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November 28, 2005

Nipping Hillary's heels -- toothlessly

Comes now Steven Greenfield of New Paltz, NY, who says he's going to run against Hillary Clinton in the '06 Democratic Senate primary, based on her disgraceful and still-unrepented record as a promoter of the Iraq war.

Greenfield is a former member of the pathetic US Green party. The "former" part of that characterization initially sounds good; but unfortunately, he only left the party last month, so that he could enter the Democratic primary. In other words, he doesn't seem to have minded the Greens' feeble lie-down-and-die strategy of supporting Kerry back in '04.

Indeed, there is depressingly less to this gambit than meets the eye. The press have taken an interest in it, but running in a Democratic primary is a form of self-mutilation. Greenfield may see to it that she gets some embarrassing questions on the stump, but he won't take the nomination away from her, or deprive her of a minute's sleep.

What would be more fun, and more interesting, and more constructive, would be if he ran in the general election on a third-party anti-war ticket. Even if the war is over by then, people have a healthy respect for the idea of payback -- and there's a lot of payback Hillary is due for, dating back to the way she made us all vassals of the HMOs in her husband's first presidential term. A third party determined to punish a bloody-fanged war criminal like Hillary might just deprive her of her Senate seat, and even if it missed that laudable goal, it would give all the other sellout Democrats something to worry about next time. It's like Voltaire said about Admiral Byng: "il est bon de tuer de temps en temps un amiral, pour encourager les autres" -- it's a good idea to shoot an admiral every now and then, in order to encourage the others. Voltaire, of course, was being ironical; but there's many a true word spoken in jest.


December 6, 2005

MoveOn (and I wish they would)

In the wake of Lowell Weicker's wonderful monkey wrench in the Connecticut works, the stupefyingly pathetic MoveOn.org has timorously allowed as how it's "kicking around the idea" of -- you guessed it -- a primary challenge to Lieberman.

I'm trying to think of an analogy. Guy's getting beaten up by a gang of thugs. Says nothing, doesn't defend himself. After half an hour or so of bone-crunching kicks and punches, he starts to wonder -- just internally, mind you; he doesn't say anything -- whether perhaps if this goes on much longer, he might possibly consider complaining about it.

These poor souls at MoveOn and the like really are scared of their own shadow. The only thing that will get the War Democrats' attention is a third-party peace line in the general election. But the pwo-gwessives are as petrified of that idea as a little bird confronted by a cobra.

December 9, 2005

War Democrats and warbler Democrats

The War Democrats and the Move-Onskis are only words apart -- no, I didn't mean to write "worlds apart" -- on Iraq:
  • Clinton Lieberman Schumer et al.: '06 will be year of transition.
  • MoveOn: '06 should be year of exit.
Neither one sounds much like that wonderful old warhorse Jack Murtha's unvarnished Amurrican "now!"


December 10, 2005

Bizarro world

America is a place where words have strange meanings. I opened my New York Times this morning to find Senator Joe Lieberman referred to as a "moderate". In the story, Joe was quoted as referring to the "terriby divisive state of our politics." The Times let this whopper pass without comment; one wonders how they would have reacted if Joe had said that two plus two equals five.

In other news, "Democracy for America", chaired by Howard Dean's brother Jim (Christ, isn't one enough?), has a plan for dealing with Bloody Joe, the Genghis Khan of Greenwich. They're going to... send him a letter, which you can sign online if you feel like getting your name on a list. The document is almost miraculously feeble; it calls on Joe to start "questioning President Bush's foreign policy."

Reading this story, between my belly laughs, I had an image of old Hrothgar's men, huddled in the mead hall at Heorot, surrounded by the disjecta membra of former colleagues, composing a letter to Grendel. Dear Mr. Grendel, we urge you to consider a change in diet. Our best wishes to your Mom. Sincerely, the Progressive Thanes of Geatland.


January 7, 2006

Mutiny among the Munchkins?

I've been spending a lot of time lately on Daily Kos -- hey, hey, it's not what you think! I don't enjoy it; I'm just trying to drum up some traffic for the blog here. But every once in a while something fun happens.

I put up a precis of my last post here on Kos, and added a poll to it, asking whether, if the Democrats take control of either house of Congress in '06, it will be because they've deserved it, or a matter of sheer dumb luck. To my unspeakable delight, dumb luck won in a landslide -- 75/25 as I write, with votes still trickling in.

I can't tell you how much this cheers me up. It strongly suggests to me that even among the fairly regular readers of Kos, True Believers are a minority -- much outnumbered by people who recognize what a rotten outfit the Democrats are, but just don't see any other way of doing Left politics except within the Democratic Party.

Hmmm. Sounds like I need to get to work on Chapter Fifteen of Stop Me Before I Vote Again.


January 13, 2006

Poisoning the peace movement

Our own Lenni Brenner has an interesting article at Counterpunch examining recent conflicts and splits in the anti-war movement. Lenni has been around for quite a while and brings a rich historical perspective to the topic. Plus ca change:
Democrats... stopped marching during the election season so that they could waste time & money electing murderers. Lyndon Johnson was the 1964 'lesser evil.' In 1968 they got "clean for Gene" McCarthy, or backed Bobby Kennedy. Unknown to them, Bobby wiretapped Martin Luther King. When McCarthy lost in the primaries & Kennedy was assassinated, they raced to the November polls to vote for Hubert Humphrey, Johnson's murderous VP. (McCarthy endorsed him & evolved into a 'Reagan Democrat.') These awesome minds fell for George McGovern In 1972 . After years of war he wasn't for immediate withdrawal. He would end the war within 90 days of taking office. But until then he would vote for war money so he couldn't be accused of betraying the boys in Vietnam.

...[M]ost Unite For Peace And Justice marchers past the 2004 Republican convention voted for Kerry.... He declared his intention to get out of Iraq by 2008, AKA committing 4 more years of murder. And the Democratic opera star never stopped singing about his political love for Ariel Sharon. When UFPJ didn't denounce Kerry, it didn't fulfill its first duty: Peace movements must expose candidates allied to war criminals.

January 28, 2006

We stand at Armageddon, and battle for the Lord

Brother Smith has got me reading Daily Kos now. Thanks a lot, pal.

Every so often there's a gem, though. Here, for example, a list of reasons why we should hope for a Democratic congress in '06. It's a sad thing -- not only does it fail to galvanize the poll-going muscles, it tends to the soporific. But see for yourself. I have added some commentary (with a small 'c').


1. One party rule hasn't been good for the country

Indeed not; but a Democratic victory would hardly be a departure from one-party rule. As my pop used to say, "style points count in figure skating, not hockey." Politics is hockey, or ought to be.

2. A Democratic congress would have acted as a check on President Bush

Nonsense. The bridge votes are always there to carry the big ones through. Check out what Reagan got past ole Tip's house in the early 80's.

3. Checks and balances are the oil that keep our Constitutional machine running smoothly

For sheer pathos, this is hard to beat. Our Constitutional machine? "Keep the machine running smoothly" -- there's a war cry for you.

4. Equal representation for the other 50 percent. Republicans in the majority say "we have the votes; we don't need you" to the Democrats in the minority.

Poor babies. I'm losing a lot of sleep thinking about how dissed the Congressional Dems are by those big bad Republican bullies. And how lean and pinched Democratic cheeks are becoming, with such restricted access to the hog-trough of K street -- which is the only thing that would change with a Democratic majority, as long as Rahm and Steny are pacing the quarterdeck.

5. It's time to end Republican-only rule, where all dissenting opinions are shut out

What dissenting opinions?

6. No more holding votes open for hours while they bribe congressmen to get the necessary votes, or running conference committees without Democrats

Well now we've really got a hot button issue here, haven't we?

Reminds me of Robert Frost's definition of a real liberal -- "he won't even take his own side in an argument." Time was, the donkey's balls were brassier -- consider the loci classici (all purest Dixie) Sam Rayburn, Dick Russell, Wilbur Mills.

7. An end to the politics of polarization in lawmaking. Replace Republican majority shenanigans with a bipartisan process.

Now there's a recipe for wall street mud pies if I ever saw one. What do these fools think the public has to expect from "bipartisanship," except getting raped through two orifices simultaneously?

8. Judicial and other appointments must be safeguarded against extremism

This is unspeakably comic. Quite apart from the spinsterish deployment of the term "extremism" -- as if any red-blooded American were frightened of that -- nothing could be less real than the notion that a Demo-controlled Senate will serve as Solomonic filtration system for appointed office holders. Check out the hanging judges on the supreme bench and axe-swinging cabinetmen of the tarnation right that have made it thru the Demo gauntlet since, say, Nixon. Oh yeah, sometimes they stop one -- only to let the next one through. Always, always, always, something diamond hard right handed and nasty manages to finally slide onto the bench. And oh, yeah, they fuss and squawk about it, but then at the end of the day they're back in the coop, heads tucked under their wings, waiting for tonmorrow's raid on their eggs and the neck-wringing of a nestmate.

. 9. Restore the power to initiate investigations, and bipartisan congressional oversight

By all means, let's have more inquiries into Oval Office blowjobs and the lingerie of White House interns. That was unquestionably the high point of the Clinton administration.

10. Stop invading countries under false information

But of course if your information is accurate, invade away? There's the peace wing of the Democratic Party for you.

Even if you accept these revolting terms of reference, though, the argument is transparently bogus. Review who voted us into the Iraq show. I count many fair large ears among 'em -- including a Senate controlled, at the time, by the Other War Party.

11. Stop the explosion of deficit spending

Whose issue is this? Who cares about deficit spending, other than Wall Street and its fair-haired boy, Bobby Rubin?

12. End the massive redistribution of wealth from the middle class to the very rich. We need budget and tax priorities that ensure fairness to the lower and middle classes, not windfalls and corporate giveaways to the wealthy

Fairness? How 'bout a real working man's tax cut, guys? Funny, they can't even say "working class", can they? It would wring their mouths like a half-ripe persimmon. In the Kos world, there's the "rich", the "middle class", and -- little maidenly moue of distaste here -- the "lower class."

And here again, even if we leave aside the pathetic intellectual poverty of the Kos conceptual world -- the facts cut the ground right out from under whatever lame claim they're trying to make. Clinton gave the "very rich" one of the biggest valentines of all time back in '97, with his infamous donor thank-you, re-election, profits-only tax cut.

13. We need a House that will enact real health care reform. Make plans for universal Health Care

What? Universal, thats a smudge word. Single payer only. Period. Full stop. And oh by the way, what name will be forever connected with the health-care Economy of Plunder that Americans now enjoy? I'll give you a hint: it starts with an H and ends with a Y and it's Hillary, HILLARY, damnable, lying, warmaking Hillary.

14. We would have a meaningful jobs program. A Democratic Congress will pursue policies that create jobs. Reward companies who keep jobs in the United States. Meaningful assistance to the unemployed and underemployed.

I cannot imagine a more open-hole corporate boondoggle. Talk about corporate welfare and giveaways to the "very rich". Oh, and the tender concern for the "unemployed" -- which amounts to an admission that the job-creation program won't work. Delightful.


February 15, 2006

MoveOn eats locoweed!

Just got my latest MoveOn-o-gram:
Dear MoveOn member:

This year our top goal is breaking the right-wing Republican stranglehold on Congress....

Same old same old. But! On the blue dog issue, this:
It is also part of our work together to hold Democrats to their Party's highest values on issues like foreign policy, economic prosperity and good government.

That sometimes means grappling with specific right-wing Democrats who consistently side with big corporations and right-wing Republicans.

One approach is to support progressive primary challengers to right-wing Democrats...

One approach that's guaranteed to do nothing, that is. It gets better:
...conservative Democrats we would challenge represent states or districts that are heavily Democratic -- so we're not imperiling a Democratic majority by doing this...
Call it smart-bombing the party right.

And who is their named name, for instance? None other than poor Hank Cuellar -- and not a Tom Lantos or Jane Harman or anybody of consequence.

We immediately MoveOn to the unavoidable conflation of a Democratic majority with a "progressive" majority. Watch the shells:

A Democratic majority will be a big step towards progressive reform... a progressive majority that will work towards bold reforms.

Given that this is MoveOn, the timid lameness of the whole thing comes as no surprise. The surprise is that MoveOn has obviously been frightened by discontent in the ranks, or they wouldn't have stuck their necks out even this far. Now that is encouraging.


February 17, 2006

Congressional "progressives" -- MIA, or POW?

John Conyers' almost-impeachment bill now has 25 co-sponsors. Here's the list -- and note that they're not all so-called "progressives." The non-progs are in italics:
  • Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI)
  • Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
  • Rep Lois Capps (D-CA)
  • Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO)
  • Rep John Conyers (D-MI)
  • Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA)
  • Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY)
  • Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA)
  • Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX)
  • Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)
  • Rep. John Lewis (D-GA)
  • Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)
  • Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA)
  • Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA)
  • Rep.Gwen Moore (D-WI)
  • Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)
  • Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN)
  • Rep. Major Owens (D-NY)
  • Rep.Donald Payne (D-NJ)
  • Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY)
  • Rep.Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)
  • Rep. Fortney Pete Stark (D-CA)
  • Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY)
  • Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA)
  • Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA).
For homework, I compared this list of stalwarts to the Democrats' "progressive caucus" -- and found the following cardinals of the college of human enlightenment and liberation to be, erm, MIA:
  • Xavier Becerra
  • Madeleine Z. Bordallo
  • Corrine Brown
  • Sherrod Brown
  • Michael Capuano
  • Julia Carson
  • Donna Christensen
  • Emanuel Cleaver
  • Elijah Cummings
  • Danny Davis
  • Peter DeFazio
  • Rosa DeLauro
  • Lane Evans
  • Chaka Fattah
  • Bob Filner
  • Barney Frank
  • Raul Grijalva
  • Luis Gutierrez
  • Jesse Jackson, Jr.
  • Stephanie Tubbs Jones
  • Marcy Kaptur
  • Carolyn Kilpatrick
  • Dennis Kucinich
  • Tom Lantos
  • James McGovern
  • Ed Markey
  • George Miller
  • Eleanor Holmes-Norton
  • John Olver
  • Ed Pastor
  • Bobby Rush
  • Bernie Sanders
  • Jose Serrano
  • Louise Slaughter
  • Hilda Solis
  • Bennie Thompson
  • John Tierney
  • Tom Udall
  • Diane Watson
  • Mel Watt
  • Henry Waxman
Notice, if you will, the Massachusetts Progs are all MIA -- Frank, and the M-n-M twins, Markey and McGovern. I'm glad to see Bernie Sanders on this list, and wouldn't want him off it, that sea-slug carpetbagger -- what use has he ever been to anything progressive except to betray it? (Maybe I've overlooked something -- if so, tell me.)

And Dennis Kucinich! Through the mystic gematria of alphabetic order, his name falls right next to that arch-vampire from the AIPAC crypt, the burning shame of the Bay Area, Tommy Lantos. Lantos is a "progressive"? Boy, if that doesn't blow the tent right off the whole tired, shabby carnival.

I could go on -- Sherrod Brown, for example, anointed by Schumer et al. as the Ohio Senate candidate over the bullet-riddled body of Kosnik heartthrob Paul Hackett. But enough for one day.


February 23, 2006

Don't just do something, stand there

We got a comment recently that asked a very good question:
How would you respond to the rejoinder: "At least we're doing something"? Really, this is one of those central questions that I think inhibits a lot of people from rejecting the Democrats.
It's reasonable that people want to do something, not just refrain from something.

My answer: do both. Abstain and do good. Sorry for the cliche, but the option always exists to go local. If you need to be positive -- if the sheer joy of spoiling ain't your game -- then each state has its set of playing rules but movements for good stuff abound. We've even thrown in a few of our own favorites from time to time -- state minimum wage initiatives are one of my favorites.

At the same time I'll repeat our Johnny one-note main point -- whatever you do, and whether or not you do anything else positive, above all don't vote for your local Democrat. As another commenter pointed out, that only spoils 'em -- to reward betrayal is folly.

By the way, my guess is that many of these "donkey diehards" are pulling a lever and no more -- that's the only "something" they're doing, and I guess it gives 'em a warm glow, like going to church on Easter and playing golf every other Sunday.

Fine, I well understand it's done as a reward for past Demo achievements. The problem: Eleanor Roosevelt is dead -- the person you're rewarding is Joe Lieberman.

I've even heard 'em argue, "Well the Democratic party at least pretends to be pro social improvement... or at least amelioration... if not reformation...." Notice it trails off. These diehards aren't fools -- they're just suffering from nostalgia.

Voting donkey is indeed doing something, but we contend in the scheme of things it's doing something not just useless, but positively bad -- at the very least it blocks the full realization of what we call the Orthrian trap, and at worst it actually contributes to the disastrous downward spiral that the two-party dance has committed us to.

Maybe the problem is that people just don't want to recognize how badly off they really are -- how dire the situation really is. So the Prog-ish, decent people of America want to keep acting like they're getting a real choice by choosing the lesser head of the hound here -- the one with the Brie grin on its muzzle and the rounded-down canines.

Well... welcome to our site.

We want to make your skin crawl.

March 1, 2006

Got merit?

Been reading recently on a Democratic web site -- Tofu cafe or, no, TPM cafe. I found one entry most revealing. It's by DLC big shot Ed Kilgore and it rather anxiously tries to make two claims: first that "merit" is the best way to run a country, and second, that the donks are the real "merit" party.

As we enter Ed's all wet-henned up over an attack on "merit" itself by Max Sawicky:

Max's invalid point is that anybody, especially "neo-liberal" Clintonites, who stresses these "human capital" assets as important to the future economic welfare of currently disadvantaged Americans is buying into a "meritocratic fallacy" that justifies inequality perpetually.
... which is grace noted by this lovely sniff:
[Max] inelegantly calls [this] the theory of "bullshit human capital."
Ed dilates some for us as to why "Max's post is so unsettling." To him it's because
...it reinforces one of the most important conservative memes in American politics today: the idea that when it comes to economic policy, it really is a choice between "meritocratic" Republicans and "redistributive" Democrats.
Now do you follow that leap? I'm still not sure I do. Max isn't saying merit sucks; he's saying (echoing Krugman) that differences in "merit" don't account for differences in inequality. How'd this lead on to Republican merit and donk "redistributors"? The intrusion of an idee fixe? Or is this the proper gloss: a step got skipped, but Max, by trashing Clintonite "merit" has morphed, Ed thinks, into the unmasked visage of real donk motives. Ed knows Clinto-meritocracy is a sales pitch, and Max trashing the pitch will look to the ignoranti like the secret values of the donks -- the party of the undeserving poor. Far out, eh?

Remember in this type of guy's mental universe -- where the "memes" hang out -- there's only room for two thought groups. Each party, in the best of all possible worlds, would retain exclusive rights to certain memes, and every meme would have its party, one or the other.

Big Ed's meme world application here: the merit party meme is really a donkey meme and here's why:

Democratic elected officials do almost universally believe that within the limits required by the need to provide a decent living for every single american, something like a "meritocracy" is desirable....
Man... "almost universally"... "within required limits"... "something like" ... Does this passage have a hitch and roll in its gait or don't it? But to continue:
The main problem with Republican policies is that they thwart distribution of wealth by merit...
... I.e. the elephant is, practically speaking, an anti-merit party, almost a demerit party, because it "substitutes privilege" for merit, "while starving the aspirational public investments -- especially education -- that help harvest merit from disadvantage." And then along comes Max "obscuring that fundamental difference or worse yet, mocking it," and that leaves the donks open to attack as... what else... crypto redistributors, which is "not helpful to the progressive cause." Meaning, one imagines, the election of Clintonians.

As to why redistribution is counter-progressive -- well I'll leave that for you to fill in.


The undeserving poor (and rich)

JSP's post about the Kilgore/Sawicki dustup on TPMCafe.com sent me back to the original sources (it's a tic, left over from my grad-school days). I think I understand the strange incoherence of DLC sachem Kilgore. Let's review the developments:

1. Paul Krugman wrote a Times column in which he pointed out that the "skills differential" -- i.e. more education -- doesn't match up with the patterns of increase in inequality. He sees it as a political process, not a market process, in which a "narrow oligarchy" (his phrase) has found ways to enrich themselves at everybody else's expense, the skilled and the unskilled alike. No flies on ole Paul this time. He didn't use the word "meritocracy," for which we all owe him a vote of thanks.

2. Sawicki wrote a squib on TPMcafe, in which he used "meritocracy," and even more deplorably, "meme". Sawicki's contribution was to take a whack at Clinton's pandering to the "skills differential" theory exploded in Krug's column. Sawicki calls this the "bullshit human capital" (BHC) theory, a phrase I do like. Sawicki also pointed out that Clinton, while he used the BHC theory to explain inequality, didn't try to do anything about it -- by spending on education, say. Which is about as good a capsule definition of Clintonism as you could get: false even to their own falsehoods.

3. DLCer and 33d-degree Cllintonite Kilgore responded to Sawicki with a bizarrely illogical piece of carpet-chewing, ably dissected by JSP in his earlier post.

* * *

So what's the fuss about? I can't explain all the details of Kilgore's random rhetoric -- much of it, I imagine, results from what JSP calls "idees fixes" and the rest comes from the reflexive regurgitation of canned DLC talking points. But I think I know why he's pissed off. He doesn't want the BHC theory exploded, quite simply, because he wants wageniks in both blue collars and white to internalize the causes of their own slippage: he wants the victims to blame themselves. This works out beautifully for the Democrats if you can pull it off, because you can always blame the Republicans for not spending more on the schools.

That's why the notion of "redistribution" flew in Kilgore's window and landed on his nose. This particular neural pathway I think we can trace. Krug's (and Sawicki's) comments raised the specter of social class. Now the canned DLC response to any mention of "class" is to accuse the offender of advocating "redistribution." QED.

There's another angle to this "meritocracy" red herring, though: it appeals to the educated white-collar classes' amour-propre and sense of entitlement, which is quite appropriate for a party whose strategy is to reposition itself as the voice of the professional classes -- the small-time executives and "knowledge workers" who will soon be among the only people dumb enough to vote, along with rapturists and friends of the foetus.


March 8, 2006

Focus, focus

Uberprogs Woolsey and Lee, apparently on behalf of the Prog Caucus, have filed a bill to hack $50 bil out of the DOD trough.

Nice gesture, but you know, the punters aren't that into numbers. What you really need right now is a bill that cuts off Iraq funding on, say, Christmas Eve 2006. That would get some attention.


Take a flying leap...

This seems to be the week for leapers-to-the-defense: first Alan Dershowitz, now Eric Alterman.

I hasten to add that I do NOT read Alterman (or anybody else) on MSNBC, but I do occasionally go slumming at the Huffington Post, where Alterman recently recycled one of his meanderings from the Bill Gates site. He's very angry that his "friend" Todd Gitlin was roughly handled in a review by Dan Lazare in The Nation (yes, The Nation):

The Nation published one of the worst pieces I have ever read in the magazine this week. Daniel Lazare’s “review” of my friend Todd Gitlin’s new book will offer Nation-haters ammunition for years to come. The review is simultaneously smarmy, dishonest, Stalinist, and sectarian in a fashion that dishonors everyone involved with it.
Lazare a Stalinist? I always thought he dug with the other foot, but in Alterman's mind, I guess, it all blurs together.

One of the amusing things about Alterman's piece is its roll call of heroes: Paul Berman, Michael Walzer, David Remnick, Mike Tomasky, Dissent magazine (subject of a famous Woody Allen joke*), "the late great Irving Howe," and "honest, honorable, liberal anti-Communists Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and Daniel Bell." The corresponding roster of demons includes Josef Stalin, Noam Chomsky, and Alex Cockburn. What a wonderful muddle.

Lazare's piece at The Nation is (stupidly) available to subscribers only, but I was quite surprised, after reading Alterman's carpet-chewing, at its calm tone -- I was expecting a real Jeremiad, and certainly the flag-waving Gitlin deserves one. A few excerpts:

When Katha Pollitt published a column in [The Nation] saying she would not fly the flag because it "stands for jingoism and vengeance and war," [Gitlin] was incensed. He fired back with an article in Mother Jones accusing certain unnamed leftists of "smugness, acrimony, even schadenfreude"--an especially incendiary charge in those super-heated times, since it implied that Pollitt and her co-thinkers derived pleasure from the suffering around them. After finishing with them, Gitlin attacked Noam Chomsky and the late Edward Said for statements he regarded as foolish or disloyal, and then rounded on Indian novelist Arundhati Roy for daring to suggest that Osama bin Laden was Bush's "dark doppelgänger" and that "the twins are blurring into one another and gradually becoming interchangeable." Today, with postinvasion deaths in Iraq outnumbering those in Lower Manhattan by better than thirty to one, Roy's sentiments seem positively mild. Yet for Gitlin they were indicative of "a prejudice invulnerable to moral distinctions"....

"Democratic patriotism," Gitlin says, does not mean mindless genuflection but recognition that the United States is complex and multihued, continually washed over by powerful crosscurrents from both the left and the right. Instead of condemning American power in toto, he maintains that leftists should "acknowledge--and wrestle with--the dualities of America: the liberty and arrogance twinned, the bullying and tolerance, myopia and energy, standardization and variety, ignorance and inventiveness, the awful dark heart of darkness and the self-reforming zeal." One senses that Gitlin could go on in this pseudo-Whitmanesque fashion for pages at a time.

...Rather than calling for less veneration [of the United States], Gitlin is calling for more. This would seem to make no sense, but perhaps that is the point. As the title of his new book suggests, Gitlin aims his argument at American intellectuals, a group he never attempts to define although at times he seems to regard it as synonymous with the left. In seeking to advance a deliberately incoherent argument, perhaps he is seeking to de-intellectualize the intelligentsia, to somehow pressure it--and, by extension, Americans in general--into thinking less. This, after all, is what authoritarianism does: By inducing people to worship artificial totems, it encourages them to switch off their critical faculties. The result is greater compliance and less independent thought, a win-win situation for the right.

Well, come to think of it, I can see why Alterman is mad.


* From Annie Hall: "I heard that Commentary and Dissent had merged and formed Dysentery."

March 10, 2006

Molly Ivins, prog-tease

Molly Ivins. She gets you all wound up and then she lets you down. First the windup:
"Mah fellow progressives, now is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of the party. I don't know about you, but I have had it with the D.C. Democrats, had it with the DLC Democrats, had it with every calculating, equivocating, triangulating, straddling, hair-splitting son of a bitch up there, and that includes Hillary Rodham Clinton."
A great Yosemite Sam lead -- nobody does it better. She goes on to say
Let’s get off our butts and start building a progressive movement that can block the nomination of Hillary Clinton or any other candidate who supposedly has “all the money sewed up.”...

We can raise our own money on the Internet, and we know it. Howard Dean raised $42 million, largely on the web, with a late start when he was running for President, and that ain’t chicken feed. If we double it, it gives us the lock on the nomination. So let’s go find a good candidate early and organize the shit out of our side.lets build a blocking movement

And who might such a candidate be?
Let's run Bill Moyers, or Oprah, or some university president with ethics and charisma.
Oh Molly, Molly. I'm very frustrated here.


March 13, 2006

Their hands are tied

Correspondent alsis39.5 pointed me toward this Berube chap who poses as a most reluctant golden ass worshiper:
The sad fact - and I'm more willing to confront it at the age of 44 than I was at 19, if only because I have grown a quarter-century more dour about what can plausibly be accomplished in my lifetime - is that the United States is saddled with one of the "free" world's least democratic electoral systems.
Stop the presses. But note the consequence:
The sorry fact remains that until we convene the Second Constitutional Convention ... we're stuck with a two-party system that will not dismantle itself.
It's the system. The people are no match for... a document.

ThIs fella ought to review how the actual dynamics have worked historically. Suffice it to say the first convention did not draft up two parties to be named later, one aristocrat, the other democratic, as the great Jeff called 'em circa 1796, nor one that would become dominated by the slave lords, as was the DP before 1860, or by the plutocrats like the RP after the Civil War. There has always been morphing, and the morphs are a necessity that starts with an external threat -- some movement gathering big mo that is outside both of the two parties.

That is not according to the law laid down at Philly in 1787 but it's a regularity observable in the American historical record ever thereafter.

Which brings us to Berube bear's Rx :

Please, if you're as disgusted with the Democrats as I am, join the party and move it to the left.
Which is to say: to get dry, go jump in the lake.


March 15, 2006

Corn mush

This from arch-Prufrock prog David Corn -- a man turned lily-pale at the bad November vibes created by Conyers' impeachment rumbles.
Calling for impeachment -- given... most everything we know about human nature and politics -- cannot escape the obvious slap-down: impeachment is a dream; it is so far-fetched a prospect that it raises questions about the sensibility and political judgment of anyone who suggests it be adopted as a real-life goal....

Bush's approval ratings are indeed in the tank. Yet is the public clamoring for impeachment--say, in the way it clamored for port terminals that are not owned by Arabs?

Dave does allow us to have a little fun, though:
One need not champion impeachment to whack the president. Consider Senator Russell Feingold..... There is no chance that this resolution will be adopted by the Republican-controlled Senate But Feingold has taken a stand and provided a rallying point for those (in and out of the Senate) who share his belief that Bush trampled the Constitution by okaying warrantless wiretapping....
So lemme get this straight -- neither impeachment nor censure can possibly pass, but the admittedly, explicitly inoperative gesture is nevertheless preferable?

The Master gives us a little koan to ponder in this connection:

There's a realistic way to defy political realities and an unrealistic way to do so.
After dumping that bowl of eels, and with a flick of the unbowed chin, he adds
It's no sellout or surrender to recognize the difference.

March 16, 2006

Real contests, and unreal ones

Somebody explain to me what the lovely demo-progs at Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) are up to.

So far, PDA has endorsed three folks running for seats not already their own: one is trying to take out Darrell Issa in Cal CD 49, another is working right next door, going after the CD 48 seat.

Now these are the two deepest repub seats in all of California -- both contain wooly mammoth-sized majorities with arch-reactionary, Sunbelt, turn-right-at-Nixon mindsets.

So what could this thrust be all about? are these Dem HQ orders: "Go ahead, run your St. Joans -- just stay out of real districts where the odds are close."

But then there's the third PDA-endorsed race, a real deal mentioned here more than once -- Illinois' 6th CD, where two demo contenders collide. One -- the PDA's and our favorite, the brave Christine Cegelis, who's facing a Rahm Emanuel figment, Tammy Duckworth, so gruesomely, cynically concocted that it would shame P.T. Barnum.

My thought -- focus on this race -- forget the other two -- or would that be stepping on toes?


March 28, 2006

Major fraud and minor folly

Here's two bits from the Washington Post. First the minor folly :
In California, poet Kevin Hearle, an impeachment supporter, is challenging liberal Rep. Tom Lantos -- who opposes impeachment -- in the Democratic primary in June.
A poet for impeachment, eh? And jousting Lantos in the party primary... no comment.

Now the major fraud, from the same article:

Impeachment is an outlet for anger and frustration, which I share, but politics ain't therapy,"
That's my friend Rep. Barney Frank, talking like a hard bitten real politico. Barney "declined to sign the Conyers resolution." And why?
Bush would much rather debate impeachment than the disastrous war in Iraq.
The effrontery of this safe seat libber hiding behind this crap line. Come on, Barney. Your position for or against impeachment amounts to no more then a fart in a wind storm as far as the Democrats' prospects in November are concerned. So what has really piped you down? Who persuaded you to play along?

April 10, 2006

Roma locuta est

The French students and labor unions have apparently beat back the CPE law.

As if this weren't triumph enough, the French students have also received a supreme accolade on The Nation magazine's blog:

Before I left for Paris, I asked whether or not these students should be considered progressive, and I've made up my mind: of course they should.
The Nation's seal of approval must have relieved a lot of anxious minds in Paris. No doubt the corks are poppin'.


April 12, 2006

Trickle down

Today's Boston Globe reports that Massachusetts prog donk reps can't use all their donor money. So, what else, they give it to Lex Luthor himself, Rahm Emanuel, the mad imam, to spread among his acolytes, the fabled corps of Army mules and mommy-dearests.
Representative Edward Markey... dean of the Massachusetts delegation, contributed the most -- $152,000 -- to the [Emanuel's Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee], while 13-term Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Newton, was close behind with a $150,000 donation."
So... scratch a Democratic "progressive" and you find... a Democrat.


May 1, 2006

Toothless dog gums man

I missed Saturday's antiwar march here in NYC. I'm sure it was a cheerful spectacle, as it streamed from Union Square down to the Saturday desert of the Federal bunkers in Lower Manhattan. I may have seen it all a little too often, though: earnest grannies and movie stars calling for something to be done about Bush in the hortative subjunctive impersonal -- let him be impeached, by what or whom does not clearly appear.

I would have been more motivated to show up if the march had headed uptown rather than down from Union Square, toward Schumer's and Clinton's Manhattan offices, conveniently located a cozy block apart on Third Avenue, at 47th and 48th Streets respectively. But no, the peace movement, as usual, prefers to expend its strength against a target on which it can have no effect.

Press coverage, not surprisingly, was routine, and one can hardly blame the press -- there was basically no story, just the usual kvetching on a mass scale. If the march had gone uptown -- if a cadre of resisters had blocked Clinton's and Schumer's lobbies, or tossed blood on their doors -- I daresay that would have created more of a stir. If protesters had handed in signed letters saying that they would never, ever vote for Clinton or Schumer again, for any office whatsoever, that might have even gotten the Democratic Party's attention -- assuming, optimistically, that the capacity for attention still lies latent in that comatose creature's nervous system.

Oh well. A guy can dream. Wouldn't it be nice if we had an antiwar movement that really wanted to do something about the war -- a movement that would apply its strength against the weakest link rather than the strongest?


May 2, 2006

Too much peace in the peace movement

Nice piece at Counterpunch by Mike Donnelly. His message : let's purge the peacenik hacks still leading our biggest anti-Iraq war outfits. Are they not our Rumsfields and Brownies?

Check out the latest dove flutter last weekend, and contrast it to yesterday's Stage Two of what's becoming a vertitable nationwide Chicano uprising.

Ought we not hunt out these rubbery top-line folks, and skin 'em? Let's forget regrinding another pound of Rummy's insolent ass -- where's the chorus of high-profile Left tribunes baying for these rollover pelts?

May 18, 2006

Popeye the windsurfer man

Just read a remarkable, scalpel-worthy post at tompaine.com. Excerpt, just to give you the flavor:
... stand up to the South. Stop telling Southerners what you think they want to hear. Stop worrying about losing votes you probably aren’t going to get anyway. If Democrats can do that, they might just do better than they thought they would.

The samurai treatise Hagakure , written in the early 18th century, explained that the samurai considered himself to be already dead. Because he did not fear death, his courage in battle grew. Democrats need to apply this lesson to their situation, and consider the South lost to their presidential candidates.... Once Democrats no longer worry about winning the South’s electoral votes, they’ll find themselves liberated in ways that benefit them everywhere.

The samurai reference is delightfully pretentious; what's even better is that in this rather lengthy essay about the South, our man doesn't mention Black folks even once. Talk about the missing-mass problem.

Our guy frames the problem in terms of a classic DLC Volvo-versus-pickup line, but re - packaged as a brave resolve to stand up for who you are, like Barry Goldwater did.

Standing tall as a yuppie elitist has its chest-puffing side -- imagine this refined, secular bicoastal shouting at the yahoo majority "I am what I am what I am," like the Peter Lorre character in M.

Well, if you're going to walk the plank, you might as well stride right out there. Only our fellow seems to be hoping to hover over the deep blue sea, halfway between a DLC yacht and a crowded, malodorous barge laden with the hooting millions, all lifetime members of the fellowship of shitty jobholders.

May 19, 2006

The armies of the night

Talk about Chicken Little suits -- try this nonsense, by one Michelle Goldberg, for size:
Whenever I talk about the growing power of the evangelical right with friends, they always ask the same question: What can we do? Usually I reply with a joke: Keep a bag packed and your passport current. I don’t really mean it, but my anxiety is genuine.
Michelle is so anxious she has apparently written a whole book on this subject, which is probably selling quite well in the various secularist enclaves of our great Christian nation.

These secular suprematists conjuring visions of Christian totalitarian mobs -- corporate dupes readying themselves for a lynching run, and prepared to see a poison cloud as a sign from god not just another corporate Bhopal -- overlook one important point: Blacks are far more likely to be "evangelical" than palefaces, and yet their politics are pure prog on the economic fundamentals. These faith styles of the non-rich and non-famous are just class tattoos -- no more no less. Wave 'em aside and get to the lunch box. This hysteria about armies of zombie cross freaks coming for... us -- it's pure dream work piping right out of the liberal's inner piffle-odium. As such, it would be merely funny if it didn't have an important, and damaging, consequence: it's one of the things that keeps liberals in the mental jailhouse of the Democratic Party. "Progressives" and folk with alternative life styles of various kinds all too often get scared enough of the Bibloids to buy the donk poop: We are your shield -- stay with us -- vote for us -- circle the Volvos with us -- only we can protect you from the the dark moonless night of Christian trite right white moron might.

May 23, 2006

Tom Hayden finds the center vital

Once again Tom Hayden (a man who gives opportunism a bad name, as somebody once said) shows us -- at The Nation, where else -- what a very awful place SDS/Port Huron types can get themselves into, given enough time and thwarted ambition:
Democrats are slowly but surely uniting around a plan for military withdrawal designed by the Center for American Progress, a think tank linked to Clinton-era Democrats and headed by former White House Chief of Staff John Podesta.

Not all the party leaders agree. Senator Hillary Clinton continues to posture as a military hawk. Senator Joe Biden wants to dilute and divide Iraq into three sectarian enclaves. Neither Senator Charles Schumer nor Representative Rahm Emanuel, who are charged with winning November's elections, have a coherent message on Iraq....

The core propositions of the CAP paper point to a nearly complete US withdrawal in the next eighteen months:

  • Immediately reduce our troop presence at a rate of 9,000 per month to a total of 60,000 by the end of 2006, and to "virtually zero" by the end of 2007
  • Bring home all National Guard units this year "
Okay -- but watch closely now as the re- comes into re-deploy:
  • Double the number of US troops in Afghanistan, place an Army division in Kuwait, an expeditionary force in the Persian Gulf and an additional 1,000 special forces in Africa and Asia
There's a lot more window-dressing, but this is the meat of it. So what does Tommy take away from this?
All disrespect aside, there is a significant acceptance of the peace movement's message buried in this centrist proposal.
Hey, we won! So for now
The peace movement should also be planning now to make it virtually impossible for presidential candidates to campaign successfully in 2008 without committing to a speedy withdrawal from Iraq
Total, final, complete, absolutely no one in a helmet left by... 2009! That's "speedy", Tom? Why yes: anything speedier would be, as Tommy says, "a phantom extreme of 'immediate withdrawal.'"

What, oh WHAT, did Jane Fonda ever see in this guy?

May 24, 2006

Lucy holds football for Charlie Brown

Some Kosnik is waxing enthusiastic about Hillary Clinton's recent speech on energy policy to the National Press Club, which contained all the usual Wonkus Maximus blather about feebates and sequestration.

She got one specific, real-world question about something she could do now, and she dodged it:

QUESTION: Regarding fuel economy standards, do you favor making SUVs follow the same CAFE standards as passenger cars? And do you support Congressman Boehlert's bill to raise the CAFE standards to 33 miles per gallon for all vehicles?

CLINTON: Well, I have the greatest respect for Congressman Boehlert. We're going to miss him when he retires at the end of this year. He has studied this issue, and he comes down sort of in the middle of where a lot of people are. Some want to go to a higher MPG; others not so ambitious.

I think we can stage this in a way that is not disruptive to the economy, and by giving the right incentives and support to the car companies, manage this over the next 10 to 15 years.

The poor Kos diarist, of course, greeted this classic Clintonian performance as if it were the Second Coming. I was pleased, however, to see that most of the Kosnik comments on the diary declined to share the diarist's Candide-like optimism. These folks aren't all fools by any means. Now if they could just get over the Democratic Party....

May 27, 2006

The Kos-tapo

There's something wrong with me, I admit it. I can't seem to stop reading Daily Kos. I know, I know, I need a twelve-step program, or something. But it's just irresistible -- like slowing down on the highway to take in all the gory details of a thirty-car pileup.

Pretty dreary stuff, for the most part. Occasionally, though, there are wonderful moments, like this contribution from "Hunter", entitled The Tao of Troll Rating. Hunter is apparently a member of the Kos inner circle, and his/her 2,650-word treatise bears all the marks of an ex cathedra pronouncement. So far it has attracted nearly a thousand comments.

witch huntingIt reminds me of Malleus Maleficarum, the fifteenth-century treatise on witch-finding: the same obsession with categorizing and sub-categorizing, the same elaboration of process and procedure.

"Hunter" gives six characteristics of trolls and distinguishes five main types. He (or she, of course; but somehow, I think it's a guy) provides seven guidelines for deciding what is a troll and what isn't. It's really quite an intellectual edifice. Not on the same scale as the Malleus, of course, but not bad for an evening's work by a blogger with no theological training. Here are the learned, long-dead friars:

...It first must be noted that there are, as was shown in the First Part of this treatise, three kinds of witches; namely, those who injure but cannot cure; those who cure but, through some strange pact with the devil, cannot injure; and those who both injure and cure. And among those who injure, one class in particular stands out, which can perform every sort of witchcraft and spell, comprehending all that all the others individually can do.... And this class is made up of those who, against every instinct of human or animal nature, are in the habit of eating and devouring the children of their own species.

The friars sure had their talking points worked out, didn't they? Here's Hunter:

... there's been an accepted practice of returning a retaliatory troll rating on someone in an argument who is very, very clearly abusing the ratings rules themselves. In that this is a nice Darwinian pressure that tends to remove overactive troll raters from the Trusted User pool themselves, I... can't see fit to argue with it. If the troll rater is quite clearly breaking the rules as laid out themselves, it is generally accepted practice.

Hey, nobody said this stuff was easy. Make a little effort, okay?

More interesting even than Hunter's Torah is the swarming Talmud of comments it has attracted. It's very difficult to do justice to these. Here's one, picked, I swear, absolutely at random -- I closed my eyes, jiggled the mouse, and clicked:

You've gone off topic again (4+ / 0-)

Are you doing that intentionally, or can you not control it, or do you not notice it?

Your point about a lack of redress is reasonable. You're wrong, in that one can simply post another comment saying "what the hell was that about?", as many do, but what I think you mean is that the person troll rated has no other means of retaliation.

Then you go off into Lieberman land. Can you do that in a separate diary? We're trying to have a discussion here.

I can only conjecture that the institutional fetish, the one that keeps these folks in the Democratic Party in the first place, is also driving this passionate debate about exactly how the Kos troll-purge should be run.

I'm a veteran of Left sects -- fanatical little groupuscules who would call each other Nazis over some refined point of doctrine. But it gives me a strange, uncanny feeling to realize that the Democratic party, at least at the Kos level, is a sect too. Would have thought a sect needs to be about something -- but apparently not.


May 29, 2006

Gradgrind for President

David Sirota is starting to have his doubts about Hillary Clinton. I know, I know, better late than never, or so they say, but is that even true? It's possible to be so late that the party's over, and you'd've been better off staying in bed.

Being a fair-minded, judicious kind of guy, David notes that he has praised Hillary in the past. Presumably he wants to let Hillary know that he could go either way, and no doubt Hillary has taken due notice.

In an idle hour I followed the link to David's attagirl for St Hill. Pay dirt. It's old news now -- a speech Hillary gave in the Senate about the minimum wage, last October -- but our David calls it "terrific"and says, "on economic issues [she] is showing some fight." Here's a snippet of the speech, which David quotes, apparently with approval:

I'm all for rich people. Ever since my husband got out of office and got into the private sector, I think it's great.... I have nothing against rich people. That's part of the American dream. But with all due respect, it is not rich people who made America great. It is the vast American middle class. It is the upward mobility of people who thought they could do better than their parents...
Is it just me, or has Hillary's always-evident self-satisfaction reached an exceptionally vomitous level here? And how can Sirota possibly be so tone-deaf that he doesn't hear it?

Then one can't help wondering how it feels to be St Hill and say things, day after day, like the "middle class made America great" and what drives our civilization is the desire to "do better" than one's parents. Which would be worse -- that she's saying what she knows is not true, or that she really believes it?

I think she does really believe it. A peek into Hillary's mind -- it's like the gates of Hell open for just a moment and you see the demons dancing and the flames leaping. Doing better than your parents is the Philosopher's Stone of the professional-class striver's character. This crass, soulless, heartless, impious obsession with doing better than somebody else, particularly your own mother and father, and the conviction that this diseased mania is the bedrock of human virtue -- if ever there was a Miserific Vision, this has got to be it.


May 30, 2006

Kos-a Nostra

From Alan Smithee:

Hullo Michael,

Since my involvement with slime has until recently been pretty much limited to Hollywood film production, I've never been into anything really dirty such as energy trading, arms dealing or politics. So I'm a bit out of my depth when I run across inter-blog feuds like this one:

----------------------------

May 29, 2006 --Time to take the gloves are off with the agitprop purveyors at Daily Kos (in addition to that other phony "liberal" web site, some of the content of which could be called DUng). Yesterday, Daily Kos, which likes to regularly steal content from WMR and post it and then proceed to expound on it while trashing the original provider, did it again.

-----------------------------

The above references this kosniki "diary" thing:

Oh my! Cheney and Jefferson both tied to Nigerian bribery scandals

Which is a convoluted, rather poorly written piece about the Jefferson bribery scandal.

Personally, I can't make heads or tails out of it. But I couldn't resist passing it along to you, a much more sophisticated observer of political wingnuttery, with this question: Is there fire to go with all this smoke? Or is it a lot of hot bloggosphere air?

You give me too much credit. I can't follow it either. Funny stuff, though.

Kos and Co. seem to think Madsen is a "conspiracy theorist," and Madsen thinks Kos and Co.are "neocons." I don't know anything about Madsen, and while I think "neo-con" might be a bit over the top as applied to Kosreich today, give 'em a year or two. And "agitprop purveyor," of course, is far too complimentary.

I'm inclined to discount Kos' "conspiracy theory" accusation -- well, I'm inclined to discount anything from Kos, of course, but especially this. The idea of "conspiracy theory" is one of the great crackpot-realist intellectual defense mechanisms.

Wie Gott im Franken-reich

I note with amusement that Al Franken's radio show today featured two of our local whipping boys, Peter Beinart and David Sirota. Pleasing. This is the "progressive" opposition, folks -- a juggernaut of custard.

May 31, 2006

Big ideas. No, REALLY big ideas

Are you for YOYO or WITT -- You're On Your Own or We're In This Together?

Too glib -- too smarmy for you? Do you feel both left out and left in as well as left over?

Well, Jared Bernstein of the Economic Policy Institute is throwing all his weight behind WITT. (EPI is a thriving inside-the-beltway outfit -- mission: build a better bigger lunch box.) Jared is rejecting "YOYO economics," which slips us all the corporate alibi

...for why we cannot shape our participation in the global economy to meet our own needs, or provide health coverage for the millions who lack that basic right, or raise the living standards of working families when the economy is growing.... WITT policies target these challenges head on....
Ready for the beef? Sorry, there's an important disclaimer you have to hear first:
These outcomes occur not through redistributionist Robin Hood schemes.
Robin Hood? What's the guy rabbiting about here?

A few chin strokes later I figure it out -- no prole blandishments, no class war, no retake threats, no hefty 'high net worth' tax promises, like that Bolshie, Bobby Reich is proposing. No, instead we're talking about

... creating an economic architecture that reconnects our strong, flexible economy to the living standards of all, not just to the residents of the penthouse. As the pie grows, all the bakers get bigger slices.
This Way To The Egress, suckers. Give us time, we'll rebuild the deal. We'll grow the system so results get to be more equal -- over say 30 -50 years, right about at the pace we grew less equal. Only guys, there's a fire to put out first:
restore some fiscal sanity and basic competence at all levels in national government....
Aiieee! Oh no, oh no -- not Doc Rubin, no, just shoot me, anything but Doc Rubin, der Weisse Engel with his smart-axe fiscal surgery. Jesus, gang -- sounds like a lot more 'down' ahead before we see any 'up'. And shit, we're scheduled for surgery "hopefully ... in November."

So what light are we asked to see at the end of this tunnel?

There are actually a number of good, big ideas floating around to create precisely the architecture America needs.... There are doable plans for universal health coverage....
Good, cause we're gonna need one of them after the Doc performs his 'painless' amputations and extractions.

Here are a few more good big ideas:

...boosting retirement savings.... creating an ambitious partnership between business and government to seriously pursue energy independence... There are roadmaps for tapping the growth-enhancing benefits of globalization to replace the domestic labor demand it saps from our job market.... Put it all together, and we create the potential to reconnect the well-being of working families to the growing economy.... The YOYOs' chickens are coming home to roost, and many of us await with great hope the arrival of the much more optimistic, can-do, WITT agenda.... The only question: who has the vision to lead the way?
The question should have been "who doesn't have the vision to lead the way?" And of course there are two ways to read that question, and two answers.

Answer One: Who doesn't, indeed? Either or both big parties can fuck us. Answer Two: I know one that doesn't -- Jared and his pals in the donkey jamboree.

June 2, 2006

The edge of cold steel

Y'all are just going to have to indulge me until my Kos bender passes.

Here's a thing of beauty, a very overheated Kosnik jeremiad:

In many ways why we fail to successfully oppose the republican illogic train is because we so utterly and completely fail to understand how it really works.

We counter their claims with logic and facts and are amazed when blank states are returned to us. We argue real world results, cause and effect, we bring up their claims from three or four years ago and show them how nothing they predicted came true, and they just stare, uncomprehending and blank. We speak with logic, and they hear nothing....

Why do they embrace failed policies so utterly and completely? Because failure/pain is better than the coldness of rational thought.....

Theirs is a mentality built on extreme emotion. Lurid intense passions that must constantly be stoked or they're left with that horrible and deflated feeling of everyday normalcy. Of cold rationality....

This is why republicans need to constantly scare themselves.... They define themselves exclusively by what they are against.

They define themselves by what they hate....

So whereas we continue to apply the logical approach of policy decisions that are "beneficial" and "not beneficial" we might as well be talking Greek to them. They see none of this logic or real world cause and effect....

We must argue from a place of emotional fervor, just as they have.... You can only out-emotion them into submission.... Facts, real world results, are all secondary.

Be grateful -- I've spared you most of it.

Several things strike me about this reverie:

  • Our guy has the usual merit-class contempt for the opposition -- "we" are the party of "cold rationality," the party of people who did really well on the SAT. "They" are the party of irrationality and emotion.
  • "They define themselves by what they hate" -- this may be true of the Republicans, but it's certainly true, in spades, of Kosniks.
  • The way to defeat them is to become just like them. We have met the enemy, and they are -- no, scratch that, we must be them.

June 3, 2006

Two-thirds empty, or one-third full?

