Saturday, September 11, 2004

Push Polling

Both literally and metaphorically.

First, the literal. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentiniel reports that the Moore Information Polling Group has been engaged in Push Polling for Bush. For those of you who don't know what that is, Push Polling is when the pollster asks a question that "pushes" the listener to support one side. For example, "Would you support John Kerry even though he kills puppies?" is a push question. A more subtle push question would be "Do you support Liberal Massachusetts Senator John Kerry for President?" This seeks to capitalize on many independent voters reflexive mistrust of the "liberal" label (and especially of the massachusetts sort!). Another push question (the one that allegedly was used by Moore) is "Whose position do you think is closer to the truth - those 'veterans who served with John Kerry' and say that he does not deserve the medals that he received, or John Kerry who disagrees with the veterans that he served with and who appear in the ad?"

Second, the metaphorical. Despite all the hysteria about Bush's rising national polling, on the state-by-state level Kerry is still hanging tough. The latest polls have him ahead in Colorado and Pennsylvania, states he was losing previously. He's also made up ground in Ohio, and Florida and Nevada are virtually tied. So maybe the media should hold off on claiming that Kerry is on the edge of death.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Pledge Update

The pledge might get back into the news with this article running in the Wisconsin State-Journal. While I'm inclined to believe that the administration did not have hostile motives towards the student in question, it still shows how the pledge can be divisive and has very real harms to students even when its recitation is not mandatory.

Since the Supreme Court dodged the main issue in Newdow, this could set the stage for another pledge challenge (obviously a ridiculously premature statement). It certainly seems to fail Justice Kennedy's "psychological coercion" test articulated in Lee v. Weisman (505 US 577, 1992)
[P]ressure, though subtle and indirect, can be as real as any overt compulsion. Of course, in our culture, standing or remaining silent can signify adherence to a view or simple respect for the views of others. And no doubt some persons who have no desire to join a prayer have little objection to standing as a sign of respect for those who do. But for the dissenter of high school age, who has a reasonable perception that she is being forced by the State to pray in a manner her conscience will not allow, the injury is no less real. There can be no doubt that for many, if not most, of the students at the graduation, the act of standing or remaining silent was an expression of participation in the rabbi's prayer. That was the very point of the religious exercise. It is of little comfort to a dissenter, then, to be told that, for her, the act of standing or remaining in silence signifies mere respect, rather than participation. What matters is that, given our social conventions, a reasonable dissenter in this milieu could believe that the group exercise signified her own participation or approval of it.

Finding no violation under these circumstances would place objectors in the dilemma of participating, with all that implies, or protesting. We do not address whether that choice is acceptable if the affected citizens are mature adults, but we think the State may not, consistent with the Establishment Clause, place primary and secondary school children in this position. Research in psychology supports the common assumption that adolescents are often susceptible to pressure from their peers towards conformity, and that the influence is strongest in matters of social convention...To recognize that the choice imposed by the State constitutes an unacceptable constraint only acknowledges that the government may no more use social pressure to enforce orthodoxy than it may use more direct means.

GOP Grumblings, Part 2

Just a few days ago, I blogged on the grumblings of some conservatives and their reticence to vote for President Bush.

Now, libertarian columnist Andrew Sullivan has announced he is supporting John Kerry in the 2004 election, joining other prominent libertarian academics who have decided Bush doesn't hold their values anymore.

And that's not all. Clay Risen writes in The New Republic (subscription only) that the normally stalwart CATO institute also may turn to Kerry.
[V]arious strands of criticism--on spending, civil liberties, the war--have come together to convince many Cato staffers that the best vote this fall might be for Kerry. For one thing, there is a growing belief at the Institute that the Republicans--not just Bush, but the congressional leadership as well--have sold out traditional small-government conservatives, spending lavishly to woo cultural conservatives and big business; Cato op-eds note that, during Bush's first three years, nondefense discretionary spending has increased 20.8 percent. Since last summer, scholars have chafed against the administration's fiscal profligacy in op-eds with titles like "overspending is not fiscal responsibility," "the bush betrayal," and "what fiscal discipline?" In contrast, New Democrats may not always talk the small-government talk, but Cato staffers note that, under Clinton, the Democrats reined in government spending and deregulated a broad swath of industries. "Perhaps we are being unfair to former President Clinton," wrote Cato fellow Veronique de Rugy for National Review Online in 2003, pointing out that Clinton reduced nondefense discretionary spending. At the same time, there is a more philosophical, and more cynical, pro-Kerry argument that has gained credence within the Institute--namely that the best way to limit government spending is to divide the parties' control between the executive and the legislative branches. And, given the GOP's advantage in Congress, the best way to affect such a division is to pull the lever for Kerry. In April, Bandow outlined this view in a widely syndicated column (originally published in Fortune), arguing that "the biggest impetus for higher spending is partisan uniformity, not partisan identity." Therefore, he urged his conservative readers, "Vote Democratic."

The official fracturing of the GOP coalitions has begun. Are the Rockefeller's next?

