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Friday, April 29, 2005
Friday Random Ten

1. "The Book of Love," The Magnetic Fields
2. "Shunned & Falsified," Mike Doughty
3. "Lazybones," Soul Coughing
4. "Mixed Bizness," Beck
5. "With Karate I'll Kick Your Ass," Tenacious D
6. "Love and Mercy," Golden Smog
7. "The Only Answer," Mike Doughty
8. "When the Stars Go Blue," The Corrs featuring Bono
9. "Buddy Holly," Weezer
10. "Fuel," Ani DiFranco

Thursday, April 28, 2005
Pandagon Back in the Hizzy!

AmandaPanda and JesseGon are back up and running again, though at the cost of their archives. But they've got a cool new "angry stoned panda" logo, and besides, it's been lonely without 'em. So go! See! Do!


Hindrocket (no, John, we're not going to stop calling you that) lauds possibly the least-compromising proposed compromise in the history of compromises.

What, pray tell, am I talking about? This astounding proposal by Bill Frist:

Senator Bill Frist has just delivered a speech on the Senate floor, proposing a compromise to end the threat of judicial filibusters. His proposal, in a nutshell, is that the parties agree that 1) no Supreme Court or Court of Appeals nominees will be filibustered by the minority, and 2) no such nominees will be blocked in the Judiciary Committee, presumably by the majority. The effect of the agreement would be that all appellate court nominees would get an up or down vote on the Senate floor. The speech is here. He has also written a letter to Harry Reid, communicating the proposed compromise.

That's right, the Democrats won't be able to block any of George Bush's nominees...but neither will the Republicans! No more will judges wait for confirmation while Orrin Hatch and Tom Coburn filibuster! No more will nominees be stuck while Rick Santorum blocks them!

Where can we sign up?

Naturally, Hindrocket thinks it's a great deal:

Will the Democrats accept? I think they might, since they know (at least, I think they know) that the Republicans have the votes needed to change the Senate rule and ban the filibuster with respect to judges. For the Democrats, it comes down to a political calculation. The first part of the calculation is, if they reject the compromise and force the Republicans to proceed with the Constitutional option, do they gain or lose votes? Notwithstanding their bravado, my guess is that the Democrats fear they will be the political losers if they go to the wall for the principle that a minority should be able to block a judicial nominee from receiving a vote.

Um. Yeah. John? The polling on this is pretty bad for the GOP. So I wouldn't be overly concerned if I was Harry Reid.

Moreover, though: how stupid do you think we are, John? Let's see, I've got this great plan. I'll take all of your money, but you won't be able to stop me from doing it! Great plan, you're behind it. Right?

Fortunately, Harry Reid is not stupid. He's already rejected the plan:

Reid said the proposal violated his bottom line, which is that the filibuster — a tactic used by a minority of senators to block a vote by refusing to end debate — must remain intact.

"Thanks for the offer, but I think it was a big, wet kiss to the far right," Reid said.

Indeed. But that's blindingly obvious to anyone not blinded by partisanship.

On the Plus Side, Nobody'd Have to Read Plato's Republic Anymore....

As is clear to anyone who reads my blog, I'm not a big fan of the GOP's position on homosexuality. In general, I think they're pretty much 100% wrong, and a few decades from now they'll be looked upon as the same kind of bigots who opposed interracial marriage and integrated drinking fountains.

But of course, that's not what the GOP says. Why, they're just defending traditional values, they say. They're just protecting the sanctity of marriage. Or, you know, attempting to ban gay authors from public libraries:

Republican Alabama lawmaker Gerald Allen says homosexuality is an unacceptable lifestyle. As CBS News Correspondent Mark Strassmann reports, under his bill, public school libraries could no longer buy new copies of plays or books by gay authors, or about gay characters.

"I don't look at it as censorship," says State Representative Gerald Allen. "I look at it as protecting the hearts and souls and minds of our children."

Books by any gay author would have to go: Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and Gore Vidal. Alice Walker's novel "The Color Purple" has lesbian characters.

Allen originally wanted to ban even some Shakespeare. After criticism, he narrowed his bill to exempt the classics, although he still can't define what a classic is.

Don't worry, folks. This is the government we're talking about! I'm sure they'd come up with an easily understandible definition.

Of course, as Shakespeare's Sister notes, said ban would eliminate books by Hans Christian Andersen, Walt Whitman, Plato, and W.H. Auden. Because they wrote approvingly about homosexuality? No. Simply because they were gay.

This is the face of the Republican party that they desperately try to hide. These are the people who are calling the shots now. And if you wonder why a moderate like me, a guy who as recently as two years ago refused to define himself as a Democrat, now is strongly partisan--this is why. These people cannot be reasoned with. They can't be compromised with. They can only be defeated.

Jeff's Top Ten

Today's theme: film. As always, primariy criteria is that I like it.

1. The Princess Bride
2. The Shawshank Redemption
3. Clerks
4. The In-Laws
5. Star Wars, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
6. Talk To Her
7. Mallrats
8. Old School
9. Kill Bill (vol. 1)
10. Glory

Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Bye Bye Bugman

The GOP tried. They really did. They did everything they could to rig the House Ethics Committee to give Tom DeLay a free pass on ethics issues. Unfortunately, most Americans generally don't like to see things rigged so politicians can get free passes on ethics, so Denny Hastert (who looks a little like his fellow Illinois Republican, my Uncle Jim) bowed to the inevitable and gave up on rule changes that would've made it difficult to hold the Bugman accountable.

"I'm willing to step back," Hastert, R-Ill., told reporters as he left a closed-door meeting of the House Republican conference hours before the full House voted 406 to 20 to reinstate rules it employed in the last session of Congress.

Democrats had complained bitterly that Hastert had killed what they said was a more bipartisan approach in January in order to substitute Republican-crafted rules designed to protect DeLay, a Texas Republican, from having to answer questions about his foreign travel and fund-raising activities.

Republicans, however, had insisted that they were only trying to ensure fairness for all House members and to prevent one political party from abusing the ethics process at the expense of the other by bringing frivolous charges against some representatives to embarrass them.

But with DeLay currently caught in a daily barrage of questions about his connections to lobbyists and foreign agents paying for his overseas trips, GOP lawmakers said all House Republicans were being tarnished by the fight over the ethics panel rules.

"I hope it gets us off of dead center with these ethics stories," said Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Ill. "I think the editorial writers have had a hey-day with it."

Well, Ray, that might have something to do with the fact that the GOP initiated the changes to protect one of their own, with little regard for ethics or truth. But that's just one blogger's opinion.

This, of course, is not good news for Tommy Boy. Even if DeLay's fellow Republicans all back him, a 5-5 tie starts an investigation. And that's not good. No matter how many times DeLay says he's "looking forward to answering questions," you know damn well he's looking forward to it like he's looking forward to an orange juice enema.

Of course, the GOP is congratulating themselves for defusing this powerful issue. Nice work, guys. You managed to inflict grievous wounds to yourself and have nothing to show for it. And as for whether the hurt ends now--well, sure it does. Just like it ended for the Democrats when Speaker Jim Wright stepped down. Of course, that ended a bit later in November of '94. With crushing defeat.

