Monday, September 30, 2002

Kudos abound

Nitpicker is slow to read his fellow bloggers sometimes, but would like to give kudos to Dwight Meredith today for his excellent piece on Bush's claim to be a "uniter, not a divider" and how he's been doing with that so far.

And, Terry Sawyer is smart and funny as he picks apart the Bushies' need for war. My favorite line: "Power wielded so loosely is hubris frosted in overkill. Doesn't Karl Rove watch 'Behind the Music?'"

And see Reason's article on the scary new logo for the Information Awareness Office. Nitpicker thinks the name is scary enough. What's the motto? "We know you know something?"

And read the best post you're likely to read concering Bill O'Reilly, in which G. Beato of Soundbitten asks the immortal question, "How can O'Reilly diss Ludacris, when he brags about putting the beat-down on Michael Kinsley?" Comes complete with handy "O'Reilly v. Ludacris" chart.

Keep Pushing, Sisyphus

Props to the (as far as I know) unnamed author of Sisyphus Shrugged for her excellent deconstruction of the myth of "robust employment."

I especially love the following shot aimed (precisely) at "Reagan Democrats":

"You may be doing what you feel you have to, and I can understand that. The fact that you got where you are by voting wrong and getting screwed rather than by fucking the wrong person doesn't make you morally superior to a "welfare mother."

Remember, Sisyphus, even the Jeffersons knew that it takes "a whole lot of tryin' / just to get up that hill." We can convince people if we can just get them to listen.

Friday, September 27, 2002

My Love to Molly

Molly Ivins has it the nail on the head. The debate over Iraq isn't just about whether or not we are pro-war or against war, but about what kind of country we choose to be. (She also has some great points about why we want the world to side with us, but I'd rather focus on her first point.)

Say I'm a guy in an apartment in a bad neighborhood. I have the feeling that the guy down the hall wants to do me harm. He might have a gun in there or a pit bull or a baseball bat. I think he might even be related to the guy who mugged me last week. Might even have put him up to it. What do I do?

If you answered, "Kill the guy," then you are on the side of Dubya and his buddies in this war. If you answered, "Get someone to check him out," then you are on the side of those who see the role of the UN and inspectors in this issue. The law, in the case of the two people in an apartment, would agree with the latter answer.

You see, the law does not have a plea of "pre-emptive self-defense." You can't harm someone because you think he might want to do you harm. There has to be a truly "clear and present danger." What that means is not that you believe someone might come hurt you, but they must have the weapon leveled at you or clearly intend to use it. If you shoot first, you've become the criminal.

We have no idea what Iraq has or how they intend to use them. Donald Rumsfeld tried to get around this when speaking before Congress by saying that ''the last thing we want is a smoking gun. A gun smokes after it has been fired. The goal must be to stop Saddam Hussein before he fires a weapon of mass destruction against our people.''

What he's saying here is that he doesn't know what Saddam's got. I don't expect him to find a smoking gun, but at least prove to me that the gun exists.

As Tracy Bonham says, there's a burden to being upright. It's hard to do the right thing and not just do what you want. I agree with Molly Ivins, I don't want Bush, et. al., to turn the U.S. into a criminal nation.

Using his powers for good

Ampersand, after wasting his talents on a "Buffy BlogBurst," (along with a suprisingly talented class of co-conspirators) now uses his powers against the dark side, proposing a BlogBurst to oppose the Iraq hawks. Should be interesting and informative. I hope someone is alerting the media...

What about this Jew, Dick?

This jew disagrees with Dick Armey on a lot of things. Is he shallow? You decide.

Dick Armey disagrees with Jesus on prayer in schools. Jesus said "(W)hen thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly." (Matthew 6:5-6)

Jesus disagrees with Dick on tax cuts: The Herodians asked him: Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? The KJV picks up from there: "But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, 'Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? Shew me the tribute money." And they brought unto him a penny. And he saith unto them, 'Whose is this image and superscription?' They say unto him, 'Caesar's.' Then saith he unto them, 'Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's.'" (Matthew 22:17-21)

Considering his views on welfare, it's probably likely that Dick isn't very interested in feeding Christ's sheep, either.

