Monday, November 22, 2004

Can I Get A Witness

This post is somewhat in response to comments made by Brogonzo on his blog Smokin' News.

It strikes me that there can be a balance and a judgement on the war itself based on things that have happened, without attacking soldiers or lauding the terrorists and the insurgents (yes, they are different). I agree that the "outrage" over the shooting of the Iraqi man needs to be moderated. I think it needs to go through the normal process of investigation (as it is), but that's all. The incident bothers me, but more as a function of war itself. I think that is how many people feel but they lack the language or the outlet to express that.

In fact, as soon as the tape came out I heard more talk about the supposed outrage than I heard actual outrage. This often happens in the media. They create the stories instead of presenting facts and letting people deal with it as they will. Then, when someone expresses sympathy or criticizes one side or another, these things become polarizing issues.

As much as some on the right have complained that Democrats are elitists that belittle those who support the war, have strong religious convictions, etc. I find it much more common that those of us on the left of that spectrum are maligned and marginalised (certainly in mainstream TV news media). We are called "Michael Moore" leftists and certain arguments against the war and the President become catch words, signalling the conservatives to ignore or brush aside anything we might say.

Part of John Kerry's testimony to the Senate Committee, way back when, was about the issue of what war does to men. He wasn't pionting out that atrocities were committed just to say it. Those things can happen in a war, especially a war in which the military was not prepared. In that instance, the military was much less prepared than our military is now (though, the plan for this war could arguably have been better).

That distinction, between criticizing the war and criticizing the soldiers themselves, is perhaps the biggest bone of contention in any dialogue touching those subjects. We at home are in a war of language. Words have been twisted and loaded with connotations to the point that the original argument (a visceral argument for most) is lost.
When I say there is a difference between insurgents and terrorists, others have reacted by puffing up the rhetoric. People throw around words like "freedom fighters" and act as if I had suggested that what the terrorists have done is just. That is not what I believe. But neither do I believe that we, as a country, are somehow heroes - that we are somehow better and more just than people in a country most know little about.

I have the utmost respect for the soldiers. It is horrible to me that a man would have to be in a position where he must shoot any suspicious target. That is why I am upset by the war. I see it bringing destruction in all lives lost, infrastructure and homes destroyed, minds destroyed by the horrors of war. I see it creating more "terrorists" as those homes are destroyed and clansmen, Iraqi families, are killed. Where is the good? Where was the good in the motives of our leaders who waltzed us into war, leaders who had never been to a battle? Where is the good in the lies that were told that cause people to associate the war in Iraq with Sept. 11?
This is the anger and the frustration felt by many. The video of the soldier shooting the man in the mosque is upsetting because people are not familiar with the ugliness of war. But it is the war itself that is at fault. And when those who disagree with the war see "us and them" rhetoric pervading the media and the language of our leaders, it creates even more frustration. Not to mention the tone of moral superiority that is becoming more prevalent.

As a last note, I must say that I do not expect soldiers to sit around contemplating who their enemy is and the differences between terrorists and insurgents (though I am sure many of them do). I do expect the American people to attempt some understanding. I expect our leaders to lead us in this.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Innocent Until Proven Republican

More of the same. Nancy Pelosi says the Republicans are "lowering their ethical standards."
Is that possible?

"After a debate lasting two and a half hours, the Republicans voted for a new procedure under which the House party leaders would have 30 days to deliberate if one of their colleagues were indicted on a felony charge. At the end of the 30 days, the leaders would decide whether to ask the person under indictment to step aside at least temporarily.

The new rule supplants one that required a leadership member facing a felony indictment to step aside immediately." - NY Times

Huzzah for Tom DeLay.

But, due to this, some Republicans may be finally jumping ship or, at least, edging out further on the gangplank. Rep. Christopher Shays of Connecticut (R), called the change "a mistake."
"If Republicans believe that an indicted member should be allowed to hold a top leadership position in the House of Representatives, their arrogance is astonishing," the House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi of California, said in a statement.
But it isn't really astonishing, is it?

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Where Are The Beans?

Brilliant (as usual) Wolcott piece on Condi Rice's rise in the ranks.

"[. . .]Rice's face is the game face of the Bushies, bony with Unwavering Resolve, eyes fanatical, mouth tensed. She has shown herself to be not a listener but a dictation machine on playback. "The President believes..." "The President has always said..." "The President has very consistent in arguing that..." "The President has said all along..." And now the dictation machine is in a position to dictate to other nations how they can fight terror and help make America a bigger, better empire. It'll be the President wants this, the President wants that, the President is firm in his belief that...

But her incompetence precedes her, as does her presumptuous statement that for their failure to support the U.S. in Iraq, France should be punished, Germany ignored, and Russia forgiven. Punished, ignored, and forgiven for being right in the first place and refusing to take part in this debacle?--such nerve. [. . .]"

And Atrios has provided a handy link to Daily Howler archives on Rice's watch-making testimony to the 9/11 Commission.

Monday, November 15, 2004

No Liberal NY Times Elitists On Our Soil

Last night I watched a post-election focus group of voters in Ohio. I was struck by how often Bush supporters repeated Fox talking points and phrases common to the media. One man noted that Bush stayed the course and wasn't the type to change his mind after reading the New York Times.
Sound familiar?

Some people even said things that made no sense. One woman noted that she felt Bush had more real-world experience. She did not like Theresa Heinz Kerry because she felt that Laura Bush had more life experience and had gone through hardships.
This woman also noted that the economy was an important issue and implied that Bush understands the needs of families in the changing economy.

