Thursday, June 29, 2006

War? We didn't authorize NO STINKIN' WAR!

Bullshit. I call Bullshit.  

Why do elected Democrats act so freaking clueless?  Not only do they continue to call it the "Iraq War" instead of the "the Occupation", they apparently can't even figure out how to make clear that THEY NEVER AUTHORIZED A WAR IN THE FIRST PLACE.  

Dems never voted for the war.  Do you hear that, Harry Reid?  Nancy Pelosi?  Rahm Emmanuel?  Let me say it again: You people never voted for a war in Iraq.  Not even close.

Yet this meme continues to rear its ugly head everywhere you look.  Take a look at this "Blogs for Bush" piece, written on June 21:

An overwhelming number of Democrats voted for the war - but now the Left says they were "scared" into their votes by Bush. What does it say about Democrats if the "dummy" they think Bush is can scare them so easily?

This attack on Democrats looks terribly simple and easy to make--until you realize that it is, well, BULLSHIT.  But as long as Democrats internalize this attack and agree with it, we're going to look incredibly weak, stupid and politically exploitative.  And Karl Rove is going to continue to take what should be an albatross of an issue for the GOP, and turn it back on Democrats to to his own advantage, by telling voters that we're the party of the "cut and run."  The Republicans want to claim that, even though they screwed things up in Iraq, that A) "we" decided to invade Iraq, too; and B) now we're reneging on "our" committment.  Which is all Bullshit.

Let's make something perfectly clear: the Joint Resolution did not say that we should use force on Iraq.  What it did was say explicitly that whether or not we used force in Iraq was the prerogative decision of the President.

You know what that means, Democrats?  That means that YOU didn't authorize the decision to go to war.  It does, unfortunately, mean that you gave up your congressional duty to be the arbiter of when America declares war; it does mean that you permitted this creature we call the President to act like we're "at war" without defining who the enemy is or what the terms of "victory" are, or putting any sunset date on the authorization for the use of force.  It does mean that you decisively shifted the balance of power to the executive branch, and that it will probably take yet another vote of Congress to specifically repudiate the resolution to put an end ot the permanent war footing that the President put us on.  It does mean, in other words, that you helped hold the knife while Republicans  castrated the entire legislative branch at the altar of the Executive.  But it DOESN'T mean that you authorized or encouraged war.

In fact, if you actually take a look at the freaking resolution itself, you will see that DIPLOMACY takes precedence over military action:


This joint resolution may be cited as the `Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002'.


The Congress of the United States supports the efforts by the President to--

(1) strictly enforce through the United Nations Security Council all relevant Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq and encourages him in those efforts; and

(2) obtain prompt and decisive action by the Security Council to ensure that Iraq abandons its strategy of delay, evasion and noncompliance and promptly and strictly complies with all relevant Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.


You see how section three only comes after section two?  It's like counting, you see.  We teach little toddlers to do this.  You try this little thing called "diplomacy"--that's the first little piggy that goes to market.  Then, SECOND, if that fails, the PRESIDENT--not you--decides whether and if to go to war.  First little piggy, second little piggy.

Indeed, a few of you brave souls actually attempted to add resolutions to this resolution to make it uniformly clear that all avenues of diplomacy needed to be pursued through the U.N. before force could be used.

What DIDN'T you authorize?  I don't know--little things like facts being fixed around the policy, or sending U.S. planes marked with U.N. colors to provoke war, or using treason to punish the very spies and diplomats who were trying to tell the truth about Saddam's weapons programs.

Besides, Bush himself said he never even needed your authorization, anyway.  He claimed that a few Congressional resolutions passed in the wake of 9/11 gave him a legal excuse to wage unilateral war with or without your approval.


What the Congressional Resolution really was, in fact, was Congress giving Bush the legislative equivalent of an Epi-pen.  An Epi-pen, for those who may not know, is an adrenaline injection kit to be used in emergencies for people who have allergic reactions to things like bee stings or peanuts.  The patient keeps the Epi-pen with them at all times in case of emergency, hoping that they never have a problem.  And nobody in their right mind sticks an Epi-pen into their thigh UNTIL A PROBLEM ACTUALLY OCCURS.

Bush and Rove telling the Democrats that they voted for this immoral war is the political equivalent of a patient sticking an epi-pen into their thigh in order to get an adrenaline high--and then telling the doctor that it was HER fault for prescribing it.  You know what they call that where I come from?  Bullshit.


And what about Bush?  He disagreed at the time, right?  He didn't think this was an Epi-pen, did he?  He said that Democrats authorized the war, right?  Wrong.

According to the great Shrub at the time of the debate:

Later this week, the United States Congress will vote on this matter. I have asked Congress to authorize the use of America's military, if it proves necessary, to enforce U.N. Security Council demands. Approving this resolution does not mean that military action is imminent or unavoidable. The resolution will tell the United Nations, and all nations, that America speaks with one voice and is determined to make the demands of the civilized world mean something. Congress will also be sending a message to the dictator in Iraq: that his only chance -- his only choice is full compliance, and the time remaining for that choice is limited.

Emphasis added

Meaning?  That ONLY THE PRESIDENT WOULD DETERMINE IF MILITARY ACTION WERE AVOIDABLE OR NOT.  Not Democrats--or Republicans--in Congress.  The President admitted at the freaking time that this was not a vote to support going to war; it was only vote to give him the discretion to do so IF HE CHOSE.  His Choice; His War; His problem.

Further, on the very day that he signed the resolution, he himself called using force "a last resort".

This is no clever parsing of words.  There is no meaning of "is" here.  It's as clear as day, Democrats.  These are the very words Bush used when most Dems gave him his fateful Epi-pen.

But it was BUSH who decided to plunge that Epi-Pen into America's collective thigh.  And he used it to give a shot of cash to oil-addicted corporate friends.

I call BULLSHIT on that.  Democrats aren't cutting and running.  We're the doctor that prescribed the epi-pen to this Fool of a President--and now we're trying to remove it before we ALL die of corporate-oil-profit and military-industrial-complex-induced adrenaline overdose.

Bullshit, I tell you.  Bullshit.

[This diary was written with major collaboration from Melody Townsel, who came up with this meme, and many of whose ideas I lifted wholesale.  Props to Melody!]

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Why We're Like Al-Qaeda

I'm going to make this short and sweet.

The right wing loves to compare us to Al-Qaeda.

 They call us crazy, nutty fascists.  Even though the fasicsts were, you know, right-wing.

They call us America haters.  They call us traitors and enemies of America.  Even though we follow the Constitution and the ideals of this country and they don't.

They love to say that Bin Laden repeats our talking points, or vice versa--even though his religious fundamentalist, homophobic, misogynist, xenophobic, and violent worldview closely resembles theirs.  And then when Markos points that out, they call him an America hater.

But there IS one big way we're like Al-Qaeda--and it's not what they think.

And that reason is all at the same time why the Right has so fucked over America in the middle east AND why they are going to lose their ironfisted grip on this country in short order.

What they don't understand is the NATURE OF HOMEGROWN MOVEMENTS.  They don't understand two fundamental principles:

A) You see, the right wing believes in intimidation and overwhelming force will quash homegrown movements.

They believe that there are finite numbers of terrorists in the Middle East--and that if they intimidate and/or kill enough of them with overwhelming firepower, they can establish peace and order that benefits America.  Call it the Emperor Palpatine approach from Star Wars: build a Death Star, and kill enough people and blow up enough planets and you'll scare an entire galaxy into submission.  Of course, they don't understand that, to paraphrase Princess leia, the tighter they grip onto their power, the more nations will slip right through their fingers.  The more "terrorists" they kill the middle east, the more just pop up to take their place.

