Saturday, October 29, 2005

What a Journalist Should Be

I've just watched George Clooney's marvelous new film, "Good Night and Good Luck" and I cannot commend his courage and skill highly enough. The movie tells the story of newsman Edward R. Murrow's expose of McCarthyism at its peak in the early 50's. It is a wonderful piece of drama - beautifully photographed, note-perfect performances, and of course so deliberately relevant to our own times. It is not often that a movie is this educational and yet entertaining at the same time. The film offers a trenchant critique of the declining state of journalism which was already evident to Murrow in 1958. Trivializing, superficial, insulating, cosmetically obsessed with balance but lacking all substance, these are a few of the not so subtle characterizations of the field. In its place the movie hopefully lifts up another, entirely different philosophy of journalism: moralistic, truth-seeking and truth-telling, a friend of justice, holding itself to the highest ethical standards, educating, courageous, principled, full of conviction. Murrow says, in effect, that journalism is and ought to be a public service which serves the common good, which preserves democracy by guaranteeing the free and accurate flow of information, which ceaselessly exposes corruption and lies, which facilitates the democratic union of the government and the governed by protecting both from each other. My favorite line in the movie is when Murrow says, "We are not descended from fearful men." I felt like standing up and cheering when I heard that line. Murrow is right. This country wasn't founded on timidity. It was founded by complex individuals who made difficult decisions based on the best knowledge that they had, who made the most out of the humanity they had to offer, who willingly made sacrifices, took risks, and accepted challenges. That's what Murrow represented in this film. It's what Murrow believed a journalist should be.

Bush to Base: Pipe Down Already

President Bush's right-wing base is blowing his cover. The deal forged between Bush and his base, going back to 2000, is that Bush would bring conservatives to the table like no President had ever done before, but they had to keep quiet about it. No open communication in the mainstream media, period. To facilitate this, Karl Rove and Karen Hughes invented a code for Bush to use in the media and in his major speeches, consisting of quotes and allusions beloved by the right, including evangelical hymns, doctrines, and imagery. For those not in the know, this has sometimes resulted in some puzzling responses - recall the debate last fall in which Bush was asked about a recent Supreme Court ruling that he disagreed with and he answered, "The Dred Scott decision." But all that is changing now. The religious right is tired of being the other woman. It wants a public committment from the President. For Bush this could not be any more unwelcome than if his mistress had suddenly started calling him every night at dinner. By forcing Bush to withdraw the nomination of Harriet Miers - whom Bush desperately pleaded and hinted with the right to accept - the religious right is demanding that Bush choose between it and the rest of the country. The contradiction of "compassionate conservatism," the cornerstone of Bush's political genius, is unravelling, and Bush has nowhere to turn, and nowhere to hide.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Squeezing Harriet Miers Till She Talks

Charles Krauthammer’s comments in today’s Washington Post give some insight into the real reason why conservatives are now gathering in force against the Harriet Miers nomination. The nomination must be withdrawn, Krauthammer argues, not because Miers is unqualified, though he admits that she is, but because of what she knows about the Bush administration and about the President personally – information which she could conceivably be compelled to testify about under oath during the confirmation hearings. This would hand Democrats a golden opportunity to ask questions that President Bush in his ten years in politics has never answered. Imagine the possibilities. For starters, why did Bush’s 1998 re-election campaign for governor pay Miers' law firmthe unheard of sum of $140,000 for routine legal work, in addition to the $23,000 paid by Bush to Miers in 1994? At the time of the 1998 payment Bush was leading his opponent by 35 percentage points in the polls. What projects was Miers working on for Bush? Just to speculate, could it have had something to do with recurrent issues from Bush’s past – his avoidance of the draft during Vietnam, or his history as an addict? What does she know about Bush’s relationship with Ken Lay and the other Enron insiders who secretly helped Vice-President Cheney rewrite the nation’s energy laws? Does Miers know anything about the phony case for war in Iraq and the subsequent cover-up still under investigation? What about 9/11? Could Miers clear up any lingering doubts about the President’s response to warnings of an imminent terror attack in the summer of 2001? The list could go on and on. As Bush’s most trusted lawyer, Miers is a potential gold-mine for anyone interesting in unraveling the vast, intricately-linked criminal conspiracy which in essence is the Bush administration. (With an hour’s testimony, Miers could accomplish what it will take historians a generation to achieve.) As Krauthammer indicates in his column, that possibility has just occurred to him as well, and the image of a stage-struck Miers fumbling around under oath while trying to protect the President’s decades of secrets doesn’t sit well with him. Already, Krauthammer says, there’s the expected petty lies and malfeasance around the nomination process itself:

