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Tom Coburn is a Big Fat Jerk


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Saturday, December 04, 2004

If you don't believe the Pre-Enlightenment Nazis are dangerous ...

Please read on.

A diary on Daily Kos is reporting Brown Shirts in Cyberspace:

The problem for Dr. Snider began when a student named Marissa Freimanis appeared to take offense at the number of works on the recommended list that were in some way related to homosexuality.  Unlike normal healthy adults who would merely opt to read something that interested them and ignore that which didn't (it's not as if she were limited to choosing among Barbara Cartland or science fiction novels - my own definition of a reading list from hell), she went public with her complaint.  Not to Dr. Snider nor the University, again what normal healthy adults would do, but to http://www.studentsforacademicfreedom.org/.  There is nothing "academic" or "free" about their agenda.  It is an online "clearing house" for reporting on instructors and institutions that do not conform to a rightwing orientation.  It is like McCarthy, J. Edgar Hoover and the KGB for individual fascists to take matters into their own hands.  And they are effective.


Based on Marissa's complaint ...

Dr. Snider's name spread throughout rightwing internet sites and led to the publication of a piece by her on Horowitz's "FrontPageMag":
more complaints
From there it spread to the rightwing Townhall.com:
mike adams
Then she joined another student, Sean Holland, in an appearance on Fox News.  All of these efforts resulted in Dr. Snider being inundated with hate mail and threats so extreme that he was given police protection for his safety.


The text of the complaint
Description of Complaint (please be as detailed as possible, including quotes from your professor where applicable):
I am taking this English composition class to fufill my general education (GE) requirements. On the first night of this class, Sep. 1, 2004, Dr. Snider went over the the class syllabus for the semester. This syllabus includes 5 essays that are to be turned in over the semester. One of these essays is to be written on a film that he will show in class, as he so stated will most likely be Farenheit 9/11. (Because Michael Moore is a genius and his film exposes how our so called "President Bush" is an idiot.) He then proceeded for the next hour and a half of this ENGLISH class to talk strictly about his hate of "president" (he kept doing the quote signs with his fingers) Bush and the Iraqi War. There were no more attempts made my Dr. Snider to talk about the true subject matter of the class, ENGLISH. I have been in this class for almost 2 weeks now and politics seems to be the main issue lectured on, however he makes lame attempts to tie his own liberal propaganda into an english example, (ie; Newspaper articles, Presidential Speeches, etc. )Furthermore, a second essay that we are to wirte must be written on a book we have read that appears on his "approved reading list". The list of books in his syllabus has a dominant theme: Sexual perversion and anti Bush rhetoric. ( A copy of this list can be found on his website at www.csulb.edu/~csnider) This website which indicated in his syllabus "contains important class material" is a website dedicated primarily to his own gay literature and anti Bush poetry. I, and many other students, had a very difficult time navigating our way through his site to find some obscure hidden link to our school documents that must be printed off of this website. Also, Dr. Snider has taken it upon himself to give us a moral/ ethical and spiritual lesson before each class begins. The university offers ethics classes, and I obviously have no problem with ethics. I just do not believe that Dr. Snider is trained to lecture on such topics. ( And from what I do know of his ethics and morals, i feel slightly offended that he somehow believes that his morals are superior to mine- I do not draw and ethical comparison between President Bush and Saddam Hussien as does Dr. Snider).


Excerpts from the student's article in Front Page Magazine:
The moral issue I chose to write my paragraph about was "the controversial decision made by President Bush to lead the United States into a pre-emptive war against Saddam Hussein." I stated that in the "documentary" Michael Moore argued that President Bush made this decision in great haste and failed to investigate the true threat that Iraq posed to the United States. I then went on to describe the "evidence" that Michael Moore uses to prove his point as " a single advisor saying that he overheard President Bush" [...] However, when I received my paragraph back, I found it marked up in red ink by Dr. Snider with comments like, " You miss the point of the film", or that advisor "was Richard Clark… a terrorist expert!" I was blown away by these comments.


Uh ... I teach these dreaded Freshman writing courses --- and one of the primary points of these courses is to teach critical thinking, including analysis, which includes issues of ethos, or the credibility of sources. Not to mention, the importance of researching everything presented in the course and never presenting arguments based on mere opinion. Everything must be evidence-based because, as they say about opinions, just like ... , everyone has one.

This student did not research who the advisor was before dismissing him as a mere "advisor" --- nor did she address his credibility, except to demonstrate her failure to adhere to the parameters of such a course by failing to research and failing to understand the importance of ethos. She deserved the red marks, IOW.

And so we have come to the time when the 'cause' of a whining student who doesn't want to do her work and failed to adhere to the most basic requirements of her course is taken up by the Radical Christians.

Go to the original story on Kos for email addresses, etc. to voice your opposition to this kind of strong arming and the ongoing gutting of our educational system by these whackoes.

Oh my, yet another good science blog

Well, this is certainly a relief. The scientists are taking over the internet --- or maybe it's just that I've finally stopped spending all my time online reading farmers' forums and passionate diatribes about poultry (see, for example, my own favorite chicken forum, The Poultry Connection.)

The Poultry Connection is a forum I especially like because it's surprisingly flamefest-free. Are you aware that few people can get a flamewar going faster than chicken people? They positively relish a good online knockdown dragout. And they even waste their time trolling other poultry boards. They got a positively epic flamewar going across several boards about six months ago over the issue of worming chickens.

Of course, I've wasted a lot of time following them around while they troll other poultry boards, so I suppose I shouldn't be pointing fingers.

In any case, psycho chicken flamewars have nothing to do with the point of this post, which is ...

a totally fabulous blog I've just found where scientific types are blogging Know Your Intelligent Design Creationists. It's a fairly long series, and they're on Part 6 now. Just keep scrolling down the page to find more and more discussion over this issue.

d00d! The geeks are finally emerging from their dark, dingy scientific laboratories and taking up arms against the Pre-Enlightenment Nazis! Far out!

Friday, December 03, 2004

Debating with Evolution Deniers

The Panda's Thumb is a great blog anyway, but their discussion Debating with Evolution Deniers is absolutely excellent. I'm glad to see people tackling this issue head on. Lots of good links at the site and great comments by informed persons. A good, insightful read.

And finally --- the housing bubble

Stephen Roach issues yet another warning --- and I doubt this time he tempers it with a public reversal, like he did just a few weeks ago.

Bubble Day

While it has only been four and a half years since the bursting of the equity bubble, memories have already dimmed of that extraordinary speculative excess.  Yet in retrospect, that may have only been the warm-up for the main event.  Bubbles have a way of feeding on each other -- ultimately compounding the problem and leading to an even more treacherous shakeout.  That’s certainly the lesson from Japan and could well be the case in the United States.  America’s housing bubble is now in the danger zone.  So is its saving rate, current account deficit, and overhang of consumer indebtedness.  It’s been a US-centric world for so long, that everyone takes it for granted.  Yet global rebalancing poses challenges for all major countries in the world.  Saving-short America will not be spared -- especially if it must now come to grips with the biggest asset bubble of them all.


Go to the link and read the rest. And cut up those credit cards. Now.

More on the economy --- and why you should be glad you're a part of the reality-based community

Hopefully, before the election, you read Ron Suskind's Without a Doubt in the New York Times. If not, read it and pay particular attention to these words:

The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality - judiciously, as you will - we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."


The problems are obvious. You can deny that gravity exists til the cows come home. Fling yourself off the top of a building, however, and you'll discover gravity's effects and *reality* very quickly.

Which brings me to yet another article about the economy, this one from Seattle Post-Intelligencer., posted below.

Our Place in the World: U.S. mortgages its sovereignty By KENNETH H. TORP

The official philosophy of the government presided over by George W. Bush views the United States as standing outside of history -- unfettered by traditional forces that dictate the rise and fall of civilizations and immune to the limits imposed on great powers by the broad sweep of historical trends.

According to this view, the United States is unique, and uniquely good, and constitutes a singular exception in the history of mankind. It can thus exercise its superior power unilaterally without worrying overly much about long-range consequences or the views of other nations. Never mind that "exceptionalism" requires a breathtaking ethnocentrism; it is, quite simply, unsustainable in the context of a global market economy.

The international financial system, for example, doesn't give a fig for U.S. "exceptionalism." Rather, it operates on its own set of principles that are resolutely market-based and transnational.

The "exceptionalists" may believe they have repealed history but the laws of economics are not so easily ignored. A chesty Vice President Cheney tells us that the United States will never ask for a permission slip before acting in its own self-interest. But even a cursory look at U.S. fiscal and trade numbers leads to the conclusion that the economic policies of the Bush administration already have reduced our economic sovereignty. The "exceptionalists" are simply whistling in the graveyard.

