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March 2006 Archives

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 2, 2006

From a second head to... a rump

The DLCers' fear of the redistributor label shows they aren't any longer fit even for the Orthrian role assigned to the donk head, because to them redistribution means the New Deal tax and transfer system -- the party of Tip O'Neill.

In the bathtub-size world these DLC donks grapple in taxes fall on earnings -- stuff you got by effort or something much like effort, say cleverness. But whatever -- to be a t&t party means you're the party that takes from wage earners to give to -- yup, you guessed it.

Imagine that... how 80's.

As for the progs -- they won't attack capital wealth anymore then the DLC. Recall two tax moves of Clinton -- raising rates on higher comp earnings, but as a reward to donors, a massive cut to profit "realizers".

March 3, 2006

Sorry, I can't resist

I know, I know, we're supposed to be abusing the Democrats here. But consider this image, from the New York Times:

I've always said that the only good thing abut the Times is its photo editors, and this seems the definitive proof. Look at his eyes! There's some Procopian secret history here, or I'm a lizard.

March 4, 2006

Abortion 1, peace 0

I was delighted to see that according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Democratic PA senate candidate Bob Casey, his forehead still dripping from Chuck Schumer's oil of anointment, has made the women's movement in that swingin' state so nauseous that there is talk of running a third-party candidate in the general election:
Kate Michelman, a prominent abortion-rights advocate, said yesterday that she was giving "some thought" to running as an independent in the race for a Pennsylvania seat in the U.S. Senate.

A possible candidacy by Michelman, 63, appears to have much to do with channeling frustration that some reproductive-rights activists have over the National Democratic Party's choice of Bob Casey Jr., an abortion-rights opponent, to challenge Republican Sen. Rick Santorum, who also opposes abortion rights.

Talk about the paradoxes of triangulation. Pennsylvania is a state where "pro-choice" sentiment is so strong that Arlen Specter feels he has to steer a careful course between his own party's hydrophobes and his constituents. And yet -- the Democrats want to run a remote-controlled Vatican drone like Casey!

Anyway, I hope Michelman runs -- though it's probably a long shot -- and I hope she spoils it for Casey. Experience keeps a hard school, as the man said, but a fool will learn in no other.

What puzzles me is this -- and I don't at at all mean to indulge in a coarse joke here -- but can somebody tell me why the women's movement has so much bigger balls than the anti-war movement?

As far as I know, there are no peace candidates threatening to do to their local Democrats what Michelman is threatening to do to foetus-fan Casey. Certainly not in microscopically close settings like Pennsylvania, where a few votes can really make a difference.

Kate -- I would vote for you if I lived in Pennsylvania. Would you do me a favor and give Cindy Sheehan a call?

March 6, 2006

Eat your nice poison, children

A helpful e-mail correspondent called my attention to HR 4167, a bill with an apparently innocuous purpose -- uniformity in food labelling. What could be more rational, liberal, and progressive than that? Here's what AP reports:
House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, Majority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and several other lawmakers support a bill that would keep states from adding warnings that go beyond federal rules....

State warnings alert consumers to mercury in fish, arsenic in bottled water, pesticides in vegetables and many other potential problems. The food industry wants consistent warnings across state lines.

Well, that sounds quite bland, doesn't it? But the devil is in the details. The bill provides that no state can mandate more warnings or advisories or more extensive labeling than what is provided for in Federal law. This is a whack at states like California, where (unlike here in New York) people are quite concerned about what they eat, and the state requires relatively full disclosure. The "food industry" doesn't like this, needless to say.

Now normally I wouldn't expend more than a sour shrug on this story -- amazing how the sovereignty of the states is inviolable when it suits our masters, and can be swept away like a smoke ring when it doesn't. But what caught my eye about this was that the bill has a staggering 227 sponsors in the House.

Now who reading these words will be surprised to find that many of them are Democrats? The diamond on the dungheap, in fact, is none other than our favorite guy, Rahm Emanuel. I don't suppose there are many farmers in Rahm's Chicago district, but presumably Rahm is sending a message -- for the good of the Party.

And then what about Robert Andrews, from New Jersey's first district, incorporating Camden and the Jersey suburbs across the river from Philadelphia? Edolphus Towns, of New York? Steve Israel, another favorite of ours, also from New York? Or Connie Mack, from the southern Gulf coast of Florida? Only Pelosi is missing. Oh, and Steny Hoyer, amazingly.

Now of course the thing that really amuses me is this: plenty of people are up in arms about it -- understandably. You can forget about "acting locally" if Uncle can be depended on to lower the hammer when a locality gets out of line. Here's an example. Note the headline:

House Republicans Move to Kill State Food Safety Labels on Foods
Well, not exactly, Comrade Tofu. The Food Products Association spokesman quoted by AP seems to have called it:
"Our focus is on seeing the bill approved by the full House, by a bipartisan majority."
What do you bet they get it?

The next not-so-big thing

I wrote a few days ago that the DLC Democrats are no longer fit even to be the alternative head of Orthrus. Was this too gnomic, as MJS would probably say? I'll elaborate.

As a political movement, New Democrats with their neo-liberalism are yesterday's cop-out -- today they don't sell well. They're dead on their feet. Locus classicus: the Kerry petrified-forest '04 limbo act.

It's pretty bizarre, really. How come these bumbling, self-important showboats are in the funny papers, instead of mounting some kind of real challenge to Bush/Cheney and their wall-to-wall spying torturing pillaging and bloodletting? You'd think cutting a bunch of ghouls like that down to size would be child's play -- what with caudillo Bush and company acting like a bum-of-the-month Argentine junta.

But they haven't. A dog that doesn't bite isn't news, I suppose, but that's the real story: why haven't they been able to take any real advantage of a made-in-Heaven opportunity?

Long story, much discussed here. It leads to a further question: given their abject failures, why isn't this band of patchers and fillers, this bunch of missionless chorus boys and opportunists, already in the trash can?

My answer: it's just too soon.

The evidence is vague as to what will be the next incarnation of Orthrus' second head, when he decides he needs one again. At best the replacement mind set is today no more than a nagging nightmare rattling around the donk brain's left hemisphere. But just for kicks I'll make a crime scene sketch:

Let's call 'em the Neoprog movement -- a working title only, of course; believe me the final, for-publication label will be more... innovative. It damn well has to be, since the product is a shabby recycle.

As a quick take here's a few contrasting characteristics of the two -- Neolibs vs. Neoprogs:

Neolib Neoprog
Markets deregulation Markets re-regulation
Globalization full tiltGlobalization slow-mo
Open union pandering and minority pandering are both verboten Guardians of America's vast lump of jobsters
Business/government "partnership" Redistribution!

For now, obviously, all is nebulosity. Beyond the obvious DLC eye-rollings -- evidence of massive disturbances in "the force" -- for the moment the party pros are hoping to hang on without a new credo, since they figure, or at least pray, that by doing absolutely nothing substantial between now and November, they may simply fall into power again.

so with all these deeper running morphs still un-emerged and unfledged, let's wait and see. My guess: regardless of all else that may seem bold and change-for-the-betterish in the next vision, we'll still need only a small skeleton key to unlock the door to its essential fraudulence. Like all prior donk mindsets, the next one will obey one rule: no matter what's talked up and rattled overhead no action will ever be taken to impede corporate "wealth accumulation."

PS: Soon I may be bold enough to try a historical parallel: a new Bryanism may be what's on tap -- how many cycles away? Three, maybe four?

March 7, 2006


Troll sat alone on his seat of stone,
And munched and mumbled a bare old bone;
For many a year he had gnawed it near,
For meat was hard to come by.
Not Tolkien's best poem, but not by any means his worst either, I regret to say. It suddenly popped into my mind as I was reading The Huffington Post blog and encountered this gem from one Russel Shaw:
This is getting real, real tiresome, I know. But I am wondering how many of you who voted for Nader in 2000 rather than Al Gore really believe that Al Gore would have appointed an anti-choice Supreme Court "Justice" in the mold of Samuel Alito.

A Justice whose ascendancy to the Court would embolden South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds to sign legislation today that if upheld, would sentence SD MDs to five years in jail if they perform abortions -- even in the case of rape or incest.

So the South Dakota abortion law is Ralph Nader's fault.

You've almost got to admire these guys. The loopy, contorted ingenuity, the willed obliviousness, the highly selective but pachydermatously retentive memory. If Alito is so scary, why didn't the Democrats filibuster him? And if the Democrats are so "pro-choice", why is Hillary Clinton supporting an anti-abortion Democrat in Pennsylvania?

Why Mommy needs to get out more

Okay, okay, I'm nuts, I admit it. I ordered a copy of Why Mommy Is a Democrat, mentioned here a few days ago.

The illustrations aren't quite so strange as the Web reproductions make them appear, although there is something funny about the little squirrels' eyes. Ritalin, perhaps. But the text more than makes up for it. It lists twelve reasons why Mommy is a Democrat. Among these, Democrats are said to "make sure"

  • ... everyone always has enough to eat
  • ... everyone is treated fairly
  • ... everyone plays by the rules
  • ... no one fights
  • ... we all share our toys
  • ... we are nice to people who are different
  • ... sick people are able to see a doctor
  • ... we are always safe
  • ... we clean up our messes
  • ... children can go to school
  • ... everyone has a warm bed to sleep in
Now I'm sure everyone will have his own favorites from the list -- mine is "everyone plays by the rules," which features Mommy somewhat fetishistically dressed as a soccer referee. (Whew! *Mops sweat from brow*)

But the truly extraordinary thing is that each and every one of these statements, as applied to the Democrats, is a glaring, obvious, flat-out falsehood. Democrats don't do any of these things, and indeed do the very opposite of many of them, con brio. (I'm thinking particularly of "make sure nobody fights.") What world do these folks live in, where such whoppers can -- and should! -- be told to innocent children?

