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Monday, May 09, 2005

Ethical Misdirection

Adam Cohen wrote an interesting op-ed this week-end about ethics and it's one I think that the people involved should take a long hard look at. He makes the following good points:

But more talk show hosts, and talk show audiences, are starting to ask whether at least the most prominent talk shows with the highest ratings shouldn't hold themselves to the same high standards to which they hold other media...Many talk show hosts make little effort to check their information...They rarely have procedures for running a correction...The wall between their editorial content and advertising is often nonexistent...And talk show hosts and their guests rarely disclose whether they are receiving money from the people or causes they talk about.

Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the radio pundit pack deliver far more people "news" than the NY Times does every day. There's a whole"fair and balanced" Network devoted to right wing opinion that often fails to correct itself. And the cable shoutfests that spend hours discussing delusional swift boat obsessions and Clinton's manly member set the agenda for what will be covered and discussed for days to come. Perhaps it's a good thing that the mainstream press has decided to demand that these quasi-journalistic venues are held to some ethical standard. After all, they've been getting away with murder for decades now.

Oh, and maybe once we get that all cleared up we can start talking about bloggers.

Retro Wingnuttia

So The Huffington Post is up and right now it's featuring Larry David at the top of the page supporting John Bolton. I guess he really is a conservative just like my favorite mainstream writers Ann Coulter and Tony Blankley said. First David Horowitz, now this. Where will it end, I ask you, where?

It is good to see that David Frum is seriously performing this week's designated function of rewriting history in ways that would make Stalin proud. He claims that the cold war started on May 9th 1945 when the Russians inexplicably required that they be allowed to celebrate the end of the war on a different day than their allies. This is a new one on me. I had always heard from the wingers that the cold war started at the "sell-out at Yalta." Frum sees this intransigence as another sign of foreboding which we presumably should have heeded and invaded Russia forthwith. (In any case, he thinks that it's wrong that we haven't established memorials to the Gulags in the same way that we established memorials to the Holocaust and I'm sure that liberals are to blame for this because you know how we love Gulags.)

Of course, this mainstreaming of standard John Bircher talk circa 1958 was actually validated by George W. Bush this week when he "apologized" for the so-called sell-out at Yalta in a speech that would have made Joe McCarthy proud as punch. Repeating that old canard was once considered the sign of an bloodthirsty moron who literally believed that it was better to be dead than Red and believed it would have been preferable to start dropping nukes on the Soviet Union at the earliest possible moment. (Think Jack D Ripper.) Hey the Soviets had already lost 20 million, what difference would a few more million make, right? Besides, they were commies, not humans. Lucky for the planet, seasoned battle hardened men instead of chickenhawk baby boomers were in charge at the time and cooler heads prevailed.

The most amazing response to this I've read is this one from The Belmont Club in which Bush's apology was compared favorably to the apologies for slavery and Native genocide. Considering that slavery and native American genocide were perpetrated by Americans and sanctioned and financed by the American governments of the time it's hard to make the connection between that and failing to invade Russia but I guess if you squint your eyes really hard you might be able to see some correlation. And, of course, one wonders whether we would have been able to actually occupy Russia as well as Europe and Japan, even after the inevitable nuking, but no bother. Russia had already been pretty much destroyed so we should have put the frosting on the cake of WWII and completely annihilated it in order to save it --- our favorite rationalization for American bloodlust for the past fifty years. "We're killing them for their own good."

But my Gawd, the brass balls of Bush to make this fatuous boast:

We will not repeat the mistakes of other generations, appeasing or excusing tyranny, and sacrificing freedom in the vain pursuit of stability," the president said. "We have learned our lesson; no one's liberty is expendable. In the long run, our security and true stability depend on the freedom of others."


Seven months before Sept. 11, 2001, the State Department issued a human rights report on Uzbekistan. It was a litany of horrors.

The police repeatedly tortured prisoners, State Department officials wrote, noting that the most common techniques were "beating, often with blunt weapons, and asphyxiation with a gas mask." Separately, international human rights groups had reported that torture in Uzbek jails included boiling of body parts, using electroshock on genitals and plucking off fingernails and toenails with pliers. Two prisoners were boiled to death, the groups reported. The February 2001 State Department report stated bluntly: "Uzbekistan is an authoritarian state with limited civil rights."

Immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks, however, the Bush administration turned to Uzbekistan as a partner in the global fight against terrorism. The nation, a former Soviet republic in Central Asia, granted the United States the use of a military base for fighting the Taliban across the border in Afghanistan. President Bush welcomed President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan to the White House, and the United States has given Uzbekistan more than $500 million for border control and other security measures.

Now there is growing evidence that the United States has sent terror suspects to Uzbekistan for detention and interrogation, even as Uzbekistan's treatment of its own prisoners continues to earn it admonishments from around the world, including from the State Department.

The so-called rendition program, under which the Central Intelligence Agency transfers terror suspects to foreign countries to be held and interrogated, has linked the United States to other countries with poor human rights records. But the turnabout in relations with Uzbekistan is particularly sharp. Before Sept. 11, 2001, there was little high-level contact between Washington and Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, beyond the United States' criticism of Uzbekistan.

And, as we all know, that is only the tip of the iceberg. There is the AQ Khan debacle wherein we have let the man who sold nuclear technology to every Tom Dick and Harry who wanted one, skate. Why? Because our ally, the military dictatorship of Pakistan demanded it and in the interest of the GWOT, we have let it happen. We have the recent presidential "man-date" which just shows how far Bush will go to debase himself tip-toeing through the bluebells with Prince Abdullah for the trivial purposes of showing the people that he's serious about gas prices. Clearly, the principle of freedom doesn't weigh heavily in his decision making. And everybody on the planet except the 101st Fighting Keyborders and the rest of the right wing press know it.

This insufferable self-serving sanctimony about freedom and liberty is more than just annoying, however. It's dangerous. We're now goading Vladimir Putin in ways that don't make make sense and he is clearly not impressed. Pretending now that the waging of the Cold War was a mistake, when it was clearly one of the wisest and most intellectually evolved thing a great nation has ever done, is unwise. After a little more than four years in office, the administration has managed to almost completely destroy this country's hard won credibility and it appears that Junior and his neocon cronies will not rest until it is completely gone. And pathetically, they are now reduced to using old chestnuts from the National Review of half a century ago to do it. Even though we actually won the cold war, apparently it's more important that William F Buckley be perceived as having been right.

The most astonishing thing about this is that it appears this actually is the product of 40 years of heavily subsidized college Republican bull sessions and right wing think tank white papers. Tired, warmed-over fifty year old McCarthyite crapola. I thought liberals were the ones who didn't have any new ideas.

Update: I know the Larry David piece is satire. I was being ironic and clearly, it failed.

Update II: Fixed ridiculous error on date of Yalta conference. Never post while doing somethiung else.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Biddy Values

When exactly did Cokie "she who shall sit in judgement of all who are not perfect" Roberts retire and name Michelle Cottle as her replacement?

Let's be clear: This isn't a question of vengeance or even of teaching the batty bride a life lesson. It's about actions having consequences and the misuse of public resources (something you can bet Sean Hannity would be ranting about if the bride in question had been some homely piece of trailer trash). Hell, if my centrally monitored fire alarm accidentally goes off more than a couple of times, the D.C. Fire Department will start charging me for the cost of needlessly dispatching its trucks to my house, regardless of whether I've made every effort to control my temperamental system. Will I be miffed if this happens? Sure. But the city has a right to expect me to take responsibility for tying up its trucks and personnel. I don't see why the people of Duluth should expect any less from Wilbanks--especially given that her false alarm was deliberate and at least partially premeditated.

So let's stop all the bloviating about prosecuting Wilbanks, and let the now-humiliated bride start working out how to repay her very real debt to the people of Duluth. Maybe then her neighbors will be able to begin forgiving and forgetting. After all, while Wilbanks unquestionably made a stupid mistake, it's not as though she slept with an "American Idol" contestant.

Michelle and Cokie heard all about it when they were getting a wash and curl down at the beauty parlor. The neighbors aren't going to be doing any forgivin' and forgettin' until that little tramp gets every single one of them tickets to Oprah and a spot on Katie Couric.

The nosy old biddies really are back in charge, aren't they? And they aren't all named James Dobson, either.

The Age Of Stupidity

DC Media Girl says this interview proves that the inehritance tax needs to be raised to 95%. I'm sorry to say that I think I've been unfair to all the religious types who believe the Rapture is imminent. Clearly, this is the end of the world as we know it.

Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

HILTON: I don’t know. Married to my boyfriend with two kids and a house. Still acting and doing stuff.

Q: What kind of wife would you be?

HILTON: A good one. I’d cook and clean.

Q: What would your children’s names be?

HILTON: Paris and London.

Q: Paris for a girl? London for a boy?


Q: Why are you so popular?

HILTON: I don’t know, because of who I am. I’m not like anybody else. I’m like an American princess.

Q: What would you be like if you were -- I don’t know -- Paris Smith?

