Thursday, May 19, 2005

The greed of the Times: All the news that's fit to pay for?

As you may already have heard, The New York Times -- the greatest newspaper in the history of the world (insert appropriate sarcasm here) -- will soon be adopting a subscription-based service (TimesSelect) for its Op-Ed columns and online archives, as well as for other sundry features. The rest of the online version will remain free -- thank God! -- but, as of September, it'll cost $49.95 per year for those features. Now, I think this is a terrible idea. It may or not be a good business idea, but, for my purposes, what it means is that The Reaction will no longer be able to link to those formidable Op-Ed columnists. Unless I buy the subscription, which, given my current mood, seems unlikely. More, bloggers generally won't be able to link to them, and I doubt that many bloggers will shell out $49.95 when so much else is available for free on the internet. The Washington Post and the other (L.A.) Times, for example, not to mention the blogosphere itself. Admittedly, I did buy the online subscription to The New Republic, but that's the exception. I stopped reading Time when it went to subscription, and I only read The Globe and Mail, Canada's leading newspaper, because we have a subscription at my office.

Anyway, Timothy Noah, who writes Slate's Chatterbox column, came up with an interesting game. He calculated that the value of the Op-Ed column feature of TimesSelect is about half of the subscription price, or $25 -- the online archive is worth the other half (the other features, such as video, are, in his view, worthless). So that means that $25 may be divided among the columnists themselves, namely, David Brooks, Maureen Dowd, Thomas Friedman, Bob Herbert, Nicholas Kristof, Paul Krugman, Frank Rich, and John Tierney. The average would $3.13. But, as Noah puts it, they're "a pretty uneven bunch". So he invited readers to submit their allocations. I'd likely prefer to keep my $25, but here's what I came up with:

Brooks: $2.55 -- A decent conservative and a respectable Republican, at least, and capable of dialogue with the other side. I've heard more than enough about the exurbs, and he does tend to exaggerate from time to time, not least when, in a recent column (which I would have to pay for now, since older columns aren't free), he claimed that the Republicans' electoral success is very much a reflection of the diversity of the conservative movement. Well, sort of. But not really. At least he's consistently interesting.

Dowd: $1.15 -- Behold, her shtick is dead. That's what a complete lack of originality will do to you. I used to like her, back when her shtick was new to me, and, as a Kerry supporter, I found her humorous deconstruction of the Bushies last year to be more than a little amusing. But how often can you make fun of Wolfowitz's name and parody Cheney's Dr. Evil persona and analyze Bush's Freudian insecurities before it all just gets boring? Well, it's boring. Period.

Friedman: $4.40 -- A must-read, if only for the talking points of the day (geo-green, flat earth, etc.). He's a liberal who irritates liberals, but that's probably a good thing. There's a lot of name-dropping, and his columns all follow the same simplistic formula, but, in the end, he's an engaging and at times fascinating writer who sheds light on some pretty complex issues. Like a few of his colleagues, the I-know-best arrogance seeps through (more like a flood, sometimes), though I suspect that that comes with the territory (who wouldn't be immodest as a Times columnist?), and at least he can back it up with his impressive knowledge of the global stage.

Herbert: $1.45 -- Even if you agree with him, there's just nothing at all inspiring there, just some old-school liberalism and a self-righteous sense of social justice. He'd be fine at the Post, where he could blend in among a number of diverse columnists, but at the Times he just sticks out for his mediocrity. I'd like to give him more, but I just can't.

Kristof: $4.30 -- Profoundly arrogant, almost a one-man American conscience, but he brings attention to where it is needed most, the forgotten parts of the world that lack much of a voice. His columns on Darfur earlier this year were particularly impressive -- and truly terrifying. He's not as good when he turns back to the domestic scene, but he's a solid international reporter.

Krugman: $4.35 -- Repetitive and at times unduly pessimistic, but his analytical efforts are nothing if not admirable. I particularly liked his columns on Bush's Texas days last year -- it's amazing to me how Bush has managed to avoid serious investigations into his repeated failures in the oil industry, his association with Enron-like accounting practices, his rescue by poppy's buddies, and the various shenanigans that surrounded his ownership of the Texas Rangers. If I were an economist, I might appreciate Krugman even more, but, as it is, I try to read him fairly often. Click here for more.

