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Monday, July 26, 2004

Lordly Derision

Just a quick note to link you to the most cynical blogging of the convention so far, from my dear friend Lord Saleton of Slate.

It is so awfully boring having to sit through these tedious speeches by the shrill and the mendacious and the inauthentic Democrats. I'm so glad I'm an independent so that I don't have to be associated with the soiled riff-raff who actually have to win elections and govern in this country. I remain so grandly pure.

This is so helpful.

Luckily, so far the press seems to have bought the unity theme --- they are always 2 steps behind the zeitgeist. But, those who have their fingers clutching the pulse know that there is a serious internal fight a-brewing (at exactly the wrong historical moment, IMO.)

But, blabbing this stuff to the Dean of CW on the first night of the convention is criminally disloyal as far as I'm concerned. With friends like these...


I have a public service idea for the convention bloggers. When you are talking to reporters, why don't you all mention that they should read The Daily Howler?

Sommerby does the absolute best press criticism in the blogosphere and if the press who are interviewing you want to know how bloggers see the press, his site is a good place to start.

Just a suggestion from a boring, partyless couch-blogger.

Man Of Many Talents

Fine blogger and musician, Brew, has a CD called "Get Out of Iraq" that you can buy there at the convention or online at Simplefears.com

Go to the link for a sample. It's a good tune.

Send Me

Gotta love Clinton. He just has that Mojo.

I can't remember what the event was, but I remember hearing him do that "send me" riff before and I think it's very powerful. It's a biblical reference that resonates with those who respond to that, but it's also poetic and inspiring to the secular. It's the kind of language that Amy Sullivan and others are alwasy talking about --- not explicitly religious, but resonent to the religious.

He has that very rare gift of being able to discuss complex issues in simple ways without being condescending. (Edwards has that ability, too.) He drew the contrast between the parties in ways that people who don't follow politics and feel uncomfortable with the emotion involved can wrap their arms around.

It was a good night, I think. Everybody up there were Democratic stars and since this is essentially a televised pageant, political star power is a potent plus for us. Since St. Ronnie the GOP has been reduced to flogging cartoon characters like Schwarzenegger, but they don't have real political superstars. Our politicans are actually much more fun to watch.

Calling All Blogs

Jeff Greenfield is flogging the idea that that stupid picture of Kerry on Drudge is exploding all over the blogosphere and is comparable to the famous Dukakis in a tank pic.

I think it's time to drag out this one again:

Crusader Codpiece looks very impressive here, don't you think?

Oh, and by the way, he fell off his bike again today.

Blog Conventions

I'm giving out my first day of the convention blogging award to---- a non-blogger. I'm sorry guys, but as interesting as the inside baseball stuff about Verizon and logistics and celebrity sightings is (and it is) the blogging award of Day One goes to Harold Meyerson at the convention blog on American Prospect Online for actually reporting things I hadn't heard anywhere else:

AFL-CIO CAUCUS, SUNDAY, 3:20 P.M.: Labor unveiled one major tactical twist at its delegate caucus on Sunday afternoon. AFSCME President Jerry McEntee, who has chaired the AFL-CIO’s political committee since the Van Buren administration, announced that on the afternoon and evening of George W. Bush’s speech to the Republican convention -- Thursday, September 2 -- union activists will knock on the doors of one million union households in the 16 battleground states.

I like it.

Harman told me that Democrats think it’s possible that Bush may spring into action on the intelligence reform front as soon as Friday, possibly calling Congress back into session to deal with the 9-11 Commission’s recommendations. (Of course, this would also have the effect of shifting attention away from the Kerry-Edwards ticket that will be nominated on Thursday.) The Democrats have no intention of having this issue taken away from them, however. Harman said that tomorrow morning at 8:00 A.M., House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will convene a Democratic House Caucus meeting here in Boston, which Harman will address, to make sure the Democrats have the fullest possible proposal on the table before Bush acts.

I'm sure you are all aware that the day after the convention is like the afterglow day. The campaign found its big release the night before and smoked its metaphorical cigarette and everybody's in love. For Bush to burst through the bedroom door is pretty darned uncivil but predictable. The Dems are all together and they should be able to formulate a counter strategy.

This is interesting stuff.


Message Strategery

Salon has an interesting article up about a fiery meeting earlier today at the Veteran's Caucus where Wes Clark, James Carville and Max Cleland supposedly went off the reservation and got the vets all riled up. (This happened after an earlier caucus meeting where Sharpton allegedly went off the reservation and got the Black Caucus all riled up.)

"There's another party out there, and they would have you believe that they're the best qualified to keep America safe and secure," Clark said. "I'm here to say it's not so."

In a building riff that brought veterans to their feet, Clark said: "That flag is our flag. We served under that flag. We got up and stood reveille formation, we stood taps, we fought under that flag. We've seen men die for that flag, and we've seen men buried under that flag. No Dick Cheney or John Ashcroft or Tom DeLay is going to take that flag away from us."

Clark's fiery performance knocked the GOP-style stuffing out of the veterans' event, turning it into a Bush-bashing barnburner. By the time Carville reclaimed the stage he was in full sputtering ragin' Cajun mode. "I know the Kerry people back there are having a heart attack," Carville said. "They're saying, 'There goes Carville, the mad dog, the pit bull.'"

Uh huh.

It seems to me that the Kerry campaign's public face of cheery optimism barely holding back the furious grassroots is a pretty good strategy. Everybody keeps parroting the party line like "positive" and "upbeat" when they're talking to the celebcorps while even speakers like Jimmy Carter(?) allude to Bush's national guard service and lying. You end up wondering what they'd be saying if Kerry hadn't "given the word" to be disciplined. He shows leadership and the Democrats look like they're ready for a fight. The Republicans are frustrated because they want the Democrats to make the mistake they made in 1992 and go over the top.

It's as if the Party has Jack Nicholson's smile.

I Already Need A Drink

Is there anything more thrilling than watching the likes of Anderson "Pretty Boy" Cooper spew stale, outdated uninformed conventional wisdom all over national television? I've watched a lot of conventions but the coverage of this one is shaping up to be the most condescending and unelightening ever. They might as well have sent Ashley and MaryKate. (Actually, have you seen either one of them in the same room as Anderson Cooper?)

May I recommend a trip over to C-Span? The speeches are boring, but at least they are sincere. (Fox News team just got a hearty boo from the crowd.)You get to see lots of shots of the delegates instead of the absurd celebcorps who haven't even the slightest interest in anything but trivia. And the films are actually quite good.

As Professor DeLong plaintively cries, "Why, oh why can't we have a better press corp?"

Conventional Wisdom

I gather that Theresa Heinz-Kerry was rude to a reporter for a right wing rag that has been smearing her all over Pennsylvania for the last year and that there are a lot of totally, like, cool parties that people want to go to but can't get in to but maybe they'll get into if they meet the right cool person who can get them in. And it was fine for all the media celebs to go to a ballgame but it was a total disaster for Kerry to do so. All of this is a sign of Democratic haplessness.

Meanwhile, the "drama" of the first night  is whether any of the speakers will deviate from what are alleged to be Kerry's direct orders not to "trash" Bush. It's ex-president's (and shouldhavebeen president) night and you never know what those crazy left wing kooks are going to do.  Will Carter tell Bush to go fuck himself?  Will Al Gore tell the GOP to shove it? Will Bill call Junior and Dick major league assholes? Who knows? But it's so exciting watching the media speculate about it. Because if the Democrats  do deviate from Kerry's direct orders,  you know what that means.  The Democrats are in ... disarray. Which means that the mediawhores can just read from all the scripts of Democratic conventions from the last 40 years and concentrate on those fantastic parties.

One little observation: if you get into those allegedly cool parties they are usually populated by people you criticize harshly on a daily basis. Perhaps once you meet them, though, you won't want to trash them on a daily basis because they were, like, so totally cool at that party you got into. That's the dynamic of Washington socializing and it leads to ... Richard Cohen. Frankly, the only blog report of parties I' m truly interested in are Wonkette's.  She is, after all,  a professional.

If somebody wants to take a different tack they might think about trying to get into some uncool parties --- like where the delegates from Ohio go. They aren't very glamorous, but they are the blogworld's much beloved grassroots of the Democratic party. Maybe they would have an interesting, non-blogging, non-media, non-celebrity take on this crazy democracy thing.


Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Brass Knuckles

Check out Terry McAuliffe's new brainchild: Where Was Bush?

The right-wing attack machine doesn't want you asking questions about Bush's record, and they're doing everything they can to change the subject. Here are five facts to keep in mind when facing their attacks.

Questioning Bush's Record Does Not Denigrate Guard
Bush Received Special Treatment in National Guard
Bush's Whereabouts Unclear During 1972-1973
Bush Should Have Done More During 1972-1973
Bush Has Yet to Explain Missing Records

There's a lot more, plus a handy e-mail tool to send this information to everyone you know.

Anatomy Of A Smear

Dave at Seeing The Forest deconstructs the multi-pronged GOP campaign to smear Clinton for 9/11 and let Bush off the hook. As he says:

Republicans fight back with smears to discredit their accusers. They constructed a 3-part discrediting action that phased in, coming to a conclusion just before the commission releases its report.

