Tsunami Blogs

American Street has Tsunami Blogs you can rely on and Tsunami Blogs you can rely on, Pt. 2.


The blogs are writing about today's Washington Post story comparing Democrat and Republican election tactics. Bloggers like Kos and MyDD wrote about how money received by Democratic consultants affected their ad-placement decisions.

The article also talked about how Republicans used a "data mining" technique "enabling Bush to identify and target potential voters with pinpoint precision." Alice at GOTV asks a good question in her post, The means determines the ends, TargetPoint Consulting:
"What do you think the chances are that politicians who are elected by such means are going to protect our privacy?"
Go read.

Think It Through

A Letter to the Editor in today's San Jose Mercury News (responding to a Pat Buchanan op-ed saying we should get out of Iraq) states the Bush position:
"Dinosaur Buchanan doesn't get it

Democracies don't commit aggression on others, and if they resort to force sometimes, even pre-emptively, it is only as a last recourse in legitimate self-defense or in defense of others, particularly the weak.

For example, Germany, Italy and Japan -- which in their history knew almost nothing about effective democracy before World War II -- haven't committed aggression against others since then. Therefore, and in the light of Sept. 11, democratizing Afghanistan and Iraq -- and eventually the rest of the Muslim world -- is America's best insurance against organized mass-murdering Islamist terrorism. The ultra-isolationist, dinosaur ortho-con (orthodox conservative) Patrick Buchanan can't see it."
Think this through. "Democracies don't commit aggression on others" therefore our aggression on Iraq is justified because (this week's) reason for attacking that country was to make them become a democracy.

Actually I agree with the premise that democracies do not commit aggression. But I would add to that. I would say that informed democracies don't commit aggression, and make rational decisions. The fact that America did commit aggression says more about what America has become than about anything else. We are no longer an informed democracy, which I think means we are no longer a democracy at all. America went to war because we were told that there was an imminent danger of an attack against us by Iraq. We were told that Iraq had nuclear and biological weapons and was ready to either use them against us or give them to al-Queda to use against us. This was a lie. It was a lie designed to get us to support war.

A simple test - ask 100 people why we went to war against Iraq and why we are there now, and you will get almost 100 different answers. We - the public - still do not know why we are at war. Think THAT through.

More Tsnami Aid

Google has set up a central Tsunami Aid and info page.

Tsunami Aid

From Oxfam America:
I am writing on behalf of the Asian Earthquake Response Team at Oxfam America. We are currently working around the clock to provide assistance and assess the needs of the affected regions. A brief and updated summary of our efforts can be found at: http://www.oxfamamerica.org/whatwedo/emergencies/asian_floods_2004

I wanted to ask if you would write or link to Oxfam’s relief efforts on your blog. Also, we are hoping for banner space donations to begin as soon as possible and run for the duration of the crisis. Raising money quickly is key to aiding these victims and preventing the death toll from rising needlessly.
Oxfam America

Click the banner to go directly to the donations page:



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You've probably added the non-javascript version of the Site Meter HTML to the pages of your site. You'll need to add the javascript version to your pages to track the referrals of your visitors. To get the javascript version of the Site Meter HTML, login to your account on Site Meter and select the "HTML Code" link from the MANAGER page of your account.
Non-bloggers, there are a lot of great blogs out there. Go click on some of the links in the left column.



By now you've heard about this: UN Official Backs Down: Rich Nations Not 'Stingy'. Here's my take on it. You've got millions of screaming desperate people, and you've got one of the nastiest, most uncaring, petty, vengeful leaders in history in charge of the "wealthiest" (borrowed money) nation. Everyone knows he is entirely capable of withholding aid because of this one guy's remark.

So what do you do? You back down and hope that your honest "stingy" remark -- $40 million for aid, $50 million for his inaugural party -- doesn't keep him from helping all those people. It has to be about them. (That's not how Bush will see it. Maybe we can convince Bush this happened because God wants the world to see how great a leader Bush is... like 9/11. Maybe that would get him to do something to help.)

Ok, I don't like the guy. Sue me.

Meanwhile, Clinton is filling the leadership vacuum while Bush clears brush in Crawford.

Update - It turns out that the origin of reports that a UN representative said the U.S. was being "stingy" with relief aid was just a lie, made up by the Moonie newspaper, spread by Drudge and echoed through the right-wing media as part of their anti-UN strategic lie campaign. (Thanks to Atrios for the link.)


What we know

Frogs & Canaries

Go read Frogs & Canaries: When to worry about leaving the US. -- and take the poll.

What Happened to Tsunami Notice?

A French blogger, Philsland, who subscribes to the USGS earthquake notification system reports he received a notice of the earthquake 3 hours before the arrival of the tidal wave that engulfed 10 countries in Asia. The notice read:
"A great earthquake occurred at 00:58:49 (UTC) on Sunday, December 26, 2004. The magnitude 9.0 event has been located OFF THE WEST COAST OF NORTHERN SUMATRA. (This event has been reviewed by a seismologist.)"
A press affairs officer at the USGS center in Golden Colorado verified to me that they did detect the quake and that they notified the US Department of State. (The Tsunami Warning Center detected the earthquake under the Indian Ocean within minutes of its occurrence, but issued a limited warning because of their narrow jurisdiction, according to a report by Christopher Joyce on NPR.) Whether or not quick notice to the impacted nations was possible or could have saved lives we don?t know, but the incident raises several questions about the competency and priorities of the Bush Administration.

First, what happened to the notice sent to the State Department? As of noon today, press officials in the Deputy Secretary's office have not responded and officials at the East Asia and Pacific desk of the DOS were not able to determine if they received the notice, although USGS confirmed that it was sent to the Operations Center at DOS. If it did not reach decision-making levels of the DOS, why not? If it did reach decision makers and it was not immediately sent to consulates in the affected nations so they could contact the local authorities, this could have contributed to a catastrophe that will be felt for decades. Again, why not?

Second, why the low level of US response? Secretary of State Powell told ABC that initially the US would provide $15 million with another $10 million going to NGOs plus nine patrol planes and some C-130s carrying relief supplies. This was called ?stingy? on CNN Tuesday by Jan Egeland, the UN emergency relief coordinator, but he flip-flopped this morning under pressure, calling it ?generous?, especially after the DOS announced another $20 million, bringing the total to $45 million. This is $5 million less than the cost of the President?s inaugural, .03% of the current cost of the war in Iraq and about 2% of initial estimates of damage costs - which will surely rise. Why so little?

Third, where is the vision? The damage from the tsunami is estimated at $13 billion. We could pay for it several times over with the money being wasted on the unneeded and unworkable missile defense system boondoggle, among others. The tsunami offers the Administration an opportunity to use our nation?s wealth and expertise to lead a true coalition of wealthy nations in a regional rebuilding effort. (The State Bank of India set up a local effort the next day). The US could regain the respect of the world - not to mention of its own people - with a visionary plan of rebuilding villages, farms, water systems, schools, roads and homes in the flooded nations. That is the vision of a great leader. Instead Bush offers a few million dollars and a handful of planes carrying food. Where is the vision in this?

The world came to America's aid after 9/11. The tsunami offers us an opportunity to give back - and to get back our greatness. All that is necessary is that the Administration realize that the United States is a nation built on a vision of freedom, not a selfish collection of corporate self-interests uncomfortably in bed with religious zealots whose common goal is cut taxes and kill government. Commonwealth must trump wealth if the world is to survive. The tsunami offers the Administration an opportunity to rejoin the commonwealth of nations and ensure everyone's survival.

Money Talks, Killer Walks

TalkLeft has a story about a Missouri Supreme Court ruling OK'ing a killer's family paying a victim's family $250,000 to keep the killer from getting the death penalty.

Verizon Ad at Drudge

This morning there was a big Verizon ad at Drudge. I'm on a two-year contract with them so there's little I can do about it. But if you're thinking of cell phone service...

... Just saw a Cingular ad there, too.

Maybe a call or two to the company...


Light Posting

It's light bogging I guess. In the past, whenever I posted that it led to a flurry of blogging activity. However I'm not sure Sudeep is going to allow that this week. So in the meantime check THE DAOU REPORT, too.


