Saturday, January 24, 2004
Democrats and Republicans in the Virginia General Assembly have finally found something they can agree on: Gay-baiting. They're for it. The House of Delegates has overwhelmingly passed a resolution urging Congress to pass a Federal Marriage Amendment, and the Senate is expected to follow suit very soon. The only question now is, which of the at least three versions of the Amendment do they support?
Even our fearless Democratic governor, Mark Warner, supports this measure -- though he adds that Virginia's Defense of Marriage Act, passed nearly unanimously by a Democrat-controlled House and Senate in 1997, should suffice to prevent same-sex marriage within the Commonwealth.
The tyranny of the majority has spoken.
A few readers have written to me over the past few days about the State of the Union, and the rash of legislative Gay-baiting it seems to have sparked nationwide. Suddenly, with Bush's tacit endorsement of a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage, it no longer seems particularly mean-spirited to target Gay families for special persecution. But my readers have pleaded with me to stick with the GOP. Here's one example:
Tim, I'm a strait guy so I can't really understand how you feel right now. But if lower taxes and the war on terror mean anything to you, you should really vote Republican this November. Don't be just a single issue voter.
When my fundamental humanity is the issue, then I must be a single-issue voter. Lower taxes and anti-terrorism measures mean nothing, as long as I'm denied equal protection under the law and singled out for official persecution. America was founded on the principle that "all men are created equal." A Virginian wrote that statement -- and to my knowledge, he made no explicit exception for those who were created Gay. Now my countrymen, Democrat and Republican, wish to amend the Constitution so they can destroy this very principle, once and for all.
But what can I do? I can't go into exile; like a battered wife who returns to her husband for more, I still love my America. I don't ask it to love me back, of course. All I want is for my country to acknowledge my God-given equality under the law. We Americans came so close to living up to our creed last summer. No longer. The nation missed its chance.
Is America dead? Did it even exist?
Friday, January 23, 2004
Score another point for the Bush Doctrine: The Washington Post reports that Iran wants to try twelve al Qaeda terrorists within its own borders. I wonder why the US objects. Could the problem be that Iran refuses to divulge their names, and means to conduct these trials in secret, thus leaving us with no way to verify that they've actually done anything with the Tehran Twelve (or for that matter, that these twelve people were actually involved with al Qaeda in the first place)? I'm guessing that, given Iran's history of supporting terrorist activity, they either want a diversion -- or some new personnel. Threats of imprisonment and death can be pretty good recruiting tools, if you're looking for a few good bad men.
Have the mullahs been watching smuggled American movies again? Imagine the Iranian government, recruiting twelve convicted murderers to conduct death-dealing missions of jihad against those decadent Western infidels. Now all they need is a great Saladin to lead them: Ali Marvin, perhaps? Ayatollah Khameini would pay nine-fifty to see that one.
As the blogosphere's renowned Allahpundit might say, "Oho! You did not expect this, did you, kufr?"
MullahWatch: Meanwhile, in America ...
Given Bush's sheepish, slightly closeted endorsement of Gay-baiting in his State of the Union address, it was only a matter of time before we saw something like this: Ex-Gay groups are now applying for federal funding as "faith-based" charities. Five representatives from Focus on the Family, including ex-Gay leader Mike Haley, will testify before a House subcommittee next week, in a bid of some of that "faith-based" government money. (Of course, at this point it could be said that any extra federal spending, regardless of the object, is "faith-based." But let's save that objection for another time.)
What better way for the federal government to promote heterosexual marriage, than by underwriting a few programs that purport to turn Gay people into Straight people? After all, back in 1999, the American Psychiatric Association called such programs "abusive," which ought to make them just about perfect for our government. What's more, opposite-sex marriages between Gay people (or in which one partner is Gay) have a proven track record. Of course, they've been proven to fail, but that, too, ought to make it perfect for a government program. In fact, I've written about three of these marriages in an earlier post, which you can find by clicking here.
A recent CBS News poll found that sixty percent of persons who listened to Bush's State of the Union address generally approved of the programs he proposed. But sixty percent also believed we couldn't afford them. Hey, big spender -- spend a little time on the budget.
Meanwhile, the religious right is getting more belligerent. The ever-pragmatic James Dobson of Focus on the Family is praising Bush's sex-obsessed State of the Union address (and so, it would appear, is our old friend Jerry Falwell), but it looks as though some of the faithful flock might be considering a revolt.
The problem, in their eyes, is that Bush has been too half-hearted in his attacks on Gay families and same-sex households -- too "coded," as it were. Only a generation ago, Gay men and Lesbians in most of the country spoke of themselves in this sort of discreet language, when they spoke of themselves at all. You can still find remnants of "code" throughout the South, especially among men and women over forty. But nowadays, for the most part, the situation has been reversed: We're speaking of ourselves more openly, while anti-Gay groups feel compelled to spin, squirm, hedge, guard, and encode their sentiments, to protect against the inevitable (and generally true) accusation of anti-Gay bigotry. This may be a wise strategy, but it doesn't go over well with the ground troops.