One thing I kept hearing was that Kerry had no plan or that he only used rehearsed talking points and never addressed his plan.
Of course, I agree. Bush had a comprehensive plan to put before the people. He's going to turn the corner and fight the terrorists over in Iraq so we don't have to fight them on our soil. Who cares if he can't pay for any of it? Kerry's a flip-flopper. He can't pay for his plan either. The plan that he doesn't have, I mean.
Oh, and that hunting stunt was just too ridiculous. "Come on," one man said, "that's just insulting." Yeah. How dare Kerry go hunting during the campaign. I don't care if he enjoys hunting. He's only doing it for the votes.
And Bush on that fishing show? Ever since he was a little boy growing up in Texas he wanted to be on a fishing show. How folksy and adorable.

It's marketing people. Marketing and media. So what the hell can we do about it? It can't just be about selling our candidates. It has to be about debunking these ridiculous myths they've set up about the warm and cuddly Republicans.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Reform Intelligence

Next week I am visiting my family. I need to come up with some coping mechanisms, to deal with their conservative views. My father is especially fond of Fox News (and Rush Limbaugh).
I plan to avoid discussions alltogether, but I am afraid my father may feel the need to prove something to me (that, if I were smart, I'd be a Republican). At the very least, he may gloat a little.

I was going to write something here about the Sept. 11 Commission's recommendations, but it is such a beautiful day.

I have my doubts about enacting all of the recommendations - doubts that are mostly fueled by a Harper's article titled "Counter Intelligence: The recommendations of the 9/11 Commission are a dangerous muddle."

I would link it, but it is not available online. So, more on that later. Meanwhile, you can read about Bush trying to save intelligence reform. And comment here about what you think about the various recommendations.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Fuck You, Mr. Smith

Looks like there may be some strong-arming going on soon.

"Frist said, "One way or another, the filibuster of judicial nominees must end."

"The American people have reelected a president and significantly expanded the Senate majority," Frist said. "It would be wrong to allow a minority to defy the will of a clear and decisive majority ....""
[. . .]
"Having gained four seats in the Nov. 2 elections, which will increase their Senate majority next year to 55, Republicans have a number of options, a top aide said.

They hope enough Democrats, mindful of the election results, will now break ranks and vote to end filibusters against judicial nominees, the aide said.

If that does not work, the Senate could try to force through a proposed rule change, offered by Frist in May 2003, that could stop a filibuster with a simple-majority vote.

A two-thirds vote could be needed to change the rules, however, and Republicans have conceded in the past that they do not have that kind of support.

Another possible option would have the Senate chair declare a filibuster against a judicial nominee unconstitutional. Only a simple-majority vote would be needed to uphold the ruling.

Yet some Senate Republicans have voiced reservations. They warn such a move would further strain relations and come back to hurt them in a future Democratic-led Senate." - from Thomas Ferraro, Reuters
So, going on the idea that they have a mandate ("the will of the people"), they want to make it impossible for that will to be challenged? I wish more people would get upset about this. Aren't checks and balances the whole freaking point?

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Cue Violin Music

I got this link from l.a.veggie.
You can speed it up if you get impatient. I think you can add your own photo, too, with Flickr.

Be Merry

In the sad stale world of today's post-election internet, I have been looking for something fun to alleviate the pain and get away from feeling earnestly defensive.

I found this article in Salon with some great ideas on how to celebrate blue-stateness (even though some of us are only there in spirit).

Here's number three on the list:
"Read a book. And when you're done with it, donate it to your local public school. Start with "The Origin of Species" and move on through some other tomes sure to expand the minds -- if not the church-sanctioned morality -- of the young."

Stepford Spook or Media Watchdog?

A few days ago I watched Mark Hyman say that, according to a study done by George Mason Univ., John Kerry got more favorable TV coverage than any Presidential candidate in the past 25 years. He went on to say that Kerry had 58% positive coverage over Bush's 36% positive coverage. According to Hyman the Media definitely took sides in this election.

The study is worth a cursory look [PDF file] - especially the samples of negative and positive coverage at the end. This includes quotes from segments that clearly involved interviews with voters (which, from my experience, usually include very balanced coverage of positives for both candidates). It also includes the CBS story about Bush's lack of National Guard. Interestingly, there is no choice quote from all of the coverage about the SBVFT ads. Hmmmm.

So what does this all mean? Well, the liberal media must really exist. We must counter it with propaganda movies and hail Sinclair Broadcasting as our savior.

(Then again... from Bob Fitrakis, "The first time I saw Mark Hyman on Columbus' Sinclair Television ABC affiliate, I told the listeners of my WVKO radio show that he looked like a Stepford CIA clone with a microchip buried in his ass.")

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Rules for Radicals

Take a look at Atrios' posting of Rules for Radicals from a book by Saul Alinsky. It's a pretty good breakdown of what was done right and wrong by both campaigns.

No More Head In the Sand

Update on my last post - There is an article today in Salon about the voting system issue.

"Given my current state of knowledge, it seems unlikely there will be enough bogus votes found to reverse the election," says David Dill, the Stanford computer scientist who's been leading the charge against paperless electronic voting machines for the past two years... "[I]t's extremely important that we seize this opportunity to review everything we can about this election," Dill says. "Having people comb through these results will give us more confidence in the legitimacy of this election. We shouldn't gain that confidence by resorting to the head-in-the-sand method we usually employ in the United States."

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Marginalizing Ourselves

I feel like crap today, but I just had to write quickly about the whole vote-counting thing.
I'm not going to shout fraud. Such a thing would be hard to prove, and almost impossible to connect to the Republican Party.
I do want all of the votes counted, and extreme scrutiny placed on the voting systems in this country. The media silence on this issue is deafening. I was actually shocked when I did hear about it on one news program last night.
The Democratic Party is also avoiding a stance on this issue.