Welcome to the party

While I don't think either of us are making points that Americans shouldn't be making on their own, The New Republic finally catches up to the Nitpicker.

Who's not interested in protecting Americans?

Slate's Dahlia Lithwick goes justifiably apeshit over John Ashcroft's "quasi-religious zeal" for guns today. I was floored to read the following paragraph:

"(L)ast fall, Ashcroft blocked the FBI from using gun purchase records gathered under the auspices of the federal Brady Act to determine if any of the 1,200 suspected terrorists detained after Sept. 11 had purchased a gun. This is the man who didn't hesitate to lock these same people up for months without charges, insisting that looking into their gun records violated their privacy." [Italics Ms. Lithwick's.]

So, in Ashcroft's view, suspected terrorists can have guns but not lawyers, the right to a trial or even the knowledge of that for which they're being accused. Has anyone told this guy that the Bill of Rights doesn't stop at the Second Amendment?

She goes on to point out that Ashcroft lied his way through his confirmation process when he said that "being attorney general means advancing the national interest, not advocating my personal interest."

While I disagree with many gun opponents' views on the Second Amendment, Lithwick excellently points out that much of this has already been decided in court and Ashcroft is singlehandedly changing the very nature of how our nation views guns. In the process, he's made our country a little safer -- if, that is, you're a terrorist or a drug dealer.

This is, sadly, the defining aspect of the Bush Administration, though. It seems to me that Ashcroft believes that he's on a mission from God to turn this nation into the country he feels it should be. Someone should remind him, though, that, as Cicero said, the voice of the people is the voice of God. Florida aside, a half million more of the people of this nation would have preferred that his boss confine his views to Texas and, by extension, that Ashcroft's political career would have ended in the ignominy of losing his last election to a dead man.
Check out Timothy Noah's take on Daschle's anger.
Oops. So much for another 100-day war.

Thursday, September 26, 2002

I report, you know what to do

Remember George Will saying that Dubya lacked "gravitas?"

grav·i·tas - high seriousness (as in a person's bearing or in the treatment of a subject).
From Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary.

When asked whether Hussein was a bigger threat to the United States than al Qaeda, Bush responded by saying, "That is an interesting question. I'm trying to think of something humorous to say."

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Lott to Daschle: "Cool Your Rhetoric"

Can anyone believe that Trent Lott, the King of B.S. Political Rhetoric, said that to Tom Daschle. Considering that Daschle has military service under his belt, you'd think they'd understand why he'd get ticked when Bush says that Democrats are "not interested in the security of the American people."

Monday, September 23, 2002

Shakespeare and Saddam

The walls of William Shakespeare’s grave must be worn as smooth as glass from all the rolling over he must do in there. If it wasn’t before, I’m sure it’s been buffed recently as the president’s defenders have used the Bard’s works to illustrate their arguments toward a new attack on Iraq. Sure, he was a cocky guy and probably loves being remembered, but the sad fact that the president’s friends have so clearly misunderstood his themes would most surely drive him nuts.

First, George Schultz has marched out his oft-repeated “shall we be the Hamlet of nations” tripe for the Republicans’ new war, but only after Dick Morris (the Republicans’ new best friend) said the same and predicted the tack that Republicans would take in this move toward action and away from thought.

Why does no one give Hamlet any credit? Everyone points to him as a man who thinks too much, but conveniently forgets that the act he was contemplating was an act of murder. George W. seems to have forgotten that simple fact and, like the man of action, Fortinbras, is ready to go to war “even for an eggshell” – whether he’s sure of the eggshell’s existence or not.

The point is, people are going to die. This should be an act which gives us pause.

If Hamlet were the only reference, though, this may not bother me so much. He’s often misunderstood by the kind of frat boy boneheads that seem to fill Bush’s cabinet. It’s his supporters take on Othello that drives me nuts.

In a recent commentary on All Things Considered, Ken Adelman said that he “stand(s) with Othello” in supporting the Bush Administration’s move to attack Iraq. In this he says “push the details aside and use force” against Iraq. I’m not sure what details he’s talking about here, but I assume that he means details like Saddam’s actually having WMDs and whether or not we should violate the UN’s charter. Details like that.

