Saturday, December 24, 2005

A liberal spirit: Passion, partisanship, and the blogging of truth

Over at The Moderate Voice, Joe Gandelman offers a thoughtful response to an excellent piece on the divisiveness of today's confrontational, talk-radio-style political rhetoric by Wil Wheaton -- star of films like Stand By Me, Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and one of my favourite bloggers (and usually a non-political one) -- at Salon.

Joe's post is here.
Wil's piece is here.
Wil's blog is here.

You can find more on Wil here.


Wil addresses the so-called "War on Christmas," including a seemingly unpleasant incident with his father regarding the death penalty, but, as Joe puts it so well:

The point here is NOT the death penalty or specific issues. The point here is people gathering their own information, processing it through themselves, then reaching their own conclusions versus what we see all too often these days: people deciding that they will believe what a talk show host (or blogger) says just because he says it and they're on his "team" and therefore it must be so and they must believe it too. And if someone disagrees, you don't just differ with them you get personally angry at them.

It's certainly true of talk radio and it's certainly true of certain parts of the blogosphere, the echo-chambers of left and right, where cults of personality and ideological purity overwhelm and indeed destroy the disinterested pursuit of the truth. I trust that neither The Reaction nor The Moderate Voice is such a blog, but I've certainly been on the receiving end of the kind of personal anger that Wil and Joe describe, both as a blogger, where I've been attacked for being all sorts of nasty things (just look at some of the unfavourable comments here!), and in my daily life as a political junkie. (I've even had some rather heated arguments with my own father on issues that at the time seemed like they were matters of life and death.)

Don't get me wrong. I'm certainly not saying that politics, and political rhetoric or dialectic, should be without passion. Nor am I saying that it's wrong or otherwise inappropriate to take a stand and to express one's beliefs with conviction and determination. Those of you who have read my writing here at The Reaction -- or at The Moderate Voice, or at Centerfield, or perhaps even at TPM Cafe or Daily Kos, where I maintain a reader blog and diary, respectively, or anywhere else I've blogged or been quoted -- know that my own disinterested pursuit of the truth, if I may put it in such a Socratic way, is very much tied to rather strongly-held political opinions that I'm not exactly shy of publicizing openly and widely.

A personal riff:

I am moderate in temperament, as befits an Arnoldian, but I am liberal in spirit and conviction, a liberal who defends liberalism, including American liberalism, against its various and varied discontents -- and there are many of them these days. However, I am not, I think, a thoughtless partisan. I think about what I think, that is, I think through even my most strongly held opinions. If the unexamined life is not worth living, then, in this sense, the unexamined opinion in not worth much at all and is better kept to oneself. In the end, it is important not to back down from one's convictions, but it is possible, I think, to do so without succumbing to the temptation of ideological purity.

Wil and Joe are absolutely right. There is far too much anger out there, both in public and in private, with the public fueling the private. It's important for all of us, bloggers and non-bloggers alike, to try to elevate the tone, even at our most passionate.

Are we up to that challenge?

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In the spirit of Festivus, some grievances...

At Balloon Juice, John Cole -- whom I continue to read and admire despite some occasional disagreements -- directs some year-end, Festivus-style grievances at a cross-spectrum list of targets, including both the Republicans and the Democrats, the Bush Administration, Earth, and "The Torture Advocates".

The torture advocates, in my view, truly deserve it this year. For what? "For taking every opportunity to paint those opposed to state sanctioned torture as little more than terrorist coddlers or people whose position is not one of principle but one of moral preening. You know who you are. You can go to hell."

Allow me to second that. Get going. You've discredited yourselves and your country.

But do the Steelers deserve it? Like John, I'm a life-long Steelers fan -- growing up in Montreal, they were the team I fell in love with, back in the days of Bradshaw, Harris, Swann, Stallworth, and the Steel Curtain. True, they don't have enough of a pass rush, and their defensive backfield is exploitable, and they really don't have a suitable receiver to complement Ward, and Big Ben is battling through injuries, and... Well, let's not give up on them yet. They won't make it to the Super Bowl this year -- they may not even make the playoffs, but Cowher's done another great job and there's a lot to admire even in defeat.