Rich: $6.75 -- Brilliant cultural exegesis, whatever his critics say. The best of the Times and the columnist whose work I look forward to more than any other in any publication. I do acknowledge that he occasionally descends into repetition, one-sidedness, and an excessive effort to drive his points home, but these flaws do not detract from the high-level interdisciplinary fusion he regularly brings to his columns. It's good to see him back on the Op-Ed page. I had thought of allocating him an even $20 -- he's that good -- but I need to be fair to his colleagues. Click here for more.

Tierney: $0.05 -- He's got a lot to prove. Is it too late to bring Safire back? At least he had something to say.

In the end, much of it comes down to personal preference (of course). I prefer cultural criticism to economics and international affairs, and that means allocating more to Rich than to, say, Krugman and Friedman. I don't know, can I live without my weekly dose of Frank Rich? It'll be tough. I'll just have to decide if he and his lesser colleagues are worth the $49.95.

What a stupid, stupid thing to do.

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I say nuclear, you say nucular: Let's call the whole thing off!

So the filibuster battle begins. More to the point, the battle over Bush's more extreme judicial nominees begins. The Democrats threaten to filibuster, the Republicans threaten to go nuclear, and the Democrats may shut down the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist argues that Bush's nominees "deserve an up-or-down vote on [the] floor," meaning a simple majority vote that his party would win, and that Democrats are engaging in "unprecedented" obstructionism. Meanwhile, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter claims that this obstructionism is revenge for Republican opposition to some of Clinton's more objectionable nominees -- though he at least has the good sense to blame both parties for the filibuster escalation of the past two decades.

But let's consider the facts, not the spurious claims someone like Frist (who had the gall to diagnose Terri Schiavo by video and who is now more insanely partisan than ever): The Democrats have only filibustered ten of Bush's 229 judicial nominees. Of those ten, seven have been renominated. That means that 219 of Bush's nominees were acceptable enough to Democrats that they declined to filibuster -- meaning that they essentially permitted 219 of Bush's 229 nominees to be confirmed. Surely Democrats didn't like all 219 of those nominees -- most of them, now confirmed federal judges, are well to the right of most Democrats -- but they did not block them through parliamentary procedure. So despite Frist's exaggerated rhetoric, backed up by many in his caucus, this is all about a small majority of Bush's nominees. Which means that something must distinguish those ten -- now seven -- from the rest. It can't be judicial conservatism -- most of them are conservative, which is why Bush nominated them in the first place. No, what distinguishes these seven, the Odious Seven, is their extremism. Republicans are trying to turn the filibuster battle into a debate over procedure, deftly labelling Democrats as obstructionists, but what matters here are the nominees themselves. Democrats can stand up and defend the filibuster, even if it was once used by segregationists to block civil rights legislation, but they should be focusing their attention, not to mention the attention of the media, on the nominees themselves. (See a previous post here.)

One of those nominees is Priscilla Owen, a justice on the Texas Supreme Court. What makes her so extreme that Democrats would filibuster her nomination? For more on this, see this 2002 piece by Jason Zengerle in The New Republic. Essentially, Owen is "an anti-abortion zealot" whose views place her on the far right of the already right-wing Texas Supreme Court (the nine justices are all Republicans), and it seems that she has been nominated precisely because of her anti-abortion zealotry. Of course, most of Bush's nominees are pro-life, which means that Democrats have already acquiesced to the confirmation of pro-life nominees, but Owen's extremism sets her apart. Indeed, Zengerle notes that "her anti-abortion fervor distinguished her from even her conservative colleagues," often in parental-notification cases where she was the lone dissenter. In one such case, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, then White House counsel, referred to her position as an "unconscionable act of judicial activism".

(Don't Republicans and conservatives claim to be against judicial activism? Isn't that one of Frist's causes these days, kissing up to the evangelical right? Well, it seems to be allowed when it's activism by the right, of the right, and for the right. Can you say... hypocrisy?)

