Thursday, October 04, 2012

Obama-Romney: On The First Debate

Couldn't resist firing the old political blog back up to comment on last night's presidential debate. Scroll down if you're curious about all the prescient things I said back in 2008.  :)

Concerns of the punditry notwithstanding, this was pretty standard Obama strategy. Look back at the debates with Hillary for precedent: he avoids getting in to spats at all costs; he keeps his cool to the point of sometimes appearing to get rolled, because he protects his main asset -- likeablility -- at all costs. And then in subsequent debates he'll counterpunch in strategic ways because he and his team are happiest and most effective when counterpunching.

And Mitt, by lying his face off and reversing some of his core policy positions tonight, gave the Obama team plenty to work with. The 2 keys to Mitt's unlikeableness -- the "etch-a-sketch" willingness to say whatever he thinks will be persuasive at the time, and the fact that his demeanor is that of a jerky rich guy -- were both on display tonight. I think these things -- what I would call the lasting impressions of the candidates demeanors and the long-term impact of what was said on the messaging of ads and stump speeches -- are so much more important than "who won the debate". I recall Al Gore and John Kerry and Hillary "winning" debates, never elections.

Yes, it can be maddening to watch Obama’s Chicago team play low-risk chess. Once they feel they’ve won (get David Plouffe drunk and ask him about his ground game and the electoral math) they methodically protect the win and relentlessly stick to their strategy. Likeability is central to that: we’ve been trained by reality television to separate the contestants into likeables and unlikeables and they know their guy is the likeable character.  He gets the benefit of the doubt as long as he doesn’t change the narrative.

In contrast, take a look at how disastrous this exchange was for Al Gore in 2000:

Gore played right in to his central weakness with voters – that they perceived of him as a socially awkward know-it-all.  Bush parried with a short, beset-upon laugh and a reframing of “what the election was about”.  Gore than walked right in to Bush’s space – awkwardly! Then Bush, a political idiot savant, did something that sealed Gore’s fate: he gave him a guy nod.  The meaning of that nod was: “Look at this clown bothering me, and bothering YOU the American people.” Bush, then seamlessly, gracefully even, finished his thought with the perfect political bumper sticker --  “And I believe I can” – the live audience now fully in his corner, laughing along with him. Then Gore, nervously smiling, finished himself off: “What about the Dingle Norwood bill?” Agh, it’s cringeworthy. It makes me think of the scene in “The Ice Storm” where Toby Maguire asks Katie Holmes, “Have you ever read The Idiot?” and then  keeps repeating “the idiot.”

I’m wondering today whether, for all the hemming and hawing about Obama, the lasting image of this debate might not be Mitt’s commitment to fire Big Bird:

Like Gore, Mitt became a caricature of himself in this moment: the "takeover specialist" who will come in, assess value, and start firing, first with Big Bird and then with (oof) the moderator. The disingenuousness of "I love Big Bird. I actually like you too," is palpable. One can imagine millions of people under 50 thinking to themselves, "He doesn't love Big Bird" just as you read Lehrer's thoughts by the look on his face: "Thanks for nuthin, pal." Mitt behaved on stage like the person a majority of voters perceive him to be: a smug a-hole.

Less than a day after all the criticism for not being aggressive, there was Obama, predictably, counterpunching:
“Thank goodness somebody is finally getting tough on Big Bird. It is about time,” Obama said. “We did not know that Big Bird was driving the federal deficit, but that is what we heard last night. How about that? Elmo, too?”
 I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that the few undecided voters left in this race weren’t all happy to hear the news.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Obama and Invisible Man

Read this, from Time Magazine, and it got to me:

After the Feb. 21 debate in Austin, Texas, we were leaving in the morning. Barack had the flu. There was an elderly black gentleman who had been our elevator operator for three days. As we got to the ground floor, he said, "Senator Obama, I have something I want to give you," and he handed him his military patch. He said, "I've carried this military patch with me every day for 40 years, and I want you to carry it, and it will keep you safe in your journey." It was just such an unbelievable act of generosity. So later we asked Barack what he had done with it. And he pulled it out of his pocket and said, "This is why I do this. Because people have their hopes and dreams about what we can do together." -- Valerie Jarrett, senior Obama adviser

Possibly because it reminded me of this passage from Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man which I wrote about in my book, where an old man, "Brother Tarp" gives a "keepsake" to the younger "Invisible Man":

"I've been looking for freedom ever since, son. And sometimes I've done alright. Up to these here hard times I did very well, considering I'm a man whose health is not too good. But even when times were best for me I remembered. Because I didn't want to forget those nineteen years I just kind of held on to this as a keepsake and a reminder."
He was unwrapping the object now and I watched his old man's hands.
"I'd like to pass it on to you, son. There," he said, handing it to me. "Funny thing to give somebody, but I think it's got a heap of signifying wrapped up in it and it might help you remember what we're really fighting against. I don't think of it in terms of but two words, yes and no; but it signifies a heap more...I want you to take it. I guess it's a kind of luck piece. Anyway, its the one I filed to get away."

The "object" is a link from the chains that held "Brother Tarp" during 19 years of imprisonment. "A heap of signifying" indeed.

Would like to write a longer piece on this (unintentional?) echo...stay tuned.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Palin: Oh, the irony, oh the hypocrisy!

The Republicans, who have been ridiculing and decrying identity politics for three decades, just made the most crass and brazen identity politics-based choice in the history of American elections.

More later perhaps on this Hail Mary and why Americans everywhere should rest easy that "McCain/Palin" will soon be a Trivial Pursuit question...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Joey from Scranton

Could Bluest Fist be gearing up for an extended bout of political blogging?? Stay tuned!

In any event, I'm back tonight to applaud the Biden VP pick. I've heard a number of pundits call this a "balancing the ticket pick" or "steadying the ticket pick". That's accurate in some obvious ways (he's 65, foreign policy experience etc) but misses completely why this pick will be so disruptive for McCain. Here are a few reasons, most of them related to demographics and the symbolism we attach to them in American political culture:

1. Biden is Catholic. I mean, an actual church going Catholic -- confident enough to explain his pro-choice record in that context. His kids went to Catholic school where his sister was, I think, the principal? (This is wrapped up with his period as a single father after his wife and daughter died tragically in a car accident. You think anyone's gonna go after his faith?) The Biden pick calls McCain's bluff on many fronts but one involves DARING him to pick Tom Ridge as his running mate. Ridge is a Catholic and also pro-choice. If McCain picks him the Evagelicals will have kittens. But if he doesn't pick him he may as well not event campaign in Pennsylvania BECAUSE...

