Tuesday, May 31, 2005

A lot of people these days are worrying about America's politics becoming "dynastic." I understand that, but John Podhoretz's riff on the subject in today's New York Post is an utter crock.

Podhoretz says that Jeb Bush would be an ideal GOP presidential candidate in 2008 -- yet he can't possibly win, except under one condition:

With a candidate named Bush running against a Democrat whose name was anything other than Clinton, Democrats would be able to win almost solely on the grounds that America shouldn't be a hereditary monarchy. But with a candidate named Clinton, Democrats would lose that issue against Jeb Bush.

The weirdest part of the whole Jeb scenario is that the only way he could get a fair hearing from the American people in 2008 would be if he were the one to face Hillary Clinton.

Oh, please. If Jeb gets the nomination in 2008 and runs against, say, Edwards or Clark, he won't suffer because he's a Bush -- hell, if the past is any indication, he could run against Barack Obama and the right-wing noise machine would find a way to make Obama look like the candidate of entrenched elites, while Jeb struts around in blue jeans as the champion of jes' folks. And Tim Russert and Chris Matthews and David Brooks and Mickey Kaus will tell us that's an accurate portrayal of the two candidates. Don't believe me? Ask a certain son of Greek immigrants about the campaign run a few cycles ago by Jeb's father.

On the other hand, I suspect the "hereditary monarchy" line will be used effectively against Hillary no matter what. Never mind the fact that she's a daughter of the middle class and went through school as a braniac meritocrat -- and then became the girlfriend and wife of another meritocrat, someone who was the purest of bootstrappers. The chatterers will wring their hands.

I understand the squeamishness about "dynasties." I'm not wild about them myself. (As an Italian-American, I'm still wondering when the hell we're going to elect a president whose forbears aren't British or Dutch.) But the fact is, we like dynasties -- all over the country we vote for them. We vote for Tafts in Ohio, the Landons in Kansas, Rockefellers and Kennedys (and Bushes) everywhere you look. Tennessee has Fords; Pennsylvania has Caseys; Indiana has Bayhs and Alaska has Murkowskis. Mitt Romney's the Utah son of a Michigan governor who's the governor of Massachusetts. I don't know why we're not smart enough to reject a new guy who has the same name as the old guy we liked, but we just aren't. So if we suddenly decide this is unacceptable in '08 because Hillary's on the Democratic ticket, that'll mean we're playing by the Clinton Rules again, denouncing something that's always been done simply because a Clinton is doing it.


Meanwhile, here it comes....

Elder Bush would like son Jeb to run for president

George Bush, the president's father, would like to see another Bush in the White House someday, saying on Tuesday that he would want his son Jeb to run for president when the timing is right....

In an interview on CNN's "Larry King Live," former President Bush said he would want Jeb to run for president "someday," but now was not the time.

"The timing's wrong. The main thing is, he doesn't want to do it. Nobody believes that," Bush said.

But he and wife Barbara both said they believed Jeb, 52, did not want to run in the next presidential race....

Well, bring it on Jeb. Or don't bring it on. I don't really care -- I worry about Republicans, not dynasties.
Here we go again....

An Indiana judge ruled Tuesday that Planned Parenthood of Indiana must turn over to the state the medical records of its patients under 14.

Marion County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Johnson sided with the Indiana attorney general's office in its quest to examine the medical records of 84 young patients.

Planned Parenthood tried to stop the seizure, arguing that investigators were on a "fishing expedition," possibly to identify the partners of sexually active 12- and 13-year-olds. None of the 84 patients has received an abortion, according to Planned Parenthood....

Indiana law defines sexual activity with a child under 14 as child molesting, no matter how old the partner is.

Planned Parenthood said it will seek a stay delaying enforcement of the judge's ruling....


Astonishingly, it appears that no emergency room, pediatrician's office, or gynecologist's office has any information whatsoever that hasn't been provided to authorities but would be useful in this situation -- only abortion clinics! Wow, what are the odds?

And what are the odds that two Republican state attorneys general (the other, of course, being Phill Kline of Kansas) would have the same brilliant crime-fighting idea at the same time? (Go here for a March story in which both Kline and a spokesman for Carter deny coordinating their near-simultaneous assaults on the files of abortion providers.)

Thought you might be interested to know that the Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries include The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan, General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money by John Maynard Keynes, Democracy and Education by John Dewey, and Sexual Behavior in the Human Male by Alfred Kinsey. That's according to "a panel of 15 conservative scholars and public policy leaders" assembled by Human Events magazine. Runners-up include Darwin's Origin of Species and Descent of Man, Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, Margaret Mead's Coming of Age in Samoa, and my favorite, Unsafe at Any Speed by Ralph Nader (preserving the lives of people who have car accidents is the first step to moral suicide!). Yup, these books are up there with Mein Kampf, and ahead of, say, The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion or the works of the Islamist Sayyid Qutb, which don't make the list.

The full list is here.

Monday, May 30, 2005

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that this New York Times Magazine article by Edward L. Ayers didn't get much blog attention over the weekend -- Ayers compares the current Iraq occupation to what happened in the South after the Civil War, and the analogy (at least as he presents it) doesn't hold up. However, what he says about the South's reaction to Reconstruction is interesting for different reasons:

...Defeated people's memories collapse the suffering of war into the suffering of reconstruction. White Southerners have long conflated Sherman's march with an imagined devastation that Reconstruction, among the mildest of military occupations, did not in fact bring.

... In the South, Reconstruction rather than the Civil War became the true object of contempt and hatred by postwar whites, the object of self-righteousness and retribution. Reconstruction displaced any guilt white Southerners may have felt for secession and ameliorated the shame of losing the Civil War.

... Reconstructions foster steadfast defenders of the old order. A quest for purity, for return, for the respect of the fallen fathers, drives counter-reconstructions. When things go wrong, as they inevitably will, the opponents of reconstruction can always claim that things were better under the old regime. The "old South," an imagined land of gentility and paternalism, was invented by the new South to justify a rigid racial order in a region increasingly filled with towns, railroads and factories.

This may not explain Iraq in 2005, but it certainly helps to explain American politics in 2005. Southerns have harbored these feelings of resentment for 140 years -- and now the feelings exist almost independent of the war and Reconstruction (independent, even, of the civil rights era), so they can now be communicated to people all over the country. Legalized abortion and gay marriage and the theory of evolution and the end of public-school prayer are the new Reconstruction -- cruel impositions by heartless Yankee elites. The cure is a return to "an imagined land of gentility and paternalism" that allegedly existed before this era of liberal tyranny. That's what the Right says every day. It's a Southern message, tweaked only slightly.
Hey, I'm back.

I seem to have gotten more attention for my Hillary Clinton post than I expected (thanks, Avedon). Wesley Clark got mentioned a lot in the comments; if, as some of you suggest, he really is connecting with the public, I haven't noticed, but I admit I haven't paid much attention to him since last year's primaries. He's got to connect, though -- just being a former general isn't going to give him a free pass with flag-wavers (it certainly didn't when he was running in '04). If he's doing a better job now, that's great.

Meanwhile, it occurs to me is that I can't think of any credible Republican candidate who's doing anything to try to win over voters outisde the party base -- who, in other words, is doing what Hillary Clinton seems to be doing. The credible Republican candidates are all trying to be as hardcore as possible -- on the filibuster and Terri Schiavo and stem cells and so on. (I'm thinking of Frist and Santorum and Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney; I don't count McCain as a credible candidate because likely GOP primary voters despise him the way the Democratic base despises Lieberman.)

It's strange that '08 Republican hopefuls are behaving this way -- even Bush going into '04 wanted to be able to run on a prescription drug benefit and No Child Left Behind as well as the war and the tax cuts and Bible-thumping. What do the '08 hopefuls think? That it's not even necessary to appeal to a range of voters because the GOP attack machine is efficient enough to destroy whatever Democrat runs?

Friday, May 27, 2005

Company's coming, so I probably won't be posting much this weekend. I'll definitely be posting again by Monday night.
Jesse at Pandagon just read this Houston Chronicle story about "snowflake babies" -- frozen embryos adopted from fertility clinics:

The couple [J.J. and Tracy Jones] was matched with and adopted 10 unused embryos from a family in Michigan. Three survived the thawing process (the survival rate is about 50 percent), and were implanted in Tracy's womb. One took hold.

He makes a good point: It's OK that nine of the ten died -- even though Tracy Jones says embryos are "human beings from conception"?

