Winger Blogs Get It Wrong

Ken AshfordRight Wing Punditry/IdiocyLeave a Comment

Typical right-winger blog analysis:

The brutal murder of a family of Coptic Christians in Jersey City, New Jersey may have been carried out by Muslim fanatics in retaliation for the expression of "anti-Muslim" views on the internet….

As we’ve said many times before, these fanatics cannot be reasoned with or deterred. They can only be hunted down and killed, and the more of them that are killed in countries other than this one (Iraq, for example), the better.

"Hindrocket" on January 16, 2005, at Power Line (Time magazine’s Blog of the Year)

Fact:

Robbery, not religion, was the motive behind the savage slaying of a family of four in January, prosecutors said Friday.

Two paroled drug dealers who were deeply in debt were charged with four counts of murder and held on $10 million bail in the Jan. 11 killing of the Armanious family, Coptic Christians from Egypt who emigrated to the United States in 1997….

"I’d like to make one thing perfectly clear: The motive for these murders was robbery. This was a crime based on greed, the desperate need of money," Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio said.

Edward McDonald, 25, who rented a second-floor apartment above the Armanious family, and an acquaintance, Hamilton Sanchez, 30, pleaded not guilty….

New York Daily News/AP today

(Hat tip: No More Mr. Nice Blog)

So, apparently, no Muslim involvement at all.  But that didn’t stop the wingnuts from spreading the idea that Muslims are killing Christians in America.  And Powerline wasn’t the only one — there was Michelle Malkin (who posted a multi-part series entitled "HATE CRIME IN JERSEY CITY HEIGHTS"), Adam Yoshida (or a reasonable facsimile thereof), Charles Bird, Junkyardblog, Silent Running, and more fringily (and scarily), American Jihad

So quick to spread fear.  So slow to apologize and retract . . . if they ever do.  Ladies and gents, the right-wing blogosphere.

Bloggers vs. Journalists

Ken AshfordBloggingLeave a Comment

Matt Yglesius informs us all of the difference between bloggers and journalists in this fine post:

He Said / She Said

I went down to Norfolk to be on a panel discussion with The Washington Post‘s Mike Allen, talking about blogs to interested Virginia Press Association members. Mike had something to say on the topic of "he said, she said" journalism that provided me with some valuable perspective and that I thought readers might be interested in.

Somebody from the audience asked a question which seemed to take as its premise that there was a strict dichotomy between "factual" writing, which is what you see on news pages, and "opinion" writing, which is what you see on editorial pages. The latter, he was saying, seems to be what blogging is mostly about.

I took some issue with that characterization. News pages, I said, aren’t so much giving a "just the facts, ma’am" approach to reporting. Rather, they’re trying to act as neutral arbiters between contending parties. Oftentimes this means there will be political controversy about a basically factual subject ("what’s the effect of X on the deficit?") that goes unresolved by a news writer. Instead of giving us the facts, the news writer gives us a set of meta-facts — "Joe says ‘X’ but Same says ‘Y.’" Bloggers, I said, sometimes do offer pure opinion. More often, what they’re trying to do is present facts in a non-neutral manner. People, including bloggers, become partisans in large part because they think the facts are partisan. When I say that the Bush Social Security plan involves a huge quantity of transition debt that risks provoking a fiscal crisis, I’m trying to state some facts, as I see them. Others who disagree are likewise trying to argue facts. We’re not offering "opinions" as such, though some political disputes (one guy: "executing 17 year-olds is just wrong, man." another guy: "no it’s not.") are like that, must aren’t really.

Allen took issue with that characterization of what news writers are doing. He said that news writers are trying to present both sides’ points-of-view, hence the "he said, she said" quality to it, but that they’re trying to present these points-of-view in such a way so that a discerning reader can tell who’s right based on reading the story.

I tried then to revise my statement of the situation. A good news reporter, on my revised view, tries to "lead a horse to water," while a blogger is more likely to try and "throw the horse in the lake." He seemed happier with that restatement. And I think the restated view has some truth to it. Oftentimes, even though a story doesn’t come out and say, "so-and-so said such-and-such and he was lying," it’s pretty clear from reading the strory that so-and-so was, in fact, lying. Indeed, oftentimes it’s only because it is so clear from the story as written that so-and-so was lying that I, as I reader, find myself annoyed that the reporter didn’t come out and say so. I think, though, that a higher proportion of news writing really is pure "he said, she said" than Allen seemed willing to say. At the same time, he’s one of the better political reporters out there, so probably sees his craft more through the lense of how he practices it, than through how the lense of how others may do the job.

