I was pleasantly surprised to find the opening remarks on Judge Sotamayor’s confirmation hearing so interesting.

Senator Feingold explicitly referenced Barrack Obama (a constitutional law scholar as well as President) in acknowledging that the Supreme Court decides cases where the precedent and wording of written law is not clear. That’s its job. There could be no mechanical execution of a prewritten umpire or referee program. Such cases are decided by values.

Senator Graham explicitly acknowledged that this is the case and that he wasn’t sure how he felt about that. After all, he imagined Judge Sotomayor’s values were different from his own. The question then was whether he should try to impose his values or interpret those of the electorate.

I was proud of both of these men and my country’s institutions. And….

They all collectively ducked. Kept their heads down. Dodged it. Wimped out.

I think we’re due for a discussion, as today’s obituaries of Walter Cronkite made apparent. Every one contains claims of absolute objectivity and authority, while also citing Cronkite’s commentary in February 1968 that America cannot win the Vietnam War. President Johnson himself said it was a major influence on his subsequent actions.

How we relate values and the quest for objectivity is much debated in journalism today, but the industry is in turmoil and I do not yet see a consensus emerging. (An objective set of values on the issue?!) I share Senator Graham’s ambivalence. For example, I think George Will and Rush Limbaugh are equally hypocritical in their underlying views, but only Will is hypocritical in the pretension to rational thought in his presentation. I’m equivocal about which I fear more: Which is more evil? Which is more undermining to my culture and institutions? I admire the English stereotype of acting properly while leaving so much unsaid, but I consistently favor knowledge and transparent discussion over style, brevity, or unrecognized deceipt and ignorance. Cronkite explicitly alerted viewers that his conclusions were subjective. I share his values. But does that make it right? The same commentary left objectivity to the “referees of history.” The question is vital throughout the economy and government. By not taking this historic opportunity to discuss this reality — by elected leaders in open hearing — we leave it be mulled over or not by individual judges and bureaucrats and businessmen and media personalities. Decisions are still made on values, but it remains taboo to discuss and judge the context and consequences of how it happens.

Sermon — Will Progressives Be The Generation of the Desert or The Generation of Joshua?

I must interrupt my usual analysis for a sermon.

It is appaling to me that we stand on the verge of seeing the stimulus bill go from a reasonable piece of legislation designed to fundamentally alter the economy to enhance sustainability to a return to the usual failed policies and boondoggles. This is not happening because the Obama people are “stupid” or “failing” or because the “special interests” are too powerful. It does not happen because Rush Limbaugh is “too strong.” If it happensm, it will be because the people who listen to Rush Limbaugh are willing to get off their rear ends and pick up phones and make calls to their Senators and to their local newspapers and browbeat them into cowed compliance — and we Progressives will not.

Voting on election day is not nearly as important as being willing to spend five minutes when it counts. We have the tools, we have the moment, we have a good first step before us. But will we trouble ourselves to save it?

The time has come for Progressives to decide. Shall we be the helpless Generation of the Desert, the generation that time and again quailed before the challenge and demanded Moses return them to the land of Egypt and died in the desolate waste without coming to the Promised Land? Or will we be the Generation of Joshua — willing to make war to take the Land flowing with milk and honey the Lord has promised us? This fight for the stimulus bill marks our first test.

Continue reading

House Republicans Continue to Stand Up For Principle Despite Self Interest or Common Sense. Go GOP!

I am not entirely sure that a delay of the DTV transition is a good thing, but I know a political reality when I see it. With too many viewers likely to experience serious television viewing disruption, the smart politician takes some prudent steps to avoid blame. Hence the unanimous Senate vote to delay the transition until June. But the House Leadership, eager to give Obama and the Ds their first “defeat,” felt otherwise. They managed to muster a cadre of the faithful to vote against the passage of the Senate bill in the House “on suspension,” meaning without debate and requiring a 2/3rds majority.

It’s largely a symbolic gesture, since the Ds can always bring the bill up through the usual processes. And, for the majority of the country who are not hardcore GOP “we hate Obama and want him to fail no matter what this does to the country or even us personally,” it reenforces the perception that the Rs would much rather play games than get stuff done. Still, Republicans and various news outlets are all about how this marks Obama’s first “defeat.”

I look forward, therefore, to future news stories such as this:

Washington — House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and senior Republican members of the House of Representatives suffered serious head injuries today after slamming their heads repeatedly into a wall until they fell unconscious. The strange behavior began when Obama suggested he would introduce legislation that would have made it illegal to slam your head into a wall until you fall unconscious.

Conservative pundits praised Boehner and his colleagues for “sticking to their principles” and “refusing to cave.” “If Obama and his socialist comrades in Congress outlaw giving yourself a concussion, they’ll take our guns away next!” Warned Rush Limbaugh. Other media analysts questioned whether this “head banger rebellion” marked a turn around in the Republican’s fading fortunes. “If Obama can’t get bipartisan support for not injuring yourself, you have to ask what sort of influence he really has,” said Brit Hume.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) expressed sympathy for her Republican colleagues and wished them a speedy recovery. However, a source close to the Speaker reported that — when conferring with President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) — Pelosi giggled and said: “Next week, let’s get them to eat dung beetles.”

Stay tuned . . . .

Back in the N-C, Back in the N-C, Back in the N-C-M-R!

Once again, I am coming to live from the National Conference on Media Reform, the whatever the word is for “held every 18 months” conference on media reform by Free Press. Already our the socialist-radical-gay-lesbian-transexual-Wiccans are laying down deep mojo to cause Senator McCain to unexpectedly dance the charleston at the high point of the Republican convention, followed by a full lip-lock with Rush Limbaugh.