John Fund reports that in a conference call of conservative leaders, two Miers confidants explicitly said that she would overturn Roe v. Wade . The subsequent denial by one of these judges that he ever said that, and the subsequent affirmation by two of the people who had heard the call that he did say so, create the nightmare scenario of subpoenaed witnesses contradicting each other under oath. We need an exit strategy from this debacle. I have it…

Just imagine what Democrats could do with this kind of power, Krauthammer seems to be saying. He’s had enough of Harriet Miers. He’s telling the President to pull the plug on this one.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Enemy of My Enemy Is My...What?

Like the GOP base, I'm all in a dither over Edith Miers. On the one hand, I like the name Edith. On the other hand, she kind of disgraces it. And she reminds me of my third grade teacher, but in a bad way (in case she is reading - I will always love you, Mrs. Fea.) Bush might as well have nominated his third grade teacher. There is barely any difference. Granted, who among us wouldn't have done the same thing? If I ever become President, I too want to be able to place all of my friends and family in positions of power, just like Vito Corleone did. Now, I just don't know whose side to take in this internecine fight. On the one hand, I know that the religious right (just like Ayn Rand) are always wrong. It's almost an axiological certainty. And they oppose this nomination. So, taking my cue from them as always, I support it, right? This seems to be the thinking of many Democrats, who would probably put Satan on the bench if they thought it might bug the Republican majority. And if Miers nomination is defeated, who's next? After all, these conservatives have been saying they oppose Miers for not being conservative enough! I don't relish the prospect of seeing the arch-torturer Alberto Gonsales on deck, or the rightist lunatic Janice Rogers Brown. Maybe having our family realtor interpreting Constitutional law for the next generation isn't such a bad idea. On the other hand, what an absolute toilet of a judge. Does Miers even, like, have any idea what she's doing? Does she even know which way the robe goes on? This is going to be like sitting through Legally Blonde III for the next twenty years. And the thought of seeing Bush out there in the courtroom passing her winks about how to rule turns my stomach as well. It's kind of like we're seeing the very worst and the not so bad of Bush cronyism at the same time. On the one hand, it's so blatant, it makes you want to cry. On the other hand, it's so inept and stupid it makes you want to laugh. I mean, is there anybody left from Crawford that Bush hasn't given a federal job to yet? Couldn't Bush find some work for the former grounds-keeper of Ameriquest Stadium, or maybe his old plumber? We'll know we're at the end of the Bush administration when the President runs out of nicknames for his relatives and old college buddies. Or maybe, as Dr. Strangelove would have it, the end of the world. ("Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." "Yeeeee-haw!")

