Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Born with a Silver Foot in His Mouth

No, not George H.W. Bush, but another guy from the northeast, John Kerry. Mr. "I voted for the $87 million before I voted against it" has now managed to insult, yet again, the working men and women of the U.S. military:

"You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."

Does that sound like Kerry was talking about George W. Bush, the president? Maybe if you read it again it will.
"You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."

Still doesn't? Hmm, you must just not be smart enough, then, because that's who Kerry says he was talking about when he made that remark in front of all those microphones.

Nah, it isn't that you aren't smart enough. It's that that wasn't what Kerry was saying at all. He was actually taking a swipe at the best educated military the U.S. has ever had and saying that anyone who went to Iraq is stupid.

Now, Kerry is backpedalling from the remark and taking more direct swipes at George Bush's military service, a strange argument to make from a man whose embellishments of his service led to his downfall in the 2004 presidential cycle.

Could this be just the inspiration Republicans need to go to the polls on Tuesday? I hope so. It would be oh, so fun to read new stories about how Diebold stole the election.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Polarizing Politics...and People

Interesting article in the New York Times (h/t to Ann Althouse). It seems that the old saying about not discussing religion or politics is coming back into vogue.

The article starts with a Democrat SAHM who hates George Bush and quit talking to her mother (who's a Republican) because of it:

“Things were getting to me, and it became such a moral litmus test that all I could think about was, ‘How can she support these people?’” said Ms. Langham.

The woman quit talking or e-mailing her mother for about a month before finally deciding she should act like an adult and follow Commandment No. 5: Respect your mother.

“Finally, it hit me that if one of us got hit by a bus tomorrow, I don’t want my final thought to be, ‘She supports George Bush,’ ” Ms. Langham said.

But they don't discuss politics or exchange those "cute" jokes one's friends like to send.

I have sympathy for Mrs. Langham, since I had a similar situation for years with my own red-blooded Republican parents when I was younger. Back in high school and college, when I thought I knew everything, I took enormous delight in my weekly bouts with my father over the content of 60 Minutes, which I insisted was playing it straight but my wise ol' dad knew better. We used to argue politics the way boxers box: a jab here, a jab there, then an uppercut when the opportunity struck.

Over the years, as I grew up, started a family, and began to scrutinize those left-leanings, my dad's love of Rush Limbaugh and FOX News became endearing quirks. I stopped arguing politics with my dad after my mother died, not so much because I agreed with him but spending loving time with him meant more to me than the politics. Eventually, with Bill Clinton's various scandals and abuse of the executive office, I became a Republican myself. Probably nothing made my dad happier (graduating law school might have been a close runner-up).

The interesting thing about the NYT article is the number of Democrats quoted as giving up hobbies and friendships because of politics. Before last week's dust-up with Echidne, I would have written off such behavior as anecdotal. But now, I realize that there are a whole lot of liberals (and maybe a few Republicans, although I haven't run into that phenomenon) who simply cannot debate and discuss politics without it devolving into name-calling, including accusations of being paid political operatives. Most telling was this passage:

Many people said they are simply tired of debating the policies that have split the country so thoroughly. They know where they stand; they know where their friends, neighbors and colleagues stand. Rather than shift their views or even play along in a show of tolerance, many said they have opted for retreat and the safe harbor of friends who agree.

This certainly seems to be true in the blogosphere, particularly on the left. Echidne once told me that righty blogs are just as bad, but I pointed out numerous examples for her of blogs that do not ban people for simply disagreeing with the host. She had no comment for that. My observations at her site and others leads me to believe that among the left, the idea of eviscerating one's political opponent has displaced exchanging ideas and debating. I'm now experimenting with new lefty blogs to see if my theory is correct. Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Those Christians Spoil Everything!

Just read this article in FW Weekly, the local alternative (read: liberal) weekly newspaper. Apparently, the most pressing issue to one Mr. Bills is church-sponsored Fall Family Fun Festivals that compete with Halloween trick-or-treating.

There are many things that local Bible-thumpers have lined up to stop or prohibit in the last few years. Abortion and gay marriage get most of the press, but another prohibition is becoming increasingly widespread and equally nefarious. Silently and unobtrusively, Christian naysayers are boycotting Halloween.

Cue the spooky music! Oh, no! They're trying to get rid of Halloween?! Why hasn't this been on Channel 5?! Is there an "End Halloween NOW" organization that we just haven't been told about yet? Why aren't all the political candidates discussing this? When Republicans discuss family values is this code language for legislating trick-or-treating out of existence?

