Tuesday, November 30, 2004


During the 2000 presidential campaign, at one of the Republican primary debates, the candidates were asked to name the philosopher they most admired. George W. Bush famously said, “Jesus Christ. Because he changed my heart.” Some pundits found this nutty –– more a sign that Bush didn’t know any philosophers (he himself has admitted that he never ever reads books) than that he had thoughtfully considered the philosophy of The Gospels. Four years later another reading of that answer seems the most likely – namely, that it was a fairly calculated way for George Bush to communicate a plain and simple faith to Christian voters, particularly (but by no means exclusively) to those voters known collectively as “the Christian Right.”

The Christian Right is a group whose political time, energy and capital are spent overwhelming on three issues: 1) fighting against the right of women to have abortions; 2) fighting to have Constitutional authority for prayer and the presentation of religious symbols in public schools and other public and governmental spaces, while garnering federal assistance for religious institutions via so-called “faith-based initiatives”; and 3) fighting against the “normalization” of homosexuality – the idea that homosexuality is neither deviant nor sinful but is, rather, a normal (if comparatively infrequent) sexual orientation which has no bearing whatsoever on one’s ability to be a good child, parent or citizen. This includes fighting against the rights of homosexuals not to be fired from their jobs or assaulted or kept from adopting children or kept from teaching in public schools or married by a Justice of the Peace in a civil ceremony.

That’s it. That’s the Big Three of religious conservatism, from the Pope to Pat Robertson. Anyone who’s been attending mass at a conservative Catholic parish for a while or watching The 700 Club knows this to be the case. There is one fellow-traveler with the Big Three, however, which is not specifically religious but tends to be packaged with them – that is, the tax cut. Of course it wouldn’t do to suggest that multi-millionaires like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell want a tax cut for the same reason other multi-millionaires do (for those napping at home, it’s because they want more money to accrue consumer goods and earthly power); so, instead, the argument runs like this: it is immoral for you to give money in the form of taxes to a government that supports abortion and won’t let your kids pray in their public school. Of course, you have to give them some to keep out of jail, but the less the better. Thus, among some members of the Religious Right, MONEY is discussed with a quasi-religious reverence.

Why have we Americans come to equate this four point agenda with Christianity? When I see Jerry Falwell (as I did on Thanksgiving Day) actually selling a financial investment plan on TV to his flock and using the language of “faith” to do it, I am reminded of Jesus’s famous proviso,

“Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows' houses and for the sake of appearances say long prayers. Such men will be punished most severely.” (Luke 20:46-47)

Makes you think twice about wanting to say a prayer out loud in a public place like a school, doesn’t it?

My message today is simply this: the idea that cultural conservatives could be followers of Jesus Christ is LAUGHABLE – or would be if these people hadn’t used Christ’s name to promote their profoundly anti-democratic and, indeed, anti-Christian agenda. When they did this to apologize for – and even promote! – slavery in the “red states,” pro-democracy Christians all over the U.S. and the world seized the initiative and hollered from the rooftops that these so-called Christian slave-owners were, in the most wretched and disgusting way, anathema to everything Jesus stood for. As Emerson asked in 1841 (and continually in the years preceding the Civil War), “in Christendom where is the Christian?”

Today, however, when “conservative Christians” put the weight of their institutions behind George W. Bush’s anti-democratic agenda, we just shrug. We call them “crazy Christians” as if following the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament actually lead in some obvious way to violent military interventions abroad, massive tax cuts for the wealthiest people in the world, and a total faith in a *human being* leading a secular nation into a foreign war while refusing to admit he has made a single mistake during his tenure. I support unequivocally the right of anyone and everyone to neither read nor follow the Christian Gospels – democracy depends on this right, among others. But more and more I have come to see the choice to concede those Gospels to cultural conservatives (a choice accelerated by the assassination of the last great Christian in American public life, Martin Luther King, Jr.) as a deeply lazy and boneheaded decision.

