I had to do it. You can't go to the far-left blogosphere without seeing posts about how the republican party is the party of fascists. How we are but one contested election away from the fascists revealing themselves in all of their glory. You see, Bush will never give up his power, and if the voters elect the Democratic presidential candidate in 2004, Bush will unleash an army of Freepers who will overturn the election. Or so some on the far-left seem to believe with an utter conviction.
When these folks get going, they start throwing around quotes from Neiwert's Exegesis. Having now read the thing, and paid my five dollar donation to boot, I can see these conspiracy theorists either never read it or didn't understand it. For the sake of clarity, I don't support Neiwert's conclusions, but those who choose to quote him clearly didn't take the time to understand what he is saying.
When reading the document, I did my best to read it with an open mind. Neiwert's a reporter by trade and judging from the fact that he won the "National Press Club Award for Distinguished Online Journalism in 2000", he also seems to be someone who deserves to have his work read without bringing preconceived notions to the table. As I said I did my best, however Neiwert himself couldn't keep his own biases out of the document such as when he calls Bush "the Frat Boy of Destiny". So now that I've read it I'm still debating how to proceed. It's hard to debate an 87 page document in any meaningful way, and additionally I'm not much interested in defending the moron-contingent that makes up the Patriot movement. Yet there seems to be a need to address some of the excesses committed by Neiwert in the Exegesis he's written.
I suppose I can't let all of that time spent reading the Exegesis go to waste, so expect that I will periodically address various aspects of Neiwert's Exegesis over the next couple of weeks.
¶ 1:44 PM
My liberal friends often tell me that Bush will never let the Iraqis create a democracy without interfering in the process. According to them, Bush will force the Iraqis to create a very western-style democracy with no regard to the Iraqi's culture. These liberal friends of mine say all this with the greatest disdain. In their minds, Bush can't deal with cultural differences and this is one of the reasons that his plan to build a democracy in Iraq will fail. Having been regularly lectured about Bush's short-comings on this issue, I was fascinated to read what Howard Dean has to say about how an Iraqi democracy would take shape under a Dean administration.
"Now that we're there, we're stuck," he said. Bush took an "enormous risk" that through war the United States could replace Saddam Hussein and the "small danger" he presented to the United States with something better and safer. The gamble was "foolish" and "wrong." But whoever will be elected in 2004 has to live with it. "We have no choice. It's a matter of national security. If we leave and we don't get a democracy in Iraq, the result is very significant danger to the United States."
And "bringing democracy to Iraq is not a two-year proposition. Having elections alone doesn't guarantee democracy. You've got to have institutions and the rule of law, and in a country that hasn't had that in 3,000 years, it's unlikely to suddenly develop by having elections and getting the heck out." Dean would impose a "hybrid" constitution, "American with Iraqi, Arab characteristics. Iraqis have to play a major role in drafting this, but the Americans have to have the final say." Women's rights must be guaranteed at all levels.
As a matter of policy, I'm neither for or against this. I'm for women's rights, but I'm unsure just how far we can successfully push that agenda without impeding our other objectives. One thing about which I am confident however, is that if Bush were to say that American policy was to "impose a 'hybrid' consititution on the Iraqis, the majority of the political Left would be all over him for his cultural ignorance and insensitivity. It will be interesting to see if any self-identified liberals take Dean to task in a similar way.
Dean remains an unfailingly interesting politician. Check out this from the same WaPo column
One multilateral institution that might not fare so well in a Dean administration, though, is the World Trade Organization. In what would be a radical departure, China and other countries could get trade deals with the United States only if they adopted "the same labor laws and labor standards and environmental standards" as the United States. Whether or not that demand was consistent with WTO rules? "That's right." With no concession to their relative level of development? "Why should there be? They have the right to have a middle class same as everyone else."
Dean says, "We've tried it" -- NAFTA, WTO -- "for 10 years, and has it succeeded? No. . . . What's the purpose of trade? If it's to create jobs, we haven't done that in America."