"Maybe you already knew this intuitively. Now you can know it to a scientific certainty. Drew Westen ... a professor of psychology at Emory University in Atlanta and author of a new and still-unpublished study test whether people make decisions based on bias or fact. Bias won hands down.

In a key scenario, respondents were led to believe a soldier was accused of torturing people at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The fictional soldier claimed to have been following orders from superiors who told him the Geneva Convention had been suspended. He supposedly wanted to subpoena President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to prove his case. Respondents were asked if he should have that right.

Some were presented with strong "evidence" corroborating the soldier's story. Others had only his word to go on.

But the strength or weakness of the evidence turned out to be immaterial. Researchers were able to predict people's opinion more than 80 percent of the time based simply on their opinions of the Bush administration, the GOP, the military and human rights groups. Those who had less affection for the president sided with the soldier even when the evidence was weak. And fans of the president tended to side with him even when the evidence was overwhelming.

We believe what we want, facts be damned."



The GOP machine understands this and that's why they almost always win.


Over at eRiposte, go read Fundamentalism in the United States: A Brief Summary of the Christian Right in the U.S. Court system ad let others know about it.

Update - In the comments Alice suggests forwarding this to your local education assn. Good idea. Schools, educators, school boards, teacher associations... let them know about eRiposte's work.

Lakoff Critique

Thomas has an interesting critique of Lakoff's book, "Don't Think of an Elephant" I don't agree with it, but it's worth discussing.


Warning - Avoid Crichton's New Book, "State of Fear"!

Crichton casts environmentalists as villains:
The odious villains who kill, maim and terrorize in Michael Crichton's new thriller are environmentalists, believers in global warming, proponents of the Kyoto Protocol. Their allies are the liberal media, trial lawyers, Hollywood celebrities, mainstream environmental groups (like the Sierra Club and the Audubon Society) and other blue-state apparatchiks.

[. . .] In Crichton's ham-handed novel, the dangers of global warming are nothing but a lot of hype: scare scenarios, promoted by shameless environmentalists eager to use bad science to raise money and draw attention to their cause. The ludicrous plot revolves around efforts by radical members of an environmental group called NERF (National Environmental Resource Fund) to trigger a series of natural disasters, including a giant tsunami that would hit California with 60-foot waves. These disasters would be timed to coincide with the group's big media conference, thereby awakening the public to the dangers of climate change wrought by global warming.

The radical leaders of the environmentalists -- including the head of NERF, Nicholas Drake, an ascetic Ralph Nader type -- are ruthless control freaks. Their followers are a bunch of bubbleheaded Hollywood types who drive sport utility vehicles while preaching the virtues of gasoline conservation.

[. . .] Half movie treatment, half ideological screed, "State of Fear'' careens between action set pieces (car chases, shootouts and narrow escapes from grisly ends) and talky disquisitions full of technical language and cherry-picked facts meant to hammer home the author's points. And Crichton does indeed have a message, as an afterword titled "Author's Message'' attests. "I blame environmental organizations every bit as much as developers and strip miners'' for current failures in wilderness management, he writes.
Don't give this guy any money. Don't help this book make the charts.


Merry Little Christmas Now

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
Next year all our troubles will be out of sight

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the yuletide gay
Next year all our troubles will be miles away

Once again as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Will be near to us once more

Someday soon, we all will be together
If the fates allow
Until then, we'll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

Composed by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane in 1943.

[UPDATE: A comment motivated me to look harder for a complete online version of the original Judy Garland version. I found a fine take. It was recorded soon after the film for which it was written, Meet Me in St. Louis, became a big hit. So presumably the lyrics are accurate. I changed two words above to reflect the lyrics as sung.]

DNC Chair

Read this and tell me is this isn't the right person for the job!

Social Security Issue Guide: Facts at a Glance

Social Security Issue Guide: Facts at a Glance

Happy Howlidays from the Johnsons!

Happy Howlidays from the Johnsons!

- Dave and Sudeep and Buddy and Espresso

The back of this card reads: Published by DoggiePaw, Inc., Subsidiary of BarkMore, Offices in Dog Bed, New Howlton, Copyright: Botticelli 1549, Card by Sudeep

Boycott The Right's Funders!

Corporations are some of the core funders of the Republicans and the Right. They have paid no price for doing this while the rewards – removal of environmental, health and safety regulations, tax beaks, government subsidies, outright crony contacts – have been great. But there is a way to hold them accountable and make them pay a price for acting against the interests of the public-at-large.

The owner of the Curves fitness and weight-loss centers for women also funds the worst of the anti-women, anti-abortion right. When word got out about this, many women chose not to do business with them. Now a new campaign takes this to a national level bringing us a way to show corporations and their shareholders that there is a price to pay after all.

The "Buy Blue" and "Choose the Blue" campaigns offer us a way to work to convince corporations that there is a price to pay for meddling with democracy and funding the Right. These websites show which companies have been supporting the Republican Party. If you truly feel that the Republicans and the Right and their lies are bad for the country, you can hit back at some of their big-money supporters by learning who they are and taking your business elsewhere.

So spread the word, publicize this, encourage it. BUY BLUE and CHOOSE THE BLUE! Boycott the funders of the Right. MAKE THEM PAY A PRICE.

Over time this will show corporate boardrooms that there is a price for funding the Republican Party and the Right. Eventually shareholders will ask why tens and hundreds of millions of dollars are going to politics instead of into shareholder pockets.

(Burnt Orange Report was on the Curves story earlier this year.)


Addressing Holiday Cards

Every holiday card we have received was addressed to "Dave and Sudeep Johnson" -- even the ones from my wife's friends. How come they didn't address those to "Sudeep and Dave Johnson?"

Social Security

Social Security runs a huge surplus, which is put into government bonds. In the 2000 election Al Gore said this money should be kept in a "lockbox," to pay back the bonds when Social Security needs it. Instead Bush said this surplus was "your money" and gave it out as tax cuts for the rich.

That tax cut WAS "your money" and it was supposed to be in safe keeping until you needed it for your retirement. Instead Bush and his cronies got their hands on it.

In 2018 Social Security stops running a surplus and needs that money to pay YOU or your parents. Bush doesn't have it because it went to tax cuts for the rich, and says that because of this Social Security is "in crisis." So we need to cut benefits, etc. But saying this 2018 problem is because of Social Security is like blaming the bank when you don't have enough to pay your mortgage payment this month, and insisting that the bank lay off employees so they won't need your money.

Jesse Jackson used to say, "get the money FROM where the money WENT."

Spread the word. Watch your backs.


Thomas Friedman writes a pretty good column in the Times today, Worth a Thousand Words:
"... There is much to dislike about this war in Iraq, but there is no denying the stakes. ... this is a war between some people in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world who - for the first time ever in their region - are trying to organize an election to choose their own leaders and write their own constitution versus all the forces arrayed against them.

[. . .] However this war started, however badly it has been managed, however much you wish we were not there, do not kid yourself that this is not what it is about: people who want to hold a free and fair election to determine their own future, opposed by a virulent nihilistic minority that wants to prevent that. That is all that the insurgents stand for.

[ . . . ] What is terrifying is that the noble sacrifice of our soldiers, while never in vain, may not be enough. We may actually lose in Iraq. The vitally important may turn out to be the effectively impossible."
Yes, those are the "facts on the ground" now -- thanks to Bush. We caused this horrible situation -- even more horrible for the people in Iraq than for our troops there -- and we have to try to help them form a government now, and work to calm things down. But then Friedman gets it entirely wrong, buying into right-wing framing:
"We may lose because most Europeans, having been made stupid by their own weakness, would rather see America fail in Iraq than lift a finger for free and fair elections there."
The Europeans and others are not refusing to help in Iraq, they are refusing to help when the offer is entirely on Bush's terms! The Europeans are not buying into the typical Republican trick of offering their solution and then casting anyone who won't do it their way as obstructionist.