I understand the need to calm down those who are using the "f" word and throwing around accusations. But the Democratic Party has fallen into this trap before. In order to avoid looking foolish or rabid, they think, we must ignore this faction of the party.
But that only helps the Right characterize Democrats as rabid left-wingers. The media can flippantly mention those fringe groups with their crazy ideas, because there is no moderate voice addressing the issues they raise. The Democrats are helping the Republicans marginalize this contingent. Meanwhile, as we have seen, the Dems do not escape any damage from criticism of those groups.

As I've said before, the Democratic Party needs to embrace those with seemingly radical ideas, especially when they are based in fact. The voting problems are real and must be dealt with. I want the Democratic Party to be the party of having every vote be counted.
Even the media would find it hard to marginalize half of the country. Let's present a united front, a strong and moderate voice.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Chomsky's Pimpmobiles

Hehehehe - Wolcott on Andrew Sullivan's recent appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher.
I recommend regular reading of Wolcott. He's got just the right level of snarkiness.

"Like an infant banging his spoon on the high-chair tray, Sullivan threw quite a tantrum last night after Maher had the GALL to interview Noam Chomsky. Sullivan sputtered that Chomsky made "millions" going around the world telling audiences America was "evil." Now I don't pretend to have read or heard all of the millions of words Chomsky has written and spoken, but "evil" doesn't seem to be a prominent word in his vocabulary, being so theological; he tends to talk in terms of brutal realpolitick and self-interest. And it's highly unlikely he's raking in "millions"--if he is, he isn't splurging on wardrobe and pimpmobiles."
Sullivan gets on my nerves. I happen to get Time magazine, in which he occasionally has an article. (I swear, I only get the magazine for the pictures). He is one of two reasons the magazine is relegated to my bathroom (the second being Joe Klein).

Here's a gem from a recent Time article: "The polarization, aided and abetted by Michael Moore, Mel Gibson,, and the Swift Boat Vets, among many others, has deepened into a variety of embitterments." As if these things were somehow equal in sewing dissent and anger.

Sullivan's point is that we must come together to fight the terrorists, to win the war. But he, and so many others, have missed the point. The left, the "other half" of the country, are not rabid haters. They are not "free love" hippies, communists or socialists.
The reasons we were against George Bush were both ideological and concrete. One of those reasons involved the fact that Bush has made us less safe. Many of us believe that Bush is hurting this country. We believe it passionately and many of us can provide statistics, numbers, facts to prove our point. How can we come together with people who, we feel, have made us less safe? How can we support a course of action that at best ignores the true problem, and at worst exacerbates it?

"[Bush] surely understands now how divided the country has become under his presidency and how deeply flawed his war management has been." If he does know, Sullivan, I don't think he cares.

Ammunition for the Propaganda War

Yglesias - "[The Democrats] need to make the Republicans own the IRS, the tax code, and everything else about the government that's hateful or inefficient. . .
The Republicans have all the power, so the Democrats must make them the party of government, and make themselves the party of reform."

Atrios - "If they can get out in front of the issue they also stand a better (though not foolproof) chance of setting the terms and language of the debate."

Atrios - "Play offense, not defense. It's a propaganda war, not a legislative one, and we need to recognize that."
There is a view of the Democratic Party that persists - the party of left-wing wackos (sometimes referred to as "the Michael Moore contingent"), big government, welfare, etc. It persists for two reasons that must be addressed. First, the Democratic Party has splintered and has offered no cohesive alternative to that image. Second, the Republicans do a damn good job of leaving seeds of doubt and mistrust about the Democrats. Until this image problem is overcome, the Democrats will find it difficult to win elections and to fight more specific attacks from Republicans.
It should not have to be a choice between galvanizing the base or appealing to "middle America." The Democratic base is not that different from the great grey middle of the country. Everyone is hugely influenced by the media and most vote based on vague feelings. If the Dems want to get rid of that vague negative feeling towards the party, then they need to have a message to replace it with.

Get the government out of our churches. Get the government out of our libraries. Government is for the people, so down with government secrecy. Keep government responsible, accountable. Take of our soldiers. Let people have the opportunity to take care of their families. Make sure our children get a good education and that their education means something. Take care of the environment so that our families have a future. Promote ingenuity, science, progress.

None of these messages necessitates ignoring the Democratic base or watering down the party. In fact, if the party can include their base (that Michael Moore contingent) in their language, then they will be more successful.
I have a friend, a recovering Republican, who said that she voted for Kerry because she is concerned about the environment. There are those people who already have their issues and priorities set and will vote those issues. The Democrats should never forget their roots in the environment, in helping the poor, etc. It's part of what keeps them a separate party.
So, if we can bring these issues together in a more populist message, we can begin to set the dialogue and the priorities of the great American middle. And, let's not believe the propaganda against the Democrats - many people in middle America did vote for John Kerry.

(Incidentally, that same voter friend of mine said months ago that she would vote for Bush because someone got violent at a protest (it was mis-reported, of course) and injured a cop. She insisted that "that's who John Kerry's supporters are.")

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Cultural Snobbery

I have been dumbfounded with this Administration for a while, but mostly since the war started in Iraq. I even remember finding out that it had started, feeling so confused.

I just found this article by Michael Hirsh, in the Washington Monthly, that addresses the fundamental reasons behind the Administration's war mindset. It doesn't completely clarify things for me, because I don't have strong historical background in the Middle East; but it does help sketch a better outline.