They don't understand what the Romans didn't understand about the Christian movement: the more martyrs you kill in unjust oppression, the more followers of the martyrs' movement you create.

And they don't understand it about the blogosphere either.  They believe that they can take enough of us down, out enough of our identities, and bring enough embarrassing moments of our pasts to light that we will be intimidated and stand down.  And they're idiots.  It didn't work when they did it in the sixties; it didn't work when they did it to the progressives in the 10's and 20's, and it's not going to work now.

They can discredit and tar and feather as many of us as they choose: they're still going to lose, because the simple fact that they were scared enough to do it and make it public will attract myriad converts to our side.


B) They believe that if you topple the leaders, the movement will fall.

How many times do you have to see the right wing obsess over killing Al-Qaeda's supposed #2 or #3?  How many times do you have to see the Right distribute decks of cards of the deposed Iraqi leadership--as if their capture would secure peace in the American occupation that followed?

And if they don't kill them, they say it's OK: they've marginalized them.  Bin Laden is hiding in a hole in Pakistan somewhere, they say--and that very fact makes us safer, because he's marginalized.

And, of course, they think this because THEY DO OPERATE THAT WAY.  They do get their talking points faxed from Karl Rove.  They do rely on Bill O'Reilly and Matt Drudge to get the message out.  If George Bush, Bill O'Reilly, Matt Drudge and Karl Rove suddenly disappeared from the earth, the right wing would scurry every which way like lost cockroaches, because they do have a top-down military-like structure.  Because that's what it takes to rule a nation with principles based on lies and fear.

What they don't understand, of course, is that true homegrown movements are essentially leaderless.  Of course, there are leaders of the moment; but bring one down, and another rises to take their place almost instantaneously.  Further, homegrown movements do not truly NEED leaders to operate.

Al-Qaeda is now a global network of independently operating cells, many of whom do not answer to a central leader.  The right wing has turned them into that--and we are consequently in more danger as a nation as result.

And the liberal blogosphere is also similar in this way.

They can try to bring down Markos and Jerome all they want.  They can out Armando's identity and scare him into not blogging anymore.  They can instigate death threats against 15-year-old filmmakers.  But it doesn't matter.

As bonndad said:

We all have his back because we have each other's back.

It's gonna be a hell of a fight.

But if you do being him down- we'll still be here.  In one form or the other, we are here - to stay.  And we're growing stronger.

We'll still be here.  Undeterred.  Unbroken.  And ready to show the world the truth, and document their lies and depradations for what they really are.


Because, you see, the right just doesn't get it.  

Their Death Star tactics won't intimidate Al-Qaeda into submission because Al-Qaeda is the product of a frustrated set of peoples living under the economic oppression of their wealthy, religious fundamentalist dictators in the Middle East.  And so long as that economic and religious dictatorship thrives, Al Qaeda will thrive.  So long as the only response to Al Qaeda is military, Al Qaeda will grow.

And the same goes for the left blogosphere.  We exist because of the economic oppression of the corporatist bastards who are trying to eliminate the middle-class, and use Christofascist rhetoric to drive voters to put them into office against their own economic interests.

We will continue exist so long as the Republican Party thrives and succeeds in its evil plans to turn this nation into a third-world renters' economy based on Biblical Law.

And any intimidation and force on their part will only serve to swell our ranks.



So, to paraphrase your Dear Leader, "Bring it on, fuckers."  We're ready.  We always will be.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

somebody out there wishes me ill

So I was checking my Sitemeter links, and found multiple links from the Pandagon blog. I have never posted any comments on Pandagon before.

On a post about blowjobs, somebody claiming to be me and linking to my blog made the totally asinine comment "What if you're getting a blowjob while responding to a post about blowjobs? Like I am now?"

I want to be clear: I never said that. I never wrote that. I have never posted at Pandagon before.

Somebody out there has some sort of vendetta against me--but I just wanted to let my readers know...

Lending New Meaning to the Phrase "As They Stand Up, We'll Stand Down"

When you can take the pebble from my hand, it will be time for you to leave. -- Master Po, from the series "Kung Fu"

It's time to leave.  Time to leave Iraq.  In fact, it was time to leave quite a while ago.  We have entered the monastery, pissed all over the grounds, stolen all the candles, and corrupted the other students; and not only have we taken the pebble from his hand, we've stolen the robes off his back, taken his pride, and humiliated him in his nakedness.  And now Master Po wants to kill us.  That generally means it's time to leave.

But it's ESPECIALLY time to leave NOW: now that the very last reason that the neocon thugs could possibly give for our continued presence is officially OVER.

"As Iraqi troops stand up, we'll stand down."

That's been the Neocon mantra for some time now.  Our Iraqi allies in the military and police force are being trained, they tell us (though the fact that the Pentagon won't report the number being trained means that it will never happen anyway).  They love us; they're our allies in this "war."  Our little children.  And when they're all grown up and ready to stand on their own, we'll kick ourselves out of their nest.

But what of it when your children are committing patricide?  What happens when the very army you are training is torturing and killing you?

From CNN:

Iraqi Colleagues Killed U.S. Soldiers, military says

SAN FRANCISCO, California (AP) -- Two California soldiers shot to death in Iraq were murdered by Iraqi civil-defense officers patrolling with them, military investigators have found.

That's just great.  Kids these days.  You take them on a field trip to build character, and they end up drilling holes in your chest and pulling your fingernails out with pliers.  If only we had posted the Ten Commandments in Iraqi Police Training headquarters, they would know better...

The deaths of Army Spc. Patrick R. McCaffrey Sr. and 1st Lt. Andre D. Tyson were originally attributed to an ambush during a patrol near Balad, Iraq, on June 22, 2004.

But the Army's Criminal Investigation Command found that one or more of the Iraqis attached to the American soldiers on patrol fired at them, a military official said Tuesday. (Watch a mother's quest for truth -- 1:26)

A Pentagon spokesman knew of no other similar incident, calling it "extremely rare."

That's true.  This is pretty much a first.  This really is the first time Master Po has tried to beat us senseless with a cudgel.  I don't know--is he trying to give us a hint?

The Army has conducted an extensive investigation into the deaths but declined to provide details out of respect for relatives of the soldiers, spokesman Paul Boyce said Tuesday evening.

Yeah.  Uhhhh...that's because there was brutal torture involved.  Too quaint to report, really.

It was unclear whether the investigators had established a motive or arrested any suspects.

Motive?  I have no idea.  I suspect a love triangle.  Yeah, that's it.  A love triangle.  It certainly wouldn't have anything to do with this...(warning: graphic thumbnail photos)

Of course, the soldier's families believe they died for a great cause:

Nadia McCaffrey has become a vocal critic of the war in Iraq, and said her son had reservations about it, too, though he served well and was promoted posthumously to sergeant.

"I really want this story to come out; I want people to know what happened to my son," she said. "There is no doubt to me that this (ambushes by attached Iraqi units) is still happening to soldiers today, but our chain of command is awfully reckless; they don't seem to give a damn about what's happening to soldiers."

Ms. McCaffrey, you're on a need to know basis, and that information is classified.  Thank you for your son's sacrifice, though--i've sent you a condolence letter with my xeroxed signature to show I care.  Now, about that death tax repeal...

"We continue to have confidence in our operations with Iraqi soldiers and have witnessed the evolution of a stronger fighting army for the Iraqi people," he said.

Yes, so much confidence that you refuse to publish the fucking numbers.  Kind of like that American economy you have so much confidence in...


THE TIME TO END THIS IS NOW.  This is not a war; it's an OCCUPATION.  In an occupation there are only two options: Annexation or Withdrawal.

