Friday, April 29, 2005

 

Fool The New York Times once, shame on Bush. Fool The New York Times an infinite number of times...

I know someone who, when he misbehaves, thinks that if he says he's sorry, not only does that make up for what he did, it means he never did what he did. If he does it again, and you get mad at him, it's not his fault - he hasn't done it again, he's doing it for the first time. His apology wiped the slate clean.

George W. Bush is sort of like that.
Empty Promise

One of the loftier moments in President Bush's State of the Union address came when he promised to improve the quality of the defense offered in death-penalty cases and to expand the use of DNA testing to prevent wrongful convictions.

A close look at Mr. Bush's budget, however, shows that his promise was largely illusory.

Mr. Bush is asking for $20 million for a hazily defined effort to train lawyers, judges and prosecutors in capital cases. This falls far short of the $75 million called for in the Justice for All Act, a broadly bipartisan law designed to address these and other vital justice-related issues. Mr. Bush signed it last October.
Hmm...Bush supports a concept, then fails to fully fund it. Where have we heard that before?

Oh, here. And here. And here. And here. And here. And here, here, and here.

It's a game the whole family can enjoy! Just type "Bush fails to fund" into Google and just see how many pages come up!

Seriously, though, catch the pattern? Bush makes a big announcement of some lovely-sounding program so he can get all the credit for his high-minded intentions. Then, he simply guts its funding so he doesn't have to do any of that nasty, intrusive, actual work (something "W" has never stood for in his entire wastrelly life) to implement it.

And he gets away with it, time after time after time. No one, at least in the MSM, ever calls him on it. Anyone saying he was a poor student has seriously misjudged him. He is amazingly capable of learning that he will never, ever be held accountable for anything he does - or fails to do - or, in this case, refuses quite happily to do.

Is The Times ever going to be on the same planet as a clue when it comes to George W. Bush?
 

Friday Blog Blogging: Go ahead, bully all the gays you want. God'll make more.

Steve from No More Mister Nice Guy sums up the true anti-gay agenda.
COMPASSIONATE CONSERVATIVES IN MARYLAND

From the Baltimore Sun (if the link doesn't work, try this):

...Conservative and Christian groups are mounting a widespread effort - using e-mails and Web sites with often-fiery rhetoric - against four bills they charge promote the gay agenda.

"Pray that God's will be done and that all the churches rise up against these bills," says an e-mail distributed to members of the Christian Coalition of Maryland....

The legislation would add gays to the categories of people protected under the state's hate-crime laws, allow unmarried couples to make property transfers without paying state or local taxes and require schools to report bullying incidents....

[VoteMarriage.org and Take Back Maryland], along with other organizations, such as the Christian Coalition of Maryland, Defend Maryland Marriage and the Family Protection Lobby, also are supporting Del. Donald H. Dwyer Jr.'s petition efforts to repeal a bill to give unmarried couples medical decision-making rights, among other benefits....


Yeah, this is what Jesus would do.

I think the opposition to the bullying bill is my personal favorite. It reminds me of this charming anecdote from the recent Rolling Stone article on a conference of "Dominionists" (right-wing Christians who think right-wing Christians need to take over the U.S. government):

[Gary] Cass [executive director of Reclaiming America] also presents another small-town activist, Kevin McCoy, with a Salt and Light Award for leading a successful campaign to shut down an anti-bullying program in West Virginia schools. McCoy, a soft-spoken, prematurely gray postal worker, fought to end the program because it taught tolerance for gay people -- and thus, in his view, constituted a "thinly disguised effort to promote the homosexual agenda." "What America needs," Cass tells the faithful, "is more Kevin McCoys."

Charming.

The pro-bullyists in Maryland say pretty much the same thing, the Sun reports:

Kerns and other opponents of the bill say they fear it would be used to discuss homosexuality in the classroom.

On the VoteMarriage.org Web site, the gay-rights agenda is described as working to "program future youth to be led as lambs into the dangerous and denigrating homosexual lifestyle."


Delegate Richard S. Madaleno Jr., who supports the bill, has a response for that:

"I guess the whole idea is a 14-year-old should be beaten senseless in order to be a straight person," said Madaleno.

Yup, I think that's about right.
Exactly. The right does not care about being fair to gays. They don't care if gay teens are beaten up in school or if they commit suicide to escape the endless taunting and parental disapproval. Their attitude is, If you don't like it, stop being gay! Duh!

Talk about a solution that is obvious, simple, and wrong. If there are no gays, there's no gay problem. Welcome to the Fourth Reich.
 

The only "foolproof" death penalty is no death penalty

As long as some humans are fools, nothing is "foolproof."
Massachusetts Governor Urges Death Penalty

Gov. Mitt Romney introduced a bill on Thursday that would bring back capital punishment to Massachusetts, and would do so by creating a death penalty that he said was virtually foolproof.

The bill includes several provisions that have never been tried in any other state. It would require that there be "conclusive scientific evidence," like DNA or fingerprints, to link a defendant to a crime. And it would allow a death penalty to be imposed only if a sentencing jury finds there is "no doubt" about a defendant's guilt, a standard that is stricter than "beyond a reasonable doubt."

"To the extent that is humanly possible," Mr. Romney said at a news conference, "this would not ever result in a questionable execution."
No, sir, the only thing that will never result in questionable executions is not to execute anyone.

Scientific safeguards and strict jury instructions cannot compensate for all the flaws in our criminal justice system. They cannot atone for prosecutorial discretion. They cannot atone for inadequate legal representation, or a sympathetic victim and an odious defendant. They cannot atone for prejudice, press hysteria, understandably vengeful families, right-wing cranks, sloppy police work, and just plain bad luck.

In any case, the argument that the death penalty can be "saved" by ever stricter precautions against executing the innocent is completely bogus. Yes, it's terrible when an innocent person is put to death - but it's just as terrible when a completely guilty person is executed. That's a tougher argument to make, but it is a valid one. Fallible humans are just not capable of deciding, if such a decision were possible, who should live and who should die. We just can't do it. Nor should we ever have to.

Capital punishment has completely failed by any and every possible measure. It does not work. There are far more effective ways of fighting crime and punishing wrongdoers, ways that will not waste time and money in endless, futile argument. This is well known, and the only people pressing for capital punishment now are right-wingers and moderates trying to build up some political credit with right-wingers. Give it up, Mitt. You're not going to be president, not in a million years. The Republican Party will never vote for someone from Massachusetts. It's distasteful (to put it mildly) to see you start your campaign with a pep rally for officially sanctioned murder.

Let's move on. It's time to fire up Ol' Sparky and put the death penalty itself to death.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

 

Good, I was worried about them.

Nice to know they won't have to skip any champagne and lobster breakfasts.
Polaroid Shareholders Approve Sale

Polaroid shareholders on Wednesday approved the company's $426 million sale to a Minnesota-based consumer products company, 3 1/2 years after the instant photography pioneer declared bankruptcy, blaming consumers' shift to digital photography.

The sale to Minnetonka-based Petters Group Worldwide follows protracted negotiations to resolve Polaroid's $1 billion debt and failed legal efforts by retirees to reinstate medical and life insurance benefits canceled when the Chapter 11 case was filed in Delaware.

More than 4,000 retirees last month began receiving checks for $47 — a one-time payment from a trust fund to compensate retirees for legal expenses.