The other six nominees are very much like Owen, which is why they, too, may soon face the filibuster -- or pass through the nuclear winter that could soon envelop the Senate. Right now, the debate is about the filibuster, and I'm sure the Republicans want to keep it that way. But the Democrats need to expose these nominees for what they are and to face the Republicans on the battlefield of ideas. Yes, they should filibuster. Yes, they should defend the filibuster. But, in the end, the votes will come down to the nominees themselves. Years from now, when they're sitting on the federal benches, the matter of how they were confirmed will be far less important than the damage they've done to America's institutions, public and private, through their right-wing activism. They need to be blocked. If that ultimately fails, Democrats need to take their case to the American people, who may just reject the encroaching extremism of the Republican Party.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Might does NOT make right: Hasn't the U.S. learned anything in Iraq?

In Iraq, it just feeds the insurgency and shifts public opinion to the jihadists. You don't need to flush a copy of the Koran down the toilet, you just need to go in, guns blazing, and take out the perceived opposition without much regard for the complexities of the situation, thereby alienating those who should be your allies. Fred Kaplan's latest in Slate tells the story of Operation Matador, a U.S. effort to crush foreign jihadists in western Iraq. The U.S. was tipped off by nationalist (and anti-jihadist) tribal leaders who had put together a makeshift "vigilante group" called the Hamza Forces. These tribal leaders asked the U.S. and the interim Iraqi government for help, but Operation Matador turned into an all-out bombing campaign. Said Fasal al-Goud, one of the leaders who had asked for help: "The Americans were bombing whole villages, and saying they were only after the foreigners." Kaplan calls it "the big kaboom". How apt.

Here's a passage (but check out the entire piece -- Kaplan bases it on a recent report in The Philadelphia Inquirer, to which he links):

This failure is all the more appalling given that the interim Iraqi government is in shambles -- and the prospects for a free and democratic Iraq are uncertain, at best -- in large part because of growing sectarian splits among the country's three main ethnic groups: Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds. The Sunnis, who comprise (or shelter) the most lethal factions of the insurgency, are demanding a greater share of power in the central government. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a trip to Baghdad last week to urge the predominantly Shiite leaders to satisfy this demand for the sake of stability. It's generally accepted these days that merely killing insurgents creates more insurgents and that a peaceful settlement will come about, if at all, only after a political settlement.

And yet, here comes the U.S. military, roaring across the western deserts, strafing and shelling anyone with a gun and everything all around him. In short, Operation Matador was a double-whammy of old thinking: kaboom, kaboom, kaboom -- and in a way that alienated precisely the people we should be assuring. Maybe Fasal al-Goud and the Hamza Forces won't go so far as to join the insurgency. But it's unlikely now that they'll keep up their resistance, consider the Americans as their friends, or -- more devastating -- see the Iraqi politicians in Baghdad as their government.

No, the U.S. hasn't learned much. The bungling continues, but the Iraqi people, forcibly liberated by the U.S. and its so-called "coalition of the willing," deserve better from their liberators.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Where the hell is Uzbekistan?

Exactly. That's the problem. It's sort of like when Bart Simpson asked, near the beginning of the great Australia episode, "What the hell is the southern hemisphere?" It just doesn't seem to register.

But things have gotten serious among the Uzbeks. Last week, the government of President Karimov cracked down on anti-government demonstrators. The official death toll is 169. An opposition party puts the real number at 745 and has claimed that many of the victims were executed. According to the Times (click here for the latest report), survivors and witnesses say that the death toll is in the hundreds, well above the ridiculously low government estimate. Thus far, 490 refugees have sought asylum in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan, according to the U.N. Needless to say, Karimov has denied responsibility.

Admittedly, the demonstration was quite messy. It began last "Thursday night when armed men and demonstrators protesting what they regarded as the rigged trial of 23 businessmen stormed a prison in the Fergana Valley, releasing roughly 2,000 prisoners and taking government soldiers hostage". Clearly not a peaceful beginning. Karimov has predictably blamed the violence on Islamic extremists, thereby raising the red flag of terrorism -- likely to try to win the support of the United States, now a common strategy of dictatorships looking to spin oppressive rule as a necessary component of the so-called war on terror. But is that truly the case? Was the demonstration a terrorist event organized from without, as Karimov claims? Or was it not rather an inkling of democratic revolt against a notoriously oppressive regime? Here's how the Times puts it: "The rally, said by witnesses to include thousands of demonstrators, was a rare open challenge to the government, which has been widely criticized for years for the persecution of political opponents, the suppression of freedom of expression and worship and the use of torture." Although terrorist elements -- whether home-grown or otherwise -- may have been involved, the evidence would seem to suggest that

