Friday, October 07, 2005

What's an Evangelical?

Well, you really have to feel for these conservative evangelicals, especially the ones down south. They've got their man in the oval office. They claim Tom DeLay, warts and all, as their own. James Dobson has the president's ear. And now they've gotten one of their charter members nominated for the supremes.


Is she really evangelical enough? Is she the "right" kind of evangelical? Wasn't the evangelical label supposed to guarantee a certain political correctness of the conservative variety? I mean, baptize them, and they're supposed to come up out of the water opposing all forms of abortion, attacking gays, and demanding coerced prayer in the public schools. And, naturally, they shouldn't have any problem with an apartheid South America.

But while Harriet may be the president's best bud, and for all anybody knows, might be as harshly conservative as Edmund Burke, there's a little doubt. Her "pro-life" credentials are questionable. She apparently isn't afraid of gay people. She started up a women's group of some kind that invited liberal speakers. And back in the day, but after her conversion, she though the Dallas City Council needed to be better represented by minorities, and she even advocated the council divest any of its South African holdings while apartheid remained the law of the land there.

What the blog is going on here? No wonder George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Ann Coulter and William Kristol are throwing her under the bus.

Is it possible that "evangelical" might not mean true-blue, minority-bashing, homophobic, fire-breathing, poor people-hatin', political conservative?

Conservative and Liberal

A new book and a recent report raise anew the issue of Democratic liberalism vs Democratic centrism.

The difference between the two positions, more liberalism or more centrism, hinges, it seems to me, on what one believes about the country's "conservatism". As public opinion polls indicate, more Americans identify as conservatives rather than liberals, some polls showing almost a
2-to-1 conservative advantage.

But here is what I want to know: did Republicans adopt an overtly conservative rhetoric and agenda beginning in the 1950's and 1960's in order to cater to the public that it perceived as already inherently conservative, or did Republicans "create" a conservative majority in the public by the use of the conservative "brand name"?

It should be easy enough to find out what the conservative to liberal ratio was during the post-war years when the ideological split between the parties began to be more distinct. While this might be instructive, it's also the case that an investigation of this kind would be mired in conceptions of just what exactly constitutes "conservative" and "liberal".

But the basic point is, do you think that a "liberal brand name" can be "created"? I think this is the position that most of us on the left take. That Republicans have succeeded in no small degree by staking their claims unapologetically to a "conservative brand name" while Democrats have basically chosen to avoid ideological labels (think Michael Dukakis' "competence not ideology" based campaign) or to try to position themselves as the "moderates" or the "centrists".

But in any event, as I, and I think many on the left believe, whatever the realities of public opinion and ideological self identification among the public might be at any point in time, or whatever the public's perception of conservative-liberal dichtomies, the Democratic Party's avoidance of ideology in general, and its retreat from liberalism in particular, has been a disaster.

By shrinking from the liberal label, Democrats have embolded Republicans to be more "conservative" and to push the country's politics and policy further to the extreme right. Democratic acquiencense to the Republican conservative talking points has allowed Republicans and its media institutions to marginalize and in many ways demonize the word "liberal" itself, those wishing to move the country in a more liberal and humane direction, important institutions, such as the ACLU(again remember 1988) and more recently, groups like Moveon and people such as Michael Moore, and perhaps most importantly, liberal "values" such as reproductive choice, the right to privacy, the separation of church and state, and the freedom of expression both in war time and in other times.

And of course, ultimately, liberal Democrats believe that the public's embrace of liberal Democratic values on health care, social security and the right to choose, put it in a more favorable position to campaign as "liberals" than a superficial reading of conservative vs. liberal self identifiers might indicate.

Was Rove "summoned" or did he "offer" to come back to the grand jury?

After reading this yesterday I thought I had a pretty good handle on what was going on in the Plame investigation:

WASHINGTON - Federal prosecutors have accepted an offer from presidential adviser Karl Rove to give 11th hour testimony in the case of a CIA officer's leaked identity but have warned they cannot guarantee he won't be indicted, according to people directly familiar with the investigation.

Then, this morning, I read this:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 6 - The special prosecutor in the C.I.A. leak case has summoned Karl Rove, the senior White House adviser, to return next week to testify to a federal grand jury in a step that could mean charges will be filed in the case, lawyers in the case said Thursday.

