Clearly, Jonathan Chait's article in The New Republic, is the piece of the moment in liblog circles, as well it should be. It's so right-on that it's almost started me rethinking my decision not to subscribe to TNR.
I hate President George W. Bush. There, I said it. I think his policies rank him among the worst presidents in U.S. history. And, while I'm tempted to leave it at that, the truth is that I hate him for less substantive reasons, too. I hate the inequitable way he has come to his economic and political achievements and his utter lack of humility (disguised behind transparently false modesty) at having done so. His favorite answer to the question of nepotism--"I inherited half my father's friends and all his enemies"--conveys the laughable implication that his birth bestowed more disadvantage than advantage. He reminds me of a certain type I knew in high school--the kid who was given a fancy sports car for his sixteenth birthday and believed that he had somehow earned it. I hate the way he walks--shoulders flexed, elbows splayed out from his sides like a teenage boy feigning machismo. I hate the way he talks--blustery self-assurance masked by a pseudo-populist twang. I even hate the things that everybody seems to like about him. I hate his lame nickname-bestowing-- a way to establish one's social superiority beneath a veneer of chumminess (does anybody give their boss a nickname without his consent?). And, while most people who meet Bush claim to like him, I suspect that, if I got to know him personally, I would hate him even more.
There seem to be quite a few of us Bush haters.
I still can't stand to watch him on TV, although occasionally I can mute the sound and turn on the closed-captioning and that's OK for a while, until I start reading the arrogance inherent in his body language and then I have to stop. When he comes on the radio in the morning, I reach out of the shower and turn him off -- if the price of getting the headlines is listening to him.... well, that's just too much to pay, I'd rather spend the day uninformed.
I couldn't stand Nixon either, but it was nothing like this.
To be a liberal today is to feel as though you've been transported into some alternative universe in which a transparently mediocre man is revered as a moral and strategic giant. You ask yourself why Bush is considered a great, or even a likeable, man. You wonder what it is you have been missing. Being a liberal, you probably subject yourself to frequent periods of self-doubt. But then you conclude that you're actually not missing anything at all. You decide Bush is a dullard lacking any moral constraints in his pursuit of partisan gain, loyal to no principle save the comfort of the very rich, unburdened by any thoughtful consideration of the national interest, and a man who, on those occasions when he actually does make a correct decision, does so almost by accident.
True, but I wonder what "correct decisions" Chait is referring to?
(It's hard for me to thing of one, just as it's hard to think of any program put through by Bush which actually serves to solve a real problem. Instead, they're all, for the most part, wolves in sheep's clothing, programs that are either ideologically-mandated or designed to service the GOP's clientele, but gussied up to look like solutions to actual problems.)
TAPPED points to a Washington Post article containing this Bush administration argument in support of allowing faith-based program which receive Federal money to discriminate in hiring on the basis of religion:
"In any employment decision, there's discrimination," said Jim Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. "Universities hire smart people."
Sen. Roman Hruska's legendary 1970 encomium to Supreme Court nominee G. Harrold Carswell: "Mediocre judges and people and lawyers ... are entitled to a little representation, aren't they, and a little chance? We can't have all Brandeises, Cardozos, and Frankfurters, and stuff like that there."
The years go by, but their arguments just don't seem to get any better, do they?
(Incidentally, I can certainly understand how a religious organization dispensing charitable aid to believers might prefer to hire co-religionists over others, and they should be able to do that -- except, of course, if they accept Federal money.)
1. Marked by immorality and perversion; depraved.
2. Venal; dishonest: a corrupt mayor.
When we talk about corruption in government or corrupt politicians, we usually mean the second defintion, but taking the first one for the moment instead, isn't it possible that the administration of George W. Bush is one of the most corrupt we've ever had?
As I've mentioned before, the play I'm in rehearsal for is The Violet Hour by Richard Greenberg, and in the last couple of days I've been mulling over one snippet from it:
[T]ruth always purifies a prose style [...]
I see a style all frills and furbelows I know I am being lied to. Something is being concealed.
But give me a march of simple declarative sentences and no lie is possible-- there’s nowhere to hide.