Here is an interesting excerpt about why the Administration's view, based on ideas by Bernard Lewis, is wrong:

"Modern Arab anger and frustration is, in fact, less than a hundred years old. As bin Laden knows very well, this anger is a function not of Islam's humiliation at the Treaty of Carlowitz of 1699—the sort of long-ago defeat that Lewis highlights in his bestselling What Went Wrong—but of much more recent developments. These include the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement by which the British and French agreed to divvy up the Arabic-speaking countries after World War I; the subsequent creation, by the Europeans, of corrupt, kleptocratic tyrannies in Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, and Jordan; the endemic poverty and underdevelopment that resulted for most of the 20th century; the U.N.-imposed creation of Israel in 1948; and finally, in recent decades, American support for the bleak status quo.
[. . .]
The administration's invasion of Iraq seems to have given bin Laden a historic gift. It has vindicated his rhetoric describing the Americans as latter-day Crusaders and Mongols, thus luring more adherents and inviting more rage and terror acts.
[. . .]
In our talk last spring, Lewis was still arguing that Iraq would follow the secular path he had laid out for it. He voiced the line that has become a favorite of Wolfowitz's, that the neocons are the most forthright champions of Arab progress, and that the Arabists of the State Department who identified with the idea of “Arab exceptionalism” are merely exhibitng veiled racism. This is the straight neocon party line, of course: If you deny that secular democracy is the destiny of every people, you are guilty of cultural snobbery."
But it is not snobbery. I would not presume to know what it is like to live in Iraq, to live in the Middle East, to live with such a strong and pervasive religious and clan system. A huge problem of the West in dealing with the world has been and is cultural snobbery - assuming that every country should have or want the same kind of government.
This mindset does not make sense to me. I have always thought that if you assume that democracy is the destiny of every people, you are guilty of cultural snobbery. I guess it is a fine line. I have that view based on the idea that cultures are equal (we are all people, after all) but not the same. I cannot assume that my way of life is best for everyone.
I guess some others, scholars and such, have had the same view based on the idea that Arab culture could not deal with a democratic system.

But, then, here is a critique of Lewis:
“This is a person who does not like the people he is purporting to have expertise about,” says [Richard] Bulliet. “He doesn't respect them, he considers them to be good and worthy only to the degree they follow a Western path.”
"The neoconservative transformationalists of the Bush administration, though informed by far less scholarship than Lewis, seemed to adopt his dismissive attitude toward the peculiar demands of Arab and Islamic culture. And now they are paying for it. The downward spiral of the U.S. occupation into bloodshed and incompetence wasn't just a matter of too few troops or other breakdowns in planning, though those were clearly part of it. In fact, the great American transformation machine never really understood much about Arab culture, and it didn't bother to try."

Hard Work

Blogger is acting up again. I’m considering switching to Typepad but it costs $$ and I just don’t want to add more costs to my already burdened pocketbook.

In other news in the world…

Iraq is in a state of emergency, as declared by Iyad Allawi. But this is no surprise.

is planning to have Yassir Arafat buried in Gaza, which will prompt violence and protests from the Palestinians (but then, what doesn’t?).

I’m curious to see how Bush deals with the Palestinian issue, with Arafat’s imminent death. He has his hands full with Iraq, I know. And it’s all such hard work.

I think it is hard work, but not so much for Bush:
“American and Iraqi forces are continuing preparations for the attack, amid reports that more than 100 insurgents have volunteered to drive suicide car bombs into the advancing troops."
The BBC article notes that Allawi wants to prevent an all-out attack on Fallujah if possible. That statement makes it seem as if Allawi has a modicum of power. Certainly, he can negotiate with insurgent leaders on the ground, but the big military decisions are still made by the US.

“It is reported from inside Falluja that insurgents, tribal chiefs and Sunni Muslim clerics have invited the media to enter the city under their protection to witness any assault, which they described as a crusade against Islam.”
I am still not clear about the difference between insurgents and terrorists. Who are we fighting? Bush avoids making any distinction.

"The broadcasts [of confessions of foreign terrorists] were seen as a means of preparing the population for the coming attack on Fallujah, where the government says it's after foreigners and "terrorists" not city residents who are not involved in the insurgency.” – AP/Salon

But how can you tell? This is urban warfare, the most difficult kind of fighting. Plus, if someone was invading your country, destroying homes, wouldn’t you become an insurgent?
This kind of statement makes the action seem more precise (like “surgical strikes”) than is possible.
And, need I add, that article suggests that the war created more terrorists, more violence, than was in Iraq before?

I hope the soldiers in Iraq are successful, I hope the economy does get better. At the same time, I want Bush and the Republicans to pay for the mess that they created.

More on possible GOP problems in another post.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Do Not Go Quietly


Sounds Familiar. . .

I love it when I read respectable journalists who agree with what I've been saying the past few days.
This is from an article on the American Prospect Online:

"So why can’t Democrats consistently come up with inspiring leaders, with candidates who make you want to do the right thing, the way Republicans can? Well, maybe that’s because we’re leaving it up to the politicians themselves. A cynical approach (not that there’s anything wrong with that) would be to mimic the Republicans and to start cultivating a good performer to run as the front man for progressive ideals."
Of course, I don't think that "performer" has to be as intellectually incurious or as manipulated at Bush. I think any candidate would be given a huge boost if the Democratic Party had a strong, consistent message. Again, we cannot wait for another Clinton, or for any charismatic candidate to carry the burden during an election year.
"[H]ere’s another proposal: Progressives should figure out a better way to speak about our moral values. We can discuss policies and practices with one another all we want. We can look for some ruthless strategist who can parse counties and peel off voting blocs as brilliantly as Karl Rove. We can expect academics and activists to identify the spots of suffering that will shock our collective conscience. All that is necessary.