The thing is, writing about Kos stuff is so easy. Here's another indignant Munchkin, and "timber" is her name-o:
I am tired of painting the netroots as extreame[sic] left wing liberal as if they are member of A.N.S.W.E.R., pacifist hippies, anarchists, socialist or communists. This has got to stop. Thus this poll to find out what kind of liberals are we.
There's something Gilbert and Sullivan about that last line --
What kind of liberals are we --
What do we think of Hil-la-ree...
... but stop me before I rhyme again. Anyway. our angry Munchkin -- suffering from steroid rage, perhaps, like Alan's muscular-liberal rodent -- put up a poll:
What kind of Liberal are you?

  • I belong to A.N.S.W.E.R
  • 0%
  • I am the 60's hippie type pictured in Forest Gump
  • 1%
  • I am an anarchist
  • 7%
  • I am a socialist/communist
  • 20%
  • I am a pacifist and dont believe in war for any reason
  • 3%
  • I am mainstream and the majority who just spoke out early on about Bush wrong policies.
  • 60%
  • I am a pro-life Democrat but not a one issue voter
  • 7%
    I happened to notice another poll, by a Munchkin with the ominous name of "ladufarge", a few days earlier:
    If Hillary is the Democratic Presidential nominee in '08, I will:

  • Happily vote for her
  • 5%
  • Reluctantly vote for her
  • 57%
  • Vote for a third party candidate
  • 31%
  • Stay home on Election Day
  • 5%
    Now these are small numbers, and maybe winnowing Kosniks is an unproductive way to spend one's time anyhow. But with my characteristic cockeyed optimism, I was rather heartened by these numbers. Right here in Daily Kos, the Mordor of lesserrevillism, more than a third of the (admittedly scanty) respondents said they would either vote for a third party or stay home in '08 rather than vote for Hillary Clinton. And on "timber's" poll, almost a third 'fessed up to being one of the frowned-on groups -- pacifist, anarchist, communist/socialist, or "hippie." It's like a third of the Orcs admitting that really, they'd rather be elves.

    Or even dwarves.


    June 7, 2006

    Our line's been changed again

    Daily Kos is getting to be more and more like the good old bad old Kremlin these days. The Great Kos-iet Encyclopedia, in particular, is undergoing a heavy airbrush treatment in the wake of Democratic white hope Francine Busby's defeat yesterday at the hands of Republican nonentity Brian Bilbray in a special election in California.

    Here's Chairman Kos, speaking from atop Truman's tomb in Blue Square last week:

    The Busby campaign is running this ad on wingnut radio:
    Think lobbyist Brian Bilbray's a conservative when it comes to immigration? Think again. You see, even lobbyist Bilbray's conservative opponent stated that Bilbray "failed to pass any laws to stop illegal immigration during his 12 years as a career politician and lobbyist." ...You have a choice. Independent William Griffith is endorsed by the San Diego Minutemen and San Diego Border Alert because he opposes guest worker programs, amnesty and the hiring of illegal immigrants.
    Pretty darn smart to offer up Griffith as an option to wingers in the district motivated by the immigration debate. This puppy will be so close that any Republican vote for Griffith is a vote for Busby.
    The Glorious Leader goes on to provide "ten reasons why Bilbray is toast," which I will spare you.

    That was then, this is now. Here's Kos today, insisting with the brazen assurance of a complete psychopath that he was right all along:

    Well, it seems everything I've been saying for the last few months came to happen.... Democrats are not motivated to turn out. Sure, Busby exceeded Kerry's 43 percent he got in the district in 2004, but not by much.... Democrats have to be more aggressive. In tactics, in messaging, and, yes, even on the issues.
    Don't you love that "even on the issues"? The great one goes on to quote his comrade-in arms Matt Stoller, marveling about how Bilbray (black hat, remember?) "ran to the left" of Busby (white hat -- I know, it's like a Russian novel) on immigration. Kos is amazed, amazed at this reversal of the natural order -- what's next, dogs and cats getting married? We are not to recall that a few days earlier, Kos himself, in the "pretty smart" item quoted above, was praising Busby (white hat) for running to the right of Bilbray (black hat) on immigration. Or maybe it's OK when a Democrat runs to the right of a Republican but bad when a Republican runs to the left of a Democrat. Glass half full, good. Glass half empty, bad.

    Hey, nobody ever said Kremlinology was easy.

    June 8, 2006

    Deep cover

    Okay, you can definitively call me crazy now. I'm writing this from Las Vegas, where I impulsively decided to go take in the Daily Kos convention. I'm wearing female clothes and a false beard, so I fit right in, and I'm using an assumed name since Michael Smith is so distinctive. It's pretty dull so far, but the Maximum Leader is speaking tonight. Stay tuned.

    Pied pipers

    I'm just back from a visit to a couple blockbuster Dem-Prog sites, and it seems to your humble ranter here that the main currents in the comment streams there -- at least the ones planning on going anywhere, not just house cleaning and troll hunting -- run markedly to the left of the top posters.

    I think the notion these sites are fraud packs, as several commenters have suggested here, prolly rates a full "yup", but more than that are we dealing with any plain vanilla cutouts here? Setups from scratch built by corporate Dems with intent to drain the radical prog vein?

    I recall the SDS days when the "media" seemed forever flawlessly able to spot light the biggest, most movement-retarding sellout egomaniacs.

    June 9, 2006

    Our man in Kos-itania, Chapter I

    Late at night, Thursday, June 8

    It's amazing what weird situations an excess of curiosity will land you in. Here I am, for example, wearing female clothing and a false beard, impersonating a Democrat at the yearly convention of Daily Kos (www.dailykos.com), which is being held in Las Vegas, of all places.

    I had kind of hoped to get through life without ever being in Las Vegas. But it's not what I expected. On the flight out here, that line of Tacitus kept running through my head -- urbs quo cuncta undique atrocia confluunt, a city where all evils, from everywhere else, come and gather. But it isn't like that at all. It's oddly innocent and childlike, a kids' playground writ large. It's plastered all over with various insignia of naughtiness but it's really quite orderly and safe, and to tell the truth, it's a little bland. So it really is the perfect place for Yearly Kos, a gathering of insurgents demanding re-admittance to the sheepfold.

    The other thing I had expected was that the Kosniks themselves would provide abundant material for ridicule. But they don't. They're much more engaging than their posts on the Daily Kos web site would lead you to expect -- and this really should have come as no surprise, since people notoriously show their worst side online.

    No, the Kosniks are mostly not only sane, but obviously intelligent. A lot of them have pretty good haircuts. They're personable, kind, witty, self-deprecating, thoughtful, earnest, and generally likable.

    Oh, there are a few exceptions -- a 300-pound doctor, who enjoyed telling us the witty things she says to her patients, and just would not shut up; a staffer from the Drum Major Institute (http://www.drummajorinstitute.org) in pink fishnet stockings and bat-wing spectacles who looked like an extra from Hairspray and thought term limits were a Really Good Thing; and a hyperkinetic "trainer" from Democracy For America (www.democracyforamerica.com) who had the stage manner of a contestant on American Idol, and would probably have won. He certainly had energy enough; he talked and gesticulated and paced for seven hours almost non-stop -- I checked in every half-hour or so -- and he was still enjoying the sound of his own voice when he practically had to be dragged out of the meeting room so the next scheduled event could begin.

    Other not-entirely-attractive Kosniks included a staff guy fresh from beautiful defeat in Marcy Winograd's primary challenge to bloody-fanged War Democrat Jane Harman; this chap was treated with the tender deference due to a veteran with a war wound. And there was a ringlet-haired Democratic Party op from Gainesville, Florida, who apologized for his state's votes for Nader in 2000, and repeatedly referred to people like himself as "touchy-feely white guys." This phrase got a modest laugh the first time he said it. These two, interestingly, were among the most strident in insisting that the one goal of political activity is to win elections.

    But most of the Kosniks weren't like that. Most of them seemed to be honest, sincere, good-hearted people, baffled and dismayed by what their country has become. What, I wondered, are nice folks like this doing in a cult like Daily Kos? So I was quite curious to see the cult leader, Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, in action.

    I'll pass along my impressions of Kos in a later post.

    Our man in Kos-itania, Chapter II

    The story so far: our intepid correspondent has infiltrated Las Vegas under deep cover, to bring us a first-hand account of three days that will, no doubt, shake the world -- namely the first annual in-the-flesh convention of Daily Kos fans. We pick up the story as cult leader Markos Moulitsas Zuniga addresses the faithful.

    Moulitsas, known to his disciples as "Kos", spoke briefly to the troops at the end of the day, after we were all talked out -- well, not all; there were some brazen-lunged enthusiasts still going strong -- and mellowed out with a beer or two.

    "Kos" is a small, trim, birdlike guy, given to quick, fluttery gestures. He has a distinctive, shoulder- and hip-swinging walk -- what you might call a sashay, actually. The play of expression on his face reminded me strangely of Louis Farrakhan, though I suppose this is the only point of resemblance between the two. He has that same slow, deliberate smile, held a little too long for comfort. There is something in his look that says he is confident of adulation, and pleased with his own success.

    He read his text a little woodenly, and there wasn't much to it. His two great points of self-congratulation were 1) Howard Dean is now DNC chair and 2) Paul Hackett almost got somewhere in Ohio. (You haven't heard of Paul Hackett? Don't worry about it.) Kos confidently predicted that Joe Lieberman would lose to his anti-war primary challenger, Ned Lamont -- but then, last week Kos was saying that Francine Busby would pull an upset in San Diego. (You haven't heard of Francine Busby, either? See Paul Hackett, above.)

    Neither Kos nor anybody else today talked much about what you might call the content of politics. The word "progressive" was frequently invoked, but either everybody agrees on just what that means or nobody wanted to get into it. The Iraq war was mentioned, in my hearing, twice, in the context of alluding to the death of Zarqawi. Both times the crowd applauded this victory in the war on terror -- applauded solidly but not thunderously; I couldn't help thinking, wishfully perhaps, that although the Kosniks are loyal adherents of the understudy War Party, at least some of these progressives are starting to have doubts about this particular war.

    Nobody mentioned Israel, or Palestine, or the Israel lobby, or anything remotely connected with these topics, even once.

    Speaking of war, the Maximum Leader put in another appearance a little later, at a reception for ex-general and presidential candidate Wesley Clark. (What the hell, there was free booze, which is more than I've ever gotten out of any other general, or presidential candidate either.)

    At this event, my benign impression of the Kosniks started to fray a little. There he was, General Clark, pigeon-chested, lizard-faced, the former butcher of the Balkans, his chalky cheeks ghastly under the camera flashes -- as scary as anything I've ever seen outside an autopsy suite. And the Kosniks were loving him.

    Kos made his slow ceremonious way over to Clark and the two of them exchanged courtly greetings, like the Doge of Venice unexpectedly meeting the Duke of Muscovy but remembering his manners -- the least you could expect of Doges and Dukes, surely. The Kosniks were in raptures: witnesses to history. A burly six-foot chap standing next to me -- a guy who could have tied the General in knots -- gushed girlishly, "Now this is People Power! I mean, who are WE?" I wanted to ask, "Who is HE?" but remembered my disguise before I spoke. The General's free booze had slowed me down a bit, fortunately.

    Clark stood up, with a little help, on a table, and gave a smooth little speech. The burden of his song was, "send money."

    And so to bed, as Mr. Pepys says. Tomorrow we get to meet senate minority leader Harry Reid and Virginia governor and presidential aspirant Mark Warner -- if they show. Nancy Pelosi has already stood us up. A bitter disappointment, but the General's free booze has softened the pain.

    June 10, 2006

    Kos on the commanding heights

    Okay, so I'm a behind-the-times old Sixties lefty. Guilty as charged, yer Honor. I throw myself on the mercy of the court. But would somebody explain to me how anybody who thinks of himself as a "progressive", or a person of the Left in any sense, can fail to be pleased when a CIA agent is "outed"? Personally, I love it when that happens, and I wish somebody would out 'em all. Don't you?

    Well, the regular communicants of Daily Kos don't see it that way. I'm lurking, under deep, deep cover -- disguised as a security guard, actually -- at their "first-annual" convention in Las Vegas. It's Day Two (Day One was reported at yesterday.) and -- we've all been there -- Day Two has a slightly bleak, morning-after quality. (We'll get back to the CIA in a minute.)

    Day One was undoubtedly exciting: all these folks who knew each other only under screen names finally meeting in the flesh -- fairly prepossessing flesh in some cases, less so in others. I hope there were at least a few hookups, though as a journalist, I personally would have declined embedding (not that it was offered, dammit).

    Day Two has had the slightly tentative, halting air of a post-coital breakfast. Perhaps that's why the Kosniks turned from each other's now-known, and suddenly too-familiar faces, to the safer ground of celebrity-worship. The first celebrity made available for the purpose was Ambassador Joseph Wilson, husband of "outed" CIA agent Valerie Plame and whistle-blower on the Niger yellowcake story.

    Wilson is a classic FSO type. He's well-spoken, he knows how to play gravitas in the left hand and levity in the right simultaneously, and he seems to be profoundly comfortable in his own skin, without a shred of Kos' conscious and showy arriviste self-assurance. Wilson's Paderewski coiffure says that he is a man of culture as well as a man of the world, and if ever I saw a coiffure that wasn't lying, it's Wilson's.

    The Kosniks ate him up. Standing ovations, big belly laughs at every donnish little witticism -- he's the guy they'd all like to be. And when he dropped the tidbit that his Frau had the best score with an AK-47 on the CIA rifle range, I feel sure a lot of 'em crossed the line from wanting to be him to wanting to do him. Or her. I felt a little frisson myself, to tell the truth. (For her, of course. Ahem.)

    Wilson repeatedly referred to the "national security" of the United States, and flirted with accusing the administration of treason -- an accusation made explicit by one of his fellow panelists, another ex-CIA guy, Larry Johnson, who has been breaking blogsphere lances left and right on Plame's behalf ever since she became a household name. Johnson was apparently a bud of Valerie's in the Agency, lucky dog.

    Now "treason" and "national security," it seems to me, are expressions that ought to send any Lefty running for cover. But it didn't have that effect on the Kosniks. They loved it. They were delighted to be on the same side as this orotund, world-weary vieux-prepster Foreign Service dude, and the furious, carpet-chewing, traitor-hunting Johnson.

    History notoriously repeats itself, and I couldn't help thinking that what the Kosniks are feeling today, as they are stroked by politicians and patricians, must have been a lot like what the chastened, newly anti-communist liberals of the late Forties felt -- the Hubert Humphries and the Sidney Hooks -- as they came in from the cold, damp and shivering, and were handed a cheering Martini by Dean Acheson. Of course the famous line, "first time as tragedy, second time as farce" comes irresistibly to mind.

    Speaking of Martinis, they were laid on, abundantly, at a reception given by Virginia governor and presidential hopeful Mark Warner, which rounded out the day. Warner, or somebody, spent some serious money on this bash. It was held at the top of a Space Needlish tower, apparently something of a local attraction -- such an important structure that the blazer thugs put you through an airport search routine before they let you on the elevator. And I suppose in fact if Osama wanted to strike at the heart of America, he could do worse.

    Warner's Martinis were handed around on little trays -- plastic glasses, though, a chintzy touch -- and there was a profusion and variety of food that outshone a Great Neck wedding. All in all, it made General Wesley Clark's little soiree the previous night look pretty shabby.

    Warner worked the room with wolf-like intensity -- he even cornered me, while I was trying to get a picture of him, and gave my hand a manly pump, gazing deep into my eyes. I was still thinking about Valerie Plame, though, so Warner didn't make as much of an impression as he might have.

    The Kosniks were in seventh heaven. You could tell by the excited voices, the drawn-up, self-important stances, the handshaking and backslapping. They thought they'd arrived. They thought they were in.

    You can't grow up in a little Protestant church down South, like I did, without having the Scriptures come to mind occasionally. What came to my mind up in that Space Needle, as I looked down at the streetlights stretching out into desert darkness, and heard the giddy voices of the Kosniks raised in illusory triumph behind me, was a bit from Luke's gospel:

    And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.

    And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.

    And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan.

    The Kosniks, smart and likable as so many of them are, haven't the astuteness of the distinguished Galilean. He understood that the Devil's promises are hollow ones; but I fear the Kosniks will have to discover that by experience.

    Small fry

    Kos is the Al-Zarqawi of the jackass-kissing blonkery -- despised by his rivals for his fame, secretly pumped up by his targets at the top of the party.

    Watching him strut around like a midget Cab Calloway, one is almost reminded of Sancho and his island governorship -- almost, but not quite, because Sancho, of course, though equally fooled is not equally a fool.

    Surely Kos, like his throatcutting showoff terrorist counterpart, will also find himself fingered for virtual destruction by his colleagues. I just hope our brave front line reporter Father Smiff is on the spot when it happens.

    June 11, 2006

    Time to exfiltrate

    You know you're in trouble when the high point of your day is Arianna Huffington.

    I've spent the last three days in Las Vegas, lurking incognito at the Daily Kos convention. (Previous days here and here and here.)

    Today was definitely the worst of the three, probably because the discourse was dominated by actual Democratic politicians -- officials, ex-officials, and candidates -- the sorry varmints that Kosniks so badly want to elect.

    I. Lost Eden

    Howard Dean may not be the very worst way to start your day, but anything worse would have to involve physical injury. His speech -- greeted with great enthusiasm, of course -- was interesting chiefly as a little tour through the alternative thought universe inhabited by liberal Democrats. Howard kept talking about "taking back" the country, "taking back" the party, "taking us back" to the high ideals -- of John F. Kennedy, forsooth. He must have used this phrase "take back" a hundred times. He even said the upheavals of the 1960s were an exercise in "taking back" America. He said we want open and honest government --or no, he said we want it "back."

    Now this is very bizarre, when you think about it. When did "we" ever have the Democratic Party, or the country? When did they get taken away? By whom? How did that happen? Open and honest government -- when did we ever have that? Never, you say? Then how can we get it "back"? When did we live in this Eden that Howard wants to restore?

    If God did not exist, Candide observes, man would have to invent him. This imaginary former state of grace is a necessary invention too. The Kosniks know that sometime in the last half-century, the Republicans acquired a decisive upper hand, and they know the country is going to hell in a handbasket. So far so good; but then they make a false step. They start with a conclusion -- restoring the Democrats to power would make things better -- and for there they reason backwards to the necessary premise, namely that we once enjoyed all these things they quite rightly want, and we lost them when the Republicans took over.

    That's how it works for the audience, I think. But it doesn't seem likely that Howard Dean himself, or his colleagues in the Party apparatus, are subtle enough to have crafted such an appeal on the basis of their deep psychological insight. No, this "take back" mantra, for them, is simply a kind of Freudian slip. The takeback they have in mind is simply to take back a place at the trough for their office-seeking snouts. So the wish-fulfilment dream of the troops, and the unconscious self-revelation of the pols, dovetail in one of those beautiful, overdetermined conjunctures that nobody could ever have designed.

    II. The microscopic eye

    The Kosniks strenuously insist that they're worlds apart, ideologically, from the squalid Morlocks of the Fromsphere -- the "centrist" triangulators who inhabit organizations like the Democratic Leadership Council, the Public Policy Institute, Third Way and so on. But in the scant hour devoted this morning to a panel -- a poorly-attended panel -- on "War, foreign policy, and activism," I'll be damned if I could tell you how the views we were hearing -- with one conspicuous exception, to which we'll return -- differed in any way from the tough-but-smart competent-interventionist hokum you can find by the gigabyte on the From-pods' web sites.

    The program promised us Ari Melber, Lakshmi Chaudhry, and Alex Rossmiller. Rossmiller is a scowling, short-haired former military-intelligence guy, Melber a scowling former Kerry apparatchik in a suit who writes the odd column for the New York Post and The Nation, and Chaudhry -- oh, everybody knows her.

    Melber (shown left, in a photo lifted from what appears to be a dating site) objected to the "global war on terror" because he felt it wasn't sharply enough focused on "jihadism," and approvingly cited Dick Holbrooke -- Dick Holbrooke! -- to this effect. We should concentrate on our "top targets," Melber thought.

    Rossmiller seconded the focus on "militant Islamists"; he compared the current conflict against this sinister force with earlier struggles against "fascism and communism." He sternly warned us against "reactionary isolationism," and assured us that the Democrats don't need a program or a plan -- all they need to do is point out that the Republicans have "screwed it up."

    Chaudhry, like a doctor with a dire diagnosis, broke the really bad news: as far as Iraq is concerned, "abandonment is not an option."

    I dunno, these "gate-crashers" sound a lot like the guys on the inside to me. Maybe there's some tiny but very important difference that's eluding my crude senses; but then, as the poet says,

    Why hath not Man a microscopick Eye?
    For this plain Reason: Man is not a Flye.

    III. A loose cannon

    The panel included another participant, not listed in the program, a slinky dame with an exotic accent. She got up and started talking and a wild surmise crept over me. "Who's this?" I asked a kind-looking neighbor. He stared at me as if I were Rip van Winkle, and sniffed, "Arianna Huffington!"

    Say what you will about Arianna, you can't deny she's self-determined, and since I was starting to feel surrounded by nice, gentle Pod People, Arianna came as a breath of fresh air.

    She started off by saying that the party should not endorse, nor Democrats vote for, any candidate who doesn't have a "clear and unequivocal" position on withdrawal of the troops. This may not sound like much, but in the context of Melber and Rossmiller it reeked of sansculotterie.

    "Bloggers vill be courted!" she warned. "Perhaps ve should open a twenty-four hour hotline. Ven Hillary Clinton calls and asks you to run her online campaign, don't take ze offer!"

    She had harsh words for the "smart guys in Washington" who are running the party. "Busby listened to the smart guys who said concentrate on corruption, don't talk about ze war, and she lost. And I don't vant to hear she lost by only five points -- she lost!"

    Her best line: " 'Together ve can do better' -- zat is ze lamest slogan ever!"

    She got some applause, but it was a little nervous.

    IV. Give 'em hurl Harry

    Why is Harry Reid so popular with the Kosniks? True, they loved that stunt he pulled back in November. You remember, he shut down the Senate with a procedural maeuver, in an attempt, so far unavailing as it turns out, to force an investigation into the administration's prewar manipulation of intelligence (a key part of the War Democrats' "We wuz fooled" defense). In a movement very short on victories, small satisfactions like this need to go a long way.

    Or perhaps the Kosniks love Harry just because he was a little ahead of the curve, among electeds, in recognizing the usefulness of the Kosniks and their kin, and in stroking them with flattering attention.

    Anyway, love him they do. You'd have thought he was Huey Long when he showed up last night. The Kosniks were clapping rhythmically, waving signs -- thoughtfully pre-positioned at each chair -- and chanting Har-ree! Har-ree! Har-ree! Every applause line got a standing, stormy ovation -- it was like a State of the Union address, or a Soviet central-committee meeting when the cult of personality was at its height. If you really feel the need to enthuse, it doesn't much matter, apparently, that what you're given to enthuse about is pretty thin gruel.

    Har-ree began with a deft and highly professional stroking session, though he didn't have much to work on. "It was you, the bloggers, who stood against the Swift Boating of John Kerry, who defended Valerie Plame-- an American spy! -- who helped us defeat the insidious 'nuclear option.' " (This last phrase refers, of course, to the Senatorial Democrats' retention of a shrunken, desiccated vestige of the once-mighty filibuster, a "progressive" institution if ever there was one.)

    "For the past six years, we've been on the wrong course," he said, which might raise, in some ill-disposed minds, the question of what Har-ree thought we were doing for the previous eight -- or thirty. But hey, nobody likes a Grinch.

    Three dollar gasoline -- very bad. (Mr. Gore, would you care to comment on that?) The Iraq war must... "change." Shouts at this point of "Bring 'em home! We've got your back!" Har-ree didn't respond, though he must have felt greatly reassured that the Kosniks "have his back."

    V. Milites gloriosi

    The low point of the day, though, was the Fighting Dems. This is a theme -- meme? dream? scream? -- very close to the Kosnik heart: former military types running for office as Democrats. The idea is that they're vaccinated, as it were, against the security-wuss charge.

    We heard from two of these macho dudes: one was a buffoon, and the other was Uriah Heep.

    The buffoon was Eric Massa, running for Congress in New York's 29th district. (Shown at left, sharing what appears to be a prayerful moment with Wesley Clark.)

    Massa had put together an entertaining but amateurish schtick involving a certain amount of mild profanity and bar-stool pugnacity -- various people were going to get their "asses kicked" if Massa goes to Washington. At one point he whipped off his jacket to don a Mark Warner T-shirt, an infelicitous move on his part, since he is a rather small and tubby man. It was hard not to like him, actually, but impossible to take him seriously.

    The Uriah Heep was Joe Sestak, running for Congress in Pennsylvania, and truly one of the creepiest public presences I have ever seen. (Sestak is shown at left, while still an admiral, welcoming Congressman Mike McIntyre on a junket somewhere east of Suez. McIntyre is the blond, Sestak the brunette. The guy in the background is not there by choice.)

    Sestak leaned very close to the mike and spoke in a low, whispery, husky voice. Listening to him, one felt trapped in an unsought and unwelcome intimacy, like a frottage victim on the subway.

    Sestak is a retired admiral, and he treated us to a lot of purple rhetoric about the "eternal bond" of those who have worn the uniform. He dwelt at great and rather lascivious length on the blossoming youth of the aircraft-carrier sailors formerly under his command, and told a complicated and obscurely-relevant story about one of these Billy Budd types unhooking the catapult cable from a fighter jet.

    Well, that would have been bad enough; I'd've taken a shower afterwards if I hadn't already checked out of my room. But then, as I sat in the corridor outside the meeting room, typing up this report on my trusty laptop, a young, earnest Kosnik came and settled himself nearby. He pulled out a cellphone, or a Blackberry or something, speed-dialed, and told the whole story all over again, almost word for word.

    He had no more idea than I what the point of the tale was; his unseen interlocutor was clearly trying to figure it out too, judging by my Kosnik's response to unheard questions. But my Kosnik was deeply moved. Hey, it worked for him, and I guess that was the point.

    VI. Dust from my sandals

    The Kosniks, as I found when I first arrived, are not bad people. On the contrary, they are smart, engaging, well-meaning, and energetic, and a good many of 'em are, well, attractive. But after three days, I'd had enough of them, and then some. Couldn't wait to get to the airport -- and in this day and age, that says something.

    The Kosniks are cultists, and there is, ultimately, nothing more tiresome. They've invested so much, emotionally, in the Democratic Party that it's made them rather shallow and monotonous. All their thinking, all their energy, is bent toward getting people like Massa and Sestak -- and ultimately, Warner or Hillary Clinton -- into office. As the song says:

    One, two, three, what're we fighting for?
    Don't ask me, I don't give a damn...
    No doubt they all started with a vision, a generous, humane vision. But the instrument they chose to realize their vision has turned them into its instruments instead.

    Good old C. Wright Mills said it all, half a century ago:

    Crackpot realists are so rigidly focused on the next step that they become creatures of whatever the main drift -- the opportunist actions of innumerable men -- brings.

    ...In crackpot realism, a high-flying moral rhetoric is joined with an opportunist crawling among a great scatter of unfocused fears and demands. In fact, the main content of “politics” is now a struggle among men equally expert in practical next steps—which, in summary, make up the thrust toward war—and in great, round, hortatory principles.

    ... For they still believe that "winning" means something, although they never tell us what.

    June 12, 2006

    Badges of honor

    Alan Smithee writes:

    Congrats on your successful infiltration of the Yearly Ko$ festival! It's a huge hit around the blogs. Say was that you in the pic in the NY Times article? The caption read 'Mike Smith'.

    Reading the comments on your blog, one of the things that jumped out at me was just how many people have been banned at The Daily Ko$. So many that I've been inspired to make a little graphic that people can put on their sites to advertise the fact. It's available at:

    http://alansmithee.5u.com/banned/Banned.html.

    Kostown

    He appears at my elbow...

    "Oh, for god sakes Hunter, what is it this time?"

    "Kos will build a real place, JS... "

    "Yeah... so...?"

    "One word... Jonestown...."

    "What?!"

    "Kool-ade, Paine... Remember... the Kool-ade...."

    Crackpot seriousness

    "Serious people... people ready to decide the fate of the free world ..."

    I heard super K Henry growl those words on the radio last night. It was in response to an audience question on 'Nam: "In light of what's happened since that war, Mr Kissinger, do you feel you have anything to apologize to the American people for?"

    To Super K, that was not "a serious question a serious person would seriously ask ..."

    The Christmas bombing of Hanoi, the summer bombing of Cambodia, were both serious acts of serious leaders of the seriously free world. Not to mention twenty-odd thousand dead corn-fed boys on his watch.

    It made me think of Kos, in its regressively juvenile, octopus ink-like method of escape from a confrontation with first principles. According to these odd-couple realists, you just need to win a trick here and win a trick there, and pretty soon it starts to add up to a pretty swell pilgrim's progress.

    The all-too-visible empire

    Beware the bloggery -- a merit-class invisible empire.

    Recently I've taken to drawing insulting parallels between today's Demo party blog klaverns (like TCBY Cafe, Call Me Elmo, and Adipose Express) and yesterday's sheeted klaverns.

    The dems have long since lived down that earlier "sinister influence" as they have the slave owning planters, peckerwood injun cleaners, and sordid city machines. But here arises a new organized compact menace -- and why a menace?

    Cause the donkery, even if not directly steered by job holders, needs to be steered for job holders, because it must be the party of job holders, if it wants to be anything more than a corporate tweedledee echo and once-a-generation crisis collision mat.

    These demoblog communities with their ever-more-fondly held notion that winning is everything, only prove these are rugged merit-class resolutes -- issues be damned -- we don't need no stinking issues. And they're right in a sense. As far as these fellers go, the donk party just needs to win the Kulturkampf that started back in the 60's.

    The other, older tradition -- a pre-cold war tradition associated with FDR, the CIO, and the hours and wages law -- that would require some long languishing principles to be resurrected, brought up to date, and put into law and practice.

    For that, sheep must be parsed from goats -- and that's a task well beyond mere electioneering -- beyond putting in office a bigger ration of right-minded, soulful, soft-on-difference professional opportunists like Dean, Boxer, and Kennedy, who won't get anyone a flea hop closer to another New Deal for the jobbery.

    June 13, 2006

    Clubbability

    Club manias abound in history-- just read a bad piece on the three-generation rise and fall of the Elks, the Moose, the Lions, etc. If we want a more double domed claquery, we can think of the coffee clubs of Queen Anne's London, I suppose.

    All classes have their gathering pretexts, but if there's a generalization to be made, it's -- as with much else -- the old chestnut: a great dearth precedes any great new rage.

    After years of X-er anomie, the communal activity spawned by the internet would indicate that at least for broad swaths of the merit class, the club dearth has ended.

    Take back, oh take back, oh take back my countree to mee-he-he

    (This is a JSP/MJS collaboration -- Ed.)

    Even as the Kos gig wrapped, the older Gutenberg set kicked off their own version, billed as "Take Back America 2006." Apparently they have one every year, which seems funny somehow. Come Back to Take Back. Should they get numbers, like Super Bowls? Take Back America XXXVII. The word "back" in this slogan is causing MJS to grit his teeth all over again, too.

    The currently-running version has St Hill, the Kerry tree, Fly-back-fast Harry Reid, Robert Redford, Nancy Pelosi, Back-to-Barracks Obama, and many many more of that ilk -- all in all, a bigger better haul than Mickey Markos snared.

    On the other hand, the Taker-Backers have the creak and crumble sound of a Glorious Leader statue ready to tumble -- it all seems very geriatric compared to Kos.

    What is absolutely identical between the two is the windy, empty sloganeering of the pols and the progs:

    • John Kerry: "Our one biggest idea, the one that makes us Democrats, is not to stand for selfishness but to stand for the common good."
    • Nancy Pelosi: "...a new direction for all Americans, not just the privileged few."
    • Hillary Clinton: "We believe in a government that empowers people to live their own dreams."
    • Robert Redford: "...get back in touch with thinking big again."
    • Harry Reid: "It's time to lead."
    • Robert Borosage: "...the right has failed, because it is wrong."
    Love the Borosage insight -- like that bit in the Chanson de Roland: Chrestiens ont droit, et paiens ont tort!

    June 14, 2006

    Purity vs. purity

    ms_xeno writes, in a comment too good to be just a comment:

    I moved out of Mommy's house roughly twenty years ago. I figure I'm allowed to cultivate some imagination if I'm paying my own bills, even in political matters. :p For example, my Mom still thinks Humphrey was a great guy. I think he was a gullible, pandering sellout-- a dry run for the likes of Gore and Biden.

    The finger-pointing at Greens and such as modern-day Hitler-enablers always dodges a crucial point: Why are the Communists in Germany held up for not wanting to work with the SD, and not the other way around ? Why must supposed extremism always crawl on its belly begging for an audience with supposed centrism --the latter having a superiority innate enough to be understood in these little historic parallels/tableaus-- that the former is not allowed, even once in awhile ?

    The trouble with these parallels is that they excuse moderates who refuse to dirty themselves by dealing with the very same people they acuse of obsessive "purity"-- even as said moderates excuse themselves from any culpability for the downward spiral they're in, they stand tall and proud in their refusal to concede any point at all to the supposed extremists. Well, not those on their left, any way. Scratch the defiant surface of anti-Bush jokes or fuming at the hateful Bible thumpers, and it's all about the "strategy" of jettisoning various sub-groups of loyalists (gays, feminists, labor, blacks) in order to look godly enough to peel off a few swing voters in Peoria.

    Well, if you ask me, both these things cannot be true at the same time. Either moderates need those on their Left to prevail, or they don't. If they do, they must address the concerns of those to their Left. If they don't, they ought to stop treating those on their Left as a wholly-owned subsidiary belonging to whichever DLC fuckwit they meekly help anoint in two years.

    Which is it in Billmon-land, I wonder ? Has he decided, or is he just another liberal blogger determined to constantly re-enact that old joke about milking the cow and the goat at the same time, while peddling the results as ginger ale ?

    (Smithee may recognize that last bit. A hint to any DP loyalists lurking about: It didn't originate with Mrs. Bush.)

    Fan mail -- 14 June 2006

    We got a comment yesterday on one of JSP's posts:
    "These demoblog communities with their ever-more-fondly held notion that winning is everything."

    Yes, as opposed to pathetic fossils like you, to whom LOSING is everything - and always will be.

    If I'm Elmo, then I guess that makes you Oscar the fucking grouch. Asshole.

    Posted by: billmon | June 13, 2006 09:05 AM

    Now JSP is a profoundly suspicious individual. His formative years were spent in a Left sect that was obsessed with finding police agents in its midst, and the experience marked him for life. He assumed that this commenter was somebody impersonating "billmon". So he wrote the real "billmon" a polite note:

    
        From: "J S Paine" <jsp@smithbowen.net> 
        Sent: Tuesday, June 13, 2006 11:17 AM
        To: billmon@billmon.org
        Subject: stop me comment
    
        at our site stop me before i vote again
        we got a comment that purports to be from u 
        in part it reads...
    
        "If I'm Elmo, then I guess that makes you 
        Oscar the fucking grouch.
    
        Asshole."
    
        doubtless this is from a counterfeit billmon
        the real one would hardly have the time or inclination
        to express
        such a sentiment even if he felt it
    
        does this happen often??
    

    Imagine JSP's surprise and dismay at receiving this response:

        From: "billmon" <billmon@billmon.org>
        Reply-To: <billmon@verizon.net>
        To: " J S Paine" <jsp@smithbowen.net>
        Subject: RE: stop me comment
        Date: Tue, 13 Jun 2006 18:43:13 -0400
    
        Guess again, shit for brains.
    
        Billmon
    

    Tetchy folk, these progs. And with all respect to JSP, I've got dibs on Oscar the Grouch.

    Synchronicity

    Saw an uncanny echo of a recent post about politically "serious" people like Henry Kissinger. This one is from one Chris Bowers at mydd.com. Some excerpts (emphases are mine):
    I just want to make one thing clear to some people who do not view MyDD as a place for thoughtful, strategic appreciation of the progressive movement: your days are numbered.

    Do not consider MyDD a place to work out your frustrations that you cannot work out elsewhere.

    Do not consider MyDD a place for random, open discussion of the latest news and current events.

    Do not consider MyDD to be a message board for total progressive purity.

    MyDD is, ultimately, a place for people who are serious about politics to congregate.

    It is a place [for] serious discussion and debate on how to fix the horrifically dysfunctional progressive movement. While grassroots, MyDD is the blog for political progressives serious about political, progressive change to find one another, and to discuss how to make progressive change take place.

    "Serious" is really one of those tipoff words like "mature," "practical," "realistic," "pragmatic" and so on -- a sure sign that some abyssal moral abjection impends.

    First time as tragedy, second time as... irony

    So what do thoughtful prog-blog types think of their subculture?

    Here's the product of one act of careful self-identifcation by a chap named Matt from mydd.com. It was either made -- or as I suspect, more likely reinforced by -- his attendence at the recent Kos Vegas happening:

    We have a culture of liberalism....
    Fair enough.
    I know that sounds 'soft'...
    They're nothing if not self conscious, eh?
    ...but the laughing liberally folk and the comedians at the event mixed perfectly with the bloggers...
    Laughing liberals? Hey, Father Smiff, where the eff were you when these laff riots broke out -- re-reading Tacitus? But I digress. Back to Matt's memescape:
    .... we are a movement...
    Okay ..give with the pocket Weber, baby --
    ...Every significant political movement rests on cultural foundations....
    The obvious is fiercely strangled with that line, eh?

    But to be just, the man does deliver:

    ...and I think that the punk ethos and... the ironic collegiate comedy style of the 1970s has coalesced into a cultural base for what we're doing...
    Hmm. A 70's gas works kinda thang. Well really now... gotta chew on that a mo... the 70s. Commandante Markos, impresario of the digital revolving door at Studio 54.

    Matt keeps it all vague, like the Coke formula -- how to reverse engineer this belated 70's cocktail? You know the ratios? I hazard -- punk is like the vermouth?

    But to get the real deal you go heavy, extra heavy, on the irony -- make that a double on the irony, with a cheer chaser. Not coarse practical jokes -- forks in the hand and such -- no animal-house hee-haws. No, this irony is high-proof 70's personal pain-swallowed raw-built irony.

    What a battering ram, eh? They bring their rivals down by triumphing over self-laceration.

    And it's not to be confused with the other brands of liberalism. It's a clear counter to the 'real America' faux-heartland schtick -- all that phoney blue-collar, let's get down to their level and take 'em back moves.

    I gotta agree on that. Meritoids, be yourself. No shameless prole-pleb pandering.

    But guess who else it's a clear counter to:

    ... the liberal NYT Hollywood elitists...
    Bravo! Smash the NYT/Hollywood penthouse axis!

    So yes, rightly he says, we are neither of them. Good move. Neither phoney Jethro nor glitter-lite.

    We have mainstream cultural roots that are as powerful as our political ideas.
    "Powerful as" -- well, you can't quarrel with that, a dimensionless ratio. But -- powerful absolutely? Mainstream as in... what?

    June 15, 2006

    The mailbag, 15 June 2006

    I don't know whether other folks are finding this billmon exchange as amusing as I am. If not, tell me. Here's the latest:


    From: J S Paine ... 
    Sent: Wednesday, June 14, 2006 2:56 PM
    To: billmon
    Subject: faux billmons
    
      still think you're a faux billmon
    
      my reason for pushing this another step
    is to prevent a response
    that is unwarranted or i should say misdirected
        because though a worthy crtique
    its not from THE billmon legendary blogger
    
    strikes me the "real" billmon
    might well agree...more or less....
    with the negative currency of the faux billmon 
     squib shotz
    but
      why can't i free my mind
    of the notion
    the "real" would if anything
    use an instrument less blunt
    
    as a further source of unsettlement
    
    i notice in my non geek benightedness
    there
    seems to be two billmon e mail addresses floating about
    
    is that a clue to faux-ness ????
    


    
    From: "billmon" ...
    Reply-To: billmon@verizon.net
    To: J S Paine... 
    Subject: RE: faux billmons
    Date: Wed, 14 Jun 2006 20:21:51 -0400
    
    Oh no, it's me all right -- and someone at your 
    pathetic blog must believe it, since they've already 
    posted our private email correspondence. As for
    the "bluntness" of my response, that's usually how 
    I react when assholes compare me to a KKK klavern 
    leader:
    
    "Recently I've taken to drawing insulting parallels 
    between today's Demo party blog klaverns (like TCBY 
    Cafe, Call Me Elmo, and Adipose Express) and
    yesterday's sheeted klaverns."
    
    I would cheerfully slice your pathetic little nuts off for 
    that, you miserable piece of human excrement, but 
    you wouldn't be worth the trouble.
    
    Now go away and leave me alone, fucktard.
    
    Billmon
    

    Editor's note: billmon, or whoever this is, apparently objects to our publishing "private correspondence." This is a little tricky. Normally we wouldn't do it, but when the correspondence is mere abuse, respect for its privacy tends to drop. As well, the exchange started with a public comment in pretty much the same tone as the correspondence, so... Ed. is not losing much sleep over this particular moral quandary.

    June 22, 2006

    Kos-erei

    The post-Vegas Koscapade only gets more Jim Jones-like -- success breeds attack, attack breeds a wagon-circling. This moment's attack comes from the festering New Republic, but it's got the uber-Kos chewing the carpet. Kos' stop-the presses headline:
    TNR's defection to the Right is now complete
    It says a lot about where Kos situates the left, the right, and the center that he appears to believe this is a recent event.

    Anyway, read and grin -- broadly. If you enjoy a little Schadenfreude -- and who doesn't?

    The Good Cat-herd

    "Like herding cats" -- I bet that's what comes to mind when merit class/creative class types imagine some one trying to organize them. So the great roller-Kosser's success, in doing just that, must perplex, where it isn't ignored or inverted.

    My take: merit folks are as herdable as the rest of us. Final result: un-leadissimo Mickey Kos becomes Il un-Duce, with an un-cult and an un-hierarchy and a un-center and so on.

    Remember, our species is a lot closer to apes than cats. Imagine forming a bucket brigade out of cats.

    Movement, schmovement

    That gloomy but perceptive chap gluelicker writes:
    As an independent red-green with a couple thousand better things to do than track the hyperreal follies of US electoral politics, until very recently (until stumbling across MJS' killer reporting on the Kosniks' confab, in fact) I remained studiously ignorant of this phenomenon.

    Now that I have been clued in to this bizarre charade, I wanted to offer a few passing observations... nothing earth-shattering really, just "thinking out loud" and probably "playing to the crowd" as well.

    1. I find utterly laughable the absolute lack of awareness that the only occasions upon which the Democratic Party has tacked to the “left” (Great Depression, 1960’s-early 1970’s, etc.) is when extra-parliamentary movements (the CIO, civil rights & black power, etc.) have resorted to extra-electoral means (sit-down strikes, civil disobedience, riots, etc.) forcing the Democratic Party to adopt the most milquetoast of reforms (reforms which social democratic sellouts in Western Europe put to shame!).

    2. Equally gut-busting is the notion that somehow a mutual admiration society of geeks reading one another’s like-minded blogs translates into a “movement.”

    3. Perhaps the most bourgeois of all conceits is to elevate form above content, or in this case to breathlessly assert and reassert the “revolutionary” bona fides of the “netroots” while continuously eschewing ANY substantial debate over the concrete program the said “revolution” is putatively advancing.

    4. It is a sad commentary on how taken-for-granted “political technologism” has become that the centerpieces of conversation are focus groups, branding exercises, communications strategies, etc. – precisely among those who style themselves as (and are styled by the MSM as) “rebellious outsiders.”

    I had pretty much given up on the postmodern cartoon that is the US prior to stumbling across this site… I’m afraid that my diagnosis has only been darkened.

    June 26, 2006

    Children's crusade

    gluelicker writes:
    More dim (hopefully not dimbulb) observations on the strange world of liberal blogs (and the comments sections of liberal media sites such as AlterNet) – or, if you prefer, ruminations on the theme of “the kids are not all right,” from a pre-“Generation Y” old fogy (37 years and counting – but aren’t we all counting).

    It seems that the echo chamber at these blogs and sites is full of voices of young ‘uns who have to come to political consciousness (if it can be called that) in the age of George W. Bush.

    Both the predominant rhetorical style and the implicit worldview are dead giveaways. As a package, the results are distressing enough to prompt a Frankfurt School partisan such as myself to suggest turning out the lights.

    Your typical entry is sub-literate (redolent of communication skills honed through countless hours of text messaging), shot through with "transgressive" catch phrases (pick your favorite snarky nickname for the Commander-in-Chief), indulgent of conspiratorial fantasies (with Karl Rove as puppetmaster), mercilessly pillorying of the “enemy” – in the end, all in the service of defending the honor of the likes of Russ Feingold, who would have the US withdraw from Iraq in the name of more effectively prosecuting the (sic) war on terror. In other words, the package is eminently anti-bourgeois in form and utterly bourgeois in substance, the mirror image of Fox Network’s right-wing populist universe....

    Class struggle, Nerf ball division

    file this under the class struggle: ( nerf ball divisin ) Over at Kos, this diary pops into my eye:
    Class Struggle
    by Brettnet
    I'll skip the blah-blah except to note that the Nerf ball batted around here is a quote from Gore Vidal. (In the words of Erich von Stroheim about another feller in similar hands ..."poor Gore.") Here are two quotes from the comments -- check out the contrast:

    Numero uno:

    There have always been two classes . Not the rich and the poor or the bourgeoisie and the proletariat or whites and others. The two classes have been .... the dreamers and the parasites.
    Numero due:
    Worker Ownership of corporations.

    Allow entrepreneurs to accumulate $10 million of wealth, before corporate stock is phased into employee ownership.

    Tax all wealth 2% annually, minus exemption on first $100,000.

    Targeted amount for the Wealth Tax shall equal the amount of the Military Budget, plus the interest on the National Debt.

    Not too shabby -- call it a libertarian ceiling with a syndicalist bypass. I like the net worth tax applied to the national debt and the offense budget.

    A $100 k floor sounds low -- make it a million and let the atuomatic esopers swap n% of their shares for a broader range of shares for diversity's sake, and I'll buy into it.

    The guy bills himelf as Henry David. Seems at least a few fightin' fish still swim in them brackish Kos waters.

    June 27, 2006

    Always look on the bright side of life

    The glass isn't almost empty -- it's one-tenth full. That seems to be the cheery-beery outlook of whoever writes The Nation's editorials:

    When House Republican leaders responded to bipartisan calls for an honest debate on the Iraq occupation with a resolution endorsing the Administration's failed strategies and rejecting a timeline for withdrawal from a war that had that very day cost the 2,500th American life, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi countered with something Rove wasn't expecting: outspoken opposition.
    Indeed. If Rove wasn't expecting "outspoken opposition" from Pelosi, well, Pelosi has given him every reason not to, hasn't she?

    It gets better:

    [Pelosi] led a huge majority of Democrats in voting against the resolution. Even members like minority whip Steny Hoyer and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair Rahm Emanuel, who have sided with the White House in the past, voted no.
    Now this was a Republican resolution, giving a completely blank check to the President; a purely symbolic resolution, whose sole purpose was public relations. And yet the Nation is giddy with pleasure that a "majority" of Democrats were actually brave enough to... vote against it!

    Steny has come over! And Rahm! Ah, there is more rejoicing in Heaven over the one sheep that was lost and is found, than over the ninety and nine who were never lost.

    Well, guess what. These particular black sheep are still not found, and never will be found. They didn't vote for a deadline -- they voted against being against a deadline.

    Doesn't that doesn't just about sum up the modern Democrat's profile-in-courage? They're not quite brave enough to be for anything, but they're against people who are against it.

    And the Nation sleeps tonight with a big triumphant smile on its collective happy-face.

    July 24, 2006

    Kos triangulates -- tetrangulates -- hypercubulates?

    Markos Moulitsas Zuniga proves himself a thinker worthy to reside on the shelves of Pantagruel's Library of St Victor, home of the chimaera bombinans in vacuo:
    Some people are surprised that I said that out-of-staters won't tell the local who to vote for in CT (or anywhere else, for that matter). But if that's the case, then what are bloggers like me doing?

    We're supporting the efforts of local activists. That's what we're doing. I have no influence whatsoever on who locals vote for. But I can help generate the activism and money that's necessary for Ned Lamont to make his case to the people of his state. See the distinction?

    Well, no, Kos, I don't. Looks to me like you're hedging your bets.

    July 27, 2006

    Another kosnik bites the dust

    It seems we have, or had, a fan at Daily Kos -- a lady (or perhaps a chap, of course) called 'ladufarge', who wrote me yesterday and asked to cross-post an item about Howard Dean and Israel.

    Of course I said yes, and of course the poor girl has now been banned. I took the unusually promethean step of saving the post, and the dozens of furious comments it evoked, though.

    What I didn't save -- and I'm sorry now, because I found it very interesting -- was a poll 'ladufarge' put up several days ago, asking Kosniks whether they approved or disapproved of Israel's actions in Lebanon. To my utter astonishment, the responses disapproved by a margin of three to one. The poll has now apparently been chucked into the Kosnik memory hole, alas. Interestingly, though the poll figures were overwhelmingly anti-Israel, the comments were nearly all hardline Dershowitz talking points. Dissenters will vote but they know better than to speak up. But votes must be tracked by user -- or you could vote twice. I wonder whether Kos has yet realized he could have a lucrative sideline selling the logs to the ADL.

    Anyway, the comments to ladufarge's repost of my Dean thing were interesting, in a grim kind of way. The largest single component consisted of True Believers lauding Dean for his deep political cunning. The second largest component were suggestions that ladufarge was a "troll" -- to which my girl responded, rather wittily I thought, that if we could harness the energy Kosniks expend typing the word 'troll' millions of times, we could eliminate our dependence on imported oil. Third largest were the complaints that we should be concentrating on electing Democrats, and should never, never ask why. Then there were a few oddities: a couple of contributors who found the "off the meds" expression hurtful because they had mental illness in the family -- a claim I can well believe -- and one or two poor out-of-place souls who actually agreed with the post.

    I hadn't read Kos for several weeks and I was shocked at how the site had degenerated in that short time. It was always a bit of a bore, but now it's a shrill, hysterical, paranoid, one-note bore. The cultish quality I sensed in the air when I infiltrated their Vegas conclave has become much more pronounced. Apparently nothing fails like success.

    July 31, 2006

    Shhh! I'm hunting twolls!

    Damned if ole Smiff, the Father Divine of political comedy, hasn't got me Kos-watchin' again.

    I liked this in particular, from the great muscular pharisee himself, "hunter" of trollology fame:

    This site is for democrats. (0 / 0)
    If you're "dedicated to the deconstruction of the Democratic Party", as the masthead of the site you linked to has it, this isn't the place for you.

    I wish people who hated this site would have the basic willpower to keep the hell away from it. It really isn't too difficult.

    by Hunter on Thu Jul 27, 2006 at 12:25:25 AM PDT"

    My view, he misses the point. If a little trolling can so stir the Kos hive... well, what cheap sport for an imp trapped in a job cubicle. The troll expends a lot less energy than the anti-troll immune system.

