Kerry's voting record III: consistent on gay marriage

Liberal Oasis takes a look at Kerry's voting record on the issue of gay marrriage, and the Defense of Marriage Act, and find it to be a nuanced yet consistent position throughout his long career. Kerry has always supported civil unions and been against gay marriage - and his vote against the DOMA in 1996 was entirely consistent with that position. Here's his actual statement on the floor in 1996:

I will vote against this bill, though I am not for same-sex marriage, because I believe that this debate is fundamentally ugly, and it is fundamentally political, and it is fundamentally flawed.
the results of this bill will not be to preserve anything, but will serve to attack a group of people out of various motives and rationale�and will only serve the purposes of the political season
It is hard to believe that this bill is anything other than a thinly veiled attempt to score political debating points by scapegoating gay and lesbian Americans. That is politics at its worst.
If this were truly a defense of marriage act, it would expand the learning experience for would-be husbands and wives.

It would provide for counseling for all troubled marriages, not just for those who can afford it.

It would provide treatment on demand for those with alcohol and substance abuse�
It would expand the Violence Against Women Act.

It would guarantee day care for every family that struggles and needs it.

There's a lot more detail at LO, so go take a look for more on Kerry's entire record on the issue. It's a wonderful defense of gay people as a group, holding the line against singling them out, yet he also zeroes in on what the true challenges facing normal hetero marriage are and asks why these greater threats to the institution of marrriage have not been addressed.

Kerry's taken some flack for supporting the proposed Massachusetts amendment that would outlaw gay marriage but permit civil unoins. That's once again precisely consistent with his principles.

ideals vs process I

As many of you know, the subtitle of my blog is "principled pragmatism." It's my personal philosophy towards politics, that seeks to find a balance between having good ideas and actually putting them into practice. One important corollary to this is that "perfection is the enemy of the good" - and taken together, these axioms are the foundation of the change that needs to take place in this nation's poliitical sphere.

Ideas matter. Our American political system has a long tradition of ideas stemming back from Locke through Jefferson to Mill, and from this central axis of thought on the nature and purpose of government, we have many healthy branches of other ideologies that have served to enrich the debate. Howard Dean was an appealing candidate to me because he not only expressed the liberal ideal, but he tied it back to our foundational thinkers (evoking the Reolutionary documents like Paine's Common Sense and the Declaration itself). But what gave his ideas true weight was his record of success in Vermont in actually implementing those ideas.

In other words, Dean was the epitome of principled pragmatism. Not pragmatism for its own sake, but one guided by his principles, which themselves are drawn from the rich tradition of American government. I hope that DFA v2.0 will continue along that track, because what we really need DFA v2.0 for is to keep these ideas in the debate, prevent them from being delegitimized by the unprincipled, opportunistic, and anti-democratic ideology that animates the machinery of the political right. DFA v2.0 needs to reclaim the full spectrum of American politics, liberal and conservative, and reunite them into a true dialog that is above all focused on finding policy solutions that can draw on the best of both worlds.

Liberals and conservatives are one. Neither is represented by the GOP. DFA v2.0 must create a synthesis of ideas from across the spectrum, dedicate itself to finding reasonable, informed, and idealistic (but not ideological) policy solutions from that synthesis. And DFA v2.0 must rally to its banner all those politicians - Republican, Democrat, or otherwise - who agree with the core principle of loyalty to our nation and our people first, loyalty to political party a distant second.


Kerry's voting record II: strong on defense

I noticed in Brian's screed today that he bashes Kerry for voting against weapons systems, as if weapons systemas are always unequivocally a good thing, even when the enemy they are designed to fight may no longer exist. As most pro-war advocates are fond of reminding the rest of us, the Cold War is over and it's time for new solutions.

The RNC is the likely source of the bizarre claim that Kerry tried to undercut the military. However, Fred Kaplan takes a look at the facts:

"After completing 20 planes for which we have begun procurement, we will shut down further production of the B-2 bomber. We will cancel the small ICBM program. We will cease production of new warheads for our sea-based ballistic missiles. We will stop all new production of the Peacekeeper [MX] missile. And we will not purchase any more advanced cruise missiles. � The reductions I have approved will save us an additional $50 billion over the next five years. By 1997 we will have cut defense by 30 percent since I took office."

-- President George H.W. Bush, State of the Union Address, Jan. 28 1992

"Overall, since I've been Secretary, we will have taken the five-year defense program down by well over $300 billion. That's the peace dividend. � And now we're adding to that another $50 billion � of so-called peace dividend.

