Saturday, March 25, 2006

Madeleine Albright DESTROYS Bush

This MUST be read--and distributed as widely as humanly possible.

In yesterday's LA Times, Madeleine Albright wrote an op-ed column with the best evisceration of Bush's foreign policy I have ever seen.  Anywhere.

The whole piece is so good that I don't really know what to quote and what to leave out and still fall under fair use guidelines, but here are a few:

It is sometimes convenient, for purposes of rhetorical effect, for national leaders to talk of a globe neatly divided into good and bad. It is quite another, however, to base the policies of the world's most powerful nation upon that fiction. The administration's penchant for painting its perceived adversaries with the same sweeping brush has led to a series of unintended consequences.

In essence, Madeleine Albright destroys Bush's entire presumption of an Axis of Evil.

The administration is now divided between those who understand this complexity and those who do not.

And the wrong people are winning.

On one side, there are ideologues, such as the vice president, who apparently see Iraq as a useful precedent for Iran. Meanwhile, officials on the front lines in Iraq know they cannot succeed in assembling a workable government in that country without the tacit blessing of Iran; hence, last week's long-overdue announcement of plans for a U.S.-Iranian dialogue on Iraq -- a dialogue that if properly executed might also lead to progress on other issues.

She makes clear in no uncertain terms that all of our anti-Iranian rhetoric not only destroys our chances of creating real regime change in Iraq, but also destroys our hope of "winning" (whatever that would mean) in Iraq.

Second, the Bush administration should disavow any plan for regime change in Iran -- not because the regime should not be changed but because U.S. endorsement of that goal only makes it less likely. In today's warped political environment, nothing strengthens a radical government more than Washington's overt antagonism.

Once again--Mr. Bush, the world hates your United States so much that it will essentially do the opposite of whatever you say.

Third, the administration must stop playing solitaire while Middle East and Persian Gulf leaders play poker.

The best line of the entire piece.  This simple-minded, stupid, PNAC influenced administration has conducted a foreign policy right in line with the IQ of its chief executive.  What's worse is that they aren't even competent solitaire players--they seem to be playing solitaire with a deck of 51, while its opponents play Texas hold 'em.

Her last statement is actually extraordinary, in highlighting some forces I had not considered before:

Bush's "march of freedom" is not the big story in the Muslim world, where Shiite Muslims suddenly have more power than they have had in 1,000 years; it is not the big story in Lebanon, where Iran is filling the vacuum left by Syria; it is not the story among Palestinians, who voted -- in Western eyes -- freely, and wrongly; it is not even the big story in Iraq, where the top three factions in the recent elections were all supported by decidedly undemocratic militias.

SO MUCH GOOD STUFF IN HERE.  Read the whole thing.  Email it to your friends.

Because the time has finally come to call Bush's ENTIRE FOREIGN POLICY WORLDVIEW into question.  And to eliminate the "Islamofascist Axis of Evil" myth into oblivion once and for all.

Saturday, March 18, 2006


Just saw "V" for Vendetta tonight. Good film--not superb, but good.

What is interesting to me is how OVERT the Bush backlash is getting. And yes--"V", with its denunciation of everything GOP from Fox News to Rush Limbaugh to pharisaical religion to wiretapping to the scheming, heartless and bald Vice-President who shoots a man in the face, is hyperbolically over the top, if deeply satisfying. And it just that the movie was prescient, or is the GOP just this predictable?

And yet, this was a movie written in 2002, and made in 2004, based on a comic book written in the 80's. From the creators of the Matrix, which--though a liberal spiritual/religious allegory--was anything but political.

Episode III of Star Wars, meanwhile, with its obvious denunciations of this administration, was also written by a man who was also not political in his earlier Star Wars films, but rather more spiritually minded.

EVERYTHING is political now--our "uniter" president has forced the issue, compelling those who would rather reflection more on the human condition instead make provocative political stands.

And just take a look at this year's Oscar fare: Crash (race relations), Good Night and Good Luck (anti-Administration through the McCarthy allegory), Brokeback Mountain (gay rights), Capote (ethics in journalism). And then among the lesser films have been the Constant Gardener (pharmaceuticals and globalization) and Syriana (everything under the sun). ALL OF IT POLITICAL.

And these were all films written in 2002-3, and made in 2004-2005.

What interests me most is this, however: what are the filmmakers up to now?

The GOP has only gotten more brazen, more fanatical, and more unpopular since these films were written and made. God only knows what's coming to a megaplex near you two years from now, if the likes of 2003 and 2004 brought us the films we have seen this year.

Friday, March 17, 2006

RedState reaches out

An interesting idea over at RedState has led to some interesting debate; there's a diary currently on the Recommended List at titled "Calling All Democrats." It invites Democrats to come out say why they are Democrats, and the postulates and responses have been quite entertaining.

I went ahead and took the bait, and said the following:

On Abortion:
I'm a Democrat because: I don't believe the fetus is a real human being until at least that end of the first trimester--and that, as a man, it's not my decision to make anyway.

Why I'm not a Republican: Because most Republicans, by allowing exceptions in cases of rape and incest, show that they don't care about the fetus at all; they just care about punishing women by forcing them to suffer the "consequences" of unprotected sex.

On the Budget and Fiscal Responsibility:

I'm a Democrat because: for the last 25 years, Democratic administrations have balanced budgets and reduced or eliminated deficits. I'm a Democrat because I'm not stupid enough to believe that any country can grow their way out of debt--especially by giving more to the rich.

Why I'm not a Republican: Because for the last 25 years, Republicans have created massive deficits. And because they advocate "Laffer-curve pro-growth policies" that sink the country further into debt and increase economic stagnation--all as an excuse to give more money to the big business interests who need it least.

On Government:

I'm a Democrat because: I understand that in a completely free market, power coalesces naturally into the hands of a very few. Those very few use their power and wealth not to create jobs and trickle wealth down, but to hoard it, suppress wages, and either inflate prices or provide cheap prices by exploiting labor. Government is the bulwark against that: government reigns in the corrupt monopolists and makes sure that everyone is provided for, within the context of a capitalist system.

Why I'm Not a Republican: Because I won't use totally disproven supply-side economic theory as an excuse to receive another short-sighted tax cut.

On Innovation:

I'm a Democrat because: Every life-changing innovation of the last 50 years--from the space race to the Internet--has been a product of government, not of the private sector.

Why I'm Not a Republican: Because private enterprise only knows how to make a better toaster with more gadgets and market it--not replace a toaster with something truly different.

On Foreign Policy:

I'm a Democrat because: In a globalized world, I understand that true security lies in multilateralism, cooperation and respect. I understand that most major countries are going to have nuclear capabilities within the next 50 years--and that the only security in such a world comes from a global community in which every country looks over the other's shoulder.

I further understand that every major hostile, unilateral action--from our toppling of Mossadegh to the support of Bin Laden in Afghanistan against the Soviets--creates blowback that usually hurts you more than it helps.

I'm a Democrat because the way that Clinton handled the Kosovo conflict was the PERFECT way to fight a war in the modern age.

I'm a Democrat because I understand that the greater the anti-American sentiment abroad, the more dangerous the world is for an American.

Why I'm Not a Republican: Because I don't believe that our enemies are monolithic, and because I believe that many of them have some legitimate gripes, that their evil and corrupt leaders use to foster evil ends like terrorism.

And because I'm not stupid enough to believe that you can enforce democracy on anyone at the point of a spear.

On social programs

Why I'm a Democrat: Because liberals gave us the New Deal, Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid, the 40-hour work week, civil rights, suffrage for women, child labor laws, the weekend, the family leave act, desegregation, and every other good and decent thing have ordinary Americans count on. And we are on the side of history on gay rights as well.

