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Sunday, November 30, 2003

Bling Bling

I think I've figured out how Bush plans to lower the unemployment rate in time for the election. It appears that he simply plans to hire all those who are out of work on his campaign. Gawd knows he has the money:

President Bush's reelection team, anticipating another close election, has begun to assemble one of the largest grass-roots organizations of any modern presidential campaign, using enormous financial resources and lack of primary opposition to seize an early advantage over the Democrats in the battle to mobilize voters in 2004.

Bush's campaign has an e-mail list totaling 6 million people, 10 times the number that Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean has, and the Bush operation is in the middle of an unprecedented drive to register 3 million new Republican voters. The campaign has set county vote targets in some states and has begun training thousands of volunteers who will recruit an army of door-to-door canvassers for the final days of the election next November.

The entire project, which includes complementary efforts by the Republican National Committee (RNC) and state Republican parties, is designed to tip the balance in a dozen-and-a-half states that both sides believe will determine the winner in 2004.


Given the reality that the president's campaign team cannot control such potentially decisive factors as the economy or events in Iraq, officials are determined to maximize their advantage in areas they can control. Rarely has a reelection committee begun organizing so early or intensively -- or with the kind of determination to hold state party and campaign officials, and their volunteers, accountable for meeting the goals of the Bush team.

In Ohio, for example, more than 70 elected officials and volunteer workers dial into a conference call every other Wednesday at 7 p.m. to report on their efforts to recruit leaders and voters, and to hear updates from Bush's campaign headquarters in Arlington. Roll is called, which initially surprised participants used to less regimented political operations.


Having the biggest presidential campaign treasury ever -- more than $105 million raised already and heading toward $170 million -- and no primary opposition gives Bush the luxury of focusing now on general-election organizing. The RNC and the Bush team have begun planning across a wide range of fronts, even including an analysis of which supporters are likely targets for absentee ballots or early voting, an increasingly critical aspect of turning out the vote.

The Bush campaign not only has started early, but also has set deadlines for developing its organization. In Ohio, there is a Dec. 1 deadline for recruiting county chairmen in the state's 88 counties. In Florida, the first three of a dozen planned training sessions have been held, and two campaign staffers are working out of an office in Tallahassee; county offices -- complete with plenty of lines for phone banks -- are scheduled to open shortly after Jan. 1.

In Iowa, the campaign's state chairman, David M. Roederer, said volunteers have been identified in all 99 counties, and they are working to expand their rosters down to the precinct level.


The Bush campaign will devote a portion of the estimated $170 million it will raise during the primary season to grass-roots organizing, although spending on television ads will still outstrip expenditures for the ground war. Any excess money in the Bush account can be given to the RNC at the time of the national convention next summer for get-out-the-vote efforts for Election Day in November.

The Bush campaign is focused now on building its state organizations, while the national committee is working on a variety of organizing efforts, including voter registration. Registration is important because, at a time when Bush enjoys about 90 percent support from self-identified Republicans, GOP officials believe there is no surer way of producing votes than getting more people registered with the party. The party is registering voters at NASCAR events and naturalization ceremonies, on college campuses and in targeted precincts.

The RNC has set state-by-state goals for registering voters, based on a formula that attempts to determine Bush's maximum potential vote percentage, all with an eye toward turning states that he narrowly lost or won in 2000 into winners next year.

In Oregon, which Bush lost to Al Gore by about 7,000 votes in 2000, the national committee's goal is to register 45,000 GOP voters by next year, enough to provide a cushion in a close election.

Republicans are using several techniques to reach and register voters. In New Hampshire, new homebuyers receive a postcard from the state GOP welcoming them to their neighborhood, explaining the party's historic opposition to higher taxes and urging them to register as Republicans. Party officials follow up with phone calls, often from volunteers in the same community, and next spring will begin going door to door.

In Arkansas, RNC officials recently hosted a breakfast for nearly 100 ministers, outlining ways they can assist parishioners in registering. Party officials plan to follow up by identifying volunteer coordinators in the churches to oversee those efforts.

In Illinois, Republicans have hired field operatives who will concentrate their efforts -- by telephone and sometimes face-to-face -- to identify and register likely GOP voters.

"If you've got a precinct where 50 percent [of registered voters] are Republicans and 30 percent are independents, there's probably gold to be mined in that precinct," said Bob Kjellander, one of 11 regional chairmen for the Bush reelection committee.

The campaign has staged splashy events to announce leadership teams in 16 of its targeted states, usually featuring Mehlman or campaign chairman Marc Racicot. The campaign's ambitions are evident from the depth of the organizations being assembled.

In each county, for example, the Bush operation will include an overall chairman; chairmen for surrogates, volunteers and voter registration; and an "e-chairman," whose responsibility is to communicate with supporters registered with the campaign Web site.

Campaign officials look for specific tasks to keep people involved. Team leaders have been asked to recruit five other team leaders and sign up 10 friends to receive campaign e-mails.

The campaign Web site includes an easy way for supporters to send letters in support of Bush's policies to local newspapers and has generated 28,000 letters since August. At training sessions, campaign workers are urged to help recruit participants for coalitions the campaign plans for teachers, farmers, Hispanics, African Americans, disabled people, law enforcement officials and sportsmen.

I don't want to be the blogosphere's Cassandra about this election. I do believe that the Democrats can win with a smart campaign. But, I am going to keep reminding people of what we are up against.

These guys are desperate to erase Junior's court appointment and win an election legitimately, thereby sealing what they believe to rightly be a permanent majority begun by St. Reagan. They are very, very rich and they are very, very organized. Their plan is refined down to the precinct level and it is nationally coordinated. They have no primary opposition so they will spend the next 9 months concentrating on nothing but the general election. Most importantly, they observe no limits and no rules.

If events of the last few months have taught us anything it's that starry-eyed faith in the cakewalk fantasies of true believers are very dangerous, indeed.

We can win, but we'd better be smart, agile, and prepared to wage this battle with our eyes wide open.

Saturday, November 29, 2003

Faith-based Self Defense

Call your congressional representative and tell him or her that you support the President's policy of pre-emptive self-defense...

What a good idea. We can't wait for the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud. If they are out to get us, we're going to get them first.

And, how will we know they are out to get us? Why our high tech, superduper, megaspecial, ultraextra intelligence services know when you've been sleeping and know when you're awake, so bad guys had better be good for goodness sake, right?

Well... there's just a teeny, tiny problem:

More than 10 years' work by U.S. and British intelligence agencies on Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons or programs has "major gaps and serious intelligence problems," according to a new study by Anthony H. Cordesman, a Middle East and intelligence expert who is a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Although the United States has the world's most sophisticated technical systems for collecting and analyzing intelligence, Cordesman found, the Iraq experience shows that U.S. intelligence is "not yet adequate to support grand strategy and tactical operations against proliferating powers or to make accurate assessments of the need to preempt." link (pdf)

Uh oh. So, the massive intelligence failure of Iraq, a country that the US had been paying extremely close attention to for 12 years, means that we really don't have the capacity to know when a country is planning to attack us. That sure does make that preemptive self-defense thing look dicey, doesn't it? Unless Condi has a really wicked Oija board, I'd have to say the whole pre-emption thing is pretty much a bust and they might want to re-think the whole shebang.

But, then again, the American people know that George W. Bush would never lead them astray so they can trust that when he says that there is a "grave and gathering danger" he knows something they don't. Even if he can't possibly know it and everybody else in the world thinks what he's saying is suspect. Or especially when he really, really wants to do it more than anything because he needs to kick some Arab ass so bad it's just killing him. (Unless he is a Democrat in which case he should be tried for treason if he even thinks about pulling a stunt like this.)

Call your congressman and tell him no uncertain terms that you support this President's policy of faith-based self-defense.

Recipe For Cynicism

Atrios responded before I could to Matt's posts of yesterday about his realization that the Bush administration is not only mendacious, but more stunningly incompetent than he ever imagined. I remember at the time being sort of surprised that so many people, not just Matt by any means, couldn't believe that the Iraq scenario was unfolding exactly as it seemed to be. A very smart friend of mine kept saying "they won't let them do this," apparently subscribing to some sort of "Wizard of Oz" theory that a bunch of éminences grises behind the scenes have to sign off on anything the president wants to do. I think that many people are still having a hard time believing what they are seeing.

Reading Atrios' post reminded me of one of mine that he posted from his comments section back in September of 2002. When I went back to read it I realized that at that time I too still had some belief that sanity would prevail:

I don't object to going into Iraq because I think Saddam doesn't want nukes. Of course he does. So do a lot of people, including al Qaeda. And a lot of unstable regimes already have them, like the countries of the former Soviet Union and Pakistan. I object because I don't believe there is any new evidence that he's on the verge of getting them or that he had anything to do with 9/11, or that he’s crazy because he gassed his own people (without our objection at the time), or that he’s just plain so evil that we simply must invade without delay, all of which have been presented as reasons over the past few weeks. There are reasons why we are planning to invade Iraq, but they have nothing to do with the reasons stated and are based upon political and ideological not security goals.

