Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Damn Straight We're Impatient!

It's amazing how ubiquitously corporate propaganda is pushed from so many different directions on an unsuspecting public, like so much pus and ooze seeping out of so many infected and open wounds.

Take this, for example, on CNN yesterday and today.  The headline screams:

U.S. is an impatient nation, poll finds

Really?  I hadn't noticed.  It looked to me like we're a nation that spends more time commuting than any other, that puts off marriage later and later, that waits in interminables lines for movies and other entertainments.  It also appears that we're willing to wait a while before tossing out an elected leader with a 29% approval rating with a no-confidence vote, as they do in parliamentary systems.

But no...we're supposedly impatient.  What exactly are we impatient about?  Read on to see more craptacular corporate shilling at work.


The article is ripe with condescension (disguised at humor) toward its audience, straight out of the gate:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- We'll make this quick. We know you're busy.

Okay, we get it already...nostra culpa.  But what are you talking about?

An Associated Press poll has found an impatient nation. It's a nation that gets antsy after five minutes on hold on the phone and 15 minutes max in a line. So say people in the survey.

THAT'S what you were talking about?  So I'm an impatient jerk if I take umbrage at waiting 15 minutes in line, or 5 minutes on hold?  So now, if I get upset because I have to wait 10 minutes on hold with my Internet Service Provider just to get to talk to Raj in Bangalore (who doesn't speak English and can't help me in any case), then I somehow lack the virtues of patience and tolerance?  If I get upset that I have to wait 20 minutes in line at the local MBNABofAHS&LSuperBankCorp. that only has 2 tellers works, I'm a real jerk?  That's rich...talk about standing up for the consumer in the face of predatory big business!  The old CNN Lou Dobbs ethic at its finest!  But it gets even better.

Almost one in four in the AP-Ipsos poll picked the grocery checkout as the line where their patience is most likely to melt like the ice cream turning to goo in their cart.

Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle.  You wouldn't happen to be talking about those grocery stores that have 12 possible registers, but only three cashiers working, with 4 customers waiting in line each, would you?  Honestly, I can't fathom why anyone would be upset!  It must be a national character flaw...  It gets still better:

And it seems people don't mellow with age. The survey found older people to be more impatient than younger people.

Nor does getting away from the urban pressure cooker make much difference. People in the country and the suburbs can bear a few more minutes in a line before losing it than city inhabitants can, but that's it.

No--you don't say!  It couldn't possibly be the case that this just might have something to do with the fact that Americans of all ages are working insanely long hours, could it?

Or that suburban workers might have even less time on their hands due to insanely long commute times, driven by affordable housing shortages.

No, it couldn't be.  Why, that might be, you know...populist or something.  To continue:

In short, Americans want it all NOW. Or awfully close to now.

Please, CNN.  Give me the scourges of pennance--contact Opus Dei and see if they can hook me up with a cilice.  I will try to learn the virtue of patience, and never question the staffing decisions of my corporate overlords ever again.

If you ask the typical person, do you feel more time-poor or money-poor, the answer almost always is time-poor," says Paco Underhill, an authority on what draws and drives away shoppers.

"We walk in the door with the clock ticking with various degrees of loudness in our heads. And if I get to the checkout and if I have the perception it's not working efficiently, often that clock gets even louder."

But apparently that's OUR fault, as a nation.  I haven't quite figured out why yet, but when I do, I'll get back to you.

After skipping a long bit of the article that advises businesses to create distractions in their aisles that make waiting seem more like "quality time" (which is rich and deeply ironic in and of itself), we get back to more of the meat of the article:

Americans are demanding. Half in the AP-Ipsos poll said they refuse to return to businesses that made them wait too long. Nearly one in five owned up to speaking rudely to someone in the last few months when they weren't served efficiently.

Hana Sklar, 23, lives in New York and wants things done, yes, in a New York minute.

A native of Australia, where "it's relaxing, calm, everyone takes their time," Sklar now lives in Brooklyn, New York, and says she typically loses patience after waiting less than one minute in a line or on the phone.

So let me get this straight: in order to bolster your point that Americans in general are demanding SOBs, you point to an Australian who didn't use to be impatient, but has apparently been turned overnight into a seething ball of seven deadly sins just by living in the United States.  Somehow, that's the fault of the American people--not the institutions and corporations "servicing" them.

Meanwhile, we learn that if we all acted like we had been in the military for 23 years, then we would be much better people.  Because learning to shut up, take orders, and do what you're told, when you're told, is the highest virtue anyone can aspire to:

Now meet one of the most patient men in America. John Vivian, 72, of Lantana, Florida, can wait "hours" on hold on the phone. "I spent 23 years in the military and if you spent 23 years in the military, you don't lose your patience."

He worked for just as long behind the post office counter, giving him a really thick skin. "Life is too short to be upset," he says.

Ah yes, Mr. Vivian.  Life is too short to be upset; I prefer to spend mine happy idling in the Shangri-La of my local Wal-Mart checkout line, waiting to be served after 15 minutes by a friendly sub-minimum wage worker on Medicare--with a smile on my face.

And it gets worse:

Overall, 60 percent in the survey said they can usually wait no more than 15 minutes in a line before losing their cool.

Their fuses are even shorter on the phone.

Nearly four in five respondents in the survey said their patience has run out while being kept on hold.

As if by some cruel joke, phoning the phone company is often a path to madness.

Ah yes--it's a cruel joke.  The same friendly companies that charge you exorbitant rates while simultaneously handing over your phone records to your friendly NSA snoops are possibly the most overlooked victims of our irrational rage at being placed on hold for 45 minutes at a time.  If only the our Lord's sheep were more docile and patient, AT&T's world would be such a better place.  And after all, what could make for a happier America than a happier and less harrassed national telephone conglomerate?

Finally, this:

In the survey, 54 percent said they can wait no more than five minutes on hold before losing their patience. Only 7 percent could bear more than 20 minutes.

However long the wait, people strongly prefer hearing recorded music while on hold and appreciate periodic estimates of remaining waiting time, the poll indicates. Most did not want to be held hostage to talk radio or company ads, and less than one-third wanted silence.

You're kidding me!  What kind of savages are Americans, anyway?  The fact that consumers don't want to bombarded advertisements for the company making them wait on hold to resolve their yet unresolved customer service issue--or don't want to be assaulted with pro-corporate conservative talk-show hosts--is surely a sign of the end times.  Pretty soon, we'll just be shooting each other in the streets, we're so rude.

Jeez, lighten up America!


Me?  I think wait times on the phone or in line is an issue for Americans and their corporate overlords to decide.  I think that Americans will be just fine.

What I don't know is how much more of the sniveling, cowardly, stand-up-for-the-big-guy, corporate apologist bully's little helper that we call our "Traditional Media" America can take.

Maybe it's time we put CNN on hold...

[Cross-posted on The Daily Kos]

Monday, May 29, 2006

I'm a Chickenhawk

On this Memorial Day, I just wanted to say one thing: I am a chickenhawk.

That's right--I wanted America to go to war, and then I, a man of military age, did NOT serve--and my decision allowed thousands of brave young men and women to die fighting in my place.

I still have a certain sense of profound guilt about that--a sense of guilt that I am certain Republican chickenhawks do not share--especially on Memorial Day, when we commemorate those who died fighting for America (or at least what the American Government told them was for America) in wars just and unjust alike.

I do take some consolation--and some alleviation of my guilt--from this one fact, however: My reason for not signing up has been proven absolutely, 100% percent justified.

I didn't enlist because George W. Bush was my Commander-in-Chief.  I didn't trust the man any farther than I could throw him.  And I wasn't wrong.

You see, I was ALL for the invasion of Afghanistan. Even before 9/11.  And I still am--in spite of the terrible, ugly mess that Bush has made of it.

I couldn't not be.  Just as I advocate U.N. intervention in Darfur today, I advocated for U.N. intervention in Afghanistan in late 2000 and early 2001--and I knew that U.N. intervention would only come at the tip of an American spear.

There were so many reasons to intervene: misogynist and other horrific atrocities were being perpetrated at an increasingly alarming rate (to see links with pictures of what I was talking about, just visit this page from the website of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, with whose site I was obsessed well before 9/11); cultural artifacts like the Bamayan Buddhas were being destroyed despite worldwide protest; Osama Bin Laden was there we knew he was training terrorists; and there was much more.  I remember several long nights of me perusing the RAWA site on the family computer, and my father asking me just why I cared so much.  I told him that not only was it a question of human dignity, but our very security was at risk as well.  And I was right.


