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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Smear Boats Are A Comin'

If anyone is wondering about this Hillary swift boat style smear book that Drudge is flacking on his site, be advised that the alleged liberal who wrote it is actually the right wing fuck who writes Walter Scott's Personality Parade -- a piece of Sunday morning trash I stopped reading when he wrote that Chelsea Clinton was an "apple that doesn't fall far from the tree" drunken party girl.

Apparently, Pengiun has joined the Regnery ranks. Nice.

Light Of Reason

Arthur Silber wades into the now legendary Horowitz Bérubé smackdown (which if you haven't read it is one of the most satisfying series of blog posts in blogdom) with characteristically interesting insights:

Given the statement in his own “Academic Bill of Rights,” on what grounds can Horowitz possibly maintain these blatantly irreconcilable positions? Whenever he accuses anyone of “shar[ing] negative views of the Bush Administration” with known terrorists (or more briefly, of “hating America”), one can simply reply: “But, Mr. Horowitz, you yourself believe that ‘there is no humanly accessible truth that is not in principle open to challenge.’ So how do you know that anyone hates America, or that the invasion of Iraq was legitimate, or that occupying Iraq was a wise move in the war against terrorism? In fact, given your own statements, how do you know anything at all?”

Given Horowitz’s approach (which inevitably and necessarily combines relativism, skepticism and subjectivism in one particularly nasty mix), he would have no answer—and in fact, he doesn’t know anything, not with certainty, by his own admission.

I've been meaning to write a little post directing my lovely readers to Arthur Silber's Light of Reason. His site is consistently interesting, well written and original. He's a libertarian, but not one of those annoying fake libertarians who pretend that they are libertarians because they are too embarrassed to be called Republicans (which I understand, but disdain.)

Anyway, Arthur's blog is one of the ways that we can keep some intellectual integrity in this fight with the crazed right wing. He makes arguments, he doesn't hurl epithets. You might learn something even when you disagree with him, which you will, if your politics are like mine.

He's a real humanoid who incidentally could use some financial help due to ill health. If you have it to spare, it would be a good place to do your good deed for the day.

Exploding Bandwagon

Noam Scheiber, who I often endorse wholeheartedly on other issues, explicitly lays out the divide in the Democratic party as I did, as being between "social libertarians" and "communitarians" which is, in my opinion, a weasel word for "kinda socially conservative" in this context.

He says that Democrats began losing because they were perceived as being immoral and licentious, going all the way back to 1972's "abortion, amnesty and acid." It was, in his opinion, only when Bill Clinton said that abortion should be "safe, legal and rare" that we began to lose that perception. But we've been backsliding ever since. Indeed, according to him, every election we have lost or won in the last 30 years has been because we are either perceived as moral or immoral to the moderates who swing elections.

I'll leave it to others to analyze the election statistics to prove whether or not that last is true, but I will say that while we are concerning ourselves with how we are perceived, let us not forget that we have also been perceived as weak on defense. Also the party of racial and gender preferences. And perhaps most importantly, we have been portrayed for decades as the party of big government, the "nanny state" who want to regulate and tax everyone out of existence and force you to hang around with people you hate, eat foods you don't like and quit smoking and drinking even though you hurt nobody but yourself. That's as much of a critique of "do-gooder" Democrats as it ever has been of "law and order" Republicans, who traditionally made their argument on the basis of rampant crime, not telling people what they should do for themselves.

It's always something, isn't it? Those republican scamps have a handy critique for everything we believe. So, I would imagine just as we become the "communitarian" party of love for the weak and defenseless, you'll be seeing a spirited defense of individual liberty coming from the other side. It's kind of the way these things work. Karl knows this.

The thing is that rarely have I seen in my lifetime a situation in which the Republicans have been so soundly criticized by even their own constituency for being too intrusive and imposing their own values on others as we saw in the Schiavo case. It would seem a natural that Democrats would, out of pragmatism if not principle, see this as a way to drive a wedge into the Republican coalition by capitalizing on public opinion and characterizing the Republicans as being in the grip of a mad faction that wants to impose its religious values on everyone.

Apparently not. Instead we are going to drive a wedge into our own, against the will of the majority of both Democrats and Republicans. It's an unusual strategy to say the least. Now is our chance to expose their extremism and it looks like we may just punt. How depressing:

When the Schiavo case began garnering national attention, Democrats' first reaction was to press their social libertarian line. "Congressional leaders have no business substituting their judgment for that of multiple state courts that have extensively considered the issues in this intensely personal family matter," House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi complained. Liberals became increasingly confident as polls showed the public overwhelmingly concerned about federal intrusion into a private family matter. Once again, Democrats risked reinforcing the perception they lacked core values.

Something interesting, however, was beginning to happen: Voices within the Democratic Party were genuinely agonizing over whether congressional intervention in the Schiavo case was truly so egregious. Almost 50 House Democrats voted in favor of the legislation authorizing the additional judicial review--many of them Southern moderates, but several of them liberal members of the Congressional Black Caucus. It was dawning on the party that there was an affirmative statement of values to be made, not simply a libertarian attack on government intervention.

The case of Terri Schiavo is incredibly complex. But the question of a government obligation to the weak, the sick, and the disabled is not--at least for Democrats. So it was reassuring to learn this week that congressional Democrats like Tom Harkin and Barney Frank are closing ranks behind legislation that would allow federal courts to review cases in which end-of-life choices are murky and the family is divided. Considered alongside Hillary Clinton's efforts to reframe the pro-choice position as a communitarian belief that every child should be born into a loving, caring family, it looks as though we're seeing the beginning of a new Democratic Party. It's a party that appeals to core values, not one that allows itself to be caricatured by their absence. Let's hope that party is here to stay.

Yes, by all means, let's adopt the biggest political cock-up the Republicans have made in the last twenty years as our own. (And anybody who thinks that we can stop the Republicans from caricaturing us is fooling themselves. The key is for us to caricature them --- and they are making it easy for us to do it if we have the guts.)

