"Preserving Christmas"

Read this article on Yahoo, entitled “Christians protest actions that play down Christmas’ religious nature.” Except that’s not at all what they are trying to do.

The correct headline should read “Christians protest separation of church and state.”

Because none of the actions listed in the article accomplish anything in terms of restoring the religious nature of Christmas. They really want the Nativity scene back in front of City Hall. They don’t give one shit about the idolatry of Santa Claus (especially ironic for Protestants who don’t venerate Saints) or the consumer capitalist orgy that has done far more to damage the spirit of Christmas than any order of any court.

The Mass of Christ

There is one day of a year that not only celebrates the birth of Jesus, but celebrates the bastard essence of today’s Republican party. Christmas now celebrates the twisted marriage of consumer capitalism and religion. In a disgusting irony missed by almost everyone, to celebrate the birth of the man who had a tizzy at the money changers’ expense, we mimic the visit of the Magi (who visited Jesus not on the day of his birth, but on the Twelfth Night) by raising our children on brazen lies (Santa Claus) and a narcotic like addiction to material possession.

First, the symbolism of Christmas is blatantly pagan. The trees, holly, mistletoe, eating of ham, yule logs, and even the timing of the event derive from the pagan Yule.

Santa Claus is another apostasy. Saint Nicholas of Myra was a 4th century saint. The Dutch took the myth into the origins of the form we now have. (St. Nicholas’s feast day is December 6, roughly a month before the visit of the Magi.) In addition to Santa Claus’s eclipsing of Jesus in the minds of just about every Christmas celebrant, many people who engage in this deception don’t even venerate saints. Even still, this has to be breaking at least one Commandment.



Aside from the psychic trauma many children who take it too seriously may feel, it seriously interferes with the religious aspect of the Feast and only underscores the consumerist part. What Would Jesus Think? (Just another reason South Park’s original short Santa versus Jesus is genius.)

If we’re looking for an ecumenical, secular way to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the man who told us to turn the other cheek, to give Caesar what was his, and to heal the poor and downtrodden– why not give gifts, if any, to the less fortunate.

Erase Presidential Term Limits.

Scared of a third Bush term? I’m not. I’m more scared of his lame-duck second term, because he has nothing to account for. Democratically (or something like that) elected leaders need to have the big check and balance on them at all times.

Of course, we’d have to enable it for Bush to get it passed right now, probably with the Ahhnold Amendment too. I say go for it.

If it goes into effect tomorrow (impossible, I know) the President will have to start thinking about the meaning of what he does not what he wants to do.

More later.

Richardson/Dean: The Ticket to Victory in 2008

Rather than trying to reclaim the South the future of the Democratic Party lies in the West. Adding Mountain West states to the West Coast and Northeast base would give Democrats a near electoral-lock on the Presidency. {For more please scroll down and to my post “Go West Old Party!”}

On paper the best man to establish the West/Northeast Democratic Party in 2008 is Bill Richardson, the Governor of New Mexico. He possesses a unique and eclectic background that hits every note in the chord that I surmise will resonate with America in 2008 (Ugh, that was a brutal metaphor, but whatever).

First off Richardson almost automatically brings New Mexico, one of the three Mountain West states the Democrats need, into the fold. Unlike most Governors Richardson has meaningful foreign policy experience. When he served in the House (19883 – 87) he led several diplomatic missions that resulted in the release of American prisoners in Iraq and North Korea. He also was the US Representative to the United Nations from 1997 – 1998, so he has ample diplomatic experience. Most of America does not hate the UN as much as Republican wingnuts do, so this need not be a demerit.

Richardson was unanimously confirmed to head the Department of Energy in 1998 and appears to have done a competent job “reforming” the agency and advocating alternative energy use.

Richardson ran for governor of New Mexico in 2002, a Republican year nationally, and won with 55% of the vote. Although a cursory search has not revealed any poll numbers, every article I have read about Richardson describes him as “popular” in New Mexico.

As a Hispanic, Richardson appeals to the burgeoning Hispanic population in the Southwest not because of shared heritage, but because he recognizes that Hispanics care about more than immigration and affirmative action. Richardson also has the solid support of American Indians, another crucial Southwest constituency.