And then came 9/11.  Though I didn't personally know any of the victims, the evil tragedy affected me very deeply in other ways.  A friend of mine was touristing the tops of the towers on September 10th; I worked at the time in a Los Angeles high-rise which had to be evacuated.

I was fairly certain who was responsible for the crimes of 9/11--and when my suspicions were confirmed, all of the seething rage that I had been carrying against the Taliban crystalized into a single focus point: I wanted to exact my revenge on the Taliban--not just for this, but for this and this. [WARNING: The last link contains graphic photos of Taliban brutality.]


So I wanted to enlist.  But I didn't.

You see, when most of the country saw Bush pick up that bullhorn, they were filled with confidence.  His approval shot up to the 80s, the 90s, whatever it was.

I was filled with the dread of certain doom.

You see, during the 2000 election I had learned everything there was to know about Bush (in spite of the media's refusal to report much evil about the man).

I learned that his campaigns (guided by Rove) were brutal, deceitful and underhanded.

I learned that his IQ wasn't exactly up to par.

I learned that he was a bumbling incompetent, whose modus operandi ever since "Arbusto" was to run an operation into the ground, get bored, get bailed out, and then run the nextoperation into the ground.

I learned that he was obsessed with getting rid of Saddam Hussein, at whatever the cost.

I learned that he was a Christian evangelist dry-drunk.

And I learned that he was all of the oil, by the oil, and for the oil.

And I knew that he would be my boss if I enlisted.  The very worst boss type in the world: the incompetent egomaniac with a mean streak.

I knew that he would probably botch the action in Afghanistan--though I had no idea that he would actually let the man who perpetrated the attacks slip through our fingers.  And I knew that war with Iraq would probably follow on its heels--though I had no idea just how bad it would get.

So I stepped back from the brink in those heady days after 9/11.

I said NO to America's call to service--because I knew that my life's blood would not be dedicated to serving America (or Afghanistan), but rather wasted as this cipher of a man played his little game of Risk on the world stage for politically calculated ends.


And now other Americans have died in my place: 2464 of them, to be exact.  (And I do not ignore here the 40,000 or so Iraqi deaths, but on this Memorial Day I want to concentrate on American casualties--if only for just this one day.)

Because I am a chickenhawk.  Because I wanted to invade Afghanistan, but I wouldn't do it serving under these criminals.  Because I knew better than to believe in this Administration's goodwill or competence.

And so, I want to close with a giant THANK YOU to the men and women who have served in my place.

And a giant FUCK YOU to George Bush: the asshole who sent them to die in vain in a hurricane of incompetence and misguided greed.

The man who made me the chickenhawk I am today.
[cross-posted at the Daily Kos]

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

So, the Senate Intelligence Committee endorsed the nomination of General Michael Hayden to CIA chief today by a 12-3 vote.  To their eternal credit, Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Russ Feingold both voted no.

So many pixels have been spilled on the unacceptability of this nominee, based on his involvement in the wiretapping scandal, that I hardly need to add mine.  Suffice it to say, however, that if the Dems can retake either chamber of Congress and actually press for investigations of the illegal wiretapping, the nomination of a known defiler of the Constitution by his equally Constitutionally-challenged superior will go down as one of the watermarks of this administration's imperial hubris.

More important to me at this time, however, is the treasonous nature of this nomination.  That's a strong word, indeed, but I can't think of any other that would be appropriate.

The CIA is an institution with such low morale at this point that it has become a laughingstock.  And the reasons for this low morale are abundantly clear, and can be vividly seen in James Risen's book State of War.

In the CIA we have an institution that failed--whatever the other factors--to prevent 9/11, and then could not infiltrate Al-Qaeda well enough to locate Bin Laden.  That was a big enough blow.

But then this criminal administration decided that it was going to invade Iraq and ignore Al-Qaeda, come hell or high water, using trumped up rationales.  And then, to add insult to injury, they laid the blame for their own lies on the CIA.

When various members of the CIA rose up or left in protest, Bush chose to houseclean the agency by ridding it of Democrats with the nomination of Porter Goss.  And then, as if morale couldn't get any worse, the chief of the CIA then resigned in the wake of a (possibly gay) prostitute scandal at the Watergate hotel.

And now the last straw: Bush has nominated a military man to head the CIA--at a time when tensions between the Pentagon and the CIA could not be more pronounced.

In typical fashion, the Bush Administration has chosen intimidation over cooperation, in a move that can only be described as the biggest public "Fuck You" from one government organization to another in recent memory.

And if history is any judge, the effect on CIA morale will be terribly destructive.  People with institutional knowledge will quit.  Bright young talent will not join.  And the NSA and Pentagon, which have shown themselves to be not only inept but also criminally indifferent on the issue of Constitutional rights, will take over more and more of the intelligence apparatus.  By Design.

There is no other word for this than TREASON.

Because any fool knows that the phrase "The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves" is a joke--not a guidebook.  And when you're dealing with people who use the phrase as a management motto, you're not dealing with incompetent, bumbling, even malevolent idiots; you're dealing with intentionally vindictive and destructive people doing their utmost to damage and debilitate part of the apparatus that maintains our national security.

It's treason, plain and simple.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Hare and the Tortoise: Why the GOP is in Trouble

Allow me to make something perfectly clear--especially to those who may have misunderstood my earlier post:

The Republicans are in trouble.  Serious Trouble that is definitely going to cost them.  No doubt about it.

But in order to understand how to take advantage of that fact--and why this statement does not contradict my previous piece--one must understand WHY they are in trouble.

But wait, you say.  "I already KNOW why they're in trouble," you say.  "I see it on the news every day!" you say.  "The Corruption, the Incompetence born of Indifference, the War, the Economy--hell, the Everything!"

Indeed.  But these things are too easy.  These are merely the symptoms--the outward signs of decay that mask the inner rot.

And ONLY by understanding the root of the current Republican rot can we begin to understand WHY they're in bigger trouble than they think they are--but also why we have less comfort to take in that fact than we ought.  

The Republican problem is one that hearkens all the way back to Plato.

It was Plato, in his dialogue The Protagoras, who stated the controversial principle that benevolent dictatorship is suprerior to democracy.  He placed possible governments on a continuum from benevolent dictatorship to malevolent dictatorship, with direct democracy squarely in the middle. The idea behind this principle was as follows:

--In a benevolent dictatorship, the wisest (the philosopher-kings) rule nobly over the citizens, making good and just decisions without interference.  Everything operates beautifully for the greatest good of the people, without bureaucracy.

--In a democracy, however, decision-making is slow and inefficient.  Factions argue, and little gets done.  The saving grace of democracy in Plato's mind, however, was that democracies functioned adequately well--and their very inefficiency meant that they were not apt to do much harm.  Winston Churchill paraphrased this best when he said, "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."

--A malevolent dictatorship, however, was the WORST possible form of government.  A leader (or leaders) looking out only for themselves and without the best interests of the citizens at heart--and unable to be stopped--was the worst of all possible worlds.


And this is the perfect metaphor for the Democratic and Republican parties.  Their very names even suggest it.

For the moment, let us disregard what Republicans have done to America.  They have been horrible, true.  They have run roughshod, true.  But voters have an uncanny willingness to be led to vote against their own interests.  If we have learned nothing else by now, we have certainly learned that the American electorate will vote for parties and candidates that look like they have their act together--regardless of how well they have actually governed.

Let us look instead, therefore, at each party through Plato's framework--and we'll see what this has to do with that story by another greek, The Hare and the Tortoise.


For the longest time, the Republicans have acted--not for America, but for themselves as a closed group--like a benevolent dictatorship.

Their message discipline has been impeccable.

Their party meetings are well-structured.

Their leadership structures have been as top-down as they come.  

They have been REMARKABLY efficient.

They have created a vast empire catering to their interests.

And above all, they have taken care of their own.

As long as you were a rich Republican, the Republican Party has done extremely well by you--and you, by contrast, were a loyal and unquestioning footsoldier to it.

The Democrats, meanwhile, have acted like--well--a Democracy, by contrast.  And many would argue--somewhat rightly, I believe--that this is inherent to the very meaning of being a Democrat.

Our message discipline is not only undisciplined--we don't even HAVE a consistent message.

Our party meetings are chaotic.

Leadership structures are often ignored in favor of a plethora of jealously-guarded fiefdoms.

Inefficiency is the operating word for Democratic organizations.

Our VLWC is barely getting started.

And we have done a piss-poor job of taking care of our own--and one has only to look at the fact that georgia10 has yet to be hired (while the likes of Ben Domenech get snapped up) to see that.

To understand just how true this is of the Democratic party, you have only to read Crashing the Gate by Markos Moulitsas himself.