No, this doesn't end the pain. Starting right about now, the Embattled Tom DeLay becomes the Embattled Tom DeLay, who is under investigation. And Majority Leader.

So good luck with all that, GOP. Well done.

Let's Play Two!

In a way, I almost want the Twins' new stadium proposal to pass simply to end the long, painful saga that has been the search for a new home for Smilin' Carl's boys.

For those of you not from Minnesota, it's hard to believe that the Twins have been in dire need of a brand new stadium since approximately 1993. During that time, the Twins have almost moved to North Carolina, almost been eliminated altogether, and--oh yeah--managed two win three consecutive AL Central titles.

But of course, the Twins just can't continue to survive without a new stadium, despite the fact that by all appearances, they've managed to hang on quite well for over a decade. And in a way, they're right; given the decision by most communities to roll over for pro sports, a new outdoor baseball stadium is probably inevitable.

And if it's gonna happen, the new proposal makes sense. A 0.15% sales tax in Hennepin County (equal to three cents on a $20 purchase) is not nothing, but it's close. The tax will be borne by Hennepin County residents--fair, since the stadium will primarily benefit the county itself. Quite frankly, if they can't get this one through, Carl really should give Vegas or Portland a call--there won't be a new stadium build for the Twinkies.

Now, I'm not super-keen on building Carl Pohlad a stadium. But the truth is, the Twins are an asset to the community, and it'd be a shame to lose them. In the end, while I think the economics of stadia are bunk, they're bunk that everyone accepts.

One thing I'm definitely opposed to, though, is any sort of referendum on the issue.

The People Have Spoken....

America is a representative democracy. The people elect other people to make decisions for the country and their state.

But of course, that means that "The People" don't always get their way in the end. The elected representatives are hired to look over the situation closely, and make decisions in the best interest of the community. If they do a poor job, they get voted out.

Yes, this sometimes leads to boneheaded decisions like the Teri Schiavo debacle and the bankruptcy bill, but just as often it prevents the masses from making truly dumb decisions of their own. One need only look at the fiscal basket case of California to see the effect of runaway direct democracy on a budget; on the one hand, the legislature there is largely constrained from raising property taxes, and on the other, the legislature is required to fund all sorts of ballot-driven programs. Given free rein, the people will vote themselves free stuff forever--but of course, the check always comes due in the end.

This is why we have legislators. They're not perfect, given that they're humans, but for the most part they do the best they can. Sometimes (i.e. the Democrats ca. 1994, or the GOP ca. right now) they overreach, and it's best for all concerned if we get rid of a bunch of them and try a different way.

But if we had direct democracy, our nation would be an economic basket case. The Iraq war would be subject to popular whim; ditto the tax code. And socially, who knows what weird half Puritan/half Weimar Germany/half Jim Crow/all screwed up polyglot disaster we would have bred?

No, even with the idiots in control, I'd rather have Timmy Tim and the Funky Bunch running the state than the hoi polloi. This is why I can't abide the gay marriage amendment issue, and why I can't abide those who think Hennepin County should hold a referendum on the new Twins stadium.

If you think the decision by the Hennepin County Commisioners is bad, vote the bums out next time around. That's your check on the government. And if you think the people in Washington, Saint Paul, Montpellier, or Augusta are fools, well, you've got a choice to make next time, don't you?

But don't demand that the people get "a voice" in the issue. You had one. If you don't like your congressperson, tough--you're the idiot who hired the bum in the first place.

Johan Santana is God

Okay, maybe not God...but damn, is he a good pitcher. Tonight he ran his consecutive starts without a loss streak to twenty, and won his seventeenth straight decision. Will he go 31-0 this year? Probably not. But he's looking like he'll contend for the Cy Young again this year. Which means the Twins should be fun to watch.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005
More Cowbell

Will Ferrell to star in a "Land of the Lost" remake.

Can a Luke Wilson-helmed "Wonderbug" remake be far off?

The Nuclear Option

As the world nears the sixtieth anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, Laura Miller takes a look at books about the bomb (Salon, behind that annoying ad). And she makes a really great point:

But this is also the year that everyone born in 1989, the year the Berlin Wall fell and the Cold War began to wind down, turns 16. For the first time in six decades, a generation is leaving behind a childhood that hasn't been overshadowed by the threat of global nuclear annihilation. A dark era has quietly passed away. This story is harder to tell, and that may be why no one is telling it. It's not a tale of progress, exactly, since war certainly hasn't disappeared from the planet, and neither have nuclear threats on a less catastrophic scale. Still, anyone who's lived under the nuclear shadow of the Cold War (that is, most of us) can testify that nothing else has ever felt quite like it.

I've been a volunteer for the Minnesota YMCA Youth in Government program for almost fourteen years now, and that program gave me my first real "you're getting old" moment when I was in my mid-twenties, and a high school student asked me what it was like to grow up during the Cold War.

While I was momentarily nonplussed, I answered truthfully--it was terrifying. I've stated before that I believe Mutually Assured Destruction prevented a full-scale war between East and West. But Mutually Assured Destruction relied on the fundamental sanity of both the Soviets and Americans (as well as other lesser powers like India and Israel). Had a madman slipped through the filters in either nation, the consequences could have been dire and catastrophic for the human race; even if a nuclear holocaust could've been survived, it would've knocked us back a thousand years, and cost billions of lives.

Every day during the Cold War, every person on the planet woke up knowing that it could be the last day, not just for us as people, but for our species as a whole. And while both sides showed restraint until the ultimate fall of the Soviet Union, it was a dance with death that our species would do well to avoid forevermore.

This is why I often scoff at those who are terrified of the terrorists. No, I do not take the deaths of fellow Americans lightly. I won't be happy with the War on Terra until we put bin Laden's head on a pike. But the most fevered dreams of Osama would be merely damaging. Even if the worst happened, and al Qaeda found a nuclear bomb, the results would be far less than what we feared daily in the '80s.

At worst, we might lose New York. That's hardly trivial. But I'll take my chances in a world where New York might be half-gone tomorrow over a world where New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, Miami, Minneapolis, Chicago, Indianapolis, Boise, Bismarck, Duluth, Tempe, Seattle, Los Angeles, and every other city over 25,000 in America and Russia and Europe and China lies in ruins, billions are dead, and humanity's hundred-year survival chances are less than 50%. For all we have to fear today--and there is a lot--our fears are smaller now. My daughter will never have to wonder whether she'll survive to see the postapocalyptic horror--and whether it'd be better to die in the initial blast. That's a not insignificant step forward for our species, and we should be grateful we've taken it.

Tom DeLay Takes a Frisbee

Via The Onion:

What? You're gonna call the House Ethics Committee on me? You think the House Ethics Committee scares Tom DeLay? Go ahead and call them. I'll dial the phone number for you. I've got it on speed dial. That committee's come after me plenty of times before, and you know what happened? Nothing! While you're at it, call the Washington Post. Maybe they'll do a human-interest piece about the poor kids who lost a Frisbee and a Hacky Sack all in one day.

