B After The Fact

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

More on the Nature of Filibuster

A Red Mind In A Blue State asks:

“I'm still waiting for somebody to explain to me (in simple terms, please) why the fillibuster should be allowed to exist in a democracy? If the Constitution impliedly requires a majority vote (which I assume it does, as the rare occassions requiring 2/3rds are clearly delineated--and judicial nominations do NOT require 2/3, though some might believe that it should) then why should a minority be allowed to force a supermajority vote on any issue?”

I never have understood that. Teach me, somebody, please.

Dear “Red Mind Blue State”

The simple answer:

United States Constitution. Article I Section V Paragraph 2.

"Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member."

I guess the filibuster counts as a rule of its proceedings.

The longer answer (although, I hope, still simple) goes something like this:

We are not in a democracy, we are in a federal republic. It gets more "democratic" all the time, and it is the mix of a changing system that leads to the confusion. Of course, as all “red state” people know – the media has caused this confusion about the nature of democracy, especially Hollywood movies extolling the virtues of democracy. Before Hollywood movies, no one ever had false hopes about the nature of democracy. In fact, before Hollywood movies, there were no problems at all!

Anyway, we're back at States Rights again, and whether Federalism actually means anything.

Filibuster is one of the devices used to make sure that States in the minority are not being rolled by States in the majority, and it is a device used to make sure that states with weird policies -- say, slavery or sharecropping or health coverage for workers or child labor laws or gambling or abortion or medicinal marijuana -- do not completely lose their integrity as states.

As I have been saying for years, States Rights is an argument made by losers. Now that Red Staters are on the winning side, they have forgotten everything they learned from Strom Thurmond about the sanctity of States Rights.

The broader question is not why we need a filibuster in a democracy, but why we need a Senate in a democracy. Cooler heads with longer terms prevailing is an after-the-fact reason. It may be true as an historic coincidence, and it may have even been a reason trotted out at the time that direct election of Senators was adopted (17th Amendment – 1913 – about the time movies were becoming popular --- hmmm), but it wasn’t the reason that the Senate was created by the Framers.

Originally, the purpose of the Senate was to safeguard the interests of States as States. State legislatures elected the Senators, and individuals (those troublesome 14th Amendment constructs) were not involved at all. The Senate is completely a function of States Rights (or, as it came to be played out, protecting slavery and the railroads, and in later years, protecting Jim Crow and corporatism). If the purpose of the Senate is to protect each State’s interests, then the States should have special privileges to prevent passage of what they perceive as hostile Federal intrusion. The filibuster is one way to preserve those privileges.

Since Allan Keyes was losing in Illinois anyway, a portion of his recent campaign called for a repeal of the 17th Amendment. It has been rumored (and it makes sense) that Justice Scalia has called for a reappraisal of the 17th Amendment, in passing, in speeches on other topics. If the State legislatures elected the Senate, like back in the old days, you red-staters wouldn’t be having all your fancy pants notions about democracy and the will of the people.

More seriously, and in fairness to the argument, if people elected House members directly, and United States Senators indirectly, people may take their roles as citizens of individual states more seriously. Maybe they would be more inclined to clean up the cesspool that is Albany, where thousands of people are dining off the taxpayer nickel, and only 3 people (well 6 if you include typists) are doing any real work. More likely, indirect election of U.S. Senators will lead us back to what it used to be -- Senators who owe their jobs to state legislators, who in turn will owe their jobs to the large corporate interests in their individual states. I would use words like "corrupt" and "conflict of interest," but back in those days, it was more accepted (or maybe it wasn't more accepted and that is why there is a 17th Amendment -- perhaps someone could tell me)

(As a note about the only topic I know even a little about – the 1850s --- the Lincoln/ Douglas debates were not really about a U.S. Senate election, but about persuading people in Illinois to vote for the local State assembly people who would in turn vote either Lincoln or Douglas into the Senate. As normally happens, in Illinois in 1858, the popular vote total of the liberal Republican candidate did not translate into the same percentage of liberal Republican state legislature seats. Conservative gerrymandering -- actually, it was more like the Illinois legislature refusal to redistrict based on updated census figures to account for the growth of cities like Chicago -- probably cost Lincoln his Senate seat. Unlike these times, nobody cried about it. Everyone understood it was the way things were.)

Another short answer to the question of why we still have a Senate, with filibuster rules, is that for every random nutjob judge that you lose, you gain 2 additional electoral college votes for the 6 sheep living in Dick Cheney's Wyoming --- not to mention all the Homeland Security and Mass Transit funding that must be divided "equally" for each of the 50 states.

I haven't done the math, or seen the math, but it won't take too long, and I'll try to do it this week -- If you kept the Electoral College "winner take all" formula, but eliminated the 2 additional votes that states like Wyoming and South Dakota get for "their Senators," the electoral college vote would be really close and nobody would be talking about Bush mandates.

By the way, Senator Frist doesn’t want to repeal the filibuster rules. He only wants them repealed for right-wing nutjob judicial appointments. Frist still wants them in place on any topic on which he may need a filibuster. It’s just another example of wanting it both ways – and perhaps having the power to make it stick. Now that we blue state people have rediscovered the glories of Federalism, I look forward to us adopting the cry for term limits of Senators without law degrees!

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Let The Sunshine In, Bill Frist

The Washington Post complains that Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert has started to enforce a new policy that he calls the "majority of the majority" rule. Hastert says that he would not allow the Defense Department/ Homeland Security bill hit the floor this week because even though there were enough combined Democratic/ Republican votes to pass it, there were not enough Republican votes.

The New York Times complains that Senator Frist wants to abolish the centuries-old Senate filibuster rules, so that any nut-job that President Bush cares to nominate will pass the Senate. One of the conservative pundits, I don’t remember who, suggests that until the filibuster rules are changed, the Republicans should hold non-binding votes on Republican judges who are stuck in Democratic filibusters.

Of course, House Republicans have not shown themselves too willing to vote on many things publicly. The vote on the internal rule changes that will allow Tom Delay to retain his chairmanship after he was indicted was done in a closed session. Congressmen who find it expedient to lie to their constituents about their votes are now able to do so.

As an old political science major, I know that a good deal of politics consists of running for cover. My fellow liberals worry about what will happen when the Supreme Court overturns Roe –v- Wade, but the fact is that the Republican Senate has had the votes to overturn Roe –v- Wade for a while now. Republicans don’t want to take the political heat of taking decades-old rights away from women in the United States on the same day they are giving them to the women of Iraq and Afghanistan. They are looking for a Supreme Court to hide behind.

