Saturday, February 14, 2004

Just About the Same, Really.  

In case you're thinking that Civil Unions are just as good as Gay Marriage, just wanted to mention a few things.

For one, let's say a "married" couple is the victim of a natural disaster. They're eligible for tax relief as a family to cope with the financial burdens. People in Civil Unions aren't.

People getting married can sign a prenuptual agreement. There is nothing of the type for civil unions. Why? Because under Civil Unions, there is no such thing as Divorce, unless both parties move to Vermont (specifically) for six months prior to dissolving the union. But hell, why do they want to get married so hard if they're only gonna get divorced anyway, right guys? Hahaha, right, guys? Right?!?

One other issue is parental rights. In the case of civil unions, let's say one half of a lesbian couple gets artificially inseminated, and they raise a child. On all government documents, the "father" of the child is "unknown" (or, if known, the name of the donor is the "father.") But then, it's really not all that important to be claimed as the parent of a child you've raised your entire life, really. The same applies to adoption. Oh, and if the couple does somehow or other dissolve the union, there is no way that one partner can claim child custody, only the biological mother or father can. Also, forget social security "surviving parents" assistance benefits if one of the parents dies.

There's only a few more distinctions:

Under Marriage, a wife cannot unwillingly testify against her husband or a husband against his wife. With a civil union, one partner can be forced to testify against another.

Under marriage, a husband or wife has full access to their partner and is deferred to in the case of any questions regarding emergency care. Under Civil Unions, they don't. But really, who needs to visit someone they love when they're dying in the hospital?

Married couples can inherit the property of their spouses. Under civil unions, they can't. Marriage can be given as a reason to change your name. A Civil Union can't. Married people can handle death rites, ie, burial and cremation services. People in a Civil Union can't.

Married people can collect social security, worker's compensation, and wages in the case of a spouse's death. In a Civil Union, however, you cannot. You know how there's an Income tax reduction for Married people? Well there's no "civil union" tax benefit. The government doesn't let a spouse in a civil union collect wages for attending the funeral of their partner. It's fine for married people.

That's most of it, really. There's only about 1,049 differences between marriage and civil unions, but it's mostly small stuff, like being able to leave work if your spouse gets sick, or impact the naturalization process of an legal / resident alien, or Social Security benefits (which only add up to about $10,000 a year for the surviving spouse in a civil union.) Insurance policies don't cover civil unions, and that's a shame because neither does Medicaid. Should a state ever allow any of these things to happen, it can be blocked on the federal level.

Full Disclosure on My Religion 

Since I've been talking, and will continue to talk, about Religion in light of this Gay Marriage controversy, I decided it might be a good idea to find out what religion I actually believe in. I've pretty much considered myself a Secular Humanist for most of my recent life, but I was raised Protestant and later under the Jehovah's Witnesses. So I mean, I know my Sunday School curriculum. Late, I personally have studied Sufism and Zen Buddhism, and Salingerian Catholicism. But mostly, Secular Humanism. The problem being that I wasn't a totally converted atheist.

Luckily, this handy quiz has taken the heat off my back for uncovering my own existential revelation, and provided me with a quick and easy answer to my religious purpose. It would appear that my dabbling in Liberal Islamic Mysticism was way off course- apparently, I am a "Liberal Quaker". So there you go. Before anyone attacks my positions on religion, remember: I am a Quaker, according to a fun and easy online quiz. Quakers are clearly the best religion ever, because I believe in it. From now on, all my political views will reflect my Quaker beliefs, and if they impose on yours, I apologize. I have to do it, because now that I believe wholeheartedly in a religion that I am only moderately familiar with by way of online test results, I believe that my way is the only way, for everyone, forever.

Elephants in the Press Room 

Big Media admits it has lost control, but for all the wrong reasons. (Search for "elephant in the room", then keep reading.)

I haven't mentioned this, for precisely the reasons I will explain below, but recently Matt Drudge posted a story asserting that John Kerry had an affair on the campaign trail. First of all, it is completely bogus. But of course, you can't believe that from reading this blog any more than you can believe that it happened because of Matt Drudge. Here, then, is the sleaze mechanism at work, the legendary "media echo chamber."

