Monday, December 31, 2007

Looks Like I Picked the Wrong Year to Quit Sniffing Glue


Rant

Rather than do the sort of self-important pseudo-analytical year in review story that all the MainStream Kidz are doing, I'll just sum it up more succinctly: 2007 sucked. 2007 blew goats. 2007 was the sort of year that even if I had bought it for 29 cents at a Dollar Store I would still not only demand my money back but probably hire a lawyer and sue their sorry asses for peddling such a damaged, damaging product. If years were presidents, 2007 would be Bush.

Or maybe Buchanan.

Granted, I have personal reasons for my implacable loathing of this particular year...but I think I'm on pretty firm ground in saying it was a miserable year by any standard. It was the sort of year when even the good news was ultimately bad news.

Good news: Democrats take Congress. Bad news: thanks to a narrow margin and a handful of Blue Dogs, they can't possibly accomplish anything. Worse news: all the people who had wildly unrealistic expectations for the Democratic Congress are now pissed off that those expectations weren't realized.

Good news: small but measurable reductions in violence in parts of Iraq. Bad news: violence was 'reduced' to 2005 levels. Worse news: people are still dying, the infrastructure is still wrecked, the only refugees coming home are the ones getting kicked out of their host countries, the political process is hopelessly broken, and there are dozens of armed factions (some of them temporarily our allies) ready to resume attacks whenever the opportunity presents itself. Also: Turkish air strikes.

Good news: the Republican field is the biggest collection of hapless losers since the last National Review cruise. Bad news: one of these guys is still going to be nominated. Worse news: there's a possibility he might win.

And so on. This grim and ugly roadkill of a year was the gift that kept on giving, if by 'gift' you mean 'painful communicable disease' and by 'giving' you mean 'constant irritation in embarrassing and difficult-to-reach parts of the body'. And of course for some diseases there is no cure but time or dementia and death, and the latter two actually look pretty good compared to 2007.

Anyway, happy new year, to the extent that 'happy' is at all possible, and good goddamn riddance.
Matt Yglesias is exactly right about the vacuity of the Broderite Bloomberg project ("You could imagine a third party campaign based on Ron Paul's brand of libertarian nationalism, but all Boren, Bloomberg, et. al. have are platitudes"). It's all form without substance, a desire for some mythical 'bipartisanship' with no idea of either what that means substantively or how we get there.

One other thing struck me, though. The practical justification for third-party candidates is generally dissatisfaction with the existing candidates. There is plenty of dissatisfaction this year...with the Republican candidates. Most Democrats are actually pretty happy with their options (rightly or wrongly). Like them or not, the top Democratic candidates are all solidly competent people with serious ideas about substantive issues; the Republicans, not so much.

So in looking around and saying there are no good candidates, these 'bipartisan' wannabes are acting as if the Democratic field were as shallow and stunted as the Republicans. Or, more precisely, they're simply going on the assumption that a Democratic president isn't an option worth considering.

And yes, that includes the candidate who says a lot of the same things they're saying.

Just one more example of the visceral loathing the Broderites have toward the Democrats.
Just in time to make me look like an ass for writing that I don't think that Mike Huckabee's religious convictions would unduly affect how he'd handle public policy, the Los Angeles Times features a story examining the ways in which, during his time as Governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee's religious convictions may have unduly affected how he handled public policy. Nothing megalomaniacal, really--more like shockingly "petty", as a state representative named Dennis R. Young puts it. Apparently Huck's standard M.O. is to be cruising along when he sees some minor something-something that he sees as an affront to his Lord, at which point he's apt to have a shit fit. Or, as Young puts it, "In these kinds of things, he'd make mountains out of molehills."

The choice example that reporter Joe Mathews singles out: in 1997, after a tornado had laid waste to the town of Arkadelphia, Huckabee threatened to hold up emergency relief because he saw the standard insurance-company phrase "acts of God" as an attempt to blame the catastrophe on his boy, Jehovah. (Apparently Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and Barbara Bush were unavailable to explain to him that in these circumstances, the Christian thing to do is explain that, while God may have flattened the place, the real blame lies with the sinful, tacky residents who provoked the Lord into bringing the force of His wrath down upon them.) Though Huckabee dug his heels in while "five alternative phrases for 'acts of God' were proposed and rejected by one side or the other" until "the governor and legislature agreed to use the phrase 'natural causes' ", Mathews writes that "there is no indication that the four-week legislative delay harmed victims." As with much about Huckabee, the incident is telling for the way it highlights the differences between him and the current prayer-leader-in-chief. Whereas Bush clearly did not want to know about and did not ever care about the people of New Orleans, Huckabee was deeply upset about what had happened to the people caught in the disaster zone and really wanted to help them. But something about the mixture of pride and defensiveness that so many self-defined Christians feel in this society got ahold of him and compelled him to let his inner goofball take over.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Random notes on the last dose of Sunday morning noise of 2007:


Mike Huckabee, looking for a way to prove that he really believes that God has his back and unable to find a cannon that he can have himself shot out of, settles in for some face time with Tim Russert, with only four days to go before he starts getting buried in the primaries. I stare at Huckabee's mouth moving for about four minutes before I remember something that Pauline Kael once wrote about the Jean-Luc Godard movie Alphaville: "It seems to give off powerfully soporific vapors." (This is the only time in your life that you will ever see Mike Huckabee and Jean-Luc Godard mentioned in the same sentence. I hope you've enjoyed it as much as we have.) Huckabee's sleep-inducing qualities are a fairly effective weapon against Russert's jabbing; Huckabee seems to be juggling wet noodles while he tries to simultaneously counter the impression that he's clueless about foreign-policy and assure us that it would be no big deal even if he was, and you get a sense of how far in over his head he might be when Russert invites him to square his line about how we're too good a country to punish the children of illegal immigrants for their parents' mistakes and that our economy would collapse without illegal labor with his plan to give said parents and laborers 120 days to git out of town. But even Russert seems too drowsy to care much. He must have gotten some caffeine and a steroid injection during the commercial break, though, because that's when he comes out swinging.


However, his main line of attack in the second half of the interview is Huckabee's religion, an area where I admit to finding him deeply unscary. Russert pulls out a line from a speech that Huckabee gave at the 1998 Southern Baptist Convention, where he said that we need to "take this nation back to Christ." Huckabee simply reminds Russert of the audience he was speaking to at the time, and insists that the line "certainly" was "appropriate to be said to a Christian gathering." This kind of thing may strike you as mealy-mouthed, which is part of why I find it reassuring. Huckabee is saying that, like most politicians, he emphasizes different sides of himself according to who he's trying to win over, as in "No duh." Maybe he once told an audience of dog-catchers that pet control is the most important thing in the world, but that doesn't mean that, if president, he'd pull the CIA off the search for bin Laden (if the CIA was looking for him, that is) and put all their best agents on canine duty. He also says that he has no intention of having his religion influence public policy, and I believe him. There are two main points of comparison here: Jimmy Carter, who talked about his religion very much as Huckabee does, who also alarmed the media because of it, and who made good on his pledge not to try to turn the United States into a theocracy; and George W. Bush, who spoke in easily identifiable code to religious fundamentalists about how he was going to run a "faith-based" presidency, has done just that, and was never sussed out by the reporters on his trail in 2000. (It's amazing to me that the religious right, which has been a major political force in American politics for close to thirty years, has its own language, and hardly any major journalists think they have a duty to learn it. If these same people were in the mood to do so on a certain day, they'd crucify a presidential candidate they don't like for not speaking fluent Urdu.) I don't want Huckabee to be president, and I can't see him winning the nomination, if only because his lack of money has got to look a lot more sinful to most religious Republicans than Bush's casually signing off on executions and wars with both hands, but I do think that people with a sinister secret agenda lay it out on the table with less openness than he seems to.


That said, that religion of his serves as a justification for some nasty attitudes, such as his homophobia. He does make a more plausible show of hating the sin but not the sinner than, say, Jerry Falwell ever did; he seems as surprised by Russert's suggestion that he might have trouble hiring atheists for his administration as Bush would be flabbergasted by the thought that there might be some more important qualification for public service than fitting in at daily prayer meeting. And in his efforts to meet the rest of us halfway by coming up with secular reasons for his opposition to abortion, he shows that his mind can really perform some cockeyed somersaults. In terms of what's considered mainstream political boilerplate, the biggest jaw-dropper of the interview may be his saying, in a tone that implies suppressed ridicule of anyone who'd dare to disagree, that the idea that "life begins at conception" is an undisputed scientific fact. "I don't think it has any biological credibility" to think otherwise, he says. Making what was probably either a topical reference or a metaphor that went over my head, he also says, "If I value your life and respect it with dignity and worth because it is human, then that's what draws me to the inescapable conclusion that I should be for the sanctity of each and every human life. That's why we go after that twelve-year-old boy in the woods of North Carolina when he's lost." If any newspaper editors are planning to cover this appearance and are looking for an attention-getting headline, I urge them to consider: "HUCKABEE SAYS HE GOES AFTER TWELVE-YEAR-OLD BOYS IN THE WOODS OF NORTH CAROLINA."