For those of you who didn't follow the previous Clinton smears in detail, this is a classic GOP operation. We have the merging stories of Gorelick, Wilson and Berger --- a combination of character assasination, misrepresentation and the exploitation of unrelated credibility issues to form the basis of a counterfactual narrative that is much more juicy than the real thing. A dark conspiracy is set forth in the right wing press, then filters into the mainstream and tittilates the mediawhores with its more exciting version of events. Scoops are given to favored reporters and new facts dished out judiciously to keep the story going long beyond its natural life.

Read Dave's post for the details. This is how its done.

Update: The incomparable Howler has more on this story. I realize that it's long past time we asked just who in the hell is Kelli Arena and why is she always in the middle of these GOP psuedo-scandal pageants? Does anyone out there know who her special friend in the White House is?

Monday, July 19, 2004

King Of The Scumbags

I wrote sometime back about David Bossie over on the American Street. He's always been one of the more shocking examples of Republican depravity and corruption, and not incidentally, a mediawhore favorite. Eric Boehlert has a bravura takedown of this little miscreant in today's Salon.

Boehlert asks why Bossie is taken seriously in the press. It's an excellent question, but it is silly to actually ask such a thing. Bossie has been doing this stuff for more than a decade and the media have never given a shit that he is a proven liar over and over again. And that's because they never pay a price for sucking up his very juicy dictation:

For David Bossie, professional Clinton-era agitator and renowned Republican dirty trickster, these must seem like the good old days. During the 1990s Bossie, as a grass-roots activist and congressional staffer, was often at the epicenter of churning out stories about President Clinton, deftly feeding the press and Capitol Hill investigators outlandish -- and usually unsubstantiated -- assertions about White House wrongdoing


Bossie's style during the investigation was to lob scattershot allegations toward an appreciative press corps that rarely seemed upset when the charges he gave them to amplify -- that Whitewater was a criminal enterprise, for instance -- failed to pan out as factual. As Democratic strategist James Carville once put it, "He made collective fools out of about 80 percent of the national press corps." But none of this appears to have marred Bossie's reputation with reporters, even when then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich -- no stranger to hardball partisan politics -- reportedly ordered Bossie fired from his congressional staff position in May 1998. Bossie had overseen the bungled release of supposedly incriminating recordings of Whitewater figure Webster Hubbell's jailhouse phone conversations with Hillary Rodham Clinton -- recordings that had been edited, deleting obvious exculpatory remarks.

Now some critics wonder how a political prankster like Bossie has managed to maintain respectability in Washington, particularly among the press. A Nexis search retrieves more than 100 press references to Bossie this year, with MSNBC proving to be especially accommodating toward him. "Pat Moynihan had that wonderful phrase about defining deviancy downward. Now we're defining credibility downward if we take David Bossie seriously," says former Clinton aide Paul Begala. "There are a lot of credible critics of Democrats. David Bossie is not one of them."


The press has also been hesitant to discuss, or dissect, Bossie's current role. For instance, during the controversy surrounding the release of "Fahrenheit 9/11," many news outlets, including the New York Times in a June 27 article, simply identified Bossie as the president of Citizens United. But the Times is well acquainted with Bossie's modus operandi; he has boasted about feeding information to its reporters, especially Jeff Gerth, every step of the way in their ill-advised, and since discredited, Whitewater investigation. "We have worked closer [on Whitewater] with the New York Times than the Washington Times," Bossie's colleague Brown once bragged to the Columbia Journalism Review.

And as the Washington Times noted, Bossie made a deal to leak the Senate Whitewater Committee's final report to the New York Times. Yet years later, when Bossie reemerges in the news as a critic of "Fahrenheit 9/11," to unsuspecting Times readers he's described simply as another grass-roots Republican activist.

"At the very least, you'd expect viewers and readers to learn Bossie was fired for doctoring tapes," says David Brock, the president and CEO of Media Matters for America, a liberal online research and monitoring organization. "That doesn't seem like the type of person whose words are worth much."

"As a principle I'd agree readers ought to know where particular sources are coming from," says Newsweek's Michael Isikoff, who has dealt with Bossie for many years. "On the other hand, I don't think David Bossie makes any secret about what his agenda is and where he's coming from."

In the past, reporters who fed off Bossie's wayward leaks were reluctant to shed light on his ability to engineer stories behind the scenes. In the early 1990s, the press printed and broadcast verbatim the Whitewater allegations being leveled by Citizens United and its ready-made press packets. Yet reporters rarely made public the source of their Whitewater leads. As the Columbia Journalism Review noted at the time, the press "has shamelessly taken the hand-outs dished up by a highly partisan organization without identifying the group as the source of their information."


Bossie has generated unusual loyalty from some in the press corps. "Dave Bossie has never lied to me, and the Clinton White House has lied to me," ABC News producer Chris Vlasto notoriously told the Washington Post in one of its several Bossie profiles in the 1990s. Vlasto, who did not return a call for comment, made that statement in 1997, five years after the accusations about Whitewater were first raised and two years after the Clintons were exonerated by the Resolution Trust Corp., whose conclusions were confirmed by every subsequent official investigation. "On this record," the RTC reported, "there is no basis to charge the Clintons with any kind of primary liability for fraud or intentional misconduct ... It is recommended no further resources need be expended on the Whitewater part of this investigation." Yet those reporters who subsisted on Bossie's handouts, including some at the New York Times, the Washington Post and ABC News, did not report the RTC's vindication of the Clintons. ABC's Vlasto, who had invested mightily in the Whitewater story, insisted, "If it comes down to a question of whom do you believe, I'd believe Bossie any day."


In February 1996, Citizens United mailed out a fundraising letter bragging that it had "dispatched its top investigator, David Bossie, to Capitol Hill to assist Senator Lauch Faircloth in the official US Senate hearings on Whitewater." Another mailing reported that Bossie was "on the inside directing the probe." Democrats subsequently cried foul that a federal employee was actively raising money for a partisan group, so D'Amato forced Bossie to submit an affidavit proclaiming his independence from Citizens United.

In November 1996, Bossie improperly leaked the confidential phone logs of former Commerce Department official John Huang to the press. And he did that by deceiving other GOP congressional aides, according to an account published in Roll Call, which quoted one Republican aide comparing Bossie's deceptive presence to "Ollie North running around the House."

In July 1997, James Rowley III, the chief counsel to the House Government Reform Committee, which was investigating allegations of campaign finance wrongdoing by the Clinton administration, resigned his position after committee chairman Burton refused to fire Bossie. In his one-page resignation letter, Rowley, a former federal prosecutor employed by Republicans, accused Bossie of "unrelenting" self-promotion in the press, which made it impossible "to implement the standards of professional conduct I have been accustomed to at the United States Attorney's Office." (Bossie's habit of self-promotion paid off; during one four-week stretch in early 1994, Bossie and Brown were profiled by the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times and the Washington Post, each marveling at the power the activists were wielding.)

The breaking point came in May 1998, when Bossie, then 32, oversaw the release of the doctored Hubbell tapes. As Roll Call reported at the time, "At Bossie's request, Burton sat on the tapes for nearly a year until word started to leak that Hubbell might be indicted by [Kenneth] Starr for tax evasion. Bossie, who supervised the tapes along with investigator Barbara Comstock, oversaw the editing of Hubbell's prison conversation[s] and decided to release them the day before Hubbell was indicted." According to Roll Call, Bossie enjoyed unusually close working relations with Starr investigators.

The tapes were edited for "privacy" considerations, according to Bossie. But they were also edited to completely omit key exculpatory passages, including one in which Hubbell exonerated Hillary Clinton of wrongdoing. Gingrich ordered a reluctant Burton to fire Bossie.

Yet, in 1999, Bossie was given the Ronald Reagan Award by the Conservative Political Action Conference for his "outstanding achievements and selfless contributions to the conservative movement." And it wasn't just the conservative base that continued to embrace Bossie after the Hubbell tape disgrace; so did many in the Washington press corps.


when the Enron scandal broke, Bossie appeared on Fox News and repeated GOP talking points that both political parties deserved blame because, after all, Enron's former CEO, Kenneth Lay, slept in the Lincoln bedroom once while Clinton was in office. But that in fact never happened. Also that year, Bossie appeared on TNN'S late-night show, "Conspiracy Zone With Kevin Nealon," where he dissected, yet again, the supposed mysteries surrounding the suicide of Clinton aide Foster. Also that year, Bossie guaranteed that Sen. Hillary Clinton would run for president in 2004.

In early 2003, Bossie's group released a pro-Iraq War commercial starring former Tennessee senator and "Law and Order" actor Fred Thompson -- to "combat the left-wing propaganda" Bossie asserted was coming from Hollywood. Bossie also made TV appearances to rail against France for its Iraq stance and call for an American boycott of French products.

This spring Bossie returned to his roots, producing an anti-Kerry ad that used recent "priceless" MasterCard ads to parody "another rich liberal elitist from Massachusetts." (According to Bossie, the ad's light touch was meant to stand in contrast to the left's "hate-filled speech and vitriol" aimed at Bush.) The spot, actually seen by very few TV viewers, produced a nice publicity bump for Bossie as the same network of reporters and pundits he'd cultivated for years with tips and leaks welcomed him into the unfolding campaign coverage. MSNBC's Chris Matthews announced on "Hardball": "Let me go to David Bossie. That ad is great, by the way."

I especially like Michael Isikoff saying that everybody knows Bossie has an agenda as if a) "everybody" is a Washington insider and b) having an agenda is no different from being a lying sack of shit who worked as hard as he could to harrass a legally elected president out of office with the willing help of a criminally irresponsible press corps.