Monday, October 10, 2005

Science, Truth, and the Politics of Deception

Andrew Hehir, writing in Salon, makes some very important points about the current conflict between science and politics ("The Know Nothings," September 14, 2005.) What does it mean that the current administration rejects science not just in practice but in theory? And what vulnerability has the administration exploited in its surprisingly successful attempt to block scientific information from the public? Hehir is right to call this an "epistemological crisis," so right, in fact, that I would take it even further and name this the great philosophical problem of our time. (Of course as something of an idealist I tend to view social problems as symptoms of philosophical errors - please forgive me that bias.)
First, it is clear to me that the discipline of science as a public service, one whose purpose is to establish the public as an authority competent to govern itself, has stalled and even reversed. In May 2004 a report of the National Science Board, An Emerging and Critical Problem of the Science and Engineering Labor Force, sparked alarm among educators by predicting shortfalls of scientists and engineers based on current trends in education. (For the debate over this issue, see the following articles.) Even if it is unclear, however, as to whether science as a specialized profession is in decline, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence as to the decline of scientific knowledge among the general public. It is this state of affairs which the neo-conservative movement has actively exploited in pursuit of its anti-regulatory agenda, as Hehir chronicles. On matters of vital public interest, including global warming, public health, stem-cell research, sexual education, and the teaching of evolution, the Bush administration has repeatedly obscured the findings of science through a particularly effective and vicious new form of propaganda: the fake scientific debate. To use Al Gore’s phrase, the Bush administration uses an echo chamber which bounces manufactured debate between the walls of industry-sponsored think tanks and the conservative media, then baits the supposedly mainstream press into covering the "controversy." Once this false notion of a scientific controversy has been generally established in the public mind, the administration can then use the public’s confusion as itself further evidence of the existence of an actual debate. For instance, if only half of Americans "believe" in evolution, then this can be taken as evidence that the legitimacy of the theory of evolution may still be plausibly regarded as an open question. If the goal of science is to establish a public consensus of verifiable facts, then the goal of the Bush administration is to break that consensus through constant suggestion of uncertainty.
This suggests that the current epistemological crisis and the much discussed crisis in journalism are one and the same. The media appears to be functionally incapable any longer of distinguishing between good and bad arguments, information and propaganda, truth and fiction. So-called "balance," which is understood as being neutral to matters of truth, is the self-proclaimed goal of today’s media ("fair and balanced.") Once again this is a turn of events which has been ruthlessly exploited by the ruling conservative party. For instance, consider the recent political acts against public television, ginned up as an effort to provide "conservative balance" to PBS. Even more chilling is the conservative campaign against objectivity in higher education. The libertarian commentator Cathy Young has written about the need for "intellectual diversity," meaning a balance of conservative and liberal faculty appointments, at colleges and universities. Apparently there is nothing contradictory to Young about this kind of merging of the scientific and the political – as if research should be judged not simply on its empirical merits but on its political affiliation as well.
But we are not yet to the bottom of the current epistemological crisis. It’s no surprise that a powerful authoritarian regime would attempt to manipulate science for its own purposes, but what weakness has it exploited in doing so? The Bush administration could not have succeeded in its misinformation campaign unless the public had in some sense willingly assisted in its own deception. I would like to make the case that the prevailing conditions exploited by the Bush administration are the result of a set of epistemological errors resulting from a popular (and populist) misunderstanding of post-modernism, first introduced into politics by the left in the second half of the 20th century and now adapted and perfected by the new right.
Hehir hints at this when he says that the work of philosophers of science such as Wittgenstein, Foucault, and Feyerabend (I would add Thomas Kuhn) has contributed to a general sense of epistemological uncertainty which has arisen in the public mind in the past half century. A generous philosophy of relativism has become common property; science has become popularly regarded as an arena of dispute rather than of clarification and consensus. It’s beyond my intention here to mount a thorough defense of the work of these philosophers, but I will say that all of them would have been appalled at the appropriation of their work by a radical, authoritarian regime. Far from intending to undermine science, the purpose of their work was to bring about its advancement by liberating the western tradition from its foundationalist and idealist impulses and re-grounding it in the organic processes of language and culture. I’ll concede however that the failure of post-modernism to clearly articulate its liberal intentions has been one of the chief sources of the sloppy and nihlistic relativism which now pervades the popular understanding, and further, that skeptics such as Foucault either failed to realize or didn’t care that an unbridled skepticism is easily converted by the skilled sophist into the precise metaphysical authority it claims to be resisting.
The Bush administration’s mastery of post-modern sophistry deserves a closer study than I can provide here. At its most effective, it flattens discourse into a an exercise in futility, marked by absurdist non-sequiturs, flights of cynical fancy, and passive-aggressive posturing, all scored with a numbing fatalism. It is impossible to get a straight answer from the Bush administration and yet, until very recently, its reputation was always just the opposite. This is the mark of the truly exceptional sophist: when the weakness of one’s argument is so artfully presented as to be universally accepted as its greatest strength. In the case of the Bush administration, a record of stunning dishonesty and manipulation masquerades, successfully, as unvarnished candor. Which brings me to the greatest triumph of the Bush administration, and that is its masterful subversion of American values. The character played by the President is a composite of 19th and 20th century American archetypes: the evangelical preacher, the self-made man, the recovered addict, the lone ranger, and the WWII soldier. Each of these figures is meant to evoke an American value: selflessness, humility, earnestness, folk-wisdom, independence, piety, determination. Bush is adept at turning arguments on their head by retreating to one of these values and then accusing his critic of betraying it, forcing his critics to defend their patriotism rather than focus on objective arguments.
This brings the conflict between science and politics into sharper focus: if the goal of science is to clarify discourse so as to establish the public as its own authority, then the goal of the Bush administration is just the opposite. Its power derives from general confusion and ignorance, from a deliberate heightening of the general sense of indeterminacy (from an epistemological perspective) and anxiety (from a psychological perspective) which are the defining characteristics of capitalist societies.
Finally, let us delve once more into the history of philosophy to try and make some sense out of what brought the western tradition to this point. Why has the progress of science been so drastically halted? What factors have contributed to the philosophical and social impasse at which we now find ourselves? If post-modernism is a kind of black hole at the bottom of western metaphysics, then it is one whose existence has long been suspected and feared. From Plato’s dialogues the need for a foundationalist super-structure with which to buttress scientific inquiry is already apparent. This is the beginning of the essentialist strategy which becomes omnipresent in western philosophy. The reasoning goes that only a self-validating (or self-transcending) foundation would be capable of withstanding the skeptical assault; without it, science collapses into meaningless parody and self-reference. The long-noted problem with this strategy is that like any makeshift barrier, essentialism only provides a temporary fix. If essences themselves are proposed as part of a visibly material discourse, with all of the telltale signs of human construction, then what permits them to operate so exceptionally? The result is an infinitely repeated recourse to allegedly purer and purer regions untainted by the fallibility and temporality of human institutions. This problem was not solved by the Enlightenment, which only converted essentialism into a cult of personalized metaphysics – the individualist values of autonomy and self-determination. The Enlightenment project already foretold the failed state of post-modernism.
Yet if both essentialism of the classical variety and anti-essentialism of the post-modern variety lead to the same impasse, is there a future for science as a public discipline? Might we ever hope to live in a world in which the findings of science are cherished as the consensus beliefs of an informed public, and George W. Bush is known only as his father’s miserable son?
The answer, I submit, lies in the other great western philosophical tradition most articulately represented by Aristotle: naturalist in method, constructivist in its anthropology, pragmatic, adaptable, process-oriented, transcendental. If science is regarded not as the procurement of a fixed state of knowledge with reference to some theoretical essence, nor as a continual contest between equally arbitrary perspectives, but rather as a natural process unfolding through the fallible but nevertheless self-transcending institutions of language and culture, then science is as imperfect as the human life which temporarily possesses and proclaims it. What post-modernism should have taught us, but didn't, is that science doesn't take place in some theoretical, abstract realm but rather in the here and now. Consensus is gained through compromise, persuasion, and cooperation, not rationalist fiat. Progress is unpredictable, depending on the imaginative breaking and rebuilding of paradigms. Science is a creative process, a truly human activity. As anyone who has ever pursued science knows, truth and wisdom are rare gems indeed, gained only through struggle. Perhaps then science is a kind of revelation of a fragile and fleeting beauty which arises only briefly, like a flower, in the midst of great difficulty.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Good News For Everyone?

