Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Iraq is the New Rwanda: An End to Hypocrisy

Only a fool would deny at this point that Iraq is about to be plunged into a full-scale humanitarian catastrophe. Colin Powell says it's a civil war. Bush's meeting with Maliki has been postponed due to a crisis of confidence in Maliki's leadership. Iraq's government is in the midst of sectarian purges and the killing continues unabated.

It is impossible to overstate the gravity of the calamity we are facing here. If Iraq slips into full-scale civil war, the death toll could easily reach the high millions. The time has come for a complete paradigm shift.

The same forces that were at play in Rwanda are at play currently in Iraq. It is the perfect powderkeg. The ingredients that make up this witch's brew of genocide are similar in both:

1) Long-standing religious/ethnic feuds held in check for decades by authoritarian government;

2) The rise to power of government of the popular majority, ready to backlash against the longtime rule of a popular minority.

In Rwanda, it was the majority Hutus making reprisals on the minority Tutsis.

In Iraq, it is now the Shi'ites who hold control of the reins of power, making the same reprisals on the minority Sunnis who had long held power under Saddam's authoritarian regime--and the out-of-power Sunnis using all their might to make violence on the Shi'ites as well. And there is no one who can stop it at this point. Heck, there's nobody even trying to stop it.

The difference is that Rwanda's population is 8.5 million. Iraq's is 26 million. Even if the Sunni-Shi'a conflict does not spread into a wider sectarian war across the middle east, we are looking right down the barrel of a humanitarian disaster of epic proportions.

And that's a big, big deal not just for the people of Iraq, but for how we as Americans both Democrat and Republican relate to the situation. In the context of sheer humanitarian disasters, politics--and even accountability--becomes largely irrelevant. The only thing that matters is ACTION.

But action is a double-edged sword. The fact of humanitarian catastrophe and genocide in Iraq poses quandary and conundrum for BOTH political parties, who will be forced in this context to rethink and reshape their views either about their stances to the current conflict, or to their longtime ideological stances with regard to foreign policy.

For Democrats and Progressives, the problem is obvious. We were extremely upset when Clinton did nothing to stop the Rwanda genocide; we (mostly) cheered the efforts to stop the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo; we insist on the U.S. increasing its involvement in stopping the genocide in Darfur.

For Democrats, to insist that the U.S. pull all forces out of Iraq now is essentially to abandon the Iraqi people to yet another genocide while we sit on our hands.

For Republicans, the problem is also obvious. With sectarian violence spiraling out of control, they can no longer claim that the violence is due to terrorists or insurgents, even to their base. Republicans will have to talk about the issue in the language of humanitarian benevolence if they want to "stay the course". The big problem is, of course, that Republicans by and large have done NOTHING to quell genocides overseas, have dropped the ball on Darfur, and have railed against Democratic attempts to do so in Somalia and Kosovo.

Those Republicans who have refused to act on Darfur and who opposed engaging in Kosovo and Rwanda, must now display their commitment to isolationism by insisting on leaving Iraq. Those Democrats who have insisted on action in Darfur and Kosovo and Rwanda, must now admit the responsibility to do SOMETHING in Iraq.

But at this point, hypocrisy on both sides must end--and we must look at SOLUTIONS, rather than continuing to play politics. The elections are over: the work of governance now begins. Playing politics while genocide rages is not only futile, it is deeply immoral.

On both sides of the aisle, policy positions must not be related to the the "war on terror" or on "American Imperialism" or "immoral war"; it must be related to the stance on intervening in genocide. "Stay the courses" and "I told you sos" won't cut it anymore.

What goes for Iraq today, also goes for Darfur. Just as it went for Yugoslavia, and ESPECIALLY as it went for Rwanda.

As for me, I'm not advocating directly any one position or another. I'm simply advocating for a change in the debate.

Because the future not of just Iraq, but of victims of genocide hangs in the balance.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

NewtWorld: Betraying the Rot of Republicanism

We cannot rest. We cannot sit on our laurels.

Today we get a perfect chance to see everything that is wrong with Republican values, and why there can be no rest for Democrats and Progressives in our struggle move our country forward and pull it out of the morass that the GOP has put it into. It is so easy to focus on the evils of Bush, Cheney and the NeoConservatives, and to believe that we will be able to rest easier once they are gone and discredited. It is so easy for pundits liberal and conservative to believe that the GOP's problem was simply that they had gotten comfortable with power, and that the corruption and the failed Occupation of Iraq did them in. It is so easy to close our eyes as Americans both liberal and conservative, and hope that the Republicans "regain their sanity" and "put the adults back in charge."

But it's just not so. Everything about them is deadly to our democracy and our future. The Republican Party hasn't been sane since Eisenhower--and we cannot rest until the ideology of not only Bush, but of Newt, Reagan and Nixon are thoroughly discredited and rejected. Everything depends on it.

In the aftermath of the Republican election debacle, Conservatives of all stripes got together to look at what went wrong. While the voices were bound to be strident and at odds in any such debate, the Republican consensus has generally been that of Dick Armey: Return to the roots of Reagan--and especially Gingrich. "Put the adults back in charge, they say." "Bring back the sensible folks." "Return to our conservative roots!"

Well, here's what that "sensible adult" had to say yesterday:

MANCHESTER – Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich yesterday said the country will be forced to reexamine freedom of speech to meet the threat of terrorism.

Yes--in order to meet the permanent, all-purpose, never-ending threat of "terrorism" (and let's be honest: that threat will never go away completely), we will have to curb the most basic freedoms granted to us at the very beginning of the bill of rights 217 years ago. If this is returning to the roots of "Conservatism", I would really like to know what Gingrich thinks he's conserving--because the Bill of Rights obviously isn't on his list.

It gets worse, of course: he wants to regulate it specifically on the Internet to control bad "messages."

Gingrich, speaking at a Manchester awards banquet, said a "different set of rules" may be needed to reduce terrorists' ability to use the Internet and free speech to recruit and get out their message.

"We need to get ahead of the curve before we actually lose a city, which I think could happen in the next decade," said Gingrich, a Republican who helped engineer the GOP's takeover of Congress in 1994.

To "get out their message"? And how would Newt define the message? Would it include any message that purports to say bad things about America? Because I know some diarists who would doubtless fall into Newt's proposed net of censorship.

But that's just the Republican authoritarianism we've all come to know and love coming through. The truly repulsive part--the part that betrays the Republican character more thoroughly than anything I've seen recently--is what follows immediately afterward:

Gingrich sharply criticized campaign finance laws he charged were reducing free speech and doing little to fight attack advertising. He also said court rulings over separation of church and state have hurt citizens' ability to express themselves and their faith.

So let's be very clear about something: In the NewtWorld that "sane" Republicans want to reject Bush to return to, it's not just "Free Speech for Me, but Not for Thee." It's worse: Only money--and the allies of money--are worthy of free speech protections to the Republican mind. The "sane" Republican mind. The "adult" Republican mind. The Republican mind that all these conservatives want to return to.

All other speech gets the authoritarian boot--relegated off the Internet to "free speech zones", (and then presumably quietly shipped off to Guantanamo once nobody misses it anymore). Meanwhile, these "conservative adults" will do us the favor of "re-examining" that "Freedom of Religion" bit in the First Amendment, and declaring that it means shoving their version of morality down all of our throats.

And what of that famous "Contract with America" whose roots they supposedly want to return to? The one that supposedly won them the big elections in 1994, giving them a 12-year majority? Let's look at the first bullet point:

FIRST, require all laws that apply to the rest of the country also apply equally to the Congress

Except when it comes to unimportant things like Free Speech. In that case, the people can go to hell (oops, better capitalize that or those new "morality censors" will get me) Hell, but corporate intere$t$ will get to have their $ay with a$ much free $peech as they like. When John Edwards talks about Two Americas, this is exactly what he means--and he's right.