I know you're all thinking, right about now, poor Smith, his OCD has finally gotten the better of him. But I am convinced this little text is a kind of Philosopher's Stone, and that it will reveal the mysterious inner workings of the Democratic mind if I just study it deeply enough. More exegesis to follow.

The true marriage of minds

I read with unspeakable delight in Newsday that
Columbia University students including the College Conservatives and campus Democrats plan to protest a speech Wednesday by a professor who has written that Jewish organizations exploit the Holocaust to deflect criticism of Israel....

Norman Finkelstein, an assistant professor of political science at DePaul University in Chicago, wrote in his 2000 book "The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering" that some Jews have used the Holocaust as an "extortion racket" to get compensation payments, and he has referred to Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel as the "resident clown" of the "Holocaust circus."

(Elie Wiesel and trophy wife, shown with the Cheneys)

[Finkelstein's] most recent book, "Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History," is largely an attack on lawyer Alan Dershowitz's "The Case for Israel." In it he argues that Israel uses the outcry over perceived anti-Semitism as a bully weapon to stifle criticism....

Chris Kulawik, president of the College Conservatives.... and College Democrats membership director Josh Lipsky denounced Finkelstein in the campus newspaper last week, calling him "an anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, anti-America Holocaust revisionist and terrorist sympathizer."

Let me see if if I've got this straight. The College Conservatives and the Democrats are deadly enemies, right? In our terribly "partisan" and "polarized" political culture, and on a college campus yet, we're talking here about -- not dogs and cats, they're both terrestrial mammals, after all, but Klingons and Romulans. And yet, look at 'em, the lion lies down with the lamb. Heartwarming, isn't it?

March 8, 2006

Something out of nothing

Catching up a little -- did anybody notice the Rahm-o-gram in last Monday's New York Times? The Gray lady of 43d Street, in her usual dog-bites-man way, was musing about the Democrats' lack of a stance on anything, and wondering solemnly whether this might augur ill for their hopes of a triumph in November. But ole Rahm spun it like a top:
Mr. Emanuel, though, said he was not worried. "What divide?" he said.

"We agree on Social Security," he continued. "We also agree on the war..."

"... which is, not more of the same."

"Skelton has a position. Murtha has a position. Levin has a position," he said of Congressional Democrats who have raised questions about the war. "But all of them have one thing in common: Staying the course is a fool's errand. O.K.? I'm happy that our party has a lot of different ideas about how to solve a problem."

If anybody could ever figure out a way to make bricks without straw -- or clay either -- it would have to be Rahm.

A mighty wind a-blowin'

Another Rahm-ogram, this in connection with Bill Thomas' retirement:
[Republicans are] "sensing the winds of change blowing at gale force," as Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, put it. "... They have a sense of what's out there, politically, this year," said Mr. Emanuel, who predicts a Democratic wave in this fall's elections.
I bet they do have a pretty good sense of what's out there, politically -- and "wind" is certainly the right word for it.

Thomas himself got in a rather accurate shot:

Mr. Thomas, who had served 16 years under a Democratic majority, said that the Democrats simply could not accept their life in the minority, and that they viewed power as "their birthright."

Rahm's Rangers in Texas

( A bulletin from Alan Smithee)

As you're no doubt already aware, the first of the bi-annual ballot box stuffings we call 'primaries' has concluded in Texas. Since The Yee-Haw State is also the state with the most candidates from Rahm Emanuel's Sockpuppet Army, (nine out of 66) it's been of particular interest to me. The results:

  • Duane Shaw (TX-01) - LOST PRIMARY
  • Dan Dodd (TX-03) - NO CHALLANGER
  • Charlie Thompson (TX-05) - NO CHALLANGER
  • David Harris (TX-06) - NO CHALLANGER
  • David Murff (TX-07) - LOST PRIMARY
  • Ted Ankrum (TX-10) - PRIMARY RUNOFF
  • Roger Wuan (TX-13) - NO CHALLANGER
  • John Courage (TX-21) - NO CHALLANGER
  • Rick Bola??os (TX-23) - NO CHALLANGER
Of the nine Rahmpuppets, as you can see above, only three had challangers. And of those three, two Rahmpuppets lost outright to the homegrown candidate and a third was so close (Ted Ankrum 36.75% / Paul Foreman - 35.83%) that a costly runoff will have to take place next month.

One might be tempted to think that the local populace's rejection of Rahm's Sockpuppets, like a body rejecting an incompatable kidney, is bad news for Dr. Rahm. Au Contraire!

Near as I can tell, the TX "fighting dem" contingent are mere second stringers, johnny-come-latelies to the Sockpuppet Army, with little real DCCC support. The real primary test is coming up in a couple of weeks, when two of Rahm's Prowar Pets, Tammy "Lots of Local Support!" Duckworth (IL-06) and John "War Salesman" Laesch (IL-14) will be up against homegrown antiwar primary challangers. (A third, Dick Auman (IL-16), has no challanger.)

What does the future hold for Rahm's Rangers? Who will survive? Who will bite the dust? Stay Tuned!

Bring me the head of Tom Lantos

Turning on a dime here --

I now want the donks to take the House back this fall. Go ahead gang, go ahead. I know the razz-berry is in order. Feel free. But right this minute if druthers were horses... I'm praying for the very same two-year theatre of cruelty I scorned right here on this site only months ago.


It's personal -- like all my generation's politics. I'm bored, bored to death, with both sides of the present gig. Bored with the press peek-a-boo, I see you. Bored with the pampas macho, the clownish White House menace. Sure its a vicious stand off that's left us all wondering what will Bush and Co. do to try to pull out of this preposterous nose dive? What's next -- "Bush drops further in polls -- approval rating in single digits outside of the Jim Crow south"?

It's the wrong kind of suspense. That's why I say give me two years of George and Dick teetering about on an impeachment tightrope.

Come on, tell me -- operators are standing by -- am I just being irresponsible here?

I say no, 'cause there'd be a whale-size side effect to all this theatre: once those two gunks out of Grimms' tales are up there on the high wire, what else can they do but try like hell not to fall off?

Exhibit A: the pending hot war with Iran becomes impossible -- right? -- ...after impeachery begins in the House.

That being said, how can i still continue my five year mission to destroy all donkey monsters?

Simple: zero in on a single paradigmatic big-enchilada wacko. Switch from my lovely dirty dozen gimmick -- the grand "not this time, fellahs" majority squelcheroo, to a tightly focused Judas goat trip.

And my guy -- the Orthrian kingpin bum to be fitted for a trip to the sacrificial mountaintop? Who else -- Tom Lantos.

That's right. I'll sell my soul just to see the last of this slimy cryptmaster. I'll pledge to use none of my exotic powers to stop the donk charge next November, at least House-wise. Oh hell, I'll even lay off the Senate races too. Nope, citizen Paine won't touch even a single hair on a single blue dog's back side. That's it straight up -- my arms go to the folded position till January '07 -- if if if you give me Lantos' cottony scalp to toss into my three ill-mannered dachshunds' portable kennel. That'll satisfy my bloodlust. The house can be yours to do with as you will for at least two years -- all yours, honorable ladies and gentlemen of the jackassery.

Dershowitz to the rescue

Whatever would we do without self-described "Ted Kennedy liberal" Alan Dershowitz?

According to Ha'Aretz, here's the Dersh's latest stunt:

The American attorney Alan Dershowitz has volunteered to defend any Israeli officer who faces legal proceedings abroad, on condition that his actions were in keeping with Israeli government policy.

It is "a shame that officers have to hide like criminals and are afraid to visit democratic countries, only because they carried out the policies of their elected government," Dershowitz told Haaretz in a phone call from Brussels.

Dershowitz was refering to the recent threat by leftist organizations in the United Kingdom to seek the prosecution for war crimes of Gaza Brigade commander Brigadier General Aviv Kokhavi, a threat which led him to cancel his planned studies there....

Dershowitz said that he believed that lack of immunity for Israel Defense Forces officers from criminal proceedings is an "intolerable situation from the point of view of the international community."

That last bit is pretty breathtaking, isn't it? A rather sweeping claim to special treatment, it would appear. Israeli officers ought to be immune from prosecution -- and the fact that they're not is "intolerable," not just from the Israeli point of view, which would make a kind of sense, but from the "international community's"!

I think Dershowitz is just the guy for the job, though. He defended OJ Simpson and Claus von Bulow, after all. -- Oh, and Larry Summers, recently and delightfully booted from the Presidential chair at Harvard.

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

Q: How do you make a Republican look intelligent?

A: Act like a Democrat.

AP reports:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The head of the Republican Party, launching a broad indictment of the Democratic Party six months before midterm elections, is expected to charge Friday that the opposition can't find an election-year slogan, let alone agree on a broad agenda.

In an address to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Tennessee scheduled for Friday afternoon, Ken Mehlman will single out party leaders and two potential 2008 presidential candidates - Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Kerry - for criticism on a range of issues, from national security to the economy to judicial nominees.

And of course he's absolutely right. Wanna know why the Republicans have had it all pretty much their own way since 1968 (at least)? One word: Democrats. They're not just part of the problem, they are the problem.

Run silent, run deep: The Hank Cuellar story

My guess is, this Hank the Crank  Cuellar guy is a deep plant job, set to emerge at a key moment as turncoat of the decade -- the Chicano Strom Thurmond.

He's whipped the more "mainstream" Democrat Ciro Rodriguez twice now in close calls, which only shows that our screw-the-primaries strategy probably works better.

Though the Cuellar story has some interesting wrinkles. Rodriguez used to be the rep in the 28th CD, but Tom  Delay actually worked with this Bush-lovin' Hank in the '04 primary, which Cuellar won by 58 votes -- no, that is not a typo, 58.