Congress has let me cancel a few programs. But you've squabbled and sometimes bickered and horse-traded and ended up forcing me to spend money on weapons that don't fill a vital need in these times of tight budgets and new requirements. � You've directed me to buy more M-1s, F-14s, and F-16s�all great systems � but we have enough of them."

-- Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee a few days later

As Kaplan points out, the context of these planned cuts was the end of the Cold War. Context is critical in determining how the nation's defense budget needs to be spent. This is an ongoing process - After all, Rumsfeld recently canceled the Crusader tank and the US Army canceled the Comanche Stealth Attack Helicopter for much the same rationale.

And what exactly is Kerry's record? Kaplan does some basic research and finds, unsurprisingly, that the RNC is not exactly being honest:

Looking at the weapons that the RNC says Kerry voted to cut, a good case could be made, certainly at the time, that some of them (the B-2 bomber and President Reagan's "Star Wars" missile-defense program) should have been cut. As for the others (the M-1 tank and the F-14, F-15, and F-16 fighter planes, among others), Kerry didn't really vote to cut them.

The claim about these votes was made in the Republican National Committee "Research Briefing" of Feb. 22. The report lists 13 weapons systems that Kerry voted to cut�the ones cited above, as well as Patriot air-defense missiles, Tomahawk cruise missiles, and AH64 Apache helicopters, among others.

It is instructive, however, to look at the footnotes. Almost all of them cite Kerry's vote on Senate bill S. 3189 (CQ Vote No. 273) on Oct. 15, 1990. Do a Google search, and you will learn that S. 3189 was the Fiscal Year 1991 Defense Appropriations Act, and CQ Vote No. 273 was a vote on the entire bill. There was no vote on those weapons systems specifically.

On a couple of the weapons, the RNC report cites H.R. 5803 and H.R. 2126. Look those up. They turn out to be votes on the House-Senate conference committee reports for the defense appropriations bills in October 1990 (the same year as S. 3189) and September 1995.
At the same time, in 1991, Kerry opposed an amendment to impose an arbitrary 2 percent cut in the military budget. In 1992, he opposed an amendment to cut Pentagon intelligence programs by $1 billion. In 1994, he voted against a motion to cut $30.5 billion from the defense budget over the next five years and to redistribute the money to programs for education and the disabled. That same year, he opposed an amendment to postpone construction of a new aircraft carrier. In 1996, he opposed a motion to cut six F-18 jet fighters from the budget. In 1999, he voted against a motion to terminate the Trident II missile. (Interestingly, the F-18 and Trident II are among the weapons systems that the RNC claims Kerry opposed.)

subconcious Naderism

Kos takes Kerry to task for supporting the "Hate Amendment" in Massachusetts. However, I don't equate Kerry with Bush for doing so, because there are significant differences:

1. Kerry supports an amendment to the MA state constitution, not the federal US Constitution. State constitutions are not iconic in the sense that the US Constitution is. Much of the anger at Bush is because he is using an Amendment to enshrine discrimination into the foundation of law. The argument goes, this is a states issue. You cannot have it both ways and argue that states are free to decide this issue, but then demand that states adhere solely to one position. There's little difference between such a stance and that held by the conservative right.

2. The MA version explicitly allows for cvil unions. The proposed Musgrave Amendment slams the door shut on civil unions completely. Rejecting the MA amendment solely on the basis of a semantic argument is a classic example of "perfection is the enemy of the good." Worse, it undermines the civil rights argument that gay couples are making, because this entire issue hinges on the legal benefits of marriage, not the spiritual/emotional ones. I feel that the thousands of gay couples married in San Francisco these past few weeks were already married in the latter sense, if they were in a committed, monogamous, long-term relationship (which is defined as "common law marriage" for heteros, mind you). Why does the state need to explicitly call their relationship a mariage in order for it to be valid?

3. Kerry's position is exactly the same as Howard Dean, who signed a civil unions bill and has said that he does not favor gay marriage (and that it is a decision best left to the states, see point 1). It's also the same as Edwards. If this is truly an ideological litmus test that is being applied, then Kos might as well endorse Kucinich and drop the pretense.

I'm not a ADD (Any Damn Democrat) kind of guy, but I am ABB (Anybody But Bush) and so my immediate goals coincide with Kos. But the insistence that the Right Thing to Do is automatically equivalent to the left-most Progressive vision of total gender indifference to the institution of marriage is as mis-guided as the same confident assertions from the right. And in that sense, maybe Nader has a point. Or at least, he will, if the Democratic Party becomes infiltrated by these Green-inspired litmus tests. Intellectual moderation has no home in either party, apparently.

