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.

Cupertino Teachers Threatened

eRiposte has posted an appeal: PLEASE HELP: Right wing threats and media silence/complicity.

Also, this is a DailyKos diary. If you want others to see it, you should "recommend" it. You'll see a "Recommend this diary" button in the right column.


Strengthening Marriage to retain the White House and re-enslave women

By Patrick O'Heffernan
Dr. O'Heffernan is a Senior Research Fellow at the Commonweal Institute and a Founding Member of the International Museum of Women in San Francisco. A former Professor of Political Science and Emmy-winning television producer, he now blogs at mansworldnot.blogspot.com where he seeks an aswer to questions on religion and society, and women's role in creating a sustainable world. His full bio is here.

Strengthening marriage to retain the White House and re-enslave women

The conservative communications machine is wasting no time in using the 2004 election victory to reshape the nation into their image of a male dominated, born-again Christian household. Within two weeks of the election, they launched a campaign to “stop the erosion of marriage”. Unable to explain just exactly how same-sex marriage threatens heterosexual marriage, and stung by the findings of a recent National Center for Health Studies report that marriage is strongest and divorces least common in liberal states, conservatives have devised a new theme of “protecting marriage” as the next big Christian base-exciter. It is also the next salvo in their campaigns to retain the White House and re-enslave women.

The conservatives have sent out Bryce Christensen, a Southern Utah University English professor who moonlights as a mouthpiece for conservative anti-feminine organizations to launch the attack
In articles carried by the AP and many papers in the weeks after the election, Bryce told reporters “protection of marriage is now the watchword for many activists fighting to prevent gays and lesbians from marrying.” He goes on to rail about the deterioration of traditional marriage because of gay attacks, and mentions other causes such as divorce, abortion, and the dilution of women’s traditional roles.

The real strategy – re-enslave women
Out of public view, Bryce tells conservatives something different –he lays out the real reason for the protection of marriage campaign. Writing in the ultra-conservative magazine , The Family in America, he says that he and other conservatives behind the campaign are not really concerned about same-sex marriage; they really want to force women back into submissive, trapped, traditional wife roles like those described in the Old Testament of the Bible. Their real goal is to roll back the last 40 years of the women's rights successes, end no-fault divorce so women have to stay marriage whether they like it or not, close daycare facilities, and defund all domestic and international family planning programs in order to get women back under the thumb of men where they belong . To speed up this re-enslavement of women, they advocate against pension benefits and Social Security which they claim have led to the breakdown of the intergenerational family as seniors are no longer dependent on the goodwill of their grown children and can't be exploited as baby sitters so wives can have more babies.

Next, the nation’s Catholic bishops recently announced an unholy alliance with the same born-again Christians who consider Catholics “unchurched and unsaved”. They will launch a campaign remarkably similar to that of the Christian Right against “divorce, birth control, gay marriage, premarital sex, unmarried co-habitation, and deliberately childless couples. Noting that marriage has declined by more than 40% in the last 30 years”, Bishop Kevin Boland said the Church will join with evangelicals to begin parish programs and national advertising campaigns designed to rebuild the traditional Christian marriage” (He did not speculate on the notion that allowing gays to marry would also dramatically improve the marriage rate). The message to women was clear: your place is to be married, serve your husbands and have as many babies as possible; you can’t get divorced, you can’t plan your family, and you can’t complain. And in case you forgot, you can’t become a priest either.

The Right Wing Infrastructure and long term strategy

These messages were echoed across the conservative infrastructure. The Howard Institute, Focus on the Family ,Traditional Values Coalition, the Eagle Forum, and dozens of Christian websites and organizations – the entire web of institutions built by the religious right and conservatives over the past 30 years-- have joined the campaign. They have begun echoing its message that policies like no-fault divorce, Title IX, birth control, Social Security, and government-paid child care are destroying marriage and must be ended.

So what is going on here? Is it a coincidence that so many conservative organizations have suddenly discovered marriage as something that needs fixing. Is this a genuine effort to slow down the divorce rate and encourage more couples to marry and have families. Or is there an underlying, darker strategy?

