26 July 2004
Republican Wage Slavery
This is just too rich—the Republican party has tried for years, with some success, to paint itself as the party of the Real American Working Class. (Essentially, enough social conservatism on civil rights and defense spending will get enough blue collar workers to vote against their class interests.) But deep down, today's Republicans don;t even try to pretend anymore.
When William Harris, the chief executive officer of the upcoming Republican National Convention, goes home each night, he goes home to a room at the Ritz-Carlton, just as he has since April.
Mr. Harris, like much of his staff, comes from outside New York. In his case, he calls Virginia home. But unlike his staff members, most of whom are living in temporary corporate apartments in Manhattan, Mr. Harris selected his own five-star accommodations. The person who works with the convention planners said that Mr. Harris received a reduced rate for the room of $9,500 a month—or $57,000 for a six-month period from April through September....
A room at the Ritz may also not be the best way to spend nearly $10,000 a month on temporary housing in New York, said Tory Baker Masters, of the Intrepid New Yorker, a relocation consulting company in Manhattan. For that money, she said, "You could get a fabulous two-bedroom and a wraparound terrace with great views."
And she said that with extra maid service and a few takeout menus, services would be nearly comparable to those of a hotel, but would mean living more "like a New Yorker as opposed to a tourist."...
Lewis M. Eisenberg, one of the chairmen of the host committee, said he had not heard any complaints about Mr. Harris's decision to stay at the Ritz-Carlton. "He's a guy who works 18 to 24 hours a day, so no matter where he stays, he's not there much," Mr. Eisenberg said.
Read that last paragraph again. They're trying to justify spending ten thousand dollars of months on a hotel room because the fellow using it won't be there very often. Now that's a demonstration that even the basic axioms of logic have changed since 9/11.
But the Republicans are spending more than just $10,000 a month at the Ritz-Carlton. According to OpenSecrets.org, which disseminates election spending data, the Republican National Committee and its affiliates have already spent some $178,237 at the New York Ritz-Carlton during this election cycle. Now that's really catering to one's base.
23 July 2004
Your Tax Dollars at Work
Remember how those dividend tax cuts were going to stimulate the economy?
Microsoft has announced that it will make, on 2 December 2004, a $32 billion special dividend to its shareholders. One of the key parts of the income tax cuts during the Bush presidency was a cut in the maximum tax rate of most stock dividends from 39.6% to 15%. That's great if you own lots and lots of Microsoft shares.
But it's meaningless if you own those shares in a tax-deferred account like a 401(k) or IRA. Those accounts never incurred taxes on dividends, but rather incurred tax on withdrawals.
And it's not clear that the dividend is much of a boon to shareholders: since the price of Microsoft stock takes its $60 billion hoard of cash into consideration, parceling the money out to shareholders should have a concomitant effect on the stock price.
And there's a big problem here. When Microsoft makes a big dividend payment to its stockholders, it effectively admits that it has no better use for the money—not hiring additional workers, not engaging in research and development, and not buying new equipment. Any of those other options would directing stimulate the economy around Microsoft offices and factories. taking that money instead and parceling it to mutual fund managers, retirement accounts, and thousands of brokerage sweep accounts is hardly an efficient way to perform much economic stimulus at all.
I am so glad that the adults are in charge of economic policy again.
You Can't Blame Clinton Anymore
The most important sentence from the 9/11 Commission report is this one.
Across the government, there were failures of imagination, policy, capabilities, and management.
With those words, the Commission chastised both the Clinton and Bush administrations for their actions and inactions from 1998 to 2001.
Pity the poor Republicans. On one hand, the report blamed their leader and his circle of advisers who were supposed to be so wise and worldly. On the other hand, it also blamed the Clinton administration. Yet the Bush adminsitration did no better than its predecessor.
