Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Thou Shall Not Violate the First Amendment in Alabama

Earlier, talking about the recent sodomy case and the upcoming Pledge of Allegiance case, I speculated that “if something is constitutionally questionable but it dates back to the American Revolution or thereabouts, then it’s ok. But if it’s constitutionally questionable and originated in the 20th century, then the court will strike it down.”

Under this theory, putting “In God We Trust” on money is consitutionally ok, whereas putting a monument displaying the Ten Commandments in the Alabama Supreme Court building is not constitutional.

Thank God!

AB

P.S. Those on the side of the judge who had the monument put in the building, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, will likely make appeals based on the Christian traditions of the nations and the importance of the Bible to the Founding Fathers, and so on. That the Founding Fathers in any way intended the government of this nation to be anything other than secular is a dangerous myth that should be put to rest. Could “God” have accidentally been left out of the Constitution? After the Constiution was ratified, was there a Philadelphia Convention where the Founding Fathers said “Oops, this document could leave future generations with the false impression that we did not intend this nation to be a theocracy?”. Christ. Libertarian blogger Amy Phillips has some good quotes on this subject. I like this one from John Adams: “The government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion…”

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Media Scripts

It’s pretty tough to add much to Bob Somerby’s incomparable TM media criticism, but I occasionally try (most recently here). Salon’s Eric Boehlert, who often cites Somerby, is another great source for criticism and analysis of the political press corps. Both ask the big question: how could the press mercilessly hound Al Gore for alleged exaggerations over trivial matters and sit idly by while Bush lies on substantive matters? In the 2000 campaign, Bush lied about the size of his tax cut and the size of his spending proposals. He made up his “trifecta” line out of bee’s wax and shoestring lint. In ways intentionally deceptive, though technically accurate, the Administration consistently distorts the distribution of tax benefits by incessantly using average savings (an amount very far from what you are likely to save) rather than median savings (a much better approximation of what a randomly drawn member of the population would save). I feel like I’m missing something…

Meanwhile the discredited allegations against Gore are legion: no less than Newt Gingrich defended Gore’s crucial role in developing the internet (Gingrich: “Gore is not the Father of the Internet, but in all fairness, Gore is the person who, in the Congress, most systematically worked to make sure that we got to an Internet, and the truth is—and I worked with him starting in 1978 when I got [to Congress], we were both part of a ‘futures group’”). Gore, of course, never said that he was the “Father of the Internet”, nor even that he “invented the internet”. Gore was 1/2 of the inspiration for Erich Segal’s (based on an inaccurate newspaper quote, Gore incorrectly said that he and Tipper were the inspiration). Gore did in fact start Congressional hearings over the Love Canal toxic waste, and never claimed that he “discovered” it in the sense of Magellan’s voyage. Instead, he said that after learning of a toxic site in Tennessee, he looked around the country for other sites and found one in New York–Love Canal. You have to be an idiot to, in context, read that as Gore claiming he was wandering the backwoods of the nation with a toxicity detector. What else? The Florida student without a desk that Gore cited in one of the debates (I think it was the first one) did have a desk by the time of the debate, though the school remained overcrowded. Chemically identical drugs to cost less when prescribed to pets than to people, and Gore’s dog and grandmother did in fact take the same drug, but Gore cited wholesale, not retail, prices for the two, and so is clearly a liar! There’s more, but you get the point.

Now I remember the additional Bush deception from the end of the first paragraph: exaggeration and selective use of facts designed to create the impression of an imminent threat from Iraq and thereby drum up public support for a war. But hey, that’s too trivial to create a press furor–it was just an exaggeration and all presidents do it (the emerging conventional wisdom). Besides, there were mass graves, mass graves I tell you! And anyway, let’s all trash Hillary Rodham’s book and debate the exact date she learned about Lewinsky.

In any event, Eric Boehlert has a lot more in Salon today. Watch an ad or subscribe and give it a read.

AB

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Is D.C. becoming a one-party town?