An idea can be put forward, and it has to be addressed, denied, or admitted. Matt Drudge posted the story to his website. It was picked up by Fox News. It was then picked up by the British Press, and then Matt Drudge linked to it, as if it was verification of his initial report. But it wasn't. It was a report on the report. And reports on the reports started coming hard and fast. Until today, when John Kerry spoke on Don Imus' program, forced to deny allegations that he had an affair.

On News Night tonight, Aaron Brown carefully dissected the rumor- in the precise context of understanding a smear campaign, and on the complexities of not reporting a story.

Jeff Greenfield: In another time the press would know what to do with this kind of story, run it down, check it out, try to find out who is spreading the rumor and why, maybe even ask, "if it is true, does it matter?" But this is our time and in this brave new world of instant communications, literally tens of millions of people will know about the story no matter what the networks and top tier newspapers do. The press loves to talk about its gatekeeper function, separating fact from rumor from falsehood but the truth is this role of the media has been effectively wiped out. As this and countless other stories demonstrate, Aaron, there is no more gate.

So ultimately, Matt Drudge may have done a huge favor to all of us by illuminating the methodology of a smear- ie, Fox quotes Drudge, Bloggers quote Fox, Limbaugh talks to callers who read the blogs, and then the story has "three sources of verification," enough to call it a story of "an allegation". And as soon as Kerry is asked about it directly, the headline appears, scrolling all day long on the CNN Scroll: "Kerry Denies Allegation of Sexual Misconduct." Aaron Brown asked a very serious question: how does the media play a role in these rumors, how can they correct the mistaken notions of the public without giving a fake story "legs"? Since we cannot prove that the story is true or false, said one commentator, what matters now is only if the story is plausible, and if it is plausible, then there is nothing the media can really do, in its traditional role, even if the story is baseless. But alas, in a conversation that should have come out in the lead up to the Iraq War- when we knew that a majority of Americans thought Iraqis were among the 9/11 hijackers, when a majority of Americans thought there was a link between Saddam and Osama, and the media sat by and did nothing. But today, we hear this, not about war, but about a fake story posted on the internet about a candidates sex life:

BROWN: Should they have reported -- Chuck should they have reported that [the unacknowledged rumors were false]?

TODD: I would argue that you could have figured out a way. I think in this new media that the mainstream media may now have to take on an ombudsman role the way you have a regular ombudsman at newspapers, may have to take on this ombudsman role and say, OK, look this gossip is wrong. And now because so many -- talk radio just repeats this stuff, you know six straight hours. If you have Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity, six straight hours on the radio here in Washington this story was talked about on one of the biggest talk radio stations in town. So, it's probably the responsibility of the mainstream media to debunk a story if it's not true when millions of people are hearing this stuff. It's probably some sort of new convergence that we have to figure out.

Or, I would say, probably should have figured out by now, before we ended up in a war. Props to Aaron Brown for raising this subject. By the way, the Bush AWOL story is not baseless, and not only "merely plausible," it is, in fact, entirely true, so far, in the presence of all the "evidence" that the White House claims settles the question. (Whether it itself is relevant is less a question for me, what is more of the issue for me is how long it takes for him to admit it, and how many lies it takes before he does.)

Of the 400 pages finally released by Bush, not one has anything to do with May 1972 to May 1973, the time period in question. How that's supposed to answer questions, I can only guess. (And PS: Did you know that, when he "released" "all" of his medical records, he, in fact, only released them to the press pool for twenty minutes, according to a Reuters article? And that, in fact, it only affirmed that Bush was suspended from flying because he refused to take a medical examination?)

Friday, February 13, 2004

"And Then Jonathan Made A Covenant With David..." 

I'd like to pack a little of the Biblical punch by mentioning that the actual banishment in the Bible against Homosexuality (found in Leviticus) literally reads, "And with a male you shall not lay lyings of a woman". Or translated in the King James Bible, "Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind: it is abomination". So, what is the Religious argument against Lesbian relationships? There is certainly no specific mention of Lesbian Sex, only male/male sex. So is there any Biblical basis for banning marriage between Lesbians? Not according to the actual book.

