Another Friday afternoon grab-bag (this is how I compile things when I’m too braindead to think of snappy taglines):

(1) So was the whole marriage amendment theater indeed a “fumble”, or did it turn out exactly the way the Republicans wanted it to?  Thomas Frank:

Failure on the cultural front serves to magnify the outrage felt by conservative true believers; it mobilizes the base. Failure sharpens the distinctions between conservatives and liberals. Failure allows for endless grandstanding without any real-world consequences that might upset more moderate Republicans or the party’s all-important corporate wing. You might even say that grand and garish defeat — especially if accompanied by the ridicule of the sophisticated — is the culture warrior’s very object.

The issue is all-important; the issue is incapable of being won. Only when the battle is defined this way can it achieve the desired results, have its magical polarizing effect. Only with a proposed constitutional amendment could the legalistic, cavilling Democrats be counted on to vote “no,” and only with an offensive so blunt and so sweeping could the universal hostility of the press be secured.

Losing is prima facie evidence that the basic conservative claim is true: that the country is run by liberals; that the world is unfair; that the majority is persecuted by a sinister elite. And that therefore you, my red-state friend, had better get out there and vote as if your civilization depended on it.

(2) Every time I make a comment about the gravely injured state of democracy in the US under the current administration, I get at least one — ok, only one, and you know who you are — comment about my paranoid hyperbole. So let me point you to this important essay by TNR’s Jonathan Chait, in which he demonstrates how “This administration is, in fact, the least democratic in the modern history of the presidency.”

(3) According to this CS Monitor story:

…paved parts of the continental United States have grown to cover a total area nearly as large as Ohio and slightly larger than the nation’s herbaceous wetlands. The smothering effect of these impermeable surfaces alters watersheds by increasing runoff, reduces the number and diversity of species among fish and aquatic insects, and degrades wetlands, according to Christopher Eldridge and fellow mapmakers at the NOAA National Geophysical Data Center in Boulder, Colo.

(Here is the consumption map referred to in the article.)  Now, by all means, let’s clear some more land.  Coincidentally, hungry west coast pelicans, apparently driven eastward (to Phoenix?!) in their search for food, are crash-landing on some of that pavement, fooled by the shimmery mirages that rise from it.

(4) Cheney scenarios, yesterday and today.

(5) Proving that no conflict of interest is beneath contempt, the committee “investigating” DeLay’s ethics issues includes 4 members who received contributions from DeLay’s PAC.

(6) Barbara Ehrenreich on groupthink:

Groupthink has become as American as apple pie and prisoner abuse; in fact, it’s hard to find any thinking these days that doesn’t qualify for the prefix “group.” Our standardized-test-driven schools reward the right answer, not the unsettling question. Our corporate culture prides itself on individualism, but it’s the “team player” with the fixed smile who gets to be employee of the month. In our political culture, the most crushing rebuke is to call someone “out of step with the American people.” Zip your lips, is the universal message, and get with the program.

(7) Via Eschaton, Florida Rep. Corrine Brown was censured for calling the 2000 “election” a “coup d’etat,” and she didn’t use any swear words at all… I guess the House has much stricter rules on decorum than the Senate.

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