Wednesday, July 27, 2005

No Rick Santorum?

Boo! Rick Santorum has decided not to run for president. (Tip to "The Has-Been" over at Slate.) It's so much more fun when crazy people run for president. Like Alan Keyes, for example. He was easily the best debater of the Republican presidential candidates; he was seemingly the only one able to respond to questions extemporaneously, rather than just reciting canned answers. Of course, he was also completely insane.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Mitt Romney Forgets Which State He's Governing

For those of you waiting for me to complain about Republicans, wait no more. Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney -- he of the strong white teeth and perfect hair-do -- just vetoed a bill passed by the state legislature that would expand access to the so-called morning after pill. I actually voted for this guy, because, at the time, I was tired of having to vote for uninspiring Democrats (see Al Gore) and because Romney didn't seem all that bad. Massachusetts was facing a major fiscal crisis with the downturn in the economy, tax revenues were way down, and having a reasonably competent business man as governor seemed like a good idea. He also made a good case for being pro-environment, a promise that he has actually done reasonably well in fulfilling. And, while I had no illusions that I would be likely to agree with a Mormon Republican on social issues, I figured he would be limited in his ability to do any real damage, partly because Massachusetts isn't Utah, and partly because a governor just doesn't do that much to set policy on major social issues.

That has proved basically true, as his completely ineffectual opposition to gay marriage demonstrated. However, in the past year, Romney has basically stopped governing Massachusetts in favor of running for president of a political party that likes to use Massachusetts as the poster child for all that's evil in the world (see Rick Santorum). So he decides to veto a bill that was passed by an overwhelming majority of the state legislators. It would be nice if he actually tried to look after the interests of Massachusetts, rather the interests of South Carolina's Republican primary voters.

I'll be keeping an eye for out for Romney's activities as he continues to operate as Shadow Governor.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Bringing some much needed credibility to the anti-war movement

Jane Fonda is going to start a bus tour calling for the troops to come home from Iraq. Can you imagine a more ill-conceived idea than this? Personally, I don't get the continued animosity toward Jane Fonda. As far as I can tell, a silly actress did a very stupid thing a long time ago. I don't know why so many people are still so burned up about it. But they are, and she's particularly reviled among military veterans. This almost sounds like a joke -- maybe something a Republican would dream up to make the left look bad.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Hey, I Got Noticed!

I don't know how it works, but somehow Technorati tracks blog links to Salon stories, and it picked up old Bellhorn at bat talking about that John Roberts story. Also mentions this "Compare and Contrast" post on a blog called Fagistan (good name). This guy also notices how unpleasant it is to have a Black Seat and Lady's Seat on the Supreme Court. Maybe he'll notice me now that I've linked to him; according to Technorati, he has 23 links while I have zero.

Do I sound desperate to be noticed? Ok. Because I am, you know.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Is John Roberts too white and male?

In this Salon article "Not Another White Man!" Farhad Manjoo argues that Bush should have nominated a woman or minority candidate to replace Sandra Day O'Connor, to keep the Supreme Court from becoming too homogenous. I agree with his point that, sometimes, symbolism is important, and that it's disturbing when an "entire branch of federal government [is] ruled by a body composed of only one woman and just one member of a racial minority." However, he's being short-sighted here, and a little naive about the political climate. Bush is likely to have the chance to nominate another justice, quite possibly the Chief Justice. And, as Manjoo acknowledges, Bush has an excellent record of appointing women and minorities to high office. But Manjoo thinks that, for his first justice appointment, "diversity" should have been Bush's first priority. But this makes no sense. Bush's base has not been busily taking over the federal executive and legislative branches over the past decade so they can have more women and minorities on the court (although I don't think they object to that). They want a solid conservative like Scalia and Thomas. That's their reward, and that's clearly Bush's first priority.

And speaking of Thomas, I was annoyed when the first President Bush -- that's George H.W. -- nominated Clarence Thomas, a black man, to replace Thurgood Marshall, the coincidentally black Supreme Court justice. Particularly laughable was Bush Sr.'s assertion at the nomination announcement that Thomas was "the most qualified person in the country." Wow. Since Thurgood Marshall was made the first black Supreme Court justice, presidents had had a chance to nominate new justices nine times, without once nominating a black one. Yet, when the only black judge retired, the person at the top of this supposed List of People Most Qualified to Become Supreme Court Justice was...another black guy! Imagine the odds!

