Saturday, July 31, 2004

Lagniappe: "Results Matter" Catalogue, continued - Even the ultra-conservative, pro-Bush Washington Times reports that U.S. firms are experiencing punishing sanctions from the EU because of certain U.S. export subsidies that the WTO has ruled against. Result: A projected $36 billion tax bill to be paid by U.S. exporters to the EU over the March 1 - September 1, 2004 time period. Remember, Bush said it himself: "RESULTS MATTER."

Lagniappe: "Results Matter" Catalogue - You know, I've been thinking that I should hold Bush to his own campaign theme. Everytime I see some "results" that the Bush Administration seems to have produced or its policies have influenced, I'll pass the news along to you. If you come across any such "results," please pass them my way so that I can reference them or post them.

Let's start with this lovely bit of news concerning the airline industries. Seems like the Airlines are poised to shed their pension plans (instead of reducing CEO salaries). The impact: (1) workers who have invested their retirements in Airline pension plans are looking at an uncertain retirement future; and (2) if the Airlines do shed their pension plans, then the U.S. federal agency that insures pension plans against precisely this kind of eventuality, will have to cover the bailout bill. This means that, like the Savings & Loans Scandals of the 1980s, the U.S. taxpayer will be footing the bill for the failure of the free market to regulate incompetence, greed, and fraud. All on the watch of Bush. Remember, Bush said it himself: "RESULTS MATTER."

Lagniappe: Perfect Bush - Let me tell you what I think sums up the idiocy of George W. Bush and the delusional world he must live in. A couple of days ago, Bush made a speech in which he called on the U.S. citizenry to look at actual, conrete "results" as a basis for evaluating his accomplishments in office versus that of his opponent for the Presidency, John Kerry. The article I read on the AP Newswire Webpage indicated that this theme will be prominent in the next phase of the Bush campaign. So, "results" ... Hmmm ... And on the same day, in an article published by the very same AP Newswire referenced on the same webpage as the piece on Bush's "results" speech, there was an article discussing how the Office of the President had just announced a revised deficit projection of circa $450 billion, a record federal deficit in U.S. history!!!!! Bush wants us to look at "results"?!?!?!?!? I'd say a record deficit of $450 billion is quite a "result" for evaluating the fiscal profligacy of his administration and by far enough reason in and of itself to warrant voting Bush out of office. How idiotic can the man be??? And we haven't even touched upon the "results" of the Iraq War and its abysmal aftermath. People! Wake up and take off the blinders!! This man is not fit to lead this country. He is a joke.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Kingfishery & Kingcakery: Louisiana Lib-Bloggers - There are many folk out there who think of Louisiana as a conservative backwater, firmly and squarely in the pockets of Bush and the GOP. But, I've got some news for them. Louisiana is a blue-dog state -- fiercely independent and connected at the gut level to core liberal principles. Louisiana is the land of Huey Long and Edwin Edwards and John Breaux and J. Bennett Johnston and Cleo Fields and Kathleen Blanco. Louisiana is the land of progressive partying and a strange kind of live-and-let-live tolerance for all shades and stripes of people and lifestyles. Louisiana is the land that went for Clinton twice and has never had a GOP Senator in modern times. Whether or not Bush wins the state this November, there are some sharp liberal Louisiana-rooted minds out there. And all you have to do is check out the blogs of my new-found Louisiana Lib-Blog Community to see what I'm talking about.

For instance, there's YatPundit, who is an accomplished writer and artist, who, when he has the time, writes some great stuff on his blog. He's been taking it easy this summer on the blog, but rest assured that when he gets it going again, it's gonna be good.

There's also osyter of Your Right Hand Thief blog who always represents what I think is best about pure liberalism in that he keeps an open mind and a balanced perspective, constantly encouraging and welcoming critical thinking that both blends well with his own liberal perspective and also challenges it at times.

Right up there with oyster is Michael who publishes the 2Millionth Web Blog. Michael is the Louisiana Lib-Blogger with the sharp liberal wit and with the less-forgiving keyboard for misleading conservatism. Since I like to spend time drudging around the rightwing blogosphere raising cane against stubborn wingnuts, I find Michael's blog to be a refreshing reminder of the more in-your-face, unapologetic liberalism that I need to re-sharpen the edges of my liberal core after it gets inevitably dulled and blunted by the relentless pig-headedness of unthinking conservatives.

Others who claim allegiance to the great state of Louisiana (and which influence their web blogs) include: timshel, looka [great for Louisiana music, culture, and cuisine], and Ian McGibboney. They're all great, all quite different, all liberal, and all pure Louisiana. Check them out regularly, and rest assured that you'll be hearing more about them and their commentaries in my own blog postings.