    A second hunter's point:

    And I find it fascinating, (0 / 0)
    just as a random aside of something I've seen over and over, that the sites that claim to be most leftist tend to quote places like Fox News and the Note with regularity. I think it tends to demonstrate that the primary dedication of many self-declared leftists is obstruction and contrarianism in the name of "purity", and they don't particularly care whose hands they shake or what actual ideals they espouse in service to that contrarianism....

    All their energy is spent being purer than the next "liberal" guy....

    A true pragmatist, 'hunter' is saving his strength for the real fight against
    ... the actual conservatives and neocons that they keep saying they'll get around to helping to defeat, just as soon as they're done polishing their own... um... nobility.
    Liberals can never see themselves as a menace to social progress. How could that possibly be the case? We lefties must be into some superiority dance of self-perfectionism.

    I personally don't care much for perfection -- can't speak for anybody else, of course -- but yeah, I'm for building a machine out of real people parts. And my hunch is it wouldn't be all that better or worse then the Kos-borg. But i'd work out my mission statement first. And that might entail a split with all organized Orthrian goonery.

    Yes, a split will suffice... for now. I'll save the"liquidation" of all wavering "middle forces" till I have state power firmly in my grasp.

    August 2, 2006

    The danger of underage analogy

    No, I haven't been reading Kos again. I got this link from the Stan of Jersey. But it stars Kos, the boy wonder hizseff, and it's another ruckus about the Green Party -- this time in Pennsylvania. Once again, like all third-party types, they're taking Repug money -- and putting it to good use for a change, I'd say, just to reduce the vote for the pro-fetus hawkdonk Monsignor Casey.

    Here's Kos Maximus:

    The Dems aren't left enough for them [the greens-- ed.] so they go to the right...
    ...Like the Revolutionary War skating team of Franklin and Deane going to the court of the king of France. If Kos had been running the Continental Congress, no doubt he would be explaining that Lord North is a much lesser evil than those awful Bourbons -- and he would be right, of course, as far as his understanding could take him.

    More Kos, on the deadly peril of "helping Santorum win":

    Logic right out of Stalin telling the German communists to not fight the Nazis because things would get so bad that the communists would eventually win....
    Er, well, if you check the record, they did... and then lost it back 45 years later as the wheel kept turning. Okay, okay, I know, it's sophomoric. But this little dweeb with his Toynbee airs -- a tough target to resist.
    Here's the deal: politics as temper tantrum suck.
    So any third party is for purist brats, like, ah... the Republican party of 1856? How about break-away parties or splits, like the Jacksonian party of 1828, or the Free Soil party of 1848, which was, btw, both a splitter and a thirdee. But I tend to get bogged down in the details. If only I had Kos-like powers of abstraction, then I could see this more clearly as I made it more simple.

    Here's something worth a laugh --

    People need sane people in office more than you need to feel right.
    Let me see if I follow the logic here: Repugs are crazy, whereas donks, no matter how similar to Repugs, are sane. No doubt this Democratic sanity explains why the party supported the war in Iraq and now supports the one in Lebanon and started the one in Vietnam and and... but you get my drift.

    Future headline in history text: the Bush-Cheney insanity stopped by St Hill and the gang.

    Now I don't necessarily prefer candidates that would rather be right then prez, but I do want to stop the inanity of voting for the lesser party, and force the system to produce a real alternative party, one way or another. Then I'd love to see it win.

    Kos is right on when he sez amazing grace ain't all it's cooked up to be. We could use a few good works 'round here. But the prosecution would like to direct the jury to the Clinton years. Let's do this up brown like it deserves, and say no, I won't vote for four more years of that either.

    All this Kos rhetoric is vintage high-school debate-team material. Take that variation on the old football, worse now leads to better later -- well, everybody knows what a stupid, discredited idea that is, right? Nobody is ever correct to forego a short-term gain, no matter how small, in favor of a long-term gain, no matter how great. We can all agree on that, surely.

    But analogies like this are so empty of content, so schematic, it's just feudin' formalities. The task is to give the concrete situation, as concretely as it can be poured. Only then can we begin to determine if the correct formality is being applied.

    After all, maybe once you decide the DLC must be neutered -- as it would seem the Kossbacks agree -- then maybe you need to know if the DLC's balls can be removed from the donkery, or whether, like some siamese-twin operations, both patients are doomed to die on the operating table.

    I could give a shit about Bob Casey [the donk candidate -- ed.], but Santorum has to go. My lab partner is a monkey could do a better job than Santorum.
    "Better job?" A better job of what? Talk about a tiresome trope, this idea that electing someone to office is like hiring someone for a job. Is a string of losing votes on the correct side of an issue "doing a better job" than a string of superfluous wrong votes on the winning side?

    Of course, it's possible that Kos is onto something factually, in spite of his threadbare suite of ideas, with Santorum. Maybe Santorum is a key from the Keystone State. Knock him out, and not only does the Repugs' electoral majority crumble, but the Democrats hang the DLC and move so rapidly to the left that they hang Feingold on the way. But i doubt it. In this case, what's the value of the dime's diff a DLC fetus-freak donk can make, if our real task is to show the donk party hacks they can't win anywhere, till they run real alternatives -- on empire, on taxes, on wages and hours, on mother earth, on health payments, etc. In that war maybe you do have to pick some symbolic targets. For example, the brutal humiliating demise of nutmeg nutter Joe "talks to God" Lieberman, in the general election, might really crack open a few thick beltway skulls, if it elected some Repug chuckle head.

    August 4, 2006

    Bernie, they know ye all too well

    Another marvelous flaying of that sanctimonious fraud, Bernie Sanders, from my good friends at the Vermont Guardian:
    Dan DeWalt, a Newfane selectman and the activist behind the impeachment town meeting resolutions that passed in seven Vermont communities earlier this year.... continued his criticism of Rep. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, who has refused to pursue impeachment, despite the Vermont town meeting resolutions and others passed by several county Democratic committees.

    Immediately following the passage of the Town Meeting Day resolutions, Sanders issued a statement that said, “[P]eople who are outraged by the conduct of the Bush Administration, who want serious investigations of what they have done, and who want to see the United States move in a new direction, it’s my view that all of our energy must go into the November elections with the goal of ending Republican control of the House and Senate.”

    To this day, Sanders insists there is no support in Congress to launch an impeachment investigation. On July 23, he told supporters in Putney that activists’ time would be better spent trying to elect him to the Senate and Democrat Peter Welch to the U.S. House, according to press reports.

    ... DeWalt shot back that Sanders “doesn’t care if we think the war in Iraq is wrong, that valuing our Constitution is right. All he cares about is where his contributions are coming from.”

    “We think we have quality politicians in Vermont. We’re wrong. We have politics as usual in Vermont,” said DeWalt. “Our so-called independent congressman, Bernie Sanders, can’t get far enough away from impeachment. He was not even willing to vote for a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Lebanon … he voted for Iran Freedom Support Act. That’s our Bernie Sanders, independent.”

    I like this DeWalt dude. Newfane -- that's not even northern Vermont, is it?

    August 5, 2006

    Billmon agonistes

    My friend Buffalo billmon hardly needs my bravo -- after all, to him, I'm the guy who likened him to the Baton Rouge clavern chief -- but this post has such noble promise written all through it that I can't resist. And besides, God love him, he has the chitter brigade scurrying to the highest limb handy, to throw twigs and small simian fistfuls of excrement at him.

    For example, this soulful sour moan from Steve Gilliard, thanks to a link provided by stalwart Stan de Joizy. In response to Der Billhuffer's "fuck the wet dream of electing a donk congress this November," Stevey G sez:

    You know, if you have a good job and a nice house you can think this way... It's easy to sit back and say nothing will happen to Bush because nothing will happen to you..
    But steve reminds us
    ...nice, middle class progressives [that we] forget that the fight isn't for us...
    ... its for the little guys and gals, right now crushed under the war elephants' big flat Babbitoid feet. There follows a sub-Whitmanesque callout song to these po' folks, who might have a chance for tomorrow-ish relief from a democratic congress, Steve thinks. Specimen lines of such little guys and gals:
    • if you're making minimum wage,
    • if you want to be treated with stem cells,
    • if you want to get an abortion.
    • if you're fighting with the VA
    • f your kid is in Iraq ...
    Who ya gonna call? Yup, the party of Clinton. Vote Dem and watch out, 'cause here come dah donkey, hooves a-flying every whichaway, gonna kick Wal-Mart, the VA, and the Pentagon into the middle of next week on the po' folks behalf.

    Notice these little folks don't need to rise up and demand whats due 'em. Or go into the streets and fight for it. Nope. They just gotta join in a united front of decency and kindness made up of all of them po' types, plus all of us progs, and this fall vote in the donks. Then just sit back and wait for the relief wagon from Capitol Hill to arrive.

    That's hs metaphor, not mine; the po' folks need to be "rescued," like the survivors of Hurricane Katrina. Get a load of this:

    When those Coast Guard pilots and rescue swimmers flew over New Orleans, they could have said, shit, too many wires, too many unknowns, let's get some boats for them. Instead, they jumped in the water and started saving people.
    As if the billmon insight was about how its just too hard, too tough to help folks, so why try?

    But in fact billymonk's reaction to the farce of the feckless but vain donkery team is precisely the reaction most of us had to the whole Katrina cock-up, including that telegenic icon stream of the damn rescue copters, like a few prehistoric dragonflies, hauling out folks trapped by the thousands with tie lines and lift chair by the oneses. Like bailing Noah's flood with a teaspoon.

    Here's my choicest bit:

    Those Wal-Mart workers need real health insurance, and the GOP isn't going to give it to them.
    ... But St Hill will? I seem to recall she had the chance once before.

    August 15, 2006

    Lieberman tells the truth for once; Sirota furious

    David Sirota is so mad he's writing even worse than usual:
    Lieberman Viciously Attacks Bernie Sanders; GOP Rewards Him With Cash

    Connecticut's Manchester Journal Inquirer reports that Sen. Joe Lieberman (De Facto R) today unleashed a vicious attack on Vermont Independent Congressman Bernie Sanders - a longtime progressive hero and the leading candidate to keep Vermont's U.S. Senate seat out of GOP hands. According to the newspaper, the Lieberman campaign sent out an official email attacking, among others, Sanders and Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, founder of DailyKos.

    With apologies to Myles na gCopaleen:
    Q: What moral quality is commonly associated with an attack?
    A: The quality of viciousness.
    Q: Is a vicious attack ever released? Liberated? Let slip? Launched upon the long-suffering world?
    A: It is not. Invariably it is unleashed.
    Q: Very good. Here is a letter of introduction to Katrina van den Heuvel.
    Besides a scanty fund of metaphor, Sirota has a quiveringly low threshold of viciousness. Here is the "vicious attack," in all its off-the-leash bad-doggery:
    How could [Lamont] expect to convince "moderate Democrats, Republicans, and most importantly, unaffiliated voters" that he "would be anything other than a rigid partisan rubber stamp in the Senate," the Lieberman spokesman asked, "when the only proof of his independence he can show is that he is slightly to the right of socialist Bernie Sanders on fiscal policy?"
    Now it was my impression -- correct me if I'm wrong -- that Sanders used to describe himself as a socialist; whether he still does or not I don't know. And crediting him with being to the left of Lamont on anything seems to me more like a compliment he doesn't deserve than an attack, whether vicious or merely peevish. Does Sirota consider "socialist" a term of abuse? Vicious abuse? The kind that comes in torrents, and gets poured forth?

    [Voice offstage] Cut it out, Smith. Just cut it out.

    Okay, okay. Here's the best abuse Sirota can come up with for Lieberman:

    From now on, I am going to be referring to Joe Lieberman as De Facto GOP Nominee Joe Lieberman and I urge everyone else covering this race to do so in the interest not of partisanship, but out of respect for objective accuracy.
    David likes this killer line so much he repeats it twice more, but I will spare you.

    Among other crypto-Republicans who fall into the abyss of Sirota's excommunication from the Democratic Party is Marty Peretz. Now there's a real question of "objective accuracy" here. You can say a lot of bad things about Lieberman and Peretz, and I will keep buying you Myles commemorative pints as long as you want to say them, but one thing you can't truthfully say is that they're not Democrats. They have a much better claim to that title than Sirota has -- after all, they've helped start real wars and kill real people.

    Don't MoveOn if you can possibly help it

    Norman Solomon reports:
    Will MoveOn now poll its membership in New York about whether to make an endorsement in the Clinton vs. Tasini race?

    I put the question to the executive director of the MoveOn.org political action committee, Eli Pariser. Here's his full reply: "We focus on the issues and candidates our members are excited about. We've heard almost nothing from MoveOn members on Tasini -- New York MoveOn members are more focused on winning back Congress, ending the war on Iraq, and Ned Lamont. As for our formal endorsement process, that's triggered where there are two viable candidates and where there's a baseline of interest from our members. Right now, this one doesn't meet that second threshold."

    But the only reliable way to find out how interested New York members of MoveOn would be in a Clinton-or-Tasini endorsement is to ask them. And, evidently, that's a question that the people in charge of MoveOn.org don't want to ask.

    On the issue of Clinton vs. Tasini, the current MoveOn stance comes across as a way for its leaders to make sure that MoveOn members in New York don't get to respond to a poll that would likely result in an endorsement of Tasini.

    Surprise, surprise.

    Masters of outrage

    Nurse Todd Gitlin has joined Dr. David Sirota in bandaging the wounds of Bernie Sanders. Here's Gitlin's quousque-tandem:
    J. Lieb.: No Sense of Decency

    A hat-tip to David Sirota for unearthing this item: The Lieberman operation (Lieberman II: Scrape the Bottom of That Barrel Until It Screams!) is going for broke to smear Ned Lamont--and has lots of names to name. Connecticut's Journal Inquirer reported yesterday that Lieberman's communications director, Dan Gerstein, in an e-mail sent to reporters over the weekend blasted Lamont for being "slightly to the right of socialist Bernie Sanders on fiscal policy?" "Why should anyone outside the Sharpton/Kos wing of the Democratic Party believe Ned Lamont will represent their views in Washington?" Gerstein added.

    I know, it's microscopic-eyeing, but... don't you love the headline? Lieberman has "no sense of decency." Gasp! Stop the presses! Gitlin leaps from the tub and runs home ballock-naked shouting "heureka!"

    There's something about these yentas tsk-ing over the Sanders reference that really puzzles me. Do Gitlin and Sirota agree that Sanders is not a socialist, though Sanders himself says he is? If so, it's probably the first time I've ever agreed with either of them -- and both, well, that's really a red-letter day. Or is it that yeah, Sanders is a socialist, but it's no fair to say so? What, in the name of Pete, is all this rage about?

    August 31, 2006

    MoveOn pulls a fast one

    Some MoveOn members were surprised today to receive this in their email:
    From: Tom Matzzie, MoveOn.org Political Action
    Sent: Thursday, August 31, 2006 11:42 AM
    Subject: Vote on MoveOn's endorsement: U.S. Senate

    Dear MoveOn member,

    I know we've been in touch a lot this week, but we need your help making one more important decision. Who should MoveOn endorse in New York's U.S. Senate race?

    ... Voting for the MoveOn endorsement for U.S. Senate in New York starts now and is underway until 11:00 AM tomorrow, September 1.

    One irate MoveOn member fired off this response:
    To: Tom Matzzie, MoveOn.org Political Action
    Sent: Thursday, August 31, 2006 12:34 PM
    Subject: Re: Vote on MoveOn's endorsement: U.S. Senate

    It's a good step that MoveOn seems to be responding to widespread feeling that it isn't democratic in its decisions. But this is transparently rigged against Tasini, presumably to produce a pro- Hillary vote.

    1) with no prior announcement, and on the beginning of a holiday weekend, you throw this major decision at us.

    2) you give us less than 24 hours.

    Come on, guys, this is ridiculous. Do it again, and do it right.

    September 1, 2006

    More polite than I would be

    Here's Jonathan Tasini, a propos MoveOn's underhanded attempt to manufacture an endorsement for Hillary -- or at least, a non-endorsement for Tasini -- by its members:
    It's great that MoveOn has responded to the many New Yorkers who wanted the organization to poll its members about the Senate race in New York. I'd just like to suggest that the respective bios of myself and my opponent, Hillary Clinton, left out some important facts.

    My friends at MoveOn cite Hillary Clinton's votes for issues that every Democrat supports--for example, protecting Social Security--but the poll neglects to say that she supports NAFTA and other free-trade agreements that hurt workers (I oppose so-called "free trade"), that she sat on the Board of Wal-Mart for six years, that she believes in discrimination because she opposes same-sex marriage (which I support), that she advocates criminalizing flag-burning (I'm opposed to such an attack on the First Amendment), that she has never been for single-payer health care and is the second highest recipient of lobbyist money (I'm campaigning for single-payer, "Medicare For All" and do not get any corporate lobbyist money).

    Your "friends at MoveOn", Jonathan? With friends like these....

    MoveOn comes through for Hillary

    Predictable denouement of the rigged MoveOn endorsement poll, Tasini vs. the Infernal Hill:
    From: "Eli Pariser, MoveOn.org Political Action" help@list.moveon.org>
    Date: September 1, 2006 4:53:44 PM EDT
    Subject: No U.S. Senate endorsement

    Dear MoveOn member in New York,

    We wanted to let you know, MoveOn won't be making an endorsement in the U.S. Senate Democratic primary. In voting over the last day, neither Hillary Rodham Clinton nor Jonathan Tasini garnered the two- thirds support from MoveOn members necessary for an endorsement. The margin in our online vote was 56 percent for Clinton and 44 percent for Tasini.

    The MoveOn election effort in New York and across the country will stay focused on beating vulnerable Republican incumbents in House races—working to end one-party Republican rule in Washington.

    September 11, 2006

    Another movement from MoveOn

    Alan Smithee writes:

    Ya know, I'm the first to admit that I'm not the most politically sophisticated person on the planet. Nobody is ever going to mistake me for Noam Chomsky. But, Holy John Hoyt! Even I know better than this:

    Either you're with us, against us, or you don't matter:

    ... There are NOT two candidates in the race.... there are in fact four candidates and two write-ins for the 7th. The candidate I support, and will vote for in November, is the Green Party’s Dave Chandler. Yet he is not acknowledged by MoveOn.org, which won’t even allow for a write-in.... So why the exclusionary MoveOn effort?
    Expecting a fair shake from MoveOn is like expecting sober-minded probity from Paris Hilton. I mean, of course they're going to rig the ballot! They're Democrats!

    September 13, 2006

    And your point is...?

    Here's a real head-scratcher from the Napoleon of the blogosphere, diminutive but much-loved Markos Moulitsas Zuniga:
    Cheney:
    He's not the only source of the problem, obviously, Tim. If you killed him tomorrow, you'd still have a problem with al-Qaeda, with Zawahiri and the others. But bin Laden has been a top priority for us from the very beginning, he continues to be a top priority today. That hasn't changed. The president and I get periodic reports on our efforts in that regard. There's been no lessening of our interest or of our activity with...
    Pelosi:
    "[E]ven if he is caught tomorrow, it is five years too late. He has done more damage the longer he has been out there. But, in fact, the damage that he has done is done. And even to capture him now I don't think makes us any safer."
    See any difference in the substance of the two quotes? Of course not....
    Well, Markos, I couldn't agree more. But the uber-Kosnik somehow feels this reflects badly on the Republicans.

    Sigmund Freud says somewhere -- I'm paraphrasing -- that he never encountered a perversion he found really alien. Foot fetishism, you name it -- he could place himself in imaginative sympathy with it -- find something within himself that resonated to it. This is both a bold confession and a sublime bit of self-assertion. Yet in my own modest way, I've always felt I knew what he meant.

    This Kos thing defeats me, though. Here's a guy who spends all his waking hours screaming about how important it is to vote for the Democrats rather than the Republicans, and then he writes a post indignantly refuting Republican claims that there is a difference.

    I don't think this is just calculation. It's too crazy for that. Calculation would notice the inconsistency. Somebody help me out here. Can this be explained? Or does the lad have a brain tumor?

    September 19, 2006

    Take it over or blow it up

    In comments, Dan R writes:
    It all stems from a basic misunderstanding of what the "Democratic" Party is. Rather than being an imperfect but accessible instrument of the people's will, it is a maze designed to keep the people's will out while ensuring that the center of the maze is always occupied by the dollar.
    That sure does capture the operational result, Dan, but not the structure, I think -- not at the national party level, which is what may lead to you going too far with your next line:
    Talk of reforming the Dem Party makes as much sense as "reforming" the Mafia -- the institution does not exist to do anything other than hurt the people....
    And why is that off track?

    Because this institution is not a single structure with a top-down design, nor a single control tower. It's more like a slime with a network of interconnected lumps. And right now and for many years back (to say 1977) the core controlling the whole sprawling mess are lumps(more or less loosely interconnected) that push a "new Democratic"/neoliberal program.

    It's prolly much like the structure of K street -- an infestation of like-minded, self-interested parasites passing themselves off as symbiotes.

    But this party network core has no cast iron unified characteristics; like a maze, it can be broken up because lumps can be set against other lumps. And what's more, after a controlling core breaks apart, obviously the operational program can be supplanted with a new one.

    Yes, reform of this nasty posse of badgers is impossible; but they can be overthrown.

    Could it be anytime soon, though? Soon, as in before the '08 prez run? I doubt it -- more and more every day I doubt it. But then, is this core's overthrow necessary for social progress?

    Who knows? Perhaps all we need do is blow up its core. Hell, it may blow itself apart -- even though one has to think with a little taste of power like House rule the chances move toward super slim.

    But still, there is precedent for remarkably fast changes of control. The radical overthrow in 1896 seemed to come out of nowhere. As if in a flash, the gold dems entrenched at the party helm for 22 years were overthrown totally. They even left the party for a few years, and the overthrowers didn't even need to win -- in fact they lost 2 prez elections in a row, and then really took a breather, before regaining control in the next cycle, only to lose again, and not finally win till 1912, over a split Republican party.

    Then there's overthrows that do get reversed fast -- like in 1972. The insurgents, such as they were, held power for about 6 months. And yet the damage that overthrow did to the regular core effectively spelled the end of it -- the end of the old Truman to Johnson regulars.

    They may have restored themselves, but much like the Bourbons, not for long or not for real. Nope. Instead, the party was reformed -- if that's the word -- incrementally over a few years into the hodgepodge pushmi-pullu monstrosity we still face today.

    At any rate it's clear to me what has to be done -- attack the party's left flank and if possible, destroy it. Hack away at the so-called real progressives clinging inside the party today. Bust up the prog caucus. Vow to expose them and defeat them in '08, with a wave of real outside progs that split votes and send 'em back to private life. Show their feckless herd of guileless supporters the farce and humiliation these clowns live with. Expose the merciless neglect and episodic battering their ilk take at the hands of the lib-prags. Notice the obvious corporate plants inside their caucus -- hell, Tom "the tassel-toed Tartuffe" Lantos is no more a progressive than Ollie North.

    Anyway, you get it. The target theme for the ridicule blitz: "Faux donk liberals and the progs who love them." Force those party progs to show they're not the real thing. Force 'em to jump ship, commit political suicide to save their reputations. Demand they denounce every liberal in sight, even the Roosevelts, and they damn well better refuse to caucus with the warchiefs and the robin-redbreasts of legal torture.

    I for one am starting with those NY/NJ interloping carpetbaggers, Barney and Bernie, the sugar plum twins of maple and cod country fraudulence.

    Some of us (not the sea-green incorruptibles like Father Smiff of course, but some of us) are still big party focused -- up to a point -- but I would rather the party burst into a zillion flecks of shit, rather then retard the progress of American job holders for another generation. Nope, the jobbery can't wait.

    September 21, 2006

    beating around the Bush

    A recent comment here directed my attention to a site called democraticundergound.com, which proved to be a delight on several different levels. There seems to be a recurring feature, cast in the form of an advice column called "Ask Auntie Pinko". Sample:
    Q. Auntie, what would your advice to Democratic candidates be, especially on answering questions like 'what is your plan for Iraq?'

    A: ... there are many possible answers, but I would think that those Democrats who are challenging incumbent Republicans might respond something like this: 'Just a minute. Did you, personally, vote in favor of this war?' To an affirmative, the Democrat can then ask, 'Why...?'

    One possible response will be that as a member of Congress, the Republican had access to information that was not released to the general public for security reasons, and that information appeared to justify the war. In that case, a good response from a Democratic challenger might be, 'I oppose the war and want to end our military involvement there, but I have to defer offering a more specific plan until I, too, have access to information not released to the general public that might give me a better idea of how to achieve that goal....'

    Many other scenarios and sub-scenarios are envisioned and dealt with in this Maimonidean post. One suspects that the writer has spent, all in all, many hours in the shower, on the toilet, behind the wheel on his way to work, fantasisizing about how he would have answered Bill O'Reilly last night.

    These, I take it, are the famous sansculotte 'Netroots'. If the Bastille has nothing more formidable to fear, I think it can sleep in peace.

    September 22, 2006

    Pollitt tics

    I used to like reading Katha Pollitt -- one of the few voices in The Nation that seemed sharp, and individual, rather than a ponderous, moralizing, Op-Ed wannabe. And I always thought she was pretty smart, too.

    But there's something about American electoral politics that makes even smart people stupid. Poor Katha has a column this week which is, truly, one of the saddest things I've ever read.

    I'm writing this column in Clinton, Connecticut, where I live part of the year and hope to vote in November. I'm abandoning the antiquated voting booths of New York City because I want to do my bit to help the Democrats take back the House and Senate....

    It's all downhill from there. It's an abortion column, basically, and Katha ties herself in knots trying to argue that single-issue reproductive-rights advocates should not be supporting candidates based on their reproductive-rights record. Rather, they should support Democrats no matter what. Here's her argument, reproduced (and reduced, like a deglazing sauce) from NARAL. It seems that if Democrats get control of Congress, the following wonderful things will occur:

    1.  Pro-choice lawmakers would control key committees, and pro-choice lawmakers would instantly become a majority on every panel.
    2. Rather than sitting through anti-choice hearing after hearing, called by anti-choice committee chairs, new committee chairs could spend their time promoting women's health.
    3. Anti-choice lawmakers would no longer have a forum to spread propaganda....
    4. Pro-choice lawmakers could hold hearings to investigate the FDA's refusal to approve emergency contraception over the counter, the devastating effects of the global gag rule on women's health, and pro-choice measures that could reduce America's staggeringly high rate of teen pregnancy.
    5. Pro-choice forces would control the Senate and House floor schedules. This means that we could avoid anti-choice legislative attacks--and instead, see votes on pro-choice bills that have been held up.
    It's hard to choose, but I think my favorite is point 2: The Democrats wouldn't have to "sit through" so many tedious hearings -- and they could use the time, instead, to "promote women's health." Personally, I could ask nothing more of Smith's Inferno than that Democrats should have to spend eternity sitting through hearings -- and as for "promoting women's health," where, I wonder, has Katha gotten the idea that Democrats would do any such thing?

    This woman is too bright, and too funny, and too experienced, to degrade herself with this kind of Daily Kos congressional-page sophomorism. "Control the floor schedule," for Heaven's sake -- is this what left politics in the United States has come to?

    October 3, 2006

    Prodigal welcomed home; MoveOn in denial

    From The Hill:
    Lieberman says he has been promised seniority

    Sen. Joe Lieberman, the longtime Democratic senator from Connecticut running for re-election as an independent, says the party leadership has assured him he would keep his seniority if he returns to Congress.... Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) denies making a decision.

    Lieberman said his desire is to stay atop Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.... The governmental affairs panel is primarily responsible for oversight and investigations of the executive branch....

    Tom Matzzie, the Washington director of MoveOn.org, a liberal advocacy group that supports Lamont, said ... “This is a Lieberman campaign tactic... Democratic leaders are supporting Ned Lamont.”

    * * * *

    Well, no, Tom. They're pretty obviously not.

    Matzzie (shown at left in an earlier avatar, before he shaved and started wearing suits) reminds me of poor Jacob in the Bible, who labored seven years for Rachel and awoke after his wedding night to find that the bride's father had pulled a switcheroo and subsituted Rachel's older sister, Leah -- probably the homely sister, although the Bible tactfully doesn't say. Jacob promptly volunteered to labor another seven years for Rachel, and I'm sure that's what Matzzie will do, too.

    Gotta admire the guy's perseverance. But I don't envy him his wedding night with the tiny toad of Bridgeport.

    October 5, 2006

    Spank the donkey

    Reechard writes:
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/10/3/19332/6603

    Can Dem blogging grow hair on your palms? Newly designated as "mature" content by SmartFilter internet censor software, Kos and his polymorphously centrist flock are claiming they're being unfairly lumped in with porn merchants.

    Fears of a "Kos Blackout" at companies utilizing these filters have the party hearties bewailing being able to access Limbaugh and Drudge from their work machines but not the truly sweaty stuff they've come to depend on as a substitute for real intimacy. "I don't know what I would do," writes one KOSser in withdrawal, "if I couldn't access during the day."

    Ironically, one of Bill Clinton's last deeds before leaving office was signing the Children's Internet Protection Act, which lifted the fortunes of censorware makers like SmartFilter by forcing their products on libraries receiving federal funds.

    October 10, 2006

    Stoller waxes orgasmic

    Pwog-blogger Matt Stoller (shown above with his hero) is a very happy guy today:

    What's happening all across the country is that second and third tier candidates are proving to be much tougher opponents for the Republicans than they expected. At this point in past cycles, the map is usually shrinking as the party committees must cull challengers who just aren't getting it done. This time, the map of possible districts that are competitive is actually growing. Early targeting on swing districts simply didn't matter. There are a couple of key drivers that have changed the map. One is Dean's 50 state strategy, which has put organizers everywhere in the country to identify and help candidates. Another is the netroots and the ability to shuffle money to candidates without going through a party committee. And still another is the flexibility with which the party committees have been willing to adapt to Dean and Chris Bowers's strategy (even if they chafed a bit at first).
    Piffle. I know all these people think Howard Dean is the Second Coming, but it's just laughable to claim that whatever enhanced prospects the Democrats may have next month are due to his "strategy." If the Democrats are getting a bounce, it's solely because the Republicans are imploding, and Nature abhors a vacuum. And as for the "netroots" -- oh, how the pros must laugh and laugh, when they read this stuff.

    Stoller, however, once he gets going in this vein, can work himself into quite a high state of self-stimulation:

    It's very exciting to watch this party being transformed. We aren't just improving the model for electing Democrats, we are coopting the existing centers of power and helping them see that playing our game can advance their interests as well as ours. If Democrats take the House and/or Senate, it's going to be a very different party leadership than the one that sits in DC right now. It'll be a more independent, more confident, and more fun group of leaders, and all of that will infuse the existing members with excitement and energy.
    And if you believe that....

    October 11, 2006

    Deep thought

    Kick one habit, and another comes to take its place. I finally stopped reading Daily Kos, and now I read myDD.com. In my own defense, I will say that it's much more entertaining -- Kos, these days, is like a 24/7 Rotary Club lunch.

    Here's Matt Stoller, philosophe:

    I studied some Soviet history in college, and one of the most fascinating anecdotes my professor told me was about what happened when the archives were finally opened to Western historians. You see, the papers that historians had access to prior to the fall of the USSR were mostly from low-level bureaucrats, and the language they used about their amoral behavior was excessively bureaucratic.... Historians expected that when the curtains were lifted and papers from top officials were made available, they would be able to get a sense of the 'real' intent of the leadership, in normal Russian.

    What happened of course is that, like with any regime loosed from its moral bearings, the language the top officials used was the same bureaucratic language used by the middle management. In essence, the Soviet system failed because its language codified corruption and bleached morality from it. Leaders thought in terms of the language they used, and that language did not allow for error or moral failure on the part of the state.

    Quite a Lakoffian insight, innit? Or even a campus-PC one -- words rule the world, and politics is all about diction.

    It gets better:

    ...Verizon is a bad actor in the political process. If you put legislation through on a Federal level, they will go to the states. If you go to the states, they will go to the FCC, or to the localities. If you stop them there, they will go to the courts. At no point, however, will Verizon accept the democratic process as legitimate, at no point will this company accept a set of laws that they don't like. Our country is built on the consensus of the governed, that even if you don't like all of our laws, you buy into the process of forming them and consent to all of them.
    This is quite stunning, really. Here we have a guy of some consequence, at least in our little world of blogland -- a guy who is no longer sixteen -- talking like a high-school debate team, and apparently believing it.

    Matt, Matt -- apply yourself, and think -- what do you believe the Constitution is for? Who wrote it, and why? Did your undergraduate studies cover this topic, along with the prose style of the Soviet bureaucracy?

    October 12, 2006

    You mean... they LIED to us?!

    My new whipping boy, Matt Stoller, has finally faced the terrible truth:
    First, the bad news. Here's what's going on.

    [Quoting New York Times] "Despite the rush from many Democrats to endorse Mr. Lamont after his triumph -- only a handful chose personal loyalty to Mr. Lieberman over the Democratic nominee picked by voters -- some now quietly admit they would be satisfied to see their longtime colleague returned to Washington. But none of the Democrats would speak for attribution because of pressure to publicly appear supportive of their party's nominee, and they were granted anonymity so they could speak freely about their feelings toward Mr. Lieberman."

    After the primary, DC Democrats dissuaded Lamont from attacking Lieberman, essentially promising him that they would talk Joe out of running. This was of course a lie, but it worked. They lied not only to Lamont, but to us, and to regular activist Democrats who work for the party and play by the rules.

    Matt seems genuinely stunned. One of his commenters, who seems to have been born the day before yesterday, or maybe even last week, frothed:
    When you run an anti-establishment campaign, even when you win the primary, never ever never ever never ever assume they're gonna back you. NEVER assume that. Most of the time they won't. ... That's why they have a stranglehold on "their" chosen ones. I have even seen the parties throw their own general election candidates to lose to the other side as punishment for a winning quixotic insurgent campaign.

    Lamont people were bloody FOOLS to believe that bullshit from the party, for they are back-stabbing sons-of-bitches. NEVER EVER believe the party like Lamont did, because you'll get fucked every time.

    Couldnta said it better myself.... But if this chap has seen the setup so clearly, why is he still hanging around?

    October 16, 2006

    Hot Air America, R.I.P.

    Mike Flugennock writes:
    Hell, man, I'm surprised you're not doing a piece about Air America going under. I'm surprised you're not camped out to be first in line to buy your seat aboard the ol' Schadenfreude Special. Toot, toot.

    Seriously, though; it couldn't have happened to a nicer miserably partisan, insulting to real progressive ideals, practically doing Bush's job for him while doing a miserable imitation of a "progressive" voice in American media, radio network.

    Guess they couldn't get back all the real progressive listeners they pissed off and drove off with the infamous Randi Rhodes slagging of the Green Party, Ralph Nader, and anyone else who dared oppose the DP.

    October 19, 2006

    Savaged by a dead sheep

    Yet another coalition of the self-agreeing enters the ongoing tournament of folly: "name that liberal." Opening shot:
    We Answer to the Name of Liberals
    By Bruce Ackerman and Todd Gitlin

    As right-wing politicians and pundits call us stooges for Osama bin Laden, Tony Judt charges, in a widely discussed and heatedly debated essay in the London Review of Books, that American liberals -- without distinction -- have "acquiesced in President Bush's catastrophic foreign policy." Both claims are nonsense on stilts.

    Clearly this is a moment for liberals to define ourselves. The important truth is that most liberals, including the undersigned, have stayed our course throughout these grim five years. We have consistently and publicly repudiated the ruinous policies of the Bush administration, and our diagnosis, alas, has been vindicated by events. The Bush debacle is a direct consequence of its repudiation of liberal principles. And if the country is to recover, we should begin by restating these principles.

    We have all opposed the Iraq war as illegal, unwise, and destructive of America's moral standing. This war fueled, and continues to fuel, jihadis....

    We believe that the state of Israel has the fundamental right to exist, free of military assault, within secure borders close to those of 1967....

    Gotta love it: "close" to the '67 borders, eh? Well, it's a small country, everything is pretty close to everything else.

    But what about these these "liberal principles"? It seems by order of priority principle number one is:

    Make no mistake: We believe that the use of force can, at times, be justified. We supported the use of American force, together with our allies, in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan.
    Tilt! I hit that, and read no more -- but my eye did catch this on the way out:
    the Bush administration has defied evidence and logic, sabotaging its own professional civil servants. It refuses serious consultation with experts and critics.... It stifles civil servants attempting to do their jobs. It appoints cronies whose political loyalty cannot compensate for their incompetence....Reason is indispensable to democratic self-government.
    My God! At long last, have they no shame? Not only do they torture and kill people, they... they... have no respect for experts! People with credentials! Oh, the humanity!

    There's quite a list of Gladstonian stalwarts who have subscribed their names-to-conjure-with on this resoundingly flung gauntlet (note, the group is very very heavy on the mortarboards):

    • George Akerlof, Berkeley
    • Jeffrey Alexander, Yale
    • Eric Alterman, City University of New York
    • Kenneth Arrow, Stanford
    • Ian Ayres, Yale
    • Benjamin Barber, Maryland
    • Yochai Benkler, Yale
    • Joshua Cohen, Stanford and Boston Review
    • Lizabeth Cohen, Harvard
    • Robert A. Dahl, Yale
    • Norman Daniels, Harvard
    • Michael Doyle, Columbia
    • Cynthia Fuchs Epstein, Graduate Center, CUNY
    • James K. Galbraith, Texas
    • Robert W. Gordon, Yale
    • Adam Hochschild, Berkeley
    • Arlie Hochschild, Berkeley
    • G. John Ikenberry, Princeton
    • Christopher Jencks, Harvard
    • Pamela S. Karlan, Stanford
    • Michael Kazin, Georgetown
    • Chang-Rae Lee, Princeton
    • Margaret Levi, University of Washington
    • Sanford Levinson, Texas
    • Doug McAdam, Stanford
    • Jane Mansbridge, Harvard
    • Katherine S. Newman, Princeton
    • Robert Post, Yale
    • Robert B. Reich, Berkeley
    • Susan Rose-Ackerman, Yale
    • Ruth Rosen, Berkeley
    • Elaine Scarry, Harvard
    • Arthur Schlesinger Jr, Graduate Center, CUNY
    • Richard Sennett, LSE and NYU
    • Kim Lane Scheppele, Princeton
    • Jane Smiley, Carmel Valley
    • Christine Stansell, Princeton
    • Charles Tilly, Columbia
    • Michael Tomasky, The American Prospect
    • C.K. Williams, Princeton
    • William Julius Wilson, Harvard
    • Alan Wolfe, Boston College
    • George M. Woodwell, Woods Hole Research Center

    October 25, 2006

    In case of emergency, break wind

    Could there be a better label for a prog tank today than the Frameworks Institute?

    They probed the millions of "serialized" American undersoul fragments, and I bet you all can anticipate their laff-riot "findings".

    1. Americans' views of government are missing two key ingredients: a concrete understanding of what government is and does, and a ready sense of the mission of government why it exists and what differentiates it.
    2. ...two coherent, but opposing, mindsets -- Americans view themselves in relation to government: as a consumer or as a citizen.
    Problem: the body politic is heavy on consumer mind-sets -- and they're sour, dissatisfied consumers at that.

    Solution: re-frame their head. Move their mind-sets en masse to citizenship by Avoiding portraying government as a laundry list of services that individuals 'buy' with their tax dollar.... Emphasizing our shared responsibility to maintain the public structures, services and programs that create our quality of life. Of course there are details, and some cheery rah-rah, but I'll leave the full dive into its stoogeanna for any unplanned Defcon 13 boredom alert. Only in the idlest of idle hours can this sort of bog air not retard the flight of even a fairly dull mind's arrow.

    Let's hope you don't get there this week. Next week we'll have a new def13 special.

    October 27, 2006

    ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος

    Does anybody else feel that we've heard a little too much from George Lakoff? He's blethering away again in the Times today:
    THE Bush administration has finally been caught in its own language trap. "That is not a stay-the-course policy," Tony Snow, the White House press secretary, declared on Monday.

    The first rule of using negatives is that negating a frame activates the frame. If you tell someone not to think of an elephant, he'll think of an elephant. When Richard Nixon said, "I am not a crook" during Watergate, the nation thought of him as a crook.

    ...The Democrats are giving up a golden opportunity to accurately frame their values and deepest principles (even on national security), to forge a public identity that fits those values - and perhaps to win more close races by being positive and having a vision worth voting for.

    Right now, though, no language articulating a Democratic vision seems in the offing. If the Democrats don't find a more assertive strategy, their gains will be short-lived. They, too, will learn the pitfalls of staying the course.

    I actually studied linguistics myself, once upon a time, and Lakoff is unusual among linguists, at least those I know, in that he seems to believe language is not just autonomous from reality, but somehow constitutive of reality. It doesn't seem to have occurred to Lakoff that if the Democrats haven't "articulated" an alternative "vision," maybe it's because they don't have one. And this is not to say that they don't have any vision; it's to say that they have, for all practical purposes, the same vision as their nominal antagonists.

    The vogue for Lakoff in pwog circles is a mildly interesting phenomenon in its own right. Pwogs tend to be obsessively interested in words and insufficently interested in things and actions; everybody has seen at first hand the tiresome, obsessive policing of diction that characterizes the liberal-schmiberal milieu, to the near-exclusion of all else. So Lakoff's message that it's all about language finds an audience, in pwog-itania, predisposed to receive it.

    But I think the Lakoff phenomenon has another dimension too. Liberal Democrats know, on some level, that they are bankrupt. They have no real influence within their own party, and their own party is the permanent second banana anyway; they're not just screwed, they're doubly screwed, screwed coming and going. Comes now Lakoff, however, with a promise that somehow, through the power of words alone, all can be made right.

    This must have the same kind of appeal for liberal Democrats that cargo cults had in New Guinea -- the promise of supernatural victory over powerful and poorly-nderstood forces. Or perhaps it's more like the appeal of pyramid schemes for financially strapped, naive white-bread Amurricans -- a kind of no-money-down, no-pain, magical get-rich-quick scheme.

    It'll work for you, says the witch doctor, if only you believe.

    November 7, 2006

    Quomodo ceciderunt

    Poor Katha Pollitt continues her downward slide -- now she's going to the mats for Hillary Clinton, forsooth.

    Katha's thinking seems to be that feminist solidarity requires that she leap to any woman's defense who is being criticized for doing things that a man could do with impunity:

    ...[A] man with the same positions would be less bad, because he couldn't use feminism (or female stereotypes of caring and nurturing) to disguise them. But since anyone with a realistic hope of becoming President will necessarily have made all sorts of unsavory bargains with the status quo, this amounts to saying we'll never have a woman in the White House. We'll continue on as now: "expecting more" of women and tacitly expecting less of men.
    What do I know, being a guy and all, but may I observe that this seems a rather narrow kind of feminism -- a feminism which begins and ends with the idea that a woman should be just as much of an asshole as a man. I suppose it's a little like Zionism that way. Was it Ben-Gurion who said that the goal of a Jewish state is that everybody there should be a Jew, even the pickpockets and whores? Katha's feminism seems to insist that women, too, should have a fair chance to be mass murderers. And if anybody says they shouldn't -- well, that's just blatant male chauvinism.

    The last time we took up the sad case of Katha Pollitt here, she was arguing, it seems to me, out of the other side of her mouth --

    Katha ties herself in knots trying to argue that single-issue reproductive-rights advocates should not be supporting candidates based on their reproductive-rights record. Rather, they should support Democrats no matter what.
    In other words, single-issue reproductive-rights people should swallow their objections to some Opus Dei loon if he happens to be, in some vague or even hypothetical way, more "progressive" than the other loon. But apparently single-issue female-nationalist feminists like Katha must do the reverse, and swallow the bloodthirsty, reactionary, heartless corporate flunkyism of a Hillary Clinton because she's a woman.

    I think the contradiction is more apparent than real, though. Because the practical bottom line in both cases is that you have to line up behind, you guessed it, the Democrat.

    Drawing the same conclusion from contradictory premises is, of course, something that hardened Democrats get very good at.

    The hinge of fate

    All the shepherds and wise men are assembling around the manger over at Daily Kos, awaiting the outcome of the most important election in the history of the Universe. Senator Harry Reid, who seems to have a soft spot for the Kosniks, perhaps because they're the only people in the world (besides Nevada real-estate speculators) who admire him, had some staffer post a letter on the site in which he thanked them for all their contributions to the great holy cause of getting a few more donkey snouts back at the trough.

    Reid probably didn't read the comments, but he might have found a few of them rather disagreeable:

    I hope the staffer (65+ / 0-)

    that wrote this knows how pissed people are at your treatment of lamont. Lieberman is a cancer on democracy.

    Why Are Kossacks Such Enablers? (3+ / 1-)

    The cult of personality around Harry "Keeping the Powder Dry in Perpetuity" Reid is truly mystifying. No one has betrayed Democratic principles more, yet Kossacks act like he's Paul Fucking Wellstone.

    Get a fucking clue.

    I was going to post a snarky comment (9+ / 0-)

    thanking Mr. Reid and all the other Senate Democrats that helped out Mr. Lamont in his Senate campaign!!!

    Seriously, "we're" going to have to decide how to treat the dems that hung Mr. Lamont out to dry. Particularly the two so-called "superstars" that are going to be the front runners for the dem Presidential nomination in '08. (OK I mean Hilary and Barack).

    My personal opinion is that they can both go f#ck themselves.

    Jerome! Hey, Jerome! More Kool-Ade over here!

    Unfortunately these voices of well-founded disgruntlement were greatly outnumbered by the anesthetics corps:

    Ed (7+ / 0-)

    I am as big a Lamont guy as you, but Reid did what he had to do on this.

    It is not on Reid.

    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Nov 07, 2006 at 09:15:56 AM PST

    Jeez (39+ / 0-)

    Could we please hold off on the circular firing squad?

    by SadTexan on Tue Nov 07, 2006 at 09:17:23 AM PST

    Tomorrow, but not today.... (3+ / 0-)

    today we take back our country. Tomorrow we can eat our own.

    by Got a Grip on Tue Nov 07, 2006 at 09:34:25 AM PST

    How about after we kick out the bad guys? (4+ / 0-)

    I'm sure it can wait a single day, during which we need to be as positive and fired up as we can be.

    Then of course there were innumerable slavish, fawning, lickspittle responses thanking Reid, and flattering him, and generally fellating him to the extent that TCP/IP permits. I won't even quote those, they're too revolting.

    "We need to be positive and fired up," says one of the Kool-Ade dispensers above. I like that. Why is this needed? Will it exert some magical force that will influence the outcome? Or do we need to be "positive and fired up" because that's the only way to keep reality at bay?

    November 9, 2006

    Dept. of Wishful Thinking

    Here's a good one, from the happy pen of Nathan Newman, at Alternet:
    A Victory for Progressive Values

    Dems' victories are progressives' victories, and though there's still much to be done, the election was a great first step.

    Let's be clear -- it wasn't just a good night for Democrats. It was a good night for progressives, and no media spin that these new elected officials are "conservatives" changes who they are. The media is always marvelling that "new" Democrats are so much more conservative than "traditional" liberal Democrats of the past -- which would surprise all the folks firehosed in the streets of the South by many Democrats of a generation ago.

    There are no doubt some conservatives among the new Democrats elected but as Rick Perlstein, Ezra Klein and Chris Bowers note, many were progressive and Netroots supported and almost all were tough on core economic justice issues.

    Let's remember -- those massive Democratic majorities of a generation ago were fake. In 1981, Ronald Reagan was able to control the agenda in Congress because 67 Boll Weevil Democrats essentially caucused with the GOP.... I actually am more confident in the present 228-230 Dem majority we are getting this round to support progressive initiatives than those fake-larger majorities of the past.

    Might as well knock down straw men, I guess, if they're all you can land a punch on. Nathan's argument seems to be that yeah, there are a lot of reactionary Dems who got into office this week, but what the hell, the party has never been any damn good, so this is not a step back. It's a sound argument, as far as it goes, but it doesn't explain why Nathan is so happy. And it certainly doesn't explain his "confidence" that the current mule team will "support progressive initiatives." That's quite an assertion -- based, as far as I can tell, on nothing more or less than a Kierkegaardian leap of faith.

    Now when it comes to leaps of faith, I can respect ones that have a worthy object to leap at: the Lord God Jehovah, or the communist millennium, or pick your own. But the Democratic Party?

    Well, chacun a son gout.

    November 11, 2006

    Bernie Sanders: on the sealed train to Washington

    Much has been made, in some quarters, of Bernie Sanders' elevation to the Senate. A self-procalimed "socialist" in the US Senate! You'd think Lenin had just arrived at the Finland Station.

    My friends at the Vermont Guardian recently carried an interview with Bernard and his replacement in the House. If it walks like a Democrat, and talks like a Democrat...

    Sanders, Welch focus on new direction for Congress
    By Shay Totten | Vermont Guardian
    Posted November 10, 2006

    BURLINGTON — Senator-elect Bernie Sanders and Congressman-elect Peter Welch said this week that Democratic leadership skills will be put to the test now that they control both chambers of Congress.

    Sanders, who hopes to introduce legislation to allow people to purchase drugs imported from Canada once the new Congress convenes in January, said people around the country will be watching Democrats closely....

    “...The hard part is to stand up against the powerful corporate monied interests in Washington and begin, in fact, to face the problems facing the middle class in this country,” said Sanders, in a post-election interview with reporters.

    ...[D]espite the call by some for an immediate withdrawal[from Iraq], neither Sanders nor Welch believes that is the best policy to pursue.

    ... Welch and Sanders noted that the first order of business should be attempts to roll back some [emphasis mine -- MJS] of GOP’s economic policies, such as tax breaks to large oil companies and the wealthy, and reign [sic] in some of the free trade arrangements....

    November 23, 2006

    Max Sawicki, King of Pop

    Greet my neologism: "prog-pop" (we've had enough of neos). "Populist revival" was rejected because it captures one dimension, but loses the other: populism with out prog think is like the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz.

    Here's an unknowing exemplar from Max "Factor" Sawicky:

    http://www.tpmcafe.com/blog/coffeehouse/2006/nov/20/what_is_a_populist

    and here's his prog-pop platform :

    • A foreign policy that rejected bloated military spending and routine interference in the affairs of others;
    • Fighting the Federal Reserve and the banking industry for the sake of tight, inflation-risky labor markets that would spur wage growth;
    • A strong system of social insurance to protect workers in retirement, disability, unemployment, injury, and ill health;
    • Rejection of the dogma of free trade.
    • Counteracting the domination of corporate interests by the construction of cooperative institutions in civil society, especially trade unions, and a revitalized, professional, high-quality civil service;
    • The broadest possible tax base, to include capital gains, dividends, stock options, the site value of land, rents from resource extraction, financial transactions, and great wealth; a serious attack on tax evasion.

