Sunday, July 31, 2005

Calvin & Hobbes break

My son said my last post and too many overall are too often ripping into people who are dunderheads. He wants a bit of postive levity. And so, here is today's panel of Calvin & Hobbes from No, C&H are not back. They are, to use an analogy, reruns.


Why Richard Posner's "Bad News" is bad news

Richard Posner, the egomaniacal judge of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, has written another of his phony scholarly-sounding pieces; this time on the news media and the issue of bias.

That the NY Times deigns this fit to print is an indication that the Times has continued its decline in standards. The article, "Bad News," appeared today in the NY Times Book Review section.

I wrote a letter to the Times I know will not be published--so I reprint it here:

"Richard Posner's "Bad News" is a particularly sad example of bad analysis. First, Posner fails to define what he means by "liberal" or "conservative," which allows him to sloppily call CNN "liberal" or claim, without evidence, it was moving "left" in the wake of the creation of FoxNews. Posner, who steers his ship no further than the conventional un-wisdom one finds at country clubs and DC cocktail hours, dismisses Eric Alterman's book on media bias without bothering to show he read even the introduction to Alterman's book. Alterman, at the beginning of his book, correctly notes that identifying a journalist as "liberal" without considering whether that means "cultural" liberal or "economic" (i.e. New Deal, not Hayek) liberal--and the same with "conservative"--does not tell us about the direction or cause of bias in the corporate-owned media. Once that fairly simple distinction is understood, as Alterman himself discovered, the direction and causes of the bias that is most often shown in the news commentary in the television and radio becomes more understandable and fairly consistent. Posner's passive voice that radiates an attempt to say "a pox on both houses--but those liberals are more wrong, of course" is particularly phony for that reason.

"Posner also fails to discuss how corporate media's news executives, during the late 1960s, began to favor "process" issues (horse race and image issues) over "policy" issues in their news, and how the repeal of the "Fairness Doctrine" accelerated a trend of economic pro-corporate bias and culturally conservative bias (the two pillars of the GOP) in radio and television broadcast commentary. Does Posner wonder how or why Phil Donahue and Jim Hightower had their shows yanked as much for a failure to draw private, corporate advertising revenue as opposed to low ratings, yet low rated shows such as Scarborough Country and the new Tucker Carlson disasters on MSNBC continue to be coddled? Further, one need only compare the odious Candy Crowley with Frank McGhee to understand how network news reporting has been dumbed down over the decades.

"Maybe this article will finally expose Posner as a lazy egomaniac who thinks he can opine on nearly any subject with a gloss of a few paragraphs in a few books someone hands to him. For a guy who openly prides himself on having a practical approach to life, economics and the law, Posner has little understanding of how business works and how people function and bow to their bosses in business environments, including newsrooms. Worse, Posner has no understanding of sociology or the history of the American news media in the 20th Century. The Times was better off telling Posner that his article was not fit to print."

Oh yeah, I think to myself with a tone dripping with sarcasm, the Times will definitely print my letter...Sure it will.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Imagine if Clinton had this...

"Moral" George flipped off a newscaster reporting on CAFTA negotiations. And yes, imagine if Clinton or Gore--who had more reason to flip off the press--had done this.

CAFTA Passes, Workers Screwed Once Again

David Sirota says what needs to be said about the 15 Dems who broke ranks to support Bush and the Republicans in passing the latest pro-corporate/anti-worker and peasant trade deal. Sirota's links are also worth reading on his post on this subject.

Personal notes:

My local congressman, Duncan Hunter (R-San Diego, CA), is one of the few Republicans who mostly (and properly) opposes these trade deals. He voted against the CAFTA as well. What I don't get about Hunter, though, is that, while he connects the dots to opposing Chinese exploitation of workers (he is a trade hawk with China), he fails to connect the same dots to exploitation of workers here in America. Pat Buchanan, for example, has sometimes supported labor law reform--at least when he was running for president--while Hunter continues to be hositle to labor law reform and pushes anti-labor union legislation with other Republicans.

I also think the fix was in politically in terms of who was going to vote for or against. Does anyone really think Jane Harman (D-CA) has changed her pro-corporate stripes in voting against the CAFTA this time? See here (scroll down to "Free Trade"--you can tell this is a libertarian or pro-Republican site with that phrasing of the issue).

UPDATE: Some intrigue has arisen from the Republican side in terms of the voting on CAFTA. Apparently, the two Reeps who did not vote were anti-CAFTA and their reasoning for not voting is quite transparently ridiculous. See here. I also read somewhere--can't find link right now--that Jo Ann Davis, the other Republican, went to the Boy Scout Jamboree for an event, found out it was canceled due to weather, and --lordy, lordy--just could not get back in time. "Damn that traffic!" On the CAFTA vote, which was one of the big votes this year. She should be fired for incompetence by her constituents. And if anyone thinks this is all coincidental, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you...Thanks to Kevin Drum and Josh Marshall (check on my links portion of page) for their reporting.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Pro-life or pro-punishment? Further thoughts on Roe v. Wade

A commenter in the previous post "Random thoughts..." spoke about a so-called conservative woman friend who ultimately didn't care about Roe v. Wade being overruled because she at least had access to doctors who could cover up an abortion by calling it a miscarriage (which happened quite a lot at the Mayo Clinic, which was where Justice Harry Blackburn served as corporate counsel--which is why he understood the abortion issue quite dramatically).

This got me to thinking once again about why Roe v. Wade needs to be reread and better understood.

If people would just take the time to read Roe v. Wade, they would find it is merely a balancing of rights between woman and fetus. It basically says, "If the baby can't survive outside the womb of the mom even with technology, then the mom's privacy right prevails. After all, the baby grows inside her body. Once the baby is 'medically viable,' or can survive outside the womb, then the mother's right to say, 'Kill it,' is lost--except where the mother's life or health is at stake."