But then, that's why we call them mediawhores.


I get all these e-mail press releases from the Kerry campaign every day and they are quite amazing. Here's one from earlier today:


(1) PUT RIGHT-WING IDEOLOGY FIRST: We recognize that we need to cater to our right wing base rather than pesky moderates like Nancy Reagan and Orrin Hatch. Therefore will put ideology over science and deny all credible scientific evidence that stem cell research will save lives and that global warming exists.

(2) DENY A WOMEN?S RIGHT TO CHOOSE: We will continue, at all costs, to ensure that women are denied their Constitutional right to choose. We will appoint judges who will work to rollback that right and we will fight for legislation that infringes on this right.

(3) REWARD OUR WEALTHY CONTRIBUTORS: We will continue to pass tax cuts that benefit the wealthiest Americans who fund our campaigns and get us elected.

(4) NEW BUSINESS FOR OUR FRIENDS WITH NEW NO BID CONTRACTS: We will provide no-bid contracts to our closest friends to ensure they will receive the largest contracts possible. Also, we will relaunch our secret energy taskforce so we can add more loopholes for big oil.

(5) ADD $10 TRILLION IN DEFICITS: In the past four years, this Administration has successfully taken the country from a $5.6 trillion surplus to a $5 trillion deficit ? a $10 trillion loss of revenue. We want to take the next step by adding an additional $10 trillion to the deficits, leaving the burden on the next generation.

(6) HARM OUR ENVIRONMENT: We will rollback generations of environmental regulations that protect our air, land and water. We will poison our water with arsenic and mercury; we will allow drilling in our most pristine natural wilderness; and we will make sure taxpayers pay to clean up our toxic waste sites.

(7) CUT AID TO CHILDREN AND DECIMATE PROGRAMS FOR SENIORS: We will cut domestic programs that provide health care, early education and nutrition programs and after-school services to thousands of American children. We will continue to fail to live up to our commitment to fund our education mandate by $27 billion. We will also pass our $2 trillion plan to privatize Social Security.

(8) BREAK OUR COMMITMENT TO VETERANS: We will once again promise veterans will be provided for under a Republican administration. We will then fail to provide the funding veterans need for health care, cut 500,000 veterans from the system entirely and close veterans’ hospitals across the country.

(9) RUSH TO WAR IN IRAQ: We are proud that we stubbornly rushed to war in Iraq without our allies, sent our troops into combat without proper equipment, over-stretched our military, and failed to plan for the peace.

(10) LET AL QAEDA OFF THE HOOK: We will continue to divert our attention and resources from Afghanistan, break our promises to rebuild that nation. We let Bin Laden escape from Tora Bora to continue planning attacks against the U.S. from his hideout reportedly in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region.

(11) LEAVE AMERICA VULNERABLE: We will under-invest in port, chemical and nuclear security, claiming the war in Iraq protects us here at home, and hope no one notices Ridge’s and Ashcroft’s warnings of an imminent attack on the homeland in the coming months.


I guess the gloves are off.

To GOP, He's Dishonoring His Father

Politically, the booking is a triumph for the Democratic ticket of Sens. John F. Kerry and John Edwards, which promptly trumpeted its ability to attract 'individuals from all political backgrounds.' Affronted Republicans moved to discredit the famously renegade son, who often disagreed with his family's politics and is an outspoken critic of President Bush.

'I think his speech is a cute little story for convention coverage, but I don't think it's the sort of thing that will influence any voters,' said Gary Bauer, a conservative activist and domestic policy advisor to President Reagan.

Summing up a sentiment widely held among conservative groups, Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America called the planned public appearance 'sad.'"


Although Michael Reagan has consented to appear at the GOP convention, Ron Reagan's scheduled speech at the Democratic gathering is galling to many Republicans.

"Ron Jr. has either allowed himself to be used or he's knowingly partaking in something whose purpose is to damage the party his father spent all of his adult political life in," Bauer said.

Not quoted in the article was noted GOP strategist Richard Cohen who just last week declared Reagan a "grave robber," a statement even Bauer rejected as insensitive. Bauer nonetheless complimented Cohen for his dedication to journalistic objectivity and invited him to the very exclusive Hannity and Colmes after party at Hue during the GOP convention.


I know that many people believe that Kerry has not sufficiently come out swinging against Bush for his lies and distortions. It is said that if he would only look the American people in the eye and tell it like it is, he would win in a landslide. Like those before him he has simply refused to fight back.

Well, he has a new ad out and people should be relieved that he's finally taking the fight to the Republicans. Here's the transcript.

(Open on TV set showing Bush negative ad, camera pulls back)

"I'm fed up with it. I've never seen anything like it in 25 years of public life, George Bush's negative TV ads. Distorting my record, full of lies and he knows it.

I'm on the record for the very weapons systems his ads say I'm against. I want to build a strong defense, I'm sure he wants to build a strong defense so this isn't about defense issues. It's about dragging the truth into the gutter. And I'm not going to let them do it. This campaign is too important the stakes are too high for every American family. The real question is will we have a president who fights for the privileged few or will we have a president who fights for you.

George Bush wants to give the wealthiest 1% of the people in this country a new tax break worth 30 thousand dollars a year. I'm fighting for you and your family, for affordable housing and health care for better jobs for the best education and opportunity for our children.

Its a tough fight. I know that. Up hill all the all the way. But I'm going to keep on fighting because what I'm fighting for is our future."

You can see the ad here.

Plus Ca Change, Plus C'est La Meme Chose

Sunday, July 18, 2004


I just love this controversy over on World O'Crap about the scaredy cat little stewardi and their trembling passengers all excited by a bunch of "middle eastern" musicians talking to each other, not smiling and going to the bathrooms on an airplane. (Why did you know there is no law that mandates middle easterners should be required to eat with their hands?)

Personally, I think somebody needs to report these complainers to the TSA and get them on a no-fly list ASAP. They might be nice blond Murikans who could never harm a flea, but from the description they sound to me as if they could easily be Tim Mcveigh types who would be very happy to take down and airliner and blame it on the Syrian mandolin players. I don't feel comfortable allowing people like that to eat their food with utensils or be allowed to whisper to one another privately on an airplane.

Someone should have the FBI look into this. Evil only prevails when good men do nothing. Just as the writer of this tale in the Women's WSJ (what --- is the regular one too, like, totally boring?) believes that her feelings are what should guide the actions of the police in matters of terrorism, I think mine should too. Paranoid white conservatives scare the shit out of me. I don't want them on my airplane. After all, just as terrorists can learn to play instruments as a ruse, a home grown American terrorist can easily get hired on at Women's WSJ to write silly, unbelievable essays. In fact, it's the perfect cover.

Kevin at Catch has more on the chilling middle eastern flautists and Julia comments as only Julia can.

Dirty Texans

Via Talk Left:

Obscenity charges will be dropped against a Burleson woman arrested last fall for selling sex toys to undercover police officers, her attorney said Saturday.


Pat Davis, president of Passion Parties Inc., the company that supplies Mrs. Webb with her erotic merchandise, said the decision to drop the case is overdue.


Mrs. Webb was arrested in October after selling erotic toys to a pair of undercover police officers. The state's obscenity code forbids the sale of devices designed to stimulate the genitals, although some stores avoid prosecution by promoting the products as novelties.

I hear they're going to outlaw hands and lips next session. Lord knows what people might do with those things.

Job One

In a powerful post, Brad DeLong brings up a point that I think needs to be said about current politics in the Democratic Party by simply juxtaposing Barbara Ehrenreich's essays in support of Nader in 2000 and her repudiation of him in 2004.

Ehrenreich's pro-Nader argument (or rather her anti-Democrat argument) from 2000 is truly puerile --- but typical. I respect her for many things, but modern partisan politics is obviously not a field that she understands in the least. Her primary concern in the year 2000 was the perfidy of the centrist Democrats who had been leading the country, in her view, into ruin. Indeed, she seemed almost wholly unconcerned with what the Republicans would do with full control of the government, characterizing Junior as some kind of DLC Democrat who might try to place a couple of conservative judges on the Supreme Court but that's about it. She was completely self-absorbed and laughably naive about the nature of the political opposition.

DeLong asks the question, "What changed between 2000 and 2004?" Commenters predictably said, "four years of George W. Bush." And once again, I reply, "what in gawds name were you people doing for the previous eight years?" Apparently, many Democrats were watching their favorite infotainment programs and uncritically saw the partisan bloodshed of the 1990's as some sort of sit-com instead of the bare knuckled, political power grab it was.

It was clear to many of us in 2000 that the Republican Party had completely run amuck and that George W. Bush was simply a brand name in a suit that the Party was putting forth to hide their essential ugliness from the American people. It was obvious to some of us that this was an unprecedented partisan battle and that this insular, myopic view on the left was going to hurt us very badly. I have little patience for the idea that it took this massive demonstration of GOP power under the Bush administration to convince people that the first, most important order of political business was to check the Republican power grab. It was obvious in 2000 to anyone who was paying attention.

Nowadays, I'm told it's not that the Democrats are just corrupt but that they are corrupt pussies who never fought back until we gave them some spine. This is simply untrue. For a decade Democrats battled back a Republican juggernaut of unprecedented force (and a GOP landslide in 1994) while simultaneously fighting an extremely hostile media and a left wing faction that couldn't deal with the fact that the Democrats, after 12 years of right wing ascendency, found a way to get elected and stop the inevitable slide to a permanent Republican majority. On that, (and not for the last time) they actually joined with the right wing in their loathing of the strategy that won elections in a conservative era and kept the Republicans from total political dominance. (This is not to say that the same strategy would work today. But, the argument of purism vs pragmatism hasn't changed for the last thirty years, no matter what new strategy was proposed.)

