Friday, January 28, 2005


From Dionne's WashPost column today--

It needs to be clear to the country what our core beliefs are, and the last thing we need is strategic maneuvering," Edwards says. "What people want to see is leadership and strength and conviction. This is about what's inside us. It's not about how we get to the right place."


It's true, of course, that rejecting political calculation can itself be a form of political calculation. Conviction politics was a big winner for Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Even President Bush's critics concede -- well, they don't concede anything these days, but they might grudgingly admit -- that Bush's core political edge is just that, the appearance of strength and of standing for something.

But conviction politics has not been in vogue in progressive circles. This era's two great center-left politicians, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, have been resolute Third Wayers, tacking carefully between left and right. The Third Way was a tacit admission of conservatism's momentum.
Edwards is well positioned to offer Third Way 3.0. He's a young southerner, a working-class kid made good whose dad was a deacon in his church. He speaks admiringly of Clinton's skills, particularly the former president's ability to make others feel that he identifies with their struggles.

But Edwards's instincts tell him that tepid politics are exactly what the Democrats don't need now. "I don't think this is about moderate, conservative, liberal," he says. "Americans are looking for strength, an idealistic strength. They want to know what we'd do on Day One if we ran the country."

Moral issues matter, Edwards says, but Democrats won't look moral by getting into a bidding war over how often they can invoke the name of God. Instead, Democrats should speak with conviction about an issue that has always animated them: the alleviation of poverty. "I think it is a moral issue; it's something we should be willing to fight about and stand up for," he says.
Those who counsel caution, he says, would let calculation push Democrats away from their historical commitments. "They think it's associated with some political label," he says, carefully avoiding the L-word himself. "They think that a lot of people who live in poverty don't vote and don't participate and so they don't think there's a lot of political capital there."

Edwards, who is planning to set up a center to study ways to alleviate poverty, is enough of a politician to insist that he wants to advocate not only on behalf of the destitute but also for those just finding their footing on mobility's ladder. But he offers the unexpected claim that the very voters who have strayed from the Democrats would respond forcefully to the moral imperative of aiding the poor.

"The people who love their guns and love their faith, they care about this," Edwards says. "There is a deep abiding feeling of moral responsibility people have about those who are doing everything right and are still having a hard time."

Okay, okay, it's bound to be said that Edwards is making a shrewd political wager that Democrats have tired of capitulation. The test will be whether he sticks with it. It's a fair bet that someone who talks about a real moral issue for the next four years will at least be easier to listen to than politicians who place all their money on yesterday's focus groups.

Here's my problems with what appears to be Edwards' take on the situation:

1) he's afraid of the term--and by extension the concept and past achievements of--liberal politics and policy;

2) The "two Americas" and "we need to help those who are playing by the rules and still can't get ahead" rhetoric is Clinton-est which among other things may cause some people to wonder, hey, haven't we heard this before? Your party had eight years in the WH from '93-2000. Why are the rule-players still struggling?

3) He either doesn't understand, or cares not to address, the nature of the tragedy that is this administration's policies and supporters' agenda, namely, the "Right's" substantive war against the courts, civil liberties, the "wall" separating church and state, "liberals", and other deemed undesirables, by any means necessary, but particularly by consolidating media control and smothering dissent, academic and otherwise.

Yes, we need conviction in our candidates, but we also need an awareness and willingness to confront the country's greatest dangers.

Bulworth Says...

You cannot simultaneously brag that your favorite cable television "news" station is No. 1 while also crying that the media is conspiring against you...

I wished I had watched Nightline last night...

It's funny that somehow affiliation with the ACLU is accorded the kiss of death but affiliation with cabinet secretaries and interest groups who attack cartoon characters isn't...

Dear Christian "Right" Leaders and Members: when you attack cartoon characters you can't expect the public to respect you...

Suburban Guerilla and Steve Gilliard describe U.S. Senator George Allen (R-VA) to a tee...

Why did you think I was watching Trading Spaces for, anyway?

More Conservative Political Correctness

MyDD has the scoop.

Academic freedom, my ass.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

David Horrorwitless is a Big Fat Stupid Dumbhead

And his mother dresses him funny.

Here's What's Left layeth the smacketh down.

The '60's are Dead, Long Live the '60's!