    November 24, 2006

    Dracula to head blood bank

    http://www.rawstory.com/news/2006/Pelosi_announces_Iraq_Democratic_forum_1121.htm

    Pelosi announces Iraq 'Democratic forum'

    Incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has announced a "Democratic forum" on the Iraq war that will take place early next month....

    "Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, and Major General John Batiste will join current and new members of the Democratic Caucus in discussing options for a way forward in Iraq."

    Brzezinski and Holbrooke are, of course, familiar names, names that stand high on the all-time list of gory-fanged dogs of war. Batiste is a relative newcomer, but as noted here before, he's worthy of the pantheon:
    Ille deum vitam accipiet divisque videbit
    Permixtos heroas et ipse videbitur illis.
    Fresh blood, as the Count would say -- a phrase which, in this context, has unfortunately more than one application.

    November 27, 2006

    Dream no small dreams

    Here's The Nation's latest brainstorm, from no less an authority than Katrina van den Heuvel:
    After progressive victories across the nation on Election Day... two things are clear: the American public is much more receptive to progressive ideas than suggested by the media, and the conservative movement is in disarray.... [H]ere's a modest proposal: perhaps it's time for the paper of record to create a beat on the progressive movement.
    In other words, Katrina is calling the New York Times to order.

    Where to start? Well, what about those "progressive victories"? Whom does Katrina have in mind? There were certainly some Democratic victories -- but Katrina is not dumb; she knows that's not the same thing.

    But more to the point -- why in the name of all that's holy would a smart person like Katrina waste any time advising the New York Times?

    Where to start? -- I know I keep saying this. But really. Does Katrina think that 43d Street is a strategic objective? If Aunt Sadie decides the "progressive" movement is a "beat"-- then we've arrived?

    These pwogs. How they crave respectability.

    December 6, 2006

    Oh the humanity

    I couldn't wait to see how the Kosniks would react to Silvestre Reyes' call for a troop buildup in Iraq, mentioned here a few minutes ago. I didn't have long to wait:

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/12/6/73813/0572

    I think Pelosi will be a great Speaker. I'm hoping that Reyes misspoke. But, this leaves some to wonder from a policy point of view, are we getting different results from what it would be if Harman assumed the post? Are we getting different results from what we would have if the GOP kept the chairmanship?

    This does seem so out of the blue that I'm hoping that Reyes was misquoted. His position definitely need to be clarified....

    I'm hoping that Reyes was misquoted. It is enough to have to worry about Leiberman betraying our interests.

    "Misspoke" once, "misquoted" twice -- this poor soul has gone past grasping at straws; he's grasping at srarws that have only a purely conjectural existence. And he's "worried" that Lieberman might "betray our interests"? That's like worrying that it might be cold at the North Pole. Where does Kos find these people?

    December 22, 2006

    Proggo-synchro-nicity

    About two minutes after JSP's most recent post went up -- the one about Democrats making the Iraq status quo look like victory -- Mike Flugennock passed along this bit of crowing from Code Pink:
    Dear CODEPINK Supporter,

    Many thanks to those of you who took action this week to contact Senator Harry Reid about his remarks that he would support sending more troops to Iraq. His office was flooded with calls and emails on Tuesday! Below is a statement Senator Reid posted yesterday, saying that he does NOT support an escalation of the conflict and wants to bring out troops home. Let’s be clear: He only backed down because of the pressure he felt from the grassroots. Let’s see this as an important victory....

    Reid's statement is a characteristic slab of Democratic doubletalk:
    Frankly, I don't believe that more troops is the answer for Iraq.... We obviously want to support what commanders in the field say they need, but apparently even the Joint Chiefs do not support increased combat forces for Baghdad.
    And if they did, Harry? Note also the carefully hedged phrase "combat forces," which recurs:
    I believe we should start redeploying troops in 4 to 6 months (The Levin-Reed Plan) and complete the withdrawal of combat forces by the first quarter of 2008. (As laid out by the Iraq Study Group)
    I seem to recall that the ISG envisioned a more or less permanent presence for something like half the troops we have there now. Mike F comments:
    My DW has done some work with Code Pink, and I even designed a cartoon mousepad for them, back a few years ago when they were doing some really fun, creative action -- back before they attempted to hand the entirety of the American Anti-War Cargo Cult (I won't call it a 'Movement' anymore) over to the Democratic Party in '04.

    They seem tickled pink -- ha, hah hah -- that in response to their high-school civics class tactics (call/fax/write your 'elected' politicians), Harry Reid (who really does remind me of some dickless, namby-pamby bank-examiner character from a WC Fields picture) has sorta kinda backed down on his comment that we need more troops in Iraq, even though his statement includes the term 'redeployment'.

    What really gags me is that Code Weak is calling on the goddamn' President -- that is to say, the President of the US, not Venezuela (sadly) -- to come up with a plan to get us out of Iraq.

    Jeezus. I need a bong hit or two. Or three. Or twelve. And, a couple of Guinnesses.... Ahh, hell, make that eight Guinnesses.

    January 6, 2007

    Frank, no beans

    Some things captivate me -- make me lose mind-motion, lock me in like a yellow stripe down a highway can lock in a chicken. Case in point: Bob Kuttner on Barney Frank, and the future of America's main class divide. Deep-fried goo flop (Op-Ed division) don't get mixed, whipped up, and high-temp roilingly cookulated much better than this.
    Let's be frank
    by Robert Kuttner

    CONGRESSMAN BARNEY FRANK, incoming chairman of the House Committee on Financial Services, has proposed something big and bold -- a grand bargain with labor and business to create a society more equal, more dynamic, and less bureaucratic.

    For a few weeks I never got past that final stunner, "less bureaucratic." I kept trying, and got stymied right there each time. I gave up. Finally I just let my inner libertarian simmer.
    Democrats control Congress by narrow margins, which limits their power to two areas. They can block things Republicans and business elites want -- and hold those goals hostage for things Democrats and liberals want. And they can use the hearing process to shed light on the real America. Frank plans to do both.

    Business... wants more trade... more foreign investment deals... and relief from excessively bureaucratic audit and reporting requirements.... But... at least half the Democrats in the House -- including Frank -- are skeptical. So what would business have to give in return to get Democrats to support trade agreements and regulatory relief?

    First, Frank wants to renegotiate the grand bargain first brokered by FDR.... Business has to learn to live with trade unions again.... Specifically, Frank wants business to support a reform to allow a union to win recognition once a majority of workers signed union cards.

    Can an inter-class bargain get any grander than that, my fellow Americans?
    Second, Frank wants to tie trade deals to enforceable labor and environmental standards.
    While you're at it, Henny, cut the dollar to shit.
    "And third, he wants big business to support universal health insurance."
    Heard the phrase "pushing against an open door"? We are losing altitude here very fast, and here's the pratfall:
    They [big biz] need to stop demonizing the public sector.
    Bobby the K goes on to lay out the how-to, Frank style:
    An ongoing seminar on the widening inequality in America- and the need for a new generation of strategies to broaden American prosperity.... other hearings will address financial regulation.
    Yes, "hearings" and "seminars" -- because, sez the Kut, sometimes these are "Congress's most potent weapons to reframe public debate." We've slid all the way from a new "grand bargain" to "reframing the public debate." The chimes of history's belfry ring out:
    • The Pecora hearings
    • The Truman Committee
    • The Fulbright hearings
    Future historians may add the Frank hearings of 2007-08 to this influential list.
    "Influential"? My God, where's the FDR parallel gone to now?

    I'll end with Frank in his own words:

    I want to make opposition to the current regime [of economic policies] respectable.
    Respectable? Talk about the mouse that roared. Surely it's obvious to the meanest intellect that real opposition can never be respectable, and respectable opposition can't be... real?

    January 17, 2007

    Itching powder

    I've gotta hand it to Max Sawicki -- he's got all the Democratic Party blogologues in a lather with his recent post on TPM Cafe:
    Matt Stoller is well-situated to talk about the intersection of contemporary internet-based protest and the Democratic Party. He does not seem very current on the boots-on-the-ground left that is responsible for the huge anti-war demonstrations we have seen since 2002, as well as for local organizing against Wal-Mart and for the "living wage." About the 60s left, he is all wet....

    The "Internet Left" is a mostly brainless vacuum cleaner of donations for the Democratic Party.

    Oh, this has put the hencoop into a featherstorm. Thus Kos' trusty coadjutor, "Hunter":
    I'm (1) an anti-intellectual (2) non-lefty (3) coin purse who (4) isn't goddamn pure enough to be on the same side as the true 60's-generational liberals who (5) opposed the war out of reasons much more noble than any dregs of thought I could manage and (6) why the hell don't people quote more Karl Marx, these days? So let's just stipulate all that, shall we?
    Touchy, touchy! And here's the encyclical from the Sedes Kossica itself:
    This little tiff in the progressive blogosphere over the wanker "intellectuals" who think bloggers suck because they don't read "Marx" (snort) is pretty ridiculous....

    Here's my take on the whole matter -- "intellectuals" who'd rather read books and measure purity are next-to-useless. I prefer people of action, not of elitist academics.... What did all those Marx readers deliver the country? Nixon. Reagan. Bush. Bush II. Not to mention the DeLays, the Scalias, and the long national nightmare that is just now being stemmed.

    That's not a knock on people who've been fighting the good fight. Just on those who think the intellectual circle jerks of the 60s are superior to what we're building today.

    Pretty breathtaking, huh? Note that all us old 60s lefties are responsible for Nixon, Reagan, etc. Kos is unwittingly demonstrating here a point I have long tried to make: that the organizational Democrats really hate and fear the actual Left (even in its current etiolated form) much more than they hate and fear their supposed antagonists on the Other Team.

    I would go so far as to suggest that we lefties might want to return the compliment, and hate the Judases of the Democratic Party rather worse -- if only a little worse -- than the Pilates of the other party.

    January 18, 2007

    MoveOn: an ogress, yes, but such a nice ogress

    http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/TheNote/story?id=156238&page=2
    Asked if MoveOn members would be upset with Sen. Clinton for not proposing (as John Edwards has done) to flex the power of the purse, Tom Matzzie, MoveOn's Washington director, told ABC News, "Our members are not of one mind on that" and he praised her for recognizing that the Senate "has a role" in checking President Bush's plan to send additional U.S. troops to Iraq.

    "She's farther ahead than most other 2008 candidates with the exceptions of Dennis Kucinich and John Edwards," said Matzzie.

    What a Life Of Brian moment: Hillary, she ain't all bad. She recognizes that the Senate "has a role". And she's in, what, the 25th percentile among 2008 candidates? Always look on the bright side of life, as Eric Idle cheerfully sings to the crucified Graham Chapman:

    January 25, 2007

    Trollery drollery

    Every so often I get an unconquerable urge to go trolling over on Daily Kos, and I keep a few sleeper accounts handy for the purpose. Yesterday's post about John Edwards as rent-boy for the Israel lobby seemed like a good opportunity, so I cross-posted it, slightly edited, on Kos under the admittedly provocative user name 'hamaschick'.

    It was up for about an hour and a half late last night, and accumulated sixty-odd comments before 'hunter', that unsleeping Dzerzhinsky of the netroots, dropped the hammer. I saved it here, though, along with all the comments.

    As usual, the pathos of the experience was the number of people who apparently know better but still can't tear themselves away from this maelstrom of futility. My post contained a poll:

    Poll

    Just how disgusting is [Edwards' performance for the Israelis]?

    Not at all -- I agree 100% 6% -- 4 votes
    Hey, be realistic. Cut the guy some slack 20% -- 12 votes
    Mildly disgusting, but I'd still vote for him if he was the nominee 6% -- 4 votes
    Intensely disgusting -- I almost barfed -- but I'd still vote for him if he was the nominee 20% -- 12 votes
    I actually did barf, but I'd still vote for him if, etc. 6% -- 4 votes
    Enough is enough. I've had it. 40% -- 24 votes
    60 votes

    A majority acknowledged nausea; 2/5 said they'd "had it." On a more depressing note, there was a lot of fatuous huffing and puffing over my pseudonym. No sense of humor, these people.

    JSP some time ago noted that fifteen minutes trolling Kos is probably time well spent, since it makes the Kosserei burn up untold democrat-hours berating you, speculating about your troll status, pulling accounts, blocking IP addresses, etc. -- time they could be spending trying to elect Democrats. Better they do almost anything than that. (The other thing they do is elaborate an esoteric argot -- what does "to freep" mean? Or "to fisk"? This is at least creative, in a modest way.)

    I was, of course, delighted that it was 'hunter' himself who liquidated the martyr hamaschick. It's always funny when you meet in the 3-D world people you formerly knew only online. Before I went to Daily Kos last year, I had a mental image of 'hunter' that owed a lot to Tab Hunter:

    Alas, the reality is quite different. 'Hunter' is a slumping, suety, lank-haired, pasty-faced chap who appears to be on the brink of middle age, with a peevish, disgruntled expression and a querulous, chronically exasperated tone of voice -- at least when I saw him. This image, taken by one of the faithful, is rather flattering, I'm sorry to say:

    Extinct volcano

    Hi, my name's Bob Fertik and I wanna stop the Iraq occ:

    http://www.democrats.com/democrats-iraq-scorecard

    The 2008 campaign has begun, and the Democratic presidential candidates are competing for the support of the anti-war majority - that's us, folks!

    It's extremely rare for progressives to be courted by Democratic leaders, so let's make them really compete for our votes by making our position clear:

    1. Deny all funds for Bush's escalation
    2. Support immediate redeployment of U.S. troops, to be completed by the end of 2007 using the funds already appropriated
    3. Oppose the $100 billion "Supplemental" appropriation in March and any other bills to extend the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
    Gee, thanx, Bob -- but why do we find a key wording switch? Why the serpentine, empire-by-other-means word "redeploy", where a plain "bring home the troops now" should be?

    Is it a winnner's reframing word? I doubt it, since the instinct of the weeble majority is clearly "come home, boys and girls" -- and probably stay home, too.

    And why "the end of '07" and not immediately? Why the timeline of 'escalating' Congressional actions if troops remain? Why point three at all? I guess because point one only hits "escalation" funding.

    But what I can't figure is, why does simply saying 'cut off all war funding now' sound too... what? Risky? Radical? Unrealistic?

    This is the sort of mush you expect to hear from an incumbent, or even a candidate -- but from a supposed "activist"?

    Bob doesn't sound any more serious about this issue than his elected representatives are.

    February 2, 2007

    Al Franken, finally funny again

    He's running for the Senate. Setup and punchline all in one.

    The image above reminds me uncannily of someone, or a combination of someones. The hair is Danny Kaye, and the side-of-beef face is maybe a distant, feeble-minded cousin of old Joe Dzugashvili.

    February 11, 2007

    Play nice, children

    More from the Overdue Posts Queue. J Alva writes:
    http://www.tompaine.com/articles/2006/12/08/impeachment_at_our_peril.php

    Constitutional patricide! This oedipal stuff really unnerves me. It's always a bad sign.

    The link points to a jaw-dropping piece by David "Pone" Corn:
    Impeachment At Our Peril

    Impeachment would be a suitable punishment.... Still, congressional Democrats ought to resist the calls to engage in constitutional patricide....

    The key question is not whether there is a case, but whether it should be prosecuted. The Democrats would do so at their peril—and at risk to their agenda.... [I]mpeachment will force its proponents to act as extremists.

    Well, he got the "risk to their agenda" right, though maybe not in the sense he meant. Their agenda is to keep the war going, and keep the blame on the other team.

    Patricide, though... I share J Alva's horror. The last father-figure President we had was Dwight Eisenhower. This gang, it's more like George and Dick's Excellent Adventure. It's scary to imagine the museum of neo-Roman civic sculpture in David Corn's head -- all those marble togas and pecs and stern expressions.

    February 14, 2007

    What have you done for us lately?

    It's now four months since The Most Important Election In The History Of Whatever, yet the world-historical consequences seem strangely... muted. Meanwhile, it's "On to the next thing!" for the pwoggies and the Dems. We didn't even get to take a breath after the last Most Important Election, and now we're supposed to gird our loins for the next one. It's like that Ivan Ilyich line: the reward of success in schooling is... more schooling. The reward we get for Democratic victories is the precious opportunity to give the Democrats more victories. What benefit we receive from this deal does not clearly appear.

    The Nation magazine is ready to rumble, though. Here's a recent bit of pulpit oratory, taking its text from the Upper West Side's favorite bad writer:

    Into 2008

    On the eve of the 1992 elections, novelist E.L. Doctorow reminded Nation readers why the bizarre and troubling pageants known as presidential elections matter so deeply. "The President we get is the country we get.... He is the artificer of our malleable national soul." ... the President has become "the face of our sky, the conditions that prevail. One four-year term may find us at reasonable peace with one another, working things out, and the next, trampling on each other for our scraps of bread."

    Wow, man, that's lyrical. E L Doctorow on the American Presidency -- there, if you like, is the ideal marriage of writer and subject: a tin-eared Virgil and a tinpot Caesar.

    It's hard to imagine that after this spectacular plunge into bathos, there might be still deeper abysses ahead. But The Nation unerringly finds 'em:

    The early [Democratic Presidential] favorites come hearteningly close, for the first time in our history, to actually "looking like America."
    Like corporate America, maybe. But it gets better:
    The huge shadow of the chief executive is part of what has deformed our political system....

    Let us imagine, and insist upon, the election of a President with the broad heart, the sharp but open mind and the principled passion to seize the opportunity that now exists for a long-term political realignment in America--who can set not only Democrats but a strong national majority back on track toward the goals of equality, opportunity, true democracy and social justice.

    Cue the Battle Hymn of The Republic. Fade to Old Glory waving above the Capitol. A Frank Capra film.

    I wish I knew who actually wrote this slab of rodomontade. Pwoggies have a strange susceptibility to the corniest flag-waving -- I suppose that's one reason why that trumpery, vulgar blowhard John F Kennedy is still held in such high regard.

    Perhaps one reason for this perverse taste is the anaesthetic effect of self-administered Fourth of July rhetoric. Patriotism is the opiate of the liberals. In this case, the fumes of the pipe have apparently obscured the Nation editorialist's self-contradiction from his own awareness. On the one hand, the swollen Presidency has "deformed our political system" -- from what shapely former form, I wonder, and when did the deformation occur? -- but on the other hand, our salvation lies in a "President with a broad heart, a sharp but open mind," and all the other anatomical qualifications for a savior -- a manly brow (particularly if she's a woman), a chiseled chin, and oh let's hope, liquid liberal eyes brimming with the tears of deep and earnest feeling.

    February 27, 2007

    Illumination

    Owen P. and m-cat pass along this road-to-Damascus moment on Matt Stoller's part:
    You may not want to believe it, but the DLC is still in charge of the party in the form of the New Democrat and Blue Dog caucuses, as well as a whole crew of consultants warning the party off of dealing with Iraq. Business lobbyist centrists rule the roost, with progressives pushed to the side everywhere from the think tank world to Congress to the Presidentials (no, there is no progressive in the race, and though several have instincts that way no one has developed yet into a genuine liberal).
    I would have said they were all genuine liberals. But let's not cavil.

    Matt isn't willing to go quite as far as David Sirota, though:

    The Associated Press today tells the story of how Democrats in Washington clearly do not want to end the Iraq War.... The renewed refusal by Democrats to use their majority in even the most basic way to stop the war is a declaration that the new majority is not close to using even the most basic powers afforded to it to stop or slow down the war. In other words, in backing off, the Democrats have just weeks after the 2006 anti-war election mandate effectively declared themselves as supportive of the Bush administration's stay-the-course policy - a truly sickening act of cowardice.
    And even David doesn't yet understand that it isn't cowardice at all, it's commitment. The Democratic party as an institution is committed to continuing the war, and with all respect to Owen's FSO mole, Mr. Y, I think they're probably committed to expanding it.

    Matt has a solution to the problem, and man is it a bold one:

    The mechanism for doing so is criticism, and perhaps primary challenges against some prominent Democrats who are among the worst of our obstacles.
    Don't you love the "perhaps"? Gasp! Matt, you sans-culotte, you!

    When I hear the phrase "primary challenge" I go for my Browning.

    March 4, 2007

    'Democracy now' jumps the shark?

    Mike Flugennock writes:
    I tried to skim through as much as I could, before I got sick at what appeared to be Amy Goodman giving Gen. Wesley "The Sweater" Clark a wet, sloppy blowjob for his opposition to the US war drive vs. Iran, and seemingly accept without question his answers re his bloody brutalization of Serbia and Kosovo at the behest of President Bubba:

    http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=07/03/02/1440234

    March 5, 2007

    "Big Challenge for progressives...

    ....People Don't Believe That Government Works."

    One Mike Lux is very upset about the results of a recent poll:

    ....there is some stuff in there that also just scares the shit out of me, and ought to scare anyone who cares about the broader progressive agenda.

    Look at some of these numbers:

    Question:

    If the federal government were to receive additional money, do you think the additional money is more likely to be spent well or is it more likely to be wasted?

    • Spent well: 13%
    • Wasted: 83%
    Questions:

    A. Government does more to help people get ahead in life.

    • 30% agree
    B. Government mostly gets in the way of the economy and job growth.
    • 57% agree
    Well, you might ask, what's Mike's problem here? Don't these stats show how intelligent the public is? Presumably, when the pollster interrupted the respondents' dinner, the poll's "subjects" weren't thinking about some ideal, conjectural government in Cloud-Cuckoo-Land, but about the government under which they actually live, and have lived all their lives, through Bushes and Clintons and, for the elderly among them, Reagans and Carters. Are they mistaken in their assessment of that government, Mike?

    Mike, naturally, doesn't address this question. In all fairness to him, it's almost certain that the question has never occurred to him. For reasons of his own, he would very much like voters to believe in some government that he might be, or once was part of:

    Long-term, the broad progressive movement needs to have a... strategy toward convincing Americans of the positive things a well-run government can bring to their lives.... this is why I was a lot more excited than many progressives when I was in the Clinton White House about the National Service, 100,000 cops on the street, and re-inventing government initiatives we implemented....
    He goes on, at great length, to stress how important it is for the voters to believe that "our" candidates will give them a "well-run" government. This is remarkably obtuse, for a presumably quick-witted merit-class Clintonian junior woodchuck. If people think that actually-existing government is inimical to them -- and once again, Mike, are they wrong? -- then why in the name of all that's holy would they want it to be "well-run?" Surely they ought to want just the opposite?

    I'm being too hard on the guy, obviously. You can't expect a man to be rational when his career is at stake. Here's his CV:

    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Mike_Lux

    Mike Lux is the founder of Progressive Strategies LLC and a director of the Center for Progressive Leadership.

    * Director, Proteus Fund
    * Director, Arca Foundation

    According to the Progressive Strategies' web site, prior "to founding Progressive Strategies, Lux was Senior Vice President for Political Action at People For the American Way (PFAW), PFAW Foundation, and the PFAW Voters Alliance....

    Before coming to People For the American Way, Lux served at the William Jefferson Clinton White House as a Special Assistant to the President for Public Liaison, where his role on health care and budget issues involved working closely with a wide range of constituency groups including labor, seniors, health care providers, trial lawyers, consumer groups and agricultural interests.

    "Since leaving the White House in April 1995, Lux has become a significant fundraiser for progressive causes and candidates. He was a 1996 Clinton-Gore Finance Committee Vice Chair, and served in the 1996 cycle as a Democratic National Business Council Vice Chair.... Prior to his service at the White House, Lux was Constituency Director on both the 1992 Clinton-Gore campaign and the Presidential transition. Lux was also a senior staffer for the Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and Paul Simon campaigns in the 1988 cycle....

    Lux is currently (January 29, 2003) involved in assisting Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) "in assembling and raising money for a new outside organization designed to provide a voice to the party's progressive wing....

    It's wonderful, really, how Mike and his mirror-image careerists at the Heritage Foundation have agreed that this needs to be a conversation about the abstract idea of "government" Good thing, or bad thing? More, or less? Anarchy, or totalitarianism? Vote, or die!

    No wonder people don't vote, and die stoically when their time comes. They know a scam when they see it.

    March 16, 2007

    Stollerus stultissimus

    Matt Stoller is a certifiable jackass-licker, but this post proves he needs to be excused, because it demonstrates he's also a certifable ignoramus as well:
    If we do pull out of Iraq, and all of a sudden do have to shut that trillion dollar trade deficit, we will have to build a genuinely new economy based on different legal and economic structures. That's a huge task, and there was no mandate for that in 2006.
    Now tell me, why link these two completely unrelated events: 1) pulling out of Iraq -- which, btw, this toad thinks was a fiscal move by Cheney to keep the economy out of "fiscal" crisis -- and 2) the three winters in a row scare to end all scares, namely the rest of the earth calling in our markers all at once and putting us on paygo, cash-before-delivery trade terms.

    I guess it's so he can fairly claim no mandate for this package in last fall's election results.

    So there's the bam right in his own kisser, like Lou Costello might have thrown, and then...

    the Democratic Party is becoming an antiwar party that has been pulled out of the bipartisan imperialist consensus. But it is not there yet.
    "Is becoming," but "has been" and "is not yet"... I see the poor dope knocking himself straight backwards out of his chair with that wallop.

    March 19, 2007

    White chicks: They're gonna write a letter

    Mike Flugennock writes:
    Well, here's Code Pink again, actually expecting MoveOn and the Jackasses (wow, sounds like an old punk band) to magically grow a pair of cajones and stand up to warmongers and fascists.

    I love how MoveOn actually feels the need to _poll_its_membership_ to decide on something that should be a slam-dunk decision for an allegedly "progressive" organization.

    Jeezus H. Christ on a Segway. My brain hurts:

    -------- Original Message --------
    Subject: Tell MoveOn and Congress to Get Real
    Date: Mon, 19 Mar 2007 00:35:44 -0500 (EST)
    From: CODEPINK
    Reply-To: codepink@mail.democracyinaction.org
    To: flugennock-at-sinkers.org


    Call Congress:
    (800) 828-0498
    Attend a MoveOn
    4th Anniversary Vigil

    Dear Mike,

    Today, Monday, March 19, marks four years of war in Iraq.... Today you have another opportunity to attend rallies, call and visit your congressperson before they vote this week on the supplemental bill that would allocate another $100 billion for war. Tell them "No More Money for War."

    You also have an opportunity to pressure one of the largest on-line activist groups, MoveOn.org. MoveOn has not taken a stand against this Supplemental....

    We need to tell Congress to stop the political machinations and use its Constitutional authority to end war by cutting the funds. We need to tell MoveOn to join the rest of the peace movement with the clear, principled call to Congress: Vote No on the Supplemental. Don't Buy Bush's War. This week, your leadership is crucial. Call your member of Congress at 800-828-0498....

    -------------------------------------------------

    Y'know, I'm actually glad I'm in Mexico all this month practicing to retire, and not marching in a circle with a sign or standing around in the dark with a candle or some similarly symbolic, ineffective bullshit.

    If CP had any _real_ balls, they'd just be asking us to call MoveOn and the Democrats and tell them to take a long walk off a short pier.

    March 22, 2007

    Useful idiots

    From The Hill:
    House Democratic leaders pressed undecided lawmakers yesterday to support the Iraq war supplemental spending bill....

    The leadership’s vote round-up was given a boost this week by MoveOn.org’s decision to back the bill, which gave liberal lawmakers cover, and by the support of former Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.), who wrote in a letter to members of Congress, “This resolution provides a light at the end of the tunnel. It is not perfect, but it moves our national debate forward.”

    A textbook case.

    March 29, 2007

    Much of a muchness

    It's all one big brawling happy family over at the nation's leading social chump-change conglomerate, Progressive Democracy, Inc.

    http://pdamerica.org/.

    Witness this, in an E-letter I got from 'em:

    While PDA and the leadership of MoveOn.org took different approaches on the Iraq funding bill, we know from years of joint work that MoveOn activists are as committed to ending the Iraq occupation as we are. Together, we can move the Democratic presidential candidates on Iraq, and on preventing an attack on Iran.
    "Different approaches... as committed ... as we are" -- I guess that's a fair enough statement, all things considered.

    April 14, 2007

    Over there; vs. under, here

    Somehow I missed this contribution from Mike Flugennock, back in March, but the point is still good:


    Was just checking out some reports yesterday on the protests vs. the Chimp's Latin American visit, and some of the tape on CNN, and found myself doing a mental comparison of how dissident movements outside the Empire handle this, vs. the cargo cults -- oh, alright, "movements" -- inside the Empire: How they fight imperialism and corporate dictatorship outside the Empire:

    • General strikes
    • Molotovs
    • Smoke bombs
    • Molotovs and smoke bombs launched from improvised over-the-shoulder "bazookas"
    • Bricks
    • Barricades
    • Flipped cars
    • Improvised battering rams
    • Destruction of corporate property
    • Actually engaging the police in actual combat (imagine _that_!)
    • Generally making the place ungovernable and the Chimp's visit a living hell
    How they do it inside the Empire:
    • Marching around with signs
    • Standing around with signs
    • Standing around with candles
    • Teach-ins
    • Knit-ins
    • Movie nights
    • Vegan potlucks
    • "Lobbying days"
    • Writing letters to politicians
    • Whiny press releases
    • Movie stars and politicians leading marches
    • Nonviolence training for people who are already pretty goddamn' docile as it is
    • Various other quaint old 1950s high-school civics class bullshit
    • Anti-authoritarian Bloc Action Calls which are pretty much ignored
    • "Civil Disobedience" actions pre-arranged with the police
    • Generally being meek, cowed, intimidated, and entirely useless to people around the world who were hoping for us to help bring down the Empire from the inside
    This is pretty much why I don't care that I'm going to miss the M17 demonstrations, why I had to force myself to stay in the J27 march until I'd shot enough tape to cut a piece together showing how goddamn' useless and boring it was, why I don't care if I never shoot another goddamn' march as long as I live, and why I've pretty much quit giving a shit about what happens to this goddamn' country and my "fellow Americans", or the goddamn' cargo cults...uh, sorry, "movements" in this country anymore. We had our big chances at Seattle and A16, but we started drinking the nonviolence Kool-Aid, and let Global Exchange, MGJ, Code Pink and MoveOn cut our balls off.

    April 24, 2007

    Purity of essence

    Nothing's too righteous to make a fast buck off of, as that salamander Jon Stewart might observe. The Gray Lady daily

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/22/fashion/22trade.html?_r=1&th&emc=th&oref=slogin

    had this waiting beneath a blizzard of blither on boutique activism's au-courant hook, "we're fair traders m'lady." Here's the nasty fish bone:

    After graduating from the New School with a degree in literature in 1993, Sander Hicks, 36, the founder of Vox Pop, worked at a Kinko's, where he and his fellow workers experimented with union organizing and even a worker collective. Now, he's proud of his high-quality coffee, but asserts that the fair trade label gives it an additional "karmic kick."
    Bypassing the odious vitae bits, let me draw your attention to the road not taken:
    ... he and his fellow workers experimented with union organizing and even a worker collective.
    Experimented? Much like a taste-test, one presumes. Too sour? Not enough high notes, or maybe too much acidity? Disappointing, anyway. On to the next thing -- which was, what? an indie coffee-shop hustle.

    Pride -- a clean soul -- a full cash register -- what's not to like?

    I doubt strongly that alternative path was on Father Smiff's list of ways we might "stop traffic".

    I humbly submit: acclimating your life niche by putting yourself in a humanist bubble so you can morally survive inside the beast -- it's just crap. None of us are souls unencumbered by the system. It's a fatuous delusion to think otherwise.

    Want to make fair trade? Battle the system. Don't try to escape. There is no escape: not in your mind, and not even in your stomach.

    May 5, 2007

    Sisterhood Is Rancid

    Help. The stench is in everything and I can't make it go away.

    So now you know. It really does matter who's President and which party controls Congress. A Democratic-controlled Congress would never have passed the Partial-Birth Abortion Act, which banned intact dilation and extraction abortions and, in flagrant violation of Roe v. Wade, lacked an exception to preserve the health of the woman. A Democratic President would never have signed such a bill...

    (more after the jump, as they say in the Mainstream Media and DKOS. And well worth the trip, in this case -- Ed.)

    Continue reading "Sisterhood Is Rancid" »

    May 20, 2007

    'Tis the final conflict

    http://democracyrising.us/content/view/925/164/

    Here's a view any progressive Tinker Bell could embrace: "the American Empire is falling!"

    So sez Terry Paupp, author of Exodus From Empire. Terry argues that the Yankee empire is living literally on borrowed time, by issuing an ever-growing stream of kited checks, i.e. "worthless U.S. Treasury Bonds.. backed up by nothing more than the promise of the U.S. Government...."

    You know you're riding the wild pony when you pass a line like the following:

    Ever since the U.S. went off the gold standard during the Nixon presidency, the dollar is not backed by anything except the military strength of the nation...." [But thankfully] "... those days might well be ending, as the Euro takes its place as the dominant currency of the European Union, and Europe begins to follow different policy choices and paths from the architects of the American Empire.

    Priceless, eh?

    Okay. So the A nation's empire is "falling", and we're all about to escape the bloody claws of Pax Americana. Where's spaceship earth headed, then? According to Comarade Paup we're headed toward a "counter-hegemonic alliance" which even as you read this is "...emerging and rising with the capacity to develop national, regional, and international alliances across the Global South...." And it's ready and able to "... undermine the sway and threat of the American Empire."

    Annnd there's more -- there's even "struggles within the Global North.... social movements... dedicated to eliminating" not only "the Neo-liberal model" but "the resurgent militarism that seeks to enforce it."

    Damned if our boy here don't have "the vision thing" for us too:

    a post-Imperial American needs to find a path toward social, political, economic and spiritual liberation for both its own people and the peoples and governments of the rest of the world. The path of a post-Imperial America is a revolutionary proposition and a revolutionary goal. Taking such a path is the only way to re-democratize America and, at the same time, supply the necessary means to achieve an interdependent human rights oriented world under the rule of law .... That is when we shall truly see DEMOCRACY RISING.
    Who knew? Maybe the coming world will prove to be a way way brighter world than we 've ever dreamed of before.

    May 24, 2007

    Media Medea

    This post inaugurates a brand new SMBIVA extra-feature, double-fun special: the Goo-goo Gremlin of the Month. Rules are simple: we arbitrarily tack up some progressive peace peasants and butterfly lovin' fraud, and accuse him/her of anything that sounds both outrageously loathesome and unfair, but oddly appropriate.

    Our first pinup -- and I'll be damed if she don't get us off to a roaring start:

    Medea Benjamin as Batwoman

    ... yes, that unerasable fixture of the peep-peep school of moral protest, Medea Benjamin.

    Lest we forget, here's Medea back in '04:

    Medea Benjamin, a leader of Global Exchange and the Green Party's U.S. Senate candidate in California in 2000, says explicitly that Greens are justified in supporting a vote for Kerry, even though he is opposed to most everything on the Green Party agenda. "In the swing states, where this election's going to be determined, [Greens should] recognize that we owe it to the global community to get rid of George Bush," Benjamin says. "And if people in those swing states support that strategy of getting rid of George Bush, then voting for Kerry might be the strategic vote for them."
    Medea, you pink slug. Whilst seemingly just another hapless soul-wrenched gull, behind your pinker belle exterior throbs and slavers....

    Let's put it this way: if a mob of surly anarchists or Central American shoe workers ripped off this dainty bottle-headed imp's self-righteous spotlight-stealing chickadee-for-goodness cover, inside we'd find -- and I'll bet my ranch outside Vegas on this -- a bench-built, CIA first-quality transgendered-wolverine, ready to disrupt, at any appointed key juncture, both the anti-empire and anti-transnat movements.

    Warning, people of the good earth -- beware this pixie. She be toxic.

    June 4, 2007

    Alterman and the law

    Eric Alterman, notoriously, is now a criminal:

    http://www.thenation.com/doc/20070618/connell

    It's funny, really, but I can just see it. Mr I'm-Entitled, Chip-On-The-Shoulder Alterman falls foul of a chip-on-the-shoulder security guard -- a gatekeeper in the physical sense, unlike Eric, who is only a metaphorical gatekeeper. Or would like to be.

    Still, I have to say, this story has made me like Eric a great deal better than anything he's ever written could have done.Talking back to a doorshaker, and ending up in the slam -- why, Eric and I could practically be cellmates.

    Of course, if we had to share a cell, only one of us would ever leave it alive. Is he a big guy? Does he work out?

    June 20, 2007

    Flanders fields, Aronowitz strikes out

    Stanley Aronowitz has never been a particular hero of mine, but I warmed to him a bit last night, as he administered a gila-monster gnawing to the well-turned fetlock of Laura Flanders, shown above, a niece of Alex Cockburn and, I regret to say, something of a white sheep in that fine family of very, very black ones.

    Now any guy who could brave the seas of matrimony in a boat with the late (and by me, unlamented) Ellen Willis has got to have more than enough dura-ilia to take on a young person from Air America. And he had the advantage of being, so to speak, of the devil's party. But still, unequal as the combat was, it was fun to watch, in a mean-spirited, sadistic way – up to a point.

    The occasion was a debate in New York, sponsored by Left Forum and The Nation, on that great, evergreen question, “Can progressives move the Democratic Party to the left?”

    Continue reading "Flanders fields, Aronowitz strikes out" »

    June 21, 2007

    When I hear the phrase 'grand strategy'....

    Feet of Clay Dept.:

    I now read the blog of Harvard-perched Dani Rodrik quite regularly. He's very clever, but this post got my teeth gnashing:

    http://rodrik.typepad.com/dani_rodriks_weblog/2007/06/let_political_s.html

    Dani's lead: "This is the best thing I have read from a political scientist in a while...." Not saying a lot, admittedly – but even so, it's spectacularly bad: brass-trumpeting, coneheaded, Merlin-of-empire clarionizing by a Princeton poli-wog:

    The grand strategy America needs to pursue in the years ahead is not one aimed at a particular threat but rather at restoring its role as the recognized and legitimate leader of the system and rebuilding the institutions and partnerships upon which this leadership position is based....

    The grand strategy I am proposing can be called liberal order building. It is essentially a 21st century version of the strategy that the United States pursued after World War II in the shadow of the Cold War -- a strategy which produced the liberal hegemonic order that has provided the framework for the Western and global system ever since....

    American power is put in the service of an agreed upon system of Western-oriented global governance. American power is made acceptable to the world because it is embedded in these agreed upon rules and institutions.... The system itself leverages resources and fosters cooperation that makes the actual functioning of the order one that solves problems, creates stability, and allows democracy and capitalism to flourish. Liberal order building is America's distinctive contribution to world politics.

    My lord, and I thought Dani was a real emerging-worldview prog? Maybe he sees this as a near perfect synthesis of the liberal pandemonium's conventional wisdom -- but if so, say so, for God's sake. Really now -- a new protocol of empire "the best thing I've read in eons?" Poor Dani may be just an Ivy League merit noodle after all, if the likes of this "we earthlings need a return to adult management" crap gets him scratching his wonderdome in admiration.

    Sometimes I wonder

    Die Tradition aller toten Geschlechter lastet wie ein Alp auf dem Gehirne der Lebenden.* -- Karl Marx

    Owen alluded recently to my fondness for Doug Henwood's Left Business Observer and the mailing list associated with it, lbo-talk. I cheerfully admit the charge, even though lbo-talk is certainly by far the most irascible, uncivil, squabblesome e-mail list I have ever seen -- and that's saying a lot. Doug himself has a listowner style strongly reminiscent of Don Rickles. But I like it anyway -- or maybe, that's why I like it. Too much damn civility and sensitivity going around. Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke, as Jack Nicholson says in some movie, I've forgotten which.

    Still, sad to say, even in this coven of highly advanced Marxoids, it's amazing what a grip the Democratic Party retains on the minds of many. I don't usually call attention to my own japeries in other fora -- seems like the ultimate in blogger narcissism -- but I'll make an exception for once.

    On the mailing list yesterday, a thread erupted (sounds like something a carbuncle would do, doesn't it?) in response to tiny poison toad Mike Bloomberg's disaffiliation from the pachyderms and apparent intent to self-fund an independent run. Naturally it wasn't long before somebody bemoaned the likely effect on the Democrats. Also naturally, I took the bait and we were off to the races. A few excerpts:

    Michael Smith wrote:
    
    > On Wednesday 20 June 2007 14:27, Andy F wrote:
    >  
    > >  We'd be able to
    > > relive the whole Nader thing again.
    > 
    > How I wish. 
    

    Oh, and that worked out SO well. (And I voted for Nader in 2000.)

    * * *

    the Democrats (it seems to me) represent a weak but present barrier against a full blown assault on labour, women, gay, black people, etc. While the initial setback of the demolition of the Democrats might be a positive, even necessary, step in the direction of a long- lasting solution for these groups and the underlying ideologies, what of the suffering caused in the transition period? Are those directly affected ready and able to bear that cost?

    * * *

    Do you believe the Democrats do not contribute in providing some roadblocks to erosion of workplace rights, abortion rights, affirmative action, etc? No doubt they have been extravagantly cowardly in the aftermath of 9/11, but they did manage to push through a minimum wage increase, and will I think shoot down any possible Bush nominees to the Supreme Court who are off the centre. These are small and uncertain gains, but as Doug points out they may be the only ones available to the respective constituents....who is to make the call? Surely not me, sitting in my position of privilege? If the unions, NOW, HRC, etc endorse the Dems, what next?

    * * *

    On Jun 20, 2007, at 6:14 PM, Michael Smith wrote:
    
    > I think it worked out very well. It denied the 
    > Democrats a victory.  
    > True, like
    > the Bourbons, they've still learned nothing 
    > and forgotten nothing,  
    > and for
    > the same reason, but perhaps if we keep doing 
    > it to them they will  
    > fall apart
    > and clear the ground.
    

    For what? Just what are the Dems blocking? The revolutionary urge of the masses? When they fall, this frustrated and hitherto unexpressed revolutionary urge will spontaneously organize itself into a party and program? If there were all this bottled-up lust for transformative politics, why couldn't Ralph break 5%?

    * * *

    The stupidity I was talking about was yours, Michael, sorry to say....

    1. The Democrats will not go away, wither away, disappear, or otherwise do our work for us if they lose the next election. The two-party system is just too useful. They will just shift further right again, while the GOP continues to fall into the Schwarzchild radius of Christofascism. 2. The masses are not quivering on the brink of left wing revolution; the people who are organized to take advantage of a political vacuum want things that you don't even want to think about, theocracy....

    3. Sure, the masses might run up the red flag and start singing The Internationale tomorrow, and pigs might grow wings and fly, but "the beans might be magic" is a pretty poor substitute for political analysis. Why on earth should be base a political strategy on the possibility that for reasons no one can explain, all the observable forces now in motion, with all their inertia, might inexplicably reverse direction?

    4. I love that "yeah, well, there might be some suffering if the Democrats collapse, but social upheaval involves suffering." You're pretty fucking blithe about it. Omelets and eggs, yawn? The worse the better? "Nach Hitler Uns!" Gee, that didn't work out so well either. No wonder the far left has about as much traction on the working class as a flea on ice.

    5. Our alternatives suck. The Democrats are lousy, they will sell us out, they are in the process of doing so. Again. The Republicans are threatening to put the lights out for real. Our enemies are extremely well organized. We are fucked sideways.

    6. I kind of agree... that the best thing we can do is help organize in movements. That's not inconsistent with an open eyed support of less obnoxious Democrats. It doesn't require such support, but when I look at what the Supreme Court just did to the Equal Pay Act, I think maybe it's nor such a bad idea, as long as we are clear that this isn't a step towards the revo. It's just as step back from the abyss.

    * * *

    At 05:14 PM 6/20/2007, you wrote:
    >perhaps if we keep doing it to them they will fall apart
    >and clear the ground.
    
    well, it could be paving the way for bloomies as the new party, eh? :) i mean, like clearing the way for what? exactly? clearing the way ain't going to bring the demise of capitalism or anything else, no more than the upheavals of the 60s (watergate, pentagon papers, etc.) cleared the way for anything other than more of the same. and we're in worse shape, now, in terms of any kind of organized political infrastructure to take advantage of such crises, than we were in the 60s/70s.
    Now you wouldn't be surprised to read this stuff on Daily Kos, but on lbo-talk? These guys and gals are such fire-eating Reds they make Trotsky look like Kautsky. And man oh man, are they ever intellectuals! They eat Foucault for breakfast, dine on Hegel auf Deutsch, take a little shot of Nietzsche as a nightcap. Yet the sorry old Democratic Party seems to have planted its brain bug all the same in a good many of these mighty intellects.

    And what to make of the masochistic delight with which the direness of our predicament is so lip-smackingly delineated? What is that about? Aren't revolutionaries supposed to be, like, hopeful? Not this gang -- instead we get the prisoner's dithyramb to his chains. O mighty chains! Chains of steel! You hold me so tight, chains! I'll never get out of you, O chains, no matter how I writhe and wriggle! You are some chains, O chains!


    * All the stuff handed down from every generation of the dead weighs heavy as a nightmare on the brains of the living.

    June 24, 2007

    Eleanor Digby; or, All the lonely people

    I've become that bitter guy mental hygiene enthusiasts scorn -- a cankered, unempathic, self-absorbed turtle, completely beyond reclamation. The inbite of lifelong failure will often do that to a mirror-stage dropout. So who am I then to cast stones when I puddle up some feckless cast-iron prose oddity?

    But then arrives Ms Digby's anointing:

    http://www.thenation.com/doc/20070702/digby

    ... and I can't help it, I cast stones as fast as I can.

    Why at her in particular, so recently bronzed as the official hood ornament for all prog-blog leapers across America? Let me put it to you this way: it's like finding your grinless silent fast-departing pimple-sized audience is not laffin' or diggin' it 'cause the fuckers are just stone deaf.

    In the land of the deaf and dumb, Digby is queen. She's the beltway pundits' platonic form of a netroots insurgent, and for the best of reasons: she's a fuckin' high-C fool, just the ticket for the corporate party lite's co-opt act.

    In Herself's 'umble "I accept this for all of us" speech for the mediocrity-of-the-year award linked to above, our gal reveals -- in a compact sort of way -- much of what lies behind the triple-bolted Green Door. This award exposes by her very selection the internet dirty-tricks detour sign set up to divert the flow of the coming mass rising of the mittelstand jobbler zillions. It's to be staffed by these Digby, Donatello and Stoller types. They and their familiars will be the phalanx of false prophets promoted by the corporate-sponsored MSM guide to the netroots.

    But enough of generality – let's dive in. Here's an example of darling Ms Digby's fatuous preening (try to chew this, you melancholy curs):

    We [prog-bloggers] are, in short, something of an enigma. I like to call this phenomenon--irrational fear of hippies which has, in my view, become--irrational fear of political passion.
    Something of an enigma? To whom, good hearted crusader, are y'all any sort of "enigma"? For fucksake, Lassie could size you up. And exactly in whose evil heart have you sown "fear" of your "passion"?

    How Blanche Dubois you are, my dear... passion passion passion! One sniffles in nervous embarrassment at this flowering into divahood. How predictable is it that a closet histrionic might suddenly explode into unbecoming self-display upon the receipt of a statuette.

    Our gal points out,

    ... passion sometimes manifests itself as anger.... how can you not be angry, when [get set for the Sunday punch -O.P.] So many institutions have failed us in the last decade.... [B]eing vitriolic seems the only sane response.

    Indeed it is, if you plan on doing nothing about it. And if we need to wax "vitriolic" – then what a venue the internet portal provides! Out there, through its wires, waiting in their cubicles, are all us fellow-travellers aboard Spaceship Myfuckinjobsucks, primed for a political passion movement, and it's wild, baby, wild!

    If you have something to say you can say it -- and if it touches a chord, people will return time and again to read what you've written and discuss the issues of the day with others who are reading the same things.
    At any rate she's dead right here -- all it takes is a 'net hookup to join one of a jillion digital prog villages out there in Virtualistan, Every village has a special smile all its own, but they all have in common that everybody's dressed anyhow, and largely from anywhere. So come join us and be welcomed! -- at least so long as your head's inside the same rainbow, so to speak.

    Just what, according to Digby, is the deep shared structural motive of all these conspicuously bright-colored conspiring conclaves?

    All of us who blog in the progressive blogosphere, have a common goal.... We want to... take back America.
    Wait! Wait! Stop the march music! “Take back America”? Back from who? (Or do I mean whom?) Why, from Dick Cheney and company -- Darth Amerika as opposed to “our” America.

    Okay, swell, let's give it a whirl -- but first, my dear, tell me why all these "institutions" have "failed us" in the first place.

    Now I agree, institutions everywhere – publical, civical, academical, foundational, corporational, NPO, NGO, arpeggio -- they've all "failed" us -- but did they fail themselves? Was it a case of mass institutional capture by black-hat Darths, cheered on by the likes of Bill Bennett and Martin Feldstein? Or was it something... much worse?

    Advice to you, my queen, before you ride out agin' 'em with your posse of well-intended white-bonneted ronin -- first uncover the full dimensions of this Darth Amerika you are fixin' to wrest institutional power from.

    And start by checking right there inside your own headgear. Imagine we are all Darth Amerika's pod people. It's kinda like the total depravity doctrine of classical Calvinism. You gotta figure, since we're all infected, Darth Amerika's agents, aware or unaware, are already inside every big or little tent, behind every curtain -- not just up there in every tower office, but down below, too, in every cellar hideout, waiting, and watching, and ready to talk up a gibberish storm.

    To be specific: check out this plague-carrying meme emerging from your own mellifluous throat:

    We all agree that Islamic terrorism is a threat, but one which we cannot meet with military power alone.
    Now that right there, all by itself, will send you on a permanent set of bummer head trips. There's something called “terrorism”? Islamic terrorism? A "threat"? Military power -- alone?! Yikes! Kill the pig! Kill the pig!

    If you buy that crap, then you are a Darth bot, an agent in good standing of black-hat Amerika. Say this to yourself over and over: "Digby! There is no terrorist threat to nice decent America -- only to Darth Amerika! Digby! The use of the Darth empire's military power is never justified!"

    Do it, gal! You gotta purge, baby, purge! Free your mind of corporate gremlins! Exorcise yourself -- the unexorcised life is not worth living. Go vomit up all this corporate bile, all this satanic alphabet soup, you've swallowed over the years, just like all the rest of us. Then go ahead, be fuckin' "passionate".

    June 28, 2007

    The Nation does Venezuela

    I'm on an lbo-talk jag this week, I guess. One of my favorite contributors there is Yoshie Furuhashi, who also writes for MRZine. Today in lbo-talk she contributed the following:

    When "social democrats of mediocre caliber" take a break from the hard work of helping the empire destroy the Middle East's only republican democracy, what do they do? They get on the case of Venezuela. Naturally.

    http://www.thenation.com/doc/20070709/villalobos

    Revolution in Venezuela?
    by Joaquín Villalobos

    Hugo Chávez has committed a grave error in closing down the opposition TV station, which has been on the air a half-century. Like it or not, this was not a frontal attack on the economic elite but rather a blow to the cultural identity of millions of Venezuelans--and it will have severe consequences for the government. Trying to replace popular soap operas and game shows watched by the poor with pathetic "revolutionary" programming is as bad as leaving them without food.

