DID WE MISS ANYTHING?

Tracy and I had a tough call to make last night. The NBA Draft was on, and I was waiting with baited breath to see if the Blazers screwed things up yet again. Yankees vs. Orioles was also on, giving us another opportunity to watch the promising Chien-Ming Wang. But, "Alas!" We cried, "watching either of these will mean we miss president Bush's prime time speech from Fort Bragg. What if this is the night that he stands up and takes a new course, acknowledging responsibility for his failures, yes, but also laying out a bold new plan for success, one that brings the world back to our side while calming the choppy waters he has stirred in the Middle East? Should we watch? Must we watch?"

Nope. NBA Draft only happens once a year. Gotta have priorities.

So what of the speech? Did we miss anything new?

One year after the transfer of power in Iraq, President Bush found himself in a familiar, if unsettling, position last night, as he sought to reinvigorate public support for his policies in the face of almost daily suicide bombings and continued U.S. casualties that have called into question whether the administration has a workable strategy for success and exit there.

Bush signaled no shifts in policy, as Democrats such as Sens. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.) and John F. Kerry (Mass.) have called for in recent days. Instead his goal was to reeducate Americans on his view of the stakes involved in Iraq and the consequences to the Middle East and U.S. security if the insurgents prevail.

His clearest message was to argue anew that Iraq is the critical battle in a war against terrorists that began with the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He made repeated references to those attacks to underscore that U.S. security depends on defeating the insurgency in Iraq. "After September the 11th, I made a commitment to the American people," he said. "This nation will not wait to be attacked again. We will defend our freedom. We will take the fight to the enemy." He then added, "Iraq is the latest battlefield in this war."

Phew. It was a repeat. What a relief.

|


SING IT WITH ME NOW!

The Discovery Channel and AOL have a poll up where you can cast your vote for Greatest American. The nominees:

  • Benjamin Franklin

  • Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • Abraham Lincoln

  • Ronald Reagan

  • George Washington

Ready? Sing it with me:

One of these things is not like the others
One of these things just doesn't belong.

|


WHAT'S WITH THE BEGGING?

I read Kevin Drum fairly regularly, and I generally find his positions agreeable and his writing enjoyable. But I gotta say, I'm pretty put off by the aggressive pan-handling going on over there at "his" site the last few days.

I realize that many of the "Bigs" need to ask for money occasionally. What's irritating about this is that it isn't so much about keeping Kevin's work going, it's about supporting the flagging Washington Monthly, and I don't think it's right to conflate the two. Kevin did a perfectly fine job blogging at CalPundit before the WM scooped him up, and if they go under, I've got a hunch he'll find his way back to his own digs and figure out a way to keep fighting the good fight.

The truth is, I don't think the Washington Monthly is that good of a magazine. I subscribed to it for a year, and when that year was up I happily let my subscription lapse. Most of what I found between their covers was snark and fluff. Strictly second-rate stuff compared with the American Prospect, the Nation, or the very well-written (if frequently wrong) New Republic.

So please, Kevin, stop the begging, or at least make it clear that this is them asking for the money, not you.

|


EMINENT INSANITY

Hoo, Boy! Let me tell you, few things can turn a liberal's world (and stomach) upside down more than being forced to agree with George Will. And William Renquist. And Tony "No Principles" Scalia. And Clarence "Is That A Pube On Your Coke?" Thomas. Yet that's what the Supreme Court's egregious decision in "Kelo vs. New London" has forced me to do.

This should have been a pretty simple matter to resolve. The city of New London, Connecticut wants to take away, by power of eminent domain, the homes of numerous residents who live in a lower-class neighborhood and give the land to a private developer for commercial use -- shopping, apartments, and whatnot. The city believes that this is justified because it will "spur economic development" and, supposedly, increase tax revenues.

The Supreme Court should have told them "No". In fact, it never should have gotten as high as the Supreme Court. The lines of fairness and justice are so clear here that this case should have been decided against New London at the earliest possible opportunity.

Scalia summar...

-- (Holy shit, I'm about to quote Antonin Scalia approvingly! Do I really want to do this? Ah fuck it.) --

Scalia summarized the city's absurd argument thusly:

"You can take from A and give to B if B pays more taxes?"

Good question. I am not a Great Legal Mind, but I seriously doubt that when the Founders specified that the government could take private land for public use that what they really meant was, you know, private use. Maybe I'm weird, but I think a bunch of guys with sufficient intellect to frame the laws of the world's longest-running democracy would be, on the whole, pretty good at choosing their words.

Eminent domain is a mighty tool that should be used exceedingly infrequently. If the government is going to take my home from me against my will, it had damn well better be to meet a pressing public need. It had better confer immediate, tangible benefits upon my fellow citizens. In other words, it better not be taken from me so that some slick-ass developer can build a glorified mall and pocket the profits.

It sickens me that Renquist, Scalia, and Thomas -- the Supreme Court's very own "Axis of Evil" -- are the ones who understood and upheld this simple, just, and fair proposition, while the "liberals" on the court helped the strong pick the pockets of the weak. It also sickened me to read George Will's closing words today:

Liberalism triumphed Thursday. Government became radically unlimited in seizing the very kinds of private property that should guarantee individuals a sphere of autonomy against government.

As I read those words, I wanted so badly to give Will a rhetorical bop upside the head. I wanted to point out that taking from the poor to give to the rich is a conservative hobby, not a liberal one. Instead, Justice John Paul Stevens and the "liberal" wing of the Supreme Court forced me to give him a pass. And that really pisses me off.

|


FIGHT, DAMN YOU!

Karl Rove arrived in New York City yesterday with a bucket of shit and a paint roller, and boy did he do some smearin'. Regarding the nation's response to the 9/11 attacks, the White House Senior Slime Mold had this to say:

"Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers."

Can you believe this evil, beady-eyed pig of a man had the audacity to come to New York Fucking City and bust out the "Liberals Are Terrorist Sympathizers" meme? I can. He's Karl Rove. What else do you expect?

Right, so here we go today: Outraged Democratic leaders demand an apology. The White House responds with "Um, right, we'll get back to you on that. Losers." Meanwhile, the tides continue to come in and go out as the Moon orbits the Earth, which in turn orbits the Sun.

What do you figure the Vegas odds are on Rove apologizing for his remarks? Million to one? Billion to one? Nah, Vegas wouldn't waste time putting that on the board. You'd have to be stone stupid to throw away money on that action, no matter what the payout.

Memo to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid:

The GOP does not apologize.

The GOP does not back down.

The GOP never admits they were wrong. About anything. Ever.

The GOP is a vicious band of cut-throat bastards and they are eating your fucking lunch because you still labor under the delusion that comity, civility, and bipartisanship are the order of the day.

WAKE UP!

You want an apowogy? Well, Id'n dat cute.

What do you think Rove is? A Democrat?

Dick Durbin: You blubbered in front of these people. Do you know how pathetic that made you look? Do you know how bad that made all of us who agreed with you and supported you look? And do you know just how much your adversaries' contempt for you grew as a result? Trust me, they'll be sure to come back to your comments again and again, now that they know you won't defend yourself. That's what bullies do.