Why I'm Not a Republican: Because conservatives have fought tooth and nail against every single one of these things. And then when they lose, they move on to resist the next thing, exploiting the fears and prejudices of the electorate until they lose again, eventually--but causing untold damage in the interim.

On Religion:

I'm a Democrat Because: I'm spiritual (I believe that there are forces in the universe that create "coincidences" that work out to give people what they want, like magnetic attractor), but I don't hold to any organized religion. And Democrats will accept me, while Republicans will not.

And because even if I were a Christian, Democrats follow the teachings of Jesus far more than do Republicans--Jesus was concerned with the poor, the weak, the downtrodden, and held special anger for the rich hypocrites who would use violence to achieve earthly ends, while cloaking themselves in pharisaical righteousness in houses of worship. Sounds exactly like a Republican to me.

Why I'm Not a Republican: Because 15 years ago, a Republican president and father of this current one, said that I'm neither American nor a patriot, since I'm not a Christian.

And there's a lot more where that came from.

Essentially, as a Democrat, I believe that we're all in it together. I believe in 1) Being Respected Abroad; 2) Clean and Accountable Government; 3) Right to Personal Privacy; and above all 4) The Common Good.

We'll see what kind of responses that can generate from some of the best and brightest of the GOP blogosphere...

Thursday, March 16, 2006

D.C. and the Senate

Went to be in the Senate gallery today for the budget amendment fireworks.

After hearing Landrieu (D-LA), Kerry (D-MA), Akaka (D-HI), and Collins (RINO-ME--why doesn't Collins switch parties already?) speak on behalf of their amendments, I watched all the members of the Senate file into the room to deliver their votes on each amendment to the budget.

I'll leave aside the fireworks themselves--suffice it to say that the GOP raised the debt ceiling to $9 trillion dollars, putting the final nail in the coffin of supposed conservative fiscal responsibility (they had no choice, unless they wanted to default on treasury bills), while voting down a number of amendments that even a 9-year-old would endorse, which will make for tasty Dem campaign ads in October. And they didn't even get their Arctic Wildlife Refuge exploitation bill either. All very good politically for our side--though not so good for the country, unfortunately, as the public has to reap what this malAdministration has sown.

Just as interesting to me, however, were a few observations I noted:

1) Seeing all these people whose faces I instantly recognized from photos and television--Santorum, Hillary, Reid, Durbin, Lott, Frist, Lieberman, Feinstein, Boxer, Lautenberg, Jeffords, Murkowski (in a preposterous red dress), Kerry, et al., sent shivers down my spine. It was like being at the Oscars for the Hollywood-obsessed. And yet, as nerdy as that may be, I'm unapologetic. These people matter. They alter people's lives immeasurably, even as most don't even know who they are.

2) They look much more human in person. As much as I hate Lieberman's politics, much less Trent Lott's, it's hard to have the same measure of disgust for the people when you actually see them living and breathing in person. Well, Santorum excepted, I suppose, with that smug, stupid smile on his face. But I guess that just makes me a soft-heared liberal...

3) It's easy, in this environment, to see how people might think that someone like Hillary or Kerry could have a chance in 2008. The power around their personae on the actual Senate floor seems immense, and for a minute you think to yourself, "yeah, America could really get behind this person." But then you step away, and realize that Wes Clark or Mark Warner really has a much better shot than anyone in that chamber.

I think that a political consultant or pundit absolutely needs to get out of D.C. and New York for at least six months out of the year to avoid falling prey to the kind of "conventional wisdom"--anything but wise--that can come of being trapped in such an environment.

4) It's also easy, in this environment, to see how one might view politicians from across the aisle as colleagues, rather than ideological opponents or even enemies. I suppose such illusions used to be fine, before the New Conservatives came to power in the mid-80s and early 90s. But now the GOP is simply a comparatively well-oiled machine, relentless, unforgiving and completely in hock to big business interests. It's hard to look at Frist's seemingly kind, avuncular face and see deliberate evil; I don't even think Frist IS deliberately evil, most of the time. But the pressures of being part of the VRWC are too much for all but those of the strongest principle--and even they usually wilt or bolt like Jeffords when all is said and done.

In sum--I think that if you want real perspective on politics, you have to GET OUT of D.C. as often as step foot IN IT. My plan would be to be here for six months of a year, and in California for six months a year. That sounds about right to me right now...

Monday, March 13, 2006

My 1-on-1 Meeting with Rep. Waxman (CA-30): Doom

Today I met 1-on-1 with California Representative Henry Waxman of CA-30, the district that encompasses most of Los Angeles' highly liberal Westside (of which I am a resident); the meeting lasted almost exactly half an hour.

As you may or may not know, Henry Waxman is among the most progressive members of the house, and one of the leading lights of the GOP Counter-Revolution.  He is the Senior Democrat on the Government Reform Committee, and has been recently profiled in both The Nation and Le Monde as the "Elliot Ness of Congress.  Though he doesn't post on the blogosphere, the man has outstanding progressive credentials.

As the "Nation" article from February 14th, 2005 says:

For decades--literally--this Democrat from the Westside of Los Angeles has mounted high-profile investigations and hearings while churning out sharp-edged reports: on toxic emissions, the tobacco industry, pesticides in drinking water.  But during George W. Bush's first term as President, Waxman, the senior Democrat on the Government Reform Committee, established himself as the Democrat's chief pursuer of purported wrongdoing within the Bush Administration.

Sounds like just the guy to talk to, leading into the 2006 "Culture of Corruption" campaign, eh?  Waxman's credentials get even better: Waxman is "special investigation" king when it comes to pursuing this blackhearted MalAdministration...

He has mounted a series of "special investigations"--of Halliburton, Enron, the flu vaccine crisis, conflicts of interest at the Department of Homeland Security, national missile defense.  He has produced reports on secrecy in the Bush Administartion, misleading prewar assertions made by Bush officials about Iraq's WMDs, Bush's politicization of science.  And he has won considerable media attention for his efforts.

Working with Representative John Dingell, he sicced the Government Accountability Office on Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force...More recently, Waxman released a headlines-grabbing report revealing that federally funded abstinence-only sex-ed programs peddle false information to teems...With all this muckraking, the 65-yaer-old Waxman has become the Eliot Ness of the Democrats.

In fact, some say that he has "developed the model" for attacking the GOP's schemes, and led the way for more aggressive pursuits of Republican wrongdoing:

Rep. George Miller, the senior Democrat on the Education Committee, notes, "He's developed the model.  It's what we would like every ranking member to do--to ask questions, be persistent and not accept silence.  He's motivated other Democrats and has even created some discontent within the Democratic caucus because newer members on other committees sometimes don't think the ranking members are aggressive enough."

He seemed, therefore, like the perfect person to talk to about where Democrats were going in this election, and how best we intended to strike at the heart of the GOP to retake the House this year.

And my utter disappointment with his answers--the answers of this eminent man who should have been a groundspring of hope for progressives nationwide--is truly an indication of just how much work we still have to do to "crash the gate."


I got the meeting purely by accident (or providence!); about a week ago, while waiting for my time slot to take a tour of the Capitol in the early afternoon, I went into the Rayburn building (where many of the House offices are held) to get a bite to eat at the cafeteria.  No sooner had I walked into the cafeteria, than who should walk in right behind me but Rep. Waxman himself, accompanied by two of his staffers.  Not one to miss an opportunity, I turned and shook his hand, said that I was a constituent of his and a rather well-known blogger.  When I asked him if he had regularly scheduled meetings with bloggers either in D.C. or in Los Angeles, he looked bewildered at one of his aides; the aide shrugged his shoulders.  He asked me if I would like to schedule a meeting with me for today, which I eagerly accepted.