Cuaderno Latinoamericano: Bush, Cuba, and the Florida Vote - It's becoming more and more evident that Bush "ha metido el pato" (stuck his foot in it, so to say), in Florida. I see this misguided step on Bush's part as a gift to John Kerry. But, John Kerry needs to take it and run with it. He hasn't done so, yet. Don't wait, Kerry. Get down to Miami and open your mouth about your Cuba policy. Even though I'm completely for ending the embargo against Cuba entirely, I understand the sensitivity of this position in Florida. But Kerry has a shot to appease both the anti-Castro Cuban crowd AND move in a more liberalizing direction with regard to the U.S.'s Cuba policy. All Kerry has to do is simply express support for Cuban Americans and their families in Cuba, and promise to not prevent family-to-family contacts and the continuation of inter-cultural exchanges, and he'll win more of the Miami Cuban-American vote than any Democratic presidential candidate could have hoped for. He just needs to make his presence known and felt in Florida. Go to it, Kerry! Don't wait! The time is ripe for picking that Florida orange for his electoral college fruit basket.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Lagniappe: Misreading Liberals - Just a quick comment ... I've been reading a lot of the conservative press and punditocracy's reactions to the energizing atmosphere and brilliant speeches at the Democratic National Convention. (and doesn't it always seem to be a much funkier party at the Democratic Convention than at the more stuffy GOP conventions? Anyway ...) What I've noticed is that conservatives want to paint this as a fraud. Here's what I imagine goes through the conservative mind: "Now, how can that exciting, resonant, and unified Democratic Party that is rearing its multicultural head really be the hateful, divisive, race-baiting, security-soft, foreign-policy dereft, anti-patriotic group of people that Rush Limbaugh and Dick Cheney have told me defines liberal identity?"

This contradiction baffles honest, reflective conservatives. And, the fact is that bitter conservatives can't hide or acid-coat this exhilirating display of true, unified liberalism. So, what do they do? The only thing they can ... call it a fraud. Well, I've got a shocking revelation for conservatives (especially those who study Thomas Kuhn and know his premise behind the structure of scientific revolutions): if phenomenona considered exceptional happen more regularly, then one needs to reconsider the "exceptionality" of this phenomena. In other words, in plainspeak, whenever conservatives say that some liberal is not really a liberal, I note it and count it. When the number of such cases mount, I begin to wonder whether conservatives will ever realize that the "exception" in their minds is not really an "exception" at all, but rather the NORM about liberal democrats that they cannot admit to themselves. And that the fringe behavior they so often like to consider the liberal mainstream is, precisely, nothing more than fringe.

Let me set the record straight: Liberals at the Democratic Convention aren't acting as frauds at all ... They're acting as liberals!!! Bill Clinton was pure Bill Clinton. Jimmy Carter was pure Jimmy Carter. Barack Obama was pure Barack Obama. Al Sharpton was pure Al Sharpton. John Edwards was pure John Edwards. And I'm sure that John Kerry will be pure John Kerry. What the world is seeing (and what conservatives cannot get their minds around) is that the Liberalism of the Democratic Party of this Convention is the Liberalism of Democrats all over the country at all times. No matter what people say, a majority of Liberal Democrats are devout religious folk; Liberal Democrats are, at core, patriotic pro-United States citizens; the vast majority of Liberal Democrats are not socialists/communists; Liberal Democrats have pride in their homeland and want it defended and protected as much as the next person. In short, Liberal Democrats are PRECISELY that which is on exhibit at the Convention. If conservative Republicans (and even cynical liberal Democrats) want to call it a fraud, they have a right to do so. That won't change the fact that they're delusional and wrong.