2. Biden is from Scranton, PA. This matters for 2 reasons. First, it's a major play for PA's electoral votes -- likely to go Dem anyway but now almost surely so. Between Biden (not only from Scranton but also the Delaware Senator who shares a media market with Philly and is sometimes refered to as "Pennsylavania's third senator") Sen. Casey and Gov. Rendell that state is locked up. But there's a second, more interesting aspect to Scranton: Hillary adopted it as a cudgel to hit Obama with in the primary. Remember her endlessly repeated story about visiting Scranton as a child, how it was her home away from home, how she learned how to hunt etc? "Scranton" was the code word for "regular folks" just as "arugula" was the code word for "Obama is yuppie scum." Which brings me to...

3. Biden is working class. He grew up as an Irish Catholic in Scranton with nothing. He had a stutter. He fought kids on the playground and in the alley. And he's been a brawler ever since. There are so many important aspects to this I need to break #3 down into subsets:
3(a). The Hillary thing. It calls the bluff of all these Dems who indulged the fantasy that she was a working class hero, that SHE was "Scranton" by saying, "Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Joey from Scranton!" Its a gut appeal to the Dems Obama has the most difficult time winning over: working class whites from the rust belt who are in love with their family story.
3(b). The Irish Catholic Thing. This shouldn't be underestimated. Politics in America remain deeply tribal. You think American Catholics in PA, OH, MI, NH and other swing states are going to pass up the chance to elect the FIRST IRISH CATHOLIC VICE PRESIDENT and only the second Catholic to ever be part of the White House dynamic duo? I mean, I'm a lapsed, Catholic and political leftist and I'M thinking about getting drunk, punching someone out, taking confession, attending a wake, and voting for Biden right now! And the Italians, Latinos and everyone else will find it almost as irresistable. Watch Chris Matthews and Mike Barnacle on MSNBC fall all over each other on the Catholic thing in the next few weeks and tell me I'm not right on this.
3(c). The Working Class Thing. This became much more important after McCain's "Seven Houses" gaffe. We're in stagflation, folks! You think people wanna vote for the guy who can't remember whether he has 4, 7 or 10 houses and wears $520 loafers? But you need a real contrast. Obama brings that, which is why Republicans have been desperate to cast him as some sort of prep school oddity (which is nonsense but has been strangely difficult for him to combat at times). In picking Biden, Obama was doubling down on it with a guy who can vouch for the both of them. Now wait and see if McCain picks Romney to get over the dozen house mark! As an extra bonus, if you want to start "dog-whistling" Romney's Mormon faith and McCain's messy divorce to cause havoc in the Christian Right base, you can invent the slogan: "Barack Obama: One House, One Spouse."
3(d) The Tough Guy Thing. "Biden is a Brawler." The streets of Scranton. It's easy to forget that McCain isn't actually tough. McCain is a hot head. There's a big difference. McCain is a short guy in his 70s. He let George W. Bush slap him around all over the country in 2000. He's the privileged son and grandson of an admiral who walked away from his first wife and kids to marry a mega-rich girl who has floated his old, short ass ever since. We're already hearing from longtime Washington press corp people that Biden intimidates McCain. And, yeah, I'll say it: how many hundred times is McCain going to invoke his POW experience as a testiment to his character before people start pointing out (as Bush surogates did in 2000)that McCain's captors broke him and forced him to do treasonous things? Broke him, by the way, using techniques which George W. Bush defines as legal non-torture, a definition McCain has lately acquiesced to because -- well, because McCain ain't tough. He just plays tough on TV. The guy has my sympathy for getting the shit kicked out of him for five years in the Hanoi Hilton. But I'm supposed to VOTE for him because of this? Huh?
3(e). The Growing Up with Nothing Thing. Just emphasizing 3(c) here. Barack's single mom on food stamps. Somehow Biden helps authenticate that.
3(f) The Iraq Thing. Unlike the "fortunate sons" of the Bush social set, Biden's son is off to Iraq. The angle from which to attack Dems on Iraq just got a little narrower.

All this and the guy wrote the Violence Against Women act!

Get your popcorn...

Saturday, March 15, 2008


In case you missed it (and I hope you DID since it was at 10pm on a Friday night and only lame-o fathers of 3 could possibly have been watching!), the CNN show "Anderson Cooper 360" was one of the shows that interviewed Obama about the controversy over all of his pastor Rev Wright's inflammatory black power and quasi-Marxist liberation theology sermons released on video. Anyone familiar with 60s Black Power movement culture wouldn't be surprised by Wright's sermons -- I bet 1/4 or so of traditional black urban churches have featured sermons like this at one point or another over the last 10 years. On the other hand its easy to see why the whole thing is potentially disastrous relative to Obama's message and in the context of a Clinton/McCain race-baiting campaign (both overt and "dog-whistle") -- as well as why an average voter might, in more or less good-faith, think "If he has such good judgement, what the hell was he thinking hanging around this pastor for 20 years?" The intellectual answer is fairly easy but the political one is a killer.

So, one really heartening thing last night (besides the fact that Obama himself jumped on this, went on all the cable shows and did pretty solid damage control) was the comments on "Anderson Cooper 360" by David Gergen. Gergen, a very smart Yale/Harvard guy who for reasons I've never fully understood was an adviser to Nixon, Ford and Reagan (I'm sure there's bio material out there that explains this, I just haven't read it) and then had some kind of conversion experience when he joined the Clinton Whitehouse, clearly admires Obama. But his defense of him, and of Wright, last night was a really unique TV moment -- both intellectually acute and, it seemed to me, a genuine expression of racial understanding and empathy. I fairly couldn't believe I was seeing it on CNN. He actually brought up Frederick Douglass's 1852 speech "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?" which Douglass delivered in Rochester New York to a gathering of abolitionists -- and which is maybe one of the 5 greatest political speeches in American history. I wrote about this speech extensively in EMANCIPATING PRAGMATISMp>

Anyway, here's the transcript

COOPER: David, how badly do you think this could damage the campaign, especially with Pennsylvania coming up?

GERGEN: I think, if he acts aggressively, as he did tonight, to address it, and then moves on, Anderson, because we have spent our whole week on all these kind of issues. And, meanwhile, the economy is going in the tank.
And, if he gets -- if these candidates -- and Barack ought to be on this next week. They have got to speak seriously about the fact, you know, what's going on economically with the stock market going down, the dollar going down, prices going through the roof on oil and all the rest.
And I think that will help a lot. But I do think -- I hope, in the next segment, we can come back to understanding that there's a discourse, there's a conversation in the black community.


GERGEN: There has been for a long time, which is different from what is in the white community. And we ought to understand and appreciate the differences...

MARTIN: Very true.

GERGEN: ... and not expect everybody to be just the same in this country.