How, then, can Bush bring them over? Well, when I was a teenager, I was a die-hard Christian fundamentalist, so I think I know as well as anyone how to reach this vital constituency. Memo to Bush: If you're going to Gay-bait, believe me, you can't wuss around. You've got to go all out on this issue. Ditch the talk about human dignity, because the people who believe in you don't believe in it (and vice versa). Instead, make a few old-school anti-Gay attacks a la Jesse Helms. Talk at length about rectums and coprophagia, and the fundies will positively eat it up (eww). As for the Federal Marriage Amendment, don't say you'll support a constitutional solution to same-sex marriage if that's what it takes; tell them you'll introduce the damn thing in Congress next week. Now, I'm not telling you this just because I want you to lose in November, but because I really want you to get those religious-right voters firmly on your side. You can make them like you, Dubya -- I know you can. You just have to try harder. Lotsa luck, Mr. Prez, and tell Karl I said hi.
Two tiny nuggets of joy for you, gentle readers.
First, another priceless photo op from Kerry: "Mommeeeee! The boring man is making scary faces again!"
Second, an equally amusing interview with Howard Dean (whose campaign is going down faster than a five-dollar hooker): Wasn't this what got him into trouble in the first place?
ClarkWatch: The Generalissimo opens his mouth ... but only to change feet.
More wit and wisdom from last night's Democratic debate, in which Clark reminded us that ever since he stopped being a Republican of conviction, he's been "a Democrat of conviction." (All quotes come from the Washington Post transcription of the debate, available here.)
A man who looks out for all the little people (and who is so devoted to the military that he enrolled his wife retroactively): My wife and I spent our entire time in the uniform taking care of people. And that's what the Democratic Party does. And that's what I want to do as president. (Editor's note: Clark and his wife had only one uniform?)
A man with some very colorful friends: And I am delighted to have the support of a man like Michael Moore, of a great American leader like Senator George McGovern, and of people from Texas like Charlie Stenholm and former Secretary of the Navy John Dalton. (Editor's note: What, no mention of Madonna?)
A man who knows that with the proper spin, last year's pro-war article can be this year's anti-war article (and besides, you weren't supposed to know about it, anyway): In fact, if you look at the whole article, what you'll see is that the article lays out a whole series of tasks that have to be done later on. And it's written in a foreign publication.
A man of boundless intellectual curiosity: To be honest with you, I did not look at the facts, Peter.
A man of boundless intellectual curiosity, Part II: Well, I don't know about CAPPS II because I have not seen the program, and I don't think many of the people who are worried about it have.
A man of firm convictions, sort of: I want to put a strong basis of values back into this Democratic Party and take George Bush head-on. Because family values is our issue in the Democratic Party; it is not the Republicans' issue.
A man as corny as Kansas in August: The Democratic Party is a party of ideas. It's a party as broad as a Montana sky.
Update (11:00 p.m.): Ann "the Cannon" Coulter thinks Wesley Clark just might be stark raving mad. Of course, when she accuses someone of shrieking insanity, my first response is usually "Takes one to know one." But in this case, she happens to be correct. Then again, what do you think we at My Stupid Dog have been saying ever since our favorite Generalissimo joined the race?
Once again, gentle reader, you're ahead of the curve.
Thursday, January 22, 2004
He's young, smart, British (sort of), Gay, conservative, he hates the French -- and he's not Andrew Sullivan. Read this brand new weblog from a fellow who calls himself "Bilious Young Fogey."
This fellow has been in business less than two weeks (which amounts to something like three months in blog-years), but he's already popped off a couple of great quotes:
Homosexuality is the last frontier -- and Bush has just placed himself on the side of Governor Faubus at Little Rock, while the Democrats sit by with their salon homophobia noting that 'some of their best friends are gay'. What a choice -- appeasers or oppressors ... a plague on both your houses.
Good point. (Orval Faubus was a lifelong Democrat, by the way.) Today's Democratic candidates have a way of abandoning their Gay constituencies once they've been elected. What a pity Bush can't do the same to his Far Right friends.
I would still vote for [Bush] if I were American though -- he may not want me to marry, but at least he will save me from decapitation by the Islamofascists.
Would he? We're slowly reintroducing sha'ria law to Iraq (nine-year-old brides, anyone?), and it looks like Bush would appreciate at least a little more theocracy back home as well.
