Sunday, February 29, 2004

If thy hand offend thee…
Those bad Canadians are making fun of the Marriage Amendment.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, author of the Federal Marriage Amendment, plans to introduce companion legislation in Congress called the Federal Right-Handed Amendment in the near future.

"For too long, honest Americans have let left-handed people run roughshod over the majority, the right-thinking, right-handed Americans," said Musgrave, a Colorado Republican. "For instance, many of our public schools have been forced to waste precious funds on special left-handed desks. And left-handed people are always trying to trick us in baseball by batting from the wrong side of the plate."

Furthermore, the Bible itself contains more than 100 favorable references to the right hand and more than 20 unfavorable references to the left hand, Musgrave added. "Everyone knows that the left side is evil and the side of the Devil, while the right side is blessed by God and Jesus Christ," she said. "It's time we put an end to coddling these wicked left-handers."

The amendment would ban federal benefits such as Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare to Americans who "write, eat, bat, or do any major activity" with their left hand. People who are seen in public violating the law could also face arrest and up to a $10,000 fine and six months in prison.
According to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, 58 percent of Americans opposed a Constitutional amendment making it illegal to be left-handed. Some 30 percent supported the measure, while 10 percent were undecided and 2 percent "just don't care."

But a recent Fox News/Washington Times poll found that 110 percent of Americans supported the amendment and minus-10 percent opposed it. The "just don't care" option was not allowed in that poll, leading some experts to question its scientific validity.

There is more. Obviously these so-called “Canadians,” as they like to fashion themselves, are a dangerous terrorist fifth column on our continent even worse than unionized teachers. When will Bush and Ashcroft finally put an end to this horror.
Consequences of an amendment
I haven’t said much about the Marriage is for Heterosexual Couples Only Amendment. This is one of those issues that is hard for me to argue because 1) it is such a no-brainer and 2) so many others are doing such a good job of arguing it that my “me too” is completely unnecessary I suppose I should add 3) and it’s going to fail even without my help). Today, however, Atrios says something that finally makes me want to weigh in to expand on his point.

A lot has been said about the meaning of the phrase "legal incidences thereof" in the Musgrave text for the amendment. Defenders of the amendment say that doesn’t close the door on some kind of civil unions, but to most of us it’s clear that that is exactly the point of those words. No marriage and nothing even marriage-like, no matter what you call it.
But, the general point behind the poorly-worded description is, I believe, that such an amendment would potentially have the impact of not simply enshrining marriage rights discrimination into the constitution, but also opening the door to more widespread discrimination. The amendment as written forbids not just marriage, but the "legal incidences thereof." While many have rightly commented on the fact that this would also destroy any kind of Civil Union legislation, I fear it would be much more sweeping than that. At a first pass, it could easily be interpreted as wiping out any kind of domestic partnership benefits. It could open the door to striking down housing anti-discrimination statutes if one were to interpret "cohabitation" as one of the legal incidences of marriage. It could overturn adoption rights legislation. etc... etc...

Such vague wording as "legal incidences thereof" is a godsend to conservative social revolutionaries and their judicial allies. What are the "legal incidences thereof" that are denied to any but heterosexual married couples? Does this amendment make it lawful to discriminate against cohabitating couples? Singles? Will palimony be open to challenge? Singles adopting? As a non-breeding breeder couple, are my wife and I a real married couple? Will cats still be allowed to inherit? Does this amendment repeal the14th Amendment, which forbids states to "deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of its laws?" Only one of these questions is even slightly frivolous.

It’s almost impossible to overstate the importance of the federal constitution to our social, political, and legal lives. Any tinkering with it brings the wrath of the law of unintended consequences down upon our all our heads. But it’s even more scary when I think that these might not be unintended consequences; they might be very much intended.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Kids show lack of respect for really stupid adults
After watching from the sidelines as their schoolboard moved closer to adopting an Intelligent Design curriculum for their biology classes, the students of Darby, Montana’s only high school decided it was time for their voices to be heard. They would rather learn real science and they feel strongly about the matter. Approximately fifty students, one third of the student body, walked out of classes on Wednesday and held a protest in front of the school.
"Students really care what's going on in the school," said senior Aaron Lebowitz, who organized the protest. "(The school board) has been on their own track and haven't really listened to us."

Students were joined by one teacher and a handful of community members in their protest.

"The verbalization to the public has been from the school board but not the students and teachers," high school teacher Nathan Mentzer said.

Nearly 40 Darby High School students got permission from their parents to check out of school early and walked out expressing discontent of school board actions.

Trustees last month adopted a policy that calls for teachers to question evolution. The policy was brought to the board based on the idea to teach intelligent design theory - a biological origins theory that assumes there is a designer of the biological world but stops short of saying who or what that designer is.

Critics claim the theory is a guise to introduce creation science in the classroom.

