Friday, December 31, 2010

Pardon Fever Stops with Billy the Kid

I'm not a big fan of efforts to "save the past" through pardoning of celebrity malefactors and criminals. I can see giving a symbolic justice to people like Susan B. Anthony and Medgar Evers. David Walker, the extremely brave black activist who wrote "Walker's Appeal" needs to be rescured from the historical scrap heap as well. However, the efforts to pardon people like Jim Morrison and Billy the Kid function mostly to flatten out the rough edges of a rough past.

As a result, they all have a fundamental falseness about them.

It was dumb of outgoing Florida Gov. Charlie Crist to pardon Jim Morrison for obscenity. Ok, so maybe Morrison didn't pull out his dick during a Miami concert and maybe the cops were persecuting him.

Who knows?

But it wasn't like Morrison was Pat Boone either. From what I remember and have read about the Doors, everything Morrison accomplished had an underpinning of sex, drugs, drinking, and general outrageousness that can be legitimately summarized in the word "obscenity." I bought 45's of "Hello, I Love You" and "Touch Me," grooved to "Riders on the Storm" and "LA Woman" and remember where I was on the Potsdam State campus when I heard Morrison died.

I've played them for my daughters as well.

But to me, Morrison's obscenity conviction is a useful reminder that he was drinking something like two quarts of Scotch when he died.

Bill Richardson was right not to pardon Billy the Kid but shouldn't have considered it in the first place. Whether he killed nine guys or twenty-nine guys, Billy was a professional killer who shouldn't have been considered for pardon any more than Al Capone's hit guys.

Actually, it might have been better to take the New Mexico case the other way. Instead of a posthumous pardon for Billy the Kid, it might have been better to do posthumous murder convictions for Pat Garrett and everybody involved in the Lincoln County War that gave birth to Billy the Kid's career as a gunslinger.

If we ever want to have a less violent country, one thing we need to reduce the symbolic weight of murder in our popular culture. Finding ways to express our revulsion at past murders would be a good step in that direction.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Little Less Cautious In My Optimism

Nate Silver of Five Thirty-Eight and now the New York Times is very cautious in his optimism about Obama's chances of winning re-election.

I'm a little less cautious.

That's mostly because I expect Obama to be facing weak opposition.

If Obama is currently topping out at 49% in public opinion polls, Sarah Palin's ceiling is more like 43-46% and that's being pretty generous.

But I don't think Mitt Romney would do much better.

Where Palin is provocative and divisive, she at least comes off as honest and consistent. There is a sense that she wouldn't give up her core politics and personality to become president.

To the contrary, Mitt Romney gives off a air of creepiness rooted in his willingness to do anything to win..

Right now, it appears that neither of the two top Republican contenders would be as appealing as John McCain was in 2008.

Which is grounds for reasonable optimism about Obama's re-election chances.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Maybe They Should Have Tried This Earlier

According to today's New York Times, the Obama administration is thinking about taking their case to the public more often with the divided Congress.

On Wednesday afternoon, even as lawmakers were approving a burst of Mr. Obama’s legislative priorities in the waning hours of the Congressional session, the president and a small circle of advisers convened to sketch out the next two months. Mr. Obama intends not only to extend a hand to Republicans but also to begin detaching himself more from Congress and spending more time making his case directly to the American people.

“In a world of divided government, getting things done requires a mix of compromise and confrontation,” said Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director. “What are the things you can do without Congress? In some cases, that involves executive orders, but it also involves using the bully pulpit of the presidency to make a political argument about the direction of the country.”

Of course, there's always the possibility that Obama wouldn't be facing a divided Congress is they had done a better job of taking their case to the public.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

End the Filibuster Next January!

Yesterday, every returning Democrat in the U. S. Senate signed a letter calling for changes in Senate rules to limit filibusters and holds. Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Carl Levin of Michigan are talking about making Senators actually recruit 40 votes to begin a filibuster and then staying on the floor to maintain a filibuster. Under current Senate rules, someone can anonymously file an objection to a vote and force a 30 hour delay.

The Democrats are also talking about forcing Senators to make holds on legislation public. Right now, holds are anonymous. That way, anybody who is single-handedly obstructing appointments or legislation would be publicly accountable.

I've got a better idea.

Get rid of filibusters altogether. Eliminate holds. It's the only way to make the federal government functional again.

Under Mitch McConnell's leadership, the strategy of Senate Republicans has been to use the most expansive interpretation of Senate rules concerning calling up legislation, filibustering, and holds to slow walk and obstruct every significant piece of legislation. McConnell's goal has been to make Democratic Party control over the White House and Congress so painful that the country will vote Republican just to escape the torment.

It's important to emphasize that McConnell and the Republican leadership didn't want to negotiate, didn't want to compromise, and didn't want any kind of horse-trading. The GOP has been responding to every defeat by becoming even more aggressive ever since the 1992 election that put Bill Clinton into office. Newt Gingich made his reputation by aggressively attacking Clinton over the gays in the military even before Clinton made office and the attacks continued right through the Republican Revolution of 1994. When Bill Clinton won re-election in 1996k, the GOP responded with impeachment charges. This time, McConnell and other senior Republicans viewed intransigence as a matter of survival. Barack Obama posed a particular kind of threat to them. By heavily emphasizing bi-partisanship as he took office, Obama, perhaps unintentionally, defined any kind of Republican cooperation and compromise as a win for the Obama administration. For Mitch McConnell, Dick Armey, John McCain, and a lot of other Republicans, cooperation with the Obama administration meant extinction and irrelevance. It was intransigence or death.

And it worked.

Until this week, Senate Republicans under McConnell's leadership have filibustered almost all legislation, slow walked almost all appointments, and generally made governance as frustrating and painful as possible. To further the overall party goal of frustrating Democratic Party governance, many Republican Senators have voted to oppose bills they personally supported, filibustered bills that incorporated many of their ideas, and even worked to block legislation they had intially sponsored.

And it worked.

Even though they got most of their major initiatives passed, the Democrats looked weak, ineffectual, and perpetually exhausted right up until last week and that's a major reason why the Republicans did so well in the 2010 mid-term elections.

If the Democrats want to make the federal government functional once again, they'll have to eliminate the means by which Mitch McConnell and the Republican Senate leadership have kept them tied up over the last two years.

That means getting rid of filibusters and holds.

Instead of fiddling around the margins of the filibuster privilege, the Democrats should go for a simple, clean set of fixes. Right now, one Senator can block legislation from coming up for debate by filing a "hold" on the legislation. The Senate Democrats should eliminate that privilege altogether.

Second, minority filibusters can peventing legislation from coming up for debate at all. The Senate Democrats should eliminate that privilege as well and create a rule saying that it is a leadership prerogative to bring bills up for debate.

Finally, current rules require an extraordinary majority of 60 to end debate on a bill. The Dems should change the rules so that a simple majority of 51 Senators is required to end debate.

The effect of these kinds of changes would be to further the common good and bi-partisanship by forcing the Republican minority to negotiate with the Democratic majority if they want to have an impact on legislation.

The main objection to these kinds of far-reaching changes in Senate rules is that the Republicans would use those changes to their advantage to eliminate social security, medicare, environmental mandates, the public school systems and other things they don't like about American society.

My reply: let them.

If the Republicans want to overturn American government as we know it and are able to win majorities in future elections, they should have a right to enact their ideas into policy.

Given the disastrous outcomes likely from Republican policies, they'll probably get the extinction they richly deserve as a result.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Trip Inside the Republican Poll Numbers

In one of the more painful ironies of the Obama administration, President Obama's election was guaranteed by the onset of the Great Recession which put the newly elected administration squarely behind the eight ball even before Obama was inaugurated. A bad economy, go for broke opposition from Mitch McConnell, and the rise of the Tea Party movement have combined to make every step of the Obama administration seem like a exercise in pain tolerance.

What they've really needed is some easy scores.

And it looks like they're arriving.

But it looks like the Obama administration can finally see a little bit of daylight. Last week, they got very encouraging poll numbers in relation to the Republicans. President Obama was leading Mitt Romney by 7% in an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll and had a whopping 22 point edge over Sarah Palin. Those numbers have some depth as well. Over 70% like Obama personally, a solid majority thinks he has the right policies, and the Democrats have an 11% edge in party identification.

What makes the NBC/WSJ poll particularly good for the president is that it came out BEFORE the current round of Obama "wins" in repealing DADT, passing the START treaty, and getting health assistance for 9-11 Responders. When the poll was taken, the Obama administration was still at bottom from the mid-term election shellacking and should therefore have some flexibility given that Obama is still well-liked personally. If the administration continues to generate positive news, Obama's numbers will trend upward.

The question is whether there's wiggle room in relation to Republican numbers as well . . . in particular, those of Sarah Palin.

My opinion of the 2012 election is that Sarah Palin will be the Republican nominee and Obama will beat her easily in the general election. I don't see how the other top tier GOP candidates can be competitive with Palin. Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee might poll better than Palin against President Obama now, but they

But that's not likely to hold up.