I am so fucking sick of you people -- all of you Democrats out there serving as "elected officials" in Washington D.C. and elsewhere. Wow, "elected" officials. How did you pull that off, anyhow? I have to know, because honestly, I thought you kinda had to be a bad motherfucker to win an election. Not evil, not immoral, no. But I thought you had to have a taste for the fight. I thought you needed to have good instincts. I thought you needed nerves of steel and a titanium spine. So what explains your presence in office?

For a few minutes today, I pondered whether this is all a setup, whether the Democratic Party actually agreed at some point to play the willing fall guy for the GOP so that the two-party duopoly-that's-really-a-monopoly could keep things running smoothly while the war machine rolls endlessly on and the rich loot the treasury. It's been that kind of week in the news.

Fucking. Cowards.

Well, hey, that's what they call us after all, and let me tell you: Despite the best efforts of angry liberals everywhere to resuscitate your image and ours, you're going a long way to proving them right.

LISTEN: No more apologies. No more explaining yourselves to them. When the GOP takes a swing at you, you block it. Then you punch them in the neck, repeatedly, until their windpipe collapses and they're on the ground gasping for air. At which point you kick them in the face. Got it?

These people are not friends with whom you happen to differ. They are trying to permanently eliminate your party -- our party -- from power and stifle anyone who would halt their quest to destroy this nation for their own personal gain and that of the evil bastards who funnel millions into their campaign coffers. Get a clue. Start playing like this is for keeps, because it is.

|


A QUESTION

Last night on Countdown, in a welcome break from Missing White Woman stories, they were covering instead a story about a young boy who was kidnapped. (Amazingly, I can find no mention of this on any of the news sites this morning - maybe they found the kid. And oh yeah, he was white. Of course.) At one point, the host (not Olberman, someone subbing for him) was interviewing some dude who was an expert on kidnapping or child safety or whatever, and she asked him what we should tell children to do in a situation where they think they might be in danger.

His response was illuminating. He basically said we should stop telling children that all strangers are bad and that, in fact, if they're in a threatening situation, they should not hesitate to go to a stranger for help. Not any stranger, though. No, he advised seeking out other "moms", other "women generally", or, of course, "police officers".

Men? In general? Not so much. Nope, can't trust them.

So here's a question for my fellow liberals: Does this pass the smell test?

Whenever racial profiling of any kind comes up as an issue, whether it's cops pulling people over for "driving while black" or TSA agents focusing unfair scrutiny on anyone who looks like they might be from the middle east, we on the left raise the roof about the injustice inherent in such stereotyping, and rightfully so. So what about gender profiling? Is it OK to tell kids that men aren't to be trusted? I can see how it might make sense from a pragmatic standpoint, but then, others have made that same argument for both of the cases above.

I don't like it. What do you think?

|


EXCUSE ME?

So, the other day I'm listening to Erik Kuselias' show on ESPN Radio, and he's discussing the new Connecticut state ethics rule which prohibits state employees from using their position to secure any kind of contracts for additional income. Specifically, Kuselias is baffled at why the state would extend this prohibition to a figure such as UConn basketball coach Jim Calhoun -- a celebrity in his own right who has several lucrative endorsement deals which might be threatened by the new rule. In the course of this discussion, Kuselias said the following (this is a very tight paraphrase from memory):

"Look, Connecticut basketball -- you're talking about a program which is, arguably, over the last ten years or so, the best in the country this side of Duke. I mean really. UConn basketball takes a back seat to no one. Except for Duke.

Now, I should point out that Connecticut recently passed a bill - which has yet to go into effect - that will ban hand-held cell phone use while driving. The idea being that it is distracting and leads to accidents. What they should really ban is sports radio, because this incident nearly caused me to have a seizure and drive into oncoming traffic.

Let's review: Who did the Huskies beat in 1999 to win the national championship? Duke. And who did the Huskies beat in the semi-finals of the 2004 Final Four on their way to winning another national championship? Again, that would be Duke. So why would a professional sports personality feel the need to single out Duke as the one program that has an edge over the UConn Huskies? Uh, I have absolutely no idea. Maybe he relishes the idea of sending Connecticut drivers into head-on collisions. Your guess is as good as mine.

|


INNOVATION, GOVERNMENT, MARKETS, AND ARE WE ALL DOOMED ANYWAY?

Rob Salkowitz seems to be setting himself up as the anti-Kunstler. Like Kunstler, Rob is forward-looking enough to be focused on the Big Problems -- peak oil, climate change, super-viruses, etc. -- barreling down the road at us. Unlike Kunstler, whose unremitting message seems to be "Oh, you poor bastards are so fucked", Rob believes that, ultimately, we can innovate our way to salvation. This sets up a good dynamic for me: I get the perverse thrill of reading Kunstler's mini-disaster-novel posts, but once he's thoroughly scared the piss out of me to the point where I'm ready to start ordering shit from a bomb-shelter catalog, I can traipse over to Emphasis Added and be reassured that all is not lost. But I digress.

I'm going to be unusually wishy-washy and noncommittal and say that, for the moment, I find myself suspended between these two poles, unable to decide which vision of the future I find more plausible. Kunstler is the King of Can't. With regard to Peak Oil, for example, for literally every alternative energy source that you have ever heard proposed -- wind, solar, hydrogen fuel cells, you name it -- Kunstler has a reason ready-at-hand to tell you why it can't work. Given humanity's legacy of adaptability, I find this degree of across-the-board doom saying somewhat farfetched (and certainly unhelpful).

On the other hand, Rob's vision of challenge and innovation in a sort of dynamic balance -- as he puts it, "solutions co-evolve with problems" -- doesn't seem to fully take into account the increasingly complex nature of the challenges that face us today. Take a typical Kunstlerian analysis of the oncoming peak oil crisis for example. To the suggestion that we can innovate our way out of this problem by developing alternative-energy solutions, Kunstler quickly points out that the manufacturing and transportation methodologies such an emerging technology would depend on are themselves deeply dependent on the cheap oil economy. This is just one example that springs to mind of how tightly-coupled, densely-woven webs of cause and effect might stymie our ability to work our way out of the jams we've created. When we start talking about ecological issues like climate change, it just gets worse, as we seem to be a perpetual 30 years behind in understanding the effects of what we're doing at any given moment. Is it possible we've reached a point where the difficulty of the challenges we've set before ourselves is simply increasing at a qualitatively different rate than the collective brain power and ingenuity we can harness to address them?

For the moment, let's be bright and sunny and assume not. Let's assume instead that Rob's right, and that humanity's robust powers are equal to the tasks at hand. The next question he raises is where should we expect this innovation to arise from? Can we direct it through the powers of government, or should we just cut the market loose and let it do what it (arguably) does best. This raises the following conundrum (emphasis added):

On one hand, I firmly believe that rapid technological innovation is practically our only chance of addressing the grave problem we face. It's also clear to me that the mechanism of the free market is the best way to encourage innovation, and to channel resources where they are needed. Government, which (when honestly and competently administered) can do a lot of good in a number of areas, is simply out of its depth picking winners in the area of technology. Even experts do not produce positive outcomes better than the “wisdom of crowds” embodied in markets.

