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January 2006 Archives

January 3, 2006

Put up the price of beans, dammit

It's all the rage: put a minimum wage lifter on every state ballot next November.

Bravo. It's a winner everywhere. It'll get out the "right " vote -- in fact the idea is so hot out in Arnie land that the walnut man has tried a pre-emption -- after straight arming two earlier legislative moves to raise the state rate.

He's now doing a Disraeli end run by proposing a minimum raise of his own and, according to the LA Times,

" ... California business owners...facing a ballot initiative that would increase the minimum wage to $8.75 an hour and require cost-of-living increases after that.... [and] internal polling showing widespread public support... are inclined to support the Governor's plan."
Did you catch the why-for?

<Begin X-ray of Wal-Mart's brain>
First and foremost we gotta keep those f...ing hordes of raise seekers and goo goos away from the off-election polling booths.
<End X-ray>

Yup -- this hot number needs a cool jerk-down from the masthead.

But also notice, besides a heftier raise, the intiative includes indexing to the CPI. This indexing is the real deal here with indexing at the fed level, well ... that's dynamite. The latest nine years without a change follows an earlier 8 year or so de facto "freeze," both of them clearly a matter of quiet bipartisan consensus. Indexation would find few sincere friends on either side of the aisle.

Actually, if I was running the Cal ballot operation I'd welcome the Gub's law, and use it to call for an indexation amendment -- then wait for his scramble to settle down into a signature.

<Begin Terminator voice>
"I'll be back... to you... on zat."
<End Terminator voice>

January 4, 2006

If you want a thing done right...

People are always asking us, Well, if you don't work through the Democratic Party, what's a Lefty to do instead?

As always, California shows the way: take an end run around the electoral con-game and build a state ballot proposition movement, or join one you agree with -- right where you live.

Think globally but act directly. Isn't that a better use of your money and time and energy than trying to make lemonade out of... Rahm Emanuel?

Sharon to escape execution

Apparently Ariel Sharon, who to the surprise of no one turns out to have a hole in his heart, will quite undeservedly die in bed fairly soon. Many of us will be glad to see the last of this Jabba the Hutt figure, but it would have been so much more satisfying to see him hanged.

Will we fly the flag at half-mast? Certainly Congress will have to suspend its august deliberations so that a bipartisan pilgrimage can be made to watch the porky mass murderer get planted in a double-wide grave. Congress out of session, Sharon in drerd -- on balance, what's not to like?

Ed in Espagna, mille e tre

The wishful thinkers over at Daily Kos are doing their best to sustain what you might call the Colonel Klink line:
Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., the Democratic leader in the Senate, and Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., were also among recipients of large contributions from tribes represented by Abramoff. Asked about Abramoff, Reid told the Las Vegas Sun, "I don't know him. I don't want to know him. I know nothing about it other than what I read in the newspaper. ... This is a Republican scandal."
Sorry, Harry, and sorry, Kos, no it's not. Abramoff spread his bribes around pretty well -- you might call it bipartisanship, actually. According to the Center for Responsive Government, from the 2000 electoral cycle through the current runup to '06, Abramoff and his docile clients gave $1,541,673 to various Democrats and $2,886,088 to Republicans To be sure, this is a 35/65 split in the Republicans' favor, but you have adjust for the fact that Democrats come a lot cheaper than Republicans -- I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, as opposed to The High-Price Spread.

Amusingly, the New York Times, which is a kind of large, slow-moving Kosnik at heart, also did its best to cover up the incestuous nakedness of the Democratic Noah. Here is the Times' graph of Abramoff's largesse, and here for comparison is the Center For Responsive Government's.

Among the larger Demo snouts at the Abramoff trough were my own dear Charlie Rangel ($36,000), the aforementioned Harry Reid ($30,000), Tom Daschle ($26,500) , and, delightfully, Steny Hoyer ($17,500). Barney Frank got $11,000, Nancy Pelosi was a comparatively small fry at $3,000.

Fourth on the list, however, was none other than the our friend Rahm Emanuel's Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, at $354,700. The Democratic National Committee received a comparative pittance of $65,720, putting it eighth on the list.

I hope they take very good care of Abramoff, and keep his singing voice in top condition. There'll be fun, fun, fun for all of us on this one.

January 5, 2006

As long as Reid is on the outside...

I see to my unutterable delight that Harry Reid, Democratic leader in the Senate, who was mocked in passing in my last post here, is supposed to be the keynote speaker at Daily Kos' next annual circle-jerk.

No need to cancel, guys -- he won't have been sentenced that soon.

K street plus fine print = revolution

I almost -- almost -- have to feel sorry for the Democrats. Here's this incredibly juicy Abramoff story unfolding, and they are clearly just not gonna find any way to spin it as a "Republican scandal" -- a phrase which is being mumbled perseveratively by the toothless faithful over on Daily Kos these days in the the machine-gun way old Irish ladies used the repeat the Ave Maria. God has left the building, but the congregation are still robotically, fervently at prayer.

The first line of defense was a positively Scholastic distinction between money given by Saint Jack himself, and money given by the tribes who were Abramoff's hapless clients. The Kosniks loved this one -- it appealed to their wonkish mastery of technical minutiae. Jack himself -- pay no attention to those tribes behind the curtain -- didn't write any checks to Democrats, so hey, "we" are in the clear. (Incidentally, I love the way Kosniks and other fleas on the donkey carcass refer to the party as "we". Yankees fans do the same thing -- Mr. Steinbrenner's team is always "we". There's a lesson in this.)

Unfortunately, and to the surprise of every three-year-old, it soon became clear that the public was not going to be very interested in this convoluted pettifoggery. Yikes! What do "we" have to fall back on?

Well, gotta hand it to Rahm Emanuel -- even when he's holding a really bad hand, he'll bluff like a sonofabitch:

"He's not an aberration," said Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, head of the House Democratic campaign effort, referring to Mr. Abramoff. "He's a super-sized version of what you get when you put the K Street project on steroids."
You heard it here first, folks. Hot-button issue for '06 will be ... the K street project. Dad has just been downsized, Mom is working 25 hours a week at Wal-Mart, they've got no insurance, and their son Joey is starting his third tour in Iraq. But they'll lie awake nights fuming about the K street project.

January 6, 2006

Hey diddle diddle, the pot and the kettle

From the LA Times:
Democratic congressional leaders have signaled for months that a central theme of the party's 2006 campaign will be that Republicans have focused more on the concerns of lobbyists and special interests than of ordinary families.

"It is time to put an end to … the pay-to-play politics that are going on in Washington," said [Montana] state Sen. Jon Tester. "This kind of politics … doesn't really represent the rank-and-file folks that are out there every day trying to make ends meet."

Quite apart from the remarkable Freudian slip of referring to the public as "the rank and file," there's a breathtaking effrontery in this, coming from any Democrat. As the indispensable Joshua Frank points out on his blog, "Since 1990, the Democrats have received almost 70% of all pro-Israel campaign contributions. Republicans have only pocketed 31%. "

Starting with the 2000 cycle, Abramoff and his clients pumped about $4.5 mil into the American political pigsty; during that same period, the corresponding stream of pro-Israel bribery was a little shy of $22 million. Go back as far as 1990, and the total is almost $56 million.

I'm not sure what Abramoff got for his money, but I can tell you at least one thing the Israel lobby got for theirs: the Iraq war. I know, I know, there were other factors, bla bla, but there can be no question, I think, in the mind of anybody who is paying attention, that pressure from the Israel lobby played a crucial, perhaps even a decisive role in getting this murderous folly going. Just as there can be no doubt that Democrats are even more willing to dance to AIPAC's tune than Republicans are -- and that's saying something.

So if you're still scratching your head about why the War Democrats are sticking to their guns, so to speak, even while the public is heading for the hills (not, I hope, the Hills), there's your answer: a long-standing "culture of corruption" that makes Abramoff look like some poor small-time schlemiel who has to buy retail.

January 7, 2006

The ghost of Jimmy Carter walks again

According to a recent AP-Ipsos poll, the country is ready for a change -- and who could blame 'em? Respondents favored, by 49% to 36%, the idea of Democrats taking control of Congress. Talk about a Desperation Index.