Unfortunately, the result of that very meeting left me as depressed and disheartened as I've been in a very long time.  It almost immediately became clear that he just didn't get it--and if as eminent, progressive, politically secure, and politically aggressive a congressman as Henry Waxman doesn't get it, then there is little hope for the Democratic Party at large.  We may make gains this year, but unless there is serious change on Capitol Hill, we will have squandered an incredible opportunity through passivity, cluelessness and disorganization.


When I first entered his office at 2:30PM today, he asked me again what capacity I was talking to him under; his first guess (probably because of my relatively young age at 25) was a staffer.

When I informed him that I was an independent private sector research consultant and a semi-celebrity diarist on the Daily Kos, he looked singularly unimpressed.  He looked as if he had barely even heard of the Daily Kos.  When I went on to say that congressmen and women like Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, John Conyers, Barack Obama and Louise Slaughter had all posted on Daily Kos, and that the site garnered well over a million hits a day, he looked surprised and said,"Really?"

I introduced the interview by buttering him up a bit, stating that he was one of the greatest progressive leading lights of our party, but the blogosphere and netroots did not know that much about him and his positions, and that I would like to get more of a feel for his important stances on some of the issues that matters most to the netroots.

In truth--though I didn't say this directly--I wanted to get some insider information on the strategies and maneuverings of the House Democrats in general from a representative in a good position to know what's going on--and one supposedly aggressive and media-savvy enough to care.

Going into the interview, I was nervous to be in the solitary presence of a man I so greatly admired; but I was nervous above all that I would not be able to get any revealing information from him.  I was nervous that he would be far too canny for even my professionally trained and considerable interviewing skills, and that I would get typically political, pablum answers.  Unfortunately, I DID gain a great insight--and the insight I gained wasn't at all good.

Before I go on further, I should note that it is the practice of professional moderators of one-on-one interviews and focus groups not to take notes during the interview process, as doing so distracts from the actual interview.  But I also did not want to record the interview, as I wanted the most candid responses possible from the congressman; and moderators usually do not re-watch or re-listen to the interviews they conducted before writing reports.  Most moderators, therefore, have excellent recall memory, and the ability to remember above all the responses, phrases, and sentences that matter most, while separating the wheat from the chaff.

When the interview was over, however, I immediately went to the cafeteria and spent an hour writing down everything essential that I remembered the interview.

What I give you below, therefore, are not transcript-quality responses, but they are very close--and they certainly get the gist of the Congressman's responses.


My first question to him was something along these lines:

"It seems like every other day someone like Adam Nagourney of the NY Times comes out with a hit piece on "leaderless, messageless Dems."

There is awareness that Dems need to be coy and not show our cards before it's time, but the troops are getting restless.  There's a lot of untapped potential and energy in the blogosphere, and it's getting frustrated and concerned.

Is there a set plan to unite the party with a common message under a common banner like the GOP did in '94, or is the plan to fight each race on a more local level?

His responses were anything but a delight to my ears.

"Well, I don't really know if there's an actual plan to do something like that or not.  But I would take issue with the way you stated it: The Republicans didn't really come together unified and present any actual alternatives; they just hammered on the corruption issues with Bill Clinton and certain high-level other Democrats, who did at least give the appearance of corruption."

He went on to say that Republican successes had less to do with the GOP being organized so much as it had to do with public dissatisfaction with Democrats.  I wanted to scoff, and ask him if he had ever read Off-Center or seen Rob Stein's Powerpoint on the VRWC--but I held my tongue.  He stated further that the intent was just to keep a general spotlight on Republican Corruption.

When I asked him whether was any intent to nationalize the frames in a position of on-message solidarity among House Members, he said:

"We do need to nationalize the message, I think, but I don't know of any distinct plans or timetables for doing that.

You THINK we need to nationalize the message?  Are you insane?  Is this really the first time anybody has asked you about this, or even talked to you about it?  Is this really news to you?

In large part, Pelosi is to blame for this.  Hasn't Pelosi even once herded these cats together and talked about this?  Even once?  After all, Waxman's job is to investigate Republican corruption, and unified messaging is really more Pelosi's job.  As he said:

Basically, I'm just trying to make sure that the truth about Halliburton dealings and the Iraq War and the abstinence-only programs and all this corruption are out there.  And Pelosi is more the one in charge of those kinds of things you're talking about--she's very political[and he said this word "political" was a touch of sneer and condescension], coming out of San Francisco as she does...

The Republicans have made a mockery of fiscal responsibility with the people's money, and they've been pandering to corporate special interests with big legislative earmarks, and they've been incompetent as we saw with Katrina.  I just think we need to let the people know that.

And with all due respect, Mr. Waxman, the people ALREADY KNOW THAT.  Anybody who remotely cares to know, anyway.  But they don't see Democrats as a viable alternative.  And the only way to fix that is by getting, well, political

At this point I followed up with a question that went something like this:

If there is something of a unified message, will it be a set of policy initiatives or ideas, or more of a contract w/ America style focus on cleaning house on corruption issues?

The answer was deflating at best...

"I think we need to have some clear alternatives out there, but I don't' think there's really a unified plan to present specific ones nationally.  On domestic policy, I think we need to achieve some sort of healthcare reform because the current system has been failing.  On foreign policy, we need to get out of Iraq and clean up the Halliburton messes.

Let me repeat that.  NO.  UNIFIED.  PLAN.  Let me also repeat that: SOME.  SORT.  OF.  HEALTHCARE.  REFORM.  You have got to be freaking kidding me.  That's all you've got?  One wonkish, vague semi-initiative about healthcare, in the face of polls showing that most Americans support a single-payer system?  Not even a Howard Dean-style "Cover the Children" program?  And what about the rest of it?????

I tried to help the Congressman out by mentioning, oh, I don't know--MINIMUM WAGE REFORM?  I asked if there were any plans to ask for a bold, major increase in the minimum wage.  The answer:

On a minimum wage increase?  We've been fighting for that for a long time.

I said that I meant something really bold to capture the national attention, like a $2 increase.  His reponse:

"Well, I don't know.  As I said, we've been fighting on that issue a lot already..."

At this point I was getting a little frustrated.  I was looking for something--ANYTHING-- that would communicate a progressive platform for voters and give them a reason to vote for Democrats.  So I asked about the time bombs Bush had loaded into his 2001 tax cuts, and the coming AMT crisis, and how Dems intended to react to them.  And again, the answer was deadening.

Well, we just need to say some positive things for Americans like "billionaires don't need tax cuts."  Then we can maybe put some alternatives of our own on the table.

It was just so typical.  Block Bush by spouting the same pablum we've been doing for six years, and THEN--Maybe--introduce some initiatives of our own.  Have our congresscritters learned NOTHING from their experiences?


My next question was something similar:

Regardless of what we campaign on, has there been any agreement or unified discussion of what House Democrats are likely to put on the table in terms of significant legislation if we can manage to retake the House in 2006?

The answer here wasn't too far off the mark.  He said that we needed to restart and revive some of the investigations that have been stalled under this GOP congress for the period of Bush's reign from 2006-2008: things like the leadup to Iraq, the mismanagement of taxpayer funds by Halliburton, the Katrina incompetence, etc.  And, after all, this is Waxman's area of expertise.  He also stated that we need to use our leverage to stop a lot of these things that Bush is doing.  "And THEN," he said, "then we can begin to put our own policies on the table, like healthcare reform."

What is it with the "Stop the GOP, then come up with some ideas" crap?  Don't these people understand that without bold messaging and ideas of our own, we're never GOING to stop the GOP?  And then there was the vague talk of healthcare reform again...