Curently, the U.S. fiscal and trade deficit is about $600 billion, or 6 percent of gross domestic product. Virtually the entire deficit is structural, not related to cyclical economic ups and downs. Debt held by foreigners totals $2.6 trillion, or 23 percent of GDP. Economists at Goldman Sachs calculate that this figure will exceed 60 percent by 2020. Most of this debt is now held by foreign central banks in the form of Treasury bonds, as opposed to stocks held by private investors.

The United States now is consuming three-quarters of the world's entire surplus savings. If the Bush plan for privatizing Social Security becomes a reality, the transition cost will require either spending cuts (highly unlikely) or additional borrowing (more likely) of between $2 trillion and $3.6 trillion over the next 10 years. One immediate result of all this red ink is that the dollar has lost half its value relative to the euro since 2000 and some economists expect it to decline another 20 percent to 40 percent. Former Fed Chairman Paul Volker recently stated there was a 75 percent chance of a currency crisis in the United States in the next five years.

The United States may be "exceptional," but international bankers are unimpressed. When you owe as much as we do to foreign creditors, sooner or later they will call the tune and we will be obliged to dance. Our foreign creditors don't even have to call their loans to bring on the ultimate day of financial reckoning. All it takes is a sharp decline in their willingness to finance further fiscal profligacy. Interest rates will be forced up, bond prices will nosedive and interest-rate-sensitive industries will feel the pinch, especially real estate that is probably overpriced anyway. A rapid contraction of U.S. economic activity is far from unthinkable, and with it a worldwide reduction in trade, investment and economic growth.

With the United States barely able to debt-finance the war in Iraq, our foreign creditors are not likely to foot the bill for another controversial U.S. military operation. In other words, the ability of the United States to defend itself against the next (real) threat is severely circumscribed by the Bush administration's ideological commitment to tax cuts and its refusal to exercise even a modicum of fiscal discipline.

It is, of course, altogether possible that placing some restraining power over U.S. foreign adventurism in the hands of non-U.S. central bankers is not all bad. But in the long run, the wisdom of mortgaging a substantial share of our sovereignty to foreign creditors may constitute one of the largest blunders of U.S. history.

The staggering irony here is that the most bellicose administration in recent history on issues of international cooperation is likely to bring about the sharpest curtailment of foreign policy sovereignty by handing veto power to the very same international players it so routinely snubs.


Kenneth H. Torp of Seattle is a consultant in international public finance. He is also a retired U.S. foreign service officer.

The dollar has gone down. The dollar is going down. The dollar will continue to go down because ...

Well, this morning, even NPR was less than 100% behind the state of the economy, albeit still hedging their bets with lots of 'mights' and 'maybes' and 'somewhats.

And now ...

The dollar has gone down. The dollar is going down. The dollar will continue to go down because it’s the easiest way out (for the U.S.) to begin to rectify its imbalanced finance-based economy. Balance the budget? Fugitaboutit. Raise interest rates to historic norms? Fugitaboutthattoo. “Let the market decide,” Snow says. “Likewise,” chimes Greenspan ...

*sigh*

Full article here and posted below. Read it, if only to realize why it's important to be watching the economy very carefully right now. As Gross states in the article, "If it seems strange that Treasury Secretary Snow and Fed Chairman Greenspan are actually encouraging this weak dollar policy one can rationalize that they’ve seen the endgame and they want to ease their way around the pileup. Better to talk the dollar down now before the balance of payments gets so bad that a true crisis is inevitable. I cannot disagree."

Bill Gross' Financial Outlook: The weak dollar—causes and consequences

John Snow and Alan Greenspan have finally bowed to the inevitable. Instead of blocking the lane in defense of a Shaq Attack slam dunk, they have politely if somewhat obfuscatingly stepped aside. “Put it down, brother,” they seem to be saying, but it’s the dollar and not a round ball that they’re referring to. The dollar has gone down. The dollar is going down. The dollar will continue to go down because it’s the easiest way out (for the U.S.) to begin to rectify its imbalanced finance-based economy. Balance the budget? Fugitaboutit. Raise interest rates to historic norms? Fugitaboutthattoo. “Let the market decide,” Snow says. “Likewise,” chimes Greenspan, warning that sooner or later foreign lenders will not be so exuberant in their purchase of U.S. Treasury bonds. Perhaps they’ll be a little less "irrational" with their money he might have thought, but that’s a word he doesn’t use anymore. And so the market’s most crowded trade—short the dollar—will inevitably become a little more crowded, perhaps irrational itself at some point. There is a whiff of crisis in the air.

How the world came to this point is well documented in some journals, including this one, but it bears repeating if only to reacquaint pre-Alzheimer candidates and those with “senior moments” such as myself with the facts. The U.S. spends too much, eats too much, drinks too much; TOO MUCH, (thank you, Dave Matthews). And we pay for it with our debt and 80% of the world’s excess savings. In so doing our creepy-crawly balance of payments deficit has inched its way up to 6% of GDP—a level never seen in the U.S. and reflective of third world nations in financial crisis. The imbalance has been tolerated by those nations on the surplus side of the ledger—read “Asia”—in a strange sort of mercantilistic Faustian bargain that promises China and Japan the benefits of a strengthening economy now for the perfidy of falling-dollar-denominated Treasuries bonds later, an arrangement that once again will prove that there is no free lunch, or that hell often follows heaven on Earth.

There are those that argue that this tidy little bargain between debtor and creditor nations can go on for a long, long time. Since each party gets what they want—the U.S. to consume, and Asia to produce—who’s to say when the first player will opt out? For now, China’s rather introverted geopolitik allows them the flexibility to revalue their Yuan whenever they damn well please as long as their inflation rate behaves. Japan is beholden to the U.S. militarily and continues to struggle with deflationary pressures. That argues for at least jawboning its Yen lower. “Dirty float” is and likely will remain synonymous with Japanese forex policy. So, there seems no immediate incentive for either China or Japan to opt out of their Faustian bargain. On the debtor side, the U.S. will shop 'til it drops—pure and simple, but that phrase up until now has always accentuated the “shop” and conveniently forgotten about the “drop.” The drop comes when this comfy-cozy current relationship between giver/taker, consumer/maker for some reason ends in divorce. The only question is one of timing. At some point, as Greenspan so astutely pointed out, “foreign lenders will eventually resist lending more money to the United States, causing the dollar to drop further.” What he didn’t say is that that will be the point when the shopping stops and the fun goes out of a trip to the mall. That’s the point when U.S. inflation heads gradually but inevitably higher, and that’s the point, of course when interest rates move into harm’s way.

If it seems strange that Treasury Secretary Snow and Fed Chairman Greenspan are actually encouraging this weak dollar policy one can rationalize that they’ve seen the endgame and they want to ease their way around the pileup. Better to talk the dollar down now before the balance of payments gets so bad that a true crisis is inevitable. I cannot disagree. And as mentioned in my opening paragraph, alternative solutions to the problem are “pie in the sky” unimaginable. For Americans voluntarily to begin to get the old-time religion of saving more money is beyond dreaming, especially with employment so weak and the source of historic capital gains—stocks and houses—still above cost. Likewise, a Bush Administration seems unlikely to move towards a more balanced budget with its aggressive legislative agenda that includes social security reform. Optimists tout the escape route of faster foreign growth to suck up American exports, but Europe has caught a congenital case of influenza, Japan is back to the zero growth line and China is maneuvering for a soft landing.

My point is this: dollar depreciation now and Chinese Yuan revaluation as soon as possible is the easiest first step to rebalance an imbalanced U.S./global economy. This realization is and has been as close to a slam-dunk as we have seen in the world of finance; slam-dunkier than calling the stock market top at NASDAQ 5000 or Soros breaking the Pound Sterling. You can count on it (the Dollar going down against Asia)– not that there won’t be frantic short squeeze reverses even as this Outlook is being written, or that against some currencies (the Euro) the U.S. dollar actually may be cheap.

But how best to profit from it? Like I’m fond of telling my fellow PIMCO portfolio managers as they pontificate about the future of the economy, “You can’t invest in GDP futures, what are the investment implications?” Granted, some of you readers can or have already joined the trash party and are short the dollar. We can as well and have done so in minor amounts. But currencies are not the game for which we were hired. They go up and down quicker than 30-year 0’s and can ruin or make your day/year/career. And aside from the obvious benefits that a declining dollar imparts to gold and commodity prices, the focus of this Outlook should be on bonds. What bonds should be bought or sold? I have several specific thoughts:

1)    As long as the Euro strengthens against the dollar, there is reason to favor German Bunds instead of U.S. Treasuries. We have recently reduced some of our positions but remain confident that the inflationary impact of a weaker dollar and the disinflationary benefit of a stronger Euro favor Bund/Euroland positions. A 10% decline in the trade-weighted dollar according to our calculations increases U.S. inflation by approximately ½% over the ensuing 24 months. While a strengthening Euro/dollar relationship has a positive disinflationary impact in Euroland, it will unquestionably not be the inverse of the U.S. due to the smaller dollar impact on their trade weighted currency. But as Chart II shows, the inflation differential in the short run may be as high as ¾% in favor of Euroland with the Euro at its current 1.30 level. Because the Euro has appreciated inordinately as Asia has controlled their own currencies, I would be leery of Bunds when and if China revalues. That point, however may be months ahead.

