Sunday, July 30, 2006

Other weekend Ezra posts

Linked by quotes:

Hey, did you know that Iran's Parliament has a seat reserved for Jews? And by "seat" I mean an actual government position, not some kind of chair that blows up.

"Since 1993, more than 11,000 service members have been dismissed under the gay ban, according to the Department of Defense."

If something happens to Justice Stevens, and Roe is on the line, will Joe Lieberman vote to filibuster?

Help a Technical Virgin!

Did you see the classic sex ed parody videos from the now-defunct "Technical Virgin" site a few years ago? If not, they're still out there -- on the internet, nothing funny ever dies -- so go have yourself a look! It's the weekend, so the fact that they're borderline unsafe for work shouldn't be a problem. (Here's the other one.) Then come back and click below the fold, because there's something you need to do.

Melanie Martinez of Technical Virgin fame indeed went on to a bright future as the host of the "Good Night Show", a PBS Kids program for children 2 to 5 years old. Last week, she was fired for the seven-years-ago indiscretion of having made the video you just saw. PBS' ombudsman said the following in his petition about PBS officials' decision to fire Melanie:

There is probably little doubt that they would have been hammered by a much larger group than wrote in defense of Ms. Martinez had they taken no action, since the videos, which do have a shock effect, are now pretty easy to find on the Web.

I like what one grandparent wrote:

Once again, it appears PBS has preemptively silenced someone based on fear that America’s Right Wing will not like you. I have an important message for you: AMERICA’S RIGHT WING WILL NOT LIKE YOU AS LONG AS YOU EXIST. You can fire hosts like Bill Moyers and Melanie Martinez until the cows come home, and America’s Right Wing will not like you. They fear the truth, and to the extent that your programs reveal the truth, you become the enemy. I suppose if you fill the entire broadcast day with “Antiques Roadshow” and “The New This Old House Hour”, they may find you no longer the enemy. But they still won’t want to see any CPB money flowing your way.

So what can you do about this? At the very least, sign the petition. Probably the best place to go for updates, and advice on further action is BringBackMel.blogspot.com

One more thing, on a slightly more personal note. There's very little in the world that makes me as angry as seeing men disparage a woman for having a colorful sexual past. This case involves even less than that -- it's merely that she acted in a few 30-second parody videos dealing with sexual topics. I look forward to the day when people who disdain women with exciting sexual histories are generally shunned, the same way that explicit sexists and racists are shunned today.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

American Jews: Intelligent and Admirable People

It's up at the Ezra blog, with a picture from happier times. I won't post it here, because the opening quasi-joke makes it better for you to read it there.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Religious Left

I was happy to see this article, mostly for the sake of seeing the media notice these people. If we could somehow watch the media narrative expressed here become dominant -- the religious left is on the rise, challenging the religious right! -- I'd be a very happy man.

Edwards and the Swift Boats

I hadn't seen this before, and I'm mostly posting it here so that I can find it later:

Kerry's running mate, John Edwards, also wanted to take a swipe at the Swifties. Edwards was hardly an attacker in the Dole (or Cheney) tradition of vice presidential hit men; his whole persona and appeal were based on sunny optimism. But as early as Aug. 5, when the Swifties were just getting traction, Edwards wanted to push back, hard. McCain had just told the Associated Press that the Swift Boat ads were "dishonest and dishonorable... the same kind of deal that was pulled on me." Edwards wanted to begin a speech, "I join with Senator McCain in calling on the president to condemn this dishonest and dishonorable ad." But Kerry headquarters said no. Stephanie Cutter, the boss of the Kerry communications shop, explained that the campaign didn't need to give the Swift Boat vets any more attention than they were already getting.

Edwards played along, but his aides were indignant. They warned the veep candidate that the story was already out of control and about to get worse. Historian Douglas Brinkley, author of a wartime biography of Kerry, cautioned that Kerry's diary included mention of a meeting with some North Vietnamese terrorists in Paris. Edwards was flabbergasted. "Let me get this straight," the senator said. "He met with terrorists? Oh, that's good."

Sunday, July 16, 2006

We Don't Mind Hedgers. Just Give Us Partisans!

Says Terence Samuel, with an eye on 2008:

defeating Lieberman will transform the war as a campaign issue. It will move from being an “effectiveness and competence” issue that the President and Republicans must defend and explain to serving as a political litmus test for Democrats.


Suppose Lieberman's position had consistently been "I was right to vote for the war, because I had a reasonable expectation that Bush would do it right, but he turned out to be a total moron who can't be trusted to operate a toaster, let alone rebuild a country, and he totally botched everything." Then he'd have Yglesias and Rosenfeld to argue with, and some grumbling war opponents to placate, but I don't think he'd have Ned Lamont to run against. The widespread criticism of Lieberman isn't that he indulges in the incompetence dodge, it's that he spends his time making other Democrats look like unpatriotic extremists when he should be attacking Republicans. Any strident criticism of Bush will make the partisan base happy, just as any interference with Democrats who are steadfastly bashing Republicans will infuriate them. Hit Bush hard on effectiveness and competence, and the base will cheer.

To address another of Samuel's concerns, we have some solid antiwar positions to choose from among our 2008 candidates. He mentions Feingold, who was right all along. So was Gore, if he's running. Warner has the opportunity to retroactively declare himself into whatever position he wants -- he seems to be playing median voter games and aiming for the center of the American populace. (I'm guessing he'll overshoot to the right -- by 2008, we'll have seen two more years of blood and fire from mismanaging a near-impossible problem, which will create even more antiwar sentiment among everyone.) Edwards admits that he made a mistake and has a clear explanation of what it was -- like everyone else, he got tricked by Bush's WMD deceptions. Hillary, Biden, and Bayh are stuck with suboptimal positions, especially as far as the liberal wing of the party is concerned, but most voters will probably be looking at the future rather than the past. It's hard for me to see how the Lieberman situation changes the game significantly.