And when the very civilian police force you are trying to train (in such pathetic numbers that you refuse to release the data) is AMBUSHING AND KILLING YOU, it's time for a withdrawal.

This is not about defeat or victory.  It's like sticking your finger in an anthill: you can either crush the anthill, or your can pull your finger out.  Bill O'Reilly would apparently crush the anthill, because he's a fascist asshole.  Me, I say we pull our finger out.

But don't fucking tell me that by pulling our finger out, we'll just be emboldening the ants--and that we need to keep our finger in there to help train the friendly soldier ants who are biting it.  That's just BULLSHIT.

Personally, I'd have listened to Master Po a long time ago.  It's time to LEAVE.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Another Day, Another GOP Turd on the Lawn

So many great few people willing to put them into practice.

There's an article out in today's New York Times about how--surprise, surprise--homeland security officials are leaving public service to take lucrative lobbying positions with (you guessed it) companies that sell national security products to the government.

I'll just supply the initial parts of the article; go read the whole thing and weep:

Dozens of members of the Bush administration's domestic security team, assembled after the 2001 terrorist attacks, are now collecting bigger paychecks in different roles: working on behalf of companies that sell domestic security products, many directly to the federal agencies the officials once helped run.

What a surprise...

At least 90 officials at the Department of Homeland Security or the White House Office of Homeland Security -- including the department's former secretary, Tom Ridge; the former deputy secretary, Adm. James M. Loy; and the former under secretary, Asa Hutchinson -- are executives, consultants or lobbyists for companies that collectively do billions of dollars' worth of domestic security business.

Yup, the rot goes all the way to the top.  As usual.  And it's not just a few bad apples...

More than two-thirds of the department's most senior executives in its first years have moved through the revolving door. That pattern raises questions for some former officials.

Raises some questions?  Uhhh, yeah.  I'd say so.  Last quote:

People have a right to make a living," said Clark Kent Ervin, the former inspector general of the department, who now works at the Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan public policy research center. "But working virtually immediately for a company that is bidding for work in an area where you were just setting the policy -- that is too close. It is almost incestuous."

It is incestuous.  It is--pardon my French--an assraping of America by these motherfuckers.  But it's no different from everything else we've come to expect of this plutocratic, rotted shell of a party that the GOP has become.


Of course, the Democrats--seeing a boundless opportunity to make heavy electoral hay before them--are saying...nothing. Crickets are chirping louder.  Instead, they had to wait to find this out in the Times--and then they'll come out with some halfhearted "Culture of Corruption" platitudes.

But nothing firm.  Nothing substantial.  Nothing that will show that we actually mean it.


That might actually attract a voter's attention.  That might actually show we mean business.  That would be bad.  Better to keep the gravy train running on all sides--for the good of America, of course.

We wouldn't want to go overboard or be populist or anything by trying a novel idea...

Thursday, June 15, 2006

How Can You Surrender If There Was Never a War?

I've got bad news, folks.  OUR LANGUAGE ABOUT THIS CONFLICT MUST CHANGE ENTIRELY.  Not because of Zarqawi--but because the Zarqawi incident show just how dramatically we walk into GOP rhetorical traps.

It doesn't matter what the poll numbers say.  It doesn't matter how much the American people have grown tired of having over 2,500 of their youths brought back home in pine boxes.  It doesn't matter how disenchanted the American people have become with Bush, sending his approval ratings spiraling to the low 30's.  It doesn't matter how much we tout the corruption and incompetence of the prosecution of this war, or the lies that were told to lead us into it, or the shamelessness of the torture and massacres perpetrated by all sides of the conflict.

When push comes to shove, Americans want to win.  Such is the eternal optimism of the American electorate that they will vote simultaneously for John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan--because both promised sunshine in the days ahead.  And no matter what they say in the polls leading up an election, when they actually step into the ballot box, they're going to vote for the people who appeal to their pride and tell them that they will WIN..

And with regard to Iraq, everything even our most progressive leaders say still falls into GOP traps guaranteed to ensure our defeat at the polls.

You see, no matter how you phrase it, a troop pullout of Iraq is by definition an admission of defeat in the context of a war, so long as the violence and unrest continues.  Certainly, one can declare "victory" and go home, as Nixon did in Vietnam, but the public knows better.

In the end, you can use the phrase "measured withdrawal", or you can use the phrase "cut and run."  When your average American goes to the ballot box, it all means one and the same thing: Surrender and Defeat in War.  And let me tell you something as sure as day: Americans don't accept surrender and defeat in war.


But what do we do?  After all, this little "venture" of Bush's in Iraq is one of the most--if not THE most--despicable, immoral, mismanaged, shortsighted, corrupt, and utterly murderous foreign adventures in the history of the United States.  IT MUST END--and it can't end soon enough.  

Meanwhile, every domestic issue on the political board right now from executive overreach to the deficit to the depradations of the religious right serves as yet another painful reminder that the very survival of U.S. democracy depends on getting Democrats elected to as many offices as possible in 2006 and being.

But what do we do?  What do we do, when the American public will not accept defeat in war?  And how are we capable, as Democrats and Americans, of "accepting defeat" in war, regardless of the circumstances?  Isn't that cowardly of us, regardless of how many brave soldiers have already been thrown into this immoral meatgrinder?


The reason that these questions SEEM so vexing is because they are UTTER BULLSHIT.  The ENTIRE FRAME OF REFERENCE is bullshit.  But until the Democrats can figure out to stop walking into the same goddamn GOP rhetorical traps time and again, they're going to continue to be confounded by this seeming predicament.

Why is this cartoonist so dead wrong?  Because his assumptions are bullshit from the beginning.  Yet our supposed opposition party does absolutely nothing to call those assumptions into question.


The biggest and by far the most important bullshit assumption being made by all sides is that there is a WAR in Iraq.

THERE IS NO WAR IN IRAQ.  There is an OCCUPATION.  And there is a resistance to said occupation.  This resistance takes many forms: criminal thuggery, despicable terrorism, sectarian violence, and guerrilla warfare.

Allow me to repeat this again, in blockquotes for special emphasis:

The "War" in Iraq is NOT A WAR.  It is an OCCUPATION.

And this is absolutely critical.  It's critical because there is a HUGE difference between wars and occupations: Occupations can end only in WITHDRAWAL or in ANNEXATION; Wars can end only in DEFEAT or VICTORY.

America is NOT ready to annex Iraq--even if such a thing were possible.  Cheney and Bush would like to, through the process of permanent bases--but the American public won't stand for it.  America IS ready to accept withdrawal from Iraq--But ONLY if it understands that what is happening in Iraq is an OCCUPATION and not a war.

But as long as both Democrats and Republicans continue to insist that there is a "war" in Iraq, the voting public will continue to vote optimistically for "Victory"--whatever that may even mean.


The right just loves to compare the Iraq conflict with WWII.  Of course, as any historian or political scientist with half a brain knows, there is absolutely NO comparison between the two.  Starting with the fact that WWII was a war--and the Iraq conflict is NOT.

The left, meanwhile, loves to compare the Iraq conflict with the Vietnam War.  While these parallels are far more apt, they are also misguided: in Vietnam, the United States intervened in an already pre-existing (though lopsided) civil war within the country--a civil war that become by extension a hot proxy on the parts of China and the United States for the Cold War.  Vietnam was an honest to goodness war--albeit a hopeless one to try to win for the United States.


