Thursday, March 30, 2006

Cynical politics from the White House--again

Give the Terrible President and his Svengali, Mr. Rove, some credit for cynical political moves--again.

The Terrible President continues to push for "guest workers" as a "solution" for illegal immigration. Guest workers, of course, legitimize illegal immigration, create official second class citizens, and continue to drive down wages for unskilled workers inside the US. This is a non-starter in a year where populism is going to be a key issue for turnout by both Democrats and Republicans.

Politically, however, this is a very astute position for the White House to take. First, the Terrible President is a lame duck, not running for re-election. Second, with the Terrible President's poll numbers in the toilet, he looks resolute in maintaining his position, while simultaneously allowing Republicans running for Congress to show their "independence" from him. As an extra bonus, he may even split some Democrats who suffer from too much Sixties "libertarian" thinking mixed in with an excess of concern that the real issue is racism--as opposed to the exploitation of desparate workers who undermine wages for citizens in the US.

A Five in One solution to the illegal immigration problem continues to make sense as a policy for Democrats to run on this year, though I doubt we'll see many takers.

In the meantime, please do what you can to support Francine Busby, who is the Democrat running for Cunningham's seat. My post on her is here.


A Democrat to replace Cunningham...!

Francine Busby is a smart, energetic woman running for Randy Duke Cunningham's former seat.

She is polling anywhere from 39% to 45%. If she gets over 50%, she is the new Congressperson in what had become a "safe" Republican district.

She is running against a bunch of Republican guys who are the usual gang of shallowminded incompetents that the Republicans place before the electorate for office. One of these putzim is a guy named Howard Kaloogian, who has a continuing credibility problem in showing photos of what he wants people to see as a "peaceful" Iraq.

There was another guy, Eric Roach (you can't make up that name for a modern Republican, can you?), who had a commercial a month or so ago claiming that the Republicans in Congress were wasting taxpayer dollars as if they were "Democrats."
Say what?

No, you stupid roach. Democrats spent money to build infrastructure in this nation. Democrats built public buildings, roads, bridges, parks, etc. Those were investments in our nation. Republicans have created deficits through tax cuts skewed toward rich people who outsource jobs away from America, starting stupid wars overseas and hallowing out America's manufacturing base. The only thing in fairness I'll say for Roach is that the commercial is no longer at his web site.

Busby deserves our support and I have this week donated to her campaign. I had planned to do so after the April 11 runoff, but with the new poll numbers, it's worth donating now so she can have more media buys and written material to spread around.

Oh, and on Iraq, Busby opposed the Terrible President's diversionary war from the start. She wants a withdrawal plan immediately implemented. Kaloog and the Roach want to build on the local military bases' lead in dead American soldiers in Iraq.

I can't say this enough: Donate now to Francine Busby.

Disclosure: I am not connected with the Busby campaign. I also live in the next district over and so, I can't vote for her. But it would be wonderful to have a person who is both intelligent and humane representing a district in the north San Diego County area.


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Nice to see me, Hitch and Noam on the same side...?

Noam Chomsky and Christopher Hitchens have each blasted the thesis that the Israeli lobby pushed the United States into the Iraq adventure.

That Chomsky feels this way is no surprise to readers of this post or that post of mine. Some may be surprised by Hitchens' refusal to agree to the power of the Israeli lobby in causing the Terrible President to invade Iraq. I am, however, less surprised, but still happy to see Hitchens show some of his old self.

In short, the Mearshamier-Walt thesis of the power of the Israel lobby is a poor analysis and is only fodder for those with Jews on the brain. Chomsky puts it differently, but still makes a cogent point:

"The thesis M-W propose does however have plenty of appeal. The reason, I think, is that it leaves the US government untouched on its high pinnacle of nobility, 'Wilsonian idealism,' etc., merely in the grip of an all-powerful force that it cannot escape. It's rather like attributing the crimes of the past 60 years to 'exaggerated Cold War illusions,' etc. Convenient, but not too convincing. In either case."

Chomsky and Hitchens both recognize the US had certain "goals" at the end of WWII for what could reasonably be called "empire," which definitely included control of Middle East and other regions' oil deposits. Chomsky cites John M. Blair, whose book, "The Control of Oil" (Pantheon Books, 1976) is a must read for anyone interested in that subject. I read it in college and later in life while researching my book on RFK. It was an even better read the second time around.

Hat tip to David Bernstein at the Volokh Conspiracy for noting the Chomsky and Hitchens articles. But Bernstein can't help snarking on Chomsky, with the sad part being that Berstein misreads the beginning of Chomsky's article. Bernstein says Chomsky believes the professors will be ripped within the universities for whom they work, a position Bernstein says is ridiculous. However, what Chomsky says is that the professors' systemic analysis of the Israeli lobby will send major media and elite figures in Washington, DC and at the Wall St. Journal into hysterics. Quite a different thing. Oh well. I recall once, in Dissent magazine, a writer criticizing one of Chomsky's books for having too many citations to sources in the endnotes. Pathetic, isn't it, how a guy like Chomsky can elicit such blind and stupid hatred from even his fellow intellectuals.


Monday, March 27, 2006

Illegal immigration: Five in One plan

The reason we don't solve the problem of illegal immigration is because too many employers in the US love hiring people who can't fight back as easily, and aren't as demanding for dignity or decent wages, as native born American workers. Really, isn't that the real reason we don't solve this problem?

Before I get to what I, ahem, humbly call the "Five in One" plan, read this article by Marc Cooper in the online magazine, TruthDig. It's not because Mr. Cooper agrees with everything I'm about to say, or perhaps anything, but it is a great overview concerning the policies and politics surrounding the issue.

My proposal has one big procedural demand, which could be a fault, or could be the key to building a winning coalition: If we don't simultaneously pursue the first four of the items of this proposal as a single, seamless garment of a policy, then the plan will not be supported by most Americans or those illegals that are already here. Here's the plan:

1. Amnesty for all workers that are here. They already live here, for goodness sakes. They serve us our food. Heck, they are mostly the ones who pick the food from the vines or slaughter the animals for meat. They clean up the mess our grandparents and our sickly make at nursing homes and hospitals. They mow our lawns. And they pay into Social Security and get little if anything back because they use someone else's Social Security card number.

2. Labor law reform to make it easier to form and join unions. Once we have all workers (or most of them anyway) as citizens, we should make it easier for all workers in the US to organize at their workplaces. No more "certifications" that follow elections. The simple streamlined rule (that exists in most other civilized nations) is this: Workers vote through a secret ballot at their workplace. If the union wins, the employer has to immediately start negotiations with no right to ask stupid questions like "Well, is this group of workers really a 'bargaining unit'?" This question is used by employers mostly as a stalling tactic designed to identify the leaders, fire them, and kill the union during this economic fetal stage. Yes, it is an abortion of the union. The proposal for one election is called "card check" elections because the workers secretly fill out cards to see who wants a union or not.