Which brings up something I've wondered about for a long time: Why doesn't the "culture of life" crowd demand that all fertility clinics be shut down -- or at least that they be required to seek adoptive parents for as many embryos as possible and keep the rest frozen indefinitely? The right-to-lifers have gone way beyond traditional abortion -- stem-cell research on non-implanted embryos is unacceptable, the morning-after pill is unacceptable -- so why is fertility clinics' destruction of what RTLers consider fully human life OK?

The old answer was, of course, that these people don't really hate abortion -- they hate sex. But where do stem cells fit in, then? And what about Terri Schiavo?

I have a new theory: It's not that they hate sex. It's that they admire pain.

They think pain and suffering are virtuous. They don't like "sex without consequences" (sex with contraception and abortion as options, sex with cervical cancer prevented by a possible future vaccine, gay sex with condoms) because if you have sex, there should be a chance you'll suffer -- suffer an unwanted pregnancy you have to bring to term, suffer an STD, suffer an HIV death.

That's why they wanted Terri Schiavo's tube left in -- because they saw suffering and thought it was good. That's why embryonic stem-cell research bothers them -- the "babies" should live, and that's more important than relieving the suffering of the sick.

Fertility clinics lead to no unacceptable sensual pleasure and prevent no virtuous suffering. So, even though these clinics routinely discard embryos, they're OK.

Just a theory....
There's going to be a lot of talk about this:

For the first time, a majority of Americans say they are likely to vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton if she runs for president in 2008, according to a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday....

In the poll, 29% were "very likely" to vote for Clinton for president if she runs in 2008; 24% were "somewhat likely." Seven percent were "not very likely" and 39% were "not at all likely" to vote for her.

Her strong support has risen by 8 percentage points, and her strong opposition has dropped by 5 points since the same question was asked in June 2003....

I know, I know -- "Hillary can't win." Except I've stopped believing that. As a lot of people have pointed out, the Bush win in 2004 proves that being utterly despised by huge chunks of the population is no longer a barrier to victory in a presidential election. (Arguably, we should have learned that in '72.)

I wouldn't say she's my ideal candidate, but I'm not sure I could identify my ideal candidate. Can a true progressive ever actually win a presidential election? I doubt it, at least in the current climate. Far too few Americans identify with progressivism (even though they may support a lot of things that would be described as progressive).

The worst thing about President Hillary could be that she'd fail to do just what her husband failed to do -- she'd fail to build a counter-narrative that removes the stigma from being liberal. I supported Clinton in the '92 primaries (rather than Brown or Tsongas) largely because I thought he could win and then, skilled speaker that he was, begin the process of undermining Reagan's narrative of America the Right-Wing with a narrative of his (our) own. He did a little of that, but not nearly enough; Limbaugh and Gingrich and, later, Fox News did a much better job of building on the Reagan myth than Clinton did in countering it. I'm afraid Hillary might fail at the same task -- and we can't change the course America is on until we reduce the number of people in this country who believe that patriotic = conservative and liberal = bent on America's destruction.

Then again, Greg Sargent of The Nation thinks Hillary might have the chops to make liberalism seem American again. Here he describes a speech she gave in Albany, New York:

"We're seeing the slow and steady erosion of what made America great in the twentieth century," Clinton told her audience in an even tone. "When I got to the Senate I asked myself, What's going on here? At first I thought the President just wanted to undo everything my husband had done." Clinton waited a beat, then added, "And I did take that personally."

The audience laughed. "But then I thought, Wait a minute. It's not just about turning the clock back on the 1990s.... They want to turn the clock back on most of the twentieth century. They want to turn the clock all the way back beyond Franklin Roosevelt. Back beyond Teddy Roosevelt. That's why they're trying to undo Social Security. Make no mistake about it.

"What I see happening in Washington," Clinton continued, "is a concerted effort by the Administration and the leadership in Congress to really create absolute power. They want to control the judiciary so they can have all three branches of government. I really don't care what party you are--that's not in the American tradition.... Right now young men and women are putting their lives on the line in Iraq and Afghanistan, fighting for the America we revere. And that is a country where nobody has all the answers--and nobody should have all the power.... We all need to stand up for what made America great--what created a wonderful set of values that we revere, that we exported and tried to really inculcate in people around the world!"

Wild applause rolled over Clinton now, although it was unclear whether the crowd had appreciated the political subtleties of what they'd witnessed. She had offered a critique of the GOP sharp enough for any progressive--even as she'd given an approving nod to American exceptionalism and a paean to US troops defending our "values" abroad. She'd stoked the partisan passions of her audience--even as she'd sounded an above-partisanship note of concern about the state of the Republic. Indeed, she'd managed to pull off what many Democrats struggle to do these days: She'd weaved her criticisms into a larger narrative about America's past and future, criticizing the GOP leadership without sounding as if she wanted America to fail--when she said she was "worried" about America, you believed her.

Works for me.

Yeah, I know -- she voted for the frigging war. But if she had been president, would she have started the war? Would she have decided that that was the next step to take, with bin Laden still at large and no believable evidence that Saddam had any links to 9/11? Would she have taken the course recommended by Chalabi and Laurie Mylroie -- people who urged the same course on her husband (who kept them at arm's length)? I strongly doubt it.

Read the Nation article -- it's a thoughtful attempt to assess what she's doing, whether it can work, and whether it's good for progressives. There's a lot to chew on. And I'll understand if you're still a skeptic; it's quite possible that I'll change my mind between now and '08 about whether her candidacy is a good thing. But if nothing else, ask yourself this: Is any other Democrat even close to figuring out a way to challenge the lock Republicans have on voters who tear up when they see an American flag? (A way other than Liebermanesque liberal-bashing, that is.)
Today President Bush will deliver the commencement address at the U.S. Naval Academy. As AP notes, the last time he spoke there was at the commencement four years ago.

In that earlier speech, on May 25, 2001 (there's a transcript here and another one here), the President declared that the world was peaceful, but that naval deployments were necessary to help keep the peace. Four specific deployments were deemed worthy of mention:

Today, nearly one-third of our naval forces are forward-deployed overseas. The USS Constellation carrier battle group and its 10,000 sailors are plying the waters of the Persian Gulf, enforcing the no-fly zone over southern Iraq.

Another 3,800 sailors and Marines stand guard nearby with the Boxer amphibious ready group, deterring any mischief Saddam might contemplate.
The USS Enterprise is in the Mediterranean, along with the Kearsarge amphibious ready group. They're supporting NATO efforts to maintain peace in the Balkans and deterring those who would break the peace. And in the Pacific, the USS Kitty Hawk is on call, ready, if needed, to defend America's interests.

Four deployments were mentioned. Two of them involved Iraq. This was on May 25, 2001. Anyone else find that curious?

Thursday, May 26, 2005

No Intentional Abuse of Koran at Guantánamo, General Says

--headline of a New York Times story about a press conference today by Brigadier General Jay W. Hood

In three of the five cases, the mishandling appears to have been deliberate.

--AP story on the same press conference
While you were preoccupied with the mud wrestling in D.C., the Iraqis in power apparently decided to build themselves a theocracy:

American officials have also been concerned that the Shiite religious parties may use their majority in the assembly to push for a constitution that rejects Iraq's strong secular tradition in modern times in favor of a stringently Islamic state. On that score, developments on Wednesday offered little comfort to the Americans, with Humam Hammoudi, the Shiite cleric who is chairman of the parliamentary constitutional committee, telling reporters that the Shiite leaders will press for a clause declaring Islam to be the principal source for all legislation.

...on the future role of Islam, his position and that of Sciri appear resolute. Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, Sciri's leader, said in an interview last weekend that his party would insist that Islam be the main source of future legislation, and that Iraqis would welcome a more stringent moral and religious order.

Well, given the domestic rhetoric of the Americans who made all this possible, it's really poetic justice, isn't it?


However, for now some things stay secular, I guess. BBC World Monitoring reports:

...the cabinet has decided to form a Financial Committee headed by Deputy Prime Minister Dr Ahmad al-Chalabi which will be responsible for reviewing all the contracts signed by various state institutions.


(Via Needlenose and Juan Cole.)
Matt Drudge is linking this Washington Post story:

DURHAM, N.C. -- Three large crosses were burned in separate spots around the city during a span of just over an hour, and yellow fliers with Ku Klux Klan sayings were found at one location, police said....

The first burning was reported at 9:19 p.m. outside St. Luke's Episcopal Church. The next came at 9:54 p.m. atop a large pile of dirt near an apartment complex construction site; the third was at 10:28 p.m. at a downtown intersection....

