Thursday, March 31, 2005


About a generation ago, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation launched something that by today’s standards would be considered an odd initiative. The Foundation spent a lot of time and money developing a test that would determine if a fetus had Cystic Fibrosis. (CF is a genetic disease; at the time the life expectancy of a baby born with CF was roughly 20 years.) The hope was that usage of the pre-natal test would be widespread.

If the fetus tested positive, the parents would then be given counseling. They would be informed of the difficulties that laid ahead for a CF baby and his family. And they would also be apprised of their options. A part of the thinking was that many of the parents would no doubt choose to abort the afflicted fetus; in other words, the whole initiative countenanced the notion that a life with Cystic Fibrosis wasn't worth living.

Lest you be too hard on the people who were behind this initiative, consider that they were a product of their times. This was well before much of the country had begun to grapple with the moral dimensions of abortion. This was prior to Bill Clinton offering his “safe, legal and RARE” formulation in which the “rare” at least signaled some awareness that there is something disturbing about abortion beyond the impregnated woman’s discomfort.

And lest you be too judgmental, please consider some of the other things the people behind this initiative were thinking. There were some parents in the CF community who had lost multiple children to the disease; to such individuals, the thought of bringing a similarly afflicted child into the world was simply unbearable. There were other compelling though less sympathetic arguments involved as well, such as the fact that some parents would be financially or emotionally ill-equipped to handle the burdens of raising a child with CF.

But even as a 13 year old with CF, I understood that this initiative was profoundly misguided. I realized that it suggested that my life wasn’t a valuable one. I didn’t know what “eugenics” was then, but this initiative came frighteningly close to endorsing a eugenicist’s world view. I also thought that the scarce financial resources then available to the CF community might be better spent treating those with the disease rather than “curing” the as yet unborn.

Here’s the irony: The authors of this initiative were almost uniformly the parents of living CF patients. These weren’t a bunch of miniature Mengeles. Far from it – I knew and still know several of them personally. These are great and wonderful people. They just didn’t see the disturbing aspects of what they were doing.

This is where I see the silver lining in Terri Schiavo’s death: Society is now grappling with similar issues in a serious and meaningful way. The fear regarding this entire episode is that it signifies that we’re on a slippery slope where life is constantly being devalued. But actually just the opposite is true. American society is coming back from a trough it fell into in the 1960’s and 1970’s regarding such matters. We are finally beginning to consciously decide that each life, regardless of the form it takes, is to be valued.

As evidence, consider the CF initiative of a generation ago. I consider it incredibly heartening that when prospective parents hear their child is to be born with CF, they almost never opt for an abortion. Americans have proved happily deficient in the eugenics game.

I have to admit, Terri Schiavo’s death hit me harder than I thought it was going to. It’s hard not to be angry at the actors in this drama that made her death a reality. But for those who feel as I do, we must recognize that invoking Auschwitz or making reckless comparisons to Hitler won’t be any more productive for us than they’ve been for unhinged members of the left the last few years.

It’s a tragedy that countless lives have been lost to date because society has yet to entirely come around regarding life’s intrinsic value. But such is the sweep of history. Generations of African Americans were enslaved, often by the greatest men of their eras like Washington and Jefferson, because the insight that slavery was wrong had not yet pervaded American society. Sadly, these things take time, time measured in decades not weeks.

So our fight continues. Terri Schiavo, rest in peace.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Tuesday, March 29, 2005


Sometimes major parties die. Usually death comes as the end result of a long and dispiriting withering process. At least I think that’s what happened to the Whigs. The final blow didn’t come as a big bang. With the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, the Whigs going the way of the Dodo was perfectly foreseeable and pretty much inevitable.

Speaking of dodos, let’s take a quick glance at the Democratic Party as it continues its relentless march to irrelevancy. This piece by Katrina vanden Heuvel caught my eye yesterday. The ever-annoyed Ms. vanden Heuvel is in her usual state of overwrought indignation because the U.S. invasion of Iraq hasn’t shown enough reverence for the ruins of Babylon.

Let’s put aside for the moment that vanden Heuvel’s only source for her allegations is a story in Britain’s notoriously left wing, anti-American, and anti-reliable The Guardian. And let’s not even touch the no doubt unintentional self-parodying nature of the charge that the ruins are being trampled by the entity the whole world understands is evil personified – HALLIBURTON! Let’s grant her charges are 100% accurate, that the treasures of Babylon have taken a beating because of U.S. carelessness and Halliburton’s typical venality.

Ms. vanden Heuvel is one of the intellectual leaders of the left. And this is apparently the kind of stuff that she thinks will engage and then enrage the U.S. citizenry. One cannot help but marvel at how such people can be so out of touch. The typical American probably doesn’t know much about the archaeological treasures that lie beneath Babylon, and those that do are probably a lot more concerned about our troops’ welfare than the artifacts’. So, is this what the left has been reduced to? Carping about underground tsotschkes?

And then there’s this little piece at the Daily Kos, whose posters continue to pray for failure in Iraq all the more fervently even as the mission’s success becomes more apparent. The post leads off with the “hopeful” phrase, “Iraq continues to display a lack of security and stability.” But if you read the post, you’ll see there’s no real bad news to write about. There’s an Al Qaeda-released tape of an execution but no one knows when or where it’s from. Other than that, there’s nothing really bad to report on.

So with Iraq seeming to improve constantly, where are the desperate left wingers left to turn? They can pray for a Republican crack-up, although praying I’m told really isn’t their bag, being reality based and all. So they look to the conservative intramural skirmish over the Schiavo case and see hopeful signs for the future. Someone should break the following to the “Progressives” very gently – the next congressional elections won’t be held for twenty months. It’s quite possible, indeed rather likely, that events will transpire between now and then that will supplant the Schiavo case as the talk of the town.

There’s also the curious the fact that so many Democrats have taken to relentlessly referring to themselves as “Progressives.” It’s as if they know the Democrat/liberal brand has been so debased by a generation of Kerrys, Boxers, and Dukakisi that on a subconscious level they feel a need to distance themselves.

Both at the leadership level and at the active grassroots level, the Democrats stand for nothing more than opposing anything and everything that Republicans support, be it sparing the life of Terri Schiavo or reforming social security. But what are they for? If you ask that question of their grassroots’ performers, they’ll say “progressive issues” and then splutter some banalities about equality and the environment and perhaps even offer something grand like “Universal Health Care” without any idea of how we would create such a system, how it would operate, or how it would be funded (other than by taxing Halliburton really heavily).

The Democrats are no longer a real political party because they lack any agenda of their own. They have become merely a coalition of the preternaturally pissed-off. The party is purely reactive to whatever initiatives Republicans propose or act on. I know George Lakoff in his grand re-branding scheme probably isn’t considering re-naming the party, but if he is nothing would be more accurate than calling them the “Anti-Republicans.”

Of course a smart guy like Lakoff probably knows such a product will never sell.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Monday, March 28, 2005


OVER THE PAST TWO WEEKS, the Terri Schiavo case has become a phenomenon. After being barely a blip on the national radar for several years, the past fortnight has seen the story break-through into one of those events that the various media saturate with non-stop coverage and endlessly repetitive analysis.

The analysis has been less than edifying because of the silence of the story’s principal players. For obvious reasons, Terri Schiavo has been unable to tell her side of the story. And Judge George W. Greer, the Pinellas-Pasco Circuit judge whose controversial findings of fact have set so much of this drama in motion has had to keep a respectful silence due to the demands of judicial propriety. It was Judge Greer who found that “Terri Schiavo’s oral declarations concerning her intentions as to what she would want done under the present circumstances (rose) to the level of clear and convincing evidence.” This finding of fact bound all future courts looking at the matter. It is a finding of fact that many who look at the case find difficult to understand.

HEARSAY EVIDENCE IS DEFINED as testimony by a witness recounting comments by another party (the declarant) offered to prove the truth of the declarant’s comments. In the Schiavo case, Judge Greer relied on the testimony of Terri’s husband and her in-laws that recounted her comments while watching a TV movie and attending her grandmother’s funeral luncheon. In both instances, Terri Schiavo allegedly made comments to the effect that she would not want to be kept alive on machines or hooked up to tubes if she met a fate similar to her grandmother’s or the TV movie protagonist’s.

Applying the definition of hearsay to the Schiavo case, the witnesses are her husband and his family members; Terri is the declarant, and the declarant’s comments offered to prove their truth are Terri’s remarks that she would not want to be kept alive under circumstances such as those she currently faces.

One could argue, as law professor Alan Dershowitz did on Thursday’s “Scarborough Country” on MSNBC (and as my reader the “Oompah” did in a lengthy email exchange), that this isn’t hearsay at all – that the testimony offered by the Schiavos merely recounts the “verbal event” of Terri expressing her wishes. While Dershowitz’s analysis is not entirely implausible, it neglects the principal policy reasons why hearsay evidence is generally excluded.

Hearsay evidence is excluded (and when admitted considered of dubious reliability) because without the court being able to question and assess the declarant, the quality/accuracy of her comments cannot be examined. In this case, assuming Michael Schiavo and his relatives are honestly recounting Terri’s comments, the comments themselves beg for follow-up examination.

For instance, one would want to ask Terri whether her comments made at a funeral luncheon and while viewing a TV movie were the product of deep and careful contemplation as would usually be the case when one enters into a living will. One would also want to ask questions that pertain to her particular case that perhaps differ from her grandmother’s and the TV movie’s. In short, one would want elaboration – what exactly did Terri Schiavo mean by these declarations, and do they indeed mean that she would not want to be kept alive in her current circumstances?