"We're breaking out the champagne," Dr. Eliav Barr, Merck's head of clinical development for the new cervical cancer vaccine told the Associated Press today. He's not the only one. The vaccine, which works by blocking infection from the human papilloma virus, proved 100% successful in its initial trial phase. Merck hopes to bring it to market next year. One would think that such news would be welcomed from every quarter. After all, who would want to deny a life-saving cure to today's and tomorrow's women? Try Bridget Maher of the so-called Family Research Council. "Abstinence is the best way to prevent HPV," she said. "Giving the HPV vaccine to young women could be potentially harmful, because they may see it as a licence to engage in premarital sex." It turns out the Family Research Council is annoyed at potentially losing one of its pet arguments for abstinence - that the human papilloma virus can be transmitted even when condoms are used properly. This, weirdly, makes the disease an ally of the Council, much like a biological weapon. The Family Research Council claims to be a Christian organization but it's hard to see how this stance is at all consistent with the gospel. Jesus came to heal the sick, not to with-hold needed care or use illness as a weapon. In the parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus instructs his followers to offer healing without judgment. In Jesus' ministry, healing is a sign of the imminent arrival of the Kingdom of God. From Genesis 1, we learn that God has given nature and all of its gifts to human beings to be used for the good of everyone. God commands human beings to be stewards over creation, to cultivate and transform and bring to fulfillment the potential of things. The scientists who worked on the human papilloma vaccine were obedient to that purpose. Their success ought to be good news for everyone.

