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Thursday, December 23, 2004

Oh Holy Night, Batman

I'm going into the heart of the beast and visiting my fiesty, 82 year old, extremely conservative father for Christmas. He's been ill, so we haven't gotten into the election results until now. He's feeling better. Woah, Nellie.

Since the family consists of Jews, Christians, atheists and sundry wierdos, our holidays are pretty much all about food. But, without knowing it, we've been celebrating Festivus for years --- particularly the sacred "airing of grievances." Wish me luck.

I'll be back after Christmas and we'll party like it's 1899. In the meantime, go over to The American Street and vote for the Peranoski Prize. Fun for the whole blog family. (And while you're there, drop a couple of bucks in the tip jar. Kevin Hayden, the hardest working man in Blogovia, could use a little help with the bandwidth.)

Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Joyful Kwaanza, Glad Solstice and, most importantly, may everyone have a Jubilant After-Christmas-Sale Day--- the most religious American holiday of them all.

Back To The Future

I haven't written much about the UCC ad controversy because, as an atheist, it seems a bit presumptuous to weigh in on issues such as this except to say that I think that freedom of speech demands that all voices should be allowed on the public airwaves.

That article, however, makes me a little bit sad and I can't help but feel that all this is leading to the kind of intra religious fighting we haven't seen for decades in this country. For quite a while everyone had been getting along pretty well, religiously speaking.

My grandfather was what was known as an anti-papist. (He didn't think much of Jews either.) A good portion of his life was defined by his religious identity as an Episcopalian and freemason who hated Catholics. He was born in 1886, so it wasn't all that unusual. During his lifetime, which ended in 1972, it became less and less acceptable to hold the views he held until, at the end, he was an anachronism. I always thought that was a good thing and in a perverse way to hear him rail against the Pope in the 1960's always reinforced in me a strong belief in social progress. His old fashioned ideas had been completely discredited by mainstream society during his own lifetime.

Now we are seeing the re-emergence of intra Christian rivalry (along with hostility to non-Judeo Christian religions in general) and the infighting has begun again. The lines are breaking down now between fundamentalism and liberalism, but really it's the same old shit.

And it illustrates the real reason why the founders insisted on separation of church and state. It wasn't in service of secularism; it was in service of religion. When one sect gains the power of the state, the others have no choice but to fight for their rights. This UCC controversy is, I fear, the beginning of another episode of religious war between the Christians. Two steps forward one step back.

But I have to say that I have no idea why, in the midst of this religious rivalry, nobody gives a shit about this:

Rather than the traditional egg hunt, this group, calling itself the American Clergy Leadership Conference, sponsored a nationwide "Tear Down The Cross" day for Easter, 2003. Last week, leaders in this radical cause presided over a Washington prayer breakfast featuring messages of thanks from the presidents. Former Senator Bob Dole came in person.


Moon was keynote speaker last week, declaring in remarks reprinted by the Times that "God's heart is under confinement." In some ways it was a repeat performance of the Senate coronation ceremony, which the New York Times editorial page compared to an act of the mad emperor Caligula.

You may remember that Senator John Warner and other Congressmen unloaded on Moon's entourage for "deceiving" them into sponsoring a ceremony where America "surrendered to [Moon] in the king's role," according to an internal church memo. "America is saying to Father, 'please become my king," claimed Moon minister Chung Kwak. The versatile Kwak is currently wearing a second hat as head of the UPI news agency, added to Moon's collection of media properties in 2000.

Strangely enough, last week the hosts of the "surrender" ceremony weren't blasted but blessed by two presidents of the United States. The same faces were there: George Stallings, Jr., the flamboyant ex-archbishop who bellowed at the March dinner for America to open up its heart to Moon; Michael Jenkins and Chang Shik Yang, hosts of past "Tear Down The Cross" rituals; and former Democratic D.C. representative Walter Fauntroy, who shares the Moonies' opposition to gay civil unions (Moon calls gays "dung-eating dogs"; Fauntroy calls same-sex marriage "an abomination"). Congressman Davis did not attend.

Like the Senate party, this conference climaxed with a new Crown of Peace awarded to Moon by his own organization, though in this case they held off on the royal treatment until the following evening. The award was reported by UPI.

According to a report in the Washington Times as well as video found on the Moon-affiliated Web site FamilyFed.org, the elder Bush made a taped appearance before the ACLC's 3,000-strong crowd, which he thanked for their work. "I thought about parachuting into the building," he joked about wishing he could make it. And he paid lip service to Moon's unwieldy religious jargon, using phrases like "peace centered on God," a goal that he called "right on target."

His son, George W. Bush, wrote a warm letter of support presented at the event by a state senator, in which the president and his wife Laura sent his best wishes to the sponsors -- and thanked them for rallying his "armies of compassion.

Picture if you will, Bill and Hill and Al and Tipper doing this.

Why doesn't anybody confront the wingnut political and religious gasbags with this crap? How could Bush or Falwell or O'Reilly or any of the other self-appointed guardians of Christianity defend this wierd nonsense?

Gosh, it almost make you think that the Republican and Christian Right leadership are actually simple whores for money.

Who Us?

As I was navel gazing about how to win elections, I came across this article (via the Left Coaster) that reminded me of the pitfalls of losing sight of our commitment to civil liberties in the quest for votes and crossover appeal.

In the past week, new revelations of vast abuses of U.S. prisoners being held in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay have appeared in the news. Yet, many of the same people who condemn these atrocities are quite willing to see government officials engage in the same behavior toward Americans. While abuse, torture, and outright lying and criminal behavior by participants in the "justice system" are common, the public gives a collective yawn and juries continue to swallow the lies that prosecutors feed to them. Although the accessible examples of such behavior are legion and have been well-documented elsewhere, I will give some of my own.

Judge Andrew P. Napolitano in a recent article gave a couple of terrifying but all-too-typical stories of torture and abuse of people in this country. The first involved the accusation (almost surely false) of massive child molestation against two owners of a Florida daycare center in 1984. The chief accuser was then-Dade County State’s Attorney Janet Reno (yes, that Janet Reno) who was in the middle of a tough re-election campaign and was determined to get a guilty verdict.

Reno was able to have then-18-year-old Ileana Furster, Frank Furster’s wife, held without bond. Furthermore, the young woman was placed nude in a solitary confinement cell, being in full view of male and female guards. In 1998, Ileana described some of her treatment:

They would give me cold showers. Two people would hold me, run me under cold water, then throw me back in the cell naked with nothing, just a bare floor. And I used to be cold, real cold. I would have my periods and they would wash me and throw me back into the cell.

(Note: This action came at a time when prosecutors around the country were engaging in child molestation witch hunts against day care owners, the original accusations stemming from the encouragement in the 1974 Child Abuse Prevention Act, better known as the Mondale Act. It provided federal money to states that prosecuted alleged child abuse, and prosecutors were all-too-happy to jump into the mix. Many of the accusations were outlandishly false, but prosecutors and their media stooges managed to keep the enterprise going until the accusations collapsed under the scrutiny of a particularly egregious set of charges mounted in Wenatchee, Washington, a decade ago. However, even today, some people are serving life terms for "child molestation" crimes they almost certainly did not commit. Frank Furster is one of them.)

Finally, Reno began to visit Ms. Furster on a regular basis and browbeat her with accusations and promises of a life sentence unless she cooperated (that is, told the jury what Reno wanted her to say). Further visits from psychiatrists who allegedly specialized in "recovering memories" – which has turned out to be another form of government quackery – finally got their intended results. Ileana haltingly accused her husband in court (she has since recanted) and Frank Furster was found guilty.

This isn't hyperbole. Here's the transcript from the Frontline documentary about the child abuse witch hunts of the 1980's.

It wasn't right wingers who perpetuated these miscarriages of justice --- it was misguided liberals who thought they were protecting kids and ambitious liberal politicians who needed to appear to be tough on crime, acting out of a belief that the accused child molesters were so evil that it excused any kind of conduct. Neither party can claim a perfect record in this regard.

The only thing that can protect our country from losing its soul (if it isn't already lost) is a sincere and unbending commitment to civil liberties and the letter and spirit of the Bill of Rights. Once you start tweaking at the edges the whole house of cards falls in. As we look at how far we are willing to compromise, appease, reframe and redirect, it's awfully important that we keep that in mind. Otherwise, we're just as phony as the other side.