This takes both a pro-life and pro-choice position because the mother's life--and health--has priority in any civilized society. Pro-lifers who are sophisticated say the term "health" as used in Doe v. Bolton (the companion case at the time) is too broad. Not once, however, did they try to enact legislation to define the limits of the word "health," particularly for third trimester abortions. If they did, we could solve the issue as medical science and technology develop. But no, they want to scream about dead fetuses and put women's autonomy back in a gilded cage.

That's why too many people who claim to be pro-life are more into punishing women who find themselves pregnant. When they say, "She should have thought of the consequences before she had sex," well, that's not pro-life, that's just seeing pregnancy as punishment. So Old Testament, dontcha think?

And let's quit using analogies that compare abortion to the Holocaust or slavery. Jews were not growing inside German's or Pole's bodies. Slaves were not growing inside their master's bodies (except in Mandingo*). To compare abortion to the Holocaust or slavery is to reduce something real and often scary for women (Men, do you really want to go through childbirth?) to a metaphor, e.g. "Well, the Jews were growing inside the German body politic." That's a sick way to use metaphor when we think about it as it demeans the reality women face in a pregnancy. Pro lifers need to find another analogy, if one can be found.

Overall, there really is no analogy in human affairs. One sex of our species has to grow the baby inside of her. It is a great miracle, yes. It is also filled with danger and deep distress for many women. Society (not just individual husbands and families) owes women a duty to make that process as painless and supportive as possible. Banning abortion, particularly in a society that doesn't show much concern for post-partum humans, is the opposite of caring for women and their babies. I can think of one hundred issues more worth straightening out before we even get to discuss abortion--and so can you. Roe v. Wade stays at least until medical technology can take out an embryo and grow it outside the womb. Then, we'll have to discuss "Brave New World" a lot more than we currently do...

*Mostly, it was male masters impregnating female slaves and turning the offspring into slaves. (Link is a pdf).


Sunday, July 24, 2005

Random Sunday Night Thoughts

1. I think it is great news overall for the SEIU and Teamsters (and perhaps some others following them) to split from the AFL-CIO. While a split of the AFL-CIO did not lead to good things for labor when Walter Reuther's United Auto Workers walked out of the AFL-CIO in 1967 (again, ironically, with the Teamsters) over the issue of organizing the American South (the AFL-CIO leadership rejected Reuther's position to its everlasting failure that has helped lead to the current predicament), there is another historical parallel: When John L. Lewis decided it was time to stop playing footsie with a moribund AFL in the late 20's or early '30s, this led to a flowering of union agitation that played perfectly into forcing FDR's hand in passing pro-labor legislation that led to the greatest expansion of wealth for working class people anywhere and anytime in human history. Andy Stern of the SEIU is seeking to put money into organizing and media in general, not the Democratic Congressional Committee fundraisers. Considering labor has gotten essentially nothing from the general Democratic Party, this is a strategy worth trying for unions and our nation.

2. Katha Pollitt is correct that no good can come from overturning Roe v. Wade for women in at least half the states in America. It's not because abortion is not supported as a right by more than half the women and men in America, but because of politics in general. Plus, pushing pro-choice Republicans deeper into the Democratic Party will continue to produce Diane Feinstein Democrats--killing babies in their womb and handing out corporate goodies to post-partum corporate executives.

Also, let's stop with the garbage that says "Oh, if only the US Supreme Court didn't render their opinions in Roe v. Wade and Brown v. Board of Education, there would have been a better organized political fight that would have allowed abortion and racial intergration to succeed..." First, as Katha Pollitt points out, between 1970 and 1973, there was not much movement toward reproductive autonomy for women and quite a few women having to sneak around to sometimes dangerous illegal abortions performed by butchers. As for Brown v. Board of Education, the importance of having the US Supreme Court tell the nation--and the world--that education segregation by race was legally and morally wrong (yes, it was written as a moral pronouncement) created a protective aura around those engaging in non-violent civil disobedience of mere State laws that still enforced segregation in housing and restaurants, etc. Does anyone really believe the 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights Act were delayed because of Brown?

And let's understand, first off, that abortion, unlike say, homosexuality, has had a varied and ambiguous history in terms of both laws in western societies that allowed abortion to some extent--and, when illegal, how little abortion laws were enforced when and where they existed. This is true not only in American history, but in many other western nations' histories. There are even deep ambiguities within the Catholic Church's view of abortion over the centuries. Roe v. Wade goes into this history quite well--go ahead, read it. It won't bite and you'll find that it is far better reasoned than most people would believe based upon what has been ridiculously poor commentary by most political pundits and some legal scholars that wrongfully trashes this decision.

As for the Supreme Court civil rights cases from the 1940s through the 1970s, these decisions were largely the Supreme Court atoning itself for its earlier betrayal of blacks following right wing courts in the late 19th Century which decided that the 14th Amendment was passed more for corporations than people of darker skin pigment. Rayford Logan's The Betrayal of the Negro, as well as Eric Foner's and WEB DuBois' histories of the Reconstruction Era are quite good in understanding that Brown was the result of the Court becoming tired of the culture and the legislatures not getting with the program that the Reconstruction Era was supposed to have completed by the 1880s.

(Yes, I know that in DC at the time of the passage of the 14th Amendment, there was school segregation. And I know well of DuBois' very bad elitist tendencies. However, the point overall on the Brown decision is that the South would have had more free reign against black "agitators" if there was nothing the federal government could do about it.