Thinking Through the Neo-Conservative Challenge

Sidney Blumenthal in Salon has done a fine job of chroncling the tangled web of conservative malfeasance which effectively constitutes the Republican party as we know it today. I especially admire his insight into the corrupt and exploitative relationships between lobbyists, corporations, conservative religious organizations, and political players. This is indeed, as he puts it, a "pay to play" game. I don’t entirely agree with Blumenthal’s assessment that this type of conservatism is an entirely new political and economic entity. It bears more than a passing resemblance to a crime syndicate, of the type which controls politics throughout much of the developing world. This leads to an important and often misunderstood point: organized crime is not chaotic. To the contrary, it is intensely bureaucratic. Such pseudo-political institutions always mirror the bureaucratic nature of their host systems. They are a repressed instinct of capitalist societies. To argue that the Bush administration represents an entirely new way of "doing business" in America ignores the instrumental role that organized crime has historically played in American economics and politics (for a wonderful literary example, read Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless You Mr. Rosewater.) It was Max Weber who argued that the twin impulses of revolution and bureaucracy co-exist at the unsteady core of capitalism. What we are witnessing in the rise of neo-conservatism is the validation of that argument, the fulfillment of a capitalist impulse towards bureaucracy which, if completed, might rival the great Prussian and Stalinist regimes of the past three centuries. Liberals (of all types) are liable to be confused and frustrated if they operate under the mistaken belief that their government remains in the broad stream of the liberal tradition: deliberative, representative, transparent, responsive and accountable to the public (not to be confused with populist, which the Bush administration definitely is.) Thus to view the Bush administration in the light of its true lineage explains a great deal. Like any bureaucracy, its goal is to build the party of the future by monopolizing resources. Loyalty to the party determines access to these resources and to the lucrative schemes which advance the party’s agenda. The proprietary stance taken by the Bush administration towards information which would be considered public in a liberal society – the records of Vice-President Cheney’s energy task force, to take one obvious example – indicates that it simply does not regard itself as accountable to the public in any traditionally democratic sense. Rather, the party is fueled by populist sentiment (as for instance in the 2004 elections) which is generated through grandiose nationalistic pageants, suppression of information, strategically timed threats, official investigations of sexual impurity, and concealed propaganda distributed through the quasi-state outlets of the conservative media. Likewise, the Bush administration does not operate in the deliberative manner of a liberal government, i.e., one founded on a consensus of publicly verified facts. Instead it has waged a determined campaign to undermine and distort scientific findings whenever they come into conflict with the party ideology. Again, this infuriates the scientific community and the grass-roots democratic activists whose political credibility is staked on the premise of their research, but the Bush administration simply will not budge. It is a wholly political animal, and as such its founding principles of hierarchy, loyalty, and organization stand in sharp contrast to the objective correlate philosophy of empirical science. Finally, I would like to expand on my earlier comment that the true goal of the Bush administration, consistent with its principles, is the creation of a new social class, a "new man," as it were. I envision this man of the future as being raised and educated in strict conformity with the mandates of the party. He will show in his beliefs and his attitudes a deep loyalty to the party upon which his livelihood and reputation entirely depends, and an equally deep suspicion of potential heretics. In all likelihood he will work in a corporate office overseen by quasi-government officials and dependent on government favors for its continuing share in the market-state. He will be of the official denomination of the Christian faith, which is simply another manifestation of allegiance to the party. He will depend throughout his life on a network of patronage and graft which he will simply take for granted as the hallmark of respectable society. He will be a man made in the image of the party founder, George W. Bush.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Bush Keeps on Ticking

