Discovery Institute material, drafted language accompanying the law that said students should be exposed to "the full range of scientific views that exist."

"Anyone who expresses anything other than the dominant worldview is shunned and booted from the academy," Santorum said in an interview. "My reading of the science is there's a legitimate debate. My feeling is let the debate be had."


Despite some disagreement, Calvert, Harris and the Discovery Institute collectively favor efforts to change state teaching standards. Bypassing the work of a 26-member science standards committee that rejected revisions, the Kansas board's conservative majority recently announced a series of "scientific hearings" to discuss evolution and its critics.

The board's chairman, Steve Abrams, said he is seeking space for students to "critically analyze" the evidence.

That approach appeals to Cindy Duckett, a Wichita mother who believes public school leaves many religious children feeling shut out. Teaching doubts about evolution, she said, is "more inclusive. I think the more options, the better."

"If students only have one thing to consider, one option, that's really more brainwashing," said Duckett, who sent her children to Christian schools because of her frustration. Students should be exposed to the Big Bang, evolution, intelligent design "and, beyond that, any other belief that a kid in class has. It should all be okay."

Fox -- pastor of the largest Southern Baptist church in the Midwest, drawing 6,000 worshipers a week to his Wichita church -- said the compromise is an important tactic. "The strategy this time is not to go for the whole enchilada. We're trying to be a little more subtle," he said.

To fundamentalist Christians, Fox said, the fight to teach God's role in creation is becoming the essential front in America's culture war. The issue is on the agenda at every meeting of pastors he attends. If evolution's boosters can be forced to back down, he said, the Christian right's agenda will advance.

"If you believe God created that baby, it makes it a whole lot harder to get rid of that baby," Fox said. "If you can cause enough doubt on evolution, liberalism will die."

This is a wonderful group for a left wing icon to be involved with, don't you think?

Hopefully, this Schiavo mess will begin to open people's eyes a bit about what the religious right is really after or it won't be liberalism that will die, it will be reason.

Oh and please, please somebody ask Lynn Cheney to explain how that conservative mother's comment "I think the more options, the better" squares with her book Telling The Truth in which she concludes "In rejecting an independent reality, an externally verifiable truth, and even reason itself, he [Foucault] was rejecting the foundational principles of the West."

The right wing relativists at "The Wedge Project" are applying Foucault's theory in real time, right before our eyes and I haven't heard any outcry from Lynn at all. How odd.


Sunday, March 27, 2005

Surprise, surprise

I missed this one. Another medical expert weighs in:

Consumer Advocate Ralph Nader and Wesley J. Smith, author of the award winning book "Culture of Death: The Assault on Medical Ethics in America" call upon the Florida Courts, Governor Jeb Bush and concerned citizens to take any legal action available to let Terri Schiavo live.

"A profound injustice is being inflicted on Terri Schiavo," Nader and Smith asserted today. "Worse, this slow death by dehydration is being imposed upon her under the color of law, in proceedings in which every benefit of the doubt-and there are many doubts in this case-has been given to her death, rather than her continued life."

Among the many injustices in this case, Nader and Smith point to the following:

The courts not only are refusing her tube feeding, but have ordered that no attempts be made to provide her water or food by mouth. Terri swallows her own saliva. Spoon feeding is not medical treatment. "This outrageous order proves that the courts are not merely permitting medical treatment to be withheld, it has ordered her to be made dead," Nader and Smith assert.

Has it just become reflex with him?

Journalist, Heal Thyself

LA Times Media critic David Shaw claims in today's paper that bloggers don't deserve the reporter's privilege because they are lazy, careless and inaccurate. In the process of explaining why, he makes a couple of whopping mistakes that one can only assume he makes because he is lazy and careless. (subscription only, sorry):

It isn't easy to define what a journalist is --- or isn't. Forty or 50 years ago, some might have dismissed IF Stone as the print equivalent of a blogger, writing and puhlishing his muckraking 'I.F. Stone Weekly." But Stone was an experienced journalist, and his Weekly did not traffic in gossip or rumor. He was so highly regarded by his peers that he was widely known as "the conscience of investigative journalism."

