Friday, February 11, 2005

18 Suckers

Sam Heldman says the class action "reform" bill is crazy. And 18 of our boys and girls in the U.S. Senate voted for it. 18.

[I checked some of the Senate member websites to see what rationale they were offering for why they supported or opposed this legislation. Tom Carper has a press release on his site, explaining why he voted for it, but most of the others have nothing.]

While Kos is encouraged by reports of a new unity among the Senate Democratic caucus, Seeing the Forest concludes we have work to do.

What I wanna know is, how many bills supported by Clinton and the Democratic majority during the 1993-1994 session, got 18 Republican votes in the Senate? I can't imagine 2, let alone 18, Republicans voting for anything Clinton supported. Republicans would have voted against a bill to have a likeness of Ronald Reagan carved into Mount Rushmore, if Clinton or the Democrats favored it.

Harry, Nancy, I know you're trying. And I know you object to having the DNC chair trying to control policy, but when you can't keep our own guys in line on something like this, you don't exactly do a lot for our confidences, you know what I mean?

In other news, President Bush has vowed to veto any changes to the Medicare prescription drug bill passed last year. With cost estimates for the bill--which prevents price negotiations with drug companies over the cost of drugs the federal government would cover for beneficiaries--now projected to rise to $724 billion over the next decade, some members of Congress are calling for changes in the government's bargaining position. But Bush is pledging to veto any such changes on the grounds that "I signed Medicare reform proudly, and any attempt to limit the choices of our seniors and to take away their prescription drug coverage under Medicare, will meet my veto".

Now obviously, Bush's remarks and veto threat have nothing to do with wanting or being able to fullfill the promises of the legislation to Medicare beneficiaries. Rather, he wants to make sure the profits of the pharmaceutical companies and the lifestyles of its executives are protected at all cost.

If only we had a real news media, and a real oppositional party...

Thursday, February 10, 2005

How I Connect Two Seemingly Unrelated Events...

So I went to the Capital City Brewery last night to hear Howard Dean after RSVP-ing to the Democracy For America website, along with about 1200 other people. I don't know how many people were actually there, but both levels of the place were filled to standing room only, and later on I realized there was a substantial crowd standing outside as well, to which Dean afterward went out to provide a second speech. Yeah, I know, this is DC, land of policy wonks, government workers, and political staff, not the revered "heartland" of conservative Republican lore where things like this transpire, but I back to our regularly scheduled programming...

Other than the substance and passion typical for Dean, and the surprise accompaniment of fellow Vermonter, Senator Jim Jeffords, who joined him on stage, two things stood out for me. One, I have a hard time imagining someone like Tim Roemer, or Donnie Fowler, or, heaven forbid, Martin Frost, generating this kind of turnout or enthusiasm. In fact, I have a hard time imagining any Democrat besides the Clintons getting this kind of reaction.

Two, while I don't want to overstate the importance of Saturday's upcoming DNC election and Dean's likely victory in it, for its ability to dramatically change the political landscape (a point Dean underscored last night), it is clear that at a minimum, a different wind is blowing in Democratic politics. Whatever else happens, business as usual in the Democratic Party is over. The blogosphere and emerging grassroots progressive movement typified by Dean has changed how the party responds to its constituency, current events, and selects its leadership. While the change in party head may take time to produce tangible benefits, the change in process and selection this time indicates a new, more ground-up era, where we have a voice in shaping the party's and country's destiny.

The other seemingly unrelated event concerns the de-talonization of "Talon News" and its Bushie devotie and propogandist, "Jeff Gannon" masquerading as a "journalist" with press credentials and White House briefing room access. Although the Howard Kurtz piece in today's Post credits Kos, Atrios, and World O' Crap with the "outing", David Brock and Media Matters for America got the ball rolling.

And here's a memo to the wingnuts (and Reynolds, this means you) who are now crying foul: If you want to be the Administration's waterboy, at least use your own damn real name. And if you now think it's A-OK for journalists and their employers to be biased, than shut y're trap about "media bias". If you don't care that this guy was a partisan shill, than your whole bogus haranging of The Liberal Media is a sham.

Anyway, so what's the connection? The connection is that despite November's losses, there are signs of life that a new progressive movement is beginning to gel and have focus. The Democratic Party and the conservative establishment have been put on notice. We're paying attention.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Can I Get a Witness?