UPDATE: in case anyone is thinking of using gay marriage as a litmus test to endorse Edwards over Kerry, here are some facts to chew on:

from USA Today's The Candidates Positions on Gay Rights, John R. Edwards (D-NC) opposes same-sex marriages, supports domestic-partner benefits for same-sex couples.

Kerry was one of only 14 senators to vote against the "Defense of Marriage Act" in 1996.

Edwards in his own words:

"As I have long said, I believe gay and lesbian Americans are entitled to equal respect and dignity under our laws," Edwards said in response to the court's November 2003 decision. "While I personally do not support gay marriage, I recognize that different states will address this in different ways, and I will oppose any effort to pass an amendment to the United States Constitution in response to the Massachusetts decision."

emphasis mine.

reflexive xenophobia

is the only way to characterize this post at Tacitus by guest-poster Bird Dog. I wish there was a Tacitus-only blog. When the inmates run the asylum, however ...

The right to speak is earned with love

today's rant from Real Live Preacher is truly righteous, in all its most positive connotations. Excerpts:

Sit down CHRIStian. Give me that bible you�re waving before you hurt yourself. I�m going to resist the temptation to snatch it from your hands and beat you with it. I am your worst nightmare, a Texas preacher who knows The Book better than you do.

You cannot wave your unread bible and scare me. I know its larger story and I will tear you a new biblical asshole.
And you come to me with two little scraps of scripture to justify your persecution of God�s children?
Sit down Christian. Sit down and be you silent.

How long has it been since you forgot that we were called to walk the earth as pilgrims? Do you not remember when HE told us to give our coats to those in need and sell our possessions to help the poor? Did you forget how the first church had all things in common so that none would lack.

Did you forget the day He told us that whatever we did for the oppressed we did for Him, and whatever we withheld from them was kept from Him as well?

Sit down Christian. You have not earned the right to speak to this generation. The right to speak is earned with love.

Take back your bible. Take it back and start reading it.

wow. This guy speaks the language. Would that there were more like him. You can tell true, self-confident faith by it's insistence on the freedom to make mistakes, rather than the insecurity of trying to legislate belief.

the tyranny of the minority

Brian Tiemann is able to relate:

I now know, first-hand, why moderate Muslims haven't been heard in huge numbers. It's because how in the hell can they feel anything but despair, caught between one extreme-- compatriots who espouse radical, irrational dogma, yet are "family"-- and another-- people determined to defend themselves against the dogma on the opposite side by whatever means necessary?

He's speaking about the gay-marriage amendment that Bush has come out of the closet for in support. I think that Brian might find these other anecdotes equally enlightening.


holy hand grenade II

(in my prior post, I discuss the movie from the point of view of a film consumer.)

I think that the most salient point of controversy over The Passion of the Christ is the charge of anti-semitism. Certainly Gibson has parlayed his free media access over that charge with brilliant ability, the subtext to Christians being "this is the movie that Jews don't want you to see." On that score alone you have to grant those who charge the movie with anti-Semitism their point.

And while I've not read the Gospels, it's my understanding that Pilate was a brutal ruler who single-handedly masterminded the crucifixon of Jesus, and the one account in the Gospels that blames the Jews rather than him was written some time after the crucifixon, as a means of soft-pedaling the origins of the Christian faith in the face of persecution. I find that concept related to that of taqqiya in Islam, ie a deliberate dissimulation of belief in order to survive in the face of oppression. So all in all, Gibson's selective emphasis on the parts of the Gospels that reinforce the notion that Jews (note, not The Jews) were to blame is a pretty clear signal of intent.

But some accounts go over the top in their effort to paint the movie as another modern-day Blood Libel (a charge which I'm all too familiar with). This Ha'aretz story, for example, is simply overwrought, going to great lengths to try and bring the entire Israeli-Palestinian conflict into the argument. It's impossible to take an argument that shrill seriously. I have much more respect for the restrained analysis of jewish analysts like Diana Moon, who is able to concede that the establishment response from the ADL was counter-productive even as she outlines the same points I made above about the selectivity of Gibson's attention to historical detail.

The basic assertion that the film will inflame anti-Semitism seems unwarranted to me, but I'll leave debating the issue to people who actually have a stake in the outcome. It's impossible IMHO to validate the basis for that assertion. But the direct charge that the actual film itself is anti-semitic, and promotes blood libel against Jews, is one I have trouble understanding. Fine, Gibson blames Jews and not Pilate for Jesus's death. That is his (eccentric) belief and he's entitled to it, since there is at least one Gospel that asserts as such.

