Mutiny from stern to bow

A self-ordained professor's tongue
Too serious to fool
Spouted out that liberty
Is just equality in school
"Equality," I spoke the word
As if a wedding vow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now.

Which is it going to be?
That's deep. Let's start a revolution.
What the FUCK is he talking about?

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The Democrats cannot win as hawks

The recent TNR proposal for a hawkish Democratic party is politically wrong, and much more important, it's wrong on the issue.

Peter Beinart has recently proposed that the Democrats purge Michael Moore and the doves, on the analogy of the post-WWII Democrats who purged the anti-anti-Communists who then founded the short-lived Progressive Party. Matt Yglesias and Kevin Drum have responded, and STF’s Dave Johnson has responded to Drum (links below).

This is, of course, exactly what you expect from TNR (and from the DLC, which has also piped up on this question). Ever since the 80’s, the TNR/DLC answer to every question has been “The Democrats have to move to the right”. I don’t think that Beinart's argument will work politically, and it displays the passivity vis-a-vis the voters that has been characteristic of the Democrats during the last few decades. And second and more important, Beinart's main point about defense, based on the WWII analogy, is wrong.

Beinart speaks as though Moore were just a single person. But the “anti-war vote” is pretty hefty – 10% or more of the entire electorate, by my guess, and almost all of them Democrats, independents, or third-party voters. In 2000 some of them left the party, and that hurt the Democrats. (At least, Democrats say so every time Nader’s name comes up). In 2004 the ABB argument kept most of them on board. But if the Democrats try to out-hawk the Republicans, the anti-war people won’t know where to turn. I doubt that there will even be a third party this time around; I think that people will just withdraw from the process.

Politically, Beinart and the others misrepresent the state of affairs. The US is not becoming increasingly conservative -- it’s becoming increasingly polarized. The 2004 election wasn’t a landslide – it was 51%-49%, and came down to the last state. The Democrats do not have to speak to all of the voters who supported Bush ased on the issues of war, terrorism, and values (about 90% of Bush’s total support). Without enormous changes in the national and global situation Democrats will have a lot of trouble eating into the Republican base -- but the same is true for the Republicans and the Democratic base.

But we really don't need to do that. We only have to convince 2% out of Bush’s 51% to switch sides. Or else, we have to recruit enough new people from the 40+% of non-voters to tip the scale. (And if we could convince 4% out of Bush’s share to switch, we’d have a solid 53%-47% victory.....)

I do not think that the Democrats can win as a war party. Besides the reasons given above, a wartime president has a enormous power to control the agenda, and for many voters the “don’t change horses in midstream” cliché holds -- even for those who have serious doubts about the incumbent. (Kerry in fact did try to use the competence argument -- “I’ll do about the same thing, but I won’t screw it up” -- but that argument is a proven loser. Remember Dukakis?)

So Beinart’s strategy probably isn't smart politics. I think that this is just another case of Democratic passivity vis-a-vis public opinion (shown most vividly by Clinton and Gore’s pimping on the death penalty in 2000.) Obviously, political candidates have to pay attention to the voters, but the Democrats' strategy, based mostly on big media buys every four years, has meant that they are very weak between elections -- weak both in feet-on-the-ground party-building, and in gaining control of the agenda by defining the issues and changing people’s minds. This passivity is partly because the dominant group in the party has an ideological axe to grind, and partly the result of the freezeout of liberals from the major media. (The latter is something that I believe can only be combatted by the foundation of new media, as I argue here, and as my partner Dave Johnson has been arguing forever.)

But most important, the pro-war arguments are false. We’re in the middle of a hysterical war fever, and this is not really surprising after 9/11 -- especially given the fact that a big chunk of the political establishment already wanted war before 9/11. But militant Islam is not on a par with Hitler or Stalin (who, be it remembered, between them controlled all of continental Europe in 1942).

The Muslim world is divided into twenty or more countries which are mostly enemies of one another. Muslims speak between five and ten mutually-unintelligible major languages. Religiously, they belong to two hostile major tendencies, each of which is divided into many sects. None of the Muslim countries has a significant industrial or technical base, and only a few of them have a significant financial base (which in all cases is due entirely to oil rents.) None of the Muslim militaries are powerful, and finally, most of the Muslim governments are not Islamist. And while many individual Muslims have some sympathy for the militants, many do not, and in most cases sympathy does not translate into active support.

The Hitler-Stalin analogy is fake. Furthermore, there’s increasing evidence from Fallujah, Abu Ghraib, and elsewhere that we’re going to get stuck with a long occupation in which Americans increasingly end up functioning as the bad guys. The Iraqi Army and police are, by all accounts, inoperative, and much of the country is unsafe even for armed convoys. Barring the “cut and run” solution that our liberal hawks have been loudly rejecting for the last two years, we’ll be in Iraq for a long time. I don’t think that we need any more Iraqs.