The corollary of that, however, is that we usually have GOOD PEOPLE.  And the results of the jumbled mess of our party are usually GOOD POLICIES, whenever we are in power to put them in place.

On the other hand, we don't appear to be able to win an election to save our lives lately.

Until now.


The reason the Republicans are in trouble, however--and in bigger trouble than they think--is that they have transformed themselves from a benevolent dictatorship to a MALEVOLENT one.

And don't get me wrong--they've ALWAYS been horrible for the country.  We're just talking about internally, as party, here.

As we are extremely well aware, there has been a coup in the Republican party.  As bad as the Gingriches and the Doles are and have always been, they pale in comparison with the criminals that have taken over.

Out on their ears went the old guard, mostly through pressure and primary challenges, as the remarkable book Off-Center details so well--and in came the New Guard.  Which often, as in the case of the former Nixon aides, looked like the REALLY Old Guard.

The Santorums and the Brownbacks.  The PNAC cabal of Cheney, Rummy and Wolfie.  Tom Delay.  Bush Junior.  Karl Rove.

Out went the old guard of Barry Goldwater, Bush Senior, Newt Gingrich, Bob Dole, and the rest.  This Republican party has no place for Eisenhower.  Or Jim Jeffords.  Or even, very soon, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

This crowd has seized the reins of power unto themselves, and will not stop until they have total control.  They have been completely willing to throw old friends--from Treasury Secretaries to Anti-Terrorism officials--completely under the bus at their convenience.

And they have demanded unswerving loyalty from their increasingly but quietly wary followers.

AND THEY HAVE BEEN A TOTAL DISASTER.  Because this cabal is in it only for THEMSELVES--and NOT for the good of the Republican party.  Every day that Rove doesn't resign for the good of the party, it becomes clear to Republicans that they've been had: that the only #1 for Karl Rove is, well, Karl Rove.  The GOP be damned.


But now there's very little the Republicans can do about it.

Their unflinching loyalty to this cabal means that now they are nothing more than Brand W.

Their top-down structure means that dissent is forbidden.

The authoritarian controls mean that they have to stay on message--even if the messaging is as disastrous for their chances as trying to destroy social security or use immigration as a wedge against themselves.

They are like the Light Cavalry in Tennyson's Charge of the Light Brigade: riding stupidly to their deaths, because they can only take orders, and refuse to question the authority of an incompetent cabal that cares not a whit about them.


And under these circumstances, even a party as encumbered, lethargic and inefficient as the Democratic Party can win out and defeat them.

Because by contrast, our Democracy has its shit together FAR better than their Malevolent Dictatorship--And the Voters can Figure That Out.  They can sense it--if only on the vaguest level of Platonic forms.


But herein also lies the great danger--and where the Hare and the Tortoise comes in.

The Democratic party is like the Tortoise: slow and lumbering toward its objective.

The Republican party is like the Hare: quick and efficient, but easily distracted and stopped in its tracks through descent into Malevolent Dictatorship.

And perhaps, for 2006, our tortoise may just cross that finish line first.  It may well be that their hare will be stopped in its tracks throughout the Bush years just long enough for our lumbering tortoise to take advantage.


The problem, however, is that politics doesn't have one set finish line.  Politics has multiple finish lines, again and again and again.

So while we may rejoice as our tortoise--possibly--lumbers to victory past the mired hare, we celebrate in a fool's paradise.

Because that Malevolent Dictatorship Hare WILL clean house.  It WILL rid itself of its leaders, and get new leadership.

And when it does, it's going to bound along faster than ever--and leave our tortoise in its dust.

And in order to stop that from happening, we MUST become more efficient.  We MUST acquire consistent and effective messaging.  We MUST get a little party discipline.


So don't get me wrong--the GOP is in serious trouble.  This is our Kairos.

The only question is whether we will be content to lumber along to that finish line and pray for victory--or whether we will get some jackrabbit legs under us, and leave the Republicans permanently in our dust.

Fortunately, the choice is ours--and the opportuntity ours to take advantage of, or not, as we will.

[Front-paged at the Booman Tribune]

Sunday, May 21, 2006

an excellent addendum

If you liked my previous post on why we will be disappointed in the upcoming elections, please see this excellent addendum by bmaples, which says it even better than I, using Markos' own words from his book tour as backup.

It's well worth the read, and I highly recommend it.

Friday, May 19, 2006

2006 will be a major disappointment. So will 2008.

Color me pessimistic.  Call me a chicken little.  Tell me I'm a naysayer.  Say I'm a buzzkill.  But do hear me out.

We're going to be in trouble: Markos can sense it.  I can sense it.  Joe Klein can sense it (but for all the wrong reasons).  Nearly every prominent Democrat is extremely wary right now that, while the polls may look good now, we will be horribly disappointed come this November.We're going to be in trouble because--to this day--WE REFUSE TO TAKE A STAND.  We're fighting back alright--finally--but we're not taking a stand.

And what do I mean by taking a stand?  I'll tell you...

Even here on the blogosphere, we do not take a stand.  Not really.  Not most of the time.

Oh, yes, don't get me wrong: we scream about the vils of Iraq War until our lungs give out; we decry the Imperial Presidency and the shredding of our beloved Constitution; we lambaste the incompetence born of heartless indifference that created the Katrina disaster; we vent over the mind-numbing corruption and salacious scandals; we fume at the depradations of the Christianist right; and we weep at the evils done in the name of America--in our name.

But that's NOT called taking a stand.  It's called fighting back.  It's what a schoolkid does when he's finally had enough of the neighborhood bully--and it's good when it happens--but it's not remotely enough to win over the country.  And if we don't do what it takes to really win over the country, we're going to lose.  Again.  We won't lose to Bush, but we'll still lose.


We're going to lose because PERSONAL TAINT IS EPHEMERAL in politics.  Basic corruption and incompetence are bad, but not insurmountable.  And personal dislike of a single, or even multiple politicians, may spell doom for them personally--but not for the ideology that put them there in the first place.  Attempting to ride personal taint and corruption to victory at the ballot box is stupid, myopic and shortsighted--even if it works in the short-term.

For all the brouhaha and cheering celebrations here in the liberal blogosphere about Bush's eternally sinking poll numbers, we seem to have forgotten something of extraordinary importance: Bush once had approval ratings of over 50%--even before 9/11.  And the public voted overwhelmingly for Republican congressmen and congresswomen in 1994, 1996, 2000, 2002 and 2004.  And that is important--it is a lesson forgotten at our peril.

For a lesson in contrast, one has only to look to Bill Clinton.  Despite his personal foibles, Bill Clinton was and remained an extremely popular president--personally.  But that personal admiration on the part of voters did not translate to an admiration of Democratic politics, and we lost seats.  In the same way, voters can hate and reject Bush personally--and even many congressional Republicans--but they will not reject REPUBLICANISM.


And what IS Republicanism?  Any average voter can tell you: smaller government, stronger military, and "moral values."

The fact that Republicans have failed entirely to shrink the government; the fact that they have wrecked our military; the fact that they have failed to foster anything but amorality; these things are irrelevant.  The only thing that IS relevant is that the GOP machine has sold the idea of Republicanism to the average voter.

And the corollary of that premise is that, if a Republican fails to deliver on the promises of Republicanism, it can only be for one reason: he/she wasn't Republican enough.

Or, to put it another way: When you look at Bush's 32% approval rating, have you ever asked yourself how many of those people hate him because he's not far enough to the right?  I know I have--and the answer scares me.

Right now, the public is disgusted with their elected leaders.  But as campaign season rolls around again, the sheeple will be inclined to forigve the actual practitioners of the greed and corruption, so long as they stay on message: the message of Republicanism.  The message of smaller government, stronger military, and "moral values."

And all the screaming in the world won't change that.


And what--pray tell--do WE stand for?  What reason on earth does the public have to vote for a Democrat?

If you asked Joe Sixpack on the street how he thinks his life would change if Democrats controlled the House and Senate, do you think he would have a coherent answer?

If you asked Joe Sixpack on the street what the Democrats' equivalent of Republicanism is, do you think he would have a coherent answer?

I certainly don't see an answer.  But I know what I DO see.

I see one wing of the DLC kowtowing to Republicans and playing at being Republican-lite: the DLC, Harman, Joe Lieberman wing.

And I see the other wing screaming bloody murder at the various depradations of this administration and its cronies--by sending message bills, threatening impeachment, and demanding investigations: this is the Conyers/Boxer wing.
 And of the two, this is FAR preferable.

But I see NO ONE actually taking a stand.  I see NO ONE standing up for DEMOCRATISM.