Established Republican candidates folded up pretty badly in Republican primaries against even the weakest Tea Party opposition. It didn't even take that much negative advertising for fringe candidates like Christine O'Donnell and Joe Miller to roll up primary victories over established Republican incumbents like Mike Castle and Lisa Murkowski. With Sarah Palin, it's going to be different. Palin already has a strong conservative base, she's going to have LOTS of money for attack ads, and Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee are big juicy targets. In the case of Romney, Massachusetts passed Obama-style health reform while Romney was governor and Romney took credit for the legislation as well as signed it. According to at least one poll, Mitt Romney is already starting to sink among conservatives. When matched against three other Republicans, Romney finished last in seven out of eight states and that eighth state was Michigan where Romney's father had been governor. Romney scores best among Obama and would be at least plausible among moderate and independent voters. But moderate and independent voters don't matter all that much in a lot of Republican primaries.

With Huckabee, it's worse. While governor of Arkansas, Huckabee pardoned a man named Maurice Clemmons who went on to kill four cops in Seattle last year. Given that the attack ads on Huckabee are going to write themselves and that Palin hasn't been afraid of attacking other Republicans, she's going to be pounding away at Huckabee's pardon of Maurice Clemmons every ten minutes on every television station in every Republican primary state in 2012.

It's true that Romney and Huckabee could run scorched-earth attack ads against Palin, but that would be far more risky. As Jack Conway found out in Kentucky, both the media and the public have far more tolerance for brual attacks by conservatives than they have on brutal attacks on conservatives like Conway's Aqua Buddha ads. My bet would be that Romney and Huckabee would be constrained to observe Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment of not attacking other Republicans while Palin would be free to savage them.

Sometimes life just isn't fair.

Of course, it's not like Romney and Huckabee should give up. There's the real possibility that Palin will self-destruct and they'd both want to be in position in case she does. But if Palin keeps it together, she'll win in a walk because fringe possibilities like Tim Pawlenty, Haley Barbour, John Thune, and Rick Santorum have a better chance of being nominated by the Socialist Workers Party than the Republicans.

I would say that Palin's nomination is pretty much written into stone if she decides to run and it already looks like she's running.

The question is whether there is any more wiggle room in Palin's bad general election numbers. I think so. Sarah Palin has nearly universal name recognition and a popular base in the conservative movement with 77% of conservatives approving of her. She also has a great deal of political star quality and will attract the same kinds of enormous sums of money from popular conservatives that Barack Obama raised from his liberal base in 2008.

Of course, Palin's big problem is her high negatives. The recent polling has 59% of the electorate saying that they would refuse to vote for her and over 60% saying that she's unqualified to be president. The negativity isn't just a matter of distaste for her among liberals and minorities either. Peggy Noonan, Christine Todd Whitman, and other establishment conservatives have been criticizing a potential Palin candidacy on the grounds that Palin does not have the policy/intellectualy qualifications needed to be president and that her criticisms of the "lamestream media" and Michelle Obama indicate that she is not temperamentally suited for the position either. Sixty-nine percent of voters being polled don't think that Palin is qualified to be president. Likewise, 30% of John McCain voters claimed that they wouldn't vote for Palin.

But these numbers aren't immutable.

In the same poll, 42% of respondents said they wouldn't vote for either Barack Obama or Michael Bloomberg either.

What this means to me is that the poll that has Obama beating Palin 55-33 isn't real. What's most likely real is that Palin would start with the 42% that said they're a definite "no" on Obama. The question then is whether Palin can attract the other 7% needed to get to 49% and win an election (where 2% of the vote would go to fringe candidates).

The answer has to be yes.

Much of the perception that Palin isn't qualified is tied to her disastrous interviews with Charles Gibson and Katie Couric during the 2008 election. At the same time, the perception of her as "unqualified" lowers the expectations bar for Palin just as it did for George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. If people think Palin doesn't know anything, all she has to do is demonstrate some knowledgeability during the initial GOP debates and she would be "exceeding expectations." It's not like Palin's negative numbers would evaporate as a result, but they might significantly weaken among the 7% she needs to win.

The other thing is that it's easy to see President Obama as being adversely affected by circumstances beyond his control. Another Katina-type disaster, a terrorist attack on American soil, and big blow ups in Iraq and Afghanistan would all have the effect of making Barack Obama less appealing. Likewise, gas is up to $3.05 in our area. If it keeps rising, one can be sure that Obama would be blamed. If Obama caught a down-cycle while Palin was in an up-cycle, it's not hard to imagine her winning a general election.

Sarah Palin is not Christine O'Donnell. Her negative numbers are fluid enough that she could benefit from a last minute surge and pull out a victory in a presidential election.

And it's not exactly like the Democrats are incapable of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory either.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Just Another Day on a Republican Staff

There's a minor brouhaha over somebody from the office of Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss sending some hate mail to a pro-gay rights blog.
As TPM previously reported, soon after a Senate vote to block debate on the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' someone wrote "All faggots must die" on the blog of gay rights advocate Joe Jervis. Other commenters traced the origin of the comment to a IP address located in Atlanta, Georgia, near the offices of both of the state's senators. Chambliss' office then said it was investigating the matter.
Chambliss' office did determine that the hate message came from their office. But I don't think that's the point. From everything I've ever read about Republican politician, this kind of discourse about gay people is pretty much standard operating procedure. The only difference is that the GOP's successful filibustering of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" led some anonymous guy to let down his guard and go public with his homophobia.

Maybe the media should report that as well.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Excellent Delusions from Dinesh D'Souza

It appears more and more that conservative activists just live in an alternate universe. Dinesh D'Souza, a right-wing think tanker who might as well be a brand name for stunning mediocrity, has an article in Forbes on how Obama's ideas on things like health care derive from the "anti-colonial" ideology he inherited from his Kenyan father.

Back in the real world, Obama's health care ideas were quite a bit like Hillary Clinton's whose ideas were quite a bit like Joe Bidens in 2008 and pretty much the same as Joe Lieberman's in 2004.

That's pretty much the same with all of Obama's ideas. They're a lot like Democratic ideas that have been floating around for a long time.

But for conservatives, being a Democrat is not enough to explain Obama. For the right, everything Obama has to be traced back to A-f-r-i-c-a.

Not that it bothers conservatives that Obama is black.

Not that the right-wing is engaged in race-baiting.

Not that they're racists.

Well, maybe a little.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

All You Need to Know About Big-Time College Football

Jeff Pearlman of Sports Illustrated nails it on big-time college football coaches:
College football coaches talk to their players about loyalty and family, then do the ol' Snagglepuss (Exit -- stage left!) as soon as a better offer comes along. College football coaches talk about pride and "being a man," yet grovel at the toes of every 17-year-old child with a golden arm or 4.3 speed. College football coaches talk about "looking around this room and knowing it's not about the uniform, but what's inside," then accept $2 million annually from adidas to promote what's on the outside. They are, to be blunt, a pathetic lot, and I'd just as soon have my son stay home, obsess over the Atari 2600 and smoke 10 packs of Marlboros a day than play for the used car salesmen at schools like Alabama or Arkansas or USC.

Some college football players are better than others. I've been pretty impressed with the last two sets of coaches at Kentucky. But analogizing guys like Nick Saban and Bobby Petrino to used car salesman is really an insult to used car salesman. Maybe it would be better to say I'd rather have my children follow Glen Beck than SEC football.

Come to think of it though, I'm just glad I have daughters.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Palin Candidate Still Ahead in Alaska

TPM has Joe Miller still ahead by 2,000 votes over Lisa Murkowski with 84% of precincts reporting.

Sarah Palin's Little Finger

The latest reports out of the battle for the Republican nomination to the U. S. Senate from Alaska has unknown incumbent Lisa Murkowski trailing unknown Joe Miller.
Incumbent GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski was thought to be a big favorite coming into Tuesday's primary against Sarah Palin-backed challenger Joe Miller. But with over half the vote in, Miller holds a slight lead over the incumbent, 52 to 48 percent with a little over 2,000 votes separating the two.

Because Alaska has such a far flung population, Murkowski could still pull ahead.

But the fact that Miller's is at the very least putting up a stiff fight is enormous testimony to the power of Sarah Palin.

Because of Sarah Palin's support, Joe Miller is a player. Without her support, he's just another clueless wing nut who wants to invade Canada over socialized medicine.

And Palin didn't have to do much.

If I remember right, Palin put up a couple of posts on facebook and recorded a robocall on his behalf on Monday. I don't think she made any public appearances with Miller or traveled with him around the state.

Sarah Palin is not exactly known for her work ethic and here she barely lifted a finger for Miller.

But, such as they were, Palin's token efforts still put Miller into play.

This all reminds me of a comment on Ben Franklin's attempt to change Pennsylvania from a proprietorship to a royal colony in the 1750's. Franklin wanted to end the proprietorship as a way to eliminate the influence of William Penn's descendants on Pennsylvania affairs.

