14 October 2006

Weekend Fun

It's Saturday morning, I have a sermon to write for tomorrow and Michigan doesn't play until this evening (speaking of which, Go Blue). Therefore, I've had to seek other avenues of procrastination than my usual rooting interest. And so I present you with one of the funnier things I've come across on "teh tubes" lately (via Ivan at JSW):

Of course, I'm sure it could have been pulled off to hilarious effect in the US as well. Locally, I'd have liked to see it parked on the concrete park that is Government Center ... or perhaps outside Harvard Stadium before the Yale game. Any others worth a laugh?

13 October 2006

Pseudonyms and Dream Candidates

A few months ago, I sent an e-mail to the blogger formerly known as Henry David Thoreau that basically said I wasn't comfortable blogging pseudonymously anymore. Though I enjoyed the idea of us using the names of famed literary Bostonians who were similar in political, social and (at least in my case) religious thought, it seemed both anachronistic and at least a little cowardly, even if our intent was never to shield our identities but rather to make a point about the seriousness we meant the site to have (and which has likely not been achieved anyway; so less then the loss). I now see that he's changed his name, and I will be doing so post-haste.

Also, in response to the previous post about Mark Warner's dropping out of a race that hasn't really started, I'll say I never bought the hype that Warner was a desirable candidate for the Democratic nomination. Anyone who planned on running to the right of Hillary (I'm not scared to throw the name out, since she's not going to get any momentum from the blogosphere) was never going to be my candidate of choice. Though he has quite an affable presence, Warner's certainly not the kind of progressive and prophetic voice for whom I could see myself voting in a primary.

As for the remaining options, I've long had a soft spot for John Edwards. As a divinity student, I'm particularly concerned with poverty and Edwards is the only candidate in recent memory to devote considerable energy to crafting a pragmatic solution to the situation rather than spouting platitudes about it. Superficially, he's Southern, young and charismatic, none of which can hurt. Sadly, he's also a one-term Senator, and a former one at that. As Ezra Klein points out almost weekly, the new structure of the primaries (Iowa, where he polls well; union-heavy Nevada; New Hampshire; his birth-state South Carolina) tilts the process in his favor as well. Edwards is my favorite; Al Gore still has a hold on me after all these many years; Russ Feingold would be interesting.

Strictly from a standpoint of what might win in November and wouldn't be anathema to me (HRC might be close), I'd like to see Gen. Wesley Clark take the nomination with Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius as his running mate. Gen. Clark's presence --- particularly his leading a mostly successful humanitarian intervention in the former Yugoslavia, which is what Iraq is or is becoming --- helps Democrats on the National Security/Commander-in-Chief front. He's not exactly progressive, but he seems to at least be more so than Evan Bayh, HRC or Bill Richardson. Gov. Sebelius has spearheaded a movement that is turning Kansas blue, by being a clear-headed and straight-forward leader who values progressive economic policies. The Kansas Republican party has collapsed under her leadership (and national Republican ineptitude) to the point that its chairman recently bolted the party to run for Lt. Gov. as a Democrat. I've read some of what she's got to say and I like everything I've read. Anyway, no one asked, but I figured I'd mention it anyway.

12 October 2006

50 States in 50 Days..Word to Hitch 50.

First of all, be sure to check out. hitch50.com

Last night I gave these guys a ride to Concord, NH in the pouring rain. It was great chatting with Scotty and Fiddy about their plan and the ridiculousness of it all. These guy’s are legit and they have a great plan and great attitude about the whole thing. This isn’t some Hitch50 sponsored by Coca-Cola, commercial crap, these guys are the real deal and they are just out there trying to have fun and accomplish something totally absurd.

If you have a car and free time to help them accomplish their goal of seeing all 50 state capitals in 50 days. They are good dudes and the whole experience will be surreal enough for you to make it worth while.

11 October 2006

What It Means To Be A Liberal

Yesterday, Geoffrey R. Stone, law professor at the University of Chicago, published a great piece in the Chicago Trib entitled "What It Means to Be a Liberal." I'm with him 100%. I love stuff like this, because it can be so easy to get caught up in stuff like the Red/Blue, Congressional Page-blame game crap, that we often lose sight of the philosophies that brought us to these beliefs. I would also like to open these comments to the invitation that Stone presents at the end of his article. Here is Stone’s piece in totem:

For most of the past four decades, liberals have been in retreat. Since the election of Richard Nixon in 1968, Republicans have controlled the White House 70 percent of the time and Republican presidents have made 86 percent of the U.S. Supreme Court appointments. In many quarters, the word "liberal" has become a pejorative. Part of the problem is that liberals have failed to define themselves and to state clearly what they believe. As a liberal, I find that appalling.