He’s right on one aspect, though. Othello did do this in defense of Venice. However, like Bush, Othello did this all the time, and that was his downfall. People attacking Venice? Don’t count them. Kill them. Wife might be unfaithful? Don’t hesitate. Kill her.

I, for one, think we should think this through. We should, like Hamlet, try to wrap our minds around the act we intend to commit. Let’s go into Iraq and see what’s there. We must not act without knowledge. In this, I stand with Hamlet.

The Federally Funded Campaign

There are people out there who support publicly funded campaigns. "They'll take the government away from special interests," they say. I disagree. There would, first, have to be some way for us to choose those who are eligible to receive government funds -- say, by petition or other means -- and that would be the new election before the election. PACs, organizations and individuals would begin pouring money into campaigns to get the right number of names on a sheet of paper, leading to just as much being owed to these groups as before.

What doesn't get mentioned often is that, if you've got a man in the White House, your local campaign for the house or senate already gets plenty of federal funding when we, the taxpayers, pay for the president to wing on over to your state. And, frankly, we've never paid as much as we are now that W's in the White House.

Sure, Clinton was (and is and ever shall be) a political animal and Republicans chastised him constantly for the "Permanent Campaign," his drive to always keep his eyes on the electoral prize. I said then (though I wasn't blogging) that, if they really wanted to prevent this kind of treatment, they shouldn't allow the president to charge off his campaigning to the people of the U.S. by making a short policy speech before running off to fill the coffers of whatever local Democrat he wanted to support.

Now, though, I would be surprised if any Republicans would have the audacity to bring up Clinton's campaigning again (or, at least, to complain about it with a straight face). Bush has broken all of Clinton's money-raising records and continues to rack up the political junkets every week. Do you have any idea how much this costs American taxpayers? How much it costs us to pay for the pilots who fly Air Force One, the fuel of that plane, the security for motorcades, etc.? Neither do I. I think we should, though, and we should bill whichever party's in office for the percentage of the trip that could be deemed solely political.

Guns and Rights

While The Nitpicker will usually be seen as agreeing with liberals on most issues, I tend to disagree with the common leftish (leftesque?) take on guns. It's time again to look at this issue, as it's become important again in many mid-term elections, including Maryland's.

Maybe it's the country boy upbringing or having served in the Navy and Army (don't ask), but I don't think so. My problem with the argument against the Second Amendment is that, in this area, liberals seem to want to have their cake and eat it, too.

Look at the liberal take on the First Amendment. They tend to want it to be interpreted to the widest extent possible. I agree. It should exclude most limitations on free speech and the right of assembly. It should keep prayer out of school (I won't argue this now, but check here if you doubt the founding fathers' intentions). So how can the left then want to play word games with the Second Amendment? It seems to me that you can either view the bill of rights as a document to be read broadly or restrictively and I'm not willing to give up the right to free speech in order to keep a handgun away from a person who, statistically, is not going to do anyone any harm.

That having been said, I think there is a happy medium here that, if gun rights advocates would only open their minds a bit, would be amenable to all. I'm talking about the "ballistic fingerprinting" and tracking of guns.

Here's how it works. Every time a gun is readied for the market, it would be fired and a ballistic fingerprint kept on file with, say, the FBI. Each time that gun is sold, a document would then have to be sent to the FBI, much like a car title. This would allow police to more easily track down the owners of guns used illegally (and, by law, they would only be allowed to track down those weapons used illegally) and, more importantly, to track down the "straw men" who are selling guns to criminals who can't get them any other way. If you can find out who's selling guns illegally, they could be held criminally liable for the crimes committed with those guns. As anyone who watches Law and Order can tell you, second degree murder charges can be filed (in many states) if someone shows a "depraved indifference to human life." Therefore, you should assume that the gun you are selling illegally is not being purchased for shooting at tin cans,but, by the illicit nature of the sale, is intended for nefarious purposes.