This is not a defensive war, though it’s being sold that way. What we’re really looking at now, as Niall Ferguson recently suggested and as the PNAC people have been saying all along, is an attempt to establish American world domination: an American empire on the model of the British and the Roman empires.

The defensive, anti-terrorist aspect is really a lesser part of the mix and is mostly important as a pretext. (The decision to begin by attacking Iraq proves this). The real plan has never been publicly presented by anyone official, and the voters have been fooled with misinformation and manipulation (e.g., the content-free “wolves” ad – which was very effective with its target audience).

The job of the the Democrats is to un-fool the American people. The slice of the American electorate with fundamental doubts about our bipartisan Middle East war, whatever its size, is not a fringe group. It is in agreement with about 60%-70% of world public opinion. The Beinart-Yglesias proposal for a hawkish Democratic Party which is “credible on defense” amounts to uniting the American people in opposition to most of the rest of the civilized world.

P.S. The phrase "credibility on defense" keeps coming up. What is credibility? As far as I can tell, it’s what Scott Ritter and Hans Blix didn’t have when the Iraq war was being proposed in 2002. As it turned out, they were right on the facts. But they’re still not "credible", and to my knowledge neither has been rehabilitated and they remain media unpersons. So screw "credibility."

Kevin Drum’s most recent response

Matt Yglesias’ most recent response

Dave on Drum


The Death Bet

The Death Bet. Bet you didn't know you already shook hands on it.

Local Blogger Makes Good!

American Street blogger Jenny Greenleaf has been elected to DNC from Oregon! See also Kos. I met Jenny at the Democratic Convention, where she was a delegate but spent time up (waaayyy up) where "the bloggers" were sitting.

Update - Jenny writes about it at American Street.

When you talk about "the Democrats" you're talking about Jenny now, and others like her. Go read about what this means.


Mush Journalism Lets The Lie Spread

The New York Times, in God, American History and a Fifth-Grade Class, writes today about the Thanksgiving-week "Declaration of Independence Banned" story. They cover the story in a he-said/she-said manner, saying the teacher's contrived lawsuit,
"...has single-handedly turned the Declaration of Independence into a powerful tool for the Christian right in its battle against secularist teaching of colonial history..."
The Times story does not even mention that the controversy -- the reason they are covering the story at all -- only exists because of the inflammatory claim that the Declaration of Independence was banned by the school because it contained the word 'God,' and does not refute this outright lie beyond one "he said" statement. The school had not banned the Declaration of Independence, it had asked a teacher to stop giving unconstitutional "supplemental handouts" (like this, perhaps?) to students.

The original story surfaced in the Right's echo chamber (Drudge, Limbaugh, Fox...) the day before Thanksgiving -- carefully timed to make it impossible to refute for several days, and to stir up emotions at family dinnertables. Now the story is widespread, which is probably the reason the Times addressed it at all. A Google search of "Declaration of Independence banned" yields 17,200 citations. (That is a search of the text in quotes, not for sites containing some mix of the words.)

The Alliance Defense Fund, the "Christian law" organization responsible for the lawsuit states on their website that they use "strategy and coordination" to advance their mission to "spread of the Gospel." In this case their agitprop strategy of bearing false witness to provoke argument and division has proven successful. This lie is being repeated by blogs, discussion forums and word-of-mouth "water cooler" conversations. And the intended culture-war response is evoked in the thinking of the public: they are "fed up" with "politically correct" "domestic enemies" who are taking the separation of church and state "too far."

Professional journalism again fails us. As far as I know, no "journalists" have seriously looked into the outrageous claim that a school banned the Declaration of Independence because it contains the word 'God', even though it is a major topic of discussion across the country, after Reuters allowed itself to be used to publicize and bring mainstream credibility to the lie.

(Edited 10pm PST.)

Update - My point is the real story that needs to be examined is not whether a teacher has a right to distribute handouts, or the limits of the use of 'God' in the classroom. The story is the strategic use and repetition of the lie (probably focus-group-tested) that the school "banned the Declaration of Independence." THIS is what is being discussed around the country, fueled by right-wing columnists like Cal Thomas. THIS is what is being repeated at 17,200 websites. THIS is the information a democracy needs so its citizens can make informed decisions.

Note -- Be sure to visit eRiposte's collection of work on this story!