So, I asked myself a question: where would I begin if I were to explain that American conservatism has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with Jesus. Then I decided to email my friend John Parker. John’s dad was a Seventh Day Adventist, his mom a Methodist. He reads Martin Luther in the original German, reads Latin and Greek, and knows a thing or two about the Gospels. I asked John the same question I had asked myself. And he responded with the following passages and commentary.

1) "Repent, for the Kingdom is at hand!" (Mt 3.2, 4.17; Mk. 1.15)

The Lord commands his followers to admit their mistakes. Only in this way can they prepare for the Armageddon that their mistakes are about to bring upon us. Change course! The word of the Lord.
It's worth noting, in connection to this verse, the supreme irony of a self-proclaimed born-again convert touting *steadfastness* as his greatest virtue and branding any change of opinion in his opponents as a sign of weakness. Save for his own "flip-flopping" W would still be the cocaine-snorting booze hound he used to be. On the other hand, if the mantra of AA is any indication, once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic. Not even Jesus can change that. So that probably W really *is* as steadfast as he proclaims, and therefore *remains* a cocaine-snorting booze hound, if not at the level of actual substance abuse, then at the level of personality, which is, in this case, a very low level indeed; in fact, the most craven, self-destructive, adolescent, vaguely Oedipal recklessness to seize global power since, perhaps, Christ's own emperors, Caligula and Nero.
Speaking of whom....

2) Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God what
is God's (Mt. 22.21; Mk 12.17; Lk 20.25)

Is it good to pay taxes? The Lord commands that you pay your taxes. He does not tell his disciples that “it’s their money;” he does not advocate tax cuts. On the contrary. He commands that you give your wealth to the state, on the grounds that the state has made your wealth possible in the first place: that is why money has other people’s pictures on it, and not yours. Jesus specifically *befriended* tax-collectors. It was a tax collector who wrote the Gospel according to Matthew.
The same verse clearly commends the radical separation of Church and State. There is the Kingdom of God, on the one hand, and the regular old kingdom on the other, and till the former should supercede the latter at the end-time of history, the secular kingdom remains secular and the Kingdom of God remains, in effect, non-existent. It is your religious duty to support the secular kingdom with taxes.
In fact....

3) “Sell all you have, and distribute unto the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven....how hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Lk. 18.22-5; Mt. 19.21; Mk. 10.23)
This is why you have to pay capital gains tax when you sell all the stock you have: in order as to *distribute unto the poor*. Period. Anyone who receives undue tax breaks and does not aid the secular state in distributing unto the poor WILL NOT GET INTO HEAVEN! The word of the Lord, people!

4) "And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and distributed them to all men, as every man had need" (Acts 2.44-5).
The early church, as one learns from this verse, was a communist organization. Each according to need, was their motto. There follows an instructive anecdote about a man named Ananias and his wife Sapphira, both of whom followed the conservative doctrine of hoarding their own while profiting from the collective. For this they are openly denounced by Peter, then fall down instantly and GIVE UP THE GHOST! True! (Acts. 5.5, 10).

So, to recap:
1) Admit mistake and change course, for the kingdom is at hand!
2) Until the kingdom actually comes, Pay Taxes to the Kingdom that's already here.
3) Redistribute wealth.
4) Redistribute wealth or DIE!

Among other things, the passages John quoted put the lie to the whole notion of Christian Fundamentalists “reading the Bible literally.” Are fundamentalist Bush supporters reading these passages literally? Oh really? I imagine one could do a whole lot of interpretive gymnastics with these passages and still manage to end up as a “Christian” holding on to your money. But a “fundamentalist”? Uh-uh. I give you Matthew 6.24: “You cannot serve God and wealth.” Period. (By the way, the same goes for the so-called “strict constructionist” judges and the U.S. Constitution.) As always, John had gotten me thinking. There seemed to be an endless number of directions I could pursue. I could note, for instance, that Jesus talks endlessly (endlessly!) in the Gospels about the evils of economic greed, while he has nothing (not one single thing!) to say about homosexuality. I could meditate on cultural conservatives’ obsessive return to selectively chosen rules and restrictions from the Old Testament books of law (Leviticus, Deuteronomy, etc) and answer them using Paul’s complex meditation on Judaic law in his letter to the Galatians (where he writes that “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law” and “now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian” (3.13, 25). Hopefully I’ll get to these and much more down the road.