    The Nation identifies [author] Joaquín Villalobos only as "top commander and strategist of the leftist FMLN in El Salvador, [who] was a principal in the 1992 peace accords," but Villalobos, having left the FMLN (more than a decade ago), became a hard-line critic of the Left and tried (but failed) to get a centrist party called the Partido Democrático really off [the] ground in El Salvador. He is now a friend of Álvaro Uribe* and a member of Inter-American Dialog:

    http://www.thedialogue.org/membership/members.asp

    What's Inter-American Dialog's agenda for Venezuela? Among other things, it aims to:

    Closely track political developments in Venezuela and publicly identify violations of democratic norms and practices....(Michael Shifter, "Hugo Chávez: A Test for U.S. Policy / Hugo Chávez: Un Desafío para la Política Exterior de los Estados Unidos," A Special Report of the Inter- American Dialogue, March 2007, http://www.thedialogue.org/publications/2007/spring/venezuela.pdf, http://www.thedialogue.org/publications/2007/spring/chavez_esp.pdf)

    --------------

    *"Starting in 1992, Villalobos founded the Democratic Party and converted to pragmatism, harshly criticizing his former comrades from the Farabundo Marti Front for National Liberation. Nowadays he's a 'mediator of conflicts' and advisor to Uribe, the Colombian president who's so friendly to the paramilitaries and has shadowy links with the world of drug-traffickers." (Higinio Polo, "La lucidez del converso," El Viejo Topo, 14 October 2004, http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=6000).

    July 2, 2007

    A richly deserved pie in the face for Medea

    Mike Flugennock passes along the following splendid item:

    --------------------

    http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2007/07/01/18432047.php

    http://www.indybay.org/uploads/2007/07/01/bakers_1.mov

    Bakers without Borders and Co-optation Watch take action today at the US Social Forum to demand accountability from a self-appointed "spokesperson" whose actions further the commodification of resistance and sabotage our movement's sustainability and credibility. This person's actions benefit the NGO Industrial Complex at the expense of real democracy and solidarity.

    In particular, we hold Medea Benjamin accountable for:

    - Publicly siding with the police and municipal authorities against direct actions performed at the World Trade Organization protests of 1999.

    - Administrative authority in an organization that hordes funds raised for community organizations in Guatemala

    - Administrative authority in an organization that solicited the economic dependency of residents in Cuba and then abandoned the project, pushing the Cuban participants deeper into poverty.

    - Acting as self-appointed spokesperson of the "American Left". One egregious example is publicly refusing to endorse a call by hundreds of Lebanese citizens for Israel to unconditionally withdraw from Southern Lebanon in the 2006 war, claiming that the American Left would not swallow such a demand.

    - Exploiting and dominating movement space, resources, and publicity in the global justice and associated movements.

    July 11, 2007

    Honest Eric, the Distinguished Professor

    We reported yesterday on the elevation of Eric "Cheeky Chappie" Alterman to the Parnassus of distinguished-professorhood. Eric himself is pleased as Punch about this brummagem laurel wreath, and doesn't mind who knows it:
    http://mediamatters.org/altercation/200707100002#1

    First things first: Congratulations to me on the occasion of my being named a "CUNY Distinguished Professor of English" at Brooklyn College. Professionally speaking, it's just about the best thing that's ever happened to me. (Though it's not in the press release, I am also a Professor of Journalism at the new CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, where I'll be teaching the "journalism of ideas" in the fall.)

    "Journalism of ideas"? The "ideas of journalism" would have been closer to the mark. Although in Eric's case, that's a little too uncomplimentary to the journalist's profession -- if it's possible to be too uncomplimentary to the journalist's profession. Good authorities have thought otherwise.

    And of course one has to admire Eric's unflagging, relentless self-regard -- he clearly feels that the CUNY press release announcing this canonization wasn't nearly complimentary enough to him.

    My favorite response to Alterman's preening came across the wire on, you guessed it, lbo-talk, from the wonderfully poison pen of Dwayne Monroe:

    http://mailman.lbo-talk.org/pipermail/lbo-talk/Week-of-Mon-20070709/013108.html

    From the Wikipedia entry on Venus:

    Venus has the densest atmosphere of all the terrestrial planets, consisting mostly of carbon dioxide... It has become so hot that the earth-like oceans the young Venus is believed to have possessed have totally evaporated, leaving a dusty dry desertscape with many slab-like rocks. Worse still, the evaporated water vapor has dissociated and hydrogen has escaped into interplanetary space.
    Well, that's pretty damn hot.

    And yet, I imagine a bone crushing, flesh searing afternoon on Venus would be delightfully comfortable in comparison to a minute spent within the superheated plasma blown corridors of Sir Alterman's mind.

    July 13, 2007

    Kos joins the big-time sellouts

    From my inbox:
    Special News Bulletin: YearlyKos Welcomes Another Candidate to Groundbreaking Leadership Forum

    The YearlyKos Convention team is pleased to welcome Senator Hillary Clinton to the second annual, historic gathering of the netroots in Chicago this August. Clinton joins Senators Edwards, Obama, Dodd, and Governor Bill Richardson as a participant in the first ever collaborative presidential forum with both a respected blogger(Joan McCarter of DailyKos) and a leading member of the traditional media (Matt Bai of The New York Times Magazine) as moderators, with author and blogger Dr. Jeffrey Feldman facilitating questions from attendees.

    A "respected blogger"? Isn't that, like, an oxymoron?

    The short history of Kosnikia provides a really brilliant, crisp case-study in the operation of the Democratic Party as a engine of co-optation. Matt Bai! When he shows up, you know the vultures have stopped circling -- they've landed and begun to dine.

    August 7, 2007

    Slumming again

    Yeah, yeah, I know, nostalgie de la boue and all that. Anyway, I've been prowling the tawdry corridors of Daily Kos again, and look at this gem:

    http://dailykos.com/storyonly/2007/8/7/10724/63246

    A Request for Help from the Kos Community
    by davidsirota
    Tue Aug 07, 2007 at 07:09:21 AM PDT

    A few months ago, I told Kossacks that I was asked by Creators Syndicate to write a nationally syndicated, weekly newspaper column in the wake of the tragic death of our great hero Molly Ivins. Today, the column is being launched, and I need everyone's help.

    Over the course of the next month, Creators will be letting newspaper editors all over the country know that I will start writing new columns for national publication in early September. The more these editors hear from you - their local readers - that you would like to see the column printed in your local papers, the better the chance there is that they will run the column.

    So, if you support my writing and think we need a strong, progressive populist voice to counter the glut of right-wing syndicated columnists on the editorial pages of local newspapers, then please EMAIL OR CALL YOUR LOCAL EDITORIAL PAGE EDITORS and let them know you'd like them to run my weekly Creators Syndicate column.

    This somehow reminds me of the one time Al Franken was ever funny, back in 1979:

    http://snltranscripts.jt.org/79/79fupdate.phtml

    Al Franken: Thank you, Jane. Well, the "me" decade is almost over, and good riddance... I believe the 80's are gonna have to be different. I think that people are going to stop thinking about themselves, and start thinking about me, Al Franken. That's right. I believe we're entering what I like to call the Al Franken Decade. Oh, for me, Al Franken, the 80's will be pretty much the same as the 70's. I'll still be thinking of me, Al Franken. But for you, you'll be thinking more about how things affect me, Al Franken. When you see a news report, you'll be thinking, "I wonder what Al Franken thinks about this thing?", "I wonder how this inflation thing is hurting Al Franken?" And you women will be thinking, "What can I wear that will please Al Franken?", or "What can I not wear?" You know, I know a lot of you out there are thinking, "Why Al Franken?" Well, because I thought of it, and I'm on TV, so I've already gotten the jump on you.
    David goes on to give his loyal readers and volunteer promoters a little Aunt-Polly advice:
    Also remember that if you do get in touch with your editors, be respectful and polite. This is a big opportunity for the progressive movement to amplify our agenda, and I find that in the newspaper arena, we can be most successful if we avoid browbeating.
    One gets the impression that David thinks some of his boosters are not too tightly wrapped, and worries that they might drive customers away rather than bringing 'em in the door.

    Let George do it

    More deep pathos from Daily Kos:

    http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2007/8/6/10577/87614

    YearlyKos Appeal to Soros: Fund a Real Counterweight to AIPAC
    by Robert Naiman
    Mon Aug 06, 2007 at 08:01:29 AM PDT

    At a well-attended panel at YearlyKos on the "Arc of Crisis" in the Middle East, there was a spirited discussion about what, if anything, to do about U.S. policy towards Israel and the Palestinians....

    [T]here are indeed groups in Washington working to counter the influence of AIPAC on U.S. policy towards Israel and the Palestinians, the most influential being Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, Israel Policy Forum, and Americans for Peace Now. But ... these groups are underfunded and not as effective as they could be.

    Not so long ago, it seemed these groups had a practical plan to address these shortcomings. In October, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported:

    "A top staffer for billionaire philanthropist George Soros met recently with senior representatives of the dovish pro-Israel community to discuss setting up an alternative to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee."
    Apparently Soros backed out.... Sadly, I don't have a personal relationship with George Soros, or I would call him up and appeal to him directly. So I will appeal to him here....
    There follows a lengthy obsequious open letter to Soros begging him to become the pwoggies' moneybags-ex-machina and summon into being, from out the vasty deep, a pwoggie counter-AIPAC.

    Hey, if you can't build a movement, buy one. Or better yet, get a sugar daddy to buy one for you.

    December 3, 2007

    Crestiens ont droit, et paiens ont tort

    More on religion and its substitutes (and non-substitutes).

    Fate has landed me, of late, in circumstances where I have to drive around a fair amount. Not my usual way of life, but illuminating in a grisly sort of way -- I'm now full of admiration for ordinary flyover Americans because they're even as sane as they are; a lifetime of driving as much as the average American drives would have had me in a straitjacket decades ago.

    Part of the horror of it is... the radio. If you can get one of the real old-fashioned Bible-thumpers, they're terrific and fascinating, but they've actually become pretty scarce. There are a lot of angry bores spouting off, about politics or sports; there are a lot of stations playing slight variations on the same current music, which usually leaves me regrettably cold; there are a few "classical" stations playing, as far as I can tell, mostly Vivaldi (the horror!). And then, of course, there's NPR.

    I blush to admit that it's usually NPR I end up listening to. I know, I know, you're going to say I've gone soft in the head, and you're probably right. I guess it's a kind of media lesser-evillism. But when they've got you in the back room, under the bright lights, and they bring out the rubber hoses -- and that's life in Media America, folks -- you can't be blamed too much for seeking out something relatively anodyne. Can you? Can you? Throw me a friggin' bone here, as Dr Evil says.

    Anyway. All this by way of prooemium. I was listening to NPR in the car this evening and they were interviewing some suspiciously understated Baptist preacher in Iowa (that is the place where they have the caucuses, right? Or is that Kansas?). The interviewer circled and circled again, in a narrowing gyre, and finally clenched her talons and fell like a bolt upon the all-important, world-historical Fetus Question. "Just how important is that to your congregants, Pastor?"

    Pastor: "Well, it's pretty important. It's kind of a make-or-break issue."

    Interviewer: "So suppose next fall there's a pro-choice candidate on both tickets. What would those... that is, your... I mean, erm, Christians do?"

    Long pause. Long pause.

    Interviewer [in tones of horror]: "Would they... just... not vote?"

    Pastor: "Well, now, y'know, it's... Some of 'em might not." [Eager, earnest] "I mean, I personally think that's wrong, a serious mistake, and I would never, never advise that... But some of 'em might not."

    Interviewer [with the satisfaction of a Dante, having just revealed to us the horrors of the Pit]: "Thank you, Pastor Frammistat."

    Pastor: [His fifteen seconds of fame are over; heartfelt] "Thank you!"

    Now here's my question. How many pwogs are there out there to whom the Iraq war is as important as the holy fetus is to Pastor Frammistat's fold? How many bold, emancipated, enlightened, highly-educated, deeply-unsuperstitious Darwin admirers are there who are willing to go as far for what they say they believe as Pastor Frammistat's poor benighted God-fearing fetus-worshipping pew-sitters -- so far as to, gasp, stay home on Election Day?

    If my own acquaintance is any guide, the answer is, not very many. Pastor F's flock have planted their standard on ground that seems ill-chosen to me -- the sanctity of the fetus, the horror of same-sex sex -- but damn if they haven't planted it. These are the things they really believe in, and if they can't advance their cause at the voting booth, then the hell with the voting booth -- they'll go elsewhere.

    They make me rather ashamed of my own supposed fellow-travellers, the good-hearted, peace-loving, high-minded, secular-humanist, children of the Enlightenment, and of the New Deal, and of Marlo Thomas. Where is their standard planted? Alas, I fear if you look at their actions, you will find it is firmly planted in existing institutions -- the voting booth, the two-party system, the electoral college, oh and don't forget... the Supreme Court.

    There are a lot of reasons why the flat-earthers and the fetus-worshippers get more respect than the give-peace-a-chance crowd. I don't want to oversimplify here -- or undersimplify either, if it comes to that. But surely one reason that the former swing more weight than the latter is, that they really mean what they say?

    December 29, 2007

    Don't play it again, Sam

    Mike Flugennock writes in:
    SAM SMITH wrote:

    http://prorev.com/2007/12/most-important-primary-decision-in-40.html

    > 
    > ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
    > THE MOST IMPORTANT PRIMARY DECISION IN FORTY YEARS
    > ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
    > 
    > If Edwards wins the Iowa caucuses, it will be the most significant 
    > progressive primary win since Eugene McCarthy got 41% of the vote in New 
    > Hampshire in 1968.
    

    Sam, dude. I love ya, bro', but I'm begging you. Knock it off with the Senator Goodhair hype. The guy makes a big deal out of being some kind of progressive populist, but ... How long was he a nobody in the Senate before he got picked to co-pilot the 2004 Swift Boat To Hell? Senator Breck Boy was a runner-up in the same Political American Idol contest that plucked Senator Magic Negro from out of nowhere.

    ... with all due respect, man, for the love of all that's good and decent, why are you so nuts about John Edwards? He was gung-ho for the war when he thought that knowingly believing the lies would keep his ass in power, and when he got caught out believing the lies, he spewed the same old "oh, I was so terribly deceived" line of crap that all the other Democrats were spewing when public opinion shifted against the war -- and then, went right back to believing the lies being told about Iran, for _another_ big Bush war drive.

     
    > While those who prefer the personal, albeit single digit, purity of 
    > supporting a Kucinich may scoff...
    

    While I think Kucinich is a totally useless energy- and resource-sucking vortex designed by the Democrats to waste the US Left's time, still -- I think whatever movement you're in is fucked without "purity" of thought and vision. No revolution was won without it. We're in the trouble we're in now because the US Left insists on shackling itself to a dead institution that's made a business out of compromising principles for political expediency until it's got no principles left to compromise. Don't forget the Pogo quote that you, yourself, proudly brandish on the PR blog site.

    > ...even Ralph Nader agrees that an Edwards 
    > nomination would be a historic shift in the political landscape...
    

    And that, friends, is pretty goddamn' sad. Sad that the Democratic Party nomination of a rich, white, gated-suburb-dwelling, ambulance-chaser whose idea of universal health care is to force everybody to become customers of for-profit health-insurance corporations -- the "Nixon Plan" for corporate-dominated healthcare -- would be considered a "historic shift in the political landscape". I knew things were sucking in this country lately, but I never realized that they were sucking so deeply and profoundly that the DP running Senator Goodhair for El Presidente would be a "historic shift".

    Now, on the other hand, a rock-bottom turnout next year -- a turnout so small that no party or pundit could claim a "mandate" or to claim that "the People have spoken" or that "non-voters are apathetic" -- followed by a widespread general strike, followed by a very large, spontaneous, belligerent, possibly a bit violent, mass mobilization to Capitol Hill (a la the 1970 post-Kent State convergence on DC) to demand the immediate resignation and exile of _all_ incumbent political leadership and a brand-new election -- now, _that'd_ be a historic shift in the goddamn' political landscape.

    > Edwards' election would signal the end of another era, namely that of 
    > Reagan, the Bushes and Clinton - one that has wrecked social democracy, 
    > returned the economy to robber baron standards and caused us to be hated 
    > around the world...
    

    Oh f'cripesake, Sam. The guy's a goddamn' _Democrat_... you know, the party which has been aiding and abetting this misery as far back as I can remember. "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss..." --the Who.

    > Finally we can begin again. This would not be a reflection of Edwards' 
    > virtues so much as of the strength of a constituency for change that 
    > this country has not seen for a long time. And it would be a victory for 
    > all of us.
    

    No, it'd be a victory for the Democratic party and corporate-cash-strung-out politics.

    If you ask me, electing a Democratic Administration would just put off the inevitable. I'd just as soon see the final collapse of the DP and the immediate prospect of four years of "Giuliani Time" shocking people off of their couches and into the streets. Look how well President Chimp did at unifying the US Left -- until, of course, the 2004 "election", in which sizeable numbers of them suddenly fell into a deep psychosis in which they believed that electing a party that was enabling the current Iraq horror would end it. Many of them continue to shuffle around in this debilitated state to this day.

    I still remember how hard it was trying to organize the US Left against the _last_ Democratic Administration...basically, like trying to push a truck uphill with a rope.

    All I can say is that I'm glad I've finally realized what a useless freak show this all is, and that I've quit caring. I can't begin to tell you how liberating it is to not give a rat's ass who "wins" the "election" -- and how especially liberating it is not to care about the goddamn' _Democrats_ -- because I know none of that class of people will bring us any change, nor will trudging off and validating a corrupt, collapsing institution with my "vote".

    January 25, 2008

    Dennis the non-menace

    Alas, poor Dennis .... He leaves the Great Race alive and alone, but unafraid -- well, not quite alone. There's the Valkyrie at his side.

    And yet wouldn't it be Fortune's way -- he returns to home base only to face yet another uphill scrap. Even in the twilight of his career the furies are fast upon him. Four, yes four, not just three but four Dembot contenders have risen up in indignation and outrage to wrest away his seat in the House.

    Makes a bloke wonder... what doth it profit a pol to be loyal to his party, even beyond the call of conscience?

    February 1, 2008

    Woodrow redivivus?

    Back in the second decade or so of the last century -- the golden age of pwoggery -- this mighty "movement", this expression of merit-class hope, faith, and piety, went totally bipartisan. Even if at that time, the Republicans might have had more true believers, both parties had their mighty contingents of progressive hearts and minds.

    At its high-water mark, in the election year of 1912, everyone but Pitchfork Ben Tillman, Nelson Aldrich, and "Fat Bill" Taft pretty much joined the progs' reform bandwagon, or at least cleared out of its way. Why, TR and St Woodrow -- two men more unalike than Colonel Custer and Sitting Bull -- both wanted the label boldly stiitched on their ass. In fact, they both wanted it so much they tried burying their entire political careers under an avalanche of progspeak. The parlor cowboy and the pecksniffian prig both swanned about spewing anti-corporate venom like Ida Tarbell herself.

    Now back in '96, these same future pillars of our socio-political legacy had also shared a bipartisan aspiration -- but this one was of a different stripe entirely. This one was not to be achieved by mere opportunism. No, this one came from the deepest wellsprings of their social souls. It amounted in each case to an unmitigated, full throttle expression of each one's class nature. To their own surprise, even, they both discovered within them not only opposition, but a visceral horror of all things... populist!

    It was as if just the contemplation of Bryan's barefoot dirty-faced shambles of a backcountry crusade forming up on the southwestern horizon might cause ringworms to seep right through their shoes and up onto their cheeks.

    Nothing gave them more pleasure than to beat down this social infection. Wilson even joined Cleveland's Gold Democrat breakaway movement, that backed a pair of horses' asses willing to hold high the banner of true sound-money democracy. Both breathed more easily when Bryan got whomped.

    These two heroic Orthrians of yore moved "left", along with big chunks of each of their parties' core bases, between the Bryan uprising in '96 and the prog-gone-wild parade of '12. I submit we oughta prepare ourselves for another such shift in the big two party tectonics. I see John McCain mouthing anticorporate hogwash, and St Hillabama pulling off the same range of "major reforms" that Woody and company pulled together during his 8 year reign -- a short list:

    • The Fed
    • income taxes
    • Woman suffrage
    • Jim Crow II
    • Prohibition
    • The Palmer raids
    • And of course the great Democratic staple, a high-minded war.
    Well, yaa, it did kinda run down the far slope there in the second term.

    Probably TR would have done 'em all too, maybe not in the same order -- the war might have moved up a few notches.

    February 24, 2008

    Sir David Rotifer

    Read this one, fans -- flabby-brained netscamp David Sirota's cri de coeur to his Kosniki mates: "don't hate me -- just 'cause I made it big in the MSM."

    Seems every time Davie posts anything now at Daily Kos, a small group of very vitriolic and very angry people personally attack him -- and well, it "confuses" and "hurts" the poor pwoggie lambkins. After all, "youse is s'posed to be my loyal fan base, guys and gals!"

    http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/2/23/132444/743/145/462584

    ---------------

    Lexicostatistical note from the editor: Sirota's plaint contained a hefty 2425 words, of which 159, or 7%, were various forms of the first person singular pronoun.

    February 27, 2008

    I have Zinned

    I'm not usually a huge fan of Howard Zinn -- this subject has arisen here before -- but a kind reader just sent this along:

    http://progressive.org/mag_zinn0308

    Today, we can be sure that the Democratic Party, unless it faces a popular upsurge, will not move off center. The two leading Presidential candidates have made it clear that if elected, they will not bring an immediate end to the Iraq War, or institute a system of free health care for all....

    None of this should surprise us. The Democratic Party has broken with its historic conservatism, its pandering to the rich, its predilection for war, only when it has encountered rebellion from below, as in the Thirties and the Sixties....

    So we need to free ourselves from the election madness engulfing the entire society, including the left.

    Well, day-umm, I thought, that's pretty strong stuff, and right on target. So I went and read the whole thing. Bit of a mistake:
    ...I’m not taking some ultra-left position that elections are totally insignificant, and that we should refuse to vote to preserve our moral purity. Yes, there are candidates who are somewhat better than others, and at certain times of national crisis (the Thirties, for instance, or right now) where even a slight difference between the two parties may be a matter of life and death.

    I’m talking about a sense of proportion that gets lost in the election madness. Would I support one candidate against another? Yes, for two minutes—the amount of time it takes to pull the lever down in the voting booth.

    Sigh. How long, O Lord, how long?

    March 9, 2008

    Demonstrating with the stars

    Oh, hot damn' diggety; here's the usual suspects, back again to waste our time:

    www.stop-losscongress.org

    -- Code Pink, Democratic Party front group, starring Medea "Media" Benjamin, the Britney Spears of the anti-war "movement" (oops, she did it again);

    -- IVAW, starring Adam Kokesh and his sprayed-on t-shirt, and George Clooney of the anti-war "movement" (sigh, swoon, palpitate);

    -- Hip-Hop Caucus, starring Lennox "Whip Me, Beat Me, Cripple Me" Yearwood, achievers of absolutely nothing that I can recall;

    -- ANSWER, who coulda' been a contendahh (cue the Volga Boatman);

    ... and, of course, the inimitable After Downing Street (jeezus, give it up, the "election" is less than a year away, already, thank Dog);

    -- PLUS a cast of dozens! Be still, my heart.

    Oh, how I can hardly wait for this retitled, repackaged, same old shit in a different bag -- yet another round of trudging up to Crapitol Hill to beseech a bunch of bloody oligarchs to act against their own best interests, and one...more...time, be threatened with arrest, roughed up and bum's-rushed out of the goddamn' place. Check out their lame-assed "Mission Statement" (god, how I hate "Mission Statements") at www.stop-losscongress.org:

    We believe that the time has passed to ask or petition or beg Congress to act under the will of the people. We believe that Congress works for US, and that the time has come to TELL them what they must do. It is time to stop the corrupt and murderous business as usual in the Senate and House of Representatives.

    We will participate in non violent direct actions that will deliver our official orders to Congress, and confront them peacefully if they refuse to comply. When we model this behavior to the citizens of the USA, and the world, we hope to inspire them to take similar actions, and take back control of Congress and the Government that is ours...

    Lemme get this straight: They say the time has passed to ask, petition or beg Congress, so what are they going to do next week? Why, they're going to ask, petition and beg.

    Remember that old joke about how nobody's life and liberty are safe while Congress is in session? Well, it's not a goddamn' joke anymore. If you ask me, you should just let the motherfuckers leave town so that we can enjoy whatever shreds of liberty and dignity we have left until they come back.

    March 12, 2008

    Here's the beef

    If Obie wants to scotch all this talk about him for Ma Scorpion's veep, then he oughta name his own running mate right now. My idea of the perfect candidate for him: "Out Now" t-shirt commando Adam Kokesh, the self-christened "revolutionary patriot".

    All those slightly long-in-the-tooth white gals who form Hillary's core cadre will drop her in a heartbeat, once this Chippendale's on the ticket.

    http://kokesh.blogspot.com

    March 13, 2008

    Control freak

    Quote for the day:

    http://www.ourfuture.org/blog-entry/learning-cultural-conservatives-part-iii-taking-it-street

    It's from that long-sighted Crane Brinton disciple, Sara Robinson:

    "Progressives will not be able to implement our vision of the future until we're able to supplant the conservative worldview with our own. We won't win until we take control of the discourse, offer Americans new ways to make meaning and evaluate and prioritize events, and get them to abandon conservative assumptions about how reality works."
    Nice, huh? Sara wants to "control the discourse" -- which, of course, for her, implies controlling reality. Awfully logocentric, these pwogs.

    And remarkably candid about this intent to "control", come to think of it.

    Habt acht vor dem nächtlichen Heer!

    I was delighted by the site Owen recently sent us to:

    http://www.ourfuture.org/blog-entry/learning-cultural-conservatives-part-iii-taking-it-street

    ... namely, Sara Robinson's ruminations on how pwoggies ought to emulate what she calls "conservatives":

    ... more and more of us are becoming aware of the ways that conservatives have quietly moved in to take over almost every public and private institution in America. From churches to university faculties to public broadcasting to the Boy Scouts, the vast network of institutions that once taught people how to live in a liberal democracy and reinforced those values across society has been shredded to the point where it no longer functions. In its place is a new network of institutions -- some of them operating within the co-opted shells of the old ones, others brand new -- that reinforce the conservative worldview at every turn.
    What caught my eye about this was its wistful picture of benign "institutions" -- one imagines thick stone walls, heavy oaken gates, and of course sleepless high-minded liberal gatekeepers to tend them.

    Within the walls is light and comfort. The peasants sing their simple lullabyes, enjoying the fruits of "liberal democracy" without ever having heard the phrase or knowing what it means, and certainly without acknowledging or understanding their debt to the gatekeepers.

    But it's too good to last. Do the gatekeepers get tired? Or are they just too few, or their burden too great? By ones and twos, and then by scores and centuries, dark loathesome orc-like figures -- conservatives! -- creep in the shadows over the battlements and ultimately "take over" the institutions that Sara admires so much.

    The core image here is one of dispossession. We pwoggies used to control the institutions, but then somehow those crafty conservatives stole a march on us, scaled the institutional wall, and "took over". How exactly did that happen? They must be fiendishly smart!

    The element that's missing in this picture is what Anthony Trollope would have called the "Castle influence". Up there in the Castle, what is Lord Gormenghast doing? Does he play no role in this little drama?

    Is it not possible that he wants the conservatives to take over? Perhaps... he has even paid them to scale the walls! Provided them with the ladders! And slipped the liberals a Mickey, on the crucial night, in the dark of the moon.

    Forty years or so ago -- back in the reign of old Lord Gormenghast, who sleeps now in the halls of his fathers -- the peasants got a little restless. They stopped singing their lullabyes and went out into the streets and stopped traffic. Old Lord Gormenghast was alarmed. His counselors at the time, a crafty and subtle crew, spoke with one voice: "Summon the liberals! Let them devise... programs! Let them reform our institutions -- from churches to the Boy Scouts!"

    It worked. It smelt like progress, and the peasants went back to their lullabyes. Then when the Castle decided the crisis had passed, and it was time to restore the status quo, the peasants looked at the liberals who were now managing the retrenchment -- and they blamed the liberals. And Lord Gormenghast, who never liked the liberals all that much anyway, was well pleased, and gave a well-received speech from the Castle battlements, admonishing the liberals for their failures.

    I know, I know. Parables, when they go on too long, become tedious. So let's say it explicitly, if a little abstractly, and less picturesquely:

    Sara's picture is one of institutions that are, you might say, ontologically prior to politics. The walls and gates have, as it were, existed from of old -- the work of Weland or nameless ettins from the dark backward and abysm of time. Somehow these perdurable "institutions" got "taken over" -- and so Sara's job is to take 'em back, naturally.

    Sara has got it backwards. Politics are ontologically prior to institutions -- though Sara, with her liberal institution-worship, will almost certainly never be able to understand that fact, and indeed will resist the insight, I bet, to her dying day.

    Sara's wistful hope is to do what the orcs did: scale the walls, slip over the battlements, re-take the "institutions". But she has, alas, forgotten about the Castle, or never understood it -- perhaps never wanted to understand it.

    So when she gets at length to the top of her ladder, we can depend upon it that there will be an Orc to meet her, with an ax to chop off her aspiring head.

    Not a minute too soon. I'm with the Orc on this one.

    March 17, 2008

    Baby got back

    I've fumed here before about the persistent Pwoggie tic about "taking back" America -- as if we ever had it. But as all the world knows, this notion, chimerical as it is, is the core concept of an eponymous annual "Take Back America" pwoggie conference, and in fact the 2008 installment is currently ongoing.

    Among the delights that paid-up attendees will be getting is a personal presentation on the sexy subject of "A Responsible Plan To End The War In Iraq." Gotta love the "responsible" part -- as if Luther had flinched at the last minute, while nailing his theses to the church door, and smashed his thumb instead of the nailhead.

    This "responsible" plan emerges over the names of several Congressional aspirants -- people who would dearly like to become responsible for the war in Iraq -- bolstered by those obligatory legitimators of the electoral pwog, a general or two.

    The Plan makes mighty dull reading, but here is what I take to be the crux of it. We need to

    ...Create the capacity for nation-building and the use of diplomatic power by both the United States and the international community...

    President Bush ran for election in 2000 saying, “I don’t think our troops ought to be used for what’s called nation building.” But by late 2005, the Pentagon had issued a directive declaring nation-building to be a “core U.S. military mission.” And although the Pentagon had asked the State Department to provide expertise and people, the State Department has indicated they don’t have the capacity or the staffing to do so.

    “I’d rather have more members of the State Department on the field than soldiers on the field.” --General John Abizaid (ret.)
    Former Commander, United States Central Command
    October 2007
    The Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) currently operating in Iraq are a good start, but are too small in scope and structure to create the transformation that is required. We propose the expanded use of non-military personnel working at the grassroots level to strengthen the capacity of towns and villages to resist the insurgency on their own, as well as an internationalization of the effort. The end goal should be the creation of a network of local PRTs reaching the entirety of the Iraqi population, thus addressing the medical, agricultural, educational, and commercial needs of the population served.
    In other words, run the Empire with social workers instead of machine guns.

    Do they really think that this is possible? I bet they do. I bet they go into office next winter fervently believing that the circle can be squared in some such fashion. I bet it takes them a good six months or so to acknowledge, sadder but much, much wiser, that the natives have proven unworthy of their trust, and it turns out the machine guns are necessary after all. But these are Pwogs, and Democrats, so you can be sure the weaponry will be deployed in a more measured, judicious, smart way -- a la Kosovo. Or Vietnam.

    The mugged-by-reality pwogs will look back on their younger, idealistic, out-of-office days with an indulgent, retrospective glow; and at the same time, their earlier good intentions will strangely radiate forward and shed a gentle forgiving luster on the ensanguinated jowls and dripping fangs of once-well-intentioned managers of empire, junior division.

    March 25, 2008

    None So Blind

    It is astonishing how certain parts of the Left Blogosphere have simply taken their eye off the ball here. Preventing a McCain victory is literally a matter of life or death, if not for you and me then for a lot of innocent Iranians and probably for hundreds to thousands of American soldiers and marines.

    I don't like Hillary's relative hawkishness, I am less than fond of Obama's weak stances on Social Security and Universal Coverage, but really life isn't just about me. Because please oh please can we avoid the trap the Left ALWAYS falls into, letting the Perfect be the Enemy of the Good, and demonstrating that by splintering the Party?

    Yes substantial parts of the Democratic Party are too subservient to Corporatism, which doesn't validate Naderism, there is no doubt that a Bush 1 re-election would have had drastically worse outcomes than the half-loaf we got from Clinton, and 100% guarantee that eight years of President Gore would look better than what we got from Bush.

    Link

    In the real world, there's no need to concede any part of that fantasy. Gore the senator out-hawked Bush I and Gore the vice president wanted more than the Iraq starvation program of Clinton I. His relative dovishness came after his defeat in 2000. His solution to global warming, the recognition of which is his most salient achievement, is spoiled by its already demonstrated, real world failures. Neither Clinton II nor Obama are willing to stop agitating against Iran and neither opposes funding the occupation of Iraq. Both are solidly in the trainwreck-to-bailout capitalism camp.

    But for the sake of argument, and assuming keeping our eyes on the ball means electing Democrats, what has been accomplished by trying to do so?

    The Reid Senate and the Pelosi House are dramatically more pro-Bush than any of their constituents, including the Republicans who crossed over to punish the administration for its misdeeds. John Kerry, running on a platform of better Bushism, managed to windsurf his way to defeat. The "safe state" and Nader-baiting strategies didn't help him. In 2002, the Democrats lost the Senate, and re-lost the House, with no Nader to blame. The muddled fatuity of a promising a better War on Terror won them no electoral love. The Gore/Lieberman ticket, representing the foreign policy hawk and aggressively neoliberal wing of the party, drove more votes to Bush in Florida than were won by Nader. Suckling the Progressive dolchstosslegende of that defeat might help Obama or Clinton this year, but the poor thing has not withstood the test of time. If one were inclined to learn from experience, the last four elections, each more important the preceding, have demonstrated the inefficacy of running to the right, bemoaning the silliness of the left as a goad and hoping that the Republicans will be too insane in comparison to be electable.

    How often has any party succeeded by admitting to being a hopelessly unrealistic, feckless, disorganized version of their opponents? "We're worse than useless, sure, but look! Those guys are at least as bad and they have promised to eat their own children!" No wonder so many people don't vote. Right wing mediocrity is the enemy of the perfect, the good, the not so good and everything else.

    March 27, 2008

    Feminimperialism

    I'm still brooding over the Barbara Ehrenreich paradox, discussed here yesterday: Why do smart people fall into the same dumb lesser-evil trap, year after election year?

    With some helpful references supplied by readers who commented on the earlier post, I did a little prowling. Back in '04, Barbara had a guest stint on the New York Times op-ed page, replacing the egregious Thomas Friedman, who was off writing one of his pestilent books.

    Perhaps the New York Times has a stultifying effect, not just on readers, but on writers as well. That is, perhaps the Times is dull and banal not only because it hires dull and banal writers, but also because it exercises some Upas-tree effect on formerly smart and lively writers.

    Or perhaps it's a function of ascent. When you move from the steerage class of American journalism, as represented by The Nation, right up onto the bridge of the mighty vessel, you must feel a certain impulse to comport yourself like the rest of the gold-braid boys -- to arrange your once-frisky features into a stern responsible expression, to scan the horizon with exaggerated vigilance for icebergs, to believe that weighty matters lie in your hands and the fate of millions, perhaps, may hang upon your words.

    Here's Barbara, during her tour in officers' country, giving advice to candidate Kerry:

    I'd like to present a brand-new approach to terrorism, one that turns out to be a lot more consistent with traditional Democratic values... one glaring moral flaw in this [Islamist] insurgency, quite apart from its methods, is that it aims to push one-half of those masses down to a status only slightly above that of domestic animals....

    So here in one word is my new counterterrorism strategy for Kerry: feminism. Or, if that's too incendiary, try the phrase ''human rights for women.'' ... Announce plans to pour dollars into girls' education in places like Pakistan, where the high-end estimate for female literacy is 26 percent, and scholarships for women seeking higher education in nations that typically discourage it. (Secular education for the boys wouldn't hurt either.)

    We keep coming back to this, with the Pwogs, don't we? This sense of the mission civilatrice, alongside the notion that it can be achieved by "education" or social work rather than by aerial bombardment. The Hobbits dream that they can take -- or counsel a Kerry or Obama how to take -- the Ring of Power, and use it (of course!) in a good, moral, enlightened way, and for good ends.

    Perhaps the core of the problem is that these academic and journalistic Pwogs, having achieved some success and renown in their fields, just can't realize or admit that when push comes to shove, they are as thoroughly sidelined and irrelevant as the mute inglorious rest of us. Hell, they're on the bridge, aren't they? Their names are known? Their books are published, bought in modest but often profitable numbers, and sometimes read? Surely those levers of power, so tantalizingly near, might be graspable. Would the Pwogs not be terribly remiss to spurn the opportunity?

    Perhaps we should revise an old adage, and say that nothing fails like success.

    April 15, 2008

    The paranoid style in Pwog politics

    The Kosniks are really chewing the carpet over Mayhill Fowler, who reported Obama's remarks, to a group of San Francisco billionaires, about "bitter" small-town white folks.

    One poll on Kos showed more than 70% of respondents thought Fowler was either a Republican or a Clinton "operative" (the Kosnik poller's own oddly Larouchian word). Five percent believed Fowler's own account of why she published Obama's observation -- she said she was inclined to support Obama but upset by the apparent condescension. The remaining thirty-odd percent thought she was a "self aggrandizing pseudo journalist."

    This last category interests me. What distinguishes a "pseudo" journalist from the real thing? Aren't these Kosniks the very folks who have spent so much time excoriating the "mainstream media" (or MSM, as they familiarly call it)? Now, however, it would appear they're all hot for professional standards and chummy casuistries about what you can report and what you can't.

    Some mediaeval theologian -- Aquinas? I hope not -- argued that the shrieks of the damned in Hell are music in the ears of the saints in Heaven. I make no claim to sainthood, but I've been relishing the ululations of the maddened Kosniks:

    • I've never heard of her before. How the hell did she get on TV ?
    • She is a thief if she is the one that captured private remarks from a private home. Was there video cams or cell phones allowed to capture pictures or sound? I know I read a dairy here by someone that was there in SF...is what this Mayhill Fowler did legal?
    • Why isn't any of the outrage focused at the Huffington Post for allowing her to publish her BS?
    • i second what Psifighter37 up thread about the blogosphere grilling her. let's hold her feet to the fire. she deserves it.
    • if we don't like irresponsible journalism we will attack the journalist.
    • What do we really know about this Mayhill Fowler? Is she really a Clinton or Obama supporter? We need to do some research on her because she sounds like a troll. If she went on national news to say that she was an Obama supporter but felt uncomfortable about his remarks but is actually a Clinton supporter, this needs to be verified.... Let's be CLEAR. There was absolutely nothing wrong, false or elitist about what Obama said. Just so that we are not diverting from what the issue really is. There is nothing wrong with what he said. He speaking the absolute truth.... But I think when this is being reported, it also need to be reported about this Mayhill Fowler character. What was her FUCKING motive!!!!!!!!
    • I'm from Oakland and just spoke with one of my friends there. Her husband has donated over $25K to the Clintons. She is an awful person who is damn elitist. My parents were at that very same fundraiser and people are FURIOUS that this happened. This was a private fundraiser and that means private. It was not supposed to be tape recorded or videotaped and they specifically said that you would be asked to leave if you were caught doing so.
    • Mayhill Fowler's not a journalist. One of the characteristics of journalists is in this time that the do professional "Full Disclosure" of matters that might affect how people interpret what they write. Ms. Fowler did not disclose, for example, that MF in her bio on HuffPost says she graduated from Vassar in 1968, the school at which HRC was a prominent student politician until HRC graduated in 1969. If she knew HRC at that time or was influenced by that, she should have disclosed that circumstance. A google search also fails to show that save for her HuffPost posts, she has been published by anyone, ever. While it is not a sin to be a freelance journalist, you gotta be a journalist first.

    April 17, 2008

    The Decent Liberal

    Somebody else who influenced me, I actually had a professor at Occidental -- now, this is embarrassing because I might screw up his last name -- Lawrence Goldyn, I think it was. He was a wonderful guy. He was the first openly gay professor that I had ever come in contact with, or openly gay person of authority that I had come in contact with. And he was just a terrific guy. He wasn’t proselytizing all the time, but just his comfort in his own skin and the friendship we developed helped to educate me on a number of these issues.

    Obama interview, in which he praises a man for eschewing a practice that exists only in the minds of panicked bigots.

    What is it with this guy? He can't address anything without feeding into a misanthropic canard. It's reflexive with him, as is the dithering and vacillation with which he tries to clean it up. He must surely know the score, but he simply can't let go of the idea that there are right wing scapegoating votes for him to pick up. His pandering is morally grotesque and potentially quite harmful. In true Democratic tradition it's also useless to him in the election. He's not getting the right wing homophobe vote no matter what he does. Even if he's personally incapable of acceptance or tolerance, he has nothing to lose from evincing a relatively adult and sober point of view.

    April 24, 2008

    Godwin redivivus

    In comments somewhere I recklessly promised a post on this very oddly spongiform-looking chap, Gar Alperovitz. Here it is, without references, as they take time better spent hunting for snacks my domestic partner has hidden from me.

    The man mostly writes and thinks about what's best for us, not what's actually in store for us. He's a nearly perfect practitioner of the over-the-rainbow confectioner's art. His particular vision of the sweet heart at the center of candy cane country is a fast emerging "commonwealth sector". His favorite supporting fact: about as many folks jobble these days at a coop or Aesop or corner do-wop than hold down a unionized pri-sec job -- both being in the 8 million range by Gar's last count.

    As the corporate pri-sec union job herd takes a further trans-nat culling, who's to say the co-opers won't soon outnumber what we humorously call "organized labor"?

    Beyond this observation, the Applewitz top-ten to-do list looks like about every one else's top ten list -- at least those list builders comfortably to the left of, say, the Miami Cuban community.

    So what's this commonwealth sector? You might call it Godwin 2000, with all that that implies and doesn't deliver.

    You know Bill Godwin, the Pecksniffian ultra-libertarian parasite of a prig that Parson Malthus trashed on his way to the largest spree of plagiarism in Regency English letters.

    Gar's commonwealth sector is the grass roots of a new society, built on and out of small, local, communal, very very green, totally for no-profit-only productive assemblages -- like a gathering of angels.

    April 30, 2008

    More on the Wright stuff

    The Times' Bob Herbert is deeply upset and embarrassed by one of his landsmen: >
    The Pastor Casts a Shadow

    The Rev. Jeremiah Wright went to Washington on Monday not to praise Barack Obama, but to bury him.

    Smiling, cracking corny jokes, mugging it up for the big-time news media — this reverend is never going away.

    I hope to God that poor fretful Bob Herbert is finally right about one thing -- namely, that the pastor is not going away.

    If there's to be any lasting positive legacy of the Obama candidacy, it's the emergence of people like Jeremiah Wright from their enforced invisibility.

    In the neighborhoods and communities where Wright and his colleagues and predecessors have worked for decades -- we might even say, for a couple of centuries -- they've been anything but invisible. In fact, they've been indispensable. But in the social representation sold by the "corporate media" -- as Wright quite correctly calls them -- the Wrights are merely a curiosity when they're noticed at all.

    That has all changed. Obama may or may not be toast after this brouhaha, and I for one couldn't care less, one way or the other. But the lasting legacy, let's hope, is that Jeremiah Wright and what he has to say are once again on the agenda.

    Dr King and Malcolm put some of these topics on the table, back in the day. Then they got killed, and Malcolm was shoved into the footnotes of official history, while King suffered the equally dire fate of plaster sainthood.

    Let's hear it for the return of the repressed, the latent becoming patent, the insistent ineluctability of the plain truth.

    And if the truth makes Bob Herbert's head blow up -- along with the heads of every other dreary platitudinous wretch on that arid Sahara of an Op-Ed page -- then so much the better.

    May 8, 2008

    -ation vs. -ation

    Is it really white trash that cottons to St Hill?

    That phrase -- "white trash" -- I just read on the internet somewhere is a "classist slur".

    "Classism" -- now that's an odious jumble of a notion. It seems to notice how an elite might not just exploit, but also also "oppress" another class. "Classism" -- a squishy term -- far more so than 'racist' or even 'sexist'. And 'oppression' -- squishier than 'exploitation', which has a pretty crisp, quantitative meaning.

    The St Hill mob is trying to pin the "classist" label on Obie. And of course that's a delight, since between Ob and la Scorpion, calling one or the other 'classist' is straight pot-vs-kettle, isn't it?

    In demotic, the better word is 'elitist' either way

    I like this old GOP rag. Beyond the obvious delight it gives me to see the dueling identity pols smearing each other with it, the notion seeks to isolate all the obviously embarrassing bits out of our class based society -- but leave the nuggets in place.

    The nuggets? Why, exploitation, of course. "Classists" don't exploit the helotry -- they sneer at 'em, they condescend to 'em. They -- escape 'em. And best of all, classists try to -- reform 'em.

    So we have a clear choice, as white trash or as blue-collars. We got one party -- the GOP -- of hard exploitation; and another party -- the Jackasses -- who like to deplore "oppression", and leave exploitation out of the picture, unmentioned, unmentionable, perhaps nonexistent.

    May 26, 2008

    A moment of wild surmise

    I know a few young people, and so I dabble occasionally in Facebook. Why are people so willing to tell strangers so much about themselves? I don't get it. Anyway, on a quick visit today I was electrified to see a little ad flash by somewhere on the page. The text read:
    David Sirota to Speak on Uprising at Riverside Church
    An uprising! I thought. About time. But... at Riverside Church? And why would anybody want to hear what David Sirota had to say about the subject? (Or any other subject, for that matter.)

    The ad was gone before I could follow the link. But a bit of Google-ing turned up the disappointing explanation:

    NYC Event: Bestselling Author to Discuss The Rise of Populism Across the Country

    ... bestselling author and nationally syndicated columnist David Sirota will appear at public events in New York City to discuss his newest book, THE UPRISING: An Unauthorized Tour of the Populist Revolt Scaring Wall Street & Washington(Crown Publishers, May 2008).

    Shoulda known it was way too good to be true.

    May 28, 2008

    Deathless prose

    For some reason I'm on the mailing list of "Netroots Nation," whatever that is -- oh, I see; it's a "rebranding" (their word) of the annual Daily Kos convention. This year's is being held in Texas (why, for God's sake?) and it costs $375, besides air fare, hotel, food -- thanks, but no thanks. One was enough.

    Netroots Nation has, of course, a "donate today" link on every page. This particular link carries a quotation from the redoubtable "Hunter", who is to Markos Moulitsas Zuniga what the former Cardinal Ratzinger was to Pope John Paul II:

    "Hunter" says:

    There is a value in being the town square, and in being the pamphleteers, and in giving citizens a voice, and in having a voice, when voices are the things most desperately needed.
    Stirring stuff, isn't it? And so insightful. For some reason it reminded me instantly of Dan Quayle's attempt to cite the motto of the American Negro College Fund ("A mind is a terrible thing to waste"):
    What a terrible thing to have lost one's mind. Or not to have a mind at all. How true that is.
    Boy, if this incoherent dribble is the best they can do, truly they have fallen on hard times.

    Straws in the wind?

    Coincidentally, Al Schumann noted the long-overdue demise of George Lakoff's tiresome "framing" cult at the the same time I was marvelling about the apparent decline of the Kosnik cult.

    They are, of course, both victims of the Democratic Party's success -- not their own success, I hasten to add, which has been zilch apart from obtaining some modest notoriety for their respective caudillos.

    What has happened is that the Democrats have shifted into general-election gear. So any efforts that the institutional party, or its nominee-apparent, will make from now on are going to the other leg of the triangle -- the possibly wavering angry white guys. (And the Miami Cubans). Lakoff and Kos have both tattooed on their foreheads the motto "We Have Nowhere Else To Go", and so they will get the treatment doormats usually get.

    This is routine, of course -- it's what "triangulation" means. What's slightly more interesting is that the base, I bet, has abandoned the Lakoffs and the Kos-es just as the institution has. Rooting for a candidate -- usually Barack, of course, for people in the Lakoff/Kos ambit -- has absorbed all the energy, and probably all the money, of the earnest folk whose warm panting breath formerly kept Lakoff and Kos aloft. It will be interesting to see how many Kosniks make the pilgrimage to Texas for this year's chatterfest, as compared with '06 and '07.

    It was always clear -- to some of us anyway -- that adherence to the dire old deadly Democratic Party meant that Lakoff and Kos had ensured their own irrelevance. What I, at least, hadn't quite figured out was that they had also ensured their own extinction as soon as they had served their modest function.

    Success is within reach. Time to liquidate the Useful Idiots(*).

    -------------

    (*) I bought the capital letters cheap, at a Lakoff fire sale, and now I gotta use 'em up.

    May 30, 2008

    Young Dickens in the blacking factory

    The emails from "Netroots Nation" -- the new alias of the Daily Kos convention, mentioned here a few days ago -- are coming thick and fast. They're asking for money, of course -- for "scholarships" so that nine worthy-cause netrootsers can make the hajj to this Mecca of pwog self-congratulation. (In Texas. I can't get over it. Texas!)

    Smarmy stuff:

    One person volunteered for a presidential campaign in seven states. Another was awarded several prestigious awards from his local Democratic party for groundbreaking organizing in a conservative state. A third began volunteering as a young child, stuffing mailers and sealing envelopes with her mother.

    These three individuals represent just a few of the 70-plus bloggers and activists who have applied for a scholarship to attend Netroots Nation this July.

    "Several" prestigious awards -- from a local Democratic party? How prestigious can they be, if there are so many going? And the poor soul who volunteered for a Presidential campaign (whose, I wonder?) in seven states -- the phrase "get a life" comes to mind.

    But worst of all is the poor abused child, stuffing envelopes so some Democratic soup-hound can get his snout at the trough. This is nothing short of criminal. Where were the social-service people while this horror was going on?

    June 3, 2008

    They're shocked, shocked... no, really, they ARE

    One of my lefty correspondents passed along this wonderful series of closely-spaced ejaculations from my favorite Democratic Party putto, Markos Moulitsas Zuniga:

    Clinton's Speech #5
    by kos
    Tue Jun 03, 2008 at 06:53:33 PM PDT
    
    So much for unity.
    
    Update: Republicans had Mike Huckabee make a very gracious concession  
    speech when he lost.
    
    ========================
    
    Clinton Speech #4
    by kos
    Tue Jun 03, 2008 at 06:49:27 PM PDT
    
    "No decisions tonight."
    
    She hasn't said one nice thing about Obama.
    
    It's all about her. Period. There is nothing else that matters.
    