The Weak in (National) Review: An NRO Writer Unwittingly Concedes Louisiana to Kerry/Edwards - Michael Know Beran has a piece in today's National Review Online in which he disparagingly compares Edwards to Huey Long. Given that Huey Long is still such a mythical figure of admiration among Louisiana residents (in spite of his personal arrogance and bombastic populism), I think equating another Southerner (Edwards) with the colorful legacy of his fellow Southern Louisiana predecessor, he just might have done the Kerry/Edwards ticket a favor in Bush-leaning and GOP-trending (but majority still Democratic) state of Louisiana.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Going Mental: Are Honest, Self-Reflecting Republicans Closet Liberal Democrats? - Is it just me or am I really witnessing a kind of ideological and intellectual meltdown among Republicans? Or are conservatives finally realizing that the liberalism of the Democratic Party and its platform is really the true American way? I mean what does one make of the fact that conservatives are explaining the Democratic Convention and its rising stars (all at one time or another branded too liberal for mainstream America) as more to their conservative liking than even Bush conservatives? Consider this ... Peter Bienart of The New Republic has argued convincingly [Subscription required to access the article] that the Democratic Convention line-up is reflective of the liberal wing of the Party (as opposed to the more moderate centrist wing). Bienart, a liberal himself (albeit a pragmatic one), claims that this should make Democrats "squirm" in discomfort because of the image it will project nationally of the unapologetic "progressive" left wing of the Democratic Party, potentially alienating more moderate/conservative independent and swing voters. When you look at the Convention Speaker line-up, you can see that he's got a point: Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Howard Dean, Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter, even Al Sharpton. On the other hand, Bienart argues that the GOP Convention line-up features speakers not at all in line with what the Bush Administration and traditional right-wing conservatism represents: John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Michael Bloomberg, Arnold Schwarzenegger, George Pataki (and only gudgingly added true conservatives like Rick Santorum and Sam Brownback to the list after some internal nudging).

So, according to Bienart, what we have here is a Democratic Convention line-up of featured speakers that caters to the liberal base of the Democratic Party and a GOP line-up that markedly doesn't cater to the conservative base of the party.

But, to listen to conservatives who are analyzing the Democratic National Convention, you'd think Bienart had it bass-ackwards!! According to folks like Andrew Sullivan, the Democratic Convention is nothing short of a conservative Convention! But Sullivan is often dismissed by the conservative right, so what does his opinion matter. The critical question is what are the true conservatives saying about the convention? Well, essentially, the same thing! For example, the National Review Online has a series of commentaries on the Democratic Convention. Predictably, the NRO pundits, on pure principle, try not to say too many good things about the Democratic Lineup. But there is this somewhat laudatory piece by Henry Payne on Michigan's telegenic Democratic Governor, Jennifer Granholm. And there's also Jack Geraghty's tribute to Barack Obama, about whom even NRO's curmudgeonly Jay Nordlinger had this to say:

About Barack Obama: He has huge presence, and it would be no surprise if he appeared on a Democratic presidential ticket one day. He is a first-rate speaker, in part because he doesn't let himself be managed by applause, and he doesn't speak too slowly. That is the curse of public speaking — slowness. Idiots are forever telling speakers, "Slow down!" They are almost always wrong.

Anyway, Obama's was a quite patriotic speech; it also offered little in the way of policy substance — no abortion, no real economics, no real foreign policy, etc.

Interestingly, he said that we must not have a blue America and a red America, a white America and a black America — we should have one America.

