Saturday, June 14, 2008

Boycott AP

By Libby Spencer

The legacy media is always handwringing over its imminent demise and just can't understand what happened to their lock on the information chain. Well, idiotic vendettas like this one is one reason. The AP is harassing the Drudge Retort, for alleged fair use infringement. I'm no lawyer, but looking at the posts they're complaining about, it doesn't look like a violation to me.

Jeff Jarvis explains the irony.

This complaint comes from an organization that leaches off original reporting and kills links and credit to the source of that journalism. Yes, it has a right to reproduce reporting from member news organizations. But as I point out here, the AP is hurting original reporting by not crediting and linking to the journalism at its source. We should be operating under an ethic of the link to original reporting; this is an ethic that the AP systematically violates.

What would be better for journalism would be for aggregators — Daylife (where I am a partner), Inform, Google News, Pro Publica — to link directly to original reporting without rewriting it through its mill. That is what is happening in Ohio, where newspapers are now sharing original stories. If the AP doesn’t watch out, that is what could happen everywhere.

Jeff goes on to note that it isn't difficult to link to the original source material that AP routinely fails to credit and furthermore, the original has better reporting.

I've often thought the legacy media is obviously run by people who don't understand the internets. The AP's lunacy here would seem to prove the point. Linking is good. It builds traffic and if we all get on board with the boycott, I think they'll soon figure out that they need a little more fairness in their 'fair use policy' or they'll find their overpriced product has become obsolete.

Update: It's growing already. Here's another thing the legacy media doesn't understand about Blogtopia (y!sctp). It's nimble and when pressed can organize action in mere hours. Already, the AP boycott has an official home, the UnAssociated Press.

Mosey on over to show your support and sign the petition and of course, (speaking for myself only) please join the boycott. Use alternative sources such as Agence France-Press, Reuters, McClatchy, or IPS for your blogger news and stop driving traffic to AP!

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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By Creature

I have to say I'm with John Cole on this one. After watching an hour or so of MSNBC's coverage last night on the death of its boss, I, too, needed them to shut the fuck up and get on with the news. It's not only that Russert's colleagues were making a myriad of excuses for Meet the Press being the preferred platform to disseminate lies, unquestioned, to the American people, it's that there was real news to report yesterday. However, I'm not sure why this actually pissed me off since any real news has been absent from television for years (and then some).

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Friday, June 13, 2008

Tim Russert (1950-2008)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Tim Russert died today of an apparent heart attack. He was 58.

Although I was often critical of him -- or, rather, of his work -- I respected and genuinely liked him. He was one of those indispensable figures on the American political scene. He will be greatly missed.

I wrote a lengthy (and rather critical) post on Russert last November -- see here.

Memorandum has much more reaction to his death here -- including articles at WaPo, NYT, and CNN.

WaPo's Chris Cillizza has a nice remembrance of Russert here, as does my friend Joe Gandelman here. (See also Russert's Wikipedia entry here.)

From all of us at The Reaction, on this sad day, our thoughts go out to the Russert family.

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SOFA deal dead

By Libby Spencer

This is just a bare statement and I think it's unlikely that talks will be suspended forever, but Maliki says the status of forces agreement Bush is trying to foist off on the Iraqis before he skulks out of DC, is dead in the water.

He says the initial framework agreed upon was to have been an accord "between two completely sovereign states." But he says the U.S. proposals "do not take into consideration Iraq's sovereignty."

The prime minister said Friday "this is not acceptable." The American demands "violate Iraqi sovereignty. At the end, we reached a dead end."

Indeed, if you've been following the posts at Newshoggers, Iraq's sovereignty is the last thing on Bush's mind. I hope Maliki sticks to his guns and refuses to sign anything until after the US election when, Goddess willing, we'll have a smarter president in charge.

But this takes me back to almost four years ago. Remember how clever Bush thought he was being by allegedly turning over sovereignty two days early?

Mr Bush said the world had witnessed "the arrival of a free, sovereign Iraqi government".

He said that after "decades of brutal rule" the Iraqi people "have their country back".

And who could forget that really cute note passed between himself and Condi?

Bush, whose Iraq policy has drawn criticism abroad and, more recently, at home, was passed a note from National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice that put it this way: “Mr. President, Iraq is sovereign.”

Bush wrote “Let freedom reign!” on the note and passed it back, according to White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

If you're feeling especially gastrinomically strong, you can also read the White House press release from that time. I don't have the stomach to even excerpt it myself.

It was clear then, as it is clear now, that Bush never intended for the Iraqis to exercise any real sovereignty. The whole charade was designed to give Bremer an excuse to skulk out of Baghdad after he totally screwed up the provisional governance and to provide cover for the administration's befuddlement over the insurgency they never expected to encounter. By allegedly turning over sovereignty then, they could posit that the insurgents hated freedom, instead of us.

Four years later, we're still hearing the same basic excuses for our failure to foster any real lasting security in Iraq. Only the details and the scapegoats have changed. And it's still us, the foreign occupiers, that nearly everybody hates.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)


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Glennbeckery of the Day (Andy McCarthy edition)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

A couple of months ago, I coined a new word: glennbeckery. Essentially it means "mega-assholery," but what I came to realize was that my use of the word asshole (and related words like assholery) in regards to people like Glenn Beck was insulting to assholes (the real, physiological ones). And so:

* glennbeckery (n.) -- outlandish, ignorant, insensitive idiocy, usually conservative, often partisan Republican. (See also glennbeck, glennbeckism, glennbeckitude.)


Today's Glennbeckery of the Day comes from The Corner's Andy McCarthy (via The Plank) in response to yesterday's SCOTUS ruling on habeas corpus for Gitmo detainees:

I was going out the door this morning when I learned about the Supreme Court ruling — that the American people had lost to radical Islam, 5 to 4.

Apparently, the right -- or at least this particularly un-American glennbeck -- equates the constitutional right not to be detained at the will and mercy of an autocratic government with "radical Islam."

I wonder what Jefferson would say about that.

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By Carol Gee

A very close call -- Yesterday the Supreme Court of the United States, by a vote that was a real squeaker, restored our most basic Constitutional right, habeas corpus. Glenn Greenwald at via Memeorandum wrote the best article. It is titled, "Supreme Court restores habeas corpus, strikes down key part of Military Commissions Act." To quote the post's key opening and closing paragraphs:

In a major rebuke to the Bush administration's theories of presidential power -- and in an equally stinging rebuke to the bipartisan political class which has supported the Bush detention policies -- the U.S. Supreme Court today, in a 5-4 decision (.pdf), declared Section 7 of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 unconstitutional. The Court struck down that section of the MCA because it purported to abolish the writ of habeas corpus -- the means by which a detainee challenges his detention in a court -- despite the fact that the Constitution permits suspension of that writ only "in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion."

