"Disorder in the house. . . reptile wisdom . . . zombies on the lawn, staggering around; Disorder in the house, there's a flaw in the system, a fly in the ointment's gonna bring the whole thing down."
Warren Zevon

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Blood in the Water 

Tom Schaller, once again, proves his courage by posting objectively about the Dean Campaign on DailyKos. As the comments to his post show, he might as well have thrown a bloody steak to a school of piranhas.

The intensity of the response, of course, is a good indication that he's likely correct in his theory of Howard Dean and "buyers remorse."Schaller actually mentions two theories with that theme, one being the soon-to-be-conventional wisdom that the Dems "dated" Dean, but "married" Kerry. The other, which Schaller personally espouses, is more complicated, and postulates that Dean's "non-core" suppporters may have experienced an "evolution" in their view of the Iraq War issue, similar to Kerry's, and that a vote for Kerry would be more "affirming."

Regardless of the reasons or the mechanism, it's clear the voters are taking a second look at both Kerry and Dean, and that Dean suffers by comparison. I still see the overreaching issue as electability, but call it what you want. Again, Schaller provides consistently solid commentary, and you're missing out if you don't read his posts.

Schaller also opines that Edwards will have a tough time catching Kerry, but "yet continue[s] to hope that somehow he can." Keep the faith, Tom. This thing ain't over.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Excitable Boy 

Brian Linse notes that the Vh1 documentary filmed during the recording of "The Wind," Warren Zevon's benedictory album is soon to be available on DVD. As Brian points out, it contains extra footage not included in the television broadcast. Go buy it through the link on his post.

The three of you who read this blog know that it takes its name from a phrase in "Disorder in the House," Warren's Grammy nominated duet with Bruce Springsteen on "The Wind." If anyone else has wandered through here by accident, now you know, too.

Warren would have been 57 on Saturday, January 24, 2004.

I told you so. . .  

Here's the Washington Post helping me beat my recent favorite dead horse:
(Thanks to William Swann, of Centerfield for the heads-up)

Ask any of President Bush's Washington strategists to size up the Democratic candidates campaigning for Tuesday's New Hampshire primary and they will say they are delighted at the prospect of running against a liberal tax-raiser who is soft on terrorism. They don't know what his name is, but those Republicans say that they can put him in that box, whoever he turns out to be. One Republican consultant said the basic message of ads on behalf of Bush will be that the Democrat is "liberal, liberal, liberal."
Republicans close to Bush said campaign strategists think Dean would be the easiest to tag with their preferred description and would play to the caricature they hoped to create of him. However, the campaign is concerned about Dean's proven ability to raise money, because he -- along with Kerry -- chose not to accept federal funds and the spending restrictions that come with them.

These Republicans said they worry most about Edwards, because he is so little known and has such a comparatively short public record. That combination would give him the easiest time morphing into whatever his campaign decides that swing voters want. "Personally, I'm the most concerned about Edwards, because he has a huge attractiveness to him," a senior Republican official said. "The only negative is the lack of experience."

Another Republican official who is worried about facing Edwards called him "Clinton without the scandal -- John Kennedy, from the South."

"He's the most appealing of the candidates, and hardest to typify as a hard-core liberal," this official said. "Edwards is seen as a problem. Everybody in Massachusetts hates Kerry. Everybody in the Democratic Party hates Dean. Everyone in the military hates Clark. But nobody hates Edwards."

Sound familiar?

Attention From the Right 

I know I've posted on this before, but I think it's important to note the amount of attention John Edwards is getting from the right wing these days. Scrolling down Andrew Sullivan's site to check up on the Atrios feud, I came across no less than three posts about Edwards, including this one, which features a letter from a conservative who's fed up with other (honest) conservatives say positive things about Edwards. In addition, Andy excerpts and links to David Brooks laudatory column here, and quotes Josh Marshall here.

In the same vein, NPR's Morning Edition last week covered the annual meeting of some large conservative convention, (the name of which I can't remember), and asked convention-goers which of the Democratic candidates they most feared. The overwhelming answer was Edwards. When are the Democrats going to catch on to what the GOP already knows and fears?


Jim Capozolla slams Andrew Sullivan not once, not twice, but thrice. And no, Andy it's not a personal attack; no, it's not because you're gay; and no he's not hiding behind a pseudonym, so just deal with it.

