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Spencer Blog Archives 11-02

Click here for Mr. Spencer's latest blog entry.


As my parting gift to you, I'll give you two links. The first one is a link to the results of a CBS News poll that shows W's re-elect numbers currently stand at only 32%. So, there is still hope my friends.

The second thing is this interesting piece about what was apparently a deal between Janet Rehnquist and Jeb to put off a potentially embarrassing audit of one of Florida's state pension funds until after the election. Conveniently timed, eh? I'm really beginning to suspect that Rehnquist's days in the administration are numbered and, if the stories about what she's doing in that office are true, they should be.

As many of you probably remember, I'm leaving for Houston in the morning at 4:30. It promises to be a long 900 miles each way with four of us. Thank goodness one of our friends loaned us a TV/VCR for the kids. I suspect that will make the day pass much faster.

I'll be staying with my grandmother who doesn't own a computer. My aunts and uncles own computers but I probably won't worry about it. Therefore, my good readers, this is more than likely the last thing I'll be able to post until Sunday or Monday. This is the first time I've taken such a long hiatus since I started this blog in August. I do promise you that I'll be back for sure on Monday morning.

Happy Thanksgiving and please, everyone, drive safely!

Posted by Tom at 8:35 p.m. CST


Here's an interesting story from the Wall Street Journal about W's choice for the next U.S. Supreme Court Justice, his current White House Counsel, Alberto Gonzales. BTW, if you think this administration has gone to far in limiting civil liberties, you can blame Mr. Gonzales for many of those decisions. Ashcroft enforces them but Gonzales appears to actually be behind them.

Wouldn't it be great to appoint the guy who clearly believes the constitution is just another piece of paper to the Supreme Court?


Posted by Tom at 3:58 p.m. CST


Many recent events in academia are bothering me lately. Here are a few of them:

All of these events taken together raise many important questions about academic freedom in this country today. The most frightening is the involvement of the vice president's wife in an amazingly bold and naked assault on the patriotism (and free speech) of professors nationwide. The report itself is rather shoddy and ridiculous but the intent is not hard to discern at all. There clearly are folks in this administration who wish that professors would parrot the administration's ideological line about the war on terror -- just as professors were forced to do during the McCarthy era.

The story of Berthold raises other more disturbing questions. Berthold made an admittedly senseless remark in class on 9/11. The worst part of it all is that Berthold's faculty colleagues apparently left him out to twist in the wind. His story is a genuine cautionary tale to those of us who often say things in class to provoke a response from our students. It certainly appears that academic freedom isn't alive and well at the University of New Mexico at present. Many of Berthold's faculty colleagues who disagreed with him about other issues used the occasion to presumably settle old scores with him. It is sad but understandable to hear that Berthold resigned rather than fight the good fight.

Both of these direct assaults on academic freedom are outrageous and should merit some sort of response. Unfortunately in the America of John Ashcroft and Poindexter's Orwellian spy machine, I'm pretty sure people would prefer to remain quiet about them and I understand that.

The case of KC Johnson raises the most troubling questions for me. Of course, the most obvious reason this case bothers me is that I'm up for tenure and promotion next year. I'm told by my colleagues that I have nothing to worry about but you can't ever help but worry about it. It appears that Johnson's denial of promotion and tenure had nothing to do with his research, teaching or service. He was a victim of department politics it appears. He frequently disagreed with his colleagues over campus issues, even opposing the hiring of a historian he believed to be unqualified. In denying his promotion and tenure, his colleagues pronounced him as being guilty of"uncollegiality."

Ron Radosh's column in defense of Johnson, also here on HNN, raises other interesting questions. The ultimate irony is Radosh speaking in defense of academic freedom. In his columns here at HNN, Radosh routinely denounces academics who disagreewithhim on anything as dangerous anti-American leftists who shouldn't be teaching in universities. It is therefore not hard to imagine Radosh would be quite comfortable at the head of the lynch mob that brought down Berthold if Radosh pronounced him a"dangerous leftist." To have him defend academic freedom is bizarre indeed.