But one of Franklin's opponents claimed something to the effect that "the little finger of the king weighs more than the loins of the proprietor."

Sarah Palin's little finger has a lot of weight as well.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

It Could Be A Lot Worse!

Barbara Ehrenreich has an article on AlterNet entitled resist the Corpo-Obama-Geithner-Petraeus State. I understand the frustration with the Obama administration. But it's also clear that if progressives don't hang with Obama, we're going to get the Palin/Bachmann State and conditions are going to be a lot worse, a whole lot worse, than they are now.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Dr. Laura Goes for the Tea Party Audience

Laura Schlessinger of "Dr. Laura" fame apologized profusely for using the "n-word" several times in her discussion with a black woman who was complaining about racist comments in the context of her bi-racial marriage.

It sounds like a scene from Spike Lee's Bamboozled.

During the exchange on Tuesday's show, Schlessinger said the woman who called herself Jade was too sensitive for complaining that her husband's friends made racist comments about her in their home. When the woman asked if the N-word was offensive, Dr. Laura said "black guys say it all the time," then went on to repeat it
several times.

Schlessinger did not direct the epithet at the woman, but said she used it to suggest how often she hears it, and that it should not automatically be cause for offense.
When the caller objected, Schlessinger replied: "Oh, then I guess you don't watch HBO or listen to any black comedians."

Schlessinger also said that if the caller did not have a sense of humor about race, she shouldn't have entered into an interracial marriage.

I can't decide if Dr. Laura is bringing her inner racist out of the closet, whether she's yet another conservative case of racial panic in the Age of Obama, or simply trying to get the Tea Party constituency to pay her more attention.

Whatever, I have a funny feeling that she's soon going to be using a Confederate flag as her show's logo.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Worst Owner in the NBA

With yesterday's hiring and today's withdrawal of Isaiah Thomas, it now looks like Knick owner James Dolan has displaced the Clippers Donald Sterling as the worst owner in the NBA.

Monday, August 09, 2010

A Few Words About Fancy Farm

I just saw video of the speeches from Jack Conway and Rand Paul at Fancy Farm last Saturday. Conway really kicked Rand Paul's butt. Paul is a pretty weak public speaker who wasn't saying much of anything about anything. He wasn't talking about his own ideas, he wasn't talking much about the Obama administration, and he wasn't talking much about Jack Conway. Pretty much all Paul did was recite the number of pages in the tax code and federal regulations and recite the names of President Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi.

It was lame and fell flat.

The question, though, is whether any of this makes any difference though. Political scientists have argued for years that campaign managers, political consultants and ad agencies have become the principle figures in political campaigns rather than candidates. Rand Paul's campaign takes this one step further. Given that Paul has by-passed the Republican campaign infrastructure, his campaign is being driven primarily by Fox News.

Conway referred to Paul as trying to be the "prince of cable tv."

It's more accurate to view Rand Paul as the "puppet of cable tv."

I'll be volunteering and giving money to the Jack Conway campaign

Friday, August 06, 2010

Elena Kagan Gets Confirmed 63-37

I have to admit that I'm not overwhelmingly impressed with Kagan. But anybody better would have been demonized to death. So she's the best we could do.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Who's Weirder: Sharron Angle or Jesus?

Yesterday, TPM gave some play to a Las Vegas Sun story concerning Sharron Angle's claims that the Obama administration violated the First Commandment with its health care initiatives. Here's Angle doing an interview with Christian radio in April.
"And these programs that you mentioned -- that Obama has going with Reid and
Pelosi pushing them forward -- are all entitlement programs built to make government our God. And that’s really what’s happening in this country is a violation of the First Commandment. We have become a country entrenched in idolatry, and that idolatry is the dependency upon our government. We’re supposed to depend upon God for our protection and our provision and for our daily bread, not for our government."
It's often extremely difficult for people outside the religious right to understand what they're saying and I'm no different in having problems in that regard. However, much of what Sharron Angle appears to be doing in the interview is seeking to establish her authenticity as a Christian conservative.

Authenticity is a problem with Sharron Angle.

Before her campaign for the U. S. Senate gained traction, Angle talked big about carrying out "Second Amendment solutions" in relation to Harry Reid (i.e., having Reid assassinated) and eliminating social security. Since then, Angle has admitted that she needs to "walk back" this kind of rhetoric if she wants to win her Senate race against Reid, but Angle also gives the impression that her rhetoric about Reid and Obama was always just a pose calculated to gain attention on the extreme right and that she's perfectly willing to adapt more conventional Republican language now that she's the Republican nominee. Contrary to the Tea Party image of disgust with the constant shape-shifting of politicians, Sharron Angle appears to be an "extreme politician" in the sense that she's willing to dramatically remake herself to seize the opportunity of her lifetime.

Much the same is the case with Rand Paul in Kentucky. Also remaking himself as a more conventional Republican politician, Paul characterizes himself as "spouting off" in any number of ways over the last twenty years as a libertarian gadfly and claims that nobody should take anything he said very seriously.

And that claim should be taken seriously

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Gay Rights Victory Creates Moral Opportunity for Conservatives

A federal judge overturned the gay marriage ban adapted by California as a result of Proposition 8. Judge Vaughn Walker was both comprehensive and direct.
Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples. Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.
That's the bottom line. California and every other state has a "constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis" and can only discriminate against any group if it has a very powerful "state interest" in doing so. The question then becomes whether California has some kind of over-riding interest in preventing gay people from getting married.

At which point, Judge Vaughn disposes of most of the arguments against gay marriage.
In the absence of a rational basis, what remains of proponents' case is an inference, amply supported by evidence in the record, that Proposition 8 was premised on the belief that same-sex couples simply are not as good as opposite-sex couples. FF 78-80. Whether that belief is based on moral disapproval of homosexuality, animus towards gays and lesbians or simply a belief that a relationship between a man and a woman is inherently better than a relationship between two men or two women, this belief is not a proper basis on which to legislate.


The arguments surrounding Proposition 8 raise a question similar to that addressed in Lawrence, when the Court asked whether a majority of citizens could use the power of the state to enforce "profound and deep convictions accepted as ethical and moral principles" through the criminal code. ... The question here is whether California voters can enforce those same principles through regulation of marriage licenses. They cannot. California's obligation is to treat its citizens equally, not to "mandate [its] own moral code."
"Lawrence" refers to Lawrence v Texas, the Supreme Court decision that overturned sodomy laws across the nation. Gay rights activism has been one of the most inspiring developments in American society during the last forty years and is like the civil rights movement and feminism in being a shining example of what the United States at its best has to offer the world. When I was growing up in the sixties and early seventies, gay people were subject to a relentless series of abuses. I remember how one of my college friends from Syracuse talked about going around and beating up gay guys while he was in high school. There were relentless rumors about the sexuality of various male teachers who didn't fit the standard mode of educational macho (such as it was). It was especially painful for me to learn that my second grade teacher Miss Taylor had been forced to live a closeted existence her entire adult life because she was a lesbian. She was a tremendously nice lady and an excellent teacher who shouldn't have had to live like that. Nobody should have to live like that. In fact, gay life was so constricted in the places where I lived that I didn't meet a single openly gay person until I started graduate school in 1976.

In my opinion, the ultimate end point of the gay rights movement is the equal embrace of heterosexuality and homosexuality as modes of sexual living. One of the things I've learned as a heterosexual over the years is the extent to which heterosexuality is promoted by schooling, the news media, movies, and popular music. Given that heterosexuals are over 90% of the population, that will probably always be the case. But I'd like to see homosexuality embraced with the same kind of enthusiasm by the general public. That's probably over-optimistic, but I don't see why gay people shouldn't have their enthusiasms, questions, problems, issues, and failings given the same kind of sympathetic public representation as mine.

Conservatives have a variety of objections to open homosexuality. There's biblical passages in Leviticus and one of Paul's letters, arguments about the traditional character of the exclusion of homosexuals from marriage, and other more ridiculous claims about the slippery slope to bestiality and conservatives being subject to penalties for not believing in gay marriage.

Judge Vaughn very appropriately dismisses these kinds of claims as not having sufficient merit to outweigh the rights of gay people to equal treatment concerning issues of marriage. It's guaranteed that this decision is going to be played up as a right v left by all types of media. I've already posted something teasing conservatives on facebook myself.

Nevertheless, I also believe that American conservatives should take Judge Vaugh's decision as an opportunity to rethink their position on gay marriage and all other issues concerning sexual orientation. The key to conservative rethinking about gay marriage should be their on-going rethinking about civil rights and gender. Conservatives used to be just as attached to racial segregation as they're now attached to the exclusion of gay people from marriage. But it now seems that most prominent conservatives reject the legacy of segregation and that many conservatives are genuinedly pained by the association of the right with racism. Likewise, conservatives have reconciled themselves enough to feminism that conservative women like Sarah Palin have emerged as powerful forces in the Republican Party. If conservatives have rethought their positions on racial integration and gender equality, they can rethink their moral stance on gay people as well.

