Friday, December 29, 2006

A QUESTION OF PRONOUNS This curious, near-delirious op-Ed from Sen. Joe Lieberman (CFL-CT) brings me back, somehow, to the opening sequence of Melvin Van Peebles' landmark Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, wherein:
A body has been found outside [a] brothel and two white cops want to temporarily haul someone into the pen to demonstrate to their boss they are making an effort to investigate the death. Sweetback is volunteered for this duty by the exploitative Uncle Tom brothel boss Beatle.

The [cops] detour on their way to the station, arresting a black militant called Moo Moo who they proceed to beat up. Sweetback has been handcuffed to the suspect, and gets in the way. The [cops] apologise to him, and undo the cuff chaining Moo Moo to Sweetback, leaving the restraint dangling from one of Sweetback's wrists.

Sweetback watches for a time as Moo Moo is worked over. Then he reacts instinctively, using the handcuffs as improvised knuckle-dusters, he bludgeons the two racist cops with them, alternating this with some swift kicks.

Once the [cops] have been beaten unconscious, Moo Moo addresses Sweetback with the words: "Thanks, man. Where we goin'?" To which Sweetback responds: "Where'd you get that 'we' shit?"
Okay, the analogy isn't perfect.

But where does Lieberman--after signing on enthusiastically for the Iraq adventure, after spending the last four years enabling the Bush Administration and backing its feeblest policies and most ridiculous, reality-warping pronouncements--get the temerity to write:

We cannot abandon these brave Iraqi patriots who have stood up and fought the extremists and terrorists.
Who's this 'we' he's talking about?

Friday, December 22, 2006

ON LIBERTY I don't suppose that the framers of the Fourteenth Amendment had the legal status of consensual sex between minors in mind when they circulated the text for ratification.

But the dismaying case of Genarlow Wilson is a strong argument for extending the consitutional protection of privacy to some relationships between minors.

To put it another way: If a constitutional right to privacy (which the Supreme Court says exists) is to mean anything, it's got to mean that seventeen-year-olds can have consensual sex with fifteen-year-olds without being hauled off to jail.

Wilson's legal defense fund can be found here.

MEN OF ZEAL Via Mr. Excitement News we learn that Brandeis University has told former President Jimmy Carter that an invitation to speak about his new Israel/Palestine book is conditioned on his willingness to debate Alan Dershowitz.

To put it another way, unless Carter is content to share the stage with Dershowitz, he isn't welcome. (Carter has declined the invitation.)

How often has Brandeis imposed these kinds of conditions on speakers? How often have they been imposed on former presidents?

Shame on Brandeis President Jehuda Reinharz for sullying the name of Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis. Shame on Brandeis Trustee Stuart Eizenstat for participating in this nonsense.

As Brandeis himself said:

The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.

Monday, December 18, 2006

COLLINS WATCH Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post weighs the prospects of Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) in 2008:
The decline and fall of Republicans in the Northeast over the past few elections bodes poorly for Sen. Susan Collins' (R) chances of avoiding a tough race in 2008. Collins has long stood in the shadow of her colleague Olympia Snowe (R) and is seen as the more vulnerable of the two Senators. Rep. Tom Allen (D) told Roll Call...that he was seriously considering a challenge to Snowe. Allen would likely be the most formidable Democrat the party could put forward. He has held the 1st district, which takes in the southern part of the state including the state capital of Augusta as well as Portland, since 1996. Allen's challenge would be to introduce himself to the voters in the state's massive 2nd district--the largest congressional district east of the Mississippi. Collins skated to victory in 2002, winning with 58 percent. Democrats won't let that happen again.
CONTRAPOSITIVE will be keeping close track of the 2008 Maine senate race as it unfolds over the next 22+ months. (For the reasons outlined in this post.)

Saturday, December 16, 2006

PLAYING OUR GAME During the late 1980s and into the early 1990s, I was a member of a youth "travel" soccer team: A team elected, by what authority I'm not sure, to represent the local community in games against teams from other towns.

Somewhere around 1988, it was decided that our town's team would switch to a new league. And whatever the reasons for the change, the upshot was that our talented but middling squad became, in the new context, a league powerhouse--cobbling together long winning streaks and taking one title after another.

Naturally, our team soon grew cocky and undisciplined: Attendance at weekly practices became unreliable; pre-game warm-ups were truncated out of existence; and late arrivals for away games were not uncommon.

It rarely mattered--we continued to wind up at the top of the standings season after season.

But every now and then, we'd find ourselves outplayed by a mediocre team having a great day. Or we'd give up a fluke goal in the opening minutes and the opposing side would respond with solid, 11-man defense.

During half time at these rare games, a ritual took hold: The squad would huddle around our well-meaning but ineffectual coach, who would favor us with a pep talk.

It was an odd speech that he'd make, and I soon came to view it as vaguely irritating. But it took several iterations for me to figure out what I found grating. Then, one day, it dawned on me: He wasn't saying anything.

Our coach was speaking, of course--sometimes at great length.

But there was never any substance. No talk of adjusting our offense, repositioning players or rotating in bench subs more regularly. Instead, we were told to try harder; to stop making errors; to want it more.

The speech always crescendoed toward the same punchy, vapid declaration:

"Stop playing their game," our coach would say. "Get them to play our game."

Concise and structurally balanced, it was the kind of slogan that manages to sound profound even though it's utterly vacuous.

But those words have stuck with me through the years. And, watching the news out of Iraq these last few weeks, they've been seeping back into my thoughts with increasing frequency.

Because we're saddled with a President who sounds, when discussing Iraq, very much like my old coach. At a deadly serious moment, we're stuck with a man in charge who's fundamentally uninterested in doing the difficult, often boring work of coming to understand the sticky predicament in which he finds himself--let alone asking the hard questions that must be confronted on the way to solving complex problems.

Let alone describing the contours of those problems to the American people.

It's a scandal and a tragedy. And before it gets better, it's going to get worse.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

SERIOUSNESS WATCH Over here at CONTRAPOSITIVE, we may or may not back a candidate in the Democratic presidential primaries.

But we're almost certain not to get behind Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE).

Friday, December 08, 2006

WOULDA COULDA Josh Marshall muses:
Think how much might have been different if Congress had exercised any meaningful oversight role through any of this catastrophe. The level of irresponsibility, the lockstep indifference has been nothing short of depraved. Calling it an abdication of responsibility is like saying a murderer didn't have enough concern for his victim's health.
If only smart, serious, reasonable people like Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) had been at the helm these last four years.

Oh, wait.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Among the 1,000 people who work in the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, only 33 are Arabic speakers and only six speak the language fluently, according to the Iraq Study Group report released on Wednesday.
Yet another reminder that it'll be two more years--at least--until the grownups are back in charge.

In the meantime, is there any reason to take anything the Bush administration says seriously?

LAUGH LINES Number of US military fatalities in Iraq since the war began: 2920.

Number of "laughter episodes" noted today in the official White House transcript of the President's morning press conference: 14

CONTRAPOSITIVE is edited by Dan Aibel. Dan's a playwright. He lives in New York City.