Worst of all, Bill Clinton is not up for re-election this year: John Kerry can criticize aspects of Clinton's foreign policy from the safe divide of four years, and he can certainly criticize the sorry record that Bush has on foreign policy. Conversely, Bush can honestly hypothecate what Kerry would do as president, but he can hardly criticize his own foreign policy lapses, and he can only try to equate Kerry with Clinton.
22 July 2004
Bush Treatment of 9/11 Investigation
The commission published its report on 9/11 today. With a thank you to the Financial Times as a reminder of many of these events, let's not forget some key moments in the history of the 9/11 investigation.
1. Unsupported by the Bush administration, acceptance of the investigation was forced by grieving family members of individuals that lost their lives to the horror of 9/11.
2.Bush, in an attempt to sandbag the process, names Henry Kissinger to lead the commission.
3. Family members counter the Bush administration's attempts to sandbag by pushing for disclosures from Kissinger on his clients that leads to his resignation.
4. The Bush administration plays politics with the commission's deadlines, before giving in to the committee's request for more time.
5. The Bush administration claims Executive Privilege in an attempt to keep Rice, Cheney and Bush from testifying.
6. The administration gives in to public pressure and allows Rice to testify under oath. Rice's testimony leads to the most memorable soundbite of the hearings: Bush had been given a report on August 6, 2001, entitled, "Bin Laden Determined To Attack Inside The United Sates."
7. Rice's public statement that no one ever imagined terrorists using planes as weapons is contradicted by Louis Freeh's testimony that the use of planes as a potential weapon for a terrorist attack was known.
8. The administration gives in to public pressure and allows Bush and Cheney to meet with the commission privately. Bush becomes the target of late night talk show barbs for needing to have Cheney with him when he testifies.
9. Bush and Cheney, in the face of evidence to the contrary, continue to spin that intelligence warnings indicated al-Qaeda attacks would be overseas and not here in the U.S.
1o. Bush accepts George Tenant's resignation.
11. Despite an Interim Report from the commission that states no evidence was found linking Iraq to the 9/11 attacks, Cheney continues to publicly link al-Qaeda and Iraq.
12. The commission rebukes Cheney's public comments that he probably had more facts than the commission on the al-Qaeda links to Iraq by offering Cheney an opportunity to provide them with that information. Cheney provides no such information.
13. Early reports indicate that the commission will tie Iran to al-Qaeda. Iran had much to gain from the removal of Saddam and his secular government.
18 July 2004
The 2004 Tune Deaf Award for Egregiousness in Advertising
Back in 2002, I wrote about some commercials with wildly inappropriate music, that is, if one paid any attention to the lyrics of the whole song, not just the chorus or phrase used. (Think Wrangler Jeans using the line "Some folks are born made to wave the flag, ooh, they're red, white and blue" from "Fortunate Son" in the hopes that no one remembers the next line: "And when the band plays 'Hail to the chief' they point the cannon right at you.")
Even though 2004 is barely half over, I can justifiably point to the worst example of the year: the General Motors ads for its "Summerdrive" sale. (You'll need Flash installed in your browser to see the ad.) The song is a snippet of a catchy tune by the Dandy Warhols, and the lyrics seem appropriate for an ad in which happy young General Motors drivers play a game of frisbee—you've got a great car, and I like you.
Yes, they seem appropriate. Too bad for General Motors that in the actual song, the singer is quite clearly a poser. And the car, well, the car isn't that great after all:
You got a great car: yeh, what's wrong with it today?
I used to have one, too. Maybe i'll come and have a look.
I really love your hairdo, yeh. I'm glad you like mine, too.
See we're looking pretty cool will get ya
So what do you do? Oh, yeh, I wait tables too.
No I haven't heard your band, cos you guys are pretty new.
But if you dig on vegan food, well come over to my work,
I'll have 'em cook you something that you really love
Cos i like you, yeh i like you, and I'm feeling so bohemian like you.
This might not be quite the image, or the cynicism, that General Motors had in mind.