What breaks my heart, though, is that our President doesn't believe in freedom anymore -- assuming, of course, that he ever did. Maybe that's because he's never felt its absence. You see, I know what it's like to be afraid of my government, a government that kept taking my money and beating me up. Back when I was a Gay activist, I had plenty of nights where I honestly wondered if a rock would come through my window, or if the police would show up at my door.
I didn't know what I would do if something were to happen to me, but I knew I couldn't count on the police. For example, if a man were physically to attack me for being Gay, under Virginia's sodomy law both of us could have gone to jail -- he for assault, and I for "encouraging the commission of a felony." It's often said that a conservative is a liberal who's been mugged, and a liberal is a conservative who's been arrested. But what would you call a conservative who could get arrested for being mugged? (Update: A waggish reader responds: Libertarian? Touche.)
Even though I'm no longer an activist, and Virginia's sodomy law has been rendered unenforceable -- forgotten but not gone, as it were -- I can't help but wonder if I'm still in danger. Has my name has been placed on some terror-alert list I'm not allowed to see? Have my credit-card records been turned over to the government for special scrutiny? I'm not sure I can trust them with this stuff: The night before last, our president effectively declared me an enemy of the (married) people, before an audience of over 60 million of my countrymen and God knows how many people worldwide. I can't believe it'll simply stop at that.
All the same, keep up the good work, Young Fogey. In time, you and others like you may help turn me back to the GOP.
But not yet -- no, not yet.
Democratic Deathwatch: Howard Dean
According to the latest polls, John Kerry is moving toward a first-place finish in New Hampshire. A headline in today's New York Times is diplomatic: "Dean's Campaign Alters Approach After Iowa Loss." But Ron Marr at Michnews.com is more to-the-point, calling him "The Dean of Dementia".
The "Deanie babies" -- those starry-eyed high-school and college-age volunteers working for the Dean campaign -- have such sad expressions in this New York Times photo. Don't they look like stray puppies, lost in the winter chill? If you live in the greater New Hampshire area, gentle reader, please take one home with you. They need lots of love and housebreaking, but on the plus side, they might actually read the newspapers you spread out on the floor.
Come on, folks, just take one. You don't want John Kerry to put these poor kids to sleep, do you?
This ABC News headline sums up the main problem with Wesley Clark's campaign: "Clark's Remarks Draw Closer Scrutiny." Well, here at My Stupid Dog, we've been scrutinizing Clark pretty closely over the past few months. For once, we're well ahead of the curve.
But let's just allow the Generalissimo to speak for himself, shall we?
A man who knows John Kerry isn't a real hero: Senator, with all due respect, he's a lieutenant and I'm a general. You've got to get your facts right. (File under "getting our facts right": Wesley Clark is a retired general.)
A man who values his ground troops, sort of: It's one thing to be a hero as a junior officer. He's done that and I respect him for that. He's been a good senator. But I've had the military leadership at the top as well as at the bottom.
A man with a heretofore unmentioned career in professional sports: I'm the only one who has pitched in a major league game, and I can throw a 95-mile-per-hour fastball.
A man who knows how to give a scary birthday party: Happy birthday, Martin Luther King! Happy birthday, Dr. King! Happy birthday, Dr. Martin Luther King, Dr. King, Dr. Martin Luther King -- happy birthday to you, SIR!
A man who knows a lie when he tells it: I think the two greatest lies that have been told in the last three years are: You couldn't have prevented 9/11 and there's another one that's bound to happen.
A man who knows that getting caught in a lie is even worse than telling one: Nobody can guarantee anything in life, but it's clear that we can do much more to prevent an attack on the American homeland.
A man with serious delusions: But if you're asking me, as a citizen, you know, should you be worried about this, I'm going to tell you, you should not be worried about this. And if I'm president of the United States, I'm going to take care of the American people. We are not going to have one of these [terrorist] incidents.
A man with serious self-delusions: It looks like they've finally figured out that I'm George Bush's greatest threat.
A man who knows his limitations, sort of: Even Rhodes scholars make mistakes.
A man who stands up for his friends: I am delighted with Michael Moore ... [a] man of conscience and courage.
A compassionate something-or-other: I want an America where people take care of each other, not where they exploit each other.
Wednesday, January 21, 2004
Why did Bush deliberately shaft over one million Gays who voted for him in 2000? Well, as conventional wisdom tells us, he did it to make sure that over four million Christian Right voters would vote for him this November.
So how did this little gambit play out? Not very well, as it turns out.
Several key figures of the Far Right have responded to the anti-Gay rhetoric in tonight's State of the Union address -- and they didn't seem to like it any more than Gays and Lesbians did. The difference is, the Far Right doesn't think Bush went far enough. Family Research Council president Tony Perkins (no, not that Tony Perkins) made the following official statement: Disappointingly, this evening in his State of the Union address, President Bush promised to help the families of America - after the bomb goes off and the damage is done. Now is the time, before the Court of Massachusetts imposes same sex marriage on America, to protect the sacred and irreplaceable institution of marriage.