Update: In a related article, William Pfaff posits that the torture in Iraq and Gitmo was really more "Shock and Awe":

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the Bush administration is not torturing prisoners because it is useful but because of its symbolism. It originally was intended to be a form of what later, in the attack on Iraq, came to be called "shock and awe." It was meant as intimidation. We will do these terrible things to demonstrate that nothing will stop us from conquering our enemies. We are indifferent to world opinion. We will stop at nothing.

I seem to recall quite a few liberal voices thinking this was quite a good idea. Take our good friend, the thoughtful and measured Tom Friedman:

No, the axis-of-evil idea isn't thought through - but that's what I like about it. It says to these countries and their terrorist pals: "We know what you're cooking in your bathtubs. We don't know exactly what we're going to do about it, but if you think we are going to just sit back and take another dose from you, you're wrong. Meet Don Rumsfeld - he's even crazier than you are."

There is a lot about the Bush team's foreign policy I don't like, but their willingness to restore our deterrence, and to be as crazy as some of our enemies, is one thing they have right. It is the only way we're going to get our turkey back.

Even intellectuals have lizard brains and know how to use them.

Mmmmm. Wine

Dr. Vino will be raffling off a case of very nice wine to someone who has completed his 2004 wine quiz correctly.

(Hint: Google)

Monday, December 20, 2004

Let My People Go

ChristianExodus.org is coordinating the move of thousands of Christians to South Carolina for the express purpose of re-establishing Godly, constitutional government. It is evident that the U.S. Constitution has been abandoned under our current federal system, and the efforts of Christian activism to restore our Godly republic have proven futile over the past three decades. The time has come for Christians to withdraw our consent from the current federal government and re-introduce the Christian principles once so predominant in America to a sovereign State like South Carolina.


Christians have actively tried to return the United States to their moral foundations for more than 30 years. We now have a "Christian" president, a "Christian" attorney general, and a Republican Congress and Supreme Court. Yet consider this:

* Abortion continues against the wishes of many States
* Sodomite marriage is now legal in Massachusetts (and coming soon to a neighborhood near you)
* Children who pray in public schools are subject to prosecution 1
* Our schools continue to teach the discredited theory of Darwinian evolution
* The Bible is still not welcome in schools except under unconstitutional FEDERAL guidelines
* The 10 Commandments remain banned from public display
* Sodomy is now legal AND celebrated as "diversity" rather than condemned as perversion
* Preaching Christianity will soon be outlawed as "hate speech" 1 2

Attempts at reform have proven futile. Future elections will not stop the above atrocities, but rather will exacerbate them and lead us down an even more deadly path.


So what can be done? ChristianExodus.org offers the opportunity to try a strategy not yet employed by Bible-believing Christians. Rather than spend resources in continued efforts to redirect the entire nation, we will redeem States one at a time. Millions of Christian conservatives are geographically spread out and diluted at the national level. Therefore, we must concentrate our numbers in a geographical region with a sovereign government we can control through the electoral process.

ChristianExodus.org is orchestrating the move of thousands of Christians to reacquire our Constitutional rights and, if necessary to attain these rights, dissolve our State's bond with the union. Click on our Plan of Action page to find out how we can experience God-honoring governance once again.

If you are tired of government-endorsed sin, then stand up and be counted!

(Do you suppose we ought to tell them about Lindsay?)

Thanks to BCforum for the link

Reframing Respect For Life

...in all its complexities.

Via Avedon Carol, I found this post by Max Blumenthal about the new It-Democrats, Democrats For Life. This article is fascinating, too.

I do give them credit for being impressively morally consistent. They are for the abolition of abortion rights, right to die legislation, the death penalty and stem cell research. (And they are members in good standing of the Democratic party, so the tent must not be so damned small after all.)

I must point out, however, that I am against the death penalty and also pro-choice, pro stem cell research and pro right to die. And that view is also perfectly consistent and moral because I simply don't believe that a tribunal or a judge or, least of all, a politician, is capable of making these complicated moral decisions about life and death. If I had my way, I'm sure that some guilty people who deserve to die would live to be 90 (imprisoned, I trust) because of this stand. And I assume that some women would have abortions for selfish and shallow reasons. But until human perfection can be achieved, which is never, these extremely complicated moral issues cannot be dealt with through law without often being immoral themselves. It is not capable of sorting out the morality involved when a desperate 36 year old woman with three kids finds herself pregnant after her drunken ex-husband begged for forgiveness for his philandering and she gave in. You can't say that the death penalty is consistent when the legal system cannot account for lawyers and judges who just aren't very good or witnessess who truly believe they saw something they didn't see. It doesn't make sense to say that nobody should be allowed the right to die when you look at an old man who is dying in terrible pain and just wants to be set free.

I'm reminded of a very thought provoking article by William Saletan, in which he frames the argument exactly as I see it:

[S]ome conservative evangelicals and progressive Catholics are proposing to broaden the debate[on capital punishment]. While we're rethinking capital punishment, they say, we ought to rethink another kind of killing as well: abortion. But their analogy is upside-down. The reason we're rethinking the death penalty today is the same reason we liberalized abortion laws 30 years ago: We're learning that the state is too clumsy to handle it.

To abortion opponents, the essential principle in both cases is life. "If people on the so-called liberal spectrum of American politics are against capital punishment, then they certainly should be against the taking of innocent life of the unborn," Robertson argued on "Meet the Press" last month. Writing in The New York Times Magazine two weeks later, Andrew Sullivan challenged anti-abortion conservatives and anti-execution liberals to embrace the Catholic "seamless garment" doctrine, which holds that, on both subjects, "life is life is life. From conception to natural death, our first duty is to defend it."

But there's another, less obvious connection between the two issues. The administration of capital punishment, like the regulation of abortion, depends upon agents of the state--legislators, judges, pardon boards, governors--to translate morality into law. And, in both cases, much is lost in the translation. Nearly everyone agrees that abortion is morally troubling and that murderers should be punished. Most people concede that some abortions ought to be forbidden and some murderers ought to die. But it's quite another matter to sort out exactly when. What about the 16-year-old girl knocked up by her abusive boyfriend? What about the career criminal scheduled for lethal injection because a fellow inmate pinned a murder rap on him in exchange for time off? People who support the death penalty in principle are getting cold feet about its application because they are coming to doubt that the government makes these decisions wisely. That kind of doubt is not a reason to support tougher abortion laws. It's a reason to oppose them.


This kind of piecemeal uncertainty, not moral revelation, is what's driving today's reevaluation of the death penalty. Robertson, Ryan, and Will still support capital punishment in principle. What they question is the government's competence to decide fairly or accurately who should receive it. Texas's execution of Karla Faye Tucker--who, according to Robertson, was "out of her mind" when she committed murder and was later "born again" in prison--shook Robertson's faith that the state could be trusted to distinguish killers who deserve death from killers who don't. Meanwhile, the post-conviction exonerations of numerous death-row inmates prompted Will to counsel "skepticism" about the death penalty, on the theory that "it's a government program and will be messed up."


Will a similar anxiety about the state's sloppy management of life and death affect the abortion debate? It already has. Four decades ago, when abortion was prohibited, stories of illegal abortions and the wretched circumstances that drove many women to seek them began to penetrate public consciousness. Americans disliked abortion in principle, but the more they heard about the moral complexity of these cases, the more uncomfortable they became with the procedure's criminalization. They began to suspect not that abortion was defensible in general but that the laws against it failed to recognize circumstances in which it might be justified. Many states created or broadened loopholes to permit the procedure. By 1973, when the Supreme Court handed down Roe v. Wade, the country's abortion laws were already unraveling.

The question of abortion, like that of execution, can be put in practical terms: How confident are you of the state's ability to comprehend and resolve the morality of each individual case? If you have misgivings about both the death penalty and broad restrictions on abortion, are you inconsistent in your respect for life? Or are you consistent in your respect for life's complexity? At its core, this perspective isn't about saving lives or fighting for women's freedom. It's about the limits of our ability to apply rigid principles. It's about humility.

This is the lesson Casey taught about capital punishment. The more he examined death-penalty cases, the more he second-guessed the system. Judges and legislators, he realized, lacked the dexterity to apply shared values to such diverse circumstances. The assembly line's flaws generated telltale errors: the moral kind that shattered Robertson's confidence in the clemency process, and the factual kind that convinced Ryan to halt executions in Illinois. In various ways, they are all raising the same question: whether decisions about capital punishment are too complicated to make on an assembly line. Maybe, just maybe, they should ask the same question about abortion.