It’s easier for Republicans to bitch about liberal judges making things impossible. Or bitch about a Supreme Court that has, I think, 7 Republican appointees and 2 Democratic appointees. Certain people, and a lot of them are Senators, still cannot understand that the North won the Civil War. As a result certain individual rights exist in the Constitution, and these rights were most definitely not the intent of the Southern slave-owning framers. These rights were exercised, alas, not to enforce racial equality, but to fend off the turn-of-the-century robber barons, like George Bush’s great-grandfathers and their friends, who wrecked this country so badly that it was a day away from turning either fascist or socialist. The only way you can overturn these individual rights, and undo the results of the Sixties and the later New Deal, is to amend the Constitution.

Frist wants to take away the right of Northern Democrats to filibuster against the rare Republican judge who thinks that the United States should look just like it did in the "good-old days" of slavery, and lynching, No Irish Need Apply and child labor, and wife-beating, 12-hour days and the workhouse in your old-age, and one rich man for every 1,000,000 starving men (I know, the shoe was on the other foot, once upon a time, and Northern Republicans filibustered against racist Southern Democratic judges.) Thanks to the filibuster, Republican Senators in swing-states (they still exist) can hurl invective at the “liberals” who are obstructing the “will of the people.” These Republicans are screaming behind a smoke-screen, safe in the knowledge that they will never have to go on record in favor of a nutty judge, or against a woman’s right to choose, or for or against any number of things that would make it hard for them to win re-election.

Now Frist and Hastert want to blow the cover of their fellow Republicans. Let the Sunshine In!

Friday, November 26, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving:

My old friend A Red Mind In A Blue State mentioned his mother and his daughters in his Thanksgiving message, so I want to recount a story about his mother, which he can if he likes share with his daughter, who is as old now as I was when this story took place:

I stayed home for college, and I was the only one of my close friends who did, so I found staying home under the circumstances to be a very dramatic change. I wasn't doing very well with it at all. So when everyone came home from college for the first time, for that first Thanksgiving, Tony's mom, in order to cheer me up, put a huge banner in her kitchen that said "Welcome Home, Bruce."

Obviously, you miss a person like that an awful lot, every day, and I am of course thankful that she was a part of my life, even for a while.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody

Happy Thanksgiving -- Tying Up Some Loose Ends

Happy Thanksgiving:

My old friend A Red Mind In A Blue State mentioned his mother and his daughters in his Thanksgiving message, so I want to recount a story about his mother, which he can if he likes share with his daughter, who is as old now as I was when this story took place:

I stayed home for college, and I was the only one of my close friends who did, so I found staying home under the circumstances to be a very dramatic change, and I wasn't doing very well with it at all. So when everyone came home from college for the first time, for that first Thanksgiving, Tony's mom, in order to cheer me up, put a huge banner in her kitchen that said "Welcome Home, Bruce."

Obviously, you miss a person like that an awful lot, every day, and I am of course thankful that she was a part of my life, even for a while.

I have spent my whole life arguing politics with people to the left of me, and people to the right of me, on some very serious points. At law school, during the Carter years, where the notion of a Reagan Revolution was palpable, but its meaning not entirely clear, I met a lot of people who found their way into good positions with the Bush Administration. In arguing with Long Island Republicans as a college student, with the young Reaganites in law school, and their successors through the last two decades, and after travelling, well not the world over, but the capitals of Europe, and the Middle East, I came to the following conclusion: In the scheme of things throughout the world, no one is more tolerant, more freedom loving or more "liberal" as that term is commonly used, than American conservatives (except of course, for American liberals). The rest of the world seems unable or unwilling to grasp the nature of a conversation amongst Americans, no matter where they are on the political spectrum, that relies on a view of freedom, and on a positive view of human nature, that no one else in the world, including so-called left-wing Europeans, share.

I don't know if my thesis was ever true. I especially don't know if my thesis is still true in a world that thinks that Hillary Clinton is a left-wing radical (what would these people say to a true liberal) or that non-elected judges -- even Supreme Court justices -- really have the power to protect the freedom of the people (Congress could pass any law they want to clarify any ruling the Supreme Court has made. If Congress doesn't do it -- it means they don't have the ability to withstand the heat from either their fellow politicians or the voters).

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Bob Dylan --Chronicles -- Volume One

This surprisingly pleasant book chronicles some important events in Dylan’s career. The book begins with a quick telling of his childhood in Minnesota and an extremely romantic version of his first year or so in New York City, and ends with a Huck Finn version of Dylan’s childhood in Minnesota, and a re-telling of his first year in New York from another point of view.

In the middle, Dylan speaks about his time in Woodstock after his motorcycle crash, the making of the album New Morning, and the making of the album Oh Mercy. It is hard to know what to make of the middle three segments: Dylan writes about avoiding the press in Woodstock after his crash, but not about the height of his fame, and the middle of the 60s. I guess it is hard to write about the storm when you are sitting in the eye of it. Dylan writes about New Morning, but not Blonde on Blonde, where many of the same people also worked with Bob. Dylan starts a segment where it appears that he is going to talk about the Never-Ending Tour, an object of great interest to those of us who love Dylan, but were not part of the 60s, but then he drops it completely to talk about the making of Oh Mercy, an album that I am fond of, but hardly one of his more successful albums. Some of these middle passages contain pages of tough sledding, including an obscure section about the difference between odd-number and even-number music systems (huh). He has another section describing, in impossible detail, a motorcycle ride through the Louisiana bayou with a woman who Dylan refers to as his wife, but should not be mistaken for the other wife that he describes at great length earlier in the book. You have to think Bob was editing old notebooks, although the description of Bob attending the Frank Sinatra, Jr. concert in the Rainbow Room, circa 1969, is a hoot.

Maybe Bob will cover some of these missing topics in Chronicles Volume Two, assuming, of course, that there is a Chronicles Volume Two. I wouldn’t hold my breath. I will certainly run out to read Volume Two the first day that it comes out.

In the meantime, I will happily continue to re-read the New York City and Minnesota sections of Volume One. These chapters are really a history of the care and feeding of one of the most important minds (you can have your own opinion about good or bad, but you can’t argue important) of 20th-century America.