Tonight has been an unmitigated disaster for the GOP. Bush has alienated millions of social moderates and fiscal conservatives within his own ranks (including yours truly) for the sake of religious fundamentalists -- and they still won't give him the time of day.
If Bush keeps courting extremist factions within his own party, we may yet see a Democratic president in 2005. Where's Janet Leigh when you need her?
Tuesday, January 20, 2004
Warning: This post contains explicit language of the sort Terry Teachout would never condone. Yes, here at My Stupid Dog we do use the f-word -- but only when we must. And now, at long last, we must.
To my knowledge, no president has used the State of the Union address as a platform for deliberate racist, sexist or anti-Gay rhetoric. At worst, they just left minorities out of the picture. Until now, that is.
From Bush's State of the Union address earlier this evening:
A strong America must also value the institution of marriage. I believe we should respect individuals as we take a principled stand for one of the most fundamental, enduring institutions of our civilization. Congress has already taken a stand on this issue by passing the Defense of Marriage Act, signed in 1996 by President Clinton. That statute protects marriage under federal law as the union of a man and a woman, and declares that one state may not redefine marriage for other states. Activist judges, however, have begun redefining marriage by court order, without regard for the will of the people and their elected representatives. On an issue of such great consequence, the people's voice must be heard. If judges insist on forcing their arbitrary will upon the people, the only alternative left to the people would be the constitutional process. Our nation must defend the sanctity of marriage.
I guess Bush has finally given his one million-plus Gay supporters the proverbial shaft. He's stated as a matter of national policy that we should not have the right to get married to the partner of our choice, that the tyranny of the majority is more important than individual liberty, and that he's willing to support an amendment to the Constitution to keep us from possessing equality under the law, if it comes to that. Never mind that none of this has anything to do with strengthening marriage, reducing divorce rates, enacting a responsible system of family law, and so forth. The only important thing about marriage, according to our President, is that the faggots are kept out of it.
As a Gay man, I'm confronted with this bilious nonsense every day. So how do I remain civil and keep a cool head? Well, I don't -- at least, not always -- and I certainly didn't tonight. When I read Bush's words, and imagined him speaking them before Congress and the American people, I tried not to get angry -- oh, how I tried not to get angry. But the only response I could find was unadulterated rage. Here's the first thing I wrote after his speech:
Fuck you, Mr. President. I don't care if you call me unpatriotic or never let me fly on a plane again, because you've called me less than human, and that's where I draw the line. Fuck you, and fuck all your fucking Far Right friends. Fuck Falwell and Robertson if they can still get it up, and fuck James Dobson and Gary Bauer just as slowly and painfully as possible. While I'm at it, fuck Dick Cheney for letting you fuck over his own daughter. Fuck Laura Bush, who sat there smiling while you poured shit on me and on my friends and neighbors. And fuck all the Congressmen, Republican and Democrat, who applauded with her. Fuck Karl Rove for putting you up to this, as long as he doesn't enjoy it too much. Fuck all the strategists and the pundits who said that you had to do this so you could "shore up support" with the mullahs and theocrats -- and by the way, I hope those fundies leave your sorry ass in the cold come November. Fuck the Republican Party, because it turned out to be the party of hatred and bigotry after all. And fuck me, too, because I've defended you so often in the past, and that makes me a collaborator in all your horseshit. I defended you to my leftist friends; I said that you believed in freedom, and they told me I shouldn't trust you. They were right, I was wrong. In the end, you gave me what I deserved -- but fuck you anyway. Fuck you very much.
Whew ... sixteen f-bombs in three minutes or less! "Hell hath no fury" and all that. I'll bet you didn't know I had it in me, did you? But a lot of Gay guys do. Bear that in mind, gentle reader, the next time you let one decorate your house, cut your hair or design your clothes. If you're not extra super nice, we'll hang bubble wrap in your living room, give you a Bride of Frankenstein 'do, and make you wear dresses like this. (I wonder what Laura Bush's next outfit will look like? The mind reels ...)
Well, even though President Bush has driven me out of the GOP, I'm still a limited-government conservative of the sort that used to swell Republican ranks. But I'm voting Democratic this November, and what's more, I urge all my friends and readers to do likewise.
My cable went out unexpectedly, so I won't have the chance to see Bush's State of the Union speech live. I am informed there will be much talk of homeland security, and some discussion about economic recovery. But most of it will undoubtedly consist of the usual laundry-list of government spending: Building hydrogen-powered flying cars, putting a US base on the moon, massive senior-citizen entitlements, and so forth. I'm also told that somewhere in the list will be a swipe at Gay marriage (though Bush probably won't go so far as to advocate the Federal Marriage Amendment). At any rate, it'll probably be just vicious enough for me to seriously consider writing "Mickey Mouse" on my November ballot.
