Friday, July 04, 2003

Kudos to Senator Frank Lautenberg
Though Congress is in recess, some Democrats criticized Bush's "bring 'em on" statement. "I am shaking my head in disbelief," said Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.). "When I served in the Army in Europe during World War II, I never heard any military commander -- let alone the commander in chief -- invite enemies to attack U.S. troops." Lautenberg's statement said Bush's words were "tantamount to inciting and inviting more attacks against U.S. forces."

A thought for July 4th

In honor of the clueless 'Strawberry' of Maplewood Online fame

from MoveOn.org
MoveOn Bulletin Op-Ed
by Zack Exley

Patriotism is love of country. But love comes in many forms: deep, permanent and unconditional, as well as superficial, fleeting and with strings attached. Too often in America, expressions of patriotism seem to flow from our perceived status as "number one" -- number one in terms of military might, wealth, freedom, and democracy. Our leaders remind us in nearly every speech they make that we live in the "greatest, freest, most just nation on Earth." They remind us so often, that one can't help but wonder if they really do believe it. That is a patriotism borne of fear, confusion and insecurity.

What if America wasn't -- or isn't -- number one? Would we still love our country then? Suggest American fallibility, and you may find yourself labeled a traitor. But how, then, are we to find our way to a better America, if this superficial, insecure patriotism prevents us from naming problems that need fixing and traits that need changing?

The solution is to reject false, jingoistic patriotism, and to embrace a patriotism based on the unconditional love of one's country. Note: that's unconditional love, not unconditional approval. Like a parent loves a child, or a child a parent, we love our country because it is OUR country. Period.

Beware: this type of patriotism brings with it much more responsibility than the kind based on superficial, conditional love. Once you accept responsibility for your country in the way that a parent does for a child -- or a child for a parent -- then you're really committed. When your country misbehaves, you can't just roll your eyes as if you had nothing to do with it.
Too many on the left have tried to absolve themselves of responsibility for their country by saying "that's my government, not me." Too many on the right have tried to erase the responsibility governments have to represent all the people by saying, "Love it (read 'agree with me') or leave it!"

Perhaps as old political categories such as left and right lose their relevance, we can aim for a new political unity based on a new kind of patriotism. Let's leave behind the hollow patriotism which is based on disdain for and fear of others. Instead, let's define a new patriotism -- one that expresses our unconditional love for America and lives up to our responsibility to our fellow Americans.

Happy Independence Day!

I hope yours has been a good one.

Tha Maplewood fireworks were, as usual, pretty short, but they had quite the finale this year. A long volley of the big loudenboomers (I have no idea what various pyrotechnics are called). Very dramatic ... but I find that, since 2001, I've lost most of my taste for fireworks displays. They're too much a reminder of real guns and bombs.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Unemployment hits a 9-year high

Yeah, tell me about it. I'm looking for a job...got one for me?

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Trenton Readies the Pink Slip for Baraka

Amiri Baraka, once an artist and now a racist idealogue, says he's going to sue on 1st Amendment grounds when Gov. McGreevey signs into law the bill eliminating the post of Poet Laureate.
"This is a clear violation of First Amendment rights and when the governor is foolish enough to sign it, I plan to sue," Baraka said. "This is another kind of lynching; it makes New Jersey look like Mississippi North."

Baraka, 68, of Newark, set off shock waves when he recited his poem at the Dodge Poetry Festival at Waterloo in Sussex County. The poem includes the lines: "Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed? Who told 4,000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers to stay home that day?"

The stanza is based on discredited claims that Israeli intelligence tipped its citizens and American Jews to avoid the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
"I contend still that Israeli citizens were warned," Baraka said. Of course, he provides no proof for his contention - I wouldn't be at all surprised if he believes that The Protocols of The Elders of Zion is the straight shit, too. Nonetheless, while spewing his own brand of racism he manages to paint himself as the victim. This sounds amazingly familiar - it's the same trick the ruling radical right use to "prove" that the world is dominated by "liberals" and the "liberal agenda."

Baraka is still a citizen and, as such, he can say almost anything he wants (or at least that used to be the case, pre-Ashcroft). But, given that the Poet Laureate post was created "to celebrate New Jersey's rich poetic history as the home of Walt Whitman, Joyce Kilmer and William Carlos Williams," there's no justification for him to be doing it with the imprimatur of the State of New Jersey.

So, to Amiri Baraka's threat of lawsuits I say, in the undying words of George W Bush, "Bring them on!"

How to win friends and influence people

The Bush administration has banned military aid to some 50-odd countries because those countries recognize The International Criminal Court and have not exempted US citizens from prosecution under its jusrisdiction. What? We haven't alienated enough of our friends and allies?

Well, I guess they're consistent, at least. It used to be said that the United States was a nation of laws. Back in January the usually odious Bill O'Reilly wrote (albeit in another context completely) "We are a nation of laws, except when politicians don't want to enforce them. " And, at least in this context, he's right - the ruling radical right have no interest in the rule of law. If they did, we'd expect our troops to live up to the same standards of behavior that the rest of the civilized world expects. Not to mention that Al Gore would be in the White House and UNMOVIC and the IAEA, and not our troops, would be in Iraq.

Whither Vidbel's?