But does that translate to a larger anti-semitic intent? I dont see how any reasonable person could conclude that Gibson holds The Jews (ie, the sum totality of the race and religion's adherents) responsible for the actions of Some Jews over two thousand years ago. In fact Gibson himself has repudiated that notion explicitly.

If this movie is anti-semitic because it criticizes the actions of some Jews, then we are once again on the same tired path that any critique of any Jewish person is equivalent to anti-Semitism. This charge is repeated vehemently all the time, with the purpose of intellectual intimidation. This dynamic is most active in discussions about Israel, where the critique of the nation is routinely equated with genocidal intent.

This is just a movie, and by most accounts a rather poor one. It's being marketed towards conservative Christians, as a prosletyzation tool. It has no bearing on the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the rise of anti-semitism in Europe, or the neoconserative foreign policy of the United States which disproportionately benefits the Nation of Israel. And any animus towards (some) Jews for the crucifixon of Jesus has been restricted explicitly by the director to the temporal window of two millenia past.

holy hand grenade

I think of all the reviews I've seen of Gibson's Passion, the best one is by Moriarty at AICN, because he goes to the heart of the question that I have about this film: What's in it for me?

As with any spiritual story told with real fervor and fuelled by belief, there is value here. No matter what you believe about the divine nature of Jesus Christ, he was definitely martyred, and since all we see in this film is that moment � his torture and eventual death � whatever message the film carries must be taken from only what�s shown to us. The notion of accepting such brutal punishment in order to pass grace on to the rest of the world seems impossible to understand for many of us, and this film makes it abundantly clear that this was no easy choice for Jesus to make. If viewed as part of a larger context, this could make an important point.

That one word is central, I think, to understanding why THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST ultimately fails as great cinema: context. There is none.
For someone walking into this film with no special knowledge of the Gospels or history or the way the Bible was written and why, this film offers no context, no greater explanation of what it�s all supposed to be about.

Frankly the political debate about the film is the only context it has - whether it is anti-semitic or not, whether it is historical or not, whether it's really a brilliant prosletyzation tool aimed at Protestants by an extreme Catholic sect, etc. But as a passion play, it really doesn't seem to offer me, a non-Catholic non-Jewish viewer, anything in the way of an actual cinematic experience, other than the promise of some bloody torture scenes.

The prophet Jesus is an important figure to me, but the gap between my concept of Jesus and the mainstream Jesus of the WASP heartland here in Texas is so vast, that it's hard to find any point of commonality that might stimulate my theological curiosity. I can't relate James Cavesiel to my beloved Isa Nabi AS. It might as well be a film about Mad Max, or Brian the Messiah. Even Moriarty, who at least has the requisite Christian cultural background to draw from, finds this Jesus a stranger:

. Give me a Jesus I recognize, a Jesus who did more than suffer. There is a whole world of human experience Gibson�s movie misses, and that tunnel vision keeps the movie from reaching the heaven it so desperate strives for.

I might rent it.


Bring. It. On. Kerry's voting record is sound

quote by Max Cleland, triple amputee Veteran :

"For Saxby Chambliss, who got out of going to Vietnam because of a trick knee, to attack John Kerry as weak on the defense of our nation is like a mackerel in the moonlight that both shines and stinks."

Cleland knows of what he speaks - Chambliss was the hit man against his own decorated service record in 2002. This morning the head of Bush's re-election campaign spoke on NPR, asserting piously that "we respect Sen. Kerry's service and honor his sacrifice" (or words to that effect. But the same Bush team is sending out their slime tool Chambliss against Kerry now.

In other words, President Bush is attacking Kerry's service record - and Chambliss is a not-so-transparent fig leaf.

The GOP spin is that they are attacking Kerry's voting record, not his patriotism. But this is simply rhetorical cover for the undelrying charge that Kerry's voting record somewhow reveals a man more concerned with political gain than the public interest of our common national defense. You can't argue that Kerry votes against the best interest of our nation's defense, and then suggest you aren't impugning his patriotism. If the GOP attack was about Kerry being simply wrong on the issues, then that would be different, but the specific charge that Marc Raciocot made this morning on NPR is that Kerry is "inconsistent" and that he "says one thing and does another."

Kerry didn't vote in approval of every war that the US ever fought. That's a good thing and is not inconsistent. In fact, having reviewed his voting record myself (as an avowed skeptic), I am pleased at the level of nuance that Kerry brought to the debate. The use of force is not a schoolyard impulse but a serious responsibility to which the current administration seems to have little respect for.