I'd also just mention that, knowing how much Catholics embrace Leviticus as a Biblical Guide to Holy Living, that it's interesting that it actually offers a guide to restitution should priests of the Church commit a sin against the community- such as, for example, molesting a child, or covering up that other priests have molested a child. Maybe I have missed something, but according to Leviticus 4, there ought to have been a Bull sacrificed at an altar by the offending priest. Then, the blood of the Bull is supposed to be taken into the temple, where the priest will dip his fingers in the blood and flick seven times at the altar. All the fat will then be removed from the bull, including "the fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is around the entrails; the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins; and the appendage of the liver, which he shall remove with the kidneys" to be burned at the altar. The rest of the bull is to be burned outside on a clean wood fire.

So I'm just wondering, since this is the same exact book that calls homosexuality an "abomination," is it also an abomination that the Catholic Church has not asked its Child Molesting Priests to sacrifice a bull in the manner prescribed by Leviticus? I'm genuinely concerned that this is being overlooked.

In the very same chapter that male on male sex is forbidden, it also forbids a man who has married a woman to later marry that woman's sister (Leviticus 18:18) until his first wife dies. This, just like man on man sex, is "an abomination."

Leviticus 12 also gives a highly useful and widely followed prescription for child birth. Essentially, according to Leviticus 12:6, an animal sacrifice is required- a lamb, and then there's some flexibility. Either a pigeon or a turtle dove will do.

How about Leviticus 19:28? "You shall not make any gashes in your flesh for the dead or tattoo any marks upon you: I am the LORD." So tattooing the name of your dead wife on your arm is also a sin.

Then it comes back to Homosexuality, in a list of a whole bunch of behaviors that are punishable by death. Leviticus 20:9, "All who curse father or mother shall be put to death; having cursed father or mother, their blood is upon them." 20:10, "If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death." This is the book that lets us know the penalty for homosexuality, too, is death: it's three sentences down. Funny that there's no laws in the American law books to even imprison kids who get angry at their parents. Or bans on marriages between people who met when they were both married. Or bans on tattoos. It's funny how no one objects when we don't sacrifice a turtle dove after a child is born, but get up in arms when gay people want to get married.

Maybe there's some explanation behind why America doesn't embrace religious codes for principles of Democratic Justice. There's a little mention at the end of Leviticus 20:27, "A man or a woman who is a medium or a wizard shall be put to death; they shall be stoned to death, their blood is upon them." And lo and behold, in 1692, somewhere around modern day Danvers, Massachusetts, Abigail Williams and Betty Parris began acting strangely, and the community decided they were possessed by the devil by way of a witch. The eventual hysteria- probably the first full blown case of American "Moral Outrage", soon spread to Andover, Amesbury, Salisbury, Haverhill, Topsfield, Ipswich, Rowley, Gloucester, Manchester, Malden, Charleston, Billerica, Beverly, Reading, Woburn, Lynn, Marblehead, and Boston, where 25 people were killed for being witches, and anywhere between 100 to 300 accused of it.

But it's also important to note that Leviticus is old testament, the book of the bible that was the rule of man prior to the coming of Christ. Jesus himself was a pretty cool guy. But you don't find his own words taken with the intensity of Leviticus, an obscure list of commandments that go half ignored whenever they prove to be inconvenient, and emphasized when it can be used to achieve a political agenda.

Mark 12:30-31, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these."

John 4:20, "If a man says, 'I love God', and yet hates his brother, then he is a liar: for he that cannot love his brother whom he can see, cannot love god whom he cannot see."

Matthew 6:14+, "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you, but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."

Titus 1:15, "To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure."

Thursday, February 12, 2004

" secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men..." 