I particularly object because I deeply mistrust the people who are insisting that Saddam presents an urgent danger because they have been agitating for invasion and regime change, offering a variety of rationales, for 11 years. Pardon me for being skeptical but there is an entire cottage industry in the GOP devoted to the destruction of Saddam for a variety of reasons, none of which have anything to do with an imminent threat to the US. Until they concocted this bogus 9/11 connection, even they never claimed that the threat was to the US, but to Israel, moderate Arabs and the oil reserves.

I knew aboout Mylroie at this point, but I didn't realize how firmly ensconced in the Wolfowitz/Cheney inner circle she was; I still believed that they were well ... smart, at least.

I very much object because among these obsessives are the authors of the Bush Doctrine, which is nothing more than a warmed over version of the PNAC defense policy document that was based upon Cheney's 1992 defense dept. draft laying out the neocon case for ensuring the continued status of the US as the only superpower after the cold war. They did not take the threat of terrorism into account when they formulated this strategy and have made no adjustments since the threat emerged. Instead they are cynically using the fear created by 9/11 to advance goals that have absolutely nothing to do with terrorism and in fact will make another attack more likely. We will not be able to protect ourselves against another 9/11 by asserting a doctrine of unilateral preventive war in Iraq or anywhere else. Terrorism is a different animal that requires a completely fresh approach with an emphasis on cooperative intelligence, creative police work and stealthy military strategies. We can't invade every country that contains people who are potential terrorists. And the more we try to solve this problem through military force the more terrorists we will create.


The result has been that the administration position has been incoherent ever since. One day we must invade because Saddam is close to getting nukes, another it's that he already has chemical and bio weapons. The next he's a genocidal maniac. Blair and Powell say they want disarmament one day, Rummy and Cheney argue that regime change is the goal the next. According to next week's Time Magazine, an administration source admits that they are throwing everything out there and hoping that something will "stick."


Doesn’t this inconsistency make you just the tiniest bit suspicious of what's really going on?

I have said before that if Bush will take yes for an answer and allow the UN to make another resolution demanding inspections, I will be more than happy to let him take credit for a hugely successful bluff. If Saddam fucks up and refuses we will then at least have the support of the international community to go to war on the basis of his intransigence instead of on the basis of a spurious right to "pre-emptive regime change” without convincing evidence of a threat.

More importantly we will not have implemented the delusional Bush Doctrine or engaged in unilateral “pre-emptive” military action in the mideast and thoroughly screwed up the coalition needed for terrorism prevention by striking at the hornets nest of Islamic anti-Americanism for no good reason. At this point, I’ll be thrilled if we can avoid WWIII and keep from burning all of our bridges in the very countries where we need cooperation to prevent more terrorism on US soil.

Obviously, in September I hadn't yet completely come to terms with the fact that Bush was determined to go to war come hell or high water and that the whole UN gambit was more delaying tactic than serious endeavor. By February, I was in a state of high dudgeon and mexing my mitaphors with abandon :

Aside from wondering why keeping Saddam in a box, even with sanctions, isn't better than dropping a payload equal to the firebombing of Tokyo on a civilian population, aside from knowing an explosion of terrorism is likely to result from the sight of a massive US army on the ground in the mid-east at this most dangerous moment, aside from being fully aware that the planning for this invasion has been underway for more than a decade undergirded by the same arguments of imminent danger that have not come to fruition, and aside from the fact that the administration has openly and shamelessly cast itself as Ariel Sharon's kindred spirit at a time when such a declaration of solidarity is recklessly stupid...

Aside from all that, the main reason that I cannot support any kind of quasi-unilateral pre-emptive or preventive war is that I am 100% certain that the people who are agitating the strongest for it are hypocritical, incompetent, myopic, twistedly idealistic, mendacious and psychologically crippled.

I think it can wait for another 2 years until smarter, saner people can be put in charge of running the world. I'll support freeing the Iraqi people from tyranny if somebody else is doing the freeing. These guys are far more likely to throw them out of the frying pan directly into the fire. For the sake of the Iraqi people and the people of the world, these children must not be allowed to play with matches.

Looking back I can see that it was as simple as looking at the way Bush won the election and the way he governed afterward to see he was not to be trusted. And if it is true that all organizations ultimately reflect the leader at the top then it was always obvious that this administration was incompetent.

It shakes the foundation of our faith in the constitution and belief in democracy that our supposed meritocratic society would allow such dimwitted arrogance to ascend to the most powerful offices in the world and worse, that the citizens would be so cowed, apathetic or drunk with power that they would utter only the feeblest of protests at its most outrageous actions. Bush's incompetence and hyperactive partisanship in the face of a very dubious election outcome has probably created more cynicism about politics than Watergate and Vietnam combined. It is that final nail in the coffin --- the loss of faith that even if they are liars and cold calculating players of Realpolitik, no matter what, our leaders are smart, patriotic and in control.

The biggest danger confronting us now isn't what these people want to do but what may happen because they don't know what they are doing.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Walking On Eggshells

David Niewert has a must read post up about how the political became the personal as the modern Republicans rose to power. There is much to recommend this post, but I'd like to add something to one aspect of it.

He is saddened and disappointed by some of his conservative friends who refused to discuss Bush vs Gore and who don't seem to be willing to speak out against the encroaching totalitarianism of the conservative movement. As he did, I had always assumed that the majority of Republicans out in the real world were decent, hard working people who didn't subscribe to radicalism of any kind, whether from the right or the left. I suppose I counted on them to step in if things got out of hand and I've been puzzled until fairly recently about why that hasn't happened. I simply can't believe that real conservatives and mainstream, non-dittohead Republicans actually endorse the thuggish hyper-corporatism and will to power that we are seeing in Washington today.

David reluctantly concludes that they either implicitly endorse the increasingly blatant eliminationist rhetoric and strongarm tactics or they don't give a damn. But I actually think it's something else.

I think they are actually more afraid of these jack-booted bullies than we are. They are, as Hesiod once memorably said, "battered GOP moderates." Like an abused spouse they know that nothing pisses off the Lord of the Manor more than lip from his own family:

Smith, self term-limited, is leaving Congress. His lawyer son Brad is one of five Republicans seeking to replace him from a GOP district in Michigan's southern tier. On the House floor, Nick Smith was told business interests would give his son $100,000 in return for his father's vote. When he still declined, fellow Republican House members told him they would make sure Brad Smith never came to Congress. After Nick Smith voted no and the bill passed, Duke Cunningham of California and other Republicans taunted him that his son was dead meat.

It isn't easy being a liberal Democrat in this political landscape. But, it's even harder being a Republican rebel.

... And speaking of crushing enemies, the White House and the GOP generally will be guilty of professional malpractice if they don't punish Jeffords for pulling the rug out from under them. I know that it's illegal to sew a half-starved weasel into his small intestine, but there are some other options.

changing the tone...

Roll Call's Ed Henry reports an image of Vermont's independent senator was being used for target practice inside the men's urinal at Capitol Hill Club, a gathering place for Republicans adjacent to Republican National Committee headquarters.

"Although several folks apparently got a kick out of taking aim at the photo of a man they now detest because of his decision to bolt the GOP, a peeved member of the club ripped the photo out of the urinal, fearing it would be seen as yet another symbol of the party's alleged intolerance," Henry reports.

Imagine that.

Et tu, Van den Heuvel?

Hey all you Democrats, if you need to be reminded of what a real old fashioned Emmett Tyrell style hit piece looks like, this one defines the genre as well as anything you'll see from The American Spectator. It's an excellent example of character assassination, done with the patented snotty superiority that drips most copiously from those whose main contribution to political discourse is the metaphorical shiv in the metaphorical backs of their own allies.

I haven't up to now recognized myself as a servile member of a "group of hushed, groveling supplicants staring dewy-eyed at their savior Caesar," and frankly I've never seen any such thing at the Clark events I've attended. (But, my goosestepping martial spirit was thrilled to read that Clark joked with a pastry salesgirl about really loving "napoleons." I think that pretty much says it all about what Clark is really up to and I couldn't be happier. My savior wants to invade Russia. And this time he'll do it right.)

In fact, the "napoleon" comment merely foreshadows the main contention (aside from how silly his stupid volunteers are) that the "neo-Nixonian" Clark wants to replay the Vietnam war in Iraq so that he can emerge the winner. This is as sophomoric a psychological insight as anything the blond pundetts ever spewed with such prurient delight about Clinton's alleged sexual pervertedness. In much the same way, this claim is nothing more than a fevered Naderite's masturbatory war-porn fantasy.

(On the other hand, maybe it's a meme I shouldn't dismiss out of hand, even though it's completely wrong. It certainly has a better chance of getting the ever more fascist Republicans out of the White House than "Hell No, We Won't Go.")

