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June 2006 Archives

June 1, 2006

The gods are angry

We seem to be having some system trouble -- comments are getting lost. I'm trying to figure it out.

Gods may have calmed down

Comments seem to be working again, although I regret to say that a number of recent ones seem to have been lost.

With friends like these (part XXXVII)

Time WiseDoes the name Tim Wise mean anything to you?

Well, he just made me wish to seek him out for a pranging, after reading his Of Immigrants and "Real" Amurkans: Reflections on the Rage of the Ridiculous. Perhaps a sampler will suffice to establish why:

While roughly one in five Americans could name the Simpsons characters, only one in a thousand could name all five freedoms protected by the First Amendment. Are these the persons to whom undocumented migrants are being compared unfavorably? Are these the persons to whom we would rather entrust our nation's future just because they were born here? Are you kidding me? .... After all, in a society that values its people more as consumers of products than as civic-minded citizens, the fact that the masses have been kept in a state of suspended intellectual animation is hardly surprising....

It's not that they dislike Mexicans. Goodness no! It's just that so many of them are coming illegally, and we are a law-abiding people who believe in playing by the rules...Somewhere, the spirit of an Arapaho mother is laughing its ghostly ass off at that one.

With allies like Wise, I'm tempted to change my views on the subject. This self-preening, utterly unselfconcious display of arrogant sanctimony shows the merit class operating at full throttle.

June 2, 2006

The edge of cold steel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They define themselves by what they hate....

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

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

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

Several things strike me about this reverie:

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

June 3, 2006

Two-thirds empty, or one-third full?

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

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

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

    Or even dwarves.

    Net, schmet

    Question of the day:

    Has the emergence of self-constructing internet communities created a new politics? Though I'n not a close watcher of these set ups -- that I've left to Doc Smiff -- but I have observed a struggle over just what these contrivances are. What sort of a communication network? The members-only sewing-circle sort, or a floating 24/7 teleconference among action-oriented cadre? A deliberative body? An administrative apparatus? Both? Neither?

    What about the fearless-leader cult? Is this emergent characteristic optional or inevitable?

    You all are the real blogonauts -- use the comments to help this ole hound understand.

    June 4, 2006

    So bad we're good... so good we're bad... or something

    Peter Beinart, with an ingenuity that would evoke an admiring whistle from John Donne, has figured out that Haditha shows what a good country we really are:

    This horrible story... powerfully underscores the liberal vision, which is this. We are not angels: without sufficient moral and legal restrictions, and under conditions of extreme stress, Americans can be as barbaric as anyone. What's makes us an exceptional nation with the capacity to lead and inspire the world is our very recognition of that fact. We are capable of Hadithas and My Lais, so is everyone. But few societies are capable of acknowledging what happened, bringing the killers to justice, and instituting changes that make it less likely to happen again. That's how we show we are different from the jihadists. We don't just assert it. We prove it. That's the liberal version of American exceptionalism, and it's what we need right now in response to this horror.
    Another rich text -- every word a profoundly revealing symptom. "Under conditions of extreme stress," Americans can be as bad as the rest of the benighted world -- but not, presumably, otherwise. And of course we don't need to drop the doctrine of American exceptionalism -- we just need to re-emphasize it, with a little moral topspin. And remember, oh always remember, we're better than the "jihadists" -- run that by me again, Pete, I'm not quite sure I got it. They fly aircraft into buildings; we drop cluster bombs. Is it that old wholesale-versus-retail thing?

    And then -- "underscores the liberal vision." Well, I'll say. It's a little like My Lai that way.

    Exceptionalism seems to be an occupational hazard of empire. The depressing thing is how long it takes to get over it. The Brits still think they're different from everybody else -- well, maybe not the younger generation, but it's still pretty strong among Brits born before, say, 1960. And their empire went up in smoke sixty years ago.

    But the Spaniards have recovered, and so have the Portuguese, and the Dutch are doing pretty well. There is hope. I should live so long as to see the day when an American speaker, addressing an American audience, will say, "We're just like everybody else," and get a round of applause.

    June 5, 2006

    Accessories before, during, and after

    A stopped clock is right twice a day, and frother Mark Steyn has a point:

    Anyone who supports the launching of a war should be clear-sighted enough to know that, when the troops go in, a few of them will kill civilians, bomb schools, torture prisoners. It happens in every war in human history, even the good ones. Individual Americans, Britons, Canadians, Australians did bad things in World War II and World War I. These aren't stunning surprises, they're inevitable: It might be a bombed mosque or a gunned-down pregnant woman or a slaughtered wedding party, but it will certainly be something.
    Steyn, of course, draws somewhat different conclusions than I do. But he's right about one thing: Haditha was a foreseeable consequence of invading and occupying Iraq. Hillary knew there would be Hadithas when she supported the war; so did Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Rahm Emanuel, John Kerry, Tom Lantos, Chuck Schumer, Joe Lieberman, and the rest of the Democratic Party rat pack.

    They went along with the war, they knowingly voted for Haditha, and they figured that if it all turned out badly, they could blame it on the Republicans. They knew the excuses for the war were lies. They weren't fooled. They weren't stampeded. Their support for the war was a cynical calculation. They winked at the lies and paid for the Hadithas -- with our money, of course -- because they thought they could have it both ways. They thought they could avoid the risk of opposing the war, and avoid the blame for starting it.

    I really think these reptiles may be worse, in a moral sense than the Republicans. At least the Republicans went balls-to-the-wall for this murderous folly. They nailed their colors to the mast, and if we had an opposition party in this country, their ship would be sunk.

    But the Democrats -- these vile, slinking, doubletalking, soulless, conscienceless hypocrites -- they went along with it thinking they could wade hip-deep in blood and still keep their skirts clean.

    They're as culpable as the Republicans, and even less honest, which is really saying something. They're accessories before, during, and after the fact, and anybody who votes for one of them is an accessory too.

    Gore and blood

    Al Gore For everybody who thought there was a new Al Gore, this just in:

    "I would pursue the twin objectives of trying to withdraw our forces [from Iraq] as quickly as we possibly can, while at the same time minimizing the risk that we'll make the mess over there even worse and raise even higher the danger of civil war," Gore said.

    Dismissing calls for any deadline, Gore added, "It's possible that setting a deadline could set in motion forces that would make it even worse. I think that we should analyze that very carefully. My guess is that a deadline is probably not the right approach...."

    Gunpowder, treason, and plot

    These seventeen Canadian fertilizer bombers strike me as slapstick relief -- like the follow-up fizzle bombers in London.

    They and their Marplot scheme have all the tender earmarks (or is it hoof marks?) of a hot house rose. Maybe some are wild -- hey, maybe most are -- but there are bound to be plants among 'em -- plants with a royal Mounty seal on their behind.

    So har-har, right?

    But then again the story of Lee Harvey's nurturing would have been a har-har too, if he hadn't beaten the long odds and hit what he shouldn'ta been able to hit.

    June 6, 2006

    Infinite riches in a little room

    Two party politics is like that now-famous fictive mountain: it's brokebacked. It's got a slump, not a hump, in the middle. But according to Unity08, folks want a hump party even if they don't know it:
    In a poll conducted for the group, Princeton Survey Research Associates found that more than four-fifths of Americans agreed with the statement that the nation "has become so polarized that Washington can't seem to make progress.
    So unlike most third-party fantasy camps, this one wants to go build a middle hump, not a "bold alternative" -- a party that makes muddlethrough into a golden mean.

    Their guess is the middle isn't something best approached party-wise, from the left or right, but best sat right down on.

    There's more:

    The Unity08 effort is challenging the widespread belief among political experts that the most effective third parties need a vivid and compelling leader to coalesce around, such as Roosevelt or Perot. The organizers of the new effort are trying to build the party and then find a candidate to lead it.
    My guess -- this is a coagulation of castoffs from either side of the partisan divide. "Will no one rid me of these troublesome geeks?"

    June 7, 2006

    Heh heh

    A few days ago we noted the pwogwessive euphoria over the candidacy of doughface immigrant-bashing War Democrat Francine Busby in California's ultra-reactionary 50th District.

    The Republican incumbent is behind bars, the national Republican administration is about as popular as chlamydia, the Democratic Party has spent money like water in this classic angry white middle-class-asshole district -- and dear Francine seems to be losing, as we go to bed, by 50-45%.