Ok, sarcasm off.

I'm not sure what planet Bills has been living on, but to my knowledge, a lot of churches have always boycotted Halloween, given that it's been a pagan holiday for centuries (that's what all those witches and black cats are about, after all). What Bills is complaining about is a phenomenon that's at least 30 years old, if not older: churches having "fall parties" on Halloween which eschew the scary trappings for more scarecrow-and-pumpkin" decorations. The church I attended as a kid had one as did most other churches on the west side of Fort Worth. They had the same games (tic tac toe, beanbag toss, cake walk) that one plays at any elementary school carnival. The big difference, of course, was that there were no Draculas or Frankensteins or witches among the crowd. Just Raggedy Anns and clowns and angels and such.

But to Bills, having a party on Halloween without calling it "Halloween" is, well, subversive.

It’s nothing anyone has said aloud. It’s probably not even something the naysayers want much attention brought to. But it’s happening. Halloween is slowly being snatched up and replaced by “wholesome” religious gatherings.

Interestingly, in describing these Halloween party poopers (or trick or treat poopers, if you will), Bills uses language usually reserved for racists and homophobes:

They’re not picketing or publicly condemning Halloween. It’s more like a “whisper” campaign. They’re surreptitiously intimating that Halloween is the devil’s work, that it’s a heretical, pantheistic ritual that has no place in Christendom, that the observance of it encourages witchcraft and black magic. And pursuant to these outrageous assertions, they’re refraining from decorating their houses, refusing to pass out candy, and — much to the chagrin of even their own children — excluding themselves and their families from the trick-or-treat festivities.

Maybe Bills hasn't been paying attention to Halloween for the last 30 years. Maybe he never heard all the urban myths about cyanide in Pixie Sticks and razor blades in apples (that was when I was a kid), but the idea of gangs of kids running around in the dark without parental supervision has been considered dangerous since the 1970s. That's when we first started talking about "wear light colored costumes" (hard to be Dracula in a white cape) and checking all the candy before eating any and not eating anything homemade (no popcorn balls!). By the 1980s, scary costumes worn to school were replaced with "career day" clothing like nurses, fire fighters, and doctors.

In short, what Bills is condemning churches for doing is just a product of our cautious culture and has been building for at least four decades. Most parents don't want to take the risk of their children getting hit by cars while crossing dark streets, approaching strangers (which we spend the other 364 days of the year telling our kids to avoid), and taking food that might not be safe. They would rather let their kids dress up and go to a party where they know who is there and what they are going to do. That's not subversive. That's safe.

The worst part of Bills's column is its insinuation that this is just more meddling by those damn Christians who should be spending their time worrying about the pagan roots of Christmas and Easter instead of the blatant paganism of a holiday celebrated by dressing up like witches and ghouls. Bills acts as though children don't have fun on Halloween unless they are egging someone's house or begging for food from neighbors. In truth, kids have fun on Halloween because they get to dress up, play games, take a turn in the bounce house, go on a hayride, and get some candy. And it doesn't matter to the kids whether that candy comes from adults they know or adults they don't. But it does matter to their parents.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Banned? I'm Shocked! Shocked!

Well, I'd been waiting for Echidne to ban me from her site after the misnamed Gentlewoman called me a fascist, a liar, a GOP plant, a man (!), and a gold-plated bitch on wheels. It makes absolute sense to ban the person attacked rather than the attacker, right?

If you're leftwing it does. I discovered Echidne's website about six weeks ago and was instantly hypnotized by the hysteria over The Path to 9/11. It was amazing to read that posters there actually thought watching that docudrama (not a documentary as Michael Moore calls his fantasies) would cause viewers to automatically cast their ballots for Republicans six weeks later.

I have to admit, I was hooked. I'm not sure if it was this attempt to slam conservatives for thinking the poor are better off today than 40 years ago:

A somewhat different version of the same argument has been used to explain why we shouldn't worry about real poverty that much. First, the poor can buy cheap electronic gadgets; cheap, because the price of electronics tends to drop in real terms fairly rapidly after the product is first introduced. We are all equal on the internet, too!