Hallelujah! But he should tell it to the Democratic party! (Of course, that's what he did.) For years, Democrats have specialized in racialism, in "identity politics," in Balkanization. We Republicans are the party of E pluribus unum (a slogan Obama cited). Especially pleasing was Obama's rebuke of those who hold that "a black youth with a book is acting white." Again, I hope he didn't imagine he was speaking for Republicans' benefit.
Quite interesting, wouldn't you say? But there's more. There's Roger Clegg's comment on NRO's blog, "The Corner," in which he comments on Barack Obama's speech:
Barack Obama gave a fine speech, but it was not a speech that reflects the current Democratic Party. It celebrated America as "a magical place"; it did not bemoan our racism and imperialism. It professed that this black man "owe[d] a debt to those who came before" him; it did not call for reparations. It spoke of an "awesome God"; it did not banish Him from public discourse. It admitted that black parents, and black culture, need to change the way black children are raised; it did not blame or even mention racism. It quoted "E pluribus unum" and translated it correctly as "Out of many, one"; it did not misquote it, as Al Gore infamously did, as "Many out of one." Most of all, the speech celebrated one America, "one people," and rejected the notion of a black America, a white America, a Latino America, and an Asian America--a notion completely foreign to the multiculturalism that now dominates the Democratic Party.
Tellingly, the title of Clegg's posting on NRO's blog is "Right Speech, Wrong Convention." And even this was preceded by Rich Lowry's quip on Obama:
That seemed a textbook example of how to use resonant Biblical rhetoric to make a very effective American political speech.
And Kathryn Jean-Lopez's claim that "Dems scored a homerun with Obama as their keynoter. Forward looking, eloquent, red meat, Florida dig, spirited, personal history--he's got it all." [NOTE to KJL: Barack Obama is not an outside ringer for the Democratic Party, brought in just for the show. He IS the Democratic Party.] It's quite interesting to hear such wingnut conservatives talking so nicely and admiringly about a man who, as Jack Geraghty notes in his column linked above:
While those on the right might rejoice at an African-American leader whose rhetoric is cooler than Jesse Jackson's and whose politics are closer to the mainstream than Rev. Al Sharpton, his voting record is likely to be indistinguishable from that of the Congressional Black Caucus. In the Illinois state legislature, Obama voted against a partial-birth abortion ban, for gun control, and for tax hikes.
In fact, Obama's uncontested liberal political record seem to place him squarely in the camp of those progressive, hard-core liberals that Bienart references in his article cited above. As Noam Scheiber, Bienart's colleague at The New Republic wrote in May, 2004:
When Obama entered the Senate race in January 2003, he quickly dispelled any suspicion that he might attempt to replicate Wilder's strategy for appealing to moderate whites. He was unapologetically liberal, outspoken in his opposition to the Iraq war, and proud of the progressive legislation he'd passed in the state Senate. His campaign touted his role in passing a bill intended to reduce the rate of wrongful executions by requiring homicide confessions to be videotaped and another designed to crack down on racial profiling by requiring police to record the race of individuals they searched. Obama also claimed credit for extending the life of a state-sponsored health insurance program for children and emphasized his efforts at creating a job-training program for unskilled workers.
So, someone tell me, please, enlighten me, please: what is going on with conservative Republicans these days? Are they really so enamored of the strength of true, unabashed leftist liberalism that they want to appropriate it as conservatism? What Obama or Granholm or Dean or Carter or Gore or the Clintons represent is not an ideological "makeover" as the GOP is spinning it, but rather a reflection of the true meat and mettle of the Democratic Party - a party of true principles and true diversity/inclusion (and that also means room for ideals that "conservatives" think only they should hoard). They're not glossing over their liberal credentials. They're wearing them on their sleeves! This IS the Liberalism of the left!! Let it sink in. I ask again: Are Conservatives really closet liberal Democrats? Or are they just losing their marbles and preparing themselves for the inevitable letdown sure to come to the GOP on November 2.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Lagniappe: The Democratic National Convention Impresses! - When Andrew Sullivan gushes with such uncharacteristic praise about anything connected to official Democrat Party Politics, you know rightwingers, in spite of their naysayer spinmeisters, need to be very, very privately worried about Nov. 2.

I can imagine Bush and Rove sitting in front of the TV watching the events: In spite of his dismissive smile, Rove's fair cheeks and moist brow betray his worry. And Bush, refreshingly unable to keep from wearing his emotions on his sleeve, with his face pale and the corners of his mouth twitching, has that blank deer-caught-in-the-headlights look of utter helplessness.

Sweat, boys, sweat!

Blog Banter: The Huckupchuck and the JunkYardBlog Go Head to Head on Michael Moore, Fahrenheit 9/11, and Troop Morale in Iraq - Friends, I've been engaged in an interesting debate/discussion with Bryan Preston of the JunkYardBlog. Bryan posted a piece titled "The Traitor's Poison Starts Its Work." This posting discusses the impact of Michael Moore's movie Fahrenheit 9/11 on troop morale. Read the whole piece. The main gist of the posting was Bryan's rather self-congratulatory pat on the back for accurately predicting the negative impact that Moore's movie appears to be having on troop morale. In the comments section of this piece, I take issue with Bryan not on the accuracy of his prediction, but on his assigning full responsibility (and even blame, if you will) on Moore for this result. My first comment on his posting was the following:

Bryan - You sell the intelligence of our soldiers short. Are they not capable of distinguishing lies and exaggerations from their own experiences in Iraq? Talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations. If these soldiers are on the front lines and really know the truth about things, why would Michael Moore’s movie mean anything to them. I imagine that Moore’s movie resonates with them because they see parallels between what Moore presents and what they experience and think of for themselves. Just like I can read Ann Coulter’s Treason and know it for the “trash” it is, so too can soldiers watch Fahrenheit 9/11 and know it for the “trash” it is. Instead of harping on the need to suppress the “lies of Michael Moore” why don’t you instead harp on the need to educate soldiers in the “truth”? What ever happened to that most conservative of values called individual responsibility for one’s own thoughts and ideas? Again, you do a disservice to the intelligence of soldiers by implying that they are unable to rise above and see through propaganda for themselves. Act like a conservative, would you? And stop whining about how Michael Moore is responsible for soldiers’ minds and thoughts rather than the soldiers themselves.
Bryan responded accordingly:
Jimmy, why do you always play these games of moral equivalence? I bring up Moore, you bring up Coulter, ad infinitum.