And they should.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The "Ben Nelson Presidential Residence"

Yesterday, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska announced that he would vote against confirming Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court. That makes Nelson the only Senate Democrat to oppose Kagan.

Nelson has made a point of being a particularly difficult vote for the Senate Democrats over the last couple of years. First, Nelson threatened to filibuster health care reform if it included a public option and then held out for such a particularly sweet deal for Nebraska that it almost derailed the whole bill.

Nelson ultimately supported financial reform legislation as well, but flirted with the idea of derailing the bill to ensure that Elizabeth Warren wasn't named to be head of the new Consumer Bureau.

Evidently, he was holding out for Omaha native Warren Buffett.

But it's hard to figure out any reason for Nelson's opposition to the Kagan nomination. Here's Nelson's statement.
I have heard concerns from Nebraskans regarding Ms. Kagan, and her lack of a judicial record makes it difficult for me to discount the concerns raised by Nebraskans, or to reach a level of comfort that these concerns are unfounded. Therefore, I will not vote to confirm Ms. Kagan’s nomination . . .
Translating into something less obtuse and convoluted: "Yeah, I was surprised to find that some people in the largely Republican state of Nebraska had some objections to Kagan. Being too lazy to check out Kagan's nomination, I pretty much decided to vote "no" for the hell of it."

Of course, there's the possibility that I'm being unfair to Nelson. There might be some reasoning behind his opposition to Kagan after all.

Nelson not only announced his "no" vote on Kagan, he also announced that he would not support any kind of filibuster for the nomination. With five Republican votes in favor of confirmation, that means there should be 63 or 64 votes in favor of "cloture" should the Republican leadership mount their 5,000th filibuster of this legislative session.

In other words, Nelson is voting "no," but his decision not to filibuster means that Kagan's confirmation is pretty much in the bag.

Ultimately, Nelson might just be reminding the White House and Democratic leadership that they'll still have to work for his support on any important legislation in the future.

That's why I'm proposing that the White House give Ben Nelson the kind of honor he deserves as the most important member of the United States in this crucial time in American history.

That's why I'm suggesting that the Obama administration rename the White House the "Ben Nelson Presidential Residence" and start referring to their operation as the "Nelson House."

"Nelson House Tours" would begin promptly at 9:00am, pictures of Ben Nelson would be on the wall next to the pictures of George Washington, and sleeping in the "Nelson bedroom" would be the ultimate perk for friends of Obama.

That way, the Obama administration could reassure Ben Nelson that they think he's REALLY, REALLY IMPORTANT.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Jack Tatum RIP--Avoid Clotheslines

There's a report that former Oakland Raider defensive back Jack Tatum died from a heart attack today. If I remember right, Tatum was especially good at "clotheslining"--tacking a wide receivers by ripping your arm across his face as he's running forward with the ball. Clotheslining had very much a comical effect because the other player's face would be stopped cold while their torso and legs still spluttered forward.

During his heyday, I LOVED Jack Tatum as a former high school linebacker. He was the ultimate in "assassin cool" as a defensive player during the 1970's--even better than Dick Butkus had been during the 1960's.

That is until a trademark Tatum hit resulted in the full paralysis of New England receiver Darryl Stingley in 1978.

Jack Tatum didn't seem so cool at that point.

And he retired a couple of years later.

Tatum's memory is always going to be tarnished by Stingley's paralysis and his own lack of any remorse for ruining the guy's life.

And it should be.

I have to admit that I had remorse for Stingley's injury just for being a Jack Tatum fan.

Ultimately, the really cool, super-tough guy thing so great after all.

Poor Tony Hayward

It's so unfair. BP chair Tony Hayward only gets $1.6 million plus a $928,000 annual pension. And taxes are so high too. How's he going to live on that?

All joking aside, conservatives really need to ask themselves whether the world is going to come to an end if the Tony Haywards of the world have to pay 39% rather than 36% federal income taxes on his income.

I would suggest that that's not the case.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What about Andrew Breitbart and the 9th Commandment?

Ouch! That looks like a third degree burn there Andrew.

Conservative firebrand Andrew Breitbart put out a heavily doctored firebrand purporting to demonstrate that a black Ag Department official discriminated against whites. Taking Breitbart at his word, Shirley Sherrod was criticized by the NAACP and forced to resign by the Agriculture Department.

But oops! It turned out that Shirley Sherrod is somewhat of a saint. The full video of her talk to the NAACP indicates that she repented her discrimination against a white family, helped them keep their farm, and then became "life-friends" with them. Instead of bragging about discrimination Sherrod's talk was a story of redemption from racism.

In other words, Breitbart was engaged in an obviously dishonest, vicious smear of an admirable woman.


Now, Breitbart is talking about how he was attacking the NAACP rather than Ms. Sherrod and the Obama administration is talking about hiring her back.

Of course, the Obama administration might do better to grow a backbone in relation to right-wing provocateurs like Breitbart.

But I haven't heard anything from the religious right about what a serious sin lying is.

The Ninth Commandment states very clearly that "you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." It's in both Exodus and Deuteronomy. Interestingly enough, Jesus doesn't comment on the Ninth Commandment. Perhaps that's because Jesus was sensitive to the falsehoods being spread about him by the Pharisees and priests. However, his general position on "the Law" of the Commandments is that people are condemned for thinking about sinning rather than just committing sin. Jesus condemns people for anger and not just killing and lustful thoughts, not just adultery. So Jesus would condemn people like Andrew Breitbart for even thinking about saying lies about the Shirley Sherrod's of the world rather than just saying falsehoods.

That's why I find it so surprising that nobody on the religious right has condemned Breitbart for his lies.

Of course, I haven't seen anybody on the religious right denounce the Bush administration for all their lies concerning Iraq either.

Rasmussen on Conway/Rand Paul Race

The Rasmussen polling organization came out today with a poll showing Rand Paul eight points ahead of Jack Conway in the Kentucky state senate race. Rand Paul's staff was probably more cheered, but they can't feel really secure until Rasmussen has them 28 points up. That's because Rasmussen has developed such a Republican tilt in his polling that he can't be counted on to accurately gauge support for Democratic candidates. PPP polling had Rand Paul and Jack Conway tied. My assumption would be that the race is somewhere between tied and Paul being two points ahead.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Coming Sharon Angle Fiasco on the Right

There's a Mason-Dixon poll out with Sharon Angle down seven points to Harry Reid in Nevada. I hope she doesn't shoot Reid if she loses. All jokes aside, that's big news because Reid/Angle is such a high profile race. In the end, Sharon Angle could single-handedly kill all the momentum of the Tea-Party movement. Someday I hope to make that kind of contribution to American society.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

TPM Not Getting It on Tea Party Racism

Talking Points Memo could have done more, and should have done more, with this story on Tea Party leader Mark Williams and racism.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Jack Conway Did Several Things Well During Forum

Democratic Senate candidate Jack Conway did several things well during the candidate's forum with Rand Paul. If he could only find a more exciting, charismatic way to do them though. I'm going to focus on one idea here--the idea of locating oneself in Kentucky.

At the beginning of his prepared remarks, Conway did a good job of locating himself in the context of first his family, then Union County where his father is from, and finally the general population of Kentucky.

It's too bad that Conway didn't contrast himself to Rand Paul on this point though.

Paul is an eye surgeon in Bowling Green. But I've never heard him make a reference to Bowling Green, Warren County, or Western Kentucky. There's a reason for this. Rand Paul's primarily an ideologue who locates himself in relation to debates within libertarian circles on things like the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the justification or lack of justification for government regulation, and the constitutionality of the income tax. It's in these kinds of extremist circles and their hypothetical debates where Paul feels most at home. It used to be conservatives who were most rooted in the politics of specific geographical locations and the traditions of those locations. But Rand Paul isn't connected to traditions and he's not connected to traditions and Jack Conway should have hammered this home in the process of locating himself within Kentucky places and traditions.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Eliminate Super-Delegates Altogether

The Democratic Party is proposing to lower the number of party official and office holder "superdelegates" for the 2012 Convention.
Huffpost claims this will "lower" super-delegate influence.

However, the super-delegates have never had any influence. So, there's nothing to lose. The idea of super-delegates was to stymy the kind of populist insurgency that resulted in the nomination of George McGovern in 1972.
But I can't remember an example of that happening.
If super-delegates were going to have an influence, it would have been in 2008 when they would have tilted the table in favor of Hillary over Obama.
That would have been disastrous.
The best idea would be to eliminate super-delegates altogether. All they've ever done is run up bar bills, provide business for prostitutes, and have affairs with each other's wives and husbands. --
There will be fewer scandals if they just stay home.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Remaking the NBA

Now that Lebron and his Superfriends have joined the team that used to be known as the Heat, the NBA might as well go all the way and re-organize. Specifically, the NBA should divide itself into two leagues and follow the soccer example of relegating the worst teams from the top tier league and promoting the best from the bottom tier.

Dividing the league up is pretty easy.

