Thursday, November 29, 2007

The President's New Job Description: Soldier-in-Chief

One of the interesting sidelights from the Joe Klein/FISA column scandal, about which Glenn Greenwald has written with such passion and clarity, is the way in which Klein misstated the nature of the president's Constitutional role:

And then there's Klein's claim, citing Chris Dodd, that "when the President takes the oath of office, he (or she) promises two things: to protect the Constitution and to protect the nation against enemies, foreign and domestic." Klein warns Democrats that to win in 2008, they must "find the proper balance between those two." But the oath of office which the President takes actually says nothing of the kind:

Each president recites the following oath, in accordance with Article II, Section I of the U.S. Constitution:

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Directly contrary to what Klein said, Presidents only swear to "defend the Constitution," not to "to protect the nation against enemies, foreign and domestic."

Like many others, I'm sure, I wondered about this. The phrase "against all enemies, foreign and domestic," is in fact a familiar one. Where does it actually come from, and how did people like Chris Dodd and Joe Klein mistakenly insert it into the presidential oath of office?

Here is the answer:
The wordings of the current oath of enlistment and oath for commissioned officers are as follows:

"I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God." (Title 10, US Code; Act of 5 May 1960 replacing the wording first adopted in 1789, with amendment effective 5 October 1962).

"I, _____ (SSAN), having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of _____ do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God." (DA Form 71, 1 August 1959, for officers.)
So neither Dodd nor Klein simply made up the phrase "enemies foreign or domestic." They borrowed it--unwittingly, I'm sure--from the oath a soldier takes upon enlisting in the Army.

Which makes the mistake two things: A careless factual error; and a small but significant additional illustration of the growing militarization of our country.

Apparently it's not bad enough that our politicians and much of the mainstream media now routinely refer to the president as "our commander in chief," as if he is some sort of military dictator whose orders we are all bound to obey. Now they actually want to (symbolically) enlist him in the uniformed services, as if his chief responsibility is to patrol the country, rifle in hand, prepared to gun down our "enemies."

Makes me wonder why we bothered asking Musharraf to retire from his army post in Pakistan. We seem to be drifting in the opposite direction here in the USA.

Labels: , , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Grameen Bank Responds To Cyclone Sidr

By now, you are surely aware of the devastation suffered by southwestern Bangladesh in the wake of Cyclone Sidr. Hundreds of thousands of poor people have lost their homes, and millions more have lost their livelihoods due to the destruction of farms, fish ponds, roads, and other basic infrastructure. The death toll, currently less than 5,000, is expected to rise to close to 10,000 once all the damage has been accounted for.

You may be wondering how you can help. International agencies such as CARE have been providing immediate assistance to the survivors, delivering food, potable water, medicines, clothing, and short-term shelter. Episcopal Relief and Development is also on the scene, working, as they usually do, with local churches and humanitarian organizations to provide assistance. Aid organizations like these are always in need of support and would surely appreciate your help at this time.

I've also heard directly from Muhammad Yunus of Grameen Bank regarding his organization's response to the disaster:

Sorry for the delay in responding. I was visiting the worst affected areas and meeting the people who are the victims of this terrible disaster.

I wanted to follow up [you] with regarding the actions that Grameen Bank has taken in wake of the cyclone. As you know, Grameen Bank has already started to work with those affected. Around 675,000 Grameen Bank members have been affected by the cyclone in the affected areas of Barisal, Patuakhali, Borguna and Pirojpur. All our loan repayments have been suspended until 30 June 2008 for the areas that were hit by the cyclone.

We have also sent out 6-8 medical teams, each headed by graduate doctors, and supported by paramedics. These teams are handing out essential medicines. Local arrangements have been made for the vaccination and treatment of the affected livestock.

Our Branch Offices have taken the responsibility of distributing dry food, saline, alum and medical supplies. We are donating clothes, especially warm clothes, to the affected people as winter sets in. We are also distributing vegetable seeds to compensate for the loss of crops, rebuilding all damaged center houses that members use for Grameen Bank activities. We are also paying for exam entry fees and buying school supplies of children affected by the cyclone.

