February 24, 2005
Am I the only one who finds this whole Gannon/Guckert situation hilarious? I can't imagine I am. I mean, on how many levels could one person and one situation be simultaneously ridiculous? Let's count them.
A Season of Depressing Political Re-Runs
Recent political events resemble nothing so much as re-runs of movies that should never have been released the first time. Bush has gone to Europe to "ease tensions" in the NATO alliance. Of course, those very tensions were his work entirely, but a sense of the ridiculous never discourages a Jehovah's Witness with a long list of house calls to make.
February 9, 2005
Virginia School Prayer Bill
The Virginia assembly is considering a bill, HJ537, which would amend the Virginia constitution's provisions concerning religious liberty and disestablishment, provisions that were taken directly from Thomas Jefferson's Act for Establishing Religious Freedom. Currently the Virginia Constitution, in Article 1, Section 16, contains the following language:
Nobles Need Not Pay Taxes
A new aristocracy is taking over not just the United States of America but also the world. Proof of how far along it has come was in an article by Glenn R. Simpson in the January 28, 2005 edition of The Wall Street Journal. "European countries have been steadily slashing corporate tax rates," wrote Simpson, adding, "... between 2000 and 2003, one nation after another has moved toward lower corporate rates with fewer loopholes."
Nuclear Warhead in Thine Own Eye
This weekend, the Washington Post ran an article titled "What Bin Ladin Sees in Hiroshima," by Steve Coll, former managing editor of the Post. I first thought it would be an article about how Bin Ladin constantly brings up the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as examples of U.S. immorality. Well, it certainly wasn't that. The article was only about how Bin Ladin and his followers were after nuclear weapons:
January 16, 2005
Martin Luther King: Liberal Patriot
This next Monday, we'll hear repeatedly excerpts from the last five minutes of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech. Some conservative talking heads will espouse the theory that Dr. King would have been against affirmative action, playing the sound bite, "I have a dream my four little children will one day be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." Broadcasters will show bumpers and station ID's of Dr. King superimposed in front of the American flag, or standing in front of the Lincoln memorial.
January 5, 2005
ACLU Defending Religious Liberty
Contrary to the hysterically overblown view so common on the religious right (a view intentionally planted there by frauds and hucksters like Pat Robertson), the ACLU regularly goes to court to defend Christian churches and organizations. I've mentioned in the past their work on behalf of Jerry Falwell (himself a fraud and a huckster, but the Constitution covers his right to be one as well) against the City of Lynchburg to overturn a city ordinance limiting the amount of property a church could own within the city limits. They also defended Falwell in a case that overturned the state of Virginia's constitutional provision banning churches from incorporating. They also filed briefs defending the Lamb's Chapel in support of their claim against a school district for not allowing them access to school facilities
to show a series of anti-abortion films (all other community groups were allowed to rent school facilities and the Equal Access Act says they cannot discriminate against religious groups). Here are a few other cases going on right now where the ACLU is defending the free exercise of religion.
December 20, 2004
Love in Fallujah
It is often said that great theatre has the ability to transcend language. Recently, I got a chance to find out that the opposite is also true. Love in Fallujah was a run-away hit this Eid-al-Fitr (the holiday to celebrate the end of Ramansan) in Kuwait, performing to sell-out crowds. A farce-cum-pantomime, it told the story of two Kuwaiti men who get mistaken for “foreign fighters” during a trip to the eponymous city in search of a bride. Written and produced by a local man, Mohammad Al-Rashoud, the play had already courted controversy, given the evocative use of the titular Iraqi city that dominated the news during the month of November.
The Doctrine of Incorporation
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case involving a display of the Ten Commandments on government property. The case is McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky. This morning I received a PDF of a brief filed in that case on behalf of several religious right organizations. I do not know if the brief is publicly available, so I won't post a link to it at this time. What makes this brief interesting is that it doesn't just argue that posting the Ten Commandments on public property doesn't violate the first amendment, it argues that the first amendment does not apply to the states at all, leaving them free to do whatever they want. In fact, it argues that none of the bill of rights apply to the states at all, which would reverse nearly a century of legal precedents.
Tell Me About Serbia and Pain...