The NBA should set up an "A" Divison that includes all playoff teams with a slight adjustment for Western Conference superiority. Current teams from the Western Conference would be the Lakers, Nuggets, Mavs, Jazz, Blazers, Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, and Memphis Grizzlies. Representatives from the East would include the Boston Celtics, Orlando Magic, Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, Miami Heat, and Milwaukee Bucks. The Charlotte Bobcats and Chicago Bulls of the Eastern Conference made the playoffs, but the Rockets or the Grizzlies. So, it's Rockets and Grizzlies in "A" Division, Bobcats and Bulls in "B" division.

The key to the "A" division is that it would have teams with the managerial acumen and financial muscle needed to be competitive with the Lakers, Celtics, and Heat/Superfriends. The only teams that have questionable management/coaching in this whole group are the Atlanta Hawks and they've been pretty successful building through the draft. Now that the Heat have upped the ante, one would expect other well-managed teams to develop counter-strategies to Lebron and his Superfriends. The Lakers are already well-positioned because they have Kobe Bryant, Paul Gasol, Andrew Bynum, and Lamar Odom. The Celtics might have enough left in their tank for another run as well. Most of the other teams from the West are capable of stepping it up as well. If not, the bottom two get relegated every year.

The "B" division would be the "Can't Keep Up" League--a major league entity that would be less major than the "A" division. Through a combination of struggling ownership, dim-witted management, poor draft decisions, lousy free agent decisions, bad luck, or all of the above, these teams have fallen behind the rest of the league and fell further behind when Lebron and his Superfriends signed with Miami. In the East, that means the Bobcats, Bulls, Toronto Raptors, Philadelphia 76'ers, New York Knicks, New Jersey Nets, Indiana Pacers, Washington Wizards, and Detroit Pistons. For the West, it's the Golden State Warriors, LA Clippers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Sacromento Kings, and New Orleans Hornets.

Of course, all of these teams aren't the same. The Bobcats and Bulls are already primed to challenge for advancement, but the Warriors, Wizards, T-Wolves, Nets, and Knicks are all dead end organizations that rely heavily on sports socialism to maintain their franchises at all. They shouldn't be playing the Lakers or the Superfriends any more than the Pirates should be playing the Yankees. The Sixers and Pacers look like they're sinking toward dead-end status as well. To the contrary, the Kings, Clippers, Hornets, Pistons, and Raptors all have some of the pieces and could challenge for advancement if everything falls into place.

One question that could be asked about this way of looking at the NBA is whether the weakest teams would still draft first. Personally, I think not. It would be better to eliminate the draft altogether and let the basketball talent be distributed over some other principles of distribution. Given that there is no apparent benefit to having an organization like the Wizards draft first, it might be that the best bet is to give the Lakers and the Heat first crack at the best talent.

Need to keep thinking about that.

The First Step in Dealing with the Tea-Party Crowd

Former Bush spechwriter Michael Gerson emphasizes that the right-wing extremism of Sharon Angle, Rand Paul, and Glenn Beck "are not merely excesses; they are arguments."

Of course, what Gerson wants is the Republican leadership to develop counter-arguments before the whole GOP is defined by the worst aspects of the Tea Party movement.

It's probably too late for the GOP. The party of Dick Cheney, Tom DeLay, and Dick Armey was never that far from the Tea Party movement to start with.

And it isn't like Glenn Beck came from nowhere either.

Still, the Democrats can learn something from Gerson here. Instead of mocking the Tea Party people as extremists, racists, hypocrites, and an on-going freak show, the Democrats should focus on developing counter-arguments to Tea Party claims.

By taking the Tea Party people seriously, we can hit them at their weakest point.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Note to Self--Don't Write 800 Page Memoir

The ghost of West Virginia's Robert Byrd is paying the price for his decision to write an 832 page autobiography. Michael Grunwald of Time read every pompous word--and then savaged Byrd's memory for his trouble.

Here's the most telling bit:

It was only later [after 1964 when Byrd filibustered the Civil Rights Act) that racism became a liability for ambitious Democratic politicians, and it was only later that Byrd became a civil-rights advocate of sorts.

I say "of sorts" because Byrd's 832-page exercise in gasbaggery includes a creepy passage in which he describes white ethnics as "former minorities" who "sought no special status," implicitly contrasting them with modern minorities who "push and shove and demand something for nothing." When Byrd broke the Senate's longevity record, I poked fun at that passage along with others that decried "multiculturalism" and compared cities to "the jungles of Africa." But if Byrd's memoirs suggested some lingering discomfort with diversity, they revealed a much more visceral distaste for modernity, a fierce nostalgia for "the days of my boyhood," when America was great, kids had manners, the funny papers were funny and even Coca-Cola was "a more zestful and invigorating drink."

Uh, yeah — it was made with cocaine back then.

But the bottom line is that Byrd deserved it.

More on Chris Henry and Brain Damage from Football

CNN is carrying a more detailed report concerning the brain damage suffered by the late Chris Henry of the Cincinnati Bengals. Here's a pretty clear summary of the Chris Henry problem.

Doctors found evidence of brain damage, called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, that has been observed in retired players who've had many concussions. Unlike those older players, Henry was 26 when he died.

Later in the article, one researcher in the area cautions that no causal link has been established between chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and concussions from football. Establishing a causal link would probably be difficult because it would involve nailing down the chemistry by which concussions and recovery from concussions would result in the accumulation of Tau proteins involved in CTE.

Still, there are a number of cases of older former football players suffering from CTE. The main question is how Chris Henry's playing professional football might have resulted in early onset CTE.

What makes Henry's case especially ominous is that he played wide receiver rather than one of the "head-knocking positions" in football. At most, wide receivers would only get hit eight to ten times a game and might not get hit at all. play. To the contrary, offensive and defensive linemen can be seen as using their heads on almost every play--every running play anyway. They don't just use their heads in games either. Any kind of scrimmage or full-contact blocking drill would involve head use by linemen. The same with linebackers.

The big physical safeties use their heads as battering rams. Running backs and quarterbacks take a lot of hits to the head as well.

Football's a brutal game.

However, Wide receivers don't have passes thrown to them on most plays and therefore aren't being subject to being tackled on most plays. Likewise, where wide receivers are most susceptible to head injuries is catches over the middle of the field and my understanding is that Chris Henry was not primarily a middle of the field receiver. So, Chris Henry would have been even less likely to suffere concussions than other wide receivers.

As a result, the fact that Henry had early onset brain damage is very disturbing and raises the question of whether the game itself has become dangerous in a systematic way.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Who Would Jesus Shoot?

I'm already starting to see campaign footage with Republican candidates and "conservative Christians" out on the firing range. But isn't there some video of Jesus with a machine gun?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Maybe the Knicks Should Just Kidnap Lebron

Otherwise, he's probably be more likely to sign with one of the local rec teams in Akron or any of the thousands of other basketball teams in the United States that have more talent than the Knicks.

Brain Damage from Football Starts Early

It appears that Chris Henry, bad boy receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals, had pretty advanced brain damage from hits to his head even though he was only 26.

Among other things, this makes me glad I didn't have any sons. I had at least three concussions while playing high school football and basketball myself.

Death of Robert Byrd

Robert Byrd, the senior Senator from West Virginia, died last night. Byrd was known for his incredible endurance as a member of the Senate more than anything else. He was exactly a legislative dynamo like Ted Kennedy, but he did have his moments--his early opposition to the invasion of Iraq being the most prominent.

A Pre-Written Headline on Obama

The Daily Telegraph, a newspaper in a minor soccer playing island on the edge of the European continent, has a headline saying that Obama's firing of Gen. McChrystal "shows weakness." Of course, they would have had the same headline if Obama had kept McChrystal.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Friedrich Engels Revisited

This looks like an interesting restatement of Engels classic thesis on the origins of the family and marriage-- Sex At Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality.

More Mistress Troubles on the Right

Mel Gibson has joined the long list of prominent conservatives with mistress troubles.

Legal representatives for Oksana Grigorieva - the mother of the actor's eight-month-old daughter Lucia - attended an emergency hearing at a Los Angeles court, where the judge was told the Braveheart star had been "extremely violent" towards his former partner.
At least I think it's Mel Gibson. Gibson, Mark Sanford, Jon Ensign, David Vitter, Mark Souder--the names all tend to blur together. And it's not like Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh won't start collecting new mistresses now that they've both remarried for the 5,000th time.

The main difference between Gibson and the other philandering conservatives is that Oksana Grigorieva is complaining about physical and emotional abuse rather than the run-of-the-mill mistress stuff of not getting enough attention.

Well, what to say. I'm not going to call Gibson a hypocrite. That's as obvious as calling him an Australian or saying that the Pope doesn't like women and gay people.

Besides, conservatives have a decent response when they say that their moral standards are valid despite the fact that so many conservative guys have mistresses.

In exchange for my generosity on this issue, I would like conservatives to agree that feminists and other liberals have been absolutely right in their uncompromising condemnations of domestic violence.

In this case, political correctness has been an absolute benefit to society.

Who says we can't all come together?