San Francisco has issued at least eight marriage licenses to Gays and Lesbians today in an act of protest against the Massachusetts hearings against gay marriage. But Republicans are not yet finished with their war against other people's happiness:

"These unlawful certificates are not worth the paper they are printed on. The renegade mayor of San Francisco has no authority to do this," said Randy Thomasson, the [Campaign for California Families] group's executive director. "This is nothing more than a publicity stunt that disrespects our state law and system of government itself."

Before any pro-gay-hate blog-comment-section activist says that if a Republican was doing this for a Republican cause I'd be offended and angry, well, you're right. But it's okay, because you guys are a bunch of ignorant assholes. They're breaking a law, a law that directly conflicts with a mandate- the Declaration of independence- predating even our Constitution, when it says that all men are created equal, and that "the pursuit of happiness" is an "inalienable right."

"That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

Happiness! The most ignored of all American doctrines, so frequently confused with the right of consumption, that it is at risk finally in the campaign to shred every founding principle down to either sales receipts or bird cage liner. There is a predetermination in our culture, set in motion by the very idea that a Government could exist on the sole principle of individual liberty, that seeks to expand freedom over every living person to engage in the pursuit of Happiness. This same movement towards freedom is decried as "moral decay" by the fundamentalist and "Christian" activists.

Laws cannot be designed to protect our nation from the happiness of others, regardless of our own invented bias towards "immorality" between consenting individuals. You do not have the right to be protected from the happiness of others, so long as it does not infringe on your own rights to happiness. This does not include your inalienable rights to ignorance, moral condemnation, self righteousness or religious warfare. Even the Religious reasons to fight Gay Marriage are on their face absurd. To those who would force Religious Readings on American Freedoms, I suggest the old saw, "Turn the other cheek." Against Gay Marriage? Great, then don't marry your gay partner.

While we're on the subject of declaring independence from England's tyranny prior to the Revolutionary war, there is the little matter of rejecting the King based on the idea that "He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices". Bush might be dusting off a little of the old English Monarchy on us with this one, in his State of the Union address: "Activist judges, however, have begun redefining marriage by court order, without regard for the will of the people and their elected representatives. On an issue of such great consequence, the people's voice must be heard. If judges insist on forcing their arbitrary will upon the people, the only alternative left to the people would be the constitutional process."

One problem. It was most certainly not the "will of the people" to free the slaves of the South, to allow Women and Blacks to vote, to desegregate schools and allow for interracial marriages. The allegedly "activist" judges are not acting "arbitrarily," and neither were those demanding integration or the right to mixed marriages. They were acting on behalf of the Constitution, which imposes no restriction on the rights of Homosexuals. Inserting an amendment to the Constitution based on one's idea of morality is an intensely "activist" maneuver. Interpreting what is said in the Constitution isn't.

I don't know much about the sanctity of marriage, really, but I cannot imagine that two men kissing without a marriage license would make my marriage more important. Nor would it be less important if they had one. If it did, I would be ashamed to blame it on two abstract homosexuals that are not merely having sex somewhere- that's not the issue, because they're already having sex- but because they are doing it with a legal affirmation that they can share health benefits? That's your problem? If you find that you love your wife or husband less because two lesbians in San Francisco are allowed by law to commit to each other for the entire duration of their lives, then you, my friend, have a problem with your marriage that has got nothing whatsoever to do with "activist judges."

Lastly, let me just address the little matter of the "Slippery Slope." In the "Slippery Slope" argument, Republicans find that allowing homosexual marriage would open the floodgates to legalizing pedophilia or other deviant sexual behavior. My answer to this is simply, a married gay man is no more likely to have sex with a young boy as a married straight man is to have sex with a young girl. Should some fringe elements of society, such as NAMBLA, push for their rights to have sex with children younger than the age of consent, the right for Gay Marriage will pose absolutely no legal precedent for this argument, whatsoever. Any "right" to have sex with small children would have to be fought as a legal issue dealing with age of consent, not mutuality of gender.