Disturbing. Unfortunately, if you read the Post story, you have no idea that there's already a plausible theory about what set this off:

Bill Gutknecht, senior warden at St. Luke's ... noted that on May 9, members of Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., picketed outside St. Luke's, among other churches, as part of a protest against the performance of "The Laramie Project" at Durham School of the Arts. The play is about the murder of a gay man, and the Westboro protesters carried anti-gay signs with slogans including "God Hates Fags" and "Thank God for 9/11."

So far that's just a theory, but it's rather believable.
Headline of a story on Judge Priscilla Owen, as it appears on the front page of today's print New York Times:

For New Judge, Self-Reliance in Life and in Law

Headline of a story on Judge Priscilla Owen in the May 16 New York Times:

Rove Guided Career of Judicial Nominee in Filibuster Fight

Excuse me: How can both of these things be true?


Of course, as today's story makes clear, the woman praised for her "self-reliance" is just now receiving

the latest reward of a partnership that began a dozen years ago when a prominent Texas conservative introduced her to Karl Rove, who was at the time a political consultant and emerging kingmaker.

As the story points out, "self-reliance" is not a lifelong habit for Owen so much as a spin point (which David Kirkpatrick, in the Times, is kind enough to transmit):

"Karl came over and visited with her at length, and he was very impressed," said Ralph Wayne, president of the Texas Civil Justice League, who was recruiting conservatives to run for the Texas Supreme Court in an effort to move it to the right.

"If you just wrote down her résumé and had it before you, it is kind of in the matrix that you look for," Mr. Wayne said.

It was a résumé brimming with self-reliance.

Yeah, she worked on her maternal grandparents' farm and paternal grandfather's ranch when she was a kid, then earned a B.A. and a law degree, then worked hard as a corporate lawyer, both before and after her divorce. Admirable, sure -- but as a youth Jacques Chirac worked as a Howard Johnson's soda jerk and a forklift operator at Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis. I don't see anyone refraining from calling him a "weasel" because as a young man he sometimes had to break a sweat.

The earlier Times story notes the limits to Owen's "self-reliance":

Mr. Rove, who had helped select her as the Republican candidate, helped raise more than $926,000 for her campaign, almost half from lawyers and others who had business before the court, according to Texans for Public Justice, a liberal group in Austin that tracks Texas campaign donations. Mr. Rove's firm was paid some $247,000 in fees.

When Mr. Bush was first elected to the White House, Mr. Rove again chose Ms. Owen, by then a justice on the Texas Supreme Court for nearly a decade, to be among the president's first appeals court candidates, administration and Congressional officials said....

Mr. Rove's third intervention came last year when the state's chief justice retired and Gov. Rick Perry privately offered to nominate Justice Owen to the post, senior Texas Republicans said in interviews. Justice Owen, whose nomination to the federal appeals court had been blocked by a Democratic filibuster, called Mr. Rove for advice before declining; some Republican political figures said he told her to turn down the post and remain ready and available for the current battle, while another Republican said Mr. Rove told her that it was her choice, but that she still had a chance at the federal court seat.

Not exactly marching to the beat of her own drummer, is she?

Oh, and here's a curious detail in today's story: Owen and Rove hooked up a dozen years ago -- and we learn that

In more recent years, Ms. Owen also became much more religious, her sister said. Republicans have lauded her role as a founding member of St. Barnabas Church, a theologically conservative congregation in Austin where she still teaches Sunday school. "On any given Sunday, you can find Justice Owen hopping on one leg, reading stories," Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas said last week.

This may be a cynical question, but you don't suppose a politically ambitious Texan might decide to become much more publicly religious partly for show, do you?


One last thing. Here's the lead of today's story:

When the Senate asked Justice Priscilla R. Owen for the most significant opinions she had written on the Texas Supreme Court, she provided a list with a distinctive theme: tough.

She chose opinions overturning rulings in favor of a child born with birth defects, a worker injured on an oil rig, a nurse fired for blowing the whistle on a drug-dealing co-worker, a family with an interest in an oil field that had been drained by a nearby company, asbestos and breast-implant plaintiffs ....

Wow -- a truly compassionate conservative. Wouldn't it have been nice if we'd heard about some of these cases in the press before Owen was confirmed?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

There's a minor flurry of outrage in Blogistan right now about this:

A judge has ordered best-selling writer and journalist Oriana Fallaci to stand trial in her native Italy on charges she defamed Islam in a recent book.

The decision angered Italy's justice minister but delighted Muslim activists, who accused Fallaci of inciting religious hatred in her 2004 work "La Forza della Ragione" (The Force of Reason)....

Righty blogger Jeff Goldstein says,

Make no mistake, people: what you are witnessing here is a carefully crafted velvet insurgency, a diminution of freedoms on the part of leftist governments and judiciaries by way of gaining control of the parameters for acceptable speech and discussion.

Apparently, Italy now has a "leftist government." News to me.

I like our First Amendment. I'm a card-carrying ACLU member, and I hope America can continue to tolerate and absorb a broad range of speech that reaches to the unspeakable and outrageous. I like the fact that we don't have religious defamation laws. (Of course, we didn't have Nazis and Fascists stomping around exercising control in this country within older people's living memory; religious defamation seems a lot more manageable here.) So I prefer a system like ours, in which an Oriana Fallaci would not be dragged into court.

I'd remind folks like Jeff Goldstein, of course, that Italy also banned a lefty Web site a couple of weeks ago for religious defamation -- specifically, for posting a picture of Pope Benedict in a Nazi uniform. I oppose that too. (Damn leftist-hating leftist government!)

But I hope those who are outraged at the treatment of Fallaci are defending her on principle, and not because of what she actually says about Islam. This is from a glowing review of The Force of Reason at National Review Online:

Fallaci has her own interpretation of the massive Islamic immigration that is rapidly changing the face of European cities. She sees it as part of the expansionism that has characterized Islam since its birth.... Fallaci uses the words of Muslim leaders to support this thesis.

In 1974, former Algerian President Houari Boumedienne said in a speech at the U.N.: "One day millions of men will leave the southern hemisphere to go to the northern hemisphere. And they will not go there as friends. Because they will go there to conquer it. And they will conquer it with their sons. The wombs of our women will give us victory." In other words, says Fallaci, what Islamic armies have not been able to do with force in more than 1,000 years can be achieved in less than a century through high birth rates. She cites as evidence a 1975 meeting of Islamic countries in Lahore, in which they announced their project to transform the flow of Muslim immigrants in Europe in "demographic preponderance."

The "sons of Allah," as Fallaci calls them, do not make a secret of their plans. A Catholic bishop recounted that, during an interfaith meeting in Turkey, a respected Muslim cleric told the crowd: "Thanks to your democratic laws we will invade you. Thanks to our Islamic laws we will conquer you."

This is conspiratorialist claptrap. This is "Protocols of the Elders of Mecca and Medina."

One blogger claims the Boumedienne quote is as phony as the original Protocols:

Mysteriously, this quote has never been reported in the news (no hits on Factiva or Lexis-Nexis, whether in English or in French), it appears on the Internet only sourced to Ms Fallaci on weblogs, and it is not in the UN's archive. I guess this *could* mean that the liberal dhimmi conspiracy has surpressed coverage of the Muslims' true plans... however, Occam's razor would have another explanation, based on Ms Fallaci making shit up.

If you want to know more, I'll point out that after the publication of a previous Fallaci book on the same subject, George Gurley -- yes, Ann Coulter's favorite interviewer -- published an interview with Fallaci in The New York Observer. The Observer has put that interview in its pay archive, but you can still read it courtesy of -- surprise -- David Horowitz's Front Page Magazine.
It is generally conceded that red staters hate big government and embrace Christian values. It is further conceded that people from the Deep South really hate big government and really embrace Christian values.

Yet Mississippi has the highest sales tax on food in America. (But the third-lowest excise tax on tobacco.)

This is what I really want to see:

Now that the House has approved a measure that would use taxpayer funds to pay for unproven embryonic stem cell research, attention turns to the Senate, where the vote will be much closer.

Sponsors of the Senate version of the bill say they have 58 votes to approve the measure. That's more than the 50 needed to pass the bill, but possibly short of the 60 necessary to stop a filibuster by pro-life lawmakers.

Pro-life Sen. Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican and possible presidential contender, has confirmed he will filibuster the Castle/DeGette bill the House approved Monday....

Is he serious? A filibuster? After all the right-wing outrage about the evil of preventing up-or-down votes? It's a moral outrage to delay the confirmation of a Texas GOP party hack, but it isn't a moral outrage to postpone the day when horrible diseases can be treated or cured, using enbryos that are now just discarded?