Long stretches of these chapters are devoted to Bob describing what he was reading, and what he was listening to at the time. Of greatest interest to me, of course, was the following passage:

“The New York Public Library … radiates triumph and glory when you walk inside … In one of the upstairs reading rooms I started reading articles in newspapers on microfilm from 1855 to about 1865 to see what daily life was like … It wasn’t like it was another world, but the same one only with more urgency, and the issue of slavery wasn’t the only concern … You wonder how people so united by geography and religious ideals could become such bitter enemies. After a while you become aware of nothing but a culture of feeling, of black days, of schism, evil for evil, the common destiny of the human being getting thrown off course. … It’s hard to find any of the neoclassical virtues, either. All that rhetoric about chivalry and honor – that must have been added later.”

You can’t know whether Dylan was really reading all that stuff in the reading room at the same time he was reading all the stuff he was claiming to read in the apartment of the people he was staying with, being exposed to all the music he says he was listening to, at the same time he was going like a meteor through the Greenwich Village folk scene, a co-worker of Tiny Tim, a protégé of Dave Van Ronk, a lover to Suze Rotolo, and a discovery of John Hammond. Maybe Dylan condensed a lifetime of reading and listening and learning into a few short months for narrative tension. Who cares? It was all really interesting.

I enjoyed all the sections where Dylan described his hunger to hear the obscure folk singers, most of them from the 20s, the old Folkways album crowd. I enjoyed his discussion about how he was listening to Robert Johnson and to the song “Pirate Jenny” at the time he was recording his first album.

I also enjoyed his discussion of the folk scene in both Minneapolis and New York in 1960 or so. Completely self-centered, and unconsciously, but relentlessly, competitive and ambitious, Dylan describes why he stopped being content with singing the old folk songs, and had to start writing his own songs. It is also interesting how many people help Dylan in this book, and being the object of all this attention, you can see, even now, how hard it must have been for Bob Dylan – both then and now -- to process it, to understand that not everyone is in Bob’s position – with a free couch to crash on every night, and not the same one every night.

It is a short book, and I have been fairly dismissive of half of it, but where the book cooks, where he discusses the Civil War, and Robert Johnson and Pirate Jenny, and his time in Minnesota and Greenwich Village, it touches something central. You can see that everyone reading it will come away with their own nugget, their own place where they can see how part of their head is like Bob Dylan’s, and wonder whether or not, somehow or other, Dylan was the cause of the change in your consciousness. If listening to The Basement Tapes or John Wesley Harding changed the nature of the music in my mind, became the thing that lead me to do my own writing about Ulysses Grant in the 1850s, or my recent decision to read and write a book review about James Buchanan.

You sense that Bob is putting you on a little bit, playing hide the ball, describing things accurately, but somehow misstating their relative importance in his scheme of things. Sort of like a carnival barker who showed you far less than he promised, but still showed you something so interesting that it is impossible to say that you were being ripped off.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Remodelling In Progress

Is that how you spell remodelling? Anyway, remodelling in progress.

Working on my novel this morning.

Tomorrow --- B- reviews Dylan's Chronicles -- Volume 1.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Arnold for President? Iraqi "Prisoners" in a Mosque? The Basketball Fan is Always Right?

Safire proposes a 28th Amendmentto allow all citizens, not just native-born Americans to run for President. I am all for Arnold Schwarznegger running for President. In fact I am in favor of an Amendment that says, simply "Arnold Schwarznegger may run for President." But you well know, if the current Republican Party is for this amendment, that it isn't just for Arnold --- that there is an Arab oil sheik turned American citizen just so he can run for President lying in the weeds somewhere. This Amendment is being brought to you by the same people who were outraged --- outraged --- when Bill Clinton took some foreign agent money. Now they want to set the wheels in motion for a foreign agent President, forget the Manchurian Candidate, skip the middle man. There is no end to the cynicism, the anti-democratic, pro-imperialist impulse of these people running our government.

Do I think that you need to grow up here to understand what is fully going on here, in the manner required to be President ---- absolutely. Do I think it is unfair that some people don't get the chance to be President? Hell, I voted for Gore and Kerry.


Some of the most cynical propaganda I have ever read is contained in Errol Morris's Saturday op-ed piece on the American soldier who shot the Iraqi in the mosque. He keeps on referring to the Iraqi as a "prisoner." Prisoner? Prisoner? You can't find baser manipulation of words out of the mouth of Karl Rove. In a country lead by people without shame, I can't expect my newspaper (I subscribe) to do anything except follow their lead. However, giving up even op-ed space to someone calling the Iraqi a "prisoner," as if the spontaneous act from a frightened, wounded American soldier in a combat situation comes from the same people and mindset that brought you Abu Gharib is the basest form of slander. The anti-war guys do not need friends like that, although the anti-Americans can use all the friends they get. We actually do know what we need to know about the mosque shooting. We know that the American soldiers did not break up a prayer service. We know that the mosque had been used by the Iraqis as base from which to kill Americans. It's not like the Americans securing the mosque had never been in a situation of ambush. I appreciate that anti-warriors want to make hay, but when you are in the cross-fire with Bushies, you have to be doubly careful of your own characterizations. You have be in the neighborhood of the facts. Errol Morris has his experiences, too, and he is entitled to them. After making his movie about Robert MacNamara, after getting a load of Donald Rumsfeld, I can't blame him for thinking that all American Secretaries of Defense are unspeakably evil. You will never get me to follow that premise to conclude that all Americans soldiers are evil, or that that all American wars are. Clearly, Morris has a readership that disagrees with me. It is a shame if the New York Times feels that its readership is receptive to Morris's message. It would be a deeper shame if the Times was right.