The answer is yes.

So, the Democrats want to reframe the social issues. Here's one way to think about it. I know it doesn't involve any fun Sistah Soljah shaming or sexy self flagellation so perhaps it won't be as satisfying for the media. And the religious right is assured of the morality of its position in all things, so I'm afraid they won't be rushing into our big tent with this sort of argument. But there might just be a few voters out here in the western part of the country who agree that the blunt instrument of politics isn't a very good tool for regulating the most delicate matters of life and death with which even the philosophers and theologians struggle for clarity.

Instead of trying to convince people that we are moral because we share their discomfort about our deeply held principles, perhaps we should instead just hold to our deeply held principles and explain why they are moral in terms they can understand. I think that's what reframing is all about, actually.

Dazzling 'Em With Bullshit In His Native Tongue


QUESTION: You've made Social Security reform the top of your domestic agenda for a second term. You've been talking extensively about the benefits of private accounts. But by most estimations, private accounts may leave something for young workers at the end, but wouldn't do much to solve the overall financial problem with Social Security.

And I'm just wondering, as you're promoting these private accounts, why aren't you talking about some of the tough measures that may have to be taken to preserve the solvency of Social Security, such as increasing the retirement age, cutting benefits or means testing for Social Security?

BUSH: I appreciate that question.

First of all, let me put the Social Security issue in proper perspective. It is a very important issue. But it's not the only issue -- very important issue we'll be dealing with.

I expect the Congress to bring forth meaningful tort reform. I want the legal system reformed in such a way that we're competitive in the world.

I'll be talking about the budget, of course. There's a lot of concern in the financial markets about our deficit, short-term and long-term deficits. The long-term deficit, of course, is caused by some of the entitlement programs -- the unfunded liabilities inherent in our entitlement programs.

I will continue to push on an education agenda. There is no doubt in my mind that the No Child Left Behind Act is meaningful, real reform that is having real results. And I look forward to strengthening No Child Left Behind.

Immigration reform is a very important agenda item as we move forward.

But Social Security, as well, is a big item. And I campaigned on it, as you're painfully aware, since you had to suffer through many of my speeches. I didn't duck the issue like others have done in the past. I said, "This is a vital issue and we need to work together to solve it."

Now, the temptation is going to be, by well-meaning people such as yourself and others here, as we run up to the issue, to get me to negotiate with myself in public. To say, you know, "What's this mean, Mr. President? What's that mean?"

I'm not going to do that. I don't get to write the law.

I'll propose a solution at the appropriate time.

But the law will be written in the halls of Congress. And I will negotiate with them, with the members of Congress. And they will want me to start playing my hand. "Will you accept this? Will you not accept that? Why don't you do this hard thing? Why don't you do that?"

I fully recognize this is going to be a decision that requires difficult choices. Inherent in your question is do I recognize that? You bet I do. Otherwise it would have been done.

And so, I just want to try to condition you. I'm not doing a very good job, because the other day in the Oval, when the press pool came in, I was asked about this -- the -- a series of questions -- a question on Social Security with these different aspects to it. And I said, "I'm not going to negotiate with myself. And I will negotiate at the appropriate time with the law writers."

And so, thank you for trying.

The principles I laid out in the course of the campaign, and the principles we laid out at the recent economic summit are still the principles I believe in. And that is: nothing will change for those near or on Social Security, payroll tax -- I believe you're the one who asked me about the payroll taxes, if I'm not mistaken -- will not go up.

The -- and I know there's a big definition about what that means.

Well, again, I will repeat, don't bother to ask me.

Oh, you can ask me, I can't tell you what to ask. It's not the holiday spirit.


It is all part of trying to get me to set the parameters, you know, apart from the Congress, which is not a good way to get substantive reform done.

As to personal accounts, it is a judgment essential to make the system viable in the out-years to allow younger workers to earn an interest rate more significant than that which is being earned with their own money now inside the Social Security trust.

But the first step in this process is for members of Congress to realize we have a problem. And so for a while, I think it's important for me to continue to work with members of both parties to explain the problem. Because if people don't think there's a problem, we can, you know, talk about this issue until we're blue in the face and nothing will get done.

And there is a problem. There is a problem because now it requires three workers per retiree to keep Social Security promises. In 2040 it will require two workers per employee to meet the promises. And when the system was set up and designed I think it was like 15 or more workers per employee.

That is a problem. The system goes into the red.

In other words, there's more money going out than coming in in 2018. There is an unfunded liability of $11 trillion.

And I understand how this works. You know, many times legislative bodies will not react unless the crisis is apparent, crisis is upon them. I believe the crisis is. And so, for a period of time, we're going to have to explain to members of Congress the crisis is here.

It's a lot less painful to act now than if we wait.

QUESTION: Mr. President, on that point, there is already a lot of opposition to the idea of personal accounts, some of it fairly entrenched among the Democrats. I wonder what your strategy is to try to convince them to your view.

And specifically, they say that personal accounts would destroy Social Security. You argue they would help save the system. Can you explain how?

BUSH: If Saddam Hussein refuses to disarm, we will form a coalition of the willing and we will disarm Saddam Hussein. Next question?

Sunday, December 19, 2004


Some Republicans have suggested leaving the minimum tax in place because those hardest hit tend to be in states that did not support Bush, including Massachusetts, California, and New York. ‘‘It is a tax of people living in ‘blue’ states,’’ said Grover Norquist, the conservative activist who heads Americans for Tax Reform.

He said the tax was originally conceived by liberal Democrats as a way of imposing higher taxes mostly on wealthier Republicans, and he suggested that it be used as a bargaining chip by the White House when Bush tries to enact his tax agenda. The minimum tax should be repealed only when Democrats ‘‘say they are sorry and offer to give us something in return,’’ Norquist said.

I see that Norquist is a man of his word. If you recall, he was recently quoted as saying: "Once the minority of House and Senate are comfortable in their minority status, they will have no problem socializing with the Republicans. Any farmer will tell you that certain animals run around and are unpleasant, but when they've been fixed, then they are happy and sedate. They are contented and cheerful. They don't go around peeing on the furniture and such."

Apparently, Grover is a believer in the James Dobson school of animal training.

The Poorman spells out the proper response to Comrade Norquist's tactic:

Any complaints about Mr. Nordquist's remarks should be sent to his blue state secretaries: Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA), Gov. George Pataki (R-NY), and Gov. Arnold Schwartzenegger (R-CA). Here are some folks you can CC on that:

Sen. Lincoln Chaffee (R-RI)
Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN)
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)
Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-IL)
Sen. Greg Judd (R-NH)
Sen. Rick "Man-On-Dog" Santorum (R-PA)
Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR)
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME)
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA)
Sen. John Sununu (R-NH)

Muckraking 2004

This liberal media has gone completely out of control. First they make bleeding heart Bush MOTY, and now I find out that they named those hippies over at Power Line Blog of the Year:

The story of how three amateur journalists working in a homegrown online medium challenged a network news legend and won has many, many game-changing angles to it. One of the strangest and most radical is that the key information in "The 61st Minute" came from Power Line's readers, not its ostensible writers. The Power Liners are quick, even eager, to point this out. "What this story shows more than anything is the power of the medium," Hinderaker says. "The world is full of smart people who have information about every imaginable topic, and until the Internet came along, there wasn't any practical way to put it together."

Now there is.

Congratulations to Powerline. I guess it doesn't really matter that none of their shocking allegations about the availability of proportional-spaced fonts in the 70's turned out to actually be, you know, true. What matters is that they helped spur a media feeding frenzy that turned up completely unrelated evidence showing that certain documents that were not material to the truth were given to CBS by an uncredible person. By today's journalistic standards that's right up there with Woodward and Bernstein.

(Sadly, like most innovators, the blogfather of modern rightwing cyberfrenzies, Drudge, was overlooked again. He must be fit to be tied.)

Via The Daou Report

A Bold Proposition

Atrios continues to argue with some in our party that we Democrats should not turn abortion into a scarlet letter. He is so wrong. We need to get serious about winning by dolefully expressing regret and guilt for believing what we believe or we will be wandering in the lonely 49% wilderness forever. And, nowhere is it more important to show contrition and self-hatred than on the issue of abortion. It is, after all, icky.

