Monday, October 29, 2007

The Muslim reformation

Excellent article by Ali Eteraz from AlterNet (http://www.alternet.org/rights/65350/?page=entire) discussing how there needs to be the creation of a "Muslim left" to counteract the dominance in the public sphere of political Islam. Making disturbing analogies between folks like the Taliban and folks like Jerry Falwell, Eteraz describes how there needs to be the rise of a Muslim left to counter the dominant position of the "Islamists" out there today.

Any story that reminds us that Islam is a wide and complex faith, not the cartoon villains they are made out to be, is a good thing. It is interesting that Islam is at their point in history about where Christianity was when Martin Luther got to work on his Theses. It is also a sad reminder of opportunities losts. After 9/11, the United States had the chance to reach out to this nascent Islamic left. Instead, we chose to demonize all of Islam, playing right into the hands of the terrorists, and creating groups like Al Qaeda in Iraq and countless others.

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I went to a government school in the American south where I had constant interaction with religious supremacists. Such people believe that their moral mandate must be given preference, if not outright dominance. In the south, these people were Christian. Their imperative was to acquire converts who would eventually help make their political programme the law of the land.

Many times I put up with the noise of evangelical youth preaching on the steps with a megaphone. I was condemned to hell in class discussions. English teachers had to tread carefully through 19th century literature so as not to offend. I had to politely reject, and then oppose, Bible study groups.

My brother and I were the only Muslims in the school. We lamented the ceaseless invasion of our personal conscience by "these fundos."

After a couple of years, a number of Muslim students enrolled at the school. They were also upset with the endless Christian proselytising. Since many of them were family friends, they took me aside and urged me to help them set up an Islamic society. Its primary purpose would be to hold Quran study circles, correct anti-Muslim propaganda in textbooks, and - "just like the Christians do" - invite students to learn about their religion. All on school property. Their goal, just like the Christians, was evangelism (the Arabic term is da'wa). They presented two white boys with new Muslim names as proof of their success. As I left, my acquaintances couldn't understand why I wouldn't help them. "It's just da'wa!" they said. "It's a free country!"

There it was, in the microcosmic world of high school, staring at me in the face: the Muslim right. Or, as my brother pejoratively called them: "Falwell Muslims."

Today, it is undeniable that traditionalist clerical Islam - which is quietist, meek, and oriented towards the status quo - has lost its monopoly over Muslims. This is the result of multiple instances of internal dissent over a millenia (as well as colonialism). Led by a mixture of cleric-minded Muslims in the US, UK, and Jordan, traditionalist clerical Islam is trying to make a comeback and become more relevant - like by writing a letter of peace to the Pope. Though such efforts are good, it is a case of too little too late.

Instead, Islam is well on its way towards an individualist revolution; one that no amount of clerical effort can contain.

The most attention-grabbing child of this revolution has been jihadism. However, it is not the most successful. That (dis)honour lies, in my mind, with the Muslim evangelicals - also known as Islamism, the Muslim right, or political Islam. It is a great fallacy to think that jihadists and Islamists are one and the same.

The Muslim right is an ideological movement. Why not? When rationalism is rampant and clerics can't bind Muslims together, ideology is the best thing to obtain mass obedience.

Islamism's ideological aim is secular, ie political power. Yet, despite its secular ends, it makes its political base among a large swath of religious Muslims. With their religious supremacism - which convinces them that everyone else's life would be better off if they adopted the same values as them - these Muslims leave themselves wide open to be preyed upon by savvy propagandists. Thus, hateful tricks like invoking the dangers of homosexuality, attacking sexual liberation, demonising religious minorities and foreign cultures, and censoring anything that smacks of critical thinking, are all used to keep the ideological base stirring.

With that base in hand, Islamism then agitates for unfettered democracy. It purports to speak for the "common man" (even as it preys upon it) and acquires a populist mystique. Islamism doesn't fear elections because it is the best of the grassroots propagandists.

The Muslim right is international. It played off the Cold War and in a Machiavellian stroke made the US its benefactor. It ended up creating a decentralized international network. Jamat-e-Islami in Pakistan consulted with Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt; the Brotherhood then, with "tacit support" from their self-professed enemies, created Hamas. Then the Sunni Islamists went and assisted Khomeini, pragmatically putting aside their doctrinal disagreement with the Shia for the sake of shared ideology. Taking inspiration from these successes, copycats rose up in Gulf and African states. For publicity and fund-raising purposes, the Muslim right brought its evangelism to the west. Muslim children coloured by this ideology ended up in school with me, asking me to help them set up an organisation that does exactly what Christian supremacists do.

So the dilemma for 21st century Islam is that there is a group of Muslims who with "activists" instead of "clerics" have reined in Muslim individualism, organized it into a system, injected it with illiberal values, and then invoked non-violence and freedom of speech as a shield to hide behind. If I had not seen Karl Rove do it with American Christianity I could have never realized how the Muslim right does it with Islam.

So what is to be done?

Well, secular tyrannies are inadequate. Monarchies are dictatorial. Outright Islamophobia and directly demonizing Islam gives fuel to Islamism. Military confrontation is out of the question for ethical and pragmatic reasons.

I recommend creating a viable and well organized Muslim left. It would be an intra-religious movement as opposed to a universalist one (though obviously it doesn't shun allies). It would be a cousin of the international left, but in a Muslim garb. Just as the Muslim right found Islamic means to justify the destructive ideas from the enlightenment (Fascism, Marxism, totalitarianism, evangelical religion), the Muslim left should find Islamic means to justify the positive ones (anti-foundationalism, pragmatism, autonomy, tolerance).

This Muslim left should also espouse the following basic ideas, without being limited to them:

separation of mosque and state;

opposition to tyranny (even if the tyrant has liberal values);

affirmation of republicanism or democracy;

an ability to coherently demonstrate that the Muslim right represents merely one interpretation of Islam;

a commitment to free speech and eagerness to defeat the Muslim right in the marketplace of ideas;

opposition to economic protectionism;

opposing any and all calls for a "council of religious experts" that can oversee legislation (even if those experts are liberals); and

affirming international law.

Muslim leftists will - it is a must - have to be able to articulate all of these in Islamic terms, in order to persuade the people who need to be convinced, ie Muslims. This means that a Muslim leftist will, naturally, also have facility in the Muslim traditions. The real-world paucity of individuals with such dual facility is indicative of how far behind Muslim leftism is currently.

Further, in order to advance these ideas, the Muslim left will have to be sophisticated enough to employ certain strategies. These include but are not limited to:

Popularising the slogan "theocentric, not theocratic" to counter claims of religious treason that will be hurled by Islamists;

An alliance with supporters of old-school Muslim orthodoxy who despite their conservative values are not the same as the Muslim right because they do not like to politicise their faith. These Muslims, by virtue of doctrine and history, have always supported separation of mosque and state, and still do;

Having the confidence to call their solutions truer to the ethos of Islam than the ideas of the Islamists, without engaging in apostasy wars;

Opposing any and all punishments, fines and stigma for "apostasy," "heresy," and "blasphemy". This includes opposition to all "sedition" crimes;

Accepting that the enthronement of the left through democratic means might require the intermediate step of the Muslim right succeeding as well, due largely to its head-start;

Supporting arts, literature, agnosticism and atheism without engaging in derogatory or insulting gestures. The battle against Islamism isn't a fight against Allah or Prophet; it is against an ideology;

Supporting Muslims' right to express their piety with beards, hijab, niqab in order to draw the moderates among the pietists away from the Islamists; and most importantly

Opposition to all imperial western behaviour. Also, rejection of any and all alliances and support from the western right.

Muslim leftism is the only thing that will assure that Islam's individualist revolution doesn't take an even darker turn than it already has. Some in the Muslim right like to insist that they are moderate and ready for pluralism. That might be a bit of wishful thinking. Without a potent Muslim left, the right will not have an adequate check, nor any incentive to make accommodations. This is because political systems that rest on religious supremacism rarely make compromises. We know this from America. We know it from the third world as well. After more than two decades the Iranian right has failed to move significantly towards the center. If unchallenged, better should not be expected from the Egyptian, Pakistani, or Gulf nations equivalents.

In a recent post for the Guardian series on Islamic reform, entitled "Muslim Secularism and its Allies," I shared a number individuals worldwide who are on the Muslim left. They come to us from multiple Muslim countries and their works should be noted and monitored by the Western media.

Friday, October 26, 2007

What liberal bias?

Great piece from Rory O'Connor of AlterNet (http://www.alternet.org/mediaculture/65870/?page=entire) interviewing Paul Krugman on how the right wing noise machine has made their brand of lunacy far more accepted than it would be otherwise. Great read.

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I had the opportunity to sit down this week with one of America's top economists, Paul Krugman, who of course doubles as an influential op-ed columnist for the New York Times. It's more than a bit surprising when the guy from the New York Times sounds more radical than anyone else in the room, but Krugman and his twice-weekly column have been more consistently surprising and radically different than anything else allowed to appear in the Times (or indeed anywhere else in the so-called "mainstream media") for so long that even Krugman himself no longer seems surprised by the force of his own outrage.

He certainly pulled no punches during our conversation, stating in a forthright manner his opinions on such controversial topics as truth and lies in the newsroom ("The Big Lies are all on the right"), media bias ("A large part of it is in fact right-wing bias, because they are effectively part of the right wing") and corporate pressure ("It's very clear that when the parent companies of the major news sources have issues at stake before the federal government ... this definitely influences the coverage.) Perhaps the fact that he's a tenured professor at Princeton -- and not a professional journalist still on the make -- has freed Krugman to speak truth to naked emperors and Times readers on a biweekly basis.