Instead, the proper comparison for the conflict in Iraq is not ANY of these--because it's not a WAR.  It's an OCCUPATION.  In Iraq, we invaded a sovereign nation (albeit a troublesome one) without serious provocation; we obliterated their government, washed away their entrenched structures, changed their flag, completely altered their form of government, exploited their resources, and attempted to maintain the peace through overwhelming (though not nearly overwhelming enough) force.  Various factions in Iraq then began to resort to guerrilla and uncoventional warfare to test the will of, to drain the coffers of, and to sap the strength of, the invading force.

That's what they call an OCCUPATION.  Not a war.


More appropriate parallels to what is going on Iraq include the Algerian Occupation, or the British Rule of India, or the Chinese Occupation of Tibet.

None of these is popular among Americans--because we ourselves are the history of a people who staged a revolution against an occupying oppressor.  Americans get this principle--and we have a distaste for occupations.

Unless, of course, those occupations are being sold to us as "wars"--in which case our instinct is to fight until victory.


There is no such thing as a "surrender" in an occupation.

But as long as Democrats continue to act like there is a "war" in Iraq, people like this cartoonist will continue to have a field day putting us into rhetorical binds.

And we'll be ones surrendering--again--in 2006 and beyond.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Another wingnut bolts the GOP

The Exodus continues.

Rank and file wingnuts--racists, patriarchalists, homophobes, and everyone in between--have been betrayed and enslaved by their corporate masters. And they know it.  Their masters have engaged them in bondage, subservient to the NSA's All-Seeing Eye on the greenback's mighty Pyramid, with chains as invisible at first as Jacob Marley's.  And now that dawn has finally broken over marble head, there is no recourse--nowhere for them to turn when they shout in unison to let their people go.  They are trapped in a bind of their own creation, such that now they wander aimlessly in an intellectual desert parched by the twin Tattooine suns of Coulter and O'Reilly--and no manna from heaven can save them.

There is so much dissatisfaction with the GOP right now--and president Bush in particular--that you could cut it with a knife.  And last night I found out just how bad it had become: the craziest, nuttiest wingnut I have ever known has officially turned his back on the GOP.

I've known him for years, yet I don't know his name.  He is a gamer, you see--and in the gaming world, as in the blogging world, people's real identities tend to be anonymous (unless they choose otherwise--or unless some asshole outs them).  And, in order to protect even his online persona from scrutiny, I will simply, for the purposes of this post, call him "Joe."

I am also a gamer: I have been a member of the same competitive PC-gaming clan for almost a decade now, ever since I was a teenager; we mostly play first-person shooters in the sci-fi genre.  Within this virtual reality, "Joe" and I have been teammates and brothers for many years, always getting the other's back and protecting the other from the virtual gunfire of opposing teams--even though we couldn't be farther apart on the political spectrum.  Even for someone like me, there are arenas, literally and figuratively, where politics comes second.

In-between tests of skill in the camaraderie of gaming, however, there have been multiple arguments over the years in what our clan calls "The Senate."  Political arguments.  Arguments whose heat would make even Armando blush.  It got so bad, in fact, that the "Senate" was eventually shut down by the right-wing Republican clan leader.

"Joe" was and has always been one of the main proponents and loudest voices of the GOP line.  In order to give you a taste of just how wingnutty "Joe" is, I'll just give you one example:

During the 2004 election season, Joe was going on about how one could not be a patriot without supporting the war that one's country was engaged in.  When I asked him whether a German would have been obligated to support Hitler's visions of conquest in 1937 or else be considered unpatriotic by Joe, Joe responded "yes"--that a German's two choices were to renounce his/her citizenship, or actively support Hitler's upcoming wars, and that I should do the same regarding America in Iraq.  Joe also thinks that all forms of welfare should be abolished permanently, and that homosexuality should be illegal.  In 2004, he asserted that George W. Bush was the greatest President in America's history at least since Lincoln, if not before.

There are many, many other examples of Joe's wingnuttiness, but I think the ones I provided should suffice.


Last night, however, something had happened to Joe.  Joe was lost--wandering Phaoroh Bushenaton's desert with no Moses to guide him, and eschewing any and all dictates of Karl Rove's Commandments.

I had not gamed with or spoken to Joe for many months before last night: we had both been busy with our lives, and had not had much time for fun and games.  And it had been even longer since we had discussed politics.

So it came as something of a shock to me not only that he and I were back online together again, but that he brought up the subject of politics to me after such a long hiatus.

I cannot reproduce the exact transcript of his statements, but the conversation went something like this:

Joe: You know, we've got a real problem with all these Mexicans.

Intrigued, and deciding to play it a bit coy, I demurred:

Me: Hmmm...what do you mean?

Joe: They're coming in and taking all our jobs, and our Congress won't do a damn thing to stop them.  There's even threats of massive layoffs where I work!

This was news to me.  Joe works in a middle-class profession; yet he thought a Mexican was going to take his job?

Me: I'm terribly sorry to hear that, Joe.  I hope you're doing all right, and that things stay stable.

Joe: Me too.

After a brief pause, I decided to try a gambit.

Me: You know, you can't lay this one at our feet.  You've got a serious problem with your own prez on this...

At this point, I half-expected a big diatribe against liberals from Joe.  But none was forthcoming.  The other half of me expected some sort of single-issue backlash against Bush.  What I actually got floored me.

Joe: Yeah, definitely.  Bush has COMPLETELY sold this country down the river.  And not just on immigration.  The man is a real menace to the entire country right on down the line--and the Congress ain't much better.

After collected my senses and picked up my jaw from clattering on the floor, I asked,

Me: Really?  I can't believe I'm hearing this from you.  Why do you say that?  I mean, I have my reasons, but...

Joe: The rich just keep gettin' richer, and the poor get the shaft.  All over the place.  And I'm sick and fucking tired of it.

At this point, it was over.  I sprang in on immigration...

Me: Well, I couldn't agree more.  And you know, the reason Bush has sold you down the river on immigration is because the corporations that fund him want to keep paying only $3 an hour labor.

Joe: We need a wall.  A big fucking wall.

Me: Well, maybe.  But I don't think a wall will stop them. You're a supply and demand guy: you know as well as I do that if we companies stopped hiring them, they would stop coming.  But the companies line Bush's pockets...

Joe: Man, it's about time SOMEBODY stood up for real Americans.

Now, of course, Joe's sentiment was lined with the vilest racism, but the frames were ALL OURS.  Not the DLC's; not Karl Rove's; but OURS.

It was then that I went on a verbal rampage: I talked, gently, about how wages were down versus inflation; how productivity had shot up versus wages; how CEO pay has increased 700% in the last 10 years, while workers got the shaft; how corporate profits had gone up 93% in the past five years while workers lost their pensions and got outsourced.

It was then that Joe said something truly extraordinary: "Man, this country is fucked--and somebody better get it unfucked real quick.  I won't vote for a Dimocrat because they don't stand up for guys like me either--so it looks like I'll be staying home playing the WoW [world of warcraft] on November 7th."


The opportunity lying in our hands is extraordinary, my friends.  Guys like "Joe" are waiting--no, begging--for SOMEBODY--ANYBODY--to deliver a message of economic populism.

They are crying out for deliverance from their economic bondage--to be released from the ponderous chains.

They would sooner eat bug poop than support the GOP--but they still see no reason to support Democrats.

What say you, friends?  Are we going to sit on our asses and pray that Joe really stays home from the polls in November?  Or are we going to give him a reason to vote--in spite of his own racism and homophobia--for a Democrat?

Our options are painfully clear at this point: we can Moses, part the sea that divides red and blue, and lead these wandering slaves out of intellectual and political exile.  Or we can sit back, do nothing, and pray for the best.

Me?  I know where I stand.  I stand with Moses.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Freedom of the Absurd

Would you rather be the homeless beggar without hope of escaping his condition, or the person in a ClubFed prison?