At the same time, I recognize that a dependence on markets weakens the bonds of empathy that give society its cohesion. It is the ability of people to extend their circle of empathy beyond the self and the family to the abstract ideas of the nation and the world that is the essence of moral progress. Markets, however, run on the fuel of greed and selfishness. The logic of capitalism is not just anti-socialist, it's anti-social. When the problems of the elderly, the sick and the poor are no longer common problems, but the private business of families and individuals who must bear the risks and costs themselves, our civilization in my view has undergone a moral degeneration. We risk retreating from the obligations of citizenship – with its benefits of freedom and self-determination – and assuming the more limited roles of worker, investor, and consumer.

The fact that ever-increasing reliance on the fend-for-yourself market model is corrupting and destabilizing our society cannot be over-emphasized, and this is particularly important as we find ourselves ever more balkanized, ever more polarized, and dancing ever-closer to the edge of what Dave Niewert has painted as a true American brand of proto-fascism. (Hmmm. If you combine Niewert's observations with Kunstler's... Roving hate groups wandering a post-oil-apocalyptic landscape? -Shudder-)

Before we jump all the way into bed with market-based solutions to all of these impending problems, though, I want to question the very assumption that the market wins the innovation fight hands-down. Two points occur to me:

  1. Our government has demonstrated the ability to achieve grand technological goals on very aggressive timelines. The Manhattan and Apollo projects come immediately to mind.

  2. While government programs may not often be the ones bearing the final fruit of specific innovations, they frequently provide the fertilizer that gets things going in the terms of broad-based, open-ended research.

Furthermore, the market has it's own problems. The focus on generating profits -- and doing so ever more in the short term -- leads the market to be more reactive than proactive. In fact that is precisely why, in pharmaceutical research, say, the drug companies rely on government-funded research to do so much of the preliminary work and only step in with their R & D muscle once an idea has achieved a certain baseline viability. The problems we're headed for aren't going to be easily solved in reactive fashion, though. They're going to require that we think decades in advance. To my knowledge, this sort of effort has only historically been achieved using the centrally-directed focus of government power.

Rob's right that, at the moment, we sorely lack political leaders with the sort of vision we need to pilot our government in this direction. But rather than throw in the towel in the political arena and turn completely to market-driven innovation, I think a two-front approach is needed. As we progressives struggle to get our feet back under ourselves politically, we should look to advance a political agenda that doesn't just look back at the social and economic issues that have defined our coalition for the last fifty years, but also projects us forward and anticipates the potentially far graver threats we face fifty years from now. Right now candidates with this sort of focus are a rarity, but they need not remain so. As awareness grows of our impending predicament(s), things like "peak oil" may just become the stump-speech staples of tomorrow. If we can help make that happen and get behind the sort of politicians who have that necessary vision, we might be able to hedge our bets should the marketplace be too slow to come to the rescue.

|


PARALLELS AND PERPENDICULARS

So last night Tracy and I are watching an episode of the Daily Show from last week where Jon Stewart is ridiculing Republicans and Democrats for their casual use of Nazi/Hitler analogies. (Poor Jon still struggles nightly to maintain his conceit that both sides are essentially playing the same game -- It's really his only flaw.) This got me to thinking. When is it appropriate to draw rhetorical comparisons to such truly monstrous chapters in history?

Let's look at two recent cases from the left:

  1. Senator Dick Durbin suggests that our treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay sounds like what you'd expect out of a Nazi concentration camp.

  2. Amnesty International compares U. S. prisoner detention facilities to Soviet "gulags".

Hmmmmm. Do I detect some hyperbole? Perhaps.

But wait, let's look at two recent cases on the right:

  1. Grover Norquist compares the estate tax to the Holocaust.

  2. Judge Janice Rogers Brown likens regulation of the marketplace to slavery.

Well now, I think we're on the road to discerning which side really over-reaches with the historical analogies.

See, while it's true that Gitmo and Abu-Ghraib might not be "as bad as" the concentration camps or gulags, we are at least talking about the same class of activity. One can at least attempt to draw a legitimate parallel. There is no parallel, on the other hand, between tax policy and mass murder. There is no parallel between marketplace regulation and slavery. You would have to be stark-raving mad to suggest either of the latter two comparisons. (Or, alternatively, utterly shameless in your willingness to deploy references to historical atrocities in the name of protecting the prerogatives of the rich).

You will have to forgive me, therefore, if I don't take seriously the right's outrage at Durbin's comments, or at Amnesty's before him. As usual, they're just being the bunch of hypocritical tools we've all come to know and love.

In answer to my question "When is it appropriate to draw rhetorical comparisons to such truly monstrous chapters in history?" I would have to say "When the comparison truly applies." Personally, I think it's wise to beware of Godwin's Law. Indiscriminately slapping a Hitler mustache on any person or cause you oppose generally achieves nothing except to make you look silly. When the comparison is apt, however -- as is surely the case when we're talking about the torture and murder of our detainees in the War on Terrr -- there's no need to reflexively shy away from it.

UPDATE (2005.06.22): This one really blew me away:

Sen. James Inhofe said Oct. 11, 2004 that Kyoto "would deal a powerful blow on the whole humanity similar to the one humanity experienced when Nazism and communism flourished."

Nuts. Republicans are just completely off of their fucking rockers.

|


SURE WE CAN TALK. JUST CHECK THE DOGMA AT THE DOOR.

Mario Cuomo (D-Should Have Run In '88) has an op-ed piece titled Not On Faith Alone in the New York Times today in which he discusses president Bush's morally and intellectually incoherent position on stem cell research and how he might extricate himself from the hash he's made of this important policy debate. Rather than dancing around the perimeter of the issue and taking Bush to task for minor policy inconsistencies as others have recently, Cuomo, to his eternal credit, charges right in and grabs this beast by the horns:

Mr. Bush does not deny the greater potential of embryonic stem cells: he says his decision was compelled by his belief that retrieving stem cells from the embryo destroys it, thereby resulting in the killing of a human being that cannot be justified no matter how vast the potential benefits.

The president did not claim his conclusion was based on biomedical science. He said only that it was an expression of his religious faith. Asked in March 2004 about the stem cell issue, his science adviser, Dr. John H. Marburger III .. said: "I can't tell when a fertilized egg becomes sacred," and added, "That's not a science issue."

Well, no, it isn't, as long as one uses empty terms like "sacred", but the real issue of whether a distinct person, in any meaningful sense, is created at conception, at some later developmental milestone, or is something that emerges in stages is indeed a "science issue". Certainly it is too important a topic to let religion have the final say.

Cuomo suggests that a political resolution of the stem cell debate -- because it touches on matters both scientific and religious -- must closely track public consensus so as to avoid having a faith-based minority view forced upon the majority. He then makes the suggestion -- quite radical by the standards of our politics -- that if the minority LBAC (Life Begins At Conception) view is ever to be adopted as a cornerstone of public policy, those who champion it will have to muster a case based on more than their religious beliefs (emphasis mine):

Most Americans, vividly aware of the millions of tragic victims of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, cancer and spinal cord injuries, believe that embryonic stem cell research may provide cures. They will demand that Congress act to realize that potential.

If the president vetoes a bill that advances that potential, he will have to provide more than sincere religiosity to prove that human life exists as early as fertilization, a proposition that even the Roman Catholic Church and other religions have historically disputed.