Because, of course, they don't mean what they say. They never have, and never will. And they haven't changed one bit. Which leads me to the second point of Newt's famous Contract:

SECOND, select a major, independent auditing firm to conduct a comprehensive audit of Congress for waste, fraud or abuse

Ironically, Newt is right. An cleansing audit of waste, fraud and abuse is exactly what we need.

Republican ideology has been an utter waste of the people's time, money and goodwill ever since Nixon.

Republican ideology has been at utter fraud, failing to accomplish anything productive for the American people, while spending all their hard-earned money and surpluses.

And Republican ideology has been a severe abuse of everything the American People are proud to stand for: our Constitution, or Way of Life, and our precious Freedoms.

The rot goes all the way to the core. It will not stop when Bush leaves office. It will not stop when the most corrupt Republicans are out of Congress. It will not stop even when/if Democrats hold all three branches of government. It's an entire ideology of waste, fraud and abuse that must not be allowed to rear its head again in our lifetimes.

Our very freedoms depend on it.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Unbelievable Cluelessness

The incompetence and cluelessness of the Administration on what has become by all accounts a loss of government control and full-blown civil war in Iraq would be hilarious were it not so tragic. Perhaps most painful of all is that the very same people who are responsible getting us into this mess are still responsible for how we are going to get out of it, even as the situation spirals beyond anyone's control--and they act as if they literally have no clue what is actually going there, and has been going on for some time.

According to Forbes Magazine today, Bush is moving to try to obtain more help and support from aliies:

Facing rising violence in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Bush opened a high-stakes diplomatic mission Monday seeking more help from allies amid growing impatience at home with the war.

"Obviously everyone would agree things are not proceeding well enough or fast enough" in Iraq, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said aboard Air Force One.

At this point, trying to get more international help is like trying to put the genie back in the bottle. Anyone with a brain from anywhere except the "serious" Washington & New York crowd have been telling Bush, Cheney and friends that we needed more international help years ago if this venture in Iraq was to succeed. Anyone with a brain knew that the Occupation needed to have an International, rather than American face. But the NeoCons would have none of it, because they wanted to keep the oil in the hands of American companies, and because they wanted to keep building permanent American bases.

But more appalling still is Hadley's comment about thing "not proceeding fast enough" in Iraq. They're proceeding quickly all right--Iraq is speeding into a full-blown huminitarian catastrophe that could make Rwanda and Darfur pale by comparison. If the intent of the Bushies is to beg for international help because there's a full-blown crisis, perhaps they should be using the language of crisis--unless, of course, they're so clueless that they don't believe they have a crisis on their hands.

And they obviously don't believe there is a crisis:

Bush left Monday for an overnight stop in Estonia ahead of a two-day NATO summit in Riga, Latvia. He then heads to Amman, Jordan, for talks Wednesday and Thursday with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

From Air Force One, the president spoke to the leaders of France and Egypt. Addressing Bush's upcoming talks with al-Maliki, Hadley said, "We're clearly in a new phase characterized by an increase in sectarian violence that requires us to adapt to that new phase."

We're in a new phase??? Earth to Hadley: We've been in that phase for quite a while now. Only the truly delusional would have believed that the situation over the last six months could be described any other way. What, indeed, does Hadley think "new" means in this context? If this article is correct, it would appear that this Administration woke up on Sunday morning and just now realized the hellhole that Iraq has become--and that it's not just a fight "agin' the terrists" anymore.

At least they realize that Baghdad is so dangerous that they have to hold the meeting in Jordan instead.

But what does this mean for American troops? If we're in a "new phase" of full-blown civil war, what possible good can American occupying forces do there, instead of U.N. and NATO peacekeepers and humanitarian aid? Shouldn't we be doing something different?

Not according to Bush:

He said it was unlikely Bush would address the issue of any U.S. troop withdrawal. "We're not at the point where the president is going to be in a position to lay out a comprehensive plan," Hadley said. He also said the administration did not believe that the violence in Iraq would turn into a wider regional war between Sunnis and Shiites.

Now that's rich: Not at a lay out a comprehensive plan. So what the Administration is saying here is that in three years they just haven't had the time or inclination to think about Iraq very much. That they planned out the path to Hell, but have no plan for the path Out of Hell. But they're more than content to let other people's children die while they twiddle their thumbs.

What if, after three years working on a disastrous project for your boss, she asked you what strategy you had in place to cut your losses, and you responded, "I'm not in a position to lay out a comprehensive plan." Not only would you be fired on the spot (hell, you'd have been fired years ago), but you might even get sued. But not these guys. They get a free pass. Disgusting.

Hadley continues:

"These two leaders (Bush and al-Maliki) need to be talking about how to do that and what steps Iraq needs to take and how we can support" Iraq's leaders, Hadley said.

Excuse me? Need to be talking? I thought talking was for weak-kneed liberals. I thought Conservatives were Men of Action.

The time for talking about the steps Iraq needs to take was three years ago. Two years ago. One year ago. Six months ago. Today, the only "talking" that we need to do is to figure out any way possible to stop one of the greatest humanitarian crises of our lifetimes from taking place. It's time to ACT--to get the soldiers out of the way except as bodyguards, and get the humanitarians and diplomats to take charge from here.

But the kicker is really this:

He also said the administration did not believe that the violence in Iraq would turn into a wider regional war between Sunnis and Shiites.

That's because Hadley is a clueless fucktard who wastes valuable oxygen with no brain cells or redeeming value to the planet. The same goes for everyone he works with. And six months from now, we'll be hearing how "Nobody could have predicted that there would be a regional sectarian and ethnic civil war across the entire Middle East..."

The article finishes with explanations of how we are trying to encourage our allies in NATO to spend as much of their GDPs on National Defense as we do--failing with remarkable cluelessness to see that:

1) Increased military spending will not and cannot possible solve this problem; and

2) Even if more military spending could solve the problem, increasing spending on military won't do a damn thing absent the political will of those nations to engage in imperial conquests of non-threatening foreign nations--or the desire to bail the United States out of a disaster of its own making, while still being subject to the control of U.S. generals.


So what we have, in sum, is an Administration that still believes that anything resembling progess is being made in Iraq.

An Administration that has only now woken up to the realization that we might be in some sort of "new phase" of sectarian violence.

An Administration that thinks that it might be a good time just now to start talking to Iraq's powerless, nominal figurehead-of-state about what to do.

An Administration that is too lackadaisical to draw up any sort of "comprehensive plan" just yet.

An Administration that thinks the answer to this problem is increased military spending.

And an Administration that didn't know the difference between Sunnis and Shi'ites before they smashed up the place, and doesn't think there will be wider regional civil war there now, any more than they thought the levees would fail in New Orleans.

At this point, there's really only one relevant question left: When do the adults get to take charge again, and how much damage will be done by these intellectual and moral cretins in the meantime?

Friday, November 24, 2006

If it is Justice you seek...

Justice. Honor. Duty. Accountability. Patriotism. Dignity. Rule of Law. Defense of the Constitution. Respect for the victims. Setting a precedent for future leaders. Displaying to the world our sanity and the intrinsic strength of our institutions. Justice, in short.

All of these are arguments for the impeachment of the band of criminals who have called themselves the Leaders of the Free World for the last six odd years. These arguments are more than powerful. They are undeniable. Incontrovertible. Unshakeable. They carry a a weight of moral inevitability that seems to make failure to impeach a cowardice of the highest order; a betrayal of Americasn principles; a shirking of duty; a shrinking from honor;; an admission of defeat for the rule of law; a contempt for the memories of the victims of this cabal, a failure of accountability; a display of tolerance for criminal behavior to the rest of the world.