COOPER: And that's -- we are actually going to look at that extensively, both in a package and also in a discussion with all of you, coming up.


COOPER: David, you brought this up. Why do you think that's an important point?

GERGEN: Well, because there's a long tradition, Anderson. And among black leaders to have a different view of American history, going all the way back to Frederick Douglass, who was one of the greatest American heroes of the 19th century, you know, who -- who gained his freedom from slavery [and became a] great orator.
He was invited the a July 4th celebration to give a July 4th speech in 1852, and he showed up and said, "You know, you whites see July 4 very differently from what I see it. This is not a day of celebration for us."
And I have found that in my classroom with black students frequently. When they speak their minds and when they speak their hearts, they have a very different view. I've had a young woman tell me, "July 4, we still can't celebrate it in my family, because of what's happened to us."
And I think that we as whites have to be understanding and empathic toward that and try to understand that, that people who are African-Americans legitimately have a different perspective on what American history has meant and take that into account as we hear this.
And it's not a lack of patriotism. It is a different form of patriotism. Actually, Reverend Wright may love this country more than any of us but feel we've fallen short of what we preach and believe.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Jesse Hart, aka Gary Jackson

Here's a thought: the Obama campaign is a little like this question: What would have happened in 1984 if there was no Donna Rice and Gary Hart and Jesse Jackson were the same person?

It's not a perfect analogy: Obama is a better politician than either Hart or Jackson. Hillary is a better politician than Mondale (the calculus here is complex: he had a better party machine behind him and didn't have to deal with misogyny; she has better political skills and a former 2 term president for a husband). But, that being said, if you take Hart's constituency and Jackson's constituency, you pretty much have the group of voters than Obama is trying to win with.

A more fascinating primary battle I cannot recall.

Barack Obama: The Great Communicator

Despite having too many kids, too hard a job, and too much literary ambition to reasonably add political commentary to the mix, a fit of Obamania has drawn me back to The Bluest Fist. I'll likely be blogging here in much smaller doses than I did in 2000 or 2004 but I'll be blogging nonetheless.

Last night Barack Obama won the South Carolina primary, doubling the number of votes won by Hillary Clinton. I'll save my specific feelings about these two formidable candidates for another time. Right now I'd like to focus on a remarkable moment in their last debate which happens to have coincided with Obama move toward a landslide victory.

Just a few days before the primary, Obama led Clinton among black voters by 53-21 percent. For those who thought that black voters would automatically vote for a black candidate Obama's number was fairly unimpressive and reflected the Clinton's strong relationship with the African-American community. Among white voters Obama was polling as low as 10% and this seemed to confirm the belief of those who thought white South Carolinian Democrats would not vote for a black candidate.

There are undoubtedly a number of factors that contributed to a shift that landed Obama a very solid 24% of the white vote (in a three person race, Hillary got 36%) and over 80% of the black vote. The moment I'm interested in is a gifted bit of political Signifyin' from the January 21 debate. Media member Joe Johns asked the question and the exchange went like this:

JOHNS: Right. The Nobel Prize-winning African-American author, Toni Morrison, famously observed about Bill Clinton, "This is our first black president, blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children's lifetime." Do you think Bill Clinton was our first black president?

OBAMA: Well, I think Bill Clinton did have an enormous affinity with the African-American community, and still does. And I think that's well earned. Like John, one of the things that I'm always inspired by -- no, I'm -- this I'm serious about. I'm always inspired by young men and women who grew up in the South when segregation was still taking place, when, you know, the transformations that are still incomplete but at least had begun had not yet begun. And to see that transformations in their own lives I think that is powerful, and it is hopeful, because what it indicates is that people can change. And each successive generation can, you know, create a different vision of how, you know, we have to treat each other. And I think Bill Clinton embodies that. I think he deserves credit for that. Now, I haven't...
OBAMA: I have to say that, you know, I would have to, you know, investigate more of Bill's dancing abilities.
OBAMA: You know, and some of this other stuff before I accurately judge whether he was in fact a brother.

Johns's was a trick question. It should have been impossible to answer correctly with Obama either coming off as the "Jesse Jackson candidate" asserting his black authenticity, or the cosmopolitan "Bill Bradley Candidate," picking off a few wealthy and well-educated whites by looking "beyond race" but losing the faith of many black voters in the bargain and failing to attract middle and lower-class whites as well. That represented the hope and strategy of Clinton guru Mark Penn and this "micro trends" philosophy of political organizing -- and Johns had seemed to help them out here. But, in a moment that should be written about for a long time in places other than this blog, Obama shot the gap. His answer involved a three part strategy.

First, he struck a magnanimous chord, celebrating Bill Clinton as an example of a young southern white male baby boomer's journey to racial enlightenment. However, in doing so he used Bill Clinton's story in the service of Barack Obama's canbdidacy: "what it indicates is that people can change." This is the central touchstone of Obama's message -- he said it over and over in last night's victory speech. Here he was speaking to blacks and whites as the nations reconciler.

If he had only done that it would have been a great answer. What he did next made it mind-blowingly good.

First he made the joke about the need to judge Clinton's dancing abilities. The tone in which he employed this stereotype suggested to me that he was speaking to white voters, saying, hey, I don't take this stuff too seriously, I don't take myself too seriously and I don't mind joking about it. (And besides, what a silly question!)

Then, he suggested that a series of tests could prove whether or not Clinton was "in fact a brother." This too was a joke -- except it was also a real test that Clinton by definition failed. Obama pronounced "brother" as "brutha". Only he could do that (Urban Dictionary defines the term as "A well dressed and presented black man that, is very popular with tha girls and can get any woman he wants.") If Clinton ever said "brutha" it would come off horribly. Because, low and behold, Bill Clinton is a white male. In that one moment, Obama was saying to the black audience, "Get real. Bill Clinton can't even pronouce the word brutha."

I would bet a nickel that if you went back through the transcripts of John F. Kennedy's run for the 1960 presidency, you would find similar acts of Signifyin' -- coding to Catholics that would drive them to the polls that simultaneously, almost magically, cooled the anxieties of Protestants. The magic involves embodying the one and the many through voicing. It takes a once in a generation -- at most -- political communicator to pull this off. And right now we're all staring one in the face.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


More soon on what the Dems should do with control of the House and Senate...Suffice it to say for now that "Move to the center and write policy as exciting as an unsweetened bowl of oatmeal won't be my advice.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


Want some evidence that the Democratic Party smells blood and is finally learning how to make a winning campaign commerical? Have a look at this attack on Bush's miserable STAY THE COURSE policy in Iraq and his recent attempt to run from it.