    The only thing remaining to complete my happiness would be if a third party were to blame for "spoiling" Francine's predestinate path of least resistance to Congress -- but alas, not so, apparently. The Dems have no one to blame in this case but themselves.

    Our line's been changed again

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

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

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

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

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

    Hey, nobody ever said Kremlinology was easy.

    The Truman switcheroo, coming soon to a sweatshop near you

    "Politics is the art of the possible" -- the Iron Chancellor himself gets the attribution on that one. But vote-getter Orthrian politicking ain't politics as Bismark played it.

    Let's wayback to 1948 -- a third-party challenge from the left has emerged to grapple with the bipartisan foreign policy of "containment". The Truman-led donkery is in a tizzy, because, among other things, through its fearless leader Henry Wallace this third party is creditably claiming to be the only party prepared to carry forward the full Roosevelt New Deal agenda -- full employment, civil equality, health insurance, union striking rights, etc., etc. Very potent stuff, right at the heart of the national Dems' franchise. Obviously this challenge will elect the Repubs if it gets its fair share of the electorate.

    Enter Orthrian donk consigliere Clark Clifford, with a plan. A simple plan, in fact -- split the Wallace party platform into foreign planks and domestic planks, then scorn all the goo-goo anti-Cold War foreign planks, and more importantly, to really knock down the Wallace vote -- steal his domestic planks. Look just like him, and then run like hell on 'em.

    Of course you'll do nothing whatsoever about any of it once in office -- in fact, the Dixie wingers momentarily in rebellion will be in for a pleasant surprise, when they return to the fold and find out just how empty the domestic promises were.

    It worked, of course -- the devil wins most of the regular tricks; that's why we have the occasional judgement days.

    "Promise 'em anything, but give 'em a cold war." 1948 was the peak of postwar donkery's pride and success, and it ushered in the permanent empire state, with everything that entailed for the next 50 years.

    Why review this moment in our past? 'Cause right now the same Clark Clifford types are cooking breakfast for the same Orthrian crew. Watch the "party" paradigm shift domestically after this fall's win (if it happens). Watch the Barrage Obama of domestic smoke and mirrors neo-repealism, while overseas these bipartisan statesmen allow the same old killer potions to be poured about freely, by a chastened Republican apothecary.

    For a new, more competent, tough-and-smart long-eared apothecary, we'll need to wait for '08 -- and watch what happens to the domestic plank then, donkey fans.

    June 8, 2006

    Deep cover

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

    Better a bad candidate than a good initiative, anytime

    Instead of wacking away for Busby, maybe Prop 82 needed the spotlight.

    It failed, and with it the cause of universal free preschool for California's 4-year-olds -- paid, for, N.B., by a rich mans' tax.

    A specter is haunting Dianne

    I'm happy to report, after a fine primary showing, Cal's all-Green Todd Chretien is steaming right ahead toward his excellent November rendezvous with Dianne Feinstein.

    Even as a life-long neo-barnburner donk, I'm backing ya Todd. Death to war donkery!

    Pied pipers

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

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

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

    Now THIS is a party

    Saw this at Ms. Xeno's blog: She's forming anew party, the Shut The Fuck Up party. Besides having a fine slogan, it has some fine jobholder planks:
    • Cut the payroll tax for everyone who makes less than 100K per.
    • Raise the minimum wage and tie it to inflation.
    • Single-payer. Right now.
    "Admit it," she says, "Howard could learn a lot from me." Indeed he could -- if he wanted to.

    June 9, 2006

    Our man in Kos-itania, Chapter I

    Late at night, Thursday, June 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Aisle-crossing for the rich

    Flash -- a fab four donk crossover gang fails to save their rich friends from the clutches of the death tax, as a vote to end debate fails by 3, 57-41.

    And who are these these biz donk hacks that tried their damnedest to remove this blot on America's tax-free wealth zone?

    • Max "Bronco" Baucus... of course
    • The Nelson brothers, Ben and Bill
    • The Belle Starr of the senate, blushless Blanche Lincoln

    Our man in Kos-itania, Chapter II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    June 10, 2006

    Kos on the commanding heights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Small fry

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

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

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

    Full fathom five the Kerrys lie

    It's nearly a consensus now -- Clinton was the Dems' Ike, a me-tooer calling his version of Repub-lite "triangulation", and that's good news ...sort of.

    Because me-too never survives a sea change, when even opportunists jump on the new bandwagon.

    The locus classicus: Tricky Dick Nixon. His two Dem counterparts, Bill's twin veeps, St Hilland Green Al, both have that je ne sais quoi -- a kickaround undaunted resentful relentlessness that's quite Nixonian.

    But then Kerry's '04 was no Goldy '64 -- but so what? Imagine if it had been Scranton or Rocky who had tumbled to LBJ in '64 -- either way, there'd have been the exact same '68. What with the 'Nam quag and the kneejerk pleb white sense of civil wrongs, the Dem cold war liberal hegemon was sure to blow apart. The donkey show boat was going over the falls, come rain or come shine, once and for ever.

    So by analogy -- stick with me here -- even if we get sellout triangles in '08, like Gore or his sister solider St Hill, either one will have to be something other than Kerrywood II. It's another sea change time. Change, progressive change, is in the air. Six years after Dick took his plank walk in '74, we got the real total con deal when little red Ronnie Hood took center stage.

    Extrapolating the parallel, we'll get a real prog in... 2020.

    58 Democrats vote against net neutrality

    The Markey amendent mandating net neutrality failed in the House; 58 Democrats voted against it.

    June 11, 2006

    Time to exfiltrate

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

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

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

    I. Lost Eden

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

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

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

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

    II. The microscopic eye

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    III. A loose cannon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    IV. Give 'em hurl Harry

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

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

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

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

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

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

    V. Milites gloriosi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    VI. Dust from my sandals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    June 12, 2006

    Encouraging developments

    From Bob Brister:

    I saw your web site and thought you might be interested in my Green Party nomination for the 2nd Congressional District in Utah. I'm challenging the Blue Dog incumbent pro-war Democrat Rep. Jim Matheson [shown at left; Matheson is the guy with the necktie -- Ed.]. Please check out www.bristerforcongress.org and let me know what you think.


    Bob Brister

    Badges of honor

    Alan Smithee writes:

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

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



    He appears at my elbow...

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

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

    "Yeah... so...?"

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


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

    Crackpot seriousness

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

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

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

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

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

    The all-too-visible empire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    June 13, 2006

    Don't throw me in that briar patch

    Katrina vanden Heuvel waxes wroth that
    Peter Beinart, for example, who was a supporter of the Iraq disaster ... has joined New Dems like Al From in urging Democrats to prove their resolve by purging the left from the Democratic party....
    Well, I never thought I would have a good word to say for Beinart, but I'm with him 100% on this one. I think all Democrats should be made to swear an oath vowing support for ongoing war in Iraq, upcoming war in Iran, ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, fifty-cent gasoline, and the exportation of all jobs better-paid than chambermaid and worse-paid than investment banker, to India.

    It's high time the Democratic Party took a stand for its principles. No more shilly-shallying. If you're not with the program, you don't belong in the party.

    Odora canum vis

    *Begin Nixon voice* Let me make one thing purrrfectly clear... *End Nixon voice*

    I'm glad we have professional politicians of the jackass kind to kick around. I don't blame the soup hounds one bit for all their fan dancing and preposterous abra-cadabra-ing.

    Hey, they're just trying to make a living.

    Fraudulent spells, sensless fear mongering -- all part of the package, the marketing effort.

    They pour out this patent  hogwash, and will continue to pour it, just so long as we, the left side of the electorate, keep buying it.

    If we've had our fill of this toxic brewage it's up to us to pit this long-eared medicine show out of its misery by tuning out its barkery, and, come election day, passing the back end of its painted wagon by.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    June 14, 2006

    Purity vs. purity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Fan mail -- 14 June 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Couldn'ta said it better myself

    Commenting on JSP's recent billmonomachia, toobigforbritches makes a point that deserves a post of its own:
    ...By and large, the left has the power to sink and destroy any democratic campaign. Ie, there's enough voters with views to the left of the democratic candidates on issues from "lets go to war" to the environment and probably a bunch more I could list ... there's enough of these voters that if they decide to abandon the democratic candidates and instead support their own candidate, then the Dems are just dead.