In this year's rematch, at nearly the last minute, MoveOn.org finally moved -- they came crashing  after Hank, a gesture that was either too belated or downright fatal.

Bright light : the district gave almost 40% in the general last time to Hank's  Republican opponent, but strangely, this year there seems to be no Republican running.

CQ Politics analyzes Cuellar's victory this way:

Cuellar comes from Laredo in Webb County at the southern end of the elongated Hispanic-majority district, while Rodriguez comes from San Antonio in Bexar County near the northern end, and both ran up huge percentage-point victories on their home turf. But turnout was much higher in Cuellar's home base, giving him the raw vote numbers he needed to clinch victory.
Sounds like Rodriguez couldn't get anybody very... enthusiastic.

Except the Kosniks, of course, who were all atwitter over this one -- you'da thought they were Leonidas and the Spartans at Thermopylae. Now that the Persians have gotten round them and burned Athens -- or at least San Antonio -- the former Spartans are busy constructing self-consolations -- walls against reality rather than against the enemy. Here's the Uber-Kos himself:

The bottom line: we helped a campaign that was the walking dead and gave it new life, pumped in resources, and made it competitive. We did much to even the playing field even if ultimately we came up tantalizingly short.

And yeah, I know "tantalizingly short", alongside "moral victories", is about as desirable as the Bubonic Plague. We want more. But this is a long-term movement, building from nothing. And we are sending notice to Democrats that they can't be Bush's bitch and expect a pass.

So we didn't kill off Cuellar, but we gave him an ass whooping where none was expected and made him sweat. That's the reason why Lieberman is sweating in Connecticut and lining up his dog and pony endorsement shows to flex his muscle. He can't take for granted that a no-name businessman with no political experience and zero connections in his state's political establishment will be a non-factor, not with what we've done for people like Dean and now Ciro.

"What we've done for Dean and Ciro?" With friends like these....

Kos concludes his ruminations with this observation:

...If Cuellar had a Republican opponent in November, I would support Cuellar for the general. The time to fight for the soul of the party is in the primaries. Once the primaries are over, I'm happy to get behind whoever wins.
Which just about says it all.

Constipation, a major health-care problem

MJS passed along to me this TPMCafe contribution, by one Jonathan Cohn, a senior editor at the New Republic, to the donk wonk wrangle over the single payer universal health care solution.

What wrangle, you're thinking? Surely the solution is as obvious as the nose on an elephant's face. Well, not for Cohn: "it's so big... its a trunk... and that's different." He tells us that while others may "suggest that the debate within the Democratic Party is not over whether to insure everybody, but how.... I disagree."

Quite the bold fellow. Why does he disagree? Because "it's one thing to say it and another to commit the resources, political and financial, to do it." If he'd gone off stage right there to roll his pants and wade down to the water line this post would never have happened. But alas, he's staying on the pot awhile, just to make us wait, while he reviews the weedy, wind-rolling fields of his mind and fidgets at maddening length before finally, proudly producing his little gift.

Of course in this throne-room one-man show, the senior editor at New Repulsive also must play Mommy too. He concedes the obvious -- pushing for the plunge is "our" present task. Push, little America! Push!

But then... on the other hand: "First, there's a transition issue." Yup, we got millions doing next to nothing necessary -- shuffling IOU's and such inside lots of office buildings because of the Byzantine partitioning the present system engenders, enhances, and ultimately worships. Single payer would... well, to paraphrase: I can hear the deafening deadly job-killing silence as 3 million superfluous keyboards stop clicking. A magisterial note is struck: "All things being equal, disruption is bad."

So... can we slow-mo here? Can we "naturally evolve into a single-payer system?"

Citizen Paine's stentorian answer: Yup. In fact, bring it on. We can solve this one with uncle's credit line. Run in the red for a stretch. Deputize 'em all and do a slow winnow.

But our guy' wondrous idiocy peaks here. Listen:

"As a wise, widely respected health care scholar recently reminded me, it would have been one thing to set up a single-payer system back in the 1930s ....."

But now...? Ah, fans, you just can't make this stuff up.

He moves on -- sort of. "...Most single-payer systems .. sacrifice some level of choice," but but but "I think choice is frequently overrated in health care," but but but again "there is a philosohpical appeal to letting people choose what level of coverage they want and how much they want to pay for it." Ahthe endless joys of dither do -- always teetering on the brink, never quite there -- Tantric wonkery. Finally -- surprise, surprise -- it comes down to his own case. Do I want a one size fits all, gubmint-issue plan, when "I'm willing to spend a larger chunk of my paycheck on it in order to have easier access to more doctors." But but but then there's the preferences "of somebody else who might want ...."

Talk about scared of your own shadow -- this is a non-issue. Choice can build on top of basics. Easy. Next victim!

Now we get a lyrical little "small is beautiful" intermezzo: recall the wonders of... Group Health of Puget Sound, "true to the original idealistic spirit of managed care." Wouldn't an Uncle Sam unitary timber giant crush out this type of "ideaistic" littlehood?

Well, let's fucking hope so, for the sake of all humanity outside the local hand-thrown clay pot shop.

Moving along -- is single payer really "the easiest to explain?" Sure sounds easy -- just say "Medicare for all."

But but but but! "There's another way to look at it." What if they think that -- you know -- they get fearful -- they get spun -- after all, some sort of profit boys stand to lose here, and their long and lingering howls could scare folks. "Maybe we need to tell them... you get to keep the insurance you have."

But but but! That's not single payer anymore, is it? Self-checkmated again. What to do, what to do. "Incremental solutions have so many more problems," but but but! "single-payer has its inadequacies too, and they're worth thinking through."

No one, I'm sure, will be surprised to hear that this geep is "now at work on a book about the U.S. health care system."

He gets one point right, though, about single payer: "I think a substantial number of elected Democrats aren't there..." But but but! "Maybe deep, deep within the recesses of their hearts they are, in any event, I'm not sure it really matters if they can't admit it."

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 11, 2006

The fifty-first state

... and the most important. -- Okay, okay. That's an exaggeration. California is the most important. But Israel is a close second.

From Ha'Aretz:

Under fire for his membership in a professional organization highly critical of Israel, Lord Richard Rogers, the British architect supervising the redesign of [New York City's] Jacob Javits Center, has cut ties to the group in an effort to salvage his role in the $1.7 billion project.

But that hasn't satisfied several elected officials, including New York state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Rep. Anthony Weiner, who have each demanded Rogers be dropped from the project. And Friday, the chairman of the state commission overseeing the Javits Center redevelopment summoned Rogers to New York to discuss the controversy....

Weiner, a Brooklyn Democrat, released a letter Friday to the Empire State Development Corp. calling for Rogers' contract to be rescinded. The ESDC is overseeing the Javits project and has based its planning on Rogers' design, which would almost double the size of the center.

Weiner.... said Rogers' stewardship of the Javits project would dishonor the memory of Javits himself.

"This is not just any project. This is a building that's named after one of the foremost fighters for the state of Israel," Weiner said in an interview.

Wiener used to be a halfway OK city councilman -- he did me a favor once, so I feel I have to say that -- but since his ascent to the House of Representatives, he's become a very standard-issue Israel Democrat (and therefore, of course, a War Democrat). Last fall he distinguished himself by calling for the firing of Columbia Univeristy Professor Joseph Massad, the target of a "political inquisition" for his pro-Palestinian views.

Democratic New York state assembly speaker Sheldon Silver is less well known, except among masochists who study the entrails of our Ruritanian state legislature, but along with the Governor and the Republican president pro tem of the state Senate, Joe Bruno, he is one of the triumvirate who essentially run the state. He represents a district in lower Manhattan and can be counted on to sell out the city every chance he gets; a few years back he was instrumental in doing away with NYC's commuter tax. (I remember this occasion well because it gave me one of the few openings I've had on the New York Times Op-Ed page.)

Silver, too, is of course a sedulous water-boy for Israel. One of his pet causes is the Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard; another is Hillary Clinton.

Amusingly, Republican Bruno, Silver's opposite number in the state legislature, recently called for withdrawal from Iraq, infuriating the White House and apparently prompting an angry phone call from Karl Rove to Republican Governor Pataki. The unfortunate shut-ins who monitor New York state politics agree that Bruno has never done anything out of conviction in his life; he is concerned for his Republican majority and perhaps even for his own seat.

Silver, a stalwart and not insignificant leader of the party Kosniks refer to as "us," has so far failed to follow Bruno's lead.

It's also quite funny, for those of us with long memories, to see two Democrats kowtowing to the memory of Jacob Javits. Javits was a "liberal" Republican who enabled the election of the aromatic Alfonse D'Amato to the US Senate. D'Amato beat Javits in the Republican primary, and then Javits ran a spoiler campaign on the Liberal Party line (if memory serves), pulling away enough loyalist-liberal votes from the Democratic nominee, Elizabth Holtzman, to allow D'Amato to squeak in.

But Javits was indeed, as Wiener with uncharacteristic accuracy says, "one of the foremost fighters for the state of Israel," and hey, that's all that counts, I guess.

First time as tragedy, second as Kos

Recall the recently posted quote from Don Kos-o  hizzseff:
...If Cuellar had a Republican opponent in November, I would support Cuellar for the general ....

The time to fight for the soul of the party is in the primaries. Once the primaries are over, I'm happy to get behind whoever wins.

Isn't this the very hub of the whole rumpus? Party loyalty, party solidarity. Please. Loyalty to what? After the temple has turned whorehouse, it's time to cut out the genuflections.

I can guess  the raison d'Kos -- he doesn't plan to be the impossible  losing end of a possible winner party for ever. No indeed. Some  dreamy  day, fortunes will be reversed and we progs will dominate, and the trogs will cravenly crouch at our feet. We'll be the ones grabbin' the high handle bars of the chopper, and Hillary and the Joes will be stuffed into the sidecar.