Last but by no means least, I think the "horse to water" model to some extent suffers from a lack of thought about how, in practice, news stories get read. If you need to read something — especially an A1 story that jumps to the inside — all the way through to figure out what’s going on, a very high proportion of readers aren’t going to do that. They’ll scan a few grafs and their takeaway will be "aha! the parties are engaged in a partisan dispute." Now how much can you plame [sic] newspaper writers for the fact that their readers are likely to be lazy and/or rushed as they read? I don’t really know.

Yup. He’s right.

America is #1?

Ken AshfordEconomy & Jobs & Deficit, Foreign AffairsLeave a Comment

I hate to burst the bubble of America’s rah-rah-nothing-wrong-here types, but this country needs improvement.  From the Minneapolis-St. Paul News come this list of where America really ranks:

  • The United States is 49th in the world in literacy (the New York Times, Dec. 12, 2004).
  • The United States ranked 28th out of 40 countries in mathematical literacy (NYT, Dec. 12, 2004).
  • Twenty percent of Americans think the sun orbits the earth. Seventeen percent believe the earth revolves around the sun once a day (The Week, Jan. 7, 2005).
  • "The International Adult Literacy Survey…found that Americans with less than nine years of education ‘score worse than virtually all of the other countries’" (Jeremy Rifkin’s superbly documented book The European Dream: How Europe’s Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream, p.78).
  • Our workers are so ignorant and lack so many basic skills that American businesses spend $30 billion a year on remedial training (NYT, Dec. 12, 2004). No wonder they relocate elsewhere!
  • "The European Union leads the U.S. in…the number of science and engineering graduates; public research and development (R&D) expenditures; and new capital raised" (The European Dream, p.70).
  • "Europe surpassed the United States in the mid-1990s as the largest producer of scientific literature" (The European Dream, p.70).
  • Nevertheless, Congress cut funds to the National Science Foundation. The agency will issue 1,000 fewer research grants this year (NYT, Dec. 21, 2004).
  • Foreign applications to U.S. grad schools declined 28 percent last year. Foreign student enrollment on all levels fell for the first time in three decades, but increased greatly in Europe and China. Last year Chinese grad-school graduates in the U.S. dropped 56 percent, Indians 51 percent, South Koreans 28 percent (NYT, Dec. 21, 2004). We’re not the place to be anymore.
  • The World Health Organization "ranked the countries of the world in terms of overall health performance, and the U.S. [was]…37th." In the fairness of health care, we’re 54th. "The irony is that the United States spends more per capita for health care than any other nation in the world" (The European Dream, pp.79-80). Pay more, get lots, lots less.
  • "The U.S. and South Africa are the only two developed countries in the world that do not provide health care for all their citizens" (The European Dream, p.80). Excuse me, but since when is South Africa a "developed" country? Anyway, that’s the company we’re keeping.
  • Lack of health insurance coverage causes 18,000 unnecessary American deaths a year. (That’s six times the number of people killed on 9/11.) (NYT, Jan. 12, 2005.)
  • "U.S. childhood poverty now ranks 22nd, or second to last, among the developed nations. Only Mexico scores lower" (The European Dream, p.81). Been to Mexico lately? Does it look "developed" to you? Yet it’s the only "developed" country to score lower in childhood poverty.
  • Twelve million American families–more than 10 percent of all U.S. households–"continue to struggle, and not always successfully, to feed themselves." Families that "had members who actually went hungry at some point last year" numbered 3.9 million (NYT, Nov. 22, 2004).

No, this isn’t America-bashing.  It’s a call to arms.

Gods and Democrats

Ken AshfordDemocrats, GodstuffLeave a Comment

Reprinted from The American Street (PZ Myers):

Amy Sullivan has a pet peeve: “the seemingly reckless way in which terms like ‘values’ and ‘religion’ and ‘morals’ are being tossed about in the press.” She’s an outspoken liberal Christian, and I’m an outspoken liberal atheist, and I have to say that I agree completely. I also somewhat agree with this comment, but I have one reservation. A major reservation.