    In fact really, in a lot of cases if people voted for who they really liked in a three-way race, the centrist dems would probably finish 3rd. But either way, the left can deliberately kill any democratic campaign by not voting for it. Their margins of victory over Republicans just aren't big enough to sustain the loss of support from the left.

    Considering this, their position is just amazing to me. Instead of trying to form a real coalition between the dems and the left that could win and govern, instead they seem to hate and attack the left with much more evidence and virulence than I usually see directed towards the right.

    In me at least, there's a growing feeling that wants to say I'll never vote Democrat again. And if that became widespread, the Dems would go the way of the Whigs as a political party.

    Someday we gotta do it. We gotta cut lose from the Dems, because frankly they suck. There's a combined good benefit between building a party on the left that really would fight for ordinary americans, and also the benefit of flushing the Dems down the toilet of history.

    Come on people. Don't be fooled by a Dem party that's as much built on fear (if you don't vote for us, the Republicans will win) as the Republicans are....

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

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

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

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

    But to be just, the man does deliver:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    June 15, 2006

    Go, team

    Another fine observation from ms_xeno, from a comment in another thread:
    ... I'm sure that Billmon's a nice guy. I'd probably even like Kos if I hadn't been privy to his bullshit anti-choice sexism elsewhere. That's the worst of it. They are nice people, and being nice (and solvent) enough to placate the Reids and Deans and so forth is what it's all about for these folks. This is what they think winning is.

    Sure, the top Dems manage to shaft them over and over again even when they do win-- despite the usual rancid mix of cowardice, malice, cluelessness and ineptitude. ("Even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes," as J. Alva would probably say if he were here.) But who cares ? It's like a bizarro universe full of rabid sports fans who genuinely think they *are* the team;Who love the team owners more and more every time they fuck things up; Who excuse every nasty peccadillo the top player avoids legal trouble over; Who snap up and proudly display every useless, shoddy, ugly piece of merchandise with the team logo on it. Anything to avoid acknowledging that ticket prices are outrageous, the team sucks eggs, and while the stadium looks as imposing and glitzy as ever, the neighborhood around it is falling apart.

    Democratic centralism, with a capital D

    Clearly, the folks at the New York Times don't get the Kos gig.

    Mini-pundit Adam Cohen seems to fear a plebroots riot of unsynchronized digital brawling and other Jacksonian hoi-polloi misbehavior:

    More input from the "net roots" -- the Internet version of grass roots -- may help the Democratic leadership avoid some bad decisions. But it may also make Democratic politics even more scattershot compared with the well-oiled Republican machine.
    Little does he know his Kosikoffskis, eh? To expropriate a formulation from another political world -- democratic in form, central in essence.

    Not so pretty in pink

    My guess -- St. Hill's little scrape with party base reality, at least as reported at the 'Punch -- will lead to a Clintonic rethink.

    When opportunity calls, after about one and a half rings, opportunism always picks up. "The party's prez nom may be slipping away, milady ..."

    Let's sit back and watch the show as the battle-ready she-tiger turns herself, with a show of Luther-like angst, into a rainbow butterfly, ready to flutter to that high clovery place where lambs and lions bunk together.

    Of course it may be a slow move, inch by inch, guided by the blink of those ever more comforting landing lights, the in-state New York polling numbers.

    Pressure cooking

    In a comment here, robber.baron writes:
    ... I think before abandoning the Democratic Party completely and voting third party the left needs to work on pressure and influence who wins the nomination.
    I, J S Paine, as official rep in virtual residence of the 'don't give up on em ...yet ' faction, want to reply to this.

    The nugget here is "pressure and influence." I translate that as pressure equals threats of votes cast or withheld or placed elsewhere; and influence equals... well, money, mostly, but there's also volunteer time and energy. We'll return to that, but first let's think about the pressure side of the equation.

    Withholding your vote -- the stay-at-home strategy -- obviously helps a little, since it proves the "elephants are coming!" cries of lesser-evilism have failed to terrify. Locally, that can matter, in tight districts, in a close race.

    But the semiotics are more important. One way to read a stay-at-home vote is like this: "You're both stinkers, and I won't hold my nose and pull the jackass lever. It only encourages you hacks along your venal pathway."

    But it can also be read other ways -- ways more consistent with the strategic thinking of the Demo poobahs. It's an ambiguous gesture.

    So apathy is not a serious enough threat to get Party leadership's blood boiling. It takes a third-party vote to do that.

    Nothing, and I mean nothing, fires up a donk pol pro hack like third party efforts. The evidence is everywhere -- from the Know-Nothings to the Populists to the several Prog incarnations to the recent Green scene.

    My favorite almost-event:

    We would have gotten Dewey in '48 if the Wallace prog ticket hadn't been kept off the Illinois ballot by wild dirty donkey foul play. 1948 would have been like 1848, 1912, 1992, or 2000, and maybe the fall of China and the Korean war would have been seen as Republican failures, and the donks might have moved left... okay, okay, I know I'm over the top with that last one.

    But at any rate, since the cutting edge of pressure is threat threat threat, the more credible the threat, the better. And consequently, the higher the chance respect will turn into substantive accommodation.

    Now as for influence, which comes from money and volunteer time -- nobody reading this, I'm sure, has enough money to make much of an impact -- not even all of us put together. So it comes down to our time and energy.

    Just as the withheld vote is ambiguous, the withheld effort is ambiguous. If you really want 'em to miss you, you have to let 'em know what they're missing, by putting it elsewhere -- referenda, independent runs, activism outside the electoral arena... lots of possibilities.

    robber.baron continues:

    Of those who decided to run in 2004 there were drastically better options for a progressive agenda than John Kerry.
    Okay, let's see what happens when a real choice, or even a shadow of a real choice, seizes the convention and the party levers. Let's look at George McGovern.

    When the progs win control, the old pros will do all they can to see you lose the election. Unlike the progs, they don't at all mind scuttling the party's chances if they can't control it.


    I think we progressives need to fight to promote those potential candidates from within similar to how the religious right fights for socially conservative leanings from candidates in the Republican Party"
    But... RB... we're already just exactly what the religious right is to the Repubs -- those poor religious caterpillars don't run anything. The business right runs the Republican party; those tub-thumpers and snake-handlers are just window-dressing. They're just as trapped as we donk prog secularists are in the Orthrian bind.

    The mailbag, 15 June 2006

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

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

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

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

    Helm a-lee

    Tim D writes:
    [Hillary] may very well have to begin retooling her position on the war soon if she wants to prevent her sheep from straying from the flock. According to one of Howie Hawkins' press releases:
    A Zogby poll earlier this week found that 32% of New Yorkers would vote for an "unnamed anti-war candidate" vs. 38% for Clinton and 31% for other and undecided (a percentage that is close to the hard core Republican vote).

    The task now for the Green Party and the wider antiwar movement is to attach a name, Howie Hawkins, to the "unnamed anti-war candidate" who already has about one-third support and to inform New Yorkers that the anti-war candidate is within striking distance of winning.

    Here's to hoping!

    June 16, 2006

    Instability: Bring it on

    Martin Luther had, what was it, 96 theses that he tacked to the church door in Wittenberg. A very great man, and the only thing I have in common with him is that I, too, in my own small way, have the Whore of Babylon in my crosshairs. I also have a few theses of my own:

    I. The two parties together form a homeostatic system.

    The two parties contend fiercely for the spoils of office, but at the most fundamental level they collude in maintaining the American social order and carrying out the purposes of its dominant elements. This collusion is usually not consciously acknowledged or understood by activists and adherents within the parties, but it is nonetheless real.

    II. The system is not static; it is in motion.

    The American political order is remarkably stable, but it is a stability in motion rather than a stability in stasis. It is not the purpose of our masters to maintain the status quo, but to expand their own wealth and power at our expense, and the expense of ordinary people everywhere in the world. Hereafter, we will refer to this purpose of expansion as the Empire Project.

    III. It is moving in the wrong direction.

    The Empire Project is going forward like gangbusters, don't you agree?