Before these arguments, attempts to appeal to political necessities seem vain forms of persuasion at best; they seem to be the appeasing words of a Benedict Arnold more concerned with political and diplomatic hackery than with the principles that drove us to be interested in politics in the first place. Markos' argument that we should not waste any further time on the "Worst. President. Ever." would seem a failure of public justice so enormous that intransigence against it appears to be an act of the utmost moral necessity.

And all this would indeed be true--IF you believe the unpleasant fiction that we have only two more years within which to hold these criminals to account for their actions. . For herein lies the crux of the matter. The soul of this debate turns on the speed with which one demands that justice be fulfilled--and the difference between Justice, Revenge, and a pure Political Power Grab hangs in the balance.

For the world is watching. The world is watching to see the intent of the Democratic Party, and of the Americans incensed with the Bush Mafia. Will we be content with justice? Or will see seek immediate revenge for the insults of the past six years, and for the impeachment of our President before Bush’s Selection? Or, worst of all, will we seek a political coup d’etat and the installation of our own President, thereby contradicting the will of the electorate?

Remember the old adage about the slow but inevitable turn of the wheels of justice: they turn slowly, but they do turn. Eichmann, Goehring and the other puppetmasters of the Nazi regime were not held to account as current leaders of Germany, but rather as its disgraced former leaders. Slobodan Milosevic was ousted in a democratic election and sent packing from the former Yugoslavia before his eventual imprisonment at the Hague. Augusto Pinochet had long been deposed as dictator of Chile before justice came knocking at his door. The Gang of Four in China had long been removed from power before they were tried and executed.

Throughout history, justice has rarely been done upon current heads of state—but it has often been done on former heads of state. But it was no less an act justice on account of the delay. And the justice has been appropriately severe. I would much rather see George Bush and Dick Cheney standing trial before an impartial judge and jury in an American Court for treasons against their oath of office and against the Constitution as civilians, or before the Hague for their war crimes as former leaders, than see them tried ceremonially in the House and the Senate--where the stakes are actually lower, and the jury bound up in partisan politics.

And then there are the alternatives to consider: an impeachment of George Bush that leaves Dick Cheney in office is hardly a show of accountability or justice. To hold Bush accountable while leaving Cheney free would actually be to hang the puppet and to leave the puppeteer to walk free; to catch the little fish, and to allow the big fish to swim away.

But to impeach both in this partisan political environment and create a President Pelosi would be nothing short of a vile partisan power grab, contrary to the wishes of the American Electorate, which never elected her to higher office than that of a representative. It would be a shameful coup d’etat, and a truly terrible precedent that would forever alter American politics. Imagine the karmic consequences of a party long out of power, using the process of impeachment to propel itself into the executive office without an intervening Executive election. History is rife with such political purgings, and the results are never good. Think very carefully about whether that is a road down which you want to walk—all in the interest of speeding the inevitable turn of the wheels of justice.

Indeed, within this context, insistence on immediate impeachment sounds much more like a desire for Revenge, than a desire for Justice. Or even worse, an outright cynical power grab that I cannot and will not support.

But if we are patient, our moral imperatives and our political expediencies need not conflict. We can do our duty and secure our future simultaneously.

If we are patient, we can pursue justice—without revenge. We can pursue honor without base passion. We can pursue duty without the taint of a political power grab. We can achieve accountability without vengeance. Patriotism without paranoia. Dignity without impatient rage. Rule of Law without rush to judgment. Defense of the Constitution without tarnishing the very system it was written to hold in place. Respect for the victims without besmirching their memories. We can set a precedent for future presidents without creating even more terrible precedents than the ones we are trying to negate, and we can show the world the patience and fortitude that truly defines the strength of our national character.

But above all, remember that the world our children will live in, will be affected by the consequences of what we do today—the consequences foreseen and unforeseen alike. And consider carefully whether it is truly Justice that you seek when you call for immediate impeachment.

As for me, I will wait for Henry Waxman and Charlie Rangel to do their work, and for the wheels of Justice to turn as they will. If they turn quickly enough to allow for impeachment without the taint of revenge, then so be it. But if it takes longer, I will remain equally placid.

For my concern is the doing of Justice, rather than the Speed with which that Justice is done.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

LOL @ McCain

I thought I wouldn't post today...and then I did a quick check at FreeRepublic. I found something there so short, sweet and perfect that I felt I just had to repost it here just for posterity's sake.

Here it is:

McCain: More Troops Need to Die for a Failed Policy

"McCain Says U.S. Troops Dying for 'Failed Policy' in Iraq"--headline, Bloomberg, Nov. 19

"McCain Says More Troops Needed in Iraq"--headline, Associated Press, Nov. 19

As one Freeper poignantly said:

Don't we all just love politicians who talk out of both sides of their mouth -- on the same day.

I really don't have much to add to this, except that Charlie Rangel is a genius. More slimeballs than just McCain are going to be forced into this ridiculously paradoxical (and downright evil) position before long.

Pass the popcorn.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Tenuous Thread

George Will was right. I say this not in an attempt to be cute or contrarian, but in an attempt to be honest--and to give my ideological foes credit where credit is due. In the end, it was all about Katrina. As Will said on September 12, 2005, in an ironic twist on the anniversary of 9/11:

Americans tend to believe in God and to disbelieve in government. Time will tell how many are moved to rethink one or both of those tendencies in the aftermath of Katrina. It is, however, likely that the storm's lingering reverberations will alter the nation's mind far more than 9/11 did.

He was right in more ways than he knew. It was Katrina that lost this election for Republicans. It was Katrina, more than 9-11, that changed the landscape of American politics--probably permanently. Most importantly, it was Katrina that, while confirming some of George Will's most fundamental beliefs about human nature and the underlying essence of conservative thought, dashed and discredited for a generation the practices and principles of conservative government.

"Conservatism," you see, is a strange yet simple beast when properly understood. It is fundamentally distinct from its ugly red-headed stepchildren known as NeoConservatism or Free-Market Republicanism, and it claims as its ideological forbears names far greater than Goldwater or Buckley: Cato, Cicero, Hume, Hobbes, Adams, Hamilton and others. The dictionary entry for "conservatism" is disarmingly straightforward:

Conservatism: the disposition to preserve or restore what is established and traditional and to limit change.

Unfortunately, while this definition does capture the end of the conservative vision, it fails to capture its beginnings: the worldview that gives rise to the ideology. It fails to answer the great Why. Why limit change? Why cling to established orders and orthodoxies, even when those orthodoxies are shown to have caused enormous pain, torment and injustice? Why undermine the hope and promise of progress, when it is progressives who have been responsible for every important advance in our civilization?

The answer is most elegantly expressed in the works of Hume: Conservatives cling to orthodoxy because they believe that mankind's grasp on civilization is tenuous at best: that Man is fundamentally evil--a sinner--and that society exists only as that necessary bond between essentially self-interested parties. That Authority and Law are to be respected for its own sake, regardless of any individual authority's or law's inherent moral legitimacy. Because, in the conservative mind, on the other side of disrespect for authority--even if cloaked in the best of liberal intentions--lies Chaos.

As Will says:
In the dystopia that is New Orleans as this is written, martial law is a utopian aspiration. Granted, countless acts, recorded and unrecorded, of selflessness and heroism attest to the human capacity for nobility. But this, too, is true: The swiftness of New Orleans' descent from chaos into barbarism must compound the nation's nagging anxiety that more irrationality is rampant in the world just now than this nation has the power to subdue or even keep at bay....

In 1651, in "Leviathan," Hobbes said that in "the state of nature," meaning in the absence of a civil society sustained by government, mankind's natural sociability, if any, is so tenuous that life is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short." Thoughtful conservatives—meaning those whose conservatism arises from reflections deeper than an aversion to high marginal tax rates—are conservative because they understand how thin and perishable is the crust of civilization, and hence how always near society's surface are the molten passions that must be checked by force when they cannot be tamed by socialization.