Grameen Bank has launched a massive housing loan program. These loans will be interest free. While the rebuilding is going on, we are planning on setting up temporary housing for the victims in order to provide some shelter from the cold weather that is setting in. Grameen Bank is giving out loans to compensate business capital losses.

Information about emergency response of Grameen Bank is on our website, The emergency activities are being carried out from our own funds.

However, recognizing the need for providing people with long-term and sustainable solutions, we are offering the possibility for our friends around the world to partner for future disaster preparedness through the following long term rebuilding activities:

Hospitals: Each hospital will cost approximately US$ 1 million. The hospitals will be run as social businesses, that is, non loss non dividend companies to provide medical treatment to the vulnerable population in the cyclone prone area at the lowest possible cost that will enable the hospitals to be run on a sustainable basis.

Cyclone shelters: Bangladesh has about an estimated 1,500 cyclone shelters. Grameen Bank can undertake to build cyclone shelters in the areas hit by Cyclone Sidr. Each cyclone shelter will cost US$ 130,000 and will hold up to 2,000 people. Bangladesh needs an additional 2,500 new cyclone shelters. We will shortly putt up pictures of cyclone shelters and design on our website.

Life saving Coastal Embankments: Coastal areas must have solid life protecting embankments to save lives. This has already proved to be a very reliable life saving device for human beings and animals, and also protecting the crops.

Rebuilding Homes: Each home will cost US$ 150 to build in the areas worst hit. People from around the world can contribute to building houses for people who lost their homes.

Scholarships for Children of Cyclone-Affected Families: A US$ 1,000 scholarship fund will enable each child from a cyclone affected to get through school. The scholarship would cover the costs of tuition, books, supplies and stationery, school uniforms for all the remaining years of school for the child.

Solar & Bio Gas Plants: Solar and biogas plants can bring electricity in the homes which do not have access to grid electricity.

Afforestation: Afforestation, along the embankment will reduce the windspeed of cyclones and protect the people from heavy on-rush of water.

As you can see, Grameen Bank is trying to develop a long-term strategy to protect residents of the disaster-prone portions of Bangladesh. This is a big endeavor that will take time and significant resources.

You can read more about this ambitious program by following this link. If you happen to have access to potential funding--for example, through your church or synogogue, or through a connection with a corporation or foundation that makes charitable donations--you might consider offering your support.

Labels: , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Monday, November 26, 2007

Maybe "Tin-Plated" Is More Like It

In this post titled "The Sacred Cow of Social Security," Andrew Sullivan links to a WaPo op-ed and comments:
Amity Shlaes does us all a favor by reminding us of the actual purpose of social security: in FDR's words, to provide "some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family." That's it. Not total security. Not a total guarantee that the gold-plated benefits of the late-century will keep growing and growing. And not a peg to wages rather than prices, linking retirees to current wage-earners rather than actual needs.
Well. Thanks to my relatively high earnings, I have been contributing the maximum to my Social Security account for the last twenty years. If I continue to do so until I retire in twelve years, I can expect to receive monthly benefits of $2,205--a bit over $26,000 per year.

By Andrew Sullivan's standard, that is a "gold-plated" lifestyle.
AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Too Many TV Choices? Impossible

In today's Times, Joe Nocera, one of the better business writers around, columnizes about the issue of a la carte cable. As you may know, some economists, politicians, consumer advocates, and TV viewers have been asking for a regulation that would require cable companies to let subscribers pick and choose individual stations rather than buying the usual huge bundle of programming. The idea is also supported by conservative "family" groups that want an easy way to keep children from watching evil stations like MTV, with all those nekkid ladies and (dare I say it?) Black faces.