But simply framing abortion as a shameful "right that ends in sorrow" rather than a "difficult decision that brings relief", is a fools game. And while the Democratic "orthodoxy" on abortion inherently allows for people who are personally opposed to abortion, like John Kerry, to run for national office as long as he doesn't advocate outlawing abortion entirely for others, everyone agrees that the Republicans are much less "orthodox" because they allow some politicians from liberal states run as pro-choicers to get elected even if they could never in a million years win the nomination of the Republican party for president. (I know that's a little bit strange, but it's one of those quirks in our system, kind of like the electoral college.) Therefore, to win it is logical that we must not only shed our orthodoxy and take the pro-life cause as our own, we must take it even further than the Republicans.

Here's my proposition:

Let's not be cowards and merely advocate for a culture of disgrace and dishonor for women who have abortions. I agree that it's important that they should be publicly humiliated and forced to admit that they have done something very, very bad. That's always healthy and people will respect us more if we do that. But,the other side will rightly retort that just because you feel guilty for something doesn't excuse it, right? So, let's get out ahead of an issue for once. Let's be really bold and call for total abolition and follow up with tough criminal penalities for any woman who has one.

This is where the GOP orthodoxy is weak. The pro-life position is that abortion is murder. But many pro-lifers also believe in exceptions for rape and incest. That makes no sense. If it is murder to abort a child in the womb because it is fully human and endowed with all the same rights as any other person, then it can't be right to make an exception and kill it simply because of the way it was conceived. Would we think it was ok to kill a one year old if we found out that it was the product of rape or incest? Of course not.

This position implies that the circumstances of conception or the lifelong emotional consequences for the woman bearing an unwanted child can be taken into consideration. Why shouldn't she simply take her rapist or her father's child to term and simply give it up for adoption? The fetus has inalienable rights. The woman should deal with that just the same as she should deal with giving up her fourth child for adoption because she can't afford another mouth to feed and her birth control failed. It's tough, but she'll just have to get over it.

And really, if abortion is murder, shouldn't the woman be criminally liable for murdering her own child? Why is it that pro-life advocates never insist on that and instead place the entire burden on the doctor? Would we accept that a woman who hired someone to murder her 6 month old was not criminally liable for that act? Of course not.

They say it's murder, but they have "exceptions." They want to make it a crime but don't want to make the perpetrator of that crime responsible. These people are practicing ... moral relativism.

If I didn't know better, I might think that Republicans secretly believe that ending an unwanted pregnancy is different from murder after all; that it isn't an absolute choice between right and wrong. Indeed, they seem to think that it is complicated by circumstances and morally nuanced. Certainly, the fact that they refuse to call women who have abortions "murderers" indicates that they think pregnant women are in a unique position in human experience making judgment by absolute legal standards difficult for society to accept.

And that is our opening, folks. Just as the foreign policy wonks think that we should outflank the neocons on foreign policy by fighting the GWOT with the ferver of a Christian crusader, I think we should simultaneously make a play for the fundamentalists who truly do believe that the woman is a murderer if she has an abortion. The stoning and burning crowd is ripe for the picking if we are only bold enough to do what is necessary to prove that we are sincere. Rove and pals won't be expecting it.

Then the media will call us the big tent party and we can run against the Republicans for being pro-choice, unpatriotic and soft on crime! Cool, huh?

Seriously, folks, if we can adopt this, the global crusade for democracy and the creationism curriculum into our platform I think we might just be able to finally get that crucial 2% that we need to win. And then we'll be able to get something done for the progressive cause --- like paying off our crippling debt with a combination of brutal spending cuts in social programs and tax increases on the middle class. (And there's always end it don't mend it on affirmative action and privatization of SS if we still need to triangulate.)

Tough Guys

This article in The Times seems to validate my theory that Bush saw Kerik as some sort of alter ego. It doesn't elaborate on his insistence on relying on his gut and therefore overruling the necessary vetting, but I'll bet you he did. These guys aren't usually sloppy about these things and this was outrageously sloppy. It has the mark of Codpiece all over it.


"Time chose Bush for sticking to his guns (literally and figuratively)..."

Super glue? Grape jelly? How?

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Raising The Future Fascists Of America

I admit that I have a soft spot for animals. The idea of beating a dachshund with a belt to make it mind literally makes me sick. And then it makes me want to do the same thing to the man who felt the need to exercize his sadistic control fantasies on a small dog:

"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!"

I don't suppose that picking the dog up and carrying him to his bed would have been nearly as satisfying, either.

The identity of the man who takes pride in repeating this story and using it as an example of good child rearing should come as no surprise when you learn that it comes from the pen of none other than James Dobson, the latest self-annointed moral leader of America. It's a passage from "The Strong Willed Child".

This is the man who is leading a moral crusade in America along with another famed animal abuser George W. Bush.

Animal abuse is well known to be the one consistent precurser behavior of serial killers.

Wish I'd Said That

The Sideshow is on a tear today. Avedon's got a number of really good posts up, but this one is a barn burner:

What they love is their hatred of liberals and liberalism. And hating liberalism is hating America. Make no mistake about this: the foundation of America is liberalism. Our form of government, from the very beginning, is liberal democracy. And, while they talk about how they love America while liberals do not, and how it is conservatives who adhere strictly to the Constitution, it is also abundantly clear that when they are given an opportunity to prove such things, they do the reverse.


What makes it so easy to hate France, and any other nation that shows every sign of being a liberal democracy, is that they've got liberal democracy. In the parlance of conservatives, any government that shows a concern for the welfare of its people is practically a communist state. But, wait:

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

And that, my friends, is the organizing principle of liberalism. The "general Welfare" and "the Blessings of Liberty" are meant to be the goal of the United States of America - it says so in the very first sentence of the Constitution. It is the obligation of the government to "secure" these things for us.

But France, Germany, and the United Kingdom have "socialized medicine", so they are obviously indistinguishable from Stalinism, to hear conservatives tell it. That's why it was so easy for conservatives to start accusing Bill and Hillary Clinton of being communists when they campaigned for "Hillarycare". Although they sometimes claimed to despise this program because it was supposedly complicated or bureaucratic, the truth is that they opposed it precisely because it might actually work. The same reason they despise Social Security, which clearly does work. Because such programs promote the general welfare.

This is why conservatives must lie about what they are doing. They are trying to destroy Social Security while claiming they mean to save it. They have to lie, because no one with any sense, or any concern for our nation, would want them to succeed at destroying it. They make up reasons why any proposed national health insurance plan would fail, because they do not want one to succeed. They claim they want to stop abortion "to save lives" while instituting programs that are known to increase the likelihood of unwanted pregnancy and abortion. They empty our treasury and cut taxes to the rich while claiming to "improve" our economy. They construct a program of theocracy while claiming it's in aid of "freedom of religion". They claim to be "Constitutional constructionists" while stripping the Constitution of any meaning. They even restrict our travel and threaten to remove our citizenship for political reasons while claiming to "protect our freedoms".

Oh, they hate America, there's no question of that. The only question is why liberals hesitate to say so.

I think it's because liberals believe in our system so dearly that it's been very hard for us to wrap our minds around the idea that our government is seriously under threat from within. This is a very frightening proposition. You feel a little bit crazy for even thinking it. In this way, we are the victims of faith-based thinking, too. We just can't seem to accept what we are seeing before our very eyes. We think that our system is so strong that it can withstand anything.

Impeachment, stolen election, terrorist attack, trumped up war, media dominance all in less than a decade. It's happening.

Check Him Out Now

We doin' big pimpin, we spendin' cheese
We doin' big pimpin' up in DC

CNBC Sunday, 8 PM EST

Be there or be square. Wolcott's on Tina Brown.

(Well, not literally. I don't think, anyway. Better watch, just in case.)

Crusaders For Freedom

Via Talk Left I see that 44 percent of Americans think that we should limit the civil liberties of American Muslims. And, waddaya know:

The survey also examined the relation of religion to perceptions of Islam and Islamic countries and found the more religious a person described themselves, the more negative their views on Islam.

The amount of attention paid to TV news also had a bearing on how strongly a respondent favored restrictions.

"The more attention paid to television news, the more you fear terrorism, and you are more likely to favor restrictions on civil liberties," said Erik Nisbet, a senior research associate with Cornell's Survey Research Institute who helped design the survey.

While researchers said they weren't necessarily surprised by the overall level of support for restrictions, they were startled by the correlation with religion and exposure to television news.