I have not been one to argue that the candidates have to play nicey-nice in this primary. These guys are big boys and they have to learn how to take a hit if they expect to be in shape to face the Bush Bullyboys. But, if this low-life hit piece is used against Clark by any of the other Dem candidates or their supporters it's going to start a bloody civil war --- and that is playing right into Rove's hands.

I sincerely hope that nobody takes the bait. It can only start a cycle of reaction and retribution and that will end up hurting the eventual nominee.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

They're Always In A Hurry

They had to rush through the impeachment vote before they broke for the Holidays in 1998. We didn't have time to count the uncounted votes in Florida because an arbitrary date was set in stone. We couldn't wait for the inspectors to finish the job in Iraq or to persuade the UN to back us in March 2003 --- we had to go in immediately.

When they are in a hurry, you know they have a bad case and they are just trying to ram it through before anyone can stop them. The Washington Post says today in its editorial called Government By Juggernaut:

Rank-and-file lawmakers of both parties are often unable to see legislation until the vote is upon them -- not just because details are still being hammered out, but because exposing the document to public scrutiny would hurt the cause of those who seek to have it passed by any means. Both houses have rules designed to prevent this sort of governing by ambush. But these are routinely swept aside in the interest of swift passage, however uninformed. Contempt for the minority extends to the White House, which sought recently to require that Democrats obtain the approval of Republican committee chairs before submitting questions to the administration.

Norm Ornstein talking about the blatant abuse of power with the medicare vote says:

Democracy is a fragile web of laws, rules and norms. The norms are just as important to the legitimacy of the system as the rules. Blatant violations of them on a regular basis corrode the system. The ugliness of this one will linger.

This ugliness is part of Republican rule and has been for a while. It will not just linger, it may have completely changed the system already. The GOP now stands for nothing but winning by any means necessary. And unfortunately, many in this country seem to believe that winning automatically validates whatever you do.

Southern Strategery

I’m a big fan of Jesse Jackson Jr and his endorsement of Howard Dean is meaningful to me. So, when I read this article in The Nation I was hoping for a thorough explanation of Dean’s "Southern Strategy" that would convince me of a new and bold approach to a long term problem. Unfortunately, it was more or less what I already knew and I am left with the opinion that it’s either a naïve misunderstanding of the complexities of voting behavior or a feint to hide the fact that Dean has no intention of challenging in the south. I hope it’s the latter because if it’s the former he may find echoes and reverberations of this miscalculation throughout the campaign if he wins the nomination.

But, it isn’t just Dean. There seems to be an common belief among Democrats in which it is assumed that we can make a populist pitch to poor and working class southern whites and circumvent the unpleasantness of certain racist attitudes and culture war issues with an appeal that consists of saying that and they should vote for us because their economic self interest is more in line with working class blacks than rich whites. This belief seems to rely on the idea that southern Republicans have been led astray by Nixonian racist appeals to the extent that they are unaware that the Democrats are for progressive taxation and social programs that might benefit them. They just need to be informed of this misunderstanding and they will fall into line.

But, part of this theory also maintains that Democrats have failed to illustrate the differences between the two parties and that they have neglected to point out that Republicans don’t have working people’s best interests at heart. This is not true. Nor is it true that Democratic politicians up to now (if not rank and file big city liberals) have written off the Southern white male vote or treated them disrespectfully. Progressives have spent decades trying to figure out how to reach this block of voters who should by all rights be aligned with the Democrats on the economic issues that most affect their lives.

The question has always been, why don’t southern working class whites vote their economic self-interest?

In this paper (pdf) Sociologist Nathan Glazer of Harvard (bio), who has long been interested in the question of America’s underdeveloped welfare state, answers a related question --- “Why Americans don’t care about income inequality” which may give us some clues. Citing a comprehensive study by economists Alberto Alesina and Edward Glaeser of Harvard and Bruce Sacerdote of Dartmouth called, "Why Doesn't the United States have a European-Style Welfare State?" (Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, 2/2001) he shows that the reluctance of Americans to embrace an egalitarian economic philosophy goes back to the beginning of the republic. But what is interesting is that both he and the economists offer some pretty conclusive evidence that the main reason for American “exceptionalism” in this case is, quite simply, racism.

AGS [Alesina, Glazear and Sacerdote] report, using the World Values Survey, that "opinions and beliefs about the poor differ sharply between the United States and Europe. In Europe the poor are generally thought to be unfortunate, but not personally responsible for their own condition. For example, according to the World Values Survey, whereas 70 % of West Germans express the belief that people are poor because of imperfections in society, not their own laziness, 70 % of Americans hold the opposite view.... 71 % of Americans but only 40% of Europeans said ...poor people could work their way out of poverty."


"Racial fragmentation and the disproportionate representation of ethnic minorities among the poor played a major role in limiting redistribution.... Our bottom line is that Americans redistribute less than Europeans for three reasons: because the majority of Americans believe that redistribution favors racial minorities, because Americans believe that they live in an open and fair society, and that if someone is poor it is his or her own fault, and because the political system is geared toward preventing redistribution. In fact the political system is likely to be endogenous to these basic American beliefs."(p. 61)

"Endogenous" is economics-ese for saying we have the political system we do because we prefer the results it gives, such as limiting redistribution to the blacks. Thus the racial factor as well as a wider net of social beliefs play a key role in why Americans don't care about income inequality, and why, not caring, they have no great interest in expanding the welfare state.

Glazer goes on to point out how these attitudes may have come to pass historically by discussing the roles that the various immigrant support systems and the variety of religious institutions provided for the poor:

But initial uniformities were succeeded by a diversity which overwhelmed and replaced state functions by nonstate organizations, and it was within these that many of the services that are the mark of a fully developed welfare state were provided. Where do the blacks fit in? The situation of the blacks was indeed different. No religious or ethnic group had to face anything like the conditions of slavery or the fierce subsequent prejudice and segregation to which they were subjected. But the pre-existing conditions of fractionated social services affected them too. Like other groups, they established their own churches, which provided within the limits set by the prevailing poverty and absence of resources some services. Like other groups, too, they were dependant on pre-existing systems of social service that had been set up by religious and ethnic groups, primarily to serve their own, some of which reached out to serve blacks, as is the case with the religiously based (and now publicly funded) social service agencies of New York City. They were much more dependant, owing to their economic condition, on the poorly developed primitive public services, and they became in time the special ward of the expanded American welfare state's social services. Having become, to a greater extent than other groups, the clients of public services, they also affected, owing to the prevailing racism, the public image of these services.

Glazer notes that there are other factors involved in our attitudes about inequality having to do with our British heritage, religious backround etc, that also play into our attitudes. But, he and the three economists have put their finger on the problem Democrats have with white Southern voters who “vote against their economic self-interest,” and may just explain why populism is so often coupled with nativism and racism --- perhaps it’s always been impossible to make a populist pitch that includes blacks or immigrants without alienating whites.

So, we are dealing with a much more complex and intractable problem than “southerners have been duped by Nixon’s southern strategy” or that liberals have been insulting them for years by supposedly devaluing their culture. Indeed, even the nostalgia that Howard Dean professes for FDR’s coalition is historically inaccurate. A majority of whites have never voted with blacks in the south. (In the 30’s, as we all know, southern blacks were rarely allowed to vote at all.) In fact, FDR had an implicit agreement with the southern base of his party to leave Jim Crow alone if he wanted their cooperation on other economic issues. The southern coalition went along out of desperation (and also because they were paying very little in taxes.) But, as soon as the economy began to recover, and Roosevelt began to concentrate on programs for the poor, the division that exists to this day re-emerged.

Ed Sebesta over at Temple of Democracy thinks that Dean was on a course to launch a much more familiar “southern strategy” with a classic southern states rights argument and he gives some supporting evidence to back that claim. He says that liberals are always interested in using his research on the neo-confederacy when it comes to taking down Repubicans but that they aren't interested in hearing about Democrats who may be playing the same game. I’m not willing to go as far as he does but I do think it illustrates at least a crippling naiveté that liberal Democrats all over the country are so earnest about getting white votes in the south but failed for months to realize that the semiotics of the confederate flag are a hell of a lot more complicated than a simple demographic shorthand for “southern white guy.”

And, regardless of his earlier intent, I think it’s obvious by the timing of events that Dean realized that if he wanted the support of the unions who were on the verge of endorsing him he had to find another way to appeal to white southern voters. Unfortunately, the idealistic view that Jesse Jackson Jr voices, of a purely economic appeal to both blacks and whites, is probably also only effective in pleasing white liberals who are already persuaded. It will likely have the opposite effect on working class whites. I’m fairly sure that Joe Trippi knows this and has actually written off the south in his electoral calculation.