But none of that is enough. To win the next election, we also have to invent persuasive ways to talk about our vision of truth, justice, and the American way. We have to explain that, like any other game, capitalism needs impartial umpires who are willing and able to enforce its rules -- no cheating, no lying, no stealing -- lest it disintegrate into Russian crime."

That last statement reminds me of Eliot Spitzer, a powerful and effective figure who is on his way up. He holds the key to part of what the Democratic Party should be about - the accountability of big business. Those issues grabbed the public's eye with recent scandals, such as Enron. The Democratic Party needs to utilize these voices to get out the message about the kinds of people that support and are supported by the current administration and the Republicans in general.

Fun With Voting

I'm heavy on the blogging tonight. It's like therapy.
Here are some must-see fun voting facts:

O'Reilly lies (gasp) about the voters:

"In a discussion about what went wrong for Democrats in the November 2 election, FOX News Channel host Bill O'Reilly claimed that Democrats "lost votes from four years ago"; that "18- to 24[-year-old]s didn't go" to the polls; and that "[c]ommitted Republicans didn't carry the day for the president; independents did." All three claims are false." - Media Matters for America
Something smells rotten in the voting booth. Here are numbers that Randi Rhodes cited, which show the exit polling as near-correct in paper-ballot states and way off in electronic-voting states.

Then again. . .

Finally, if you want to satisfy all of your righteous indignation needs, go to and read about what's going on with investigations into all the fraud. That site is affiliated with Bev Harris, while is not.

Embrace Obama

I've been talking a lot about the Democrats needing a stronger party platform. Others have been talking too, and doing a more thorough job. I'm not very wonkish so I can't get too specific about issues; but I think I understand the general direction in which the party should move. Most of America isn't made up of policy wonks, so the platform has to feel good in a general way. It has to be sellable.
The Washington Monthly has an interesting article about Barack Obama. In reading some of the things Obama has said, I was struck by how clear and appealing his ideas and language are. The DNC shouldn't just tout him as a rising star, or try grooming him for the Presidency (a brilliant idea) - they should also listen to him. Here is someone who can be a powerful voice for the party; but unless the party adopts his ideas, and even his language, he will be a disembodied voice.
Again, all the Dems have to be speaking from the same basic platform.

"“Parents have to teach, that children can't achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white.” Obama argued that his party could see beyond big government. “The people I meet in small towns and big cities and diners and office parks, they don't expect government to solve all of their problems. They know they have to work hard to get ahead,” he said. “Go to the collar counties around Chicago, and people will tell you they don't want their tax money wasted by a welfare agency or the Pentagon.” The import was hard to miss: Obama was casting himself as an unorthodox intellectual independent."

Obama - “The pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue states… But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states.”
This language makes so much sense. It is appealing and should be embraced by the Dems, not just given lip service. Obama's message reflects that note of personal responsibility felt by many that voted for Bush on values despite their economic circumstances (check out this post on Pandagon for more).

Let's focus on values - not on gay marriage or abortion - but on those values of responsibility. In this way, we are given a boon in the Bush Administration because even many Republicans see Bush as irresponsible.
On top of that, the Administration is one of the most secretive ever. That means it is hard to get information, but it should also be used to show that the Administration is avoiding true responsibility. That may be a stretch, but I have no doubt the Dems will be given plenty of fodder in the next two and four years. Let's use it.

So Befogged

From an article by Eric Alterman at Center for American Progress:

As Todd Gitlin recently wrote in Mother Jones, "If ever there were a time for unbridled journalism, this would be it: terrorist mayhem, war, corporate scandal, ecological crisis, economic upheaval. Public passion and curiosity have been stoked. But the potential investigators have been, to a considerable degree, otherwise occupied. Historians will someday burrow among the musty artifacts of America's supercharged 24/7 news organizations—TV with its glammed-up sets, its convention skyboxes and satellite feeds; the well-fed correspondents on a first name basis with second-rate sources; the newsmagazines with their gloss, gossip, and fluff—and they will rub their eyes and marvel that a nation possessed of such an enormous industry ostensibly specializing in the gathering and distribution of facts could yet remain so befogged."

As Edward Wasserman recently wrote in the Miami Herald, over the past several months "The established news media were nowhere on public-policy matters. Issues that should have been their meat and potatoes – such as the adequacy of homeland security or remedies to stanch job losses – were largely untouched...Instead, the agenda was set by partisans, via political advertising and committed freelance efforts. Time and again, established media essentially reacted to issues rammed through by outside groups."
Alterman: "More and more, the media invite manipulation by those who understand how to earn coverage but care nothing for evidence or even accuracy. During the past election, entire weeks of news broadcasts and countless pages in newspapers and magazines were wasted on a litany of baseless and irrelevant issues while Iraq burned, the economy remained stagnant, and more and more Americans lost their health care coverage."
More on this in another Alterman article that brilliantly gives facts about what I've been talking about lately - the Republican Media Machine (or Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy, if you must):
"Over the past three decades, conservatives have painstakingly cultivated the public persona of an aggrieved outsider class, bereft of the money and media influence they claim liberals enjoy. Their well-rehearsed routine consists of the repetition of a series of catchphrases designed to snare votes by using wedge social issues to create class divisions, while their own campaigns are funded by a class of wealthy, corporate donors who keep their think tanks flush with lucre."