3. Build the freakin' wall already. And build it at the Canadian as well as Mexican border. It's a great government works program. And if we have unions with prevailing wages, and hire American born or naturalized citizens, we create wealth through spreading wealth. Note who in the US is against the wall: The Chamber of Commerce and the Wall St. Journal. That's also the same crew who support a "guest worker" program, which is just legalizing illegal immigration and codifying the lowering of wages. Separate question: Will the wall work to keep out illegals? It won't be perfect, especially if we don't have guards to check out tunnels. But really, the wall will work well enough if we...

4. Increase sanctions against businesses that tend to hire illegal immigrants. Make the agricultural, restaurant, and construction industries, for starters, actually check social security numbers. The technology is there. Just make 'em use it, dammit. If the businesses get caught, fine 'em and if they are repeat offenders, jail time for the business leaders will be a fine example of deterrence.

5. Aid to Mexico--especially if it elects, as president, Lopez Obrador of the PRD. Why? Because he's a New Dealer at heart. Most Mexican immigrants, for example, don't want to leave their homes when first deciding to go "el Norte." They leave home because the Mexican economy continues to suck after 10 or more years of the NAFTA. A nation that buys what it makes and makes what it buys is more stable than one that imports its basic products--at least over the long run after it loses its ability to make things.

So, there it is. Something for everyone. But, let's be clear: pursuing one or two of these proposals without pursuing the others creates discrimination against immigrants or against native born workers--or punishes employers without limiting the supply of workers who are desparate to work.

Again, why is there not a consensus here that is effective in lessening illegal immigration? Because the current system works for employers, and, unfortunately, it "works" for too many native born or naturalized upper middle class and upper class folks in America. I put quotes around "works" for the individual upper middle and upper class folks because these groups then have to pay more taxes when their servants, gardeners, hospital workers, waiters, et al. have to go to emergency wards as they wait till they are really sick; don't have their kids in school; live in areas where their kids are likely to be gang-bangers than moving up the economic ladder with what we would call "legitimate" jobs or business development, etc. These are costs, folks, that ought to be factored in when considering the costs of changing the system.

Now, is this all so hard to understand? No. Is it easy to implement? No. It takes time and it won't be perfect--because nothing ever is. But I can say this: The Five in One proposal will work better for most American and Mexican citizens most of the time, which is darn good for any human endeavor. The only thing I can't tell yet is whether this helps Canadians, too. Let's worry about that another time, after we begin the implementation of the Five in One program.


Ernest Hollings nails it on the international trade issue

Here is required reading for every American concerned about our nation's ability to sustain itself.

And if you want to understand why Alexander Hamilton would be appalled by most modern elites in NY, DC and LA, here is Federalist Paper no. 11:

"Suppose, for instance, we had a government in America, capable of excluding Great Britain (with whom we have at present no treaty of commerce) from all our ports; what would be the probable operation of this step upon her politics? Would it not enable us to negotiate, with the fairest prospect of success, for commercial privileges of the most valuable and extensive kind, in the dominions of that kingdom? When these questions have been asked, upon other occasions, they have received a plausible, but not a solid or satisfactory answer. It has been said that prohibitions on our part would produce no change in the system of Britain, because she could prosecute her trade with us through the medium of the Dutch, who would be her immediate customers and paymasters for those articles which were wanted for the supply of our markets. But would not her navigation be materially injured by the loss of the important advantage of being her own carrier in that trade? Would not the principal part of its profits be intercepted by the Dutch, as a compensation for their agency and risk? Would not the mere circumstance of freight occasion a considerable deduction? Would not so circuitous an intercourse facilitate the competitions of other nations, by enhancing the price of British commodities in our markets, and by transferring to other hands the management of this interesting branch of the British commerce?"

Now, read that one again and substitute "China" for "Britain." Amazing, isn't it? Hamilton understood nation building from the inside out and nation sustaining. Tariff policies, domestic content legislation, labor law reform and yes, sealing the southern and northern borders of the continental US (with full amnesty for those who are here) would seem to be able to improve the economic fortunes of most Americans. But name me one politician in DC or running for office as a Dem or Reep who has the guts to say that--or even understands that.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Television reporter in Iraq has a few things to say...

This is from Crooks & Liars and needs to be stamped onto the forehead of every putz who wants to blame the corporate-owned press for not covering the "good news" out of Iraq. The knuckleheaded supporters of the Terrible President, who attack the media coverage in Iraq, are assuming, wrongfully as it turns out, that the media is reporting all or nearly all of the bad news.

As a reporter for CBS television, Lara Logan (who admittedly looks like a movie star), says in the clip from CNN's Reliable Sources show, there are plenty of bad events in Iraq not reported. One may therefore argue just as forcefully that the media's reporting is flawed because things are actually worse in Iraq than is reported.

After you've seen the two clips cited in the first paragraph:

I loved Logan's remark, which is at the end of the C&L clip, where she is informed that knucklehead Laura Ingraham was with the troops for eight days. Logan exclaims: "Eight days?" with the sarcasm flooding the television screen. Incidentally, during Ingraham's appearance on NBC last week, for which there is a clip within the clip with Logan, Ingraham had not known that NBC, over the past year, has had its "superstar" reporters in Iraq and reporting on good news that occurred in that nation.

(Edited--Lisa Logan works for CBS, not CNN, though she was on CNN's Reliable Sources show)

The Ventura Star gets letters

Our family friend, Pam Lopez, was published today in the Ventura County Star. So were other folks who took to their pens and computers to defend protestors against the Terrible President's war in Iraq. I had published her letter on my blog the other day, but here is the link to the Ventura County Star for her letter and the letters of others.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Blaming Israel: Deja Jew


With even one of my favorite writers, Jim Wolcott, saying nice things about a scholarly article that mistakenly has the Israeli tail wagging the US dog, I guess I have to wade in again.

I mostly have no use for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), but they have done some decent to good work in showing the lack of perspective and information regarding the authors' study of the Israel lobby. The key strategic change in American forreign policy in the 1970s, with Israel becoming an American adjunct for America's goals in the Cold War, is vital to understanding why the two scholars are wrong in their article. The US chose Israel (at a time when Israel was already isolated from most non-European nations) with the promise of military and economic aid, to became a surrogate state of the US: shipping arms to Guatemala in the late 1970s when the US was pledging to the world not to do so; agreeing to act as a surrogate for Ollie North and John Poindexter (and Reagan and Daddy Bush, per Laurence Walsh's last report on the subject) during the Iran-Contra scandals; and nearly always voting in the UN in ways the US wanted Israel to vote. I should note here that reasonable (as opposed to virulently anti-Israel) links on this are hard to find since, outside of the Walsh Report, the best analyses pre-date the Internet.