13 July 2004
I opened this morning's Financial Times to the Comment page and was pleased to see a piece by Brad DeLong, professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley, and fellow blogger. Alas, one needs a subscription to FT to read the article on line. DeLong notes that if bond and property markets are fragile, only minor increases in interest rates would neutralize any inflationary pressures. He also points out the tenuous position of the US labor market and the 5 million-worker gap between adults employed today and at the height of the last business cycle (the year 2000 under Bill Clinton). Of course, the financial markets could have more trust that the Fed, as promised, will increase interest rates in only a measured way if not for the Bush administration's "feckless deficit generating fiscal policy." If only Chairman Greenspan was as open and honest.
(Update: DeLong has posted a copy of the piece on his weblog.)
Are You Experienced?
Why can't the Boston Globe get a conservative to write for its op-ed page who can put together a decent argument? Surely someone can do better than Jeff Jacoby, the battling bastion of Babbittry.
Last Thursday, Jacoby wrote that John Edwards's lack of foreign policy experience made him unsuitable for the vice presidency. Ignore for the time being that the vice president's only official duty is to break ties in the Senate and to step in if the president is temporarily or permanently unable to serve.
George W. Bush had no foreign policy experience before his election in 2000; his coterie of advisers was supposed to fill in that gap in his resume. And the Bush presidency counters Jacoby's argument, regardless of one's views about Bush's success in grasping foreign policy on the job.
Assume that one approves of George Bush's foreign policy initiatives. Then his lack of experience did not hurt the country. Either he learned on the job or his advisers really did help him. Such a voter might vote for Bush anyway, but the Bush presidency should make that voter ignore Edwards's lack of experience.
Assume instead that one disapproves of George Bush's foreign policy initiatives. Then his lack of experience did hurt the country. Either he could not learn on the job or his advisers really did not help him. Such a voter would vote for Edwards in spite of his lack of experience, not least because lack of experience is surely more important in a presidential candidate than a vice presidential candidate.
With ideological enemies like this, who needs friends (not that you'll see a surfeit of those in the so-called liberal Boston Globe).
Kerry's Secret Weapon
Yes, everyone's been talking about Michael Moore's new movie. And there are a lot of worthy books that seek to explain to undecided voters just how important the 2004 election is.
One of the most important persons in American media today is royalled peeved at George Bush, and he has no quibbles about being unfair on unbalanced.
George Bush, meet John Kerry's secret weapon: Howard Stern (thanks to the untiring souls at Boston Radio Watch).
This morning, on his nationally syndicated radio show (heard locally on WBCN 104.1FM), Howard Stern announced that is making his on-air return in five of the six radio markets where radio giant Clear Channel dumped the program off their station in late February (BRW 2/26). In addition, his company, Infinity Broadcasting, will also begin syndicating him to four new markets starting on July 19th.
Among the nine radio markets where Stern will be heard again or for the first time, there are four which are located in the two major battleground states of the upcoming 2004 Election—Florida and Pennsylvania. Since being dropped by radio giant Clear Channel,a major financial contributor to the Republican Party and President Bush's campaign, Stern has been going after GW with near-obsessive zeal, a notable development in the talk radio medium in which 20 of the top 30 national
talk-show hosts are conservatives, including the top-rated Limbaugh, Savage and Hannity....
Stern keeps claiming that his listeners, who are not very politically active, could be swayed to vote against Bush. When Clear Channel pulled the plug on
Stern this past winter, it took him off the air in the two Florida markets, leaving untold numbers of irate fans in a state where the last presidential election was
decided by mere 537 votes.
Nationwide, 17 percent of likely voters listen to Stern's radio show, according to the poll released in early June, they favor Kerry over Bush by 53 percent to 43 percent, and by 59 to 37 percent in 18 battleground
12 July 2004
Haaretz has an interesting "Make Your Point" piece on "The Wall."
NoamChomsky has his own interesting take on "The Wall."
"If the goal were security, Israel would have built the fence a few km inside its borders. It could then be a mile high, patrolled on both sides by the IDF, mined with nuclear weapons, utterly impenetrable. Perfect security.