Mythology of Morality

So, maintaining this religion theme, here is something good I saw on Daily Howler:

From an email to Eric Alterman - ". . . So why did I vote for Bush? I am a born-again Christian, my faith is critically important to me. As long as the Democratic Party, and/or those people who purport to speak for it, belittle my beliefs, dismissing them out of hand, and address me publicly as intellectually challenged for holding to the faith of my fathers, you will never get my vote. How can I trust your party to lead me when you so obviously (and vociferously) denigrate those values I hold most dear?"
How indeed. Even when this writer disagreed with the war, and pretty much everything Bush wants to do. But let's look at this writer's charge more closely:
"The reader says the Democratic Party and/or those people who purport to speak for it has engaged in this behavior.
Let’s ignore that expansive escape clause and think of the Dem Party proper. We think it’s time for readers like this to name the names of actual Dems who have actually belittled them in this manner. Who exactly “addressed him publicly as intellectually challenged for holding to the faith of his fathers?” Was it Southern Baptist Bill Clinton, from Hot Springs, Arkansas? Was it Southern Baptist Al Gore, from Carthage, Tennessee? Was it Jimmy Carter? Was it Joe Lieberman? Was it John Edwards, from the reader’s own state? Or was it French-speaking John Kerry himself, the haughty man who dares to wind-surf? If so, when did this insult occur? When exactly has any Dem leader ever behaved in the manner described? When exactly did the Dem Party belittle the reader’s religious beliefs and “address him publicly as intellectually challenged?” When exactly did this occur? Or did it really occur in a dream? Or perhaps in a rant on talk radio?"
Sorry to belabor this point, but there is a lie being perpetrated continuously by the right and because the Democratic Party is weak (its own fault and hardly deniable) it has not had a good way to combat this.
I will say that the DNC needs to move out of D.C. and it needs to get better leadership. Once the Dems get their platform and their language down, those criticisms lobbed by the right can be combated.
The idea of the liberal elite is an old one, and is tied in to the idea of a liberal media. Well, the media is not liberal and the half of the country that voted for Kerry would probably not be described as "elite."
We can't just flail our arms and say, "No, no, no - what they say. . . it's not true!" As I've said, it's time to stop being reactionary and time to start putting forth a positive agenda that is inclusive. The Dems can do this without sacrificing values, without moving further to the middle. Quite the opposite, actually. Embracing faith, morality, spirituality, should never have meant moving toward the Republican side. That trap was laid by the right and the Dems fell pray to it, watering themselves down.

Moral Values

"More to the point, the morality gap didn't decide the election. Voters who cited moral issues as most important did give their votes overwhelmingly to Bush (80 percent to 18 percent), and states where voters saw moral issues as important were more likely to be red ones. But these differences were no greater in 2004 than in 2000. If you're trying to explain why the president's vote share in 2004 is bigger than his vote share in 2000, values don't help." - Slate
On top of that, many of what people are talking about, in terms of questions asked in exit polling, is a question that merely asked people if they were influenced by "moral values." Well, that's more than misleading. The idea of a great moral divide in this country seems erroneous. I actually think, with all of their talk about reaching out (to people that support their agenda) this idea of a divide serves their purposes. It served their purposes in the election as well.
If there is a divide and Bush is moral, then the other side must be immoral. That is an oversimplification, but it gets to my point.
"The fact that this election - the first post-9/11 election, with a war in Iraq abroad and a changing economic situation at home - will be remembered by the we-need-it-simplified media as the "values" election, is [Ralph] Reed's great gift to us." - DailyKos, from Hullabaloo
The Democratic product has been branded, and branded negatively. With such an important event as the election, the Republicans have strengthened their language of values, and strengthened their own brand in the public's eye.

The Good Old Lie Machine

"Yet amazingly, the [Elisabeth Bumiller, New York Times] piece never once mentions the extensive and nefarious tactics the Bush campaign used to create those doubts -- and those tactics are central to the story of this race. The role of the Bush campaign in winning is invariably described in approving terms: Bumiller’s piece describes Bush as charismatic and full of clarity and conviction, and she takes note of the tactical effectiveness of the ground game and the anti-gay ballot initiatives. There is no mention anywhere of the Bush campaign’s relentless efforts to paint Kerry as weak and vacillating by lying about his record and mischaracterizing his remarks on the stump -- distortions that, inarguably, did far more violence to the truth than any similar ones coming from Kerry’s side. This take asks us to believe that doubts about Kerry are the fault of nobody but himself; the Bush campaign was merely a passive beneficiary. Worse, it refuses to see campaigns in moral terms: It allows for no moral comparison between boosting evangelical turnout with crude anti-gay appeals and boosting turnout among African Americans by telling them that the right to vote is precious and mustn’t be squandered."

I think this article by Greg Sargent, in the American Prospect online, is on point. I haven't heard too much blaming of John Kerry and I am glad of it. But what I have heard seems to stress his faults too much. I think the failings of the Democratic Party were far greater and that the Party consistently underestimates the control Republicans have in getting their message out. The Republicans have complete control of the spin machine, to the extent that they can often escape the charge of having spun at all. While people shrug off Kerry's hunting trip as a play for votes, they smile at Bush on a fishing show.
The tendency is to say, "Well, Kerry cannot pull it off because he is too wooden." But that is a fallacy built up by the Republicans and swallowed whole by the media.
It's interesting that these things appear in the New York Times, often hailed as the backbone of that (elusive) liberal media. In fact, Fox News often gets fodder from the NY Times. The Bumiller article was on the front page, not given the label of an opinion piece.
"To be fair to Bumiller, the conventions of political reporting today largely dictate that coverage remain resolutely amoral. And she buttresses her version of events by anonymously quoting Democrats who also found fault with Kerry in various ways, though their motives for Monday-morning sniping are somewhat less than pure."
Why is this approved as un-biased coverage? I heard on Air America radio that many in the media have said that they feel a pressure from the right that makes them avoid fuller reporting. They avoid reporting things on the other side that might not be proven yet for fear of being roasted alive on Fox.
I am tired of this. We end up having Bumiller's "reporting" on Kerry's faults and Bush's glories instead of a hard look at the structures of the campaigns. This is fluff. This is tripe. And it is everywhere.
I am not suggesting that Kerry did nothing wrong, or that the American Prospect piece is a fairer article (at least it does not pretend to be fair and balanced). But let's not forget what was actually done to the American mind by the Republicans during this campaign.

