Friday, June 09, 2006


Open Thread

Yep, this is RAGGED THOTS' first official "Open Thread"! I say "official" because whatever I post ends up becoming an open thread by the time the "regulars" are done with it!

There will be a couple of posts over the weekend, but have fun here in the meantime!

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Playing Footsie

For those interested in all things World Cup, go check out the The New Republic "Goalpost." TNR editor Franklin Foer wrote his first book on the sport several years ago and apparently his mania for the game has never abated. And, he's not alone!

UPDATE: Excellent overall coverage of the WC can be found here at Yahoo. In addition the UK newspaper The Guardian has a convenient listing on the page to see each country organized by group.

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John Cole observes that Ann -- in going for the shock-value of attacking the 9/11 widows -- missed the opportunity to make a really serious observatioin about contemporary political culture. It is about the personalization -- and, thus, politicization -- of tragedy:

In other words- anything the Jersey 4 or Cindy Sheehan states, from a policy standpoint, should be listened to because they are coming from a position of personal sacrifice. If you refute (or try to) their arguments or their policy positions, why, you are attacking a ‘grieving mother!’ That is what certain political operatives are trying to do, and it is nothing more than an emotional appeal that should be ignored. If the GOP found 4 relatives of people who had died in 9/11, and parents of soldiers killed in Iraq who were all wild and enthusiastic supporters of this administration, would their sacrifices make their political opinions ‘infallible?’

Of course not, as that is absolute nonsense. I don’t want you all to think that ‘the left’ is the only group that seems to do it- both political sides seem to be as cynically manipulative with this sort of thing. It just seems like this happens more now with ‘the left’ than ‘the right,’ which I would guess is because ‘the left,’ at the moment, is operating from a position of no power. They don’t control the WH, Congress, etc. However, if you doubt both sides do it, think back to how many times we saw poor Terri Schiavo’s parents wheeled out in front of the cameras to show that we absolutely must change longstanding laws and policy decisions because they were grieving.

So, yes, Ann Coulter is a vicious shrew who made a boatload of nasty comments about people who have gone through hell and deserve, if nothing else, to be treated with a dose of compassion that the heartless columnist Coulter seems to be unable to muster. But at the same time, Coulter is on to something-we, collectively, have got to stop using tragedy in attempts to make bad ideas somehow seem better. It is unseemly, it causes bitter divisions, and worst of all, it doesn’t let the best ideas come forward. It advances the most emotionally fraught arguments assume positions of dominance, and if we have learned ANYTHING over the past few years since 9/11, hysteria and emotional appeals are no way to run a government.
Quite so. And this is certainly not a new phenomenon. When I was in DC, whenever there was a press conference to heighten awareness of an upcoming critical vote, congressional staffers and interest groups activists always made sure that there were several "victims" (preferably a family). And, no, we're not talking about victims of crimes -- we're talking about victims of some government policy (or regulation or tax or agency).

It became essential to put a name and a "story" behind the legislation. Reason alone had failed (and would likely fail again), thus the individual circumstances became a way to both illustrate the issue -- AND to pre-emptively block counter-arguments.

How can anyone of good reason and integrity oppose a policy that would help -- or offer relief -- to this family. ('And look at that cute little girl standing with her doll next to her hard-working daddy!')

Call this Baby Boomer legislating-by-emoting.

Of course, the opposite side of that coin is exactly what Ann Coulter now represents: Debating-by-bombthrowing.

The easiest way to combat the enforced sentimentality which is used as a weapon to forestall debate, is to attack in the most personal terms the integrity of the supposed "victim." The reasoned argument John Cole attempts above? Forget that!! ('Geez! Nice words, John, but that's never going to cut through the media morass.')

It is simpler to charge, as Coulter essentially does, that the 9/11 widows are more than just politically wrong or misguided: They are lacking any integrity. They are corrupt and they have used tragedy to gain significance and wealth that is undeserved.

The irony, of course, is that Coulter's tactic has accomplished the same result for her: Attacking women whose husbands died on 9/11 has created perfect media-storm controversy during the book's roll-out week. Ann Coulter, thus, manages to make money off of demonstrating anger at four widow's grief! (The extra upside for her? She doesn't have to deal with the inconvenience of having her husband die and raising her kids by herself.)

Like those widows, she'll get to see lots of money from her Godless work. And, because we still live in such a sensitive emoting age, it is inevitable that -- even despite the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- this little controversy will have, as the saying goes, legs.

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Thursday, June 08, 2006


Cliches Exist For A Reason

One of the biggest cliches in politics is: "XXXXX weeks/months/days is a lifetime in politics." It is a phrase usually uttered by the candidate/campaign/political party that has had a string of bad luck and feels that it is running behind.

However, it is also fact -- such as "Five months is a lifetime in politics." Forty-eight hours ago, George W. Bush and the Republicans were reeling, possibly looking at the loss of long-held GOP seat in California and the president still suffering from approval ratings in the mid-30s (to be generous) -- partly due to an increasingly unpopular war in Iraq that didn't seem to offer any positive developments.

