Saturday, April 16, 2005

 

There Ain't No Insanity Clause

My fellow New York blogger (well, she's not a fellow, but you get my meaning) Karol Sheinin was mildly annoyed at Josh Marshall's description of me as an "old-fashioned sane kind" of Republican. I sort of agree, but for different reasons: She didn't like the implications of the use of the word "sane." I, of course, -- thinking of myself as a perpetually, forever-hip, kind of guy -- objected to the word, "old-fashioned." (And yes, I did go to Josh's birthday party, but that's only because some of my best friends are white...Democrats.) Anyway, check out Karol. Among her many virtues (aside from her excellent taste in dinnner companions), she has an excellent geographically and thematically diverse blogroll.

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Victims Us "R"

So what way does the Republican Party want to go? Victories on the economic front have been clear. To the extent that George Bush's Social Security initiative has been pushed back, it is arguably because of rhetoric (for a while, Bush was throwing around the "Crisis" word more than the average DC Comics miniseries) or tactics (tax reform or fixing the Medicare mess might have been better things to attempt first).

Yet, the party has to decide how far it intends to go to address the concerns of its religious conservative base. Yes, many on the left are dismissive of religious conservatives as rural, know-nothing yahoos. That's an unfortunate stereotyping that wouldn't be considered if directed toward any other minority group.

That said, the GOP does itself no favors when it tries to set itself up as the sole protector of "people of faith." Reasonable people can disagree with the wisdom of Congress getting involved in the Terri Schiavo case (I personally felt it was a mistake.) However, things have gone too far when the Senate Majority Leader involves himself in a production promoted as portraying Democrat filibusters of Republican judges as, "
being used against people of faith."

It is not merely problematic in the way that Ballon Juice's John Cole points
out: "If you don't share our politics, you hate the baby Jesus....Our leaders have now taken the traditional rhetorical demonization of our opposition and elevated it to heavenly heights."

Republicans have seemingly adopted the tactics that Democrats have used with black voters for years: Not only is opposition to a political point wrong, it must be a sign of blatant bigotry. The flip side of this demonization of the enemy, of course, is the infatilization of one's supporters. In short, Christian conservatives are now officially societal "victims" with all the moral weight that carries. In much the same way that Charlie Rangel said infamously several years ago that the "new" Republican bigotry comes forth in the language of "tax cuts," Bill Frist and Co. are now suggesting that opposition to GOP judges is evidence that Democrats hate judges.

What is rather interesting is that, just a couple of years ago, this charge was limited to the Democrats handling of one judge,
Bill Pryor of Alabama. Republicans charged that Democrats were anti-Catholic because they opposed Pryor, a pro-life conservative judge. Yes, this is some sort of rough-justice for Democrats who claimed that Republicans blocked Bill Clinton's judges because they were -- pick one -- Black, Hispanic, female, etc.

But, it was wrong then and it is wrong now. It is invidious to society. For one thing, I thought Republicans didn't believe in creating new classes of victims.

And now, the charge has evidently expanded to the entire class of judges -- not just Pryor. In addition, as W. James Antle III noted in the Feb. 28 edition of The American Conservative (not online), Republicans have happily adopted the race card to accuse Democrats of blocking judges because they are Hispanic (Miguel Estrada) or black (Janice Rogers Brown).

It's so wonderful that we now have two parties more than happy to turn whole classes of the electorate into "victims." In both cases, of course, the status of "victim" is in inverse proportion to their actual influence within the given party. Democrats point to blacks -- their most steadfast voter -- as permanent victims. Now, Republicans have a very significant religious conservative bloc that must be catered to as victims.

In both cases, arguably, it is the greater society that becomes the true victim.

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Friday, April 15, 2005

 

Strong-Arming the Truth?

One rule of thumb that should be followed, regardless of what administration is in power, is "Beware of 'principle' being used to cover up inconvenient facts." The "principle" is usually used more often than not is just a self-serving weapon to hide some malfeasance, regardless of how minor. Sorry, but I tend to be an absolutist on the public's right to have insight into the workings of government policy (obviously making exception for issues of national security).

It's true whether the issue is Hillary's health care task force more than a decade ago or VP Cheney's energy task force four years ago (yes, I know the courts upheld the government's right not to share the information, but as Tom DeLay would tell you -- the court's don't always get it correct).

And it's true today. If
initial reports are true, there seems to be a certain amount of stonewalling from the White House over the details of the now-notorious Department of Education-initiated contract with Ketchum that ended up having pundit Armstrong Williams hawk the administration's No Child Left Behind policy. Yes, there is the caveat that the charges of obstruction are coming from George Miller, the House Education Committee ranking member.

But, so what? There's a legitimate point being made here.

A quarter of a million dollars (give or take $10,000 between friends) -- what Williams received -- isn't chump change. The administration claims that the ED inspector general can't request information from from the White House itself. But if an inquiry leads to questions that only current personnel in the White House can answer, why shouldn't those individuals be made available -- particularly when the White House has made several public pronouncements that it knew nothing about the contract? The fact is that in every administration, there is a free flow of personnel from White House offices into departments and vice versa. Such procedural objections can be made at any time.