You might think Kos has got good company with this loyal trudge-on shtick -- after all, didn't the great Byran prove to be  a party man? Look at that Wall Street flat-rail Alton Parker he supported for Prez in the '04 election.

This isn't Bryan's America anymore. In fact, it wasn't anything like Bryan's America even when it was Bryan's America.

Now i can entertain myself trying to see the value of loyalty to the party of Jackson (if the Mexican war hadn't happened yet) and the party of FDR (if Harry hadn't kissed Churchill's iron-curtain ass yet) -- but today's Democracy? It's an in-name-only replica. The resemblance to anything remotely like a party worth supporting vanished while Stalin was still emptying his pipe on Malenkov's head.

The only way to restore the donkey is to destroy it -- or at the very least thrash its entrenched Trog-ery, in election after election, like a string of carnival ponies during the 'tween-show break.

March 12, 2006

The point, however...

So what's our strategy here? I suggest:

Step one: call a few shots. Get their attention by calling, publically -- a few kills target a small select group of horrendous house donkey incumbent trogs, from districts that can actually tip against 'em unless all the progs that turn out to vote, vote for 'em.

This is about kill ratio, not body count -- showing, under certain clear conditions, we can wreck a scamster's gig.

To me, those flying cross primary runs against senators are pure agitprop, and not very successful agitprop at that. No, the key is actually to beat some donk black hat.

Now I haven't seen any real challenge out there with that specific mission. The Ciro gig in Texas CD-28 was a perfect example of how to totally not do this thing. From what I can see, if Rodriguez, instead of loyally getting shot down in the party primary, had run as an independent, not only might he have won himself, or at least denied Cuellar the seat by electing a Republican, he would have scared the balls off the blue dogs. But by playing by party rules, he fucked not only himself but everything the donks claim on their label to stand for.

Here at the blog, can play paper hat general -- but if we want our activity here to be more then a recreational memory hole, we need to find a way to help a few folks draw some real dishonest blood.

This site is not intended to be just a sounding board, but a node in a network -- an angry snarling network for sure, but no matter how many thousands we slay virtually, we need to actually help cut a few real trogs' legs off, too.

November fast approaches, but surely we can connect with a few real left side challengers -- get our eyes focused into a few actual districts -- join the bucket brigade behind some plausible knockoff outfits.

That's our goal -- right mates?

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.

The sages are not divided

Thus Ha-Aretz, reporting on AIPAC's most recent annual triumphal procession, AKA its "policy conference":
Both Republican and Democratic leaders were at the podium, and as Democratic Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, who was last to speak, put it, support for Israel is not a matter for debate.
Comment seems superfluous.

March 14, 2006

Maybe they really are stupid... naah.

Thus Cenk Uygur:
I'm trying my best to not disparage the Democrats, since they're our only hope left.

I don't want to perpetuate the image of them as soft, feckless and spineless. I am worried to death that will turn off some voters and have them vote for Republicans who are driving this country over a cliff instead. But the Democrats sometimes make it impossible to not criticize them.

Senator Russ Feingold wants to introduce a resolution to censure the President for breaking the FISA statue.... But... the Democrats refuse to be outcowarded. In the face of overwhelming facts -- on their side for the love of God -- they will not back their fellow Senator in pressing forward with a censure....

Why oh why, would the opposition party not support this move to censure -- because they are worried about the effect it is going to have on centrist voters? Are you fucking nuts? George Bush is at 36%!!!!!!!! America can't stand him. They think he is incompetent, that he has blown Iraq and Katrina and Social Security and the budget and the economy. And you're worried that you are going to alienate centrist voters by coming out against him?

I hate to say it, but this actually seems like a good question. I don't usually give much credence to the idea that Democrats are unsatisfactory because they're stupid, or cowardly -- I tend to think, rather, that they're functioning very much according to spec. But I have to admit this is a little baffling. They do, at least, crave some degree of electoral success, do they not? Surely they don't believe they'd be imperilling that by supporting Feingold's resolution?

Maybe it's just because it's Feingold -- gotta keep him boxed up? Theories, anybody? I'm usually not short of theories, but this one finds me at a loss.

March 15, 2006

Thought experiment

Sinister, shifty-eyed guy, carrying a baseball bat, comes up to you on the street. "You need to give me all your money," he says.

"Why?" you ask, understandably.

"Because if you don't, I'll beat the crap out of you. Actually, I'll beat the crap out of you anyway, but you still need to give me all your money."

You're not following the logic here. Understandably. "If you're going to beat me up anyway, why should I--" you begin.

"You don't understand. See that guy across the street?"

You look, and sure enough, there is a bigger, tougher-looking footpad loitering across the street, carrying a tire iron. "If you don't give me all your money," the lesser footpad continues, "that guy will come and beat you up instead, and he'll do a much better job than I will."

You're a sensible person. So you give the lesser footpad all your money. True to his word, he kicks you in the nuts and when you fall to the ground, he starts whaling on you with the baseball bat.

While this is ongoing, the greater footpad crosses the street, whups your footpad upside the head with the tire iron, and relieves him of your money. Then he starts beating up on you with the tire iron. He does seem to be doing a somewhat better job, though it's hard to tell, and either way you won't survive much more of it.

While the new assailant is busy with you, the former assailant picks himself up off the ground. As he limps away, you call after him, "Don't be discouraged! We'll gain control of the block next time!"

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.

Warner, as in Brothers

It's a very good thing I didn't see the cover of the Sunday Times magazine until mid-afternoon:

This thumbnail doesn't do it justice -- the image, at full scale and lovingly calibrated color, was disturbing in the extreme. I originally thought it was some kind of Animatronic or computer-generated image of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Kept the mag away from the kids, of course -- don't want to give 'em nightmares.

The cover was (as usual) a lot more interesting than the interminable, tedious, inside-baseball story (by Matt Bai) inside the legendarily vapid advertising supplement. Indeed, it was such a grisly visual hatchet-job that the Times took the unusual step of printing a photo retraction:

The cover photograph in The Times Magazine on Sunday rendered colors incorrectly for the jacket, shirt and tie worn by Mark Warner, the former Virginia governor who is a possible candidate for the presidency. The jacket was charcoal, not maroon; the shirt was light blue, not pink; the tie was dark blue with stripes, not maroon.
But the man's teeth really are that ogreish? Surely not.

I guess the Bai article was really just a pretext for the photo, given the low literacy level of the Magazine's readership. It was pretty hard to tell what Matt's point was. But after reading through it a couple of times -- the sacrifices I make for this blog, let me tell you -- and reducing it at a slow simmer like veal stock, two points come into focus.

  1. Warner is the only alternative to Hillary
  2. Warner is even worse
So what we seem to have here is a political version of one of those Ukrainian matrioshka dolls: A Lesser Evil within the Lesser Evil, and like the nice lady said to Sir Arthur Eddington, it's Hillary all the way down.

Diogenes finds an honest Democrat

The Nation magazine sent me an e-mail today calling my attention to this piece by Ari Berman.
Iraq returned as a central theme in George W. Bush's State of the Union address this year. With the war on the minds of many members of the public and with the 2006 midterm elections approaching, it seemed natural that the opposition party would forcefully challenge the President's policy. Instead, the Democrats ducked and covered.
Dog bites man. Ari did drop, perhaps intentionally, perhaps not, a droll observation:
Rahm Emanuel, a leading party strategist, didn't even mention Iraq when asked on television what his party would do differently from the Republicans....
Well, Rahm was being truthful, then, if only by his silence. They wouldn't do anything different, in spite of the self-deluding hopes of donkey addicts -- people who just can't stop themselves from walking into that booth and pulling that lever and telling themselves they could stop any time they want to.

Lots of good stuff in this piece, actually:

[Demo "strategist" Paul] Begala praises Bob Casey Jr., a conservative Democrat from Pennsylvania who's criticized his opponent, Senator Rick Santorum, for his allegiance to President Bush but has also indicated that he would have voted for the Iraq War and has ruled out any plan for troop withdrawals. Karl Struble, a media consultant to Kaine and former Senator Tom Daschle who'll produce campaign spots for Democratic Senate candidates in Arizona, Nebraska, Washington and West Virginia, says that Iraq "can't or shouldn't be the primary thing Democrats talk about" in '06 campaigns. "When the tree's gonna fall, the best thing to do is stay out of the way," he says.
So Begala is praising this paragon Casey for -- well, for incoherent, demented, self-contradicting doubletalk, for word salad that would make a confabulating Korsakoff patient seem cogent by comparison, for tying himself in dialectical knots that would defeat the ingenuity of a topologist to describe.

And it's wonderful, in a way, how guilelessly candid they are. "Wait for the tree to fall" -- that's the "strategy," isn't it? It's interesting, really, that they think they can get away with being this honest. I guess it's because they're confident that the only people who will read this stuff are people who are already self-convinced that they have nowhere else to go.

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?

The light dawns...

... thanks to the New York Times, of all the unlikely sources:
Republicans, worried that their conservative base lacks motivation to turn out for the fall elections, have found a new rallying cry in the dreams of liberals about censuring or impeaching President Bush.

The proposal this week by Senator Russell D. Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, to censure Mr. Bush over his domestic eavesdropping program cheered the left. But it also dovetailed with conservatives' plans to harness such attacks to their own ends.

With the Republican base demoralized by continued growth in government spending, undiminished violence in Iraq and intramural disputes over immigration, some conservative leaders had already begun rallying their supporters with speculation about a Democratic rebuke to the president even before Mr. Feingold made his proposal.

In other words: what the Democrats are scared of is that impeachment (or even censure) will increase turnout. Life's little ironies, eh? Used to be, turnout was thought to be good for the Democrats. Now, however, the party of the common man is reduced to hoping most of 'em stay home.