Saturday, October 21, 2006


Today, I’m going to solve the national/cultural dispute over “gay marriage” using the opening anecdote from William James’s essay “What Pragmatism Means.” The anecdote involves an argument about a man, a squirrel, a tree and the meaning of the word “around” and I need to quote it for you in full:

SOME YEARS AGO, being with a camping party in the mountains, I returned from a solitary ramble to find every one engaged in a ferocious metaphysical dispute. The corpus of the dispute was a squirrel – a live squirrel supposed to be clinging to one side of a tree-trunk; while over against the tree’s opposite side a human being was imagined to stand. This human witness tries to get sight of the squirrel by moving rapidly round the tree, but no matter how fast he goes, the squirrel moves as fast in the opposite direction, and always keeps the tree between himself and the man, so that never a glimpse of him is caught. The resultant metaphysical problem now is this: Does the man go round the squirrel or not? He goes round the tree, sure enough, and the squirrel is on the tree; but does he go round the squirrel? In the unlimited leisure of the wilderness, discussion had been worn threadbare. Every one had taken sides, and was obstinate; and the numbers on both sides were even. Each side, when I appeared therefore appealed to me to make it a majority. Mindful of the scholastic adage that whenever you meet a contradiction you must make a distinction, I immediately sought and found one, as follows: “Which party is right,” I said, “depends on what you practically mean by ‘going round’ the squirrel. If you mean passing from the north of him to the east, then to the south, then to the west, and then to the north of him again, obviously the man does go round him, for he occupies these successive positions. But if on the contrary you mean being first in front of him, then on the right of him, then behind him, then on his left, and finally in front again, it is quite as obvious that the man fails to go round him, for by the compensating movements the squirrel makes, he keeps his belly turned towards the man all the time, and his back turned away. Make the distinction, and there is no occasion for any farther dispute. You are both right and both wrong according as you conceive the verb ‘to go round’ in one practical fashion or the other.”

Although one or two of the hotter disputants called my speech a shuffling evasion, saying they wanted no quibbling or scholastic hair-splitting, but meant just plain honest English ‘round,’ the majority seemed to think that the distinction had assuaged the dispute.

I tell this trivial anecdote because it is a peculiarly simple example of what I wish now to speak of as the pragmatic method. The pragmatic method is primarily a method of settling metaphysical disputes that otherwise might be interminable. Is the world one or many? – fated or free? – material or spiritual? – here are notions either of which may or may not hold good of the world; and disputes over such notions are unending. The pragmatic method in such cases is to try to interpret each notion by tracing its respective practical consequences. What difference would it practically make to any one if this notion rather than that notion were true? If no practical difference whatever can be traced, then the alternatives mean practically the same thing, and all dispute is idle. Whenever a dispute is serious, we ought to be able to show some practical difference that must follow from one side or the other’s being right.

What does this have to do with marriage? Consider that the debate over gay marriage is nothing more than a fight over the definition of the word marriage. If by marriage you mean “a union between two consenting adults, not related by blood, whereby they agree to love each other and treat each other as a single functioning unit within a larger community; and whereby said larger community also agrees to treat them as such, bestowing on them such benefits (e.g. the sharing of insurance and estate benefits, visitation rights, etc) as will make the maintenance of their union as easy as possible” then you are “in favor” of “gay marriage.” If, on the other hand, you mean by marriage “a union between a man and a woman, not related by blood, whereby they agree to love each other and treat each other as a single functioning unit within a larger community; and whereby said larger community also agrees to treat them as such, bestowing on them such benefits (e.g. the sharing of insurance and estate benefits, visitation rights, etc) as will make the maintenance of their union as easy as possible” then you are “against gay marriage”. That’s it.

By these definitions, you could be quite easily FOR “a union between two men or two women, not related by blood, whereby they agree to love each other and treat each other as a single functioning unit within a larger community; and whereby said larger community also agrees to treat them as such, bestowing on them such benefits (e.g. the sharing of insurance and estate benefits, visitation rights, etc) as will make the maintenance of their union as easy as possible” and still be AGAINST “gay marriage”. In this case, you would tell people, you are “for civil unions.” Here we might use James’s pragmatic method to sort out the argument likely to ensue when I call “a union between two men or two women” as described above marriage and you call that union “a civil union.” (Here we are presuming that the legal benefits bestowed on these unions by local, state and federal governments are identical.) James might say, “We are both right and both wrong according as you conceive the noun ‘marriage’ in one practical fashion or the other. But since we both seem to agree that me and my wife on the one hand and the two men over here on the other should receive exactly the same legal recognition, assistance and protection from the community at large, then, since no practical difference whatever can be traced, the alternatives mean practically the same thing, and all dispute is idle.” If this pragmatic line of argumentation proves convincing, then we will have cobbled together a veto-proof majority out of those people who believe gays and lesbian should have the legal right to marry, and those who believe gays and lesbians should have the legal right to enter into civil unions. [Note: There are those of course who don’t believe that gay and lesbian couples should have ANY partnering rights whatsoever, not even those rights afforded to long-time un-married straight couples. But those people have already given up the game: they have gone beyond the rhetorical position, “I am defending ‘marriage’” to the position “I am against gays and lesbians as such.” These citizens are, polls show, in the minority.]

There are however some problems with the logic and approach proposed above. These problems are related to the way the word “marriage” and its cognate verb “marry” function in our culture as symbolic action. Even if the social and economic rights of married people and people in civil unions were identical (as far as local, state and federal law were concerned), those who were “married” would still benefit from that designation relative to those in civil unions. In our culture, marriage continues to imply (within certain margins of error) specific levels of piousness, stability, long-term planning (because of its association with children, grandchildren), fidelity and trustworthiness. (We are talking here of course about connotation, not about the actual behavior of married people.) Hence, people who have to answer, in a variety of institutional contexts, the question, “Are you married” with “No I am in a civil union” are being put in the awkward position of having to participate in their own othering and in the depreciation of their social worth. The very structure of that answer –– which presumes a norm from which all other answers are a deviation (and which effectively reads the answer “single” as “not yet married”) –– forces them to designate themselves as, to one degree or another, LESS pious, LESS stable, LESS interested in or able to plan for the future, LESS loyal, LESS trustworthy.