The best way to test that proposition would be to employ a panel of respected scientists, humanists and religious leaders to consider testimony from bioscience experts describing when consciousness first appears, when viability outside the womb usually occurs, and how other religions treat the subject. They would then provide their conclusions to lawmakers.

I say that this proposal is "radical" because, for as long as I've been following the abortion debate, pro-choice advocates have deliberately stayed away from the question of when human life and/or personhood begins. There's been a tacit understanding that we can't settle the matter, and so instead we've framed the debate as being about reproductive freedom, women's rights, or privacy rights. All of which is well and good -- don't get me wrong -- but I have always longed to get back to what I see as the real matter at hand: The ontological status of the human organism at the various stages leading up to birth. Now here comes Mario Cuomo proposing we have just such a discussion -- albeit to settle the stem cell question and not the abortion one -- and further stipulating that the LBAC crowd better step to the table with something considerably more substantial than the Good Book.

The interesting question that occurs to me is: If you make them leave their dogma at the door, what exactly can "religious leaders" contribute to a serious conversation like this? Imagine a priest, a minister and a rabbi sitting at a bar -- (rim-shot) -- trying to have a conversation about the nature of life but with all the goo-goo, ga-ga baby talk about "god", "souls", "sin" and whatnot muted. Would they actually have anything meaningful to say?

This might surprise some of you, but I believe the answer is "yes". Repeating sectarian fairy tales, after all, is only one of the jobs our society assigns to clergy members. In addition to that, they also play a role approaching that of counselor to the individuals and communities they serve. This gives them a certain privileged insight into the gut responses, emotional hot-buttons, and cultural realities of their particular "flocks" which can be valuable in framing policy decisions in such a way as to minimize the danger of shitting all over some group's taboos in too explicit a fashion.

If this sounds like I'm assigning to the clergy the task of helping the medicine of social and scientific progress go down easier, well, that's because I am. All the wishing in the world isn't going to make the "soul" appear under a microscope when the commission envisioned by Governor Cuomo goes to take a look. The best contribution to sound stem-cell policy that our religious leaders can make would be to cushion the blow of that revelation so that society as a whole can move forward with as little outcry from the more deeply superstitious among us as possible.

|


I REPEAT, THE ORIGIN OF SEXUAL ORIENTATION IS IRRELEVANT

Sometimes I repeat myself. Sometimes I repeat myself. (See?) I don't really enjoy having to make the same points over and over, but with some arguments it's absolutely necessary. Take, for example, the gay marriage debate, and the seemingly endless argument over gay civil rights of which it is a part. Today, in the New York Times, Russell Shorto offers a glimpse into the minds of hard-core anti-gay marriage activists, most of whom -- surprise! -- are evangelical Christians. Commenting on Shorto's article, Ed Kilgore has this to say:

Unlike many Americans who dislike the idea of gay marriage while generally accepting gays and lesbians as people with a right to follow their sexual orientation, the activists (typically conservative evangelicals) Shorto interviews oppose gay marriage precisely because they cannot accept the idea of homosexuality as a biologically determined orientation. Indeed, he says, they seem to understand that any chink in the argument that homosexual behavior is a "libertine lifestyle," a mental illness, or a disease, will expose them to a terrible series of moral and even theological dilemmas:

For them, the issue isn't one of civil rights, because the term implies something inherent in the individual -- being black, say, or a woman -- and they deny that homosexuality is inherent. It can't be, because that would mean God had created some people who are damned from birth, morally blackened. This really is the inescapable root of the whole issue.

Indeed it is. Accepting the scientific evidence that homosexuality is biological would turn the religious argument on the subject upside down, since discrimination against people because of their God-given nature is defiance of God's will rather than obedience.

This line of defense pains me deeply. First, because allowing concepts like "God's will" and being "damned" into a policy debate grants them a legitimacy they in no way deserve. Second, because like so many on the left these days, it seems that Kilgore uncritically accepts the notion that sexual orientation is biologically determined. Not only is this a cheap out but, in my opinion, it's completely unnecessary.

Kilgore doesn't link to any source materials that might constitute "scientific evidence that homosexuality is biological". I'm guessing that's because no definitive study has been done and the jury is still out on the subject. I don't believe this matters either way, however. As I have said before (this is the repetition part), homosexuality should be accepted because it poses no threat whatsoever to society. It should be accepted because the sexual orientation, preferences, and behavior of consenting adults is none of the larger community's business. It should not be accepted based solely on the notion that it is "biologically determined".

Supporters of gay rights generally and gay marriage in particular should not -- can not -- paint ourselves into a corner where we rely on genetics or chemistry to tell us what forms of behavior are OK because they're specified by nature and what forms are not because they're matters of personal prerogative. No ones civil rights should be held hostage that way. I know it's tough in our current social climate, but more liberals need the courage to stand up and say that there's simply not a damned thing wrong with being gay, and that's why homosexuals deserve the same rights as everybody else.

I will repeat that as many times as I have to.

|


STUPID SHIT THAT ANNOYS ME - ITEM 8

Guys who go "no hands" at the urinal. Fucking show-offs.

|


SPANK THIS

Someone needs to make sure that Joe Biden reads Paul Waldman's Spanking the Chairman. Actually, someone needs to read the article to Senator Biden and then shove it straight up his ass. (Emphasis mine):

The Washington journalistic establishment just doesn't like Howard Dean. He's rough around the edges, and he doesn't play by the rules, especially the rule casting Democrats as perennially weak and apologetic . And reporters didn't have to look too hard to find Democrats who would go on record about their displeasure with Dean.

Democratic politicians sometimes seem so ignorant about how the news media work, one wonders how they ever got elected in the first place. Here's a tip: If you want reporters to write about all the things the Bush administration is doing wrong, don't criticize your party chair to them. Lots of Washington Democrats don't like Dean much either, but there are plenty of people to whom they can air their complaints—their staffs, their colleagues, their spouses, their dogs. Heck, they can walk over to DNC headquarters and wring his neck if they like. But when they criticize him to reporters, that enables those reporters to write one of their favorite stories, “Democrats are squabbling again.” If the politicians didn't give those quotes, they wouldn't be able to write those stories. Then they’d have to focus on something more advantageous to Democrats, like Bush's failure on Iraq, or his failure on Social Security or his failure on the economy.

Got that, Senator? It's not that hard to grasp, you pathetic, careerist punk. The GOP might be the most vile bunch of cowardly bullies to come along since the Cowboy Gang, but at least they've got each others' back. Try putting your party ahead of your ego for a change.

Oh, and while I've got all you D.C. power brokers here, reading my blog, I'd like a word with you, Mr. Vice President. The other day, with regard to DNC Chairman Howard Dean, you said:

"I've never been able to understand his appeal. Maybe his mother loved him, but I've never met anybody who does. He's never won anything, as best I can tell."

Two things, sir:

  1. What kind of childish crap is this? "Oooooh. Nobody likes Howard! Nyah nyah!" What the fuck are you, two years old? And to answer your question, I assure you there are millions of us who are quite fond of Chairman Dean. In fact there are many of us who see him as the party's last hope.

  2. As for what he's won in his life, try the governorship of Vermont, you chronically fact-challenged prick. And more recently try the aforementioned DNC Chairmanship. Prior to that, Howard Dean was a doctor, which is a far more laudable achievement than being an oil-industry parasite like you and chimpy.