It's the subject of Lakoff's latest book.  Preserving it is the very reason for the existence of government.  And yet, freedom is what Lakoff calls a "contested concept": i.e., different people mean different things when they say the word.  When people of differing ideologies talk about "freedom", they often talk right past one another.  Arguments between the two sides accomplish nothing, as each side talks about presumably common ideas, but use words that carry vastly different meanings to each of them.

But there is a way of resolving such dilemmas.  It is a method that has been used since at least Greco-Roman times, and carries the name Reductio ad Absurdum.

From Wikipedia:

Reductio ad absurdum (Latin for "reduction to the absurd", traceable back to the Greek ἡ εις άτοπον απαγωγη (hi eis átopon apagogi), "reduction to the impossible", often used by Aristotle), also known as an apagogical argument or reductio ad impossibile, is a type of logical argument where one assumes a claim for the sake of argument, arrives at an absurd result, and then concludes that the original assumption must have been wrong, since it led to this absurd result. This is also known as proof by contradiction. It makes use of the law of non-contradiction--a statement cannot be both true and false. In some cases it may also make use of the law of excluded middle--a statement which cannot be false, must then be true.

One such example of this would be:

Person #1: Opinions are like assholes.  Everybody's got one.  And each is entitled to his own.

Person #2: And if you said the sky was green, and I said it was blue, would that be just two more opinions that each was entitled to?

It's an incredibly effective technique.

And it is the key to blowing apart the Republican vision of "freedom".


You see, conservatism in general (and I don't equate them with the GOP here, because the GOP is perfectly content to regulate your bedroom) views all regulation as a detriment to freedom.  And, certainly, anyone who has experienced an IRS audit or a 35 MPH speed trap on a highway can understand the feeling.

Even the public school system is viewed as a detriment to freedom.  As Trevino stated in his post about the Overton Window (which I turned into a diary):

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:

[#1]--No government involvement in education.

In other words, not having a regulated public education system is, to a conservative, the very ideal of freedom.

A liberal, on the other hand, understands that freedom lies in what one is capable of doing, rather than what one is possibly restricted from doing.  A liberal understands that having the ability to receive a good education regardless of circumstances is a net increase to his/her freedom--even if it comes bundled with school taxes, truancy laws, etc.


How to resolve this intractable problem, then?  By taking each ideology to its logical extension.

Conservatives love to equate socialism with prison: just see here or here:

Today that liberty and that republic are under assault here at home yet the majority of our fellow Americans seem content to stand by and allow the Marxists and the elitist environmentalists and the United Nations globalists zealots drag them into the socialist prison camp they want America to become.

And, under certain circumstances associated with absolute socialism, this analogy holds up: strict regulations on what can be achieved, acquired and innovated can lead to conditions resembling that of incarceration, except by a "benevolent" state.

Nevertheless, however, it MUST be noted that even the strictest socialism does not limit much freedom of movement--only freedom of certain actions.  At best, a ClubFed prison would be by far a better analogy.


Conservatives, however, have a problem: taken to its logical extreme conclusion, the ideology of conservatism doesn't look much better.

That's because the ultimate analogy of the conservative ideal is destitute homelessness.

After all, a homeless person doesn't have the obligation to pay rent.  Or taxes.  Or a car payment.  Or go to a job.

A homeless person is completely free of all bonds and burdens.

The problem, of course, is that a homeless person is hardly free.  A homeless person doesn't have the freedom to have shelther during a storm, or food when they are hungry.  A homeless person is not at liberty to do most things that you or I take for granted.

Prison, meanwhile, secures a person guaranteed shelter, clothing, exercise, reading material, and three meals a day.


And this is, fundamentally, what it comes down to.  The extreme position on the conservative side is one of national homelessness, while the extreme position on the liberal side is one approaching national incarceration.  How a person answers this fundamental question will tell you a great deal about which side of the intellectual divide they natural fall on.


It is my belief that most people--given the choice between permanent homelessness without the chance of improving their condition, or mild incarceration that prohibits not where they can go, but rather what they can do--would take the latter.  Almost ANYONE would rather get three meals a day and clothing and a roof over their head--especially if their freedom of movement were only marginally restricted--than experience the "freedom" of homelessness.

And that is why Liberalism--as an ideology--will ALWAYS win on the most fundamental, visceral and subconscious level.  But only when, of course, the alternative is sharply drawn (such as, for instance, in Armando's famous Politics of Contrast).

Their vision of "freedom" is absurd--and they apply it with extremism.  Our vision is not--and we don't apply ours with the extremism they apply theirs.  Increasing people's ability to do things they want to do, at the expense of mild regulation, is ALWAYS better than eliminating that regulation at the expense of capabilities.  We should be winners of this ideological divide hands down.

The fact that we haven't already laid this debate to rest is only proof that our politicians don't understand this distinction on the most fundamental level.

And it's time to Crash the Gate and clean them out--because at this point, American politics American politics ITSELF is absurd.

[Front-paged on the Booman Tribune, and cross-posted on the DailyKos]

Monday, June 12, 2006

Winning More Hearts and Minds

Today in the Washington Post is a frightening and sobering article whose importance cannot be overestimated.  It discusses the broader blowback of Bush's War on Decency Iraq.

That Bush has inflamed tensions across the region is something we already knew.  That Bush's needlessly exploitative and stupidly aggressive policies have inflamed anger in the Middle East is something we already knew.

But needless overaggression in not exactly new in the American history of American warfare: one has only to look at the bombing of Dresden, or the dropping of the Bomb on Nagasaki, or the use of napalm in Vietnam to see this.  But in previous instances, at least, we pounded away at our "enemies", disrupting them, pounding them into submission, or at least slowing their advance.

In Iraq, however, Bush has created nothing less than the most effective terrorist training ground--exporting its graduates throughout the Middle East and all across the globe--since, well, Afghanistan.  Which is, of course, what this whole War was supposedly all about.

This particular article deals mostly, however, with Lebanon.  As the article states,

The war in Iraq has generated some of the most startling images in the Middle East today: a dictator's fall, elections in defiance of insurgent threats and carnage on a scale rarely witnessed. Less visibly, though, the war is building a profound legacy across the Arab world: fear and suspicion over Iraq's repercussions, a generation that casts the Bush administration's policy as an unquestioned war on Islam, and a subterranean reserve of men who, like Abu Haritha, declare that the fight against the United States in Iraq is a model for the future.

Yes, a model for the future.  Bush told "the terrorists" to "Bring It On", and then dismantled any coherent plan for winning the peace in the most bungled social experiment of conservative nation-building philosophy the world has ever seen.  Iraq has now generated a model for everyone who despises America and/or its foreign policy to "bring it on" in the future.  I, for one, am extremely glad that the Strong Daddy president is keeping me so safe.

And why are they "bringing it on"?  In talking about one of the foreign fighters, the article goes on:

Others at the time were similarly moved to act. Nadim Khudr, a 26-year-old barber, became so angry watching al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya television that he joined five neighbors from his hardscrabble village of Birayil, in the mountainous region of Akkar, above Tripoli. He was captured near Kirkuk, then lost both his legs when he stumbled on an unexploded cluster bomb at a U.S. prison camp in southern Iraq. Another man, who called himself Abu Jad, said he went to defend Arabs and Muslims, but he still shudders at memories of dogs eating corpses in the streets. He returned home soon after Baghdad fell.

Abu Haritha decided to stay in Iraq.

