by Doug Muder
Special Edition: The New
Hampshire Primary 2008. From February 2007 to the voting in January
2008, most of my political blogging is going to be reports on the various
candidates as I see them on the campaign trail. All the reports are collected
28 May 2007: Supporting My Troop. This is a Memorial
Day special out of my previously unpublished files. I wrote it after a
Christmas, 2005 meeting with my best friend from high school, now a career
Marine. I left the piece alone rather than updating it. Steve is still in the
Marines, and still alive.
14 April 2007: Change in My Lifetime: Why Imus Thinks
He’s Not Racist. I got as sick of the Don Imus affair as anybody else. But
what I really couldn’t stand was watching people talk past each other. So I
just had to explain what racist used to
mean. BTW, this touched off a marvelous discussion on Daily
22 March 2007: To John and Elizabeth Edwards,
With Experience. Elizabeth Edwards’ breast cancer is back and has spread.
The campaign goes on. How can I not flash back to my wife’s breast cancer
19 March 2007: Answering Moral Questions: A
Primer for Democrats. When the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff puts
his foot in his mouth, somehow it turns into a bigger problem for Hillary
Clinton and Barack Obama than for anybody else. How does stuff like this
happen, and what can be done about it?
10 March 2007: My Dinner With Hillary --
and 1000 Other People. I finally decide to see a candidate the way the
high-rollers do: At a Democratic Party fund-raising dinner. Well, maybe the
medium-rollers. And maybe their view isn't any better than anybody else's. But
Hillary Clinton does give a good speech.
17 February 2007: Bill Richardson in Portsmouth.
15 February 2007: Announcing My 2008 Presidential
Campaign. It begins.
18 January 2007: Using the I-Word. The War in Iraq
is not an impeachable offense. But it makes the other impeachable offenses much
11 January 2007: Iraq: No Way Forward. My response
to the January 10 speech in which President Bush announced his “New Way
Forward” in Iraq.
23 October 2006: Confessions of a Blogger.
The political blogger has such a negative image in the larger culture that I
decided to give the demonized wretch a human face – mine. This is the text of a
talk I gave at the Bedford Lyceum at First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church
in Bedford, Massachusetts.
29 September 2006: God of Our [Founding]
Fathers. Liberals and conservatives alike quote the Founders to justify
their positions on church-and-state issues. A couple years ago I fantasized
about writing a book to resolve the apparent paradoxes and contradictions in
these quotes, and to explain the Founders' views in an appropriate historical
context. Now I don't have to write that book, because Jon Meacham just did: American
31 July 2006: Flies vs. Hammers: How Asymmetric Warfare
Works. A lot of the rhetoric around the current Israel/Hezbollah and
US/Iraq wars make no sense. But governments get away with it because the public
does not understand the kind of war being fought. This piece is written as a
primer and assumes very little.
13 July 2006: Reframing Iraq: It's Time to Stop
Losing. In a couple of letters to my local newspaper, I demonstrate how to
frame the anti-war position as strong and realistic, and the pro-war position
as weak and fantasy-based.
16 May 2006: Be Our Guest [Workers].
President Bush's proposed "temporary worker program"
institutionalizes one of the worst aspects of the current illegal alien
situation: a disenfranchised labor force. In this respect it resembles the
permanent worker program the South had until 1865.
14 May 2006: What McCain Said, and What it Means.
John McCain gave the commencement address at Jerry Falwell's Liberty
University. Clearly he was trying to mend fences with the religious right, but
how? And what does his speech tell us about his message for 2008?
27 April 2006: Cato vs. Caesar. The conservative
Cato Institute finally got around to taking a good, hard look at the way
President Bush has been fulfilling his oath to “preserve, protect, and defend
the Constitution of the United States of America.” It’s not a pretty sight.
25 March 2006: One More Step Towards Fascism.
The administration stretches its warrantless wiretap program a little further.
1 March 2006: Bush May Be in Trouble Now. While
eating a late breakfast, I overhear two tables of WW-II veterans talk about
impeachment. I didn’t used to hear stuff like that.