I sincerely hope that we are not dumb enough to portray ourselves as the party of the do-gooder church lady just when they are in the process of proving to the entire country that they are the party of nosy mother-in-law. I do not believe that we will get one more vote for it in the south, and we will lose any hope of gaining back some of the western red states that might be persuaded that all this holy roller nonsense has gone too far.

This is terrible, terrible politics. I don't mind Hillary emphasizing birth control and sex education as a way to expose the religious right's real agenda. I think that makes sense. But that is far different than joining the most far right of the far right in allowing the federal courts to dabble in individual end of life issues. If we do this I hope we are also prepared to give the right its cover as they continue their assult on the allegedly runaway "activist" judiciary --- because that's the basis for this ridiculous federal power grab. There was no reason for the federal courts to get involved with Sciavo because the state courts did NOTHING wrong. My God. Are we really willing to go down this road?

I sincerely hope Scheiber is wrong on this because if he isn't it means that we are thinking of jumping on the right's exploding bandwagon just as it's careening off the edge of a cliff. I can't think of a more self-destructive act.


Go read this beautiful meditation and eulogy from the fine writer Meteor Blades at The Next Hurrah.

And by the way, Hugh Hewitt can once again kiss my ass.

This, I'm Worried About

Honestly, people are killing their children with diets of disguting food. I recognize their freedom to do this if they want to, but it is a real problem nonetheless. I'd be a lot more sympathetic to their complaints about how difficult it is to raise kids in popular culture if they cared as much about this very serious physical health issue. I'm not a purist in this way. I like a Big Mac and fries now and again myself. And I'm not suggesting that everyone serve tofu and green tea to their toddlers. But from what I see at the grocery store --- and the statistics on childhood obestity and diabetes bear this out -- childrens' health is becoming demonstrably compromised by the way they are eating and the sedentary lifestyle they are leading.

And the government could certainly help with this by forcing schools to limit the crap they serve kids at school, requiring physical exercize in the curriculum and instituting a major education initiative to get parents to feed their children correctly. This is a scientifically proveable problem, not some sort of vague unease about teen age sexuality (which, by the way, has had the older generation freaking out for my entire lifetime --- it's just that we are now the older generation.) The costs to society and to individuals of this health crisis, on the other hand, are going to be huge if something isn't done to reverse this trend.

So, here we a have real, tangible problem for parents and children in desperate need of a solution. But neither party can even go near it because it will be greeted with fury by corporate America and will be perceived my most Americans as an elitist attack on their lifestyle. Instead we're going to regulate cable TV shows because parents can't be bothered to figure out how to program their V Chip. How fucked up is that?

Picture Via Tom Moody

She Can Boast (lyingly)

Via DC Media Girl, I see that Ann Coulter has been named as one of TIME magazine's 100 most influential people:

In her books, Coulter can be erudite and persuasive, as when she exposes the left’s chronic softness on communism. But her signature is her gleeful willingness to taunt liberals and Democrats, to say out loud what some other conservatives dare only think--that Bill Clinton is a "horny hick," for example, and his wife "pond scum." It’s what makes Coulter irresistible and influential, whether you like it or not.

Here's the opening passage of Coulter's "erudite and persuasive" exposure of the left's chronic softness on communism in her influential book "Treason":

Liberals have a preternatural gift for striking a position on the side of treason. You could be talking about Scrabble and they would instantly leap to the anti-American position. Everyone says liberals love American, too. No they don't. Whenever the nation is under attack, from within or without, liberals side with the enemy. This is their essence. The Left’s obsession with the crimes of the West and their Rousseauian respect for Third World savages all flow from this subversive goal. If anyone has the gaucherie to point out the left's nearly unblemished record of rooting against American, liberals turn around and scream "McCarthyism!"

Liberals invented the myth of McCarthyism to delegitimize impertinent questions about their own patriotism. They boast (lyingly) about their superior stance on civil rights. But somehow their loyalty to the United States is off-limits as a subject of political debate. Why is the relative patriotism of the two parties the only issue that is out of bounds for discussion? Why can't we ask: Who is more patriotic --- Democrats or Republicans? You could win that case in court.

Fifty years ago, Senator Joe McCarthy said, "The loyal Democrats of this nation no longer have a Party." Since then the evidence had continued to pour in. Liberals mock Americans who love their country, calling them cowboys, warmongers, religious zealots and jingoists. By contrast, America's enemies are called "Uncle Joe," "Fidel," "agrarian reformers," and practitioners of a "religion of peace." Indeed, Communists and terrorists alike are said to be advocates of "peace."

That first sentence isn't a typo although when I first read it I thought for sure it was. It would make so much more sense if it said "Liberals have a preternatural gift for striking a position on the side of reason." But, no. She means it.

I suppose one could agree that it is erudite (and unbelievably awkward) to use the word "lyingly" the way she used it, along with the word "gaucherie."
But that's nit picking. Her erudition on the subject of McCarthy is well -- non-existent. She basically just made shit up. But, nonetheless it was apparently "irrestistable" to the great historical minds at Time magazine. They are evidently wingnut crackwhores over there.

Aside from her astonishing lack of historical knowledge, however, is it even remotely possible that anyone who isn't already a true believer can make any sense of that mess? For instance, what could possibly be persuasive in this paragraph?:

Liberals invented the myth of McCarthyism to delegitimize impertinent questions about their own patriotism. They boast (lyingly) about their superior stance on civil rights. But somehow their loyalty to the United States is off-limits as a subject of political debate. Why is the relative patriotism of the two parties the only issue that is out of bounds for discussion? Why can't we ask: Who is more patriotic --- Democrats or Republicans? You could win that case in court.

Liberals invented the myth of McCarthyism to keep the other side from questioning their patriotism. Which is, of course, what McCarthy actually did and was eventually disgraced for doing. But whatever. Liberals also boast about their superior stance on civil rights --- lyingly. How this related to the fact that we invented McCarthyism, I don't know. And yet we "somehow" (by boasting "lyingly" about civil rights?) have made made it impossible to question our loyalty to the United States.

