B After The Fact

Sunday, October 24, 2004

The Broadway Musical -- a 6 hour PBS documentary

I spent most of Saturday watching the 6-hour PBS documentary on the Broadway Musical, and thumbing through the massive companion volume that accompanies the book. In grand blogging fashion, I am going to link you to Ken Mandelbaum's comprehensive review of show and book, and the longer DVD version of the show and the CD. If you care about Broadway musicals, and are not reading Ken Mandelbaum religiously, you ought to be.

I am also running the review, because I have no problem with anything Mandelbaum said, as far as it goes. It's descriptive, accurate, and allows me to carp and bitch in the paragraphs below.

As a fanatic, I enjoyed the program, and expect to watch it again. I will read the book, maybe get the DVDs and the CDs.

However, one cannot help but think that there was a better show screaming to get out, that the points fleetingly mentioned could have been nailed down better, so that the documentary, rather than sometimes seeming like a photo album of your neighbor's vacation, could have said something.

The show introduced a number of promising through-lines, but the most interesting one is the one they seemed to be afraid to see all the way through. The history of commercial musical theater on Broadway emphasizes the commercial, first. The early part of the documentary focussed on Ziegfeld, and Cohan, and even managed to mention the bitter strike that lead to the rise of Actors Equity in 1919. The end of the documentary focussed on Merrick, Mackintosh and Disney, certain truths that are mocked in The Producers, and the 21st century issues arising in the production of Wicked. In the middle, the documentary dropped the ball concerning what people have to do to raise money in theatre, and how that has dictated what has been possible and not possible to do in the Broadway Musical.

The program could have focussed on great stars, and what it meant to be the toast of the Great White Way from time to time. They never did that very well, despite a few minutes of Ehtel Merman. They could have plotted the career of Julie Andrews, who was their narrator, for crying out loud. The choice not to do that took, in my opinion, a lot of sizzle out of the show.

It looked for a while like the documentary would focus on the evolution of musicals that either were made by African Americans, or were about African Americans, but they seemed to abandon the theme after the Porgy and Bess discussion. They showed some pictures towards the end of Greogory Hines and Savion Glover, without bothering to mention why they were important.

The show had long stretches where they interviewed George C. Wolfe. However, if you did not already know it, the show never explained that Wolfe he took over the Public Theatre after Joe Papp died (which is why they interviewed him during the Chorus Line segment), or that he directed his own revival of On The Town (which is why they interviewed him during the On The Town segment), or directed the Broadway production of Angels In America (which is why he could speak of La Cage Aux Folles), or had a successful playwrighting career.

All documentaries, all books on Broadway, constantly mention the expansion of subject matter that is suitable for a musical. However, for me, this documentary inadvertently made clear that Showboat is 1927, Of Thee I Sing is 1931, and As Thousands Cheer is 1933 and Carousel is 1945, and unless your name is Sondheim, it is hard to get anything dangerous produced during the 60 years following

Once again, tracing the throughline of Julie Andrews career, from The Boyfriend and Mary Poppins through to Victor/ Victoria could have covered a lot of ground, even if it left the extremes of Friml and Sondheim off.

One way the documentary could have proved me wrong was to spend more time with and about Sondheim. It is beyond the scope of any popular, mainstream documentary to explain Sondheim's enormous, yet problematic place in the history of the American Musical Theater. (i.e., although Sondheim spent 40 years showing us what is possible, it is not always clear that it was the best use of resources.) Since Sondheim cooperated, and since they interviewed Sondheim at length, they could have followed the evolution of lyrics and subject matter in musicals from Showboat to Assassins. This is especially true in light of Sondheim's relationship to Oscar Hammerstein. (Although the documentary did not bother to explain to the casual viewer that Sondheim was Hammerstein's protegee, and his next-door neighbor).

The documentary mentioned Robbins, and more than mentioned Bennett and Fosse, but failed to connect Robbins to Bennett and Fosse, or how Fosse devolved into Stroman, and why that "devolution" is not Stroman's fault.