In that light, I thought it might be interesting to try to articulate 10 propositions that seem to me to define "liberal" today. Undoubtedly, not all liberals embrace all of these propositions, and many conservatives embrace at least some of them.

Moreover, because 10 is a small number, the list is not exhaustive. And because these propositions will in some instances conflict, the "liberal" position on a specific issue may not always be predictable. My goal, however, is not to end discussion, but to invite debate.

1. Liberals believe individuals should doubt their own truths and consider fairly and open-mindedly the truths of others. This is at the very heart of liberalism. Liberals understand, as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once observed, that "time has upset many fighting faiths." Liberals are skeptical of censorship and celebrate free and open debate.

2. Liberals believe individuals should be tolerant and respectful of difference. It is liberals who have supported and continue to support the civil rights movement, affirmative action, the Equal Rights Amendment and the rights of gays and lesbians. (Note that a conflict between propositions 1 and 2 leads to divisions among liberals on issues like pornography and hate speech.)

3. Liberals believe individuals have a right and a responsibility to participate in public debate. It is liberals who have championed and continue to champion expansion of the franchise; the elimination of obstacles to voting; "one person, one vote;" limits on partisan gerrymandering; campaign-finance reform; and a more vibrant freedom of speech. They believe, with Justice Louis Brandeis, that "the greatest menace to freedom is an inert people."

4. Liberals believe "we the people" are the governors and not the subjects of government, and that government must treat each person with that in mind. It is liberals who have defended and continue to defend the freedom of the press to investigate and challenge the government, the protection of individual privacy from overbearing government monitoring, and the right of individuals to reproductive freedom. (Note that libertarians, often thought of as "conservatives," share this value with liberals.)

5. Liberals believe government must respect and affirmatively safeguard the liberty, equality and dignity of each individual. It is liberals who have championed and continue to champion the rights of racial, religious and ethnic minorities, political dissidents, persons accused of crime and the outcasts of society. It is liberals who have insisted on the right to counsel, a broad application of the right to due process of law and the principle of equal protection for all people.

6. Liberals believe government has a fundamental responsibility to help those who are less fortunate. It is liberals who have supported and continue to support government programs to improve health care, education, social security, job training and welfare for the neediest members of society. It is liberals who maintain that a national community is like a family and that government exists in part to "promote the general welfare."

7. Liberals believe government should never act on the basis of sectarian faith. It is liberals who have opposed and continue to oppose school prayer and the teaching of creationism in public schools and who support government funding for stem-cell research, the rights of gays and lesbians and the freedom of choice for women.

8. Liberals believe courts have a special responsibility to protect individual liberties. It is principally liberal judges and justices who have preserved and continue to preserve freedom of expression, individual privacy, freedom of religion and due process of law. (Conservative judges and justices more often wield judicial authority to protect property rights and the interests of corporations, commercial advertisers and the wealthy.)

9. Liberals believe government must protect the safety and security of the people, for without such protection liberalism is impossible. This, of course, is less a tenet of liberalism than a reply to those who attack liberalism. The accusation that liberals are unwilling to protect the nation from internal and external dangers is false. Because liberals respect competing values, such as procedural fairness and individual dignity, they weigh more carefully particular exercises of government power (such as the use of secret evidence, hearsay and torture), but they are no less willing to use government authority in other forms (such as expanded police forces and international diplomacy) to protect the nation and its citizens.

10. Liberals believe government must protect the safety and security of the people, without unnecessarily sacrificing constitutional values. It is liberals who have demanded and continue to demand legal protections to avoid the conviction of innocent people in the criminal justice system, reasonable restraints on government surveillance of American citizens, and fair procedures to ensure that alleged enemy combatants are in fact enemy combatants. Liberals adhere to the view expressed by Brandeis some 80 years ago: "Those who won our independence ... did not exalt order at the cost of liberty."

Consider this an invitation. Are these propositions meaningful? Are they helpful? Are they simply wrong? As a liberal, how would you change them or modify the list? As a conservative, how would you draft a similar list for conservatives?