I do, as I did in my earlier post, recommend a close reading of Noam Chomsky's "The Fateful Triangle" because maybe now people will understand that Chomsky is not a self-hating Jew, but in fact defends Jews and Israel against this view that Jews and Israel "control" American foreign policy. Here, for example, is an anti-Chomsky article from a leftist who notes and then attacks Chomsky for having this view (The lefty author also misrepresents Chomsky's view about a bi-national state for Israel-Palestine. Chomsky has said since the 1970s and in "The Fateful Triangle" that such a state is not appropriate because of the deep distrust and hatred among Jews and Palestinians. He recently reiterated his support for a separate state for the Palestinians; see answers to questions 4 and 6 in the link).

When it comes to relatively more distant history, such as the 1940s, CAMERA is wrong in their attacks on the two professors. CAMERA attempts to twist away Ben-Gurion's stances in the 1940s. Contrary to CAMERA, Ben Gurion did welcome war with the Arabs in 1948. Plus, Israel's military was better prepared and organized than CAMERA would have us believe. And please, would someone at CAMERA ever acknowledge that Arik Sharon knew damned well the Phalange in Lebanon were going to massacre Palestinians in Lebanese camps in 1982, after Sharon invited the Phalange into the camps? It is an insult to Sharon's intelligence to think he did not know what would happen in those displaced person camps. Just read respected military reporter Ze'ev Schiff's co-authored book on the topic, which book is the best history of that ill-fated and unjustified war by Israel against Lebanon.

I am not trying to engage in a "pox on both their houses," with the authors of the article and CAMERA playing the part of "their". What I want is some truth that fits the consensus developed by developed by Israeli and American historians over the years. And the truth is:

1. Israel does play some role for the US in terms of military equipment testing and in doing things the US doesn't want to do directly.

2. Israel is somewhat to the US what Cuba was to the Soviet Union.

3. And related to this, Israel is a military occupier of land (the West Bank and really still the Gaza), as well as an oppressor of Arabs, which in turn exacerbates tension and violence in the Middle East.

4. Israel does have some impact (but not decisive impact) on US foreign policy maneuvers.


1. Arab states are horror shows of dictators who oppress their own people in ways that are mostly worse than anything Arik Sharon has done.

2. The US, in its larger Cold War policy, supported these Arab dictators who killed off or sent into exile reformist, pro-Western Arab people from their nations, leaving only screaming, violence-loving mullahs to play upon the discontent of the people in these lands.

3. The mullahs and their military dictators abuse the language of religious righteousness and victimhood by screaming for the last sliver of an otherwise large region of land largely controlled and occupied by Arabs. This hatred is a much larger cause of the violence in the region and plays a significant role in forestalling or avoiding peaceful solutions for the sliver of land called Israel.

4. Yes, the Israelis play an important role in not facilitating peace, because of its settlement policy that more and more Israelis oppose, but let's not lose the point that the Palestinian leadership has been incapable of understanding that a Martin Luther King, Jr. approach would and will work wonders with the Israeli public.

Again, it is not a "pox on both houses" I seek. What I seek is a truth that understands how both parties continue to avoid peace and a truth that recognizes the humanity within the nations of the Middle East. Policies that increase the ability of Arab nations to feed themselves, for starters, would be much better for the peole in these lands than the policies based upon an oil economy. Israel giving back the West Bank and truly giving autonomy to the people in Gaza is a good idea to help Arabs begin to focus within themselves as peoples in various nations.

And finally, back to the point about the Israeli lobby in the US. When the first George Bush's presidency was falling from grace in late 1991 and early 1992, we saw his administration begin a whisper campaign against Israel as to the scandals known as "Iran-Contra." Let's watch carefully what is happening now with the son's administration now that the wheels of his tricycle have fallen off. That this particularly recent anti-Israel lobby article appeared from the "Left" (The London Review of Books) should not be cause for attacks on the "Left" from those extremists who say "Israel right or wrong." This sort of "blame Israel for US failures" thinking tends to bubble up from various points on the political spectrum and, if history is any guide, we may expect to see more of this "blaming Israel" from the "Right" as time goes on.


The Dixie Chicks are back and ready to fight

Remember the attacks on the Dixie Chicks when one of the women in the trio had the guts to say she didn't think the Terrible President was such a great guy?

Well, the Dixie Chicks are ready to release a new album (thanks, Atrios!). On their web site, they print the lyrics and play the music from one of their songs that seems like it's about a love gone wrong, but...Well, read this and then go listen:

"And how in the world can the words that I said
Send somebody so over the edge
That they’d write me a letter
Sayin’ that I better shut up and sing
Or my life will be over

"I’m not ready to make nice
I’m not ready to back down
I’m still mad as hell and
I don’t have time to go round and round and round
It’s too late to make it right
I probably wouldn’t if I could
‘Cause I’m mad as hell
Can’t bring myself to do what it is you think I should"

My feelings about the Dixie Chicks? Well, ironically, I thought they were fluff before 2003. Then, I watched them on the T.V. during the Super Bowl in 2003 and was pleasantly surprised by their musicianship and harmonies. At Amazon, I checked out some of their songs, which I found reasonably compelling within a pop and country structure. They put me in mind of my favorite country singer, Patsy Cline.*

THEN, came Natalie Mane's comment and then came the backlash and a fairly defiant apology. At that point, I became a big Dixie Chicks fan!

And now, in May 2006, when their new CD is released, I am going to buy it--and I urge everyone to do the same. And I hope the jerks in the country music field who blindly and even stupidly supported the Terrible President note what are likely to be astronomic record sales for this musically talented group. Oh, and Lee Greenwood: Who's sorry now?

*In the interest of full disclosure, I cannot say I am a fan of most country music, though I have a fondness for Patsy Cline, Hank Williams, Sr and Bob Wills. As for country rock, count me as one who enjoys the Allman Brothers ("Whippin Post", man!) and yes, Charlie Daniels (despite our political differences). But my true passion remains progressive rock, classical and jazz music. But I love country music compared to rap, if that means anything...

Friday, March 24, 2006

Israel should not be blamed for Terrible President's Iraq War

Two otherwise respected historians have attacked the Israeli lobby and are attempting to blame Israel for the Terrible President's decision to invade Iraq. I have read this detailed article but found it less and less convincing as it reached its crescendo against the Israel lobby.

Do I think such a lobby exists? Absolutely. Do I think it is a powerful force among other lobbyists in Washington DC? Again, absolutely.

However, let's be clear that this particular lobby was not nor is not powerful enough to have taken or take the US into war against Iraq without non-Jews like Bush, Cheney, Rummy, Rice and other non-Jewish neo-cons, and the largely if not completely non-Jewish oil and gas industry. Remember, the Terrible President and his Dad are tight with the UAE, Saudis, Pakistanis and other Muslim (non-Jewish) nations--and the Bush family, starting with Dad, were not really very sympathetic to Israel compared to most US politicians.