The problem I had with this was not with the intent to ensure that the Court continued to represent (sort of) the American population, but that the implication seemed to be, this is YOUR slot, black people. And you just get the one. What I'd like to see is serious consideration of all types of people -- minority, female, Jewish, whatever -- every time, not just when one of those "special spots" opens up.

So I have no problem with Bush choosing not to select a woman and send the message that "this is the chick judge slot." Assuming that the next time around he seriously considers candidates who are not white and male. And given his apparent love of Alberto Gonzales and desire to play to the Hispanic vote, there's a good chance he will.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

It's Our Anniversary

Not me and my fiance. Me and my dog, Holly. Two years ago I became a member of the quirky, and just plain weird, Club of Dog Owners.

Holly, who is a fun and cute West Highland terrier, is actually my mother's dog. My mom can no longer look after Holly, so, rather than give her away, I took her in. My fiance very kindly agreed to this arrangement, even though his idea of a proper dog is one that can leap into the air to catch Frisbees. If you throw a Frisbee at Holly, it'll just bounce off her nose while she gives you a puzzled look.

Anyway, it's been interesting to join this club, which is filled with an awful lot of people who seem to have too much time on their hands and an unhealthy obsession with their dogs. For example, check out this fun article by Emily Joffe in Slate on a weird new pet trend: canine freestyle, or dancing with your dog. Yes, people and their dogs, dancing together. According to the Canine Federation website:

Canine Freestyle is a choreographed performance with music, illustrating the training and joyful relationship of a dog and handler team. Watch for the dog to be moving to the beat of the music and look for the bond between the dog and handler.

Or take a recent Boston Globe society page story about a local foodie hot spot that now holds dog and owner cocktail events. They offer such dog treats as a dogmopolitan (lamb broth with beet juice) for $1.50. And people are actually going to these events. Me, I ain't paying $1.50 for a dog treat when Holly spends most of our walks truffling for dirt and wood chips and other mysterious detritus.

And yesterday, during the afternoon dog walk, I chatted with a woman is a dog massager. Yes, she goes to people's homes to massage their dogs, apparently to cleanse the dogs' lymphatic system and keep their joints limber.

I don't know, maybe city-dwelling dog owners are weirder than suburban or rural ones. It's a much bigger decision to have a dog in the city. It's not like you look outside and say, hey, we've got a big yard, let's buy a dog to put in it. No, for us city dwellers, owning a dog takes a bit more effort. Three times a day, my dog and I troop down the four flights of stairs in our building so that Holly can take care of her doggie business. And you can't just skip one of these walks when you're not in the mood. So, if you're going to make that kind of commitment to an animal, you have to be pretty darn committed. Or possibly, you just should be committed.

Monday, July 18, 2005

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming

More evidence of how disturbingly obtuse Hollywood liberals can be. Apparently, the screenwriter for Spielberg's remake of War of the Worlds thinks that the invading aliens can be seen as representing the U.S. military, while the besieged citizens of earth represent Iraqis. (Tip: This story comes via Libertas, a conservative website and Mickey Kaus.)

I don't share Libertas' outrage at the insult to the U.S. miliary -- in fact, I'm tired of this idea that anything anti-U.S. military policy should be taken as a direct insult to actual individuals in the military. But I am disturbed by the continuing moral obtuseness demonstrated by outspoken Hollywood liberals. Here's a guy who apparently feels strongly about opposing forces of evil and oppression, so he casts his eye about the world and sees...Iran's Islamic fundamentalists working to acquire nuclear weapons...moves along to terrorist-training camps sending young men to blow up civilians on subways and buses...ok, no sign of recognition yet...and then alights on the U.S. military overthrowing a dictator, and then struggling -- however badly -- to establish some kind of free, democratic, stable state. And he decides, aha, here is the force of evil I've been seeking to destroy.

It's bizarre. And deeply sad.

