"Joy and pleasure are as real as pain and sorrow and one must learn what they have to teach. . . ." -- Sean Russell, from Gatherer of Clouds

"If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." -- Helyn D. Goldenberg

"I love you and I'm not afraid." -- Evanescence, "My Last Breath"

“If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I’m going to get angry.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings

Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Power Hungry:

This is what we've bought for ourselves:

The office of Vice President Dick Cheney routinely reviews pieces of legislation before they reach the president's desk, searching for provisions that Cheney believes would infringe on presidential power, according to former White House and Justice Department officials.

The officials said Cheney's legal adviser and chief of staff, David Addington , is the Bush administration's leading architect of the ``signing statements" the president has appended to more than 750 laws. The statements assert the president's right to ignore the laws because they conflict with his interpretation of the Constitution.

I need to check for the exact wording, but as I recall, the duties and responsibilities of the Executive under the Constitution do not include interpreting the laws. That is reserved for the courts.

Anyone have a take on this?

On Leave:

Given the sad spiral down in the news and the blogsphere lately, I'm thinking of taking some time off from Hunter at Random. If you want to know some of the reasons, check this piece of moronic trash (or anything else at Townhall), this piece from Andrew Sullivan on Joseph Niclosi, who should be behind bars, for life, no parole, and Fred Barnes, for whom maybe jail is too good; and this insanely blind piece on the Bush AIDS policy in Africa from Mr. Ivory Tower himself. (I honestly don't understand how Sullivan can go from praising Bush's AIDS policy to justly condemning the likes of Nicolosi and Barnes without a blip. Oh, well -- he does note in another post that he suffers from a certain degree of cognitivie dissonance. Apparently, he still isn't sure how pervasive it is.) Add in this comment from John Aravosis at AmericaBlog. I think he's really put his finger on a major problem with the MSM -- they don't want to deal with issues.

However, please note that there's always a light side, as witness this story about Roy Moore. (I promise you, this is not The Onion -- this is an actual news story.)

See ya -- after a little R&R.

Saturday, May 27, 2006


When the Press Has an Agenda:

Look at the primary results Eric Boehlert cites in response to John Dickerson's remarks about Al Gore "struggling" to defeat Bill Bradley in the primaries. Then read Dickerson's piece at Slate.

I don't pretend to have my ear to the ground on potential candidacies. I am, however, in touch with several different constituencies, and what I hear coming out of Washington is not what I hear on the Web.

I have a few problems with Dickerson's piece. First off, Dickerson is not notoriously pro-left, so anything he writes has to be taken with a couple pounds of salt. This paragraph is particularly telling:

Talk about the New Gore also builds upon a structural flaw of his last candidacy: Does he know his own mind? If what we're seeing now is the real Al Gore, why was he so easily swayed last time by advisers and pollsters bearing bad advice? If authenticity is just a political gambit, it's hardly authentic. The Old Gore vs. New Gore angle is likely to become a theme of the coverage if Gore runs. The press will remind us again and again about the 2000 campaign's earth-tone suits and the Great Dane kiss of Tipper at the convention and all the other inauthentic things he did to tailor his behavior to show people what he thought they wanted to see. The press will watch closely for signs of a relapse.

First, Dickerson is obviously playing to the unfortunate mantra that the American electorate doesn't really want to think about issues. Sound bites, photo ops, one sentence resolutions of the world's problems. Of course, Dickerson and journalists like him have contributed probably more than anyone else to this, but it works for them -- it sells papers. It also sells presidential candidates.

And, notice the corollary: a reasoned, "nuanced" analysis is "waffling," which the MSM gleefully picked up from Karl Rove's smear machine. They're still running with it. (My own feeling is that both Gore and Kerry were badly served by their advisers, who all should have been fired. Both men are much more savvy than they came across, but with the press after your ass, it's hard to get that across.)

The "authenticity" angle is a nice ironic touch. The press has touted one of the most bald-faced liars in recent history as "genuine" enough to boost him into the White House, but Dickerson is worried if Gore's "authenticity" is real. I hardly know what to say, except to note that he's already doing his part to frame the next presidential election. This strikes me as a serious problem with the press: they have too much invested at this point in molding public opinion, not enough invested in asking hard questions. The Fourth Estate has turned into another corporate giant -- it's marketing, not news.

This is even more apparent in the treatment of Hillary Clinton. It's not about Clinton's qualifications as a candidate, or whether she has a pragmatic approach to policy issues. It's about Bill. Take a look at this post by Atrios, taking on David Broder (who is on my permanent list of assholes). He cites this post by Christy Hardin Smith at Firedoglake, which is worth looking at in its entirety. But note this especially:

Here’s how it starts: plant a seed in the NYTimes, and then allow Chris Matthews to provide a little rain to get things going on Hardball. The next thing you know, all the kool kidz are talking about it around the corporate media water cooler. Then the Dean of All Things Acceptable in Washington Journalism comes out to watch it blossom as a rumor weed that we can all cherish from now until 2008, spreading its tendrils among the corporate press in print and on the teevee. And thus, the discussion of the Clinton bedding rituals begins, until this malarky is cemented as a given fact for all the world to know — whether or not it’s true, or even worth discussion at all.

Except for one thing: who the hell cares? I mean really, who cares? Except for the inside, gossip queens of the Beltway, how exactly does this put gas in someone’s tank, keep their kid safe on the battlefield, stop their job from being downsized, or help them pay the balloon payment on their already-ballooning mortgage? What in the hell are these people doing calling this crap "reporting?"