'Nuff said.

|


MICHAEL KINSLEY: SLATE LIBERAL

Putz. Tool. Clown. Jackass.

These are just some of the handy labels one could tack on Michael Kinsley's forehead after reading his mind-bogglingly facile dismissal of the Downing Street Memo. Ponder this graf:

[E]ven on its face, the memo is not proof that Bush had decided on war. It states that war is "now seen as inevitable" by "Washington." That is, people other than Bush had concluded, based on observation, that he was determined to go to war. There is no claim of even fourth-hand knowledge that he had actually declared this intention. Even if "Washington" meant administration decision-makers, rather than the usual freelance chatterboxes, C was only saying that these people believed that war was how events would play out.

Is Kinsley losing it? Did Rove offer him an Armstrong Williams deal? Help me out here. There has to be an explanation, because this is the kind of cheap song-and-dance routine I'd expect from a veteran White House spinmeister, not from the purportedly intelligent, supposedly liberal editor of the L. A. Times opinion page. I mean, come on now, are we seriously supposed to believe that Kinsley is unfamiliar with the custom of referring to the governments of foreign nations using the shorthand of their capital's name?

Kevin Drum nails Kinsley beautifully:

So: three high level officials from our closest military partner came to Washington for high level talks. All three came to identical conclusions. What's more, the balance of the DSM is a discussion of military plans and legal justifications that assumes military action as a given. The only question mark is the exact date.

Yet Kinsley treats this as if these guys were just some bloggers who were shooting the breeze about the DC rumor mill. Is he serious?

Oh, he's serious all right. Serious about maintaining his cred with all the hipsters over at his old stomping grounds. See, Kinsley is the foremost exemplar of what I think of as "Slate Liberals" -- so named because, while the type is encountered elsewhere, Slate literally teems with them. A Slate Liberal is more concerned with being contrarian than they are with being correct. A Slate Liberal may have the same values as the rest of us on the left, but they wouldn't be caught dead having the same opinions. A Slate Liberal will bend over backwards to pen an article extolling the virtues of some Bush policy the rest of us find abhorrent in order to demonstrate how intellectually independent they are.

And so, just as the Downing Street Memo starts to get some legs with the domestic press -- aided by the release of further documents detailing the U. S. / U. K. agreement in early 2002 to oust Saddam -- along comes Kinsley to tell us none of it really amounts to anything.

Nice going, Mikey. I'm sure the Kool Kidz are all very impressed.

|


OUTTA HERE

I am outta here for the weekend. Got a cookout in Troy, NY tonight and a wedding in Saratoga tomorrow. Fun to be had. Drinks to be drunk. Hangovers to be endured.

Back Sunday.

|


KRUG ON FIRE

Danny Okrent! You called down the thunder? Well now you've got it.

My oh my, Professor K is sharp this morning. One wonders if his recent public tiff with the slimy Okrent has put the fire back in his eyes. Actually, one doesn't have to wonder. Krugman gives the game away with his choice of words (emphasis mine):

[M]iddle-class America didn't emerge by accident. It was created by what has been called the Great Compression of incomes that took place during World War II, and sustained for a generation by social norms that favored equality, strong labor unions and progressive taxation. Since the 1970's, all of those sustaining forces have lost their power.

Since 1980 in particular, U.S. government policies have consistently favored the wealthy at the expense of working families - and under the current administration, that favoritism has become extreme and relentless. From tax cuts that favor the rich to bankruptcy "reform" that punishes the unlucky, almost every domestic policy seems intended to accelerate our march back to the robber baron era.

It's not a pretty picture - which is why right-wing partisans try so hard to discredit anyone who tries to explain to the public what's going on.

These partisans rely in part on obfuscation: shaping, slicing and selectively presenting data in an attempt to mislead. For example, it's a plain fact that the Bush tax cuts heavily favor the rich, especially those who derive most of their income from inherited wealth. Yet this year's Economic Report of the President, in a bravura demonstration of how to lie with statistics, claimed that the cuts "increased the overall progressivity of the federal tax system."

Bravura performance.

Memo to the Times: Putting this man behind a subscription firewall will be a grave disservice to the nation.

|


BROWN

Well, now, I am just so glad that this raving lunatic has been confirmed to the federal bench:

WASHINGTON, June 8 - Janice Rogers Brown, the African-American daughter of Alabama sharecroppers who was confirmed Wednesday to the federal appeals court here, often invokes slavery in describing what she sees as the perils of liberalism.

"In the heyday of liberal democracy, all roads lead to slavery," she has warned in speeches. Society and the courts have turned away from the founders' emphasis on personal responsibility, she has argued, toward a culture of government regulation and dependency that threatens fundamental freedoms.

"We no longer find slavery abhorrent," she told the conservative Federalist Society a few years ago. "We embrace it." She explained in another speech, "If we can invoke no ultimate limits on the power of government, a democracy is inevitably transformed into a kleptocracy - a license to steal, a warrant for oppression."

Isn't it interesting how, when liberals describe GOP extremists as "fascists" or "nazis" everyone's eyes bug out of their heads and we get weeks of lecturing on how over-the-top and inappropriate the analogy is, and yet a woman who appears to believe that government regulation of the marketplace is akin to slavery is considered an acceptable choice for a lifetime appointment to the judiciary. Yes indeedy, what a fair and balanced nation we are.

|


DEFYING COMMON SENSENBRENNER

Just when you think maybe -- just maybe -- we're starting to put the insanity of the War On (Some) Drugs behind us, along comes another anti-drug zealot with an idea that shits all over common sense and basic human decency, threatening to worsen what is already one of America's most shameful crises. Here I am reading this Salon piece on the Supreme Court's medical marijuana decision -- it's worth clicking through the ad for, and the news isn't all bad -- when, towards, the end, the author mentions the legislative efforts of one James Sensenbrenner. Make sure you're sitting down for this one, folks:

Unfortunately, and this is the bad news, American drug policy is still being shaped by political rhetoric rather than fiscally or medically sound strategies for keeping people healthy and out of trouble. For the latest and most egregious evidence of that, look no further than H.R. 1528, introduced this session by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and named in classically Orwellian doublespeak as the Defending America's Most Vulnerable: Safe Access to Drug Treatment and Child Protection Act of 2005.

There hasn't been anything this scary in the already frightening reach of the American drug war in a long time. As written, this bill would create a new, three-year federal mandatory minimum for parents who witness or gain knowledge about drug activities happening around their kids and do not report what they know to the cops within 24 hours, or provide requested assistance to law enforcement in a resulting investigation, apprehension or prosecution. It would also create a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for parents who commit a drug crime in or near the presence of their child, add a new five-year mandatory minimum sentence for anyone who sells drugs to someone who has ever been in treatment, and increase to five years the mandatory minimum for the sale of drugs within 1,000 feet of a school, library or drug treatment facility. That means just about anywhere in urban centers -- and especially in the concentrated inner cities.

So, basically, what this good little Nazi is saying is: Hey, parents, if you don't rat out your kids, we're going to send you to jail. Sensible, right? I mean, the best thing for a kid with a burgeoning drug problem is to take their parents away. That'll shape 'em up right fast. I ask you: What kind of shriveled turd nugget do you have to have for a heart in order to propose legislation like this?