There are actually three underlying – and definitely darker – strategies, all working simultaneously in the coordinated right wing marriage campaigns, each reinforcing the other. First, the Right is building on the success of the wedge issue of gay marriage to keep their Christian base engaged and active in the 2006 and 2008 elections. Second, by framing their actions as strengthening marriage, they are relying on polls and market research that shows women respond positively to words and actions seeking to improve personal relationships - especially marriage. They are betting the strengthening of marriage campaign will shift some female votes away from Democrats. And third, they are able to quietly and deceptively move on a bundle of policies designed to blunt the progress women have made on equal rights in order to force them back into second class status, a central goal of the Christian Right.

How are they doing it? The “gay issue” was created by Jerry Falwell and the Christian Right after the fall of the Soviet Union to give Conservatives another enemy to replace the Communists. Knowing that fear and hate mobilize better than love and security, the he cobbled together a number of Bible verses and claimed the he had just discovered “the gay agenda” to take over the country and turn our children into “homos” . But the issue did not get the kind of passionate traction among the faithful needed to win elections until the gay campaign for equal rights reached for marriage. Since most people in the country know someone who is gay either personally or through the media, gay hate was a hard sell beyond the extremes; but marriage touched everyone. As George Lakoff notes, it is central to our culture, it is a “big deal”. And it is an especially big deal to straight white men who subconsciously see gays as threatening to their masculinity, and gay unions as threatening to their male-dominant view of marriage. The conservatives correctly counted on a phony threat to marriage to create fear and votes where Biblical passages had failed.

Redefining marriage to create a new enemy
But their electoral and legislative successes may ultimately deny the Christian right the use of gays as the new enemy. If they pass the misnamed Defense of Marriage Amendment supported by Bush and more state initiatives to ban gay marriage, they lose the issue. Barring unforeseen circumstances, with marriage “protected” from gays, history and changing demographics indicate that it will be still be hard to sell gay hate beyond the religious extremes. So where can they find an enemy that will let them keep the fear factor up and the base turnout high? They found it in marriage, specifically in the kind of diverse, nurturing, equal partnership marriages that are becoming the norm in the 21st century.

Conservatives are strategically working to narrowly define the word and concept of marriage as a 1950’s style heterosexual, male-dominated, wife at home and submissive, kids obedient institution – the so-called “godly marriage”. This automatically positions today’s more accommodating and nurturing equal partnership marriages and unmarried unions as threats to “real” marriage. This gives them their fear issue – fear that marriage is being undermined, not only by gays, but by feminists, abortion , birth control, child care, Social Security, Title IX, pensions, and welfare – all perennial right wing targets.

The final piece of the strategy is push for “reforms” to “strengthen” marriage. Chief among these is an attack on no-fault divorce. National Christian Right organizations are currently working to get the states to replace no-fault laws with divorce regimes that make it very difficult for a couple, and especially a woman, to end a marriage. Abstinence-only sex education programs are being pushed into public schools that teach, among other things, women should stay home and have children and be submissive to their husbands to guarantee a good marriage. The Catholic Bishops have announced their desire for legislation to restrict and eventually ban birth control. Focus on the Family has called for a roll-back on sexual discrimination laws that seek to equalize women’s and men’s’ pay and advancement, and an end to programs that make it easier for a working mother (or father) to care for a family, such as after school programs, child care support, and parental leave. A coalition of religious and conservative groups have convinced the Department of Education to circulate new regulations that would dilute Title IX and legalize single-sex schools that fundamentalists can use to track girls into weddings and away from college.

The Right’s goals retain the White House and re-enslave women
The goals of these strategies are both short and long term. In the short term, the conservatives and the Christian Right are building a bundle of issues around marriage that they can use to excite and possibly expand their evangelical base without turning off non-evangelical Christians. After all, who is against strengthening marriage?

Additionally, by disguising their intentions as support for marriage, they hope to fool women, a traditionally Democratic constituency, into supporting Republicans in the 2006 and 2008 elections. The conservative communications machine is now using these messages to define marriage their way, create the “conventional wisdom” that marriage is in trouble (it is, but mostly in the red states and the Bible-belt), and that reforms are needed in government policy to protect it.