The critics case seems to be well supported by the fact that school board’s legal defense is being provided by Allied Defense Fund, an organization founded in part by Campus Crusade for Christ and James Dobson’s Focus on the Family. Allied Defense Fund says its mission is to "keep the door open for the spread of the Gospel." I assume they mean the door to the school.
"Over the past few weeks, students have discussed the issue at length and formed opinions about intelligent design," Lebowitz said.

One sign read, "Creationism in a cheap tuxedo." And others called on people to go to church for creationism.

Lebowitz walked down the row of students asking individuals why they were there. Students strongly voiced concern about creationism being in science class and encouraged people to vote in the upcoming school board election.

Currently, students touch on evolution in life science class in seventh grade and then again in 10th-grade biology.

"But evolution is not shoved down our throats," he said. "I was pretty disturbed by the ignorance of our community about what we're really being taught."

Lebowitz carried a sign that read, "Strike against preaching pseudo science," and said he would have taken the risk of disciplinary action if his parents didn't let him check out of school.

Even when I was in high school at the height of the Viet Nam War and the Civil Rights Movement, I would not have believed it possible to turn out one third of the student body to demand quality education. As long as the public schools can turn out kids like this, the school system is doing just fine. Don’t believe the far right propaganda about our schools being failures that need to be replaced by voucher supported private (religious) schools. And as long as we have kids like Aaron Lebowitz and his cohort, civilization isn’t doomed quite yet.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Thanks, Mel
Whether or not Mel Gibson is an anti-Semite might still be an open question for some. In either case, his willingness to encourage a wave of anti-Semitic demagoguery just to promote his movie is despicable. He remains despicable whether his true agenda for pushing the movie is to make money, to promote his schismatic variety of Catholicism, or because he is a true believing anti-Semite. And, in all cases, the responsibility for this, lays squarely at his doorstep.
DENVER - A billboard unveiled on Ash Wednesday, the same day that a controversial movie depicting the last hours of Jesus Christ premiered, is sparking criticism from people of all faiths.

The large-size outdoor marquee, which sits on the property of the Lovingway United Pentecostal Church at Colorado and Mississippi, says, "Jews Killed The Lord Jesus" and the word "Settled!"

The Anti-Defamation League asked for the marquee to be changed because it is anti-Semitic, but the church only amended the billboard slightly by removing the word "settled" and attributing the line to biblical Scriptures.

Monday, February 23, 2004

What does this mean?
Ken Mehlman, Bush's campaign manager: "I don't know what [Nader's decision] means. I think ultimately we're focused on the president." Someone has announced that they are going to come gunning for his guy, but he isn’t sure what to think about it because he’s too busy staring worshipfully at his guy? Shouldn’t he be focused on the race? Shouldn’t he be sure what he’s ultimately focused on? Is Bush’s campaign staff just pretending to be a bunch of dolts in an effort to lure us into a false sense of security?

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Roy Moore is just like a gay marriage
After sighing and rolling my eyes at Ralph Nader’s latest attempt to completely piss away his legacy, I decided to check on our old friend ex-judge Roy Moore and see how his bid for the presidency is going. I didn’t find any new stories on Moore, but I did discover his name featuring prominently in mini-meme circulating on the right.

It goes like this: the liberal media elite is either celebrating, or shamefully silent on, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s act of civil disobedience in deciding to have the city issue same sex marriage licenses. Yet last summer this same liberal media elite couldn’t heap enough abuse on Judge Roy Moore’s act of civil disobedience in plopping a Ten Commandments monument in the lobby of the Alabama Supreme Court. You see, it’s all about hypocrisy. Liberal media elites have no moral grounding, so they can disapprove of civil disobedience one week and applaud it the next. That’s how evil they are.

Over the last week, Kelly Boggs of the Baptist Press, Brian O'Connell of Men’s News Daily, and Rush Limbaugh of Oxycontin have all made this comparison. Since none of them give credit to the others, I’ll assume that they all came up with this idea independently and thought it a just dandy skewering of the hypocrisy of the left. Leaving aside for the moment the fact that this is a pretty pathetic argument—who said our issue with Roy Moore was civil disobedience per se, opposing a law and opposing the constitution are a wee bit different orders of magnitude, and many on the left are not celebrating Newsom’s act—this seems to me a dangerous argument for the right to make. Equivalency swings both ways.

Try this out next week. The first time a wingnut friend/coworker/relative goes off on the San Francisco marriages, tell them Rush thinks they’re just like a public display of the Ten Commandments. You can even directly quote Rush. The title of his piece was “San Francisco Doing Exactly What Judge Roy Moore Did.” Demand the same consistency from them that Rush is demanding from the liberal media elite. If you condemn the marriages, you must condemn Roy’s Commandments (heck, throw in school prayer, football invocations, and “under God” just for good measure). If you approve of religion in state sponsored public spaces, you have to approve of gay marriage. The only relevant issue is civil disobedience.