Let's face facts: a world without Roe is not a world that would have been any better for women in this nation as far as having better control over their bodies and their lives (I perhaps should post one day my defense of Roe from a standpoint of jurisprudence, but that's another story).) And a world without Brown v. Bd. of Education would not have been a better world for African-Americans. These decisions are worth the fight in this nomination (with Brown, I speak of the elasticity of the Commerce Clause, which, while not pretty in Brown, has more direct relevance now for economically oriented and environmentally oriented laws that are in danger if John Roberts is confirmed to the US Supreme Court).


Friday, July 22, 2005

Questions for Judge Roberts

The traditional response judicial nominees like to give to questions about their views of the Constitution is, "I can't answer that question because the issue might come before me. I can't prejudge the situation."

However, this is not always a proper answer. Far from it. One should demand a judicial nominee, such as Judge Roberts, answer judicial philosophy questions, such as "How do you view the scope of the Commerce Clause?" with a follow up of reading to him/her, Chief Justice John Marshall's early comments on the clause in terms of its plenary (essentially absolute) scope. If I correctly understand Roberts' law review article on the Constitution's contracts clause, Roberts will, when cornered, have to answer that he disagrees with America's most important Justice of the early US Supreme Court, and intead agrees with the radical Supreme Court of the late 19th Century that was biased in favor of capitalist robber barons against the rest of the nation (he won't say it that way, of course). That ought to get some attention among the grass roots even within the Republican Party.

On abortion, it's simple: "Do you believe there is a right of a woman to have an abortion in our Constitution?" This is a philosophical question. If he won't bite, ask him "Do you think Plessy v. Ferguson was decided correctly or do you think the better decision is Brown v. Board of Education?" If he says he can't answer, just ask why he believes cases involving the legality of racial segregation laws will come before the court. It's settled, right? So, then, Judge Roberts, isn't Roe settled no differently than segregation such that there is no practical way he can foresee him overturning the right of a woman to have an abortion? If he says it is not settled, then ask, "So, Judge Roberts, if it's unsettled, you can't tell us whether you would uphold Roe or completely overturn it?" "It's possible, then, you could vote to overturn Roe v. Wade?" Look, with Roberts' wife's strong, public anti-abortion views (no different than Hillary Clinton's views on, say, health care before she became a senator), we'll know the answer won't we?

Another way to ask the nominee questions about such subjects is to say, "Have you ever told anyone outside your wife, perhaps, your views about Roe v. Wade? About specific cases involving the commerce clause? About specific cases involving the contracts clause?" Then, you ask, "Why will you not tell the committee these same views you espoused to others?" That's what really rankles me about the process. We all have our views we tell others. We have our opinions. Yes, we might change our mind when confronted with several lengthy legal briefs with particular facts, but still, WE HAVE OUR OPINIONS. That's what senators should demand from a nominee who speaks to anyone about his or her views of cases. Senators should, again, not be treated like second class citizens.

If I was asked my judicial philosophy, I would proudly state it: My judicial philosophy is firmly rooted in the Founder's view of the judiciary: If I'm a judge, even on the US Supreme Court, when it comes to economic issues, I start with the assumption that I must defer to the legislature and past precedent. A key ingredient in the Founder's wisdom was to view the Commerce Clause in a very, very broad manner and essentially reading out the 9th and 10th Amendments in terms of economic issues. Our Founders were clear that an important responsibilty of open government was to allow legislatures to do what they thought best in terms of economic development and sustaining of our nation--even if we disagree with the particular legislation. On personal liberty issues, particularly the rights of minorities to hold opinions contrary to the majority, the Court's role is to protect those minority views consistent with due process and equal protection. Are there gray areas? Absolutely. Are there areas where discerning how Madison, Hamilton, Jay, and Adams (and Jefferson along with the others on the bill of rights) would view matters is essentially impossible to find? Yes. One must approach the Constitution with respect and integirty to the overall system of government our Founders' established. One must use the tools of reading the text, reviewing legislative, judicial, and even political and social history, and respect precedent consistent with that history and text. And for those who think the Constitution is a rigid document, then read McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), which is as strong a statement about the organic nature of the Constitution that's ever been written.

See? That wasn't so hard, Judge Roberts. Senators should not take answers at face value such as "I am a strict constructionist" or "I believe in original intent." Those are evasive answers that tell us nothing. Scalia and Rehnquist use the same vacuous rhetoric and then go merrily on their way overturning laws they don't like and for reasons having nothing to do with the Constitutional Founders' views on, for example, state sovereignty. If Judge Roberts cannot describe his judicial philosopy with any level of concreteness as I did in the previous paragraph, he is not as bright and honest as some people are saying he is.

Final thoughts: Am I giving Roberts a way out by letting him know this ahead of time? No. First, my blog isn't famous like Atrios. But, even if Atrios linked to my post here, Roberts simply will look like he's dancing unless he answers in a straight-forward manner or with integrity. The questions are reasonable and the burden is on him to respond. My sense, so far, of Roberts is that he's much more right wing than O'Connor. Let's not confuse personable with reasonable in terms of judicial philosophy. The best solution is to put Roberts on the shelf until Rehnquist retires. Replacing Rehnquist with Roberts is a wash, judicial philosophy-wise.


Priorities for a stronger America

Kimberly Clark just announced they will fire 6,000 workers. This move follows Hewlett Packard firing 14,5000 workers and Kodak firing 10,000 workers (which, the article states, could grow to 25,000 workers by 2007).

But, as my Republican friends believe, if we just confirm Judge Roberts, outlaw homosexuality and ban abortion, everything will be well with America. We must maintain our priorities, you know. "Oh, and by the way," says Bush. "Just let me, while we're making America strong, just give a few more tax breaks to the executives from these same corporations. You don't mind. 9/11 and all that."