"It's such a shame, because we got killed," said Peter Bass, a 72-year-old Lexington resident who retired 13 years ago after 35 years at Polaroid. Bass, who used his $47 to take his wife out for pizza, said he's considering searching for work to make ends meet — as are many other Polaroid retirees.

"A lot of them are hurting," he said.

Retirees receive pension payments from a federal agency that took over the company's underfunded plan. Colcord declined to comment on retiree issues.

Meanwhile, executives who joined the company during bankruptcy stand to receive large payouts from the cash value of their stock and options. For example, Chairman Jacques A. Nasser stands to get $12.8 million; J. Michael Pocock, the CEO and president, is due $8.5 million, Polaroid spokesman Colcord said.
I'm sure Nasser is thinking to himself, "Only $12.8 million? What kind of frickin' ripoff is this?"

Poor baby.
 

What energy crisis?

George W. Bush looks out on his world and sees that it is very very good indeed.
Exxon Mobil Sees Profit on Oil, Gas Prices

Exxon Mobil Corp., the world's largest publicly traded oil company, said Thursday that first-quarter earnings soared 44 percent from last year, due mainly to strong crude and natural gas prices.
Meanwhile, the view from anywhere other than Texas...
Economy Grows at Slowest Pace in Two Years

Buffeted by rising energy prices and weakened consumer and business spending, the economy grew at an annual rate of just 3.1 percent in the first quarter. The slowest pace of expansion since in two years was evidence of a new "soft patch."

The latest reading on gross domestic product, released by the Commerce Department on Thursday, showed that consumers and businesses turned cautious in their spending in the January-to-March quarter, a key factor in the slower economic growth. High energy prices and rising borrowing costs are causing Americans to tighten their belts a bit.

:::snip:::

On Wall Street, stocks slumped. The Dow Jones industrials were down 54 points and the Nasdaq was off 10 points in morning trading.

In second report Thursday, the number of new people signing up for unemployment benefits rose last week as businesses coped with rising costs. New claims rose by 21,000 to 320,000, the Labor Department said.

The newest snapshot of the economy disappointed economists. Before the report's release, they were forecasting a 3.5 percent growth rate for the first quarter.

:::snip:::

For now, economists believe any soft patch will be temporary and don't believe that it would be a harbinger of recession. Although a 3.1 percent growth rate is disheartening to economists , it is a decent pace of expansion, nevertheless.

"That's about average growth. You can't say average growth is bad. Of course, every parent wants their children to be better than average," said Ken Mayland, president of ClearView Economics. "It doesn't mean that the game is lost and you are inevitably heading toward a major slowdown or recession."

President Bush wants to see the economy on solid ground as he tries to sell Americans his vision of overhauling the Depression-era Social Security program. He is promoting the idea of letting workers set up individual investment accounts in stocks and bonds, using a big chunk of payroll taxes to do that.

The signs of slowing economic growth are especially disconcerting because they raise new questions about the state of the labor market, whose recovery from the 2001 recession has been uneven. Payrolls expanded by just 110,000 in March, the fewest new jobs in eight months. The employment report for April will be released by the government next week.
Well, I certainly feel better, knowing that President Bush is diligently on the job, pressing for ever more tax cuts and the privatization of Social Security. I'm sure that will do the trick. After all, it's worked so wonderfully so far.
 

Even an odious bag of filth can be right

Which doesn't change the fact that he's still an odious bag of filth.
Zimbabwe's Role in U.N. Rights Panel Angers U.S.

Zimbabwe was re-elected Wednesday to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, a panel that Secretary General Kofi Annan has proposed abolishing because of its practice of naming known rights violators to its membership. Zimbabwe's selection as one of the 15 countries winning three-year terms drew protests from Australia, Canada and the United States, with William J. Brencick, the American representative, saying the United States was "perplexed and dismayed by the decision."

In a speech to the United Nations Economic and Social Council, Mr. Brencick said Zimbabwe had repressed political assembly and the news media, harassed civil society groups, conducted fraudulent elections and intimidated government opponents. "How can we expect the government of Zimbabwe to support international human rights standards at the Commission on Human Rights when it has blatantly disregarded the rights of its own people," he said.

:::snip:::

Boniface G. Chidyausiku, Zimbabwe's ambassador to the United Nations, said that no country was above reproach when it came to human rights and "those who live in glass houses should not throw stones." He said the United States has "a lot of dirt on its hands" because of prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
Nice bit of misdirection there, Mr. Chidyausiku. The U.S. loves to criticize others, and frequently we're even right. But then you see something like this happen, and suddenly you want to move to Canada.

We are better than the rest of the world only when we really are better, not when we merely assert that we are. George W. Bush thinks that anything he does is by definition holy. Or maybe he just doesn't give a shit. Maybe he's such a rancid sociopathic little turd that no one else is really quite real to him, so their suffering isn't fully real either. (Except his wealthy paymasters, whose groaning need for extra billions he is always ready to address.)

But what's everyone else's excuse? Abu Ghraib is our national disgrace, our national sin, the way slavery was in the 1860s and racism was in the 1950s and '60s. Anyone who turns a blind eye to it, anyone who excuses it, let alone anyone involved in it, has stained themselves all but irremediably.

Which does not excuse Zimbabwe, whose criminally incompetent and brutally inept leadership is a moral garbage pit. They can criticize us all they like, but it won't change a thing about their own human rights morass. That they can serve on a U.N. human rights panel is sadder than sad. Those of us who support the U.N. have to figure out a way to keep this kind of outrage from happening again.
 

Asians really are smarter!

Ignorance is blitzed.

Radio station apologizes over ethnic flap
Enraged Asian-American groups denounce 101.5 for 'hate programming'


The general manager of radio station New Jersey 101.5 FM said the station's drive-time talk show hosts were just "having fun" when they ridiculed a Korean-American candidate and complained about New Jersey's burgeoning Asian-American population.

"It was tongue-in-cheek, 'Jersey Guys' being 'Jersey Guys,' they were having fun with the topic," said Andrew Santoro, group vice president and general manager of Millennium Radio, the parent company of NJ 101.5.

Santoro offered an apology yesterday to Asian-Americans, saying "Jersey Guys" Craig Carton and Ray Rossi did not mean to "hurt" anyone during their show Monday, in which they mimicked Chinese accents, complained about too many Asians at Atlantic City's gaming tables, and said Americans should vote for Americans.

"The official position is that we would never want to hurt anyone, any member, any citizen of New Jersey, and none of our talk shows are geared to hurt anyone," Santoro said.

Angry Asian-Americans, including politicians and activist groups, say that is not enough. They want to see the hosts penalized or fired.

"A simple apology, given the serious, egregious language and ethnic slurs that were said on-air, just isn't going to cut it," said Christine Bae, president of the Korean American Lawyers Association of Greater New York, one of many groups planning a news conference today to denounce the "hate programming."

:::snip:::

In Monday's broadcast, Carton said he took offense at Democratic mayoral candidates in Edison, who he said were catering to its Asian-Americans.

With Edison's Asian-American population escalating in the last two decades, Mayor George Spadoro and challenger Jun Choi, a Korean-American, acknowledged in The Sunday Star-Ledger that Asian-Americans were an important constituency that any politician running for office must capture.

"I don't care if the Chinese population in Edison has quadrupled in the last year, Chinese should never dictate the outcome of an election, Americans should," Carton said.

Carton repeated a number of stereotypes about Asians, and affected a Chinese accent while imitating the voice and dialect of Asian-Americans.