We spoke at the beginning of a national publicity tour for Krugman's latest book, The Conscience of a Liberal, which ranges over the history of the past century to explain what went wrong in America -- and then attempts to point the way to a "new New Deal." Part of what went wrong with America, of course, was the role played in our democracy by the mass media, as Krugman recognized and parsed in one chapter in his book entitled "Weapons of Mass Distraction."

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Rory O' Connor: You speak in your book about "movement conservatism," which you call a "radical new force in American politics that took over the Republican Party." What role if any do the media play in movement conservatism?

Paul Krugman: The media are a very important force in it. They shape perceptions, and they conceal issues. Look at the 2000 presidential campaign, for example, where the media were so heavily biased against Al Gore. That's what brought Bush to within a Supreme Court decision of the White House. So if you look at, certainly these last seven years, the role of the media in not telling you reasons why you should be skeptical about the course of the war, for example, it's enormously important.

We have a situation right now in which there are several major parts of the news media that are for all practical purposes part of "movement conservatism" -- Fox News, the New York Post, the Washington Times -- and in which other news organizations are intimidated, at least to some extent. I sometimes talk about what I call "asymmetrical intimidation." If you say a true but unflattering thing about Bush or in fact about any other prominent conservative, oh, boy! People are going to go after you. I mean, I've got people working full-time going after me, right? But if you say a false, unflattering thing about a Democrat or a progressive, no risk ... And that shapes coverage, no question about it. It's better now, but it's still very asymmetric. The other thing we should mention about the media is their addiction to the trivial. We've got the most substantive election coming up, I think, ever. We've got clear differences on policies between parties. And what are we seeing news stories about? John Edwards' hair and Hillary Clinton's laugh ... this is horrifying! And again -- it's asymmetric. I can think of lots of unflattering things to say about any of the Republican candidates -- Mitt Romney's saying his sons are serving the country by helping him get elected! -- but it doesn't get nearly as much play in the media.

ROC: It sounds like you're saying there's a bias in the media. If you are, what is the bias?

PK: The media's bias, a large part of it is in fact right-wing bias, because they are effectively part of the right wing. Fox News ... there's nothing like Fox News on other television networks that you can look at. There is no liberal equivalent of Fox News, there is no network that, if a conservative got the Nobel Peace Prize, would have responded the way Fox News did to Al Gore's Peace Prize, by first saying nothing at all, then when they figured out the line, talking about how fat he is ... So there's no correspondence there.

Beyond that, there's two things at least; first, the hatred of substance -- they really want to talk about all that trivia -- and there's also the fetish of evenhandedness. If one candidate says something that's completely false, and the other something that's true, the media will say, "Some people believe what that guy said was false, and some people say it was true." Way back in the 2000 campaign, I wrote a piece in which I said that if Bush said the earth was flat, the headline would read: "Opinions Differ on Shape of the Planet." I was thinking specifically about what Bush was saying about taxes and Social Security, which were just out and out lies! But no one would say that, and they still won't. It's better now, a little, but they still won't say it, and that tends -- I imagine in some future environment that might work to the advantage of some dishonest candidates on the left -- but the fact of the matter is the Big Lies are all on the right right now. So it works much more to their advantage.

ROC: Do you think it's possible that economics is driving politics in the media?

PK: The role of economics in driving the media is an interesting one. One question is simply, "Do they respond to what sells?" And to some extent the focus on the trivial is there due to that. And also, by the way, talking heads screaming at each other is a lot cheaper than actually having reporters out in the field doing reporting, so that's one reason why you get that.

I guess the question that you want to ask is, "To what extent is news coverage biased by the corporate interest of the parents?" And that's hard to pin down in any direct way, but one of the interesting things that you notice right now is the remarkable reluctance of some of the networks to follow what the viewer ship numbers seem to be saying. I mean, look at Olbermann's show versus anything else at MSNBC, for example. Why aren't there more programs like that? Why is CNN still trying to be Fox Lite, when you clearly can't outfox Fox and there clearly seems to be a bigger market opportunity on the other side? And you really do start to think that -- there probably aren't, at networks other than Fox, there probably aren't memos saying here is how we are going to slant the news today -- at Fox there are, every day. But there's probably this general sort of pressure to go for the views that won't upset the CEO of the firm that controls the network that has a lot of business interests that are best served by one side or the other ... so yes, this is a problem.

ROC: So deregulation, consolidation and corporate issues like that might affect news coverage?

PK: Oh sure. It's very clear that when the parent companies of the major news sources have issues at stake before the federal government -- and if one party controls the White House and both houses of Congress, and has made it very clear that it keeps lists and remembers who its friend and not-so-friend are -- this definitely influences the coverage. A lot of people I talk to in the media say that they have received pressure in ways that only seem to make sense if you think that at some level management -- not the guys that think about audience shares but the guys who think about broader concerns -- are taking into account the political liabilities. Which is one reason why it is remarkable, although it's still not what I want, that the news coverage has gotten a whole lot better -- funny, no? -- after the polls really turned the other way.

ROC: In your book, you talk about the media's use of "storylines" and what you've called the "Rambofication of history."

PK: Yes, I'm rather proud of the term "Rambofication." In the years immediately following Vietnam, all of this stuff that now seems so much a part of the story -- that we lost the war because we were stabbed in the back, that the "weak" politicians, the Democrats, can't be trusted on national security -- wasn't very much out there. I actually went back and looked at a lot of polling and what people had to say at the time. In 1977, people still remembered what Vietnam had actually been like, and why we needed to get the heck out of there.

It wasn't really until the 1980s that the history began to be re-invented, so if only we'd let Sylvester Stallone flex his muscles, we could have gone back and won the war. The idea of Democrats as "weak" on national security really got invented then -- and you know there were a couple of events that played into that, such as the collapse of the Soviet Union, which I really don't think had much to do with Reagan, but helped make the storyline. So when 9/11 came along, the realities of 9/11 were that the Clinton people had been working pretty hard to try to so something about Bin Laden, and the Bushies said as soon as they came in, "We're not interested, we want to think about a war with China." But the storyline that the media fell into was that, "We're the tough guys, the other guys neglected it." And that gave them a good run -- they won two elections, in '02 and '04, which I think otherwise they would have lost -- by playing on this notion of "We're strong, and they're weak." I guess the sort of good news is that they have done such an incredibly terrible job at all of that that we may have at least a while before all that scare tactic stuff comes back.

ROC: Or we may hear in four years how the Democrats "lost Iraq."

PK: I'm worried, obviously. Clearly, if it's a Democrat who withdraws from Iraq, which it appears likely it will be, then it will be more of the, "We were winning, we were on the edge of victory, then they stabbed us in the back ..."

ROC: "They spit on our soldiers ..."

PK: Yeah, that's amazing, the "spitting on our soldiers" thing -- because it never happened, there are no documented cases -- but it became part of the storyline. Will that happen again? Certainly they'll do their damnedest to make it happen ...

I guess I'm more optimistic about the American public, that it will take a lot more than four years, for us to see that again, because it took more than four years after Vietnam, and right now the American public has a pretty good sense of just what a disaster that's all been ... I think people have made up their minds that this is a disaster. Maybe 10 years from now, they'll have forgotten and be willing to, you know, see movies in which some heroic guy goes back and wins the Iraq war but ... not for a while anyway.

ROC: Well, I'm more of a Mencken disciple when it comes to the American public, but I hope you're right.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Another reason to hate Giuliani

This one from the New York Post speaks for itself.

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RUDY THE YANKEE FLIPPER
MASS.-KISSER ROOTS FOR RED SOX
By CARL CAMPANILE and DAN KADISON

Yankee fanatic Rudy Giuliani revealed yesterday that he is backing the hated Boston Red Sox in the World Series.

Giuliani - who has a sign on his desk boasting he's the "Yankee Fan-In-Chief" - dropped the bombshell while campaigning in Boston and New Hampshire.

Politics was clearly behind the move - even if it sparked outrage among fans in the Big Apple.

New Hampshire - part of "Red Sox Nation" - holds the first-in-the-nation presidential primary.

"I'm rooting for the Red Sox," Giuliani, owner of four Yank World Series rings, declared during a campaign event in a Boston restaurant, prompting thunderous applause.

But the former mayor insisted his sudden allegiance to the Sox wasn't baseball's equivalent of a fan flip-flop - like Hillary Clinton pulled off when she moved to New York.

"I'm an American League fan, and I go with the American League team - maybe with exception of the Mets," he said. "Maybe that would be the one time I wouldn't, because I'm loyal to New York."

In a bid to deflect the flip-flop charge, the Giuliani campaign released recent statements from the candidate - prior to the Sox making the World Series, when he said, "My focus is to see the American League win the World Series."

But fans interviewed at Yankee Clubhouse Shop in Manhattan gave Giuliani a Bronx cheer. "Any Yankee worth his salt cannot root for the Red Sox under any circumstance at all. Period. End of story," said Ken Schlesinger, 44, a lawyer from the Upper East Side.

Armando Quintero called Giuliani a "fake fan" for backing Boston. "He needs a true Yankee fan to talk to him, put him in his place, let him know what a real Yankee fan is all about," said the 39-year-old dry cleaner from Queens.

Richard Gerber, 69, a retired garment salesman, said Giuliani was trying to peel away votes from GOP rival Mitt Romney, the ex-Massachusetts governor.

"It's hypocritical. He's a New Yorker," said Gerber.

Giuliani's siding with the Sox surprised even his New York campaign team.

"I question his Yankee credentials. If you're a big Yankee fan, you have to hate the Red Sox," said Guy Molinari, New York co-chair of the Giuliani campaign.