They also dropped their own point, which they made indirectly, on how Rodgers and Hammerstein, in The Sound of Music, seemed to end their careers by becoming the very thing they spent their whole careers rebelling against. Or not.

They also dropped their point on the role of Broadway in the evolution of New York City, mentioning it briefly in the very beginning, and returning to it, again in the last hours, to describe the "Taxi Driver" NYC of the mid-70s, the clean-up that was symbolized by the ability of Disney to open a theatre on West 42nd Street, and the impact of 9-11 on everything.

My point is that they mentioned all these things, only to drop them, like any thousands of musicals you see with a strong first hour and a messy second act.

I guess if I'm teaching a course in the History of the American Musical, I would definitely tell my students to see it. They should look at the documentary, and choose any show, song, or dance profiled, or any picture or any person shown, and follow it into mastery. There is a story in each of those things that the documentary touches upon but does not cover well enough. I'm sure that they, as well as I, wish they had a lot more time on the air

Thursday, October 21, 2004

More on "The Meaning of Words"

Or -- Why Tom Friedman has a column and I don't

Money quote

"Conservatives have failed their own test of patriotism. In the end, it has been more important for them to defeat liberals than to get Iraq right. Had Democrats been running this war with the incompetence of Donald Rumsfeld & Friends, conservatives would have demanded their heads a year ago -- and gotten them."

Monday, October 18, 2004

On the "Meaning Of Words"

To my friend A Red Mind In A Blue State, on his postingThe Meaning Of Words

There is no anti-war movement against Iraq in the Vietnam sense or even in the World War I sense, or the Civil War draft riot sense. All we have is a candidate running for President, and his supporters, criticizing the President's rush to war and his prosecution of the war (c.f. General McClellan, Thomas Dewey, Richard Nixon). Oops, there we go trotting out those passe Republicans like Nixon, who did not end a foreign policy debate at the water's edge.

A free and open U.S Presidential election should terrorize terrorists, and embolden Iraqis who long for the same. They see that people in America can criticize their leaders. In the Middle East, if you criticize the sovereign, he chops off your head.

If you are worried about the power of words, the entire right has to stop saying that every criticism of the President, whether or not it relates to the conduct of this war, confuses the dumb and dumber into taking precipitous actions, is "aid and comfort to the enemies", "treason", leads to more riots in the street or deaths on the battlefield. If the right, based on its polling data, trivializes the meaning of words like treason and aid and comfort to the enemies, how would they know they knows these things if they really saw it? What if, now that the only people who matter in Washington are Republicans, one Republican wants to criticize another Republican? Is John McCain committing treason every time he speaks?

A Letter to Andrew Sullivan -- Suskind On Bush


As one of the three pro-war Democrats left in this country, I am very nervous about John Kerry's foreign policy, especially, quite bluntly, about the effect that his policies will have on the future of Israel.

However, I agree with what you said yourself in your comment about Suskind On Bush

"But what you get increasingly from the president is an arrogance and contempt for critics that is bordering on dangerous .... You realize eventually that Bush's cabinet is actually a royal court, in which criticism is simply treachery. In the broader political world, you're either with this president in everything he does or you are a traitor, an unbeliever, a leftist, and an enabler of terror. That's how Bush sees the world. And he wonders why has left this country even more divided than when he found it."

Bush is a man who would be King, and to me this fact ought to automatically disqualify Bush from the Presidency. This goes beyond his choices for what to do in Iraq after the elections, or whether or not he replaces Justice Stevens with an Antonin Scalia clone, or whether he destroys Social Security in an attempt to find more funds for his Wall Street contributors to make commissions on.

Just as Bush has undone all that Clinton has done, the next President can undo all that Bush has done --- but only if there is a next President. If God is on Bush's side, if God is telling Bush what to do, if God is telling Bush that those who oppose him are infidels, how can Bush possibly allow a Constitution or even a Constitutional system to stand in his way?

a/k/a "B After The Fact"

Friday, October 15, 2004

Whereby B- tries to reset the terms of his blog site --- again

This blog-site was intended to be about something, and the day to day of current events keeps turning it into something else.