And while I'm at it, damn, what a great writer is Jim Capozzola. I'm not the only person to notice, and if you agree, you should pop on over to Wampum where Jim's blog, The Rittenhouse Review is a finalist in the Best Written Blog category of the 2003 Koufax Awards. The rest of the finalists are great, too. Check it out.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Fair and Balanced 

I can't agree with the title of Atrios' post, but I can concede the fact that Scalia gets one right here. Even a blind hog finds an acorn every now and then.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Appearance of Impropriety 

The New York Times gets it right. Justice Scalia's recent duck hunting trip with Dick Cheney is exactly the type of extra-judicial contact with a litigant that should disqualify a jurist. The standards for judicial recusal are necessarily objective, as actions which call into question the impartiality of our courts erode public trust. Because no one can determine the subjective mindset of a judge, a judge is under an ethical duty to avoid contact with litigants which raise the specter of bias.

Scalia's statements to The Los Angeles Times comparing his social interaction with Cheney to dining at the White House are unpersuasive. Scalia defends his actions by arguing that social contact with public officials is allowed where "officials are sued in the course of their public duty." But, as the New York Times correctly notes, "Cheney's case involves not just any action, but one calling his integrity into question."

Sit this one out, Justice Scalia. The fact that you've had to defend your actions at all indicates that an appearance of impropriety has already been created. That's enough for your recusal.

Monkey see, Monkey make excuses 

Todd Morman's candidate didn't do well in the Iowa caucuses, and the candidate he said would be out of the race last November (John Edwards) did very well, so, well, . . . somebody must have cheated!!

From CaucusFraud at Monkeytime: (No, Todd doesn't title his posts, but that's the name he gives it in the permalink.)

"So I'm fine with a result that makes the Dem race more competitive. But don't tell me, after the non-transparent, non-accountable system we just saw in Iowa, that it's a complete coincidence that the candidate least favored by the big money element in the Democratic Party happened to do terribly, while the candidates the money people like most did surprisingly well."

Todd, I like your blog, but this is just pathetic. Go read David Neiwert's recent post on conspiracy theories; you'll enjoy it.

Oh, and good job on linking to that 16 year- old Saletan article from 1988 dealing with the uncertainty of a 3% margin in that year's rather unusual caucus. Really applicable to this years race. Let's see, what was Dean's percentage again?

Saturday, January 24, 2004

The Ideology of Power 

Or vice versa.

Not long ago, I posted about the move underway among moderate Baptists in North Carolina to form a new state convention, as the existing convention moves ever closer to becoming the ideological twin of the ultraconservative Southern Baptist Convention. Last night in Greensboro, North Carolina, hundreds of moderate Baptists met to explore their options, one of which is schism. As my last post details, the Southern Baptist Convention, under the aggressive control of conservatives for some 25 years, has systematically mandated its conservative positions on social issues through formal resolutions and changes to the Baptist Faith and Message, driving away many more moderate churches.

But differences as to the inerrancy of scripture, and debates over gay marriage and abortion were not the impetus for last nights meeting. Doctrinal disputes have always existed. No, the moderates are openly discussing schism not based on differences in scriptural interpretaion, but because they fell they will soon have no input, no place at the table. As reported in the Greensboro News and Record, the moderates increasingly fear complete the marginalization which now exists in the SBC, where moderates are no longer allowed to serve on committees. With no representation at even the committee level, moderates have little control over the direction of either convention funds or individual churches' contributions.

So, if you're not a moderate Southern Baptist, why should you care? Because the same thing is happening right now in our national legislature. The most chilling article I've read lately is "America as a One-Party State", by Robert Kuttner. As with the Baptist conventions, control is not enough. "Today's hard right seeks total dominion. . .The target is not the Democrats but democracy itself." Sound like hyperbole? Not on your life. As Kuttner persuasively demonstrates, the Rpublican hard right has rewritten the legislative rules, packed the courts, and gerrymandered the electoral process with the single goal of extended single-party dominance.

Let's look briefly at the legislative branch. Historically, legislation is the result of a broad range of input and lengthy hearings, both in committee and on the legislative floor. Under Tom DeLay, however, bills are written by the tightly controlled Republican leadership, with no broad participation from the GOP as a whole. According to Kuttner, 57% of legislative measures in the House are now passed as "emergency" measures, so that the ordinary 48 hour time period for a vote is reduced to 30 minutes. Nor are floor amendments routinely permitted, as in the past, further reducing the possibility of representative compromise. Similarly, drastic substantive changes are now commonplace in conference committees. As a recent example, Kuttner cites the (surprisingly) well publicized "watering down" of the media ownership limitations passed by both houses in a subsequent conference committee.

As to the judiciary, surely after the recess appointment of Charles Pickering, whose abysmal civil rights record is here, I don't need to spend much time on that topic. Likewise, the Texas redistricting case should provide an ample demonstration of the GOP's intent as to stacking the electoral deck.