Looks like a minor Jimmy Carter moment in the making -- one of those cases where the Democrats, quite undeservedly, get a turn at the trough, thanks to some spectacular series of blunders on the part of the Republicans.

I have argued that this is the rule rather than the exception -- that since the Civil War, the Republican Party has been for all practical purposes the ruling party, and the Democrats only get a turn when the Republicans screw up. On one occasion -- the Roosevelt era -- the interval of Democratic hegemony lasted long enough to look like a change in the pattern; but in retrospect, this was clearly the exception that proves the rule.

The current crop of Democrats don't have anybody in the hopper with FDR's gifts, and the public -- alas -- is still not in quite such an insurrectionary mood as they were in 1932. And if they were, the Democrats -- authors of NAFTA and the current health insurance nightmare, co-authors of the Patriot Act, the Iraq war, and CAFTA -- would quite rightly have as much to fear as the Republicans.

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.

Progressive? Frustrated? Here's your chance

We're hearing some nice noises on the minimum wage.

Seems Senator Kennedy will participate in a "Living Wage Days" event on Monday, January 16 at the United First Parish Church Unitarian in scenic Quincy, Mass.

Ted thinks min wage workers need a raise. Last month, at a holiday news conference, thus Ted:

"In this the wealthiest nation on earth, no one who works for a living should have to live in poverty."

" How can any of us in good conscience enjoy our own high standard of living, when it is built on the backs of underpaid workers?"

Why MLK day? Well, thus Martin:
"There is nothing but a lack of social vision to prevent us from paying an adequate wage to every American worker ... whether he is a hospital worker, laundry worker, maid, or day laborer."
King wrote those lines in late '67, when the federal minimum wage was worth 3.50 an hour more, more, yes mooooooooooore, than it's worth today. To get back to that same level of "lack of vision" King deplored, we would need to raise the min from its present $5.15 to $9.10; and to reach Dr. King's goal of "total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty" we'll need to do a hell of a lot more than get back to where he stood. In fact, we'd need about a $12.50 min.

Do you hear any Democrats calling for that?

Oh by the way: this information comes courtesy of the Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign, active both at the national level and in a number of states including Ohio, Michigan, Arizona, West Virginia and Arkansas. So if you're looking for a constructive outlet for your political energies, why not join 'em? It would feel a lot better than working to elect some Democrat In Camo, or whatever the buzzword-du-jour is.

And while you're up and at 'em, suggest indexing the Federal minimum, so we don't have to wait on the patronage of a Ted to start back along the road to where we were when Bobby was still alive.

Waiting for Sharon

Latest bulletin from the ample Sharon bedside:
"The key thing certainly politically is whether or not he is mentally incapacitated by these strokes. They will only know that when they bring him out of this induced coma and see what kind of reactions they see from him," CTV's Tom Kennedy reported from Jerusalem, where he is watching developments.
If he starts groping for his sidearm when he wakes up, we'll know he's OK. Watch from a safe distance, Tom.

January 8, 2006

Roll over. Play dead. Good donkey.

Thus Reuters:
Ethan Siegal of The Washington Exchange, a private firm that tracks Congress for institutional investors, predicted "Senate Democrats will put up a fight and play to their liberal base, and then watch Alito be confirmed."
Sounds like Ethan got it right. Not that I mind too much. The Supreme Court is a fundamentally undemocratic institution, and so it seems only fitting that it should be a deeply reactionary one. The tendency of liberals to pin their hopes and fears on the Supremes reflects what I see as the anti-democratic, Hamiltonian character of liberal thinking -- one of the reasons why liberalism, as an outlook, can never expect to command a mass following.

January 9, 2006

Money where their mouth is

So far, only eight Democratic members of Congress have cosponsored Rep. Charles Conyers' resolution
"Creating a select committee to investigate the Administration's intent to go to war before congressional authorization, manipulation of pre-war intelligence, encouraging and countenancing torture, retaliating against critics, and to make recommendations regarding grounds for possible impeachment."
What, you never heard about this bill? Your Congressman hasn't written to you proclaiming his support for it?

Seems like it ought to be an easy demand to expect a pledge out of any Dem running for election, or re-election to the House this November: "I will vote for Conyers' bill" -- and If they're already in the House, demand that they co-sponsor it.


Or else.

Orthrus, mascot of the two-party system

Editor's note: This bulletin from Brother Paine transcribed by Archy.

orthrian politics
the two party system exposed

call me orthrus:

i'm a dog with two heads
one left and one right

seperate and
but both attached
  to a single  body
    and reflecting the  conflicting moods
                             of  a single  soul

among other nice features
of  working thru  two heads

i obviously

have at all times
   two mugs to work with

two expressions to make
two mouths to speak

one mug can be  clean

while the other's dirty

one indignant while the other's  defiant

u get my gimmick

mix in the k street project


           my soul can dirempt over this

and run against itself
and drive itself from power

and and and .... 

Continue reading "Orthrus, mascot of the two-party system" »

January 10, 2006

Mythographia Sharonensis

"Democratic royalty" and perjurer Bill Clinton seems to have appointed himself high priest of the soon-to-be-posthumous-I-hope Sharon cult:
"Mr. Sharon had not only withdrawn from Gaza, he had started a new party with the purpose of continuing to push for peace," Clinton said. "All of us who believe in peace in the Middle East are in his debt, and so more than anything else, I pray for his health." ... His illness "puts yet another obstacle in the path of the peacemakers," Clinton said. "It's almost as if God were testing them one more time to rise again, to keep on."
Nobody ever said Clinton was short on chutzpah, but Paris seems to have put him in rare form. All those girls in thongs, perhaps, and who could blame him? Still, all this stuff about God.... hard to say which is more breathtaking, really: Clinton's theological ruminations or his eulogy of Sharon as a peacemaker.

Personally, I don't feel that I understand the Almighty very well, but I sure as hell understood Sharon. A peacemaker he was not, and never would be -- except in the rather specialized sense noted by Tacitus, a sense in which Sharon was very much the image of his imperial patron the US.

The emerging Reader's Digest capsule bio of Sharon reads something like this: tough old soldier, may have gone a little overboard from time to time, but lately he grew into a Man Of Vision. He stood up to the "extremists" on the Israeli right and with rare courage gave up Gaza as a down payment for "peace". He was in the process of founding a "centrist" party (sort of like the Democrats, hmmm?) when the King of the Universe, unable to deny Himself any longer the company of such a holy old soul, revoked his lease on life and called him home.

Deconstructing this myth would take a book, and somebody ought to write it. Suffice for the moment to observe that Israel's leaders have never really wanted Gaza; it was never more than a bargaining chip. (Those loopy settlers are another story, of course; but for the purposes of the Israeli state they fall into the category of useful idiots, or rather, temporarily useful idiots. More on this topic below).

The reason Sharon could give up Gaza unilaterally was that he had no intention of doing any bargaining, so a bargaining chip was useless to him. Sharon's own adviser Dov Weissglas spilled the beans on this topic in an interview last October in Ha'Aretz. Sharon meant to carve up the West Bank, penning the Palestinians into a few Bantustans and keeping the rest, all by fait accompli rather than negotiation.

His "courage" in standing up to the settlers -- or a few of them, anyway -- is cut from the same cloth as his devotion to peace. The settlers were useful as long as it was important to create "facts on the ground." Now that the facts are in place, and Sharon was ready to capitalize on them, these loons with their fantasies of red heifers and whatnot have served their purpose.

Indeed, Sharon's move to create his "Centrist" Kadima party is best seen as a move to isolate the loons in the rump of the Likud, and symmetrically isolate the "gentle souls" of Israeli liberalism in the rump of Labor. The serious-minded -- undistracted by quaint notions about divinity, or humanity -- would create a new institutional expression for what has always been a matter of practical consensus, between the leadership and core constituents of both parties, about Israel's destiny.

Boy, am I in trouble now...

Annoying people on the Internet has become a Federal crime, thanks to our old friend bipartisanship.