George Will was right about one thing: the thread that weaves together the social fabric is tenuous at best. The line that divides civilization from social catastrophe is thin and perishable. Katrina proved that postulate with undeniable potency.

But he and his friends are right for all the wrong reasons. Painfully so. Obviously so. So obvious was the discrepancy that Conservatives were resoundingly defeated in the elections that followed by an American electorate that could plainly see what was blind to them.

For the lesson of Katrina was not that civilization will be destroyed by barbarous hoi polloi who behave like selfish animals in the absence of authority, but that a barbarous government of self-interested, conservative plutocrats can destroy civilization in the absence of a liberal belief in the common good. The lesson was, in short, that the line between civilization and social dysfunction is indeed a tenuous one--and "Conservative" government will erase that line every time.

And it was not just in New Orleans that taught us this lesson. The lesson of Katrina was learned in Iraq as well, where both the American and Iraqi nations saw what damage could be done to civilization by a Conservative Government run on behalf of self-interested ideologues and oil magnates.

It was learned in Afghanistan, where the American and Afghan people's saw what havoc could be wreaked by corrupt, self-interested officials more interested in serving the needs of Exxon and Unocal than in stopping poppy production, furthering human needs, or catching the world's #1 criminal.

It was learned by the watchers of our harried Constitution, who have seen the most vital protections of our Democracy stripped away in the Quixotic Conservative quest to grasp at the shimmering rainbow mirage called "Security."

It was learned by our middle class, who saw their economic fortunes fall and their families torn asunder through longer work hours and higher costs of living, in the name of "free markets" and self-interested corporate greed.

It was learned by our family farmers and ranchers, who saw their tax dollars pay for corporate welfare for their Big Ag competitors who slowly squeezed them out of business, while watching the Conservative politicians they put into office pretend to protect them by eliminating an Estate Tax that touched them not at all.

It was learned in our nation's pocketbook, where the politics of venal self-interest have placed our entire nation in hock to its ideological adversaries in China and Saudi Arabia.

It was learned by our energy watchers, who have seen that Conservative failure to act toward progress on this front have put us one revolution in Saudi Arabia and one Gulf Coast hurricane away from a Second Dark Age.

All of these are the lessons of Katrina. The lessons of the tenuous thread; the lessons of the vanishing line.

Americans have seen the same vision that Conservatives see: the effacing of that line and the fraying of that thread; the dissipation of civilization into social disorder. Katrina and her horrid sisters in Iraq, Afghanistan, our heartland, our middle class, our Constitution, our energy supplies and our collective pocketbook have forced that vision into our minds, like an endless series of bad mushrooms too quickly ingested. We have seen that George Will was RIGHT.

And we, as Americans, know whom to blame now. We blame George Will. We blame all his friends. We blame his horrific ideology, and his fundamental misinterpretation of even more fundamental truths.

Nor are we are likely to forget the lessons we have learned.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Slow Creep of Fascism

First it was "Impeachment NOW".  Now it's the UCLA Police Force.  Allow me to make a plea to the Progressive community: Stop focusing on the bad apples at the top, and start focusing on the ideology that put them there.

It seems inevitable that once every few months, in spite of my better instincts, I feel the need to attempt to redirect the community's attention from an almost monomaniacal focus on the principals involved, toward a more productive focus on the principles we are trying to defend.

The latest incident at UCLA provides the perfect example.  While everyone focuses on the police involved and assumes that any sane person would understand at first glance that excessive force was used, they fail to realize just how much public support there is for such behavior.  And there is a LOT of public support for just the sort of thing shown in the UCLA video.

In case you had any doubt, please read the full comments thread appended to the YouTube video.  What you find there should frighten you even more than the video itself.  Below are just a few examples; if you read the thread, you will find many, many more:

by bugmehard: the guy repeatedly disobeyed direct orders from police. if you have the strength to scream about "the patriot act" then you have the strength to stand up. he was more interested in making a scene than cooperating.

by valtaherra: I hope if I'm an obsinate asshole and mindlessly refuse reasonable requests from police(or a reasonable facsimile that is granted similar authority wherever I might be) for no reason whatsoever, I hope I get tazed too. Assholes like him deserve a tazing or two.

by HLEUSCHNER10:the cops did nothing out of policy, the stupid kid didn't listen and made a big scene what where the cops supose to do, let it happen? sure buddy, and for those of you who thought it was too much force, i bet you have never had a spanken before, nor did the kid in this video otherwise he wouldn't have 'spat in the face of authority' -show some dignity sheesh

by BigTymeBruin: Good job with your word choice. Way to use the term "faggot" here. You are pathetic. HLEUSCHNER10 is right, spit in the face of authority, and it will spit right back at ya, with ELECTRIC SHOCKS! He deserved it.

by Captzam:What if this rambling idiot was visiting an elementary school and scaring your children? Thank the University for having police on campus. Otherwise, these naive college students would be victimized left and right. And don't think it doesn't happen!  [This is particularly lovely...]

by clearlyunseen:that guy totally deserved it, these cops did the right thing. Some stupid over zealous college student trying to be a martyr. And then the stupid college students getting swept in the bullshit, fucking sheeple.

by Ubiquitous2843:Yeah this guy is a total whiner. I bet he's a liberal...The officers took enough of a chance just by letting the loser live. He should have taken a bullet to the head....If the cops had any balls at all they would have just shot the little moron, hopefully square in the heart. People need to learn to listen to authority. Put losers like this out of their misery. I hope these cops find this loser's parents and kill them for raising such an idiot.  

And there's a LOT more where those came from.

Fascism, you see, doesn't usually start from the top: it only succeeds because the populace has been frightened into a rabid desire to comply with authoritarianism.  The secret police would never rise to power, and the dictators never succeed, without strong popular support for their tyrannical policies.

That's why I'm not concerned about the specific cops in this instance.  They'll get their proper comeuppance by being fired, and quite possibly jailed.  What I'm worried about is the culture that produces these comments--because without that culture of authoritarian sadism, these abuses of behavior would not be possible.

Putting these bad cops in jail will do nothing to stop that culture from producing more where those came from--any more than killing more "terrorists" in Iraq will stop THAT culture from producing more where THOSE came from.  It's the same problem in a different place.

And the same thing goes for impeaching Bush and Cheney.  It may be gratifying.  It is certainly necessary.  But it doesn't solve the problem that brought them and their ideology to power in the first place.  The "Freeper" problem.

And as scared as I am of letting people like these cops get away with their behavior, I am MORE scared of allowing authoritarians like these commenters and their Republican blogger friends, to dictate public policy by putting cops--and Presidents--who are beholden to them in power.

In fact, prosecuting those who have committed these types of offenses to common sense, human rights, and basic decency, while certainly a matter of duty, honor and justice, can even backfire temporarily by making these authoritarian types feel even more persecuted.

And THAT is why the Number ONE priority must be, at all times, to address the ROOT causes of that authoritarianism.  Because without it, the behavior of these individuals would not be possible.  We certainly show our understanding of these principles in the Middle East, when we call for ending our use of oil that props up corrupt, stifling, terrorism-engendering regimes.  It is time that we turned that focus on Home.

We must end the FEAR that causes the desire for unnaturally authoritarian reactions to imaginary offenses.

We must end the RACISM that causes authoritarian reactions upon innocent people to be justified on the basis of their looks.

We must end the INSTITUTIONAL POVERTY that generates crime, and allows authoritarians to feel justified in their fear and racism.

We must end the ABUSIVE INTERNATIONAL POLICIES that generate anti-American hatred, leading to a desire for authoritarianism to protect them from foreign elements.

We must end the RABID ANTI-INTELLECTUALISM OF THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT, which prevents the critical thinking necessary to avoid authoritarianism.

We must end the ASSAULT ON THE MIDDLE CLASS that makes average Americans feel like their lives and families are slipping away from them for reasons they cannot understand, and turn toward authoritarianism to attempt to solve their problems.