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

"Objectively" Pro-Islamic Fundamentalist Foreign Policy

Remember when conservatives used to say that opposing Bush meant one was "objectively" pro-terrorist?

Well, the evidence is in and, instead, it is the Cheney-Rove (Bush) administration that has been objectively pro-terrorist--and pro-Iranian Islamic fundamentalist in matters of foreign policy:

An article by Peter W. Galbraith in the NY Review of Books describes how the new Iraq is cozying up to the hardliners in Iran.

This article from the Christian Science Monitor describes two new reports (one from Saudi Arabia and one Israeli) which conclude that the Cheney-Rove (Bush) invasion of Iraq has made the world more safe for Islamic terrorists and less safe for the rest of us.

From a few paragraphs within the Christian Science Monitor article:

"The Globe also reports that American intelligence officials and terrorism experts have a very similar picture of these fighters: that prior to the Iraq war, they were not extremists who wanted to attack the US in an Al Qaeda-like manner, but "are part of a new generation of terrorists responding to calls to defend their fellow Muslims from 'crusaders and 'infidels.' "

"'The president is right that Iraq is a main front in the war on terrorism, but this is a front we created,' said Peter Bergen, a terrorism specialist at the nonpartisan New America Foundation, a Washington think tank.

"Columnist Terry Neal of The Washington Post, talked to Stephen Flynn, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former US Coast Guard commander, whose recent book, as well as his articles in the Council's journal Foreign Affairs, argue that Iraq is a "phony war" based on Mr. Bush assertions' that we have to fight the terrorists there rather than here.

"Mr. Flynn believes that by diverting so many resources to the war in Iraq, we've not only helped to create more terrorists, but that "America remains astonishingly vulnerable to attacks from Al Qaeda, which has morphed under Bush's watch, from an organization to a worldwide movement ..." He says the recent attacks in London show how patient Al Qaeda has become, using the three cell approach: The first cell is the leadership cell, the second cell is the reconnaissance team, and the third is the 'action' team."

Yet, those of us who opposed the Iraq War II and who demand that our troops be removed from that benighted nation are constantly placed on the defensive, even through the words chosen to describe us (I do not consider myself or various generals such as Brent Scowcroft to be "anti-war," for example, as we all supported the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 to root out the Al Queda forces). Cheney-Rove (Bush) are incompetent and worse, are liars in fighting the terrorists and still, they were given the benefit of the doubt by too many Americans due to a hangover of Republican rhetoric from the past 40 years. Many of us opposed the war in Iraq because we wanted America to keep focused on Al Queda. And these articles prove our point in very profound ways.

UPDATE: Even worse than we thought: See here and here. Thanks to Billmon via Atrios.

Filibuster-ers, start your engines...

UPDATE 6:30 p.m. July 19, 2005: It's John Roberts, US Circuit Court of Appeal judge in DC. Per the People for the American Way and Nathan Newman (for latter, just check my links), he's pretty right wing as to labor issues, commerce clause, contract clause, etc. As I said if it was Edith Clement, filibuster-ers, start your engines. I hope the abortion issue doesn't become the litmus test to the exclusion of the other issues raised by Nathan Newman and People for the American Way. I'm still at work, but had to blog this...


Now for the old, no longer valid post from this morning (that's what I get for listening to right wingers speculate. D'Oh!)

A web site called "," a project of a pro-GOP site, has the latest on Circuit Judge (from New Orleans) Edith Joy Clement, who is the likely nominee from the Cheney-Rove administration.

She is bad on civil rights, worse on commerce clause (which is the lifeblood of anyone who values our Founder's sense of nation building and sustaining, as well as anyone who values the New Deal), and is to the right of O'Connor on abortion (though possibly not willing to completely overturn Roe v. Wade).

I have to say this would be a brilliant move by the Cheney-Rove forces because she has no paper trail, but her husband is a known quantity to GOP circles.

The Alliance for Justice has its work cut out for it--and so do we.

And folks, the reason Rehnquist said he's not leaving yet is because he didn't want a "compromsise" scenario of "one moderate" for O'Connor and one "conservative" for Rehnquist. He'll continue to be a political operative more than a judge until his last breath.

Addendum: I realize I should say this: Why filibuster Judge Clement? Because the election was razor thin close in terms of popular vote (no "Ohio" and voting machine fraud arguments needed here) and replacing O'Connor with someone more conservative than even O'Connor is something a majority of Americans--including those some who voted for Bush--would not support. Also, most Americans, when polled, don't buy into the limits on legislative power that frames the commerce clause issue. Therefore, Democrats and Republicans like Specter, Collins, Chafee, et al. have a duty to filibuster Clement if, during the hearings, the positions attributed to her in the article cited at the beginning of this post are accurate. There is no reason to hide behind "she didn't supply with documents," etc. This is a straight up back in your face political response to a highly cynical administration. If Frist wants to go "nuclear" and blow up the filibuster, the fight will be on at that level, too. "It is what it is", as an ex-labor organizer and ex-SDSer often says.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Westy is dead, but truth needs to be re-told

General William Childs "Westy" Westmoreland is dead at the age of 91. Unfortunately, the Associated Press obituary makes it appear CBS capitulated in its defense of Westy's libel lawsuit over a 1982 broadcast that accused Westy of suppressing North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troop levels inside South Vietnam.

The truth, as noted in Vietnam on Trial: Westmoreland vs. CBS (Anthenum, 1987), the definitive book on the subject by Bob Brewin & Sydney Shaw, is that Westy believed his subordinates when they denied telling him facts they told George Crile and the CBS documentary team. The depositions during the litigation were devastating to Westy as his case limped to tiral. Westy's lawsuit also provided the closest thing to a Nuremberg trial for the likes of Robert McNamara that has ever occurred--the McNamara deposition discussion is worth the price of Brewin/Shaw's book alone. David Boies had one of his finest moments as a trial attorney in systematically taking apart Westy's claim that he was libeled by the CBS report.