For now I think it’s important to deal with the Iraq War. I was disgusted to learn from one of my wonderful aunts at Thanksgiving that she had received a Catholic voter guide at Mass before the election which listed these five “non-negotiable issues”: abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning, and homosexual marriage.

How in the world did we get to this point? THESE are the five? Where is the torturing of prisoners? Not sufficiently in the news? Did the Church miss the Bush memo authorizing it? It was written by incoming Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. Is torture not non-negotiable? Is the decision to hoard wealth while eight million uninsured American children go without proper healthcare not non-negotiable? Not worth putting in the pamphlet? Is the Iraq War – where 1252 American soldiers and tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians have been killed – a morally negotiable war? The very idea of this sickens me. Of course I’m not totally surprised by a Catholic Church which once turned a blind eye to the evildoings of Hitler and Mussolini, but I respond with revulsion nonetheless. And in any event it is time that we stopped letting rightwing so-called Christians apologize for such a war.

It is absolutely, unequivocally clear that Jesus would have died on the cross a thousand times before he uttered a single kind or even ambiguous word for the Iraq War. If the Gospels are any indication, he would have condemned it in the strongest possible terms and called on its architects to repent before they were cast into the bowels of hell. Here’s Jesus talking about violence and retaliation during his Sermon on the Mount:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” (Mt 5.38-45).

Could this be any more clear? Iraq War? Puh-lease! And if there was any doubt that Jesus might not practice what he preaches, here is his reaction – as described in Luke and Matthew – the only time one of his followers ever attempts to violently defend him:

LK 22.49-51: When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, "Lord, should we strike with the sword?" Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, "No more of this!" And he touched his ear and healed him.

MT 26.51-52: Suddenly, one of those with Jesus put his hand on his sword, drew it, and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”

I don’t know that it has ever been stated any better.

It is your right to support George W. Bush. But if you do, for God’s sake, stop calling yourself a Christian, it’s embarrassing.

On the other hand, there are many reasons besides Christian service to oppose this administration. But if you are truly a follower of Jesus, take to the streets immediately in protest.


Here are five movies popularly released and widely available that might get people across a wide range of opinion and experience (though not of course the unpersuadable "true believers") thinking about the implications and consequences of war:

1. The Thin Red Line
2. The Deer Hunter
3. Salvador
4. The Killing Fields
5. Three Kings

I started thinking about this after mentioning "Taxi Driver" in my last post. "The Killing Fields" in particular made a big impression on me when I was about 16 -- and I guess I'm thinking about movies that might reach someone while they're still a political work in progress as much as I am about convincing people already pretty set in their ways.

Any others? Add 'em to the "Comments"!

Thursday, November 18, 2004


With Colin Powell resigning after what he termed “the worst time in my life” there can now be no illusions that the Iraq War is in the hands – completely – of its architects, a group of radical conservatives none of whom ever fought in a war. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Wolfowitz, Feith: ladies and gentlemen, this is your starting team. Without exception they are what we liberals call “Chickenhawks”—rabidly pro-war conservatives who never bothered to fight themselves, and in most cases (Bush and Cheney being the obvious ones) went out of their way to dodge the draft. One of Bush’s professors at Harvard Business School recalls him aggressively championing the Vietnam War as late as 1974 (the MBA program was his early ticket out of the National Guard which apparently wasn’t cushy enough) while sitting in the back of the class with his bomber jacket on. I’ll give you a minute if you want to go to the bathroom and throw up.