You can not go into the stands during a sporting event to attack the paying customers, and it is fine by me if you suspend Ron Artest for 8 games, or 80 games (which is what happened) or forever. However, when your customers pay for your work, they have the right to criticize you, but they don't have the right to throw beer at you, throw chairs at you, hurl racial epithets at you, or come into the back-room and start a fight. I keep hearing that the problem is that the "average fan" gets frustrated with the young athlete who does not appreciate his good fortune as a newly-minted multi-millionaire. That may be true about the average fan, but let me remind you that the "average fan" can not get tickets close enough to the floor of any NBA game to be in a position to throw beer and chairs that can hit the athlete. These front row patrons are as wealthy, or wealthier, than the players they are yelling at. See previous incidents in Miami and New York. Many of these front-row fans would be in court or organizing boycotts in the blink of an eye if people said things to them, even in jest, that are said to these players on a night-by-night basis. Can't arrest these fans. Their wealthy lawyers will get them off before the defendant hits the police station. If you tell me that these are not the same people who actually attend these games, that they are re-selling their tickets, then I have to tell you to enforce the anti-scalping laws. If there are no anti-scalping laws left in the "Stub Hub" world, then maybe allowing the NBA to sue some of its worse patrons in civil suits, claiming damage to the ability of the NBA to market their game in a safe environment will get some of these animals in suits to take notice.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

MOMA Leaves Queens, But P.S. 1 Is Still Here

We were invited to a "sneak preview" of Museum of Modern Art, thereby saving ourselves $20 per person on the admission tickets ($40-). There was no food available, other than the coffee that was made available to us in the second floor entry area (more on that in a moment), so we saved a few bucks there. Also, although the gift shop was opened (and my wife talked me out of a $10 coffee mug), the book shop, where we were more likely to purchase, was closed. We saved about $75, and maybe we will plow that back into a donation for a worthy cause, but more likely, we will deem ourselves worthy of the money.

If you care about these things at all, you know something about it by now. The entry way is a massive glass atrium enclosure, no ceiling until the 6th floor. The ceiling on the main part of the second floor, even apart from the atrium is higher than you can see. The wall space is stupendous, especially on 2 and 6. Monet's Water Lillies, which dominate any room are swallowed up in the space on 2. Rosenquist's F-16, an enormous piece, fares better on 6, because it is all alone up there.

The atrium area leaves you with the impression of being in the lobby of some super-corporate skyscraper on steroids. It is a little like going into the Time Warner Shopping Plaza on 59 Street, only much more so. As you are going up the escalators, you are struck by the long, narrow windows that you can use to look out on the street.

The second and sixth floors are immense spaces, swallowing everything. They are antisceptic, and the work has to scream out for itself. Paintings were swallowed up in that space, and it is only now, 24 hours later, that I can remember what paintings I saw there (the Chuck Closes were on 2, together with some of the later Warhols, and the text¬based painting of the late 70s and early 80s. I'm sure there were a lot of paintings on 2 that I don't remember.). Mostly, the installations on 2 are the things that survive the high ceiling, white walls.

The permanent painting and sculpture collection, the stuff we working philistines who actually have $20 want to see, is housed on the 5th, 4th and 2nd floor, in chronological order. The 5th floor has Impressionist pre-cursors, the Picassos, the Matisses, the Surrealists and breaks right before Pollack. The 4th floor has Pollack, Abstract Expressionism, Mimimalism, Pop through the 60s. Although some paintings are moved out of chronological sequence in service of some other point that the curators are trying to make, the "Chicken Little" crowd has vastly overstated the issue.

There is a lot of space for more depth now, especially for Mexican painters, Rivera and Kahlo and Clemente, and other painters from Central and South America. Also, more women, Even a couple of Bill Traylor pencils on cardboards, that darling of primitive art, lines up in chronological order, as if he was one of the artists that the other artists of the 30s even heard of.

We didn't see every single room, but it seemed to me that Surrealism was more dominant than it had been before, even if! did miss all of the Duchamps (my wife says no, we saw them, I don't remember them).

The ceilings on the 5th floor are also higher, and there is also more wall space, the paintings are spread out more, but it is not like on 2, where the walls swallow the paintings. What 5 does have, and what you may have seen in some of the newspaper pictures, are wide angles. Unlike the old place, the paintings don't jump at you so much, you see them from a great distance now, and your ability to see them from that far away has the effect of seeing many of these paintings for the first time. The effect is pleasant and jarring at the same time, far more so than the transplant of some of these same paintings from 53rd Street to MOMA Qns over the last few years.

You are also struck by something akin to American Imperialism. "Starry Night" is on the center of a long row of paintings. There is one of the Gaugins, then some other heavy hitter, I think a Degas, the "Starry Night," and two famous French paintings right after it. A very rich meal, all on permanent display for New Yorkers.

My favorite moment of the day was seeing one of my favorite paintings, also one of the oldest paintings (what a middle-aged man I am), Rousseau's The Dream. The Modern has re-hung the painting so that instead of having to look up to see the painting, you are now on eye level with the snake charmer, the sandman, and you have to look down into the vegetation to see the snake and the lions. I may have gotten such a thrill from the change because I know the painting so well. Maybe others will find other small pleasures from their favorite paintings.

The placement of the paintings on 5 and 6 have not changed as much as other people say. There are not a lot of words on the wall, not a lot of paintings contain descriptions demanding you to react to the painting in a certain way. Of course, this might just be crass commercialism. If they are not posting free signs telling you what to see, then you are more inclined to spend your extra money on an audio tour, but even then, I did not see a lot of paintings with numbered labels on them (the signal to press a button on the audio tour.)

The 4th floor did not have the big entryways. The ceilings did not seem so high. Maybe by then, two hours into our visit, I had gotten used to things, but my old friends on 4 were still the same to me, joined by some new ones, but not any more or less swallowed up than I had seen them before, both at MOMA or Whitney or at the Tate.

The drawing collection is bigger than ever, but it felt the same as in the old place. The light was better, the space was better, but the ceilings did not really seem that much higher. The design collection seemed great, but I don't remember spending much time in the design collection in the past, so I don't have a lot to compare it to.

As I said before, I do not feel that the sequencing of the permanent collection, or the points that are trying to be made by that re-sequencing, to be all that earth-moving. I have read a lot of hand-wringing, and I have seen quotes from people, including some of the curators at the Modern, indicating that big changes were afoot, but these curators have to say that big changes are afoot, or they wouldn't be paid big money. Mostly, what was added was depth, and the depth causes a certain shifting, both physically and emotionally, in your reaction to what you are seeing. The MOMA is still governed by the historical, chronological approach, even during those moments when landscapes were side-by-side¬-by-side-by-side.

Even though we enjoyed being in the museum for free, or because we were in the museum for free, we did not get a full blast of what our visit might be like. For example, the museum experience is not complete for us unless we have had a meal in the cafeteria, which was closed. We also like to spend a lot of time in the bookstore, since the museum bookstores, generally, are better stocked than most libraries (at least as far as art books are concerned).