The problem would be that it would not take valuable Palestinian land and resources (including control of water), drive out the population, and lay the basis for still further expansion as Palestinians flee from the dungeons that are left, like the town of Qalqilya. So to interpret as a land grab seems appropriate."
Who Does She Think She Is, Hillary?
ABC is reporting that "Lynne Cheney, the vice president's wife and mother of a lesbian, said Sunday that states should have the final say over the legal status of personal relationships. That stand puts her at odds with the vice president on the need for the constitutional amendment now under debate in the Senate that effectively would ban gay marriage."
11 July 2004
Where's The Love?
Confirmation that Ron Reagan will give a prime-time speech at the Democratic National Convention on stem cell research has brought out the ugly side of a number of Freepers.
Based on a story in the Los Angeles Times, members of either the intelligence community or the Bush administration deliberately mislead the American public on the facts surrounding weapons of mass destruction.
"In a classified National Intelligence Estimate prepared before the Iraq war, the CIA hedged its judgments about Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction, pointing up the limits of its knowledge. But in the unclassified version of the NIE—the so-called white paper cited by the Bush administration in making its case for war—those carefully qualified conclusions were turned into blunt assertions of fact, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on prewar intelligence.
'The intelligence community's elimination of the caveats from the unclassified white paper misrepresented their judgments to the public, which did not have access to the classified National Intelligence Estimate containing the more carefully worded assessments,' the Senate panel's report concluded."
Former CIA Director George J. Tenet and Acting Chairman of the National Intelligence Council Stu Cohen are reported to have told the Senate Intelligence Committee that they did not know who was responsible for inserting those words into the unclassified document.
Given the open testimony of former Clinton and Bush administration official Richard Clarke, who has stated under oath that he was pushed to dress up the evidence against Iraq in a similar manner by President Bush, you would think that the Senate Intelligence Committee would have asked the president to testify under oath. Then again, I guess, perjury traps are more important in cases of sex than ones of national security and war.
For those who have not seen it, here is a copy of the Senate Intelligence Committee's Iraq Report.
(July 13th update: this version of the Senate report has searchable text.)
The Fog Of War Relived
I just finished viewing "The Fog Of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara, Jr.", the Errol Morris documentary. As is my habit, I often wait for films to come out on DVD and then buy a previously viewed tape once they become available. I highly recommend the DVD version, which contains additional footage along with McNamara's own "Ten Lessons." In editing the film, Morris combines extended discussion by McNamara along with archival footage in eleven separate sections and an epilogue. Morris prefaces each of these sections with a specific "Lesson." McNamara, not wanting to give the editor the last word, adds his own "Lessons" as an addendum. After viewing the film, it should surprise no one that unlike Morris's "Lessons," which are only a few words, McNamara's "Lessons" are a paragraph in length to ensure we do not miss the complexity.
I also recommend Tom Ryan's interview with Morris from earlier this year, wherein Ryan elicits some fascinating commentary from Morris about the film, McNamara, history, and current events. I found it interesting that a man who admitted to hating McNamara for much of his life has given the former Secretary of Defense, through his editing, an almost sympathetic portrayal. Given his portrayal of McNamara, Morris's harsh words for George W. Bush's conduct as president, as expressed to Ryan, are equally fascinating. Alas, despite critical acclaim, Morris's insight on Bush, and McNamara's "Ten Lessons", did not get the widespread hearing they deserve. If they did, Bush would not be a viable candidate. Maybe not. Maybe the nature of America is just unwilling to accept the responsibility that comes with learning such lessons.
10 July 2004
Lauer vs. Moore vs. bin Laden
I caught the segment of Matt Lauer's interview with Yeslam bin Laden, the half-brother of Osama bin Laden, that was aired on Friday's "Today" show. The segment of the interview infuriated me because Lauer dragged Michael Moore's film, "Fahrenheit 9/11" into the interview in a manner that I thought was unfair to the filmmaker and his film. The facts in question relate to members of the bin Laden family and Saudi nationals being given passage out of the US after 9/11. Lauer offers the half-brother of bin Laden the opportunity to challenge facts that Moore does not assert in the film. bin Laden, of course, denies what was never alleged.