HILTON: I’d be the same. Maybe I’d be a veterinarian.

Q: In your career, what are you most afraid of happening?

HILTON: I don’t know. Nothing.

Q: Nothing? What about in your personal life?

HILTON: I don’t know. Death.

Q: Why? What’s so scary about death?

HILTON: Because I don’t know what happens.

Remember. She's a productive member of society who will have no choice but to stop investing if she has to pay taxes. The middle class should be proud to subsidize the government entirely in order that leaders like her be given the freedom to create more wealth. She is the engine that runs this economy of ours and we need many more of her. That's what makes this country great.

She's a lot like this guy:

Bob Woodward: How is history likely to judge your Iraq war?

President Bush: History, we don't know. We'll all be dead.

Homos Everywhere!

Check out the video on Rev-Mykeru showing what Robertson says when he doesn't realize he's being taped.

Pat Robertson thinks he can tell if someone is gay by the sound of his voice on the phone. He must get awfully nervous when Gary Bauer and James Dobson call.

Via Big Brass Blog

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Reefer Madness

Well, this makes good sense.

The focus of the drug war in the United States has shifted significantly over the past decade from hard drugs to marijuana, which now accounts for nearly half of all drug arrests nationwide, according to an analysis of federal crime statistics released yesterday.

The study of FBI data by a Washington-based think tank, the Sentencing Project, found that the proportion of heroin and cocaine cases plummeted from 55 percent of all drug arrests in 1992 to less than 30 percent 10 years later. During the same period, marijuana arrests rose from 28 percent of the total to 45 percent.

Coming in the wake of the focus on crack cocaine in the late 1980s, the increasing emphasis on marijuana enforcement was accompanied by a dramatic rise in overall drug arrests, from fewer than 1.1 million in 1990 to more than 1.5 million a decade later. Eighty percent of that increase came from marijuana arrests, the study found.

The rapid increase has not had a significant impact on prisons, however, because just 6 percent of the arrests resulted in felony convictions, the study found. The most widely quoted household survey on the topic has shown relatively little change in the overall rate of marijuana use over the same time period, experts said.

"In reality, the war on drugs as pursued in the 1990s was to a large degree a war on marijuana," said Ryan S. King, the study's co-author and a research associate at the Sentencing Project. "Marijuana is the most widely used illegal substance, but that doesn't explain this level of growth over time. . . . The question is, is this really where we want to be spending all our money?"

Sure. Let's spend billions on arresting pot smokers for absolutely no good reason. They should taking the purple pill instead like Real Americans anyway.

There is a rather large minority of Americans (or so I've heard...) who smoke marijuana or who have smoked marijuana and the numbers have stayed pretty much the same from decade to decade since the 60's. Every once in a while the government and the moralists get hysterical like today's "this is your brain on pot, oh my God, it's not Cheech and Chong's marijuana --- it will drive you mad, I say, mad!!!" --- and then it all quiets down for awhile.

That is not to say that we don't have a problem with the drug culture. However, the drug culture I'm talking about is the one that's advertised incessantly on television that tells people they should eat pills from dawn to dusk. Hey, it's a free country, but if you're going to pass moral judgments, how about taking a little look at the chemically induced burgeoning erection business?

(Meanwhile, in Bobo's world, half of the heartland is blowing themselves up in meth labs and screwing themselves to death. But I think they tend to vote Republican.)

Seriously, this is one reason why kids do dangerous drugs. They find out quickly that this stuff about pot is nonsense and people who say it is as dangerous (or more dangerous by implication) than cocaine or methamphetamine, then lose all credibility. If they're lying about this, they're probably lying about everything.

I don't know what it is about pot that upsets some people so much but it always has. Associations with race used to be the thing; now I think it's lazy pleasure. These people apparently believe that pleasure has to be mixed with violence or punishment. Certainly, the right's foremost expert on drug abuse, Rush Limbaugh, seems to think so.

A Moronic Proposal

From "the sage," Larry Elder:

Weyco Inc. and Investors Property Management may be onto something. If employers seek to control costs, improve morale, boost the company image and reduce workplace drama [by not employing smokers], why not refuse to hire ... Democrats?

Democrats -- compared to Republicans -- on average are less affluent, more unhappy, more prone to anti-social behavior, more prone to self-destructive behavior, and more likely to have been shot at, robbed or burglarized. More of them see X-rated movies, more of them smoke, and they're less likely to be married and more likely to have separated or divorced.

George Washington University professor Lee Sigelman looked at 22 years of survey data collected by University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center. Overall, he found Democrats less affluent, more distrustful, more sickly and more suicidal, and thus doomed to an earlier death. In short, Democrats as a class -- like smokers -- have, uh, issues. So let's just extend this hiring ban to cover unhappy, anti-social, self-destructive, unhealthy Democrats.

And what about last year's "Primetime Live" sex survey? It found Republicans, more than Democrats, to be satisfied with their sex lives, more likely to wear something sexy to entice their partner and more likely to be in a committed relationship, in which they claim to be very satisfied. The survey also found that Republicans are less likely to cheat on their partner or to fake orgasms. No wonder Democrats are unhappy, unhealthy and anti-social.

And then there was the follow-up study that showed Republicans have on average 20 fewer IQ points than Democrats and are pathological liars, which explained the results of the first one. (And anyone should be able to understand why Democrats would be depressed, if not suicidal, when people who exhibit these traits are running their country. It's a miracle we can get out of bed in the morning.)

As for the sex satisfaction comparisons, let's just say life is always simpler if you keep your expectations low. Rush Limbaugh, Daryn Kagan. Nuff said.

I should make it clear for the Ann Coulter fans, that I understand that Elder was attempting to make a swiftian argument against he idea of banning smokers from the workplace, a sentiment with which I happen to agree. But as with all conservative would-be satirists, he completely misses the point. In this case, it isn't Democrats using Big Gubbermint to outlaw smoking in the workplace, its the free market that's doing it. If we had national health care, which would be less expensive for these companies than the system we have now, this "incentive" to keep people with unhealthy habits out of your workforce will greatly dissipate. And anyway, Elder's supposed to be a libertarian, so what's he bitching about? John Galt can fire anyone he damn well wants to.

While The DLC Slept

Matt Yglesias
and Atrios both take issue with Marshall Wittman's comparison of Move-on to Tony Benn, british lefty leader of the 70's and 80's. Yglesias ably proves that there is very little actual policy difference between Move-on and the DLC but he gives short shrift to what I think are the underlying reasons for the comparison --- style and temperament. Benn wouldn't sit down and shut up and it drove the other Labour leaders insane as they were trying to modernize their image and transition from mild market socialism to savvy free marketers. They didn't like the resistence and felt it undermined their goals. In those days it seemed important that the left shed its radical image.

When the Labourites were trying to change the party image 20 or 30 years ago, the Tories were, by contrast, a group of prudent yet forward thinking conservatives who had long believed that free enterprise was being stifled by outdated socialist schemes. And the economy was sick and seemed to prove their point. After the worldwide youth movement of the 1960's reached its apotheosis, it sounded quite good to have some "grown-ups in charge." That was the environment in which Michael Foot asked Benn to stop with the rabble rousing. We underwent much the same thing here, a little bit later, which resulted in Bill Clinton being nominated and running as a centrist in 1992. Liberals everywhere were redefining themselves in the face of a conservative backlash of one degree or another.

But, that was then and this is now. We are no longer in a period in which liberalism must tone down its radicals and burnish its management credentials. If anything, we must prove that we even exist and beyond that, that we stand for something. Even the liberal eliminationist mantra on the right has begun to sound stale and decrepit --- the evil strawman they've created is as lackluster and dull as we are. We are in danger of simply fading away if we do not pour some some blood and nerve into our politics.

Furthermore, the consensus style of politics that the DLC depends upon to deliver its centrist vision simply is not possible in this political environment. The right has become radical and uncompromising, each of its factions growing more and more demanding. There is no middle in American politics today, as much as we might wish it to be so --- and it's not because of positions on the issues, it's because of the zero sum politics the Republicans are playing. In order to provide some ballast, we simply must have some weight on the liberal side of our arguments or they will carry us all further to the right than even the DLC can live with. That's where Move-on and Michael Moore and the left blogosphere come in.

This is not the kind of politics I would prefer. It would be nice if we could have some civility and comity for awhile; this is exhausting and mostly unproductive. And people in hell want ice-water. It is what it is and if there's one thing we should have learned over the past 15 years it's that being conciliatory with the radical Republicans and allowing them to take us further and further right is a recipe for losing. We've lost it all for the moment and we are barely hanging on to the possibility of getting a piece of it back.

Ralph Reed, Christian choirboy and corrupt lobbyist used to exhort new College Republican recruits back in the early 80's repeat the famous "Patton" speech only substituting the words Democrats for Nazis. "The Democrats are the enemy!" Wade into them! Spill their blood! Shoot them in the belly!"