The tireless Declan McCullough reports:

Last Thursday, President Bush signed into law a prohibition on posting annoying Web messages or sending annoying e-mail messages without disclosing your true identity.

In other words, it's OK to flame someone on a mailing list or in a blog as long as you do it under your real name. Thank Congress for small favors, I guess.

This ridiculous prohibition, which would likely imperil much of Usenet, is buried in the so-called Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act. Criminal penalties include stiff fines and two years in prison.

Here's the relevant language.

"Whoever...utilizes any device or software that can be used to originate telecommunications or other types of communications that are transmitted, in whole or in part, by the Internet... without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person...who receives the communications...shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both."

The bill cleared the House of Representatives by voice vote, and the Senate unanimously approved it Dec. 16.

Note that about "voice vote" and unanimous approval -- what that means is that our friends the Democrats, paladins of civil liberties, went whole-heartedly along with this very remarkable initiative to criminalize "annoyance." In other words -- if I want to give Hillary, or Chuck Schumer, or Joe Biden, a hard time, I'd jolly well better tell the FBI where to find me. Otherwise, Joe or Hillary or Chuck might be "annoyed," and if I annoyed them under a pseudonym -- like Martin Marprelate, or Junius, or Pasquino of old -- well, I'd be on my way to Leavenworth.

January 12, 2006

Democrats in fig-leaf aprons

Over on Alternet there's a fine story about Pelosi, Reid, Rockefeller, Daschle, Graham et al. keeping quiet about Bush's NSA snooping project, although they knew about it. The only flaw in the Alternet piece is that it isn't sufficiently dismissive of the Democrats' excuse for not speaking out:
They didn't go public with their concerns because they were bound by rules governing classified briefings of congressional members.... As a condition of receiving a classified briefing, the congressional member agrees not to disclose any of the contents.... Pelosi got caught in this bind. If she blows the whistle on the spy program, she ran the risk of being stripped of her security clearance -- and sanctioned by the Republican-controlled House.
Now this is baloney. It's a fundamental principle of ethics and law that you can't be constrained by law to commit an illegal act, or by morality to commit a bad one. If a lawyer learns that his client is planning to murder someone, then he is obliged to violate privilege and prevent the murder.

Same for these collusive Democrats; they're not just cowards, they made themselves accessories.

Bite Geryon in the leg

Here's another in our occasional series, "do this instead (of working for a Democrat)."

When you get that gotta help, I gotta help the planet and its people urge, then instead of helping another jackass cross the road to public office -- instead of answering the call of the long-eared bray -- next time, how about a corporate rebranding campaign? One of those civic acts of public effigy burning aimed at a specific corporate bad guy.

There are dozens of these well-organized outfits out there, nailing the Cokes, the Walmarts, the Nikes and the Microsofts. Join one of them. It couldn't possibly be any less idle an exercise than voting for a Democrat, and you might even get the rare high of helping make a stock tumble over like Saddam's statue.

Not a joiner? Start one up yourself. Surely there's some company you really hate . It's a gas and a half and startups ...hey, they're the American way.

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 14, 2006

Anybody would be better: an ongoing series

Number two on our hit list (of course Hillary is number one): Blue Dog Jane Harman can be had.

Last time as a very pliable and well-financed incumbent member of Orthrus' junior-head party, she won in a dog-trot (2 to 1) over a literally zero-financed token elephant act. But recall it was just a couple of cycles ago that she barely nosed out then one-term Republican Kuykendall to retake "her seat". The tally: 48% to 47%.

Her district has a take-away "prog" base large enough to pull her under -- if they're willing to walk away.

"The beach-lined district, which includes Los Angeles International Airport, tends to be fiscally conservative but socially liberal. Democratic and Republican registration is almost equal... roughly a fifth of voters register with third parties or decline to state their affiliation."
Wammo! Run a peace green type -- maybe a celebrity -- is Brad Pitt available? -- and she's history.

All you Left Democrats -- there's only two possibilities; either the Democratic Party can be turned into something useful, or it can't. If you think it can, then Job One has gotta be to get rid of dedicated NSA spy backers and all-too-open friends of war in the Middle East like Harman.

Do a little Googling on "jane harman" and iran to see what this Blue Dog stands for.

Blue dogs

Blue dog reps are the children of the Dixiecrats. Fifty years ago -- okay, seventy -- they had an unholy and unacknowledged alliance with the darkest side of the Vatican. Now, of course, Fort Zion has replaced Mons Vaticanus.

Starting with the Congress of 1937 -- except in moments of intoxication or threatened riot -- these bastards, in league with the Republicans, easily blocked the legislative door to all serious reform movements in modern America. Okay, you progressives, here's your mission if you choose to accept it:

Drive these Blue Dog reps out. Throw their seats to the Republican party, where it really belongs.

To this end, over the next few months, we'll zero in on which of these can be removed by a vigorous, general-election, third-party left hemisphere challenge. As I mentioned earlier, Jane Harman is a sitting duck if there ever was one.

Here's the full Blue Dog special list:
  • Joe Baca (California)
  • John Barrow (Georgia)
  • Marion Berry (Arkansas)
  • Sanford Bishop (Georgia)
  • Dan Boren (Oklahoma)
  • Leonard Boswell (Iowa)
  • Allen Boyd (Florida)
  • Dennis Cardoza (California)
  • Ed Case (Hawaii)
  • Ben Chandler (Kentucky)
  • Jim Cooper (Tennessee)
  • Jim Costa (California)
  • Bud Cramer (Alabama)
  • Lincoln Davis (Tennessee)
  • Harold Ford, Jr. (Tennessee)
  • Jane Harman (California)
  • Stephanie Herseth (South Dakota)
  • Tim Holden (Pennsylvania)
  • Steve Israel (New York)
  • Jim Matheson (Utah)
  • Mike McIntyre (North Carolina)
  • Charlie Melancon (Louisiana)
  • Mike Michaud (Maine)
  • Dennis Moore (Kansas)
  • Collin Peterson (Minnesota)
  • Earl Pomeroy (North Dakota)
  • Mike Ross (Arkansas)
  • John Salazar (Colorado)
  • Loretta Sanchez (California)
  • Adam Schiff (California)
  • David Scott (Georgia)
  • John Tanner (Tennessee)
  • Ellen Tauscher (California)
  • Gene Taylor (Mississippi)
  • Mike Thompson (California)
Any one of these -- electing a Republican instead wouldn't even be a tatical sacrifice, it would be an improvement.

January 15, 2006

The Democrats' family jewel

As predicted, the Senate Democrats failed to deploy the fabled filibuster to stop the Alito nomination -- even though every "progressive" web site in the land assured us that the somewhat Don-Knottsian jurist was second cousin to the Antichrist. Join me in the Wayback Machine for a quick trip to May of last year, when we were being assured, by institutions like The Nation magazine, that the sky would fall if the all-holy filibuster were allowed to go the way of the stegosaur.

Even at the time, the filibuster seemed a somewhat unlikely palladium to defend -- a thunderbolt wielded in the party's heroic age by such Olympians as Theodore Bilbo, to preserve fine old American values like lynching.

One thing you've gotta say for the Democratic Party: it's always good for a laugh. After all the hysteria, after the October Surprise that pickled the filibuster like a foetus in formaldehyde, it turns out that the filibuster is too precious to risk using it.

So there it is, hanging above the mantelpiece, like great-granddad's Klan hood, a family heirloom. Every so often the Democrats can take a look at it and sigh, Ah, there were giants in the earth in those days.

If his lips are moving...

That Bill Clinton: he can't open his mouth without telling a lie. Man will even lie in the pulpit. At Gene McCarthy's memorial service, Bill delivered -- no doubt with that sickly religious-caterpillar face of his -- this whopper:
''It all started when Gene McCarthy was willing to stand alone and turn the tide of history.''
Huh? The anti-war movement started with Gene McCarthy? As one of the folks out there getting tear-gassed well before McCarthy made his move, I know better.