To further understand the conservative agenda, one must recognize the true point of origin for its wrath--the decade that ushered in the end of hierarchy and conformity in American and world politics--the 1960's.

The 1960's are the conservatives' favorite whipping boy, the source of all that has gone wrong with the American experiment. The 1960's are the headline atop the great "backlash myth" as Thomas Frank explains it in What's Wrong With Kansas? , the holy grail of conservative politics.

Liberals must ask ourselves, and our conservative friends, why this is the case. Moral blowhards like William Bennett will be quick to point us to their narrowly constructed list of "moral indicators" and the "decline" of these factors that began when the evil 1960's unleashed their unvaunted rage and rebellion against God's America by protesting the Vietnam War, kicking God out of our schools, encouraging free love and hippy communes, and perhaps worst of all, daring to question the White Christian Male Right To Rule. During the 1960's, that unAmerican institution of "The Courts" began to be used to increase the rights available to all Americans when its executive and legislative institutions failed to respond.

But conservatives will undoubtedly point to things like, "well, teen pregnancy increased, out of wedlock births increased, divorces increased, school violence increased, drug use increased, marriages decreased, abortions increased, disrespect for authorities increased" and so on. For conservatives, America before the 1960's was heaven on earth, where peace, love, joy and unquestioning obedience to the powers that be existed, undisturbed by such ideas as social democracy, freedom of expression, opposition to unjust wars, civil rights, and diversity. Whatever America did on the world stage was perfect and holy. Americans and their institutions were godly and upright. Now, undoubtedly, some of these measures conservatives will recite will have some truth to them. But, as Donald Rumsfeld might say, "Hey, freedom and democracy are 'messy' ".

Now, as it happens, I wasn't birthed until 1966, so I can't speak from experience about the years before 1960. But, thankfully, history has managed to record a few things I think bring into question the great conservative claim about the pre-1960 era. There was slavery of course for the first 74 years of our constitutional history, segregation for the 100 years following that, and of course the violence and hatred needed to keep segregation in place.

Before the 1960's, if you're weren't a member of the state religion, you were ridiculed, harrassed, and forced to engage in religious worship anyway. The separation of church and state became a reality.

Before the 1960's, America's right to war was unquestioned, its moral superiority and "exceptionalism" in the world unchallenged by students, professors, or press alike.

Before the 1960's, women were relegated pretty much to the kitchen.

Before the 1960's, people of color didn't enjoy the same rights and protections as white Americans. At this point I'm tempted to say that blacks and other racial minorities contributed as much to society as whites in that they served and died in combat, paid taxes, and maintained families just as other Americans. But that would be to suggest that our rights are earned. I don't believe they are. Thomas Jefferson and many of the constitutional framers didn't believe that either (at least not when they were busy justifying their rebellion against British rule). They believed we were all endowed by our Creator with inaliable rights. For many Americans, this vision hadn't become a reality until the 1960's.

Before the 1960's, it wasn't "politically correct", to use a revived conservative concept, to speak out against the actions of government or those of certain groups where injustice, cruelty, and oppression were ignored or condoned. Now, it is (or until Faux News tell us it isn't).

Conservatives loved the pre-1960 era when they could do what they want and assume that everyone else would either agree with them or not question them if they didn't. Those days are over, and understandably, conservatives are angry.

But Bulworth says liberals should contest the conservatives' treatment of the 1960's and challenge the conservatives' attempts to roll back the clock on civil rights and democratic freedoms. Liberal should challenge attempts to demonize "rights", privacy, and the democratic use of the court system for what they are, conservatives' attempts to recreate their dominant past.

Bulworth says, tell the conservatives to get over the 1960's and recognize their day in the sun is over. When conservatives speak badly of our friend, the 1960's, remind them of what America was really like before then.

The 1960's rocked. So Bulworth says, tell the conservatives to stick it.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

The Problem Isn't Bush

I realize that coming from a die-hard, unapologetic liberal blogger, the above title may sound strange, but hear me out.

There's a passage or passages in the excellent David Herbert Donald biography of Abraham Lincoln where the President is listening to general McClellan time after time recite his various and always delayed plans to lauch attacks against cities in the South to which Lincoln increasingly and with ever more frustration responds by trying to get McClellan to recognize that he needs to direct his attacks against the real threat, the Confederate army.