Self-styled “defenders of marriage” tend to emphasize its role in Christian theology and practice: specifically that marriage is a Christian sacrament and that various Biblical narratives make clear (so the argument goes) that marriage is “between a man and a woman.” By a dexterous act of sophistry, their rhetoric tends to suggest that to re-define marriage in our civil institutions would be to re-write The Bible. It is a logically specious but nonetheless powerful argument in a nation where the majority of citizens flatter themselves through religious observance. The word “marriage” comes from the Latin “maritare” (to wed), derived from “maritus” (basically “conjugal,” a seemingly neutral meaning as in “to yoke together” except for the additional etymological connection to “mas,” male [or “person”]). Being Latin, it precedes Christianity by hundreds of years at least. The idea that the word means to us what it meant to Cicero or Virgil, Juvenal or Pliny is absurd. But I think trying enact lawful, protected and respected gay marriage in the United States by telling its detractors that they have no idea what the word marriage means is a hopeless strategy. Witness the zombie-like way in which our political office holders and candidates (including many of those we would otherwise define as “liberal”) answer the gay marriage question by repeating, “I simply believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.” But why? “I just believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.” Why? “I was brought up to believe it.” Couldn’t you change your mind? “I simply believe it.” “It’s my faith.” “It’s an important tradition.” Important how? “It’s what I believe.” To argue that marriage is NOT limited to the union of a man and a woman is to repeatedly butt up against an unbreakable tautology. The Right has come to OWN the word “marriage” –– not least because, truth be told, the Left (myself included) doesn’t actually CARE that much about the word, except insofar as we don’t like being told that we can’t use it the way we want to.

I believe I may have found a way around this impass. I propose that state legislatures begin enacting the following law:

“We, the People of the State of X, agree to recognize a union between two consenting adults, not related by blood, whereby these two agree to love each other and treat each other as a single functioning unit within a larger community; and whereby we, said larger community, also agrees to treat them as such, bestowing on them such benefits (e.g. the sharing of insurance and estate benefits, visitation rights, etc) as will make the maintenance of their union as easy as possible, such rights being exactly commensurate with the rights and benefits we, The People of the State of X, currently bestow on the union known as marriage. This new union described above shall henceforth be known as ‘merriage.’ All laws, customs and practices relevant to the licensing of marriage in this state shall henceforth also apply to the licensing of merriage with the single notable exception that all references to ‘marriage’ will be replaced by references to ‘merriage.’”

What would happen if a state enacted this law? Gay couples could get “merried” but straight couples could as well. Some straight couples would in fact CHOOSE to be merried instead of being married, making merriage a new solidarity movement. The legal effect would be no different than enacting a good, comprehensive Civil Unions law. But the cultural effect would be something more. Gay and straight couples in the movement would now be uttering sentences like: “I’m merried.” “He’s merried to my brother.” “She’s merried to my cousin Lisa.” “We’re related by merriage.” “We were merried last October.” The sonic semblance between “married” and “merried” would function like a piece of comic theater or social satire on a vast scale, making those who cared listen REALLY hard for that minor distinction in sound, calculating in the regional accent factor, asking the absurd question, “Did you say married or merried,” etc. If all the conversants were in fact not hung up on the definition of “marriage” in the first place, the benefit would be a practical erasure of the self-othering aspect of the term “civil union”. [Note: I have chose “merriage” over a second option “mariage” with one r because a) I think “marriage” with one r, being pronounced exactly like “marriage” might lend itself to more obvious court challenges than “merriage” which is clearly a different word; and b) because “merriage” is a play on “merry marriage” which in turn is a play on both “gay marriage” and on the notion of a so-called “happy marriage.”]

Best of all, though, is this likely outcome: that the American Right, sensing that “merriage” was a new example of barbarians storming the gate, would be forced to argue, in Congress and in court and on every other national stage, that the State cannot legally determine the meaning of the word “merriage”. This, despite the fact that, according to these same folks, Congress has every right in the world to legally “defend” the word “marriage” by defining it. Additionally, all politicians that have claimed support for Civil Unions as a means to position themselves as “moderates” while stonewalling gay marriage and its attendant civil rights would be forced in opposing “merriage” to –– ahem –– come out of the closet as explicitly anti-homosexual. Someone that has claimed to be in favor of civil unions could not logically claim to be against “merriage” without confessing that what one is “defending” when one defends “marriage” from re-definition is not an institution, not a social and/or religious tradition but rather a recognizable and revered pattern of sounds.

Saturday, September 09, 2006


CBS News aired a brief interview with a Marine Colonel who is also a conservative Christian recently. What he says about the Bush Administration is eye-opening. Have a look:


I have many problems with conservative doctrine, problems I could talk all day about as you know. But I have also always felt that conservatism, at its most honest and honorable, does originate from a plausible world-view.

The best conservative argument, boiled all the way down, goes someting like this: 1) The world is cruel and chaotic by its nature. 2) Human beings are sinners (or if you want the secular version, human beings are hopelessly flawed animals constantly prone to mistakes in judgement and fits of cruelty toward each other). 3) The only way to combat this is to batten down the hatches: organize yourself in a small traditional family unit, in a small manageable community, with a clearly defined set of laws backed by tradition, habit and if necessary, well-reasoned force. 4) Once you've got everything manageable, you can focus on your own personal righteousness and be witness to the benefits of that righteousness.

I disagree strongly with this world-view for a number of reasons I won't get into now (gotta go pick up the kids at school in a minute) but its certainly not ridiculous and I think many of the people whose beliefs bascially conform to what I've sketched out here don't have a malicious bone in their body.

As the Marine Colonel in the video I've linked to here reminds us, there is nothing the least bit conservative about the Iraq War: making boneheaded, improvised, wing-and-a-prayer policy decisions based only on a few human beings' complete and total conviction about their own righteousness and infallibility; blowing $300 Billion on the adventure and justifying it by utopian fantasies about the better world on earth you're creating for people you dont know. What in the hell's conservative about that? It seems to me many conservatves are starting to ask this question.

If you are a true conservative, you might think about doing what this Marine Colonel says he'll be doing in November: voting Democratic across the board to deliver a Democratic congress that can stop this administration's madness in its tracks. Once a real conservative emerges again you can always return home.

If you're a liberal but know any conservatives, please pass this along.


Hey, who's THIS HERE shaking hands with Sadam Hussein in 1983? Why, I do believe that's Mr. Donald Rumsefeld!


Below is a letter from the Democratic Party leaders in the US Senate to The Walt Disney Company about their outrageously erroneous mini-series “Path to 9/11.” Please take a moment to read it. If you’re as outraged as I am, call this number and let Disney and ABC know:

(818) 460-7477

You can listen to the message, or you can press 2 and then 6 to get the beep and leave a message.

Public pressure has already convinced Scholastic Books to withdraw from their partnership with this program. We CAN actually get ABC to throw the thing in the garbage where it belongs before it airs.