This is not to detract anything from McCarthy, who has been overestimated but deserves a kind word all the same. I can't help speculating, though, about the precise psychic process going inside Clinton's brain. It's gotta be some kind of reflex -- no way this particular lie could do Clinton any good.

Is it that he just can't help overselling whatever he's selling? If it's a used car -- Einstein once owned it. If it's real estate -- there's oil under it. Does he feel obliged to keep gilding the lily, even after he's made the sale? Such personalities are not uncommon.

If you were a kind person -- which I am not -- and wanted to cut Clinton some slack -- as I do not -- then you might say he's just expressing the fundamental theorem of the liberal view of history -- a view in which history is made from the top down, by thinkers, writers, professors, experts, politicians, and other folk who stand out, in some way, from the common herd. According to this view, it was of course the Bobby Kennedys and the Gene McCarthys who ended the Vietnam War -- not us poor slobs burning our draft cards, or those fed-up grunts in-country fragging their gung-ho lieutenants.

Another War Democrat, ripe for the plucking

If we can't get Hillary, at least we can get Israel -- what's that? Oh, sorry, I mean Steve Israel, from New York's second district, a slice of suburbia on Long Island.

This district is a toss-up in a well-fought two-racer. It was for a long time -- four terms -- the stompin' ground of flashy d'Amato crony Rick Lazio, till Hillary drew his fangs in Senate race 2000.

Nice revenge theme here.

Israel squeaked in with 48%, fighting for Lazio's vacated seat in 2000. Last cycle, a dummy Repub got a third of the vote, running literally on $2k in campaign funds against Israel's million-plus band wagon.

Come next November hit this fat AFL-AIPAC war pig from the peace-loving left, and you can leave the rest to the right.

I've said it before, I'll say it again: if you seriously think there's any hope for the Democratic Party as a "progressive" force, you've gotta make the concept "right-wing Democrat" into an oxymoron. And this is the kind of district that really deserves a Republican, anyway.

January 16, 2006

Watergate dreamin'...

Recent words of long ago House member and ace Nixon impeacher Lizzy Holtzman of New York, apropos Bush's high crimes:
"attention must be focused on changing the political composition of the House and Senate in the upcoming 2006 elections. If a Republican Congress is unwilling to investigate and take appropriate action against a Republican President, then a Democratic Congress should replace it."
Nice try, Lizzie. But the bait-and-switch is a little too obvious. Let's dream no wet dreams of a Watergate II, please. For one thing, look how much good Watergate I did: "progressive" young folks falling in love with the likes of white-sheet possum Sam Ervin. And sure, Nixon fled for rock cover like a sun-boiled reptile, but then what? New Dixiecrat Carter in '76, and then... Reagan in '80; the jim-crowing of Jesse Jackson, the DLC rat pack... need I go on? Point is, these congressional gladiator shows don't really change anything.

Let's not take this bait again. Sure, it would be fun -- an admittedly delicious show, the very best theatre of cruelty. But after the tribunal of pointy-hatted scowling dems has clobbered and reclobbered an already beaten and totally lame-duck Bush admininstration -- what will be the body count?

Best shot -- Cheney dies of a heart attack on live television. Okay, that would make for great entertainment. But after that, what? It's a meaningless, mindless pleasure. They will never remove the man from Crawford himself -- where's the 2/3 in the Senate gonna come from?

But if folks fall for the Holtzman bait, and turn out for Dems in hopes of another Watergate soap opera -- it'll just be another palace coup, like the first one, with no political content at all. Guelphs walloping Ghibellines, or Crips taking some turf back from Bloods. We the people might get a Democratic majority in the house -- but it'll be the same old dirty Democratic party that went along with the Iraq war, the Patriot Act, the bankruptcy bill, and so on ad nauseam -- a majority that empowers the worst elements of present-day donkey-party bizwiz hawks. After the big Truth or Consequences slapstick show of the hearings, we'll be watching 'em hook up their time-honored, time-tested "working majority" with the Republican cross of Christ/Chamber of Commerce thundering hunnish horde.

January 17, 2006

Democrats: Kiss your job goodbye

Interesting that nobody reacted much when Senator Max Baucus, senior Democrat on the Finance Committee, blew his party's cover -- such as it was -- on job exportation. AP quotes Baucus as saying,
... outsourcing white-collar jobs to low-wage countries such as India has become a global fact of life - and America must learn to live with it.... Baucus said a majority of fellow Senate Democrats agreed with him, despite the party's longtime opposition to American companies moving jobs overseas.... "But the world is flat and we must work harder to better retrain our people."
Now if there were any justice in the world, a guy should be kicked out of office just for alluding to Thomas Friedman, much less reading him.

January 18, 2006

Max Baucus, Montana Metternich

I'm getting very fond of Max Baucus, senior Democrat on the Senate finance committee. He has a wonderful way of blurting out inconvenient truths about his party's actual attitudes. It's quite refreshing.

Following up on his earlier comments about job exportation -- "get used to it," was his advice -- he has now made clear what the rules of admission are to the nuclear club. At a time when bipartisan hysteria about Iran getting the bomb dominates the newspapers, Max has indicated that it's just fine for India to have one:

His approving remarks echoes comments of US senator and former Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry who last week backed the India-US nuclear deal, saying that it recognised India as a nuclear power.
Nonproliferation, it seems, is one of those doctrines that needs to be applied very selectively. Now let's see, from whose point of view is it a good thing for India to have the bomb?

January 19, 2006

Dems: We'll tell you we told you so

Here's the new Democratic strategy on Judge Alito, according to the New York Times: no filibuster -- let the guy squeak through -- but vote against him so we can use him as a campaign issue. In other words, they won't deploy the one weapon they've got -- that precious heirloom, the filibuster -- but they will want to come back to us, in '06 and '08 and for as long as Alito bestrides the bench, and claim they were against him.

I love the Democrats on the Supreme Court. It's always their summum supplicium, or rather their ultima ratio, when they tell us we have to vote for 'em no matter how sold out they are. I almost hope Alito turns out to be every bit as bad as they say he is, or worse. Then maybe people will stop being so afraid of the Supreme Court, and find some other means to defend their rights and interests. A panel of nine elderly lawyers never was very good casting for this part anyway.

The tiredness of Democratic thinking on this subject matches the tiredness of the strategy. My new favorite senator, Max "kiss your job goodbye" Baucus, solemnly gave this as his reason for opposing Alito: "I don't know if he's sufficiently mainstream." Really now, when you're reduced to deploying concepts like "mainstream," you're past terminal and well into decomposition.

Osama bin Laden, man of peace...

... well, compared to your average Democrat, anyway.

The latest Osamagram, according to Reuters, apparently offers us a "truce" if we get out of Iraq:

bin Laden said al Qaeda was willing to respond to U.S. public opinion supporting an American troop pullout from Iraq. He did not specify conditions for the truce, but indicated it was linked to U.S. troops quitting Iraq.

"We have no objection to responding to this with a long term truce based on fair conditions."

Sounds like a pretty good deal to me -- hell, I think we should get out of Iraq anyway, Osama or no Osama. Don't you? But the Reuters article goes on to quote "terrorism expert" (love these job descriptions) Daniel Benjamin warning us that this would be tantamount to "bending the knee."

Benjamin was a National Security Council apparatchik during the Clinton Administration. He and a colleague from those palmy days, Steven Simon, have been parked in a liberal think tank since their expulsion from Eden, and have written a couple of books articulating what you might call the Kerry line -- namely, that the "war on terror" would be better run under Democratic management. Benjamin intones, ominously,

"Remember that bin Laden, in many of his pronouncements over the years, has held out the possibility of a new deal between the Muslim world and the U.S. It's just that the cost has been unbelievable, like getting out of the Middle East entirely or withdrawing support for so-called apostate regimes."
Huh? Getting out of the Middle East is an "unbelievable cost"? I would have said that staying in the Middle East is going to impose some unbelievable costs. If the idea of "getting out of the Middle East" was fairly laid before the American people, I bet they'd go for it like Bill Clinton after a bosomy intern. But don't hold your breath waiting for the Democrats to embrace the idea of disentanglement, with "terrorism experts" -- not a bad description of what they do, actually -- like Benjamin and Simon waiting for another turn at the controls of the war machine.