"We need to explore why these two very important channels of discourse may nurture fear rather than understanding," Shanahan said.

Shanahan said researchers expected the correlation with party affiliation.

In each of the four instances, Republicans favored restrictions by an almost 2-to-1 margin over Democrats and Independents.

"We need to explore why these two very important channels of discourse may nurture fear rather than understanding,"

That's a tough one. Cui bono?

What's The Hurry, Junior?

One of my commenters makes the point that the belief that there is a social security crisis will not be easily dismissed and that's probably true. Kevin Drum points out that Democrats, too, have found it useful over the years to say that there was a looming crisis. I suspect that they never imagined that the Republicans would be so audacious as to run up huge deficits and then turn around and lobby for privatization with no intention of paying for transition costs. As we know, this isn't your father's GOP.

So perhaps we need to look at who and how they plan to sell this baby and fashion some specific responses. As far as I can tell it's Codpiece running with a version of their patented "he's got WMD, the sky is falling hurry, hurry, hurry." "The crisis is now!" the president veritably shrieked at his sycophantic little sideshow this week.

During the Clinton health care debacle, one of the most clever things the Republicans did was to connect the dots between the Clinton scandals and the health care plan. By saying that the Clintons had no credibility because of WhitewaterTravelOfficeZoeBaird or whatever, they were able to raise questions about his ability to manage a huge change in the economy. They used doubts about his character to make people nervous about his plan.

Donkey Rising shows some new numbers from the Ipsos-AP poll and the Quinnipiac University poll that show Bush remains in deep doo-doo on the Iraq question.

On Iraq, in the same poll, 48 percent approve and 50 percent disapprove of Bush's handling of Iraq. But among independents, 66 percent disapprove. And in the latest Quinnipiac University poll, Bush's approval rating on Iraq is very poor 41/55 but an even worse 37/58 among independents.

In the Ipsos-AP poll, 47 percent believe it is likely that a stable, democratic government will be established in Iraq, compared to 51 percent who don't. But only 36 percent of independents believe a stable government in Iraq is likely.

Finally, the Q-poll finds the worst numbers ever on whether going to war with Iraq was the right thing for the US to do or the wrong thing. Just 42 percent now say we did the right thing, while 52 percent say it was the wrong thing. And independents have an even harsher judgement: they say war with Iraq was the wrong thing to do by 55-37.

We should take a page from the Republicans and start connecting the dots between Iraq and social security. Just as with Iraq, Bush is going to try to ram through this legislation quickly by playing Chicken Little. Democrats should make that observation and remind people that he does not have any credibility when it comes to defining a crisis, (also known as an "imminent threat.")

There are plenty of doubts about Bush out there. We need to make use of them instead of starting over from scratch with every single issue. The public clearly does not support Bush's Iraq policy and national security is his strong suit. He and the republicans have even less credibility on domestic issues.

The minority Republicans were able to convince people that Clinton's "character" problems meant that he could not be trusted with a huge program change in the midst of what people geniunely believed was a crisis at the time. I submit that Democrats have ample ammunition to draw the parallel between Bush's rush to war and Bush's rush to privatize and they can make a case that his judgment is faulty when it comes to defining a future crisis and that he, therefore, cannot be trusted with a huge change in social security.

"But everybody says there's a social security crisis!"

"Yeah, "everybody" said Saddam had WMD, too, and nobody said it louder or more often than President Bush. Let's slow down here and be careful. A lot of people depend on social security and I don't think we need to rush into privatizing that program like he rushed us into invading Iraq."

Friday, December 17, 2004


Via THE DAOU REPORT I see that some on the right are seeing some similarity between the American left and bin laden:

ARTHUR CHRENKOFF NOTES that Osama is sounding familiar. "bin Laden is moving one step further along the path of the great ideological - or at least rhetorical - convergence between the angry left and the angry Islamofascism . . . And thus Osama becomes yet another billionaire complaining about the growing gap between the rich and the poor, a sort of George Soros with a Closed Society Institute."

Yes, the secular left is in cahoots with the Islamic fundamentalists. We have so much in common. (I hear Osama's a big believer in civil liberties and women's rights.)

This is not to say that bin Laden's rhetoric doesn't have a lot in common with some Americans, on a very fundamental level. I noticed this some time back and made note of it:

We do not claim to know all the ways of Providence yet we can trust in them, placing our confidence in the loving God behind all of life, and all of history. May he guide us now."

In the end, I advise myself and you to fear God covertly and openly and to be patient in the jihad. Victory will be achieved with patience. I also advise myself and you to say more prayers.

"Our prayer tonight is that God will see us through and keep us worthy ...Hope still lights our way, and the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it."

God Almighty says: "Those who believe fight in the cause of Allah, and those who reject faith fight in the cause of evil."

"There is power -- wonder-working power -- in the goodness and idealism and faith of the American people."

Verily, Allah guideth not a people unjust.

"The American people have deep and diverse religious beliefs, truly one of the great strengths of our country. And the faith of our citizens is seeing us through some demanding times. We're being challenged. We're meeting those challenges because of our faith."

God Almighty says: "Oh ye who believe! If ye will help the cause of Allah, He will help you and plant your feet firmly."

"After we were attacked on September the 11th, we carried our grief to the Lord Almighty in prayer."

Obey Him, be thankful to Him, and remember Him always, and die not except in a state of Islam with complete submission to Allah.

"The role of government is limited, because government cannot put hope in people's hearts, or a sense of purpose in people's lives. That happens when someone puts an arm around a neighbor and says, God loves you, I love you, and you can count on us both."

The jurisdiction of the socialists and those rulers has fallen a long time ago. Socialists are infidels wherever they are, whether they are in Baghdad or Aden

"I ask you to challenge your listeners to encourage your congregations to work together for the good of this nation, to work hard to break down the barriers that have divided the children of God for too long. There is no question that we can rid this nation of hopelessness and despair, because the greatest of America is the character of the American people."

Before concluding, we reiterate the importance of high morale and caution against false rumors, defeatism, uncertainty, and discouragement.

"What I'm saying is, the days of discriminating against religious groups just because they're religious are coming to an end. I have issued an executive order banning discrimination against faith-based charities and social service grants by federal agencies."

Allah is sufficient for us and He is the best disposer of affairs.

"And we are a courageous country, ready when necessary to defend the peace. And today, the peace is threatened. We face a continuing threat of terrorist networks that hate the very thought of people being able to live in freedom."

We also stress to honest Muslims that they should move, incite, and mobilize the [Islamic] nation, amid such grave events and hot atmosphere so as to liberate themselves from those unjust and renegade ruling regimes, which are enslaved by the United States.

"They hate the thought of the fact that in this great country, we can worship the Almighty God the way we see fit. And what probably makes him even angrier is we're not going to change."

Muslims' doctrine and banner should be clear in fighting for the sake of God. He who fights to raise the word of God will fight for God's sake. So fight ye against the friends of Satan: feeble indeed is the cunning of Satan

"We face an outlaw regime in Iraq that hates our country."

Needless to say, this crusade war is primarily targeted against the people of Islam.

"A regime that aids and harbors terrorists and is armed with weapons of mass murder. Chemical agents, lethal viruses, and shadowy terrorist networks are not easily contained. Secretly, without fingerprints, Saddam Hussein could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or help them develop their own. Saddam Hussein is a threat. He's a threat to the United States of America. He's a threat to some of our closest friends and allies. We don't accept this threat."

We are following up with great interest and extreme concern the crusaders' preparations for war to occupy a former capital of Islam, loot Muslims' wealth, and install an agent government, which would be a satellite for its masters in Washington and Tel Aviv, just like all the other treasonous and agent Arab governments.
This would be in preparation for establishing the Greater Israel.

"My attitude is that we owe it to future generations of Americans and citizens in freedom-loving countries to see to it that Mr. Saddam Hussein is disarmed."

This is a prescribed duty. God says: "[And let them pray with thee] taking all precautions and bearing arms: the unbelievers wish if ye were negligent of your arms and your baggage, to assault you in a single rush."

"It's his choice to make as to how he will be disarmed. He can either do so -- which it doesn't look like he's going to -- for the sake of peace, we will lead a coalition of willing countries and disarm Saddam Hussein."

Regardless of the removal or the survival of the socialist party or Saddam, Muslims in general and the Iraqis in particular must brace themselves for jihad against this unjust campaign and acquire ammunition and weapons.