So what's the problem? Is it the usual gasbag tyranny of the perpetually righteous, rearing its head on any new manifestation of freedom or expansion of human liberty and dignity? Sure sounds like it to me: "Moral Outrage." That's the staple calling card of the restriction addicts. Moral Panic is a useful package for selling all kinds of oppression: Prohibition, Slavery, Integration. All the big stains on Democracy were adjusted in spite of these assholes. A threat to the family! A threat to your family! The black man will take your daughter, wrote detractors of integration. A prohibition-era sermon warned that alcohol would destroy the family too: "It takes the kind, loving husband and father, smothers every spark of love in his bosom, and transforms him into a heartless wretch, makes him steal the shoes from his starving babe's feet to find the price of a glass of liquor." The reactionaries are running out of places to go with this one, though: "Gay Marriage will destroy your family, somehow, we promise".

But Prohibition ended, and so too will this nonsense. It's only a question of how long and how messy the division-loving arbiters of moral outrage want it to be.

Gay Penguin News 

Official Gay Penguin Website: Gay Penguin For America.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Oh Wow, Another Lie. I Mean, "Accident."  

Remember how Bush said they found Al Qaida (also known as "the committee to re-elect GW Bush") had Nuclear Power Plant diagrams? He was all, "The depth of their hatred is equaled by the madness of the destruction they design. We have found diagrams of American nuclear power plants and public water facilities, detailed instructions for making chemical weapons, surveillance maps of American cities, and thorough descriptions of landmarks in America and throughout the world."

Yeah. Well, he lied. Uh, I mean, he "was probably wrong". (And who wants to bet the "thorough descriptions of landmarks in America" bit refers to an Almanac?)

Now, before anyone gets all upset, let me just say that I am totally for securing Nuclear Power Plants. And had Bush said, "It'd be a great idea to protect our Power Plants, guys" that would have been great. But he didn't. He said something that wasn't true to convince us of a threat that wasn't necessarily solid or real.

Gay Penguin never said any of that shit.

The Liberal Media is Totally Back! 

A pretty amazing press gaggle at the White House Today. The Media isn't a determining factor for Presidential opinion as much as it is a vulture- when it smells a corpse, it descends to pick the eyes out. Whenever Bush's opinion polls slip below a certain number, the press gets a little vicious. Today, here's some quotes from the "Q" portion of the Q and A transcript, mostly because the "A" portion is pretty incoherent.

Q: Scott, a couple of questions I have -- the records that you handed out today, and other records that exist, indicate that the President did not perform any Guard duty during the months of December 1972, February or March of 1973. I'm wondering if you can tell us where he was during that period. And also, how is it that he managed to not make the medical requirements to remain on active flight duty status?

A: _______

Q: That wasn't my question, Scott.

A: _______

Q: Scott, that wasn't my question, and you know it wasn't my question. Where was he in December of '72, February and March of '73? And why did he not fulfill the medical requirements to remain on active flight duty status?

A: _______

Q: I asked a simple question; how about a simple answer?

A: ________

Q: Well, if you would address it -- maybe you could.

A: ________

Q: I do want to know the facts, which is why I keep asking the question. And I'll ask it one more time. Where was he in December of '72, February and March of '73? Why didn't he fulfill the medical requirements to remain on active flight duty status in 1972?

A: ________

Q: Scott, when Senator Kerry goes around campaigning, there's frequently what they call "a band of brothers," a bunch of soldiers who served with him, who come forward and give testimonials for him. I see, in looking at our files in the campaign of 2000, it said that you were looking for people who served with him to verify his account of service in the National Guard. Has the White House been able to find, like Senator Kerry, "a band of brothers" or others who can testify about the President's service?

A: ________

Q: Actually, I wasn't talking about documents, I was talking about people -- you know, comrades-in-arms --

A: ________

Q: But you said you were looking for people -- and I take it you didn't find any people?

A: ________

Q: Scott, can I follow on this, because I do think this is important. You know, it might strike some as odd that there isn't anyone who can stand up and say, I served with George W. Bush in Alabama, or in Houston in the Guard unit. Particularly because there are people, his superiors who have stepped forward -- in Alabama and in Houston -- who have said in the past several years that they have no recollection of him being there and serving. So isn't that odd that nobody -- you can't produce anyone to corroborate what these records purport to show?