Republican opponents accused Giuliani of pandering for votes.

"We thought Mayor Giuliani's endorsement of Democrat Mario Cuomo [in 1994] was rooting for the other team," Republican rival Fred Thompson's campaign said in a statement. "But for Yankee fans, this might be a new low."

Giuliani constantly needles Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, for converting to the Yankees for political reasons - a point that Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama pounced on.

"Fortunately for Rudy, he is not alone in his shifting allegiances among New York presidential candidates," said Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Mukasey should not be the next AG

Great article by Frank Bowman of Slate.com (http://www.slate.com/id/2176401/pagenum/all/#page_start) on why Michael Mukasey should not be confirmed by the Senate to replace Alberto Gonzales as the next Attorney General of the United States. Without getting into too much detail, the piece says (and I agree) that if Mukasey will not stand up and specifically denounce torture, and will not specifically advocate limits on presidential authority, he is not fit to serve as the nation's top lawyer.

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From Toady to True Believer
How confirming Michael Mukasey will further cripple Congress.
By Frank Bowman
Posted Monday, Oct. 22, 2007, at 4:49 PM ET

Michael B. Mukasey
The Senate should not confirm Michael Mukasey as the next attorney general. I am surprised to find myself writing this. I was initially pleased by his nomination. By all accounts, Judge Mukasey is honest, thoughtful, tough-minded, and independent—qualities his disgraceful predecessor notoriously lacked. If confirmed, Mukasey would probably reinvigorate the Justice Department's depleted and demoralized upper management and make a start on the long job of restoring the department's reputation for integrity and professionalism.

Sadly, that's not enough. The problem is not Mukasey's intellect, competence, or personal probity. It's that—as became clear on the second day of his Senate testimony—he is wrong about the fundamental moral question of whether reasons of state can justify or excuse the official embrace of torture. And he is even more wrong—dangerously, subversively wrong—about the place of the president in American constitutional government. If the senators on the judiciary committee really listened to what Mukasey said, and listened as senators and citizens rather than as nervous party politicians, they would reject his nomination on constitutional principle and as a matter of institutional self-defense.

First, Mukasey's weaseling on water-boarding was unworthy of him. Perhaps feeling pressure from his White House sponsors, he cast himself last week as little more than Torture Boy in long pants. His refusal to call water-boarding torture delighted the White House. His suggestion that he really wasn't familiar with the particulars of the technique was laughable. By now, no literate American adult is unfamiliar with this charming form of interrogation by near-drowning, which makes the claim even more absurd coming from a retired New York federal judge whose main claim to fame is presiding over difficult terrorism trials. Mukasey's response that "if water-boarding is torture, torture is not constitutional" was a transparent evasion. And the entire exchange throws a more sinister light on his borrowed quip that the infamous Gonzales-sponsored torture memo "was worse than a sin, it was a mistake. It was unnecessary." One now fears that Mukasey doesn't so much disagree with the substance of that memo, as he thinks that writing it down was a political error.

All other considerations aside, any person who cannot say, plainly and unambiguously, that water-boarding is torture and is both immoral and illegal should not be the attorney general of the United States. Period.

Judge Mukasey's views on presidential power are also disqualifying. When asked about the secret surveillance program authorized by President Bush in plain violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, he responded that the Constitution authorizes the president to ignore or disobey statutory law when he thinks it necessary "to defend the country." When Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., asked whether the president could authorize illegal conduct his response was this lawyerly formulation:

The only way for me to respond to that in the abstract is to say that if by illegal you mean contrary to a statute, but within the authority of the president to defend the country, the president is not putting somebody above the law; the president is putting somebody within the law. Can the president put somebody above the law? No. The president doesn't stand above the law. But the law emphatically includes the Constitution. It starts with the Constitution.

This expansive view of presidential war powers is nowhere to be found in the text of the Constitution, which provides only that the president "shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several States, when called into service of the United States." It also requires an almost willful misconstruction of Supreme Court precedent. While the boundaries between presidential and congressional authority in wartime are sometimes ambiguous, two points are plain. First, the court is tolerant of presidential assertions of extraordinary war powers in cases of genuine emergency where there is no time to seek congressional authorization. Second, in the language of the famous Youngstown case, when a president acts against the express will of Congress, "his power is at its lowest ebb" and the court can uphold the president "only by disabling the Congress from acting on the subject."

In enacting FISA, Congress passed and the president signed a statute striking a considered balance between national security and personal liberty. There is no plausible reading of the Constitution that allows a later president to authorize a secret, ongoing, systematic violation of that statute merely because he disagrees with the balance it struck or believes circumstances have changed.

Mukasey's views are particularly remarkable coming from a retired federal judge. If, as he asserts, the president's broad lawbreaking power derives from the Constitution itself, Congress is sidelined and the only institution with the authority to say the president has overreached is the judiciary. Mukasey's defenders might argue that this is hardly news, nothing more than a restatement of the rule of Marbury v. Madison that it is the province of the courts "to say what the law is." But if judges themselves begin from the premise that the Constitution permits the president to ignore a direct statutory command, even when there is no emergency preventing timely congressional action, the country will inch ever closer to autocracy so long as a willful president is paired with a complaisant judiciary.

To its credit, the federal bench has handed the Bush administration some stinging rebukes. But given the Supreme Court's traditional unwillingness to intervene in "political questions" relating to national security and the natural reluctance of judges to stand in the way of measures justified as necessary to prevent another 9/11, judicial complaisance in the face of an aggressively expansionist executive is a real danger.

Senatorial opposition to Mukasey's nomination should also crystallize around his testimony about the role of the Justice Department in cases in which executive branch officials have defied congressional subpoenas. The law provides for Congress to refer such contempt citations to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, "whose duty it shall be to bring the matter before the grand jury for its action." But Mukasey said last week that the U.S. attorney should not enforce Congress' contempt citation so long as the noncomplying official was relying on an opinion from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel that noncompliance would be a proper exercise of executive privilege. This sounds superficially reasonable. How can it be fair for the Justice Department to prosecute people for contempt after advising them that they have a valid privilege? But in practice this rule of "fairness" allows the executive branch to exempt itself from congressional oversight. In Judge Mukasey's constitutional universe, the president can tell Congress to stick its subpoenas where the sun don't shine so long as some Justice Department lawyer writes a memo saying that's OK. (In theory, Congress can also enforce its own contempt citations by having the House sergeant-at-arms arrest the contemner and confine him in the Capitol pending trial before the whole Congress. This near-comic-opera procedure was last used in 1935.)

To be fair, an Attorney General Mukasey would surely promote a less confrontational approach to relations between the administration and Congress. But his recent testimony also suggests that, when push comes to shove, he not only believes in presidential supremacy in matters of national security but in broad executive-branch immunity from ordinary congressional oversight.

In ordinary times, Congress might welcome a man of Judge Mukasey's undoubted gifts as attorney general and swallow these differences of constitutional opinion on the theory that a president is entitled to appointees whose views are consistent with his own. But these are not ordinary times. And these are not ordinary differences of opinion.

For seven long years, a misguided and incompetent chief executive has led the country grievously astray. But much of the havoc wrought by his errors of judgment might have been prevented or at least contained had not the Congress feebly acquiesced, year after year, to vaulting claims of presidential supremacy and the steady erosion of its own power.

The Constitution conferred on the Senate the power to reject presidential nominees not merely, or even primarily, to keep rank incompetents from federal office. The appointment power is one of the weapons granted Congress in order to protect the political structure and human values enshrined in the Constitution itself from presidential encroachment. If a nominee for attorney general, however smart, sincere, and capable, refuses to disavow torture and espouses an anti-democratic, anti-constitutional doctrine of presidential hegemony and congressional subservience, he should be rejected. If the Senate is foolish enough to ratify the replacement of a bumbling toady with an accomplished apostle of the gospel of executive supremacy, it will deserve every snub this and future presidents inflict. But the rest of us deserve better.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Finally, something smart about immigration

Fantastic article from Slate.com by Tim Wu (http://www.slate.com/id/2175730?nav=wp) about how we handle illegal immigration in this country. The basic point - why, if illegal immigration is so bad, do we choose to focus on border security instead of a far more effective means of going after employers who hire illegals? Answer? For the powers that be, immigration isn't that big a deal, and the status quo works for those in power. They get all the cheap labor from the illegals, without having to give them the benefits of citizenry.

I haven't seen a smarter analysis of American immigration policy. Definitely worth the read.

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On Aug. 10, 2007, the Bush administration announced that it would try something no modern administration has succeeded in doing: enforcing the immigration laws. More specifically, the administration wants to institute serious fines for any employer who fails to fire workers lacking legitimate Social Security numbers. If Bush's plan is ever implemented, it will require the sacking of millions. Don't hold your breath. The administration is trying to get at one of America's favorite instances of tolerated lawbreaking: our de facto guest-worker program, created by the nonenforcement of immigration laws. And while no one will admit it, our current system is popular enough that his effort seems destined to fail.

For the last several decades, internal enforcement of the immigration laws has been, by and large, sporadic and symbolic. In 2004, the number of fines issued against domestic employers for employing illegal immigrants was a grand total of three. Politicians usually prefer to talk about "securing our borders," a method of stopping illegal immigration that has great advantages for all concerned. It sounds tough. It's easy to fund. And it doesn't deprive us of any of the benefits of illegal immigration, because it doesn't work. In fact, it's such a laughably ineffective way to deter illegal immigration that it almost seems designed to fail.

The enforcement math at play here is simple and mainly uncontested. There are millions of illegal immigrants already in the United States, millions more people who might enter, and millions of potential weak spots along the borders. These numbers make border enforcement a fruitless way of trying to "stop" illegal immigration.