Over on Chris Matthews' show, the body politic has become so schizoid that it's threatening to come apart at the seams. While Andrea "Mrs. Greenspan" Mitchell, who I swear looks fifteen years younger now that she did when I used to watch her on the NBC Nightly News thirty years ago, sits in the corner wondering if that portrait of herself that she keeps in the attic has started to look like her husband, Matthews confirms that John Edwards is now a true populist by acting as if the man's first name were "Millworker'sson"--remember, it used to "Triallawyer"--and does a segment making fun of Huckabee for leaving his prayer tower long enough to bag some birds. Who decided that the Republican nomination should depend on who shot the most birds, Matthews chortles? I dunno, Chris. Remind me: Who was that pumpkin-headed straw-haired jackass with the donkey laugh who kept insisting that the true measure of heroism was strutting manliness, as measured by the padding in your flight-suit jockstrap? He might have to shoulder some of the blame for it.


If Matthews is (maybe unconsciously) announcing his willingness to shift with the winds if cement-headed macho turns out to be out of fashion this coming year, Joe Klein is sticking to his guns; he made it clear with every stiff twitch of his Ricky Jay face that he still hates them Clintons for having had the tasteless, white trash audacity to move to his beloved Beverly Hills and deposit all that money in his husband's bank. Most anti-Hillary pundits are content to equate her "experience" with staidness and corruption while lauding Barack Obama's "freshness", but Klein has no use for such wimpiness; he lauds Obama and sneers at Clinton for being old news while also insisting that she doesn't have any experience to speak of. Seven years in the United States Congress, plus eight years in the White House, during which time he and everyone else who hated her guts always claimed that she was secretly running the country behind the scenes? Hell, my five-year-old could paint that! Of course, an Obama presidency would be much better for Klein's career. Then, ten minutes after Obama is sworn in, Klein can claim to have been brutally disappointed in him and write Primary Colors II.

Amused.

The NY Times posts an unsigned announcement that William Kristol will be joining them, complete with an abbreviated list of abusive things he's had to say about their judgment and their patriotism in the past.

Do they generally point out who their new hire's father is? I must have missed that.

Greg Mitchell has more on the hiring (Mr. Rosenthal says his critics are intolerant of opposing views on the war), Media Matters has him accusing the Times of a death penalty offense for reporting legitimate news that doesn't serve his political agenda.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Over Exposed

Since I have no idea why the NYT gives a plush op-ed slot in its paper to Maureen Dowd, I'm not one to try to make sense out of why it now has consented to give pundit space to one William "Bill" Kristol. I also don't have a problem with being exposed to conservative viewpoints.

But here's the thing. Kristol already has a publishing platform at the conservative mag he runs, the Weakly Standard (not to mention his consulting gigs for Faux News). So the dude is hardly in need of more space to enlighten us all as to his spectacular unenlightenedness.

All I am saying, Mr. NYT, is, if you feel the need for another conservative voice, give someone else a chance.

Friday, December 28, 2007

And Unlike Romney, He Doesn't Even Need to Pander

The other day Bulworth posted an excellent summary of Ron Paul's positions (taken verbatim from Paul's own issues pages) showing just how appalling (and, in some cases, bizarre) his political beliefs are. (If you missed it, be sure to go back and read the whole thing.) Apart from the Iraq thing, it turns out, he really does represent today's GOP.

I have just a couple more data points to add. On Sunday's Meet the Press, Paul came out against the Civil War and for 'gradual emancipation'; meanwhile, Kos dug up a 1992 quote in which Paul said "95% of the black males in [DC] are semi-criminal or entirely criminal" (hat tip: Instaputz and Scott Lemieux).

In a saner party at a saner time, either of these would be a candidacy-killer. But the GOP has become a de facto (Southern) regional party, and I have a feeling a lot of Republicans are suddenly giving Paul a serious second look.

[Cross-posted at If I Ran the Zoo]
The L Word

Are Obama, Clinton, or Edwards liberals?

Democratic candidates from Carter to Dukakis and Bill Clinton have shunned ideological "labels", preferring to offer themselves as capable managers, elevating "competence" over "ideology", or trying to recast the Democratic Party as "moderate", "centrist", or as New Democrats.

As we sit on the eve of the primary selection process, let's ask: How has this worked out?

When I started blogging three years ago I was convinced the Democratic Party needed to remake itself into a long-term focused, progressively-identified movement, from top to bottom, from economics to culture, in an effort to combat what I perceived to be a similarly established and entrenched conservative movement with a firmer identity of itself. I was a progressive purist of sorts, attracted by the candicacy of Howard Dean--interestingly, not a progressive purist--who nonetheless demonstrated a willingness to speak in stark terms about the nature of the political conflict liberals faced and the desire to begin the work of realigning the Democratic Party to fight that sort of battle.

I'm not sure I believe this now, that such a thing as a progressive or liberal movement can be created, at least in the sense in which I envisioned it. As one of the contributors to Rick Perlstein's little post-election book, The Stock Ticker and the Superjumbo, put it, elections are largely random things whose outcomes are most frequently the result of economic conditions, the popularity of the incumbent party, and the personalities of the leading candidates.

But while my expectations of the Democratic Party and America's future--or at least the Party's ability to control that future--have diminished, I still think it is short-sighted for Democrats to avoid the ideological underpinnings of American politics. And I sense that most Democrats are still approaching the problems of winning over a majority of voters and solving the nation's problems in this way.

For instance, all the leading contenders have expressed their disapproval of the Iraq war, but not necessarily of the mind-set that made the invasion possible in the first place. Now, as in years past, the contenders are emphasizing the need to make the economy work for middle class families, to ensure good jobs at good wages, a world-class education for everyone, more affordable and more accessible health care, etc. But these ideals are typically spoken of in terms of being problems requiring solutions--bipartisan solutions as it usually turns out--that are compartmentalized from the more essential question of ideology; that is, what is the proper role of government, what should government do or not do? More to the point, are some perspectives of the role of government more right or wrong than others? And is it meaningful to elaborate on, or to at least summarize in some concise way so voters can make some connections between policies and candidates, just what it means to aim for a more just and equal economic system, a more diplomatic foreign policy, and more tolerant, pluralistic society?

I think there is such a term, such a word, such a label, that concisely captures this set of ideals--it is modern political liberalism. And I don't think it's erroneous for political candidates supportive of such views to shrink from identifying themselves as such. If it's true that more people in America self-identify as conservatives compared to liberals, yet express support for essentially liberal economic and social policies, than one question that could be asked is how the Democratic Party might do a better job of giving this philosophy, liberalism, a better name more suited to its true nature and standing, and thereby making more liberals of the American public.

Whatever shortcomings the present crop of Republican candidates have, the conservative movement over the past three to four decades has bequeathed to them a label, a brand name, conservative, that they can feel confident in trying to claim. Democrats lack a similar foundation.

Of the main three, it's John Edwards who comes the closest to making his appeal on ideological grounds. But even he seems just as wary as candidates in prior years of calling this appeal by its right name, of outing himself as it were for what he is or at least aims to be--a liberal.

Beyond the policy wonkishness of which candidate has the best health care plan or who will get as many of our troops out of Mesopotamia as soon as possible is a need to evaluate how candidates see themselves as ideological standard-bearers.

The last Democratic candidate to win a majority of the nation's votes was Jimmy Carter, over three decades ago. I can't help concluding that not contructing a competing, ideological narrative for voters to consider is at least part of its failure to do so.

For now, Democrats seem content to identify themselves as non-ideological candidates and as a non-ideological party. I don't think this is accurate and I don't think it's ultimately helpful.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Good Work, Jonah!

I'm impressed: Jonah Goldberg has never made any argument in such detail or with such care as he does on his serious, thoughtful blog.

