Sunday, June 19, 2005
The “center-right” of the party has, over the last several years, presented the Democratic Party and voters on the left with a stark either/or choice: either the party move in “their” direction on economic issues and national security issues, or the party will continue to lose.
I like Josh Marshall a lot, but some of the people he has posting on his new website really seem to be comfortable vomiting up the most hackneyed conventional wisdom without spending more than 5 seconds actually trying to offer something new or honest. Take this person named Rick Heller. He calls himself a “centrist” (I put it in quotes because the term has become a misnomer). Today, he says - without any evidence whatsoever - that “Liberals are those who are a little softer on national security and perhaps not as budget conscious as we’d like." This is the same kind of garbage that self-serving self-promoters like Peter Beinart spew, while claiming to speak for Democrats. And that’s what it is - garbage.
Sirota does a fine job of answering Mr. Heller’s assertions, but that attack shows up frequently in print, in chat show interviews and in comment threads on blogs. The other attack commonly leveled by “centrists” is used by Mr. Heller in the comments: “your economic populism isn’t going to work if you are so demeaning to people who are more culturally conservative than you.".
I join Mr. Sirota in calling bullshit.
What exactly are writers and activists on the left doing when we try to assert our values, when we put forth assertions that the road to relevance for the Democratic Party is to actually FIGHT for our ideals, for the ideals that spring forth from the enlightenment roots of the very founding of our country? As I put it in an earlier piece:
Idealists set the horizon. Idealists point out the top of the mountain, giving a political movement, a political party a goal to aim for. Without them, all youâ€™re left with is a bunch of maps without destinations.
To attack those of us advocating for a broad leftism as a winning formula for the party, many will reference iconic, and often unrepresentative, activists from the past. Advocating for feminism and women’s health? Why, you’re just like Andrea Dworkin and you must carry the S.C.U.M. Manifesto around in your bookbag! Peace activist? Oh, you must be a pacifist that has forgotten that we were attacked! Fighting for minority opportunity and full suffrage? You’re obviously so mired in “identity politics” that you’ve forgotten that we’re ALL Americans. An advocate of Universal Healthcare ... you must be a socialist! Since we have so much in common with these charicatures, therefore we must hold the more “conservative” American culture in utter contempt! Time for us to shut up now, since we are plainly outside the mainstream. No notice is paid that many voters, writers and activist groups on the left work more closely together than they’ve EVER worked in the past. The powerful efforts put forth in support of John Kerry’s half-hearted campaign last year are forgotten, and the left is blamed for the loss, utilizing these distortions of the 21st Century left.
It’s becoming clear that the strategy outlined by Thomas Frank has actually been a two-pronged attack. While the right has used cultural issues, primarily through preachers in evangelical churches, to persuade working class and middle class voters to vote against their best interests, they’ve also funneled money through think tanks and corporate allies into the upper echelons of the Democratic Party itself. They’ve persuaded many in the party and supporters outside the main party machinery, through oganizations like the DLC and it’s spinoff the NDN, that the best hope for success is to move away from populism and from the various groups on the left who are too “single issue” driven or “shrill” or “outside the mainstream”.
The American Prospect outlined this effort back in the spring after Gore’s loss to GWB:
Simon Rosenberg, the former field director for the DLC who directs the New Democrat Network, a spin-off political action committee, says, “We’re trying to raise money to help them lessen their reliance on traditional interest groups in the Democratic Party. In that way,” he adds, “they are ideologically freed, frankly, from taking positions that make it difficult for Democrats to win."
Of course, these positions make it hard for Democrats to win because so many of them DON’T believe them, and thanks to their reliance on corporate cash, the majority of them holding office now have NOTHING in common with the constituents feeling increasing pain from Republican policies, policies they helped usher into law. Who helped organize this movement?
While the DLC will not formally disclose its sources of contributions and dues, the full array of its corporate supporters is contained in the program from its annual fall dinner last October, a gala salute to Lieberman that was held at the National Building Museum in Washington. Five tiers of donors are evident: the Board of Advisers, the Policy Roundtable, the Executive Council, the Board of Trustees, and an ad hoc group called the Event Committee--and companies are placed in each tier depending on the size of their check. For $5,000, 180 companies, lobbying firms, and individuals found themselves on the DLC’s board of advisers, including British Petroleum, Boeing, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Coca-Cola, Dell, Eli Lilly, Federal Express, Glaxo Wellcome, Intel, Motorola, U.S. Tobacco, Union Carbide, and Xerox, along with trade associations ranging from the American Association of Health Plans to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. For $10,000, another 85 corporations signed on as the DLC’s policy roundtable, including AOL, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Citigroup, Dow, GE, IBM, Oracle, UBS PacifiCare, PaineWebber, Pfizer, Pharmacia and Upjohn, and TRW.
And for $25,000, 28 giant companies found their way onto the DLC’s executive council, including Aetna, AT&T, American Airlines, AIG, BellSouth, Chevron, DuPont, Enron, IBM, Merck and Company, Microsoft, Philip Morris, Texaco, and Verizon Communications. Few, if any, of these corporations would be seen as leaning Democratic, of course, but here and there are some real surprises. One member of the DLC’s executive council is none other than Koch Industries, the privately held, Kansas-based oil company whose namesake family members are avatars of the far right, having helped to found archconservative institutions like the Cato Institute and Citizens for a Sound Economy. Not only that, but two Koch executives, Richard Fink and Robert P. Hall III, are listed as members of the board of trustees and the event committee, respectively--meaning that they gave significantly more than $25,000.
The DLC board of trustees is an elite body whose membership is reserved for major donors, and many of the trustees are financial wheeler-dealers who run investment companies and capital management firms--though senior executives from a handful of corporations, such as Koch, Aetna, and Coca-Cola, are included. Some donate enormous amounts of money, such as Bernard Schwartz, the chairman and CEO of Loral Space and Communications, who single-handedly finances the entire publication of Blueprint, the DLC’s retooled monthly that replaced The New Democrat. “I sought them out, after talking to Michael Steinhardt,” says Schwartz. “I like them because the DLC gives resonance to positions on issues that perhaps candidates cannot commit to."
This article dates from 2001, but we are suffering under the influence of this strategy’s success now. Utilizing this strategy has become a trap, since the Republicans have gone on to cement corporate support through the very-effective K Street Project. It seems from our current prospective that the DLC (and NDN) have served as a Trojan Horse, letting the right hollow out our party from within. Whether or not they are still operating as such, or if they’ve realized their error and trying to correct it, is a moot point. They’ve mortally wounded the party as an effective opposition. It is plain that we must move away from their counsel. We must reconnnect with our roots, our grassroots and core issues. Gore realized this too late in 2000, but he did try. From the American Prospect:
During the last months of the 2000 presidential election, however, it must have seemed to the DLC that Gore and Lieberman, urâ€“New Democrats both, had crossed back to the other shore. Abandoning the DLC’s message almost entirely, they scrambled to look like plain, old-fashioned Democrats in an awkward, faux-populist “people versus the powerful” campaign that sought to energize the party’s working-class and lower-middle-class base. The DLC’s elation at the selection of its chairman as the running mate for one of its founders turned to dismay during the Democratic convention last August, as Gore lurched left.
“I listened to Gore’s speech at the convention with incredulity,” says William Galston, a longtime DLCer who served as domestic policy adviser to President Clinton and who is currently a special consultant for Blueprint. Galston was the Gore campaign’s representative to the Democratic platform committee, working alongside From and Elaine Kamarck, another veteran DLC strategist, who chaired the committee. Galston had heard rumors on the eve of Gore’s speech that it would represent a shift but hadn’t been otherwise warned. “From the convention on, I had essentially no input into the campaign,” he says.
Also left with sharply reduced influence was From, who recalls with resignation his inability to bring the Gore-Lieberman ticket home to its New Democrat roots. “Once Joe [Lieberman] got on the ticket, I worked mostly through him,” says From, ticking off the names of campaign staffers through whom he tried to reach Gore. “I talked to [Bob] Shrum, [Stanley] Greenberg, [Carter] Eskew, and Tad Devine,” he says. “I did a memo to Gore. I actually gave him a game plan to try to contain the populism in a way that would do the least damage.”
After his populist turn, Gore surged in the polls in August and early September, and many analysts credited his fiery attacks on pharmaceutical companies, HMOs and health insurers, Big Oil, and George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the rich. “When I came on in July, Gore was already beginning to move in a populist direction,” says Stan Greenberg, Gore’s pollster for the last few months of the campaign. Brought in to replace Mark Penn, the chief pollster for both Clinton and the DLC, Greenberg helped move Gore to the left, targeting the candidate’s message to recapture white working-class voters in the $30,000-to-$50,000 income range. On the ground, the AFL-CIO, the NAACP, and other components of the Old Democrats’ traditional voter base--organized labor, African Americans, Hispanics, abortion rights activists--conducted intensive voter education and the get-out-the-vote drives, and these groups now take credit for delivering Gore’s popular vote victory.
Two lost elections in a row, elections in which the party base rallied after being initially snubbed, yet still we hear that the “center” is where we should move. One must ask, is the party being deliberately sabotaged, or are these “centrist” movers-and-shakers well meaning but wrong? It’s hard to know, but the damage is obvious.
Thankfully, though the efforts of Howard Dean, Russ Feingold, Barbara Boxer, John Conyers and others, progressive and liberal ideas are being forced back onto the table. Despite the withering attacks from Vichy Dems like Sen. Biden and Rep. Hoyer, the grassroots have offered powerful support to these more principled, more Democratic leaders, and slowly away from the corporate toadying of right-wing rhetoric. Interests groups on the left have continued to fight and coordinate fundraising, voter outreach and on getting the left’s perspective on issues out.
We on the left have some ways to go, but we can aim this party back to climbing the mountain toward a more inclusive United States of America. We’re going to win this battle, and take our party back, because there are more of us, because we have history and science on our side, and because we MUST. The war within the Democratic Party will be very nasty over the next two or three election cycles, but we will prevail.
Friday, June 17, 2005
6. Intentional Devastation of Iraq
Possible Undeclared Motives for the Invasion of Iraq
More Iraqis than people in the West may imagine subscribe to this belief. They range from illiterate peasants to university professors. This is by far the most â€˜popularâ€™ theory in Iraq (outside Kurdistan) and has been so for more than a year. It borders on conspiracy theory but please bear with me a little to see things the way most Iraqis have been seeing them for the past two years!
To many people â€˜intentional devastationâ€™ offers the only plausible explanation to what has been happening in Iraq over the past two years. A sample of the criticisms felt by many Iraqis:
1. No sane Iraqi would accept the story about Saddam posing a threat to the United States. A good portion of them believe that he was for a long time an American stooge. (Thereâ€™s a conspiracy theory for those seeking one!)
2. None would accept the excuses offered for securing only the Oil Ministry and letting all those looters on the loose rampaging all their institutions. No one can accept the excuse that the Ministry of Oil was protected by coincidence or because the Americans believed that it held records of the countryâ€™s wealth. Peopleâ€™s civic records, hospitals, municipalities, service departments, the countryâ€™s irrigation network are also important! Report after report came in that the US boys were actually encouraging the looters and forcing doors open for them. I personally witnessed one such incident.
3. The looting, criminal gangs on the loose, rapes, kidnappings and lawlessness! Any third-rate third-world general knows that for a change of regime to cause minimum disruption and chaos, a curfew for a few days needs to be imposed. In Iraq itself, that was done several times in the past century. Was it that difficult for the American administration to plan for? People had already made provisions at home for the invasion itself. We all remember Rumsfeldâ€™s dismissive remarks on the issue: How do you think Iraqis felt when, in the days of the looting of Baghdad, they heard the U.S. Defense Secretary saying that looting â€œisn’t something that someone allows or doesn’t allow. It’s something that happens.â€?â€¦ Or that â€œfreedom is messyâ€??
4. Few people realize the amount of damage that was incurred on Iraqâ€™s (the worldâ€™s, really) cultural treasures during that mass and afterwards: It has been estimated that one million books, 10 million documents, and 14,000 archaeological artifacts have been lostâ€¦ the biggest cultural disaster since the descendants of Genghis Khan destroyed Baghdad in 1258. Parts of Babylon’s ancient ruins were destroyed (by the army!) Some of those books and documents lost or destroyed were immensely valuable human heritage. â€¦ and all this despite clear warnings (before the invasion) from UNESCO, the UN, the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute and the former head of the U.S. president’s Advisory Committee on Cultural Property, Martin Sullivan. In the words of Venezuelan writer Fernando Baez: â€œIt is a paradox: the inventors of the electronic book returned to Mesopotamia, where books, history and civilization were born, to destroy it.â€?
5. No one in his right mind would accept the reasons given to disband the army on the grounds that it was Baathist. There were so many defectors over the previous years that the US administration must have had a fair idea of the amount of discontent with the regime in the army. Indeed, they used some of those defectors to build and promote their case for the invasion! All military cadets were forced to become Baathists. Yet, many were only Baathists in name. Most saw themselves as patriots first. They felt angry, like almost everybody else, at what the regime was doing to their country. Was it so inconceivable for the Americans to send them home with a promise of monthly pay while waiting to re-organize the army? Most military units knew who the nasty characters were. Those would not show up anyway. Besides, the America neocons were yelling that the Iraqis will welcome them with roses. Therefore they must have anticipated the amount of discontent with the previous regime that existed in the country. Cost? $100 per month on average for 400, 000 people = $40 million/ month which is so small in terms of the war budgetâ€¦ and it could have been paid from Iraqi oil money! This of course would not have prevented those terrorists from pouring across the wide open borders. It would not have prevented the die-hard Saddam supporters from doing some damageâ€¦ but I believe the bulk of the nationalistic resistance (widely ignored by the mass media but its effect no doubt felt by the US army) came from regular army personnel. The vast majority of those people were only Baathist in name, believe me! They outnumber Saddamâ€™s people at least 20 to 1. Remember that many of these were seasoned warriors (some of them with long war experience) and most saw themselves as patriots. Many of their officers knew where the ammunition depots were. They included staff planners. So the US administration almost willfully created a deadly enemyâ€¦ that operated in a supportive environment.
6. Why was the police force disbanded? Iraq had several uniformed police services. The traffic police had nothing to do with politics or oppression. Most of those on the street now are the same ones of the previous regime, re-employed. So why were they disbanded? There was also the anti-Crime police who knew many of the criminals and could have been useful in combating them. (Some people even took it upon themselves to take their records home to preserve them.) There was the non-political Border Guard Corps, etc. etc.
7. There was the insensitive behavior of American soldiers. They certainly acted like a conquering army which made the case for winning the hearts and minds of people or having the welfare of Iraqis at the heart of the campaignâ€¦ extremely unconvincing to the average Iraqi. Even today, two years after the invasion, the American patrols are avoided by ordinary people like the plague! They are seen as dangerous as those forces of darkness killing people at random.
8. The laughable efforts made to restore services (minimum basic services like electricity water and refuse collection) and the unbelievable excuses made to explain the failure in doing so (to this date) are simply seen as pathetic. As far as I know, no insurgent or terrorist organization has taken it upon itself to attack refuse, yet nobody seems willing to collect it. There was plenty of money spent pretending to do that though!
9. The ongoing â€œliquidationâ€? of Iraqi academics and professionals. University professors from almost all disciplines (from Accounting to Zoology) belonging to all denominations (Arab, Kurd, Muslim, Sunni, Shiite, Christian, Atheist) and all political orientations (Baathists, Communists, Islamists, Secularistsâ€¦) have been intentionally targeted and killed systematically over the past two years. There has been no sectarian or political pattern whatsoever. In most cases no ransom was involved, as these people are mostly not well off. Specialist doctors have also been targeted, sometimes for money and sometimes without apparent reason. Many have been explicitly instructed to leave the country. This has created so much public ill-feeling towards the American management of Iraq. The absence of any clear group to blame for these systematic killings only adds fuel to conspiracy theories. The only reason people find is the intentional devastation of the country.
10. There was also the reliance of the administration on totally corrupt so-called â€˜importedâ€™ politicians. Some of those were already convicted on criminal charges. The US administration surely knew about them! In fact, they â€˜promotedâ€™ the most corrupt among them. These people led to a new wave of corruption to an unprecedented level. Those people were also entrusted with designing the political process and guide the country to a new age of Democracy! We can all see the results of that.
11. Most â€˜indigenousâ€™ Iraqis have come to believe that the democratic process was designed to enhance sectarianism and ethnicity. The result was that people were made to vote for lists that were Kurdish, Shiite or Sunni. This was seen as a wicked effort to divide the country and encourage civil war. In the darkest of Saddamâ€™s years there was not so much sectarian polarization of the country. The sectarian militias of various groups have been allowed to maintain their identities and paramilitary structureâ€¦ outside the new Iraqi armed forces!
[A few days ago, I saw a news clip from the guesthouse of a tribal leader in the so-called Shiite heartland in the south. The man had gathered quite a large assembly of southern tribal chiefs and was saying: â€œWhat is all this Sunni Shiite talk? We know what has been happeningâ€¦ but we are just being patient. Iâ€™m warning those people playing on the sectarian tune!â€? The significance is that that gentleman is the grandson of the man who first ignited the 1920 revolution against British occupation of Iraq.
â€œâ€¦the first spark took place when the authorities arrested a local tribal chief, Shalaan Abul Choan. While he was being taken away by the British soldiers, Shalaan yelled at one of his companions: “These people may deport me to Baghdad. Send me 10 good gold coins tonight”. That night, ten warriors of his tribe attacked the jail he was held in and freed him. That was the spark the southern areas needed!â€?]
The sectarian polarization is seen by most ordinary people as yet another assault that aims to devastate the country as a first step towards disintegration, media reports notwithstanding!
12. The administrationâ€™s repeated assertions that the US army will stay until security is restored and their adamant refusal even to consider discussing a timetable for withdrawal are only seen as an excuse since their presence was the main cause of insecurity.
The list could go onâ€¦ and the items and grievances would not be exhausted. Personally, this essay has been one of the most difficult for me to write objectively and concisely!
Talk of poor planning and incompetence is simply dismissed. No reasonable person would believe that the American planners could be so stupid. Few people believe that the US army, the most powerful in the world, would be so incompetent.
There have been numerous counter-arguments and excuses put forward over the past two years to these items. These arguments and excuses may or may not have been convincing to the American publicâ€¦ but please remember that in this essay, I am looking at things from a purely Iraqi perspective. All those arguments have not been convincing to Iraqis in the slightest. And, from what I read, the rest of the world doesnâ€™t seem to think much of them either. It simply doesnâ€™t do!
It did not make sense for a country that prided itself for planning for everything in great detail and had the resources and the awe inspiring technology and expertise to repair a spacecraft way out in the solar system to be so short sighted and incompetent!
It did not make sense to most Iraqis then. It does not make sense now!
In many Iraqisâ€™ minds, there is no doubt (not little doubt) that the devastation of their country has been intentional. No amount of propaganda can alter that. Results perhaps could. But so far, there are very few of those! Everything that has been taking place, including the so-called democracy, freedom, etc. only confirms this conviction. Yet, even now, senior US administration people keep assuring us that they did and are still doing the right things!
The question is: why? Why would America, the superpower of the world, go to such lengths and incur so much loss of blood and money to damage Iraq, a comparatively small country that was never a threat and was never likely to be one. It is almost unbelievable! This is where conspiracy theorists have a field day!
The most frequent answer you would hear is that Iraq is devastated as a first step to dominate the Arab (and the Muslim) world and to gain total control over the oil, etc.
The other most frequent reason given for that intentional devastation gives is: Israel. This was all done to ensure the security of â€˜Likuditeâ€™ Israel, Iraq being the only remaining Arab country in the region that may pose a real threat to Israel in the future.
People holding that belief got their â€˜proofâ€™ in the new design of the national flag that was proposed by the Bremer-installed Iraq Governing Council, soon after its own inception. Of all the colors of all the flags in the world, they only chose a design and colors that resembled those of Israel!! In fact, the Israeli fingerprints were detected, rightly or wrongly, in quite a number of measures, including the â€˜processâ€™ along which elections were conducted. Persistent reports about talks of an oil pipeline to Haifa did not help! Neither did reports of the presence of Israeli personnel during the Abu Ghraib atrocities.
The intentional-devastation theory based on the interests of Israel is hard to accept. It is hard to accept (no matter how influential the pro-Likud lobby in America is or how much control it has over American politicians) that the US administration would spill so much American blood and money just to protect Israel.
Those Israeli fingerprints? Well, there is a simple explanation: We know that there are exceptionally strong ties between this administration and Sharonâ€™s. The neocon links are particularly profound. Israel has a great deal more experience with countries of the region. It is therefore extremely likely that this administration relied heavily on Israelâ€™s advice. Israelâ€™s agenda is public knowledge. Conclusions are obvious!
Some people agree to this but they add that advice was deliberately engineered to cause these catastrophic results not only to devastate Iraq but also to create a wedge of trust between Iraqis and Americans that is hard to bridge. Any form of lasting friendship between Iraq and America is seen as detrimental to hard-line Israel. I donâ€™t know! But it is certain that as things are at the moment, it would be a long time before Iraqis can trust America again
There are a number of other weaknesses in the â€˜intentionalâ€™ devastation theory: The US administration has asked for, and Congress approved, the allocation of large sums of its own tax payersâ€™ money for the reconstruction of Iraq; the administration has also quite evidently put its weight and influence to pressure a number of countries to reduce or totally forego much of Iraqâ€™s foreign debts. Furthermore, it is hard to see how creating a failed state could serve any purpose for this administration. A state of chaos usually leads to unpredictable results. There is also the considerable damage done to the US image (and prestige) around the world. The oppressed people of any country that the US would think of â€˜liberatingâ€™ through an invasion would be the first to resist its efforts!
It doesnâ€™t make sense! Total criminal incompetence again?
Conclusion: I can believe that, like other by-products of the campaign, the domination of the Middle East and the removal of a potential threat to Likudite Israelâ€¦ can be seen as useful, but it is hard to see the intentional devastation of Iraq as the prime motive for the invasion. Yet, this devastation is exactly what has been taking place on the ground in Iraq. No amount of propaganda can change that.
Dispatch from Earthquake Country
Last week Howard Dean came under the fire of the Republicans with the ‘’Centrist’’ (oh those would be the “Vichy Dems") Dems chiming in… one after the other from Biden to Edwards to Obama to Pelosi to Feinstein, and so on…
Oh, they appear ‘’centrist’’... as they edge ever rightward: one if by land, two if by sea. I am laughing, just a joke… you know!
It is such fun to be tiny Republicans! If they make the rightward migration they get to grow up and be bigger, the fully authorised, fully deputised Democratic wing of the Republican Party!
They can mount, ever manfully, courageous battles for the redistricted House seats, each one predetermined but for a handful we may really battle for. Anyone reading right along could have read about the ground game in the 90s… that led to all of this, no news.
Counting on the DCCC and DSCC to clear the way, no “real” primary battles:
Dad, Republican Dad, might hear us being fractious, that cannot be, no it cannot be! Pull up the old saw about herding cats! Invoke Will Rodgers aphorisms, lecture the few remaining about circle jerks and firing squads… Must be good children! Discipline comes from Dad! Dad only! Not from Democratic primary voters! No! Never! Never from the voter...
And so, they battle forward, the “center”, uh, flank, manfully stating that the moniker ‘’Democratic Party’’ is but a flag, for fun not for battle!. It is so they can find the family SUV at the mall of politics, fly a little, really tiny, blue flag with a donkey on it… from the satellite aerial.
It is true: We aren’t different enough now. That is true.
‘’Centrist’’ Democrats want to grow up and be real. Soon, soon they tell themselves, if we ever get power again, we will be so centered (but not at all zen, LOL)... we will have a split ticket. Maybe they let us be the pretzeldent, now that we said over and over Chimpie was so nothing and it is Dick Cheney who matters....oh, fuck, him!, always in the way!... at least he makes the
soft right, oops no the ‘’center’’, look ‘’Centrist’’! He and Bush and Rove!, with them around we can shift way over!...
Yes they might let us be pretzeldent. If we promise not to fuss too much. We can agree to use the same desk as Kennedy and Bush 43. There you go. One if by land, two if by sea.
Now, under seige from a swarm of hard right political and media tectonic movement, it is Dick Durbin. For speaking the truth, those ‘’gaffes’’ that Howard long ago identified as truth, but that truth then undergoes evaluation in DC:
Durbin’s words are “unfortunate”, oh but we ‘’support’’ Durbin, because it is Bush’s war, Bush’s prisons across the world. But ‘’unfortunate’’. We’d do it better, that war… certainly cheaper. Fewer prisons, cheaper. Yes, there you go, we are SO not “tax and spend” Democrats… ever notice how rarely they mention the true Clinton achievement?, the surplus?. We will sell ourselves (out) somehow.
No indeed, Durbin is not, nor are his words, “unfortunate”. One if by land, two if by sea. Perhaps “unfortunate” for the war riders… yes perhaps for the war riders (as I call them)... the war is so ‘’unfortunate’’, so reviled, but carefully reviled, within narrow confines, because it is Bush’s war. And as long as it is Bush’s war it is such excellent grist for the chattering mills, those pie holes that are very open… so open they gape, loosened, without normal facial muscles. Well, all the better. Wide open, agape, slackened, the Republicans can fill those maws. And they do.
They, that migrant ‘’center’’, so wanted it to be Kerry’s War… they too would have offered the ‘’Democracy for the ME’’ argument (Bill does and did). But they’d argue for war, with more fervor, if it could be Kerry’s War. Liberal hawks, in supporting, or even equivocating over war, supported Bush. Day after day. Yes they did. They facilitated, they enabled. They were moderate, restrained, hand wringing slobberers for war. Greedy for war, but not too greedy. They supported Bush, yes they did. They had best be washing those hard wrung hands, grimy as they are with American and Iraqi blood.
Durbin’s words are not “unfortunate”, he is under fire from the spectrum of the hard right, from the Catholic hard right—oh don’t think abortion issues and being a Catholic politician went away with the Kerry loss, Ratzy still wants to be kissed somwhere intimate (yes he does) and THK likes Casey the boy (there is an enabler, or two).
Don’t wimp out now for the Langevin sirens (one if by land, two if by sea) and throw over the hard core fighting reality of Durbin:
Durbin, who should have been Minority Leader… But no, better the strangely weak, pro-life, Mormon, rather too reddish stater, Reid from NV.
Republicans will run a “centrist” a “moderate”, it won’t matter who they run that is how they will run him, in the GE that is.... And many Democrats will vote for the perceived center: mesmerised as they are (I am still calling for Dr. Mesmer as I did during K/E 04).
War and business, and war for business is on the agenda for America, run hard by a white and male dominate elite, no matter the party. It will take years, perhaps a couple of decades, but this profitable (to the thin top percent, both sides of the so called aisle) abuse of the nation and the American people will crash.
It seems pretty obvious that the current administration is a coalition of bullies. They have made this entire country a bully among nations. They run roughshod over political opponents. They try to crush critics and political opponents. They have used the modern machinery of war to attack and destroy weaker nations. Domestically, they have launched a cultural war based on racism, chauvinism and religious bigotry against the poor, women, minorities and gays.
However, this isn’t really going to be about them. There is a funny thing about bullies. They are often surrounded by large numbers of syncophants, enablers, mobs of weaker people who enjoy the protection of the bully, often swarming in to get in a few licks once the bully has knocked the chosen victim down. Fearful, not possessed of their own strength, their own power and their own conviction, these people will operate in the bully’s shadow, yet insist that they are their own.
Sadly, many of the people acting as the enablers, the mob-like supporters of the Republican bullies, are in the Democratic Party; against leftists, against the poor, against gays and especially lately against women and activists for women’s health. I’m not just talking about the Vichy Dems in Congress. I’m talking about people who call themselves liberal while blaming members of the left for the losses of the Democratic Party over the last few decades.
update 6/20/2005 Norwegianity was kind enough to comment in the thread and clarify for me that he was pointing out that the current Republican Party is repeating the mistakes made by the Democratic Party in the ‘70s. Please check out his comments in the thread below. Thanks again for the open dialogue sir.
This trend has been bothering me for some time. Like anxious grade schoolers, many in the Democratic coalition have blamed Nader, gays, the poor and lately women for the continued ineffectiveness of the Democratic Party’s recent candidates. Here’s an example I found thanks to the Daou Report on Salon. At a blog called Norwegianity, one finds:
Republican moderates should just switch parties and move to the left. Theyâ€™ll never get any respect from the knuckledraggers who have as big a hold on the GOP as radical feminists had on consensus-driven womenâ€™s groups.
Correct me if Iâ€™m wrong, but NOW and Emilyâ€™s List and other womenâ€™s groups gave up on politics by consensus ages ago. Taken literally, that approach allows even very small minority factions to paralyze entire organizations.
Thatâ€™s where the Republicans are. Much as they try to be top down, they still have to work their way through public meetings and party events where the lowest political denominator prevails. They pick their speakers carefully, but you wouldnâ€™t have to look very far at a GOP convention to find folks with interesting opinions of liberals, Jews, Freemasons, etc.
Itâ€™s a veritable cesspool of hate movements, and the only ones they love to hate more than liberals/socialists/communists/jews are turncoat moderates.
So, and this is an opinion we’ve seen in so-called center-left magazines and especially lately at leading Democratic Party blogs like Daily Kos, we see the assertion that women’s groups are THE SAME as right-wing fundamentalists. The Democratic Party only loses because it is held hostage to such groups. Perhaps if only such groups, crazed activists representing women’s health for example, could be purged or cowed into line, the Democratic Party might do better, or at least not get beat up so badly. Perhaps if they adopt the language and attitudes of the bullies toward certain elements of the Democratic Party/left coalition, things won’t be so bad. Passive aggressive and weak, that is the voice we too often hear form certain elements on the “center-left”.
Of course, many see in the Dean candidacy, in the principled stand of real leaders like Rep Conyers, Sen. Boxer, Sen. Feingold and Sen. Durbin, one can see the TRUE way to fight bullies. Stand up to them. Don’t follow their tactics. Don’t attack others in some pathetic attempt to protect yourself. Stand up, go toe-to-toe. The way to fight a bully is to stand up to them.
That is how the Democratic Party will become a fighting, viable party again, by standing BESIDE the very groups the Republicans attack.
No more bully nation. A progressive nation, a nation that recognizes our commonalities. That path leads to a winning future for the Democratic Party, and for our country.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
Talkin' Organizing, Vol XI: Community, and what we can learn from the fundies
As regular readers here at Exile_lsf are aware, I’ve been somewhat inactive as a poster for a while. There were a number of reasons for that which all came together in a brief period. As I’ve worked through some of those questions and thought about how to continue Talkin’ Organizing, I realize I’d never put into bytes my original purpose in doing the series. There’s a risk of excessive naval-gazing in any such effort, but I believe my motivation was rooted in questions of broad, perhaps even central, concern, to those who are in search of a progressive America. Judge for yourself, it’s on the flipside.
In the days immediately after last year’s election, there were a few interesting discussions at dKos about how the Republicans had managed to find 10 million new voters. While some argue, with substantial merit, that some combination of voter disenfranchisement and election fraud served to determine the final result in the Presidential election, I doubt any would argue that 10 million false votes were entered into the system. Who were these ten million new Republican voters? Why did such a large proportion of our society, previously politically quiescent, emerge as supporters for an ideologically rabid and morally and intellectually corrupt administration? What are the social bases for this swelling tide of right-wing voters? How do we counter that?
This discussion served as the primary impetus for writing Talkin’ Organizing. Sadly it was soon eclipsed in the liberal blogosphere, first by the raging debate over possible fraud and certain disenfranchisement in Ohio, and then by the maneuverings of “centrist” Democrats to begin disassociating themselves from the constituencies (gays, feminists, leftists) they blamed for the Democratic defeat. That latter is of course patent nonsense. You aren’t going to overcome 10 million new voters in the other side’s column by jettisoning millions of those who did contribute to the Democratic vote total, and did a large share of the campaign’s work onthe ground as well. But I digress. I regret we lost that early conversation; I believe the original gut instinct of the blogosphere in its reaction to election 2004 was profoundly correct, timely, and substantive.
Stepping back for the big picture… and not saying anything you don’t already know…
In post-World War II America, a profound transformation of American society occurred, as we became a radically mobile population. Where migration, first east to west, then rural to urban, had existed from the very beginning of white colonization, there were stable communities at either end of each individual’s, each family’s relocation. Small towns and urban neighborhoods alike were places in which people settled for life, and became intimately entertwined, not just in the nuclear family, but in a community. To say that small towns and neighborhoods became extended families was often more than a metaphor, through generations of marriage and childraising it was frequently biological fact. Humans emerged as social animals. Stable communities satisfied that need for a web of connection. Of course there were negative aspects. Such communities are almost invariably parochial and at least somewhat xenophobic. Yet they satisfy a basic human need. There remain some older communities that are healthy and dynamic. But even that remnant dwindles.
Where once extended families were scattered up and down the same blocks, now siblings are more often than not separated by time zones. The golden years of the American economy were propelled by the rise of the car culture, and construction of the interstate highway system. Suburbia and a lawn and out of the three-decker forever was moving up. Better housing, better schools, less crime, who doesn’t want those things in their life?
But something happened on the way to suburban paradise. Just as people became mobile, so did companies and jobs. Then entire industries. More and more people had to make the choice of moving with their job or staying put and finding a new one. Then entire industries began leaving the country. Not only your job and your company are transient, now your skill, your field, your career, become transient. The stresses on nuclear families become enormous. Beginning in 1973, the level of real wages began a long-term decline, the pattern where most families need two full-time wage earners set in. Lack of community causes needs like child care that were always shared in the extended family and community to be left entirely to the nuclear family and the arrangements it can make in the marketplace. The rapid flux of industry overwhelmed the ossified labor unions, breaking another element of shared community. In the older suburbs today it’s not about moving up anymore, moving in and out is more like moving around. And as you muddle through, trying to keep your head above water, there’s often no web of relatedness in physical proximity to sustain the spirit. A wearying emptiness gnaws from the inside out. Wanna go to the mall?
Enter the megachurch. It’s the mall for the things you can’t get at the mall, your one stop shopping center for a life. Something for everyone in the stressed nuclear family. God. Usually an elementary school. Child care. Youth sports. Adult sports. Picnics. Outings. Men’s nights. Women’s nights. Married couples nights (with child care of course.) Clubs for a dozen things. Astroturf community, with plenty of free parking. Astroturf community, but community. And a local manifestation of religion as it has gained expression in the other great cultural upheaval since World War II, the dominance of television.
Each megachurch is the fruit of long and painstaking labor, and proof of the organizing effectiveness and business skills of its leaders. They have recognized the hunger for community, and provide God Depot as a shelter for lost spirits. The congregation is called as a central tenet of their faith to be evangelical, and that they are. On the job, at the grocery store, at the Air Force Academy, selling Amway is almost stodgily traditional now, wherever they are, their first duty as an evangelical is to evangelize. Grateful for community, they accept their place as sheep and willingly bleat at others to join the flock. This way an ultraconservative religio-political worldview sinks itself deeply into the consciousness of a community, and provided both the fertile soil and the organized machinery for Republican political exploitation. When Dubya made a comment about OB-GYSs “practicing their love”, the Democratic blogosphere had snickered. Distracted by the OB-GYN part into innuendo, they’d missed the dog-whistle entirely. “Practicing [one’s] love” is a term commonly used among fundies to describe their fellowship and proselytizing activities. Having watched the 700 Club a few times was enough for me to know that.
No doubt the Republicans picked up votes across the country from those fightened out of their wits by 9-11. But in state after state, their greatest growth was in fast-growing suburban sprawl counties with a high proportion of white protestants. Megachurch land. And the Bushies made no effort to conceal their hand, we’ll recall from the campaign that there were a couple of pastors that complained about being solicited for their church lists. A couple pastors complained--out of how many? The Republicans knew where the vote gusher lay for them. In a sense they have found their equivalent of the labor unions, a vast and independently self-organized community that lends that organization to the purposes of a political party. So much worse for the Democrats that this comes as the unions fade in reach. Republican insiders succeeded in accomplishing one of the tasks that has long been preached by Democratic outsiders, to connect with the disconnected, to engage the disengaged. Democrats and progressive activists worked like dogs in their canvass-based operations, and substantially increased the Democratic vote. However much was accomplished, it is clear that the local-based model used by the Republicans worked much more efficiently. The politically defining characteristic of this new Republican vote base is that it is a self-organizing and self-sustaining community with its own purposes that bind people to it separate from its partisan political agenda . It is the American version of what works so well for Hizbullah and Hamas.
This is a broad outline of the analysis that developed in those conversations that were engaged in those first couple of days. But what I thought was potentially particularly fruitful were the responses and suggestions that were beginning to emerge. The ideas began to come forth finding ways for there to be a living progressive presence in communities that is every day part of people’s lives, of creating progressive clubs as community and social centers with a progressive agenda. For a progrssive presence that was continuous. Not just at election time. This was my cue, the spark for putting together Talkin’ Organizing. If building progressive presence at the community level everywhere is a necessary element of regaining the political high ground, Alinsky-style community organizing could provide a piece of that puzzle. As I’ve mentioned in other pieces, I’m not a purist. I like the idea of the community/social center that doubles as the headquarters of a community organizing group. And I’ve seen how community organizations can grow beyond a narrow local agenda. In Springfield, Mass., the center of antiwar organizing is ARISE, which began as a welfare rights organization. I’m open to the widest possible ranges of building a new progressive communities.
Unfortunately, before I was even able to kick off TO, that discussion of building a progressive community was washed away in typical hyperkinetic blogosphere fashion in the various post-electoral cleavages and recriminations. The closest element I see present is the Dean/DFA agenda of electing local candidates. This is also a necessary piece of the puzzle, but progressive local candidacies will be of limited effectiveness in communities where there is a strong conservative community presence and the progressive voice is silent. This is why i find the disappearance of that early response to the elections regrettable. I firmly believe there is great good that could be accomplished by a concerted turn toward nurturing a local progressive community. I don’t have any idea whether this concept can generate any sustained interest and enthusiasm, clearly it failed to back in November. Perhaps that was so because it was too soon, no real progress could be made with such gaping wounds among progressive activists.
This is a call for ideas. For a minute, don’t worry about “practical,” we can follow up with that. Think big. What would you like to see in a progressive community? What would progressive community life mean to you? What would it look like in your community--the one you live in, not the college town 20 miles away. Tell me what you see. Anyone? Bueller?
Who is Tamika Huston?
Who is Tamika Huston? She’s what’s been dubbed a "Damsel in Distress" or DiD by MSM critics lately. A young attractive woman who’s missing, and whose family is appealing to the media for help in finding her. Hilzoy pointed to this excellent satire on the phenomenon by the Poor Man (but that site is experiencing heavy traffic, so you might have trouble getting through).
Unlike the runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks, Laci Peterson, Elizabeth Smart, or Natalee Holloway (missing in Aruba), though, Tamika, who’s been missing over a year, did not get her beautiful face plastered all over the airwaves and tabloids. Compared to those other women, she’s barely gotten any attention at all.
Here’s a photo of Tamika:
Much is being made of the fact that the DiD phenomenon only occurs when the missing woman is white. News programming executives deny they take that into consideration
Cable news executives say they don’t pick stories based on the race of the victims. "The stories that ‘go national’ all have a twist or an emotional aspect to them that make them interesting," said Bill Shine, senior vice president of programming at Fox News.
"When the Aruba story broke, I didn’t know if she (Holloway) was white," said Mark Effron, vice president of news/daytime programming at MSNBC.
Others don’t buy it though:
"Something is at work here, at a conscious or at least subconscious level, that leads them to choose victims of a certain type" to report about, said Eugene Robinson, syndicated columnist and associate editor at The Washington Post, who recently wrote about the issue.
"Sometimes we become advocates for their families," said Philip Lerman, co-executive producer of America’s Most Wanted and a former editor at USA TODAY. "It’s stunning sometimes how hard it is to get the national media interested when it’s a minority."
Given the disparity, a generous person might conclude that perhaps it’s simply a matter of numbers. Perhaps more white women go missing. Unfortunately, that’s not what the statistics show:
[Keith Woods, dean of faculty at the Poynter Institute, a school for journalists] and others say the media mislead the public about "typical" victims. FBI statistics show that men are slightly more likely than women to be reported as missing, and that blacks make up a disproportionately large segment of the victims. As of May 1, there were 25,389 men in the FBI’s database of active missing persons cases, and 22,200 cases of women. Blacks accounted for 13,860 cases, vs. 29,383 whites.
Criticism of this phenomenon is not new. About a year ago, MSNBC (one of the worst offenders of this, IMO) offered this:
â€œItâ€™s all about sex,â€? said [Roy Peter] Clark, vice president of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St. Petersburg, Fla. Young white women give editors and television producers what they want.
â€œThere are several common threads,â€? Clark said. â€œThe victims that get the most coverage are female rather than male. They are white, in general, rather than young people of color. They are at least middle class, if not upper middle class.â€?
Such cases fit a convenient narrative pattern that storytellers have used for more than a century, a pattern whose design still incorporates remnants of an outmoded view of women and black people and their roles in society.
â€œIn many, many cities going back 50, 75 years or more, journalists would refer to â€˜good murdersâ€™ and â€˜bad murders,â€™â€? Clark said, explaining how editors and reporters choose what police stories to cover.
â€œThe example of a bad murder would be the murder of an African-American person from a poor neighborhood,â€? he said. â€œThe definition of a good murder is a socialite killed by her jealous husband, the debutante murdered by her angry boyfriend.â€?
Obviously, it hardly becomes us that as a nation we’re so overtly classist and racist. I imagine that a news executive who sees the ratings soar, though, must conclude that white DiDs are better for business, and, in the end, that’s what he/she’s paid to understand. In other words, I don’t think blaming the media for this is the only way to discuss it. Surely, they could focus a bit more attention on the Tamika Huston story, even if it doesn’t pay off right away. But if that doesn’t change appetites I can’t see what good beating up on them does. Their job remains the same. The best outcome of this, however, would be what Kevin Drum suggested:
Maybe eventually this kind of publicity will embarrass the cable folks into finding something else to fill their airtime. [emphasis mine]
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Terri Schiavo was in a persistent vegetative state
The autopsy on Terri Schiavo showed that
she had massive and irreversible brain damage and was blind, the medical examinerâ€™s office said Wednesday. It also found no evidence that she was strangled or otherwise abused.
You may remember that Terri Schiavo became, briefly, a cause célèbre about three months ago. Not that she would have known it; she hadn’t known anything for about fifteen years, a fact which the autopsy confirms, but which virtually every doctor who actually examined her agreed on before her body was finally allowed to die.
Her husband said (and independent witnesses agreed) that Terri Schiavo would not have wanted to be kept alive in that state. Her parents, tragically for them, refused to believe that Terri Schiavo was in a PVS, and even the evidence of the autopsy has not persuaded them.
I felt sorry for the Schindlers, who seemed to have been used and abused by the “pro-lifers”, by Tom DeLay (who was then being investigated for wrong-doing, as I recall, and found Terri Schiavo a very convenient white flag to wave), and by the charlatans who claimed that (among other things) Terri Schiavo’s eyes were tracking movement and this proved she was still “there”. (The autopsy proved that Terri Schiavo had been blind for 15 years: as often happens in PVS, her eyes might open and close and show movement, but she wasn’t seeing anything.)
But of all the people involved, I felt most sorry for Michael Schiavo. Throughout the years, he seemed to have behaved as well as anyone could. Terri Schiavo’s body was well taken care of. Although he had the legal right simply to override her parents wishes and carry out Terri’s expressed wishes, he didn’t: he had the Florida courts appoint a guardian ad litem, who painstakingly, carefully, looked at the evidence, and concluded that yes, Terri Schiavo was in a PVS, persistent and permanent, and yes, she had never wanted to be kept alive like this. (Then the Schindlers challenged it and it was all to do again. And again, as I recall.)
Now it’s definite. Aside from her parents, who can be forgiven irrational behavior, there is really no excuse for anyone still trying to claim that Terri Schiavo was just alive but paralysed.
There were a lot of mean-minded and vicious “pro-lifer” attacks on Michael Schiavo in the weeks before Terri Schiavo died. There were death threats from “pro-lifers”, whose belief in the “culture of life” was evidently so strong that it overrode anything like common sense.
Are these people going to apologise to Michael Schiavo for the things they said about him?
Somehow I doubt it. A mob who could ignore the CT scan evidence are unlikely to care about an autopsy.
Why am I bothering to post this? The “pro-lifers” have all moved on; Tom DeLay no longer needs the distraction of a white woman whom he can claim he’s rescuing; that was months ago.
I suppose because it was so absolutely foolish at the time - a complete nonsense of a cause. What the Schindlers needed was psychiatric help to deal with their daughter’s death fifteen years earlier and her body’s terrible survival in PVS ever since. What their grief and horror got was… to be used. The facts were unimportant. The truth was unimportant. No human feeling was important to these “pro-lifers”: not a husband’s for his wife, not parents who needed to accept and to grieve for their dead child. Only the political cause mattered.
And, for the doctors who examined Terri Schiavo and then lied to her parents, telling them what they wanted to hear and not what the facts were: I wish I could think they’d lose their licence to practice medicine. They surely deserve worse.
My Republican BaggagePyrro posed a great question to me during my self-aggrandizing â€œbuy my book next year!!!â€? diary. He asked what baggage I brought from my time as a Republican. Not in a accusatory, â€œwhat are you doing hereâ€? kind of way, but in more of a â€œwhat do you still believe that we might find surprising to hear you say.â€?
Iâ€™m familiar with this notion. While writing a diary on why I hated Clinton so much I realized I still believed a really screwball conspiracy theory about Vince Fosterâ€™s suicide. No, â€˜believedâ€™ is the wrong word. It was really more of a â€˜suppressed memory.â€™ I had never revisited one of the things you took as gospel as a dittoheadâ€”that Vince Foster was killed in his office at the White House, but discovered by police the next day on a park bench. Itâ€™s embarrassing, but there was â€˜my understandingâ€™ lying dead on its back at the bottom of the stagnant pond of my dittohead existence. Iâ€™d never bothered to scoop it out and give it a decent burial.
But that really isnâ€™t â€˜baggageâ€™ per say. Thatâ€™s more of a â€˜cheap gift you bought at the airport.â€™ The â€˜baggageâ€™ concept deals more with the question of â€œhow long before this advisorjim guy says something like â€˜ABORTION IS MURDER!!!,â€™ or â€˜TORTURE IS FINE!!! ITâ€™S US OR THEM, ASSHOLE!!!â€™?â€?
Fortunately the answer for those two comments is â€˜never.â€™ In fact, running through most of the issues facing America today I have to say I side overwhelmingly with the Democrats. And a few of my â€˜idearsâ€™ would probably be considered â€˜fringe.â€™ For example, I happen to believe in full equality for homosexuals. Anything two straight people can do, two gay people should be able to doâ€”health insurance, marriage, beneficiary designations, protection from hate crime, inheritance. I donâ€™t even understand the thinking behind supporting something that â€˜stops short of marriage.â€™ I meanâ€¦why not just say homosexuals count as 3/5ths of a person?
â€œWhy canâ€™t a man marry a dog, then?â€? Rick Santorum asks with a gleam in his eye. Because dogs (much like children or Republicans) donâ€™t have the cognitive capacity to understand whatâ€™s going on. Itâ€™s not a decision between intellectual equals-itâ€™s dominance and submission. â€œWhy not three men and two women, then?â€? Bill Oâ€™reilly asks between bites of his falafel. Because that would require a whole new set of laws applying to an entirely different social and economic reality. How do you decide child support and alimony when a single-income man divorces two out of three wives? Who gets custody if the second wife spends more time with the kid than the birth mother? Gay marriage involves applying the same set of existing laws to a fundamentally identical relationship.
I also believe in the legalization and regulation of drugs in this country. News flashâ€”the War on Drugs is over. We lost. Itâ€™s a classic example of why you canâ€™t effectively legislate morality.
I donâ€™t know how many Missouri apartment complexes need to explode before we just say â€œlook, we know youâ€™re going to do it. Itâ€™s bad for you. Itâ€™ll kill you, and weâ€™re going to regulate it and tax the hell out of it, but weâ€™re going to keep it safe and legal.â€? It frees up prisons, helps people put their lives back together, reduces crime, and cleans up neighborhoods, just like it did after prohibition.
Bear in mind I have no stake in this argument. I have never taken an illegal drug in my life. No coke, even though Iâ€™m a stockbroker. No meth even though Iâ€™m a southerner. Not even pot, even though I went to college. Zip, zilch, zero, nada. Iâ€™m not on a high horse about my non-use. I just never did, and it never seemed like something I wanted to try. No big whoop. I like hikingâ€¦and beerâ€¦and basketballâ€¦(my buddy â€˜Freezerâ€™ has an email sig that reads â€œMy name is Freezer, and my anti-drug is porn.â€?)
But there are a couple of bags that I carry around that Iâ€™m still rather fond of, and I donâ€™t see a reason to put them away just yet.
The most surprising (and probably the most infuriating to lifelong Democrats) is that Iâ€™m actually still really fond of Reagan. Part of it stems from the fact that he was President while I was growing up, and maybe we all have fond memories of our childhood Presidents. I understand the criticism of Reagan, and I donâ€™t get all knee-jerk when people say â€œGod, that Reagan was a prick!â€? I just happen to have a favorable impression of him, and many of my fellow Democrats find this to be disturbing. Itâ€™s an issue we can disagree over without having to divide over it. That, and I just love to see the look on Republicanâ€™s faces when I say â€œif Reagan were alive today heâ€™d go back to being a Democrat!â€? Try it sometime (assuming you can say it without making a â€˜bitter beer faceâ€™). The response from the right is most gratifying.
Secondly, I think moving class action lawsuits to the federal level was a great idea. Iâ€™ve always been of the opinion that class actions lawsuits suck. Company Aâ€™s product kills dozens of people, lawyers representing the class action group make millions of dollars, and the actual litigants wind up getting a coupon for 50% off the product that Company A makes that killed their loved one.
As a financial advisor Iâ€™ve seen literally dozens of class action lawsuits where the company paid the equivalent of a modest fine, the lawyers made mega-bucks, and the litigants got screwed. Oh, and as an added bonus, if you didnâ€™t figure out until later that you got screwed over, and you try to file an individual case, you can'tâ€¦because your claim was already covered by the class action suit. Too bad, so sad. NEXT!
Fortunately the law of unintended consequences will come back to bite these companies in the ass. Without access to class action suits, the number of individual cases for meaningful damages against offending companies will skyrocket. Instead of finding out that annuity you bought thatâ€™s now worthless was already covered by a class action suit, youâ€™ll be able to sue as an individual to get the entire amount back that you are owed. Unintended Consequencesâ€”my favorite law right after Occamâ€™s Razor....and I supposed 'Gravity.'
Other than that Iâ€™m really just a harmless, lovable little fuzzballâ€¦to borrow a phrase.
What A Friend We Have in Jesus Freaks
Arriving in LA today after a 5 hour flight I had run out of things to read. Why is it I always have only a chapter or two left on the book that I don’t want to wait a week to finish? Having finished the NY Times and McPaper I found the front section of the LA TIMES and my heart sank with the front page story. It broke my heart as I’m sure it would anyone’s but as a gay person it hit home especially because this is the predicament we all fear as teenagers but to see this happening to these boys was surreal as in anyone else’s home they would be golden boys, literally. The photo of Gideon looked like a baby Brad Pitt.
Abandoned by his family, faith and community, Gideon Barlow arrived here an orphan from another world. At first, he played the tough guy, aloof and hard. But when no one was watching, he would cry.
The freckle-faced 17-year-old said he was left to fend for himself last year after being forced out of Colorado City, Ariz., a town about 40 miles east of here, just over the state line.
“I couldn’t see how my mom would let them do what they did to me,” he said. When he tried to visit her on Mother’s Day, he said, she told him to stay away. When he begged to give her a present, she said she wanted nothing. “I am dead to her now,” he said.
Gideon is one of the “Lost Boys,” a group of more than 400 teenagers â€” some as young as 13 â€” who authorities in Utah and Arizona say have fled or been driven out of the polygamous enclaves of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City over the last four years. His stated offenses: wearing short-sleeved shirts, listening to CDs and having a girlfriend. Other boys say they were booted out for going to movies, watching television and staying out past curfew. Some say they were sometimes given as little as two hours’ notice before being driven to St. George or nearby Hurricane, Utah, and left like unwanted pets along the road.
Authorities say the teens aren’t really being expelled for what they watch or wear, but rather to reduce competition for women in places where men can have dozens of wives.
“It’s a mathematical thing. If you are marrying all these girls to one man, what do you do with all the boys?” said Utah Atty. Gen. Mark Shurtleff, who has had boys in his office crying to see their mothers. “People have said to me: ‘Why don’t you prosecute the parents?’ But the kids don’t want their parents prosecuted; they want us to get the No. 1 bad guy â€” Warren Jeffs. He is chiefly responsible for kicking out these boys.”
The 49-year-old Jeffs is the prophet, or leader, of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The FLDS, as it is known, controls Hildale and Colorado City. The sect, which broke from the Mormon Church more than a century ago, has between 10,000 and 15,000 members. It believes in “plural marriage,” that a man must have at least three wives to reach the highest levels of heaven.
Then as we ate dinner tonight the local NBC station was profiling a Catholic school in LA that has told 2 twin kindergarten boys that their parents cannot come to school functions together, the reason? They’re gay. The school principal (a nun) has been relieved of duties after 31 years because she supports the children’s parents and refused to expel them. A group of 30 parents signed a letter supporting the ousting of the children, they are outraged that the children of gays are going to school with their children. It’s time to put our own prayer thread on Exile_lsf and title it “Oh Lord, save us from your followers”.
If I can find a link to this story I will put it up. They said other parents would protest tomorrow in support of the principal and they said they are starting a website called SAVE SISTER. Check it out and post a comment to support her.
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Idealistic & Political - An Oxymoron?
There is a conceit in much of the discourse over politics today: that politics is antithetical to idealism. Idealists, especially on the left, are written off as being “single issue voters”, “special interest voters”, “shrill”, “naive” ... pick an epithet.
My question is this: can there BE politics without ideals?
Would we be a country without ideals? Without idealists? Are there many more idealistic political documents than the Declaration of Independence?
I would submit that the answer to both questions is no. Why, then, is the Democratic Party so terribly afraid of people with strong ideals? What kind of party STARTS a campaign with some fuzzy belief that one candidate or another is more electable? Isn’t that what elections are for? After all, we all found out just how “electable” our last “safe” choice was. Would we have been better served by a contest fought out over ideals, not simple money and clout and insider pressure on the media? Will we make the same mistake again?
So, can idealists find a place anymore in American politics? Would Thomas Jefferson have a place in the Democratic Party today? Despite his ideals, his words:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
were belied by his ownership of slaves. Despite his his words, he himself fell woefully short of the hope he espoused. Does that make his ideals less sincere, less powerful? Does the institution of slavery and the disenfrancisement of women make those ideals moot? Worthless? Would the American Revolution have happened without them? Were pragmatists like Hamilton and Madison enough without Jefferson and Franklin?
Idealists set the horizon. Idealists point out the top of the mountain, giving a political movement, a political party a goal to aim for. Without them, all you’re left with is a bunch of maps without destinations.
The Republicans nurture, promote and celebrate their idealists. In many ways, their idealists are more purely “idealistic” than many leftists. They aim for “ideals” in the Platonic sense. Beliefs that are set by some external. Most ideals on the left are messier, set by human beings, yet in many ways more vital. The ideals of the left grow and adapt and celebrate humanity as good in and of itself.
I am a humanist. My ideals, as well as the ideals of many people I admire, aren’t supported by some cozy “external” validation. Increasingly, folks like me are being told by the so-called “centrists” in the Democratic Party that we have to “be realistic”. Only those on the left who have more “firm” ideals are apparently welcome. The ongoing litany from the center is that we need kinder, gentler platonists. We seek to ape the right, not move away from it.
This is a recipe for continued losses. We either have a goal to aim for as a party, an America where ALL of our citizens have equal opportunity before the law, where people come before profit, where we actually treat women as fully autonomous equal citizens, or our party will continue to enable the encroaching theocracy. If this party does not welcome and harness its idealists, it will continue down the path toward mere collaboration.
The idealists on the left had abandoned politics for many years as the party ran away from them, frightened by the success of Nixon’s “Southern strategy” and Reagan’s “Morning in America”. We fought in court. We fought on the local level. We dropped out and joined third parties. It was made plain that we were a problem to be “Sister Souljah’d”.
Thanks to the campaigns of Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich, Al Sharpton and Carol Moseley Braun, the left has rejoined the political fray. Either the party will integrate us, utilize us and even follow us, or the party will lose. To do otherwise is to offer the public nothing to vote for than less of the same: less scary, less oppressive and less proactive. A small and spineless parking brake until the next loss. If the party doesn’t do so, there will be a movement building to either take over the party or destroy the party.
Change and grow or continue to be irrelevant. Those are the choices.
5. Eliminating Saddamâ€™s Long-term Threat
Possible Undeclared Motives for the Invasion of Iraq
The best case for this possible motive for the invasion was brought to my attention by a regular reader: â€œThat [Saddamâ€™s] threat was long term, not short term, and it rested nearly completely on Saddam’s long held nuclear ambitions. The case is set forth at great length in the linked review of Kenneth Pollackâ€™s, “The Threatening Storm.” â€?
The general idea was that sanctions would not work in the long term. Saddam could play a cat-and-mouse game with the USA indefinitely. Given his past record, he would be likely to acquire a stockpile of WMD, particularly nuclear weapons that could threaten other countries in the regionâ€¦as well as the USA. Pollack (and no doubt many others) could not see â€œanother viable alternativeâ€? to invasion.
Fair enough. This is certainly a reasonable argument. But there is a problem with this hypothesis: if this was indeed the motive â€“ a long term threat â€“ then what was the hurry? Saddam was in no position in March 2003 to threaten any regional country or the United States. Could the administration have given itself a little bit more time to plan the campaign?
There is almost universal agreement now that the post-invasion phase was poorly planned. The reason most people accept for that poor planning was that haste! But why was there so much haste? Lack of proper preparation, lack of proper planning, disasters that led to the loss of countless lives, Iraqi and America; chaos, lawlessness, poor decisions that led to America being viewed as an enemy by ordinary peopleâ€¦
What would have happened if the invasion was delayed for some six months, or even a year to prepare better? Wouldnâ€™t this have led to some life saving? If all those criminal mistakes were not made, couldnâ€™t that have possibly led to the success in this campaign instead of resulting in a humiliating failure?
Even the plans put forward by the numerous committees set up by the State Department were hurriedly and unceremoniously discarded! Why?
This theory does not explain the great urgency with which the campaign was conducted or the great incompetence in its implementation. If long term dangers were the main motive, then surely the long term effects of chaos in Iraq and the already-volatile region would also be equally threatening to the USA and to world peaceâ€¦ and would have warranted some consideration?
Surely, to any semi-competent long-term planner, â€œlong termâ€? adverse effects that such an invasion would have on the Arab world, the Muslim world and the rest of the worldâ€¦ would also lead to even more significant long-term threat?
Surely those possible, perhaps even potentially more potent, long-term threats should have warranted better planning of the campaign if it were not to produce more grave dangers that it aimed to solve? Or couldnâ€™t the administration handle the concept of more than one threat simultaneously? That would be an absurd proposition.
[Another interesting (probably even amusing) observation that has to be made in this context is that so many people advocating action (including going to war) based on Saddamâ€™s (or other regimesâ€™) record or history, violently reject other people drawing conclusions based on US administrationsâ€™ past record and actions!]
This theory may only become reasonable with the aid of one of two assumptions to explain the shortcomings in implementation:
1. The timing was dictated by â€œshort-termâ€? domestic US political considerations, for re-election purposes, which did not leave sufficient time to plan for the campaign properlyâ€¦ and to exploit public sentiment that allowed that â€˜thinâ€™ evidence to be sufficient justification for the war;
2. A level of (political and administrative) incompetence that no amount of planning could improve.
The implications, in either case, for the integrity of the administration or its capability to run the affairs of Americaâ€¦ are self evidently disastrous!
In summary, there may have been a case for Saddam being regarded as a long-term threat to the USA for that factor to be considered a motive for the invasion. But if that is accepted, then the conclusions of either criminal incompetence or recklessness and lack of sufficient consideration for loss of American (or other) lives or for creating more long-term grave dangers on the part of the administrationâ€¦ must be accepted by advocates of this theory.
The good news is that Karl Rove has said he has run his last presidential campaign. The bad news is he is only a phone call away from whomever runs the GOP candidate in ‘08. The smart money seems to be on Dick Wadhams as the next man behind the candidate. So it seems like it’s never too early to size up the competition. PresentlySLATE has a very good article that I urge you to read thoroughly. Here are a few paragraphs to whet your appetite or ruin it depending on how one digests this material.
John Thune’s 2004 challenge to former Sen. Tom Daschle looked a little like a kamikaze mission. Two years previously, Thune had lost to Sen. Tim Johnson, another South Dakota Democrat who is a far less impressive campaigner than the former minority leader, in a year when Republicans racked up victories nationwide. But for his race against Daschle, Thune heeded the advice of the Bush White House, dumped his first campaign team, and hired Dick Wadhams. The 49-year-old operative comes across as an aging country boy, but he is renowned for running nasty and effective campaigns. In South Dakota he honed his slash-and-burn reputation, relentlessly attacking Daschle about his Washington, D.C., home, luxury car, and lobbyist wife. At one point, Wadhams accused the former minority leader of having “emboldened Saddam Hussein.” Thune won, by a slim margin, and gratefully dubbed his campaign manager “the best pit bull out there."
Rove may have figured that recommending Wadhams for the South Dakota race would be the next best thing to taking Daschle down himself. The two operatives, who have known each other since their days in College Republicans, run similar campaigns. Both shield their candidates from the press. Both like to work with clients who may not be powerhouse political talents, but who sell well as regular guys and thrive on being underestimated. And both win, a lot. In addition to engineering President Bush’s election and re-election, Rove masterminded the GOP’s 1998 sweep of every elected statewide office in Texas. Wadhams has lost only one of the nine statewide campaigns he has worked on. Now that Rove’s tenure as pre-eminent consigliere is drawing to a closeâ€”at a press breakfast shortly after the November 2004 election, he said he wouldn’t run another presidential campaignâ€”Wadhams is emerging as his most obvious successor.
....Wadhams didn’t hesitate to run attack ads and regularly belittle his opponents. His approach mirrors not only Rove’s but also that of the late Lee Atwater, creator of the Willie Horton ads that helped sink Michael Dukakis. While most campaign managers are defensive about going negative, howeverâ€”Atwater, for example, claimed he got the idea for the Horton ads from Al Gore’s primary campaignâ€”Wadhams is entirely unapologetic. “There’s nothing wrong with going negative,” he once argued. “Staying positive is a disservice to the voters because differences between the candidates are never revealed.”
In January, he signed on with Sen. George Allen, a Virginia Republican whose staunch conservatism is leavened by his good ol’ boy manners. Outside his home state, Allen is a relative unknown, but he’s generating plenty of interest among party apparatchiks. In an April poll in the National Journal, pollsters, consultants, and media pundits picked Allen as the No. 1 choice to head the 2008 GOP ticket.
There’s a whole lot more in the article to talk about. One thing seems certain, whoever is the candidate in ‘08, there’s a good chance Wadhams will be involved and playing as dirty as you can imagine. Forewarned is forearmed.
Monday, June 13, 2005
"Confessions of a Former Dittohead" in Bookstores-May, 2006Iâ€™ve just returned from the most beautiful place in the worldâ€”Yellowstone National Park and Paradise Valley, Montana. I spent 6 days hiking, clearing my mind, and taking in the scenery. For me hiking is more spiritual than church, and I always return feeling as though I spent the entire week with God. The wildlife was stunning. I watched a great grey owl hunt for about 20 minutes before pouncing on a vole. I saw a bald eagle steal a salmon from an otter. I even got to see a black bearâ€¦from a safe distance, of course. I hate to admit it, but I had tears in my eyes when I saw the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone from a south rim trail that Iâ€™d never hiked before. If youâ€™ve never seen the canyon, it quite literally looks like it was carved by the hand of God. Truly spectacular.
Yellowstone made environmentalists and conservationists out of the likes of Teddy Roosevelt and LBJ, and Iâ€™m happy to say it did the same for me 4 years ago. As is says in the book of Leviticus (25:23-24), â€œThe land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenantsâ€¦you must provide for the redemption of the land.â€? We are all living in Godâ€™s apartment, and He doesnâ€™t want us throwing wild parties!
Upon my return I checked my â€˜snailâ€™ mail (you knowâ€¦like you do), and I noticed I had received my signed contract from my publisher. This was it. Itâ€™s official. Iâ€™m an authorâ€¦and I have a deadline (aw, CRAP!). But the good news is I get to support the backbone of the American economyâ€”the small business owner. Better still, I get to support the small liberal business owner!
â€œConfessions of a Former Dittoheadâ€? will be published by Ig Publishing in May, 2006. Check them out! Theyâ€™ve got some great titles. (May I recommend â€œFor Fucks Sakeâ€? by Robert Lasner? Iâ€™m not just sucking up! Honest!) Youâ€™ll notice their website has the header â€œA Small Press With A Large Voice (Or A Big Mouth).â€? How could I possibly publish my book anywhere else? So go buy something from Ig, or failing that maybe send them an email thanking them for taking a chance on a first time author like myself.
I hold no unreasonable expectations for my book. I hope it will sell well, of course, but thatâ€™s not why I let you kossaks talk me into writing it. I was thinking about this parable while I was hiking:
One morning an elderly man was walking on a nearly deserted beach. He came upon a boy surrounded by thousands and thousands of starfish. As eagerly as he could, the youngster was picking them up and throwing them back into the ocean.
Puzzled, the older man looked at the young boy and asked, "Little boy, what are you doing?"
The youth responded without looking up, "I'm trying to save these starfish, sir."
The old man chuckled aloud, and queried, "Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make?"
Holding a starfish in his hand, the boy turned to the man and, gently tossing the starfish into the water, said, "It will make a difference to that one!"
That pretty much summarizes what I hope to accomplish. With a little luck this book will be the right book at the right time for some otherwise reasonable dittohead. And maybe if weâ€™re very lucky, this along with other heartfelt stories from us â€œnew bloodâ€? Democrats will help sway the 2006 elections. As the Hopi elders say, â€œWe are the oneâ€™s weâ€™ve been waiting for.â€? Now itâ€™s time to make a difference.
Hard core, Mr Cheney? Where's your evidence?
Tonight, Dick Cheney is going to tell Americans that all the prisoners now in Guantanamo Bay are “bad people”. I doubt if anyone is going to challenge him on this in the interview to be broadcast tonight on Fox News.
Dick Cheney’s going to say: “The important thing here to understand is that the people that are at GuantÃ¡namo are bad people. I mean, these are terrorists for the most part. These are people that were captured in the battlefield of Afghanistan or rounded up as part of the al-Qaida network. He said that President George Bush was, however, “exploring all alternatives” for detaining the 540 prisoners, some of whom have been held for more than three years without charge. “We’ve already screened the detainees there and released a number, sent them back to their home countries ... but what’s left is hard core.” cite
Strange that although the remaining 540 prisoners (assuming that’s an accurate number: any ghost detainees?) are all “hard core”, the US has not been able to bring charges against any of them.
Here’s some of the “hard core” detainees who were “captured in the battlefield of Afghanistan or rounded up as part of the al-Qaida network”.
Bisher al-Rawi was the youngest son of an Iraqi family who fled to the UK as refugees from Saddam Hussein back in the 1970s. He’s a legal British resident, but he didn’t take British nationality because his family wanted one son to have the right to reclaim their confiscated property in Baghdad if it ever became safe for them to go home. His brother, who is a British citizen, was arrested at the same time (they were on a business trip to the Gambia) but his brother was released after pressure from the British Foreign Office. (interview here). There are four other British residents who have vanished into the American gulag.)
How about Sabir Lahmar? He’s one of six Algerians kidnapped by the US from Bosnia in January 2002. The US had claimed all six with al-Qaeda terrorists: it seems likely that their “evidence” was that of Abdul-Rahman Khadr (Omar Khadr’s older brother) who turned informer when the CIA arrested him. The CIA could not make a case for the detention of the six Algerians to the Bosnian Supreme Court: when the Court released them, the US military took them to Guantanamo Bay.
Abdul Salam Al-Shehry is another “hard core bad man” according to Dick Cheney. “Man” may be overstating things: he’s 18, and was 15 when arrested. (He is the youngest prisoner there, though other boys have been arrested and imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay.)
And then there’s Omar Khadr. He was also 15 when he was arrested. “When the Americans began bombing Afghanistan, he went to Logar, East Afghanistan. After the Northern Alliance entered Kabul, Omar, now separated from his brother (In Kabul) and his family (who had fled to Pakistan) ended up at a suspected al-Qaeda base near Khost, Afghanistan, which was raided by American and Afghan troops in July 27, 2002. He allegedly killed an American medic with a hand grenade but was shot three times, captured and taken to Guantanamo. He lost one eye. He was 15 at the time of his arrest and has since been detained in Guantanamo Bay. There he has been denied medical treatment, due to his non-co-operation with his interrogators. He had an operation whilst in Afghanistan but remains in constant pain, without being treated with painkillers.” Perhaps Dick Cheney feels that a teenage boy who behaves like this is a “hard core bad man”: I’d say that he’s… a teenage boy.
Unlike Bishar al-Rawi, rounded up in the Gambia for the crime of flying with an unusual phone charger while Muslim, Omar Khadr was genuinely “taken on the battlefield” and certainly raised arms against US military. But it’s hard to see how this justified locking him up in Guantanamo Bay for three years, still less how Dick Cheney justifies detaining him indefinitely.
Dick Cheney claimed back in early 2002 that all the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay were “hard core al-Qaeda” and “bad men”. He now says “We’ve already screened the detainees there and released a number, sent them back to their home countries ... but what’s left is hard core.”
But he said the same thing over three years ago. And since then, so many of the prisoners he then claimed were “hard core” have had to be released because the evidence against them was absurd or non-existent. Here’s the question: If Dick Cheney knows for sure that every single one of those 540 prisoners is “hard core”, is a “bad person”, why on earth isn’t the US publicly scheduling trials for them in court? If there’s evidence against them that can be used in a court of law, evidence that doesn’t rely on confessions obtained under torture, show the evidence.
Otherwise, it’s going to sound rather less convincing than it did three years ago. Because since then, so many of those “hard core” detainees have - after years of unjust imprisonment - been released. How many more years will it take before Bisher al-Rawi walks free?
Sunday, June 12, 2005
Push Push on the Grass (not about Marijuana)
Oh catch him now before God calls him home:
The evangelist shuffles with a walker down a small ramp into his living room. He has prostate cancer, hydrocephalus and the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, and last year broke a hip and his pelvis. He says he leaves the mountain only three or four times a year, and cannot even remember his last time down.
What is this! Wrath of God?
Nevertheless, Mr. Graham is now preparing to venture down the mountain to travel to New York City for another evangelistic crusade - a three-day outdoor revival meeting beginning June 24 in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens
Well the grass in Flushing is safe for the white christians, somebody tell Bloomberg…
While Graham (and his family, those preacher children!) earn my disdain, decades managing people (all it is) has instructed him, finally, to one simple truth:
Now, at a time when other evangelical leaders are plunging into political issues, Mr. Graham has subtly set himself apart, steadfastly refusing to talk about politics, the evangelical movement or any of the issues important to evangelical conservatives, like abortion, homosexuality and stem cell research.
“I feel I have only a short time to go, and I have to leave that to the younger people,” he said.
“I’m just going to preach the gospel and am not going to get off on all these hot-button issues,” he said when politics was broached again later. “If I get on these other subjects, it divides the audience on an issue that is not the issue I’m promoting. I’m just promoting the gospel. And after they come to Christ, they hopefully come to a church where they will learn more about their responsibility in society."
Oh don’t miss this tidbit, I think the Bushes will suggest that Bil and Hilpac go… I suspect we will see them there. Hosanna.
Mr. Graham said he recently wrote to Bill and Hillary Clinton to invite them to attend the crusade but had not yet heard whether they would come.
Just a little Sunday anti-benediction, LOL, with a message.