Jesse Taylor says:

The Washington Post details today conservative concerns over the expansion of federal government under Bush. The typical objections are kindly trotted out, paraded around the sparsely populated arena, and trotted back in to the stables to a smattering of lazy claps and overheard questions about why hot dogs cost three dollars.

It's a nice show, but the core of Republican attitudes on the federal government are less an ideological opposition to the expansion of government power than an ideological opposition to the expansion of liberalism....

It's the decimation of personal control, the wholehearted embrace of the federal government's power to remove power from the individual. It's not about helping, supporting through hard times, ensuring a basic standard of living. It's about restriction, whether through fear, judicial fiat, or simple gross paternalism. It has nothing to do with the liberal embrace of the government's power to ensure and expand opportunity - the conservative ideal of government declares that its only power is to restrict rights...and they're perfectly fine with that.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005


The title of this post refers to:

a) The name George Constanza wanted to give his child;

b) The number of U.S. Senators elected to the Presidency while serving in the Senate;

c) The number of blogs that have linked to this humble blog;

d) The number of NHL teams that don't make the playoffs on any given non-strike year

Did you choose this blog's self-serving answer "C"? Then you were correct.

Blogging for two months and the number of my linked bloggers has increased to 6:

That Colored Fella
Suburban Guerilla
Seeing The Forest
Blonde Sense
Alt Hippo
The Rogue Progressive

If you've linked to me and I've neglected your inclusion in this list, please let me know. To those who have, thank you very much.

Don't I Know You?

In case you're wondering, the W.R. Grace identified here as allegedly exposing mine workers and citizens of Libby, Montana, to asbestos, is the same W.R. Grace from here .

An unlikely coincidence, I'm sure.

Republican Fascism

There have been a number of references from progressive blogosland to this article in the American Conservative, which expresses a concern from the right about the fascist tinges of America's current political climate. In particular, this passage was insightful:

"I dont think there are yet real fascists in the administration, but there is certainly now a constituency for them, hungry to bomb foreigners and smash those Americans who might object. And when there are constituencies, leaders may not be far behind. They could be propelled into power by a populace ever more frustrated that the imperialist war it has supported, generally for the most banal of patriotic reasons, cannot possibly end in victory. And so scapegoats are sought, and if we cant bomb Arabs into submission, or the French, domestic critics of Bush will serve."

If I hadn't known any better, I would have bet my house that that passage had come from some leftish blog or from The Nation. That it is coming from the right is telling.

The AC article is of a special interest, coming as it does on the heels of yet another, previous warning shot from the (admittedly libertarian) right about the new state-embracing, freedom snuffing, "Red-State Bourgeoisie" that has come of age in the hyper-post-9-11-Iraq-War era.

That the conservative movement-turned-establishment harbors anti-democratic tendencies is not news to most of us on the left. It has been evident more or less since the country's founding in one form or another, regardless of whichever party label it cared to clothe itself with for the purposes of the moment. And there are many more capable than I who have outlined the excruciating details of the modern conservative fascist strain (in particular, see David Niewert) , so I won't attempt a further elucidation here, other than to note, as I have previously, what I believe to be its two main, distinguishing features: militant nationalism; and authoritarian religious sentiment; along with a third, more derivative pillar, corporate oligarchy.

This is not to label all Republicans or even all conservatives as fascists. To a large extent, I doubt whether most party adherents and group activists on the right think at this level of abstraction or would salute these darker ends if it was laid out to them.

But I would go further than the AC article's author in identifying the new radical evangelicalism (of both protestant and catholic stripes) as being a considerable source from which this red-state bourgeoisie may emerge. And I believe its a problem that, however present in the masses, is particularly evident in the religious hierachy and elite. Some of these figures and organizations I have identified before: D. James Kennedy (The Coral Ridge Hour television program from Fort Lauderdale, FL), Rod Parsley (from Columbus, OH, and who also hosts his own show on cable), and of course, James Dobson from Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, CO. Each enthusiastically calls for a "return to America's Christian heritage", which manages to combine both a seemingly historical patriotism with a call for greater restrictions on individual liberty and the freedom of conscience.

And as I have also argued previously, it is this threat, more than generalities about improving economic welfare, that should be recognized by the Democratic Party, and because of which, I believe it to be a mistake for Democrats to try to accomodate the right-ward drift in American politics for the purposes of expendiency.

I've Very Angry

Why am I angry, you ask? I'll tell you why.