"But should we need to use troops, for the sake of future generations of Americans, American troops will act in the honorable traditions of our military and in the highest moral traditions of our country."

Amid this unjust war, the war of infidels and debauchees led by America along with its allies and agents, we would like to stress a number of important values

"In violation of the Geneva Conventions, Saddam Hussein is positioning his military forces within civilian populations in order to shield his military and blame coalition forces for civilian casualties that he has caused. Saddam Hussein regards the Iraqi people as human shields, entirely expendable when their suffering serves his purposes."

"...we realized from our defense and fighting against the American enemy that, in combat, they mainly depend on psychological warfare. This is in light of the huge media machine they have. They also depend on massive air strikes so as to conceal their most prominent point of weakness, which is the fear, cowardliness, and the absence of combat spirit among US soldiers.

"We're called to defend our nation and to lead the world to peace, and we will meet both challenges with courage and with confidence."

If all the world forces of evil could not achieve their goals on a one square mile of area against a small number of mujahideen with very limited capabilities, how can these evil forces triumph over the Muslim world?

"There's an old saying, 'Let us not pray for tasks equal to our strength. Let us pray for strength equal to our tasks.' And that is our prayer today, for the strength in every task we face."

...we remind that victory comes only from God and all we have to do is prepare and motivate for jihad.

"I want to thank each of you for your prayers. I want to thank you for your faithfulness. I want to thank you for your good work. And I want to thank you for loving your country. May God bless you all, and may God bless America."

O ye who believe. When ye meet a force, be firm, and call Allah in remembrance much (and often); That ye may prosper. Our Lord. Give us good in this world and good in the Hereafter and save us from the torment of the Fire. May God's peace and blessings be upon Prophet Muhammad and his household.



If it Ain't Broke Don't Fix It

Matt Yglesias makes an important point about the social security fight. He says that we must debate this within the frame that "there is no crisis" because:

Most of the young people I know -- including myself until very recently -- have been taken in by a decades-long effort on behalf of privatizers into believing that Social Security is in "crisis," and that if we do nothing the system will "go bankrupt" before we retire, meaning that the system will somehow collapse and we won't get any benefits.

If you approach the issue from inside that frame, then no amount of cavailing about benefit cuts or "risky" stock market transactions is going to get you anywhere. A smaller benefits package and a stock portfolio that may or may not pay off looks like a really good deal compared to a bankrupt pension plan that gives you nothing. Once you understand that even if we do nothing whatsoever to fix Social Security and the Trustees' overly pessimistic predictions come true, the system will still have enough money to pay my generation more in real terms then current retirees get, everything looks different.

I think that even people my age think that social security is going to be pretty much worthless when we get to retirement (which is closer than we think --- I'm 48.) Matt makes a very good point.

Therefore, it's probably a mistake for the Democrats to even pretend to be willing to work with the other side, as Reid and Pelosi did yesterday. In fact, the more I think about it, I realize that "there is no crisis" probably should be the central argument. The only reason that people are willing to entertain the idea of privatization is because they have been told they won't get much out of the system by the time they retire. Once you debunk that, you have opened the door to ask why they want to privatize in the first place. And that takes you right up to their ideology --- "social security is a 'socialist' program that must be destroyed" --- and their greed --- "Well, as long as we're destroying it, there's no reason not to make a few bucks while we're at it."

There is no crisis.

If we do nothing at all it is likely that in forty years when the 20 somethings retire under the current system they will actually get more than current seniors. Republican privatization is a wall street scam that young people will regret buying into.

Sandwich Meat

If you are a "sandwich boomer" between the ages of 40 and 55 you are about to get screwed, big time. Are you currently helping your parents in their old age and putting your kids through college right now? Get ready. Even under the most optimistic scenario you don't have time for private accounts to make up any difference, but you'll be right in the bulls eye on the inevitable benefits cuts. If you aren't a millionaire, it might be a good idea to develop a taste for catfood.

Crying wolf.

They are trying to scare people. Republicans have been crying wolf about social security forever because they want to destroy it. They always have. If you listened to Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan back in the 1960's they said that the system would be broke by now and there wouldn't be anything for young people. Those people are now comfortably retired. They have always wanted to destroy social security. Always.

Doing The Right Thing.

Hey seniors. Do you feel good about working your whole lives, feeling at least somewhat secure in your retirement and then voting for people who want the Enron folks to experiment with your kids' and grandkids' social security? Would you vote for it if it affected you?

Maybe Harry and Louise need to gather the whole family for Sunday dinner and have a little talk.


Thanks to Rickpauler at bartcop

Passionless Defense

In The Year of "The Passion" Frank Rich makes an important observation:

Even more important than inflated notions of the fundamentalists' power may be their entertainment value. As Ms. Kissling points out, the 50 million Americans who belong to progressive religious organizations are rarely represented on television because 'progressive religious leaders are so tolerant that they don't make good TV.' The Rev. Bob Chase of the United Church of Christ agrees: 'We're not exciting guests.' His church's recent ad trumpeting its inclusion of gay couples was rejected by the same networks that routinely give a forum to the far more dramatic anti-gay views of Mr. Falwell. Ms. Kissling laments that contemporary progressive Christians lack an intellectual star to rival Reinhold Niebuhr or William Sloane Coffin, but adds that today 'Jesus Christ would have a tough time getting covered by TV if he didn't get arrested.'

This paradigm is everywhere in our news culture. When Jon Stewart went on CNN's 'Crossfire' to demand that its hosts stop 'hurting America' by turning news and political debate into a form of pro wrestling, it may have sounded a bit hyperbolic. 'Crossfire' is an aging show that few watch. But his broader point holds up: it's all crossfire now. In the electronic news sphere where most Americans live much of the time, anyone who refuses to engage in combat is quickly sent packing as a bore.

Rich understands the media dynamic better than anyone else out there. This piece is about the media and religion (and I urge you to read the whole thing) but he hits here on something that is even more fundamental. What drives the news media, particularly TV, is action and spectacle and the right is just better at providing it. The southern style preachers, in particular, put on a helluva show. I have always believed that this was the key to Clinton's survival as well. He was a media star as much as a politician. And after 9/11, George W. Bush became one too.

It is entirely possible that the economy is going to seriously go to hell in a handbasket, which always tends to make people get serious --- it's not very glamorous to go broke --- but in the meantime we are going to have to face the reality that liberals are severely charisma challenged and haven't figured out how to disarm the other side. One of the reasons, I believe, that we are so often underrepresented on these screamer shows is that we don't have very many people who can play the role of angry advocate. I keep thinking that this barking heads and playing against type format (dozens of African American Republican mouthpieces, for instance) would grow stale. But, I don't see any signs of it losing favor at the moment. In fact, our new lukewarm war makes verbal combat more fashionable than ever.

It's possible that Hollywood will become gunshy after all this criticism of their political activity, but I would hope that the Democrats would at least prevail upon them for some help in the presentation department. Our people do great on the Lehrer News Hour and I and 140 other people in the country tune in religiously. But that's not where the action is. They can say what they will about Michael Moore but he gets people's attention, doesn't he? In this noise fest we call a media, that's half the battle.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Buy Your Own health Insurance Or Else

The concept of requiring all Californians to carry their own health insurance is gaining momentum in the Capitol, as some lawmakers and healthcare advocates see it as a politically viable way to deal with the state's 5.3 million uninsured.

With the November defeat of Proposition 72 halting efforts to require employers to provide healthcare coverage, the concept looks likely to be part of next year's legislative debate. But it faces huge hurdles over how to make it financially feasible for the poor and enforce it.


'We have too many people that are uninsured in this state,' Schwarzenegger said in October at the Panetta Institute in Monterey. 'We have to really address this once and for all, and figure out a way of how we do it, like with car insurance, where we make it law that people carry insurance and that they are really insured, because it's unfair to so many people when you have people using the hospitals for emergency, and then creating a huge cost.

Hookay. Here in California it is illegal to drive without car insurance. If you are stopped by a cop or get into an accident you can be fined or jailed for failing to have it. You cannot register your car without showing proof that you are insured.

Just how in the hell are they going to enforce a law mandating that every individual buy health insurance? Refuse you medical care? Arrest you? Kill you?