By now you all know the obvious criticisms of the Iraq War. In a nutshell, it’s a unnecessary war that was badly planned, that won’t bring democracy to Iraq or the Middle East generally, has nothing to do with 9/11 and the war against Al Qaeda (except insofar as it gives Al Qaeda a new place to kill Americans while drawing resources away from the hunt for Osama bin Laden) and it has cost taxpayers 225 billion dollars and counting.

Now, I know a few of you disagree with this assessment and believe that the Iraq War is a heroic battle to bring democracy to the world and that it is one we will win. If this sounds like you then I strongly encourage you to enlist in the armed forces. It’s okay if you are middle-aged. The Army is in desperate need of soldiers with various kinds of expertise (notably doctors: the Bush administration has even drawn up plans for a medical draft if necessary) so you may very well be able to serve in Iraq even if you’re in your fifties. You can also show your support for the war by encouraging your children to enlist. It’s surprisingly easy. Just go to


and follow the steps in the section marked “Plan Your Military Career.” If you are not internet savvy, I have taken the liberty of downloading the enlistment forms for the Army, Navy and Marines and will gladly mail copies to you or your sons or daughters. All you have to do is email me at bluestfist@cox.net and ask.

But before you express your unqualified support for the war in such an honest and courageous way, you may want to read the rest of this message.

As the Washington Post reported on Wednesday, “While at least 38 Marine and Army troops have died in a tough week of house-to-house fighting in Fallujah, that is not the hardest part of the U.S. counteroffensive against the Iraqi insurgency.”

That’s right, folks – “taking” Falluja was the easy part. And given that we apparently failed to capture any of the insurgency’s senior leadership, it’s hard to say what “capturing Falluja” means. The Bush Administration clearly ties this ability to occupy and stabilize Falluja to their plans for Iraq-wide January elections which need some semblance of Sunni support to have any legitimacy. And a nationwide election is part of their broader plan for the “Iraqization” of the Iraqi government and military. “Iraqization” is what, theoretically, will allow the U.S. military to leave. But it is instructive to compare Bush’s optimistic assessments of the “Iraqization” process (which all of you have no doubt heard him tout at one point or another) to Richard Nixon’s description of his “Vietnamization” plan. [All praise be to the "Daily Kos" folks for digging this speech up.]

On 11/3/69 Nixon described to the American people, “the goal of strengthening the South Vietnamese so that they could defend themselves when we left.” He went on to explain:

The Vietnamization plan was launched following Secretary Laird's visit to Vietnam in March. Under the plan, I ordered first a substantial increase in the training and equipment of South Vietnamese forces. After 5 years of Americans going into Vietnam, we are finally bringing men home. By December 15, over 60,000 men will have been withdrawn from South Vietnam including 20 percent of all of our combat forces. The South Vietnamese have continued to gain in strength. As a result they have been able to take over combat responsibilities from our American troops.

Sound familiar? The Vietnam War continued for another bloody five years – in which time it also destabilized Cambodia, leading to the Khmer Rouge’s horrific genocide and the death of at least 1.2 million Cambodians.

Meanwhile, Tuesday in Mosul, a Marine (apparently under extreme stress after being shot in the face the previous day) cracked up and shot an unarmed man lying on the ground in – of all places – a mosque. He is on video tape taken by an NBC freelance journalist saying, “He’s fucking faking he’s dead. He faking he’s fucking dead.” As the journalist then put it, “The Marine then raises his rifle and fires into the man’s head.”

Get ready for more of this, everybody. Political scientists have a word for the unintended longterm consequences of foreign military interventions. They call it "blowback."

Here’s a question for you: who are the two Americans who can be reasonably said to have committed large scale acts of terrorism *on Americans* in the last decade. The answer is Tim McVey, who (with the help of Terry Nichols) bombed the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people, including 19 children; and John Allen Muhammad who, along with his young accomplice Lee Malvo, shot 13 people from long range in the Washington D.C. area, killing 10 of them.

What do McVey and Muhammad have in common? They were both veterans of the Persian Gulf War.