Do it, Sam. Please do it. Show the entire nation what your party is made of.

(And yes, I know Bush plans to veto the bill if it passes, and the House majority wasn't veto-proof, so the bill won't become law no matter what -- which means, I guess, that the purpose of any filibuster would be to spare Bush the bad press a veto would generate. That and, of course, the golden opportunity to be a holier-than-thou grandstander.)

Chances are you saw this photo and story yesterday (perhaps via Atrios or Drudge):

A sign in front of Danieltown Baptist Church, located at 2361 U.S. 221 south reads "The Koran needs to be flushed," and the Rev. Creighton Lovelace, pastor of the church, is not apologizing for the display.

"I believe that it is a statement supporting the word of God and that it (the Bible) is above all and that any other religious book that does not teach Christ as savior and lord as the 66 books of the Bible teaches it, is wrong," said Lovelace. "I knew that whenever we decided to put that sign up that there would be people who wouldn't agree with it, and there would be some that would, and so we just have to stand up for what's right." ...

Thought you might be interested to learn that when the Rev isn't posting signs like this, he's arguing that North Carolina might need to re-fight the Civil War and secede from the Union:

Sign a Petition

Allow North Carolina Constitutional Amendment (Art. I; Sect. 4)

To all concerned: Many doubt the legality of secession, but I affirm it is Constitutional. I am not urging secession; I am on the other hand asking for North Carolina to be prepared for the worst.... I ask you to ponder then: What if 10 years into the future the US accepts Homosexual Unions, and abolishes the churches and attacks the beloved Christian principles of this Nation? We are trapped by our own Constitution, which in 1868 was adopted under bayonet point by the Unionist Carpetbaggers and Reconstructionists. If our nation continues in these roads then it will fall. I for one do not wish to see this great and proud nation fall. But if we Christians do not Stand Up for Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Our Savior, then we ALL will fall. I ask that we, the State of North Carolina educate our children about the truth of our Confederate Heritage and Symbols, and of our Christian Faith, Beliefs, and Heritage....

That's when he's not trying to get pro-Confederate flag resolutions passed as president of a regional chapter of the pro-secessionist League of the South.

That's when he's not acting as the North Carolina state coordinator for the campaign within the Southern Baptist Conference to urge all Baptists to remove their kids from public schools.

More of his thoughts:

"Why have we let the heathen, Satanic-siding, evil, corrupted, US Government raise our children to hate their roots and heritage, to teach them to say no instead of ain't, to not pray, to not 'offend' others and be politically correct? Why have we stopped disciplining our children in fear of the Federal Governmental agencies? Why have we abandoned Christ and His Church? Why have we allowed outsiders to 'invade' the Southland and tell us what to do?"

In this speech he insists he's a friend to black people, despite his love for the Confederacy:

To this Pastor Thieme exclaimed: "Why do you think the Confederacy fought so hard? To preserve Slavery? NO! There was a principal of freedom that died at Appomattox – States Rights." That's what our ancestors were fighting for. All the Confederates ever wished was to continue the Constitutional form of government, which our 1776 ancestors bequeathed to them (and us) in which the Federal government sought to destroy and deny.

But you can find him in the comments section of this white-supremacist Web page responding to an article about the racial makeup of a popular TV show:

As for myself personally I found "Friends" degenerate. It never entered my mind that there were no negroes on Friends (or the Jetsons for that matter). This tells me that you must be on the OFFENSIVE and must be LOOKING for something to whine, mew, rabble and complain about. Some Negroes have bettered themselves, but many do not choose to do so. "Friends" has a loose system of morality thus I did not want to watch it. Even if the cast were all White. That being so does not conjure up Civil Rights but a place where these people stick together due to their own volitional choice. I notice that Negroes stick together in groups even though de-segregation has occurred. That may rabble about income-based housing, cheap places to live but it is a core of all civilized people: they WANT to be with their OWN kind. So the Intergration ploy was a rabble to produce America's Tower of Babel! I suppose I've said enough, and save the rest for Sunday...

There's your preacher.

Jesus wept.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

News reports say that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi may be injured and near death, according to a posting at an Islamist Web site.

This may be true.

On the other hand, news reports have also told us that he has one leg. And other news reports have told us that during a recent U.S. ambush he ran away.
The New York Times Magazine's profile of Rick Santorum was bad, but it wasn't the most disheartening mash note to the Christian Right I read this weekend. That honor goes to Joan Didion's article on the Terri Schiavo case in The New York Review of Books.

Yeah, she's on the other side on this one. She thinks Michael Schiavo is a creep, she thinks his lawyer is a creep, and she thinks the national rancor the case generated was essentially our side's fault. She thinks the majority of doctors who examined and diagnosed Terri Schiavo might be part of a vast death-loving conspiracy, and she strongly suggests that Dr. William Cheshire, who says Schiavo may have been in a "minimally conscious state" rather than a vegetative state, was a hero speaking truth to power.

"Some doctors and bioethicists with interests in the matter suggested that, as a conservative Christian, Dr. Cheshire brought a bias to the case," Didion writes. What Didion fails to say is that Dr. Cheshire did bring a bias to the case:

Cheshire has been associated with the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, an organization formed in the 1990s by leading Christian bioethicists. A poem attributed to him about assisted suicide is posted on the Web site Ethics & Medicine (www.ethicsandmedicine.com):

"The notion of a right to die/ In reason finds approval nil,/ From such a harsh judicial lie/ Would obligate doctors to kill."

(The poem is here. It's not subtle.)

But this is a bias Didion seems to share. I really wasn't expecting this:

...even if we had managed to convince ourselves that this case involved the right to die, a problem remained. No one even casually exposed to religious teaching believes any such right exists. "So teach us to number our days," the Episcopal litany asks, "so that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." This is a prayer for the wisdom to accept that death is inevitable, not a plea for control over its timing. "Control" itself, when it comes to the natural processes of life and death, is seen as an illusion, an error we learn through life to relinquish. This is by no means a view confined to Christian fundamentalists. It is a view shared by anyone whose ethical principles or general idea of how life works have at any point been touched by any of the world's major religions.

What is she talking about? In hospitals every day we use, or agree not to use, "extraordinary measures"; we limit ourselves in some cases to palliative care; we write "DNR" for "do not resuscitate" on medical charts. That's "control," and quite often we have it, regardless of what the Episcopal litany says. And in this country, inevitably, most of the people who exercise this control, or ask that it be exercised, are believers.

Didion goes on:

...there remained, on the "rational" side of the argument, very little acknowledgment that there could be large numbers of people, not all of whom could be categorized as "fundamentalists" or "evangelicals," who were genuinely troubled by the ramifications of viewing a life as inadequate and so deciding to end it.

In fact, as we know, even a majority of evangelicals supported the removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube, as well as overwhelming numbers of non-evangelicals.

Didion chides those on the right-to-die side in this case for excessive certainty and inability to imagine a different point of view, but says virtually nothing about the certainty and insensitivity of the pro-feeding-tube side, as seen, most shockingly, in assertions by members of Terri Schiavo's family that appeared in the report of Jeb Bush's guardian ad litem for the case, Jay Wolfson:

Throughout the course of the litigation, deposition and trial testimony by members of the Schindler family voiced the disturbing belief that they would keep Theresa alive at any and all costs. Nearly gruesome examples were given, eliciting agreement by family members that in the event Theresa should contract diabetes and subsequent gangrene in each of her limbs, they would agree to amputate each limb, and would then, were she to be diagnosed with heart disease, perform open heart surgery.... Within the testimony, as part of the hypotheticals presented, Schindler family members stated that even if Theresa had told them of her intention to have artificial nutrition withdrawn, they would not do it.

The Schindlers, in fact, are virtually absent from Didion's article -- Didion says nothing about their extreme views, or about their retinue, which included Operation Rescue's Randall Terry and Gary McCullough, a onetime spokesman for murderers of abortion doctors.

Leaving the Schindlers mostly offstage (and their advisers entirely offstage) allows Didion to chide Michael Schiavo's brother Brian as a "hothead" because he appeared on Larry King Live on the night of Terri Schiavo's death and told the Schindlers and their hangers-on and supporters to "pound sand." Readers of Didion's piece could have no idea what Brian was reacting to: namely, murder charges. Schiavo's brother and sister had invited Father Frank Pavone, the self-promoting head of Priests for Life, to sit and watch Terri Schiavo die. By his own account, Pavone "was at Terri Schiavo's bedside during the last 14 hours of her earthly life, right up until five minutes before her death." However, he did manage to interrupt his vigil in order to make certain opinions known to the media:

The night before Schiavo died, Pavone said: "If I speak to Michael, if I speak to [Florida state Judge George] Greer, if I speak to any of these people, I will not hesitate to call them exactly what they are: murderers."