Some wingnuts might be forced to take a step back and actually look at life as containing some difficult shades of gray. Other wingnuts heads' will explode. That’s a win-win outcome for us.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

The candidate to beat Bush
In primary after primary, polling during the last few days before the vote as the undecides decide, shows that most Democrats are choosing their candidate based on who they think has the best chance of beating Bush. No single issue or broad philosophical stance matters as much as just sending that shallow frat boy back to Crawford in disgrace. Exit polling confirms this.

Therefore, I think we need to reconsider our slate of candidates. It’s not too late for a grassroots insurgency to sweep the primaries. There is only one possible candidate with a proven record of bringing Bush to his knees. There is only one possible candidate that has knocked Bush out before and can knock him out again. We need to nominate a pretzel.

Oh sure, I hear you saying a food product can’t run for public office. Take a look at the Republican House leadership. Don Young is clearly a vegetable, and not the only one. Take a look at your own state legislature. I’m sure every reader can name at least one vegetable, ham, tub o’lard, or big block of stinky cheese that has been elected and re-elected by the informed voters of your state.

Pretzel, being a Central European bread product, must represent the Northeastern urban or steel belt immigrant ethnic component of the Democratic Party. For regional and other constituent group balance, the running mate must be a Southerner and something other than a food product. We are blessed to have the perfect candidate with its hat already in the ring this year. I am talking, of course, about Gay Penguin. Who better speaks (or squawks, as the case may be) for the Southern constituency than a penguin?

There you have it folks, the unbeatable ticket for ’04: Pretzel and Gay Penguin. Once we nominate them there will nothing left to do except plan the inauguration party.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

More news like this, please
I know it's still very early in the election cycle. I know things can and will change many times before November. But there is something nice about starting the day by looking at news like this:
PRINCETON, NJ -- In a hypothetical presidential contest, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry leads President George W. Bush by 12 percentage points among likely voters, 55% to 43%, while North Carolina Sen. John Edwards leads Bush by 10 points, 54% to 44%.

And it doesn't hurt to keep working on the "Bush is a one-term miserable failure" meme. There's nothing like an aura of inevitability to rally the faint of heart to our banners.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Follow the Network
David Horowitz has been very busy this winter. He has two major projects in the works to bring the left to its knees. So far he’s gotten the most press coverage for his youth group: Students for Academic Freedom. In typical newspeak fashion, the goal of the group is just the opposite of what the name implies. They aim to muzzle liberal professors and force universities to institute an affirmative action program for oppressed conservatives. The name of their program is the Academic Bill of Rights: which just goes to prove that conservatives do too have a sense of irony. (The Rocky Mountain Progressive Network keeps close tabs on SAF.)

His second project is a massive and expensive database that exposes "labyrinthine networks and layered fronts through which the left is able to carry on its corrosive agendas" called Follow the Network. The beta version is up today (who knows how long it will be up or whether it will stay at this address). Though most entries are just placeholders, there are enough names indexed to see how Horowitz defines “the Left.” Simply put, it’s his personal enemies list. Anyone or anything his disapproves of is de facto part of “the Left.” Thus he manages to lump Communists, environmentalists, liberal college professors, Muslim fundamentalists, supporters of public television, IBM, and adult literacy programs into one category and map out meaningful links to join them all. It really is a masterful work of conspiracy mongering.

Although the completed project should have over 10,000 entries, I see some serious absences in the beta version. First, I’m not in it. This database is sure to become the social register for everyone who is a threat to Western values. How can I be taken seriously if I’m not part of it? I wonder if I could sue my way in. Second, how can you put al Qayda, Act Up, and the American Library Association into one network and leave out the Bavarian Illuminati, the Elders of Zion, and David Icke’s shape-shifting interdimensional lizard men? It defies reason.
Al Franken is a lying liar
As a bleeding heart liberal, it breaks my heart to have to be the one to point it out. Oh sure, a scoop like this could be the break that elevates me from the ranks of the insignificant bloggers to the dizzying heights of the not-quite-insignificant bloggers. But does that make up for a broken heart? Yet I cannot be silent. The evidence is right here in front of me in black and white, Franken’s own words in—oh, irony of ironies—Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. On page 51 he calls Family Circus “funny and heartwarming.”

Al is a funny man. He knows funny when he sees it. Al knows Family Circus hasn’t been funny since before Spiro Agnew was a felon. How funny can it be to repeat the same two jokes (“not me” and isn’t it cute when kids mispronounce words) decade after decade from one century into the next.

Why would Al do such a thing? Why would Al say such a thing? The only possible explanation is that he’s secretly working for the other side. He must be mole, sent here to discredit the left. I’d like to think that he’s not a willing conspirator. Maybe they’re blackmailing him. Maybe they have his long lost twin sister in captivity somewhere. Maybe this is a cry for help. I’d like to think so.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Steady Leadership in a Time of Change
Bush’s first two stunts of the campaign season, the State of the Union and the “Meet the Press” interview, have both been anticlimactic failures. Bush’s Party and supporters might be getting worried, but hey need not be, because he has a slogan!