When did Ann Coulter make a film depicting enemy propaganda in the middle of a war? There is no correlation between a freelance writer, as often as not shunned by the side she cheers for, and Michael Moore. You’re either a liar or willfully obtuse to make such a comparison. I honestly don’t know which describes you.

One more time. I. Was. There. Those who have never been in the military simply don’t appreciate the crucible of pressure that it is. They don’t understand how sheltered life in the military, especially on the front lines, can be—and by sheltered I mean from the multitude of information sources available to the rest of us. They also don’t understand, because they never bother to try, just how young and inexperienced (in the ways of the world) the average soldier, sailor, airman and Marine truly is. Most of them are away from home for the first time in their lives, having never been to college and having never been exposed to the left’s poisons. They’re idealists, most of them. And put into the hell of war, some of that idealism naturally gets shattered just by the horror they see and live. They have lost friends, may have been wounded themselves. They have missed the births of their first children, and spent a year away from everything they know. They want to understand why.

And along comes Michael Moore, crafty propagandist that he is, and explains it all so plausibly. He tells them in so many words “You went to war for a lie. Your friend died for nothing. It’s your own President you should hate, not that Iraqi over there with the AK-47 pointed at you.” And we offer our troops nothing to counter the lies.

It’s unspeakably cruel to treat them this way, but you don’t care at all about them, do you Jimmy. You don’t care about anything but your narrow and precious view of morality, a morality that allows you to sleep well at night in your pacifist’s den because these troops are bleeding and dying for you.

Yes, our troops are intelligence—the most intelligent fighting force ever built. But they are young and idealistic, and scorched now by the tribulations of war. And on their way home, Michael Moore greets them to tell them that it was all for nothing.

A generation ago, propaganda such as Moore’s fell from the lips of one John F. Kerry, and it helped destroy America’s resolve. We spat on our returning soldiers, and called them baby killers.

We didn’t learn anything from that experience, and we won’t learn anything from this one either. We still mistreat our soldiers.
Before I even had a chance to read and address this first comeback, Bryan added to his initial comment with a follow-up which reads accordingly:
Jimmy, Rhiannon,

Your reactions to this post have proven something to me. I made a prediction—that Moore’s film would disrupt military morale. I took some criticism when I made that prediction, mostly from people who just don’t understand what it’s like to be a junior enlisted in today’s military. That prediction has been proven right—the article linked in this post was written by a soldier in the 1st Infantry, serving in Iraq, and he says that what I predicted is happening. And he didn’t even know I’d made the prediction, so you can’t argue that there’s some kind of collusion going on.

Yet rather than process that truth and deal with it, you attack me and criticize my prediction. Which turned out to be prescient. Why?

Because you refuse to see what’s right in front of your face. You have your understanding of the world, and nothing, not even a contrary truth, can shake it. That has been the hallmark of your entire approach to the war, and not just you individually, but you as members of the left. You refuse to see the truth—that America has dangerous enemies that want to kill us, through no fault of our own. If we let them, they will hand us more 9-11s with numbing regularity. Yet rather than help us defeat them and stay safe, you criticize your own countrymen. You just refuse to see and accept the truth.

I’m convinced you’re unreachable. You won’t know the truth when it blows up your own city. And if we listen to you, that’s exactly what will happen.

If I’ve misread you, explain to me why you’re taking shots at me for this post—which is about a prediction of mine that has borne out—but not the Palestinian car swarm post or any of the other posts here. Why this one, the only one that definitively proves me right and you wrong about something? Why?
[NOTE: Rhiannon is another person who left a critical comment on this discussion board.]

My response was the following:
Bryan - Where in my post have I claimed that you were wrong about your prediction that morale would be negatively affected by this movie? I didn’t. I readily admit that you are right about the end result. The whole purpose of my post was to question your assigning Michael Moore the full, 100% responsibility for this drop in morale. The facts are the following: (1) Michael Moore is a well-known propagandist. Any soldier who sees his movies would (or should) know this. It is to be expected that his movies would be biased. When I saw the film, I was perfectly capable of knowing that this film was biased and that there were certainly other sides of the story that were not represented. My brother, who is a very right-wing conservative, calls the movie a “fiction” (even though he hasn’t seen it). And even assuming that it is a fiction as exptected, why would someone who doesn’t believe its veracity let it affect their own morale. It could only affect morale negatively if viewers buy into it as the truth, or if it resonates with their own experiences or preconceived notions. (2) Soldiers have a choice (I assume) to see the movie or not. I assume that soldiers, like the rest of us, know full well that the movie is critical of the war and the military in a biased way. Soldiers also know that they are in the pressure cooker and that they are homesick and that they miss their loved ones even before they see the movie. Why would they subject themselves to something that would exacerbate their already difficult situation? I repeat … it is not Moore that is to blame for soldiers’ morale. (3) Since the military is an institution of obedience to authority, why were soldiers on duty in Iraq permitted to see this if its effects on morale were so easily predicted. It was not Michael Moore’s decision to show the movie to soldiers, was it? I rather think that it was shown to soldiers because they wanted to see it for themselves.