In the long term, the right’s goals are more Machiavellian. Married women, especially married women in male-dominate marriages, tend to vote for Republicans somewhat more than single women do, especially if their husbands are Republican. Conservatives have calculated that narrowing women’s options and channeling them into “godly” marriages where they are re-enslaved as “submissive wives” will increase female Republican voters over the long term. And in the very long term, daughters of these marriages will be raised to forgo college and get married and have large families – the profile of Republican voting women, thus guaranteeing a growing population of re-enslaved female Republican voters

A Progressive Counter Strategy
What can we progressive do to protect partnership marriages and blunt the religious right’s drive to re-enslave women and increase female Republican vote counts? Launch a counter strategy with both long and short term objectives.

First, in the short term confuse and divide the opposition with a Sanctity of Marriage Movement seeking legislation to remove the state completely from marriage, leaving it to religious organizations. Argue that the Constitution and the Bible (render unto Cesar…) requires that states should ratify only civil union contracts, (which Constitutionally should be available to everyone), and that religious organizations (including pagan, Wicca, Universal Life, etc.) are the only institutions that should be able to conduct marriage ceremonies and “bless the marriage”. This would compete with the Protection of Marriage amendment drive, set off a dogfight inside the religious right between the purists who believe that marriage is sacred and should be the purview of churches and the cynics want to use government to control marriage, and give Democrats great campaign fodder in the 2006 mid-term elections (“he voted against the sanctity of marriage - shame on him.”).

Reframe the issue from strengthening traditional marriage under threat from corrupting policies and practices, to protecting the modern, nurturing partnership marriage from religious extremists who want to use it to turn back the clock to the Old Testament and re-enslave women. Market and message test the Conceptual lumping of anti-abortion, anti-birth control, anti-Title IX, pro-strict-father family, pro-marriage amendment, and pro- “godly-marriage” groups together as the re-enslavement lobby whose real purpose is to take women back to “biblical times” when they were virtual slaves. Explore themes needed to reposition “godly marriages” as “godforsaken marriages” that result in the joyless separation of husbands and wives in resentful warring camps while the outcome of a partnership marriage is a strong, loving family. Emphasize that “marriage is for men too” giving them the opportunity to enjoy child raising in partnership with their wives (why should the women have all the fun?) to undercut the Right's cold-hearted strict father message. Test and offer a marriage model that is a respite for the husbands trapped in “re-enslavement marriages” – husbands who are overworked, distant from their families, at war with their wives, and forced by re-enslavement marriage lobby to shoulder all the work and all the burdens. Aim part of the message at young Republican fathers by featuring poster men from the 3 million American men who stay at home to care for their family and love it—and whose masculinity is not threatened by doing so.

Most importantly, build a long term progressive marriage infrastructure by bringing together progressive think tanks, mainline churches, spiritual organizations, and women’s and men’s groups to fashion and endlessly repeat the positive message of a partnership marriage and the threat to women and men of the re-enslavement lobby. Fund this piece of the infrastructure to launch a Partnership Marriage Campaign that uses market research, word and theme testing to flood the nation with effective books, articles, workshops, and media spokespersons on the joys and strengths of nurturing partnership marriages. Fund studies and reports on satisfaction within partnership marriages and the reduction of abortions and divorce among partnership marriages. Develop male and female spokespersons who can offer advice to married couples on radio and television and in books and advice columns on how to achieve and enjoy a partnership marriage (including sexual joys!) , and how to avoid the re-enslavement lobby which is trying to take the fun out of marriage by driving a wedge between husbands and wives. Use this message to undercut the Right’s attempt to capture the word “moral” for themselves and reduce it to gay marriage, abortion and stem cells.

The linchpin of this strategy is the long term, strategic, unrestricted funding to a key core of progressive think tanks, single issue advocacy organizations, communications organizations, and progressive religious organizations. This “mini-infrastructure” would work to push back the message of the Religious Right re-enslavement lobby that has been strategically built by conservatives over the past quarter century. Key to this is strategic funding by progressive donors. Strategically placed, long term, unrestricted grants to a cluster of existing and new organizations pulled together and tightly coordinated by a critical think tank and by the donors can blunt this latest conservative assault on freedom and on women. With the correct strategy and strategic support, progressives can strengthen both marriage and the rights of women and hand the conservatives and the religious right a humiliating defeat.