A Blue State Christmas at the Chattanooga Choo Choo

Patrick O’Heffernan

I had to sit down one night this week and let the memories flow as a I opened Christmas ornaments and found frosted white globes with an old- time steam engine and the words Chattanooga Choo Choo” on them. My family spent Christmases in the ‘90’s at the Choo Choo Hotel built in the stately old turn-of-the-century railroad station in Chattanooga. We loved its magical Christmas world with a tree so tall you had to crane your neck to see the angel on its tip, trains in the frosty garden, and the Elf “tuck-in service” for our children in the Victorian Pullman Car rooms.

Before checking in, we would visit the Tennessee Aquarium, whose twin-pyramid design rivals even the Monterrey Aquarium. After a stroll through the International Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame where we goggled at the ingenuity of early truck builders, we would head to Rock City. Advertised on barns throughout the South, this mountain wonderland sounded hokey to my sophisticated San Francisco ears until I saw the shine in children’s’ eyes as they raced through the painted rocks and played hide and seek around the plaster Mother Goose figures.

The hotel staff often blessed us when we registered and there were prominent lists of local churches and even the occasional offer of directions to a Sunday service. But the blessings and the directions were presented with generosity, not superiority. Other guests I talked with in the dinning car spoke easily of the approaching birthday of their Lord, Jesus Christ. Their spirit was welcoming even when we talked politics from different sides. There was no animosity, even when I spoke of my brother-in-law singing in the San Francisco Gay Mens Chorus or my Buddhist beliefs. We disagreed on some things, but felt the same magic of Christmas and the Choo Choo.

How different these memories are from the lies I hear today from the Alliance Defense Fund that pubic schools have banned Christmas symbols. How different they are from Bill O’Reilly falsely telling his Daily News audience that store clerks not wishing customers “Merry Christmas” is a plot to force gay marriage, partial birth abortion and legalized drugs on everyone. How different they are from Newt Gingrich charging imaginary Liberal zealots with turning Christmas into a godless shopping day.

The Right Wing message machine has done deep damage to American democracy. It has fooled the media into believing that its version of “morals” – one based on oppression of gays and women – is the only correct one, and fooled us into believing that is why Progressives lost the election when polls say otherwise. So we are now building our own message machine to reframe morals as Christ – the object of the season’s celebrations regardless of one’s beliefs - intended them, that is, the obligation to care for our brothers and sisters. We are repairing the holes in the wall protecting church and state from one another. We are expanding our constituencies, building new leaders, and taking back our nation.

But as we do this, we must appreciate the values of the staff at the Choo Choo who offer blessings even to unchurched Northerners, and the families enjoying Rock City after worship services, and the pride of Frank Thomas, Manager of the Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame, in showing people daily life in simpler times. We must appreciate the people of Chattanooga who dared to build one of the nation’s finest aquariums in a declining steel town after the Federal government abandoned them. And we must listen to Fred Denson of the Tennessee Military Department , who welcomes even liberal trial lawyers as volunteers to fight corporations denying returning troops their jobs back.

The Right Wing propaganda machine has damaged them also. It has taken their values of hospitality and neighborliness and turned them into tribalism and suspicion. It has robbed them of their open hearts and tried to slam shut their open minds. And it has stolen their jobs, their security, and their futures while it gives them only false hopes and promises of Armageddon in return.

But it is hard for Progressives – and Conservatives – to see our common humanity in the face of the daily damage being done to us both by the radicals running the Right. The 2004 election was a brutal battle in what appears to be an unending ideological war. But unending war is democracy’s worst enemy. Somehow, while we are fighting the Right’s leaders to take back our nation, we must learn to celebrate our common values with the people of America’s heartland, with people in places like Chattanooga. We don’t yet know how to do that, but Christmas at the Choo Choo is a good place to start.

Wait A Minute!


EU Orders MS Windows Split

Here's how a system less hampered by corruption handles things. But in the United States, after Microsoft had already been found guilty in the courts, a new "business friendly" (friendly to the businesses paying them, too bad for other businesses) administration comes in and lets them off the hook! The result has been very little investment in competing products, and little innovation by Microsoft. (In fact, it goes backwards -- my laptop crashes all the time since I installed XP Service Pack 2. Running the Firefox browser has reduced the crashes somewhat.)

Hear, Hear! (+ "Happy Holidays")

I'll be doing Christmas and family things from now until about January 6, and I'll be sharing one dialup with 10-20 people so posting will be sparse. Until then, happy holidays! (Yeah, I used to say "Merry Christmas" in my scroogy, grinchish way, but the illiberal media have given me my marching orders!)

I've updated this thing twice, so I'm moving it forward on the queue. #1 and #2 are bitches about the Dems, and #3 is a recognition of how tough a row it really is that we have to hoe.

"But what makes me angry was Kerry and his gang's inability to take advantage of the situation. I may regret saying this later, but fuck it -- they should be lined up and shot." -- Kos

I was a reasonably good sport during the campaign, and I agree now that we should try to avoid the circular firing squad, but there should be some accountability. Losing with a cautious, compromising campaign leaves you with nothing to work with. If Kerry had won that way, we'd still have the Clinton problem -- no real mandate. But he lost, and we take nothing away from the campaign but a reputation for weakness.

According to Newsweek, Kerry, Edwards, and Cleland all wanted to strike back at the Swiftboat smears, but the pros in the campaign stopped them. Democratic Party pros are such a bunch of preshrunk losers. You don't really need to bother with the election if you've got them working for you. (Thanks to Yuval at The Left Coaster.)

In the New York Review of Books Mark Danner shows how the Bush campaign won via fear, the cult of personality, groupthink, and flooding the media. He doesn't dot the I's and cross the T's, but it's scary. He points out that the key Bush voters voted on the basis of Iraq and terrorism -- and that the majority of these voters, including well-educated professionals, were misinformed about Iraq and terrorism. Danner's story shows the Bush campaign successfully selling Bush as strong, and successfully labelling Kerry as weak. (Via Tomdispatch)

Danner also points out that the Democrats' job during wartime may have been impossibly hard, since the divided party made it difficult for Kerry to present a strong stand on Iraq one way or the other. From that point of view, especially given the media flood he describes, neither Kerry nor the pros can entirely be blamed.


The Perranoski Prizes

Supplementing the Koufax blog awards, The Perranoski Prizes. Go nominate.

Starving Hysterical Naked

Angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,

who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz,

who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tenement roofs illuminated,

who passed through universities with radiant eyes hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy among the scholars of war,

who were expelled from the academies for crazy & publishing obscene odes on the windows of the skull,

who cowered in unshaven rooms in underwear, burning their money in wastebaskets and listening to the Terror through the wall

What the FUCK is he talking about?

Free polls from Pollhost.com

Last Chance To Nominate

Wampum: Koufax Awards Nominations Closing

The Smut-Vendor Party

Terry Neal, in GOP Corporate Donors Cash In on Smut:
"In this world of irony, corporate leaders at companies as diverse as News Corp., Marriott International and Time Warner can profit by selling red state consumers the very material that red state culture is supposed to despise. Those elites then funnel the proceeds to the GOP, which in turn has used the money to successfully convince red state voters that the other political party is solely responsible for the decline of the civilization.

[. . .] It's almost impossible to get a handle on how much money corporate America is reaping by peddling smut. General Motors Corp. is not eager to brag about how many dirty movies it sold last year through a subsidiary.

[. . .] On one hand, Fox News employs commentators who promote the connection between Republicans and family values while other divisions of the company profit from sexually explicit content."
Rather than quote any more, I ask you to go read the whole, excellent article.

So, the big Repubican donors push the stuff into the Red states and then the Republicans claim that the elitist, immoral liberals are responsible for it. They're accusing others of what THEY are doing.

It's like a perpetual motion machine. They make problems worse, and then ask voters to support them because only they can clean up the problems. They used to use crime this way - they'd be the "lawn odor" party (law and order) and crime would always get worse when they were in office. Since they are the lawn odor party, this means they get MORE votes. Same for fiscal responsibility: they say Democrats are the spenders, then get into office and spend like crazy, running up the debt. How about the party of defense, let us get attacked, and start wars. How many more examples can you find?