The fact is, the conservative right has very little credibility on critiquing anyone's record on national security. They's engaged in serious revisionist history in that regard.

There is an EXCELLENT piece on NPR that reviews Kerry's record, which makes for an excellent overview.



Jonathan has been carefully documenting the many encouraging developments in the middle east conflict over the past few weeks - items that call for reflection and absorption rather than outright commentary.

I'm amazed and pleased at the recent rush of events like this that leave me more and more guardedly optimistic about the future of peace than I've been in a long time.

Perhaps as only Nixon could go to China, could Sharon leave Gaza. And perhaps the very concept of the Wall has an inertia all its own, that the messianic settlers can't harness as they thought they might...

UPDATE: fantastic and humbling article in the Economist about the human face of the conflict. Bottom line is that the people living the conflict aren't nearly as optimistic as I, because for them it's not a theoretical issue, it's the daily reality of having your nephew shot in the eye or having your son called up during his engagement party. Still, I can't help but hope that things are headed towards improvement. But my own interests are diverted more towards the issue of Iraq ...

repeating the mistakes of Vietnam

Billmon has a detailed essay on the recent op-ed by James Webb, that explains just who Webb is and why his statements signal a true sea-change among the most ardent supporters of the American military. It's essential reading. And Billmon concludes that Webb, who during Vietnam reviled Kerry for his anti-war protest, may be sending a political feeler to Kerry now. You simply have to read Billmon's full post to understand the context, so I am not going to even bother excerpting.


Prediction: Kerry/Graham, wins in 2004


In another development on the Democratic campaign trail, Sen. Bob Graham of Florida -- who dropped out of the race last year -- said he would accept the No. 2 spot on the ticket if it were offered.

Following a speech Thursday at the Economic Club of Florida in Tallahassee, Graham, 67, said he would do what it takes to get a Democrat in the White House.

"I want a Democrat to be elected president. If I can be in whatever way a contributor to that, I'll do it," said the four-term senator, who announced in November he would not run for re-election in Congress.

"And that includes vice president?" one reporter asked.

"Yes," Graham replied.

The former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a strong critic of President Bush's Iraq policy, Graham abandoned his presidential bid in October, saying he didn't have the money or organization to win due to a late start.

Graham's presidential bid was widely seen as a Veep run from the start. He brings more foreign policy Bush-critique to the table, and the combination of his credentials (which have drawn praise from stalwart conservatives like Tacitus) with war-hero Kerry add up to a pretty impressive ticket.

Bush, meanwhile, has unveiled his campaign strategy:

The Washington Post reports that beginning next month, the president's campaign will launch a multi-million dollar ad campaign that will focus on Kerry's past, including his days as a Vietnam War protester.

"The beauty of John Kerry is 32 years of votes and public pronouncements," Mark McKinnon, the campaign's chief media adviser, told the Post.

thus almost guaranteeing his defeat.


empty symbolism

via Bill, I see that one of Irshad Manji's recommendations to "fix" Islam is to open the Hajj to adherents all religions, not just Muslims. The argument is that the pan-Abrahamic hajj would somehow achieve a universality that is currently lacking. She also speaks glowingly of "globalism" as an ideal but fails to define it. Anyone who has actually attended Hajj can attest that it is already universal, in fact perhaps the epitome of a collective human shared experience that transcends all boundaries of caste, race, nation, or tribe. Perhaps Manji wants to expand "globalism" from its essentially demographic definition to include diversity of beliefs, but if so then it's not clear why someone who doesn't share belief in Islam would find value in performing it.

I see Manji's suggestion as hopelessly idealistic and blind in two directions. First, she draws on her Islamic roots to simply assume that hajj has value that is universal (in the pan-belief sense). I think non-muslims would differ. Second, she draws on her progressive-left roots to simply assume that numerical diversity equates to quality of diversity. Thus she is is blind to the universalism of hajj that already exists and prescribes a meaningless expansion to solve a perceived shortcoming that there aren't enough "beliefs" being represented in the hajji collective.

this better be a commercial running in September 2004

This is an absolutely brilliant timeline detailing what John Kerry and George Bush were doing from 1966 - 1973. It is essential that this timeline is aired in television advertisement format during the anniversary of 9-11 in order to negate the impending War Leader Propaganda that Bush's political team will try to saturate the airwaves with during the anniversary.

The election needs to be about Hope and Principles, not Fear and Priveleges.