Blogs vs "Journalists"

Most of you read Atrios' weblog, so you know that he has been writing about a CBS story - written by their "chief political writer" - calling Atrios unethical for writing a "partisan" weblog anonymously (on his own time) while being an employee of Media Matters. Atrios pointed out that every single fact in the CBS story was wrong. It had the wrong name for his weblog, it had it wrong that he was writing anonymously while working for Media Matters, it even said he had been working for Media Matters long before the organization even existed. And, by the way, Media Matters is by law a non-partisan organization. (CBS has corrected one part of the story - without explaining that they have done this, as blogs do - but has not rescinded the accusation.) Update - A great letter from Media Matters' President to CBS.

CBS got it wrong.

Today at 1pm PST on the ABC hourly radio news Ann Compton gave a report on President Bush's plans to borrow one or two trillion dollars to privatize Social Security. At the beginning of the report she said that without changes Social Security is going to "run up trillions in debt," and later said that "Social Security Trustees say this shortfall will start as soon as 2018."

This just isn't so, as many of you reading this already know. Social Security is completely solvent until 2042 at the earliest, and even this date is calculated using an assumption of only 1.9% average economic growth between now and then, and even then there is a very small difference between projected Social Security revenues and benefit payments!

But Ann Compton didn't know this, and repeated the Right's strategic lies. I guess I shouldn't expect a reporter these days to know anything about the story she is covering, but one would think that an organization as big as ABC News would have someone on staff who knows enough about something as important - and current - as Social Security to steer Ms. Compton toward the accurate facts.

ABC got it wrong.


Scott Rosenberg makes a comparison between the way Republicans handle accusations against Republicans, compared to their treatment of accusations against others:
"Secretary Rumsfeld, meet Secretary Annan. You two gentlemen have a certain amount in common these days. Isn't it amazing, though, how differently the Republican powers-that-be view your two cases?"
Republicans have absolute power now... Later he writes,
"In my book -- pardon me, I should say "according to my moral values" -- corruption is bad, but torturing people and launching unnecessary wars under false pretenses is worse. (Of course, there's a theory that the Republicans are just getting Annan back for his criticisms of the Iraq war. But they're above that. Er, right?)"
As far as I know, no one has even SEEN any actual evidence against the UN. Have you? So far it's just a bunch of right-wing charges. And we know ALL about right-wing charges.

More Mush Journalism as New Lies Spread

Another story, this time in the local San Jose Mercury News about the "Declaration of Independence Banned" issue. This time the teacher is "at the center of a reinvigorated debate about the place of religion in public schools." Well, actually, if you know what this is about, it is about a claim that a school has banned the Declaration of Independence because it contains the word 'God.'

What stands out in this story is this quote:
"I support him,'' said Tom Forese, 30, who works in commercial real estate. "Most elementary schools are requiring the teaching of Islam, and I agree with that. But it's equally important to teach the Christian view.''
This is a window into the strategy at work here. It is a window into the messages that the Right is sending to its constituents. This person has been led to believe that schools are requiring teachers to teach Islam, and are forbidden to teach about Christianity. And I mean led. Maybe he gets this from here, "they wish to transform public schools at all levels into venues for spreading Islam." Or here, "In the wake of Sept. 11 ... students must memorize many verses in the Koran, are taught to pray 'in the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful' and are instructed to chant, 'Praise to Allah, Lord of Creation.' 'We could never teach Christianity like this,' one outraged parent told ANS." Or here, "Are California seventh-graders being proselytized by the state's public schools on behalf of Islam? Yes...". Or here, "We could never teach Christianity like this. We can’t even mention the name of Jesus in the public schools." Or here, "Public Schools Indoctrinating Impressionable Youth Into Islam" Or here. Or here. Or here. Or here. Or here, "Fairfax County school district prohibits recitation of the Lord's Prayer but encourages students to pray to Allah."

Are you getting the picture of what is going on here?