More on Obama

My post about Obama's book deal pissed of a lot of people. I said he shouldn't have accepted a $1.9 million advance on a book deal (from a German media conglomerate) because politicians accepting money outside of their salary breeds public distrust.

I was not accusing him of accepting a bribe. I don't for a minute think it was a bribe. But I do think it sets a poor example. Several said he needs to money to get by in Washington. Others say he earned the huge advance because he already wrote one best-selling book. So let me point out that if he already has a best-selling book out there, then he doesn't need more money to live in Washington. He is going to be very busy as a freshman Senator, but is now obligated to write two books.

Look at the example set by Terry McAuliffe - not even an elected official. How much of his good work was undercut by the millions he made from telecom stock (for which he paid only $100K)? More to the point, how much of our criticism of Republicans for their part of the telecom and Enron stock frauds was undercut by it. Directly to the point: We certainly can't criticize any Republican politicians for taking money now, can we?

Here's a role model for politicians: Jerry Brown. Elected California Governor in 1974, Brown refused to stay in the Governor's mansion and slept in a rented apartment, on a mattress on the floor. He refused to use the Governor's limousine and drove around in a state-owned Plymouth.

Update - It is against the rules of the House of Representatives for members to accept advances for book deals. The Congressional Accountability Project is trying to get the Senate to follow. Regarding Obama's advance:
A Congressional watchdog group still raised questions about the deal, noting that Crown Publishers is owned by Bertelsmann AG, a publishing, music and broadcasting giant with interests before Congress. "There's a large potential conflict of interest here," said Gary Ruskin, of the Congressional Accountability Project. "What's happening is that the enormous media conglomerate Bertelsmann AG is putting a huge check in the pocket of senator- elect Obama for no work done."

Great minds think alike

Either Simon Rosenberg has been listening to Dave, or else Dave has been plagiarizing Rosenberg:

As NDN has been discussing for the past several years, the modern Republican political machine has redefined politics as we know it. Years of investing billions of dollars in their infrastructure have created a vast and complex web of multimillion dollar operations which include think tanks, for-profit media outlets like Fox News, traditional political advocacy groups and, in recent years, a very healthy and strategic set of national, state and local party organizations.

The Republicans understand the division of labor required to run such a political empire, and have a diversified set of leaders to build and manage their affairs - spokesmen like Bush, Colin Powell, Bill Frist, Rudy Giuliani, and Arnold Schwarzenegger; strategists like Karl Rove, Ralph Reed, Grover Norquist; managers like Roger Ailes, Ed Gillespie and Ken Mehlman; intellectuals like those at Heritage, Cato and the dozens of other local and state think tanks; propagandists like Rush Limbaugh and Matt Drudge; and investors like the Coors and Scaife families.
(NDN, quoted on Kos)

Musings (Ramblings) On Why We Lost

This piece went by among many others on election night, but I think it is worthy of calling out for attention. I was working at MSNBC and had been thinking about this all day. I put it up about 8:30 Eastern time.
Republican "Silent But Deadly" Ground Operation
As well as Bush does tonite, The Republican Get-Out-The-Vote operation is much of the reason. Some facts about the Bush ground operation: (Sorry I had to put this together hastily...)

- Bush GOTV budget $125 million
- Pennsylvania, volunteers made 1.8 million calls last week compared to 415,000 in 2000.
- Washington State, GOP mailed out 1.2 million absentee ballots, up 53% from 2000
- And in WA volunteers contacted 200,000 homes last weekend
- Bush campaign contacting 400,000 people a day in Ohio
- In PA Bush campaign plan to contact 2 million voters since Friday
- Four years ago, Bush employed 22 paid staff members in Florida. This year, he has 500 on the payroll.
- Bush campaign Florida goal was 6,600 volunteers, instead they recruited 15,000
- RNC paying travel, hotel & food for at least 5,000 loyalists working in battleground states
- Minn - GOP contacting 1 million with freshly-refined database
- Chamber of Commerce claims to have registered 500,000 new GOP in corporations
- Chamber hopes to "reach" 20 million employees.
- Chamber/BIPAC membership was 50 corporations, now 500
- Oregon GOP 22,000 volunteers "largely hidden from view" "keeping their plans under wraps" and "silent but deadly"
- Iowa, GOP making 32,000 voter contacts each week
The details behind those blurbs are available at the link. I think the really important stealth GOTV effort was the Chamber's operation within businesses -- there's an unconscious intimidation factor when your employer asks you to do something. And there's loyalty, group dynamics like acceptance...

I think this is one of many factors.

Message (lack of) was the most important, in my opinion. Kerry just didn't have a message. And then they would suddenly come up with some message and use it for about a week and drop it and move on to a new one. The Bush campaign (actually the infrastructure of "conservative movement" organizations that underlies and controls The Party now...) had their message ready maybe two years before the election. They pounded out the same message every day. The message on the last day of the campaign was the same as on the first day.

AM radio as a 24-hour-7-day ever-ongoing Republican Party advertisement/Democrat-bashing machine was a crucial factor. Ask any marketing person the value of having all the stations relentlessly broadcasting your message. It sinks in.

There's one other major factor that I haven't seen very much written about, which I'll be writing about soon. This is the massive Republican "insfrastructure" effort, consisting of the think tanks, supposedly "independent" non-profit organizations, etc. These organizations are supposed to be non-partisan but actually spend all of their time engaged in activities to promote the Republican Party. This is a huge multi-billion dollar effort that goes on OUTSIDE of the election cycle, while aiming it's entire effect at the election process. This effort goes on full-time, all the time, and it is long-term. The book The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America sums up this process in a passage describing the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation as long-term intellectual and short-term legislative-focused operations respectively:
"This allows for a two-pronged assault on liberal orthodoxy. The AEI softens up the liberal establishment with long-range bombing; Heritage then sends in the ground troops to capture the territory and convert it into a conservative fief."
More on that later, but I think this is a major, largely-unrecognized factor in the last election.

Update - Jeeze, I left out something important. About a year ago I was at a presentation by Ellen Malcolm of ACT where she said the plan was to use the Media Fund's ads to make the election close in the swing states, and the GOTV effort to tip the scales. Well, this brings to mind the Republican strategy -- use lies and smears to make the election close, then use voter suppression and intimidation to drive it home. Like how Ohio Democratic precincts did not get enough voting machines, and had four-hour lines, while Republican precincts had 10-minute waits.



This just stinks.

Obama lands $1.9 million book deal:
"No Senate regulations prevent Obama from signing a contract for a book before he is sworn into office Jan. 4.

Under the pending contract:

*Obama will be paid an $850,000 advance from Crown Publishers for a book due to be published in spring 2006. According to a news release, it will 'offer a window into the political and spiritual convictions that propelled' Obama's Senate win.

*Obama receives another $850,000 from Crown for another book, but its topic 'is under discussion,' said Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs.

Steve Ross, a senior vice president and publisher at Crown, said they had 'no idea' what that book would be about but made the payment to make 'a statement of our long-term confidence in him as an author.' The money is also intended to show 'that we want him to have a long-term home' at Crown." [emphasis added]
It just stinks. We fought the battle for campaign contribution limits. We fought this when Gingrich got a book deal. Politicians taking money stinks -- book deals, speaking fees, whatever -- there is just no way around it. ANY politician.

Update - This is not about free speech. He can communicate all he wants. He can write all the books he has time for as a Senator.

But he should not be accepting $1.9 million from ANYONE, under ANY circumstances.

Even if he didn't accept an "advance" and only took the money made by actually writing and then selling the books, that is what Speaker of the House Wright had to resign for.

IT'S THE MONEY NOT THE BOOK! How do we justify criticism of Tom Delay or any of the others if we say it is OK for Obama to accept $1.9 million?


Didn't Expect Smear to Matter

Kerry Campaign Head Admits Miscalculations:
The campaign manager for Sen. John Kerry's failed presidential bid said Wednesday she regrets underestimating the impact of an attack advertisement that questioned Kerry's Vietnam War record.