So far, the Bush Administration has said the right things, and it would do well to put pressure on Tashkent. But rhetoric won't be enough. (Bush also said some of the right things at his second inauguration in January, but not much happened.) The question is whether Bush will move to condemn Karimov's dictatorship or continue to support a regime that in no way advances the cause of freedom -- one that in fact brutally oppresses its people. As I mentioned yesterday, I am not one to jerk my knee against everything Bush does and says, and I do find much to admire in his commitment to liberty and democracy (however simplistically he asserts his Manichaeanism). But the war on terror, such as it is, does not excuse either illiberalism at home (e.g., the Patriot Act) or tyranny abroad (e.g., Saudi Arabia, Pakistan).

Condoleeza Rice claims that the U.S. has called for reform in Uzbekistan, but look more clearly at what she's said: "The issue... is that it is a society that needs openness, it needs to reform, and again, I think if you look at the record, we have raised that with the government of Karimov for quite some time." Is it enough just to raise openness and reform with a dictator? Was it enough with, say, Saddam? No, not least when the U.S. continues to operate a military base in Uzbekistan, share intelligence with Uzbek security forces, and train and equip the Uzbek military -- (yes, the very weapons Karimov uses to oppress (and slaughter) the Uzbek people).

There's a word for that. It's called hypocrisy. Uzbekistan may not be on everyone's mind at the moment, and I don't mean to suggest that it should occupy the bulk of American foreign policy, but it's time for Bush to put his high-falutin' rhetoric into action, preferably (in this case) through international diplomacy and engagement.

There's long been a divide between Bush's rhetoric and the conduct of his presidency. The Uzbek case is yet another example.

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Michael Medved is a moron

It's always nice when the right thoroughly embarrasses itself, is it not? Michael Medved, former movie "critic" turned radio talk-show hack, may not be quite as obnoxious as Ann Coulter or Michelle Malkin or Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh or... geez, the list goes on and on... but this exchange on social security from his show is (to quote National Debunker, to whom I'm linking you) "priceless": click here for a hilarious, and revealing, read.

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Women unchained: Kuwait comes of age, 35 to 23

Welcome to modernity, Kuwait! Posted by Hello

As I reported here a couple of weeks ago (see also here for a comparative shot of Kuwaiti legislators), conservative elements in the Kuwaiti Parliament recently blocked an effort to give women the right to vote in city council elections. Yesterday, however, Parliament took the more positive, and quite surprising, measure of giving women the right to vote in all elections. As the Times reports:

Kuwait's Parliament granted full political rights to women on Monday, making way for them to vote and run for office in parliamentary and local elections for the first time in the country's history. The surprise amendment to Kuwait's election law ends a decades-long struggle by women's rights campaigners for full suffrage, and promises to redefine the city-state's political landscape...

Parliament met Monday to discuss legislation introduced two weeks ago allowing women to run in city council elections. But in a surprise move, members of the cabinet opened the session by proposing a complete amendment of the country's election law, which had permitted only men to take part in the country's powerful Parliament.

The government also invoked a rarely used "order for urgency" to push through the legislation in one session, despite heated debate by Islamist members.

By Monday evening, legislators had passed an amendment that removes the word "men" from Article 1 of the elections law, with 35 voting in favor and 23 against. But Islamist legislators, apparently trying to appease their conservative voting base, included a requirement that "females abide by Islamic law." The implications of that clause were not immediately clear, though women's advocates were saying it might just mean separate polling places for men and women...

The prime minister, Sheik Sabah al-Jaber al-Sabah, a member of Kuwait's ruling family, has been under growing pressure to allow women's suffrage and is believed to have forced the measure through ahead of a planned trip to Washington. He is widely expected to appoint a woman as minister of health in coming weeks.

Although women can now run in all elections, the legislation was passed too late for them to run in the council elections next month. The soonest they will be able to run in any election is 2007, when parliamentary elections are scheduled.