Obama's Image Problem

Obama's image problem boils down to this.

"In Your Face" leadership responds to everything and doesn't accomplish much other than mobilizing opponents. George Bush is testimony to that.

But "In Your Face" is addicting.

People on the left want it just as much as people on the right.

HuffPost wants it just as much as Sarah Palin.

In that context, Obama's "Not In Your Face" leadership looks like "unengaged" and the right is beginning to pounce on it.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Theda Skocpol Hits Nail on the Head

Harvard sociology great Theda Skocpol on the efforts of Congressional Republicans to undercut the economic recovery as a way to better position themselves for 2010 election.

Ghana Wins!

So, the Ghanaian team elimates the U. S. 2-1 in overtime. That's twice in a row that Ghana has eliminated the American team. But the U. S. played pretty much according to its world rankings. If we want out soccer teams to play better in the World Cup, we'll have to become a better soccer nation.

Bin Laden Hunter Gary Faulker as New Hero on the Right?

It might be that the right wing is developing a new hero in Gary Faulkner, the guy who went to Pakistan on his own to hunt Osama bin Laden.

CNN reporter Jim Spellman certainly slobbers all over him.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Keep the Idiot McChrystal

Let's play the "you get to be president" game. Here's the scenario: your top military commander in your hopeless war grants a rolling interview with a popular music magazine.

That's stupid enough.

I mean, what exactly was the chance that Rolling Stone would come out with a positive story about the war in Afghanistan?

Then, it turns out that the idiot four-star general lets the Rolling Stone reporter see him and his ten man in full rap star mode, with his whole ten-man posse of "killers, spies, geniuses, patriots, political operators and outright maniacs" letting their hair down. Everybody's in full wise-guy mode. They're wise guys. They're "completely shitfaced" at an American bar in Paris. They're belligerent. They're t0tal assholes. McChrystal's posse doesn't just dump on President Obama in McChrystal's name. They make sure they name the name of every civilian official they don't like and why--including Joe Biden, Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke, Ambassador Karl Eichenberry, and National Security Adviser James Jones.

Wait a minute! They forgot to dump on Jones' secretary. Well, thank God for that.

But they do like Hillary Clinton because she's for giving McChrystal everything he wants.

Then, to make matters worse, General Stan and his posse proceed to dump on the war he's supposed to be winning. It turns out that the General doesn't think he's winning and doesn't think the war can be won.

And of course, McChrystal's interview with Rolling Stone also provides an occasion for all the highly placed opponents of the war in Afghanistan to have their say and for all the opponents to look extremely reasonable because the general himself pretty much agrees with them.

Talk about stupid!

So, if you're president, do you keep General Stan in his job or do you fire him for being a belligerent asshole and a fucking idiot?

My considered opinion is that Obama should keep the idiot, but that he should force the idiot to replace every last person on his posse--er, staff--who talked for the Rolling Stone interview.

Every last one one of them.

The case for firing McChrystal is that he's another "idiot general" in the vein of Douglas MacArthur and that he's a threat to civilian authority over the military.

I don't think so.

McChrystal didn't make the derogatory comments about Obama himself and is not defying Obama's orders. That takes McChrystal out of MacArthur territory right there. McChrystal wasn't quoted as criticizing the president's strategy for the Afghanistan War either. In relation to McChrystal, the main problem with the interview is that he let the Rolling Stone reporter see the normal ups and downs of communication with people like Richard Holbrooke.

That's stupid, but it's not betraying the Constitution.

The other big problem is that his staff people are clueless about just about everything except fighting the war on the ground.

But the article doesn't make McChrystal and his staff look that bad in terms of fighting the war on the ground.

(to be continued)

Did I mention that McChrystal and his staff were total assholes?


Monday, June 21, 2010

The Answer is No

The New Yorker asks whether Mike Huckabee is Is the wayward Republican Mike Huckabee now his party’s best hope? The answer to that question is No! Mike Huckabee is a second tier candidate behind Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney. Huckabee has no sizzle in his personality. Likewise, Huckabee has no steak in his record. Even worse, he pardoned somebody who ended up killing cops in Seattle. Huckabee's well-enough known to score well in the polls two years out, but isn't going to be competitive with Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Problems with State Pension Funds

No surprise here. The New York Times has an article on the problems of state pension funds and the efforts of state governments to cut back benefits. It wouldn't hurt to detach pension funds from Wall Street either.

Plenty of states are talking about extending the retirement age to 67. By the time I'm 67 in 11 years, people will be working till their 70 and I'll be one of them.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Touchdown Jesus Burns--Church Refuses to Take Hint

The famous statue of Jesus along I-75 in Ohio--Touchdown Jesus--burned down as a result of being struck by lightning last evening.
The famous King of Kings statue at the Solid Rock Church in Monroe is no longer after a fire destroyed the popular landmark Monday night.

The 62-foot tall statue of Jesus constructed out of styrofoam, wood and fiberglass resin caught on fire after the right hand of the statue was struck by lightning during the severe thunderstorms around 11:15 p.m.

If I were a member of Solid Rock Church, I would be interpreting the destruction of the statue as a sign of God's disfavor. It's hard not to notice the parallel between Touchdown Jesus and the destruction of Sodom and Gommorah, or the destruction that Jesus forecast for Jerusalem in the Gospel of St. Matthew.

But instead, the church seems intend on rebuilding.
King of Kings was constructed in 2004 at a cost of $250,000. It was designed by a Knoxville, Tennessee, artist, built in Jacksonville, Florida, and transported to Monroe for assembly. Leaders of the 4,000 member congregation said they saw the statute as a way to give people hope, not just impress them.
Church officials say the statue will be rebuilt and they will go forward with their July 4 celebration in a makeshift manner.

Of course, if the Solid Rock Church wants to continue down the road to ruin, they shouldn't just settle for rebuilding the statue. Why not create a multi-piece Jesus installation and add a "Dunking Jesus" in honor of the NBA, "Rapping Eminem Jesus" in honor or popular music, and an "NRA Jesus" wearing camouflage gear and carrying an AR 15.

That would really get the attention of everybody driving down I-75.

It would get God's attention as well.

That is, if there's a God.

Sarah Palin: Hating Feminists, Shooting Mama Grizzlies

The "Sarah Palin wants to own feminism" story doesn't want to go away. Ross Douthat claimed in a Sunday Times column that Sarah Palin and the recent surge of primary victories for Republican women are a "happy consequence" of feminist progress. But the whole idea that Sarah Palin can claim to be a feminist annoys Amanda Marcotte to no end. As Marcotte points out, Palin is part of a long line of wealthy, white conservative women who have vociferously opposed feminism while still taking advantage of progress for women.

In my mind, the problem with Palin goes further than that. Palin gave her "Mama Grizzlies" talk to a group of anti-abortion activists and was emphatic about uncompromising opposition to abortion rights.
Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin told a group of women who oppose abortion rights that they are responsible for an "emerging, conservative, feminist identity" and have the power to shape politics and elections around the issue of life.

Speaking to a breakfast gathering Friday of the Susan B. Anthony List in downtown Washington, Palin urged more than 500 audience members to back only those candidates for public office who are uncompromisingly opposed to abortion.

Palin might also have said that she's opposed to equal pay for equal work, laws against sexual violence, and opposition to the beauty culture and the attendant eating disorders, plastic surgery, and the like. Like most conservatives, Sarah Palin is opposed to almost everything associated with feminism and probably hates most feminists even as she claims to be a feminist.

Of course, Palin wouldn't have any trouble shooting "mama grizzlies" even as she claims to be one.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Four Radical Theses on Sports Devolution

So, Texas is staying in the Big 12 and the American sports-pocalypse has been put off for another day.

Still, American sports needs radical change and American society needs to change because American sports is a reflection of the larger problems of American society.

Here's five radical ideas for sports devolution.

1. Admit to Ourselves That Baseball Never Existed. I was watching the Cardinals pound Seattle the other night at Locus Street Rendezvous when I had an itch in my ear. Scratching deep, I pulled out a little chip and suddenly the game went off. That's when I realized that the game wasn't real, that baseball as a sport never existed, and that all my memories of baseball had been implanted by Big Brother, Global Government, the One World Conspiracy, or whatever you call it. My baseball memories were as much an implant as Heidi Montag's breasts. As Americans, we need to free ourselves from the monotonous tyranny of "our national pastime" and open ourselves up to better sports alternatives. Confession is good for the soul. Let's admit that there was never any such thing as baseball.

2. Cede the Big Ten States to Canada. Sure the states from Iowa to Pennsylvania have a lot of people, but American sports would be better off without them. So would America as a whole. Big Ten football and Big Ten basketball have to be the two most boring sports on the planet now that we've owned up to the fictional character of baseball. Sports Illustrated congratulates Tom Izzo on forging "a signature style, basketball in pads, that befits the conference in which his team plays." Anybody who watched March Madness this spring knows that most amphetamine addicts get their start as a way to counter-act the downer effect of Big Ten basketball. Of course, the problem with Big Ten basketball is "three yards and a cloud of carpet" Big Ten football and the problem with Big Ten football is that Big Ten states have become "three yards and a cloud of carpet" states. Ultimately, the only way to solve the Big Ten problem is to get rid of the Big Ten states. So I propose that the United States pay Canada to take Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania off our hands. From the Canadian perspective, it will be like gaining a tropical paradise.

