Wednesday, April 27, 2005


I haven't been posting as often as I would like. I know it sounds crazy, but now that I've finished the manuscript, I feel busier than ever (even if much of that busy-ness is long procrastinated non-busy-ness). I've been reading Edward W. Said. I finished Humanism and Democratic Criticism on Sunday. And Now I'm part way through Orientalism.

Great stuff. Said is quite a bit more reader-friendly than a lot of scholars.

Orientalism was published in 1978, but it totally applies to what's happening in the world right now. The book examines the history of Orientalism as an academic study, which he argues was less about understanding than it was about empowering Western civilization (namely England and France, and then later the United States) to dominate and exploit the rest of the world.

Check this out,:

It is natural for men in power to survey from time to time the world with which they must deal... Our contemporary Henry Kissinger does it... , rarely with more express frankness than in his essay "Domestic Structure and Foreign Policy." ...

Kissinger's method in the essay proceeds according to what linguists call binary opposition: that is, he shows that there are two styles in foreign policy, two periods, and so forth. When at the end of the historical part of his argument he is brought face to face with the contemporary world, he divides it according to two halves, the developed and the undeveloped countries. The first half, which is the West, "is deeply committed to the notion that the real world is external to the observer, that knowledge consists of recording and classifying data -- the more accurately the better." Kissinger''s proof for this is the Newtonian revolution, which has not taken place in the developing world: "Cultures which escaped the early impact of Newtonian thinking have retained the essentiial pre-Newtonian view that the world is almost completely internal to the observer." Consequently, he adds, "empirical reality has a much different significance for many of the new coountries than for the West because in a certain sense they never went through the process of discovering it."

...The point [Kissinger] makes is sufficiently unarguable to require no special validation. We had our Newtonian revolution, they didn't. As thinkers, we are better off than they are... Thus the duty of men in the post-Newtonian (real) world is to "construct an international order before a crisis imposes it as necessary": in other words, we must stiill find a way by which the developing world can be contaoined...

Both the traditonal orientalist... and Kissinger conceive of the difference between cultures, first, as creating a battlefront that separates them, and second, as inviting the West to control, contain, and otherwise govern (through superior knowledge and accommodating power) the Other. Wiith what effect and at what considerable expense such militant divisions have been maintained, on one at present needs to be reminded.

But just in case we need be reminded, from the book's preface to the 25th annniversary edition:

[T]here is a differennce between knowledge of other peoples and other times that is the result of understanding, compassion, careful study and analysis for their own sakes, and on the other hand knowledge--if that is what it is--that is part of an overall campaign for self-affirmatiion, belligerency, and outright war... It is surely one of the intellectual catastrophes of history that an imperialist war confected by a small group of unelected US officials (they've been called chicken hawks, since none of them ever served in the millitary) was waged against a devastated Third World dictatorship on thoroughly ideological grounds haviing to do with world dominance, security control, and reasoned for by Orienatlists who betrayed their calling as scholars. The major influences on George W. Bush's Pentagon and National Security Council were men such as Bernard Lewis and Fouad Aami, experts on the Arab and Isllamic world who helped the American hawks think aboout such preposterous phenomena as the Arab mind and centuries-old Islamic decline that only American power could reverse. Today bookstores in the United States are filled with shabby screeds bearing screaming headlines about Islam and terror, Islam exposed, the Arab threat, and the Muslim menace, all of them written by political polemists pretending to knowledge imparted to them and others by experts who have supposedly penetrated the heart of these strange Oriental peoples over there who have been such a terrible thorn in "our" flesh. Accompanying such warmongering expertise have been the omnipresent CNNs and Fox News Channels of this world, plus myriad numbers of evangelical and right-wing radio hosts, plus innumerable tabloids and even middlebrow jourals, all of them recycling the same unverifiable fictions and vast generalization so as to stir up "America" against the foreign devil.