My next question was a follow-up to that one:

Do Democrats plan on being as heavy-handed in their parliamentary tactics, if we retake the house, as the GOP has been over the last decade?

The response I got made my jaw drop.

"I think we should not use what Republicans have done as a template at all.  We should keep our committees open, and the communication channels should be there.  Obviously, we don't want to make it TOO open, because certain powers we want to have, but we need more bipartisanship, not less.  What Republicans have done has really eroded democracy in the House, and we need to bring it back.

Excuse me, Congressman, while I step outside your office window, vomit, and jump to my death.  More bipartisanship?  I mean, I agree to a certain extent that we shouldn't do what the GOP has done, but how in the world can the man have any delusions about the idea of the GOP actually working with Democrats on anything?  How often does that dog have to bite your hand before you stop reaching out to it????  Have we learned nothing, at long last?

But it was the Diebold question that put the most fear and amazement in my heart...


About the Diebold issue, I asked the following question:

I know that you cosponsored the HR550 amendment, which is an amendment to Hillary Clinton's Help America Vote Act, to federally mandate voter-verified paper ballots--and kudos to you for that.  And obviously, voting integrity is a no-brainer issue.

My question is this: the Democratic Party in general seems to have sent out a directive to remain mum about the possibility of electronic voting fraud, despite substantial evidence to suggest it.  Obviously, there are some politics involved in this, in the sense that we don't want to look like sore losers.

But I just wanted to get a sense from you about whether you feel widespread fraud may actually have taken place and you just can't talk about it for political reasons, or whether you simply feel that widespread fraud probably didn't happen?

When I first mentioned HR550, he looked at me completely blankly.  When I mentioned the Help America Vote Act, his response to me was, "Oh yeah--that voting thing."  When I mentioned that there was some sort of directive, he immediately said, "well, I'm not aware of any such directive at all.  I just don't know that anybody really talked about it, that's all."  I already knew I was in trouble--but the response was deeply troubling for reasons that I could not have guessed going in.  He said the following:

I think getting every vote counted is an important isasue.  As far as whether there was widespread fraud, we just don't know.  But it's important to make sure that these things are gotten to the bottom of, and that we have accountability.

But we're all concerned.  We really don't know.  We suspect it, but we don't know.


But for the love of God, DON'T SAY that you SUSPECT that our democracy has been overturned in the biggest scandal of the last 150 years, say that you DON'T KNOW, and tell me that you were so weak-kneed that you and all your colleagues just sat there and SAID NOTHING LIKE DEER IN THE HEADLIGHTS!

Is there any leadership here?  Any at all?

I almost stopped the interview there and said that that was all of my questions, but I soldiered on.


My next question was about the calcified consultancy within the Democratic Party:

Politicians have begun to recognize the fundraising and organizational power of the netroots in coordinating large numbers of small donors, especially since McCain-Feingold and the rise of Howard Dean; furthermore, the netroots has been effective in constantly working on new, more powerful messaging.  

Right now there are a lot of people talking about what they see as a calcified entrenchment in much of the Democratic party--this is best seen in the consultancy class, where Bob Shrum for instance has gone 0-8, but in a lot of other places as well.  It's pretty clear from the track record of our strategists, and the way the right wing has managed to frame almost every debate on their terms, that there needs to be a shakeup of some kind.  Markos Moulitsas, founder of DailyKos, and Jerome Armstrong, founder of, just came out with a book called "Crashing the Gate" that dealt with this subject in some detail.

The grassroots are trying to do their part from the bottom up; but my question is, what is being done at the top of the party to shake things up from the top down??  The grassroots are getting nervous that no such movements are being made, and a lot of people are going to stop giving money to the party if they don't see the party being as committed to changing things as much as they are.

Here, actually, he gave the most satisfactory answer and showed the most interest.  He was actually interested in picking up a copy of the book--and I said I had an extra copy which I could give him for keeps, and I intend to do so within the next week--and he wrote down the title and authors.

Unfortunately, not only had he never heard of the book, he had never heard of the authors, either--and I had to explain to him how to spell Markos' name.

He did say, though, that he was very concerned about this issue, and there needed to accountability, but that old ways of doing things die hard.  He also said that the Internet is obviously a powerful tool, as Dean showed, and he thinks that we need to use the technology available as well as we can, and he's not sure we've been doing that.

He did say one truly nerve-wracking thing in this discussion, however:

I don't think that the losses are necessarily the fault of the consultants, but if losses continue, we would need to look in other directions.

Certainly sounds like nobody's doing anything about this anytime soon...


My final question was about the Dean-Pelosi feud over the 50-state strategy:

This last question is going to be a little more difficult, and I understand if you have to be, say, diplomatic about it.  Recently, as you undoubtedly know, there was a little dustup between Howard Dean and Nancy Pelosi over Dean's 50-state strategy, and the allocation of resources.  The argument was between, essentially, building the party nationally, or focusing effort on the most contested races.

We've heard both sides, but I wanted to know what you, as a representative who is about as politically secure as it's possible to be, think of the issue?

Fortunately, he wasn't diplomatic and didn't mince words.  Unfortunately, he came down SQUARELY on the side of Pelosi--and didn't even know more about it than any of us!

All I know about it is what I read in the papers.

I think that resources are very limited, and that we need to keep our focus on retaking Congress first.  I think what Dean was doing, funding things going on in Alabama where we have no chance, isn't a good use of resources.  We should be spending more money in places like Ohio and New Juersey, and THEN we can worry about building the party in the rest of the nation.

Party building is important, to be sure, but we need to spend our resources as wisely as possible.

And here, again, we see the same syndrome as before: focus on the short term first, then win in the long term later.  The Same Bob Shrum Mentality--and always putting the cart before the horse.


And this, Kossacks, is one of the best of the brightest that we've got on the national level.  I've still got incredible respect for my congressman, and I don't think he should be challenged with a primary.  But to see the cluelessness on these very important issues was mind-boggling and highly distressing.

We're going to have to do it OURSELVES, folks.  From the ground up.

We're going to have to Crash Those Gates, and turn this party over from the inside out.

Because the Cavalry Isn't Coming.

There is no grand strategy--and we're pretty much the last line of defense for a national message, aggressive politics, and bold policies.  

And we're going to have to redouble our efforts if we want significant victory in November.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Polyamory, Polygamy and Gay Marriage

Predictable as clockwork, the right wing is up in arms over HBO's new show on polygamy. Atrios lampoons the right's obsession with this particular form of sexual deviancy (isn't it all forms of sexual "deviancy" that they decry? I've never seen such obsession with sex as has enveloped the right win over the last decade...) and says,
Consider what motivates someone to write "polyamory has much greater potential appeal, and poses a much deeper danger to the American family." I have no idea if "polyamory has much greater potential appeal" or, if it does, why it "poses a much deeper danger to the American family" than does polygamy.

I'm glad I don't live in Kurtz's brain.

Meanwhile, McJoan frontpages on DailyKos (the site is down as I write this) that she doesn't even know what "polyamory" is.

Actually, what Kurtz (in the Heart of Darkness of his soul) is saying is pretty obvious--and obvious to anyone who understands both the right wing and the difference between polygamy and polyamory.

"Polyamory" is otherwise known as "free love". It's the notion that people can have open relationships and sex with multiple partners; in some cases, polyamory involves retained loyalty to a single person in spite of the open relationship, and in other cases it does not.

"Polygamy" is much more structured and refers to the literal marriage of multiple people: "polygyny" is the marriage of one man to several women (much more common), while "polyandry" is the marriage of one woman to several men (much less common).

It is actually high predictable--and totally understandable--that wingers like Kurtz would view Polyamory as a greater moral evil than Polygamy. Polygamy, in their minds, while still perverse, carries loyalties, fidelities and the sanctity of matrimony. In many ways, polygamy is a fundamentalist institution (as it is in Utah), and is only progressively applied (if that is even possible) in rare instances.