Kuttner notes that his article begs the question, "[D]idn't the Democrats commit the same abuses during their 40-year House majority?" His answer: "Basically, no. The legislation written by stealth in the Rules Committee and in conference, and the exclusion of the minority party from conferences, are new." And the intended result, the marginalization of the Democratic party, if it occurs, will also be new.

A "One-Party State"? A "One-Faction Baptist Convention"? The moderate Baptists can solve their problems by simply resigning; The Democrats will have to find another solution.


Friday, January 23, 2004

Left to Right: We're Sorry. Really. 

Sardonic? Sarcastic? Ironic? Satirical?
You decide. Pretty powerful however you describe it.

Atrios Live!!! 

This is really cool, and I'm genuinely looking forward to it. In additon to creating a blog that's a must-read clearinghouse of links to absolutely everything you should know about, Atrios' analysis and lengthier posts confirm that he's a great writer and a clear, insightful thinker. I really don't know what I would do without his site, and I'm really gratified to see him get radio recognition.
An I KNOW he's going to absolutely slam Andrew Sullivan.

Read Tom Schaller 

I linked to a DailyKos post by Tom Schaller a day or so ago, and I continue to be impressed with his insight and his writing, and not just because he's always so positive about the Edwards' campaign. Read the guy's bio, then read all his posts, including this one on last night's debate. As analysists go, he's the real thing.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Dean's Campaign Alters Approach After Iowa Loss 

Okay, in my humble opinion, this just makes it worse. For the man who claims to just "say what he thinks is right" without regard to polls and public opinion, this sure looks suspiciously like good old inside the beltway politics. But when your supporters look like this, what's a guy to do?

No Longer Viable? 

"I support Dean, either until he wins the Democratic nomination or his campaign is no longer viable. . . "
Oliver Willis, 01/21/04

So says Oliver Willlis in response to accusations that he might shift support to John Edwards. What's refreshing is the admission that Dean's campaign is at all vulnerable. When exactly will the campaign cease to be viable? After an other-than-first-place finish in New Hampshire? When Edwards wins South Carolina? Both are well within the realm of possibility.

While Dean's campaign has performed admirably leading up to the primaries, there are those of us who think his viability in a general election has always been suspect, and it's heartening to see Oliver Willis begin, ever so slightly, to hedge his bets.

(Thanks to EdCone.com for the heads up)

Fear This 

As an Atrios commenter to this post succinctly put it, "The White House fears John Edwards." How else to explain Matt Drudge's breathless post proclaiming "Edwards Backed Stock Market Gamble For Social Security"? With the Iowa caucus results having apparently roused the GOP echo chamber/smear machine from their wet dream about a Dean nomination, Drudge excitedly informs us that a mere 5 years ago, John Edwards suggested in two speeches that a "small portion" of Social Security surpluses be invested in the stock market "to see the kind of returns it would produce." Wow. If this is the best Rove and Co. can do, Edwards is definitely the right candidate.

I mean, seriously, Matt, how is suggesting that a small percentage of Social Security surplus be invested in the market inconsistent with opposing wholesale privatization? As Atrios points out, it would be difficult to find any Democrat who hasn't explored the possibility of some sort of investment plan to try to save Social Security. For anyone who's actually grappled with the problem, it would be irresponsible not to consider all options.

Drudge calls Edwards' opposition to privatization an example of how Edwards "flips and flops" on the issues, and suggests ominously that there may "two John Edwards." Poor Matt. He really is scared, isn't he? No Matt, there's only one John Edwards, and that's all it's going to take to send Bush packing.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Res Ipsa Loquitor 

Latin, for "the thing speaks for itself." In this case, the "thing" is Bush's environmental record. In my ardor to see Edwards garner the Democratic nomination, I've neglected to post on a variety of matters that have caught my attention recently, including Bush's abysmal environmental record. Since nearly every day brings some new outrage, and since I really don't even know where to start, let me suggest the National Resources Defense Council's recitation of "The Bush Record."
It's hard to keep track of the type stories that are collated on this webpage, partly because they usually get reported in a three line paragraph on page 37 of Section J of your local paper, and partly because it's just hard to keep up with the sheer volume. Seeing it all in one place is informative and downright infuriating. Thanks to truthout.org for the heads up.