Bloggers require no journalistic experience. All they need is computer access and the desire to blog. There are other, even important diofferences between bloggers and journalists, perhaps the most significant being that bloggers pride themselves on being part on an unmediated medium, giving their readers unfiltered information. And therein lies the problem.

When I or virtually any other journalist writes something, it goes through several filters before the reader sees it. At least four experienced Times editors will have examined this column for example.


If I'm careless --- if I am guilty of what the courts call a "reckless disregard for the truth" --- The Times could be sued for libel ... and could lose a lot of money. With that thought --- as well as out own personal and progessional copmmittments to accuracy and fairness --- very much much in mind, I and my editors all try hard to be sure that what appears in ther paper is just that, accurate and fair.


Many bloggers --- not all, perhaps or even most --- don't seem to worry much about being accurate. or fair. They just want to get their opinions --- and their scoops --- our there as fast as they pop into their brains.


But the knowledge that you can correct errors quickly,combined with the absence of editors or filters, encourages laziness, carelessness and inaccuracy, and I don't think the reporter's privilege to maintain confidential sources should be granted to such practitioners of what is at best psuedo-journalism.


Certainly, some bloggers practice what anyone would consider "journalism" in its roughest form -- they provide news. And just as surely, bloggers deserve credit for, among other things, being the first to discredit Dan Rather's use of documents of dubious origin and legitimacy to accuse President Bush of having received special treatment in the National Guard.

But bloggers alos took the lead in circulating speculation that what appeared to be a bulge beneath Bush's jacket during his first debate with Sen John Kerry might have been some kind of transmission device to enable advisors to feed him answers.

No credible evidence has emerged to support such a charge.

In the first case, the Columbia Journalism Review did a thorough debunking of the blogging "journalism" in the Dan Rather case.

And there is ample evidence from real gen-u-wine accurate 'n fair jernlists that the NY Times pursued the Bush bulge story, was ready to run with it and killed it as it drew too close to the election. A NASA scientist came forward with sophisticated imaging to prove it (as Salon magazine reported at the time.) The Times' science editor Andrew Rivkin, who contributed the bulk of the reporting, had told [ombudsman]Okrent that the scientist’s assertions “did rise above the level of garden-variety speculation, mainly because of who he is. ... He essentially put his hard-won reputation utterly on the line." Certainly, the bizarre denials by the white house --- that it was "bad tailoring" should have made any legitimate journalist question what was going on. This was not just idle blogging gossip.

So, in his scathing article about blogging malfeasance and inaccuracy, David Shaw missed the mark in both of his examples.

I'm only sorry that you can't link to the whole story. If there has ever been a better example of self-righteous elitism from a total fuck-up, I've never seen it. Mr Shaw makes quite the fool of himself.

Update: Here's a link to the entire article.
Wish I'd Seen That

The uniqueness—one could say oddity, or implausibility—of the story of Jesus' resurrection argues that the tradition is more likely historical than theological.

If anyone hasn't had the opportunity to read the Newsweak story from which that quote is lifted, do yourself a favor and read it. It is onstensibly about the fascinating story of the historical Jesus and Christian history. But, in the media's new committment to religious sensitivity it is filled with strange intellectual gyrations like that above.

As far as I'm concerned, the metaphorical beauty of the resurrection ought to be enough for anyone. But that's just me. It's an incredible spring day here in southern California, the flowers are bursting into bloom, everything is green and new and lovely. Whether you are a literalist Christian or a non-believer like me, anyone can appreciate the glory of rebirth.

But turning yourself into a pretzel in an alleged work of journalism to say that because a story is unbelievable it is more believable, well, that's just silly. Faith is faith and reason is reason. You can't just split the difference.

Happy Easter everyone. Whether religious or secular, spring has sprung and that's something we can all celebrate.

For the secular humanists among us, check out this post by James Wolcott.


Saturday, March 26, 2005

Cafeteria Moralists

Matt Yglesias writes:

I described the liberal as having a two-stage view about end of life issues. First, comes something like the "life as continuum" view Brooks attributes to us. Second, comes a principle of free choice -- I think that I should make my own decision on this, but that my view should not control others, though I may try to persuade others that my view is correct (non-relativism). The problem here is that I think a lot of liberals don't recognize that the second principle really does depend on something akin to the first. If you hold views about the sanctity of life and the doing/allowing distinction that lead you to the conclusion that failing to keep alive someone who could be kept alive is the equivalent to murder, then adopting a principle of free choise at the second level makes no sense. An absolutist view on the first question requires an absolutist view on the second question.