How to lie with statistics

I was vastly amused by this item on mydd.Com:

In New York, the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy has undertaken an incredibly impressive mission. Today, DMI issued a comprehensive scorecard grading the state legislature on issues impacting the state's middle class. It's not your standard scorecard, which is typically focused on an individual issue like the environment, labor, or gun control. Rather, it's a much more comprehensive look at the issues impacting New York's middle class and how legislators are responding to them....

The Speaker of the [New York] state Assembly is Sheldon Silver, a Democrat from the 64th district. Google him. If you look at the 'Sponsored Links' to the right side of the search results, you should notice that he's earned an A- according to the Drum Major Institute's scorecard.

Now Sheldon Silver, as I may have mentioned on this site before, is certainly one of the vilest creeps in a statehouse full of creeps, and he has been up to his eyebrows in every dirty deal there for the last decade. How does he manage to get an A- from anybody except maybe the Israeli consulate?

I gues it's just another case of grade inflation.

Oiling the wheels

I'm wondering now whether we should add another litmus test to The Lefty's Pledge, to wit:
"I won't vote for anyone who won't endorse re-regulating energy prices."
Big Energy has both mitts on the mandarin elements of donkery, and they've had 'em there since Jimmy Carter de-regged his pal's natural gas pipeline prices (what was that guy's name?).

Nothing more bespeaks the heinous degrdation of donkery than a quick contrast of donk reaction to energy price gouging in '74 vs. '05.

Here is Paul Craig Roberts, former Wall Street Journal voodoo hack, now anti-bushwhack libertarian enragé

"The brutal truth is that America's responsibility is extreme. We have destroyed a country and created political chaos for no reason whatsoever"
No reason? Well, try on 60 dollar crude for size, good buddy.

Getting personal

(Correspondent alsis39.75 wrote the following in response to another commenter's defense of the lesser-evil theory, and I liked it so much I wanted to make a regular post out of it -- MJS)

... You just don't get it. YOU are surely making things worse, by condoning those who condone what Bush is doing to us. It's those at the very bottom of the political heap, those with negligible power, who you hold most culpable for the most harm....

You, too, whether you can own up to it or not, are making things worse in the hope that they will get better.

As for me personally, I took a good hard look at my life and the lives around of those around me in the decade preceding 2000, and realized that being washed along by the stream of political orthodoxy espoused by folks like you was, in fact, making my life worse. I decided that pushing out in an attempt to alter the stream's course was a worthwhile tactic. If my alteration amounts to no more than that created by a handful of pebbles, it's an alteration, nonetheless.

BTW, I suspect that's what lies at the core of the fanatical and obsessive hatred nurtured against Nader by so many Dems/Progs. Folks like me already had the pebbles, but it was Nader who goaded us into doing something with them. That's what the haters can't abide. Instead of a struggle to change course, we should have left those pebbles in our shoes, and spent eternity pretending that we didn't know what was cutting into our flesh;What was hurting us and weighing us down;What increased the pain and heaviness with each passing year, and where it came from.

It came from your team... It came from Clinton, Gore, Biden, Lieberman, and their myriad apologists and sycophants. It came from a machine run on greed, war, hate and fear. It came from the Democrats.

The power of the subjunctive mood

Reading some recent comments here, I'm struck -- not for the first time -- by the importance of "would have" thinking for Democrats. Gore "would not" have attacked Iraq (even after September 11) . Kerry "would not" have appointed Roberts, or Alito.

On the other hand -- who knew that Clinton "would have" bombed the crap out of Serbia, or made Janet Reno his Attorney General, or or or...

Well, maybe we "should have" known. But still. "Would have" or "would not have" seems a pretty feeble argument, all in all. If you look at what Clinton actually did do in office -- or even at what Gore and Kerry said they "would do" if they got into office -- then the subjunctive advantages of the Democrats seem a little, well... ghostly? Phantasmagorical?

March 17, 2006

Objectively pro-

The lengthy and lively discussion of a recent post got me musing,in my airy, metaphysical way, about the thought processes of liberal Democrats. One thingthat struck me forcibly in the recent donnybrook was the insistence, on the pro-Democrat side, that any opposition to the Democrats was "objectively pro-Bush."

Now in one sense it's easy to see the flaw in this logic. To use my favorite analogy, it's as if you were fighting off two thugs who are trying to mug you and also trying to do each other out of the spoils. It would be silly to reproach you, every time you land a punch on one of them, by saying you're helping the other one.

But that's hardly the end of the story. What's interesting to me is why people would choose to live under conditions of such sharp intellectual confinement -- a mental walnut shell in which the entire infinite space of political possibilities reduces to a modulo-two remainder, For The Democrats or For The Republicans.

In fact the larger space is not only uninhabitable, it's un-mappable. The structural symbiosis of the two parties in keeping the rich rich and the poor poor, can't be discussed, because that might suggest that one ought to do something other than just sing one's appointed part in the Decani or Cantoris choir -- bray like a donkey or bellow like an elephant, da capo ad infinitum.

It's an end-of-history theory, in a way: there are Republicans and there are Democrats, there is nothing else and there can never be anything else. No end to this state of affairs can be envisioned, because no steps that might end it can be entertained. You can put your chips on Red or Black. You can't kick over the table or even walk away from it, and you certainly can't keep your chips in your pocket. Change is ruled out of order and historical contingency has become immanent necessity.

Now I can imagine why a person might fail to realize that things could be different than they are. But what I can't quite grasp is how a person could be uncomfortable with things as they are and yet indignantly reject the idea that they could be otherwise.


More on the intellectual world of the Democrats' defense team.

Usually I think it's a little unfair to write a post arguing with a comment -- it's like a guy with a megaphone arguing with somebody without one. But I'll make an exception for our energetic commenter John, who writes:

Income for the poorest of the poor DID go up under Clinton.

Clinton DID reverse the gag order.

Bush DID reinstate the gag order.

Incomes for the poorest DID go down under Reagan, Bush the first, and Bush the 2nd.

Bush DID appoint Alito and Roberts and the Republicans DID approve them 100%, just like they SAID they would.

I'm not so sure about that "income for the poorest" claim, but let's accept it for the sake of argument -- what I'm interested in controverting here is not the factology, but rather, what I see as a flawed way of thinking about the problem.

What John is doing here is what I call "scorecarding." He's totting up what the Republicans have done and what the Democrats have done, and not surprisingly, he finds that the Republicans are way, way ahead in the loathesomeness derby; the Democrats are a furlong behind and it's all they can do just to stay there. Well, of course. No one doubts that the Republicans have been leading the charge for quite a while, and the Democrats meekly trailing along behind them.

Where John goes wrong, I think, is in thinking that the scorecard tells us all we need to know. To me, this is like noticing that there is a cinderblock six feet over your head, without also registering that fact that it's falling. In other words, if you eliminate the element of motion from your picture of reality, you are apt to make some bad decisions.

So one of the things I think we need to ask ourselves is, what's the direction of motion. And if we decide that the direction is a bad one then we have to ask whether our participation isn't helping to move it along. As I've argued elsewhere, I do think that "lesser-evil" votes for the Democrats help propel this this Alfonse-and-Gaston rightward staggerdance the two parties have been doing for the last thirty-odd years.

John's "scorecarding" view of politics also excludes, I think, considerations of structure and function. We've all seen those tables of what substances a human body contains -- so many cents' worth of water, of salt, of calcium, of iron, etc. But of course just tabulating the ingredients doesn't tell you much about how a human body is built, or how it functions. Similarly, the scorecard doesn't tell you how the Democratic Party is controlled or operated, or to what ends it works.

Like the modulo-two view of political space, discussed in a previous post, the scorecarding technique represents, I think, an odd kind of wilful blindness to aspects of reality that are in fact supremely important.

My refusal to vote for a Democrat reflects my assessment of what the party is about, what it's engaged in doing, who it's answerable to. Yeah, the Democrats may be Wilmer to the Republicans' Fat Man -- but they're both after the bird, and they're both thugs.

Necessary but not sufficient

As my pop always said: "you can't overdo looking at the record."

Example: I've noticed the jingle bell of third party -- third party -- third party ringing hereabouts recently. Well, the record shows... as wonderful and innovative as third party movements have been, at least one other element inevitably plays an equally crucial role whenever American society stages one of its great transformations.

That other necessity is -- a big-time split inside at least one major party. So in accordance with this iron regularity of the record, I predict in the near future such a split will rive apart the dear old donkeydom. Hence our beaverish mission here at Stop Me to facilitate same.

Specifically, this will be a split between, well, us -- the cantankerous, ready-to-rumble hunk of its ever larger, fed-up-to-here hoi-p pleb basement -- and (on the other hand) who else but the venerable Orthrian core.

This set-to will either see us raggedy insurgents roughouse the party trogs out of control, a la Bryan and the '96 (that's 1896, of course) rout of Cleveland's golden girls, -- or, too wild and enraged to accept defeat if  thwarted, we will simply bolt for the free plains to our left -- like Jackson (Jese, that is) should have bolted in '84 (1984, that is).

Either way, obviously, for the party pros this is all very distressing. It  raises the spectre of bummed-out donors even more than voters. And, one must add, a split would be equally distressing for the progs left behind -- the "it's about winning" types who float about the kososphere -- self-styled "hard-headed" types trying to hide their nose rings, the dedicated realists, dedicated to a single-track strategy: "We'll try our damnedest to capture the party national flag, but if the hacks block us, then God love us, we'll stay loyal and work for the ticket."

By the way, this strategy succeeded in capturing that flag of great worth once already in my lifetime -- but it's an example not mentioned too often, though  a more pure Kos-like event I can't imagine. I mean, of course, the victorious McGovernite crusade of '72. An interesting precedent. You'll find not only vicious backstage post-capture "hackotage" starting with Trojan horse shock Eagleton, but (far more importantly) a return to control by the very same trogs even before a single year had passed.