And what would that even look like?  I can tell what I think it would look like.

For starters, it would mean shaping our policies around Liberal Rhetoric again.  In my diary A Memorial For What We Have Lost, I tried to remind people of the REAL values that American stands for--that are ingraved and tattooed onto its very being:

The Common Good.  

Equal Opportunity.

The Right to Privacy.

Accountable Government.

Respect Abroad.

It would mean standing up for single-payer healthcare.

It would mean standing up for a SERIOUS increase in the minimum wage.

It would mean standing up for SERIOUSLY higher taxes on corporations and the extremely wealthy, in order to actually SHRINK the income gap in this country.

It would mean standing up for re-regulating all the corrupt, vampirous industries that were deregulated by Reagan and Bush.

It would mean standing up strongly for the separation of church and state, and heaping scorn on those who would tear it down, rather than running in fear of them.

It would mean standing up for SERIOUSLY higher pensions and funding for our military personnel, and for our veterans.

It would mean doing all these things and much more--AND MAKING SURE THAT JOE SIXPACK KNEW WE MEANT IT.


We can talk impeachments until we're blue in the face. We can call for investigations until our hearts give out. And we can seek indictments unto our political graves. And these are things we MUST DO.

But until we actually make a stand--until we stand up for Democratism--we will ALWAYS be playing second fiddle to Republicans--even if they do end up hanging themselves with their own rope here and there.

Because, when push comes to shove, the disgusted voters may throw out individual Republicans from time to time--but they will eternally vote for Republicanism.  Until and unless, that is, they are given a serious alternative.  An alternative that grasps their imaginations and the better angels of their natures, rather than simply tapping into their frustration and disgust.

It's time to do more than just fight back, folks.  It's time to take a stand--because I'm tired of losing.

[Front-paged at the Booman Tribune]

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

CA-36: Our Exclusive Interview with Marcy Winograd

No less than two days ago, the liberal blogosphere was treated to one of the most glorious smackdowns we have seen between two competing Democratic candidates:  First, Representative Jane Harman--the self-proclaimed "best Republican in the Democratic Party"--came to the Kos kommunity with a half-hearted attempt at pandering to the base with a diary about her much belated message bill on NSA spying.

Then came Marcy Winograd, her progressive challenger in CA-36, who is everything Harman is not: straightforward and progressive.  Marcy posted a smackdown of Harman that very same day.  If you didn't see it, please follow the links.

Jane Harman's offenses are well-known (please see fellow blogger hekebolos' diary on the subject) and don't need repeating here.

Tonight, however, I would like to share with you the full transcript of a 45-minute long interview that my brother hekebolos and I conducted with Ms. Winograd herself at the Rose Café in Venice, CA.  

I believe that when you are done reading it, you will understand that this is a candidate who deserves our support every bit as much as other progressives fighting DINOs in liberal districts.  This is exactly the sort of candidate we can all get behind--and you won't find this interview anywhere else but your very own liberal blogosphere.  Just follow me below...

Q: The first question I have is about the traditional media.  Do you feel like the odds are stacked against you when dealing with the media?

A: Oh yes, without a doubt.  Media consolidation is one of my issues.  In fact, before I decided to run for Congress I was trying to get some public hearings here in Los Angeles with the FCC on the media consolidation issue, in regards to the LA Times merger with KTLA, and I've been active in organizing demonstration for the LA Times regarding the firing of Robert Scheer.  In terms of my own campaign, the LA Times has refused to cover it--not word one, the Daily Torrance and Daily Breeze has refused to cover it, not word one.

Q: Why do you think that is?

A: The reporter from the Daily Breeze went to an event with me and Cindy Sheehan, but there's still no article about it.  I'm hoping that will change.  Why is that?  You know, money talks, power and influence talks, Jane Harman's been around a long time and has a powerful position on the intelligence committee, and people, I think,  regardless of what sphere they're in, tend to be somewhat beholden to those in power.

Q: How do you plan on overcoming that disadvantage?

A: It's a big challenge, but we are trying to overcome that in making our own media to some extent.  That might include certain events, talking about issues she won't talk about, going to places she won't go, in terms of politics, we are buying cable ads throughout the district.  We started out with a lot of precinct walking and engaging people at the neighborhood level, and putting signs up in their yard--and then she plastered the district with those corporate signs.  And some of those--well, many of them--were torn down in Venice, despite the fact that we say on our website not to do that.  I heard that some people were ripping them in half and leaving them on the posts.  She had a press conference two days ago, kind of a gathering to launch the opening of her campaign.  I did hear that two teenage boys went up to her with Winograd signs and said to her, "how dare you take money from the defense contractors and then lead to us to war based upon lies?  You're disgusting!"  From what I hear, she reacted quite like a deer in the headlights.

You know, to some extent we're trying to use the internet.  We're not as savvy, certainly, as you, but we do have a listserv of about 600 people or more.  We've also been maximizing our use of the alternative media, people who are writing for alternative media.  My press person has a lot of contacts, so I've been interviewed by bloggers, and she's got me a 3 page spread in the Texas Iconoclast, which is George Bush's home newspaper.  And The Nation magazine did a good piece: my campaign was sort of the anchor, and then they talked a little bit about other campaigns.  Robert Kohl of the Tribune Media, he did a piece.  So we've gotten some really good play in the alternative media.  I was interviewed 3 days ago in an interview by the Washington Post.

In terms of making our own news, we were a very strong presence at the convention.  I got almost 40% of the vote, which is quite remarkable, given that I only entered this race two and a half months ago.  And she's a six-term incumbent!  And the fact that I couldn't even speak on my behalf!

Q: One of the reasons that you are even able to mount this challenge is that the district has been gerrymandered in such a way that the district is now much more liberal than it was before.  What do you think of gerrymandering?  Is that a problem that needs to be solved?

A: I would like to look at that.  I'm not sure gerrymandering is the answer--you end up with these imperial incumbents who are never challenged, have safe seats and no accountability.  It's a problem.

Q: Campaign Finance.  It's not on your website; what do you think needs to be done, and do you agree with the equation of money and free speech?

A: I support campaign refinance reform and the California Clean Money Campaign.  If that were available on a federal level I would run a clean campaign.  It's tough when you're facing an incumbent with over $550,000 in her war chest, and her husband basically owns China.  So, you know, it's important.

Q: One of the most important local issues is traffic congestion, freeway sprawl, etc.  Some estimates say that traffic congestion in Los Angeles will double over the next decade.  What would you propose to do about that?

A: I would want to support the new Apollo Energy Act to provide corporate tax incentives to companies who invest in alternative energy and alternative infrastructure and means of transportation.  I would want to give serious economic incentives to cities that are greening themselves in terms of sustainable buildings and staggered work hours.  I think that public transportation should be a priority.

Q: What specific public transportation options do you recommend?

A: I think each individual city is probably different.  I would like to see us support buses and build light rail and subway systems.  I know that there are disagreements over which particular systems and projects to fund, but I don't think we should be fighting over a small share of a pie.  We should be demanding a much bigger piece of pie.

Q: Housing prices are out of control, and it's a huge problem in your district.  Talk to me a little about that.

A: It's a huge problem.  The root cause of that is severe drops in economics, in income levels.  You have to attack it to a certain degree from that perspective: roll back the tax cuts that Bush has implemented for the very wealthy, I would close some of the loopholes that allow corporations to get away without paying their taxes.  I also think we need to look at predatory lending practices on the part of the federal government that may make it difficult for people to survive in communities.

Q: As you know, Reagan deregulated much of the banking industry, leading to some of the lending practices we see today.  Is that an area you would be looking at, or are there other solutions in your mind?

A: Yes, yes, very much so, yes.  I would do whatever I could to close the income and achievement gap in America.

Q: In terms of affordable housing, one of  the things that is a problem is getting builders to actually construct affordable housing--what would you do to actually get builders to construct affordable housing?

A: Well, that's an excellent point.  You would have to give them financial incentives and tax credit breaks for doing that.

Q: Let's talk about election reform for a minute.  There are a lot of bills out there that propose to fix the problem.  Are there any bills currently on the floor that you support?

A: The Rush-Holt bill.  I support that.

Q: You have talked before about the parliamentary procedures available to Jane Harman when confronted with the NSA spying business: that she could have asked that a senator bring it procedurally before the Senate.  What if--as happened with Al Gore in the 2000 election--no Senator had agreed to step forward?