But lest we forget, Coulter isn't actually talking about patriotism. She says that Democrats have a "preturnatural gift for striking a position on the side of treason," which is actually many degrees worse than calling somebody a "cowboy" or referring to castro as "Fidel." Indeed, it is a capital offense.

I guess this kind of intellectual incoherence is what makes Coulter so "irresistible" to TIME magazine which has decided to go back to its old 60's ways when it was widely known to be a tool for the political establishment. Between naming Powerline blog of the year, Joe Klein calling the Democrats "undemocratic" and this, I think it's fair to say that the Noise Machine has a proud new member --- or maybe it's actually a founding member that's just recently decided to wear its stripes more proudly. Good to know.

I'm reminded of this passage from Allen Ginsberg's great poem "America"

I'm addressing you.
Are you going to let our emotional life be run by Time Magazine?
I'm obsessed by Time Magazine.
I read it every week.
Its cover stares at me every time I slink past the corner candystore.
I read it in the basement of the Berkeley Public Library.
It's always telling me about responsibility. Businessmen are serious. Movie
producers are serious. Everybody's serious but me.
It occurs to me that I am America.
I am talking to myself again.

Prove It

Matt Yglesias and Atrios both got to this post by Amy Sullivan before I could, but since it's one of my hobby horses, I can't help but weigh in. Sullivan makes the case again that the Democrats could gain from bashing Hollywood because a lot of parents are uncomfortable with the sexual innuendo on "Friends". Or something like that.

After the election we all argued quite a bit about this sort of thing because the religious right jumped on an initial bit of analysis that said that "moral values" were the primary reason people voted for Republicans. It turned out to be a lot more complicated than that, but it set off a division in the party, I think, between those who believe that we can achieve a majority by competing for social conservative type votes through religious rhetoric, those who believe that we will win a majority by competing for libertarian type votes through appeals to individual liberty, and those who believe we will win through a muscular foreign policy message.

In order to gain a political majority in this country we need 51%. We have 49%. This question of where we are going to get that majority could be answered in any number of ways or any combination of ways. But, you have to settle on some sort of strategy and mine comes down on the second option. It reflects my personal values and I think it presents a stark, clear choice between the two parties now that the Republicans are being shackled by their image as the party of the religious right extremists. I think it's good policy and good politics both to embrace a "mind your own business" message in light of how far out the Republicans have become. Now is not the time, in my opinion, to blur the lines. It's time to draw them clearly. All those people who watched FOXnews in disgust during the Schiavo matter are open to the argument that the Republicans are trying to impose radical religious values on the country.

But, others disagree and think that social conservatism is where the votes are and that's where we should concentrate our efforts. I have serious doubts that attacking popular culture will be seen as anything more than pandering but there are ways to test this issue.

The fact is that if all these religious people stop watching these television shows they will be cancelled. The entertainment business is the most sensitive market in the world. They measure their product sales every single day and they will stop producing it if it isn't selling. If you don't like it, don't watch it, and if there are as many religious people in this country as we are told, Hollywood will respond. Immediately.

A bunch of pulpits and righteous religious people, who are said to be legion in this country, can get something like this done without doing anything more than just saying no. Because right now a lot of these religious people do watch all this crap. The numbers do not lie. They are buying Britney CD's and Grand Theft Auto for their kids. What they seem to want is for somebody else to make it easier for them to say no to their kids. I suggest that they say no first and popular culture will follow. If religion is as politically and culturally powerful as people keep saying it is, it should be able to persuade people to do this one simple thing.

Of course, there is the little problem that people lie about this stuff. They lie about going to church, and they tell pollsters they are unhappy with things on television --- the very things they continue to watch. I imagine that many people think they need to say these things even as they spend Sunday watching the football game and Sunday night glued to "Desperate Housewives". They refuse to use the V-chip that could keep their little kids from watching any channel they choose and they give their kids money to buy the junk that that they profess not to like. But I can't say as I blame them. Hypocrisy is a requirement of American citizenship these days. Pity the person who admits out loud to being secular or unconcerned with current sexual morality. Better to pay lip service to the morals police than bring down their provincial ire on your head.

And it should be remembered that even if Democratic politicans could benefit from bashing Susan Sarandon and Janeane Garofolo, all of this pressure would likely go awry and we'd be seeing halter tops on the Venus de Milo. Neither politicans nor bureaucrats are capable of telling the difference between art and pornography and they will always err on the side of tight assed stupidity. Like this. And voluntary censorship is worse than government censorship. At least you can vote the censors out of office. If you leave it up to the corporations somebody's mentally challenged nephew will be deciding that the word "but" is dirty.

And as Yglesias points out in his piece, this is all being done in an environment in which pregnancy rates are going down, youth violence is going down and a whole host of other youth pathologies are showing every sign of dissipating. Yet, the one thing that parents could really do to help their children --- get them off the fucking couch in the first place and feed them some real, nutritious food --- they evidently aren't eager to do. Instead, I suspect that many of those who aren't just saying what they think people expect, simply want politicians to make them feel that they are good parents by expressing their faux outrage for them --- while they munch on their super-sized big macs and eagerly watch women metaphorically scratch each others eyes out competing for some zero in a hot tub on "The Bachelor."

But like I said, all that needs to change things here is that these vast numbers of priests, pastors and preachers tell their tens of millions of obedient flocks to stop watching the bad stuff. The bad stuff will disappear if they do it, guaranteed. Take this message to the churches, not the politicians. If we are to believe that this country is awash in religiosity and that religious people make up the constituency that can make or break any political party, then I say prove it. Here's your issue. Get your followers to stop watching all the shows on television that are allegedly polluting our culture and you will have shown once and for all that social conservatism is a majority position in America.

Update: For the record, I do not disagree that we should be addressing the needs of parents. The government can do many things to help people with this, from providing good schools to subsidising decent health care to dealing with as Yglesias calls it "the interesection of feminism and capitalism." As a liberal I think the government has a vital role to play in economic issues, particularly those that help the middle class. That's what we do.