This article by a pro-Likudnik makes a better point that Israel has consistently seen Iran, not Iraq, as the most formidable enemy over the past ten years at least. In fact, until one gets to his defense of the neo-conservatives near the end of his article, he makes a case that the Israeli public and enough Israeli leaders (not on the Likud side) were ambivalent from the start about the Terrible President's invasion of Iraq.

On the other hand, let's not accuse the two historians of making up their point about Israel being a motivator for the Iraq war: Here is an article where one of the Terrible President's top outside-inside advisers saying he was pushing the war against Iraq in order to help Israel. And here is Shimon Peres telling our nation's Terrible President in 2002 that Israel would be a "loyal soldier" for an attack on Iraq--though if you note the language, Peres is being passive and trying to put a good gloss over something Peres must have known was going to happen no matter what.

I can't find the right links, but more astute observers of American foreign policy, from Theodore Draper to Noam Chomsky have pointed out that Israel mostly follows U.S. dicates, not the other way around. This occurred during the Iran-Contra scandals, and as, again, both Draper and Chomsky independently pointed out during the trials of Poindexter and North, there were elements in the first Bush administration who sought to blame Israel. I think the same thing is happening now as the Iraq War loses favor among more and more elements of the American right wing.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

True patriots don't send our soldiers to unnecessary wars, especially without body armor

Pamela Lopez, a dear friend of ours, sent us a letter to the editor she just wrote to her local paper in Ventura County. She kindly gave me permission to reprint it here:

Dear Editor:

Allow me to speak on behalf of the anti-war demonstrators. Three main themes have come up in the letters putting down the demonstrations seen on the third anniversary of the Iraq War.

The first is the theory that we do not support the troops. It is the
Bush Administration who does not support the troops. The greatest
way to support the troops is to send them into conflict only when
necessary. Every justification George Bush has given us for this war
has been proven to be, at best, wrong. While in Iraq, our troops have
not had the armor necessary to protect themselves, they do not have
clean water to drink, and there are not ample enough troops to give
our men and women the breaks they desperately need. Deployments are getting longer and more frequent. Instead of services for veterans being increased during this intense wartime, our government is "supporting our troops" by cutting VA services.

The second comment that caught my attention is… how quickly we forgot 9/11. Rest assured, peace activists have not forgotten 9/11 for one New York minute! We are quite clear that 9/11 merely provided the excuse for George Bush to invade Iraq. Instead of continuing pursuit of Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan, troops were pulled to go to Iraq and bring down Saddam Hussein, who we all know now (and many knew then) did not possess weapons of mass destruction, was nowhere near making them, and had nothing to with Al Quaida and the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

It was also suggested that if we have a disagreement with the war, we should contact our representatives in congress. While that is true, and should absolutely be done, the purpose of demonstrations is to remind people this war is going on. The Bush Administration gives lip service for "supporting the troops", but that couldn't be farther from the truth. The truth is, they want us to forget the troops and go shopping. How has our country been asked to support the troops?…by not questioning our government (which is our duty as citizens)… We have not been asked to participate in the war effort by conserving, selling war bonds or volunteering at a VA hospital. We are not even asked to pay for this war -- yet. Instead of a war tax, we get tax breaks. Our debt is invisible at the moment except for the cuts we are beginning to see in vital services. The defense industry is raking in record profits and we are mortgaging our children's future. We need demonstrations every day to remind us where we are, and where we're going, while we still have our freedoms of speech and assembly.

Pamela Lopez

Yup. That says it very well. We're the patriots, folks. The Terrible President and his administration are the scoundrels.

(Edited for spacing, not content)

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Terrible President's deepest fear...

This news article, about the escape of Iraqi insurgents from jail, spotlights what I have come to speculate as the real reason the Terrible President and his administration leaders refuse to leave Iraq:

If the US military forces leave Iraq, Saddam Hussein is more likely to escape from prison.


If I'm right, then every American or other nation's soldier who dies in this senseless war is dying for the vanity of the Terrible President.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

A little more humility, please

And maybe a turn away from navel gazing.

Naomi Wolf has written a concise, thought provoking essay on the nature of the latest trend in books directed to teenaged girls. These books, if I read Wolf correctly, are extending the trend that has existed since Madonna became a staple on MTV: The normalization of promiscuity and slut-chic modes of dressing of our young women in American society.

Wolf's responses to questions from readers are even more intriguing in terms of both Wolf's answers and the questions raised, though I strongly advise people read the essay first.

Wolf herself is concerned that a book promoting nicer or more humble social attitudes reeks of "Stalinist" art "realism." No, it is not Stalinist to insist on better literature for our teenaged daughters. While Wolf herself wants better literature, her own implied fear of books with a nicer or more humble message stands in the way of what she wants to see in terms of books for young women.

Wolf's quick rejection of a "good" book is a weak-kneed submission to what is a modern cultrual fear of being labeled "prudish" in matters of sexual relationships. Even some of her questioners are openly concerned about not being "hip" in the sense of being open about sex and are afraid they might appear prudish--and open to charges of hypocrisy. This has been a battle since the 1960s, which many of the questioners and perhaps Wolf can't get beyond.

I propose that we, as a society, should be neither hip nor prudish in terms of sexual relationships. In fact, I think Jesus had it right: The most important thing to learn is that our stated moral values of promoting respect, dignity and tolerance for each other have merit, but that we all ought to be more humble about our own private thoughts and actions with each other in matters of sexual relations. To phrase it slightly different, we ought to have more humility about our actually or potentially falling off the wagon of what we might call traditional morally stated values in terms of sexual relationships.

Remember Jesus' response to a situation where a woman was going to be stoned for adulturous affairs: "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." In saying this, let's be clear about something else: Most of the leaders of the religious right have not shown any humility about how people don't sometimes live up to morally stated values. They are meanspirited punishers. They are the ones holding the stones against the adulterers.

The other thing I think we need to explore with more clarity, and again, humility, is the entire notion of hypocrisy in the realm of sexual relations. Even those of us who have not committed adultery in our marriages should always recognize that an operative word is missing: "yet." Saying that can often work as a brake on an aggressive use of the charge of "hypocrisy" against others. It still leaves us, however, able to say to a serial adulturer such as former president, Bill Clinton, "You know, Bill. You've got a problem and you have hurt your wife in ways you haven't emotionally owned up to."

Applying the above, I recommend we start our teenaged girls at age 12 or even 11 with a book that a character on Seinfeld or some other self-centered jerk on a sit-com would laugh at: "Anne of Green Gables." Yes, I'm serious. I think most adults have not read this book nor do they have any clue how brilliant it is as literature. The book is a wise meditation about tolerance and respect in a manner that includes great sociological insight. I know because I read this book in 1998 not too long after my daughter was born. I thought it might help prepare me further for being a Dad to a young girl and I was rewarded with what was excellent literature. Are there other books of like value? Yes. But I simply chose "Anne of Green Gables" because it is an excellent example of what I'm talking about--and is easily found at most book stores.

