May 12, 2006

Separated at Birth: Theatre critic John Simon and baseball Hall-of-Famer/raconteur Yogi Berra both turned 81 today. Happy Birthday, ye quotesmiths !!!
Juiced: In the tradition of the President joking about a "search" for WMD's at a White House correspondents' dinner, comes this piece of sick humor.

May 11, 2006

Some background on the sudden resignation this week of Appeals Court Judge Michael Luttig, who was once the frontrunner to be the first Bush nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. Luttig, considered to be the most conservative judge in the most conservative circuit in the country, fell out with the Bush Administration over their extreme positions on executive power and their mendacity in justifying the secret detention of terror suspects.

May 09, 2006

May 08, 2006

In Defense of Civility: Well, maybe Chait had a point after all. The entire "Steve Colbert Was Ignored by the Mean D.C. Press Corps So Let's Have a Hissy Fit" controversy has started to generate a nasty, internecine battle in the lefty blogosphere. The debate seems to be over whether "civility", the notion that people who disagree with you should be treated as human beings, is a virtue that progressives should continue to profess, or whether being an asshole is a more winning tactic.

As you can tell, I'm in the former camp. The most noxious trend among lefty bloggers in recent months has been the abandonment of any pretense that people who take contrary positions can do so in good faith. It is not enough that someone has an opposing viewpoint; they must be lying as well. Or if the media doesn't report a story, or give emphasis to the right set of "facts", it's because they're in bed with the Bushies.

Liberal bloggers seem to have looked at the weapons the right uses in playing the political field, what with talk radio, FoxNews, etc., and decided that the tone of political discourse doesn't need to be changed, but copied. It's as if there has been a collective decision that what's objectionable about Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter is their ends, not their means.

It's no wonder that most of the megabloggers on the left are snark-oriented, rather than policy-oriented. If you've been beaten down so long, it's entirely predictable that you are going to turn violent, even if it's only rhetorical. Anger and attitude can be very appealing, and bloggers who appeal to that will gain many readers.

But it is a dark and barren path, even if it may lead to occasional electoral successes. For liberals, the notion of "civility" is always indistinguishable from authentic progressive politics. Civility arises out of the same wellspring as compassion, a principle every liberal was supposed to have learned from Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy forty years ago. Our great victories have come not from beating people over the head with our principles, but from our willingness to love the people who oppose us, even those who hate us. It is from the belief that we are no better than anyone else, that the soul of an oppressor always lurks within the heart of the oppressed, that the progressive belief in equality, social welfare and tolerance for others emanates.

Civility is the acme of non-violent action. By abandoning civility, or by deciding that it be practiced only when it is reciprocated, we forfeit our principles. We become anti-Republicans, rather than liberals.
It's comforting to realize that the current national debate over immigration policy is not a new one:
They were portrayed as a disreputable lot, the immigrant hordes of this great city.
The Germans refused for decades to give up their native tongue and raucous beer gardens. The Irish of Hell's Kitchen brawled and clung to political sinecures. The Jews crowded into the Lower East Side, speaking Yiddish, fomenting socialism and resisting forced assimilation. And by their sheer numbers, the immigrants depressed wages in the city.

As for the multitudes of Italians, who settled Mulberry Street, East Harlem and Canarsie? In 1970, seven decades after their arrival, Italians lagged behind every immigrant group in educational achievement.

The bitter arguments of the past echo loudly these days as Congress debates toughening the nation's immigration laws and immigrants from Latin America and Asia swell the streets of U.S. cities in protest. Most of the concerns voiced today -- that too many immigrants seek economic advantage and fail to understand democracy, that they refuse to learn English, overcrowd homes and overwhelm public services -- were heard a century ago. And there was a nub of truth to some complaints, not least that the vast influx of immigrants drove down working-class wages.

Yet historians and demographers are clear about the bottom line: In the long run, New York City -- and the United States -- owes much of its economic resilience to replenishing waves of immigrants. The descendants of those Italians, Jews, Irish and Germans have assimilated. Manhattan's Little Italy is vestigial, no more than a shrinking collection of restaurants.
It's an excellent article; read the whole thing.

May 07, 2006

A bizarre apologia for Joementum, by Jon Chait, in this morning's local paper:
In the end, though, I can't quite root for Lieberman to lose his primary. What's holding me back is that the anti-Lieberman campaign has come to stand for much more than Lieberman's sins. It's a test of strength for the new breed of left-wing activists who are flexing their muscles within the party. These are exactly the sorts of fanatics who tore the party apart in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They think in simple slogans and refuse to tolerate any ideological dissent. Moreover, since their anti-Lieberman jihad is seen as stemming from his pro-war stance, the practical effect of toppling Lieberman would be to intimidate other hawkish Democrats and encourage more primary challengers against them.
Were it to be so !!! Hell, I think Lieberman's being scapegoated, being held to account for sins other Democrats have committed with the same enthusiasm. But primary challenges are a good thing; they prevent incumbents from taking the base for granted. And the Democratic Party has suffered for too long from elected officials who value the office more than the people they represent. We shall not be free until the last corporate Democrat is strangled by the entrails of the last liberal hawk. One, two, a thousand Lamonts !!!