    IV. The Democrats are helping move it; they are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

    The Democratic Party, in spite of its humanitarian handwringing, does not oppose or retard the Empire Project, or make any serious attempt to do so. Indeed, it provides vital assistance in advancing the Project, not least by absorbing and neutralizing the energies of people who sincerely believe that they are opposing it. Once more, this aspect of the Democratic Party's structural function is not consciously understood, much less intended, by the vast majority of the party's apparatus and supporters, but once more, it is nevertheless quite real, as any clear-sighted person can attest who has watched the eternally-recurring Co-optation of Activists, a process as dependable as the running of the shad or the swallows' return to Capistrano.

    V. The system must be disrupted. Instability is desperately needed.

    Since the stability of the American political order is a stability-in-motion, and its motion consists in the furtherance of the Empire Project, it follows that those who oppose the Project are obliged to disrupt the stability of the system as best they can.

    * * *

    I have a few ideas about how to create instability, though these hardly rise to the dignity of theses:

    1. Third parties create instability, which is why the big-party apparatchiks hate and fear them so. Dynamical analysis of a two-body system is straightforward, but it becomes very hard in a many-body system. The reliable verities of two-party politics become unreliable when there are more players on the field.
    2. If either of the major parties declines to the point of insignificance, that will create instability. Each party is full of fault lines and mutually antagonistic and suspicious elements, kept in the containment vessel only by their loathing of the Greater Evil in the other party. Remove the external pressure of the other party, and the remaining party will explode like a deep-sea fish brought too suddenly to the surface.
    3. But the very best kind of instability arises when people get sick of the electoral game and take their political energies elsewhere. What our masters, and their administrative cadre in the parties, hate and fear more than anything else is a thoroughly riled and irate public, no longer content to express its dissatisfaction only in the decent obscurity of the voting booth. It hardly matters what exactly you do, as long as you get out in the street and block traffic, paint slogans on walls, boycott your classes, and generally raise hell.

    Electoral calculation, or Lobby ownage?

    JSP passed this along:

    A piece on Counterpunch quotes a moveon.org mailing as follows:

    To prove that Iraq is important to focus on during the election we hired a top political polling firm to investigate the opinions of voters in the top 68 "swing" districts-two-thirds of these districts are represented by Republicans.

    Here is what we found:

    • The war is by far the most important issue to voters in these districts right now.
    • By wide margins these voters think the war was a mistake and not worth it. People are angry about the war.
    • A discussion about Iraq during the campaign increases support for the Democrat.
    • A Democrat who takes a firm stand for getting out of Iraq does better than a Democrat who takes a wishy-washy position-even in the face of Republican attacks like, "cut and run."
    • Republicans are vulnerable to all sorts of attacks-including their blind support for Bush's policy of never-ending war.
    • Voters are universally angry about how defense contractors have been put ahead of our troops and how priorities here at home have been neglected.
    I seem to recall that some panelists at Yearly Kos cited similar results (or possibly the same results).

    Now given that this is so -- why is the Democratic Party still so gun-shy on this issue? Frankly, it makes me wonder whether they're not motivated less by electoral calculation than by a certain, erm, Lobby.

    Somebody kick her while she's down

    Turnout vs. swing -- its a strategy choice. Either you go after your base, get 'em out on election day, cry fire in the auditorium, whatever it takes -- or you try to romance the wish-washery, using some gimmick like " my fellow Americans this great nation needs a course correction."

    It's not really possible to give both these lines in one campaign. Try it and you'll flame out. So it's either a battle of the bases, or a tea-for-two tug of war over the middle groundlings. After the recent mugwumpery St Hill's people must be recalculating all this for '08: "do we continue the swing scene or ..."

    Her state run this fall, already underway, must lead to a convincing win, or '08 for her morphs into oh, never.

    So where's the stop-her-now spoilers?

    True, there's the Green Party guy, Howie Hawkins, bless him. But wouldn't you think with all the anti-Hillary feeling among the liberal-schmiberelite, some better-funded, better-known somebody would be taking her on? Like, I dunno, Meryl Streep?

    It ain't enough just to jilt Muppetissimo Joe, next door in nutmeggery land -- Hillary must meet the pillory this fall too.

    Hell, she's dead in the water right now. A decent flank slasher could have her bleeding prog votes like a tomato can. Put up an out now celeb as a non partisan indy candidate, not even a third-party one, and lady Rodham can kiss '08 bye-bye.

    If, if, if...

    From Alan Smithee. Too good for a comment.
    If Gore was president, money and candy would rain down from the sky while happy frou-frou elves go door-to-door delivering free Ben & Jerry's and trees would sprout ipods and Tommy brand jeans and fruit snacks! Palistinians and Israelis would lay down their arms and start forming ultra-cool ska bands!

    Then Al would raise John Lennon and George Harrison from the dead, re-unite The Beatles and they'd all go on a world tour together performing all new songs John wrote while he was dead. And we'd all get free tickets and there'd be complimentary champagne and Doritos and...and...fruit snacks and stuff!

    Cars would run on grass clippings and get 6,000 miles to the Hefty Super-Strong Lawn & Garden bag! MTV would start running music videos again! The Giants would win the pennant! Acne, hives and the heartbreak of psorisis would all be things of the past, if only Al Gore had been elected.

    But noooooo! Thanks to that evil bastard Ralph Nader, terrorists flew planes into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon! Then he started the war in Iraq and sent his evil 3rd party minions to murder babies in the streets of Bagdad! And he stole all of John Kerry's votes and hid them deep beneath the ocean in his super-secret underwater lair! It's all true! I read it on the Daily Kos!

    Not only that, but I found out that Ralph Nader is an...an arab! It's true! And Nader makes TV stations broadcast crappy reality shows! And he makes me wear a seatbelt and brush my teeth and take out the garbage in Hefty Super-Duper Strong Kitchen bags!

    And that's why I vote democrat!

    Hors de compute

    Your editor will be Net-less from Saturday morning (the 17th) to Sunday evening (the 18th), so comments and new posts may not show up during that time, unless I can deputize somebody. See y'all Sunday evening.

    Warp speed

    Just read the latest Obama stone warmer, offered up at Bring Back My America ... take 13.

    I'll fast forward thru the noodles and only give you the beefy bits :

    We find ourselves at a crossroads in American history...

    ... anxiety about the future...

    ...uncertainty about the direction....


    .. health care ....

    .... outsourcing....

    surely we've come to a moment where things have to change...

    --Is there a section missing, Scotty?

    No sir, that's it so far, sir.

    -- No war in Iraq?

    No sir, not so far, sir.

    --Okay, proceed.

    There's no challenge that is too great or no injustice too crippling or no destiny that is too far out of reach...
    --Yipes and sweet Jesus, fast us forward outta here, Scotty!

    Ey ey Captain Kirk, ey ey!

    ... we face one of those moments today in a century that is just six years old.
    --Yeeeeyoooo, Sco...

    Righto, O captain Sir!

    But while the world has changed around us, unfortunately it seems like our government has stood still. ..
    --No! no! Scotty! Scotty... Scotty?


    --Wake up, Scotty, wake up, you geepy bastard!

    Sorry, Captain, but it's so damn booorring...

    ...ownership society ...

    ... social Darwinism ...

    --No, wait, Scotty, wait -- social Darwinism?

    What, captain?

    --Zoom in on that!

    I can't relocate it, sir, and guarantee we'll ever get oot again. The fields around that poart are flooxin' so -- look, even the dilithium crystals are invertin' -- the whole thing's so damn unreal we may get totally sucked in...

    Americans understand this....

    ... They know the government can't solve all their problems

    Don't let anybody tell you ..

    that we don't know what we stand for.

    we know that as progressives we believe in affordable health care for all Americans

    - and that we're going to make sure that Americans don't have to choose between a health care plan...

    .. that bankrupts the government and one that bankrupts families the party that will guarantee every American an affordable,...




    education, from early childhood to high school, from college to on-the-job training.....

    I've completely lost control of her, Cap'n! I'll try cutting the after buirners... it's our only...
    Progressives are the folks who believe in energy independence for America...

    we need a tough foreign policy

    -- No no, go back, Scotty, go back -- this is the nub here!
    ... we know the other side has a monopoly on the tough-and-dumb strategy; we're looking for the tough-and-smart strategy - one that battles the forces of terrorism and fundamentalism but understands that it's not just a matter of military might alone, that we've got to match it with the power of our diplomacy and the strength of our alliances and the power of our ideals, and that when we do go to war, we should be honest with the American people about why we're there and how we expect to win....