2)   Buy TIPS. I’ve said this before when discussing U.S. reflationary tendencies. Since a declining dollar is perhaps the most quantifiable of all reflationary weapons—½% higher inflation per every 10% trade weighted dollar decline—the benefit should accrue to short maturity TIPS on an almost one-for-one basis and to 5- to 10-year intermediate TIPS in smaller proportions.

3)    Be careful with U.S. Treasuries. I offer a word of caution here if only because of a strange rather unquantifiable twist in the balance of payments saga. While Greenspan has correctly suggested that foreign private institutions and central banks will not lend at the current pace forever because of a burdensome trade deficit, there is the probability that until the first sizeable creditor turns tail that an accelerating deficit actually lowers interest rates. Think about it: for every dollar we spend on imports, that buck comes straight back to us (for now) in the form of a Treasury buy ticket. So the more we spend on imports in the short run, the more we save. Sounds like my wife at a sale, but it makes sense as long as foreign creditors buy longer dated Treasuries. Purchases of intermediate and long maturity Treasuries reflect a confidence in the fiscal/monetary stability of the U.S. economy. When that confidence disappears, foreign purchases take the form of overnight deposits as the buck is tossed from one holder to another like a hot potato. That’s when the dollar tanks, the balance of payments deficit eases back towards 2% or 3% and perversely, intermediate and long-term interest rates are more susceptible to going up. To sum up this Catch-22, a deteriorating balance of payments deficit may actually have a positive effect leading to lower interest rates until a large creditor turns tail. It’s another way of saying that U.S. yields depend upon the kindness of strangers and that the time to not own them is when the strangers become less kind. I suspect that is just around the corner, but Beijing and Tokyo have the ball in their courts.

Wherever that should occur, there’s no doubt that the dollar is on the run and that higher U.S. interest rates are the inevitable consequence. Dollar depreciation leads to higher inflation and ultimately forces foreign creditors to question their rationale and indeed their sanity for continuing purchases of U.S. Treasuries. Investors don’t need necessarily “TOO MUCH” intelligence to do this trade. Rather, they may need lots of patience in order to turn it into a profitable, near slam-dunk opportunity.

Josh Marshall on Cheney's Big Fat Feet

Hmmmm. Well, I'm not a doctor, but I think Josh Marshall may be on to something here. I'm just not sure someone can have multiple heart attacks and not suffer some fairly serious consequences.

From Talking Points Memo:

Marshal notes a report from the Reliable Source column at Washington Post:

On Nov. 21, Vice President Dick Cheney (along with approximately six Secret Service agents) visited the Johnston & Murphy retail store at Tyson's Corner Shopping Center in McLean. Cheney has been a longtime Johnston & Murphy customer, but recently found it necessary to make a personal visit to the store because his shoe size changed to a size 10EEE.


Marshall then asks why have Cheney's feet gotten bigger?

Or ... is this swelling? And, because this swelling is occurring in both feet, could this swelling be symptomatic of something systematic? Something like congestive heart failure.

I think that's a fairly reasonable conclusion to draw.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

A Fighting Faith: Argument for a New Liberalism

I'm going to post this article from New Republic in whole (click the More here ... link below) because I think it raises some important issues.

That said, I strongly disagree with the author, Peter Beinart, about much of what he has to say. Now I do agree with him on this:

Kerry's nomination was a compromise between a party elite desperate to neutralize the terrorism issue and a liberal base unwilling to redefine itself for the post-September 11 world.


Yes. Absolutely. But I have some real problems with some of what he has to say.

Unfortunately ... it's finals. And like Fahrenheit 9/11, the interrelationships between oil and food and so any other issues, I'm going to have to wait a week or so before I have the time to make any meaningful commentary on this article.

But don't let that stop you from reading it.

A Fighting Faith: Argument for a New Liberalism

n January 4, 1947, 130 men and women met at Washington's Willard Hotel to save American liberalism. A few months earlier, in articles in The New Republic and elsewhere, the columnists Joseph and Stewart Alsop had warned that "the liberal movement is now engaged in sowing the seeds of its own destruction." Liberals, they argued, "consistently avoided the great political reality of the present: the Soviet challenge to the West." Unless that changed, "In the spasm of terror which will seize this country ... it is the right--the very extreme right--which is most likely to gain victory."

During World War II, only one major liberal organization, the Union for Democratic Action (UDA), had banned communists from its ranks. At the Willard, members of the UDA met to expand and rename their organization. The attendees, who included Reinhold Niebuhr, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., John Kenneth Galbraith, Walter Reuther, and Eleanor Roosevelt, issued a press release that enumerated the new organization's principles. Announcing the formation of Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), the statement declared, "[B]ecause the interests of the United States are the interests of free men everywhere," America should support "democratic and freedom-loving peoples the world over." That meant unceasing opposition to communism, an ideology "hostile to the principles of freedom and democracy on which the Republic has grown great."

At the time, the ADA's was still a minority view among American liberals. Two of the most influential journals of liberal opinion, The New Republic and The Nation, both rejected militant anti-communism. Former Vice President Henry Wallace, a hero to many liberals, saw communists as allies in the fight for domestic and international progress. As Steven M. Gillon notes in Politics and Vision, his excellent history of the ADA, it was virtually the only liberal organization to back President Harry S Truman's March 1947 decision to aid Greece and Turkey in their battle against Soviet subversion.

But, over the next two years, in bitter political combat across the institutions of American liberalism, anti-communism gained strength. With the ADA's help, Truman crushed Wallace's third-party challenge en route to reelection. The formerly leftist Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) expelled its communist affiliates and The New Republic broke with Wallace, its former editor. The American Civil Liberties Union (aclu) denounced communism, as did the naacp. By 1949, three years after Winston Churchill warned that an "iron curtain" had descended across Europe, Schlesinger could write in The Vital Center: "Mid-twentieth century liberalism, I believe, has thus been fundamentally reshaped ... by the exposure of the Soviet Union, and by the deepening of our knowledge of man. The consequence of this historical re-education has been an unconditional rejection of totalitarianism."

Today, three years after September 11 brought the United States face-to-face with a new totalitarian threat, liberalism has still not "been fundamentally reshaped" by the experience. On the right, a "historical re-education" has indeed occurred--replacing the isolationism of the Gingrich Congress with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney's near-theological faith in the transformative capacity of U.S. military might. But American liberalism, as defined by its activist organizations, remains largely what it was in the 1990s--a collection of domestic interests and concerns. On health care, gay rights, and the environment, there is a positive vision, articulated with passion. But there is little liberal passion to win the struggle against Al Qaeda--even though totalitarian Islam has killed thousands of Americans and aims to kill millions; and even though, if it gained power, its efforts to force every aspect of life into conformity with a barbaric interpretation of Islam would reign terror upon women, religious minorities, and anyone in the Muslim world with a thirst for modernity or freedom.

When liberals talk about America's new era, the discussion is largely negative--against the Iraq war, against restrictions on civil liberties, against America's worsening reputation in the world. In sharp contrast to the first years of the cold war, post-September 11 liberalism has produced leaders and institutions--most notably Michael Moore and MoveOn--that do not put the struggle against America's new totalitarian foe at the center of their hopes for a better world. As a result, the Democratic Party boasts a fairly hawkish foreign policy establishment and a cadre of politicians and strategists eager to look tough. But, below this small elite sits a Wallacite grassroots that views America's new struggle as a distraction, if not a mirage. Two elections, and two defeats, into the September 11 era, American liberalism still has not had its meeting at the Willard Hotel. And the hour is getting late.The Kerry Compromise

The press loves a surprise. And so, in the days immediately after November 2, journalists trumpeted the revelation that "moral values" had cost John Kerry the election. Upon deeper investigation, however, the reasons for Kerry's loss don't look that surprising at all. In fact, they are largely the same reasons congressional Democrats lost in 2002.

Pundits have seized on exit polls showing that the electorate's single greatest concern was moral values, cited by 22 percent of voters. But, as my colleague Andrew Sullivan has pointed out ("Uncivil Union," November 22), a similar share of the electorate cited moral values in the '90s. The real change this year was on foreign policy. In 2000, only 12 percent of voters cited "world affairs" as their paramount issue; this year, 34 percent mentioned either Iraq or terrorism. (Combined, the two foreign policy categories dwarf moral values.) Voters who cited terrorism backed Bush even more strongly than those who cited moral values. And it was largely this new cohort--the same one that handed the GOP its Senate majority in 2002--that accounts for Bush's improvement over 2000. As Paul Freedman recently calculated in Slate, if you control for Bush's share of the vote four years ago, "a 10-point increase in the percentage of voters [in a given state] citing terrorism as the most important problem translates into a 3-point Bush gain. A 10-point increase in morality voters, on the other hand, has no effect."