As with McClellan's unwillingness to focus on the source of the Union's main threat from the South, I'm afraid that a lot of what has been passed off as Democratic Party strategy by its operatives and even by some Democratic leaning blogs has been I believe an inordinate focus on the words and actions of President Bush himself, and time staking analysis of current events, as opposed to the more serious and pervasive threat demonstrated by the conservative movement turned establishment itself.

There's lots of analysis on what's going wrong in Iraq from day to day, considerable parsing of the president's inaugural address, and so on. In the most recent presidential campaign, and underlying the Democrats' approach to campaigns generally, seems to be a haphard and uncertain preoccupation with opposing the president based on events as they develop rather than a more thorough and purposely communicated message to the public as to the problem with conservative policies and intentions themselves. This can be seen in the constant references, mostly by media observers, but accepted by some Democratic leaning bloggers as well, for the Democrats to come across "stronger" on national security and so-called "values" issues, to move to the center of the political arena, etc.

The problem isn't primarily the president, who I think we all realize by now isn't terribly interested in the affairs of government, but exists only to recite speeches prepared for him by zeolous staffers, to stuff the bureaucracy and court systems with conservative operatives (which is the same as would be carried out by any Republican president) and to carry on his family's name. The conservative establishment, it's authoritarian and undemocratic ambitions, and its malicious character sleezing and fear mongering appetite should be the most constant target of our (and hopefully the soon to be new Democratic Party heads as well) analysis, strategy, and communication.

Contrary to the chatter among the media that Democrats need to get more conservative, it is the conservative establishment itself that is the problem, and which must be opposed. This is why the Democrats cannot "move towards the center".

Why Do Conservatives Hate Gays?

I know some of our conservative friends would object to the charge that they actually "hate" gay people, but I think the overwhelming evidence from the anti-gay protests--whether in the form of wingnut blog postings, cable television shout fests, or "pro-family" interest group press releases--says about all we need to know.

So, why do conservatives hate gays? I'll give it a shot by suggesting several alternatives, then try to explain the basis for each.

a) The Bible condemns homosexuality, conservatives believe and follow every apparent command in the Bible, so by deduction, gays and homosexual behavior are to be hated and opposed so that God may glorify the nation;

b) Gayness undermines and threatens family unions and society's procreative future and consequently, leads to the downfall of the nation and civilization;

c) Gays are "different", and gay behavior is just "offensive", a deviance, a perversion that tempts our children to unproductiveness and places our culture at risk.

a) probably deserves more elaboration than I will choose to give it here, but I think it is fair to say in brief that few people if any believe or follow every example laid down in scripture. The Bible doesn't explicitly condemn polygamy, for example, and even appears to command it in some circumstances, such as when a brother has died without producing male offspring and the surviving widow is to be taken by a surviving brother of the deceased man (seemingly regardless of whether he is already married) to wife in order to provide the deceased man a family line (Deuteronomy 25). Yet polygamous relationships are something society seems to have decided are undesirable. Slavery gets a pass in the Bible, too (Exodus 21). Yet modern society, for all its decrepitness, has come to the conclusion that slavery is distasteful and immoral, even if the basis for that conclusion was helped in part by slavery's declining lack of usefulness economically. Furthermore, the Bible appears to condemn the eating of shellfish, pig meat, and prescribes a host of other health related guidelines that I suspect most people affiliated with Focus on the Family have conveniently discarded. In the Bible, people were stoned for breaking the Sabbath, killed for fornicating with neighboring tribes, for erecting "idolitrous" images, and so on. Finally, the number of references in the Bible to homosexuality are few, and in some of those, the actual behavior being condemned could be, and is disputed.

But perhaps even more relevant is that while some opponents of gayness reference the Bible in the course of their objections, it doesn't sound as if it is for God's glory they are reacting as they are. Rather, their concern seems to lie elsewhere. Such as in--

b) Gayness as threat to families and civilization has emerged as perhaps the most commonly cited concern by opponents. There are a number of unstated assumptions and premises underlying this origin of gay-hate. One is that although believed by conservatives to comprise less than 10% of a society's population, gayness, like a disease, is capable of spreading, influencing individuals who would otherwise hook up with other-sex partners to "choose" same sex partners instead. The result of such choices is that the desire to hook up with other sex partners declines, the desire to marry and produce families declines, and there is a groundswell towards homosexuality soon rendering a society extinct as it fails to produce offspring. National decline is a big crisis word conservatives serve up in the context of the gay debate. As acceptance of gayness grows, community heterosexuality grows weaker, heterosexual marriage becomes "under seige" by newly loud and vocal opponents of marriage, and, well, you get the idea.