But, by feeding into the myth that the biggest problem facing America is a decline in "values" --- a decline which is promulgated by liberal elites (who, yes work for corporate masters) --- we play into the the right wing's game plan. They have created a myth that liberal values are the prime cause of people's discontent instead of the very real pressures that people feel in the squeeze between work, family, consumerism, freedom and responsibility. Some of these things the government can help with, some of them they can't. But the problem with the current formulation is that the Right has convinced everyone that the government should interfere in the ways in which it is most clumsy and ill equipped and abdicate it's responsibility to do the things it can actually do pretty well.

Here's the thing. Everytime we expolicitly play into this "oh the country's values are going to hell in a handbasket" game, we are playing on GOP turf. I think Amy Sullivan is correct to say that we can use this issue as a way into the hearts and minds of overworked and worried parents. But not by joining with Joementum and condemning Hollywood or, as Amy Sullivan said, pulling a Sistah Soljah on Susan Sarandon. (And, why her? She won the Oscar playing a nun who fights against the death penalty. See what happens when you meddle in art and culture? The good gets all mixed in with the bad.)

The way you worm your way into this topic is by responding to people's concerns about popular culture with an empathetic, "well we live in a free country and apparently a lot of people like that stuff or it wouldn't be on. However, I think we should definitely try to find some ways for you to be able to spend more time with your kids so you can have at least as much influence as the television does."

What you don't do is allow their framing of the argument to stick. It only reinforces their message that liberalism is the cause of all evil. We just have to stop doing that. Whenever we find ourselves speaking in terms that could come out of a Republican's mouth we should ask ourselves if it's really common ground or just internalizing their criticisms of us. 90% of the time it's the latter.

Update II: Julia discusses the strange hippie, liberal phenomenon called ... parental responsibility.


Monday, April 11, 2005

Now It's A Democracy Not A Republic?

From Joe Klein to Ed Koch to every wingnut in the land, the meme of the week is that Democrats are undemocratic because we believe in an independent judiciary and will use the illegitimate minority cudgel of the filibuster to thwart the will of the people. Shame, shame on us.

Yes, we do desire that judicial nominees not be ideologically so removed from our way of thinking as to turn the country in a completely different direction --- like proclaim for the first time, for instance, that the government derives its authority from God rather than the governed. And yes, since the Republicans repealed all the tools they used to accomplished the same tempering of ideology when a Democrat was president, we have threatened to use the only tool at our disposal, the filibuster. This means we have no respect for the majority and are attempting to thwart the will of the electorate, who evidently voted en masse for a radical reform of the judiciary in the last election. Who knew?

Undemocratic. I wonder what one would call impeaching a twice elected president for a personal indiscretion would be? How about redrawing the electoral maps whenever it suits in order to establish a larger majority? Or how about staging a recall less than two years after a scheduled election just because the governor had hit a rough spot in public opinion? (The way Bush is going right now, I wish we had such a thing at the federal level. We could kick his unpopular ass out. But, surely that would be considered "undemocratic" wouldn't it --- if Democrats did it?)

The word "democracy" is sadly being bastardized to such a degree that it's losing its meaning. It's become like Jesus --- a code word for Republicans to bash Democrats. But with all this talk of the filibuster being undemocratic, and it is, it certainly is no more undemocratic than the Senate itself. The Republican party currently represents a majority of states in the Sernate, but the Democrats represent a majority of people. What's democratic about that?

Or how about that relic called the electoral college --- you know the little anachronism that got Junior his first term? Talk about undemocratic. If we are going to start going down the road to a pure democracy then I would suggest that we should probably eliminate both of those institutions.

But it's a funny thing. Whenever I've had conversations bemoaning the undemocratic streak in the GOP these last few years, what with its unprecedented blow job impeachments and recalls and district redrawings and the like, I'm always met with the standard wingnut line "the United States is a republic, not a democracy." Suddenly, we're hearing all this stuff about thwarting the majority. How convenient.

I get tired of pointing out the intellectual inconsistencies on the right. But it is so vast and fertile a subject that I come up against it again and again and again. This is way beyond something as prosaic as hypocrisy. They feel no shame in completely doing an intellectual 180 overnight when circumstances require it. They don't even betray a rueful shrug of the shoulders with a "well you know, it's politics." They argue with the same supercilious, ferocious rudeness on whatever side of the argument serves them at any moment, without ever acknowledging (even, I suspect, to themselves) that just yesterday they were on the other side. Very, very weird.

Poison Embrace

Busy, Busy, Busy has this great screenshot of an ad by the wingnut "Moving America Forward" featuring those great conservatives Oliver North, Ronald Reagan, John Bolton and ... Joe Lieberman.

It occurs to me that the Democrats should start doing the same thing to John McCain. If McCain runs in '08, it would be nice to have him saddled with being the Democrats favorite conservative. Why take the chance that he could get the nomination? Let's taint him.

Here's a good quote we can use:

"The politics of division and slander are not our values," McCain said in Virginia. "They are corrupting influences on religion and politics and those who practice them in the name of religion or in the name of the Republican Party or in the name of America shame our faith, our party and our country."

That's a message that could play well in the general election, where independents could go for him. Best make sure he doesn't get the nomination. Let's run some ads with McCain alongside Barbara Boxer and Hillary Clinton. That ought to finish him off.

As an aside, I don't know if the Republican establishment is as convinced of this as Republicans of my acquaintance, but the ones I know really think that Lieberman could win. Really. They think he's the only guy in the party who could get Republican votes. I think they are delusional. What Lieberman lacks in charisma he more than makes up for in lack of appeal. But these people really believe that Joementum is a threat.

Of course, he will never get the nomination, as we know. But we should ensure that McCain doesn't get it either. Democrats have to win.

Location Location Location

Kevin says something today that I think is odd:

It's one thing to stretch logic enough to conclude that a fertilized piece of DNA in the womb is a human life that deserves the full protection of the law, but it's quite another to conclude that a fertilized piece of DNA in a petri dish is a human life that deserves the full protection of the law. Especially when the petri dish version might hold the key to curing grandpa's Parkinson's.