What does “Steady Leadership in a Time of Change” mean? It really screams of a market test group, doesn’t it?

“Which do you prefer: steady leadership or non-traitorous leadership?”

“Okay. How about: steady leadership or bold leadership?”

“Okay. How about: steady leadership or keen stuff?”


I hope they’re happy with their slogan. In fact, I hope they are content with their slogan. So content that they consider their work done and go home.
New and improved conspiracy
Since about the time of the French Revolution there has been one inescapable truth in conspiracy literature: if you let a conspiracy buff go long enough, eventually they will discover that it’s all the Freemason’s and the Jews' fault. Usually the Masons work for the Jews: occasionally the Jews work for the Masons. Sometimes the Masons and the Jews work for a far more sinister force (Satan or kitten-eating, extraterrestrial lizard people), but all conspiracies must pass through the narrows of the international Jewish/Masonic conspiracy. Until now.

Twenty-first century American conservatives, intent on proving that they are original thinkers, have discovered a new default source for all evil in the world: the insatiable ambition Hillary Rodham Clinton. Why did Clark run for the Democratic nomination? To make sure there were too many candidates for any one to win the nomination in the primaries, thus assuring a brokered convention, which would then nominate Hillary. Why did Gore endorse Dean? To assure that he would get the nomination, providing the Democrats with an unelectable candidate, thus clearing the way for an unopposed Hillary run in ’08. Why did Drudge’s Kerry sex scandal break at this precise moment? To throw the Democratic field into chaos, thus assuring a brokered convention, which would then nominate Hillary. See how it works?

Of course, it could be that Hillary is secretly a Jewish member of the Eastern Star.
Your tax dollars at work
According to Jeralyn Merritt, our government spent twelve million dollars prosecuting Tommy Chong for selling one bong online. This was a paraphernalia bust; no actual drugs were involved. What conceivable justification could the party of fiscal responsibility have for this kind of crap?

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Okay, I’m confused
I’ve been getting conflicting information on the true foundation stone of American Greatness. Which one was it: The Ten Commandments or Heterosexual Marriage?

Erstwhile Judge Roy Moore says it was the former:
Moore says he displays the Ten Commandments in judicial buildings because they are the foundation for America's legal system.

"It is required that this nation acknowledge God's law as its foundation, because both the Constitution and Bill of Rights enshrine those principles," he says.

Rebecca Hagelin, the perky sweetheart of the Heritage Foundation, says it was the latter:
Four activist judges in Massachusetts may have just marked the beginning of the end for America.

How? By destroying the building block of society, and replacing it with nothing more than straw.

To redefine marriage – the very core of what we know as family – is to wreak havoc on every other institution that holds our country together. From the legal system, to interstate commerce, to health care, to your neighborhood, everything would eventually fall apart. Why? Because the nuclear family – starting with the marriage of one man and one woman – is the very foundation of the entire human race and every single civil society since the beginning of time.

Good thing she didn’t engage in hyperbole, because then her editorial might have sucked (I stole that line from Scott Adams).

Until someone clears up which one of these is the true foundation of this Great Nation, I’ll have to keep supporting my evil, liberal false idols of justice, fairness, tolerance, and inclusion (somewhat redundant too, but I didn’t want to leave any principles out for fear of hurting their feelings).

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

This still doesn’t make sense
The U.S. Attorney’s office in Des Moines announced this afternoon that it was withdrawing the grand jury subpoenas issued to the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), Drake University and some peace activists. Because grand juries proceedings are secret, we still don’t know what they were trying to accomplish.

Last Wednesday the U.S. Attorney’s office in Des Moines issued subpoenas demanding a breathtaking amount of information relating to a November 15 antiwar conference at Drake University and a demonstration at the Iowa National Guard Headquarters in Johnston the next day. Twelve protestors were arrested and charged with misdemeanors.
Four individual peace activists were summoned before the grand jury.
[Another] subpoena ask[ed] Drake University for all records relating to the November 15 conference, as well as information about leaders of the Drake University chapter of the National Lawyers Guild and the location of Guild offices and any annual reports since 2002 [including membership rolls]. In addition, it asks for "all records of Drake University campus security reflecting any observations made of the November 15, 2003 meeting, including any records of persons in charge or control of the meeting, and any records of attendees of the meeting."

Thursday they slapped a gag order on the University to prevent its employees from discussing the subpoenas.

Rumors flew all weekend. Many assumed that this was some kind of Patriot Act action aimed at intimidating legal dissent. Members of the Iowa congressional delegation expressed concern.
"I don't like the smell of it," said Sen. Tom Harkin, adding that he did not know details of the investigation. "It reminds me too much of Vietnam when war protesters were rounded up, when grand juries were convened to investigate people who were protesting the war."
Rep. Leonard Boswell, a Des Moines Democrat and member of the House Intelligence Committee, said he understands the need for secrecy when dealing with matters of national security.

