Been watching the news these last few days? I sure have. Been seeing a lot of John McCain on TV? Me too.
McCain is on the tube these days for two big reasons: Showtime has a movie about him, "Faith of Our Father," coming out; and he's the big-brain behind this "fillibuster compromise" business. The big-picture translation of all this television convergence around the media's favorite Republican not named Schwarzenegger is, of course, that the race for the 2008 GOP presidential nominee is ON in a big way, and McCain wants to be IT.
More power to him, I say. I like McCain. Nice fellow. He's completely, utterly wrong on the censorship issue, but aside from that I like the guy.
The fillibuster fight has been one of the more unfortunate political spectacles of recent months, as it's mostly boiled down to the following: The Democrats holding up the vote a smattering of judicial nominees via fillibuster, a somewhat underhanded use of Senate loopholes to get their way. The Republicans responded with the threat of using their own somewhat underhanded use of Senate loopholes to get their way. Just because Democracy works doesn't mean it's always pleasant to watch. In any case, McCain got together 7 of his guys and 7 of the other guys, enough votes to lay a smackdown on either side, and hammered out a deal by which the GOP agrees to jettison 7 out of 10 of the contested Bush-nominee judges, and the Dems agree that they can keep using the fillibuster but ONLY in "extraordinary circumstances."
Naturally, no one in the Senate or media would be crass enough to actually use the word "Abortion" in any of this, but thats exactly what this is ALL about. The whole of Washington is still largely convinced that it was the combined forces of anti-gay and anti-choice "values voters," (aka "The Religious Right") that won the day for the 2nd Bush term, and tops on the list of the "values" gang's wishlist is the dream of Dubya appointing an anti-choice justice to the Supreme Court. Everybody got that? Anyone who tries to tell you that any of the other Conservative got-to issues have got jack to do with this is misinformed or blowing smoke up your tush: Bush (and, by extrapolation, his likely judicial picks) is in terms of economics the equal of any Democrat on government spending, and he stands to the left of Hillary Clinton on illegal immigration. The GOP agenda right now is almost-entirely devoted to pleasing religious "conservatives". To any of y'all who consider yourself old-school, mainline, small-government conservatives, the GOP does not care much about you right now.
So, then, the judicial fight is all about judges who may or may not bring religious fundamentalism into their decisionmaking, and with the McCain "deal" the anti-choice side basically loses this round big time. Anyone with political saavy or an inside track in this can spell it for you: "extraordinary circumstances" translates nicely to "the moment Bush nominates a 'pro-life' judge to the Supreme Court." I'm not telling anyone how they should feel about this, but me, I'm exhaling a big sigh of relief. If you've been reading this site for awhile, you're not surprised.
Anyhow, that was the start of a really bad week for the so-called "religious right." Gut-check #2 came today, as the House passed a bill to expand embryonic stem cell research. You remember embryonic stem-cell research, right? It's the bold new field of medical research that scientists strongly suspect may hold the secret to curing all kinds of massive health problems, currently under severe restriction in the U.S. (thus leading us to fall rapidly behind much of Europe and Asia in terms of this science) because the president and the ideological fundamentalists with which he keeps company believe that life begins at conception. Remember that? Well, the House has voted, largely across party-lines, to strip away much of his restrictive ban. Bush has threatened a veto, which would be his first. CNN has details here:
Now, I wouldn't dream of suggesting that holding back beneficial medical research for everyone in the name of some people's personal religious beliefs is at all wrong or grotesquely un-American, but to my mind we should really be level and fair about this: If we can hold up medical science because they believe embryos might have souls, where can I fill out a petition to ban all logging and construction in the pacific northwest because the woodlands there might be the home of Bigfoot? (and before you zip on down the "comments" button, yes, I do in fact believe in God. And Bigfoot.)
The terms neither side wants to use in regards to the stem-cell issue is "cloning." Most of the stem-cell scientists agree that the eventual easiest and cleanest way to get them would be to clone embryonic-stage cells to harvest stem cells en masse, (it's called "theraputic cloning") but as this would involve the dreaded "human cloning" notion it's still under heavy ban because, um... well, because cloning is "spooky" and makes people think of mad-scientists and bad movies. And speaking of bad movies...
...into the cloning fray comes the latest from Michael Bay, a "serious" Science Fiction film called "The Island." Essentially a complete knockoff of a forgotten 70s scifi-paranoia stinker called "Parts: The Clonus Horror," here we've got a film where an eeeeeevil corporation is keeping copies of the rich and famous on an island so they can chop them up for parts as needed. This is, of course, a Michael Bay film after all and the trailers make it abundantly clear that this is mainly the setup to get a cast full of otherwise-talented actors into car chases, always right around sunset.
But hey, I'm sure that "The Island" will be met by the American people with rationality and calm, and that the country certainly will understand that islands full of xeroxed Ewan McGregors getting vivisected is exactly the opposite of what theraputic cloning entails, and that the opportunistic Religious "Right" will definately not invoke the name of this film whenever they try to hold back the medicines which could one day save MY life, or yours, or your loved ones. Right?
I mean... wherever we fall on this issue, the majority of us are intelligent enough NOT to derive our socio-political beliefs from Michael Bay movies... aren't we?