You’ll recall that that was one of our “good” and “successful” wars. Still, according to leaks of a report, which is due to be released next week by the US Department of Veterans Affairs’ Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses, “a substantial proportion of Gulf war veterans are ill with multisystem conditions not explained by wartime stress or psychiatric illness”. As the New Scientist journal reports, “Some 30% of Gulf veterans suffer from various combinations of fatigue, muscle and joint pains, headache, and gut and cognitive problems – over and above non-Gulf veterans, the report says.” The U.S. is finally, after 13 years, admitting that this syndrome exists and that it was likely the result of Sarin gas exposure.

While Bush has done members of the military an enormous disservice by getting them embroiled in an unwinnable war where they are being maimed and killed, he hasn’t even done them the courtesy of creating a safety net for them when they return or for their families while they are away. U.S. Representative Lane A. Evans has an excellent, detailed speech about Bush’s attempts to decimate the VA Hospital system which you can read here:


Wars reverberate long after they are won or lost – and when we consider whether or not to support a war we should consider these reverberations.

Everyone remembers the Martin Scorcese movie “Taxi Driver” as a movie about a crazy person planning a political assassination – and as a movie that inspired John Hinkley Jr’s attempt to kill President Reagan. But Robert De Niro’s character Travis Bickle is nothing like John Hinkley Jr. And “Taxi Driver”, I’m here to tell you, is a Vietnam War movie:

TRAVIS: Honorable Discharge, May 1973.
PERSONNEL OFFICER: Were you in the Army?
TRAVIS: Marines.

Later De Niro utters the famous lines “Listen you fuckers, you screwheads. Here’s a man who would not take it anymore. A man who stood up against the scum, the c***s, the dogs, the filth, the shit, here is someone who stood up. [He draws his gun.] You’re dead.”

I realize a few of you may find this language terribly offensive -- if so, I would ask you to come to terms with the fact that the men and women in the military traffic in similar language. They may not have spoken it when they enlisted but many of them surely speak it by the time they are discharged, if they live that long. It is the language of the Marine who killed that man in a mosque yesterday as surely as it was the language of the prison guards at Abu Ghraib. De Niro’s monologue is a “bad” War come home to roost. It strikes me as uncannily like the delusions of grandeur which buoyed Tim McVey as he hatched his shocking and awful plan.

Add a long line of disillusioned, expertly trained Veterans to the list of what we are inheriting as a result of Bush’s Iraq War. It may pale in comparison to the 1209 dead and the (at least) 8458 wounded American soldiers; or the tens upon tens of thousands of dead Iraqi civilians; but it is surely another consequence to keep in mind. Bush and his cabinet may be sowing the seeds but we, the people, will reap the harvest.

Monday, November 15, 2004


Brad Carson, defeated Democratic senate candidate from Oklahoma, has an interesting piece in The New Republic this week. In it, he tries to explain why the Red States go conservative. Here’s a portion of his argument:

The culture war is real, and it is a conflict not merely about some particular policy or legislative item, but about modernity itself. Banning gay marriage or abortion would not be sufficient to heal the cultural gulf that exists in this nation. The culture war is about matters more fundamental still: whether nationality is, in a globalized world, a random fact of no more significance than what hospital one was born in or whether it is the source of identity and even political legitimacy; whether one's self is a matter of choice or whether it is predetermined, before birth, by the cultural membership of one's family; whether an individual is just that--a free-floating atom--or whether the individual is part of a long chain that both predates and continues long after any particular person; whether concepts like honor and shame, which seem so quaint, are still relevant in a world that values only "tolerance." These are questions not for politicians but for philosophers, and, in the end, it is the failure of liberal philosophy that we saw on November 2. For the vast majority of Oklahomans--and, I would suspect, voters in other red states--these transcendent cultural concerns are more important than universal health care or raising the minimum wage or preserving farm subsidies. Pace Thomas Frank, the voters aren't deluded or uneducated. They simply reject the notion that material concerns are more real than spiritual or cultural ones. The political left has always had a hard time understanding this, preferring to believe that the masses are enthralled by a "false consciousness" or Fox News or whatever today's excuse might be. But the truth is quite simple: Most voters in a state like Oklahoma--and I venture to say most other Southern and Midwestern states--reject the general direction of American culture and celebrate the political party that promises to reform or revise it.

