Thursday, December 30, 2004

Moral Relativism, Special Republican Edition

Republicans believe in moral absolutes, Democrats believe in anything-goes, moral relativism.

But should you be a Republican, and should in the unlikely event you be accused of chicanery of various sorts, here are the recommended steps you should take:

1. Blame your accusers and deny you did anything wrong;
2. Change the law stipulating that party leaders in Congress step down after an indictment has
been issued;
3. Change the House Ethics Committee rule to require a majority vote (rather than just a tie) to
pursue a formal investigation;
4. Fire the current chair of the House Ethics Committee and replace him or her with a Texas
homeboy who "really knows the procedures";
5. Change the office of authority responsible for prosecuting one of your alleged misdeeds so that
a Republican homeboy handles the investigation;
6. Change the office of authority responsible for prosecuting your other alleged abuses of power
and illegal activity so that another Republican homeboy handles the "investigation";
7. Continue to deny responsibility for any misdeeds while continuing to attack the character of
your accusers and other, non-Republican legal authorities.
8. If ethical problem or accusation of lawlessness on your part re-occurs, rinse and repeat.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Dean for DNC

It will probably not be a surprise to any of you reading this blog or to those of you who saw my movie that I backed the Vermont Governor for President and am now mustering all of the resources at my command to see that Howard Dean becomes the next DNC chairperson.

There are three main reasons why I support Dean for the position:

1) Organizational Wherewithal. His was an original candidacy that stressed grassroots activity and new communications tools (i.e. the Internet, Meetups, etc) and that after his withdrawal focused on funding, nominating and electing state wide and local officials across the country.

2) Attitude. "What I'd like to know is...." Who among us can forget his address at the California Democratic Committee last year, challenging the timid party leadership in Washington to fullfill its duty and oppose the bad policies and scorched earth politics of the other party? Or his caustic response to the capture of Saddam Hussein, when the conservative party and its American media flunkies tried to snow us with the idea that the deposed Iraqi leader had been a grave threat to our country and that his capture would mean and end to the insurgency in Iraq, a critical marker for the War on Terra, and the beginning of a peaceful reconstruction in Iraq? Remember that? Dean will take the Republicans and the corporate media to task and be unapologetic in doing so.

3) Intangibles. It may be that the position of DNC chairperson is overrated, but if nothing else, he'll have official standing, and will therefore be someone the media will call on for reactions to current events, and someone who most people in the country will recognize when he's speaking for the Democratic party be it on the cable TV shoutfests or the Sunday morning snoozeathons. After so many years of weak responses from our congressional representatives, it will be encouraging to have a bold spokesman for a change.


Just one thing, Howard. Sometimes you go out of your way to make it seem like you're a conservative on some matters like the deficit or gun control. Please don't do that. It's OK if you want balanced budgets and think states should have jurisdiction over gun rules, just don't make it seem like you think the conservative emblem is something we should be trying to attain. Conservatism is backward, authoritarian, fundamentalist, anti-Democratic, anti-freedom and anti-individual. Conservatism is not something to be desired, it is something to be opposed, and rigorously.

Good luck.

Best of the Web

Majikthise has a great piece on the separation of church and state, or rather, a short but thorough rebuttal to the "America is a Christian nation" mythology.

Steve Gilliard has an alternative take on that "man of conviction", Reggie White, who died Sunday.

You know, I think it should take more than a willingness to condemn an unpopular minority group--gays--as White did, and the appropriation of ministerial credentials--as White had--to qualify one as a man or woman of "conviction". How about while speaking to the State Assembly of a largely rural state, where the "sport" of hunting is probably widely revered, say something about how you think the shooting of deer and other innocent animals for fun is an obscenity and probably not well thought of by the God that created them. Try that, and than come back to us and claim to be a man or woman of "conviction". Until then, he's just a moral blowhard willing to say things he thinks most of his audience agrees with and which doesn't imperil his own lifestyle.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

To Populist or Not To Populist...State of the Party V

Now, before we go off and spend the next three pre-Iowa-caucus-2008 years making horse race predictions as I just did in the last post, we ought to get back to this business of message. I've already laid out the parameters of what I think our approach should be on campaigning in the South (yes) and the priority civil liberties issues should have in the next few years, but there's also this little matter about economic policy, and as Thomas Frank suggested in What's The Matter With Kansas, having we Dems go back to a focus on populist economics as a counter to the culture war the Repubs have been waging. As my concern with civil liberty issues probably suggests, I don't completely agree with Franks' emphasis on economics over culture, if that is indeed what he arguing. But I do thing there's good policy and good political grounds for Democrats to pursue a focused, and bold, approach to economic policy that challenges many of the conventional myths that conservatives have been spinning for the last couple of decades.

The root of this New Democratic Economic Populism is philosophical and from a political psychology standpoint, as much about reframing issues as about concrete policy alternatives. While I will elaborate on my basic philosophy in hopefully greater clarity in the days and months ahead, my basic point and plea to the Democrats is to say out loud at every forum that the conservative spin about "less government", the wonders of "capitalism" and the magic of "free markets" and "individualism" is a bunch of gobblydogook. The "free market" as conservatives revere it, doesn't exist. Capitalism doesn't spring up from the soil unbidden, ready to work its god-given majesty to all who will sacrifice themselves to its mercies. Capitalism, the economy, and the "market" is a fabrication. It is a construction. It requires an infrastructure and rules. And favors. And privileges. Now, what conservatives want is for people to believe that government and society have no role to play in ensuring some measure of economic justice or wellbeing, while on the other hand, allowing and encouraging government institutions to go on quietly existing to maneuver through means of regulations and legislation that the economic needs of corporations are provided for.

Maybe you get where I'm going with this. From an economic populism standpoint, perhaps for Democrats the return to power is a matter of "less is more". Perhaps, instead of calling for greater public spending and the higher taxes needed to support it, there is a basis for Democrats to focus on pruning the corporations from the public trough. I recognize I'm simplifying something here that is more complex than a matter of attacking corporations in a general sense. And that is not my argument. But I do believe there are plenty of avenues, both philosophical and tangible, to refocus Democratic economic policies towards leveling the playing field by removing corporate preferences and subsidies from the public sphere, rather than attempting to add additional spending programs and layers of bureaucracy.

Which I guess brings us to taxes, and tax policy in particular. The Rogue Progressive, Rogue that he is, is talking economic heresy for Democrats. Not that there's anything wrong with that. In fact, it's a good read, and maybe even good heresy.

Like the Rogue, I've begun to wonder whether the progressive income tax is either good policy or good politics for Democrats. Before the Rove machine began floating the idea of ending certain tax exemptions (deducting state and local taxes from fed income tax, the health insurance write off for corps, the mortgage interest deduction) as part of a tax reform package, I'd been thinking much of the same thing, but from a more liberal vantage point. Simply put, I believe the progressive income tax, such as it is, is more a cesspool of inequities than a means of "progressive" policy, both in the forward thinking as well as redistributive senses of the word.

Should Democrats consider the in-name-only progressive income tax as the gold standard of tax policy or should we, as a part of unmasking the hidden role of government and the disparities it creates, see the income tax as a viable basis for reform, from a progressive standpoint?

Most people don't realize the degree to which their livelihoods depend on certain features of the tax code and other indirect and hidden dimensions of government driven economic policy. The progressive income tax, with its host of subsidies, tax deductions, and hidden incentives, has created a situation where the government role in the economy is not well understood and has been the breeding ground for conservative misinformation and scorched earth politics that needs to be countered.

As the Rogue Progressive implicitly argues, conservatives have used liberal support for government programs as a whipping boy while continuing to work the levers of government to serve its own inequitable ends. As we continue to grasp the circumstances of being out of power, Democrats should reconsider our tax and economic policy positions and be prepared to branch out in new, if challenging directions.

Dude, Where's My Primary?