Moore clearly states in his film that the passage was granted after September 13, 2001. Given that Moore references, "in all, 142 Saudis, including 24 members of the bin Laden family, were allowed to leave the country," it is understandable that Moore does not give exact dates for each flight. Lauer and NBC can fault Moore for not adding the clarification that the airports were reopened, but they should not leave the viewer with the impression that Moore's film is factually flawed. My reaction was that Lauer could have simply asked bin Laden's brother to state the facts and circumstances surrounding family members leaving the country. Instead, he chose to insert Moore and his film into the question in a negligent manner.
I calmed down after reading the full transcript of the Dateline interview. I still believe Moore's work was unfairly referenced, but Lauer does ask a number of good questions. I needed to remind myself that this was a consensual interview, not a deposition. Alas, I doubt the viewer comes away from such an interview more informed. I have gone back to an unofficial transcript of Fahrenheit 9/11 and believe the film holds up well to its critics. I suggest that critics read the transcript and ask themselves whether the factual statements made by Moore, or made by others and included in Moore's film, are "True" or "Not True." Moore is not responsible for the statements of others included in his film, including those of a United States Senator and retired FBI agent, a point Lauer and NBC should understand. However, the facts and opinions of these third parties do support Moore's thesis.
I would like to make a point that a viewer of the Dateline interview may not be aware. The Saudi government admits that members of the bin Laden family and Saudi nationals did get "special treatment." As a point of reference, Moore's film has a clip of Prince Bandar acknowledging that the Saudi government, with the cooperation of the FBI (Executive Branch reporting to the POTUS) did what is alleged in Moore's film. The language Bandar uses is telling: "So in cooperation with the FBI, we got them out." Moore makes a very strong case that the "special treatment" is due to Prince Bandar's and the Saudi government's close ties to the Bush family.
I guess NBC could not air the clip because Bandar made the statement on CNN.
08 July 2004
Electoral College Breakdown
Interesting site on the Electoral College Breakdown tied to a Freeper. It is worth a read.
05 July 2004
Another Republican Idiot
I was just watching Hardball (Monday, July 5, 2004) and almost fell off my chair. Chris Matthews had both Democratic Representative Charles Rangel of New York and Republican Representative David Dreier of California on discussing a myriad of issues. Dreier, in an attempt to tie John Kerry to the Left of the Democratic Party mockingly suggested that Kerry should choose Rangel as his running mate (which would be fine with me.) Then he turned the mocking to racism, when he jokingly responded to Matthews' attempt to move on by stating that he was only trying to take Chris back to his youth in Swaziland, an independent member of Commonwealth Southern Africa, between Mozambique and South Africa. I know little of Matthews's upbringing, but it appears he spent time in Africa. Rangel's demeanor during that segment went from joking and friendly to stern and quiet. After a commercial break Rangel was back in a fighting mood. Let's see if the transcript publishes the quote verbatim. I apologize that I can not repeat the exact words.
Postscript...Here is the transcript. The transcript has a number of errors and the reference to "Crosstalk" mutes some of the effect of Dreier's comments.
Homeland Security Starts With Keeping Nader Off the Ballot
I am writing from Burlington, Vermont, overlooking Lake Champlain, where I am spending three days celebrating our nation's independence and dropping my daughter off at camp.
Despite prevailing winds off the Lake that blow west to east, residents of this small city lean to the Left. They also congregate in Church Street Market Place, a strip of shops, restaurants, coffee houses, and bars in downtown Burlington. Women appear to outnumber men, however, one can run into a bird of the species more common to the Red States, the White Conservative Male. The man sitting across from me on a Fourth of July dinner boat was transferred from San Antonio, Texas to the Green Mountain State. He tells me he works in a “Big Government Program” with the moniker, Homeland Security. Given the need to protect national security he cannot fill me in on the particulars of his work. (My wife would tell me later that he was likely there checking up on me, and my close proximity to the Canadian border.) The gentleman has put in for a transfer back to the Southwest to get away from the "cold" and the "socialists." Despite all of the above he was a likeable chap.