Now that the purists have finally been sufficiently schooled in the consequences of letting Republicans have their way, I'm glad to see they are rejecting quixotic, third party politics for the time being. However, their view of modern partisan politics is as parochial as ever. For instance, I hear tell that we are going to finally "fight back." And that seems to consist of charging mindlessly onto the battlefield, shouting slogans and beating our chests about taking our country back. It seems to be thought that if only we shout loudly enough, everyone on the sidelines will be impressed with our passion and join the fray on our side. And the Republicans, I guess, will be so shocked and awed that they will lay down their arms and capitulate.

I'm afraid that it's far more likely that when the Democrats rush onto the field shouting our high minded slogans, the Republicans will simply explode a dirty bomb, killing untold numbers and scare the shit out of everybody else. The cable news ratings will go up and up and up as the media once again embeds itself on the side of the GOP in denouncing the "crazy" left wing terrorists.

Inchoate passion is not persuasive. And, to believe that "fighting back" consists of browbeating our elected politicians into standing up and denouncing Republican badness and wrongness is infantile. We grassroots types and bloggers and blowhards --- as well as strong unelected voices like Gore, Dean and others --- can stand up and give fiery speeches and have some effect if we're willing to take some social heat for it. But in the real world of power and politics, passionate rhetoric is just one small piece of the puzzle.

The reason the Republicans have been as successful as they are, despite their policies being unpopular, is that they use their power to the nth degree, whether the public mandates it or not. They are confident in their ability to spin their partisan use of democratic institutions with bromides about values and morality and freedom and democracy. Underneath their rhetoric is a pure lust for power, but they have been very good at obscuring that by claiming victimhood and portraying themselves as the party of strong individuals speaking truth to(liberal) power.

Our problem is that we actually believe in democracy so we don't think it's right to shove our agenda down the throats of the American people without their permission (hence Clinton actually delivering on the centrist policies he ran and won on.) This means that in order to defend the country from impending fascism while we try to further a progressive agenda, we have to to protect democratic institutions, allow moderates a voice proportionate to their constituency and patiently try to bring the country around to our way of thinking.

Bill Sher at Liberal Oasis has been talking about this for months. As he says, liberals haven't made the case that "liberal ideals are politically pragmatic" (and it's not as if they weren't given the opportunity during the primary campaign to do that.) Deluding yourself into believing that the public is just going to wake up one morning and reject this Republican image of us (and them) that's been painstakingly stitched together for decades is wishful thinking. Only 20% of people people identify themselves as liberals and that should tell us something. We have a lot of work to do and it isn't going to get done by standing around giving our politicians vague orders to "fight back" whatever that means.

Certainly, fighting back as a minority party is about as useful a pitting a high school baseball team against the New York Yankees. The first order of business to is win the presidency so that we can reverse this frightening foreign policy debacle and stop the bleeding on the domestic front. And that's a big agenda at this point. But if we want to actually enact a progressive agenda it will not be enough to stand around and rail at the Democratic minority in congress for being unable to "win." We need to be in a majority before anything gets done.

The fact that in one short three and a half year period this government has managed to spend the country into oblivion to the benefit of the very rich and has completely shot a half century of international leadership all to hell should, by all rights, translate into a landslide election for our side. And, yet it remains neck and neck. We have a Democratic base as fired up as any in my memory and yet we are still fighting among ourselves about the relative purity of our candidates and how if only they'd "fight" we'd win --- as if we haven't had some recent lessons in how certain satisfying fiery rhetoric is spun in the media to our extreme detriment. We can go down "fighting" like that or we can win by "fighting" using superior tactics and strategy.

And, yes we need to work to change this toxic political environment over the long term. We should use the newfound energy created by this Bush backlash and the new communications tools at our disposal. It was long past time that we created some political instutitons of our own to battle the political institutions of the right and groups like CAP and MoveOn and fledgeling efforts like Air America are our future.

But, right now we simply cannot forget that the single biggest problem we face is not our own lack of ballocks or the perfidious compromising DLC or the money that is required to run a modern political campaign. This country is in grave danger if the Republican Party maintains its grip on total institutional power. And they will not give it up easily and if they lose in the short term they will scratch and claw to get it back. They aren't going away. Keeping them from total power must be our first priority, what ever it takes.

If Kerry wins, I'm sure that Barbara Ehrenreich and others will be upset that he is not sufficiently liberal. On the other hand, the right wing will be apoplectic that he is preparing to sell the country to the terrorists. The media will be slavering for anything juicy the David Bossies of the Mighty Wurlitzer will feed them. That is the nature of our politics today. That is the reality in which President John Kerry is going to be operating. And it would be nice if most Democrats didn't put their sleep masks back on and pretend that John Kerry can be a super-hero who magically defeats terrorists and Republicans with one hand tied behind his back, while providing health care and prosperity for all --- and then claim that he and the Democrats are pussies because they can't perfectly accomplish all that in the face of a powerful and ruthless opposition.

It's a new day, but the Republicans are hardly down and out. We need to get our priorities straight and start thinking like strategists instead of petulent teenagers. This notion that we will prevail if only our politicans will just speak up is to say that the problem has an easy, emotionally satisfying solution. It doesn't. It's a big, big deal and this party had better get its act together and figure out how to neuter this radical Republican Party before they immolate the lot of us.

Dave Johnson has some excellent advice on the kind of thinking that can actually defeat the GOP and pave the way to a new liberal ascendency. It's a very good place to start. Also read the Republican Noise Machine by David Brock. Maybe it takes a former right wing operative to see that left still doesn't understand the insidious nature of their opposition.

Update: Hats Off to Matt Stoller who is trying to do God's work in bringing the fractious Democrats together. An e-mail exchange with him is what set me to thinking about this again. The pragmatists vs. the purists --- the eternal battle for the soul of the Democratic party. It's good to remind ourselves that our internecine battle is, and always has been, about the right strategy to get where we all agree we want to go.

The Republican schism is much, much deeper.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

They Don't Like Democracy

Charles Pierce gets to the nub of the argument:

There really is only one issue in this election. Since the Extended Florida Unpleasantness, this has been an Adminstration utterly unconcerned with any restraints, constitutional or otherwise, on its power. It has been contemptuous of the idea of self-government, and particularly of the notion that an informed populace is necessary to that idea. It recognizes neither parliamentary rules nor constitutional barriers. (Just for fun, imagine that the Senate had not authorized force in Iraq. Do you think for one moment that C-Plus Augustus wouldn't have launched the war anyway, and on some pretext that we'd only now be discovering was counterfeit?) It does not accept the concept of principled opposition, either inside the administration or outside of it. It refuses to be bound by anything more than its political appetites. It wants what it wants, and it does what it wants. It is, at its heart, and in the strictest definition of the word, lawless. It has the perfect front men: a president unable to admit a mistake because he's spent his entire life being insulated from even the most minor of consequences, and a vice-president who is viscerally furious at the notion that he is accountable to anyone at all. They are abetted by a congressional majority in which all of these un-American traits are amplified to an overwhelming din.

So, now we are faced with the question: Do you want to live in a country where these people no longer feel even the vaporous restraints of having another election to win?

BUSH-CHENEY UNLEASHED. Up or down? Yes or no?

There you have it.

Jon Chait in TNR amplifies this theme:

Here we have a sample of the style of governance that has prevailed under Bush's presidency. It's not the sort of thing you would find in a civics textbook. Bush and his allies have been described as partisan or bare-knuckled, but the problem is more fundamental than that. They have routinely violated norms of political conduct, smothered information necessary for informed public debate, and illegitimately exploited government power to perpetuate their rule. These habits are not just mean and nasty. They're undemocratic.

What does it mean to call the president "undemocratic"? It does not mean Bush is an aspiring dictator. Despite descending from a former president and telling confidants that God chose him to lead the country, he does not claim divine right of rule. He is not going to cancel the election or rig it with faulty ballots. (Well, almost certainly not.) But democracy can be a matter of degree. Russia and the United States are both democracies, but the United States is more democratic than Russia. The proper indictment of the Bush administration is, therefore, not that he's abandoning American democracy, but that he's weakening it. This administration is, in fact, the least democratic in the modern history of the presidency.

I think it's very important to note that this is not something that's confined to the Bush administration alone as if they are some sort of GOP anomalies. The fact is that this is an ongoing, serious problem of the modern Republican Party in general. They are congenitally opposed to compromise which leads inevitably to rule by force.

Chait argues that the Bush administration is not destroying democracy but rather weakening it. I would suggest that that adds up to the same thing. They are unlikely, except in a desperate situation, to attempt a military coup or do something dramatically attention grabbing like cancel the election. They aren't that stupid. They can attain everything they want over time by simply eroding democracy to the point at which it has all of the trappings and none of the substance. That process has been going on for some time now and escalating gradually to the point at which we now find ourselves with a presidency (which has always been the repository of Republican ruling fantasies)that quite blatently declares that it has no responsibility to uphold the laws if it deems them an impediment to national security.

But it's not the Bushies, it's the party. Removing Bush will not solve this problem. Indeed, I'm sure the GOP congress would love to get back into action and resume its natural investigative role which they have been shut out of while Republicans are in the white house. Their egos demand a little bit of the spotlight.