Even with all its terrible failings and its appalling dictator (who was partly created by US policy two decades ago), were Iraq to have been the world's largest exporter of bananas or oranges, surely there would have been no war, no hysteria over mysteriously vanished weapons of mass destruction, no transporting of an ennormmous army, navy, and air force 7000 miles away to destroy a country scarcely known even to the educated Ammeriican, all in the name of "freredom." Without a well-organized sense that these people over there were not like "us" and didn't appreciate "our" values... there would have been no war.

Thursday, April 21, 2005


I went to the new Plaza library yesterday. It's unbelievably gorgeous. The view is stunning.

Of course, it pissed me off, too. Why can't there be anything this nice on my side of town? Aren't they trying to revitalize Blue Parkway and Cleveland? Isn't HR Block already down with the plan? Why couldn't this spectacular new library be part of that deal? Especially when it's paid for with TIF (tax-increment financing). Isn't TIF supposed to revitalizes areas that need a little extra help? Not the Plaza. And especially not to build a new office building for a law firm that had been a downtown tenant for, like, a century. (Wait a minute -- aren't we trying to vitalize downtown? Why give tax incentives to encourage longtime downtown residents to move to the Plaza -- our most prime real estate?)

Seems like everyone's forgotten the political blunder that led to the library. When the cronies in the Economic Development Corporation decided that it would be a good idea to raze an apartment complex that is on the national historic registry to make way for a new office building for law-Goliath Blackwell Sanders (major campaign contributors, of course), and use future tax revenue to do it. When that backfired they came up with this "give them a library" scheme.

Which is cool. But still. Awesome though the library is, it's yet another monument to the corrupt, racist, dumbassed eco-devo sluttiness of our city's leaders.

(BTW. Why does the Plaza branch have Wifi while the branch in my neighborhood doesn't? I think that's one I'm definitely gonna complain about.)

marcus leach!

This just in: Former Central debater and main subject of my book has just won the first election of what will hopefully be a long political career. In a landslide victory, Marcus Leach and the 'Roo Party claimed leadership of UMKC's Student Governnment Association.


From what I understand, the campaign got a little nasty toward the end. Marcus called me on Tuesday freaking out about how someone was distributing incendiary flyers made up to look as if Marcus had distributed them. But this was a dmbassed move of mammoth proportions, and the Roo party prevailed. Big!

This dude's goin' places! Word is that local Democratic insiders have already been talking with him about what public office he should seek first.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

arrogant media

I had vague knowledge of this. I seem to recall that among all the boilerplate language about Lyndon Baines Johnson was a factoid that he was worshiped by a group of folks on a small island off the coast of New Guinea.

It was one of those classic "man bites dog" stories, and the American press ate it up. But, as Fortean Times reports, "these press reports portrayed the islanders as intellectually confused and incapable of the most basic logic. The trouble is, it wasn't true. Even more troubling, these influential publications engaged in what we might term 'armchair journalism', not even bothering to send their own reporters into the field to see at first hand what was happening. The Time, Newsweek and Times accounts are conspicuous in that there are no bylines whatsoever – they appear to have been taken from wire reports. Later reports in other publications actually claimed that the islanders worshipped Johnson as a god."

Turns out the whole thing was a scam so sophisticated it was completely lost on the so-called sophisticates of the West.

In 1964, Dorothy Billings, who is now an associate professor of anthropology at Wichita State University, traveled to the island to see for herself what was happening.

"What Billings discovered was an elaborate soap opera, a piece of political theatre and a game of high stakes," FT reports. "She found New Hanover to have a rich history of using play-acting and bluffing as a negotiation ploy that could be used in order to embarrass a foe."