Just to sketch in how this sort of thing works, here's another post by Atrios on David Broder and his own private fantasy land, which you can now find in any major daily:

MR. RUSSERT: David Broder, is it possible for official Washington--the president, Democratic leaders, Republican leaders--to arrive at common ground, a consensus position on Iraq?

MR. DAVID BRODER: It's possible, Tim, but they won't get there by arguing about who did what three years ago. And this whole debate about whether there was just a mistake or misrepresentation or so on is, I think, from the public point of view largely irrelevant. The public's moved past that.

And, as pointed out at Tiny Revolution:

Just days after he said this, a New York Times poll found that 80% of Americans felt it was "very" (56%) or "somewhat" (24%) important for Congress to investigate Bush's use of intelligence on Iraq.

The establishment press is no more bound by reality than the Bush administration is. And, given that, it naturally follows that the issue for the next election is not going to be the failed Bush presidency, the various quagmires that he's led us into with full backing by Congressional Republicans, the jobless "recovery," the complete lack of preparedness for any homeland disaster, natural or man-made, cronyism and corruption in the Republican congress, the erosion of civil liberties, the accretion of power in the executive with the full cooperation of Frist and Hastert, or the endless stream of lies coming out of the White House on everything from Iraq to global warming. The issue will be Hillary Clinton's sex life, because David Broder said so.

And for this we can thank our independent press.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Looking Toward November

OK --

We've got the Flag-Burning Amendment, which passed the House and disappeared in the Senate (I think -- it tends to disappear every two years, shortly after it appears).

We've got the Immigration Bill, a reasonable form of which passed the Senate (I'm still in shock over actually agreeing with Bush on something, the difference being that I would actually implement it, minus the stupid fence), and an unreasonable form of which will pass the House (and probably die in the conference committee -- we've already seen pictures of Bush riding around in a Humvee. [What? No flight suit?] What's the point after that?).

We've got the FMA, due for a floor vote on June 6, after which it will disappear again, but not before Frist and Company get to whack the fags some more, with an assist from the Man On Dog Boy. (Who is still in trouble apparently, but we hear that he tends to come from behind. Honest -- his campaign manager actually said that.)

What did I forget?

Oh, right -- English as the Official Language. (Maybe we should hold off on that until native-born citizens actually learn to speak it, with better than 50% comprehension.)

There you have it, ladies and gentlemen: The Republican Platform. It's so much fun to see politicians doing handstands and making funny faces to amuse 30% of the population.

(Well, come on -- it's an election year. Pay no attention to that lobbyist behind the curtain.)

(Note: this is actually yesterday's post, but Blogger was having a fit.)

At Random, 5/26/06

Dennis Hastert, Defender of the Constitution:

From ABC News:

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, House Speaker Dennis Hastert is the No.1 individual recipient of money from Abramoff and his clients, with a total of $68,300 contributed to his campaign committee and leadership PAC from 1998 to 2004.

Here's an example of the kind of parsing at which Republican apologists excel when it's their guys under the gun. "It depends on what your definition of 'is' is." Note particularly the focus on the meaning of "in the mix," wondering just what that means. The title of the column? "It's All In the Mix." Andrew Sullivan, as usual, accepts this quite uncritically.

At any rate, I'm glad to see that Hastert has remembered that we have a Consitution. (See Wednesday for the money quote in that post.) From the WaPo article linked there:

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) expressed alarm at the raid. "The actions of the Justice Department in seeking and executing this warrant raise important Constitutional issues that go well beyond the specifics of this case," he said in a lengthy statement released last night.


Rep. John Murtha was soundly vilified when he made his statemetns on this incident. Y'know what? It's even worse.

Evidence indicates that the civilians were killed during a sustained sweep by a small group of marines that lasted three to five hours and included shootings of five men standing near a taxi at a checkpoint, and killings inside at least two homes that included women and children, officials said.

That evidence, described by Congressional, Pentagon and military officials briefed on the inquiry, suggested to one Congressional official that the killings were "methodical in nature."

. . .

Representative John Kline, a Minnesota Republican who is a retired Marine colonel, said that the allegations indicated that "this was not an accident. This was direct fire by marines at civilians." He added, "This was not an immediate response to an attack. This would be an atrocity."

John Murtha, of course, was just trying to score points. Somehow I don't see the inhabitants of Freeperland falling all over themselves to apologize.

This war was such a mistake from the get-go. But then, most of them are.

The Handmaid's Tale:

When the FDA makes decisions on the basis of politics, you start to wonder just where this country is going:

The last two appointees to head the FDA were closely involved in decisions to overrule the agency's medical reviewers and block the "morning-after" birth control pill from being sold without a prescription, according to court transcripts to be released today.

I think this might provide a key:

Woodcock, the mother of two teenage daughters, testified that McClellan's argument had struck her as reasonable: The easy availability of a "morning-after" pill might prompt some young teens to engage in risky sexual behavior.

Even though Woodcock is a senior official at FDA, she doesn't seem to understand the psychology of teenagers very well. They're going to do it because a) they won't get caught, because b) they're invulnerable and immortal and it can't happen to them. Something like the morning-after pill doesn't provide a motivation.

The Christianists, from the vantage of their own severely circumscribed world view and their appalling attitudes about human nature, will go for the dirtiest interpretation. Tell you anything?

OK, now tie this in with the Christianist war against the HPV vaccine that might save two or three thousand women's lives every year, the US government's gag orders on legitimate prevention methods for HIV (which it just got slapped down for in federal court, and I can't find a link to the story), the Pope's resistance to condoms for disease prevention, and the general assault on women's rights and everyone's personal liberty.