Peace and Love,


September 7, 2006

Mr. Robert A. Iger
President and CEO
The Walt Disney Company
500 South Buena Vista Street
Burbank CA 91521

Dear Mr. Iger,

We write with serious concerns about the planned upcoming broadcast of The Path to 9/11 mini-series on September 10 and 11. Countless reports from experts on 9/11 who have viewed the program indicate numerous and serious inaccuracies that will undoubtedly serve to misinform the American people about the tragic events surrounding the terrible attacks of that day. Furthermore, the manner in which this program has been developed, funded, and advertised suggests a partisan bent unbecoming of a major company like Disney and a major and well respected news organization like ABC. We therefore urge you to cancel this broadcast to cease Disney’s plans to use it as a teaching tool in schools across America through Scholastic. Presenting such deeply flawed and factually inaccurate misinformation to the American public and to children would be a gross miscarriage of your corporate and civic responsibility to the law, to your shareholders, and to the nation.

The Communications Act of 1934 provides your network with a free broadcast license predicated on the fundamental understanding of your principle obligation to act as a trustee of the public airwaves in serving the public interest. Nowhere is this public interest obligation more apparent than in the duty of broadcasters to serve the civic needs of a democracy by promoting an open and accurate discussion of political ideas and events.

Disney and ABC claim this program to be based on the 9/11 Commission Report and are using that assertion as part of the promotional campaign for it. The 9/11 Commission is the most respected American authority on the 9/11 attacks, and association with it carries a special responsibility. Indeed, the very events themselves on 9/11, so tragic as they were, demand extreme care by any who attempt to use those events as part of an entertainment or educational program. To quote Steve McPhereson, president of ABC Entertainment, “When you take on the responsibility of telling the story behind such an important event, it is absolutely critical that you get it right.”

Unfortunately, it appears Disney and ABC got it totally wrong.

Despite claims by your network’s representatives that The Path to 9/11 is based on the report of the 9/11 Commission, 9/11 Commissioners themselves, as well as other experts on the issues, disagree.

Richard Ben-Veniste, speaking for himself and fellow 9/11 Commissioners who recently viewed the program, said, “As we were watching, we were trying to think how they could have misinterpreted the 9/11 Commission’s findings the way that they had.” [“9/11 Miniseries Is Criticized as Inaccurate and Biased,” New York Times, September 6, 2006]

Richard Clarke, the former counter-terrorism czar, and a national security advisor to ABC has described the program as “deeply flawed” and said of the program’s depiction of a Clinton official hanging up on an intelligence agent, “It’s 180 degrees from what happened.” [“9/11 Miniseries Is Criticized as Inaccurate and Biased,” New York Times, September 6, 2006]

Reports suggest that an FBI agent who worked on 9/11 and served as a consultant to ABC on this program quit halfway through because, “he thought they were making things up.” [MSNBC, September 7, 2006]

Even Thomas Kean, who serves as a paid consultant to the miniseries, has admitted that scenes in the film are fictionalized. [“9/11 Miniseries Is Criticized as Inaccurate and Biased,” New York Times, September 6, 2006]

That Disney would seek to broadcast an admittedly and proven false recounting of the events of 9/11 raises serious questions about the motivations of its creators and those who approved the deeply flawed program. Finally, that Disney plans to air commercial-free a program that reportedly cost it $40 million to produce serves to add fuel to these concerns.

These concerns are made all the more pressing by the political leaning of and the public statements made by the writer/producer of this miniseries, Mr. Cyrus Nowrasteh, in promoting this miniseries across conservative blogs and talk shows.

Frankly, that ABC and Disney would consider airing a program that could be construed as right-wing political propaganda on such a grave and important event involving the security of our nation is a discredit both to the Disney brand and to the legacy of honesty built at ABC by honorable individuals from David Brinkley to Peter Jennings. Furthermore, that Disney would seek to use Scholastic to promote this misguided programming to American children as a substitute for factual information is a disgrace.

As 9/11 Commission member Jamie Gorelick said, “It is critically important to the safety of our nation that our citizens, and particularly our school children, understand what actually happened and why – so that we can proceed from a common understanding of what went wrong and act with unity to make our country safer.”

Should Disney allow this programming to proceed as planned, the factual record, millions of viewers, countless schoolchildren, and the reputation of Disney as a corporation worthy of the trust of the American people and the United States Congress will be deeply damaged. We urge you, after full consideration of the facts, to uphold your responsibilities as a respected member of American society and as a beneficiary of the free use of the public airwaves to cancel this factually inaccurate and deeply misguided program. We look forward to hearing back from you soon.


Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid
Assistant Democratic Leader Dick Durbin
Senator Debbie Stabenow
Senator Charles Schumer
Senator Byron Dorgan

FINAL NOTE: Disney's Chairman of the Board is former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (D-ME). Senator Mitchell has a long and distinguished career both inside and outside government and he knows how important it is to accurately represent historical events.

You can remind him that 9/11 was a national tragedy, and that politicizing and flagrantly misrepresenting the facts about 9/11 is wrong.

Senator George J. Mitchell
T: (212) 335-4600
T: (212) 335-4500
F: (212) 335-4605

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Steven Colbert dispenses with his usually subtle irony and lets the President HAVE IT at the White House Correspondence dinner. This is just Part 1. Once you've seen it, search the same site for Parts 2 & 3:

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


I imagine many of you have been hearing about the Justice Department’s major case against Jack Abramoff and a number of powerful figures in the Republican lobbying and fundraising community. It’s a case that has already brought down Republican House Majority leader Tom Delay and may bring down over a dozen Republican congresspeople before all’s said and done. There’s been an awful lot of good investigative reporting on this case. I’m partial to the reporting Josh Marshall has been doing at Talking Points Memo

What Marshall argues convincingly is that, led by figures like Bush, Cheney, Delay and Roy Blunt, the Republican party has actually been functioning like an organized crime syndicate, laundering huge sums of money so as to avoid campaign finance laws and then using that money to bribe and/or bully public officials (often in their own party) to do their bidding. Jack Abramoff ran the enormous slush fund. It’s just another example of how this situation with the Bush Whitehouse and its tentacles has reached Nixonian proportions and is indeed now completely out of control.

I’m hoping to write a full synopsis of the Abramoff case for you, but in the meantime I thought I’d show you this. It’s an email exchange between Ralph Reed – he formerly of the Christian Coalition and the Michael J. Fox-like innocent looks – and Jack Abramoff. Reed's correspondence with Abramoff is contained in pages 52-53 of the Exhibits released to the public by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs as part of the Oversight Hearing on Lobbying Practices on November 2, 2005.

The Reed/Ambramoff coversation took place on April 11, 2001, as Reed was mounting a campaign for the chairmanship of the Georgia Republican Party:

Reed writes:

"Jack, would you be willing to contribute personally to my state chair campaign? This race is costing me $50-100K, and I'm asking my friends to help."