Happy Festivus.

Merry Christmas.

Happy Hanukkah.

And all the rest.

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Friday, December 23, 2005

Rigged democracy: Electoral legitimacy in Iraq

AP reports on the latest developments in Iraq, including the deaths of two more U.S. soldiers, the kidnapping of six Sudanese, and this: "Large demonstrations broke out across the country Friday to denounce parliamentary elections that protesters say were rigged in favor of the main religious Shiite coalition."

I previously wrote about allegations of electoral fraud here.

For an excellent post on the demonstrations, the parties involved, and what may or may not have happened, see Iraq the Model: "This joint effort between Sunni Islamists, Sunni and Shia seculars as well as communists in spite of the great differences in their points of view reflects the depth of the worries shared by those parties about having one party monopolize power."

Yes, democracy may be messy, but it needn't be fraudulent. It's too early to tell what happened, given that a full-scale investigation has yet to begin, but this peaceful, multi-partisan effort seems to be a major step in the right direction.

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Torture, terrorism, and oil drilling in the U.S. Senate

From The New York Times:

In a chaotic conclusion to the Congressional year, the Senate blocked an effort on Wednesday to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling and struck a last-minute accord to extend the antiterrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act for six months.

With Vice President Dick Cheney casting the decisive vote, the Senate also approved a $40 billion budget-cutting plan. And the Senate sent to President Bush a Pentagon policy measure with a ban on torturing detainees linked to terrorism.

I'm not big on the budget cuts, to be sure, but the other three votes seem to me to be the right ones. As I've argued before, there should not be drilling in ANWR (see here) and torture should not be sanctioned (see here and here). I do not support the Patriot Act in its current form, but this extension was forced by four Republican rebels -- Senators Hagel, Murkowski, Craig, and, above all, Sununu -- who have refused to support President Bush's efforts to renew the Act as is (and thereby to allow for yet more of what is clearly excessive executive power). Good for them, obviously, and this extension means that a deal could still be worked out between the Act's critics on both sides of the aisle and stalwarts in the Republican caucus who refused to budge until this latest vote. (For more on the Patriot Act and the four Republican rebels, see E.J. Dionne's recent column in The Washington Post.)

See the Times article for more -- and, if you're truly wonkish, go here for details of recent Senate votes.

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Some Darfur reading

Here are some of the recent posts at the Coalition for Darfur:

Please give them a read. I know this isn't the most pleasant thing to think about just days before the over-the-top lavishness of Christmas, but that's all the more reason, I think, to look beyond our consumer paradise to the suffering of people both at our own doorsteps and in faraway places that rarely receive our attention -- places like Darfur.

We should count our blessings, but we should also resolve to do more to alleviate that suffering.

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Iran bans Western music

Iran -- the land of, among other things, Holocaust denial, an emerging nuclear program, and the rather overrated Abbas Kiarostami -- has taken an unfortunate step to cut itself off further from the West. The BBC reports:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has banned Western and "indecent" music from state-run TV and radio stations.

The ban follows a ruling in October by the Supreme Cultural Revolutionary Council, which he heads, to ban Western songs from the airwaves.

"Blocking indecent and Western music from the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting is required," a statement from the council said.

Specifically, various reports have cited music by Eric Clapton ("Rush"), The Eagles ("Hotel California"), Wham! ("Careless Whisper"), and Kenny G.

Iranian guitarist Babak Riahipour: "This is terrible." Quite so.

Although one wonders if too much Kenny G has contributed to all that virulent anti-Americanism. If so, can you blame them?

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A swinging update from Canada

Yesterday I mentioned that the Supreme Court of Canada (SCOC) was set to rule on the legality of swingers' clubs -- scroll down a couple of posts, below the photo of Bush, or click here.

Well, justice has been served:

Two Montreal "swingers" clubs did not breach Canadian standards of decency when they allowed group sex to take place on their premises, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled this morning.