Or maybe it was this refreshingly honest admission by a regular contributor about what he really thinks of Republicans:

I won't be fair to fascists. I won’t be nice to Nazis. I will not give them a fair hearing. They've had their hearing and on their own terms. We've had their message aired universally, enthusiastically supported by conservatives here and abroad, and we have abundant examples of what happens when they achieve power... We know the catalog of their crimes and we know that those crimes are the only part of their platform that they deliver on. They promise to kill people, to enslave people, to exclude people and to plunder the property of their victims. And that they can do. That is they can until either their own population or another has had enough and overthrows them. Victory, a higher standard of living, what they promise their supporters will be bought with that blood? No. They're not so good on that despite the lying Luce line.

In any event, I've spent the last six weeks trying to debate logically with people who insist on bringing everything down to the id level: Republicans are evil, lying fascists. I don't want to hear anything that disagrees with that viewpoint!

My initial reason for finding Echidne's spot was that I was looking for new feminist blogs. I stayed, I must admit, because the entertainment value of so many hysterical (yes, that's the proper word for it) comments of women complaining about being stereotyped as hysterical was, well, hysterical! Ah, well. I wish Echidne and her commenters nothing but the best. Now, where shall I go next? Who can top being called a gold-plated bitch on wheels? Where else does Gentlewoman post? :)

That Democrat Agenda They Aren't Talking About

Remember how the talk radio guys keep saying that Democrats aren't advertising what they will do when they're in power? Well, there's a reason for that. The Democrats' legislative agenda probably wouldn't win them a whole lot of votes. Better to allow the scandal-of-the-week do their campaigning for them.

According to The Patriot Post, here's a list of bills put forward by Democrats since 2005:

1. Charles Rangel (D-NY): the “Crack-Cocaine Equitable Sentencing Act” (HR 2456) to eliminate mandatory sentencing for crack-cocaine convictions.

2. California Barbara Lee (D-CA): the “Justice for the Unprotected against Sexually Transmitted Infections among the Confined and Exposed (JUSTICE) Act” (HR 6083) to permit the distribution of prophylactics in prisons.

3. New York Congressman, Jerrold Nadler (D-NY): the “Antibullying Campaign Act” (HR 3787) to institute a federal-grant program against bullying in schools.
4. Recently retired Cynthia “Slugger” McKinney (D-GA): the “Tupac Shakur Records Release Act of 2006” (HR 4968) to create a special collection of the gangsta rapper’s government records at the National Archives.

5. Robert Wexler (D-FL): the “Social Security Forever Act” (HR 2472) to create a new tax on workers, employers and the self-employed to keep Social Security afloat.

6. John Dingell (D-MI): the “National Health Insurance Act” (HR 15) and the “Medicare for All Act” (HR 4683), each raising taxes to promote socialized health care.

7. Barney Frank (D-Mass.): “To provide for coverage under the Medicare and Medicaid Programs of incontinence undergarments” (HR 1052) for taxpayer-funded adult diapers.

Here's a few Democrat proposals for "changing the course" in Iraq:

1. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH): the “Department of Peace and Nonviolence Act” (HR 3760) to establish a U.S. Department of Peace and Nonviolence. I guess this as opposed to a Department of War or a Department of Defense.

2. Jim McGovern (D-MA): “End the War in Iraq Act” (HR 4232), which sought to defund the war in Iraq immediately and force a complete troop withdrawal.

3. Charles Rangel (D-NY): “Universal National Service Act” (HR 4752) obligating U.S. citizens between the ages of 18 and 42 to perform two years’ service in the Armed Forces or civilian elements of national defense.

There were other bills proposed, which weren't pandering to moonbats. Of course not. From The Patriot Post:

Also in the mix during the past two years were bills to legalize medical marijuana (HR 2087), grant voting rights to ex-cons (HR 663), create a right to unrestricted late-term abortion (HR 5151), and provide gas to the poor at taxpayer expense (HR 3712). Proposed amendments to the Constitution include one guaranteeing equal public education (HJ Res 29) and equal health care (HJ Res 30), as well as constitutional rights to housing (HJ Res 40) and full employment (HJ Res 35).

Is it any wonder Democrats aren't proclaiming loudly what they plan to do if they control Congress?

Do We Really Want or Need the Fairness Doctrine?

There's some talk among Democrats about reviving the Fairness Doctrine. Democrats, liberals, progressives, and moonbats love the Fairness Doctrine, not because it is necessarily fair but that it has the effect of squelching discourse they dislike.