(Hat tip: Tbogg.)
because it's a sad, scary day, a little light reading: Tucker Carlson breaks a hooker's heart (a Ron Paul story)

Best of 2007

Jon Swift has a round-up of self-selected best blog posts of 2007; there's a wealth of excellent stuff there, including Steve M's classic Is it Christopher Hitchens or Dwight Schrute?. Go, browse the links, and enjoy.
One Week to Go

Matt Stoller rightly critiques the lack of inspiration coming from our leading candidates:

Ezra is happy with the Democratic candidates; most Democratic voters share Ezra's views. I don't (and neither do a few others)...A real progressive candidate would take an apolitical problem and turn it into a mainstream political subject. None of our candidates have done that. Here are five easily mainstreamable problems ripe for the picking...

[1] Subject: End the War on Drugs
Factoid: There are 1 million people put in jail for doing what Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and George Bush have done...

[2] Subject: End corporate media ownership:
Factoid: General Electric, a major defense contractor and conglomerate, owns NBC, MSNBC, and CNBC...

[3] Subject: End American empire
Factoid: As of 1998, America had troops stationed in 144 countries around the world...

[4] Subject: End the war economy:
Factoid: Money for Iraq keeps passing in 'emergency' legislation to avoid being subject to budget rules...

[5] Subject: End the cradle-to-prison superhighway
Factoid: 2 million people are in prison in America, by far the highest total of any other country in the world...

Items 1 and 5 on Stoller's list I think are really the same issue. But in any event, neither has been addressed by our leading candidates, probably because of Item 2 on Stoller's list. Items 2-4 are also highly correlated.

To Stoller's list, and he admits there are other equally valid concerns that might fall into the same categorization as "untouchable symptoms", I would add:

[6] Subject: Our ridiculous, counter-productive, and probably immoral, Cuba policy;
Factoid: nearly 50 years since Castro has been in power, and almost two decades after the end of the Cold War, most American citizens can still not travel directly to Cuba without a special You Can Go To Cuba Pass, thereby feeding the island's isolation and increasing the power of Castro's cultic rule; and

[7] Subject: The War on The Separation of Church and State (and on the value and Constitutional foundations of political and religious pluralism generally)
Factoid: see Sally Quinn's recent op-ed, amidst a rising mountain of other evidence.

Obama has challenged, if in a rather off the cuff manner, item 6--and as a result come in for a chorus of catcalls from the other candidates and the professional media class (item 2).

But he, and the other candidates have been mostly AWOL from item 7; Worse, our leading contenders have shown signs of pandering to this sentiment rather than confronting it.
Former Prime Minister Bhutto Assassinated

Opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated at a campaign rally in Pakistan today. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for January 8; her death sparked a violent response from supporters, some of whom blame President Pervez Musharraf. Who, I'm sure, had absolutely nothing to do with it. Uh huh. But I bet he's really sorry she's gone. At least 20 other people were killed in the explosion when the assassin blew himself up after shooting Bhutto.

Bhutto served twice as Pakistan's Prime Minister and had returned in October from an eight-year exile. She headed the largest political party in the country, which was expected to fare quite well in the upcoming elections.

Pakistan is a really scary place right now -- political unrest, nuclear weapons, and a leader whose power has been threatened. Oh, and, most likely, Osama bin Laden somewhere in the mix. Stay tuned.
Rudy Releases 9/11 Campaign Ad

In a surprising move, former NYC Mayor Rudy Guiliani has finally decided to emphasize his stirling leadership in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in an effort to capture the Republican nomination for president.

"We know this is an unorthodox strategy," campaign manager Mike DuHaime said. "But if we had listened to conventional wisdom a year ago, Rudy never would have run. We've never bought into conventional wisdom. So we're going to be bold, to show voters Rudy's willing to try new things, to take chances, and to continue to be the brave leader we all saw on September 11."

Predictably, spokesmen associated with the other Republican candidates for president warned that the former NYC Mayor's attempt to use 9/11 to his advantage could backfire.

A spokesperson for former NYC District Attorney Arthur Branch reminded reporters that it was Branch, not Guliani, who actually rescued NYC in the aftermath of the attacks. "District Attorney Branch was remarkably successful in getting many criminals to confess to their crimes without their attorney's being present, or when that failed, getting a remarkable number of criminal defendants to confess on the stand during his tenure" remarked an anonymous campaign aid.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney retorted that if Guliani was such a 9/11 hero, how come the former NYC Mayor didn't round up all the illegal aliens in his city immediately for questioning and detention in Guantanamo Bay-like prison camps where their lawyers and the media couldn't have access to them. "Mitt Romney would have created a concentration camp for illegal aliens in NYC double the size of Guantanamo", said Romney's chief spokesperson.

Campaign aids for John McCain and Mike Huckabee declined to comment to the surprise news of Guliani's 9/11 stategery; but behind the scenes aids to Arizona Senator are said to be furious with Guliani's about-face on mixing the September 11 attacks and presidential politics. At the same time, friends of the former Arkansas Governor say they're glad Guliani is finally making use of the 9/11 theme. Associates of Huckabee claim that by finally embracing his links to 9/11, the former NYC mayor will likely move past candidates like that Mormon Mitt Romney, McCain, and Branch, setting up their man for a two-way race against the gay-loving, abortion-allowing, multi-divorced, cross-dressing mayor of America's most liberal city.

Knowledgeable and distinguished pundits, such as those from the magazine Politico, believe "America's Mayor" is fully justified in claiming 9/11 as his own. "Mayor Guliani was a great leader on September 11" said Politico reporter Mike Allen. "While President Bill Clinton cowered on Air Force One reading My Pet Goat, Rudy Guliani boldly appeared on TV screens across the nation and gave interviews to us" said Politico.

Whatever one's opinion about 9/11, with the Iowa caucuses just one week away, the new ad by "America's Mayor" will surely add more excitement to the mix.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

It's True

Charles Murray, of The Bell Curve infamy, really is a flaming idiot.

Discuss.
Ron Paul

OK, now that I have your attention...

Having dutifully spent at least part of the past 4 days with family as required by the Constitution, I finally had a chance to check back in on the political world today. And what a world it is.

As I enjoy reading both Glenn Greenwald and Ezra Klein, I was disappointed to find two of my favorite Internets reads in a bit of a tiffy over Ron Paul. While I don't want to arbitrate on the matter of which of the two is constructing straw-men, Glenn's mention of Paul's opposition to the War on Drugs piqued my interest, and as Ezra invited his blog-readers, I ventured over to the candidate's website and to the "issues" page to get a wider overview of the situation.

I searched pretty hard, but didn't find anywhere on Paul's "issues" pages where the candidate mentions any opposition to the War on Drugs (Greenwald's post does link to a 2001 article in which Paul criticizes the War on Drugs as "an excuse to attack our liberties and privacy").

Beyond not finding anything on Paul's issues webpage about the drug war, I did discover that while Paul believes that "The federal government decided long ago that it knew how to manage your health care better than you and replaced personal responsibility and accountability with a system that puts corporate interests first" (Health Care) he also believes--and has introduced legislation to that effect--that Congress (not women, families, or their doctors) can and should decide that "life begins at conception" (Life and Liberty).

How does Paul feel about immigrants? Well, the candidate wants to "end birthright citizenship" (Border Security and Immigration Reform). That "birthright citizenship" is specified by the U.S. Constitution (14th Amendment) doesn't come in for comment on the candidate's issue page.

Paul also is under the mistaken impression that all the foreigners from south of the border are getting Social Security benefits from the payroll tax contributions of reg'lar 'mericans. Under the Social Security issues page he says: "It is fundamentally unfair to give benefits to anyone who has not paid into the system. The Social Security for Americans Only Act (H.R. 190) ends the drain on Social Security caused by illegal aliens seeking the fruits of your labor." I don't know what Paul is talking about here. Actually it works the other way around--undocumented workers (illegal immigrants) pay Social Security taxes but are not eligible for benefits from those earnings.

The candidate does have one issues page established on behalf of one of the first 10 Amendments to the U.S. Constitution (i.e. the Bill of Rights). Want to guess which one? Well, the Second Amendment, the gun amendment, of course.

And while Paul doesn't have a special issues page declaring his opposition to the War on Drugs (nor does he mention such opposition in any issues page) he does have a special issues page set up to list his opposition to..."taxes on tips". That "...waiters, waitresses, and other service-sector employees have to pay taxes on the tips they earn", Paul believes, "is an outrage".