Call for an independent investigation! Demand my resignation! See what good it does you. I've faced a hell of a lot worse opposition than you, and I'm still standing. You hear me? Tom DeLay is still here! I am Tom DeLay!

You tell 'em, Bugman.

Friday, April 22, 2005
Welcome Shakers

Hey, I've been blogrolled by Shakespeare's Sister, who may be somewhat to my left, but makes up for it by writing really well and tolerating discussion. I've had her blogrolled for a while, but if you haven't checked her site out, drop by and say "hi!"

All About Sex

So hey, when Andrew Sullivan criticized the selection of Pope Benedict XVI, a number of conservatives derided Sullivan's opposition to being all about sex.

Of course, to some extent it was. And why not? As a gay man, Sullivan can hardly be expected not to notice that Catholocism is not overwhelmingly gay-friendly. If a heterosexual man was told that he couldn't have sex or get married, ever, lest he sin in the eyes of God, then he would be quickly and stridently opposed to his church based on the exact same issue--and yes, that would be "all about sex" too.

And again, why not? Sex is a powerful thing. It drives, either consciously or unconsciously, a high percentage of what we people do.

Religion has always been leery of sex, decrying it as a base emotion, one which people--especially women--should treat with great fear. Gay sex? Don't even think about it.

Charles Curran, a Catholic priest who was banned from teaching theology by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, tells us why he was banned:

Cardinal Ratzinger — now Pope Benedict XVI — told the Catholic University of America to revoke my license to teach theology because of my "repeated refusal to accept what the church teaches."

I was fired. It was the first time an American Catholic theologian had been censured in this way. At issue was my dissent from church teachings on "the indissolubility of consummated sacramental marriage, abortion, euthanasia, masturbation, artificial contraception, premarital intercourse and homosexual acts," according to their final document to me.

Seven areas of teaching--and six of them have to do with sex or the incidents thereof.

I thought about this today when I read this article. Spain has edged closer to authorizing gay marriage. In my opinion, that's a great thing.

For Pope Benedict XVI, it's become the first major political flashpoint of his papacy:

The Pope, speaking through Cardinal Alfonso Lopes Trujill, head of the Pontifical Council on the Family, said Roman Catholics should be prepared to lose their jobs rather than co-operate with the law.

Trujill, in an interview with Corriere della Sera newspaper said Spaniards in all walks of life - especially government officials - are duty bound by Catholicism to oppose accepting same-sex couples.

"We cannot impose the iniquitous on people," he told the paper.

"On the contrary, precisely because they are iniquitous the Church makes an urgent call for freedom of conscience and the duty to oppose.

"A law as profoundly iniquitous as this one is not an obligation, it cannot be an obligation. One cannot say that a law is right simply because it is law."

When asked if this were not discrimination Trujill said no, adding that the Church does not discriminate against gays.

Nobody is forcing the Catholic Church to accept gay marriage. They should be--they must be--allowed to set their own rules of conduct.

But to argue that a civil servant recognizing civil marriage between two homosexuals is breaking church law is beyond ludicrous. It's stepping way over the line.

And it's all about sex.

Andrew Sullivan today reminds us of a quote from former President John F. Kennedy:

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute -- where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote -- where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference ... I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish -- where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source -- where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials.

Sullivan notes that when Kennedy said those words, they were in response to those who feared a Catholic president would take his marching orders from the pope--in other words, Kennedy spoke in defense of Catholics in the public square.

Today, the Pope has said that Kennedy's view was flatly wrong--that for Kennedy to have dreamed of this world was anti-Catholic and anti-religious at its core, that a public servant who does not take marching orders from the Pope is not a Catholic.

The Pope is entitled to his opinion. But I cannot agree. For the pontiff to threaten those who are simply doing their jobs is terrible.

Especially because these threats are all about sex.

Grams for Chair?

My fellow DFLSenate blogger Patrick notes that Rod Grams may be seeking the GOP chairmanship. This would be stupendous on multiple levels. First, whether Grams can oust Ron Eibensteiner or not, anything that creates chaos in the GOP going into 2006 is a good thing. Even better, if Grams should win, it puts a man into the GOP leadership who has not hidden his disdain for Kennedy.

Let me be the first to say--Run, Rod, Run!

Honors and Privileges Already at the Age of 48....

Congratulations, Rep. Kennedy! The Minnesota congressman and senate candidate has earned that grand distinction. He's one of Tom's Tainted Ten--ten congressmen who combined a willfull disregard for any concern over MTBE with a blind eye for any malfesance on Tom DeLay's part.

So congrats, Mark! It's leadership like this that has made you a leading light in the Republican party.

Friday Random Ten
Doughty-Free Edition

1. Ben Folds Five, "Satan is My Master"
2. Ben Folds, "Carrying Cathy"
3. REM, "Nightswimming"
4. Tenacious D, "Rock Your Socks"
5. Ani DiFranco, "Sorry I Am"
6. Cake, "No Phone"
7. Billy Joel, "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant"
8. They Might Be Giants, "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)"
9. Juliana Hatfield, "Universal Heart-Beat"
10. Ryan Adams, "Tina Toledo's Street Walkin' Blues"

Mutally Assured Destruction

Those of us who grew up during the Cold War remember well the theory of Mutually Assured Destruction. The theory held that, since a full nuclear exchange between the US and USSR would destroy both countries, neither side would be foolish enough to launch a first strike. Fortunately, neither side ever did, and one can make the argument that this is the primary reason that the Cold War never developed into a World War.

The lesson? Be very careful when looking into nuclear options. Those bombs can blow up in your face.

Like, say, the so-called nuclear option that the GOP has been threatening in the Senate.

Now, personally, I call a pox on everyone's house when it comes to confirming judges. The GOP blocked scores of Clinton appointees using rules that--funny--no longer exist now that a Republican is in the White House. Meanwhile, the Democrats were rightly aghast at GOP tactics in 1999 that suddenly seem wonderful when used against Bush in 2005.

But if neither party is simon-pure on this one, the Republican party has been egregious in slowly-but-surely chipping away at Senate rules that ensure that judges--who are, last I checked, appointed for life--receive at least some bipartisan support (or, at the very least, no active partisan opposition). This makes sense if you believe, as I do, that Judges should be ideologically in line with the middle 75% of Americans. Yes, Bush appointees will be to the right of that spectrum, and that's fine. But they shouldn't be beyond the right of the spectrum--nor, for that matter, beyond the left.

At any rate, the GOP thought they'd finally found a way to eliminate the last pesky rule standing in the way of them and the ability to confirm any judge, any time. The answer? Get a ruling from the chair that the filibuster rule doesn't apply to judicial nominations.

Now, I volunteer for the Minnesota YMCA Youth in Government program, and one of my tasks is to help teach youth officers in the mock House and Senate about parliamentary procedure. So in a way, I really have to hand it to the Republicans here; it's an act of sheer parliamentary genius to find a way to make a vote that requires 60% into a vote that requires 50%-plus-one. That doesn't make it the best thing for the Senate or the country, but Bill Frist ain't worried about those things.