This article from Time magazine's archives gives us a glimpse of why things were not going well for Westy during the trial of his case. Also, if anyone read the deposition transcripts that were coming out, they would have a hard time thinking Westy had a strong case. Bob Brewin, a Vietnam veteran and, during the time of the lawsuit, a reporter with the Village Voice, was reading and analyzing the testimony in almost real time and reporting on it in the Voice. It was fascinating to me as someone who was in grade school during the term of President Lyndon Johnson, but was by the 1980s a lawyer with an undergraduate degree in history who had read quite a bit about the Vietnam War by that time.

My only and consistent criticism of the CBS documentary--I watched it in real time in 1982--was that it made it sound as if Westy was acting alone and had he only told the truth, by God, President Johnson would have ended the war in 1967. Again, the truth was that by 1967, President Johnson didn't want any more "bad news" and Westy didn't give him any more bad news than the absolute minimum. Sound familiar? What should also sound familiar was that the underlying basis of the CBS report was the fight over the numbers between the Johnson national security advisers and the military on one side and on the other side...the CIA. CIA analyst Sam Adams became the lead whistle-blower who had accurately predicted the Tet Offensive in 1968, but was told to shut up by...Westy's military and the Johnson administration national security advisers. It's not as if Johnson couldn't find out the real numbers if he really wanted to find them out.

Westy lost his case because he was involved in the suppression of enemy troop numbers and was not being forthcoming about what was needed in terms of American troop strength to counter the enemy troop numbers. The settlement was simply the result of CBS's in house lawyers being cautious and offering an ambiguous apology that most people* at the time saw as a defeat for Westmoreland.

* Except idiots who can't seem to comprehend deposition and trial testimony like Don Kowet and Renata Adler (who also missed the real story about then-General Arik Sharon's libel suit against Time magazine over the Lebanon invasion).


Why rich people are still worse human beings...

Atrios bade his readers to read this NY Times article by some well-off "freelance journalist" who hired a nanny to care for her children--and found herself exhilarated and then creeped out by her nanny's web log. As I read the article, though, I was increasingly annoyed, not with the nanny, but the "journalist" and the NY Times for publishing this article (as was Atrios). For me, it was the person's pathetic whine of missing gallery openings because of her children and longing to be hip--if only those damned kids were not around. The envy and anger toward the nanny was quite plain by the time the article was over--yet the NY Times felt no compunction toward perhaps giving the nanny a say as to her perspective. This could be the latest Exhibit "A" to prove the NY Times is not "liberal," but elitist.

Then, gingerly, I went to the nanny's blog. She wrote a lengthy, but well written defense of herself which made me very angry at the Times as she refered to speaking to a responsible person at the Times, who showed the young lady no respect whatsoever. The person at the Times decided she was simply an immoral slut because she had a couple of sexual relationships with men with whom she was not married--and apparently deserved no equal time to respond. There was no sense that perhaps we should be outraged by the fact that this young woman had to work as a nanny at all. I thought, "My God? Are we back to Dickens' time--where the rich create economic conditions that are oppressive to the poor and then have the audacity to lecture the poor on immorality?"

My thoughts then turned to Barbara Ehrenreich's view that says it is wrong for well-off women to hire poor women to care for the well-off women's children. Previously, I never knew what to make of that position because I thought that some of nanny-family relationships are quite humane and special in a good sense. Yet, here was this "journalist" writing an over-the-top catty article in the Times writing in an abusive and exploitive manner about a young woman who cared for her children--and where the nanny performed her job in an obviously competent manner.

Feeling deep sympathy for the nanny blogger, I took up her challenge to read some of her blog entries. In doing so, I then learned something else that reenforced a bias I admit to some pride in: I have little use for most English Lit departments around the nation. This young woman, we learn, is going for a PhD in English Literature and it shows: While she proves her point that she is not particularly a party girl, her obsession with herself is a mirror image of her now former employer. Why anyone but voyeurs would read her blog is beyond me. Ironically, she worries about her career in writing these utlimately pedestrian thoughts about her daily life which succeeds in exposing her boyfriend--she calls him "Boyfriend" as if that doesn't make him feel "outed" to those who know her. Considering what passes for literary theory and criticism, I have to say this entire episode will probably be good for her career. She does need to learn to write in a more obtuse manner, though. Writing about one's navel and sexual organs in a way that is difficult to understand appears to be the prerequisite to a PhD in most English departments.

In all, the well-off journalist wins the jerk derby. But the nanny disappoints me too as she ultmiately longs for the life of a "knowledge worker" dispensing bullshit. And we wonder why the discourse in America has become so corroded? It's because the fight between these two people discussed here is the only fight that seems to have validity to even the august NY Times. There are no voices except those of an educated elite. Conversely, there is no voice of how hard it is to work at a car wash or the back of a fast food restaurant. There is no voice as to what it means to have no health insurance and have a sick child. Nope. Just the whine of privileged lives. Where are Jacob Riis and Thorstein Veblen when we need them...


Sunday, July 17, 2005

GW Bush and Hollywood

Via TBogg, I learned that GW Bush was in the movie-making biz in the 1980s and early 1990s. He was part of companies that made such "wholesome" fare as Pretty Woman and Cocktail.* With the attack on Hollywood last year, I am amazed--but not surprised--the Kerry campaign could not find some way to allow Bush supporters, who are now questioning McCain's appearance in the new film, Wedding Crashers, to learn Bush's hypocrisy knows no boundaries. Bush's hypocrisy has now reached the deep blue sky of limitlessness.