All of this sounds rather implausible to me. Sometime last spring or summer when the gay debate was heating up I emailed Glenn Beck, one of the many right wing radio hosts out there with his own book and asked him how if homosexuality was much rarer than the numbers he claimed are cited by gay activists, then what exactly was the threat from homosexuality? He didn't respond to my email. Imagine that. Maybe there's more to this point, but I don't see it, and highly doubt whether conservatives themselves take it very seriously either, which leads me to--

c) Gayness is just deviant, corruptive behavior that offends some people. This sounds a lot like b) above but without the necessity for demonstrating the catastrophic consequences from homosexuality. It argues, instead, that gayness is just bad, not normal. It's reasoning is circular. Gayness is a threat to families and marriage because gayness is a threat to families and marriage. How exactly? If gayness is rather limited in the population, how does it threaten the inclination for heterosexual marriages and reproduction? Does it make marriage seem somehow "dirty" or not special to heterosexuals? If this is the case, that gayness is such a threat to families, than families must be pretty fragile entitities. This is the underlying cry from opponents of gays and gay rights. Families are "at risk", "under attack", etc. Families must be pretty weak, which makes me wonder if they are, why should we be propping them up? If families are so vulnerable, then maybe there are bigger problems out there than gays.

Let The Word Go Forth

The General has christened soon-to-be Secretary of State, Donna Rice, as "Ofgeorge", based, no doubt, on that french-screed of a book, The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood.

But if Donna Rice is Ofgeorge, then what do we call Secretary of Education, Tori Spelling, W's Texas-grown homegirl he promoted from White House policy advisor? And she's been busy lately...

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Something Other Than What It Seems?

There was a big celebration for pro-lifers on the Washington Mall the other day. The Republican president, as usual, phoned in his remarks. My fellow Adventist, I'm sorry to admit, Maryland Congressman Roscoe Barlett, was on hand, though, to cheer on the troops of compassionate conservatism, if that is what they are.

Now, Bulworth admits abortion makes him uncomfortable. Especially those carried out after the fetus is viable outside the womb. But at the same time, I can't say I get worked up about the issue. It's hard for me to imagine that abortions performed early, and inventions such as the so-called "morning after" abortion pill, RU-486, cause harm to a conscious or unborn being.

Which makes me wonder just exactly what is it about abortion that gets the ardent anti-abortioners upset. They seem like a pretty rough, angry group, unsympathetic to other human rights issues and the care of persons once they're born. Take for example, some of the loudest, most prominent voices waged against abortion such as James Dobson's Focus on the Family, and the folks at So it seems hard to believe they are really concerned about the "sanctity of life" as they and their president like to say.

There are some who would say that the whole anti-abortion movement is really about limiting sex, and ultimately wants to do away with contraceptives as well, something which, if right-to-lifers really thought about it, would likely have the effect of increasing unplanned pregnancies and increasing abortions. This is by and large the official Catholic church position, so there must be some truth to this allegation.

Then there is the curious phenomenon that indicates that real life abortions actually declined under the liberal Democratic President, Bill Clinton, but have increased under the stewardship of George W. Do "right-to-lifers" care about these trends? Is there any interest on the "right"
about what causes abortion and perhaps taking strides to limit those conditions, or is it just the prominence of legislation, the stamp of official disapproval from their nation's federal government that they want?

Still, what else is there? Do they feel the "pain" of the fetus? Do they think there is some injustice being done during an abortion? Or are they upset about something else? Me thinks most anti-abortion members aren't really concerned about families or children or the "unborn". Their tone and alternative policy preferences strike me as a jarring disconnect.

Then, too, I wonder to what degree most "right to lifers" are really ready to impose serious criminal penalties on doctors who perform abortions and women who receive or attempt to receive them? Undoubtedly some believe they are. But it seems like a difficult hurdle for anti-abortionists to get over. Maybe I'm being too generous or naive about the ends to which some "defenders of life" are willing to go.