30 years old today

Today's my 30th birthday. Funny, I don't feel any older :) Aging has never been a source of concern for me. My religious beliefs insulate me from fear of death, and my physical state is still robust enough to insulate me from fear of weakness. SO I don't see the magic number of "30" as any real milepost other than a nice homage to base-10 mathematics.

It's worth looking back at where I was at age twenty, though. 10 years ago, I was in my third year of college. I was already acting in a mentorship role for the newer freshmen on our residence hall floor, Detling House (Sellery Hall A, University of Wisconsin - Madison). I had solidified my strong friendships with my peers, who remain some of the most important people in my life. I had lost touch with most of my high school friends (which wasn't that large a number) and had also lost touch with my childhood friends, save one (JJ).[1] It's interesting that my memories of my family from 10 years ago are largely the same as they are now - my family has always been a bedrock of stability in my life. At age 20, I was still 2 years away from meeting my future wife. I was studying physics and desperately trying to finish my Honors research project, which to look at today is so laughably poor in the scientific method that I wince. I was not very religious, though I had developed a determination that I wanted to be, and had only started to really understand my identity as a Bohra as well as an American, providing a seed for the synthesis I've achieved today.

My 20's were my first full decade as a rational actor. As I enter my 30s, I am a rich man- I have a wife, a daughter almost 2 years old. I have traveled the world more extensively than I had ever imagined - especially life-changing trips to Hutaib and Surat. I have earned an MS degree and will complete my PhD. I have begun new friendships, rich with potential, with people I have never met in person. I have played an active role in a Presidential campaign. I have helped found entire communities online, in religious, social, and political spheres. I am finally able to truly understand the sacrifices my parents have made on my behalf, a wealth that requires humility to perceive. And I have attained a level within my own faith which I could not have even conceived, let alone predict, a decade ago.

But there's a lot I have to do in the next decade. And when I'm 40, I hold myself at age 30 accountable for those goals. Rather than waste time trying to enumerate them here, I'll just get started, and leave judgement of my progress to my future self, who will be a wiser man than I.

UPDATE: while age 30 carries no specific angst for me, it does mathematically mean I'm past my prime. Until next year.

[1]Just in the past year I've regained contact with two of those childhood friends (GL and DK), though my best friend from high school (KR) remains lost in the shroud of distant acquaintance.


the means influence the ends

we have all heard of the old axiom "the ends justify the means." I evaluate it according to moral, not ethical, standards. For example, if the ends are valid, but the means are immoral, then I consider that route to the desired end invalid. However, if the means are simply unethical as opposed to immoral, then I would have to seriously evaluate whether the cost-benefit of achieving the ends at that expense if favorable or unfavorable, on a case-by-case basis. And I may well choose wrongly.

Complicating issues are of course the non-fine line between morals and ethics, the impossibility of ever knowing the true cost-benefit analysis, and the possibility of bias in your estimation of the desirability of the end in question.

However, suppose for the sake of argument that you have wrestled with the issues above and concluded, however reluctantly, that the desired end (in the specific case, removing Bush from office) is enough of an imperative that the unethical route is neccessary to achieve it (for example, rewarding the politics of special interests and anti-Democratic power-mongering by the Party elites, by voting for their candidate). Then the means chosen to achieve that route will influence the ends.

What I mean, in the context of my specific example, is that rescuing our country from the failed domestic and economic policies and the blatantly anti-self-interest foreign policies of the Bush Administration will take a form directly related to the means by which the present Administration is evicted (itself, remaining a desirable end). If Dean wins the Presidency, then there are concrete benefits to a Dean Presidency in terms of healing the national (and artificial) political divide of Left-Right in this country, and of pursuing domestic policy that can be influenced by factual analysis rather than power-play. With President Kerry, we will probably end up with a status quo of political special interests balanced by public and democratic institutions, but it still will not be the actively harmful policy that is promoted by the Bush Administration.

Some purists reject the latter scenario because they are comparing a Dean Presidency to a Kerry Presidency, and concluding (rightly) that the latter is inferior. Thus they are "casting a vote" against the Kerry scenario, a protest rather than an affirmative choice. But the problem is that the real choice is not between Dean and Kerry in November. It is between Bush and only one of them. To rationalize their protest, they will argue that there is "no real difference" between Kerry and Bush. However, this is as demonstrably false as it was during 2000 when Nader argued that Gore and Bush were of the same coin.