Washington Gay Marriage, Part 2

Another Washington state court has struck down the state's prohibition of gay marriage. The court in Castle v. State echoed a previous ruling by a seperate state court in Anderson v. Sims.

While overall, I preferred the rhetoric of the Anderson opinion, there was some good stuff to be found here too.

Strange as it seems, today the biological father and biological mother need never meet. One may need a government license to get married but no license is required to father or birth children. The traditional stable heterosexual union for the purpose of having a child does not need government approval and never has. But if the government is going to require that the government approve a civil contract, and approve several benefits that flow from such approval, then it must take care to treat all its citizens in an equal way. Even more important, just as the government is a real, but not named, party to the contract, any children that result are real,
but not named, parties to the contract. Same-sex couples can have children through artificial insemination and same-sex couples can adopt children all with the government’s approval. Where is the protection for these children?

Do we really need a study to understand that children thrive better in a stable family? When children lose family stability we go to great lengths through the use of foster families and adoption to bring them back into a stable family situation. When married parents divorce we take great care to do what we can to provide for the children’s loss of stability in the ‘broken’ family that results. On another level, even without children, surely stable couples as well as families are the foundation for a democratic stable society. If these observations of family are correct, and if the defendants are correct that stable families are the foundation of a stable state, then the question becomes, not what counts as “marriage,” but rather what counts as “family.” If the reason to protect marriage is the need for stable families then we need be clear as to what counts as a family upon which this stability rests. It seems to this court that stable families are a legitimate and compelling state interest for the benefit of the entire community. We, the community, need to come to know ourselves. We need to have the fortitude to see who we are and accept ourselves as we are. If we look at ourselves, and at our neighbors, what do we see that counts as a “family?”

For at least two generations we have understood “family” as something more than a man mating with a woman to have a child. A single parent is a family. Grandparents raising grandchildren without the help of the parents is a family. Adults giving foster children a home are a family. Same sex couples who adopt children are a family. Opposite sex couples who adopt children are a family. Single parents with children who marry each other bring into being a new family. A childless couple, same sex or opposite sex, can be a family. An older child raising his or her siblings is a family. There are other examples. Clearly, it seems to this court, a same sex couple, especially a same sex couple with adopted children, is a family. Is
this the kind of family that the government has an interest in making more stable? If an opposite sex couple without children is a family then on what basis is a same sex couple without children not a family? The community support that provides additional stability to the private vows of commitment of any couple comes into being because the community understands that this is in the best interest of the entire community. The community support for the private vow is to allow the creation of a civil contract. That is what marriage is. It is a civil contract approved by the community that carries with it many obligations, many benefits, and many burdens.

Both cases will almost certainly be consildated for hearing by the state Supreme Court. However, the ball is rolling folks.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

The Difference

I'm on my way out, but this post from Spencer Ackerman's Iraq'd blog succinitly sums up the difference between Kerry and Bush's Iraq position.

Kerry and Bush share one major plank of an Iraq policy: Both support rapidly training and equipping Iraqis to take over security responsibilities, a position that used to be known as "Iraqification." This is the right strategy in the medium-to-long term. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld chose to make it a strategy for the immediate term, and the result is the chaos that a President Kerry would inherit. At this late hour, with anti-occupation fury a widely shared sentiment among Iraqis, adding more U.S. troops, even if it were an option, is likely to generate even more hostility, as the CSIS report referenced below points out. Bush made this mistake. A Kerry administration would have to live with it.

The key issue on which Kerry's position on Iraq diverges from Bush's is on internationalization. As I've written before, I don't see much hope for foreign troops in any significant number to relieve overburdened U.S. forces. However, Kerry's internationalization strategy doesn't only mean foreign troops. It means a renewed diplomatic push for debt forgiveness and foreign aid that Bush has been unable to produce. While I'm not expecting a President Kerry to hit the foreign-treasury jackpot, it's likely that Kerry could produce at least some diplomatic results that the loathed Bush can't.

Furthermore, Kerry does have at least one idea that I think is valuable for the future of Iraq on its own terms, and it's one that Bush probably will never embrace. That is, holding a regional conference on stabilizing Iraq, "in order to secure a pledge of respect for Iraq's borders and non-interference in IraqÂ’s internal affairs." This means dealing diplomatically with decidedly disgusting regimes like Syria and Iran. In particular it means dealing with Iran at a time of international crisis over its nuclear program. But, as a new poll from the International Republican Institute demonstrates (caution: PowerPoint), Iraqis view all the regional countries as playing net negative roles in the country. Unless there can be some attempt--and it might fail--to secure regional cooperation, Iraq will continue its swift descent into becoming the Lebanon of the early 21st century, with neighboring countries intensifying their attempts to coopt or prop up various Iraqi factions. It's not a question of such regional diplomacy being a particularly enticing option. It's a question of Bush's disastrous occupation bringing us to the point where we have to prioritize: Is the prospect of stabilizing Iraq important enough to us to bring us to the negotiating table with Iran--especially while we try to stop Iran's nuclear program? Bush's preferred approach is to pretend the dilemma doesn't exist, and have his speechwriters concoct some soundbite that portrays the resulting chaos as a speedbump on the inexorable road to Middle Eastern democracy.