Nonetheless, even if one agrees with my call that his is hearsay rather than Professor Dershowitz’s conflicting analysis, Judge Greer was doubtlessly correct in allowing the Schiavo family’s testimony. It is a duly codified exception to the hearsay prohibition rule that when the declarant is unavailable due to death or incapacitation, then the hearsay testimony is admissible.

What is odd is that Judge Greer found this testimony both compelling and conclusive. Based solely on this testimony that seems to raise as many questions as it answers, Greer determined that there was “clear and convincing” evidence that Terri would want her feeding tube removed under the current circumstances.

IF JUDGE GEORGE W. GREER is a euthanasia absolutist or in any other way a part of the so called “culture of death,” these are facts that have been carefully concealed for the past few decades. 63 years old and a conservative Republican, Judge Greer was described by longtime friend David Kurland in the St. Petersburg Times this way: “George is the religious right.”

Similarly, if Greer is one of America’s foremost legal minds, this fact has also not been in evidence throughout his career. Greer graduated Florida State University in 1964 and University of Florida College of Law in 1966. From 1969 -1992, he was a solo practitioner in Florida’s Clearwater County concentrating on zoning and land use issues. In 1984, Greer entered politics running a successful campaign for Pinellas County Commissioner. In 1992, Greer ran for circuit judge and won unopposed. He was re-elected in 1998. A brief scan of his career suggests he is much more a politician than a legal scholar. It was his misfortune, and the Schindler family’s misfortune, that such a complex and controversial case as this one wound up in his courtroom.

Greer’s findings of fact and his otherwise controversial handling of the Schiavo case preceded his 2004 re-election campaign. In that 2004 campaign, for the first time, Greer faced opposition – he won with 65% of the vote.

IN THE AMERICAN JUDICIAL SYSTEM, finders of fact, be they a judge or a jury, are assigned an often unpleasant task. While we hope that they will prove wise and insightful, this will not always be the case. The history of American jurisprudence is regrettably littered with miscarriages of justice.

In the Schiavo case, Judge Greer’s findings of fact strike many of us as obtuse. Still, it must be acknowledged – we were not in the courtroom and did not hear the testimony of the Schiavo family so thus are in no position to render an informed opinion on their reliability. Our opinions are formed from Judge Greer’s written decision, whose reasoning it must be said is unimpressive.

But judges are paid to make the hard calls. And so long as judges are fallible human beings, their record on that score will be imperfect. What’s more, it should come as at least some small comfort that Judge Greer is not a political appointee with lifetime tenure; he has stood before the voters three times and has prevailed on each occasion. It is not as if this is a case of an arrogant jurist who is aloof from the people and thwarting the public’s will. If suitably upset by the judge’s handling of the matter, the people of Florida can be heard from again via their elected representatives who by a 2/3 vote of the House and 2/3 vote of the Senate could impeach Judge Greer and remove him from office.

FOR THOSE OF US WHO have earnestly believed that Terri Schiavo should not have been disconnected from her feeding tube, the past ten days have been dismaying indeed. It is not surprising that some anger has been visited upon the judge whose findings made the current situation all but inevitable.

But the time has come to recall that Judge Greer is merely who a man who was tasked with finding facts to the best of his ability. After carefully reviewing the case, I feel confident in saying there is little reason to doubt his good faith in this endeavor.

That is not to say his efforts were of high quality. But it does suggest that the fevered cries of “monster” or “Mengele” are neither accurate nor constructive. While it surely comes as little or no comfort to the Schindler family and the legions of others who believe that Terri’s life should be maintained, America remains a nation of laws not of men.

And so long as those laws are adjudicated by men who are elected by other men, perfect justice will remain well beyond our reach.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Friday, March 25, 2005


Glenn Reynolds and others are suggesting that the intramural skirmish on the conservative side over the Schiavo case portends a conservative crack-up. The thinking goes something like this: There are conservatives who are primarily conservative because of the so-called morals issues like being pro-life. There are others who find themselves supporting the President because of his muscular prosecution of the war on terror. There are yet other conservatives who primarily define themselves by their fealty to small government and limited federal powers.

The good news for conservatives and the conservative movement is that none of these things are mutually exclusive. That means that a lot of conservatives, indeed I’d wager the vast majority, find themselves supporting not just one of these planks passionately but the other two planks to varying degrees as well.

The reason the Schiavo case has occasioned the intramural skirmish that it has, where self described conservatives have turned on other self described conservatives, is because this is a rare case, perhaps an unprecedented case, where supporting two different planks of modern conservatism were indeed mutually exclusive.

If you were amongst those who considered life in all its forms precious, you firmly believed that Terri Schiavo’s life should be spared. If you were amongst those who valued a minimally intrusive federal government, it would be impossible to support Congress’ intervention into what was clearly a state matter. As the leftist website Daily Kos accurately and gleefully pointed out, the matter had been appropriately adjudicated and the matter “should” have been closed.

For some of us who believe passionately both in the value of life (in this case suggesting Terri Schiavo should have been kept alive) as well as a Congress that exercises its powers in a circumspect manner, it was impossible to take a position consistent with both principles. As some of you may remember, I offered my attempt at reconciling the positions a few days ago.

But for those who passionately believe in one but not the other, it was inevitable that they would clash over this issue. It’s too bad that the “conversation” has been so full of rancor; while Charles at Little Green Footballs has probably become quite accustomed to being called a Nazi by the “moonbats,” being so labeled by fellow Bush supporters is probably something new for him.

Yes, emotions have flared over the past week. You know when terms like “Auschwitz” (courtesy of the reliably overwrought Peggy Noonan) and “Mengele” are being tossed about, the debate has long since ceased being constructive.

I’ve been a consistent voice for Terri’s survival, so I think I have some credibility in offering the following: The ultimate goal is to move our culture to a greater appreciation of all forms of human life. This goal is not advanced with hostile accusations and hysterical rantings. And it’s certainly not advanced by death threats and other forms of intimidation that have long been the stock-in-trade of the Randall Terry types.

On this Easter weekend, let us grieve for Terri Schiavo and for her family, for all they’ve gone through and for what imminently lies ahead. And let us ponder how we can better convince our friends and neighbors that erring on the side of life is always to be preferred to erring on the side of death.

And let us commit to doing so with logic and passion, but not passion that mutates into hostility and bile. And lastly, let us realize that this is a unique situation – it is not a common occurrence where supporting life and supporting limited federal powers are mutually exclusive.

In other words, friendships frayed over this sad event should soon be mended. Let’s welcome that prospect.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Thursday, March 24, 2005


There was a great story once about a blue collar guy who arrived at his home for a surprise lunch. The man drove one of those revolving cement trucks for a living. When he arrived at his house, he noticed a beautiful new Cadillac Eldorado rag-top parked in front. When he poked his head inside the door, he saw his wife and the owner of the Eldorado involved in what quainter generations would have called an “indiscretion.”

Since he had a few tons of ready-made cement on his hands, he quickly figured how to best exact his revenge. He immediately began emptying cement into the Cadillac, a couple of tons worth. The car collapsed, the tires exploded with their hubcaps flying off, the vehicle becoming utterly ruined.

If you read the preceding anecdote and immediately fingered it as an urban legend, pat yourself on the back. You’re way ahead of several newspapers and magazines of three decades ago that published the story as fact, with each different publication altering a few details to enrich the story and make it more appropriate for the local audience.

It wasn’t that the magazines and newspapers were trying to put one over on the readership. Quite the contrary – they bought it hook, line and sinker.

There was something about the story that just made people want to believe its veracity. Maybe it’s the way a working stiff enjoyed such a wonderful triumph over a presumably wealthy playboy who was diddling his wife. Maybe it’s the colorful visuals – the picture of a Cadillac overflowing with ready-made cement is somehow appealing. Who knows what it was? The point is, for a lot of people there was something in the story that it was too good not to be true.

Such was apparently the case with the alleged “Republican talking points memo” regarding the Schiavo case. The memo detailed several ways the Republicans could leverage the case for political gain and suggested that the whole endeavor was craven politics at its worst.

When I first heard of the memo, I have to admit I was stunned and dismayed. While I don’t deny that there is no off-position on the “politics all the time” switch for much of our political class, I did believe that principle was in play here.

But, more relevantly, I couldn’t believe anyone in high ranking Republican circles would be stupid enough to put such noxious sentiments in a written document, let alone a written document whose distribution wasn’t strictly controlled. It was also odd that such a high risk document consisted of nothing more than banalities (“This is an important moral issue and the pro-life base will be excited that the Senate is debating this important issue”) and even though ostensibly a “talking points memo” in fact offered no talking points.

Now, thanks to the efforts of the wise heads at Powerline, we’re discovering that it is increasingly likely that the document is a hoax. ABC who broke the story has all but declared it has no idea about the memo’s provenance. While the memo was distributed, it is becoming increasingly likely that whoever prepared had it nothing to do with Republican politicians. In other words, what we have here in all likelihood is a dirty trick.

On my daily perambulations through the left wing blogosphere, I saw the memo greeted with credulous open arms. That’s to say nothing of ABC and the Washington Post, who ushered the memo to prominence. Of course, if you believe that all things are political and nothing else matters, the memo story would have been too good not to believe.

The memo tale hints at what’s been one of the great frustrations of the past week. Whether you agree with me or not, I’m sure you sense I genuinely believe that Teri Schiavo should be kept alive. For me politics has nothing to do with it. The same goes for Jonathan Last and the Captain and a host of others who have weighed in on the matter.