On national security, Kerry's nomination was a compromise between a party elite desperate to neutralize the terrorism issue and a liberal base unwilling to redefine itself for the post-September 11 world. In the early days of his candidacy, Kerry seemed destined to run as a hawk. In June 2002, he attacked Bush from the right for not committing American ground troops in the mountains of Tora Bora. Like the other leading candidates in the race, he voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq. This not only pleased Kerry's consultants, who hoped to inoculate him against charges that he was soft on terrorism, but it satisfied his foreign policy advisers as well.

The Democratic foreign policy establishment that counseled the leading presidential candidates during the primaries--and coalesced behind Kerry after he won the nomination--was the product of a decade-long evolution. Bill Clinton had come into office with little passion for foreign policy, except as it affected the U.S. economy. But, over time, his administration grew more concerned with international affairs and more hawkish. In August 1995, Clinton finally sent nato warplanes into action in Bosnia. And, four years later, the United States, again working through nato, launched a humanitarian war in Kosovo, preventing another ethnic cleansing and setting the stage for a democratic revolution in Belgrade. It was an air war, to be sure, and it put few American lives at risk. But it was a war nonetheless, initiated without U.N. backing by a Democratic president in response to internal events in a sovereign country.

For top Kerry foreign policy advisers, such as Richard Holbrooke and Joseph Biden, Bosnia and Kosovo seemed like models for a new post-Vietnam liberalism that embraced U.S. power. And September 11 validated the transformation. Democratic foreign policy wonks not only supported the war in Afghanistan, they generally felt it didn't go far enough--urging a larger nato force capable of securing the entire country. And, while disturbed by the Bush administration's handling of Iraq, they agreed that Saddam Hussein was a threat and, more generally, supported aggressive efforts to democratize the Muslim world. As National Journal's Paul Starobin noted in a September 2004 profile, "Kerry and his foreign-policy advisers are not doves. They are liberal war hawks who would be unafraid to use American power to promote their values." At the Democratic convention, Biden said that the "overwhelming obligation of the next president is clear"--to exercise "the full measure of our power" to defeat Islamist totalitarianism.

Had history taken a different course, this new brand of liberalism might have expanded beyond a narrow foreign policy elite. The war in Afghanistan, while unlike Kosovo a war of self-defense, once again brought the Western democracies together against a deeply illiberal foe. Had that war, rather than the war in Iraq, become the defining event of the post-September 11 era, the "re-education" about U.S. power, and about the new totalitarian threat from the Muslim world that had transformed Kerry's advisers, might have trickled down to the party's liberal base, transforming it as well.

Instead, Bush's war on terrorism became a partisan affair--defined in the liberal mind not by images of American soldiers walking Afghan girls to school, but by John Ashcroft's mass detentions and Cheney's false claims about Iraqi WMD. The left's post-September 11 enthusiasm for an aggressive campaign against Al Qaeda--epitomized by students at liberal campuses signing up for jobs with the CIA--was overwhelmed by horror at the bungled Iraq war. So, when the Democratic presidential candidates began courting their party's activists in Iowa and New Hampshire in 2003, they found a liberal grassroots that viewed the war on terrorism in negative terms and judged the candidates less on their enthusiasm for defeating Al Qaeda than on their enthusiasm for defeating Bush. The three candidates who made winning the war on terrorism the centerpiece of their campaigns--Joseph Lieberman, Bob Graham, and Wesley Clark--each failed to capture the imagination of liberal activists eager for a positive agenda only in the domestic sphere. Three of the early front-runners--Kerry, John Edwards, and Dick Gephardt--each sank as Howard Dean pilloried them for supporting Ashcroft's Patriot Act and the Iraq war.

Three months before the Iowa caucuses, facing mass liberal defections to Dean, Kerry voted against Bush's $87 billion supplemental request for Iraq. With that vote, the Kerry compromise was born. To Kerry's foreign policy advisers, some of whom supported the supplemental funding, he remained a vehicle for an aggressive war on terrorism. And that may well have been Kerry's own intention. But, to the liberal voters who would choose the party's nominee, he became a more electable Dean. Kerry's opposition to the $87 billion didn't only change his image on the war in Iraq; it changed his image on the war on terrorism itself. His justification for opposing the $87 billion was essentially isolationist: "We shouldn't be opening firehouses in Baghdad and closing them down in our own communities." And, by exploiting public antipathy toward foreign aid and nation-building, the natural building blocks of any liberal anti-totalitarian effort in the Muslim world, Kerry signaled that liberalism's moral energies should be unleashed primarily at home.

Kerry's vote against the $87 billion helped him lure back the liberal activists he needed to win Iowa, and Iowa catapulted him toward the nomination. But the vote came back to haunt him in two ways. Most obviously, it helped the Bush campaign paint him as unprincipled. But, more subtly, it made it harder for Kerry to ask Americans to sacrifice in a global campaign for freedom. Biden could suggest "a new program of national service" and other measures to "spread the cost and hardship of the war on terror beyond our soldiers and their families." But, whenever Kerry flirted with asking Americans to do more to meet America's new threat, he found himself limited by his prior emphasis on doing less. At times, he said his primary focus in Iraq would be bringing American troops home. He called for expanding the military but pledged that none of the new troops would go to Iraq, the new center of the terror war, where he had said American forces were undermanned. Kerry's criticisms of Bush's Iraq policy were trenchant, but the only alternative principle he clearly articulated was multilateralism, which often sounded like a veiled way of asking Americans to do less. And, because he never urged a national mobilization for safety and freedom, his discussion of terrorism lacked Bush's grandeur. That wasn't an accident. Had Kerry aggressively championed a national mobilization to win the war on terrorism, he wouldn't have been the Democratic nominee.

The Softs

Kerry was a flawed candidate, but he was not the fundamental problem. The fundamental problem was the party's liberal base, which would have refused to nominate anyone who proposed redefining the Democratic Party in the way the ADA did in 1947. The challenge for Democrats today is not to find a different kind of presidential candidate. It is to transform the party at its grassroots so that a different kind of presidential candidate can emerge. That means abandoning the unity-at-all-costs ethos that governed American liberalism in 2004. And it requires a sustained battle to wrest the Democratic Party from the heirs of Henry Wallace. In the party today, two such heirs loom largest: Michael Moore and MoveOn.

In 1950, the journal The New Leader divided American liberals into "hards" and "softs." The hards, epitomized by the ADA, believed anti-communism was the fundamental litmus test for a decent left. Non-communism was not enough; opposition to the totalitarian threat was the prerequisite for membership in American liberalism because communism was the defining moral challenge of the age.

The softs, by contrast, were not necessarily communists themselves. But they refused to make anti-communism their guiding principle. For them, the threat to liberal values came entirely from the right--from militarists, from red-baiters, and from the forces of economic reaction. To attack the communists, reliable allies in the fight for civil rights and economic justice, was a distraction from the struggle for progress.

Moore is the most prominent soft in the United States today. Most Democrats agree with him about the Iraq war, about Ashcroft, and about Bush. What they do not recognize, or do not acknowledge, is that Moore does not oppose Bush's policies because he thinks they fail to effectively address the terrorist threat; he does not believe there is a terrorist threat. For Moore, terrorism is an opiate whipped up by corporate bosses. In Dude, Where's My Country?, he says it plainly: "There is no terrorist threat." And he wonders, "Why has our government gone to such absurd lengths to convince us our lives are in danger?"

Moore views totalitarian Islam the way Wallace viewed communism: As a phantom, a ruse employed by the only enemies that matter, those on the right. Saudi extremists may have brought down the Twin Towers, but the real menace is the Carlyle Group. Today, most liberals naïvely consider Moore a useful ally, a bomb-thrower against a right-wing that deserves to be torched. What they do not understand is that his real casualties are on the decent left. When Moore opposes the war against the Taliban, he casts doubt upon the sincerity of liberals who say they opposed the Iraq war because they wanted to win in Afghanistan first. When Moore says terrorism should be no greater a national concern than car accidents or pneumonia, he makes it harder for liberals to claim that their belief in civil liberties does not imply a diminished vigilance against Al Qaeda.


Moore is a non-totalitarian, but, like Wallace, he is not an anti-totalitarian. And, when Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe and Tom Daschle flocked to the Washington premiere of Fahrenheit 9/11, and when Moore sat in Jimmy Carter's box at the Democratic convention, many Americans wondered whether the Democratic Party was anti-totalitarian either.