That is what the Republicans have been doing for more than 20 years now. These are the times in which we live, unfortunately. We didn't create this environment, but we cannot ignore it and pretend that we are back in the Truman administration. And, even then let's not forget that the anti-communists of that era are the granfathers of today's liberal haters. We should have learned.


Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Tin Soldiers


Apparently, that execratory slice of gelatinous offal, Ann Coulter, spews her Nazi vomit with police protection these days. And when some wiseacre on campus asks whether her views on gay marriage apply to men who only fuck their wives in the ass, he's manhandled and arrested.

And, as we know, they are strip-searching 50-something female schoolteachers who protest Bush now, too.

Oh. And by the way, today is the 35th anniversary of Kent State.

Useful Idiots

Here's another example of one of those allegedly liberal pundits who have been so tough on George W. Bush:

He proposed that the system be made solvent by reducing benefits on a sliding scale, according to income. This utterly responsible and progressive proposition was greeted by phony bleats of outrage from leading Democrats, who proved once again that they are more interested in the demagogic exploitation of the issue than they are in the impact of baby boom retirement on their grandchildren

Joe Klein, as I have written before, is invested in the idea that private accounts are one of those issues he and Bill Clinton cooked up when they were holed up in a bull session in the late 80's together, creating the fabulous image of what the handsome and virile New Democrat would be like. Sadly when he looked at Clinton, he seems to have thought he was looking at himself.

I have long held that the biggest problem for Democrats is not the so-called "Vichy Congressman," who at least has to answer to consitutents and has pressures that are not always apparent, but the goddmaned liberal punditocrisy that consistently writes trash like the quote above. Why, in Gods' name, does any established mainstream writer have to brown nose and genuflect to the degree these liberal beltway pundits do? Common street whores don't sell themselves so completely and maintain at least a modicum of pride.

This is the public image of liberalism, with its mealy-mouthed, enabling, sycophantic forelock tugging and constant expressions of obeisance to a GOP esatablishment that holds them in contempt. These are what the country thinks liberals are and why so many hate us so much. They think that, like Richard Cohen and Joe Klein, liberals are all a bunch of cowardly little ass kissers who don't believe in anything, don't fight for anything and don't care about anything. These are the people who are killing us.

Update: And that goes for Democratic consultants, who as Atrios points out, are still partying like it's 1994. The New Dems are now old. I know this because I am one. All the lefties put their marxist toys away a long time and nobody's arguing anymore about whether we should have "free" markets. What we are arguing about is whether we should all be whores for big business, slaves to the theocrats, or some lukewarm version of both. Most of us learned from the past few losing elections that we cannot win by appealing to the middle with warmed over DLC talking points. It may have been fresh back in 1992, but today it has all the spontaneity of a Seinfeld re-run. The dream is over boys.

McCarthyite Watchdog

I would imagine that most people have heard of Walter Winchell, the McCarthyite radio commentator and newspaper columnist. Fewer of you have probably heard of another influential McCarthyite radio commentator and newspaper columnist of the period, Fulton Lewis Jr. But, you should probably read up on him a little bit because it's actually going to be important in your own life right here and now:

That he was considered a controversial commentator is mostly reflected in his strong conservative stances in a time of increasing liberalism. Throughout the Roosevelt/Truman administrations, Lewis continued to defend his beliefs. In pre-war America Lewis supported and encouraged the America First stance of Charles A. Lindbergh, which espoused that America spend its money and resources on building up our own defenses and stay out of the European conflict. Lindbergh was an admirer of the military capability of National Socialist Germany.

As the medium of radio waned during the rise of television in the late forties and early fifties, Lewis' appearance on the small screen was simply not good television. He appeared too much out of place and so he continued on radio. It was in the fifites that Lewis' star began to wane. He was a strong supporter of Joe McCarthy, the Wisconsin Senator who presided over the committee investigating communists in the government.

That really doesn't give you the full flavor of Lewis's right wing hackery. He was a Drudge of his day, the happy recipient of nasty information about McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover's enemies and targets. And unlike Winchell, who had at least been as hostile to Hitler as to Stalin, Lewis had a bit of a soft spot for Naziism, something that the liberals of the day (as they are today) were too polite to use as a weapon against his anti-communist zealotry and character assassination. Alan Ginsberg remembered Lewis speaking of the Rosenberg case:

...especially, there was one commentator on the air, called Fulton Lewis, who said that they smelt bad, and therefore should die. There was an element of anti-Semitism in it. But I remember very clearly on the radio, this guy Fulton Lewis saying they smelt bad. He was a friend of J. Edgar Hoover, who was this homosexual in the closet, who was blackmailing almost everybody.

(This "smell" thing, which Ginsberg notes is long associated with anti-semitism, is commonly used today by fine mainstream humorists and commentators like Ann Coulter to describe liberals.)

In any case, what makes Mr Fulton, long dead and mostly forgotten, important you you, my friends, is that his ghost writer for five years was none other than William Schultz, one of the new ombudsmen for the Public Broadcasting System.

I'm not kidding. The man who wrote Joe McCarthy's stongest supporter's newspaper column is now on the payroll of the corporation of public broadcasting as an ombudsman.

Here's what the guy said in an interview with Rick Perlstein in 1997:

[Were you anamolous in New York?]

"well, I went to a high school where, for reasons I cannot figure out, there was a real conservative and libertarian nucleus: The Bronx High School of Science in New York. Bob Schuchman went Bronx Science, and others did who went on to positions in politics and academia. So I was not unfamiliar with it.

"As Allan said, we were journalists; Allan was, I was. I went to Antioch College in Ohio, and they had a work-study program, and I got a couple of newspaper jobs, and then I worked for Human Events, and worked for Stan Evans, who had a tremendous influence on me. Then I went to work for Fulton Lewis Jr., who was a radio commentator and columnist.

"He had a fifteen minute broadcast at seven o'clock on the Mutual Network and then a five minute broadcast at noon. And I arrived from Yellow Springs, OH, thinking I was going be his leg-man--I had never met him before--and the first thing he said was, 'can you write a newspaper column?' The guy who had been ghostwriting his five-day-a-week newspaper column had just went to work for Nixon getting ready for the 1960 campaign--this would have been 1959. So I said, 'sure, I can write a newspaper column.'

"So I started ghosting his newspaper column! Then I would go back to Yellow Springs, OH every three months and write the 'Inside Washington' column from Yellow Springs and send it off to Washington by Western Union the time '64 rolled around I had been writing the Lewis column for five years. So I was in San Francisco not as a delegate or an activist but as a journalist, but as one who believed fervently in Goldwater, and as I said that was the most..."

When they were out of power, the right wing insisted that public broadcasting was a commie plot and should be destroyed. It was a perennial in the GOP platform. Now that they own the government, the movement radicals of the GOP have discovered the joys of taxpayer sponsored government propaganda and they are seizing upon public broadcasting as a fine means to produce and spread it. "The Journal Editorial Report" is the likely future of Public Television. And now they have gone and appointed a real live McCarthyite as their "ombudsman."

Media Matters has more on Schultz, and the contact numbers for him and his close personal friend Kenneth Tomlinson, the newly named Republican chairman of the corporation for Public Broadcasting who recently told members of the Association of Public Broadcasters that they should make sure their programming better reflected the Republican mandate. He later said he was joking. Except nobody laughed.

FYI, as Media Matters points out:

According to The Ombudsman Association's code of ethics, an ombudsman is a "designated neutral" who "strives for objectivity and impartiality."

It's kind of hard to imagine how a Joe McCarthy fan can be considered a "designated neutral," but then I suppose if Ann Coulter is considered good clean fun, then anything is possible.


Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Charlie Brown Pundits

Kevin Drum endorses EJ Dionne's column today in which it is finally clearly set forth by someone other than the shrill Paul Krugman that the Republicans aren't playing by any rules and therefore cannot be trusted to act in good faith on Social Security. This has been obvious for some time, but it's good to see Dionne writing about it in a major establishment paper. Reportedly Howard the Fine was so taken aback that he said on Air America today that this charge would have to be taken seriously now that Dionne, a reasonable liberal, had brought it up. Good news. But as Kevin points out, this is hardly the end of the tale:

There are plenty of other examples of this kind of thuggish Republican behavior. Keeping floor votes open for hours of arm twisting and vote buying, for example, instead of the usual 15 minutes. Preventing Democrats from so much as offering amendments to Republican legislation. Increased use of "emergency" late night meetings. Keeping the text of legislation secret until mere hours before scheduled votes. Squeezing the time for debate by allowing no more than one or two days a week for work on real legislation. Slashing the number of bills considered under open rules. And, of course, threatening the "nuclear option" to cut off judicial filibusters. You can get more details here in Rep. Louise Slaughter's detailed report.

The first step was the hardest --- getting Democrats in congress to recognize what was happening. They persisted for much too long in believing in the good intentions of their Republican counterparts but it seems they may have finally come to understand what has been obvious for ages --- the modern Republicans do not act in good faith. Their governing philosophy is brute force. Now there is word that the liberal punditocrisy may be catching up at long last.