Mary Beth Cahill ... said the Massachusetts senator's campaign initially thought there would be "no reach" to the ad from Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

[. . .] Cahill said the Swift boat ads show the power of news coverage, particularly cable news stations, which she said amplified the ads by running them repeatedly.

She said it was frustrating that the first ad continued to eat up so much air time even after the central allegations were debunked.

"For me, this was a very big change. The fact that it was disproved and it was still shown every day as part of the (campaign) coverage," she said.
She - and the Kerry campaign -- didn't and still don't "get it." They STILL don't even have a clue what Bush and the Right are about. The "blogosphere" knew the minute that smear came out what was up, and the course it would run! We knew it would come. We knew who would spread it. We even knew what the "movement" ground troops would say to the talk-show hosts and in the forum comments, helping the momentum -- they would understand it was untrue but would also wink and nod and understand the "use" of it and pretend to believe it. We knew that the smear would have professionally-framed, carefully-worded, focus-group-tested tag-lines. We knew that it would come in phases. We knew that "new information' would overwhelm anyone trying to refute any single lie with facts and details. ... In fact, we bloggers had been talking about "the smear" that would come for TWO YEARS before this specific Swift Boat smear even came out.

If focus groups and polls and neuromarketing scans showed that the right percentage of the public would swing away from Kerry if they were told he was born in a lab from an experiemtn that made him secretly half woman and half insect, that is what they would have been told.

Why were the people even in the Kerry campaign if they didn't understand how the Right works now, who is running it, who is funding it, their goals and their strategies and methods?

THIS is what all the talk about "reform" of the Democratic Party is about. The people in charge now don't understand the nature of the fight they are in.

He Was "Informed" And That Was The Problem

At The Washington Monthly, Kevin writes,
SOCIAL SECURITY AND ME....Matt Yglesias makes an important point about Social Security framing today:
I'm not sure the older liberals who run the show quite understand how overwhelmingly important it is to keep the "there is no crisis" message front and center in the Social Security debate. Most of the young people I know -- including myself until very recently -- have been taken in by a decades-long effort on behalf of privatizers into believing that Social Security is in "crisis," and that if we do nothing the system will "go bankrupt" before we retire, meaning that the system will somehow collapse and we won't get any benefits.
This is true, and I used to be one of these people too. As a well-informed citizen, I knew that Social Security was unsustainable, that life expectancies were increasing, that fewer workers would be supporting more retirees in the future, and in general, that the program was facing a demographic timebomb that would cause it to go bankrupt within a couple of decades.

This was back in the mid-90s, and for some reason I took an interest in finding out more. So I wrote off for a copy of the trustees report, read up on tax policy and demographic projections, pored through various analyses, and — to my surprise — learned that the problem was either (a) fairly modest and quite solvable or (b) not a problem at all. [emphasis added]

[. . .] In other words, after actually studying the issue, I changed my opinion almost 180 degrees. Nothing is going bankrupt, benefits will continue to be paid forever, and future funding problems are both modest in size and not that hard to deal with.
Kevin has become a leader in fighting this Social Security lie.

Here's Your Homework

Here's you homework: in the left column, under the heading "Links to Other Weblogs:" you'll find the "blogroll." I suggest making a habit of clicking every day over to one or two of the blogs you haven't visited, just to see what's there. I do that and I (usually) find such great stuff! There are a LOT of great blogs out there!

Let me know if I have any dead links, or links to blogs that have moved. Please let me know if YOUR liberal/progressive/moderate blog isn't there, and I'll put it there.


Just a quick comment on something I have been thinking about -- how fast the unimaginable becomes reality now. Think about this: the country is seriously about to phase out Social Security! Even five years ago this was just unimaginable.

What's left that is unimaginable? The idea of America invading countries who have done nothing to us? Been there, done that. How about tearing down the wall of Separation of Church and State? Environmental protection is largely gone and where it remains it is unenforced. Getting rid of public schools? The No Child Left Behind Act is a time-bomb that could destroy public education -- and if that doesn't work you know they'll go at it from another angle. The Medicare Reform Act is the same thing - a time-bomb ticking away under Medicare. And the tax cuts are a time-bomb about to destroy America's economy and reputation. They're even discussing selling off the National Parks.

Law itself is under attack. That's what is behind the push to confirm their Federalist Society judges. And to get that done they are working on getting rid of the right to filibuster in the Senate.

It's all just unimaginable. Or is it?

Republican Ponzi Scheme

Why Social Security by Stirling Newberry:
"Social Security, as it was, is doomed, simply because the current executive and the political coalition that he heads must have that money. There is nothing that will stop them, simply because they realize that Iraq is a failure at producing the flood of new oil and new oil exploration money - and therefore they have to create a crisis.

In reality there is no crisis. The crisis is not with social security, but with the need for Wall Street to pour money in to replace the money that is not coming in in the form of higher consumer spending. The consumer is almost tapped out, therefore, the only money left to be had is the money paid in for FICA taxes. To keep stock valuations up, that money must be poured into stocks, so that the very wealthy can cash out while tax rates are unsustainably low. In short, this is a Republican Ponzi scheme."
When you hear Republicans refer to Social ecuirty as a "Ponzi scheme" remember our rule: If Republicans are accusing it always means they're DOING.

Supporting Troops by Helping Companies that Fire Them?

“Tort Reform” will handcuff lawyers fighting for National Guard Families,
"CBS News (video) (alternate) reported this week that thousands of National Guard troops are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan to find that they have been fired in violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. The CBS report went on to say that increasing numbers of National Guard and Reserve troops who have returned from war are encountering new battles with their civilian employers at home.

...Tragically, the companies abusing our troops may get away with it because there are not enough lawyers to force them to obey the law. [. . .] Unfortunately, the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), set up within the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs to provide returning Guards and Reservists with free legal help through the states, has not been adequately funded and must rely on volunteers.

[. . .] the skills Denson and his counterparts in the other states need are those of trial lawyers – the very skills the Administration seeks to handcuff with its push for so-called “tort reform”. Trial lawyers protect American families from irresponsible corporations. The settlements trial lawyers earn for helping citizens abused by corporations make it possible for them to volunteer their time and their resources to fight for the families of our troops. The lawsuits they file - misnamed “frivolous” by the Right Wing noise machine - are the powerful levers citizens use to force corporations to obey the law and behave responsibly. And now these same powerful levers are needed by the families of National Guard and Reservists to force many of those same companies to treat our returning troops as the law – and patriotic decency – demands.

[. . .] Trial lawyers will help protect families of America’s fighting men and women. The Administration’s so-called “tort reform” aims to protect the companies abusing our troops. If “tort reform” passes, no family will be safe, at home or at war."

Quick Comments on Right-Wing News

I've been surprised by how many of us don't "get it" about why the Bush people said that Homeland Security nominee Kerik had a "Nanny Problem." Some bloggers have "exposed" that there actually was no nanny, etc... It was obvious to me that this blamed the "Politically Correct" liberals for blocking another good, solid American from taking office, because they hate America. Take a look at right-wingnut Linda Chavez' column, "The nanny problem takes down another nominee" to see what I mean. This is written today, well after it became clear there actually is no "nanny" at all. And remember, for most people it doesn't go past the headline - Chavez is driving the point home with the headline that repeats the message, then moves on to her own cause. What the intended audience heard this week was that another good nominee was destroyed by the PC liberals.

Here's one for you. Gen. Augusto Pinochet, murderous dictator of Chile, was finally indicted this week. The Right's reaction? Take a look at "The left never sleeps" at Heritage Foundation's TownHall.
"In the body of the Times story, the word "communist" never appeared, only "Marxists." For all the untutored reader might know, Pinochet's victims might have been the country's librarians or butterfly collectors.