11 February 2006: Gonzales’ Testimony. I got a
letter published in The Boston Globe
commenting on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ defense of warrantless
wiretapping in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. I explain why the
letter frames things the way it does.
30 January 2006: Warrantless Wiretapping: a
Nonpartisan Frame. It’s time to try to turn Republicans against the extreme
actions of this administration. Here’s how I suggest going about it.
27 January 2006: What Can’t Bush Do? A
discussion of warrantless wiretapping leads to a question the Bush supporters
can’t seem to answer.
2 December 2005: The War on Accountability.
The new National Strategy for Victory in Iraq makes no verifiable predictions and so provides no basis for future
accountability – just like everything else the administration has said about
19 October 2005: Literal Truth: Why Miers’ Heart is a
Qualification. The pundits don’t seem to understand why some people think
Harriet Miers’ lack of experience is a good
6 October 2005: Annotating Bush’s Iraq Speech.
President Bush gave his long-awaited justification of his Iraq policy today. It
deserves line-by-line attention.
26 September 2005: Mirage in the Desert: The Prospects
for Iraqi Democracy. Even if it gets ratified, the proposed constitution
will do little to address the real obstacles to an Iraqi democracy.
9 September 2005: Fighting Them Up There. Faced
with an act of God that destroys a major American city, the Bush administration
responds the only way it knows how.
22 August 2005: Spare the Rod, Spoil the Country.
How liberals should answer the patriotism question. Or: How George Lakoff
almost gets it right.
17 August 2005: Cut and Run. Even people who
realize what a mistake the Iraq invasion was think we can't just cut and run.
Yes, we can.
13 June 2005: PATRIOT Act: The Ho-Hum Strategy and
Catch-22. The administration wants you to believe that the Patriot Act does
less than you think it does. How civil libertarians should frame the debate on
renewing the Act.
10 April 2005: Laborem Exercens: the Liberal Legacy
of Pope John Paul II. When he talked economics rather than sex, Pope John
Paul II wasn't just a liberal, he was a radical.
22 March 2005: Affirming Life. Against my will,
the Schiavo case stirs up a reaction.
19 March 2005: The Salesman-in-Chief. My new understanding
of President Bush has lowered my blood pressure.
17 March 2005: My Taxes Are Obscene. My annual trip
through Form 1040 got me thinking about how the tax rules unfairly favor people
1 March 2005: Bush Appointee Rules for Enemy Combatant
Padilla. Jose Padilla’s case had to go all the way back down to the
district level after the Supreme Court tossed it out on a technicality. (See
below, my July 2004 article The Supreme Court Confronts the 9/11 World.) Now he has won at the district level and starts the
long climb back up to the Supreme Court.
25 February 2005: Red Family, Blue Family: Making sense
of the values issue. If you've ever wondered how half the country could
have voted for George Bush, there are a couple very good books on the subject.
And if you put their ideas together, it's even more interesting. The link above
is to the PDF version, which I put a lot of effort into formatting. Let me know
if you like it or not. Or you can read the HTML version.
11 February 2005: It’s not Hypocrisy. When rank
and file conservatives worry about moral breakdown, they aren’t being
hypocrites. They’re worried because conservative morality is breaking down.
25 January, 2005: Wide Liberty, an Alternative to
Judicial Activism. One way conservatives bludgeon liberals is to hang the
charge of “judicial activism” on us. You know: Liberal judges push their
personal agendas for society by inventing new rights. This is a gross
distortion of liberal legal theory, but it has been promoted so successfully
that many liberals now defend judicial
activism rather than exposing the faulty assumptions behind the charge. To
start undoing the damage, we need to educate ourselves about first principles:
What is the role of rights in a democracy, and how does our constitution
protect them? This article goes back to the Founders and reclaims their legacy
for the liberal side.