* The production group he was part of also produced a film called "The Hitcher," which one critic said showed a "massacre about every 15 minutes." I guess this is where Bush learned how to conduct foreign policy--or is it the ultimate ironic blow back for the so-called Iraqi "insurgents?" For those who would defend Bush by saying, "Oh, he didn't know or approve of that film," one should ask how or why he remained a board member after such a film entered the marketplace. The AP article cited above tells us why, though: The money his production company made also allowed him and one or more of his fellow board members to make enough money to buy the Texas Rangers, which was a main springboard for Bush to launch his campaign for governor of Texas.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Judith Miller's Matyred Self-Promotion

Greg Palast has it basically correct that Judith Miller of the NY Times is protecting her access to the Bush administration, not the First Amendment and certainly not an individual source.

My view is that Miller's status as a reporter is so slimed by her whoring for the Bush II administration up through and even after the Iraq War II that she decided the only way to salvage her reputation was to don the mantle of martyrdom. It's not like she is in a dangerous jail that the poor and minority sort of accused are placed in.

Not standing up for Miller in this instance will not abridge the reporter's otherwise already limited right to prote sources. Instead, the growing silence except among the haughty Mikey Isikoff and his friends says what needs to be said about someone as odious as Judith Miller. By the way, here is a catty, but still valid article on the rise and beginning of the fall of Judith Miller, who represents everything that has ever been wrong with a certain breed of arrogant NY Times reporter since the days of Walter Duranty.

For those who don't know Walter Duranty, he is the poster boy among historians for journalistic malpractice and misfeasance. Duranty thought he didn't need to go beyond his usual sources and slavishly devoted himself to the elite whom he covered in Russia--and with whom he feared the loss of access if he covered anything they didn't want to hear. There is a similar story with Judith Miller's close source, Chalabi, and her neo-con elitists in Washington DC (and now with the Busheviks) with whom she continues to pal around. Duranty's failure or refusal to report on Stalin's terrors are clearly on a different level than Miller's failures and refusals to print the truths we now know about Iraq and the Middle East. However, Miller's arrogance with fellow reporters, her naivete about important events, and fear of losing access to power are of a piece with Duranty. One could definitely see a self-promoter such as Duranty doing the stunt of protecting a political boss (i.e. Rove) so as to make "martyr points" to salvage his reputation.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Bush has no shame, part one million

This post at Americablog sums up the dishonesty of Bush and Rove, their arrogance, and their continued view that anything they do can be spun away to keep hold of their supporters.

Rove knew he was the leaker, Bush had to know, and yet the two of them, and others in the administration, allowed a government funded investigation to continue spending millions into searching for who leaked the fact that Joe Wilson's wife was a CIA agent--even to the point of chilling First Amendment freedoms through the pressuring of reporters with jail time.

No shame. No decency. No honor. That is also the legacy of the Bush II administration.

Update: Kevin Drum, at the Washington Monthly, sets the record straight that Joe Wilson was not a peacenik and was not opposed to toppling Saddam. And he reminds us that Wilson had strong diplomatic experience in Niger and other areas of Africa. The Bush-Cheney-Rove smear machine may have finally overstepped itself as it attempts to deflect what Mark Kleiman says is a likely felony charge against Rove under at least three different federal security laws, not merely the outing of the CIA agent law.

See also, Left Coaster for what Kleiman calls a "knock down" of GOP talking points on this subject.

The citizen Web provides, once again, a much more cogent and source filled analysis than television and radio. Imagine that?

Update II: Here are two posts from Josh Marshall demolishing the claim that Wilson supposedly said he was sent by Cheney or Tenet. He never said that. He said he was asked by other CIA officials to go after the CIA had received questions from Scooter Libby at Cheney's office about Saddam trying to purchase uranium in Niger. These spinners for the GOP lie like breathing, don't they?

And my final quote of the evening? George H.W. Bush, the current Bush's Daddy, speaking in 1999 saying that people like Karl Rove are "the most insidious of traitors."

Where has the proletariat gone?

MaxSpeak has a great link and post on an analysis by economist Steve Rose on the challenges Democrats face in promoting an economically populist message. I left a comment at Max's place, but reprint it (with my grammar/spelling check added; no change in sentences or thoughts) below:

"Steve Rose is brilliant in dissecting the economic stratifcation issues, but he needs a better finish.

May I humbly suggest that he begin his conclusions by stating that the manufacturing base has been eroded in the American economy, which erosion has been replaced by a rise in retail and white collar middle manager jobs. Further, the rise of retail, white collar manager positions, combined with the failure of the Democrats, when they had the ability to articulate themes in the media, to enact labor law reform, have led white collar and retail workers to give up on the government to solve their economic anxiety. This has left enoujgh of them ripe for the plucking on cultural issues, where media personalities, who don't understand the economic factors the way Max, Steve Rose, and others do, play the role of enabler. These media personalities also focus incessantly on horse race and psychology-based "perception" so-called analysis as most are ignorant of geo-politics, economics, history and sociology.

A commenter at MaxSpeak is correct to talk of swing voters. Those swing voters are often in places like Thomas Frank's Kansas and are often religious right in their cultural orientation. I am not one of those advocating we abandon an abortion rights plank, though I think we should be not supporting gay marriage. We should also jettison most proposals to expand gun control. The focus should be on economics and drawing connections between middle class anxiety concerning job security, the lessening of health insuarnce protection, the massive deficits and debt to the wealthy few with no investment in our nation's infrastructure or restoration of manufacturing power, and the Republican support (Clinton is gone, folks) for corporate trade deals that undermine workers' power at the workplace.