Abramoff responds:

"Sure. Give me the name of the entity."

Reed deadpans:

"The actual committee is "The Reed Family Retirement and Educational Foundation." It is a 501(c)(3). The address is 200 Bay Drive, Grand Cayman, BCI, R59876."


"Ha ha ha. Make sure you get me the proper committee name."

After Reed responded with the real name ("Reed for Chairman"), Abramoff wrote:

"Seriously, I'll get you the $10K this week or next from a source which owes me money."

The "source" was the Mississippi Choctaw Indian tribe. In early April, the Choctaw cut a $150K check to the American International Center, one of the fake foundation slush funds Abramoff had set up with Michael Scanlon. On 4/12/01, Abramoff wrote to his assistant instructing $10K of the $150K check to be sent on to Reed's campaign (see page 54).

Strangely, only $5500 of the Choctaw money seems to have gotten into the “Reed for Chairman” accounts. Perhaps the rest ended up in those Holy and Tax-Free Cayman Islands Reed mentioned.

Reed has been for almost two decades now one of the public faces of “conservative” American Christianity. And like many of his compatriots, he’s been working hard to give new meaning to that “In God We Trust” brand on the money in your wallet.

Could somebody remind me what slush funds in the tax-free Cayman Islands have to do with Jesus again?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


Thursday, December 08, 2005


Bring The Incompetent Design Theory up at your next School Board meeting…


Well, something has finally forced me to carve out a little time and put my Bluest Fist hat on. I urge you to read the article by Dana Priest in this past Sunday’s Washington Post

But if you for some reason can’t or don’t have time I’ll synopsize it here and give you my thoughts. Here are some excerpts from Priest’s article:

In May 2004, U.S. Ambassador Daniel R. Coats informed the German minister that the CIA had wrongfully imprisoned one of its citizens, Khaled Masri, for five months, and would soon release him, the sources said. There was also a request: that the German government not disclose what it had been told even if Masri went public. The U.S. officials feared exposure of a covert action program designed to capture terrorism suspects abroad and transfer them among countries, and possible legal challenges to the CIA from Masri and others with similar allegations.
Unlike the military's prison for terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba -- where 180 prisoners have been freed after a review of their cases -- there is no tribunal or judge to check the evidence against those picked up by the CIA. The same bureaucracy that decides to capture and transfer a suspect for interrogation-- a process called "rendition" -- is also responsible for policing itself for errors.

And errors there have been, plenty of them. We are talking about innocent people with no association whatsoever to terrorism being grabbed by the CIA, beaten, tortured and interrogated in secret. Khaled Masri is one of these people. Who is he? Well, geez, he’s just some German guy who happens to be of Lebanese decent. Other people of Lebanese decent include my good friend Phil Metres and TV’s Jamie Farr, who you may have recently seen in a rerun of M*A*S*H. Masri had a fight with his wife and took a bus to Macedonia to blow off steam. Macedonian authorities working in contact with the CIA grabbed him off the bus because his name was kind of like (yes, not the same as but kind of like) the name of an al Qaeda figure. Once word got to the CIA “The director of the al Qaeda unit [in the CIA’s counter-terrorism office] insisted he was probably a terrorist, and should be imprisoned and interrogated immediately.”

Let’s pause for a minute. “Probably a terrorist”?!? This is how we fight terrorism now, by saying some German dude with a middle eastern name is “probably a terrorist”? It would all be a hilarious Saturday Night Live-like joke if it weren’t for what happens to these guys once they are designated “probably terrorist.” Because, listen up American citizens, they are then snatched up by our lovely, secret, “Rendition Group.” Haven’t heard of the Rendition Group? Didn’t know your hard-earned tax dollars pay for this group? Well, Dana Priest at The Post tells us about them:

Members of the Rendition Group follow a simple but standard procedure: Dressed head to toe in black, including masks, they blindfold and cut the clothes off their new captives, then administer an enema and sleeping drugs. They outfit detainees in a diaper and jumpsuit for what can be a day-long trip. Their destinations: either a detention facility operated by cooperative countries in the Middle East and Central Asia, including Afghanistan, or one of the CIA's own covert prisons -- referred to in classified documents as "black sites," which at various times have been operated in eight countries, including several in Eastern Europe.

Let’s try to put this all in familiar terms for a moment: Let’s say you’re a working-class guy and you live in San Diego. You’re name is Mike Magee. You get in a fight with your wife and to blow off a little steam you take a bus across the border to Tiajuana. Mexican authorities meet you as you get off the bus because they’re looking for a guy named Mick McGahee and, well, your name is kind of like that. So, now you’re in a jail waiting for a hearing. But before you get a hearing, a bunch of commandos dressed head to toe in black and wearing masks snatch you up, blindfold you, cut your clothes off, shove an enema up your ass, drug you. When you wake up you’re wearing a diaper and have hit and pissed in it; you’re in a dimly lit room in some basement where these commandos proceed to beat, torture and interrogate you for five months. Then they drop you off somewhere near the border and tell you to find your way back to San Diego. When you get there your wife and five children are gone. You hear they moved to Nebraska. Meanwhile the Mexican Government has convinced your President to pretend this never happened.

This is the equivalent of what your United States government did to Khaled Masri. THEY DID THIS KNOWINGLY, THROUGH A PROGRAM AUTHORIZED BY GEORGE W. BUSH AT THE PROVOCATION OF DICK CHENEY.

Please do not treat this as conspiracy theory. It is not. The story of Khaled Masri is simple fact, corroborated by dozens of sources in the U.S. government and intelligence community. And Masri is one of several dozen innocent people who have received similar treatment at the hands of the Rendition Group.

"I have very bad feelings" about the United States, Masri says. "I think it's just like in the Arab countries: arresting people, treating them inhumanly and less than that, and with no rights and no laws."

Can someone explain to me again how this message we’re sending to ordinary law-abiding people of Middle Eastern decent is going to help us fight terrorism?

There was a time, after 9/11, when citizens like you and I could perhaps be forgiven for not having the moral righteousness and fortitude to pay attention to the perversions of American democracy that were taking place in the name of the “war on terrorism”. That time is now past. If we can’t as citizens of the United States put a stop to what this White House is doing by our own actions of vote and protest then we don’t really deserve to live in a democracy, which depends for its very life on the personal moral responsibility of its citizens.

Call your Congresspeople! Call your Senators! They are in your phone book. Tell them you have had enough and don’t sugar-coat it – tell them your are wretching and puking over what George W. Bush is doing to our democratic principles and that you will stand for nothing short of a full investigation and immediate reforms.