Hmmm...unexploded cluster bombs at prison camps.  Dogs eating corpses in the street.  You know what?  Bush is right.  When Iraq's fledgling democracy joins the world stage some 20 years from now due to Bush's visionary move, I'm certain that the people who lived through such things will forgive and forget.  There's no possible way that hatred for the United States would be seared deep into their consciousness until the day they die.  Not a chance!  But I digress.  After skipping a bit, we get more:

At a cafe in the old city of Tripoli last week, Bilal Shaaban, the leader of the Islamic Unity Movement, a Sunni group, reclined on a sofa. Overhead was a television showing al-Jazeera's coverage of Zarqawi's death. Outside the cafe was a city reflecting the very real currents of militancy, generated by the Iraq war, that are reshaping political and social life.

Shaaban ticked off what he called the successes of Islamic activists like him in Egypt, the Palestinian territories and now Somalia.

"In every place, why does the Islamic current reach its goals?" he asked. "Because it expresses the people's sentiments against the Americans. It's a reaction to American policy. They are planting the seed of hatred that is going to last generations."

You don't say.  I would never have guessed that.  But you know what?  I remain thoroughly convinced that they don't hate us for dog-eated corpses in their streets; they hate us for our freedom.  Our freedom to put dog-eaten corpses in their streets.  Yeah, that's it.  Our freedom.

Even longtime residents are struck by the shift in social mores over the past few years: the proliferation of women's veils and men's beards, the flourishing of religion classes and the number of youths joining groups such as Shaaban's. On balconies, interspersed among flags for residents' favorite World Cup soccer teams, are black banners with religious inscriptions usually associated with holy war. In squares of Tripoli, particularly its most religious neighborhoods such as Abu Samra, civic art is often a stark representation of God's name.

Ahh, the sweet smell of freedom.  We can also celebrate the same trend in Southern Iraq, where girls no longer are able to go to school, unlike under Saddam Hussein.  These are the wonders of liberation; honestly, the irony is so thick I don't even know a good joke here.  That would be a job for righteousbabe, or anyone else with the heart to have a sense of humor in the face of this atrocity.

But not all is lost--some of them are thanking us!

Along one street, graffiti reads: "Liberation is coming."

"We thank the Americans," said Ibrahim Salih, a founder of the Committee to Support the Iraqi Resistance, which he described as a group that disseminates information.

There's a Cristina Aguilera song that comes to mind here called "Fighter"--if you've listened to the lyrics, you can grasp the relevance.  I call it the love song of the liberated.  But again, I digress...

Grievances against the United States are nothing new in a city like Tripoli. For a generation, activists across the spectrum have bitterly criticized U.S. policy. What has shifted in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the U.S. invasion of Iraq is the perception of that policy. The critique is no longer about perceived double standards -- of excessive support for Israel, of backing Arab dictatorships. Today, it is more generalized, universal and uncompromising. Popular sentiment here and elsewhere holds that U.S. policy amounts to a war on Islam, and in the language of Abu Haritha and others, the conflict is framed as one between the faithful and infidels, justice and injustice.

"The targeting of Iraq can be considered the first step in targeting the entire Middle East to impose a new order in the region," said Fathi Yakan, a founder of the Islamic Association and head of an umbrella group known as the Islamic Action Forces.

Well, at least they aren't pissed with us for specific things.  I think it's always a good move when 1 billion people on the planet have switched from hating the sin but loving the sinner, to just thinking that you're an asshole who needs to die.  Always better that way.

And what of Lebanon, the main subject of the article?

"The smoke from the fire in Iraq is drifting over Lebanon," Shaaban said darkly.


Others see a more deep-seated hostility in U.S. actions, a scorched-earth campaign to hasten an apocalyptic battle or, in Salih's words, the "politics of chaos."

"America is with the Shiites in Iraq and against the Shiites in Lebanon, with the Sunnis in Lebanon and against the Sunnis in Iraq and Palestine. It is against the Shiites in Iran. Where is America?" Shaaban asked. "It needs Einstein to resolve it."

Is the friend of the enemy of the enemy of my friend a friend or an enemy?  I get so confused...I need to go rent a tape of James Bond helping the friendly, rocket-launcher packing Afghan tribesmen kick out those evil Soviets again.  It'll make me feel better somehow, and give me a real understanding of U.S. policy.

Deeb now bides his time in Tripoli, jobless and resentful. On his cellphone, he plays anthems celebrating the insurgency.

"We are the people of Fallujah," one song went. "Come to see how the people of Fallujah fight."

"It's an open battle," he said. "As long as the Americans are in the Middle East, no one will have any rest."

Of course!  I am so glad that our generous president has taken the heat off of our friends in Arab governments for the problems of their out-of-work and hopeless citizens, and given them a proper target to focus their anger on: citizens like me, and soldiers like the thousands we have stationed today in Iraq.  There's no better way of showing friendship than taking a bullet for someone--and I'm extremely happy that George W. Bush has decided that Americans will take the bullet for our oil-generating dictators in the Middle East.


Enough is enough.  It's time to get out--and before year's end.  It's one thing to have an immoral, murderous and debt-inducing foreign policy.  It's one thing to thrash about the world stage like a bull in a China shop.  It's even one thing to waste the lives of our troops who have sacrificed their lives for America.

It's quite another to do all this with the explicit end result of training more worldwide terrorists than were ever caught or killed in Afghanistan.

Enough.  I can't take this anymore.

Zarqawi's Death will HURT Bush, not help him

You remember that little scene from the Wizard of Of when the curtain is finally pulled back on the Wizard?

That's what Zarqawi's death reminds me of today.  I believe that Zarqawi's death will actually turn out to be final nail in the coffin of public support for Bush's War in Iraq.

Oh, don't get me wrong: Bush will get an initial bounce.  And, I suppose, the military and intelligence operation should be highly commended (though I doubt Bush should get credit, though he will): Zarqawi was a murderous asshole who needed killing.  And, by all accounts, the operation to get him was carried out with diligence, patience, competence and aplomb.  Iraq, further, will without a doubt be better off for the scumbag's elimination from this earth.

But in the end, Bush will be hurt by this more than he will be helped.

The reason?  Because Bush's base that still supports this war does so largely out of ignorance.  The base that still supports this war, largely, does so because they believe Bush's lies that:

1) All the problems in Iraq are mostly the result of foreign fighters and terrorists causing trouble;

2) That there are a limited number of foreign fighters and terrorists in Iraq--and that if we just kill enough of them, there will be peace; and

3) That Abu-Musab Al-Zarqawi was the ringleader of these Al-Qaeda foreign fighters.

I have right-wing gaming buddies who have been saying these things for a good long while now--I guarantee you that this is the mindset held by most of those who still support the debacle that is the War in Iraq now.


Well, guess what?  The Wicked Witch is Dead.  The Wizard is unmasked.

Al-Zarqawi the ringleader is dead.  Checkmate--the King is Dead.  Al-Qaeda in Iraq decapitated.  PROGRESS.


But still and yet, in the reality-based community, the violence in Iraq continues unabated.  Still and yet, the real reasons for the violence--centuries-old sectarian divisions, poverty, hopelessness, hatred of the American occupation, corruption, and so much else--continue unaddressed, and even exacerbated by Bush.

Still and yet, the bad news will keep streaming in.

And those ignorant supporters will be forced to come to terms with the reality that killing Al-Zarqawi--while good in and of itself--solved nothing in Iraq.  They will be forced to at least reconsider whether they were misled by their President.

Support for the War In Iraq will fall.

And by extension, so will support for Bush--because as Iraq goes, so goes Bush.


So enjoy your bounce, Georgie of Oz.  The fall comes shortly thereafter.

Conservative Utopia? We Don't Have to Guess

Utopia, n.,, An ideally perfect place, especially in its social, political, and moral aspects.

The world has never seen what a liberal one looks like.  