If Moore is America's leading individual soft, liberalism's premier soft organization is MoveOn. MoveOn was formed to oppose Clinton's impeachment, but, after September 11, it turned to opposing the war in Afghanistan. A MoveOn-sponsored petition warned, "If we retaliate by bombing Kabul and kill people oppressed by the Taliban, we become like the terrorists we oppose."

By January 2002, MoveOn was collaborating with 9-11peace.org, a website founded by Eli Pariser, who would later become MoveOn's most visible spokesman. One early 9-11peace.org bulletin urged supporters to "[c]all world leaders and ask them to call off the bombing," and to "[f]ly the UN Flag as a symbol of global unity and support for international law." Others questioned the wisdom of increased funding for the CIA and the deployment of American troops to assist in anti-terrorist efforts in the Philippines. In October 2002, after 9-11peace.org was incorporated into MoveOn, an organization bulletin suggested that the United States should have "utilize[d] international law and judicial procedures, including due process" against bin Laden and that "it's possible that a tribunal could even have garnered cooperation from the Taliban."

In the past several years, MoveOn has emerged, in the words of Salon's Michelle Goldberg, as "the most important political advocacy group in Democratic circles." It boasts more than 1.5 million members and raised a remarkable $40 million for the 2004 election. Many MoveOn supporters probably disagree with the organization's opposition to the Afghan war, if they are even aware of it, and simply see the group as an effective means to combat Bush. But one of the lessons of the early cold war is scrupulousness about whom liberals let speak in their name. And, while MoveOn's frequent bulletins are far more thoughtful than Moore's rants, they convey the same basic hostility to U.S. power.

In the early days after September 11, MoveOn suggested that foreign aid might prove a better way to defeat terrorism than military action. But, in recent years, it seems to have largely lost interest in any agenda for fighting terrorism at all. Instead, MoveOn's discussion of the subject seems dominated by two, entirely negative, ideas. First, the war on terrorism crushes civil liberties. On July 18, 2002, in a bulletin titled "Can Democracy Survive an Endless 'War'?," MoveOn charged that the Patriot Act had "nullified large portions of the Bill of Rights." Having grossly inflated the Act's effect, the bulletin then contrasted it with the--implicitly far smaller--danger from Al Qaeda, asking: "Is the threat to the United States' existence great enough to justify the evisceration of our most treasured principles?"


Secondly, the war on terrorism diverts attention from liberalism's positive agenda, which is overwhelmingly domestic. The MoveOn bulletin consists largely of links to articles in other publications, and, while the organization says it "does not necessarily endorse the views espoused on the pages that we link to," the articles generally fit the party line. On October 2, 2002, MoveOn linked to what it called an "excellent article," whose author complained that "it seems all anyone in Washington can think or talk about is terrorism, rebuilding Afghanistan and un-building Iraq." Another article in the same bulletin notes that "a large proportion of [federal] money is earmarked for security concerns related to the 'war on terrorism,' leaving less money available for basic public services."

Like the softs of the early cold war, MoveOn sees threats to liberalism only on the right. And thus, it makes common cause with the most deeply illiberal elements on the international left. In its campaign against the Iraq war, MoveOn urged its supporters to participate in protests co-sponsored by International answer, a front for the World Workers Party, which has defended Saddam, Slobodan Milosevic, and Kim Jong Il. When George Packer, in The New York Times Magazine, asked Pariser about sharing the stage with apologists for dictators, he replied, "I'm personally against defending Slobodan Milosevic and calling North Korea a socialist heaven, but it's just not relevant right now."

Pariser's words could serve as the slogan for today's softs, who do not see the fight against dictatorship and jihad as relevant to their brand of liberalism. When The New York Times asked delegates to this summer's Democratic and Republican conventions which issues were most important, only 2 percent of Democrats mentioned terrorism, compared with 15 percent of Republicans. One percent of Democrats mentioned defense, compared with 15 percent of Republicans. And 1 percent of Democrats mentioned homeland security, compared with 8 percent of Republicans. The irony is that Kerry--influenced by his relatively hawkish advisers--actually supported boosting homeland security funding and increasing the size of the military. But he got little public credit for those proposals, perhaps because most Americans still see the GOP as the party more concerned with security, at home and abroad. And, judging from the delegates at the two conventions, that perception is exactly right.

The Vital Center

Arthur Schlesinger Jr. would not have shared MoveOn's fear of an "endless war" on terrorism. In The Vital Center, he wrote, "Free society and totalitarianism today struggle for the minds and hearts of men.... If we believe in free society hard enough to keep on fighting for it, we are pledged to a permanent crisis which will test the moral, political and very possibly the military strength of each side. A 'permanent' crisis? Well, a generation or two anyway, permanent in one's own lifetime."

Schlesinger, in other words, saw the struggle against the totalitarianism of his time not as a distraction from liberalism's real concerns, or as alien to liberalism's core values, but as the arena in which those values found their deepest expression. That meant several things. First, if liberalism was to credibly oppose totalitarianism, it could not be reflexively hostile to military force. Schlesinger denounced what he called "doughfaces," liberals with "a weakness for impotence ... a fear, that is, of making concrete decisions and being held to account for concrete consequences." Nothing better captures Moore, who denounced the Taliban for its hideous violations of human rights but opposed military action against it--preferring pie-in-the-sky suggestions about nonviolent regime change.

For Schlesinger (who, ironically, has moved toward a softer liberalism later in life), in fact, it was conservatives, with their obsessive hostility to higher taxes, who could not be trusted to fund America's cold war struggle. "An important segment of business opinion," he wrote, "still hesitates to undertake a foreign policy of the magnitude necessary to prop up a free world against totalitarianism lest it add a few dollars to the tax rate." After Dwight Eisenhower became president, the ADA took up this line, arguing in October 1953 that the "overriding issue before the American people today is whether the national defense is to be determined by the demands of the world situation or sacrificed to the worship of tax reductions and a balanced budget." Such critiques laid the groundwork for John F. Kennedy's 1960 campaign--a campaign, as Richard Walton notes in Cold War and Counterrevolution, "dominated by a hard-line, get-tough attack on communism." Once in office, Kennedy dramatically increased military spending.

Such a critique might seem unavailable to liberals today, given that Bush, having abandoned the Republican Party's traditional concern with balanced budgets, seems content to cut taxes and strengthen the U.S. military at the same time. But subtly, the Republican Party's dual imperatives have already begun to collide--with a stronger defense consistently losing out. Bush has not increased the size of the U.S. military since September 11--despite repeated calls from hawks in his own party--in part because, given his massive tax cuts, he simply cannot afford to. An anti-totalitarian liberalism would attack those tax cuts not merely as unfair and fiscally reckless, but, above all, as long-term threats to America's ability to wage war against fanatical Islam. Today, however, there is no liberal constituency for such an argument in a Democratic Party in which only 2 percent of delegates called "terrorism" their paramount issue and another 1 percent mentioned "defense."

But Schlesinger and the ADA didn't only attack the right as weak on national defense; they charged that conservatives were not committed to defeating communism in the battle for hearts and minds. It was the ADA's ally, Truman, who had developed the Marshall Plan to safeguard European democracies through massive U.S. foreign aid. And, when Truman proposed extending the principle to the Third World, calling in his 1949 inaugural address for "a bold new program for making the benefits of our scientific advances and industrial progress available for the improvement and growth of underdeveloped areas," it was congressional Republicans who resisted the effort.

Support for a U.S.-led campaign to defeat Third World communism through economic development and social justice remained central to anti-totalitarian liberalism throughout the 1950s. Addressing an ADA meeting in 1952, Democratic Senator Brien McMahon of Connecticut called for an "army" of young Americans to travel to the Third World as "missionaries of democracy." In 1955, the ADA called for doubling U.S. aid to the Third World, to blunt "the main thrust of communist expansion" and to "help those countries provide the reality of freedom and make an actual start toward economic betterment." When Kennedy took office, he proposed the Alliance for Progress, a $20 billion Marshall Plan for Latin America. And, answering McMahon's call, he launched the Peace Corps, an opportunity for young Americans to participate "in the great common task of bringing to man that decent way of life which is the foundation of freedom and a condition of peace."

The critique the ADA leveled in the '50s could be leveled by liberals again today. For all the Bush administration's talk about promoting freedom in the Muslim world, its efforts have been crippled by the Republican Party's deep-seated opposition to foreign aid and nation-building, illustrated most disastrously in Iraq. The resources that the United States has committed to democratization and development in the Middle East are trivial, prompting Naiem Sherbiny of Egypt's reformist Ibn Khaldun Center to tell The Washington Post late last year that the Bush administration was "pussyfooting at the margin with small stuff."