On Larry King Live hours after Terri Schiavo died, Pavone preceded Brian Schiavo and said,

Well, Larry, I've reached out to Michael very publicly over the last month. I've preached on many televised masses directly appealing to Michael to sit down and dialogue about this, to work towards reconciliation, to take into account the serious concerns people have about what Terri's killing says about the path America is taking.

I've heard nothing from him. You know, it's one thing to avoid bitterness. It's another thing to avoid truth. And reaching out in kindness and compassion and in respect, which is the attitude I have and I try to foster, is very, very different from distorting the truth. We have to accurately describe what happened here. And what happened here is that Terri was killed. And a lot of people don't accept the explanation of why.

Brian Schiavo was upset at that? Brian Schiavo was "hotheaded"? Well, for crissakes, I certainly hope so.

Pavone's name doesn't appear once in Didion's article.

I could go on. I could point out that Didion thinks this became a donnybrook only because of the insensitivity of religion-hating decision-makers and liberals:

There was an insensitivity in the timing of the removal of the feeding tube, which took place on the Friday before Palm Sunday, meaning that the gradual process of dying coincided with a week that for Christians has specifically to do with sacrificial suffering and death.

...It was the convergence of that countdown with the holiest week in the Christian calendar that exacerbated the "circus," the displays of theatrical martyrdom outside the hospice. It was the ability to dismiss the scene outside the hospice as a "circus" that made the case so ready a vehicle for the expression of "disgust." Old polarizations took over. Differences became intolerances.

Didion goes on to refer to "the first news cycle," as if the first news cycle in this story was in the days before Terri Schiavo's death. In fact, Terri Schiavo was a cause celebre on the right as far back as 2003. It's not clear that Didion even knows that. She doesn't seem to know that a mini-version of the recent drama took place a year and a half ago, complete with emergency legislation rammed through the Florida legislature and cries of "legalized murder" from the national right-wing media. This was a major battle in the culture wars long ago, and the religious right fired the first shots. What offends Didion is merely the rest of America fighting back.
Meanwhile, the Bushies' sense of theater failed them yesterday. Yesterday's announcement that the Supreme Court will consider a challenge to a New Hampshire parental-notification law was almost certainly storyboarded on Karl Rove's laptop, down to the precise camera angles for the photo of William Rehnquist leaving a doctor's appointment. On the eve of the filibuster showdown, this was meant to gin up outrage at the possibility that evil, satanic Democrats might block a godly replacement for Rehnquist and leave an eight-member court when this abortion case is taken up next fall.

Then, of course, the moderate senators cut a filibuster deal, driving the stunt off the front pages and rendering it meaningless in the short term.

Ah, but Rove is also thinking long term. I think he thinks this case can work to the GOP's advantage however it's decided. Worst-case, if this law is overturned by the Court -- either because the Democrats filibuster a Rehnquist replacement or for some other reason -- the decision is going to open right-wing wallets all over the country, just in time for the 2006 campaign. When GOP candidates talk about "judicial tyranny" in 2006, this is what they'll talk about; in an off-year election, that's got a good chance of upping the turnout on the right-wing side.

Am I irresponsible for saying, with no proof, that this is a Rove operation? Maybe, but I think the mainstream press is irresponsible for not even addressing the question of whether that's the case -- whether the highest court in the land defers at times to White House political operatives.

Monday, May 23, 2005

I've been trying to write a longish post about an unrelated matter, so I'm barely up to speed on the filibuster deal, but what Ezra Klein says sounds reasonable to me:

...it seems like we got what we wanted -- the preservation of the filibuster for the Supreme Court nominee. It seems, too, that the right didn't get what they wanted -- the end of the filibuster before Rehnquist retires. So long as the question was appellate judges, few would see why it was such a big deal. A lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, however, is widely understood to matter, and trying to end the minority's options on that will prove significantly harder in the court of public opinion. Plus, the Republicans wanted this vote to happen and the Democrats didn't. That the vote was averted is, in the end, a defeat for them.

So I'm happy. Most of all because I think Democrats would've lost the fallout. Eliminating the judicial filibuster over some obscure judges just wouldn't, I fear, strike people as a big enough deal to shut down the Senate over.

-- Let me add there that the Democratic plan wasn't to shut down the Senate, but to keep paying the bills but slow work on GOP agenda items. However, I'm not sure the public would be able to tell the difference between that and a real shutdown, so I think Ezra's point holds.

... we can still hang this power grab on the Republicans' neck come 2006. As part of a wider argument about their abuses of power, it'll make perfect sense, and the fact that seven Republicans signed on to stop it will only strengthen our case. Plus, anything that makes James Dobson this angry is bound to leave me pleased:

This Senate agreement represents a complete bailout and betrayal by a cabal of Republicans ...

I still want a full-on fight in the court of public opinion over the worst judges. Of the three who'll be votred on, I think Priscilla Owen would be hard to defeat that way (too many people, even pro-choice people, are uncomfortable with teenage abortion, regardless of the law), but Janice Rogers "Your Social Security Check = Socialist Revolution" Brown and William "Hitching Post" Pryor strike me as quite possibly beatable.

The United States supports political and economic liberty in a unified Iraq.

--George W. Bush, speech at the UN, 9/12/02

If military action is necessary, the United States and our allies will help the Iraqi people rebuild their economy, and create the institutions of liberty in a unified Iraq at peace with its neighbors.

--George W. Bush, speech in Cincinnati, 10/7/02

I'm here really in part to say to the Turks that we are fully committed, fully committed, to a unified Iraq.

--Condoleezza Rice en route to Turkey, 2/6/05


U.S. weighs plan to make Iraq a federation of six states

The United States has been quietly mulling the prospect that Iraq would break up into autonomous regions.

The Council on Foreign Relations, which usually reflects State Department thinking, has recommended the restructuring of Iraq into six states under a single national government. The council, in a report entitled "Power-Sharing in Iraq," warned that even with elections an Iraq led by a strong central government might not be democratic.

Officials said the Bush administration has been discussing options for Iraq following the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2007, Middle East Newsline reported....

--World Tribune

Yeah, World Tribune isn't the most reliable source, but Drudge and Limbaugh like it, and, as this New Yorker story notes, "Its editor and publisher, Robert Morton, is an assistant managing editor at the Washington Times and a former “corporate editor” for News World Communications, the Times' owner and the publishing arm of the Unification Church, led by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon," so it doesn't seem crazy to suppose that this is a trial balloon the administration wants to send out to right-wing media consumers without anyone in the mainstream noticing, does it?

If you want a more conventional story, here's one from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which discusses the CFR report without suggesting that it reflects the thinking of anyone in the government.

If the World Tribune story is accurate, it hints at what the Bushies might really be thinking:

Already, Kurdistan has been seen as the most stable area of Iraq and has been attracting foreign business meant for Baghdad. The Iraqi-American Chamber of Commerce and Industry plans plans to hold a conference in October in Kurdistan for 240 firms that seek to invest in the Kurdish areas. The autonomous Kurdish government has signed 70 contracts with foreign companies and executed 25 projects worth $75 million.

Is that it? We're going to let the Shiites and Sunnis kill one another while we declare that the Kurdish state is the "free, democratic" utopia we fought the war to create (and is, as it just so happens, gratifyingly business-friendly)?
To judge from yesterday's profile, The New York Times thinks Rick Santorum is a swell guy.

Will it surprise you if I point out that the feeling isn't mutual?

Go here and watch the second clip, in which Santorum says that the Times is paving the way for history's next Hitler, Stalin, or Saddam. No lie -- that's what he says. Here's a transcript of the clip, for the bandwidth-challenged:

If you look at the other alternative to religious pluralism, and that is radical secularism, there are many in our society -- some of them happen to be at The New York Times -- who believe in that, who believe that a more peaceful -- who believe that we need to suppress religion, that religion is a harmful and divisive thing, and we need to get it out of the public square and we need to make it a very private issue. We shouldn't have any faith or any God or anything that smacks of any religion, and that we should be a secular society and that would be the best. I just want to remind people of the societies over the last couple of centuries that have been secular in nature, and see what the results of that, starting with the French Revolution, moving on to the last century, to the Fascists, and, yes, the Nazis, and then the Communists, and the Baathists. All of those purely secularist. Hated religion. Tried to crush religion. That's the kind of peaceful public square that The New York Times would advocate for.