All urban legends notwithstanding.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


I want to thank all of you who have written in the past few days. The volume of email, and its thoughtfulness, has been unprecedented. My gratitude goes to all correspondents, except for the critic who wished me a speedy demise – that was unkind. Oh well, as is well documented civility is not some folk's long suit.

The flip side of having received all these thoughtful emails is that I’ve fallen hopelessly behind on responding. To rectify that, I’m going to dedicate this post to responding to the issues that many of you have raised. Before beginning this list, let me preface my remarks by unequivocally stating that I respect everyone’s right to their opinions and their right to express those opinions. There’s nothing wrong with disagreement.

1) THE ECHO CHAMBER ARGUMENT – A few have written in to say that I’m obviously getting my facts exclusively from fellow Bible thumping bloggers (even though, being Jewish, I only thump the Old Testament) and as a consequence I don’t have a solid grasp of the facts. The writers who made this point focused on my short-shrifting of the evidence that purportedly proved Terri’s desire to not be kept alive in her current circumstances. I wrote, “Practically the only evidence that she would have wanted her feeding tube removed is the long delayed recollections of her husband regarding comments she made while watching a movie about Karen Ann Quinlan.”

While the “practically” in the above sentence gives me a fig leaf of deniability, it’s true that I should have mentioned the comments Terri allegedly made at a couple of funerals that also helped the Judge reach his conclusions. At the funerals in question, she allegedly said that she didn’t want to be maintained at the end in the way the funerals’ guests of honor had been. Oddly, these alleged funeral comments were only recalled exclusively by Michael Schiavo’s side of the family well after the malpractice case had been adjudicated, around the same time Michael Schiavo recalled the alleged Karen Ann Quinlan comments.

I would again submit that this is awfully flimsy evidence, hearsay in its purest form, on which to base such a weighty decision as terminating an individual’s life. As the Guardian Ad-Litem report put it, “In Theresa’s case, evidence regarding her intentions consisted of admitted hearsay regarding conversations between Theresa and her spouse and spousal relatives.” How grave was my misstatement? I leave that to you to determine.

As to the charge that I’m getting my facts only from FoxNews (not to slight their coverage) or fellow bloggers, that’s simply not true. I’ve read the Guardian Ad Litem’s report (GAL) as well as all subsequent decisions. Which brings us to point # 2:

2) FACTS NOT IN PLAY – According to the GAL’s report, five doctors were summoned to render an opinion on Terris’ case. Two were appointed by the Schindlers, two by Schiavo and one by the court. All five doctors were extremely well credentialed and had wonderful reputations.

According to the Schiavo-appointed doctors and the court’s appointed doctor, Terri’s prognosis was hopeless and her cognitive ability nil. The Schindler appointed doctors painted a far rosier picture. The Court ultimately found the three majority doctors to have made a more persuasive case than the Schindler’s doctors.

Are the Schindler-appointed doctors to be given a more jaundiced hearing because of potential bias? Perhaps. Nonetheless, there is nothing in the GAL’s report that questions their professional competency or integrity. Therefore, I would err on the side of life.

3) ERRING ON THE SIDE OF LIFE – The more I consider this matter, the more convinced I become that erring on the side of life is the critical consideration here. In one telling sentence in the GAL’s report, he wrote, “Theresa has a distinct presence about her.” In other words, he sensed something in her, something that he couldn’t specifically define but would perhaps label “life” or “human.” That being the case, I can’t imagine terminating her.

4) BUT I RESPECT THE OTHER VIEWS – At least when they’re thoughtfully and civilly stated. I gave my best stab at explaining why I think Terri Schiavo’s life is worth living a couple of days ago. A lot people wrote in to say they were moved by what I had to say; I greatly appreciate those letters. Others wrote in to say that they never would want to live the life she has; I appreciate those letters as well. I respect their view, and like I wrote on Monday, certainly no one would choose her fate.

My main point was that her condition, for those who have never experienced it, is literally unimaginable. I’ve heard anecdotal evidence from people on TV who have recovered from conditions similar to hers. Those who haven’t recovered for obvious reasons are unable to tell us what it’s like to be in her state.

Again, my inclination is to err on the side of life.

5) BUT WHAT ABOUT THE COST??? - That’s a serious issue that reaches across our health care system that we’re going to have to engage someday. As the baby boomers age, either our health care delivery system will have to become a lot more efficient (free market incentives would help) or we’ll have to somehow ration health care services in far more Draconian ways than is currently the case.

But that’s not what the Terri Schiavo debate is about. To put it bluntly, the Schiavo Case’s plate is full; to say that we should make this case also about formulating a health care rationing scheme strikes me as overreach. The Schiavo matter is amply burdened with symbolism as it is. Regardless, the judicial decision to remove her feeding term didn’t rest on the fact that keeping her alive was too costly.

Once again, I appreciate everyone’s letters. I’ll try to respond to all of them in due time. In the meantime, I hope this post explains my feelings and answers the most common questions.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Tuesday, March 22, 2005


I’VE BEEN TRYING to square the circle on the Terri Schiavo case now for a few hours and I just can’t seem to do it. Here’s the mystery: How did the lower court find as it did? Practically the only evidence that she would have wanted her feeding tube removed is the long delayed recollections of her husband regarding comments she made while watching a movie about Karen Ann Quinlan.

The decision didn’t have anything to do with the quality of her life. At least it shouldn’t have. And it certainly didn’t have anything to do with some sort of quaint Victorian notion that a husband should decide his spouse’s fate. The lower court judge found as a legal fact that Terri Schiavo didn’t want to exist as she currently does. The Appeals Court put it this way: “(This case) is about Theresa Schiavo’s right to make her own decision , independent of her parents and independent of her husband.”

The mystery remains: How did the lower court find as a fact that these were Terri Schiavo’s wishes?

AND THEN THERE’S the almost as compelling mystery as to why there’s such a lockstep on the far left that Terri Schiavo must die. This one really has me flummoxed. As you stroll through the left wing blogosphere and read the left leaning pundits, you see all sorts of explanations for why it has to be this way. Some lefty bloggers have insisted that it has to be the husband’s call, but somehow one doubts that they really believe deep down that a man should solely determine whether his wife should live or die.

Others were appalled that Terri’s defenders refused to accept judicial closure, suggesting that the Bible thumping rubes out there should just acknowledge that the ever-wise Florida jurists have ruled and move on to preparing their Easter banquets. Alas, their commitment to bowing to our black-robed overlords seems a tad insincere. I don’t recall many of those now making the “judicial closure” argument espousing a similar philosophy in the wake of the Supreme Court’s landmark Bush v. Gore ruling. Or perhaps I have Oliver Willis all wrong and he was in fact saying at that time, “The court has ruled and even though we disagree with the ruling, its decision is final. Now let’s all get behind our new President George W. Bush. Huzzah!”

Jonathan Last suggested that the left has reached a point where it has become devoid of any ideas other than frantically screaming “WE’RE PROGRESSIVE.” Its sole raison d’etre is to oppose anything the right supports. There might well be some validity in this formulation.

For eight years Bill Clinton ran a perpetual campaign and even though he repeatedly knifed the “progressives” ‘tween the shoulder blades and was without doubt a scoundrel, he was at least their scoundrel. So what that his major policy legacies (NAFTA and Welfare Reform) represent two things that today’s left loathes? At least they held the White House.

The legacy of all this craven non-stop politicking is a party and especially youngsters in the party who know nothing other than non-stop politicking. So when such people see others trying to save Terri Schiavo, they can’t help but project their own values on to their political adversaries – they assume they’re doing it just for political purposes. As Markos Mouliotsas writes this afternoon, “Schiavo is a prop for their real agenda.”

To posit such a thing, one would have to ignore the fact that the polls show the vast majority of the country doesn’t like what Congress is doing here. While I would suggest that’s because most people don’t know a lot of the pertinent facts, there can be little doubt that if this is a political move, it’s a poor one. While I’m generally loathe to hazard a guess as to what motivates our political class, this seems to be a case where PRINCIPLE may actually be in play.

And then, lastly, there’s the rancor. I called this charming piece of Daily Kos excrement to Jonathan Last’s attention last night who shared my revulsion and posted it on Galley Slaves. It’s written by “Hunter,” generally one of the Kossacks more reasonable contributors and the one who earnestly grappled with my Weekly Standard column about how his site will have to remain respectable if leading Democrats are to remain comfortable with the prospect of appearing in their company. Hunter agreed this was a challenge for the community, and one that all Kossacks would have to respond to. That’s what makes his response to the Schiavo story especially noteworthy (Warning: Turn the computer screen away from the children before reading on):

“You know what? Subpoena her. You called it, DeLay, Frist -- unless you're the biggest fucking cowards on Capitol Hill (a pretty safe bet, ain't it?) I want you to haul that soulless body that used to be Terri Schaivo up to Washington, prop her the hell up in front of a microphone, tape a goddamn American Flag to her forehead and ask her your fucking, shit-headed questions.
She won't answer. Guess Why?
Because She. Has. No. Brain. Left. She is brain-dead. She is worse than brain-dead, because her brain died so long ago that there's nothing but fluid-filled holes in much of it. Yeah, you can still dress her up in pretty clothes and coo, if you're a sick fucking bastard. I think you're a fucking necrophile, but that seems to be a central tenet of modern Republicanism, so what the hell?
So subpoena her. Bring. It. The. Fuck. On. You. Goddamn. Constitution-Fucking. Cowards.
If she is even remotely still alive inside there, if she does have the consciousness that every doctor and every court that examined her say there's no fucking way she could have with a hollowed-out brain, then she has been essentially buried alive, all these years, unable to talk or even move, her very skin her own coffin, rotting in a hospital bed while nurses tend to her like a potted plant.”