Unfortunately, as the nuclear option prepares to detonate, it seems that Americans aren't all that excited about the plans. Because, you know, most Americans are more interested in the country than Bill Frist's primary aspirations:

Private Republican polling shows scant support for a plan to stop minority Democrats from blocking judicial nominees, officials said Thursday, as two of President Bush's most controversial appointments advanced toward a possible Senate confrontation.

These officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a recent survey taken for Senate Republicans showed 37 percent support for the GOP plan to deny Democrats the ability to filibuster judicial nominees, while 51 percent oppose.

Additionally, the survey indicated only about 20 percent of Americans believe the Republican statement that Bush is the first president in history whose court appointees have been subjected to a filibuster, a tactic in which opponents can prevent a vote unless supporters gain 60 votes. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, noting the survey data has not been made public.

Oops. Seems that the people of the United States don't share a judical agenda with James Dobson.

But why do Americans feel this way? Hmm...what legal event has gone on recently?

Republican strategists concede their efforts to swing public opinion behind their move suffered in the wake of congressional intervention in the case of Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged woman in Florida who was being kept alive with a feeding tube. The survey suggested the GOP faces a challenge if it hopes to gain significant public support before moving ahead on banning judicial filibusters.

Oh yeah, that one.

Now, yes, most people believe the Democrats are being partisan here, as well. But the Democrats aren't the ones forcing the issue here. And besides, this plays into what's becoming a larger issue: the complete lack of respect by the Republican party for the rule of law and the sanctity of our political institutions.

The vote should come soon, and I imagine that the GOP wouldn't be pressing ahead if they didn't have at least 50 votes (plus Cheney) to uphold the chair's ruling. But if the Democratic party is smart, they'll tie this to Tom DeLay's hateful attacks on judges. To Bill Frist addressing those who believe in an overtly Christian judiciary. To the ongoing slime of DeLay's malfesance. To Bush's appointment of toadies and lackeys.

The Democrats should tie this all together, and remind the people that the Republican party said in 2000 that they were the grown-ups. If this is what grown-ups do, send in the children.

As for what will happen, there will be mutually assured destruction; the Senate's institutional history will be destroyed, and so will the Republican party's credibility. As for how the Democrats retaliate...well, as an American, one must hope that Harry Reid will choose not to respond with a full-out assault. But one could hardly blame him for deciding that now is the time to destroy the President's agenda once and for all.

Thursday, April 21, 2005
Meet the New Boss

Pope Supremicus Magnifium Increate the Worldstomping I--the Pope Formerly Known as Giblets.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Meanwhile, In Real Life....

So as some of you might have noticed, I am currently considering gastric bypass surgery. And as longtime members of this board might remember, I've previously been diagnosed with clinical depression, and briefly took Lexapro to treat it.

I didn't see a huge improvement with Lexapro, and eventually gave up on it; in the past year, I've been on Strattera, to treat my ADHD, and I have thought that was helping. I've been better able to focus at work, certainly. I decided that probably, I'd never been depressed. Instead, it had been ADHD at work.

So imagine my surprise when pre-surgery psychological screening turned up (surprise) depression! And not just situation depression--my old pal clinical depression.

Well now. And I had thought I was feeling generally positive.

So now I get to add fluoxetine--the drug formerly known as Prozac--to my brain chemistry. (ADHD and depression? Boy, that's some great chemistry set I've got goin', huh?) My neurons will be awash in both norepinephrine and seratonin soon. We'll see what that does.

For now, I'm mostly tired--I suppose adding a new chemical to my brain will do that. But last night, on the ride home from work, I felt suddenly and inexplicably happy.

I can't say I've felt inexplicably happy since...well, I'm not sure ever.

So there may well be something to all this. Certainly, it's worth seeing what this does to my thought processes. I suppose the lesson here is that when you're diagnosed with clinical depression, you just might have it. I probably want to jot that down somewhere....

Robert Fitzgerald Interview Up

Everyone's favorite true independent Senate candidate answers to Robin, Patrick and me over at DFLSenate.

The Liberal Media Meme Officially Jumps the Shark

Okay, for real: when Karl Rove says there's no liberal media, there is no liberal media.

Get it?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Ratz Off To Ya!

A quick roundup of Popeapalooza:

Bye Bye Bolton

I haven't written much about the appointment process of John Bolton to be the new U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations. It's not that Bolton isn't a terrible choice--he is, and on so many levels it's ridiculous.

But, I mean, so what? He's succeeding John Negroponte. I mean, Bush chose a rabidly anti-UN candidate for Ambassador to the UN? What's next, Wolfowitz for World Bank?

I've long since given up rooting against political appointees; every time one Bushie drops, another, worse one takes his or her place.

Still, there is some amount of schadenfreude in seeing that Bolton's nomination has been bottled up in committee, thanks to an ill-timed defection by Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH), who simply said "I've heard enough today that I don't feel comfortable about voting for Mr. Bolton."

With that statement--and a 9-9 tie in committee looming--Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Dick Lugar (R-IN) agreed to postpone the vote for a month. The open question is whether Voinovich can be pulled back onto the reservation. If not, Bolton's nomination is dead.

Of course, Bush will find a way to appoint Ann Coulter to the position, so don't get your hopes up. But if nothing else, Bush is a bit lame-duckier today than he was yesterday. If that doesn't make you happy, nothing will.

Benedict XVI

On the one hand, the appointment of a new Pontiff doesn't affect me much. Being a Unitarian, the Pope has as much theological authority over me as Pee-Wee Herman.

But of course, the Pope does matter. He's the face of billions of Catholics, the head of one of the most powerful religious entities in human history. And so I can only greet the appointment of Joseph Ratzinger as a disappointment.

It is not because of his social views that I say this. I doubt the Catholic church and I will be in perfect harmony on our social views any time in the next millenium. But Ratzinger is not a liberal from the standpoint of social justice, either. He has spoken out against Liberation Theology, and indeed, questioning the Vatican in any way has been anathema to "The Grand Inquisitor." He is not just a docrtinaire Catholic; he is a radical fundamentalist.

The Catholics I know are glum today. Most of them believe in the Catholic faith, but question its current leadership. Andrew Sullivan, I think, sums up their thought process:

And so the Catholic church accelerates its turn toward authoritarianism, hostility to modernity, assertion of papal supremacy and quashing of internal debate and dissent. We are back to the nineteenth century. Maybe this is a necessary moment. Maybe pressing this movement to its logical conclusion will clarify things. But those of us who are struggling against what our Church is becoming, and the repressive priorities it is embracing, can only contemplate a form of despair. The Grand Inquisitor, who has essentially run the Church for the last few years, is now the public face. John Paul II will soon be seen as a liberal. The hard right has now cemented its complete control of the Catholic church. And so ... to prayer. What else do we now have?