"Would you really vote for someone named Jun Choi?" Carton said, announcing the candidate's name in a sped-up, high-pitched voice. Carton also criticized Spadoro for pandering to the Asian population.
Let's see...if they aren't Americans, they can't vote. So there's no problem there. And if they can vote, then they are American citizens, which makes them as American as you, me...or Craig Carton.

Not that you'd expect a rightwing talk radio blowhard in-love-with-his-own-voice idiot to be able to think this through.

On behalf of all real "Jersey Guys," I apologize to Korean-Americans, Chinese-Americans, Decent-Americans, and Not-Braindead-Americans.

(Personally, I'd like to see Carton and Rossi stripped naked and dumped in the middle of, say, Urumqi. I hope the Chinese people are more hospitable to them than they themselves are to their fellow Americans.)

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

 

Da noive!

The Iraqis sure do have a lot to learn about democracy. Imagine how much we could teach them...
Losing Ground in Iraq

The biggest danger now comes from militant religious leaders of Iraq's long-oppressed Shiite majority who seek to impose their own intolerant rule on Sunni Arabs, Kurds and secular Shiites. There have been particularly disturbing calls in recent weeks from leaders of the main Shiite political bloc for a far-reaching purge of former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party from all government, military and intelligence posts. That would be an injustice for the many Iraqis who joined the party just to keep their jobs, and would further estrange an already deeply alienated Sunni community. Even worse, many Iraqis suspect the real purpose is to open top jobs in the army, police and intelligence services for militia leaders allied with victorious Shiite religious parties.

:::snip:::

Sunni underrepresentation needs to be directly addressed as well. Only by bringing genuinely representative Sunnis into the new government will there be any chance of damping down the Sunni insurgency to the point where serious reconstruction can begin. Credible Sunnis need to be appointed not just to significant posts in the new cabinet, but also to key committees drafting the new constitution. They should also be given a fair share of jobs at all levels in the new security forces.
Imagine that. How can the Iraqis live with themselves? It would be like - oh, say, the President of the United States primarily appointing cronies from his home state or from his former industry to most of the important positions, or like a major American political party being overwhelmingly dominated by representatives from just one region of a vast and differentiated country. And that's just so undemocratic - even anti-democratic - that we would never tolerate it here, would we?
 

The FDA must ban ViagraTM immediately!

It's destroying men's minds!
By creating a new threshold for the confirmation of judicial nominees, the Democratic minority has abandoned the tradition of mutual self-restraint that has long allowed the Senate to function as an institution.

This tradition has a bipartisan pedigree. When I was the Senate Republican leader, President Bill Clinton nominated two judges to the federal bench - H. Lee Sarokin and Rosemary Barkett - whose records, especially in criminal law, were particularly troubling to me and my Republican colleagues. Despite my misgivings, both received an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor and were confirmed. In fact, joined by 32 other Republicans, I voted to end debate on the nomination of Judge Sarokin. Then, in the very next roll call, I exercised my constitutional duty to offer "advice and consent" by voting against his nomination.

When I was a leader in the Senate, a judicial filibuster was not part of my procedural playbook. Asking a senator to filibuster a judicial nomination was considered an abrogation of some 200 years of Senate tradition.
Or maybe Bob Dole is just a fucking liar.
In fact, while Democratic senators used the filibuster to block 10 of Bush's 229 first-term judicial nominees, the Republican-controlled Senate prevented approximately 60 Clinton nominees from even receiving a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, much less a vote on the Senate floor. And while Senate Republicans under Clinton strictly enforced a "blue slip" rule -- which allows one home-state senator to prevent a nomination from moving forward -- they greatly relaxed this rule under Bush to circumvent Democrats' objections to several nominees.
I suppose the difference is the Democrats are using the filibuster. Which is the only tool they happen to have.

But the Republicans don't really care that the Democrats are - gasp! - using a filibuster instead of a committee chairman's powers. And they don't care that they held up 60 of Clinton's nominees compared to the Democrats are holding up only 10 of Bush's. They want absolute uncontested power and they will stop at nothing to achieve that.

And obviously the press and public don't care either.

The fact is, the Republicans don't give a shit what anyone may happen to think (or not). It's good to see the Democrats acting that way, for a change.
 

What's on a president's mind?

When it's President George W. Bush (and using the word "mind" lightly, of course), it's politics, politics, politics.
Battle on Bolton Nomination Could Wound the President, Too

The White House is intensifying its campaign to rescue the nomination of John R. Bolton to be ambassador to the United Nations, administration officials said on Tuesday, as Republicans close to the West Wing acknowledged that a rejection of Mr. Bolton would be politically damaging for President Bush.

:::snip:::

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice praised him on Monday at a briefing near the president's ranch in Texas before heading to Latin America, where she again praised Mr. Bolton on Tuesday. Ms. Rice's chief of staff, Brian Gunderson, who normally would be traveling with her, has remained behind in Washington to help shepherd Mr. Bolton's nomination through Congress.
Let's see...the U.S. Secretary of State is on an official trip to Latin America. Her top aid, who usually accompanies her on such important and delicate missions, is...home lobbying Congress over an appointment?

And the Republicans criticize the Democrats for turning everything into politics?
Republicans close to the administration also said that a powerful motive for the White House was simply showing strength and an unwillingness to back down, particularly after Colin L. Powell, the former secretary of state who often warred with the hawks, expressed private doubts to Republican senators last week about Mr. Bolton.

"It would mean that Colin Powell had influence to block someone," said a Republican close to the White House. "It's a troubling sign if the president can't get him confirmed."
Because, of course, we all know how much power and influence Colin Powell had in the Bush Administration before leaving. He controlled the entire debate over foreign policy and especially the decision to go to war. No, wait, that was Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.

"Showing strength" and "an unwillingness to back down." Nothing about policy or the fact that John Bolton is hardly the right man to be ambassador to an organization he apparently ranks somewhere below the North American Man-Boy Love Association on his Christmas card list.

I wonder when Bill Frist will start calling critics of Bolton "enemies of God."
 

What planet is he living on?

In the midst of a perfectly fine column decrying how the British papers are ignoring education in the run-up to the U.K.'s General Election on May 5, BBC News education columnist Mike Baker suddenly reveals that he has been Somewhere Else for some unknown but considerable period of time.
Where is education in election?

:::snip:::

Of course, voters can read the manifestos themselves. But the role of the media is not just to try to trip up weary or unprepared politicians but also to explain, compare and contrast policy issues.
A-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah! (Excuse me while I wipe a tear of unrestrained laughter from my eye.) What a card! What a comedian! Those Brits really do have a great sense of humor, don't they?

Seriously, Mr. Baker, and with all due respect, but haven't you been paying attention? The only purpose the media serves anymore is to keep people distracted, uninformed, and docile. I suppose it's remotely possible that the Foxification of all media has not yet infected the UK to quite the same degree that has occurred here, but still, such naivete is touching.
 

Of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations

So let's get this straight - the National Weather Service can give information away to the Weather Channel and AccuWeather, but not to the American public? That's what Rick Santorum wants. Our money pays for the National Weather Service, but according to Santorum, that doesn't mean you or I have any right to see their data. Even though the NWS site is far superior to anything else out there.
Fourteen years ago the NWS took the extra step of carefully delineating the respective roles of the NWS and the commercial weather industry, in addition to pledging its intention not to provide products or services that were or could be provided by the commercial weather industry.