He allows that former treasury secretary Robert Rubin told him: "I can't sell you on Wall Street if this is your position" on trade. But the former governor apparently can live with that. "I said, 'Bob, tell me what your solution is.' He said, 'I'll have to get back to you.' I haven't heard from him."
Being against free-trade is not a radical position for a Democratic party candidate, but to say you are directly disagreeing with the man who invented Rubinomics is pretty bold. The biggest accomplishment of the Clinton administration was the success of the economy. To oppose the Clinton approach on economic matters is nothing if not interesting.
¶ 5:39 AM
Violent and property crimes dipped in 2002 to their lowest levels since records started being compiled 30 years ago, and have dropped more than 50 percent in the past decade, the Justice Department reported yesterday. (Washington Post)
"Everyone thought the numbers would bottom out and then go back up, but it hasn't happened," said James Lynch, professor at the American University Center for Justice, Law and Society.
I'm stunned by this. I was aware that the rate of violent and property crime had gone down all through the '90s, but I thought the explanation for that, at least by "experts", was that the growing economy, particularly the magnificent job market, was responsible for the decline. Now, we have a job market that has steadily worsened over the last two years, yet we are still seeing a decline in violent and property crimes.
So how to explain the decline?
Some criminologists say tougher prison sentences and more prisons are key factors. The Justice Department reported last week that at the end of 2001, more than 5.6 million adults -- one in every 37 U.S. adults -- were either in state or federal prison or had done prison time during their lives.
But of course, some groups have an agenda that makes that explanation unacceptable.
Others say that theory is refuted by the government's own data. The Justice Policy Institute, which favors alternatives to prison, pointed out that regions with higher prison expansion rates, such as the South and West, experienced more homicides in 2002.
Ah, but is this just cleverly presented spin? On the surface it looks like it. The Justice Department is talking about a drop in ALL violent and propert crime. The Justice Policy Institute doesn't talk about ALL violent and property crime, instead it looks only at homicides and only in specific regions. It looks like they combed through the report to spin the data. That may not be the case, but the reporter seems to only have sought a quote from an opposition party to "balance" the story. In the context of the story the quote from the Justice Policy Insititute tells us nothing, except possibly where its biases lay.
On a different note. Also in the story
Attorney General John D. Ashcroft credited citizens for being more willing to report crimes and said the numbers are a tribute to the work of police, prosecutors and judges.
Jeebus. He really does want to encourage us all to spy on each other, doesn't he?
Steve Gilliard defends Ann Coulter, and in so doing, attacks Joe Conason (scroll down to Friday, August 22). This is interesting on so many levels. Having not read Big Lies, I don't know if Steve is right or not, but he deserves credit for having the b*lls to do this given what his readership probably thinks of both Conason and Coulter.
¶ 8:59 AM
Saturday, August 23, 2003
Judge Roy Moore of Alabama Is a Theocrat And a Moron to Boot
Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore warned a religious audience Tuesday night of "great consequences" when America turns away from God and suggested the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks might be an example.
Moore, in Washington to accept an honorary doctorate in divinity from the National Clergy Council and Methodist Episcopal Church USA, implied a parallel between the attacks and what he contends has been a 40-year legal erosion of several religious rights, including his own right to display the Ten Commandments in court.
He pointed out similarities between the devastation and the biblical words of Isaiah, who had forecast a "day of great slaughter, when the towers fall." He compared that forecast to the attack on the World Trade Center's twin towers.
"How many of you remember Americans running to get gas masks because (of) some bearded man in Afghanistan?" Moore asked during his address at Georgetown University. "Fear struck this country
. . . You see, there are consequences when we turn away from our source of our strength."
The remarks on the 2001 attacks came near the end of the chief justice's speech, which lasted about 30 minutes. Up to then, he had largely discussed his political fight to return prayer to school and the commandments to the public square, using animal analogies and rhyming poems to outline his case.
In 2001, the Rev. Jerry Falwell was widely criticized when he said on evangelist Pat Robertson's TV show that pagans, abortionists, feminists, homosexuals and civil liberties groups have secularized the nation and helped the Sept. 11 attacks happen. Moore wasn't that specific, but he strongly hinted at a causal relationship between the attacks and what he contends is the gradual removal of righteousness from society.