There basic problem is that "special interests" are not the sum total of the political problems we face. We have the attempted social takeover of our culture by the extreme religious right, the blatant assault on the fabric of the New Deal by clever Trojan Horse legislation (the Medicare Bill comes to mind) that actually undermines the net further, and the gross fiscal mismanagement that arises under Republican rule when the party rewards its natural constituency, large corporations and mega-wealthy people (>$1M/yr) with allocation of resources in excess of their proprtion to society, at the expense of the middle class (and the poor, whom no one really seems to pay much attention to).

By any intellectually honest evaluation, there are basic differences between conservative and liberal ideologies, and there is real value in having a national debate on those differences, because that can drive informed policy. A complete capitulation does not serve the public interests., Of the two spheres, only the conservative one has attempted to impose by outright deceit and fiat their supremacy, whereas during the past periods of Democratic rule there was a much more diffuse response to obtaining power. This is partly ecause conservatives have spent the better part of two decades cultivating an integrated system of media message distribution across Internet, television, radio, and cable. National Public Radio is inherently moderate, not liberal; the liberal attempt to emulate the conserative media is still in its infancy, but it will grow. Its impossible to tell if, when the liberal media matures, it will provide detente and balance to the conservative on or heighten and accelerate the political division of society. As an avowed conservative on many issues myself, I want to see a more fair atmosphere for discussion of the issues, out of simple self-interest.

Arguing that there is no difference between the intellectual positions of liberal and conservative is a self-delusion. It is the expression of "perfection is the enemy of the good", whose corollary is that in any human (ie, flawed) endeavour, perfection is unattainable. A Kerry Administration will bring hundreds of good and principled public servants back to government, who will view their positions as extensions of their professional pride rather than instruments for political pressure. There is no liberal media echo chamber that can amplify ideology across governmental partitions and branches the way that the conservative message has been.

To argue that Kerry would be equal or worse to Bush is a fallacy of cynicism. I am not that cynical yet. Rather I want to learn from recent history - and Nader's influence on the 2000 election, where his campaigning in swing states actively tipped the balance from Gore to Bush and thus delivered the election to the loser of the popular vote, remains the most formative political lesson of our time[1].

The perfection is the enemy of the good. The means influence the ends. But this particular end does indeed justify the means, and I intend to vote ABB, not ABK, in 2004.

[1]I actually Vote-swapped my vote with a principled Nader supporter in Oregon, since my Texas vote was rendered effectively meaningless by the winner-take-all system.

connections and favoritism

On George W. Bush's flight suspension record from the Texas Air National Guard, there is another airman also suspended for the same reason: James R. Bath.

Mr. Bath was the subject of a Houston Chronicle article in 1992. Excerpt:

"Federal authorities are investigating the activities of a Houston businessman -- a past investor in companies controlled by a son of President Bush -- who has been accused of illegally representing Saudi interests in the United States.

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network -- known as FinCEN -- and the FBI are reviewing accusations that entrepreneur James R. Bath guided money to Houston from Saudi investors who wanted to influence U.S. policy under the Reagan and Bush administrations, sources close to the investigations say. FinCEN, a division of the U.S. Department of Treasury, investigates money laundering.
"The federal review stems in part from court documents obtained through litigation by Bill White, a former real estate business associate of Bath. White contends the documents indicate that the Saudis were using Bath and their huge financial resources to influence U.S. policy.

Such representation by Bath would require that he be registered as a foreign agent with the U.S. Department of Justice. In general, people required by law to be registered are those who represent a foreign entity seeking to influence governmental action or policy. An Annapolis graduate and former Navy fighter pilot, White, 46, claims that Bath and the judicial system, under the veil of national security, have blackballed him professionally and financially because he has refused to keep quiet about what he regards as a conspiracy to secretly funnel Saudi dollars to the United States. White became entangled in a series of lawsuits and countersuits with Bath, who for some six years has prevailed in the courts. White says the legal action has financially devasted him and Venturcorp Inc., the real estate development company in which he and Bath were partners.

"In sworn depositions, Bath said he represented four prominent Saudis as a trustee [one of whom was Saudi Sheik Salem M. Binladen] and that he would use his name on their investments. In return, he said, he would receive a 5 percent interest in their deals. Tax documents and personal financial records show that Bath personally had a 5 percent interest in Arbusto '79 Ltd., and Arbusto '80 Ltd., limited partnerships controlled by George W. Bush, President Bush's eldest son. Arbusto means bush in Spanish. Bath invested $50,000 in the limited partnerships, according to the documents. There is no available evidence to show whether the money came from Saudi interests.

Bill White is the new mayor of Houston, as of this year. There are additional articles on Bath here: by John Mecklin, and Tom Flocco.