In its latest attempt to set guidelines that govern sexual morality in Canada, the top court said two swingers clubs in Montreal were not operating as illegal "bawdy houses," because what went on there did not cause any harm to society.

The decision could make it easier for other venues where group sex takes place among consenting adults -- such as gay bath houses -- to operate without the threat of police intervention.

Precisely my view: These clubs do not present any sort of danger to the public -- not that I know firsthand (not that there's anything wrong with that!). Individuals choose to participate. If a crime takes place within the confines of the club, such as sexual or physical abuse, that's a separate matter. The liberal state exists to protect individuals from one another and to act as an arbiter of legal disputes. Yes, a case can be made for statecraft as soulcraft, but private and consensual sex among adults is simply not the proper area for such state intervention.

Once again, Canada proves to be progressive in the right way.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Snoopgate: The shameful presidency of George W. Bush

Did President Bush try to kill the Snoopgate story before it broke? Jonathan Alter has the rather disturbing story at Newsweek.

Apparently, Bush met with New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger and executive editor Bill Keller in the Oval Office in a desperate, last-minute, and "futile attempt to talk them out of running the story": "Bush was desperate to keep the Times from running this important story -- which the paper had already inexplicably held for a year -- because he knew that it would reveal him as a law-breaker."

Yet another shameful act -- putting such pathetic pressure on the press, not to mention the far more shameful act of breaking the law -- of a truly shameful presidency.

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Swingers in court

SCOTUS? How about SCOC?

We may have an election campaign going on up here in Canada, but our Supreme Court will soon be busy hearing a landmark case on... no, not abortion, not police powers, not church and state, but... swinging.

Which is to say, swingers will soon have their day in court, the highest court in the land: "The Supreme Court of Canada is set to rule on whether spouse-swapping in public venues should be a criminal act. The ground-breaking case, which could set new standards for decency in Canadian society, stems from two Montreal 'swingers' clubs charged with keeping a bawdy house."

I suppose I'm with the swingers on this one. I am quite the civil libertarian, after all, and I'm just not sure how swingers' clubs present any sort of danger either to individual participants or to the public beyond.

And it's not like swingers are getting together to build bombs or drink poisoned Kool-Aid. On one level, they're just getting together for group sex and the thrill thereof; on a deeper level, many of them are likely just getting together to sate the urges of some sputtering midlife crisis or to live out some lingering sexual fantasy bubbling up from the recesses of their subconscious.

If the public has an interest in such clubs, any interest, it's mostly just a prurient one (curiosity + titillation + desire to give it a try). Critics on the right may object to the utter immorality of it all, but so what? They ought to keep their morality to themselves and, in so keeping, reconsider much of it. The sexuality of humanity is only natural, after all, and there's really nothing wrong with the expression of that sexuality in the close confines of some private swingers' club.

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Allegations of fraud taint Iraqi election results

From the Post:

Sunni and secular political groups angrily claimed Tuesday that last week's Iraqi national election was rigged, demanded a new vote and threatened to leave a shambles the delicate plan to bring the country's wary factions together in a new government.

Faced with preliminary vote counts that suggest a strong victory by the United Iraqi Alliance, a coalition of Shiite Muslim religious parties that dominates the outgoing government, political leaders of Iraq's Sunni Arab minority hinted that insurgent violence would be accelerated by the suspicions of fraud.

Of course, these allegations are coming from the losers: Sunni parties and Ayad Allawi. Let's hope there's nothing to them and that the election was conducted fairly, but as long as the perception of fraud remains, that is, as long as allegations of fraud are tossed around without solid proof to the contrary (which there may never be), it seems unlikely that Sunnis -- many of them, anyway -- will see the election as a legitimate expression of the popular will or the new government as the legitimate ruler of Iraq.

Though, it should be added, many of them never will. Which is why insurgency and the possibility of civil war is in Iraq to stay for a good long time.