The hack line then, as it would be now, against any Kos-type seizure -- "Go ahead, go ahead, you jackstraws, go ahead -- get your brains beat out.. we'll wait."

Ah, so much applies here to our prsent conjuncture; but for now I'll  sum  up with this gnomic aphorism -- it's not high-tea contests among loyalists, but sloppy, convulsive, split and splutter, head-on smash-up episodes that on occasion actually, and usually at long last, thrust our beloved America through to the other side of these long-persisting and hideously corrosive figure-eight loops -- like this one we've circled around for the past 30-odd years.

March 18, 2006

There's a whole other world out there...

(Another comment too good for just a comment, this one by Tim D. -- MJS)

...One thing that attracts me to the left, especially the radical, socialist left, is that there is strong sense of internationalism. That is, there is a sense that we have a duty to fight for the well-being and rights of those outside our borders as well as inside, since their well-being is inextricably bound up with our own. I think Martin Luther King Jr. said something to the effect of "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Global poverty and inequality isn't just a moral outrage, it's a genuine threat to the lives of people everywhere as Mike Davis points out in an interview with Alan Maass. Having these massive ghettos stretching over vast expanses of the "Global South" is a recipe for disaster, for obvious reasons. Davis states, "1 billion people [are] living in slums in the cities of the South--unparalleled concentrations of poor people in unsanitary conditions, many of them with immune system disorders. It’s hard to imagine a more nightmarish disease scenario."

Aside from that, while so many people are living in penury in the Third World, it increases the global capitalist oligarchs' opportunities for exploitation and has a correlative effect of depressing the wages and deteriorating the working conditions of people all over the world. Michael Parenti wrote a provocative essay for CovertAction Quarterly back in 2002 which connects the fall of Communism with the global rollback of the rights and gains of workers everywhere that we saw throughout the 90s and which continues today unabated at breakneck speed.

However, global poverty and injustice is being exacerbated, if not institutionalized by institutions and agreements which Clinton openly and vociferously supported during his two terms; i.e. NAFTA, WTO, IMF, the World Bank, etc. I had absolutely no reason to believe that Kerry or Gore would have done it differently – (while we’re on the subject of poverty, Gore, as noted by Stephen Pimpare in his book The New Victorians,, was a key player in getting Clinton’s vicious welfare reform passed, which led to sharp increases in child poverty in the U.S. as Paul Street pointed out in a speech at the Work, Welfare and Families Annual Summit on Low-Income Families).

Global poverty and suffering did not decrease under Clinton (and we know it increased markedly in Iraq as he specifically intended) and we also know that they would not have decreased under a Gore or Kerry administration, given the irrefragable fact that they received (and still receive) millions of dollars in campaign contributions from the very industries and oligarchs who profit from this system (Ralph Nader pointed out during his debate with Howard Dean that Bush and Kerry's top 10 donors were more or less the same companies - primarily the banking and finance moguls).

Democrats and Republicans are indistinguishable in their desire to maintain the U.S.'s position as the world's economic core and to keep the countries of Africa, Asia and Central/South America in the periphery, functioning as extraction economies. (I still find Immanuel Wallerstein's World Systems Theory to be the best lens through which one can properly examine the capitalist system).

Aside: Consistent with Michael and JSP's Orthrian theory, one great example of how the Democrats actively promote their own demise, as well as the demise of informed citizenship, was demonstrated by John Kerry's active support for the further monopolization of the telecommunications industry ( his biggest donor during the 2004 campaign). Ironically, I still read tons of articles by liberals that decry the increasingly "right-wing" orientation of the media...

March 20, 2006

Show me the money

Here's some news: seems the nation's leading catalytic donk orgs are flush with dough these days. At least, so claims a recent piece in my local Boston Globe:
"....2005 Federal Election Commission reports indicate that five of the top 10 richest tax-exempt 527 political issue groups were liberal.... Of the top 10 political action committees, eight were liberal or affiliated with organized labor, with substantially more cash on hand than conservative groups such as the National Rifle Association or GOP-friendly corporate PACs such as the National Association of Realtors."
Brace yourselves, 'cause here comes the hog scramble for all that cash. Here's the Globe's rundown so far:

First there's the former Senator from North Carolina, John Edwards, He's after union bucks. Squaresville, eh? He's backing "a new effort to unionize hotel workers." Then there's Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, who is said to be "music to the ears of activists on the left." Filling the next quantum orbit: the dead center guy, Mark Warner, former Virginia governor, who "recently hired one of the leftist blogosphere's biggest names to run his Internet outreach campaign... Jerome Armstrong, founder of the popular leftist blog MyDD.com."

I'll skip some others that add little. But can you see a trend here? The Globe does:

" ...prospective Democratic presidential candidates, even those with centrist credentials [are] actively courting the Democratic Party's left wing."
And why? Because the left "speaks loudly through its blogs." Err... okay... what's that? There's another reason? The Left "enjoys rising fund-raising clout"?

Ah, now you're talkin'.

The message of one and all: ''It's very important for them to know we'll fight for their beliefs." That's Edwards talking -- the guy who ran "as a moderate who supported the Iraq war." He's now "busy" trying to build "a large base of support on the left."

The Globe warns there's a down side to all this fancy strippin' for progressive cash: "Democratic centrists who look at the voter math worry about candidates who court the left," for fear that their party will turn off too many [cue reverb] "swing voters... swing voters... swing voters." A nationwide survey by pollsters Penn, Schoen, and Berland, who work for (among others) Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton, says that self-identified liberals are "only 16 percent of the population, compared with 36 percent who call themselves conservatives and 47 percent who say they are moderates."

Quite a dilemma, because that liberal 16% loom large in the primary-season gauntlet. So the classic Democratic office-seeker's strategy is to fleece the liberals during primary season, and fuck 'em afterwards.

There's a particularly big scurry for liberal fleece this year, since front-runner St Hillary created a void "in the hearts and minds of many liberal activists" by moving her band wagon to the war-fighting right. It's a void these other center Democrats "are rushing to fill" -- with hot air.

I wonder when the progs are going to get wise to this scam, and tell the hucksters "not this time, bub. I'm sick of this sub-Dickensian hustle farce." Don't expect it from His Holiness Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, Pope of prog-bloggery, who has issued, on behalf of "the blogsphere", a plenary indulgence to War Democrats, ''As long as they're suitably contrite and admit they made a mistake."

Speaking of forgiven sinners and reanimated corpses, guess what -- the Kerry nation lives. Yes, despite a showing last time worthy of the Tin Man from Oz, Senator tree-trunk moves on: "One of Kerry's major assets is his mostly liberal, activist-donor list of three million names," to which his miracle anti-Alito flubberduster drive "added nearly 80,000 names."

Adding insult to injury, it ain't just candidate campaign war chests the pro hacks dream these generous and well-heeled progs will fill. There's also to be ten thousand think tanks: "The newly launched Democracy Alliance has drawn together 85 well-heeled donors willing to commit $1 million each over five years to fund left-of-center think tanks, media operations, and other institutions designed to influence the national debate" -- from which we can expect an efflorescence of genius that will make Periclean Athens and Medicean Florence look small-time.

The sagacious Globe ends by striking a realistic note: "the winner of the Democratic primary will be decided more on the power of the purse than the power of the left" -- which seamlessly leads into the punch line: "The hands-down winner on that score (cash raising ) even her critics concede, could well be Hillary Rodham Clinton."

The libs may have deeper pockets than anybody knew, but there are others deeper still, and Hillary has a long arm in every one of 'em. She don't need no stinkin' bloggers.

Plus ca change...

More on the Warner boom, from the Globe article mentioned in the previous post:

As a governor -- better still, an ex-governor -- unlike the senatorial horde, Warner has what will read at a distance to be "clean policy hands " -- like Dean in 04, Clinton in 02, the Duke in 88, or Jimmy in 76. He hardly has a record the electorate will give a shit about anyway.

For a governor running for prez is a real come to life American dream -- a chance to effectively reinvent yourself, without the danger than anybody will actually remember who and what you are. Thus we see Warner, a certified dead center swing vote receptacle, is now, according to the Globe, "asking for support from the Web-based liberal voters that Dean first inspired, and has hired MyDD's Armstrong to build his Internet operation."

This is not the moonwalking Armstrong -- this Armstrong is the one who "co-wrote a book with [Markos] Zuniga [of Daily Kos fame] that assails the Democratic Party establishment."

Hearken to the fire-breathing sansculotterie of this establishment-assailer: Asked why Warner "does so well with the netroots," Armstrong sagely replied: ''Because he wins."

March 21, 2006

Ted lets us down

Ted, Ted. I love the guy -- I really do -- the disappointing youngest brother, the connoisseur of steak and Scotch and secretaries, the only fallible, deplorable, understandable halfway human being in the whole Kennedy compound. So I report with deep regret that he has shit a marshmallow on Iraq.

A few excerpts:

Our troops are in Iraq to make possible the establishment of a legitimate functioning government....

The ominous challenge we face today is to prevent Iraq from sliding deeper into the quagmire. The time bomb of civil war is ticking, and our most urgent priority is to defuse it....

The Iraqi constitution must be a fair compact between all the Iraqi people. If it is not, our intervention is doomed to keep failing....

A fundamental aspect of this process should be to disarming the militias, which Ambassador Khalilizad has rightly described as "the infrastructure of civil war." No solution can work unless the Iraqi Security Forces are loyal to the government and not to a political party or faction.

Now Ted's grades at Harvard were never much better than gentleman's 'C's' -- God bless him -- but he's smarter than this. What eager-beaver, last-ditch, hold-the-line, undercover Hillary op in his office wrote this pathetic nonsense?