Matt Yglesias has a bit on the presidential nominating process, which is a subject that's crossed my mind a time or two as well. Matt semiseriously proposes a type of playoff system where two nominees would compete in each state and the winners would face off in other states until only one was left standing. The underlying theme seems to be that the current system, where one or two states end up determining the nominee before any of the rest of us get a say in the matter (other than that form of speech represented by credit card contributions to our preferred candidate(s) ), is lacking in excitement, widespread participation, and questionable decisions.

I'm not sure what the solution is, and since this is a blog and not a journal or newspaper I can think out loud and make up stuff as I go along (oh, they do that in journals and newspapers, too, oh well). Now, as everyone and their uncle knows, the primary system was instituted to give The People a voice in choosing nominees, as opposed to the process where party bigwigs and big city bosses picked nominees in smoke filled rooms.

But has the primary process accomplished that? Considering this last go around was over after NH, we may have had fewer people voting in those two caucus-primary states than would have voted on the convention floor, the old way nominees were picked. OK, I'm exaggerating. But it does give me an opening to talk about what I really want to talk about--the conventions.

As a political junky, I'd love to see the primary season be competitive up till the conventions and have the convention open without any one candidate with the necessary delegates to clinch the nomination, requiring an actual vote on the floor, and thus less attention given to the parade of speeches now that no one pays any attention to.

Of course having a competitive primary season and open nominating session at the convention has drawbacks. It creates money problems for one, as it makes it less likely for the eventual winning nominee to have the adequate cash on hand to devote to beating the other party's candidate because the money lenders have not been able to direct their resources to any one candidate. And there are some who would say a more competitive, drawn out and combative primary system would damage the eventual nominee for the general election.

All probably true to a certain degree. So we're back to square one. How do we come up with a system that ensures greater participation, is more competitive and open to divergent messages, and most importantly for all, is more interesting to us bloggers?

Interestling, however flawed the current system is with Iowa and New Hampshire hogging the spotlight, the current system doesn't actually preclude the possibility of a competitive and longer primary season and an actual battle for the nomination at the convention, if you're in to that sort of thing. It just so happens that it hasn't worked out that way very often.

But there have been exceptions. Consider 1992. Then, there was a favored son in Iowa (Harkin) and to a certain degree, in NH (Tsongas). So neither of those states were considered as critical as they turned out this year. Clinton didn't win Iowa or NH and yet hung on long enough to get to the south and to bigger states which put him over the top. So we can have an interesting, informative, and attention drawing primary season with the continued presence of Iowa and NH at the top of the batting order.

If memory serves me correctly, the assumption going into this past campaign was Iowa was Gephardt's state, Kerry had NH, and Edwards would take SC, a three way split for the first three states on the calendar. But it turned out that the Iowa electorate felt Gephardt's time had passed, and obviously even before then, the emergence of Dean as a viable and compeeling candidate prior to the Iowa vote relegated Gephardt to third of fourth string in Iowa. And we all know how it turned out from there.

So what does all this mean? What alternatives are available for the party in designing its primary nomination system? It depends on what the party and its likely contenders' goals are. As I indicated above, the front loading of the system was designed to get an early nominee, who could then soak up campaign funding and campaign in the spring without being attacked by fellow Democrats. And even though that was how it essentially came out this time, there's no certainty that even with a front loaded schedule, that the same would occur in 2008.

But there are other party goals than those of giving the eventual nominee a financial and political cushion. The party also has an interest, or at least it should, in building up state party candidates and infrastructures. With that in mind, it might be in the interest of several states to put forward "favorite son" candidates whose name recognition and other resources within a state could serve to ensure that not anyone candidate ran away with the nomination before the rest of us had a chance to contribute to the debate and selection process. Of course, this wouldn't necessarily work in all situations. But it could serve to bring heretofore unheard or not widely known voices out into the open and help sustain an interest in the local and state party figures and party apparatus. I realize that others have made similar if inchoate arguments. For example, Donna Brazille talked about this prior to the past campaign as an alternative for some candidates and states.

Which I guess brings us to talking about the 2008 campaign. Assuming the primary calendar doesn't change substantially before then, what are we likely to see? Here is the pool of potential candidates as I envision it: Edwards, Bayh, Gore, HRC, Kerry, Dean, Biden, and I'll throw in Feingold and Mark Warner as wild cards. Some of these will not run, and there will likely be some not on this list who will. If I'm missing any obvious names, let me know. But this is probably the group.

My bet is that Kerry, HRC, and Gore, should they make noises about running, will receive mixed support, leaving the field relatively open, and without a clear front runner or shoo-in winner in either Iowa or NH. But then again, neither is there anyone in this list that would make Iowa or NH a throw away state, meaning that if someone such as Bayh or Biden were to emerge for example, and should he win in Iowa, the dominos might fall, and we'd have close to a repeat of this past year. I hope that doesn't happen. I'd like to cast a meaningful vote in a primary, and maybe be motivated to sign on as a delegate and have the opportunity to cast a meaningful vote at a convention.

Send me your thoughts on campaign '08 and what sort of nomination process you'd like to see.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004


I saw this in the Post over the weekend and meant to talk about it but it slipped my mind once the week got going. Yglesias had a post on it, though, so I wanted to point it out to any interested.

Basically, Kuttner gives George Will the business about the latter's column on gays, economics and the election.



My inner bureaucrat has posted some comments relative to the Social Security program on a few other blogs, here, and here.

Giving Thanks

To Dave Johnson from Seeing The Forest, who's added Bulworth to his blog's links.

Go pay them a visit to show your appreciation. You'll be glad you did.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Getting Religion

Time for a detour. I'm gonna try and waid into the swamp that is "religion in politics".

Or maybe it's "religion in society". In any event, I feel compelled to add yet another voice to this reemerging debate with the hope of trying to answer some basic questions that too often are ignored.

The three or so of you who have frequented this blog are probably aware of my distaste for the religious wrong. There is no love loss between myself and such outfits as Focus on the Family, the Christian Coalition, the 700 Club, The Family Research Council, and the Republican Party, just to name a few. They're authoritarian and nationalistic, with a little religion tossed in to dress things up a bit. But my basic opinion is that people like James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Dr. Laura, and Jerry Falwell, again just to name a few, are about as religious as my office wall. Now, there are some who would question my ability to lodge such accusations. After all, I don't know there hearts, etc. True. But I can see and hear their deeds, and since they are the ones questioning everyone else's attitudes and behaviors, I feel free to act as a "fruit inspector" and "test their spirits" as some religious individuals would understand it.

On top of that, I'm bothered by the popularization of Christianity, the condescending and simple minded bumper stickers, and the gratuitous comments by sports celebrities about how they owe everything to God but whose words and actions are all about themselves. I think much of what circulates within the evangelical community and out to the world seems contrived, staged as it were, for some sort of propagandistic purpose. Artificial. And many Christians that are quoted in the news or by exit polls and such come off intolerant and unloving.

So there's plenty not to like.

But, as it turns out, I was actually raised a Christian and I continue to participate in my church in various capacities. So I understand how other Christians and religious people look at the world, even though I differ from many of them as to an application of religious principles.

So why am I a Democrat? That's a good question. Or maybe the question should be What Kind of Christian am I? These are questions I intend to explore in the course of writing this blog.

I'll begin with some questions for my non-religous friends, although if you are religious and want to speak to these questions, you are most welcome.

Now, the recent election has served to bring a host of issues again to the fore, issues which act as fault lines in the body politic, issues which serve as identifying markers for adherents and opponents alike.

Among these issues are Evolution and the accuracy of, and applicability of, the Holy Bible for providing answers to life's questions.

Having been raised Christian, I went to church schools, and so didn't get to learn much about evolution. I took a biological-anthropology course as an undergraduate at a public university, but that was about it.

From what little I know of the Theory of Evolution and its supporters is that the notion of evolution itself does not attempt to explain the origins of matter, the cells that we're told formed the basis for an original lifeform, from which all of us, human and non-human today derive from.
We religous have done what many groups do in attacking their perceived enemies: we've created a straw man to knock down. The straw man of evolution Christians have held up is that of our relation to and descent from apes. Surely, you evolutionists don't think we came from apes do you, we Christians mock in feigned surprise?