Intuitive Swing Voters

The day before the election I ran into a woman from the neighborhood whom I had met once or twice. She ran up to me and agitatedly asked, “Help me decide who to vote for! I just don’t know!” We talked for about ten minutes and I explained that I thought that Dubya might end up being the worst President in U.S. history. She looked sort of like a Republican to me, but she accepted this amazingly well, and much to my surprise, after about ten minutes I apparently had convinced her.

Then, in the eleventh minute, I mentioned that I thought the Iraq War was in no way defensive, but was an aggressive war intended to secure oil supplies. Immediately I lost her, because it turned out that she was in favor of aggressive wars, and as it turned out, also in favor the collective punishment of all Iraqis (for killing our troops occupying their country).

I ended up having no idea why I had convinced her in the first place – I think that she blamed Bush for not winning the war quickly and easily enough. A few days after the election I saw her again and she gave me a black look. Why? Maybe because she had wanted to vote for a winner, and I had convinced her to vote for the loser Kerry. Or maybe she had ended up voting for Bush and had decided I was a Communist. I don’t really know.

This is the “undecided voter” being talked about here. Not the voter with split loyalties, or the centrist with sympathies with both sides (if any of these still exist any more), but the voter who desperately wants to vote right, but doesn’t have a clue as to what’s really at stake. The woman I was talking to was functional, very bright and quick, and apparently even rather prosperous, but from what she said she was terribly miseducated, and (as I knew from other things she’d said) she also had tendencies toward mania and paranoid delusion. But she voted.

What’s my point? A first point isn’t relevant to my neighborhood acquaintance, who was seemingly middle class. A lot of the voters in the story I linked to might have been reached by the kind of populist appeal that the Democratic Party has rejected for the last many election cycles. There are a lot of people who can’t see what their stake is in voting because, in fact, the Democrats have decided not to offer them anything real.

But my main point is the second one. This lady was going to pick her vote out of the air. We’re not talking about a careful deliberative process here. Whatever she happened to be thinking when she picked up her pencil would decide her vote. Probably the last person to talk to her would make up her mind for her. (I actually talked to someone once who carefully avoided all election-related information, because he wanted to vote “with an open mind”).

In the past I’ve described undecided voters of this kind as “fluff voters” or “whim voters”, but while I think that there are many who do vote in a blithe and silly way, the woman I talked to and the people interviewed in Wisconsin were actually agonizing about their votes. And the woman I was talking to wasn’t stupid, either; she was just miseducated, ill-informed, clueless, and emotionally incapable of dealing with thinking about politics.

So here’s my conclusion: if someone’s going to pick their vote out of the air, you want to have a lot of free media out there that reaches them without any effort on their part. You want Democratic talk radio, Democratic TV talk shows, a democratic TV network, and so on. These are not people who study the issues and read newsmagazines. This is a significant demographic, and the Republican operatives have been playing them masterfully. (For example, there used to be a rule that undecideds break for the challenger, but Rove is on top of of that kind of thing, and that didn’t happen in 2004. Democrats place too goddamn much confidence on “studies” that are really just straws in the wind. When Rove sees studies of that type, he asks what he can do to change their results next time).

When Air America came along, I heard an incredible amount of bad-mouthing from foo-foo liberals. “I’d never listen to something like that”. “It’s just preaching to the converted – it doesn’t change anyone’s minds”. “We need to be better than Rush Limbaugh, we can’t play that game”. And it wasn’t just talk – Air America had trouble getting funding, and at this point only covers about 40% of the country, IIRC.

The same thing happened with Michael Moore. A lot of liberals don’t like him, and our benevolent conservative friends are only too happy to advise us to dissociate ourselves from him. But Moore is able to beat the Republicans at their own game. He’s able to appeal to the clueless undecideds I’m talking about. There are a lot of voters who have no particular political point of view of their own, and vote on the basis of intuition and gut feelings. That’s not a demographic which can be won by facts and logic, but it’s a demographic which can be won by other means. We gotta do what we’ve gotta do.

Contrast The South. We’re always being told that Democrats have to compete in The South. But if you look at Southern public opinion, what Southerners want isn’t something Democrats can or should try to give (and the Great Plains and Northern Rockies are even worse). These states are the last place we should be looking for votes; they don’t like us. But there are about ten swing states elsewhere which could be won, and a more effective approach to the intuitive undecideds might be enough to pull that off.

Ambience is important. The ambient politics of the free media is right-wing or right-center. This is what you passively get when you switch on a TV or overhear someone’s radio playing. There’s really no liberal media out there; the so-called liberals on TV are either stooges and fall guys, or else centrists. We can’t afford to continue to allow the Republicans to dominate that space. When Air America went on the air here in Portland (already a fairly liberal town) it really changed the atmosphere. Suddenly, people would be hearing a liberal point of view by accident, and some of them started to believe that there actually were real liberals out there, and not just the black junkie prostitute welfare-mother Communist liberals Rush talks about all the time.