And while Paul did and does oppose the war in Iraq, the candidate also believes in those black helicopters: "The ICC wants to try our soldiers as war criminals. Both the WTO and CAFTA could force Americans to get a doctor’s prescription to take herbs and vitamins. Alternative treatments could be banned." and "So called free trade deals and world governmental organizations like the International Criminal Court (ICC), NAFTA, GATT, WTO, and CAFTA are a threat to our independence as a nation..." and "Let’s not forget the UN. It wants to impose a direct tax on us. I successfully fought this move in Congress last year...".

There's also a special issues webpage on racism, which according to Paul only occurs when governments act to protect Constitutional equal and civil rights. The Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act are, according to Paul, just meddling examples of "collectivism", which threaten our "liberty".

Of course, now that I've quoted The Candidate from his own issues pages, I am sure this site will now be the object (or target) of the Ron Paul Internets army.


Michael McFaul at Slate shreds the logic behind Time magazine's selection of Vladimir Putin as its "Man of the Year." Most of us have had a chance by now to hear that the magazine's selection process is meant as a nonjudgmental declaration of who deserves to be regarded as the biggest newsmaker of the past twelve months--that it's not, technically speaking, an "honor." (You sure got to hear that explanation more than a few times if you were alive and had access to media in late 1979, when the editors put Ayatollah Khomeini on the cover.) Still, there's definitely a compliment tucked inside the magazine's selection of Putin; as McFaul puts it, the scenario goes like this--"In the 1990s, so the Time story goes, Russia was a place of lawlessness, economic depression, and instability. In the last decade, however, Russia has become a place of order, economic growth, and stability." And Time, with its embrace of the Great Man theory of history, figures that Putin deserves the credit for it.


What makes this annual blip on the radar screen of contemporary history queasier than it had to be is that by saluting Putin for saving Russia, the magazine is implicitly--and, in some parts of their laudatory essay on the topless Russian president, not so implicitly--saying that the disintegration of democratic reform and the grab for centralized power that has been taking place under Putin was necessary to save the country. But as McFaul sees it, " the Time theory that Putin's democratic rollback has been a necessary condition for achieving stability and growth—they call it the 'grand bargain'—is simply wrong. In fact, there is no evidence at all—and most certainly not in the 36 pages Time devotes to Putin and his Russia—that greater autocracy has caused either order or growth. Autocracy's re-emergence under Putin has coincided with tremendous economic growth but has not caused it. If anything, Putin's autocratic turn has reduced the economic gains from what they would have been had democracy survived."


Putin took office in time to benefit from a jump in world oil prices and the "painful but necessary [economic] reforms" instituted by Boris Yeltsin on his way out the door. "Putin," McFaul writes, "did implement some important tax reforms and established a stabilization fund to ensure that the windfall revenues would not be spent frivolously or in an inflationary manner. The main drivers of Russia's economic rebirth, however, were world commodity prices, not Putin's leadership. In fact, the change in which Putin's leadership is most apparent—growing autocratic rule—has slowed economic growth, not spurred it. Corruption, a drag on growth, has skyrocketed under Putin's "central authority." Renationalization and redistribution of property directed by Putin's autocratic regime have caused declines in the performance of formerly private companies, destroyed value in Russia's most proļ¬table companies, and slowed investment, both foreign and domestic. Investment in Russia, at 18 percent of GDP, is stronger today than ever before, but well below the average for democracies in the region, such as Poland and Estonia."


Why does this matter? Because we're now heading into the last, dead days of the Bush-Cheney era, a time when our elected leaders, with a minimum of screaming and protests from the mainstream media, elected to strike their own "grand bargain," rolling back respect for civil liberties and the political independence of the judicial branch in exchange for a frightened, post-9/11 public's feeling that Big Daddy was in control. I don't want to go so far as to say that Time's exculpatory approach to Putin is "really" about George W. Bush (who's made the year-end cover himself twice since 2000), and I don't want to be accused to likening Bush and Cheney to Putin. who does make them look like pikers in the screw-democratic freedoms department. (On the other hand, you could be forgiven for finding their contempt for democracy, and their willingness to act on that contempt, much more shocking in the context of a society that claims to treasure its freedoms as an important part of its national identity, heritage, and reason for being.)


As we enter a year that will be devoted to watching politicians slug it out for the honor of cleaning up Bush and Cheney's toxic dump, the one thing that the trouble twins themselves will be concentrating on will be settling on how their "legacy" is defined. I think it's safe to say that as the two of them seem more and more powerless and thus more and more harmless, the same mainstream media that used Gerald Ford's funeral almost a year ago as an excuse to express its gratitude the fallen Commander in Chief for having helped us get a head start on "forgiving" Richard Nixon will be pitching in to urge us all to look back fondly on the past seven years and be thankful to the shifty mugs who, in a time of national trauma, helped us get through it--not by doing anything so simple as bringing us together as a people or building on the expressions of concern that flooded in from all around the world or even by bringing the killers to justice, but by daring to embody a half-witted eight-year-old's--or, to put it another way, Chris Matthews's--idea of a couple of tough guys. To compare them to Putin is, in some ways, to cut them down to size; he's a real thug, whereas they might as well be stomping around the halls of the White House accompanied by the "Little Rascals" theme, wearing spiky round hats and addressing each other as "Butch" and "Spike." (It's easy to imagine Putin in a street fight; Bush would soil himself if he had to do his own waterboarding.) For serious Americans, the cliffhanger to the upcoming election will be finding out if the winner will choose to roll back the "gains" for the power of the executive branch or if they'll be accepted as a present. In this situation, to suggest, as Time does, that there may be a way to justify or even applaud tempering the freedoms offered by democracy is, to put it gently, actively mischievous.

Like Josh Marshall, I have to wonder what's up with the Concord Monitor's anti-endorsement of Mitt Romney. On its face, the editorial is hard to argue with: Romney is a transparent phony who has reversed himself on the most basic issues in order to pander to the Republican base. (And although I think authenticity is rarely a useful metric, it certainly applies in Romney's case.)

What makes it weird is the language they use: Romney is "a disquieting figure", his words are "often chilling", he "most surely must be stopped." Get it? Romney isn't just undesirable as a candidate; he's dangerous.

Which is odd, because Romney's phoniness in itself shouldn't be a huge deal. The worst-case scenario is that his conversion is genuine--but even then, taking everything he says at face value, he's certainly no worse than the rest of the Republicans. Maybe he has no convictions at all, and he'll just do whatever increases his popularity; that would certainly be preferable to a president who clings to his delusions long after most people have rejected them. We've had plenty of phony Republicans in recent history, and Romney is hardly the worst of them.

And yet the editorial writers talk about Romney as if he were Greg Stillson.

I don't get it, but I do have a suspicion: I think it's about religion. A lot of Americans see the LDS as a cult, and Romney as their Manchurian Candidate. That's most common among authoritarian evangelicals, but it's not exclusive to them...and New Hampshire is a state with very few Mormons. Without ever mentioning religion, the editorial evokes an uneasiness that is religiously-based.

I could be wrong about this case, but I do know this: as long as Romney is a viable candidate, we will see a lot of coded (and not-so-coded) appeals to anti-Mormon bigotry. That's not a good thing, but it is the logical consequence of imposing religious standards on the political race--something Romney himself has indulged in.

Monday, December 24, 2007

HO HO HO, I GOTTA GO

Yeah, I'm going to be away until New Year's Day. While I'm gone, grab a songbook and sing along with Skimble 's annual Christmas special:

Good Rest Room for a Senator

Sung by Monica Lewinsky
to the tune of "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentleman"

Good rest room for a senator
Is where he taps his feet
To signal other hypocrites
They’re caught if not discreet
They save us all from weddings gay
While...


Er, it gets a tad R-rated from there. Leave the kids with the sitter. But go!

Oh, and Lurch, I'm sorry -- I just saw that you tagged me, and I really have to go grab a flight. Sorry....

Guest-bloggers will be along while I'm gone (I hope -- did you all get the e-mail?), and they're all invited to carry on where Lurch left off, in between the political snark. (From me, well, this is the worst Christmas song ever, and I think my favorite is this one.)

Gotta go. Happy hols....

Sunday, December 23, 2007

IS A VOTE FOR McCAIN A VOTE FOR HUCKABEE?

So I see that a new poll has McCain at 25% in New Hampshire, three points behind Romney. I think Mike Huckabee should regard that as excellent news.

As I said a while back, it's hard to imagine Huck getting majority support in the primaries -- but he can start piling up delegates if the secular candidates don't drop out early. McCain might drop out after New Hampshire if he does poorly, but if this poll is right, he'll do well and stay in for several more contests. We know Romney won't drop out early, and Giuliani's in through at least Florida, so the only big name who might drop out early is Thompson. I think that keeps Huckabee in the race.