But I won't hold that strawman up. I know things are more complicated than that. But I am honestly interested in knowing more. To the extent that you believe in evolution and or don't believe in God as a creative being, can you explain to me, in layman's terms, How Did We Get Here? What Happens When We Die? and What Is The Purpose of Life?

For my Christian friends, let me say you're not off the hook either. I have some questions for you, too. But for now, let me hear from those that can explain the basis of life to me, if that basis of life is understood as being separate from and perhaps in direct conflict with, the view put forward by the Bible.

The White House Considers its "Donald" Problem

As controversy considers to swirl around Donald Rumsfeld, Karl Rove, the president's chief political advisor, pays the Secretary of Defense a visit.

Rove: Hi, Donald, whaaattt's happening?

Rumsfeld: Uh, I still haven't received my paycheck, and I--

Rove: Umm, you're gonna have to talk to payroll about that, umkay?

Rumsfeld: I did, and they said--

Rove: And I'm gonna have to ask you to move your desk again... yeeaaaaah.

Rumsfeld: But, I've already moved my desk three times...

Rove: If you could just push your desk back, there's some boxes we need to put in here...yeeaaaaah

Rumsfeld: But there's no space...

Rove: If you could take care of that, that would be terrific, umkay? Thanks, Donald.

Rumsfeld (muttering under his breath as Rove leaves): OK, but that's the last straw, I could shut this whole place down, I could set the building on fire, I could write a book, I could write a book and have this administration condemned...

Friday, December 17, 2004

Watching and Listening

I was in my car last night and turned to C-SPAN radio, which I rarely do anymore, but nonetheless, happened upon the audio coverage of the Social Security conference and the President's speech on the same. I have to say I was mildly impressed. If nothing else, he spoke as someone who had some knowledge of the issues--however distorted--and as if he really believed in what he was pushing. If I was a non-biased person, who didn't follow the issues or know anything about Social Security, I'm tempted to say I might have found his presentation almost compelling in a simple kinda way.

Then I caught his act on televised C-SPAN. Yeah. This was the President Bush from the first debate bad. He looked like he was reading from the 1999 playbook, tossing out blithe one liners in an uncomfortable, verbal cut and paste kinda style. At this point the subjects for discussion were tort "reform" and the need for making permanent his tax plans. I imagine he believes in this stuff, too, but he didn't seem into it. When referring to the need to forever end the estate "death" tax for millionaires, of which the first $5 million or so at least is already exempted or was before he rode into town, he even trotted out that most pathetic of tried and true victimologies, The Family Farm. "If we don't end the estate tax, all our Family Farms will disappear", and all like that, forgetting for a moment our vast unfreemarketlike agribusiness welfare subsidy system, which has pretty much put the kabosh to the 16 or so family farms still left in the USA, but that's for another time, and for another conference, when the subject is something other than the economy, and Social Security, and how we just need more of that good old fashion Republican gospel of tax cuts, less government, and individual responsibility and everything will be alright drivel.

When calling for changing the malpractice system (or at least that's what I think he was talking about), he acknowledged a drug store owner or something in the audience from Mississippi of all places who had apparently become a part of some class action lawsuit that caused her and hers problems. Now, there wasn't any mention of what the case was about, or what the responsibility of the business owner in question may have had. Nothing. Just a bunch of pap about small town bidnesses, located in good ole southern town squares, serving the people, that shouldn't have to deal with this stuff. The audience seemed to like it, though.

Anyway, I'm thinking of writing more about the President's style, how he's handled, in the sense of what Democrats can learn. An odd angle for someone like me to be taking, I know, but there are probably points to poinder about how Democrats can make use of certain strategies and such, but I don't feel like it right now. Will think it over and get back to you.


Kevin Drum has a bit here on yesterday's Social Security panel.

And speaking of the deficit...

Finally, the White House has released Bernie Kerik's withdrawal letter... (Thanks to Atrios for the link).

What's in a Name?

I was minding my own business this morning, reading the NYT on the ride into work. There was a little story about the president's economic conference yesterday, and panel discussion on Social Security. Along with the story was a pic, showing some apparently serious minded folks explaining the crisis of Social Security to themselves and whoever else might have been listening, which I bet no one else was because the only purpose of these functions is to people watch so you can back to the office or wherever and report on who you saw...

Anyway, back to the article and its accompanying pic and my minding my own business. Four of the people in the pic are gents, and one was a gal. The gal's name was Sandra Jaques. The name rang a bell. I thought for a minute and then seemed to recall that frenchman, Josh Marshall, mentioning her. And I was right. Here's the link. Then, that being last week, she was a plain old citizen from Iowa, undoubtedly representin' the common folk with whom the president is so familiar, and no doubt possessing the good ole fashion common horse sense that G. W. likes. Then also, that being last week, she was affiliated with some outfit called Women for a Sound Social Security Choice.

Now, as I mentioned a few days ago, I'm pretty up to date, or so I thought, with all the doo-dad organizations out there pressing for privatizing Social Security, but I hadn't ever heard of this cult. Funny thing, too, that Josh did a little googling and couldn't find her or the organization either. But in the pic--and you were probably wondering when I'd get back to that--the woman's affiliation was now listed as something called FreedomWorks. Now, this is a gang that apparently has its origins in one of the Jack Kemp groups, Empowering America, Down with Government, Up With Free Enterprise, or whatever.

So what happened? Did the existence-nonexistence of this Women for a Sound Social Security Choice cause a problem to where a new affiliation had to be added? I was pleased to see that this FreedomWorks society does have a webpage at least, so probably exists to a certain extent, at least in the figment of a few people's imaginations, with the time and inclination to set up a webpage and with the intent of hoping people think they're a, you know, actual interest group, with real, you know, members who contribute and care about the stuff they're selling.

Anyway, there's a lesson here, I think. I'm not sure what it is, but maybe something along the lines of, hey, when you're doctoring up your resume, make sure the employer or association you list can actually be identified somewhere so people won't think you're either a lying suckup or nincompoop.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

War, What is it Good For?

Bradford Plumer had an interesting post a week or so ago, basically asking, Hey, What's Our Military Actually For?

It's an interesting question given some things I've wondering about lately, too. It's easy to get lost in a debate that has been framed by others to where the options are between tough and more tough plans for fighting terrorism, whatever that is, where-ever it is. One of the things I'd like to see happen is for some major policymaker to pose that question in a public forum, be it through the media or on the Senate floor.

As Bradford notes, we don't actually face any real military threats in the usual sense of the word, given our location and the minor array of state military forces out there that could or would do us harm, so our large standing professional army and the military industrial complex basically exists for some other reason, but what reason or reasons are those?

I've also been thinking about the draft. It's hard to imagine that the Iraq war would have been fought had we not already had a professional army "on the shelf" so to speak, and not had to go out and draft one. I can imagine a lot of the armchair warriors on and off cable TV would have thought about the whole thing much differently if a draft was required to fight it. It seems to me that the existence of a large military force provides a greater incentive to wage war than would otherwise be the case.

And of course there are budgetary and political implications as a result of the prior establishment of military bases, that, might like other pork, politicians are loath to take back once they've gotten communities hooked on the resources and sales opportunities they provide. And then there are matters of a more subtle nature, as a military culture infiltrates the public sphere. It seems obligatory for newscasters and sports entertainers these days to pay homage to the troops for "defending our freedom", despite the fact that any slightly objective evaluation of the conditions related to the war in Iraq would lead one to recognize that such is not the case and that whatever is occuring over there has nothing to do with our freedom, but for the need to accomodate a worshipful military culture here, there is little or no questioning of this posture.

Tocqueville worried about the effect the tyranny of the majority had in America in suppressing the freedom of expression. Many of the founders, such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, in particular, carried concerns about the implications for liberty of having a standing army that could be turned on its citizenry for despotic purposes.

If I was a Mean Spirited, Partisan Hack of a Blogger...