A: First I would have clarified the law.  I would have KNOWN it was against the law, for starters.  I would have--since I couldn't consult a constitutional lawyer, that is true--I would have looked at the law myself, the FISA law.  It's on the books, you can read it.  And then I would have informed Bush and Cheney that they were violating the law, and they needed to stop.  And if they refused to stop, then I would have blown the whistle.  It turns out, actually--and I've consulted Ellsberg on this--that you can actually as a Congressperson go on the floor of the House, and you don't have to be a Senator.

Q: Would you have done it through an anonymous leak, or would you--as Marcy Winograd--have gone public as a whistleblower?

A: I think I would have gone public.  You don't really know until you're in that situation, but I've never been one to shy away from that sort of controversy!  I guess the repercussions are that you might be denied a seat: you would never again sit on the House Intelligence Committee.

Q: You say that we need to pay more reparations for Iraq.  How can you guarantee the money will be spent wisely, if it's not being spent wisely now when we DO have troops on the ground?

A: Well, right now, who's providing the oversight?  The Bush Administration and its henchmen?  Give me a break.  I think that we should work through NGOs to provide that oversight.  The United Nations as well.

Q: How will you sell voters on pouring even more money into Iraq?

A: Well, I think it should just be sold to them in regards as, this is the way we need to stabilize Iraq.  If we don't provide them with reparations for peacetime construction, we'll be facing an even more dangerous situation as everything falls apart.  There will be no infrastructure.

Q: There is worse and worse news coming out of Afghanistan.  What would you do about that?

A: I would encourage foreign aid, and engaging Afghanistan with its neighbors in creating regional, stable alliances.  I would certainly invest in something other than the heroin trade there.

Q: Did you support the initial military action in Afghanistan?

A: I was very conflicted about that, let me tell you.  I remember having this conversation with my brother and he was very supportive of it, and I was just asking myself, "How is this really going to solve the problem?  Won't they just scatter and make it even more difficult to keep track of these people?"

Q: What would you have done, or counseled?

A: First of all, I would have signed onto the International Criminal Court, and arrested whoever the perpetrators were.  I would have tried the perpetrators--either literally or in absentia.  Because I think that we had an opportunity to really galvanize the world behind us--and instead, we really moved in the opposite direction and fractured world support for the United States.  I would have put the emphasis on the economic support for Bin Laden, and drying up his funding.  In the end, the best intelligence you have is human intelligence.  And when you create instability with unilateral wars and threaten people and go after them with bombs and kill innocent people, I'm not sure that helps you in the long run.  When you talk about precision strikes, how precise are they, really?

Q: Many have criticized the U.N. for dragging its feet on the issue Darfur.  At what point would you encourage the use of U.S. troops to stop the genocide occurring there?

A: I'm not sure the troops are the answer.  I would try to work with the NGOs on that.  I tend to favor negotiation and diplomacy over force and occupation.

Q: Let's move to immigration...

A:  Well, I think right now we have some pretty unrealistic quotas, particularly in regard to people coming from Central America.  One of the first things I would push for is higher quotas, because obviously they are not high enough with the numbers that are coming.  I would support a citizenship program, maybe every four years, for people that come here, work and pay their taxes.  I would hesitate to talk about supporting open borders, but I would like to see less criminalizing of immigrants, and more of a coherent policy of paths to citizenship based on how well they do what they're supposed to do.

Q: What do you think the requirements should be?

A: They should have a job, and be able to actively demonstrate that they have held a job--and maybe some community service as well.

Q: There is some talk of an English-language learning requirement.  Would you agree with something like that or not as a path to legalization?

A: That's definitely something to think about.  I do think that might be a good idea.

Q: A few questions about defense and the money being spent on defense.  First thing I wanted to ask is about the military-industrial complex: you have talked some about converting military manufacturing plants to domestic uses.  How realistic is that?

A: We've got to start talking about that at some point.  I have never heard that notion talked about my Jane Harman ever.  It's all about saving the bases with her.  I've been working with others to get people around the table to talk about this.

Q: This is really innovative to me.  Did you come up with this idea yourself?

A: There are some businesspeople talking about it.  It wasn't for humanitarian motivations--more for business reasons.  That's how it has to be pitched.  There have to be economic incentives.  I've called Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and some others to see if we can get around the table to talk about it, but so far I haven't gotten any response.  There has to be an incentive for them to be interested.  If they knew that certain parts of their budget were going to be cut, maybe they would have incentives to invest in alternative energy and mass transit technologies.  Right now, we're just rewarding them for not expanding their portfolio.

Q: You've talked a lot about investing a lot more money into education especially, but also Medicare, Social Security and another desperately needed social programs.  How do you balance the need for that spending with reducing the deficit?

A: I think I would start with rolling back those tax cuts, eliminating the corporate loopholes, and reducing the defense budgets.

Q: What types of defense spending would you cut?

A: Things like Star Wars, missile defense shields, you know.  It only escalates the arms race and doesn't defend us against anything.  There's a study that enumerates the various weapons systems that are basically just completely useless wastes of money.

Q: Even during the Clinton years, we had a runup in the gap between the rich and the poor.  What kind of policies, in addition to repealing the Bush tax cuts, would you push proactively?

A: I think that inclusionary housing, and incentives to developers to provide public housing is important.  And we really ought to improve our education system at the end of the day to closing this gap.  We really need to focus on education ALL of our citizens, not just a few.

Q: Do you have anyone you support right now for California governor?

A: I like Phil Angelides.  I think he's shown a large degree of social responsibility with his investments.  I like what he says with alternative energy, he points to Brazil as a model of a country about what can be done with alternative energy.  That gives me hope.

Q: Any outside choices for president in 2008?

A: Not Hillary Clinton! [laughter]  I would like to hear more from John Edwards.  He seems to have some sense of passion, and closing the gap between the rich and the poor.

What say you, my fellow progressives?  I know I like what I hear.

If you do, too, PLEASE consider visiting her website and, if you have any extra change burning a hole in your pocket, contributing to her campaign.

Because I, for one, don't want to see Venice Beach elect "the best Republican in the Democratic party" ever again.


Looks like Jason Leopold was out to lunch on the Rove indictment after all. And I took the bait, breathlessly spreading the news both on my blog and on the Booman Tribune.

While I don't doubt that Jason Leopold believed the story in good faith based on multiple sources, it looks like he would have done well to vet those sources.

And it looks like I would do well to vet mine in the future: and I'm fairly certain that Mr. Leopold won't be among them--at least until and unless he can tell us WHO he talked to, and WHY things didn't pan out as he reported...

Nevertheless, I still do believe that Rove will be indicted. It's just a matter of time.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Bush Admits to Keeping Tabs on Millions of Americans

The Clintonian parsing of words by this Administration has become truly sickening: "Joe Wilson's Wife".  "No women were used as prostitutes."  "Weapons of mass destruction related program activities."  "I never said that Saddam was responsible for 9/11."  "I will fire anyone convicted of a crime."

Now, however, that parsing has become truly repulsive.  If you pay close attention, my friends, something has become terrifyingly clear: Bush is going to keep track of every phone call you make.  And he's not going to apologize for it.

The headline of the CNN story reads as follows:

Bush: U.S. doesn't eavesdrop on phone calls of ordinary Americans

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush insisted Tuesday that the United States does not listen in on domestic telephone conversations among ordinary Americans.

Really?  Well, that's good to know.  Given the recent reports that the NSA has been gathering long lists of domestic phone calls, we were all starting to get worried!  I mean, we had been getting word that you were even spying on major media organizations.

So what else did he have to say?  What other reassuring words of comfort?

What I've told the American people is we'll protect them against an al-Qaida attack. And we'll do so within the law. I've been very clear about the principles and guidelines of any program that has been designed to protect the American people.

Well, that's not too reassuring now, is it?  What exactly do you define as the law, mister President?  Tell me more!

I've also been clear about the fact that we do not listen to domestic phone calls without court approval and that this government will continue to guard the privacy of the American people.  But if al-Qaida is calling into the United States, we want to know, and we want to know why.

Ah...we DO NOT LISTEN TO DOMESTIC PHONE CALLS without a warrant.  Well, question resolved then!  But wait, was there more???

The president did not respond directly, however, when asked whether it was a violation of privacy for the National Security Agency to seek phone records of millions of people from telephone companies.

Well, there's the nub, isn't it?  Through incredibly disgusting parsing, Bush has made something terribly clear: he fully intends to continue keeping logs of the phone calls of MILLIONS of Americans WIHOUT COURT APPROVAL.  And it's all okay--because he isn't really LISTENING to those calls--unless, of course, the FISA court approves, as it has done in almost every instance.

So the government may not be listening to your conversations directly, but it knows the name, location, time and number of every person whom you have called, and who has called you.  How comforting, Mr. President.