Many Democratic foreign policy thinkers favor a far more ambitious U.S. effort. Biden, for instance, has called for the United States to "dramatically expand our investment in global education." But, while an updated Marshall Plan and an expanded Peace Corps for the Muslim world are more naturally liberal than conservative ideas, they have not resonated among post-September 11 liberal activists. A new Peace Corps requires faith in America's ability to improve the world, something that Moore--who has said the United States "is known for bringing sadness and misery to places around the globe"--clearly lacks. And a new Marshall Plan clearly contradicts the zero-sum view of foreign aid that undergirded Kerry's vote against the $87 billion. In their alienation over Iraq, many liberal activists seem to see the very idea of democracy-promotion as alien. When the Times asked Democratic delegates whether the "United States should try to change a dictatorship to a democracy where it can, or should the United States stay out of other countries' affairs," more than three times as many Democrats answered "stay out," even though the question said nothing about military force.

What the ADA understood, and today's softs do not, is that, while in a narrow sense the struggle against totalitarianism may divert resources from domestic causes, it also provides a powerful rationale for a more just society at home. During the early cold war, liberals repeatedly argued that the denial of African American civil rights undermined America's anti-communist efforts in the Third World. This linkage between freedom at home and freedom abroad was particularly important in the debate over civil liberties. One of the hallmarks of ADA liberals was their refusal to imply--as groups like MoveOn sometimes do today--that civil liberties violations represent a greater threat to liberal values than America's totalitarian foes. And, whenever possible, they argued that violations of individual freedom were wrong, at least in part, because they hindered the anti-communist effort. Sadly, few liberal indictments of, for instance, the Ashcroft detentions are couched in similar terms today.

Toward an Anti-Totalitarian Liberalism

For liberals to make such arguments effectively, they must first take back their movement from the softs. We will know such an effort has begun when dissension breaks out within America's key liberal institutions. In the late '40s, the conflict played out in Minnesota's left-leaning Democratic Farmer-Labor Party, which Hubert Humphrey and Eugene McCarthy wrested away from Wallace supporters. It created friction within the naacp. And it divided the aclu, which split apart in 1951, with anti-communists controlling the organization and non-communists leaving to form the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee.

But, most important, the conflict played out in the labor movement. In 1946, the CIO, which had long included communist-dominated affiliates, began to move against them. Over fierce communist opposition, the CIO endorsed the Marshall Plan, Truman's reelection bid, and the formation of nato. And, in 1949, the Organization's executive board expelled eleven unions. As Mary Sperling McAuliffe notes in her book Crisis on the Left: Cold War Politics and American Liberals, 1947-1954, while some of the expelled affiliates were openly communist, others were expelled merely for refusing to declare themselves anti-communist, a sharp contrast from the Popular Front mentality that governed MoveOn's opposition to the Iraq war.

Softs attacked the CIO's action as McCarthyite, but it eliminated any doubt about the American labor movement's commitment to the anti-communist cause. And that commitment became a key part of cold war foreign policy. Already in 1944, the CIO's more conservative rival, the American Federation of Labor (AFL) had created the Free Trade Union Committee (ftuc), which worked to build an anti-totalitarian labor movement around the world. Between 1947 and 1948, the ftuc helped create an alternative to the communist-dominated General Confederation of Labor in France. It helped socialist trade unionists distribute anti-communist literature in Germany's Soviet-controlled zone. And it helped anti-communists take control of the Confederation of Labor in Greece. By the early '60s, the newly merged afl-cio was assisting anti-communists in the Third World as well, with the American Institute for Free Labor Development training 30,000 Latin American trade unionists in courses "with a particular emphasis on the theme of democracy versus totalitarianism." And the afl-cio was spending a remarkable 20 percent of its budget on foreign programs. In 1969, Ronald Radosh could remark in his book, American Labor and United States Foreign Policy, on the "total absorption of American labor leaders in the ideology of Cold War liberalism."

That absorption mattered. It created a constituency, deep in the grassroots of the Democratic Party, for the marriage between social justice at home and aggressive anti-communism abroad. Today, however, the U.S. labor movement is largely disconnected from the war against totalitarian Islam, even though independent, liberal-minded unions are an important part of the battle against dictatorship and fanaticism in the Muslim world.

The fight against the Soviet Union was an easier fit, of course, since the unions had seen communism up close. And today's afl-cio is not about to purge member unions that ignore national security. But, if elements within American labor threw themselves into the movement for reform in the Muslim world, they would create a base of support for Democrats who put winning the war on terrorism at the center of their campaigns. The same is true for feminist groups, for whom the rights of Muslim women are a natural concern. If these organizations judged candidates on their commitment to promoting liberalism in the Muslim world, and not merely on their commitment to international family planning, they too would subtly shift the Democratic Party's national security image. Challenging the "doughface" feminists who opposed the Afghan war and those labor unionists with a knee-jerk suspicion of U.S. power might produce bitter internal conflict. And doing so is harder today because liberals don't have a sympathetic White House to enact liberal anti-totalitarianism policies. But, unless liberals stop glossing over fundamental differences in the name of unity, they never will.

Obviously, Al Qaeda and the Soviet Union are not the same. The USSR was a totalitarian superpower; Al Qaeda merely espouses a totalitarian ideology, which has had mercifully little access to the instruments of state power. Communism was more culturally familiar, which provided greater opportunities for domestic subversion but also meant that the United States could more easily mount an ideological response. The peoples of the contemporary Muslim world are far more cynical than the peoples of cold war Eastern Europe about U.S. intentions, though they still yearn for the freedoms the United States embodies.

But, despite these differences, Islamist totalitarianism--like Soviet totalitarianism before it--threatens the United States and the aspirations of millions across the world. And, as long as that threat remains, defeating it must be liberalism's north star. Methods for defeating totalitarian Islam are a legitimate topic of internal liberal debate. But the centrality of the effort is not. The recognition that liberals face an external enemy more grave, and more illiberal, than George W. Bush should be the litmus test of a decent left.

Today, the war on terrorism is partially obscured by the war in Iraq, which has made liberals cynical about the purposes of U.S. power. But, even if Iraq is Vietnam, it no more obviates the war on terrorism than Vietnam obviated the battle against communism. Global jihad will be with us long after American troops stop dying in Falluja and Mosul. And thus, liberalism will rise or fall on whether it can become, again, what Schlesinger called "a fighting faith."

Of all the things contemporary liberals can learn from their forbearers half a century ago, perhaps the most important is that national security can be a calling. If the struggles for gay marriage and universal health care lay rightful claim to liberal idealism, so does the struggle to protect the United States by spreading freedom in the Muslim world. It, too, can provide the moral purpose for which a new generation of liberals yearn. As it did for the men and women who convened at the Willard Hotel.

Thievery and indolence as Republican values?

Entirely anecdotal evidence perhaps, but interesting (and possibly even insightful) to consider.

I've just dealt with a rash of plagiarism in one of my classes. The same thing happened last spring.

And I suddenly realized all the students I have caught plagiarizing are supporters of the radical right. One of the plagiarists has been sending me religious tomes and pro-Bush narratives by email for several months. Yet another is gung-ho over Iraq. Etc.

I have yet to catch any of my Democratic, anti-government or Libertarian students cheating or plagiarizing in any way.

I think this is something that bears watching. I don't quite have a handle on what it might mean or how to search for evidence that the underlying *values* (or lack thereof) which drive plagiarism might be a widespread phenomenon through the right. But I'm going to begin compiling whatever evidence I can about these kinds of behaviors from the voting populus (not the leadership, but the little guys), and see what I come up with.

Stay tuned ...

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

The Hunger Site

Hunger2

This punky looking thing links to the Hunger Site. It works like this: click on it, it will take you to the site and point you to where you need to click. Click and you feed someone. Very simple.

You can also buy things there, if you like, which also helps alleviate hunger. You can even buy a home gardening kit for people in other countries (my favorite option). So go there and click to your heart's content.

Big Media Fears Inclusivity

Via Agonist, CBS and NBC television networks are refusing to run a 30-second television ad from the United Church of Christ because its all-inclusive welcome is too controversial.

And what is that *controversial* all inclusive message? The implied acceptance of gay and lesbian couples.

The full article (originally posted at UCC) is posted below.

This is getting ridiculous, people.

Update: Rob's Blog has some good discussion of this absurdity, as does (as usual) Kos.

Update II: Jeremy Armstrong at Due Diligence reports the ads will be shown on "ABC Family, AMC, BET, Discovery, Fox, Hallmark, History, Nick@Nite, TBS, TNT, Travel and TV Land, among others." Armstrong has posted relevant links and has some good discussion going, especially concerning who exactly is at fault here - ?