*****

And yet if he does get the nomination, I think his party will vote for him, even the secularists -- at least if Hillary Clinton is the nominee. And if it's a multi-candidate race (I think Ron Paul will run, and more and more I think Bloomberg and Hagel will run), who nows how much support the winner will need?

I've been thinking that Huckabee is a sure loser, but I look at the Real Clear Politics roundup of head-to-head polls and I see that Huckabee's doing about as well against Clinton and Obama as Mitt Romney is, and he's doing better than Fred Thompson. That doesn't jibe with the conventional wisdom, does it? Huck loses to Hillary by (on average) a mere 6 points right now, and loes to Obama by 10. Those leads really aren't insurmountable. So I'm saying right now that a Huckabee win in the GOP race isn't the gift from God we all think it is. I think he could be competitive. Yeah, really. You still have to be practically off the edge of the earth to be a Republican and be beyond the pale in this political culture.
BAI ON DEMOCRATS: UNPRINCIPLED SELLOUTS HAVE REPLACED THROWBACK FREAKS

In today's New York Times Magazine, Matt Bai devotes 6,911 words to a portrait of Clintonism as compromised, amoral, and alienating to true progressives -- and it's hard to tell where, in Bai's mind, one of those ends and the others begin:

Some Democrats, though, and especially those who are apt to call themselves "progressives," offer a more complicated and less charitable explanation. In their view, Clinton failed to seize his moment and create a more enduring, more progressive legacy -- not just because of the personal travails and Republican attacks that hobbled his presidency, but because his centrist, "third way" political strategy, his strategy of "triangulating" to find some middle point in every argument, sapped the party of its core principles.

... a combination of events -- first the collapse of Hillary Clinton's health-care plan, then the Republican Congressional takeover of 1994 and later, of course, the debilitating sex scandal that led to his impeachment -- seemed to drain the administration of its capital and ambition. Clinton's presidency seemed, at least from the outside, to devolve into an exercise in deflection and survival, a string of near-death experiences that left little space or energy for whatever sweeping agenda Clinton (and his wife) envisioned back in 1992. As the transformational governing vision of earlier years receded, bland, poll-tested rhetoric and endless scandals rushed in to fill the void -- and became, in the minds of many Democrats, the hallmarks of Clintonism.


And then, after those 6,911 words, Bai hits us with this sentence:

The plain fact is that, for all their condemnation of Bill Clinton's governing philosophy, both Obama and Edwards -- and just about every other Democratic candidate in the field, with the possible exception of Dennis Kucinich, who seems to have been teleported straight from 1972 -- spend a fair amount of time imitating him.

So after portraying Clintonism overwhelmingly in the negative words of its Democratic critics, we learn what Bai actually thinks of those Democratic critics: that they're are just a bunch of hippie freaks.

(And don't you love the way he twists the knife by using the space-cadet verb "teleport"?)

Bai seems prepared to end his article by saying that Clintonism is actually a pretty good thing:

Perhaps it's true that Clinton's presidency will be remembered as a series of lost opportunities -- "the Great Squandering," as the historian David Kennedy recently described it to me. But it's also possible that history will record Bill Clinton as the first president of the 21st century, the man who synthesized the economic and international challenges of the next American moment, even if he didn't make a world of progress in solving them.

But -- heaven forfend -- he can't leave it at that. He's just said that the current Democratic Party is Clintonian, and that Clintonism is sensible -- and if you put two and two together, you might actually think Clintonism is the way forward, and want to vote for a Democrat in '08.

He can't have that. He can't leave you thinking that throwing in your lot with Democrats going forward is a good idea. So he makes this bizarre argument about the Democratic front-runner, Bill Clinton's wife:

This may be the defining difference between the candidacies of Bill Clinton and his wife, between Clintonism and Hillaryism, if such a thing can be said to exist. Like most successful outsiders, Bill Clinton directly challenged the status quo of both his party and the country, arguing that such a tumultuous moment demanded more than two stark ideologies better suited to the past. By contrast, Hillary Clinton's campaign to this point has been mostly about restoring an old status quo; she holds herself up as the best chance Democrats have to end eight years of Bush's "radical experiment" and to return to the point where her husband left off.... That might be a shrewd primary strategy, but winning a general election could well require a more inspiring rationale. Nonincumbents who go on to win the White House almost always take some greater risk along the way, promising changes more profound -- if potentially more divisive -- than a return to normalcy. The reformer runs great danger. The more cautious candidate merely runs.

In other words, Hillary is a feckless coward because she won't run against the record of her own husband -- and, in effect (because she was a big part of her husband's administration) of herself. "Come on, Hillary, you wuss!" Bai is saying. "Show us you've got what it takes! Bash yourself!"

(And he's implicitly attacking Obama and Edwards the same way, since he's described them as Clintonists as well.)

Even if you don't like Clintonism -- and I have very mixed feelings about it -- you have to admit that argument is bizarre.

*****

One more bizarre argument in the Bai article. He writes:

Near the end of his speech in Gorham, [New Hampshire, Bill Clinton] went off on an engaging tangent, as he sometimes does, about the trees he saw from his car window that morning, and how at one time New Hampshire was almost devoid of trees, and how Teddy Roosevelt led a national effort to replenish the forests. "But Theodore Roosevelt proposed a lot of ideas that fell flat on their face until Franklin Roosevelt passed them," Clinton went on. "The important thing for us to do is to fight for the right thing and keep fighting for it until we finally get it done." I had heard Clinton compare himself with T.R. before, but this was the first time I heard him do so publicly, and it struck me as an aside that would have made his wife's advisers wince, if they noticed it. He seemed to be suggesting that Hillary's job as president would be to cement his own unfinished legacy....

Er, Matt? He's comparing her to FDR. You think that's insulting? You think that should make her advisers wince?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

SOME REPUBLICANS CAN TELL STRETCHERS. MITT CAN'T.

So what's up with this story about Mitt Romney's father and Martin Luther King? The latest seems to be that two people claim they actually saw George Romney and Dr. King marching together.

I don't know what the truth is. (UPDATE SUNDAY: The Boston Phoenix still says the women are wrong and Romney and King never marched together.) But what I keep thinking is that if Mitt were a different kind of Republican, he'd barely have to respond to questions about this.

His problem is that he's not Ronald Reagan -- you know, the guy who told several prominent people he had photographed Nazi death camps, even though it couldn't possibly be true (he never left the country during the war). This was just par for the course for Ronnie -- he told a lot of stretchers, and mostly shrugged off the questions that were asked about them, and his adoring fan base never cared.

Romney's problem is that, for all his (recent) chest-thumping paeans to right-wing ideological purity, his market niche is hypercompetent brainiac. What he isn't is a holy-fool warrior: a guy who may not know much, but he knows who the enemy is and how important it is to smite that enemy. That's the niche occupied by Reagan and (still, at least among the party faithful) George W. Bush.

Arguably, Mike Huckabee is the successor to W and Reagan -- he certainly has a lot of people thinking that he knows who the real enemy is (a red guy with tails and a horn and a fondness for fire). I bet Huckabee could just shrug off a situation like the one Romney is in -- I'm guessing his supporters wouldn't care whether or not he was telling the literal truth.

But Huckabee may not be the immediate successor to Reagan and Dubya in the holy-fool category. I'd say, for a few months anyway, their heir apparent was Giuliani. Yes, he was a tightly wound Eastern urbanite rather than a gee-whiz-aw-shucks Westerner in cowboy boots, but (as I've said many times here) his fans thought he'd walked through the Valley of Death and hated all the right enemies (liberals, terrorists, petty criminals) with a pure, somber, self-righteous fury.

News stories about Bernie Kerik and the "shag fund" that paid for security for Wife-to-Be #3 reminded voters of his ugly breakup with Wife #2 and his estrangement from his kids -- and that's brought him down to earth in their eyes. Now he seems like a mere mortal. But for a long time he didn't, and even today, no one in the GOP seems to care about his habit of misstating facts -- he wants to smite the right people, so who cares if he left New York City with a surplus or a deficit?

Romney may yet win the nomination, but (by GOP standards at least) he's too cool and cerebral to be the holy-fool warrior the party wants. Therefore, he's actually going to have to tell the truth much more often than Ronnie ever did -- and much more often, I'm guessing than Huckabee ever will, or even (if he comes out of his tailspin) Giuliani.