"Before the postmortems enshrine the Kerry-is-at-fault story line, it’s also worth remembering that there’s a simple reason winners invariably push the notion that the loser has no one to blame but himself for defeat: It absolves the winning side from blame for its own reliance on unsavory tactics to win. As obvious as this is, however, political reporters can always be counted on to play along, because there’s one unassailable rule of post-campaign stories: To the victor goes the spin."

He Looks Like A Monkey

I was speaking with someone tonight who pointed out that belittling, or seeming to belittle, the views and beliefs of half of the population is part of what got the Dems in trouble to begin with. Randi Rhodes said that it was time to stop belittling George Bush, because that makes us look bad. At this point, it is a very serious issue and we need to focus on the important facts, not the fact that Bush is intellectually incurious.

About half of this country put some faith in Bush, so we have to learn to listen to that part of the population and learn how we can change their minds. When we belittle Bush, we appear to be belittling those people that want to support him.

It's a thin line to walk, but we will do best if we change the issue entirely. Develop a positive platform, use facts against the Republicans, develop our own language. I know I've said some of this already, and I will continue to say it and refine it as things go on.

I am trying to maintain a level of hope.
More about the Republican mentality on Pandagon.
Also, I think we all should pick up Thomas Frank's book, What's the Matter with Kansas.

Support Our Troops

Lest we forget that there are other people who feel afraid:

"Much of America has been naive enough to think that politics was not playing a part on the battlefields of Iraq. Well America, good friggin' morning. Here is your wake up call. This is as clear as it gets. The White House was waiting until after the election to crank up the intensity in Iraq. The gloves are off now, and three days after our Presidential Election, the Battle for Falluja begins." - from Operation Truth which I recommend everyone visit and support, because these are our troops speaking out.

"Democracy" - A Poem

"The flag goes with the foul landscape, and our jargon muffles the drum.
In the great centers we'll nurture the most cynical prostitution. We'll massacre the logical revolt.
In spicy and drenched lands! - at the service of the most monstrous exploitations, industrial or military.
Farewell here, no matter where. Conscripts of good will, ours will be a ferocious philosophy; ignorant as to science, rabid for comfort; and let the rest of the world croak. This is the real advance. Marching orders, let's go!" - Rimbaud

Friday, November 05, 2004

Shrink the Government

I liked this piece I saw on DailyKos:

"The Baptist southern presidential candidate should start a campaign to get the goddamn Federal government out of the marriage business. It has to be framed that way. Marriage should be a faith-based institution and we should turn it over to the churches. If someone doesn't want to be married in a church, then the Federal government can offer them a legal civil contract (this is a better name for it than civil union). That's not a marriage and the candidate could solemnly observe that they are taking their salvation in their own hands if they go that route, but that is their business. But marriage is sacred and the churches should be in charge of it."
I heard a Baptist Minister on the Al Franken show say pretty much the same thing. It makes sense to make marriage and civil contracts seperate things. Some European countries have civil contracts separate from church marriages (though we may want to keep that quiet, given how much this country values Europe). First you get the contract, and then if you want, you go to the church to get married. This way, even the language is separate. I think it is an elegant solution, and if it is sold as getting the government out of marriage then it might just work.
It may work better once we actually have Democrats in power though. Right now, those religious conservatives have very little to fear from the spectre of government. It's the rest of us that are scared. -- Democrats, the party of small government??

UPDATE: Just found this relevant article on Salon. The Dems definitely need to get back to civil rights roots, and take back the language of empowering the people.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Darkest Before Dawn

I saw this on Atrios, who got it from the transcript of the press conference.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Now that I've got the will of the people at my back, I'm going to start enforcing the one-question rule. That was three questions.
[. . .]
PRESIDENT BUSH: Again, he violated the one-question rule right off the bat. Obviously you didn't listen to the will of the people.
I wonder how often this line will be used in the next four years. For a visual representation of Bush’s mandate, visit Pandagon.

Someone asked me what they could do, in the next four years, besides staying informed. I don’t know what to do, but I think there are a few things that need to happen.
One, Democrats need to build a stronger party platform, taking back the language stolen from them by the Republicans. The platform should be built from the inside out, not as a reaction to the Republicans. The Dems go on the defensive too often to be appealing.
Also, a strong focus should be placed on local elections. I don’t want to see the kind of heavy-handed party control that the Republicans have, but there should be a stronger network of those officials that share Democratic values. Putting a good progressive face on local officials will make hearts and minds more receptive to Democrats in larger elections.
On top of all of that, we need to hold the media accountable. Forget Fox and Limbaugh. I’m more concerned with the regular lazy media that follows Fox’s talking points – the media that does not seem to do any research on its own. If a story is only half-reported, there must be a backlash. I think the general population would like more information, but news media does not want to take the risk. They follow conventional formula and this means less substantial information. By holding media accountable, we will be holding Republicans accountable.

We have a strong tool in the Internet (or Internets). It is a good way to network, raise money, get people involved in letter-writing campaigns, petitions. We need to make sure that the US knows what it bought in this election.