Most importantly he is comfortable in the folksy, jeans and cowboy boots style that seems necessary to win rural Westerners. He has been able to hammer out compromises between development and conservation on issues like oil and gas exploration in Ostera Mesa that are agreeable to all parties. It is this sort of natural resources compromise that is important for rural westerners, more so than for the over-hyped rural Southerners.

Oh, and he has been nominated for four Nobel Peace Prizes.

It remains to be seen how Iowa and New Hampshire will take to Richardson and if he has the druthers to respond to the Conservatron Hate Machine. It will be interesting to see how Richardson handles unimportant but colorful, pithy “Maureen Dowd column” issues that dominate a presidential campaign. For instance, New Mexico is one of the only states that still allows cock fighting. Richardson has no official position on the issue, although he has told the Hollywood PETA brigade to buzz off. These are the sort of blanks that will have to be filled in on the national stage to determine Richardson’s fitness as a national candidate. (New Mexico has actually dealt with this issue in precisely the way I feel that “moral” issues should be handled. Cock fighting has been banned in several counties, but remains legal in others. But I digress…)

As for Dean for Veep: With the slight exception of Clinton/Gore (who were cut of essentially the same DLC cloth), every winning presidential ticket since 1976 has featured a VP who is loyal to the party faithful and a Presidential aspirant who is more likely to attract swing voters. Thus there is Carter the moderate Georgia Governor, and Mondale the liberal, classic Democrat; Bush II the “compassionate conservative” and Cheney, the big business, insider, consrvatron cockroach. As for Reagan/Bush, the GOP establishment was still the New England aristocracy in 1980 and they viewed Reagan as an exotic, Bush connected Reagan to the familiar party. Similarly, Dan Quayle had strong conservative credentials to tether the more moderate Bush I to the conservative GOP establishment in 1988 even if, otherwise, he was just a non-entity chucklehead.

Having the presidential candidate as the party standard bearer and the VP vying to win swing voters was another small but crucial mistake that Kerry/Edwards made. Edwards’ yeoman work reaching out to rural, Southern voters did not pan out. Neither did Jack Kemps’ attempts to win moderate urban voters for the GOP in 1996.

Like Cheney, Dean has a strong nationwide fundraising base. He also has enthusiastic support amongst the younger “MoveOn” wing of the Democratic Party. Rather than disappear into small markets as Edwards did (or was ordered to do) Dean has the perfect temperament to trade sound byte barbs with his GOP counterpart on national TV. His pugnacious personality is precisely what Democrats need to keep the faithful knocking on doors and e-mailing contributions.

If Dean becomes Democratic Party chair, then Joe Biden (D-DE) would be another able VP.

Richardson/Dean is the perfect match of West/Northeast, Moderate/Progressive, Populist Persuasion/Partisan Punch.

A lot can happen in four years and Richardson needs to get reelected in 2006 before the prognosticating gets too precocious. Still, reading the tealeaves, it is Richardson/Dean for victory in 2008.

Global Warming Litigation Begins

Read in the paper today that the 155,000 Inuits in the Canadian arctic will seek a ruling from the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights that the United States, by contributing substantially to global warming, is threatening their seal-hunting subsistence existence. Although the comission has no enforcement power their ruling could serve as a basis for the Inuits to sue the USA in international court, or to sue private companies in Federal court.

Becuase the US government has officially admitted that human factors are certainly driving global warming even industry lawyers feel that the Inuits legal strategy could prove to be successful.

This story will disappear from the press and will perhaps pop up like a prarie dog every now and agina until suddenly, one day, the USA and its industry are being sued and drastic, long overdue, changes in how almost every aspect of this economy is operated are needed.