I like to think of myself as a common-sense, limited-government conservative. And since Bush's State of the Union speech will probably be none of the above, now is as good a time as any to articulate ten basic principles of common-sense conservatism:
1. Just because you can't see a chair in the dark, doesn't mean you can't stub your toe on it. Knowledge may be dependent on perception, but it's not infinitely mutable. We are part of an outside world, that imposes limits on what we can do. Government is also part of this real, outside world -- which means that it, too, is limited by what the real world allows. It can't just get up and do anything it has a mind to -- like, say, go to Mars, or put a permanent base on the moon.
2. I may not be from Missouri, but you'll still have to show me. Some things you can verify empirically, and some things you can't. Writing about culture and the arts usually involves the latter, which is fine. Writing about politics and government -- both of which boil down to money -- ought to involve the former.
3. All may park, all must pay. Everybody has to pay for government in one way or another, so everybody ought to have equal access to it -- all of it. For example, if our government sponsors a "marriage initiative," Gay people will have to pay for it just as Straight people do, but Straight people will be the only ones allowed to benefit from it. Likewise, Gay people pay for the US military just as Straight people do, but openly Gay people are prohibited from serving (and closeted Gays are frequently persecuted). Government-sponsored discrimination is as great an outrage as taxation without representation -- and for precisely the same reason.
4. You can't make people agree with you. Government can't make sure everybody thinks alike. There will be people among us who hold opinions and beliefs that we find abhorrent. But to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, as long as it doesn't pick my pocket or break my arm, it's no business of mine what my neighbor believes. And it's no business of government, either.
5. There's no such thing as a free lunch. As with any form of human activity, government has a cost -- which is to say that the resources we invest there could be invested elsewhere. The question we ought always to ask, then, is whether the government is the best place for our resources. What's the risk, and what's the rate of return? (A corollary here is that small governments have small costs, and big governments have big costs. So the more you invest in government, the more important it is to ask whether your resources are invested wisely. What's more, the fewer resources you have, the more you have to lose with big government -- which means that the poor, proportionately, always end up paying the most for governmental excesses.)
6. If you eat too much, you get fat. Governments take in resources, just as people do. But when governments start eating up too many of our resources, they get bigger -- and not always in ways that are healthy or sustainable in the long run. Some government programs, like Medicare or Social Security, are such high-calorie mixtures of pork, sugar and waste that they're liable to give our nation a metaphorical coronary. Time, then, for us to start dieting -- to take in fewer resources, but use them in more efficient ways. After all, as our European friends have demonstrated time and again, lean governments live longer than obese ones.
7. If it doesn't work, try something else. When a governmental policy -- like, say, a war on recreational drugs -- doesn't produce the desired outcome, a bureaucrat's response is always to ask for more money. After all, claims the bureaucrat, the policy itself is sound, which means that we must not be trying hard enough. So we invest more time and money into a failing policy, and the result never fails to astound us. Suddenly, small programs that don't work become large programs that don't work. (It's said that a fool is someone who repeats the same action over and over, yet expects a different result each time. If that's true, then government bureaucracies must be the biggest fools of all.)
8. If someone else can do the job better, get out of the way and let her do it. If you were hiring someone to do a job, you wouldn't just give it to the largest candidate, or the meanest one, or the most docile one. Instead, you'd give it to the candidate with the best qualifications, the one who could prove she would do that job better than anyone else. That's how competition works, after all. Well, there are plenty of private organizations and industries who have proven that they can handle a problem as well as (or better than) our government -- and what's more, they've proven that they can do it with fewer resources. In such cases, private companies have a better resume than the government -- so shouldn't we let them have the job?
9. It's my life and I'll do what I want. It's unlikely that I know you personally, gentle reader, and you probably don't know me. Still, even if you did, you wouldn't want me to run your life for you -- and I certainly wouldn't want you to run my life for me. Yet through excessive regulation, we frequently allow government to do just that. In some ways, this point is an offshoot from the last one: I don't want to pay the government for a job I can do better myself. By the way, neither do many businesses, which explains why so many of them leave the US for countries where government is less intrusive.
10. You can't always get what you want. Government can't wipe your nose, take care of your dying great-grandmother, give you the job you've always wanted, or pay the rent on your retirement-village condo in Florida. You may have to buy your own NyQuil, take care of your relatives, work at some low-paying jobs you hate, and/or give up your dream of a Florida condo. It's not the government's fault if your life sucks, and it's not the government's business to make everything all better. As the Rolling Stones put it, "You can't always get what you want -- but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need."