However, the parent agency of the NWS, NOAA, repealed the 1991 non-competition and non-duplication policy in December 2004. Its new policy only promises to “give due consideration” to the abilities of private sector entities. The new policy has enabled NWS and NOAA to expand into areas that are already well served by the commercial weather industry.

“This decision by NOAA to repeal the non-competition and non-duplication policy detracts from NWS’s core missions of maintaining a modern and effective meteorological infrastructure, collecting comprehensive observational data, and issuing warnings and forecasts of severe weather that imperil life and property,” said Senator Santorum.

Senator Santorum’s bill restores the NWS non-competition policy. However, the legislation leaves NWS with complete and unfettered freedom to carry out its critical role of preparing and issuing severe weather warnings and forecasts designed for the protection of life and property of the general public.
Aw. Idn dat nice. "Complete and unfettered freedom" to serve up its information to AccuWeather on a silver platter so that AccuWeather can turn around and sell it to us, the American public. We have "complete and unfettered freedom" to pay for it twice! Yay! Lucky us! Hallelujah!

(Oh, and by the way, did I mention that AccuWeather just happens to be headquartered in - State College, Pennsylvania? As in, the state of Pennsylvania? As in the same state that Rick Santorum represents in the United States Senate? Way to go, Rick! Way to represent your contstituent.)

This is in keeping with the Bush Administration's entire philosophy, which holds that taxpayer dollars spent on - well, on taxpayers - is evil and bad and not very nice, while taxpayer dollars spent on corporations is exactly what the Founders had in mind when they wrote in the Preamble to the Constitution, "to provide for the general welfare." I guess there are a lot of retired generals on the boards of the many corporations George W. Bush is so in love with, so that must be it.

Conservatives hate waste, except when they're wasting it. (Cf, Halliburton.) They hate government spending, except when they're government and they're spending it. (Cf, Halliburton.) They hate bankruptcy and debt, except when they're the ones driving us into bankruptcy and debt. (Cf, Bush's massive deficits.) Government health insurance - bad. Private health insurance - yay! The Lord hath spake and Lo! it is holy! Amtrak - bad. Social Security - bad. Public schools - bad. (Bad public schools! Bad public schools! No biscuit!)

Don't expect the corporatized, consolidated media to pay any attention to this. Don't expect the American people to pay any attention to it, either. They've absorbed the message. Government is bad, even though government is in the hands of the very same people who attack it. They see their money being siphoned into the hands of the wealthy and they believe those very same wealthy people who decry any attention being paid to the siphoning as "class warfare." (As opposed to upper class welfare.)

I almost want those Bush voters to get what they deserve (what they voted for) - a life of utter powerlessness and complete submission to the demands of the corporations. No access to decent health care, a ruined environment, commercialized public institutions, the exact same religious tests the Constitution expressly prohibits, a nation in debt beyonds it eyeballs, and the wealthy elite giggling as they stash another billion in their mattresses. A nation in ruins and receiving the contempt it so rightly deserves from the rest of humanity.

But I didn't vote for that - why do I deserve it?

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

 

Come back, Tom Disch, all is forgiven

In 1979, Thomas Disch wrote a science fiction novel called On Wings of Song. It was set in a future America ruled by intolerant right-wing Christian fundamentalists blind to any argument but theirs and belligerently refusing all compromise with anyone who just happened to disagree with them. When I read it, I thought such a future could never happen.

Boy, was I wrong.

Ve'al kulam eloha s'lichot,
s'lach lanu, m'chal lanu, kaper lanu.

Friday, April 22, 2005

 

Post of the month: Bobo's deliberately cloudy memory

This is brilliant.
You know, David Brooks had me going there for a second. He almost had me thinking, "For once the little twerp is right":

Justice Harry Blackmun did more inadvertent damage to our democracy than any other 20th-century American. When he and his Supreme Court colleagues issued the Roe v. Wade decision, they set off a cycle of political viciousness and counter-viciousness that has poisoned public life ever since, and now threatens to destroy the Senate as we know it....

Religious conservatives became alienated from their own government, feeling that their democratic rights had been usurped by robed elitists. Liberals lost touch with working-class Americans because they never had to have a conversation about values with those voters; they could just rely on the courts to impose their views. The parties polarized as they each became dominated by absolutist activists....


Hmmm, I thought. Maybe that's right -- maybe Roe is the reason our political life is so nasty and partisan.

Then I remembered:

The civil rights era. Vietnam. The bombing of Cambodia. Attacks on anti-war activists by "hard hats." Bumper stickers about "Hanoi Jane." The dirty tricks of the '72 Nixon campaign. The rhetoric of Spiro Agnew. The rhetoric of Attorney General John Mitchell. The plot to blow up the Brookings Institution, and all the other plots.

The Equal Rights Amendment, and Phyllis Schlafly's dark warnings about unisex toilets. Busing in Boston. Proposition 13. The battle over the Panama Canal treaty. The 1980 Reagan campaign. The 1980 campaign that targeted enough Democratic senators to turn the Senate Republican. The mining of harbors in Nicaragua. The rape of nuns in El Salvador. James Watt. Ed Meese. Jeane Kirkpatrick. Ollie North. Ads with the chant "Liberal, liberal, liberal."

"Read my lips -- no new taxes." The rumor that Kitty Dukakis once burned an American flag. Bush the Elder touring flag factories during the '88 campaign, while attacking the ACLU. The Willie Horton ad. The rise of Rush Limbaugh. The Morton Downey Jr. Show. The comedy of Andrew "Dice" Clay. The books of William Bennett. The Bell Curve. The Real Anita Hill. "My dog, Millie, knows more about foreign policy than these two bozos."

The attack on "Hillarycare." The attack on gays in the military. Travelgate. Filegate. Whitewater. Fellow members of Congress taunting Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky on the floor of the House as she cast the deciding vote in favor of Clinton's budget. Lani Guinier as "quota queen." The targeting of Jim Wright. The Contract with America. The government shutdown. The Arkansas Project. The "Clinton Body Count." Linda Tripp. Lucianne Goldberg. The Mena airport rumors. The mulatto child rumors. Gary Aldrich. Ann Coulter. Barbara Olson.

I'm not even up to Clinton's impeachment, much less the present century -- Rush Limbaugh comparing Tom Daschle to Satan, Max Cleland being linked to Osama bin Laden, John McCain being accused of emotional instability and disloyalty to his country and fathering a mulatto bastard who's actually an adopted child from Bangladesh. And on and on and on.

No, David, Roe v. Wade isn't why our politics is coarsened and polarized. Our politics is coarsened and polarized because conservatives want vengeance -- for the Progressive Era, the New Deal, the Great Society, civil rights, women's rights, gay rights, consumerism, and every other liberal change of the twentieth century. And they're not too thrilled about more recent developments, either -- overturning Roe isn't going to make them mellow out about gay marriage or embryonic stem-cell research or self-administered emergency contraception or laws that permit the removal of feeding tubes for patients in permanent vegetative states.

Maybe you just focus on abortion because it's the rare issue on which liberals and Democrats fight back.
I read Bobo's column in the Times and wanted to grab him by his lapels and shake him until his tiny little brain popped back in place. I wanted to point out that he cribbed his thesis from George Will (sorry, no reference, it's from a long time ago; and besides, who knows who Will stole it from). I wanted to point out that we are one country, not 50, and that rights should not depend on where you happen to live. I wanted to point out that the anti-abortionists are also pretty much theocrats who want to impose their views in a lot of other areas, too. But Steve's post is much better than anything I could write (surprise surprise).