I also have a sense that the atrium will be used as a sort of public square. There may be vendors when you walk in, or a cafe, or even noon-time and Sunday concerts. So even though we had a free sneak preview in a less than crowded museum, we will not have the full experience until we show up on a busy Sunday afternoon.

There is a lot of stuff out there about the new museum if you care to find it. None of them make these points, so I will make them here:

Kimmelman in the Times raised pros and cons. Others liked it less, some more.

Three things to note about the experience of going to the Modern during these next few months.

1. After the first year or so, what the Museum does, at least to the general art-going public (whatever that is) is a function of its special exhibitions and its new acquisitions. Going to the Modern over the next six months to see only the permanent collection is like going to OldTimers Day at Yankee Stadium but not staying for the game with A-Rod and Derek Jeter. It may be more fun to see Reggie Jackson then any of the current players, but you are missing the Main Event.

That is true even in a museum full of Picassos and Pollacks. The permanent collection is only ever kind of permanent anyway. Things are seldom together for any one time. Matisses may be in Madrid in exchange for Hockneys being displayed in the current special exhibition, etc. These permanent collection paintings are meant, to me, to frame the main exhibitions and to frame the ongoing changes in the collection. I said that I thought that the museum may have left information off the walls in order to sell more audio tours. It also sends another message that the historical collection is meant to be the closet, the backdrop.

If this museum is simply about 20th century Modernism, then the sterile building is no longer just a big box where the paintings are allowed to speak for themselves, but a mausoleum. It is unlikely to me that MOMA is going to let an academic definition of what it means to be Modern in the 20th century ruin the museums mission in the 21st century.

I think all the fuss about what the hanging of the permanent collection is about to be a lot of picking at a small target. People are complaining because the permanent collection is the only art in the museum to complain about.

2. In order for the museum to thrive in the 21st century, in order for it to be something vital, the MOMA must continue to present contemporary work. There is always contemporary work at MOMA, but it is sometimes a little hard to find. One interesting thing about the MOMA Qns experience is that because the space was so small, the one contemporary show really stood out. It made the MOMA Qns experience, which has been derided by Manhattanites as a 7-Train to hell, to be a far more accurate experience of what the MOMA's function ought to be.

In the new larger space, contemporary shows have to be larger as well. It turns out that the contemporary shows were not large enough in the old MOMA, and they are going to have to be larger (or more numerous) in the new MOMA.

3. Another way to keep the MOMA both "Modern" in the Picasso sense, and "Contemporary" and vital in the sense that I mention, is to make more use of MOMA's ownership of P.S. 1. Everyone knows about P.S. 1, but those of us who go there know what a terrific place it can be. P.S. 1 really is a converted old-fashioned elementary school. It has a lot of up-to-the-minute art, and each classroom contains different surprises. There are a lot of installations, and a lot of art from people and places I would not think of generally (Art of Mexico, Art of struggling Irish Youth, Art in 21st Century Queens), and a lot of art I am just as happy never to see again. However, it is contemporary and it helps define the new scene. It also helps that P.S. 1 is in Queens, because there is nowhere on the planet, right now, that is more contemporary than Queens!

The old cafeteria at P.S. 1 has become a nice place to pick up a sandwich, and the schoolyard, which contains some really odd sculpture, converts nicely into a safe community party on certain Saturday nights, and a family recreation and crafts center on summer Sunday afternoons.

The current MOMA website has a very visible link to P.S. 1. However, when the two museums were in walking distance of each other, MOMA Qns did not advertise its connection to P.S. 1 very heavily. Someone must have been too worried about being tainted with being too "outer-borough" for some people.

In offering a less expensive alternative to what is contemporary, P.S. 1 can serve as a breeding ground for the sorts of concepts that MOMA is becoming too big and entrenched to take care of. The key is for both museums, and the states of mind that both museums represent (Modern versus Contemporary)(Big versus Small)(Europe versus the Americas) to work with each other. Sort of like what Manhattan and the Outer Boroughs need to do in the years ahead!

Saturday, November 13, 2004

James Buchanan

James Buchanan by Jean H. Baker

Part of a series of 200-page books called The American President Series

It seems to me that any list of our worst Presidents can not be headed by so-called criminals like Nixon, or by incompetents like Grant and Harding, or by people like Hoover, who left the country much poorer financially than they found it. Or even by Bush 41 or Clinton 42 or Bush 43. Only James Buchanan left office in 1861 with fewer states than the country had when he took office in 1857. Buchanan failed at job one, and must therefore be considered our worst President. This book explores the possible lessons to be learned by Buchanan’s complete failure.

Professor Baker relies on our image of Buchanan as some sort of dithering anachronism, helplessly watching the South secede. This image is mostly a comparison to Lincoln. The book’s point is that although Buchanan was an anachronism (he was in his 60s when he began his term, and was the oldest President before Eisenhower to complete his term), he was not dithering. Buchanan had an expansive, modern view of Presidential power, which he was not afraid to execute.

In the months leading up to his inauguration in 1857, Buchanan intervened behind the scenes to get the strongest possible pro-Southern decision in the Dred Scott case. He sent in troops to assert the Federal authority in Utah. He combined Jackson’s views of “to the victor belongs the spoils,” with 20th century views. He resorted to open pork barreling and influence peddling during the fight over Congressional ratification of the so-called Lecompton Constitution, and the other events surrounding the turmoil in Kansas. Although the book does not cover this, Buchanan went deep into the middle branches of government-appointed workers (local postal clerks, for example) to weed out supporters of Stephen A. Douglas, a fellow Democrat with whom Buchanan disagreed, after the famous Lincoln-Douglas election of 1858.

Professor Baker’s point is that Buchanan let the South leave the Union during the fateful winter of 1860-1861, not because of some sort of fancy view of the limits of Presidential authority, or the role of individual States in the United States, but because he agreed with Southern rhetoric that painted all people who were opposed to slavery as virulent abolitionists. In this view, the Southern way of life was not simply slavery, but the prevention of a world where black men would obviously spend their time raping white women.

Buchanan’s rhetoric proposed that anything that destroyed the Southern way of life, or anything that caused Southerners to feel insecure about the retention of the Southern way of life, permitted the South to take whatever actions that were needed to preserve its lifestyle. Professor Baker raises the point that the Pennsylvanian Buchanan adopted his elevated view of Southern life from a career of seeking not only political support from Southern politicians, but as the only- bachelor President, seeking personal friendship from Southern politicians, as well.