The Fairness Doctrine purports that coverage of controversial issues be covered in a fair and balanced manner by broadcast stations. The theory is that access to television and radio is limited and because of this, broadcasters shouldn't be allowed to become advocates of any particular perspective. Indeed, at the time that the Fairness Doctrine was first discussed, radio (which was the only medium available) did, indeed, have a limited number of frequencies. Many places were only reached by one or two radio stations, and so people received all their information through those limited sources. That any one viewpoint would dominate such restricted outlets would have been problematic. This doctrine worked fairly well for decades to stop broadcast advocacy. The problem is that stations didn't want to deal with balancing viewpoints and so most simply didn't carry viewpoints at all.

Ronald Reagan's FCC started basically ignoring the Fairness Doctrine (by not prosecuting offenders) during the mid-1980's. In 1987, however, a Democratic Congress decided to put the Fairness Doctrine into law by passing legislation requiring the FCC to follow its dictates. President Reagan vetoed the legislation, as did President George H.W. Bush when the legislation was reintroduced.

There's no doubt that the demise of the Fairness Doctrine was a boon for conservative talkradio as well as conservative television shows (the various talk shows on FOX News, for example). Rush Limbaugh is the most listened-to talk show in America with approximately 20 million people listening to his show each week. Most of the most popular talk shows are conservative--Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck--and most cities are dominated by conservative talk radio.

On the other hand, liberal talk radio shows have never had the success or audiences of conservative shows. Beleaguered Air America is in bankruptcy and has always had problems competing anywhere but in the most liberal of cities.

The reason Democrats love the Fairness Doctrine is that they assume it will either muzzle conservative hosts or prop up their pathetic alternatives. The fact that so few people want to hear their shows should be an indication to them that it is their message that's not playing in Peoria. Aside from Al Franken and, perhaps, Randi Rhodes, does anyone even know the names of the other Air America personalities? I doubt it, and that's the biggest problem with liberal talk radio. It's neither informative (they simply repeat the same tired talking points) nor entertaining (how many ways can you call George Bush a stupid monkey?). The left has pretty much run out of insults and the ones they come up with aren't even funny.

While liberals are excited at the idea of reinstituting the Fairness Doctrine, there's a couple of big problems for them. First, it's a certainty that President Bush would veto such legislation and even if (and it's a big if) Democrats can retake one or both houses of Congress, they will not be able to muster enough support for the legislation to override the veto.

The second problem is the Supreme Court. In 1969, the Supreme Court explained the rationale for the Fairness Doctrine in Red Lion Broadcasting Co. Inc. v. FCC.

"A license permits broadcasting, but the licensee has no constitutional right to be the one who holds the license or to monopolize a...frequency to the exclusion of his fellow citizens. There is nothing in the First Amendment which prevents the Government from requiring a licensee to share his frequency with others.... It is the right of the viewers and listeners, not the right of the broadcasters, which is paramount."

The problem with this reasoning today, in my opinion, rests on an incontrovertable fact: there are a far greater number of frequencies both on radio and television than there could have been predicted in 1969. We now have cable and satellite with literally hundreds of channels available. Gone are the days when most places might get ABC, NBC, and CBS solely. Today, a person can get every variation on a sports channel, 100 music channels, and any number of weather channels along with the various news and entertainment channels. In short, is the Fairness Doctrine needed in a world that has so many choices? The obvious answer is "no."

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Law School Lessons (or the Things They Don't Want You to Know)

I started law school in the fall of 1997 about 18 months after my mother had died. Unlike many of my classmates who had dreamed of being attorneys from their childhoods, I didn't have any interest in law until after I was an adult. My background was in journalism and so, for me, I was way more interested in the writing of law rather than the practicing of it. This sort of set me apart from most of my colleagues, who were already deciding which high-power firms they were interested in clerking for (if you want a hilarious glimpse at life in a law firm, check out Anonymous Lawyer ).

My husband's biggest fear was that I was going to rack up $100,000 in student loans and then go work for Legal Aid (as was my wont). I will confess that was my most likely course of action when I started as a 1L. It was a coffee-spitting moment in my Legal Management course when the professor asked why we wanted to be lawyers and I said because I wanted to help people. I guess he didn't get too many of those.

I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised at all by the reactions of my colleagues. Most law school students are ruthless and cut-throat. In short, all those lawyer jokes you've ever heard are true. Most attorneys really are mean, nasty bastards and if you aren't a mean, nasty bastard, you probably won't be in business very long.