I agree that that the pro-life absolutist view on the first question requires an absolutist view on the second. The only problem is that in practice, the pro-life crowd doesn't take a pro-life absolutist view on either.

On abortion, which they call murder, they do not believe that the woman who has an abortion should be charged with a crime, which makes no sense. Many of them make an exception in the case of rape of incest, which also makes no sense if abortion is murder.

They do not believe that life support should be kept in place in all circumstances, just certain ones. If it is muder then there really cannot be any situation in which taking a person off life support or denying them a feeding tube ("a natural death") would be ok.

They believe that stem cell research should be banned because the embryo is a life, but they have nothing to say about the people who fertilize many eggs in the in vitro process which then are either frozen for no use or discarded.

When it comes to the death penalty, many of these same people are arguing for fewer legal rights for the accused, even in the case of evidence of actual innocence, so the idea of "innocent" life doesn't hold water either.

As Matt makes clear, the liberal position about freedom of choice is not moral relativism. But I would argue that a cafeteria moralism that uses the "life" issue as a cudgel in random situations in which one disagrees with individual decisions is.


Despite recommendations by Army investigators, commanders have decided not to prosecute 17 American soldiers implicated in the deaths of three prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004, according to a new accounting released Friday by the Army.

Investigators had recommended that all 17 soldiers be charged in the cases, according to the accounting by the Army Criminal Investigation Command. The charges included murder, conspiracy and negligent homicide. While none of the 17 will face any prosecution, one received a letter of reprimand and another was discharged after the investigations.

To date, the military has taken steps toward prosecuting some three dozen soldiers in connection with a total of 28 confirmed or suspected homicides of detainees. The total number of such deaths is believed to be between 28 and 31.

In one of the three cases in which no charges are to be filed, the commanders determined the death to be "a result of a series of lawful applications of force." In the second, the commanders decided not to prosecute because of a lack of evidence. In the third, they determined the soldier involved had not been well informed of the rules of engagement.

A spokesman for the Army Criminal Investigation Command, Chris Grey, said in a statement: "We take each and every death very seriously and are committed and sworn to investigating each case with the utmost professionalism and thoroughness. We are equally determined to get to the truth wherever the evidence may lead us and regardless of how long it takes."

And if that doesn't work, we'll just go for the Schiavo Option. From Rox Populi:

Andy Warhol once mused that "in the future, everybody will be world famous for 15 minutes." If he were alive today, he might say that everyone would get the U.S. Congress to intercede on their personal behalf. As it turns out, the Schavio case wasn't even the first one this month. Get this:

The North Carolina congressman who represents Camp Lejeune introduced legislation that would dismiss all charges against 2nd Lt. Ilario G. Pantano, the Marine who allegedly wrongfully shot two Iraqis while deployed to Iraq a year ago.

House Resolution 167, introduced by Rep. Walter B. Jones, R, states that Pantano, 33, was “defending the cause of freedom, democracy and liberty” in his actions on April 15 that resulted in the deaths of two Iraqis.

“The ongoing war in Iraq has taken a toll on this nation. Families have been torn apart by the loss of a loved one who has paid the ultimate price in service to our country,” Jones wrote in a Feb. 25 letter to President Bush.

“Charging Pantano with murder is not only wrong, but is also detrimental to morale in America. This sends a potentially flawed message to those considering enlisting in the military.”

The president has received the letter and the matter is under review, a spokesman for Jones’ office said on March 18.

Hey, what's the use of having control of all three branches of government if you can't do whatever you want to do? The rule of law is for losers.

Here We Are

From Andrew Sullivan:

EMAIL OF THE DAY: "As I read through yesterday's emails, I am struck by the possible fruitfulness of moderate Republican conservatives joining forces with similar folks in the Democratic Party. Perhaps if we leave the extremists of both parties out on their respective limbs and offer a strong ideology of fiscal responsibility, "gentle" hawks only responding in war when clear need is identified, protecting our own public financially from being sold out abroad, protecting our borders (even at the expense of some very wealthy businesspeople) -- promising personal rights of privacy in the pew and the bedroom and on the deathbed -- I think a strong, pragmatic, sensible, workable "party" could emerge. We MUST ditch religious zealotry ASAP -- it is killing real moral values!!"