Finally, I will quote myself from my novel about RFK surviving 1968 and becoming president. At page 222 of the book, I describe a scene at the home of Walter Reuther where Reuther and two of the children of his trusted lieutenants in the United Auto Workers union have just agreed they should try work together to push student acitivists to support organizing workers in the American South. The student activists would, in this new involvement, meld the civil rights and labor movements, something Reuther in fact thought about in his last few years before his untimely death in a plane crash in 1970. I wrote:

"It might as well have been a Norman Rockwell painting at that moment, but reality does, in fact, mirror the most hopeful and romantic art more than the most sophisticated cynics can ever understand."

If that quote is not clear in this context, the point for this post is this: Norman Rockwell's paintings did paint a truth. That is a truth of where people are nice to each other and want to do good things for society. "Reality" is not only mean or violent. It is not only selfish. If we can just learn that, we will begin to move forward this debate about "sexual morality," which continues to resemble the whole "virgin/whore" either-or debate about women; which "virgin/whore" debate devalues women as an "other."


Thursday, March 16, 2006

Must read posts from "Troubled Times"

"Troubled Times," a blog from Steve Josselson, a grad student at NYU seeking a master's in public administration, has two must read posts on the fiscal irresponsibility of modern Republican leaders and Wal-Mart's negative effect on taxpayers--and rethinks his initial skepticism at those of us who were upset the UAE and other foreign nations or foreign businesses running our nation's ports.

The article my Mom doesn't want my children to read

Via David Sirota, I read this article from Fortune magazine showing how the only jobs left for blue collar workers in the US are jobs where incomes have held steady this decade, while information workers in the US are starting to feel the decline in wages that comes from outsourcing. Ignore its snarky, cynical last paragraph, which uses sleight of hand to argue that beggaring the middle and upper middle classes is the goal of income redistribution.

Having read the article, I remain certain that it is vital for my children to pursue their education with vigor, even if this article's point is later proven correct. The 21st Century is going to continue on a path of people needing cross-discipline understanding and experience and critical thinking in order to be (1) "flexible" in a corporatized world market and (2) create intellectual property that will have material and monetary value. Also, if my children end up working within academia, they will have more likely steady work and decent benefits. And in the science world, they will get to travel to exotic places for experimenting and analysis.

Yes, a bit optimistic amidst the article's gloomy analysis. But again, I continue to believe it is important to be optimistic as individuals as we despair for our nation's current leadership and the public policy choices those leaders are making on various fronts.

Without confidence or hope, we are more likely to miss opportunities to become "lucky."


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

I suppose this is Ralph's fault, too

Eric Alterman, who I generally respect and, yes, even admire, often says at his blog, "Altercation", "Thanks, Ralph", when reporting bad things done by the Terrible President. As I have written him, however, and he did not publish as a letter, is it Ralph Nader's fault that the Democrats in Congress:

* failed to mount a filibuster against Ashcroft for Attorney General, who, at the time, had just lost his senate seat to a dead man and was not known to have any friendships with most members of the Senate (the Republicans would not have hesitated to filibuster the choice of Nader for A.G. in a truly progressive administration);

* supported the Terrible President's skewed tax cuts;

* supported the Terrible President's invasion of Iraq;

* supported the bankruptcy bill that made it difficult for poor people, or people in poor health who cannot afford their hospital bill--but not well-off and still powerful corporations--to secure protection from creditors;

* supported the CAFTA the way too many did with previous screw-workers-and-peasant trade agreements during the Clinton presidency;

* accept the terms of the debate put forth by the Terrible President and his Stalinist minions on talk radio and talk shows on television that criticizing the president after 9/11 was akin to treason?

No, it's not Ralph's fault because Gore would likely have gone through an impeachment process, as did Clinton, had the events of 9/11/01 occurred on Gore's watch--just for starters. And if anyone thinks the Republicans would not have ridden 9/11 to a win against "President" Gore on the "issue" of "national security," then they have no understanding of the patterns of American politics.

Now, we have Russ Feingold (who, in 2001, did vote to confirm Ashcroft in the misguided spirit of "non-partisanship") placing in front of the Senate a resolution to censure the Terrible President for his misleading conduct to the nation and to the Congress. And what does "rising star" Senator Obama of Illinois have to say. He says he "hadn't read it."

And then there is Senator Schumer of New York, who, says Dana Millbank in his spot-on article for the Washington Post, to which I have linked above, decides he has "no commment" and can't say when he might have a comment.

Oh, and lest we forget, Senator Diane Feinstein of California, who once proposed a bill to censure Clinton, can't seem to find a way to seek censure of the Terrible President, who only misled the nation about war, about Medicare funding requirements concerning the cost of his prescription drug reform, and now his flouting of the FISA court system when wiretapping Americans for which there was no probable cause of any criminal behavior.

Here is a portion of Feinstein's censure resolution, which I should add, failed in the Senate for varying reasons (Republicans thinking it was too watered down and really good, as opposed to Feinstein, Democrats thinking it was too harsh a statement for the Senate to make), and in which I have taken out Clinton's name and replaced it with "the president" where appropriate:

Whereas (the) president of the United States...deliberately misled and deceived the American people, and people in all branches of the United States government;


Whereas (the president)'s conduct in this matter is unacceptable for a president of the United States, does demean the office of the president as well as the president himself, and creates disrespect for laws of the land;

Whereas (the president) fully deserves censure for engaging in such behavior;

Whereas future generations of Americans must know that such behavior is not only unacceptable but also bears grave consequences, including loss of integrity, trust and respect;


Now, does anyone really believe the Terrible President currently occupying the White House, as well as Mr. Other Priorities, his supposedly "vice president," cannot fit within those sentiments? The only way to say the Terrible President and Mr. Other Priorities don't fit is if one parses the words the way Clinton parsed the word "is."

The Democrats in the senate who have literally hidden from Feingold's resolution should be ashamed of themselves. And anyone blaming Ralph Nader in 2006 for this cowardice of the Democratic Party leadership is enabling the continuation of that cowardice.


Saturday, March 11, 2006

A debate between someone who cares and an apologist for the super rich

This on line debate from the Wall St. Journal (thanks for the link, Maxspeak!) highlights how elitist apologists for the super rich play a semantic game not unlike a lawyer defending a person accused of a crime: by shallow anecdotes, diversionary arguments, and sophistry designed to create doubt against a more likely truth. Read the article straight the first time through, then step back and analyze the structure of how the apologist framed his arguments.