Together in perfect harmony: the dog's two heads

Recently I logged a sprightly dismissal of Jane harman's 2 to 1 win last cycle as a no-sweat factoid, given the underlying district. I further argued that toppling her would be a slam dunk. But I sense some skepticism out there. So, for the record, here's how Orthrian dynamics really work.

Once one head's local operative gets into re-election trouble, then big Geryon's money flows in bountiful measure into the coffers of a seat contender from the other head.

Think this simple rule through and you'll see how well it works.

One result: if a seated head's agent is in a pickle (like us lefties could very easily put dear Jane in) -- once there's blood in the water, it's survival politics at its most naked. The incumbent's party, like a reef shark in a feeding frenzy, will devour its own creature, allowing it to be replaced by a flea from the hair of Orthrus' other head. (I know, mixed metaphor, but screw it, it's a goddam blog.)

Better to let the other team have a turn, than allow some upstarts to disrupt the machinery.

Of course, the weaker head can never be permitted to die out completely, because without a second head, the con is finished.

In this light, somebody ought to trace the tick-tock of the heads in the people's house since, say, the civil war.

Stay tuned.

Training the Titan's dog: a short course

Okay, so not all elected Democrats are Orthrians. Maybe Russel Feingold isn't, for example. But that doesn't change the Orthrian character of their party. They can afford to leave some popular slack -- on both sides, come to think of it. It's only the important, structural players who need to be wired into Orthrus' nervous system.

How can you tell an Orthrian? Simple: donor flows. Not voting patterns. Orthrians need to keep some camouflage, so they often vote non-Orthrian. Here's how it works:

With a nice reliance on careful insider log rolling, Orthrians can protect each other's false branding. Say you've got a rep to uphold as a feminist or a champion of labor. Well, if you're in a pinch you get a pass and vote on the wrong side -- what you might call the people's rather than master Geryon's side. You can even do this a lot -- even most of the time, if you need a lot of camouflage. On corporate issues, you can defy the board roomers -- but only in a losing battle.

Go ahead, says Geryon, go out there for a little romp, Orthrus, good doggie. Vote freely! Vote your doggy conscience -- as long as you lose, lose and lose graciously. Stand tall in defeat. Stride forth with a rugged "stay the course" jutting chin. Walk up to the net and shake the victor's hand like a good sport -- and tell your disappointed constituents, "Next time."

January 21, 2006

Long as you're off the reservation...

Okay, so you've caught on to this wonderfully disruptive and un-procedural state referendum thing, and you're raising the state minimium wage and roping the rate to the CPI, and maybe even hammering a lower ceiling on weekly straight time hours.

Great, keep strokin' -- but as long as you've got the referendum bit between your teeth, as long as you're taking over the asylum, fellow inmates -- where it applies, why not add this to your state-wide movement:

Repeal the union-busting "right to work" laws now on the books in more then twenty of our soverign states.

I figure you all know who put 'em there and why.

Munchkins crack down

It's always deeply gratifying when somebody decides you need to be shut up. It shows, as they used to say in a Left sect I hung out with, years ago, that you've "touched a nerve."

Now I'm a modest guy, and I don't like to toot my own horn, but I seem to have touched a nerve over on the Munchkin Democrat site Daily Kos. Used to hang out there a bit, trying to drum up some traffic for the blog, and it was always fun to rile the Aunt Pollies. But the idyll has come to an end. The hammer has dropped. My page there no longer offers me the option of posting an entry or a comment.

Since the Kos thought police didn't bother to write and tell me why they disconnected my phone, so to speak, I can only speculate. Was it the utterly forbidden topic of the Israel lobby and the Democrats' subservience to it? Was it the poll (since deleted from the Kos site) showing that even among Munchkins, 75% believed that if the Democrats won control of the House in '06, it would be by "sheer dumb luck" rather than because they deserved it?

I think that must have been it. Certainly it was the high point of my time there.

Adieu, Kos. I won't miss the obsessive wonkery about which indistinguishable Democrat is more "electable" in some Godforsaken district in Ohio. But I did kind of like the angry responses to my own contributions. Made me feel I was on the right track.

January 22, 2006

A walk on the tame side

Brother Smith's newfound nonpersonhood at Daily Kos sent me over there in a fit of idle curiosity. Found this gem -- it helps isolate the class hate, and fear, behind your usual run-of-the-jungle cultural progressive and fiscally, um, meritworthy types -- i.e. your effing wax-winged liberal scumsucker:
"The modern GOP is a precarious alliance between moderate, sane, conservatives, corporate interests understandably focused on short term profits, and a fundamentalist mob whose social policies poll anywhere between unpopular to repugnant among the majority of Americans.

The moderates are the official face set forth in PR efforts, the corporate interests drive the money, and like in any feudal system, the cultish masses provide the votes and do the grassroots work. But there's a glaring weakness: Expose that extremist base for what it is, flip that rock over to illuminate the ugly squatting trolls hiding underneath, and it's game over folks."

Notice the tipoff class qualifiers: "understandable" "corporate" types and "repugnant, fundamentalist" elements of.. the "mob"! And our poster doesn't mean the Mafia, you know. He has some dim memory of reading a page or two of Burke in college, and he's striking a little snuff-snuffing Augustan pose here.

January 23, 2006

Thanks for the haemorrhage

Picked up my old dog-eared copy of Paradise Lost today, and out fell this yellowed, brittle newspaper clipping, from the New York Times, judging by the typeface:
"Bill Clinton pressed on [in pursuit of the NAFTA], growing more rather than less committed as the days passed. Abandoned by two of the three top Democratic leaders in the House, opposed by usually reliable Democrats in the trade unions and by some important leaders of minority groups and environmental organizations, he kept shoving more and more chips into the pot on an issue that few Americans really understood... It was the most important achievement of his Presidency... Mr. Clinton retreated early on Bosnia, on Haiti, on homosexuals in the military, on important elements of his economic plan; he seemed ready to compromise on all but the most basic provisions of his health-care reforms. Critics started asking whether he had a bottom line on anything. On the trade accord, he did, and that question won't be asked much for a while [after] the President's smashing success...free trade would not be quite so free as it might have been, but more walls came down this week than went up...at least Mr. Clinton has gained credibility, through his tenacity on the trade pact, that will help him in the months ahead. 'This is a great victory,' said Robert S. Strauss, the longtime Democratic power broker."
No working familly tax cut, no single-payer health plan -- but NAFTA, that's worth fightin' the good fight.

And now for something not completely different...

Feel like I've been whaling away too much lately on the poor wistful Munchkins at Daily Kos and the like. Time for a visit to their opposite numbers on the angstroms-wide spectrum of Democratic thinking: the Fromsphere. Let us don our hazmat suits, board the Ghostbusters incident response vehicle, and drop in on Third Way, a recently-spawned runt of the From litter.

And... pay dirt!

Sean Barney is a Senior Policy Advisor at Third Way. Serving in that capacity, Sean has been an integral part of the first year of this organization....

Sean is also a Marine Corps Reservist. He enlisted in the military just after 9/11, while a senior member of the staff of Senator Tom Carper. Lance Corporal Barney is a machinegunner with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 25th Marines and in October 2005, he was called up to serve a tour of duty in Iraq.

Now in all candor I have to say that this story gives me an extremely warm feeling. It suggests that the Fromsphere must be staffed by people who don't have the brains God gave a goose. (The Gore and Kerry campaigns would seem to confirm this assessment.)

Jeez, I hope this gets to be a fad -- all the eager young Washington beavers trading in their not-quite-Brooks-Brothers suits for desert camo and going to face down a world full of pissed-off dark-skinned people. Given that the Democrats seem to feel they need to work harder to establish "national security" cred than the Republicans, and given that they appear to be too dumb to keep their heads down, perhaps we can hope for a near-depopulation of the donkey-wonk cubicle farms -- like England after the first world war, except this time the girls will go too. Drang nach Mittel-Osten, Fromniki!