For without doing these, we will spend an eternity bringing each individual authoritarian to justice, without bringing authoritarian fascism ITSELF to heel.  And eventually we will lose the battle.

Let's keep our eyes on the prize.  On a society where true justice will prevail because the people stand with justice--rather than justice being forced upon them and the authoritarian leaders they support.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Triple-Crossed! Martinez won't actually run the RNC...

Ahhhh, the tricks Republicans will play.  We all saw the Republican outrage over what the conservative bloggers called Hispandering and Hispanicking by selecting Florida Senator Mel Martinez to chair the RNC, instead of their general favorite, failed Maryland senate candidate Michael Steele.  There was, in addition to the outrage, disbelief about the idea that Martinez would actually hold on to his Senate seat as well, and try to do two jobs at the same time.

It looked as if the GOP had double-crossed its base to pander to the Hispanic--and more particularly the Cuban--voter.  And they had...or so it seemed.

But now, it's a triple-cross.  If we actually go down the rabbit hole, it looks like the behavior of the RNC just keeps getting curiouser and curiouser.  At this point, I would be truly embarrassed to be a registered Republican--just on the basis of these shenanigans currently taking place.

From Forbes Magazine on the supposed appointment of Martinez:

Florida Sen. Mel Martinez, a prominent Hispanic who previously served in President Bush's Cabinet, will assume the high-profile post of Republican National Committee general chairman, GOP officials said Monday.

Martinez, 60, will remain in the Senate when he takes the reins of the RNC in January, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid pre-empting a formal announcement. The first-term senator will be the face of the party, focusing on fundraising, outreach and travel to promote the GOP agenda.

At the same time, Mike Duncan, the RNC's current general counsel and a former party treasurer, will be named chairman and will be put in charge of running the everyday operations at the party's Capitol Hill headquarters, the officials said.

So, what this means is that Martinez won't actually be in charge.  He will be the "public face" of the RNC and perform fundraising duties, but Mike Duncan, longtime RNC operative, will actually be running the show.  If there was any doubt that we have what the Freepers call a Hispander here before, there's no longer any doubt.

And just to be perfectly clear: Dean runs his own show at the DNC.  There's no split chairmanship there.  Mehlman also ran his own show at the RNC.  No split.

Now, a split chairmanship of the national committees is not unprecedented, but it is pretty rare:

Splitting the chairmanship in two is not new.

President Reagan once chose Sen. Paul Laxalt of Nevada to be general chairman while Frank Fahrenkopf was chairman, and President Clinton initially had Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut and Don Fowler share the Democratic Party role in the same fashion.

Kerry Feehery, a Martinez spokeswoman, and her counterparts at the RNC declined to comment.

No doubt they did decline.  So Martinez is going to be in charge of fundraising and be the public face.  The only problem?  He's not exactly the best fundraiser, having managed to raise only $1,909,404 in 2006 to help out Republican candidates.

Meanwhile, of course, his record in just a few short years in the Senate is one of incredible bungling and incompetence--mentioned outright in the Forbes article, surprisingly enough:

Martinez served as Bush's secretary of Housing and Urban Development from 2001 until 2003, when he resigned to run for the Senate seat left open by Democratic Sen. Bob Graham's retirement.

In a race marked by hard-hitting television ads and squabbling over Iraq, Martinez was elected with 49 percent of the vote - a slim margin that was credited to Bush's win in that state.

Early in his Senate tenure, Martinez faced a politically unflattering situation.

A Martinez aide wrote a one-page unsigned memo that laid out the political benefits of getting involved in the fate of Terri Schiavo, a Florida woman whose end-of-life battle became a rallying cry for conservatives. Senate Republicans disavowed the memo. Its author resigned.

Before serving in the Cabinet, Martinez's national profile was raised as the drama surrounding a Cuban boy named Elian Gonzalez unfolded in 2000.

The top county official in Orange County, Fla., at the time, Martinez argued on national television talk shows and before a U.S. Senate committee that the boy should stay in the United States. He also invited Gonzalez to Walt Disney (nyse: DIS - news - people ) World before the boy was returned to Cuba.

So let me get this straight: the Republicans needed a Hispanic name to pander to the Hispanic vote--but they didn't need one bad enough to select a Mexican, instead of a Cuban.

They needed a Hispanic to be in a position of power to pander to the Hispanic vote--but they didn't need one bad enough to actually give him power.

They needed a person to do some fundraising for the RNC while the white people who got the real respect in the RNC did the dirty work--but they didn't need one bad enough to get a good fundraiser.

AND they managed to infuriate their xenophobic base all at the same time.

This whole thing was, in short, a triple-cross of stunning arrogance, mendacity, and sheer stupidity.  But that seems to be the Republican trifecta these days, doesn't it?

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Martinez Disaster: The Fallout

OK, now this is hilarious.  There are two wonderful threads to read to gauge conservative reaction to the Mel Martinez pick for RNC head: one at Free Republic, and the other at RedState.

Let me put it this way: they ain't happy.  To put it quite mildly.  Between the appointment of Martinez and the firing of Rumsfeld, we've got ourselves a Harriet Miers situation all over again.  Conservatives are more pissed than ever--and Karl Rove still can't understand what happened.  The wheels have finally started to come off the train--and the recriminations against Bush are in full swing.

For your daily dose of schadenfreude, check out the comments below, taken from RedState and FreeRepublic:

RedStater Bob Frazier says:

This shows they have learned nothing.

The Republican leadership has clearly learned nothing from the election results Tuesday.

Could they have made a worse pick?

I tell you, for the next two years we are going to have to think of President Bush as a democrat and act accordingly. My hope is complete government gridlock for two years.

RedStater OldLineGOP says:

Gridlock doesn't happen when the executive and legislative branches are held by the same party. Look at what Bush wants, and what the Dems who will soon control Congress want. Well, they both agree on eliminating our national borders, which Bush has deemed to be his most important legacy, even more important than the failed war in Iraq. Conservative are angry because we got nothing accomplished when we controlled Congress and the Presidency. It's almost like we had...well..."gridlock." That's because Bush is practically a Democrat, and is at odds with most Republicans. I stand by my original belief that Bush is glad the GOP lost the election.

Freeper TulsaRamjet says:

This is a disaster....Okay, who do I start emailing to express my "displeasure"?...does actually someone think that this centrist is gonna gain the Hispanic vote?  It won't.  '08 disaster is guaranteed with this choice.

RedStater Mayhem:

This has little to do with the actualy influence of the RNC chair and plenty to do with the mindset behind the choice. It shows that Bush still thinks he's right; has learned nothing from the election (except that we should become MORE moderate); and that he will go to all lengths to ensure his view of amnesty is shoved down our throats.

This is Harriet Miers all over again, except this time Bush has absolute say.

Freeper ShawTaylor:

Apparently the Rep leadership has chosen to go for the so called "moderate middle"...?

IMHO conservatives need to consider forming a whole new political party.

Freeper Fritzy:

I am SO ready for a new party...

Do you know how to work Wikipedia? If so, we can get crackin' in a few hours.

RedStater Spainishirish:

No wonder Pelosi is so adamant against impeachment!  Why destroy the gift that keeps on giving?

Finally, RedStater EZontheEyez:

I mean...if competance is not an issue for RNC Chair - who is charged with the political lives of Republicans in 2008 - then surely he is willing to play these games with a next Supreme Court nomination. Hello future justice Connie Callahan.

Good grief.

Let's impeach Dubya now, before this gets any worse. I'm almost willing to let him be dragged before a war crimes tribunal if it will get him out of the White House, pronto.

Folks, that's UGLY.  Really ugly.

The GOP civil war is here--and it's gonna really, really messy.  dKos vs. Lieberman will look like gentlemen's tennis match in comparison by the time it's all over.