March 22, 2006

War Dems blitz Illinois

(A bulletin from Alan Smithee)

After a decidedly dubious showing in Texas, Rahm Emanuel's Sockpuppet Army used a late winter snowstorm to cover it's advance through Illinois, defeating antiwar forces in CDs 06 & 14 like Panzers rolling though Polish cavalry.

Despite a spirited defense by local antiwar partisans, Tammy "Lots of local support." Duckworth beat Kosniki fave-rave Christine Cegelis in CD06.  Duckworth's DCCC-financed campaign proved too much for the homegrown Cegelis campaigners and the RahmPuppet squeaked out a victory 43% to 40%.

Less surprising was RahmPuppet John Laesch's storming of CD14, where he overwhelmed the harassed forces of antiwar dem Ruben Zamora by a nearly 2-1 margin (65% to 34%.)  Using the time-honored Democrat tactic of trying to sue your opponent off the ballot. Zamora fought off early attacks as party operatives launched a challenge to his primary signatures.

Thus all three "Fighting Dems" will advance to the general in Rahm's homestate.  Prowar Duckworth will be facing equally prowar Pete Roskam in Henry Hyde's old district, while prowar Laesch will tackle House Speaker Denny Hastert and Dick Auman (whose position on the war I've yet to find) will try to face down Congresscritter Don Manzullo in CD16.

The next big challange for the RahmPuppet Army is the May 2nd Ohio primary; where we'll find out if shivving Paul Hackett has hurt the prowar cause.  Fighting dem partisans will also duke it out in Indiana and North Carolina for the chance to lead the party to glorious victory.  Stay tuned!

Wild in the streets; all quiet in the Times

Of course I'm as pleased as Punch about the huge upheaval against the vile CPE law in France. Not only are the kids turning out against it, but two-thirds of the public supports them! I really do love the French.

My hometown paper, though, is not giving it much play. Here's today's spin, buried inconspicuously in the International>Europe section of the online Gray Lady -- the work of the ineffable Craig S. Smith, no relation of mine, I'm glad to say:

Facing crippling strikes and growing civil unrest, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin of France on Tuesday discussed watering down his contentious new labor law with legislators...

"The prime minister was very closed last week, but was more open to the idea of amending the law today," said Éric Woerth, a party legislator who attended the meeting. "Almost everyone agrees that we must do something, not because of the mobilization of the unions, but because the battle of explaining the law has been lost with the young."

Any significant weakening of the law will represent a serious blow to the prime minister, who hopes to run for president next year. It will also signal another defeat in France's long struggle to break the stranglehold of its rigid social-welfare system, which economists say has kept growth sluggish and unemployment high for decades. While there is no guarantee that the new law will create jobs, as the government contends, bowing to student and union pressure on it will call into question the current administration's ability to restructure the system.

France has a strong tradition of often violent demonstrations and paralyzing strikes that is largely tolerated by the broader population, which has a cultural mistrust of government even as it retains a deep sense of dependency on the state. The resulting tendency to rebel against any attempt to curtail entitlements has cowed many administrations into backing down from bold policies that might have helped remake the system in the past.

Jeez, Louise

The honorable Louise Slaughter -- East Kentucky born, Dolly Parton voiced -- US representaive from New York CD 28, union tout, 10-termer and prog caucus stalwart -- recently released a "minority" report on the state of the people's house, otherwise known as the Lobby Occupied Congress -- or as the K-streeters familiarly call it among themselves, the "LOC ".

Need I say it -- this cry in the wilderness typifies the hideous donk hobble down there. According to Louise and company, the lobby problem is -- you guessed it -- a problem that mysteriously affects only Republicans. So the anti-lobby report, perversely, is a testament to the lobbies' power. K Street has spooked the Orthrian goo-goos like Louise into muted partisan barking.

If dear Louise had her druthers, one hopes she'd give off with a bipartisan blast -- "away, all lobby cravens, away." But nope, she stays in party harness.

I know she's got a heart and a mind. Louise, awake! Lay a lobby or two at old Rahm's door, why don't you? He may be one of your party, but he'll never hear a word you say otherwise.

A real hot button

JSP's last post sent me running off to look at Louise Slaughter's report. It really deserves a thorough exegesis, but staying awake might be difficult. My favorite item -- much dicussed of late in our comments here:
Americans have no confidence that their government will be able to adequately respond if a disaster (natural or man-made) strikes their community, because its agencies are staffed not by professionals, but by political cronies and lobbyists....
I got a fine, salutary, cardiovascular laugh out of this. The public will turn out in droves to vote for -- "professionals"? I think the public might be happier to hang 'em from the nearest lamppost.

But it's really pretty telling, isn't it, that this endearing, earnest folly is right up there in the bullet points of the press release. It says a lot about what the party of Jefferson and Jackson has become -- namely, the party of the diploma rentiers.

March 23, 2006

Long live parochialism

Thus Tim D, in a comment a few days back:
The issue of intelligent design, in my opinion, is something for local school districts to decide individually. The pro-corporate, ultra-nationalist character of our de facto national curriculum is perhaps the biggest problem facing education today, since the facts of U.S. foreign policy, U.S. history and the U.S. political system are all ignored or white washed, leaving citizens wholly uninformed as well as ever willing to lay down their life for latest war for the cause of empire and the capitalist oligarchs' profits.
Time was I would have found this idea utterly wrong-headed. Maybe because I'm a Southerner originally, localism always seemed to me like a sure-fire recipe for reaction. Local school boards indeed! Hang 'em all from the nearest lamppost -- I was very much the centralizing Jacobin.

Lately, though, ideas like the one Tim articulates above have started to seem rather persuasive. I suspect one of the reasons that tom-fool notions like prayer in the schools, or the rights of the fetus, or "intelligent design" have started to seem important to people, is that the stances most of us would consider obviously reasonable on these issues have been imposed, not by the political process in which people can at least believe they have a role to play, but by the courts, which all sensible people despise and recognize for the undemocratic, daddy-knows-best institutions they are.

The fetus fanciers and the garden-of-Edeners have the built-in advantage of casting themselves as the defenders of bottom-up democracy, as against the top-down, authoritarian, legalistic paradigm favored by the people who are so strangely referred to as "liberals". If the obscurantists were fighting their neighbors instead of the ancestral enemy in Washington, they wouldn't have such an easy time of it.

But enlightened folks prefer to write a check to the ACLU and pray for a Democrat in the White House, rather than mixing it up with their uncouth, Bible-thumping neighbors in the local political process.

I had some thoughts about this, not as well-developed as I'd like, in Chapter 14 of my book-in-progress, Stop Me Before I Vote Again.

March 25, 2006

Rahm's Angels

This New York Times item got my gizzard burbling some. Here's the lead:
If the Democrats have their way, the 2006 Congressional elections will be the revenge of the mommy party.

Democratic women are running major campaigns in nearly half of the two dozen most competitive House races where their party hopes to pick up enough Republican seats to regain control of the House. Democratic strategists are betting that the voters' unrest and hunger for change - reflected consistently in public opinion polls - create the perfect conditions for their party's female candidates this year.

Seems Rahm not only has a team of army mules, but a hareem of CARE commandos too. (There are overlaps -- Duckworth in Illionois for example.) No doubt Rahm has reasons  for all of 'em, like any ruthless casting director, but the Times, as usual, relegates the most important piece of solid information to literally the last graf:
Emily's List, which essentially recommends female candidates who support abortion rights to its 100,000 members, reports a much heavier roster of House races than it carried two years ago. Getting recommended by Emily's List, whose members were responsible for $10 million in donations in 2004, is a major help to a campaign, candidates say.
And what Is the Rahm's Moms platform about? Iraq -- out now? Save our jobs?

Nope: it's "ethics reform, fiscal responsibility, affordable health care, more sensitivity to the environment." But hey, it's "connecting with moderates in both political parties."

Rahm himself, who is really a surprisingly candid guy, makes the calculation pretty clear:

"In an environment where people are disgusted with politics in general, who represents clean and change?" asks Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "Women."
The chorus faithfully sings the refrain, in perfect tune and tempo:
[Rahm-Mom Lois Murphy, a 48-year old lawyer, says] she senses an electorate that is "really, really" ready for change, tired of the ethics scandals, and convinced "that their government has been letting them down...."

"It's about change on so many levels," said Ms. Duckworth of her campaign, which she said would focus heavily on the need to improve and expand health care. "If being a woman underscores that, makes it clear that I'm going to be an effective agent of change, that's great."

Translated from spinspeak into English, this means that having more female faces in the party lineup is a way of suggesting change without having to change anything.

March 26, 2006

Send in the clowns

Throw in the terrible towel, progs -- 2006 is already over. Rahm and company have swatted down the beautiful souls' primary challenges, and they may very well fulfill their dream of recovering the House -- after all, they're running against the gang that literally can't shoot straight. Once more the prog left has taken the gaspipe, caved in, shut up, made the florid but futile primary run, and with a bittersweet smile, packed the hard bloody truths away till -- the next time; and the next slapdown.

And the necessary left spoiler move in enough "right " CD's this November is not gonna happen either .... not this time. Nope, for what, the twelfth electoral cycle in a row, the Democrats have once more rope-a-doped their all-too-loyal internal opposition.

Won't it be something if the Rahm strategy actually works -- hold still, do nothing, don't even breathe, and wait for the other side to screw up so bad that the prize falls in your lap. That'll be the major political backflip of the generation -- bring America back to where it left off being donk-tranced, back to a world that can pretend it's still after 1989 and before 1994 -- just the pet fantasy DLC/ humanist empire donks conjure every night at bedtime -- a chance to replay the post-cold war front 9: the Clinton years.

Sippose they do succeed -- what then? Matter for another post.

March 28, 2006

Progs: ready for their closeup?

Since there's obviously not going to be any fun in November -- since the blue dogs and stooges of empire cannot be chased out of office, let alone the Democratic party -- then the seatholding donk progs must threaten a bolt, and no time better to get the word out than right now, as we all start contemplating the donk majority next congress. If that happens, then the progs will actually have some leverage.

