Thursday, September 30, 2004
Friday, September 24, 2004
"If we wonder why CBS is in trouble, why no one trusts the universities or the U.N., or why the Democrats may soon lose the Senate, the House, the presidency, and the Supreme Court, the answer has a lot to do with arrogant hypocrisy - the idea that how one lives need have nothing to do with what one professes, that idealistic rhetoric can provide psychological cover for privilege and preference, and that rules need not apply for those self-proclaimed as smarter and nicer than the rest of us. But none of us - none - get a pass simply because we claim that we are more moral, educated, or sophisticated than most."Idealistic rhetoric serves a purpose, but it does not absolve us of responsibility for our own actions. We do not always live up to our own ideals, but we must continue to try to achieve them and it is in the attempt to achieve our ideals that we can also attain, and hopefully keep, the moral high ground. Regardless of what "version" of morality one subscribes, the way in which we reach, and maintain, our own moral high ground must be consistent with our own ideals. The ends don't justify the means. This is true regardless of one's ideological bent. Hypocrisy undermines credibility, just ask Dan Rather.
Tuesday, September 21, 2004
Some People say that Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey's thrashing of a labor-union puppet in his Republican primary last week offers proof that Rhode Island's public-employee unions are far from the juggernauts they are often made out to be.The reason is because, unlike in most primary elections, or most general for that matter, the heat of the race in Cranston brought a lot of attention to the actors behind the scenes. In other races, where no such scrutiny was to be found, Montanaro and his cronies were much more effective.
I think that they're wrong.
What the voters' 3-to-1 drubbing of union factotum Garry Reilly really revealed is that the public, even in Rhode Island, has the upper hand whenever it is warned and informed. In less publicized elections, watch out.
It's true that Cranston voters dealt a stinging blow to AFL-CIO and Blue Cross boss Frank Montanaro and his pals in organized labor, who had dumped thousands of dollars and other resources into trying to eliminate Mr. Laffey for his daring to speak out for the taxpayers. In their now-famous letter to union members, Robert Walsh and Larry Purtill of the National Education Association of Rhode Island (NEARI) declared that it "seems to be an appropriate time to stop Laffey's political career." Instead of stopping his career, they turned him into a folk hero.
Nevertheless, Mr. Montanaro was not just spinning when he argued the public-employee unions had a pretty good day last Tuesday. By my calculations, their endorsed candidates for the legislature won all but a few of the contested primaries.
One of the people Mr. Montanaro helped beat was the Democratic Party's endorsed candidate in House District 32, Dale Grogan, a North Kingstown Town Council member and clean-water champion. She had crossed Mr. Montanaro on at least two counts: in opposing construction of a container port at Quonset, and in fighting to force firefighters to pay a small share of their health-insurance premiums. Mr. Montanaro, as president of the Rhode Island State Association of Fire Fighters, didn't like that one bit.Her refusal to kowtow to the bosses ended up in the union cabal endorsing her opponent and Mrs. Grogan losing by 37 votes. I've never been known as a Democrat, but I am all for crushing the corruption in this state, regardless of party affiliation. Achorn provides some of the agenda to which the citizens of Rhode Island are up against:
Nonetheless, on July 27, Mr. Montanaro and his cohort, George Nee, sent Mrs. Grogan a letter informing her that the AFL-CIO was "now in the process of making political endorsements" in her race. "Please send a written request for endorsement within five days of receiving this letter, and we will notify you of the interview schedule for the [union endorsement] committee in your district. Your interview committee will seek your position on issues important to working people."
Mrs. Grogan, who runs a store in Wickford, declined the invitation, which she described as an "audience" with the bosses.
"I would never say I'm anti-union. My father-in-law was very active in the postal union," she said. But "I just want to be honest. I just want to go to the State House to vote my conscience. . . . My only political concern is the people of North Kingstown, and what's in their interest."
Achorn also noted that the National Education Association of Rhode Island had its hands in the campaign against Mrs. Grogan too.
According to the AFL-CIO Web site, its legislative concerns include: opposing charter schools that are not controlled by teachers unions; beefing up the powers of the state Labor Relations Board (whose votes Mr. Montanaro controls); expanding collective bargaining to government employees below "top-level" managerial positions; opposing any attempt to save taxpayers money by privatizing public services. Whether such measures serve the public's interest, I leave it to the reader to judge.