Good to see Hunter dealing with the sobriety and propriety challenge. Perhaps Senators
Feingold, Reid and Boxer might want to re-think strengthening their ties with the site.

But let’s end on a more edifying note. At the very least, this sad story has caused many of us to grapple with some very fundamental questions. If Terri Schiavo’s plight has helped some people realize, even a few people realize, that life is precious in all its forms, then perhaps that gives the sadness here a saving grace.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Monday, March 21, 2005


THIRTEEN YEARS AGO when I was 24 years old I competed in a race up the 50 flights of stairs in Boston’s Prudential Tower. With all due modesty, I can report that I did pretty well – I finished the climb in a little over seven minutes and came in 29th place out of a field of 120. Because I suffer from the genetic lung disease Cystic Fibrosis, it often strikes me as a cruel irony that due to the progression of the disease since that race, climbing a single flight of stairs today requires me a half minute to catch my breath.

Any serious illness like Cystic Fibrosis brings with it a host of indignities and challenges far greater than those offered by any stairway. Living the life that I now live was an unimaginable prospect to the 24 year old version of myself. In many conversations with friends and families back then, I confidently stated that I would rather be dead than see my physical abilities, which were such a defining aspect of my younger self, so erode.

MY FEELINGS AS A YOUNG man were a dramatic example of a failure of imagination. I simply couldn’t conceive that even with my circumstances changing so much for the worse, life would not only still be worth living but in some ways richer than before.

I’ve come to view serious and progressive illness as an ever constricting circle with oneself at the center. The interior of the circle represents the contents of one’s life. As the circle gets smaller, things that were inside get forced out. Some of these things are dearly missed; other items that were once thought precious get forced to the exterior and turn out to go surprisingly unlamented.

At the innermost point of the circle are the things that really matter: Family, faith, love. These things stay with you until the day that you die. At the very end, because the circle has shrunk down to its center, they’re all you have left.

But as we approach that end, we finally realize that all along they were what mattered most. As a consequence, life often remains beautiful and worthwhile rght up until the end.

MUCH OF THE CONVERSATION regarding Terri Schiavo has exhibited a failure of imagination similar to the one I had thirteen years ago: Many people cannot understand how a life such as hers could possibly be worth living. Her suffering, and her family’s suffering, is no doubt great. Many people see the footage of her on television and offer a glib, “I would never want to live like that.”

To some extent, they are of course correct. No one would choose Terri Schiavo’s fate. But by focusing on her suffering, they miss what she has. Even with her impaired abilities, she understands love. She seems able to give it, and there is no doubt that she is receiving it.

What’s more, Terri Schiavo is not terminally ill. That means she has something else that the protagonist in the typical euthanasia drama does not have – hope.

Even at the innermost point of the circle I described above, life remains precious. Looking at her from afar, one might be tempted to note only the misfortune and the suffering. But Terri Schiavo, in her reduced state, still has love. And she still has hope. Who would dare gainsay that such a life is worthless?

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Sunday, March 20, 2005


Being down in Florida the last few months, I’ve gotten even more coverage of the Terri Schiavo situation than most of you. There are a few conclusions that are nearly universally shared amongst those who are familiar with the facts of the case, regardless of their political orientation:

1) Terri is alive. She is not a “vegetable” or a “flat-liner.”

2) Terri’s husband is a creepy character. While one could perhaps sympathize with his desire to “move on with his life” (I don’t but others do), his good faith in this matter is highly suspect.

3) There is absolutely no compelling reason why this woman should die.

4) The attempt to take her life, and its likelihood of its success, is something that everyone familiar with the facts of this case finds profoundly disturbing.

So that leaves the ultimate argument of why she should die to the mere fact that the case has progressed through our judicial system as cases do and the decree from our jurists is that the husband should be allowed to end her life. As a nation of laws, the argument goes, we therefore must allow the termination of Terri Schiavo’s life.

Throughout this latest chapter of the controversy, I’ve been thinking of a quote from an Edward Abbey book I read a little over a decade ago. I don’t even remember which book it was, and I’m paraphrasing, so my recollection here won’t be precisely accurate. The novel’s protagonist had a code that stated he would never betray a friend in order to be faithful to a principle.

While a simplistic reading of that code would suggest it’s unprincipled, actually it’s profoundly principled – nothing is more important than people, especially friends. I’ve thought about that quote because while we treasure the fact that we’re a nation of laws not of men, it would be a helluva thing if in order to prove our fidelity to that principle we allowed the death of a defenseless and innocent Terri Schiavo.

That’s why so few people are bothered by Congress passing what will essentially be a bill of attainder to hopefully save Terri Schiavo’s life. Indeed, that’s why so many people who are familiar with this case have demanded nothing less.

I’ve also found it fascinating and revolting how some people have focused almost exclusively on the political ramifications of this situation. It’s almost as if some people have been so affected by their immersion into politics that they can’t see anything else in any situation.

Typical of this kind of thinking is this piece in the Daily Kos from one of their more strident contributors, “Armando.” “Armando” is all upset that Harry Reid has had the audacity to actually praise the bipartisan bill that will hopefully save Terri Schiavo’s life. Armando calls Reid’s actions “AWFUL” and a “terrible terrible mistake.” While Armando is most bothered by what he views as a political misstep on Reid’s part, the nub of his complaint is this: “The case was fully heard by the Courts. They reached a final decision. It is over.”

When I read something like that, it shocks me. “It” is not over - indeed far from it. Terri Schiavo is still alive.

Imagine you were Terri Schiavo’s parents. Imagine the courts have “fully heard” the case, ruled on it, and now you have to spend the next two weeks watching your daughter die. And imagine someone having the audacity to tell you as that two week period begins and your suffering over your daughter’s fate reaches it’s most painful pitch, “It’s over.”

It’s not over. There is a life at stake here, an innocent life. Who at the end of the day would want to say they haven’t done everything possible to save that life? It’s not an everyday happenstance when Congress gets something right – let’s appreciate the rarity and hope its efforts are successful.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Friday, March 18, 2005


1) Sorry for the light posting this week. I’ll make it up to you, I promise.

Many have written to ask why I’ve maintained my silence on the latest developments in the Larry Summers kerfuffle. The answer is that I was preparing a relatively comprehensive look forward and look back for the Weekly Standard. The results can be found here.

It was interesting talking to J. Lorand Matory, Summers’ principal antagonist. Although I don’t agree with his positions, I do find those positions more sympathetic than I would have predicted. Although the professor obviously harbors a fair amount of personal disdain for Summers, his disagreements with Summers are based on principles, principles that I disagree with for sure but nonetheless principles that should not be blithely dismissed.

Also tremendously helpful was Summers’ main defender, Professor Ruth Wisse. She seems like a perfectly delightful and wonderful person. Professor Wisse will have her own comprehensive take on the story coming in April’s issue of Commentary. It promises to be must reading.

2) I WAS SHOPPING yesterday and popped into my local convenience store. The young fellow who mans the counter was sporting a t-shirt that bore the unmistakable “Goodfellas” logo but instead of having silhouettes of Ray Liotta, Robert Deniro and Joe Pesci, the “Goodfellas” depicted were Stalin, Hitler and Mao.

Since the guy behind the counter is a relative youth, I figured I could make this a proverbial teachable moment. When I got to the front of the line, I said to him with a rueful smile, “Man (John Kerry often calls people ‘man’ so I figure that’s how cool people talk), that t-shirt,” and shook my head “no” in a rueful fashion. He said with a big grin, “I saw it on line and just had to have it – it’s so funny.”

I told him that it really wasn’t funny, that the men depicted on that shirt were responsible for taking over 100 million innocent lives and that doubtlessly in our community there were residents who had family members killed by the men on his funny t-shirt. He got a little serious and asked, “You don’t think it’s at all funny?” I told him good-naturedly that I didn’t but that the more important thing was that some people would find it profoundly offensive and that his boss might not like him needlessly offending some customers. He shrugged.

I get the sense I haven’t seen the last of this t-shirt.

3) I’ve mentioned the left wing blogger Oliver Willis a few times the past few weeks and even directed Charles at LGF to one of Willis’ unintentionally hilarious posts yesterday where he wrote with grave seriousness that Joe Lieberman is “not fit to work in Washington under the party of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, Harry Reid, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden or any of the other millions of us who believe in the promise of America.” In linking to this post, Charles referred to Willis as “the left’s dumbest blogger.”

Earlier in the day, James Lileks had upbraided Willis for referring to Paul Wolfowitz as “filthy.” As intelligent people know, “filthy” is a deprecation specifically associated with Jews and Wolfowitz is a Jew. Willis inferred that Lileks was calling him an anti-Semite.

Whether using traditional slur words associated with a particular minority group to inveigh against a member of that group constitutes a virtual hate crime is debatable. As far as whether or not Willis is an anti-Semite, I doubt he is. I don’t doubt that he is willing to hit below the belt to score (or rather attempt to score) political points.

Then, of course, Willis could use his well documented inability to write as a complete defense here. He could also use his low intellect to defend his motives. As if to prove his imbecility, when this faux pas was pointed out to him he refused to offer any sort of apology or retraction.

When Oliver Willis was on C-SPAN, I wrote that he seemed like a nice guy and perhaps the reason why his blog is so wretchedly shrill is because the guy just can’t write. This week has done nothing to dispel the doubts about his writing abilities or his intellect; his congeniality, however, is now much more in question.