Meanwhile, I mean what I said before: realignment is coming one way or another.  The current GOP coalition of xenophobic racists, Christianist fanatics, neoconservative imperialists and wealthy corporatists is essentially over.  They can't hold their various bases, and still hope to talk to the middle at all.

Should be fun to watch--and good for America.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

$88,382,000 a year--let's get our money's worth

As we enter legislative year 2007, a couple of numbers are worth repeating:

#1: $88,382,000.  That's how much the salaries of each member of Congress and Senate cost the American people per year (each Congressman and Senator makes $165,200 a year).

#2: 72.  That's the number of days spent by the 2006 Congress actually legislating and doing the business of the People of the United States.

That 72 days was the shortest legislative work year in TWENTY YEARS.  To quote OMB Watch:

In 2006, the leadership has decided to devote 72 days, or a little over two months, to official legislative business. When Mondays and Fridays are included in this total (voting generally only takes place Tuesday through Thursday), this number rises to 125 days. Since 1985, Congress has allocated an average of 152 days per session (including Mondays and Fridays) to legislative work.

Now, you might say, it was a tough election year.  But it's not just this year; it's pretty much this whole Republican government:

The election notwithstanding, Congress, it seems, spends too little time actually in session and it shows. In 2000, the House and Senate completed only two appropriations bills by the Oct. 1 deadline. In 2002, no bill was completed on time, and Congress worked through February--almost halfway into the new fiscal year - finishing appropriations work only after passing 12 continuing resolutions to keep the government afloat.

Now, given that it was a Republican Congress, I suppose that we can be thankful that we got a reprieve.  After all, every day they weren't in session was a day they couldn't attempt to remove another civil liberty, give another tax break to the wealthy, cut another needed social program, or authorize another war.

But the people's business needs doing.  It needed doing yesterday.  And it needs a government that's WORTH the $88,382,000 that we spend on it every year in the Legislative.  That's a pretty high collective salary, after all.

We need Executive oversight.

We need economic reforms to help WAGE-EARNERS and the middle class.

We need healthcare reforms leading to universal coverage.

We need campaign finance reform, leading to some sort of eventual public financing.

We need redistricting reform.

We need investigations into ongoing illegal activity.

We need legislation to reduce emissions leading to global warming.

We need serious reality-based planning to get our troops out of Iraq with minimal damage to the region.

And so much more.  More, in fact, than any one Congress could possibly achieve after working a full 365 days a year--even without a hostile President and thin majorities.


And so, as we talk about keeping our new Democratic Congress' feet to the fire in terms of policy, let's also make sure that they actually show up to work now that the good guys are in charge.

Goodness knows the country needs help.  And goodness knows we pay enough for it.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Haven't We Forgotten Something?

Today, millions of Americans are off of work to officially observe Veterans' Day.  Therefore, I want to wish all of our brave men and women fighting for America overseas a wonderful Veterans' Day today and tomorrow--and I ask the liberal blogosphere to join me.

As we give thanks to our Democratic candidates and volunteers for their sacrifices, let us not forget that these sacrifices pale in contrast to those made by our veterans in uniform.  They're sacrificing their lives for America--each and every one of them, and we owe them the deepest debt of gratitude.  

For it is not their fault that the America they are giving their lives to defend, sent them to die, be wounded, or watch their buddies do likewise for a needless war of aggression against an impotent enemy.  Nor it is ours, as Progressives.

It is not their fault that the Commander in Chief that they swore to give their lives to serve is an incompetent fool and a sociopath.  Nor is it ours, as Progressives.

It is not their fault that their Vice-President betrayed their trust by ruining what little chance there was of securing a peaceful and lasting Iraqi Government by denying Iraqi citizens basic services to enrich Halliburton.  Nor is it ours, as Progressives.

It is not their fault that their civilian Secretary of Defense, who has not seen or tasted combat in his miserable life, tried to run the military like a greedy CEO runs a corporation: downsizing the employees on the ground and cutting staff, while enriching the upper crust.  Nor is it ours, as Progressives.

It is not their fault that the one-party government at whose behest they have served, denied them the body armor and other equipment that their lives depend on.  Nor is it ours, as Progressives.

It is not their fault that the Republican Party in whose trust they were placed, was allowed to subvert their patriotic and necessary mission in Afghanistan to engage in the misadventure in Iraq.  Nor is it ours, as Progressives.

It is not their fault that the civilian leadership that dictates their actions, prevented them from capturing or killing Bin Laden when they could have.  Nor is it ours, as Progressives.

It is not their fault that the Opposition Party they should have been able to count on to ensure that they were not taken advantage of, failed spectacularly to do ITS duty when it really mattered.  Nor is it ours, as Progressives.

It is not their fault that the country they serve has seen fit to cut their benefits and their medical coverage, as thanks for their service.  Nor is it ours, as Progressives.

It is not their fault that the American citizens they have sworn to protect only woke up recently to the horrors of their experiences overseas and voted to do something about it when the problem has become beyond the ken of almost anyone to fix.  Nor is it ours, as Progressives.

And finally, it is not their fault that the media upon which they should have been able to rely to accurately report the facts currently on the ground and even save them from this mess in the first place, failed perhaps most spectacularly of all.  Nor is it ours, as Progressives.

Indeed, our brave men and women in uniform have attempted to accomplish their ever-changing missions IN SPITE of all these obstacles.

So today, let us STAND WITH THE TROOPS.  As we ought--and as we always have.

And let us do it by continuing to stand up to all those who have undermined them at every opportunity: the Commander-in-Chief, the Vice President, the former Secretary of Defense, the Republican Party in the Legislative, the DLC Democrats, the apathy of much of the American Public, and the craven corporate media.

And let us NEVER forget them.  If you wish, please consider joining Operation USO Care Package to give these heroes a small piece of holiday cheer.

And let's keep fighting for them here at home at every level.  It's the least we can do to thank our Veterans.  They deserve it.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

This GOP is DOOMED. Three Deadly Numbers Prove It

They're done.  Stick a fork in them.  It's over.

There is a shocking poll that should be a wake-up call to conservatives and Republicans nationwide.  If I were a Republican strategist today, my heart would be in my throat.

From The Corner at the conservative National Review Online:

A survey of 1200 likely voters taken in 12 swing districts this past Sunday and Monday might explain why Republicans might have a long night ahead of them. The veteran GOP pollster says he has "never seen anything like it."  Asked who is more likely to cut taxes for the middle class - 42 percent said Democrats, 29 picked Republicans.  Who is more likely to reduce the deficit?  47 - Democrats, 22 - Repubicans.  And, who is more likely to control spending? Democrats - 38, Republicans - 21.  In the past, even if Repubicans didn't win some race or another, they were more trusted on taxes and spending issues.

What this means is that the GOP in its current form has NO reason to exist, outside of authoritarianism, corporate welfare and religious fascism.  The so-called Reagan Revolution is officially DEAD.

Not that the "Reagan Revolution" actually did what it said it would, but that's another story; we're talking about the Republican brand here, not the actual facts.

But these numbers bear repeating.

On BALANCED BUDGETS, swing voters picked DEMOCRATS--by over 2 to 1.

On TAX CUTS FOR THE MIDDLE CLASS, swing voters picked DEMOCRATS--by almost 2 to 1.

On CUTTING SPENDING, swing voters picked DEMOCRATS--by almost 2 to 1.

Tax cuts.  Cutting spending.  Balanced Budgets.  DEMOCRATS.

I really can't overstate the stunning importance of this development.  I mean, WE have known this for a long time.  But the fact that it has finally made it into the consciousness of the average American voter is proof that the GOP's woes are far more devastating than they can even imagine at this point.

Predictably, the few Republicans paying attention to this are apoplectic.  From one commenter on RedState:

For the love of all that is holy ... How could any sane American who has at least heard one political speech in the last 20 years come to those conclusions?!?!