This wonderful development speaks for itself. But let me make one point: Bush supporters who retroactively (and revisionistically) argue that the Iraq War was motivated by a commitment to the spread of democracy in the Middle East (because the argument that a tyrant with WMDs needed to be toppled is no longer valid) are claiming, and will continue to claim, that this development is yet another "ripple" caused by America's successful invasion and occupation of Iraq -- Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon was one, they claim, and this surely is another. Such rhetorical cause-and-effect may be easy political fodder, lapped up by true believers, but, as usual, it oversimplifies what is an otherwise profoundly complex development for which Bush cannot legitimately take any credit. Long-terms goods, such as sustainable democracy in Iraq, may yet come of America's experiment with regime-change and nation-building, but, if anything, the botched occupation has strengthened fundamentalist entrenchment, not weakened it. No, there is simply no such causal link between Iraq and yesterday's development in Kuwait.

Not that I usually succumb to what Martin Peretz in The New Republic called "the politics of churlishness" -- I can at least agree that Bush deserves some credit for pursuing, if mostly in speech, the democratic transformation of historically undemocratic parts of the world, especially the Middle East. But, in this case, the truth is against him (and his rabid supporters): The 1961 Constitution, for example, forbids gender discrimination, and the royal family has been pushing for women's suffrage since at least the late-'90s. Moreover, whatever its occasionally illiberal tendencies, Kuwait is one of the more westernized and reform-minded of the Arab states (think Jordan and Qatar), and the prime minister had repeatedly stressed his determination to give women the vote.

Women's suffrage in Kuwait will no doubt become yet another piece of the American political game, mostly with Bush and his supporters using it to justify an unpopular war and to boost his sagging approval ratings. But credit must go where it is truly due: to the women of Kuwait, who for generations have been struggling to achieve the basic right of any democracy, namely, the right to vote in free elections. Their victory is for them, and for the people of Kuwait, not for partisan Republicans who care more about the electoral success of their party than about real democratic transformation.

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Monday, May 16, 2005

We stand on guard for thee... on Page A12

We Canadians worry -- often rightly, often despairingly (as if our very sense of self-worth were at stake) -- that Americans don't pay us any attention. I mean, I write The Reaction, a blog mostly about American politics and culture, but I wonder how many Americans pay similar attention to Canadian politics and culture. Not many, but I'm not sure I blame them. I don't even pay that kind of attention to Canadian politics and culture, although I pay more attention than most. (Gomery, anyone? -- no, don't bother.) At least I have an excuse -- I went to high school and college in the U.S. -- but, generally, such is life when you live right next to the world's single superpower.

How nice, then, to find that the Post -- that is, The Washington Post -- has published a piece on Queen Elizabeth's visit to Canada and its relation to an impending confidence vote in the House of Commons. It may not matter much to most Americans whether or not Paul Martin's minority Liberal government survives past the next election, likely just weeks away, but it certainly matters to us, and at least one of America's leading newspapers has taken the time to tell its readers our story...

on Page A12.


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May the Force be with you, Democrats!

The light-saber is mightier than the filibuster. Posted by Hello

The Republicans might have Karl Rove, but the Democrats have... yes, James Carville. Fine. I know that. No, I'm talking about... Yoda. And Obi-Wan. And Mr. Skywalker himself. How do I know this? George Lucas says so. Sort of.

Now, I'm no Star Wars cultist, but the first three episodes (i.e., Parts IV-VI) were very much a part of my childhood, and I like them still -- The Empire Strikes Back is the best of all, though the original has the benefit of novelty and Return of the Jedi, Ewoks notwithstanding, certainly has its moments of brilliance. But then came The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, and George Lucas was exposed for what he is: a special-effects wizard, but a terrible filmmaker. But there's some positive pre-release buzz for the final installment of the second trilogy (i.e., Parts I-III), Revenge of the Sith, and, well, I suppose I'm actually looking forward to seeing it.

And this time there's a relevant twist to Lucas's hokey, new-agey political-theological vision of a galaxy far, far away, one that should please Democrats.

Here's now critic A.O. Scott puts it in his review in the Times:

"Revenge of the Sith" is about how a republic dismantles its own democratic principles, about how politics becomes militarized, about how a Manichaean ideology undermines the rational exercise of power. Mr. Lucas is clearly jabbing his light saber in the direction of some real-world political leaders. At one point, Darth Vader, already deep in the thrall of the dark side and echoing the words of George W. Bush, hisses at Obi-Wan, "If you're not with me, you're my enemy." Obi-Wan's response is likely to surface as a bumper sticker during the next election campaign: "Only a Sith thinks in absolutes."