Don’t you show me a clause unless the truth is complicated. And the truth hardly ever is.
My first reaction to this was to remember my response to Bob Woodward's biography of John Belushi, Wired. In that book, Woodward doesn't moralize about Belushi, he simply presents "simple declarative sentences" which display Belushi's downfall bit by bit and piece by piece, and the effect is much more devastating than would be any purple prose or moralistic overwriting.
But as effective as it was, it doesn't seem to me that the use of plain "purified" language is any guarantee of truth. The story Woodward told seemed real and truthful to me because it jibed with what I already knew about Belushi's life and character, but the same technique used by someone else about a subject I know nothing about could easily lead me astray, since I have no way of knowing when the author is deceiving me, no criteria with which to evaluate the truthfulness of the "plain declaractive sentences" I'm presented with.
What is being declared, simply and without "frills and furbelows" could well be a lie. Or, in the case of the Bush administration and the right-wing infrastructure of "think-tanks", pundits and media outlets, it could be, and has been, the Big Lie itself.
A couple of days ago, Kevin Drum explored the taxonomy of Bush's lies, with reference to Paul Krugman and Josh Marshall. There's the brazen lie, the currently undisprovable assertion, and, Kevin's specific topic, the technical lie. But, it seems to me, one hallmark of all this dissembling activity on the part of the Bushies is that it's hardly ever done by way of high-flown words and moving oratory. It tends to be conveyed, yes, in "simple declarative sentences," which seem truthful and have the appearance of approximating reality, but which are, in fact, intentionally deceptive.
(Incidentally, later on in The Violet Hour, a critic says of the book written by the character who spoke about "simple declarative sentences" that it
merits special status as a rare example of a text that doesn’t include even inadvertent truth.
In the case of Bush & Company, the only truth in their words is in what it tells us about their morals and ethics -- or, rather, their entire lack of either.)
On Slate, Timothy Noah has a good two-part column exposing the real driving force behind any nascent Draft Hillary movement (hint: it ain't Democrats), but what interested me, and filled me with some hope for our future, was this description of the tattered state of the ruling right-wing coalition:
There are all sorts of interesting fissures these days among conservatives. Neoconservatives are divided about whether to remain faithful to Donald Rumsfeld. Supply-siders (a group that, for convenience' sake, Chatterbox lumps with Paul Krugman's "Starve-the-Beasters") are mad at the neocons for waging a costly war that makes future tax cuts unthinkable. The military is mad at the Bush White House for stretching its resources too thin (a subject Chatterbox hopes to expand on later this week). Libertarians are mad at the Bush White House for post-9/11 infringements of civil liberties. How to reunite these warring factions? Imagine an imminent presidential run by Hillary Clinton. Clinton-hating is perhaps the sole unifying principle left in the GOP.
Whether Hillary runs or not is not really all that important an issue, because no Democrat or liberal with any sense at all (pace poor out-of-it Mario Cuomo, who clearly needs to retire fom public life completely before he entirely embarasses himself and makes it impossible for his son to achieve higher office) contemplates that she will ever do so, since a Hillary run would be a huge boon to the other side. (I only hope that she recognizes that, even if the Clinton courtiers don't.)
But this description of the fracturing of the Right-wing coalition, which began with Ronald Reagan and reached its peak of power with George W. Bush, is important. Because they have managed to maintain intra-coalition discipline and a unified facade for the benefit of the public, the fact that that the Right is a carefully pieced together alliance of people and groups with somewhat contradictory goals, and not a single entity, is not nearly as well recognized as was the nature of the FDR New Deal coaltion of minorities, unions, conservative Southern democrats and northern liberals which has been disintegrating ever since Nixon promulgated his "Southern Strategy" (i.e. an appeal to racism to re-capture Southern whites from the Democrats) in 1968. These fissures in the alliance are important to recognize and to utilize for their value in softening the commitment of the various parts of the coalition to the overarching goal of controlling the Federal government, and, indeed, governmental bodies at all levels from School Boards on up.