I can understand doubting the veracity of the current crop of R's in congress, but to actually believe the D's will reduce spending and cut taxes? It boggles the mind.

There is not only massive evidence that this has never been done by D's, but thier very own words during this election cycle openly state the opposite (ref Rangel interview).

I know it's bad form the [sic] blame the voter, but if this is the level of intelligence out there we have some very deep problems to overcome.

They're in a delusional state of denial.  Pointing out to them how Pelosi has promised middle class tax cuts at the expense of the super-rich does no good.  Neither does pointing to Bill Clinton's reduced federal spending or balanced budgets.  Their faith is shaken--and they will not recover.

But what does this mean?  I'll tell you.  It means REALIGNMENT.  In a big way.

The GOP is now no longer the Party of Reagan.  Cutting spending and balancing budgets are out the window.  Tax cuts for the middle class have been replaced with tax cuts for the rich.

All the GOP has now is authoritarianism (suspending habeas corpus, suspending civil liberties, installing the Patriot Act, etc.); corporate welfare (tax cuts for the rich, giveaways to Exxon and Halliburton); and religious fascism (abstinence-only education, denying a woman's right to choose, etc.).

And you know what?  That's enough to carry the Freepers and most of the South.  But it won't hold the West or the Midwest.  And it sure as heck won't hold most of America.

In short, the GOP is TOAST if they can't move these numbers.  The raison d'etre of their party for the last 20 years is essentially gone.  Structurally, their goose is cooked far beyond these 2006 elections.

It's not a pretty day for the Republicans--but it IS a pretty day for America.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

It's Up to US, Not to the Leadership: More on Overton Windows

Now that our victory is firmly established and we've gotten the appropriate gloating out of the way, the celebrations are subsiding and the fizz is disappearing from the champagne.

The time now comes to realize the work that lies before us, and to establish our attitude for the coming two years of MAJORITY in the House and Senate.

And that, my friends, brings good news and bad news.  Yes, I can give you platitudes about how our battle is far from over; how we must hold our party's feet to the fire; how the GOP machine is anything but beaten; how Rove's deck is still stacked heavily against us; how K-Street continues to ruin our lives.

But that's not what I'm here to do today.  Those things are obvious.

No, today I call for calm.  I call for patience.

Above all, I call for those who will be frustrated after vainly expecting swift recriminations against the Bush Regime and massive public policy shifts to watch contentedly as we shift the Overton Window OUR way, slowly but surely.

In case you don't remember what the Overton Window is, allow me to quote a major chunk (if you've already read it, feel free to skip!) from my popular post on the subject, derived from Josh Trevino's great post at Swords Crossed [N.B.: the Kos archives are still down; the entire piece may also be found on my blog here]:

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

To quote Trevino:

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







One useful tool is the Overton window. Named after the former vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy who developed the model, it's a means of visualizing where to go, and how to assess progress.

What the GOP does is systematically look at how each possible policy position is viewed by the American electorate, and deliberately attempt to shift positions from the "Unthinkable" or "Radical" categories to the "Sensible", "Popular" and "Policy" categories, by any means necessary.  And they're willing to take decades of propaganda to get it done.  To continue:

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

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

To finish:

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

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

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

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


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

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

Both strategies will fail miserably.


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

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

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

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

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

Understand very clearly how this works.  For the last 12 years, the GOP has been pretending to be moderate, while its rabid dogs like Ann Coulter push the discourse further and further right.  The Party looks good, the base is kept happy even though it doesn't get everything it wants, and the very definition of moderate changes.  Meanwhile, of course, the political temperature of the water starts to slowly boil the average American froggie, who is taken unawares.

Now, obviously, we do not want to repeat Republican tactics step by step.  We don't want to drive this truck as far left as the GOP has driven it to the right.  To do so would engender a Democratic defeat as decisive as the drubbing we have given the GOP this year.  However, this country's discourse now stands SO far to the right that the people are ready for a change, and a major correction is now long past due.

But that correction will take TIME.  It will take MONEY.  It will take MANPOWER.  But above all, it will take significant effort from all of US--even more effort than we get from our Leadership.

The American people are not looking for major shifts leftward in public policy right now because they have NOT been PRIMED for them.  The Overton Windows are still shifted dangerously far to the right, in Fox News territory.  To make major shifts right now would be political suicide.  Remember that the Republicans did not attempt to destroy habeas corpus and the EPA in 1980; they waited until 2006, when the public had been appropriately primed by their think tanks.  Our wait will not be so long--but a wait it will be.

The American people are not looking for recriminations against the Bush criminal regime right now, much as we may devoutly wish for them.  Given fresh crimes uncovered borne of subpoenas over a year from now, we might get them.  But not now.  We might even have to wait until they leave office.  But please keep ultimate victory in mind: more important than seeing them locked up in the brig or even removing them from power prematurely is discrediting forever their corrupt and mendacious ideology.  And that will take time.

And time is on our side.  The Republican disaster of governance will not stop now; it will redound over the next two years.  Iraq is still a mess.  The economy is still a house of cards.  Our education system is still a disaster.  We're still the laughing-stock and object of scorn in the world.  The people will remain as angry at Republicans now as they were at Democrats during the 80's and 90's.  And we will use that to our advantage is we are PATIENT and give it some TIME.


So do not be disappointed in Pelosi's House and Reid's Senate.  Hold their feet to the fire and don't allow them to triangulate, of course; but be PATIENT.

Remember that, in the overall scheme of things, it is THEIR job to be "moderate" and push no-brainer policies that the American people will approve of: raising the minimum wage, doing something coherent about immigration, giving tuition tax credits to the middle class, funding stem cell research, etc.

And it is OUR job to push the envelope for more progressive policies and shift the very terms of debate in the country--but without stabbing our own guys in the back.  We're the vanguard, and they're the rearguard--intentionally.  That's how it works.

So take heart--and do not be overly disappointed in our Leadership.  The job of MOVING that Overton Window is up to US.  The job of the Leadership is to make sure that they stand squarely in the CENTER of that Window, as we shift it left.

The HARD work falls to us to do what we must.  As does the need for us to be PATIENT as the Leadership does what THEY must.

Together, we can shift this thing back to the Left--where it belongs.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Allow Me to Define Victory

I've been watching as much Fox News and CNN as I can stand, and I can tell you this: the expectations game is being played by every GOP analyst/pundit/gasbag.

These people are trying to force Democrats to say that only gaining at least 25-30 seats in the House would be good--that anything less than 25 House seats is a "victory" for Republicans.

Similarly, they're also saying that anything short of taking the Senate outright constitutes victory--that Republicans can declare victory if they only lose 5 seats.  Even some Kossacks have fallen into the trap.

So, for the intelligence-challenged in the Republican punditry, allow me to define victory for you:


Your new Speaker of the House:

If she's Speaker by 1 seat, 5 or 10, she's still Speaker.  That's victory.

Your new Chair of the Government Reform Committee:

If he's Chair by 1 seat, 5 or 10, he's still Chair.  That's victory.

Your new House Judiciary Committee Chair:

If he's Chair by 1 seat, 5 or 10, he's still Chair.  That's victory.

You know how you can tell it's victory?  I'll tell you: by the shaking legs and urine dripping down the pants of GOP operatives who see those pictures with those titles.

And as for the Senate?  ANY of the following constitutes victory:

Your new possible Senators:


Because Burns (if he loses) won't be able to insult firefighters anymore; because Santorum (when he loses) won't be able to have man-on-dog sex anymore; because Chafee (if he loses) won't be able to keep enabling policies he supposedly doesn't like; because Corker (if he loses) won't be able to screw up as a senator as badly as he did as mayor; because Talent (if he loses) won't be able to rubberstamp Bush's policies anymore; because DeWine won't be able to abet the most corrupt administration and state party in history; because Allen (if he loses) won't be able to be, well, George (insert expletive here) Allen.