Gun advocates are pulling their hair out right now, seeing this as a restriction of ownership. I disagree. This change in the law ought to allow less restriction on gun ownership, as it would set up a method to track down those who give guns a bad name. Also, it's completely in line with restrictions on the rights of free speech, search and seizure, et. al., that our nation sees fit to uphold on a daily basis.

There will be those who argue that such a database would be used when "jackbooted thugs" came to take their weapons away. First, these people are clearly so paranoid that they probably shouldn't be allowed loaded weapons. Second, the logistics involved in a house-to-house clean-up of weapons would be staggering and render any such action impossible. And third, any soldier worth the mud in his boot tread knows that such an action would be a violation of the Second Amendment and, therefore, would be in opposition of his or her oath to "support and defend the constitution." I don't know one soldier who wouldn't refuse to perform such an action.

There is much room to maneuver on the matter of guns. But it's going to require more intellectual honesty than is usually seen from politicians on both the right and the left.

Friday, September 20, 2002

Love and Marriage, Love and Marriage
Why not allow them both for dykes and fairies?

Gays can blame Osama Bin Laden, I guess, because two years ago, Dick Cheney seemed ready to push for some sort of legal acknowledgement of their rights as committed partners. Unless, of course, he was just lying. True, he did it in what could euphemistically be called a "diplomatic" fashion, lacking any evidence of real political cojones (which have shown to be absent in other areas after he scampered off to his undisclosed location), but he did it nonetheless. He said this about the issue during a debate with Ol' Joe Lieberman: "I try to be open-minded about it as much as I can and tolerant of those relationships.

"And like Joe (Lieberman), I also wrestle with the extent to which there ought to be legal sanction of those relationships. I think we ought to do everything we can to tolerate and accommodate whatever kind of relationships people want to enter into."

This statement, though somewhat wishy-washy, seems to be one of the best made by any of the four main candidates on this issue during the lastelection season. Gore only said that he supported civic unions and Lieberman basically implied the same.

The time seems to be ripe, though, for someone to make a much stronger statement. It seemed three years ago that the barriers to this right for homosexuals had begun to crumble (due to the Vermont Supreme Court ruling) and, it's true, the U.S. Supreme Court most likely will be the force that destroys the barrier once and for all. It would be nice if one person could show the leadership required to say that laws preventing same-sex marriage are misguided and ridiculous.

What keeps politicians from making such a statement is public opinion. A January Gallup poll found that 62 percent of us believe that gay marriages should not be recognized and homosexual couples should not have the same rights as heterosexual couples - the right to make medical decisions for partners, the rights of survivorship, etc. The question is why? Why do Americans fear gay marriages?

One novel suggestion can be found on the Concerned Women for America Web site, which says, in part, that it would be a legal headache, considering the fact that homosexual unions would conflict with existing sodomy laws. This seems a disingenuous argument. Consider the fact that oral sex is one of the types of sexual activity listed as sodomy by nearly every state with existing sodomy laws, including my home state of Kansas. Taking this into account, I think we all would be glad to carry the title of sodomite.

The real reason that people have a problem with same-sex marriage can be found in the transcript of another presidential debate. (I have to go back this far because, once the election was over, it never came up again.)

George W. Bush said he sees marriage as a "sacred institution between a man and a woman." My church and I would agree. However, when we attempt to legislate according to our personal definitions of "sacred," we are going down the wrong road. The things that are sacred to me are not sacred to others. There are some churches that would have no problem with gay marriages and would consider them as sacred as any other. It's frightening to me that conservatives see no logical confusion here when they fight to keep the federal government from telling their churches how they can act, yet use the same government as a weapon against churches who would sanctify homosexual marriages.

The aforementioned CWA Web site uses the American Heritage Dictionary definition of marriage, saying that it is a "union between a man and a woman." They leave out, however, the word "legal" before union. The truth is that the state should see marriages as they see any other exchange of legal documentation and not through the prism of religion.

Should the state disallow gay mortgages? Same-sex auto sales? If the state were forced to base its view of marriage on the Christian view of matrimony as a holy institution, wouldn't it have to pretty much outlaw divorce?