President Bush's decision to nominate Harriet Miers as the next Supreme Court justice proves that neo-conservatism is still the great indestructible philosophy of our time. It was only last month, after all, that in the aftermath of the Hurricane Katrina and the FEMA disaster the President's philosophy of unabashed cronyism had been revealed, exorciated, and seemingly extinguished. Yet Bush will be Bush, and his single-minded focus is legendary. Hence, Miers, his long-time associate and confidante with no qualifications for the Supreme Court save for her close relationship with the President. Public opinion has never mattered to Bush except insofar as it can be manipulated, and neither do the views of those who oppose him. Now the President's undisguised intention of gathering together all three branches of government under the authority of a single all-powerful partisan executive is meeting with rebellion from within the ranks of his own party. That appears to be just fine with Bush. He has always been more focused on purging the Republican party of its moderate and movement-conservative heretics than in anything happening outside of the party anyway. If Republicans break ranks, that just starts a fight Bush is confident he will win. Like any good authoritarian, Bush loves to test the limits of power, to set traps that divide the loyalists from the realists. This points to one of the least recognized traits of neo-conservatism: it is a party-building movement. Yet this nascent party is not necessarily synonymous with the Republican party, and it may even be hostile to it. The Miers nomination as well as all of the other intra-Republican wars of the past five years (Colin Powell's State Department, George Tenet's CIA, etc.) demonstrate that the goal of neo-conservatism is to overthrow the Republican party from within, to free it from its traditionalisms and loyalty to Constitutional principles such as the separation of powers and its grounding in the liberal traditions of limited government and fiscal conservatism. In other words, the goal of neo-conservatism is to establish a party with the means of opposing the liberal tradition in its broadest and deepest sense - to effectively uproot the bedrock principles of constitutionalism and representative government upon which America was founded. That may seem far-fetched, but if history has anything to teach, it's that tyranny is never implausible.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Candles in the Dark