THIS is what this is about. These are lies. There is no other word for it. This group is using this lie to spread fear, distrust and sow division in this country. They are trying to set us against each other. Other groups are spreading lies about public schools - and, by extension, "liberals" - forcing kids to reject Christianity and pray to Allah. This is the story.

eReposte is also following this story, and Left I on the News.

Update - I meant to add to this before by pointing out that the ACLU is one of the best organizations to help us fight this stuff -- at least to fight where they are trying to take it. The Right is going to try to make an end run around separation of church and state. The ACLU will fight it in the courts. They have an ad in the right column. --->>>

The Payoff

As someone who follows politics, I have noticed that people who speak out for the Republicans soon come into big money.

(I came across that just after reading this.)

"Support the Troops"

One of these days I'm going to write a long piece about "Support the Troops". It's a big lie, sort of like hostage-taking: "If you say that I'm wrong, then the lives of these soldiers were wasted! And if any more are killed, that will be your fault too!" Our Commander in Chief is hiding behind the troops, who are expected not only to defeat the enemy but also to fight against Bush's domestic critics.

Rumsfeld's D.C. press conferences are cute as all get-out, but his snarky responses to the troops in Kuwait don't seem quite so funny. (At least he didn't say "goodness gracious me" again. Someone probably would have shot him if he had).

Rumsfeld actually believes that the troops are cannon fodder whose duty is to shut up and do their jobs, and he came reasonably close to saying so in Kuwait.

(Here are some more stories about the troops, one from Bartcop and one from Kos:

Veterans of the Iraq War are already starting to show up in homeless shelters.

Scott Zellem, the pilot who flew Bush to the carrier photo-op, has been killed. There's been no national publicity so far.

North Dakota Guardsman with doubts about the war has been killed: he felt "betrayal and abandonment"


Responding to the Attack on Public Education and Teacher Unions

Table of Contents:

Title Page


Section 1 – The Goals of Those Attacking Public Education

Demonization of Public Schools, Teachers and Teacher Unions

Complete Privatization of Schools Is the Ideological Goal

Beyond Ideology – Two Other Goals

Defunding Teacher Unions – The Political Agenda, Part 1

Breaking up the Traditional Democratic Alliance – The Political Agenda, Part 2

Section 2 - The Right’s Overall Strategic Approach

Primary Strategy: Creating a Network of Advocacy Organizations

Primary Strategy: Focus on Ideology

Some History of the Modern Right-Wing Movement

A Response to the “Liberal Establishment” of the 1960s

The Powell Memo

Funding the Program

The Right Today

Section 3 –Specific Strategies of the Right

Major Strategies in Creating and Maintaining an Infrastructure

Strategy: Creating Alliances

Strategy: Funding All Parts of the Infrastructure

Strategy: Using a Business Approach

Strategy: Networking Among Foundations and Nonprofits

Major Strategies in Marketing/Communications

Strategy: A Long-Term Approach

Strategy: Interconnectedness

Strategy: Packaging and Dissemination of Strategic Messages

Strategy: A Marketing Approach

Strategy: Repetition of simple messages – Creating Conventional Wisdom

Strategy: Connectedness of Underlying Ideologies

Other Strategies

Strategy: Overwhelming

Strategy: Staying On the Offensive – Forcing Others to Respond

Strategy: Never Apologizing or Backing Down

Strategy: Claiming Legitimacy While Marginalizing Opponents (Seizing the Flag)