In his column, Nocera takes apart the economics of the idea, showing why a la carte cable would almost certainly be much more expensive for consumers than bundled service, even as it delivers a much smaller range of programming. (Short explanation: Suppose 25 percent of all cable subscribers opt to purchase a particular service, which would be a very high success rate. It would be necessary for the network to quadruple its per-subscriber charge just to break even. Other, less popular, networks might have to up their per-subscriber rates by eight or ten or twenty times. Multiply it out, and suddenly you are paying more per month for a handful of stations than you currently pay for 200.)

I hate this idea because of how it would affect me personally. Mary-Jo and I have different approaches to TV viewing. She has a collection of preferred stations among which she regularly rotates: the broadcast networks, the big news outlets, several PBS stations, the Food and Travel channels, and a handful of others. She knows the channel numbers for each of her favorites, zips from one to the next, and then either settles down with a show she likes or else switches off the TV and picks up a book.

I, on the other hand, am a classic surfer. I grab the remote and start skipping through all the channels, reading the show titles as they pop up on the screen and sampling programs that sound promising for a few seconds at a time. Sometimes I pick a show and watch it straight through, but more often I watch in five- or ten-minute snatches.

This method has its drawbacks. I am sure I waste more time with the TV than Mary-Jo does. Surfing also works only for one person at a time: It is such a fast-reaction process that it is basically impossible for two people to make the skip-or-stay decisions jointly. ("Wait, what was that?! Go back! No, not that far! That's it! Oh, forget it--it's gone now" etc.)

On the other hand, the beauty of surfing is that it allows for happy discoveries via serendipity. I often find great things that are worth watching--at least for ten minutes!--on channels that Mary-Jo barely knows about. In the past week, for example, I've wasted time pleasantly sampling shows about painting on Gallery, nature and travel programs on National Geographic, offbeat or classic movies on AMC and World Cinema, rock concerts on Rave, old James Bond flicks on Spike . . . you get the idea.

If Mary-Jo and I had to pick channels to subscribe to and pay for them individually, I doubt we would buy any of these. But it's great having them around to stumble across. And I honestly think they have helped increased my store of cultural, historic, and scientific knowledge. I have at least vague, partial information of lots of things from having spent ten minutes learning about them while channel surfing: How the six species of camels differ from one another (Animal Planet), how helicopters do tricky air maneuvers (Discovery Science), what kinds of giant structures LEGO collectors build with their blocks (Treasure), how the Greek isles look from overhead (Equator), what kinds of bathing suits Red Carter was showing at the last Fashion Week in New York (Ultra HD), exactly how ridiculous Robert Vaughn looked in a loincloth in Roger Corman's Teenage Caveman (Film Fest), what goes on backstage at the Purina Dog Show (Bravo), etc. etc.

I could live without any one of these fragments of information, but I would hate to be deprived of all of them. (Hey, you never know when the topic of LEGO collecting might come up at a party!) And of course the a la carte system would practically kill the random fun of channel surfing, reducing my TV fare to the pre-selected and therefore the predictable.

Channel surfing is my 50-ish equivalent of the library browsing I used to do when I was a kid. Many of the most interesting books I ever read were books I discovered by chance (to this day I resent libraries with closed stacks). It's about letting yourself be exposed to the wealth of human experience in all its weird, unpredictable, tawdry, magnificent variety. I think this is why God made the universe--because He likes a world that is crazy, colorful, and almost-but-not-quite chaotic. And if God likes it that way, who am I to argue?

To me there is something fascistic about the idea that we are supposed to know in advance everything we want to experience--and that we should deliberately wall ourselves off from everything else, lest we ever (horrors!) discover something unexpected or new. It's not surprising that Christian fundamentalists are behind this a la carte idea. Hopefully enough people will look closely at it and kill it before it gets passed based on bogus "consumer protection" claims.

Labels: , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Clinton Machine Crushes All--Not Even Talk Shows Are Safe

From Andrew Sullivan on Monday:
Clinton Works "The View": Not a stone is unturned in her impressively relentless campaign.
From Andrew Sullivan on Tuesday:
Michelle's Move: Obama's wife will be co-hosting "The View" next month.
But of course there's nothing "relentless" (or even "ruthless" or "cutthroat") about it when Michelle does it.