"However, I am increasingly concerned about Attorney General John Ashcroft's disregard for explaining the actions of the Justice Department to the public,"

Monday the U.S. Attorney’s office began to back off.
Federal officials Monday said a grand jury inquiry involving four peace activists and Drake University is not part of an anti-terrorism investigation.

U.S. Attorney Stephen Patrick O'Meara said late Monday that the investigation focuses on unlawful entry onto military property at Camp Dodge on Nov. 16, and whether plans were laid for that at a conference the day before at Drake.

Suggestions that the investigation is related to the Patriot Act "are not accurate," O'Meara said. ,"

The official story is that it was about a trespassing incident. They just wanted to know if there had been a conspiracy to trespass. For that they needed boxes of records, a half dozen people to appear in person, and a gag order over an entire university. For that they sent out a Sheriff’s Deputy who identified himself as a member of the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force to deliver the subpoenas.

From the sound of things, the Iowa groups are not going to let this die down. They want to know what this was all about. So do I.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Food for thought at Gallup
According to a new Gallup poll, in a head to head match up Kerry would beat Bush 53% to 46%. Since Kerry will probably be our candidate, this is encouraging news. Though this far out it’s a little early to declare victory. In fact, Gallup’s press release focuses on this:
A review of historical trial-heat data from past elections shows it is rare for an incumbent president to be trailing at this stage in a campaign. At the same time, in the eight elections analyzed here, there have been campaigns in which the incumbent led in February but was defeated for re-election in November. As such, it is hard to draw any inferences as to what Bush's current standing means for his re-election prospects.

…There are comparable data from as far back as 1948 for elections in which an incumbent president was pitted against his eventual challenger in January or February of the election year…. Gallup's historical polling shows it is rare for an incumbent to be trailing any named opponent at this early stage in the election year. The only other time an incumbent trailed his eventual challenger (or, for that matter, any other possible opponent tested) at this stage in the campaign was in 1976, when Democrat Jimmy Carter held a slight edge over incumbent Gerald Ford, 48% to 46%.

Gallup goes on to review all of the elections for which they have comparable data. I’m sure this will be of interest as trivia for history and strategy geeks (I count myself in both groups) to chew over, but I wonder if there is more of interest here.

Gallup says it’s an unusual enough occurrence that they don’t know what to make of it, except that Bush is probably in for a tough race. That in itself is new. We’ve been hearing for months that the popular wartime president is a shoo-in. Is this the beginning of a new “Bush is in trouble” meme? I hope so. Let’s encourage it.

I’m going to throw out a few other possibilities, just for fun. The only other president in the in Gallup’s polling whose incumbency couldn’t give him a lead in head to head match ups at this point in the year was Ford. What do Ford and Bush have in common. Four letter names, not known for their brightness, entered the office in questionable circumstances and faced questions about their legitimacy. Much as I like that idea, I don’t think it explains much; why would everyone suddenly notice his illegitimacy now? I think the explanation has more to do with the way this primary is playing out and the nature of the professional news media.

Gallup describes their comparison as one of match ups at “this early stage in the election year.” But how early is it. Rather than look at the calendar look at the milestones in the election cycle. As far as the process of picking a candidate, this time of year is more like April or so in other election years. The press has lavished attention on this front-loaded season, giving Kerry a tremendous amount of exposure. At the same time Bush has had negative exposure in the way the O’Neil, Kay, and Plame stories have been presented. I think Bush’s long free ride in the press has come to an end. I hope that, in their usual fickle way, the press will try to make up for their previous unbalanced coverage by dumping on Bush for a while. That might be naively optimistic of me, but it beats the alternative.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Noonan on Bush
Glancing around the cyberworld, I see pretty much everyone agrees that Bush didn’t look very impressive on Meet the Press. On our side of the aisle Kevin Drum says his performance was "labored and he was addressing a class of sixth graders." On their side even his most partisan defenders had to wince. Even John Derbyshire says bluntly, “I thought it was a pretty dismal performance.”

Of course that was the first impression. I was sure that the conservative pundits would regroup their forces and explain why Bush’s performance was actually a sign of his superiority. Sure enough, Peggy Noonan comes through for the team.

She starts with a troubled admission: “I am one of those who feel his performance was not impressive.” She admits that it was a softball interview, then slips in a slap at the liberal media, “six million people saw it, and many millions more will see pieces of it, and they will not be the pieces in which Mr. Bush looks good.” This is an important thing to say. By accusing the liberal media of distorting the news to make Bush look bad, even before they get a chance to do it, she assures the faithful that she hasn’t gone over to the other side. Thus assured, they read on looking for the meat.

Before giving the meat to the faithful she digresses to demonstrate to the others who might have come across her column that she will be tough but fair. How better to do this than by expanding her criticism?
The president seemed tired, unsure and often bumbling. His answers were repetitive, and when he tried to clarify them he tended to make them worse. He did not seem prepared. He seemed in some way disconnected from the event.