You can also watch the full speech here.

Well, that's the Times, isn't it? If you accuse it of embodying a degree of evil that warrants death, it'll punish you ... by running a softball profile that presents you just about exactly the way you want to be seen. After all, didn't Ann Coulter get just such a profile (yes, with a soupcon of snark, but the kind of snark that burnishes her carefully cultivated image as the toughest, hottest chick on the right) mere months after she told The New York Observer that Tim McVeigh should have killed everyone in a blast zone around the Times building?

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Villagers furious with Christian Missionaries

Samanthapettai, Jan 16 (ANI): Rage and fury has gripped this tsunami-hit tiny Hindu village in India's southern Tamil Nadu after a group of Christian missionaries allegedly refused them aid for not agreeing to follow their religion....

Most of the 200 people here are homeless or displaced, battling to rebuild lives and locating lost family members besides facing risks of epidemic, disease and trauma.

Jubilant at seeing the relief trucks loaded with food, clothes and the much-needed medicines the villagers, many of who have not had a square meal in days, were shocked when the nuns asked them to convert before distributing biscuits and water.

Heated arguments broke out as the locals forcibly tried to stop the relief trucks from leaving. The missionaries, who rushed into their cars on seeing television reporters and the cameras refusing to comment on the incident and managed to leave the village....

--Asian News International/Yahoo News

The first thing I read The New York Times this morning was the story about evangelicals at Ivy League schools -- people like recent Brown graduate Tim Havens:

In his sophomore year, ... he rededicated himself to serving God, and by his senior year he was running his own Bible-study group, hoping to inoculate first-year students against the temptations he had faced. They challenged one another, Mr. Havens said, "committing to remain sexually pure, both in a physical sense and in avoiding pornography and ogling women and like that." ...

On Friday nights, he is a host for a Bible-study and dinner party for 70 or 80 Christian students, who serve themselves heaping plates of pasta before breaking into study groups. Afterward, they regroup in the living room for board games and goofy improvisation contests, all free of profanity and even double entendre.

Lately, though, Mr. Havens has been contemplating steps that would take him away from Brown and campus ministry. After a chaste romance - "I didn't kiss her until I asked her to marry me," he said - he recently became engaged to a missionary colleague, Liz Chalmers.

After that I dropped the A section and went for the Book Review, where I read about stock-car racing and a NASCAR hero of the 1950s named Curtis Turner, the subject of a new biography:

If he wasn't racing drunk, sometimes decked in a silk suit, then he was racing with a splitting hangover. He was fond of passing a mint julep-filled jug back and forth to other drivers, through the racecar window, while he was racing. The first thing he did, when dragging himself out of his car in the victory lane, was light up a Camel. He invited reporters to Led Zeppelin-worthy parties -- pre-race and post-race -- where a bevy of waitresses or a police car might end up in a motel pool, or, if the affair was held in Turner's self-designed "party room," he might demonstrate how a fluorescent light could magically remove the few strips of clothing on the decorative images of beauty queens on the walls.

Then I read the review of David McCullough's 1776:

When we meet the colonials encamped around Boston in the summer of 1775, they are a wretched, ill-clad band.... Each man consumed, on average, a bottle of rum per day, and once-Puritan Boston was so rife with prostitutes that mapmakers labeled its red-light district "Mount Whoredom."

Now, I'm sure Tim Havens believes that the United States of America was founded and made free by godly, Christian men who would applaud his decision never to utter a curse word when he's partying with friends and not to entertain impure thoughts about any woman, even his bride-to-be. And I'm sure he also believes that somewhere in the second half of the twentieth century the Northeast became a sinkhole of depravity, while other parts of the country -- the South, surely -- retained a time-tested purity and reverence.

So Tim, where the hell did Curtis Turner come from? Or those whore-loving soldiers who brought us independence?

(And do you know what else I find amusing about Curtis Turner? That NASCAR "had troubles with him, ... ultimately banning him from the sport in 1961 for attempting to start a drivers' union." What?! That sounds ... well, liberal. For that a lone they oughta drum him out of the South's favorite sport posthumously.)

Excerpts from Michael Sokolove's godawful profile/wet kiss of Rick Santorum in today's New York Times Magazine -- and questions that he somehow never got around to asking the Rickster:

When I asked him if he viewed gay marriage as a threat to his own marriage, he answered quickly. "Yes, absolutely," he said. "It threatens my marriage. It threatens all marriages. It threatens the traditional values of this country."

Really? In what way exactly?

In 1999, the family received a malpractice award after Karen Santorum sued a chiropractor in Virginia. She testified that she sought treatment for back pain after childbirth in 1996 and suffered a ruptured disk from an improperly administered spinal manipulation. Santorum has been a vocal critic of large malpractice awards and has backed measures to limit damages. Karen Santorum asked for $500,000 and was awarded $350,000 by a jury. A judge finally reduced the award to $175,000, of which Santorum said they received about $75,000 after their lawyer took his share. "I'm not against all lawsuits," Santorum said. "I think they're appropriate where the case warrants it, and this one did. It was not frivolous."

Yes, and isn't it the job of judges and juries to determine which ones are and aren't frivolous, not rabble-rousing politicians?

"The whole idea of funding people of faith is not just to provide good human services," he told me. "It's also to provide good human services with that additional touch, if you will, with that aspect of healing that comes through that spiritual interaction. If you talk to folks who are out there on the front lines fighting these battles in the neighborhoods, this is an intricate part of turning lives around, particularly in people who have really hit the bottom. You find very few who rise back up without some element of something bigger that's helping them. You can't ignore the importance of the spiritual part of someone's life and say you're going to solve their problems. You're throwing good money after bad."

So when you assert categorically that "You find very few who rise back up without some element of something bigger that's helping them," I assume you have some evidence to back that up. What is it?

Saturday, May 21, 2005

The New York Times reports that the feds, who think you could die if you take, say, antibiotics imported from Canada, sometimes have a slightly less rigorous approval standard:

The Food and Drug Administration may soon approve a medical device that would be the first new treatment option for severely depressed patients in a generation, despite the misgivings of many experts who say there is little evidence that it works.

The pacemaker-like device, called a vagus nerve stimulator, is surgically implanted in the upper chest, and its wires are threaded into the neck, where it stimulates a nerve leading to the brain....

But in the only rigorously controlled trial so far in depressed patients, the stimulator was no more effective than surgery in which it was implanted but not turned on.

While some patients show significantly improved moods after having the $15,000 device implanted, most do not, the study found. And once the device is implanted, it is hard to remove entirely; surgeons say the wire leads are usually left inside the neck.

Costs 15 grand, never completely comes out, and doesn't work? Wow! Where do I sign up?

The Times story goes on for 42 paragraphs and 1,640 words. The writer, Benedict Carey, struggles manfully to figure out why the device was approved:

The drug agency has given mixed signals about the stimulator. In August 2004, it told Cyberonics in a letter that the treatment was not approvable, saying more information was needed. But in February, after the company provided more data, the agency changed that position, informing the company that the stimulator could now be approved....

Hmmm -- Cyberonics? Gosh, could there be something special about Cyberonics? Hmmm, let me check this Reuters story....

Cyberonics Chief Executive Robert "Skip" Cummins ... acknowledged the company appealed to a number of Republican and Democratic Senators and Congressmen, as well as the Senate Finance Committee for help after the negative decision from the FDA.

He declined to say whether House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Republican who represents the congressional district in which Cyberonics is located, was among them.

Oh. How interesting.

Ah, but DeLay's name never once comes up in the Times story, so that couldn't possibly be the explanation, right?
You'll sneer at me, but I think this Fox News poll is basically honest, for reasons I'll explain below -- and it's showing some interesting (and somewhat dispiriting) results:

[A] poll of New York State voters tested four possible Republican challengers to [Hillary] Clinton in her upcoming race for re-election to the U.S. Senate, and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (search) performs best -- coming within 10 percentage points of the incumbent (Clinton 53 percent and Giuliani 43 percent)....

Giuliani also has a slight 2-percentage point advantage over Sen. Clinton on presidential vote preference (compared to her 10-point advantage in the Senate race).

That's a striking result -- same candidates, same poll respondents, two very different outcomes.

Here are a few details:

Some interesting shifts happen within demographic groups on the Clinton-Giuliani vote the senate and presidential vote questions. Almost 6 in 10 women support Clinton over Giuliani in the senate race, but that drops to about half in the presidential race; however, Giuliani's share of the female vote doesn't increase as a result, but instead the Clinton-defectors move to the "undecided" column.