Isn't it interesting, though, that conservatives don't give a damn for their incredible nastiness during the 90s, but are oh-so-appalled when liberals try to fight back now? Goodness gracious, we're just so mean to them, aren't we? How dare we even think of giving as good as we got?

In conservatives' minds, as I've said before, we are and are always supposed to be the Washington Generals. We're just supposed to show up and pretend to try to win, knowing that we never will, so everyone can make believe it's a real game and not a practice or exhibition.

Well, we never agreed to that, even if sometimes we made the wingnuts think we did. We've had enough, and we're fighting back (and not just on freedom of choice). Iif the right wing doesn't like it - TDB.

UPDATE. Digby just about finishes off Bobo.
Harry Started It

David Brooks says that if it weren't for Roe vs Wade we wouldn't be having all this nastiness in our political discourse. And the fight over the judiciary -- my gawd -- nobody would even think of it:
Justice Harry Blackmun did more inadvertent damage to our democracy than any other 20th-century American. When he and his Supreme Court colleagues issued the Roe vs. Wade decision, they set off a cycle of political viciousness and counter -viciousness that has poisoned public life ever since, and now threatens to destroy the Senate as we know it.

Religious conservatives became alienated from their own government, feeling that their democratic rights had been usurped by robed elitists. Liberals lost touch with working-class Americans because they never had to have a conversation about values with those voters; they could just rely on the courts to impose their views. The parties polarized as they each became dominated by absolutist activists.
I think he's right. In fact, all those right wingers who agitated for the impeachment (and worse) of Earl Warren in the 1960's were not actually upset about Brown vs board of education or Griswald vs Connecticut or any of the other decisions that we thought had set the wingnuts aflame during the era. It was because they were anticipating that the Supreme Court was going to find a right to abortion in 1973.

Here's how The Eagle Forum so cleverly covers their tracks:
The Warren Court (1953-1969) fueled the Culture War into an inferno and then placed the federal judiciary squarely in the white-hot center of the conflagration. "Impeach Earl Warren" signs exploded like rockets across the nation as Americans began to realize what was happening. But the courts and the Constitution have remained at the center of our culture conflict, and much of the Warren Court's legacy remains in tact.
Clearly, they refuse to admit that until Roe vs Wade in 1973 the right had no issues with the courts. Indeed, everyone got along just great. They bore no ill will for the court that found "separate but equal" to be unconstitutional. Oh no, it wasn't until poor Harry Blackmun found that a woman had a right to the privacy of her own body that the right decided that the "robed elitists" had usurped their democratic rights. All that impeachment talk before then was just good clean fun.

Thus, the culture war is all about abortion and not, as some have erroneously assumed, a half century of struggle over fundamental issues of social justice, tolerance, individual rights and modernity in general. This whole thing is a simple disagreement between upstanding conservatives saving cute little babies from black robed elitists and lazy liberals refusing to admit that equal rights under the law is a matter for legislative negotiation with Rick Santorum.

That Brooks, he's a keen social observer and historical analyst. He figured this out, I'm sure, over a Bud light and a plate of popcorn shrimp down at Coco's.
If this were a prizefight (or, considering the relative strengths of the fighters, more likely the Golden Gloves), the referee would stop it just about…now.
 

Friday Blog Blogging: Star Weirds

Thanks to Good Morning, Silicon Valley, we have The Darth Side: Memoirs of a Monster.
I Am Surrounded By Idiots

Short entry today. Full schedule. Deploying killer probe droids across the galaxy.

You know what I hate? Idiots.

What I do not understand is why they do not understand that the only way for lower men to maintain any kind of dignity at all is to respect their own limitations. Humility is a virtue, if you are low.

In my meditations I have found myself drawn toward a remote sector, one not yet scheduled for probe deployment. Something speaks to me out of the velvet between the stars, and I cannot ignore it. "Redesign for the Themoth Sector," I commanded. "Make ready the jump to hyperspace."

"But Lord Vader," whinnied Admiral Ozzel, "the armada is already moving along a prescribed route..."

I withered him with a stare, my hands on my belt.

He ordered the helm to replot our course, and notified the fleet commanders. Then he turned and asked as contritely as he could manage, "May I at least know what leads you to suspect Themoth will yield results, my Lord?"

"You may ask," I told him, turning away to the glass. "As an ant may ask the sun why it shines. It is beyond you, Admiral. See to your duty."

Ozzel hesitated. "Sir," he said crisply and turned on heel.

Do you want to know what the worst part is? My left leg is still on the fritz. Whose trachea do you have to crush with your mind to get a little service around here?
Ah, Springtime For Darth, a gay romp with Annakin and Amidala on Naboo.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

 

This would never have happened if Alan Greenspan were still alive

Pay no attention to that man thoroughly regretting now what he himself allowed to happen then.
Greenspan Renews Warning on Budget Deficits

Bloated budget deficits pose a danger to the nation's long-term economic health, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan warned anew Thursday. He issued a fresh call to policy-makers to move swiftly to get the government's fiscal house in order. Greenspan, in prepared testimony to the Senate Budget Committee, only very briefly touched on the economy's current performance, said the persistence of swollen budget deficits in the years ahead "would cause the economy to stagnate or worse" unless the situation is reversed.

Persistently large budget deficits threaten the economy because they would push up interest rates for consumers and businesses. Higher borrowing costs would weigh on consumers' and businesses' willingness to spend and invest -- two important forces that keep the economy going. Rising interest rates also would slow growth in the housing market, Greenspan said.

And, growing budget shortfalls would force the government to borrow more to finance those deficits.

"The federal budget is on an unsustainable path, in which large deficits result in rising interest rates and ever-growing interest payments that augment deficits in future years," Greenspan said.

Greenspan again supported a return to pay-as-you-go budgeting policies that would require Congress to offset future increases in government spending or new tax cuts with reductions in other government programs or tax increases.
Of course, Greenspan was completely in favor of Bush's tax cuts in 2001, never mentioning the extreme likelihood - or even the remote possibility - they would cause the very budget deficits he is now so sincerely decrying.
The Bush administration supports bringing back the pay-as-you-go provision for spending, but not for tax cuts.
Of course not.
A decade-long pay-as-you-go provision expired in 2002.

The administration also has a goal of cutting the deficit in half by 2009.
And I am Marie of Rumania.

(Incidentally, the author of the article, Jeannine Aversa, never mentions that Greenspan was 100% onboard with Bush's tax cuts in 2001 or that he never warned of deficits when the tax cuts were passed. What liberal media?)
 

Where the children are

And the money isn't.

New York City is overrun with school-age children. So are a few other cities and states (mostly those with high rates of immigration, legal or otherwise). Meanwhile, Minneapolis, Portland, and Seattle are closing schools to deal with their growing dearths (if that's not an oxymoron) of pupils. Yet those cities are extremely wealthy.

Does it not make sense to shed forever the outmoded idea that primary and secondary education is 100% exclusively a local matter? All of us, no matter where we live, have a stake in there being an educated citizenry. All of us, no matter where we live, need to ensure that today's children become tomorrow's prepared adults. Why should cities without children - but who will need those children in the future as their workforce - not contribute to the education of that workforce - no matter where it currently lives? They don't need schools, but they will need the schooled. If they have no children to educate, why should they not be expected to make at least a modest contribution to the education of children elsewhere?