I always found this tenet of the law to be horrid, but as I found out later in life, it is true. Lawyers are bastards. But they are bastards because that's what their clients want them to be when they bring their troubles to the attorney. Our adversarial system demands that lawyers be willing to win at all costs because anything less is not the best representation of the client. This is true whether we are talking about criminal law, contracts, torts, or family law.

This attitude is particularly damaging in family law, where the adversaries will have to work together for many years if they have children. It's tough to call one's ex an abusive parent in the morning and then have to work out soccer schedules in the evening. Unfortunately, the system we have is ill-equipped to deal with what happens after the litigation.

Fortunately, especially in family law, mediation is becoming required more often. More judges are beginning to see the need for compromises that take into account the emotional investment parents have with their children. Those compromises may include extra time for half-sibling birthdays, extended or flexible pick-up and return schedules, and greater recognition by all parties as to the roles of step parents.

From your first days in law school, they tell you to "think like a lawyer." While that has mostly meant "be the biggest jerk in the room," I'm hopeful that the rise in mediation and arbitration is helping to change law from a win-lose occupation to one where we actually help more people.

FOX News at 10

Accuracy in Media has a nice column on Fox News's tenth anniversary. As much as leftists hate FOX, it certainly has filled a niche in cable news, giving conservatives a channel to watch that doesn't send blood pressures soaring.

As Cliff Kincaid notes, FOX News isn't conservative. FOX comes much closer to playing the news straight than other news organizations. What most liberals dislike about FOX News is its nightly lineup of talk shows. It's easy to understand why The O'Reilly Factor, Hannity & Colmes, and On the Record with Greta Von Susteren would cause liberals to grind their teeth. O'Reilly, which plays opposite Keith Olbermann's show, gets about 4 to 5 times the viewers of Mr. "Worst Person in the World."

Why is FOX News so popular among cable news watchers? It's certainly not because FOX is necessarily any more accurate than MSNBC or CNN. At least one study shows that cable news is "measurably thinner than the other forms of national television news studied. Its stories are more one-sided and have fewer sources, and audiences are told less about those sources than in network evening or morning news or PBS." And while viewers tend to think they are getting news all day, this study showed that the cable news networks just recycled the same stories throughout the day with little new information added.

In other words, while FOX trounces its opposition in viewership, the news quality of its journalism is still nothing to be excited about. Looks to me like FOX should have a new goal for its next decade: put a little more news on its channel and a little less opinion.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Fox Flap

As everyone who cares about these things knows by now, Michael J. Fox has made some ads supporting embryonic stem cell research. And Rush Limbaugh indelicately stated that Fox might have been off his medication and was an actor. The accusation, while sounding harsh, isn't entirely off-base. Fox has stated previously that he went off his medications before speaking before a Congressional hearing on embryonic stem cell research. The point, of course, is for people to see the unvarnished Parkinson's in all the uncomfortableness it causes for others to witness.

There's been a lot of dishonesty about what Limbaugh said. He spent 4 hours talking about this on Tuesday, and at least another hour Wednesday. Limbaugh's argument is that anyone who thrusts themselves into a political argument is not immune from criticism simply because they might be a victim in one way or another. People on the other side decried Limbaugh's comments as attacking an innocent victim. But honestly, how is it fair for Fox to run compelling political ads on a hotly debated topic without expecting any argument?

Over at Echidne of the Snakes, the discussion took a particularly nasty turn after I pointed out that both sides are prone to use emotionally-laden arguments. The discussion veered off into arguments that those against embryonic stem cell research should volunteer to be impregnated and give birth to all those embryos (I'm not making this up). But is that actually a useful argument for embryonic stem cell research? It didn't seem so to me, but merely the latest way of trying to shut off discussion. Along the way, I was accused of thinking I was perfect, of enjoying the fact that Fox has Parkinson's because he must have brought it on himself (a most peculiar argument), and at least 2 calls for me to be banned. And to think, it all started because I pointed out that both sides of that discussion use emotion to try to sway opinion! Just another day in the life of this gold-plated witch on wheels. :)

What Kind of a Blog Name is That?!

You might well be asking yourself. Well, it's a cleaned-up version of what a poster on another blog recently called me. I thought it really did sound a lot like me. I'm opinionated. I'm spoiled. I don't mind expressing myself. And I like to debate (some people would say "argue"). A lot.

So, the "Gold-Plated Witch" moniker (cleaned up, of course) just seemed appropriate. I hope this can become a place where ideas can be expressed, kicked around, and accepted or rejected without too many of the ad hominem attack-style writing that is so prevalent in most of the blogosphere.