The article continues: "According to Billings, the Australian authorities responsible for overseeing the island had taken the 'cult' story at face value and were clueless as to what was motivating the islanders' 'strange' fixation on Lyndon Johnson. It was a cultural misunderstanding – the equivalent of a non-English speaker growing confused after hearing someone say that a friend has 'kicked the bucket.' The phrase has nothing to do with kicking or buckets, but is an idiomatic way of saying that someone has died, a bit of Western slang not intended to be taken literally. The Australian officials did know that there was a tax protest movement on the island that threatened to make them look bad, so they were more than happy to broadcast the tale about a strange 'cult' of irrational natives to the international press in hopes of making the islanders themselves look bad. And they succeeded."

Fascinating story. But it reminds me again of how arrogant we are in the West, especially those of us in the media. For my money, I have to say that the NYT is one of the worst offenders, which this story clearly shows. This is another example of why we need to uphold diversity as a top priority, and we need to rethink what diversity means. So long as diversity is framed around a concept of cultural superiority, we will continue to misunderstand the messages conveyed by our neighbors in an ever shrinking world. And that, I believe, will only increase the potential for growing conflict and ultimately threaten our privileged position on the global stage.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

mab + kcc

According to Byron, Montgomery Bell Academy's hairiest gentleman/scholar/athlete (pictured above), the second stage of the MBA-KCC exchange was a howling success. And I couldn't agree more. I'm not sure how I can avoid sounding corny and sentimental here, but this experience has taught me that we should never underestimate the power of youth, especially teenagers. With the right amount of support and respect, young folks can bring an order to our world that is sorely needed but is too often beyond the grasp of so-called adults.

I have to admit, I went to Nashville with no expectation to be affected personally in any significant way. I had been to MBA's campus several times, and I assumed I had it all figured out: It's a phenomenal school where all the students are males and most of them are white. But I was profoundly moved by the students' thoughtful and enthusiastic response to our presence on their campus, and by the sincere compassion of all the teachers and administrators I had the privilege of speaking with.

I also must admit, though, that I felt acute culture shock when I first arrived at the school on Monday morning. It was a lot like how I felt when I first visited Central High four years ago. At that point, I had never been around so many blacks in one place at one time, and it took a bit of time before I was able to set aside my discomfort borne on a life lived in isolation from people of color. Arriving at MBA this week, I brought with me a personal history in revision, where being a minority among so-called minorities is more the norm for me. It was truly startling at first to suddenly find myself among such a high concentration of white males, and I needed some time to work through my newly formed prejudices.

Throughout this exchange, I've had a running dialogue with my beloved Allie about whether or not it's an injustice that a school like MBA even exists. She insists that its exclusion of females is flatly wrong. I countered with information I'd gleaned about all-girls schools and how they can be effective. She agreed, but insisted that the need for such schools doesn't justify a similar arrangement for boys because, in a patriarchal society, boys enjoy the privileged side of oppression. (Her most unbeatable argument: There's no Nashville private school for girls with a debate program, much less one as strong as MBA's) Our discussions got heated at times, in part because I felt the need to defend my new friends at MBA, whom I believe to be good peeps through and through. But when I actually got to the school, I understood her perspective with a force so heavy that I felt almost debilitated.

We can read theoretical books all day and all night, and on an intellectual level we can understand folks like Michel Foucault, Paulo Freire, Jonathan Kozol and William Spanos when they say that cultural institutions like the school system are where norms of oppressive disparity are manufactured, strengthened and maintained. But to see it firsthand, and to truly comprehend it, is, at least for me, as nightmarish as being suddenly sucked into the world of the most frightening sociopolitical science fiction. The inhabitants seem less like humans than raw materials in varying stages of the production process for injustice. Central's coach, Jane Rinehart, often says that the role of schools is to mold children into their parents so they may inherit their places in society. At Central, it's clear to me that the kids are being taught how to be prisoners and servants. At MBA I saw in the confident swagger of so many of the young, white men the walk of future leaders, of inheriters of our nation's wealth.

But then something amazing happened.