Unfortunately, liberalism doesn't offer much in the way of "wedge issues" which can drive these folks into the arms of the Democratic party, but it is possible to encourage their disenchanment with each other by pointing out their differences whenever possible. Indeed, just such activity on the part of the GOP have played a significant part in the Right-wing's gains over the last 20 years -- it's time we turned the tables a little and played their own game right back at 'em.
(No qualms here about justifying methods. The long-term damage that Bush is doing to this country is severe and frightening in its scope. Stopping them requires the use of any and all legal and legitimate methods.)
The archives are currently down -- apparently Blogger is doing some maintenance on them and getting them back up slowly.
On the recommendation of My Friend Roger, I've added the antic muse to the "more links" blogroll. Roger says it's "terrific", and his word's good enough for me. I'll be checking it out myself later today (my day off -- in the theatre, we get one day off a week, which sometimes isn't quite enough to get everything done and get some rest).
Update (9/25/03): The archives seem to be back up again.
PATRIOT ACT: ASHCROFT DISMISSES LIBRARIANS AS "HYSTERICAL."
In a speech on Monday the Attorney General ridiculed the concerns of librarians. "Do we at the Justice Department care what you are reading? No!" he scoffed. "People are being led to believe FBI agents dressed in trench coats are surrounding libraries." Librarians get pretty testy when government officials make light of free speech. So why did they put language in the Patriot Act giving Federal authorities the right to access library records, the librarians want to know? In Maryland, as in 38 other states, library circulation records are treated as confidential, and federal authorities must have a search warrant to get at records. They'd better hurry, librarians around the country are shredding circulation records. Seeking to calm the furor, the Department of Justice released an accounting showing the library records provision of the Patriot Act had not been used a single time. Bad mistake. So why, the librarians demanded to know, does the Justice Department need this authority if it's not going to use it. Librarians are a lot tougher than they look.
In a week of escalating controversy and heightened rhetoric surrounding the USA Patriot Act, Attorney General John Ashcroft revealed that the Justice Department has never used the provision of the law that allows it to seek records from libraries and bookstores.
“The number of times Section 215 has been used to date is zero,” Ashcroft wrote in a memo to FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III. Ashcroft said he had decided to declassify the previously secret information “to counter the troubling amount of public distortion and misinformation in connection with Section 215,” the Washington Post reported September 18.
Ashcroft also placed a telephone call to American Library Association President Carla Hayden in which he said people have misunderstood his commitment to civil liberties and promised to declassify the Justice Department’s report on the use of Section 215.
The call to Hayden followed a September 15 speech at the National Restaurant Association conference in Washington, D.C., in which Ashcroft accused ALA and other administration critics of fueling “baseless hysteria” about the government’s use of the Patriot Act to pry into the public’s reading habits. Ashcroft mocked ALA for believing that “the FBI is not fighting terrorism. Instead, agents are checking how far you have gotten on the latest Tom Clancy novel.”
The Association fired off a prompt and strong response to the attack. “We are deeply concerned that the Attorney General should be so openly contemptuous of those who seek to defend our Constitution,” said Hayden. “Rather than ask the nations’ librarians and Americans nationwide to ‘just trust him,’ Ashcroft could allay concerns by releasing aggregate information about the number of libraries visited using the expanded powers created by the USA Patriot Act.”
Mark Corallo, a spokesman for the Justice Department, told the Times that the speech was intended not as an attack on librarians but on such groups as the American Civil Liberties Union and politicians who had persuaded librarians to mistrust the government. He claimed ALA “has been somewhat duped by those who are ideologically opposed to the Patriot Act,” adding that Ashcroft’s remarks “should be seen as a jab at those who would mislead librarians and the general public into believing the absurd, that the FBI is running around monitoring libraries instead of going after terrorists.”
Hayden expressed ALA’s surprise at learning that agents had never utilized Section 215, citing previous statements from the Justice Department: In March, Corallo said libraries had become a logical target of surveillance, and in May Assistant Attorney General Viet Dinh testified before members of Congress that federal agents had visited about 50 libraries; the department later clarified that Dinh was referring to ordinary criminal cases rather than national security cases.
Oh -- that makes it alright, I guess.