[. . .] How prominent have Pinochet's opponents been in the struggle against Islamofascism and the sadistic Saddam Hussein? The answer is not very."
OK, here's today's prize-winner: "Swift Boat Vets To Get Courage Award":
The American Conservative Union on Thursday announced it has tapped Sen. Zell Miller (search), D-Ga., to present the "Courage Under Fire" award to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth at the Conservative Political Action Conference's Feb. 16 banquet.
Yes, the award will be presented by Zell Miller.
"The swift boat veterans performed an invaluable service to America," Miller said in a statement.
And, the kicker,
"We achieved our goal," Hoffmann said. "That was our primary concern, and we are pleased someone recognized the effort -- or at least the impact -- we had on the election."
That last story, by the way, from Fox News.

An e-mail I received:

Hello, you've reached the Mental Health Hotline.

If you are obsessive-compulsive, press 1 repeatedly.
If you are codependent please ask someone to press 2 for you.
If you have multiple personalities, press 3, 4, 5 and 6.
If you are paranoid, we know who you are and what you want. Stay on the line so we can trace your call.
If you are delusional, press 7 and your call will be transferred to the mother ship.
If you are schizophrenic, listen carefully and a small voice will tell you which number to press.
If you are dyslexic, press 9696969696969.
If you have a nervous disorder, please fidget with the star key until a representative comes on the line.
If you have amnesia press 8 and state your name, address, phone number,date of birth, social security number and your mother's maiden name.
If you have post-traumatic stress disorder, slowly and carefully press 000.
If you have bipolar disorder, please leave a message after the beep or before the beep. Or after the beep. Please wait for the beep.
If you have short-term memory loss, press 9.
If you have short-term memory loss, press 9.
If you have short-term memory loss, press 9.
If you have short-term memory loss, press 9.
If you have low self esteem. Please hang up. All our operators are too busy to talk to you.

Eat This

Polymeals - the Recipe for a Longer Life?:
"If people over 50 years old consumed roughly the daily equivalent of the Polymeal, the researchers calculated, they could slash the odds of suffering from heart disease, one of the world's biggest killers, by 76 percent. . . . He and his team searched scientific literature to find foods that have a proven protective effect against cardiovascular disease and then used a mathematical model to determine how much the combined effects of the individual ingredients would reduce the risk of the illness. The results are reported in the British Medical Journal

The Polymeal consists of wine, fish, dark chocolate, fruit and vegetables, garlic and almonds. The ingredients should be taken daily, apart from fish which could be eaten about four times a week, as part of a balanced diet."
Because the future's uncertain.

And the end is always near.


Bush is Juan Peron

I've been negotiating with the Godwin's Law enforcers, and have agreed to quit calling Bush Hitler. Bush is not Hitler.

There, I said it!

Bush is Juan Peron. He's a bullying, demagogic loudmouth with a fanatical following, and he's bankrupting the government and destroying the dollar with unprecedented vote-buying schemes.

Watch for the musical, "Laura!", with its hit single "Don't Cry For Me, Kennebunkport". Madonna has been signed up to re-invent herself one more time in the title role. The twins will be played by Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton.

"How annoying that we have to fight elections for our cause

The inconvenience, having to get a majority
If normal methods of persuasion fail to win us applause
There are other ways of establishing authority
We have ways of making you vote for us
Or at least of making you abstain"

"Evita", Tim Rice & Andrew Lloyd Webber

Thanks to Bruce in South Florida. And according to Ayn Clouter,
the musical, called "Stepford" has already been performed in Branson.

Second thoughts way too late

Recently we've seen sharp criticisms of Rumsfeld from Sens. Lugar, McCain, and Lott, as well as William Kristol of the Weekly Standard. The Kerik disaster likewise seems to be drawing a bit of criticism from mainstream Republicans.

What is this BS? Two months ago all those people were working their little butts off trying to reelect the man responsible for appointing Rumsfeld and Kerik. Just recently, President Bush gave Rumsfeld as strong a vote of confidence as any President could ever give anyone -- keeping him on board while firing most of his critics. The real problem here is George W. Bush, not Rumsfeld or Kerik.

This looks worse than "buyer's remorse". It looks more as if, before the election, all these people were already aware that Bush has been a disaster and isn't going to improve any, but were all too cowardly (or too greedy) to risk opposing him. But now that he's been elected, and now that what they say will make little difference, they're going to try to recover their reputations with these little symbolic gestures.

As far as I am concerned, no one who contributed to Bush's 2004 election should ever be forgiven. I don't feel quite as strongly about those who failed to oppose the most recent Iraq War, but a bit more contrition on their part would be quite appropriate.

Update: Carla had about the same idea.


Aside from being blatantly racist, isn't this actionable libel?

(Thanks to The Daou Report.)

Looking at Why

Why the Democrats Lost
"Why did the Republicans have the stronger hand? Three reasons. The first is demographic: In the course of three-and-ahalf decades, they developed close to a lock on the Southern, prairie and mountain states. The second is organizational: Over some thirty years, they developed a resplendently funded, intensely committed, politically sophisticated machine, not least in the suburbs that now overwhelm the cities. Starting from the premise that power is an unadulterated good, they have shrewdly combined the Christian Right and big-business components, antimodern and anti-government themes, and worked their way into local, state, and national power. When they win some power—state legislatures, governorships, judgeships (all the way up to the Supremes), Congressional committees, lobbyists—they know how to compound it into more power. Third, Republicans know how to play dirty—the Republican-financed Swift Boat deception of August, badly misplayed by Kerry, cost him one-third of all the time he had left to come from behind after the Democratic convention. Facing a president running as avenging angel against the September 11 massacres, Kerry had opted—reasonably—to run as a potential commander-in-chief, “reporting for duty.” The dirty tricks stopped him cold."
Excellent analysis.


Not Evil Tomorrow?

A few thoughtful words from Dave Winer on Google, at his blog Scripting News:
"...the non-evil people running Google today won't be running it tomorrow."
Have a read.


Tipping-Point Machine

The Alpha Bloggers: "The blogosphere is a tipping-point machine..."

Koufax Nominations

To nominate a blog - this blog or any other - for a Koufax award I suggest checking the Wampum blog in general rather than the thread I pointed to yesterday, because the nominating threads get long and they are putting up new posts with comment threads. So go nominate up some blog for you.

How They Killed Health Care

Everybody go read this:
Fighting Social Security Privatization :A Primer

Don't Know What to Think

Gary Webb, 49, Journalist Who Wrote Disputed Articles, Is Dead:
Gary Webb, a reporter who won national attention with a series of articles, later discredited, linking the Central Intelligence Agency to the spread of crack cocaine in Los Angeles, was found dead on Friday at his home in Carmichael, Calif., near Sacramento. He was 49.
Makes me think of this. And More here:
The Staff Director of the US House Select Committee on Intelligence was found dead of a gunshot wound in a fleabag motel in Vienna, Virginia on June 3, 2000. Several weeks earlier, the Committee had released their latest whitewash exonerating the CIA of drug trafficking during the 1980s. Is there a connection?
And this. More here.

And this.

(Thanks to garth.)


The 2004 Koufax Awards – Nominations Are Open

The full story is here.
"The Koufax Awards are named for Sandy Koufax, one of the greatest left handed pitchers of all time. They are intended to honor the best of the left of blogtopia. At its core, the Koufax Awards are meant to be an opportunity to say nice things about your favorite bloggers and to provide a bit of recognition for the folks who provide us with information, insight, and entertainment usually for little or no renumeration. The awards are supposed to be fun for us and fun for you."
Go read the rest, and nominate you some blog.

The Weekend Meeting of Dems in Orlando

You may have read or heard about the big meeting of State Democratic Party officials in Orlando this weekend. Well, you don't have to read about it in the mainstream media, you can read about it from Jenny Greenleaf, a newly-elected DNC member, and American Street blogger, in The American Street : More on the ASDC Meeting.

Jenny is an example of what happens when you, yes YOU, show up at meetings and vote. You ARE the Democratic Party. And so is Jenny.

Complaining About the Democrats

Here's an idea: If you haven't attended a few meetings of your local Democratic Party, and voted, then don't complain about the Democratic Party or say we need a third party. You ARE the Democratic Party.

One the left side of the Democratic Party page is a "Get Local" pop-up menu. Choose your state. Get involved. Also Democracy for America is having regular Meetup meetings and they are organizing to take back the Party.