Of course, Radosh's column is awfully illuminating but perhaps not in a way that he meant it to be. Radosh apparently found himself in a similar situation to Johnson's in the CUNY system many years ago. Radosh was denied promotion because an administrator didn't like his (at that time leftist) activism and outspokenness. Radosh was rightfully angry and pursued every option open to him, eventually winning promotion to full professor when the administration backed down in the face of his legal challenges. I had often wondered where Radosh's paranoid mindset about academia came from and this piece certainly explained that quite well. I understand it now at least.

However, all these years later Radosh has now become what he once despised, perhaps worse. Instead of quietly stabbing his enemies in the back like his old nemesis in the administration at Queensborough, Radosh now publicly smears anyone who disagrees with him as"anti-American" and obviously believes, as Cheney and the folks at the University of New Mexico, that academics should tow the ideological line regarding the war on terror.

While I frequently disagree with Radosh, I do believe strongly he has a right to say what he believes. Judging from his columns here at HNN, I have little doubt he would question my patriotism for some of the things I say on this blog. I do wish he would think a bit more about the things he says in his columns. Much of what Radosh says about academics today is uncomfortably similar to the smears perpetrated by McCarthyites against academics in the 1950s and 1960s. While Radosh may espouse academic freedom in his latest column, his words I suspect often have the opposite effect, even flying in the face of that noble goal.

It appears that the academy is under assault from those who want us to confirm the wisdom of W's warmongering foreign policy and blindly celebrate American achievements. In Ashcroft's America I'm not surprised by these developments but I can't help but be very alarmed.

Posted by Tom at 1:10 p.m. CST


Here's an interesting story about the judge in the Cheney case. It sounds like the fix is in to me. I mean, heck, he was on the ultimate conservative hypocrite Ken Starr's staff for goodness sakes. Here's a bit of it:

While the Bush administration decides how much privacy Americans should have, John Bates is about to decide how much privacy the Bush White House should have.

U.S. District Judge Bates is putting the final touches on his opinion regarding the White House request to shield the activities of Vice President Cheney's energy task force from the prying eyes of Congress. The ruling is expected to be released within days.

The 56-year-old Bates, after less than a year on the job, is surrounded by powerful crosscurrents as he prepares to rule in Walker v. Cheney, the first-of-a-kind lawsuit brought by Congress's General Accounting Office against the vice president.

Bates is an appointee of President Bush and has many friends in the administration, leading critics of the White House to assume that the fix is in for the Cheney lawsuit. Yet part of Bates's background also gives the GAO reason to hope. Five years ago, he led a fight to force the disclosure of information from a stubborn White House.

As a deputy to Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth W. Starr in 1997, Bates was a key figure in a case called Office of the President v. Office of Independent Counsel. Bates tried fervently to get the release of White House documents, winning the case when the Supreme Court refused to reconsider an appellate court ruling in Starr's favor.

We'll see of course. If he rules in favor of Cheney, it will be quite obvious that he is yet another conservative hypocrite but that's true about most of the folks in the Federalist Society nowadays, isn't it? They were against big government when it was in the hands of the other party but now it's okay.

Posted by Tom at 9:19 a.m. CST


Josh Marshall has a good post about how Democrats ought to set aside a little"quiet time":

Elected Democrats and Democratic staffers on Capitol Hill really need to set aside a little time this evening to share some quiet, reflective moments with their own idiocy. Today, to great fanfare, President Bush signed the new law which creates the Department of Homeland Security. He got all sorts of great photos and TV coverage preening for the cameras and so forth. And, yet, this was the Dems' idea. They thought there should be a Department of Homeland Security. They pushed for it. He resisted it. Then he changed his tune and clobbered them with it in the election. How did they let this happen? Time for some quiet time ...

There are few things quite as cynical as stealing an opponents' idea, having to flip-flop to do it to boot, and then cynically lying about your opponent being against his own idea for six weeks in order to win an election. I'm about to decide W and the boys have very few scruples at all. This last election certainly demonstrated as much.

Posted by Tom at 7:53 a.m. CST


Boy, read this story regarding the bootlicking response of the administration to stories about the Saudis and terror this weekend. Scary stuff, eh? I mean, I know that W's Dad is essentially on the Saudis' payroll but come on!