I have heard a few voices say that they doubt the election results. I have no problem with this idea and am anxious to see all of the votes counted, and all of the doubtful election results investigated. This will in no way mean that Bush will not be President and I do not believe in any legal action. In the last election people just rolled over to have it done with. Now, the occasional election fraud should be added to the litany of wrongdoing by Bush & Co.
These questions and other controversies must continue to be placed in the public eye. Bush is not getting a fresh start. His mistakes in the first four years will have a long, rippling effect and we cannot let the country turn a blind eye as it is so often wont to do.
BUSH: I have some political capital and now I’m going to use it.
And we on the left are going to play off of it and make sure that the next election brings a strong Democrat to the White House and Congress. More than that (because I generally do not think of myself as a Democrat), the nation and voters must continue to be spurred out to the polls. We just have to make sure they know the facts first.

I just heard that Elizabeth Edwards has been diagnosed with breast cancer. She was impressive on the campaign trail and is a beautiful and well-spoken woman. I wish her good health.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

If I Don't Laugh...

From The Onion article "U.S. Inspires World with Attempt at Democratic Election":

"Despite the specter of corruption in 2000, and even though the procedural problems which surfaced during the previous election were never remedied, the American people chose to put their faith in the system once again this year," said Joseph Mtume, a Kenyan diplomat who traveled to Ohio to view America's democratic proceedings. "You can't help but feel touched by the determination of these citizens who put their doubts aside to collectively participate in the democratic process. All this in a nation divided by war, where dissent is widespread and the rift between citizens has rarely been higher. It was truly stirring."

I hope everyone's free January 20, 2005.

I Am No Patriot

"You can fool too many of the people too much of the time." - James Thurber

""I will need your support and I will work to earn it," [Bush] said.
"We have one country, one conscience and one future that binds us. When we come together and work together there is no limit to the greatness of America."
[. . .]
Projections put turnout in the presidential election at more than 115 million voters - 10 million more than in 2000.
The projected vote showed Mr Bush leading Mr Kerry nationwide by three-and-a-half million votes." - BBC

Rolling Up the Sleeves

It's the day after and I woke up hoping for a coup.

We lost. I'm trying not to let it get to me.
Now we have a lot of work to do. The DNC has a lot of work to do. Forget the talk about being less divided. They thought this country was divided last time, but it's just begun.

All of those groups that were formed or rose to prominence in this election need to increase activity. In the media, they need to challenge the conservative and blind talking points with their own set of facts. Pressure needs to be placed on the media and all members of Congress.
We need to make sure that what the Republican voters bought this year is four years of holding the President's feet to the fire and a resounding Democrati victory in the next election.

"Our new effort begins today. A new effort to find frames for tolerance, language for inclusion, and arguments that will persuade and unite. We lost because we not only conceded the South, but those who think like the South." - Pandagon

"And the battle begins anew." - Atrios

"But best of all, we'll continue to see this great resurgence in progressive activism - the kind not seen in American politics in over a generation. None of these new activists heeded the call to arms only to abandon the fight today. We are energised, and will continue to fight for a better future for our country." - Kos

"Bush and friends are going to do a lot of damage over the next four years, and the only way to reverse those losses is to build a viable long-term movement. Progressives have done it before; they can do it again. 2006 is only a few years away." - Plumer

"All of this is not to mean that the donkey can relax and watch the elephant implode. Far from it. As the Moose has mentioned, Democrats need a major overhaul. They cannot concede the south and expect to lay claim to the White House and Congress any time soon. Organization is fine - ideas and message are far superior." - Bull Moose

"The Democrats surprised themselves at their ability to raise tens of millions of dollars, inspire hundreds of thousands of activists, spawn extensive new organizations, attract icons of popular culture and present themselves as unified around a centrist position. Expectations were not dashed. Turnout vastly increased among African-Americans and Hispanics. More than 60 percent of the newly registered voters went for John Kerry. Those concerned about the economy voted overwhelmingly for him; so did those citing the war in Iraq as an issue." - Salon

"The sharp division revealed by the election, then, could persist well beyond voting day." - BBC

"As progressives we're not content to simply live through American history; we intend to make it. We hope you’ll continue to join us, and to contribute to the dialogue that will help us build toward a better future." - Center for American Progress

Monday, November 01, 2004

And Then What

On this, the last day before the election, we are all biting our nails, reading the polls, and generally suffering last-minute anxiety. But there is no reason to squeeze all that energy into these two days. We can stretch it out through weeks of legal challenges - yay.

Actually, I'm going to suggest here that John Kerry will win - not in a landslide, but handily. Legal challenges notwithstanding, I think Kerry will be elected President.
Zogby thinks so.

If Bush comes out ahead, I anticipate there will be more legal challenges than if Kerry is elected. There should certainly be more legal challenges with basis in fact.

While I would love Kerry to be some sort of panacea (certainly, he will make many of us feel better), he will have many bitter battles.
Any bets on the next election?
Kerry has a lot of work to do, at home and abroad. I am more confident that he will be successful in mending some international fences (or breaking down walls, whatever metaphor you like), than that he will have any strong impact within the US.
I will be impressed if Kerry manages to win a second term.

I will be happy if all the work done by the DNC and other organizations pays off. I will be impressed if the voter groups maintain their power and if this passion on the side of the Democrat party persists.

I hope that more light has been shed on the weaknesses of the media, and that a shift will begin towards more accountability.

Looking at these things with a wide lens, we must remember that there will always be Republicans, and that Democrats aren't always going to do what is best for the country. These things will go back and forth repeatedly. It is important to realize that we must change the game itself. A third party isn't a bad idea, neither is more media accountability. And voter education is perhaps the most important thing.

I just received my issue of The Economist. They have, haltingly, endorsed John Kerry.