Buchanan’s cabinet was comprised completely of Southerners and Southern-sympathizing Northerners. Buchanan relied on long daily cabinet meetings. The book suggests that Buchanan held these meetings as much to stave off loneliness as for any benefit that might be derived in running the nation. After the Southern states began to secede, Buchanan continued to rely on pro-secessionist Southern politicians, many from states that had already seceded, to devise a Federal response to the secession crisis.

It was only in the third month of the secession crisis (January 1861), that one member of Buchanan’s cabinet was driven from office in a procurement scandal unrelated to secession, and other cabinet members resigned over Buchanan’s refusal to yield up enough Federal property to South Carolina. At that point, pro-Unionists such as the Attorney General Jeremiah Black, and the new Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, were able to engage Buchanan in a holding pattern to slow down the secession tide until Lincoln’s inauguration (which in those times did not occur until March 4). By January, however, Buchanan exacerbated the dilemma caused by the need to keep the Federal forts in South Carolina properly supplied and garrisoned. (In a seeming contradiction, Buchanan felt that it was alright for the states to secede, but he felt that Federal property within the States -- such as forts -- continued to belong to the Federal government, and could not be yielded without negotiations.) By January, the nation was on the path to the crisis that would end with the attack on Fort Sumter.

Professor Baker feels that if Buchanan was not a true believer in the Southern cause, he could have taken actions to prevent, or at least slow down secession. His actions in Dred Scott, Utah and Kansas showed that he was not afraid of Presidential power.

Instead, Buchanan took the bizarre position that secession was unconstitutional, but the government lacked a remedy to prevent it. In other words, even if you took the Southern position that the United States had no more legitimacy than a commercial partnership, Buchanan held that somehow the United States lacked the sort of jurisdiction over the several States that an equity court would hold over business partners seeking involuntary dissolution. An equity court would at least prevent the parties from dissolving in a disorderly fashion.

Professor Baker shows that Buchanan was not senile. No President prior to George H.W. Bush came to the White House with more relevant qualifications to be President. He made his financial fortune early as a powerful Pennsylvania lawyer, and he had been a Congressman and a Senator. Buchanan had been Polk’s Secretary of State, and also consul to Russia. Buchanan was envoy to England from 1853 to 1856, immediately before being elected President, which turned out to be extremely advantageous politically, as he was out of the country working on foreign policy while the country was in convulsions during the Kansas-Nebrsaka debates in 1854. Due to Buchanan’s political aspirations, he turned down several offers to be a Supreme Court justice.

Buchanan believed the rhetoric of slaveholders, and believed that anyone who opposed the slaveholders to be the most ardent abolitionists, and unpatriotic defilers of the concept of the Constitution as a compact of the States. Under this theory of States Rights, the Federal government had the obligation to protect the institutions of each of the several states. Since slavery states needed special protections, this theory of states rights argued that the Federal government ought to grant states with slavery special protections, such as Slave Codes. Buchanan took this view, which, to my way of thinking, leaves men and women out of the Constitution, to be the reasonable consensus of the country. It was in fact, merely the consensus of Buchanan’s own social circle of Southern radicals.

According to the “Directorate,” as the Southern cabinet members who imposed party discipline were called, everyone opposed to the Southern view was explicitly a Black Republican abolitionist and implicitly someone who was in favor of miscegenation, or even the continual rape of white women. (Lincoln addressed this issue directly in one of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, stating that “just because I don’t want a black woman for a slave does not mean I want her for a wife”).

Buchanan, of course, did not need to see as far as Lincoln. He did need to see, however, that there were other valid views beside his own view. If he did not see that he was President of all people, he should have at least seen that he was President of all the states. Buchanan, despite all the wreckage that slavery had cost his Presidency, really did not believe that Northerners would stake the main business of the Union --- Manifest Destiny and prosperity,liberty and justice --- well, for some – on the fate of the black man. This narrow vision thing lead to Buchanan’s demise and the nation’s ultimate trial.

Saturday, November 06, 2004


This essay is called

"The Civil War Must Be Refought In Every Generation"

I wrote it 1996, after listening to Robert Dole accept the Republican nomination for President. I did not try to update it (although since I wrote it on a word processor, I just had to spend the morning re-typing it), as I feel that even my references to things that are not currently discussed are about things just lurking under the surface.

It is my bedtime story, and it informs everything political and historical that I write.

It is a little pedantic, as I cover points that you all know about. When I re-read it, some of it seemed contradictory, but I realize that what it proves, again, is that I stand in an odd place politically. There is a little more conservative blood in me than in most self-described liberals, but not enough to be a Republican!

Having written such a long essay, I will not mouth off any further except to say

(i) in fighting the fight, always remember that the things you fear have not happened yet, and may not happen at all. It is always better, if harder, to respond to reality.

(ii) that although Bush and Cheney lead this parade, and will have to pay for it at great cost over the next four years, I don't think they are really of it. Their complaints go even further back than the Civil War. The essay that applies to them is:

"What Was So Wrong With George III Anyway?"

Here it is --


We are still, 200 years later, a new experiment on the face of the earth. We are a nation conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that certain truths are self-evident. All men are created equal. We are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights, such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We, the people, in order to form a more perfect Union, founded a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

It is easy to say that we fall short of these ideals every single day. For about fourscore and seven years, the ideals themselves were questioned. Some argued that all men were not created equal, and that the best way for some men to live was as the property of other men. Citizenship was not granted on the basis of where you were born, but on the color of your skin.

Some argued that the people had no legitimacy to form a more perfect Union. Some said that the people had nothing to do with the Union, that the Union was one of States, not people. It was, after all, the United States of America, and not the United People of America. Any rights that the people had came from the individual States, and not the United States.

In 1856, former President Fillmore ran for election with a third party, the Know-Nothing Party. He won 21 percent of the popular vote on a platform that sought to eliminate benefits to immigrants, whether they were citizens or not. There was a feeling that Germans and Roman Catholics were taking too many jobs from real Americans.

Then we engaged in a great civil war, in which those believed in one ideal fought against those who believed in another ideal. Meade held off Lee at Gettysburg. Sherman burned down Atlanta and Charleston. Grant marched into Richmond.

The single fact of our history is that the Union won the Civil War in 1865, and those who lost it have been trying to reverse that result ever since. When people say that the 60s are a mistake, or that such and such a thing proves that the 60s spirit is still alive, and that people have the power, or that such and such a thing proves that the 60s are over, and good riddance, I always have to ask them which 60s they are talking about.