You’ve heard me say it before, but apparently it needs repeating: A good many people are Democrats not despite their faith but precisely because of their faith. I don’t want to read “religious” when what you mean is “right-wing.” I don’t want to read “evangelical” when what you mean is “conservative evangelical.” And I don’t want to read “moral values” when what you’re really referring to are hot-button, right-wing sexual morality issues. The conflation of those terms with those specific definitions is NOT a neutral decision; it’s part of a very conscious strategy. It’s understandable that some news outlets have been taken in by the spin. Repeating the spin, however, is irresponsible.

This is a good point—there is a common, grossly mistaken assumption that one can equate morality with a very specific subset of Christianity. I can see why Sullivan is annoyed by it, since it drives me up the wall, too. It’s offensive and exclusionary, because it implies that all of us who aren’t right-wing Southern Baptists are out there wallowing in a cesspool of depravity with Caligula.

Here’s where Sullivan and I part company, though: she blames the media. I blame religion.

Religion has always claimed itself to be the ultimate arbiter of morality and the steward of public values. The Old Testament is extraordinarily nit-picky, right down to telling you what you’re allowed to eat and wear under punishment of death for violations; it advocates murdering, raping, and enslaving people who worship different gods. Fortunately, the New Testament is a bit more tolerant, replacing murder etc. with conversion, but still…an invisible god and his busy little priests continue to be the source of moral values. One can hardly blame the media for their attitude; they are merely parroting the howling claims of the loudest, most absolutist, most certain representatives of religion in our country.

I’m willing to grant Ms. Sullivan the word “religious.” I would like to see it broadened to include and value people of a liberal Christian bent. But “moral values” is a term that does not belong to the tolerant, open-minded individuals who follow the egalitarian teachings of Jesus, even when they share them. Moral values are secular. Freethinkers have them too. I don’t want to read “moral values” when what you’re really referring to is piety and prayer and church attendance and missionary work, and I definitely don’t want to see morality conflated with religion. While replacing the primitive fundamentalism of the right wing with the liberal theology of the left would be a distinct improvement, it doesn’t address the root cause of the problem: that human values should be founded on humanity, not faith in some unseen supernatural being.

The Democratic party should be the party of tolerance and diversity. We should welcome Christians and Moslems and Buddhists and Hindus and Deists and pagans and agnostics and atheists, and the only way all of them can be encompassed is by recognizing that moral values and Democratic values are wholly secular, independent of any particular faith. And one thing we need to get the media to communicate is that “secular” is not inferior to “religious”, but is actually a higher kind of value, better because of its universality.

Myself, I tend to think that the last thing helpful to Democrats is perpetuating the religious/secular dichotomy.  To say that "moral values" are "wholly secular" is to play into a useless schism and prolong a cultural battle that we cannot hope to win, since at any given time, about 50% of the people will disagree.

What is moral is moral on both a religious and secular scale.  There is no need to "choose" on which plane one rides on.

Read More

Vermont Resolution

Ken AshfordIraqLeave a Comment

Resolution of [the Town of                      ]
Concerning the Vermont National Guard and the War in Iraq

Whereas, in October 2002 the United States Congress adopted a Joint Resolution to Authorize the use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq, relying on statements that were untrue, when in fact the United States:

* was not threatened with attack by Iraq,

* Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction,

* Saddam Hussein had no role in the 9/11 attacks.

Whereas, in going to war, the President did not meet the conditions imposed by Congress, failing to show Congress why he:

* decided that diplomatic or peaceful means alone would not protect the national security of the United States or lead to enforcement of Security Council resolutions on Iraq,

* why he decided that going to war was a necessary action against Iraq on the theory — never proven — that Iraq authorized, committed, or aided in the 9/11 attacks.

Whereas, the war has resulted in serious and potentially long-lasting consequences for the United States and for the chances for a just and durable peace in Iraq and the Mideast;

Whereas, the United States Constitution provides that Congress shall have the power to

"provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, to suppress insurrections and repel Invasions," and the Vermont Constitution provides for the General Assembly to direct the training and arming of members of the Vermont National Guard for defense of the State;

Whereas, at least since 1986 the President and the Congress have had nearly total control over state militias, including the Vermont National Guard;

Whereas, the costs of the call-up of Vermont National Guard members for deployment in Iraq has been significant, as reckoned in lost lives, combat injuries, psychic trauma, disruption of family life, financial hardship for individuals, families, and businesses, interruption of careers, and damage to the fabric of civic life in many Vermont communities;