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George W. Bush: Spies R Us

I haven't yet commented on the domestic spying controversy, but here are a few good posts that I recommend:

-- Liberal Oasis on checks, balances, and fighting terrorism.

-- The Carpetbagger Report on the "awfully strong" "evidence of wrongdoing".

-- TAPPED on "The Marshall Plan," in reference to Marshall "Bull Moose" Wittmann's argument that Democrats shouldn't pursue this issue for fear of being labelled soft on national security.

(You're right, Moose, this isn't 1984. But is Orwellian totalitarianism the standard by which we now judge infringements of individual liberty? Like the Carpetbagger, I'm not yet ready to call for impeachment, and I may never be, but something is seriously wrong here -- if this is all about protecting the American people from jihadist evildoers, why spy on groups like PETA?)

-- Andrew Sullivan (guest-blogger Julian) on the Fourth Amendment and "the NSA eavesdropping program" -- a response to Orin Kerr at The Volokh Conspiracy (a lot of legalese, but worth the slog).

-- The Anonymous Liberal on the Bush Administration's "ridiculous" and "radical" arguments in its own defence (and on its "surprisingly weak and remarkably audacious" "legal position"). See also Political Animal.

-- The Next Hurrah on the unreasonableness of it all.

-- Balkinization on the lawlessness of it all.

-- The Heretik on the whole shebang.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A deal for Abramoff?

WARNING: Post may cause uncontrollable salivation.

I hope Abramoff goes down big time, but I certainly wouldn't mind if he turned snitch:

Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist under criminal investigation, has been discussing with prosecutors a deal that would grant him a reduced sentence in exchange for testimony against former political and business associates, people with detailed knowledge of the case say.

Mr. Abramoff is believed to have extensive knowledge of what prosecutors suspect is a wider pattern of corruption among lawmakers and Congressional staff members. One participant in the case who insisted on anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations described him as a "unique resource"...

What began as a limited inquiry into $82 million of Indian casino lobbying by Mr. Abramoff and his closest partner, Michael Scanlon, has broadened into a far-reaching corruption investigation of mainly Republican lawmakers and aides suspected of accepting favors in exchange for legislative work.

Ah, the anticipation! Who dares to imagine what corruption lies beneath the slimy veneer of Republican politics? (Okay, many of us have -- so, by all means, let's all go there and find out.)

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Federal judge rejects teaching of "intelligent design"

From the Times:

A federal judge ruled today that a Pennsylvania school board's policy of teaching intelligent design in high school biology class is unconstitutional because intelligent design is clearly a religious idea that advances "a particular version of Christianity."

In the nation's first case to test the legal merits of intelligent design, Judge John E. Jones III dealt a stinging rebuke to advocates of teaching intelligent design as a scientific alternative to evolution in public schools.

The judge found that intelligent design is not science, and that the only way its proponents can claim it is, is by changing the very definition of science to include supernatural explanations.

Finally. It's taken a court case in Pennsylvania, but the truth has come out loud and clear: So-called "intelligent design" is nothing more than creationism in disguise. And it has absolutely no place in science classrooms. And, in my view, no place anywhere else -- is there a more hollow "theory" out there?

The Mighty Middle responds here and links to Althouse, who finds the decision "correct" and has lengthy excerpts from Judge Jones's "angry" opinion.

It's a must-read, but, in short: Judge Jones allows that "ID should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed," but "it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom".

More, and more to the point: "ID is not science. We find that ID fails on three different levels, any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that ID is science. They are: (1) ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation; (2) the argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science in the 1980's; and (3) ID’s negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community."

There you go. In this case, the law speaks the truth.


Previous posts on "intelligent design":

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The anti-Canadianism of American conservatism

What makes Tucker Carlson tick? (Please send me your answers. It's an open question.)

Several months ago, I called the bow-tied buffoon "MSNBC's new weenie" -- see here. Hard to believe that I once liked him, that I once thought he was one of the more thoughtful, less partisan conservatives of the punditocracy. He may still have his thoughtful moments -- I wouldn't know. Like the vast majority of you, I don't watch his show (he's on against Jon Stewart, which would be like me going up against Ali in his prime).