Can someone explain to me how this substantially differs from the vast mainstream of the Democratic party?

This illustrates how successful the Republicans have been in mischaracterizing themselves as reasonable and the Democrats as a bunch of flaky left wing weirdoes. The last Democratic president was so fiscally responsible he left office with a large surplus for the explicit purpose of funding the social security shortfall in 2040 or so. We all know what happened to that. It is the mainstream Democratic view that we should only use force when "clear need is identified." We are not pacifists and never have been. We are the party that protests outsourcing and off shore tax evasion and our "public being sold out abroad." We have never been for open borders, but we do think that if wealthy businessmen want to import cheap,illegal labor they ought to be required to pay a minimum wage and adhere to basic human rights. And clearly, the mainstream of the Democratic party have no interest in legislating what people do in their bedrooms, pews and deathbeds. None.

Your "strong, pragmatic, sensible, workable" party already exists, guys. If you like effective, fiscally responsible government that respects inbdividual rights, including a right to privacy, then come on over. We are not the party that impeaches presidents over private sexual matters. We may drink latte's and read the New York Times, but that doesn't actually make us communists. That's Rush talk. You know that. And while we have our share of crazies, they aren't running the party. In fact the more extreme on the left have their own Party and cost us the election in 2000. You know that too. And a sad day for this country it was.

All we needed was 60,000 votes in Ohio this time and we could have stopped these guys from doing their worst. Help us out next time. Your country needs you.

“NBC was a much more effective tool for us.”

What a perfect choice of words.

“With the departure of Dan Rather, this is a good opportunity for CBS to reach out,” said Ari Fleischer, the former White House press spokesman. “This is almost a curtains-up for CBS to improve relationships.”

Mr. Fleischer—the former Presidential press secretary who has published his Bush explication memoir, Taking Heat: The President, the Press, and My Years in the White House—was considering CBS News now that Mr. Rather, the bête noir of the conservative class, has departed the CBS Evening News.

Mr. Rather’s early retirement was good, Mr. Fleischer said.

But it wasn’t quite enough.

“Dan Rather became a symbol,” said Mr. Fleischer, who remains close to President Bush. “That’s why this is a new opportunity for CBS. But there’s a lot more to it besides who was in the anchor chair. There’s CBS as a larger organization. There is still largely a Democratic tilt that goes in their journalism.”

Dan Rather was a good start. But the White House wanted more. “A new chapter has opened up at CBS,” Mr. Fleischer said on March 22, “but we don’t know what’s in it yet.”


“Relations were really, really horrible during that whole thing, and then the White House took a different view when Dan stepped down,” Mr. Roberts said. “Everything was affected by the tenure of the guy at the head of the Evening News. It’s really subsided.”

In contrast, Mr. Roberts said, he and Bob Schieffer, the 67-year-old Texan and Face the Nation host who is temporarily replacing Mr. Rather as evening anchor, are held in higher esteem by White House officials.

“Now, don’t get me wrong,” he added. The White House was “still good at controlling information. They’re never happy to see you, but they’re less not happy to see you.”

But at the White House, there was a different view of the CBS News–reborn theory.

Adam Levine, who was the assistant White House secretary in charge of television news until January 2004—and who, like Mr. Fleischer, remains close to the Bush administration press office—said CBS News still had “a lot of work to do.”

To measure the relative credibility of news networks with press officials at the White House, Mr. Levine suggested a scale of one to 100: he put Fox News at 90, NBC News at 80 and CBS News at “about 10.”

Asked about that assessment, a current White House official, who declined to be named, said that figure was “probably generous given what happened.”

“It depends on where they go from here,” said the official. “Contrition is always nice, but it all depends on what gets on the air. That’s the true test.”

“Bowing and scraping is not going to please this White House,” said Mr. Levine.

“Results are going to please the White House.”