    ========================
    
    Clinton Speech #3
    by kos
    Tue Jun 03, 2008 at 06:43:41 PM PDT
    
    Ummm, didn't someone let Hillary know that she lost?
    
    This isn't a concession speech.
    
    ========================
    
    Clinton's speech #2
    by kos
    Tue Jun 03, 2008 at 06:38:37 PM PDT
    
    Hmmm, she's still undermining Obama's victory with b.s. claims of  
    winning the popular vote. Sigh...
    
    

    Oddly enough, I think he's perfectly sincere. He really thinks he won -- and now he's preparing a nice Dolchstosslegende against all contingencies in November.

    June 9, 2008

    Calming influences

    http://www.denverpost.com/ci_9495375?source=bb
    Convention protest hit by groups' split
    Breakaway activists worried by Re-create 68 tactics

    Activists who plan to protest at the Democratic National Convention this summer are splitting with the umbrella organization, Re-create 68, because of concerns over its rhetoric and tactics.

    The new coalition, called Alliance for Real Democracy, is a network of local and national groups, including Code Pink, United for Peace and Justice, the American Friends Service Committee, the Green Party of Colorado, the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Colorado Street Medics, and Students for Peace and Justice....

    Glenn Spagnuolo, an organizer with Re-create 68, said he doesn't mind the new structure.

    "More power to them," he said.

    Spagnuolo characterizes the groups that are splitting with his as liberal Democrats who are largely white and middle-to-upper class and want their party to guide the country out of the war in Iraq.

    Michael Heaney, a political science professor at the University of Florida who has studied the antiwar movement, looks at the local split against the larger backdrop of the new political scene now that Sen. Barack Obama is the presumptive Democratic nominee.

    "This forces them to strategically rethink the whole idea of protest (tactics).

    "Do they really want to create chaos in the Democratic Party at a time when the Democrats are poised to nominate the first African-American candidate in history who many are satisfied with?"

    If you want conventional wisdom, ask a professor. Especially a "political-science" professor. "New political scene?" The only thing new I've seen is a fresh handsome face -- repeating the same old mantras.

    And of course it's always nice to see UFPJ and Code PInk running true to Democratic lapdog form. At left, Medea Benjamin; below, Leslie Cagan.

    July 2, 2008

    Kos locutus est

    Mr Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, the cult chief of Daily Kos, has seen fit to administer a spanky to the next President of the United States. Many of his followers are very upset with him:
    Rewarding good behavior

    So many of you are upset that I pulled back my credit card last night, making a last minute decision to hold back on a $2,300 contribution to Obama. Let me explain further:

    First of all, obviously Obama is a great candidate who is running a great 50-state race. That much cannot be denied. But he's had a rough couple of weeks.

    First, he reversed course and capitulated on FISA....

    Then, he took his not-so-veiled swipe at MoveOn in his "patriotism" speech.

    Finally, he reinforced right-wing and media talking points that Wes Clark had somehow impugned McCain's military service....

    Kos always had a soft spot for Wesley Clark. I don't know why. I don't think I want to know why.

    Kos continues:

    ...[T]here is a line between "moving to the center" and stabbing your allies in the back out of fear of being criticized. And, of late, he's been doing a lot of unecessary stabbing....

    I'm not going to start praising Nader or Barr. I'll still vote for [Obama]. Yadda, yadda, yadda. At the end of the day, I'm pretty irrelevant in the whole affair. Obama is going to raise a ton of dough and win this thing whether I send him money or not.

    Ultimately, he's currently saying that he doesn't need people like me to win this thing, and he's right. He doesn't. If they've got polling or whatnot that says that this is his best path to victory, so much the better. I want him to win big....

    Others will happily pick up the slack. We're headed toward a massive Democratic wave, and what I decide to do with my money means next to nothing....

    Let me see if I've got this right. Kos correctly feels that he and his coterie have been "stabbed in the back," seduced and abandoned, thrown aside with every mark of contempt now that their modest usefulness is over. But he still wants the stabber to win; plans to vote for him; may yet send him the money.

    Something very strange going on in those brains.

    July 6, 2008

    Striving for a more respectable servility

    Sara Robinson, a progressive pundit, opines that the right wing has no adequate heuristics for coping with rapid change and that this is so because they are possessed of an authoritarian mindset. First, and at the risk of indulging an easy cheap shot, the heuristics the right wingers do have are more than adequate for coping with the challenge of progressivism, which appears to have been cursed by an activist base consisting of hundreds of thousands of overeducated, over-informed, under-experienced and occasionally vicious Arnold Horshacks. Their equivalents on the right have strained their gloating muscles as the Humvee of movement conservatism deals with their pleas to be called on. But this is hardly a setback, nor does it stress their heuristics. Second, and here is where Robinson completely misses the point, any system that's based on manufactured scarcity and rationing privileges is going to cause cognitive dissonance in the people who are subject to its control, even if it's run by completely sincere, ethically committed progressives. The path of least resistance in such a system is to accept noblesse oblige, when it's offered, bay in defense of droit de seigneur when there are incentives for that and move along smartly when the nice policeman sez. There is no way to keep most of the system and overcome the fundamental, embedded injustice; which means there is no end to the severe cognitive dissonance; which means no end to the proliferation of the authoritarian follower mindset. What makes the progressive agenda irremediably fatuous is that when push comes to shove, they settle for securing their leadership's privilege. The crass and bloated blooming of the character traits that appall progressives, in others, are positive adaptations to the perverse incentives of "the only live utopian program in the world today". Who, really, is future-ready as long as that program obtains and who... less so?

    Continue reading "Striving for a more respectable servility" »

    July 11, 2008

    Pwogs: people should drive more

    One almost thinks it must be a spoof. The punch line as usual is at the end:

    Beverly Hills activists plan a rally at city's priciest gas station

    Who says it's all silicone and shopping in Beverly Hills? Local residents are planning a rally for "an oil-free president" tonight at the "famous" 76 filling station across from City Hall. Here's the invite:

    Even this wealthy enclave is not immune to the effects of the rising price of oil and gas. The high cost of fuel is affecting all Americans wealthy and poor. We want to make sure the world knows that Beverly Hills residents are fed up with gas prices and want a president in the White House who will bring the cost of gas down.
    It's one of many similar events being held nationwide, organized by MoveOn.org.

    July 14, 2008

    Citizen Sirota

    More Bastille Day influenza -- now it's hit the bigfoots:

    Take this dashing big wave-haired gob. To the few of you who don't instantaneously recognize him, he's one David Gizzborn Sirota, book author, thoughtful e-roots blogger and now -- as you can see -- hugger of the well-intended, the imperfectly-gifted, yes, us, the little people.

    This giant has stooped to grass roots schmooozin' to start a great American uprisin', a low-rent prairie fire for 'progress'. He's always been a man of many and piebald parts -- and through it all, he's remained quite the master strategist.

    I'll quote some -- just a taste, mind you; a whole book lies in waiting for you out there, somewhere along the Amazon.com.

    Sirota on the class hole that the merit types punched through the center of liberal politics for oh so many years now:

    "social issues are really, really important (and, of course, I am pro-choice). But the problem is that the orthodoxy is ONLY about social issues (the issues that are unfortunately more culturally divisive), but not about economic issues (the issues that are more cross-culturally unifying)."
    Sirota on -- the old top-down prog-org scam:
    "Autocratic Progressives... build... anti-progressive, autocratic, top-down, command-and-control structures.... The much-vaunted new progressive infrastructure — from Moveon.org to well-funded left-leaning think tanks in Washington, D.C. — run the gamut from mostly undemocratic to completely undemocratic.... This is elitism at its worst."
    Last, and best of all, Sirota on -- direct action:
    "without [it]... epublican democracy is truly disempowering: our only means of influence are to beg... the congressman, the governor, the president, etc. ... to do something on our behalf."

    Sum up:

    "taking matters into our own hands... [we] can wield a tremendous amount of power."
    Now is he wrong here? Nope. He's got the beat down. And even the means to the highest ends and the area for prime attack -- "labor movements" -- he's got that right too. Amazing.

    Why then am I not invigorated? Why do I wish he'd go off somewhere else? Anywhere. Just please, master Dave, don't spend the next 4 years limboing through America's union halls.

    Shouldn't I be saying at last they get it, they really get it? Am I nothing but an, oh no, direct action snob?

    July 15, 2008

    Pwogs ♥ war

    There's a pretty good article by Robert Dreyfuss in The Nation:
    Even as he pledges to end the war in Iraq, Obama promises to increase Pentagon spending, boost the size of the Army and Marines, bolster the Special Forces, expand intelligence agencies and maintain the hundreds of US military bases that dot the globe....
    More of this horrible stuff further down-page. Reading it prompts a reflection.

    We've all known for a long time that professional liberals -- people like Anthony Lake -- aren't against war and empire. Au contraire: they only dislike imperial wars, and aggressive imperial power-projection and meddling, when they don't appear to be succeeding.

    But I've always had, in the back of my head, a kind of notion that non-professional, base pwogs -- like the earnest young folk who feel such a need to believe in Obama -- aren't quite so down with the imperial project and its martial entailments. I've always sorta thought that they get schnookered by the Lakes.

    Now I begin to wonder whether I've given them too much credit for character and too little for intelligence. The facts about Obama's attitudes on war and empire are just too accessible. He really hasn't tried to conceal them. If the beautiful souls of Obama's base were truly averse to imperial war, they would have the motivation, as they certainly have the ability, to discover what their man really stands for.

    I can only conclude that they're not really that bothered about Obama's determination to maintain and expand the Empire. Maybe Lakoff really is right -- they don't care what gets done to the hapless peoples in our imperial crosshairs, as long as it gets done by somebody like them.

    More fine stuff from Dreyfuss:

    [Obama] pledges to "integrate civilian and military capabilities to promote global democracy and development," including the creation of "Mobile Development Teams (MDTs) that bring together personnel from the military, the Pentagon, the State Department and USAID, fully integrating U.S. government efforts in counter-terror, state-building, and post-conflict operations." He would also "establish an expeditionary capability" for non-Pentagon agencies, including the departments of State, Homeland Security, Justice and Treasury.

    Asked which failing states might need attention from Obama, Susan Rice, a former Clinton Administration State Department official who advises the candidate, says, "The list is long. You can start in South Asia and Afghanistan, but there is also Somalia, Yemen, Kenya and the Sahelian countries in Africa." Then, she says, there are countries that, while not yet failing, have weak or poorly formed civil societies....

    Even in more resistant countries, such as Egypt and Russia, the United States can still support dissidents and take other pro-democracy steps, says Rice. Asked whether Russia, for instance, would react favorably to such efforts, she says, "No, they would not like it. But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't be doing it. And we were doing it, until a little while ago. During the Clinton Administration, there was a much more active democracy promotion effort."

    Questions also arise about Obama's attitude toward humanitarian intervention. Several of his advisers, including Rice and Tony Lake, President Clinton's National Security Adviser, are strong advocates of using US military force to intervene in cases of severe violations of human rights.... In 2006 Rice and Lake wrote a Washington Post op-ed demanding a unilateral US "bombing campaign or naval blockade" and even the deployment of ground forces in Sudan to halt the killing in Darfur, and Obama has called for "enforcing a no-fly zone" there....

    Indeed, on the issue of the Defense Department and military spending, Obama cedes no ground to McCain.... [D]uring his years in the Senate Obama never challenged military spending bills in a significant way.

    In the Senate and in his presidential campaign, Obama has supported the addition of 65,000 troops to the Army and 27,000 to the Marines. He backed the latest round of NATO enlargement into Eastern Europe, and he supports granting Membership Action Plans for Ukraine and Georgia; the latter, especially, is considered deeply threatening by the Russian leadership.... [Obama's] call for the expansion of the Special Forces would empower the most aggressively interventionist of the Pentagon's units....

    Obama called for the creation of "a twenty-first-century military to stay on the offensive, from Djibouti to Kandahar." ...He has called for spending significant new money to add unmanned aerial vehicles to the Air Force, boost electronic warfare capabilities and build more C-17 cargo planes and KC-X refueling aircraft to enhance America's "future ability to extend its global power." Obama also plans to "recapitalize our naval forces" so America can patrol ocean "choke points" to protect oil supplies, and he wants to fund new ships that can "patrol and protect the 'brown' waters of river systems [overseas] and the 'green' waters close to our shores."

    Along with his determination to pull combat units out of Iraq, Obama has pledged to beef up the US presence in Afghanistan, promising to add at least two combat brigades to the US-NATO force there. "And that's a floor, not a ceiling," says Rice. He's also said that he'd attack Pakistan unilaterally to take out Al Qaeda-linked forces if there was "actionable intelligence" about their location. It's become part of the Democratic Party catechism to accuse President Bush of letting Al Qaeda off the hook in Afghanistan and Pakistan ....

    Obama's foreign policy team uniformly dismisses the idea that the Pentagon's bloated budget can be cut, even though, not counting spending on Iraq and Afghanistan, it has nearly doubled since 2000 and is roughly equal to the military spending of all other countries combined.

    July 16, 2008

    You wish

    Tom Hayden confidently writes:
    Any proposal to transfer American troops from Iraq to Afghanistan and Pakistan is sure to cause debate and questions among peace activists and rank-and-file Democrats.
    Au contraire, it is sure to cause nothing of the kind. It's now crystal-clear to every three-year-old on the planet that Obama's foreign policy will be intensely aggressive, militarist, and adventurist -- that he is, in short, a liberal imperialist in the great tradition. Yet Obama-worship continues unabated.

    I conclude that there is no US anti-war movement worthy of the name, and that "rank and file Democrats" are as complicit and content with imperial bloodletting as their leaders.

    July 17, 2008

    Get yer crass roots heah! Hot crass roots!

    (Apology from the editor: This post is actually Owen Paine's, but Perry White screwed up the byline. Sorry!)

    Seems prog-labeled outfits of the top-down variety must have all gone totally over to the co-oped sell-out side of the struggle ledger. I guess sometime after Lenin okayed the NEP.

    But the crass-roots dream is deathless, mates.

    Read this over at the Countertop. Its a 5-pointer or 5-stepper or 5-whatever. Some kind of truncated recovery program -- perfect for all us folks, out here in the prog pond, with a nasty top-downer hangover. It's from -- The Grassroots-Netroots Alliance:

    1) Move beyond single-issue politics and embrace a multi-issue, radical but practical, platform.

    2) Join up and help GNA build up a multi-million email list, a netroots army of multi-issue progressives and radicals, who understand the need to transform the System and literally overthrow the dictatorship of corporations and indentured politicians. The Grassroots Netroots Alliance (with 200,000 people currently on our email list) is currently approaching a dozen or so large, like-minded networks with comparable lists to jump-start this process.

    (3) Press the politicians to take a clear stand on all the burning issues.at http://www.GrassrootsNetroots.org.

    (4) As we “press the politicians,” we need to consciously and deliberately integrate electoral insurgency and netroots lobbying with non-electoral resistance—including boycotts, strikes, civil disobedience, and other pressure tactics. In the face of an unprecedented Crisis, we must move beyond polite protest to resistance.

    (5) Sign the Pledge of Resistance -- in the event of an attack upon Iran, send an email to pledgeofresistance@grassrootsnetroots.org

    Somehow, driftwood bravura like this don't make my day. Then again -- how could it?

    Think they got enough identical link-up points -- three in five grafs? Gotta be some kind of record.

    July 19, 2008

    Creeping socialism -- and I do mean creeping

    So McCain is in trouble again -- this time for saying that Barack Obama is more Left than the only self-proclaimed "Socialist" in the Senate, Bernie Sanders (shown above in colorful native costume). This may say more about Sanders than Obama, actually.

    The back story to this otherwise insignificant dustup is moderately interesting. The National Journal every year ranks Senators for leftiness on the basis on a set of 100 "key votes", or votes NJ considers "key" at any rate. In 2007, Barack suddenly zoomed to the head of the pack, after having been 16th and 10th in his previous two years. Hillary also lurched to the "left" in 2007, or to what passes for a "left" in the US Senate, going from 32d to 16th (neatly enough, the spot Barack held in 2005).

    It's pretty transparent what's going on here, right? This is the old base bait-and-switch: seduce the party activists, who are largely left of center, during primary season, then return to business as usual -- and I do mean business, specifically big business -- once you've clinched the nomination (or failed to, for that matter).

    And it works every time. The base never seems to catch on, no matter how often they see the trick done. Once you plant the hook you've got 'em for good, and they'll follow you through fire and water -- or rather, through FISA and Waziristan.

    NetrootsNebbish.org

    I had an hour or two to kill today -- a slow, humid July Saturday in New York. So, motivated by a somewhat gin-fuelled nostalgia, I dropped in, electronically, on the NetrootsNation confab (The Circle-Jerk Formerly Known As Yearly Kos).

    I actually went to this event, in the flesh, a couple of years ago, with mixed feelings. Watching the "live streams" -- a slight overstatement -- I found that the mixed feelings were much the same. Lots of these folks are intelligent and well-intentioned. But it's heartbreaking to watch them expending their spirit in that waste of shame known as the Democratic Party.

    There was one bright spot, though: seems like hardly anybody went. It's painful, in a pleasurable sort of way, when the camera zooms out and shows the meeting room -- an expense of speakers in a waste of empty chairs.

    July 25, 2008

    Nanny wags a warning finger

    Talk about a shot across the bow:

    Dear Senator Obama,

    We the undersigned... are deeply concerned about the stories in the press in the past few weeks suggesting that the Bush administration might be considering a military strike on Iran....

    We welcomed your stand against the war on Iraq in 2002. And we were encouraged by your early campaign statements emphasizing diplomacy over military action against Iran....

    But we call on you to issue a public statement warning of the grave dangers that any of these actions would entail, and pointing out how inappropriate and undemocratic it would be for the Bush administration to undertake them, or encourage Israel to do so, in its closing months in office.....

    [T]he public right to decide should not be foreclosed by last-minute actions of the Bush administration, which will set U.S. policy in stone now.

    Rich stuff. We were all "encouraged" by some no-name Illinois legislator's ambiguous murmurings in... 2002? We want... a "public statement"? War would be... "inappropriate"?

    The thrust here seems to be that Bush no longer has the mandate of Heaven and that war with Iran should wait until a duly-elected Democrat can wage it.

    This "open letter" was signed by many Usual Suspects -- Tom Hayden, Katha Pollitt, Cornel West, Doug Ireland, Michael Lerner. But then there's my hero Noam Chomsky, too, and Doug Henwood. People who really have better things to do with their time.

    We're doomed, mates, doomed.

    July 30, 2008

    Clap, or Tinker Bell dies!

    From The Nation:
    Change We Can Believe In
    An Open Letter to Barack Obama

    Add your name to this Open Letter calling on Barack Obama to stand firm on the principles he so compellingly articulated in the primary campaign.

    Dear Senator Obama,

    We write to congratulate you on the tremendous achievements of your campaign for the presidency of the United States.

    Your candidacy has inspired a wave of political enthusiasm like nothing seen in this country for decades. In your speeches, you have sketched out a vision of a better future--in which the United States sheds its warlike stance around the globe....

    Since your historic victory in the primary, there have been troubling signs that you are moving away from the core commitments shared by many who have supported your campaign....

    Stand firm on the principles you have so compellingly articulated, and you may succeed in bringing this country the change you've encouraged us to believe is possible.

    This letter is signed by a number of quite literate individuals -- we'll get to that in a minute -- so it's baffling to hear them say that Obama has "articulated", "compellingly" or otherwise, any "principles" at all.

    Of course he's done nothing of the kind. He's repeated ad nauseam a lot of empty comfort-food buzzwords and catchphrases. He's presented himself, accurately no doubt, as a person very much like the people who want to believe in him -- intelligent, thoughtful, well-educated, and fit.

    But really, no one can fairly accuse him of flip-flopping. He never actually committed himself to anything. His language was always vague, hedged, and noncommittal, with all its airy earnestness. His recent shifts of tone and emphasis may be a disappointment to his admirers -- but they have only themselves to blame. The new boyfriend suddenly isn't calling as often -- and his voice is not nearly so warm -- and he gets off the phone so quickly. Didn't he say he loved me? I thought he did. But now that you mention it....

    * * * * *

    Then there are the signatories to this act of quasi-literary fellatio. Unsurprising names, mostly:

    • Jodie Evans (co-founder, CODEPINK: Women for Peace);
    • Tom Hayden;
    • Richard Parker (president, Americans for Democratic Action);
    • Katha Pollitt;
    • David Sirota;
    • Matt Stoller;
    • Jonathan Tasini;
    • Katrina vanden Heuvel;
    • Howard Zinn.
    But then, down near the bottom -- I could weep: Gore Vidal. Surely, surely, if anybody could have been counted on to laugh this beggarly sad-sack kick-me whingery right out of the room, it ought to have been Vidal?

    They must have called him in the middle of the night, and not read him the text.

    Looking on the sunny side, part XVIII

    Mike Flugennock, eagle-eyed Code PInk watcher, passed this along:

    CODEPINK: Women for Peace

    Dear Friend,

    CODEPINK activists have been steadily, faithfully, and creatively pressuring Congress to impeach the criminals in the White House, and we are starting to see results. Last week, at the Judiciary Committee hearing "Executive Power and its Constitutional Limitations," impeachment was referenced dozens of times.

    In her first days in power, Nancy Pelosi famously announced that impeachment was off the table, but on the popular television show The View (http://www.watchingtheview.com/nancy-pelosi-on-the-view-july-28th-video/) this past Tuesday, she admitted that she would hold impeachment hearings if someone could prove that Bush committed a crime (http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/taxonomy/term/17). We hope she watched last week as Dennis Kucinich (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRAcenaTVkQ), Liz Holtzman (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dohgkV53tBQ), and Vincent Bugliosi (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDAFozFn4kU) passionately enumerated Bush's impeachable offenses at a Judiciary Committee hearing. Be sure to watch their stirring testimony -- it will inspire and galvanize you...

    Mike comments:
    Galvanize me? Do I look like a goddamn' garbage can to these doorknobs?

    Besides, the idea of Dennis Kucinich "galvanizing" anyone just makes me want to... have a few more bong hits.

    The thing that amused me, in a way, was code-pink's belief that "references" -- dozens of 'em! -- constituted a victory.

    One makes do with what one has, I suppose.

    October 13, 2008

    No sex please, we're revolutionaries

    Mr Pecksniff

    All sorts of fun tidbits float past on my lefty mailing lists. For example:

    http://www.nationalenquirer.com/obama_sex_perv_scandal/celebrity/65575

    OBAMA SEX PERV SCANDAL

    The ENQUIRER exclusively reports a "sex pervert" was Sen. Barack Obama's longtime mentor and "father figure".

    For seven years, the presidential candidate had a "father-son" relationship with Frank Marshall Davis, who has confessed to having sex with children, sadomasochism, bondage and practicing a wide array of deviant sexual activities.

    This item in itself isn't terribly interesting. What was delightful was the response of one of the other list members -- let's call him Eumetheus:

    Our concern should be following and countering the reactionary uses to which this latest crap-pile will be put, not publicizing it ourselves or adding our own tidbits....

    [I]f the revolutionary left ever "needs" its own "Der Sturmer," [the original poster of the Enquirer piece to the list] is clearly the one to provide it. The times may yet find the man.

    That's it from me on this political pornography, at least until consequences, if any, start coming in.

    Here we see a number of the deformations professionnelles that are, alas, all too common among what passes for the "revolutionary left" in the US:
    • Phatocracy: The obsession with controlling discourse. Eumetheus thinks if he can stop people talking about this Davis business, it will go away.
    • Grandiosity: The overestimation of our importance and power. The thing has appeared in the Inquirer; but Eumetheus thinks that a reference on a lefty mailing list with maybe three hundred members is going to do some additional damage.
    • Bipolarity: The Enquirer is "reactionary", or at least providing matter for "reactionary use." Therefore we must defend Barack from its attacks.
    • Ubiquitlerism: Behind every contralocutor lurks a Hitler.
    • Disindifference: The inability to understand, or act on the understanding, that American elections don't matter.

    October 23, 2008

    More bilge from Code Weak

    I have to admit, it's been hard to write about the campaign. It's all so hideously depressing. In my neighborhood, the upper west side of Manhattan, you now see all these obviously intelligent, spry old people wearing Obama gear -- gimme caps, sweatshirts, buttons -- and looking self-consciously self-satisfied about it. Like they're doing their bit for humankind. One wonders how they can have reached such venerable years without figuring out what Democrats are all about.

    The stalwart and irrepressible Mike Flugennock rescued me from my megrims just now with the following:

    Oh, God, if you exist, please kill me now. Please call me home. I promise I haven't stolen or murdered or made war or been a moneychanger or any of that shit. I can't stand another day of this. Please, oh please, God, call me home. I promise not to play my bootleg Dead tapes too loud.
    CODEPINK: Women for Peace

    Dear Friend,

    Four years ago, Americans were swindled by a stolen election that allowed Bush to lead us deeper into disastrous war. Nearly half of the six million American voters living abroad never received their ballots. Registrations were shredded. Faulty voting equipment destroyed about one million ballots--roughly one for every 100 cast.

    We have less than two weeks left before this historic election, an enormous opportunity to push to end the war in Iraq and prevent future wars, and we must be prepared to ACT in case it's determined by fraud, not the will of the people. The polls may be looking positive for peace voters, but we can't let ourselves get complacent, and we certainly cannot let history repeat itself!

    There's a lot of this stuff going around just now -- moral panic about the possible theft of a meaningless vote. Since it appears that Obama is a shoo-in, and it's gotten pretty difficult to be excited in a positive way about the victor apparent, presumably people need something to get excited about.

    October 30, 2008

    Nature's aristocracy

    Sometimes it's the small things that keep us going.

    During this endless, and unspeakably tedious, Presidential campaign -- which seems to have been going on since the Devil was a small boy -- a certain ennui creeps upon one, like the symptoms of hemlock ingestion as described by Socrates' jailer: first your feet get cold, then the sensation moves upwards, and when it gets to your heart....

    About the time the chill reaches to my navel, I find that it helps to pay a visit to Daily Kos. Laughter, you know, is the best medicine -- as the Reader's Digest used to say.

    A completely unrelated search there turned up a comment by "bob zimway". Bob seems to live somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, and his observations are as earnest and tedious as you might expect. What caught my eye was the tagline of his comments:

    The Best finally have conviction.
    Veterans of freshman English will recognize this as a reference to Yeats' most-quoted poem -- at least, I hope it's the most; God forbid the Lake Isle of Innisfree should hold that distinction:
    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.
    Ole Bill at his most muddled -- though eloquent and evocative, with it, as always. Sometimes the poor man, like Peggy Noonan, was Ovid's vox et praeterea nihil -- a voice and nothing more. But what a voice.

    Bill's aristocratic pretensions were silly enough, lord knows, but Kosnik Bob's are a godsend -- funny enough to drive that hemlock chill back down to my lower thighs. The "Best" -- note the capital letter -- now have conviction! (Presumably this miracle, unachievable by Yeats himself, has now at last been wrought by the Obama magic.)

    Aristo-Bob apparently thinks he's one of the "Best" -- and so, I dare say, do many of his fellow Obamaphiles. Here we see the inmost secret self-warming flame of the core Obama demographic: these folks think they're smarter, more moral, more sensitive, more enlightened, more "progressive" -- in a word, better -- than the average bear. They're the real believers -- not a huge group; not the people who will really put the man over; but the people who get that inexplicable psychic income from their fanship.

    Poor devils. If they weren't so odious, I'd feel sorry for 'em.

    November 5, 2008

    More dribble from Codepink...

    ... passed along by Mike Flugennock, our resident Codepink monitor:
    CODEPINK: Women for Peace

    November 5, 2008

    Dear Friend,

    "Today we become the nation we dream of being, a place where everyone can rise to the level of their true worth, with no false barriers. Today truth triumphs over lies, hope over fear. Today we become the people who can do the great things that are needed to restore health and balance and abundance for all. Today we take the dream and make it real." --Starhawk

    An Obama victory is a victory for the peace movement. It sends a message to the political establishment that being against war is the winning position. War is SO Over.

    War is so over, huh? Wanna bet?

    November 7, 2008

    The new FDR, or...

    ... better yet: Howard Zinn thinks Obie might be the new Lincoln:

    Those of us on the Left who have criticized Obama, as I have, for his failure to take bold positions on the war and on the economy, must join the exultation of those Americans, black and white, who shouted and wept Tuesday night as they were informed that Barack Obama had won the presidential election. It is truly a historic moment, that a black man will lead our country. The enthusiasm of the young, black and white, the hopes of their elders, cannot simply be ignored.
    "Must join"? "Cannot be ignored?" Oh Howard -- just watch me.
    There was a similar moment a century and a half ago, in the year 1860, when Abraham Lincoln was elected president. Lincoln had been criticized harshly by the abolitionists, the anti-slavery movement, for his failure to take a clear, bold stand against slavery, for acting as a shrewd politician rather than a moral force. But when he was elected, the abolitionist leader Wendell Phillips, who had been an angry critic of Lincoln's cautiousness, recognized the possibility in his election....

    What kind of change is needed? First, to announce the withdrawal of our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, and to renounce the Bush doctrine of preventive war as well as the Carter doctrine of military action to control Mideast oil. He needs to radically change the direction of U.S. foreign policy, declare that the U.S. is a peace loving country which will not intervene militarily in other parts of the world, and start dismantling the military bases we have in over a hundred countries. Also he must begin meeting with Medvedev, the Russian leader, to reach agreement on the dismantling of the nuclear arsenals, in keeping with the Nuclear Anti-Proliferation Treaty.

    Presumably Obie "must" do all these things in the same sense that I "must" join in the euphoria over his election.

    Howard is a historian, a well-informed and well-read individual. What congeries of circumstances is going to force Obie to do all of Howard's 'musts'? Lincoln's hand was forced -- the slaveowners attacked Fort Sumter. To be sure, Lincoln rose to the occasion, most admirably (as did FDR, on a somewhat less world-historical scale). Obie, considered as an individual, is a pretty remarkable human specimen, and he might rise to an occasion too.

    But somebody needs to give him one. A guy who's been tiptoeing through the tulips with Rahm Emmanuel and Dennis Ross, Larry Summers and Robert Rubin, is hardly likely to kick over the traces, sua sponte, and "withdraw... our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, ... renounce the Bush doctrine of preventive war as well as the Carter doctrine of military action to control Mideast oil," and all that other good stuff on Howard's Christmas list.

    November 10, 2008

    Peace, shmeese

    The mental Babylonian captivity of many Lefties by Obamadulation continues, with richly humorous results.

    One of my lefty mailing lists has recently been burning up the fiber with a debate about just how bad Rahm Emanuel is. Predictably, the Obamaphiles are saying he ain't so bad -- one earnest fellow even went so far as to say that Rahm's views, far from being Likudnik, were closer to Peace Now.

    Turns out there may be more to this than I would have thought, though not in quite the same sense that Rahmbama's defense attorney intended. Here's a snippet from Peace Now's position paper on the infamous Israeli apartheid wall:

    At the present stage in the conflict the fence is a necessity, however Peace Now believes that this fence should run only or as close as possible along the Green Line....
    Disappointing -- Israeli liberals, it seems, can be as feeble, wishy-washy, and yes-butnik as American ones.

    November 13, 2008

    Fanship undertow

    Small-boat sailors know that they should always stay well clear of large vessels. There's a very dangerous suction that a container ship, or a tanker, creates, as its enormous hull shoves through the water -- a suction that can draw a small craft right up against the behemoth's hull, with predictably unpleasant consequences.

    There is a similar phenomenon in politics. It's one of the reasons I disapprove of voting -- much less working -- for Democrats. The well-meaning pwog, in his or her little coracle or catboat, ventures out into the harbor. He falls into the suction of a mighty steel-hulled commercial ship, like the SS Obama. He is drawn closer, and closer. He collides with its cold, unyielding adamantine sides. His fragile craft is smashed, and he is pulled under, and drowned -- drowned intellectually, and politically. Things that would have had him baying at the moon, if Bush had done them, he now finds excuses for -- when a Democrat does them.

    I call it Fanship Undertow.

    I've seen it time and time again. There's a lot of it going around just now. An occasional correspondent of mine -- let's call her Sadie -- recently wrote:

    Rahm's an interesting choice- I know that there's some concern about him being a partisan figure but he's (in my view) not facilitating a partisan role. His main objective is to keep the ship in order and his experience in the Clinton administration would indicate that he knows how to navigate the waters (so to speak). Even more importantly he's ultimately pushing Obama's agenda....
    Classic. This young woman would have been quite ready to agree that Rahm Emanuel was the Abomination of Desolation -- until Obama picked him.

    But she has given her heart to Obama. And a heart once given is not easily taken back. So the Fanship Undertow has gripped her. Her good, well-meaning heart has been drawn under. Will she survive? I hope so. How long can she hold her breath?

    Two things strike me about her ingenious, hopeful email:

    1) She has become a Crackpot Realist. All of a sudden this youthful insurgent has come to value order -- experience -- knowing how to "navigate the waters."

    2) She is still delirious with giddy, utterly unfounded hope. Rahm will "push Obama's agenda." From what we know about Rahm -- and we know a lot -- does he seem like the sort of guy who would push anybody's agenda but his own?

    November 23, 2008

    Most. Pussified. Action. Call. EVER.

    "Presence, rather than protest." "Respecting the celebratory mood of the day."

    Huh, what's more to say? Go to the Web site, check out all the signers, including Howard Zinn and a boatload of other folks who should know better:

    http://dc.indymedia.org/newswire/display/144773/index.php

    Excerpts:

    An open letter to those seeking to build a world from below....

    We call on all anarchists, horizontalists, autonomists, anti-capitalists, anti-authoritarians, and others organizing a world from below to bring our best creative spirits to the project of a “Celebrate People’s History and Build Popular Power” bloc on January 20, 2009, in Washington, DC—or in your hometown, if you can’t make it.

    As people striving toward a nonhierarchical society, yes, we can—and should—be rigorously critical of Barack Obama. It goes without saying that we want a world without presidents.... But not all heads of state are alike, and if we fail to recognize both the historical meaning and power of this particular moment, we will ensure our own irrelevance.

    "Ensure our own irrelevance?" That's pretty much taken care of, isn't it?

    November 25, 2008

    It's a high-flyin' rag

    The dismal Chronicle of Higher Education, which a friend of mine reads ex officio, recently favored its subscribers with this bit of spew:

    Progressive Patriotism
    By WARREN GOLDSTEIN

    It was Wednesday, the day after [the election], and I wanted the election news, so absorbing for so long, now wondrous, to keep coming and coming. Trying to squeeze every drop of meaning from the morning paper, making my Web-site rounds, I was listening to my local NPR station when the host asked, "Is there a new progressive patriotism in America?" Calls flooded in proclaiming a resounding Yes, and I began figuring out how to put an American flag on my front door....

    The problem with spending a lifetime on the outs is the damage it does to one's own psyche. The self-protection piles up over the years, and repression doesn't always work Emotion escapes into shrill and nasty humor, which reveals more about the "humorist" than it does about the object. Look, I've needed The Daily Show With Jon Stewart as much as anyone over the past half-dozen years, but seriously: Jeering at one's government is a little like making fun of your own family. It makes for good laughs at dinner parties, but the subject is, after all, your family — where you came from.

    Came from? Not quite far enough, Warren. Plod on a quarter-mile or so, and the sky clears amazingly.

    December 2, 2008

    Whistling past the graveyard...

    ... of Pwog hopes is one Robert Creamer, on Alternet:

    Clues Obama Won't Govern Center-Right

    Should progressives beware? Has Barack Obama suckered them into supporting a President who will really govern from the "center-right"? The short answer is no.

    The long answer is another 1,000 chirpy words from the Creamery. Sample:
    ... all of the polls show that the November election represented a complete repudiation of right wing Bush-Cheney top-down economics and their Neo-Con foreign policy....

    Obama ran a campaign that clearly and unequivocally described priorities that will turn American in a fundamentally progressive direction. His cabinet picks indicate that he will surround himself with people who have experience ... But they do not in any way diminish the fact that America is demanding -- and Obama intends to enact -- a sweeping progressive program the likes of which we have not seen since the New Deal.

    ...Barack Obama will not govern from the "center right", but he will govern from the "center". That's not because he is "moving to the center". It's because the center of American politics has changed. It has moved where the American people are. It once again resides in the traditional progressive center that has defined America's promise since Thomas Jefferson penned its founding document over 200 years ago.

    There's a phrase that often occurs to me when I read this kind of dribble. I sternly ration myself to one use of it per year, and now is the time:

    Where do you start with this stuff?

    Granted that the public is in some sense to the left of the elites -- a proposition I have no problem believing -- how on earth does Creamer manage to infer the further proposition that Barack will do the public's will -- that he "intends to enact" what the public wants?

    You can read the whole thing if you like, but I'll tell you right now, Creamer doesn't bridge the logical gap. He doesn't even try to. He just asserts it: the public wants change. So Obama will obviously "enact" change.

    It simply must be so.

    Don't even get me started with that vomitous high-school graduation stuff about Marse Tom Jefferson and the "promise" and the "founding document" -- I don't have enough carpets that I can afford to eat any of them.

    December 19, 2008

    United for Pajamas (UFPJ)

    I wouldn't have thought it was possible for UFPJ to be an even more narcoleptic lapdog for the Democratic Party after the election than they were before. But I was wrong. According to one of my lefty correspondents,

    UFPJ recently defeated a proposal to support a united anti-war march in Washington D.C. on the sixth anniversary of the Iraq war, Saturday, March 21, by a vote of 111 to 49. Instead, United For Peace and Justice voted in favor of their program "Yes We Can... End the War" for a Saturday April 4 march on Wall Street, focusing on the recession.
    Another correspondent adds:
    It's true. I was there.

    Supporters of March 21st asked that that action not be counterposed to April 4th -- and we still don't see them as counterposed. The UFPJ leadership insisted they had to be. Their arguments in favor of April 4th were that the focus had to move away from the war. In the words of UFPJ-NYC leader Leslie Kielson, "we're used to being in opposition, to being an antiwar movement. Now we can be proactive," because "we're in a new period."

    And the idea of a march in DC -- instead of NY, where April 4th will be -- was vetoed because it would seem to be opposing Obama.

    Over and over the need to realize "this is a different moment," to be part of the "Obama movement," was stressed.

    After the vote on these two actions was taken, at a workshop on the economic crisis, I said that it would be great to get unions involved in April 4th and bring their demands for the kind of jobs and services they need for their members and communities (sounds pretty proactive to me!).

    Unfortunately UFPJ instead is only calling for a 25% reduction in war spending (which would probably leave us at levels of 4 or 5 years ago). So rather than integrating the war and the economy in a genuinely progressive way -- i.e. no troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and jobs and services for all who need them -- they will demonstrate where, and with only those demands, that they feel won't anger Obama.

    Socialistworker.org had a reporter at UFPJ's recent convention, who tells a melancholy tale:
    THE MAIN U.S. antiwar coalition, United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), held its national convention in Chicago on December 12-14.... [T]he conference drew only 248 attendees, fewer than at its convention last year. Such a low turnout should come as no surprise; UFPJ has not called a major national antiwar demonstration in close to two years and has invested the bulk of its forces either directly or indirectly in campaigning for the Democratic Party....

    At the convention, the majority of UFPJ's leadership and featured speakers argued forcefully that the antiwar movement should credit itself for helping get Obama elected and be encouraged that we will now finally have an ally in the White House.

    "We have elected the most progressive mainstream politician imaginable," declared William McNary, president of USAction/TrueMajority, at the opening plenary. McNary went on to describe Obama as our "quarterback"--and say that the movement's task is to "block" for him.

    On the same panel, Antonia Juhasz, an activist and author of The Bush Agenda, argued, "Barack Obama has a fundamentally different approach to Iraq and the war in Afghanistan. He has a fundamentally different approach to imperialism. He has a fundamentally different approach to the oil industry...."

    [T]he convention marked a turn in UFPJ's past practice of focusing specifically on the war in Iraq. Now, UFPJ proposes to broaden out to highlight economic justice, racism and climate change, among a host of other issues.

    "Only a new compact, a real compact with a handshake between social movements from the bottom up--especially the antiwar, economic justice and environmental movements--can begin to achieve a better, safer future and deliver on the truly radical promises of the Obama presidency," said Tom Hayden... now a Democratic Party activist....

    [A] proposal to incorporate opposition to the war in Afghanistan was approved. "UFPJ demands immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all occupying forces from Afghanistan," reads the amendment. "We will make this demand along with immediate withdrawal from Iraq the central focus of our organizing and actions."

    UFPJ's leadership clearly didn't want to come out for immediate withdrawal, which puts the coalition explicitly at odds with the Obama administration's plans. But sensing that this was broadly popular among the delegates, the program committee decided to accept the caucus' language as a friendly amendment, and thus avoid a vote on the issue directly....

    Initially, UFPJ had called for mobilizations during the week of the anniversary of the Iraq war. Two other antiwar formations--the National Assembly that met in Cleveland this past summer and International ANSWER--put out a call for an ad hoc coalition of all antiwar groups for a national demonstration on March 21 in Washington, D.C.

    UFPJ's leadership didn't respond to this call for unity, and instead proposed local actions on March 19 and a spring national mobilization in New York City on April 4. Asserting that the antiwar movement alone isn't capable of mobilizing sufficient forces and would risk alienating the Black community if it directly confronted Obama, the New York City march will have a slogan "Yes we can...End the war"--but will emphasize a broad range of issues....

    [S]upporters of UFPJ's leadership spoke of the importance of broadening the constituency and agenda of UFPJ. But the logic of their position was to insist that no antiwar demonstration take place in Washington....

    Tom Hayden! Perfect. Was it Gore Vidal who once observed that "Tom Hayden is the type of guy who gives opportunism a bad name"?

    The wheels on the bus...

    Our old pal Mike Flugennock sends along his visual comment on Obama and his self-immolating fan club of Pwogs:

    January 5, 2009

    Send in the clowns

    Apparently the ballot-counters in Minnesota have declared Al Franken the victor in the Senate race there. This doesn't end the story -- the Republican will sue, and Franken's margin of victory is a matter of a few hundred votes.

    Still, I hope he ends up going to Washington and serving a term. He'll be much funnier in the Senate than in his former career.

    Strange place, Minnesota, where some few sparks of the old populist flame still faintly glow; but ever since the Democrats swallowed up the Farmer-Labor Party during the mid-40s revanche, the net effect of this honorable but threadbare legacy is to make Democratic candidates slightly more hypocritical -- during election season -- than they are in less favored states.

    Along these lines, Franken really makes a perfect successor to another Minnesota clown, one of the original architects of the Democratic Anschluss of the FLP, shown below with a remarkably Strangelovian Werner von Braun:

    January 28, 2009

    Shorter Taylor Marsh

    1

    Juan Cole is objectively pro-wingnut
    .

    2

    Claiming I said that makes him an unhinged wingnut.

    Shorter Juan Cole

    With all due respect to my colleague, an argument cannot be compelling when it doesn't touch base with the world as it actually exists.

    Juan Cole

    I agree with Professor Cole, in his own words, not my jesting reduction, but I'd stipulate that Marsh's argument was made in bad faith, from beginning to end, and intended to be disciplinary. It has the distinct whiff of punitive sectarian harangues.

    March 3, 2009

    A Perlo of great price

    Hey gang -- wanna read about the bank struggle, as viewed from a high limb of our grand old Red party? Here's an article co-authored by "People Before Profits" columnists John Case and Art Perlo. A few highlights to get you to click on in:

    "The problem right now is not primarily that banks are not making loans. It is that in previous years, they made too many loans, beyond the ability of consumers or businesses to repay.... Nationalization is a step toward socialism to the extent that democracy, and working class empowerment, is expanding. However in the absence of expanding democracy — that is, in the hands of corrupt, compromised and unaccountable forces — nationalization can mean a harmful centralization of power....

    The challenge before the United States now cannot succeed without greater democratic guidance.... At least if it is government-owned, there is the possibility that we can exercise some level of control through the democratic process, however flawed....

    Most of the necessary functions can be run perfectly well by civil servants.... Don't even try to fix the whole banking system as it exists."

    "Corrupt, compromised and unaccountable forces." Got that? No? Go read it all again.

    Done? Are you enlightened now?

    No? Oh, you're hopeless. Go sing 'Old Man River' until you get it.

    * * * * *

    NB -- Art Perlo is from the famed Perlo family. Here's the pater familias, Vic, dressed up for HUAC:

    March 4, 2009

    The worse, the better

    I've noticed an interesting phenomenon of late. Some of my liberal friends have begun to send out triumphant emails every time Obie does something that's not positively awful. Look! they say, between the lines. There is a difference! M'lud, the defense rests!

    I got one of these yesterday, from a chap I'll call Bruno:

    Obama , getting money to the working class, pronto
    
    3/3/09 Notice of Certain Benefits Unemployed Workers May Be 
    Eligible For Under the Economic Stimulus Package.
    
    1)Extra $25 per week in unemployment benefits
    2)Period for Collecting Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extended
    3)Partial  (first $2,400)Suspension of Federal Income Tax On Unemployment Benefits for Tax Year 2009
    
    Obama , Obama , Obama !
    
    Now all these steps are OK things to do, as far as they go. But they're quite tiny. In fact, they qualify as crumbs under the table. Bruno thinks they matter because he thinks -- and who knows, perhaps he's right -- that Bush or McCain wouldn't have done even this much.

    What interests me here is the recalibration of expectations. Bruno, when he's not cheerleading for Obama, fills up my inbox with Talmudic exegeses of obscure passages in the Grundrisse. He presents as a case-hardened heaven-storming Marxist, and keeps a sheaf of the Old Man's proof-texts at his fingertips for every occasion. He has, ex officio, a world to win, and fully expects to win it.

    And yet he gets giddy with delight at a niggardly partial "suspension" of income tax on unemployment benefits. The world can wait to be won. In the meantime, Bruno is grateful for crumbs -- or rather, not just grateful; downright triumphant. I told you so! Obie is not Bush! We'd have had no crumbs from Bush! Or not as many! Or they'd have been even smaller!

    One of the interesting consequences of this mode of thought is that the more the A-Team reactionaries overreach, the better it is for the B-team lesser-evillists.

    The more grotesque and cartoonish the Bushes and Cheneys and Coulters and Limbaughs become, the better our guys look -- as long as they stay a pace or two behind the lead monsters in the sprint to the abyss. Really, all our guys have to do is speak in complete sentences and avoid going red in the face, and they look like the Second Coming. The fact that they're a pace or two behind is what's important; the fact that they're also heading for the abyss doesn't matter, and you're a prick for bringing it up.

    Perhaps this is why liberals love to pay so much attention to ineffably boring figures like Bill O'Reilly, and George Will, and whatsisname from Louisiana -- it takes people this dismal and abandoned to make them feel comparatively virtuous.

    March 15, 2009

    In unity there is fatuity

    Where is the American left while all this hell is breaking loose?

    Why, they're helping lay astroturf for Barack Obama! Read on to find out more about the massive Kool-Aid party being organized to boost the Obama Agenda -- and presumably, the Obama approval rating, which has apparently sunk to something more appropriate to normal objective reality:

    A broad coalition of left-leaning groups is quietly closing ranks into a new coalition, "Unity '09," aimed at helping President Barack Obama push his agenda through Congress.

    Conceived at a New York meeting before the November election, two Democrats familiar with the planning said, Unity '09 will draw together money and grassroots organizations to pressure lawmakers in their home states to back White House legislation and other progressive causes.

    The online-based MoveOn.org is a central player in the nascent organization, but other groups involved in planning Unity '09 span a broad spectrum of interests, from the American Civil Liberties Union to the National Council of La Raza to Planned Parenthood, as well as labor unions and environmental groups.

    The group is still in its early stages, and its organizers have adopted a secretive posture: Several of the people involved did not respond to emails over the last two days, even though one of them, former MoveOn executive director Eli Pariser, has programmed his MoveOn email account to assure correspondents that he is using the account for messages "including Unity '09 work."

    March 17, 2009

    Pwogs nix winning stwategy

    Brother Flugennock's earlier post about Unity '09 reminded me of something I saw a week or two ago, and meant to write about:

    Bloggers Create PAC to Recruit Liberal Candidates

    WASHINGTON — A group of liberal bloggers say they are teaming up with organized labor and MoveOn.org to form a political action committee that will seek to push the Democratic Party further to the left.... [T]hey are planning to recruit candidates to challenge the more centrist Democrats now in Congress, known as “blue dogs.”

    ...The new organization is in many ways the liberal equivalent of the Club for Growth, a conservative group that has financed primary challenges against Republicans it deems insufficiently dedicated to tax cuts and small government.

    Organizers of the new group, called Accountability Now, bristle at the comparison, saying they will not provide an issues-based litmus test for candidates. They say they will mainly support primary challenges when there is clear evidence that a lawmaker is out of step with his constituents....

    [T]hey spoke in terms of enabling Mr. Obama to pursue liberal policies without fear of losing support from more conservative Democrats in Congress.

    The Other Gray Lady provides some characteristic Markos Moulitsas tough-guy talk:
    For instance, said Moulitsas, the coalition will not punish Mark Begich, the new Alaska senator, for backing expanded oil drilling, since it realizes that his is a popular position in the state. And, Moulitsas added, it will not target Democrats for opposing gay marriage, since it recognizes that public support for gay marriage is not yet at critical mass. Instead, it will do polling -- overseen by whiz-kid Nate Silver -- to find issues where Democrats have truly strayed away from their own constituents.

    [Moulitsas says] "Everything is going to be poll-tested -- we're not going to try to do push them to do what's unpopular."

    That Moulitsas, what an ice-cold technocrat -- the Dr Rotwang of dispassionate electoral science.

    The interesting angle to this story is precisely the indignant rejection, by this Ladies' Home Improvement Society, of the proven winning strategy exemplified by the Club For Growth -- and by extension, the whole armies-of-the-night post-Goldwater movement that certainly did succeed (whatever you may think of the result) in becoming a force to be reckoned with in the Republican Party. These folks were being mocked, back in my early days, as "little old ladies in tennis shoes", but they soon made the mockers laugh out the other side of their mouths.

    Moulitsas and Hamsher and (I'm sorry to say) Glen Greenwald are made, it seems, of less stern stuff.

    In the first place, they're too loyal to the instutional party. The Little Old Ladies In Tennis Shoes (LOLITS) didn't mind destroying the Republican Party if they couldn't take it over. But Moulitsas and Co. are moving vewy, vewy cawefully.

    Relatedly, the Accountability Now folks -- and by the way, how wimpy is that name? -- don't really have an ideological axe to grind the way the LOLITS did. Right-wing propaganda that paints the Hamshers and Moulitsades as ideological zealots in fact gives them far too much credit.

    The LOLITS were at any rate True Believers. By contrast, Moulitsas et al. seem so tepid and mild that one wonders why they bother at all.

    March 19, 2009

    From the sublime to the ranunculus

    God, are we lefty types ever the long-winded bagpipers.