What do you have?

The Republican party. And, if you want to take it to the logical extreme, as does Andrew Sullivan, you have the real "Party of Death."

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

It's All Relative

The limits of executive power. From WaPo:

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales raised the possibility yesterday that New York Times journalists could be prosecuted for publishing classified information based on the outcome of the criminal investigation underway into leaks to the Times of data about the National Security Agency's surveillance of terrorist-related calls
between the United States and abroad.

It seems that the administration still thinks "terrorists" is the magic word. Michael Froomkin cited this:

A central question before the Committee is this: Should the United States criminally punish the press for publishing classified information? This inquiry poses a prospect unprecedented in American history. For more than 215 years, the United Stateshas managed to flourish in the absence of any federal legislation directly
prohibiting the press from publishing government secrets. The absence of such legislation is no accident. It clearly fulfills the promise of the First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom . . . of the press."

The fuss is about the NSA spying on American citizens on American soil. Government spokesperson have repeatedly stressed that the agency is merely looking at patterns of usage and all identifying information is stripped from the records.

However, read this. (Here's a link to an html version at Wired):

In 2003 AT&T built "secret rooms" hidden deep in the bowels of its central offices in various cities, housing computer gear for a government spy operation which taps into the company's popular WorldNet service and the entire internet. These installations enable the government to look at every individual message on the internet and analyze exactly what people are doing. Documents showing the hardwire installation in San Francisco suggest that there are similar locations being installed in numerous other cities.

The physical arrangement, the timing of its construction, the government-imposed secrecy surrounding it and other factors all strongly suggest that its origins are rooted in the Defense Department's Total Information Awareness (TIA) program which brought forth vigorous protests from defenders of constitutionally protected civil liberties last year:

"As the director of the effort, Vice Adm. John M. Poindexter, has described the system in Pentagon documents and in speeches, it will provide intelligence analysts and law enforcement officials with instant access to information from internet mail and calling records to credit card and banking transactions and travel documents, without a search warrant." The New York Times, 9 November 2002

Strange how priorities can change: if it's a Congressman's office being raided, we get a somewhat stronger reaction from people like Dennis Hastert:

"Insofar as I am aware, since the founding of our Republic 219 years ago, the Justice Department has never found it necessary to do what it did Saturday night, crossing this Separation of Powers line, in order to successfully prosecute corruption by Members of Congress," he said. "Nothing I have learned in the last 48 hours leads me to believe that there was any necessity to change the precedent established over those 219 years."

To repeat a comment of my own made elsewhere, I guess you either 1) ignore corruption in Congress (to some people, I'm sure this is the preferred response), or 2) you find some way to investigate while maintaining Constitutional guarantees. For some people.

On the Lighter Side:

The things that scroll across my screen in the morning:

Even though many calls don't fall within what police normally do, officers still respond to complaints of loitering ducks and children who won't mind their parents.

Actually, if you will remember, we had a duck in Chicago recently that was not only loitering, but soliciting. I don't think anyone called the police, though.

It's all about balanced coverage.

Bye. . . .

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Another Marriage Blog

The nutfudges, in the form of Peter "Boys' Night Out" LaBarbera's Illinois Family Institute and its allies, have turned in their petitions for an advisory referendum on a same-sex marriage amendment to the Illinois Constitution. (More than required by law, but far short of the half-million they were aiming for.) Two amendments introduced in the Legislature have died in committee, and polls consistently show that 70% of Illinois voters are against amending the constitution on this issue. (That's about the same percentage that voted against the wingnuts' "values" candidate, Alan Keyes, in the last Senate election.)

Anyone but LaBarbera would figure it out. He doesn't quite get that foaming-at-the-mouth bigotry doesn't play here since the days of the late and not particularly lamented Penny Pullen. He also thinks that people are buying his description of his trips to leather bars as "for research." Mmmm, yeah. OK.

Opponents of the referendum are, of course, getting ready to review and check the signatures. Considering the record of fraud on signature gathering in Massachusetts, Arizona, and California, it's probably a good idea. If you're in Illinois and want to volunteer, contact Equality Illinois. You can sign up by emailing fairillinois@yahoo.com or call Equality Illinois at (773) 477-7173 or (888) 434-7888.

Immigration, Part II

From column by Vox Day, who, for those not familiar with his screeds, bills himself as a "Christian libertarian" (get it? Vox Dei? In my day we called it "hubris."), and is a member of, among other things, MENSA. (I knew there was a reason I never joined. Brains don't equal sanity.)

The paragraph as now posted:

It couldn't possibly take more than eight years to deport 12 million illegal aliens, many of whom don't speak English and are not integrated into American society. In fact, the hysterical response to the post-rally enforcement rumors tends to indicate that the mere announcement of a massive deportation program would probably cause a third of that 12 million to depart for points south within a week.

The paragraph as repoted by Crooks and Liars and Digby:

"Not only will it work, but one can easily estimate how long it would take. If it took the Germans less than four years to rid themselves of 6 million Jews, many of whom spoke German and were fully integrated into German society, it couldn't possibly take more than eight years to deport 12 million illegal aliens, many of whom don't speak English and are not integrated into American society"

Granted, this is WingNutDaily, but it's now on the table. In case you're about to do the "mountain/molehill" thing at me, let me remind you about this post:

Podhoretz and Derbyshire were engaged in a vigorous debate over whether it makes sense for America to preserve its ethnic composition.