Back to Church Street Market Place, where I encounter a middle-aged man promoting the Green Party and collecting signatures to get Ralph Nader on the ballot for president. Given that the Green Party's recent nomination did not go to Nader, I want to explain to the gentleman that those two promos were mutually exclusive. Alas, my daughter, who looks askance at my willingness to engage strangers in banter, physically restrains me from approaching the man and his table.
I would like to report that in all of my trips to Church Street over a three-day period, I only saw one individual engage the man in conversation. Even in Burlington, Vermont, the luster has worn off a Nader campaign that helped elect George W. Bush four years ago, led to the war in Iraq and a greater subordination of the vast majority of American workers to corporations and the managerial class.
Just a reminder: Homeland Security starts with keeping Nader off the ballot.
02 July 2004
A familiar refrain in the news in Boston is the ongoing struggle between the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association and Mayor Tom Menino over the next police contract. The old one expired two years ago, and the two sides at at loggerheads over a numbr of issues, notably how large the base pay hike will be.
So, it's not surprising that the Patrolmen's Association has picketed some high-profile installations, including the site for the Democratic National Convention and the United States Conference of Mayors, which recently met in Boston.
John Kerry has a lot of reasons to defer to the Boston police, even if he thinks that the patrolmen are either being greedy or being a bit too aggressive. First, Kerry wants union members to think of him as a friend to labor. (In the early primaries, many union members voted for Gephardt or Edwards.) Second, he wants police union leaders to endorese him for president. (In 2002, the state police endorsed Republican Mitt Romney for governor, and, famously, in 1988, they endorsed George H. W. Bush over Michael Dukakis, who was then the state's own governor.) Third, and most importantly, Kerry doesn't want to tick off this union so much that it pickets the Democratic convention later this month.
Mayor Menino is not so much a pragmatist; the rift between Menino and Kerry is almost tangible. Kerry, who had planned to appear with Menino at the conference of mayors, decided not to cross the picket lines, so Mitt Romney made the appearance instead.
It's hardly waffling, let alone surprising, that a progressive candidate who has earned endorsements from key labor unions would generally refuse to cross union picket lines. But you wouldn't know that from reading Joan Vennochi's column on the whole debate:
John Kerry refuses to waver when it comes to one key issue—what is best for John Kerry.
To that end, Kerry is sticking with Thomas Nee, the president of the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association, who recently compared negotiating a labor contract with Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino to dealing "with the Mafia." Kerry canceled a scheduled speech before the US Conference of Mayors rather than cross an informational picket line set up by Nee's organization. Governor Mitt Romney, a Republican, faced down 100 picketing police officers to replace Kerry.
No, John Kerry is doing what he considers the best thing for the national party, which may not be the most convenient thing for the mayors who were hoping to hear him speak, or even for Tom Menino. Sometimes politics requires making tough choices.
And it is not surprising to note who gladly crossed the picket line—Governor Mitt Romney. As I expected, the sage at Romney is a Fraud put Romney's literal crossing g of the cops in perspective:
On Saturday, Romney turned down an invitation to address the Conference. Yet on Monday, in a naked effort to show up Sen. John Kerry, Romney flipped on his earlier position and crossed the picket line to address the group. (source: Boston Globe, 6/29/2004)
When endorsed by the Police Association, Romney/Healey Inc claimed "We care about law enforcement in a way that (others) do not." (source: Cape Cod Time, 10/29/2002)
That sort of flip-flopping or waffling will surely go unnoticed by sages like Joan Vennochi.