Do me a favor: Contact Congressman Sensenbrenner and tell him what an asshole he is.

OK, OK, don't say that, but do tell him how outrageous and disgusting this piece of legislation is, how it will rip families apart without, ultimately, doing a damned thing to solve our drug "problem".

|


BBA

As you can see from the new graphic on the right, I've signed on with the Big Brass Alliance. The BBA is a growing coalition of liberal bloggers who have made it our business to pester, harass, and (assuming it's possible) shame the media into covering the Downing Street Memo story. Each day, the BBA targets up to three media outlets with a coordinated e-mail campaign, in the hopes that we can get somebody to pick up this story and really run with it.

As I said in an earlier post, Bush's decision to pursue his war of choice in Iraq while deceiving the public about his motives and cooking the evidence to support his pre-determined agenda is the biggest scandal of our age. The Memo is our smoking gun, and it's outrageous that the media isn't lifting a finger to look into this and, ultimately, to hold Bush accountable for his lies.

Well, maybe if enough of us pull hard enough, we can move the rudder of history on this one.

|


SONIC BUMMER

Wanted to share what was, for me, a downer of a (possible) revelation. Last night I was reading the final pages of Richard Dawkins' "The Ancestor's Tale" and he made a reference in a footnote to two individuals who claimed to have broken the sound barrier before Chuck Yeager did (don't ask what this has to do with evolutionary biology - Dawkins is unafraid to go off on tangents when it suits him). The first was a German fighter pilot, Hans Guido Mutke, in 1945. That claim seems dubious given the plane, a Messerschmitt Me 262, that he was flying, and in any event there's no way to substantiate it one way or the other. The second claim, however, came from one George Welch, an American WWII pilot, and based on what I've found online, his story might be legit:

In the spring of 1944, Welch was approached by North American Aviation to become a test pilot for the P-51 Mustang. Resigning his commission from the army, Welch accepted. He went on to fly the prototypes of the FJ Fury, and when the F-86 Sabre was proposed, Welch was chosen as the chief test pilot. The project gained momentum and was moved to Edwards AFB, California, the same base at which the Bell X-1 was being developed. North American was instructed that they were not, under any circumstances, to break the sound barrier before the X-1 achieved this milestone. However, Welch disregarded this order, and during a test flight on October 1, 1947 he entered a steep dive from 35,000 ft. During the dive, Welch observed symptoms compatible with Mach jump, and a sonic boom was heard at the base. However, due to problems with the landing gear, further full-speed flights were delayed. On October 14, the same day that Yeager was to attempt supersonic flight, Welch performed a second supersonic dive. This time he started from 37,000 ft, and executed a full-power 4g pullout, greatly increasing the power of his sonic boom. Yeager broke the sound barrier approximately 30 minutes later.

Due to the political investment in the X-1 program, the Pentagon ordered the results of Welch's flights classified and in fact did not allow North American to publicly announce that the XP-86 had gone supersonic until almost a year later. The Air Force still denies that Welch broke the sound barrier first. However, a USAF documentary about the X-1 says the X-1 and Yeager were the first to break the sound barrier "in level flight". This leaves the door open for Welch's claim.

We know that the military was very tight-lipped about early attempts at supersonic flight (like they are about all their technological advances). Furthermore, the idea that the Pentagon would tailor the news -- and, later, history itself -- to suit the needs of a contractor, while it might have seemed alien back then, now seems, shall we say, just a tad more plausible.

So I put it to you, readers: Have any of you heard of George Welch before? Because between the History Channel, the Learning Channel, and the Discovery Channel an awful lot of aviation history has been put out there in the last decade or so, and yet last night was the first time I ever saw his name, and the first time I ever had cause to doubt that Chuck Yeager was the first man to break the sound barrier.

Note: Even if the claim for Welch is true, I do think there's something to be said for the "level flight" distinction. The X-1 broke the sound barrier in a controlled fashion and under it's own power -- in fact that was an integral part of the testing, finding out if the engine could make Mach one and still function.

|


ARGUE WITH THE TONE, IGNORE THE SUBSTANCE

I wanted to comment very briefly on last week's dust-up over Amnesty International's comparison of the United States' Guantánamo detention center to the old Soviet Union's gulags. This story is the perfect microcosm of the Bush Years:

  • Critic makes substantive attack on administration policy.

  • Right wing howls about "tone", language and form of attack.

  • Milqetoast Democrats wring hands about inappropriateness of attack.

  • Substance is roundly ignored by all concerned.

Is Gitmo "as bad" as the old gulags? No, certainly not in terms of size, scope, and duration. But how incredibly superficial does one have to be to dismiss Amnesty's reams of evidence documenting the horrors that have undeniably been committed in our name simply because of a poor analogy? Give me a break.

|


QUESTION OF THE DAY

Why oh why would Sidney Blumenthal stoop so low as to engage a mouth-breathing tool like John "Assrocket" Hinderaker in a debate?

Seriously, Sid. You'd have a better chance reasoning with a rabid weasel.

|


FOR LOVE OF COUNTRY

In response to this from Matt Yglesias:

At today's Take Back America conference I saw some interesting polling data from Diane Feldman on a subject I'd pondered now and again. Unfortunately, the written summary of the presentation doesn't contain the exact numbers and I didn't write them down because I assumed this question would be included in the summary. The point, however, was that when you ask if America is "the greatest country in the world" most voters say that it is. When you ask if Democrats believe that America is the greatest country, most voters say that they do not.

Digby has this to say:

What does it mean to be the "greatest country in the world, or as I've heard it put, "the greatest country the world has ever known" anyway? Is it measured by how fair and just our system of government is or standard of living or military prowess, or what? Is it, as George W. Bush pushes incessantly, because its people are "good?" Or is it that by all measures of all things it is simply the best?

I raise this because I suspect that what people really want from liberals is not patriotism, but chauvinism, one important facet of which is characterized in this context by the belief that your national culture and interests are superior to any other. (Our vaunted "exceptionalism" is not made up of a whole lot more than that simple definition.) And, yes, some liberals do not sign on to that, for good reason. Because it's bullshit. And America, the home of mutts from all over the world, the give-me-your-tired-your-poor immigrant nation, should be more aware of the shallowness and idiocy of this than any other country in the world. It's not as if we are Germans trying to preserve the fairy tale of a thousand year Reich. It's one of the good things about not being European, with all that baggage --- or would be if we thought about it for half a minute.

Simple observation of the world shows that all nations are made up of human beings, which automatically taints the project. America and Iraq and China and everywhere else are comprised of this very flawed species. If you live long enough you see that, as much as our fearless leader likes to claim otherwise, Americans are not "better" and therefore our country is not "better." Only individual people can be judged better or worse and it is without regard to nationality, culture or religious belief.

All of which got some thoughts tumbling around haphazardly in my brain, which I will attempt to share with you. No promises of cogency though, so beware...

I am reminded of an e-mail exchange that some friends and I had on our distro a few years back. Our token conservative buddy, having had his fill of our constant criticisms of the Bush administration, challenged the rest of us by asking "Name three things you guys like about America."

Now, this was revealing in the first place because our friend seemed to be taking our deep loathing of Bush's policies as somehow indicative of being against America per se. Looking back, I can see that attitude as being an early harbinger of the politics we're now engulfed in. He was just a little ahead of the curve.