So Mr. Montanaro had at least some reason to smile through his black eye last Tuesday. And it seems premature, to say the least, to declare that the public-employee unions are political weaklings.It sure is. Hopefully more will take the time to THINK about who they are voting for on November 2. That is the only way we can return this state to our hands, and out of those of the unions.
Still, one must say that an informed public -- as the energized voters of Cranston so dramatically demonstrated -- acts far differently from one unaware of sub rosa attempts to control the political process. Information is power.
Saturday, September 18, 2004
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
"This wasn't a Republican primary tonight, it was a lot bigger. It was the people's primary," Laffey said at his Pontiac Avenue headquarters last night. "They said it was the battle for the soul of Rhode Island. This battle was fought tonight and the people won."Now, there were some problems at the polling places, but the margin of victory, 75% Laffey to 25% Reilly, is just too big for Laffey's victory to be totally attributal to polling place gaffes and fraud. I certainly hope that the people of Rhode Island made a statement this primary season. In addition to the Laffey win, we also saw a few incumbents lose in the primaries, most notably former RI House Speaker John Harwood. Now, there is a mixed message in these results. While the old guard may be changing, some of the new guard were supported by the current House Majority leader William Murphy and his "machine." However, some of his candidates didn't fare too well, either.
"An earthquake went off tonight in Cranston, and the tremors are being felt already from Westerly to Woonsocket," Laffey said.
"We had a great night," Murphy said. "Democrats and independents went out and voted to be sure their voice was heard. They rejected the candidates of the old guard . . . we now have some fresh voices that are going to be campaigning in November and will be with us in January."
But Rep. Rene Menard, D-Lincoln, whom Murphy recently ousted as House whip, survived a three-way primary in the Blackstone Valley. Menard hopes to run for House majority leader on a ticket with Speaker hopeful Rep. John DeSimone, D-Providence.
Three Democratic incumbents loyal to the current speaker also fell to challengers: Rep. Maxine Bradford Shavers in Newport, Rep. Mary Cerra in Johnston, and Rep. Richard Aubin, a freshman Democrat from Burrillville.
Given that, along with the loss of an endorsed Democrat in South County and the survival of DeSimone's own Providence allies, Rep. Steven F. Smith, DeSimone declared: "I read the results as victory for change."
DeSimone may be correct, but a lot of the new guard will still be aligned with the current speaker, and ALL of them will be Democrats. "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss." The only way for real change is to change the party dynamics in the State House, meaning closing the seat gap between the Republicans and Democrats.
I voted to fill 2 vacant spots on the Warwick School Committee last night. (There were 7 candidates, we could vote for 2, and the top 4 would move on to fill 2 seats in the general election). I did research and decided to vote for two candidates who seemed to me to have real concerns as parents, were outsiders and believably pledged to put the kids first, not the teachers union. The other candidates were a former teacher, an incumbent school board member, a former-lawyer-now-college-professor, a practicing lawyer, and a salesman. Now, in the past, Warwick used to put candidates on the ballot alphabetically. After a hue and cry (it was once noted that to serve on the school board, your last name had to end in A, B, or C) random ballot placement was instituted. It doesn't seem to have mattered. The two candidates I voted for happened to be the last two on the ballot (with the salesman in the 5 spot). These were the three that lost, but ballot placement probably wasn't the only reason.
A quick review of the candidates will reveal that the 4 winners were: an incumbent (the chairwoman of the board), a lawyer, another lawyer, and a former teacher. Another important fact, though anectdotal, was that I was the first person to vote using the "green" ballot at my polling place, and this was at 5:30 pm. How come? Well, I am a registered Republican and there was no Republican primary in my district, so the only thing I could have voted on was for school board. (Though they did ask me if I wanted to vote in the Democrat primary. I'm not sure if Warwick allows for that, so I declined. I wouldn't have anyway because I don't think it would be the right thing to do [see update below]). So, I was the first Republican to come in and vote for school board. Now, perhaps other Republicans did vote in the Democrat Primary, but I would still think that Republican turnout was extremely low because of the lack of a real Republican primary. (School Board is a "non-party" position.")
The result was that Democrats overwhelmingly voted, and here I make a big, but safe, assumption (I think), that since most Teachers and Union members (hell, and lawyers!) are Democrats, they showed up to the polls and voted for a teacher, two lawyers, and an incumbent school board member. Now, I do agree with the positions the incumbent chairwoman has taken in the past, so I don't have that much of a problem with her. The occupation of the other 3 candidates does give me pause, however... a former teacher, a lawyer turned professor, and a lawyer. By the way, the occupation of the two candidates I voted for? Well, I didn't vote for the salesman (he would have been my third choice), but the other two were a former Providence Police Lt. and a Store Manager. Can you see a general difference between the two groups? (Here's a hint...one group is made up of two in private business and a policeman while the other group includes and incumbent and some mixture of teachers and lawyers.)