That's interesting considering that today, Howard Kurtz wrote one of his most ridiculous articles ever in which he says that liberal pundits have never been willing to give Bush credit where credit is due, like they would have in the old days:

There was a time, a million years ago or so, when pundits of one persuasion would occasionally praise pols of the other persuasion, just to show they weren't relying on one party's talking points. You know, I disagree with the president on foreign policy, but his environmental proposal makes a great deal of sense.

That was before the rise of shout TV and the hardening of partisanship and the growing attempts by each side to demonize the other. Conservative commentators rarely had anything nice to say about Bill Clinton (except on NAFTA and Bosnia, perhaps), although he helped move the country toward the ostensibly conservative goals of welfare reforms and balanced budgets. And liberal commentators have consistently portrayed Bush as a deceiving warmonger who wants to gut Social Security while slashing taxes for his rich buddies.

After the Iraqi elections, there was a flurry of gee-maybe-Bush-was-right pieces by some left-leaners, but on domestic policy--where the Democrats are absolutely united against W's agenda--opposition by liberal pundits has been remarkably consistent.

That's why I think it's noteworthy that a couple of libs are making favorable noises about the president's news conference last week. After all, if Clinton had proposed to protect the poorest Social Security recipients and penalize more affluent ones and the Republicans were refusing even to negotiate, wouldn't some liberals have supported that stance?

Well, maybe, if that's what Bush was proposing there might be some support for it. Sadly, Bush is actually sticking it to the middle class as usual, doing nothing really positive for the poor and laughing his ass off over brie 'n cheese with his rich friends at how stupid the rubes are --- and I'm not talking about rubes in the heartland, I'm talking about the cosmopolitan rubes at the Washington Post.

But it's even more astonishing that old Howie had such a hard time thinking of examples of liberal pundit saying in the last few years something like, "You know, I disagree with the president on his domestic program, but when it comes to terrorism and national security I bow at his feet like the dog I am and worship him like a golden God." It certainly seems as if I've heard that somewhere before.

Does anyone know how much a ticket to Howard Kurtz's alternate universe costs, because I hear it's really nice this time of year? For month after month after month, virtually every mainstream liberal pundit spoke of George W. Bush in reverent tones normally reserved for tribal deities and international box office stars. What good did it do them? Now, because every last one isn't signing on to social security destruction like good little lemmings, the liberal pundits are accused of being equivalent to guys like Charles Krauthamer who spent the 90's as a timorous, conspiracy peddling isolationist whenever Clinton said boo and then turned into an avenging warrior the minute Junior was anointed. Sorry, liberal pundits just aren't that flexible.

Today you have Dionne speaking the plain unvarnished truth, which is good. But, sadly, you also have that plodding tool, Richard Cohen (who Howie didn't mention in his kudos to "reasonable" liberals who had seen the light --- Michael Kinsley and Dan Kennedy, both of whom misunderstood and jumped the gun on Bush's plan and are now co-presidents of the Premature Ejaculator Club of America.) Here's the reliably wrong Cohen:

It just so happens that I think George Bush is doing something interesting with Social Security. The program does need to be fixed or recalibrated or something, and he has had the guts to take it on. Moreover, I kind of like the idea of personal investment accounts if funding them does not weaken the overall program or add to the nation's incredible debt. After all, there is something to be said for expanding the number of American worker-capitalists and having a nest egg an heir could inherit, or one that would not be eliminated by death. The idea is not all that radical, after all. It's being done in other countries -- Australia, Sweden, Chile, Britain.

Whatever the merits of personal investment accounts, they would do nothing to alter the dismal math of Social Security projections. But raising the cap would. Why $90,000? Why not $140,000? Better yet, why not raise it to $140,000 and then raise it to confiscatory levels on obscene payments such as Michael Eisner's $575.6 million back in 1998 or -- brace yourself -- the $105,000 Moonves got for using his own home in New York rather than a hotel or the $43,000 Freston got for spending time in his place in Los Angeles. (Moonves is based in L.A.; Freston is based in New York.) Somewhere, ladies and gentlemen, is a CEO who's angling to be paid for sleeping with his wife. It's just a matter of time. Get mad, people. Get mad.


A deal can be made on Social Security. If Bush raised the cap, the Democrats could permit some sort of move toward private accounts. Both objectives make sense. What matters is not ideology or political advantage but a dependable retirement for the average American. Bush should take the first step. All it takes is making Day Two more like Day One

Nothing he says is desirable or possible. He makes a case for raising the cap on payroll taxes for millionaires in exchange for private acounts, which is like making a deal with Osama bin Laden tomorrow that if he'll promise to stop saying bad things about America, we'll supply him with nuclear bombs.

The liberal punditocrisy is more likely than not to support Bush's destructive policies and always have been. Like Cohen here, who can hardly wait to punt with a string of brown-nosing paeons to Junior's courage and dedication to the working man. Nothing new about that. Remember these immortal words?

Given the present bitterness, given the angry irresponsible charges being hurled by both camps, the nation will be in dire need of a conciliator, a likable guy who will make things better and not worse. That man is not Al Gore. That man is George W. Bush."

And then there was this revealing gem:

I'm not sure if panic is quite the right word, but it is close enough. Anthrax played a role in my decision to support the Bush administration's desire to take out Saddam Hussein. I linked him to anthrax, which I linked to Sept. 11. I was not going to stand by and simply wait for another attack -- more attacks. I was going to go to the source, Hussein, and get him before he could get us. As time went on, I became more and more questioning, but I had a hard time backing down from my initial whoop and holler for war.

Dionne has the right of it, as do Reid and Pelosi, so far. It is patently absurd, however, for Howard Kurtz to lament the rigid partisanship of liberal pundits when you have sell-out, buckets of lukewarm spit like his colleague Richard Cohen to prove how very obsequious and servile the liberal establishment punditocrisy has long proven itself to be.

Correction: Dan Kennedy, not Savage.

All Together Now

Man, we liberals can't win for losing, can we? First we are told that we're a bunch of immoral libertines who are trying to destroy the fabric of our nation with our nasty talk and perverted big city ways, and then John Tierney says today that we are a bunch of stiffs who don't understand what a bunch of rollockin', ribald partiers those real American Red Staters are.

I admit that I'm a little bit confused, but I'm sure David Brooks will clear it up for me in his next column, being the world's foremost expert on heartland values and jumbo shrimp platters and all. Meanwhile, I guess what I don't understand is why it's ok for the First Lady to make horse cock jokes on television but it's not ok for a professional comedienne to make "bush" jokes at a private fundraiser. That's the part that seems a little bit odd to me. Remember this:

Comic Whoopi Goldberg's sexual puns on President Bush's name at a John Kerry fundraiser got her canned Wednesday as spokeswoman for Slim-Fast weight-loss products.

The freepers were terribly upset at the vulgarity:

Hollyweird does NOT represent American values, or the heart and soul of our country, in any way whatsoever!!

This election is shaping up to be a contest between anyone with decent or Christian values (whatever his or her usual political leanings) and the moral FILTH and POISON represented by Hollyweird and the media and advertising community, the feminazis, and the gays. I vote NO to all of them!!!!

As for SlimFast, it doesn't work anyway, in terms of long-term weight loss and health. Don't beleive their hype, whether spread by Whoopi the Obscene or by anyone else. Boycott SlimFast for ALL the right reasons!!!!

By the way, I see from your screen name that you are a Christian, as I am. May God bless you!!!!

Mychel Massie clutched his pearls and bravely held back the tears as he related the horrors on World Net Daily:

I am profoundly offended by Kerry's foolish and base support of such filth – and America, you should be, too.

What type of future does Kerry envision for America if he applauds the rawest of trash as "the heart and soul of our country"? How does Kerry view the voters, his church, the family and education if he postulates those things as "values inside you"? To laughingly support such an extraordinarily tasteless, vulgar, public display, one must ask not only how Kerry views the office of president, but exactly what respect has he for himself?

Republican leaders, if you'll recall, demanded an apology from the Kerry camp. Junior made the line "my opponent likes tah say that Hollywood is the heart 'n soul 'o America. but I think the heart 'n soul 'o America is right here in _______, heartland USA" one of his rapturous applause cues throughout the campaign.

That was a different time. Now it seems that the moral Red Staters have finally decided to admit that they love a good horse cock joke as much as the next guy and that's just fine with me. I always knew they did. We're all about horse cock jokes in this country, from sea to shining sea. Nothing makes a First Lady more downhome and fun than talking about horse cocks on TV. Bring 'em on. Horse cocks for everyone.

But I'd really appreciate it if they'd can the phony sanctimony from now on and shut the fuck up about "Desperate Housewives" and dirty talk on TV. If it's ok for the First Lady of the United States to joke publicly about her husbands limp dick and jerking off farm animals then it's ok for Whoopie Goldberg and everybody else to make Bush jokes.

Ezra makes the same point but without even one horse cock reference, a weakness I often notice in his writing.