Many illegal immigrants get to the United States on visas they overstay, bypassing the border altogether. Border enforcement can even be counterproductive, because it discourages those illegal immigrants who find themselves inside the country from ever trying to leave. And even when border agents catch people, it cannot be anything but a system of "catch and release," unless the United States is willing to open a Guantanamo prison complex the size of Rhode Island.

Studies and statistics suggest that the net impact of border enforcement on total immigration rates has been something close to zero—making it more like a cultural subsidy than law enforcement. Despite the great increases in border enforcement in the 1980s and 1990s, there has been no measurable effect on the rate at which the illegal immigration population in the United States is growing. It is the classic example of applying a teaspoon solution to an ocean problem.

Meanwhile, employers and contractors are a much more obvious and logical target for a serious enforcement strategy. The number of employers who hire large numbers of illegals is not in the millions, but in the tens of thousands. Employers are large, sensitive to fines and threats of imprisonment, and tend stay in one place. Basic enforcement theory—the theory of "gatekeeper enforcement"—clearly suggests targeting the few, not the many. Gatekeeper enforcement is what government does when it actually wants to stop something illegal from happening.

So why has the United States chosen a method—border enforcement—that's less effective than zealous domestic prosecution? If we thought illegal immigration was really a bad thing—if, say, the problem were the unlawful arrival not of workers, but of disease-bearing chickens—the government might rapidly deploy the most effective form of enforcement, with the support of all parts of society. But instead the nation tolerates illegal immigration to create a de facto guest-worker program. Immigration is what economists call "trade in services," and effective enforcement would make most services more expensive, just as blockading China would make many goods more expensive. It can be tough on low-wage workers, but the United States is richer overall because we get cheaper labor, while Mexicans and other workers are richer for selling it.

If all this is true, isn't creating a legalized guest-worker program the right thing to do? That's where political failure kicks in, for the political discussion of immigration policy is both inflamed and insane. The Republican Party is split between free traders and nativists, and the latter are much more vocal. Many in the Democratic Party—loyal to organized labor on this point—go nuts when it comes to guest-worker programs. Illegal immigrants themselves don't have representation. It all adds up to a big political zero.

Under the de facto guest-worker system, the United States gets to have its cake and eat it too. We receive all the advantages of cheap labor without the duties of having new citizens. We don't actually have to pass an unpopular or complex law. Elected officials and talk-radio hosts get to talk tough about "securing the border" which is tough on the actual migrants, but doesn't raise any actual danger of halting illegal immigration, hurting the economy, or displeasing large employers. And grown men get to fly giant model airplanes in the desert to "patrol" the Mexican border. Hypocrisy, in short, has its comforts.

Immigration policy is perhaps the strongest example of the ways in which tolerated lawbreaking is used to make the legal system closer to what lies in the economic interests of the nation but cannot be achieved by rational politics. All this is why the Bush administration faces an uphill battle in the course of trying a real internal enforcement strategy. My bet is that internal enforcement will be stopped somehow, someway. Let's be honest: We'll never say it, but this country must love illegal immigration.

The sliming of Al Gore's Nobel Prize

Not that it's terribly surprising, but the hard right in this country took out their scripts attacking and minimizing Al Gore's award of the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on global warming. The primary talking point is that they would be "offended" to receive the same award as a guy like Yassir Arafat.

But this isn't anything new. Here is an article from Oliver Willis (http://www.alternet.org/blogs/peek/65363/), reprinting parts of the National Review blasting the award of a Nobel Peace Prize to a target of conservative hatred some years ago. Some guy named King, seemed to do OK for himself.

The level of venom the right spit at Dr. King then sounds suspiciously like what we're seeing now. Proof again, as Willis points out, that conservatives are almost always on the wrong side of history.

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Thanks to reader "Dr. Victor Davis Handjob", comes this story written in the conservative National Review a few months after Martin Luther King Jr. won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964:

"For years now, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and his associates have been deliberately undermining the foundations of internal order in this country. With their rabble-rousing demagoguery, they have been cracking the "cake of custom" that holds us together. With their doctrine of "civil disobedience," they have been teaching hundreds of thousands of Negroes -- particularly the adolescents and the children -- that it is perfectly alright to break the law and defy constituted authority if you are a Negro-with-a-grievance; in protest against injustice. And they have done more than talk.

They have on occasion after occasion, in almost every part of the country, called out their mobs on the streets, promoted "school strikes," sit-ins, lie-ins, in explicit violation of the law and in explicit defiance of the public authority. They have taught anarchy and chaos by word and deed -- and, no doubt, with the best of intentions -- and they have found apt pupils everywhere, with intentions not of the best. Sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind."

Will Herberg, "'Civil Rights' and Violence: Who Are the Guilty Ones?", The National Review Sept. 7th, 1965

The more things change, the more they change the same. Proving that conservatives are almost always on the wrong side of history. In 1965 they attacked Dr. King and civil disobedience against racist laws that were the rule of the land, laws that were morally wrong and fundamentally un-American.

Is it any wonder that the same publication arguing so strongly against the man who was one of America's greatest leaders now attacks Al Gore? If the National Review had had its way, I would at best be writing this on the "blacks only" section of the Internet.

Monday, October 15, 2007

More on why torture is dumb

Note, I didn't say bad. I said dumb, as in, it doesn't work and it's not a good idea, irrespective of the morality of it. From reader reaction to a Washington Post story by Tom Ricks (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/12/AR2007101201885.html?hpid=opinionsbox1)

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Does torture work? The Bush administration has argued that, at a minimum, tough interrogation tactics do. But in the e-mail discussion below, four U.S. military experts with very different life experiences explain why they concluded that torture doesn't work. The exchange is excerpted with their permission.

First is Army Capt. Kyle Teamey, a current military intelligence officer:

Subject: INTERROGATION TECHNIQUES

When I was in the officer's basic course, one of the instructors, only half-jokingly, proclaimed, "Beatings and drugs are for fun, not for information." His point was you can get anyone to say anything you want through torture. Good information came from psychology, interpersonal skills, and long hours with your prisoner. The best interrogators I've worked with tended to be very good at reading people and very good at using their understanding of the person and their culture to get them to talk -- no waterboarding required. . . .

We should be developing an ideological alternative (or alternatives) to jihad and are instead alienating our allies, enraging the populations from which the terrorists arise, and most importantly, alienating our COG [center of gravity] in the form of the U.S. electorate. A liberal democracy, such as the US, operating in an environment with pervasive media cannot afford to dally in tactics that may provide some short term gains at the expense of long term success.

It is not just the US that has made this error in judgment. The Brits and French did the same in their COIN [counterinsurgency] campaigns in 20th century and suffered for it. We should learn from their mistakes -- and ours.

That provoked this comment from retired Air Force Col. Robert Certain, who was held as a prisoner of war after being shot down over North Vietnam:

We ex-POWs don't look kindly on sadistic behavior, especially when it degenerates into torture. Kyle is right, it doesn't do much to get useful info, it only gives the sadist some thrills.

Retired Army Lt. Col. Terry Daly, a veteran of military intelligence operations in the Vietnam War, then added:

I have yet to speak with an experienced, successful interrogator who advocates mistreating their subjects. As personally satisfying as it may seem to beat the hell out of detainees, it doesn't usually get you what you want -- accurate, reliable information that you can trust and upon which you can act.

In Vietnam the Provincial Interrogation Centers routinely used skilled Vietnamese interrogators to obtain accurate, detailed information on the organization, personnel and structure of the Vietnamese Communist Infrastructure -- exactly the type of information Guantanamo should be producing by the pound on radical Islamic terrorism.

I think we make a major strategic error when we support such would-be macho men as we see in this administration showing their supposed toughness by advocating torture, when we know it doesn't work.

Finally, Air Force Col. William Andrews, who was a POW during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, added:

. . . when I was shot down over Iraq in 1991, I expected to be tortured . . . because I was in the hands of the bad guys. As I was beaten, I had a sense of moral superiority over brutal men who had a monopoly on physical power in the interrogation room. This moral superiority came from the knowledge that we were the good guys and we didn't treat our prisoners that way. We were better than they were. I believe we cannot ever afford to give that up.

Could there be hope for journalism?

Not that it happens a lot, but a story from the New York Times by Richard Perez-Pena (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/15/business/media/15publica.html?ei=5065&en=a979b82d4af36b74&ex=1193112000&partner=MYWAY&pagewanted=print) details a new project called Pro Publica, which is basically designed to outsource investigative journalism. One of the reasons you don't seen Woodward-and-Bernstein-esque investigative journalism is because it is very expensive, and doesn't deliver the immediate bang-for-the-buck that our short attention span culture requires.

Pro Publica, if it works, would fill that void. As a nonprofit, it would have less incentive towards bias, and would be able to receive financial assistance from thos (like yours truly) that care about the real business of journalism. The project still sounds in the early stages, and could very easily fall flat on its' face, but I'm very excited at the possibility.

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October 15, 2007
Group Plans to Provide Investigative Journalism
By RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA
As struggling newspapers across the country cut back on investigative reporting, a new kind of journalism venture is hoping to fill the gap.

Paul E. Steiger, who was the top editor of The Wall Street Journal for 16 years, and a pair of wealthy Californians are assembling a group of investigative journalists who will give away their work to media outlets.

The nonprofit group, called Pro Publica, will pitch each project to a newspaper or magazine (and occasionally to other media) where the group hopes the work will make the strongest impression. The plan is to do long-term projects, uncovering misdeeds in government, business and organizations.