In short, a Kerry administration will be inheriting an Iraq policy that will suffer from several severe constraints. Those constraints are due to the disaster of President Bush's occupation--notably, the unwillingness to send more troops to provide security early on and the subsequent inability for most reconstruction projects to actually occur, to name just two particularly cataclysmic mistakes. More than anything else, bitter experience demonstrates why Bush is unqualified for another four years of presiding over Iraq policy. Kerry might indeed lead the occupation further into the ditch. The last year has proven that Bush definitely will. And, given a choice between some measure of hope and no hope at all, I think the choice is pretty clear.

Despite the GOP spin, Kerry's position on Iraq has been rather stable. He's been for the war and against the methods we used to fight it. Since Bush's methods have led to disaster, I'm not unopen to new ideas to fight what remains a very important US objective.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Religious Thought

Religion isn't really the main subject of this blog, but this quote has always interested me.

West of Kabul, East of New York by Tamim Ansary Pg. 145-6
Are certain beliefs and behaviors good because God commands them? Or does God command them because they are good?

….If certain beliefs are good only because God commands them, it means that God might change his directives at any time. Logically its possible that justice and charity would suddenly be foul and murder good. Incest and Child Molestation might be celebrated deeds…while the moral and ethical weaklings among us would succumb to such corrupt and contemptible temptations as love, generosity and hope.

Unthinkable, you say, that God would ever promulgate such an ethos? Why not—because it wouldn’t be right? If you think that way, you’ve slipped over to the other side. You’ve assumed that right and wrong, good and bad have a status prior to God and more fundamental than He. If God cannot, from his almighty and unknowable will, enjoin murder and cruelty as virtues, God is not limitless or omnipotent.


Too Good to be True

Could this be? I'm not REALLY optimistic about it, but it has the potential to be explosive:

TNR 09/02/04 "The Grumblers" by Franklin Foer
senior from Fordham University wearing an untucked white shirt stood to challenge the panel. "Bush spends like Carter and panders like Clinton. It feels like we've had the third term of a Clinton presidency," he said, decrying the dramatic growth of government on the president's watch. "Is there any betrayal that we wouldn't support?" With so many party loyalists in the room, you might have expected such comments to elicit boos. Instead, there was scattered applause. One man shouted, "Yes!" Stephen Moore, the president of the Club for Growth and the morning's moderator, solemnly turned to the speakers. "Why don't we address this? It's a serious question."

It wasn't just a stray moment of discontent. For all the encomiums GOP speakers have been showering on George W. Bush from the podium at Madison Square Garden, conservatives--especially conservative intellectuals--have a far less rosy view of the president. Last month, Andrew Ferguson wrote in The Weekly Standard, "[W]e'll let slip a thinly disguised secret--Republicans are supporting a candidate that relatively few of them find personally or politically appealing." Or, as conservative columnist Bruce Bartlett told me, "People are careful about how they say it and to who they say it, but, if you're together with more than a couple of conservatives, the issue of would we be better or worse off with Kerry comes up--and it's seriously discussed."

Do I think that Conservatives are going to defect en masse to Kerry? Of course not (though the article insinuates that one conservative academic-who I've quoted before-Prof. Niall Ferguson of NYU, has now thrown his support to Kerry). But its pretty hard to motivate the base when they are geniunely angry at their party's standard bearer.

The more interesting consquence could be that this could be the first election in a 100 years where both candidates are generally disliked. The animosity towards Bush on the left is legendary, and now his "allies" on the right are grumbling too. Liberals tend not have any love for Kerry (they'd vote for a trained monkey before they would vote for Bush...I summarize this view, my own, as "Better a freak chance than no chance."). Of course, Conservatives geniunely do think Kerry is an oppurtunistic flipflopper, and some of the more paranoid ones are even buying into the SBVT crap being put out there.

Ironically enough, this might be the perfect time for a third party candidate emerge, but the only viable one is Ralph Nader, and he's even more loathed than Bush or Kerry put together.

Huzzah for democracy!

Back in Town

Hey everyone!

Hope y'all didn't miss me too much, but it look like Greg did a great job holding down the fort, so I don't think it was too rough on you. Thanks alot Greg!

I'm at college now, and internet access in my dorm is still pretty spotty. I'm guessing that things will be pretty hectic for awhile, so I don't know when I'll begin posting in earnest again, but I plan on starting as soon as possible. There's so much news I have to catch up on!

Anyway, cheers!

(and a very belated Congratulations to Professer Daniel Drezner, on the birth of his daughter)! Mazel Tov to the whole Drezner family)

Monday, September 06, 2004


I send my best wishes to the Clinton family, and wish Bill Clinton a speedy recovery from his heart surgery. I'm sure that Dave would too, if he wasn't in 'Middle of Nowhere, MN.' Anyway, I know some of you probably think that Clinton was one of the worst presidents ever to set foot in the Oval Office; fine. Just don't let your politics interfere with your humanity.