. . . UPDATE: Three of the five Justices in the majority -- John Paul Stevens (age 88), Ruth Bader Ginsburg (age 75) and David Souter (age 68) -- are widely expected by court observers to retire or otherwise leave the Court in the first term of the next President. By contrast, the four judges who dissented -- Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts and Sam Alito -- are expected to stay right where they are for many years to come.

John McCain has identified Roberts and Alito as ideal justices of the type he would nominate, while Barack Obama has identified Stephen Breyer, David Souter and Ginsberg (all in the majority today). It's not hyperbole to say that, from Supreme Court appointments alone, our core constitutional protections could easily depend upon the outcome of the 2008 election.

Almost too close to call -- by the end of the Democratic primary, it was a narrow win in the delegate count by Sentor Obama and a narrow win of the popular vote by Senator Clinton. Hillary Clinton started as the front runner in the campaign. By the end of the primary season, she had lost her lead though the race remained a squeaker. There are many guesses about why that happened. Many of her supporters believed that sexism was the reason. It is a close call according to this story from The New York Times (6/13/08): "Media and Critics Split Over Sexism in Clinton Coverage" (via Memeorandum). To quote:

Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic Party, who says he was slow to pick up on charges of sexism because he is not a regular viewer of cable television, is taking up the cause after hearing an outcry from what he described as a cross-section of women, from individual voters to powerful politicians and chief executives.

. . . Mike Barnicle, a panelist on MSNBC, said that Mrs. Clinton was “looking like everyone’s first wife standing outside a probate court.” Tucker Carlson, also on MSNBC, said, “When she comes on television, I involuntarily cross my legs.”

The establishment news media were faulted too. The New York Times wrote about Mrs. Clinton’s “cackle” and The Washington Post wrote about her cleavage.

Ken Rudin, an editor at National Public Radio, appeared on CNN, where he equated Mrs. Clinton with the actress Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction.” “She’s going to keep coming back, and they’re not going to stop her," Mr. Rudin said. He later apologized.

Call it like it is -- Whether it was sexism or something else that caused Senator Clinton to lose the contest, even those of us who did not vote for her owe her a great deal of credit. This list of credits owed from Tapped sounds reasonable: "Seven changes we owe Hillary Clinton." Her accomplishments include: being a front-runner who stood for women, forced talk about sexism, united Democrats on Iraq, figured out health care, engaged everybody until the end, provided national security leadership, and broadened the question of Progressives and race. I believe that Senator Clinton will keep her word and help Democrats come together.

Calling for Unity, Action Day -- The Democratic party has been working to maintain party unity from the beginning, though those efforts occasionally got derailed. But now is the right time to call again for closing ranks and working together for a victory in November. Democracy for America says they have a plan:

Everyone from Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton to Howard Dean and Speaker Pelosi are asking for Democrats to unite.

Now is the time to take the next step. Together, DFA members across the country will turn words into action on June 21. We will start the process of bringing Democrats together by reaching out to our friends and neighbors and asking them to unite for a progressive victory in November.

Squeakers cause anxiety. Two such as the SCOTUS decision and the Democratic primary remind us of what is at stake for the country this year. If we remain focused on the goals of the party to win Republican contests to be decided in the fall, we need not be overly anxious about any other squeakers as they come along.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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A stunning blow to the tyranny of George W. Bush

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I didn't comment on yesterday's Supreme Court ruling that Gitmo detainees do in fact have habeas corpus rights and so have the right to challenge their detention in U.S. civilian courts, but there was a great deal of commentary from some of the best legal minds in the blogosphere (and from the usual suspects who as usual don't know what they're talking about, but such is life in the blogosphere), including Glenn Greenwald, Marty Lederman, and The Anonymous Liberal.

Let me quote extensively from Glenn's typically excellent post:

The Court's ruling was grounded in its recognition that the guarantee of habeas corpus was so central to the Founding that it was one of the few individual rights included in the Constitution even before the Bill of Rights was enacted. As the Court put it: "the Framers viewed freedom from unlawful restraint as a fundamental precept of liberty, and they understood the writ of habeas corpus as a vital instrument to secure that freedom." The Court noted that freedom from arbitrary or baseless imprisonment was one of the core rights established by the 13th Century Magna Carta, and it is the writ of habeas corpus which is the means for enforcing that right. Once habeas corpus is abolished -- as the Military Commissions Act sought to do -- then we return to the pre-Magna Carta days where the Government is free to imprison people with no recourse.

And here's A.L.:

I think the full extent of the Bush Administration's overreach on these issues is starting to become apparent. This is an area -- defining the limits of war powers -- where the Supreme Court would prefer not to tread. But because the Bush Administration has been so aggressive and unreasonable in its assertions of power, and because Congress has been so unwilling to stand up to the Administration and exert its own authority, the Court has been forced to issue a series of rulings rebuking the Administration (and in this case Congress as well). None of that had to happen.

I also recommend, as I always do in response to SCOTUS rulings, the extensive reporting of Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog. Lyle calls the ruling "a stunning blow."

Other posts worth reading come from, among others, Hilzoy (with a very helpful "Boumediene For Dummies"), Shaun Mullen, Daniel De Groot, Cernig, Howie Klein, and Emptywheel.

Make sure also to read the reaction from the Center for Constitutional Rights.


Like the CCR, and everyone else linked to above, I applaud the ruling. It is, at its core, a victory for justice, for the Constitution, for the principles upon which America is based.

I have my concerns, however -- not about the ruling but about the context of the ruling, a narrow 5-4 ruling with Kennedy, the swing justice, siding with the four liberal justices against the conservative bloc of Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito. So as much as it was "a stunning blow" to the tyranny of George W. Bush, it was a blow that could have gone the other way -- and, if conservatives get their way, and if McCain wins and gets his way, will go the other way in the future. (There's some pessimistic perspective for you.)

I have much more to say about this, but I'll leave it at that for now.

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Damned lies and religion

By Capt. Fogg

The idea that the freedom of Christians to peaceably practice their religion is undermined by the law and by unbelievers and heretics is perhaps the most egregious lie in current circulation in the United States. This lie is the fulcrum for the lever being used to establish a distinctively American and militant Christian variant as not only an official creed, but as the basis for government, law and justice.

"I'm all about freedom of speech," says South Carolina Lt. Governor Andre Bauer.

That's why he helped push legislation allowing automobile license plates to become a platform for advertising the owner's Christianity. A measure to permit "I BELIEVE" license tags with Christian symbols failed recently in Florida, but South Carolina already allows special plates for any cause with a minimum prepaid order of 400 or a $4000 deposit. The legislation was thus largely redundant and the SC Governor passed it without signature, but its purpose was not only to allow government assistance in evangelistic pursuits, but to promote the idea that Christianity is being persecuted.