I will hope that Pope Benedict XVI proves to be more liberal than his past has indicated. If nothing else, at 78 years old he is unlikely to repeat Pope John Paul II's quarter-century reign. That, at least, is something.

Monday, April 18, 2005
Paging Andy Martello

So first off: you've got to give Mitch Berg credit. After all, most partisans, when confronted with the incontrovertable fact of anemic attendance for Friday's Taxpayer's League rally, would simply have ignored the event, or talked about Gov. Timmy and Rep. Attack Ad and Robert Redford's Failed Clone without mentioning that you could've found more people at your average bus stop.

But Mitch, God bless him...he knows how to spin!

Don't hold rallies at 8AM. Never.

Make no mistake about it - we conservatives, the people who put you in office, will turn out in droves for our causes. You remember, as do I, the big taxpayer rallies during the Carlson and Ventura administrations, which routinely drew 3-5,000 people...

...on a Saturday afternoon. Not on a Friday morning.


You got, by most counts, 200 people to the rally. Which is not bad for a Friday morning, but it certainly did cause the bad guys to titter with glee; weekday rallies are the province of the liberal wastrel, the perpetual student, the bribed school kid, the union worker with the insta-holiday, the Highland Park matron with spare time and white upper middle class guilt in equal proportion. And they had a field day, tittering about the "low turnout". Now, in their smug self-righteousness they may very well equate "can't come out to rally on a workday" with "no support for tax cuts"; their loss. But if you put the rally on a Friday morning to snag media coverage - did it work?

So you see, it was all because the righies all have jobs and can't be bothered to come out for the Taxpayer's League rally. Ah, that explains it! Of course, one might be tempted to note that there are quite a few people out there who have full-time jobs that are not going on at eight in the morning on a weekend. Me, for instance. My ex-wife. Two of my three best friends.

And hey, one might suggest that if you could draw 600 people to a generic committee hearing on guns, you should be able to draw a similar number to the one anti-tax rally of the year.

But what do I know? I'm just a starry-eyed lefty, who noticed that despite the opportunity to rub elbows with the Governor, the Senate Candidate, and a talk show host, only 200 people availed themselves.

One might suggest that's because after years of cutting taxes, most people finally figure they're low enough, or even *gasp* too low.

One might.

The End of an Era

Starting in 2006, after 36 years on ABC, Monday Night Football will move to sister network ESPN.

The move was probably inevitable; unlike the Cosell-Gifford-Meredith broadcasts of my youth, the current incarnation of MNF isn't must-see TV anymore. Blame the proliferation of channels--if you want sports, you've got 'em. No need to wait for the halftime highlights to see what happened on Sunday--you already watched "NFL Live." And while pro football may lie dormant from Tuesday through Sunday, there's apt to be a Boise State-Colorado game on Tuesday night. And that doesn't even begin to touch the dazzling array of live basketball, hockey, baseball, jai alai, tiddlywinks, and dodgeball that ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports, and the Ocho are currently showing.

In short, Monday Night Football is just another nationally televised game, and it belongs on ESPN. And Sunday Night Football, which will evidently bring NBC back to pro football, will be just another game, too. The icon of Monday night is passing, several years past its prime. It was inevitable. But it's still a little sad.

Sunday, April 17, 2005
Bachmann: I'm Neither a Deep Thinker Nor Knowledgeable

Hey, she said it.

Yes, everyone's fave wingnut is at it again--this time pushing for "equal time" for creationism in schools because, aside from the fact that the Theory of Evolution has been all but proven and that Intelligent Design is not scientific per se, Michele once read Darwin's Black Box and the Bible, and we all know that if there's one thing the Semites of six thousand years ago were crystal clear on, it was science.

Now, I'm not going to get off on a rant here--that's P.Z. Meyers' department. Indeed, I'm a believer in creationism--up to a point.

That point is the point at which God, or Zeus, or Vishnu, or Chtuhulu, or the Council of Nine, or whomever was laying out the mathematics of the universe came to a decision to use evolution to create life. Because the evidence for some sort of evolutionary process is so overwhelming as to be unquestionable.

I've never understood why evolution is such a threat to the religious. To me, a God who could create with all the subtlety of whomever's in charge up there is far more interesting than a God who says "zap!" and there's a person. The latter is an illusionist. The former is incomprehensably brilliant, a God worthy of this beautiful universe we live in. And evolution--that's a brilliant way to create infinite and varied patterns of life all over the universe.

If you want to believe that God is just a parlor magician, fine--that can be your limited God. My God was smart enough to create a universe where some basic physical laws led inexorably to the fire of stars, the beauty of water, and the human brain. So there.

Florida DCF: Michael Schiavo Never Abused Wife

Via WaPo. So when will Sean Hannity, Joe Scarborough, KLo, et al. apologize?

Friday, April 15, 2005
Friday Random Ten

1. Ben Folds Five, "Kate"
2. Beck, "Beautiful Way"
3. Soul Coughing, "Super Bon Bon"
4. Soul Coughing, "Blue Eyed Devil"
5. Beck, "Peaches & Cream"
6. U2, "Elevation"
7. Mike Doughty, "Shunned & Falsified"
8. Norah Jones, "Come Away With Me"
9. Marc Cohn, "Walk On Water"
10. Semisonic, "Get a Grip"

Thursday, April 14, 2005
Tinklenberg Running in the Sixth

Via Minnesota Democrat Exposer, we find out that El Tinklenberg is going to seek the DFL endorsement to replace Mark Kennedy. Tinklenberg is the former Mayor of Blaine, and served as Transportation Commissioner under former Gov. Ventura.

The other possible DFLers in the sixth include Mayor John Ellenbecker (DFL-St. Cloud) and activist Patty Wetterling (DFL-St. Joseph), if she decides not to seek the Senate endorsement instead.

The GOP field is already crowded, with former Education Commissioner Cheri Pierson Yecke, State Sen. Michele Bachmann, and Rep. Phil Krinkie seeking party endorsement.

The race tilts right, and as much as it pains me, I don't see Tinklenberg beating back any of the GOP's candidates. Indeed, while I think Wetterling would be the favorite in this race, absent her (or possibly Bill Luther), I don't foresee this seat going to the DFL in 2006.

You've gotta drink Gatorade, and lots of it, when you're excercising. After all, you sweat away water, you've gotta replace fluids. And if you drink too much, so what? I mean, what's the worst that could happen, other than death?

Yes, after years of being told not to get dehydrated, athletes are now told not to get too hydrated.

What this does to Gatorade's sales is another question altogether.

Jeff's Top Five...

Because blogging is essentially narcissistic, and because I think you care, my top five favorite albums of all time:

1. Soul Coughing, Ruby Vroom
2. Son Volt, Trace
3. Semisonic, Great Divide
4. Ani DiFranco, Not a Pretty Girl
5. The Honeydogs, Everything, I Bet You

Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Hey, Comrade, Get Out Of My Bedroom!