...I might remind everone that the conservatives first response to the now infamous question by a soldier to Sec/Defense Rumsfeld about the lack of armor was to silly-poo the thing and claim that there was really no problem. But I won't do that. If I was a mean spirited, partisan hack of a blogger I might also go on to point out that the next lego in the conservative response factory to the "hillbilly armor" crisis was to blame the questioner and the press for planting the question, but I because I'm not a mean spirited, partisan hack of a blogger, I won't do that. And if I was a mean spirited, partisan hack of a blogger I could go on to point out that the third conservative response to the "hillybilly armor" crisis has been to make a 180 degree to turn to actually admit, that, yes, when we really get down to it, Rumsfeld's response to the question, and his overall attitude towards his responsibilities and handling of the war in Iraq has sucked, and that Bush should dump the guy.

But because I'm not a mean spirited, bitter, partisan hack who enjoys pointing out conservative hypocrisy and flamfloonery, I won't do that.

This episode and the whole approach to the world we've witnessed the last few years kinda reminds me of that scene from Apocolypse Now where after finally tracking down the butcherous Colonel Kurtz, Martin Sheen's Captain Willard listen's to Kurtz complain about the Army's not liking his methods and then turning to Willard, asks, "Do you disagree with my methods"? Looking out at all the wreckage and hung bodies, Willard says, "I don't see. ..Any method."

I don't see...Any method. Do you?

Will the Liberal Writing the "Doug Giles" Columns Please Stop?

I am making a public appeal that whichever liberal blogger has been writing the "Pastor" Doug Giles columns over at the Heritage Foundation's idiot forum, er, website, Townhall,com, to please cease and desist.

Yes, it's been amusing at times. It's been hiliarious seeing such ludicrous rantings on such a prominent wingnut site get all this attention. But now it's just getting ridiculous. Sooner or later, even the ignoramuses there are going to catch on that the "Pastor Doug" columns are a joke and a parody. Nobody could be as stupid and backward as the guy pretending to write this column is.

I've long suspected that the real author behind "Pastor Doug's Clashpoints" is Michael Berube. You've seen some of his satire, what do you think? Or if anyone out there has any suspects you want to put forward, I will make them available here so they can be investigated. In any case, the column must be stopped. Before it's too late and they catch onto us.

Office Space 2: The White House

Infamous consultants Bob and Bob have been hired to vet President Bush's cabinet nominees as the administration prepares for its second term...

Scene 1: Department of State nominee, Condoleeza Rice, enters interview room.

Bob and Bob: Donna Rice?

Rice: No, my name is Condoleeza Rice and I'm the President's National Security Advisor.

Bob and Bob: 'Cause we just loved your work on that boat, the Monkey Business.

Rice: You have me confused with someone else. I was the Provost at Stanford University, and I-

Bob and Bob: Do you still talk to Gary Hart?

Rice: Gentlemen, please, now unless you have any real questions for me I really must be going...
(Rice leaves)

Bob and Bob: How about that, that Donna Rice woman's going to work for the President! Well, so much for vetting this one...who's next?

(Bob and Bob open the folder of information for the next nominee, Margaret Spelling, nominee for the Department of Education)

Scene 2: Margaret Spelling enters...

Bob and Bob: Tori Spelling?

Spelling: Huh?

Bob and Bob: Weren't you on Beverly Hills, 90210?

Spelling: I don't understand what you mean? I thought I was here--

Bob and Bob: I loved that show. But I bet you really loved that show...

Spelling: Am I in the right place? What is this?

Bob and Bob: What was your favorite 90210 episode?

Spelling: Do you mean that show with that guy Dylan and that horrible girl, what was her name?

Bob I: I always liked Andrea, never thought she got the attention she deserved, very sensible gal.

Spelling: Excuse me, but what does this have to do with education?

Bob and Bob: Um, ma'am, we're done here. Thanks a lot for coming, and tell the 90210 gang we said "hello".

(Spelling leaves)

Scene 3.

Bob I: Who's next?

Bob II: Looks like a Bernard Kerik.

Bob and Bob: Hi there, Bernard, is it?

Kerik: Just call me Bernie.

Bob and Bob: Bernie, now, refresh our memory if you would, you're here to interview for what job again?

Kerik: Department of Homeland Security

Bob II: Is that the company that puts out them color warnings?

Bob I: Yeah, what goofball thought of that?

Bob and Bob: OK, Mr. Kerik, we're just trying to get an idea about what President Bush's nominees do with their day. Can you tell us about what you've been doing?

Kerik: Just got back from Iraq, where I was training the new Iraqi police force as a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. But my wife called to say our the addition to our house was completed so I came back. There was lots of bombs going off all the time over there anyway, so I didn't mind gettin outta there if you know what I mean...

Bob and Bob: Now, Mr, Kerik--

Kerik: Bernie...

Bob and Bob: Ok, Bernie, now we see you filled out these forms asking about your financial information, your assets, your hired help, and whatnot.

Bob I: Yeah, we wouldn't want anybody with nanny problems or mob connections gettin in to the White House, if you know what I mean. You never believe the types of people that apply for jobs like this.

Kerik: Nah, don't worry about that.

Bob and Bob: So no problems we should know about?

Kerik: None just that I'm in tight with Rudy, so let the President know that.

Bob and Bob: Great, Bernie. Good luck.

(Kerik leaves)

Bob II: OK, are we about done, who's next?

Bob I: Last one--Alberto Gonzalez for Attorney General, whatever that means...

Scene 4: Alberto Gonzalez, nominee for Attorney General enters.

Bob and Bob: Hi there, Alberto, is it?

Gonzalez: Yes, that's right.

Bob and Bob: So Alberto, why do you want to work for the government?

Gonzalez: Well, I'm one of President Bush's most loyal subjects, er, followers, er, advisors...

Bob I: Glad to hear that. Anything we should be concerned about as we make sure you're suited to be President Bush's, uh, general attorney?

Bob II: Is this a military job?

Gonzalez: Well, no, not really, although some of my work has had military implications.

Bob and Bob: Anything we would have heard about?

Gonzalez: You guys here about the "torture" memo?

Bob and Bob: YOU WROTE the TORTURE MEMO? Wow, awesome, man. Man, we loved that book.

Bob I: Hey, don't let us keep you any longer.

Gonzalez: It was pleasure meeting you guys.

Bob and Bob: Hey, the pleasure's all on this side of the table.

(Gonzalez exits)

Bob I: Ah, I love this work.

Bob II: Yeah, too bad it only comes along every four years.

Bob I: What's next?

Bob II: Think we can get a TV gig with Fox?

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Tanned, Rested and Ready

MyDD has a blurb today about Wisconsin Senator, Russ Feingold, who, according to Hotline, has a potential interest in a 2008 run for the WH.

Although we haven't even gotten to dubya's inaugural yet, and many of us are still licking our wounds from the past campaign, two factors: the increasingly elongated presidential campaign; and the need for someone, anyone, in the Democratic world to arise as a spokesman for the party, means that the search for, and examination of, potential leadership is getting an early start, too.

In short, I tend to agree with MyDD's initial assessment of Feingold: he's an intriguing possibility. But he needs more to hang his hat on than campaign finance reform. His was, I believe, the only vote against the Patriot Act in the U.S. Senate, a mark of courage given the hysteria of the moment. He's midwestern, for those of us worried about candidate geography. And he doesn't have the same level of baggage that either Hilary, Edwards (inexperience) , or Dean would bring to a race.

But as I mentioned in an earlier post, it's important that whoever wants the nomination start to make an impact now, and not wait until the snows of Iowa and NH in January 2008 to start talking. Despite the frivolousness of the past campaign and the temper of the media, important policy issues are at stake in the next months and years and as the recent Beinhart-Will Marshall, Al From-led attacks have demonstrated, the absence of a comprehensive and compelling Democratic counter-narrative has created a vaccuum of rhetoric and ideas that is itching for leadership and direction.