Nothing quite like it has been attempted, and despite having a lot going for it, Pro Publica will be something of an experiment, inventing its practices by trial and error. It remains to be seen how well it can attract talent and win the cooperation of the mainstream media.

“It is the deep-dive stuff and the aggressive follow-up that is most challenged in the budget process,” said Mr. Steiger, who will be Pro Publica’s president and editor in chief. He gave up the title of managing editor of The Journal in May, but is staying on through the end of the year as editor at large; during his tenure, the newsroom won 16 Pulitzer Prizes.

Pro Publica is the creation of Herbert M. and Marion O. Sandler, the former chief executives of the Golden West Financial Corporation, based in California, which was one of the nation’s largest mortgage lenders and savings and loans. They have committed $10 million a year to the project, while various foundations have provided smaller amounts. Mr. Sandler will serve as chairman of the group, which will begin operations early next year.

The Sandlers are also major Democratic political donors and critics of President Bush. Last year, they sold Golden West to the Wachovia Corporation for about $26 billion, a deal which valued their personal shares at about $2.4 billion.

Pro Publica plans to establish a newsroom in New York City and have 24 journalists, one of the biggest investigative staffs in any medium, along with about a dozen other employees. Mr. Steiger said he envisions a mix of accomplished reporters and editors, including some hired from major publications, and talented people with only a few years’ experience, so that the group will become a training ground for investigative reporters. He would not say specifically where he is shopping for talent, but did not rule out The Journal.

Richard J. Tofel, a former assistant publisher and assistant managing editor of The Journal, has been hired as general manager. Board members will include Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Harvard scholar of African and African-American studies; Alberto Ibarguen, a former publisher of The Miami Herald, who is currently president and chief executive of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; James A. Leach, a former congressman from Iowa who directs Harvard’s Institute of Politics; and Rebecca Rimel, president and chief executive of the Pew Charitable Trusts.

The nearest parallels to Pro Publica may be the Center for Investigative Reporting in San Francisco, and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting in Washington, groups that support in-depth work and have had considerable success getting it published or broadcast in mainstream media. But their budgets are a fraction of Pro Publica’s, and they do not actually employ most of the journalists whose work they help finance.

Pro Publica will provide salaries and benefits comparable to the biggest newspapers, Mr. Steiger said. “I won’t be offering somebody 50 grand or 100 grand more than they’re making to jump ship, nor will I ask them to take a pay cut,” he said.

Newspapers routinely publish articles from wire services, and many of them also subscribe to the major papers’ news services and reprint their articles. But except for fairly routine news wire service articles, the largest newspapers have generally been reluctant to use reporting from other organizations.

But experts say that resistance is breaking down as the business is squeezed financially, and newspapers make greater use of freelance journalists.

“They’re looking for alternative means of paying for ambitious journalism,” said Stephen B. Shepard, dean of the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism and a former editor of BusinessWeek. “Steiger has the credibility and judgment to bring this off, and if they do good work, it will get picked up.”

Bill Keller, executive editor of The New York Times, said The Times would be open to using work from an outside source, “assuming we were confident of its quality,” but that “we’ll always have a preference for work we can vouch for ourselves.”

Mr. Steiger said that relationships with publications could be tricky, requiring the flexibility to make each comfortable.

In most cases, he said, Pro Publica will appeal to a newspaper or magazine while a project is under way, to gauge interest and how much oversight the publication wants. In others, he said, his group might present more or less finished products to other outlets.

If Pro Publica and a publication cannot agree on how to approach a topic, or what can be written about it, he said, his group will look for another outlet, or publish its reporting on its own Web site.

Mr. Sandler said his interest in investigative journalism has been abetted by friendships with reporters in the field.

“Both my father and my older brother always focused on the underdog, justice, ethics, what’s right,” Mr. Sandler said. “All of my life I’ve been driven crazy whenever I encounter corruption, malfeasance, mendacity, but particularly where those in power take advantage of those who have few resources.”

Sunday, October 14, 2007

NU Re-View:Oklahoma State 45, Nebraska 14

You've all seen the scores, and the statistics, you've all read the comments, you've all felt the horrible, numbing pain if you are a 'Husker fan. After the second blowout loss in a row, this one at home to a team that got worked by Troy University, there can be no doubt about what has happened.

This Nebraska team has imploded. Bill Callahan has lost this team, and doesn't know how to get them back. The damage, in the short term and the long term, can only begin to be measured.

Like most Nebraska fans, last week I was shocked, and angry, and confused. What happened in Columbia didn't seem real, like a bad dream. Oklahoma State's domination of Nebraska on both sides of the ball on Saturday brought reality home in a big, brutal way.

The Big Red is dead. We need to mourn, but we can't spend a lot of time on it. We need to get right, and we need to get right quickly to start the process of resurrecting the program. And we're not going to get any help from the people running the program now.

'Husker fans, it's time to face reality. We've gone through the looking glass, and there's no going back in any hurry. Denying the truth will no longer be an option. It is up to us, as a fan base, to respond.

But how do we do that? How do we pick ourselves up in such a way that helps us and helps our beloved 'Huskers? Rest assured, there is a way. When Moses led the Hebrews out of Egypt, he parted the Red Sea and led them into the desert. Now, we as fans need to lead the Red Sea through the desert of mediocrity back to the Promised Land of national prominence. To do so, there are Ten Commandments that we must follows:

I. THOU SHALT CARE.
It seems self-evident, but it's the foundation from which everything starts. The most devastating thing that could happen to the Nebraska football program long-term is for people to stop caring, to be so sick of the poor performance of their team that they just give up and move on. That must not happen. Great teams become great teams because their fan base demands they be great. When we stop caring, the energy that drives the program stops, and entropy sets in. Caring, as painful as it is right now, is the critical element in the resurrection of the program.

II. THOU SHALT SHOW UP.
This is the first corollary to the First Commandment. Saturday wasn't fun to watch, and next Saturday against Texas A&M doesn't prove to be any more fun. But just because it hurts doesn't mean you don't have to be there. Quite the opposite. The strength of a fan base is measured by how many people come to watch when it's tough to do so. We've been spoiled as 'Husker fans. Watching nine and ten-win seasons every year is easy. We've never had to sit through a 4-8 season in our lifetime. But we will now, and we will be tested like never before. We've already seen this team give up when things got tough. We, as fans, must not.

III. THOU SHALT NOT BE SILENT.
There will be those minority of fans that will adhere to the party line coming out of Lincoln, that we must do nothing but be positive and supportive. Criticism of the players or coaches, they will say, will only harm their play and hurt recruits. They are liars, or are deceived by liars. Failing to speak out about what you see is wrong is tantamount to accepting their malfeasances. Silence is assent. Steve Pederson and company are caretakers of this program, not owners. They have been given this program in trust to care for it in our best interest. When they fail at that job, it is our duty to rise up and demand the traditions we hold dear be kept, either by them or by those who are willing and capable to do so.

IV. THOU SHALT HONOR THY TRADITIONS.
Nebraska fans are known as the greatest fans in college football not because Pederson used it as a clever marketing scheme, but because of our tradition of excellence. We must not allow that to be taken from us. We must continue to give our chants before and during the game. We must continue to show respect and grace to opposing fans. We must continue to applaud our opponent after the game, regardless of the outcome. Now is our opportunity for people to see us, in our darkest hour in a generation, and marvel at how we can rise above it, honoring our traditions while demanding the excellence from our program that we deserve.

V. THOU SHALT NOT STRIKE THY COLORS.
After 7-7, a lot of Nebraska fans put their 'Husker gear away for better times. They didn't want to be seen as a 'Husker fan and take the barbs from those who had been waiting for decades to pile on. That must not happen again. This is the time that will test a fan. Wear your scarlet and cream now, more than ever. To show that we still care, that we will still demand excellence, we must not run when the going is tough. By hiding our colors now, we prove ourselves to be nothing but front-running bandwagon-jumpers. We're better than that, and now is the time to prove it.

VI. THOU SHALT NOT FEED THE BEAST
While it is important to wear the colors we have now, it is also equally important not to take any unnecessary action to continue to pour money into the coffers of the athletic department. For Pederson, money equals success. For reasons stated above, we must continue to attend the games, but other than that we must no longer provide the fuel that drives the engine of this administration. If we are serious about demanding excellence as opposed to what we are getting now, we must no longer financially support this administration. That means no new Nebraska-licensed gear, no donations to the program, no more subscriptions to huskers.com, nothing like that. Continuing to give this administration money is like continuing to shovel coal into a steam engine that is heading into a mountain.

VII. THOU SHALT DEMAND EXCELLENCE.
When Pederson fired Frank Solich, he said that he would not allow this program to "gravitate toward mediocrity" and would not "cede the Big XII to Oklahoma and Texas." He was right in setting those goals. He has utterly failed in accomplishing them. We need to embrace those goals, and demand their accomplishment from the Nebraska athletic program. Wavering from those goals, either by accepting mediocrity or by giving up on the program altogether, will only hinder progress to the resurrection of the program.

VIII. THOU SHALT MAINTAIN PERSPECTIVE.
Nebraska football is important. Anyone who tells you that "it's just a game" simply doesn't get it, and they are to be pitied for it. But Nebraska football is also not the be-all and end-all for us. We have much to be proud of, as individual people and as Nebraskans, outside of our football team. We have a lot of work to do to resurrect this program, but we must be able to do it with a spirit of joy and hope. Only those can sustain us for the long journey that lies ahead. Other great programs, like Oklahoma, Alabama, and USC, have had their time in the desert, and have returned to their Promised Land. We must be strong, and take the long view, and persevere until we too reach those blessed shores.