There are also John Gibson's remarks, which I don't have a link for, but his "retraction" is hysterical. Here's a transcript from Media Matters:

My concern was simply that I didn't want America to become Europe, where the birth rate is so low the continent is fast being populated by immigrants, mainly from Muslim countries, whose birth rate is very high. That fact was coupled with a news item that said half of all babies in America under five are minorities and the majority of those are Hispanic.

I love it when I don't even have to comment. I just need to let them speak for themselves.

Ned Lamont

has forced a primary in Connecticut. Joe Lieberman is about to experience payback for being Bush's favorite Democrat.

Does anyone think this will wake Lieberman up?

Not anyone here.

It's not just anti-war stuff. Read this post by Digby.

There was a time when a vital center coalition existed in the Senate, where there was room on both sides for trading votes across party lines. The Republicans destroyed that coalition and Liebermann, inexplicably, doesn't seem to get that. Even worse, when the shit comes down, he inevitably sides with them. Many Democrats took a long time to learn the harsh lessons of GOP political hardball and had to lose to a bunch of thuggish right-wingers before they began to recognise what they were up against. Lieberman still refuses to accept the fact that his high minded centrism is a weapon in the hands of the radical Republicans.

At Random, 5/20/06


There, you see? The problem is solved.


Sullivan on McCain's fence-straddling:

From Rich Lowry's account, it seems as if he was subjected to the usual leftist incivility. Too bad. If the left cannot respect McCain, they cannot respect anyone who differs from them. I'd also add the following. It seems significant to me that McCain has given two commencement speeches - at the far right Liberty University and the p.c. left New School. His choice of venues is in itself a statement. He intends to be a uniter, not a divider. Unlike the current president.

Sorry -- there is just so much wrong with this post that it's hard to know where to start. Rich Lowry, of course, is an unimpeachable source. (Ahem.) It actually sounds as though the heckling was fairly light, but that won't do if we're out to demonize "leftists." (Again.) Considering Sullivan's ongoing broils with the folks at NRO, the comment about "not respecting anyone who differs with them" is just too funny. There is, of course, the possibility that McCain intends to be a uniter. There's also the possibility that, after selling his soul to Bush in 2004, he figures he might as well go for broke.

Another Slap on the Wrist:

Well. Benedict finally "disciplined" an abusive priest. The story at WaPo is a bit more informative than the Vatican's statement.. Also see Andre Sullivan's post and his comments about Richard John Neuhaus' statements on the case. (I've discussed Neuhaus before on this blog. He's an apologist, not a journalist or serious thinker, in my opinion. He would be a good press secretary for Bush.)

Mary Cheney:

I suppose I ought to say something about Mary Cheney, since everyone else has. OK. There. I said something about Mary Cheney. (Read Scoot's post. I don't really have anything to add.)

Damned Activist Judges!

And what response did you expect?.

The Perfect Finish:

I like stories like this.

On a Friday night in Yarmouth this June, Const. Jason Tree and Const. David Connors will don their scarlet dress uniforms, stand before family, friends and co-workers and wed in the first same-sex marriage in the RCMP’s storied history.

Later. . . .

Friday, May 19, 2006


Just lost today's post. (Not Blogger's fault.)

So here's a little Ben story:

Last Thursday it rained all day. All. Day.

Ben has gotten used to having a little bit of a constitutional in the back yard. Ben doesn't particularly like getting wet. The first try was, apparently, not entirely satisfactory, but we went back inside anyway. Fifteen minutes later, Ben thought we should try again. Still raining. That earned me a dirty look. We went back inside. Fifteen minutes later, Ben thought we should try again. Another dirty look. Back inside.

This was the pattern for the day.

Anybody want a cat? I have an extra.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Next Teapot

This is unbelievable. Jonah Goldberg responding to Andrew Sullivan has once again completely missed the point, as witnessed by his uncritical stance on the e-mail in this post.

Money quote, as Andrew would say:

Podhoretz and Derbyshire were engaged in a vigorous debate over whether it makes sense for America to preserve its ethnic composition.

And what, pray tell, is America's "ethnic composition"? Scots-Irish? Western European? Pan-European? What about the original inhabitants? Which wave of immigration, willing or forced, European, African, Asian, South American, gets included?

If anything is more revealing of a deep-seated racist bias, I can't imagine what it would be.

(sigh. . . .)

Jane Galt (whose real name I knew once and have forgotten) is still trying to find rational reasons against gay marriage. It's quite obvious at this point that she has an emotional attachment to the status quo, or merely an ideological bump. Why doesn't she just get over it? Same-sex marriage will become legal when the country decides it should be legal, probably after a lot more yelling and screaming, more court cases, more elections, more referendums, until we finally hammer out some sort of consensus.

And then everyone will wonder what all the fuss was about.


I've just started reading the late Octavia Butler's The Parable of the Sower and The Parable of the Talents, which depict an America gone insane -- broken, desperate, in the midst of an apocalypse of our own making.

And this morning I ran across these stories on Pam's House Blend, about John Gibson's comments on Fox News, Michael Savage's recent comments on his show, and a post by John Derbyshire (although I'm convinced Derbyshire's piece has to be an audition for The Onion), via Andrew Sullivan.

Then I saw this news story:

Bush's speech Monday night is intended to build support for broad immigration overhaul by taking substantive steps to secure the border. His focus on the military echoes statements he made after Hurricane Katrina, saying the military may need to play a stronger role in disasters. He also later suggested he would consider using the military to enforce a quarantine in the event of a bird flu pandemic.