Now, one always needs to begin a discussion of something like this by noting the obvious: that if Americans had simply been given the basic, un-spun facts about domestic and international policy, Kerry would have won the election in a landslide: my guess is he would have won by about 56-44. The people Carson is talking about are that 44% who wouldn’t have cared about those facts even if they’d known them because their beliefs supercede those facts. Much as I disagree with Carson’s implicit suggestion that Democrats moderate their philosophy, it rightly identifies a philosophical rift as the cause for the current red-blue polarization. But Carson doesn't go the final step of turning a pragmatist's eye on the motives of "Red State" philosophy (likely b/c it would end what's left of his political career). As John Dewey says, philosophy is not "in any sense whatever a form of knowledge" but rather "a form of desire, of effort at action." The South's "metaphysical feudalism" has always inspirited and emboldened and policed its preferred social relations -- most notably slavery and the master-slave relationship, and more generally the traditional gender and class relationships which they have historically located (not always accurately, one could argue) in jolly old England and the Old Testament. That many Southerners "believe" their philosophy is important to digest but it doesn't remove the insidious and fundamentally un-democratic texture of that belief. What it DOES do is explain why a bunch of poor people would vote for one of the world's great elitists, George W. Bush. Put simply, they do it because they LIKE TO, because it pleasurably confirms their fundamental belief in authority and hierarchy. Bush executes the seamless melding of their earthly and heavenly masters. Why in the hell would they question his decisioon about a war, particularly when he has affirmed the righteousness of their nuclear family? God is good, all's right with the world, long live the king. Contrast this with what Dewey says about democracy:

"A philosophy animated, be it consciously or unconsciously, by the strivings of men to achieve democracy will construe liberty as meaning a universe in which there is real uncertainty and contingency, a world which is not all in, and never will be, a world which in some respect is incomplete and in the making, and in these respects may be made this way or that according as men judge, prize, love and labor...a genuine field of novelty, of real and unpredictable increments to existence, a field for experimentation and invention."

It's not "modernity" that Red Staters hate, it's democracy. Carson either doesn't recognize or is too afraid to break the code. But he is absolutely right that our defeat in the election is a defeat for our philosophy -- and
that we need to stop asking our presidential candidate to carry the whole load of selling democracy to the American people.

The Left (some of its more forceful advocates anyway) made an enormous mistake, IMHO, when it abandoned the term "democracy" to stroke its own skepticism -- they simply gave this powerful word to the very people who believed least in democratic practices and allowed them to call THEIR thing "democracy." How stupid can we get?? We did the same thing with such revered terms as "America" ("People for the American Way" being one important exception) and "Jesus." Dumb, dumb, dumb. So, Carson's got his symtom identified but he needs to think more about cause and cure.


Most of you have been receiving my "BushWatch" emails for several months. A few of you are new to this list. Welcome! The BushWatch2004 blog has been renamed in honor of it's broader mission. Kudos to my cousin Nadia for winning the "Name Mike's Blog" contest. So, I introduce to you: The Bluest Fist. Which you can always find at:


I will be committed to explaining what the democratic/liberal causes are and why they make sense. And I will be trying to get you clear, factual information about domestic and international policy and events -- which is so hard to get in these days of corporate media noise. As one of The Daily Show's reporters recently joked, the networks have stopped reporting the facts about Iraq and many other issues because "apparently the facts have become biased." No such worries here at The Bluest Fist.

Anyone can join my email list. Just email me at bluestfist@cox.net and ask to be included. Likewise, anyone can ask to be removed from it at any time. My emails will always be posted to the website. And you all can easily post comments to the website. All you have to do is click on "comments" at the bottom of any one of my posts and walk through the easy steps. You have to sign up for a "Blogger" account but it's easy and free. I'm hoping that will be a way to create some dialgue without clogging up all our email inboxes.