Labels: , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Maureen Dowd's Latest Dispatch From The World of Her Personal Psychodrama

I was out of town this past Sunday, so it wasn't till today that I got a chance to read Maureen Dowd's latest junior-high-school gossip column masquerading as political analysis.

Just as a number of progressive bloggers had warned me, the column was deeply cringe-worthy in classic Mo Dowd style, with its contrast between "Mistress Hillary" the "debate dominatrix" and the wimpish "Obambi" who, she implied, has already been emasculated by his wife and therefore is happy to accept discipline from the shrewish Clinton.

The Times is providing quite a public service by giving us these twice-weekly projections from Mo's subconscious--and saving Dowd a bundle on psychotherapy, I imagine.

She capped off the column with these paragraphs about yet another character in her internal psychodrama:
If Rudy's the nominee, he will go with relish to all the vulnerable places in Hillary's past. At the Federalist Society on Friday, he had barely spoken the word "she" before the audience began tittering appreciatively.

He went through a whole faux-bemused riff on Hillary's driver's license twists without ever uttering her name: "First, she was for the idea, and supported Governor Spitzer, who wanted to give driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. Then she was against the idea. Then she was for and against the idea. And then finally she said it should be decided on a state-by-state basis. This is the only time in her career that she's ever decided anything should be decided on a state-by-state basis. You know something? She picked out absolutely the wrong one. Right? I mean, this is one of the areas that is given to the federal government to deal with under our Constitution, the borders of the United States, immigration."

Rudy laced his speech with faith references, including the assertion that America has "a divinely inspired role in the world" and a mission to "save a civilization from Islamic terrorism."

Hillary has her work cut out for her. Rudy will not be so easy to spank.
In Dowd's mind, her job as a columnist is mainly to tease out the psychosexual implications of the national political debate--or, if there are none, to make some up. She does it admirably.

But if Dowd were actually interested in politics or government, she might have noticed something else about the quotation from Giuliani: That it makes no sense at all. Rudy mocks Clinton for saying that the question of who gets drivers' licenses is a state matter, not a federal one. (And Dowd admiringly quotes his mockery to prove his mettle as a candidate.)

But of course the fact of the matter is that drivers' licenses are issued by states--not the federal government. Always have been, always will be. And no one, including Giuliani, is proposing otherwise. So when Giuliani says that "this is one of the areas that is given to the federal government to deal with under our Constitution," he is simply making things up--no matter whether the members of the Federalist Society find it titter-worthy or not.

Too bad little things like the facts aren't worthy of mention in The Newspaper of Record. Dowd's admiration for Giuliani is the appreciation of one narcissistic fantasist for another. God help the country that looks to people like these for insight or leadership.

Labels: , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Sunday, November 11, 2007

There Are No Honorary Men

A bunch of us were chatting the other night about the Democratic presidential field, and someone expressed dismay over the fact that Hillary--with her hawkish, old-school approach to politics--is the front-runner for the nomination. "She's just not inspiring," was the comment. As for her gender, which might otherwise make her an appealing, ground-breaking figure, even that doesn't help matters, because "She's an honorary man."

If anyone on the American scene could be an honorary man, it would probably be Clinton. But in this post, the ever-brilliant Digby shows exactly why there are no honorary men in our political system--at least not in the eyes of the men. No matter how skillfully and conservatively you play the old boys' game, if you are a woman you will never be treated as one of the old boys by the insecure junior-high-school nerds who dominate the national conversation. Instead they will snigger and insinuate and introduce idiotic standards for measuring "character" designed solely to justify gossip-mongering and innuendo (check out Tucker Carlson's question, "Which candidate would be the most severe when it comes to toilet training?").

Yesterday on NPR I heard part of an historical account of the 1983 election of Harold Washington, the first Black mayor of Chicago. The story described some of the incredible racist barriers thrown up in his way by the white power structure, even after Washington won the Democratic primary (which under normal circumstances is tantamount to election in Chicago). I'm talking about things like Republican opponent Bernie Epton running on a slogan of "Epton Before It's Too Late" and vandals decorating Roman Catholic churches where Washington spoke with "Die Nigger Die" graffiti.