Homosexuals are one of the last groups of people in America who can be discriminated against legally. Marriage is just the tip of the iceberg. (Although, as Andrew Sullivan wrote in "Virtually Normal," "If nothing else were done at all, and gay marriage were legalized, 90 percent of the political work necessary to achieve gay and lesbian equality would have been achieved.") Republicans have repeatedly blocked legislation that would add sexual orientation to the Equal Opportunity Act's list of reasons for which you can't fire or avoid hiring employees. This month, Republicans scared Topeka's city council into voting down such an ordinance.

The main problem with the conservative take on this issue, though, is that, while they say that liberals' minds are always in the gutter, they're the ones with sex on the brain.

During the presidential election, Bush answered a question about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act by saying that it shouldn't be any of his concern "how you conduct your sex life." This statement represents a commonly used conservative fallback position (which seems to apply to homosexuals but not Democratic presidents). The twisted part of this response is that they refuse to admit that homosexuality is not an issue of "sex life," but of love.

If conservatives define homosexuality and heterosexuality solely by sex acts, it's a wonder that they can consider any union truly sacred.

Coulter Logic

I recently got into an argument with a friend about Ann Coulter's basic problems with logic. I mean, she's clearly got a problem with using facts to bolster her positions (as people with much more time than I have pointed out here, here, and here, among other places), but my problems with her are that she's just not a very big fan of logic.

Take this, for example: Ms. Coulter has said in Slander that conservatives do not stoop to name-calling, while liberals do it all the time. Then she wrote a few weeks ago that the Kennedys were "a family of heroin addicts, statutory rapists, convicted and unconvicted female-killers, cheaters, bootleggers and dissolute drunks." Newt Gingrich, as Dr. Limerick points out, once issued a memo that suggested said Republicans should use words like "sick, traitors, destructive, corrupt, bizarre, cheat, and steal" when talking about their Democratic opponents.

So, there are two choices here. The first and most probable is that Ann Coulter is just a person who twists the truth to suit her needs. The second demands the following syllogism:

No conservatives call people names.

Ann Coulter and Newt Gingrich (and other Republicans) call people names.

Ann Coulter and Newt Gingrich are not conservatives.

Perhaps that's the problem our party faces, fellow Democrats. We don't even know who we're fighting against.

Bush Justice

The Nitpicker has nothing but sympathy for poor Noelle Bush. Many Americans suffer from addictions to drugs that are damned hard to beat. If she can do it, we have no beef with her.

But her dad's another matter.

I used to respect Jeb Bush. I felt bad for him when his brother ran for office, too. I mean, all these years, he's been doing the right things to be allowed to take a shot at the presidency. He was a good student; an actual, honest-to-goodness business man; and was slowly but surely working his way up the chain that dangles from the door to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Then his brother -- the opposite of Jeb in every way -- came along and tainted the White House for years to come.

Now, though, he's shown himself to not only be as dumb as his brother, but also as spoiled, by saying, basically, that it's much harder to be a child of privilege than a child in poverty. "Treatment is not an easy thing," he said, speaking about Noelle's problems with drug abuse "and it's even harder, to be honest with you, when you're the daughter of the governor." Who the heck is he kidding? It's harder to come from a rich family whose political influence will scare people away from turning you in than it is to be poor and addicted?

This is the most ridiculous thing I've heard since Dubya claimed that you could still consider drug use and drunk driving "youthful indiscretions" until you were almost 40.

Drugs are the scourge of the working poor in this country and, using insane sentencing guidelines, our nation has jailed half a generation of blacks and hispanics. (If you are in the dark about how these guidelines work, listen to this episode of the fabulous program This American Life. There' a handy chart that will show you why Dorothy Gaines -- who never touched a drug in her life -- was required to be sentenced to more time than rapists or child molesters get. In one of the moves that Republicans won't point out, Clinton pardoned her as he left office.)

Noelle has a right to fear going to jail for a long time and, if her father had either brains or guts, he would use this time to rethink his state's position on the way drug use is treated by the courts and, while we're at it, the point of criminal sentencing, period.

Instead we're probably going to get more of that old "that doesn't apply to me" Bush justice.