Whereas, these are costs which would be suffered willingly were there a threat to our nation, but which are not tolerable where there is none;

Whereas, Vermonters have joined the Guard thinking that they would be serving their neighbors by helping with Vermont-based emergencies, unless there was a danger to America requiring transfer to active duty;

Whereas, stop-loss orders violate the mutual understanding between Vermonters in the Guard and the state and nation they agreed to serve; and

Whereas, there is reason to believe that the federalization and deployment of Vermont National Guard members has rendered the remaining Guard force unable to carry out its state activities effectively;

NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS HEREBY:

Resolved, that the Town requests the members of Vermont’s Congressional Delegation to urge Congress to restore the balance between the federal government and the states, limiting the nearly complete federal control over State National Guard units to cases:

* where there is reasonable evidence that war powers are requested in order to protect against a threat to the territory of the United States,

* where there is an insurrection or a plausible threat of insurrection; or

* where there is a declaration of war under the United States Constitution;

Resolved, that the Town requests the General Assembly of the State of Vermont, exercising its powers under Ch. II, Sec. 59 of the Vermont Constitution, to:

* investigate and discuss whether members of the Vermont National Guard have been called to active service and assigned to duties relating to the war in Iraq in conformity with the U.S. Constitution and federal laws, including the 2002 Congressional Resolution on Iraq; and

* create a commission or other body to collect statutory, historical, and statistical information about the role of the National Guard in serving the State of Vermont and to study the impact of the federalization and deployment of its members on the ability of the Guard to perform its mission in Vermont;

Resolved, that the President and the Congress take steps to withdraw American troops from Iraq, consistently with the mandate of international humanitarian law; and

Resolved, that the Town Clerk send a copy of this Resolution to each member of the Vermont Congressional Delegation, the Vermont Governor, the Speaker of the Vermont House, the President Pro Tempore of the Vermont Senate, the Adjutant General of Vermont.

Whereas, the Town and its citizens strongly support the men and women serving in the United States Armed Forces in Iraq and recognize the sacrifices that each of them is making. The Town and its citizens stand ready to help these Vermonters in any way they can.

You tell ’em, Vermont.  About 20 municipalties have passed this resolution.  6 or 7 have failed to pass (or "tabled") it.

Top Twenty Worst Americans

Ken AshfordBlogging, Democrats, Republicans3 Comments

Several blogs were surveyed and asked to list, in order, the twenty worst figures in American history.

Here are the results for right-winger bloggers, as tallied here:

Honorable Mentions: Ted Bundy (5), Jane Fonda (5), John Wayne Gacy (5), John Walker Lindh (5), Joe McCarthy (5), Michael Moore (5), Boss Tweed (5)

17) Franklin Delano Roosevelt (6)
17) John Walker (6)
17) Lee Harvey Oswald (6)
17) Robert Byrd (6)
16) Aldrich Ames (7)
14) Richard Nixon (8)
14) Aaron Burr (8)
12) Al Sharpton (9)
12) Charles Manson (9)
8) Timothy McVeigh (10)
8) Lyndon Johnson (10)
8) Hillary Clinton (10)
8) John Wilkes Booth (10)
7) Alger Hiss (12)
6) Noam Chomsky (13)
4) Jesse Jackson (14)
4) Jimmy Carter (14)
3) Bill Clinton (15)
2) Benedict Arnold (19)
1) The Rosenbergs (15) & Julius Rosenberg (5) (20 total votes)

And here are the results for left-wing bloggers, as tallied here:

Honorable Mentions: Boss Tweed (5), Roger Taney (5), James Earl Ray (5), Charles Manson (5), Rush Limbaugh (5), Jerry Falwell (5), Roy Cohn (5), Dick Cheney (5), John C. Calhoun (5)

20) The Rosenbergs (3) + Julius Rosenberg (3) (6 total votes)
20) Pat Robertson (6)
20) Oliver North (6)
20) William Randolph Hearst (6)
20) Aaron Burr (6)
20) Aldrich Ames (6)
18) George Lincoln Rockwell (7)
18) Robert McNamara (7)
14) Richard Mellon Scaife (8)
14) Lee Harvey Oswald (8)
14) Charles Coughlin (8)
14) Strom Thurmond (8)
13) Ronald Reagan (9)
12) George Wallace (10)
11) Andrew Jackson (12)
9) Jefferson Davis (13)
9) George W. Bush (13)
6) Benedict Arnold (14)
6) Henry Kissinger (14)
6) John Wilkes Booth (14)
3) Timothy McVeigh (16)
3) Nathan Bedford Forrest (16)
3) J. Edgar Hoover (16)
2) Richard Nixon (25)
1) Joseph McCarthy (26)

And now some observations of my own:

(1)  Left-wingers rank terrorists (Timothy McVeigh, Nathan Bedford Forrest) and assassins (Oswald, Booth) as being worse than right-wingers do.  In fact, Nathan Bedford Forrest doesn’t even rank in the right-wing list.