Compare the percentages of religious right voters who vote for Bernie Sanders, Byron Dorgan of North Dakota and voted for Paul Wellstone, on the one hand, and, on the other, "centrist" Democrats (read: strong cultural liberal, weak economic liberal) who run in other states or as presidential nominees. The Democats are close to winning national elections, but not enough. They need to clip off just a couple of Red States to begin to gain back the narrative in ways that does not leave them constantly on the defensive. The Internet is important as it provides the most effective grass roots tool to not rely as much on the corporate money that dilutes the economic populist message the Democrats need to win nationally in the executive and legislative branches of our government."

In all, Steve Rose moves the debate forward and helps us refine the framing issues that George Lakoff has previously helped formulate.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Attention Republicans: Explain this

Here is an interesting article. The states in the Southeast (you know, down home Bush-Cheney states) tried to lure Toyota to their respective states with the usual taxpayer funded subsidies, the way Republicans say it should be done.

But guess what? Toyota is building their new plant in Canada! What? Canada? The one Western oriented nation that seems to hate Americans the most? What gives?

Well, it turns out Toyota liked its better educated workforce and the fact that Toyota, by going to Canada, doesn't have to deal with bloated, greedy and inefficient medical insurance companies.

Plus, the article fails to note something else: The new Toyota workers will most likely be part of the United Auto Workers union.

For our confused Republican and Clintonoid-cultural-liberal-only friends who think this is some sort of exception to the "inevitable," iron-clad rules of the "free market"--and how government should shred most of the social contract--here is a book that deals with this point in more detail and over decades of economic history, "The Economic Illusion: False Choices Between Prosperity and Social Justice" (1984 Houghton Mifflin; 1987 U of PA edition) by Robert Kuttner.

Thanks to Pharyngula for the pointer. Also, here is his last paragraph of his post:

"I would add that I don't think this is a problem confined to the Southeast (region of the USA). Education has been a low priority item everywhere, and has been progressively gutted at all levels by Republican hacks who get elected on the promise of nothing but short-sighted tax cuts, and by gutless Democratic hacks who've been cowering in the corner, afraid of making the mindless conservative machine angry." (Parenthesis added)

My only caveat to Pharyngula (PZ Meyers)'s comment is to say that the "conservative machine" is not "mindless." It is both purposeful and reckless with our nation's finances, foreign policy, and its unconcern about our nation losing its manufacturing base. Otherwise, he is spot on.

The problem is that our modern politicians don't know what Hamilton, Adams, Jefferson and other Founders understood as mercantilists in theory or in Jefferson's presidency, practice: Nation building and nation sustaining requires active government policies in the economic development and sustaining of the nation. And that's not mindless, non-targeted tax cuts directed at people who are already loaded. Instead, it is research and development. It is public education. It is the building of roads, canals, bridges, dams, etc. It is national health insurance, laws to promote labor unions, and progressive taxation, too. As Madison stated in Federalist Paper no. 10:

"A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government."

Does this sound like anything limited goverment in terms of ecomomics?

(Edited--and oh yes, I forgot to add: I'm back!)

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Kelo III: Congress can legislate to stop bad eminent domain results

I know, I know. I broke my promise not to blog...again.

But I want to say something about Kelo v. New London that I thought was obvious, but apparently is not.

The morons who write at the Volokh Conspiracy (Eugene V should jettison these guys, but he is personal friends with them) are in a tizzy over Kelo. They act as if the Supreme Court ORDERED the redevelopment plan instead of simply DEFERRING to the local city government's plan. The difference goes to the heart of what the judiciary is supposed to do with regard to economic regulations by LEGISLATURES.

(I put the above in capital letters since this concept is lost over there and elsewhere, too.)

I'm glad that now even Republicans would support a law that says, for example, "No eminent domain to build big box retail stores run by private persons or entities." Hmmm...where were these putzim at Volokh Conspiracy when the State of California's Democratic Party majority legislature passed that--and successive governors (Democrat Gray Davis and Republican Governator) vetoed it? I recall most of the so-called Libertarians were against the law and supported the veto. Now, after Kelo, they are calling for curtailing government power to take one piece of private property to give to another private individual.

As usual (yes, I know Eugene V has sometimes been bad, on things like torture in foreign lands), Eugene Volokh had a post that was a great analysis showing how words like "liberal" and "conservative" are more misleading than enlightening. He explains that the effect of views of the so-called "liberal" majority, supported the pro-coprorate power position. More ironically, the dissenting "conservatives" in the minority, including Clarence Thomas, argued a viewpoint that has the following effect: If the government had bulldozed the homes in New London and built government owned businesses, that would have constituted an acceptable "public use" for O'Connor and Thomas, both.

Alas, as usual, Eugene had to explain himself to his commenters who thought Eugene had become a socialist. Eugene needs more intelligent friends and fans.

I won't even comment on the Volokh Conspiracy's take on the 10 Commmandment cases other than to say that even Eugene is left wondering which "judical" test a local community should use when putting up the 10 Commandments. The answer is that Lemon v. Kurtzman is still the test to use and further, such test actually supports the results in both the Kentucky and Texas cases. There was clearly a primary motivation on the part of the county leaders in Kentucky to promote monotheism while the Texas exhibit grew organically without specific intent to promote monotheism overall. The personal judgment test that Breyer used in his concurring opinion in the Texas case about people not getting upset was a final justification to allow a 10 Commandment exhibit to not be bulldozed after it had been up for over forty years. It was not a first line of legal analysis.

Courts need to be practical and not merely theoretical. Too many law professors, including the morons (again, not Eugene) at the Volokh Conspiracy don't get that.

End of rant. Gotta go. My wife is saying I'm a maniac addicted to blogging. As usual, she is correct...

