Friday, March 18, 2005

OK, We'll Talk 'Values', But You Might Not Like It When We Do

Conservatives in the Republican Party and among Republican-leaning Democratic institutions and the media have expressed a desire for Democratic candidates to speak Bible and Values.

Very well. But are you sure you'll like it when we do?

The few of us who have ventured out to suggest that our destruction of Iraq and consequent occupation is immoral have been called traitors, unpatriotic, subversive, and injurious to "the troops".

The few of us who have ventured out to suggest that the President's tax cuts for the rich and Medicaid cuts for the poor are immoral have been told we're trying to foment "class warfare".

The few of us who have ventured out to suggest that the Leave No Credit Card Company Behind Bill (i.e. the Bankruptcy "reform" legislation passed by the Senate last week) unjustly rewarded larcenous credit merchants at the expense of working families were told we were opposed to "personal responsibility".

The few of us who have ventured out to suggest that gay people by nature and our Constitution have the same inalieable rights as the rest of us have been told we're against "the family".

The few of us who have ventured out to suggest that those accused of crimes should have access to competent legal counsel and that death penalty inmates should be granted access to DNA tests where applicable to help ensure against the risk of wrongful executions have been labeled as "soft on crime".

The few of us who have ventured out to suggest that it is immoral to impose religious doctrine and worship demands on people have been told we're violating our heritage as a "Christian nation".

The few of us who have ventured out to support organizations that fight for everyone's civil liberties (even those we don't agree with), like the ACLU, have been told we're against God and Law and Order.

The problem isn't that progressive haven't talked and acted upon values. The problem is, you haven't recognized it when we have. And the problem is your demand for more "values" is self-centered. While claiming you want a society founded on absolute values you have been unwilling to subject your own behaviors to the same standard you want applied to others. That's the ultimate example of moral relativism.

It isn't up for us to come closer to you, it's up to you to come closer to us.

Bartlett '08

No, not the congressman from upper Maryland. The fake president on TV's West Wing.

I hadn't been watching West Wing for some time, but a friend of mine suggested I tune in because it was still very good. I did and it is. As some of you may know, the fictional Democratic President Bartlett is nearing the end of his second term and as the Democratic candidates jostle in the primaries, the president and his advisors are planning what to do with the rest of their term in establishing some sort of legacy.

Because I love political campaigns I've especially enjoyed watching the show's treatment of the primary season and the contenders in it, including Jimmy Smits, a Hispanic congressman from Houston, TX, as well as the two vice-presidents, the former one (that guy from Animal House) and the current one (Office Space's Lundberg).

But this week's episode went back to the WH for its premise. The subject was Cuba.

Even if you didn't see the episode you might have an idea what it was about.

Which I guess is where I start thinking of our friend Peter Beinert, his buddy Senator Lieberman, and the rest of the gang at TNR, PNAC, and whatever associations are continuing to flog the demand for American hegemony and to purge any and all Democrats that dissent.

Beinert and his collaborators want us all to shut up about foreign policy and do whatever the elite at the Foreign Affairs institute or whatever its called want us to do, which for the last several years appears to be to continue our Cold War policies of escalating our armaments industry and threatening/intervening in the affairs of other countries as we see fit, all designed to protect ourselves from our enemies and to wage a new war on terrorism.

The problem with this siren's call of militarism as I see it is that since not all of us agree that it makes sense, that someone should attempt to articulate the basis for an alternative course of policies. Optimally, this should be the Democratic Party's task, as the out-party, not just for the sake of opposing, but because many of its membership think there is a policy rationale for doing so.

Which brings me back to Cuba and our 40-year, failed policy of an economic embargo against that island and its people. Of course our policy has been more than that over the years. Somewhere stashed in the halls of Congress or the Pentagon is a resolution or a white paper saying how our policy is "regime change" there. But the policy has been a practical and moral failure.