Similarly, among independents, Clinton's share of the vote for president is 10 points lower than for senate. Men are about eight points less likely to vote for her for president than for senator.

It's testosterone, obviously. People -- including those women who slip to "undecided" -- think of the presidency and just can't imagine anyone other than a "real man" (notwithstanding the multiple disasters of the current highly macho administration). Is this just 9/11, or is it that feminism really hasn't changed us all that much?

Yeah, it's a Fox poll. I don't think it's been jiggered, though -- if it had been, Hillary would be way out in front in both races (to open right-wing wallets) or struggling in both (to show the world that her transformation to well-liked stateswoman is a liberal fairytale).

Friday, May 20, 2005

May I just say how much Thomas Friedman deserves this?

On first looking into Friedman's Flathead

Much have I travell'd in a chartered jet
And munched betimes upon a Cinnabon;
Upon my iPod listened to Don Juan
Which I downloaded from the wireless 'Net.
I did not understand the 'Nineties lore
Of Windows systems and of Pizza Hut,
How one was opened and the other shut,
Till I heard Friedman speak in metaphor.
Then felt I like a steroid in a vein:
Jose Canseco on a level field,
Whose random thoughts of glory and of pain
Were like an ice-cream sundae all congealed.
The moral is, when put by words in train,
That which does not exist can't be revealed.

More here.
If you came here looking for my post on Shaima Rezayee, the Afghan VJ who was killed, that post is here.

(Is that it? There's a big increase in traffic here right now -- I'm not sure why, but I thought it might have something to do with that post, for reasons too complicated to explain.)
I like this post at the Mahablog not just because Barbara quotes me approvingly (thanks), but because she makes a connection between several seemingly unrelated events:

Bush seems just the sort of sniveling weenie who mistakes meanness with strength. Bush is the one who thought Bernie Kerik would do a swell job of running national security, and the bullying, abusive Bolton is just the guy to go to the United Nations. Yeah, and let's torture some prisoners to show 'em how tough we are. 

Yup, that's it. That's really it.

And, of course, meanness is not to be confused with courage:
But like the cowards they are, Bush, Rummy, et al. are allowing privates to be scapegoats and do the time.
By now you're probably aware of the story in The New York Times about nasty prison abuse in Afghanistan. Yes, please read it. If you're time-deprived, at the very least read the first section and the last three, which focus on the taxi driver Dilawar, almost certainly not a terrorist, and now dead; he was beaten, he was deprived of sleep and water, and shortly before his death "[h]e had been chained by the wrists to the top of his cell for much of the previous four days."

Maybe you're the kind of idiot who reads a story like this and has no reaction except "How dare the liberal media undermine our troops?" If so, listen up: The people responsible for this are the ones who are undermining the troops. The people who are too stupid to know that you don't do this when you're in a global battle for hearts and minds are the ones who betrayed our country.

And I'm referring less to the torturers than to the high mucketymucks who gave the go-ahead for this kind of interrogation or suggested with a nod and a wink that it was a good idea, while turning the job over to callow amateurs understandably flush with post-9/11 righteous indignation:

What specialized training the unit received came on the job, in sessions with two interrogators who had worked in the prison for a few months. "There was nothing that prepared us for running an interrogation operation" like the one at Bagram, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the interrogators, Staff Sgt. Steven W. Loring, later told investigators.

Nor were the rules of engagement very clear. The platoon had the standard interrogations guide, Army Field Manual 34-52, and an order from the secretary of defense, Donald H. Rumsfeld, to treat prisoners "humanely," and when possible, in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. But with President Bush's final determination in February 2002 that the Conventions did not apply to the conflict with Al Qaeda and that Taliban fighters would not be accorded the rights of prisoners of war, the interrogators believed they "could deviate slightly from the rules," said one of the Utah reservists, Sgt. James A. Leahy.

"There was the Geneva Conventions for enemy prisoners of war, but nothing for terrorists," Sergeant Leahy told Army investigators. And the detainees, senior intelligence officers said, were to be considered terrorists until proved otherwise.


And on the day this story appears, by astonishing coincidence, the Murdoch-run Sun in England and New York Post in America run a front-page photo of the jailed Saddam in his underwear. The U.S. military is shocked, shocked (even though The Sun claims the photo came from "U.S. military sources"). Meanwhile, the torture story has to compete for attention (expect a lot of underwear jokes from Leno and Letterman tonight) -- and the White House, yet again, gets to condemn the "irresponsible" media (so nice of Murdoch to volunteer to be the target!), which taints all stories that infuriate the Arab/Muslim world, including, of course, the Times story. And maybe the worst of it is that the White House fans the flames of Arab/Muslim anger even more with the underwear photo, just to win the day's domestic news cycle. (Do I sound paranoid? Well, so be it.)

Thursday, May 19, 2005

In Wisconsin, there's a ban on domestic-partner benefits for state employees. The ACLU has filed a lawsuit -- and now elected legislators have chosen to bring in the Jesus Warriors, as Madison's Capital Times reports:

The Joint Committee on Legislative Organization ... approved the request from Assembly Speaker John Gard, R-Peshtigo, earlier in the week to authorize the Alliance Defense Fund to act on behalf of the Legislature in the case.

This is being done over the strenuous objection of Governor Jim Doyle, who doubts Speaker Gard's assurance that the work will be done pro bono, and who points out, sensibly, that defending the state against lawsuits is one big reason Wisconsin has an attorney general with a staff of lawyers.

Now, some of you may know about the Alliance Defense Fund. You might recall that when a teacher in Cupertino, California, handed out flyers in class that proselytized for Christianity, one of which included a passage from the Declaration of Independence, ADF distorted the truth by issuing a press release titled "Declaration of Independence Banned from Classroom."

Alan Sears, ADF's president, simply doesn't believe in separation of church and state, and once linked it to the Ku Klux Klan in an article:

It took a former Ku Klux Klansman turned Supreme Court Justice, Hugo Black, to move the so-called "separation of church and state" into common jurisprudence, which he accomplished in 1947 in Everson v. Board of Education. As a committed Klansman, Black surely must have participated in the Klan's oath of allegiance, to "most zealously ... shield and preserve ... (the) separation of church and state ..." Klan doctrine is not a good way to interpret the U.S. Constitution.

Sears is coauthor of a book entitled The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today. He doesn't just oppose gay rights -- he believes the "gay agenda" threatens Christians' right to worship:

The homosexual activist movement is driving an agenda that will severely limit the ability to live and preach the uncensored gospel, whether it is in the boardroom, classroom, halls of government, private organizations and even in places of worship....

Radical homosexual activists will use their financial and political clout to silence people of faith and the gospel. If God's people and God's church do not take a clear, uncompromised stand, the result will be that with each passing generation the freedom to live and practice Christian faith and the traditional family will become more restricted and become a remnant of history.

And while James Dobson apparently doesn't believe SpongeBob SquarePants is gay (he just denounced a pro-tolerance cartoon SpongeBob appeared in), Sears does:
Sears comes off looking a tad paranoid in The Homosexual Agenda. He tends to see gay conspiracies everywhere. In the book, he asserts that the zany 1959 comedy film "Some Like It Hot," in which two musicians dress as women and join an all-female band to hide from mobsters, promotes cross dressing. Sears also speculates that the popular cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants is gay. (To make the case, Sears cites a Wall Street Journal article that notes that SpongeBob often holds hands with his friend Patrick, a pink starfish.)

That's from an article at the Web site of Americans United for Separation of Church & State, which adds that Jeffrey J. Ventrella, a top ADF official,

is, like Sears, no fan of gay people. During a Feb. 24 debate on gay rights at Rice University, Ventrella veered into rhetorical excess.

"For that organ that was designed to be the font of new life," he said, "to be placed in that cavity which was designed to eliminate waste -- what that tells us is that, philosophically, death has swallowed life."

According to
Houston Voice, Ventrella's statement "prompted shocked outbursts and laughter from the crowd."

Whew. Thanks for sharing, dude.

Another Americans United article notes ADF's apparent ties to Reconstructionism:

Reconstructionists are the most extreme manifestation of the Religious Right in America. They advocate a society anchored in "biblical law" and would literally base U.S. law on the legal code of the Old Testament. In their ideal society, offenses like blasphemy, fornication, "witchcraft," homosexuality, worshipping "false gods" and incorrigible juvenile delinquency would merit the death penalty....