IX. THOU SHALT CHEER FOR NEBRASKA.
This sums everything up. While the performance this year has been embarrassing, I am still proud to be a 'Husker fan. I am proud to represent what this program represents. I am proud to wear the colors of my father, and of the fathers and mothers of those that have come before me. I am proud to wear the colors of the champions of the future that I know will come. I am proud to hold those colors up now, in the darkest of night, knowing I do not stand alone and that I am a part of those preserving this tradition for those to come. And I am proud to be part of the bane of those who, through incompetence or indifference, would harm the program I love.

X. THOU SHALT KEEP THE FAITH.
We are entering the desert, 'Husker fans. We have a long, dark road of mediocrity, poor performance, and heartache ahead of us. We will have a lot of angry, bitter people, and we are in danger of consuming ourselves with those demons. We must not succumb. We must have faith, not in the current players, coaches, or administrators, but in ourselves and in this program we love so dearly. While its' caretakers may have failed the program, we must not. We must stand firm, and stand together. We must care for and respect each other, even when we disagree. We must remember that we all want the same thing. And we must believe - nay, we must know - that brighter days are ahead. Nebraska will rise again, because we the people will demand it, and will not rest until we are delivered. Let the haters crow and enjoy our time in darkness. We will rise above them, and we will once again be the insufferably polite fans who cheer as our team dominates all opponents.

Keep the faith. See you at 10th and Vine on Saturday. GBR, baby.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Conscience of a liberal

Great interview by Mark Karlin (http://www.alternet.org/workplace/64931/?page=entire) of Paul Krugman on his book, "The Conscience of a Liberal." It's long, but worth the read. Interestingly, it talks a lot more about the philosophical underpinnings of the conservative movement in America, where it comes from, and where it wants to go. Krugman sums it up at the end of the article by describing conservatives as people "who wish the twentieth century never happened," referring to things like the New Deal, the progressive movement, Social Security, and other accomplishments. According to Krugman, conservatives would be much happier if we went back to the nineteenth century model of society, where everyone was on their own.

Not sure how much I agree with everything, but it is a compelling, coherent, and consistent argument, one that you don't see a lot of. Definitely worth the read.

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"... [Y]ou can't have gross economic inequality and still have a functional democracy. You can't really have a society with broad equality without having a political democracy. So it is all about having basically a shared society. -- Paul Krugman, Economist, Columnist, Author of The Conscience of a Liberal

In a sea of media transcribers and mediocrity, Paul Krugman has held a longstanding spot as one of the most popular liberal columnists in the media.

But actually, although a New York Times columnist, Krugman is not a journalist. In fact, when I spoke with him for this interview, he was preparing a lecture for one of his economics classes at Princeton.

Maybe, that's one of the reasons that he pens such "spot on" commentaries. He's not a professional pundit. He doesn't live in NYC or D.C. He's a professor first. Yet, Krugman is skillful at making his case in cogent columns that are both compelling and accessible.

I recently interviewed him about his new book, The Conscience of a Liberal to talk about the different approaches liberals and conservatives have to the idea of a greater good.


Mark Karlin: Getting to your great book, The Conscience of a Liberal, let's start at the end of it. Let me just read the last paragraph:


"For now, in other words, being an active liberal means being a progressive. And being a progressive means being partisan. But the end goal isn't one-party rule. It's the re-establishment of a truly vital, competitive democracy. For in the end, democracy is what being liberal is all about."

That's how you conclude the book. It is, in large part, a historical perspective on liberal politics in America. Obviously the "L word" has been cast as a stereotype by the right-wing movement for many years. It was stated in terms of right-wing stereotypes. Reagan used the welfare mom in the pink Cadillac sort of thing -- peaceniks, people who were against capitalism, people who were against the values issues, pro-choice, bla-bla-bla. You redefine liberals here -- and the whole book is about liberalism. That was your goal. In essence, the implication here is that liberalism can best be defined by equating it to the promotion of democracy.


Krugman: That's actually where the term came from originally. We talked about the Manchester liberals, who were pro-business, pro-bourgeois, pro-democracy, back at a time when the relevant enemy was the hereditary aristocracy. At this point, what it means is having a society in which everybody shares, and partly that's about economics, because you can't have gross economic inequality and still have a functional democracy. You can't really have a society with broad equality without having a political democracy. So it is all about having basically a shared society.


Karlin: The right wing has again fostered this connotation among its followers, but it also seeps into the mainstream media, that somehow the "L word" is something that's un-American. Yet, isn't it a basic American value to have a solid middle class where people who work hard can keep up with the rate of inflation, and if there's increased productivity, their wages will increase, not stagnate or fall? You promote a diverse economy that gives people their due and is not tilted as far as it is toward the very wealthy. How does the right-wing get away with making it seem that if you call yourself a liberal, you're somehow un-American? Those seem to me like the American values that we were found on.


Krugman: Yes. There is a funny thing. If you look at the polls that ask if you consider yourself a liberal, it's a relatively small minority. If you ask people do you think that the government should guarantee health insurance to every American, a huge majority says yes. So people think they're not liberals, but they're in favor of quintessentially liberal policies.

A lot of the usual things people say that are identified with cultural liberalism they're identified with. Cultural liberalism, which is supposed to be something we as Americans don't like -- well, that's less and less true. It got identified with being soft on crime and so on. But very, very largely, if you ask how did liberal get to be a bad word, it's the theme that runs through a lot of the book, which is race. Liberal became somebody who was in favor of being permissive towards bad behavior by you-know-who. And that's been a problem. But I think the answer is not to run away from liberal and say, oh, I'm not one of those people. This is being used to distract and exploit working families all across the country of whatever color. So it's both politically impractical and just wrong to run away and say, oh, I'm not one of those liberals, because that's not the problem.


Karlin: I recall seeing a comedian a couple years after 9/11, an African American comedian saying, you know, 9/11 wasn't wasn't completely bad for black Americans, because now there's someone else for the right-wing to scapegoat. In a sense, the Islamic world has become the international black people.


Krugman: Except what you see is, on the right, these things get bizarrely conflated. Immigrants become lumped in with black people. Then, in turn, immigrants get lumped in with terrorists. You have all of this stuff about we have to close the border with Mexico because of the terrorist threat. And, gee, there haven't actually been any Mexican suicide bombers. But a certain segment of the population, egged on by the right-wing media, conflates all of that.


Karlin: We don't generally hear the same argument that we have to close the border with Canada because of terrorists.


Krugman: Yet, just because of the demographic roots, we're more likely to have a terrorist come in from Canada than from Mexico.


Karlin: You do discuss race a lot in your book, and we totally agree the conservatives have exploited racism. Nixon had his Southern strategy, in large part developed by Kevin Phillips, who now has come around and is a great articulate critic of the economic tax structure that the Bush administration has created, and of the Bush dynasty. Ronald Reagan began his campaign at the scene of where three civil rights workers were murdered. And this was not a forgotten symbolism to the whites of the South, who heard Ronald Reagan talking about states' rights. I mean, that's all coded language. So race has been the subtext of so much going on. And in the immigration reform movement, we constantly see the right wing come up with the fear of the other. They called it immigration reform, but really it was close-the-Mexican-border reform.


Krugman: It is interesting. Both the terminology that the anti-immigrant forces use and the people are pretty much the same as was used in the anti-black backlash. The anti-immigrant Republican base is very much the same as the anti-black Republican base, which is becoming a problem for the Republican Party, because they can't actually separate the two. One of the optimistic themes, towards the end of the book, is that because the country is actually becoming more diverse, these tactics are turning from assets into a liability.


Karlin: In The Conscience of a Liberal, you give a wonderfully broad historical context on what that means. But is part of what the right wing has such contempt for in so-called liberals like ourselves is that we do have a conscience? In other words, they see something wrong with not being out for your own self-interest. There's a certain contempt, as though this was a football game. Why would you care if a guy is injured on the other team, you know?


Krugman: Yes, that's actually something I touch on in the book, and I've been thinking about doing a column to enlarge on it for The New York Times. In some sense, the meanness is the message. On the right, there's an almost lethal refusal to consider the problems of suffering of others. And it goes right back through time. Ronald Reagan has this line, in the famous speech in 1964 that launched his political career, in which he said, "They told us that 17 million people in America go to bed hungry every night. Well, that was probably true. They were all on a diet." The problem of malnutrition in America was and is a serious problem. But to Reagan, from the beginning, it was all a big joke. And Bush remarked, "Well, I mean, everybody's got access to health care in America. You just go to an emergency room." It's just this complete lack of empathy for people who aren't as lucky as yourself.


Karlin: As Jon Stewart said about that particular comment, "There's only one problem, Mr. President. People who don't have health insurance don't have a doctor."


Krugman: Well, and it goes on. If you go to the emergency room, you will be billed. It's just -- maybe you can declare bankruptcy, and not pay it. It's a complete lack of understanding. Last weekend, I think, Bill Kristol made some joke about how he wants Bush to veto SCHIP, because anything that hurts children is a good thing. Of course, it's a joke, but the underlying premise of the joke is, only wimps actually care about the suffering of others.


Karlin: And Dana Perino, the new White House Press Secretary, said it was madness for Congress to pass this bill because it taxed the people who most heavily used tobacco, which are the poor. So it was a tax on the poor.


Krugman: Right.


Karlin: -- in a way, implying that it was the Congress now that was imposing a regressive tax on poor people. One could say, maybe the reason Bush is so adamant about this is not that he's concerned about "federalization" of health insurance, but that the tobacco lobby is upset that there'd be a higher tax.