January 24, 2006

Pelosi: from Frisco, not of it

So what's Nan's secret desire -- personal power or war's end?

Do you have to ask?

Here's some highlights from a Valentine spread in yesterday's LA Times:

SAN FRANCISCO -- Nancy Pelosi is explaining the ways of Washington... "You have to understand, Washington is a secret-sauce town."
... Which is Nancy's
... way of disdaining those who profess to know the perfect ingredient for political success.... [yet] Pelosi... insists she knows the recipe for winning back the House in November: "It's one good month in front of another. Beat Social Security. Make sure the world knows what's happening -- ethically. Attract the candidates. Raise the money. Build the unity for our message."
In other words, it's entirely a technical matter -- a matter of knowing how to work the myriad delicate levers of the marvelous American political machine.
A flashpoint came last month... Pelosi seconded a proposal by Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq.
Most beltway pros' verdict: bad... politics. According to a "nonpartisan analyst"[!],
"Politically speaking, the president was bleeding profusely from an open wound... To effectively move the spotlight from a place that was horrendous for the president to a question on which there is no public consensus..."
... was a huge blunder on Nan's part.

Behind the steely smile, Nan appears to agree.

"I think the attention is very much there with George Bush," she said, adding that her support for Murtha was a personal endorsement and not a statement of the party's position. "you don't do that on a question of war... that's a completely individual decision."
Well, Nan gets results:
Congressional Quarterly reports that in 2005, Democrats were more unified than at any time in the past half century ... 88% of the time, compared with the Republicans' 90%.

Pelosi [is] a combination den mother, — perennially reaching out to members to hear their concerns — and strict disciplinarian, cracking down on those deemed less than team players.

Tranlsation: when your team can't win the big game anyway, post votes are free. After all, the Pelosi strategy of deniable collusion only requires her to give the Republicans enough votes to cover their own occasional defectors.

We get one grandstand moment:

Pelosi allies happily publicized [her threat] to remove Democratic Rep. Edolphus Towns of New York from a prized seat on the Energy and Commerce Committee after he defected on a pair of high-profile votes."
The LA Times puff piece doesn't say this, but Towns' defections were on the bankruptcy bill -- a classic piece of Pelosi screw-the-public bipartisanship.

Meanwhile, back in the district -- how's it going?

She represents one of the most liberal cities in America -- she has been picketed in San Francisco for being insufficiently antiwar.
The fools! The fanatics! The... ingrates! After all, Madame Denmother is just working
to broaden Democrats' national appeal.... by embracing... deficit reduction and veterans affairs. "She's shown a recognition of the need for a party with a big tent and diversity," [says] Tim Roemer, former Indiana congressman and more moderate Democrat, urged by Pelosi to run for chairman of the national party despite their differences on abortion
Emphasis mine, of course. Y'all remember, don't you, how every two years the Democrats come to us with exactly two things to sell -- well, maybe one and a half: abortion and the Supreme Court.

Of course the big split in the party is

...among those... who believe that Democrats should act to end the war and those who prefer to attack Bush in hopes that voters will take out their frustrations on Republicans.
Nan's answer, as above: each member is free to choose, avoiding
"the already sticky wicket of the war [becoming] a Venus' flytrap."
Translation: if the party doesn't take a position on the war, we can have it both ways. We can talk war to the war junkies and peace to the peaceniks. This is the classic Democratic straddle.

"No one Democrat "fits perfectly in every single congressional district like Cinderella's slipper," says Roemer.

Well, fair enough. You folks in Frisco -- how do you find that your "peace now" slipper fits on the wide square foot of Nan "you CAN have it both ways" Pelosi?

Kick her out, Friscoites. Whoever she's representing, it's not you.

Evolution of the second banana, part I

If you want to look ahead, you should start by looking back.

Let's look all the way back to a richly deserved nadir of the Democratic Party's fortunes: the Republican house hegemony consolidated in the post-civil war "rump nation" election of 1866 -- the election that produced the 40th house of representatives. In it, Republicans of all stripes outnumbered Democrats ditto 175 to 49.

Now that was one hell of a nice house, stripped down, souped up, ravin' and rarin' and ready to fly. Does the name Thaddeus Stevens ring a bell?

Well, from early 1867 through three more cycles and 8 very full years of free-form romping, this multi-faceted Republicanism showed a America some of its highest and lowest moments in congressional history.

A taste of the high side : the gunpoint occupation of all Dixie, the local empowerment of the Southern freedmen.

And on the low side: No distribution of slavers' plantation land, and way too many big-time Yankee corporate shenanigans. Think railroad giveaways.

Our story starts to get interesting with the biggest corporate shenanigan of all, the vicious, huge, and out-of-nowhere crash of 1873. The first modern or Orthrian period really gets underway with the next electoral cycle after the crash. The people, knowing when they feel gratuitous pain, tossed out the Republicans in droves, including from the house. Jes'-folks up north "soured on Gilded Age business as usual," figuring that the congressional Republicans and their corporate friends were precisely what had produced the prior year's depression.

So we got a Democratic house for the 44th congress:

  • Democratic Party 182 seats ( +94 )
  • Republican Party 103 seats ( -96)
A nice object lesson in what a mighty swing a real sharp and nasty industrial depression can bring. We'll see this topsy-turvy game several more times along the way.

But surprise, the donkey proved no redeemer for northern jobsters or hocked northern yeoman farmsteads. In fact, with the north's industrial economy continuing down cripple-stagger lane for years afterwards -- even after the folks rose up and threw out the elephant men -- the northern electorate slowly but inevitably discovered Orthrian reality.

That good old donkey Tweedledee warn't no damn better than elephant Tweedledum -- except on race, of course, where the Democrats were rock-solid defenders of lynching and Jim Crow. So a step-by-step, cycle-by-cycle retrogression set in up north, though down in Dixie the noose-and-sheet party was able to defend its gains.

One consequence of the Republican debacle: Dixie was now considered "redeemable", meaning it was given back, step by step, to its "rightful" Democratic white owners.

But the net of these these two contrary regional trends nationally was that the Orthrian do-nothing sellout lost the donkey votes and seats faster than nightriding could add 'em down south.

The sad donkey declension: from 182 dem seats in '74, to 157 seats in '76, to 141 seats and a whiskery margin of nine in '78.

For any pair of eyes willing to see Orthrus was now in the saddle. The system -- outside the south, at least -- had two heads, but only one controlling mind and soul: the mind that watched the stock ticker and owned a lot of farm mortgages. So the donkey by sheer whithering-away of hope became again, in accordance with its deepest nature, the lesser head of the dog. They lost the last few seats necessary to give back house control where it rightly belonged in the election of 1880 with a further drop of 13 seats.

But lo, there was lightning flashing on the horizon: next installment, Populism, Coxey, Bryan and the origins of true Bidness Republican hegemony.

Ralph drops the big one

Ralph Nader -- gotta love the guy. Here's the old sparrow hawk at his best, a propos the whole Democratic righteous-indignation thing about "K Street". Ralph says, Hey big ears, skip the hee haw -- forget pompous pledges to "forever" close the books to any more swindling lobby induced finagles. Dracula has not left the building. Bar the door and he's still comfortably inside drinking his rougey pina coagulata. The real Rx for K Street mayhem: blow up what's already in there.

That's right -- blow up the whole damn corporate welfare rockery once and for all. Or in Ralph's own words:

Congress should decree that every federal agency shall terminate all below-market-rate sales, leasing or rental arrangements with corporate beneficiaries, including of real and intangible property; shall cease making any below-market-rate loans or issuing any below-market-rate loan guarantees to corporations; shall terminate all export assistance or marketing promotion for corporations; shall cease providing any below-market-rate insurance;..... shall eliminate all liability caps; and shall terminate any direct grant, below-market-value technology transfe or subsidy of any kind.

The bill should also amend the Internal Revenue Code to eliminate all corporate "tax expenditures" listed in the President's annual budget.

Some of what gets cancelled in such a bill might be good public policy. If so, Congress should reauthorize it. But there's too much accumulated contribution/lobbyist-driven institutionalized graft for a case-by-case review to eliminate what's in place.