As per usual, Dan Savage nails it:

What's maddening about this pope's signature gay bashing is this: When the pope—the dead one, the next one, the one after that—says something stupid about homosexuality, straight folks take it to heart. The church's efforts have helped defeat gay rights bills, led to the omission of gays and lesbians from hate-crime statutes, and helped to pass anti-gay-marriage amendments. But when a pope says something stupid about heterosexuality, straight Americans go deaf. And this pope had plenty to say about heterosexual sex—no contraceptives, no premarital sex, no blowjobs, no jerkin' off, no divorce, no remarriage, no artificial insemination, no blowjobs, no three-ways, no swinging, no blowjobs, no anal. Did I mention no blowjobs? John Paul II had more "no's" for straight people than he did for gays. But when he tried to meddle in the private lives of straights, the same people who deferred to his delicate sensibilities where my rights were concerned suddenly blew the old asshole off. Gay blowjobs are expendable, it seems; straight ones are sacred.

But of course, straight blowjobs are received by straight men. Gay blowjobs are received by...well, I think they're Islamic alien demons bent on drestroying Earth--I mean, gays aren't human, right? That would be crazy. I mean, then we're just discriminating against a group of people for no good reason.

I'm reminded of a discussion from my college days, when a good friend spent about two hours dissecting the claims of a couple friends who claimed their opposition to homosexuality was biblically-based. A few hours of laying with women in their unclean time and shellfish later, and they admitted that essentially, they were just bigots.

Of course, it's always easy to be bigoted against someone else. When your conduct is called into question, though--that's beyond reproach.

And There Was No More Sea (Part Deux)

What can unite left and right, Athiest and Christian, Burger King and McDonald's? A shared disdain for "Revelations."

When Jerry Jenkins accuses your show of being "a mishmash of myth, silliness, and misrepresentations of Scripture," you've really gone beyond the pale.

Respect for Our Ancestors

Think Atheists can't be spiritual? P.Z. Meyers would beg to differ--and indeed, he'd beg you to consider just what we've lost by the passing of our forebearers.

It's a beautiful post. Go read it.

Bye Bye Bugman (Mark Kennedy Corollary)

So I called Mark Kennedy's office today to ask whether he supported everyone's favorite ethically challenged Majority Leader. The answer? He doesn't know.

And There Was No More Sea

No, I'm not going to watch NBC's ridiculous "Revelations," but I'm still bothered by the fact that central to the plot is a group of religious folk trying to forestall the Battle of Armageddon.

Let me explain this simply. If you're Christian, you would be working to bring about the Battle of Armageddon, because that will bring about the Reign of a Thousand Years.

Do you understand that? Only Satan would want to stop Armageddon.

So if you watch this show, and you are rooting for the softly-lit nun and Bill Pullman (and/or Paxson--could be either), you're rooting for the Antichrist. There's really no way around it.

After all, Revelation 21:4 states:

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

Yeah, that sounds like something to be avoided at all costs, doesn't it?

Now, to be clear: I take the approach to the Book of Revelation that most academics do. I believe it was written as a polemic, to rally the troops of Christianity, who were at the time being persecuted for their beliefs. But if you believe in the literal truth of the book, it would be someting to be truly desired.

So NBC has managed to make a pro-crazy-Christian show that's not even clear on its theology. Well, bully. Somewhere, Brandon Tartikoff is rolling over in his grave.

Take That, Breck! turns out that those horrible public schools might just be better than private schools. It turns out that that private school students do better on general tests because--shocking, I know--they don't have to take every student, and the students who attend private schools tend to live with richer parents.

I'll freely confess my biases. I'm the son of a public school principal, and I attended public schools all my life. But this point has always seemed blindingly obvious to me; of course there's an advantage for private schools in that they don't have to educate anyone difficult. Learning disabled? Out! Troublemaker? Out! Don't have money? Out!

Public schools, meanwhile, take anyone and everyone, and do the best they can. For all their work, they're ridiculed by the right as bastions of high treason and sloth.

Well, my daughter will be attending public school soon enough, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I would like her to meet people from a different socioeconomic stratum; I would also like her to ge the best education possible. Happily, public schools will provide her the opportunity for both.

It's Conclave, Babee!

So do you have your bracket filled out yet? My Flagellent Four is Cardinal Tettamanzi, Cardinal Hummes, Cardinal Ratziger, and Duke.

That's a Big Trunk, Hindrocket

REW finds a fun post from everyone's favorite formerly homoerotically named blogger, where he really nails DeLay:

One thing that amazes me is that there is no consistent standard for dealing with ethics issues in government. Here is just one example: a very wealthy man, not because of his government salary, but because his wife is...extremely highly-paid....Now why do you think his wife makes so much money? Is is because she is so exceptionally persuasive? Or is it possibly because her husband is the Majority Leader...? Gosh, I dunno....... This would appear to be an obvious conflict of interest, requiring full disclosure at the very least. But one of the many bad effects of feminism is that it is now considered impolite to assume that there is some relationship between a husband and a wife...OK, admittedly, there are a few instances where there is no relationship at all, like the Clintons, but the vast majority of the time this is an absurd supposition. Yet it is the assumption that apparently governs conflict of interest analysis.

Oh, wait, did I say that was about Tom DeLay? Oh, no, I meant it was about Tom Daschle, whose wife's lobbying was the worst thing ever.

Tom DeLay? Must be a liberal hack job.

Michele Bachmann is an Idiot

That doesn't necessarily mean she should be harassed mercilessly--if, indeed, that happened at all.

Franly, I think Flash sums up the "Scandia Scandal" pretty well. And while following Sen. Bachmann into the bathroom may have been excessive, quite frankly that's the price you pay for being in public office. I know far more about Bill Clinton's sex life and George W. Bush's drug use than I want or need to know. You go into the public arena, you've got to talk to deal with the public. That's why I'm a blogger and not a failed candidate.

As for Bachmann, no matter what you think about the bathroom affair, hiding in the bushes and watching the gays is pretty ridiculous.

Oh, sure....

Robin Walkenhorst of Power Liberal and DFLSenate fame has hit the big time. She'll be appearing on the Mighty 950 with Nick Coleman to give a shout out for Drinking Liberally. Which is having its Minnesota debut tonight at Liquor Lyle's. (Don't know where Liquor Lyle's is? And you call yourself a Minnesotan! No, I'm not going to tell you it's on Hennepin just north of Uptown and just south of downtown. You're just going to have to figure it out for yourself.)

So if you're not working from six to nine tonight, and you'd like to go spend some time with like-minded liberals, go hang with the crowd at Lyle's. If divine providence strikes, I might even show up--though that would mean, of course, that I wasn't working tonight, so probably I'll just be there in spirit.

Of course, nobody ever asks me to be on the radio. I mean, I can spout generic talking points at least as well as Jonah Goldberg, and with 135% more accuracy than Hindrocket! Come on, show The Howitzer of Enlightenment some love!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005
What's More, it's Better than Hindrocket

My Unitarian Jihad Name is: The Howitzer of Enlightenment.

Get yours.

Monday, April 11, 2005
Fight Back! With Stupidity!