The world has never seen what can happen when the Common Good is emphasized over the Power of Elites, while maintaining a capitalist system and freedom of innovation.

The world has never seen what can happen when racism is completely eliminated.

the world has never seen what can happen when the stain of religious intolerance has been wiped clean.

The world has never seen what can happen when military is only used to keep the peace and prevent brutality, instead of to prop up evil dictators and corporatist regimes.

The world has never seen what can happen when government is completely transparent.

The world has never seen these things because it requires people to appeal to the better angels of their nature--and because our basest instincts are easy to appeal to for political gain by corrupt elites.

The world HAS seen, however, what "Conservative" Utopia looks like.  We don't have to guess about that.

The world has seen what a nation looks like where:

the government does not regulate business;

where the government's primary responsibility is enforcement of public morality;

where local control is prioritized over federal control;

where taxes are virtually nonexistent;

where every citizen not only has the right to, but DOES carry a gun--in public;

where military spending is over 90% of the budget;

where the only social safety net is through religious organizations;

where the nation's leaders claim authority straight from God, and rely solely on religious doctrine for their legal authority;

where women's obligation is to bear children and be subservient to their husbands, with no access to abortion;

where public education does not exist, and is restricted solely to private and homeschool--usually religious;

where foreigners are viewed with deep suspicion;

where all other priorities are sacrificed at the altar of military victory;

where "indecent art" is not tolerated by the government;

and where "pre-emptive strikes" are not only tolerated, but encouraged.

We have already SEEN what that looks like.  We don't have to guess.

It looks like AFGHANISTAN, PRE-9/11.  It looks like THIS.


So next time a "Conservative" like Ann Coulter tells you to just pack up and leave the country if you don't like the way George Bush does things, tell him or her this: I'm not leaving.  You already HAVE a country to go to that believes in your ideology.  Go there.  I'm still trying to create one that believes in mine--and so was Thomas Jefferson.

Tell them, in other words, to go to hell.  Because their hell already exists on earth.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

What Happens Today Doesn't Matter

Busby Fails!  GOP passes litmus test!

Tester loses!  Victory for "moderates"!

Siegelman beats Baxley!

All this may happen today.  In fact, all of this is likely to happen today.  Like all of you, I'm hoping it doesn't.  Like most of you, I've sent in my money and even donated some of my time to one or more of these wonderful candidates.  And yes, I'm on pins and needles.

But it could certainly happen today--much to our collective chagrin, and subsequent depression.

But if all of these headlines above DO come to pass, there's a message I want to share with all my fellows here on the left:

Chill.  These are already extraordinary achievements, WIN OR LOSE.

Why?  Here are a few reasons.

1) These are not exactly progressive-friendly areas.  Yes, I know that true progressivism, done right, can and should appeal to even those in the most rural and ostensibly conservative areas: ideas such as conservationism, competence, self-direction, common good and privacy rights are universals.  But let's not kid ourselves.

We're talking about Montana here.  And San Diego.  And Alabama.    These aren't just long-shots for progressives: they're half-court shots.

I'm not saying we should settle for moral victories--we shouldn't--but let's be realistic, here. These areas are so progressive-unfriendly that moral victories and close shaves here are almost guarantees for actual victories in friendlier areas. And getting depressed about possible losses in these areas, as if they were the end all and be all (that would be November, remember...) and as if we should be expected to win here, is so counterproductive that it's almost falling into a GOP talking point.


2) The bellwether arguments don't wash.  Never forget this.  Especially about the Busby election.  Pundits who call the Busby election a "bellwether" are stupid.  Busby shouldn't even be competing in this race.  It's a terribly long shot.

Calling the Busby election a "bellwether" would be like having a 14-year-old boy shoot layups, and having Michael Jordan shoot half-court shots--and then saying that the results are a "bellwether" of who would win a one-on-one matchup.  That's insane.  That Busby has even made it this far is a testament to how low the GOP has sunk.  Never forget that.

And as for the other two races?  Calling a couple of progressive/DLC races in Montana and Alabama a bellwether for the prospects of progressives in the national Democratic Party goes so far beyond stupid that words for it don't belong in polite company.


3) All politics is local.  And missteps abound.

If Busby loses today, it will probably have been because of her recent "gaffe."  Elections are unpredictable, and hinge largely on local issues--no matter what the general politics wave is.

In statistics, there is a rule about sampling: the smaller the sample set versus the general population, the fewer conclusions can be drawn about the general population from it, and the higher the margin for error.

To take two or three races happening today, and attempt to draw conclusions about our prospects in hundreds of of races occurring nationwide, is pointless.  People make gaffes.  Individual and local issues come up at the last minute.  It's an unpredictable game.


4) These races are receiving unnatural amounts of attention.

The GOP has been spending an enormous amount of money to defeat Busby--way more than they would if this were just another November race.

Same goes for the Democratic DLC establishment trying to defeat Tester.

The glare of the intense spotlight heightens every move, and blows up little details and stupid non-stories out of proportion in ways that will never happen in November because of information overload.


5) Finally, This is how it's done--win or lose.  In their excellent book Off-Center, authors Hacker and Pierson lay in crisp and clear detail how the GOP machine threw four, five, and sometimes six primaries, again and again, at those they wanted to remove in their party in order to achieve the ideological transformation they desired.

They didn't give up after the first defeat.  Or the second.  Or the third.

If someone had come to the "New Republicans" early in their movement, and laughed at them for being 0-30 or some similar number in elections, their response would have been simple: "Wait and see."

And that's what I urge Progressives today, in the face of ridicule if we lose.  "Wait and see."  These things often take time--but the fact that we're even here is a miracle.


So take heart, my fellow progressives--no matter what happens today.

Know well that Busby's challenge has already struck terror into the hearts of the GOP and drained their coffers--and that Tester's challenge has done the same for the DLC establishment.

Know well that actually making these half-court shots would be a miracle in and of itself--and that missing them is no indication of how we'll fare on a more even playing field.

Know well that we are winning--and on track to victory in November--whether we win or lose today in these races.

Take heart, my friends.  And stay focused.

Monday, June 05, 2006

What Are These People Even Thinking?

For practically the first time in my life, I have--if only for the moment--completely lost my compass.  I feel as though I were floating adrift and without a sail on a windless sea.  My sense of orientation is gone, and I feel rhetorically as if I couldn't punch my way out of a paper bag at this point.  I know that my right wing opponents are still in the boxing ring, but I'm too dizzy to even keep my own balance, much less find them in the ring and land those rhetorical uppercuts they so richly deserve.

Why?  Because, for the first time, I feel myself utterly unprepared.  To understand what I mean, we need to go all the way back to the days of Cicero...

"Ad Utrumque Paratus"

This beautiful Latin phrase is, to me, the very essence of life: it is the key to the arts of debate.  It is the key to to art of life.  And it is the key to an open mind.

The usual translation of this phrase is "prepared for the worst"; unfortunately, this only captures the barest outline of the multiple meanings and beauties of this phrase.

The literal meaning of the phrase is "Prepared for Either (Something)".  It is in the vagaries of that "(Something)" that the multi-faceted meanings lie: it can mean to be prepared for either eventuality--i.e., for the worst; it can mean "prepared for either idea"--i.e., the maintenance of an open mind.

But most importantly--and the meaning Cicero intended--it means to be "prepared for either ARGUMENT."  And herein lies the key--for it is in this way that I am no longer prepared; it is in this way that I have lost my compass.

You see, in traditional debate class, one is given a topic for argumentation to prepare for; but the trick is that, until you walk into the room, you have no idea which side of the argument you will be forced to debate.  Thus it was that, in a political science debate class at university, I argued (for the purposes of debate) for the notion of invading Iran--even before we had finished toppling Saddam.