Draft VERY Soon!

Retired Army colonel, 70, sent to Afghanistan:
Today, Caulfield, a colonel from Satellite Beach, Fla., is an example of how the continuing demands of keeping ground troops in Afghanistan and Iraq are forcing the military to go to extraordinary measures to keep its ranks filled. He's attending to patients - U.S. troops, Afghan soldiers and civilians - at the Army's 325th Field Hospital in Bagram, Afghanistan.
Won't be long now before they're drafting. Not long at all...

Thanks to Talking Points Memo

Purging the Doves

Beinart’s recent proposal that the Democrats denounce Michael Moore and his kind puts me in a hard place. Except for Matt Yglesias (who rather weakly defended him), most rejected Beinart’s proposal, but it still leaves a bad taste. It's as if I'm on probationary status now, and Beinart's proposed purge was just the tip of the iceberg.

Recently some of the bright young Ivy League things of the Yglesias sort confessed, with no apparent embarrassment, that they had initially supported Bush’s ill-conceived Iraq War primarily because they had been unwilling to be seen on the same side of the fence as the anti-war hippies they knew. Kevin Drum has expressed regret that Robert Scheer is writing for the LA Times (and has his doubts about Bob Somerby too), Brad DeLong went ballistic when Barbara Ehrenreich was given some column inches by the New York Times, and the usually-astute “praktike” made a dismissive remark about Greg Palast on a comment thread somewhere. This whole tendency was eloquently summed up by the commentator “Petey” on Yglesias’ comments: “Screw the Hippies”.

The goal is to cleanse the Democratic party of any smirch of anti-war sentiment, thus giving the American people only a choice between two different war policies. I find it hard to list the number of ways this is wrong.

First of all, I think that American military policy, at least as long as Bush is in office, is the big political issue of our time. War is a serious question and our answer to the question shouldn’t made on the basis of election demographics. If war is the wrong choice but the American people want war, we should get to working changing their minds. Contrary to Petey’s belief, one of the functions of politics is to define issues, rather than merely finding out what people already think and doing that. (Petey's cynicism is amazing: when I mentioned that even the “new European” Poles mostly oppose the Iraq War, Petey’s brilliant response was “How many electoral votes does Poland have?” I find that response to be hideously corrupt. You have to win elections to do anything, but the big questions shouldn’t be used as bargaining chips like artichoke subsidies and shrimp imports.)

But there’s more. For example, the Republicans will be able to brand the Democrats as the anti-war party no matter what. This is true especially as long as Bush is C-in-C, since no matter what the Democrats say, it will only be words, whereas Bush is able to order the military to kill people. There’s no way to trump that.

Furthermore, part of the Democrat’s image of weakness is their well-earned reputation for tagging along after the Republicans and caving in when the going gets tough. It sounds cynical, but I don’t think that the Democrats can establish themselves as tough guys in international affairs unless they first confront the Republicans politically -- to the voters, weakness is just weakness. (During the recent election, Kerry was careful not to come off as a dove, and it didn’t do him any good to speak of.)

Petey claims that there’s little danger in splitting the party with a hawkish stance, since doves "will have no place to go”. This is stupid. While I doubt that anyone will have much energy for another third party in 2008, if given a choice between two hawkish candidates, I think that a lot of voters will just stay home. And we can be sure that the Republicans will be very effective in reminding the peace wing of the Democrats that the Democratic candidate is almost as hawkish as the Republican candidate; in fact, given an opening, they will even gleefully try make it seem that the Democrat is dangerously extreme in his hawkishness.

Since I believe that the relatively-dovish position is the correct one, to me what the Democrats need to do is figure out how to do a good job of presenting this position. Bush’s planned 20-year imperialist war against an undefined enemy needs to be opposed. It’s not defensive, it’s not anti-terrorist, and Bush his using the political capital the war gives him to push destructive agendas entirely unrelated to foreign and military policy -- for example, an assault on Social Security). So how do we fight against that?

As always, it comes down to the media -- the big story in American politics right now. The media we’ve got is unwilling to report the Democratic point of view and tends to suppress facts that have a Democratic or anti-war slant. Republican talking points reverberate and echo, and Democratic talking points fall dead. In that context, trimming the message, running a stronger candidate, reforming the party, or running a stronger campaign will not be enough to bring victory. We need new media.

My conclusion is that someone has to write a half-billion-dollars-worth of checks. If that doesn’t happen, is there any hope?

Mush Journalism and the Strategic Social Security Lie

Today it's Social Security. In this San Jose Mercury News story, from the AP, Bush faces tough Social Security battle, Leigh Strope writes a "balanced" article about the battle Great Leader faces saving seniors from the coming "shortfall." From the story:
"The system is headed toward bankruptcy down the road," Bush said in his weekly radio address. "If we do not act soon, Social Security will not be there for our children and grandchildren."
Now we here in the blogosphere all know that this is a flat-out blatant lie. It is a strategic lie, repeated over and over until people think it's true. After enough repetition of this lie, everyone will say that "we all know" Social Security is going broke. Once enough people are tricked into thinking there is a problem that must be "solved," along come Republican candidates with "solutions" -- namely the current Bush plan to phase out Social Security.

Strope writes, "Creating investment accounts alone will not fix the future shortfall. Cuts in benefits are required, and investments are expected to make up the losses." WHAT "future shortfall?" The one we all know is coming. The problem with this article is that (as I'll show below) Strope has to know this is misleading at best, and furthers the Republican plan to phase out Social Security.

Just to be clear, every one of us needs to understand that there is no Social Security "shortfall" at all until 2042. And even that is calculated using an assumption of only 1.6% economic growth until then! Very little is required to fix this. (And if there IS only 1.6% growth, putting Social Seucrity into stocks would be a disaster!)

So, is Strope writing about the 2018 "shortfall" out of ignorance? In another, more informative Strope piece from Dec. 1, Questions, answers about Social Security, Strope writes:
Q: Why are changes needed to Social Security?

A: Social Security is a pay-as-you-go system, with current benefits funded by the 12.4 percent in payroll taxes paid by workers and employers. The large baby boom generation will strain the system, which will start paying out more in benefits than it collects in taxes in 2018, according to the Social Security Board of Trustees. Without any changes, Social Security in 2042 will be able to cover only about 73 percent of benefits owed.
What's missing here is a clear explanation to the public that this is not in any way a problem with Social Security. The government has been borrowing from Social Security and using the money to give tax cuts to the rich. In 2018 the government stops getting extra money from Social Security and has to find a way to keep paying its bills. AND it has to start paying Social Security back. Social Security has enough "saved up" to last until at least 2042 with no changes at all. The 2018 problem is a problem with the government paying its bills to all creditors. Bush is trying to get out of paying this, and only this creditor back, because the money would have to come from the tax cuts that were given to the rich.

Further on in this piece, Strope does explain this, demonstrating understanding of what the Republicans are up to. So why does Strope keep giving them a pass?
Q: Will raising taxes, raising the retirement age or cutting benefits shore up funding without adding investment accounts?

A: Yes

[. . .]Q: What about money in the Social Security trust fund?

A: The trust fund does not really contain money. Social Security today collects more in taxes than it pays out in benefits. The extra money is used to buy Treasury bonds from the government. The government then spends the money as part of its general revenue.

Starting in 2018, when payroll taxes will not completely cover promised benefits, the bonds will be cashed in, with the government essentially repaying the money it already had spent. That will provide revenue to pay benefits to 2042.
Strope understands that the problem is that the government owes money to Social Security -- to retirees -- not that Social Security doesn't have the money! So why doesn't Strope ever make this clear in these articles? Strope's job is supposed to be to inform the public. This is the key point that the Republicans are trying to obscure, and Strope continues to play along.

Accurately covering a story like Social Security requires more than knowledge of Social Security and the facts and figures. To cover this story in its complete context requires that the reporter understand that the Republicans are using a strategic lie to promote a hidden agenda of phasing out Social Security. This is not a secret. The Republican think tanks - Heritage, Cato, AEI, etc. - have been writing openly about this for decades. Responsibility to the public and to democracy requires including this information in every single story written.