So you 50 or so real long-eared progs need to start rehearsing among yourselves the "either this this and this, or else" gambits.

Dick out

What's wrong with impeaching Dick Cheney? Fire a shot across Georgie's bow. Why should any Dem find an investigation of the veep creep an election-year problem?

Some House prog needs to get this going. Bernie Sanders, I nominate you -- you Swiss army knife among fakers, you dullest doink in a very dull bunch.

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?

March 29, 2006

Secure security and the securing securers who secure it

Here's a garbled leak of the donks' security counter-plan, both in national and homeland flavors: http://www.rawprint.com/pdfs/RealSecurity.pdf.

The gist ?

We -- the donks, that is -- will run the empire better in five ways:

  1. Our Rome will honor its legions with parades and treasure -- in fact our Rome will build more legions, and better breastplates and longer spears and sharper swords and ...
  2. Our Rome will keep us secure by (among much else) checking every incoming galley for incendiary contraband.
  3. Our Rome will stop relying on levantine wheat and oils by growing more homey cereals and fibers.
  4. Our Rome will clean up the Mesopotamian mess ASAP, if not even sooner. Check with us in 12 months... You'll see. By then our legions will be on their way home... as opportunity allows... unless something happens....
Summing up: our Rome will root out the root problems by diligent real root removal, right at the roots themselves over there where the roots of the roots are.

Postscript: This half-risible, half-sinister document was of course greeted like the Second Coming on Daily Kos

The hell with competence

I'm noticing lately a new buzzword being flung about by Democrats: "competence." We're supposed to believe that the Democrats are or would be more "competent" than the Republicans. Two thoughts come to mind:

1. Doesn't this tacitly acknowledge what Left critics of the Democrats have been saying for years -- namely that there is no substantial difference, on any genuinely political question, between the parties? If the Democrats are reduced to running on "competence", isn't that because there's no matter of substance that differentiates them from the Republicans?

2. Why on earth should the idea of competence appeal to us? Do we want a more competently run Iraq war, a better organized police state, faster job exportation, and enhanced transfer of wealth to the very,very rich from everybody else?

In fact, given this bipartisan consensus to screw us every way they can, incompetence is the best we can hope for.

I have seen the future, and it's Tony Blair

It's kind of an interesting speculative question: is the Democratic Party as bad, yet, as Tony Blair's New Labour? Or does it have a ways to go?

Either way, the New Labour example shows, I think, why it's vital to deprive the Democrats of their triumph this year -- and even more in '08. It's possible that the Rahm Emanuels, the Schumers, the Hillary Clintons, don't yet have complete and unquestioned control of the party -- a long shot, but possible. But if their dreams come true this fall, or in '08, Rahm and Chuck will be vindicated.

Blair's leverage, such as it is, derives from the fact that he brought the party back into power after the long drought of the Thatcher years. Give Rahm and Chuck a similar lever, and we'll be as badly off as the Brits are.

Can anyone doubt that the Brits are worse off now, with Blair in charge of Labour, than they were with Thatcher in Downing Street? Note that this is not the same as to say that Labour is "as bad as" the Tories, or that the Tories "would have done" exactly the same things.

The reason why the Brits are worse off now is simply that Labour is a frankly, avowedly, reactionary party -- its version of the Rahm and Chuck Show is in the driver's seat. Reaction owns both parties, lock, stock, and barrel, and neither party bothers to hide the fact -- indeed, they glory in it. Tories and Laborites have nothing to quarrel about except some stupid scandal now and again, and the result is an Iron Wall of bipartisan consensus, a political lockdown, a drastic shrinkage of political space.

Labour has been pretty pathetic for a long time -- like the Democrats. Like the Democrats, it was a poorly-organized, internally-divided, timorous and compromised operation. But the Keystone Kops are much preferable to a well-trained, highly disciplined, buff and nautilized Delta Force of right-wing throat-cutters.

If Rahm & co. succeed in November, and especially if they succeed two years from now, we'll see the complete triumph of Blairization within the Democratic Party. This will be great for the party and really, really bad for everybody else in the world.

A skeptic might ask why it matters -- the Democratic Party is such a useless, compromised, right-wing outfit that really, who cares whether it's openly Blairized or only Blairized behind the scenes? What difference does it make?

I think the answer runs along these lines: it's a good idea to deprive the enemy of a victory whenever you can, even if the tactical objective is not terribly important. Open, frank Blairization would be a victory for the really really bad people -- the Rahms and the Chucks and the people who pull their strings -- people who really couldn't care less about parties, but care a great deal about their wealth and power. If we can somehow deprive them of that victory, well , we should.

A victory for Rahm and Chuck and the other Blairizers in Novermber would be a net gain for what I can only call the forces of evil. The Blair strategy is, in essence, to say frankly that from henceforth there will be no opposition party; there will only be a competitor party, an alternative gang of right-wing thugs to call in whenever the other gang seems to be underperforming.

Whether the Democratic Party is already fully Blairized or not is an interesting question, but academic. The response of any decent person has to be the same, either way: A Blairized party must at all costs be rejected, and a party whose success would Blairize it must not succeed.

March 30, 2006

Back here versus over there

A key point of interest slides into view at the end of the Washpost article on the donk security plan.Seems in recent polling, the public has shown a strong preference for securing the homeland over taking the fight to the "enemy". In fact, lots of average folks are connecting the dots in a very un-Bushy way (and a very un-Rahmy way, a very un-Chucky way, a very un-Hillary-y way). They seem to think (with good reason) that the more we thrash around over there in East Sandonia, the less safe we are likely to become back here.

But of course, the hee haw gang are loyal fans of the greater humanist empire -- so forget any idea they might draw the party line right there where it would indeed be a real honest choice -- something like this:

"We are for security here at home -- they are for maximum penetration over there . You choose, America -- stick with the elephants and make the third world world safer for transnational adventures, and your own back yard tomorrow's walk-up bomb site -- or bring the troops all back home, forget gunpoint overseas profiteering, and make us poor liittle American weebles more safe and less sorry.

March 31, 2006

Ignore it, maybe it'll go away

A week or so back, Tim D called our attention, in a comment, to the recent Mearsheimer/Walt report on the Israel lobby (a condensed version, without footnotes, is online at the London Review of Books). A few juicy excerpts:
Why has the US been willing to set aside its own security and that of many of its allies in order to advance the interests of another state? One might assume that the bond between the two countries was based on shared strategic interests or compelling moral imperatives, but neither explanation can account for the remarkable level of material and diplomatic support that the US provides.

Instead, the thrust of US policy in the region derives almost entirely from domestic politics, and especially the activities of the ‘Israel Lobby’. Other special-interest groups have managed to skew foreign policy, but no lobby has managed to divert it as far from what the national interest would suggest....

The Israel lobby... wants America to help Israel remain the dominant regional power. The Israeli government and pro-Israel groups in the United States have worked together to shape the administration’s policy towards Iraq, Syria and Iran, as well as its grand scheme for reordering the Middle East.

Pressure from Israel and the Lobby was not the only factor behind the decision to attack Iraq in March 2003, but it was critical. Some Americans believe that this was a war for oil, but there is hardly any direct evidence to support this claim. Instead, the war was motivated in good part by a desire to make Israel more secure.

Now of course this is not news, in one sense. People like Noam Chomsky and Michael Neumann and Norman Finkelstein have told this story before. What's news about the Mearsheimer/Walt broadside is that these are two very Establishment guys: Walt is the dean of Harvard's Kennedy Center and Mearsheimer is a professor at the University of Chicago, not exactly a hotbed of left-wing sentiment.

Is this a straw in the wind? Are significant sectors of elite opinion starting to get tired of being joined at the hip to an embarrassment like Israel? I'd love to think so.

I've often scratched my head trying to account for the irrationality of the Empire's policy in regard to Israel -- it doesn't do anything for us, at least since the end of the Cold War if not longer, and in fact it's a net liability. How can the managers of the Empire allow this to happen?

The best explanation I could come up with was that imperial management doesn't optimize, it seeks only to perpetuate and expand. That is, imperial management will react very rationally to anything that's a threat or even a serious obstacle to its purposes, but if some clique or cabal within the loosely organized camarilla of dominant interests has a pet project, they will be allowed to indulge it as long as it doesn't threaten to disrupt business in any important way.

I figure that Israel falls into this category -- as if the Soprano family were to indulge some cousin in a peculiar and perhaps even illegal sexual kink, as long as it didn't start to pose a problem to the family generally.

But in the Israel case, I strongly suspect that some elite elements are starting to worry that Cousin Kinko may be a little off the reservation, drawing too much attention from the cops, pissing off the neighbors unnecessarily.

The Lobby and its outriders have reacted with predictable fury -- Alan Dershowitz, having found a platform perfectly suited to him in The New York Sun, is running in circles, frothing at the mouth and snapping at his own tail; Max Boot, in the LA Times, amusingly exhumes Richard Hofstadter. My congressman, Jerrold Nadler, bestirred his blubbery bulk to accuse Mearsheimer and Walt of finding “Jewish conspirators under every bed and controlling every major American institution”. Best of all, perhaps, is Mad Marty Peretz at the New Republic, who writes, "Support for Israel is, deep down, an expression of America's best view of itself," and goes on to suggest that Martin Indyk isn't pro-Israel enough.

Interestingly MIA in this donnybrook is everybody's Aunt Sadie on 43d Street, The New York Times, which as far as I can tell has published not one word on this story. I've always said the Times is more interesting when it doesn't write than when it does, and surely this studied silence is intensely interesting. I don't know quite what to make of it, actually, but it'll be fun to see how long they can keep it up, and what mouse the mountain will bring forth at last.

About March 2006

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

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