With that out of the way she can build her real argument.
I never expect Mr. Bush, in interviews, to be Tony Blair: eloquent, in the moment, marshaling facts and arguments with seeming ease and reeling them out with conviction and passion. Mr. Bush is less facile with language, as we all know, less able to march out his facts to fight for him.

I don't think Mr. Bush's supporters expect that of him, or are disappointed when he doesn't give it to them….

Mr. Bush's supporters expect him to do well in speeches, and to inspire them in speeches….They put the bar high for Mr. Bush in speeches, and he clears the bar. But his supporters don't really expect to be inspired by his interviews.

Bush is not Blair. You see, though Tony Blair was Bush’s supporter on Iraq, he’s still a liberal, and a foreign liberal at that. In any comparison, the faithful know that, in all differences, Bush’s way is the better one. Bush is not a facile, fast-talking liberal with a bunch of suspect facts and arguments. He’s a genuine man who’s at his best when he can speak from his heart, with a script prepared by his staff, a teleprompter, and lots of practice.

She pauses here to remind the faithful that the liberal media are going to attack their man. Having been warned, they won’t be tempted not to stand by their man.
The Big Russ interview will not be a big political story in terms of Bush supporters suddenly turning away from their man. But it will be a big political story in terms of the punditocracy and of news producers, who in general don't like Mr. Bush anyway. Pundits will characterize this interview, and press their characterization on history. They will compare it to Teddy Kennedy floundering around with Roger Mudd in 1980 in the interview that helped do in his presidential campaign. News producers will pick Mr. Bush's sleepiest moments to repeat, and will feed their anchors questions for tomorrow morning: "Why did Bush do badly, do you think?"

But now to the meat of her argument, and the meat to the faithful.
But I am thinking there are two kinds of minds in politics. There are those who absorb and repeat their arguments and evidence--their talking points--with vigor, engagement and certainty. And there are those who cannot remember their talking points.

Those who cannot remember their talking points can still succeed as leaders if they give good speeches. Speeches are more important in politics than talking points, as a rule, and are better remembered.

Here it comes. She compares Bush to the sainted, almost-late Ronald Reagan.
Mr. Reagan had a ready wit and lovely humor, but he didn't as a rule give good interviews when he was president. He couldn't remember his talking points. He was a non-talking-point guy.

This is it! The meat! Bush is like Reagan. He’s not like the foreign liberal Blair; he’s like the sainted Reagan. His genius is not in giving mere interviews full of facts and stuff; he gives speeches that connect with real American people. Just like Reagan! And in a moment of stunning humility, she never even mentions that she wrote many of those brilliant Reagan speeches that connected with real American people.

Now she returns her attention to those readers who aren’t part of the faithful (the unfaithful?) and makes a stab at appearing fair and balanced: “John Kerry does good talking points.” Hillary does talking points and Dean screams. It’s not that she doesn’t like talking points. Some of her best friends are talking points. It’s just that talking points are political and not genuine.
Democrats have minds that do it through talking points, and Republicans have minds that do speeches…. And the reason--perhaps--is that Democratic candidates tend to love the game of politics, and Republican candidates often don't. Democrats, because they admire government and seek to be part of it, are inclined to think the truth of life is in policy. How could they not then be engaged by policy talk, and its talking points?

Now she wraps it up and pulls all of these threads together in one triumphant conclusion.
Republicans think politics is something you have to do and that policy is something you have to have to move things forward in line with a philosophy. They like philosophy. But they are bored by policy and hate having to memorize talking points.

Speeches are the vehicle for philosophy. Interviews are the vehicle of policy. Mr. Kerry does talking points and can't give an interesting speech. Mr. Bush can't do talking points and gives speeches full of thought and assertion.

There you have it. Republicans are deep-thinking, sincere, dullards. Democrats are slick, politics-playing, policy wonks. Republicans, speeches, and philosophy are good. And while she won’t say Democrats, interviews, and policy are exactly bad—it wouldn’t be professional for an objective journalist to make a judgment like that—her readers know they are less good (the faithful know they are evil).

Friday, February 06, 2004

Run Roy, run…or not
Now here’s a rumor to warm my beady little heart:
Ousted Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore is focused on trying to get his job back but will not rule out a third-party run for the presidency that could threaten President Bush's re-election chances.

Moore, you will recall, was the star of last summer’s adventure of the unconstitutional, big-ass Ten Commandments monument. It was clear by the end of that comic-opera that the only thing bigger than the monument was Roy’s ego. Fortunately, for his constituency, the Ten Commandments are far more important than the Seven Deadly Sins. Pride isn’t a problem in their book.
[L]ast Saturday Moore was a featured speaker at the Christian Coalition's "Family and Freedom" rally in Atlanta. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported he was "treated like a rock star, signing autographs and getting thunderous standing ovations."