So please, ignorant Hollywood liberals, do us a favor and just be quiet. Please. I beg of you. We just can't take any more of the stupidity, wilful ignorance and moral blindness.

No, I am not a Republican

I've been told recently that my blog entries suggest I'm turning Republican. Not true, and a news story today makes an excellent "exhibit number one" for why I'm not and won't become one. From the Associated Press:

A Colorado congressman told a radio show host that the U.S. could "take out" Islamic holy sites if Muslim fundamentalist terrorists attacked the country with nuclear weapons.

As soon as I saw this, I thought, hmm, bet that's a Republican. And indeed it was: Republican congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado (nope, never heard of him either). While not all Republicans are this offensive and stupid, people who are inclined to make these kind of dumb ass comments tend to identify as Republicans. And statements like these are what an awful lot of Republicans say behind closed doors. I've heard Republicans, when they think no "outsiders" are listening, refer to Muslims as towelheads. During the recent Rick Durbin flap, outraged Republicans writing on conservative blogs wittily dubbed the the senator "Turbin Durbin," revealing themselves to be not only racist but illiterate!

While obviously not all Republicans are like this, you can tell something about the differences between the two parties by the fact that belligerent and racist yahoos like this don't sign up to be Democrats. This is one major reason why I bang on so much about how liberals and Democrats need to toughen up on foreign policy. The fact is, as long as liberals refuse to regonize any legitimate use of American military power, there is no credible alternative for most Americans who do want a strong, forceful foreign policy. The only people offering them that are Republicans, who as we see when they inadvertantly reveal their true selves, are not going to uphold the kind of standards for decency and respect for other cultures (NOT for terrorists, for Muslims generally) that liberals rightly uphold.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

The other shoe drops...

It only took four years, but the other shoe finally dropped on flagship WBUR talk show "The Connection." It's being cancelled as of August 5th, its timeslot filled by moving "On Point" from its evening slot. The show never fully recovered from the loss of its founders, Chris Lydon and his producer Mary McGrath, in my opinion. Dick Gordon was a perfectly competent host -- a wide-ranging intellect and fine interviewer -- but, myself, I never warmed to him. His style was a little too, well, Canadian: a bit aloof and milquetoast-y and, at times, vaguely smug. He represents the worst side of NPR hosts in this respect. I used to argue with friends who said Chris Lydon drove them crazy...that this is part of what makes him good. He's opinionated and passionate about things, such that he sometimes gets on your nerves. But he's not dull. I wonder if Chris is pleased that he was finally vindicated?

You talking about Boston? Boston, Massachusetts?

The outrage (real or manufactured) continues over Sen. Rick Santorum's column blaming liberal Bostonians for the Catholic Church pedophilia problem here. Apparently, Santorum said that the problem was partly caused by the city's "sexual license" and "sexual freedom," which nurtured an environment where sexual abuse would occur. Huh? Sexual license and sexual freedom? In Boston? Where, exactly? And, I mean, I'd like the senator to be specific. Give me addresses. And business hours, if he's got them.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Supreme Court nomination

I know I'll be accused of rolling over for Bush, but I think that Democrats and liberals should just get used to the fact that Bush is going to nominate someone that he believes will be a reliable conservative voice on the court, and get over it. He is not going to pick a moderate, like Sandra Day O'Connor. He is not going to pick someone that is vague on Roe v Wade, because he really owes his Christian activist base and doesn't want to rile them up by picking someone like Alberto Gonzalez. I know, I could look stupid with this prediction, as Bush keeps talking about Gonzalez, but I don't think he'll pick him to replace O'Connor. Not as the first Supreme Court justice Bush has been able to nominate. Now, as a Rehnquist replacement...

But Bush isn't going to go all cautious or centrist on us, not with a Republican Senate -- why would he? And he hasn't shown any inclination to operate as a centrist to avoid media or public criticism. You have to give him credit for that: he doesn't hold back on pursuing bold policies for fear that some people won't like him.