I know they do, in the form of state and federal taxes that get redistributed elsewhere. But they could do more. In many cities, businesses have stepped in to help educate local kids, for the same reason - they have a very direct interest in there being a qualified future workforce. Cities and states across America have no less of a vital interest at stake. We are one country, not fifty. Where the means and the ends are not geographically contiguous, it is worth considering doing a little intersectional transfer. It's for everyone's benefit.

Monday, April 18, 2005

 

Okay, 24 just jumped the shark

Warning: Spoiler.

Well, it is on Fox.

24 just showed its right-wing roots. Just as they're about to start "interrogating" (read: torture) a suspect, a lawyer from "Amnesty Global" shows up with a court order to stop them. (The lawyer is working, directly or indirectly, for the evil terrorist Habib Marwan, who doesn't want to the suspect to talk.)

How did this lawyer get a court order in about 15 minutes (the conceit of 24 is that everything you see is supposed to be in real time; i.e., a minute of screen time is a minute of real time). How could Marwan's minions find a lawyer, find a judge, find a U.S. Marshal, get them all in the same room, and then get the lawyer to CTU's top-secret headquarters in less than one commercial break?

But even more so, this is an obvious dig at all lily-livered liberal wimps who would rather protect evil people's rights than destroy terrorism. Except in Fox's fevered wingnut paranoid view of the universe, this could never happen. No judge would issue such an order without a hearing. Most judges, actually, defer to government (and then there's that secret Federal Intelligence Court that almost never turns down any requests for wiretaps or search warrants). This is complete bullshit, except on Fox.

24 just jumped the shark.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

 

Malvolio does Fafblog!

And does a creditable job of it too, he thinks.
Loonyville
Deep thoughts from Joe Scarborough:

What do these terrorists take Bush for? An Italian PM?

He will not be blackmailed. He will not give in. In fact, he will only be helped by further terror attacks and civilian murders.

With every new terror strike, George W. Bush only grows stronger.
Aieeeee! George W. Bush is now invincible! He has allowed so many terror strikes on his watch that he is now 14 miles high and eats the molten iron core of Earth on his breakfast cereal! Soon his head will pierce the heavens and menace God herself! Run away! Run away!
 

I'm with Atrios

Me too.
Ha Ha

I think this comment left by "chuckling" over at Roy's place deserves a bigger audience:
Personally, I'm getting a little tired of all this making fun of conservatives. When you think about it, they deserve a lot of respect.

First, they have to believe whatever the Bush administration or lesser congressional-type republicans tells them to believe. Yea sure, I know, that sounds like something any idiot could do, but those beliefs often change from day to day and often end up diametrically opposed to what they were the day before. It takes an incredibly agile mind to constantly change core values and beliefs without ever acknowledging the contradictions.

Next, they have to disbelieve absolutely whatever a certain other class of people believe. This includes democrats, independents, moderates, the educated, the scientists, the French, and just about everyone else in the world.

Then to top it all off, every piece of art or entertainment must conform to the daily beliefs, whatever they are, or it must be boycotted, burned, or banished (not stashed under the mattress, no, no, no).

And finally, they have to disbelieve, and disbelieve passionately, easily observable reality. Those people being tortured, they're not feeling any pain. South Park? Karl Rove couldn't have written it any better.

It's not easy being that fucking stupid. It really takes a lot of work. Show some respect, people.
You know, I never realized we had so much power! All we have to do get the wingnuts to oppose something is to come out in favor of it!

So bring on the "nuclear option"! Make Jerry Falwell the Chief Justice! Stone all those Sabbath-desecrators (you know, the people who play and go to college football games on Saturday afternoons) to death! (What, you didn't know that the Leviticus conservative Christians love to quote about homosexuality is an abomination calls for stoning to death people who go to or play college football on a Saturday afternoon? Um...oops.)

By the way, alicublog is one of the finest written, most insightful, piercing, and occasionally just damn funny liberal blogs.
 

Who steals my purse, steals trash. But keep your hands off my porn!

As usual, AMERICABlog nails it:
What exactly is the Theocrat's real Agenda?

:::snip:::

Wait until the put the crackdown on porn in full swing. That's when all those red state guys will realize they've been duped. See, the Democrats never wanted to take away their guns, but the GOP theocrats want their porn.
Actually, this is one part of the right-wing agenda that may actually not happen. See, a lot of the huge media conglomerates that the Republican-dominated FCC think are just so ducky make a shitload of money piping porn to hotel rooms across this fair, Godly land. And the only thing Bush cares about more than pandering to the constipated Christian Right (actually, the only thing he really cares about at all) is dancing to the tune of his rich corporate paymasters.

So don't worry, all you secret strokers of the Red States, your stash is safe. You'll always have something else to bash besides the Bible.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

 

A tocsin about the toxin

From Digby:
The Limits Of Politics

:::snip:::

We are definitely seeing a frontal assault on the remaining spheres of social influence that are not organized around or willingly complicit with the Republican agenda. This is not an accident. They, of course, see all obstacles as "liberal" which in the classical sense, I suppose they are. But these social influences of the judiciary, academia and popular culture are not explicitly partisan. In fact, they are largely independent spheres that resist co-option by partisan politics.

So, it's not that liberals want to protect smut and Ward Churchill because we enjoy it or agree with it. And it's not solely because we don't trust that anybody could make decisions about such things that we could live with. It's because we are trying to preserve a society in which culture and intellectual freedom can even continue to exist.

The assaults on culture, academia and the judiciary are not criticisms or even strident disagreements with their products or outcomes. These assaults are legal, legislative and regulatory attempts to pull these independent spheres under governmental authority.

It's not our political agenda we're protecting. Not should we allow ourselves to be conned into thinking that we are helping the working mom so it is a good thing anyway. The stakes are much higher than that even if people don't choose to see it. We must ensure that our entire society, political, cultural and intellectual, isn't subsumed by the Republican agenda. There's a distinction there and a very important one. Without a vibrant culture, an independent judiciary and a free intellectial sphere that operates outside the political decision making process, we become, by default, totalitarian.
Is this too alarmist? I want it to be so, but who cares what I want? We are definitely witnessing an assault on our freedoms, and I refuse to believe this is what most Americans - even most of those who voted for Bush - want. Of course, if you showed this to Bush voters, most of them would simply deny that it's happening, and the gelded MSM would sneeringly or condescendingly label it extreme leftist hysteria. I would never have believed we would get to this point; even a year ago. I'm not scared, but I am more nervous now than I've been at any point in my life.

Friday, April 15, 2005

 

Friday Blog Blogging: What would we do without Fafblog!?

Every now and then, I have to Friday Blog Blogging blog Fafblog! to remind myself (and you) of just how essential and irreplaceable they are. The funniest blog ever.
judges run amok!

Oh no! I have been kidnapped - kidnapped by judges run amok! For years they been usin their terrible laser-beam eyes an super-strength to hold the Constitution hostage but now they're takin over the world startin with ordinary mainstream Americans like me. Who can stop them now!

"I have powers beyond reason!" says Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor destroyin the National Guard with her judicial fire breath. Florida circuit judge George Greer laughs an uses his mind beam to topple the Empire State Building; the Avengers are crushed. I do not know how judges have become this powerful but I believe it involves mysterious cosmic radiation or the yellow sun of Earth.