In the coming weeks I hope to discuss a number of things, including: the politics of Christianity; the impending demise of Republican Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania; the likelihood of a military draft; an update on Iraq; and Democracy and the history of the progressive tax (or, "Why Paris Hilton's taxes are lower than the woman's who does her nails).

For now, I will end with a Pop Quiz:

What state has the lowest divorce rate in U.S.?

Give up?

Okay, it's Massachusetts. Yup, the land of atheists, communists and homosexuals. Apparently, liberals' marriages are so damn good they don't need defending.

Thursday, November 04, 2004


Thought I was going to go away and sulk? Fat chance! There’s a lot of work to do. Over the next few weeks you’ll be hearing a lot of nonsense about what this election "meant" and about a Bush "mandate." Don’t you believe it. George Bush has now run two presidential elections. The way I slice the numbers, half the nation hates his guts, about 40% of the nation loves him, and the final 10% think he’s a disaster but votes for him anyway because they viscerally dislike our Democratic candidates. Folks, that’s not a mandate to do anything.

The blog http://www.mydd.com dispels some of the myths already circulating about this election: for instance, the one about young people not turning out to vote in the expected record numbers -- they did turn out in record numbers, it’s just that so did every other age group so the *percentage* of the total turnout didn’t seem remarkable. The point is that groups like MoveOn and blogs like DailyKos did have an appreciable effect, most noticeably in places like Philadelphia. The battle shifts for a while now to Congress and we’ll start rallying against rightwing extremists like Senator Rick Santorum NOW -- he’s up for reelection in 2006 and the numbers and trends in Pennsylvania clearly spell his demise. See, I told you there was work to do! In 2000, Gore lost and we all went into hibernation for a while, exhausted. Not this time. I am continuing BushWatch as a blog. And I’m soliciting names which suggest both liberal and tough. My choice at the moment is "The Liberal Fist" – I like it ‘cause it sounds kinda crazy. But I’m holding off on deciding until I hear other suggestions. I’ll also continue emailing my posts – as always, if you want off the list just let me know. And feel free to sign others up.

The story of Bush’s win? Karl Rove turned out his evangelicals, period. This is a group of voters who steadfastly, willingly, even knowingly, vote against their economic self-interest. "Bush cost you your job" means almost nothing to them. We need to absorb this fact and plan accordingly.

Last night John Stewart gave to Sen. Schumer a litany of things that Bush has done to hurt "average Americans" -- and then he said, "Apparently this was all trumped by the idea of dudes kissing other dudes."


Wes Clark began this process with his excellent stump speech about "Family Values" which pointed out, without spite or rancor but with plenty of indignation, the myriad evidence that Bush and the Republican party *despise* families. "Health Care is a family value" should be a bumper sticker on 50 million cars (in contrast Kerry’s "Health Care is a right" spoke only to his own

That being said, 55.5 million people voted for Kerry. We came within a hair's breath (about 75,000 votes in Ohio when all’s said and done) of electing the most liberal senator in the country (the Bushies were right about that) President. I admire many things about Kerry but his flaws as a national candidate were obvious, notably his undeniable patrician/northeastern/European vibe and the coincidence of the Gay Marriage legal fight being waged in his state in an election year. If we had run a Governor from a swing state with political skill we would have won the election with the exact same platform on which Kerry ran. I'm not endorsing that platform 100% mind you (especially his hedging on Iraq) but this seems to me a political fact. How y'all feeling about Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell these days?

In 1851, Emerson complained, "Slavery reads the Constitution with a shrewd and daring and innovative eye; Liberty is satisfied with the literal construction." He was berating abolitionists for not taking control of the debate about what was "American" what was "patriotic" what was "Christian" and what was not.

Well, I say, Karl Rove is very shrewd and daring and innovative -- and to hell with us if we don't start fighting back.