    Take this slow skirling sigh -- it's by a true veteran:

    "To understand the current situation we need to go beyond what goes on in the labor process and production to the complex of relationships around the state and finance. We need to understand how the national debt and credit system have from the beginning been major vehicles for primitive accumulation, or what I now call accumulation by dispossession."
    Christ, dry rot at least crackles and powders away, but this limitless Left gas, on and on it carries.

    "Aye mate -- ya know -- I'm a wee piper for Marx."

    And to think he's only one of ever so many such red Zeppelins out there, sliding independently through Clio's night skies.

    When Comrade Harvey descends from the world-historical stratosphere where he grapples with concepts like "primitive accumulation," methinks we see a change in the physiognomy of our dramatis personae:

    Questions are being asked about Obama’s choice of economic advisers – for example Larry Summers who was Secretary of the Treasury at the key moment when a lot of things started to go really wrong, at the end of the Clinton administration.
    Questions? What questions can be asked about Obama's staff picks, to which the answers are not obvious to the meanest intellect? And things "started" to go wrong -- at the "end" of the Clinton administration? When was the last time "things" went right, Comrade?
    A new state financial architecture is required. I don’t think that all existing institutions like the Bank of International Settlements and even the IMF should be abolished; I think we will need them but they have to be revolutionarily transformed. The big question is who will control them and what their architecture will be. We will need people, experts with some sort of understanding of how those institutions do work and can work.
    Is Comrade Harvey perhaps a cell-mate of Pere Smiff's friend Bruno?

    March 24, 2009

    The bourgeois virtues

    Here's the incipit of a little sermonette from one of The Nation's stable of secular parsons:

    Our Budget, Our Selves
    posted by Melissa Harris-Lacewell on 03/24/2009 @ 08:13am

    Few processes are more revealing of our commitments, our priorities, and our core beliefs than budgeting.

    I can't help noticing that all these Holy Joes and Josephines down at the Nation have ponderous double-barreled names that would burden a minor Hapsburg royal. How do they stand erect under the weight of these jawbreaking monikers, I wonder? And what about their children? When little Hera Harris-Lacewell marries little Zeus Graham-Felsen, what Pelion upon Ossa of a surname will their hopeful young Hephaestus have to shoulder in his luckless turn?

    But I digress.

    Melissa is off to a strong start here. The central sacrament of our lives, our Lares and Penates, the "process" in which we are most ourselves, is... budgeting. Not love, not prayer, not song, but sharpening the old pencil and sending every penny home with deadly aim to its optimal target.

    The Rev. Ms. Melissa goes on:

    I have a good friend who has decided to get rid of their family's second car. Though she and her husband work 30 minutes in opposite directions they are finding a way to make this crazy commute work. Why? Because they live a town with seriously underperforming public schools and they are absolutely committed to providing their daughter with a first class education. For them, this means private school tuition. So everyone is bracing for obscenely early mornings and far more inconvenient work schedules. They never thought twice about this priority.
    What a feelgood story this is. The friend's little Hephaestus has to be put through the refiner's fire of private school at all costs. And note Melissa's vocabulary: "underperforming." "First class education."

    Best of all is that Melissa's friend -- just such another as she, I dare say -- "never thought twice." Indeed, and doesn't that say it all.

    It comes as no surprise, as we read farther, to discover that

    I work at an elite, private university, but even we are feeling the crush of the economic downturn. This week I watched with pride as my president, Shirley Tilghman, explained that Princeton remains absolutely committed to providing some of the most generous financial aid packages in the country.
    You knew it had to be Princeton, didn't you? And you knew she'd manage to drop the name somehow, too? Come on, 'fess up. You saw it coming.

    There's more:

    Tonight President Obama presents his budget to the American people. The budget is more than a balance sheet. President Obama will ask us to evaluate our priorities in the face of economic crisis. He will question our resolve to improve education, offer equal opportunities, and provide for our neighbors despite the the terrifying deficits. He will ask us what we really believe.

    Each of the stories I have told here could be eased with a collective national effort. All families should have quality public schools for their children. College should be more affordable for high achieving students.

    How do you "ease" a "story"? Do I want to know? Sounds like it might involve a laxative.

    And why, I wonder, are deficits "terrifying"? They don't scare me a bit.

    And as for the "low achieving" students -- well, fuck 'em, I guess.

    Really, if this is what passes for left discourse in this country, it's no wonder people are reactionaries. Given a choice between the dreary ponderous relentlessly educative Melissa Saxe-Coburg-Artaxerxes-Amenhotep, and Rush Limbaugh -- hell, at least you can remember Rush's name.

    March 28, 2009

    So naturalists observe...

    ... a flea,
    Has lesser fleas that on him prey,
    And these have smaller fleas that bite 'em,
    And so proceed ad infinitum.
    Having recently dipped a toe into the cesspit of intellectual disgrace that is the Center For American Progress (CAP), I found myself wondering about what ever happened to Third Way, another component of the Fromsphere that I once took an interest in for anecdotal reasons (I knew a junior woodchuck who used to work there; he's CIA now).

    Since my toe was already beshat, I went and dipped it again, at Third Way's site, and pulled out this plum:

    Third Way Statement on the Retirement of Al From, as Chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council

    Al From’s retirement from the DLC and the transition of the DLC/PPI after twenty years of success means the passing of the torch to the next generation in moderate progressive politics.

    Imagine my delight. There are not only "progressives", which is to say reactionaries in all but name; there are also "moderate progressives" -- people who can split a difference too small for ordinary human eyes to see.

    The real number line is a wonderful thing. You can get arbitrarily close to zero and still be the lesser evil!

    April 2, 2009

    Vivat Flanders

    The fetching and feisty Laura Flanders, shown above, seems to be emerging from the fog of pwoggery that I saw her in last year. She has a nice item in The Nation:

    After the president announced the deployment of 4,000 more troops (on top of the extra 17,000 he's already sent) Jon Soltz, an anti-Iraq war organizer with VoteVets wrote in the Huffington Post: "With today's announcement President Obama has shown that he 'gets it.' That's why we at VoteVets.org are supporting the plan." They even have a rah-rah petition going.

    Americans United for Change ran hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of anti-Iraq war ads in 2007, but they refused to answer a Washington Post blogger's question about Afghanistan....

    MoveOn has thus far been silent on Afghanistan.

    April 9, 2009

    Pwoggie went a-bombin', he did ride

    Call me squishy-soft on libertarians, but I like Justin Raimondo's stuff at antiwar.com. He has a fine piece there now about Pwog bomb-droppers, particularly the Center for American Progress (CAP), recently excoriated here.

    Raimondo writes:

    As President Barack Obama launches a military effort that promises to dwarf the Bush administration’s Iraqi adventure in scope and intensity, the "progressive" community is rallying around their commander in chief as obediently and reflexively as the neocon-dominated GOP did when we invaded Iraq. As John Stauber points out over at the Center for Media and Democracy Web site, the takeover of the antiwar movement by the Obamaites is nearly complete. He cites MoveOn.org as a prime but not sole example:

    "MoveOn built its list by organizing vigils and ads for peace and by then supporting Obama for president; today it operates as a full-time cheerleader supporting Obama’s policy agenda....

    Peace Action is... confining their opposition to an online petition. As for UFPJ, their alleged opposition to Obama’s war is couched in all kinds of contingencies and ambiguous formulations. Their most recent public pronouncement, calling for local actions against the Af-Pak offensive, praises Obama for "good statements on increasing diplomacy and economic aid to Afghanistan and Pakistan."

    ...I am truly at a loss to describe, in suitably pungent terms, the contempt in which I hold the "progressive" wing of the War Party, which is now enjoying its moment in the sun. These people have no principles: it’s all about power at the court of King Obama, and these court policy wonks are good for nothing but apologias for the king’s wars.


    (Raimondo also takes a gratifying pot-shot at the good old CPUSA, the Pet Sematary of the Democratic Party. This is a teaser to get you to go read the whole thing.)

    The Nation magazine recently gave a platform to Lawrence Korb, of the CAP, to make the humanitarian case for raining high explosives on the turbaned heads of Afghanis and selected Paks. Korb's case is (as usual) long on assertion and short on argument; what it comes down to is that it should be obvious that we've got to undertake a ten-year crusade in Afghanistan, and if you can't see it, you must be a mere knee-jerk war-hater:

    A Responsible Afghan Strategy
    By Lawrence J. Korb & Sean E. Duggan

    If the United States ever wishes to leave Afghanistan, it requires a sustained engagement using all elements of national power--military, economic and diplomatic.....

    If you want to leave -- you've got to stay! Suppose we said we wanted to stay. Would we then get to leave?
    Afghanistan is not Iraq. Unlike the war in Iraq, which was always a war of choice, Afghanistan was and still is a war of necessity.
    Necessary? Because why? Why, because...
    [W]e have been warning of the consequences of the chronic and unacceptable neglect of the war in Afghanistan since 2005 .... Al Qaeda and its affiliates have regained a strategic safe haven within Afghanistan and Pakistan..... [A] failed Afghanistan would threaten the stability of Pakistan and the region.... Afghanistan's opium revenues fund regional and international terrorists.

    Failed states, international terrorism, and "stabilizing" Pakistan [*cue sour laugh on sound track*] -- can anybody detect even a shift of emphasis or vocabulary or tone or anything at all from the propaganda line of the last eight years (or twenty, if it comes to that)? The only shift I can see is that a different set of turbans will be getting the bulk of the high explosive.

    As for Pakistan, it seems crystal clear that "stabilization" is not the goal. If anything, I think I may detect an Indo-Israeli nutcracker at work on that hapless land, by way of supplement to the unending and invariant Great Game.

    Here's my favorite bit, Korb's peroration:

    Many wrongly assert that the progressive community is instinctively against all wars. This assertion is both wrong and dangerous. In the words of President Obama, we are not against all wars, just dumb wars.
    Anything that comes with a "smart" label, of course, is guaranteed to appeal to merit-class bright sparks.

    Of course Korb is quite right that the "progressive community" is not anti-war. Au contraire, the "progressive community" has a long record of cheerleading for wars, always with the best and most noble of motives. This is one reason among many why the term "progressive" makes my skin crawl.

    I do wonder why he think's it's "dangerous" to impugn the Pwogs' thirst for blood, though. Dangerous to whom?

    May 15, 2009

    Careful, careful

    The arm-waving Princeton pedagogue(*) shown above, clearly full of passionate intensity and bottomless self-regard, is Melissa Harris-Lacewell, pilloried here before for her pretentious double-barreled name, her carefully-paraded Ivy League credentials, and her drooling prose.

    I'm sorry to say that we weren't able to shame her into cutting her throat, on that previous occasion, so she's baaack, in the congenial pages of The Nation, searching her deep, sensitive, conscientious -- and highly responsible -- soul about those infamous torture photos that Mr Hope And Change now wants to keep from us:

    Photographs of horror are powerful. That power should make us sober and careful in deciding how to use the images.
    Gotta hand it to Melissa Tiger-Tattoo. She can pack a truckload of presuppositions into a nice short crisp Freshman Comp-approved E B White sentence.

    Power should make "us" sober, Melissa? Who is this "us"? Who gets to decide? And what is this power that "we" have?

    You must know, Melissa, ensconced though you are behind the almost-ancient-looking honey-colored brickwork of Old Nassau, that the great unwashed public out there would love to see these pictures. So if you were in the driver's seat -- as you are not, Great Achiever though you are -- what would your justification be for denying the public what it wants?

    Our sons and daughters are still overseas. We have not fulfilled the promise to bring them home. Until we do so we have to protect them as best we can from our places of relative privilege here in the United States. I strongly believe that no good is served if even one of our soldiers is abused in retribution for our failings or as a result of our moral self-righteousness.
    Melissa, are the Deciders, old and new, inviting you to their meetings? I doubt it. But you are there in imagination, weighing in your conscientious heart what the rest of us should and should not see.

    They also serve who only stand and pontificate.

    ---------------------

    (*) Greek for "boy-herder", as I love to point out.

    May 21, 2009

    Cunt

    Got your attention, eh? Yours and every spammer in the universe. God help me.

    On one of my lefty mailing lists, a participant -- let's call him Skanderbeg -- recently used this potent word. Here's the context; he's talking about the Taliban:

    Sorry i dont want to live in a country where women will be hit for just going out of there house without a man.Sorry i dont want to live in a country where music is banned.Sorry i dont want to live in a country where im not allowed to shave.These are just samples of monstrous laws the taliban made.If any1 supports these Cunts than they need to really understand what there agenda is.
    Skanderbeg -- by the way -- is not a native speaker of English, if this fact needs pointing out.

    Now you may think, as I did, that berating the Taliban is not particularly original or particularly Left or particularly interesting. Read the post, said ho-hum, went on to other things.

    An hour later, an email check opened up a firestorm of abuse from the comrades. Not about Skanderbeg's rather routine New York Times assessment of the Taliban, but about his use of the word "cunt".

    Samples:

    • Well if you want to be an opponent of sexism you should probably eliminate the sexist 'c-word' from your list of insults. Its insulting to see that word used on a marxism list.
    • Why is a reference to a woman's genitals the most offensive thing you think you can say to a man? .... That word has no place on a Marxist list, has no place anywhere. It is a word derived from the subjugation and degradation of women. No matter how you think you are using it, your use of it alone provides explicit approval of that treatment of women.
    • Tell you what you do comrade ask women what they think of being called that term. No more a simply anatomical term than calling you an asshole would be simply anatomical.
    • I hope [Skanderbeg] has learned exactly how English speaking Americans hear that word, and therefore why it would never be used by politically conscious people.
    It was all downhill from there. Skanderbeg and his "cunt" had a few defenders (me among them, of course) and we came in for even more abuse than Skanderbeg himself. We were First Worlders and Anglophones after all, and nobody was going to cut us any slack. The final verdict was delivered in suitably lugubrious and world-historical terms by, what else, a German comrade -- let's call him Evangelus:
    You are still flesh of the flesh of the imperialist nation you happen to live in, using the same parcellizing view as your imperialist master and the same disregard of them for the oppressed nations of this world.
    Wow! When a learned German wants to cast you into the outer darkness, he's got the vocab for it -- and the self-seriousness.

    All this nonsense got me to thinking. What is it about Pwogs -- I was about to say "American pwogs", but then remembered Herr Evangelus -- that creates this Pharisaical hysteria about the words people use?

    Partly it's the campus context. Much of what passes of the "left" dwells in the hothouse atmosphere of the credentialling sector, where discourse is the world. Control the words, and you can move the earth. Abolish "oppressive" language, and you've abolished oppression, as near as dammit.

    Then there's several decades of identity politics. Every oppressed group claims its turf partly by defining permissible vocabulary. There are so many oppressed groups -- how do you stand out from the crowd? Beat somebody over the head if they use the wrong word. They'll remember that.

    But alas, it seems likely that the deepest determinant of diction-policing is simply middle-class morality, brushed up and provided with a post-hoc political rationale. We are hearing the voice of Nanny here.

    There are nice words and naughty words. The naughty words are usually Anglo-Saxon (or, in the case of "cunt", Anglo-Norman). They frequently have four letters, and they often refer to naughty bits of one's body -- the bits one hides in public.

    The nice words come from Latin and Greek. They include items like "vagina", "vulva", "clitoris", "penis", and so on. (Nanny doesn't realize -- not having had a classical education -- that some of these were just as naughty in Latin or Greek as "cunt" is in English. But Nanny is a great believer, as the man said, in the "decent obscurity of a learned language.")

    A few years back, PC diction-policing was a great gift to right-wing humorists. We kinda handed it to them on a platter: here, we said -- this is just how weedy, and nattering, and priggish, and fatuous, we are. If you say "cunt" in our presence, we'll either froth at the mouth, or faint.

    I thought we'd learned from the experience. Alas -- some of us, it appears, will never learn.

    These poor folks must have had the Nannies From Hell.

    June 13, 2009

    The Pwog Gauntlet Is Cast

    Are you deliberately trying to start a civil war?

    If your answer is yes, then stop this cowardly half-assed screwing around. You speak the language of war and honor; but the honor code of the warriors you pretend to revere demands that you declare your intentions. If you really believe that the only way to get the America you want is to negate a fair election, shred the Constitution, and violently cleanse the country of everyone who doesn’t agree with you, then man up and get on with it. If it’s a shooting war you want, do not doubt that there are plenty of progressives who will oblige you. If this goal is so important that you’re really willing to kill for it, please don’t forget that you will also need to be willing to die for it. Because, like martyrs Greg McKendry and Steven Johns proved, we are willing to do whatever is necessary to stop you.

    Oh, dear...

    Are the pwogs are going to start shooting wingnuts?! The prospect is a little bit alarming, if farfetched. I think they should recommit to cranking out pointless, turgid reifications for think tanks and get back to accusing the wingers of being the "real postmodernists". We'd all be a lot safer. Also, it would be helpful if the pwogs could stop calling themselves "the left". They're crackpot meritocrats who support capitalism, neocolonialism and a kinder, gentler police state, but get upset when this freak show is run poorly by Republicans.

    July 23, 2009

    Will they ever learn?

    Kevin Donohue was a field organizer for Barack Obama’s campaign last year in Wyoming County, Pennsylvania. He came to Washington, D.C. in January to continue working for change. At first, Donohue took an unpaid internship with his congressman and waited tables, hoping like many former Obama staffers to get a job in the political process. But the outlook for Donohue was bleak. After getting rejected from three jobs on the same day, he finally took a temporary offer from the Washington Kastles, D.C.’s professional tennis squad, where he works with charity organizations and occasionally dresses up as a huge fuzzy tennis ball to cheer on the home team. There is no union, no health care coverage, and a finite period of employment. Donohue isn’t alone. More than 6,000 people worked on the campaign for Barack Obama. There are many that are either unemployed or uninsured, or both.

    Most, if not all, of Barack Obama’s Campaign for Change veterans were among the 350,000 applicants for a few thousand jobs in Obama’s Washington. For those who didn’t have connections in the inner sanctum (or expansive resumes), the odds weren’t great. Some staffers who did not want to move to Washington, D.C. were depending on contacts made during the campaign for future opportunities. Now many of them are not only unemployed, but in the season of health care reform, they help comprise the 80 million under- or uninsured Americans (although the campaign cushioned the blow by extending health care benefits until the end of 2008).

    “On Nov. 4, 2008, I realized our problems weren’t going to just go away; it would take time, compromises have to be made,” Donohue says, but he admits it isn’t easy. “I don’t have a job right now and I am struggling. But as an American citizen I respect the fact that statesmen can’t snap their fingers and turn out a perfect health care policy. Eventually, they will make a positive difference for the majority of people.”

    The stories of former unemployed Obama staffers stack up. Benjamin Freed is a 25-year-old working as a temp in Washington, D.C. “I had an active role in shaping the communications strategy of one of the most heavily contested states in the country [Pennsylvania], on health care, on everything,” Freed says, while sitting in a coffee shop a couple of hundred yards from the White House. “And then on Nov. 4, around 11 p.m., they called the election. And that’s the last time I had a job.”

    Surviving on money he earns from temp just isn’t enough to afford an individual health care plan. “I don’t have insurance—it’s too expensive,” Freed quickly answered. “I just have to be careful and stay healthy.”

    Full story

    It's hard to keep up with the daily progress of ObamaCare as it slithers through the bowels of the Corporate Chamber of Wholly Owned Subsidiaries. It started out as RomneyCare with a vaguely defined public option — much like President Obama himself. Now it's one of those 1-900-DIAL-A-BILKING things, with the revenues flowing everywhere but into delivery of healthcare. I don't have much on which to base it, but I'd bet HillaryCare would have been slightly better. Not sustainable, by any means, but able to get a few people patched up before it imploded. ObamaCare looks like it will be delivered imploded and worthless.

    It's easy for me to draw a bright line between shoe-horning Obama into office and Donohue's and Freed's vicissitudes. There's nothing personal to it. I doubt Obama is aware of their existence. That's how slick operators treat the help. Awareness of this social reality usually comes in middle school. Only a cultivated ingenuousness can stuff it back into its box.

    August 11, 2009

    Waxing philosophical

    Via IOZ. Tristero, a procedural capitulation artist, offers up this ponderous deconstruction of libertarianism, and proves that it cannot exist. I am or could be hypothetically relieved. I've been dreading the application of Barack Obama's application of Cass Sunstein's "libertarian paternalism" -- an oxymoron, I know, but as catchy euphemism for actually existing progressivism it works pretty well. The fatuity is its core strength. The infantilization is sincere. In its daily practice, it maintains a ghastly coherence through ad hominem defenses of a branded faction in the Decider class. It's very pragmatic in that regard. The branding provides the "nudge", ex ante, post facto and post hoc. The nudged elide the outcome and intent of a policy and bicker over the means. The branding gets considerably strained in this process, but it can be refreshed in a popularity contest. Progressivism may very well be the only political philosophy that has survived real world application, and remained true to its roots and original ideals, the manufacture of consent.

    Oh, no! Fascism!

    Grateful acknowledgment to Jay Taber for providing this link.

    America, it seems, is on the brink of fascism. Certified futurist Sara Robinson gives the alert in the link provided above. Eh... whatever. Historically, the effort to set fascism in motion is the panic-stricken response of an entrenched, wealthy elite that's facing a strong challenge to its power from a democratic social movement. There is no such challenge at this time. The entrenched, wealthy elite are getting everything they want from the Democratic administration in power. There is no challenge to that process from within the Democratic party. The useful idiot health care hecklers from the party of permanent, unappeasable resentment are providing cover for another massive looting, sold to the public in complete sentences by a rhetorically gifted salesman. The hecklers are, if anything, a gift from heaven. A collegial courtesy. Very little nutpicking need be done to make them all look deranged. While the rubes are gawking at the barking mad wingnuts, the insurance industry is happily toting up future returns on their wise investments. Any principled, nuanced opposition to that from the few real conservatives is not going to be heard. The left, needless to say, has already been evicted from the debate.

    I'm hardly breaking new ground, or conceding anything to Robinson's argument, when I acknowledge that the Republican base consists of authoritarian followers. They'll work overtime for increases in private privilege and increases in the police powers of the state. They live in perpetual moral panic over trivia. They are highly vulnerable to white collar crime and the least stable of them make good recruits for thuggery in support of it. This has been studied in great detail by, among others, Jay Taber. It is a sad irony that this research performed in pursuit of the public good is being used to form the propaganda basis for the moral panic of another set of authoritarian followers, the merit stooges of the Democratic Party, who are also highly vulnerable to white collar crime, who are differentiated from the Republican base by the conviction that thuggery in support of it is A) the sole prerogative of the state, provided the state is managed by Democrats, and B) should be done through humanitarian wars managed by Democrats.

    The state characteristics of fascism that were so troubling to Democrats during the Bush regime are still in place. The Patriot Act and Patriot II, affirmed by Barack Obama when he was a senator, are not going to be repealed. The torture hierarchy is not going to be prosecuted. The occupation of Iraq continues on the Bush plan, with a withdrawal to the "enduring" bases. The overseas contingency operations are on the rise and the war in Afghanistan is spilling over into Pakistan. The racist war on drugs is still popular. The power to police the internet is being increased. The secretary of state and the vice president are still rattling sabers. Private privilege remains lavishly funded and, now, also gets to speculate directly with tax payer money. Etc. etc. So, fascism? Oh no indeed. Perhaps we're supposed to take comfort in the complete sentences.

    September 20, 2009

    A Jurisprudence for Crackpots

    Toobin

    Drum

    Meritocracy and narrow proceduralism inevitably produce a crony culture which has, as its "philosophy", the preservation of what the highest status members consider the conditions that made them high status. Hey, it worked, right? They are where they are, after all, and people just like them are too. The liberal crony culture's salient distinction from the conservative crony culture is a concern with achieving merit metrics that are harder to fudge, i.e. metrics that don't favor conservatives. This becomes justice. Both have the same love of seeking out a mediagenic ad hominem determination of worthiness, on an individual, case-by-specific-case basis, in which the highest ambition is setting a precedent for the next individual, case-by-specific-case basis for an ad hominem determination of worthiness, and both have a love of collective determination of worthiness, as it pertains to their own immediate needs. The conservative crony culture plays the game better, however, and in response the liberal crony culture has adopted the business model, used advisedly, of attempting to manage the race to the bottom.

    That works well for them electorally when, and only when, the crony culture of the conservatives guides the race to the bottom at pace too fast and too frightening for the people whose business model is the power-tie Stakhanovite's extraction of rents. Politically, win or lose in elections, the liberal crony culture prospers. They're indispensable. Although for how much longer is an interesting question.

    What makes the liberal crony culture so much more contemptible, which takes some effort with the conservatives as competition, is that they have a vague inkling that somehow, in some strange way, they've handed power to the conservatives.

    beck_sunstein.jpg

    And that's why it's funny when Glenn Beck targets Cass Sunstein. The spectacle of a Pillsbury Doughboy clown flailing away at a schlemiel is hilarious.

    September 30, 2009

    Melissa locuta, causa confusa

    My lefty mailing lists have mostly been preoccupied the last couple of days with a frenzy of moral panic about Roman Polanski, but a few of the less Pecksniffian participants have been able to spare some time to execrate the latest gout of dribble from my favorite Nation magazine thinker -- Melissa Harris-Lacewell, she of the pretentious double-barreled name and the relentlessly referenced Princeton connection. (Melissa is shown above apparently riding in a bumper car with another highly successful merit baby; from their expressions it seems that a collision may be imminent.)

    Melissa's piece is very hard to characterize accurately. To say that it is fatuous, incoherent, and frequently incomprehensible only scratches the surface. A few excerpts:

    Lose the Love/Hate, But Keep the Hope.

    .... Yes, we need to halt the characterizations of Obama as savior or as anti-Christ. And we similarly should moderate our memories of the Bush years as evil or perfect. Still, I believe that the Obama win is important precisely because it injects a certain emotional valence into our electoral politics: a much needed revival of American hope. Obama won, in part, by encouraging us to feel good, to be optimistic, and to believe. The problem is when we direct that hope and belief onto the character/candidate rather than investing that optimism in the movement itself.

    There is a way to hold onto hard won optimism while still demonstrating emotional restraint in the public sphere. There are some ways to intervene in this moment with optimism and effort.

    Within days of Obama's election, progressives began talking about "holding Obama's feet to the fire." This is an old fashioned way to approach being part of a governing coalition....

    The left will get some, but not all of what it wants, and that is OK. It is better than OK, it is the heart of democracy. Winning does not give us a mandate to ignore the interests of those we defeated....

    I want universal, single-payer health care. I want a federal election law requiring consistency in voting rules and technology across all 50 states. I want low-cost, widely available child care for all families with children under five. I want the appointment of federal judges who will protect women's reproductive freedom. I want full constitutional guarantee in all 50 states of the right to same-sex marriage.... [but] I will not consider the Obama administration a failure if I don't get everything I want immediately....

    By retreating to outsider angst the left forgets one of the most exciting lessons of the Obama campaign: that ordinary people working for common purpose wield tremendous power....

    Put down the hammer and try a screwdriver....Of course we are not throwing out the hammer, because sometimes a nail needs a good smack.

    Where -- as I so often ask -- does one start?

    Melissa alludes to a "movement". What movement does she have in mind? As far as I can see there was no movement apart from a giddy cult of fanship centered entirely on the person of Barack Obama. You might as well call Beatlemania a movement.

    Then of course she wants to keep believing (in what, exactly? Belief itself?). But she also wants us to exhibit "emotional restraint". This is a curious topos to show up here. What the devil does it matter whether our emotions are restrained or not?

    "Emotional restraint," however, seems to mean something other than its face value -- something more like refusing to draw any conclusions from the comprehensive anticlimax of Obama-ite governance. Yeah, we're gonna get bupkis from this dude, but don't let that affect your thinking. Keep that hope and optimism going, come what may!

    Melissa also seems to feel that "we"(*) are "part of a governing coalition." Now this may be easier to believe from a nice old leather wing chair at Princeton, or Rachel Maddow's lemonade stand at MSNBC, than from my shabby Ikea recliner, but it's still delusional. Melissa is no more part of a "governing coalition" than I am. The "governing coalition" is still very much the usual gang, although administrators from the B-team are currently standing a relief watch on the bridge while the A-team guys sharpen their fangs in the green pastures of opposition.

    She draws an "exciting lesson" from the Obama campaign: that ordinary people wield tremendous power. But this assertion rests on nothing at all, and in fact contradicts the whole basis of the essay -- to wit, the utter disappointment that Obama has proven to be, or should have proven to be, if true believers like Melissa weren't incapable of learning from experience. "Ordinary people" have no power to get what they want by participating in empty spectacles like the recent election. They have at best the ability to choose which of two hands will ply the whip on their backs.

    One has to love the homely hammer/screwdriver metaphor, but again, the inquiring mind will wonder: where's the hammer? What do "we" have to smack anybody with?

    For that matter, where's the fucking screwdriver?

    -------------------

    (*) One is of course irresistibly reminded of Tonto's famous line -- What you mean 'we', paleface? -- even though Melissa's face is in fact a shade less pale than my own.

    October 5, 2009

    When I hear the word "sensitivity"....

    ... I go for my revolver, or would if I had one.

    A few days ago I mentioned that my lefty mailing lists were consumed with parsing and re-parsing the Roman Polanski business.

    It was, of course, inevitable, that sooner or later, someone would clear her throat emphatically and begin a contribution with the phrase, "As a woman...."

    Was it Rosie O'Donnell who had a schtick about this? "As a lesbian, I'd just like to say ... pass the salt."

    Ms As-A-Woman -- let's call her Laura Abbott -- went on rather predictably to suggest that the mostly male membership of the list was perhaps a bit "insensitive" to "women's issues."

    Now the Polanski conversation, silly as it often was, actually covered a lot of ground. The question of moral panic was raised. The social construction of childhood -- innocent childhood! -- and adulthood, came in for some rather heavy-handed discussion. But at least somebody pointed out that these notions are in fact socially constructed. The grandstanding judge's political ambitions were mentioned. You got a sense that this story had some depth and complexity, and that more than one kind of "issue" was involved.

    Of course, the Prosecutor's Friends were much in the majority. Call the cops! Extradite him! Throw the book at him! 'Nuff said!

    It always surprises me when folks who think of themselves as Lefties show such a zeal for the bourgeois cops, and the bourgeois DA, and the bourgeois judge, and the bourgeois rules of engagement (a judge, one lawyerly contributor pointed out, is not obliged to abide by a plea bargain made by the DA. So there, you filthy pervert!)

    But it happens all the time. In fact one of the most characteristic tics of the moralizing left is a display of indignation when some rich guy escapes the toils of the law, where a poor guy would have been immured deeper than Aida. One gets the impression that the escape is perhaps even more the casus irae than the inequality -- as if what we wanted was for the "justice system" to behave like it's "supposed to". As if we wanted a lie to become true.

    All of which leads back to the depressing insight that many or most American lefties are just recovering liberals at best -- if they're even recovering at all.

    Let's return to Ms Abbott, though. It wasn't enough to have most of the Trotskyite scribes and Pharisees on her side. She was furious, absolutely furious, that anybody might raise a doubt.

    Here's Laura:

    Does anybody care that this is pretty much a male only forum? Yes? No? This is a group of men discussing rape. Perhaps I was wrong to assume that because this list is called Marxist, a woman's perspective on women's issues would be welcome.
    Kinda strange line of reasoning there, about what you might expect of a "Marxist list". Would old Dr Marx himself have been interested in a "woman's perspective on women's issues"? It was my impression that he wasn't much interested in anybody's perspective but his own -- which as it turns out was a pretty insightful one, and one we keep going back to.

    But of course the nub of the matter is the idea that the Polanski case falls under the rubric of "women's issues."

    This is kind of a hard knot to untie. Who owns what "issue"? If Polanski had been interested in young boys rather than girls -- would it be a "gay issue"? Or a "men's issue"? Or a "children's issue"? Does the woman-ness or gay-ness or man-ness of the "issue" trump the interest some of us feel in the bloated condition of the enforcement state, the Pecksniffery of self-appointed advocates for supposedly innocent children, the sanctimonious hysteria of the media, and yes, the need that so many lefty Tartuffes feel to show themselves as righteous as the Right?

    I guess this is one reason, among others, why I so dislike what we have come to call "identity politics" -- it's the turf-protection element, the idea that your discourse is privileged over mine because you're speaking "as a" woman, or "as a" lesbian, or "as a" whatever, and we own this topic -- it's a whatever's issue.

    I think different. I think history and the social world and the res publica are the common property of us all. We all come to it with different histories and different perspectives, of course, and you'd be a fool not to listen attentively to what people with some immediate knowledge of a given matter have to say. But we all have to think for ourselves, and more to the point, no topic is ever just a whatever's issue.

    We all have to deal with the cops. And they are not your friend -- even if you're a woman.

    Or a child.

    October 10, 2009

    Medea Benjamin, armchair strategist

    (This one is for comrade Mike Flugennock, a great fan of the media-hog shown above.)

    Medea Benjamin, the grinning face and pointed beak of Code Pink, has begun to take her responsibilities as a world leader seriously (what's next -- will she be dating Bono?)

    'Code Pink' rethinks its call for Afghanistan pullout

    Kabul, Afghanistan - When Medea Benjamin stood up in a Kabul meeting hall this weekend to ask Masooda Jalal if she would prefer more international troops or more development funds, the cofounder of US antiwar group Code Pink was hoping her fellow activist would support her call for US troop withdrawal.

    She was disappointed.

    Ms. Jalhal, the former Afghan minister of women, bluntly told her both were needed. "It is good for Afghanistan to have more troops – more troops committed with the aim of building peace and against war, terrorism, and security – along with other resources," she answered. "Coming together they will help with better reconstruction."

    Code Pink, founded in 2002 to oppose the US invasion of Iraq, is one of the more high-profile women's antiwar groups being forced to rethink its position as Afghan women explain theirs: Without international troops, they say, armed groups could return with a vengeance – and that would leave women most vulnerable.

    ... During their weeklong visit here, in which they met with government officials, politicians, ministers, women activists, and civil society groups, the small team of Code Pink members had hoped to gather evidence to bolster their call for US troop withdrawal within two years, and capitalize on growing anxiety back home about the war.

    While the group hasn't dropped its call for a pullout, the visit convinced them that setting a deadline isn't in Afghanistan's interests, say Ms. Benjamin and fellow cofounder Jodie Evans.

    "We would leave with the same parameters of an exit strategy but we might perhaps be more flexible about a timeline," says Benjamin. "That's where we have opened ourselves, being here, to some other possibilities. We have been feeling a sense of fear of the people of the return of the Taliban. So many people are saying that, 'If the US troops left the country, would collapse. We'd go into civil war.' A palpable sense of fear that is making us start to reconsider that."

    How great is this? She's even adopted that gabbling military-corporate doublespeak -- "parameters of an exit strategy" -- "timeline" -- "opened ourselves" (yuck, as my daughter would say).

    And needless to say, it's doubly great that the Woman Question is what made the scales fall from Medea's formerly anti-imperial eyes. If the Afghan women -- or at least, the Afghan Ministry Of Women(*) -- want the legions there, then the legions must stay until Their Job Is Done.

    ------------------

    (*) Why don't we have one of these? I would so apply for a government job in this outfit. Windows system administration, window-washer, you name it -- I'd take it.

    October 12, 2009

    Meanwhile, this idiot....

    ... has some advice for us:

    Get Off Obama's Back ...second thoughts from Michael Moore

    We are weary, weary of war. The trillions that will have gone to these two wars have helped to bankrupt us as a nation -- financially and morally. To think of all the good we could have done with all that money!...

    We're the majority now -- the majority by a significant margin! We call the shots -- and we need to tell this wimpy Congress to get busy and do what we say -- or else.

    All I ask of those who voted for Obama is to not pile on him too quickly..... don't abandon the best hope we've had in our lifetime for change.....

    Let us celebrate what people elsewhere are celebrating -- that America now has a sane and smart man in the White House...

    The simple fact that he was elected was reason enough for him to be the recipient of this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

    .... at precisely 11:00pm ET on November 4, 2008, Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. ... Never before had the election of one man made every other nation feel like they had won, too.

    Perhaps that last observation is even true. Why, after all, shouldn't delusion be as globalized as every other commodity?

    November 4, 2009

    Drug of choice

    Here's Democratic Party hack, Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, shooting up -- quite understandably -- after a hard day at the polls:

    When we set out with our own rebuilding project, we fought to reform the Democratic Party at the same time we promoted a "more Democrats" mantra to get the GOP out of power. We fought for good, electable primary candidates while also supporting less-than-perfect general election Dems against particularly bad Republican incumbents. For the most part, our primary candidates were good choices, and almost all won their generals. The big exception -- Joe Lieberman -- ran as a third-party candidate after getting ousted in the primary. Connecticut voters wouldn't make the same mistake if they had a do-over.

    These conservative activists are approaching things differently -- they'd rather lose general election races than make gains in Congress with (in their eyes) less-than-perfect Republicans. That's a weird way to build a majority.

    Weird, maybe, but it's kinda worked for 'em, hasn't it? MMZ is probably too young to remember the Goldwater campaign. That's when it started. How well I recall the scoffing at the "little old ladies in tennis shoes." They're running the show now -- even in opposition!

    All this wonderful teabagger stuff is about party-building: keeping the base fired up. The Dems don't do that, and don't want to do it. That's the marvelous asymmetry of the parties -- the only one that matters.

    The Republicans like to keep their base fired up. The Democrats like to keep theirs doped up. The Republicans want their base mad as hell. The Democrats want theirs resigned.

    Poor Kos. For all his recherche wonkery, he's very naif. He really wants his party to win. But his party actually doesn't care much about winning. They're quite content to be second banana most of the time, as long as their employment in some capacity or other is secure. When lightning strikes -- as it does from time to time -- and his party controls Congress and the White House, their first impulse is to make sure the system stays intact.

    So they get these off-year repudiations -- and I bet the midterms next year amplify the effect, and reproduce the pattern of 1994.

    The True Believers blame it on the lazy and neglectful public, who fail to turn out -- as they did in droves, across the river from me in New Jersey. Don't these poor baseniks understand how important this election is?

    In fact, they do. They understand just how important it is.

    That's why they stay home.

    November 28, 2009

    Parapraxis

    Shown above, center, at some dreary bloggers' convention last year, is Eric Boehlert.

    (Bloggers, by the way, shouldn't have conventions. In fact I'm afraid most of us aren't fit to be seen in public, as this photo sadly demonstrates. Blox et praeterea nihil, that should be our motto.)

    Boehlert, who is at least the least schlubby of the three apparently and understandably narcoleptic thrift-shop pundits above, is the proprietor of a Democratic Party fansite called "media matters". The site is mostly about how angry Eric Boehlert gets when he watches Fox News -- which he seems to spend a lot of his time doing.

    Now to my way of thinking, watching Fox News would be tedious enough in all conscience; but reading about Eric Boehlert watching Fox News is surely an alchemically sublimated quintessence of tedium.

    Fortunately, we at SMBIVA have correspondents whose sense of duty is sterner than mine, and whose reading habits are less self-indulgent. One such correspondent passed along the following fume-o-rama from Boehlert:

    Glenn Beck to use 9/11 anniversary to stage another Obama-hating rally

    From Politico:

    Beck’s 9.12 Project is co-sponsoring a march on Washington on Sept. 11, 2010 to voice unhappiness with the agenda of President Obama....
    The idea of trying to politicize the 9/11 anniversary in such a naked way is shocking. But of course nothing actually shocks us any more about Beck's tasteless, Obama-hating campaign.... [I]f Beck's followers really follow through with their plan and use the hollowed anniversary of 9/11 and turn the tragic terrorist attacks of 2001 into a day for hurling hateful attacks against the President of the United States, will there be no outcry?
    Our sharp-eyed correspondent writes:
    Eric Boehlert 'hollows' 9/11 some more. I wonder if he slipped up a bit here and actually told the truth. With all the faux reverence for this event, I thought it was completely hollowed out already.

    December 4, 2009

    Jane Hamsher: off the rez?

    Politico carried an item recently that made Jane Hamsher sound like Robespierre. (Jane is shown above, on Bill's right; that's her firedoglake colleague Christy Hardin Smith holding down the left flank.)

    Here's Politico's breathless account:

    Hamsher leads left away from White House

    While President Barack Obama has struggled to keep the center together, he's had one unquestioned political success: Keeping the left at bay. A battle-tested Democratic infrastructure fell into line behind the White House....

    That alliance, which endured in spite of sometimes emotional differences on the shape of health care legislation, is now under increasing strain....

    MoveOn is one of the handful of groups breaking from the White House’s hold on big liberals to raise money, activate volunteers and threaten for the first time, Obama’s left flank. And so is a pixie-ish 50 year old former Hollywood producer who named her blog after her dog, and is taking what she calls “the next step in our evolution."

    The campaign launched by Jane Hamsher, whose blog Firedoglake first came to national attention for obsessive coverage of the Valerie Plame investigation, is called, "One Voice for Choice," and uses the nifty online phone banking tools that helped power Obama's campaign to put a scare into House Democrats who voted to attach the anti-abortion Stupak Amendment to health care legislation.

    Not surprisingly, there's a lot less to this insurrection than Politico suggests. What Jane is doing is encouraging people to call -- that's right, call -- folks like Harry Reid and tell him how unhappy they are. Oh and she is apparently supporting one primary challenger -- the perennial Jonathan Tasini, who is Kirsten Gillebrand's lesser lesser evil this year, as he was for Hillary Clinton a couple of years back.

    This non-story somehow succeeded in exciting one of my lefty mailing-list comrades -- let's call him Min the Merciless. He's a comparatively well-known chap whose blog Owen used to read. Here's Min:

    Jane mobilizes people, including their dollars, to pressure Members of Congress to vote for progressive positions. She actually gets involved at the specific vote level, fulfilling a function akin to the floor whips. The whips herd the cats to vote when they are supposed to. Or try to. Jane does that from outside using the Internet. She also organizes demos and was heavily involved in the effort to dump Lieberman.

    At the moment she is mobilizing people to vote against health care reform unless it includes a public option -- a position I happen to disagree with, but pretty edgy as conventional politics goes.

    Along with MoveOn, which has come out against the Afghanistan venture, it's the only game in town right now. Diddling on listservs really doesn't compare.

    This effusion evoked some sniping, and Min testily responded:
    Hmmm oh my yes, Jane should forsake her whirlwind of activism and join this mailing list. Then she would really be on the road to revolution.
    Actually, though, I agree with Min: Jane should forsake her whirlwind of Democratic party activism and spend her time discussing fine points of Marxist theory on mailing lists. At least in that case she would be accomplishing nothing. But as long as she keeps encouraging people to expend their spirits in the Democratic Patrty's waste of shame, she's doing something actively harmful.

    December 12, 2009

    Katrina non Hurricana

    Katrina van den Heuvel, editrix of The Nation, seems to have quantum-jumped into some parallel world on Wednesday, where she heard an alternative Obie give a different Nobel speech, a speech nothing like what the pathetic banal Obie in our poor world gave. Here's Katrina, on NPR (where else?):

    President Obama is an ethical realist. It was a speech grounded in realism with elements of idealism.... building on the quartet of major speeches he's given in this past year beginning to layout [an] Obama doctrine.... So, it was an important speech and directly you could see why the Nobel Committee awarded him this prize....

    [It]was a complex speech. It was a, kind of a speech that could be taught in a college course on just war and America's role in the world.

    Wow! It "could be taught in a college course"! Say no more! The man is one of us.

    Being President may make you stupid; but liking the President gives you a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy. Katrina is probably not a born fool, but deep commitment and hard work have made her a virtuoso of fatuous gaga.

    I looked again at Obie's speech -- wondering, perhaps, if it had transmuted into the text Katrina heard while I wasn't looking. It hadn't. But I did notice that among its many bellicose gestures, there were quite specific threats to Iran, the Congo, North Korea, Sudan, and Burma, all mentioned by name (except Sudan, which is unmentionable; its partition is already complete on the lexical plane, and something called Darfur looks like the new Kosovo).

    January 9, 2010

    When you don't have anything new to say...

    ... you can always make fun of Daily Kos.

    Owen recently mentioned that he'd like an update on the state of the Kos cult, but he wasn't willing to do the legwork himself. Smart boy, that Owen. It's dreary.

    Every so often you find something written by somebody interested in something that matters -- war and peace, death and life, that sort of thing. This is a rare experience, though, and daily more rare. The site is increasingly obsessed with microscopic technical electoral minutiae -- weighing a gnat's eyelash against a red cunt hair, if I may be pardoned a coarse old phrase from my engineering days.

    And polling! Boy do they love polling! Every other post seems to be about a poll. The most recent one I saw had the wonderful headline, "2010 Opens With Relative Quiet." (This sounds pretty good to me, since I never had a quiet relative, and two different sets of in-laws have both proven highly voluble as well.)

    Trolling the site for something that might amuse Owen, though, I do believe I may have hit pay dirt.

    This needs a little setup: "Netroots Nation" is the grandiose new name for what used to be the Daily Kos national convention, held in a downscale Las Vegas hotel which no doubt finds ways to help line Harry Reid's pocket. It's a sad spectacle, all these schlubby Internet shut-ins assembling to pat each others' suety backs. Here's a bit of burble from the chap in charge of organizing the festivities this year:

    Netroots Nation: What I Love About This Job
    by Adam B

    "Adam," I've been asked (by the voices in my head), "What do you enjoy most about serving as chairman of the board of directors of Netroots Nation? Is it being backstage with folks like Bill Clinton? Is it the site selection process?...

    And the answer is no. My favorite part of all of this is what's just started -- our proposal submission and evaluation process....

    When you're brainstorming, here are a few things to think about:

    • How does my idea help the broader progressive movement?
    • How will it empower activists to take what they've learned and use it for the greater good?
    • Do my proposed panelists represent diversity — of ethnicity, gender, geography, age and viewpoint?
    Click here to read the full list of guidelines and submit your idea. (We take these guidelines seriously -- there are numerical grades, spreadsheets, conference calls, the works.)
    *Begin senile irrelevant personal reminiscence*

    Guidelines! I can never hear this word without thinking of an ex-boss of mine, back when I had a well-paid and undemanding corporate job. This guy loved the word "guidelines" and used it in just about every sentence that came out of his mouth, but he had the strange tic of pronouncing the 'd' as a 't': "ghitelines".

    He was a man of modest origins, I think, who had risen to an exalted corner office by virtue of affirmative action. Not a bad guy -- as a boss he was generous, indolent and inexigeant, a real King Log, apart from a mad devotion to staff meetings -- but this verbal peculiarity was strangely grating. Or not so strangely, perhaps; there's just nothing worse than hypercorrection. "Whom shall I say is calling?"

    Curiously, "ghitelines" echoed for me another such hypercorrection, from a rather posh Southern white guy I knew years before, who really had no excuse at all. He did the same d-to-t thing with the word "body" -- it came out as "botty".

    *End irrelevant senile personal reminiscence*

    It was certainly fun for me, and I hope Owen likes it too, to see Daily Kos acting like a big corporation. "Guidelines, numerical grades, spreadsheets, conference calls, the works!" Wow, have these wankers arrived!

    January 14, 2010

    Le mot juste

    The Corrente Wire bloggers sometimes link to us. They have coined some useful terms.

    They call the scab liberals "Access Bloggers". I find that term very amusing. It's understated, it can be used when calling someone a scab would give everyone the vapors, and it's pointed right at the heart of the scab liberals' fatuous self-importance.

    The access bloggers really believe that their accommodationism creates an implicit obligation. It will be honored because that's what social contracts are all about. It says so right there in the Cliff Notes. If the party of the first part, them, has sufficient merit mojo, which they do, then the party of the second part, Democrats, will cross seas and climb mountains to fulfill the commitments entailed by receipt of the support.

    Needless to say, this has never happened and never will. The Corrente Wire bloggers call the belief that it will "Persistent Ponyism". The magic pony will arrive any day. All the scab liberals need to do is stand ready to sign for it.

    When the magic pony fails to arrive on schedule, the access bloggers produce a hamster from the taxidermist's reject pile. When it refuses to gallop, they recite their merit bromides and Nader-bait the skeptics.

    January 21, 2010

    Couldn't happen to a nicer...

    ...worthless, brown-nosing, excuse-making, water-carrying, Donkeycratic mouthpiece:

    http://gawker.com/5454066/air-america-2004+2010?skyline=true&s=i

    Air America: 2004-2010

    Air America Media, the liberal radio network... has filed for Chapter 7 and will cease broadcasting this evening. All employees have been let go....

    The news came a surprise to, well, everyone....

    Not to us, Gawker. Not to us. Break out the champagne.

    January 31, 2010

    Twits

    Of course I'm revealing my hopeless old-fartery here, but I don't get Twitter. The stuff is so ugly for one thing -- all those '@'s and '#'s; what's that about, anyway? And the abbreviations -- it's worse than IM.

    Why follow anybody?

    Why let yourself be followed?

    I don't get it.

    One of my favorite Pwog buffoons, Melissa Harris-Lacewell, gets it, though. A soul-mate of mine -- that is to say, another dyspeptic old fart -- recently emailed me:

    http://twitter.com/harrislacewell

    That's Prof. Melissa Harris-Nieman-Marcus-Bloomingdales-Bergdorf-Goodman-Lacewell.

    My theory is that all trendy "social software" is designed for and targeted at the most self-involved alpha consumers, with a view to harvesting their bootlickers. Her presence on that site is all the proof needed.

    She has 10,000 "followers"! Why, for God's sake?

    * * * * *


    When your vein of invention runs dry --
    When your Muse says you need not apply --
    When the Kosniks are dull,
    Yielding nothing to cull --
    Time to give Harris-Lacewell a try.

    And she never disappoints. Here's her Twit "bio" -- where you've got to confine yourself to your bare-bones most-essential characteristics:

    Princeton Prof, MSNBC regular, contributor to The Nation.
    Combing for a minute or two through the Twitcruft on her page did turn up this gem, sparkling in the riviere-des-diamants of gormless fatuity that is The Nation these days:
    Watching Barack Obama become President of the United States made me proud and hopeful, but I also found the experience somewhat amusing. I think many of us who were his Hyde Park neighbors and Illinois state senate constituents feel the same way.

    I don't know Barack Obama personally, but I had a kind of political intimacy with him during the years I lived in Chicago.

    I distinctly remember the last time I had a personal interaction with him. We were both standing in line at the 55th Street Walgreens. He was wearing flip-flops, short basketball shorts, and an old t-shirt. He was buying ice for a family picnic. Hardly the icon of fashion cool he became within two years of that moment....

    These early encounters with Obama remind me that he is President not solely, or even primarily, because of innate gifts, but because he moves up a learning curve more swiftly and fully than anyone else in public life....

    Today, as I watched President Obama interact with Republicans during the televised Q&A I saw another Obama that I remember: the law professor.

    During the years that I was on faculty at the University of Chicago, my graduate students in political science often took courses with Professor Obama. They universally reported that he was a fair, but exceedingly tough practitioner of the Socratic method. He was willing to entertain any idea, question or observation, no matter how outrageous. But he always subjected the students to a series of logical interventions and arguments that often left students exhausted and sometimes a bit embarrassed. They quickly learned to challenge Professor Obama only if they had fully considered the implications of their arguments and prepared significant evidence in support of their case.