(2) Right-wingers rank traitors (Benedict Arnold, Rosenbergs, Alger Hiss) as being worse than left-wingers do.  Along those same lines, McCarthy barely makes a showing in the right-winger list, whereas he is number one on left-wingers’ list.

(3) It’s hard not to notice the where racists fall for each group.  Nathan Bedford Forrest and George Wallace don’t even show up on the right wing list, even as an honorable mention.  Neither does Confederate president Jefferson Davis.  But Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton?  You bet right wingers have them. (Question: What did they do to make the such bad Americans?)

(4)  Right-wingers have an overactive imagination, and make their political enemies out to be worse than they actually are.  Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Jesse Jackson are all worse Americans than Charles Manson?!?  Do right-wingers REALLY think that??

The Ten Commandments Case

Ken AshfordGodstuff, Supreme CourtLeave a Comment

It’s been a long while since I got legal on yo’ ass, but I’m a lawyer and a Constitutional afficando, so it is high time I write something of substance on constitutional law.

For a background on the Ten Commandments case being argued in the Supreme Court, read here

The case (at least the "Kentucky" part of it) involves the display of the Ten Commandments in a courthouse in Kentucky.  The TCs were privately donated.  Standing alone, it was clear (and a court so ruled) that the TCs violated the Constitution. 

So the display of the TCs became part of a larger exhibit — one that featured (among other historical documents) the Constitution, the Declaration of Independance, the Bill of Rights, the Magna Carta, etc.  The entire display was called ""Foundations of American Law and Government Display".

And that’s what the fight is about.

The first thing I want to address is this quote:

Mathew Staver, who represents the Kentucky counties and school district, said the displays aren’t about religion, but rather the history of American law.

"One of the eleven frames deals with the discussion of foundations of law. It describes a number of documents that influenced American law," he said. "There’s no question the Ten Commandments influenced American law."

Does anyone really believe that displays of the Ten Commandments "in public buildings aren’t about religion"?  If the displays are not "about religion", then why do so many religious groups support those displays?  Why, for example, doesn’t this guy find another cause to rally behind?

Of COURSE, they are about religion. 

Fortunately, the Sixth Circuit was not so stupid.  They even realized Kentucky’s modification of the display (to include other historical documents) was a "sham” to dhie the religious promotional intent behind the display of the TCs.

Now, what evidence is there that the Ten Commandments forms the foundation of American law, as the religious groups claim?

Well, let’s take a closer look at the TCs to see if they are reflected in American law.  What’s the first commandment?

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!  I’m sorry, but we have some nice parting gifts!  Before we even get far out of the box, we find a commandment which contradicts American law. 

Why?  Because the Constitution protects freedom of religion.  You have the fundamental right to believe whatever god (or gods or "no god") that you want.  Yet, the first commandment on the goddamned tablet tells us that you can’t have any other fucking god?   That’s a direct contradiction of American law!  So don’t believe them when they say that the Ten Commandments serve as a basis for American law.  (There is, by the way, no historical precedent for their argument either — no historical writing by a founding father or anything like that.  Simply put, pro-TCers pull this out of their butt).

Saving Children’s Delicate Ears From Private Ryan

Ken AshfordSex/Morality/Family ValuesLeave a Comment

So, I just read the FCC Opinion about why use of the F-word (and "shit" and other words) in ABC’s uncensored broadcast of "Saving Private Ryan" was not obscene.  It is because when our boys stormed the beaches at Normandy, and a guy’s arm got blown off, he didn’t say, "Gosh darnnit!  That hurts like the dickens!"

No.  He said, "Oh, fuck!  Shitshitshitshit!  Aaaeeeeowwwwwwww!  Fuck! Medic!  Medic!" . . . and then he passed out.  So the movie depicts reality.