"Kneel before Greer!" says Florida circuit judge George Greer. I am forced to kneel on accounta Congress refuses to set limitations on his kneel-forcin powers.
"Oh you won't get away with this judges," says me. "Tom Delay will stop you an save the day!"
"Who is this Tom Delay?" says Judge Greer.
"Oh you'll find out an when you do!" says me.
"Come to me, Tom Delay!" says Judge Greer. "I defy you! Come and kneel before Greer! GREER!"

Oh, where is Tom Delay! Why isn't he savin us! Tom Delay! Can you hear me? Where are you! Where are you!
Oh, and by the way, this is the second funniest blog ever.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

 

Friday Blog Blogging, Saturday Night Edition: Now is the time for all good men to abandon their loathesome party

Battlepanda doing some blog blogging of her own.
John Cole is one fed-up Republican

(Via Mark Kleiman)
What I see going on around me is that my party is in power. We control the Presidency. We control the House and the Senate. Republican appointees outnumber Democratic ones on the Supreme Court, and we are poised to add more. We own talk radio. Cable news tends to be neutral to conservative (it certainly is not liberal or progressive- some outfits may have anti-Republican reflexes). We have all but eliminated partisan debate in congress, playing by rules much tougher than anything that was in place. Where there were once no conservative (or few) newspapers, there are now several. We have numerous conservative online journals. Hundreds of publications that all push the same point and pass on the same message.

And it still isn't enough. Everything is under attack if it does not toe the same hard-right line. The university, the institution of marriage, journalism as an enterprise, the medical community, the legal community, every foreign institution, the United Nations- anything, that doesn't cater to the conservative need for instant gratification in the form of message adherence and submission to the new doctronaire must be destroyed. Look at the recent behavior of Republicans in Congress towards REPUBLICAN APPOINTED CONSERVATIVE JUDGES. Forget 'screw me once, shame on you.' This new breed of fanatacism is "Slight me in any discernable way, even a mild disagreement, and I will publicly destroy you."

And for what?

- So Tom DeLay can stuff his pockets with PAC money?

- So the banking interests that bankroll Washington can get their bankruptcy bill, ensuring higher and higher profits and usurious interest rates?

- So Jim Sensennbrenner can put people in jail for broadcasting things he finds obscene?

- So that Congress can insert itself into your marriage, change your end-of-life decisions, because they don't like them?

- So we can make sure gays don't get married?

- To make sure something like evolution and other nasty science things aren't taught in school?

What, exactly are we trying to accomplish, and why, exactly, should I be in favor of it? Other than Iraq and Afghanistan, which are going well and are a success (yet still works in progress), what have we accomplished? I'm serious. Remind me what we are trying to do here - why this is a good thing.
The more I delve into politics, the more I realize that we should be loyal first to our true beliefs and that party loyalty is only a means to an end. I applaud Cole and those like him who are realizing that their party is betraying their cause. I wish I would have the same courage if the Democrats ever get back in power and started acting nuts.
Yeah, but they won't. We'll have to be as hard on them as we are on the Republicans.

Of course, we're doing that now. Which is far more than most Republicans are doing about their own bonfire of the vanities. This is a good start, though.
 

Friday Blog Blogging, Saturday Edition: Why Scientists and Engineers are Smarter than Republicans

Not that it was ever in any doubt...
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (National Review Edition)

It is a fact that the non-economics writers of National Review are plumbing the depths of the Luskin scale. Consider Jonah Goldberg, who writes:
Jonah Goldberg: Krugman also notes that engineers and other faculty in the hard sciences are also disproportionately liberal. It’s not just in the humanities. Good point.

What he — Mr. Prize-Winning Economist — neglects to mention or consider is that engineers in the private sector make good money. Ditto many scientists. Indeed, I don’t have the data to back this up handy, but it would hardly surprise me to find out that the most liberal members of the science faculty are probably the least likely to be able to find work elsewhere. I’m sure there’s a market for private-sector biodiversity experts, but something tells me it’s smaller than the market for electrical engineers...
Does Goldberg - Mr. National Review Pontificator - not remember when he writes paragraph 2 that in paragraph 1 he admitted that it's not just the ecologists but the engineers who are "disproportionately liberal"? Surely it's a minimum requirement for sentience that you have enough brain cells to maintain at least a simulacrum of consistency from one paragraph to the next.

Perhaps Goldberg could go ask some scientists and engineers why they aren't Republicans. Do a little legwork. I know that when I ask scientists and engineers why they aren't Republicans, I get back five answers:
1. From libertarians, because the Republicans are really hostile to individual freedom: they want to control people's lives and boss people around.

2. From biologists, because Republican politicians say they don't believe in evolution.

3. From chemists and physicists, because Republican politicians pretend to believe that CO2 molecules created by human action have a different radiation-absorption spectrum than other CO2 molecules.

4. From all corners, because Republican politicians are the tools of lobbyists and do not respect the evidence about anything.

5. From all corners, because Republican politicians don't understand how important investment in education is for the future of America--they have no idea where our current wealth and health really comes from.
I think these are five very good reasons.
Number 5, if it really reflects what these scientists and engineers are thinking, would be a very positive thing. I'm not an engineer, but I once worked for a company that built commercial communications satellites. A lot of the engineers were fairly conservative, mostly on the idea that, "I achieved my success without a government handout," neatly ignoring the fact that their education (that taught them to be engineers) was almost certainly subsidized one way or another with government money and that our customer was a consortium of international governments.

I doubt most engineers, at least, are liberals or Democrats. And I'm not too sure about the scientists, either. It's certain a lot of doctors are Republicans. Maybe the current morons in power in Washington are so moronic that they are turning off a lot of scientifically and technologically trained people who would ordinarily prefer to vote for Republicans. If so, then that gives the Republicans even more of an incentive to try to destroy our science and engineering education.

;)

Friday, April 08, 2005

 

Friday Blog Blogging: Fighting to Lose

Ezra Klein says it brilliantly.
The Gay Front

Pam and Shakespeare's Sister are right. Nothing shows how completely unprepared America is to fight a war better than our willingness to kick heroic homosexuals out of the service. Doesn't matter if they know Arabic, doesn't matter if they're the real-life manifestation of Rambo, doesn't matter if they shoot lasers from their eyes and make things explode through mental effort, if they prefer dudes to chicks the Army doesn't want them. And it doesn't need them at the exact same moment that it desperately needs more troops.

During Vietnam, the thirst for bodies superseded the country's casual bigotry and dudes in dresses were sent as surely as the conscripts who showed up in fatigues. We were fighting a war. Presently, we're forcing perfectly good, able, and willing fighters from advancing the national interest because they pursue a lifestyle that is in no way illegal. That point can't be overstated. Being gay is no less legal than being brown-eyed, or long-limbed. The Supreme Court, in fact, not only ratified the constitutionality of being gay, but of doing gay things. So neither homosexuality nor the sodomy that often comes with it is in any way contrary to the law. And yet, somehow, this wholly legal lifestyle is reason enough to be ejected from the Armed Forces.

Imagine that. The defenders of liberty, the toughest, strongest, most deadly-dangerous aspect of the world's superpower gets the vapors when gays ask to join. All these macho men, all these Navy SEALS, all these front-line defenders of freedom are, we're supposed to believe, rendered so queasy by the thought of dudes kissing that they could no longer protect the country. And the right accuses us of being unserious?

