February 2004
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Month February 2004

The future of liberalism, part 3

In two earlier posts, I followed up on a thread by Kevin Drum entitled “The future of liberalism.” I decided to continue this series of posts after a discussion with a good friend in San Francisco last weekend. Our talk ranged widely, but one comment in particular stuck with me – that the left loses support in some quarters because it fails to provide the linkage to morality that many, if not most, people need.

My first reaction was denial, but at root what my friend said is true. As I mentioned in my first post in this thread, liberalism has been a politics of issues, not worldview. Conservatism, especially those strains with a religious social agenda, definitely provides a “worldview” and not just a series of positions on issues.

I think it is worth understanding whether this is a necessary structural difference between the two, or whether it’s possible to have a liberal worldview which includes a “moral compass.” The answer, I believe, will have a great deal of impact on whether Judis and Teixiera’s “emerging Democratic majority” really will come to pass.

An Interim Constitution for Iraq

 Well, Iraq is close to having an interim constitution, after the Governing Council finally agreed on a draft.  Bremer says he’ll sign it, at which point it’ll be the law of the land (at least until June 30th, but it could be additionally ratified at that point, or modified).  

I haven’t seen a full released copy yet, but it appears to have a bill of rights, softened language on the relationship between Islam and legislation, and compromises for Kurds (including retention of militia and extensive self-rule in Kurdistan).  25% of the seats in the provisional legislature will be reserved for women, which is a pretty good step away from true fundamentalism.  

I’m going to be rooting for this over the next couple of months – if this can be a start of a real shot at constitutional government for Iraq, it’ll go a long way towards furthering reconstruction and rebuilding.  

We’ve still got the “bubble” monkey on our backs…

 Stock market bubbles are like pure opium…even though we all say we’re clean, and we don’t want to indulge anymore, in our secret hearts we still do. 

Further evidence of this came in Forbes Magazine, which recently listed Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page in their 2004 list of world billionaires.  In spite of the fact that Google is not a public company and Google stock is non-negotiable in public circles.  Doesn’t that strike anybody as odd?

I’ve been through two IPO’s, and the day before each of them, in the outside world, my stock was worth…nothing.  The day after, it was worth something, because somebody could buy it from me (I’m skirting the lockup issue for clarity).  Google hasn’t even announced its IPO nor filed with the SEC yet (as far as anybody can tell).  What’s really going on here is that everyone desperately wants Google to have their IPO sometime soon, to possibly re-ignite an IPO market for technology companies.  Heck, I’d like the same thing, but this time, let’s hold the side order of insanity.  Brin and Page will be billionaires when and if Google is a publicly traded stock. 

To Forbes:  wishing doesn’t make it so. 

And congrats to J.K. Rowling, who did join the ranks of billionaires this year, and frankly, deserves it a hell of a lot more than Mikhail Khodorkovsky or some of the other folks on the list.  

 

The Unlikely Coalition

A good reason why the Democrats have a real chance this year comes from an observation made by Blake over at American Footprint, when he said the following about the Republican press and editorial crowd:

They wake up every morning knowing full well that their job is to pretend that an alignment between religious fundamentalists, business executives, gun nuts, and libertarians makes any kind of logical sense.

After reading Judis and Teixiera’s Emerging Democratic Majority, I think Blake has a good point here.  The coalition between religious fundamentalism, economic conservatives, and other aspects of the “right wing” has proven to be a persistent but only meta-stable grouping.  Reagan flirted with this coalition in 1980, as did Bush 41 in 1988, but it seems like the “weak” aspect to this coalition is keeping the interests of economic centrists and conservatives and the interests of religious fundamentalists aligned at the same time.  And I’m coming to believe that Bush 43 is starting to falter.  Of course, he hasn’t really started campaigning in earnest yet, but in a sense he campaigns all the time, since there’s little evidence that his administration does anything without an eye towards “the base.”  

As I wrote last night about layoff numbers and in particular, the situation in Ohio, I started to think that the real chink in the armor here is going to be manufacturing states.  There’s a strong case to be made that the coalition could fall apart in Ohio purely over the economy, and that would possibly give Kerry 20 electoral votes.  Combined with the 2000 electoral map, if Ohio goes to the Democrats, it’s game over.  If I were Kerry, I’d seriously consider planning my campaign travel straight out of the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports every month.    

 

Just when you think you understand…

…you discover that the world is even weirder than you thought.  This is from 2001, and I don’t remember where I saw the link for it. 

State Senator Kay O’Connor of Kansas was asked in mid-September 2001 whether she was planning to attend the League of Women Voter’s “Celebrate the Right to Vote” luncheon.  O’Connor publicly said that she does not support the 19th Amendment, which extended suffrage to women, and that if it were up for ratification today she would not vote for it.

Huh?  A State Senator, an elected official, and vice-chair (at that time) of the elections and government committee, isn’t in favor of women having the right to vote?

When asked about the 19th Amendment, O’Connor said: “I’m an old-fashioned woman.  Men should take care of women, and if men were taking of women today we wouldn’t have to vote.”

My head hurts, and I need a martini after reading that.  

 

The attack on science and a free press, part 3

This week’s Nature (19 Feb 2004, p. 663), features an article on the Treasury Department’s embargo on scientific manuscripts from Iran, Libya, Sudan, and Cuba.  What the hell happened to the First Amendment, as Blake at American Footprint points out? 

How exactly does this protect our national security?  How does it encourage the governments and citizens of these countries to embrace democratic principles, when we’re not following them ourselves? 

My good friend and colleague, Carl Lipo, was scheduled to leave for Iran next week, as part of the first archaeological expedition to that country in 25 years.  Through the Pinpoint Foundation, a project of Pinpoint Venture Group, we’d just finished funding acquisition of new ground-penetrating radar equipment for use on this (and other projects).  The State Department imposed restrictions recent on “sensitive equipment” such as GPS, magnetometers, ground-penetrating radars, and other gear which is crucial for archaeological research today.  The project may – or may not – get permission to continue in the autumn of 2004.  I certainly hope so. 

The attack against science, free thought, and open discussion of issues such as genetics, stem cell research, and climate change is well underway and clearly going to be an issue in this election (behind jobs and national security).  I hope everyone concerned about this makes their worries known to the Kerry campaign, along with their campaign contributions.