And if you want to sanatize war, you are a pussy and a liar.

Handsoffmytv Fortunately, for anyone out there who objects to depictions of reality coming through your television (because the truth offends you or whatever), there is a remarkable new device (pictured at the right) which, I’m told works almost flawlessly.  You may have one already in your home.  The models vary, but they all have essentially the same functions.

Use it.  And then shut up.

If It Walks Like a Lame Duck…

Ken AshfordSocial SecurityLeave a Comment

From the Washington Post:

The Senate’s top Republican [Bill Frist] said yesterday that President Bush’s bid to restructure Social Security may have to wait until next year and might not involve the individual accounts the White House has been pushing hard.

…."In terms of whether it will be a week, a month, six months or a year, as to when we bring something to the floor, it’s just too early," Frist said.

….House leaders have said they want the Senate to go first in passing Social Security legislation. That is because they are pessimistic about picking up Democratic support, and they do not want to put GOP members in the position of passing a controversial bill that then dies in the Senate, leaving a ripe issue for Democrats in 2006.

Now, Bush won, right?  He had a "mandate", right?  His party has control of both houses of Congress, right?  And he can’t get his first major piece of legislation out of the gate?  LOL!  Loser.

Ned Flanders Rainy Day Fun

Ken AshfordGodstuff1 Comment

Tjesus "It may seem a tad odd making Jesus out of a toilet paper roll, but I think the end result is quite nice," says this Christian site.

Yes, it is quite nice.

Still, it still is frightfully odd.

But NOT as odd as this recipe from the same Christian website, which I reprint in full:

This is really easy. No oven involved, just the microwave.

1 package choc chips,
½ cup peanut butter,
4 cups chow mein noodles,
mini marshmallows.

Melt choc chips and peanut butter together for 1 min in microwave, stir and microwave for additional 1 ½ min until melted.  Add chow mein noodles and stir with 2 spoons/forks as tossing a salad.

Drop onto waxed paper.

Add a marshmallow to represent baby Jesus.

Mmmmmmm.  Jesus tastes good with milk!!!

And I don’t know what to say about this.

United States Finally Catches Up (A Little) to the Rest of the World

Ken AshfordCrime, Supreme CourtLeave a Comment

After today’s Supreme Court decision, the following countries are now the only ones in the world that execute minors:

United States
Congo
Iran
China
Pakistan

Before today’s ruling the following states allowed minors to be executed: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, Texas and Virginia. (Number of Red States – 16 Number of Blue States – 3)

Hat tip: Publius

And as one of Publius’ commentators correctly observes, this case should serve as a reminder to those morons who think the Constitution should be interpreted from an "originalist" standpoint. 

The genius of our founding fathers was that they did not claim genius.  They knew they were not Moses coming from the mountain.  Instead, they created a Constitution — a mere blueprint — which not only created the three branches of government, but assigned each of them specific duties. 

The Judiciary Branch (i.e., the federal courts) were given the task to interpret the Constitution.  This is what wingers and originalists complain about.  "Judicial fiat", "legislating from the bench", etc., are all fancy ways of complaining about the fact that judges are doing what the Constitution instructs them to do — INTERPRET THE CONSTITUTION.

Today, the Court interpreted "cruel and unusual", an admittedly and intentionally ambiguous phrase written by our forefathers.  The Court didn’t "make it up"; they didn’t "create laws from the bench" . . . they simply did their job.  The system works.

And the government can’t kill 17 years olds (and younger).

Bush’s Social Security Reform Is Dying

Ken AshfordSocial SecurityLeave a Comment

And badly.  It seems the more he talks about "fixing" Social Security, the less convincing he is.  Some leader.  Some mandate.

And who is telling us that Bush is actually losing support on Social Security, the more he talks about it? Our friends at Gallup:

Only one in three Americans approve of President Bush’s handling of Social Security, his lowest rating on the issue since he took office.

A USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll conducted Friday-Sunday found that 35% approved of Bush’s Social Security record, 56% disapproved and 9% had no opinion. That was down from three weeks ago, when 43% approved. In March 2001, just after he took office, 49% approved.

The poll showed that Democrats have made headway in their opposition to Bush. In early January, Americans divided evenly when asked whether Social Security needs major changes in the next year or two. Now 59% say it doesn’t need to be changed right away.