One week prior to that event, Moore spoke at a dinner in Lancaster, Pa., sponsored by the Constitution Party, which has the third-largest number of registered voters in the U.S. The party's presidential candidate, Howard Phillips, was on 41 state ballots in 2000, Fund noted.

Richard Winger, an authority on independent candidates, told Fund he believes Moore could rally enough support to sustain a presidential candidacy.

"If he can get on talk shows and stir up conservative voters he could easily get significantly more than the usual third-party vote totals," said Winger, editor of Ballot Access News.

Winger points out the Constitution Party has 320,000 registered voters nationwide and guaranteed ballot access in large states such as California and Pennsylvania.

The Constitution Party apparently finds the idea attractive and has issued a press release expressing their support for ex-Judge Moore. The Party is the creation of Howard Phillips. The Southern Poverty Law Center describes Phillips and his party:
A one-time aide to Richard Nixon who resigned in protest of that president's "liberal" policies, Phillips pulled together a coalition of extremist third parties before the 1992 elections, forming the U.S. Taxpayers Party (the name was changed to Constitution Party in 1999).

The coalition nature of their origin gives the Constitution Party platform something of the flavor a smorgasbord of the most frightening far right position. From Christian Reconstructionism they take a belief that the US should be a republic of Christians only with strict enforcements of Levitical law. From the Posse Comitatus they take certain elements of constitutional theory, denying all twentieth century amendments, like women’s suffrage and income tax. From the NRA they allow no restrictions on personal weapons. From the pro-life crowd they reject abortion even in the case of incest and/or rape. For the xenophobes they want to close the borders to any immigration. Even though they claim to be pro-America, they draw support neo-Confederates. And, of course, from the John Birch Society they insist on withdrawing from the one world UN.
At first, the goal was to use the party as a vehicle for Pat Buchanan, should the conservative commentator decide to bolt the GOP in a run for the White House. Buchanan reportedly toyed with the idea, most seriously in 2000, but the nabob of American nativism ultimately chose to seize control of the Reform Party, which could offer him millions in matching campaign funds generated by Ross Perot's showing in 1996.

Unable to lure a marquee candidate, Phillips has ended up carrying his party's banner in each of the last three elections. Every time around, the party has won ballot access in an increasing number of states — up to a solid 41 in 2000. Even so, Phillips has never collected more than 0.2% of the presidential vote.

As 2004 approaches, the 62-year-old Phillips, who gets around with the aid of a cane, seems determined to sit out the campaign.
"I think it's likely we'll have a greater opportunity in 2004 than ever before," he declares.

Why such confidence? Simple: for the first time in the party's history, as Phillips reminds his true believers, there will be "no Ross Perot, no Pat Buchanan, no Alan Keyes, no Gary Bauer" to siphon away the votes of fundamentalist right-wingers.

The time just might be nigh, Phillips says, for the most extreme organized political party in America to "wield our terrible swift sword."

Although third party voting has been increasing for over a decade, factionalism on the far right has prevented them from putting up a united front. Phillips thinks this might be the year for the Constitution Party.

In a way, that might be a good thing. Healthy fringe parties can provide a needed pressure valve. By giving voice to alienated minorities, those minorities remain independent of the mainstream parties. Fringe parties like the Constitution Party do not always have the same purpose as mainstream parties. The latter are essentially organizations that support candidates for election by raising money, procuring endorsements, and organizing manpower. Fringe parties often exist to give voice to alienated minorities and bear witness to the iniquities of the system.

It’s difficult, but not impossible, for fringe parties to transform themselves into mainstream parties (the US system is more thoroughly stacked against it than are other western democracies). The Republicans were the last party to make the transition. They did it by bringing together a coalition of fringe groups (abolitionists, anti-masons, and other single issue groups), disaffected members of the majority party, and by taking over the remnants of a failed opposition party (the Whigs). Since them, most third parties on the verge of the mainstream have been absorbed into one or the other of the two semi-official parties.

For over thirty years the Republican Party has been pandering to the far right. In part this has been possible because they have felt secure on their moderate wing (they have kept that wing secure by very successfully painting the Democratic Party as too dangerously far left to be a real alternative for moderates uncomfortable about some of their bedfellows). I’m reversing some popular wisdom with this narrative. The normal version of elections is that the extremes stay with the parties because they have no other reasonable choice. The parties court their extremes during primaries then rush to be first to occupy the center in the general election (Nixon made this story popular). I’m not denying this, I’m saying that parallel race in the reverse direction takes place at the same time.

As Republican Party has courted the far right, they have become more and more a creature of the far right. It was probably inevitable that all of those denizens of the right joining the party would eventually influence the nature of the party. You are what you eat. (David Neiwert explains the way extremist ideas are legitimized and transmitted to the center in his “Rush, Newspeak, and Fascism” series.)