I'm sure there are many Republicans who simply don't see what is happening and would be horrified if they did. Not even the Democrats who have been on the receiving end of these undemocratic power plays seem to have been aware until recently of what has been going on.

I have been repeating this "undemocratic" mantra since the mid 1990's. (You can google this blog for the word and you'll see that I've done my best to bore everyone to tears with it.) It is a huge threat to this country --- one that has been magnified a hundred fold by the events if 9/11. It's not tin-foil kookiness and it's not partisan angst. It's real. And while I have little doubt that many reasonable sorts (which, by the way, I am also) will shake their heads sadly once again at my shrillness and hysteria for taking this view, I'll continue to do it. The Emperor has no clothes. I see what I see. I'm glad to have some company.

TBogg Madness

Kevin at Catch interviews the King of Snark. How come the funniest guys are always merchandise managers?

Friday, July 16, 2004

Funk Soul Brother To The Rescue?

Check it out now.
The Agonist has posted this Stratfor report:

Moscow and Washington are quietly negotiating a request by the Bush administration to send Russian troops to Iraq or Afghanistan this fall, Russian government sources tell Stratfor. The talks are intense, our contacts close to the U.S. State Department say, and the timing is not insignificant. A Russian troop lift to either country before the U.S. presidential election would give U.S. President George W. Bush a powerful boost in the campaign.

More at the link.

The U.S. inviting the Russians into Afghanistan to help us fight the Mujahadeen is so incredibly ironic I can't even go there. A KGB agent rescuing the neocons is simply hysterical.

What do you suppose Pooty-poot will want in return?

The Natives Are Restless

Following up my post from yesterday:

More than half the Republicans in the House have signed a formal complaint to President Bush about the failure to give prominent conservative, pro-life party members even one prime-time speaking role at the Republican National Convention.


The pre-convention rebellion by so many conservative House members is driven by re-election concerns and frustration over policy differences with the White House in the past 31/2 years, Capitol Hill Republicans said privately.

Public revolt is the last thing the Bush campaign wants to see, after the Senate Republican leaders failed Wednesday to get even 50 votes to back a constitutional amendment against homosexual "marriages."

Last month, Republican convention planners announced a prime-time speakers' list, which was approved by chief Bush strategist Karl Rove.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, New York Gov. George E. Pataki, New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani -- all of whom are pro-choice -- are lined up for evening speeches.


"The most conservative speaker right now is John McCain, who is truly a fiscal conservative. But a lot of conservatives believe the conservative movement that got us here is being ignored at the convention," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican.


Mr. Pence said signers of his letter agreed that "millions of voters will be tuning into the convention to hear someone give voice to the traditional moral values that brought them to the Republican Party in 1980."

"The strength of the Republican majority in America is not in the California governor's office or in the moderate politics of George Pataki," Mr. Pence said. "It's in the millions of pro-family voters who will campaign for our candidates and turn out on Election Day."

This controversy just guaranteed that Tom Brokaw and Wolf Blitzer will bring up the fact that Rove tried to keep the real conservatives off the podium at the one event at which they really wanted to appear moderate and mainstream. The bad news is that nobody's going to watch the conventions who isn't already decided. Still, it doesn't hurt and it's illustrative of the problem the administration is having with its base.

The Grown-ups

Karl Rove, special advisor to President Bush saying that Sen. John Kerry thumbed his nose to U.S. troops in Iraq at a political rally in Irvine, Calif., on Thursday, July 15, 2004.

Expert Witnesses

"Human life is the gift of our creator, and it should never be for sale," Bush said. "It takes a special kind of depravity to exploit and hurt the most vulnerable members of society. Human traffickers rob children of their innocence, they expose them to the worst of life before they have seen much of life. Traffickers tear families apart. They treat their victims as nothing more than goods and commodities for sale to the highest bidder."

The president gave his brother, Florida's governor, a verbal pat on the back, observing that Jeb Bush had signed a state law making such trafficking a felony.

The president then turned to his other brother Neil who testified:

Bush: "I had sexual intercourse with perhaps three or four, I don't remember the exact number, women, at different times. In Thailand once, I have a pretty clear recollection that there was one time in Thailand and in Hong Kong."

Brown: "And you were married to Mrs. Bush?"

Bush: "Yes."

Brown: "Is that where you caught the venereal diseases?"

Bush: "No."

Brown: 'Where did you catch those?'

Bush: "Diseases plural? I didn't catch..."

Brown: "Well, I'm sorry. How ... how many venereal diseases do you suffer from?"

Bush: "I've had one venereal disease."

Brown: "Which was?"

Bush: "Herpes."

Those Crude Democrats

I just heard that Don Imus referred to Senator Clinton as a "fat buck-toothed crook introducing her rapist husband...." at the convention. (I don't have a link, so it may be wrong.)

When asked to respond, Steve Schmidt of the Bush campaign said, "... there was a great deal of extreme venom and vitriol that spewed forth."

Oh wait. That was about Whoopie Goldberg at a private fundraiser. This Imus comment only went out to tens of millions of people both on radio and television. It was just entertainment for the folks. Whoopie, on the other hand, made a lewd joke in front of Democratic partisans about Bush's name (which, by the way, was hardly original --- I had a bumper sticker that said "lick Bush in 88")

Now, both Kerry and Edwards appeared on Imus yesterday, apparently. But then, they don't tend to go around snuffling and whining every time somebody says something rude. That's the specialty of little old lady quilting circle of the Bush administration.

One Simply Doesn't, Darling

I was so relieved to see another card carrying liberal standing up for what's right against all this unseemly politicking by those nasty Democrats. And how very clever he is to use someone who isn't actually a Democrat to do it. 

Ron Reagan also proceeds as something of a medium, channeling his father's unknowable views on such matters as Bush's very public religiosity. At Reagan's interment in Simi Valley, Calif., for instance, he said, "Dad was also a deeply, unabashedly religious man, but he never made the fatal mistake of so many politicians -- wearing his faith on his sleeve to gain political advantage."

Let's leave aside the implied accusation that Bush is publicly religious not out of conviction but "to gain political advantage" and question the appropriateness of the statement -- at the burial and citing the dead Reagan. And let us also concede that if Ron Reagan were not his father's son, not only would he not have been at that funeral -- by virtue of what achievement? -- but no one would have paid him any attention. He had, as he well knew, expropriated his father's fame and stature for his own purposes.

It is the same with stem cell research. Once again, Ron Reagan will be speaking solely because of his name and because, by implication, he is articulating his dead father's convictions. Maybe he is -- I would like to think so -- but there is no way of knowing where Ronald Reagan would have stood on stem cell research. He was not, to say the least, a rigorous thinker and might well have wound up in Bush's corner. Who knows? "

Thank goodness, we have good, right thinking liberals out there who are willing to defend Crusader Codpiece's religiosity as true and authentic, publicly opine that President Reagan would likely have backed Bush's stem cell plan, call the anti-Bush son of the GOP icon a phony and a grave robber and generously compile a handy list of talking points that John Moody can simply xerox and pass out to the press.("Even the radical leftist Richard Cohen said....") And how terribly clever of him to criticize this "Jr" for shamefully appropriating his father's name.  Ooooh, the Bushies must have gotten quite a giggle out of that one.

Left leaning pundits simply must carry water for Republicans whenever they can because  otherwise rude people would call into question their  superiority as individuals and we simply can't have that. The rule is that you may be critical of Republicans one out of every three columns, but if you do more than that, people will begin to suspect your gentlemanly credentials. Why, how ever would one hold one's head up over the vichyssoise at Sally's if one could not believably titter condescendingly about the hapless Democrats?

I'm telling you, the Democrats' worst enemies are the liberal punditocrisy. They are useful idiots at best and consciously social climbing at worst. They either don't understand the game the GOP is playing or they are too self-absorbed to see it. Either way, their total co-option by the Mighty Wurlitzer agenda is truly impressive.

That Reagan Jr fellow has very bad manners. Just like the Democrats who are giving him a platform for his depraved body snatching speech. He may be right on the issue, but it's so ill-bred for him to bring it up. I don't want anyone to think that I don't notice that. I simply must call things as I see them. That's why I'm superior to the partisan rabble. Uhm, Sally this potage is just delicious. As are you, my dear.

Go Fukuyama Yourself:

Famous academic Francis Fukuyama, one of the founding fathers of the neo-conservative movement that underlies the policies of US President George W. Bush's administration, said on July 13 that he would not vote for the incumbent in the November 2 US Presidential election.

In addition to distancing himself from the current administration, Fukuyama told TIME magazine that his old friend, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, should resign.

In other news, Dick Cheney admitted he's always known that deep down he is really a woman and hell reported hail and freezing rain.

Thanks to Kevin at Catch

Wingnut Victimology
Thomas Frank's op-ed in the NY Times:
Of course, as everyone pointed out, the whole enterprise was doomed to failure from the start. It didn't have to be that way; conservatives could have chosen any number of more promising avenues to challenge or limit the Massachusetts ruling. Instead they went with a constitutional amendment, the one method where failure was absolutely guaranteed — along with front-page coverage.

Then again, what culture war offensive isn't doomed to failure from the start? Indeed, the inevitability of defeat seems to be a critical element of the melodrama, on issues from school prayer to evolution and even abortion.