Krugman: The reason that Bush is so opposed to SCHIP, is the same reason he was so determined to privatize Social Security, which is that they're both programs that work. You have to understand, that is the point of view of somebody who really wants to undo the New Deal -- and if possible -- I quote Grover Norquist in the book -- get things back to the way they were before Teddy Roosevelt and the "Socialists" came in. The worst thing is a government program that actually does help people. So the SCHIP is a really bad thing, from Bush's point of view, because it works so well. It might lead people to say, well, if we can do this for lower-income children, why can't we do it for lots of other people who need guaranteed health care? So it's the determination, on his part, to do this veto, even though there's a short-term political cost, because they're deathly afraid that people will look at SCHIP and say, gee, actually the government can do some good.


Karlin: In your chapter on "The Politics of Inequality," you say the modern Republican Party has been taken over by radicals. People want to undo the twentieth century. Going back to Grover Norquist, he also said, in an infamous, often-repeated quote, that he wanted to take the federal government and drown it in a bathtub. If we look at what happened with Katrina -- is this mismanagement, or is there the intention to let government fail, and then say that only the private sector can fill in the gap, because the government is so inefficient?


Krugman: To what extent was total failure to respond to Katrina deliberate? To what extent was it incompetence? It's some mix of the two. But the Bush administration dismantled FEMA, which was one of the most admired agencies in the US government under Clinton. It did so partly because FEMA was turning into a place to reward cronies, and then it also tried to privatize its operations. So that's one motive. It did it partly because Bush doesn't care about good government, because he basically believes the government is always the problem. You don't care. Failure of government is not such a bad thing, because, although you may take political heat for it, the failures also can be used to make your point - well, government doesn't work. So it's all this mixture of things. But it all comes back to essentially not believing in the role of government as something that can help people.


Karlin: We should point out that the first head of FEMA under Bush, and one of his aides and political campaign directors was Joe Allbaugh. He left FEMA and then, as Katrina happened, he was heading a firm that brokered many of the private contracts.


Krugman: Well, Allbaugh's agenda was to privatize as much as possible of what FEMA does. Privatization was his first agenda. And then he left, actually, to form a company that was supposed to take advantage of all the great opportunities for contracting in Iraq. That didn't work out so well, but then he got tons of contracting in the post-Katrina environment. So it's a classic Bush era career path.


Karlin: We want to challenge you a little on some language. Again, your "The Politics of Inequality" chapter, you wrote:

The nature of the hold movement conservativism has on the Republican Party may be summed up very simply: Yes, Virginia, there is a vast right-wing conspiracy. That is, there is an interlocking set of institutions ultimately answering to a small group of people that collectively reward loyalists and punish dissenters.

You used of the word "conservatism," though you switch and say there's a right-wing conspiracy. But there are many conservatives now -- John Dean, formerly of the Nixon administration, and Kevin Philips, and many others -- even Pat Buchanan, in his own bizarre way -- who say that this administration is radical, it's not conservative.


Krugman: I actually always try to use the two-word description of "movement conservatism," to describe the views of those involved in the "vast right-wing conspiracy." It certainly isn't classical conservatism. If you're going back to Burke or something like that, it's not what a conservative of the nineteenth or early twentieth century would have recognized.

But to just say this isn't true conservatism -- well, this is what conservatism has been in America for over forty years. It may not be what people would like. There are some people who may consider themselves conservative who don't recognize themselves in these people, but this is what the movement is. One of the things that I think is important to say is that we tend to sanitize and romanticize the early members of this movement. So people say, well, Ronald Reagan wasn't like Bush. Actually, he was, a lot. Ronald Reagan was, in fact, a race-baiting, slander-using, perfectly modern movement conservative, way back in the 1960s It's not that there was this idealistic, noble movement that turned mysteriously into what's in the White House right now. It's been the same thing all along. In the book, I talk about the National Review and William Buckley in the 1950s. If you think that there were once these high-minded conservatives who had these good ideas about how we can have freedom, and maybe they're impractical, but they're not bad guys, then go back and read the National Review. You have these paeons of praise for Generalissimo Franco, and others exulting in the continuing ability of white Southerners to disenfranchise their black fellow citizens, with this kind of dismissive reference to a catalog of the rights of American citizens created equal as being about silly stuff. Of course, they're talking about the Constitution. This is what being a conservative in America was, for at least forty years, and maybe half a century.


Karlin: We would argue that Antonin Scalia, who says he's a strict constructionist, is really a Constitutional revisionist of an extraordinary kind. You may recall, he made a statement to a synagogue implying no nation should fear a Christian country. Minorities would be treated very well -- and he seemed not to remember Adolph Hitler. It just is extraordinary he doesn't believe in the separation of church and state, which is a Constitutional guarantee. He's really a radical revisionist. How does the right wing get away with this terminology that puts them in a position of saviors of tradition and the Constitution, when, really, they're involved in a very extreme, radical experiment?


Krugman: Well, it's a number of things. A lot of it is that a very effective network pushes their views. We've become accustomed to hearing views that are, in fact, very radical, but there's so much power behind it that they become an accepted part of the political landscape. Look at what's happening with Rush Limbaugh right now. The whole movement -- the vast right-wing conspiracy -- is rallying around him over the "phony" soldiers comment. You've got Fox News producing edited versions of what he actually said, to make him look better. Not one Republican in Congress has been willing to sign a letter condemning him for the remark. This is the kind of cohesion that has made these people so effective.


Karlin: Is that because the liberal model is the inclusive model of democracy, whereas the radical experiment is an authoritarian model?


Krugman: Again, a small-scale version of it that you can see right now is this new organization, "Freedom's Watch."


Karlin: Yes, Ari Fleischer is the head of it.


Krugman: Right. They're saying this is the conservative answer to Move On. But Move On is, in fact, a grassroots organization. It really did bubble up from the bottom. Whether you approve of everything they say or not, it's not something that was engineered by a handful of people. Freedom's Watch is a handful of big-money donors, and it's pretty obviously directed from Vice President Cheney's office. There's a top-down structure that is there throughout the movement.


Karlin: Their main goal is to raise $200 million and to shape media frames for their messaging.


Krugman: Of course, one of the things that's been very, very clear to me, having been in the middle of this myself, is the intimidation of the media. You can say anything, including something that's completely false, about a liberal or a Democrat, and you will not be held accountable. If you say something that's unflattering but true about a right winger, there will be people calling your premise, or demanding that you be fired. There will be people going out there, trying to find anything they can to smear you as a journalist. And this affects the coverage. You can just see that when something happens on the right, the media pull their punches.


Karlin: In fact, you've written on this before. But you recently wrote a column bringing this issue up -- that there's a tremendous push-back on journalists from the right-wing grassroots and echo chamber, and that there's nothing comparable on the liberal side.


Krugman: That's right.


Karlin: If you're a journalist, it's just safer not to get into character analysis of Republicans. Whereas, we saw Gore portrayed as a Pinocchio, and we had the whole thing about Edwards' hairstyle and Hillary's cleavage.


Krugman: Compare the number of articles written about Hillary's flap versus Bush's smirk. You would never, ever have major analysis pieces about the facial expressions or mannerisms of somebody on the right. And it's done all the time, and often on the basis of nothing, about people on the left.


Karlin: Two final questions, both relating to the New Deal. You have a section in your book called, "What the Sixties Wrought." You see that as a pivotal point. Certainly, the civil rights movement was a key area in terms of the Republican Southern strategy, and in terms of Republican strategy since then. But you say what really mattered most in the long run was the fracturing of the New Deal coalition over race. Can you explain that a little more, just briefly? You explained it quite thoroughly in the book.


Krugman: Sure. We can trace what happened to U.S. politics over the forty years that followed the Sixties, Even as the Republican Party moved to the right, even as it became increasing the policy of economic relief, it continued to win elections. In fact, for awhile, it was clearly the dominant party in U.S. politics, and really embarrassingly, almost.

It's very simple. Southern whites started voting Republican. You can look for other things. There were some other factors going on. There was some other shift in the voting behavior of other groups. But overwhelmingly, it's just that thing. And if you ask, what changed, the answer, of course, is the civil rights movement. The deal with the devil that the New Deal made, where it basically accepted segregation as the price of Southern support, came apart in the Sixties. Instead of something that was put to the side, race became a key way in which the right was able to attract voters who were, in many cases, voting against their economic interests.

Anything else fades into insignificance. I was really surprised, for example, to find that the story you hear all the time -- that the Democrats were punished for having been right about Vietnam, basically, that they lost their credibility on national security -- really doesn't show up as an important determinant of voting. If you look at the values issues, those have a tendency to melt away once you take account of the race factor. It's just really very much about race.


Karlin: If you listen to someone like Rush Limbaugh or Grover Norquist talk, and most of the radical right-wingers, FDR's the devil incarnate. The New Deal was simply the downfall of America to them. On the other hand, after a stock market crash of catastrophic proportions led to a national depression, we see Roosevelt elected. In essence, you could argue that Roosevelt saved capitalism. And yet the right wing dismisses him as some sort of radical person who destroyed the country by implementing these programs that had saved America from perhaps going to some sort of radical economic experiment -- the Russian model, or perhaps another model. How could that happen, that a guy who basically saved capitalism is now that the scourge of the radical right movement?


Krugman: Well, what Roosevelt wrought was actually bad for you if you were in the top 1% or top 10% of income distribution. It is actually true that the rich got poorer as a result of the New Deal.


Karlin: Or less rich.


Krugman: That's right -- less rich, if you prefer that. At the time, many of them did not appreciate that Roosevelt was maybe hurting their fortunes but saving their heads. As the memory of the crisis fades into the past, people just start to say why should I be paying taxes to support social insurance that I'm never going to need? And, not everybody who's rich takes that attitude, but enough of them do to basically fund their movement.