The man's unfit for a judgeship. I'm not anti-religion. I am anti-moron.
¶ 7:47 PM
Howard Dean wrote an article for the WSJ's editorial page(free on the web) and yet there was no comment from Atrios or Kos. I guess the fact that Atrios didn't comment or link to Dean's Op-Ed isn't that surprising. Atrios hasn't come out in favor of any specific candidate yet. Kos' neglect to link or comment is a little more surprising to me, since kos is an explicit supporter of Dean.
Anyway, to me the most radical piece of Dean's proposals was
As president, my economic policies will be focused and clear. I will begin by repealing the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, and using the revenues that result from the repeal to address the needs of the average American, invest in the nation's infrastructure and, through tax reform, put money in the hands of those most likely to spend it.
The 2001 tax cuts? Across the board? That is a political loser if I ever heard one. I think a proposal to repeal the 2003 tax cuts and parts of the 2001 tax cuts could fly with the majority of Americans. But to repeal the tax relief given to the lowest income-earners? That's political suicide. His supporters say he's a centrist. Parts of Dean's record can certainly be held up to show he is a centrist. Repealing all the 2001 taxes? He will be easily branded a far-left nut by his political opponents.
One small nit to pick with another part of Dean's article.
As Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Tyagi point out in their forthcoming book "The Two Income Trap," today's two-income families earn 75% more money than their single-income counterparts did a generation ago, but they actually have less money to spend. For many, personal bankruptcies have become the rule rather than the exception. This year more children will live through their parents' bankruptcy than through their parents' divorce.
Whose fault is that? Many two-income families are choosing to live beyond their means. Why is that a problem for government to solve? What is Dean's point? That the American ethic of personal responsibility has deteriorated further than ever before? And his solution is to repeal taxes? Whuuuuu?
Americans have chosen to run up their debt. Yes, chosen. There are some exceptions to that statement. Sometimes life hits you with a curve that you simply do not anticipate, but that doesn't seem to be the root of the bankruptcy problem in America today. Two years ago, I was looking for a house in a major metropolitan area. I was stunned at the huge subdivisions of homes where the starting price of a home was over $500,000. I remember asking my realtor, How can people afford to buy homes that are so expensive? That's when she told me that the zip code where all of these expensive houses were located also had the highest bankruptcy rate in the entire state. The people living in those homes knew, or certainly should have known, that a downturn in their job situation would force them into an untenable situation. Yet they chose to close their eyes to potential downsides. When they lose their job and have to declare bankruptcy six months later, Why should those of us who made different choices feel sorry for them? Or as Dean suggests, seek ways the government can help them.
¶ 7:12 PM
A leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas on Saturday called President Bush an enemy of Islam because the U.S. government froze the assets of Hamas leaders in response to a suicide bombing of a bus in Jerusalem.
On Friday, the United States froze the assets of six Hamas leaders, including Rantisi, an aide to Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the group's spiritual leader. The United States also froze the assets of five European-based organizations that it said raise money for the radical Palestinian group.
Bush said he ordered the assets frozen because Hamas claimed responsibility for Tuesday's suicide attack on a packed bus in Jerusalem that killed 20 people, including six children.
Maybe we are headed towards WW4 as former CIA Director Woolsey describes our War on Terror (in Woolsey's parlance WW3 was the Cold War). This is a scary development. In some ways, confronting Hamas head-on seems unavoidable. When we look at root causes for the problems in the Middle East, the first problem is always the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Tying up Hamas funding seems to be a logical step in trying to affect change there, but I'm no expert on all of the challenges the conflict presents. I'm not going to pretend to know if this ultimately gets us closer to resolving the conflict, or not.
I just know this new development has me feeling awfully uneasy.
¶ 6:17 PM
Franken, a satirist and former writer for "Saturday Night Live," admitted in a letter last month that he deliberately tried to mislead Ashcroft when he sought personal information from him.
"In the letter, I indicated that I wanted your story for a book about abstinence-only sex education entitled 'Savin' It!' I claimed that I had already received testimonies from several conservative leaders, which I had not," he wrote.
