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"Dancing with Justice"

January 8, 2001

Satire by
Lauren Weinstein


Greetings. My "somewhat" right-of-center friend Steven wanted to know how I felt about the nomination of former Senator John Ashcroft to head the Justice Department under the upcoming Cheney-Bush administration. I had to admit that I wasn't completely up-to-date with all of the latest developments ...

"There's been some controversy over the nomination, hasn't there?" I asked.

"Well, a few harsh words here and there, but we're hoping that Senatorial Courtesy will carry the day," said Steven.

"How does that work, exactly?"

"The idea is that it doesn't matter how extreme your views are -- if you're a former Senator you pretty much get automatically confirmed most of the time. It's an extra perk, sort of like a free country-club membership. In fact, Senator Hatch said that if anyone tries to block the Ashcroft nomination, he'll take it personally. I think that's clearly the right kind of basis to be making these kinds of confirmation decisions. Keep it personal and don't let the nominee's record get undue attention -- the details just confuse people."

"Pretty nifty deal. What if the nominee were an outright racist or a seriously loose cannon?"

"That could be a problem. But in Ashcroft's case, nobody is accusing him of racism. Some hotheads are just upset because he has strong viewpoints," said Steven.

"I heard that his campaign distorted the record of Judge Ronnie White to derail the judge's appointment to the federal bench -- and that Ashcroft has a pretty grim record dealing with other issues involving blacks like desegregation and other appointments. Is it true that he gives interviews to white-supremacist magazines and used the term 'patriots' to refer to Confederate war heroes? What's patriotic about fighting to keep an entire race as slaves?"

"Calm down, Lauren. Just because some segregationists seem to like Ashcroft doesn't mean that Ashcroft is one of them. Hell, there were Nazis who drank milk. Is everyone who drinks milk a Nazi?"

"No, I suppose not. Where does the Senator stand on other issues?"

"Well, you've probably heard that there are Internet folks who think Ashcroft would be good since he's apparently in favor of relaxing encryption controls," said Steven.

"That's interesting, but of course it's just one issue. What's his view of the Communications Decency Acts, Internet content filtering, that sort of thing?" I asked.

"The Senator has been very outspoken about 'inappropriate' speech, including that on the Web. I think you can depend on Senator Ashcroft to do his best to make the Internet a safe, sane, and moral place again. These censorsh... uh, filtering efforts should be widely implemented, and let's start prosecuting Web sites that insist on displaying material that's inappropriate for children!"

"But we know that those filtering systems are generally incredibly inaccurate and draconian, tend to block all manner of unrelated speech, and most of them won't even provide a list of which sites they block ..."

"Well, nothing's perfect," said Steven. "You have to plow forward with whatever you've got!"

"Sort of like the 'Carnivore' controversy, huh?"


"How about Senator Ashcroft's views on choice and abortion? I've heard that he favors forcing women who are raped or are victims of incest to carry the babies to term, and would view some conventional forms of contraception as abortion."

"Well, I think that the Senator feels that the life of the baby should be paramount, starting from the instant it's a fertilized cell. And anyway, why shouldn't a rapist have the right to descendents just like anyone else? You think most of those guys could find women who'd voluntarily have their babies?"

"I hadn't thought of that," I said. "By the way, just out of curiosity, is it true that Senator Ashcroft's church considers dancing to be immoral?"

"That's what I'm told," said Steven. "But I don't think the Senator has any interest in shutting down Web sites about dancing, so long as they're tasteful, moral, and don't show too much cleavage. So I think many ballroom dancing and waltzing sites might be A-OK!"

"That is a relief," I said, "for a moment there I was concerned."

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Lauren Weinstein

For information about the author, please see: http://www.vortex.com/lauren

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