Monday, January 19, 2004

A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of Saint Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Letter From A Birmingham Jail, 1963

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Into the Lions' Den 

Tom Schaller, a DailyKos user, has a positive, thoughtful and informative post on the Edwards campaign from "on the ground" in Iowa. As you might expect from that bastion of Deanism, the suggestion that Edwards might actually be a viable candidate is met with scorn and malevolence by the commenters. But Schaller is not your average Kos poster. He's an assistant professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, whose political commentaries have appeared in the Baltimore Sun, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times and Washington Post. He was a featured guest on NPR's "Talk of the Nation" on January 15, 2004, and, now listen closely Kosers: He's a Dean Supporter. And he's in Iowa as a Dean volunteer. That's right, a Dean supporter who doesn't think every other democratic candidate is the antichrist. (Wonder how many Google hits I"ll get from rightwing nutbars looking for "Dean" and "Antichrist" in the same sentence? Come to think of it, I"ll probably get at least one from DrFrankLives of The Stinging Nettle; he seems to getting suspicious.)

Here's a snippet from Schallers piece: But Edwards has found his stride. It's really a dramatic transformation. Both his confidence and his stump speech - and the reaction by crowds to the powerful cocktail of the two.

At a small event at a community college in Iowa Falls last night, Edwards really was dazzling. The event was scheduled for 7:15, and the room was full by then, and kept growing in size for the next hour and 20 minutes as the campaign entourage, running late, was making its way to this small, 5000-person farming town.

Doesn't really sound like your average Dean volunteer does it? I won't quote extensively from the piece, but you should certainly go read it. In addition to reporting on recent campaign events, Schaller also analyzes the Edwards' campaign in general, making an insightful comparison of Edwards and Gore that, to me at least, is spot on, and providing a persuasive opinion as to why Edwards hasn't "caught on" sooner.

While Schaller recognizes that Edwards' momentum represents a relatively late surge, he doesn't adopt the "too little, too late" mantra that pervades the commments which follow his post.; rather, he believes Edwards "might just do better than people expect." Thanks for you candor, Tom. We've always known Edwards was still in this thing.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Junk Science, Junk Food. . . Junk Bush 

Ezra at Pandagon brings our attention to this consummately creepy article from the Washington Post in which we learn that the Bush administration wants to give the White House Office of Management and Budget control over the peer review of scientific research that forms the basis of health or environmental regualtions. Stated differently, under this proposal, no federal regulations can take effect until the research which justifies them is peer reviewed by a process overseen directly by the White House.

While independent peer review has long been the "gold standard" by which scientific research is judged, the process contemplated by this proposal is anything but independent. According to the Washington Post, the OMB peer review process would "explicitly discourage the participation" of scientists who have "received agency grants," but does not bar, or even warn against, participation by scientists with industry connections, presumably even industry potentially affected by the proposed regulation. To make matters worse, this plan gives "the executive branch the final say as to whether the peer review process was acceptable."

A proposal such as this one, which would be alarming in the abstract, is downright terrifying when is comes from an administration that has already demonstrated its willingness to alter, edit, and manipulate scientific data in the areas of stem cell research, global warming, contraception, and as Ezra and Atrios note, race and poverty, in order to further the interests of right wing religious groups and industry. After all, this is the administration that unabashedly altered an EPA report which in its original form warned New York residents of the dangers inherent in post 9-11 pollution.

And now there's junk food. The Guardian reports that the US is attempting to undermine the World Health Organization's obesity guidelines, which the article notes, "could be damaging to it's food and drink corporations." According to the Guardian, the "US department of health and human services makes it clear that it disputes some of the scientific evidence on which the proposals are based." Wouldn't situations like this be so much easier if, instead of having to dispute scientific evidence, we could just manipulate it beforehand?

The Guardian quotes Gary Ruskin, executive director of Commercial Alert, a US-based non-profit organization, who gives us a straightforward quote which could basically a fill-in-the-blank template for this administration:(notations mine) "The Bush administration is putting the interests of the junk food [or fill in the blank] industry ahead of the health of [fill in nationality, unless worldwide] people - including children - on a global [use suitable adjective] scale."

More Gary Ruskin: "The administration's arguments border on the ludicrous. Does anyone outside the administration and the junk food industry truly doubt that the consumption and marketing of high-calorie junk food plays a role in obesity and other chronic diseases?

"Why would this administration - or any administration - invoke the moral authority of the United States on behalf of the junk food and the obesity lobby?"

Why, indeed.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Is He Serious? 

That's what plaintiff Beverly Jones wanted to know after listening to Justice Scalia's questions to Deputy Solicitor General Paul Clement during today's Supreme Court hearing regarding the constitutionality of the now fourteen year-old Americans With Disabilities Act. NPR's Nina Totenberg, during today's All Things Considered, reports an exchange between Clement, and Justices Rehnquist and Scalia, about the application of the ADA to public accomodations in the context of voting.

Defending the constitutionality of the ADA, Clement states: Public accommodations involve fundamental rights, like voting.