Uh, and where are we now? The awkwardly timed front-page New York Times story tries to spin the California 50th election as a
sort-of defeat for Republicans.

And, of course, overnight the biggest fish in Iraq
has been taken out.

By no means does this suggest that Republicans can breathe easy (Um, how's that
gay marriage amendment doing, guys?).

But it does mean that the Democrats have to do more than just hope that the stock market continues falling, Iraq remains volatile and other such matters (the William Jefferson drama has effectively made the corruption issue a wash). They need to make the case for taking control of Congress, because one can never underestimate the power of the incumbent party.

UPDATE: Another fine example of the Democrats helping the GOP get out of their "culture of corruption" hole. Thought experiment: Can you imagine my former boss Newt Gingrich assisting either Jim Wright or Tom Foley in trying to get an FBI search declared unconstitutional? Were I a Democrat, I wouldn't be too happy with Nancy Pelosi right about now.
UPDATE II: Perfectly-titled -- and uncannily-timed: "The Short, Violent Life of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi" just out from The Atlantic.

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Paint It Black the numbers. The Washington Post's series tracking the triumphs and travails of African American men has some interesting numbers in a broad poll:

On the whole, survey respondents showed a powerful connection to a common
history that crosses lines of education, income, age and geography, and stands in sharp contrast to the perceptions of many of their white counterparts.

The poll also documents how the enormous changes in society over the last generations have rippled through the lives of black men. But as the distance between the races begins to narrow, new tensions have emerged in the way black men perceive themselves and their lives:

· Six in 10 black men said their collective problems owe more to what they have failed to do themselves rather than "what white people have done to blacks." At the same time, half reported they have been treated unfairly by the police, and a clear majority said the economic system is stacked against them.
· More than half said they place a high value on marriage -- compared with 39 percent of black women -- and six in 10 said they strongly value having children. Yet at least 38 percent of all black fathers in the survey are not living with at least one of their young children, and a third of all never-married black men have a child. Six in 10 said that black men disrespect black women.
· Three in four said they value being successful in a career, more than either white men or black women. Yet majorities also said that black men put too little emphasis on education and too much emphasis on sports and sex.
· Eight in 10 said they are satisfied with their lives, and six in 10 reported that it is a "good time" to be a black man in the United States. But six in 10 also reported they often are the targets of racial slights or insults, two-thirds said they believe the courts are more likely to convict black men than whites, and a quarter reported they have been physically threatened or attacked because they are black.
· Black men said they strongly believe in the American Dream -- nine in 10 black men would tell their sons they can become anything they want to in life. But this vision of the future is laden with cautions and caveats: Two-thirds also would warn their sons that they will have to be better and work harder than whites for equal rewards.

The question, of course, is what is to be done with this information? It's not exactly like this is uncharted history. However, there is one area where the poll produces results that could, in the right context be fruitful:

Despite their clear achievements and general optimism about their prospects, black men worry more than virtually everyone, the survey found. About four in 10 black men said they are fearful they will lose their job, nearly double the proportion of white men who said the same thing. Even more affluent, better-educated black men are far more anxious about being fired or laid off than their white male and white female co-workers.

More than half of all black men said they fear they or a member of their family will get AIDS, nearly triple the percentage of white men. Six in 10 said they worry that they'll be treated unfairly by the police, and more than a third said they fear they will be arrested -- fears that hardly trouble whites. A good job and education do little to ease these fears: college-educated, upper-middle-class black men were about twice as likely to say they are worried about being arrested, losing their jobs or falling victim to violent crime as upper-class whites.

"With a black man, first you're black. And that carries a lot of baggage -- false and real," said Jerome Tucker, 52, an entrepreneur in Upper Marlboro.

This worries gap sometimes exists in areas where the survey results suggest it shouldn't. When asked if they had been laid off or fired, an equal proportion of higher-income, college-educated whites and blacks reported that they had.

In short, black men worry more. Of course, there is the old saying -- "Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean that they're not out to get you." -- that has some validity here. The many concerns that those men articulate are reinforced by a society that gives statistics on how many more black men are unemployed or in jail or have greater likelihood of getting AIDS, having high blood pressure or heart disease.

So, what comes first -- the chicken or the egg? There is a real sense that comes through here that the Biblical adage of being a "brother's keeper" is taken to heart by the African American male -- possibly to an extent that may be unhealthy.

Wanting to help your fellow man is an admirable and praiseworthy impulse. However, empathizing to the point where the miseries of one's brother becomes the imagined or exaggerated ills of oneself can ultimately be emotionally paralyzing -- for both the individual and the collective.

UPDATE: Edited to correct for confusing grammatical construction in the last paragraph.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006


Just Making Her Day!

So, Ann Coulter attacks several of the 9/11 widows. Her comments are pretty obnoxious (though the "Witches of East Brunswick" line is pretty funny -- tasteless, but funny).