Wouldn't it be great if one or more of the Democratic candidates in 08 were to say this out loud? There would be immediate cries of course that in doing so we would be kissing off Florida and its irate but politically significant group of Cuban exiles or that we were offering a policy of "appeasement" towards a "brutal dictator".

Some of you may suggest that as admirable as such a call may be, this one position is not worth the risk. You may be right. But it's that tact that has continued to yield the failed policy and inadvertantly, a view of the Party as spineless and pandering. Why not put forward a publically unpopular policy, which at the same time happens to be a reasonable one, if for no other reason that it deserves discussion in a obstensibly democratic society?

So I say let's give Bartlett a try, since his eight years in the TV White House don't count, he can still run. It might just look like courage.

The Blogger's Tale

From Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale (1985)

On the way home, they stop at an old Puritan church. The government "[has not] fiddled with the gravestones, or the church either. It's only the more recent history that offends them." Chapter 6, pg. 31 Ofglen bows her head in prayer, and Offred assumes her piety is a show. They then head to the Wall, which is the face of Gilead's prison. Six male corpses are hanging by their necks on the Wall from a Men's Salvaging earlier that morning. The men are identified as former abortionists by signs hung around their necks bearing images of fetuses. The men's heads are covered in white bags. One has a bloodstain like a mouth. Ofglen trembles, but Offred is not tempted to inquire or even look at her. "Ordinary, said Aunt Lydia, is what you are used to. This may not seem ordinary to you now, but after a time it will. It will become ordinary." Chapter 6, pg.33

One morning, Offred attends a district Women's Salvaging, execution. All the Handmaids kneel on red cushions in front of a stage set up inside the former university. Offred thinks of making love until she sees the women to be salvaged, two Handmaids and one Wife, sitting on the stage. Two Aunts and the executioners take the stage. Offred recognizes Aunt Lydia and realizes she hates her. She ignores Aunt Lydia's speech. Aunt Lydia announces that a description of the crimes of the prisoners will be dispensed with because similar accounts during televised executions have been followed by an increase in similar crimes. "The crimes of others are a secret language among us. Through them we show ourselves what we might be capable of, after all. This is not a popular announcement." Chapter 42, pg. 275 The first woman is brought up to the noose. A Handmaid behind Offred begins vomiting. Offred has seen this before, has symbolically consented to the executions before. She does not want to see anymore.

When the Salvaging is concluded, Aunt Lydia asks all the Handmaids to form a circle for a Particicution. Two Guardians drag a beaten man into the center of the circle. Offred thinks he looks drunk. Aunt Lydia announces his crime as rape involving the murder of an unborn child. This announcement inspires hatred in all the Handmaids. Aunt Lydia blows a whistle and before the man can protest the crowd of Handmaids is upon him. Ofglen makes her way to the front and knocks out the fallen man with a few well-placed kicks to his head. Offred is shocked and revolted by this at first, but Ofglen quickly explains that the man was not a rapist at all. He was a member of her network and was being killed for political crimes. She was simply making his death less painful for him. Janine walks by with an absent smile on her face and a clump of the man's hair in her fist. Offred is notices that she is ravenously hungry. She thinks it is her body's self-affirming reaction to death.

exerpted from


From prominent wingnut blogger, and UCLA Constitional Law professor, Eugene Volokh, proudly identifying with the government of Iran's preferred method of capital punishment:

I particularly like the involvement of the victims' relatives in the killing of the monster; I think that if he'd killed one of my relatives, I would have wanted to play a role in killing him. Also, though for many instances I would prefer less painful forms of execution, I am especially pleased that the killing — and, yes, I am happy to call it a killing, a perfectly proper term for a perfectly proper act — was a slow throttling, and was preceded by a flogging. The one thing that troubles me (besides the fact that the murderer could only be killed once) is that the accomplice was sentenced to only 15 years in prison, but perhaps there's a good explanation.