Scott also mentions that "Lucas's indifference to two fairly important aspects of moviemaking -- acting and writing -- is remarkable". True enough. But at least the message (or the hope) is sound. As we all know, the bad guys win this round, but the good guys prevail in the end. Eventually, even Darth Vader sees the light.

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A Bolton haiku, no less

My friend Grace Miao has posted a second Bolton haiku on her blog (see link, right). Here's the link (and to the first), but here it is also in full:

Spring, and the world weeps.
Bolton is nominated.
Voinovich? Spineless.

Excellent stuff. Bring on the melancholia!

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Sunday, May 15, 2005

Oh, that's (Frank) Rich: A "queer" eye for the homophobic conservative guys

Although his weekly columns in the Times occasionally degenerate into repetition, one-sidedness, and an excessive effort to drive a point home (last year's columns on Mel Gibson come to mind (however much I agreed with his overall point), as well as his many references to Desperate Housewives as some sort of cultural barometer (in my view, an unwatchable, melodramatic prime-time soap)), Frank Rich remains a must-read for me (as he should for anyone who cares about the state of our culture). In fact, there is no other columnist, in the U.S. or elsewhere, whose work I look forward to more than his -- though E.J. Dionne at the Post and a few at Slate and The New Republic aren't too far behind.

Today's column begins as a review of the 1962 political thriller Advise and Consent, now available on DVD, a film about the confirmation battle over a nominee for secretary of state (Henry Fonda) that includes a "pivotal gay plot twist". I'll leave it at that. Suffice it to say that Otto Preminger's adaptation of the popular Allen Drury novel includes its share of gay-baiting by the nominee's political opponents, and thus, in Rich's view, it may be seen now "in a highly contemporary light":

[I]n the years since, even as it has ceased to be a crime or necessarily a political career-breaker to be gay, unprincipled gay-baiting has mushroomed into a full-fledged political movement. It's a virulent animosity toward gay people that really unites the leaders of the anti-"activist" judiciary crusade, not any intellectually coherent legal theory (they're for judicial activism when it might benefit them in Florida). Their campaign menaces the country on a grander scale than Drury and Preminger ever could have imagined: it uses gay people as cannon fodder on the way to its greater goal of taking down a branch of government that is crucial to the constitutional checks and balances that "Advise and Consent" so powerfully extols...

Which judges do these people admire? Their patron saint is the former Alabama chief justice Roy S. Moore, best known for his activism in displaying the Ten Commandments; in a ruling against a lesbian mother in a custody case, Mr. Moore deemed homosexuality "abhorrent, immoral, detestable, a crime against nature" and suggested that the state had the power to prohibit homosexual "conduct" with penalties including "confinement and even execution." Another hero is William H. Pryor Jr., the former Alabama attorney general whose nomination to the federal bench was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. A Pryor brief to the Supreme Court on behalf of the Texas anti-sodomy law argued that decriminalized gay sex would lead to legalized necrophilia, bestiality and child pornography.

As I implied in a recent post, both the Bolton vote and the filibuster quagmire, however important in and of themselves, amount to a prologue to the main story of the upcoming summer: the battle over Bush's more controversial (because extreme) judicial nominees to the federal bench (and possibly a Supreme Court nominee and a nominee for chief justice when current chief justice William Rehnquist retires). These nominees are very much in the mold of Moore and Pryor. The other day, Post columnist Richard Cohen put it this way:

Senate Republicans... are threatening to do away with this hallowed senatorial procedure so that seven of George Bush's judicial appointments can be confirmed. They are the Odious Seven, men and women of such extreme views on matters such as abortion or the role of government that they -- and they alone of 229 judicial appointments the president has made -- are deemed unworthy by the Democrats to be elevated to the federal bench.

These nominees -- conservative activists all -- would dismantle certain of the pillars of the liberal state (as I argued recently). They would also reverse the progress that has been made in recent years for gay rights -- even worse, they would legalize some sort of sub-citizen (if not sub-human) status for gays and lesbians (indeed, for anyone who doesn't fit properly into their bigoted misconception of human sexuality).

The Republican Party's embrace of these nominees is yet another sign that it has become the party of religious fanaticism and political theocracy. This is precisely why Democrats must stand united -- and hope that a few moderate Republicans join them in doing the right thing.

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