To make up for the light week, I’ll be posting over the weekend. I appreciate your forebearance.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Wednesday, March 16, 2005


1) THE ANWR WILL BE OPEN FOR BUSINESS. This is a good thing, a sign of maturity and seriousness. The gray cloud in this silver lining is that 49 Senators voted against exploiting this resource. In other words, maturity and seriousness won but only by a whisker.

This debate has always perplexed me. Some time a while ago we discovered that we had this massive supply of oil under our own land. Tapping that oil would lessen our dependence on the highly volatile region that holds so much of the world’s black gold. Fortuitously, this mother-lode was in the middle of nowhere in Bumfuc, Alaska.

And yet for many people, the fact that the oil was in the middle of nowhere was a problem. Honestly, it seemed like they would have been more open to exploiting the resource if it were buried under mid-town Manhattan and doing so would have involved the razing of Citicorp Center and Saks Fifth Avenue. Then at least it would have been capitalist pigs bearing the brunt of the intrusion, not a handful of caribou.

Actually, it looks like the caribou will be undisturbed. As the Powerliners report, “The portion that will be open to drilling is a largely barren coastal section about the size of a regional airport in a refuge the size of the state of South Carolina. Drilling will occur only in the winter, when the place is frozen solid, using sophisticated technology that will scarcely leave a footprint come spring, when the single caribou herd that grazes in the refuge comes calling.”

I suspect that like me, even if the drilling inconvenienced a copious amount of caribou, the Powerliners would be indifferent. We’re at war and likely to be for some time and until we perfect cold fusion, oil is going to be rather important. Like I said, these are serious times and it’s nice to see that seriousness won the day.

But by two votes - sheesh.

2) WOLFOWITZ TO THE WORLD BANK – My only concern about this move is can Defense spare him? He’s the visionary (at least as much as Rumsfeld) who’s gotten us to the brink of achieving some really great stuff. Along the way, he’s become the focus of global anti-Semitism, a badge of honor that he has worn courageously and with remarkable dignity.

As far as this choice being a thumb in the eye to all of the neo-cons’ critics out there, my concern for those critics’ sensitivities ranks somewhere below my worry for the caribou.

3) ROAD TRIP!! The Daily Kos community is having a convention some time in 2006. The site and date have yet to be determined but it ought to be a grand time. The ad they have running promises “Prestigious Speakers” and “Lively Panel Discussions.” As if that weren’t enough, there also will be “Empowering Workshops.” As the Weekly Standard’s de facto head of the Kos beat, I fully expect to be there and to be put up in the style to which I’ve become accustomed. In other words, Mr. Kristol, don’t even think of setting me up in the youth hostel with the other attendees.

I could can make fun of this gathering and make a crack about how lucrative having a tofu concession booth would be or offer similar such nonsense, but the gang at LGF has hilariously taken care of that responsibility so allow me just to make a few predictions: The Kos Konvention will be a smash. By 2007, it will be the largest convention of activists in the country. All the big guys will be stopping by to pay their respects just like some (Harry Reid, Barbara Boxer, Russ Feingold) are currently doing in a virtual fashion.

By 2008, it will be making claim to being the “real” Democratic convention. And in 2008, the party’s likely nominee will circle the Kos Konvention as his/her chance to make the Sister Souljah Speech that nominees Gore and Kerry unwisely eschewed.

And boy will the Kossacks cry foul.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


1) HERE’S SOMETHING I DIDN’T KNOW UNTIL THIS AFTERNOON: A few years before the NBA instituted the 24 second clock, the Pistons defeated the Lakers in game by the incredible score of 19-18. I’m not sure how many people were in attendance that evening, but I bet a lot of them didn’t return to an NBA contest as a paying customer for a little while after shelling out good money to witness that thriller.

What’s especially amazing about this little factoid is even after that apparent abomination, it still took the league three years to alter their rules even though the product had apparently long since begun to suck. Moral of the story – people are uncomfortable with change, even when it’s obviously imperative. At least that’s my takeaway.

Some time in the next couple of days, I’ll probably do a comparison with the NBA of the early 50’s and the NHL of today - two hidebound leagues facing existential crises because, among other things, their products reek. The NBA of old changed and thrived; things may not work out as well for the NHL.

The MSM might also be able to pluck a lesson out of this.

2) SPEAKING OF HIDEBOUND, Newsweek columnist Steven Levy applies the creaky old set of liberal conceptual tools to identify a previously unrealized problem. In the words of Mr. Levy, the blogosphere has a “diversity problem.” Mr. Levy has detected that the majority of popular bloggers are both white and male. In Levy’s world view, this fact alone speaks for itself– the pernicious force of oppression is at work.

I don’t really want to take the time debunking Levy’s thesis which is obviously the product of tremendous quantities of political correctness and ignorance. Nonetheless, if you find his work to be remarkably insightful, be my guest.

But what I do want to discuss is how Levy salutes the way the MSM has enforced diversity while lamenting how the blogosphere is ignoring the obvious solution to its diversity crisis. Levy thinks that if just those “clubby” white guys at the top of the blogging pyramid would link to a more racially, ethnically and genderly diverse set of blogging up-and-comers, all would be right with blogosphere (diversity-wise anyway).

And yet he offers no data to support his notion that the blogging big boys dish out their links in a biased fashion. If he identified a brilliant but neglected minority blogger who heretofore has been ignored by Reynolds and company, he would at least have a piece of anecdotal evidence. But Levy didn’t even give us that much.

Instead, he just calumniates the big boys, admiringly quoting an aggrieved female blogger (who has self proclaimed “high status in the blogging world”): “It's white people linking to other white people!”

Levy could have done some research to prove his beef that the top bloggers link in a racially insensitive way – you know, crunched some numbers, done some legwork. Instead, he just tosses out a slander with absolutely no supporting evidence. And make no mistake, he has slandered every big name blogger with this astonishingly idiotic column. If you drop by Jeff Jarvis’ or Roger Simon’s sites, you’ll see they’re justly steamed.

The only saving grace here is that Levy’s attacks are so identifiably pathetic and ridiculous to anyone who knows anything about the blogosphere, their author is utterly and irredeemably disgraced. So too is the magazine that published his tripe.

So at least there’s a little justice.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Monday, March 14, 2005


It pains me to admit this, but in 1986 I made a small wager on the New England Patriots a few days before Super Bowl XX. The Patriots were a mediocre team that had reached the Big Game through pluck and unprecedented amounts of good fortune. Their partner at the big dance was the 1985 Bears, already being spoken of before the Super Bowl as perhaps the greatest team ever. At halftime the Bears led 23-3 and had amassed 236 yards on offense compared to the Patriots minus 19. That’s right, minus 19 – the Pats would have been more successful if they had just kneeled on the ground every play.

Mine was a stupid wager, no doubt. But you know what I didn’t do? I didn’t call my bookie and try to double my bet at halftime. I knew I was beat, realized that I had made an outrageously stupid gamble, and immediately set about rectifying things by downing an impressive amount of beer.

Let’s call this moment of history halftime in the Global War on Terror. While things haven’t gone as well for us as they did for the ’85 Bears in Super Bowl XX, they’re going pretty damn well. The Iraqi elections have indeed triggered a desirable domino effect in the Middle East. Khadafy gave up his nuclear ambitions, Arafat died and the Palestinians moderated, the pathetic opthamologist/dictator in Syria is insisting he’s no Saddam, and the demonstrations in Beirut are incredibly heartening.

None of this means that victory in the war on terror is a sure thing. After all, lots of teams have blown twenty point halftime leads. It certainly doesn’t mean that we won’t suffer some losses between today and the time we finally have this thing won, and some of those losses may be painful indeed. Still, this is undeniably a heartening and encouraging moment.

So if you’re one of those defeatist types who has been desperately reciting the Vietnam era nomenclature, bellowing “quagmire” and “hearts and minds” to whomever had the misfortune of sharing a bus ride with you, what do you do now? Do you admit that you had it wrong and that maybe Donald Rumseld, Paul Wolfowitz, and most importantly George W. Bush had it sort of right from the start? Or do you do what I refused to do at halftime of Super Bowl XX – call your figurative bookie and double your figurative bet that the whole thing will be a failure?

It looks like there will be lots of action on both plays. Ted Kennedy, whose astuteness I’ve never held in terribly high regard, told George Stephanopolous last week that the developments in the Middle East had become very encouraging. Perhaps more telling, his office’s website hid his now infamous “the American troops are the problem” speech of January 27 so deep in his archives you’d almost get the sense the Senator would like to disown it. Clearly the Senator isn’t calling his bookie and letting it all ride on the “insurgents” making a comeback.

Even comedian John Stewart, in his typically smarmy jackass way, has broached the topic that Bush and the neocons may have been right all along. In a now infamous interview with Clinton national security helper Nancy Soderbergh, the two batted around the notion that the Middle East may be a lost cause for the Democrats politically speaking. They still held out hope for North Korea becoming a disaster, though.

But there are others who will refuse to accept the facts on the ground. The New York Times piece that I wrote about yesterday was deficient in so many regards it would take hours to list them, but what was most noteworthy about the article was how it desperately but disingenuously tried to breathe life into the dieing notion that the Bush team is a bunch of clueless bunglers who didn’t know enough to secure the nuclear arms making stuff. Let’s forget for the moment that the piece relied completely on an inarguably unreliable source who the Times failed to identify as such. With so much going right at the moment, the Bushies as Bunglers dog just won’t hunt.

Of course the New York Times is not alone highlighting the administration’s “failures” in the hopes that the situation may yet deteriorate just as there may well be a house in New Jersey that leaves its porch light lit in case Jimmy Hoffa comes straggling home. The people at the Daily Kos have a lot of emotional investment in seeing everything the administration touches turn to dreck so it’s not surprising that they picked up on the Times’ piece as “more evidence of Rumsfeld’s incompetence” and demanded his resignation for the seven zillionth time.