One of the most astute observations in the story was a comment by Washington himself concerning the double standard Black politicians are judged by to this day. He was talking about a line that he and some of his supporters liked to use among themselves during that first campaign: "It's our turn now." When white politicians and commentators heard about it, they called it "racist" and "hateful."

Washington's observation (slightly paraphrased): "When Irish-Americans try to elect an Irish-American, that's good politics. When Polish-Americans try to elect a Polish-American, it's good politics. But when Black Americans try to elect a Black American, that's racism."

Now Hillary is facing an exactly parallel double standard. According to the Tucker Carlsons and the Chris Matthews of the world, white males who declare they could never vote for a woman for president are understandably fearful of the effect that a powerful female leader might have on their fragile psyches. But if Hillary even indirectly intimates that women might want to vote for her because she is a woman, that is "playing the gender card," an illegitimate, dishonest, despicable tactic that would justify drumming her out of the race altogether.

Imagine the vitriol these self-appointed gatekeepers of our political system would be spreading if Hillary were in fact a strongly progressive, feminist voice! But even being a cautious, bend-over-backward moderate doesn't make her "an honorary man" in their eyes, because as far as they are concerned there is no such thing. Just as any Black person who is perceived as threatening to white privilege becomes "just another nigger" when the chips are down, so any woman with a chance at real power becomes a "castrating bitch."

I wish this weren't the case, but I'm afraid it's true. It makes me embarrassed to be a man.

Labels: , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Sullivan: "Racism Is A Thing Of The Past--Just Ask Your Local Racist"

I guess it's nice that Andrew Sullivan has fallen in love with Barack Obama--it's a big step up from George W. Bush--but does he really think that this is a telling argument in favor of Obama's electability?
A reader writes: "The next person that tells me that the American people will not elect a black person to the Presidency will be asked to name five specific people--family, friends, acquaintances, neighbors, co-workers, you name it--who will not vote for Obama because he is black. I will then volunteer to contact those people to give them an opportunity to defend themselves against this tired, old, self-aggrandizing libel." I seem to have more faith in the American people than some Democrats.
If the reader's challenge is supposed to demonstrate that there is no more racism among American voters, then I guess one could also prove that there is no more homophobia or sexism in America by visiting five notorious gay-bashers or wife-beaters and asking them for a public confession.

If this is the best stuff you can come up with, Andrew, you really are putting up too many posts every day.

Labels: , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

America's Lousy Image: The Problem Is Not Karen Hughes

Robert Satloff's article, "How To Win the War of Ideas", in today's WaPo, is couched in the form of advice to the Bush administration as to how it should reshape its efforts to connect with people in the Muslim world in the wake of the Karen Hughes fiasco. In fact, however, it demonstrates why only a Democratic administration has any real hope of success in this arena.

Here is the heart of Satloff's argument:
Hughes's resignation gives Bush one last chance to get this right. This requires a conceptual revolution. Rather than expend effort on winning Muslim friendship for America, our engagement with Muslim publics--what we call "public diplomacy"--should focus on identifying, nurturing and supporting anti-Islamist Muslims, from secular liberals to pious believers, who fear the encroachment of radical Islamists and are willing to make a stand.

This strategy would involve overt and covert ways to assist anti-Islamist political parties, nongovernmental organizations, trade unions, media outlets, women's groups, educational institutions and youth movements as they compete with the radicals. It calls for marshaling government resources--our embassies, aid bureaucracies, international broadcasting units and intelligence agencies, as well as our commercial, educational and civic relationships--to give anti-Islamists the moral, political, financial, technological and material support they need.
Satloff's program is a reasonable one--and it is impossible for the Bush administration to follow. Why? Look at the list of groups Satloff urges the U.S. to work with: NGOs, unions, the media, women's and young people's organizations, etc. These are all key groups for developing liberalism within the Islamic world--and they are exactly the kinds of groups that the Bush administration and the radical conservatives they're aligned with regard as deadly enemies.