This is my I will stop updating in a few moments and finally go eat a bowl of that nice chicken and sausage gumbo made by the nice Cajun lady who works at the store down the road Update: From Pudentilla:

Apparently our friends in the SCLM have so well internalized The Torturer in Chief's vision of Red Christianity that they knew without even asking Karl Rove, to try and spike the following message "The United Church of Christ. No matter who you are or where you are on life's journey, you're welcome here."

The UCC thought to take advantage of the Advent season by running an ad campaign to reach out to folks alienated by what Reds have done with Jesus' message. We sent emails off to CBS (go to their site and click on the "feedback" link at the bottom of the page)and NBC. Then we decided we'd check out a UCC church this weekend. We have a relatively low threshold on this point. We ask, "could they be worse than the Roman Catholics?" and if the answer is no, we'll check 'em out. We plan to drop some dollars in the collection plate by way of saying thankyou for the welcome and to reward good behavior at the holiday season. When we get home, if we're not overwhelmed by Christian charity, we're going to watch some tv, identify some CBS and NBC advertisers and write to them explaining why we won't be buying their products this holiday season.


From the original article, UCC
CBS, NBC refuse to air church's television advertisement Cleveland | November 30

UCC Press Release - The CBS and NBC television networks are refusing to run a 30-second television ad from the United Church of Christ because its all-inclusive welcome has been deemed "too controversial."

The ad, part of the denomination's new, broad identity campaign set to begin airing nationwide on Dec. 1, states that -- like Jesus -- the United Church of Christ seeks to welcome all people, regardless of ability, age, race, economic circumstance or sexual orientation.

According to a written explanation from CBS, the United Church of Christ is being denied network access because its ad implies acceptance of gay and lesbian couples -- among other minority constituencies -- and is, therefore, too "controversial."

"Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups by other individuals and organizations," reads an explanation from CBS, "and the fact the Executive Branch has recently proposed a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast on the [CBS and UPN] networks."

Apparently, NBC has rejected the spot for similar reasons.

"It's ironic that after a political season awash in commercials based on fear and deception by both parties seen on all the major networks, an ad with a message of welcome and inclusion would be deemed too controversial," says the Rev. John H. Thomas, the UCC's general minister and president. "What's going on here?"

Negotiations between network officials and the church's representatives broke down today (Nov. 30), on the day before the ad campaign was set to begin airing nationwide on a combination of broadcast and cable networks. The ad has been accepted and will air on a number of networks, including ABC Family, AMC, BET, Discovery, Fox, Hallmark, History, Nick@Nite, TBS, TNT, Travel and TV Land, among others.

The debut 30-second commercial features two muscle-bound "bouncers" standing guard outside a symbolic, picturesque church and selecting which persons are permitted to attend Sunday services. Written text interrupts the scene, announcing, "Jesus didn't turn people away. Neither do we." A narrator then proclaims the United Church of Christ's commitment to Jesus' extravagant welcome: "No matter who you are, or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here." (The ad can be viewed online at www.stillspeaking.com.)

In focus groups and test market research conducted before the campaign's national rollout, the UCC found that many people throughout the country feel alienated by churches. The television ad is geared toward those persons who, for whatever reason, have not felt welcomed or comfortable in a church.

"We find it disturbing that the networks in question seem to have no problem exploiting gay persons through mindless comedies or titillating dramas, but when it comes to a church's loving welcome of committed gay couples, that's where they draw the line," says the Rev. Robert Chase, director of the UCC's communication ministry.

CBS and NBC's refusal to air the ad "recalls the censorship of the 1950s and 1960s, when television station WLBT in Jackson, Miss., refused to show people of color on TV," says Ron Buford, coordinator for the United Church of Christ identity campaign. Buford, of African-American heritage, says, "In the 1960s, the issue was the mixing of the races. Today, the issue appears to be sexual orientation. In both cases, it's about exclusion."

In 1959, the Rev. Everett C. Parker organized United Church of Christ members to monitor the racist practices of WLBT. Like many southern television stations at the time, WLBT had imposed a news blackout on the growing civil rights movement, pulling the plug on then-attorney Thurgood Marshall. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. implored the UCC to get involved in the media civil rights issues. Parker, founding director of the Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ, organized churches and won in federal court a ruling that the airwaves are public, not private property. That decision ultimately led to an increase in the number of persons of color in television studios and newsrooms. The suit clearly established that television and radio stations, as keepers of the public airwaves, must broadcast in the public interest.

"The consolidation of TV network ownership into the hands of a few executives today puts freedom of speech and freedom of religious expression in jeopardy," says former FCC Commissioner Gloria Tristani, currently managing director of the UCC's Office of Communication. "By refusing to air the United Church of Christ's paid commercial, CBS and NBC are stifling religious expression. They are denying the communities they serve a suitable access to differing ideas and expressions."

Adds Andrew Schwartzman, president and CEO of the not-for-profit Media Access Project in Washington, D.C., "This is an abuse of the broadcasters' duty to inform their viewers on issues of importance to the community. After all, these stations don't mind carrying shocking, attention-getting programming, because they do that every night."

The United Church of Christ's national offices -- located in Cleveland -- speak to, but not for, its nearly 6,000 congregations and 1.3 million members. In the spirit of the denomination's rich tradition, UCC congregations remain autonomous, but also strongly in covenant with each other and with the denomination's regional and national bodies.

The Coburn Files

I found these sites by accident just a few moments ago.

Wackey Tom.
Tom Coburn for U. S. Senate? OMG!!
Coburn Fraud

There are some other sites which appear to have shut down since the election. But, I'm sorry people --- I think it's even more important now to keep ragging about this miscreant. So visit them --- a couple of times --- and maybe even drop each of them an email to ask them to keep the site up.

I'll get them on the links list a little later. I have to go now and recover from all the plagiarism I've had to deal with over the last day or so.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

*blushing*

I'm beginning to remind myself of that clever little quip 'How can I miss you if you won't go away?'

But I simply can't rest peacefully until I post this --- and correct an error or two on my other *I'm almost gone, really I am!* post.

This is simply too important. Via Rob's Blog, there's a juicy little sum-up of everything you need to know about Social Security and Privatization over at The Stinging Nettle.

Read it! Me, I've had a nice glass of homemade elderberry cordial :=D to calm down from all the plagiarism I found this evening ... so I'm off to sleep.

Really, I am taking a break from blogging so I can do my grading. Really I am!

Medievalism indeed

Okay, so I'm not entirely absent from the blog. I knew this would happen, that I would run upon something which i just had to post here as soon as I warned of my absence.

And boy is it good and boy do I wish i didn't have a mountain of rough drafts (several of which are plagiarized) to grade and correct. Because it's hitting on yet another topic, besides Tom Coburn and the economy and the state of the environment and sustainable agriculture and our not so subtle movement toward corporate fascism.

And that is our collapse --- or is that regression? --- into a pre-Enlightenment state of mind.

And Chris Bowers of Due Diligence has done a nice job of starting to approach the subject. Go to his site and read Creeping Medievalism. It's complete with links. Worth your time.

And now I'm back to grading correcting. And there is nothing at the More here ... link. Go read Due Diligence, including his links. Good stuff.

Pardon me while I grade

Posting will be sparse over the next week or so. Finals are here and I am up to my neck in grading essays and exams.

This is disappointing for me, as I am positively rabid right now over deciding on a new source of heating --- I've boiled my choices down to a pellet or corn stove. Any and all wood stoves are out of the question. Having gone through a fire last summer, I'm especially concerned about safety --- and unfortunately, wood stoves don't have the best record, at least not in comparison to pellet and corn stoves.

And deciding on a new heating source gives me such a great opportunity to come on here and rail about environmentally friendly choices for your home. But it will have to wait.

Not to mention, there's lots of juicy news out there, and I'm chomping at the bit to get the stories on here. But the consequence would be lots of misspellings and poorly formed sentences and airhead commentary from me. So best to just say I won't be here very much for a week or so --- but when I return, anticipate a chatterbox attack.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Flu pandemic "very, very likely"

New York Times (via Majikthise) reports W.H.O. is now issuing some pretty serious warnings about a flu pandemic.

The death toll associated with the rapid spread of a new form of human influenza would be high, Dr. Omi said. While W.H.O. has previously said that the death toll would be 2 million to 7 million people, Dr. Omi said the toll "may be more - 20 million or 50 million, or in the worst case, 100" million.

And Dr. Omi said that in his opinion a global pandemic of influenza was "very, very likely" now.


In a relatd story, Omi states "No country will be spared once it becomes a pandemic [...] History has taught us that influenza pandemics occur on a regular cycle, with one appearing every 20 to 30 years. On this basis, the next one is overdue," he said at a conference of 13 Asian health ministers trying to figure out how to avoid one.

A Change is Gonna Come

Really one of my favorite songs of all times, and definitely my favorite when I was a kid --- that and '16 Tons' by Tennessee Ernie Ford. Which is what happens when Saturday fare is limited to Soul Train and Hee Haw. And Championship Wrestling.