I guess the lesson to be learned is that it is extremely important to run candidates up and down the ticket in both primary and general elections. If this isn't done, then grass roots governing bodies, like the school board, will probably not reflect the concerns of average parents. Instead, in Warwick, we will have to choose two new school board members from a pool of an incumbent (not necessarily a bad thing), a former teacher (fox in the hen house!), a lawyer (of course) and a lawyer turned professor (not sure if that's good or bad). None of them have kids in the school system right now.
Note: I didn't include the names of all of these candidates, if you're real interested, go here for more details.
UPDATE: I did some poking around and here I found a clarification regarding me, a Republican, voting in the Democrat primary:
What type of Primary Election does the state of Rhode Island conduct?It would appear there was no way I should have been allowed to vote in the Democrat primary as a Republican. So why was I asked? I doubt that any sort of corruption was involved (unless little old and middle-aged ladies have become an extremely nefarious and aggressive PAC). Rather, I suspect a lack of understanding of the voting laws. Perhaps this was the result of confusion over the new provisional ballot system? I'm not sure, but I do know that I'll make the State Board of Elections aware of my experience.
Rhode Island has a 'closed' or party primary system. This means that you may only vote in one party's primary. If you are registered as "unaffiliated" you may vote in the primary of any party you choose. Once you vote in a primary, however, you are considered a member of that party until and unless you "disaffiliate". You may do this by signing an affidavit of disaffiliation at the polling place after you vote or by filling out a new registration form at any time. The disaffiliation takes effect in 90 days. If you indicated a party preference when you registered to vote, you may only vote in that party's primary.If you wish to vote in another party's primary, you must disaffiliate at least 90 days before the primary date.
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
"TODAY WILL BE one of the most important days in Rhode Island's political history. By tonight we should know whether it is possible for an Ocean State politican to speak out for the taxpayers, or whether the special interests have so corrupted the system that Rhode Island can no longer pretend to have a functioning representative democracy."
Read it, but if you can't, a couple other key extracts:
A letter sent out by the Laborers' Union put it this way: "As we begin negotiations with the State, various Municipalities, School Districts, elected officials, and their agents all refer to Stephen Laffey as the reason they too must attack our wages and benefits."I won't pass on the figures, but they are remarkable for a small mayoral primary. Anyway, to end:
The union continued: "From Burriville [sic] to Westerly, weak politicians indicate their fear of the press if they don't act like Laffey."
Robert Walsh and Larry Purtill, of the National Education Association of Rhode Island, representing many of the state's teachers' unions, put it chillingly: "The September 14th primary seems to be an appropriate time to stop Laffey's political career while at the same time sending a strong message to all politicians who try to vilify public employees for personal gain."
There it is: These special interests will finish off any politician who crosses them whenever it "seems to be an appropriate time." The goal is to send "a strong message" to other politicians to do the bidding of those who really control the state. Hint: It's not the citizens.
But the aggressiveness of this attempt to crush one politician, and scare others into slavish compliance, suggests that the state's public-employee unions are themselves deeply fearful. They know the stakes are high: If the citizens of Rhode Island begin to wake up and realize why they are paying such high taxes, the special interests' easy entrée into the taxpayers' wallets may be a thing of the past. And their iron grip on Ocean State politics could be broken.
They know today's primary in Cranston has statewide repercussions. So should you.
"The only plausible motive I can think of for why Rather et al would protect the source of these documents -- once they admit the truth -- is that the source of these docs is even more embarassing than the fraudulent nature of the documents themselves. If it's Chris Lehane or Ben Barnes or someone else tied to the Kerry campaign, CBS News will have actively aided and abetted a partisan smear. And they can't afford to admit that. "
Monday, September 13, 2004
"So much of these peripheral debates now are about micro-points like this: Where, exactly, was Kerry on Christmas Eve (latitude and longitude, if possible)? Was he throwing medals or ribbons? Proportional spacing is one thing, but what about the kerning? This, if you'll remember, is how OJ won his criminal trial, too -- by atomizing the relevant arguments into obscurity. We'll lay out dots of truth for you to follow. Ignore that big picture over there, please. It's misdirection taken to a level that a magician would envy.Are these things really about "nothing"? I guess they are, in the political macro sense. But in the specific area of media credibility, I would have to say that this is a Big Moment. I do think the larger argument about quibbling over the micro is important, though, and her O.J. analogy is a good one. It does speak to a drift in our society toward insisting on finer legalistic explanations and justification for nearly any point in an argument. If even one "micro" point is shown to be invalid, then we throw the baby out with the bathwater. It is considered wise to be skeptical, but not to this degree. In history, this is called being an Idealist. Every point of fact must be explicitly incontrovertible or it is unacceptable. I'll stop now...no need to go into a postmodernism rant, again.