“There’s nothing wrong with being optimistic,” he said, referring to Mr. Roberts’ comments, but “I don’t think removing Dan Rather from the equation—that doesn’t make CBS on par with Fox.”


The calculus for the White House in granting interviews, said Mr. Levine, was more than just the fairness and balance of the network—it was a combination of “reach, fairness and enjoyability.”

He described the latter as “the respect factor,” in which an interviewer showed due deference to the office of the Presidency, thereby making it a more appealing experience for Mr. Bush.

By this calculation, Mr. Schieffer, the CBS Evening News interim anchor, had “the respect factor” going for him, said Mr. Levine.

“I found him to be very gracious,” said Mr. Fleischer. “The only thing was he seems to really dislike Tom DeLay. I think a lot of reporters do. I always had good workings with Bob Schieffer. I thought he gave issues a fair ear.”

What Mr. Schieffer and Mr. Pelley lacked was “reach,” said Mr. Levine, which meant the network had much less to offer the White House in terms of audience—unlike, say, ABC News, which Mr. Levine assessed as having more on-air real estate for White House officials to send their messages than CBS News, not to mention an esteemed political web site, The Note.

He recalled that when Mr. Pelley interviewed the President for two hours shortly after Sept. 11, the resulting segment was only 13 minutes long. Mr. Levine had arranged that interview, he said, but he might advise the President against it now. “If I’m advising him,” he said, “I’m not sure that’s the best use of the President’s time.”

Mr. Levine said that during his tenure, “NBC was a much more effective tool for us.” He said press officials in the White House liked Meet the Press host Russert, but not because he tossed softball questions

“Nobody is going to tell you that Tim Russert is easiest,” said Mr. Levine. “He’s by far and away the toughest. But he’s fair.”

Oooh, baby. And he's got big biceps too.

Tim Russert is as fair as Fox news. Proud as a peacock he must be.

Why are they called mediawhores? Because the Republicans treat them like whores and they act like whores. It's not a nice name and I know that it hurts their feelings, but when you read things like this you ralize that it is the most accurate term you can find for these servile, supplicating chickenshits. Jayzuz.

Avedon Carol reminds us that when reporters become courtiers rather than journalists, bad things result. And when they don't, when they actually look for the story instead of simpering and posing for those in power, they can actually get the real story.

But, why would they care, really? John Roberts is getting his phone calls returned from the chief liar in the administration. He has rationalized that to mean that he is a fair journalist. "What Liberal Media?" indeed.


Friday, March 25, 2005

What Will We Tell The Children?

I have been reading all this stuff about Wolfowitz's neocon World Bank girlfriend and her witchy influence over him, but I didn't know until today that Wolfie is married. To another woman.

The appointment of George Bush's leading hawk as head of the World Bank was heading for a crisis over his relationship with a senior British employee.

Influential members of staff at the international organisation have complained to its board that Paul Wolfowitz, a married father of three, is so besotted with Oxford-educated Shaha Riza he cannot be impartial.

Extraordinarily, they claim she played a key role in pushing the 61-year-old Pentagon official into the Iraq War. And the row comes amid claims that Wolfowitz's wife Clare once warned George Bush of the threat to national security any infidelity by her husband could cause.

A British citizen - at 51, eight years younger than Wolfowitz's wife - Ms Riza grew up in Saudi Arabia and was passionately committed to democratising the Middle East when she allegedly began to date Wolfowitz.
She studied at the London School of Economics in the Seventies before taking a master's degree at St Anthony's College, Oxford, where she met her future husband, Turkish Cypriot Bulent Ali Riza, from whom she is now divorced.

After they moved to America, Shaha worked for the Iraq Foundation, set up by expatriates to overthrow Saddam Hussein after the first Gulf War. She subsequently joined the National Endowment for Democracy, created by President Ronald Reagan to promote American ideals.

Bulent Riza said Shaha started to "talk to Paul" about reforming the Middle East. And New Yorker magazine's respected commentator Paul Boyer observed that a senior World Bank official "named Shaha Ali Riza" was an "influence".

I'm most anxious to hear Jerry Fallwell and James Dobson weigh in on this. Is it ethical for the evangelical president to nominate such immoral people to positions of high rank? Doesn't he care? Quick, check the poker room and see if William bennet can enlighten us about this.