So, look he's going to do, there's not a lot we can do to stop it, and frankly, I don't really know why we should. I don't understand interpreting the Senate's "advise and consent" role as giving the Senate power to stop the president nominating people to government posts or the judiciary who share his ideological perspective. I mean, the guy won the election; he gets to pick people who agree with him on Roe v Wade to sit on the Supreme Court, wouldn't you think? (And I won't even start with why I am not so sure it would be such a bad thing for him to pick an anti-Roe judge anyway....)

I admit, I am not basing this opinion on any knowledge of how the Senate historically has adopted its advisory role, or knowledge of what the founding fathers actually wrote about this. It just seems like common sense. Of course, the founding fathers originally had the loser of the presidential election becoming vice president, which totally defies common sense, so hey, what do I know?

Saturday, July 09, 2005

"No" to Oliver Stone

I agree with Mickey Kaus about some things occasionally -- including today's entry about the truly horrendous idea of having Oliver Stone direct a movie dealing with September 11th. Kaus rightly points out the likelihood that Stone will insert some lefty conspiracy-theory type element, given his history with the JFK movie. Kaus doesn't mention Stone's execrable stroking of fashionable communist dictator Fidel Castro in "Looking For Fidel." Check out this interview with Stone about his controversial documentary. Particularly despicable is his blase description of his interview with eight prisoners, arranged by Castro, where Stone asks them whether they're being treated well and seems satisfied that they are being honest in their reassurances of acceptable treatment. The interviewer, who is trying hard to get Stone to question what he experienced in Cuba, starts this exchange:

ALB: Did it strike you as interesting that at one point in the scene with the prisoners, Castro turned to the prisoners' defense lawyers, who just happened to be there, and he says, "I urge you to do your best to reduce the sentences"?

OS: I love that. I thought that was hilarious. Those guys just popped up.

ALB: Is there a show-trial element here?

OS: Yeah. I thought that was funny, I did--the prosecutor and Fidel admonishing them, to make sure they worked hard. There was that paternalism. I mean "father knows best," as opposed to totalitarianism. It's paternalism, that's what I meant. It's a Latin thing.

Replace "Castro" with, say, "Ceaucescu" and you can see how disgusting -- rather than funny -- this scene is.

Of course, Stone shares this inexcusable mythologizing of the Cuban revolution with many others in Hollywood. As a counter to the dreamy, picturesque portrait of Che Guevara painted by "The Motorcycle Diaries," a movie which was widely hailed in Hollywood, the New Republic has a fascinating article on Che ($$$), describing how he, not Castro, was the Stalinist of the Cuban revolution. Probably old news to people who know about this stuff, but I know little about Che, other than that he took a good picture and has become a popular revolutionary symbol.

I do remember the Hollywood folks swooning over "The Motorcycle Diaries" at the Academy Awards, undoubtedly because they loved the revolutionary spirit of Che Guevara -- who, it appears, would have had each and every one of these rich, pampered stars summarily executed or, if they were lucky, sent to concentration camps. This is one reason why I am so intolerant of celebrities lecturing the public about politics: Hollywood seems to be this little bubble which has no contact with the real world and yet encourages its residents to expound on how to solve the world's problems.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

London bombing

There's not much I can say about the London bombing other than the obvious: that it's horrible, and I express my solidarity with the English, as they expressed theirs with the U.S. on September 11th. There may be a few who will blame Bush and Blair for this attack, but I think that, for most, it's a reminder of the barbaric ideology that we are fighting against. It's also a reminder of how important it is not to indulge in lazy or self-indulgent characterizations of these Islamic fundamentalist terrorists as "freedom fighters" or advocates for some reasonable political cause. I believe that al-Qaeda has miscalculated yet again if they think the response to this incident will be a retreat from Iraq or from the broader fight against Islamic fundamentalist terrorism.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

London in 2012

Quite a week for Tony Blair. First the G8, now London has been selected as the 2012 host of the Summer Olympics or, as I like to call them, porn for women. (Oops, I hope my English fiance isn't reading this.) My only question is, does it make sense to hold the Summer Olympics in a country that doesn't really have a summer? At least not as most of us understand it. You know, with sunshine and heat and all.