There is another way to approach this issue that neither winks and nods at racism, depends upon a naïve idealism about the attitudes underlying southern voting patterns or writes off the south entirely. The key is to continue to reject racism in no uncertain terms while re-framing the economic argument in a way that appeals to Americans’ belief in their social mobility.

I didn’t invent that idea, of course. I believe that Clinton understood the long standing association between racism and egalitarianism and began to take steps to de-link them by re-directing the good government argument to the middle class --- the class most people, regardless of their race, identify as their own. (Welfare Reform was another, as painful as it was.) That reframing, combined with his sincere affinity for African American concerns, helped him to capture Georgia, Louisiana, Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee in 1992 and Florida, Louisiana, Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee in 1996 --- with more than 90% of the black vote and close to 50% of the white vote.

Throughout both of his terms he walked a fine line, trying to move this argument about government away from its subliminal racist underpinning while continuously speaking out and proselytizing against racism. He was trying to make the country begin to see that government services benefit the vast majority rather than those who are “lazy” or “inferior,” while also trying to get people to see African Americans as middle class working people like everybody else. Whether he succeeded is open to debate, but he does deserve some credit for winning in the south with his approach.

Racism is the original sin of the American experiment and progress in expunging it is slow going, especially in its ground zero, the south. It may even be that some of our most cherished beliefs about ourselves --- individualism and self-sufficiency --- are partially grounded in an ugly reaction to slavery and the fallout from it. White Supremacists and neo-confederates are exactly what they appear to be and more subtle aspects of their philosophy play themselves out in the multitude of ways that people rationalize their beliefs about government social programs and many other things in American culture. (If you don’t believe me, read this study from the University of Chicago called Racial Bias in Hiring: Are Emily and Brendan More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?)

So, we can argue about whether we even need to capture the south as Thomas Schaller rather convincingly shows here. We also could adopt a strategy that only feints to the south in order to force the Republicans to spend time and money there. And, we surely should keep in mind, as Donkey Rising writes”… many southern voters are, in fact, reachable by Democrats and becoming more so over time. This is especially true in the emerging “ideopolis” areas of the south–Florida’s hi-tech and tourist areas, North Carolina’s research triangle, the Northern Virginia suburbs of DC, etc.–and Democrats need to cultivate these voters, not abandon them. Otherwise, Democrats will throw away the longer term opportunities created by demographic and economic change in the south.”

But if we think we can make any headway with working class whites (particularly in the south) who currently vote Republican by making an appeal to their class solidarity with blacks, we are going to be disappointed. Their resistance to that idea is one of the main reasons they reject government social programs in the first place. We don’t help blacks or whites by failing to understand that and we certainly won’t win any votes by ignoring it.

Note: If anyone would like a different perspective on this issue, I urge you to read Christopher Caldwell’s 1998 piece in The Atlantic called "The Southern Captivity of the GOP" It seems to me that Caldwell’s observations are as salient today as they were 5 years ago --- the only difference is 9/11.

9/11 gave Republicanism a national boost that nothing else could have and it is the real battleground on which the coming election will be fought. If we can make the national security case then we might even bring in some of those southern voters who don’t vote their economic self-interest. They do value the military and they are suffering disproportionately from this massive error in judgment in Iraq. If we fail on that issue I fear we will fail nationally and George W. Bush will finally get the mandate he so desperately seeks. Lord help us then.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Neocon Tinfoil

Susan at Suburban Guerrilla points out a statement by Wes Clark in the debate yesterday that needs some further explanation:

I saw the Democratic debate, and I think Wesley Clark made the best point: Instead of attacking terrorists, Bush chose to attack states.

Which is how we got into this mess.

Exactly so. But, it is interesting to look at how this came to pass. I wrote back in September about Paul Wolfowitz's "You can believe me or you can believe your eyes" philosophy of governance. In that post I mentioned that it was none other than Laurie Mylroie, nutcase extraordinaire, who was responsible for this absurd notion that terrorism, by definition, must be state sponsored. She testified to that fact just recently before the congress. If you want to see a full blown paranoid mind, complete with tin foil, being taken seriously by a bunch of dim-witted politicians, read her testimony.

Here is her conclusion about Al Qaeda and the threat we face from terrorism. Keep in mind that Wolfowitz and Cheney have endorsed her views and that she is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute:

A major misunderstanding regarding the nature of terrorism arose in the wake of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, with the claim that a new form of terrorism had emerged that was no longer state-sponsored.

On the contrary, the major terrorist strikes against the U.S. that were attributed to "loose networks" of Islamic militants, including al Qaeda, are much better explained as Iraq, working with and hiding behind the militants. In short, the 1991 Gulf War did not end with the cease-fire declared back then.

Read the whole thing. It makes Tom Clancy read like Nancy Drew. This woman is to foreign policy and terrorism as Ann Coulter is to civil discourse. Yet, she is influential among the highest reaches of the administration and inspired this ridiculous belief that terrorism is dependent upon, and in fact a reflection of, enemy governments rather than the far flung ideological movement it really is.

This bizarre theory was convenient for those who wanted to invade Iraq for other reasons and it certainly provided a nice excuse to continue with boondoggles like missile defense and other hallucinogenic neocon wet dreams. But, this error (a belief in which was fueled largely, I believe, by knee-jerk rejection of all things Clinton) led to a strategy that has exacerbated the terrorist threat and exposed America's strategic weaknesses with no benefit.

There was one state sponsor of global terrorism. It was Afghanistan. The rest is a delusionary obsession of one lone nut who managed to convince many of the fringe dwellers and old anti-communist comrades that inhabit the Bush administration that she is right and provided the others with a good excuse to avoid the real threat of terrorism so that they can continue on their long myopic march toward global hegemony.

If people won elections based upon fact vs fantasy, we would win this next one in a total landslide. (Unfortunately, the opposite may be true, in which case we'd better find some slick slogans to beat their "I made U Safe" mantra.) But, for those of us who actually like real information, I think the neocon intellectuals' acceptance of this totally bizarre, off-the-wall theory takes the cake. I don't know whether they are psychologically impaired or if they are stupid. But, this strategic error, as Suburban Guerrilla points out, is the single biggest reason we are in the mess we are in today in Iraq.

UPDATE: Tim Dunlop wrote an excellent piece about this yesterday and ties it together with the ongoing argument about what constitutes winning the war on terrorism. Here is an excerpt, but read the whole thing:

The Istanbul attacks do, however, reinforce that we all need to take the threat seriously. But while I absolutely applaud Bush and Blair’s recent comments about eliminating this threat, what concerns me is that they seem to be under the impression that terrorists are a discrete group that can be counted, isolated and therefore eliminated. Thus they instantly connect the “war on terrorism”, a metaphoric construct, with the actual war in Iraq:

Meanwhile, Blair said the assaults in Istanbul wouldn’t have a negative impact on Britain’s or America’s commitment in Iraq. Bush described the U.S.-led coalition’s work in the nation as “noble” and “necessary”.

This is so depressing. It not only shows an unhealthy desire to use whatever comes to hand as a prop to support anything and everything they do, this sort of talk also indicates that they are using the presumptions of state-based war to frame their understanding and responses to the threat of terrorism. By seeing the fight against global terrorism through the prism of state-based war, we are likely to respond with, well, wars on states, and this is insufficient at best and counterproductive at worst, as it has been in Iraq.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Action, Reaction

Jesse writes about Tom Friedman's latest intrepid foray into obviousness -- "the 2000's are the era of the Security Man," and points out the odd contradictory messages the Bush people push to maintain the sense of unreality about the "war" we are fighting.

But, the most amusing riff in Friedman's little Sunday epiphany is this gem:

We had to react, but we must stop overreacting. Terrorists win when they prevent us from enjoying and spreading our values. We defeat them not just by how we react, but by how we don't react.

That's so true. Overreaction is self-defeating isn't it? Especially when the perpetrators are trying to provoke an overreaction. You might even say it plays right into their hands.

Of course, Friedman and I disagree just a little on what constitutes overreaction. I tend to think its an overreaction to invade a country that had nothing to do with the terrorist attack just so that we could swing our giant manhood all over the mideast --- particularly when the aftermath of that little demonstration has illustrated to the entire world that we are not exactly omnipotent. And, when that act ends up creating even more terrorists, I can't help but think that such action might be a bit counterproductive to the cause of fighting terrorism. But, that's just me.

Tom thinks overreaction is when a "Security Man" for Colin Powell cancels a speech for security concerns. (I guess it never crosses his mind that Powell might have cancelled his speech for the same reason Junior cancelled his --- heckling concerns.)

I suppose that it was always understandable that Americans would react to 9/11 with shock, horror and a blind desire to hit back. But, it is usually believed that leaders, whether of men or beltway opinion, would set aside their emotions as quickly as possible and employ their rational minds to solve the problem and guide the country through the crisis. One might even say that this defines leadership.