I'll wager that none of these points -- all common-sense, all conservative and all compassionate (in their way) -- managed to find their way into Bush's speech tonight. (Update 12:00 a.m., 1/21: Well, it looks like one did: "These numbers confirm that the American people are using their money far better than government would have - and you were right to return it." Thank you kindly, Dubya -- but unless you stop spending like a drunken sailor, we won't get to keep it for long.) I suspect we won't find them in the Democratic response, either. At the moment, the two-party system has deteriorated into a game of "Anything-you-can-spend-I-can-spend-more-of," and before long we'll all get stuck with a pretty hefty tab for it.
Since it's an election year, I doubt either side will find its way to fiscal responsibility and limited government by November. Still, to proffer a final cliche, hope springs eternal -- and "Mickey Mouse" wouldn't necessarily make a bad president, would he?
Monday, January 19, 2004
How do you know when your campaign is over?
Well, if you're a Democrat, being forced to flee a Martin Luther King celebration amid boos and jeers is a pretty good sign. That's more or less what happened to Howard Dean today in Des Moines.
But although the event's organizers could persuade him to go, they couldn't make him do it with dignity. In classic Dean fashion, he snapped at the news media as he left, telling them to "get a new life.”
Money quote from the Des Moines Register: "When a Dean aide announced that the former Vermont governor was leaving, the audience applauded." Ouch.
Let's all stick a fork in Howard. The man just might be done.
(Special thanks: Andrewsullivan.com.)
Update (1/20/04): Or maybe not. Dean is still leading in New Hampshire, well ahead of Generalissimo Clark. Meanwhile, Iowans may have enjoyed the company of Kerry and Edwards, but it looks as though New Hampshire voters are ignoring them. We may see an astonishing reversal of fortune for the Dean campaign over the next few weeks.
In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I offer a link to an old essay, "Mohandas and Me." Unlike Gandhi, King understood the classical-liberal foundations of nonviolent resistance, which gave his movement a solid intellectual grounding. No one in the second half of the twentieth century deployed the rhetoric of America's Framers more persistently, or more effectively.
Yet this American holiday has been coopted by anti-American leftists as a day for radical activism, preferably on behalf of the Democratic Party. These people tend to forget that Second-Amendment activist Charlton Heston -- a Republican -- was one of the civil-rights movement's foremost celebrity allies, and that Heston's close friend Ronald Reagan signed the bill that made King's birthday a national holiday. What's more, fellow Republican and 1996 Presidential candidate Bob Dole was the bill's staunchest defender in the Senate -- and one of the bill's chief opponents was a Democrat from Georgia, Larry McDonald. (Democrats may characterize Republicans as the party of race hatred, but the only known Klansman currently serving in Congress is one of their own, Robert Byrd. Gentle reader, do you think our liberal friends might be projecting again?)
One can lament the politics and partisanship surrounding the King holiday, for they frequently threaten to obliterate King's real legacy on behalf of human freedom. But one cannot dispute the accomplishments of King and his followers. After all, they formed a successful movement for truth, justice and the American way, always appealing to our core values as stated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Because King understood the classical-liberal basis for his movement, he succeeded where Gandhi had failed.
Someone (other than me, that is) has entirely too much time on his hands.
Michael Bryson, Visiting Assistant Professor of English at DePauw University, has developed a brilliant little Web program: The Amazing and Incredible, Only-Slightly-Laughable, Politically Unassailable, PoMo English Paper Title Generator.
As a sort-of current English grad student, I can testify that the darned thing works. First, I typed in an author and literary work that must surely be cluttering some poor kid's head. Then the generator spat out five paper titles, all of them quite plausible in the looking-glass world of academia.
1. The Modernity of Intercourse and the Exploited in Ted Kaczynski's Unabomber Manifesto
2. Patriarchal Resistance and the Homosociality of Unitary Savagery in Ted Kaczynski's Unabomber Manifesto
3. Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber Manifesto, and The Alien: Refuting Queer Frustration
4. Symbolizing Economies: Migrant Fetishization in Ted Kaczynski's Unabomber Manifesto
5. Telling the Polyvocal (Author)ity in Ted Kaczynski: The Unabomber Manifesto and (Author)ity
Not bad -- and it's trendy, to boot. Of course, you don't need a controversial subject to write a provocative paper. Just look at what the PoMo Title Generator can do for Leonard Maltin's Video Movie Guide 2004.
1. Cultural Epistemology and the Representation of Mythical Tolerance in Leonard Maltin's Video Movie Guide 2004
2. Exploiting, (Be)laboring, Challenging: Theory in Leonard Maltin and the Materialist Womanhood of Danger in Video Movie Guide 2004
3. Leonard Maltin Masculizing Deviance: Video Movie Guide 2004 and the Subtext of Madness
4. Autobiography and Affliction in Video Movie Guide 2004: Leonard Maltin Shattering Labial Marginalia
5. Essentialist Seduction and the Reception of Postmodern Ego in Leonard Maltin's Video Movie Guide 2004
You can practically smell the tenure tracks from here, eh, gentle reader?