Slavery was abolished in the 60s, and the 14th Amendment gave all citizens equal rights. Among other factors, a labor movement, a woman’s suffrage movement, a civil rights movement, and a nationalist Supreme Court, tried to inch the concept of equal rights closer to reality.

Land was plentiful. If you lacked an opportunity, or could not take advantage of an opportunity, you could go west.

We needed more help, and with more open-handedness and more open-heartedness than any people in the history of the earth, we invited people who were willing to work to come join us. We educated the children of these people. We demanded that the government educate them. We took advantage of this education. We succeeded and succeeded.

From another land, a power arose that believed that more people were more equal than others. That some people were slaves, and that other people really weren’t people at all. This power felt that citizenship was not to be based on who you are, or where you were born or what you agreed to do as a citizen, but on who your great-grandfather was. We smote that power and we ruled the world.

Were things better then, as Bob Dole says they were? I guess if you are the only country standing after the rest of the world is destroyed, things will be better for the winners. If we wanted to destroy the rest of the world, and be winners like that, things could be “better” again. Sexual repression and rigid religious intolerance did not make things better then. Low taxes, no Miranda rights, and lynchings did not make things better. Winning World War II made things better.

A Cold War simmered after that. We were opposed by an evil empire. Why was it evil? One reason was that it took a good idea – our idea of government of the people, by the people, and for the people --- and perverted it. We won that war, too.

After the Cold War ended, we saw something strange happening. We discovered that in places like Yugoslavia, 45 years of totalitarianism, of police state repression and fear, could not wipe out the basic centuries-old animosity that people had for their neighbors.

The same is true here in the United States. The great animosity that never quite went away and that revived itself full-throttle after the United States won the Cold War, was the great fact that the Union won the Civil War in 1865, and the losers have been trying to reverse that result ever since.

When Newt Gingrich speaks of a Contract with America, and when Pat Buchanan speaks of a cultural war, and when, most surprisingly to me, Bob Dole, the man from bleeding Kansas, in accepting the Republican nomination, denigrates the legitimacy of the executive branch to spend tax dollars, and relies on the “American people” (whoever they are), we discover that despite the fact that all Americans have fought to defend this country through two World Wars, a Cold War, and assorted other wars, despite the unparalleled success of the United States from 1865 to 1996, we cannot wipe out the basic fact that not everyone accepted the result of the Civil War.

The Civil War must be refought in every generation, and in this generation, there are times when it seems that the losers of the Civil War are winning the latest battle.

The battle manifests itself in a platform that attempts to deny the basic rights of citizenship to children born in America. It defines citizenship, just as Millard Fillmore and the Know-Nothings did, just as slave owners did, totally on who your grandparents were. If there is an “American people” as Bob Dole say, and not “American citizens” as the Constitution says, you wind up with a nativist Republican platform plank.

The battle manifests itself in any and every discussion of block grants. Only in an environment which values states rights over the rights of people could we pass laws where a taxpayer from New York or California pays money to Washington and then be told by Washington that the money was being transferred to Little Rock and Jackson without any oversight, without any right of the person from New York or California to know what the money was being used for. This is neither a state tax nor a Federal tax. It is a state with certain values trying to assert primacy over a state with other values.

The battle manifests itself in any and every discussion of the legitimacy of Federal taxes. If we the people tried to form a more perfect Union, and the Federal government, over the long term, is somewhat responsive to we the people, then the government is worthy of our financial support. After all, without the Federal government, we would not be as prosperous. Through the coordination of the Federal government, we the people built canals, built turnpikes, built the railroads, supported the transcontinental cable, built the interstate highway system, launched telecommunications satellites, flew to the moon, and through the military, developed the Internet. People made financial fortunes standing on the shoulders of the efforts of we the people. Everyone’s tax dollars went to developing the tools through which many of these efforts were possible.

However, if the government of the United States is to the individual states what the United Nations is to the individual nations, then paying taxes to the Federal government can be seen as intrusive, redundant, and illegitimate, despite the Constitutional amendment expressly allowing Federal income taxes. If the Federal government is not worthy of financial support, it is not that important, and it should not be too worrisome to shut the Federal government down.

The very notion of a “Contract With America,” the very choice of the words “Contract With America.” no matter what its contents, implies that the government is not of the people, by the people, and for the people. The very notion of a Contract “with” America implies that government is an outside alien entity that needs to enter a contract with the American people (whatever that means) to be legitimate.

That, however, was not the result of the Civil War. The result of the Civil War was that there is no Contract with America. There is a contract of, by and for America. It is called the Constitution. It is made among people with American citizenship, which is a privilege that comes with being born on the land, or comes by meeting certain minimal citizenship requirements. I hold these truths to be self-evident. Pat Buchanan does not.

The people who wish to defend the Constitution better wake up and go to war to defend it. The people against the Constitution have been wide awake for a very long time.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

The Man Who Would Be King

It should be clear to you by now that I am more pro-war than almost all Democrats. The failure of the Bush Administration to explain its war aims disturbs me a great deal.

The failure to find WMDs does not disturb me at all. Those of us who supported the war, but not the stated rationale behind it, had an obligation to explain ourselves more publicly, to force the Bush Administration to state publicly whether it agreed with our goals, and more importantly to engage the American people in a discussion of these goals. If the American people were opposed, after a fair hearing, that opposition should have been factored in.

Our goal -- democracy in the Middle East, or at least a system in the Middle East where democracy will not be disturbed elsewhere --- will take at least 90 years or more to achieve. It took 45 years to fight and win the Cold War, and that was among people who shared our religious traditions, and saw democracy and freedom in the same way we did. Many of the Europeans had experienced some degree of freedom, and were merely trying to get back what they lost.

So as a loose rule of thumb, I am saying that it will take at least twice as long for democracy to root and hold in the Middle East, where the traditions are different, where there is absolutely no experience with any sort of freedom. That 90-year estimate is based on the notion that the United States maintain a presence in the Middle East that entire time. Those of us who believe this to be true did not state this agenda openly. We were hoping that the truth would become apparent along the way. Perhaps they might still. We have only been in the Middle East for a few weeks, especially when compared to the 90-year committment we are going to need to make.