Whether the Iraq War represented fundamentally flawed strategy or merely incompetent execution is an important substantive question, since it bears on the foreign policy that our candidates might pursue if they attained power. But many in the base are fairly pragmatic hyper-partisans at heart, and I'm not convinced that the particular position you punch from matters to them. They just want to you to slug some Republicans, the harder the better. And don't you dare mess with a Democrat who's doing some good hitting.

Friday, July 14, 2006

How sweet

Lindsay's excerpt about the 76-year-old quilter who was persuaded towards a pro-sex-worker position made me happy.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Monday mushroom blogging

Sahotra Sarkar went out into the forests of Mexico and discovered this mushroom, which is 13 inches in diameter. Nobody knows what kind of mushroom it is, and he's wondering if it's a new species. (The sapling growing through it is not part of the mushroom.)

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Losing Joementum

His continued support of the Iraq War and attacks on the patriotism of its opponents are the main reasons for opposing Joe Lieberman, but his history of attacks on fellow Democrats and liberal ideals is much longer. There was his support of DOMA in 1996, his scolding of Clinton during the impeachment hearings in 1998, his flirtation with private accounts during the early days of the Social Security fight, and his cloture vote on Alito. While his overall voting record isn't bad, it's hard to see Ned Lamont as anything but an upgrade, especially as far as winning media battles is concerned.

What's really exciting about this race is the message it'll send to safe-state Democrats who may occasionally be driven to Liebermania by the siren song of the anti-partisan media: bashing your party for personal gain is unacceptable, and Democrats in safe seats are expected to do their part in moving the country leftward. Betrayals of the party and liberal ideals, whether for reasons pragmatic or psychological, may come with the consequence of a primary defeat.

I generally agree with folks like Petey who think that moderate-seeming Democrats will attract more votes, but Joe Lieberman is the kind of moderate who gives his party a radical image. Garance has a good post on this. Criticizing "extremists" in your party and making opponents of the war look like unpatriotic radicals does nothing to help Claire McCaskill and Harold Ford win their Senate races. By painting a picture of unpatriotic extreme antiwar Democrats, Lieberman damages the party's brand and hurts Democrats everywhere.

Triangulation makes sense as a strategy for individual candidates, but it's not a strategy that an entire party can engage in. In a country with an established two-party system, the media will define the space of moderate opinion relative to the parties themselves. No party will be able to gain a lasting reputation for moderation by compromising and moving towards its opponents. All that'll happen is that the space of moderation will be narrowed, and opinions that previously were considered moderate will be regarded as extreme.

Consider the idea of invading Iraq. Even setting aside the WMD issue, it's hard to imagine that early poll numbers in favor of invading would've been high if we were under a responsible Republican administration that itself rejected the idea of invasion as ridiculous. Support for the war would then fall outside the range of acceptable moderate opinion. This analysis applies better to new issues where minds aren't made up than old ones where most people have come to a firm opinion, but on things like foreign policy proposals and judicial nominations, we need to realize that the battle of public opinion is still out there to be won. Lieberman must not be allowed to sabotage Democrats by narrowing the space of moderation so that our views look extreme.

I don't want my safe-seat Democrats triangulating into moderate positions. I want them to explore new territory on the left, so that when our Arkansas and Nebraska Senators triangulate off of them, they end up in positions that are fairly good, or at least non-destructive. And that's why I have no use for Joe Lieberman. Where Lamont would stretch the field leftward as a moderate personality with progressive views, Lieberman compresses it and perpetuates negative stereotypes of Democrats. It's time to remove him from politics, and threaten anyone who follows his path with a similar fate.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Incumbency Games

I'm going to post an extended denunciation of Joe Lieberman later this weekend, but I thought it'd be good to get this point out of the way first: the fact that Chuck Schumer and a few other national Democratic bigwigs are hemming and hawing about whether to support Ned Lamont if he wins the Democratic primary isn't as troubling as it first appears. Michael Tomasky cites an example from 1980 in which Republican leaders did the same thing -- taking no position on a race for two weeks after their incumbent, Jacob Javits, lost his primary, and then eventually supporting the victorious challenger against Javits' third party bid with $235,000. In comments, Mark Schmitt offers a similar example from Connecticut in 1970.

This is the kind of behavior you'd expect from national party leaders. They're afraid of angering their incumbent by looking unsupportive before the primary ends, seeing him win the primary, and having to deal with a ticked-off senior senator for the next six years. But if the challenger wins, they fear six years of a ticked-off junior colleague who owes them nothing, and rush to his side as kingmakers. Whatever Schumer says now, I'm pretty sure he'll be backing the Democratic nominee at the end of August.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Cute mammals, cute together

Not having a cat, I can't participate in the Friday Catblogging that you see on other parts of the internet. But the least I can do is link to Amanda's pictures of the kitten and the monkey.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

I'm back in Austin

...which means that y'all will see some of my blogging on Ezra's site day after tomorrow. Thanks to Dymaxion John in particular for picking up lots of the slack while I was gone.

Among the exciting things I did in DC was squirrel fishing with Tom Lotze and friends. I had more of a hunting-dog role than a fishing role, which suited my canine tendencies quite well. Arf!