Now that's a real nuclear option, eh mates? If your local House donkey won't sign onto it put him (or her, Nancy) on notice that you won't vote for His Lesserhood. If you're gonna have a K Street stooge representing, or rather failing to represent you, better at least have an open one.

January 28, 2006

Calling all moles

We know you're out there -- or rather in there: you interns at Third Way, you junior staffers in Rahm Emanuel's money pit, you starry eyed young Democrats -- or old Democrats, for that matter -- revolted by what you've seen on the inside. Help us out, willya? We can watch the critter kick and bray, and make some shrewd guesses about what's ailing it -- but we need some of you moles on the inside to do some real reportage. Come on, email us and and dish the real dirt.

Question one : are any of Rahm's rangers as yet worried at all about a base rebellion next fall?

Have they noticed the possibility that a revulsion from this do-nothing approach might hit their zombie candidates so hard at the polls, come November, as to spoil all hopes for a return to majority status?

Has it occurred to anybody that the present "planned power off" strategy -- make no blunders, it's all down hill anyway, so let's coast -- won't hack it over all the humps out there up ahead? Has it crossed anybody's mind that the voters might want to hear something more than tut-tutting and insincere protestations of shock about corruption and spying -- that they might want to hear about the big positive beef-with-thick-gravy issues, like Iraq, one-payer health, high-wage jobs?

We know by deduction what's up -- nothing. But have they all drunk the Rahm and Hillary Kool-Aid? Or is there discontent in the ranks, kept out of the public eye by the masters of the campaign-money spigot?

Savonarola mon amour

Maybe us Amurricans need our home-grown Hamas to win a full victory next fall, too.

Go ahead, let 'em pick up all the marbles. Let the party of white loser salvation, the boys of the cross and the sword, triumph. Let's give Pat Robertson and his ilk control of the full spectrum of federal power levers. Let's see what the holy hell they got. Bring it on, as the Maxiumum Leader says.

Okay so a few of us pinkos stinkos and hoe-moe-sexuals get virtual burnings. We can take it. This isn't the 16th century. Come on, walk away from the polls. Give 'em a clear run. Let 'em have the damn keys to all the pointy-heads' offices. Let 'em drown the bastards, virtually of course -- its all pretty much a video game anyway. Who's to say anything real will even get its hair mussed?

And suppose it does -- Jane and Joe Churchgoer might figure out that what the ayatollahs are giving 'em isn't exactly what they signed up for. As the Men's Wearhouse says, an educated consumer is our best customer.

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.

Hey, Cindy...

An open letter to Cindy Sheehan

January 28, 2006

Dear Cindy Sheehan --

Last year, you almost single-handedly revived the dead American anti-war movement -- a movement killed by its own fatal attraction to the Democratic Party and its lesser (but still plenty evil) warmakers like Kerry, and Clinton, and Pelosi. We all owe you a debt of gratitude.

I'm sure you have your own ideas about what to do next, but perhaps you'd be interested to know what one admirer, at least, would like to see you do.

I think you should set your sights on one of these Democratic war criminals and run against him or her. And I don't mean a primary challenge, or just a primary challenge; I mean run on a third-party line, in some state or district where anti-war forces are strong, as a frank and self-proclaimed spoiler.

What would be the point of this exercise?

It's pretty clear to a lot of us that the Democratic Party, at least in its present form, is part of the problem, not part of the solution. But counsel is divided about how that might and should change. Some of us think the Democratic Party is just hopeless and needs to be cleared out of the way. Others think it can be somehow claimed or "reclaimed" by "progressives" -- for lack of a better word.

I don't know which of these views is yours. Personally, I tend to the lost-cause view of the party. Perhaps you wouldn't quite go that far. But I would argue that either way, the conclusion is the same: there can be no quarter for War Democrats. One way or the other, that must become an untenable position.

If you think the Democratic Party can be salvaged as an anti-war party, then the first order of business is to squeeze out the War Democrats by any means necessary. If they can't be defeated in a primary challenge, then they have to be fragged from behind in the general election. (I am speaking metaphorically here, of course.)

Take Hillary Clinton (please!). She faces a couple of anti-war primary challengers, which is a fine thing, as far as it goes. But her war-chest from the Israel lobby, among other sources of lavish funding, is immense, and many Democrats, even many of those who oppose the war and deplore Hillary's support for it, will be so mesmerized by the mirage of "electability" and the sophomoric appeal of strategic voting that they will pull a lever for her even in the primary. If the primary challenges fail, what then? Do we sit back and say, oh well, better luck next time, and watch this monster's triumphal progress back into the Senate and on, quite possibly, to the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008?

There is an alternative. We could take the view that we must expel the malefactors, regardless of party label, starting with the easiest, most vulnerable ones -- which means, of course, the War Democrats. We could take a frankly and openly punitive approach to people like Hillary. We could teach them that unless they stand for what we stand for, we will take our votes elsewhere, come what may. They can tell us bloodcurdling tales about the Republican bogeyman until they are Blue in the face, but we can let them know we've seen through that: if they're going to tag along behind the Republicans on the life-and-death issues that matter most to us, what have we to fear from their defeat?

As a movement, we have to show that we have too much self-respect to grovel for crumbs. We will never be taken seriously until we show that there is a price that must be paid for our support -- and a price to be paid for betraying us. "If I can't sell it, gonna keep sittin' on it," runs the old song; "Never catch me givin' it away." We've been givin' it away to the Democrats for way too long.

Now let's get down to brass tacks for a minute. I've been talking about Hillary a lot, and since I live in New York, I can't tell you how much I would love to see you show up here, determined to battle the ogress on a third-party line in November. That would get her attention in a way that her primary challengers probably are not. So if you're disposed to do that, I would be the last person in the world to dissuade you.

But perhaps you're thinking, understandably, that Hillary would be a tough nut to crack. If so, two words: Nancy Pelosi.

Pelosi is very vulnerable in her peace-loving San Francisco district, as my blogmate J.S. Paine has explained. If you were to go West, Cindy Sheehan, go West, and challenge Pelosi in the primary and then challenge her again in the general election, it's very likely you could could make an example out of her that would strike fear into the hearts of all her fellow War Democrats. In fact, it's not at all inconceivable that you could end up in her House seat! Think of the hell you could raise there.

This scenario has me in such a paroxysm of delight that I'm going to have to end this letter. I do hope you will consider the idea. Think how happy you would make me -- and many, many others.

Very respectfully yours,

Michael J. Smith

An echo, not a choice

On no subject is the essential unanimity of Republicans and Democrats more plain than the subject of Israel. Hamas won the the Palestinian elections, and five minutes later we see Democrats and Republicans reading from precisely the same script.

Hillary: “Until and unless Hamas renounces violence and terror, and renounces its position calling for the destruction of Israel, I don't believe the United States should recognize them, nor any nation in the world."

Schumer: "[Hamas is] a terrorist organization, which means they believe it is their right to murder women, children and innocent civilians to achieve their goals… It is unrealistic, unwise and even immoral to ask Israel to sit down with a government that contains people who have such beliefs…No other country would, why should Israel?"

("Murder women children and innocent civilians to achieve their goals"? Actually, that sounds a lot like the United States, Chuck. As memorably articulated by your fellow Democrat, Madeleine Albright. But I digress.)

Biden: "Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with a party that calls for its destruction, engages in terrorism and maintains an armed militia."

Fascinating, isn't it, how much of this exaggerated miming of horror turns on what Hamas has said, or is thought, correctly or incorrectly, to believe? Hamas are ineligible interlocutors because they "don't accept Israel's right to exist" or because they have "called for Israel's destruction." In what other political context would objections like these sound like anything other than the ravings of a lunatic?

Now you may or may not like Hamas. (I like their militance, personally, but think their world-view is a little crude.) Regardless what you think about Hamas, though, it's pretty clear that they have the Palestinians' mandate. And unless you're willing to declare the Palestinians nonpersons, with no rights a white man is obliged to respect -- which is, of course, precisely the view shared by Republicans and Democrats alike, in perfect bipartisan harmony -- then it follows that you have to accept them as interlocutors. And if peace in the Milddle East is thought to be in the interest of the American people -- and surely it is -- then are not our leaders duty bound to swallow their highly selective fastidiousness and sit down with the people the Palestinians have chosen to speak for them?