    That Barack Obama showed up today. The President put on a clinic in public discourse, political argument, intellectual dexterity and moral courage. It was a reminder of what democracy could be if we engaged our opponents with substance, patience and civility rather than invectives, gamesmanship and boorishness.

    "Political intimacy"! You wish, Melissa. Those short-shorts certainly stuck in your mind, didn't they?

    But of course what one loves best is that Obie's prime qualification for the presidency is that he's a) a good student and b) a tough teacher.

    February 2, 2010

    Critical support

    The criticism is negligible, but the support is critical.

    February 7, 2010

    Pwingnuts

    Al Schumann writes:

    http://thepoorman.net/2010/02/04/obamas-death-squads-are-coming-for-you/

    His schtick is comparing Obama's left-liberal critics to unhinged wingnuts. To pull that off, however poorly, he reaches for the wingnut guide to bad faith rhetoric and selects at random.

    I take a morbid interest in the ways pwogs treat each other. What differentiates them from paranoid, back-biting sectarians is an easy accommodation with institutional authority. They take comfort in revealed proprieties, provided there's broad institutional support and enforcement, the same way religious authoritarians take comfort in the revealed wisdom of theocrats. They're both dependent on the presence of cops and pervasive systems of control. They can't generate an individual conscience. They have no heuristics for determining right and wrong outside the vulgar collectivist process. The lower functioning ones, like The Poorman, are spitefully contemptuous of the relatively enlightened high church proceduralism favored by their grown up, successfully individuated brethren, e.g. Glenn Greenwald. They fidget in rage and denounce them as no better than they ought to be.

    This accommodation makes it possible for them to function in oligarchic systems. They'll always get smacked around by the wingnuts, however, because they're "better" at accepting the revealed legitimization they get from institutional authority. They can grudgingly accept an electoral victory that elevates a Bush or a Reagan. They'll behave themselves. The wingnuts of course immediately start acting out when they feel a threat to their brand ascendancy.

    It would be difficult to find people less suited to any form of liberal democratic republicanism. Greenwald's careful skepticism and painstaking explanation of due process enrages them.

    February 10, 2010

    It's, like, so totally your state of mind, dude


    If I understand correctly, the angry-angry people are wrathfully enraged (and irate!) because their mental condition keeps them from seeing the ponies. Some will always reject the principles of ponyism, which trickles down into actual pony-related manifestations. They do this because they are permanently pissed off pouty persons. Some will feel better about themselves, and thus less inclined to negative nellyism, in a few years—maybe three or ten or whatever—when ponyism has had a chance to improve the material conditions in which they spend their bloodthirsty ire-drenched days. A few, a precious few, want to see the ponies and they're trying to see them, but the visions are interrupted by howling mobs of pony-lynching cretins.

    A careless reader might mistake the telepathic exegesis for the crackpot fulminations of the former administration, now consigned to the ideological dust bin of history by that momentous moment in which blah blah blah. Anyway, they hate Obama and that's insane because the dead pony is all Bush's fault. And Reagan's. And the Republicans'. With just a little bit of blame accruing to Robert "Bobby the Terrible" Rubin. However it's no use explaining this to people who are hatefully-hateful.

    February 16, 2010

    Too good not to be true

    Melissa Harris-Lacewell, shown above apparently receiving a suitably dubious assessment, is an occasional source of innocent merriment here, so it was with the greatest pleasure that I saw this item at The Nation -- yes, The Nation:

    The Nation is excited to announce that our March 8th issue (which goes live at TheNation.com next Thursday) marks the debut of Melissa Harris-Lacewell's new column, Sister Citizen. Harris-Lacewell has been a regular blogger here at TheNation.com for the last year, writing on topics ranging from President Obama's Nobel prize and racial profiling to healthcare reform and the death of Michael Jackson. One of the nation's foremost scholars on politics and race, Harris-Lacewell will now be one of The Nation's regular print columnists.

    Harris-Lacewell's column shares its title with her forthcoming book, Sister Citizen: A Text For Colored Girls Who've Considered Politics When Being Strong Wasn't Enough, and will explore the changing meanings of race, gender, faith and citizenship in the 21st century.

    "Sister Citizen"?! Verily, verily I say unto you, you can't make this stuff up. And that subtitle! And the idea of a "scholar" on "politics and race"!

    Here's a sample of the great scholar's prose, taken at random from the "archive" of her Obamafan maunderings on the Nation's blog:

    A contemporary State of the Union address is less an assessment of our national circumstances than it is a collective Rorschach test: an inkblot given meaning by the viewer more than by the subject. The televised pageantry of applause and ovations has little to do with the President's articulation of a policy agenda and far more to do with how his partisan allies and opponents read the electoral viability of his phrases.

    President Obama's address on Wednesday night felt like a heightened version of this classic psychological evaluation....

    Obama loyalists saw a return of their favorite version of the President: relaxed, persuasive, rhetorically tough and clear....

    Cringing Leftists were disappointed by his deficit hawkishness, unconvinced by his promises to leave Iraq by the end of summer, and irritated by the brevity of his argument for repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell.

    Applause and ovations! That Melissa -- no base uncovered.

    My lefty mailing lists were as delighted by this news as I was. A sample of the reactions, under the topic heading "Terrible Political Writer Gets Promotion":

    • I'd rather them bring back Hitchens even if he devoted his column to explaining why Paul Wolfowitz is a revolutionary, and we reactionaries. She's writing at a level slighty higher than that of your average high school newspaper.
    • But not nearly as much fun as your average high-school newspaper. And in high school you couldn't get away with that incredibly repellent authorial persona of hers -- smug, censorious, and infinitely pleased with herself.
    • And just why are so many of you reading enough of her to know just how bad she is? Surely there are better ways to spend your time. :-)
    • Some of us are just connoisseurs of crud. There are some things that are just so extravagantly bad that you just have to look - again and again. MHL is one of those.
    • Rubbernecking. The same impulse that makes one slow down on the highway to take in all the gruesome details of some three-car ragu hashed up against a bridge abutment.
    • This is the one who writes like a ham sandwich, right? No wit, no style, no depth, no likable persona.... Is she sleeping with someone? Is she doing the column for free?

    February 22, 2010

    Hyperion to a satyr

    Speaking of people I admire:

    After the depressing news of Melissa Harris-Lacewell's elevation to columnist at The Nation, now comes the other shoe, dropping with a dismal thud: the indispensable Alex Cockburn's column in the magazine is being cut back to once a month. The outfit really seems bent on suicide.

    If you feel like warning the lemmings away from the cliff, write to editrix Katha Pollitt: kat@thenation.com.

    February 24, 2010

    Cynically Self-Involved



    Jackassery from NPR.

    Now I understand why MJS hurled his radio out the window. Only the most morbidly self-involved could worry about their moral character, and through immediate unsubtle extension everyone else's, while watching corporate sports spectaculars on television. Only the most morbidly self-involved could, further, fret about the morality of allowing themselves to be manipulated by a medium that is completely dedicated to manipulation.

    The spectacle of liberal agonizing is disgusting; every bit as foul as conservative moral panic.

    I'm happy to say I can help. The NPR media personalities' feelings of self-loathing are entirely appropriate. They're valid. They should loathe themselves—because they are, in fact, loathsome—and if this causes them agony, then so much the better. Suffering may help purge the moral toxins. But they have to take personal responsibility. They can't expect to keep receiving free excoriations forever. And they have to punish themselves where there's no risk of collateral cultural damage. I suggest they get it all out of their system on The Nation cruise.

    March 3, 2010

    What would Jeremiah do?

    I've always found Rabbi Michael Lerner faintly sick-making -- there's something goo-eyed and clammy-palmed, something damp-browed and flabby-mouthed, something stands-too-close and breathes-in-your-face about his authorial persona. I can't explain it, his stuff just makes my skin crawl.

    A couple of days ago he put a link on his blog at Tikkun magazine -- and by the way, I know what the word means, but using it to name anything shows a remarkably bad ear -- to a rather fun piece by Chris Hedges. Hedges wrote:

    Ralph Nader Was Right About Barack Obama

    We owe Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney an apology. They were right about Barack Obama. They were right about the corporate state. They had the courage of their convictions and they stood fast despite wholesale defections and ridicule by liberals and progressives.

    ... The timidity of the left exposes its cowardice, lack of a moral compass and mounting political impotence. The left stands for nothing. The damage Obama and the Democrats have done is immense. But the damage liberals do the longer they beg Obama and the Democrats for a few scraps is worse. It is time to walk out on the Democrats.

    Well, welcome aboard, Chris. And I suppose Lerner is due some props for passing this along to his congregation of beautiful souls at Tikkun -- even though he did hedge it round with a laughable old-maidish flurry of disclaimers and caveats:
    My recommending the article is not meant to be an endorsement of Chris’s position any more than our circulation of other articles is meant as an endorsement of them. (Tikkun and the Network of Spiritual Progressives are nonprofits that are legally bound to refrain from endorsing political candidates or political parties, though we can certainly engage in discussions about them.) ...

    On the other hand, in the case of Chris Hedges, he says so much that is true and insightful that we don’t want to distance ourselves too far from his courageous stands,

    The Rabbi doesn't want to "distance himself too far". Presumably he wants to distance himself just enough.

    Apparently he misjudged his distance. One imagines a deluge of rancorous phone calls from apoplectic yentas of both sexes -- canceled subscriptions -- vivid Yiddish maledictions turning the air blue. The next day's dawn saw Lerner backing water so fast his oars were just an indistinct blur, like a hummingbird's wings:

    Many of the specific failures highlighted by the article I sent out yesterday by Chris Hedges criticizing the performance of the Obama Administration are legitimate points. But the way Hedges's positions are stated, and the conclusions drawn from them are not the path of spiritual progressives, in my view.There was too much anger in his statement overshadowing our spiritual progressive commitment to compassion and a spirit of generosity toward others with whose politics we disagree. And not enough sympathy for the problems anyone would face trying to get elected as President and to repair the damage of the past 30 years....

    Hedges' analysis and particularly the harsh way he expresses it leads to despair and to the "blame game" that has little usefulness in politics. Our difference here is partly the difference between two styles of prophetic leadership: one that rails against injustice, the other that moves beyond the legitimate outrage and seeks to find a way to change the reality.

    Lerner apparently sees himself as an heir of the Hebrew prophets, but one wonders what Jeremiah or Hosea or Habakkuk would have made of this fretful, nattering, wistful wringing of the one hand upon the other. They might have agred with the voice that one of their later admirers heard on Patmos: οὕτως ὅτι χλιαρὸς εἶ, καὶ οὔτε ψυχρός οὔτε ζεστὸς, μέλλω σε ἐμέσαι ἐκ τοῦ στόματός μου: So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

    March 4, 2010

    Okay, I'm an extremist. Shoot me.

    Nobody's in favor of book-burning or anything, but there are words and phrases which, when you encounter them, tell you, or should tell you, "Read no further -- this is twaddle."

    Among these expressions are "extremist", "progressive," and "spiritual."

    "Progressive" is a word used by liberals who don't want to admit they're liberals, and "spiritual" is a word used by religious people who don't want to admit they're religious. ("Spiritual progressive" is therefore of course a quadrate term in pusillanimous euphemism.)

    But of the three, "extremist" is perhaps the deadest giveaway. It's never used approvingly; and as criticism, what exactly does it mean, except that anything that's any distance from the dead center is ipso-facto bad?

    These reflections were suggested by an item in Alternet, from the deeply concerned pen of one Mark Potok:

    Right-Wing Rage: Hate Groups, Vigilantes and Conspiracists on the Verge of Violence
    The radical right has caught fire, as broad-based anger over the past year has ignited an explosion of new extremist groups and activism across the nation.

    The radical right caught fire last year, as broad-based populist anger at political, demographic and economic changes in America ignited an explosion of new extremist groups and activism across the nation.

    Hate groups stayed at record levels -- almost 1,000 -- despite the total collapse of the second largest neo-Nazi group in America. Furious anti-immigrant vigilante groups soared by nearly 80 percent, adding some 136 new groups during 2009. And, most remarkably of all, so-called "Patriot" groups -- militias and other organizations that see the federal government as part of a plot to impose “one-world government” on liberty-loving Americans -- came roaring back after years out of the limelight.

    The anger seething across the American political landscape -- over racial changes in the population, soaring public debt and the terrible economy, the bailouts of bankers and other elites, and an array of initiatives by the relatively liberal Obama Administration that are seen as "socialist" or even "fascist" -- goes beyond the radical right.

    Wow! They're "on the verge" -- the very verge, itself! -- of, gasp, "violence"! Have you shit your pants yet? No? Well, don't lose a moment. Do it now, if you have a progressive bone in your body.

    It's always been my view that actual violence is more of a problem than potential violence. Thus the daily actual violence at home and abroad practiced by the "relatively liberal" Obama administration agitates me a good deal more than the potential violence of some Teabagger crackpot. But then, I'm an extremist.

    * * * * *

    Mark Potok is the editor of something called the "Intelligence Report" of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). SPLC is a familiar name, but I know nothing about it. Anybody out there who's more au-fait than I am? "Intelligence Report" has a certain creepy Larouche-ite ring to it.

    March 6, 2010

    The Dorks of Death



    “It’s the Americans,” said Gen. Mohamed Gelle Kahiye, the new chief of Somalia’s military, who said he recently shared plans about coming military operations with American advisers. “They’re helping us.”

    That American assistance could be crucial to the effort by Somalia’s government to finally reassert its control over the capital and bring a semblance of order to a country that has been steeped in anarchy for two decades. For the Americans, it is part of a counterterrorism strategy to deny a haven to Al Qaeda, which has found sanctuary for years in Somalia’s chaos and has helped turn this country into a magnet for jihadists from around the world.

    More, so much more.

    Something I recall from early exposure to radical, not "free alterations", feminism is the effect of a patriarchal culture on the males. There's inevitably a proliferation of socially retarded, deeply angry, power-hungry dorks who will never get anywhere near real power. They have to content themselves with proximity to it. The more cruelly stunted waste their days on witless, technocratic exegesis and apologetics for their bosses' idiot hegemony schemes. They're as completely infantilized as their superiors, whose distinguishing characteristics are ambition and a greater indifference to other people's suffering.

    Capitalism produces an endless supply of this intellectual cannon fodder and the Democrats are second to none in their mastery of the mindset. It's probably best to consider the Republicans the acting-out version of the ideal product.

    March 18, 2010

    Dennis, no menace

    Okay, confession time. I've always had a sneaking fondness for Dennis Kucinich, ever since his madcap days as the boy mayor of Cleveland, when he made the "business community" so hot under the collar that they started to exhibit random quantum effects, winking in and out of existence and leaving half-dead cats strewn in the streets.

    Oh, I always knew better. I mean, the guy's a Democrat. Doesn't even try to hide it. But I couldn't help myself. It was my dirty secret.

    So it's a relief to see the "maverick" neatly lasso'd by Rahm Emanuel & Co., and meekly proclaiming his support for the Great Insurance Company Pig Trough, aka "health reform":

    Mr. Kucinich said he would keep working for a government-financed single-payer health care system. But after coming under intense pressure, which included a visit to his district on Monday by Mr. Obama, Mr. Kucinich said he did not want his objections to stand in the way of the legislation.

    “If my vote is to be counted, let it count now for passage of the bill, hopefully in the direction of comprehensive health care reform,” Mr. Kucinich said.... “We have to be very careful that the potential of President Obama’s presidency not be destroyed by this debate.”

    Perfect, huh? The "potential" of the Obama administration. At need, Dennis will give you a pony IOU as readily as any other soup-hound in his "party".

    I was so cheered by this gratifying news, so glad to have this discreditable little monkey off my back, that I felt up to a quick tour through the pwoggo blovosphere. Here's a representative take from Kos -- literally the first post on this subject that my eyes lit upon in the orange bog:

    Kucinich and ... Michael Moore have, by their own words, taken one for the president.... both plainly say it should be passed because of their desire to see President Obama's presidency succeed....

    Try to let that sink in. They want the right-wing attempts to delegitimize [Obie] to fail. They do not think this bill is real reform (the word "detest" comes into play), but will support it anyways. I respect both men and absolutely take them at their own words.

    Kucinich conceded that he decided to swallow the bill because failure would be a threat to Obama’s overall agenda. Moore said, "Pass it because, if President Obama takes a fall on this one, I don't know if he'll be able to get back up. And then NOTHING will get done. We can't have that."

    Much material for reflection here. Of course the first thing that comes to my mind is C Wright Mills' astute observation about crackpot realists, much-quoted hereabouts. We might paraphrase MIlls slightly and say that hard-line dead-end Democrat fanboyz like Moore and our Kosnik still believe that Obama's "success" means something, though they don't know or can't admit what it means -- which is, of course, endless war, panoptic security-state totalitarianism, further immiseration for the general public and further illucration for the already obscenely wealthy few.

    A gloomy picture. But there are some grace notes of low comedy that you can always rely on; like the preposterous macho rhetoric these Dembo weenies love so much, which becomes ever more more purple in direct proportion to the hapless abjection and cringing slavishness of their politics. "Take one for the president," forsooth!

    April 10, 2010

    The Legitimacy Crisis




    Legitimacy of Authority and Hypothetical violence: still not as scary as actual violence cover it well.

    There is no legitimacy crisis.

    There are, however, a large number of claptrap artists attempting to mold empty formalism into legitimacy. Their focus, as always, is on the corporate performance art of the Tea Baggers.

    A few more thoughts.

    The choice of empty formalism is a marker of vulgar conservatism. The lower functioning righties are quite hostile to consideration of what is and is not constitutive of substance. They, too, see the ritual aspects of republicanism as more important than the steady delivery of social welfare services. In a pinch, they'll acknowledge a need for actual tangible benefits, but it always come in the form of adulation for violent coercion. The more people are killed or locked up, the more impressed they are.

    May 7, 2010

    Ichabod Pantywaist



    For all the Obama regime's viciousness, it can't shake the wimp factor. The reaction to the BP oil spill is a perfect example. When any active reaction at all would have been appropriate, they resorted to blustering, procedural dithering and ensured much greater damage. The net effect was hopeless servility and incompetence. They could have done something remotely connected to mitigation or cleanup as soon as the news broke, and they still could have worked out a way to make it profitable for BP. They could, in other words, have remained thoroughly despicable; titillated the dead-ender pwogs with a few photo-ops, some cleaning, etc. and kept the patron class happy. But... they're hopeless pantywaists. Ichabods. Dorks, sedulously taping the "kick me" signs to their own backs and adopting a pointlessly provocative, butt-thrusting waddle that no bully could resist.

    In this, they are exactly like their supporters. They evince the same hysterical pomposity as the double-domes who wail about fascist coups every time an illiterate Teabagger has a temper tantrum. It's enough to make a fascist coup welcome.

    May 24, 2010

    Monday Morning Calumnies

    The Obama regime takes a certain pride in hamstringing itself over BP's toxic catastrophe. That's not the calumny, by the way. That's the regime's business model; hysterical hand-wringing and dredging for specious interpretations of relevant legislation. The interpretations allow the regime to subordinate state action to the corporate requirements of BP. The harm to the Gulf Coast people and the environment they need to live in is regrettable, but rules must be seen to be subject to adherence-related program activities.

    What they've managed is the procedural equivalent of placing condom use guidelines in torture chambers. Their justifications consist of demanding, "What? You'd rather see the victims contract STDs?"

    Anyway, the calumny concerns the regime's remaining supporters. My nasty hypothesis is they're not so nutty that they really believe the regime is trying ever so hard, but they are nutty enough to enjoy the minor roles they played in foisting the Democratic version of malign neglect on the country. Sort of a "turn about is fair play" thing. Baby Doc Bush and the American Enterprise Institute's intellectual Tonton Macoutes had their fun. Wingnut triumphalism filled the air for eight years. Why shouldn't passive aggressive goo-goo savagery get some play too?

    I find the hypothesis tempting, but badly flawed. It only explains the comprador pundits and foundation shit shovelers. Their interests are aligned with the party's. The rest are hemmed in by the party's Stakhanovite attention to punishing every decent impulse they might have.

    June 4, 2010

    Allergic to snakes

    The other day, one of my Lefty mailing-list comrades made a comparison -- quite accurate, as far as it went -- between the Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla, and the hijacking of the Achille Lauro. Mention of the latter reminded me of a Leon Klinghoffer joke, which I shared with the list:

    Marilyn Klinghoffer: Honey, are you gonna take a showeh before dinneh?
    Leon Klinghoffer: Naah, darling, I'll wash ashore.
    It's hard to do justice to the fury this evoked in some of the comrades. I made a few attempts to divert the ranting into an actual discussion of humor and its workings, but these earnest contributions just made matters worse. It put me in mind of how the lady in the clip above responds to an anecdote involving a snake. (The relevant bit begins about five minutes in, though the whole thing is, of course, a gem.)

    Here, for example, is let's-call-him Comrade Wellesley, after a few e-mail cycles:

    .... You however are getting yourself all worked up over your stupid joke. The joke isn't funny. See, that's part of the problem in providing an ideological defense for just plain old being an asshole.

    No shit, we sometimes laugh at things we're afraid of? Fucking profound, dude. Like wow, heavy.

    Next thing you know you'll be telling me that we laugh to relieve anxiety, to distance ourselves from a sense of vulnerability.

    No shit to that too. You must have aced the Woody Allen course in law school.

    No one's asking you to feel a bit [of] sympathy.

    It's just your lousy jokes that I find appalling. And your lousy justifications.

    The lawyer thing....? That's you. Talk about being blind, and dumb.

    (W. appears to be under the impression that I'm a lawyer, which is of course the most wounding aspect of the whole sorry business. )

    The thing that struck me most about W's response is, well, how sissy it is. Haven't we all worked in settings where jokes like this are the common coin of daily life? A few other examples, from random memory:

    (Told shortly after Clinton's Branch Davidian massacre):
    Q: How do you pick up a girl in Waco?
    A: Dustbuster.

    (Told by a Jewish colleague)
    Q: How was copper wire invented?
    A: Two Jews fighting over a penny.

    (Told by a black colleague)
    Q: What did they call the first black test-tube baby?
    A: Janitor in a Drum.

    Now I found all of these funny, as well as the Klinghoffer one. Not everybody would, of course; humor is a very personal thing; but to respond the way W. did to any of these would have stamped you as a hopeless pathetic mollycoddle. In fact, one of the functions of jokes like this is precisely to find out if you're a hopeless pathetic mollycoddle.

    Admittedly, there was a little more going on, for me anyway, with the Klinghoffer joke. I well recall the official indignation about Klinghoffer. But I just couldn't get as worked up as the manufacturers of consent wanted me to. In fact, I felt a perverse impulse to head off in the opposite direction.

    One can't go too far with this stuff. I always suspected that Klinghoffer wasn't chosen at random -- that he just annoyed the hijackers so much that they finally snapped; we've all known people like that, and cruise ships' clientele is drawn almost entirely from that demographic.

    Still: being annoying doesn't ordinarily carry the death penalty. It would have been better if Leon had been left to live out his time and expire under expert supervision at some sanitary institution designed for that purpose in New Jersey.

    But as the poet says: When there are so many we shall have to mourn -- I'm supposed to get worked up over Leon Klinghoffer? Puh-leeze.

    I would have probably laughed at the joke even if I hadn't felt manipulated by Leon's official victimhood. But defying the program of official victimhood gave it an additional fillup.

    Clearly Comrade W. doesn't share this impulse at all. Which brings me back to my same old song about the American Left: many of us are really, at bottom, just stock street-legal liberals sporting a set of shiny aftermarket Marxist hubcaps -- born hall-monitors, diction police, and arbiters of something called "good taste".

    June 12, 2010

    Vindictively Infantile Poindexters



    The Nudge blog is the online companion to Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein’s “Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness.” Here you’ll find much more about nudging, choice architecture, libertarian paternalism, and many other terms you won’t read about in standard economics books.

    Cass Sunstein is currently the Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and has no affiliation with the Nudge blog.

    The Nudge blog is edited by John Balz, a graduate student in political science at the University of Chicago.

    Nudges

    Libertarian paternalism is self-consciously oxymoronic. Who but a hopelessly passive aggressive control freak would even think of such a thing? It's a preciously cute name for a throughly odious practice. The concept appears deliberately designed to provoke ridicule and hostility. And needless to say its exponents are proud of it.

    But it does look like a good fit for people who spend a lot of time with Republicans. It looks, in fact, like the Democratic answer to the Republicans' moral hygiene crusade. Drop a turd in the punch bowl;create a "choice architecture" that attempts to force people to drink out of it; make it random, impersonal and obfuscate the triggers so no one can point to any of the more obvious biases; scream "fascism and "conspiracy theory" when people object; promote flying monkey cognitive interventions, etc. etc.

    Dear readers, libertarian paternalism is the philosophy of Underpants Gnomes who, God help us all, have finally figured out a way to profit. It's the zenith of Progressive social thinking.

    June 15, 2010

    The Big Picture girl strikes again

    Thus Hurricane Katrina, in the Washbowl, erm, Washpost, where she is characterized with deadly delicate accuracy as an "opinion writer":

    There's a tension between the Obama administration and the progressive movement, but it's not the one mainstream media have been describing or the White House seems to perceive.

    ....[W]hat's happening on the left isn't the equivalent of the anti-incumbent anger on the right. Most progressives support Obama and want his agenda to succeed.

    ...What we see, some 500 days into the Obama administration, is a president obstructed by a partisan Republican opposition, powerful entrenched corporate interests, and a minority of corrupt or conservative Democrats.... [I]f progressives organize independently and forge smart coalitions, building a mass movement for reform with a moral compass that can transcend left-right divisions, we may be able to push Obama beyond the limits of his own politics, overcome the timid incrementalism of the establishment Democratic Party... [and give everyone a pony -- ed.]

    That's what key progressive groups -- Labor, netroots activists and others -- were trying to do in supporting a primary challenger to Democratic Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln. But the Obama administration, which had endorsed Lincoln, apparently misinterpreted the progressive position as a threat from its base....

    Actually, the point of the exercise was that those opposing Obama's reform agenda will not get a free pass.... Labor will continue to devote resources to accountability primaries in several states this year, MoveOn will be campaigning to counter corporate influence, and the NAACP, SEIU and the Center for Community Change are organizing a march for jobs in October....

    The tension between Obama and the progressive movement isn't a threat to the president. Rather, it may be needed to save him.

    "Progressive" rhetoric is frequently incoherent, but this is pretty spectacular. Obie & Co. "misinterpreted" the Lincoln primary challenege as a "threat from the base". No such threat was either actual or intended, according to Katie, yet such challenges are this year's Hope for Change(*). "Those opposing Obama's reform agenda" seem to include all the people he has picked to work for him in the White House. "Progressives" don't want to threaten the prez, but to "save" him; and yet the prez -- the smartest prez since Jimmy Carter, without a doubt -- doesn't seem to have grasped this fact.

    Or maybe it's the old story -- the Tsar means well, but his advisers are misleading him.

    ---------------

    (*)Katie is certainly right about one thing: primary challenges are no threat at all.

    June 18, 2010

    Just the facts, Ma'am

    The Nation magazine has me on its mailing list. (I signed up because I find Katrina van den Heuvel intensely attractive, and I sorta hoped she might want to date me. That bony face, those sleepy eyelids, those lush wryly-curved lips...)

    *Mops brow*

    Where was I? -- Oh yes, The Nation, capital T, capital N. They sent me a survey -- here's the link:

    http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/DFW3JM6

    It probably won't work for you -- that last bit looks like a 'nonce' tag, and I used it up. But give it a whirl.

    Some of the questions were pretty easy to answer -- though I lied on all of them, a thing I always do in surveys, and encourage everyone else to do. But still: "How old are you?" has a reasonable range of responses, from zero to 100-plus. Ten thousand is not believeable, pace Mel Brooks.

    What stymied me was this question:

    What would you like to read more of on TheNation.com? (Check all that apply.)
    • Human rights issues
    • Healthcare reform
    • Corporate social responsibility
    • Environmental issues
    • Social/economic justice
    • Public policy or legislation
    • Political candidates/elections
    • Gender issues
    • Media issues
    • Investigative/watchdog journalism
    I ground to a creaking halt on this one.

    Note that "none of the above" is not an option; hell, even the SAT usually gives you that escape hatch. But TheNation.com is allowing no evasions here. These are your options. No others are imaginable. In fact, it's not even imaginable that others might be imaginable.

    I wanted to be sure all my other lies were counted, so finally, in despair, I picked the last alternative -- "investigative/watchog journalism", a thing the Nation doesn't do, hasn't done in my lifetime, and clearly doesn't want to do.

    When you're under the gun, it's surprising how the truth comes out. This was probably the least mendacious answer I gave.

    Facts are always fun. But from The Nation -- capital T, capital N -- fantasy seems to be what we get.

    June 25, 2010

    Hiking in Iran; or, pwog dawgs of war

    The Nation (yes, The Nation) seems to have hit the big time with its recent report -- after a "five month investigation", no less -- that the three hikers arrested last July by the Iranians in the border area with Iraq were in fact on the Iraqi side of the border when the Iranians grabbed 'em. Those fiendish Iranians! Needless to say, the story, written by one "Babak Sarfaraz", which the mag notes is "a pseudonym for a journalist in Iran", has been gleefully picked up by all the major media war-drummers.

    Sarfaraz relies, rather uncritically, on mostly Kurdish sources, some of them very fishy indeed; these need to be sifted very carefully for obvious reasons. But there's nothing intrinsically far-fetched about the narrative in itself (though doubts have been raised).

    As Sarfaraz mentions, the rugged and remote region, with its "porous" and poorly-demarcated border, is full of smugglers, not to mention the

    ... Party for Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK)... affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers' Party, a Kurdish separatist organization that engages in armed conflict within Turkey and has been labeled a terrorist organization by the United States and other governments. Since 2005 PJAK, based in the mountains in Kurdish Iraq, has been in open conflict with Tehran and has claimed responsibility for killing dozens of Revolutionary Guards soldiers in cross-border raids on Iranian military bases, as well as for the February 2007 downing of an Iranian military helicopter by a shoulder-launched missile in Khoy, in Western Azerbaijan province, which killed thirteen Iranian soldiers....

    Seymour Hersh reported in The New Yorker that "Israel and the United States have also been working together in support of [PJAK] and that a government consultant told him that the Israeli government had provided "equipment and training" to PJAK.

    Sarfaraz theorizes that the hikers' original capture and remand to Tehran was a local initiative by a rogue Revolutionary Guards commander in the area, on whose checkered career the magazine expends a good deal of somewhat wasted ink. But here again, the narrative, though quite hypothetical, doesn't strain credulity.

    What The Nation doesn't discuss is the reasons why the authorities in Tehran might have decided to hang tough on three footloose, adventurous American expats, who really do seem unlikely to be spies or any other variety of American spooktown assets. KvdH and Sarfaraz seem content to leave us thinking that those Iranian madmen are either paranoid or gratuitously cruel or both.

    But the unmentioned elephant in the Heuvel Hoffice is a long-standing American/Israeli practice of kidnapping and even assassinating Iranians -- scientists like Shahram Amiri, a particularly weird story with some juicy recent twists(*), or Ardeshire Hassanpour, and government functionaries like Amir Ardebili.

    It's likely enough, as the Nation article suggests, that the capture of the three hikers was a fortuitous event, not an action of centrally-directed policy. But once they were in Tehran, at least some of the country's contending influential elements may have seen an opportunity to make a point, which can be concisely stated: "Two can play at that game."

    ----------------

    (*) Amiri was kidnapped last year, while on pilgrimage in Mecca, a few weeks before the three hikers were captured.

    June 30, 2010

    Chief Egg-In-The-Face

    I guess everybody has heard by now that the haute-wonquerie polls that Daily Kos has been touting for so long were, apparently, largely made up by the whiz kids Kos hired to do the work. (These polls have been an occasional source of amusement here.)

    This comes at a very nice time, as I prepare to sail off for a few computerless days on the boat with my lovely wife, whom I can seldom entice onto the boat but has gamely agreed to this jaunt.

    Happy Fourth, everyone. Perhaps I will come back to an Interraweb where Daily Kos is no more. Hey, a guy can dream, right?

    Still afloat

    July 17, 2010

    Vanity Fair

    Woody Mattchuck hates Republicans. They lie!

    Take the fiscal budget. They don't really want it to balance, those lying dogs. They don't even want to cap spending, so long as it's them doing the spending, and doing it their way.

    Boy Yggie:

    "The key element of conservative fiscal policy is that tax revenue as a percent of GDP should be made as low as possible. This isn’t a goal they pursue that stands in some kind of balance with concern about the deficit, it’s the only goal they pursue."
    Of course Matt's an idiot. But that's not why I'm posting this. I'm posting it because I'd like someone to tell me why so many realist pwogs are content to say that schoolroom spending is good, damn good in fact, and soldier-boy spending bad, very very bad -- then fold their hands and belch and fart like a sow after polishing off a big trough of mash.

    Values values values... the kulturkampf! More uplifting black kids to college, versus less airlifting Yahoos to Kandahar.

    You can blame a comment of electric Al's for this banal mind-stumped query of mine:

    "The meritoids have been getting sucked dry for a long time, and their resolve every electoral cycle is to support more and better vampires. When that fails them, as it always does, they slink over to the "decent middle ground" between the bugfuck nuts and batshit crazy neoliberals. They're as hopeless as the wingnuts. All that counts for them anymore is the fatuous satisfaction of feeling superior to the hysterical wingers."
    Bugfuckers to one side, batshit crazies on the other, and they are good with it -- if they can just sip that elixir of moral and intellectual superiority. The Dems' top pwog-org cutouts and stone oracles like ole bucktooth Woody got themselves a regular moral-industrial / intellectual-industrial complex goin' 24/7, feeding these unwinged souls a steady stream of sweet-tastin', long-lastin' spirits of Vanity Fair.

    July 30, 2010

    Βατραχομυομαχία

    More comic relief from Alternet:

    Help NPR beat FOX News

    Dear Reader,

    The White House Correspondents Association is considering giving a prime front row seat at the White House -- recently vacated when Helen Thomas retired -- to Fox News. The idea that a right-wing propaganda outlet would be given such an honor is outrageous. Please join me in telling the WHCA to give that seat to NPR instead.

    http://act.credoaction.com/campaign/npr_beat_fox

    Truly, I laughed till I cried. Where do you start? We're supposed to care who sits where in the White House press room? We're to believe that we can be saved from the Huns of Fox News by the preux-chevaliers of... NPR?!

    One marvels that anybody could be so paltry-minded as to concern himself with submicroscopic trifles of this kind. But of course that's Pwogs for you. Beating up on Fox News represents the uttermost limits of the Pwog politico-cultural imagination.

    Yggy and the murder-to-GDP ratio

    IOZ and Charles Davis have already dealt with the latest enormity from Matthew Yglesias, the unspeakable filthy suet-faced creep shown above, and dealt with it very well, but I can't resist piling on. Here's the money quote:

    From a Keynesian standpoint, I believe that with the economy depressed it’s better to spend the money in Afghanistan than not to spend it.
    As Davis points out: Better for whom? One has to wonder just how much economic "stimulus" each dead Aghani adds up to. What's the threshold? Just how much stimulus makes it better than not -- or "worth it", as Madeleine Albright, another bloody-fanged Democratic party vampire once said, in a different but not-so-very-different context?

    If we're to take Matt at his word, there's no lower limit, is there? Spending any amount of money killing any number of Afghanis is better than not spending it and letting them live. The ratio doesn't even matter. Ten thousand dead Afghans for a dollar spent? Bring it!

    Maybe Matt didn't really mean this quite the way it turned out. That vague "from a Keynesian point of view" might be characteristically sloppy and mindless Yggspeak for some such phrase as "considered solely with respect to the American 'economy', whatever that is, without any regard for ordinary human decency or human life." But he's not making that case for himself in his comment cages, as far as I can see; and that kind of thought experiment doesn't really fit into the discursive context of his post (*); and then there's that troubling "I believe".

    No. On reflection, I think the poor scrambled Ygg is doing his best to be a "realist" -- that is, a tough-minded practitioner of instrumental rationality. He's so keen on moving the tinny little pieces around his mental Monopoly board that he unwittingly revealed what a shallow, heartless, complacent, conventional, and contemptible little empire-loving careerist rat he really is.

    --------------------

    (*) Which appeared at the Center For American Progress web site. This is why, on the whole, I'm opposed to progress. Nobody ever asks "progress toward what?" In CAP's case, it seems to be progress toward ever more cost-effective programs of mass murder.

    August 19, 2010

    Teabagger organizing vs. Left organizing

    Organizing Teabaggers is easy, if you have the cash and the stomach for it. They don't represent a radical tendency. Their program for change is satisfied by dog in the manger spectacle, security theater and Fox News bear baiting. Their leadership is satisfied with media attention and a bit of trickle down power. They have well established social networks that closely, and not coincidentally, resemble consumer pressure groups and they're working with structures that want to keep their patronage (cash, free labor, votes). Maybe ten percent of them give a damn about a "small government" that actually governs less. The rest only want to protect privilege and relative status. They're useful to capitalism.

    A Teabagger organizing comparison to Left organizing is not really workable, if by Left one is referring to the small percentage of self-identifying lefties who do represent a radical tendency. The best comparison is to subordinate Democratic Party harvesting groups, e.g. MoveOn, which are successful and which resemble them in everything but the content of their marketing.

    September 16, 2010

    Avant la lettre

    Here's the Old Man himself, with a prescient take on the liberal-schmiberal blogosphere:

    Flat, bombastic, bragging, thrasonical, putting on a great show of rude vigour in attack, yet hysterically sensitive to the same quality in others; brandishing the sword with enormous waste of energy, lifting it high in the air only to let it fall down flat; constantly preaching morality and constantly offending against it; sentiment and turpitude most absurdly conjoined; concerned only with the point at issue, yet always missing the point; using with equal arrogance petty-bourgeois scholarly semi-erudition against popular wisdom, and so-called “sound common sense” against science; discharging itself in ungovernable breadth with a certain complacent levity; clothing a philistine message in a plebeian form; wrestling with the literary language to, give it, so to speak, a purely corporeal character; willingly pointing at the writer’s body in the background, which is itching in every fibre to give a few exhibitions of its strength, to display its broad shoulders and publicly to stretch its limbs; proclaiming a healthy mind in a healthy body; unconsciously infected by the sixteenth century’s most abstruse controversies and by its fever of the body; in thrall to dogmatic, narrow thinking and at the same time appealing to petty practice in the face of all real thought; raging against reaction, reacting against progress; incapable of making the opponent seem ridiculous, but ridiculously abusing him through the whole gamut of tones; Solomon and Marcolph, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, a visionary and a philistine in one person; a loutish form of indignation, a form of indignant loutishness; and suspended like an enveloping cloud over it all, the self-satisfied philistine’s consciousness of his own virtue.

    September 22, 2010

    Le juste milieu

    Twitter may be just the right medium for Pwogs: 140 characters can easily contain any cliche they may have rattling around in their heads.

    Katrina van den Heuvel is apparently a devoted Tweetie-bird. Here's a recent sample:

    How 2 channel anger + disspt into rebuilding -not destroying?question of our time.
    The question of our time! Isn't she something, to squeeze a big gas-filled Hindenberg of a concept like that into a tweet?

    October 3, 2010

    The Infantile State

    The mindset of the US government closely resembles the mindset of a spoiled rotten hipster in the throes of an "ironic" behavioral episode. Destructive, socially autistic, reactive and defiant when confronted and given to morbid self pity. Like the hipster, the USG is also capable of a dim, vague awareness that somehow things are not going the way they're supposed to. And it gets lonely, bless its heart. So it reaches out in what is supposed to look like a gesture of responsible adult concern.

    The US State Department issued a travel alert Sunday to urge Americans traveling to Europe to use caution and vigilance in the wake of a terrorist plot uncovered last week to attack major European cities.

    The warning has the same utility as hipster concern. The premises are dubious. It's vacuous, irritating and useless. Caution and vigilance are fine qualities, but in practical terms, what are the travelers supposed to do? They're unlikely to encounter anything more threatening than a tourist scam. If, by some cosmic joke, they do come across a group of terrorists—real ones, not the kind who set their underpants on fire—their best bet is to go back to their hotels and tell the desk clerk what they've seen.

    The warning is fatuously exculpatory. Hipsters who attempt their performance art through e.g. arson may, when the fire finally takes, become worried that someone will get hurt. Not because it's bad to burn people, but because no one understands the creative impulse. But it wouldn't do to give helpful specifics. That's a bad road to travel. It leads to trouble. So rather than saying they set a fire at 275 North Henderson Boulevard, they advise people to avoid the east coast. Can't say you weren't warned, dude.

    Finally, it's the set up for the next "ironic" behavioral episode. Hipster performance art involves the audience, whether the audience likes it or not. Their reaction is the art. Don't ask me to explain. It's not explicable. It's "ironic". However, there's a key difference. No one takes the hipster seriously and the hipster lacks the means to blow up the planet.

    Maybe that explains the appeal of the Obama regime to the "creative class". The crude, punchbowl-shitting of the Bush regime lacked a certain je ne sais quoi. There was no Pabst Blue Ribbon, and therefore no way to identify with the performance. But when one of their own holds the nukes...

    Decency Today

    There's nothing quite like the moral seriousness of the Decent Left. They have an administration that's completely uninterested in addressing their concerns. The Obama regime has made that disinterest clear, time and again. Obama and his flunkies berate and ridicule them, and of course the regime continues to pursue policies guaranteed to make it impossible to remediate actual, really existing problems.

    So what does Decency do? Needless to say, they do the most useless thing possible. They tune in to the wingnut dog whistle and stage themselves a Condemn-a-thon, with a funny video as the target of their outrage. The wingnuts respond with the usual, their special blend of hysterics and sanctimony. This inflames the Decent Left so much, and to such a fever pitch, that they feel forced to accuse the wingnuts of hypocrisy.

    This is why I pray, every night, that nothing I do ever becomes popular with the Decents. I have enough problems without adding the grim, dragging weight of their moral seriousness.

    October 4, 2010

    Marchons, marchons, marchons, marchons....

    After happily committing to blowing off that thinly-disguised Donkeycratic GOTV rally, I ended up letting my comrades in the Town Hell Posse talk me into coming out with them to shoot it with the idea of putting together a nasty, sarcastic music video to the tune of the Dead Kennedys' "Holiday In Cambodia".

    Jeezus, what a fucking mistake. This was, without a doubt, the dullest demonstration ever held in DC -- and I mean the Dullest. Demonstration. EVER. Even inasmuch as my pals warned me what I was letting myself in for, it was still a soul-crushingly wretched scene in its own way even worse than Beckapalooza was in August. No street theater, no puppets, no militant pizazz, no civil disobediences, no genuine sentiment, just a bunch of goddamn' liberals waving mass-printed placards. I chose to cover the immigrants' rally and feeder march because 1)it was at the Capitol, five minutes' walk from my house, and 2)the immigrants' protests have always been better because they all come from countries where they really know how to throw a protest. Huh, some fuckin' hope. The immigrants' rally was totally overrun by SEIU jerks still proudly wearing their goddamn' purple Obama '08 jackets -- and featuring Al Sharpton, to boot. Augggh, Reverend Fucking Al, The Cosmic Media Attention-Sucking Vortex, spouting his standard-issue faux militant boilerplate. It was all downhill from there.

    (For example, The bubbly young thing in the clip above is a great favorite of Father Smiff's, Sara Haile-Mariam, captured in full burble, which will give you some idea of the tone of the event.)

    I arrived at the Lincoln Memorial just in time to hear some guy yelling about how "we can't let Obama fail," or some godawful shit, and I knew then that I was in for a long, hard afternoon.

    This Kool-Aid tripper was followed by a bunch of students taking turns reciting pieces of King's "I Have A Dream" speech as if they were in some kind of school Christmas pageant, followed by MSNBC's Ed "I Know No-THING" Schultz who bellowed his usual partisan line of bullshit at the top of his goddamn' lungs. You don't know scary until you see that windbag Schultz yelling at you from a goddamn' Jumbotron.

    Oh, yeah, I almost forgot to mention the Jumbotrons -- lots of fucking Jumbotrons. Yeah, nothing says bottom-up, grassroots peoples' mobilization like a fistful of Jumbotrons.

    After I finished having the skin peeled off my face by Ed Schultz's blustering, I decided I just couldn't take any more and headed back to the Washington Monument snack bar for a hot dog and a beer or three.

    Normally, I just couldn't see paying three and a half bucks for a goddamn' Budweiser, but after witnessing that weak-assed spectacle I was more than happy for a few overpriced Buds to help me recover.

    It wasn't until I met up with the rest of the Posse and headed back to my house to review the footage that the true wretchedness of what I'd just endured really set in.

    I only shot about half an hour of tape that afternoon because I knew I wouldn't be able to stand looking at it again. Boy, was I right. The more deathly dull footage I saw rolling by, the more I realized that here was five hours of my life I'll never get back again, and found myself wishing I'd just stayed home and made a start on painting the living room, like my wife's been begging me to do.

    October 6, 2010

    A joy forever

    I'm pleased, I guess, to see that Comrade IOZ has taken to tossing around a favorite medicine-ball of my own, Melissa Harris-Lacewell, shown above in an exceptionally unflattering photo.

    Melissa certainly deserves a large and diverse non-fan base, and spews far more nonsense daily, hourly, and on a mass scale than I could possibly keep up with.

    But I'm a little jealous too. The relationship doesn't seem so... special, now.

    October 9, 2010

    One nation, jerking together

    Latest from our friend Mike Flugennock.

    October 17, 2010

    The Magic of Framing

    The answer to Enlightenment-loving progressive woes won't be found in psychology, better marketing or firmer asseveration of values. The notional environmental values are widely shared. Already. They got that way without the Lakoffian framing and the analyst's couch. The transition from values to national policy has been a dismal failure. This, in spite of a general acceptance. That acceptance takes the form of generous volunteering, individual initiative, group initiative, local policy, charitable giving and willingness to accept additional expense. Yet policy doesn't follow. How could that be?

    I'm a bit reluctant to invoke the Enlightenment, given the kicking the poor thing has taken, but there's a reason for this failure. It's a knowable thing. There's a process of inquiry. The components of the failure can be studied. They could, theoretically, be remedied too.

    It might reward to take a look at elite progressives' conduct. Do they actually support the values in any real sense? Does their marketing translate into actions consistent with the expressed values? Is the political leadership accountable to the mass of voters? Do the voters have a ready means of requiring compliance from their leaders? Does the second tier leadership spend its energy on frivolous backbiting? For example, when the corporate code orange enthusiasts start shrieking, does the second tier join the chorus? Further examples are readily available.

    To the belabor the point a little, progressive "defenders" of the Enlightenment might wish to use some of its tools.

    October 23, 2010

    Fascism

    Yes, fascism. And not just any old fascism either. I'm talking about fascist fascism. The kind that runs over your foot with its Medicare scooter while the Democratic president approves raids on peace groups, while the Democratic congress retroactively legalizes foreclosure fraud, while Democratic military occupations get rebranded and expanded and disemployment becomes officially denied policy.

    As bad as that sounds, and I concede it sounds dreadful, there's even more. But let's skip that and just imagine what would happen if Sarah Hitlerpalin were to resign in a petulant tantrum while attempting to manage government business. That's what she did when she was governor of Alaska. It could happen again. John "Adolf" Hitlerboehner could cook liberals in tanning machines... Mitthitler Romneyhimmler might turn Obamacare into Romneycare. Bobbyeichmann Jindalgoering could sign leases for BP to drill for oil in the Gulf of Mexico. It goes on. Distant Ocean explains how and why. Consider that before you dismiss the threat of fascism.

    November 22, 2010

    Apple Polishing

    The comments to this New Deal 2.0 essay highlight one of the many problems liberals face. And this is the liberal habit of issuing extended, attention-seeking manifestos. The desperate apple polishing is unseemly. Every liberal has an FDR essay. We all know that. There's no need to keep elbowing each other to shove them at the teacher. The perfesser knows you're there.

    Which brings me to another problem. I have no objection to scholars who take on the didactic chores. Some are talented and it's not an easy task. But to arrange an entire culture around didacticism, with forcible schooling and ankle biting attendance requirements, seriously degrades the concept. Schooling on the foie gras model guarantees antipathy to any educative intent. The frantic apple polishing makes it a disturbing farce.

    Exhausting Melodrama

    Smithee grabbed another exemplary sample of Democratic apocalypse-mongering. After years and years of similar flailing, I think I can safely speak for all the non-aligned left when I say the party stalwarts' melodrama is exhausting. It's dreary, tired and unconvincing. The hysterics have worn thin. It's as bad as the right wingers' conviction that the world is filled with hateful people who constantly think of ways to harm them.

    I suppose it's a comfort to feel so important, but they're just not relevant, Republicans and Democrats alike, to most of humankind. They're barely relevant to civic life here. Most USians can't be bothered to play their favorite game, the biennial popularity contests. They go about their lives as best they can, decent and thoughtful for the most part, and try not to get dragged into the freak show.

    I traveled a lot when I was young and worked in the "hospitality" industry. Visitors from other countries often remarked on the reflexive friendliness of USians and the astonishing degree of depoliticization. Both observations are consistent with my own experience. One would think, given the friendliness, that political engagement would come easily. But it doesn't, and I think this is directly attributable to the emotional vampirism and hysterics of the party partisans. People aren't apathetic. They want to hang on to their plasma. Who can blame them?

    November 23, 2010

    In the same vein

    SMBIVANs may recall the "Don't tase me, bro" incident, in which a persistent student kept questioning John Kerry's evasions until he was tortured with tasers to make him stop. Kerry rattled away while the poor kid was abused. He was obviously incapable of seeing it the way normal humans would: as an appalling, cruel act by self-dehumanized thugs. He simply didn't get it. He was a little bit baffled, but that was the only sign he showed of contact with the world around him. A normal human, with some level of authority, would have used that authority to intervene on the kid's behalf. Even hard asses have some distaste for gratuitous cruelty. But Kerry couldn't really grasp what was going on.

    I relate that without exculpatory intent. Rather, it's an explanation for the behavior of senior Democrats. There's something broken in their psyches. They can't make the necessary empathetic connections. When the chief groping dude defends casual brutalization of travelers, he does so because he honestly can't understand how violative it is. He doesn't object to being in charge of the groping, so why should the victims object to his orders? He gets querulous because his class has decided it's necessary, and there's an end to the matter. There's no way to reach them and explain why it's violative, or why losing a shitty job is frightening, no matter how shitty the job is.

    Your Weltanschauung Sucks

    This is less a (well deserved) attack on Democrats than a personal gripe, and it concerns the vicious liberal assaults on "Small Is Beautiful". Small isn't necessarily beautiful, but big and medium are certainly no better than they ought to be, the slinking gigolos, and some of us have had