It is amazing how not just the memory of what Roosevelt accomplished, but what followed, has been expunged. Again and again I've seen statements like, well, the U.S. economy has never been as successful as it was before the New Deal, and it was successful under Reagan, but it was terrible in between them. People completely miss the thirty-year era of incredible prosperity after World War II. The greatest equalization that ever took place in the United States was, in fact, followed by the greatest economic boom that ever took place in the United States. But it has really gone away.

Of course, some people like Norquist or Marvin Olasky, are saying I want things back to the way they were before Teddy Roosevelt. So Norquist doesn't just want to undo the New Deal, he wants to undo the progressive era, too. And someone like Marvin Olasky, who's actually the originator of "compassionate conservatism," is a guy who says we really need to go back to the nineteenth century, when there was no public assistance to the poor. The only way they could get it was through faith-based organizations, which made sure they were morally upright before they could get any aid. It's amazing, but people on the right just really wish that the twentieth century had never happened.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Muslims for peace

Nice article from the International Herald-Tribune (http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/10/11/news/religion.php) discussing a message from 130 Muslim scholars talking about the importance of peace between Islam and Christianity. For those on the far right who insist that all Muslims are the enemy of America (I'm looking at you, Glenn Beck), perhaps this little dose of reality might help.

We have plenty of enemies who are Muslims. But to fall into the intellectually lazy trap of stereotyping them all as enemies wastes our resources casting too broad a net, alienates a whole bunch of people who could be our allies, and helps the jihadists by reinforcing their propaganda that America hates all Muslims.

We wouldn't treat Timothy McVeigh as representing Christianity. By treating al Qaeda as representing Islam gives them WAY more status than they deserve, and plays right into their propaganda hands.

So, exactly who is helping the terrorists here, Mr. Beck?

------

LONDON: More than 130 Muslim scholars called Thursday for peace and understanding between Islam and Christianity, saying "the very survival of the world itself is perhaps at stake."

In a letter to Pope Benedict XVI and other Christian leaders, Muslim scholars from around the world said finding common ground between the world's biggest religions was not simply a matter for polite dialogue between religious leaders.

"If Muslims and Christians are not at peace, the world cannot be at peace. With the terrible weaponry of the modern world; with Muslims and Christians intertwined everywhere as never before, no side can unilaterally win a conflict between more than half of the world's inhabitants," the scholars wrote.

Relations between Muslims and Christians have been under strain as Al Qaeda has struck around the world and the United States and other Western countries have intervened in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Using quotations from the Bible and the Koran to support their message, the scholars told people who relished conflict and destruction that "our very eternal souls are" at stake "if we fail to sincerely make every effort to make peace and come together in harmony."

The letter was signed by Muslim scholars from around the world, including the Algerian religious affairs minister, Bouabdellah Ghlamallah, and the grand mufti of Egypt, Ali Gomaa.

It was addressed to Pope Benedict XVI and to other Christian leaders, including the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, spiritual head of the Anglican Church.

The pope caused widespread anger among Muslims last year by suggesting Islam was violent, quoting a 14th-century Byzantine emperor who spoke of the Prophet Muhammad's "command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

The leader of more than one billion Roman Catholics repeatedly expressed regret for the reaction to the speech, but stopped short of the unequivocal apology wanted by Muslims.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

NU Re-View:Missouri 41, Nebraska 6

OK, first of all, my apologies for breaking format. This game, though, was a bellweather event, and requires something different than just the good and the bad.

First of all, Saturday's game in Columbia was easily the lowest point in Bill Callahan's tenure as Nebraska's coach. It's hard to find a good place to start in dissecting all the horrors that happened to Nebraska that evening. Looking at the defense, though, makes the most sense given the performances of the last few weeks.

In three weeks, NU surrendered more than 40 points and more than 600 yards twice. Nebraska is on pace to break almost every record for worst defensive performance in a season. There are a number of things wrong with this football team, but everything starts with those horrific defensive performances. While the points, yards surrendered, and other statistics are frightening, to me the most damning statistic is Nebraska's abyssimal third-down defensive conversion percentage. Other than turnovers, being able to convert third downs and stop teams on third down is the most important statistic in football. NU didn't get a third-down stop against Missouri until into the second quarter, after Mizzou had put 14 points on the board and put Nebraska into a hole. That kind of performance sucks the life out of both a defense and an offense.

Nebraska's offensive woes, I believe, are in some ways a by-product of the defensive debacle. Ever since the Nevada game, Nebraska's offense has been called on to bail out the team after the defense has collapsed. I don't think it is unreasonable to think that the offense, after beating their brains out, has so lost faith in the defense's ability to perform that their will to play has broken. How else can you explain scoring only six points and gaining less than 300 yards against the nation's 93rd rated defense?

Some of the offense's issues are their own doing, primarily the inability to establish a run. The offensive line's ability to run block, combined with Marlon Lucky's inability to run effectively between the tackles, sets Nebraska up for failure offensively by making them one-dimensional. By far the most creative Nebraska has been offensively was against USC, having a reasonable amount of success moving the ball. But without that power rushing threat, Nebraska's formidable offensive talent is much easier to neutralize.

Ever since the coaching change occurred, my mantra has been to keep the faith. In Callahan's first year, you could see glimpses of it even with the wrong personnel. In years two and three, while there were certainly growing pains (see Kansas in '04 and Oklahoma State in '05), there were visible signs of performance on both sides of the ball.

This year, Nebraska's performance has gotten worse with every game. A debacle like Missouri this year should NEVER happen in the fourth year of a program. And it leads to inevitable comparisons to the end of the Solich era. In 2002 and 2003, Nebraska struggled to beat teams they were clearly athletically superior to, and were non-competitive with teams that they were equivalent to athletically.

I have no doubt that Callahan and Co. are good recruiters, and the talent level on this team is better than it was four years ago. But the performance isn't. It's the same, if not worse, than the Nebraska teams we saw in 2002 and 2003.

And I don't see any reason to think it's going to get better. The issue is not talent, and it's not learning a new program. It's coaching, and it's the culture that's been created. This team and, frighteningly enough, the coaching staff, look lost and befuddled as to what's happening. That's why it sounds to me like everything coming out of the program sounds like people in denial. I wrote earlier about Ball State being the canary in the coalmine. If that's the case, Missouri is the canary's death. We'll see if the program changes direction or keeps digging further into the mine.

Callahan's not going anywhere as a result of his extension signed earlier this year, and I don't really think he should. Defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove, however, is a dead man walking. As far as I'm concerned, he should have been fired at halftime in Columbia and given a bus ticket back to Lincoln.

But, that's probably unlikely too. So the question that is being asked around 'Husker Nation is how to respond. I was literally and figuratively sick after the Missouri game, and watching the descent of this team. I'm sure many fans around the nation are furious, and they have a right to be. So how do we react?

It's been written many places that you answer with your wallet. I would agree, but it's more subtle than that. Being a sports fan is, by its' nature, emotional gambling. You invest your passion in your team, risking the pain of losing for the thrill of winning. But at a certain level, as a fan you have a right to expect that the team you have invested in will reciprocate and give you a return on investment.

It's not just about winning and losing. Sure, losing stinks, but I don't think that's the issue for Nebraska fans. 'Husker Fan wants a team he or she can be proud of, win or lose, and that's hard to find these days. From Wake Forest on, we've seen a team that is unprepared and disinterested in the games they have played.

That is not acceptable, and dangerous for the program. The opposite of rabid fandom is not hatred. It's apathy. That is the emotion Steve Pederson and the 'Husker brass should be most afraid of. 'Husker fans wear their emotions on their sleeves with their red polyester jackets. But any sane human being is not going to continually put their hearts out, week after week, to be crushed by either incompetence or disinterest.

One thing I do not want to hear, however, is the sunshine-pumpers telling me that I have to "get behind" this program and believe they are going to win every game, regardless of the evidence we can all plainly see.

Bullhockey. Of course I want NU to win, but if I, as a fan, don't call it like I see it, then I'm not doing my job. NU basketball has been a disaster forever because 'Husker Fan doesn't care enough about Nebraska basketball to demand that it be good. We do about football so, eventually, it will be.

It's going to be a tough next couple years, I think. We're going to have to be disappointed, and angry, and put the pressure on the Powers That Be to demand excellence. But we will. To paraphrase the Tunnel Walk slogan, WE CHEER FOR NEBRASKA. And we're going to continue to stick together, in all kinds of weather, to DEMAND the excellence from our football program that we deserve. Whether or not that excellence comes under the Callahan/Pederson regime is up to them. But we're going to get it, one way or the other.

I am a Nebraska fan, and I will always be a Nebraska fan, that's not at issue. But I can tell you, my level of investment in this squad has gone down significantly after Missouri. I'm not going to expose myself to that kind of anguish again unless I'm given a damn good reason to. Sure, I will watch, and I will root, and I will hope for the best.

But the faith is broken. I'm not buying that this program has a chance to be relevant in the Big XII, much less nationally, until I see it for myself. Ironicially enough, it's the Missouri game that has created this "show me" attitude in me.

As important as 'Husker football is, we don't need you to make us successful. Nebraska has a tremendous amount to be proud of outside of football. I will be proud to be a Nebraskan even if this squad goes 4-8 this year.

The ball is in your court, Coach. I desperately want you to be successful. But until you give me a reason to believe in you, I'll just stand by the road, and cheer as the winners go by. Nebraska football WILL rise again, because the Greatest Fans In College Football demand it to. Whether that's under your leadership or not is up to you.

GBR, baby.