I am *so* sick and tired of this kind of "you were better off under Milosevic/Saddam/... regime, believe me when I tell you - I'm sitting in my comfy US/EU residence, so I know!" So I decided to give the author a piece of my mind...: Why is it that every single left-oriented news/commentary/blog has to fall in love with atrocious dictators, only because they were, at some point in time, opposed to the western countries? First of all, please allow for the fact that, being Serbian, and not lobotomized, I have far better understanding of both our past - under Milosevic regime - and our present, than you do.
December 1, 2004
Why Americans Doubt Evolution
Clearly the objection to evolution among the populace has little to do with sober analysis of the evidence. I'd be surprised if even 5% of the American public knew anything about the fossil record, comparative anatomy, phylogenetic relationships, and so forth. Obviously, there is something else at work here, and I think it is the widespread identification of evolution with atheism that is the key to understanding it. In the public mind, evolution is virtually synonymous with atheism. Why is that?
"God Bless America"
The international view of Bush's election was nicely summed up by the reaction of a group of my students from China. I teach economics at university part-time, and many of my students are from China. Lest you think their judgment clouded by communist ideology, please note the many Chinese students studying in Canada come from that country's bright, hardworking business class in the so-called New Economic Zone. American visions of rabid communists in China are as uninformed as American visions of realities in most places. These are practical, sensible people.
The Progressive Morality
We are the 55 million progressives who came together in this election, voted for Kerry and rejected the Bush agenda. We came together because of our moral values: care and responsibility, fairness and equality, freedom and courage, fulfillment in life, opportunity and community, cooperation and trust, honesty and openness. We united behind political principles: equality, equity (if you work for a living, you should earn a living) and government for the people - all the people.
November 8, 2004
Pondering the Bush “Mandate”
As I read the reaction around the blogosphere, I can't help but think that people on both sides are overreacting to a point of hysteria. For many on the left, they think we're on the verge of a Fourth Reich, while many on the right seem to think that political nirvana is within reach as the hero Bush slayed the terrorist and communist sympathizer Kerry. May I suggest that everyone take a deep breath. You aren't going to run off to Canada and seek political asylum (and if you do, I think you will justifiably be laughed at by Canadian officials), and we're not going to start throwing pagans and infidels into the ovens, for crying out loud.
Sitting down and refusing to budge is one of our nation's greatest legacies. Throughout our history, the obstinate refusal to give ground where they believed justice was on their side has empowered people to bring about important changes that have made our country a better place to live, enjoy liberty, and pursue happiness.
Our top priority: Media Infrastructure
As liberals and Democrats sort through what went wrong in Election 2004, they should put at the top of their list the dangerous imbalance that now exists in the national news media. Over the past quarter century, the conservatives/Republicans have built a huge, permanent media machine - a vertically integrated structure that puts out the conservative message on TV, with newspapers, through magazines, over radio stations, in books and via the Internet.
October 30, 2004
Republicans way off-base in 2004?
At a bi-partisan meeting of New York City's political elite in October 2000, George W. Bush quipped to the audience, “some people call you the elite, I call you my base.” Though said in jest, it shows the importance in politics of having core groups of voters that you can rely on when elections go to the wire.
October 26, 2004
Who's Running the Show Behind Corporate Media?
Once upon a time, media ownership was a matter of right and wrong. Because the public airwaves were a precious commodity vulnerable to abuse, the Federal Communications Commission was born to protect them, and the public, through licensing and regulation. Gradually, however, the line between the guardians and foes of free expression has blurred, as both the FCC and the media business have earned unsavory reputations for exploiting their powers.
The Long War to Reclaim American Democracy
The defeat of George Bush is just the beginning of restoring American democracy. There are serious economic and political issues that must be resolved. The Republican leadership is corrupt and destructive. The Democratic leadership is tentative and directionless. John Kerry has chosen to run without defining clear themes. In victory or defeat, Democrats will lack a mandate for a specific agenda.
