Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Come out 
Today is National Coming Out Day. The theme this year is Talk About It - so be good to your GLBT friends and neighbors (or yourselves). And talk about it.

John Tierney, writing this morning in the New York Times(registration and payment required), wonders why such a big deal is being made over Bush Administration cronyism when it is so common, he claims, in law and journalism schools. His basis for the claim is the preponderance of registered Democrats on the faculties of most prominent law and journalism faculties. I shouldn't have to spell this out for someone entrusted with a column in The Times but, at least in the Democrats' case, simple membership in the same party does not a fellow-traveler make. I can hardly imagine agreement on almost anything coming out of a room that held Bill Clinton, Dennis Kucinich, Joe Lieberman, Howard Dean, and Sam Nunn.

But that's beside the point. Tierney's conceit is that the accusations of cronyism being levelled at the Bush administration are concerned most with party affiliation - a notion that is as silly as it is disingenuous. Politics, after all, is a partisan affair, and one expects ideological agreement amongst various appointees. But one also has reason to expect (and in the past that expectation has usually been fulfilled) that appointments will go to people who are qualified by something more than personal loyalty and old school ties. He even makes the claim (as ludicrous as it is unsupported) that conservative journalists, relegated to fringe publications like Reason or The Weekly Standard can't break out into the "mainstream" while writers for The New Republic (as if that were a liberal magazine!) or The Washington Monthly have no trouble moving up to the bigs. I don't remember the last time I saw Kevin Drum's name, or Josh Marshall's, on a NY Times or Washington Post article, Op-Ed column, or masthead. But Mr. Tierney himself, and his colleague in conservatism David Brooks, standard bearers for the right, are on staff at that so-called bastion of liberalism, The Times. Maybe the journalists he has in mind don't get in to the mainstream because the dissembling, distortion, and dishonesty needed to work in the realms of Regnery or the minions of Moon mark them, not as conservatives, but as bad journalists.

Tierney also seems to be saying that a law school or J-school professor is as responsible to the populace at-large as is a Supreme Court Justice. Conservatives used to revel in the 'free market' - and post-secondary education is no less free (probably more free) a market than most. You don't want to be taught by Democrats? Fine - enroll in the University of Kansas School of Journalism (where, according to the numbers Tierney cited, Republicans outnumber Democrats by 10-8), or the Pepperdine University Law School. Just where does Tierney (and David Horowitz, who provided the numbers Tierney uses) think the jurists of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals (the most conservative court in the country) or the editorial and news staff of The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times, Fox News, The New York Post, and so on ad nauseum, come from? Maybe they sprang fully formed from Ronald Reagan's forehead.

In any case, Justices of the Supreme Court are responsible to, and for, everyone in the US, not just their ideological allies. The decisions they make apply to everyone, and tend to stand for a very long time. How many newspaper articles do you remember from yesterday, let alone from 20 years ago?

Finally, the Bush crowd is accused of cronyism not because of political association, nor even entirely because of financial intertwining, but because of its spectacular narrowness of vision. Is there really no Republican better qualified for the Supreme Court of The United States than Harriet Miers? No better administrator for FEMA than Joe Allbaugh or Michael Brown? Certainly there are, and I could probably find a few dozen of them myself in 15 minutes of Googling. But George W. Bush and the people in his administration don't care even to work that hard. They're satisfied to flip through their personal Rolodexes, looking for friends and aquaintances who have not yet been given a sinecure. Every toady needs his or her own lily-pad.

I'm sure, of course, that John Tierney does indeed know all of this - but he wants us not to pay attention to it. He wants us to believe it's all about partisan infighting. If that's all it were, it would be annoying but understandable business-as-usual. But it's much more small-minded, and we deserve so much better.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

What's so liberal about peace, love, and understanding? 
Avedon's got things exactly right in her reaction to Kevin Drum. Go read her post at The Sideshow.

FWIW, I've been saying similar things for years, especially the stuff in her last 'graf.(In early/mid '60's, the top marignal tax rates were in the 70-90% range while the economy was growing at a phenomenal 6+% per year and unemployment was at 4% or less). The liberal ideal is (and it operated, at least half-heartedly, all through the Clinton '90s) A rising tide lifts all boats. But in government at all levels today the operative metaphor seems closer to We see, from here in our big houses overlooking the shore, that a lot of people are drowning out there. Tsk tsk, ain't that a shame. But hey, isn't this a great view!?!

This isn't rocket science, nor even weird and dangerous experimentalism a la "supply-side" economics. It's just common sense, borne out by the experience of 80-odd years of the 20th century. Tell your friends, tell your neighbors, write to your newspapers, call your congress-critters - and elect some new ones who'll take it to heart.

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