I once, very briefly, contemplated a career as a librarian, being a lover of books and a library aide in school and at the local public library, so I certainly appreciate librarians taking a strong and principled stand in favor of our basic civil liberties.
Two years ago, the burning question before us was what our response to 9-11 should be: should we go into Afghanistan and take out al Qaeda there or not, was that a justified and measured response or a simple attempt at retribution and revenge? We were still reeling from the attacks, especially here in New York, and still rather raw in our emotions. Some days after the 11th, I wrote something on the subject which I posted to my e-mail discussion group. Later, on the 22nd, I posted it here, on the initial trial version of unfutz when I was first considering starting a blog.
In the end, I didn't do that, but that post remained on the site as the only entry for the next couple of years. I removed it when I finally did make the blog public a few weeks ago, but I'm posting it here again now, in the interest of completeness.
It is *very* obvious to me that we *have* been attacked, that the hijacking of 4 planes, the destruction of the World Trade Center, the damage to the Pentagon and the death of 7,000 people is transcendentally clear as being an act of war, and we are morally justified in responding to this act with force. More than justified, it is a practical *necessity* that we respond with some use of force -- the consequences of *not* doing so are more and more incidents, and more and more deaths.
(1) We should not act without clear and convincing proof of who is reponsible for the attacks.
(2) That proof needs to be shared with the people of the United States, and not just with our allies (to convince them to participate with us). In a democracy, I should not have to rely on the reactions of foreign leaders to justify a drastic and potentially morally perilous action that my country wants to take.
(3) Any military action that is taken needs to be directed as narrowly as possible against the people responsible. This does not mean that innocent people will not be killed. It is the nature of war that innocent people are killed, which is why war should always be the last option used, and only when absolute necessary. But the deaths of uninvolved civilians, even if they are the citizens of countries which have harbored terrorists, would be partly *our* responsibility, and we need to act in such a way as to minimize those deaths.
(4) Still, the fact the innocent people will die is not sufficient to rule out the use of military force. Innocent people died on 09-11-01, and *more* innocent people will die in the next attack, and the next. The purpose of any military action must be to take out the people responsible for those attacks, and the ones we've suffered through in the past, and by that to save the lives of those innocent people who would die in future attacks.
(5) But military force cannot be the only aspect of this campaign, and I'm not talking about freezing financial assests (although there's nothing wrong with that). While I outright reject the notion that in some perverse way we had this coming to us, there is a great deal of truth in the idea that we have some amount of culpability in creating the conditions that allowed the attacks to occur. Our messing around in Afghanistan and then walking away, our one-sided backing of the Israeli government even when they were acting badly and breaking their agreements, our sponsership of globalization without proper concern for the problems and concerns of the rest of the world, and so on. We need to deal with the problems that we have had a hand in creating, if only for the selfish reason that by doing so, we may alleviate some of the conditions under which Islamic fundamentalism has grown as dangerous to us as it obviously has.
(6) To that end, we need to "bomb them with butter, bribe them with hope." We *must* act as nation-builders, or at least facilitators so that nations can rebuild themselves. We should do this not out of guilt, from simply as a matter of enlightened self-interest.
(7) If we are going to engage in a war, then it needs to be an officially declared war. The only entity in the United States that can declare war is the Congress, and if it is to be war, then they alone can say it. This is not the Gulf of Tonkin, some flimsy puffed-up excuse for hostilities -- we've been hit hard on our own shores, and a Declaration of War, if military action is necessary, is certainly justified. But don't ask us, the American people, to sacrfice without declaring war, and don't ask the people to sacrifice without asking the same of corporations.
(8) It's good to remember that Osama bin Laden, whether or not he was the party ultimately reponsible for the 09-11-01 attacks, *has* declared war on *us*, he has declared a fatwa on Americans, both military and civilian, and has, in the past, killed Americans abroad, on American soil, our embassies in East Africa.