It's been rumored for a long time, but now it's official: David Horowitz is a massive tool.

The Man Who Would Be Hindrocket

You think we're gonna stop calling you that? At any rate, this is just about right....

Not Everybody Does It, But Everybody Should

PandAmanda on the moral rectitude of premarital sex. Go read it. Now.

It's Like 21 Jump Street Meets Goodfellas Meets Saved By The Bell....

Now, maybe it's just me, but this boneheaded school policy seems destined to fail.

So the principal's gonna pay out money for "snitches"--tell me that Johnny smokes pot or Janey's got a gun and you get $100. Gee, in a High School, what are the chances that Billy might get back at Johnny by telling the principal that Johnny's got pot--whether Johnny does or not?

Boy, there's a good way to foster unity and respect, as well as an understanding of the rule of law.

I'm not pro-drugs, and especially not in schools. (I'm less concerned about what adults do, but 16-year-olds shouldn't be smoking pot, drinking alcohol, or voting, for that matter). But if you want to keep drugs out of schools, why don't you take the money for snitches and create some more after-school programs?

But that's crazy talk. Release the hounds!

Thursday, April 07, 2005
Rather Stupid

So a few days back, I noted that I thought the whole fake Schiavo memo story seemed to lack a certain something--like any actual evidence other than the fact that John Hinderaker thought it seemed odd. To me, that would be what we'd call a "non-story," especially since others were vouching for the memo's veracity.

So what do we find out? By golly, the memo was, in fact, written by the GOP:

The legal counsel to Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) admitted yesterday that he was the author of a memo citing the political advantage to Republicans of intervening in the case of Terri Schiavo, the senator said in an interview last night.

Brian H. Darling, 39, a former lobbyist for the Alexander Strategy Group on gun rights and other issues, offered his resignation and it was immediately accepted, Martinez said.

Martinez, the GOP's Senate point man on the issue, said he earlier had been assured by aides that his office had nothing to do with producing the memo. "I never did an investigation, as such," he said. "I just took it for granted that we wouldn't be that stupid. It was never my intention to in any way politicize this issue."

I mean, sure, the memo included language from Martinez's own web site, and sure, the memo was distributed to GOP staffers, and sure, Martinez was one of the leaders of the charge in the Senate, but heck, there's no way it could've come out of his office. Because he asked. (We'll leave aside the fact that if you're an aide, it's your job to admit that you ran a memo on your own initiative when, in fact, you did it at your boss' behest. Because that would be mere speculation.)

So anyhow, we have a memo distributed out of Sen. Martinez's office, handed to other Senators on the Senate floor, and that memo was unseemly, to say the least. It would seem to be case closed, right?

Well, yeah, unless you're a shameless hack:

In fact, if the current AP account is correct, the amazingly inept "talking points memo," which got the number of the Senate bill wrong, misspelled Terri Schiavo's name, and contained a number of other typographical errors, did not come from "Republican officials" or "party leaders," but rather from an anonymous, unknown staffer. Senator Martinez himself--forget about members of his staff--is a freshman senator, in office for three months, not a "party leader" or "Republican officials." (The plural in the Post's original article is interesting.) Also, the reporting by ABC and the Post suggested that the memo was widely or universally distributed among Republican senators, while a survey reported by the Washington Tmes indicated that none of the 55 Republican senators had seen it.

Well, huh. You mean the Washington Times asked GOP Senators the question "Have you seen this damaging memo?" and they responded "No?" Well, golly, that's good enough for me. We all know how honest politicians are.

Please. Hindrocket, you got served. You made up a fake memo controversy with approximately as much evidence as I have of Tim Pawlenty's fondness for the flesh of small children. You made it up, spread the meme among your friends, and did everything you could to try to pretend your side didn't issue the memo.

But they did, Hindrocket. A better man than you would just admit that your speculation was wrong, that the memo was genuine. CBS News, for example, would admit when a story they broke turned out to be wrong.

That's not how we roll in the blogosphere, though, is it? I guess being Time's "Blog of the Year" means never having to say you're sorry.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005
Bye Bye Bugman (Part Deux)

The free Moscow junket was an issue of moral turpitude--it spoke of a man willing to take favors from lobbyists. Not good, but you know, not the thing that would bring down DeLay on its own.

But this story in today's New York Times might just be the straw that broke the camel's back:

The wife and daughter of Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, have been paid more than $500,000 since 2001 by Mr. DeLay's political action and campaign committees, according to a detailed review of disclosure statements filed with the Federal Election Commission and separate fund-raising records in Mr. DeLay's home state, Texas.

Most of the payments to his wife, Christine A. DeLay, and his only child, Dani DeLay Ferro, were described in the disclosure forms as "fund-raising fees," "campaign management" or "payroll," with no additional details about how they earned the money. The payments appear to reflect what Mr. DeLay's aides say is the central role played by the majority leader's wife and daughter in his political career.

I'm sure Tom DeLay's wife has done a lot to further DeLay's political career. But imagine if we'd found out that the Clinton-Gore campaign had paid Hillary and Chelsea half a million dollars for campaigning for Bill Clinton. Do you think Bill would've gotten off scott-free?

No. People would've accused him of fleecing campaign donors, of using his position to enrich himself financially. And they would be right.

This is going to end badly for the Republicans and DeLay. But I hope they don't end it too quickly. The longer they hold on, the better it is for the Democrats.

The Next Pope

So with the death of Pope John Paul II, the church now sets about finding which Cardinal will replace him. We at BotML offer our handy primer to who is in the running to replace him:

Cardinal Dennis Green

PRO: No time for crybabies. Veritcal offense should give opposing religions fits. Able to play the drums.

CON: Poor media relations. Never can win the big one. Once drafted Demitrius Underwood.

ODDS: 10:1

Cardinal Albert Pujols

PRO: Hits for power and average. Outstanding breaking-ball hitter.

CON: Possible to jam him with high hard stuff. Below-average speed. Generalized opposition to the conservative positions of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger could hurt him with the European contingent.

ODDS: 15:1

Cardinal Ximenez

PRO: Nobody expects a Ximenez candidacy! His chief asset is surprise, fear and surprise...his two chief weapons are fear and surprise and a ruthless devotion to the pope...wait...he's running for Pope!

CON: Association with Spanish Inquisition might hurt him in the "Blue Archdioceses," alleged to be too chummy with Cardinal Fang, considered somewhat liberal by prevailing standards.

ODDS: 7:1

Cardinalis cardinalis

PRO: The cardinal is well known for its rich, distinctive call. The cardinal's song is usually a repetition of short whistled phrases with some notes run together; for instance: "What-cheer-cheer-cheer." or "Who-it, who-it, who-it", or "Birdy, birdy, birdy." There is also a sharp "clink" sound the bird makes as a call note. Cardinals can ususually be found singing near the top of the tallest tree in their territory. Fluent in Latin.

CON: Technically not Catholic. Or Human.

ODDS: 45:1

Yes, this is a joke.