How can conservatives befriend labor unions, women's groups, human rights supporters, and other left-wing organizations abroad while undermining and attacking them at home? It can't be done. The conservatives have no friends, allies, or connections among the parallel groups in the U.S.; they don't speak their language or share their concerns; and so every word and action they offer in support of such groups abroad is open to the obvious and accurate charge of hypocrisy.

In his book The Abolition of Man, C. S. Lewis distinguishes "education" and "propaganda." Education, he says, is about passing along values in which you yourself believe and which you try to live by; propaganda, by contrast, is about trying to convince other people to believe in values that you don't actually share because it will benefit you if they do so. In Lewis's words, true education treats students "as grown birds deal with young birds when they teach them to fly," while propaganda "deals with them more as the poultry-keeper deals with young birds--making them thus or thus for purposes of which the birds know nothing."

For modern-day conservatives, advocating unionization, civil rights, feminism, and freedom of speech in the Arab world can never be anything more than hollow propaganda. The beliefs espoused are so obviously contrary to what the conservatives actually believe that they inevitably appear as mere cynical attempts to manipulate foreign audiences for the benefit of America--which in fact is what they are. No wonder public attitudes toward the U.S. continued to worsen during Karen Hughes's mission to Islam.

Only liberal Democrats can effectively defend such freedoms abroad, because those are the same freedoms they live by at home. (It's not a coincidence that the U.S. presidents who are generally admired in the countries of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East are Kennedy, Carter, and Clinton. Despite their flaws, and their overall support for the American imperialist enterprise, there was at least some connection between their domestic political values and the values they espoused overseas.)

That's why a mere shift in P.R. tactics can't make the Bush administration or any like-minded Republican successor truly effective at public diplomacy. The only real hope is an entirely new government with dramatically different values.

Labels: , , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A Suggestion For Right-Wing Authors: Go Hollywood And Go Union

Under the heading of "Schadenfreude Alert," Kevin Drum links to this story about disgruntled conservative book authors who are suing their publisher, Regnery, the notorious source of some of the most dishonest right-wing screeds of recent years. Seems Regnery may have been short-changing authors on royalties through some fancy footwork involving books distributed at very low cost through publisher-owned book clubs.

As you can imagine, Kevin's post has elicited plenty of comments mocking the conservative authors for their sudden disenchantment with the glories of unfettered capitalism and their equally sudden enthusiasm for our "out-of-control" tort system. I am certainly happy to join the derisive chorus. But from another angle, this story is just a different version of the dynamic we see at work in the current strike by film and TV writers.

In both cases, the issue is fundamentally the same: How should ancillary revenues from a media product generated by creative talent be fairly distributed among the people and organizations that contribute to its success? And in both cases, we see the same basic principle at work: Given the opportunity, a media company will always look for ways to ensure that new streams of money will flow directly into their pockets, leaving as little as possible for the creative originators.

And why not? The management of a TV network, a movie studio, or a book publisher is ultimately beholden to the shareholders, and their main responsibility is to maximize profits. Obviously they have to pay the writers something--otherwise nothing will get written. But as good capitalists, their job is to try to make that something as small as possible. Which naturally leads to conflict, whether in the form of a writers' strike or a lawsuit.

Of course, the Hollywood writers have a lot better chance of ultimately getting a fair deal on their royalties than the Regnery authors, and the reason is the clout they demonstrate by striking. And even if the Regnery Five win their lawsuit, it won't benefit the thousands of other book authors, at Regnery and elsewhere, who basically have no choice but to accept the contract terms their publisher offers them.

So the real lesson of both stories is that unionization is the best path to securing workers' rights.
It's nice to fantasize about the conservative authors (and their readers) eventually coming to recognize that . . . but I'm not holding my breath.