Bauer states that he is willing to put up the deposit (and be reimbursed of course) so that the oppressed believers of South Carolina could thumb their noses at secular drivers by displaying a cross, a stained glass window and a credo along with their registration number. Sometimes, those little chrome fish aren't enough.

"People who support Judeo-Christian values are ever under fire now," Bauer said to AP News.

"It's like they expect folks who are believers just to roll over because they're scared of the ACLU."

I'm sure Bauer will soon issue an encyclical explaining away the antithetical nature of Christianity and Judaism, but of course nobody is expecting anyone to roll in holy or unholy fashion -- only to stop sticking their beliefs in everyone else's face, trying to impose their taboos and forcing everyone to pay for it. Frankly I don't care whether the guy I'm following on the road is following some higher or lower father -- or whether he's Cuckoo for Cocoa Pops. I do care whether the government I pay for gives him special treatment and privileges in his mission. I do care that there might be more freedom of speech for those who see magic apparitions in their morning toast than there is for me and I don't appreciate having to keep my beliefs secret in that State for fear of being shot and left for dead on some dirt road in South Carolina.

Anyone riding with me on my recent road trip can attest that Indiana drivers whose plates proclaim that "we" trust some unspecified god are just as incompetent and perhaps
more likely to be viciously aggressive than others. They would have had ample experience of being put in danger by people with Jesus fish on their SUV's. They would have been regularly reminded that "HELL IS REAL" by countless billboards and moralized at by endless displays of tendentiously edited versions of Jewish covenants. The coins they dropped into toll booth bins would have a religious message on them. They never would have been out of radio range of at least half a dozen evangelical radio stations and they never have been or will be told by the ACLU what to believe or disbelieve or display on their cars, their homes or as a frontlet between their eyes.

Religious freedom is alive and well in the United States of America but it's the power of the Clergy, the power of Christian leaders to force their doctrines on all of us we need to be afraid of and if this were not true, they wouldn't have to lie -- now would they?

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Paradigm lost

By Carl

Sure seems like I have a lot to say on this topic.

I happened to watch Michael Moore's SiCKO last night,
and this theme of paradigms of American culture and politics swirled through my mind yet again.

If you've seen the film, then you likely recall Moore's trip to England and France to investigate "socialized medicine" with its concommitant horror stories of people dying in waiting rooms and postponing critical surgeries and bureaucracy out the wazoo over the slightest protest in treatment, how you can't choose your own doctors and how doctors are badly underpaid and treated and...

Well, you get the drift of the right wing talking points regarding single-payer healthcare.

Naturally, Moore pretty much debunks those forthwith. Yes, the film takes a POV that is probably at best generally accurate but biased towards only showing positive stories ("So how much did you pay for the delivery?" "Nothing." "You mean you can just walk out of the hospital with a baby and no bill???"); however, the generally accepted truths of nearly everyone he speaks to in England and France is that American health care is the pits compared to European healthcare and that the system in place in Europe works without creating an undue burden on the taxpayers.

People still drive nice cars and doctors can afford million dollar homes, and even the middle class can afford a comfortable apartment and a nice television on $80,000 a year combined salaries. In France. Where you get unlimited sick leave, a 35 hour work week, and minimum five weeks' paid vacation.

Sweet deal, huh? Mind you, the average French worker is more productive than the average American worker. Gee... can't imagine how treating a human adult like, well, an adult might engender a better sense of loyalty than all these "team building exercises" and sloganeering!

Makes you wonder what is wrong with this country?

There were a few telling incidents and quotes in the movie that made me think about this column today, which I had planned on writing anyway.

Tony Benn, a socialist former member of the British parliament was interviewed by Moore on camera. Put it this way: even the British call him a far left-winger. He had some interesting things to say, including the following: Keeping people hopeless and pessimistic -- see I think there are two ways in which people are controlled -- first of all frighten people and secondly demoralize them... An educated, healthy and confident nation is harder to govern. Pretty remarkable statement, when you ponder it for a moment.

What is the best way to keep a nation frightened? Yes, a terror attack works, of course, but that has limited impact on long term governance, a goal of both parties here.

No, the best way to frighten and demoralize a people is to make them think the enemy lies within our borders. It could be the blacks. It could be the undocumented workers. It could be the latte-sipping liberal elite. It could be the John-Deere-cap-wearing rednecks. It could be the working classes that cling to their guns and their God in their desperation, even.

But the enemy lies within our borders and we must be vigilant.

The enemy DOES lie within our borders, but it's not the enemy we think it is.

2) In summing up the differences, not just in healthcare but in the attitudes of the citizens of nations like England, France, and even Cuba, Moore says, They think of 'we first,' not 'me first'.

This goes hand-in-hand with the great cultural divide, I think, I referenced in point one. It's hard to think of "we first" in America for a slew of reasons, not least of which is simply the massive physical distances between "us" and "them". "They" are the flyover states, or the coast-dwellers. "We" are the true Americans. "We" know better than "they" do.

It's hard to think of "we first" because we are all hyphenate-Americans. We all self-identify with another place: Irish-American, Russian-American, Dominican-American, African American. Hell, we even have to refer to the indigenous people with a hyphenate, Native American, so as not to exclude them! Our tribe comes ahead of all others.

This diversity has had some profound and good impacts on America: from different backgrounds, we have not only derived different "American" foods (hot dogs, German; pizza, Italian) but different ideas, different perceptions have become inured into American culture.

But only after the feared "enemy within" was absorbed and assimilated.

All this, however, is hung on a backdrop of the very American "Protestant work ethic"...
a German import, by the way.

3) While pondering the French culture, with its universal healthcare and its government-paid college tuition (not a loan, a grant and out of pocket costs are nominal, under a thousand euros), and dollar-a-day childcare for working parents, Moore points out that the French government is terrified of its workers, and proceeds to show footage of various strikes across France.

Hmm. A government serving the people, instead of the people serving the government. Interesting concept!

While we here in America are trying to downsize our government, put the "people's money back in the
people's business community's pocket," in other nations, they take the people's money and use it for the benefit of the people!

Wow. Any coincidence that the US is ranked
37th on the list of health-care services, just ahead of Slovenia, despite the fact that we outspend every other nation on the planet, including China (which doesn't even place in the top 50, so at least they're getting bang for their bucks!)

We need to reorganize the priorities of this country, and sadly, neither Obama nor McCain (nor Clinton, hedging my bets) is going to pull the levers and push the buttons necessary to do this (maybe Clinton might -- might).