All along, Michael Risen and Alan Coverstone, coaches at MBA, had wanted one of our debaters, Geoffery Stone, to deliver his debate speach to the entire MBA student body. It had looked for a while as though this might not happen, because the school had scheduled the New York Time's science editor to speak at that day's assembly. But the speaker had to cancel due to an illness in the family, so we were on.

A little recap on Geoffery's speech: He raps the entire thing to a Dr. Dre beat. The speech draws a metaphorical parallel between the United Nations, the topic high schoolers are debating this year, and the separate and unequal nature of America's school system (which all the natiions of the world symbolize) and the racial heterogeniety of the debate community (the UN).

The MBA folks rigged it so the hip hop beats boomed on the PA system in the school's biggest auditorium, and Geoffery was given a hand-held microphone to spread his message.

It sounded phenomenal, so loud and powerful. I've heard Geoffery's speech so many times this year that it has become somewhat mundane for me. But here in this setting, with Geoffery facing more than 650 young men raised amid such different circumstances, the speech felt more profound than ever. It was as though I was learning the facts anew:

You know we got the achievement gap
Where blacks score lower on tests, that’s a slap
These kids weren’t born dumb, don’t you dare say so
It’s cause the schools are messed up that their scores are so low
And there’s something else I want you to know
The longer blacks stay in the system the farther down they go.

My school is almost one hundred percent black
Just 17 out of 3,000 kids tested proficient in math
It’s the same in English, social studies and science
“Academic deficient” is how we’re defined
The only foreign language we get is Spanish
French or Russian? Teacher said I wouldn’t understand it.
Walk in my school it’s like goin’ to jail
Metal detectors guard our academic hell.
Early last month there was a fight at my school
Two girls hitting each other, tryin to be cool
Has your school ever had a fight?
Maybe some teachers break it up, right?
Not at my school
The state believes all blacks are fools
At Central they treated us like rioters.
They called in 12 cop cars and a helicopter

Geoffery ended his speech with a little free-style flourish, saying what a privilege it was to be at MBA, and urging everyone to stick around after school to watch a public debate.

Immediately, the entire MBA student body lept to its feet in applause. We were told many times throughout the rest of the day that such an enthusiastic response is very rare at MBA.

The school's headmaster, Bradford Gioia, approached the podium. He appeared to be quite moved. "This reminds us," he said with sincere conviction, "that separatism is wrong."

The students returned to their classes, and many of them discussed what they'd just seen.

This is exactly what I had hoped would happen when debater Ebony Rose and I first started pushing for Central's debate squad to employ a radical new argumentative approach, though, at the time, I couldn't have in my wildest imagination have conceived such a scenario.

A primary inspiration for our debate strategy this season came from a lecture Jonathan Kozol delivered at Central last October. He had talked for nearly two hours about how terribly unfair America's education system is, but he ended on a hopeful note. He insisted the situation could be changed, though not through top-down political strategies. He said it would take “a sweeping upsurge in moral consciousness from young people In this country. It’s going to take a passionate determination from the children of the priviledged. Theirs is a tarnished victory. They know they couldn’t have won if the game was fair.”

I was so moved by his words that I believed that debate would be the ideal venue to trigger such a moral upsurge. I thought that if our debaters were to tell their story over and over again to a captive audience at debate tournaments, they might reach a few people and motivate them to take action. And this has happened. Yes, we've had our share of contentious rounds, and derisive words launched against us. But we've also had people walk out of rounds saying that we'd changed their lives. We've heard that our arguments have moved at least one of our opponents to try to form an Urban Debate League in his home city.

But this moment at MBA was the ultimate. Not only because it very likely did affect at least a few young minds at that fabulous school, but because it further challenged me to distance myself from prejudice. I am ashamed to admit, but I must, that at one time I actually felt hate for the MBA debate squad. After our first contentious encounter with them, we bumped into them at a restaurant in Kentucky, before the start of a debate tournament. They were dressed in blue blazers and khakis and ballcaps, and all but one of them were white, and they seemed to me as though they'd stepped right off the screen from a Hollywood movie. They were the bad guys -- the squad the poor, black underdog heroes rise up and overthrow.