Therefore, here is another attempt at a statement of purpose. Whether this is just a middle-of-the-night ranting, as it usually is, or the start of a different type of entry, I don't know.


It is increasingly clear, as I have been saying, in one form or another, for 20 years and counting (although not on this blogsite recently), that the only important war in the United States is the Civil War, and it is constantly being refought. I will try to say a lot more about that in the months to come.

This is a real high water mark for the Confederacy. The opportunity for the intellectual heirs of the Confederacy and Jim Crow to control the White House for the first time since Woodrow Wilson is more important than any consequence of having a man-who-would-be-King in the White House.

It is more important than whether or not what Bush is doing helps Jim Crow or the Confederacy at all. One thing about Bush, he is not in any way, shape or form a racist. He carries less baggage about race than any major political figure in any of our lifetimes, including people like Carter and Clinton, who had baggage but found a way to leave some of it behind.

States rights, as I have been saying all along, is not a philosophy, its a tool. When your guy controls the White House, you don't need states rights. That's why there has been massive Federal involvement in areas like education and family arrangements and so-called faith-based initiatives, which have typically been the domain of the states. Whether the power brokers in individual states, mostly conservatives, will complain in a second term, when they see the cumulative effect of having their perogatives (and their control of the purse strings) diminished, remains to be seen.

There are no governmental checks and balances on the Bushies.

The right-wing says that there are checks and balances coming from Ted Kennedy and the left-wing media. There is only one Ted Kennedy, and he gets older and fatter every year. There is no left-wing media that matters. Professional journalists who regularly make six-figures may not be Republicans, but they are not liberals, and they couldn't see the left wing if they were floating in space. There are no checks and balances on these guys.

This blogging and this election is taking way too much of my time. I have the same number of votes as the sorority girl who votes because her parents filled out the voter registration for her, and her friends are voting on the way to an Election Night party. I remain highly confident of a Bush victory, whether by means fair or foul, and a serious second-term push to curtail basic American liberties in the attempt to create conditions where George W can continue to be the ruler, whether as the President under this Constitution, or otherwise, after 2008.

There are not, and will never be, enough liberals to stop these things, just as there were never enough liberals to force Nixon to resign. There is not, and never was, and never will be, enough liberal media or enough so-called Jews to stop McCarthyism or the Red Scare, or Gingrichism. These are house-cleanings that must be done by self-styled conservatives who believe that justice, freedom, restraints on power, and most importantly, the rule of law, matters most, even when it leads to some limitation on their own power. These guys have woken up before, maybe they can again. 216 years of the Constitution and counting is just a statistic. It means nothing if we don't work at it.

It is also possible that we may finally see some push-back from religion, but I am way out of my depth. I hope to see something, but I couldn't describe what I was looking for, and I won't be able to see it until it is sitting on me.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

The Third Debate --- Abortion

Bush said he wouldn't apply a litmus test for Supreme Court justices. I don't believe him. His father said he wouldn't apply a litmus test. Turned out he wasn't lying. 41 did not apply a litmus test, and wound up nominating Souter. Not quite what Rush Limbaugh had in mind. For a President not to apply a litmus test in making a political appointment is absurd, and W- is a lot of things, but absurd is not one of them.

Abortion, gay rights, prayer in public schools, contraception, stem cells, cloning, euthenasia, the difference between civil marriage and religious marriage, separation of church and state, and why (in my opinion) the church benefits from that more than the state does. In this talky internet world, we lack the vocabulary to discuss these issues. We need new words to discuss these new issues. When we use old words, we drag in old baggage, and wind up engaging in old arguments that are besides the point.

Because of the limited vocabulary we have, all issues about a woman's right to choose wind up being entwined with whether or not God made the sexes equal, and whether or not the state can alter that result. Because of the limited vocabulary we have, all issues about gay rights wind up being a sewer of code words about our views on sexual deviance, and our notions about what is and is not appropriate behavior to display in front of a child. We can't separate out these issues, even if we wanted to, we don't have the proper vocabulary to communicate honestly (as opposed to a politician asking for your vote). We are not used to talking about these matters to people who might have other opinions, and it shows.