We collect hundreds of billions in tax revenues, and the complaint about universal health care, or any one of a number of social programs, is "it's going to cost the taypayers money."

Yeah. And as Tony Benn put it, If we can find money to kill people, you can find money to help people.

Americans are among the most generous, giving people on the planet. When a disaster strikes in Myanmar or China or Peru, Americans are the first with their wallets open, giving to the Red Cross, or to Doctors Without Borders.

I would advance the cause of universal healthcare (first) with a simple question: "If you could help your neighbor in a crisis, would you give him a dollar?"

"People pay taxes not because government needs us to. People pay taxes because other people need us to."

That ought to be the mantra of anyone running for President. We've lost a sense of community in this country. That community threatened the entrenched interests of the corporate and administrative sectors. People had a bit of power, but lost it in the 70s and 80s.

President Clinton tried to bring it back, but even his attempt was derailed by the powers that be. President Bush has further eroded and blunted that power under the guise of "homeland security," a permanent terror state devised to punish people who get out of line along with genuine threats to the nation.

To think that the next president won't use these tools is like asking me to stop using my perfectly good left hand. That's simply not going to happen, no matter how well-intentioned I might be. I'll slip up and so will the next president.

We have to take the country back.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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GWB: "not a man of peace"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

In case you missed it -- and, well, most of us did -- President Bush gave an interview to The Times (U.K.) in Slovenia the other day during which he admitted that, well, things haven't all gone well during his presidency:

President Bush has admitted to The Times that his gun-slinging rhetoric made the world believe that he was a "guy really anxious for war" in Iraq. He said that his aim now was to leave his successor a legacy of international diplomacy for tackling Iran.

In an exclusive interview, he expressed regret at the bitter divisions over the war and said that he was troubled about how his country had been misunderstood. "I think that in retrospect I could have used a different tone, a different rhetoric."

Phrases such as "bring them on" or "dead or alive", he said, "indicated to people that I was, you know, not a man of peace". He said that he found it very painful "to put youngsters in harm's way". He added: "I try to meet with as many of the families as I can. And I have an obligation to comfort and console as best as I possibly can. I also have an obligation to make sure that those lives were not lost in vain."

Almost enough to arouse one's sympathy for the man, no?

Well, no, not really.

Look, I don't think Bush is the pure evil he is often made out to be, and I'm sure there's a side to him that is more genuinely humane than the macho image of himself he so often presents to the world. And I'm sure that the loss of so many of America's young men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan -- his wars, that is, particularly the former -- arouses that more humane side.

Also, I'm sure that, in terms of the Iraq War (and of his foreign policy generally), he has been motivated by noble aims (alongside the ignoble ones). It isn't just about oil and Amerian hegemony for him. In that sense, he isn't like Cheney or Wolfowitz or Libby or Feith or the neocon warmongers who all along have demanded war, war, and more war. There's a scene recounted at the beginning of Hubris, the excellent book about the selling of the Iraq War by Michael Isikoff and David Corn, where Bush, on the South Lawn of the White House with Ari Fleischer and other communications staffers, responds to being told about gadfly reporter Helen Thomas's questions about a possible war with Iraq with this sudden stream of righteous passion: "Did you tell her I don't like motherfuckers who gas their own people? Did you tell her I don't like assholes who lie to the world? Did you tell her I'm going to kick his sorry motherfucking ass all over the Mideast?"

Therein, I think, lies the essence of the man, in all its contradictions. He believes in the eternal struggle between good and evil. He believes that he is on the side of justice. He believes that he has a responsibility to wage war against injustice. And, of course, he was right about Saddam -- that is, he was right about him to the extent that Saddam was a brutal dictator who committed genocide against his own people (obviously, he wasn't right about Saddam's alleged WMD capabilities, or about Saddam's allegedly imminent threat to American interests).

I can excuse the language, but there isn't much nuance or subtlety to Bush. It's about kicking his "motherfucking ass," not about building an international coalition to stabilize the Middle East. Bush is a self-righteous man, with strong (if somewhat shallow) convictions, but he is also a child, one who could easily be manipulated by adults like Cheney.

Regardless, it's a bit late for contrition, however (in)sincere. He may have his regrets, but, ultimately, he is to blame for what happened. He politicized 9/11, using it as a partisan wedge. He pushed far war with Iraq. He spun the lies and misrepresentations, just as much as his underlings. He ruined America's image and credibility around the world. He balked at (and undermined) diplomatic efforts to resolve international conflicts. He ratcheted up the warmongering rhetoric against Iran. He used the sort of language that made him sound like anything but a man of peace. He may be thinking about his legacy, about how he will be remembered, about what history will say about him, but to claim now that he is really just a compassionate man of peace who encourages diplomacy is laughable -- and hardly borne out by the record.

Hubris is full of evidence to refute Bush's revisionistic claims that he is a man of peace who regrets that things went the way they did. Here's one incident that stands out (p. 117):

At a breakfast with a few congressional leaders in late September [2002], Bush expressed exasperation when the issue fo a diplomatic settlement arose. Saddam had shown his contempt for the United States, he told the legislators. There was no use talking to him. "Do you want to know what the foreign policy of Iraq is to the United States?" Bush asked angrily. The president then answered his own question by raising his middle finger and thrusting it inches in front of Senator [Tom] Daschle's face, according to a witness. "Fuck the United States!" Bush continued. "That's what it is -- and that's why we're going to get him!"

Yes, "a different tone, a different rhetoric" would have been nice, but, again, Bush was playing partisan politics over 9/11 and Iraq all along, especially ahead of the 2002 congressional elections and then again in 2004 when he was up for re-election.

Sorry, Mr. Bush, we know you far too well to take you at your revisionistic word.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Paul Krugman's "I told you so" moment

By Creature

I like Paul Krugman. I like Paul Krugman the economist. I like Paul Krugman the Bush critic. I don't like Paul Krugman the Hillary Clinton supporter. See, today, after calling the storm surrounding Obama's new economic director, and established corporate cheerleader, Jason Furman silly--Furman is a lefty at heart, after all--Krugman takes this dig at those of us who have enjoyed a frosty glass of Obama Kool-Aid:

Maybe I’m wrong, but my sense is that Jason Furman has become a proxy target for some Obama supporters who, now that the Great Satanness has been defeated, are suddenly starting to have the queasy feeling that their hero might be a bit of a …. centrist. I’m tempted to say I told you so; in fact, I guess I just did. But that’s all in the past now.