    We understand as progressives that we believe in open and honest government....

    .... peddle the agenda of whichever lobbyist or special interest can write the biggest check....

    I guarantee you America is looking for us to lead.

    ... we may be proud progressives but we're prouder Americans.

    We're tired of being divided...

    We are tired of running into ideological walls and partisan roadblocks....

    We're tired of appeals to our worst instincts and our greatest fears....

    Seems like the man's tired, Captain, and God knows I am.
    America is desperate for leadership...

    I absolutely feel it everywhere I go... They are longing for direction

    ... they want to believe again. …


    Sir.. that's the end of it.. there is no moooore, Captain, there is no bloody moooore.

    June 19, 2006

    Ku Klux PAC

    Okay, okay, now that a decent interval has passed, I'll concede that the bloc of Rights and Koski-ites buttressing the donkery's Orthrian core does not include... billmon. Nor does he bear any analogy to the Klan, except in a flight of outrageous impudence.

    But this particular boiling pot -- the klan-donkery connection -- as an analogy to present day organized influences, seems to be my favorite hot tub these days. So here I go again.

    If we're looking for a present-day analogy to the Klan's role in the Democratic party back in the bad old days, we really don't need to look any farther than... AIPAC et al. For anybody who still thinks the donkery can be made to play a constructive role again, these are the klaverns that really need to be purged in the next 4 to 6 years, as the Klan of old was purged in the high 60's.

    So far as Uncle Sam's mideast policy goes, AIPAC embodies what the Klan meant to jim crow -- its vilest, most racist and violent, oppressive, expansionist, supremacist -- but you get the picture.

    Either they've gotta go, or the progs gotta go, or the progs gotta stop being progs.

    General Will (not!)

    More thoughts on lobbies:

    When you think about AIPAC or Big Oil or the credit card lobby, remember the old Mad mag strip, "Spy vs Spy." That's the right model for Congress -- the unending war, now in year 218, the lobby war. "Lobby vs Lobby."

    Only its not a black hat lobby against a white hat lobby -- nope, you gotta multiply by N, so it ends up like a bunch of hideous spectral variants on the patrons of the galactic cafe in Star Wars.

    Spread these guys around capitol hill, only semi-visible three-d images, and you got all there is to the meaning of the people's collective will.

    If there 's such a thing as a general will it must somehow get formed out of the struggles of these adversarial spooks, scrapping for and against one another, as they scurry from the open mind of one people's rep to another, from possession to possession, making it all happen. That's all there is to the workings of the national interest -- a battle among special wills specially interested.

    At least thats how Jimmy Madison saw it -- saw it long, steady and with a clear eye; saw it, and said it was good. Good because the lobbies will check each other -- yet another enlightenment faith in the spontaneous emergent goodness of free human interaction; another invisible hand, Adam-Smithian process.

    And so it goes on, day after day -- this mad dash of all potentially against all, or for all. That is what gets embodied representationally as the US Congress -- a spectral happening in two chambers, played through a pack of venal hams.

    We can apply this to any old topic, so long as we ask ourselves, early and often, cui bono?

    Now let's handicap the entries based on the score card to date. When has any of these contending lobbies won, and against what other lobbies? That's the great inside game. We all know it, but we forget sometimes, and start thinking in terms of special interest against national interest -- the lobbies versus the people, the compact, motivated, on-meassage minority against the un-coordinated majority.

    Sorry, this is full time work here. There are no disorganized citizen majorities -- no lobby that is the set of all lobbies not containing themselves. So whenever the lathering sets in that some lobby is too powerful -- wins too much -- compare it to another lobby that wins too few, that is too weak.

    If certain lobbies or coalitions of lobbies can't be beat, thats a wonder. They must be something. Not even the New York Yankees win 'em all.

    Meta: anti-Semitism

    Just noticed we had a comment or two claiming to detect "anti-Semitism" in posts here.

    I'm not going to censor such comments, and people are free to make them, but just for the record, there will never be any posts here (and I hope not many comments) attempting to refute such charges. It's a waste of time, and at this point, I think the accusation has been so debased by overuse that it's not worth bothering about. In fact, you can't talk frankly about Israel or the Israel lobby without being called an anti-Semite, and so if there weren't some of this chaff in the air, I'd be worried.

    June 20, 2006

    To sleep, perchance to dream

    Jesus Reyes writes:
    Our economic system is called neoliberalism or the Washington Consensus... which is really the latest iteration of predator capitalism but on a global scale. It is a bipartisan effort. Both parties are dedicated to this notion, developed after the end of the cold war, of the American elite’s domination the world.

    Whether it is democrats through economic imperialism or republicans through military imperialism, both are expressions of American elites out of control to the complete detriment of the working class not just in the world but within our own borders.

    NAFTA was the beginning and has been a template for much of what has followed. Bush I started it and Clinton finished it. It fundamentally changed the capital/labor equilibrium and 100 years of social and “labor” progress has been destroyed or is being destroyed.

    It is free movement and protection for goods and money but no protection for workers or environment. No concern or benefit for ordinary people whatsoever, the people at the top benefit and everyone else pays.

    Clinton sold out the democratic constituency. The people who lost were the unionized industrial sector and environmentalists. The party went down in the next ('94) election and has never recovered. The objectives of the Democratic Party are not working class but rather the class system that has developed with globalization. The democrats and republicans are working for the same people. Nothing proves that better than GWOT.

    What I am trying to say is that a real “prog” who doesn’t think the dems are the root of the problem is a dem who has either secured a paycheck in the realm or has been put to sleep by the MSM. I suggest you ask for your pay in Euros and sleep lightly.

    Lobby vs. Lobby, continued

    Tim D. writes:
    I think the most fascinating result of the [Mearsheimer-Walt] paper is that the great sages of Middle East policy and Israel-US relations (Chomsky, Finkelstein, Neumann, Massad and the Christisons to name a few) came to such varying conclusions over the actual influence of the Lobby on U.S. foreign policy. It seems to me though, that if you take all these myriad analyses, you get something close to the reality of the situation.

    To be sure, Israel has its own interests in the Middle East - the most important of which is the realization of the Zionist project (i.e. a Jewish state in the holy land with an undivided Jerusalem as its capital). The Israel lobby has been exceedingly successful in bringing American military, economic and political might to bear in furthering this primary goal. U.S. material support - in it's numerous forms - to Israel has been indispensable in helping the Zionists to vanquish and or marginalize all those who dare to oppose their plan (in the Middle East and here at home) and the Lobby has worked hard to make sure that tap of material support doesn't run dry.

    That said however, the Israel lobby is obviously only one of many lobbies vying to craft U.S. foreign policy in a way that advances their interests. The counterveiling influence of corporations/multinationalscertainly cannot be discounted. They have certainly had their hands on the reigns of the U.S. foreign policy war horse far longer than Israel has. I mean has anyone here ever read Smedley Butler's famous anti-interventionist tract, War is a Racket? That was written back in 1935, yet if one were to read it now, he or she might easily believe it was published yesterday!

    Nevertheless, there should be no doubt in anyone's mind that sometimes - perhaps even many times - the interests of the various lobbies happen to converge to form a single mutually-benefitting policy. For instance, one might easily imagine that toppling Saddam was desirable for the Israeli government and Exxon-Mobile. Saddam was a bitter enemy who allegedly sponsored Palestinian terrorism against Israel and he was a quota buster, pumping oil far too liberally for companies that thrive on oil scarcity and the attendent high prices.

    Hands off.. everywhere

    More on anti-interventionism as a sine qua non plank of any reformed Dem party:

    Some might suggest why not just go for anti-unilateralism? Force Uncle to work through existing multilateral institutions.

    Quick answer: Korea, 1950; Kuwait, 1991. Sometimes if the interveners want it bad enough, and act cleverly or crudely enough, the UN can be had. Needless to say, this goes double for, say, NATO or any other multinational club, uncle-sponsored or co-sponsored. They all can be had.

    Nope, the anti-interventionism must be home-grown; it must be internal, like the bar Japan has -- only in America's case, it'll have to be self-imposed.