3. Justice to Mexico. Sports devolution isn't just a matter of giving away the North Central part of the country. The United States also needs to return California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas to Mexico. We also should throw in Oklahoma as a bonus. That way, our country can rid ourselves of three of the major blights on American sports ethics, the football programs at the University of Southern California, University of Texas, and University of Oklahoma. As an added bonus, that pretty much solves the illegal immigration problem in what's left of the United States.

4. A New French Commonwealth. Of course, the other big problem with American sports is that the U. S. is such a mediocre soccer country. Yeah, we tied England. Big deal. We only scored because of a monumental screw up by the English goalie. We're in the same situation as we were in when that Columbian defender helped us win by scoring an own goal. Why should somebody have to die (the Columbian player was shot and killed later) so the U. S. can win a World Cup game. Of course, we used to be a really lousy soccer country, but there's no reason why the U. S. should be a third tier soccer power while we have so many great athletes growing up here. What we need to realize though is that there's no solution to this problem as long as we're running our own country. So, I propose that the U. S. work out a deal with France where we transfer sovereignty over Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississipi, and Louisiana to the French for about 50 years or however long it takes for these states to fully acclimate themselves to soccer as their no. 1 sport. Then, they can all be transferred back to America. Of course, that's if they decide they want to come back.

That's it. The only solution to the sports crisis in the United States is to break up the country. The U. S. was probably too big anyway.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Limbaugh: The First Step Toward His Fourth Divorce

I wish Rush Limbaugh well in his fourth marriage to Kathryn Rogers, age 33 and blonde. But given that news reports focused much more on Elton John's singing than the bride, the signs don't look too auspicious.

Oh well--no fourth divorce without a fourth marriage.

John Wooden Died Too Young

At least that's what I imagine my 93 year old mother-in-law is thinking.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Paging John Yoo--Israel Needs You

I disagree with TPM's take on Bradley Burston's Haaretz op-ed about today's Israeli raid on the peace activist flotilla headed toward Gaza. Burston writes in response to the botched raid that the Israelis "don't know themselves" and that Hamas and the Iranians know Israel better than the Israelis.

There was a time, when it could be said that we knew ourselves only in wartime. No longer. Now we know nothing. Yet another problem with refraining from talks with Hamas and Iran: They know us so much better than we know ourselves.

They know, as the song about the Lebanon War suggested ("Lo Yachol La'atzor Et Zeh") that we, unable to see ourselves in any clarity, are no longer capable of stopping ourselves.

But that's all nonsense and not just because it has a whiny tone about it.

In fact, the Israelis know that they're an aggressive imperialist state that is swallowing up as much Palestinian territory as their American patrons will allow. The Israelis also know that their government is committed to dealing with their Muslim opponents in a bullying fashion. The fantasy seems to be that if the Palestinians might never resist again if only they get beaten up one more time.

Not that self-knowledge means unity. The Israeli right celebrates the Israeli Defense Force's imperial elan. The Israeli left deplores it. But everybody in Israel knows what Israel's about. So does the Arab world and the Europeans for that matter.

As for the current dilemma of the Israeli government, they might as well hire famous American torture lawyer John Yoo to represent their case. Certainly, their current arguments aren't going to hold much water. The Israelis claim that their soldiers were "attacked" after they repelled onto the ship. Well, "duh." Everybody has a right to self-defense, including peace activists. If hostile troops landed on my ship, I would attack them myself if I had any chance of being effective. The largely Turkish peace activists never took a Gandi-esque vow of non-violence. They had just as much right to defend themselves as anyone else.

But this is where John Yoo comes in. Yoo's argument in defense of torture was that the American president has the authority to lawfully ignore provisions of the Constitution, American law, and international law if he believes the U. S. is under threat.

And the U. S. is always under threat. So, the Yoo Doctrine was that the American president could torture anybody anytime he wanted.

That argument is a significant part of what made the U. S. the most powerful rogue nation in the world under the Bush administration. Now that the Israelis are coming under criticism for their human rights abuses in attacking the Gaza flotilla, they also need someone like Yoo to tell the world that Israel can do anything it wants as well.

Paging John Yoo.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Longer Than Expected

Actor-director Dennis Hopper died today at the age of 74. Given all the booze and drugs he consumed, Hopper must have had a strong constitution to live that long. Good for him.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Don't Ask Don't Tell: The Demonization Begins

Under the No Surprise Here category. The Obama administration announced a compromise on Don't Ask/Don't Tell on Tuesday and it only took one day for GOP constituency groups like the Family Research Council to start painting gays in the military as a chamber of horrors.
Here's how the Family Research Council envisions things going if Don't Ask, Don't Tell is repealed: first, more straight soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines will be fellated in their sleep against their will. Then, commanders afraid of being labeled homophobes will refuse to do anything about it. Eventually, the straight service members will quit out of fear.
The Family Research Council is one of the most important groups on the religious right and their leadership is just as much a part of the Republican elite as Dick Cheney.

No doubt other GOP groups will be rolling out this kind of stuff in the coming days. John McCain and other Republican senators have also threatened to filibuster the defense bill if it contains language repealing Don't Ask/Don't Tell.

If Rush Limbaugh is an Army of One, he's an Army of One for the Party of Hate.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Perhaps the GOP Should Try "Language Deafness"

NBC News' First Notes has an interesting analysis of declining Hispanic support for Republicans--no surprise in the wake of the onslaught of anti-Hispanic legislation sponsored by Republican politicians in Arizona.

The conservative response to the association of the Republican Party with racism was to advocate the idiotic and ultimately racist ideology of "color-blindness."

If the American right is anything, it's a creative ideological force. Maybe they'll respond to the link between the GOP and anti-Hispanic bigotry by developing an agenda of "language-deafness."

Here's three sentences for future William Bennetts: "I don't hear English. I don't hear Spanish. All I hear is character."

Short Summer Reading List

For any students of political theory who might catch this, here's a short summer reading list. Amazon url's are in parentheses. I also have online url's for some of the classics. No particular order of preference.


1. Jean Baudrillard, Selected Writings.

2. Michel Foucault, A History of Sexuality, vol 1. (

3. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (

4. Anthony Appiah, Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers,

5. Carol Smart, Law, Crime, and Sexuality: Essays in Feminism, (

6. Slavoj Zizek, Living in the End Times, (

7. Karl Marx, The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, online at

8. Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, online at

9. Shakespeare, Hamlet, online at,+Hamlet&printsec=frontcover&source=bn&hl=en&ei=Eez9S5TuG4H88Aamh9jYDQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CDcQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q&f=falseFriedrich

10. Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra,

11. hooks, Killing Rage: Ending Racism (

12. bell hooks, Sisters of the Yam: Black Women and Self-Recovery,

13. Plato, Republic, Books XIII and IX, online at

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Not Much There There on Rush

Either Zev Chavetz, the author of Rush Limbaugh: An Army of One, decided not to reveal much during his interview with NPR or he doesn't have much to reveal beyond what any informed person could have gathered by following the media.

I rather suspect its the latter.

It looks like Limbaugh gave Chavetz interviews because he knew Chavetz would write a mildly favorable book that wouldn't try to plumb the deep depths of Rush Limbaugh.

And Chavetz delivered.

Three quick points:

One, Limbaugh conservatism is no longer the cutting edge of the right-wing populism. That prize goes to Glenn Beck and the Tea Baggers.

Two, Rush Limbaugh has been good for the left because he's a dynamic opponent who has forced the left to raise its game.

Three, Limbaugh is a good redemption story of someone who kept plugging away in the radio wilderness until he found a proper outlet for his talents and energy. I don't agree with much of anything Limbaugh says, but he's still an excellent example of the virtues of patience and perseverance.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Rand Paul: Conservative, Libertarian, Segregationist

Yesterday, NPR was sniffing around the question of whether Rand Paul would have voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 if he had been in the Senate.

That's a significant and uncomfortable question for any libertarian-inspired, small government conservative. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 made every lunch at the local diner and every trip to Woolworths into a federal matter because it banned racial discrimination in relation to serving customers, hiring workers and management, promoting people to new positions, and just about every matter connected to the conduct of private business.

If you like the Civil Rights Act of 1964, you see the federal government acting with real heroism to overturn a monstrous system of segregation that made the American South an evil place of racial hate, intimidation, violence, and deprivation. I read about the fight over the Civil Rights Act every day for months when I was a 9 and 10 year old kid. I'm proud to say that I've always supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964 even though I'm embarrassed to say that the legislation was so desperately needed in my country and I'm doubly embarrassed to say that because I'm white and people like my relatives were enforcing segregation in the South and more silently discriminating in the North.