Reconstructionists have appeared at the ADF's Blackstone [Fellowship] events and continue to do so. Past Blackstone speakers include George Grant, a leading Reconstructionist theorist known for his extreme views. In his 1993 book
Legislating Immorality, the Tennessee-based Grant laments the fact that legal codes calling for the death penalty for gay people have been abolished.

Gary DeMar, a Georgia-based Reconstructionist who endorsed the idea of the death penalty for gays in his 1987 book
The Ruler of Nations: Biblical Principles for Government, spoke at a previous ADF seminar and is scheduled to appear at this year's Blackstone event, which takes place this month.

Jeffery J. Ventrella, the ADF's senior vice president of strategic training and coordinator of the Blackstone program, has published several articles in
The Chalcedon Report, the leading Reconstructionist journal.... Ventrella, who describes himself as an "ordained Ruling Elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church" in his ADF bio, also teaches classes at Bahnsen Theological Seminary, a correspondence school in Placentia, Calif., named after the late Greg Bahnsen, one of the key architects of the Reconstructionist movement.

Nice to see these guys are working for the government, isn't it?
Shorter Jeff Jarvis:

"Waaaaah! Waaaaah! We want another scalp! We hate Newsweek! Why won't David Brooks help us lynch someone there?"

(Folks, I've been saying it for a couple of days and the Brooks column (with its talk of "Whining media bashers") confirms it: The big story here is that heads really might not roll this time. When the Internet Right began chanting "Newsweek Lied, People Died," or launching salvos like this, don't you think they thought the bloodletting they craved would come within days? Don't you think they felt entitled? Don't you think they think they get to decide these things now? I don't know if it's just a minor glitch or a long-term reversal, but it looks to me as if the right-wing media destruction machine has ground to a halt.)

From the latest column by Ann Coulter (emphasis mine):

Al-Jazeera also broadcast a TV miniseries last year based on the "Protocols of the Elders Of Zion." (I didn't see it, but I hear James Brolin was great!) Al-Jazeera has run programs on the intriguing question, "Is Zionism worse than Nazism?" (Take a wild guess where the consensus was on this one.) It runs viewer comments about Jews being descended from pigs and apes. How about that for a Newsweek cover story, Evan?

Or perhaps not:

In another incidence of blatantly anti-Semitic programming on an Arab television network, a new dramatic series based on the infamous anti-Semitic forgery, "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," has begun airing this week on Lebanese satellite television...

...the first episode in the series Ash-Shatat ("The Diaspora") aired October 27 on the satellite television network Al Manar, the official station of the terrorist group Hezbollah, based in Lebanon.

--Anti-Defamation League press release, 10/28/03

In October - November 2002, Egyptian TV featured a similar 41-part series based on the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," Horseman Without a Horse, which also aired during Ramadan.

--ADL press release, 1/9/04

A television station backed by a Saudi prince has sparked outrage by broadcasting clips that show young children being taught to hate Jews -- referring to them as "apes and pigs" -- and embrace martyrdom.

Recent broadcasts on Iqraa Television, one of the global satellite channels packaged by the Arab Radio and Television Network (ART), a Saudi-based company, features anti-Semitic interviews with a father, a psychiatrist and even a 3-year-old girl.

--Fox News, 6/15/02

Oh well -- she's right about Al-Jazeera airing a discussion of the question "Is Zionism worse than Nazism?" in May 2001. So she's one for three. So that's only two mistakes in one paragraph. (Three, if you count the fact that she said that a show based on the "Protocols" aired last year, rather than one in 2002 and another in 2003.) Two is not a large number, and three isn't, either. I guess that means she doesn't really make a lot of mistakes.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

A death in Afghanistan:

Gunmen have shot dead a female television presenter in Kabul who once worked for a music program similar to MTV, which had upset radical Islamic clerics, police said.

City police chief Mohammad Akram Khakrizwal confirmed 24-year-old Shaima Rezayee was killed.

But he said there was no known motive for the murder....

Ms Rezayee was sacked from the private-run Tulo TV in March which hosted her music program after it was heavily criticised by clerics....

Tulo, one of several private TV channels launched after the fall of the hardline Taliban regime in late 2001, has also been the target of criticism by Islamic radicals....

--ABC News (Australia)/AFP

But it's not just clerics and Islamic radicals who didn't like Rezayee's show, which was called Hop. One of the biggest critics of Hop was Afghanistan's chief justice, as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty noted in February:

In addition to the songs of Western pop music stars like Madonna and Jennifer Lopez, "Hop's" young Afghan hosts also present music videos by Iranian, Turkish, and Indian pop stars.

After just five months on the air, the format is proving to be extremely popular with young Afghans....

One of the most outspoken critics of "Hop" is Fazl Hadi Shinwari, a conservative Islamist who serves as chief justice on the Afghan Supreme Court.

"It will corrupt our society, culture and most importantly, it will take our people away from Islam and destroy our country," he says. "This will make our people accept another culture, and make our country a laughingstock around the world." ...

The firing of Rezayee -- and the possibility that she was killed because religious conservatives didn't like her TV appearances -- is a bit ironic:

The only female presenter on the show, 22-year-old Shaima Rezayee, stayed in Afghanistan during the five years that the Taliban controlled Kabul. She was forbidden from going to school as a teenager and, in the final years of Taliban rule, was forced to wear an all-encompassing burqa whenever she ventured outside.

But, of course, that sort of thing simply hasn't gone away completely in Afghanistan. Chief Justice Shinwari has denounced coeducation; he's also instituted a ban on cable TV in Afghanistan -- out of fear, it is reported, of the corrupting influence of Bollywood movies. And this is more disturbing:

Even though he has repeatedly distanced himself from the Taliban's interpretation of Islam, Chief Justice Shinwari is an outspoken advocate of orthodoxy. With a background in religious matters only, Shinwari is seen as sympathetic to the pro-Wahhabist views of Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, a former mujaheddin commander and onetime associate of Osama bin Laden. Shinwari's tenure as Chief Justice drew particular notice in 2003, when he reinstated the hated Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, renamed as the Ministry for Haj and Religious Affairs.

...So I guess it makes sense that Laura Bush's upcoming Middle East Feminism Tour won't include Afghanistan.
So I didn't realize until now that one of the prime movers behind the decision to give the name "freedom fries" to the spuds Congress eats has turned against the war in Iraq:

The words "freedom fries" are still on the menu in the U.S. House cafeteria, and are likely to appear in the first line of Walter Jones' obituary, perhaps with their lesser-known cousin, freedom toast....

Ask him about it now, and he lays his cheek in his left hand, a habit he repeats dozens of times a day when lost in thought or sadness.

...Jones now says we went to war "with no justification." He has challenged the Bush administration, quizzing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other presidential advisers in public hearings. He has lined the hallway outside his office with "the faces of the fallen."

Jones represents the state's most military congressional district, running from Camp Lejeune along the coast through Cherry Point, up to the Outer Banks.

"If we were given misinformation intentionally by people in this administration, to commit the authority to send boys, and in some instances girls, to go into Iraq, that is wrong," Jones said. "Congress must be told the truth."...

Jones is still a very, very conservative Republican. As the story (from the Raleigh News & Observer) notes, he wants preachers to be able to endorse candidates from the pulpit and he worries about children's books that say gay is OK. But on this, he's broken ranks.
Another one, from the Albany Times-Union:

...One incident, however alarming, can't justify any subsequent pressure on the media, external or internal, to suppress thorough and critical coverage of U.S.-supervised detention camps and prisons from Guantanamo Bay in Cuba to Abu Ghraib in Iraq. More investigation is needed, not less. Incidents of Quran desecration had previously been reported at Guantanamo, for instance. Now is not the time to stop such reporting....

Newsweek erred in several regards. Reliance on a single source, particularly for such an explosive story, is a treacherous practice. Every bit as troubling is its submission of an unpublished version of the story to a Pentagon official to review for accuracy. For the official not to challenge the account of the Quran desecration is hardly the same as verifying that it happened.

If that requires a public trial of a mass circulation news magazine, let's be very careful whom we accept as the prosecutor.

Who has the clean hands and untarnished credibility?

Folks, I think this may be solidifying into conventional wisdom: that Newsweek was unprofessional (I disagree), but that the White House's response is downright dangerous.

I make it a rule not to link to Glenn Reynolds, but I see that Herr Dr. Dr. Instapundit believes the Newsweek story might be a tipping point. I have a feeling he's right -- but not at all the kind of tipping point he has in mind. A watershed moment in public disgust at the "legacy media"? Oh, please. As Roy at Alicublog says, outside the blogosphere it just isn't that big a story. A watershed moment in the press's willingness to be beaten like a rented mule? Now, there's your tipping point.