October 19, 2004
An Open Letter to Gay Marriage Opponents
Recently I was watching an HBO comedy special starring Ellen Degeneres. I only watched her sitcom a few times when it was on, but I've always thought she was quite funny and original. And I've always respected the way she handled that big "coming out" show that got so much attention. She didn't lose sight of the fact that it had to be funny, and it was. At the end of this special, she did something unusual - she turned up the lights and took questions from the audience. And after a few questions, a young woman stood up and started talking about how Ellen's coming out gave her the strength to be honest in her own life and escape her own closet, and as she talked about how enormously that changed her life, she began to cry. Ellen told her to come down to the stage, and she laid down on the edge of the stage so she could be down face to face with this woman, and she just hugged her. I'm sure there wasn't a dry eye in the place, and mine were no exception.
Defeating the Rightwing Tide in the Federal Courts
Many Americans who had in the past opined that there was at best a paper-thin difference between Republicans and Democrats joined the Anybody But Bush club for one reason alone: They were worried about the precarious balance of power on the Supreme Court. A Democrat in the White House, any Democrat, would guarantee that no new Antonin Scalias or Clarence Thomases or William Rehnquists would be appointed in the next four years. Thus were objections - even significant objections - to this candidate or that one put aside.
September 28, 2004
How Wrong Could One Administration Be?
Ask the average American their theory on why we "lost" in Vietnam and you are likely to get this answer or some variation of it: "We didn't let the military fight the war, the war was fought by politicians. If we'd let the military do their job, we would have won." This notion has become thoroughly ingrained in our national memory, despite (or perhaps because of?) being completely wrongheaded. One wonders if, in the future, we will see that this is in fact the perfect explanation for what has happened in Iraq. The examples are numerous.
Environment? Bush Doesn't Care. Who Does?
Just about everybody has a pet political priority that trumps all the others. We willingly give credence and backing to the priorities of our compatriots in the Big Coalition, but secretly we hold tight to the view that our own special concern is the one that really, really matters, all else being nice but secondary.
September 16, 2004
Moderate Islam Making Gains
I was having a discussion the other day with a Christian who saw Islam as an inherently violent religion that swore death to all non-believers. I tried to impress upon them that one could find the same sort of support for that idea in the Bible as they do in the Quran. Both books are enormously broad, and one can take statements from them to support most any position. Peaceful and decent people can find plenty of textual support for peace and decency; violent and oppressive people can find plenty of support for violence and oppression. And this is true of either religion.
Africa: The Next Middle East?
Yes, al Qaeda and its kin have taken root in North Africa, in Sudan and Egypt especially, but that area is a small portion of the continent, and even then, the portion closest to the Middle East. Still, the soil in the vast majority of Africa seems fertile for terrorism, religious fundamentalism, and violent anti-Americanism, yet we hear so little of that in Africa.
Reality on the Ballot
For weeks now, George W. Bush’s campaign has been radically testing the limits of how thoroughly one party can lie, misrepresent and smear without paying any price and indeed while reaping rewards in the opinion polls. Bush personally capped off this binge of dishonesty with his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, continuing his pattern of lying about how the war in Iraq began.
August 1, 2004
Building a Bridge to the 19th Century
I’ve been threatening to write a long, complicated post on the economy for awhile now, and this weekend I finally got around to doing it. After the past few months of obsessively watching every twitch and shudder of the Iraq fiasco, I figured it was time to take a hard look at the pocketbook issues – and where the trends seem to be leading us.
June 5, 2004
I’ve been threatening to write a long, complicated
post on the economy for awhile now, and this weekend I finally
got around to doing it. After the past few months of obsessively
watching every twitch and shudder of the Iraq fiasco, I figured
it was time to take a hard look at the pocketbook issues – and
where the trends seem to be leading us.
March 22 , 2004
Freedom Summer and 2004
In June, we all went to Ohio for training in voter registration and non-violent resistance. Most of the 550 or so activists who showed up were white, and most had never been in the South. Although everyone knew about the assassination of Medgar Evers, most were unaware that other blacks who had themselves registered or tried to register others in the past three years had been murdered in Mississippi.
You hear a lot of tsk tsking over this from those of us who are inclined to try not to demonize an entire group based on the most extreme among them, but I think that masks an even more important point. Lumping all Muslims together as terrorists is not merely unfair to the vast majority of Muslims in the world, it also undermines what could be our most powerful tool in fighting terrorism...