Rehnquist: Well, what's discrimination in voting? Does that mean someone's not allowed to vote? Or that a person would have to be carried up stairs to vote?

Clement: Congress heard testimony of people being turned away from the polls.

Rehnquist: How many?

Clement: I can't give you numbers, but the evidence showed it was a significant problem.

Scalia: So they were turned away because there's no elevator. Is that a constitutional violation?

Clement: I think, if officials say you can't vote today, that does violate fundamental rights.

Scalia: I don't know why. If you want to vote, you have to get assistance.

Outside the Supreme Court after the hearing, plaintiff Beverly Jones questioned whether Justice Scalia's questions were serious, or perhaps just "facetious." Sadly enough, Beverly, I'd say he was serious.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

God's Endorsement 

What would you expect to find at the other end of link from National Review Online which reads "God is Endorsing None of these Dems?" Perhaps Pat Robertson with further revelations that God has now publically endorsed George W. Bush? Specific Divine Denouncements of all Democratic candidates? Not exactly. It's gone now, but yesterday that ominously worded link would have led you to "The Church of the Holy Primary," penned by Doug Bandow, Senior Fellow of the Cato Institute, whose recent critique of George W. Bush from the conservative perspective was the subject of an earlier post. While the subtitle of Bandow's piece would seem to indicate a focus on what he perceives to be "religious pandering" in the Democratic Primary, it soon devolves into rambling and disingenuous commentary on the general role of religion in the realm of the political, which ironically includes Bandow's own not-so-subtle brand of religious pandering.

When dealing specifically with the Democrats, as one might expect, Bandow's primary target is Howard Dean, who has struggled with questions about his spirituality, and specifically, the nature of his Christian faith. And, while taking his obligatory cheap shots at Dean, (he can't seem to get enough of "bike path" references) he actually makes the occasional accurate observation regarding the interplay of religion and politics. It's too bad he stops short of applying his observations to Republicans and George W. Bush.

According to Bandow, "Voters should be skeptical of any politician who claims to be acting in the name of theology." In context, this appears to be a reference to Dean's statement that his faith influenced his position on civil unions. In principle, I agree. In fact, "skeptical" doesn't begin to describe how I felt when I first heard George W. Bush's claim that he was chosen by God to lead America through the tragedy of September 11, and his references to war in Iraq as a "crusade."

The trick here is that Bandow knows he can make such a general statement with complete impunity, because there's absolutely no chance it will ever be applied to a Republican candidate by their voter base. Bandow knows, as all interested observers know, that a large block of voters, namely the Christian Right, aren't at all "skeptical" of theologically motivated politicians, but rather, enthusiastically support such candidates. Well, not all such candidates, of course, only those that have a "personal relationship with Jesus," oppose abortion, believe homosexuals will burn in Hell, support the NRA and believe that Creationism should be required curriculum. (For a great take on the Christian Right as a "Republican Tool" see this post from The Right Christians and the Andrew Sarchus article that inspired it).

While Bandow's ostensible thesis seems to be that a candidate's faith has little if anything to do with his qualifications for the presidency, he can't resist taking carefully worded shots at specific policy issues. Addressing poverty, using the very Bible that he says shouldn't matter, in typical conservative fashion, Bandow acknowledges scriptural focus on meeting the needs of others, but ascribes that duty to individuals not "the state." "God's concern for the poor, the vulnerable, and the weak is persistent, pervasive, and powerful. Little is clearer in Scripture than the duty of believers to care for those in need. Notably, however, the Bible does not vest this responsibility in the state." Notably, Doug, in representative forms of government, individuals comprise the state.

Neither does Scripture proscribe a public role, but it implies that believers should fulfill their individual and corporate responsibilities before turning to government, and any state programs should not violate other biblical norms, such as family formation." "Implies"? "Biblical norms"? "Family formation?" Candidly, Doug, I think a lot of scholars who actually know what they're talking about would dispute your conclusory statements about what Scripture implies. Similarly, I wouldn't count on "biblical norms" making it into the theological or political vernacular anytime soon, since after all, "biblical norms" at various times would include polygamy, infanticide, and the application of the death penalty for working on the Sabbath (Exodus 35:2). As to "family formation," Doug, skip the clever code words, just write directly about abortion and gay marriage and get it off your chest.

Later we learn that "the state's most fundamental role is to protect citizens from the sinful conduct of their neighbors,"( that's right, "sinful") and that social justice, "however appealing" is not "Biblical justice." And so it continues, with Bandow minimizing the role of religion in politics while simultaneously citing scripture, and even Pope John II in transparent attempts to support specific conservative philosophies.