Polyamory, on the other hand, with its notions of free love and the discard of traditional fidelity and matrimony, strikes utter fear into the heart of a conservative (and I'm no fan of it myself--I just find it unworkable, given the fundamental ways that human beings are wired).

What I find particularly striking, however, is that this wingnut stance against Polyamory in favor of Polygamy is directly at odds with their views on Gay Marriage.

After all, if the sanction of the state, fidelity, and matrimony make polygamy more acceptable (or less outrageous) in the eyes of Bush, Rove, and Dobson, shouldn't they wish to apply the same standard to homosexuals? Shouldn't they view gays living together faithfully and loyally with the sanction of the state as preferable to the free love parade that they imagine to go on throughout West Hollywood and Castro District?

I'm not sure yet whether pundits like Kurtz are simply intellectually obtuse on this issue, or intellectually dishonest. But I suspect that it's a heavy case of dishonesty, with some misogyny and homophobia thrown in to boot.

Saturday, March 11, 2006


It seems that every day I'm shocked by new levels of Republican hypocrisy.

Darksyde did an excellent job of taking apart the hypocrisy of the GOP n the ongoing sordid saga of senior Bush advisor Claude Allen's shoplifting scandal, in which he kleptomaniacally thefted thousands of dollars worth of merchandise.  Darksyde focused, appropriately, on the hypocrisy of this "man of abstinence" who was going to help bring "moral values" to the White House, involved in this creepy and repugnant affair.

But it is in reading George Bush's reaction that the most extraordinary hyprocrisy presents itself.

Part of the AP Story on the incident is truly telling:

When I heard the story last night, I was shocked, and my first reaction was one of disappointment, deep disappointment - if it's true - that we were not fully informed," Bush said. "Shortly thereafter, I felt really sad for the Allen family."

So you feel for his family, eh, Georgie?  Somehow I don't think you felt for families of the Texas death row victims you massacred.  Or of the families of the Iraqi "insurgents" you massacred.  Or of the innocent families of the people you let die in the aftermath of Katrina.

But oh--when one of your little crony advisers goes down to a shoplifting scandal--oh then, yes then, you care for his family.  Nice work.

But that's not the worst of it by any means.  What follows is a true classic:

"If the allegations are true, Claude Allen did not tell my chief of staff and legal counsel the truth, and that's deeply disappointing" the president said at the White House following an event on Iraq. "If the allegations are true, something went wrong in Claude Allen's life, and that is really sad."  

SOMETHING WENT WRONG IN HIS LIFE?  Where's the long lecture on Responsibility, Georgie?  You almost sound like poor Mr. Allen needs welfare!

You wouldn't say that he needs rehabilitation, would you George?  Wouldn't that be SOFT ON CRIME?

Where is our Strong Father President when it comes to making an admitted shoplifter take responsibility for his actions?  Last I checked, strong fathers don't say that "Something went wrong in the life" of their children; on the contrary!  Strong Fathers make sure that the underage can be executed for their crimes--because they need to take responsibility!"

But NO.  When it comes to shoplifters under his own nose, George W. Bush's refrain is, "I blame society!"


I would like to perform a little exercise with all of you.  Close your eyes and imagine that this were Clinton's adviser.  And that Clinton had said that "something had gone wrong in [his advisor's] life".  

Now imagine what Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter would have to say about that.

No, you know what?  Don't think about that.  The vitriol might make you throw up in your mouth.


Yet no one calls him on it.  The media and the American public is just so used to the bald-faced pharisaical hypocrisy that something like this just slides right by, unnoticed.

The media don't do their job, the pundits on our side don't do their jobs, and our congresscritters either don't do their jobs or can't break through the media veil blackout.

It's disgusting.

IOKIYAR indeed.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

It's BY DESIGN, Stupid!

There have been many arguments made against the new-fangled "President Is King" arguments being pushed by our dimwitted President and his cronies: some are political, some legal, some historical, and some just plain common sense.

The most important and compelling of these arguments are, of course, from Constitutional Law: the Constitution is pretty goddamn clear on the idea of Separation of Powers--Abu Gonzales' pathetic arguments based on Article II of the Constitution notwithstanding.

Some might say (to use a painful Fox News idiom), however, that the framers intended each of the Three Branches of the U.S. government (Executive, Legislative, and Judicial) to be equal partners--and that each branch will carry the most weight under times that require it most.  Under this particular theory, the Executive would carry the greatest importance in wartime; the Legislative would carry the greatest importance in peacetime, and the Judiciary would carry the greatest importance in the gray areas where the law and the right courses of action are not entirely clear.

Under this argument, the "fact" that we are at "war" (insofar as one can be at war with an abstract noun) means that the Executive Branch carries a little more leeway to overstep its bounds at this particular juncture in history.

And, of course, you would be right to call these wingnut apologetic arguments the total bullshit they are.  You might point to the Constitution itself which empowers Congress and Congress alone to declare war, or to the War Powers Act of 1973, in demonstrating that the Executive does not, in have, have precedence over Congress in matters of War and Peace.

You might even argue that under no circumstance should any branch of government have implicit authority over any other, except for the regulations exactly as they are written in the Constitution.

And you would be wrong.  There IS, in fact, a powerful argument to be made that one branch of government DOES take precedence over the others.  It just isn't the executive--it's the LEGISLATIVE.


This argument rests on the layout and regulations of the City of Washington, D.C. itself.  The CITY ITSELF demands, in fact, that one branch take priority over the others.  It screams it with the silent but powerful voice of its very design and planning.

And lest you think this is a trivial argument, let me assure you that it is not.  Any sociologist, linguistic anthropologist or cognitive specialist worth his or her salt knows that the use of space is a critically important component of human life.  The way we organize space has a profound social and psychological impact--and those who design space for a living, such as urban planners, know this intrinsically.  It gets a little in-depth here, but please bear with me.


It was anthropologist Edward T. Hall who introduced the term Proxemics to place a spotlight on the uses of space in interpersonal relations.  One example of proxemics is the study of differences in space between people talking to one another across various cultures; for instance, cultures from more temperate zones tend to stand closer to one another when speaking than those in more colder climates.

Yet another example--and one which has more bearing on my point--involves the study of why rooms and public spaces are organized the way they are.  Classrooms for instance, are only organized in a few specific different ways, which encourage focus on a single object: the teacher.  No matter how a classroom is organized, there are rows of seats, which spaces in between the rows, and columns of empty space to walk down.  The focus of every seat bears down on a single focal point: the space reserved for the teacher, which is almost universally marked in a special way with a desk, podium or elevated stage.

The proxemics of prisons is another interesting example of this.  While Hall himself was more concerned with overcrowding in prisons and its psychological effects on inmates, the study of proxemics gives us insight into how the very design of most prisons encourages the focus of attention on the prisoners themselves.  This is especially true of the Panopticon which is designed, according to Wikipedia:

to allow an observer to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) prisoners without the prisoners being able to tell if they are being observed or not, thus conveying a "sentiment of an invisible omniscience"
 In other words, the very design of the prison itself creates a psychological urge towards the breaking of the will of prisoners through constant VISUAL FOCUS on the prisoners--real or imagined.

And while the study of Proxemics mostly concerns itself with smaller spaces and interpersonal relations, it also applies greatly to the organization of large spaces and urban planning.  The visionary and influential architect and urban planner Christopher Alexander understood this very well, and attempted through his theoretical work to solve many of the social problems of his day through design that, among other things, refocused attention on community building, rather than isolation.