As is so often the case, my question is: Where are the Democrats? Where is the politician who is willing to say that grappling with global warming is an economic issue and not just a manifestation of the “save the whales” mentality, and that adjusting our economy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions does not mean that everyone will have to ride a horse? Rather, by changing government incentives that pervert the market – especially for energy – we could meet the challenge of global warming with minimal disruptions. Where is the Democrat who can tell traditionally Republican industries that adjusting to global warming now – an ounce of prevention – will forestall difficult changes in the future – a pound of cure? And where is the Democrat who is willing to say that the officals who are distorting markets to stiffle innovation and let old, clumsy industries retain their prevalence through government welfare rather than ability are the Republican leadership from Bush and Cheney on down.

A market-incetive response to global warming is the perfect combination of environmentalism, old-fashioned populism and Clintonian pragmatism. Speaking out about this now, rather than mumbling inchoate platitudes about “green” issues, may not pay off immediately, but it would lay the groundwork for Democrats being the “Solutions Party” for these issues when the rising sea-level comes home to roost. Oh, and its the right thing to do too.

NHL

So, there’s some kabuki movement in the NHL labor dispute. How silly is this.

Since the beginning, I’ve been for the owners. Not because I love the owners, but because I recognized that the current CBA was causing the players to receive abusively high salaries (like Bobby Holik) and causing too much movement and had absolutely destroyed the trade process from a player focussed process to a money process.

The counter-arguments from pro-labor commentators, like Larry Brooks yesterday, is that the teams that are suffering are the expansion teams Bettman added. What does that have to do with anything? The union isn’t going to agree to a contraction, is it? That would cause the loss of NHL jobs for potentially hundreds of their members, if the reduction went back to pre-Bettman levels.

Plus, the problem isn’t the bottom teams as much as it is the top ones, that feel they have to outbid each other to stay competitive (not that I’m against contraction).

The solution is, as it ever was, simple. The owners open their books. If they’re even close to being honest about their problems, then the players should agree to a cap based on a percentage.

You see, if the players really weren’t worried about contraction, they could say, fuck it let these teams go bankrupt, then they would be the ones making an impasse.

Also, don’t shed a tear for the players. They could easily start their own cooperative league, buy out the few players still under contract, and split their own profits. Why they don’t, I haven’t a clue. If they’re stupid enough to continue to play for the owners, then they have to make sure the owners stay in business.

[UPDATE: Larry Brooks, the only pro-union author to set foot in the New York Post, (and only, I think, because taking a pro-union position somehow defends the Rangers) suggests today that the league fire Bettman. Yes! Fire him. Now, he’s gone. Tell me again how that fixes the fiscal situation or the talent pool dilution? It may keep it from getting worse, but it doesn’t fix it.

Put teams back in Winnipeg and Quebec City, put one in Hamilton and forget Nashville, Atlanta, and Carolina. Duh.

Oh, and the strong US dollar was a problem that cause a lot of these teams to move. The USD is down FORTY CENTS since 2003.

The Bear Is Back

And I don’t mean in the markets.

When I heard on NPR yesterday that Yuschenko was in the hospital in Austria because he may have been poisoned, it sent chills down my spine. The reaction was closer to my stomach when I read that he was in fact poisoned.

Bushies criticize Clinton for not being engaged enough with terrorism. Clinton, at least, was engaged with Russia. Except for nodding and winking at each other’s behavior, Bush has not been adequately engaged with Russia and the ex-Soviet Union. Except for the Baltics, the fate of the ex-USSR has been total disaster at worse, and status quo ante at best. In the Asian Republics, tinpot dictators engage in personal vendettas with each other, line their pockets with western money, and rename days of the week after themselves. Byelorus shot down the balloon guy, for God’s sake. And now, Russia, headed by a former KGB leader, has poisoned to pro-Europe leader (after stealing the election from him) in Ukrania.

If I was a Polish, Estonian, or Czech leader, I would be beefing up my military, because, I think today, a new cold war might be starting between Europe and Russia.

Frankly, as scary as September 11th was, it paled in comparison to the nightmare scenarios we dreamt of in the Cold War era.