Maybe these reports are not as inconsistent as they sound: maybe the special prosecutor "summoned" Rove after Rove "offered" to come back in. But it sounds like a contrast to me. Maybe one of you can help me clear it up.

Thursday, October 06, 2005


I meant to mention this long ago, but among the candidates vying to reverse the neo-con agenda in Congress in 2006 is Colleen Rowley, the famous 9-11, FBI-whisteblower.

She's running as a Democrat in Minnesota's 2nd congressional district, currently represented by Republican John Kline.

Colleen's the kind of representation the country needs in Congress. You can visit her website and contribute to her campaign here.


Soon after television established its dominance over print, young people who realized they were being shut out of the dialogue of democracy came up with a new form of expression in an effort to join the national conversation: the "demonstration." This new form of expression, which began in the 1960s, was essentially a poor quality theatrical production designed to capture the attention of the television cameras long enough to hold up a sign with a few printed words to convey, however plaintively, a message to the American people. Even this outlet is now rarely an avenue for expression on national television.


It is important to note that the absence of a two-way conversation in American television also means that there is no "meritocracy of ideas" on television. To the extent that there is a "marketplace" of any kind for ideas on television, it is a rigged market, an oligopoly, with imposing barriers to entry that exclude the average citizen.

The German philosopher, Jurgen Habermas, describes what has happened as "the refeudalization of the public sphere." That may sound like gobbledygook, but it's a phrase that packs a lot of meaning. The feudal system which thrived before the printing press democratized knowledge and made the idea of America thinkable, was a system in which wealth and power were intimately intertwined, and where knowledge played no mediating role whatsoever. The great mass of the people were ignorant. And their powerlessness was born of their ignorance.

It did not come as a surprise that the concentration of control over this powerful one-way medium carries with it the potential for damaging the operations of our democracy. As early as the 1920s, when the predecessor of television, radio, first debuted in the United States, there was immediate apprehension about its potential impact on democracy. One early American student of the medium wrote that if control of radio were concentrated in the hands of a few, "no nation can be free."

As a result of these fears, safeguards were enacted in the U.S. -- including the Public Interest Standard, the Equal Time Provision, and the Fairness Doctrine - though a half century later, in 1987, they were effectively repealed. And then immediately afterwards, Rush Limbaugh and other hate-mongers began to fill the airwaves.

And radio is not the only place where big changes have taken place. Television news has undergone a series of dramatic changes. The movie "Network," which won the Best Picture Oscar in 1976, was presented as a farce but was actually a prophecy. The journalism profession morphed into the news business, which became the media industry and is now completely owned by conglomerates.

The news divisions - which used to be seen as serving a public interest and were subsidized by the rest of the network - are now seen as profit centers designed to generate revenue and, more importantly, to advance the larger agenda of the corporation of which they are a small part. They have fewer reporters, fewer stories, smaller budgets, less travel, fewer bureaus, less independent judgment, more vulnerability to influence by management, and more dependence on government sources and canned public relations hand-outs. This tragedy is compounded by the ironic fact that this generation of journalists is the best trained and most highly skilled in the history of their profession. But they are usually not allowed to do the job they have been trained to do.

The present executive branch has made it a practice to try and control and intimidate news organizations: from PBS to CBS to Newsweek. They placed a former male escort in the White House press pool to pose as a reporter - and then called upon him to give the president a hand at crucial moments. They paid actors to make make phony video press releases and paid cash to some reporters who were willing to take it in return for positive stories. And every day they unleash squadrons of digital brownshirts to harass and hector any journalist who is critical of the President.

For these and other reasons, The US Press was recently found in a comprehensive international study to be only the 27th freest press in the world. And that too seems strange to me.

Among the other factors damaging our public discourse in the media, the imposition by management of entertainment values on the journalism profession has resulted in scandals, fabricated sources, fictional events and the tabloidization of mainstream news. As recently stated by Dan Rather - who was, of course, forced out of his anchor job after angering the White House - television news has been "dumbed down and tarted up."