Me, I feel safer already.  Don't you?


Monday, May 15, 2006

The Price of Appeasement

No people in history have ever survived who thought they could protect their freedom by making themselves inoffensive to their enemies. -- Dean Acheson

I have a question for our press: Have you learned your lesson yet?

After all your kowtowing--all your groveling, your pandering, your agreeing to hold your silence, your maintenance of "respectability", and your deference--what have you achieved?

An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.  -- Winston Churchill

In the end, having sucked up to and refused to call this administration on its lies and crimes, you have been eschewed and found utterly wanting by the progressives in our nation, who have instead turned to blogs and even to comedians to get news unsullied by your filter of appeasement.  You lost not only our business and readership (at economic expense to yourself), but also our respect, as well as your own reputation.

The one sure way to conciliate a tiger is to allow oneself to be devoured. -- Konrad Adenauer

And yet, by insisting on maintaining your own independence and not become a wholly state mouthpiece of the Pravda variety as our fascist friends at FreeRepublic would like, you have found yourselves nevertheless the brunt of accusations of being the "liberal media."  You are harrassed and spit upon at every opportunity by the rabid right wing.  Anything to the left of Fox News has never been--and will never be--good enough.

Appeasers believe that if you keep on throwing steaks to a tiger, the tiger will become a vegetarian. -- Heywood Broun

And so here you sit--in the crossfire of the progressive left and the jingoistic Christianist right--feebly attempting to suck up to this malAdministration in the hopes of currying their favor and gaining respectability.

Oh, yes--some of you are just pure corporate shills, through and through, who find Bush policies to your convenience and liking.  And yes, some of you are truthseekers who sometimes must make deals with devils to get your information.  But in the end, even as you were demonized by the right and the left alike, you knew that you could at least depend on the cozy acceptance and respectability of the rich and the powerful on the cocktail circuit.


So I'm sure it comes as a completely SHOCK to you to learn that you are now the target of Bush's utterly illegal domestic spying program.  Like Julius Caesar at his final, grand coronation, you stand--the anointed--having made enemies of all the good and decent who care about the Republic, and look at last upon the face of your eminently respectable, dearest friend.  And when still the dagger gleams forth from the scabbard you cry, "et tu, Bush?" in palpable shock, as the final act that destroys the very essence of your being comes crashing down upon you, leaving you in a pool of your own blood.

Yield to all and you will soon have nothing to yield. -- Aesop

Yes, in palpable shock as, having delivered up your honor and committment to truth on the altar of that shimmering mirage of respectability that comes with acceding to the comfortable selfishness of rich and powerful--those very rich and powerful take your livelihood and eliminate the very basis and reason for its existence.


No man can tame a tiger into a kitten by stroking it. There can be no appeasement with ruthlessness. There can be no reasoning with an incendiary bomb. -- Franklin Delano Roosevelt

And so I ask again, men and women of the press: HAVE YOU LEARNED YOUR LESSON YET?

You stand at the brink of a precipice from which there is no return.  Already this administration has curtailed the economic and social freedoms of its citizens--though masses whom you disrespect and who, in return, hold you in nought but contempt.  And already the wildfire has reached your doorstep.

And it has done all of this on the basis of one--yes, one-- mindless act of terror masterminded by a medieval psychopath living among the rubble of Afghanistan, and who remains terribly, terrifyingly, at large.

If there is another attack, and these villains remain in office, it means the end.  The end of you, and of all that you and we hold dear.

If Al-Qaeda succeeds in striking again on American soil, and shadowy nightmare of three more years of oppression by these criminal thugs remains unchanged, even the octogenarians among us will live to see the day that YOU, the free press, no longer exists in its current form.


It comes down to this, my friends in the traditional Press:

You will either make your stand now, or you will forever hold your peace--whether you like it or not.

The time for appeasement is at an end.

Your move.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Looks like Rove is going down at last

As you have no doubt seen or heard elsewhere by now, Fitzmas has indeed come on Friday as many (especially Booman at the Booman Tribune) have expected.

According to Truthout, it looks like Karl Rove is going down.

Within the last week, Karl Rove told President Bush and Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten, as well as a few other high level administration officials, that he will be indicted in the CIA leak case and will immediately resign his White House job when the special counsel publicly announces the charges against him, according to sources.

Details of Rove's discussions with the president and Bolten have spread through the corridors of the White House where low-level staffers and senior officials were trying to determine how the indictment would impact an administration that has been mired in a number of high-profile political scandals for nearly a year, said a half-dozen White House aides and two senior officials who work at the Republican National Committee.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, sources confirmed Rove's indictment is imminent. These individuals requested anonymity saying they were not authorized to speak publicly about Rove's situation. A spokesman in the White House press office said they would not comment on "wildly speculative rumors."

Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, did not return a call for comment Friday.

And it gets even worse for Rove:

Sources close to the case said there is a strong chance Rove will also face an additional charge of obstruction of justice, adding that Fitzgerald has been working meticulously over the past few months to build an obstruction case against Rove because it "carries more weight" in a jury trial and is considered a more serious crime.

Couldn't happen to a nicer sociopath.

The Bushies will try to shrug this off and move on--but it'll be tough. This is Bush's brain we're talking about here. This is the mastermind of their electoral and domestic policies.

A White House without Karl Rove will be like a House of Representatives without Tom Delay: lost, dazed and confused.

Score another victory for America today.

Most people support "final solution"

BERLIN, 1936--A majority of Germans support the "Final Solution", a once controversial program to rid the German nation of its strongest domestic enemies, according to a recent poll conducted by Goebbels-founded newspaper Der Angriff.

The new survey found that 63 percent of the German people said they found the program to be an acceptable way to combat moral weakness and economic woes, including 44 percent who strongly endorsed the effort. Another 35 percent said the program was unacceptable, which included 24 percent who strongly objected to it. (Those 35 percent are due to be rounded up any day now, which should boost approval for the program significantly).

A slightly larger majority--66 percent--said they would not be bothered if the SS collected records of personal telegrams and postal mail they had written in order to seek out traitors in their midst, the poll found.

Underlying those views is the belief that the need to investigate treason and economic sabotage outweighs privacy concerns. According to the poll, 65 percent of those interviewed said it was more important to investigate potential threats "even if it intrudes on privacy." Three in 10--31 percent--said it was more important for the federal government not to intrude on personal privacy, even if that limits its ability to investigate possible threats. (The SS denies reports of the disappearance of many of the more prominent members of that 31 percent).

A clear majority approved of the way the Fuehrer was handling privacy matters.

The popularity of this program is leading many Party politicians who would otherwise object to stand down and remain quiet. "It seems fine to me: after all, they're not coming for me!" said Gunter von Falkenhausen, who spoke on condition of anonymity, but whose identity has been provided to us by the SS.


The point? When a democratic republic is placed into a state of absolute fear for its safety by unscrupulous, power-hungry government officials, the people can be made to support anything. ANY intrusion onto privacy or liberty becomes acceptable in the name of combatting "the enemy."

ESPECIALLY if they don't know the extent of the program--as most Germans did NOT know with respect to the Final Solution. They didn't know because they didn't care to look, and they didn't dare ask.

As I said in my previous post, the truth is ALWAYS ugly with these guys, and it is my firm belief that if the American people really knew what the spying program was being used for, they would be outraged.

But they think it's all to protect them from the scary terrorists.

And until we can drive out the culture of fear from America--the culture of fear created by this corrupt and evil scum that runs our country--we can expect more polls like this.

Because this is precisely the greatest weakness of a democracy (outside of inefficiency): its ability to be led astray by fear-mongering populists without compunction or shame.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

A lesson: It's always as bad as you suspect

As the blogswarm over what has become the latest and greatest outrage over the domestic spying scandal begins to die down, I think that it behooves us--the liberal blogging community--to learn an unforgettable lesson from this incident. A lesson that needs to impact how we look at every issue currently on the radar from the imminent attack on Iran to the imminent attempts to outlaw birth control.

It's a lesson that we can only learn by remembering the totality of the NSA scandal--as it has unfolded from beginning to end (and that's not always easy, as obsessed as we have become, and rightly so, with the never-ending 24-hour news cycle.)

Remember, folks, that this scandal started even long before James Risen's book, and the leak to the NY Times. Those who have watched the documentary Unconstitutional, released on DVD in October 2004, know that there used to be considerable concern in the liberal community that the FISA court was simply a rubber-stamp court--and that the small number of warrant rejections by the court was troubling enough. The idea that the administration might be bypassing even this rubberstamp court was seen as almost tinfoil-hattish. After all, why would they take the risk?