Of course, my favorite part of the story is when John McCain talks about the Saudi government being"engaged in a Faustian bargain." I like someone who can make literary references like that. Do you think W would even know what McCain meant?

Posted by Tom at 7:55 p.m. CST


Eric Alterman launches a broadside against George Will today. Here's part of Eric's post today:

Where there’s a Will, there’s a Stalinist. “Gore rewriting history but can’t change truth” is the headline on a George Will column, in which he writes: “When the election ended with George Bush 537 votes ahead, Gore initiated litigation that placed the U.S. Supreme Court in this dilemma.”

It’s hard to read the above without concluding that the man is anything but a deliberately dishonest hack. The Bush campaign initiated legal action in Florida, and it initiated the Supreme Court case that overturned Florida’s laws and a democratic election in a decision so transparently political the court had to insist that it not serve as precedent, lest it destroy the nation’s election laws and leave chaos in its wake. Rewriting history, while accusing others of rewriting history, is time-honored Stalinist tactic, and Will is obviously doing so with full knowledge. Of course, he is merely regurgitating the same tactic that infected so much of the coverage of the Florida fight at the time.

For instance, a day after James Banker complained of his opponents “endless challenges” and “unending legal wrangling” the Bush campaign filed the very first law suit over the election-designed to block any manual recounts, the opening salvo in the very “legal wrangling ” to which Baker alluded. The Washington Post’s headline on the story read, “Both Sides Increase Legal Wrangling As Florida Begins Slow Hand Recount.” But even with 1636 words at their disposal, David S. Broder and Peter Slevin never were able to pinpoint any legal action instigated by the Gore campaign.

Will's column is filled with all of the misleading and intellectually dishonest verbiage that was spewed by Republicans during the election recount battle. I'd forgotten what all of that ridiculous stuff sounded like. Will has kindly reminded me of it once again.

My favorite part is at the end when Will is trying to put lipstick on the pig once again in defending the infamous, indefensible, and anti-democratic Supreme Court ruling. Will sounds pretty ridiculous when he tries to defend it.

Republicans I suspect won't like what historians have to say about this one. I'm confident historians will place Bush v. Gore in its proper category if you know what I mean.

Of course, at least the column in question by Will actually has a discernible, if inherently dishonest, argument. Will's columns are frequently so poorly organized and ponderously written that they don't contain any sort of thesis or identifiable argument at all. Sometimes I wonder how this guy has kept his job over the years.

Admittedly, Will does take good dictation from Republican spinmeisters, so, er, oh, come to think of it, I guess I've just answered my own question. Never mind.

Posted by Tom at 4:18 p.m. CST


I'm trying madly to finish grading papers before the holiday so I'm a bit busy today. For the time being, I'll give you another reading list.

Read these stories:

  • A good piece by Bob Herbert about the shameful corporate protection provided for Eli Lilly in the Homeland Security Bill

  • This William Raspberry column about W's creation of a Big Brother government

  • This story from the KC Star about Poindexter's Orwellian Spy machine

  • This Joe Conason piece about Poindexter

  • This article about the legally questionable detainments of many by the Bush administration as"material witnesses"

  • This column about the frightening recent Federalist Society meeting -- scary stuff indeed.

Now, as always, discuss.

I hope to post more later today.

Posted by Tom at 11:25 a.m. CST


A couple of stories today that demonstrate that W and the boys regard the constitution as just another piece of paper:

The administration is arguing that citizens no longer have the right to remain silent after all.

Yet another editorial about Poindexter's Orwellian Spy Machine -- this one from the Boston Globe.

Where were stories like this the last several months? Before the election I mean? It's a bit late now guys. The horse is out of the barn now.

Posted by Tom at 12:24 p.m. CST


Today, Atrios points out how folks who criticize Paul Krugman usually misrepresent his point in order to criticize him. Krugman's latest column is a perfect example:

I should be used to this by now, but why is it that every time Paul Krugman writes a column people misrepresent his point and then proceed to criticize him based on that? Even TAPPED gets into the act.

Look - Krugman isn't attacking Republican nepotism because it is *necessarily* any worse than Democratic nepotism, he's attacking it because it's rather, um,"ironic" that the party of the meritocracy seems so interested in pursuing policies and appointments that amount to affirmative action for their families.