"We need to beef up those (border) operations and the cost will be substantial," said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, in an interview. "People are just not going to accept comprehensive immigration reform unless they are assured the government is going to secure the border. People have lost confidence in the federal government because they simply haven't addressed this in a dramatic and effective way."

Paul McHale, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense, asked officials earlier this week to offer options for the use of military resources and troops - particularly the National Guard - along the border with Mexico, according to defense officials familiar with the discussions.

Cornyn said state officials are also looking for more unmanned aircraft, ground sensors, surveillance cameras and military training to help with border patrols.

I really think everyone -- right, left and center -- should read these books. Just so you know what's coming. (OK -- I'm too optimistic to believe we're really going right down the toilet -- until I think back over the past five or ten years, about the growing influence of demagogues like Falwell, Robertson, Dobson, Sheldon, and their ilk, and the fact that a majority of Americans think that it's OK for the government to be spying on us, and stuff like that. Then I wonder.)

Go ahead. Have nightmares. Someone needs to.

Green City Update

It's no secret that I think Chicago is special, although sometimes not in ways that you might expect. I was down at the office yesterday and stepped outside for a tobacco break to see a mallard duck on the corner, panhandling. A woman had just stepped out of the White Hen Pantry with her lunch, and the duck was at her feet, looking up. He's one of a pair, I think, that have designated the fountain at the AMA Building across the street as a favorite resting place. This one managed to freak out a couple of pedestrians and tie up traffice for about ten minutes -- even bus drivers were careful to avoid him. I suspect they're nesting somewhere near by.

I'm reminded of something that happened a few years ago. There were stories in all the local news outlets about the traffic monitors on Michigan Avenue during morning rush hour holding traffic so a female mallard and her brood could cross the street. Probably on their way to the river for a swim.

Chicago's like that.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

War of the Midgets

OK -- anyone who reads this blog even sporadically will know that I think the Christianists are the worst threat this country faces. Andrew Sullivan, while he seems to agree with me, is much too gentle with them. This post is one of his strongest, but I'm puzzled by this statement:

They certainly have developed an arsenal of arguments and a body of thought to back them up.

I have to confess, while I don't spend a lot of time reading Christianist apologetics, I do try to keep abreast of what they're saying, and frankly, I haven't seen anything I can characterize as a "body of thought."

Ponnoru's article, cited by Sullivan, is a case in point. It doesn't deal with the issues that Sullivan raises, but only nitpicks Sullivan's arguments, largely by citing Sullivan's "inconsistencies" over time regarding the role of religion in public life. The dodge here is that Ponnoru (who has never really impressed me as a thinker to begin with) says the legitimate use of "Christianist" has to be limited to Christian reconstructionists, i.e., those who think that Biblical law should become the law of the land. It's a false distinction. The Christianist arguments all revolve around the idea that there is no legitimacy to a secular state, which is what we live in. Sullivan has made the point several times that secularism is the best possible context in which to allow religious freedom, and, indeed, is the fundamental principle underlying our freedoms to begin with. The Christianist stance runs all the way from the arrant nonsense of such as Roy Moore claiming that our legal system is founded on Biblical princples, so easily refuted that I won't bother in this post, to such as Clarence Thomas asserting in his Senate hearings that he believed in a "higher law" than the U.S. Constitution. (And he was still confirmed. We should have realized right then that the Senate is a waste of time.)


If people who share Sullivan’s views (circa today) adopt "Christianist" more widely, it will become clear before too terribly long that it merely refers to Christians who support school prayer, oppose abortion, etc.

Another dodge. It's not a matter of "supporting" school prayer, etc., but of subverting the political process in order to make their religious beliefs paramount as the basis for law. Now, Ponnoru may just not get it -- in fact, I wouldn't be surprised, because, all lefty canards aside, the right-wing conservative Christians just don't seem to be able to deal with that particular reality in American life: their private beliefs are not the guiding principle in public law. American law is a matter of compromise, which is the one thing that the Christianists uniformly reject.

Hewitt's rejoinder is even weaker -- pure ad hominem from the first sentence. And just as essentially dishonest as every other "argument" I've seen from these people:

[H]e declaims about the "Christianist view that religious faith is so important that it must also have a precise political agenda. It is the belief that religion dictates politics and that politics should dictate the laws for everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike."

Who, exactly, believes such a thing? Sullivan names no names. He mentiuons Delay and Limbaugh, but far enough removed from this description as to have deniability. When Sullivan gives us a definition of Christinism backed up by a list of say, 25 prominent Christianists and data to prove it, then he will have made an argument. Until then he's just spitting out venom.

I can't come up with 25 right off the top of my head, but we can start with Clarence Thomas, Rick Santorum, John Ashcroft, Antonin Scalia, Bill Frist, Marilyn Musgrove, Sam Brownback (to name only a few of those who hold, or who have held recently, public office), and then the list degenerates to the likes of Donald and Tim Wildmon, Lou Sheldon, Ralph Reed, Phyllis Schlafly (without forgetting, of course, those stalwarts of lunacy Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and Fred Phelps), all of whom have far more influence on American public policy than they deserve. (With the exception of Phelps, but I won't pass up an opportunity to link him with his fellow travelers, much as they might hate the idea of public association.)