    Now it's true, right now Japan's more robust elite elements, grotesquely enough, are seeking to escape this bar -- but to review who's behind this move shows precisely the types we'd have to throw out of the party.

    The struggle will, needless to say, be long, hard, and problematic -- a hearts and minds marathon, a spiritual crusade to save the soul of a nation. Turn it back into something more like what the old rock-ribbed abolitionists fought for.

    To be continued. Next segment: "We gotta civilize 'em" -- goo-goo empiring, or the Aunt Polly missionary instinct as a temptation of the imperial serpent.

    Not enough... or too much?

    Listen to these thoughtful fellows at tompaine:
    Beinart does bring a positive contribution to the progressive debate on foreign policy by recalling the philosophy of Reinhold Niebuhr, the Protestant theologian whose worldview inspired the vanguard of the 1960s civil rights and social policy movements....
    Hold it. Reinhold Niebuhr "inspired" the civil rights movement? I'd love to hear what Stokeley, or Rosa, or Martin, or Medgar, or Malcolm, would have to say about that.
    Unlike the conservatives of the Reagan and Bush II eras, who promote the virtuousness of America, and thus its authority to act unilaterally to imprint its values on other countries, Niebuhr believed that it was America's doubt in its own virtue, and the restraint that such a lack of confidence instills, that in fact enhances America's legitimacy in the rest of the world...
    "Restraint"? "Doubt "? Not the barriers to intervention I'd want to rely on. Let's poll the world to see who that passage relieves of their "doubt" about Uncle.
    Beinart's book quotes President Hoover as saying, in the spirit of Niebuhr, "We all have to recognize-no matter how great our strength-that we must deny ourselves the license to do always as we please."
    We're really in the Twilight Zone now. Herbert Hoover, master of the food-aid-as-weapon, channeling the future thoughts of Cold War theologian Niebuhr? Think I just had a stack overflow. I'm going to lie down for a while.

    June 21, 2006

    The good old days

    Justin writes:
    As crestfallen as I feel when I see people like Coulter/Limbaugh/etc. saying things that should make them untouchable pariahs in a decent society, I feel ten times worse when I read/hear a "liberal" going on in these absurd constructs.

    E.G. Iraq is a disaster because the people in charge didn't do it right. They should have done it like Kosovo.


    Everything was great in the U.S. until Bush took office, we need to return to that.


    Our country's rich tradition of liberty, truth, and freedom for all has been unbelievably compromised by Bush and it is unprecedented and disastrous and I am going to explode in indignation. (Not counting Latin America, Vietnam, Cointelpro, civil rights, slavery, Indians, womens rights, etc.)

    Over and out.

    They're ALL war Democrats

    Nothing can exceed the New York Times at its best -- in this case a blatant chop job at fearless yuppie John "the Treetrunk" Kerry:
    Mr. Kerry has found his resolve. But it has not made his fellow Democrats any happier. They fear the latest evolution of Mr. Kerry's views on Iraq may now complicate their hopes of taking back a majority in Congress in 2006.
    God, can these donks caper and kick, among themselves, over what's too much or too little of a half measure.

    And the bottom line? It's bi-partisan from Bush to Feingold. They're all pointing toward a shared horizon, where uncle maintains a perpetual armed and ready local presence, effective enough to keep that oily, gassy, messy, area behaving decent enough for American and trans-nat interests to see a way through to central Asia.

    No one wants 140,000 US troops in Iraq for ever -- so one way or other, one time or other, a big hunk of our kids over there are indeed coming home.

    So what's the real beef here? Answer: there isn't any -- its a carnival of contending cads.

    Empire without an emperor?

    Gad-flyby of the day :

    In keeping with MJS's empire project -- or, how to build a flattened planet into a better profit mat -- do all empires, even corporate scalawag carpetbagger empires, need an emperor? If so, is a unitary presidency enough?

    Apres Joe, le deluge

    The Washington Post today quoted weary old DLC backstage canal pony Ruy Texeira:
    The old fight between the center and the left in our party has run its course ....

    Attention faux progs especially of the X-er and younger generations: here they come... your way. Get ready for the bear hug of a lifetime, kids, 'cause for the key party hackery its time to cut and run left -- nothing less will do -- its a matter of survival -- every man-jack and -jill of 'em for him or herself.

    It's the great beltway panic of '06 -- the party core is about to explode and its sober-sided main elements scatter like mad seals off a rock.

    But then watch -- like a school of fish these seals will all move in one direction: leftward ho, as they sense their 14-year-old Bermuda triangle ( formerly doing business as the vital party center ) start imploding.

    I bet my generation of gliberal drug-besotted yuppie merit swine will bolt their positions, even before we get to watch the now-swirling head of muppetissimo Joe nearly sucked totally under this fall.

    It'll be like Lyndon in New Hampshire '68 -- the last tango of an era. After that, they'll all begin swimming at you young folks, barking and flapping their flippers -- arf arf arf, right toward your rafts. The generational pendulum is swinging. the boomers are outsville. You iz the new queens of the ball, you guys and gals -- you far kosters, you zellmons of Alabama, you wonkettes of a hundred eyes -- u iz all gonna suddenly find your virtual pots filling with milk and honey.


    gluelicker writes:
    This is a great blog, welcome existential relief from metastasizing liberal delusions.

    Regarding the topic before us:

    Too many misleading simplifications on this vital subject to go unchecked here.

    Neo-liberal globalization predates the fall of the Berlin Wall (although the demise of really existing socialism injected it with some serious juice, ideologically and otherwise) but it postdates 1944’s Bretton Woods conference (which, in fact, was the mere ratification of international institutional designs already cooked up behind the scenes by the US Treasury Department and Lord Keynes, with the latter playing a decidedly subordinate role, given British war debts to Wall Street). It basically arrives on the scene in the 1970’s, when Keynesian welfare statism in the OECD world and national developmentalist models in the Global South could no longer deliver the goods, and in this context of stagnant growth – paired with the demise of fixed exchange rates and the boom in unregulated offshore banking – financial accumulation gained ascendance over productive investment (even this is a hopeless vulgarization).

    It is not exclusively a project to prolong US primacy (ruling classes everywhere, including places that don’t take orders from Washington DC, have latched on to it to greater or lesser degrees in order to buttress their own privileges), but it is also naive to claim that it doesn’t to some extent bear the US imperial imprint (e.g. IMF-World Bank demands for "transparent corporate governance" always seem to advantage business service firms and investment banks headquartered in lower Manhattan, for some inexplicable reason).

    To be sure, the dominant wings and policy elites in both parties embrace it – perhaps the so-called “liberal internationalists” of the Democratic Party most vigorously, Robert Rubin being the purest exemplar – but there are dissident blocs in both parties as well, namely the nativist paleocons on the "right" and the AFL-CIO protectionists on the "left" – neither of whom are exactly savory bedfellows, unfortunately.

    Two highly recommended sources of recent vintage on this question, both quite sophisticated yet eminently readable, are David Harvey's A Brief History of Neo-Liberalism and Neil Smith's The Endgame of Globalization.

    Anyway, I’ll stop here before my pedantry becomes even more grating.

    June 22, 2006


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

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

    The Good Cat-herd

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

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

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

    He who sups with the Devil...

    A propos empire projects and their smiley-side interventions:

    Top of the list: the late 40's Marshall Plan for a war-torn Western Europe. It worked miracles -- but there's no free lunch on the empire's menu. And there was no Marshall Plan without a price. The price was... NATO.

    So beware Uncle bearing soft loans -- there will always be an armed hedge in the fine print, for Trans-America Inc. to base its boundless trust and generosity on.

    Movement, schmovement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    June 23, 2006

    Day-dream on

    Bobw writes:
    ... Somewhere else on the blog, JS or MJS (one of the initial guys)caught my eye by saying we should insist that any democrat we might support sign a pledge of non-intervention. I quickly replied and called this a day-dream, since intervention is built into the imperial system, which is universal and bi-partisan.

    Following on JR's placement of the discussion in the context of labor, why not, instead of asking our representatives to please sponsor a less violent foreign policy, demand that they launch programs to protect American jobs and develop new ones. For starters, reverse all the tax credits that encourage businesses to locate overseas, and provide credits for those that create jobs at home.