Labels: , , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

The Literal Insanity To Which The Logic Of Torture Leads

Via Andrew Sullivan:
"Waterboarding is something of which every American should be proud,"--Deroy Murdock, National Review.

Have you noticed that the pro-torture right has gone from saying that torture is abhorrent to saying that torture isn't occurring to saying that torture is not torture to now saying that torture is "something of which every American should be proud". And why not indeed? The Cheney logic is impregnable: the president is not bound by the law or the Geneva Conventions; torture reveals information that allows the government to seize individuals who might at some point commit terror attacks; the president's job is to prevent terror attacks. Torture is thereby a good.
This is indeed the inevitable logic of tyranny. In the ante-bellum South, the same logic was applied in defense of slavery, until ultimately even Christian clergymen could be found to assert that slavery not only was not an evil but was a positive good.

As you might expect, the best evisceration of this logic came from Lincoln:
The sum of pro-slavery theology seems to be this: "Slavery is not universally right, nor yet universally wrong; it is better for some people to be slaves; and, in such cases, it is the Will of God that they be such."

Certainly there is no contending against the Will of God; but still there is some difficulty in ascertaining, and applying it, to particular cases. For instance we will suppose the Rev. Dr. Ross has a slave named Sambo, and the question is "Is it the Will of God that Sambo shall remain a slave, or be set free?" The Almighty gives no audable [sic] answer to the question, and his revelation--the Bible--gives none--or, at most, none but such as admits of a squabble, as to it's meaning. No one thinks of asking Sambo's opinion on it. So, at last, it comes to this, that Dr. Ross is to decide the question. And while he consider [sic] it, he sits in the shade, with gloves on his hands, and subsists on the bread that Sambo is earning in the burning sun. If he decides that God wills Sambo to continue a slave, he thereby retains his own comfortable position; but if he decides that God wills Sambo to be free, he thereby has to walk out of the shade, throw off his gloves, and delve for his own bread. Will Dr. Ross be actuated by that perfect impartiality, which has ever been considered most favorable to correct decisions?

But, slavery is good for some people!!! As a good thing, slavery is strikingly peculiar [sic], in this, that it is the only good thing which no man ever seeks the good of, for himself.
I suppose slavery is now no longer "the only good thing" that no one wants for himself. We can add waterboarding to the list.

Labels: , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Back On Line

Our apologies for being off the grid since Saturday morning. There was a major problem with our hosting provider that zapped thousands of websites, now finally fixed--the first such headache we've experienced in over six years of service.
AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Monday, November 05, 2007

If You Crave Bitter Cliched Ranting, Have I Got a Show For You

On WFAN radio in New York, I've been hearing ads for Sports Unfiltered, a new Dennis Miller show airing on the Versus network (formerly known as the Outdoor Life Network). God knows I am no expert on radio programming. But why anyone would want to schedule a sports talk show featuring a right-wing blowhard who moreover was ranked the worst Monday Night Football commentator of all time in a 2006 poll is beyond me.

And then check out the supposedly boffo laugh lines the agency picked to highlight in the promotional ad:

Hey, I don't want to be the turd in the punch bowl, but calling big-time college football players "student athletes" is like calling Dr. J. an M.D.

Face it, folks, reading the sports pages these days is more depressing than watching Britney dance.

Are sports completely Teflon? What is it going to take to turn us all away? I guess Al Qaeda is going to have to buy the Cowboys and win the next Super Bowl on the back of a rejuvenated O.J. And don't laugh, folks--Juice looked pretty spry in his latest perp walk, didn't he?
Making jokes about Britney Spears and O.J. Simpson doesn't seem terribly witty or innovative this late in the day. But what makes this whole exercise especially egregious is the fact that, based on the ad itself, Miller is offering a sports talk show that is relentlessly negative about sports. Who exactly is this supposed to attract? Don't sports fans like sports? If someone actually considers sports meaningless and depressing, as Miller evidently does, why on earth would he or she tune in to a sports talk show?

I have a feeling that Sports Unfiltered may end up being every bit as successful as The Chevy Chase Show--and deservedly so.