And then there is the espionage. As the bride of Jesu said so long ago, in another time of the Florida passion:

Was Mr. Clinton being blackmailed? The Starr report tells us of what the president said to Monica Lewinsky about their telephone sex: that there was reason to believe that they were monitored by a foreign intelligence service. Naturally the service would have taped the calls, to use in the blackmail of the president. Maybe it was Mr. Castro’s intelligence service, or that of a Castro friend.

Is it irresponsible to speculate? It is irresponsible not to.

Even his wife thinks he might be a threat to national security. It would be very irresponsible not to speculate that Wolfowitz is being blackmailed by a beguiling, invasion-mad, Tunisian she-devil. It really would.

Good Friday Middle Aged Mistress Pop Quiz:

Do you know this woman?

answer: Poppi's little friend Jennifer Fitzgerald. What will we tell the great-great-grandchildren?


Thursday, March 24, 2005

Too Far?

I think it's important to give John Cole credit here for recognizing what a threat to freedom these religious zealots are. It appears that more than a few Republicans are a little bit stunned by the hideous overreaching of the congress and the president in this case.

But I must also point out that this didn't happen in a vacuum. This started with the moralizing psuedo religious nonsense during the Clinton years when it was everybody's favorite sport to use the office of the "independent" counsel to rummage through Hillary Clinton's underwear drawer and clutch their lace hankies about a prosaic mid life crisis as if it were of the highest national importance. They impeached the president on the basis of a private sexual matter. Members of the house and senate stood on the floors of the congress and pontificated endlessly about sexual morality and trumped up a case for lying under oath that you could drive a truck through. And the only thing that stopped them from succeeding in making a federal case out of a blow-job was public opinion, which sharply turned against them as the silly spectacle lumbered on.

It was clear then that the modern GOP's small government and individual rights rhetoric was a crock. (I blame some Democrats for this too. A fair number of them fed the notion that this was worthy of official government disapprobation with their Liebermanesque preaching about how it was "deplorable" and "reprehensible.")

Cole notes that the NOW and NARAL slippery slope arguments don't seem so hysterical now. No they don't. Neither do those who have been a little bit kooky on the Patriot Act or the executive power grab that says the president can order torture because in wartime the president can do anything he wants. We are seeing this congressional majority and the president pretty much rip out any part of the constitution they don't care for.

I've been hoping that libertarians would realize that these guys not only have no intention of making government smaller but they have absolutely no respect for individual rights either. I realize that taxation is at the top of most libertarians' list of issues. But I think it's time for many of them to go back and re-read their John Stuart Mill "On Liberty" and expand their definition of freedom a little bit. Taxation can be onerous and tyrannous. But dear God, it's not the ONLY definition of tyranny nor are all levels of taxation onerous.

Maybe libertarians don't feel the yoke tightening around their neck from the corporate oligarchy and the religious right, but I sure as hell do. Maybe this circus is the last straw for some of them too.

You Eat Spinach

Atrios links to another of TAPPED's great posts about the "pain caucus." Earlier this week Sam Rosenfeld wrote an interesting piece on the same subject regarding the punditocrisy's reflexive conventional wisdom that says "political courage" equals average people suffering. He brought up one of the most egregious examples I've ever had the misfortune to watch on last week's Capital Gang:

HUNT: Bob, for Bush to succeed in this or have something he calls success, does he have to get something on -- on personal accounts?

NOVAK: To have any success, of course, he does. If he just has a changing of the index, which is a reduction in benefits, that's not going to do it. And he's not going to go for a tax increase.

I agree with Mark, which I rarely do, that the Republicans look like chickens. They look like they're afraid of combat. But I think the Democrats really look bad because I -- I was talking to some very prominent ones, and I didn't realize that not only is personal accounts off the table, any indexing of -- of the -- of how many -- how the benefits will be is off the table. They are saying, We will not go along with any reduction in benefits to our constituents in the future! I mean, they're being very responsible, and -- and...

HUNT: You meant to say irresponsible, I think.

NOVAK: Irresponsible. And Nancy Pelosi...


NOVAK: Nancy Pelosi, I thought, just typifies exactly what's going on when she says, Stop him, stop him, stop him.