Because I didn't get to write this:

I am saying I do not understand why CNN or NPR would hire someone to talk about Iraq policy who has not read a book on the subject under discussion. Actually, of course, it would be desirable that he had read more than one book. Books are nice. They are rectangular and soft and have information in them. They can even be consumed on airplanes. Goldberg should try one.


An argument that judgment matters but knowledge does not is profoundly anti-intellectual. It implies that we do not need ever to learn anything in order make mature decisions. We can just proceed off some simple ideological template and apply it to everything. This sort of thinking is part of what is wrong with this country. We wouldn't call a man in to fix our plumbing who knew nothing about plumbing, but we call pundits to address millions of people on subjects about which they know nothing of substance.


But Goldberg is just a dime a dozen pundit. Cranky rich people hire sharp-tongued and relatively uninformed young people all the time and put them on the mass media to badmouth the poor, spread bigotry, exalt mindless militarism, promote anti-intellectualism, and ensure generally that rightwing views come to predominate even among people who are harmed by such policies. One of their jobs is to marginalize progressives by smearing them as unreliable.

But that is not all. I'm also angry I didn't get to write this:

And now I have to see I didn't get to write this either:

And, of course, the true irony is that all this breast beating and calls for dismissal and censorship comes on the heels of years of braying about political correctness in academia squelching free speech and dissenting points of view. It seems like only yesterday that I was reading conservative intellectuals like Walter Williams saying universities are "the equivalent of the Nazi brownshirt thought-control movement" and Paul Hollander calling it "the most widespread form of institutionalized intolerance in American higher education." (I won't even mention that champion of intellectual diversity David Horowitz.) Well now, it would appear that "political correctness vs academic freedom" comes in all flavors.

And it's always a-ok for mainstream, influential intellectuals like Frank "cakewalk" Gaffney to say things like "The U.N. is a hateful and anti-Semitic mobocracy" or Michael Ledeen to publicly float a theory that 9/11 was the result of a "Franco-German strategy ...based on using Arab and Islamic extremism and terrorism as the weapon of choice, and the United Nations as the straitjacket for blocking a decisive response from the United States." These inflammatory statements at a time of great global unease are not repudiated by anyone. Indeed, such dangerous rabble rousing is completely accepted and in some cases endorsed by the Republican establishment. No one questinos whether such statements might endanger American security or its stated foreign policy. Indeed, one is left to ponder whether it might actually be American foreign policy, considering the fact that those who write these screeds are welcome in the White House.

And that brings us to the crucial difference between Ward Churchill's politically incorrect ravings and Gaffney, Ledeen and Williams' politically incorrect ravings --- the latter are powerful, well known intellectuals in the conservative movement who are on the inside of government policymaking at the highest reaches. Churchill on the other hand is a nobody.

Liberals have nothing to apologise for. Indeed, intellectual honesty requires that we do not. These conservative critics' facts are wrong and their analysis is self-serving. They have concocted a "mental model" that is designed to marginalize and intimidate those who speak out against them. I'm not talking about obscure college professors with eccentric views. I'm talking about average Americans with mainstream views that don't hew exactly to the Republican party line who are now viewed with suspicion as UnAmerican by association with this leftist chimera that sides with terrorists.

So, I think you will agree with me that I have a lot to be angry about. I didn't get to write these great pieces. But thanks to Juan Cole, James Wolcott, and Digby, we can all read them. Thank you gentlemen for your courage and wit in articulating that which I am unable to express.

Monday, February 07, 2005

The Iran Blues

I don't know about you, but I'm so ready to wack Iran. Well, not me, actually, but I'm totally down with somebody else doing it. Who says progressives can't be chickenhawks?

I'm just not sure who that somebody would be. We can barely staff the military in that other Arab-muslim country we're occupying, er, liberating now. What? Iran isn't Arab? Oh. Well, you know what I mean. Anyway, if we invaded Iran, we might have to have a draft. Even though I'm overage, there are a lot of other people who could still serve. And I'm pretty sure that Brit Hume, Bill Oh-Really?, and those other Faux gangbangers have kids of their own that'll serve. I'm not sure how old Hannity is, but I'd recommend him, too.

Invading Iran would be awesome. I wish MSGOP and Faux would start putting up their Countdown Iran banners. I'm bored with Iraq already. We've been there long enough and these intermittent rebel attacks just don't do much for me. I miss those retired generals and their topographical map models, pointing our where The Troops are and which bomb is being dropped where. Sadly, the Shock and Awe from March 2003 has worn off. Can we have some more?