I'd been seeing signs around Maplewood for the annual July 4th celebration, and noticed that this year we're getting the Alain Zerbini Circus. For the last umpty-ump years Maplewood has hosted Vidbel's Old Tyme Circus on Independence Day, and so I wondered what was up? Apparently Vidbel's has received a prestigious invitation to a festival of some sort, in the midwest - could it be the Circus World Festival in Baraboo, Wisconsin?

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

God told me: George W Bush is scary

Ha'aretz via Josh Marshall
According to Abbas, immediately thereafter Bush said: "God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East. If you help me I will act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on them."

Robert McCloskey
Robert McCloskey, the writer and illustrator whose classic children's books — among them "Make Way for Ducklings" and "Blueberries for Sal" — captivated generations of young readers and their parents, died yesterday on Deer Isle, Maine. He was 88.
Farewell to Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack. Watch out for the Swan Boats.

Monday, June 30, 2003

Scalia to the Rescue!

It's been pointed out to me that Justice O'Connor specifically exempted marriage from her "moral disapproval" argument that I made earlier.
Texas cannot assert any legitimate state interest here, such as national security or preserving the traditional institution of marriage. Unlike the moral disapproval of same-sex relations—the asserted state interest in this case—other reasons exist to promote the institution of marriage beyond mere moral disapproval of an excluded group.

But Justice Scalia, in his dissent, comes to my rescue
This reasoning leaves on pretty shaky grounds state laws limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples. JUSTICE O’CONNOR seeks to preserve them by the conclusory statement that “preserving the traditional institution of marriage" is a legitimate state interest. Ante, at 7. But “preserving the traditional institution of marriage" is just a kinder way of describing the State’s moral disapproval of same-sex couples. Texas’s interest in §21.06 could be recast in similarly euphemistic terms: “preserving the traditional sexual mores of our society." In the jurisprudence JUSTICE O’CONNOR has seemingly created, judges can validate laws by characterizing them as “preserving the traditions of society" (good); or invalidate them by characterizing them as “expressing moral disapproval" (bad).

Gay Marriage on the way?

While the majority decision in Lawrence v. Texas rests on the Due Process clause, I'm more of a mind to agree with Justice O'Connor - that it's an Equal Protection issue. On that basis, I can't see that the prohibitions against same-sex marriage will stand much longer.

In O'Connor's concurring opinion re Lawrence, she writes
This case raises a different issue than Bowers: whether, under the Equal Protection Clause, moral disapproval is a legitimate state interest to justify by itself a statute that bans homosexual sodomy, but not heterosexual sodomy. It is not. Moral disapproval of this group, like a bare desire to harm the group, is an interest that is insufficient to satisfy rational basis review under the Equal Protection Clause.
Indeed, we have never held that moral disapproval, without any other asserted state interest, is a sufficient rationale under the Equal Protection Clause to justify a law that discriminates among groups of persons. Moral disapproval of a group cannot be a legitimate governmental interest under the Equal Protection Clause because legal classifications must not be drawn for the purpose of disadvantaging the group burdened by the law.
Since the main opposition to same-sex marriage seems to be on grounds of moral disapproval, I read O'Connor as saying that statutes prohibiting them are on as shaky a footing as Bowers was. This, of course, presupposes that the makeup of the court doesn't change significantly between now and then, whenever 'then' is. And, given Bush's court choices so far, that's a BIG if.

Why does Bill Frist hate the U.S. Bill of Rights?

Bill Frist, the Senate Majority Leader, thinks last week's landmark Supreme Court decision in the Lawrence v. Texas sodomy case threatens to make private homes a bastion of criminality. He said, on ABC's "This Week"
I have this fear that this zone of privacy that we all want protected in our own homes is gradually — or I'm concerned about the potential for it gradually being encroached upon, where criminal activity within the home would in some way be condoned.
Never mind that the whole point of the decision was to remove the concept of criminality from private, intimate activity that stays within the home.

Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colo, is the principal sponsor of a proposed amendment to the Constitution which, as referred to the House Judiciary Committee, reads:
Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution nor the constitution of any state under state or federal law shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.
What Frist says about the Lawrence decision, and the proposed amendment, gives the game away -
I very much feel that marriage is a sacrament, and that sacrament should extend and can extend to that legal entity of a union between — what is traditionally in our Western values has been defined — as between a man and a woman. So I would support the amendment.
Note the use of "sacrament." The American Heritage Dictionary defines "sacrament" this way

  1. Christianity. A rite believed to be a means of or visible form of grace, especially:
    1. In the Eastern, Roman Catholic, and some other Western Christian churches, any of the traditional seven rites that were instituted by Jesus and recorded in the New Testament and that confer sanctifying grace.
    2. In most other Western Christian churches, the two rites, Baptism and the Eucharist, that were instituted by Jesus to confer sanctifying grace.
  2. A religious rite similar to a Christian sacrament, as in character or meaning.
  3. often Sacrament
    1. The Eucharist.
    2. The consecrated elements of the Eucharist, especially the bread or host.

As Frist apparently sees this, it's an explicitly religious issue. Frist seems to have forgotten about the Bill of Rights, specifically the 1st amendment - "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." I guess Senator Frist, who swore to uphold it, doesn't really believe in that part of the Constitution.

Sunday, June 29, 2003

The greatest calcium deposits since the White Cliffs of Dover

Katherine Hepburn, about whose cheekbones the above line was written, has died at age 96.

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