(Homework assignment for any enterprising Soxblog reader: Tally up all the times the Daily Kos has called for Rumsfeld’s resignation. The first reader with the correct answer will receive a corned beef sandwich at the Too-Jay’s at Loehman’s Plaza in Palm Beach Gardens, beverage and gratuity not included.)

For the Times and the Kossacks, it doesn’t have to be like this. I know Bill Clinton got us all into a permanent campaign mode about a decade ago, but 2006 is a long way from now and 2008 is still probably a dozen Lindsay Lohan rehabilitation stints off.

The big question has been answered – the people in that part of the world do crave freedom. That means as long as we’re willing to hang in there, we’ll win. On this issue, the Administration is on the right side of history and the Times and the Kossacks are on the wrong side.

At halftime, that should be clear. Come on guys – now is no time to double your wager on the side that’s getting routed.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Sunday, March 13, 2005


1) IN A REMARKABLY LENGHTY ARTICLE, the New York Times informs us this morning that the American/Coalition invasion was somehow negligent in that it did not secure certain Iraqi weapon installations where looters made away with “high-precision equipment capable of making parts for nuclear arms.”

First of all, such reports confound my notoriously unsubtle blogger’s mind. I’m perplexed – I’ve been told for roughly a year now that Iraqi nuclear and WMD capabilities were a joke and any fears of such were unwarranted. And yet now based on its exhaustive 10,000 word piece I’m supposed to be in a tizzy because nuclear-arms making stuff has allegedly (more on that “allegedly” in a bit) vanished. If the left could just get its story straight, it would be so much easier on us simple minded Jesus-land types: Was there a bona fide WMD concern or wasn’t there? Today’s front page piece certainly suggests such a concern was warranted.

Before leaving this topic, let’s get back to that “allegedly.” The sole source for the Times’ scoop is “Iraqi official, Sami al-Araji, the deputy minister of industry.” So who is this reliable fellow that the Times is willing to devote acres of above the fold front page space to him?

To the Times’ credit, they do acknowledge that he is a holdover from the Baathist regime. What they don’t mention is exactly what role he held for Saddam. Dr. Araji was a nuclear engineer and Director General of Planning at the Ministry of Industry. It was his job to shepherd around the UN inspectors to help them find all the arms that weren’t there. He also had a sidelight of protesting to the international community that the United States had used depleted uranium as part of its arsenal in Desert Storm and as a consequence triggered spikes in cancer rates throughout Iraq.

These protests came five years after current US weapons inspector David Kay had offered a less than glittering report of Dr. Araji’s cooperation during WMD inspection efforts. Kay in 1993 was the IAEA inspections leader in Iraq. He said of Araji in 1993, “One of the chief nuclear officials in Iraq, Sami al-Araji, has a bachelor's degree from Michigan State, a master's degree from Connecticut, and a PhD from Michigan State. He also worked at a US nuclear power plant for a couple of years. We spent some unpleasant hours with al-Araji.”

None of this means that Araji is lying to the Times; maybe he’s developed a new found appreciation for honesty and disclosure. Regardless, since Dr.Araji was the only source for the Times’ “exposé” a word of detail on his background would have been in order.

And yet none was offered. The shock is so grand I may have to repair to my fainting couch.

2) CONGRESS AND STEROIDS – You’d think since this issue perfectly intersects my two greatest interests (politics and sports), I would be fascinated. Au contraire, I’m repulsed. Look, I’m thrilled a couple of backbenchers were able to finagle an appearance opposite Tim Russert because of their putative steroid outrage. Good for them – no reason John McCain should get all the air time. But if the steroid issue is to be addressed, it’s patently obvious that said addressing will have nothing to do with the United States Congress.

Besides, don’t they have to fix social security or something?

3) INCIVIL TO FRIEND AND FOE ALIKE – On the Daily Kos’ front page (as of this writing; if for whatever reason you’re inclined to follow the link you may have to go to page 2), New York Times liberal columnist Nicholas Kristof is called a “useful idiot’;” the piece concludes by suggesting Kristof is a “stupid journalist.” Three stories down, liberal beltway columnist E.J. Dionne is accused of making “a fool of himself” with his recent abortion column. The piece on Dionne has a particularly delightful conclusion: “Boy Dionne was incredibly stupid on this one wasn't he? It's as if liberal pundits are trained animals, performing tricks for the Extreme Right Wing. Gee thanks E.J.”

On a related note, I’ve spent all weekend trying to get the Boston Globe’s Thomas Oliphant to balance a beach ball on the tip of his noise. Oliphant is a poor athlete and has weak hand eye coordination so as of yet we haven’t had much success. But he’s a good sport and we’re still working at it – wish us luck.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Friday, March 11, 2005


I’ve been doing this blog for over a year now and never asked any of you for anything (except one powerhouse Midwest barrister who I asked for something just yesterday). No PayPal things, no Amazon wish lists, and all of this in spite of my as yet unmet need for an 80 inch flat screen hi-def home entertainment system. I’ve given, you’ve taken, and that’s okay. But I’m asking for your help now.

I support the troops in Iraq. Most of you do, too. I’m asking you to now make that support tangible.

A loyal reader of this site, Major J.B. Smith, is currently serving in Iraq. He writes in with the following request of the Soxblog community:

We are undertaking an effort to improve relations in the local communities in our area by distributing school supplies for use by the Iraqi children. These items will be given out by both US and Iraqi soldiers directly to the school systems and in some instance directly to the children. Items we are looking for would be standard school supplies of lower to moderate grade. Quantity is much more important than quality for this effort. We specifically need:

Paper Products: tablets, leaf paper, multi-colored construction paper

Writing Instruments: pencils, pens, crayons, paints, chalk, markers (bothPerm and Dry Erase)

Loose Leaf Folders/3 ring binders



Pencil Sharpeners

Paper Clips



Binder Clips

All supplies can be sent to the following address:


ATTN School Supplies
APO AE O9334

If you have any questions or comments that you would like to direct to Major Smith, feel free to email him at

It’s time to chip in, folks. Most of us live near an office supply store and a post office or UPS store. For a lot of us who have been sitting on the sidelines wondering if there’s anything we can do, here’s a chance.

Let’s get to it.

PS – Other bloggers are invited/encouraged to post the relevant portions of this post on their own site (i.e. Major Smith’s needs and the address minus my silly dicta) to pitch in as well. Let’s show the Iraqi people we’re with them.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Thursday, March 10, 2005


I’M JUST WILD ABOUT HARRY, and he’s just wild about the Kossacks. Today marked another milestone in the Kos Community’s climb up the totem pole of Democratic Party politics.

It used to be just fringe players paid homage to the Kossacks, people like Barbara Boxer, Maurice Hinchey, and someone in Congress by the name of Louise Slaughter. But today, the Senate Minority leader himself, mild mannered Harry Reid, stopped by to pay his virtual respects. Reid’s visit was triggered by an apparently modest fax and letter campaign.

The whole thing started yesterday when Kos diarist “Stephdray” wrote a letter to Senator Reid that fellow Kos diarist “BenGoshi” labeled “powerful” and “eloquent.” The letter read in part, “Senator Reid, to be frank, you must get control of your caucus. There have been three votes in the past four months that have meant a great deal to Democrats in which you got steamrolled. I know you're not going to win every battle--but you need to win one, and you need to do it yesterday.” (Such power, such eloquence…)

“Stephdray” followed up her “powerful” and “eloquent” letter by launching a little impromptu campaign to have fellow Kossacks fax or mail her letter to Senator Reid’s office along with a personal cover note. This plea seemed to trigger something less than an avalanche of protestation to the Senator’s doorstep. Kos diarist “BenGoshi” reports, “For a ‘spur-of-the-moment’ effort, I think it went well, with more than a dozen confirmed faxes, and several confirmed overnight mailings of Steph's letter to his office. This began around 11:00 a.m. Eastern, so he was getting one or two faxes of Steph's letter into his office (remember, with personal cover letters, too) every hour.” One or two an hour? My goodness, how did the good people of Senator Reid’s office not drown in the paper deluge?

In spite of this rather paltry display of outrage, Senator Reid still took notice and penned a personal note to the Kossacks of the world:

Stephanie and the entire Kos community,

I wanted to write a brief response to your open letter. First let me say I owe everyone on this blog a thank you for your hard work on behalf of Democrats.

Don't lose faith and don't be disheartened. We all won't agree on every issue and we won't always win on the floor, but working together we will succeed. Just a few short months ago conventional wisdom was George Bush's Social Security Privatization plan would easily get through Congress. Now with our caucus united, I can assure you any plan which privatizes Social Security is dead on arrival in the United States Senate.

I encourage to keep writing letters, emailing, signing petitions, faxing, and posting your thoughts on blogs. We are listening and you are making a difference.

- Harry Reid

If Reid thought this warmed over pabulum was going to win hearts and minds in the Kos community, it’s pretty obvious he’s not a frequent visitor there. Diarist "BenGoshi" wasn’t buying whatever it was that Senator Reid was selling: “Ried's (sic) (likely ghostwritten, of course) letter was rather patronizing and lame. What's this ‘we all won't agree on every issue’ crap? Well, duh, of course not, but on the ‘MBNA Enrichment Bill’ and ‘Gonzales For Torture’ campaign it seems, just seems, to me that Democrats should all agree.”