Well, the latest target of Carlson's buffoonery is... Canada. (Which means it's personal.) On his show, which no one watches, Carlson recently "let loose with a string of anti-Canada rants".

And so have other conservatives. See here.

So the U.S. ambassador interferes in our federal election campaign and various lowlights of the right assume a completely stupid "Blame Canada" posture (likely, as always, to deflect attention away from the failings of their political persuasion and of the partisans that propagate it).

Nice, eh?

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Old speeches lead to new targets

Oh dear.

I know that many people have heard about Stephen Harper's mysterious and so-called "hidden agenda," but what about the "I love Canada" incident? In late November, a reporter asked a simple question of the Tory leader: "Do you love Canada?" This was the response:

"Well, I said Canada is a great country. You know, all of us who get involved in public life spend a lot of time away from our families to go across the country, probably get in many ways the most rewarding experience you could ever have...and the traveling I've done, especially in the last seven or eight months, you get a real sense of Canadians, where they live, who they are... I think the country has unlimited potential..."

Paul Martin caught wind of this little gaff and said: "This morning I am told that Stephen Harper had a little difficulty saying this, so let me say it: I love Canada."

It wasn't so much that he flubbed the question -- rather, it seems that he tried to dodge it entirely.

I know it's very easy to say, "From this, one can clearly interpret that Stephen Harper doesn't love Canada!", but that's not the message I got from his speech. However, I did get that from a speech he made in 1997 before an audience of Americans, when he slammed Canada for being a Northern European welfare state "in the worse sense of the term" and took a stand against abortion rights and, unsurprisingly, same-sex marriage.

Other items in the speech included this: "In terms of the unemployed, of which we have over a million-and-a-half, don't feel particularly bad for many of these people. They don't feel bad about it themselves, as long as they're receiving generous social assistance and unemployment insurance."

And Harper concluded: "As long as there are exams, there will always be prayer in schools."

Aides and friends say that the speech was meant to be tongue-in-cheek and was not in the context of the election. True, it's definitely not presentable as election material. Yes, it's old, but it certainly gives Canadians a better look and understanding of the man who wants to be Prime Minister of this country. And, no, I saw no humour whatsoever in what he said, especially when he makes such harsh criticisms, not of the Liberals, not of the Conservatives, but of Canada and Canadians. No wonder saying "I love you, Canada" is so hard for him.

How very chilling: Suddenly, that agenda of his is not so hidden anymore.

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Monday, December 19, 2005

Patriotic pretension: President Bush and the un-Americanism of the right

Needless to say, there's been a lot of reaction in the blogosphere to President Bush's Sunday speech on Iraq. Two leading conservatives, Michelle Malkin and Ed Morrissey, even live-blogged it.

Also needless to say, those on the right loved the speech and took advantage of the opportunity to slam Democrats and other opponents of the war -- indeed, to slam anyone and everyone who doesn't toe the right's ideological line. For example, Malkin, never one to put civility and openmindedness before partisan gamesmanship, referred to "the dire consequences and costs that the Democrats' defeatism would impose not only on the Iraqi people, but on all Americans as well".

It's just that sort of political and ideological correctness that has taken over so much of American conservatism in recent years. The not-so-subtle message is that all criticism of the war, aside from the desire for more war, is defeatism -- worse, it's nothing short of anti-Americanism. You oppose the war... you even oppose the way the war is being conducted... you challenge the powers-that-be in any way... you're un-American... and you'd impose "dire consequences and costs" on "all Americans".

Do I even have to say this? Obviously, I do:

America is a nation born of dissent. To be American is to be able to dissent -- to say no, to seek alternatives, to refuse to be told what to do and to think and to say. Is that not the American way?

Those like Malkin and her ilk on the right simply don't know their history. And they certainly don't know what it means to be an American. If I may say so, they're the most un-American of all.