And what it all comes down to is a Seinfeldean nothing. I so hope the Kerry campaign isn't behind all of this. It would be such a waste."
'Does it surprise me that smart people should be supporting Kerry?' Appel said. 'No.'That kind of sanctimonious, priggish attitude is precisely why people long ago stopped listening to the preponderance of blather emanating from the professorial class. For many, college courses are something to be endured, not embraced, much less swallowed whole. While some do indeed fall under the liberal sway and become fully indoctrinated, I think many, if not more, simply keep their mouths shut and "play the game" in the interest of decent grades and making no waves. Fortunately, organizations like Students for Academic Freedom won't let the Ivory Tower crowd get away with overt bias as easily as they have done in the past.
Saturday, September 11, 2004
I'm not the only one who has nearly given up on Sullivan in fact, many already have. I guess what bothered me, even more than his belief that the docs were "devastating to Bush" (though he attempted to clarify this), was his initial lukewarm response to the belief they may be fake and his decision to take the tack that "The blogs prove one thing, though. If these documents are legit, they are devastating to Bush. " I found that kind of ...odd. He has since congratulated the blogosphere, though he still gave time to the feeble Kerry spinners out there.
In the old days, Sullivan would have been all over the story, making contacts and digging for more. On this, when it was obvious that there was a chance that a major media outlet had been dealing in fake docs and the internet was exposing it...he sort of passed it along with an overtly dismissive attitude. He has been silent since Friday, so we will have to wait and see if he warms to the cause. If not, it would appear that the Knights of the Blogosphere have lost one of their original members...the Gay Blade will have lost his edge.
Friday, September 10, 2004
The more basic question is how could a rabble of bloggers, in one day, provide hard core proof of forgery when major news organizations took those documents at face value? Most fundamental of all, why did the New York Times, the Boston Globe and CBS allow themselves to be used for such a transparent attempt to slander President Bush?
As I've noted before, it's simply the natural result of bias clouding any sense of critical thinking among many, indeed, the majority of the "Mainstream" media. I've also written that I believe that blogs can be likened to the pamphlets of the past, but perhaps, at least in some instances, they have moved beyond that.
UPDATE: Ratherbiased.com has received an email from Bernard Goldberg, former colleague of Dan Rather at CBS and author of a couple books dealing with media bias. He wrote:
"Assuming that at least some of the documents are indeed forgeries as they now seem," Goldberg says in an email to RatherBiased.com, "This is what happens when a news organziation operates in a bubble--a comfy liberal elite bubble. They WANTED the story to be true, so they apparently minimized or ignored any information that contradicted their pre-conceived notions.This seems right, but I would bet there are a members of the media who are quite capable of conscious bias, not the subconscious, "groupthink" bias of which Goldberg speaks. Yet, he does have more insight than I would, I guess. I guess the lesson is to remember that it is more about a shared ideology (or worldview) that provides the foundational basis on top of which people build their subsequent views on the issues of the day. People with differing ideologies are found in nearly all walks of life, in roughly equal numbers. This is not the case in the "industry" of the mainstream media. In this, the media is not unique, they have soulmates in the academy and the entertainment industry. These three stand out more because they are dominated so thoroughly by one ideology above all others. Perhaps the only other walk-of-life that is similarly dominated by an overriding ideology is the military, though I suspect the level of dominance is not that exhibited in the aforementioned triumverate.
"This is the nature of bias in the news. no conspiracies. Rather never said, 'I know these documents are phoney, but I'll go with them anyway.' He would never do that. The problem is too much like-mindedness, too much groupthink. What happened was almost invevitable. Sooner or later, when you live in the bubble, something bad will happen.
"Let me add that Dan Rather was my friend yesterday, he's my friend today, and he'll be my friend tomorrow."