Mr. Krugman, with all due respect, you assume that Obama supporters are not aware that our "hero might be a bit of a ... centrist." Obama's centrist leanings are well known to a good number of us. It's why we are amazed that the Right likes to paint him a radical lefty. Obama is no lefty, this is true, but no candidate is perfect. I am wide-eyed and awake, thank you very much. I know Obama will disappoint me with these leanings, but I would take Obama's centrism over Senator Clinton's DLC-centrism and her hawkishness in any election, on any day. So, please, save your I-told-you-sos for those who haven't realized how far you have jumped the shark this election year.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Can you spare a paradigm?

By Carl

As I re-read
the posts of the past two days, I realized that there's an element to my thinking that needs more exploring in order to successfully launch my "Actor212 Not For President" campaign.


"Class" is one of those nebulous terms that the Republicans have successfully turned into a third rail of politics, while the Democrats have sputtered and spewed trying to catch up to expose what should be apparent to anyone who's actually paid attention these past twenty years: people vote against their best interests because they've been taught to ignore their best interests.

The Republican platform, as I pointed out yesterday, is "lower taxes, smaller government," a platform they have been woefully inept and inartful at achieving. Tax revenues have spiked upwards except when there's been a recession, which is itself an uniquely Republcian phenomenon.

The mantra is that lower taxes will bring more economic investment and that Americans, particularly small-businessmen, know better how to spend their money than the government does.

Believe it or not, I actually buy some of that. It is true, to an extent. The tax cuts of the Kennedy administration fostered the greatest economic activity in American history until the Clinton tax hike (and there's your clue that taxes are in fact too low). There is a center point around which taxes and economic activity bear some inverse relation to each other.

The proposed rationale that Republicans put forth is essentially, "We'll cut taxes on the rich and maybe they'll employ more of you!"

Well, there's an acknowledgement of the American dream if I've ever heard one! Horatio Alger, look out! There's a whole crop of proletariats just gearing up to do mindless drone work, day in and day out, for the betterment of an elite class of owners!

Meanwhile, the Republicans will talk about class in terms of social structure, in particular "middle class values".

Middle class socially differs from middle class economically. Economically, middle class means, well, people in the middle: those who make between $25,000 and say $100,000 (for a family of four). Below that, you are working class. Much above that, you are upper class.

Socially, middle class means having shared American values like "hard work will provide a path to wealth" or other mainstreamed bromides that provide a rationale for getting up each morning and providing someone else with wealth while struggling in your own life. Religion may be the opiate of the masses, but values are the six packs of beer they consume to get to the five o'clock whistle.

It is this dynamic that I think is about ready to change, as people sit amidst a pile of debt and an economy falling around their ears, wondering how come ExxonMobil is still making money hand over fist and John McCain is proposing yet another tax incentive for Big Oil.

Republicans raise the spectre of "class warfare" (Charles Rangel had the best rebuttal to this: "Yes, but you declared it on us!"), and it's true: the line between economic and social classes has been carefully blurred such that about the only class that ever gets talked about is the middle class, so much so that you'd almost think that everyone is middle class, much like all the children in Lake Woebegone are above average.

By raising the spectre of class warfare, the Republicans are really saying, "Pay no attention to the fact that there really are classes in this country, that channels like Style and Fine Living exist not for the 3 million or so families who are uberwealthy, but for the hundreds of millions who wish they were, but never will be."

That has to change. The question is, how to change it? How to raise the issue of class in this country so that a) one doesn't get accused of being classist unjustly, and b) one doesn't get tarred with being both elitist AND an anarchist?

I think the way to tie this discussion together in a package that no Republican could ever critique without treading very dangerous ground is to tie it into affirmative action and in particular, racial dialogues.

Here, of course, Barack Obama could be the better man to do it than I would. He has a natural advantage.

But in truth, a careful analysis reveals that what many of us take for granted-- good jobs, a retirement plan, opportunity-- has been taken away from first minorities (in truth, many never even had these) and then from working class Americans, with blindness to the color of their skins.

A single mother in Alabama, struggling to put food on the table at her $20,000 a year job packing sausages could be black, could be white.
It doesn't matter to the food bank. The thing is, neither does it matter to the guy who owns the factory. All he or she knows is, he's making money off her sweat.

Sounds vaguely socialist, I know. And perhaps that's the way it ought to sound, because capitalism, democracy and Christian "values" are incompatible in the extreme.

There's a trick to this idea that has to be carefully navigated, but like the Republicans' nifty trick of de-coupling "values" and those who hold them dear with their policies, which are anthema to those very values, it can be done.

In this instance, we have to recouple the issues of fairness economically with social fairness. Not justice, because that has a heavy-handed "enforced" air about it.

What I think we should have established in this country is a whole new ideal that society is ready to stop taking differences for either granted OR as inconsequential. No more "affirmative action," but no more "color-blind (pick one) admissions policy/hiring policy/whathaveyou" way of conservatives ducking their responsibilities to the masses of a different class.

What we need to do is to expand opportunities for everyone, and let everyone have a stake in the future of this nation. Societal constructs will blow by in the wake of a thriving economy that sees true entrepreneurs, small (and I don't mean rich white guys owning a vineyard on the side, but people trying to provide a needed service or good in the future) businessmen revitalizing the notion that markets are free and that's a good thing so long as markets remain free and not closed to competition by people, Democrat and Republican, who pay lip service to Adam Smith.

Adam Smith himself believed in government regulation of the markets to a degree, because Adam Smith himself said that an unregulated market would tend to create business combinations that would defeat the purposes of a free competition. I won't bore you with the details of his reasoning. Suffice it to say he recognized that people would conspire to restrain trade in their own industries to protect their business interests.

We need to get back to the notion that people matter, that a "class blind society" is not consistent with industries that can pay hundreds of millions dollars in what effectively bribes in order to protect their interests. That people matter. That families matter.

That democracy matters.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Golfers, most of whom are Republican, are stupid (when it comes to global warming)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Actually, I like golf. I used to play it from time to time and enjoyed it immensely. It's just not as easy to do when you live in Toronto and have other, more pressing priorities.


Regardless, the truth is that a lot of golfers are really stupid, at least if global warming denial is any indication (and I think it is):

NPR commentator Frank Deford had a segment this morning about golf courses, in which he cited a Golf Digest poll showing that 41 percent of golfers believe global warming to be a myth.

This number struck me as surprisingly high. But then I did a little digging and discovered that, while an April Pew poll found that 71 percent of Americans say there is "solid evidence" the earth is getting warmer, only 49 percent of Republicans now believe that to be the case. More intriguing, Pew found the number of Republican skeptics to be on the rise--up 13 percentage points from a similar poll conducted in January 2007.

So if you assume that most golfers are Republicans, the stat makes perfect sense.

That's from TNR's Michelle Cottle. I suspect her assumption is a valid one, though I'd like to see some numbers before passing judgement.