If Ofgeorge doesn't want to go against Iran, yet, how about North Korea or Syria or both? I suspect that NK would be a bit of a challenge, but then again, as I've said, I'm sure we have plenty of right winger offspring that can serve as cannon fodder, so long as I don't have to go.

Wow, this progressive, chickenhawk stuff is starting to feel good. All I ask is that Ezra and Jesse head to Canada before it's too late.

Bring It On!!!

Report Card

I know the semester has just started, but I'm itchy to start handing out grades. The Senate Democrat's legislative goals, summarized at their website is as good a place to start as any.

Slogan: Security, Opportunity, Responsibility

Grade: D
Comments: Sounds like something thought up by the Republican's host of newspeak jabberwockies

1. S.11: Standing With Our Troops

Increases size of standing military by 40,000 by 2007 and promises greater income support and health care access for those who serve.

Grade: D+
Comments: On increasing size of standing army, please see earlier post.

2. S.12: Targeting the Terrorists More Effectively

We're going to get those terrorists.

Grade: D-
Comments: essentially adopts neocon rhetoric about taking the fight to the terrorists but throws in some stuff about preventing nuclear proliferation. Lacks creativity.

3. S.13: Fullfilling Our Duty to America's Veterans

Ensure better treatment for our veterans.

Grade: C
Comments: Worthwhile goal, but doesn't clarify change from current policies.

4. S.14: Expanding Economic Opportunity

Increase minimum wage, better trade protections, end tax breaks for outsourcing, etc.

Grade: B-
Comments: outside of minimum wage part, unimaginative

5. S.15: Quality Education for All

Fully fund NCLB, increase Pell Grants, some other stuff

Grade: C
Comments: why is college tuition "skyrocketing"? What're the budgetary implications?

6. S.16: Making Health Care More Affordable

allows drug reimportation, tax credits for businesses, "protect Medicaid"

Grade: C-
Comments: Does the notion of sending of our subsidized and overpriced pharmaceuticals to Canada, where they get priced down, and then reimporting them strike anyone besides me as being just a little bit bizzarre?

7. S. 17: Democracy Begins at Home

federal standards for elections, same day registration, shorter lines, paper trails, etc.

Grade: B
Comments: The best of the lot so far. Any thoughts on federal redistricting guidelines?

8. S. 18: Meeting Our Responsibility to Medicare Beneficiaries

gets rid of "donut" in recent Medicare prescription drug legislation and allows govt to negotiate lower group prices with Pharma.

Grade: C+
Comments: Sounds expensive

9. S. 19: Fiscal Responsibility for a Sound Future

Restores Pay as You Go and sequestration; restricts misuse of reconciliation

Grade: B
Comments: Sidesteps sunsetting of 2001 and 2003 tax cuts

10. S. 20: Putting Prevention First

more $ for family planning and contraceptives

Substance: C
Symbolism: B+
Comments: Right to choose?

Total Grade: C-
Comments: while recognizing that these items are intended to look like bills that might actually be considered by this congress and could even pass on a good day, there's not much here that indicates an underlying Democratic ideology or sense of purpose for government; doesn't do much to challenge Republican orthodoxy. What about the Republican "junk lawsuit bill"?

Later: Senator Bulworth offers his own agenda

What I Wanna Know Is....

Ezra Klein reminds us that although heavily marginalized, Democrats are trying to put forward alternatives to the GOP.

That may be. But, "what I wanna know is", why are our representatives still allowing us to get punked over stuff like this? The We-Need-to-Get-Rid-of-Junk-Lawsuits plank has been in the GOP top 10 list for so long it has its own AARP card (yeah, I stold that from Wolcott) and the fallacy upon which it rests is likewise well known, but nevertheless, our guys still seemed determined to bend over and let the GOP give us the business on it.

And I'll admit I'm clueless why we're promoting this, too:

"Democrats will work to increase our military end strength by up to 40,000 by 2007."
(from S. 11: "Standing With Our Troops")

Huh? We're calling for more troops? If we need greater security (against an army from ?????) and more troops to guard that security, why don't we just bring the ones over in Iraq home? Iraq's had its "successful" elections. The Republicons and the press have told us so.

Of course I'm acting as if bringing the military home from Iraq is a real policy objective that is just waiting for a favorable time. Now, of course it could be, just maybe, that the administration's intention all along has been to establish military bases in Iraq to serve as a visual reminder to Iraq's "leaders" of our desire to better police the Middle East and control its natural resources that we covet. But I don't know why I'd think that.