Posted by Tom at 5:51 p.m. CST


This is outrageous. It appears the wife of Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States was giving financial assistance to the 9/11 hijackers. Read the story. What I love is that the administration tried to keep this hush-hush because it might threaten Saudi Arabia's support for our upcoming war with Iraq.

Now, just a damn minute folks. It appears this administration -- using its usual moral compass -- is willing to let people off who it appears were DIRECTLY responsible for 9/11 in exchange for support for the war in Iraq. How bizarre and amoral can you get folks?

If all of this is true, this reveals a great deal about this administration. The war on terror is just a convenient election ploy folks. When it comes to going after the real culprits, it appears they'll look the other way if it suits their purposes.

I wish I could say I was surprised but, sadly, I'm not.

Posted by Tom at 10:41 a.m. CST


Ah, isn't life in W's America great?

The congress Scrooged 1,000,000 unemployed Americans yesterday.

I'm happy to report that some folks are beginning to wake up to Ashcroft's Orwellian Department of Justice. Some are beginning to speak out against it.

Nat Hentoff does so here.

Doug Thompson of Capitol Hill Blue does so in an entertaining rant here.

Speaking of police states and civil rights violations, get this story about the Transportation Security Administration's"No-Fly List."

At the same time, W and the boys are using the Census undercount to continue to concentrate power in the hands of Republicans through inaccurate congressional reapportionment.

But one should remember, W still hasn't fulfilled his most famous promise yet.

But, also remember, there's no difference between Democrats and Republicans!

You didn't need to vote in that midterm election, right?

Posted by Tom at 9:34 a.m. CST


W, Dick Cheney and the oil companies, er, energy task force have got a great idea: let's make sure the air quality in every city in the nation is just like Houston!


Just great.

Posted by Tom at 8:08 p.m. CST


Our favorite person, Linda Tripp, will shortly be opening a Christmas store. I wonder who financed this little thing? I think I detect yet another Richard Mellon Scaife operation. How about you?

I mean, come on, we know she didn't get the funding because of her personal charm, don't we?

I'm off to help set up the birthday party.

Posted by Tom at 3:58 p.m. CST


I'm preparing myself mentally for what promises to be a very busy Thanksgiving week. I'll be leaving next Wednesday to drive to Houston (Pasadena to be more precise) to see my grandmother. I'll be driving back on Saturday. That's about 1800 miles folks. It promises to be a long one -- mainly because I'm going to a place that I often refer to as"the armpit of the world."

Now, don't get me wrong. I am looking forward to seeing my grandmother and relatives down there -- even if most of my relatives down there have completed the fascinating and baffling transition from Great Society liberals to G.O.P. conservatives over the last twenty years. I haven't seen them in two years. My grandmother hasn't seen my daughter since she was a baby. It will be great to see them.

However, I must say, that I absolutely detest Houston. I have since I was eight years old and old enough to have an opinion. I have no use for the place. It's dirty and awful. You spend hours in the car just to go to the grocery store. You can see the air. You can smell the air. You can smell the water. The water is often orange-colored. I always feel like a couple of days down there takes about six months off my life. It's like smoking three packs of Marlboros. Every time I go down there I can't help but start counting the hours until I leave because I don't like the place. I hate that but I can't help it. Heck, I even refuse to change planes in Houston!

So, unless Houston has changed, I'm expecting to have those feelings again. Chuck, my old college buddy and current Houstonian, has it changed any in the last two years? Is there anything you'd suggest that I do about my"Houston State of Mind?"

Please, buddy, tell me why I shouldn't be filled with foreboding. Please!

Posted by Tom at 3:47 p.m. CST


I'm back for a short bit. I have to go help my wife get ready for the birthday party here in about half an hour so I'll do a bit of blogging before I leave.

Here's a good Washington Monthly piece by Nicholas Confessore about Paul Krugman. It turns out that, like the rest of us, Paul Krugman is scared to death by W as well.