When Thomas Jefferson sat down to write the Declaration of Independence, he decided to include in it a list of sins committed by King George against the people of the United States of America and against the principle of democracy. It wasn’t a long list, really. Every item was treated as a serious state-altering infraction. Among the items included were these:

“He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power…depriving us, in many Cases, of the Benefits of Trial by Jury [and] transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses.”

When I think of these words in light of our current circumstances and those of Khaled Masri and others like him, I am completely sick. And my greatest fear is that around the globe, millions of people are or will soon be echoing in their own minds precisely what Jefferson said about King George at the advent of our own nation:

“He is, at this Time, transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the Works of Death, Desolation, and Tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and Perfidy, scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous Ages, and totally unworthy of the Head of a Civilized Nation.”

This horrible turn of events in the history of the United States of America can only be remedied by you and I, the American people.

Peace, Love and Happy Holidays,


Wednesday, November 02, 2005


Our good friends at People for the American Way ( have provided a succinct explanation for why you should be appauled by Bush's new nomination to the Supreme Court, Judge Alito. I've copied it below. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has indicated by his audacious political maneuvering yesterday (forcing the Republicans to seriously investigate the pre-Iraq War White House propaganda machine) that he may just be able to mobilize enough votes to kill this insulting nomination. So, call your Senators!

Peace & Love,


Samuel Alito: Leading the Attack on Fundamental Legal Rights and Protections for All Americans

Samuel Alito has been a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit since his appointment by the first President Bush in 1990.  In that time, Alito has compiled an extensive, extreme right-wing judicial record on numerous matters of importance to the protection of the rights and interests of ordinary Americans -- a record that has earned him the nickname "Scalito" for his ideological resemblance to Justice Antonin Scalia.  Alito's judicial opinions demonstrate that he is an out of the mainstream opponent of fundamental legal rights and protections for all Americans and must not be confirmed to the Supreme Court.  For example:

Hostile to basic reproductive privacy rights: Alito wants government to be able to interfere in personal decisions on reproductive rights. In Casey, Alito stated that he would have upheld a provision of Pennsylvania's restrictive anti-abortion law requiring a woman in certain circumstances to notify her husband before obtaining an abortion.  His colleagues on the Third Circuit and the Supreme Court majority disagreed and overturned the provision. 

Rejects basic protections for workers: In a number of dissenting opinions, Alito has taken positions that, if adopted, would have made it more difficult for victims of race and sex discrimination to prove their claims.  In one case involving claims of race discrimination, the court majority sharply criticized Alito's dissent, stating that Alito's "position would immunize an employer from the reach of Title VII" in certain circumstances. 

Leads revolution against federal laws protecting individual and other rights:  According to one of Alito's opinions, Congress had no authority to require state employers to comply with the Family and Medical Leave Act, a ruling that was repudiated by the Supreme Court in a later case in which conservative Chief Justice Rehnquist, no friend of civil rights, wrote the Court's decision.  Alito also dissented from a ruling by the Third Circuit that Congress has the power under the Commerce Clause to restrict the transfer and possession of machine guns at gun shows.

Fails to consider racial discrimination in capital punishment: An African American had been convicted of felony murder by an all white jury from which black jurors had been impermissibly struck because of their race.  Alito cast the deciding vote and wrote the majority opinion in a 2-1 ruling rejecting the defendant's claims. The full Third Circuit, in a split decision, reversed Alito's ruling, and the majority specifically criticized him for having compared statistical evidence about the prosecution's exclusion of blacks from juries in capital cases to an explanation of why a disproportionate number of recent U.S. Presidents have been left-handed.  According to the majority, "[t]o suggest any comparability to the striking of jurors based on their race is to minimize the history of discrimination against prospective black jurors and black defendants . . ."

Thursday, October 27, 2005


Well, as I mentioned a few days ago, I've been feeling bad about my lack of Bluest Fist posts in a time of such urgency. But today I think, at least in regards to my sworn duty to convince you, my gentle readers, that George W. Bush is the worst president in the history of the Un ited States, can't I just kick up my heals at this point and let Dubya convince you all on his own?

In the past week, Bush has had to withdraw not one but TWO major nominations, the latest being his buffoonish crony Harriet "Not Ready for Primetime" Miers who he tried to sneak SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. In addition to this, he had to reinstate the so-called "Davis-Bacon" labor rule -- which guarantees workers in disaster reconstruction projects equitable pay, and was thus unable to throw his right-wing economic base a much needed bone.

Oh, and did I mention that two of the five most powerful people in the White House -- Karl Rove and Scooter "I Did Not Have Phone Sex With That Woman, Judy Miller" Libby -- may get indicted tomorrow on federal charges?

Oy vey!

But unfortunately we don't have the luxury of laughing at this political Keystone Cops routine. Yesterday we learned that 2000 U. S. soldiers have now died in Iraq. For Iraqis themselves there is nothing resembling democracy as we know it while great pain and suffering continue. Iran grows bolder by the day and is no doubt laughing its collective ass off that it managed to convince -- get this -- the United States Government to give it effective control over the ruling party of its archenemy's land. Meanwhile, to the north, the Kurds and the Turks are quietly spoiling to beat each others brains in.

Total presidential incompetence combined with hair-brained right-wing ideology has real and tragic consequences.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

2000 soldiers

2000 U.S. soldiers have now died in Iraq.

For what?

Monday, October 17, 2005


Hi everyone,

So sorry not to have been in touch w/ with Bluest Fist posts ranging from the witty to the poignant to the insightful to the scalding. Life's just carried me away for a few months and may do so for a few more. This isn't a good excuse and I feel bad that in these troubling times I haven't been able to find the time for a good political letter to you. Stick with me and at some point I'll be back on the airwaves with a vengence.

Anyway, Sue and I watched a pretty excellent documentary tonight on PBS's American Experience. It was called "Two Days in October" and it told the contemporaneous stories of the 1967 "Dow Protest" at University of Wisconsin-Madison, on the one hand, and on the other, the massacre by ambush of the "Black Lions" regiment of (mostly teenage) soldiers by Viet Cong.

The documentary is remarkable for the range of interviews -- from the Viet Cong colonel who lead the ambush to half a dozen very brave and honest (it seemed to me) U.S. soldiers who were there and are universally haunted by it (though their political responses to it ranged widely); likewise in the Wisconsin story -- where two of the police officers who lead a brutal repression of the protest manage to reveal the deep class resentment at the heart of their own anger towards the "student radicals" (though without tempering their hsotility very much) -- and a very eloquent guy who was a young professor there at the time really steals that part of the show. The wife of Colonel Terry Allen plays a startling role on the other side of the story.

So, look for it on PBS! And if you see it, send an email to your local PBS affiliate and thank them for showing it.