And there are other factors at play here. I assume that golfers are, in general, wealthier than non-golfers. This may make them Republican, or more likely to be Republican (and it is troubling that so many Republicans are global-warming deniers), but, if they've made their money in the corporate sector, it may also make them more likely to deny the truth of global warming and more likely to accept, say, oil-industry propagana.

I assume, too, that golfers are, in general, older than non-golfers. This may also make them more likely to deny the truth of global warming and, more broadly, to be less environmentalist.

But the truth will get them yet. Here's the title of Michelle's post: "Just wait until their greens dry up." I wonder if she intended a double (triple?) meaning here. The "green" they care about is money, not the environment. With a warming planet and changing climate, many of their golf courses will indeed dry up -- the ones located in warmer parts of the world.

But, rapacious capitalists that many of them are, their other "green," the money, will dry up, too. Some will no doubt profit off environmental catastrophe -- that's always the way, isn't it? -- but large-scale economic collapse could (and likely would) parallel any such catastrophe. And then what? Well, I guess they wouldn't be able to afford the greens fees anymore.

Assuming there are any greens left.

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FISA revision revisited

By Carol Gee

Surveillance news alerts were most recently published here on May 21. It is time again for an update; and it may be time to say no to Congress again. The White House claims that something must be done to immunize the telecommunications companies who have been assisting with foreign and domestic surveillance using warrantless wiretaps. Revisions to FISA legislation were made in August of 2007 with the passage of the Protect America Act. Current authorities in use by the National Security Agency surveillance programs will expire in August of 2008. The House leadership is currently attempting to reach a deal on new legislation, having rejected the Senate version that is acceptable to the White House.

Leading the opposition, and holding their annual membership conference just this week and last, the "ACLU Says No Deal on an Unconstitutional FISA Compromise" (6/5/2008) from their website. In contrast, it appears that Senator John McCain is again willing to be a willing ally for our current president (OCP), who wants Congress to grant retroactive immunity for facilitating illegal spying on Americans.

"McCain's Ties To Telecoms Questioned After Wiretapping Flip-Flop" is the story by Ryan Singel, (6/9/08) at Wired - Threat Level. This is not the first instance of McCain switching positions in order to appeal to his traditional Republican base. (Glenn Greenwald, as usual, has the complete story on this matter. And one of his readers put together a very interesting FISA Wiki). To quote Wired:

If you've been wondering where all the telecom lobbyists went to lick their wounds after the House rejected retroactive immunity for wiretapping, the Electronic Frontier Foundation says it's found a bunch of them smack dab in the middle of John McCain's presidential campaign organization.

The group suggested Friday that the swell of current and former telecom lobbyists in the McCain camp might have something to do with the candidate's recent reversal on the legality of warrantless wiretapping. His most recent position "reads a lot like the talking points that a telecom lobbyist might employ," writes EFF senior staff attorney Kurt Opsahl.

McCain has long supported amnesty for telecoms who cooperated with Bush's warrantless domestic spying, but until recently questioned the legality of the program. After zig-zagging on the issue over the last few weeks, he eventually settled on a position nearly identical to President Bush's -- that presidential war-making powers trump the law when it comes to warrantless wiretapping.

Earlier FISA legislation news written by Andrew Tilghman - June 4, 2008, at TPM Muckraker, intimates that there may be a Deal in the Works for FISA Law. Time after time, Congressional Democrats have caved in to pressure from OCP and members of his administration. Let us hope this is not the case in this instance. Activists may again be called upon to shore up wavering Democrats who fear being called unpatriotic. To quote:

House Intelligence Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) may have agreed to a compromise on a deal to rewrite the nation's electronic surveillance laws.

A report in Congress Daily says Reyes is "fine" with the Republican-brokered deal that would "leave it up to the secret FISA court to grant retroactive legal immunity" to telecoms that helped the Bush administration's warrantless conduct surveillance on U.S. citizens.

An even earlier warrantless wiretapping post by Ryan Singel, from Wired - Threat Level (5/29/08) is titled, "Spy Bill 'Compromise' Still Gives Amnesty to Telcoms, But Adds Trappings of Justice." In this instance compromise does not require giving in to the administration's unremitting lies, fear mongering and pressure. Stay tuned. To quote:

House and Senate leaders are still bargaining over how far to expand the government's domestic spying powers and whether to grant retroactive legal amnesty to companies that violated federal privacy laws by helping the government spy on Americans.

But if a proposal from the top Republican from the Senate Intelligence committee is any indicator, telecom amnesty would be all but assured in any final bill.

Last Thursday, Sen. Kit Bond (R-Missouri) announced his version of a compromise (.pdf), which would move 40 or so lawsuits facing telecoms accused of helping the government warrantlessly spy on Americans to the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Bond has been working with Rep. Steny Hoyer, from the House leadership, who has been a vocal opponent of telecom amnesty.

Meanwhile other countries made the news recently with their own spy stories. Dandelion Salad's Stephen Lendman wrote (6/9/08) that "Chavez [is] revising, not revoking Venezuela's new intelligence law." To quote:

Over the weekend, Chavez showed his mettle as a democratic leader. He acknowledged “errors” in the newly enacted Law on Intelligence and Counterintelligence and will fix them to assure it fully complies with Venezuela’s Constitution.

He gave examples and cited Article 16 that cites the possibility of prison terms for persons not cooperating with intelligence services. It’s a “mistake,” said Chavez and “not a small (one).” The new intelligence services won’t oblige anyone to inform on others. Doing so is “overstepping,” and “I assume responsibility” for the error and will fix it.

Germany is worried that Russia is involved in widespread industrial espionage, according to The Middle East Times story which says: "The German government has accused foreign intelligence services -- blaming mainly Russian agents -- of having spied on German companies."

I will regularly focus on FISA issues raising civil liberties questions. The next post will come Saturday.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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More queer invisibility

By LindaBeth

This Boston Herald headline describes a lesbian couple as "galpals."

The article refers to their being lesbians, and that they are in fact a couple, but I'm not sure how being lesbians got equated to "just friends" in the headline. Way to make their sexuality invisible!

This on the back of the "obscenity" of lesbians kissing.

(via feministing)

(Cross-posted to Smart Like Me.)

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McCain: Bringing troops home from Iraq "not too important"

By Creature

Note to Johnny McWarmonger: Iraq is not Japan. Iraq is not Germany. You are a callous ass. And screaming "context" will not help you here. Enjoy your retirement.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Joe Lieberman, jerk extraordinaire

By Michael J.W. Stickings

TPM's Greg Sargent:

Now that Joe Lieberman has emerged as John McCain's lead attack dog against Barack Obama -- even going so far as to suggest that Obama's judgment could pose a danger to our safety -- there's some very interesting behind-the-scenes back-story to the Lieberman-Obama relationship that you should know about.