In other news, there is more evidence of favoritism with regards to Bush's TANG service:

The White House disclosed information in documents Thursday showing that President Bush (news - web sites) had been arrested once for a college prank and was cited for two automobile accidents and two speeding tickets before he enlisted in the National Guard.

The accidents and tickets were disclosed for the first time in response to questions about a portion of Bush's military record that had been blacked out when the file was made public during the 2000 presidential campaign.

The traffic violations are significant in the context of Bush's military career. At the time Bush enlisted in the Texas National Guard, the Air Force typically would have had to issue a waiver for an applicant who had multiple arrests or driving violations.

An officer who served at the same time as the president, former Texas Air National Guard pilot Dean Roome, was required by the Air Force to get a waiver for a $25 speeding ticket when he enlisted in the Air National Guard in 1967.

There is no record of an enlistment waiver in Bush's military file.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan showed a small group of reporters a copy of Bush's application to be an officer, with nothing blacked out, after USA TODAY published a picture of the blacked-out document Thursday. The accompanying report said that Guard officials in Texas had been concerned about embarrassing information in Bush's military records before the files were released to the public beginning in 1999, according to two former Guard officials. Bush aides denied there was any effort to suppress any potentially embarrassing information.
Bush's military file contained a second document that also asked for information on any arrests. Portions of that page, his enlistment application, are also blacked out.

Bush was placed ahead of the line to get entry into the TANG, ahead of more-qualified applicants who had better test scores. Affirmative Action indeed.


a man I am proud to disagree with

on issues, that is. But we agree on the meta-issue of disagreement itself:

We demonstrate our true dedication to the idea of freedom of thought, freedom of conscience and freedom of expression when we defend that freedom for those whose ideas we detest.

I see the attitude towards freedom of speech as the quintessential litmus test. SDB will of course use leftists as an example of those who fail, whereas I am more threatened by the rightists. The damage to democracy is the same in either case.


Sistani escapes assassination

story at Reuters.

Ask yourself who benefits from killing the most influential and powerful Shi'a cleric in Iraq?

1. Moqtada Sadr. He wants to be the symbolic face of Iraqi's Shi'a, to inherit the mantle of his also-assasinated father. However, he has no political base capable of exerting real control countrywide.

2. Al-Qaeda. Shi'a are the essence of evil - accorded more hatred than Jews in the Salafist-Wahabi mindset. The threat of a Shi'a-dominated Iraq is an anathema to them, marking the end of Sunni dominance.

3. The pro-Ba'ath resistance. They know that Saddam is gone but they remember their power as the ruling monoparty of an autocratic state. They also have great reason to fear political ascendance of the long-oppressed Shi'a majority.

4. The Interim Governing Council. The IGC is full of former exiles and power brokers, who have been appointed to the supremem position of sovereign power within Iraq by the US forces. They also expect that, given the Bush Administration's election-driven timetable of sovereignity transfer by the end of the summer, they will be in a good position to retain most of the political power they now wield. They have been making their plans at feverish rates accordingly to cement their advantage.

5. The Bush Administration. Sistani's call for elections is a massive obstacle, which is ot easily circumvented because it appropriates the very language of democracy-building that formed the basis for war's rationale, especially in light of the fact that the WMD premise has been definitively shown to have been a sham.

With enemies like these, you might want to wonder who Sistani's friends are. That answer is simple: the theocrats of Iran. It would be irony indeed if Sistani's vision of direct democracy for Iraq could only occur via alliance with the theocracy of Iran. It gets more irony-laden when you consider the history of the US and Iran, and how the theocracy came to power there in the first place.

UPDATE: Don't miss the report from Juan Cole, on how Iran's reformers look to Sistani for support, and more background on the role that each of the power players have in the jockeying for Iraq's future. Sistani is the key to a truly free and democratic Iraq. He also personifies the difference between an acceptable outcome for neo-conservatives vs neo-wilsonians.

UPDATE 2: seems that there is doubt as to whether the assassination attempt actually occurred. Juan Cole mentions via email this report from a correspondent in Iraq:

"I just returned from 3 days in Najaf, Kufa, and Karbala. I did not hear anything about Sistani being attacked, and this certainly would have been news. I actually went by Sistani's house Thursday evening (around 6:30pm) and things were very calm."


poetry in light

It's real, not a painting - an example of Russian color photographs - taken in 1912. In other words, before they had the technology to do color film processing, they could take colo rphotos (using separate plates for R G B). Only now are they being reprocessed and the results are... sublime.



Weapons of Mass Destruction Program-Related Activities' Intent. The acronym just keeps growing...