A: _________

So anyway, here's my prediction, which is totally opinion and not based on any facts whatsoever, and just to be bipartisan, I am going to say something about what might be in Dean's sealed records:

Bush: Rehab.
Dean: Gay Bashing.

There it is. Worse case scenario for both. I'm not saying Dean is forgivable and Bush isn't or vice versa, I'm just saying that these are two revelations which would not surprise me in the least upon the opening of sealed documents.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004


There's been so many Bush related scandals that it's hard to keep up, so I've been ignoring the little matter of GOP operatives stealing Democratic Party Strategy memos.

An advisor to Bill Frist has already resigned as a result of the investigation. But, in further proof that some Republicans have no dignity, they've filed an ethics complaint based on the content in the files that they've obtained illegally (maybe- the GOP argues that the files were left "hanging around" on shared computers). The problem? The old saw about the "collusion memos" which apparently shocked everyone by revealing that the DNC has ties to NARAL and the NAACP. The shock!

Gay Penguin, by the way, has never looked at memos illegally or even just unethically. Gay Penguin for President.

Wesley Clark Drops Out 

There's an old and golden political adage that goes: "Whomever is endorsed by Michael Moore will win the campaign." Maybe the internet has screwed things up, but Wes Clark has dropped out of the race. I thought he dropped out of the race when he dodged the perfectly reasonable AWOL issue at the last debate. If you're a candidate who doesn't want issues, then you're not ready to be a candidate.

I will always respect Wes Clark, I was in the draft Clark movement and he gave Howard Dean a run for his money initially. I will still dream of a Dean/Clark ticket.

The AP's early reports after the primary results said that Clarks advisors wanted him to drop out, but that Clark has been holding out, convinced he can fill the gap when and if Kerry starts faltering in the polls. That may never happen now.

Bush Opens Up Military Records 

The AP has the story:

Bush was not paid for any service during a five-month period in 1972, from May through September, according to the records released with Bush's approval Tuesday. He was paid for two days in October and four days in November and none in December 1972. He was not paid for February or March 1973. The records do not indicate what duty Bush performed or where he was. Nevertheless, spokesman McClellan repeatedly held up the 13-page packet his office had released, and he declared in his televised briefing, "I think these documents show that he fulfilled his duties."

I like that Bush is questioned about his military service, then releases records that don't answer the questions. I like that George W Bush thinks that this will work. It reminds me of when my cat used to try to hide under the couch by putting his head under the cushions, but you could still see not just his tail but his entire ass.

It is worth noting, by the way, that Gay Penguin isn't hiding any military records.

Old Media Gets Defensive 

Looks like someone needs to redefine their bragging rights:

Game over, webheads. John Kerry is cruising to the Democratic nomination the old-fashioned way. He squeezes fat cats and the traditional Democratic special interests for big donations. He runs slick television ads that voters respond to. He uses the mainstream media -- the TV networks and the major newspapers -- as his megaphones, because they reach the widest audiences. He seems to be making out just fine.

The article goes on to serve as a venting board for the authors frustration with the blog community, and the Dean campaign, while simultaneously calling it powerless. When's the last time you saw such a vitriolic response to a dead campaign? (Ironically it reads more like a blog-rant than a newspaper article.) Sorry the kids are talking back, Mr. "Real Reporter." We know our place is in the kitchen.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Gay Penguin for President 

God seems to have given Gay Penguins the right to marry.

"Roy and Silo, two chinstrap penguins at the Central Park Zoo in Manhattan, are completely devoted to each other. For nearly six years now, they have been inseparable. They exhibit what in penguin parlance is called "ecstatic behavior": that is, they entwine their necks, they vocalize to each other, they have sex. Silo and Roy are, to anthropomorphize a bit, gay penguins."

I am thinking of running a Gay Penguin for president. The idea coming from a drunk and maybe crazy guy on a NYC subway who my friend asked if he would vote for Giuliani again, a few years back.

"Fuck Giuliani." He said. "I'd vote for a hamburger. I would vote for a gay guy in a spacesuit."