Like the Rogue Progressive, I tend to believe that most if not all of the issues under the culture war banner are about restricting the rights of women. But I think the general conservative fetish is that of hierarchy. That's why conservatives express such reverance for institutions like the military, the church, and corporations, and such disdain for more egalitarian and diverse places like colleges and universities. When conservatives say things like "the family is under attack" I suspect they are primarily complaining about what they perceive to be challenges to the man's hierarchical place in it.

Now, back to what I started with...abortion gives women an option about a pregnancy after the fact, so to speak, and this prerogative doesn't sit well with conservative admirers of male domination, even among those women who like male-dominated family hierarchy.

Next: Why do conservatives hate gays?

Monday, January 24, 2005

What Liberal Media?

As I've mentioned before, Bulworth is a Christian and attends church each week, but he has, shall we say, a few differences with the Religious Right. Anyway, Bulworth has noticed how many religious programs there are on TV these days and the origin as well as the content of these shows deserves some attention.

On regular TV you can tune in on Sundays to hear D. James Kennedy, from Coral Ridge Ministries in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Kennedy hosts a radio program and related website called Truths that Transform, heads an outfit called the Center for Reclaiming America, and in February is hosting a Reclaiming America for Christ conference, which will include among others, David Limbaugh. Now, I'm not sure that Christ wants to claim or reclaim America or if he needs D. James Kennedy's help if He decided to do so. But as you might imagine, Kennedy's programs are light on Bible teaching and heavy on political spiel, with an emphasis on the new trifecta of right-wing politics: gays, abortion, and "America's Christian Heritage". Kennedy openly and brazenly lambastes the separation of church and state.

On cable TV, you can get Kennedy as well as Rod Parsley, the pastor of the World Harvest Church in Columbus, Ohio. Parsley has his own political foundation as well, lobbying and advocating on the same set of issues as Kennedy, chastizing gays, abortion, liberals, feminists, atheists, Democrats, the ACLU, and other perceived opponents and undesirables. Where Kennedy projects a calm, if arrogant image, Parsley is a screamer and a sweater. A charismatic, pentecostal preacher, Parsley has a checkered background in ministry. Nonetheless, his church plays host to some 5000 members a week.

Finally, my Comcast stable of offerings also includes the Catholic Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). Although Catholicism is anything if not diverse, EWTN toes the conservative line, emphasizing its opposition to abortion, gay marriage, and the separation of church and state in its "news" coverage and special programming. Several specific programs are dedicated to the abortion issue alone. While EWTN includes a good deal of Catholic specific teaching and doctrine, its overwhelming and narrow political focus puts in solidly in the camp of the previous shows and hosts and in most segments, is virtually indistinguishable from programming on the protestant, Pat Robertson headed 700 Club.

It would be nice if networks provided equal time programming to these overtly political shows. If we really had a liberal media, maybe they would.

Thems Were The Days...

Remember this?

Once upon a time, many years ago (1999), in a land very far away (The U.S.), the Republican Party railed against the use of annual Social Security trust fund surplus monies to "inflate the federal budget numbers". They even called such budgetary gimmickry "morally wrong".

And today?

Total Deficit(-) or Surplus in billions of dollars

Year 2004

Total Revenues 1,782

Total Outlays 2,158

Total Deficit (-) or Surplus -375

on-budget -536

off-budget (with Soc Sec) -161

So for those of you kids keeping score at home, we're using $161 billion of the 2004 Social Security trust fund surplus funds (that is, all of the currrent incoming payroll taxes not needed to fund current Social Security benefits) for tax cuts and the war in Iraq.

Oh where, oh where, have the morally right, conservative Republican budgeteers gone?

Thomas's Foot Still in His Mouth

Here is Ways and Means Chairman, William Thomas (R-CA), trying to amend last week's statement about Bush's Social Security plan being a "dead horse":

I didn't say it was dead on arrival," he said. "What I said was, I hope we didn't have our friends on the other side of the aisle attacking the president's proposal once it's introduced. Because, once it's introduced, it becomes part of the legislative process. Suggest changes or suggest substitutions, but don't continue the arguments against the president's plan, because it's now part of the legislative process. That would be beating a dead horse."

What? Once the President's plan has been introduced you can only suggest changes, you can't "attack it" or oppose the whole thing? Students of Congress must be racking their brains trying to figure this enunciation of legislative procedure out.