What’s more, the people running the site seem to share “BenGoshi’s” dim assessment of Reid’s efforts; Reid’s letter has been left to languish in the relative obscurity of the Kos Diaries and has yet to receive a promotion to the front page. In other words, for those of you unfamiliar with Daily Kos nomenclature, Reid’s letter of friendship is being widely ignored.

In spite of the somewhat intemperate nature of his remarks, “BenGoshi” does astutely deduce the takeaway from this entire adventure. The United States Senate minority leader got a dozen or so faxes from the Kos community and felt compelled to respond, albeit with lame and off-putting platitudes.

For those who think the Kossacks aren’t a major player in the Democratic Party power structure, they’ll have a hard time reconciling such a notion with Senator Reid’s apparently unsuccessful attempt to ingratiate himself with them.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight


The first step to solving a problem is admitting its existence. Therefore I am oddly heartened by the acknowledgement of the fact that our intelligence agencies don’t have a clue as to what’s going on in Iran. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s move on to what we should do about it.

Improving the intelligence agencies is an obvious step, but obviously we won’t be able to make enough progress in that direction quickly enough to materially help us with the Iran situation. So then, what do we do about Iran?

First, let’s make a couple of assumptions (and if you don’t buy into these assumptions, nothing that follows will be much to your liking either): First, America cannot afford for Iran to have nuclear capabilities. A generation in power has failed to convince us of the Iranian ruling class’ sanity; thus, they cannot be entrusted with such destructive weapons. While we may not be nuts about the French, we’re quite confident that they won’t decide to destroy Manhattan due to excessive religious zeal.

Second, we cannot be sure the Iran’s mullahs are deterrable in the classic sense of the term. A nation that celebrates holidays with a blood-of-our-enemies chug-a-lug may well define acceptable losses differently than we do. More importantly, responding to an Iranian nuclear strike by raining 30 megatons down on Tehran would be patently immoral. Don’t worry, I’m not going wobbly. It’s just the whole point of bombing Tehran would theoretically be to exact a just retribution. Killing millions of Iranians who are de facto prisoners of the current regime – how would that be just or fair?

So, what to do? Here’s my suggestion. As the Iraq scenario made clear, even “slam dunk” worthy intelligence can sometimes be faulty. Since we’ve acknowledged that our current insights into the Iranian nuclear machinations fall well short of a Tenetian dunk, we’re really in the dark here.

So the only solution is to put the onus on the Iranians. Iran must be told that they must offer complete transparency, or we will have no choice but to assume the worst. And in case the Iranians are taking succor from the left wing of the American media which constantly chirps about how over-extended the United States military is, they’d be well advised to remember that, a) these people don’t know what they’re talking about; and b) the Air Force and the Navy currently have a lot of spare time on their hands.

They should also bear in mind that the current Oval Office occupant doesn’t fret about making the occasional bold move. And, for what it’s worth, that guy’s opposite number in Tel Aviv has never shown much reluctance to mix it up either.

All I’m saying is that an American demand for full transparency coming from President Bush would have a lot more impact than one issued by a President Kerry. And the fact that the President would be backed up by an Ariel Sharon led IDF and Mossad should provide the Mullahs with further food for thought.

We cannot afford an Iranian bomb. I earnestly hope that we’re taking the steps necessary to ensure that such a device never comes into being.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Wednesday, March 09, 2005


Imagine being Bob Kuttner. During his youth his debating partner was the reliably sagacious Roger L. Simon. Regrettably, none of Simon’s wisdom rubbed off on Kuttner.

Kuttner started out as an economist but made a Krugman-like transition to left wing ideologue long before the Bush-hating Princeton professor made such things fashionable. Kuttner has been loathing the right and writing about it since Reagan was in his heyday. So once again, imagine your Bob Kuttner: In spite of your many protestations your ideological foes keep racking up victory after victory.

Today Kuttner offers one of his typically bilious articles on the Boston Globe op-ed page. Obviously feeling unusually besieged, Kuttner went after not only George W. Bush but Ronald Reagan also.

First the Reagan crack, since it’s so damn funny: “The little-remembered Helsinki Process of the 1970s traded a US guarantee of no Western-sponsored ‘regime change’ in the Soviet bloc for Moscow's loosening of the screws. Civil society blossomed. American conservatives hated the deal. But before the Russians knew it, the Berlin Wall came down.”

You see what Kuttner’s saying, don’t you? Not only is he suggesting that Ronald Reagan had nothing to do with beating the Soviets, he’s actually suggesting that the true warrior who brought us Cold War victory is Jimmy Carter! Jimmy Carter, the coddler of dictators and the builder of shanties. Jimmy Carter, not only arguably the worst President ever but also inarguably the worst ex-President ever!

Even by Kuttner’s lofty standards, this is off-your-rocker stuff. What has his him so agitated, you might be wondering. Well of course it’s the successes enjoyed by Kuttner’s latest betté noir, George W. Bush. Things are looking promising in the Middle East, and Kuttner’s annoyed that Bush is due for some of the credit.

But wait a minute. If you’re Kuttner, you deny that George W. Bush has had anything at all do with the startling and hopeful goings on in that part of the world. If you ask Kuttner, all of the positive developments there ranging from the budding Cedar Revolution to the Israeli/Palestinian thaw to Hosni Mubarak’s hopeful comments are completely independent of one another and not interconnected in the slightest.

Even Kuttner doesn’t seem to completely buy into this nonsense, so he offers the following hopeful note that events might someday prove Bush a bust: “If genuine democracy breaks out, Bush might not like it. Al-Jazeera, the Arab world's mirror image of Fox News, is the closest thing to free Arab language media -- and the Bush administration keeps trying to strangle it. By the same token, the eventual government that emerges in Baghdad is not likely to be both genuinely democratic and pro-American.” Not that he’s rooting against us or anything.

Kuttner is the co-editor of the American Prospect, a generally pensive liberal journal of opinion. The American Prospect is staffed by people who are lot like Kuttner – intelligent, thoughtful, and relentlessly mistaken.

One of the staffers there is my favorite liberal blogger, the thoughtful young Harvard grad Matthew Yglesias. I hope Matthew is paying attention to Kuttner’s career arc. Only by wedding himself to partisan passions did Kuttner make his now generation-long losing streak possible.

Kuttner’s conclusion is instructive of his true state of mind: “And if democracy is good enough for Iraqis, let's defend what Bush has not yet wrecked of democracy at home.” Such a comment proffered with neither elaboration nor explanation is astonishingly unintelligent and shrill coming from so bright an individual as Kuttner. It shows he’s been blinded by partisanship and can no longer see the world as it really is.

One again, I hope Yglesias is paying attention. Kuttner has become a gray haired Oliver Willis with a Ph.D.

Matthew, you can do better.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Tuesday, March 08, 2005


1) NO. NO! NOOOOOOOO! Weeks of rampant political speculation that dominated the national conversation have come to an end in a disappointing fashion. Al Gore will not seek the Presidency in 2008.

Chris Matthews dropped the bombshell last night which no doubt crushed the hearts of hundreds of Gore loyalists. The Matthews piece is maddeningly brief, ignoring such details as why Gore is declining to run when there have to be dozens of people across the country who would vote for him. Matthews also ignores how Gore will react to the numerous “Draft Gore” movements that will inevitably arise.

Perhaps most frustratingly, Matthews doesn’t explain how the union will survive without Prince Albert at the helm.

In a related piece of news, Dennis Kucinich’s plans for 2008 are as yet unknown.

2) THE GLOBE HAS ITS SUPPORTERS: To continue our conversation about the Boston Globe’s Mormon baiting coverage of Mitt Romney, I offer the following which arrived in my inbox this morning:

Dear Soxblog,

I think it needs to be pointed out as often as possible that Mr. Romney is a Mormon. Mormonism is a freakish cult, the belief system of which is mad, incoherent and boring. If Romney really truly believes in the Joseph Smith myth and really truly believes in the arrant nonsense printed as divine revelation in the book of Mormon then he is not fit to be an elected official in America.

I think the letter bears eloquent witness to whom the Globe is trying to appeal, so I will decline further elaboration. The Globe should know, just in case on Morrissey Boulevard there’s a sense that The Weekly Standard and I are picking on them, they are not alone.

3) ON BILL MAHER. As you know, I read the New York Times. I read Paul Krugman and Maureen Dowd and I usually stumble my way across the internet to check out Richard Cohen and E.J. Dionne. I also read the lefty blogs. I check out the Daily Kos every day, as well as Josh Marshall and Steve Gilliard and the relentlessly imbecilic Oliver Willis. But the only thing in the way of political commentary that really annoys me is Bill Maher.

Maher is venomously anti-American and just astonishingly ignorant. He’s smug and unintelligent. The latest episode of his weekly HBO series was border-line disgusting. Sitting two feet from a man who had lost his brother at the World Trade Center on 9/11, Maher insisted that the new project under construction at Ground Zero include a “Why They Hate Us” pavilion. Maher is entitled to such a repugnant opinion, but delivering it in the presence of a man who lost a loved one during the 9/11 attacks is truly contemptible.

I could build a lengthy case as to why Bill Maher is the most appalling man on television, but alas I have already wasted enough keystrokes on that man.

May his name never pass my modem again.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight


Times change and so do values. In the 60’s, you didn’t have to “support the troops.” You could call them baby killers, shun them at airports, expectorate in their direction – generally speaking, you could take out your frustration at the war that was then afoot on the troops as well as the politicians.

But today it’s mandatory to “support the troops.” Sure, you can root for them to fail in their mission, but you still have to “support the troops.” You can repeatedly mock their efforts and express sympathy for their enemies. That doesn’t mean you can’t perform the mental gymnastics necessary to hate everything they’re doing but still “support the troops.”