The key substantive point the more reasonable economic analyst in the debate was saying was this: If the elite top .1% gained over 400% in income over the past 20 years, which is a heck of a lot of money, we should be looking to policies that would recapture that income for the community in terms of better public transportation, public health insurance and spreading income gains more equally (through unions and government living wage statutes) throughout society. When apologists for the global super rich say such policies harm "free markets" as opposed to simply taking some money from super rich people who would likely not change their lifestyles in any significant way, that is another sleight of hand argument favored by super rich apologists.

The give and take is really worth a read for what information is imparted and for the framing or structure of the arguments. Oh, and the reasonable economic analyst in the debate? That's Heather Boushey of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. She is a new hero (heroine, I guess I should say) of mine.

A little truth seeps out of Condi Rice

In this article about US Secretary of State Condolezza Rice's trip to Chile to endorse the new socialist president, Rice said:

"'We're looking at the issues concerning those situations in which we may have in a sense ... (been) shooting ourselves in the foot,' she said."

Now don't get your hopes up. All she was talking about was that she might recommend to her bosses, Mr. Other Priorities and Rummy, that the US agree to provide economic and military aid to Chile even though Chile has signed on to the International Criminal Court sponsored through the United Nations. Here is what preceded Rice's quote:

"Bolivia and Brazil are among 12 Latin American nations that have lost U.S. military aid or training because of their stance on the International Criminal Court. Chile stands to lose aid this year unless it receives a waiver from Bush.

"The United States insists that nations signing up for the Hague court exempt U.S. citizens from its reach. More than 100 countries have signed the immunity agreements covering U.S. citizens on their soil, but many others have refused.

"Rice said Friday the policy may be shortsighted in some cases."

Since that particular policy is considered by Rice to be "shooting ourselves in the foot," the Terrible President's administration's screw ups in dealing with Iraq, Bolivia, Venezuela, India, Pakistan, the UAE, the Sudan, and other places must mean the administration is shooting itself in other more vital body parts.

Final comment: In the Associated Press article linked to above, it has this classic example of an elite/administration talking point posing as a fact. The article states that the new Chilean president "is expected to continue the free-market policies of her predecessor." No context is provided as to what that means nor is the writer honest enough to ask herself whether a phrase like "free market" is in reality a phrase of propaganda, not information.

Now, that talking point could end up being true in the sense that the government under this nominally socialist president could end up benefiting bankers more than workers, but here is a more balanced article about the new Chilean president from someone who most likely knows more about internal Chilean politics than the current and often deluded Secretary of State Rice. Yes, the writer's own bias or perhaps perspective is evident from the organization he works for, but at least he is providing information and context to his statements and analysis. The AP writer had no business writing that line in the article without context or quotes around "free market", which is in fact a propaganda phrase that interferes with thoughtful analysis of how government policies affect, influence, and control "markets."

Thursday, March 09, 2006

More Reaganites waking up from a delusional slumber

First, there is this book by Bruce Bartlett about the incompetence and dishonesty that is the administration of the Terrible President and Mr. Other Priorities.

Now, I read this article by Paul Craig Roberts. Roberts, a notoriously right-wing supporter of things Republican, has written a very compelling article about the loss of good paying jobs in America during the period of 2000-2004, including those jobs in the high-tech sector that politicians and economists bandy about on television and radio talk shows. This paragraph also tells us Roberts has left behind his libertarian friends in a final way:

"The United States is the first country in history to destroy the prospects and living standards of its labor force. It is amazing to watch freedom-loving libertarians and free-market economists serve as full time apologists for the dismantling of the ladders of upward mobility that made the America of old an opportunity society.

"America has begun a polarization into rich and poor. The resulting political instability and social strife will be terrible."

While I personally believe that America has muddled through before and has seen amazing leaders come forth at times of crisis (think Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and FDR, for examples), and therefore do not subscribe to such an apocolypse as a necessary, pre-determined conclusion, for Roberts to be this bleak is quite stunning.

In this article written last week, Roberts defends his supply-side economics by bashing the Terrible President's tax cuts. Roberts says:

"The George W. Bush regime was faced with no stagflation and no worsening trade-offs between employment and inflation (as, he says earlier, in Reagan's time). The Bush administration did not use changes in the marginal rate of taxation to correct a mistaken policy mix or an oversight in economic policy. Moreover, global labor arbitrage is causing American jobs to be outsourced abroad. As Americans are experiencing declining opportunities to work, the response of labor supply to better incentives is small. Similarly, US companies are locating their investments in plant and equipment abroad. The substitution of foreign for American labor and the relocation abroad of US plant and equipment prevent reductions in marginal tax rates from having any appreciable effect on aggregate supply in the US.

"I am not a partisan of Dubya’s tax cuts. Income distribution is a legitimate issue. This is especially the case when offshore production and jobs outsourcing are destroying the American middle class." (Parenthesis and italics added)

Whew! Things are becoming strangely hopeful when Paul Craig Roberts can sound like a leftist and Bruce Bartlett can complain about the corruption, intellectual and monetary, of "actually existing" Republican rule.*

*Back in the mid-20th Century, following the death of Stalin in the Soviet Union, there grew up a sub-group of Western professors and intellectuals who discussed "actually existing socialist" regimes, starting with the Soviet Union, as if to say "There's a bright, clean, shiny pony somewhere in this mass of manure." The good news, of course, is that Bartlett and Roberts, as they attempt to salvage their lives' work in supply-side economics, are at least repulsed by the way the Republicans they have supported actually govern.

Monday, March 06, 2006

How to win elections for Democrats

Amy Sullivan of the Washington Monthly says what I've said for a long time. The key is not to get all religious right folks voting for Democrats who really mean it on economic populism. The key is to get enough of the religious right folks voting for Democrats who really mean it on economic populism to win a national election and elect enough Dems (who, again, really mean it on economic populism) to take back the House and Senate.

The only problems remaining, of course, are right tilting corporate media pundits who negatively define nearly any potentially victorious Democratic Party candidate ("Too shrill!" "Too boring!" "Too extreme (meaning he/she is a New Deal Democrat)!" "Flip-flopper!" etc.) and, ahem, Diebold electronic voting machines (I still wonder how much are software glitches as opposed to conscious fraud; and whether that was enough in any event to give the 2004 election to the Terrible President).

Still, don't despair. As I said in an earlier post about this subject (last two paragraphs), the corporate media and electronic voting machine problems/fraud can be overcome in a district where you can meet the people over time. This, ironically, is in the smaller population numbered states, such as Montana with economic populist Democratic Party governor, Brian Schweitzer.

The key to a true and abiding victory is electing people who mean what they say with regard to economic populism, and are not HillaryBidens or Diane Feinsteins, who, unlike economic populists, bow to corporate power in our community to the detriment of labor and working people's interests. Economic populism is why religious right working class supported Democrats (mostly white folks) in the mid-20th Century. It's time to bring them back to the Democratic Party--and time to jettison those particular cultural liberals who won't go with the economic program*. The cultural liberals who are economic royalists, meaning they are merely "nice" bankers, need to return to their natural habitat, the Republican Party, which will improve the political climate overall. See ya later, Joe Loserman, HillaryBiden and Diane Feinstein. You'll make great Republicans!