The point that Sullivan doesn't make (at least not in this post, and I don't know that he's ever even referred to it except possibly in passing) is that this philosophy, if we can dignify it by that term, is diametrically opposed to the fundamental principles of America. We are a secular, representative democracy, our laws are promulgated on the basis of the greatest good for the greatest number (another princple that seems to have diminished in importance in the past five years), they must have a rational basis, religion is seen as a private affair which the government may neither sponsor (in particular) nor inhibit, our government is composed of three branches with the responsibility of keeping an eye on each other (which is why I favor having Congress under the control of one party and the Executive under the control of the other). It's quite obvious from the tone and phrasing of their arguments that the Christianists don't believe in this kind of society.

Topics such as abortion, same-sex marriage, stem cell research, assisted suicide are all part of public debate at this point. That doesn't mean letters to the editor. That means campaigning on the issues, voting on the issues, legislation which may or may not stand up to challenge, the resulting court cases -- these are all part of the process of American law. This is what the Christianists want to subvert.

Hewitt concludes, referring to Sulllivan:

There is no defending this poison. Only a hit and run column will do.

Yeah, well. . . . I am continually amazed at the things that wingers will say with a straight face.

One thing Sullivan says that I question:

Islam begins with far lesser appreciation for individual liberty than Christianity.

Mmmm. . . . Both are hierarchical religions based on received truths. Both have a history of intellectual inquiry (alas, not much in evidence today), and Islam, as nearly as I can recall from my admittedly sketchy acquaintance with its history, has in the past had a less authoritarian reaction to "heresy." (Not that it hasn't reacted, but I don't seem to remember a lot in the way of burnings at the stake, etc. Before now, of course.) Both are essentially authoritarian -- Christianity more so than Islam, it seems to me -- no one seems to be willing to come right out and say, "Well, you're free to ignore the Pope," even though you are. And both seem to be, in practice, essentially hypocritical, perhaps the natural result of holding frail humanity to an impossible standard.

That said, when it comes right down to it, Sullivan is a lot more persuasive than either Ponnoru or Hewitt. (I see where Hewitt gets his reputation as a brain-damaged fucktard. [Granted, he's not in the class of Michelle Malkin or John Hinderaker, but still. . . .] Excuse me, this is supposed to be an argument!?)

Of course, a lot of this is navel-gazing, but we're dealing with East Coast intellectuals here. (I doubt that anyone who wasn't a navel-gazer would consider either Ponnoru's or Hewitt's screeds as part of "a body of thought.")

If my fellow citizens want to go to hell I will help them. It's my job. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Later. . . .

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


The new move by the anti-sex Christianists is against a vaccine for cervical cancer.

Tristero, at Hullbaloo, has this to say:

According to the current Discover Magazine (not yet on line) this could potentially save 2,500 lives. As Alan Kaye of the National Cervical Cancer Coaltion says in the article, "How could we deny our children and grandchildren a win against cancer...Why should we?"

. . .

Hal Wallace, head of the anti-fucking activist group that's deliberately mislabeleld as"Physicians Consortium," believes that vaccinating an 11 year-old girl against cervical cancer would send a message "that you just take this shot and you can be as sexually promiscuous as you want." And the equally loony Family Research Council (James Dobson's band of self-righteous prigs) says "it would oppose any measures to legally require vaccination."

From Wayne Besen:

What they are trying to do is sinister and downright evil. They want women to die from the HPV virus because they are opposed to vaccination. They want women to unnecessarily get pregnant by opposing Plan B - the morning after pill. And they want gay and straight single people to die if they have sex, by misleading Americans on the effectiveness of condoms and pushing ineffective abstinence-only programs.

Just remember, human life is sacred. Warped ideas of morality are even more sacred -- better that women should die than not be punished for the mere possibility of having sex outside marriage. (And, by the way, there is no evidence that administering this vaccine would change behavior.)

One wonders what the reaction would be if there were a vaccine for testicular cancer that should be administered to boys at the beginning of puberty for greatest effectiveness. Any guesses?

Draw your own conclusions.

Market Pressures

Army recruiting today:

Tracking by the Pentagon shows that complaints about recruiting improprieties are on pace to again reach record highs set in 2003 and 2004. Both the active Army and Reserve missed recruiting targets last year, and reports of recruiting abuses continue from across the country.

A family in Ohio reported that its mentally ill son was signed up, despite rules banning such enlistments and the fact that records about his illness were readily available.

In Houston, a recruiter warned a potential enlistee that if he backed out of a meeting he'd be arrested.

And in Colorado, a high school student working undercover told recruiters he'd dropped out and had a drug problem. The recruiter told the boy to fake a diploma and buy a product to help him beat a drug test.

Someone characterized this as one bad apple. Sorry -- the article says that the Pentagon has had to investigate more than 5% of its recruiters for abuses. Considering what it takes to get the Pentagon to investigate itself, I'd say that's pretty significant, although there's no telling what the real figures are.

But if they kids are gay, forget it.

(Hat tip to AmericaBlog)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

King and King: A Controversy

This case, as reported in the Boston Globe, has generated some interesting discussions.

At the center of a federal lawsuit filed last week by two sets of Lexington parents over the discussion of homosexuality in public elementary schools is the question: Do parents or public schools have the final say in deciding what morals, values, and principles should be taught to children, and at what age should those lessons take place?

From Ann Althouse:

The more serious question is not the legal one, but a matter of policy: Should schools do more to accommodate parents with traditional values?

Before I saw Althouse's post, I started a discussion at Epinions Addicts, which in turn led to these two ("What Is The Standard?" and "How Much Power Should Parents Have?"). It's worth noting that the discussions in EA include everyone from evangelical Christians to atheists.