Business As Usual

I missed this one. Apparently, two female schoolteachers in their 50's who had the nerve to attend a public Bush rally without the proper Republican approvals were arrested and strip-searched.

Alice McCabe and Christine Nelson, both in their 50s, were among five protesters arrested at the Sept. 3 rally. The pair were handcuffed, taken to the county jail, strip-searched and charged with criminal trespass. The charges were dropped months later.

"I believe the federal government behaved very badly in this situation," said David O'Brien, the women's attorney.

The lawsuit claims the strip search violated constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure. Typically suspects are searched only if authorities have cause to believe they possess a weapon or illegal drugs, O'Brien said.

"We don't think they had a reasonable belief that these two, 50-year-old school teachers had a weapon or contraband in their possession that day," O'Brien said, whose clients requested a jury trial and unspecified damages.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Cedar Rapids said the office had not yet seen the complaint and could not comment.

McCabe and Nelson — described in the lawsuit as political novices motivated by their opposition to Bush administration policies in Iraq — attended the rally at a city park, where McCabe held a sheet of paper urging, "No More War," and Nelson wore a John Kerry button.

A Secret Service agent allegedly told McCabe, who was on a sidewalk near the rally, that she was on private property and would have to move. When they moved to a parking area, the agent approached again and repeated the order.

After asking why, McCabe was arrested by a state trooper. Nelson was arrested later by another trooper, according to the lawsuit.

Obviously, strip searching these women was an intimidation tactic, the same kind of tactic used to such great effect at Abu Ghraib. Sexual humiliation seems to be quite the rage among the macho these days. It was probably done by some cops who worship the phony Codpiece and think that American citizens who don't are traitors. Why, all you have to do is read TIME magazine at the dentist's office and you'll see Ann Coulter on the cover telling the whole country that. Or just turn on the radio.

Arthur Silber wrote about the hilarious South Park Republican Rush Limbaugh the other day on the anniversary of the revelation of the Abu Ghraib scandal. Here's a little of what Rush had to say:

CALLER: Just to keep you with the season, I want to wish you a Happy Abu Ghraib. And I apologize that I didn’t get my Abu Ghraib present in the mail. I was wondering what I could get you for Abu Ghraib this year and how are you going to decorate your Abu Ghraib tree sir?

RUSH: You want to know what to get me for Abu Ghraib? You know what? That is a good question. I don’t really want anything for Abu Ghraib. The Democrats, that is who we need to get presents for. One thing, have you thought about handcuffs? Those have multiple uses for Democrats. A whip. You know, to go along with the handcuffs. Dawn says a good present would be to give a Democrat a digital camera so that he or she can document their own atrocities. All you have to take it to a Madonna concert. You got the whips, and the handcuffs and chains right there on stage and people are paying for this.

CALLER: They may have military intelligence, Rush. Who knows?

RUSH: That is a great question. What kind of gift to give Democrats here on the anniversary of Abu Ghraib. I’m glad you called, Christopher.

We’ll think of more as they, as they come up. You know, you might give them a little pyramid game, something that is in the shape of a pyramid. Wire tap kit. Could borrow that. Ted, actually could borrow one from Raymond Reggie, a wire tap kit. What else? Autographed picture of Mary Mapes. Boy, if you could score, come up with an autograph of Mary Mapes, she’s the mother of the Abu Ghraib scandal. Jumper cables. A pair of jumper cables—superb idea, Mr. Maimone. And these are things we all have lying around the house, folks. Just get rid of it. It is junk. Give them a German shepherd. Oh, yeah, a German shepherd dog, little German shepherd puppy. You can train yourself.

Gotta love that jumper cable stuff. Whew. That's a good one. He does some side-splitters on waterboarding, too. Read all of Silber's post for the full rundown. That's just an excerpt of the psychotic ramblings from that day.

This is what more than 20 million Americans listen to constantly. This is their entertainment and their religion.

Get ready to be strip-searched America. Rush Limbaugh and all his little sick clones are training ever more people to believe that you deserve it. And worse.

I'm depressed today. Don't expect any inspiring words from me. The worst elements of our culture are on the rise. We have delivered massive government police power into the hands of authoritarian freaks whose followers are being told every day that liberals are a greater danger than terrorists are. Middle aged schoolteachers are being strip searched for protesting at a political rally.

This must be what that freedom they hate us for looks like.

Nanny's Not A Wingnut

So I watched the show "Super-Nanny" last night to get a sense of this "Focus on the Family" shill job. The ad is perfect for the show, which featured a very dysfunctional family on the verge of chaos -- the two kids (aged 3 and 7) were rude, undisciplined and out of control and the parents were in way over their heads. The FOF ads were very slick; they could have been a clever government sponsored spot, like those produced for Partnership For A Drug free America. They appeared to be connected to the show --- and one would guess that the show endorsed the program by the way it was presented. The show featured a couple of very undisciplined brats which the ads, featuring little demon children saying they are going to wreak havoc on their parents' lives, seemed to indicate the FOF program could cure. I bet they got some calls.

Having read Dobson's torture manual "The Strong Willed Child" however, I can say that after watching the show, they bear no relationship to one another. Dobson's book is extremely heavy on corporal punishment and strict authoritarian control. The nanny show consisted of common sense approaches like setting rules, scheduling activities and play time, communication and consistency. There was no hitting, although there was the expected sturm and drang over discipline, which had been a total disaster up to that point. The biggest problem in this family, it seemed to me, was that the mom didn't seem to relate very well to small children, which is not unprecedented I would think. Why would every woman automatically be good at such a thing? (Not that the Dad was much better, but he seemed a little more natural around them, even if he was a putz and a control freak.)

It was obvious that she loved them, but she was frustrated by her inability to be herself, which appeared to me to be a somewhat reserved type of person who wasn't very interested in kid stuff. She seemed quite depressed, or at least worn down, and she probably felt guilty for not liking the kid games she was being asked to do. The structure the nanny gave the mom appeared to give her something to hold on to, but I suspect she might be more comfortable as a mother when her children get a little bit older. I thought this was one family that could have benefitted from sending the kids to day care, where they could be around other little kids and grown-ups who are into playing with them.

Anyway, these kids were the children from hell, but anybody could see that it was because the parents were completely inept. They were the ones who needed guidance and I suspect that this is usually the case. There seemed to be a lot of improvement during the course of the show, but who knows how much these shows are edited for dramatic purposes. Still, these seemed like decent people who love their kids so they'll probably be ok.

If they had taken Dobson's advice, however, they would right now be indulging in child abuse instead of patience, discipline and understanding. His view is that children must be taught to obey because they must observe the hierarchy of the family which means that father, then mother are always to be obeyed without question. The point is not to raise happy, healthy people, but oppressed, subservient kids who turn into rigid authoritarian adults. He is in the business of creating Nazis, not normal human beings.

I pity the many poor little children who are going to be subjected to Dobson's torture after their desperate parents saw that slick ad last night and called the FOF number. Those parents are going to learn that they are justified in being angry at their children and that violence is the proper way to express that anger, "for the good of their child."

And I pity the country that takes another step back into the dark ages when torture was considered acceptable. We are now one of the torture cultures. That's quite an achievement.

Update: For some very thoughtful commentary on this subject, read the comments to this Patrick Neilsen Hayden post on Electrolite.

Life Lessons

Kevin at Catch gets schooled by Joe Scarborough on what a South Park Conservative is:

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Why don't we just show a clip of "South Park" to help define what "South Park" conservatives are.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Kids, this is the Costa Rican Capitol Building.

This is where all the leaders of the Costa Rican government make their...

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Oh, my God, it smells out here.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: All right, that does it. Eric Cartman, you respect other cultures this instant.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: I wasn't saying anything about their culture.

I was just saying their city smells like ass.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Wow. Staying in a place like this really makes you appreciate living in America, huh.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: You may think that making fun of Third World countries is funny, but let me...

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I don't think it's funny. This place is overcrowded, smelly and poor. That's not funny. That sucks.


Lord knows South Park Conservatives know what ass smells like --- their heads being buried up there and all.

Seriously, my friends, this a deep and meaningful lesson, not just a puerile, unfunny swipe at poor people. You see, the SP conservatives are just pointing out that it sucks to be poor. And they do it in a lighthearted, funloving way that makes everyone understand that it is better to be an American because our cities smell like vanilla cookies and lemon Pledge. Because we're better.

I feel sorry for this generation. We had MAD magazine (the greatest influence in my life.) They have this.


Monday, May 02, 2005

Greenlight This Baby!

Roy Edroso gives us shorter Jane Galt:

Not only are Hollywood actors liberal and wrong -- they don't even know how to act! Jane Galt must school them in empathy!

She says:

America enjoys Forrest Gump, but it's not really that hard to learn to deal with someone who talks a little slow. Where are the movies covering the people who seriously discomfort us--the unverbal, or inappropriately verbal, or whose verbal skills just aren't up to sermonettes on love

She's right, you know. We certainly don't see enough characters whose skills aren't up to sermonettes on love. And I have the perfect project to correct that. Just imagine George Clooney playing that dreamy he-man John Galt with Nicole Kidman as the sensual yet plucky industrialist Dagny Taggert --- in the big Hollywood remake of "Atlas Shrugged: The Rapture."