Specifically, a top official on Joe Lieberman's 2006 Senate reelection campaign tells me that Lieberman's staff practically begged Barack Obama to come in and endorse him at a critical moment -- requests that Obama agreed to, helping Lieberman minimize the damage from challenger Ned Lamont's recent entry into the contest.

Two questions:

1) How much do you think Obama regrets coming out for Lieberman over Lamont in '06? (Perhaps it was poor judgment on Obama's part, but I commend him for sticking with a (presumed) friend through tough times.)

2) How much of a jerk is Lieberman? (Answer: Even more of one that we thought. And we already thought he was a rather superlative one.)

Aravosis: "Joe Lieberman isn't a nice guy. He's a bitter old Washington politician who begged a friend for help, got it, then turned around two years later and stabbed that friend in the back. Joe Lieberman isn't crossing party lines to show how he puts principle above party. He's crossing party lines because today it's the move that pays him the most benefit. That doesn't make him principled, it makes him a whore."


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Greatest Republican Idea of the Day (Ron Paul edition)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Let's start a new and unabashedly ironic series: Greatest Republican Idea of the Day (GRID).

(Great because self-defeating and self-destructive, of course.)


Dick Scaife's right-wing rag is reporting that "[m]averick GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul has booked an arena in Minneapolis for a 'mini-convention' that could steal some of John McCain's thunder just days before he accepts the Republican nomination."

Hey, what a great idea!

Could Ron Paul 2008 be the new Pat Buchanan 1992? Sure. Buchanan's a fascist thug, but Paul's a crazy racist libertarian -- he may be right about Iraq, but he's just as much an extremist, in his own way, as Buchanan (who's also a Nazi apologist who, with a new book out, argues that WWII was the worst war ever -- the U.S. shouldn't have gotten involved, and, presumably, the Holocaust shouldn't have been stopped). Buchanan is worse, I think, but Paul, who continues to have a large and committed following around the country, could be just the right thorn in the side of McCain and the GOP establishment (if the fascists of the christian right don't puncture them instead, still a distinct possibility).

So, yes, Ron Paul, go for it. Hold your mini-convention. Generate some buzz. Send a message to the GOP. And steal as much of McCain's manufactured thunder as you can.

Great, great, great idea.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

More credit where credit is due

By Creature

Once again I find myself in need of giving Senator Clinton thanks. Marc Ambinder is reporting today that Clinton is urging "her pledged delegates to vote for Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention." With this news I am full from the amount of crow I've been forced to eat lately. Thank you, Senator Clinton. I may not like the way you play politics, but your support for the party these last few days has been admirable.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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NYT article on gender, marriage, and same-sex couples

By LindaBeth

(via Feministe)

The New York Times reported an interesting study on the relationships of married (heterosexual) and same-sex couples.

Same-sex relationships, whether between men or women, were far more egalitarian than heterosexual ones. In heterosexual couples, women did far more of the housework; men were more likely to have the financial responsibility [...] With same-sex couples, of course, none of these dichotomies were possible, and the partners tended to share the burdens far more equally.

While generalizations couldn't be made by sex, I would be interested to see if husband and wife "types" emerge in same-sex relationships, along lines of economic providing/dependency and domestic work--especially when children are involved in the relationship. Economic necessities of families--and the government and social restrictions on how these are met--don't go away just because the sex of the partners changes. Economic roles in families are indeed gendered, and are organized along sex-based gender role expectations. But this isn't to say that the structuring effect of the heteronormative traditional family won't in any way also structure same-sex marriages.

I'd be interested in reading the study itself, because, notably, the above quote was the only comment made about income and domestic work...and it was with reference to heterosexual couples only. There was nothing reported in the Times about the of division of labor and employment in same-sex couples, and nothing about how things change when children are involved. Some studies have shown that egalitarianism in heterosexual couples tends to go out the window once children are born. The article was really more about conflict resolution and less about economic relations in the family, which I think misses a very important aspect of family constitution.

Marriage is so complex, and its regulatory and disciplinary functions come not just from the sex of the individuals involved, but are present in the very expectations for how life is organized in this country. I don't think the sex of the partners itself or about the way we as individuals think about gender are solely what accounts for relational inequalities, although they are indeed part of it.

The social expectations of 'family' is a huge issue: that 'care' is privatized, domestic work is expected to be done without compensation: that is is done nearly invisibly social security-wise, disability-wise, health care-wise, etc. shows that as a society, we do not recognize that domestic work, child care, and elder care constitute any kind of economic (and thus civic) contribution--or that they only do by way of one's spouse. No national health care means that dual-part-time work is all but impossible, which significantly restricts the viability of options for organizing our personal lives. These factors are not circumvented by the sex of the partners.

This isn't of course to imply that 'economics' exists as a factor all by itself. Family economics and the production of gender happen in and through each other. Several studies I've read for my thesis revealed that income parity or even women earning more than men (when both partners are full-time workers) gives women some relief in housework but not proportional relief by any means. Further, this relief comes from women doing less, not men doing any more. Women, regardless of their employment, still continue to do a significant majority of the housework. And the kinds of tasks that are typically "female" tasks are routine, time-sensitive, and must be done daily. Typical "male" tasks can more easily be put off or contracted out. Many studies have shown that typically female tasks have more effect on a person's income and also more greatly restrict what kinds of jobs can be had in the first place. And this is to nothing of any gendered wage gap (and may in fact be part of the wage gap). But these kinds of tasks have to be done, regardless of the sex of the partners: if same-sex couples divide up tasks along these male/female-type tasks, then inequality is likely to be reproduced as well.

Women earning more than their male partners also tended to defer decisions and power to them for fear that b/c of their higher income and status jobs they may appear too threatening to their spouses. We know that traditionally, men’s jobs have been used for justification for them doing less housework and having more power within the family. but a “role reversal” in income doesn’t produce a “role reversal” in behavior. Which makes me that inequality in the family is both gender and economic: indeed particularly gendered economics.

One more interesting point is that in families where men are almost totally economically dependent on women, they tend to do less work than when spouses’ income is equal…the researcher Brines (1994) took this to be “gender display”; when normative gender roles in the family income are deviated from, their other behaviors tend to be overly gendered.

All this to say, I think that same-sex relationships clearly are not subject to certain gender prescriptions, but I don't think they escape all of them, not with societal constrictions on the freedom to organize our own families/networks of affiliation in a way that provides necessary legal rights and protections.

See my previous posts on this topic:
-- Thoughts on the tyrrany of marriage at tax time
-- More on heteronormative familial-economic arrangements

(Cross-posted to Smart Like Me.)