"The letter was sent as part of a satirical book I'm working on, which will contain only one or two chapters dealing with abstinence-only sex education."
In June, Franken wrote to Ashcroft requesting his personal story, adding that he had already received testimonials from National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson and values guru William J. Bennett, among others.
So, did Franken have an epiphany that what he'd done was wrong? Is that why he apologized to Ashcroft? Perhaps. Or maybe Franken's apology has more to do with his fear of legal trouble, not from Ashcroft, but from Harvard University's Shorenstein Center for Press and Politics at the Kennedy School of Government.
Franken wrote his request to Ashcroft on letterhead from Harvard University's Shorenstein Center for Press and Politics at the Kennedy School of Government, where he was a fellow during the spring term.
But the school never gave permission for the use of their letterhead, and apparently wasn't pleased with Franken's prank, which he acknowledged in the apology.
"My biggest regret is sending the letter on Shorenstein Center stationery, I can assure you that no one at the Shorenstein Center had knowledge of the letter before I sent it," Franken wrote. "I am very embarrassed to have put them in this awkward and difficult position, and I ask you not to hold this against the Center, the Kennedy School, or Harvard in general."
The ultimate irony, of course, is that Franken did this to provide material for his book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right.
Pot... meet kettle.
UPDATE: The Smoking Gun has the letter available here. I also fixed the broken link.
UPDATE 2: Alright. Fair and Balanced j has swung me on this. Reading the full text of the first Franken letter, I think most people would catch it as a joke. Now, Ashcroft doesn't come across to me as the kind of guy who would necessarily get the joke, but I'm willing to retract the accusation of lying I made against Franken. Using the Shorenstein Center letterhead, well that's a little more iffy. It seems clear that Franken's letter of apology was driven by the fact that the Shorenstein folks were upset with his use of their letterhead.
¶ 7:21 AM
Those who profess concern for the state of American democracy or honesty in democratic debate - as Ivins, Jackson and Dean all do - should do their part to improve the discourse by refraining from rhetorical excesses and falsehoods.
The hypocrisy continues from both sides of the fence.
¶ 11:03 AM
Recycling Urban Legends
Matt Bivens, writing for the Daily Outrage, tries to get some mileage over George Bush's complaint that reporters viewed the CA governor's election as the "biggest political story out there". In the process, he writes
In any case, you have to go back to his father's single term in office, when Bush I expressed shock and delight at the sight of a supermarket price scanner, to find a president so out of touch with the rest of America.
The myth of Bush I's reaction to a supermarket price scanner belongs in the pantheon of urban legends that stick, even though untrue. Just as Gore was wrongly accused of saying he invented the internet, Bush I is wrongly accused of being shocked and delighted by supermarket scanners. Snopes has the goods.
Then the details of the story started to dribble out. Andrew Rosenthal of The New York Times hadn't even been present at the grocers' convention. He based his article on a two-paragraph report filed by the lone pool newspaperman allowed to cover the event, Gregg McDonald of the Houston Chronicle, who merely wrote that Bush had a "look of wonder" on his face and didn't find the event significant enough to mention in his own story. Moreover, Bush had good reason to express wonder: He wasn't being shown then-standard scanner technology, but a new type of scanner that could weigh groceries and read mangled and torn bar codes.
The New York Times then defended Rosenthal's original article by reviewing videotape of the event and proclaiming that both ordinary and newfangled scanners had been demonstrated for President Bush, and that he was clearly "unfamiliar with" and "impressed" by the former:
The New York Times seemed to be one the only major print medium to take this view of the event, however. Newsweek screened the same tape and reported: "Bush acts curious and polite, but hardly amazed." Michael Duffy of Time magazine called the whole thing "completely insignificant as a news event. It was prosaic, polite talk, and Bush is expert at that. If anything, he was bored." And Bob Graham of NCR, who demonstrated the scanner technology for President Bush, said, ''It's foolish to think the president doesn't know anything about grocery stores. He knew exactly what I was talking about.''