On this last point, it is probably worth noting that neither Kerry or Edwards (or Dean really for that matter) has gone very far in challenging the underlying premise of the current, so-called War on Terrorism other than that they would fight it better, harder, and with more global partners. It's a long post, but Descrates gives us some idea, based on earlier remarks by the sadly departed Edward Said, about what such an alternative vision might revolve around. Give it a read.

Anyway, Senator Feingold, and any others, we await your contributions and your voices in the days ahead.

The Latest

I sincerely regret my derth of postings lately but my inner academic is finishing a paper, I stayed up late Sunday night to watch the Redskins (lose), and my cadre of fellow bloggers have been covering recent events nicely.

Speaking of which, here's a great takedown of the Bernie Kerik debacle. Hilarious. Wolcott doesn't post as regularly as I could use but when he does he hits it out of the park.

On a more cautionary note, I've been reluctant to invade the brewing debate on Social Security "reform" because of my association with friends who may or may not work for the agency, and on the basis that my inner government worker may be compromised.

However, two points on Social Security "reform" are worth highlighting: First, as Kevin Drum, MaxSpeak and others have patiently shown, there is no Social Security crisis. As long as the Social Security Trust Funds register a positive balance, which they are projected to do until 2042 at last count, Social Security checks will go out, regardless of however much of a deficit the government is generating or what war we're in. At the point at which the Trust Funds are no longer in surplus (i.e. 2042-ish), the system will still be generating enough in payroll tax income to fund upwards of 67-70% of expected benefits, which because of the rising growth of wages on which benefits are based, would still be MORE than what retirees are getting today, EVEN after inflation is taken into account.

The second point is a more delicate matter and pertains to any potential strategy used to oppose the move towards Social Security privatization. While this blog will not put forward such a strategy or pontificate on the relative wisdom of either adamantly opposing "reform", submitting an alternative plan, or negotiating with the administration and congressional Republicans on the matter, the consideration of a little history may be in order, and for that I turn you over to our friend Mr. Digby. (Warning: the post to which this link is made is of an especially graphic and disturbing nature, revealing in excruciating detail and depth the utter contempt and brutality of the then out, but now ruling party. Please read with caution).

Friday, December 10, 2004

Making New Democrats: State of the Party 4

Two days ago, the NYT ran a handful of short pieces on the future of the Democratic Party (written by actual Democrats: so no Mickey Kaus or Peter Beinhart or Joementum Lieberman) on its op-ed page. Mostly the pieces didn't say much of value, but there was one by Howard Wolfson that reminded me of something I've been thinking of for a while and that I think deserves attention. (so yeah, anything of value is in my definition something I either agree with or have thought of before, I guess).

Anyway, a practical step he recommends is that the voting for the Democratic chairman should be opened up to more of the Democratic Party members. A fairly straight forward idea, and a good one I think. But his broader point is that political parties used to be more involved in their communities, by, say, sponsoring Little League teams, neighborhood picnics, delivery turkeys on Thanksgiving and so on. The advent of TV and mass communication has had the effect of reducing the direct contact between party leaders and The People. Now, obviously parties used to be involved in people's lives in other important ways as well, such as through the art of patronage, which the establishment of a modern civil service has pretty much wiped out, and through party activities on election day that were later viewed as being coercive and potentially fraudulent, leading to various party and campaign "reforms" that lessened the role of political parties in mobilizing voters. The change from urban to suburban communities has also changed the degree to which parties are and can connect with voters. So some of these connections between the party and the voter will be difficult or illogical to restore.

But the point from Wolfson's essay, I think, and the argument I would make, is that these changes don't mean that the political parties (especially our own) can't reach out in different ways.

Now, what type of reaching out should the party do? First, we have to recognize that voter outreach can't just start the summer before the election and consist only of voter registration drives and calls to go to the polls on election day. Many groups did a good job this year of doing that, but it wasn't enough. The party will need to develop ideas for bringing politics to the people between elections.

Second, the substance of what parties do to involve people will have to be meaningful, and involve actually helping communities deal with problems. One of the reasons the Democratic Party has struggled to articulate a message and has struggled for votes in recent years has been its basic failure to connect government to people in a way beyond the cutting of checks from Washington. Knocking on doors and such other grassroots activity is good (and always trotted out as to what the party needs to do following an election loss), but it's not enough. The party will need to begin soon to involve itself in our communities and work with voters in ways that helps party leaders understand how various issues and problems can be dealt with, either by local government, voluntary groups, or by state or the federal government.

In an ironic sense, the nationalization and beaucratization of domestic policy through the New Deal and Great Society programs may have had the effect of increasing the distance between government, parties and the public, reduced the role of local government and party institutions in solving problems and meeting needs, and decreased the Democratic Party's ability to connect with voters for the purposes of building and maintaining and governing coalition.

Consider this my first installment regarding how and to what extent the Democrats must "economic-populist" their message.

Have a great weekend, and if you're in the Washington, DC area, try to stay dry.

Their Own Worst Enemy

There's an unusual proclivity among conservatives to at once offer multiple and contradictory responses to negative events and at the same time, to continue to fan the flames of those same events, ensuring that the negative images will linger longer than would have otherwise been the case.

Consider the recent press attention, and the conservative response to, the insensitive, and bizarre remarks issued by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in response to a soldier's query about the lack of adequate armor in combat. "You go with the army you've got"...and "all the armor in the world isn't going to prevent you from being blown up..." Imagine the wingnut response if Kerry or Edwards had said that.

Anyway, at first, the conservative propaganda jabberwokkies responded with the not unusual tack that went something like, "well, gee, what a swell, manly sort of man our man Rummy is, he faces the troops like a man, takes their questions, no big deal that there's a lack of armor, remember WWII when our troops were digging helmets and shields out of North Africa, yada yada yada. No story here, nothing to see here, please disperse."

That probably would have been the end of it. Some damage for the boys in red, but nothing significant. But the conservative brigade can't stop there. Now they're circulating a report that the question asked by the soldier was prompted by a member of the press. Lush Bimbo whined on his radio show yesterday that the question was a "set up".

I'm not sure what the conservatives are gaining here. The story, and the dumb remarks stay alive. Whether the soldier was prompted to ask the question by a member of the press is irrelevant. The soldier asked it. He could have opted not to. And when he asked it, the other soldiers cheered. The question referenced a problem, not only as seen by the troops, that are, you know, actually fighting the war and stuff, but it's an issue that was seen as significant by conservatives just a couple of months ago when the subject was John Kerry's "nay" vote on the $87 billion Iraq war supplement. Now it seems for conservatives that with Kerry and the election dispensed with, we can go back to not really giving a shit about the circumstances of the war or the threats from insurgents or the troops or how well the Shia's do in the January elections, or anything other than the usual promotion of the party in power.

So in case you have any doubt, for the conservatives there's no principle other than their own survival.


Winston pulled his coat collar around his neck as a gust of wind and rain swept against him. He reached the door of his apartment building as another tenent was heading out. He ascended the steps to his third story flat, bypassing the elevator which again was out of service. Winston had given up complaining about its malfunctioning, after being told that "you have to go with the elevators you have."

He was almost into the relatively safety of his flat when the daughter of his neighbor and coworker at the Ministry of Truth, Matthew Drudgery, rushed into the hall waiving one of those plastic models of the Ministry of Peace's latest gadgetry of shock and awe. "I've got you in my sights and will vaporize you, yeah!!" shouted the child. The child's mother appeared at the entrance of their door, slightly embarrased, and shooed the child back in. "They start them so young, you know," Mrs. Drudgery said in resignment.

Feeling slightly flustered, Winston entered his flat to the sound of the Faux Telly Screen bleating out the latest reports from the Party's ministries of Peace, Love, Truth and Plenty. The report from the Ministry of Peace was reassuring. The Party was now projecting that the number of troops stationed in Eastasia (Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia) would drop to
550,000 by the spring. Although Winston was well aware that the original number of troops sent to Eastasia had been 90,000, and that this number had been projected to decline till all the troops were back home, in some previous year long forgotten...Winston couldn't remember exactly.