I keep looking for people like Rick Santorum (I wish I could think of anyone from my side of the aisle) to find the vocabulary to bridge the gap, to frame the argument in a way where we can all agree on what we agree on, and make intelligent choices about what we disagree on, but Santorum keeps sliding down the slope. When W- speaks about a "culture of life," he is clearly rallying his base, but he is telling the people outside his base, "silent, barefoot, pregnant, dependant." I know he doesn't believe that, but he is certainly saying it. If you trust W- you make allowances, and if you don't, you can't.

Great spiritual leaders are needed in this country, people who can make modern responses to modern science, people who can show from a spiritual, religious, moral basis, how free God wants us to be. Those people may be able to bring the discussion along. I don't know. It is not for politicians to be spiritual leaders. It is for politicians to make sure that the traffic lights work, and that the terrorists don't. In this society, our spiritual leaders are politicians and talk show hosts. It's depraved.

The Third Debate --- Education

The morning after, after I have watched the debate, and read Sullivan and read Marshall, and looked at a few other things, I have to say that I thought that the debate was a draw, except maybe for the part where Bush indicated that he did not see Fahrenheit 9/11, where the film clip with the Osama bin Laden quote was prominently displayed. The other non-draw moment was where Kerry spoke about his own marriage. I thought he should tell a joke about how "it's just as easy to fall in love with a rich girl," but when he actually did it was worse than dreadful. I watched this debate on NBC, and saw the reaction shot of both Stepford Wife Laura and Sit Up Straight and Comb Your Hair Already Teresa. Yeesh.


I don't know how the Spin will play on the debate. For me it was a draw in the sense that Kerry gets to spend 90 minutes showing that he is not as out there as Republicans claim, and Bush gets to spend 90 minutes showing that he is not as stupid as Democrats claim.

Look, I'm a Democrat, and on domestic policy issues, I don't trust Republicans. When Bush 41 said something I inadvertenly agreed with, I knew immediately that there was something about the issue I misunderstood, figured it out, and changed my position on it. If Bush 43 says something I inadvertently agree with, well, on domestic issues that simply doesn't happen.

Education came up a lot in this debate. I know that Bush snookered Ted Kennedy into believing that Bush was an honest man. They passed No Child Left Behind, to bring the Texas educational miracle to the United States. I know Bush presided over an educational system in Texas where they gave a gazillion dollars to test manufacturers (who I assume, in Texas at least, are Republicans)to test children, and then when the children failed the tests, they covered up the results, produced easier tests, or some combination of the two. Now Bush wants to take that wonderful system and bestow it on the rest of the world. I am glad No Child Left Behind is underfunded. Who wants Texas-style education in New York?

There is a lot of education money that goes to the unions, and other groups that tend to vote for Democrats. People such as Bush and Blumberg see that money, and want the money to go to their friends. Although they are interested in union-busting, it is just a side issue to putting their snouts in the education trough. The notion that a politician might be interested in the education of somebody else's children ... I have rarely seen it. It's just who gets the money.

Therefore, it is hard for me to say who won a debate where the topic kept going back to how a Republican might reform education.


The Third Debate --- Social Security

Bush all but admitted that he would raise taxes (or seek revenue enhancements, benefit cuts, or whatever euphemism will be used) to cover the gaps that will be created when Bush shifts social security over to an "ownership system." Who gets this money, which will promptly go into a deep hole never to be seen or heard from again --- fund managers. The kinds of people who looted the savings and loan system during Daddy's administration (a crime so big, and so impossible to get your arms around, that they basically got away with it) will be back for a second meal of eating your social security money. That's the rationale, that is the only rationale for a Republican restructuring the Social Security system. Do not trust these people with your money. Vote Democratic.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

A Guest Message From NoTrust: When JDs Debate MBAs

I'd like to thank NoTrust for his serious response to my column "Listen To The Candidates Debate". He hones in on what it means to have a Prsidential debate between lawyers and MBAs.