CARLSON: I agree with Bob, in that Democrats have to pivot now and acknowledge, yes, there's a problem, and put forward a proposal for fixing...

O'BEIRNE: And when that happens...

CARLSON: ... Social Security...

O'BEIRNE: ... the Republicans are confident that personal accounts, plus some other things which do affect solvency, will look a lot better than what liberal Democrats are likely to come up, which happens to be tax increases!

CARLSON: Kate, not only would personal...

HUNT: Mark -- Mark -- hurt Social Security, they're going to hurt the economy.

HUNT: Mark, the problem is that people say the concept of personal or private accounts is not such a bad concept, but the minute you say it has to be accompanied by benefit cuts, that's when...

SHIELDS: And tax increases.

HUNT: ... it plummets.

SHIELDS: No, that's absolutely...

CARLSON: And all that borrowing.

SHIELDS: That's absolutely right, Al. And the reality is that the president said there was a crisis. The president said, I have a plan. He said that in the 2000 campaign, said it in 2004 campaign. We just haven't seen the plan unveiled.


SHIELDS: And I would -- I would point out if the people in the White House feel so good about the polls, thank goodness they haven't seen the CNN/"USA Today" Gallup poll, which shows 35 percent approval for the president's handling of the Social Security issue.

O'BEIRNE: And it shows 76 percent of people under age 50 like the idea of the personal accounts, and people above that age won't be affected by them!

NOVAK: Let me just say that the idea that you have the benefit cuts, Mark, because you have personal accounts is ridiculous. It's absolutely ridiculous. You're going to have to have benefit cuts. Pat Moynihan said you had to have benefit cuts. Everybody knows it, and the demagogueing that's going on -- I was -- I was talking with two members of the Social Security subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee. They say, We will not have any benefit cuts for our constituents. They're crazy! They're going to have to have them!

HUNT: You know, Bob, you're right on that. I think there are going to have to be benefit cuts, but I also think that if you move to some -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE) some kind of indexing, you can do it in a very progressive way.

NOVAK: I agree with that!

HUNT: And I think that's what...

NOVAK: But it's still -- they say they -- they want no benefit cuts!

CARLSON: Do you think borrowing a trillion dollars...

SHIELDS: Did the president...


CARLSON: ... personal accounts is a good idea? (CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: ... any of his three dozen appearances when he mentioned it, ever mentioned benefit cuts? He never did.

NOVAK: But he told...

SHIELDS: He never did! No, Bob, but I mean, seriously, he never has.

HUNT: Kate, they at some point...

NOVAK: Do you think -- you think you can get by in this -- with this system without benefit cuts?

SHIELDS: I think -- I think you have to have benefit cuts. I'd like to see you struck from the Social Security rolls, and people of your ilk

The sheer inanity of that dialog is just so depressing. How much money do you suppose those guys all make a year? Do you think that any of them will actually be affected by "benefit cuts?"

We will have to have benefit cuts. Just because we will. There is no other option and the Democrats are just being obstinate in not accepting what we all know will have to happen which is benefit cuts. Pat Moynihan said so! You Americans who will depend on Social Security top keep the wolf from the door are just going to have to deal. That's the way it is.

Taxes? What are these taxes you speak of?

This relates to a Talking Points post from last week in which Johnathan Chait wrote:

Yesterday, Josh argued here that "One of the Democrats' greatest problems -- far more insidious than many realize -- is their desire to gain the approval and approbation of establishment Washington and its A-list pundits."

Interestingly, a reporter friend of mine came across some evidence of this proposition that very night. As he told me:

I was talking yesterday with a very influential Democratic congressman who firmly defended the current Democratic position of not having a specific Social Security 'plan' on the table. Yet at the same time he was a little defensive about it. Why? "Because I keep hearing from you guys" -- i.e., Washington reporters -- "that we're going to be in trouble for not having a plan," he said. "And it makes me nervous."

It occurs to me that liberals should spend more time writing reasoned e-mails to the punditocrisy than we do. It would be nice to break the lock that these gasbags have on the Democrats but we shouldn't just pin our hopes on that alone. We should be working these refs with wily cunning. They seem to be pretty vacuous. It can't be that hard.