Of course some people who deplore the war do wish our troops well. Yet still I get the gnawing sense that a lot of these “support the troops” statements are somewhat disingenuous.

At the very least it’s conceptually difficult to root against the troops and still “support” them. When Representative Charles Rangel went on “Hannity and Colmes” while the invasion of Iraq was still on-going and referred to the American troops as “baby-killers,” he revealed a little more about his state of mind than I bet he wanted to. Rangel’s nomenclature, which came right from the 60’s, evidences a blame-America-first mentality that’s still quite powerful in some precincts.

Here are a couple of relevant stories, one you’ve heard of and another that you probably haven’t:

The released Italian hostage whose get-away car came under American fire became quite the cause celébre the last few days. For those who have been desperately awaiting an example of American malfeasance to follow up the genuine malfeasance present at Abu Ghraib, this appeared to be their moment. As Glenn Reynolds reported, he received a bunch of emails from “snarky leftists” saying that this incident proved Eason Jordan correct – that American troops do indeed target journalists for death.

Alas, the continuing investigations of the incident seem well on their way to fully exonerating the American troops involved. It seems like those who were ferrying the former hostage to safety penned yet another chapter in the depressing story of Europe’s recent military history. The situation was certainly FUBAR, but it wasn’t America’s fault. More to the point, there certainly was no deliberate malfeasance. Even if one characterized the incident as “friendly fire,” that’s a far more benign term than “baby killer.”

Here’s the incident you probably haven’t heard of: A Palm Beach County based unit of the National Guard took some home movies of their time in the Iraqi combat theatre that was edited by the unit’s Sergeant Chad Shadle into a 27 minute film he titled “Ramadi Madness.” “Ramadi Madness” was apparently real hard-core behind the scenes stuff – young men risking their lives for their country behaving like both young men and warriors.

Much of the footage apparently was rough. One controversial scene showed one of the Company’s soldier kicking a wounding Iraqi (not without purpose); another showed one of the U.S. soldiers lifting the hand of a slain “insurgent” to wave hello to the camera. The army spent six months investigating Ramadi Madness and found the soldiers’ actions sometimes “inappropriate” but not criminal.

For his part, Sergeant Shadle offers an eloquent response to his critics, who now predictably include the ACLU: “People see what they want to see. They see abuse and they want to cry foul. There was no abuse. I’d like to see these critics attacked every night, mortared every day. I’d like to see how they’d feel, how they’d react.”

The ACLU is examining “Ramadi Madness” to see if it can be included in their lawsuit against Donald Rumsfeld that centers on the Abu Ghraib abuses. Says the ACLU’s spokesperson Emily Whitfield, “It’s part of the bigger picture. Soldiers are given tacit approval for this kind of thing.”

While it would be lovely if our soldiers would at all times conduct themselves as gentlemanly combatants, I doubt that such an expectation is either realistic or fair. I’m inclined to extend those who are risking their lives on behalf of the rest of us every benefit of the doubt.

I’ve never gotten the sense that the ACLU feels the same way. Sergeant Shadle and his brothers in arms may feel like the ACLU is out to get them.

Perhaps they can take some small comfort that the ACLU and its many contributors doubtlessly “support the troops.”

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Monday, March 07, 2005


1) I HAVE A PIECE UP over at the Weekly Standard’s site regarding the Boston Globe’s recent treatment of Mitt Romney. As you may remember from last week, the Globe’s investigative team has made a shocking discovery regarding the Governor – he’s a Mormon! And the Globe is going to make sure everyone knows about it. The Globe has also learned that some Mormons used to practice polygamy well over a century ago. This too, the Globe will be sure to bring to the attention of its ever dwindling audience.

Now of course Mitt Romney is 57 years old and has limited himself to one wife for the past 37 years, so one would question the relevance of the Globe’s latest fixation. And of course, the Globe deplores bigotry of all kinds, even when it would be a politically expedient tool. Thus, the Globe’s rediscovery of the Governor’s religion is rather perplexing.

To be serious for a second, it’s rather obvious what the Globe is doing: In a none-too-subtle fashion, the Globe is pointing out that Romney is different, not like most folks, because he’s a Mormon. This is vile just as it was when they did the same thing in 1994.

When they did it in 1994 when Romney ran against Ted Kennedy, there was no one to call them on the carpet for it. Now there’s the blogosphere. Look for a different result this go around.

2) KRAZY KIDS. A couple of you have written me about this. The Daily Kos is pissing and moaning about Joe Lieberman again today. No surprise there; Lieberman is to a true partisan liberal as McCain or Hagel is to a true partisan conservative – a non stop pain the ass. So I do not begrudge the Kossacks their complaints, and I understand why they loathe Lieberman even if I rather like him.

But their little screed on him ends with this displeasing coda: “That…is the problem with Joe. He gives ammunition to the Republicans and stabs his Party in the back. Being a ‘centrist’ has NOTHING to do with it.”

Accusing Jews of “back stabbing” has an ugly history. For those of you youngsters confused by the reference, go back to your history textbook and read the chapter about Germany between World War I and World War II (if such a chapter still exists given space concerns and the modern day need to cover the Seneca Falls Convention and the noble savage paradise that was North America before the unfortunate deluge of Europeans). The “back-stab” theory was one of the principal causes of the Holocaust. To simplify things a bit, the theory went that the brave Germans would have won World War I were they not stabbed in the back by German Jewry.

Perhaps Armando (the Kossack who wrote this piece) was just unaware of this little piece of history. Actually I’m quite confident that’s the case. Nonetheless, that little phrase should be stricken from the piece.

3) TIGER VS. PHIL – Yesterday marked one of the most memorable golf tournaments in ages as the two most compelling figures in the sport dueled for 18 holes at Doral’s Blue Monster. The crowd seemed to be split 50-50 as to who they were behind.

What made yesterday’s tournament such great theatre is that Woods and Mickelson are so unlike one another. Tiger’s lean and taut, Mickelson is positively lumpy. Tiger plays with discipline and poise; Mickelson’s a gambler constantly unable to resist the risky but unwise shot. Phil is who most of us sort of are; Tiger is who we wish we were.

It was quite a show. In case you’re wondering, I was pulling for Woods.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight


The Democratic Party is on the edge of a nervous breakdown. While there remains a chance that it might regain its functionality, the signs of collective mental illness are everywhere.

I consider the current situation analogous to the scene in the Academy snubbed “The Aviator” where Leonardo Dicaprio’s Howard Hughes is ranting naked in his house desperately trying to avoid germs while his fingernails and toenails have grown to Florence Griffith Joyner length. In the movie, Katherine Hepburn came along, cleaned Howard up and presumably arranged a long overdue manicure and pedicure. Hughes went on to make an extremely successful appearance in the Senate where he squashed Alec Baldwin’s typically diabolical plans.

Where oh where is the Democratic Party’s Katherine Hepburn, for she is sorely needed. Consider the signs that this is a Party on the edge:

1) Last week the Party allowed Senator Robert Byrd to compare a contemplated change in Senate procedure to Hitler and Nazism. In a less noted sequence of the same speech, Byrd went on to compare the Democratic Party’s current suffering to Jesus Christ’s (if he had said Howard Hughes’ I would have heartily agreed, of course).

Put aside for the moment that comparing one’s ideological foes to Hitler is a time honored method by which to display your own stupidity. But if the Democrats really feel the need to indulge in this pastime, can they not find a more suitable spokesman than the notorious former Kleagle? Especially ironic is that Byrd was defending the filibuster, a practice that he himself deployed in a futile attempt to block the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Does this sound like the workings of a mentally healthy Party?

2) The Party has opted to employ Ted Kennedy as a principal spokesman. UNDERSTATEMENT WARNING: This is an odd choice. To most of the country, Ted Kennedy is a national punch-line most well known for the chronically irresponsible antics of his youth (how’s that for a nice way of putting it?). More recently, four days before the incredibly successful Iraqi elections, Kennedy gave a speech that said the insurgents were winning. While Kennedy already has an impressive résumé of embarrassments, this most recent one was a worthy addition to his portfolio.

But to a tiny subset of the country, Kennedy is a beloved Liberal Lion, forever fighting the good fight for those who didn’t have the good luck to inherit a fortune made largely on boot-legging. And the people running the Party seem to have convinced themselves that this tiny subset is all that really matters.

The problem is, tiny subsets by definition do not make for electoral triumphs. To a mentally healthy Party, this would be patently obvious. But to a deluded Party, rallying the faithful who are already too damn rallied for the own good (take it from someone who reads the liberal blogs) seems like the smart play.

3) Howard Dean is now the Party’s chair. As we say in the law, res ipsa locquitur (the facts speak for themselves).

4) And lastly, John Kerry’s lucky CIA operative hat apparently remains in the ring. I endured the entire Ted Kennedy/George Stephanopolous interview but I have to say the denouement made it all worthwhile. Stephanopolous asked Kennedy if he thought Hilary Clinton would be a good president. Kennedy reminded George that he’s from Massachusetts, and that we proud Bay Staters have a damn good candidate of our own – John Kerry!

Before the Democratic Party went the Howard Hughes route, it knew how to deal with its losers. Jimmy Carter was banished to building shanties and sucking up to dictators; Fritz Mondale was practically put into witness protection. Al Gore and Michael Dukakis were quickly dispatched to well earned obscurity.

And yet John Kerry, fresh off a crappy campaign and a renewed controversy about signing his Form 180, is still running for President. And he’s being aided and abetted by one of the Party’s putative leading luminaries.

Katherine Hepburn, where are you? The Democratic Party needs you to work your magic.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight