Friday, June 30, 2006

Adopting the Frames of the Right

I have read, half-amused, half-appalled, the savage attacks on Sen. Barack Obama over the last few days. I listened to the speech and read the transcript. Three sentences are being pulled out of context to make Sen. Obama sound like one of the hate-preachers of the right. The speech, in its entirety, is a sharp, smart, and strong condemnation of the right's use of religion as a club, as well as explicitly holding out a hand to believers who are unsure of where they belong in the religious divide the right is forcing on the nation.

People like my father. A decorated combat veteran, a life-long public servant, and a devout Catholic who gently argues with his secular humanist child about God, love, the Pope, human decency, and moral judgment. He is a political liberal - far more so than most of the "liberal" bloggers, and for many more decades - and a deeply humane person, but he dislikes the anti-religious rhetoric of the left. He has taken me to task for my less generous statements without ever speaking a harsh word, and his caring opposition has made me reconsider my own perspective. In short, he lives his faith through good works and personal humility. He is what I thought all Christians were like. When I think of religion as it should be, I think of him.

One of my earliest childhood memories is of being caught in tear gas on the UC Berkeley campus, my father having taken me with him to Sproul Plaza for a war protest. He thought it was important that we kids understood what democracy meant, but also that we understood Christ's message of peace. I was caught in tear gas three times by the time I reached first grade. It has never been difficult for me to know what side I am on - I just remember the burn of the gas in my eyes and on my face and remember who ordered it fired. Another of my early memories is of walking through the woods with him, having him point out the plants and animals, teaching me the Latin names of the trees, and imparting his profound love for God's creation. That I do not believe Christ is the son of God, or even that there is such a being as God, does not diminish the power of those lessons.

When I read the screeds against religion, religious language, and religious practice in the original posts and associated comment threads, I cannot help but think of how my father would answer them, which is with far more patience and forgiveness than I can summon. I also cannot help thinking that these people would heap their scorn and resentment upon him, and saunter away, smugly patting themselves on the back for having "defended" the separation of church and state. They would sneer at him for being socially conservative - he doesn't approve of divorce, gay marriage, or abortion - and ignore his support for desegregation, ending the Viet Nam war, the ERA, gun control, environmentalism, and nuclear disarmament.

In short, they have adopted wholesale the most beloved frame of the right, that of ever-narrowing litmus tests to demonstrate ideological purity.

As I read Sen. Obama's speech, and then the hate speech that followed, I understood that the people who would be lost are people like my father, for the "netroots left" will afford him no ground on which to stand as a complete person. That is a cruel choice to demand of someone. It struck me that the real message of Sen. Obama's speech was the difficulty of living as a complete person - to refuse to allow one's religion to seize politics as a tool of dogma, nor to allow one's politics to make a sham and mockery of one's faith.

The response to Obama makes mockery of progressive politics. A few sentences, plucked out of a very long speech, were deployed to provide the excuse for launching very personal attacks on the Senator. I watched an opportunity to provide a place in the world for liberals like my father be thrown in the trash in preference for Lieberman bashing and excoriating the "DINOs", exactly the way every attempt to discuss substantive policy with the right becomes an occasion to invoke 9/11 and call Democrats traitors.

That frame the netroots left has imported from the right wholesale.

It is more sad than ironic that in the same time the Republicans are assaulting the New York Times, demanding punishment for the traitors who endanger the nation, I can open almost any netroots left blog and read one post after another demanding (electoral) punishment for the traitors who endanger the liberal cause. I had not realized the degree to which Ann Coulter had become the rhetorical model for the self-proclaimed defenders of progressive politics.

Because I am less charitable than my father, I will say plainly that most critics of Sen. Obama obviously did not read or listen to the entire speech, but swallowed whole the right-wing framing of it - gutless Democrat hypocritcally pandering to hostile evangelicals. The speech, however, is an intensely personal self-criticism, a story of coming to faith and understanding that it does not protect one from the buffeting of doubt or the hard choices of justice. It is a speech by a believer to other believers, first and foremost, and it is a challenge to them. It is an unyielding criticism of progressive believers for not professing their faith and leaving a space in public discourse into which have slithered the serpents of the right.

So, I prefer to uphold the faith of my father than shackle myself to the frames of the right, no matter how politically expedient. I do not care for my faith in liberalism to be used as a bludgeon by some on the purist left any more than my father accepts the crude use of Christianity by the ruthless right. In this, we share our place in the world.


Thursday, June 29, 2006

Entitlement and the Deserving Middle Class

Or, Real Issues vs. Netroots Masturbation

After a depressing evening of reading "netroots" "passion" (i.e., litmus-test hysteria, ad hominem smears, deliberate misrepresentation of a speech, and gratuitous condescension to African American voters) over whether Sen. Barack Obama is simply Karl Rove lite (no, really!), I was about ready to go play a round of Age of Empires when I decided to go check out The American Prospect, and had my faith in progressivism restored.

Robert Kuttner has a concise, interesting and nuanced article up on John Edwards' favorite theme, the Two Americas. I wasn't much impressed by Edwards during the '04 campaign. I don't watch TV and he came across badly on the radio, all cornpone and canned sound bites. Since then, however, my opinion has been rising because of his dedicated work on behalf of alleviating poverty in America. He is now, along with Al Gore and Wes Clark, one of my favorites for the presidential race precisely because he has a central driving issue which sets the terms for his overall view.

Kuttner has approving things to say about Edwards, but he has careful and solid criticism, too. First the praise:
Former senator John Edwards gave a terrific speech to the National Press Club Thursday, one that felt like eloquence from another age. His theme: America should end poverty in three decades, mainly by rewarding work and promoting opportunity.

"Poverty is the great moral issue of our time," Edwards declared. This speech was his de facto kickoff for a run at the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

Unlike most of the undeclared Democratic field, Edwards is not putting his finger to the prevailing wind. He's trying to change it. After his 2004 vice-presidential run, Edwards admirably went home to the University of North Carolina to head its Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity.

The War on Terror has served to camouflage the typical "more of the same" war on ordinary American's that the neocons have been waging since FDR - assiduously transferring wealth upwards. It slowed under Bill Clinton, but has raged as fiercely as Iraqi gun battles since Jaunuary 2001. The various congressional scandals documented by the invaluable TPM Muckraker is an account of the amateurs in this game, the poor saps left to hoover up the leavings and the congress critters stupid enough to get caught with payola. The real action is in things like repealing the estate tax (check out Robert Reich's post The Super-Rich Estate Tax (Don't Call it a Death Tax) from earlier this month) and in getting policies in place that favor entrenched wealth over social justice. Here is where Kuttner offers criticism of Edwards:

The right has managed to savage the institutions that produced increasing opportunity and a broader middle class in the decades after World War II -- minimum wages, trade unionism, job-security, decent health and retirement plans, affordable college and housing, Social Security that rose with inflation, and economic regulation to keep Wall Street from grabbing most of the winnings.

The middle class hasn't been so insecure since the depression. But today, unlike 1937, this epic reversal is off the political radar screen. The insecurity is experienced privately rather than as a national issue.

It's courageous of Edwards to tackle poverty. But if he wants to become a presidential contender by re-introducing unspoken realities of class to American political discourse, there is a far larger class of people taking an economic bath. It's four Americans out of five. The real "Two Americas" are not the poor and everyone else, but the mega-rich and everyone else.

If we want to help the poor, prevent giveaways to the elite, and anchor a secure middle -- let's get the working middle class and the working poor back in the same broad coalition. I look forward to Edwards' next speech on that.

Survival of the Richest
(emphasis added)
This is mild criticism, and is more in the shape of advice, but it carries a punch. America equates poverty with personal failure or perhaps unavoidable misfortune, and not with government policies. The right has a built in prejudice with which to batter the left - you want to coddle lazy poor non-white ( let's never forget the race card) welfare bums and give them our hard-earned money! Kuttner points out the obvious, the basic lesson drilled into every Poli Sci student's head for the last 50 years on why there is no Socialist party in America, namely, the social contract since FDR has been to offer not riches but economic security and demonstrable socio-economic gains from one generation to the next. Not for everyone and not guaranteed, but enough to secure the foundations of the American Way of Life.

That contract is being unravelled by the neocons who mobilize tribalism - most notably race, region, and religion - to make politics about personality and prejudice. Kinda like the "netroots" are doing now. As I've said before (Heros and Demons, Avatar Politics), the boogey men of the left do not have the visceral power of those on the right (Daddy Warbucks vs. Willie Horton), and we will lose in a game of avatar politics, much in the way computer game avatars can be out monstered. Electoral gains are cemented by redistricting to ensure safe seats and by entrenching aggressive redistibutive policies to snatch wealth and strangle middle class advancement programs. The game is won, in neocon eyes, if the crown jewel of the post-war settlement, Social Security, can be destroyed.

Thus, I agree with Kuttner that Edwards, indeed any Democratic candidate, needs to expand the argument and reframe the economic split - not the impoverished and the rest of us, but the ordinary American and the economic opportunists. It can't simply be an attack on "the rich" as the American Dream is to become part of that class. It must be upon interests who are trying to scam the people working hard to become rich.

Bill Clinton's famous invocation of "Those who work hard and play by the rules" is the argument that will resonate. Think about how many ways that simple phrase engages the American imagination - hard work, self-sufficiency, law abiding, moderate, self-controlled, and (most of all) deserving. Do not underestimate how much motivation comes from that sense of entitlement. This is how any reconstruction and expansion of the peculiarly American social contract must be presented.

There is a need for the left in this country to get more aggressive in returning fire from the bloviators of the right, going back and bitchslapping them when they try to play slime and defend politics. The "anger" of the "netroots", however, is reaching the point of diminishing returns. The faux arguments about who counts as a "real" progressive pale next to the horrific damage the neocons are inflicting on the body politic and on the bodies of our citizens. There needs to be an argument for the middle class that will move them from the middle of the road position.

Beating back the erosion of middle class entitlements is a winning proposition.


Kitty On the Mend

No pictures this time, just a short report that she's clearly on the mend and can now jump up on low surfaces. She's sitting at my feet purring away right now.


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Not That Anyone Will Give Sen. Clinton Credit For It...

So the blogosphere is full of cheers for Sen. Harry Reid for saying the Democrats would block the Congress giving itself any more pay raises until and unless they also raise the minimum wag:

Democrats vow to block pay raises until minimum wage increased

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Democrats ratcheted up their election-year push for an increase in the federal minimum wage Tuesday by promising to block a congressional pay hike unless some of the lowest-paid hourly workers get their first raise in nearly a decade.

"Congress is going to have earn its raise by putting American workers first: A raise for workers before a raise for Congress," said Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

Reid refused to spell out exactly how he will block a $3,300 pay raise scheduled for January 1 for members of Congress, who currently earn $165,200 annually. He said with 40 Senate Democrats backing the maneuver, "We can stop anything they (Republicans) try to do with a congressional pay raise."

Democrats in the House and Senate want the $5.15-per-hour federal minimum wage, in place since 1997, to rise in 70-cent increments to $7.25 by January 1, 2009.

This is a long overdue move by the Dems., and is a winning issue. I'd be a lot more impressed by both Sen. Reid's "boldness" and the Left blogosphere's support if Sen. Hillary Clinton hadn't already proposed a much stronger measure back in April:

Senator Clinton Announces Legislation To Link Congressional Pay Raises With Increase In The Federal Minimum Wage

Washington, DC – Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton announced today that she will introduce legislation when Congress returns to link Congressional pay increases to increases in the federal minimum wage. In addition to gradually raising the federal minimum wage, the bill would also require the federal minimum wage to be increased by the same percentage amount as Congressional salaries every year.

This is stronger than what Reid said, because it introduces a permanent indexing of the minimum wage, not an election year stunt. But acknowledging that Sen. Clinton is pushing a much more agressive and progressive measure that directly benefits working class Americans, more agressive than anything blogosphere darling Russ Feingold is proposing, would cause "progressive" heads to explode all over the blogosphere.

Sen. Clinton is not even in my top three of preferred presidantial candidates, but I trust her liberal credentials more than I trust those of the dominant left bloggers. She's actually done the work.


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

More of the Same - Bush's CYA

The book's opening anecdote tells of an unnamed CIA briefer who flew to Bush's Texas ranch during the scary summer of 2001, amid a flurry of reports of a pending al-Qaeda attack, to call the president's attention personally to the now-famous Aug. 6, 2001, memo titled "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US." Bush reportedly heard the briefer out and replied: "All right. You've covered your ass, now."

-- From "The Shadow War, In a Surprising New Light," a review of Ron Suskind's The One Percent Doctrine by Barton Gellman, in the Washington Post

Think about this. Think about what Bush is saying here. "You've covered your ass, now." Just what is the briefer covering it from? That he (or she) will be asked why wasn't the President informed about a horrendous attack.

No, I don't think that the Cheneyites are behind the murders on 9/11. Their ineptitude with their wars in the Middle East pretty much demonstrate that tactical planning is not among their talents. They are 100% political operatives.

What it says is that Bush doesn't think the deaths of Americans are worth his time. The prospect of the imminent murder of citizens on American soil on his watch earned a sneer. The reporting of vital security news is nothing more than some CYA babble, because reality cannot be allowed to intrude on the fantasy that is BushWorld. It's simply unimportant.

Fast forward to today. More of the same. Bush cares nothing for the killing and crippling of American troops. He's willing to keep them in Iraq, fighting a war of attrition, so he has something to cover his ass. The war was begun on lies, has been run on lies, and will stagger along until Janaury of 2009 to preserve the lie of Bush the great war preznit.

As long as his ass is covered he does not care what happens to yours.


It's the Corruption, Stupid

In all the folderol over Kos, the original issue has become somewhat buried - the news of Jerome Armstrong's SEC conviction. Neil the Ethical Werewolf posted an interesting but fundamentally misguided argument on Ezra Klein's blog. He makes a claim that Kos is being influenced by Armstrong to uncritically promote Mark Warner's campaign. It is hedged about with caveats and maybes and so forth, but his basic argument is don't buy what Kos peddles about Warner because he stands in relation to Warner as the scammed stock-buyers stood in relation to the Bluepoint offerings, someone duped by Armstrong against his best interests.


There's a very serious issue with Mr. Armstrong, but it is not Markos saying nice things about Mark Warner. First of all, if a person is only now calling Kos' judgment into question, they either need to up their meds or get some new ones. This is the guy who publically called Maureen Dowd a bitch because she wrote a typically catty article on him. Like, Kos, dude, have you never heard about these newspaper thingies? Don't you pay attention to how they operate and what the different columnists' schticks are? You need to keep up with the times... [Removing tongue from cheek] In a strange way, I feel better about Kos for supporting Armstrong because it demonstrates how he treats his friends, with loyalty and trust. One can argue he should pick better friends, but then, isn't that true of everyone? Nor am I particularly perturbed by Kos strongly promoting candidates connected to Armstrong. Why not? It's a known quantity. Their business and personal connections are no secret, and I can factor that knowledge into any promotion. Frankly, if somone is so unthinking that s/he blindly supports whomever Kos says to, that's the supporter's problem and s/he would be likely to engage in similar behavior with another online celebrity.

The issue here is with Mark Warner's judgment and the issue is corruption.

DC is awash in the pay-to-play scandals of the K Street Project. Can we say Abramoff? Norquist? Ralph Reed? Duke Cunningham? Scams? Fornigate? Influence peddling and sale of access to elected officials? Hiring Jerome Armstrong as a consultant is a black mark against Warner because of the nature of the SEC conviction - conning people for a price, which is another way of saying Armstrong's integrity is for sale. Warner evidently does not mind having such a person on his payroll.

It matters who a candidate has around them. Isn't one of the objections of the left blogosphere the undue influence of political consultants on candidates? Well, this situation should be part of that objection. As long as Armstrong is playing a prominent role in the Warner campaign, I cross Warner off my list of acceptable candidates in order to protect my own interests. Is that unfair to Warner and/or Armstrong? Not really. They must have weighed the advantages and benefits of working together, and the objection of voters like myself to Jerome's criminal conviction was factored into that decision. Unless Warner hired Armstrong with no knowledge of the SEC conviction, in which case he will have to determine whether he, too, was scammed.

None of this, however, has anything to do with Markos. That's a whole 'nuther kettle of fish.


Update: Edited to be less accusatory towards Neil. I have no beef with him, only a difference of perspective on what matters to the left in the news about Armstrong.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Three Winning Candidates for Democrats

I posted earlier on the three winning issues for Democrats. Here are three winning candidates who neatly map onto these issues:
  1. Al Gore (and here)- The environment, of course. Who is offering alternatives to the "hide their heads in the sand, more of the same" behavior of the Rethugs? Al, in perfect, wonky truth. He has always given a damn about our shared world, and will be not just an American leader, but what the President needs to be, the world's leader in the face of this threat to human survival. He isn't just an activist. He has grappled with the issues of ecology and human development for decades, and understands how you cannot sacrifice one for the other. He will give every last ounce of his soul for this.
  2. Wes Clark - Military strategy and thinking of how to save our butts from the quicksand of Iraq. Good old President Cut and Run is just itching for the day when he can hand over the keys to the White Hosue and smirk at the new occupants "See ya, suckers!" As angry as that makes me, the truth is, like the truth of the environment, we have no choice but to deal with the mess. This situation will need to be handled by someone who can think and act intelligently for both political and military advantage. We also need someone who will be an advocate for the veterans the neocons are using up and throwing away liek toy soldiers.
  3. John Edwards - One America, and restoring dignity and security to ordinary citizens. By far, the worst crime committed by the neocon hordes is the impoverishment of people who have to work for a living - small business owners, blue collar trades, service sector, and, increasingly, office workers. The transfer of wealth to the top sliver of the society (Bush's "base") has left those below stretched to own a home, raise their kids, pay their bills and cover basic medical care. Edwards has made this his issue, declaring that America can and should end poverty.
These are the core issues for Democrats. While the party can disagree about the best way to address these issues, this is what matters - our environment, our security, our families. These are leaders, intelligent and commited people who are both progressives and realists, who have deep expertise in these issues, yet also have broad backgrounds in other matters. They are curious about the world and care about the fate of other people. They stand for something, and are ready to fight for those beliefs.


The Occasion, Not the Kos

All I know of Kos I learned on the internets. That's about what I "know" of any media figure. What matters is how a person comes across online, so I don't really care what he's like "in person." Same goes for those who are currently attacking him. My opinion of them is formed by my observation of their online behavior.

Kos is a drama queen who needs to get a thicker skin. What Jerome Armstrong did or did not do in stock deals is irrelevant to my opinion of Kos, just as Kos' penchant for public temper tantrums is irrelevant to my opinion of Armstrong. What Kos does in the privacy of his own or someone else's home is absolutely off limits. I do think there is a band of prominent bloggers and their sycophantic commenters (often the same people from blog to blog - Jesus, people, don't you have jobs, or do you spend every waking hour on these sites?) who are in communication with each other, cross-post to each others' sites, and support each other. Like, duh. That's what people do - protect members of the tribe.

I've always made it clear that I don't care for the tone and tactics of the Kossack Krew, and I think they claim credit for political and electoral outcomes more than they should. I have no interst in being part of the tribe. Even so, they have a vital role to play in the political ecosystem because they inspire more and better arguments, thinking and actions.

The TNR crew and their suck-up buddies in the MSM are also a tribe. More to the point, their attack of Kos and the liberal blogosphere is a threat to freedom of speech and opinion in the country. What they are doing right now is equivalent to the Swiftboat tactics against Kerry. Whatever Kos' faults, whatever Kos wishes he could be, there is no excuse for the fabrications and tag-team assault on oppositional politics. What began as a stupid exchange of bitchiness has become a view on the power elite's determination to destroy the validity of the left blogosphere as such.

Do you think Kos is the real target here? No. They know he's a flash in the pan and can be taunted into self-immolation. The objective here is to discredit the substantive sites and operations - Media Matters, TAP, TPM, Washington Monthly - in short, the independent organizations offering direct challenge to the major newspapers and dominant political magazines. TNR could not give a rat's ass less what peons like me think. I don't got money or access, I'm not a candidate for anything, and my regular reading audience is about 6 people, half of whom aren't even residents of North America. They care what the policy elites and big donors think, what the politicians and local party bosses are saying, and what people who are read by the entire body of Congress can persuasively argue. To the degree that Kos is targeted, it is to ruin interest in dKos, where increasing numbers of traditional political actors are appearing, giving it legitimacy.

Again, it's not Kos himself. He's just the wedge they are using to splinter an emerging Democratic coalition that is shaking off the last of the Cold War alignments and understanding how to combine passion and policy.

Kos is guilty, at worst, of poor political judgment. TNR & Co. is guilty of an assault on democracy itself.


Sunday, June 25, 2006

Al Gore Meets Futurama

On YouTube. Just the thing to get you grinning.

Oh, and go see the movie.

Al Gore - 2008


It's All in the Spin - Gratuitous Democrat Bashing by the LA Times

To combine the big themes of Sunday Blogging with Anglachel™, here's a little bit from an article buried on page A24 in the LA Times, U.S. Commander Presents Drawdown Plan:
Although Bush has said troop levels would be dictated by the security situation in Iraq and the maturity of Iraqi forces, a move to reduce forces will probably have significant domestic political reverberations as well.

The first of the drawdowns would not only come just weeks before November's midterm congressional elections, in which Republicans are facing the prospect of significant losses, due in part to the war's growing unpopularity. But the plan also comes as some Democrats have been pushing the Bush administration to come up with a timetable for withdrawal.

Last week, Congress debated two Democratic proposals that called for Bush to begin a troop drawdown, resolutions that divided the party. Public acknowledgment of the Casey plan by administration officials could leave the Democratic Party's leaders in an even more awkward position, having backed a withdrawal plan already embraced by the White House — in effect leaving the party with no Iraq policy distinct from the administration's as the parties head into the midterm elections.
Um, yeah, that's one way of putting it. The first two graphs are not too bad, even though they come 11 paragraphs in, but then the third one blows journalistic objectivity out of the water. Why is this an embarrassment for the Democrats? Why isn't it being described as the White House having no Iraq policy distinct from the Democrats? Wasn't this the Democrat's idea in the first place?

Greg Sargent saw the same piece and has come to the same conclusion:

Just try to wrap your brain around that logic for a second. Dems, led by Jack Murtha, have been beating the drums and demanding that the head-in-the-sand White House make some sort of move towards troop withdrawals. In response, the GOP has adamantly refused, smearing anyone even whispering such things as a weak, vaccillating Jane Fonda defeatist. Buoyed by the Zarqawi killing, the media relentlessly tried to portray this smidgen of good news in Iraq -- and the GOP strategy of demonizing Dems as cowards -- as political winners for Republicans. But Americans refused to think the way the commentators told them to. Polls continued to show no real uptick in approval for Bush or for his handling of Iraq, and that sizeable blocs of the public want to see some sort of phased withdrawal.

So now word is being leaked that the top commander in Iraq is "projecting" just what Dems pushed for and just what the GOP derided relentlessly as embracing "retreat" and "surrender." So how does the media react? By refusing to even acknowledge the political context of this at all.

And now the LA Times casts the fact that the Republicans are being forced by pressure from the Dems to start down the road toward troop reductions as something that will be bad for...Democrats! What is it going to take to get the media to stop spinning everything -- even a situation where Republicans are being forced to follow where the Dems led -- as good for the GOP?

It really is mind-boggling. The last week of blogging and commenting was all about how the Democrats are demanding a realistic plan to bring Bush's War to a conclusion, while the White Hosue and Congressional Republicans kicked and screamed and squalled about how they weren't going to do it. Now, there is a plan on the table for troop drawdowns and the the Democratic leadership on this issue is ignored.

And the kicker in all of it? There's no commitment to the plan:
Army Gen. George W. Casey presented his plan to Pentagon leaders and President Bush in confidential briefings during a visit to Washington last week, an administration official said. Other officials emphasized that no final decision had been taken on troop levels, but said that the outline would probably serve as the basis for future planning.
Serving as a basis for future planning. Gee, sounds real definite to me. In short, this "plan" has all the hallmarks of an election season strategy, to be abandonded the day after the elections in Novemeber. Oh, and it also manages to squeeze in this:
Casey's two-year drawdown plan includes the continued hand-over of military bases in Iraq, which would reduce the 69 facilities held by U.S. forces to 11 by the end of 2007. U.S. commanders have gradually been consolidating American forces in large "super bases" in Iraq's most restive areas, including Al Anbar province in the west, near Mosul in the north, and in Baghdad.
Permanent bases. We're not leaving, folks. More of the same. More of the same White House opportunism. More of the same kiss-ass reporting and Democrat bashing. More of the same bait-and-switch lies from the White House.


Double Negative

Kevin Drum has blogged this morning about the front page article in today's Sunday LA Times about the rapid melting of Greenland's ice sheet (Kevin's post here, Global Warming: Worse Than We Thought, and the original LA Times article here, Greenland's Ice Sheet is Slip-sliding Away, may require free registration), but I think he misses a bigger story to be learned from the front page. Let's take a look:

LA Times home page showing stories on two Bush administration failures.

There's a double negative going on here, two areas of blindness in our current administration.

First is the failure of the Bush White House to realistically acknowledge, let alone substantively address, the threat of global warming. They have grudgingly admitted that, gee, it does look like temperatures are little higher, but not that there is anything to be done about it, nor even confronting the changes the country will have to go through to deal with the effects, regardless of what is causing the phenomenon.

Second is the failure of the Cheneyites to deal with Iraq realistically, which means keeping track of the basic information about the war - like how many Iraqis are dying. In the article War's Iraqi Death Toll Tops 50,000, Louise Roug and Doug Smith, LA Times staff writers, report on what the US government refuses to even track, the number of Iraqis who have died as a result of the US invasion. The opening paragraphs are telling:
BAGHDAD — At least 50,000 Iraqis have died violently since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, according to statistics from the Baghdad morgue, the Iraqi Health Ministry and other agencies — a toll 20,000 higher than previously acknowledged by the Bush administration.

Many more Iraqis are believed to have been killed but not counted because of serious lapses in recording deaths in the chaotic first year after the invasion, when there was no functioning Iraqi government, and continued spotty reporting nationwide since.

The toll, which is mostly of civilians but probably also includes some security forces and insurgents, is daunting: Proportionately, it is equivalent to 570,000 Americans being killed nationwide in the last three years.
This situation, a combination of unwillingness to track the facts along with chaotic conditions that prevent others from doing the same, is paradigmatic of how Bush's Forever War has been run. From the start, no provision was made to treat it in a realistic manner - not the reasons fabricated to justify the invasion, not the pulled-out-of-Rumsfeld's-ass war "planning", not the lack of protection for people and property once the main military barrage had ended, not the utterly corrupt contracting of the "reconstruction" after the initial hostilities.

In both of these situations, there's something at work that is more insidious than mere ignorance or bull-headedness. It is a willful disregard for reality, an active assault on common sense and truly conservative evaluation. When truth becomes inconvenient, get rid of it. They have completely internalized Reagan's gaffe "Facts are stupid things." They do not feel a need to use the same facts as the rest of us.

Hence, a double negative. First, reality imposes no restraints on their action. Second, their actions result in death, destruction and misery for tens of thousands of people, and they don't care.


Billmon on The Big Fake

Billmon gives voice to a suspicion I've had for the last week or so.

If this Newsweek story is correct, then we're probably approaching one of those truly Orwellian moments when the trained parrots all start screeching a completely different set of propaganda talking points -- diametrically opposed to the ones they were screeching just a few minutes before:

A timetable for withdrawal of occupation troops from Iraq [is one of the] key clauses of a national reconciliation plan drafted by new Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who will unveil it Sunday. The provisions will spark sharp debate in Iraq — but the fiercest opposition is likely to come from Washington, which has opposed any talk of timetables, or of amnesty for insurgents who have attacked American soldiers.

Far from opposing it, I think Washington is probably where the plan originated. Maliki, after all, was the American choice for the prime ministership -- the guy that Ambassador Khalilzad and his band of behind-the-scenes string pullers went to the mat for during the long, drawn-out negotations in Baghdad earlier this year. It's pretty far fetched to think he would pull a peace plan like a rabbit out of a hat and then present it to his U.S. benefactors as a fait accompli.

Cutting and Running to Victory

The key to remember here is that Cheney doesn't give a rat's ass what anyone else in the world wants. He's in power and that means he can do as he pleases, him and Rumsfeld. All public statements are intended to manipulate domestic political opinion, and the very real wishes of the American public - to stop this pointless bloodbath - are merely indicators of where people are suceptible to manipulation. The idea that Bush and company might actually respect another nation's sovereignty, especially one where there is oil, doesn't pass the giggle test.

Billmon conlcudes:

The final question, of course, is whether such a ploy would work politically -- not in Iraq, where the future of any "national reconciliation" can probably be measured in weeks, if not days -- but here in the USA. My guess is that it could, IF the administration can produce some tangible signs of an actual troop withdrawal before November -- even if it's only a couple of brigades.

While an abrupt, overnight switch in the propaganda machine's output from stay-the-course-forever to cut-and-run-to victory might grate on the ears of those of us who still haven't quite adjusted to the Fox News era, I doubt the vast majority of the American people will care -- or even notice. They'll just be happy that the war is "over" and the boys and girls will be coming home, allowing them to forget the whole disagreeable business. Anyone who believes otherwise must have slept through the last few elections.

Sooner or later, of course, the clueless idiots will find out that the war -- the real war, the war for the Middle East -- isn't over, and isn't likely to be over in their lifetimes, or even their children's lifetimes. But it's probably safe to assume that the first Tuesday in November will have come and gone by then.

It's actually rather simple. Lie. Make it sound like they're doing what the Iraqis and the American people want. Make large noises and do much olive branch rattling. Continue through November. Then stop.


Edit: Ed Kilgore posts much the same opinion here: Secret Plan. The difference between the Democrats and the Republicans being that the Democrats really do want to put a stop to the brutal attrition of our troops, while the Rethugs are only thinking about the election. If they cared, they would work with the Democrats to brign about the will of the American public.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Bush - Abandoning Responsibility

This can't be said enough. Bush is on record that he will do nothing until he can high tail it out of town in January 2009, and leave his stinking shit pile in Iraq for someone else to clean up. Josh Marshall remains the clearest voice on this point:

Am I sure this [setting a timetable for US withdrawal from Iraq] will work? Not at all. As I've written at various points over the last couple years, this is the root irony and tragedy of the situation we've gotten ourselves into in Iraq. We are both the glue holding the country together and the solvent tearing it apart.

But President Bush's policies are not only failing. He has shown by words and deeds that he's given up on doing anything else but holding on with the status quo until he can unburden himself of his responsibility for the situation in January 2009. He has no policy or plan but denial.

Bush is President Cut and Run. He is going to put US troops into a meat grinder for three more years because he is unwilling to face reality, then he is going to run back to Crawford, leaving the next President - who is going to be a Democrat - to pick up the pieces.

The person who actually faces the hard task of disengaging the US from Bush's Forever War is going to be smeared by the Rethugs as some kind of anti-American, anti-military coward who is runnign away form US commitments. The good puppy press will yip and yap, repeating this bullshit, and neatly sidestep the truth that it is a debacle of Bush's making, one that has materially harmed the nation.

The fight against this meme needs to start now. This is Bush's War, fought on his terms, and he is responsible for the resulting mess. Worst. President. Ever.


Kitty and Beer

She's beginning to climb up on things, now, so I think her rear legs are getting stronger. We have a beer box in the hallway near the door to the kitchen (What? You *don't* have a beer box? Cretin...) which is her favorite perch when we are doing things back there. We call it the "Treat Box" since she waits there for us to put treats into her food dish, out of the way but able to keep an eye on it all. She is able to climb up on it now, and actually slept there for a few hours.

The kitty makes sure the party doesn't start without her.

I think she misses high places. This is a cat who thinks nothing of jumping to the top of the china cabinet and playing gargoyle.

Last night, I put her on the bed next to me when it was time to go to sleep so she would be able to cuddle without having to be held. She was gone when I woke up about two o'clock. About 6, she decided it was time to get up, so she climbed up onto the bed (a good height) and stomped on my head, meowing loudly.

The beer, by the way, is a local San Diego brewer. It's larger and more commercial than a craft brewery, but still small and with attention quality. The Amber Lager is only available locally. Here are a few of the local brewers that I like.
These are just a few of the larger brewers in San Diego, and ones with a large enough distribution people outside the area might be able to get their hands on some bottles.


Friday, June 23, 2006

The Three Winning Issues for Democrats

I think there are three, if you will, master issues for Democrats that are inter-related and should strike a chord with the average American, and it is all summed up in the brilliant catch phrase - More of the Same:
  1. Bush's dead-end Forever War. Lie and die. Running out the clock. Bush wantd this war, he got it, and he has fucked it up beyond belief. There are conflicting views on how to deal with it, but Democrats have to be united on the overall message. The President screwed this up and now he's trying to run away. The Rethuglicans are going to use the bodies of soldiers - leaving them weary, maimed, even tortured - as election props to pretend to be tough.
  2. Environmental disaster. The Administration treats global warming the same way it treats US soldiers - something to ignore, and hope you're out of office before it gets too hot. Science, education and good-old American know-how need to be mobilized to save the planet.
  3. Working class dignity. Forget "NASCAR" and talk living wages. Talk about legal immigration and enforcement of labor laws. Talk about health insurance. Talk about not wanting our children to be sent off to pointless wars or suffer from an irreparably degraded environment. Talk about affordable housing. Talk about changes for the better of all Americans, not just the lucky few "have mores" at the very top.
The Rethugs are the party of the status quo, of dead ends, and ducked promises. It's not just that Democrats have a new direction. It's that the current regime can only promise more of the same.


Mark Schmitt on Lieberman - the Problem of Opposition

It is interesting to read the various criticisms of Joe Lieberman in the blogosphere. The hysteria of the dKos/Eschaton/FDL variety wears very thin, very fast. Not being from CT, I'm not invested in the race, nor am I pleased by out-of-state operations targeting particular office holders for defeat. The reporting on the race is more innuendo than fact. Ned Lamont seems like a decent, if unexceptional, candidate who would probably do a good job in the Senate. I think some prominent Democrats are right to be worried that the Krew will be targeting them next. Overall, I think the "netroots" assault on Lieberman is effective not because it makes any substantive case for Lamont, but because it mobilizes resentment against Lieberman. It feels like a Rovian smear campaign in many ways, and I think this is what is getting hackles up, even from people like myself who have no great liking for Holy Joe.

But Mark Schmitt, on TPM Cafe this morning, offers a deeper and more telling criticism of Lieberman, one which, to my mind, points to a fault line in the Democratic Party itself. The entire post is measured, generous and humane. After detailing the many reasons why he should support Lieberman as a candidate, Schmitt says,
So I ought to be a Lieberman “dead-ender.” I’ve respected him for 30-some years, I don’t mind his idiosyncratic positions, I don’t demand party loyalty, and I don’t insist on any particular position on how to end the war. But I’m not. Because something happened to Lieberman, and it’s more than his position on the war. It is not, as John Dickerson wrote on Slate this week that he “symbolizes” all the other Democrats who voted for the war or won’t take a firm stand. Above all else, it’s simply his self-righteous anger, his hostility to those who differ. He alone among Democrats seem to think that opponents of the war are not just mistaken, but will cause us to lose. (Just as he alone can continue to describe the choice in the war as “winning” or “losing,” as if “winning” were somehow still possible, as opposed to salvaging a bad situation.) He alone would say something like, “”We criticize the commander-in-chief at our own peril.” And he alone would suggest, as he did to David Broder, that Democrats who criticized Bush on the war were acting from "partisan interest" while he was thinking of "the national interest." He alone seems more focused on what he sees as the errors of the war’s opponents than those who launched the war. As Michael Tomasky said of Peter Beinart’s New Republic position on the Iraq War, it was not so much that they supported the war as that they “opposed the opposers.”

Opposing the opposers. This is important. This is the theoretical ground the neocons and certain people on the left hold in common - that the problem is not what the opponents want, but that they are opponents at all. The mutual fantasy that the right and the self-conscious left share is that somehow the opposition of the 60's radicals was in and of itself the problem. The right has made it into an ur-myth about the internal enemy of the state, and the Democrats have wasted much time and effort trying to deny that, well, they were right to oppose.

This has become an automatic reflex in some Democratic circles, and looks for cover within reasonable calls to moderation and caution. Rethugs have been jerking this chain for far too long. To be in opposition is to be outside the pale of reasonable discourse. It is dangerous not just to the Democrats, but to the nation itself, because it cannot help but increasingly circumscribe the scope of acceptable discourse and policy.

This is why, even as I read and appreciate a lot of what comes out of the DLC, I can't be as distressed as Mr. Kilgore over the prospect of prominent centrist candidates being challenged, even defeated, as a result of a (still only potentially) successful campaign against Lieberman. The candidates who will lose are those who are not dedicated to the principle of a loyal opposition, who sound like recordings of Andrew Sullivan calling into question the loyalty and sanity of those who oppose business as usual.

While the excessive attitude of a chunk of the blogosphere is annoying as all hell and is far too close to the rhetoric and behavior of the neocons, there is something profoundly right about rejecting candidates, pundits and political talking heads generally who demonize the opposition for being opponents. The foundation of modern democracy is making the boundaries of legitimate opinion as expansive as possible. The core of authoritarian fascism is eliminating the possibility of diverging opinion. Given the polarization of politics in the US, brought about in most part by the authoritarian goals of neocons, theocons and nativists, those who have no truck with opposition are an increasing danger to the left.

And that's why Holy Joe must go.


Thursday, June 22, 2006

Volume vs. Passion

I've been doing my best to remain ignorant of whatever stupidity is consuming the self-appointed godheads of the lefty blogosphere this time. I understand it's another round of Kos shooting his mouth off against the Opponent of the Week™, who did something boorish and juvenile to get back at Mr. Markos who seems to have ticked said person off by shooting his mouth off... well, same old same old.

Ed Kilgore gives me about as much detail as I care to know (too much, in fact) and then hoists Mr. Self-Righteous Savior of the Left© up by his own petard - by pointing out that the Old Left (rather like Old Europe) is a far more complicated place than the gung-ho netroots will admit.
After all, TNR just posted an article by its editor-in-chief, Martin Peretz, endorsing Al Gore for president in 2008. As regular readers of Daily Kos know, Gore has become the runaway favorite for 2008 among Kossacks. Inconvenient but true, eh?

I had an immediate mental image of Markos and Marty sitting uncomfortably together on an Al Gore campaign bus (perhaps emblazoned with signs reading "Re-Elect Gore To A Third Term") rolling through rural Iowa a year or so down the road. That's probably cynical of me, but I gotta tell you, if Gore does run it looks like he'll have the most incongruous set of supporters since Mo Udall and George Wallace both endorsed Jimmy Carter in 1976.

This brings me to one of the fundamental mistakes of the netroots. They equate being loud with being committed, substituting volume for passion. The mention of Al Gore (my absolute #1 choice for President, as my regular readers know) makes the case. There are two left blogospheric pundits yowling at each other like cats with cans tied to their tails. The storming, the shrieking, the character assassinations, the put downs, the accusations and counter-smears of not being sufficiently "progressive". Yadda, yadda, fucking yadda.

Then there is Al, who took one of the most cruel defeats in US political history, refused to either pity himself or get pissed off, and has turned himself into a pillar of passion, one dweeby, dorky PowerPoint slide at a time. Anyone who just listens to the guy can tell this. He isn't grabbing the limelight; he is earning it.

I read a lot of blogs and sites, mostly because I'm a political junkie. I see a familiar pattern - blogger starts out small and interesting, blogger gets following, blogger gets better known, starts up own site, loses focus, becomes blowhard, devolves into irrelevancy, tossing out the occasional thoughtful post, but mostly being reduced to snarking and too often flouncing off in a huff after one-too-many bulleye criticisms. What I also see is the refrain that they deserve to be as rudely outraged as they like because they are angry.

Now, the Rude Pundit (never work safe, always worth the read) has honed rudeness to a fine edge, one that deserves respect for the sheer perfection of its political commentary, but there is only one Rude One. Here is someone who has passion for crafting the well-turned expletive, shocking us week after week at the tame, almost cuddly, nature of curses and fornication when compared to true obscenity - the Cheney administration.

So, call me less than impressed at the outrage of the week. The johnny/janey-come-lately drama queens of the blogosphere and their constant emotional crisis over being treated like any other interest group are wearing thin.

And why people with true passion and profound commitment to all of the body politic, like Al Gore, compel us to acknowledge the truth.


Spread the Word - More of the Same

I hope the various power brokers conencted to the Democratic party are paying attention to the meme suggestions coming out of the left blogosphere the last few days. There's been a number of very good ones. Begala offers one on TPM Cafe, Josh echoes it, and Sherrod Brown, who will be Ohio's newest senator come November, adds some more. Begala nails the central point about the Iraq debate in Congress:

The media are hyperventilating about “Democrats in disarray” over the war in Iraq. ABC’s “The Note” captures the stupidity, vapidity and gullibility of the mainstream media perfectly: “Democrats can deny it all they want (and not all do. . .), but they are on the precipice of self-immolating over the issue that has most crippled the Bush presidency and of making facts on the ground virtually meaningless. In other words, they are on the precipice of making Iraq a 2006 political winner for the Republican Party.”

I’m sure I’ve read a dopier statement of conventional wisdom, a more perfect transcription of Karl Rove’s ignorant talking points, but I really can’t remember when.

As usual, the Smart Guys have it backwards. Democrats can and will win the Iraq debate if they embrace the fact that they disagree and contrast it with the slavish, mindless rubber-stamp Republicans.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid is doing a Herculean job of herding cats onto the Levin proposal, which calls for a timetable to redeploy troops, but no strict deadline. Good for him. That’s what leadership is all about.

But it’s still a reality that Democrats like Russ Feingold and John Kerry support a date certain for America’s withdrawal from Iraq, while most of their Senate Democratic colleagues do not. So, rather than deny or ignore the disagreement, Democrats should highlight it, celebrate it, emphasize it.

The only place in the American government where there is an honest and spirited debate over Iraq is within the Democratic Party. Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer are not on the same page – and that’s a good thing. Hillary Clinton and John Kerry disagree. Hooray for that.

If anyone tells you the solution to Iraq is easy or obvious, they’re a liar or a fool (a false choice in the case of our president). So why not feature the debate? At least someone is debating what to do.

The fact is the American people want a new direction in Iraq, and the Democrats offer several. The Republicans, on the other hand, offer nothing more than a four-word strategy: more of the same.

GOP on Iraq = More of the Same

What is worst about the "more of the same" stance is that it consigns hundreds more American soldiers to debilitation, death and dismemberment so George Bush doesn't have to admit he fucked up. Think about that. President Cut and Run wants other people's loved ones to be crippled and killed so he can play tough.

Are we going to see another five week presidential vacation again this year? More of the same of George sitting on his ass while other Americans suffer?

Democrats, don't even bother to answer asinine questions from the press about cut and run - the only cut and run going on is the Republicans cutting themselves more slack and running the country and George Bush's war into the ground. It's just more of the same ineffective chest thumping we've seen for the last four years.


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Cut and Run President's War - Score Card

Mr. Cut and Run has failed to:
  • bring Osama bin Laden down
  • oust the Taliban from Afghanistan
  • secure Iraq
  • improve America's access to oil
  • reduce the power of the most retrograde elements of Islamic fundamentalism
  • keep the military force strong
He has managed to increase:
  • Halliburton's bottom line
  • anti-American sentiments in every corner of the globe
  • the national debt and the national deficit
  • the gap between rich and poor in America
  • the power of the most retrograde elements of Xtian fundamentalism
  • the rate of catastrophic inuries and mental illness in our veterans
The big winner of Bush's Forever War is, ironically enough, Iran.

For a much needed dose of sobriety, please check out James Wemberly's post on the inanity of House Resolution 861. He succinctly lays out what a real attack on terrorism would look like.


What Kevin Says - Increase the Minumum Wage

The idea that somehow an increase to the absolute bottom of the employment ladder is bad for the economy and the nation doesn't pass the sniff test. As Kevin Drum says,

Republicans should be ashamed of themselves for blocking a minimum wage increase for the past decade, Anything that makes them squirm over this is a good idea. sending it to an all-time postwar low.

There are arguments against raising the minimum wage, of course, and the usual one is an appeal to simple economics: if the price of unskilled labor goes up, then the demand for unskilled labor will go down. Low-wage workers will be laid off and unemployment among the minimum wage population will go up.

This is technically correct, but it delicately avoids saying anything about magnitudes, which is what really matters. Does unemployment go up 5% after increasing the minimum wage a dollar, or does it go up .01%? And are there countervailing factors that affect this, human beings not being pig iron ingots, after all?

This really can't be settled by an appeal to theory. Empirical studies are what matters, and they mostly seem to show that modest minimum wage increases have either no effect on low-wage employment or else a very tiny effect, most of it centered on teenagers, not adults. A long history of changes to the minimum wage at the state, local, and national level in the United States, for example, gives little reason to think that small increases in the minimum wage have any serious negative impact — but does suggest that these changes have, in fact, increased the wages of the working poor...

At this point, the bulk of the evidence suggests that modest minimum wage increases (a) provide a measurable benefit for poor workers, (b) have little or no impact on employment levels, and (c) are paid for by the customers of low-wage industries, which means the cost is broadly dispersed among all of us.

So, given that the benefits are clear and the harm appears to be minimal or zero, I think it's now up to minimum wage opponents to make a clear empirical case against raising the minimum wage if they want to be taken seriously... I'll change my mind if minimum wage opponents can point to a serious recent literature review suggesting a consensus that the minimum wage hurts more than it helps, but until then count me as a supporter.

It really is a joke that people think raising the minimum wage is a losing issue for the Democrats. The unspoken fear of the Rethuglicans, of course, is that wages will go up... and nothing bad will happen. Well, nothing unless you are a member of the "investment class" who will have to give up a few slivers of a percentage point of profits in order to treat ordinary people as something other than trash.

Raising the minimum wage does a few things. It acts as mild pressure upwards on all wages, particularly for unskilled hourly workers. That is a good thing, considering the slide in the housing bubble. It also sets the precendent that the Democrats can act directly and unequivocally to help the most vulnerable people in society. Finally, it firmly distinguishes Democrats from the greedy, hateful, classist actions of the Rethugs.

However, this does need to be tied to immigration, precisely because the Rethugs are allowing their business buddies to undercut the wages of working class men and women by refusing to enforce employment laws designed to keep immigrants from illegally taking jobs that Americans did for decades before the pay and working conditions were trashed. Immigration is good for the nation. Hiring illegal workers to try to have a foully paid workforce you can threaten and bully is unacceptable.

The refusal to pay legal US workers decent money and the deliberate employment of illegal workers are two sides of the same coin. Treating US workers with dignity, whether they were born here or have come here, should be a no-brainer commitment from the Democrats.


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Kitty As Pirate

The kitty shows off her new fashion statementJust call her Ms. Pegleg. The kitty is getting back to, well, she was never normal to begin with with, but more like her usual obnoxious self.

I wanted a photo of her with the flourescent pink wrap and the catheter on her leg, but she threatened to scratch my eyes out if I collected such incriminating evidence. Her head is blocking it, but there is a shaved patch under her chin, too, where they were giving her injections.

Her chin looks a little strange because she has beads of water sticking to it, having just taken a drink from the water dish.

Right now, she has pretty much abandoned the cave behind the couch and is sleeping on a pad near the front windows where she can watch the wold go by. She has very little strength in her rear, though she walks around OK. If she tries to jump up onto something (which, being a cat, is about equivalent to breathing), her legs give out and she sits with a thump. And a growl.

We can kind of cuddle her if we let her pick out her own spot in a lap (after much wailing and hissing when being picked up - my cat is a bitch) so she can lie comfortably. This afternoon, I noticed she can bear me putting a little pressure on her rump and still stand up.


George W. Bush - King of the Cut and Run

Remember the Rethug strategy - take your own weakness and accuse the other guy of having it.

Who is the cut and run king of America? None other than George W. Bush.

This is the guy who simply gives up and walks off when things get tough, counting on his daddy's connections to protect him from any penalties for his feckless behavior. Worse, he doesn't pay attention to important things, preferring to live in his own fantasy of what the world should be. Hence, the inattention to the PDB warning of Osama's impending attack. His lack of curiosity about anything that matters, like global warming. The obsession with invading Iraq, even though there was absolutely no reason to do so - no strategic reason, no security reason, not one iota of rational justification.

So, we invaded a country that was no threat to us and allowed the murderer of thousands of Americans on American soil to skip away. And now there are two more Americans, soldiers tortured and mutilated in ways the authorities will not even describe, dead because of Bush's War.

What about Afghanistan? Cut and run on that one, baby. It's not "fun" any more. Commander Codpiece doesn't get to strut around and pretend he's some kind of tough guy with great backdrops, so he's pulling our troops out. Opium production is rising, the Taliban is resurgent, and Osama is thumbing his nose at us just over the Pakistan border, but Georgie doesn't want to play this game any more.

What about New Orleans? Cut and run on that one, too. And after all those photo ops! The Big Easy is the Big National Shame, but King George has high-tailed it out of town.

Compassionate conservatism? Not just run away, but he turned it into road kill under the squealing tires of the get away vehicle.

And now the biggest cut and run of them all - Iraq. His own glorious little war, fought on his terms and with no limits on money, power, or support. What a stinking mess Georgie Porgie has made of this. He's already cut and run, letting it be known that he isn't going to do one damn thing different, just let the clock run down until he can scurry out of town.
  • How many of our soldiers are going to be tortured to death because Geroge W. Bush doesn't have the balls to admit he was wrong?
  • How many more billions are going to be poured down the open rat hole of Iraq while we're in a holding pattern?
  • How many more Hadithas must be endured while the Rethugs line their pockets with million dollar kickbacks from lobbyists?
  • How many more arms, legs, eyes, and organs must our soldiers lose so that the neocons can save face and cover their asses?
  • How many more Iraqis will be killed by American weapons, creating an unending stream of news the jihadists gleefully use to jsutify their own butchery?
  • How much American blood must be spent before the media whores will act like journalists?
I guess we'll find out when Bush leaves the White House in January 2009 and runs for Crawford, leaving the brutalized and mangled remains of the republic behind him.


Iraq Strategy for the Democrats

The last few days in the blogosphere has seen a veritable gusher of analysis and excellent advice, triggered by the twin issues of a tepid message by the Democrats and Bush's utter fuck up of his glorious little war. When the US Ambassador to Iraq, Khalilzad, is documenting that the place is falling apart (.pdf), the Democrats have got to work harder at making clear the costs of leaving the neocons in power, which means not being painted into a corner with the "cut and run" chant.

Here is a cross cut of the excellent posts available throughout the blogosphere:
And I'll end up with a quote from Josh from today:

In terms of domestic politics, this isn't that complicated. President Bush wants to stay in Iraq for at least three more years. Members of his party in Congress agree with him. They don't have a plan. That's where to make this argument because very few people in this country think we should keep our troops there for another three years with our current policy.

Moreover, getting suckered into a debate about deadlines for leaving Iraq is foolish, especially when President Bush has said on the record repeatedly that he plans to keep our troops in Iraq for the remainder of his presidency. He wants them there for at least three more years. What happens after that he'll leave to future presidents. This isn't what Democrats claim. This is what he says. He doesn't say he's willing to keep them there to achieve this or that aim. He's committed to keeping them there.

He doesn't have a plan for what to do in Iraq so he wants to keep troops there for the rest of his presidency. That's his plan: stay long enough that it becomes someone else's problem.

There are a few overall themes here that the Dems need to take seriously, either as talking poitns or as strategy points. The biggest one is that the Iraq war, like the Social Security debate, only seems like a winning issue for Bush. It isn't, and it won't take much to turn the debate.

Another, that Kerry made well, is they can sloganeer, too. "Lie and die" is powerful, particularly after the toture and murder of the two GI's by Al Qaeda in Iraq. The Bush White House lied us into Iraq, and our people are dying there for no good reason. I know the commenters at Carpetbagger Report didn't like it, but I think it is pretty damn powerful - and cuts right to the heart of the matter. They LIED us into Bush's war. Their lies are killing people. Keep bringing the word "lie" into the conversation, because that is what they are.

The bigger message from Kerry is that there are probably several pithy phrases that Democrats of all stripes can keep using, especially for the TV soundbites. Redeploy and win. Change and win. Had enough? It's not working. Not the Iraq War - Bush's War. He broke it. You don't have to buy it. They should develop six or so catch phrases that can be repeated ad nauseum, until the reporters themselves start babbling them - just like they do with cut and run.

Bring in the scandals as specifically *war profiteering*. These guys aren't just making money. They are making money through military contracts and by sucking cash out of Homeland Security. Bush's War is making us less safe. Bush's War is robbing our soldiers of support while lining the pockets of the profiteers. We throw out our corrupt pols - in Bush's Forever War, they get rewarded for corruption and incompetance (Heck of a job, Brownie...).

Finally, make a virtue of necessity. There isn't "a" Democratic position on what is best to deal with Iraq, but there *is* consensus that sitting around with a finger (or spoon) up your nose and counting the days until you're out of office and it's somebody else's problem is no kind of answer. The message can be as simple as "We know that staying for three years and dumping the built up mess on the next guy isn't acceptable. They bluster - we're trying to make the hard decisions. We differ on the best way out because there are serious penalties to the US with any meaningful choice. They're just ducking the tough questions."

I have one recommendation for Democrats. Turn the situation around and give ordinary citizens a chance to say what they think should be done - and then make their answers known. The Rethugs don't dare ask the question openly because popular opinion is against them. Have real town halls and get the local press to cover them. WRITE THEM UP YOURSELF.

Blog them. Podcast them. RSS them. Christ on a crutch, you have Al Gore's cable channel just begging for videos. What about getting Young Turks or Crooks & Liars to host a few of the best? Get some cash and hire a few interns to do nothing but manage a "Citizens' Speak Out" web site with transcripts, videos, blogs and reports on getting the message FROM the people.

Hey, DLC, are you listening? DSCC? Howard Dean, here's away to get some young grassroots intereted - be Jimmy/Jenny Olson in your community, podcasting what the grassroots thinks about how to resolve Iraq. Viral news. People will tune in to see themselves on camera, or to see their neighbors and friends.

Rethuglicans have tilted the media towards themselves. Aggressively use the web as your lever for pulling the message machine back to the left. The majority of America is behind you.

Kevin Drum asks if big guns like Feingold and Kerry can be brought on board to support consensus that Bush's direction is wrong. I think Kerry's appearance on Imus says yes.


RIP - Pfc. Kristian Menchaca, Pfc. Thomas L. Tucker

I had hoped that somehow these men would be located and rescued. I grieved when I read the headlines this morning, sad for their families and revolted at the reports, each worse than the one before, at how their forms had ben desecrated.

An Al Qaeda-aligned group has taken responsibility for the murders.

So, tell me, where is Osama bin Laden's head on a pole? Why is Al Qaeda still operating with impunity? We kill Zarqawi, and a few days later they butcher two American soldiers.

Why the fuck are we in Iraq when Osama bin Laden is alive and well in Afghanistan?

Why, FIVE YEARS LATER, have we still not gotten the bastards who murdered the people in the WTC and the Pentagon?

What noble cause did these two men die for, Mr. Bush?


Monday, June 19, 2006

Tired of Losing? Stop Being Losers

Josh Marshall dismisses the hand-wringing over the Democratic party's bland sloganeering, and cuts to the chase:

What is this election about?

It's not about the Democrats. 2008 may be about the Democrats. Maybe 2010. Not 2006. 2006 is about George W. Bush and the Republican party. And, specifically, how many people are fed up with what's happened over the last six years and want to make a change? The constitution gives the people only one way to do that in 2006 -- put a hard brake on the president's power by turning one or both houses of Congress over to the opposition party.

That's why Newt Gingrich was so on the mark, ironically, when he suggested the Democrats' slogan should be "Had Enough?" (As a way of understanding Gingrich's particular genius, consider that "Had Enough?" and "A New Direction for America" are actually two ways of saying the exact same thing -- with the first forceful and infectious and the second limp and denatured.) Everything else the election is allegedly about is chatter. The details are so many fine points about making the sale, framing the question. And, yes, those are important. But that is the question. And nothing the geniuses on either side do will change that from being the question.

Here's what Reed Hundt said last week ...

The Republican game plan is emerging. Its three points appear to be: anti gay (save marriage for straights), anti aliens (save America for citizens), and anti troop withdrawal (except when they announce they've secured Iraq).

This plan calls out their base. All off-year elections, and many Presidential elections, are won by turn-out, and 2006 promises to be no different.

Democrats running for office in any state need to formulate a three-part challenge, which might be called an attack by the uncharitable, or could be called aggressive by those who know elections are more like boxing than chess.

This is exactly right. Go on the attack. Remind people why they have had enough. The prescription just isn't going to come from the leadership offices on Capitol Hill. It's up to you.

This goes back to what I have said before - make your own excitement. If the Democrats lose, it is YOU, the "liberal" electorate who has done them in. I read comments all over the blogosphere. What a bunch of useless whiners you so-called progressives are. Good lord and little fishes, you are a lazy-ass bunch of do-nothings. "I just can't get exciiiiiited," the sniveling goes, "the candidate just doesn't get me exciiited." Get a vibrator, get excited, then Get. To. Work.

As if you needed any reason besides getting Bush and the neocons out of office to motivate your lazy ass to the polls? I really get tired of neo-Naderites of the left loftily proclaiming that because Rep. So-and-so doesn't support your pet obsession of freeing hamsters in Tibet, you refuse to vote for such unprincipled scalawags. Yeah, right, you just can't be bothered to give up watching your favorite FOX shows to cast your ballot.

Losers - in every sense of the word.


Sunday, June 18, 2006

Feingold's Free Ride

I'm still waiting to read about Sen. Russ Feingold's endorsement of Ned Lamont, by the way.

That is the litmus test for approval by the netroots, right? Failure to do so loses you your progressive creds, is what I understand.

So, what's Russ' position? Just askin'...


Kafka Was an Optimist

The moral vacuum that is Guantanamo Bay is a perfect illustration of my point that the only reason the Cheney administration needs to do anything is "because". This base is operating by gulag rules and this nation cannot make it stop. Why not? Because the people in charge cannot be swayed by anything save their own desires. The treatment of the prisoners shows that nothing they do, no matter how cooperative, no matter how oppositional, makes a dime's worth of difference in how they are treated. Here is Mourad Benchellali in his NYT op-ed:

In the outside world, I thought, the difference between telling the truth and lying, between committing a crime and not committing it, is the difference between being in jail and being free. In Guantánamo, it is a box of candy.

I was eventually released and I will go on trial next month in Paris to face charges that I've never denied, that I spent two months in the Qaeda camp. I have a court date, I'm facing a judge, and I have a lawyer, unimaginable luxuries in Guantánamo. I didn't know the three detainees who died, but it is easy for me to see how this daily despair and uncertainty could lead to suicide.

During my captivity, I saw many acts of individual rebellion, from screaming to hunger strikes and suicide attempts. "They are smart, they are creative, they are committed," said Rear Adm. Harry Harris, who commands the camp. "They have no regard for life, neither ours nor their own. I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us."

I am a quiet Muslim — I've never waged war, let alone an asymmetrical one. I wasn't anti-American before and, miraculously, I haven't become anti-American since. In Guantánamo, I did see some people for whom jihad is life itself, people whose minds are distorted by extremism and whose souls are full of hatred. But the huge majority of the faces I remember — the ones that haunt my nights — are of desperation, suffering, incomprehension turned into silent madness.

I believe that a small number of the detainees at Guantánamo are guilty of criminal acts, but as analysis of the military's documents on the prisoners has shown, there is no evidence that most of the 465 or so men there have committed hostile acts against the United States or its allies. Even so, what I heard so many times resounding from cage to cage, what I said myself so many times in my moments of complete despondency, was not, "Free us, we are innocent!" but "Judge us for whatever we've done!" There is unlimited cruelty in a system that seems to be unable to free the innocent and unable to punish the guilty.

Detainees in Despair

They are literally in the condition of the inmates of a totalitarian prison/death camp. They have no standing before any law, not even the standing that a criminal would have. They remain there because they were sent there, and there is no intention that they will ever leave.

I don't think most Americans understand how dangerous this is. These people being held may or may not be "terrorists" - no one is trying to find out any truth. They are held because they were put there, and there is no mechanism for allowing them to leave, save death. Any vital information they might have provided when they were delivered is long out of date, irrelevant to any real anti-terrorist operations. A few lucky individuals have governments who have managed to arm-twist the Bush White House to set their nationals free, but what of the people whose states do not care or have no clout?

They live, to the degree that surviving from one day of degradation to the next can be called living, at the whim of their captors, and for no other reason. They live to be tortured, interrogated, humiliated, and dehumanized. That is their role - to be human forms upon which the Cheneyites can experiment with demolishing the limits of humanity.

This is what totalitarianism looks like. This is its core. A state making use of the bodies of people under its control for no purpose except to be doing so. It is its own justification. "Because." The parables of Kafka, the warnings of Orwell, the dystopic visions of films like Brazil pale in comparison to the real thing, mostly because they were created by people who thought it wrong to deconstruct human beings this way. They all held out the hope that somehow those enacting the dissolution could themselves be reached, be made to pull back from the abyss. Such an optimistic view.

The sad truth is that there is nothing to reach. What is happening is not a mistake, an error, a miscarriage of justice. It is the plan. Unlimited power used in an unlimited way. The only hint of restraint is that the afflicted should not be allowed to die except as part of the deconstruction effort. That they may show agency by choosing the time and nature of their death, removing themselves from the experiment, is an intolerable act of defiance. How dare you kill yourself! How dare you presume to thwart the will of the Dear Leader, who wishes you to remain here in perpetuity, subject to his will? How dare you refuse our torture of your mind and body? Haven't we given you a box of candy? You damn terrorists.


Saturday, June 17, 2006

Kitty News

She's definitely better because she is purring again. I'm getting her to take her antibiotic pills by mashing them up in a lump of tuna and juice from the can. She's eating and drinking on her own, and walking a little around the house, but spends most of her time in her nest behind the couch. Unfortunately, we can't cuddle her because it hurts her back and rear too much.


Latest Rasmussen Poll on CT Senate Race

The latest poll that has the blogosphere a-twitter is a Rasmussen poll. It shows Ned Lamont with 40% and Joe Lieberman with 46% support. Words of caution on this one:
  • Incredibly small poll sample - only 218 voters sampled
  • They do not present the question(s) asked
  • They themselves acknowledge that the margin of error is 7%, which puts Liberman up into 50%+ range
  • They do not distinguish between likely voters and registered voters.
Even so, taken in conjunction with the recent asinine activity of Holy Joe, this continues to be highly promising for Ned Lamont. I will not feel certain until he polls consistently over 50% among likely voters, or until Lieberman is known to be collecting signatures for an Independent run. Preferably both. If Lieberman bolts the party, he needs to be shunned by all Democrats.

Did anyone else notice that the decisive downturn on Lieberman's fortunes followed Josh Marshall's sober, measured, and devastating criticism of Lieberman on TPM on June 9? Consider how and why his words were effective.

Trying to make party insiders pledge to support Lamont against Lieberman in the primary is stupid, if for no other reason than you don't want to encourage the party bigwigs to think they have a right to pick favorites in a local/state race. Save that energy for when Lamont wins, and you have something very real to hold over their equivocating heads.

Chuck Schumer, are you listening? Is you is or is you ain't a Democrat?


More Numbers for the Beast

Iraqi blogger Ishtar presents the fundamental atrocity being perpetuated upon Iraq by the US:
More than 300 Iraqi professors in different kinds of specialization killed in Iraq just because of Bush war against terror, the entire Iraqi people should die for the sake of this filthy war, why Iraq is chosen to be the battlefield for the war against terror? And why the Iraqis have to pay the price of New York attacks though none of the defendants was Iraqi?!!!!!!!!
Why, indeed, was Iraq chosen as the neocon promised land? That is the question the Cheneyites do not bother answer, for the answer is simply "Because." The thousands of men, women and children who have perished in this power experiment are murder victims. There is no "noble cause" in this invasion, as might be teased out of the occupation of Afghanistan, since the US invaded Iraq for no reason other than "Because." Because it was there. Because we wanted to. Because we didn't like Saddam Hussein. Because Afghanistan wasn't big enough. Because we don't give a rat's ass about the so-called War on Terror, we just want to blow shit up. They killed people, Americans and Iraqis both, because they could.

Americans need to understand that the damage has been done. There is no "saving" Iraq, and certainly no "winning" there. There is only unlimited mayhem and butchery until the most powerful have dominated their desired territories. Probably not even then.

Again, repeat after me - there is no saving this situation. The neocons went in and destroyed all limits, all constraints, all civilization, in order to show that they could. It wasn't a mistake - they damn well knew none of their excuses could stand up to scrutiny - and all that mattered was getting in there and making their psychopathic fantasies real. Now that it is done, they sit back on their gore-spattered haunches and grin.

Mission Accomplished.

Please, bookmark Iraqi Screen and read what Ishtar has to say. It is immediate and unfiltered, sparing no side, faction or interest that stands against peace and civility.


Why I'll Vote For Sen. Clinton

Sen. Clinton is promoting a Privacy Bill of Rights. Given the abuses of electronic information by various entities - from the Cheney administration to the medical insurance system to anyone who can get a hold of information about me - ordinary citizens need a way to control what can be done with their data, and to have penalties imposed (starting with fines and ending up with jail terms) for allowing that data to be misused. The AP report on Salon:

By DEVLIN BARRETT Associated Press Writer

June 16,2006 | WASHINGTON -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, drawing on her experiences as a young Watergate lawyer who decades later was investigated as first lady, urged creation of a "privacy bill of rights" Friday to protect people's personal data.

"Modern life makes many things easier and many things easier to know, and yet privacy is somehow caught in the crosshairs of these changes," Clinton said in a speech to a left-leaning legal group.

Clinton's speech on protecting consumers from identity theft and citizens from government snooping was the latest in a series of talks billed as "major addresses" by aides. Previous speeches were on energy and the economy.

A potential presidential candidate in 2008 whose eight years as first lady were marked by numerous investigations, Clinton noted her work on a House committee investigating the Nixon administration's illegal snooping and other abuses.

And she ruefully called herself an "expert" in the loss of privacy.

"Having lost so much of my own privacy in recent years I have a deep appreciation of its value and a firm commitment to protecting it for all the rest of you," she said, prompting laughter from the audience of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy.

Clinton wants to create a "privacy czar" within the White House to guard against recent problems like the theft of personal data from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

She also wants legislation to let consumers know what information companies are keeping about them and how it is used, and create a tiered system of penalties for companies who are not careful with consumer data.

Clinton also waded into the debate over anti-terror eavesdropping. For months Democrats have hammered at the Bush administration over the National Security Agency's program of domestic wiretapping without warrants from judges. The administration insists it is both legal and necessary.

Clinton said any president should have the latest technology to track terrorists, but within laws that provide for oversight by judges.

"The administration's refrain has been, "Trust us,'" said Clinton. "That's unacceptable. Their track record doesn't warrant our trust. ... Unchecked mass surveillance without judicial review may sometimes be legal but it is dangerous. Every president should save those powers for limited critical situations."

Hillary Clinton Calls for Privacy Bill

A lacunae in the US Constitution and Bill of Rights is an explicit right to privacy. The ease with which our personal information can be exploited for the gain of others and have no penalties attached to that exploitation is unacceptable. Identity theft is big right now because of the news about the VA theft, but more insidious to my mind is the vast amount of data, both valid and false, that is exchanged by private companies and which is used to make decisions about things like credit, housing and healthcare. There needs to be more transparency to the citizens about what this data says and how it is used (which includes free access to my own data, thank you very much), and also allowing consumers to build walls between collections of data, forcing information agencies to obtain explicit consent from the consumer to exchange information.

I am frankly more concerned about this issue than I am about almost any other domestic policy. Why? Because protecting your privacy is fundamental to exercizing your rights. My employment should not depend on me having no late bills on my credit card. My health insurance should not be influenced by whether I belong to gay rights organizations. My government has no business knowing how I spend my evenings.

So, here's another reason why I'll vote for Sen. Clinton without hesitation. Bloggers on the left who spew right-wing talking points about the senator instead of creating persuasive arguments in support of their own candidates don't get any traction with me. As I've always said, Sen. Clinton is about 5th or 6th on my list of preferred candidates, and all of them are so much better than anything the Republicans have to offer up, I don't know why there is any debate.

My buddy Fergus (get your own blog) came up with a good catch phrase - stop doing the Republican's work for them. You don't have to bash a Democratic candidate to promote another one. You can object to the actions of party leaders on formal grounds - such as Schumer's threat to support a non-Democrat in a senate race - without engaging in character assassination. Unless a candidate does something illegal or in clear opposition to the party, they are in. People who are corrupt, like Jefferson, or who attack their own party, like Lieberman or Zell Miller, deserve a fast ticket to nowhere land.

Party unity, people.


Friday, June 16, 2006

2500 - The Number of the Beast

Iraq, of course.

It is arbitrary, assigning meaning to a number, but there is something about large round numbers that pulls on our imagination. We want to find something meaningful in it, make it a marker, a signifier, a signpost that points a way to more of the same or a different path. Why 2500 instead of 2000? It is simply that we have passed 2000 and are now taking aim at a number that starts with 3. The corporeal fact behind the abstraction is that we have lost 2500 of our countrymen forever to the beast that is Iraq.

Behind that 2500 stand other, larger figures. The tens of thousands of US troops wounded, maimed, disfigured. The tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds, of Iraqis who have been torn from this life. Certainly the hundreds of thousands of them who have been wounded, maimed, disfigured.

Two images keep coming back to me, two little girls. One is a child held in an older relative's arms, wounded from a bomb, and one of her feet is attached to her body only by a strip of skin, the foot itself flopping loosely as she is carried. The other is of a very young child caught in the glare of an American soldier's flashlight, spattered with the blood and gore of her now-dead parents killed in their car at an American road block, and she is screaming.

I can't help thinking about those girls.

I would probably think more about the dead and maimed US soldiers, except that the press strives so hard to keep such images away from US viewers. They keep the war sanitary, distant, free of the concept that being shot and blown up leaves limbs only partly attached and may make you scream. It increases the fetishization of soldiers while denying them their humanity.

When I say Iraq is a beast, I'm not speaking of the country. I mean the obsession the US has with this psychotic episode of state-sanctioned murder. There seems to be no end to how much it can consume of lives, fortunes, and other resources. Such as peace of mind. A working power grid. Effective response to natural disasters. Ability to feel compassion.

Make no mistake - Iraq is a US obsession, a creature of our own invention. Iraq the state was never a threat to the US. It was a nasty dictatorship, not much different than a dozen others, save that it caught the fancy of a group of people rich and ruthless enough to transform it into their own personal Fantasyland.

We seized it in a Gollum-like fit of loathing and desire. Our Preciouss. Now picked up, it is doubtful we will set it down again. We can't leave because of the incipient implosion of what is left of the state. We can't stay for precisely the same reason.

The US did this to Iraq. We had no reason to invade, save the whim and wants of the Cheneyites. We have reduced their nation to its current condition, claims of Iraqi fecklessness not withstanding. We have used their land and their bodies to conduct a vast experiment - What if we say there are no limits, and act accordingly?

The borders of the nation fell. Vital infrastructure was bombed to oblivion. Ranks of men trying to defend their people were gunned down. Others were rounded up and taken to Abu Ghraib, tortured to prove the point that George W. Bush has the power to do anything to anyone as it pleases him, and none may prevent it. A war purposefully conducted with under-staffed and under-supplied troops, because Rummy decided that was the kind of war he wanted to fight, not what those reality-bound generals told him would be needed. To bring about the condition where the NSA says they may listen to any conversation by any American at any time and do with that information whatever they wish.

That is, I think, the most difficult thing for most Americans to wrap their minds around. This isn't a war. This isn't anything so rational. It is a vast thought experiment made manifest, like a Hieronymus Bosch painting come to life before our eyes, and it displays the inhuman perversity of its creators. "No, they can't be that mad. They must have meant for this other thing to happen, and it went wrong," you think to yourself.

No. What we see in Iraq is what the Cheneyites think "Iraq" should be. It is no mistake. This is the beast they intended to create - the bloodbath in the desert, but also the deconstruction of limits at home. There is no limit to its number.