Friday, December 21, 2007

JONAH GOLDBERG'S IDEA OF A REPUTABLE SCHOLAR

As you may already know from Sadly, No! or the Carpetbagger Report, Jonah Goldberg, in his new book Liberal Fascism, claims that homosexuality and Nazism were inextricably linked in Hitler's Germany (despite the well-documented persecution of gays by the Nazis). As a source for this assertion, Goldberg cites The Pink Swastika by Scott Lively and Kevin Abrams.

The Sadly, No! post gives some background on Lively and the book, but there's a lot to be found, and I've barely scratched the surface.

The Southern Poverty Law Center calls Lively "the chief international envoy" for a Latvia-based anti-gay group called Watchmen on the Walls, which appears to be linked to the gay-bashing death of Satender Singh in Sacramento in July.

According to multiple witnesses, the men began loudly harassing Singh and his friends, calling them "7-Eleven workers" and "Sodomites." The Slavic men bragged about belonging to a Russian evangelical church and told Singh that he should go to a "good church" like theirs. According to Singh's friends, the harassers sent their wives and children home, then used their cell phones to summon several more Slavic men. The members of Singh's party, which included a woman six months pregnant, became afraid and tried to leave. But the Russian-speaking men blocked them with their bodies.

The pregnant woman said she didn't want to fight them.

"We don't want to fight you either," one of them replied in English. "We just want your faggot friend."

One of the Slavic men then sucker-punched Singh in the head. He fell to the ground, unconscious and bleeding. The assailants drove off in a green sedan and red sports car, hurling bottles at Singh's friends to prevent them from jotting down the license plate. Singh suffered a brain hemorrhage. By the next day, hospital tests confirmed that he was clinically brain dead. His family agreed to remove him from artificial life support July 5.


More from SPLC:

The Watchmen movement's strategy for combating the "disease" of homosexuality calls for aggressive confrontation. "We church leaders need to stop being such, for lack of a better word, sissies when it comes to social and political issues," Lively argues in a widely-circulated tract called Masculine Christianity. "For every motherly, feminine ministry of the church such as a Crisis Pregnancy Center or ex-gay support group we need a battle-hardened, take-it-to-the-enemy masculine ministry like [the anti-abortion group] Operation Rescue."

...When he personally confronts the enemy, Lively practices what he preaches when it comes to "battle-hardened" tactics. He recently was ordered by a civil court judge to pay $20,000 to lesbian photojournalist Catherine Stauffer for dragging her by the hair through the halls of a Portland church in 1991.

Lively occasionally writes for
Chalcedon Report, a journal published by the Chalcedon Foundation, the leading Christian Reconstructionist organization in the country. (Reconstructionists typically call for the imposition of Old Testament law, including such draconian punishments as stoning to death active homosexuals and children who curse their parents, on the United States.) But he's most famous as the co-author of The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party....

The Pink Swastika ... has been roundly discredited by legitimate historians.... Stephen Feinstein, director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of Minnesota, said the book was "produced by a right-wing Christian cult and is as correct as flat earth theory." ...

More here, from a February issue of Washington's Oregon's Willamette Week:

In front of about 30 people gathered recently in a Salem church sanctuary to celebrate the reunion of the Oregon Citizens Alliance, Scott Lively found cause for optimism about the rebirth of the anti-gay group....

Lively, a longtime OCA leader, introduced five members from the group the Watchmen on the Walls -- an international network of Christian activists dedicated to fighting what it calls "the homosexual agenda" -- to show a video of their movement in parts of the former Soviet Union.

The 45-minute video, which repeatedly refers to homosexuals as "terrorists," shows how conservative Latvians successfully stopped gays from marching in their capital, Riga. (European news reports show anti-gay demonstrators throwing feces on the gays.)

The video also features Alexei Ledyaev -- a Kazakhstan-born Baptist pastor and leader of the New Generation Church, whose satellite broadcasts claim an audience of more than 200 million people -- leading large crowds in chants of "In the name of Jesus Christ, we curse the name of homosexuality!"...

[Lively] believes the 100,000 Russian-speaking refugees and immigrants from the former Soviet Union now living in Oregon will make fertile recruiting ground for the OCA's new foot soldiers.

As evidence of what could happen here, Lively showed a music video of a Watchmen on the Walls concert, which was a high-budget anti-gay rock opera filmed live in Riga. It features a tuxedo-clad man standing on top of a castle wall that's surrounded by men in tight black clothes holding tiki torches. There are flashing lights, smoke and howling guitar riffs as they march and sing militaristically about "victory over the gays."

..."Perhaps by November 2008," Lively said, "we will have enough support to fill a Watchmen on the Walls concert in Oregon."


In addition to The Pink Swastika, Lively has written a book called The Poisoned Stream: Gay Influence in Human History. He talks about it here:

...I have come to discover, through various leads, a dark and powerful homosexual presence in other historical periods: the Spanish Inquisition, the French "Reign of Terror," the era of South African apartheid, and the two centuries of American slavery. My thoughts have increasingly turned toward writing a larger, more comprehensive analysis of homosexuality in history. I have come to believe, with Samuel Igra, that homosexuality has truly been a "poisoned stream" in human history.

...
The Poisoned Stream is a starting point for the larger work which I envision. The Igra material broadens the scope of our study to the events surrounding World War I and addresses the influence of homosexuals on these events. Additional volumes, addressing other periods of history on which homosexuals had a significant sociopolitical influence, will follow this one....

Everything bad that's ever happened in human history is gay people's fault!

Well, he probably does think that. Note what he says at the beginning of this video of an appearance in Latvia:

I have studied the homosexual movement for eighteen years. It is the most dangerous political movement in the world.

And this despite the fact (or perhaps because of the fact) that homosexuality doesn't really exist:

"In reality, homosexuality is nothing more than same-gender conduct among people who are innately and unchangeably heterosexual."

There's your expert, Jonah. I hope you're proud of yourself.
DO THEY KNOW IT'S CHRISTMASTIME AT ALL?

Well, tonight thank God it's them instead of you, right?

...some [Wall Street] executives have even agreed to forgo their bonuses this year to reflect the poor performance. Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack and Bear Stearns CEO Jimmy Cayne won't be collecting their payouts....

Oh, poor babies.

Or maybe they don't exactly need our pity:

Mack received no cash bonus a year ago but received stock and options worth an estimated $40.2 million, well above his $800,000 base pay. Cayne received a bonus of $33.6 million in 2006 and base pay of $250,000....

And overall on Wall Street?

This might have been one of Wall Street's most dismal years in a decade, but that hasn't stopped bonus checks from rising an average of 14 percent.

Four of the biggest U.S. investment banks -- Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and Bear Stearns Cos. -- will pay out about $49.6 billion in compensation this year. Of that, bonuses are traditionally estimated to represent 60 percent, or almost $30 billion....


It should be noted that Goldman Sachs wasn't hit by the subprime crisis quite as hard as the others, so its CEO is getting a $70 million bonus and compensation is up 20 percent. But Morgan Stanley just took a $9.4 billion writedown -- and yet compensation there is up 18 percent.

So the connection between pay and performance is, well, tenuous.

And is it safe to say that very few of you had a double-digit income increase this year? (I certainly didn't.)
LEAST BELIEVABLE POLITICAL EPIPHANY STORY EVER

From Jeri Thompson, in an interview with John Hawkins of Right Wing News:

...So, tell us about the first time you and Fred had a serious discussion about him running for the presidency this year. When was it and can you tell us a little bit about it?

Well...I know one of the conversations we had, we were sitting around our kitchen table and we do have these two small children....So, looking at a 3 and a half year old at the top of the stairs, he said to me..."A lot goes through your mind from the time Hayden is at the top of those steps to the time she's at the bottom. I feel our country is at a crossroads and we need to do something." I agree.


Right. I'm sure he said that. In those exact words. I'm sure he said, in effect, "Hey, hon, look at our little girl stumbling down the stairs. That really makes me think about the threat of Islamic extremism, the looming entitlements crisis, and the threat to our national sovereignty posed by the Law of the Sea Treaty. You too, I bet. I gotta do something!"

Oh, and on a different subject, wouldn't you say that one of these things is not like the others?

What I know is that the experiences Fred has had, from getting married at 17 and working in a factory, putting himself through college and then through law school, being a Federal prosecutor at 28, being minority council at 30, moving on to help Marie Ragghianti take down a corrupt Governor, playing himself in the movies, being a US Senator, and doing all the things he has done since then qualifies him to be President.