Howie Kurtz is actually good today, writing about the Republican Machine (no, not Fox News). Actually, Kurtz isn’t good, but he quotes very extensively from Nicholas Confessore’s Washington Monthy story:

“Today, the GOP holds a two-to-one advantage in corporate cash. That shift in large part explains conservatives’ extraordinary legislative record over the last few years. Democrats, along with the press, have watched in mounting disbelief as President Bush, lacking either broad majorities in Congress or a strong mandate from voters, has enacted startlingly bold domestic policies–from two major tax cuts for the rich, to a rollback of workplace safety and environmental standards, to media ownership rules that favor large conglomerates. The secret to Bush’s surprising legislative success is the GOP’s increasing control of Beltway influence-peddlers. K Street used to be a barrier to sweeping change in Washington. The GOP has turned it into a weapon.”

AB

UPDATE: Roger Ailes, who’s been really good of late, has the right take on Kurtz’s piece: “Howie has also broken the story that cable news is covering the Laci Peterson murder a lot. A lesser scribe would have missed that story completely.”

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Feeding the Base

There’s a nice NYT story today, Bush, Looking to His Right, Shores Up Support for 2004, describing how Right wing base is quite happy with Bush II. For example,

–David A. Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, said: “In the first Bush administration, the conservatives were asked to be spectators — and it was hoped that they would applaud the action in the field. In this one, they have a president who wants them to be part of the team.”

–”Just about every conservative is thrilled with a president who tells the U.N. to take a hike,” said Nelson Warfield, a conservative strategist.

Also providing fawning quotes are Grover Norquist and Wayne LaPierre of the NRA; Steven Moore of the Club for Growth is a bit angry over the impending prescription drug benefit, but otherwise quite pleased with Bush. The NYT has to go to the Libertarian Cato Institute for an honest assessment:

“His fiscal record is appalling — spending is out of control,” said Edward H. Crane, president of the Cato Institute, a libertarian research organization. “The fiscal record of the Bush administration makes Clinton look downright responsible.”

And here’s hoping that pride goeth before a fall:

“The Republicans are looking at decades of dominance in the House and the Senate, and having the presidency with some regularity,” Mr. Norquist said. “So if this year the tax cut isn’t the one we wanted — no biggie. There’s a sense that we can afford to wait.”

Take that, John Judis and Ruy Teixeira.

AB

UPDATE: Speaking of Teixeira, he’s got a blog now: Donkey Rising.

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Sodomy and the Pledge of Allegiance

An unlikely connection, but here goes. One part of yesterday’s ruling struck me as interesting:

(b) Having misapprehended the liberty claim presented to it, the Bowers Court stated that proscriptions against sodomy have ancient roots. 478 U. S., at 192. It should be noted, however, that there is no longstanding history in this country of laws directed at homosexual conduct as a distinct matter. Early American sodomy laws were not directed at homosexuals as such but instead sought to prohibit nonprocreative sexual activity more generally, whether between men and women or men and men. Moreover, early sodomy laws seem not to have been enforced against consenting adults acting in private. Instead, sodomy prosecutions often involved predatory acts against those who could not or did not consent: relations between men and minor girls or boys, between adults involving force, between adults implicating disparity in status, or between men and animals. The longstanding criminal prohibition of homosexual sodomy upon which Bowers placed such reliance is as consistent with a general condemnation of nonprocreative sex as it is with an established tradition of prosecuting acts because of their homosexual character. Far from possessing “ancient roots,” ibid., American laws targeting same-sex couples did not develop until the last third of the 20th century.

The implicit reasoning seems to be along the lines of if something is constitutionally questionable but it dates back to the American Revolution or thereabouts, then it’s ok. But if it’s constitutionally questionable and originated in the 20th century, then the court will strike it down. This logic suggests that this Supreme Court would be likely to uphold, by a 6-3 vote, the 9th Circuit’s ruling that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in schools, when the Pledge contains “under God”, is unconstitutional, since “under God” was added in 1954. Of course the sodomy case was ruled under equal protection grounds while the Pledge case involves the establishment clause (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”).

AB

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Back to Normal

That was fun, now back to my regularly scheduled programming of not noticing the little f*ck’s existence. BTW, if you run a Google search of “Michael Savage”, the number 3 hit is Savage Stupidity, followed by Michael Savage Sucks.com. The #2 hit is also a parody site. The objective is to keep linking to these sites until they surpass notedjackass.com (that’s not the URL, but I’m not linking to michaelsavage.com) as the top Google hit for “michael savage”.