The good word

The sky was falling and streaked with blood

I heard you calling me, then you disappeared into dust

Up the stairs, into the fire

Up the stairs, into the fire

I need your kiss, but love and duty called you someplace higher

Somewhere up the stairs, into the fire

May your strength give us strength

May your faith give us faith

May your hope give us hope

May your love give us love

May your strength give us strength

May your faith give us faith

May your hope give us hope

May your love give us love

You gave your love to see, in fields of red and autumn brown

You gave your love to me and lay your young body down

Up the stairs, into the fire

Up the stairs, into the fire

I need you near, but love and duty called you someplace high

Somewhere up the stairs, into the fire

May your strength give us strength

May your faith give us faith

May your hope give us hope

May your love give us love

May your strength give us strength

May your faith give us faith

May your hope give us hope

May your love bring us love

May your strength give us strength

May your faith give us faith

May your hope give us hope

May your love bring us love

It was dark, too dark to see

You held me in the light you gave

You lay your hand on me

Then walked into the darkness of your smoky grave

Up the stairs, into the fire

Up the stairs, into the fire

I need your kiss, but love and duty called you someplace higher

Somewhere up the stairs, into the fire

Go West Old Party!

“To those who say that we are rushing this issue of civil rights, I say to them we are 172 years late! To those who say… this civil-rights program is an infringement on states’ rights, I say this: the time has arrived in America for the Democratic Party to get out of the shadow of states’ rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights!”

– Minneapolis Mayor Hubert H. Humphrey at the Democratic National Convention, 1948

“[Better to see civilization] blotted out with the atomic bomb than to see it slowly destroyed in the maelstrom of miscegenation, interbreeding, intermarriage, and mongrelization.”

– Senator Theodore Bilbo (D-Mississippi), 1947

The ideological fissure between these two statements is irreconcilable. Indeed, it is astounding that these two sentiments could coexist in the Democratic Party for as long as they did. Mr. Humphrey’s speech at the 1948 Democratic National Convention began the process of prying apart these two ideologies and LBJ’s Civil Rights acts of 1964 set them permanently asunder. Lyndon Johnson was the wiliest, most skillful politician of the twentieth century, and he was prescient in positing that the 1964 Civil Rights acts would lose Democrats the South for a generation.

We are living in the middle of that generation right now. Democrats can take pride in the fact that they are the party of Hubert Humphrey’s progressive idealism and not of Theodore Bilbo’s hateful racism. In the sixty-six years since the 1948 Convention, history has proven Mr. Humphrey’s ideology to be correct. While the Southern Strategy of every Republican since Nixon has been successful, it is small historically.

Still, moral victories are for losers; however, examining the underpinnings of the shift of power away from Southern Democrats and to Southern Republicans can point the way towards a progressive and victorious future.

Republicans are currently the party of the “shadow of states’ rights” and this is why they now have an iron grip on the once Democratic South. No, not every Republican or Southerner is a racist (and several exemplary Democrats have been elected from the South since 1964), but it is not for nothing that Reagan made that trip to Philadelphia, Mississippi to talk about “states rights” in the same town that two Civil Rights activists had been murdered in the 1950s. As the famous saying goes, in the South the past isn’t even past; in the forty years since the 1964 Civil Rights acts Republicans have taken on the mantle of states rights including all of the racial baggage contained in that phrase. Trent Lott’s vague conclusion that “we wouldn’t have had all of those problems” had Strom Thurmond been elected President in 1948 shows the power of the Republicans’ amorphous coded racism. Obtuse concepts like “family values” and “morals” are meant to combat “all of those problems.” Many people who voted based on “values” were earnest in their concerns – but the kernel of all of this still goes back to 1964 and fears of “mongrelization.”

While a favorite son Democrat like Bill Clinton is still capable of winning in the South, his gains do not have any staying power as was demonstrated in 2000 and especially in 2004 when even the presence of the telegenic Southerner John Edwards on the ticket did not allow Kerry/Edwards to come close in any Southern state with the exception of Florida whose large immigrant communities and liberal northeastern “sun birds” make it an exception to the rest of the South. Otherwise, Kerry/Edwards only got within single digits in Arkansas and Virginia (where they lost by 9%).