The truth is that I love this country to death. And while it infuriates me that, as a liberal, I have to "prove" my American bona-fides, here, from memory, were the three things I cited:

  1. I love the natural grandeur of our country -- every corner of it that I've seen. I've personally travelled through 42 of the 48 continental United States and this nation of ours is glorious. My home region of New England, tiny and close and filled with curiosities and offering every kind of weather known to man. The jaw-dropping splendor of California's coastal route one. The other-worldliness of the southwestern desert. The soul-drenching relaxation of Key West. New York Fucking City. And Vegas, baby. What doesn't America have to offer?

  2. I love American culture. Not so much the mom and apple pie shit, but real American culture. Hollywood action movies. 80's hair metal. Gangsta rap. Stupid beer commercials. The Superbowl in all it's over-hyped splendor. Custom-tuned Honda Civics with dumbass aircraft wings sticking out of the trunk. 1500-calorie hamburgers. Gargantuan malls and the faux-alienated teenagers who inhabit them. (Yes, it's true: I love most of the things that Eric Alterman probably despises.)

  3. On a more serious note, I love that our political system gives us the right to dissent, that we have a constitutionally-protected right to tell our leaders they're full of shit. I love that I can sit here and type "George Bush is a lying, imcompetent dickwad who should be impeached" and there's not a damned thing that Karl Rove and his minions can (legally) do about it. That's a pretty big deal, especially when things are as horribly screwed up as they are at present.

In any event, there you go. Yes, I love my country. And I could name a hell of a lot more than those three aspects of my affection if I felt I needed to.

There is a big difference between loving something and being "proud" of it though. What does it mean when someone says they're "Proud To Be An American"? Well, let's see. Dictionary.com lists several definitions for "Pride". Here are the first three:

  1. A sense of one's own proper dignity or value; self-respect.

  2. Pleasure or satisfaction taken in an achievement, possession, or association.

  3. Arrogant or disdainful conduct or treatment; haughtiness.

Now, where do you think the guy with the "PROUD To Be An American" bumper sticker on his pickup is coming from? I suppose there could be some (1) in there, although personally, my sense of dignity and self-respect has little to do with my nation of origin, and I think ones self-esteem would have to be pretty flimsy indeed if it were derived in any substantial way from ones nationality. Definition (2) comes in pretty strong at least as far as the "association" part goes, although I've always had a suspicion that the flag-wavers among us harbor feelings of "achievement". (To which I say: What, did you write the Consitution? Did you fight in the revolution? What the hell are you so "proud" of then?)

Where we get into trouble -- and this is what Digby was taking issue with -- is when we shade over into (3). This is the "pride" that looks down its nose at the world. This is the "pride" that says it's not enough to love our country and take joy in our association with it, we need to additionally assert that we're better than everyone else. This is the pride of the insecure adolescent bully who can only make himself feel good by putting down others. This is pride, George Bush style, and it's a feeling I cannot get behind at all.

Anyhow -- holy shit am I rambling -- let's bring this back to the politics.

What if Feldman's polling subjects are right, and most Democrats do not believe America is the "greatest country in the world"? What of it?

I'd say they're right. At this moment in time, we're a few miles short of "great" and not in the same zip code as "greatest". Bush, the GOP, and their supporters have brought to the fore in the most vibrant possible way everything that can, at times, be so horribly wrong with this country. We treat our poor like shit while we bow and scrape at the feet of the rich. We make a fetish of individualism while turning our backs on the responsibility we owe our communities. We stumble and rage around the world like a drunken colossus, trampling the rights of those countries we deem beneath us in the pecking order (which would be all of them). One would have to be quite mad to take "pride" in the side of America presently on display.

With that sober (hey, it's early in the day) acknowledgement, however, comes opportunity. We Democrats have so much to point to that's wrong right now, and all we have to do is come up with a coherent message about how we want to make it right again, so that the next time the question "Is America the Greatest Country in the World" comes up, we can turn it right around and say "No, we're not. But we could be. Here's how."

|


CORONA CONVERSION

The weirdest thing has happened to me recently: I have had a Corona Conversion. At the age of 36, having been a dedicated beer drinker for more than half my life, I have suddenly, in the space of a month, gone from being utterly indifferent to Corona to now considering it one of my favorite beers.

I honestly do not understand this. Is it the onset of warm weather? During my two recent visits to the Carribean did I become infected with some sort of tropical beer bug? Have I developed some adult-onset allergy in reverse? Did Corona recently change their brewing recipe? I have no explanation. I just know that I now find myself adding limes to the grocery list every week.

How odd.

|


TALK ABOUT AN ECONOMY OF WORDS

Canadian Cynic gives us The Same-Sex Marriage Controversy In A Nutshell:

Dear same-sex marriage opponents: We're right. You're wrong. Fuck off.

|


SIGN JOHN CONYERS' LETTER NOW

U.S. Representative John Conyers, Jr. is lacing up his steel-toed boots again and getting ready to kick some Bush Administration ass. Conyers, one of the few Democrats that seems to have come equipped with both a conscience and a spine, is mad as hell over the Downing Street Memo, and he's leading the charge to hold the Bushies accountable. Here's an excerpt from a letter to President Bush which Conyers has provided for your signature:

We the undersigned write because of our concern regarding recent disclosures of a Downing Street Memo in the London Times, comprising the minutes of a meeting of Prime Minister Tony Blair and his top advisers. These minutes indicate that the United States and Great Britain agreed, by the summer of 2002, to attack Iraq, well before the invasion and before you even sought Congressional authority to engage in military action, and that U.S. officials were deliberately manipulating intelligence to justify the war.

..

As a result of these concerns, we would ask that you respond to the following questions:

1) Do you or anyone in your administration dispute the accuracy of the leaked document?

2) Were arrangements being made, including the recruitment of allies, before you sought Congressional authorization to go to war? Did you or anyone in your Administration obtain Britain's commitment to invade prior to this time?

3) Was there an effort to create an ultimatum about weapons inspectors in order to help with the justification for the war as the minutes indicate?

4) At what point in time did you and Prime Minister Blair first agree it was necessary to invade Iraq?

5) Was there a coordinated effort with the U.S. intelligence community and/or British officials to "fix" the intelligence and facts around the policy as the leaked document states?

These are the same questions 89 Members of Congress, led by Rep. John Conyers, Jr., submitted to you on May 5, 2005. As citizens and taxpayers, we believe it is imperative that our people be able to trust our government and our commander in chief when you make representations and statements regarding our nation engaging in war. As a result, we would ask that you publicly respond to these questions as promptly as possible.

I'm not usually this pushy, but you must go sign this, OK? George Bush's decision to lie his way into an unnecessary war is the single greatest political outrage of most of our lifetimes. We might not be in a position to impeach him, but we have to do whatever we can.

|


LEVEL THIS

Thomas Friedman is at it again with another gushing paean to the glories of the global workforce. This latest mound of upchuck was inspired by the people of France deciding to vote "No" on signing the EU constitution:

It was extremely revealing traveling from Europe to India as French voters (and now Dutch ones) were rejecting the E.U. constitution - in one giant snub to President Jacques Chirac, European integration, immigration, Turkish membership in the E.U. and all the forces of globalization eating away at Europe's welfare states. It is interesting because French voters are trying to preserve a 35-hour work week in a world where Indian engineers are ready to work a 35-hour day. Good luck.