Winding down his comments, Bandow returns to Howard Dean, and we get the punchline we'd expect from the "God endorse none of these Dems" lead in: Brandow openly asks "Is Howard Dean really a Christian?" While Bandow would protest any interpretation other than a rhetorical question asked for the purported purpose of opining that it really doesn't matter, he gets his message across. Like the skilled courtroom cross-examiner, Bandow realizes that the question is often more important than the answer.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Cokie Roberts Discovers John Edwards 

NPR news analyst Cokie Roberts, like most of the "mainstream" media, has studiously ignored the John Edwards campaign for months, but had some positive things to say about the NC Senator this morning on Morning Edition. Noting that Edwards has received the endorsement of The Des Moines Register, she also mentioned this morning's "very favorable"Washington Post editorial.

Her specific comments concerning the Edwards campaign came in response to a question from Renee Montagne regarding the wisdom of attacking other Democratic candidates during the primary. Cokie noted that Edwards was the only candidate who had made it a point not to "go negative," and that this positive primary campaign strategy was beginning to "get a certain amount of traction with voters." Unfortunately, she then perpetuated the myth that Edwards might actually seeking a vice-presidential nomination, commenting that "it is also possible that he is looking to run for vice-president, and one good way to do that is not to attack whoever ends up becoming the nominee."

Why, might I ask, is it necessary to infer some ulterior motive from a winning campaign strategy? Why is it so hard to believe that this "thoughtful and confident" candidate is actually running for president? While I'm grateful for the belated media attention, I wish the second guessing would just stop. Maybe after Iowa.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Rifts on the Right 

Not too long ago, I posted a link to an article by conservative writer Doug Bandow, which I found unusual, as it attacked the Bush administration from the conservative side, on the issue of fiscal policy. Clearly, the true fiscal conservatives should be furious with Bush, but I was suprised to see anyone publically break ranks. In addition, prior to that article, I wondered whether the true fiscal conservatives even still out there, or whether they've simply been drowned out by the social conservatives, the guns, gays, and abortion crowd.

Recently, however, I've seen evidence that certain groups don't believe Bush has gone far enough on the issues of interest to social conservatives, a development I find especially alarming, as I view this administration as a group of extremists who would like nothing better than to completlely gut the civil liberties and privacy rights established by decades of jurisprudence.

In fact, I initially reacted with skepticism to the conclusions of this article, written by Geneive Abdo of the Chicago Tribune, and brought to my attention by Allen Brill, whose brilliant site, The Right Christians I sometimes tarnish with my too caustic comments. In this piece, Abdo posits that some members of the Christian Right might stay away from the polls in response to the fact that "Bush's religious rhetoric has [not] translated into the social policies they were counting on, such as clear stands against homosexual marriage and all forms of abortion."

My skepticism is based on the fact that every member of the Christian Right with whom I'm acquainted is quite well pleased with Bush and his efforts regarding social issues. Moreoever, the idea that such individuals, even if they existed might abstain from voting seems counter-intuitive. (Abdo also suggests that the Christian Right might turn out to vote in fewer numbers due to "apathy" or "complacence" as "God's man" was already in the White House. To the contrary, I see the Christian Right as anything but apathetic, a view shared by the writer of this Knight-Ridder article.)

Nonetheless, there is some recent evidence of a rift in the right, as evidenced by the negative reaction of the far right to Bush's speech regarding Immigration policy. As with any issue in which racism is present, David Niewert is on top of it.

This one, however, doesn't suprise me. While there are ideological zealots in the Bush administration, in general, ideology will lose when pitted against the interests of industry. With respect to immigration, the lure of cheap labor, combined with the need to do a little pre-election pandering proved irresistible to whatever cadre of industry moguls and administration officials is making policy this week, possibly fueling the first rift of any significance within the right wing of the party.

Still, the idea that a few disillusioned neocons will decide to withhold support from Bush as a result of this, or some other cultural issue, strikes me as fanciful. Like the industry moguls, the extremists know a good thing when they see it.

At Long Last 

Finally, Edwards gets a major endorsement. Even better, it's from The Des Moines Register, one of the largest, if not the largest, newspapers in Iowa. I noticed the headline on CNN earlier, but it wasn't until I read a quote from the editorial on Apostropher's blog that I realized how important this really is.

Here's the language that caught my attention:

The more we watched him, the more we read his speeches and studied his positions, the more we saw him comport himself in debate, the more we learned about his life story, the more our editorial board came to conclude he's a cut above the others.

John Edwards is one of those rare, naturally gifted politicians who doesn't need a long record of public service to inspire confidence in his abilities. His life has been one of accomplishing the unexpected, amid flashes of brilliance.