Actually, it goes far beyond seriousness. It hits straight at the heart of efficiency:
A recent congressional study on the impact of "don't ask, don't tell" said that hundreds of highly skilled troops, including many translators, have left the armed forces because of the rule, at a cost of nearly $200 million, mostly for recruiting and training replacements for 9,500 troops discharged between 1994 and 2003.
$200 million. So the soldiers tasked with defending our country will never be exposed to the danger of guy-on-guy action. You have got to be fucking kidding me.
Um..."fucking kidding me"? Considering who they wingnuts want to exclude, and why, that strikes me as perhaps the wrong modifier.

But still - I suppose some of the wingnuts think if they are "moral" enough, God will bless them and their endeavors will prosper. Whereas I think God helps those who help themselves - if you want to win, really want to win, do what it takes. But then, I guess it really matters which fight you want to win. Win the war on terra, or win the war to turn America into a medieval theocracy? I guess we now know which fight the wingnuts really want to win. And that's fine - they're entitled to make their choice, even if it isn't my choice and I think their choice is evil (as they no doubt think mine is). The problem is, outside the leftwing blogosphere, no one has the guts or honesty to admit that the right wing has made this choice. Or perhaps the MSM is simply too stupid to realize this. I would not find that any bit surprising.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

 

What's next: "We reserve the right"?

Right-wing Christians, flush with their electoral success and secure in their domination of the Republican Party, feel invincible, verging onto hubristic. Not content with their progress to date, they are insisting upon making the most of their temporary suzerainty by pushing the hardest of hard-right agendas. One of their current goals is to "free" doctors and pharmacists from the terrible burden of having to treat patients or prescribe drugs that violate the poor little darlings' horribly affronted consciences. There are bills in state legislatures and in Congress that would permit physicians to refuse to treat any patient they don't want to (cough, gays) and to let pharmacists refuse, for example, to dispense prescribed birth control pills to an unmarried woman.

Doctors and pharmacists are licensed by the states in which they practice. Almost all of them received their professional degrees at state-supported institutions. They take an oath to treat everyone regardless of circumstances. Doctors can't refuse to treat the lung cancer of lifelong smokers. Surgeons can't refuse to operate on the cirrhosis-scarred livers of alcoholics. Pharmacists have a public duty, whether they like it or not. Permitting narrow-minded conceptions of "morality" to govern who will treat whom, will lead to extraordinary unfairness and chaos.

People's lives are at stake here. Steven Alden is lying when he says, "When there are pharmacies in almost every supermarket and big box retailer, a woman who encounters an objecting pharmacist usually needs only to go across the street to find one willing to serve her" - there are large parts of America where this is simply not true.

And where does it end? Crystal meth is invading the Red States - should liberal doctors refuse to treat addicts from Kansas?

If a Christian doctor can refuse to treat a gay man, can he next refuse to treat Muslims and Jews? Is there nothing at which the fulsomely triumphant right wing will gag and turn away from?

In the 1950s and 1960s, Southerners would frequently put signs up on the doors of their stores and restaurants saying, "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone" - "anyone" meaning, of course, niggers. Are we headed back in that direction? We're already re-fighting battles we thought we'd won over the environment, occupational safety, and women's rights. Must we head down a path likely to resurrect the bad old days of Jim Crow? Or do conservative Christians really think those were the bad old days? Is that what this is about - white-power nostalgia for American apartheid?

Saturday, April 02, 2005

 

Pope Dies - DeLay Blames Democrats

Castigating the "Democrat culture of death," House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Rep. - Texas) blamed the death of Pope John Paul II earlier today on the Democratic Party. "Nobody died before the Democrats started interfering with people's right to life," DeLay said to Fox News. "If it weren't for the Democrat culture of death, His Holiness would still be alive. And Terry Schiavo. Don't nobody never forget her neither."

DeLay is a conservative Protestant. Like all conservative Protestants, he used to consider the Pope to be the handmaiden of the Antichrist, until it was pointed out to him that American Catholics might be induced to vote Republican if only DeLay would stop belittling their spiritual leader.

Meanwhile, President Bush has begun interviewing candidates to succeed Pope John II. It is not clear if anyone has told him that he doesn't actually get to name the new Pontiff, or if he believed them when they told him.

Friday, April 01, 2005

 

I didn't think so

So, let's see...Michael Schiavo had the sole legal right to make decisions for Terry Schiavo, but her parents didn't like the choice he made, so they protested, and the entirety of Christendom tried to interfere with his well-established rights. And, yea, the Republican Party and, apparently, all right-thinking people in the universe looked upon their works, and behold, they were good.

So does this mean that the principle of non-interference in family matters has been overturned? After all, I thought that was at the bedrock of what conservatives and Republicans believe - the absolute inviolability of the family, and that no one can tell a husband what to do about his wife. Guess I was wrong.

But I wonder how far this goes. For example, does it extend to parents and children? I mean, let's say there's this Christian Science family in Massachusetts, and their child gets sick and they refuse to take it to a doctor. And the Massachuesetts legislature passes a law saying they can't refuse. Would the conservatives and Republicans accept that the principle of family inviolability has been irrevocably altered and stand aside?

See the title of this post.
 

Set this House in Princeton!

I like House, the medical detective series starring Hugh Laurie that airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. (ET) on Fox. It's a bit formulaic, but Laurie is terrific as the brilliant, acerbic House, and the medical mysteries are interesting.

But.

House is set in Princeton, NJ, in the fictional "Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital" (from the exterior shots, the Princeton University infirmary and surrounding buildings). Anyone from around here has a good laugh at that designation - Princeton University, you see, has no medical school, and thus no call for a teaching hospital in the area. (The local hospital, the Princeton Medical Center, has a connection with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, which itself is connected with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and gets some residents from there; but it is not a teaching hospital.)

Worse, House, although set in Princeton, is filmed in Hollywood - and it shows. There is absolutely nothing the slightest bit "Princeton" about House. Other than the aforementioned exterior shots of "Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital," there appears to be no location filming done in the area at all. The characters might as well be living in Hollywood for all that they have any apparent connection to Princeton. No one ever mentions seeing some famous performer at McCarter Theatre; no one ever waits in line outside P.J.'s Pancake House on a Saturday or Sunday morning; nobody ever goes to the huge Barnes & Noble just outside the town. No one complains about the traffic on Route 1 or the fact that there are no gas stations in the entirety of Plainsboro Township. There are no shots of the Seward Johnson statues near Palmer Square. No shots of Nassau Hall or Palmer Stadium. Nobody visits the new town library.

Princeton is a small town, but there's a surprising amount going on. (Far more than when I was a grad student here in the late 1970s, and a joke pamphlet entitled How to Have Fun in Princeton opened, "Get on the bus for New York," followed by nothing but blank pages.) If you're going to set your show here, shouldn't you grab more than just a vaguely recognizable name, like all the businesses for 30 miles around that rent a box in the Princeton Post Office so they can boast the address? It's like setting a show in San Francisco and filming it in Vancouver ($1 to the first person to get the reference; if you know one of my obsessions that appears occasionally in this blog, it's not that hard).

Would it kill the producers to give House a real Princeton flavor as well as the nominal setting? Although, to give them credit, the interior of "Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital" looks surprisingly Princeton-like with its handsome orange hints (orange being the dominant color around here, as the University's atheltic teams bear the nickname "Tigers").

House is a good show, and I realize that 99% of its viewers have no clue that its producers have no clue, nor do they care. But a little less on the formula and a little more of Princeton would make it a great show. Paying attention to details when you don't have to - giving your show a real sense of place - those can have an outsize effect for the effort required.

Oh, and don't make Greg House nice. We need more harmless curmudgeons.

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