But if you're a libertarian conservative, you would be more likely to see the federal government acting in a completely illegitimate and unconstitutional manner to force private businesses to serve African-American customers, hire African-American employees, and promote African-American employees when hired. If you're a libertarian conservative, you value the freedom of white employers to serve, hire, promote, and fire who they want over the freedom of African-Americans to shop, work, and receive recognition for their efforts.

Moreover, the Civil Rights Act violated libertarian/conservative principles of federalism because it represented a massive expansion of the power of the federal government in relation to the states. In many ways, the Civil Rights Act was even worse the New Deal from a "federalist" point of view. Where the New Deal offended federalist sensabilities by establishing a number of new federal programs and regulations, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 overturned a vast web of state laws pertaining to race in the South. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 not only vastly increased the power of the federal government, it curtailed the power of Southern state governments in the area of their highest priority--race relations.

These were the reasons why Barry Goldwater voted against the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and these are the reasons that Rand Paul would vote against the Civil Rights Act if it were brought back up for a vote today.
Paul explained [to the Louisville Courier-Journal] that he backed the portion of the Civil Rights Act banning discrimination in public places and institutions, but that he thinks private businesses should be permitted to discriminate by race.
In an ideal world, Rand Paul would take the country back to the period before 1964 when private businesses were free to discriminate against African-Americans in any way they wanted.
To be fair, Paul should get credit for his honesty on the issue. Even though the Republican Party has been the party of conservative white racial backlash against Civil Rights ever since Goldwater's candidacy in 1964, few if any Republicans have acknowledged their opposition to what they have to view as one of the "original sins" of big government in Civil Rights legislation.

But that honesty doesn't make him qualified to be a U. S. Senator from Kentucky.

Or anywhere else.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

RSI Sends Money to Conway

Jack Conway won a close primary over Dan Mongiardo yesterday evening. A couple hours later, RSI sent him $25 and will volunteer to make phone calls after another donation. The fall campaign for Kentucky's open Senate seat will be a tough but winnable battle for Conway. RSI urges everyone to help as much as possible.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Profound Truth of the Ken Griffey Scandal

Sports fans know that fading mega-star Ken Griffey jr. was caught napping in the clubhouse during a recent Seattle Mariners game. The underlying truth of Griffey's little nap was that baseball is b-o-r-i-n-g. And there's the pitch--ball one.

Friday, May 14, 2010

It's More Than Lebron Losing

Lost in all the commentary on Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers "losing" to the Boston Celtice is the fact that the Celtics "won." The Cavs might be built more for the regular season than the playoffs, but the Celtics got their act together from a mediocre regular season, won their series with the Cavs 4-2 and looked good doing it.

There's a lot of criticism for the way GM Danny Ferry put together the Cavaliers, but the critics don't mention the extraordinary success of Danny Ainge in Boston. When the Celtics are healthy, they start Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, and Kendrick Perkins. Except for the very serviceable Perkins, all of these guys are likely Hall of Famers. Of course, Pierce, Allen, and Garnett are one step beyond their primes. But they're still All-Stars when they get it going and Rondo has been such a good point guard that the Big Three almost always has it going.

Ultimately, the Celtics won the series more than Cleveland lost.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

With Friends Like Randall Kennedy, Elena Kagan Doesn't Need All the Enemies She's Going to Have

In "Letter from Birmingham Jail," Martin Luther King criticizes white Southern ministers for responding to the civil rights movement in Birmingham with "pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities."

Unfortunately for Kagan, that's pretty much what she got from Randall Kennedy's effort in HufPost to defend her record on minority hiring as Dean of Harvard Law School. Kagan's problem is that Harvard only hired only hired 7 women and one member of a racial minority in the 32 law school searches that occurred while she was Dean from 2003 to 2009.

Maybe Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond would approve. Otherwise, these numbers look bad. By not hiring any black faculty, Harvard Law is implicitly claiming that there were either zero or one black legal scholar who was qualified for either entry level job offers or senior appointments. That's barely tokenism. And the situation with women isn't much better?

By way of comparison, my former political science unit had ten searches and had a fairly even distribution between white males (2), African-American males (2), and white women (3). We weren't exactly paragons of diversity and presently we're back to three white males. But we were much more effective than Harvard.

However, perhaps Harvard's poor minority hiring record doesn't reflect on Elena Kagan herself. Maybe Kagan didn't have very much influence over hiring new professors or maybe there was some sort of institutional priority to hire for legal fields in which women and African-Americans were severely under-represented.

That's the question that Prof. Randall Kennedy tried to address in his op-ed and there was undoubtedly some hope that Kennedy's being black would give him more credibility on the issue.
But it's hard to be very credible while being sanctimonious and irrelevant.

According to Kennedy, Kagan aced her "race relations law" class from Kennedy as a law student and went on to clerk for Thurgood Marshall before settling in as a law professor back at good ol' Harvard.

Good for her.

Kennedy also claims that Kagan is "committed to a vision of racial inclusiveness that reflects the best of our national traditions." That sounds great if Kagan was also committed to using her position to further that vision. Otherwise, Kagan's vision of racial inclusiveness is more of a "pious irrelevancy" than anything else. Indeed, if Kagan did have a "vision of racial inclusiveness," that would increase her responsibility to ensure that Harvard Law School hired a diverse faculty and magnify her failure to do so.

Kennedy goes on to claim that Kagan didn't really have the power to do much about minority hiring anyway. "First, it is mistaken to suggest, as some have, that the Dean of Harvard Law School is responsible for all that happens or does not happen with respect to hiring."

Perhaps she wasn't responsible for "all" that happened in relation to hiring. But Kennedy makes it clear Kagan had real power rather than just a positionk. He goes on to say that "the Dean is the single most influential member of the faculty. One does not get hired at the law school without the Dean's blessing." It also turns out that Dean Kagan was a member of the "Entry Level Appointments Committee" that Kennedy himself chaired.

In other words, Kagan had real responsibility rather than merely formal responsibility for the lack of minority hiring.

As Dean, Kagan was much more worried about ideological diversity than racial or gender diversity and invested a great deal of her credibility in hiring conservatives like Jack Goldsmith. Like a lot of moderate Democrats, Kagan seems to be more interested in conservative ideology than the various ideological positions of the left. There was certainly an argument for this during the Bush years. Given the tilt of Bush administration judicial appointments to the right, it could be claimed that Harvard could not adequately train lawyers unless they were exposed to enthusiastic representations of conservative views. Likewise, it might be argued that an agenda to hire conservatives would bias the hiring process toward white males like Goldsmith because relatively few female and African-American lawyers are conservative.

In other words, hiring conservatives was not necessarily a bad thing.

However, feminism and African-American perspectives are also important to American law and are becoming more important as more women become lawyers and the American mainstream has been transformed in the ways needed to better integrate African-Americans. Kagan's focus on conservatives tends to distort the law by narrowing the scope of theoretical conflict to white male liberals and white male conservatives with only token representation from lawyers like Kagan and Kennedy.

In practice, Kagan's "vision of racial inclusiveness" boils down to a white male cockfight between liberals and conservatives.

Kennedy seems to recognize that Kagan's record of concern for minority hiring is still thin. So he rolls out the "santimonious triviality" of citing that Kagan supported fellowship programs for minority law students.

As if that really mattered to the issue of faculty hiring.

I basically support Kagan. In fact, I highly doubt that Obama could have nominated her at all if Kagan in fact had proved successful at diversifying the Harvard Law School faculty. But she's starting to look like a lightweight who's main skill is the politics of personal relationships.

Still, Randall Kennedy's defense makes Elena Kagan look worse than she probably is.

Maybe Kagan needs to find smarter friends than she had at Harvard Law School.

Elena Kagan Celebration Continues--Madonna Version

The Elena Kagan celebration continues at RSI. This morning "Celebration" by Madonna.


I think you wanna come over,
yeah I heard it through the grapevine.
Are you drunk or you sober?
Think about it, doesn’t matter
And if it makes you feel good then I say do it,
I don’t know what you’re waiting for

Feel my temperature rising
There’s too much heat I’m gonna lose control
Do you want to go higher, get closer to the fire,
I don’t know what you’re waiting for

Come join the party, yeah
Coz anybody just won’t do.
Let’s get this started, yeah
Coz everybody wants to party with you.

Boy you got a reputation, but you’re gonna have to prove it
I see a little hesitation,
Am I gonna have to show you that if it feels right, get on your marks
Step to the beat boy that’s what it’s for

Put your arms around me
When it gets too hot we can go outside
But for now just come here, let me whisper in your ear
An invitation to the dance of lifeCome join the party, it’s a celebration

Anybody just won’t do
Let’s get this started, no more hesitation
Coz everybody wants to party with you
Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?

You look familiar
You wanna dance? Yeah.
I guess I just don’t recognize you with your clothes on… (laughs)
What are you waiting for?

Boy you’ve got it
Coz anybody just won’t do
Let’s get it started, no more hesitation
Coz everybody wants to party with you