Then came the leak, and James Risen's book. All of a sudden, the right wing was claiming, amazingly, that the FISA court was either inefficient or a left-wing liberal court devoutly to be ignored. But, it was insisted, the spying without a warrant was only being done on a select few domestic-to-international calls to and from suspected terrorists.

Bad enough, we said. Bad enough that this administration scuttled the rule of law in order to "combat terrorism." But only some of us supposed that the spying was being done on massive scales. Too risky, many said. Why would they need to? Why would they take the risk?

And then it came out. The spying was being done on massive scales. Wow, we said. This is really bad.

But some of reasoned that they figured that they needed a wide net of calls from which to mine and filter terrorist communication data. Besides, it was only domestic-international calls, which by some arguments could be considered a legal gray area. Surely they would never dare, as some of us tin-foil hatters suggested, to spy on domestic-domestic communications!

Well, sure enough, somebody in the press corps asked the question of Gonzales. And the response? "I cannot rule that out."

And now--on the frontpage of USA Today--we see that the spying is on unprecedented, massive, domestic scales.

And now we only dare to whisper: are they even using the data they are getting for terrorism at all? Or are they really just spying on ALL of their political enemies, foreign and domestic?


The lesson to learn is this: every time we think it just couldn't get worse, it DOES. Every time we think an idea would be too out of bounds for these criminals, it isn't. Almost every time we pooh-pooh a tin-foil hat idea on the grounds of impracticality, it turns out to be true in one way or another.

It's time from now on to ASSUME THE WORST. It's time to respect the tin-foil--because those brainwaves are turning out to be real every single time.

And it's time to ask the most provocative questions possible (e.g., "well, if no WOMEN were being used for prostitution purposes at the Watergate, what about MEN?").

Because every time we've tried to plumb the depths of the criminality of this administration, we find that we simply haven't dug deep enough. So keep digging, and keep asking the scary questions--even if the answers seem outlandish, improbably, or even impossible. Because it's probably true.

CA-36: PLEASE support Winograd because Harman HAS TO GO

Attention liberal bloggers: if you think we're wasting our time supporting Ned Lamont, this diary is not for you.  Just move along.

As for the rest of you--if you are among those who understand that Joe Lieberman is doing as much or more damage to the Democratic Party and to progressive issues at large as, say, Susan Collins or Olympia Snowe, then please read on.  Because your help is desperately needed.

Do you know which Democrat in Congress called themselves "the best Republican in the Democratic Party"?  It wasn't Joe Lieberman--it was Jane Harman.

Democrats in the House of Representatives have a problem--a problem in the House just as large as Lieberman is in the Senate.

That problem is Jane Harman.  She HAS to go.  And Marcy Winograd is our solution.

After talking with her for over 45 minutes in a face-to-face interview (I don't work for her campaign), I am convinced that this is one of the most exciting candidates we have right now--and that's saying alot.

In order to understand why Jane Harman is such a problem allow me to give you a little background:

As we know, the biggest reason that Lieberman is so much more infuriating than, say, Ben Nelson is that he is in Connecticut.  We need real liberals in places like Connecticut that absolutely despise most Republicans

In Jane Harman's case, her Connecticut is CA-36.  CA-36 includes Venice Beach and a number of very liberal and minority enclaves--and just got alot MORE liberal after the latest redistricting.  What this means is that the district is in absolutely NO danger of falling to a Republican--and that we have the opportunity to challenge a DINO here.

But what, some might say, is so bad about Harman?  She has a pretty reliable voting record!  Well, I respond, Joe Lieberman ALSO has a pretty reliable voting record.  That's not the point.

If you want to see a list of Jane Harman's repugnancies, please see this outstanding diary by hekebolos.  If you still aren't convinced, just examine this transcript of Jane Harman's interview with Tim Russert on Meet the Press:

MR. RUSSERT:  Congresswoman Harman, you were also briefed. Were you comfortable with the plan when you were informed of it?

REP. JANE HARMAN, (D-Calif.):  My briefings started in 2003 and have been in existence for about a year and a half, and I didn't join this group until I was ranking member on Intelligence. The briefings were about the operational details of the program. I support the program, I've never flinched from that. However, the briefings were not about the legal underpinnings of the program, nor were they about the appropriateness of the Gang of Eight process. I talked to absolutely no one, because I would have violated three different federal criminal statutes had I talked to anybody.

MR. RUSSERT:  When you say "Gang of Eight," you mean the four leaders of Congress--the majority leader, minority leader, the speaker, and Democratic leader in the House--and then the four ranking members of the Intelligence Committee...

REP. HARMAN:  That's right.

MR. RUSSERT:  ...two in the Senate and House?

REP. HARMAN:  That's exactly right. And I became a part of this group when I became ranking member in January of 2003. At any rate, I couldn't talk to anyone about this program, and did not until the president disclosed its existence. It's not the leak to The New York Times that triggered things--and by the way, I deplore that leak--but the day after that, President Bush disclosed the fact that the program existed, at which point I consulted constitutional experts, the former general counsel of the CIA, some of the excellent staff on the House Intelligence Committee, and then I learned, although I'm a trained lawyer, about some of the serious legal issues that I have been raising ever since. I still support the program, but it needs to be on a sounder legal footing, and I think the Gang of Eight process violates the National Security Act of 1947, which requires that, unless it's a covert action program--Congress, that means the two Intelligence Committees--have to be fully and completely briefed.

MR. RUSSERT:  Vice President Cheney gave an interview in which he said this, "The program has operated for four years. Congress has been informed, a few members of Congress, informed throughout that period of time, and everything was fine until there was publicity in The New York Times. And at that point now, we've had some members head for the hills, so to speak; forget, perhaps, that they were at the briefings and fully informed of the program." Is the vice president correct that Democrats went along with this program, and then when it became public, began to raise reservations?

REP. HARMAN:  Well, there was no way to raise any reservations before that. Jay Rockefeller's letter is a, you know, is a private cry. If he had shared that letter publicly, I think he would have been in violation of the Espionage Act, the disclosure of classified information regarding cryptology and the unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents. So he could not talk about it. And again, this Gang of Eight process is only under law for the revelation of covert action programs. This is not a covert action program, this is a very valuable foreign collection program, and I'm--I think it is tragic that a lot of our capability is now across the pages of the newspapers.

Do you understand what this means, folks?  This means that didn't know that the program was illegal when she was briefed on it.  It means that she didn't raise a peep about the program even when she DID know it was illegal.  And it means that once the program was leaked, she didn't abhor the program--she abhorred the leak!

And there's so much more where that came from.  She has voted to renew the Patrioat Act, to keep Guantanamo prisons, to oppose the ICC, to develop new nuclear weapons.  She has refused to investigate the White House Iraq Group.  She wears B-2 bomber lapel pins, for crying out loud.  Most importantly--this is the woman who knew about the NSA spying program from the beginning, and didn't lift a finger to stop it.


And there IS an alternative.  An EXCELLENT one.  We have the ability to knock Jane Harman out, and put Marcy Winograd in.

If you want to know her positions on most of the major issues, please see her website at WinogradforCongress.com.  In Marcy, we have a candidate who:

a) supports a timetable for pulling out of Iraq.

b) supports resolutions for impeachment.

c) supports a resolution against permanent bases in Iraq.

d) Isn't connected to the military-industrial complex.

e) supports redirecting the war billions into deficit reduction, education and healthcare.

f) supports requiring a constitutional amendment for the right to vote, and voter-verified paper trails.

g) openly supports single-payer healthcare.

h) fully supports a woman's right to choose.

i) fully supports same-sex marriage.

j) strongly supports alternative energies and reinstating the environmental protections damaged by the Bush Administration.

k) paths to legalization for illegal immigrants with a no-nonsense approach.

And there's so much more where that came from.  My brother "hekebolos" and I conducted a 45-minute interview with Marcy on a wide range of subjects that are not necessarily covered on her campaign website--from campaign finance reform to Iran.

Not only did I love what I heard, I can tell you all that Marcy is a wonderful, engaging and charismatic person.  She can WIN an election.

And if you want to see a dose of this charisma, go ahead and check out any of her on-camera policy positions.


Tomorrow evening I will be posting a transcript of my interview with Marcy on my blog, on Booman Tribune, on My Left Wing, and (of course) here: I hope you'll check it out.

In the meantime, please consider donating to Marcy's campaign, either here or at my brother's Act Blue page.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Why the Right-Wing Gets It--and Why Dems Don't

I am dismayed, my friends.

Almost every time a Democratic leader opens his or her mouth I am dismayed.