Thursday, September 09, 2004
Wednesday, September 08, 2004
Tuesday, September 07, 2004
The President has instead this "one big" idea. It goes something like this. For a quarter-century Islamic fascists in the Middle East have transferred the impoverished Arab Street's anger over its own endemic failure onto the bogeymen of the United States and Israel. And when terrorists, abetted by autocratic governments, struck the United States, they met mostly with habitual Western indifference and were further emboldened by outright appeasement. The problem with the sensitive, "don't offend them" foreign policy of pre-September 11 is that it ensured September 11 - as it would again.
To what does he allude?
It was the ancient Greek elegiac poet Archilochus who posed the dichotomy of “the Fox and the Hedgehog”: “the fox knows many tricks, the hedgehog one—one big one.”
While the poet’s exact meaning has been the subject of debate for over two millennia, the logical interpretation is the most natural: complex thinkers sometimes lose sight of the forest for the trees. Put simply: John Kerry can give 1,000 reasons why we should or should not stay in Iraq—or both at once. He will cite erudite foreign policy experts, and present it all as a sophisticated exegesis. George Bush cannot.
It is that single-minded, moral clarity that will help George Bush get reelected. To paraphrase a cliche, "He is the right man at the right time." If the big issue was about the size of government, he wouldn't be (right, Joe Scarborough?) There will be time for reigning in the government...hopefully in a second Bush term.
Saturday, September 04, 2004
I'm totatlly swamped scholastically, so "free-time" writing is nil right now. However, I see that Citizen Smash - The Indepundit has offered a concise distillation of the Bush Doctrine for us all. Perhaps sometime I can go more in depth. For now, this will suffice.
Sidenote: Smash comments on how Andrew Sullivan has become a single issue voter and it made me mindful of something I have been contemplating: I am close to removing Mr. Sullivan from my links (to the right). His drift to "one-issueness" has effected his writing on every issue. With every post, his logic seems more convoluted. He seems to understand the gravity of the "Big Issue" as much as anyone, yet he seems unable to put his personal situation aside when analyzing matters not directly linked to his "pet" issue. In an era of Big Things, sometimes we must sacrifice those things that we personally hold dear for what is most important to our society. (Yes, I know, it sounds like Mr. Spock: "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one" and all that).
Regardless, Andrew has become a one-note piano and everything he posts on now is colored by his (understandable) stance on the Gay Marriage issue. At first, he cautioned those advocating gay marriage against going too fast, and, despite mixed messages, seemed to admit that the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of gay marriage in the Bay State was not the proper device through which his personal crusade should have found legitimization. Nonetheless, he certainly has championed the outcome while denigrating those opposed to gay marriage for attempting to do battle in the constitutional arena. (This is just a bare outline of the issue, Justin Katz has been following Sullivan more intently than I). His logical twists and turns have found their way into nearly all of his arguments, it seems. More and more, I see him disagreeing with those he agreed with a year ago, such as Glenn Reynolds, but now he seems to border on demonization when noting his disagreement with them on relatively piddly issues like the Zell Miller speech. Andrew, if it seems that all those with whom you once agreed now disagree with you, but still agree with each other, it is true: that should tell you which entity seems to have changed philosophically. It is you, not us, who has become inconsistent. You are not some righteous lone wolf standing on a hill howling at the moon with a song of ideological purity because his pack left him. Instead, you have wandered from the pack and, despite our howls, you ignore us. You let your personal desires override the collective desires of the pack, and now you are alone, surrounded by social and cultural companions, but ideologically isolated. Perhaps one day you will see your way back, until then, farewell.
Wednesday, September 01, 2004
While the disparity between the policy scorecards of the prime time convention speakers of the first two nights and the said core of the Republican party is easily verified, especially in comparing stances on social issues, most all Republicans are united on the "Big Issue", the War on Terror. (Pat Buchanan and his can't-escape-the-Cold-War-mindset comitatus of American Isolationists excluded). As such, the speeches by by McCain, Giulianni and Schwarzennegar have exhibited what unites the party, not those issues over which members disagree. They have all called on patriotic themes, championed freedom, urged us to stay united and persevere against our common foe, to recognize that the robust American economy has rebounded from a recession exacerbated by the 9/11 attacks, and, finally and most importantly, to have faith in the rightousness of our national ideals. In short, they are following in the footsteps of Ronald Reagan by saying it is all right to be proud to be an American and to have faith in our country. They are saying America is still that "shining city on the hill."