Well, of course, A child could see that. But don't expect to hear it from any Democrat.

January 29, 2006

The mark of Kaine

... Timmy M. Kaine, that is, or no, sorry, that's Governor Timmy M. Kaine to you, as of last November.

Timmy, this fine mild man bursting with southern honeysuckle and chapel-bell reason, a nice new "I pray a lot too" Democrat, has been elevated. He's received the golden tap. He's the donkey-designated counter-puncher to our august sleepwalker-in-chief, after the boy mummy reads his, or rather somebody else's, "state of the union" speech.

What a digital dust-up this has triggered. Take for just one the progoshere's Arianna Huffington. She's raging like Mrs Macbeth before the dirty deed: Why why why, oh you dunderish doltniks -- I'm paraphrasing a little here -- why this guy? Why another rock-candy DLC huckster? Is this the best pinup you jackasses have got? Another tootsie-roll Dixie-lite smile puppy, another far-from-the-beltway, potlatch-proofed, green-acres goobner from the sovereign state of bogosity. Thats what you vontzes are putting center stage? I'm told the shocked and galled Arianna has been flapping and grinding her jaws so hard over this, she may have to move forward her next chin lift.

The Washington Post says, in a more general context, and more decorous language, this latest snafuzzy is giving the party bigwigs

"an early glimpse of an intraparty rift.... fiery liberals raising their voices on Web sites and in interest groups [denouncing] another flaccid Democratic response."
.... Another in a line stretching back at least to the muffed Murtha moment and running at full steam right up to yesterday's Alito flubaduster. Now Bush will be standing up there reading his lines, a target as big as a barn door, and this sugar-coated termite Kaine is the party's chosen "Sunday school slugger."

The Post item goes on to say it's not just the proglo-bloglodytes out there howling in the electronic wilderness, but the entire off-to-the-left base may be erupting because "party leaders [are] gutless sellouts."

Gotta hand it to the Post. Unlike the NY Times, they do sometimes fail to miss the story.

By the way, this Kaine strode to the Virginia governor's mansion over some mighty hallowed old oaken planks: "faith, values and fiscal discipline." What a "victory formula" that is, for the party of Jefferson and Jackson.

But Kaine is a man of principle, to hear him tell it. As the Post says,

The Virginia Democrat said he will not adjust his speech to placate the party's base."I'm not anybody's mouthpiece or shill or poster boy for that matter. I'm going to say what I think needs to be said ..."
In other words, Kaine will pay no attention to the people he's supposed to be representing.

What does this heart-of-oak man of principle think about the Iraq war? Well... er... ahh... then again....

Kaine is not alone in his contempt for the base. Again, the Post:

"The bloggers and online donors represent an important resource for the party, but they are not representative of the majority you need to win elections," said Steve Elmendorf, a Democratic lobbyist who advised Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign. "The trick will be to harness their energy and their money without looking like you are a captive of the activist left."
Well, if that doesn't say it all. "Harness their energy and money" -- and then fuck 'em. It would be difficult to come up with a clearer statement of the party's relationship to its leftish base.

This Elmendorf, by the way, was a key player in that petrified waltz to nowhere put on by the Kerrymen back in '04. You'd think he'd be ashamed to show his face, but no, here is is bigfooting it around DC like he's some fearsome hard-nosed badass, telling the base to lie back and enjoy it -- again.

Chutzpah will take you quite a long way in life, even if you're a born fool.

January 30, 2006

The sages are divided

Brother Smith has laid his battle plan before us: "crush out the donkey party." To him, a one-way ticket to the glue factory is the best and brightest future prospect for the party of Massa Jefferson and Old Hickory -- at least from the point of view of the diehard fundamental interests of the American people.

Well, I don't as yet quite share his dark conclusions, nor his John Brown certainty. Damply feeble as it may seem, I'm not ready to dump the whole damn donkey into the boiling pot.

This said, obviously one question follows: Why are we two able to sing in harmony here at the Stop Me barbershop?

Simple. We share the same Stage One: blast the War Democrats and Wall Street Democrats out of the party, by refusing ever to vote for one of 'em, ever again. Stop fooling ourselves that by electing these quislings, we might avoid some additional pounding by the elephants.

If we succeed at the end of the day there will either be a party Gideonized, or a puddle pulverized. We shall see.

My heart is far from confident here. When Bryan at the 1912 convention read Wall Street out of the party -- "There is no room for Belmonts and Ryans here. This is not their home, nor will it ever be" -- he got a thunderous hour-long response. Unfortunately, I know today that even among those furtive potential allies we may have in surprising numbers, trapped inside the party, surely a call by us out here to banish the Wall Street bums, banish the stranglers' legion of Kerry, Dean, Rubin and Clark, would meet with something very much less than even sheepish bleatings.

But hey, give it time. What has happened once can happen again.

New hope for the politically dependent

Science to the rescue. Thus the January 30 Washington Post:
Emory University psychologist Drew Westen put self-identified Democratic and Republican partisans in brain scanners and asked them to evaluate negative information about various candidates. Both groups were quick to spot inconsistency and hypocrisy -- but only in candidates they opposed .

"When presented with negative information about the candidates they liked, partisans of all stripes found ways to discount it, Westen said.

Now comes the money quote:
When the unpalatable information was rejected, furthermore, the brain scans showed that volunteers gave themselves feel-good pats -- the scans showed that "reward centers" in volunteers' brains were activated.
Hmmmm. Is it conditioning? I say nope -- it's hard wiring.
The psychologist observed that the way these subjects dealt with unwelcome information had curious parallels with drug addiction, as addicts also reward themselves for wrong-headed behavior.
This could explain a lot. The poor soul who just can't stay away from one or the other of Orthrus' heads -- he's not so different from the starveling junkie sniffling and shivering on a windswept street corner, impatient to put his troubled heart temporarily beyond the reach of the world's pain. He's not doing himself any good -- on the contrary -- but the warm feeling he gets, for those few minutes, is the only warmth he's got.

January 31, 2006

The donkey, rampant

This is both a confession and revelation:

I recently discovered something unexpected whilst reloading my data bank for a series of posts I'm preparing on the past peregrinations of our dear little House donkeys. (Part One is already here on the site.)

It just popped up in front of me, thanks to that damn old parlor cat Vann Woodward, and it's been haunting my inner nights ever since, like I'm a murderer in a Poe tale.

Well here I am, unable to take any more, unloading my burden:

In the annals of donkey-controlled Houses, there is one stark, bright counterexample to all our ravings, here at Stop Me, about donkeys having brays but no kick -- eclair-like spinal systems that sway like that mountain in a recent movie, etc. There was, in point of fact, a moment when a donkey-controlled House actually stood up, yes stood up, and against a Republican White House and a Republican Senate -- stood up against 'em and damned if they didn't prevail.

And there's still more pertinence here. These Democrats were opposing an armed occupation by US troops -- and in a real drama, like we can only dream of today, this fearless band of House Democrats refused to pass any legislation to fund the army. None at all, even with strikers rioting in the streets of Pittsburgh -- not a penny would they vote, till that occupation force was removed.

They held their ground for 9 months, steadfastly refusing to budge, even as one Republican president suceeded another. They held their ground till finally the other side caved in and those troops were removed.

So yes, the Daily-kosnik dream of an end to our Iraqupation, just by taking control of the house, has a solid precedent....

If the congressional Democrats of today can take on this outrageous oil-patch Republican reign of darkness in the Middle East with the same gumption that their predecessors, back in 1877, showed against the extremist, bloody-shirt Republicans' armed occupation of -- ahh, you guessed it! -- the defeated Confederacy.

About January 2006

This page contains all entries posted to Stop Me Before I Vote Again in January 2006. They are listed from oldest to newest.

December 2005 is the previous archive.

February 2006 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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