NoTrust says:

"Bruce, I also thought Kerry missed opportunities, many of which you mentioned. I think central to the misses are the candidate’s career backgrounds and the consequential way they approach the debates. As trial lawyers Kerry and Edwards see this as a trial. As corporate executives, Bush and Cheney approach this as a sales and marketing exercise. While there are many similarities in the acts of persuading a jury and the public, the biggest differences between the two are the ability (or inability) to sell to people individually and see their reactions during the sales process, and the time limits in which to sell.

"As lawyers, Kerry and Edwards can use a tangible response from a small group of people and tailor their message. Perhaps this is effective for a small impressionable group, but it might also giving the appearance of pandering or flip flopping to the millions they’re not talking directly to. On the other hand, corporate executives sell impersonally. They’re used to seeing the results of their pitches in trend analysis, not on the faces of a jury. SO they’re used to concise consistent messages. As for time limits, trial lawyers are largely self-governed as to the duration of a point. Alternately, effective corporate executives use large print and big pictures when speaking to each other; and 30 and 60 second commercials when speaking to the public. Considering the format of the debates, it’s either a credit to Kerry/Edwards, or an indictment of Bush/Cheney that the Democrats did as well as they did. That said, Kerry’s good showing probably wasn’t enough, which is why the missed opportunities are so important, and why simply responding with a better idea is not always the right answer.

"Bush is a quick study and trains in a corporate white house that is very carefully marketing style over substance - a good tact for a debate format (and audience) that is geared for shallow points and sound bites. If a number or reference sounds good and is said with enough authority, significant numbers of people will buy it, regardless of viability or truth. (Incidentally, I find it ironic the most corporate styled white house and campaign in memory is the least concerned with the country’s bottom line.)

"Ultimately, these debates and this election are not about issues or even ideas. They're about credibility. The scope and breadth of such complex multi-faceted topics as foreign affairs, the economy, and even the explanation of our legislative process (It is naive for anyone to put stock in voting records on specific bills when we all know that what a bill is titled has little to do with what it actually does. Yet the strategy works.) is such that the vast majority of the American people don't have the time, inclination or training to fully understand the scope of what either candidate is proposing, assess the examples they offer, or ascertain how effective the candidates can be in executing them. As a result, our voters, particularly our *still* undecided voters, who care very much about these things but are not living in a world that makes study of these issues plausible, can only really decide upon personality. The TV commercials make both candidates sound good. Unchallenged, the facts and figures each quote sound impressive. As with Tide and Wisk, the shirts both seem clean on TV. But whom to trust?

"The Republicans, used to product sales and marketing, recognize these nuances and are expert in exploiting them. Reagan and both Bushs offer simple, folksy axioms and mantras that people can relate to. They rarely talk deeply about the issues, rather they focus on tenable themes and personality flaws in their opponents. The reason these are effective tactics is it's what people have experience in and can understand. They may not have experience in the economy, but they know how to find fault with a colleague. What you can understand you can trust. Once you begin to trust, you begin to give trust. That is what the Republicans are terrific at. "We're working hard," Bush says. "Everyday we wake up and we work hard." Personally I find this pitch almost laughable. And I'm sure many others also feel the same way. But the logic is easy and relatable. It's a core American value, and the statement does two things: it gives the undecided something tangible to understand and then trust and it also, ironically, turns Bush into a blue collar man of the people, juxtaposed against the 'metro-sexual' Kerry. (Do you think it was a coincidence there was a Fox story falsely quoting Kerry calling himself that?)

"It's in this light that I think Kerry missed key points in the debate. Trust is created from credibility. And it is credibility Kerry needs to attack. This is an administration that plays fast and loose with the truth. I can't remember a more consistent stream of little stories in the press (why they're little is another blog) about highly credible bi-partisan sources rejecting highly suspect policies: Iraq, the economy, the sciences and the environment.