You want to assign blame for the negative impact on military morale because soldiers see Moore’s movie on Moore himself. It would be one thing if Moore’s movie were force fed to soldiers against their will. It wasn’t.

That’s my beef with your posting. It’s not with the truth of your prediction that Moore’s movie would negatively impact morale. I agree with you and think you are right. My beef is that you think Moore is 100% responsible for this, when I think that the soldiers (all rational adults, capable of discerning right from wrong, fact from fiction, bias from truth) that choose to watch the movie, and their superiors who allow it to be shown to their soldiers on active duty in Iraq, and even the situation of their daily reality in the midst of war that they can relate to the content of the movie — these must also all be accorded some responsibility for the decline in troop morale after viewing this movie as well.

I like to think that soldiers and their superiors are smart enough to be discerning about the bias and the impact that Michael Moore’s film will have. I don’t watch porn flicks and I don’t let my daughters watch movies like the Terminator. Guess why? Because I know that these movies will affect my (and my daughters’) sensibilities and values in ways that I object to. Do I blame Linda Lovelace or Arnold Schwarzenneger (or the directors/producers) because they made these movies? No. If I or my daughters see such things, it is because I want to see such things or permit my daughters to see it. The blame and responsibility, ultimately, is with me. And on this point, Bryan, I wholeheartedly agree with conservatives. Responsibility lies with the individual for their own actions, not with someone else and what they say or do - and certainly not with Michael Moore.
This is currently where the discussion stands. I'll keep you posted and informed of any subsequent exchanges that we may have. It just strikes me as ironic that conservatives typically emphasize individual responsibility when it comes to personal behavior, often times chastising minority group leaders for laying the blame and pointing the finger elsewhere for problems that plague their communities and families and societies. Also, most conservatives extol the virtues of minimal government intervention in the dissemination of information and personal opinion, as biased or as controversial or as misrepresentative as it may be. The contradictions between these traditional conservative positions and the reactions of supposed conservatives like Bryan Preston to Michael Moore's film expose the inconsistencies of thought that often plague rightwingers so caught up in their own little world of warped logic and self-righteous, unidimensional patriotism.

UPDATE: 7/28/2004 3:30pm CST: - Here's the latest exchange between me and the JYB on this subject (citations come from the same comments board linked above. Bryan Preston responded accordingly to my last posting:
Dealing with Moore is pretty simple, actually. If he were shunned by both major parties as a lying pariah not fit to be seen with in public, that would send a pretty powerful message that his tactics, smears and lies are outside the bounds of acceptable political discourse. But that isn’t what is happening. The Democrats lined up a bunch of spinners to lobby the MPAA to lower the film’s rating, and have all but given it their official seal of approval. DNC Chair MacAuliffe espouses Moore’s wacky Afghanistan war theory, and they put him in the presidential box next to Jimmy Carter at the DNC convention.

They have embraced him and his poisons. That sends the wrong message, and puts AAFES in a bind. As I’ve written before, AAFES is in charge of Army and Air Force military theatres. Since F*** 9-11 is embraced by one political party and either ignored or disparaged by the other, AAFES could legitimately be accused of political censorship if it decided not to run the film in its theatres. Just imagine what the Democrats would do with that story—”Bush censors film; keeps military from seeing his dirty laundry” or whatever. It would be THE AD for the Dems this year, even though Bush had no role in “censoring” that piece of trash. So AAFES runs the film, because it has no choice but to run it.

Jimmy, Moore’s poisons are being fed to our troops indirectly by the party you support and want to put in power. All they would have to do is cut their support for him, but they won’t because they risk losing the hard left Naderite vote and that’s a segment they know they can’t win without—so they keep Moore in their fold in spite of the damage he is doing. Contrary to what you say in comments on another post, I don’t believe most Democrats are willingly or knowingly helping the enemy, though I do believe Moore is. But in helping Moore, who is demonstrably helping the enemy, who is your party helping? And who is your party hurting?