Finally, I couldn't help but wonder how the PoMo Title Generator would handle this obscure little weblog. ("Reception of postmodern ego," indeed.) Well, here are five papers on the official My Stupid Dog panel, to be presented at an upcoming MLA Convention on the Twelfth of Never:
1. Blackness as Memory: Masculizing Ablist Fetishization in Tim Hulsey's My Stupid Dog
2. Violating, Seducing, Visioning: Seduction in Tim Hulsey and the Proletarian Object of Fragmentation in My Stupid Dog
3. Religion as Fuzziness: Oppressing Orgasmic Desire in Tim Hulsey's My Stupid Dog
4. Desire as Self: Excavating Exploited Desire in Tim Hulsey's My Stupid Dog
5. Responsive Appropriation and the Perversion of Homosocial Response in Tim Hulsey's My Stupid Dog
Perversion, seduction, fetishization, orgasmic desire: What's not to love? Still, of these five topics I think I like #4 best. And if there's some hot young guy out there who wants to "excavate exploited desire" with me ... well, I guess you already have my e-mail, don't you?
Finally, a great big "Thank you" to askbrendan.com, for bringing Bryson's nifty website to my attention. Amazing what you can find in the blogosphere.
James K. Galbraith teaches at the University of Texas at Austin, and boy, does this guy have a fancy title: He's the Lloyd Bentsen Jr. Chair of Government-Business Relations. But in terms of his analysis, he's just another yellow-dog Keynesian. Today he has an article in Salon.com which claims that the recovery hasn't been producing more jobs because Bush secretly doesn't want Americans to have them. You see, according to Galbraith, rich people like high levels of unemployment, because that helps them keep wages low. That Bush is utterly beholden to this nebulous entity called "the rich" is an article of faith on the American Left, naturally.
Galbraith has been harping on this point since last October, before we learned that the American economy was undergoing a massive growth spurt. But his analysis of Bush's alleged agenda against working Americans simply doesn't make sense. It seems to forget two glaringly obvious points:
1. President Bush is a politician who seeks re-election in November.
2. Unemployed Americans usually vote against an incumbent president.
Bush is a savvy politician, as even the staunchest Bush-hater must concede. Yet Galbraith claims he's pursuing a policy that gets politicians thrown out of office. It would seem that, of all people, Bush should know what a faltering economy can do to a presidency; after all, the recession of 1992 basically torpedoed his father's political career.
So why would the President deliberately prolong unemployment? Galbraith can't give a reason beyond tired, left-wing boilerplate. Bush, you see, is unquestionably beholden to evil plutocrats, who must be pulling hidden strings from behind the scenes. Galbraith writes, "These people have no interest in full employment. They like unemployment, weak labor, low wages and a government that bullies on their behalf." So if you and I can't get a job, it must be all Bush's fault.
Except, of course, that we can get a job (or two, if we want). At least, it looks like in the city of Charlottesville we can. McDonald's is hiring new employees; so is the Kroger supermarket. They're not the only ones, either: "Help Wanted" signs practically line our streets and storefronts -- which might indicate that as far as job creation goes, the tide might just have turned for the better. Why would Galbraith have a problem with this (other than that it virtually guarantees the re-election of a President he despises)? Well, he claims that the "transcendent economic issue this election year" is "the number of people in this country who have decent work -- and the number who don't." So some of these jobs, or perhaps most of them, are simply indecent.
But I'm not sure how Galbraith determines which work is indecent. Since I don't know of any strip clubs that are hiring right now (this is Virginia, where nudie joints have been legislated out of existence), I presume the distinguished economist is not using "decent" in the term's accepted sense. I think he means instead that the new jobs being created are kind of crummy. That's a fair enough criticism, I suppose, though most Americans who are not tenured for life as the Chair of Government-Business Relations at a large public university seem to think that a crummy job is better than no job at all. Besides, most new jobs are not very much fun -- at least, at first. But what do these poor peons know? They're not economists.
In case Galbraith hasn't made his meaning clear -- and he hasn't -- he has a graph to drive the point home. It shows that job creation peaked in early 2000, then dropped sharply throughout that year. But they didn't cross the line into job losses until a year later, right when George W. Bush took office. There's one blip in the trajectory: At about the time that Bush won the 2000 election, the number of new jobs took a sharp upturn. Then they fell again, and hard.