All of these are victory.

You want to know what a decisive landslide looks like?  THAT would be this:

Senate Majority Leader


So don't let them play the expectations game on you.  Understand what victory looks like.  Remember what it looks like.

Because the GOP is going to declare victory no matter what happens--even as they pull as many of their sorry carcasses off the battlefield as they can manage.

Don't let them.  If these shadowy images of glory that you see here tranform into brilliant reality, do the only appropriate thing: Gloat.  Gloat big time.

Because the GOP will be running scared--big time.

[Update: I understand that true victory lies far, far ahead of us. A battle for the presidency looms, the struggle for the heart of the Democratic Party will be ongoing, and we won't go far without taking K-Street money out of elections. But here, I'm talking about Victory in THIS battle fought today. And that's all that matters TODAY.]

Friday, November 03, 2006

Republican Works

By their works ye shall know them. And every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewn down and cast into the fire."

--Gospel of Luke 13:26

I am not a Christian.  However, there is no question that the WORDS of the man described in the Christian Bible as those of Jesus are as powerful and timeless as they come.

Today, I simply want to let the words of Jesus speak for me.  Let us see the WORKS of the Republican Party; and let us see how truly withered the fruit of "God's Own Party" has become.

THE WORDS OF JESUS: Hypocrites! You, who will never enter the kingdom of heaven, bar the very way to those who long to go in. You travel across land and sea to gain one proselyte; and when that person is won, you make them two times more the child of hell than you are yourselves. Do you not merit great damnation?

You steal from the poor and the widows; and then, to conceal your true intentions, you make long pious prayers."


THE WORDS OF JESUS: "Your vision extends not one inch in front of your face. Piously you strain a gnat from your wine, and proceed to swallow a camel. Self-righteously you clean the outside of your cup, while inside remains the grime of extortion. How blind can you be! First take care of what is concealed within. Only then will the outside be clean."


THE WORDS OF JESUS: "Blessed are the peacemakers,

for they shall be called sons of God."


THE WORDS OF JESUS: "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink."


THE WORDS OF JESUS: "I was in prison and you came to visit me."


THE WORDS OF JESUS: "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice,

for they shall be satisfied."


THE WORDS OF JESUS: "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."


THE WORDS OF JESUS: "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's.  Render unto God what is God's."


THE WORDS OF JESUS: "You have heard it said, "It is only right to love your friends and hate your enemies."

But I ask you to love your enemies. Bless those who curse you. Show goodness to those who hate you. Pray for those who despise and mistreat you."


THE WORDS OF JESUS: "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.


THE WORDS OF JESUS: "Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God."

The Works of the GOP:


I've had it with the hate.  I've had it with the sanctimony.  I've had it with the selfishness.  And above all, I've had it with the hypocrisy.

By their WORKS ye shall know them.  Well, THESE ARE THE WORKS OF THE GOP.

It's time to hew down their tree and cast it into the fire.  It's time for a new direction.

And those who continue to eat of its rotten fruit and--still worse--to strew far and wide the seeds of this Tree of Iniquity with their Republican votes, should hide their faces and repent evermore of calling themselves Christians.

For they are nothing of the sort.

Don't Forget the Statehouses!

Lost in all the hubbub about Democratic chances for retaking control of the House and even the Senate this year has been an issue of arguably almost equal structural importance: the battle for the statehouses nationwide.

In most states, it is control of the statehouse that determines who gets to gerrymander congressional districts in their favor--and as such, altering control of the statehouses influences congressional elections for even decades after the flip occurs.  It is the statehouses that provide an almost equally powerful buffer to the more prominent governorships.

It's a battle that the Democrats are winning handily.  The source for this is a New York Times article that came out on October 27th, but I didn't see get much play...

According to the article:

More than 6,000 state legislative seats in 46 states are on the Nov. 7 ballot, and like the seismic state elections in 1994 and 1974 the cumulative impact of the outcomes could be immense, with Democrats possibly gaining control of a majority of state capitols for the first time in a decade.

While the nation's attention has been fixed on the question of which party will control Congress, another campaign season has been unfolding in the shadows -- upstaged and overlooked but more likely to affect the day-to-day life of voters than the big-money Congressional races.

Most significant, as I said above, is the paragraph that follows:

Most significantly, the groundwork for redrawing Congressional districts after the 2010 census will be done under the 50 capitol domes, and the party in power will set the table for those discussions in ways favorable to its interests. Gains made this year, analysts say, will help give incumbents a leg up in the final elections leading up to the redistricting.

If the Democrats take control of a majority of the legislatures, which polls indicate could happen, women could also attain leadership positions in greater numbers, since Democratic women in state capitals outnumber Republican women by nearly two to one. The next generation of national political leaders, by tradition, is nurtured in the state legislatures.

We're talking here about MAJOR structural advantages--the kinds of tilt-the-playing-field-your-direction advantages that have fueled Karl Rove's dreams of permanent Republican majorities.

It is a battle that the GOP has largely overlooked, as it focuses it eyes on the prize of retaining the Upper and Lower chambers in D.C. in the face of widespread incompetence and malfeasance.  To be sure, as the article goes on to say, the GOP has spent more money than the Dems--and even doubled its previous expenditures on these races--but the national attention has not been there, and they haven't spent nearly the money they would need to in order to hold onto these structural advantageous statehouses.

But above all, it is the parity of the statehouses today that make a possible Democratic wave in this area completely shift the current balance of power--a balance that hangs on a wire as we speak.

Republicans control both chambers in 20 states, Democrats in 19. One state, Nebraska, has a nonpartisan legislature, while the parties split control in the remaining 10 states. States to watch on Election Day include Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Wisconsin, where Republicans have narrow majorities in the lower house or senate. Democrats have narrow majorities in Colorado, Maine and Montana.

What makes the races even more suspenseful is that the parties have not been so even in decades, if ever. Of the 7,382 statehouse legislative seats across the country, Democrats hold 21 more than the Republicans, a margin of less than half a percent.

In 17 of the 46 states that will elect some or all of their state senators, a shift of only three seats would alter party control in the senate, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In 12 state houses, a shift of five or fewer seats would tip the balance.

The article goes on to further mention that the extra money, as well as the stakes, have meant that statehouse races have grown increasingly hostile, negative and bitter.  In Iowa, for instance, where there is almost perfect parity in the statehouse, one Republican candidate resigned from the party in protest over his own state party's attack ads on the Democrat.

When all is said and done, however, the statehouses are just one more area where the last 25 years of Republican gains in structural advantages can be undone:

Whether the Republicans can hold onto the gains in state legislatures that they made beginning in the 1980s is probably the central question of the election.

The Democrats, for most of the 20th century, were statehouse titans all over the nation -- with a peak in the mid-1970s when they controlled close to 70 percent of all legislative seats. In the post-Watergate election of November 1974, they added 628 legislature seats in just one night.

The Republicans began a surge in the 1980s, making major strides in 1994, when they gained 514 seats overnight. They finally gained dominance in 2002, picking up enough seats to surpass the Democrats for the first time in 50 years. There has been almost perfect parity since then.

And it's time to TAKE OUR GOVERNMENT BACK.  From the ground up.  As you know, our own Brian Keeler (a.k.a. NYBri) has put himself out there to be a small part of that efforts.

And those of you who don't live in areas where there's a competitive national House or Senate seat or Governor race may well have a contested State Senate or Statehouse race that could use your help and activist support.

EVERYONE has something they can do, at any level.  Because the fight to take our country back is happening just like that--at every level.  Our revolution is multi-faceted, and the prizes are multiple.

So as we watch the returns come in from higher-profile Governor and D.C. Senate and House races this year on November 7th and 8th, also keep your eye on those Statehouses!