The Democrats have made some awful choices in the past year, and one of your worst was to choose to embrace Michael Moore as a legitimate voice for your party. Our troops are paying for that choice.
Here is my reply:
I understand your sentiments, Bryan. But, again, I go back to the question of personal responsibility. Our troops are not paying for the choices of anybody’s but their own. Heck, they’re even not paying for Bush’s “choice” to send them into harm’s way. They are grown-up people who chose for themselves to join the military with full knowledge of the risks that are entailed. They are also fully capable of “choosing” to marginalize and ignore Moore and his film if they want to, especially knowing what kind of propagandist and what kind of politics Moore professes. It seems to me that you so badly want to assign blame for the loss of troop morale to anything else that completely absolves the soldiers, their superiors, and their civilian leaders within the administration for any share of the responsibility in this disheartening quandary we find ourselves in. And Moore is the most obvious target. I don’t know what the military teaches about leadership, but I would imagine that one of the characteristics of leadership is rallying and maintaining troop morale. Moore’s movie certainly hurts that process, but there is responsibility to be shared all around, including personal responsibility by the soldiers themselves as well as responsibility by the Bush Administration for the way it has, in my mind, mishandled the impact of war and its aftermath on the psychological well-being of the soldiers and their families. Just because Moore doesn’t act more responsibly doesn’t mean the Bush amdinistration or the soldiers themselves don’t have to.
I'll keep you updated as long as there is something to update.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Going Mental: "Activist" Judges and the Gay Marriage Debate - As of late, I have been participating in an interesting debate on another blog's comment board. The subject, essentially, is the judiciary's role in the gay marriage debate - and whether judges that rule in favor of gay marriage rights and clearly against majority public will are nothing more than "activist" judges who are "legislating from the bench." I have some thoughts on this subject that I'd like to post here for your perusal and comments.

First, let me start with an observation: conservatives tend to incautiously and incorrectly throw out the term "activist judges" when the judicial system works against what conservatives would like to see decided.

I think popular will does have an important role to play in the process of establishing legal norms that guide our society. This is most clearly reflected in the electoral process through which popular vote determines legislatures and executives. But this does not apply to the judiciary, at least not completely. In our system judges are nominated by the executive and confirmed by the legislature. This is where the "public's" role over the judiciary ends, and for good reason. Once on the bench, such judges ideally function independently of either other branch of government so as to be as impartial as possible arbiters of the law. Sure, judges come in with preconceived bias, but the pressure to "decide" cases more subjectively based on political (as opposed to legal/constitutional) considerations would be much greater if judges were always subject to popular sanction once on the bench.

Furthermore, I make the point again: judges are not on the bench to cater to majority public will. In fact, judges are essentially on the bench for precisely the opposite reason: to protect constitutional rights of individuals against the tyranny of the majority when necessary. Sometimes majority public will is in accord with protecting the constitutional rights of individuals. In such instances, judicial decisions are rarely controversial. But, sometimes majority public will is at odds with the constitutional rights of individuals. And it is during such moments when judges have to be "unpopular." And, thank God, our political system allows them to be "unpopular" without recrimination. The movie "Amistad" comes to mind.

I think the most important issue here in the question of gay marriage is that our disagreement is not with "activist" judges who "legislate from the bench" -- but rather with our individual understanding of marriage in the context of basic, fundamental, inalienable human and civil rights. Some of us (and I would count Andrew Sullivan among this group) see the legal and moral issue of marriage as a critical component of civil liberty and human rights ... to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Others don't see it this way, but instead tend to consider marriage (and even the state-protected legal benefits that come with marriage) as a privilege and not a basic, fundamental civil right. And thus the privilege of marriage can be restricted to certain types of relationships (i.e. heterosexual and monogamous and non-incestual) without the question of discrimination against one's human rights ever being at issue.

All that said, the point is that the courts aren't "legislating" marriage from the bench. They are interpreting the constitutionality of the restriction that limits marriage to heterosexuals. Perhaps this will open the door to the other restrictions on marriage (i.e. that they be monogamous and non-incestual). But that is altogether another issue. [As an aside: I see polygamy and incest as questions of choice, whereas I see homosexuality as not a question of choice but as an integral and unalterable part of one's identity as a human being -- a distinction I think the courts will draw as well when it comes to considering incestuous or polygamous marriage as an issue of constitutional and civil rights.] Judges and the courts will deal with this if and when it arises. But rest assured that the same deliberative process will be at work, with judges determining the constitutionality of such restrictions.

Finally, I reiterate: judges that rule in favor of gay marriage are not forcing gay marriage on anybody. Nobody is being forced to reconsider their marriages. And our children who will marry in the future will not be forced to marry anyone they don't love and aren't willing to make such a commitment to. In fact, personally, I see extending marriage to monogamous, non-incestual, homosexuals as strenghtening the institution of marriage, not weakening it. Because I see it this way, I wonder how can anyone who is pro-marriage be against this?