Febuary 18, 2004
Nature of Modern Cynicism
This preference for truth over lie, fact over fiction,
is at the heart of my approach to the world. In political terms,
this primarily means seeing the reality behind the rhetoric - a
tall task in a political culture increasingly dominated by the soundbite
and the tools of public relations and propaganda. We live, after
all, in the age of the "post-convention bounce", the quadrennial
phenomenon whereby each major party holds a 4 or 5 day infomercial
and a sizable portion of the public immediately changes their voting
loyalty, until the other party holds their own infomercial and the
winds shift yet again.
speech and patriotism in times of war
Why do the American people so easily give up the
Bill of Rights in times of impending war? Because, as I said up
front, we are not only not cynical enough about our government,
we are incredibly naive. Most Americans simply do not understand
the principles involved or know the history of such violations.
And they are too easily frightened into thinking that in times of
war, the government must somehow protect us from our own questions
about their actions.
August 19, 2003
Your Radio On - The Unions' Answer to Right-Wing Static
But that can change, as this listener noted: "...give
me talk that resonates with me, and I'll turn my AM radio back
on." A hundred million Democrats, Progressives, and Greens
are waiting for their local stations to carry programming they
can embrace - and advertisers are eager to reach this upscale market.
July 1, 2003
Road to Coverup Is the Road to Ruin
It is in the compelling national interest to examine
what we were told about the threat from Iraq. It is in the compelling
national interest to know if the intelligence was faulty. It is
in the compelling national interest to know if the intelligence
How An Earlier "Patriot Act" Law Brought Down A President
Many Americans are suggesting that the Patriot Act
(and its proposed "improvements" in Patriot II) is totally
new in the experience of America and may spell the end of both democracy
and the Bill of Rights. History, however, shows another view, which
offers us both warnings and hope.
A True Interpretation
1st AMENDMENT: The first amendment is often called
the "First Amendment" because, of all the amendments,
it was the first. This amendment guarantees many things, but do
not become arrogant and think this means you can do whatever you
want, because you can't. As the great statesman or judge or somebody
whose last name was Holmes and whose first name escapes me at the
moment once said, "Freedom of speech does not grant us the
right to yell 'Maggot!' in a crowded morgue," and he'll get
no argument from me, largely because he is dead.
March 25, 2003
Law a la Carte
That background has left many in the world viewing
the administration's outrage over videotapes of American POWs as
a case of a country that likes its international law a la carte,
effectively picking and choosing when the rules should apply and
when they shouldn't.
Give Peace a Real Chance
Make no mistake, innocents will die. But living
in a bleakly impoverished environment, under the oppression of a
ferocious dictator, and caught between endless military conflicts
of all sorts, are we to be so naïve as to think that they’re
not already dying?
Inside Iraq on the Eve of War
No one inside Iraq is for war (note I said war not
a change of regime), no human being in his right mind will ask you
to give him the beating of his life, unless you are a member of
fight club that is, and if you do hear Iraqi (in Iraq, not expat)
saying “come on bomb us” it is the exasperation and
10 years of sanctions and hardship talking.
It never entered my mind that, in addition to all
the above, and within a remarkably short time, the United States
would become a global pariah, that traditional allies would see
us as a ‘rogue state’; that those who hated us in the
first place would feel vindicated because the rest of the world
seems well on it's way to hating us just as much.
Diplomat's Letter of Resignation
Text of John Brady Kiesling's letter of resignation
to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.
"Human nature is what it is, and I was rewarded and promoted
for understanding human nature. But until this Administration it
had been possible to believe that by upholding the policies of my
president I was also upholding the interests of the American people
and the world. I believe it no longer."
Dreadful, Haunting Silence
US Senator Robert Byrd
Senate Floor Speech - Wednesday, February 12, 2003
" And this is no small conflagration we contemplate. This is
no simple attempt to defang a villain. No. This coming battle, if
it materializes, represents a turning point in U.S. foreign policy
and possibly a turning point in the recent history of the world."
The good news for the Bush administration
is that they have been successful in assembling a national coalition
concerning Saddam Hussein; the bad news is that the coalition includes
senior Republican foreign policy experts who are against a unilateral
invasion of Iraq.
alternative to oslo- A Palestinian View
Of course, applying law equally on Arabs and Israelis
is not going to make Palestine a heaven over night. But it will
certainly solve the essential problem and prevent the potential
of future destruction to both parties.