I actually think the opposite is true. If one concludes that these scraps of DNA have the rights of personhood depending on where they are located, I would think that logic would force you to choose the one that doesn't conflict directly with the fully formed human being it's living within --- the woman. The controversy about abortion can be distilled to a conflict between what is, at the DNA scrap stage anyway, a "life" that is quite literally attached to and part of another life. If people want to decide that DNA scraps in petri dishes are full citizens with the right to vote and own condos in Miami, it's stupid, but far more logical than it is when you tell a woman that the scrap of DNA inside of her body has the same equal rights under the law as she does.

Personally, I see scraps of DNA in petri dishes and wombs simply as scraps of DNA which do not hold human rights at all. I'm all for curing grandpa's Parkinsons with the hundreds of thousands of discarded embryos from in vitro fertilization. That seems like common sense to me --- maybe even God's plan. But if we are going to go around bestowing human rights on DNA I think fully formed human beings should have at least a slightly superior claim to those rights than the microscopic scrap of DNA inside her body.


Friday, April 08, 2005

Eine Kleine Mock Music

Would it be terribly politically incorrect of me to wish that Joe Klein would just succumb to his impending persistent vegetative state? I promise to let the Schindlers adopt him and they can pump his feeding tube full of homemade butterscotch puddin' 24/7 if he will just shut his burbling piehole.

In spite of the fact that three quarters of the country were repelled by the Republican grandstanding in the Schiavo circus, Klein insists, as always, that it is the Democrats who have it wrong. We need to give "careful consideration to what thoughtful conservatives are saying about the role of the judiciary in our public life."

Which thoughtful conservatives should we be listening to Joe? The ones who are directly threatening conservative and liberal judges who believe their job is to interpret the laws or the ones who merely understand why someone would be moved to threaten conservative and liberal judges who believe their job is to interpret the laws? Or maybe it's this thoughtful conservative who heads the Coalition For A Fair Judiciary. Here's what she thoughtfully had to say today, (via Sam Rosenfeld on TAPPED):

My job is stand in the breach between the left and the president’s judicial nominations . . . You know who they are. You’ve seen them. The pro-abortion fanatics and the radical feminists, the atheists who file lawsuits attacking the pledge of allegiance and the ten commandments, the environmentalist tree-hugging animal-rights extremists, the one-world globalists who worship at the altar of the United Nations and international law, the militant homosexuals and the anti-military hippie pieceniks, the racial agitators who believe we are all created equal but some are a little more equal than others, the union bosses and the socialists posing as journalists and college professors, the government bureaucrats and the tax-and-spend junkies, the Hollywood elitists, the air-headed actors and singers who think that we actually care what they think, the pornographers who fund the leftists and who won’t be happy until every Bible in every child’s hands is replaced with the latest copy of Hustler magazine, and of course the gun-grabbing trial lawyers and their willing accomplices in the United States Senate who won’t be happy until they disarm every last citizen down to the last bee bee and paintball gun.

Yes, I agree that I need to listen more to flaming fuckwads like that. Right after I pull the hot needles from my eyeballs.

Joe says:

The Schiavo case has provoked a passionate American conversation, which is taking place on a more profound level than the simple yes and no answers of the polls. Yes, the vast majority disdain the politicians who chose to exploit the case. And yes, a solid majority would not want their own lives prolonged in a similar situation. But the questions that cut closest to home are the family issues. What would you do if Terri Schiavo were your daughter? Why couldn't Michael Schiavo just give custody over to the parents? What do we do about custody in a society where the parent-child bond is more durable than many marriages? The President's solution, to "err on the side of life," seems the only humane answer—if there is a dispute between parents and spouse, and the disabled person has left no clear instruction.

"The parent-child bond is more durable that many marriages?" And here I thought it was supposed to be the Democrats who infantilized adults. Or maybe it's really just the infantilization of men. The old rhyme used to say that a "son is a son 'til he takes a wife, a daughter's a daughter all of her life." Now a son is a daughter all of his life too. I guess that's a weird form of progress.

Klein's insistence that the polls don't acurately reflect the nation's feelings on the matter is reminiscent of official Washington's gobsmacked reaction to the public's take on the Lewinsky scandal. Here's how Klein himself explained it in "The Natural."

When it has all been digested, public opinion has shifted not a whit. The President's job approval ratings remained very high, in the 60 percent range --- he would leave office with the highest sustained job approval ratings of any President since John F. Kennedy. His personal approval ratings were lower, of course. It was difficult to imagine any civilian answering in the affirmative if asked, "Do you approve of the President's personal behavior?" Of course many secret sympathies were undoubtedly harbored, especially among those Clinton's age, who had navigated themselves --- shakily --- through the uncertain moral shoals of the late twentieth century.


The Republicans suffered grievously. They lost five seats in the congressional elections that fall, which was very rare for a midterm election during a President's sixth year in office. Newt Gingrich suffered and appropriately Jacobin fate, becoming as target of his own hotheads...His reign had lasted exactly four --- entirely disasterous --- years...A Harris poll showed that journalists were now held in the lowest public esteem of any professional group, lower even than lawyers.

This mystified Washington. William Bennett, the former Reagan education Secretary who had built a cottage industry out of books that compiles stories about "virtues" now hustled forth with a new book called "The Death of Outrage, and made a national tour lamenting the moral insensitivity of the American people. The editorial pages of both the New York Times and Washington Post had sounded, in the midst of the scandal every bit as intemperate as the editorial page of the Wall Street journal.


How then to explain the contrast between the intensity of outrage in Washington and the laissez-faire attitude toward the President's immorality among the citizens of the most religious of Western democracies? It seemed an inprecedented disparity, and quite fascinating. It was especially entertaining to watch the commentariat --- which had been predicting for months yhat the public would soon share its anti-Clinton obsession --- try to explain why that hadn't happened. Americans had judged the Lewinsky affair a delicious, disgraceful, exploitive and ultimately private act of consensual sex.