Yup -- Jeri Thompson includes "playing himself in the movies" as one of things that qualify her husband to be president of the United States. Yikes.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

LYNNE SPEARS'S PUBLISHER WAS PART OF THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT

Atrios is upset that The Philadelphia Inquirer said this about Lynne Spears, mother of Britney and the now pregnant sixteen-year-old Jamie Lynn:

Still, with this latest episode in the lives of the Spears family, one can't help wondering who was the genius who contracted the sisters' mother, Lynne, to write a book on parenting. The project reportedly has been put on hold. But given the problems her daughters have had, it's hard to believe the book was ever in the works.

Atrios:

Now one can mock the mother for writing a parenting book if her schtick was defining good parenting for girls as making sure they kept their legs closed long enough.

Well, I don't know if that was her shtick, but please note that her publisher was going to be Thomas Nelson, which is decidedly a part of the religious right.

A year ago, Michael Hyatt, the president and CEO of Thomas Nelson, posted the company's editorial standards. Some excepts:

... The bottom line is this: We are a Christian publisher. ...

Specifically, we want to publish:

*
Authors who profess a personal faith in Jesus Christ. We want to work with people who are willing to say, "I am a Christian." ... we want to work with communicators who claim to be Christians and are not ashamed of it.

... *
Authors who seek to live according to the standards of biblical morality. ... we want to promote authors who are committed to living in obedience to God's revealed will. We want to promote authors who "walk the talk."

And one of the criteria for a book the company agrees to publish is

It must be pure. This means it must be chaste, modest, clean. We want to publish books that promote holiness and offer a necessary corrective to the current trend to sexualize everything. This does not mean that we are opposed to sex, of course. But we want to make sure that our books advocate a view of sex that is consistent with Christian morality.

If I were a publisher and I believed that last bit, I think I'd steer clear of Britney's family. As for the rest, if the point was going to be "Britney has occasionally violated my conservative Christian moral code, but she should be forgiven (though don't you dare do the same thing)," then, yeah, Mama deserves a bit of criticism. As does her publisher.
THE CLINTON RULES: NORMAL CAMPAIGN BEHAVIOR IS AN "ATTACK"

I'm incensed by some of the Clinton campaign's tactics, but hey, Jake Tapper, when did doing something like this become evil?

Clinton Launches Obama Attack Web Sites

Clinton Campaign Registered Names of Two Web Sites to Attack Ill. Senator


ABC News has learned that the campaign of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., has registered the names of two Web sites with the express goal of attacking her chief rival, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.

... Votingpresent.com and Votingpresent.org are domains hosted by the same IP address as official Clinton Web sites, such TheHillaryIKnow.com, which was launched with much fanfare this week.

... Clinton has attacked Obama for having occasionally voted "present" as an Illinois state legislator when it came to contentious legislation.

...The Obama campaign referred to the websites as "politically motivated attacks in the eleventh hour of a closely contested campaign" and defended Obama's "present" votes....


Oh my God -- a "politically motivated attack." I'm shocked -- there's politics going on here!

Christ on a pogo stick -- I don't think I've ever seen a campaign in my million years on this earth in which a candidate who was actively an officeholder wasn't criticized for missing votes (which were inevitably missed because the candidate -- duh! -- was running for office). It's always done and it never works -- no candidate ever suffers for being attacked this way. What Clinton's doing is just a variation on that (and it's a somewhat more valid issue to raise because Obama was actually available to vote). How is it an act of viciousness?

Read the New York Times article about Obama's "present" votes and decide whether you care -- but Tapper shouldn't get the vapors over something like this, and neitrher should anyone else.

****

UPDATE: Thanks for the link, Don, but, um, can you read? I don't think my post says what you think it says.

Oh, and sound effects from the witch in The Wizard of Oz -- gosh, what an original, witty idea.
THE MEN DON'T KNOW, BUT THE CHURCH LADIES UNDERSTAND

Well, now we know a bit more precisely why Huckabee is surging in Iowa:

...Republican women, particularly those who describe themselves as evangelicals and those who attend church regularly, are the primary force behind Huckabee's recent increases. Women now support him over Romney by an 18-point margin; men divide their votes about evenly between the two....

My first thought was "It's the marriage" -- that these women voters resent Mormons because of plural marriage, even though the church now forbids it and respectable Mormons do as well.

But I think what's really going on has to do with the way women more than men get close to their churches and their pastors. You hear this about black churches and about white churches; an old professor of mine, Ann Douglas, wrote a book, The Feminization of American Culture, in which she described how this played out in nineteenth-century America:

... she argues that [women and clergymen] created [a] woman's sphere.... The realm they created was one of "influence," not power; women were supposed to work subconsciously on the lives of others through moral and emotional appeal.... For male ministers and other writers who promulgated the sentimental mode, it represented a disturbing (even to them) and neurotic rejection of masculinity, as they defined themselves increasingly in feminine terms.

I think if evangelical women in Iowa are responding to Pastor Huckabee more than men, it's replicating what's happening in the churches a lot of them attend.

*****

Another thought about this Washington Post/ABC poll, from the ABC write-up:

...evangelical Protestants ... account for nearly four in 10 likely caucus-goers. They now favor Huckabee over Romney by a 3-1 margin, 57 percent to 19 percent.

...Evangelical Protestants account for 37 percent of likely caucus-goers in Iowa, and an identical 37 percent of likely Republican primary voters nationally....


Add that to this:

Romney, for his part, holds a slight lead among the nearly eight in 10 Iowa Republicans who say his religion doesn't matter in their vote. But the remaining two in 10 say his Mormon religion makes them less likely to support him, and they overwhelmingly favor Huckabee by a large enough margin to put him in front overall....

So this is a party (in Iowa and nationally) that's nearly two-thirds non-evangelicals. This is a party in which a guy like Romney could win except for something like 20% of the party who think Mormons have horns. Republicans are killing themselves, and the reason it's happening is that they have too damn many plausible secular candidates.

So if Romney, Giuliani, McCain, and Thompson all stay in for a long time, the nominee could really be Huckabee. On the other hand, if winnowing actually happens soon, these guys could nominate an electable candidate, so watch out.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

HIPSTERS 4 THE GOLD STANDARD

These are the Violets.



They're young, they're cool, they live in Brooklyn, and they've been called "ridiculously entertaining" by The Village Voice. Their founding member (he wears skirts onstage) "chose ... band members of both genders to explore issues of male-female energy."

And they really like Ron Paul.

In fact, they've written a song about him. You can hear it at their MySpace page and watch the video below:



My favorite line? "You're the only one left who's still on the right." It's not addressed to Paul himself. It's addressed to the fools who don't realize that he's so awesomely progressive.

I've said a few times that I worry about a Ron Paul third-party run because I don't trust that antiwar voters will learn the truth about Ron Paul's politics. This is a bit more evidence that I'm not crazy to worry.

Oh, and if you're reading this, Violets, take a look at this assessment of his deeply regressive record in Congress and this report on the racist and extremist views expressed in a newsletter that bore his name. And he may be against a Federal Marriage Amendment, but here's how he puts it:

I'm opposed to a federal ban on gay marriage, but it also goes both ways: I'm against the courts at the federal level pressuring the states into accepting same-sex marriage licenses. What we're talking about in both cases is the redefinition of an ancient social institution by the federal government that's best left to the people to decide at the local level. I have introduced legislation called the We the People Act to remove deeply personal social issues like marriage and abortion from the jurisdiction of the federal courts so the states and local governments can make the decisions, as the Constitution intends.

By that logic, a state could refuse to recognize interracial heterosexual marriages from other states and that would be just dokey as far as Paul is concerned.

And yeah, he's really obsessed with the gold standard.

(Via New York magazine.)
BILL DONOHUE: PROTECTING RUDY BY BASHING HUCKABEE?

Mike Huckabee released a Christmas ad that pointedly invoked Christ (and seemed to have a subliminal background cross) -- and Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, who's usually a pro-religion culture warrior, attacked the candidate. Steve Benen of the Carpetbagger Report is (like many of us) perplexed by this, and he struggles to find an explanation:

For what it's worth, why did Donohue criticize Huckabee? Given that his remarks seems to contradict everything he believes in, I suspect it's because Donohue supports a rival Republican candidate, and was prepared to take on Huckabee on anything. I can't think of any other realistic explanation.

And so I direct your attention to this Sisyphus Shrugged post from April, in which Julia notes that Donohue had no immediate reaction to Rudy Giuliani's assertion that he still supports taxpayer funding of abortions for poor women, and that Donohue's been quite reluctant to speak ill of Giuliani over the years.