01 July 2004
The Best Written Presidential Memoir of All Time
While clearly stating that Clinton did not write a perfect book, Douglas Brinkley, director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies, gave the memoir high praise: "My Life is without question the best written presidential tome of all time." Brinkley, a historian who has penned a number of presidential biographies, wrote about Clinton in a commentary published in today's Financial Times.
How is it that virtually every short piece referencing Clinton's memoir I have seen on American television has focused primarily on his sexual tryst with Monica Lewinsky and his response to questions about that affair? Alas, even the graphic added to Brinkley's commentary in the Financial Times has Kenneth Star and Monica Lewinsky peaking out from behind Clinton and his book. Brinkley, to his credit, only names these two in a one-sentence reference to "media hype." FT is to be praised for publishing Brinkley's thoughtful piece but it's sad to see a fine publication fall prey to "media hype."
Axis of Drivel
Remember when North Korea was part of the Axis of Evil, and the Clinton administration was clearly foolish to have appeased that evil regime with offers of power plants in exchange for halting its nuclear program? Guess what the Bish administration wants to do? Trade power plants for a dismantling of the North Korean nuclear program. But the Bush administration wishes to inform you that it is not appeasing Eastasia.
As Fred Kaplan reports at Slate, the administration's policy towards North Korea seems nothign more than bloody incompetent:
It's good that Bush has at last realized that diplomacy is the only way to solve the crisis. But he's come a bit late to this epiphany. North Korea has greatly strengthened its hand in the interim. Two years ago, its 8,000 fuel rods were padlocked under international inspection. Now, they've been reprocessed into bomb-grade plutonium.
Had Bush made the offer back when he first had the chance, Kim Jong-il probably would have taken it. Kim may take it still; his closest allies, the Chinese, are urging him to. But if he behaves the way he usually behaves—the way any cunningly rational leader in his position would behave—he will up the ante, ask for more, and walk away with a shrug if Bush declines. And he knows that there's not much Bush can do about it.
Bush has stunningly mishandled this confrontation. He has allowed North Korea—the most rickety spoke on his "axis of evil," a dangerous regime by any measure—to reach the crest of becoming a nuclear power. He has dismissed numerous opportunities to nip this disaster in the bud. And now he comes up with an old formula that evades the recent shift in the balance.
In short, by his own careless arrogance, the president of the world's most powerful nation has allowed himself to be outmaneuvered by the very model of a modern tinhorn dictator.
In a sane world, Colin Powell would be wondering whether this turn of events finally makes him tender his resignation.
Great News from Canada
For a while it looked like the Conservatives in Canada (not to be confused with the erstwhile Progressive Conservative party, widely derided as neither) would have a plurality of seats in the new Canadian parliament. A host of Liberal missteps, including a truly embarassing series of revelations of payments of millions of dollars to friendly advertising firms for little to no work, had damaged the longtime ruling party.
In the end, the Liberals maintained a plurality, but not a majority, in parliament. And that is good news for the New Democratic Party, the Canadian social democrats.
For a couple of hours on Monday night, the Liberals and New Democrats together led enough ridings to guarantee a majority together, but early NDP leads in several British Columbia ridings proved to be illusory. But it will nevertheless hold 19 seats in the new parliament, up from 14. But the gain in seats is not the truly good news. because the Liberals do not command a majority, they will need to rely on members of other parties, and for the most part, that will mean relying on the NDP and the Bloc Qeubecois, which generally leans left on many issues.
The worst possible outcome would have been a Conservative victory, but an outright Liberal majority, one that could continue to ignore the NDP, would still have been lousy. But now the NDP is suddenly important. The NDP leader, Jack Layton, has already promised to push for legislation authorizing proportional representation.
The high-water mark for the NDP was 43 seats in the 1988 election, but the NDP has formed only temporary alliances with either the Liberals or Progressive Conservatives in previous parliaments. The new parliament gives the party new power and new responsibility. Failure to hold the Liberals accountable will surely hurt the NDP in the next election.