(9) Finally, we need to remind ourselves that the purpose of any military action should not be retribution or retaliation for its own sake, although we would certainly be justified in seeking those things. Any military action should be in the service of the ultimate goal of making Americans secure, not only in their homeland but elsewhere in the world. Any military action, or any other part of this campaign against terrorism that we have been thrust into, which doesn't serve to move us closer to that goal is counter-productive and should not be carried out. If using the legal mechanisms and processes of our country and the world community could stop terrorism, bring the people responsible for the attacks on America to justice and make us secure in our homes, then it would be best to use them instead of military action. Unfortunately, however, I do not think that is the case. I think that it is inevitable that we will have to fight. And so, we should.
I don't relish being thought of as a warmonger, and I'm not motivated (I don't believe) by bloodlust, but I do think that there *is* such a thing as a "just" war, and it doesn't take overblown Bushian rhetoric about "fighting evil" to justify this one. Whatever our faults, whatever we have done wrong in the past (and continue to do wrong) in our foreign policies, we have done *nothing* which justified 7,000 innocent civilians being killed 19 days ago.
One of the small joys of working in the theatre as a stage manager is that the people involved in each production -- the producers, actors, playwright, director and designers -- get short "bios" published in the program that the audience receives, and, as a member of Actors' Equity, I get to have one as well.
Usually these bios are lists of the other productions that each person has been connected with, which is interesting because as a member of the audience you can read the bios and remember where you saw that actor before, or realize that the director or designer worked on another production you saw, or that the playwright also wrote that other play you liked, or whatever.
But, for me, the list format for bios is starting to feel kind of boring, so I decided to try something a little different this time out. Unfortunately, what I wrote came out twice as long as I am allowed, and, besides, my wife said it made me sound like a jaded and cranky man (to which I responded "I am a jaded and cranky man"), so I had to edited it down quite a bit.
One of the small joys of having one's one blog is that I get to publish the original version here.
Ed Fitzgerald (Production Stage Manager) is 49 years old and has been a stage manager, and paid for it, for 32 years. (You do the math.) In New York, he started off-off-Broadway in 1976 and has done pretty much everything there is to do in the meantime – Broadway, off-Broadway, regional, touring, dance, opera, festivals and special events – for the usual list of well-known institutions and producers. For a while he did sound design, for a while he co-owned a recording studio, for a while he worked with a talented songwriter and his rock bands, for a while he was a production manager. His homes are at MTC, where he first worked in 1981 (and where he has even done stints in the office at various times doing various things) and with David Gordon and the Pick-up Performance Company for the last 11 years. He worked on a long list of shows, most of which you’ve never heard of, some you’ve forgotten you saw and even a few you’d remember fondly where I to list them. He says a fond “Hello” to all the stage managers in the house reading this bio, being convinced that no one else ever does.
On Off the Kuff, Charles Kuffner links to a number of Texas bloggers who are posting on what the next step should be for Texas Democrats. In the comments thread My Friend Roger (that's both a description and his new Official unfutz Designation [OuD]) has an interesting response, the majority of which I'm posting here with his permission:
In 1992, I worked in the Clinton Campaign in San Francisco, where I was a fairly useless flunky. Anyhow, one day they hauled all of us over to Oakland, to a big union hall, to listen to some guys from the National Democratic Party who'd been sent in to help reverse the pro-Republican trend that had seized California in the 1970s and '80s.
The first thing they mentioned was that the demographics were in our favor, and they were certainly counting on those.
The second thing they did was outline the history. They looked at how many counties in the state had voted Democratic in the presidential election years of 1964, 1968, 1972, 1976, 1980, 1984 and 1988. The trend was pretty ugly. The nadir came in 1984, if I recall correctly, when only Santa Cruz and Yolo Counties (small and dominated by liberal UC campuses) went Democratic. After the '84 election, the Democratic Party got serious about the matter: they broke the whole state down, and figured out EXACTLY how many people they had to register in each and every precinct in every county to reverse what was happening.
It worked like a charm. In '88, we took quite a few more counties, and in many of them the focused voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts clearly made the difference. And, of course, it worked in 1992 for Clinton.
At the time, I thought, "If I were a George Soros, I'd finance teams like this for every major state in the nation." This is TRULY what soft-money contributions were meant for. And I specifically thought of Texas. I later wrote some direct mail for the Anne Richards Campaign, and was profoundly disappointed by her defeat in '94. But I saw even then that Texas seemed to lack the kind of focused effort that had gone into California.