In any case, I've had my dinner (a sweet potato and pork green curry in coconut milk) (and yes, it was good, so stop your snarking) ... and now, it's time to talk about Peak Oil. And Waste and Consumerism.

Because, in the words of Sam Cooke ...

It's been a long, been a long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will.

I think about these kinds of things all the time. And, although I'm skeptical about the apocalyptic visions of the Peak Oil folks, I do think that oil and natural gas prices will continue to rise, that there are limited reserves of both and that we would all benefit by seeking ways to conserve and protect ourselves. And I also worry that our failure to convert on an individual level to alternative forms of energy and to more fuel efficient cars and appliances could very well drive us into a depression. And I also believe it is possible that only the very wealthy would survive that kind of a depression very well.

I mean, it's apparent the government isn't the least interested in making solar or other kinds of alternative energy sources viable and affordable on a mass scale.

Now, the story at Morgan Stanley is about wastefulness, but not our wastefulness in terms of energy --- instead Roach speaks in almost incredulous tones about our failure to save and our seeming insatiable appetite for spending money.

But aren't our extraordinary consumption of fossil fuels and our insatiable appetite for consumer goods exactly the same thing?

I think they are.

And I also think we're foolish if we believe that somehow, some way, our government is going to figure this out in any way which might be beneficial to you or I.

So it's up to us, as individuals, to figure out way through this. Look at it this way: even relatively conservative estimates are (and sorry, I don't have immediate access to a URL) that we can expect to see gas prices of $4-5 in a few years, with a precipitous rise beginning some time around the end of 2005. The same trend will occur with natural gas, so people who heat with gas and drive a lot will be exceptionally vulnerable. Especially as it's doubtful wages will be rising any time soon.

And how many people do you know who drive a lot and heat their homes with natural gas?

What puzzles me, however, is a seeming determination to avoid discussion of our options as individuals and instead spin tales of what the government COULD do.

I mean, come on, folks. Do you really think the government is going to figure its way out of this? Especially a government owned by the oil and gas industry?

So, just like I brainstorm with myself about what to do about the economy --- how to cut my costs, how to maybe even make a little money (oh PLEASE let those interest rates go up!) --- I worry about how best to heat and cook --- should I start bit by bit getting solar panels on this place? --- what is my best option in a fuel efficient car? --- those kinds of things ...

And I think that's what we all need to be doing. Because I'm not sure I believe in the apocalyptic visions. But I do think we better be prepared for a precipitous change as a consequence of our wastefulness and dependence on fossil fuels.

How things work

For several weeks now, I've been following the story of a local boy in ICU in Tulsa. This boy contracted a tick disease and is in pretty bad shape --- on a ventilator with every imaginable kind of tube stuck in his arms and legs and nose. Needless to say, his family and friends are devastated.

And they don't --- and won't --- have the money to pay his medical bills, much less the costs of feeding, clothing and caring for him once he gets home --- or rather, if he gets home.

In any case, a local store has kept a coffee can on the counter for donations. Yet, every time I go to this store, I forget to take cash with me to put in the can.

So, a day or so ago, out of desperaton to clear the place out, I took a chair my sister gave me and put it in my car. I didn't know where else to put it and it seemed like the logical thing to do. I mean, this is me we're talking about. I figured I'd just keep it in the car until I decided whether to fix it or give it away.

Then this afternoon, I get off work and stop at the store to put some gas in the car. And the old guy at the next pump sees the chair and asks what're you gonna do with that chair?

I reply, "Oh, I don't know. That's why it's in the car. Do you want it?"

He says, "Does it need fixing?" And I tell hin yea, the springs in the seat are sprung.

So he says, "Well, I'd sure like the chair but I'd like it more if you'd fix it and keep it yourself." And I tell him no, no, I can't do that, better you take the chair. And he says ....

"I'll gve you $10 if you fix that chair."

After I recovered my composure, I told him no, no you take the chair. And he says young lady [bwaha!], I'm going to give you this money so you can go over to the store and get what you need to fix the chair.

And I think a minute, then tell him if you give me the ten dollars, do I have to use it to fix the chair? And he says it's between you and God what you do with that ten dollars!

So I say okay, give me the ten dollars --- but it's going into the can on the counter for the kid who's sick.

And he gave me the ten dollars. And I took that ten dollars and I put it in the can. And the last thing the old guy said to me is all I ask is you fix the chair --- yourself --- and you never tell anyone about this --- this is just between you and me and God.

Okay, so I didn't keep the last part of my promise to him. But it just seems to me everyone should know the funny way things work out when you just let them.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Tom Coburn and Lesbians

It's the end of the week again and time to revisit the illustrious raison d'etre for the blog. There's a bit of cause for concern, however, as a google search reveals the number of hits for "Tom Coburn" and "lesbians" has dropped to a distressing 1,000.

Come on, people, let's do our work. This is a story we can't let die.

Although I have to admit, the top hits are pretty amusing. Beware the lesbians in the bathroom and The Attack of the Fifty Foot Lesbians (a post on a forum which names the link to the original audio a sassy "Lesbians Away!") are two of the more prominent offerings this week. Coburn and all his lesbians appear to have become quite a hit on the porno channels, as well, but I refuse to give any of those links --- you're just going to have to find them yourself.

Now a search on "Tom Coburn" and "lesbian" proves more fruitful.

This search yields over 4,000 hits, including a most enlightening thread at Blogs for Bush. I've included this thread because it is just such a wonderful reminder of the mentality of the Bushinistas.
Comments

"Lesbianism is so rampant in some of the schools in southeast Oklahoma that they'll only let one girl go to the bathroom. Now think about it. Think about that issue. How is it that that's happened to us?"

Republican Tom Coburn
Posted by: Greg at October 13, 2004 09:16 AM

Greg,

Do you have a point you're trying to make here?
Posted by: Faye at October 13, 2004 10:10 AM

I guess he is trying to promote homosexual behavior in schools in Oklahoma and is trying to complain that Coburn finds it alarming. Typical liberal.
Posted by: Scaramonga at October 13, 2004 10:45 AM

Just pointing out that Tom Coburn is insane. Other than that, seems like a fine guy.
Posted by: Greg at October 13, 2004 11:22 AM

A donk's definition of insanity: If you are concerned about the rampant rise of homosexuality in your children's schools, you are insane.

Or maybe calling someone insane because you don't happen to agree with their values is the donk version of "reasoned" debate.

In either case, how could anyone take that kind of behavior as worth consideration?
Posted by: Scaramonga at October 13, 2004 12:03 PM

No, insanity is making up a lesbian invasion of middle-schools. Before he made this outrageous claim, no one had heard of any lesbian invasion in SE Oklahoma. Girls could go to the bathroom in whatever numbers they wanted (although one would imagine that teachers would only let one go at a time during class). The teachers hadn't heard of this lesbian invasion, the superintendant hadn't heard of the lesbian invasion. In honor of that, here's a new hat for Tom. Should help with both the lesbian invasion and the CIA transmission's he's picking up through his teeth. Posted by: Greg at October 13, 2004 1:35 PM


Yeegads! I didn't realize it's an invasion. I'm surprised Bush isn't all over this one.

North versus South

I may have 40 essays to grade by tomorrow --- a refrigerator to pull out into the living room --- walls to paint --- and who the heck are those people out on my property cutting up that tree that fell?

I mean, it's fine with me. In the cities, it would cost a good $800-1500 to get that big old thing cut up and hauled away. But still, I wish they would have asked me. Or are they the neighbors who brought me that nice plate of home cured ham a few days ago?

In any case, I may have too much to do and not enough time to do it, but I've just wasted an entire morning over at Kos fighting the North versus South battle.

And I swear, some people just don't want to get it. The issue isn't persuading bigots. Screw the bigots.

The issue is the disenfanchised, the people who no longer even bother to vote.

I live in a county with 75% registered Democrats --- one or two counties over is 90% registered Democrats. But they're not only not voting Democratic anymore --- they're not voting at all.

And they're not voting at all because they're disenfranchised. And they're not disenfranchised by accents or education or hairdoes.

These are rural people who have always been rural. In many cases, the land they're on has been in their families for generations. They're farmers and small ranchers, many who literally hunt for their lunches. More than a few --- the majority perhaps? --- are more than a little *not white.*

And the corporations are starting to creep in and they know it. They know their futures and their children's futures are being jeopardized by agribusiness and suburban sprawl and wealthy Texans moving up and putting in huge *resort* developments.

Their entire way of life is in danger. But nobody wants to talk about them.

Instead, they want to talk about bigots.

Which means, come 2008, these people still won't be voting.

The point is, let the Republicans have the bigots. They should be none of our concern. But maybe we ought to be thinking about the disenfranchised and find some way to make a platform inclusive of them.