Tom didn't agree with that. He said:

No, the axis-of-evil idea isn't thought through - but that's what I like about it. It says to these countries and their terrorist pals: "We know what you're cooking in your bathtubs. We don't know exactly what we're going to do about it, but if you think we are going to just sit back and take another dose from you, you're wrong. Meet Don Rumsfeld - he's even crazier than you are."

There is a lot about the Bush team's foreign policy I don't like, but their willingness to restore our deterrence, and to be as crazy as some of our enemies, is one thing they have right. It is the only way we're going to get our turkey back.

I'd hate to accuse Tom of overreacting, seeing as how he's against it and all, but that just sounded a little bit over the top to me. The administration, enabled by a totalitarian patriotic fervor, pretty much did as Dr. Friedman ordered. We defied the whole world and lashed out like a puerile, glass jawed bully, crazed with fear and anger.

So, it's nice that Tom has belatedly realized that "we defeat them not just by how we react, but by how we don't react" but he hasn't quite grasped the larger message yet. He seems to believe that the concept of overreaction applies only to the parochial trope that the terrorists win when we can't "enjoy and spread our values."

Sometimes, Tom, the terrorists win when we overreact and drain the resources actually fighting terrorism to invade a country that had nothing to do with terrorism and end up creating even more terrorists. It may not be in the same league as making Colin Powell cancel a speech he didn't want to make, but it sure as hell looks like a win to me.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Pre-Emptive Self Defense

That damned liberal media. Look at the lede of this NY Times article about Bush's new commercial.

Poor Bush. The Democrats have been launching "sustained attacks" and "undermining him with their sniping." Bad Democrats.

After months of sustained attacks against President Bush in Democratic primary debates and commercials, the Republican Party is responding this week with its first advertisement of the presidential race, portraying Mr. Bush as fighting terrorism while his potential challengers try to undermine him with their sniping.

The new commercial gives the first hint of the themes Mr. Bush's campaign is likely to press in its early days.

It shows Mr. Bush, during the last State of the Union address, warning of continued threats to the nation: "Our war against terror is a contest of will, in which perseverance is power," he says after the screen flashes the words, "Some are now attacking the president for attacking the terrorists."

By indirectly invoking the Sept. 11 attacks, the commercial plays to what White House officials have long contended is Mr. Bush's biggest political advantage: his initial handling of the aftermath of the attacks.


With somber strings playing in the background, the commercial flashes the words "Strong and Principled Leadership" before cutting to Mr. Bush standing before members of Congress. Intended to call out the Democrats for their opposition to Mr. Bush's military strategy of pre-emptively striking those who pose threats to the nation, the screen flashes "Some call for us to retreat, putting our national security in the hands of others," then urges viewers to tell Congress "to support the president's policy of pre-emptive self defense."

I'm going to call my Congressman and Senators right away. I do not want to put the security of the US in the hands of others. While it is now obvious that there were no actual WMD in Iraq, it is still true that Saddam had scientists who had the scientific knowledge to make theoretical plans and then theoretically use those plans to make deadly WMD that could be given to theoretical terrorists. This invasion, therefore, was a pre-emptive act of self-defense.

And now that I can see the full implication of what constitutes a pre-emptive act of self defense, I want him to invade Japan immediately.

They have many top flight scientists who could create any number of lethal weapons of mass destruction. They have a history of being hostile to America. They have home grown terrorists who gassed their own people. They could be a threat to the region if they ever obtained nuclear weapons.

I see no reason why we should wait for a mushroom cloud before we pre-emptively defend ourselves from the theoretical possibility that Japan might desire someday to attack us.

Update: Matt Yglesias on TAPPED also points out the obvious. This is a basically dishonest attack on the patriotism of the Democratic candidates implying that they don't want to fight terrorism and are lobbying for retreat:

This combination of scapegoats and strawmen makes it essentially impossible to have a rational debate about anything, and truly gives the lie to the alleged conservative enthusiasm for civility.


Thanks to Yglesias and Atrios for linking to this piece of shit by James Lileks and getting my blood pumping this morning:

Hey, Salam? Fuck you. I know you’re the famous giggly blogger who gave us all a riveting view of the inner circle before the war, and thus know more about the situation than I do. Granted. But there's a picture on the front page of my local paper today: third Minnesotan killed in Iraq. He died doing what you never had the stones to do: pick up a rifle and face the Ba'athists. You owe him.

Utter, fucking bullshit. The Iraqis owe us nothing. Absolutely nothing. We did not invade their country for their sake, we did it for ours. (The exact reasons, of course, are subject to change depending upon available facts and gullibility of the audience.) It was a war of choice. Any sacrifice our soldiers have made is on behalf of the United States of America and it is only the United States of America that owes them gratitude for it.

Iraq is their country. They have every right to criticize the way we are handling the invasion and occupation of that country. They do not answer to us either morally or legally.

It is unbelievably arrogant (not to mention shockingly blind to the very concept of "liberty" we are supposed to be promoting) to suggest that our invasion and occupation of a sovereign nation subjects the citizens of that nation to a requirement that they not only refrain from criticizing the fact that we've allowed the country to descend into chaos, but that they should actually be grateful for it. As the man who makes Midge Dector quiver with septuagenarian lust once said, "freedom is untidy."

Life under Saddam was undoubtedly terrible. But, daily life in a war zone is hardly an improvement. Here's a post from Riverbend on Tuesday. I'm sure she should realize how much she owes America for the freedom they've brought her but somehow she seems more concerned with the fact that ordinary people are being randomly bombed out of their homes and rousted out of their bedrooms in the middle of the night:

They've been bombing houses in Tikrit and other areas! Unbelievable… I'm so angry it makes me want to break something!!!! What the hell is going on?! What do the Americans think Tikrit is?! Some sort of city of monsters or beasts? The people there are simple people. Most of them make a living off of their land and their livestock- the rest are teachers, professors and merchants- they have lives and families… Tikrit is nothing more than a bunch of low buildings and a palace that was as inaccessible to the Tikritis as it was to everyone else!

People in Al Awja suffered as much as anyone, if not more- they weren't all related to Saddam and even those who were, suffered under his direct relatives. Granted, his bodyguards and others close to him were from Tikrit, but they aren't currently in Tikrit- the majority have struck up deals with the CPA and are bargaining for their safety and the safety of their families with information. The people currently in Tikrit are just ordinary people whose homes and children are as precious to them as American homes and children are precious to Americans! This is contemptible and everyone thinks so- Sunnis and Shi'a alike are shaking their heads incredulously.

And NO- I'm not Tikriti- I'm not even from the 'triangle'- but I know simple, decent people who ARE from there and just the thought that this is being done is so outrageous it makes me want to scream. How can that ass of a president say things are getting better in Iraq when his troops have stooped to destroying homes?! Is that a sign that things are getting better? When you destroy someone's home and detain their family, why would they want to go on with life? Why wouldn't they want to lob a bomb at some 19-year-old soldier from Missouri?!

The troops were pushing women and children shivering with fear out the door in the middle of the night. What do you think these children think to themselves- being dragged out of their homes, having their possessions and houses damaged and burned?! Who do you think is creating the 'terrorists'?!! Do you think these kids think to themselves, "Oh well- we learned our lesson. That's that. Yay troops!" It's like a vicious, moronic circle and people are outraged…

The troops are claiming that the attacks originate from these areas- the people in the areas claim the attacks are coming from somewhere else… I really am frightened of what this is going to turn into. People seem to think that Iraq is broken into zones and areas- ethnically and religiously divided. That's just not true- the majority of people have relatives all over Iraq. My relatives extend from Mosul, all the way down to Basrah- we all feel for each other and it makes decent people crazy to see this happening.

There have also been a string of raids all over Baghdad, but especially in Al-A'adhamiya. They've detained dozens of people with the excuse that they own more than one weapon. Who owns less than two weapons? Everyone has at least one Klashnikov and a couple of guns. Every male in the house is usually armed and sometimes the females are too. It's not because we love turning our homes into arsenals, but because the situation was so dangerous (and in some areas still is) that no one wants to take any risks. Imagine the scene: a blue mini-van pulls up… 10 dirty, long-haired men clamber out with Klashnikovs, pistols and grenades and demand all the gold and the kids (for ransom). Now imagine trying to face them all with a single handgun… if Baghdad were SECURE people would give up their weapons. I hate having weapons in the house.

I'm so tired. These last few days have been a strain on every single nerve in my body. The electricity has been out for the last three days and while the weather is pleasant, it really is depressing.

This is one good reason why nations should think twice before they try to justify their foreign adventurism as acts of "liberation." Oddly enough, people often believe that once they are liberated they should actually be, you know, free.

And speaking of freedom, it's comforting to know, at least, that General Buck Turgidson...er Tommy Franks, is no longer in the military:

Gen. Tommy Franks says that if the United States is hit with a weapon of mass destruction that inflicts large casualties, the Constitution will likely be discarded in favor of a military form of government.