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A side of cheese, please

By Creature

From TPM we learn today that the "Lieberman camp is hitting back at suggestions from the Obama camp that the Connecticut Senator has crossed the line in his assaults on his Illinois colleague."

Putting aside the merit of Joe's camp's complaint, what I want to know is: why does Joe Lieberman have a "camp"? Is he running for something at the moment beyond ass-kisser and douche-bag of the year? I didn't think so.

Basically, Joe Lieberman needs to STFU before Senator Obama uses his terrorist fist jab all over Joe's traitorous face. Can you tell I don't like the guy?

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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More paradigmatic posting

By Carl

I hadn't planned on this being a series, but as I began to write
yesterday's post, I realized I was heading full speed into a novel. That's the biggest reason it ended so abruptly.

What I see when I look at the two major parties in this nation is stultification and obsolescence. Despite Obama's "re-energizing" of the party, attracting youthful voters, the same Democratic party is the underpinning of his entire campaign.

Indeed, his personal campaign runs square up against the centrist policies of the party as a whole.

This scenario has played out once before in this nation, within the past forty years. When the Democrats took a strong stand against racial discrimination and for equal rights, it triggered a series of cataclysms, ending classical American liberalism as we know it.

First, the noble cause of racial equality created a split with what was then the George Wallace wing of the party. You might say this was a good thing, driving out intolerance and driving away injustice, and I'd be hard pressed to disagree.

But look what happens next: After Wallace runs a failed third party campaign in 1968 (getting nearly killed in the process), the Republicans seize on the disaffected southern white working class voters that Wallace attracted.

You know these folks as "Reagan Democrats".

By talking in coded language of "law and order" and raising values issues, the Republicans began to peel away the basic voting bloc of America: middle Americans who, altho liberal in outlook, didn't trust a radical agenda, which was becoming more and more radical in the Democratic party as the anti-war movement began.

The Republicans countered this, masterfully, by scaring people about liberals while at the same time reassuring them that there was someone who was looking out for them, co-opting the values battle while winning elections, and pretty much guaranteeing a hand in government for generations.

Sounds pretty familiar, doesn't it? A party has overstepped their mandate, and disaffected voters are uneasy about where to turn next. This is another challenge Barack Obama faces: reassuring these voters that while he's about the future, he's also not going to take them on a rollercoaster ride.

You'll notice the rationale here for Hillary Clinton's campaign strategy, and it was a smart one and a good one, and nearly garnered her the nomination despite her blunders.

In 2006, the Democrats led by Rahm Emanuel and Chuck Schumer returned the Democrats to legislative control based largely on this strategy of taking disaffected Republicans and "former Reagan Democrats" and putting a friendly face on a slightly more progressive agenda: Jon Tester, Jim Webb, Claire McCaskill, Bob Casey, all ran as conservative-to-moderate Democrats and picked up seats previously held by Republicans.

The sole "pure" liberal to swipe a seat was Sherrod Brown of Ohio, and that seat was held by Mike DeWine, of
Coingate fame.

Clearly, the 2008 election should see more and more Democrats come to the fore in the legislative elections, more notably as Representatives, I think, altho a six seat pick up by Democrats in the Senate would not be impossible. Getting a filibuster proof mandate is not likely.

Now, I've written all that to acknowledge the importance of this election in shaping the country going forward, but also as a warning that while change is good, radical change is not good.

We need to elect candidates who will articulate a vision for America in ways that Americans can be comfortable about, which is another reason I felt Obama was a failure as a nominee: he articulates a vision I can see in my head, but not feel in my heart.

Although his 2004 convention speech was rib-tickling, to be sure, he hasn't followed that with concrete visions, and he speaks abstractly, as if he was a lecturing fellow at Columbia. That's not what Americans respond to. They don't vote with their heads.

They should, because poll after poll after poll says that, in general, they agree with a liberal agenda: healthcare for all, opportunity, fairness, liberty and equality.

If I were running for president,
and I'm not, I would skip the usual "I met this family in Podunk" speech about health care or gas prices or a clean environment in favor of talking to people about their own concerns and addressing them.

In short, my theme would be this: We know you're scared. We can help.

The new politics of the 21st Century is going to have to acknowledge the failures of both Republican and Democratic principles (if you can find the latter) and replace them with new ideals to live up to.

Republican "ideals" can be summed up in four words: lower taxes, less government.

Simple, right? Doesn't mean the party lives up to them or anything approaching them, but it's an easy way for people to remember who you are.

What are Democratic principles?

Not so easy to name them, is it?

When Bill Clinton ran in 1992, he used the following theme: "Opportunity. Responsibility. Community."

Not particularly descriptive, but easy to understand and to figure out what the candidate means. The trouble with this theme is everyone is for all those things. How are you different from the other guy?

(Side note: this is why "Yes We Can" is such a horrible campaign slogan. "Yes we can," what, exactly?)

A better paradigm for running for President (or Not) would be to establish from the outset exactly what you mean to do and how it will improve the lives of average Americans. Yesterday I co-opted the phrase "back to the future" as my first paradigm and this would be a pretty good starting point for any campaign I were to run, except, you know, it's already saddled with baggage.

In order to effectively promote a case for election, a case for your administration, you have to help people connect with your core values, your core beliefs, and your core positions.

What makes Democrats' job so much harder is, these are usually muddled beyond belief, forcing successful candidates to run as "not the other guy".

In determining my vision of the future, I would use the following syllogism:

1) People are scared for the immediate future and for their children. They've seen retirement money dry up in the winds of change these past seven years, and a dismantlement of the most cherish programs of FDR's New Deal, programs that heretofore were considered sacrosanct.

2) I/we have the solutions that will combine the best of Republican values (limiting tax hikes and government growth, particularly on the working and middle class, "middle class" having a generous definition here) with the best of Democratic values (opportunity, responsibility, community, for want of a better phrasing).

3) Ergo, we should present these solutions to the people who are scared and let them know they have nothing to fear, but fear itself.

If that sounds familiar, it should. It was basically FDR's campaign strategy in 1932 as well as his slogan.

And that time has come again, to remind Americans that their fellow man/woman is not the enemy, but the rapacity of corporate America, guided, aided, and abetted by the Republican AND Democratic parties (and yes, I lump these so-called "outsiders" Obama and McCain in with them), and that what stands between them and their goals of security and happiness is not abortion rights or gay marriage or flying a Confederate flag over a state capitol, but the interlocking play of money and power.

Their inheritance, our inheritance, the American birthright of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, has been stolen by those whose power allows them to take it, assisted by those whom we elected nominally to protect us.

It is time to reclaim that dream once again. We have woken up, and we are not happy.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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