Fairness and Respect
Jeff Jacoby, the hardline conservative on the op-ed page of the Boston Globe is, not surprisingly, thoroughly opposed to allowing gay and lesbian couples from getting married. And, not surprisingly, he was pleased to see that Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney testified to Congress last week in favor of a constitional amendment to prevent this sort of thing:
The governor was not among the gentry at the Adams-Smith wedding on Tuesday. He was in Washington, telling the Senate Judiciary Committee why the high court of his own state was wrong to throw out the timeless definition of marriage. His testimony was an occasion of genuine leadership. Few mainstream politicians have stepped up to make a principled case in support of that timeless definition, and so far none has done so as cogently as Romney.
Jacoby's argument rests on parenthood as the cultural foundation for marriage, and, historically, parenthood has required a mother and a father. Ultimately, his argument is a religious argument, an argument that resonates with a majority of Americans.
But Jacoby commits a grievous error. He writes,
Romney began and ended his testimony with a strong repudiation of prejudice and intolerance. But that won't protect him from being castigated as a bigot, a hater, a homophobe—all the insults that rain down on those who insist that gay men and lesbians can be treated with fairness and respect without abandoning something as fundamental as the meaning of marriage.
One may want to preserve the traditional rights of marriage for heterosexual couples because marriage is ultimately for the procreation and rearing of children and because children need opposite-sex parents. But by making thse claims, one is also claiming not only that homosexual couples should not be married, but also that they ought not be parents. It is very difficult to seek to deny to gay and lesbian couples the right to rear children and to claim that you are treating them with "fairness and respect." Where is the fairness? Where is the respect?
Our Mister Brooks
The delightfully acerbic and wondrously prolific James Capozzola of the Rittenhouse Review reprints a superb letter to the editor of the New York Times:
I'm tired of hearing how David Brooks is, or was, the liberals’ favorite conservative. Too often, instead of using logic to make his case, Mr. Brooks resorts to rhetorical devices and sophistry.
In "All Hail Moore," Mr. Brooks declares that liberals have turned from John Dewey, Reinhold Niebuhr and Martin Luther King Jr. to Michael Moore for intellectual and moral leadership. This is analogous to saying that Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter have replaced Edmund Burke and Milton Friedman as the conservatives' guiding lights. Or have they?
Richard Greene, Hopewell, N.J.
I had a parallel reaction upon reading Brooks's effort. He wrote that "[i]n years past, American liberals have had to settle for intellectual and moral leadership from the likes of John Dewey, Reinhold Niebuhr and Martin Luther King Jr." but now were settling for Michael Moore as their man of ideas. This would be a nasty but fair comment—if it were true.
Brooks has publicly criticized actual modern liberal philosophers like Richard Rorty and surely has heard of John Rawls and Jurgen Habermas, actual philosophers deserving of comparison to Dewey, Niebuhr, and King.
Can't the Times employ a conservative columnist with a shred of dignity? There's lots to criticize about the underpinnings of mainstream liberal politics, but it surely doesn't owe its philosophical underpinnings to Michael Moore.
Life Imitates Art
Those old and tired records and CDs in your collection are probably more relevant than they were when released. Take, for example, Bargainville by Moxy Fruvous. Originally, it had a silly song about everyone's favorite comic-book hero with a bevy of cheesy cartoons on television. But not anymore: Spidey is hot!
My spider sense is tingling
heh, heh, It sure is, in such films as:
Spidey Goes Speed Racing
Spidey: My Pal
Spidey: The Underwater Adventure Seeker
Spidey: The Fun Licker
Spidey: A Drink For All Ages
And the agitprop of the 1980s is even truer today. New Model Army forgot only to refer to the Prime Minister as a poodle when they penned 51st State of America:
Our star-spangled Union Jack flutters so proud
Over the dancing heads of the merry patriotic crowd
Tip your hat to the Yankee conqueror
We've got no reds under the bed with guns under our pillows
We're the 51st state of America