In fact, Donohue did get around to criticizing Giuliani for that abortion remark, in a brief statement a few days later. (Compare this with Donohue's reaction to the hiring of Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan by the John Edwards campaign, which led to a rapid-fire series of denunciations of the campaign, plus plans to run a full-page ad in The New York Times; McEwan and Marcotte resigned from the campaign before the ad was scheduled to run.) The most recent item about Giuliani on the Catholic League's Web site is, in fact, an attack on panelists of The View for critical reamrks they made about him.

Search Giuliani's name at the Catholic League site and you'll see that, yes, Giuliani was criticized (at least in the first half of the year) for his abortion stance (though if Donohue took to the airwaves to chide Rudy on abortion, as he did to criticize the Huckabee ad, I'm not aware of it). You'll also see that Giuliani was repeatedly praised in earlier years for attacking the "Sensation" art exhibit and for supporting school vouchers.

So is Rudy Bill Donohue's man? Possibly.
DOWD AND RUSH SEE HILLARY'S WRINKLES, FEEL SORRY FOR ... THEMSELVES

In my post yesterday about the aging Hillary picture published by Rupert Murdoch's Australian, I didn't mention Rush Limbaugh's monologue (also available here), even though it got most of the negative attention, simply because, well, he seemed to be pulling his punches. He wasn't truly nasty, or at least the nastiness was below the surface. Even as he calculatedly kept the negative story alive by talking about it, he almost seemed ... sorry for Hillary.

Or for someone:

...The number of people in public life who appear on television or on the big screen, who are content to be who they are, you can probably count on one hand.  Everybody's trying to make themselves look different -- and in that situation, in that case, they think they're making themselves look better....
 
When you see people who are, "Boy, they're just really great," but they can't get anywhere because they just, for some reason, television doesn't complement them. They don't look well on it, they don't handle it well, and it has an effect, regardless how smart they are, how brilliant their policy.  This is one of the things that many people lament with the coming of television.  You go back and look at presidents that we elected prior to TV, and presidents we elected after TV, and you will notice a huge difference. Do you think a bloated president could win? We had plenty of fat-guy presidents.  Do you think one could get elected today?  There's not a prayer!  There isn't a prayer....


Hmmm ... this was said by Rush Limbaugh, who lasted only a few unsuccessful, unmemorable years on TV, back when he was, er, fatter than he was after some subsequent weight loss? Interesting.

And now we have Maureen Dowd, in today's New York Times:

One of my male colleagues was explaining why men age better than women.

"It's evolutionary," he said. "As we wear out our wives, who are running around taking care of the kids, we know we're going to have to get another younger wife, so we stay good-looking."

He was kidding. (I think.) We were discussing Hillary’s latest hurdle: the Old Hag routine.


Oh, right. You were discussing Hillary. Because, if that picture hadn't been published, the subject would never have come up, because you never think about such things otherwise.

Of course, trading in the old ball-'n'-chain for a model half her age isn't actually routine in this society -- some older married men would like to do it but can't find a willing young thing, while others (I know this will come as a shock to you, Maureen) are simply content (or even, heaven help us, happy) with their same-age wives. But that's not the way things go in Dowd's all-alpha world, and any long-time Dowd reader knows she blames this trend for her unmarried status -- so she sees it as universal.

But Dowd does think this is really unfair to Hillary, darn it:

When men want to put down a powerful woman in a sexist way, they will say she's a hag or a nag or a witch or angry or hysterical.

Yes -- Dowd would never use words like that. She prefers "Hillzilla" and "dominatrix."

And Hillary isn't a victim of Dowd's obsession with surface -- that obsession is America's!

...it's true that looks matter in politics, even though Abe Lincoln still ranks as our favorite president. J.F.K.'s tan and Nixon's 5-o'clock shadow helped turn that 1960 debate in Kennedy's favor, just as Gore's waxy orange makeup and condescending mien hurt him in a debate with W.

...Mitt Romney, Barack Obama and John Edwards almost always look good, and pretty much the same, in dark suits or casual wear. Fred Thompson always looks crepuscular and droopy.


Er, Mo, Gore won the popular vote. And this year the two leaders in the GOP race are a guy who looks like the love child of Lon Chaney and Fredo Corleone and a guy who's a dead ringer for Gomer Pyle. Maybe the public is doing just fine overlooking how the candidates look. Maybe the problem is limited to your exquisitely groomed acquaintances -- and you.
THE CLINTONITE WHO DOESN'T OWN VERY MUCH OF THE NATIONAL ENQUIRER

So it's come to this -- a National Enquirer story saying the Iowa Democratic front-runner has (or is going to have) a "love child"? Please kill me.

But before (or after) you do so, please read this post of mine (from October) -- if this is a dirty trick by the Clinton campaign against the Edwards campaign (and I'm not saying it isn't), it's highly unlikely that it came about because (as the Politico put it) a "Clintonite ... owns the National Enquirer." As I note in my October post, Roger Altman owns a whopping 2.6% of the National Enquirer.

And now I'm going to crawl in a hole and wait for America to grow up and learn how to elect a president in an adult manner (yeah, I know -- I'll have a long wait).

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

SO, HOW'S THAT "PEACE ON EARTH, GOOD WILL TOWARDS MEN" THING GOING?

Not as well as hoped in Green Bay, Wisconsin:

A Wiccan display put atop City Hall last week after a nativity scene was set up was vandalized early Monday, police said.

A Green Bay police officer was flagged down just before 12:45 a.m. by a citizen who reported seeing someone on a ladder taking down a decoration.

The ladder was left at the scene and the partially damaged Wiccan wreath that was taken down was found behind some shrubs nearby.

The Wiccan display including the wreath encircling a gold five-pointed star was put up Friday at City Hall after Green Bay City Council president Chad Fradette received the go-ahead earlier last week from the city's advisory committee to install a nativity display....


Obviously, a two-faith display was unacceptable to somebody. And the situation has now become ugly:

Mayor Jim Schmitt's declared moratorium Monday on religious displays at City Hall did little to quell the furor that erupted in the days following the installation of a nativity scene on an entrance roof last week.

After police announced Monday someone stole and damaged a Wiccan display overnight that had been placed on the roof Friday, Schmitt ordered that it wouldn't be replaced and that no other displays would be permitted until the City Council debates the issue tonight.

Schmitt's declaration means that the nativity scene, placed by Council President Chad Fradette last Tuesday, is the only holiday display over City Hall's northwest entrance.


Everybody's got a symbol:

...Taku Ronsman, who identified herself as a member of the Unitarian Universalist faith, wanted to display a peace sign on the roof. The symbol represents one of the principals of her religion, she said.

"How is that fair to leave the manger up but not the non-Christian symbols?" she said when told her display would not go up.

Wendy Corriel brought a cross decorated with ornaments and wrapped in American flag cloth, a display she said symbolized the improper way that church and state were merging.

"I'm extremely irate," she said. "I feel like I don't have rights. This is not a religious battle, it's a fight for the constitution."


A couple of proposals clearly aren't going to make it:

...[Mayor Scmitt] described other proposed displays as "silly." He was referring especially to the Festivus pole and was not familiar with the "Flying Spaghetti Monster" display that an aide told him had also been proposed Monday. The Flying Spaghetti Monster is an Internet-based parody of religion.

No FSM? Drat.

And a Festivus pole was proposed? Yup:

The putting up of a nativity scene at Green Bay's City Hall has prompted a tongue-in-cheek request from a suburban man for permission to display a Festivus pole on the overhang of the building's northwest entrance.

The Festivus holiday created by author Daniel O'Keefe during the 1970s and popularized by comedian Jerry Seinfeld two decades later is celebrated by some both in earnest and jest on Dec. 23.

The request by Sean Ryan of Allouez was made during the weekend....

A practicing Catholic who would prefer to see no religious displays at a government office, Ryan said his request to put up an undecorated six foot aluminum pole was intended to showcase how deciding what religions to include in the display can turn to the absurd.

"I was turning over how extreme things could get and how loosely things could get interpreted," Ryan said....


You know what? I have a suggestion: Put religious symbols on private property. Private property can be "the public square" -- the government doesn't own Rockefeller Center, for instance, but hordes of people come to see the Christmas tree there every year, and no civil libertarians complain. Merchants, fraternal organizations -- put up all the Christmas trees you want. Or menorahs. Or Festivus poles, for that matter. And tell the public to gather round.

(Last link via Via Democratic Underground.)