Winston sighed (a dangerous tendency given the Faux Telly Screen's ability to both transmit as well as receive images and information) as he reached into his tiny refrigerator and pulled out a bottle of gin. Winston was on his lunch break. His duties at the Ministry of Truth involved maintaining the Party's news archives. Actually, Winston was responsible for changing historically reported events and information to conform with the current reports and estimates from the Party's other ministries.

This morning, for instance, Winston had been sent an archival document from last summer in which the Ministry of Plenty's spokesperson, Scotty McClemmons, had given a statement projecting the expected deficit in 2009 to be $850 billion. The Party was predicting that it would succeed in cutting the deficit in half by the end of the decade. This was now incorrect. The latest estimates were that the budget deficit would reach $1.3 trillion, and the older report would have to be edited to make it appear that last summer's estimate had been for a 2009 deficit of $1.7 trillion and that the new estimates showed the Party was now ahead of schedule. One of Winston's colleagues in the Ministry of Truth, Lush Bimbo, had remarked to Winston what a good job the Ministry of Plenty was doing this year, while they had coffee in the Ministry's cafeteria. "The Ministry of Plenty has really outdone themselves this year, haven't they, Winston?", Lush chimed. "They're projecting a cut in the deficit from $1.7 trillion to $1.3 trillion." Winston secretly disliked Lush Bimbo. Lush was the type of Party member that swallowed the Party's pronouncements with the most gullible acceptance, but also the type upon which the Party was most dependent on for its support.

Winston returned to the last sips of gin before turning to his next task. Arranging himself at his desk just out of the vision of the Faux Telly Screen, Winston cautiously reached into the drawer and pulled out a worn but unused notebook, the kind that had been popular some years before, but which now, because Party members were not permitted to write, were hard to come by.

Winston pulled out a short, broken pencil, of the kind that also used to be common, that he had found on the street two days ago.

With both the decrepit pencil and the worn notebook, Winston began to write.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

A Red State Discovers Gray Areas

Here's a little gem tucked away in the NYT this morning on that grand, red state values laden, sport of cockfighting. Cockfighting is where they put razor blades on the birds, place bets as to the likely winner, and let the birds fight to the bloody death. Sound good? Only two states in the union have not banned this "cultural heritage": New Mexico and Louisiana. New Mexico's beautiful. I got my master's degree there. Las Cruces, Albuquerque, and Santa Fe are great. The deserts and mountains are wonderful. The Very Large Array (VLA) from the movie "Contact" is there, too. But if you stray too far from the beaten path you're likely to discover that there are people there that don't know the war's over.

Turns out the subject of a cockfighting ban has come up in the state again, and those pesky outsiders from Hollywood and PETA are stirring up trouble, in the case of the former, reminding the state of its desire for production companies to film there, and well, maybe those companies might not want to continue putting their bucks in the Land of Enchantment if the state doesn't move into the 21st century and ban cockfighting.

This has gotten some of our cockfight-loving, anti-abortion votin', red state friends in a tizzy.

"I oppose abortion, but I'm not going to tell Pamela Anderson or even my daughter not to get one - it's their choice," said Louisa Lopez, who operates one of New Mexico's largest cockfighting pits, the Gentlemen's Arena Game Club, on the outskirts of Socorro, a small town south of Albuquerque. "So who are these outsiders telling me what to do? Who are they to come here with their ideas of what's right and what's wrong?"

OK, so the election was about values and how we need to return to a culture that tells right from wrong, right? Or wrong? Is the "right-wrong" distinction only for certain issues? If so, how do we know which ones? Is abortion a member of the "right-wrong" distinction or not? This New Mexican makes it sound like it isn't. But it seems like we've been hearing over and over about how everything's a matter of "black and white" (though not in the racial sense). What are we blue state heathens to make of this? It certainly isn't hypocrisy, now, is it? You know, defining issues as right or wrong in an abstract sense to gain political points or to outlaw something that offends you, but then claiming that the right-wrong concept doesn't apply to your pet vice or to your "cultural heritage"?

Paging Cal Thomas, The Corner, Townhall, John Leo, William Bennett, anyone, anyone?

Maybe gay rights activists and other "moral relativists" should consider this "cultural heritage" argument in support of their respective cause. This may be the crucial "out" that is needed in the culture wars. If your issue is a "cultural heritage" than it doesn't fall into the right or wrong, "there is an absolute truth" value continuum.

Thank You, Ma'am, May I Have Another?

Mo Dowd layeth the smacketh down on Rummy and our swaggerin', gussied up CIC.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

You Don't Have John Kerry to Kick Around Anymore

And where, by the way, are those Swift Boat Vets when you need them?

The Current Crisis: State of the Party Part III

In picking up the pieces from November 2, most of the advice for Democrats from friendly as well as non-friendly quarters can generally be classified into two main substantive courses of action. The first, and perhaps most abundant and unsolicited type, calls for Democrats to reshape their message to accomodate rural voters, religious conservatives, and red-state dwellers generally. This is what might be called the "values" thesis. The second is a call for Democrats to return to a message stressing economic populism. This theme, which I shall dub the "populist" argument is perhaps best identified by a well-noticed book this summer called What's The Matter With Kansas?, by Thomas Frank. In it, Frank noted the apparent incongruity on the part of mid-western and small town inhabitants to vote on the basis of religious and cultural issues and for the Republican Party but in opposition to their own economic self-interest. This second line of thought is deserving of a more considerate and reasoned response and approach that I can muster at this particular time and for that reason, I will put off a more thorough discussion of it for a later posting.

But my delay in joining this discussion on the politics of economic populism has another, more important cause at heart. That is, I believe the nature of the crisis that we face has more to do with the first issue, that siren call for Democrats to ape the rhetoric of conservativism in appealing to voters. Essentially it is my belief that the nature of the problem we face, and the route to challenging, if not correcting, the direction of American Politics it embodies lies not in shifting the focus to economics over values, but in addressing the values issues head-on.

One of the paradoxes of American politics over the last couple of decades has been the simultaneous call from conservatives for more "freedom", "less government" and a promotion of the value of "individualism" at the expense of collective action, while at the same time conservatism has publicly ridiculed individual liberties and through rhetoric as well as practice, worked to grant the government and society greater control over the individual.

As for this latter tendency, there are three main sources of this growing totalitarianism: Nationalism; Religious Fundamentalism; and Law and Order Authoritarianism. I distinguish between these types because each has unique attributes, but it should be pointed out that the three are far from mutually exclusive. They all share the same enemy: non-conformity in thoughts, words, actions, appearances, languages and allegiances; and the freedom of individual privacy and public expression. And from each spring the sources of attack against various liberal institutions, beliefs, and practices.

Let's consider the issue of Nationalism first. There have frequently been conflicts between nationalism and "patriotism" on the one hand, and individual liberty on the other. For the last half of the last century its basis was the Cold War. More recently matters such as the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools, the discussion and introduction of a flag-burning Amendment to the Constitution, to a certain extent the first Gulf War, and more recently, the events of 9-11, the so-called "war on terrorism", and of course, our pre-emptive strike on and continued occupation of Iraq have created tension between nationalistic reative jingoism and the freedom of expression through dissenting opinion. Wrapped up in much of this have been continuing revelations from historical scholarship challenging conventional myths about America's founding and founders from Columbus to Thomas Jefferson, which have generated a great deal of hostility from movement conservatives towards colleges and universities, as well as the press, for supposedly being "anti-American".