These sort of loopholes are infuriating, whether at the federal level, as is happening here -- or at the state level. In New York, an individual accused of ignoring ethics and lobbying conflicts-of-interest can quickly avoid prosecution by simply leaving government service.

As an aside: the original Williams
story was broken by USA Today's education reporter, Greg Toppo. He's a good reporter and a scrupulous writer. I would think that even if we hadn't graduated Port Chester (N.Y.) Senior High School the same year -- and attended St. John's College at the same time.

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Thursday, April 14, 2005

 

Bill & Hillary's Fink Rats


In my paper's -- ahem -- competitor, Lloyd Grove puts the Clinton-Finkelstein flap in a brand new light:

Hillary loyalists from the Glover Park Group Democratic consulting firm were embarrassed by Bill Clinton's remarks, because they're working closely with Finkelstein - and they're all getting paid handsomely by Cablevision - to thwart plans for a taxpayer-funded stadium on the West Side.
For those not completely versed in New York politics, the most controversial issue in the city right now is whether the NFL’s New York Jets should be able to build a new stadium on the otherwise fallow grounds of Manhattan’s far West Side. This has been Michael Bloomberg’s biggest cause of his first term (along with bringing the Olympics to the city — for which the stadium’s existence would help New York’s bid). While the team is doing the actual building of the stadium, various infrastructure improvements, including extending a subway line will cost the city and state upwards of $600 million. All the declared Democratic mayoral candidates are against the project.

The biggest anti-stadium lobbyist is former Sen. Alphonse D’Amato who -- along with ex-Sen. Jesse Helms -- is probably Arthur Finkelstein’s most famous client. So, that explains how the man who turned “liberal” into a dirty word could end up doing work with the Clinton-administration-in-exile Glover Park Group.

While one can see how Bill’s comments might be embarrassing to his former aides working with Finkelstein, exactly how do they square having a professional relationship -- and, according to Grove, becoming “fast friends” -- with the guy creating the anti-Hillary “Stop Her Now” PAC?

What Cablevision -- which owns Madison Square Garden, the Knicks and Rangers and lead the stadium opposition -- hath brought together, let no man (or woman) put asunder...

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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

 

Word Of The Day

Can you say, "train wreck," boys and girls? I thought you could.

Mr. Tyson meet Rev. Sharpton (midway through the story).

And what does Mr. Osbourne have to say about this odd confluence of events?

I’ve listened to preachers
I’ve listened to fools
I’ve watched all the dropouts
Who make their own rules
One person conditioned to rule and control
The media sells it and you have the role

Mental wounds still screaming
Driving me insane
I’m going off the rails on a crazy train



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Is This Argument Jermaine?

My friend Eric McErlain at the excellent sports site Offwing Opinion discusses Indiana Pacers' center Jermaine O'Neal's potentially inflammatory view that the NBA's proposed minimum draft-entry age limit of 20 for players. O'Neal asserts:

"As a black guy, you kind of think [race is] the reason why it's coming up.
"You don't hear about it in baseball or hockey. To say you have to be 20, 21 to get in the league, it's unconstitutional. If I can go to the U.S. Army and fight the war at 18 why can't you play basketball for 48 minutes?" O'Neal said.

Eric agrees to a point -- the rather arbitrary nature of the suggested move. However, as two of his readers note, regardless of how much Commissioner David Stern and NBA owners want this instituted, they wouldn't have a chance in the world if it wasn't something that the NBA players union also supports. And the players themselves -- depsite the influx of European players -- is still upwards of 75 percent black. Are those players being racist tryint to keep some other black kids out? Hardly.

Something to keep in mind is that, of the four (three-point-five, including hockey) major North American sports, the National Basketball Association has the fewest players teams (twelve on each roster, versus 23 in hockey, 28 in baseball and 45 in football). That's a very small pool with a lot of fish wanting to get into it.

Thus it is in both the union's and the league's best interest to keep high-school age players out. Such a situation means lower costs for the owners and enhanced job security for veteran players. Heck, if they could get away with it, they'd probably try to keep more college graduates out (keep in mind that the proposed rule change would force most basketball players to go to college for at least two years).

Jermaine O'Neal is one of an increasing number of players who realized that they were ready for professional basketball while they were leaving high school. Those numbers include Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, LeBron James, Tracy McGrady, Amaire Stoudamire, Sebastian Telfair, etc. etc. No wonder current players would want to keep the numbers down.

Which raises an interesting question, the answer to which I will happily defer to lawyers and other experts of professional sports law: At some point, if a minimum-age rule was instituted, would one or more HS students sue the NBA and the players association, charging that the collective bargaining agreement amounts to an illegal restraint of trade. In essence, the argument would be that the CBA creates a de facto cartel conspiring to keep individuals from pursuing their livelihood.