However you choose to characterize people's reactions, the only one that matters politically is that they believed it was a private act and that the government had overstepped its bounds. But "the uncertain moral shoals of the late twentieth century" (and early 21st century) aren't confined to whether middle aged men can keep it in their pants at the office. Lot's of uncertainty these days Joe, except for one thing --- nobody wants that moron George W. Bush defining what constitutes "erring on the side of life" any more than they wanted Ken Starr rifling through their panty drawers.

Speaking of the Democratic response he says:

...it was a curiously sterile pronouncement, bereft of the Congressman's usual raucous humanity. It exemplified the Democratic Party's recent overdependence on legal process, a culture of law that has supplanted legislative consideration of vexing social issues. This is democracy once removed.

Huh? The libertine left is now overly dependent on the rule of law? WTF? And who says that liberals are supplanting legislative consideration of vexing social issues? We are happy to pass laws on all these things. But, we just have a little expectation that these laws should be constitutional that's all. We're not in favor of inflicting particular religious doctine on those who don't believe and we don't think that the government should intrude on purely private matters. If that's a "culture of law" count me in.

There must be some kind of computer program you can buy in DC that scolds Democrats like a drunk and bitter stepmother no matter what the circumstances. If there isn't, I'm going to invent one so that Joe Klein can spend even more time kissing the flatulent asses of sanctimonious Republican gasbags who insist that James Dobson and his zombie nation represent "real" America

This month, Democrats may use procedural tricks to stop all Senate business and block a Republican effort to eliminate minority filibuster rights and jam through seven federal judges proposed by the President. The fight may be winnable, but it is a culture of law cul-de-sac. The Democrats will be shutting down the Senate over a matter of process rather than substance, a pinhead of principle most civilians will find difficult to understand. The Armageddon of confirmation battles—over the next Supreme Court Justice—will probably follow soon after, and it may cement a public impression of the Democrats as a party obsessed with the legal processes that preserve the status quo on issues such as abortion, gay rights and extreme secularism—and little else. The political damage may be considerable.

I'll take my chances. Klein was among those he now mocks for assuming for months that Clinton would be forced from office. He has the political instincts of a dead cat. This judicial fight could have turned out the way Klein presents it. But Schiavo changed all that. Klein's got it exactly backwards. The GOP let loose the hounds of hell and now they can't get them back under control. We are better positioned than we have been since 9/11 to win one.

It's not about Democrats being "obsessed with legal processes and little else." It's about a bunch of extremists pushing their agenda far beyond what the public is ready to accept. Nobody gives a shit what Barney Frank said about this matter. They haven't even heard it. It's what Bill Frist and Tom DeLay said that freaked them out.

Josh Marshall brought up an interesting point about this that hadn't occurred to me before:

Was there any clear point in the legal history of this case at which, purely on legal intepretation grounds, any significant question should have been judged in a different manner?

I raise this because one of this site's regular readers and correspondents just dropped me a note about some program he was watching on C-Span in which some staffer from the Hill was about to blow a fuse over unaccountable activist judges and how they all need to be impeached.

But if the answer to the question above is 'no', then isn't the real beef of all these Schiavo-hounds that these judges aren't activist enough in departing from the law to get results the hounds want?

Well that gets to Klein's newfound embrace of the democratic process for resolving all these pesky social issues instead of relying on that musty old "culture of law" (aka the constitution of the United States.) Yes, it's very easy for these "culture of life" zealots to complain, but it's a little bit more difficult for them to actually step up to the plate and pass these laws in the way that Klein believes we all should. That's because these ideas are unpopular, unconsitutional and completely out of the mainstream. (Here's an interesting article in the St Petersberg Times that shows the great democratic and deliberative process that brought about "Terri's law" --- which was rightly declared unconstitutional by 7-0 margin in the Florida Supreme court and rejected for review by the US Supreme Court. Maybe if these people wrote literate legislation they'd pass muster. But then, perhaps they really don't want to...)

It's not that these judges are "liberal activists" --- the main players in the Schiavo matter were conservative republicans, for God's sake. It's that the Republican legislatures both state and federal want to blame the judiciary for the fact that they cannot deliver on these repugnant, unamerican, demands from their extremist religious right constituency. They want something that both real "thoughtful" Republican judges and Democrats all agree is unconstitutional. They want to destroy an independent judiciary so they can pass unconstituional laws on a purely partisan basis with no review. Sorry, I just don't see what's so "thoughtful" about that.

Armando has a full detailed Klein take down in this post over on Kos. Check it out.


Was Ken Mehlman The Maid Of Honor?

Atrios has posted a Drudge story about Arthur Finkelstein allegedly getting married in Massachusetts to his lover of forty years. The couple have two adopted children.

For those of you who don't know the full extent of Arthur Finkelstein's heroic self-loathing, read this article:

Finkelstein's signature style emerges through the ads he creates. Two recent adds brand Democrats as liberals: "Call liberal Paul Wellstone. Tell him it's wrong to spend billions more on welfare," one ad states.

"That's liberal," says another. "That's Jack Reed. That's wrong. Call liberal Jack Reed and tell him his record on welfare is just too liberal for you."

"That's the Finkelstein formula: just brand somebody a liberal, use the word over and over again, engage in that kind of name-calling," said Democratic consultant Mark Mellman.

Arthur Finkelstein, more than any other person in this country, is the one who made the word "liberal" into a dirty word.

In the end, I suppose it's quite sweet, actually, that the rabid gay baiter Jesse Helms depended on the openly gay Finkelstein to consult on his racist and homophobic campaigns. What a big tent these mean and macho Republicans pitch when they let their hair down.

It would seem that they have no problem with gays marrying each other as long as they are willing to bash other gays who want to marry each other. Arthur's still very much in the game. Here's his latest little project:

Stop Her Now,” is the name of the new Web site soon to be launched by Arthur Finkelstein, the chief political guru of New York Governor George Pataki, and one of the country's most successful yet least known political consultants/spin doctors. The “Her” at StopHerNow.com is New York Senator Hillary Clinton. According to the New York Post, Finkelstein, the longtime master of the political attack ad, hopes the site will raise as much as $10 million from Hillary-haters across the nation and provide a gathering point for conservative activists working to defeat her in next year's Senatorial election. Hillary's defeat would likely derail any presidential aspirations she might have.