Franks, who successfully led the U.S. military operation to liberate Iraq, expressed his worries in an extensive interview he gave to the men’s lifestyle magazine Cigar Aficionado.

In the magazine’s December edition, the former commander of the military’s Central Command warned that if terrorists succeeded in using a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) against the U.S. or one of our allies, it would likely have catastrophic consequences for our cherished republican form of government.

Discussing the hypothetical dangers posed to the U.S. in the wake of Sept. 11, Franks said that “the worst thing that could happen” is if terrorists acquire and then use a biological, chemical or nuclear weapon that inflicts heavy casualties.

If that happens, Franks said, “... the Western world, the free world, loses what it cherishes most, and that is freedom and liberty we’ve seen for a couple of hundred years in this grand experiment that we call democracy.”

Franks then offered “in a practical sense” what he thinks would happen in the aftermath of such an attack.

“It means the potential of a weapon of mass destruction and a terrorist, massive, casualty-producing event somewhere in the Western world – it may be in the United States of America – that causes our population to question our own Constitution and to begin to militarize our country in order to avoid a repeat of another mass, casualty-producing event. Which in fact, then begins to unravel the fabric of our Constitution. Two steps, very, very important.”

Franks didn’t speculate about how soon such an event might take place.

Already, critics of the U.S. Patriot Act, rushed through Congress in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, have argued that the law aims to curtail civil liberties and sets a dangerous precedent.

But Franks’ scenario goes much further. He is the first high-ranking official to openly speculate that the Constitution could be scrapped in favor of a military form of government.


Franks ended his interview with a less-than-optimistic note. “It’s not in the history of civilization for peace ever to reign. Never has in the history of man. ... I doubt that we’ll ever have a time when the world will actually be at peace.”

Franks is one of those good-ole boy Generals who hated Wesley Clark. Clearly, it was because Clark reads something other than comic books.

Saturday, November 15, 2003


I can't really expand on anything Mark Kleiman says here about the new "Perot-crazy" unpatriotic meme that the Republicans are busily spreading about Wesley Clark. He pretty much clears up the lies and the willful misunderstandings of Clark's words about al Qaeda and Iraq. (It is indisputably true that they pulled specialized troops from Afghanistan to run Dick and Don's Excellent Adventure.)

I will, however, address the image with which they are trying to stick Clark and whether I think it will work.

I said below in the comments of the previous post about General Shelton that I believe that this was to be expected. The only thing you can really smear Clark with is his military service since he was such a straight arrow personally.

But, it is difficult to come down too hard on his military career without indicting the entire military establishment and the civilian leadership he served under. Those glowing performance reviews are going to be hard to refute without asking everybody up the the entire chain of command, including Colin Powell, why they consistently promoted this incompetent nutcase. The military is one institution that people would like to believe functions as a meritocracy -- in fact, it is the one institution that people would like to believe in, period. It's playing with fire to come down too hard on its processes.

So, they will try to caricature him and the Perot image is probably the best they can come up with. Pro-military, technocrat, eagle scout type. But, here's the thing. Perot acted crazy on television. Lots of people liked his brand of craziness, but it was craziness nonetheless. He was wildly entertaining. But, he wasn't presidential. And when that became clear to most people it ruined his chances to actually win the election.

Clark appears steady, calm and reasonable. He doesn't look or act crazy. His supporters aren't crazy. He isn't a "character." They'll have to provoke him into completely losing it on national television to make people believe he's nuts.

These kind of character smears only work if there is something about them that people can sense might be true. You could believe that Bill Clinton was a womanizer and a bit of a 60's hedonist because there was something undeniably sexual and hedonistic about the guy. Many didn't judge him harshly for those things, but it wasn't hard to believe that he was that way.

Gore could be painted as a petty liar and slightly deranged because his speaking style was stiff and formal and ripe for the kind of derision that a shallow, celebrity obsessed culture loves to pile on poor suckers who have the misfortune to be uncool. Geeks are cool only in big cities. Everywhere else, they are just wierdos who need to be stuffed in a locker.

McGovern was easily portrayed as a peacenik not because of his own record, which was that of a war hero and moderate. It wasn't even because of his stand on the war because most people agreed with him by 1972. It was because of his youthful supporters, who scared the straights by giving the impression that they were about to take over the Democratic party (which they did, eventually, and then cut their hair and joined the DLC.) People didn't mind McGovern so much or love Nixon so much, but they looked at the television and had no problem believing that he was, in fact, the candidate of "acid, amnesty and abortion."

Gray Davis was blamed for a crisis that didn't even exist merely because his personal style was so bland that in an era of phony heroic masculinity, they were able to sell dullness as incompetence.

I'm sure that there is an effective way to smear Clark and I imagine that Rove and company will turn over every rock to find it. But, one of the reasons I think he might have a chance to beat Bush (a difficult task for any Democrat, I fear) is that his strengths track nicely with the current zeitgest, making it more difficult to negatively caricature him than the others.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

General Shillton

Steve Gilliard talks about General Hugh Shelton campaigning for John Edwards:

That's the real news. I would bet you could count on one hand the number of Dems Hugh Shelton has voted for. He can't stand Clark, but I get the feeling a lot of military people are going to turn against Bush. The thing about Clark is simple: there are those who think he's a liar and untrustworthy, others think he's the brightest soldier they've ever met. Shelton is of the camp who considers him the Courtney Massengale of his generation. That's a name which comes from Anton Meyer's Once an Eagle, about two officers who rise to general from WW I to Vietnam. One, Sam Damon, is beloved by his men, the other Massengale, is seen as willing to do anything to get ahead. To earn that sobriquete is a short hand verdict on your character and it's a bad one.

But I'm stunned that Shelton would jump into Democratic politics at all. That's a bad sign for Bush.

Maybe I'm cynical, but to me it's obvious that Shelton's "jumping into" Democratic politics isn't bad for Bush, it's on behalf of Bush.

Shelton knows that Edwards is highly unlikely to win the nomination. It's a move to stop Clark in South Carolina where he probably needs to win outright. And regardless of whether he succeeds in helping to tank Clark, once the Democratic nominee (who isn't Edwards) becomes known, Shelton says that he simply cannot vote for someone who believes in XYZ and he has decided, after all, to vote for Bush.

Nice 'n tidy.

As for whether Clark's the Courtney Massengale of his generation, it seems to depend upon who you talk to. I have no doubt that he was highly ambitious. Most generals are, including Shelton. And I would expect that only movie stars and politicians can compete with the higher reaches of the military for sheer volume of ego per square inch. To get 4 stars probably means leaving a certain amount of carnage in your wake and a long line of fans and enemies.

This is one of those issues for which there will never be an objective consensus of opinion amongst his fellow generals. Too much psychology, competition and subjectivity is involved. The officer corps of the military can sometimes more resemble a bunch of hissing junior high school girls angling for a slot on the cheerleading squad than a group of heroic, granite jawed warriors. Backstabbing and bitchiness, as well as long term strategic alliances and friendships, are part of the game, so you can only draw so many conclusions from the opinions of peers in this highly competitive club. At the end of the day, the only thing you can really say is that it's extremely difficult for anyone to reach that pinnacle and leave it at that.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Radio Days

Seeing the Forest has a superb post up about the Wurlitzer and AM radio's influence, specifically on the California recall debacle. Read the whole thing:

I listened to the panel and couldn't get over the feeling that all these smart people were missing what to me is the most obvious component. I think that we can't ignore that when you turn on AM radio you hear nonstop ridicule of Democrats and praise for Republicans. There's just no way around this. This is what radio IS now, and this has to have an effect, not just in California, but nationwide. (I'm using AM radio as my example, but the fact is that the right dominates every communications channel.) Before the California election every AM station I tuned into was promiting Arnold all day, every day, nonstop. I mean national as well as local talk shows. Sean Hannity, Limbaugh, Beck, etc. All of them, all the time. They were talking about how the Democrats had caused all the problems in the state, and how "we" all want Arnold to get rid of Davis and "fix" the state. All day, every day.

I have a little bit of a marketing background, but I don't think you need to be a professional to know that marketing has an impact on people. It's pretty basic that repetition drives a message into people's consciousness. And what is going on around us, on the radio, on TV, in the newspapers, and from the Right's politicians is repetition. Coordinated repetition of strategic messages.

In most parts of the country there is NO OTHER SOURCE OF INFORMATION. The public is saturated with right-wing messaging from radio, Fox News, and right-wing local newspapers. People like you and me don't tend to listen to these right-wing talk shows, but I think we should. I think we need to understand the extent of right-wing domination, we need to experience it, and it would benefit our understanding of America to know what they are saying, every day. I listen when I'm driving somewhere -- usually turning it off in disgust after a few minutes of lies -- but I try to listen in several times a week.

Oh, Gawd. If I do that, my road rage level goes up about 100 points. I worry about public safety.