"It is clear to me Kerry is *trying* to attack credibility. Yet, he has had trouble. He still gets caught in trial lawyer mode. Worrying only about the people in the local jury. Sometimes forgetting he’s packaging a product for the people on the other side of the infomercial. He’s on the defensive - reacting to questions two or three back - wasting time that can be used to go on the offensive and embarrass the feeble statistics and figures Bush just quoted while they're on people’s mind.

"Take the environment question. Staunch Republicans admit this administration's record is awful. Cheney cited Reagan in saying the environment (and deficit for that matter) is inconsequential in getting votes. It is a clearly neglected area of the Republican platform. There are mountains of scientific data and studies showing the horrible environment decisions this administration has made. Yet, when the question was asked Bush, on the surface, made very compelling points about his environmental record. Gosh, he waxed poetic about being a steward of the land, or some such nonsense. Kerry's response was to take the first 45 seconds of the rebuttal to talk about another question. Bush won the point.

"While the environment may not be a swing issue for voters it was a perfect opportunity to attack credibility. Credibility attacks are cumulative. By throwing into doubt the half truths and sound bites Bush is parroting about the environment everything else is suspect. This was a no-brainer, Kerry should have had a mountain of data to attack Bush's environment record, should have known the few weak anecdotes Bush could cite, and used the opportunity to renounce Bush’s credibility, back dropped against the environment, a topic people can understand. These kinds of specific invalidations; the ability to make someone appear disingenuous, is what the American people can relate to. The nuances of the Kyoto treaty, while probably much more important and germane to the issue, are too complex and not effective in this forum.

"I get the sense this administration knows how to play the game better, and they do it without conscience. It’s a results oriented, utilitarian culture. They don't mind the Halliburton style practices within the campaign or the administration or within this country or Iraq for that matter, because it's a cultural fit. Granted, the Democrats are no altar boys either, but it seems they don't play the game as well, which is strangely admirable. Perhaps it’s because the left faction of the party is fundamentally less accommodating to these practices than the right faction of the Republicans. Although, lately the Democrats seem to have compartmentalized the idealistic party members with an influx of new blood into the campaign, but one wonders if it was too late.

"The original Democratic theme of making the campaign about ideas and taking the high road was idealistic. Welcome, admirable, but a losing strategy in courting swing voters, particularly when competing with a sitting President. Ties go to the incumbent. Just like being the newbie in the boardroom or the salesman trying to unseat an already installed product, the burden of proof is on the Democrats. Kerry has got to shake Bush's credibility in clear, simple, tenable ways. Otherwise, as the incumbent, people are likely to take what Bush says, and his ideas, verbatim because they don’t know whether they can trust Kerry’s, even if they understand them."

Thanks NoTrust. As a Northern Democrat, I always say that the Bushies don't really care what they do to the Constitution, so long as they win. A Southern Republican might say that there is more to the United States than the Constitution, and even if there wasn't the Constitution is stronger than I think it is. Those people better be right.

If Bush 41 Appointed the sort of Supreme Court Judges That Bush 43 Says He Likes, Al Gore Would Be President

My comments on the Presidential town hall "Listen To The Candidates Debate" evoked a strong response from A Red Mind In A Blue State which can be seen in the replies to my October 8th entry. I replied in turn

Rarely have you shown your cards as openly as you do in this last missive, so it is nice to have the opportunity to disagree with you as openly: viz ---

I think you have to be much more liberal than John Kerry to look at taxes merely as a form of income redistribution. However, the basic point of disagreement is this -- you red minds think that people succeed in spite of the American government, and we blue minds think that people succeed because of the American government.

Therefore, if there is income redistribution, it is not, as Bush likes to say, taking the people's money from them. Income redistribution merely increases the dealer's vig on a system that basically works properly, but is certainly rigged in favor of certain players. Easy bankruptcy, incidentally, is another instance of keeping people in and playing. The notion is to keep the game going, to allow people to take risks, and basically keep what they have. Too much income in too few hands will eventually kill the game.

The government you so hate today is the way it is because corporations destroyed the country in the 1920s. The reason the United States exists at all in the way it does is that religion destroyed Europe for centuries at a time, and the lack of religion destroyed Europe again in the 20th century.