*We should want, and need, cultural liberals to keep us from falling over the edge into extremist, hateful rhetoric and, even worse, hateful policies (see: South Dakota's current legislature). I also think it is possible to make this coalition happen without banning abortion or repealing civil unions for homosexuals. The key is how the rhetoric is phrased and what our shared goals are. There is the Jesus of tolerance who has been lost and must be re-found, to turn a phrase.


Sunday, March 05, 2006

"Shallow libertarian" is too often redundant

Read this attack on national health insurance by Ronald Bailey and then read this analysis of the US health care system and alternatives by Paul Krugman and Robin Wells. Yes, Bailey's is a short aritcle and should not be easily compared, but let's remember that Bailey's views represent elite opinion in this nation--meaning the economic and media elite.

Bailey struts the usual attacks, i.e. long lines and people running across the border, with regard to Canada's national health insurance program. Bailey, however, doesn't want us to know that Canada lost hundreds of thousands of good paying jobs and that its economy is far more weakened in terms of individual wages for the vast majority of Canadians than even Americans in the US economy. When Canada was doing well, up until the early 1990s, it had a health insurance system that its Business Roundtable had said was second to none (from a pre-Internet Business Week article in 1994 about the postive aspects of the Canadian health insurance system). Now, that system is somewhat struggling, though not as much as Bailey would have you believe. Want to think about it practically speaking, think of it this way: How great is the health care one gets in poor communities in the US compared to wealthier or even working class communities in the US? Answer: Health insurance and access in poor communities in the US is akin to Third World conditions.

The other thing Bailey and his friends at the far-right Fraser Institute, who are the anti-Canadian health insurance drum majorettes, fail to recognize is that we don't know how many Americans die every day because of delays in getting to a doctor due to inefficiencies in the insurance system, lack of insurance, or underinsurance. In Canada, because every citizen's medical history and treatment is coded and checked, we can find out how the system does with nearly any person at nearly any time. Here is one example of the Fraser Institute's own rhetoric against the Canadian system that Bailey finds so compelling:

"What is being quickly forgotten in Canada, however, is that any wait for care involves pain and suffering, lost productivity at work and leisure, mental anguish, and additional strain on personal relationships. The best wait time for patients is not the one that minimizes medical harm, but the one that minimizes waiting altogether. A truly patient-focused health care system, one that is truly deserving of the title ‘world class’, is one that delivers care without systemic delay."

How nice. Now, what do Bailey and his friends think would be the result if one applied that standard to our nation's "system" (and I use that loosely for what should be obvious reasons)? D'oh! Don't you love it when libertarians hit their own foreheads with a two-by-four?

Anyway, back to the reality-based analysis: Krugman and Wells remind us that the US spends two to three times what other European nations spend on health care as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is beyond billions in difference--yet, we fail to insure 20% of our nation (and underinsure most likely another 20%). They also remind us that private insurers are woefully inefficient compared to Medicare in terms of administration (13% or more to a mere 2% in administrative costs). They also provide an interesting statistic:

"...The frequent claim that the United States pays high medical prices to avoid long waiting lists for care also fails to hold up in the face of the evidence: there are long waiting lists for elective surgery in some non-US systems, but not all, and the procedures for which these waiting lists exist account for only 3 percent of US health care spending (footnote omitted)."

The significance of that statement is that if the procedures for which the waiting lists exist in other nations only account for 3% of US health care spending, then we may not see the long waits for such procedures if our nation enacted a national health insurance program.

Or how about this information from Krugman/Wells:

"A comparison with, say, France, which spends far less than the United States but considerably more than Britain, would give a very different impression: in many respects France consumes more, not less, health care than the United States, but it can do so at lower cost because our system is so inefficient.


"Our Princeton colleague Uwe Reinhardt, a leading economic expert on health care, put it this way: our focus right now should be on eliminating the gross inefficiencies we know exist in the US health care system. If we do that, we will be able to cover the uninsured while spending less than we do now. Only then should we address the issue of what not to do; that's tomorrow's issue, not today's."

By the way, Reinhardt, a Princeton economist, is one of the best minds on the health insurance systems of the US and most other nations in the Western world. I blogged about him last year, here.

Oh, and let's defend Canada more directly, shall we? Read this
or perhaps this debate about Canada's health insurance system. As noted in a recent post, the fellow attacking Canadian national health insurance programs and defending the US health insurance system has decided, upon further analysis and experience, that he was wrong. And here is the fellow setting straight some of his soon-to-be-former-friends in the libertarian sphere:

"In the comments on my about-face on health care, a number of people make the familiar criticisms of the Canadian system. Care is rationed. You wait a lot longer for certain elective procedures than in the United States. Technology is not as up to date, etc. etc. These arguments are, to some extent, entirely accurate. But I'm not sure they are relevant. They aren't criticisms of the system, after all. They are reflections of the how well the system is funded--and that's an important distinction. On a per capita basis, Canadians now spend on health care--and I"m not sure of the exact figure here--something like 60 percent of what Americans spend. If that were increased to, say, 65 percent, many of the rationing and wait-time problems would be alleviated. The problem with American health care, by contrast, is systemic. No simple increase in funding fixes the problem. In fact, we already spend far and more the most on health care than anyone else in the world. This was the mistake I made in my original debate with Adam Gopnik. I confused funding problems with structural problems."

Good for Malcolm Gladwell. But don't expect any change of heart from Ronald Bailey. He's just too tied up in his Ayn Randian ideology.


Saturday, March 04, 2006

Republican-English dictionary

This was quite spot on--at least I thought so...

I do believe quite strongly that both Abraham Lincoln and Theordore Roosevelt would be rejected by the majority of the current Republican Congressmen and Senators as "damnable liberals."

Friday, March 03, 2006

Human nature: not all bad, either

Too often, people think that we can't have social programs because people are "naturally" bad. The answer to that position is not that people are naturally "good." The proper answer is that people are not "naturally" "good" or "bad;" people are capable of both, often simultaneously or concurrently. Thus, we shouldn't abolish corporations because of corporate scandals and neither should we repeal social programs because of some who rip off social services.

I was reminded of this because of a new study that concluded that toddlers fairly consistently want to help when items are dropped or similar events occur. Whether this study is valid or not does not change the above point. Just think of our own experiences. Yes, some people do fit the mode of being almost wholly "good" or "bad," but more often most of us are somewhere in between.

I often think Stephen Jay Gould's "Mismeasure of Man" should be required reading before people graduate from high school. We might avoid so many of these "nature" vs. "nurture" arguments and realize it's all in the same bag anyway--and is not an excuse to avoid public policy that would improve the material lives of our fellow citizens.