But, he's right.

I don't think anyone can overstate how important the Wurlitzer is to GOP success, and I would suggest that AM radio is the real driver. Even here in Los Angeles, one of the most left-wing, 5th column, commie, big cities in the country, it's all there is on talk stations.

So, I listen to NPR (when it's not doing a play or a music show during drive time) which is like still lukewarm water compared to the boiling oil of AM talk. You hear the Democratic point of view, but you also hear the Republican point of view, usually in a constrained, civil exchange in which each person is allowed to fully expound on the issue at hand. It's an excellent way to educate yourself about issues, but anybody who says that it serves as a counter to the screaming GOP advocacy of the Rush Limbaughs is full of shit.

Sometimes I listen to Pacifica which, with the exception of Democracy Now, is almost entirely devoted to cultural programs and is actively hostile to the Democratic Party about 90% of the time.

So, I listen to music most of the time in the car. Considering how much time I spend reading and following the news, it's actually a nice respite for me. But, as Dave points out, many people get most of their information from these bozos or at least become comfortable with the hyperbolic hostility expressed toward the Democratic party and those who make up the Democratic coalition. They begin to think that this is normal and reflects the thinking of the average person.

The toxic waste of right wing hate radio is seeping into the collective unconscious of the entire country. It's a big problem for us and we'd better figure out what to do about it.

Why You Shouldn't Vote For A Callow, Empty-Headed Bimbo, Part XXIV

Constrained within a strong foreign-policy-making apparatus, such as that of the previous President Bush, theory-makers can be highly valuable. People like Wolfowitz are assets when it comes to challenging the assumptions of pre-existing policies, bringing ambitious ideas into a debate, and articulating basic principles. Kirkpatrick, Richard Pipes, and others were useful in exactly this way under President Reagan. Under Reagan, the more ambitious fantasies of the neoconservatives were effectively checked by George Shultz and other practically minded policymakers.

Under the current Bush, however, the check was blank—Powell was beaten down while Condi Rice and Dick Cheney somehow went AWOL. The result was that a few charismatic, outside-the-box thinkers were able to bamboozle the president into mistaking their roll of the dice for a mature judgment. No wise old head (where was Brent Scowcroft when we needed him?) took the president aside to explain that winning a debate in the Cabinet room isn't the same thing as having a sensible policy. (Bush's tax cuts are another example of a similar phenomenon, driven by a different set of ideologues: the supply-siders.)

I guess it's ridiculous to think that the President of the United States shouldn't, you know, actually need to be taken aside and told this. (I'm beginning to think that the GOP was so scarred by Nixon that they made a secret vow to only elect idiots to the presidency from then on.)

If this is the new standard then I don't see why we should even pretend anymore that the president is anything but a spokesmodel. I'm now officially backing the Brad Pitt/Halle Berry ticket. At least we won't have to look at the ugly faces of a bunch of pasty middle aged white men all the time.

As for who is actually making policy --- I don't think that's anybody's business, do you? Don't worry your little heads about it. Just listen to the pretty people make pretty speeches and shop, shop shop. God bless America.

Slap Happy Cyborg

It looks like Schwarzenegger is following the Bush playbook to the letter. Keep everything hidden and secret as much as possible and when you fuck up, which you will do often because you are arrogant, stupid and aggressive about everything, metaphorically hold your critics' heads in the toilet and flush. In other words, Arnold, treat everyone who disagrees with you the way you treat women.

Here's Arnold's latest idiocy --- and I'm not talking about hiring that political hack and intellectual fraud Stephen Moore.

SACRAMENTO — The dispute was hardly dead, but the charges that Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger abused more than a dozen women over the past three decades had receded from the headlines. Attention was pivoting to the upcoming inauguration. Schwarzenegger was making news by filling out his Cabinet and appointing senior staff. No new accusations had surfaced since his election victory on Oct. 7.

Yet in the span of an afternoon on Thursday, the focus lurched from Schwarzenegger's methodical efforts to build a government to the uncomfortable question that had dominated the final days of the recall campaign: his treatment of women.

At a news conference about an unrelated lawsuit, Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer took a question about the groping allegations. He largely repeated a point he had made during the campaign: that the accusations were troubling and should be investigated. He said he had told Schwarzenegger as much during a private meeting the day before. It might have ended there.

But Schwarzenegger's transition team quickly arranged a conference call with reporters, where a spokesman aggressively rebuked Lockyer.

During the call, Schwarzenegger spokesman Rob Stutzman also disclosed that the governor-elect would hire a private investigator to examine the allegations.

The thinking behind both statements was "surprising," Walt Stone, chairman of the political science department at UC Davis, said Friday. "It surprised me that they reacted at all."

Stone said, "The flow of news was away from this, and the emphasis was on the establishment of the new administration. What this does is bring it back."

But, you've got to love this right back in your face Rovian response. It's just classic:

GOP political strategist Dan Schnur said he saw "two silver linings" in Schwarzenegger's reaction to Lockyer.

"It sends a strong message to everyone in the Capitol about how seriously the new governor takes the confidentiality of private conversations. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bill Lockyer are both smart enough politicians to put this behind them in pretty short order. But the first time a legislator thinks about going public with the details of a private conversation, they'll remember how hard a slap Lockyer took."

Damn right.

The Terminator "slapped" the attorney general "hard" and everybody had better watch what they say from now on. Dick "Chainsaw" Cheney couldn't have put it any better. You boys ever heard of a little gal named Valerie Plame???

Sadly, this will probably work. The women are being crybabies, the attorney general is being partisan and Governor-elect Schwarzenegger is one badass mofo (who happens to use make-up, botox treatments and liposuction.)

But then we are now asked to believe that Ronald Reagan was the second coming of Alexander the Great and Jesus Christ, so what do I know?

Update: Julia hilariously parses the entire article. Arnold finds out it's haaard to be the governor-elect.

That's What I Want

The man from Tennessee, South Knox Bubba, explains the new world of unlimited campaign fundraising:

Howard Dean rejects public campaign financing.

Instead, he's counting on PayPal and encouraging supporters to shave their heads and hang out at airports begging for donations. He's also hoping Confederate-flag-waving pickup-truck-driving trailer-trash Republicans will see the error and futility of their ways and forego one Wrestling Megamania Death Match pay-per-view and send him the money instead so they can get health insurance for the seven or eight naked little rug rat bastards playing with empty beer cans and Tampaxes in the dirt out by the lawn jockey next to the trailer stoop. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Meanwhile, Bush is having serious fundraising problems. Numerous limousines have sustained damage ranging from ruptured tires to broken axles under the weight of bags of cash collected at $100,000 per-plate bar-b-cue events. Campaign officials are also concerned that there aren't enough banks to spread the deposits around to keep their accounts under the FDIC $100K insurance limit. A White House spokesperson said "It's just another example of Bush economic policies putting people like limousine axle repairmen back to work."

I plan on setting up a stand on the median at Pacific Coast Highway and Sepulveda and selling oranges and bags of peanuts for Clark at rush hour. It's the least I can do. I think we can all come up with some novel ways to help out our candidates, or the Democratic party for that matter, if we just put our minds to it.

On a serious note, I think it's absolutely a-ok to forego the funds if you can raise more than you'd lose by doing it. In Dean's case, it's probably going to benefit him most in the primaries where a large field is scrambling for money. But, let's not ever delude ourselves into thinking that we can compete with the Republican machine on fundraising or even come close. Bush's ability to raise cash is the one thing he does exceptionally well and it is the single biggest advantage he has. And, it's a huge, huge advantage.

It's also true, however, that if the money advantage were the only thing that mattered in presidential elections, Democrats would never win.

Girls Don't Know Nothin' Bout Birthin' Babies

TBOGG kindly links to the bright and shiny new anti-choice law and notes a particularly wierd passage:

`(c)(1) The father, if married to the mother at the time she receives a partial-birth abortion procedure, and if the mother has not attained the age of 18 years at the time of the abortion, the maternal grandparents of the fetus, may in a civil action obtain appropriate relief, unless the pregnancy resulted from the plaintiff's criminal conduct or the plaintiff consented to the abortion.

TBOGG points out:

… the maternal parents or the husband may sue the doctor for damages, not the wife. Thanks to an alert reader who pointed that out. Nonetheless, I still find it amazing that the legislators think less of the psychological damage of the mother than they do of the psychological damage of the sperm provider who made his contribution weeks or months before.

Well, at least a husband can't sue if he gave his permission. (All you girls say, "thank you, Daddy.")

So, it's only if his wife gave permission for the procedure, which she must have done, and he would rather she had died or ruined her chances for another child than have it, that he gets to sue the doctor. This must be what "respecting the sanctity of marriage" is all about. Husbands suing their wives' doctors for doing procedures their wives want. It's quite beautiful, really.