Perhaps I am all alone out here in my analysis, but I doubt it. Anyway, the failure to state this goal openly, to see if it would respond to a thorough scrubbing, will make it almost impossible to accomplish our goal. Now the goal is being attacked by the left because the President is a conservative. Once the President is a liberal, it will be attacked from the right as a breach of American isolationism. People are saying that already, but after a liberal President is elected, those voices will be encouraged. The failure to accomplish the goal in the Middle East, once we set out on the path in Iraq, will come back to kill us.

I am terribly afraid of what John Kerry might mean to the security of Israel, and by extension to Jews everywhere. I am sensitive to the opinions of people like Charles Krauthammer and William Safire. They warn that if Kerry seeks a world consensus to solving the situation in Iraq, then the consensus solution will be to destroy Israel. Given the dynamics of the situation, the destruction of Israel will mean the destruction of a great many, if not most, Jews worldwide.

However, 80% of the Jews will continue to vote Democratic. In the end, the response to people like William Safire and Charles Krauthammer must be: If you feel that strongly about Israel, you should go and live there. If you believe that you have more influence over the future of Israel by staying in the United States and attempting to increase the influence of Jews and pro-Jewish thinking in the United States, that is more than wrong thinking. That is a death wish.

Those of us who choose to remain in America must do what we can, as Americans, to fill America's mission of more freedom. If you must tie the American mission to "what's good for Israel", you must come to the conclusion that more freedom is better for everyone, and since Israel is part of everyone (despite Europe's best efforts), more freedom is better for Israel. If the only way for more freedom in the United States is to liberate the Middle East, then the 90-year war is a good idea. If it will not lead to more freedom in the United States, it is a bad idea.

An important part of freedom is honest and open discussion of what America needs to do next. Contrary to what John Kerry says, that is not a discussion that Europeans are qualified to have. Contrary to what Orrin Hatch says, that is not a discussion that Arnold Schwarznegger or some soon to be determined Arab Prince should someday be qualified to lead. That is a conversation that only Americans are qualified to have and only Americans are qualified to lead.

If the Old World was not a sewer, most of our ancestors would not have made such a treacherous trip over here in the first place. I'm certainly not going to escape from hell, and then call the Devil up for advice.

That is not to say that America is perfect, that is not to say that America has fulfilled its promise by a long shot. That is only to say that America, over time, and not every single day, is by far the best of an incredibly motley crew.

I have no use for those who worry that America lost some moral authority in the eyes of Europeans. You could stink up the world every day for a zillion years, kill everyone you see, and not catch up to the history of European depravity.

I have no use for those who worry that too much free speech by a United States Senator running for the President of the United States gives aid and comfort to our enemies in the Middle East. I do not conduct my business, I do not tailor my freedom, for the approval of life forms who only respect a kick in the teeth.

I have said this since the day he announced his candidacy. Bush is not a Republican, and Bush is not a Democrat. Bush is a Bush.

Just as those of us who believe in the 90-year war for freedom in the Middle East were unclear about our motives for war, Bush was unclear about his. Since Bush never cleared up the confusion, we are allowed to draw our own conclusions.

Republicans have made up rationalizations for the war, and for the prison scandal, and for the disappearance of the weapons, and for every other action that this Administration has taken during the War on Terror, and for many domestic actions as well (the cost of the Medicaid proposal being just the most obvious).

The facts are controlled by the Bush Administration, and it is clearer and clearer that the facts are being suppressed. Since there are no facts, Republican rationalizations cannot possibly conform with the facts, and any overlap of Republican rationalization and the truth is the merest coincidence.

This was true of Bush 41 as well, by the way, and all this sudden Bush 41 nostalgia amongst Conservative Democrats forgets that point. Bush 41 thought that an honest explanation of his policies was beneath him. In 1992, he sent surrogates out not just to do the dirty work of trashing his opponent, but also the honest work of explaining the ruler to the masses. All of the things that Bush 41 tried to accomplish came to pass, but 41 did not get credit for them, and he did not deserve credit for them.

In a democracy, it is not enough to be right. You also have to lead the people. Governing in a democracy without revealing your true motivies did not work for 41, and whatever the result of the election today, it will not work for 43 either. Ultimately, and not very far away, even those supporting 43 are going to need to know the facts, not simply so they can bash Democrats, but so they can live their own lives.

Incidentally, despite recent jabber, including from this blog site, faith must also be based on facts, based on truth. Misapprehension of God and your place in God's order, which can be short-handed into the buzzwords a "lack of humility," can lead to actions that are not consistent with what God wants from us on Earth. If you don't have the facts, you don't know where you are. If you don't know where you are, it is hard to know how to pray. Excessive faith is just like excessive anything else.

We are drowning in words, and parched for facts, much less truth. It is impossible to determine what Bush's true intentions were, are, or will be. In such times as these, Democrats should be entitled to make things up too. Al Gore says, and I have come to believe, that Bush's entire reason for the Iraq War was to put a smokescreen in front of a domestic power grab. Since no one who may know the true facts -- Bush, Cheney, can't be more than 6 others -- will say what the true facts are, who among the Republicans has the moral standing, has the facts at their disposal, to say that Al Gore is wrong?

If no one knows the facts about the prison scandals or the missing munitions, who has the power to call John Kerry a liar? It is not enough for the President to say that no one else knows what they are talking about because only the President knows what's going on. What little we know from the 9/11 Commission tells us that the President didn't know what was going on either.

We say we are free, but we are constantly deprived of the facts and truth that are needed to maintain freedom. If we are constantly being told that the liquid in our face is rain, we will eventually believe nothing. People who believe nothing, who have lost their ability to compare different things being told to them, will believe anything that offers a change, will believe anything that strikes them as attractive. The more attractive sounding promise is always the one that makes you less free in the end. Freedom is nothing but hard work.

People who promise less have fewer points on their "to do" list, fewer points of contention amongst themselves. It is easier for them to stick together. That is why those in favor of less freedom always will have the upper hand on those in favor of more freedom. It is always more attractive to promise people less hard work. Demolition, destruction, hatred, killing, leaving the construction to be done by someone else, is always the least work of all.

Whatever I think of this or that Bush policy, whatever I think of this or that Kerry policy, who cares. It doesn't matter much, because the issue about Bush (any Bush --take your pick) transcends war and peace and tax cuts and abortion and gay rights and stem cells and federalism and the status of race and gender and God in America.

There is an election for the President of the United States. You cannot vote for a man who would be king. A man who would be king does not need the vote of the people.