Final link: Here is a portion of a Gould essay that was entitled "Ten Thousand Acts of Kindness." The entire essay is found in one of Gould's later volumes of essays called "Eight Little Piggies" (hardcover, 1993, Norton; paperback, 1994, Norton).

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Flawed law review articles make bad politics

Over at Volokh Conspiracy, I came across a law professor, Gregory C. Sisk, who has written a very poorly reasoned law review article that attempts to prove that Catholics and Baptists are unfairly treated in our federal court system (district (trial) courts, courts of appeal and the Supreme Court). In the linked post is a pdf for the law review article (it's long, as are, admittedly, most law review articles).

The law review article is poorly written because it was hard to get to the actual data in between the rhetoric and regression analyses. But, deep inside the article, at page 1049 (the article begins on page 1021 and ends on page 1061), we read the following that exposes the flaws in Professor Sisk's reasoning and conclusions:

"Among the most sacred cows of modern secular liberalism are the social welfare and regulatory system in which all are obligated to participate and the principle of anti-discrimination, which constantly expands to cover new categories of protected persons and new sectors of society (employment, education, housing). In this regard, as revealed by the underlying individual cases that provide the cumulative database for our study, the typical claim by a Catholic or Baptist tends to be a shot across the bow of the secular ship of state. Thus, as exmamples of unsuccessful claims, Catholic claims in our database include objections by Catholic colelges, schools or institutions to application of employment discrimination laws, resistance to application of labor bargaining laws to Catholic entities, and objection to withdrawal of accredition of a Catholic hosptial based upon its refusal to provide sterilization and abortion training. Simliarly, unsuccessful Batptist claims in our database include challenges to safety and health regulation or other licensing of religious schools, resistance to enforcement of labor and wage laws against a religious school, a claim for exemption of the church from under the state workers' compensation statute, resistance to inclusion of church workes in the social security system, and a challenge to an unemployment discrimination investigation regarding discharged church employees. In sum, claims for religious accomodation by traditionalist religions, such as Catholics and Baptists, are especially likely to come up hard against central, might we say, 'sacred,' features of the modern secular legal regime." (Footnoted case cites omitted; italics added)

The footnoted cases show a variety of age discrimination claims against the Catholic church and one sex discrimination in a college settting (not a challenge to require women priests, it must be noted). The Baptist cases were unsuccessful challenges for an exemption from licensing of a child care facility in a Baptist church and other labor related issues.

My question for Professor Sisk: Does Professor Sisk really believe that if a Jewish temple or Muslim temple had brought these cases, they would have won on religious grounds, i.e. the "free exercise" (read: privacy) of religion clause of the First Amendment? He is a putz if he thinks so. These cases largely, if not completely undermine his analysis and conclusion that somehow Catholic and Baptist churches are discriminated against. These cases are not the same as when an individual Amish family won the right not to be forced to send their kids to public schools or a Jehovah's Witness' right not to be forced to say the pledge of alligence in school. Unlike the decisions cited above by Professor Sisk, these decisions benefited every individual American, as well as any and all religious Americans.

Neither are the cases that held against the paricular churches like the truly anti-religious practice rulings of the majority of "conservatives" on the US Supreme Court (including Scalia) who refused to allow peyote smoking ceremonies for ancient Indian religions that were being honestly practiced in the modern day--or that said a rabbi couldn't wear even a small Jewish headcovering underneath his captain's hat in the military, another early 1990s decision. Both of these bad decisions, by the way, were superseded by subsequent (and bi-partisan) Congressional legislation in an omnibus "freedom of religion" act in 1993.

In all, what really galls Professor Sisk is that religious neutral employment and health/safety laws interfere with private business, whether religious or otherwise. He is an extremist libertarian cloaking his Ayn Randian ideology with protests of religious discrimination in the court system. I am surprised and disappointed that the University of Colorado Law Review would think his snarky rhetoric--more appropriate for a blog--and misleading regression models are worthy of that publication. To put it another way, he is upset because religious institutions can't discriminate in matters that do not go to the essence of their religions. Or more simply, he is saying, "The discriminator can't discriminate? Then, that's discrimination!"

Here, though, is Professor Sisk, over at Volokh Conspiracy, trying to defend himself. He actually writes the following, which he thinks is persuasive:

"(T)he diminished success of Catholics and Baptists may be attributed to their greater tendency to resist application of various social welfare regulations and anti-discrimination laws to church-related institutions, because judges regard such regulatory measures and civil rights laws as serving especially compelling public interests.

"Some commentators have seized upon precisely this point, which they characterize as going to the legal merits of the claim. Such an appraisal of merit, however, shades into little more than a subjective aversion to the cultural values expressed by traditional religionists and a subjective preference for the present-day priorities of secular liberalism.

"Why should the welfarist, regulatory, and anti-discrimination agendas of the moment be regarded as more impervious to claims of religious conscience than the old-style governmental interests of law and order and loyalty to American democracy that were invoked in days past to suppress minority religious groups? Should we not be suspicious of the rather convenient (and downright dangerous) argument that the scope of religious liberty for others neatly dovetails with and is calibrated to our particular political preferences?"

What is "downright dangerous" about asking a religious institution (again, whether it is Catholic or Muslim is of no relevance) not to discriminate against older Americans in its employment, or complying with neutral licensing or health and safety guidelines for a child care facility? If there is anything dangerous to our society, it would be the day religious institutions can thumb their collective noses at such requirements. One begins to wonder whether a lack of common sense is a requirement to become a law professor. Ivory tower indeed.


AP shills for the Terrible President

This is the headline from the Associated Press making its way around the nation and world:

"Nuclear Deal With India a Victory for Bush"

Yet, when one reads the article, one finds the Terrible President has, in effect, rewarded India for not signing the Nonproliferation Treaty, agreed to jump start India's nuclear program, and made a mockery of any argument that other nations should not seek to develop nuclear weaponry. A more honest headlline would be "Bush Capitulates to India."

Having said this, I admit to being a person who has great respect for India as a nation. It has endured, especially since President Nixon, a second class status compared to US treatment of Pakistan. One may even argue that, to some extent, India's more successful economic and political development, compared to Pakistan, is related to the fact that the US largely avoided entanglements with India. As Pakistan has had a close relationship with the US, and has been a consistent military dictatorship that ended up helping America's enemies, our nation's engagement with Pakistan may be judged a failure for American interests and values.

So is the Terrible President wrong to have given in to India's position on the issue of nuclear development? The answer is "Yes." Why? Because the South Asia region remains volatile due to the growth of religious fundamentalism, which has also somewhat undermined India's economic and cultural progress. Thus, international cooperation over nuclear weaponry should become a primary focus in American foreign policy.

This "landmark" agreement (as stated by the AP writer) is not a "victory" for the Terrible President in any substantively positive sense. The AP headline is another example of a gullible and venal corporate media outlet parroting Republican talking points.