While the media has generated lots of noise about the Democrats’ losses in the south, they have failed to notice that the Republicans are faltering in the West. Remember that Orange County, California was the epicenter of the “Reagan Revolution” and that Nixon and Reagan were both Californians. Loretta Sanchez, a Hispanic Democrat, now represents Orange County, once the den of the wacky archconservative Robert “Mad Bomber” Dornan, in the House. Oregon and Washington have been Democratic strongholds since 1988, and California has since 1992. This shift is almost as substantial, albeit not as dramatic, as the South’s migration from Democrat to Republican since 1964. The data indicates that this trend is slowly creeping from the coast to the interior Mountain West. In 2004. the most meaningful gain the Democrats made in a competitive statewide race was in Colorado where Ken Salazar defeated the Aryan beer magnate Peter Coors. Although Kerry/Edwards barely faltered in New Mexico (where Gore had won by 366 votes in 2000) they gained ground in Nevada and Colorado. Moreover, Democrats won the governorship and several legislative seats in Montana and already own the Governorships of Arizona and even Wyoming.

The Mountain West briefly became more conservative in the early 90s as many right-wingers moved there from the increasingly liberal West Coast. Many of them settled into the exurbs of the booming cities. As these cities grew they attracted people from across the country and numerous immigrants, especially Hispanics. As the suburbs around places like Denver mature the demand for cosmopolitan features such as mass transit is growing and the ethnicity of the cities is becoming more mixed. In short, the metropolitan regions are becoming increasingly large and increasingly Democratic.

In the West politicians such as Salazar and former Oregon Governor Tom Kitzhaber have been at the forefront of establishing creative solutions to issues surrounding natural resources that are key in rural areas. If Democrats become known as the party of solutions to energy and natural resource dilemmas then the can embark upon a “Western Strategy” of adding Mountain Western states to their West Coast and Northeast base thereby equaling the Republican base of Southern and Great Plains states. Elections then, would be decided on the battlegrounds of industrial Midwestern states and Florida.

Rather than trying to regain the past North/South magic of Roosevelt/Garner and Kennedy/Johnson Democrats should try to establish a West/North electoral lock. Kerry/Edwards lost the 19 electoral votes of Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado by approximately a combined 135,000 votes; conversely, they lost the 19 electoral votes of Arkansas and Virginia, their two closest non-Florida Southern states, by approximately a combined 369,000 votes. Had Kerry/Edwards garnered the 135,000 votes necessary to win Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado then they would have won 271 electoral votes and the presidency WITHOUT Florida, or Ohio, or Iowa. Winning those 135,000 votes and then Arizona, and then Montana (and then Idaho, where Boise has elected a Democratic Mayor, and Wyoming) should be the short and long-term goal of the Democratic Party, not trying to win a “states rights” fight with the South – that is an argument that cannot be won for another generation.

To do this will require a candidate who is comfortable being folksy, is knowledgeable about American Indian issues, appeals to Hispanics and delivers the loyalty of ultra-liberal city dwellers while remaining true to libertarian rural dwellers by crafting empowering solutions to natural resources and energy issues. Luckily, just such a man exists in the Democratic Party right now. Perhaps you know who he is. More on this to come.

Amen, brother.

Enough already with the we’ve gotta do this or we’ve gotta do that. There is a first-principles level failing in American liberalism. It simply does not make sense. Here’s a great example of why from (shock) The Nation

IN AN ERA IN WHICH MOST US POPULATION GROWTH is occurring in the South, West and heartland, American liberalism is defined by people in the Northeast. At a time when rising tuitions are pricing many working-class Americans out of a college education, the upscale campus is becoming the base of American progressivism. In a country in which most working-class Americans drive cars and own homes in the suburbs, the left fetishizes urban apartments and mass transit and sneers at “sprawl.” In an economy in which most workers are in the service sector, much of the left is obsessed with manufacturing jobs. In a society in which Latinos have surpassed blacks as the largest minority and in which racial intermixture is increasing, the left continues to treat race as a matter of zero-sum multiculturalism and white-bashing. In a culture in which the media industry makes money by pushing sex and violence, the left treats the normalization of profanity and obscenity as though it were somehow progressive, making culture heroes of Lenny Bruce and Larry Flynt. At a time when the religious right wants to shut down whole areas of scientific research, many on the left share a Luddite opposition to biotech. In an age in which billions would starve if not for the use of artificial fertilizers in capital-intensive agriculture, the left blathers on about small-scale organic farming. In a century in which the dire need for energy for poor people in the global South can only be realistically met by coal, oil and perhaps nuclear energy, liberals fantasize about wind farms and solar panels. And in a world in which the greatest threat to civilization is the religious right of the Muslim countries, much of the left persists in treating the United States as an evil empire and American patriotism as a variant of fascism.