When all is said and done then, the most important aspect of proxemics when applied to architecture and urban planning is FOCUS.  Whatever object the designer chooses to focus on implicitly--a teacher, a set of prisoners, etc.--is the object will psychologically command the most attention, thereby creating implicit IMBALANCES OF POWER.


And here is the heart of the matter: the proxemics of the design of Washington D.C. itself demand a singular focus on the LEGISLATIVE.  From the earliest days of its very design, Congress--not the executive--was intended to be the ultimate seat of power in Washington and, by extension, in America.  This was accomplished by housing Congress in the Capitol building--and by making the Capitol the most important building in D.C.

1) The Capitol building is the focus of the four quadrants of the city.  In other words, each of the city's four quadrants meet at their inside corners.  As Wikipedia notes:

At the center of the design, is the United States Capitol Building, from which four quadrants radiate along the four compass directions: Northwest, Southwest, Northeast, and Southeast.

What this means is that the CENTRAL FOCUS OF THE CITY IS THE CAPITOL--and, by extension, Congress.  You can see a picture of this below:

By comparison, the White House is far off-center, tucked away firmly in the NW quadrant.  And this is by design.

2) It must be remembered that George Washington himself laid the cornerstones for both buildings.  He helped select the sites and was there for the groundbreaking ceremonies--and he selected the White House site AFTER selecting the Congressional site.  That means that George Washington, first in the hearts of his countrymen, INTENDED that the focus of power be on Congress, and NOT on himself in the Executive.

In both of these cases, we see that the Legislative was given precedence over the Executive from the very beginning.   It was DESIGNED that way.

3) The Supreme Court was housed directly within the Capitol for 135 years.  As tells us:

When the seat of the federal government was transferred permanently to Washington, D.C., in 1800, no provision was made for housing for the Supreme Court. Less than two weeks before the Court was to convene, Congress resolved to let the Court use a room in the Capitol. The Court moved into the Old North Wing (image above), meeting in various rooms from February 1810 to December 1860. During the early years when construction displaced the Justices, they had to meet in nearby homes or taverns. Eventually the Court occupied a courtroom that had been especially designed for it in the basement beneath the new Senate chamber. When the Court moved upstairs in 1861, the old courtroom became the law library for both Congress and the Court, seen here in this c. 1895 photograph. The Supreme Court was housed in what is now called the restored Old Senate Chamber from 1861 to 1935. Although the chamber was more spacious and dignified than the basement one, there was no dining room (the Justices lunched in the robing room), and no individual office space for the Justices and their staff (the Justices often worked at home).
 And only in 1935 did the Supreme Court get its own building.

There is no better way to show the subservience of one institution to another than by housing its offices in the same building--and so it was with the Supreme Court.  Conservatives make this claim with some regularity--and it is true.  The Judicial branch was meant to be a check and balance on the laws promulgated by the Legislative and the actions taken by the Executive, but there is no question that its importance was considered minimal when compared to the Legislative branch.

And the simple issue of design tells us that above all: The Legislative Branch was considered superior to the Judicial Branch from the very beginning.  It was DESIGNED that way.

4) No building in Washington D.C. may be taller than the Capitol.  Though I cannot find a link to the actual text of the law, references to it may be found all over the place through Google.  It's one of those supposedly useless bits of trivia that Jeopardy contestants memorize.

Standing at 287.5 feet, the Freedom statue at the top of the Capitol stands exactly six inches taller than the top of the Washington Monument, since the Capitol is situated on the top of Capitol Hill.

The fact that no building in the entire District can be built above this height accounts of much of the city's openness, and the lack of skyscrapers which give the city a European feel.  What this means is that the Seat of Government, invested in the Legislative Branch of the United States, takes precedence over all other concerns--including business.

Thus it is that the city planners themselves dictated, and continue to dictate to this day, that not only does the Legislative Branch trump the Executive and Judicial, it ALSO TRUMPS BUSINESS AS WELL.

In fact, what you actually have--in the way the city was designed--is a chart that looks as follows:





And there you have it.  It's a question of design!  And any "strict constructionist" interested in the "framers' intent" would be a hypocrite (but aren't they all) no look at these issues as well when making their decisions--especially about matters and weighty and important as the "unitary executive."

I'm not holding my breath, though.

Meeting with Waxman

I'll be meeting with Rep. Waxman (my district in CA) on Monday. The story of how I got the interview is a real gem, but I'll leave it for later.

What matters most is that I am currently working on three different business projects, my list of questions for Waxman (and preparatory reading material), a book project, and general sightseeing in D.C.

Unfortunately, that doesn't leave much time for blogging. But I'm still here, fear not--and I'll be back in the thick of things soon.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

beating our heads against a wall

So Ciro lost.  GOP-in-Dem clothing clothing Cuellar won.

And we put a lot of time, money, energy and emotion in to this race.  We cannot discount that.

And trolls would like to stick our faces in our supposed 0-19 track record in elections, as if it were a stain on our honor instead of a badge of courage to support candidates who were not given a bat's chance in hell of winning by the traditional pundits--and give them a fighting chance.

And sometimes we begin to doubt ourselves; naysayers right and left scream that our efforts are in vain, money down the drain, and a useless enterprise--essentially, that we are banging our heads against a brick wall.

What they fail to realize is that eventually the wall DOES BREAK.  And Republicans know it--it's part of how they got where they are today.

Allow me to tell a little story:

Once upon a time there was a moderate Republican named Marge Roukema who was elected to congress in New Jersey in the Reagan "Revolution" of 1980.  She was pro-choice, pushed for family leave bills, fiscally conservative Clinton-style, and generally sane.

The GOP, however, leaning ever rightward, funneled a ton of money (through the Club for Growth and other organizations) into Scott Garrett, an unabashed ideological wingnut.  And he came very close--twice.

Finally, after enduring horrific pressure from Tom Delay and with little money in her war chest, Roukema retired in 2002, and Garrett swept almost unopposed into power

To quote Hacker and Pierson's outstanding book Off Center: The Republican Revolution & The Erosion of American Democracy,

The first lesson is that preimaries matter.  Garrett softened up Roukema before her retirement with two near misses that forced the sitting congresswomen [sic] to spend all her campaign funds (thus angering the Republican House leadership, which criticized her for failing to give money to other GOP candidates).  Even though Roukema managed to hold him at bay, his challenges pushed her to the right during her time in office, and they were the key reason for herexit from Congress...

What Garrett knew, and her opponents underestimated, is that in primaries, the base rules.

Do you hear that, Democrats?  THIS IS HOW IT IS DONE.

You may not win the first time.  You may not win the second time.  BUT YOU DO WIN.

I guarantee you that, through this primary, you have affected Cuellar--greatly.  The bastard will be looking over his shoulder now EVERY TIME he votes with the GOP.  He'll be wondering what's going to get him in trouble, and he knows that judgment day is just a few years away, as Ciro Rodriguez spoils for another fight.

Allow me to quote again from their book:

The third lesson of Garrett's win in New Jersey is that in the electoral arena, parties matter in a way they did not in therecent past.  One big reason is money, or more precisely, the need  for candidates to raise huge sums of it.  Garrett won not becasuse he personally outspent his general election opponent--in fact, he was outpaced in the general election after focusing his spending on the primary--but because the Republican Party pulled out all the stops on his behalf.

As it turns out, ALL of Delay's PAC money went to Garrett.

And there's a lesson here for us: Garrett lost twice.  He was outspent twice.  But he made a big difference, and eventually made it to office.

Ciro Rodriguez has done the same--but without the Party pulling out all the stops for him.  Instead, the Democratic Party left this race alone, as a bellwether to see what grassroots support could do.

The end result: we accomplished for Rodriguez what the GOP base accomplished for Garrett--but WITHOUT THE PARTY'S HELP. And that is an amazing thing.