Galbraith means for this graph to show that Bush is deliberately botching the economy in order to please evil businessmen who want cheap labor and plenty of it. But to my less-trained eyes, the graph tells a very different story: It shows the economic boom of the 1990s collapsing in the last year of the Clinton presidency. So at worst, Bush can be accused of bad timing, taking office at precisely the moment when the excrement reached the whirling blades. (Granted, I'm not an economist, so I may be missing some nuance that could make these simple facts stand on their heads. But I kind of doubt it. Usually, when it comes to interpretation of data, the most obvious conclusion is also the most valid.)
The other thing Galbraith doesn't seem to understand is that job losses don't start immediately when a recession begins, and don't stop immediately when one ends. He notes, correctly, that our last recession (as such) ended in November 2001, but then notes, "How many new jobs did we get since then? An average loss of 22,000 jobs every month." All right, but considering that in November 2001, the number of jobs lost per month was approaching 300,000, I'd have to say the market is recovering slowly but surely. In fact, the general trajectory of the graph bears my thesis out: Over the past two years, job creation has risen from the Marinas Trench to the coastal plain. This may not be perfect (I'd rather see it on the mountaintop), but it's not bad either.
Of course, what really irks Galbraith is that Bush's economic strategy does all the things that Keynesians hate. He writes, "The Bush years are a study in deliberately wasted effort: Repeal of the estate tax. Tax exemption for stock dividends. Ballistic Missile Defense. The USA PATRIOT Act. The war on Iraq. Each of these initiatives has a clientele. None of them seriously aims to achieve its stated goal, be that economic recovery or homeland security or national security writ large." You may have noticed, gentle reader, that Galbraith gets off topic rather easily. But at least he begins with Bush's economic policy, the ostensible target of the article, before drifting into the standard Leftist laundry list.
Galbraith doesn't consider, even for a moment, that tax cuts directed at business might lead to more jobs. But then again, he wouldn't: He's a Keynesian, after all. From his perspective, it's the government's job to look out for people's welfare -- and to exploit business before business can exploit the people. It is another article of faith on the Left that businesses, left to their own devices, will always exploit the people they purport to serve, and that the only way to prevent them is for government to get them first.
Do you suspect some projection here, gentle reader? As you may have guessed, everyone gets exploited when people like Galbraith are running the show. The business sector usually gets the worst of it, though. Keynesians believe that we should tax businesses liberally to provide government programs for the people, programs that businesses won't provide for their workers (at least, not without major governmental coercion) and workers simply can't provide for themselves. Big business, the most reliable old cow on the farm, is made to give milk to her masters -- and when that milk runs out, it's time for steak (and maybe a new cow, too).
Of course, what actually happens is a bit different: Keynesians end up killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. Once America starts taxing business like we don't want it around, business swiftly obliges us, and job creation goes back down to the Marinas Trench. But the manufacturing jobs they could have offered don't just cease to exist. Instead, they leave the US for places like Mexico and China, which don't mess with companies quite so much -- and in the cases of China and Indonesia, frequently mess with workers instead.
Sunday, January 18, 2004
Charlottesville's Daily Progress has just published a nifty little article on one of the most active (and absurd) members of the Virginia General Assembly, Republican delegate Rob Marshall (no relation to the director of Chicago) of the aptly named 13th District. Here are a few of the twenty-nine bills he's introduced this year:
A bill banning the execution of pregnant women for the sake of the unborn fetus. This is already causing titters around Richmond; if passed, Marshall's bill might turn Death Row into a maternity ward. And don't even ask how prison guards are going to prevent the dissemination -- ahem! -- of contraband man-juice, or what will happen to these murderous mothers (and their children) once their nine-month stay of execution has ended. Death-penalty advocates and opponents are scratching their heads over this one.
A bill requiring abortions to be performed in state-licensed hospitals, or in clinics within fifteen highway miles of a hospital emergency room. This might be a good idea in theory; after all, abortion is an invasive procedure, and therefore comes with some risk. But Marshall's bill gives police carte blanche to harass or close down family planning clinics.
A measure stating that Virginia doesn't have to recognize any out-of-state marriages that "do not conform to the laws of the Commonwealth." This bill was so nice Marshall submitted it twice, once with an emergency clause and once without. Of course, it is a meant as an attack on same-sex marriage -- which is already prohibited in Virginia under a 1997 Defense of Marriage act. Imagine the fun we could have had if Marshall had been around in the days of Loving v. Virginia.
A bill mandating the impeachment of any Virginia judge who claims that the state's refusal to recognize same-sex civil unions violates the Virginia constitution. I'm not sure quite what this bill would actually accomplish, other than compromise the traditional independence of the judiciary. But it does set up a nightmare of litigation for future same-sex marriage advocates in the Commonwealth. Update (1/19/04): Today this bill suffered a quiet, ignominious death in committee. How many of Marshall's 29 bills will actually make it to the floor? Oh, the suspense ...
This year's session of the General Assembly looks like it'll be a big, steaming heap of fun. Stay tuned for more strange developments from Richmond.
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