It's a mistake to think that Karl Rove is the evil puppetmaster of the GOP. It's just that Rove had so little to work with that he's considered something of a genius. There are a whole bunch of evil puppetmasters and they've been around for a long time. This modern GOP is Nixon's party. They like to think they are Reagan's party, but they are Nixon's party. Dirty politics is their specialty. And Arthur Finkelstein is one of the Grand Vizier's of the game.

Pillow Talking Points

According to TBOGG, Rush said this yesterday about the Darling Martinez memo:

What was wrong with this? What's wrong with the Republicans having political strategy sessions? They didn't in this case, but even if they had, so what?

Here's what the future ex-Mrs Limbaugh (thanks GL) said:

Basically a political memo that said the fight over the removing Schiavo's feeding tube is a great political issue, and a tough issue for Democrats. News of the day, comes out of Mel Martinez' office. He's fired an aide who allegedly wrote this. Ed Henry question -- what's the big deal?

New Star

For those who didn't see the NPC blogging, ass-fucking and journalism panel this morning, the great Crooks and Liars has the highlights for you right here.

Gannon has quite the schtick going for him. I don't know if it's a natural gift or if he has had help, but he handled it all quite deftly, I thought. He makes absolutely no sense, wanders off into unrelated subjects, claims victimhood at every turn, avoids questions like a pro and appears to me to be incredibly stupid, arrogant and deluded all at the same time. A clown that nobody in their right mind could take seriously. In others words, meet the next GOP nominee for President of the United States.

I spent years right on this old blog screeching about George W. Bush being just as I described, assuming that any sentient person could see that he makes no sense, that he speaks in riddles that he is coached (badly) and that he has absolutely no idea that he is an idiot. It took me a long time realize that that is exactly what a lot of people like about him. He doesn't need to make sense as long as he claims to represent the "real" people who are predisposed to support him against the pointy headed know-it-alls who lord over them. I have little doubt that they think Gannon really kicked ass.

"And why shouldn't the president have one person who will tell his side of the story? Fox is fair and balanced, they have to tell all sides. It's not right that president Bush has to spend tax payer money just to get his story told. I'm so sick of this liberal media."

"You know he was a marine don't you, Ethel?" "I heard that. He looks like one too."

I think Gannon's assertion that FOXNews is not conservative was his "Christ, he changed mah heart moment." I expect that he's on his way to a comeback. The right takes care of its own, even if they sell out the country to the Russian mob or advertise their prositution services with pictures of themselves pissing on the internet. It's all good.

Matt Yglesias was just great and I especially enjoyed his incredulous amusement at Gannon's nonsense. It is always difficult to argue with aliens from other planets, but I thought that Matt did it very well. It remains important that as we go into this bizarre new era of elastic truth and contrived alternate storylines that normal, intelligent people continue to operate within the bounds of verifiable reality. Somebody's got to keep score.

And Wonkette was a big surprise. She was unrelenting with old JG and she came the closest to rattling his bizarre robotic composure. Maybe it takes an aggressive, unflappable female with a sense of humor to get to wierd gay Republicans like Guckert. I saw a little bitchy sneer on his face come forth as she was questioning him and it would have been interesting if she'd been allowed to continue. Unfortunately, all the timorous and delicate old ladies of the DC press club were willing to host a panel featuring a real mediawhore, but they weren't willing to let the discussion go where it would naturally lead.

I'm not saying that they needed to spend the hour addressing the fact that Guckert has his pictures plastered all over the internet illegally selling his body for money, but it is such an amazing turn around from just a few years ago when the DC press corp had no compunctions whatsoever about spending month after month speculating about the sex lives of the president, first lady and Monica Lewisnky (plus all of her former lovers) without a minute spared as to whether the details were relevant to any particular public discussion. And to the best of my knowledge, there weren't even any naked pictures.

It's very nice that they have now decided that these private matters are off limits when it comes to male prostitutes in the white house press corps with connections to Republican operatives and born again Christians who believe that sexual morals should be policed by the federal government. It will be interesting to see if they hold to this new regard for personal privacy when the next GOP pimped sex scandal pops up.

In the end, these panels about "what constitutes journalism" will probably become perennial just as the "why can't we stop ourselves from only covering the horserace" panels that crop up after every election. The internet is changing all of it and nobody knows where it's going. All the talking in the world isn't going to make a lick of difference. Everybody's just along for the ride --- bloggers, journalists and Republican male hookers alike.


Thursday, April 07, 2005

Spine Tingling

Many of you have already read this amazing essay called "Life and Death" by a very interesting fellow named Chris Clarke. If you haven't, you should. And then read his bio. Some people's lives are a work of art.

Book Meme Redux

So Lindsay has passed me the baton in the Book Meme Game. Here goes:

You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be [saved]?

The Complete Works of Shakespeare

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

Yes, I have. Indeed, so many that it is a miracle that I was able to find a real live human to marry who could live up to the competition.

The last book you bought is?

"The Master" by Colm Toibin (Major Henry James fan here)

What are you currently reading?

"Happy Days Are Here Again: The 1932 Democratic convention, The Emergence of FDR and how America Was Changed Forever" by Steven Neal

Michel Foucault's "the Archeology of Knowledge"

"Any Human Heart" by William Boyd

"The Plot Against America" by Philip Roth

(I always read more than one book at a time. Don't know why.)

Five books you would take to a deserted island?

1. Ulysses
2. Brothers K
3. Wilderness Living and Survival Skills
4. Remembrances of Things Past
5. Atlas Shrugged (I'll need toilet paper)

Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons) and why?

Julia at Sisyphus Shrugged because she's obviously very well read

Avedon Carol because she's got a very lively and eclectic mind

Ezra Klein because he's in college so he's probably reading some really good stuff for the first time.

Cry Wolf Much?