Friday, July 01, 2005

How Not to Fight World Poverty

Live8 (LiveEight?) takes place tomorrow, and world leaders are gearing up for the G8 summit, so there's lots of discussion about how to end the terrible poverty that has gripped much of Africa for so long. Well, honestly, I don't know, but I do feel pretty certain that many of the simplistic solutions bandied about by idealistic activists are not the answer. You know, the sort of, for just the price of a daily cup of Starbucks coffee, we could feed someone in Africa. Or, for a fraction of what we spend on the military, we could eradicate world poverty. These are the sorts of conscience-tugging lines that impress you when you're young, but you really should know better once you're past 30.

A really good, and frankly depressing, article in the New Republic offers a brief analysis of some of the current anti-poverty campaigns. Particularly interesting is this assessment of the impact of LiveAid: has only to consider Geldof's previous endeavor, Live Aid, which raised $100 million for relief of the Ethiopian famine in 1985. It's an open question whether Live Aid did more harm or good. As David Rieff explains in the British magazine Prospect, organizations involved in delivering relief became complicit in the Ethiopian government's Stalinist program of forced agricultural collectivization and relocation, which helped create the disaster. Today, Ethiopia is significantly poorer than it was 20 years ago, and, as David Plotz explained in this 2003 dispatch, perpetually dependent on charity. This is, sadly, the story of aid to sub-Saharan Africa as a whole. While the developed world has contributed more than $500 billion over the last 40 years, Africans have continued to fall farther behind.

What a bummer. I loved LiveAid (still think U2 was the best thing about it), and was into the whole idea.

Of course, talking about this stuff is what tends to get me labelled as a "conservative" by my old friends...but it's not "conservative" to want to be effective at solving problems. Anyway, ironically, this article says that the Bush Administration's Millennium Challenge Account is a really good idea, but that it has been woefully underfunded and inept at spending what money it does have.

Christopher Hitchens and I agree

Perhaps I was a little rash in saying that I "used to like" Hitchens. Mostly I'm just frustrated with him because I hold him to a higher standard of moral and intellectual clarity, based on his willingness to call out rigid old lefties like Noam Chomsky or Katha Pollitt. But here is Hitchens explaining why it makes no sense to call Blair a poodle:

The commonest liberal and Tory jeer against Tony Blair—that he is George Bush's "poodle"—is self-evidently false. Far from being a ditto to Washington, it was Blair who leaned on Clinton and Albright to intervene in the Balkans, putting an end to the long and disgusting Tory appeasement of Slobodan Milosevic. Without asking for any American approval, Blair also decided to stand by Britain's treaty with Sierra Leone and to send troops to put down the barbaric invasion of the hand-loppers and diamond-dealers, based in Charles Taylor's Liberia, who were among other things the regional allies of al-Qaida. In 1999, when Bush was still an isolationist governor of Texas, Blair made a speech in Chicago pointing out that Saddam Hussein's defiance of international law made a future confrontation with him inevitable. After Sept. 11, 2001, Blair told Bush that he would send ground troops to Afghanistan even if the United States would not.

So there.

Tony Blair, Poodle?

Is there any more boring and banal idea than the notion that Tony Blair is George Bush's poodle? So many Iraq war opponents enjoy repeating this dumb idea, which seems to strike them as witty and insightful. I think it actually reflects an absolute utter incomprehension that someone might look at the same facts and draw a different conclusion. I'll admit, I'm biased, as Blair's speech immediately following the September 11 attacks made a huge impression, and I'll always feel grateful to him for it. He demonstrated that he immediately and fully "got it," that this was not justified blowback for bad US policies or a cry for help from the oppressed, but rather a clear statement from an anti-liberal, anti-secular, and anti-democratic political movement. And, I might add, Blair gave this inspiring speech before Bush had managed to gather himself together (although Bush recovered with his excellent speech before Congress later that week).

It seems obvious to me that Blair really believes in the fight against Islamo-fascism (to use Christopher Hitchens' term). Now, whether he has been given sufficient reward from the Bush Administration for his support is unclear, but the idea that he went along with it all as Bush's lapdog is absurd. It should have been clear to anyone who paid attention to his response to September 11 that he was committing himself fully to the fight against the war on the West by Islamic fundamentalists.

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