I don't know how many of you have had to buy individual health insurance policies recently, but it has become absurdly expensive. And the older you get, the more expensive it gets. Here in California between 45 and 65 it is astronomical even for a healthy person. If you're sick, you'd better be able to afford more than a thousand a month --- and that's if you already have the insurance.

I would dismiss this as an unattainable Republican wet dream, but at this point I take everything they do very seriously. Ahnuld is a cult in this state and it seems he's actually convinced people that he is doing more than speaking like a cartoon character. This could be an attempt to end medicaid and employer based health insurance all in one fell swoop. The way things are going, they might just succeed.

Welcome to the ownership society. You will now be able to own your own health insurance premium in its entirety! Cool huh?

All Grown Up

Kash at Angry Bear says:

It seems that most market players sufficiently discount what Bush says about economics that his remarks had no major effect on the markets. They seem to understand that Bush has no clue about economics. Nevertheless, his remarks still reflect staggeringly poor judgement on Bush's part, particularly for calling into question the Fed's motives for its interest rate policy.

But perhaps Bush was then trying to fix things (in an odd sort of way) when he later made it completely clear exactly how poor his understanding of international economics is:

Bush said one way to combat the U.S. trade deficit, which hit a record $55.6 billion in October and which is a major factor behind the dollar's slide, was to buy American.

'There's a trade deficit. That's easy to resolve. People can buy more United States products if they're worried about the trade deficit,' he joked.

If Bush ever listened to his economic advisors he would understand that the trade deficit has nothing to do with Americans' preference for imported goods over domestic goods, and everything to do with Americans' preference for consuming more than they produce. So maybe the clever Bush added this comment to reassure the markets that he really has no idea what he's talking about when it comes to international economics, so they really shouldn't pay attention to what he says. If it weren't for the slight detail that Bush is actually the person who gets to make the final decisions on economic policy for the country, reassuring the markets that he doesn't understand how the economy works would be an excellent idea.

Perhaps this is what the last remaining thinking Republicans believe when they hear Bush speaking unintelligible gibberish --- he is actually reassuring markets that they needn't pay any attention to what he says. But it is past time that they come to the realization, however frightening it may be, that Bush actually is making decisions. In the first term it seemed clear that he was manipulated by a powerful group of courtiers who were able to guide him in the direction they wanted him to go through flattery and access. Now that he has been validated by the people his personal arrogance has come to the fore.

All we need do is look to the Kerik debacle to see that Bush himself is now making decisions and he is doing it against the will of his advisors. It is obvious that Kerik appealed to Bush as a man's man. It was a sympatico relationship --- a pair of testosterone cowboys, one blue, one red, in love with their images as tough guys who take no shit. Bush saw in Kerik the man he now believes he is --- self-made, salt of the earth, leader of men, killer of bad guys. The empty frat boy and the crooked bureaucrat teamed up as adventure heroes.

The minute I read about this I knew that this had been a case of Bush saying "I take the man at his word, Alberto, now make it happen." This wasn't sloppy vetting. It was Junior issuing an edict based upon his vaunted "gut" with the predictable result. And I have no doubt that rather than blame himself for this mess, the Preznit blames Kerik for not being the man that Bush wanted him to be and blames the others for being right. (And I imagine that Bush will stick with Rumsfeld no matter what for the simple reason that so many want him out. That's the way dumb megalomaniacs think.)

This is the big story of the second term. Bush himself is now completely in charge. He did what his old man couldn't do. He has been freed of all constraints, all humility and all sense of proportion. Nobody can run him, not Cheney, not Condi, not Card. He has a sense of his power that he didn't have before. You can see it. From now on nobody can tell him nothin. It makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up, doesn't it?

There's A Reason It's Called The Third Rail

Josh Marshall offers some excellent advice on where to go (and where not to go) with this social security debate. I would imagine that we will all have a lot to say about this in the next few months, but I would like to offer one small observation right now.

It is true that the president is lying about the crisis and about his solution, but that is a very complicated point to make to the public, particularly in the media climate in which "A Barney Christmas" is shown on a loop. We are right to formulate the argument for those occasions when we are dealing with people who are really interested in the details, but we should not make the mistake of thinking that reason is going to win this fight. This fight will be won on emotion.

The Republicans have been planting these seeds for a long, long time. They have been saying for decades that Social Security was going broke. This is what they do. They create a slogan then they wash rinse and repeat again and again if need be to instill a sense of CW about the issues they care about. They have slowly built the sense of crisis where one does not exist and now that they have President Reckless in the White House they are going to see if they can get away with taking action.

The main question that needs to be asked and answered is why and I think it's clear that they have sown the seed of "crisis" for many years simply because they want to destroy social security. And the good news for us is that that meme has been in the body politic for far longer than the social security "crisis," (which is why they were forced to dress this thing up as reform in the first place.)

They want to destroy social security. They voted against it in 1935 and they have been trying to figure out a way to get rid of it ever since. The Republicans do not believe that we should have a safety net for old people. They never have.

Don't get bogged down in details, just repeat, repeat, repeat. They do not believe that the government should provide all Americans with a small guaranteed income when they are unable to work due to old age or debilitating illness. They never have. The Republicans want to destroy social security.

My grandfather used to believe that back in the 60's and it's still true today. He believed it because people like Ronald Reagan were saying back then that social security was a bad deal:

But we're against those entrusted with this program when they practice deception regarding its fiscal shortcomings, when they charge that any criticism of the program means that we want to end payments to those people who depend on them for a livelihood. They've called it "insurance" to us in a hundred million pieces of literature. But then they appeared before the Supreme Court and they testified it was a welfare program. They only use the term "insurance" to sell it to the people. And they said Social Security dues are a tax for the general use of the government, and the government has used that tax. There is no fund, because Robert Byers, the actuarial head, appeared before a congressional committee and admitted that Social Security as of this moment is 298 billion dollars in the hole. But he said there should be no cause for worry because as long as they have the power to tax, they could always take away from the people whatever they needed to bail them out of trouble. And they're doing just that.

A young man, 21 years of age, working at an average salary -- his Social Security contribution would, in the open market, buy him an insurance policy that would guarantee 220 dollars a month at age 65. The government promises 127. He could live it up until he's 31 and then take out a policy that would pay more than Social Security. Now are we so lacking in business sense that we can't put this program on a sound basis, so that people who do require those payments will find they can get them when they're due -- that the cupboard isn't bare?

That was forty years ago. Later, in the 1980's, Ronald Reagan's indiscreet budget director David Stockman admitted that the purpose of ginning up the social security crisis was "to permit the politicians to make it look like they are doing something for the beneficiary population when they are doing something to it, which they normally would not have the courage to undertake." And then with masterful chutzpah, considering his famous "Choice" speech from 1964 excerpted above, Ronnie then went on to use the so-called "looming" SS crisis to great effect --- he flogged the GOP contention that the program was insolvent (as they'd been doing for fifty years) and also raised the payroll taxes which they immediately raided to cover their budget deficit. And now, lo and behold, we are "in crisis" again. Imagine that. Brilliant.

It's been the same old crap forever. But unlike today, the Democrats of 1964 were willing to fight fire with fire on these issues and they had absolutely no problem depicting the Republicans as wanting to throw old people out on the ice flow as an illustration of their true intent on social security. (Rick Perlstein's "Before The Storm" is indispensible for an understanding of the politics of that era.) It's true that Goldwater never said that he wanted to destroy social security, but Lyndon Johnson had no problem accusing him of it. And the fact is that he, like all wingnuts, have always wanted to destroy it. He was a hero of the John Birch Society and the destruction of social security was always right up there with the abolition of the graduated income tax, the impeachment of various high government officials, the end to busing for the purpose of school integration and the end to U.S. membership in the United Nations. (Hmmmmm)

"Republicans want to destroy Social Security" has been in our civic bloodstream for a lot longer than "private accounts." Every citizen over 45 has heard it a million times. Let's wake it up and put it to work. Demagogue the motherfucker, just like LBJ did. That's what they would do. That's what we used to do. I'm sorry we don't live in a wonderful era of reason and good will but we don't. The Republicans have always wanted to destroy social security and they have always said that it was running out of money and that it was a bad deal for the average worker. And they have always been wrong. We need to remind America about that.