Haven't I? -- he thought. Haven't I thought of it since the first time I saw you? Haven't I thought of nothing else for two years?. . . He sat motionless, looking at her. He heard the words he never allowed himself to form, the words he had felt, known, yet had not faced, had hoped to destroy by never letting them be within his own mind, Now it was as sudden and shocking as if he were saying it to her…Since the first time I saw you…. Nothing but your body, that mouth of yours, and the way your eyes would look at me, if…. Through every sentence I ever said to you, through every conference you thought were so safe, through the importance of all the issues we discussed…. You trusted me, didn't you? To recognize greatness? To think of you as you deserved -- as if you were a man?

Get me a cig and a coupla dexies, stat.

Mainstream Child Abuse

Via MAX BLUMENTHAL I see that ABC is going to allow that psychopath James Dobson to advertise his S&M child training techniques on their network, when they refused to allow the United Church of Christ to air its "controversial" ad. No no no --- if you're going to start making these kinds of judgements, you don't get to allow sick fuck animal and child beating fundamentalists to advertise either.

Obviously, it's time to let the good people of this country know who they are dealing with in Mr Dobson. His book, "The Strong Willed Child" --- the precepts of which will be featured in the Focus on the Family "program" being advertised on ABC's "Nanny" show, features the following little vignette, which many of you have already read here, but which deserves to be read by everyone, particularly those at ABC:

"Please don't misunderstand me. Siggie is a member of our family and we love him dearly. And despite his anarchistic nature, I have finally taught him to obey a few simple commands. However, we had some classic battles before he reluctantly yielded to my authority.

"The greatest confrontation occurred a few years ago when I had been in Miami for a three-day conference. I returned to observe that Siggie had become boss of the house while I was gone. But I didn't realize until later that evening just how strongly he felt about his new position as Captain.

"At eleven o'clock that night, I told Siggie to go get into his bed, which is a permanent enclosure in the family room. For six years I had given him that order at the end of each day, and for six years Siggie had obeyed.

"On this occasion, however, he refused to budge. You see, he was in the bathroom, seated comfortably on the furry lid of the toilet seat. That is his favorite spot in the house, because it allows him to bask in the warmth of a nearby electric heater..."

"When I told Sigmund to leave his warm seat and go to bed, he flattened his ears and slowly turned his head toward me. He deliberately braced himself by placing one paw on the edge of the furry lid, then hunched his shoulders, raised his lips to reveal the molars on both sides, and uttered his most threatening growl. That was Siggie's way of saying. "Get lost!"

"I had seen this defiant mood before, and knew there was only one way to deal with it. The ONLY way to make Siggie obey is to threaten him with destruction. Nothing else works. I turned and went to my closet and got a small belt to help me "reason" with Mr. Freud."

What developed next is impossible to describe. That tiny dog and I had the most vicious fight ever staged between man and beast. I fought him up one wall and down the other, with both of us scratching and clawing and growling and swinging the belt. I am embarrassed by the memory of the entire scene. Inch by inch I moved him toward the family room and his bed. As a final desperate maneuver, Siggie backed into the corner for one last snarling stand. I eventually got him to bed, only because I outweighed him 200 to 12!"

This is the basis of Dobson's child rearing advice. He thinks of children as animals and he believes that animals and children should be beaten. He believes that nine month old babies should be switched on the bare legs. He believes they should be pinched hard, on the neck, so it will hurt. He believes in things that could get parents arrested in many states in the union.

Yet his program is considered to be more wholesome and less controversial than a church that allows gays to be a member.

Max Blumenthal has the addresses and phone numbers of the various ABC offices to which you can lodge your complaint. I think this one is worth fighting. Dobson is real menace and he should be marginalized as quickly as possible.

Ya Think?

Doubts About Mandate for Bush, GOP

The day after he won a second term in November, President Bush offered his view of the new political landscape.

"When you win there is a feeling that the people have spoken and embraced your point of view," he said, "and that's what I intend to tell the Congress, that I made it clear what I intend to do as president . . . and the people made it clear what they wanted, now let's work together."

Six months ago, this comment was widely viewed as more than just a postgame boast. Among campaign strategists and academics, there was ample speculation that Bush's victory, combined with incremental gains in the Republican congressional majority, signaled something fundamental: a partisan and ideological "realignment" that would reshape politics over the long haul.

As the president passed the 100-day mark of his second term over the weekend, the main question facing Bush and his party is whether they misread the November elections. With the president's poll numbers down, and the Republican majority ensnared in ethical controversy, things look much less like a once-a-generation realignment.

Where do they come up with this stuff? Of course he has a mandate. Of course it's been a sweeping realignment. He won 51-49, a completely unambiguous indication of huge popular support, particularly for the centerpiece of his campaign, his social security plan. Why would anyone think otherwise? I thought we all understood that the vast majority of the country are social conservatives who support overturning Roe vs Wade, a constitutional amendment against gay marriage and remaking the courts in the image of Tom DeLay. Nothing could be clearer.

Now the press is wondering if that interpretation of the last election is wrong. In the article, of course, they claim that's the administration's interpretation, but we all know that administrations tend to exaggerate their mandates, so it's up to the media to properly put these things into perspective. And, needless to say, they were convinced from the beginning that Bush could claim support for anything he chose to do, given his "impressive" victory in November (which was impressive only in comparison to his previous "impressive" showing.) And the Democrats, properly chastened by their embarrassing defeat would support it also, because they are losers and wouldn't have the nerve to stand up to the codpiece collosus.

But it hasn't worked out that way. And the press is scratching their little noggins and wondering if maybe Karl Rove's talking points didn't quite capture the limits of Bush's victory. Certainly, one could have interpreted a 2% win in the presidential race as something less than a validation of the president's most extreme positions, but why dwell on the negative?

Nobody in the mainstream press bothered to consider for even one moment that Bush might not be able to get support for the destruction of what was up to now known as the third rail in politics or that the public did not support the notion of fundamentalist preachers involved in the government. They just assumed it would be so.

Among the press it has been as if Bush has magical powers. He and Uncle Karl are thought to be so spectacularly gifted, in ways that they can't even comprehend, that they can accomplish the impossible. Apparently, they think that cutting taxes and lashing out in inchoate anger after being attacked is some sort of difficult task --- completely misunderstanding the true difficulty of governing which is to not run deficits and keep the people from lashing out in inchoate anger after being attacked. It was never going to be difficult to talk the country into taxcuts and killing after 9/11. That they gave Karl and George credit for something really courageous in that is a testament to their shallowness. President Britney Spears could have gotten that done.

After 9/11 (or maybe even before, when they anointed him in 2000 and told the rest of us to "get over it") they never once gave up the idea that Bush was a popular, extraordinary leader who only a few hippies in Hollywood and a couple of stiffs in New York didn't like because he talked funny. We had to fight that every step of the way in 2004 and still we came extremely close to winning.

There is no realignment. We are in a period of pure political combat in which the power could change dramatically in each election. There is no real middle, there are only two opposing forces. Nothing is predictable and anything could happen. The Republicans hold institutional power by only the most tenuous means, despite all their bluster about political dominance. And their biggest achilles heel --- as it has been forever --- is hubris. Clearly, that is the story that one would have thought the press would see from the beginning; an administration that overreached its non-existent mandate in an intensely polarized political climate.

Better late than never, I suppose. Still, it would be nice, if just once, the media could play this administration straight. They are always given the benefit of the doubt at the least, and portrayed as masterful political players most of the time --- and then the ditzy media is surprised when Bush and Rove gamble and lose. It happens over and over again. For reasons I will never understand, the Washington press corpse invested itself in Junior's success early on. It's past time they woke up and realizes that the Republicans aren't political wizards.

Without 9/11 Bush wouldn't be president today. It's all he has, and all he ever had. No mandate, no realignemnt. No nothing. Karl Rove is not a genius.


Sunday, May 01, 2005


Kevin at Catch links to Little Green Footballs so I don't have to. While gingerly tip-toeing through the dreck, I came across the dumbest, dumass rightwing post of the week (and you know how tough the competition is for that.)

Reacting to a quote from Al Gore's speech last week (which was, btw, just great) one of the tiny chartreuse pee-wee players said:

“This aggressive new strain of right-wing religious zealotry is actually a throwback to the intolerance that led to the creation of America in the first place,” Gore said as many in the audience stood and applauded.

Another thing that gets me about this statement is the hypocracy of it. I get told by Leftists all the time that this nation was founded by enlightened folks who wanted to create a secular nation. Does anybody else see the logic error in stating that religious zealots wanted to create a secular nation?

Are these people allowed to drive?