In the context of each of these issues, conservatives have argued emotionally and vehemently, and with little respect for the right to freedom of expression, for a curtailment of individual liberties, both formal and informal, although not in so many words. It is usually cloaked in the language of the risk that certain behaviors or words cause, references to any useful symbolic reactionary tools, such as the images of 9-11 or some other period of national distress. During the present war we were and are told that to dissent is an afront to our "troops" and an encouragement to our "enemies". One "popular" anchor warned all opponents of the war to "shut up" once it started (or presumably face the consequences, from institutions or vigilantes it wasn't clear). Another favorite target of nationalism conservatives (as well as other conservatives as we shall see) in addition to colleges and universities are organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Despite the fact that the ACLU exists to protect prominent American "values" such as freedom of expression, the right to privacy, and freedom of and from religion, it has been tarred and feathered by conservatives in political campaigns, op-ed columns, and think tank "research" as an insidious and seditionous organization for its heretical positions and support of religious and political minorities. Conservative opposition to the ACLU and civil liberties proponents came to prominence during the election campaign of George H.W. Bush in 1988 when he accused his Democratic opponent, Michael Dukakis, of being a "card carrying member of the ACLU", as if this was a bad thing. Ever since then, the Democrats have been beating a hasty retreat from defending or being associated with the ACLU, the liberal label, and with civil liberty concerns generally. The emergence of Fox News on cable TV and its rabidly pro-Republican, pre and post war cheerleading hosts and "reporters" has given conservatives an additional platform from which to advance their desire to suppress dissent and control individual behavior when the Republican Party is in charge and its cultural and military war aims are threatened by the institutions and values of a free society.

Religious Fundamentalism. Much has been written over the last couple of decades about the rise of cultural evangelicalism, mega-churches, and political-religiously charged issues such as abortion, gay rights, and sex education. Similar to nationalism conservatives, religious fundamentalists have a strong aversion to multiple points of view, free discussion, the scientific method, and non-mythically-driven, non-emotional, non simplistic decision making. Consequently, places where these principles and approaches can be found are among the primary targets of religious fundamentalists. That information and debates may approach moral and political issues from a broader point of view than sexuality are particularly dangerous to religious conservatives. This is particularly why their primary bulls eye, as with nationalism conservatives, is naturally the college campus and public education as a whole. Hollywood and the entertainment industry also come in for more of their fair share of criticism and opposition, despite the fact that many television and cable tv stations are owned and operated by conservatives themselves, such as Fox, which promote a tyrannical cultural conservativism on its news network, but produce a wide range of sexual and violence-laden smut from its entertainment division. Feminist organizations, such as NOW, and Planned Parenthood, which strive to improve opportunities and choices for women are also seen as a threat to religious control, as of course are the ACLU, which among the liberties it seeks to protect are those of religious and non-religious minorities. Among the more informative pieces regarding religious fundamentalism is this one linked to by Digby. The prevailing advice from the punditry is for Democrats to embrace and accomodate these views. But as the linked piece suggests, fundamentalists are not interested in compromise, negotiating, or concerned about non-religious freedom. As Lee Child, a writer to the NYT letters section, noted recently (link unavailable from Friday, December 3), the position of fundamentalists is that we do not have a right to our different opinions and that this position (by religious fundamentalists) requires not understanding but opposition.

Law and Order Authoritarianism: This sub-theme has diminished, at least overtly, from the mainstream media, and the halls of Congress, due in part, to the decline, at least nationally, of many criminal indicators, and due again, in part, to a reluctance by the out of power party to argue on behalf of opposing interests and ideas. The acceptance of the death penalty by President Clinton and most of the candidates running for the nomination last year is one example of this. The absence of any major debate regarding the so-called War on Drugs is another. Conservative attacks on liberal supposedly "soft on crime" candidates and policies have done much to prevent the emergence of any dissent on matters of criminal justice issues where civil liberties and government control conflict. In both cases, conservatives have argued for greater resources and rights for government and its security industry apparatus at the expense of the rights, liberties, and lives of individuals.

Subsumed in the discussion of civil liberty protections from each of the three lines of the conservative totalitarian program outlined here is the Right to Privacy. While conservatives pay lip service to, and strenously promote the idea of "freedom" and "liberty", conservatives are strangely hostile to the notion of a Right to Privacy. Conservatives such as Antonio Scalia scoff at the very notion of a Right to Privacy and don't believe that the Constitution provides for it. Among conservatives he is not alone in this view. If there is anything you need to know about the cold, beating heart of conservatism it is this opposition to the Right to Privacy. (Should you happen upon the next meeting of the Federalist Society or the Young Americans for Freedom Foundation conference, or the American Conservative Union jubilee, you might want to be careful about bringing up the subject of the Right to Privacy, lest in the aftermath of doing so, you generate such an outpouring of spontaneous foaming at the mouth that animal control specialists armed with rabies vaccinations are summoned to quell the disturbance).

This opposition to the Right to Privacy brings us to another institution and process much belittled by movement conservatives and increasingly in the press as the structure most putting a break on malignant authoritarian designs: the courts. Notice the arguments advanced by the anti-gay marriage Constitutional Amendment advocates for example: "activist judges" (although since the cases are technically brought to the courts not by judges but by the parties involved in the suit, the judges aren't doing anything to advance an agenda, so it really isn't "activism" in the usual sense of the word, and for that matter, regardless, the courts are, you know, a legitimate branch of government, but nevermind), "out of control courts", decision making by "unelected judges", "judges need to interpret the law but not make the law" and so forth. Opposition to the courts is not new, but opposition to courts for EXPANDING individual rights is relatively recent, and deeply troubling. Beware the typical conservative subterfuge in defense of opposing the courts: something called "strict constructivism" in interpreting the Constitution. What this means to law and order conservatives and religious conservatives as well, is that in matters relating to the rights of people, we should defer to the circumstances of the late 1700's (meaning that people should get less rights than we would grant them today in an era of women voting, non-slavery, Miranda warnings, etc) and base rulings on the "intent" of the framers/founders, however such intent may be divined, inherently conflicted as it likely is in the many statements most of the founders may have uttered on the issue or the lack of statements as the case may be. But for Law and Order conservatives and religious fundamentalists, the real issue isn't "strict constructivism" or "intent" or whether judges are "activists" or any such legal nicety. The real issue for conservatives is the need to ensure the ability to control and punish people and to limit the freedom of minorities, whether religious, political, economic or otherwise.

In summary, this is the conservative establishment as we know it. The main threat from this conservatism is its war on individual liberties and its preference for religious, nationalistic, and punitive hierarchies and systems. And it has advanced this preference cleverly, from a wide range of angles, using symbolic, highly charged, and manipulative language.

The challenge for liberals is to call this conservatism by its right name--oppressive, backward, and threatening to freedom, the individual, and to our way of life and most important values. And to do so unapologetically, without fear for the immediate consequences. Liberals must redeem the word "liberal" as a positive attribute, unhesitantly defend liberalism's contributions and advances in our society over the last century and a half, and zealously guard the institutions that protect liberal values, individual freedom, and the growth of knowledge and opportunity, such as the ACLU, People for the American Way, and our colleges and universities.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Michael, We've Got Your Back

To: Peter Beinart, Al From, Bruce Reed, Will Marshall
Fr: Jay B. Bulworth
Re: Purging Michael Moore

Hey guys, do us all a favor, and shut the **** up.

When we want advice about how to screw up our party, lose elections, and sell our souls, we'll give you a call. Until then, Michael's welcome any day.

I know Michael Moore. Michael Moore's a friend of mine. Guys, none of you are worthy to carry Michael Moore's camera strap.

Let me ask you this, you holier than thou blowhards. Where were you when this Administration was lying its ******* *** off about Iraq, when the news media was mocking war protestors and slobbering all over itself to show us the shocking and aweful demonstrations of brutal, unprovoked aggression and arrogance, while it was ignoring the deaths of Iraqi civilians in its whoring chase for ratings? Where were you when the speedboat veterans for the ministry of truth and the other Cheney-Bush gang members were lying about John Kerry's war record all the while attempting to cover up the non-existent National Guard "service" of the "man of faith" from Crawford? Where were you when Republican convention goers were sporting "purple heart bandaids", thereby denigrating the service of not only John Kerry but all those who have sacrificed on behalf of their country, voluntarily or not? Where were you when Zell Miller stood on the convention platform and charged all those with the audacity to dissent from Our Leader's commands as traitors? Where were you when the Bush henchmen were fighting like hell to keep as many (minority) voters off the ballots, so this torture-loving, civil liberties violating regime could stay in power for at least four more years?