Hear, hear. Later, the editorial highlights the crystal clear choice that an Edwards/Bush election would give the voters:

If Edwards wins the Democratic nomination, voters this fall would have a choice between two men who almost perfectly embody the rival political philosophies in America today. George W. Bush and John Edwards are attractive, likable, energetic. They have about the same level of prior experience in government - and they are polar opposites.

Bush is from a prominent family, attended Ivy League universities, made his fortune in business and fervently believes the philosophy of "a rising tide lifts all boats." His policies flow from the conviction that all Americans will gain if business is largely unfettered and if investors are better rewarded.

Edwards is from a working-class family, attended public universities, made his fortune representing ordinary people in the courtroom and fervently believes that America does best when doors of opportunity are open to anyone willing to work and get ahead. He says those opportunities are being choked off in an America today that rewards wealth, not work. Emblematic of his approach is his proposal to pay the first year's tuition to a state university or community college for any student willing to work.

The endorsement also comments on the tone of the Edwards campaign, noting that, while critical of Bush, Edwards' tone is less personal that other candidates, an further notes that he "emphasizes his goal is not merely to replace Bush but to change America. He tends to conduct positive, optimistic campaigns."

Though I've long believed that Edwards is the man to beat George Bush in the general election, I've always been skeptical that he can survive the primary. Up until now, the media has certainly done him no favors in that regard. Maybe this will change the tide.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Bush Hatred 

Want to see a subtle example of what the right wing is touting as "Bush Hatred?"
Here's an ad brought to my attention by fellow North State blogger, Undercaffeinated. Understated, huh?
Okay, maybe it's a bit over the top, (maybe not), but focusing on an ad like this as an example of so-called "Bush Hatred" is like treating the symptom of a disease rather than the cause. An ad like this begs the question, "What sort of an administration, and what type of policies would cause so caustic a reaction?"
William Rivers Pitt, of Truthout.org, himself an accused "Bush Hater," comes clean in his essay, "Anyone But Bush," and answers such questions this way:

The thing is, the conservative White House defenders are spot-on correct about one thing. I despise George W. Bush. I despise his Vice President, his Senior Political Advisor, his Chief of Staff, his Defense Secretary, his Assistant Defense Secretary, his Attorney General, his National Security Advisor, and his chosen Ambassador to the United Nations. Those names, in case you are confused, are Cheney, Rove, Card, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Ashcroft, Rice and Negroponte.
I despise his Congressional allies, who have shredded their constitutional duties by refusing to investigate a variety of incredible crimes. For the record, these crimes include the fabrication of Iraq war evidence, the outing of a WMD-hunting CIA agent in an act of political revenge, and the serious questions about how four commercial aircraft fooled the entire domestic defense shield and the entire intelligence community long enough to kill three thousand people.
I despise any and all of his people who fanned out two years ago to pound into the American consciousness the idea that criticizing Bush is treason.
Yeah, I hate them all. Do I hate for the simple sake of hatred? Do I hate Bush because he is a Republican, a Texan, a white male, a meat-eater? Certainly not. I hate George W. Bush and all of his people because they have done an incredible amount of damage to this nation I hold so dear. I hate them because they are professional liars, thieves, brigands without conscience. I hate them, fully and completely, on the record.

Couldn't have said so better myself. While the GOP would love to shift the focus of the debate, the rhetoric of the "Bush Haters" is not the issue; the issue is the malfeasance of the Bush administration that produces such rhetoric.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

It isn't, and he didn't, as it were. . . 

And the Pope never said it was to begin with.
Thanks to Pandagon for pointing out that the Pope's purported solemn proclamation about Mel Gibson's "The Passion," was apparently pure fabrication. Much ado was made over the Pope's profound utterance, "It is as it was," which was reportedly the Papal reaction to viewing Gibson's film. Problem is, it didn't happen.

I'm not surprised. From the outset, the story sounded like one of those Jessica Lynch-style, made-for-Fox-News-moments that are just too contrived to be true. The problem is, most people will never know the statement was a fabrication, apparently by Mel Gibson's arch-conservative following, as the correction will likely never receive any meaningful media attention.

Sunday, January 04, 2004


David Neiwert has added a comments section to the best damn blog on the web. Stop by just to let him know how much his commentary is appreciated.

Therapy, Doggie Style 

From the UPI wire, we learn that Princess Anne's dog will receive psychological therapy for killing one of the Queen's dogs and biting a maid.
Roger Mugford, an animal psychologist and head of the Animal Behavior Center in Chertsey, England says that he will counsel Florence, an 8-year-old bull terrier, "possibly re-enacting the attacks in an effort to train the dog not to bite."