After yesterday's post on Powerline's lack of even rudimentary knowledge of photography, I couldn't believe it when I read all this over at Atrios's place this morning. And apparently Highpockets still can't admit that every document that sheds a bad light on Republicans isn't a Democratic party forgery.

Someday someone is going to have to go back and examine again how they and the other wingnut bloggers also got every detail wrong on the Rathergate memos and still came to be lauded for their "investigation." Why nobody has found the irony of that worth exploring I'll never know.

Of course these "investigative bloggers" are full of shit. They are part of the right wing media and they are just doing what they all do. They have no credibility as "investigators" or analysts because they have no personal integrity. This is clear because they never, ever admit that they make a mistake. Sadly, because the mainstream media are so clueless about what "blogging" is, we all get tarred by the same brush as these GOP tools.

I don't mind being called partisan because I am. I really makes me angry, however, to be called dishonest because these rightwing scumbags lie constantly and the media can't be bothered to see what is right in front of their faces --- that just like Rush and FoxNews and all the dirty tricksters and Regnery whores, the right wing blogosphere is full of people who just make shit up. It's one of the things that distinguishes the right from the left generally --- the blatent, in your face, "you can believe me or you can believe your eyes" dishonesty. There is nothing new about this but the fact that so many in the press still eat those lies with a spoon and never get tired of being played is just stunning.

Earlier today, Rush's little galpal Daryn Kagan was questioning the CNN congressional correspondent about the Martinez memo. She said something to the effect of "aren't people in this town a little too sensitive? What's wrong with this memo, anyway?" The guy was a little taken aback (probably because he didn't realize he now works for FOXNews) and patiently explained that it was a big deal because the Republicans had denied writing or seeing the memo and that they had insisted that the Schiavo case was a matter of conscience not politics.

This is what we are dealing with. And the fact that Hindquarter got it wrong again won't matter at all. He's in the club and he'll be back with more ridiculous flights of logic and Howie Kurtz will kiss his ass because Time magazine named him and his partners in bullshit bloggers of the year. And the lines between the mainstream media and the right wing noise machine get blurrier and blurrier by the day.

Update: Here's the Kagan exchange:

KAGAN: The first one deals with this memo that we now know comes out of Senator Mel Martinez' office. It goes back to the Terri Schiavo story, which you're very familiar with, because you were in the state capital. Basically a political memo that said the fight over the removing Schiavo's feeding tube is a great political issue, and a tough issue for Democrats. News of the day, comes out of Mel Martinez' office. He's fired an aide who allegedly wrote this.

Ed Henry question -- what's the big deal?

HENRY: The big deal here is that Republicans were really under fire when they were handling that emergency legislation, because this memo suggested that they were doing the Schiavo legislation for political purposes. As you mentioned, they kept insisting no, and they also suggested this have been a hoax, that maybe the democrats had a little political dirty trick here, and we've seen a lot of blogs out there saying that basically this was a fake memo, maybe it was like CBS documents on the National Guard story, and everyone was running around to figured it all out.

I think it's a footnote to the entire Schiavo story. But it was a big political battle, and now we learned it, in fact, was a Republican talking points memo. It was drafted by an aide to Senator Mel Martinez, the former cabinet secretary. As you mentioned, that staffer has now resigned his job, and it's a pretty big political black eye for the Republicans, and I think, again, it's just going to be a footnote in the long run. But it's not a good day for the Republicans on that.

KAGAN: But here's what I don't get it, when I look at it, it just seems -- is this town just too sensitive. It just seems the fight over removing Schiavo's tube, it was a political issue, it did come up, and the Democrats did have a tough time with it. I think a lot of people felt they didn't speak up like they should have.

HENRY: The bottom line is that Tom Delay and other top Republicans who were pushing this legislation insisted that politics played no role in the debate. They were just trying to save Terri Schiavo's life. This memo said Republicans felt, in fact, it was going to rally their political base. This was going to be a big issue for them in the 2006 election. The other flip side of this that's kind of interesting, is that whether or not the Republicans intended it to be a political benefit, the polls now show that overwhelmingly across the country, the American people feel it was a big political loser for the Republicans; they should have stayed out of it. So sometimes the best-laid plans don't exactly work out.

It sounds to me like the future Mrs Limbaugh's been getting some very special talking points of her own.


Wednesday, April 06, 2005


You know, I'm a big fan of blogging. I dabble in it myself. But, this absurd notion on the part of some bloggers that they are taking down the big time media brick by brick is just absurd. And by "some bloggers" I'm referring to those schmucks over at Powerline. Jesus, has there ever been a bigger bunch of vainglorious nobodies in the history of the world?

From Clark Stooksbury:

Being a blogger means never having to hold your self to the standards you demand of the big media, or so it seems for some. I noted last year how several bloggers were boasting about their various takedowns of the dreaded MSM, especially over this photo from the Associated Press which "proved" that that organiziation was guilty of working with terrorists because, I think it was Hindpocket at Power Line who said, "the photographer was obviously within a few yards of the scene of the murder, which raises obvious questions, such as 1) what was the photographer doing there; did he have advance knowledge of the crime, or was he even accompanying the terrorists? and 2) why did the photographer apparently have no fear of the terrorists, or conversely, why were the terrorists evidently unconcerned about being photographed in the commission of a murder?" Also, an anonymous source told Salon that the photographer might have been tipped that something was going to happen on that street. High Pockets treats that as an admission of guilt by the Associated Press


Now Hindpocket's partner, Elephant Guy has his snout in a snit because the picture won a Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography. He calls it a pulitzer for "felony murder."

Apparently they have never heard of a telephoto lens. For all the technical reason why these guys are morons, click here to Dead Parrot's Society's embarrassing debunking.

The thing to remember about the Powerline boyz is that they aren't just some louts who started a blog and say a bunch of dumb stuff. These guys are Claremont Fellows who have been writing for National Review and Weakly Standard for years. They are among those guys who David Brooks was patting on the back yesterday for their deep philosophical understanding of the underpinnings of our democracy.

Gosh, was it Hobbes or Locke who said no free man shall ever admit to error? I can't remember.

Via Avedon Carol


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