A high proportion of Americans (mostly in the Red States) never hear a liberal opinion, ever. For a lot of them, some form of cheesy conservatism becomes the automatic default position, even though they may never have thought about it for a minute. For these people, free liberal media (even if they never listened to it closely) would give liberalism a respectability, plausibility, and reality that it hadn't had before.

So here’s my proposal, just for starters. Air America has to reach everyone. Buy one of those mile-high-antenna megawatt stations in Oklahoma – you can reach 15-20 states that way. Buy another one in Ohio. Start a national TV network. Put a liberal presence, for the first time in decades, everywhere in the US. Recruit 2 or 3 more Michael Moores. Find a liberal Limbaugh. We have to go after the people who don’t think much, because Rove does.

As I’ve said, it’ll only cost about half a billion – and hey, maybe if we shop carefully we can do it for half that. But if we don’t do this, we’ll continue to lose.

P.S. Our resident trolls will soon pop up to explain that this piece just shows that I -- like all Democrats -- don’t respect the American voter. Forget that. There’s a demographic that doesn’t decide exactly rationally, and like the Republicans, we have to go after that demographic too. Con men like Rove, Bush, and George Will always pretend to love and respect the people they’re skinning, but that’s their game. Behind the scenes their laughing their asses off.

Note: Blogger ate a version of this post after I'd spend 1/2 hour editing it. I've re-edited it now, but I've probably lost a little.


Extremely Serious War Crimes Accusation Against U.S.

Thanks to Blogging of the President, this letter from Naomi Klein at The Guardian to the US Ambassador in London, Your evidence Mr Ambassador. (Mirror ">here.) It's too serious to leave it to excerpts so go read the whole thing and tell others.


She's OK

Natasha's alright.

Shaking Up The Democratic Party

Wednesday night I went to a Democracy For America meetup. DFA is the old Dean For America organization. I hadn't been to a DFA meetup since Dean lost Iowa.

Well here's some news: There were MORE people at the meeting than there ever were before Iowa! I didn't expect that. And these were not just Dean people. Maybe 1/3 were people who had been active in the Kerry campaign and are now looking for a place to continue their activity.

The meeting was about getting signed up in our local Democratic Party organization in time to be able to vote in their upcoming annual organizing meetings. There were detailed charts on how the state Democratic Party is organized and information on where to show up, what you have to do to be able to vote, things like that.

This is just San Mateo County (cities south of San Francisco, north of Palo Alto). I'm told that Santa Clara County (San Jose) has an even bigger DFA organization.

If this is happening in other states, I think we're going to see a real shake-up in the Democratic Party in the next few years. And, in the future many of these people will become candidates themselves.

2004 Weblog Awards: Best Military Blog

Democratic Veteran is nominated for 2004 Weblog Awards: Best Military Blog. Go vote for Democratic Veteran.

Jo writes, "It would be nice to give Citizen Smash a run for his money, and let blogtopia (y!sctw!) know that not all vets are Bushist jr. Fascists."

There are other categories. I didn't even know there were nominations...

Shorter Kevin Drum

Shorter Kevin Drum: Islam is the same as Nazism and Stalinism and we didn't go to war against them soon enough so "liberals" should go to war against all of Islam now.

Update - and apology. Kevin says I misinterpreted what he was saying. He says he was making the opposite point. I went back and read it again, and can see where he was doing that. In my defense, I think the wording of his piece is giving readers mixed messages, and in the comments following the piece I see that other readers also took Kevin to be saying what I thought he was saying. But in the end the scorecard should read that Kevin is AGAINST the idea of war against Islam. That's what counts.

Republicans: "Sex, Power and Nothing Else"

skippy the bush kangaroo is on the story.

Time To Start Making Noise?

This is a PDF of a letter from the Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee to Ohio's Republican Secretary of State. It is worth reading. It documents just some of the problems with the Ohio vote, namely minority voter suppression ad counting irregularities. It is worth reading.

Before this I have said it's best to sit back and wait while things are investigated. I'm starting to think it is time to start making some noise about all of this.

The citizens of Ukraine faced similar problems with their election, and decided not to sit still for it. They had experienced Soviet-style government and recognized that it was attempting a comeback. We don't have their experience, so it seems that we don't recognize it when it is staring us in the face.