I read an article in the Boston Globe recently about a blogger who blogged nothing but good news about the war in Iraq. Apparently he found enough good news to keep him working for a year and a half, and then he quit. Now I’m aware that I’ve written at length, quite cynically, about the decline of the humanities and about the efforts of the Bush administration to kill off the arts and sciences once and for all in the name of almighty corporate capitalism. I write books in my head with titles like "The Decline of Language." I reverse engineered the joke behind "Eats Shoots and Leaves" and laughed to myself out loud (my version had a Panda.) I’ve often been accused of pedantry when I’m not being accused of being a slovenly, half-educated philistine (both are sadly close to the mark.) But enough is enough. I’m turning over a new leaf. I’d like to begin a series dedicated solely to good news in the humanities. These are the stories that bring tears to my eyes, which make me feel like, dammit, something good is happening out there, even though the news won’t report it. I would like to call this series, "Candles in the Dark." And so I offer for recognition the preservationists from the Chicago Conservation Center who risked their own lives to save priceless works of art in New Orleans and the rest of the hurricane-damaged areas of the Gulf Coast. These dedicated servants of the arts literally donned rescue gear, complete with hoods, gloves, boots, and respirators, and made their way through the floodwaters to rescue the city’s artistic treasures. Let’s also honor the steady hands at the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, and the workers at the New Orleans Museum of Art, who kept their post in the museum when all hell had broken loose outside. What this proves to me is that there are forces at work in the world more powerful than brutality, more formidable than cynicism, more brilliant than sophistry. There are still educators, and scientists, and poets, and painters, and musicians, and scholars, who care deeply about what is most precious, who know intimately the fragile beauty of artistic creation. It’s that spirit which has gotten humanity out of some of its toughest scrapes, which kept singing even when the guys with the guns showed up, which preserved light when darkness had fallen on all sides. And it’s their work which will emerge out of all the chaos, greed, stupidity, corruption, venality, cruelty, and petty strife which counts for news in this day and age, and it’s their work which will be preserved, and remembered, and honored by future generations.

Is This What They Call Bipartisanship?

The nomination of somebody named Harriet Miers to be the next Supreme Court justice has been greeted with disapproval by both Republicans and Democrats. Republicans are upset that Bush did not nominate a "lock" for advancing their radical agenda, and Democrats would not have had cause to celebrate any of the candidates among whom President Bush was deciding. This stunning salute to mediocrity, the promotion of a career Bush operative and political crony to the one job George W. Bush hasn't yet given her - a judge - may fit the President's style like a glove but offers little for the others who feed at the same trough. No one in Congress has yet come out in strong support of the nominee. Instead we have been greeted with the delightful sound of the conservative echo chamber fallen suddenly silent. Is the impossible possible? Could Miers really fail to be confirmed? Has Bush's base finally abandoned him? The most bizarre, and unexpected outcome of the Miers nomination may be a weird bipartisanship arising out of a unanimous disregard for the President. Under the pressure of Bush's repeated failures of leadership, supporting the President has now become a career hazard. The crass hybrid philosophy of a bloated government funneling profits to ever more exotic and corrupt locales - part Warren Harding, part Lyndon Johnson - has never pleased by the book fiscal conservatives, and it's now starting to enrage them. The evolution and now spectacular downfall of the Bush presidency is taking American politics to a weird place it's never been before, a place where liberals and conservatives alike agree that their coalition of the moment is anybody but Bush.

Morgan Freeman Typecast as Black Guy

Morgan Freeman has been typecast as a black guy, movie-goers have reported. "He's always played the role of a black guy so perfectly, like in Driving Miss Daisy," stated recent film-watcher Melanie Johnson. "He seemed so natural you almost forgot he was acting. But lately I've noticed he has the same racial composition in every movie. He's definitely stuck in a rut." Freeman's dilemma is similar to that of many high profile actors in recent years. Among kung fu actors, for instance, there has been a growing complaint against being typecast as Asians. "Last year I auditioned for roles in dozens of movies," stated kung fu actor Jackie Chan. "In every single role that I was accepted for, I played the part of an Asian. I don't want to say that Hollywood is discriminating but if you asked most kung fu actors they would tell you the same thing." What to do about typecasting? Some actors, such as multimedia performer Will Smith, have managed to avoid the bug. "When I first broke into Hollywood, I knew I didn't want to spend the rest of my life playing the part of a black guy," Smith said. "I made sure to diversify my roles early on, even if that meant taking a lesser role - like playing the part of a friendly neighbor instead of a bad-ass crack dealer or gang-rapist. Over time, that paid off. Now when studios look at me, they don't see a black guy. They see money instead."