How ironic would it be that the players union could end up being broken, not by the league (as the NHL is attempting to do), but by other, younger players who see their interests wildly divergent from the veteran-dominated union? Any up-and-coming HS student would have a good case by just pointing to the aforementioned James, Bryant, Garnett, et. al. as examples of being able to succeed under the age of 20.

Again, I defer to Eric and his legions of sports-niks for their observations on what might happen in such a scenario.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

 

Clinton Fink?

My friend James Taranto, overseer of OpinionJournal.com's "Best of the Web," goes after the former president of the United States for comments about Republican consultant Arthur Finkelstein:

This morning's Times brings us yet another Finkelstein update:


"Former President Bill Clinton unleashed an attack yesterday against a gay Republican strategist who has plans to work against Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's re-election, suggesting that the man may be 'self-loathing' to work on behalf of the Republican Party."


John Edwards, John Kerry and now Bill Clinton--that's three. We can now officially speak of the gay-baiting trend among Democratic politicians, though in fairness to Kedwards, we should note that they did not go so far as to imply being gay was loathsome.


When I first heard Clinton's remarks, I was of a similar mind. What? Gays aren't allowed to be Republican consultants? Does that fit into the "blacks should only be Democrat" meme often implied in many Democratic circles? Is this a classic Clinton two-fer: Slam the guy who is criticizing his wife and also go after him for being both gay AND Republican?

Then the more I thought about it, it strikes me that this is different from the Mary Cheney situation. For one, Cheney was a behind-the-scenes staffer on the campaign, hardly a lead figure like Finkelstein. Furthermore, she has said barely a word about administration policies.

That can't be said about Finkelstein. He was rather outspoken in his criticism of the Republican Party -- particularly on social issues. Indeed in an interview with an Israeli paper, he said that George W. Bush had turned the election “into a referendum on the religious and cultural nature of America.” He added that the party had essentially been captured by the "Christian right." Indeed, Finkelstein's comments were considered so radioactive that he was canned by his longtime client George Pataki.

Given that opposition to gay marriage was a an important issue for Christian conservatives in the last election, Finkelstein seemed to be making a clear political statement with his decision to marry in Massachusetts. Finkelstein's words -- about the GOP -- and actions make him something of a legitimate political target.

In short, Clinton's bringing up Finkelstein's being gay isn't as really the out-of-the-blue cheap shot, pseudo "gay-baiting" that John Kerry's debate comment was.

UPDATE: Thanks to Andrew and Josh for sending folks over here. Josh, I may already have cost you readers, as a few people are wondering where you got the idea that I was sane. C'est la vie. Just to be clear to some folks, the "Kedwards" line is in the original article. I don't think that Edwards, in the VP debate, was "gay-baiting." He was following Cheney in responding to a question about same-sex marriage. Edwards spoke directly to Cheney and said that he admired his embracing of his daughter. On the other hand, in response to a question about whether being gay is innate or a preference, Kerry -- debating Bush -- just brought Cheney's daughter up in a rather gratuitious manner. In short, he seemed more than happy to use her identity as a cheap political point.

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Nota Ben

Much gratitude to Ben Smith who writes the quite witty and rather well-informed Politicker blog for the New York Observer. Must reading for anyone who wants to keep up with the nutty political scoop in NYC. Ben was nice enough to link over here on Monday -- before I had even had the chance to set up my comments correctly! Ah well, this will teach me -- the clock is always (poli)ticking...

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Monday, April 11, 2005

 

Pleased To Meet Me?

Well, I suppose the best way to start is to tell you a little bit about me -- at least the stuff that is too lengthy to fit into the "About Me" section to the left.

Basics: Born in
Trinidad, moved to the UK at the tender age of one. Moved to the US at the age of eight -- to the greatest city in the world, New York (yeah, some would disagree. They would be wrong.)

Due to varied familial preferences and strife, in short order, I moved to Connecticut (Bridgeport -- before the bankruptcy), California (Sacramento), back to New York (Port Chester in Westchester County), then off to Annapolis, MD, where I attended
St. John's College.

I've worked at various book stores in the MD/DC area; the Republican National Committee (twice); the U.S. House of Representatives (Michael Huffington &
Newt Gingrich); and my current employer, the New York Post, where I am an editorial writer. From 2001-2004, I was a frequent political commentator for CNN. I am a once-and-future DJ, having played at several DC-area bars and clubs and performed at least a dozen weddings.

I can also be found doing
improv and stand-up comedy in New York area venues.

I have contributed to
National Review Online, Reason & Salon, as well as a mildly notorious article last year in The New Republic, which has been reprinted here.

Given that background, figure that there will be a fair bit of discussion of politics here, but also topics such as sports, music, comic books and whatever else might strike my fancy on a given day. You might also find me occasionally posting
here.

Oh yeah, a fair warning: I love
puns -- the worse, the better.

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