I am being perfectly serious, by the way. I like civilization, but some forms of savagery deserve to be met not just with cold, bloodless justice but with the deliberate infliction of pain, with cruel vengeance rather than with supposed humaneness or squeamishness. I think it slights the burning injustice of the murders, and the pain of the families, to react in any other way.

Don't worry. It Can't Happen Here.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

This Just In...

Scott Peterson was officially sentenced to death yesterday...

Actor Robert Blake was found not guilty of killing his wife and CNN's court-room TV-babe Nancy Grace is pissed...

Michael Jackson is still on trial in Caleefornia on charges of child molestation...

That guy that killed the judge in a courtroom in Atlanta is still in custody...

President Bush called on Democratic opponents to put forward a plan for saving Social Security but declined to submit his own, claiming that all first bills are dead on arrival...

Conservative columnist Robert Novak writes today about how so far off the reservation that Republican governor of Indiana is for agreeing to raise taxes to balance the budget and about what a great conservative American that Mississippi Governor and former National Republican Party Chairman, Haley Barbour is for bravely opposing any and all tax increases for his state, which has amazed us all for its history of economic progress, high standard of living, and democratic values. For this reason, soon to be World Bank prez Paul Wolfowitz has declared his intention to use the State of Mississippi as a model example of how developing countries should remake their economies and political institutions. "With the world's help, we will do our darndest to make sure that today's third world countries maintain a system of low wages, crumbling infrastruture, high levels of military and armaments spending, and religious and jinoistic fanaticism."

The debate over Social Security is still in its early stages and the next two weeks will be critical as President Bush and Republican members of Congress really start boldly advocating privatization reform and rallying Americans young and old, black and white, to the righteousness of their cause. Really. They mean it this time. For the first time yesterday, Republican lawmakers announced that Social Security was enacted in 1935 during the Great Depression, which most Americans are no doubt unaware of. In a separate news conference Republican members of Congress held up 1789's U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights and announced their intention to "modernize" the document and its principles.

By a narrow, 51-49 margin, The U.S. Senate yesterday voted to allow oil-drilling in the Alaskan Arctic Reserve, as proponents vowed to finally, once and for all, sever the nation's dependence on foreign oil, especially the kind found in those middle easter, gulf countries that we keep invading in order to make the region more "secure".

Hey, whatever happened to that other stupid, middle class, white guy from middle America that was charged with killing his young, smart, pretty, and white wife in Utah? If we can stay fixated on Peterson for all this time, how come we can't give it up for this guy, too?

Monday, March 14, 2005

The Myth of "Personal Responsibility"

Well maybe it isn't so much a myth as it is yet another right-wing propaganda slogan or concept that many Democrats feel somehow compelled to mimic.

Such was the case with last week's sorrowful meltdown on bankruptcy by Democrats in the U.S. Senate.

As the data gathered by the Left Coaster seems to indicate, campaign cash from the credit card cartel was unlikely the main reason why so many Democrats wilted on the roll call (Delaware's Biden and Carper, and SD's Johnson aside). Those Democratic senators who have offered an explanation as to their vote used the same "personal responsiblity" canard that has been used by conservatives to justify everything from welfare "reform" to abortion restrictions, abstenance education, Medicare cuts, Social Security "reform", and just about every other item on the cultural war itinerary.

I know the "consultants" say the phrase "personal responsiblity" is a winner in their focus groups, but as for policy, the phrase stinks. I wish Democrats would stop using it. Better yet, whenever it surfaces from some Republican talking points memo Democrats should counter by demanding corporate "responsibility" from the business world and political "responsibility" from the Administration--a gang known far and wide for their refusal to admit mistakes and lies--and from Republican members of Congress who, when the going gets tough, change the House rules to protect themselves from ethic charges.

It's high time Democrats made the phrase "personal responsibility" walk the plank. It's a conservative buzz word used as a wedge for their narrow, anti-individual welfare agenda, which we are not obligated to assist them with.