Like Father, Like Son

Ken AshfordIraqLeave a Comment

The New York Times tell us that the apple doesn’t far from the tree.

I knew that.  I guess the odd thing is that the tree is criticizing the apple:

U.S. Cites Array of Rights Abuses by the Iraqi Government in 2004

By BRIAN KNOWLTON
International Herald Tribune


Published: March 1, 2005

WASHINGTON, Feb. 28 – The State Department on Monday detailed an array of human rights abuses last year by the Iraqi government, including torture, rape and illegal detentions by police officers and functionaries of the interim administration that took power in June.

In the Bush administration’s bluntest description of human rights transgressions by the American-supported government, the report said the Iraqis "generally respected human rights, but serious problems remained" as the government and American-led foreign forces fought a violent insurgency. It cited "reports of arbitrary deprivation of life, torture, impunity, poor prison conditions – particularly in pretrial detention facilities – and arbitrary arrest and detention."

Read the whole thing.

Hello?  Abu Ghraib???  Pot. Kettle. Black.

Hot Journalism Chicks

Ken AshfordPopular CultureLeave a Comment

You know Liz Marlantes, who is only 30 and (formerly) a great writer for the Christian Science Monitor and who is really cute as well as smart and not only because she looks like Claire Yasewicz who I went to high school with, but because she really is pretty and she went to Harvard, too?

Well, ABC picked her up.  Good.

Should Democrats Embrace Intolerance?

Ken AshfordDemocrats1 Comment

Hell, no, says Digby.  He quotes from an interview of David "Mudcat" Saunders which says:

Saunders, who has worked on the campaigns of Mark Warner, John Edwards, and Bob Graham, thinks that if Democrats ease up on the culture stuff they can win in the South: "We’ve got an affection for big guns and fast cars. It’s a macho thing. I’ve not seen any attempt by the Democrats to get into that culture."

But Digby responds:

Bill Clinton, Al Gore and Jimmy Carter were all southern white males, and we blue staters voted for them without a second thought. Before that, Lyndon Johnson won the blue states in a landslide. As I recall, we rather rather liked their southern roots. Let’s just get this one thing straight. The theory that non-southerners are intolerant of "his kind" is undisputably wrong. We have happily voted for southern white males many times. It’s southerners who refuse to vote for anyone who comes from anywhere else.

Exactly.  We supposedly "elitist" liberals aren’t so "elitist" that we ignore the South.  Right, Mr. Clinton?  Carter?  Gore?  Edwards?  What Mudcat suggests — what he really suggests is that to win over Southerners, the Democrats must embrace Southern heritage – guns, Nascar, Dukes of Hazzard re-runs. 

And that ain’t gonna happen.

Amanda Marcotte, guestblogging at Pandagon, takes it one step further:

Digby’s right that we need to write off those on the right who think "tolerance" is a dirty word. People who stand against sex ed, reproductive rights and other signs that not everyone chooses the same sexual path as they do obviously aren’t happy to let us partake of the pill, abortion and sex toys in Alabama, even though we on the side of sin are all too happy to let them avoid birth control and The Rabbit all they’d like. Anti-gay marriage activists seem believe that if gays and lesbians can marry, straight marriage will disintegrate, meaning they sincerely believe that it’s just not possible for people to have to peaceably share the same rights.

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I think Digby’s right that compromise with some is impossible, and I would add that trying to compromise with people who’d rather we just disappeared off the face of the planet will probably just bring the Democrats down another notch in the estimation of the Bubbas that are inclined to be sympathetic to the social politics of tolerance. The people in our democracy who see the voting system as a way to inflict their beliefs on others are still not a majority…

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It seems to me that the Republicans have cobbled together a rather uneasy alliance between the rich who control the party and use it to inflict class warfare on the rest of us, the intolerant who are willing to be used as tools as long as it means they can exert control over their neighbors’ sex lives, and a whole bunch of people that are sitting on the fence. The fence-sitters either don’t know how many liberties of theirs the Republicans are actively working to dismantle or simply think that they have to put up with these lost liberties in order to be safe from terrorism. This is the group that the Democrats need to focus on in order to get more votes.

I think that is absolutely right.  Let’s not become a bunch of hillbillies just to win over hillbillies.  As Shakespeare wrote, "This above all to thine own self be true."  Dems should be who they are (and by the way, we’re not all cut from the same cloth), and expose the intolerance of the right.