Friday, July 23, 2004

Liberal Lighthouse: Fahrenheit 9/11 - I just saw Michael Moore's film. I don't claim to be a big fan of Michael Moore. He is an instigator and to me he seems completely uninterested in entertaining a critical reflection of the merits of ideologically opposing arguments. BUT, I must admit that I was terribly affected by his picture. No doubt it was a biased take on 9/11 and all its related subjects; but I think it is a must see piece of propaganda. In fact, I would put Moore's film up against any right-wing propaganda film on the same subject and would bet any sum that Moore's film will be the more representative of some of the seedier sides of the Bush Administration. I will say that I think it is unfair of Moore to impute some devious and malicious motive to Bush, especially regarding the reaction to the events of 9/11 as they were unfolding. Bush honestly seemed stunned like the rest of us, stunned into temporary inaction. Human, but understandable. Certainly not sinister, as Moore tries to convey. But that was only one very small part of the picture Moore presents. There are bigger issues about the Bush Administration's basic philosophy of governing and its approach to dealing with terrorism and its rationale for the Iraq war that merit serious and thoughtful and critical consideration. I don't think conservatives, on the whole, are willing to grapple with the seedier sides of the motivations and the selling of the war on terrorism and the war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq. But there is no doubt that they exist; and all Moore does is to expose them, albeit in his own biased, slanted way. But give me Moore's bias to chew on rather than the willful blindness and cultivated ignorance of conservatives in probing this issue.

In fact, I've heard conservatives who have had the guts and courage to at least see Moore's film criticize its bias and take issue with its cinematic quality as a documentary film experiment; but I've heard very few conservatives take issue with the main critiques of the film. The best I've seen is simply a claim that Moore tells only one side of a complex situation; but rarely do conservatives (except the most intellectually dishonest among them) deny the kernels of truth to his take.

All in all, a very powerful film and one all Americans should watch. Believe me, if the video is released before the election, I will purchase it and hold as many viewings as I can for family and friends before the election. It is a very, very convincing argument against another four years of the Bush/Cheney/Rove conservative agenda.

Cuaderno Latinoamericano: Cuban Americans and the 2004 election - If John Kerry is smart, he'll focus on Florida's Cuban-American community and wrap that state up. It's all he needs to win, and the fruit is ripe for the picking. George Bush, pandering to a fringe elements of anti-Castro hardliners, has alienated even some of his erstwhile allies in the Cuban-American community in Florida. As Ryan Lizza has written, if John Kerry can kick it up a notch in his attentions and pretensions to George Bush's ill-advised crackdown on Cuban Americans' connections to family in Cuba, then he'll win Florida, and thus the entire election, handily. Can Kerry play this card correctly? I think so. All he has to do is open his mouth more, and I'm sure that whatever comes out, short of an outright love fest with Castro, will be seen as signs of a welcome attention to this community that feels maligned by Bush.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Lagniappe: Why, Sandy, Why?? - ... and in an election year, too.  Sheesh!  Whenever I read a story like this, my cynicism in the entire political establishment runs a notch higher.  Berger is a crook and a fool.  It seems so patently clear that he was trying to thwart the 9/11 Commission's work.  He needs to be held fully accountable, including criminally accountable, and the leadership of the left needs to step up and disavow this man.  His excuses ring hollow, and would, in fact, be laughable if they weren't so sad and pathetic.  As a lefty, saying that I am very disappointed is an understatement.  I am on the edge of being outraged and angered by the damage this man will likely cause to the Democratic chances to recapture the White House and the Congress this coming November.  Shame on you, Sandy Berger.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Lagniappe: Back in the Saddle Again - Hi, Folks!  I'm back from my wonderful 5-week experience in Mexico.  Though I love Mexico and think it is a beautiful country with beautiful people, I am happy to be home.  There is no place like home; and, for me, home is the great old U.S. of A.  Living abroad for an extended period of time brings a person to two important revelations: (1) the U.S. is a great place to live and be a citizen and (2) there is a wide consensus outside of the U.S. that our attitude as a country towards other countries is bombastic and arrogant.  Whether one agrees with the latter or not, it is absolutely essential for U.S. citizens to leave their cocoons of ignorance and recognize this reality and figure out how to deal with it.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Lagniappe: Kerry and the Inquisition - Seems that theoconservative rightwingers want to bring back the Inquisition. It's just one step removed from creating a theocracy. As a catholic, this is just nutso. And people complain about Islamic fundamentalists wanting to bring the world back to medieval times. Sheesh! (Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan.)