Gentlemen, I loathe you. You emit a foul and displeasing odor. You are all a big, giant piece of crap.

Oh, one other thing--go **** yourselves.

To Oppose

Resolved: It will be the policy of this blog to not post about every bit of political minutia, scandalous remarkings, or wingnut emissions that get run up the flagpole, or other liberal blog postings about such material. It will, instead, be the policy of this blog to progressively enunciate an agenda for the Democratic Party and to analyze any significant and necessary contributors therein.

But today I will kindly refer you to Josh Marshall's Talkingpointsmemo and his discussion of the little matter of the new presidential cabinet and sub-cabinet nominees, some of whom, Democratic Senate members, I implore you, are begging for something approaching an honest, thorough, and rigorous questioning, and if need be, opposing.

Here I am speaking primarily of the president's selection of former NYC police chief, Bernard Kerik (who'd rather just be called plain "Bernie"), as head of Homeland Security. It seems as if he deserted his job as trainer in chief for the Iraqi national police force, abruptly departing a mere two or so months into what was expected to be a minimum six-month tour of duty, and at a time, Josh notes, when things were going to hell in a hand basket over there. And, oh, yeah, one other thing. This Bernie's a political hack, campaigned for dubya predicting doom and despair for the war on terra should JFK II be elected, and has in turn served as Rudy G's resident butt-boy.

I'm not arguing for a full-scale assault on all the president's nominees. But where credible evidence suggests that such individuals may not be up for the task, or whose backgrounds lend themselves to serious concerns, it is incumbent upon those members of congress to investigate and to oppose such nominations if and when they are voted upon in committee or on the floor of the Senate and to make such opposition known.

On a somewhat related note: The failure of the Democrats to oppose, or to at least challenge the president's Iraq policy and the mass hysteria and propaganda about "the brutal Iraqi dictator" being generated by the news media that surrounded that policy, made it difficult if not impossible for the Democratic candidate (with the exception of Dean or Kucinich) to argue, two years later, in the midst of a presidential campaign, what was wrong with the war. Let's not make this mistake again, in the name of political expediency, for nominations or anything else, from introducing any much needed opposition. And for those of our Senate friends contemplating a run in '08, let's hear from you about these issues NOW, not three years from now in the snow of Iowa and New Hampshire about how deserving and electable a candidate you are. Now is your time. Stand up and be counted. Prove yourselves.

If Nominated I Will Not Run, If Elected I Will Not Serve

I need to say a few words about the DNC Chairmanship and the Presidency '08 rumours that have been going around. In the few days I've been back, many of you have written, called, and faxed to inquire as to my availability for these illustrious positions, based on various reports circulating throughout the Internets.

I have to say I'm sorry about these rumours. They're false, completely without foundation, have no credibility, and I'm terribly sorry I started them.

Please cease and desist all such efforts on my behalf.

I will be making a DNC endorsement shortly.

Thank You.

To South or Not To South: State of the Party II

Wow. I didn't realize what hard work bloggering is. It's hard. I was all set to post a discourse on what Dems should do about the South, then that frenchman, Michael Berube, goes and does it, but he does one better, and plants the finger of blame on Democratic failures not on the Old Confederacy states, but on those of the Lousiana Purchase, which gave us OK, Mizzou, Kansas, the Dakotas, etc. The Plains States. And he's right, for more reasons than one.

But since one is all I know, I'll go on with what I was going to say anyway. Consider this an open letter to the future DNC chairperson.

"Dear Howard/Simon/Joe,

Obviously you're all aware of the fact that our candidate did not win a single southern state this Fall, and pretty much across the board, wasn't even competitive in them. Even before the campaign started there were calls to write off the South. Aside from a visit or two to LA early on, I'm not sure our standard bearer ever went below the Mason Dixon line.

Now, as have many others, I've had occasion these last few weeks to question the wisdom of everyone's favorite president, Honest Abe, in not just letting the southern states go when he had the chance. But he didn't and we still have them, every federal dollar sucking, Jerry Falwell exporting one of them.

But here's the thing. If I can be blunt, let me run down with you some statistics you might find interesting. Mississippi, 36% black. Louisiana, 33% black. Georgia and South Carolina, 29% and 30% black. Alabama, 26% black. And oh, yeah, these states are all among the poorest in the country. Now, back in 2000, about 9 out of 10 blacks voted Democratic. Now, how is it, that with such high percentages of black individuals, and with such low levels of income, we ain't competitive there?

Now, it's possible that black support for Democrats may be lower in the South, like say, 8 out of 10, but that's a big maybe. In any event, with the high proportion of blacks, and the proponderance of blacks to vote Democratic, we don't need all that many white votes down there to win.

So get to it. Please.

Love, Senator Bulworth"

Sunday, December 05, 2004

State of the Party, Part I

Short post today, but as I get started here I feel compelled to offer whatever brief analysis I can regarding the outcome of last month's election. While much of this has been hashed and rehashed throughout blogland, there are a few items that have largely escaped the note of some of my fellow bloggers, and of course, not surprisingly, our friends in the so-called "liberal media".

Like most of you, I've spent the last month in considerable pain, forced to endure the spectacle of the Administration's unchallenged claim of a supposed mandate based on a 51% of the vote, and results from exit polls showing that a small plurality of voters identified "values" as their main issue of concern, a finding that has given the authoritarian wingnuts gruel to chew on.

Folks, here is what you need to know about presidential elections: The results almost always turn on the economy, the popularity of the incumbent party, and foreign policy broadly defined. They are rarely if ever about ideology or "issues" as we understand them.

Second, here is what you need to know about elections involving an incumbent running for his party's second straight term. They usually win. Big. Look it up. FDR in '36, Ike in '56, Johnson in '64, Nixon in '72, Carter in '80, Reagan in '84 and Clinton in '96. The only one in the group to lose was Carter. The others won by larger popular and electoral margins than Our Leader and his 51%. When presidents are running for their party's second term they usually do very well.

With that in mind, it needs to be said that Kerry and the Democrats by extension, did very well at the presidential level. At the presidential level, there is no crisis. Here that? SCLM this means you. The race was very close. In a way, that is what makes the result so painful. But 2008 will be a very winnable race and I would expect the Democrat to be well positioned, whomever he or she may be.

Some of you may be wondering if in my return to society I haven't faced the facts regarding the results in the House and Senate races. For gosh sakes Jay we lost 4 seats in the Senate, and that Tom Delay got more seats in the House. Well, I have. And I'll attempt to address them in the next post, or the second, or the third, whatever it takes.

For now, for your encouragement, please read Judis' and Texiera's The Emerging Democratic Majority, and call me in the morning.

And don't forget, "we stand on the edge of a new millenium..."

Friday, December 03, 2004

Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated

I know what you're thinking. Didn't you die at the end, gunned down by a former campaign contributing insurance executive, standing on the nearby roof of a house overlooking Halle Berry's place in South Central?

Well, the truth is, I was injured but have been recuperating. And the re-election of Bush II, along with his Senate cast of cronies, has prompted me to emerge from the shadows and to carry on the progressive fight.

But I know I need a greater justification for initiating this blog than the mere results of election 2004. After all, isn't the Internets too full of bloggerings as it is? So here are some important reasons why I have rejoined the fray:

--I'm twice as old but half as articulate as Jesse and Ezra over at Pandagon

--I'm one-fourth as vitriolic as the Rude Pundit

--I'm one-eighth as good of a writer as Michael Berube

--I'm one-tenth as resourceful as Josh Marshall

--I'm one-fifth as insightful as DailyKos

--Hesiod (Counterspin Central), Media Whores Online, Notes on the Atrocities, and Tristero, have all dropped out of the race, after very successful and inspirational blog-runs.

With this justification behind me, in my next post I plan to offer my take on the state of the Democratic Party and the prospects for progressives in the aftermath of Election 2004 and George W. Bush's "mandate" for America.