9 January, 2005: Can You Think Like a Terrorist?
One of the people who read Terrorist Strategy 101 (see below) was Rev. John
Buehrens of First Parish Unitarian-Universalist in Needham, Massachusetts. So I
got invited to give a talk in the Needham Lyceum, a lecture-and-discussion
series that they do on Sunday mornings before their church service. The text
here is some combination of what I planned to say, what I said, and what I wish
29 November 2004: 10 Ideas for 2008. In the
wake of the 2004 elections, many Democrats are open to adopting some Republican
ideas. Here are some Democratic ideas they might try first.
9 November 2004: Terrorist Strategy 101: a quiz.
Ten questions and answers that help you think like Bin Laden.
28 October 2004: Changing the Channel to GOTV. My
adventures as a last-minute Kerry volunteer.
9 September 2004: Polarization Gets Personal. An
anonymous hostile response to my bumperstickers starts me thinking about the
personal effects of the polarized national political debate.
4 July 2004: The Supreme Court Confronts the 9/11
World. On June 28, the Supreme Court announced decisions on three important
civil liberties cases. Who gets to decide whether an American citizen is an
enemy combatant? And is Guantanamo really a lawless zone?
17 June 2004: Unanimous Conflict – the Pledge of
Allegiance decision. For a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court’s decision
on Elk Grove v. Newdow generated a lot of conflict among its four written
opinions. Justice Stevens wrote for the five-member majority, with “concurring”
opinions by Chief Justice Rehnquist, Justice O’Connor, and Justice Thomas.
Justice Thomas’ opinion contained a particularly radical re-visioning of the
2 June 2004: Why the Partial Birth Abortion Ban was
struck down – a summary and commentary on the opinion of District Court
Judge Phyllis Hamilton
25 May 2004: Americans Anonymous – an analysis of
President Bush’s televised speech about Iraq.
20 November 2003: A summary and commentary on the same-sex
marriage decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
16 September 2003: Counting the Wounded in Iraq
April 2003: Jose Padilla, enemy
April 2003-January 2004: The New Hampshire Primary
Welcome to my Open
Source Journalism experiment. Here’s how it started: During the long
lead-up to the 2004 New Hampshire Primary, I got fed up with the kind of
political reporting I was getting from the professionals. All they seemed to
care about were polls and gaffes and sound bytes that didn’t tell me anything
about the question I cared about: Who should be president of the United States?
So I decided to find answers for myself. It was easy. Living here in Nashua,
New Hampshire, I could see presidential candidates almost any day I wanted. Up
until the last few weeks before the primary, the crowds were small and it was
easy to ask questions. I decided I’d try to see all the candidates and ask them
all a question about civil liberties and the Patriot Act.
It was also fun. I grew up in a small town in the Midwest; we didn’t see a
lot of famous people there. I thought I’d start writing up my experiences and
trying to capture some of that fun, as well as the answers I was getting and my
overall sense of what these guys were like.
When the campaign got going in earnest, I learned something else about
mainstream journalists: They’re lazy. They’re more than happy to let some
opposition candidate feed them research, and they usually don’t bother to do
more than the most superficial checking. If a quote is false they might notice,
but if it’s just being taken out of context, they probably won’t.
But in the age of the Internet, you don’t have to have the resources of a
major news organization behind you to do research. Candidates put their
position papers on their web sites. The votes of congresspeople are checkable
online. Transcripts of speeches, committee hearings – it’s all just a good
Google query away. If you want to check something out badly enough, you can. It
usually isn’t even that hard.
So why stop with reporting on candidates? When the Massachusetts same-sex
marriage decision came down, the mainstream news was giving me a lot of sound
and fury, but signifying what? Once again, the Internet empowers the determined
amateur. Courts post their decisions on their web sites, and a lot of judges
are surprisingly good writers – including Margaret Marshall of the
Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Judges want people to understand their reasoning. So you don’t need access to a
law library to read the major decisions, and you don’t have to be a legal
genius to understand them. You just have to have the patience to follow an
argument with a lot of steps.
So here’s my plan: When an issue raises my interest and I can’t find the kind
of reporting I want to see in the mainstream media, I’m going to go it myself,
and post the results here. I hope other people do the same. If enough
determined amateurs do their homework and post the results on the Internet,
collectively we’ll cover the world.