No eternal reward will forgive us now for wasting the dawn

Some call it heavenly in it's brilliance
Others, mean and rueful of the Western dream
I love the friends I have gathered together on this thin raft
We have constructed pyramids in honor of our escaping
This is the land where the Pharaoh died

Valid choices:
Nice - I think I'll skip out of work, go home and smoke a joint
What the FUCK is he talking about?


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It's Here!

It HAS Happened Here!

Watch your backs!

Gun-Crime Enforcement Fuding Killed By Congress!

Key Antigun Program Loses Direct Financing:
"The move ... cuts federal grants to local and state law enforcement agencies in investigating and prosecuting crimes committed with guns. [. . .] A related program to track and intercept illegal purchases of guns by youngsters ... also received nothing.
Surprised? Why?

Republicans Taking Control of CalPERS - Huge Implications

CalPERS president removed from post. From the story,
"The ouster of the president of California's public pension fund has raised questions about whether pension funds, endowments and other big activist investors will be able to keep wielding clout in corporate governance campaigns."
This is a "tip-of-the-iceberg" story with vast implications. CalPERS is the pension fund for public employees in California. It had an activist management that was trying to help clean up corporate corruption. The large corporations got together and have succeeded in getting the fund's management changed.
"Richard Ferlauto, director of pension investment for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said Harrigan's ouster was an early success in a campaign to wrest control of pension money from a CalPERS board now controlled by Democratic trustees and put it to work in projects more in keeping with Republican ideals.

"Clearly, we're seeing a Republican attack on public pension systems," Ferlauto said. "And California has been targeted in a very strong way."
Public pension plans have been one of the few remaining avenues for exerting public pressure on corporate behaviour -- it's not just CalPERS that's a target.

The story suggests that they're also going to work now to get rid of employer-paid pensions and replace them with employee-paid pensions:
"Ferlauto said he thought that if Republicans could regain control, they would seek to make two fundamental changes: put an end to the corporate activism CalPERS has engaged in, and reshape the traditional, defined-benefit pension fund as something more akin to a 401(k) plan. [emphasis added - dj]"
401K means instead of THEY pay, it is YOU pay. That's the big bait-and-switch that was pulled under Reagan - convincing people to accept 401Ks - which really meant the end of employer-paid pensions, and rechanneling all the cash that had been set aside for pensions into the pockets of the top 1%.


Problem Solved

Massive Debt Problem To be Solved By Incredibly Massive Borrowing, Says Bush
"We're going to borrow more money than a body can possibly imagine," said Bush. "We're gonna take that enormous wad of cash and plug it right into what cynical people are calling 'that gaping whole in the budget.' And that'll save Social Security."

"It may not seem like the right thing to do in the short term, but in the long term, rich people will be thanking me for it," he added.

President Sissy

Heckled. By Canadians.


An Offer From the Right

I just posted a piece as a DailyKos diary: An Offer From the Right. I'm trying that out and hoping to grow Seeing the Forest's audience in the process. If you like it, recommend it... (In the right-hand column of Kos diaries there is a "Recommend this diary" button.)

It's cross-posted at The American Street.

Torture -- Something You Can Do

Yes, the American people voted to endorse torture. But there is something you can do. Bush has nominated Alberto Gonzalez, one of the authors of the "Torture Memo," to be our Attorney General. Here is a group working to do something about that:
Our group, Human Rights First, has launched a campaign called Http://www.EndTortureNow.org to ensure that the Senate obtains all the necessary information regarding Mr. Gonzales. As today’s New York Times reported, the Red Cross is calling the U.S. treatment of detainees “tantamount to torture”.

Leaked memos have revealed these vital facts about Mr. Gonzales:

  • As White House Counsel, Mr. Gonzales advised the President that the United States need not be bound by its obligations under the Geneva Conventions in the conflict in Afghanistan — a position vigorously disputed by Secretary of State Colin Powell and others.

  • Mr. Gonzales was centrally involved in the preparation of a series of highly controversial legal memos justifying the use of torture during interrogations. The legal arguments set forth in these memos helped lay the groundwork for the widespread incidents of torture and abuse from Iraq to Afghanistan to Guantanamo Bay.

    It is imperative that the Senate has access to all information necessary to fully evaluate Mr. Gonzales' record on human rights and torture.

    Please let me know if you would post on this important issue and direct readers to Http://www.EndTortureNow.org so they can take action.
  • It's good to know about the group, and good to raise awareness of this issue. But I hope they are doing more than sending e-mails to elected officials. E-mails aren't even read.

    It's Here

    It's here. Do you believe now that it's here?

    Less subtle version: It HAS happened here!

    More on Declation at eRiposte

    eRiposte has an update on the story I put up last week about the "Declaration of Independence Banned" lie.