One of the only avenues left for the expression of public or political ideas on television is through the purchase of advertising, usually in 30-second chunks. These short commercials are now the principal form of communication between candidates and voters. As a result, our elected officials now spend all of their time raising money to purchase these ads.

That is why the House and Senate campaign committees now search for candidates who are multi-millionaires and can buy the ads with their own personal resources. As one consequence, the halls of Congress are now filling up with the wealthy.

Campaign finance reform, however well it is drafted, often misses the main point: so long as the only means of engaging in political dialogue is through purchasing expensive television advertising, money will continue by one means or another to dominate American politic s. And ideas will no longer mediate between wealth and power.

And what if an individual citizen, or a group of citizens wants to enter the public debate by expressing their views on television? Since they cannot simply join the conversation, some of them have resorted to raising money in order to buy 30 seconds in which to express their opinion. But they are not even allowed to do that. tried to buy ads last year to express opposition to Bush's Medicare proposal which was then being debated by Congress. They were told "issue advocacy" was not permissible. Then, one of the networks that had refused the Moveon ad began running advertisements by the White House in favor of the President's Medicare proposal. So Moveon complained and the White House ad was temporarily removed. By temporary, I mean it was removed until the White House complained and the network immediately put the ad back on, yet still refused to present the Moveon ad.

Wow. I'm not used to politicians speaking this way. The last five years have dumbed us all down.

Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


I'm standing here on the ground
The sky above won't fall down
See no evil in all direction
Resolution of happiness
Things have been dark
For too long

Don't change for you
Don't change a thing for me

from INXS, "Don't Change"

I've been walking forty miles of bad road
If the bible is right, the world will explode
I've been trying to get as far away from myself as I can
Some things are too hot to touch
The human mind can only stand so much
You can't win with a losing hand

Feel like falling in love with the first woman I meet
Putting her in a wheel barrow and wheeling her down the street

People are crazy and times are strange
I'm locked in tight, I'm out of range
I used to care, but things have changed

from Bob Dylan, "Things Have Changed"

I'm moving through some changes
I'll never be the same
Something you did touched me
There's no one else to blame
The love we had has fallen
The love we used to share
We've given up pretending
As if you didn't care

Change changing places
Root yourself to the ground
Capitalize on this good fortune
One word can bring you round

from Yes, "Changes"

Yesterday, in defending his choice of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court, the president said this:

I know her well enough to be able to say that she's not going to change, that 20 years from now she'll be the same person with the same philosophy that she is today. She'll have more experience, she'll have been a judge, but, nevertheless, her philosophy won't change. And that's important to me. It was important to me when I picked Chief Justice Roberts; it's important for me in picking Harriet Miers.


She's not going to change in 20 years? This is a bizarre statement (yes, I know, consider the source). But how can you, me, the president, or anyone know that someone won't change, at least in some small way? And isn't change desirable anyway? Isn't it a part of life to grow, to change? OK, yes, I realize this is code for "Harriet Miers is no David Souter, Harriet Miers is no Anthony Kennedy". But is conservative ideology, or any ideology or political program unchanging? After all, Kennedy was conservative when Reagan picked him, but as the conservative movement has become more radical, Kennedy's brand of conservativism has fallen out of favor.

Won't change? Just very bizarre.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Can We Do This a Few More Times, Just For Fun?

Texas Grand Jury Indicts DeLay Again

God Bless, Catherine Crier

A few bloggerings ago, I mentioned that Catherine Crier, a lawyer and former elected Republican judge in Texas, who went on to host her own show on Roger Ailes' Fox "News" network, and then moved over to Court TV, and who has written such anti-liberal books as The Case Against Lawyers, has finally had it up to here with the religious fundamentalism that's taken over her party and that has infected the mainstream of American politics (not for the first time, by the way).

She's written a new book entitled Contempt: How The Right Is Wronging American Justice. Now, I usually don't buy or read books that have the author's picture, particularly a near full body shot, draped all over the cover. But Crier's book is an exception.

Last night, the occasion of the Harriet Miers nomination had her on the Comcast channel discussing the pic, where she got to lay one in good about how the "right" is trying to enforce their narrow view of law and life on the rest of us, as a representative from one of the "family" organizations sputtered.