This is kind of nuts-and-bolts stuff, you know. It's nice when you have strong unions, since they often shoulder such work. (I know, for example, some folks who grew up in Chicago, and they've told me how when they were kids EVERY block had a Democratic Block Captain -- organized by the unions -- and those folks took their volunteer work quite seriously. Nevermind voting the bodies in cemetaries, they could turn out real, live voters like nobody's business!)
Well, you don't have strong unions much anymore, and surely not in Texas. But fundamentals are fundamentals. If the demographics are going your way, you COULD just sit and wait for it. But the benefits will accrue a lot faster if Democrats get serious about going out and doing the hard, tough slog door-to-door and person-to-person. Starting by doing what they did in California: figuring out EXACTLY how many voters they need to register in every major county, then setting goals and working like hell to reach them.
I'd add one other thing, a theme I've been repeating elsewhere a lot. For three decades, conservatives (and the GOP) have been SELLING and TEACHING conservatism. Not just immediate promises, though they do a lot of that (and lie about a lot of that) all the time also. But, they actually proselytize their worldview.
Liberals and Democrats, insofar as I can tell, do not ... and haven't for years and years. We just sort of expect people to join us based on the "obvious reasonableness" of our views or something. The osmosis theory of political education, I guess.
Sure, we argue with conservatives, and we preach to ourselves, but we almost NEVER try to explain to anyone beyond our own small circles just what it is we believe at the most fundamental of levels.
Texas Democrats might do well to consider this. Why should we have to depend on "changing demographics" to save our asses? Why should we have to "shift to the right" in order to stay even vaguely competitive? Why the devil are we conceding white males and older couples to the GOP? Maybe they ARE gone beyond reclaiming, but we should sure the hell be doing our best to educate the next generation about WHY liberalism is actually BETTER than conservatism!
This, too, is a fundamental ... no less important than registering voters and getting them to the polls on election day.
Don't forget to head over to Off the Kuff and use the links there to read what the Texans are saying about it.
hostile to science
lacking in empathy
lacking in public spirit
out of control
Thanks to: Breeze, Chuck, Ivan Raikov, Kaiju, Kathy, Roger, Shirley, S.M. Dixon
i've got a little list...
Steven Abrams (Kansas BofE)
Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson
Roger Ailes (FNC)
Alan Bonsell (Dover BofE)
Bill Buckingham (Dover BofE)
George W. Bush
Bruce Chapman (DI)
The Coors Family
William A. Dembski
Leonard Downie (WaPo)
John Gibson (FNC)
Fred Hiatt (WaPo)
James F. Inhofe
Philip E. Johnson
by Joel Pelletier
(click on image for more info)
Stephen C. Meyer (DI)
Judith Miller (ex-NYT)
Sun Myung Moon
Elspeth Reeve (TNR)
Martin Peretz (TNR)
Richard Mellon Scaife
Susan Schmidt (WaPo)
John Solomon (WaPo)
Richard Thompson (TMLC)
Bob Woodward (WaPo)
All the fine sites I've
Be sure to visit them all!!
Arthur C. Clarke
Daniel C. Dennett
Philip K. Dick
Stephen Jay Gould
"The Harder They Come"
Ursula K. LeGuin
The Marx Brothers
Michael C. Penta
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
"The Red Shoes"
"Singin' in the Rain"
Talking Heads/David Byrne
Hunter S. Thompson
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
If you read unfutz at least once a week, without fail, your teeth will be whiter and your love life more satisfying.
If you read it daily, I will come to your house, kiss you on the forehead, bathe your feet, and cook pancakes for you, with yummy syrup and everything.
(You might want to keep a watch on me, though, just to avoid the syrup ending up on your feet and the pancakes on your forehead.)
Finally, on a more mundane level, since I don't believe that anyone actually reads this stuff, I make this offer: I'll give five bucks to the first person who contacts me and asks for it -- and, believe me, right now five bucks might as well be five hundred, so this is no trivial offer.