But until then, the talk here is of media reform. Well, that and the #@!%! rain and other weather that has screwed up too many flights trying to get here, like mine. Which is why the report on the pre-conference is extremely short. By the time I got here, it was mostly over.

I did get to see some of my favorite folks in the movement however, and give an enormous “Thank You” to Bob McChesney for his incredible work in founding Free Press and devoting five years to creating the organization he believed needed to come into existence.

More tomorrow.

Stay tuned . . . .

Hey Rush, in case you missed this

I know that our friend the patriotic draft-dodging drug addict Rush Limbaugh is a busy man and doesn’t get time to read all his email or answer all his phone calls. But given the prominent position of Wetmachine in our nation’s political discourse, I daresay there is some chance he’s reading Wetmachine right now. Therefore, I’m taking this opportunity to pass along this message from another patriot (this one’s not phony, by the way), Eric Massa.

No need to thank me, Rush. But please send me a note to let me know when Eric will be a guest on your show.

Vote today, please

At the end of a five-week long, and quite exhausting, business/family matters trip, I found myself watching TV in my hotel room in San Mateo, California, last Wednesday evening. Now then, sports is about the only thing I watch on TV, but during a commercial break in a really boring college football game, I stumbled upon Anderson Cooper interviewing Michael J. Fox on CNN. And I was transfixed. What struck me about Fox, apart from his obvious intelligence, passion, and wit (and of course the dyskinesia–he was swaying all over the place), was the absence of anger and vituperation. This was, you may recall, only about a week after Fox had been ridiculed by Rush Limbaugh for having Parkinson’s Disease, and interrogated by Katie Couric as to whether he was “overdoing it” for political effect. Cooper tried and failed to get a rise out of Fox; the man was clearly too focused on getting his message out to waste any time on animosity or indignation. Everything he said was positive and forward looking, even as he refuted bogus arguments of his opponents and detractors. I can’t remember Fox’s exact words, but I do remember him talking about the significance of “our franchise”, that is, our right to vote. A more stirring evocation of what we’re supposed to be all about you could hardly find. As he spoke about what our nation could and should be, I sat there thinking, “This is what a courageous patriot looks like.” I’ll tell you, I had tears coming down my face, I did. And I resolved to see if I could learn a thing or two from him about turning down the vitueration. (Which is why you have not seen me post anything yet on Ted Haggard. . .I’m thinking. . .)

Now, on the other side of the world one of my favorite writers has come back online — heartening to her fans, who feared the worst. I speak of Riverbend, of the blog Baghdad Burning. Now, when Riverbend writes, there is no check on her vituperation, nor should there be. Anyway, here’s her latest entry. Read to the last paragraph, and then, if you’re elegible to vote & have not yet done so, please go exercise that franchise. That’s what I’m going to do. Hope to see you at the polls.

A monkey by any other name. . .

Down in the ex-Confederate state of Virginia, seems that a fella name o’ G. Felix Allen Jr., candidate for US Senate on the Republican ticket (and presumptive candidate for the US presidency), has taken to singling out dark-skinned people for public ridicule, using the code word “macaca”, a French colonial term perhaps best translated as “sand nigger”, to invoke the ridicule of an all-white audience on a fellow Virginian, one S.R. Sidarth. Interestingly enough (and this was news to me, but Google can confirm it), it seems that the term “macaca” (“monkey”), long favored as a racial epithet by French and Belgian hatemongers, has migrated across the Atlantic and is well known among the set who are nostalgic for the glory days of lynching–a set that includes G. Felix Allen Jr., evidently, to judge from his fondness for displaying Confederate flags and nooses.

Now, Virginia is a great state and has given us great military men like Robert E. Lee, and you might make the argument that if we Northern Liberals and sissified academics had been decent enough to let the great Robert E. Lee salvage a win at Gettysburg then the South would have won the war, slavery would still exist there, and the term strange fruit would imply nothing more sinister than a pomegranate–lynchings being generally unnecessary in a state where the monkeys are bonded slaves. In which case Mr. G. Felix Allen would presumably be a senator in the Confederate senate, not our USian one, and I would have no standing to make any comment at all about his retrograde opinions, any more than Rush Limbaugh has to make about those of politicians in France.

But I myself have walked the paths of Little Round Top — on a sweltering August day twelve years ago (with two bored, irritated, resentful young daughters (aged 5 and 12) in tow), and I’ve actually thought about this, and I’ve come to the conclusion–politically uncorrect as this may be– that I’m actually happy that the Northern Liberals won the Civil War consequent to Gettysburg, however disappointing that may be to G. Felix Allen and the NASCAR, Blue-Collar-Comedy set, and not only because of A. Lincoln’s stirring neo-Shakespearean speech about government of the people, by the people and for the people, even ones named Sidarth, that that victory ensured I would get to hear, but also because I believe in the principles for which so many heroes gave their last full measure of devotion, falling dead to Southern bullets, bayonets, and grapeshot on that Pennsylvanian battlefield so long ago.

So here’s my token contribution to the anti-neoconfederate cause, ridiculing George Felix Allen, junior; doing my little bit to keep alive the “Felix is his middle name” meme, keeping “macaca” high atop the technorati search lists. The Republicans of Virginia have embraced this racist goon as their candidate. Let them deal with it. But since G. Felix Allen Jr. has given us Chamberlainites a pin to deflate his presidential trial balloon, by all means let us use it. Won’t it be funny if a macaca makes it go “pop”?