But the power of our inevitable friendships overcame that, and my day at MBA obliterated the last of my polemic categorizations. All through the day I met teachers and administrators who are deeply motivated to foster compassion and sensitivity among their students. And this showed in the kindly, often humble demeaner of the students I met. And while I'm still uncomfortable with the fact that schools such as MBA are calibrated to produce leaders while schools as Central produce followers, I'm heartened to know that such thoughtful adults are there to temper what could easily become a breeding ground for calloused entitlement.

I only wish these folks could be cloned. Because we really need help at Central High. And Northeast. And Southeast. And so on. And so on.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

native son

So I'm reading Richard Wright's Native Son, and I can't help but pull for Bigger to get away with killing the white girl. And I'm trying to figure out what the white girl symbolizes, and why Bigger feels so liberated by having killed her. I want to say that she stands for all that is coveted by male-dominated white-supremacist, American society. But then, she was a Communist sympathizer who was helping plot the revolution that would give blacks -- "Your people," as she put it to Bigger -- equal footing in the US.

I guess I'm intrigued by how Bigger would come to finally feel truly free through such a heinous and stupid crime. What's Wright trying to say about race relations in America? How does it apply to where we are now? And where's it all going? I'm assuming he'll get caught and imprisoned. Will he continue to feel liberated? If so, what on earth does that mean?

Interesting experience, reading this book. It's weird, I want to cut a debate case out of it, preferably a negative argument. But i have a hunch I'd be stepping on dangerous ground, what with the murder of white woomenn and all.

Friday, April 08, 2005

john mcenroe

So I'm reading Richard Wright's Native Son, and I can't help but pull for Bigger to get away with killing the white girl. And I'm trying to figure out what the white girl symbolizes, and why Bigger feels so liberated by having killed her. I want to say that she stands for all that is coveted by male-dominated white-supremacist, American society. But then, she was a Communist sympathizer who was helping plot the revolution that would give blacks -- "Your people," as she put it to Bigger -- equal footing in the US.

I guess I'm intrigued by how Bigger would come to finally feel truly free through such a heinous and stupid crime. What's Wright trying to say about race relations in America? How does it apply to where we are now? And where's it all going? I'm assuming he'll get caught and imprisoned. Will he continue to feel liberated? If so, what on earth does that mean?

Interesting experience, reading this book. It's weird, I want to cut a debate case out of it, preferably a negative argument. But i have a hunch I'd be stepping on dangerous ground, what with the murder of white woomenn and all.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

yemen moka matari

I was getting my car washed a few weeks back, waiting in the waiting room at TLC up north of the river, flipping through way-outdated magazines, when I spotted this dumb little article about roasting your own coffee at home. And I was like Bing! new hobby. But then I went to Broadway Roasting Company to buy a bag of beans and I got to talking to the scraggly dude behind the counter, asking whether he'd sell green beans, and he said no, and I was disappointed at first, but within two minutes I was convinced I don't need to roast my own damn beans, in fact, that's the last thing I want to do.

It was like this: He was talking all connaisseur like, describing the subtle sub flavors of various beans, telling me how coffee is best three days after it's been roasted because that's when the gasses release, or something like that, and, so long as I have a Ziplock, the beans'll be damn good for a couple of weeks, which is longer than a pound lasts in our house anyway.

So I go there today and I ask what's good. That's the cool new thing for me, the hobby part of it, going into an awesome "locals only" type place, asking what's good and knowing I'll be walking out with something exotic and exciting.

Guy says, "Yemen moka matari."

Real smooth, he says, with a chocolate aftertaste and "a hint of blueberry," no kidding, he said that.

So I buy a pound. Fourteen bucks. It's rare. They don't get it in much.