Update: Liberal Oasis thinks that Marshall is wrong to say that we shouldn't argue that the Wall Street fat cats will benefit from this new scheme and I think he's right in that it is a useful piece of the populist argument. However, I don't think as he does that it goes to motive as powerfully as the argument that "they just don't believe in it, they never have." Their motive for destroying social security is that it puts the lie to their contention that government can't be trusted to do any positive social good. They are wrong and social security proves it. That's why they must create the lie that it won't work even while it's clearly working. As the quotes above prove, they've been crying wolf for decades and yet the program continues to provide millions of old and disabled people a bare minimum of income when they are past their working years and it will continue to be funded, fairly painlessly, for at least another forty years. It's very existence is a slap in the face to the Republican philosophy. That's why they must destroy it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004


Martin Frost was just on Fox, making his case for Democratic Chairman. He didn't jump to the bait about "the left" and merely made the point that the country is somewhere in the middle. He pointed out that the Democrats were actually more serious about fighting terrorism --- that we had proposed the Homeland Security department and 9/11 commission and the president had opposed them. He's not my choice, but at least he didn't say that we should start some Stalinesque purges in the party.

The FOX whore switched on his robotic talking points at the appropriate moment, interrupting Frost's litany of Democratic responses to terrorism with the required smirk, asking Frost how he explained the presence of Michael Moore at the Democratic convention?

Frost, like all Democrats, seems stymied by this and I don't know why. Democrats should just laugh and reply, "Oh come on. Republicans having the vapors over Michael Moore just makes me laugh. There are plenty of provocative Republican media personalities making tons and tons of money saying shocking things. Rush Limbaugh said that Abu Ghraib was a harmless college prank. Ann Coulter said that the terrorists should have blown up the NY Times. I could go on."

"But they aren't invited to sit with former presidents at the Democratic convention!"

"Nope. The sitting Vice President himself appears on Limbaugh's show."

This fuss about Michael Moore is useful to us. We can use this to point out the nutty eliminationist rhetoric on the part of their guys. From now on nobody should ever mention Michael Moore without getting a Rush Limbaugh anecdote in return. They are both partisan media personalities and if they are going to trot out Moore as being the personification of left wing "moonbattery", it's a great opportunity to draw a comparison to the wild-eyed wingnuts of the right and perhaps bring them back into the realm of crazy aunts in the attic. That reduces their power. Gotta chip away at the Wurlitzer every way we can.

Of course, that means that Democrats have to be prepared before they speak to the media. Never mind.

A Barney Christmas

Am I crazy or does this stultifying Barney video go on longer than Titanic?

I thought it was aimed at kids but CNN just informed me that this is the White House's gift to the entire country for Christmas. I shouldn't be surprised. Only an infantile electorate could have elected such an infantile president.

We Must destroy The Planet Because We Love The Poor

Creative Class Warms to Climate Change

Discussions on climate change are at an impasse. Some of those who fret about man-made emissions of greenhouse gases claim it's a threat that trumps all others, including terrorism. Others argue that we have more pressing concerns, such as the developing world's dehumanizing poverty and disease.

So the people who dispute the science of Global Warming do so because they are concerned about the more pressing concerns of poverty and disease. Uh Huh. Of course, they have faith that if they just do exactly what they want, the magical market will solve everybody's problems and we can all live happily ever after rolling around in our thousand dollar bills. Clap Your Hands!

At some level, science probably will never resolve what to do about global warming. Climate change is complex, with scores of variables and time-frame considerations of decades and even centuries. Both sides have substantial data that support their points of view. Both sides also believe that to the extent the science is "settled," it's settled in ways that undergird their respective policy prescriptions.

But science is inherently descriptive, not prescriptive. It can only inform us about the likely consequences of actions. It doesn't tell us — and shouldn't tell us — if those actions should be taken. That arena is reserved for politics, where moral judgments and philosophical views matter alongside scientific truth. Morality and philosophy are often best examined and illustrated not through scientific discourse but through narratives, theology and storytelling.

Jesus H. Christ. These guys are not only rejecting the Enlightenment, they are laying the groundwork to consciously bring about another dark ages.

I'm telling you, we need to be concerned that people who think like this are operating heavy machinery. Let's examine the moral and philosophical dimensions of gravity, shall we? Or perhaps we should have some theologians weigh in on whether we should worry about bacteria.

There is, interestingly, one area in which they do not feel it necessary to discuss science in a philosophical, moral or, let's face it, Biblical sense. In fact they prefer not to discuss it in public at all if possible:

If the Bush administration succeeds in its determined but little-noticed push to develop a new generation of nuclear weapons, this sun-baked desert flatland 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas could once again reverberate with the ground-shaking thumps of nuclear explosions that used to be common here.

But "Icecap," the test of a bomb 10 times the size of the one that devastated the Japanese city of Hiroshima in 1945, was halted when the first President Bush placed a moratorium on U.S. nuclear tests in October 1992. The voluntary test ban came two years after Russia stopped its nuclear tests.


Last year the White House released, to little publicity, the 2002 Nuclear Posture Review. That policy paper embraces the use of nuclear weapons in a first strike and on the battlefield; it also says a return to nuclear testing may soon be necessary. It was coupled with a request for $70 million to study and develop new types of nuclear weapons and to shorten the time it would take to test them.

I think that the real Republican agenda is to make liberals' heads explode trying to wrap our minds around the endless contradictions of the GOP position. It is a cunning plan and one that I fear is working only too well.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The Only Award Worth Winning Is A...

Koufax Award

Even if you choose not to vote, go check it out for the great links to new blogs, underappreciated blogs and best post nominations. It's a treasure trove of great unsung lefty humor and insight.

UPDATE: While you're over there, put some $$$$ in the tip jar. It's costing the Wampum team big bucks to do this thing. This is a labor of love for the left blogosphere and we should give some of that love back.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Tie It All Together

LiberalOasis catches the Democrats wising up:

Wouldn't ya just know it?

On the day LiberalOasis gets all mad at the Dems for not knowing how to fight, they go and do something smart.

From the AP:

[Sen.] Harry Reid said Monday his party will launch investigative hearings next year in response to what he said was the reluctance of Republicans to look into problems in the Bush administration.

"There are too many unasked and unanswered questions and the American public deserves better," the Nevada senator said...

...Sen. Byron Dorgan…said the first hearing will be at the end of January and he suggested it might focus on contract abuse in Iraq...

They said issues that "cry out" for closer investigation...include the administration's use of prewar intelligence and its reported effort to stifle information about the true cost of the new Medicare prescription drug benefit.

Reid also mentioned global warming and the "No Child Left Behind" education program as topics that needed a closer look.

In all likelihood, they recognized the great success Rep. Henry Waxman and his staff had publishing their own report on federally funded abstinence-only programs.

That showed how a minority party can make news and put the majority party on the defensive.

Now the key is to tie all of this corruption, misdirection and ineptitude into Bush's plan to destroy Social Security. I'm more and more convinced that this is not only necessary for its own sake, but will result in many other political rewards for the Democrats. Bush is a lame duck. He has far less political capital than he thinks he has. He's fucked up the War on terror and he knows it and this is his last big chance for a "positive" long term legacy. If we are able to stop him we may just show the American people that we have some guts after all and position ourselves for a big come back in 06 and 08.

The alternative is to allow him to destroy the most succesful social program in the history of this country, an act that will affect real human beings in our towns, neighborhoods and families. If SS isn't worth fighting for with everything we have then we truly are worthless.


Is there something about MSnbc that makes some writers particularly dumb about blogging? I just heard Chris Matthews say (as he does every night) "if you want to blog, go on over to Hardblogger at ..."

Then you have:

MSNBC - The Alpha Bloggers

The bloggers who follow technology consist of a particularly evolved community. The alphas, or "A-listers," as they call themselves, commonly cross-link to one another, with the effect of having one of their comments amplified and commented on.

Ooooh. You say these "A-listers" cross link one another? And then people comment on their comments? Wow. I can hardly wait until the rest of the blogosphere is as evolved.

In the tech conferences you can often spot them in person, clustering toward the wall so they can keep their laptops plugged in. No matter where they are, they maintain a running conversation with their unseen audience, which can be as big as 20,000 visitors on a good day.

If that's a good day then these "A-listers" are a bunch of punks. Atrios and Kos get that in an hour.

There is, of course, plenty of blog action in the tech sector but it is a tiny specialized corner compared to the much more highly evolved political blogosphere. But then, Newsweek probably thinks that Chris Matthews is a real blogger. Or rather they think that anyone reading Chris Matthews' "blog" is a blogger.