American progressivism, in its present form, is as obsolete in the twenty-first century as the agrarian populists were in the twentieth. If you can’t adapt to the times, good intentions will get you nowhere. Ask the shade of William Jennings Bryan.

POLEMIC, of course, is a project to fix these problems with liberalism, and it has been since the beginning. Some things that drive me to drink that are mentioned in here would be: (1) the race issue: try harder to hide your contempt of white people! (2) the Luddite/Poor hypocrisy. Much of what liberals oppose in Luddite fashion are triage measures for poverty. The author here cites energy and food (of course it’s the Republicans who oppose Kyoto in this fashion…)

I almost got sneered out of my college on several occasions for suggesting that deforestation in Brazil will continue as long as poverty there does… as if there are legions of evil Brazilians looking to destroy the planet. Sure, corporate money is in there somewhere–it’s everywhere–but you really want to have people starve? How is that liberal? That sounds like textbook conservative Social Darwinism to me.

Of course we do need to develop energy and organic food sources, but until we can feed the world that way, we can’t just snap our fingers and do it.

This is because there is a deep, deep, deep denial about the state of things now. Until we restore a measure of equality of opportunity–that means middle-class sustaining jobs, manufacturing or no–there won’t be enough non-proletarians to feel motivated (it’s the game theory, see…) to solve problems like population and energy, the environment and civil rights.

One thing that author didn’t mention. Remember the Murphy Brown thing? The left is anti-family sometimes. The right is anti-family by opposing gay marriage, but the destruction of this social atom is really in fact responsible for a lot of social ills. We need to protect it and make it thrive, in all forms, by blood and marriage, gay and straight — even groups of friends who live together.

And one more thing to add to the “just admit it list: (from the above and TNR) muslim terrorists are bad.

Things to admit.

The elections over, so there’s no more sense putting on a face. Let’s admit these things and move on.

• Kerry was a bad candidate.

• Tereeeeza was annoying.

• Dan Rather sucks.

• Bill Clinton isn’t going to save us.

• Hillary isn’t going to win in 2008.

• Identity politics perversely cause people to divide, not unite.

• Just about everyone on Air America except Al Franken is annoying and ignorant.

• NPR is for liberals

• Eric Alterman is annoying (though definitely not ignorant).

• You sound silly if you want to ban meat and legalise drugs.

• You are about 1,000,000 kids who forgot their Prozac & clad in black away from stopping globalization

• Criminals are bad

• Joe Conason is a hack

• Michael Moore isn’t credible to most Americans

• Not everything is Orwellian

• Michael Kinsley is a failure so far as Editorial Page Editor for the LA Times

• Bob Scheer needs to chill

• Arianna Huffington always seems to be right in hindsight

• Arnold is not a terrible governor

• Chaffee, Snowe, Collins, and McCain are not all going to switch parties.

Oh, and finally — this is especially important for people in Ohio: we lost.

(None of the above changes the fact that Bush is a terrible president, Rush Limbaugh is a drug-addicted hypocritical idiot, the environment is being destroyed, and global security is threatened, but you have to focus. Defending Dan Rather is trivial in the face of a potential war with Iran.)

Presidents: Leaders and Administrators

America has no king. Instead we have a president. We have no national saints; instead our public idols venerate our nation’s founders and past presidents. America was also, even from the beginning, an amalgam of different peoples united by ideals, not identity (“A nation of laws not men.”)

What’s the point of all of this stratospheric rhetoric that stinks of high school textbooks?