    Has any democrat recently said anything like this? Not that I know of. Maybe we could trick John Edwards into moving in that direction!

    Kevin Phillips observes that American politics oscillates between periods of go-for-broke individualism and free markets, and reactions against the excesses of untrammeled capitalism. Unfortunately, the former far outnumber the latter in our history, there being only two periods where free-wheeling business was reigned in, and social needs were met -- the New Deal, and the earlier so-called Progressive Era.

    But maybe we are again at a point where the evils of free market capitalism are laid bare, and a movement can be built around jobs (and health) for the people, not profits for the rich. it would be fun to be part of such a movement, wouldnt it?

    A tale of two lobbies, Part I

    There once was a foreign lobby as infamous and as potent as the Israel lobby is now. It was the cold war China lobby.

    At its peak it didn't represent any part of China proper -- only a former Japanese colony off its coast, where the former Chinese regime still held sway. And yet, till 1970 or so -- about the time the Israel lobby really started hitting its stride -- this "China" lobby was the tyrant of all it surveyed on Capitol Hill -- until, that is, it got whipped like a poodle by one of its own former champions, name of Richard M. Nixon (we'll get back to that).

    The lobby originated way back, during the Sino-Japanese war of the late 30's, and continued uninterrupted through a subsequent nation-wide, regime-changing civil war, and both of our own East Asian misadventures (Korea and Vietnam). Throughout this entire interval the lobby's mission remained unchanged -- get Uncle Sam to unconditionally support the regime of clownissimo Chiang, in all ways possible, at all times, and despite any counteracting influences. In this it succeeded, and grandly, for over 30 years.

    Looking at its internal elements -- its roots here among us Americanos -- one might note that in addition to the usual corporate players, like arms merchants, bankers, and sundry foreign bullropers, the domestic arm of this "it girl" of the Cold War lobbies had a very significant missionary component. Goo-goos for Christ, and their trueheart pals like Pearl S. Buck, gathered about the China lobby, wanting to help the suffering benighted yellow masses, like pickpockets on new years eve.

    Well, as I've said, the rig was mighty successful until, pop! someone named Mao Tse-tung figured out the best way to end the cold war as we knew it, which led through a trail awinding to our prezdick flying straight through the front door to the People's Republic, and stabbing his old old friends in the lobby square in the back.


    There are no tails that can wag their dogs for ever. No one remains that useful as a fig leaf. But my story is far from over -- didn't a second Han tail soon grow out of Uncle's backside? This one too had a simple mission -- open the US up like a sardine can for a massive "co-prosperity" invasion.

    ... to be continued.

    They're stunned, STUNNED

    Alan Smithee writes:
    Ran across this piece of journalistic naifishness on a dem echo chamber site called Alternet and just had to share:

    Are the Dems committing fraud to keep a peace candidate off the ballot?

    To which I had to chortle - Is the Pope a bear? It goes on to detail the usual dem ballot shenanigans, the kind that went on all through 2004, as if this were some new and rare case of democrat party electoral skullduggery instead of business as usual. Amazing!

    June 24, 2006

    The none-of-the-above bloc

    ms_xeno writes:
    If I had ample time and resources to recruit potential voters and activists wherever I wanted to, I definitely wouldn't waste time in echo-chambers like Alternet. I am so bloody sick and tired of their colossal laziness, stupidity, bullying, guilt-mongering and above all-- their smug, implacable belief that their overlords own anybody who's ever voiced a progressive view or voted Dem. I'd go among non-voters before I'd waste time with these people. They need more deprogramming than any of us can provide, I fear. If you caught a non-voter before he or she started reading the tracts, you might have a chance. With pwogs, there ain't even that much to hope for...

    from CIO to SIO

    I've been alter-netting.

    I know, I know -- that's well above my throw weight -- but I needed some fresh air and inspiration, so off a recent Alan Smithee post, I went over there, and found this guy Holland, who looks to be maybe as ponderously sincere and harmlessly passive-aggressive as that chubby brother of Alvin the Chipmunk.

    Well, after a few twootles, don't I find him weighing in on the musical question, "is a union a special interest organization"?

    Before we come to grips with that conundrum, some background.

    The PAC was invented by the CIO for the '44 election cycle. How the eff a class organization gets to be a special interest organization -- an SIO -- is... well... let's just say, it's worthy of a culture that divides its households by income.

    The flying Hollander cites some union sycophant attacking our beloved Kos cadre, for not attending in record numbers the" working family" panel at Kos' recent Vegas powwow.

    The Kosnik response is to lump the unions with the gun and fun lobbies, as in this gem from myDD's Chris Bowers:

    The reason these issues [unions et al -- Ed.] are 'ignored' by the netroots is because the netroots does not organize around advocacy organizations design[ed] to influence public policy, but instead around lifestyles....

    This is an important difference between the political culture of the progressive netroots and the political culture of Washington, D.C."

    So here comes our little furry friend Holland ready to second that union emotion:
    That's nonsense; unions are engaged in a dozen workplace issues -- from the minimum wage to family leave...
    "Involved in workplace issues?" You like the rock and roll of that, John L.?
    .... immigration, the environment, job training, student loans, affordable housing, trade issues, Social Security and a host of policies related to corporate accountability. If that's a single issue, I'm my aunt Phyllis.
    Aunt Phyllis's nephew has a dudgeon on, don't he? But for reasons unstated he leaves it pretty well at that, beyond suggesting, as a side light, that maybe "business" and "unions" have a "natural... tension" betwixt 'em.

    That's the blast -- just a knowing precocious harrumph, so to speak, at the expense of this marvelous and quite pervasive junior merit-class purblindness to lower-order jobholder "issues."

    To be fair, he wraps up well:

    ... bottom line... there's never been an effective left without strong organized labor .... rolling back the 35-year assault on labor should be of the highest priority for all progressives....
    Bravo! Here's an acorn for that one, Holly -- but watch out below: he adds now in full pratfall that the pro-union roll back is
    ...second only... to addressing the pernicious role of campaign cash in American politics....
    Ahh, the nuclear option for special interest politics -- do that and then the rest is history.... even the unions.

    As the Kosniks say: "zzzzzzzzzzz."

    Big news?

    Hey gang, somebody tell me why should give a  shit about Bernie Sanders  ascending to Pat's  Senate seat.

    June 26, 2006

    Children's crusade

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

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

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

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

    Democrats exhume "broadcast flag"

    It's baaack, and badder than ever, thanks inter alia to your your friendly Senate Democrats.

    I refer to the iniquitous "broadcast flag," discussed briefly here last October. The "broadcast flag" is a copy-protection scheme, and if nice Democrats like Boxer and Inouye, and nice Republicans like Stevens and Smith, have their bipartisan way, it will be illegal for any device you may own or build, or any software you may download or write, to ignore it.

    Nobody ever expected the Spanish Inquisition, either (shown above).

    Class struggle, Nerf ball division

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

    Numero uno:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    June 27, 2006

    Ralph and the two cultures

    Just read a post at Counterpunch by Ralph N -- it was oddly loose, so I'm not sure I got his point.

    It was a comparison of two cultures -- liberal and conservative -- and despite its apparently slapdash scurry two passages caused me to reach a conclusion of my own. The first, about activities dominated by the liberal hemisphere:

    ... more passive, spectator, celluloid or "cool" internet occasions. And after a while a chronically humorous way of looking at politics becomes a distraction, even though it may be a style that avoids commercial media censorship.
    But then his second passage says:
    Politics, even in an age of electronic supremacy, is still strongly moved by the person-to-person, conversational, affinity, communal groupings in our society.
    I.e., the liberals organize all wrong. Get out into the streets, storm the glass towers occupy the plants, shut down the high schools! Action, action, action!

    Missionary positions

    Not all fan clubs of foreign places and peoples are cultivated to produce future scapegoats and alibis. Some are quite nice and smileful propositions dedicated to warming hearts and softening minds.

    Case in point: the long long road taken by the old China lobby was clearly lengthened and widened by a venerable component of most local empire projects -- a component I like to call the sub-missionary component.

    Foreign missions of this sort are varied indeed, at least as to intent, but their intent has one common thread -- they are always strung on an altruistic sunbeam, and for that reason, they allow the lobby, through them, to importune without appeals to self interest -- not even spread-eaglery, not even partiotism.