Failure on the cultural front serves to magnify the outrage felt by conservative true believers; it mobilizes the base. Failure sharpens the distinctions between conservatives and liberals. Failure allows for endless grandstanding without any real-world consequences that might upset more moderate Republicans or the party's all-important corporate wing. You might even say that grand and garish defeat — especially if accompanied by the ridicule of the sophisticated — is the culture warrior's very object.

The issue is all-important; the issue is incapable of being won. Only when the battle is defined this way can it achieve the desired results, have its magical polarizing effect. Only with a proposed constitutional amendment could the legalistic, cavilling Democrats be counted on to vote "no," and only with an offensive so blunt and so sweeping could the universal hostility of the press be secured.

Losing is prima facie evidence that the basic conservative claim is true: that the country is run by liberals; that the world is unfair; that the majority is persecuted by a sinister elite. And that therefore you, my red-state friend, had better get out there and vote as if your civilization depended on it.

This really hits the nail on the head. The right's sense of victimization is absolutely necessary to rally their faithful.  It's the same thing, by the way, that fuels the islamic fundamentalists. Perceived humiliation. In her new book about terrorism, Jessica Stern writes:
To understand this, it is worth considering the causes of terrorism. Several possible root causes have been identified, including, among others, poverty, lack of education, abrogation of human rights, the perception that the enemy is weak-willed. I've been interviewing terrorists around the world over the past five years. Those I interviewed cite many reasons for choosing a life of holy war, and I came to despair of identifying a single root cause of terrorism. But the variable that came up most frequently was not poverty or human-rights abuses, but perceived humiliation. Humiliation emerged at every level of the terrorist groups I studied — leaders and followers.

The "New World Order" is a source of humiliation for Muslims. And for the youth of Islam, it is better to carry arms and defend their religion with pride and dignity than to submit to this humiliation. Part of the mission of jihad is to restore Muslims' pride in the face of humiliation. Violence, in other words, restores the dignity of humiliated youth. Its target audience is not necessarily the victims and their sympathizers, but the perpetrators and their sympathizers. Violence is a way to strengthen support for the organization and the movement it represents.
The word humiliation, alas, is now coming up in Iraq as well. Baghdad is of profound symbolic importance to Muslims because it was the capital of the Islamic world during the golden age of Islamic civilization. Televised pictures of American soldiers and their tanks in Baghdad are a "deeply humiliating scene to Muslims," explains Saudi dissident Saad al-Faqih, who calls the war in Iraq a "gift" to Osama bin Laden.

The GOP and its corporate masters have successfully used this perceived humiliation of the "salt of the earth" red staters for cynical, manipulative reasons for decades.  It has consolidated the power of the real elites by scapegoating "cosmopolitans" and modernity as the cause of the average Joe's problems.  But, just like their counterparts in places like Saudi Arabia, in this process they have found it useful and necessary to empower racists, paranoids and religious fundamentalists, some of whom have violent tendencies.
This scheme is about to blow up the House of Saud to its own detriment and everybody elses. We've got to  short circuit it here. That means that the humiliation factor has to be neutralized.

Beavis and Butthead in '04

How embarrassing

"I will stay here until 2006. I will stay here, and I will fight like a warrior for the people," he said. "And there is no one that can stop me. If anyone pushes me around, I will push back, including the Democrats and the special interests. Trust me."

I know that Republican politicians  need to relate to the public on a personal level because their policies are so unpopular (and their constituency isn't the brightest group either) but this is just ridiculous. First, they foisted that half-wit frat boy on the nation and then put a cartoon character in charge of California. Obviously, there's no reason that The Poorman's favorite Republican can't take the seat in Illinois --- gawd knows he has the codpiece.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

It's Their Party And Their Problem
Please Democrats, whatever we do, don't let the Bush campaign convince even one of us that this election is "unique" in that the key is to excite the base and forget about the moderates and undecideds. It's Rovian bullshit and Noam Scheiber explains why:

This explanation strikes me as a little convenient for the Bushies. While you obviously never want to ignore your base, the reason the Bushies are focusing so hard on their's isn't that they've carefully appraised the political landscape and concluded that this is their best strategy. They're focusing on their base because they have to: Despite Karl Rove's best efforts, the Republican base still isn't shored up.

Rove's grand plan was to spend the first three years of Bush's term stroking conservatives' erogenous zones--lots of tax cuts, conservative judges, regulatory rollbacks, and religiously hued social policy (the administration's marriage initiative, its efforts to restrict access to abortion, its retrograde stem cell research policies, etc.). The idea behind this stuff was that it would give Bush the political capital to tack leftward during his re-election campaign.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the center: Rove discovered that conservatives don't just want to win on some issues, they want to win on every issue. Conservatives went ballistic over last year's Medicare prescription drug bill, over additional money for the reconstruction of Iraq, over the deficit and the failure to control spending generally, and over the administration's perceived indifference to gay marriage. Equally maddening to conservatives were proposals like a manned mission to Mars and immigration reform. So rather than spend this year reaching out to moderates, as planned, Rove found himself in full retreat, junking Mars and illegal immigrants, embracing a constitutional ban on gay marriage.

Both sides of the partisan divide have their little problem with purism. The Nader factor is illustrative of ours. But, let nobody ever say that we are anywhere close to being as rigid and uncompromising as the right wing of the Republican party.

I wrote a piece on American Street sometime back called "Welcome To Our Nightmare Mr Rove"  in which I discussed this very problem with the wingnuts. Interestingly, it played off of another article by Scheiber in which he discussed the intractability of the right wing. I wrote:

His thesis, basically, is that Republicans are temperamentally unable to compromise because they see things in black and white,  manichean terms --- otherwise known as Yer-With-Us-Or-Agin-Us, My-Way-Or-The-Highway or the I'll-Hold-My-Breath-Until-I-Turn-Blue philosophy of politics. He further explains that Democrats' collection of interest groups means that activists who agitate for certain issues like gay rights or choice are more willing to compromise because they are usually personally affected by government and are therefore, more apt to feel the immediate consequences of incremental change. (Regardless of the motivation, it seems to me that Democrats are just more "into nuance" e.g. smarter.)

What he does not point out, however, is that if this description of the Republicans political viewpoint is correct it illustrates why they are fundamentally unqualified to govern in a democratic system. If one is unwilling to compromise then any kind of bipartisan consensus is impossible and rule by force becomes inevitable.

This is undoubtedly why we have seen a steady encroachment of the constitution in the last few years. First came the impeachment, the nuclear option of partisan warfare. Then we saw the Supreme Court intervene in a presidential election despite a clear constitutional roadmap for dealing with just such a situation. Now they are pre-emptively endorsing the radical idea of a constitutional amendment to remedy a supposed problem that has not even been decided by more than two state supreme courts and one act of civil disobedience in California. (And, if California is any guide, amending the constitution will shortly become the default strategy for all of the right wing's pet causes.)

Karl Rove, however, has to win this election in a system that requires that his boy at least feint to the middle. His strategy, as Schreiber delineates above, didn't work. There is no pleasing the right wing and there is no room for compromise. And, he is learning, just as the centrist Dems learned in the 90's when they tried to maintain a bipartisan consensus, that if you give these wing-nuts an inch, they'll take a mile. The more you move to the right, the more they move to the right. There is no meeting half way.

Welcome to our nightmare, Mr Rove.

This problem is their problem in the election. (It will be our problem when we win and try, once again, to govern.) We Democrats have many issues, not the least of which is our unceasing ability to seize defeat from the jaws of victory. But, this uncompromising, black and white worldview isn't one of them. We must not let them draw us blindly into a "battle of the partisans." Bush and Rove are still having to cater to their base and that is their electoral nightmare. Let 'em have at it. We'll go to the middle and win the election.

(Incidentally, to toot my own horn just a tiny bit, that piece from American Street was chosen by Barbara O'Brien of Mahablog fame as an excerpt in her new book called Blogging America. Buy the book. It features many great bloggers and is probably the first book published on the subject)

Update: Donkey Rising  crunches the numbers and comes to a similar conclusion. The independent and swing voters are looking to be ours for the taking if they keep this up.  

Good Timing

I think this new book by E.J. Dionne sounds just great. It's all about how the Democrats are wimps and need to start fighting back the ruthless tough guys in the GOP. He thinks we need to frame the issues to our advantage instead of letting the Republicans do it for us.

I'm all for that. Maybe a good place to start would be for left wing pundits (who never said a peep about this for a goddamned decade thus enabling the wingnuts to completely dominate the discourse) to not write books called Stand Up, Fight Back: Republican Toughs, Democratic Wimps, and the Politics of Revenge during an election campaign in which the dominant theme set forth by the Republicans is how wimpy the Democrats are and how the world needs ruthless tough guys like them to defeat terrorists.

It's just a thought.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Innocence Project

Here's an interesting article on the brewing controversy over "Outfoxed" at Editor and Publisher.

I thought this was particularly revealing:

Fox was active on other fronts. Staffers showed other memos to USA Today writer Mark Memmott who suggested today that "Outfoxed" focuses only on the memos that uphold its view of rightwing bias at Fox. Other memos, he reported, included instructions to give Sen. John Kerry's speeches equal weight with those of President George W. Bush, and to not go overboard covering criticism of Kerry by some of his former "swift boat" colleagues.

That's just funny. Why would the "fair and balanced" network have to distribute memos to its staff reminding them to give equal time to Kerry? And, you have to wonder about why they would need to be told not to "go overboard" on the swift boat charges. I don't suppose that would be because that entire line of criticism played into Bush's lack of Vietnam service, would it?