A final quote:

The crucial issue is where candidates see the greatest electroal threat arising: in their own party or outside it...When the greatest risk comes from within the party, the call of the swing voter is drowned out by the cries of the base.

Now, the authors decry this phenomenon.  And it IS bad for democracy--but we have no choiced but to fight fire with fire.

And we ARE the base.  Our power is going to grow ever stronger--and if we can ever get the mass of the party to be on our side, we will be as inexorable a machine as the GOP has been over the last long while.

It must also be remembered that the GOP rebuilt from the ground up starting in 1964 to get where they are--42 years.  It won't take us even a QUARTER of that time.


Allow me, finally, to close, let me remind everyone of few things:

1. Diebold didn't make a difference here.  I am as big a voting conspiracy theorist as anyone.  I am a member of Verified Voting, and I believe that there was widescale e-voting fraud throughout Ohio and Florida--enough to steal the election outright.  BUT THIS DISTRICT IS IN THE HANDS OF DEMOCRATS.  This was not thefted electronically, so stop kvetching!

2. We flexed our muscles.  Just like in the Hackett campaign.  And people are taking notice.  We turned what was a "one-day story" into a tight race.

3. Cuellar is still a Democrat.  Yes, he votes with the GOP most of the time, and yes, the GOP can use him to claim "bi-partisanship".  But in the end, the most important thing is that Cuellar votes for Democrats for committee chairmanships and leadership positions.  If we regain a majority in the House--and Cuellar is one of them--Boehner is out as Speaker.  And that's a good thing.


So, in sum Democrats, while today is not a day for rejoicing, it IS a day for confidence.  We are following the GOP playbook to victory--step by step.

It'l be a long slog, but victory is inevitable.  Don't lose hope, and don't let the naysayers get you down.

Monday, March 06, 2006


Sorry, my loyal readers--I've been lax in getting posts up here or on Kos for the last few days. Work is very stressful right now, and when I'm not working I'm out in the town seeing and doing things.

Today, in addition to two conference calls and finishing up a report, I went to the Capitol and Natural History Museum; yesterday it was the National Gallery. There is SO much to do here, and I really love the flavor of this town.

I have quite a few ideas rattling around my head for longer political posts (and some pretty damn good ones, too!), but they'll more time than I have right now.

I also have very exciting news that will have to wait for a full denouement and a long post in and of itself, so stay posted and don't go away! Tomorrow or the next day I will sit down to work from my room and not go into town, and I'll post a few goodies in between work session.

Good stuff comin' up!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

sheer brilliance

Yesterday was a good day for contemplation, but not so great a day for sight-seeing; the wind was blustery, making the 40 degree temperatures seem far lower. Since it seemed like a good day to be indoors, my gf and I (after taking care of some business-related stuff) went to the mall at Friendship Circle, before boarding the metro for Capitol Hill.

Since it was Saturday--the biggest day for the Eastern Market--we went there directly and got some tasty lunch. From there we went to the library of Congress and had a terrific time; I was most impressed of all by the life-mask of Abraham Lincoln, which had a look gentle, calm and wise repose that caused me some emotion to behold, displayed as it was beside the trinkets he was carrying as he was brutally murdered.

From there we headed to Folger, which takes me to the heart of the story. There was a playbill for various Shakespeare plays the Folger was producing, set next to quotes. One quote--quite famous but forgotten by me--struck me in particular:


My father gave me an excellent education in rhetroic and the crafting of language which has served me well, though I have forgotten many of the of actual terms for effects used; and so it was that I attempted to explain some of the sheer brilliance of this line to my gf--and the problem with the misguided multicultural attempt to reduce the emphasis in schools on classic literature and what Columbia calls the "Great Books Program."

1. First of all, this quote is pithy and insightful in and of itself, and bears remembering. After all, how else to explain the contrasting fortunes of one George W. Bush and one Abraham Lincoln?

2. It is, of course, perfect Iambic Pentameter. The words fall in a smooth, water-like cadence: da-DA-da-DA; da-DA-da-DA-da-DA. Not too hard to do, but harder than you think--just try it sometime!

3. The juxtaposition and emphasis on the word "Virtue." It might be argued that this was necessitated by the meter itself, but one cannot argue that the effect created was startle the listener slightly and doubly emphasize the word "virtue", rather than blandly say "some fall by virtue." This rhetorical device has a name, but I have forgotten it.

4. The alliteration in the first half of the line. There are three "S"'s in Some, riSe, and Sin. "Alliteration" is a poetic use of the same consonant sound.

5. The assonance in the first half of the line. There are three back-vowel "I" sounds in rIse, bY, and sIn. The poetic repetition of vowel sounds is called assonance.

6. The DOUBLE-alliteration in the second line. The labial "v" and "f" sounds in Virtue and Fall create what is called a "soft" alliteration, while what linguists call the "liquids" in "r"'s and "l"'s of viRtue and faLL create yet ANOTHER soft alliteration.

7. Most brilliant of all--and I have forgotten the term for this--the very NATURE of the assonances and alliterations used describes the meaning of the words. The high-back-vowels of Rise, By, and Sin seem to depict the act of rising and climbing by the very act of saying them. The forward protrusion of the lips, and the low front vowels in the act of saying Virtue and Fall, meanwhile, seem their very selves to describe the descent, and the sounds literally seem to tumble from the mouth.

This is sheer fucking brilliance. And there are thousands and thousands of lines thsi complex in corpus of Shakespeare's work--and there is probably further brilliance in this very line that I was not sophisticated enough to tease out.

And this, in a nutshell, is the problem with the misguided liberal university campaign to knock authors like Shakespeare off of their pedestals: the works with which they are attempting to replace works like his do not even begin to approach his work in depth, richness, complexity and brilliance. Maya Angelou is a good author, no doubt, but her works don't belong in the same room with Shakespeare's any more than my rantings and ravings belong in the same room with Noam Chomsky.

Most of the defenders of the "Great Books" program are hard-headed, bigoted conservatives who attempt to defend them by talking about "tradition," or "shared heritage", or "greatness." These are simply racist code-words for "I want to read works by white males, thank you." And that's not where I'm coming from at all. Those are stupid arguments to me.

To me, if you can find another author with work as deep, complex, enriching, and brilliant as Shakespeare's, please DO SO. I don't care who they are; I have heard that some ancient Chinese poets approached this complexity in their work; as I don't know Chinese, I would not know (and it's not exactly accessible because translation would not do them justice)--but go for it. I'm more than willing to learn.

I am a liberal--and by that, I mean a seeker of truth and beauty. If that truth and beauty is to be found by championing women's rights and minority rights, I'm all for it and I'm there. But in art, I seek truth and beauty wherever it is to be found--and if it is found primarily in the works of old, white males, then that's where I will seek it.

But there aren't very many--if any--who can compete with Shakespeare, Dante, Virgil, Homer, Milton, Rimbaud, Schiller, and other such. They're just not out there; these works have survived the test of time for a reason.

When this argument is brought to bear against the multiculturalists, they invariably say (if they can get beyond calling me a racist, patriarchal bigot) that I am using a very WASP definition of what makes literature great by demanding this richness and complexity from it. That my very definitions carry a value judgment, in other words.

And of that, the accused stands guilty. THAT'S WHAT ART IS: transcendent truth found through richness, complexity, emotion and symbolism. And to knock Shakespeare from his deserved pedestal is a treason to art, in the favor of multicultural politics and postmodern philosophy.

And I'm unapologetic about rejecting that notion. And if the pursuit of truth and beauty means that I am liberal in my politics, but conservative in my art, then so be it!