(I myself would point out that even technology we've encountered many times before takes on a whole new fascination when we actually get to try it "hands-on" and see how it works. I may have ridden Disneyland's "Pirates of the Caribbean" attraction so many times that I have every detail of it memorized, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't find going behind-the-scenes for a glimpse of the underlying technology a fascinating experience. Certainly my fascination would not be an valid indication that I had never been to Disneyland before.)
The Snopes article has more details, all properly sourced. But you get the picture.
¶ 7:27 AM
Racial Politics Hurting School Children
Cynthia Tucker is the editorial page editor for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Because this opinion piece is about race, it seems relevant to mention that Ms. Tucker is black. And her politics would make her comfortable writing for The Nation. It goes without saying that a non-black writing the article below would likely have no effect on the situation. It's hopeful to see an influential black leader like Ms. Tucker dare to go after other black "leaders" in this way.
Just once, I'd like to see black civil rights activists take to the streets to protest schools that miseducate black children. Just once, I'd like to see so-called black leaders up in arms about popular culture's casual acceptance of mediocrity (and worse) in black students.
But that's not the typical story line of black protest in matters related to education. The plot, ever so predictable, usually goes like this:
A black teacher or principal is fired. Black activists call a press conference to denounce the alleged racism of white school officials.
Or, school officials propose that new teachers be required to pass a standardized test. Black activists immediately declare the requirement racist.
Or, blacks win a majority of seats on a school board. They immediately institute a purge, eliminating whites from top administrative spots.
So it goes in Clayton County, where the Rev. Jesse Jackson met recently with a handful of black school board members, including the chairwoman, Nedra Ware. The antics of the black faction she leads have cast a pall over the entire school system and invited the unfortunate attentions of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which has threatened to strip the school system of its accreditation.
The meeting suggests that Jackson is ready to encourage the board's foolish race-baiting. That's the last thing Clayton's schools need.
In the last decade, Clayton County has undergone a rapid demographic transformation from a majority white population to majority black; blacks now hold five of the nine seats on the school board. Given that power, you'd think that the board's black majority would devote its time and energy to raising test scores, lowering the drop-out rate or increasing the rate of college attendance. Oh, no-o-o.
Instead, in a clumsy coup attempt, they moved in secret to try to fire the white superintendent, though they never publicly disclosed his shortcomings, if any. He left after they agreed to buy out his contract, costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. (Board member Ericka Davis, who is black, has resisted Ware's folly.)
The Ware junta then hastily appointed a lower-ranking black administrator, William Chavis, as interim superintendent. Chavis admits he was just a "figurehead," hired to harass or fire the junta's enemies.
The board's foolishness has rocked the suburban county, prompting teachers to flee, business leaders to fret about the bad publicity and parents (black and white) to threaten a recall vote. Ware et al. have responded predictably: Any criticism is just another example of white racism.
Never mind that the population of Clayton schools is now 72 percent black. Never mind that black children constitute the majority of the victims of this petty power trip.
The politics of black protest too seldom seem aimed at improving the scholarship of black children. Those students are treated as just pawns in a game whose goals are preserving the positions of black politicians and the jobs of black teachers and principals.
There are, of course, countless black teachers and principals dedicated to educating all children: black, white and brown. They toil endlessly; they fret over failures; they applaud successes. They believe all children can learn, and they work hard to make sure they do. I know because I am the child of two such teachers.
But the public face of black activism in education is concerned more narrowly -- with jobs and titles, not children. The voices of public protest are more likely to demand an incompetent black teacher be rehired than to insist that no incompetent teachers, black or white, be allowed to cripple black children.
Jackson claims his educational advocacy emphasizes parental responsibility; he has developed a seven-point plan that includes urging parents to turn off the TV for several hours in the evenings and read to their children. But he acknowledged that he discussed hiring and promotion of black administrators with Ware and her cohorts.
Unfortunately, Jackson is more readily associated with racial divisiveness than parental responsibility. If he injects himself further into the Clayton County schools debacle, the children will be shortchanged, again.
CONSERVATISM WITHOUT THE HATE
email me at erik_cons-at-hotmail.com
Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education alone will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.