In contrast, there has also been some thoughtful reaction to Bush's speech. For example, Echidne offers some great play-by-play commentary. So does AMERICAblog.

Most of all, though, see my friend The Anonymous Liberal, whose excellent post picks apart Bush's speech and exposes it for the same old nonsense that it was: "Long story short, I was underwhelmed by the speech. Nothing about it struck as being a serious attempt to address any real criticisms being leveled against the administration. It was just more of the same stale rhetoric. More straw men and fly traps." But make sure to read the whole thing. The long story is worth a read.

(I picked apart Bush's Dec. 14 speech here -- this one was just more of the same.)

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Sunday, December 18, 2005

Bolivia moves to the left

The leftist surge in Latin American continues. Last week it was Chile. This week it's Bolivia:

Exit polls from Bolivia's presidential election suggest a clear victory for left-wing Aymara Indian candidate Evo Morales -- though not an outright win.

Several polls give him 42-45% of the vote ahead of his nearest challenger, former President Jorge Quiroga who, the polls say, got between 33-37%.

In Bolivia's electoral system, if no candidate receives at least 50 percent of votes cast in a presidential election, the new parliament (elected at the same time) picks the new president itself. However, given that third-place candidate Samual Doria Medina has already pledged his support to the top vote-getter, it is almost certain that Morales will "become Bolivia's first indigenous president".

The BBC reports that Morales admires Fidel Castro and that the Bush Administration worries that he may be anogher Hugo Chavez (the populist anti-American president of Venezuela). That may or may not be true. And it may very well be that Bolivia, "South America's poorest state," would benefit more from economic liberalization than from leftist protectionism.

Yet Morales's election makes sense: "Morales, a former coca leaf-grower and union leader, described himself on election day as 'the candidate of those despised in Bolivian history, the candidate of the most disdained, discriminated against'. Bolivia's indigenous people, who make up more than half the population, generally support the man who pledges to legalise the production of the coca leaf, a food staple, although not the cocaine manufactured from it."

He may not necessarily be the right candidate, but he will at least speak for, and represent the interests of, the dispossessed elements of Bolivian society. I certainly think that Bolivia needs ultimately to embrace liberalization, but at least those elements will have a voice for once. That's democracy at work -- and hopefully a step in the right direction.


Elswhere, the BBC examines "Latin America's year of elections": "Latin America's political map could find itself being redrawn as 12 of the region's countries prepare for presidential elections between November 2005 and the end of 2006." Recommended reading.

For more, The New York Times looks at Latin America's leftward shift in light of the Bolivian elections: "The leftist movement that has taken hold in Latin America over the last seven years is diverse." Also recommended.

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Ariel Sharon suffers stroke

Speaking of Ariel Sharon, which I did in my previous post, the BBC is reporting that the Israeli prime minister "has been taken to hospital after suffering a 'very minor' stroke." Officials at Jerusalem's Hadassah University Hospital say that "[Sharon] is conscious and that his condition is not life-threatening". See here for more.

Last month, Sharon, whom I tapped here as a worthy Nobel Peace Prize candidate, left Likud to start a new centrist party, Kadima (Forward).

Let's hope he recovers fully from this setback. Israel -- and the Middle East -- needs him to lead the way toward peace.


Update (12/19/05): The Jerusalem Post has more here. Haaretz has more here.

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Time's (underwhelming) People of the Year

Is it April Fool's Day? No, it's just the occasion of Time's yearly

Not that I've ever cared much about the nonsense that is Time's XXXXX of the Year award (man, woman, thing, being, etc.), but this year's recipients, Bill and Melinda Gates and U2's Bono, seem particularly underwhelming to me. That is, the award seems particularly underwhelming to me this year. Which is not to say that the richest man (couple) in the world and the world's most pretentious rock star are underwhelming in and of themselves. The Gateses are extraordinary philanthropists (but who wouldn't be with that kind of money?) and Bono's mouth is often in the right place (even if his loudmouthed, media-mongering do-gooding is often quite annoying, much like his recent musical efforts). But, honestly, do they deserve this award?