The debate seems to return to statements that just miss the core issues. One of the major ones, and the linchpin of the Massachusetts case, is "values." I think that word should be banned from rational discourse -- send it back to the fundie "think tanks" where it belongs. It no longer has any meaning, if it did to start with. In this particular instance, "marriage is between a man and a woman" is not a "value." In and of itself, it's a recipe for a 50% divorce rate. "Values" is used to describe whatever the speaker supports or believes, without reference to larger social ideals. (That lack of referent is core to the use of the term -- if the Christianists actually had to relate their "values" to our larger social ideals, everyone would see what slimy creeps they are.) (A footnote: just because someone sincerely believes something doesn't mean I have to ascribe it any weight. If it's going to have significance in my eyes, it has to have a basis somewhat more substantial than "I really believe this." I don't think I'm alone in this -- consider your own reaction the next time someone bases an argument on their beliefs. Chances are, you wind up just writing them off.)

There is a fair amount of sentiment expressed in these discussions that boils down to "I want the schools to teach my values," which translates simply as "the schools should be echoing my religious beliefs." No. I said it in one of these threads, and I repeat it here: teach your kids your beliefs yourself. That's not the schools' job.

My take, after following these discussions for a while, is much simpler -- which is perhaps why this conclusion has escaped so many people: schools, as part of their mandate, teach social values -- what are commonly known as "social norms" and "social ideals." Hard work, fair play, that sort of thing. In broad terms, these social ideals are embodied in the laws of a society, so that we have laws against stealing, lying (libel and slander), murder, and the like. Those activities violate our social norms. The norms and ideals, however, if a society is alive at all, are generally in flux, as is the case with social attitudes toward homosexuality in the US at present. In Massachusetts, gay relationships are on the same footing as straight relationships: legally recognized and socially supported (more or less). So if "Cinderella" is acceptable, "King and King" has to be acceptable.

Next thing that occurs to me, and the impetus for my original thread at EA, is the idea that teaching about gay relationships is somehow "sex education," as the parents in this case maintain. This, of course, fits in with the Christianist pattern: heterosexual relationships are about love and breeding (make your own decision about which is more important). Homosexual relationships are only about sex. It's just another way of dehumanizing the "other." Anyone who stops to think about it for more than five seconds is going to realize that gay people are people first. They fall in love, they want to spend their lives together, some of them even want to raise families. Just like real humans. (Yes, bigotry is a pernicious and subtle thing.) (It occurs to me that Christianists see human relationships purely in terms of sex anyway -- think about the whole procreation argument. So maybe it's not prejudice -- maybe everyone is just a sex machine.)

If parents really want to take responsibility for their children's education, they should be prepared to sit down and actually talk to the kids about what they believe and why they don't always agree with others. Maybe that's just asking too much.

There may be more on this later. I have a feeling the debate is not over.

Update, 5/10/06: The discussion at Ann Althouse is very interesting, and worth wading through. Even Paul Cameron has been dragged into the mix.

(An additional comment, subcategory: MSM: The Globe describes the Liberty Counsel as "a nonprofit litigation, education, and policy organization in Orlando, Fla., that is dedicated to advancing religious freedom and traditional family values." This is inaccurate, and merely parrots the Liberty Counsel's own press materials. The Liberty Counsel is a right-wing Christian supremacist group of lawyers who are busily filing lawsuits on every pretext they can find. Most of their suits seem to fail, if they ever come to trial. They do, however, have a lot of money.)

Monday, May 08, 2006

It's the Econoomy, Stupid

Great piece by Jared Bernstein for LA Times.

Two Funniest Things

at least, for the last week or so:

1. Sign carried by an anonymous protester: "Will someone please give Bush a blowjob so we can impeach him?"

2. Post by John Aravosis at AmericaBlog: "I once caught a fish that was THIS big."

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Reality, Substance, and the Right

The McGovern/Rumsfeld flap is turning out to be really interesting, not because someone stuck it to a liar (although in this day of tame news and administration Newspeak, that's noteworthy), but because the degree of reality in the responses from the right is nonexistent.

Jeff Goldstein, at Protein Wisdom, takes Andrew Sullivan to task for this post. True, it's a pathetic post, but Goldstein's agenda is not about Sullivan -- it's about discrediting McGovern. (Tbogg pretty much summarizes my feelings about Goldstein's comments.) He's bought and paid for the "McGovern is a nutfudge" mantra coming from such rational and impartial observers as Allahpundit, at Hot Air (and the name says enough, I think). This post, by the way, if full of conspiracy theories to explain the basis of McGovern's conspiracy theories (of which I've seen no firm evidence). Jacob Laksin, at Front Page, has the most clearly articulated version of this particular swiftboat episode -- unfortunately built on air. (And short on quotes, long on interpretation.) Of course, Little Green Footballs is in on the act, but I don't link to hate sites, so you'll have to find their comments yourself. (Oh, and Glenn Reynolds, at Instapundit, dutifully provides his support to the smear, with links). The one unifying factor, aside from the lockstep "save the chief" attitude, is projection: there's a lot of attacks against what they wish he had said. (Formally, a straw man argument.)