The reason for doing this is simple: one cannot begin to argue effectively for any side of a given debate without internalizing and knowing the best possible arguments of the other side like the back of your hand.

In debate, knowledge is power.  If the other guy (or girl) can spring on you facts or--worse still--arguments that you had not considered before and that you were unable to address, you are almost guaranteed to lose the debate.  As Sun Tzu remarked,

"The victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory."

The KEY to winning an argument to have already, within your argument, have intrinsically countered your opponents best possible counterarguments.


And this, ultimately, is why I am lost.

Before I talk about any political issue, I first run through my head what the greatest minds and loudest voices of current conservative thought would say about it: I ask myself what George Will would tell me; what Christopher Buckley would say; what the philosopher Hume would expound; even what Ann Coulter might say [shudder].  And if I could think of an argument that any of these would promote that I couldn't implicitly and instantaneously refute, then I would revise my thinking and strengthen my logic.

But I can't do that anymore.  I can't do that because I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THESE PEOPLE ARE THINKING ANYMORE.

Partly, I guess, because they themselves have given up even arguing their case.


When corporate profits are at all time highs, but still and yet ordianary Americans get the shaft, they have NO response.

When it becomes clear that our forces in Iraq are so counterproductive at this point that they are murdering civilians, they have NO response.

When it is patently obvious that one can have a progressive society without Patriot Acts and still stop terrorist attacks--and that perhaps we're shoring up the wrong border in our immigration debates--they have NO response.


Instead, we get this: the President pushing a "Gay Marriage Amendment."

Instead, we get the leaders of the right blogosphere saying that we should invade Iran--and if say they won't sell us oil anymore, it doesn't matter, because that's only an issue if we lose.

Instead, months after the facts were obviously laid out on the Haditha killings, Fox News is asking if the media rushed to judgment.  And doing a story on environmentalists supposedly calling livestock farms Superfund sites because of manure.

Instead, George Will is focused on why the House version of the immigration bill is better than the Senate's, and how wonderful it is that Alito has replaced O'Connor, so that America can make it harder for whistleblowers.


At this point, everything is a distraction for them.  They don't argue the issues--they just try to come up with the next plen-T-Plaint blinking light to distract the American people.

How the hell do you prepare for that?

I literally have no idea what they're going to come with next.

I have no idea what they're going to say next.

And for the first time, I have no idea how I would even argue their position on any issue--because I have no idea what their position even IS.

Or, in other words, What Are These People Even Thinking?


There is, however, a bright silver lining to this cloud: we may not be able to anticipate their arguments, but for the first time--WE have the opportunity to take stronger and clearer positions of strength on any issue than they do.

For the first time in a long time, WE have the opportunity to be the part of unity.

For the first time in a long time, WE have the opportunity to stand tall, and be the ones punching at a shifty, moving target, rather than vice versa.

It's true that we have no idea what shit they're going to pull next--but, compass or no compass, if we stand our ground, it won't really matter.

Because I'm not sure even THEY know what they're thinking at this point.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

They're Shooting the Messenger Again

The GOP is desperate--radically desperate.  Never before has a political party--or a political ideology--been so singularly poised to blow its opposition completely out of the water as Democrats and progressives are today.  The criminal indifference, incompetence, and outright thefts from the citizens of America and the world have become too large for the nauseated public not to notice.

And the corporatists, the theocrats and the reactionaries are once again doing what they have done so well: shooting the messenger.

Now usually, "shooting the messenger" has meant decrying the "liberal media"--as if there were such a thing--in order to suppress evidence of their criminal wrongdoing and intimidate those who would report the atrocities.

Today, however, the messenger is of another stripe entirely; today, the messenger is a scapegoat.  

Today, the messenger they are shooting is one GEORGE W. BUSH.  He is their messiah.  Their prophet.  Their one and only savior.  And they are shooting him in ritual sacrifice, in the vain hope of saving their sorry skins.

There has been much rejoicing at ollieb's post on ordinary Republicans turning on the Great W., listing his innumerable failures and personal inadequacies.  And why not?

A Gallup poll is showing a 13-percentage point drop in Bush's support among Republicans.  Even George Will and Peggy Noonan have turned on Bush.

And ordinarily, these things might be a cause for celebration: after all, it couldn't happen to a nicer guy, right?

Well, it is a cause of celebration in a certain sense, in that their standbearer is now tarnished beyond repair.  It also presents an extraordinary opportunity for progressives--but only if we do'nt let the GOP get away with shooting the messenger once again.


You see, as Kos and Hunter have pointed out before, the problem is NOT BUSH.  It never was.

The Republicans just love to come out on TV and on their blogs and state that we crazy lefties are simply blinded by our hatred of Bush.  But this  is mostly simply untrue--and those for whom it is true have a singularly narrow view of the problem.

Bush is, in fact, a tool.  A Tool in all senses of the word.  And he always was.

He's the degenerate son of a President, who got C averages in school, ran two businesses into the ground, traded Sammy Sosa, ran up huge deficits in Texas, and is running America into the ground.  He's not that bright, and he's a recovering alcoholic and (probably) cocaine junkie.  His M.O. is to get involved in something, screw it up, get bored, and leave.

The only reason he's anybody special is because of a) his family name and connections, and b) his put-you-at-ease charisma and ability to remember names, which caught the eye of one Karl Rove.  Karl Rove thought Bush could go far, if propped up correctly.  And he was right.

But Bush himself isn't the problem, and never was.  He's just a mouthpiece--a Manchurian candidate--for the evil forces that put him there in the first place.


And now those evil forces want to do away with him.  He's bad press now.

They want to put their Manchurian candidate out of his misery.  Disown him.  They want to shoot their own messenger.

They want to hide the fact that EVERY malfeasance done by Bush is the product of the very ideologies they have been spouting for decades.  They want to hide the fact that every criminal disaster that has befallen America and the world under this regime is the simple outgrowth of policies that they have been licking their chops at implementing ever since Goldwater's defeat.

They want to paper over their intentional neglect of the needy by calling it Bush's incompetence.

They want to paper over their enabling of corporate greed by pointing to the moral failings of Bush as a person.

They want to hide the fact that the Katrina disaster was the product of Norquist's desire to drown government in a bathtub--not of Bush's incompetence in the face of danger.

They want to hide the fact that the Iraq disaster was a product of their imperial ideology--not of Bush's incompetence in nation-building.

They want to hide the fact that the massive deficits are the product of their funneling borrowed Chinese money to millionaires--not of Bush's lack of spending restraint.

They want to hide the fact that American dissatisfaction with the economy is due to their Friedmanesque support of "free" trade--not due to Bush's inability to communicate the wonders of their economy.

In short, they would love to lay it all at Bush's feet.  They would love to shoot the messenger.

They would love to blame their rotted corn on the failure of the husk to be adequately attractive.

And we mustn't let them.


My fellow Americans and liberal progressives, we are at a serious crossroads.  The damage is done.  The public wants a change.

But what change will we give them?

We can either be content to lay back and take satisfaction in the fact that Bush is about to be thrown under the GOP bus, or we can take this opportunity of a lifetime to destroy, once and for all (or at least for a generation) the evil ideologies of those who actually put Bush the Tool where he is today, and replace them with the progressive values that America really stands for--and always did, until this unelected coup of criminals took over.

Their cult of Kingmakers are offering up their Messiah King as a ritual sacrifice.  We can either take it--or we can storm the temple palace gates and bring them ALL down.

Their guns are turned on their Messenger.  They are goading us into setting our sights there as well.

Me?  My aim is on the Message.  What say you?