Yemen is on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Some say this stuff is the oldest coffee on earth, though others say it's second oldest, after Ethiopian. The "moka" name comes from the name of a shpping port in Yemen.

I brew it up. And I'll be damned if I can't taste those blueberries. Very smooth. I've gulped down two cups already and I don't feel the least bit paranoid.

Life's alright, sometimes. Especially when you take a break from the news. I'm releived to have the first draft of the book done. But, truth be told, I've been suffering a little PPD, if such a thing is possible. All I know is I've felt a little down. But I bought coffee today and I made my first trip to the best nursery in the metro area, Longview Gardens, and I got a heep of seeds and a dozen brooccoli plants. Tomorrow it all begins again. It's sunny and warm and I had Kanye West blaring real load in the car with the windows down. "Family Business," over and over again. Beautiful song. I wish we could get Stevie out of jail.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


I'm heading off to Nashville this Sunday with the Central debate folks for leg two of the MBA-KCC excange. There'll be a public debate and a picnic and a generallly awesome time had by all. This whole experience has been incredible for me. I hope it has been for the guys as well. I wish more schools would do this. It's like future leaders of the world meeting before the future has arrived.

I've been to Nashville a few times. Seems like a very cool town. First time I went I checked out the Grand Ol' Opry. The show we watched was sponsored by Joggin' in a Jug. There was this fast-talking guy saying how much Joggin in a Jug will do for my old constitution that I was like, Dang! I gotta get some a that!! But after that I traveled all through the South for two weeks and I couldn't find it anywhere. I'm still kinda miffed.

Nashville's downtown and the area around Vanderbilt University seem pretty cosmopolitan, in an expensive blue jean sort of way. Seems to me they're a notch or two above KC in the hip meter. Course, we got no stars, and they got tons, even if they're all country, 'cept for Al.

I found the picture above when I Googled "Nashville Joe." Of course as soon as I saw it I had a song by one of my all-time favs, Johnny Horton, ringing in my head:

Cotton Eyed Joe, better git yer britches on
Cotton Eyed Joe better tie yer shoes

Then I went I got stuck on the next line and went to look it up and saw -- duh! -- it's Sleepy Eyed John:

Well a way down yonder on the Candy Creek
I whittled out a fiddle from a wagon seat.
I tuned my fiddle and I rubbed my bow
Play a little tune wherever I go.


Sleepy-eyed John, you better your britches on
Sleepy-eyed John, you better tie your shoe.
Sleepy-eyed John, you better get your britches on
Try to get to heaven 'fore the Devil gets to you.

Well, Sleepy-eyed John he stole a goose
The goose she clucked but she couldn't get loose.
Said John to the goose "If you don't be still,
Well miss our supper down in Candyville."


Well Sleepy-eyed John he had a wooden leg.
The wooden leg was nothing but a little wooden peg.
With one shoe off and one shoe on
He'll do the double shuffle 'till the cows come home.


Now I got twenty dollars for to build a fence
I took my money and I ain't worked since.
Sold my buggy and I sold my plow
I wouldn't take a dollar for my journey now.


Well over the hickory and down the pine
The racoon left and the old hound whined.
John said "Sic 'em" and the racoon left
They crossed Green River in a minute and a half.


Good tune. Ebony and Geoffery go wild every time I play it.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005


I have a goal of checking out every used bookstore in Kansas City. So far I've been to the usual haunts -- Spivey's, Bloomsday, Prospero's and the Crossroad's Infoshop. On Monday I went with Ebony and Geoffery. It was funny. At each store, I went straight for the black studies section, and they went to philosophy. I loaded up on books by black radicals. Ebony got a bunch of Marxist books. And Geoffery went old school, with some Plato, Rouseau and Hobbes.

Right now I'm reading Native Son for the first time. So far, so deep.