The question is not whether an incompetent government can run a health care system or a school system. The question is why you think either a corrupt insurance corporation or the Church can do a better job. And as I have said continuously, those are the only three choices you have.

Most of the time, people side with the choice that pays them the most money. Politicians do all the time. Why shouldn't they? The question of who gets paid is the only way to answer your question about healthcare in Washington D.C., and the only way that it will be answered in the future. Incidentally, it wasn't the liberals who put together the biggest socialization in medicine in the last 40 years, it was George W. Bush, and Chaney made a lot of it in the Veep debate.

So your question has already been answered. Both Republicans and Democrats (although not you, and maybe not me) believe in socialized medicine, and believe that the people of Washington D.C. are better off with a system of socialized medicine. The fight wasn't about what to do. The fight was about who should get the credit, and which of the interest groups should get paid. The Republicans won that fight, but the system will be increasingly socialized. Instead of your medical choices being made by the government, as Democrats favored, they will be made by the insurance companies, as Republicans favored. The notion that you would continue to make those choices yourself was never seriously considered.


I don't know why you think that a President, of either party, should get to choose extremists to be Supreme Court justices, although I know, historically, that extremists of both left and right have been nominated and have served.

Mainstream Republicans must have found Bork too extreme. I don't know how Republicans like Spector or whoever was in Connecticut could go in front of the voters and explain Bork. If moderate Republicans approved of Bork, they would have found a way to get Bork in.

But beyond that, Bork happened a long time ago. There are fewer moderate Republicans, and fewer Democrats of all stripes. Conservative Republicans have controlled the White House continuously since 1968, with exceptions for the two most conservative Democrats (Carter and Clinton) you will ever come across. The idea that Teddy Kennedy and the liberal media is able to counter that kind of continuous public endorsement of conservative government power is insane. It makes for good television, and for good fundraising, and it makes it easier for Karl Rove to stoke resentments. It is just a strawman, and if you pushed it, it would fall.

The next wave of liberalism will come from the Latino/ Asian community, and it hasn't coalesced yet. The only political arguments over the next several election cycles will be arguments between conservatism and voices for right-wing change. The current Democrat Party is very conservative. John Kerry is very conservative. Kerry runs around saying he can do things better. Real liberals don't say they can do things better. Real liberals say that there is a need to do things differently. The only people saying that things need to be done differently are the people who want to change the 5,000 year old geopolitical structure of the Middle East, destroy Social Security, allow the President to call people terrorists (as that meaning may change in the President's mind from time to time) and jail them indefinitely, and abolish the estate tax. Few of those people are Democrats, and virtually none of them are "liberals".

Robert Bork may not be on the Supreme Court, but Scalia and Thomas are. They were confirmed by Senates far more liberal than the Senate that will confirm the next Supreme Court justice. Your e-mail implies that only Bork will do --- that people like Scalia and Thomas are too liberal to advance any so-called "movement conservative" agenda. I don't know what to make of such a statement, and I really find it hard to believe you do either.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Listen To The Candidates Debate

I hope Kerry wins the election, but I don't think he won the debate. Kerry let a lot of opportunities to go for the kill go by.

When Bush was asked to name three mistakes, Bush claimed that the underpinning of that question was whether or not it was right to go into Iraq. I think Kerry should have said, no, that the underpinning of the question is whether or not, outside of his decision to stop drinking and the spirituality that came from it, Bush had a new idea in his head since he turned 10, and whether or not he was open to new ideas, and whether or not it is a good idea to have a President who really, truly was not open to new ideas.

When Bush continues to point out that Sadman Insane might still be in power if Kerry had been President, Kerry needs to point out that there has been no regime change in North Korea, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Indonesia, Pakistan or Cuba over the last 4 years either. Why, if there were no weapons of mass destruction, and no ties to Al Qaeda, did regime change have to come in Iraq first? [I have an answer in my head, but it would be nice to know if the President has one.]