Strategy: Dividing the Opposition

Section 4 –Effectiveness of the Right-Wing Movement

Achieving Their Goals

Control All Three Branches of Government

Major Legislation: The No Child Left Behind Act

The Right Sets the Public Agenda

Defeat Voucher Initiatives, But They Keep Coming Back

Home Schooling Is Increasing

Attitude toward Public Education

Section 5 – Responding to the Attack

Creating an Infrastructure with Independent Voices for Public Education

Strategy: Cultivate Strategic Allies

Strategy: Cooperate with Others to Create an Infrastructure

Strategy: Provide General Operating Support

Strategy: Develop Unifying Ideological Principles

Strategy: Use a Business-like Approach

Strategy: Plan for Coordination

Independent Voice/Infrastructure Strategies for Strengthening Public Education

Strategy: A Long-Term Approach

Strategy: A Marketing Approach

Strategy: Address Underlying Ideologies

The Importance of Countering the Right’s Underlying Ideology

Strategy: Develop Effective Framing and Language

Strategy: Dissemination of Specific Framing and language

Strategy: Use New Framing and Language for Specific Issues

Strategy: Repetition of Specific Framing and language

Strategy: Develop and Disseminate Articles and Other Materials

Strategy: Establish Speakers’ Bureaus

Strategy: Provide Training for Speakers and Writers

Strategy: Help to Establish a Community of Pro-Public Education Webloggers

Strategy: Educate, Inform, and Recruit Other Independent Voices

Strategy: Counter the Right’s Under-the-Radar Propaganda

Strategy: Use Humor

Internal Strategies

Strategy: Cultivate Allies

Strategy: Work Closely with Colleges and Universities

Strategy: Work Closely With Non-Teacher Public School Organizations

Strategy: Incorporate Curricula That Addresses Education Allies’ Issues

Strategy: Use New Framing and Language in Specific Issue Campaigns

Strategy: Involve Teachers

Strategy: Best Practices Teams

Strategy: Establish Speakers’ Bureaus

Strategy: Critical Thinking as Core Curriculum

Strategy: Make School Facilities Available to the Public

Strategy: Presenting a Positive Public Image

Strategy: Involve the Public

Section 6 – Conclusion

Appendix 1: Annotated Bibliography re. School Privatization

Appendix 2: Examples of Anti-School and Anti-Teacher Unions Rhetoric

Appendix 3: Example of Coordinated Repetition of a Framed Message through Multiple Channels

Appendix 4: Examples of Right-Wing Organizations, their Funding Sources, and What they Fund

Notes and References

New Report: Responding to the Attack on Public Education and Teacher Unions

I have a new Commonweal Institute report coming out, titled "Responding to the Attack on Public Education and Teacher Unions," co-authored with Commonweal's Leonard Salle. This report describes the Right's messaging infrastructure and their strategies for privatizing public schools. It then goes into how teacher unions can respond. But this all applies more generally than just to teacher unions. All Moderate and Progressive organizations and individuals are facing the same attacks.

I'll write about it soon, especially the "how to respond" part, but for now here is a press release that talks about it.

You can find it here, in both PDF (1MB) and HTML versions.

My previous report, "The Attack on Trial Lawyers and Tort Law," was written for trial lawyers. It described the right-wing "conservative movement," it's history, and its messaging machine. I was invited to give a talk at the ATLA (trial lawyers) national convention and you can find the speech as well as links to the report here.

Voting in Ohio

Jay Jackman is a guy I've know for a couple of years. He was been talking about the need to revive the precinct captain system og Get-Out-The-Vote activities "before it was cool." He wrote about his experiences working in Ohio on election day: (This is toward the bottom of a long piece...)
"It was at this location that we had our starkest experience with the disenfranchisement resulting from long lines. One of the poll workers put it this way. There were about 2700 registered voters in the three precincts. There were ten voting machines. Under state law, which was then in effect, if there were long lines, than each voter had only five minutes to vote, this meant that the machines could handle twelve voters an hour or 156 voters in the thirteen hours the poles were open. By 5:00 about 1300 people had voted leaving another 1200 or so expected to vote with the polls closing in 2 1/2 hours. The polling supervisor said the math was quite simple. 1200 voters. 10 machines. 120 voters per machine. One voter every five minutes. Twelve voters per hour. That meant that there were ten hours of voters to be served in 2 1/2 hours. She said that she had no doubt that they would be working past midnight, with waits of up to 5 to 7 hours. That is how disenfranchisement worked in Columbus that day.

There was no way that this failure to provide an adequate number of machines was an accident. Everyone knew there would be a massive turnout. Everyone knew how may voters the machines could handle per hour. The arithmetic was really simple. Could you prove this was intentional disenfranchisement? That is what is being documented right now in Ohio to be used in legal challenges."


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?

Free polls from Pollhost.com

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.