Naughty, Naughty

I read these Wonkette excerpts of Laura Bush's speech at the WH correspondence dinner last night and I thought it was satire. But I just saw the tape and it's for real:

"I am married to the President of the United States and here is our typical evening. Nine o'clock, Mr. Excitement here is sound asleep, and I am watching Desperate Housewives. With Lynne Cheney. Ladies and gentleman, I am a desperate housewife. I mean if those women on that show think they're desperate, they ought to be with George. One night after George went to bed, Lynne Cheney, Condi Rice, Karen Hughes and I went to Chippendales....I won't tell you what happened, but Lynne's Secret Service code name is now Dollar Bill."

"George always says that he's delighted to come to these press dinners. Baloney. He's usually in bed by now. I'm not kidding. I said to him the other day, George, if you really want to end tyranny in the world, you're going to have to stay up later."

"The amazing thing is that George and I were just meant to be. I was a librarian who spent 12 hours a day in the library, yet somehow I met George."

"I'm proud of George. He's learned a lot about ranching since that first year when he tried to milk the horse. What's worse, it was a male horse."

Now that I see it again, it really does have the ring of truth.

Thank goodness she's such a good Christian or someone might get the idea she's alluding to equine hand jobs, thong stuffing and a very limp husband. I'm sure James Dobson would interpret these comments correctly as her desire for her husband to take his proper leadership role. And, of course, if she doesn't respond to his leadership George can always take a belt to her as if she's a dauchshund.

Did anyone happen to notice if FauxNews covered this little story?


Friday, April 29, 2005

Goldilocks Logic

By the logic of modern journalism, in which they are considered to be "getting it right" if both sides of an issue criticize them, we now know that James Dobson is a moderate on gay rights:

Gay rights supporters from around the country, angry at James Dobson's stance against homosexuality, are expected to converge Sunday and Monday on his Focus on the Family headquarters.

A second demonstration is also set for Sunday by a handful of extreme anti-gay activists from the Rev. Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan.

Ironically, both groups will be protesting the stand taken by Dobson and his ministry on homosexuality. The gay rights advocacy group Soulforce accuses Dobson of "spreading lies about same-gender families."

Phelps' group says Focus officials are headed to hell because the ministry is soft on homosexuality.

One's too hot, one's too cold and this one's juuust right.

"They're talking about my burrito"

A call about a possible weapon at a middle school prompted police to put armed officers on rooftops, close nearby streets and lock down the school. All over a giant burrito.


The drama ended two hours later when the suspicious item was identified as a 30-inch burrito filled with steak, guacamole, lettuce, salsa and jalapenos and wrapped inside tin foil and a white T-shirt.


Russell said the mystery was solved after she brought everyone in the school together in the auditorium to explain what was going on.

"The kid was sitting there as I'm describing this (report of a student with a suspicious package) and he's thinking, 'Oh, my gosh, they're talking about my burrito.'"

Afterward, eighth-grader Michael Morrissey approached her.

"He said, 'I think I'm the person they saw,'" Russell said.

The burrito was part of Morrissey's extra-credit assignment to create commercial advertising for a product.

"We had to make up a product and it could have been anything. I made up a restaurant that specialized in oddly large burritos," Morrissey said.

The terrorists have won.

Hat tip to senior blog research assistant, Gloria
Hello-oh? Pope Is Dead

I know that most of you probably read The Howler and don't need any reminding, but this one is a particularly good observation and I haven't heard anyone mentioning it. Tim Russert has turned his show into a religious seminar for the last month and a half. Last week really was the final straw. Here's Sommerby:

THROUGH THE TUBE DARKLY: Refresh us—when exactly did Meet the Press become an openly Catholic program? Last Sunday, for the third time in the last five weeks, Tim Russert devoted his entire show to a religious discussion. Early on, Russert popped this question to Father Thomas Bohlin, U.S. vicar of the conservative Catholic group, Opus Dei:

RUSSERT (4/24/05): Father John McCloskey, who was also an Opus Dei with you, was on this program. He has a Web site where he predicted basically in 2030 that the number of Catholics would go from 60 million to 40 million; almost a smaller and purer church. Is that, do you think, the vision of our pope? [Russert’s emphasis]

No, Russert’s emphasis didn’t make sense, but it was quite pronounced. Moments later, we heard from Joseph Bottum, one of two other guests whose bull-dog conservatism made Bohlin seem like a poodle. Bottum responded to the claim that the Catholic hierarchy needs to consult with Joe Sixpack more often:

BOTTUM: I'm not sure that there's any solution in all of that... I'm not sure it's any solution to the problem the church faces addressing the concerns that arise in a democratic experiment like the United States. We have characteristic abuses, as I said, that are going to happen in these places. And the church needs to be to some degree countercultural, to stand against that and to speak out and say, "We can't kill our babies."

Did we say conservative? Yes, when Bottum discussed the “characteristic abuses” that occur “in these places,” he was referring to democracies—to “places” like the U.S.!

Question: Were we the only ones who gazed with surprise at Sunday’s Meet the Press discussion? Who wondered what this odd debate had to do with the American news agenda? Who wondered why we were hearing this on NBC’s one weekly news hour?

SISTER MARY AQUIN O’NEILL: I'm grateful for an opportunity to return to the question of truth. Truth is another name for God and so it cannot be something that we possess. It's something that we hope to dwell within. The truth is always larger than we are, greater than we are. And it is not something that we can attain by ourselves.

Say what? O’Neill seemed like a very nice person, but were we the only ones wondering why this rumination was occurring on Meet the Press, which was once a well-known news show? In fact, we found ourselves puzzling again and again as the conversation veered into the weeds. For example, why was Father Joseph Fessio, siting in Rome, saying this on a one-time news program?

FESSIO: The point is if Jesus Christ is the bridegroom of the church, if God has sent his son to us as a man to unite himself in a marital act, a nuptial act to his whole people, to make us one flesh and one body with him, there's something very deep and mysterious about that. It's what the church has always taught is that, not that men are better than women, not that men should be given more honor than woman, but that men image forth the bridegroom because Christ is essentially someone who's married to us, and therefore you can't have a woman who gives that iconic image of Christ who's the bridegroom of the church.

But why exactly is that “the point” on a weekly news program? And why exactly was this a topic for such a weekly show:

O’NEILL: Frederic Herzog wrote many years ago that the two things that distinguish Catholicism are the sacraments and the Blessed Mother, Mary. They are both under siege right now. And the sacraments are in trouble because we don't have ministers. That's the question for me. We must find a way to solve that. The people are hungry for the sacraments, and without the sacraments, we don't have the church.

That’s a perfectly fine conversation—but what was NBC News presenting it? O’Neill continued, but what was the connection between her rumination and the traditional Meet the Press?

O’NEILL: I believe that one of the most important things for this church now is to really act on Christici Fidelis Laici, where we were told there's a complementarity between the laity and the ordained. Complementarity means one cannot trump the other. And so, in all the questions that the church faces, the lay-people and their experience and their insights have to have an equal place at the table with those who are ordained.

Of course, you know how these news shows can be. Once one guest opines about Christici Fidelis Laici, everyone has to spout off:

BOHLIN: I think there's another way of looking at this whole issue, which is the way that John Paul II has looked at it, coming out of Christici Fidelis Laici, the great document on the lay-people in the church, which is that, really, talking about priests, bishops, Catholic professionals, is talking about an infinitesimal portion of what the church is, and really, the forefront of the battle of the church is waged by every baptized person. And that's what's has to be—that's the battle. That's where the battle is, where those people are.

For ourselves, we don’t have a view on this great document. Meanwhile, why would the Meet the Press audience have a dog in the following hunt?

RUSSERT: But if you're a sacramental church, you need priests to administer the sacraments. And if there's a shortage of priests, what do you do?

Why can’t “our pope” just figure it out, then tell us what we should do in “these places?” In the meantime, why couldn’t Russert spend a few minutes on the actual news, which might affect the actual American people, the people who live in such lands?

But enough of the negative! In the good news department, the very ’umble Parson Meacham was there, preaching the gospel according to Newsweek:

MEACHAM: If you are a person of faith, particularly in the United States, you live in hope. You live in the hope that one day there will be a God who will wipe away all tears from your eyes and there'll be no more pain, an image from Revelation that's drawn from Isaiah. And if people of faith are to play a role in the public square, they must, I believe—a humble layman's opinion—they must practice humility and be—understand that the peace of God does passeth all understanding and that no one has, I believe, a monopoly on truth.

Of course, this ’umble layman is always inspiring. Just consider this earlier bite, where he ’umbly impressed with his detailed knowledge of every known item of scripture:

MEACHAM: You know, in the words of the Elizabethan Prayer Book, we are all seeking the means of grace and the hope of glory, and the road by which we—the road we take to attempt to do that can be different and obviously have been throughout history. I would draw a distinction between the teachings of the church and ultimately the broader force of Christianity. There is a sense, I think, of—as God said to Job in the Old Testament in the longest sustained monologue from the Lord in the Bible, "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the world?" So he should not be presuming to act as though we know everything and that we understand all truth.