With the Bush administration, they may finally have gone too far. The administration is already starting to feel a mild hemorrhage at the center from some of their activities. If someone like Moore and the Constitutional Party began to pull votes from the right, the Republicans might finally be at a no-win crossroads. If they lunge further right to keep the loonies, they might risk a serious defection at the center. If they repudiate the right, the right might not sit it out quietly. Since at least Robertson’s run in 1988, the far right has been aware enough of it’s influence to make threats of bolting. A second choice organized slightly better than usual might be all some of them need.

The best of all possible worlds would be for a far right insurrection to cost Bush the election, destroy the credibility of the extremists like DeLay, and shock the Party into returning to some of its centrist heritage. I won’t even spell out the way this could play out if it backfired. Suffice it to say, I’m too cautious a gambler to actually hope for a Moore CP run as our savior, but I am going to keep my eyes on them

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Just for the record
I want to address the persistent rumors about aphid deterrence in my garden by saying I have not purchased nuclear arms technology from Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan. Any capabilities that I have in that area—and I will neither confirm nor deny that I have any—are the result of my own research programs. Thank you.
Hastert and our money
Kos sees it as a threat to the farmers; vote our way our you’ll never see a cent. I see it as cash for votes; vote our way and we’ll give you presents. Either way Hastert is using our money to try to influence the vote in an election. Of course, while spending taxpayer money on projects to gain votes is really the very definition of “pork barrel,” Hastert is so blatant in his quid pro quo that he is pressing the barrier between the merely unethical and the flagrantly illegal to the breaking point.
U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert pledged for the first time yesterday that he would push a tobacco buyout plan to the House floor -- but only if Republican Alice Forgy Kerr is elected to Congress.

Tobacco growers attending the $50-a-head Kerr-sponsored event in Lexington applauded Hastert's remarks. A Kentucky Farm Bureau representative was more reserved, saying the group was encouraged but would fight for a buyout regardless of who wins the Feb. 17 special election for Gov. Ernie Fletcher's vacant 6th District seat.
Jason Sauer, spokesman for Chandler's campaign, said he could not comment on Hastert's specific words.

"But if it's a political condition being put on something as important to farmers across Kentucky and the country, then that's unfortunate," he said. "That's playing politics with the farmers of America. And that seems beneath the office of the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives."

Democrats at all levels need to seize on this kind of behavior and publicize it. In 1998, in the middle of the impeachment farce, and in a midterm election, we did the best we have in a decade by making a symbol of Newt Gingrich and running against him. This year we need to publicize the dirty politics, bad sportsmanship, and outright corruption of DeLay, Cheney, and Hastert and run against the symbol.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

They like me, they really like me
Time to update the blogroll again. The nice people at the Liberal Coalition have accepted me as a Contributor (which is less work than being a full member). I was already blogrolling a few of the Coalition members. Now I’ve gathered them all together and given them their own heading over on the left.
The whole Northwest experience
I didn’t really get a car and become a driver till I was over forty. Some times I miss the pedestrian lifestyle. This weekend was not tone of those times.

The car is in the shop. I had planned to take care of a whole list of errands this weekend, but on Saturday afternoon I trimmed the down to the one that couldn’t be put off. Get groceries. The nearest grocery is a Safeway seven blocks from our house. It was raining and blowing lightly, and colder than it had been all week so I dressed in layers and set out to forage for my family, feeling virtuous and manly about the whole business. Besides, a little walking would be good for me.

The walk to the Safeway was into the wind and I was nicely wet and chilled when I got there. From the corner I could see men with signs huddled in the doorway. I trudged across the parking lot thinking, “please don’t be strikers.” They were strikers. They handed me an information sheet and asked me not to shop there. I looked at the sheet—cuts in health insurance. My inner liberal said, “you can’t cross the picket line.” I sighed and reversed direction.

The next closest store is an independent market four blocks further away. The wind was picking up. I wondered what I would do if they were on strike there. Having committed to this direction, it would be almost a mile to the next nearest store. It would be on a bus route, but there is no shelter at the stop.

Fortunately, the labor gods listened to my prayers and they were not on strike at the market. I shopped slowly, soaking up the steamy warmth of the store. I didn’t leave till I could feel all of my fingers. Then I took my biodegradable bag and headed out the door.

The wind had dropped a tiny bit, but it was now pouring. Within a block the rain started to soak through my coat around the shoulders. My pants, of course, were already wet to the knees and on the front of my thighs. I gathered the bag of groceries next to my chest the way you carry a baby, with one arm across the bottom and one protectively across the front. This much of my pedestrian training came back to me.

By the third block the rain was penetrating at my elbows and I was losing the feeling in fingers again. Hunched over, carrying a load, and cold, my middle-aged, out-of-shape back decided it was time to start spasming. Beach Boys tunes began to run through my mind.

And then I was home. Home to dry clothes, hot chocolate, my loving wife, mildly bemused cats, and the big bottle of ibuprophen. Some days, I think it would be nice to be a Republican and just cross the damn picket line.