Democratic Prospects

LiberalOasis has a very smart post up about how (not) to be a political base.

He's absolutely right, especially this:

Kerry may have the toughest job of all, keeping a majority coalition together over something besides Dubya.

But as we tussle with fellow Dems, we will need to be careful not to repeat the mistakes of the GOP base.

It will behoove all of us to remember in the end, it's not about one faction of the party triumphing over another.

Because when one faction is a loser, that faction could take its marbles and go home. And there goes the majority coalition.

Instead, from the liberal perspective, it's about convincing the so-called moderates of the party that liberal ideals and views are also political pragmatic.

This is a necessary step for us.

Even though there are enough liberals who have financially backed the Kerry campaign to show that we cannot be ignored, there aren't enough self-described liberals in the country to have earned the right to call the shots.

We cannot sit back and just expect Kerry to do what we want.


A healthy party needs a smart and savvy base -- one that provides money volunteers and energy, one that doesn't alienate the center but defines it -- for long-term success.

Whereas a demoralized base kept at arms length by the Establishment may provide some short term wins, but cannot sustain in the long-term.

Similarly, a myopic base, as the right-wingers are showing themselves to be, can give away substantive gains and destroy trust within its party.

Along with spreading the good word that liberalism is not, as advertised, another word for deviant, I propose that a good first step would be to seriously propose and build a long term strategy to do away with the electoral college once and for all. It is fundamentally undemocratic and it hurts liberals, always has.

Billmon also has an interesting post up today about class warfare.

Even in the white-collar world of my day job, I'm surprised by the venom some of my fellow drones I now direct at our ridiculously over-paid corporate lords and masters. The last few years have been a real squeeze (at least by middle-class standards) in our office - no raises, shitty bonuses - and some of the guys who used to say they voted Republican (because "they keep the taxes down," or "the Democrats will take away my guns") aren't talking that way now.


But saying the Republicans can't win a class war isn't the same thing as saying the Democrats can't lose one. Populist messages delivered by angry voices rarely work with the political center. They scare more than they incite. Finding the right emotional pitch - optimistic, eloquent, passionate but not belligerent - is the key. FDR understood this instinctively; so did Hubert Humphrey. So did Paul Wellstone. Most Democratic politicians are too scared - or too compromised - to even try.

Personally, I'm all for it as long as it doesn't require that we shitcan certain principles like minority rights as so often happens in American forays into populism.

Both of these posts are food for thought about how to win and how to govern. But, I've got a different question for anyone who cares to weigh in.

The polls continue to show a close race. I hope it isn't and that we will all be breathing much easier come October. But, I'm afraid that a close election will again benefit those who hold the electoral apparatus in their grasp and that means most likely the Republicans. I've lately been entertaining the horrible prospect of what in hell to do if we lose.

Any thoughts?

Monday, July 12, 2004

Paul Revere Was Unpardonably Shrill

I see that level headed grown-ups are giving us looney leftists another lecture on shrillness. The Bush administration isn't laying the groundwork for another undemocratic power grab with their discussion of postponing of the elections in the event of a terrorist attack. They are just being prudent. Everybody take a deep breath and calm your little selves down. This is silly.

It would be unforgiveably obnoxious to point out that little partisan impeachment episode and the very dubious election results in the state run by the president's brother back in 2000 as evidence that the Republicans are generally willing to go to unprecedented lengths to attain and maintain power. Neither should we be suspicious of their motives after they plainly decided after the WTC attacks to continue to govern with no regard for their political opposition in the congress or their allies overseas. Taking the country to war based upon false information should not be seen as evidence of their perfidy. Some might even say that the Republicans have been systematically defining democracy down for quite some time, but it would be unattractively shrill to mention it publicly.

One could also question the timing of this newfound concern about election tampering, if one were to retreat into leftist hand-wringing. Seeing as 9/11 actually happened during the NY mayoral primary and there was much discussion of whether the city should extend the heroic Giuliani's term, this concept of elections and terrorism is not new. One might wonder why nobody in this great country of ours this didn't think of this sometime before now, what with all the discussion of Homeland Security and electoral reform. But, it would be crude to mention that such things are probably best debated in the US Congress outside the election season rather than dealt with by ad hoc committees just three months prior to a national election.

It is true that the many thoughtful, restrained pundits on the right have made the case that the Spanish elections were manipulated by the terrorists and certainly the administration has been far from reticent in setting forth the proposition that should a similar thing take place here it would be with the express purpose of electing the soft ticket of Kerry-Edwards. It would be unpardonably disrespectful to mention that this is crude political fear mongering for which theme the alleged antidote --- postponing the elections in case of a terrorist attack --- contributes mightily. (And it would be very, very silly to note that this campaign theme is illogical in the extreme because to do so would be to accuse the administration of being dishonest, which is much too hysterical.)

I know that I have been shrill in the past --- as when I opposed the Iraq war because it was clear to me that the Bush administration was mendacious and incompetent to an extreme. And I was rude when I railed about the modern republican party's undemocratic tendencies as they systematically destroyed all pretenses of bipartisanship and consensus in the pursuit of raw political power. When I have said that they are incrementally corrupting the system to such an extent that by the time we notice it will be too late, people find that to be overwrought. These observations are unattractive and uncomfortable for people of genteel disposition.

When it was revealed, for instance, that there were no WMD, that the president intended to govern radically as if he had a mandate instead of a very dicey claim to power or that his administration believed that the president has the right to ignore laws under his power as commander in chief, one would have thought that would serve as a cautionary tale about their intentions. But apparently there is still a tremendous reserve of trust in these people's motives and our system's magical ability to hold back every undemocratic urge with no necessity for public involvement.

Certainly, some believe that our past history of success at beating back bad political actors should be seen as a something of a guarantee that our system will always hold. But, if that's so, it's likely because of one little amendment to our constitution --- the first one. Empowering the shrill is what keeps these people from going too far. Shut them down and the whole house of cards will fall apart.

Pavlov's Heathers

"Kerry, Edwards show public affection"


NEW YORK -- Bear hugs. Pats on the back. Shoulder squeezes. John Kerry and John Edwards are all over each other. The two Democrats and one-time rivals have shared so much public affection since becoming a team Tuesday that the presidential candidate even joked about it in New York after Edwards introduced him at fund-raisers and rallies - and hugged him before turning over the podium.

Kerry grinned and shook his head. 'There's been a lot of hugging this week,' the Massachusetts senator remarked with a chuckle Friday.

Later, Kerry mentioned that Jay Leno had teased the Democratic ticket for being so touchy-feely. Mocking the apparent chemistry between the candidates, 'The Tonight Show' strung together clips of the two in their first three days as running mates with Joe Cocker's weepy 1974 hit single 'You Are So Beautiful' played in the background.

'We make a great couple, ladies and gentlemen,' Kerry joked as New York donors cracked up.

Hugging, kissing and squeezing has become a part of every event since Kerry and Edwards set off on the campaign trail with their wives, Teresa Heinz Kerry and Elizabeth Edwards, for the first time together Wednesday.

It doesn't matter if Kerry is introducing Edwards, or vice versa, the scene is always the same, the lovefest playing out at rallies in Ohio, Florida, West Virginia, New Mexico and New York.

With a toothy smile, the North Carolina senator opens his arms wide and wraps an equally sunny Kerry in a bear hug. The two clap each other sometimes once, often twice, on the back with both hands. Pulling apart, they each drape an arm around each other. Kerry waves with his free hand, and Edwards pumps his fist in the air, thumb up. Sometimes the two tilt their heads together to make inaudible comments.

Often described as aloof, wooden and emotionally detached, Kerry now appears much more relaxed and affectionate, his style more closely resembling his younger Senate colleague.

Foes in the Democratic primary season, Kerry and Edwards were joined at the hip as they strode across the lawn of Kerry's wife's sprawling estate in Pennsylvania on Wednesday, making their first public appearance as running mates. Holding hands with their respective wives, the two walked side by side, grinning, laughing and leaning into one another to talk.

As Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico welcomed the ticket on stage in Albuquerque on Friday, Kerry and Edwards threw their arms around each other or patted each other five times in less than a minute, and then clasped hands and raised them above their heads.

It's not just the candidates; their wives have been affectionate as well. On Friday, Heinz Kerry and Elizabeth Edwards embraced at three different venues.

And both men have covered their wives - and each other's wives - with kisses and hugs. At an outdoor rally in Beckley, W.Va., Heinz Kerry introduced Edwards, saying: "We have two 'Johnnys Be Good' here. John, without much ado." Edwards walked up and kissed her cheek.

Later in Albuquerque, Kerry returned the favor, leaning in and giving Edwards' wife a peck after she offered words of praise for Heinz Kerry.

Last week I wrote that the absurdity of this "John-John" affection theme was designed to give the mainstream media a bitchy, elitist chortle so that they would be unable to resist passing on the not-so-subtle propaganda point that there is something ridiculous about the Democrats --- particularly to those white males who have a long standing mistrust of liberals. It's done as a joke, in the mode of puerile bully Limbaugh who often insults with a stab in the gut and then claims he is a victim of political correctness if anyone complains. This particular one is the familiar Gore character assassination technique. The idea is to make it just silly enough that to respond with any outrage makes you look ridiculously sensitive but to not respond is to allow this theme of "deviance" of some sort to travel through the body politic in a subliminal way. I heard someone laughingly remark about it in the line at Starbucks -- "It's kind of creepy."