Also, I wish more–or even some–conservative bloggers had joined in. Seriously, most of us moderate lefties (and even the extreme lefties) vigorously repudiate ANSWER–can’t some Righties do the same with Savage?

Finally, Via Blah3, here’s the most comprehensive list of appropriators I’ve found, give them all a hand! And props to Neal Pollack for taking the initiative.

Angry Bear, Ann Slanders, Army Of Fun, Atrios, Bag Times, Big Picnic, Bitter Obscurity, Blah3, Bunsen, Bush Is A Moron, Deckie Holmes, Duckwing., For Freedom Century, Fengi, Haypenny, Genoan Sailor
I Am The Man Who Will Fight For Your Honor, Left Pedal, Liberal Media Conspiracy, Like Father Like Sun, Lisa Rocci, Matthew Tobey, Max Sawicky, Michael Savage’s Only Official Website, Monkeytime, Mykeru, Nurse Ratched’s Notebook, Off the Kuff, Pandagon, Rashomon, Rob Curran, Sam Heldman, Savage Ass Rape, Savage Cruel Bigots, Suckful, Shared Thought, South Knox Bubba, Ted Barlow, The Daily Harrumph, The Donkeypissonian, The Funny Farm, The Plunketts, Utter Wonder, Warblogger Watch, Yankee Pot Roast, and Yar’s Revenge

AB

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A Picture Tells a Thousand Words

Remember, these graphs only go through 2000, so this is before the Bush tax cuts. Still, these wealthy people stand to lose a lot more from a crappy economy than they stand to gain from Bush’s tax cuts–but when will they figure this out? Go read the whole NYT story. And hell, I pay an effective tax rate a bit over 20%, the same as 400 wealthiest taxpayers paid in 2000.

AB

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Flood the Jackass Zone

I tend to ignore Michael Weiner (who you may know as Michael Savage) because anyone who would listen to him for more than two minutes is beyond reason or redemtion. My initial take when MSNBC hired him was to highlight the obvious:

“Michael Savage is a jackass…I guess that makes the decision-makers at MSNBC objectively pro-jackass.”

Surprisingly, in spite of terrible ratings, to date MSNBC is maintaning its objectively pro-jackass stance.

A few things to note about Michael Weiner: 1. Changed his last name to “Savage”, 2. Visits wax museums to get a photo of him touching Barbra Streisand’s breast (it’s true–check near the bottom of his homepage if you are so inclined), and 3. Is obsessed with phallic symbols guns. All of these can lead to only one conclusion: a chronic and severe inability to interact romantically with women, a condition exacerbated by a particularly virulent strain of ClenisTM envy.

AB

P.S. If you are wondering why so many blogs have Savage/Weiner related posts today, click here and then here.

Here are the sites that are being sued: Take Back The Media, Michael Savage Sucks, and Savage Stupidity. Give them a visit and a buck or two.

UPDATE: Partial list of sites appropriating “Savage” for their own purposes: Ted Barlow, Neal Pollack, South Knox Bubba, Jesse, Atrios. Dwight Meredith has a brief explanation of why Savage deserves scorn, here.

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Failing the Hillary Test

By now you have probably heard about the latest move by the Senate Rules Committee: passing, in a voice vote in which no Democrats were present, a measure proposed by Bill Frist to “provide for a series of cloture votes, where the threshold would gradually decrease until only a simple majority is required to overcome it [a filibuster of a judicial nominee].” Fortunately, as The Hill reports, “Under Senate rules, a two-thirds majority vote is required to overcome a filibuster of a rules change, giving a disciplined minority the ability to stop the GOP effort in its tracks.” So the Democrats will have to filibuster the Republican’s anti-filibuster measure in order to continue the Democratic filibuster of Bush’s far-right nominees to the Appellate Courts.

So it’s probably much ado about nothing, but the Republicans really are huffing and puffing over this issue. I suggest they take the Hillary TestTM, which I believe was originally used in the context of the Patriot Act’s substantial expansion of the Attorney General’s power:

Would you want Hillary Clinton to have these powers if she were Attorney General?

I recommend that Republicans think carefully about this Hillary test:

Would you want to rule out the filibuster option if Hillary Clinton were Senate Majority Leader?

I’m pretty sure the answer is “No!”

AB

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