Here's a short snippet from the much larger piece:

Krugman's primacy is based largely on his dominance of a particular intellectual niche. As major columnists go, he is almost alone in analyzing the most important story in politics in recent years--the seamless melding of corporate, class, and political party interests at which the Bush administration excels. Like most people, the Washington press, and especially pundits, were slow to grasp the magnitude of the shift. Krugman, whether puncturing the fuzzy math of Bush's tax cut or eviscerating the deceptive accounting behind Bush's Social Security plans or highlighting the corruption behind Dick Cheney's energy task force, has nearly always been the first mainstream writer to describe--and condemn--Bushonomics in plain English.

As an economist, of course, Krugman surely has an edge over most liberal pundits; his sterling academic reputation gives his critiques a punch that few Democratic politicians or liberal editorialists could hope for. But in truth, little that Krugman writes about has relied on his academic expertise. His columns aren't about trade theory or stochastic calculus, but about flagrant deceptions and fourth-grade arithmetic. What makes Krugman interesting, in short, is not just why he writes what he writes. It's why nobody else does.

Did that get you interested? Go read it!

(Link via Atrios)

Posted by Tom at 3:31 p.m. CST


It's a busy day -- and my daughter's fourth birthday -- so I'll just give you a few links of interest for now.

Your assignment is to go read these stories:

  • Paul Krugman's column about the return of the American aristocracy

  • This Washington Post piece on potential changes in W's cabinet

  • This E.J. Dionne column about Bush's shortsighted politicization of domestic security -- I like the last sentence, it reminds me of W's hysterical"Fool me once" thing in Tennessee a few weeks back.

  • Another story about the special Christmas gift W and the boys are providing for the jobless

  • This rather pointed editorial about said Christmas gift


Posted by Tom at 9:49 a.m. CST

GEORGE'S SONG 11-22-02

A friend of mine sent this to me. You may have seen it but I think it's pretty amusing.

This is to be sung to the tune"If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands."

Here goes:

"George's Song"

If we cannot find Osama, bomb Iraq.
If the markets hurt your Mama, bomb Iraq.
If the terrorists are Saudi
And the bank takes back your Audi
And the TV shows are bawdy,
Bomb Iraq.

If the corporate scandals growin', bomb Iraq.
And your ties to them are showin', bomb Iraq.
If the smoking gun ain't smokin'
We don't care, and we're not jokin'.
That Saddam will soon be croakin',
Bomb Iraq.

Even if we have no allies, bomb Iraq.
From the sand dunes to the valleys, bomb Iraq.
So to hell with the inspections;
Let's look tough for the elections,
Close your mind and take directions,
Bomb Iraq.

While the globe is slowly warming, bomb Iraq.
Yay! the clouds of war are storming, bomb Iraq.
If the ozone hole is growing,
Some things we prefer not knowing.
(Though our ignorance is showing),
Bomb Iraq.

So here's one for dear old daddy, bomb Iraq,
From his favorite little laddy, bomb Iraq.
Saying no would look like treason.
It's the Hussein hunting season.
Even if we have no reason,
Bomb Iraq.

Posted by Tom at 8:39 a.m. CST


In this excellent piece at Slate by Daniel Gross, he traces Greenspan's transformation from deficit hawk to G.O.P. hack. This article is eerily reminiscent of an earlier post of mine on the subject. Is Gross reading this blog? I'm sure not but the parallels between the two are interesting.

Isn't it interesting how quickly the Republicans jettisoned their fiscal conservatism to become spendthrifts? It certainly tells you how truly committed they are to their economic principles, doesn't it?

Of course, the G.O.P.'s hypocritical actions remind us on a daily basis that there are very few things they are truly committed to -- beyond tax cut payoffs to their rich contributors of course.

There are many on Wall Street that are already saying openly that this administration has one of the weakest economic and fiscal policy teams of the last hundred years. It isn't just the Democrats who are drawing parallels between W and Herbert Hoover on economic policy.

Posted by Tom at 8:21 a.m. CST


To all of you unemployed out there: Here's an extra special Christmas present from W, Dick Cheney, Trent Lott, Tom Delay and the other caring and kind men and women in the G.O.P.

Posted by Tom at 7:21 p.m. CST


P.L.A. has a great (but long) post today. He discusses Gore's recent return to the public eye. He determines that, judging from the last couple of