Hillary defends the widows and attacks Coulter as "heartless" -- which, of course helps Ann sell books.

Ann then goes after Hillary (Drudge first reported that Ann raised the specters of Bill Clinton rape accuser Juanita Broaddrick and Kathleen Willey at Sen. Clinton).

Ah, a partisan catfight -- and it serves both of their PR purposes: Ann gets the immediate book boost -- while Hillary gets one of the walking icons of the "vast right-wing conspiracy" attacking victim-wives (just as Hillary herself was during the impeachment madness)!


UPDATE: A more serious view from the right on Coulter's antics. Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan.

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006


Mighty White Of You, Pat

Ah, so nice that Rep. Patrick Kennedy wants to be down wit tha brothas:

Denying that he was drunk and or that he asked the Capitol Police for preferential treatment, Kennedy, a Rhode Island congressman, said he's prepared "in terms of bookings, in terms of mug shots, fingerprints, whatever they might have me do."

"It's what anyone else would have done to them if they were an African-American in Anacostia," Kennedy said in a shaky voice, referring to the mostly minority neighborhood in southeastern Washington.
So wonderful that he's ready to be treated like, gosh, a black person when it comes to the judicial process.

Now, I don't know a whole lot of black (or white)folks, of course, that get to blow off work to enter rehab for three weeks after crashing their car on the U.S. Capitol compound.

But that's just me.

Apparently, it hasn't dawned on the good Mr. Kennedy that just the fact that he is able to even contemplate how he should be treated demonstrates his own sense of privelege.

Most people -- particularly black men, for example -- don't have the optiion of saying, "Treat me as you would a wealthy son of a political dynasty -- or treat me as if I were an African-American in Anacostia. It's your call."

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He's Baaaaack!!!! (Kinda)

Hot on the heels of Newt Gingrich's surprising first-place showing this weekend in a straw poll vote of Minnesota Republicans, The Washington Times assesses what it might mean:

The best way to analyze Mr. Gingrich's "win" is to say that it doesn't look particularly good at this point for Beltway Republicans considering a presidential run.

That's because any Republican candidate has to get past the primaries, which are dominated by the conservative base. And on the three major issues hurting Republicans right now -- particularly corruption, spending and immigration -- Mr. Gingrich has recently been out in public siding with conservatives. On the Abramoff scandal: "You can't have a corrupt lobbyist unless you have a corrupt member [of Congress]." On spending: House Speaker Dennis Hastert's "recent statement that the Senate [budget] bill is so outrageously too big that the House won't even conference on it was exactly right." On immigration: "The Senate bill is an absolute disaster."
Given that the Times editorial page is edited by the former speaker's former press secretary (and my former immediate boss), Tony Blankley, I wouldn't be surprised if this edit sparks an entire cottage-industry of tea-leave readers.

Regardless, I think the basic conclusion is right: Inside-the-Beltway candidates are toxic right now (because of both policy and ethics missteps), at least on the GOP side; that may or may change a year or so from now. However, in the short term, this means an outsider like a Gingrich (or a Rudy Giuliani) may have a stronger advantage than a John McCain, George Allen, Bill Frist or other congressional Republicans (one notable exception would be Tom Tancredo who has staked out the farthest anti-immigration position).

But, hey, wouldn't a Hillary Clinton vs. Newt Gingrich 2008 match-up be fun?

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Monday, June 05, 2006


Marriage & Federalist Fidelity

As the fake drive for the Federal Marriage Amendment begins in earnest (chew on that for a moment), I thought this Walter Olson post was appropos.

Olson is a libertarian lawyer, most often associated with the Manhattan Institute. His Web site Overlawyered is great in and of itself as it focuses on how much our trial-lawyer dominated society is screwed up.

But, anyway, in this post, Olson quotes social conservative James Q. Wilson who voices his objections agains the FMA (which technically could be called FeMA, i.e. a constitutional disaster):

The rising demand that every personal preference become a constitutional right is a worrisome disease. People, of course, do have rights; the Constitution and the first ten amendments spell most of them out. That document defines the essential requirements of life and liberty. Adding new invented rights by either a ratified amendment or judicial overreaching is a mistake.
Exactly. In other words, Wilson interprets the FMA as granting men and women a specific "invented" right -- to marriage -- from which, of course any non-male/female combination would be precluded.

Meanwhile, my colleague Ryan Sager focuses on the other side of the federalist coin: He tries to convince his fellow same-sex marriage supporters the wisdom of pursuing their goals through
legislative means rather than jockeying for judicial fiat.

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Please, OH! Please Me


The UK Sun discovers the soon-to-be ex-Mrs. Paul McCartney in pre-fame German-published porno. Of course, this blog, being what it is, links to
these scandalous shots not for their salacious content.

Quite the contrary: It is only for the really bad Beatles-related puns that are included in the captions revealed when you click on the thumbnails to enlarge them.

My favorite: "Oil you need is love..."

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