Friday, July 01, 2005

Conservative O'Connor retires

People, remember!

O'Connor is not a "moderate." A "moderate" does not join in the unsigned "per curiam" opinion of Bush v. Gore 531 US 98 (2000). A "moderate" does not support chipping away at legislation for workers by using tired arguments from a corporate court of the late 19th century. And a "moderate" doesn't write dissenting opinions that sound as if she just left the Ayn Rand Institute. See my post "Kelo II" for my wonderment at O'Connor's surprisingly harsh rhetoric.

Is O'Connor an example of a bad justice? Well, let's be nice today and subtract Bush v. Gore. Excepting Bush v. Gore, she was a decent, but still conservative justice. Calling her a moderate does nobody--except far right yahoos--any good.

O'Connor's tenure has had some maverick moments, but she is still essentially an elitist Republican conservative. Apart from women's issues which she can't help but see from her own personal experience that too often modern conservatives need, she doesn't much care about, let alone understand, why people might want legislatures and executives (governors and presidents) to do something on behalf of the poor or working classes in this nation. David Sirota, at his alternative site, the Huffington Post, has it right in this regard.

Remember, Bush, Rove, and other cynical Republican leadership don't want abortion outlawed either--so let's talk about abortion, but we also need some sacrifices from our Republican culturally liberal friends, too. Why should we only fight for the battle of abortion rights when too many so-called Republican "moderate" nomineees palpable to a Senator McCain are Ayn Randian yahoos when it comes to wanting to judicially legislate against the New Deal--a la Janice Rogers Brown, Bush's most recent appellate appointment who may still end up as a nominee for O'Connor's or Rehnquist's seat. Brown, Michael McConnell, Priscilla Owen, and Ted Olson, to take just four examples, have rarely met a government regulation for the people--as opposed to business--that they didn't want to overturn. These people are the true judicial activists, folks. Watch for the signs of the kabuki dance that leads to someone Father Tim Russert and Pepsi Roberts start calling "moderate."

And yes, I did say I have to stop blogging for 10 days (see post just below the one below). And I am. Starting now.

Senate passes CAFTA; workers and peasants lose again

Yes, the Senate passed the CAFTA amidst the usual last-minute deal making that shows how ugly "bipartisanship" can be, too.

In the Associated Press article reporting this, I note that California Democratic (in name only) Senator Diane Feinstein disingenuously claimed her vote was a departure from her non-corporate investor trade vote on NAFTA. No, Diane, I recall well that you voted for the World Trade Organization ("WTO") in 1994 (the WTO replaced what had been called the GATT). Ralph Nader correctly called the WTO "NAFTA on steroids." Diane, in fact, is a fairly reliable pro-corporate trade supporter and I have never forgotten that. She was also a supporter of the Mexican trucks coming onto American roads or at least failed to vote on that important issue. The legislation, finally passed and signed into law recently, allows foreign trucks and truck drivers on our roads lacking any serious safety devices or training, respectively.

It is important to remind people that most Democrats voted "No" and most Republicans, including McCain (AZ), Hagel (NE) Chaffee (RI), voted "Yes" for the CAFTA, a promising reaffirmation of a promising trend (for the Democrats to get back their New Deal mojo). Special kudos, however, to Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) who voted "No" on the CAFTA, something unusual for her. Conrad Burns (R-MT) voted "No" too, showing he fears the new Democratic populist, anti-corporate trade governor there (review the link to the right from that gov's aide, David Sirota, a national treasure of an aide if ever there is one). There is probably something ugly behind Collins' vote, though...

Anyhow, here is the list of Treasonous and Damned Democrats who voted for the CAFTA:

Diane Feinstein (CA)
Patty Murray (WA)
Bill Nelson (FL) (sold out his own local sugar industry to support international corporate power such as insuarnce companies and banks)
Ben Nelson (NE)
David Pryor (AK)
Ron Wyden (OR)

Lieberman, the cowardly corporate whore, did not vote on this issue that is so important to rank and file Democrats and those workers in the agricultural business.

Other thoughts: I found it amusing that Joe Biden (D-Bank of America), Hillary Clinton (D-Herself), and Evan Bayh (D-Really, I'm not a Corporate Whore anymore!) decided to vote "Nay" on the same type of trade deals each have previously supported. All three are running for president in 2008 and know the grass roots Dems no longer see these issues as "technical" and not worth getting angry about. Now, there is real anger out there among such grass roots and these people know it.

This brings me to an admittedly speculative position, that is: The cynicism in this close 54-45 vote. Had these Treasonous Damned Democrats voted "No", the CAFTA would have failed in the Senate. Why, then, did they betray their other Democratic Party members? The answer is, they didn't. I think to ensure the passage of the deal that others such as Biden, Clinton, and Bayh also believed was necessary for the economic elite that they misleadingly call "the nation's best interest," the members of the club known as the Senate sat down through aides (it gives the Senators plausible denial) and worked out who was voting for and against to ensure the numbers necessary to pass this thing for most of corporate America.

As for the Republicans, think Lindsay Graham (R-SC) is not running for president for the Republicans in 2008? He voted "No" to the CAFTA, something that will endear him to the rank and file religious right, who have, not so ironically, agreed with grass roots Dems on this.

Big Thought to Take Away from this vote:

This CAFTA legislation is a perfect example of why the discussions of sex, death and other cultural issues play an important diversionary role in dividing the working class on behalf of the economic elite (and their enablers in the corporate-owned media) in our nation.

And for those wondering why these treaties suck, check out Public Citizen, Economic Policy Institute, Institute for Policy Studies, for starters. These are pro-Wal Mart treaties, to put it bluntly. And if you can't understand what's wrong with that, you're reading the wrong blog.