Voters in "old Europe" - France, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy - seem to be saying to their leaders: stop the world, we want to get off; while voters in India have been telling their leaders: stop the world and build us a stepstool, we want to get on. I feel sorry for Western European blue collar workers. A world of benefits they have known for 50 years is coming apart, and their governments don't seem to have a strategy for coping.

Actually, Tom, what the French are saying is the same thing they've always said: "Slow down the world a bit, we'd like to enjoy another glass of wine." And what, I ask you, is wrong with that?

Over at The Sideshow, Avedon nails Friedman's bizarre pro-corporate-slave-driver bias:

[A]ccording to Friedman, it's just plain backward-looking to want to work a 35-hour week. So, you see, the French just don't know what they're doing because they want to have a real life instead of giving it all up to compete with people who live in mud huts.

Yes. Exactly. Good to know I'm not the only person who sees the problem with this odd, work-worshipping condescension that the Friedmans of the world direct at the rest of us.

I know it's been pointed out before, but can you really believe the audacity of this guy? Tom Friedman jet sets around the world collecting speaking fees that surely range into the tens of thousands of dollars per appearance. His "job" consists of penning a twice-weekly column for the Times -- and based on the product I doubt that takes more than a few hours -- along with writing the stray book now and then. But ole Tom just loves to tell us how much we should love working. Tell me: When do you think the last time was that this outsourcing evangelist spent an eight-hour day stuck in a cubicle working on some mind-numbingly boring task? When was the last time he was asked to give up a weekend day to put in some overtime?

In Friedman's recent book, the roundly-panned The World Is Flat, he fixates endlessly on the breathtakingly original metaphor of "leveling the playing field". Because, you see, according to Friedman, that's what's happening as third-world workers flood the workforce to compete with Westerners for white-collar jobs. Odd thing, though: The playing field only seems to be getting level for those of us who put in time doing actual work for wages or salaries and ever-weakened benefits. The corporate brass and big-time investors still enjoy playing on the high-side of the same tilted playing field they've always had. Let's see them take a pay cut to help Indian and Chinese workers get ahead. Then we can talk about the glories of the level playing field.

I envy people who have jobs that are about more than just a paycheck -- jobs that are an avocation as well as a vocation. The fact is, though, for most of us a job is a trade-off. I give my corporate paymasters 8 hours a day for 5 days a week. They give me a check every two weeks which enables me to have an enjoyable and enriching life outside of the office. Within this arrangement, work is a necessary burden that I accept. It is not something to be fetishized. It is not the center of my world. And there's nothing lazy or "backward-looking" about feeling that way. In fact, I think it's a pretty healthy outlook. The Tom Friedmans of the world can kiss my ass if they disagree.

|


THE REAL PROBLEM

Matt Taibbi gets it. Anti-choice freaks aren't the problem. The "Intelligent Design" movement isn't the problem. The phrase "Under God" in the pledge isn't the problem. These are all just symptoms. Religion is the fucking problem:

Progressives in this country have always maintained a kind of fuzzy belief that fundamentalists will eventually just disappear, as if by magic, that the phenomenon of grown men and women believing in devils and witches and angels will inevitably be outgrown, the way children outgrow Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and Marx. When some pastor in rural Alabama takes the pulpit to denounce SpongeBob Squarepants as the agent of the Evil One, we figure no response is really necessary—folks will figure out the joke on their own, somewhere down the line.

..

This is a mistake, and it is the same mistake people have made for centuries: underestimating the American zeal for superstition, for boobism, for living the intellectual lives of farm animals. A large statistical majority of Americans would rather live their whole lives in perpetual fear of the devil than listen to ten minutes of common sense. When you consider where these people live intellectually, the idea that the Democratic Party can somehow succeed in Middle America by making small tactical changes, by waving a few more flags, seems absurd. You either believe in the devil or you don't; and if you don't, you're never going to fool these people. The Republicans, for all their seeming "confusion," understand this now better than ever. Their seemingly open attempts in recent months to radicalize and embolden their evangelical base may have had a temporary desultory effect with regard to their poll numbers. But this current crew of Republican strategists has always understood American thinking better than the Tom Junods of the world. They know that most political trends are fleeting. Liberalism vanished at the first sign of trouble; pacifism disappeared one generation after Vietnam; even fiscal conservatism is easily forgotten. The one thing that never disappears in this country is stupidity, and if you court it, you'll always have votes down the line. Especially when it lives on unopposed.

This is why all the post-election ruminating on the left about how we need to "reach out" to evangelicals -- epitomized in the scribblings of Nick Kristof and Amy Goodman -- is dead wrong. Sure, if we played it exactly right such advances might win us an electoral victory or two. In the long-term, however, pandering to adults who wish to make policy based on mythology and supernatural beliefs is, if you'll forgive the metaphor, the first step down the road to Hell.

|


THE QUOTABLE WIFE

Listening to NPR this morning, and they mention that Bush has another appearance planned today in his absolutely futile -- and yet seemingly never-ending -- campaign to convince Americans to let him destroy Social Security. The wife and I had the following exchange:

Me: Incredible. He just won't stop.

Tracy: Yeah. He's like the Energizer Dummy.

|

TwoGlasses Store
Toast's Lists!


--BLOG BUTTER--
Hornswaggler
Emphasis Added
The Sideshow
Shakespeare's Sister
The All Spin Zone
Smart Patrol
The Vidiot


--BLOG ROLL--
Rude Pundit
James Wolcott
Canadian Cynic
Thought Mechanics
Clusterfuck Nation
Pharyngula
Hullabaloo
Ezra Klein
The Daily Howler
Political Animal
Eschaton
AmericaBlog
New Donkey
Orcinus
Here's What's Left
TAPPED
Altercation
Talking Points Memo
TPM Cafe
Kos


What's Toast Reading for
Non-Fiction These Days?

Radical Evolution: The Promise and Peril of Enhancing Our Minds, Our Bodies -- And What It Means To Be Human

Radical Evolution


--POLITICS--
BartCop
Liberal Oasis
BuzzFlash
CJR Campaign Desk
Salon.com War Room
Media Matters

--NEWS & OPINION--
Tom Paine
Salon
The Nation
The New Republic
The American Prospect
Arts & Letters Daily

--SITES I LIKE--
MNFTIU
Robert Anton Wilson
General Semantics
BrainyQuote
Maddox
ScoobyTuner
Ale Street News

--ACTIVISM--
Americans United
Amnesty International
ACLU
MoveOn


What's Toast Reading for
Fiction These Days?

Lord Foul's Bane (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever Series #1)
Lord Foul's Bane
(The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever Series #1)



--SPORTS--
Sports Guy
King Kaufman
RotoWire
BetUS.com
New York Post
Portland Oregonian


--ARCHIVES--
May 2005
Mar-Apr 2005
Jan-Feb 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
Aug-Sep 2004
July 2004
June 2004
Mar-May 2004
February 2004
January 2004
Nov-Dec 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
Old Sports


Toast's Long-Term
Reading Projects

History of Western Philosophy

History of Western Philosophy



A People's History of the United States: 1492-Present

A People's History of the United States