Later tonight or tomorrow, I will share some thoughts I had about how the urban planning of Washington, D.C. itself provides a strong argument against Bush's "Unitary Exectutive." More later.

Friday, March 03, 2006

"They Sent Out the Directive"

Before I begin, I should remind you that I am now in Washington, D.C., and will be here for a month--this must be distinctly understood, or little wonderful can come of the story I am about to relate.

It so happened, on my second night here in this town that exudes a class and sophistication completely unbecoming the faux Texas twit currently in residence in that awesome, foreboding and utterly secluded mansion at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., that I sat down with my girlfriend to relax and have some tea at a cafe in Dupont Circle.

That Dupont Circle and its environs presented one of the few locales in this strange city still bustling with people at a late hour on this balmy night was a relief, and presented the rare opportunity to see a diverse mix of the city's populace--and to sit in close proximity to them in the crowded cafe.

Seated next to me were three Midwestern-looking Caucasian men in their mid-30's to early 40's, enjoying Chai and Jasmine teas over rice paneer dishes.  I had just been remarking to my girlfriend that, while it seemed nerdy but somewhat arcane to speak of complex political matters in Los Angeles, here in D.C. where everyone lives, eats, and breathes politics and travels on buses with advertisements for C-Span and against Roe v. Wade plastered ubiquitously, it seemed almost arrogantly pedantic to talk politics at any decibel above a murmer in public--if not unwise, for you never know who is listening.

It was a lesson that one of the men next to me should well have heeded; for it is one of the incredible revolutions of the online political world that you never know who the unassuming-looking person next to you might be.  It might just be a blogger with the power to act as a megaphone with the potential to carry your conversation to a million people.

And so it was that, as my girlfriend and I were discussing sotto voce the dark aura that had seemed to exude from the well-guarded Gates of Mordor at 1600 Pennsylvania earlier in the day, one of the men asked his acquaintance how his job was, and where exactly it was that he worked.

The response:

"Well, it's nothing special.  I basically sit in the news room of CNN's World News section and write copy for and review stories that go out.  That and get people's coffee!"

At this point my ears perked up, I shushed the conversation with my girlfriend, and listened intently to what was said next.

After discussing coffee for a time, one of the men mentioned Bush's abysmal popularity ratings, and asked how this might be affecting news coverage.  Fully expecting a diplomatic answer to the tune of, "It doesn't matter, we try our best to report the news as we see it," I was shocked by what was actually said in return.  And by how low the media has truly fallen.

The reply was as follows:

"Well, you know, that's an interesting question.

Back sometime in 2004, I was writing copy for an article about one of the U.S. troop deaths--it was like the 1,507th or something like that.  My sentence on the subject said something like, 'Sgt. Major so-and-so, the 1507th casualty so far in the Iraqi front of the American War on Terror...'

I submitted it to the managing editor, and he came back and told me, 'No.  You've got to take that out.  We don't put things like that in our stories to remind people of the casualty count.'

And I was like, 'ok, but may I ask why?'.  And he said, 'It's just policy.'"

"Just policy?"  "We don't...remind people of the casualty count?"  I couldn't believe what I was hearing.  Of course, we all knew it had to be true--we were on top of the awful media bias at the time.

Personally, my first thought as I listened to this story was that the phrase "Iraqi Front of the American War on Terror" was biased enough already--but apparently it was a prounounced failure to be adequately biased in the favor of jingoistic propaganda at what LGF calls the "Communist News Network".  It's "pravda" all right--it's just moving the other direction.

But what followed was even more fascinating:

"But now, you see, in 2005, every other story that comes out from our offices contains an updated number of the war dead.  And why?  Because Bush's poll numbers are down.

They finally felt it was safe enough to tell the truth, so they sent out the directive that every story about a troop death in the Iraq war should now carry a casualty count.

So yeah, I would say that Bush's poll numbers are a factor.  But we weren't permitted to tell the truth before the election, when it would have made any difference."

I was blowing steam out my ears.

Does anyone remember the scene from "Twelve Angry Men" when the Sports Nut changes his vote from "Guilty" to "Not Guilty" just to get out of the room faster?  When the immigrant (voting "Not Guilty") stands up and asks him why he changed his vote, and the Sports Nut answers "Just Because," the immigrant says something to the effect of, "What kind of man are you?  A man's life is at stake here!  If you believe he is guilty, you should speak the truth, and if you believe he is not guilty, you should do the same!  Don't change your vote just because you find it convenient--do it out of conviction!  Or what kind of a man are you?"

Because the media is nothing but this.  It's not (for the most part) owned by BushCo.  It's not right-wing, per se.  It's neither a watchdog for truth nor an exploiter of the innocent.

The media is just a cowardly dog, peeing down its shaking back legs, with its tail tucked squarely behind.  If Bush is up, it serves as his propaganda piece.  And when Bush is down, it feels like it can start hitting him.

It is no longer the comforter of the afflicted and the afflicter of the comfortable.  It IS the comfortable.  And it afflicts whoever is most afflicted.

And like Sam Jackson's Jules in "Pulp Fiction," it stopped being the shepherd long ago; it's now just the tyranny of evil men, trying hard to be the shepherd.  And failing.


It's time for a revolution.  The gates are crashing down--not only in Democratic politics, but in the media world as well.  Access is now becoming truly democratic.

And while the media is finally starting to become comfortable with beating on Bush while he's down, that doesn't mean it's become comfortable with telling the truth.  It's just the bully's little helper--and a stopped clock is right twice a day.

The truth will set you free.  And we're the only ones at this point who can tell it.

Keep fighting, my fellow followers of Diogenes.  And I'll keep my ears out for stories from the wild of our government and its "insiders" in their natural habitat.


found this moron through Technorati's blog links to my blog.

He (I presume it's a he--not a lot of female GOP leading lights out there besides Peggy "The Ghoul" Noonan and Michelle "Vapid Idiot" Malkin) makes fun of me for my supposed failure to look closely at the poll methodology behind Bush's 34% approval rating. Maybe the poll was a wee bit low.

But I don't see a humble apology if the face of six new polls consistently placing Bush in the 37% to 39% percent range. And he's falling every minute.

Cheney, meanwhile, is at 18%. Isn't that below the approval rating of used car salesmen?

Finally--finally!--people are beginning to wake up.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

working from Kinko's

the internet where I am staying died, so i'm posting from Kinko's tonight. went to the White House, lincoln memorial and other places. The White House filled me with a sense of ominous energy, like the Death Star. It's a feeling I shouldn't have about my government, but I do. I looked proudly upon the Congress, but the White House filled me with dread. It also enraged me to think that a fake Texas incompetent coup leader was living in that glorious house full of history. It is a crying shame.

Then, after going to the Lincoln Memorial and reading what the words of a REAL president sound like, I was filled with awe for the history of the office of the presidency, and grief for the stain with which it is currently smeared.

I had many more thoughts today, but I can't dwell on them because Kinko's is extorting my money from me at ridiculous rates, and there are no intenret cafes in the area.

more tomorrow, if my internet gets fixed appropraiately.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Arrived in D.C. today

Haven't been out here since I was a little boy. Should be fun!

In the airport, I saw a Fox News store--the storefront was as glitzy, vapid and devoid of real content as the channel itself. Truly appalling. On the other hand, right next to it I saw an apparel store with touristy crap--but the shirts in the storefront were very political. Three of them were very liberal ("Can't wait 'til 2008"; "Don't Blame Me, I Voted For Kerry", etc.), while only one said "Support our President", and it was hidden.

Don't know if it means anything, but it was interesting point/counterpoint. Should be a fun dynamic to watch in this town.

Reading Markos and Jerome's book "Crashing the Gate" right now (read the first 50 pages on the plane)--it's pretty good so far.

More tomorrow...