This all comes from the fact that McGovern noted once upon a time that our Middle East policy is inextricably entwined with Israel's foreign policy. Let's face it, the neocons in the DoD are so tied up with Israel that they've lost any sort of realistic perspective on the Middle East. Sure, it's in our interests to have Israel as a strong pro-West anchor in the Middle East, at least on the face of it. (And this holds true even though the USSR is history -- China, in particular, would love to have more influence in that area, for the same reasons we do.) That doesn't mean that our interests and Israel's interests are identical, or that Israel is always right. I'm not saying cut Israel loose, but there are a lot of other countries there. We had, in the last two decades of the twentieth century, some success with diplomacy in defusing some of the tensions and actually making some progress toward peace. In the last five years, we've managed to increase tensions in the region, turned Iran from a potential partner into an enemy, destroyed one of the two secular states in the region (the other being Turkey, which is now pretty nervous about the Kurds; granted that Saddam was a nightmare, but we really screwed up that whole operation), and have basically thrown away whatever diplomatic leverage we had. (The current state of affairs in Palestine doesn't really seem to have much to do with any of our efforts, and probably would have happened no matter what band of goons was in power in Washington.) Calling attention to all this does not make McGovern a loon, or even antisemitic. I don't see that he ever said that we were Israel's cat's-paw (although the degree of ineptitude shown in the whole lead-in to the Iraq debacle could certainly give that idea some credibility). Israel is such a kneejerk item among the neocons, however, and antisemitism such a raw nerve in the US in general, that it's pathetically easy to play that card without anyone looking past the hand on the table.

What it boils down to is same-old-same-old: McGovern attacked Rumsfeld's veracity (and Rumsfeld lied again in his response). The approved response is not to deal with the substance of the attack itself, but to smear McGovern.

Bring in the clowns.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Fed. Up.

Here's a fairly detailed article on the DNC's ouster of Donald Hitchcock after Hitchcock's partner, Paul Yandura, criticized the party on gay rights issues. Here's apost at AmericaBlog with Yandura's comments. Here's what Pam Spaulding has to say about it. Even Andrew Sullivan agrees, although he can't resist a little ad hominem at Dean. Andy Towle at towleroad has the same attitude: nobody believes this was not retaliation

And now, according to John Aravosis, the party wants us to stop being critical because of the upcoming elections.


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Marriage, Among Other Things

It's a topic that keeps coming up -- more on it at Andrew Sullivan this morning (actually, yesterday, I suppose -- I think Sullivan probably gets up later than I do [make that "recently" -- this post took a couple of days to finish]), Epinions Addicts, a few other places. I just wanted to make a few basic comments. ("First causes," remember?)

When I get someone going on and on about "traditional marriage," my first response is generally one simple question:

"Did your father-in-law accept payment in cattle or sheep?"

It's about property. It's always been about property. Sometimes property and politics, sometimes property and social status, sometimes property and property. It seems, however, that there has always been a transfer of property, of some sort. Even the "procreation" is about property: getting legitimate heirs (i.e., we all know who their father was) to inherit the property. It's still about property. Think about buying a house, retirement plans and beneficiaries, all the federal privileges of marriage -- they're all about property.

The motivations for getting married may have changed in the past hundred years or so, but the institution itself hasn't all that much -- except that wives and children are no longer property themselves, at least in the West.

A tangent off that "knowing who their father was" remark: Reading a very interesting book, a cultural history of the early modern period in the Ottoman Empire (Suraiya Faroqhi's Subjects of the Sultan), in which the author talks about the cultural role of women. As most places, aside from the upper segments of society, it's not very well documented, but there are some interesting things to note, particularly for any feminist Islam-bashers in the audience: women held property in their own right, and widows, in addition to a share of the estate (which went first to children, by the way), were due a sum of money on the death of their husband. They also went into business for themselves, sometimes because they inherited one, sometimes because they needed cash.

This is by way of noting another thing about marriage: if you want a good take on the role of women in "traditional" marriage, one need only read a little bit of history to realize that we think those times and places when women were allowed to own property and retain control of it when married worthy of comment. (Biblical Israel, as nearly as I can determine, was not one of those times or places.)

With this background, the religious pronouncements on the idea that the love between a woman and man is somehow more so than the love between a man and man, or woman and woman, strikes me as so much self-serving rhetoric. (But then, most of the pronouncements of most hierarchical religions strike me as self-serving rhetoric.) (The Christian Church, by the way, didn't even recognize marriage as a sacrament until the 11th or 12th century. So much for the idea of getting government out of marriage and leaving it to the churches. The government has a significantly prior claim.) The churches have a political aim here, which is perfectly aligned with their historic function as a means of social control.

So you see, once again the Christianists have perverted the whole idea. (For a take on just how successful the Christianists have been on the marriage front, see this post at Pam's House Blend.)

At Random, the Mini-series:

Law Day

I kid you not. The preznit proclaimed May 1 as "Law Day." The theme: "Liberty Under Law: Separate Branches, Balanced Powers."


This is the president who has stated his authority to ignore over 750 specific laws passed since he took office. That doesn't even count the ones passed before. See this piece by Charlie Savage from the Boston Globe:

President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution.

Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, ''whistle-blower" protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research.

Stephen Colbert

Pick your favorite lefty blog and you'll find some coverage of Colbert's performance at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner. Pick your favorite daily, and you probably won't (although Dan Froomkin did a piece at WaPo).

(Froomkin also provided the link for Charlie Savage's article. In fact, read Froomkin's whole column. Do it. This is not optional.)

Truth in Politics

An interesting observation from Freedom Camp:

Democrats don't have to avail themselves of dog-whistle politics precisely because, on the whole, their policy proposals are not cause for instinctual revulsion among most Americans. The left doesn't have to come up with euphemisms for eradicating HeadStart or decimating environmental protections; they are for providing tots with educational opportunities and keeping our water potable.

Later. . . .