DFLSenate: Klobuchar Leads All Candidates in Fundraising

Howard Dean proved that you can lead your primary in fundraising, but still lose. Nevertheless, the fact that Amy Klobuchar leads all candidates--including Mark Kennedy--in both fundraising and cash-on-hand has to be a big boost to her nascent campaign. Whole story over on the DFLSenate blog.

Also over there: Alas, Poor Rotenberg. Of course, that was inevitable, I suppose.

Starring Jason Alexander as Randall Terry

Robin notes that the inevitable has occured: CBS is rushing a cheap Schiavo biopic into production, starring Dean Cain and Keri Russell.

No word yet on who will play Tom DeLay.

Bye Bye Bugman

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Unaccountable, Arrogant) evidently went to Moscow on the lobbyists' dime back in '97.

Well now. That's only completely unethical. But the question now is what the majority caucus decides to do with their reprobate (nominal) #2. Back in 1993, the Democrats faced similar problems with the then-Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, Dan Rostenkowski. To their great discredit, they chose to back Rostenkowski when things got bad--and backed him all the way into the minority. (For his part, Rosty ended up going to prison.) Will the GOP learn the lessons of the Democrats? Or will inertia and fear cause them to back their guy yet again?

Don't ever forget that the Contract with America came out in late September of 1994. It was a bid to seal the deal with voters--the groundwork had been laid by a Republican minority that laid roadblocks in front of Bill Clinton's domestic (and foreign) agenda, and was quick to jump on real and perceived ethical lapses by an ossified Democratic majority. The Democrats seem to be learning from before. The Republicans may need some refresher courses from ol' Newton.

Monday, April 04, 2005
Life, Liberty, and The Pursuit of Happiness

In a postscript to the Terri Schiavo debacle, Andrew Sullivan asks a what if? question that's pretty on point:

What if Terri Schiavo had had a living will saying she wouldn't want a feeding tube to keep her alive for decades with no reasonable hope for recovery?....The arguments of the proponents for keeping the feeding tube in indefinitely suggest that removing the tube is simply murder. If that is the case, then how can removing the tube ever be justified - even if she consented in advance? Murder is murder, right? Isn't a "living will" essentially a mandate for future assisted suicide? It seems to me that the logic of the absolutist pro-life advocates means that this should be forbidden too. They should logically support a law which forbids the murder of anyone, regardless of living wills.

So how does the Christian Right feel about this? Sullivan realizes quickly that they've already said:

In a subtle but ultimately very radical piece, Eric Cohen argues that the will of the vegetative person to be allowed to die, even if expressed in a living will or supported by all her family, is not the real issue here. People cannot be allowed to revoke life simply because it is theirs' to revoke:

[T]he real lesson of the Schiavo case is not that we all need living wills; it is that our dignity does not reside in our will alone, and that it is foolish to believe that the competent person I am now can establish, in advance, how I should be cared for if I become incapacitated and incompetent. The real lesson is that we are not mere creatures of the will: We still possess dignity and rights even when our capacity to make free choices is gone; and we do not possess the right to demand that others treat us as less worthy of care than we really are ... [T]he autonomy regime, even at its best, is deeply inadequate. It is based on a failure to recognize that the human condition involves both giving and needing care, and not always being morally free to decide our own fate.

So if we reject the "autonomy regime," what replaces it? The moral obligation to keep even people in PVS in permanent medical care, regardless of her own wishes or that of the family....The only possibility, it seems to me, is that the law state emphatically that living wills are not dispositive, that family wishes are not relevant, and that the law set a series of medical or moral criteria to determine whether to keep someone alive indefinitely. Doctors and families would be obliged to obey such laws. The state would be obliged to enforce them - through the police power if necessary. What if the family could not afford the care? Presumably the state would be required to provide it. So let us be plain: the theoconservative vision would remove the right of individuals to decide their own fate in such cases, and would exclude the family from such a decision as well. Indeed, the law might even compel the family to provide care as long as they were capable of doing so....They have gone from saying that a pregnant mother has no autonomy over her own body because another human being is involved to saying that a person has no ultimate autonomy over her own body at all. These are the stakes. The very foundation of modern freedom - autonomy over one's own physical body - is now under attack. And if a theocon government won't allow you control over your own body, what else do you have left?

I've always been leery of the nanny staters, and for a good long time, it seemed like there were more of them on my side of the aisle. But scolding me about eating too much is far less intrusive than telling me what medical procedures I must endure in order to go on "living," far less offensive in telling me that it's better my daughter bankrupt herself keeping my brainless hulk breathing than allow me to go on to my final rest--thus hurting me and my family simultaneously.

And of course, that doesn't even get into the rest of the theocon agenda: ending access to birth control, limiting drinking and gambling, criminalizing cohabitation between unmarried men and women, and of course, the continued assault on gay rights.

The theocons have been fond in recent weeks of saying that the Right to Life is the most fundamental right, but anyone who's studied liberal thought knows that really, the most fundamental right is the Right to Property. The "right to life" is just a way of saying that you have an inherent possession of your life, and its disposition is up to you, so long as it does not interfere with anyone else's right to same.

It follows, then, that if you have the right to life, you also have the right to decide on what terms that life ends, whether you do so by volunteering for combat or having risky surgery or, possibly, having the feeding tube removed; so long as your decision does not adversely affect anyone else, that decision is yours and yours alone.

The theocons don't believe this; they believe your life is so important that you can't be trusted to decide what you can do with it. Someone else must decide for you. Down that road is every bad inclination there is--and if you have libertarian leanings as I do, you have to recognize that down that road is a place we must not allow our country to go.

A Firing Offense

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) should resign his position based on these comments. If he doesn't, the Senate should kick him out.

What did Cornyn say to merit such anger on my part? This is what:

"It causes a lot of people, including me, great distress to see judges use the authority that they have been given to make raw political or ideological decisions," he said. Sometimes, he said, "the Supreme Court has taken on this role as a policymaker rather than an enforcer of political decisions made by elected representatives of the people."

Cornyn continued: "I don't know if there is a cause-and-effect connection, but we have seen some recent episodes of courthouse violence in this country. . . . And I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters, on some occasions, where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in, engage in violence. Certainly without any justification, but a concern that I have."

Oh, of course no justification. Why, you know, I think that part of the reason people want to kill United States Senators is that they mouth off a lot and make jackasses of themselves, and that builds up to the point where some people engage in violence--but of course, purely unjustified violence, except for the justification I just gave you.

This is beyond contempt. It is all but saying that it's okay to shoot a judge. I've heard of warfare between the branches, but this is beyond the pale.

Cornyn should apologize. Then he should resign. There is no place in our government for those who would confuse the bullet with the ballot.

Friday, April 01, 2005
Update: Pope's Condition Grave

Earlier reports soft-peddled this, but the writing is on the wall:

Pope John Paul was in a "very grave" condition on Friday and appeared close to death after suffering cardio-circulatory collapse and shock, the Vatican said in a statement.

I am not a Catholic, and indeed find much to disagree with in the Catholic faith; that said, I wish those of the Catholic faith strength in the coming days. I'll be praying for you.