In fact, St. Paul said, "For now we see through a glass darkly, but then face-to-face. Now, I am known in part, soon I will be known in full." So we are all on a journey. St. Augustine defined this as the soul's journey back to God. And my sense is, the more that Benedict XVI can speak in the spirit of the past week as opposed to the past generation, he will become a force for at least an ecumenical spirit if not reconciliation.

Let’s face it—Meacham really isn’t the man to be talking about “longest sustained monologues.” Or, as we normally paraphrase Meacham, Blah blah blah blah harrumph zzzzzzz.

Meachum is, of course, the dunce who wrote:

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


I was rather stunned by Russert's show this past week-end. It was, after all, Justice Sunday, a "religious" event that was actually newsworthy. Russert spent the hour talking Catholic theology instead. And it wasn't as if we hadn't just spent five long weeks with wall to wall religion on all the networks covering every possible issue that could be of interest to anyone who hadn't actually taken vows --- which I'm expecting to see Little Russ do any day now. That priest shortage is a big problem. His pope needs him.


Matt Yglesias over on TAPPED makes a good point about the new parental notification law. It pretty much clears up any remaining notion that repealing Roe vs Wade will solve the abortion issue once and for all so we can put all that unpleasantness aside as various progressive states will do as their constituents require and everybody will live happily ever after.

Pro-lifers are driven by a very serious moral commitment to the idea that aborting pregnancies is a serious wrong. They're not going to be happy sitting idly by while Virginia women travel to Maryland or the District of Columbia to have abortions any more than they're happy with inter-state travel to avoid parental notification laws.

That is correct. I don't know how long it's going to take Democrats to understand that those who vote one way or the other on that issue alone cannot be finessed. We can try to sound sympathetic to the "ick" factor and whittle away at the rights of women over time until there is only the most bare right to abortion if the woman's life is threatened and it won't make a difference to those who believe it is a fundamental issue of morality. We have to fight this one on the merits.

This reminds me of an interesting article by Paul Rogat Loeb in USA Today from a while back in which he writes that one of our problems with abortion is that we have not told personal stories:

Even if you've heard enough about Terri Schiavo, it seems useful to consider why President Bush's political grandstanding in her case backfired. More than 70% of Americans, including solid majorities of self-described evangelicals, opposed the intervention of the White House and Congress. Those surveyed mistrusted the Bush administration's disregard for local control, the rule of law and the right to be protected from a capricious federal government.

Their responses also speak to a broader shift in how we deal with difficult end-of-life issues. For 20 years, gradually increasing majorities have agreed that for all our technological inventiveness, what some people need most is the right to die in peace. You'd think this belief — that the most difficult decisions must be our own — would also raise support for maintaining the right to abortion. But it hasn't. In the 30 years since Roe v. Wade, support for keeping abortion legal has stayed even, at most, and new onerous restrictions keep getting imposed.

The difference comes, I suspect, from the stories we tell, and those we keep hidden. Many families have wrestled with end-of-life choices. But they're brought on by the illness and aging of loved ones, not by our own actions. No one judges us for having a sick parent as they might for our sexuality. So we're likely to talk in public about such choices.

But most women don't publicly discuss their abortions. Although a third of all U.S. women have abortions by age 45, they're more likely to view the dilemma as a product of their own failures — to use adequate birth control or to have the financial or emotional resources to afford another child. They're more likely to feel shame.

When the movement to legalize abortion began, advocates talked about the human costs of prohibition. They told the complex stories of why women would choose to value their own lives, choices and possibilities over the potential life of the fetus. They framed abortion as an act of compassion. We see this in the recent film, Vera Drake. Its working-class protagonist in postwar England views her actions "helping young girls in trouble" as part of the same ethic of caring as looking after her aged mother. Pro-choice activists eventually told their stories powerfully enough to convince America that its abortion policies had to change.

Since Roe, these voices have been neutralized by those speaking for the humanity of the fetus. Some oppose abortion from compassion and conviction. The motive of others, who also campaign against sex education, access to birth control and financial support for poor families, seems more like punitive vindictiveness. As the stories of the women involved faded, the reasons why women have always made this difficult choice, and will keep doing so, got told far less often.

Schiavo was a soap opera that everyone could understand in narrative terms. And most people underestood that it was a complicated story in which all of the characters were drawn in various shades of heroism, love, selfishness and grief. The discussions around the Easter table in many homes, I suspect, were characterized with sighs and stories of "remember your Aunt Millie's first husband Bill back in Baltimore? She had to pull the plug and her son wasn't happy about it at all" kind of dialog. "Morality" was probably not the way in which this topic was overtly discussed because the morality of the issue was so complicated.

Abortion, I think, has always been difficult to talk about because it had to do with sex --- and therefore, in some people's minds, sin. But I do remember back in the day that one of the things that made abortion finally come out of the closet was the willingness of people to talk about the issue. The stories were of the horrors of the back alley abortions they endured and the complexity of circumstances that led them there. For instance, here's just one example from Gloria Feldt's book "Behind Every Choice is A Story" of a complicated situation and the horrible way the women was forced to deal with it:

In 1970 I had a back-street abortion. I had a young daughter of 18 months at home and was separated from an abusive husband. When I found out I was pregnant with another child right after finally having the courage to leave an abusive man, I cried and cried. This was before abortion was legal. I told a close friend who said she knew of a doctor who performed these abortions.

I went to his clinic, which was dirty and sleazy underneath an underpass in Metairie, Louisiana. I was treated as a criminal and so were all the other women in the room. You had to give $150 in cash before they would even speak to you. I was led to a back room where there was no caring or anesthetic to be found. It was very painful and I threw up immediately and kept throwing up for over an hour after the procedure. My girlfriend who went with me was worried as I did not come out right away as others had. She inquired about me and was led to the back room where she saw that I was in pain and throwing up. She held my hand and got a washcloth to wash my face and help me. She asked the nurse if there wasn't something wrong and she replied "this is how some of them get." My girlfriend was horrified at the coldness and uncaring atmosphere of the place. We left sometime after and she drove me home and called a friend who was an intern at the time. He came to the house and prescribed some antibiotics and pain medication. He was very kind.

This ABC News poll says that 81% of the public believe that abortion should be available to rape and incest victims. That is not an absolutist "culture of life" position. However, 57% of the public believe that abortion should be illegal if the reason is to end an unwanted pregnancy. The question, of course, is what does "unwanted" mean and who decides? If you were to tell that personal story, a woman with a toddler already and an abusive husband she is trying desperately to leave, would 57% agree that this particular unwanted pregnancy should be dealt with in that horrible back alley situation? Should she have been forced to have this child under those circumstances? I doubt it.

Certainly, a fair number would say "tough" --- that women should have to carry the preganacy to term and give it up for adoption. But suppose that meant that the abusive father would have the right to take full custody? And, after all, how easy is it to give the sister or brother of your two year old up for adoption? And what about money or health care or legal fees? People don't want to think about the practical, financial aspects of having a child under stressful stituation, but it is likely to be a primary concern of the person who is going to have to pay the price. I know that in the discussions I had about the Schiavo case, the issue of cost was somthing that came up in every single conversation. Who pays and where will the money come from are things that real people talk about when they deal with these issues.

I understand the impulse of those who say "I'm not sorry" as a way of expressing their right to dominion over their own bodies. As a knee jerk civil libertarian, I am very sympathetic to a straight forward expression of individual rights. But from a political point of view, it makes far more sense to present this issue as one of complicated morality which individuals see differently in different circumstances and which politicians are much too craven and self-interested to intervene.

There are probably cases in which large numbers of people would see abortion as repugnant on some level. But there are many, many cases that would evoke the dinner table conversations that happened around the Schivo case if people knew the stories. 16 year old girls who made mistakes and 34 year old struggling mothers of two whose birth control failed and women who have no money and low paying jobs and medical students with a mountain of debt and a year to go. These stories may or may not meet every single person's criteria of what constitutes a "good reason" for having an abortion. But every single one of those women might very well decide that the circumstances are so dire for them that they will take their chances with a back alley abortion if a legal one is unavailable. That is the stark, dramatic choice that this country faces in this debate. And as Matt says, don't count on being able to just drive to California or Canada (even if you can come up with the money) because repealing Roe vs Wade will not be the end of it. They will not stop until it is outlawed nationally.

It is important to introduce back into the dialog the fact that this is not an abstract moral issue, but a multi-dimensional, intensely human dilemma. When people understand things in those terms they are far more likely to want the government to step back than step in. It seems they know instinctively that the blunt instrument of government in the hands of moral absolutists is a bad idea.

Update: And yes, it would have been very helpful if people knew the horrible situations in which some of these young girls affected by the new parental notification laws find themselves. Parental notification laws do not hurt the healthy familites that just want to help their girls make a good decision. Those kinds of families can deal with complexity and have probably built up a lot of trust over the years. These laws hurt the girls whose families are cruel, violent and authoritarian. Many adult women have had their lives ruined because they were forced to bear the burden of their parents' obsessive religious or political zealotry.