Hey, I'm a religious person. I read the Good Book almost daily and go to church weekly. I think there is a god or a higher power of consciousness. Catherine Crier and millions of others like her do, too. But the Bible is not a political theory or public policy text. And anyone who says it is plainly has not read, or seriously considered, what's written in it.

I'll provide examples later, but for now, thank you Catherine Crier for coming out of the religious liberty closet.

Get Your Campaign On

85: That's how old liberal Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens is. Today. And yes we're glad to hear he's spry for his age and even plays a round of tennis now and then. But four years from today, when there'll be a new president, he'll be 89. Right to Privacy? Hello? If you're worried now about the new shape of the Court, wait and see what another four years of Republicanism will do. Whoever it is that's planning campaigns for Evan Bayh, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, can you make this an issue? Nice Constitution and Bill of Rights we have here. Be a shame if we lost it. (and by the way, since the next president will likely have at least one Court appointment, I'm not going to be doing any hand-wringing if a Joe Biden or Evan Bayh gets the nomination. While none of the prospective 2008 field is my kind of progressive, who would you rather see holding this next appointment--Evan Bayh or Sam Brownback?)

George Will, the conservative dean of pundits, has a column out entitled Why The Voting Rights Act is Bad for Everyone. I won't do the disservice of linking to it, because the title about says it all (although I recognize that column titles are usually determined by the newspaper or media outlet). In any event, HRC, Joe Biden, Evan Bayh, John Edwards, in the course of your campaigns, can you find some time for arguing why we need to reauthorize those portions of the Voting Rights Act that are up for renewal in 2007?

Roy Moore, the "ten commandments judge" is running for governor in Alabama. He'll challenge fellow Republican Bob Riley in the primary. While I don't wish this man on the good people of Alabama, it's worth considering that, should he win in 2006, he'd be ripe for the Republican's top slot in 2008. Needless to say, I think it'd be great for the progressive cause, and for the next Dem nominee, if Moore runs for president in 2008.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Monday Morning Quarterback

Redskins, 3-0. Let's not get too excited, mkay guys. We've won by margins of 2, 1, and now, 3 points--in O.T. no less, after the other team's winning field goal hit the crossbar at the end of regulation. And even this guy is keeping the bandwagon in the garage. Two road games coming up, with Denver and KC, and both could easily be losses. So let's keep the celebrating and bragging down to a quiet roar.

But I can tell you what I did like from what I saw on Sunday. Brunell's completions on third and long. How many of those were there? Half a dozen? And he's throwing darts. More importantly, the team looks like it knows what it's doing on offense for the first time in years. True, Brunell through a bum deep pass towards David Patton that was too short and which got batted down by a defender as a result. But these long offensive drives, combined with clutch third and long performances have me very pleased with the team so far. I didn't like the switch to Brunell right after the first game, but Brunell has surprised me.

Who's in a world of hurt? The Vikings. 1-3 after getting hammered yesterday in Atlanta. Seems that the Arizona Cardinals recovered last night after spotting San Fran 14 defensive points. That keeps the 49'ers in the Reggie Bush sweepstakes. And at 1-3, Arizona is still in the Matt Leinert hunt.

I don't like the Pack, but now I feel sorry for them. They're 0-3 and in Carolina tonight. For the sake of Brett Favre, who's a class act, I hope GreenBay pulls the on-the-road upset tonight.

I suppose Vinnie Testaverde, age 42, will be starting for the Jets pretty soon, after exhibiting no offense yesterday in Baltimore. Putting up only three points, and that after being given a spot at the Ravens' one-yard line after a fumble return. But I don't think the Ravens are going anywhere. New quarterback there next year.

Buffalo already looks done for. Will Losman get benched this week?

Miami, off yesterday, looks to be in better shape in the AFC Least that we would have thought. Saban has them playing well and the Jets and Bills are hurt and struggling.

Don't know what's going on in the AFC West. San Diego blew up the Pats yesterday. Denver is 3-1. KC started well but like yesterday's collapse against the Eagles at home, they don't seem to have the stamina for the long haul.

Bengals, Colts and Bucanneers 4-0. Cincinnati looks to be for real. May come down to them and Pittsburgh in the AFC North. If the Patriots don't get it in gear, Peyton Manning won't even have to go through New England to get to the big dance.