This is a hard thing to put into a debate format, but Bush says that he wants Supreme Court justices who are strict constructionists, who would have decided Dred Scott differently. Strict constructionists dominated the Supreme Court in 1857, and their strict construction of the Constitution, as it stood in 1857, as it applied to Dred Scott, was likely correct. Where a looser interpretation could have avoided civil strife, the Dred Scott court stood by its strict construction.

(Ironically, a strict construction of the Constitution in 2000 would have said that the litigants had not yet exhausted all the remedies in Florida, and that Bush v Gore could not be decided. Suddenly, the Supreme Court, to avoid civil strife, found that strict construction wasn't such a good idea. If the Supreme Court was composed of judges George Bush liked, Al Gore would most likely be President today.

And by the way, given the fact that there is a Republican President and a Republican Senate, why haven't some of the Republican Supreme Court justices stepped down? These justices are in their 70s and 80s, and their replacements would be in their 40s and 50s. The Democrats worst nightmare, the Republicans greatest dream, should be realized by now. I don't understand it.)

Moving on ---

The answer to the charge that John Kerry has voted to raise taxes 200 times, or 20,000 times, is to figure out how many times John McCain voted to raise taxes. I am sure its pretty close to the number of times Kerry voted to raise taxes. Senators raise taxes. If they didn't raise taxes, they wouldn't be Senators. They would antagonize too many people to be reeelcted.

In response to the accusation that the liberal answer to everything is to form a government bureaucracy, and that a Federal health care system would by its nature deprive the richest Americans of the best possible health care, Kerry should point out that the current system deprives the poorest Americans of any health care.

In response to the common complaint that if Kerry wins, an ambulance-chaser would be one accident away from the Oval Office, I would say that although there is a great need for tort reform, there are incompetent doctors and there are incompetent drug companies, and there is malpractice. Tort reform must be coupled with some way to make sure that where the laws of supply and demand don't work, that big medicine and big drug companies and big technology find a way to get rid of incompetence before the lawyers do.

The difference of opinion on tort reform goes back to the issue as to whether the President has ever made a mistake. The response to the two issues, taken together, is that the President feels that certain people, of a certain breeding or class, never make mistakes, and if they do, they should never have to pay for them. Accountability for thee but not for me. Talk about your flip flops!

I have written about this before, and I won't bore you with it again. The one paragraph version --- The right wing says that if you strip the government of its power, you enhance freedom. The "L" word says that if you strip the government of its power, you just give the power to the corporation and the church. It is an article of faith of the L-people that it is harder for so-called free people to get the corporation and the church to respond to them.

Incidentally, I keep hearing that the cost of insurance has gone up. It should be going up. Thanks to expensive advances in medicine, I am alive today. 20 years ago, I would be dead, and the insurance premiums would still be low. The insurance company would have never had to spend money even trying to keep me alive, since there were no available technologies to save me.

So anyway, Kerry could have done a better job. I don't think he lost the debate in the sense that he will suddenly be seen as incompetent or unelectable. However, given how aggressive Bush was during the debate, Kerry could have been more aggressive as well.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

B Responds To The Weekly Standard

The Weekly Standard runs an Editorial called Another Vietnam

It says

"Bush obviously stands with the large contingent of Americans who are determined that, if we ever did face another Vietnam, never again would we pull out in a headlong rush and leave our allies sinking in the mud, clutching at our helicopter skids as we fly away, with the wreck of the new and better nation we had tried to build collapsing around their heads. Never again will we treat America's trustworthiness and honor, and the hopes of our friends, and the blood-sacrifices of our soldiers, like bad debts to be written off with a shudder."

I responded

I don't know why anyone would make an assertion like that and claim it to be "obvious".

From the Air National Guard, to Armbusto, to the Texas Rangers, to Bush v. Gore, to the hunt for Osama -- W's pattern is clear: Get out when the going gets tough, and leave the fall-out to others.

I believe that Bush will learn the following lesson from Vietnam --

Hold a mock election. Declare victory. Go home.

If Michael Moore had the courage of his anti-war convictions, he'd vote for George Bush.

Forest Hills, New York