    Nope, rather their appeal is to unrivalled goods like God, and the collective soul of humanity. (Need I say, guys like Jesus play a mean lead trumpet?)

    Nowadays, of course, we have secularists in this just-for-the-goodliness civilizing business. In fact the third world is filthy with 'em -- but still, the Christian godly are the biggest section of the goodly, and prior to, say, the new-frontier days of the Camelot 60's, the uplift of the backward races was almost entirely the work of Christ's little travelling witnesses.

    Throughout our history -- and here's my point -- these googoos for the man from Nazereth were easily mobilized to do the occasional multi-tasking asked of them by larger, if baser forces -- i.e. cross border long range "private gain," whether reformed or papist.

    The story of Uncle Sam is the same throughout east and southeast Asia. In fact, history is checkered to the point of dazzlement with all these scurrying yankee God squadrons.

    And at those terrible times when an armed impasse arose -- a time when uncle's citizens' wares and rights were under siege or threat of seizure -- these fellow countrypersons that were there as folks of the lord could be counted on to add their voices to the outcry: "Uncle, help, help! Otherwise, millions our our little brothers' souls may be lost for all eternity."

    Makes for a nice humane choral group at a congressperson's door or in a singing telegram, especially when that congressperson is being asked to vote to send thousands of jarheads, or grunts, or both, to shoot their way into (or back into) some place over there across the Pacific -- somewhere where Uncle's marines and paratroopers are not entirely welcome.

    Geese and ganders

    Now that Vile Joe sez he'll run as an indy if he loses to "our Ned" in the Demo primary -- is our Ned also planning to run as an indy if he loses in the primary? Millionaire that he is, surely he could carry the fight all the way to November.

    I hope he's already answered this question in the affirmative, and I've just missed it.

    Always look on the bright side of life

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

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

    It gets better:

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

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

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

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

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

    June 28, 2006

    Ms Boxer on your lap

    The Senate Commerce Committee just gave its blessing to the broadcast flag for TV and radio, without a recorded vote -- a sure sign of profound bipartisan consensus. No wonder, of course, since the RIAA and the MPAA have plenty of money to spread around.

    Dems in power: A case study

    Doug Henwood writes, on lbo-talk:
    Someone who knows told me this story the other day...

    The New York State Assembly has long been controlled by Democrats,   and the Senate by Republicans. A few years ago, a pretty good   "progressive" Dem Senator, Eric Schneiderman, was running the Senate   campaign, and wanted to take control of the house. The Dem leadership   didn't like his aggressiveness, and essentially deposed him. So now,   with the Dems almost certain to win the governorship, in the person   of Elliot Spitzer, taking control of the Senate would mean total   party control of the state government. But Spitzer doesn't want the   party to take the Senate, and they're making no special effort to do   so. Why? Apparently Spitzer is afraid that a Dem-controlled   legislature would overspend, and reduce the governor's power. [Ex-Governor Mario] Cuomo,   that great liberal icon, felt the same way.

    What a party, eh?

    It's probably safe to say that New York, as Blue a state as ever watched its industrial base rust, shows fairly clearly how the Democratic Party operates when it gains any considerable degree of power. So all you munchkins out there hoping for great things after Rahm reclaims the House this November -- well, as Fafner says, Acht' auf mich -- be warned by our experience.

    The boys of October

    Here's a headline for this fall -- expect it on or about October 28th:
    Redeployment is at hand
    How nice it would be to hear that variation on Super-K in '72 coming out of Rumsfeld's lipless mouth -- or better still, thru the piano-key teeth of her eminence Madame Sec.

    Bottom line : now tell me who's incompetent, bub? It would be a total el squelcho for any donk dreams that the voters would go into the booths with the thought "the Democrats are the last best hope to win the peace over there."

    So what's needed to get there from here? Really, nothing -- just the proper box and wrapper. To wit: some slideable withdrawal schedules for our boys and girls, that leaves a sufficient notion of a concept of a predicate that some form, or way, or shape, of a residual presence will be "requested" by the native state office holders.

    This kind of "deal" could be made to fit almost any size reality. But oh yeah -- there's one hitch: what if there were a request to "leave ... now that we the Iraqi people thru our democratically appointed government can take it from here"? Well, that would be safely in the post-November future -- recall that the Christmas bombing of Hanoi and the subsequent summer carpet roll of Cambodia all lay ahead in the dim unforeseen, when Super K told us peace was at hand in October.

    That "hand" proved to have a large palm, and long fingers.

    Here's the two-party Orthrian system

    Here's the two-party Orthrian system scaled down to one dimension:

    Pretend all there is to public life is transportation. And we got two parties: a mass transit rail party vs. a personal transit highway party. The mass transit rail party has the rails already, but the personal transit highway party wants more highways. So -- what else -- the highway party figures out how to "capture" the rail party core and switch the mass transit platform to a me-too strategy of non rail mass transit. So bam! -- the highways get built bi-partisanically, and the future -- always self-fulfilling, when rigged like this -- turns out to be pro-highway! Sprawl begets more sprawl, calling for more highway and leading to -- more sprawl!

    And after making a hideous mess out of mass transit -- 'cause cities and masses run better on rails, and sprwal is hard to massify effectively -- the push and pull of it all ends up working like Astaire and Rogers to get us light-footedly to here and now -- where we the commuters, spending ever too many more of our free waking hours listening to the traffic report, suddenly realize "This isn't the future we really wanted. Not at all."

    June 29, 2006

    If I can't sell it, gonna keep sittin' on it

    Sparetime bloggers move over -- time to field a few full-timers. But it'll cost ya.

    That's the pitch from one champ, Steve Gilliard, who's trying to boost the personal IPO float of anotha supa blogga, the Booman. Thus Gilliard:

    Actually, I don't think that a brokerage would fund this [Booman's site -- Ed.] like Salon was, but something has to give. I mean, it's great Clinton hired Peter Daou, but there are people who want to report and not work for pols and they need options as well.

    We can build our own media, but we have to build it.

    Seems this blatant huckstering caused the Kosniki readers to blew a few dozen fuses, so he responded:
    Folks, this is a discussion where most of you don't know what you're talking about.
    Nice, eh? Should have stopped there and cut his squalid deal with the man any damn way he needed to. But oh no, he needs acceptance, so he goes on:
    Booman wants to make a living so he can give YOU a better product...[to] buy books and pay for services like Times Select, so you don't have to....

    ... y'all need to get over the idea that this can be done for free... it takes time to actually research topics, go places and the like....

    If you want punditry forever, this is a perfect system. But if you want real reporting, from trained people, it isn't going to be cheap and you need to realize that now....

    You want the benefits of blogging, but act like it's some kind of sin to actually invest time and money in it....

    How many of you work this hard at anything, including a blog? Why should he have to take a vow of poverty to keep you informed, because you can't make extra money when you have a blog to keep up, no side jobs and blogging. You can't exactly work, blog and freelance.

    I'm passing this along by way of self-justification. I've been offered a job by the Al Franken campaign, to supply online fast-response satire, to goose up his race for the thousand-lakes Senate seat.

    Now I understand I'm no better than second choice here -- I've been informed by the men themselves that both Alan Smithee and J. Alva Scruggs have already turned the job down. But they can afford to -- they're both independently funny.

    Now I'm prepared to recieve counter-offers from you all, to stay the course here and help father Smiff, that veritable Franciscan of the fourth estate, but here's the bottom line: you'll need to kick in.

    I'm not trying to short-fuse you on this, but I've already accepted the job offer. In fact Al has sent me a mock-up crack to rejoin for him, so I sent, on spec, free of charge, this completely orginal all-purpose comeback: "You wouldn't dare say that if my writers were here." (I know, I know, it's not up to J Alva's standard, or Alan's, but hell, it's a big step up for Franken.)

    Anyway, you need to act now, if I'm to change my mind, 'cause it needs to happen by 12 midnight Friday, or i'll look like a grey rat to Al.

    So start sending in the green guys -- but only if you care enough. I'll understand, even if some of you I've made laugh and cry and dance a thousand times or more, still don't mind seeing this rare source of joy in the darkest hours harnessed to the Franken sleigh.

    About June 2006

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

    May 2006 is the previous archive.

    July 2006 is the next archive.

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