Labels: , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Men Go A Little Nuts Over Hillary

Not being a woman, I can't speak from personal experience about the nature of "the secondary conversation" that women might have apart from the men, in which they share the realities of their lives in ways that might not fly in mixed company. Nonetheless, I intuitively sense that this post by Garance Franke-Ruta at TAPPED is describing accurately what happened to Hillary Clinton this past week.

I also feel strongly, with Ezra Klein, that accusing Clinton of "playing the gender card" based on her comments at Wellesley is just ludicrous. What, is she not even allowed to mention the fact that she is a women--even when visiting with fellow-alumnae from an all-woman college?

And how is saying, "In so many ways, this all-women's college prepared me to compete in the all-boys club of presidential politics," in any way to claim victimization? I think Obama's claim that Hillary said, in effect, "Don't pick on me" in the aftermath of last week's debate is a real distortion. He lost some stature in my eyes with that unfair attack.

If you ask me (you didn't, but play along), the article that best explains the dynamic in the Democratic race this week is one that didn't even mention Hillary Clinton. It is this New York Times story by Lisa Belkin--in the Style section!--describing the psychological obstacles that professional women face when they seek advancement:
"It's enough to make you dizzy," said Ilene H. Lang, the president of Catalyst, an organization that studies women in the workplace. "Women are dizzy, men are dizzy, and we still don't have a simple straightforward answer as to why there just aren't enough women in positions of leadership."

Catalyst's research is often an exploration of why, 30 years after women entered the work force in large numbers, the default mental image of a leader is still male. Most recent is the report titled "Damned if You Do, Doomed if You Don't," which surveyed 1,231 senior executives from the United States and Europe. It found that women who act in ways that are consistent with gender stereotypes--defined as focusing "on work relationships" and expressing "concern for other people's perspectives"--are considered less competent. But if they act in ways that are seen as more "male"--like "act assertively, focus on work task, display ambition"--they are seen as "too tough" and "unfeminine."

Women can't win.
Abe Foxman of the ADL likes to point out how the stereotypes of Jews harbored by anti-Semites are mutually contradictory: Jews are "too clannish" and "too attached to their own kind," but they also are "too pushy" and "too eager to force their way into circles where they aren't welcome"; they are "too liberal" and "closet Communists," but they are also "arch-capitalists" who "secretly rule the business world."

I see Hillary as being up against the same kind of self-contradictory attacks. She's an ultra-liberal bogeywoman hated by the Right, but also a Bush-appeasing hawk hated by the Left; a naive ideologue pushing an extreme agenda, but also a flip-flopping weathervane who will say anything to get elected; a vicious pursuer of vendettas driven by the desire for revenge on her enemies, but also a robotic "Stepford Wife" candidate programmed to behave only in politically correct fashion.

And now, apparently, the mainstream media consider it out-of-bounds for her to make an appeal to one of her most important natural constituencies--women (who constitute more than half of the Democratic Party and the national electorate). They call it "playing the gender card," as though this is somehow sleazy. Since when? Have the morning talk shows ever attacked any of the Republican candidates for "playing the religion card" in their appeals to "Christians"? Speaking as both a Christian and a man, I find those appeals far more divisive and offensive than Hillary's comments about being a woman in a male-dominated profession.

Maybe Tim Russert and Chris Matthews can get together a write a list of approved campaign strategies for Hillary, along with a description of the clothes she is allowed to wear, the places she is allowed to visit, the people she is allowed to meet, and the facial expressions she is allowed to wear. Such a list would be interesting to see and it might make it easier for future female candidates to win the approval of the self-proclaimed gatekeepers of our political system.

Labels: , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

"Infused with entrepreneurial spirit and the excitement of a worthy challenge."--Publishers Weekly

Read more . . .


What do GE, Pepsi, and Toyota know that Exxon, Wal-Mart, and Hershey don't?  It's sustainability . . . the business secret of the twenty-first century.

Read more . . .