So I started Gay Guy In A Spacesuit for President a while back. But now, a Gay Penguin might be more sophisticated and appropriate. The idea being that a Gay Penguin wouldn't have got us into war, wouldn't have given us this deficit, wouldn't lose this many jobs, and would, in fact, allow Gays the right to marry. I would actually vote for a Gay Penguin over George Bush because, literally, a gay penguin would do a better job running the country than our current President.

[Update: Here's Some Gay Penguin for President Exploratory Commission Ads]

George Bush Speaks 

George Bush Jr, whom some consider our President, was on "Meet the Press" today with Tim Russert. A lot of people thought Russert was a pansy, but I think he was fair and certainly refused to give Bush a free ride. I assume some liberals would not be satisfied until Russert broke a chair over Bush's head, but I don't consider myself one of them. Here's some highlights:

One: Anatomy of a Dodge
Russert: Will you testify before the [Iraq Intelligence] commission?

President Bush: This commission? You know, I don't... testify? I will be glad to visit with them. I will be glad to share with them knowledge. I will be glad to make recommendations, if they ask for some. I'm interested in getting- I'm interested in making sure the intelligence gathering works well. Listen, we got some five- let me- let me, again, just give you a sense of where I am on the intelligence systems of America. First of all, I strongly believe the CIA is ably led by George Tenet. He comes and briefs me on a regular basis about what he and his analysts see in the world.

Two: In Which Bush Admits He Has A Problem
President Bush: I'm a war president. I make decisions here in the Oval Office in foreign policy matters with war on my mind. Again, I wish it wasn't true, but it is true. And the American people need to know they got a president who sees the world the way it is.

Three: It's Not Nation Building, It's Fighting A War To Build a Nation
Russert: You do seem to have changed your mind from the 2000 campaign. In a debate, you said, "I don't think our troops ought to be used for what's called 'nation-building.'"

President Bush: Yes.

Russert: We clearly are involved in nation building.

President Bush: Right. And I also said let me put it in context. I'm not suggesting you're pulling one of these Washington tricks where you leave half the equation out. But I did say also that our troops must be trained and prepared to fight and win war and, therefore, make peace more possible. And our troops were trained to fight and win war, and we did, and a second phase of the war is now going on. The first phase, of course, was the Tommy Franks troop movement.

Russert: But this is nation building.

President Bush: Well, it is. That's right, but we're also fighting a war so that they can build a nation.

Four: "There May Be No evidence, But I Did Report"
There's been some of this on some of the talk shows- even Bob Dole tried it out on "The Daily Show", but Jon Stewart caught it (while CNN's Aaron Brown didn't): The AWOL issue gets raised, and the Republicans pretend that Democrats are calling him AWOL because he joined the National Guard as opposed to going to the war. The actual issue is that there are no public records showing Bush showed up to Alabama. But here it is again:

President Bush: I would be careful to not denigrate the Guard. It's fine to go after me, which I expect the other side will do. I wouldn't denigrate service to the Guard, though, and the reason I wouldn't, is because there are a lot of really fine people who served in the National Guard and who are serving in the National Guard today in Iraq.

Russert: The Boston Globe and the Associated Press have gone through some of their records and said there’s no evidence that you reported to duty in Alabama during the summer and fall of 1972.

President Bush: Yeah, they re they're just wrong. There may be no evidence, but I did report; otherwise, I wouldn't have been honorably discharged. In other words, you don't just say "I did something" without there being verification. Military doesn't work that way. I got an honorable discharge, and I did show up in Alabama.

Five: Way To Be, Mr. President
Russert: Why do people hold you with such contempt?

President Bush: Heck, I don't know, Ronald Reagan was unpopular in Europe when he was President, according to Jose Maria Aznar. And I said, ‘You know something? ‘He said to me, he said, ‘You're nearly as unpopular as Ronald Reagan was.’ I said, ‘so, first of all, I'm keeping pretty good company.’

Is Blogging The New Poetry? 