I am dismayed because there are two opposing political strategies being played out in America's politics with two vastly different philosophies--and it's clear that one side is definitely winning.  And it ain't our side.

I am dismayed because even most of the Progressives here in the liberal blogosphere don't really have a full grasp of the true nature of what is going on, or don't talk as if they do.  I am dismayed because the authors of wonderful books like Crashing the Gate and Off-Center mistake the realities of the Republican strategy.  

I know that these are bold statements--and they are not meant to offend.  They are meant as a wake-up call--and a call to action.  Let me explain to you what I'm talking about.

The conventional wisdom among progressives goes like this: The DLC-led Democratic party "triangulates" toward an elusive center, thereby making it appear weak, ineffective and unprincipled; the GOP, meanwhile, plays strongly to its base and rallies its reliable voters.  Progressives understand that the center doesn't matter: almost every election is about rallying the base to achieve voter turn-out.

We can see this thinking all over the place: in Crashing the Gate and Off-Center, and all over the liberal blogosphere.  From The Economist's View, we see an all-too typical encapsulation of this worldview:

The Dems are still trying to 'triangulate' - hold their base and play to the middle - which might work if the 'other side' wasn't playing to their base so strongly. So instead of winning over BOTH the middle and their base, the Dems get tepid support from both middle & base and their head handed to them.

There is also a corollary to this premise: that by playing too far to their base, they will alienate the unnerved middle of the country.  This is the sort of thinking mirrored in diaries like this one, which was on Diary Rescue--basically arguing that movements like Concerned Women for America will create an anti-GOP backlash.  It's the sort of thinking that says that the GOP will never overturn Roe v. Wade.

Both of these ideas are misguided--if not deadly wrong.  Allow me to explain why--straight from a Republican operative's mouth


On the contrary: the GOP knows that the middle DOES matter.  They know that by playing to their base in very well-crafted ways, they can shift the very definition of what the middle is. By introducing radicalism into the public discourse (and taking initial heat for it), whatever used to be radical within this context becomes moderate by comparison.

By far the most enlightening thing I have read on the blogosphere in the past two months came from Republican Operative and founder of RedState.com Joshua Trevino, on Armando's and Trevino's new blog Swords Crossed.  In an incredibly instructive piece--and I encourage everyone to read the whole thing--Josh Trevino does us all the favor of introducing us to the Overton Window. The Overton Window, in my opinion, is basically the key to the Republicans' success over the past twenty years--and it comes straight from the Republican think tanks.  I am posting more of this piece than perhaps fair use allows--and my apologies to Armando and to Joshua Trevino for doing so (please email me if you have a problem, guys!), though I hope this will draw more attention to Swords Crossed.  At any rate, the piece goes as follows:

As some may know, I work at a free-market think tank, and as such, qualify as a full-fledged member of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. While places like the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute and others are justly famous for their national-level work, it's the network of state-level think tanks that are, to my biased mind, the unsung heroes of the movement.

So, with that being said, and mindful of my business-related absence for the latter half of this week, I'm going to share with you a little strategizing exercise from the bowels of the VRWC.

The mission of a think tank is to introduce ideas into public discourse and normalize them within the public discourse. The steps an idea takes to full legitimacy are roughly as follows:







No namby-pambying.  This is a systematic, no-nonsense approach to political ideas and discourse.  To continue, after skipping a bit:

One useful tool is the Overton window. Named after the former vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy who developed the model, it's a means of visualizing where to go, and how to assess progress. Let's say, for example, that you want to make education as free and choice-based as it can possibly be. Let's start by developing a continuum of educational states, from the desired extreme of total freedom, to the undesirable extreme of total statism. It might look something like this:

--No government involvement in education.

--All schools private with government regulation.

--Voucher system with public schools.

--Tuition tax credit with public schools.

--Homeschooling legal.

--Private schools restricted.

--Homeschooling illegal.

--Private schools illegal.

--Children taken from parents and raised as janissaries.

Now, obviously, I violently dispute Josh's framing of this issue: when no public education is available, that's hardly freedom. That's a form of oppression.  As a homeschooler myself, I also disagree with the bulletin points of his continuum, but that's another story.

But the key thing to consider here for a moment is the systematization of these ideas and policies.  

To continue:

Now, back when Joe Overton drew up this notional list (which is meant to be illustrative, so don't get hung up on its particular accuracy), the range of actual, reasonable possibilities as perceived by the general public in Overton's state of Michigan were the items bolded below:


--No government involvement in education.

--All schools private with government regulation.

--Voucher system with public schools.

--Tuition tax credit with public schools.

--Homeschooling legal.

--Private schools restricted.

--Homeschooling illegal.

--Private schools illegal.

--Children taken from parents and raised as janissaries.


The bolded items, representing the politically possible amongst all conceivable options, are the Overton window. The idea is to shift that window in the preferred direction. In Michigan today, the Overton window looks substantively different:


No government involvement in education.

All schools private with government regulation.

--Voucher system with public schools.

--Tuition tax credit with public schools.

--Homeschooling legal.

--Private schools restricted.

Homeschooling illegal.

Private schools illegal.

Children taken from parents and raised as janissaries.


Do you see how this works?  Systematically, piece by piece, the GOP takes what had been considered impossibly radical positions and makes them worthy of consideration just by talking about them--and then makes what had been considered outside possibilities truly possible.  Now, I happen to believe that legalization of homeschooling is a good thing (though there should be oversight)--others may disagree.

But the important thing to remember is that the Republicans are carrying out this same exercise with every public policy debate today--from invading Iran to making birth control illegal to eliminating Social Security.  The once unthinkable becomes possible--and they don't care if they take some heat for it initially.

To finish:

Step by step, ideas that were once radical or unthinkable -- homeschooling, tuition tax credits, and vouchers -- have moved into normal public discourse. Homeschooling is popular, tuition tax credits are sensible, and vouchers are acceptable. (On the latter, they've been soundly defeated in Michigan of late, but the point is that they are a part of normal public and political discourse.) The de facto illegality of homeschooling, by contrast, has gone the way of the dodo. The conscious decision to shift the Overton window is yielding its results.

So there's your tip from the VRWC for the day. It's a methodology that could work for the left as easily as the right, although I'm not aware of a single left-wing think tank (and they are few) that operates so systemically. If you're of an analytic bent, and want to figure out where a legislative or policy strategy is heading, try constructing the scale of possibilities and the Overton window for the subject at hand. Change can happen by accident, true: but it is just as often the product of deliberation and intent, and it does all of us well to understand the mechanisms by which it occurs.

Amen, Josh, and thank you.  This is something that the Democrats still do not understand.  You win policy debates by crafting arguments for extreme positions--and then shifting the entire window of debate.  You do not win by trying to figure out which position is most popular among Americans right now.

When Concerned Women for America does its thing, that's exactly what they're doing.  They're taking some heat today, in preparation for tomorrow's very real policy battle.  They're priming the public to even talk about the idea of eliminating birth control.  And far from turning off moderate voters, they're going to sway them.  They're going to WIN moderate voters by playing to their base.  But playing to it with careful calculation.


And this stands in stark contrast to the Democrats: When the rightwing attacked the Democrats for promoting "Hillarycare", and the Democrats started to take some heat, we just slinked back into a corner and didn't raise the issue again.  To this day, we are afraid to talk about single-payer health coverage, for fear of offending the middle.

Meanwhile, the progressives among us insist that our leaders simply come out swinging in favor single-payer health coverage to rally our base--without priming the moderate voter for the idea in advance.

Both strategies will fail miserably.


Democrats and Progressives think that winning elections comes down to one of two alternatives: a) taking a principled stand of leadership; or b) listening to focus groups.

The truth is that we need to do both. It is not an either-or scenario.  We cannot achieve victory by playing to the base and ignoring the middle, nor can we win by playing to the middle and ignoring the base.  We need to do both--and the GOP understands this.

Remember that Frank Luntz is the master of the focus group--and that there's many an election they would have lost without him.

To win, we must take principled stands of leadership--using phrases and frames that are calculated to shift the Overton Window to our side.

To win, we must sway the middle by playing to the base--and we must understand that this is a difficult and heavily calculated process that requires time, money and manpower.

To win, we must realize the power of the Overton Window, and stop kowtowing to the antiquated thinking pits the Middle versus the Base.

To win, we must understand that there is no conflict between playing to the middle and the base--so long as our messaging is clear and well-crafted, and our positions are principled, memorable, and consistent.

It is time, in short, for an evolution in our thinking that matches the subtlety and genius of the GOP machine--wihtout its concomitant evil.  Thank you, Mr. Overton!

[Cross-posted at The Daily Kos]