Time titles its cover story "The Good Samaritans". So that's what this is about? Rewarding high-profile good deeds? But why not all the volunteers who poured into tsunami-ravaged South and Southeast Asia and earthquake-ravaged Pakistan earlier in the year? Or the volunteers who stood firm during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita? Or... or... or... Why not give the award to The Unknown Samaritan, the person who isn't a rock star (an aging, mediocre one) or a new technology billionaire (a visionary, to be sure, but also one who has succeeded by squelching the competition). Yes, these are three good people, I'm sure, but...

Captain Ed offers his own criticism of Bono and the Gateses and suggests more deserving winners: "The true newsmakers this year, as Michelle Malkin notes in photos, were the people who went into the streets and overthrew dictators and autocracies in order to gain freedom for their nations -- in most cases, through non-violence. Ukrainians had their Orange Revolution; the Lebanese forced the Syrians to beat a hasty retreat across the Bekaa Valley after 29 years of military occupation following the murder of a pro-freedom statesman; and Iraqis faces bombs and death threats three times to in voting for a democracy and a new constitution to replace a genocidal tyrant in the heart of the Middle East, the first time that has ever occurred in an Arab nation."

You don't have to like Bush and the war in Iraq to praise the Iraqi voter, for example, or the Orange or Cedar revolutionary for standing up to the forces of tyranny and illiberalism.

Readers offer other suggestions at another Captain's Quarters post here. Sure, they're mostly "conservative" suggestions from largely "conservative" readers, but some make a lot of sense. Like Ariel Sharon, who hasn't gotten nearly enough credit for what he's done for peace in the Middle East.

My picks (in no particular order and in addition to The Unknown Samaritan, the Iraqi voter, and the Orange/Cedar revolutionary): Ariel Sharon; Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame (and everyone else involved in The Plame Game, including Patrick Fitzgerald, Judith Miller, and Scooter Libby); Pope Benedict XVI; and Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, and everyone else involved in the Katrina fiasco.

Any other (after-the-fact) suggestions? Whom, dear reader, would you have picked?

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Two days ago, I mentioned that nominations are open for the 2005 Koufax Awards. See my initial post here.

Given the incredible amount of feedback thus far, Wampum has set up a new comments section for nominations.

So for those of you who would still like to make a nomination or two (or more), whether for The Reaction or for other blogs (or for this one and others, as there are a number of categories), click here.

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How corrupt is Bill Frist?

The answer is very:

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's AIDS charity paid nearly a half-million dollars in consulting fees to members of his political inner circle, according to tax returns providing the first financial accounting of the presidential hopeful's nonprofit.

The returns for World of Hope Inc., obtained by The Associated Press, also show the charity raised the lion's share of its $4.4 million from just 18 sources. They gave between $97,950 and $267,735 each to help fund Frist's efforts to fight AIDS...

The donors included several corporations with frequent business before Congress, such as insurer Blue Cross/Blue Shield, manufacturer 3M, drug maker Eli Lilly and the Goldman Sachs investment firm.

World of Hope gave $3 million it raised to charitable AIDS causes, such as Africare and evangelical Christian groups with ties to Republicans — Franklin Graham's Samaritan Purse and the Rev. Luis Cortes' Esperanza USA, for example.

The rest of the money went to overhead. That included $456,125 in consulting fees to two firms run by Frist's longtime political fundraiser, Linus Catignani. One is jointly run by Linda Bond, the wife of Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo.

The charity also hired the law firm of [Frist's lawyer Alex] Vogel's wife, Jill Holtzman Vogel, and Frist's Tennessee accountant, Deborah Kolarich.

Of course, fighting AIDS is a worthy cause and at least Frist is doing something. But that something involves:

-- taking huge sums of money from corporations that have a financial interest in Congressional business and in what he can do for them; and
-- giving huge sums of money to his own friends and associates.

Nice, huh?

And this man is the Senate Majority Leader?

(I've got more on the crooked Frist here and here.)

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