I don't think it really has anything to do with gay rights or gay marriage, although the cruder Michael Savage sorts will take that shot. It's actually subtler than that. It's more about Kerry and Edwards being unserious, soft and strange. And, like the mindless little children they are, the press has run with it without ever questioning whether they might just be being manipulated. Again.

Friendly Advice

Note to David Brooks who has so generously advised the Democrats on the subject of how our lack of values, religious fervor and embrace of secularism are holding us back at the polls this year: You'd better take a look in the mirror, Mister, before your party goes down that same path to perdition.

It is terribly unfair and ultimately counterproductive of your leadership to exclude the voices of grassroots "Red Lobster" Republicans from your convention. As you have repeatedly stated, the vast, vast majority of real Americans are social conservatives --- or would be if they could just hear the good news --- and they have a right (and you have an obligation) to see that their voices are heard throughout the land. Those fighting the good fight against the homosexual agenda, sex outside of wedlock, women's libbers and satanists are the backbone of America. To treat them with such contempt is to ensure your defeat at the polls this November. Remember, I only have your best interest at heart.

P.S. Be sure to spend lots of time pushing the gay marriage ban and the "women are subservient" themes. These are the issues American's are most concerned with today. Ignore them at your peril.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Tin Foil Government

In the comments section of the post below about postponing the elections, Rodger Payne alerts me to a disturbing article in the Atlantic called The Armageddon Plan.

While it doesn't specifically mention postponing elections, the Reagan administration evidently began a series of rather bizarre exercises to practice contingency plans in case of a nuclear attack. Even more disturbing is that Cheney and Rumsfeld, neither of whom were actually in the administration at the time, were intimately involved in the elaborate planning and gaming:

At least once a year during the 1980s Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld vanished. Cheney was working diligently on Capitol Hill, as a congressman rising through the ranks of the Republican leadership. Rumsfeld, who had served as Gerald Ford's Secretary of Defense, was a hard-driving business executive in the Chicago area—where, as the head of G. D. Searle & Co., he dedicated time and energy to the success of such commercial products as Nutra-Sweet, Equal, and Metamucil. Yet for periods of three or four days at a time no one in Congress knew where Cheney was, nor could anyone at Searle locate Rumsfeld. Even their wives were in the dark; they were handed only a mysterious Washington phone number to use in case of emergency.

After leaving their day jobs Cheney and Rumsfeld usually made their way to Andrews Air Force Base, outside Washington. From there, in the middle of the night, each man—joined by a team of forty to sixty federal officials and one member of Ronald Reagan's Cabinet—slipped away to some remote location in the United States, such as a disused military base or an underground bunker. A convoy of lead-lined trucks carrying sophisticated communications equipment and other gear would head to each of the locations.

Rumsfeld and Cheney were principal actors in one of the most highly classified programs of the Reagan Administration. Under it U.S. officials furtively carried out detailed planning exercises for keeping the federal government running during and after a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. The program called for setting aside the legal rules for presidential succession in some circumstances, in favor of a secret procedure for putting in place a new "President" and his staff. The idea was to concentrate on speed, to preserve "continuity of government," and to avoid cumbersome procedures; the speaker of the House, the president pro tempore of the Senate, and the rest of Congress would play a greatly diminished role.

The inspiration for this program came from within the Administration itself, not from Cheney or Rumsfeld; except for a brief stint Rumsfeld served as Middle East envoy, neither of them ever held office in the Reagan Administration. Nevertheless, they were leading figures in the program.


The U.S. government considered the possibility of a nuclear war with the Soviet Union more seriously during the early Reagan years than at any other time since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Reagan had spoken in his 1980 campaign about the need for civil-defense programs to help the United States survive a nuclear exchange, and once in office he not only moved to boost civil defense but also approved a new defense-policy document that included plans for waging a protracted nuclear war against the Soviet Union. The exercises in which Cheney and Rumsfeld participated were a hidden component of these more public efforts to prepare for nuclear war.

The premise of the secret exercises was that in case of a nuclear attack on Washington, the United States needed to act swiftly to avoid "decapitation"—that is, a break in civilian leadership. A core element of the Reagan Administration's strategy for fighting a nuclear war would be to decapitate the Soviet leadership by striking at top political and military officials and their communications lines; the Administration wanted to make sure that the Soviets couldn't do to America what U.S. nuclear strategists were planning to do to the Soviet Union.


The outline of the plan was simple. Once the United States was (or believed itself about to be) under nuclear attack, three teams would be sent from Washington to three different locations around the United States. Each team would be prepared to assume leadership of the country, and would include a Cabinet member who was prepared to become President. If the Soviet Union were somehow to locate one of the teams and hit it with a nuclear weapon, the second team or, if necessary, the third could take over.

This was not some abstract textbook plan; it was practiced in concrete and elaborate detail. Each team was named for a color—"red" or "blue," for example—and each had an experienced executive who could operate as a new White House chief of staff. The obvious candidates were people who had served at high levels in the executive branch, preferably with the national-security apparatus. Cheney and Rumsfeld had each served as White House chief of staff in the Ford Administration. Other team leaders over the years included James Woolsey, later the director of the CIA, and Kenneth Duberstein, who served for a time as Reagan's actual White House chief of staff.


Ronald Reagan established the continuity-of-government program with a secret executive order. According to Robert McFarlane, who served for a time as Reagan's National Security Adviser, the President himself made the final decision about who would head each of the three teams. Within Reagan's National Security Council the "action officer" for the secret program was Oliver North, later the central figure in the Iran-contra scandal. Vice President George H.W. Bush was given the authority to supervise some of these efforts, which were run by a new government agency with a bland name: the National Program Office. It had its own building in the Washington area, run by a two-star general, and a secret budget adding up to hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Much of this money was spent on advanced communications equipment that would enable the teams to have secure conversations with U.S. military commanders. In fact, the few details that have previously come to light about the secret program, primarily from a 1991 CNN investigative report, stemmed from allegations of waste and abuses in awarding contracts to private companies, and claims that this equipment malfunctioned.

The exercises were usually scheduled during a congressional recess, so that Cheney would miss as little work on Capitol Hill as possible. Although Cheney, Rumsfeld, and one other team leader took part in each exercise, the Cabinet members changed depending on who was available at a particular time. (Once, Attorney General Ed Meese participated in an exercise that departed from Andrews in the pre-dawn hours of June 18, 1986—the day after Chief Justice Warren Burger resigned. One official remembers looking at Meese and thinking, "First a Supreme Court resignation, and now America's in a nuclear war. You're having a bad day.")


The exercises were designed to be stressful. Participants gathered in haste, moved and worked in the early-morning hours, lived in Army-base conditions, and dined on early, particularly unappetizing versions of the military's dry, mass-produced MREs (meals ready to eat). An entire exercise lasted close to two weeks, but each team took part for only three or four days. One team would leave Washington, run through its drills, and then—as if it were on the verge of being "nuked"—hand off to the next team.


When George H.W. Bush was elected President, in 1988, members of the secret Reagan program rejoiced; having been closely involved with the effort from the start, Bush wouldn't need to be initiated into its intricacies and probably wouldn't re-evaluate it. In fact, despite dramatically improved relations with Moscow, Bush did continue the exercises, with some minor modifications. Cheney was appointed Secretary of Defense and dropped out as a team leader.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet collapse, the rationale for the exercises changed. A Soviet nuclear attack was obviously no longer plausible—but what if terrorists carrying nuclear weapons attacked the United States and killed the President and the Vice President? Finally, during the early Clinton years, it was decided that this scenario was farfetched and outdated, a mere legacy of the Cold War. It seemed that no enemy in the world was still capable of decapitating America's leadership, and the program was abandoned.

There things stood until September 11, 2001, when Cheney and Rumsfeld suddenly began to act out parts of a script they had rehearsed years before. Operating from the underground shelter beneath the White House, called the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, Cheney told Bush to delay a planned flight back from Florida to Washington. At the Pentagon, Rumsfeld instructed a reluctant Wolfowitz to get out of town to the safety of one of the underground bunkers, which had been built to survive nuclear attack. Cheney also ordered House Speaker Dennis Hastert, other congressional leaders, and several Cabinet members (including Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman and Interior Secretary Gale Norton) evacuated to one of these secure facilities away from the capital. Explaining these actions a few days later, Cheney vaguely told NBC's Tim Russert, "We did a lot of planning during the Cold War with respect to the possibility of a nuclear incident." He did not mention the Reagan Administration program or the secret drills in which he and Rumsfeld had regularly practiced running the country.

Their participation in the extra-constitutional continuity-of-government exercises, remarkable in its own right, also demonstrates a broad, underlying truth about these two men. For three decades, from the Ford Administration onward, even when they were out of the executive branch of government, they were never far away. They stayed in touch with defense, military, and intelligence officials, who regularly called upon them. They were, in a sense, a part of the permanent hidden national-security apparatus of the United States—inhabitants of a world in which Presidents come and go, but America keeps on fighting.

What a huge mistake it ever was to let these paranoid wierdos have any control of the US Government. No wonder they all bought Myleroie's nutball theories.

If this is any guide at all, there is absolutely no reason to believe that they would hesitate to suspend elections, institute martial law and stage a coup. Indeed, it appears they've been training to do just that for more than 20 years.