Kevin Drum Gets Shrill

Kevin Drum gets shrill about the Republican drive to phase out Social Security:
"It's not stock market returns these guys care about, it's an ideological drive to get the government out of the safety net business and force individuals to bear ever more risk in their daily lives. Don't ever forget that."
Shrill, and good for him. He's absolutely right.

And by the way - if the economy is doing well enough for the stock market to provide the returns necessary for the this Republican scheme to pay off, then it is performing WAAYYY better than needed to keep the current Social Security system solvent forever. The Right-wing claim that Social Security is in trouble -- which doesn't even start to happen until 2042 -- requires that the economy only grow a 1.9% average rate. And even if that worst-case scenario occurs only a small adjustment is needed to fix things. That's the "crisis."

But if we put Social Security into stocks, and the economy only perfors at a 1.9% rate ... everyone loses their retirement!

New Coke Democrats

I read something by the evil DLC's Al From and Bruce Reed, The Road Back. It starts out great. When they aren't busy insulting other Democrats and offering "New Coke" strategies urging Democrats to become Republicans, they do have some good things to contribute:
"Competing nationally -- including in the South, the Southwest, and the Rocky Mountain West -- is important for more than just tactical reasons. A national campaign would force Democrats to develop a national message that would have broader appeal to swing voters in both red and blue states. That's important, because presidential elections are won not just by pressing your advantages, but by removing obstacles that keep people from voting for you -- and often even from hearing you.

In 1992, Clinton removed roadblocks that had kept voters from voting Democratic in the 1980s by calling for fiscal discipline, welfare reform, and a tough stance against crime. That opened the door for voters to listen to his positions on issues about which they were likely to agree. A narrow strategy, aimed at getting big votes out in Democratic enclaves, makes candidates press their advantage with voters already inclined to vote for them, rather than removing the obstacles that keep otherwise persuadable voters from even considering them.

When Democrats don't compete on Republican turf, it also makes it easier for Republicans to polarize the election, because we aren't appealing to their voters. Since there are more conservatives than liberals -- 34 percent to 21 percent in this election -- an ideologically polarized election is one that Republicans are almost always going to win."
Sounds just like Dean!

And on "values" :
"Most voters in red states think we Democrats look down on them for worrying about the moral direction of the country. They have no idea that we might be concerned about it, too.

The result? Millions of Americans voted against their own economic interest. Of the 28 states with the lowest per-capita incomes, Bush carried 26. An administration whose overriding motive has been to protect the rich was just given a second term by the very people who will suffer the most for it.

Such a walloping has serious consequences down the ballot, as well. Because so many voters in red states reject the Democratic brand out of hand, we lose Senate races in those states even when we have clearly superior candidates."
And then, BANG, they just blow it:
"First and foremost, we need to bridge the trust gap on national security by spelling out our own offense against terrorism and clearly rejecting our anti-war wing, so that Republicans can no longer portray us as the anti-war party in the war on terrorism. We must leave no doubt that Michael Moore neither represents nor defines our party."
They just can't help themselves. Michael Moore is a hero. I AM AN ANTIWAR DEMOCRAT. Why are fellow Democrats writing stuff like this ... intentionally working to split the party... It isn't even smart from their own perspective because MOST Democrats understand that the Iraq war is a terrible mistake. And it is the informed, activist "base" of the party that agrees with Michael Moore. So if they DO split the party they're left with very little.

I don't know how many readers understand what I meant by titling this post "New Coke" Democrats. In 1985 the management of The Coca Cola Company was worried that their competitor Pepsi was gaining ground on them. They actually killed off their main product Coca Cola, the #1 brand on the planet, and replaced it with New Coke, a product that they thought tasted more like Pepsi, the #2 brand! They discovered an astonishing and shocking fact: PEOPLE WHO LIKED THE TASTE OF PEPSI DRANK PEPSI!

Update - Oh yeah, I forgot to add, AND IT ALSO PISSED OFF ALL THE EXISTING CUSTOMERS ("the base," also known as the majority of the public) WHO DRANK COCA COLA BECAUSE OF THE WAY IT WAS!

Stranger Than Known

Round the squares huddled in storms
Some laughing some just shapeless forms
Sidewalk scenes and black limousines
Some living some standing alone

Are You McGuinn On It?
Hüsker Dü, Too!
What the FUCK is he talking about?

Free polls from Pollhost.com

President Blatantly Lies

What he said.


Bill Moyers

From The Nation's tribute:
At a time when TV networks--including PBS--were bowing to commercial and ideological pressures that were antithetical to journalism, Moyers created a program that many viewers recognized as the only reason to turn on the TV in the Bush era.

Another One Coming

Some of us feel good about that recent story where the soldier asked Rumsfeld a tough question. We might think it was good that the problem of lack of armor for the National Guard troops came to light. Well that isn't how it is playing in Peoria. The Right is turning this into a story of the liberal media "setting up Rummy," as part of a plot to undermine the war effort, and generally committing treason just by existing.

Really, more of us need to listen to Limbaugh and read the right-wing news.

Rumsfeld Set Up by Reporter; Liberals Lament Lack of Deaths in Iraq

Update - Here.

Update - The story is getting bigger. CNN just talked about how sinister it was that the soldier "had professional help" and was "coached" and how some are "defending" the reporter. One "expert" talked about how it wasn't "disclosed" to Rumsfeld that a reporter was "behind" the question, and "hiding behind someone else to ask" questions.

Right-wing storm coming. Watch your backs.

Church/State - Stage Two

The strategy enters its second phase: School censors Christmas from student performance:
"An elementary school in Oklahoma pulled all references to Christmas from its holiday play at the last minute, but left in references to Hanukkah and Kwanzaa."
Yep, blacks and Jews... And just who is behind this?
"...Brent Olsson, an attorney in Oklahoma City allied with Alliance Defense Fund...
That's the same "Christian law" organization that is pushing the "Declaration Banned" lie. They say they specialize in "strategy and coordination."

There's more, though it isn't from the Alliance. This one is pushed by the Thomas More Law Center. "Nativity banned but Muslim, Jewish symbols allowed" is another headline.

Why Republicans Win

I left a comment at Blogging of the President, after a piece by Matt Stoller about the Orlando meeting of Democratic Party State Directors. Matt is attending, and describing for us how the State Directors have new power in the coming selection of a new head of the Democratic National Committee. This choice will set the future direction of the Democratic Party. Here's my comment:

Matt wrote, "No one is happy with the national party, in particular how John Kerry ran his campaign. ... complaints about either Kerry's message..." and later "... it's becoming clear that the right-wing message machine has local permutations, and that it must be fought on a national level."

I'm hoping that more people in the leadership make the connection between those two concerns. The Republican machine IS the candidate's message. Let me explain. The Republican machine is a full-time, ongoing operation consisting of about 500 well-funded organizations, employing thousands of professional operatives at the national and state level. IT is what sets the Republican issue agenda and comes up with the message. Republican candidates only have to show up, and it doesn't so much matter who the candidate is. (I mean, look who they are able to run...) The machine takes care of the task of educating the public about the issues, and getting the carefully-crafted messages out, and the machine is doing it year-round, every year. Take the current Social Security "crisis". How long have they been pounding the public with that lie, just to get ready for candidates to show up and say they will "solve the problem?" Get my point - the public is prepared for their election campaigns long in advance of the election.

But on our side we're always talking about finding the right candidate, and hoping the candidate can articulate an effective message. Democratic candidates are on their own. THEY have to come up with - and explain - issues, from scratch, entirely during the election cycle. And THEY have to spread the word to the public. Again, during the election cycle and with their own resources.

See the difference? Republican success comes from the work done OUTSIDE of the election cycle, by organizations that are not even legally considered partisan. Our side has almost nothing in place to compete with this.

By the way, I co-authored a new report on this that just came out. Here is the Table of Contents, linking to HTML versions of each section.

Update - I just realized there are a lot of new readers here who might not be aware of this collection of links to articles, reports and resources for learning about the right-wing movement, its history, how it is funded and how it operates.