He hated his family because he knew that they were suffering and that he was powerless to help them. He knew that the moment he allowed himself to feel the fullness of how they lived, the shame and misery of their lives, he would be swept out of himself with fear and despair. So he held toward them an attitude of iron reserve; he lived with them, but behind a wall, a curtain. And toward himself he was even more exacting. He knew that the moment he allowed what his life meant to enter fully into his consciousness, he would either kill himself or someone else. So he denied himself and acted tough.

Books I've bought:

Why WeCan't Wait, Martiin Luther King, Jr.
Fences, August Wilson
If They Come in the Morning, Angela Y. Davis
Black Boy, Riichard Wright
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Rhetoric of Black Revolution>, Arthur Smith
The Shadow that Scares Me, Dick Gregory

I'm digging into all this stuff because I want to write some debate cases that utilize black authors almost exclusively.

What books have you folks bought recently?

Which brings me to a point I've been meaning to make on thiis blog lately. Why don't hardly any of you post comments?

If you all would get in the habit of dashing off a line or two whenever you stop in for a visit, I'd be just as happy as can be. Don't worry about how you might come oof. All I want is the company.

Monday, April 04, 2005

done, for now


What a strange year.

I can definitely relate to all the writers who say that writing a book is agonizing. I definitely had moments of extreme doubt and pain. But I also had moments where I was like, Good lord! Is it supposed to be this easy?

Looking back, it seems as though I didn't work very hard at all. Most days I only put in a couple of hours. And there were, I'm ashamed to say, long stretches where I didn't work at all (actually, these were the times when I felt most miserable).

But the numbers don't lie. I was working.

Pages: 630
Words: 182,043
Characters (no spaces): 859,158
Characters (with spaces): 1,041,027
Paragraphs: 3,360
Line: 14,117

That's like 37 Pitch cover stories. In a year.

Ok. I know I'm bragging. But wouldn't you? I feel ecstatic!

Of course, the real agony is yet to come. When the editor sends it back all covered with red ink.

At least I hope. I want to be worked hard. I want this book to freakin' rock!

Friday, April 01, 2005

lapdog crony

Earlier this week, I wrote my senators Kit Bond and Jim Talent urging them to reject the move to limit filibusters on judge appointments.

Today, Talent wrote back:

Dear Mr. Miller:

Thank you for contacting me to voice your concerns regarding S.Res. 138, Senator Frist's resolution to amend Rule 22, which governs the filibuster. I appreciate the time you have taken to share your views with me, and I welcome the opportunity to respond.

The filibuster, which allows a single senator to block a vote by prolonging debate indefinitely, has long played a significant role in the American system of government. Unlimited debate goes back to the origins of the Senate, which was designed as the more deliberative chamber of Congress. Not until 1917 was a rule (Rule 22) instituted to put some restraints on debate; a two-thirds vote could cut it off. In 1975, the requirement was changed to three-
fifths of the Senate, or 60 senators - regardless of how many are present.

As you mentioned in your letter, Senator Frist's proposal would gradually lower the threshold required to break a filibuster on executive nominations. Currently, it takes 60 votes to end a filibuster. This resolution would lower the number of votes needed to 57 on the second cloture motion, 54 on the third cloture motion and 51 on the fourth cloture motion. At this point, the debate on the nomination would end and a confirmation vote would be taken.

I am not a big supporter of the filibuster in general. But I do believe that if it is going to be used it should be reserved for
issues of the greatest national significance, not abused for political reasons. The recent filibusters are unfair to the President's judicial nominees and bad for the country. Worst of all, they are poisoning the well of the Senate at a time when we should be working together to get things done on behalf of the nation's security, health care and jobs.

I support Senator Frist in his efforts. I believe this is a reasonable manner in which to amend the filibuster procedure so that it can no longer be abused.

Again, thank you for contacting me.

Thank you for your email. To contact me on this or any other subject, please go to


Senator Jim Talent

What a bunch of bunk. Conservative my ass.