The Bureau of Public Secrets has posted some new essays by Kenneth Rexroth on the role of poetry as a direct threat to corrupt power. The thing is, if you're reading that sentence, you're saying to yourself "what an old fashioned, ridiculously out of date idea." So here I am to replace it with a new-fangled, totally pretentiously hip idea: Blogging as the new poetry.

Consider some of what Rexroth says about poetry's role in society:

"First, poetry is preeminently the art of language. The poet is continuously reorganizing the vast complex web of communication which makes our social life possible. Every great poem and every great poet has left the language different than they found it. Some writers today, notably Joyce in his recent work, and Gertrude Stein, have concentrated almost exclusively on aspects of this function of literature. At least their most important and durable contributions have been linguistic, whatever their intentions."

The same element of linguistics is at work today. I don't know if Rexroth has heard the word "meme" before, but if he had, surely he might have used it. Poets were the ones wrapping ideas in a new language, and the new language is what gave those ideas some degree of currency. In modern political times, it isn't the book that sells a candidate, it's the bumper sticker. Ultimately it was the poet, as it is now the ideal blogger, who is responsible for giving these ideas currency through a popular phrasing. It is an art of phraseology.

But in a more subtler form, Rexroth declares that "[t]he poet is constantly trying to make the language a more efficient instrument for the control and appreciation of experience. As soon as the forms of society come to rest on artificially preserved methods of controlling experience, any such deeply critical approach to the mechanism of communication becomes dangerous to the group. What we call reaction is an insistence upon regressive techniques of living. In his most abstract activities the poet is a menace to reaction." (Is this any different than adopt a journalist? Or to the work of rebutting the party line?) "Any activity which presumes to control the most fundamental elements of individual and concurrently of group experience, and to pass very trenchant judgment upon them, to constantly revise and reorder processes of evaluation, to not only change and reconstruct the mechanisms of communication, but to give these mechanisms new purposes, will obviously find itself in conflict with those sections of the population which owe their privileges to communication kept on the most debased, uncritical and uncreative levels."

Now I want to say that I know Rexroth is talking about something more primal than politics, which is ultimately a detached game. It's a game of power in lieu or direct experience, it's all about standing for something without ever really being something- a voter, for example. Poetry was about the distinction between sleepwalking and direct experience. Blogging- if it was ever to rise to the level of an actual art form, an actual "form" of writing- is about the distinction between sleeping and direct activism.

It's telling what he says about the limitations of poetry in his own time: "As writers we can make a significant gesture of defiance in the faces of those who are trying to remove America from the civilized world. But alone we cannot do very much else. There is a potential audience of all the producing classes of the West, which obviously we have not reached. We are conscious of the dangers which threaten what civilization we have. It is our job to awaken this audience to these dangers and to ally ourselves with the common people who have already awakened. It is they, not we, who will be the deciding factors in the coming struggle. Any moderately efficient fascist police could in a month silence or exterminate every honest writer in America. But they could not so easily dispose of farmers and workers, the common people upon whom the life of the country depends. It is still possible to rally the American people to the defense of their democracy."

Belated Super Sized Sunday Blog Outsourcing 

One: A mention that American Street is generally a really well done blog.

Two: NTodd has got a lengthy article on unemployment under Bush. It includes graphs! Crazy!

Three: Speedkill on the war against science (because evolution killed Jesus). Here's my question: Since we're supposed to suggest that literal Biblical interpretations of human origins be considered a plausible theory, do we also teach that the moon is 6000 years old? And do we teach that quite possibly, all life is the dream of Vishnu in an Alabama Chemistry Class? If not, why not?

Four: Craptastic on how the Patriot Act isn't being abused. At all. Ever. Nor ever would it be!

Five: BBWW has some information on Ohio's new law banning Gay Marriage. I don't know how I missed it. Bring on the Supreme Court level contestations!

Six: Echidne has some investigations into conservative columnist George Will.

Seven: Rivka at Otters has got a good piece explaining why you're not always right about Big Pharm.

Eight: It appears that we may have found our right wing third party candidate to give tons of left wing liberal tainted money to. Roy Moore runs, more at Archy

Nine: If Dean loses Wisconsin and then drops out, what happens to the Wilgoren Watch?

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