It's interesting that this law ignores the woman involved pretty much across the board. She, apparently, is some infantile pet who cannot be held responsible for what they claim is a brutal, inhumane act, despite the fact that she must have given her permission to do it. The doctor alone is responsible. And then, after the fact, her parents or her husband are given standing to sue the doctor who performed this act with her consent.

Poor, stupid women. They don’t know what they’re doing. It’s a good thing President George W. Bush and Denny Hastert and Rick Santorum are there to protect them from themselves.

Someday the purveyors of “the culture of life” are going to have to face the fact that they are morally incoherent when they fail to hold women responsible for committing an act they call murder. And, when that happens the law is going to have to decide whether it is reasonable to hold a woman liable for murdering something that is literally part of her own body.

The only way they can make these criminal abortion laws work is to completely strip women from the equation, as if they are children who can’t be expected to know right from wrong. If women were held criminally and civilly liable for an abortion, the law would have to recognize a pregnant woman as some kind of lesser citizen whose bodily integrity is subject to the state. Not that there isn't precedent for such a thing. Ye Olde Constitution itself proclaimed that African slaves could be counted as 3/5th of a human being for electoral purposes, so I suppose it wouldn't be too hard for someone to argue that a woman is only 1/2 of a full citizen when she carries a fetus inside of her. Should be an interesting legal argument and we can be sure that our favorite justice Nino would find comfort in the fact that the original intent of the framers was for women and slaves to be counted as less than full citizens in numerous ways.

And then there's the little problem that the vast, vast majority of the citizens of this country would never stand for women being jailed for having an abortion.

This is why you cannot take these pro-life people seriously. Their rigid morality, even on this, their most passionately held belief, is quite flexible when it suits them.

slightly edited for spelling, clarity and snarkiness.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Cheap Cannon Fodder For Phony Preppie Chickenhawks

Don’t you feel all warm inside at how the Republicans are supporting the troops? It’s nice to know that they put the highest priority on the men in uniform and their loved ones:

From the Center For American Progress:

DOD - FLYING THE FRIENDLY SKIES: Responding to a request for an inquiry by Sen. Norm Coleman, the GAO released a report yesterday that revealing that "military and civilian defense officials improperly used government credit cards to buy 68,000 first-class or business-class airline seats when they were supposed to fly coach."

The tickets cost the government in excess of $124 million over two years. The GAO reported that John Stenbit, the Assistant Secretary of Defense purchased 17 first class tickets for $68,000, citing an unspecified medical condition. Jack Dyer Crouch, another Assistant Secretary, took 15 luxury trips costing $70,000, justifying the expense by saying he needed to be ready for meetings upon arrival. The Pentagon has convened a task force to investigate.

The Army took Spc. Christopher Cohn of Urbana to Iraq, but it wouldn't pay to bring him all the way home.

Cohn returned home from Tikrit, Iraq, last week for a two-week rest and recuperation leave, but federal funds flew him and other soldiers only as far as Baltimore, Atlanta or Dallas. The connecting flight home was on the soldier's dime.

Cohn, 21, said his $170 flight from Baltimore to Columbus was a bargain and he would have paid much more.

"It could've been $1,000 and I'd have paid it," said Cohn, a mechanic and wrecker operator with the Springfield-based 656th Transportation Company.

To help soldiers combat such travel expenses, frequent fliers are being asked to donate their miles to "Operation Hero Miles." The program, begun by Maryland Democratic U.S. Rep. C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger, provides round-trip fares on Delta, Southwest and Alaska airlines. The Web site, www.heromiles.org, has collected more than 7.8 million miles.

Congress recently approved an $87 billion Iraqi supplemental funding bill, which includes $55 million to pay for the travel expenses of soldiers returning to their hometowns. However, the funds will not be available for several weeks.

55 million to pay for Americans who are getting their asses shot off and 124 million for a bunch of bureaucrats to upgrade to first class to make their big fat asses more comfortable.

This is an excellent use of taxpayer money during a time of war and deficits. Some people are just going to have to sacrifice and we’re proud to say that the troops and their families are once more at the front of the line while Rummy’s pasty faced paper pushers are kept in the lap of luxury.

And, then there's this:

FORT WORTH, Texas - With hostilities in Iraq (news - web sites) continuing as Veterans Day approaches, government leaders must remember their promises to help those who have fought and are fighting for this country, Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Texas, said Saturday.

Edwards, delivering the Democrats' weekly radio address, said trillion-dollar tax cuts benefiting the wealthy are hindering government support for military families and veterans. He criticized House Republicans' March vote to cut veterans' health care services by $28 billion over 10 years.

What message does it send to our veterans when the (Bush) administration says American taxpayers can afford to build new hospitals in Iraq, but we cannot afford to keep open veterans hospitals here at home?" Edwards said.

Six Veterans Affairs hospitals nationwide are being considered for closure in a proposed $4.6 billion restructuring plan. A decision is expected by year's end.

The administration has said it wants to cut costs at outdated or underused medical centers and offer improved care, notably in the South and West, where growing numbers of the nation's 6.9 million veterans live.

Meanwhile, Edwards said, 60,000 veterans are waiting six months or more for an appointment at a VA hospital.

Democrats have proposed increasing funding for VA hospitals, expanding access to health care for the National Guard and Reserves and improving care for injured soldiers who return from Iraq, Edwards said.

Democrats have opposed the administration's proposals to impose new fees and co-payments on veterans seeking health care.

There are a lot of people who have become convinced that government programs mainly benefit lazy, big-city liberals and that cutting taxes for the wealthy will not touch them or the things they value. The military is something they value.

This is one way to illustrate the fact that when Republicans say they support the military, what they really mean is that they support bureaucrats, expensive weapons systems and big military contracts for their fat cat cronies, not the troops. And it's an opening to discuss Republican hypocrisy on the issue of "honor and integrity" and the values of patriotism and shared sacrifice in a time of war. A lot of Americans sincerely and deeply believe in those things and this administration has pulled a bait and switch the likes of which have never been seen before.

It's a wedge issue in the making and it's in our favor.

Terrorist Lapdancers

I missed this one last week.

LAS VEGAS – The FBI used the USA Patriot Act to obtain financial information about key figures in a political corruption probe centered on striptease club owner Michael Galardi, an agent said.

Investigators used a section of the Patriot Act to get subpoenas for financial documents, said Special Agent Jim Stern, a spokesman for the Las Vegas FBI office.

"It was used appropriately by the FBI and was clearly within the legal parameters of the statute," Stern said.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Tuesday that records were subpoenaed from Galardi, the owner of Jaguars in southern Nevada and Cheetah's in Las Vegas and San Diego; his lobbyist, former Clark County Commissioner Lance Malone; former Commissioner Erin Kenny; County Commission Chairwoman Mary Kincaid-Chauncey; former County Commission Chairman Dario Herrera; and Las Vegas City Councilman Michael McDonald, who lost a re-election bid in June.

The Patriot Act, passed after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was originally touted by the government as a tool to help federal law enforcers combat and prevent terrorism.

So, what's the problem? The Ashcroft justice department promised that they would never misuse these provisions and we must believe them or we too are terrorists and Saddamites. Therefore, strippers and nightclub owners must be engaging in terrorist activities and the PATRIOT Act is being rightfully invoked.

Just think of those poor FBI agents who had go back again and again and again to gather the evidence. The hardship. The sacrifice. President Bush himself has personally offered to don his flight suit and "go to San Diego," to support the troops. I hear he plans to ride down the "runway" on the back of a cheetah, singing "It's Raining Men."

Seriously, my friends, we are at war. We don't have time for any shilly shallying about civil rights and civil liberties. Bin Laden and Saddam are out to git us and we'd better git them first. We cannot let them infiltrate our most cherished institutions.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Kick Ass Haiku

And the winners of the DNC Kicking Ass haiku contest are:

1st place: Mark L.

I pledge allegiance
to the United States of
Halliburton, Inc.

2nd place: doogieh

What Roves the hallways
of the Bush America?
Some say it's treason.

3rd place: Wayne Canne

deficit rich guy tax breaks

4th place: doogieh

Please watch what you say.
Patriots don't criticize
The Republicans.

5th place: acallidryas

New attacks each day.
Over one hundred more dead.
Mission Accomplished?

6th place: Mark L.

No child left behind,
Clean skies, healthy forests and
Iraq. Pants on fire!

7th place (tie): Rumblelizard

There should be limits
To freedom, he said. And now,
We see he meant it.

7th place (tie): Shant Mesrobian

Screwed the country bad
Two thousand four awaits him
He'll go just like Dad.

9th place (tie): Irfo

Preppy cheerleader
Pretends to be working man
But nothing's working.

9th place (tie): Debbs

Watch fat cats choke down
$2,000 hot dogs.
Hand me a pretzel.

Special Honorable Mention: Hollywood Liberal

Thank you DNC...
Can't stop thinking Bush haiku.
Now look what you've done!