"There is probably some underlying medical factor. We are not talking about an inherently aggressive or dangerous dog," Mumford said.

"I am sure it is just a dog who is feeling a bit out of sorts about something, perhaps pain or old age, and is feeling a bit cranky on the day."

Mugford further stated that he did not believe the animal should be "put down."

According to the BBC, "Mugford successfully treated another of Princess Anne's dogs, Dotty, after she bit two boys in Windsor Great Park in 2002." As a result of that incident, Princess Anne was "fined £500 and ordered to pay £500 compensation after pleading guilty to a charge that one of her dogs attacked two children." She was further ordered to keep the English bull terrier on a lead in public, to ensure that the animal was trained, and to pay £148 court costs. The incident marked the "first time a senior member of the Royal Family has been convicted of a criminal offence, and no other senior royal has attended court for 100 years"

Hmmm. I'm beginning to see a common denominator here.

In any event, my first thought was that Mr. Mugford should immediately be contacted in an effort to obtain treatment for Misha, The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler, whose recent public attacks on Eric Blumrich drew these fine commentaries from Orcinus and Tristero. Similar to Mugford's preliminary diagnosis of Florence, I believe that Misha suffers from an "underlying medical factor," possibly psychological trauma, a theory explored in depth by Tristero.

While Misha's behavior in this instance was not an isolated occurrence, and as such, would likely go beyond 'feeling a bit cranky on the day," I would hope that Mr. Mugford would not recommend that he be "put down." Indeed, the "re-enactment of the attack" strategy contemplated in Florence's case might be appropriate. I would envision Misha forced to repeatedly view Eric Blumrich's flash animation, with the hope of training him to respond substantively, and without his trademark obscene and violent ad hominen attacks. Perhaps in conjunction with a shock collar.

Saturday, January 03, 2004

Schisms, Slavery, and the Southern Baptist Convention 

(Also posted at the Stinging Nettle)
The Greensboro News and Record notes that the North Carolina Baptist State Convention seems ever closer to a split, as moderate Baptists schedule a January 23 meeting in Greensboro, NC to discuss "options," one of which is to form an association of moderate Baptist churches, separate from the conservative dominated State Convention. Such a schism has been on the horizon for some time now, but it has only been within the last several months that moderates have felt sufficiently displaced to begin discussions of forming a new association.

The rift in the State Convention mirrors what has been occuring within the regional Southern Baptist Convention for some time now. A courageous few moderate North Carolina Baptist churches began ending their affiliation with the increasingly fundamentalist Southern Baptist Convention several years ago, when that convention announced that it would "target" Jews for conversion, and then called for a boycott of Disneyworld when the theme park offered health insurance benefits to same sex partners. Still more churches withdrew after the SBC passed a resolution to the effect that wives should be "submissive" to their husbands. Others severed ties as the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer was deleted from the Baptist Faith and Message. These same issues now divide the State Convention.

According to the News and Record, the possibility of a split was criticized in the November edition of the Baptist newsletter, "The Conservative Record," in which a column advised moderates to work within the existing State Convention to elect a slate of moderate officers. Moderates, however, feel increasingly that they have no place in the conservative controlled convention, and as a result, will now meet on January 23 to discuss "options." Such a meeting News and Record advises us has never been held "in the state denomination's 173-year history."

Perhaps. However, both the News and Record and the Conservative Record should be reminded that the regional association, the Southern Baptist Convention itself owes its existence to a "schism," one involving racism and the institution of slavery. As I recall my history, in the 1830's, tensions developed between northern Baptist churches who believed in the equality of the races and opposed slavery, and the southern Baptist churches who accepted slavery and believed God intended the races to be separate. The Southern Baptist Convention was formed when the national Baptist organization decided it would no longer fund missions from southern baptist churches who accepted the practice of slavery or whose members owned slaves. Those churches withdrew from the national body rather than abandoning the practice of slavery, and founded the Southern Baptist Convention.

True to that heritage, the Southern Baptist Convention within recent years has "targeted" Jews for conversion, and declared women and homosexuals to be basically second class citizens. As the North Carolina State Convention aligns itself ever closer with the increasingly fundamentalist SBC, the moderates would do well to remember the racist origins of that body. Perhaps such a reminder would strengthen their resolve and bring about a schism that some feel is long overdue.

Friday, January 02, 2004

The Sequel 

Dwight Meredith of Wampum gives us "Scare Tactics, Part II,"a follow-up to his initial excellent post on the lies told to support "Tort Reform," which was the subject of a previous post here. Check it out.
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