All of this percolates into the collective unconscience of Americans and frames their ideas about what kind of person should be a president. As a people, we are more likely to follow a bold, visionary leader, even if that vision is a certain folly. We want a leader, not an administrator.

This was true from the beginning. The American Revolution itself was either a masterwork of geopolitical strategy, or a military fluke that otherwise should have ended in calamitous failure. First, not many would dispute that the Treaty of Paris was signed because the British no longer felt it was worth prosecuting a war that they could certainly win if they were to bring their full military strength to bear–other colonies were more profitable. In fact, certain British politicians wanted to grant the American colonies a degree of autonomy before the conflict spiraled out of control, and, later did so in Canada, South Africa, and Australia. Those who followed the Revolutionaries did so without any real concern for the likelihood of victory; they did so because they believed it was right. The same could be said for the Confederate States’ secession.

John Adams was probably the first president to be shown the door after one term because he was a good president, but not an inspiring one. He was an administrator, and a competent one but doesn’t merit an image on Mount Rushmore or any currency. Even a flattering recent biography hasn’t done much to rehabilitate him or level his stature within the pantheon of the Founders.

This dichotomy, facile though it may be, does seem to run throughout our history. Grant was a hero but corrupted the government. LBJ was visionary but is most responsible for America’s greatest military failure.

Skip ahead to the future. The Republicans have taken the advantage here. Pick it apart all you like, but most people see Bush as a straight shooter that knows what he wants to do, even if they think it’s shit. Complexitism, Administrativism, and Kerryism are diseases that infected every losing presidential for a long, long time (I think Carter may be the exception, but he seemed to be the tonic for Watergate) including Dole, Bush I, Dukakis (even worse than Bush I), Mondale, etc. etc.

The Republicans also presented a vision for their Congressional campaign in 1994.

I’m still waiting for the Democrats to allow a candidate with a vision–even if it isn’t perfect–through their circular firing squad.

The Assumptions Beneath the "Four Words"

Some Democratic strategists are having difficulty coming up with the “Four Words” that will convey the Democrats’ core philosophy and vision. While creating a bumper-sticker size vision is important, the conventional wisdom that underlies the Four Words are equally pertinent and before a new Democratic vision can resonate that motivating sensibility must be altered.

We all know that the Republicans’ Four Words are “Less Taxes. Less Government.” If this were to actually take place, however, it would probably be bad news for the vast majority of those who voted Republican in the last election. It is a well-known fact that the Blue States’ wealth is redistributed to the Red States at the Federal level. Less government and taxes then would imply less Federal money for Southern, Plains and Rocky Mountain states. If you extend Government to mean regulations and incentives that distort markets then it is no less of a disaster for Red Staters. Across the vast middle of the country and into the Red regions of Blue states, subsidies, tariffs and free water prop up farming communities that would not withstand the competition of a free market.

So what is the “Government” that Republicans are so anxious to have less of? Well the frustrating parts of social life are the “Government” that Republicans want to get rid of. The “Government” integrated the schools; having electricity provided to rural homes for cheap is just how things are. The “Government” supports welfare queens; giving oil companies a depletion allowance is just how things are.

The political genius of the assumptions behind the Republicans’ Four Words is that Americans of any political stripe will obviously think of what they dislike most when thinking of “Less Government.” “Government” is Watergate, negative campaigns, special interest groups, irresponsible spending, the war on drugs etc. Putting a man on the moon, the interstate highway system and money that flows into every hamlet in America is not “Government.” Even when it is Republicans who give “Government” a bad name it still helps their cause so long as the “Government” looks bad.

The reality, of course, is complicated. Some subsides and incentives are good, some government programs are helpful, others are obviously wasteful; all of this depends on the eye of the beholder. Given the pessimistic bent of the press it will be hard to overcome the negative feelings that prop up the Republicans’ Four Words, but here’s my try:

Guess what ladies and gentleman, the government has always been big! Sure, some hardy pioneers went west to make their fortune, and many of them did, often with the help of the Natives. When multitudes of others followed west the indigenous peoples did not take kindly to having their land and lifestyle taken away. Those early settlers and Indians fought, but guess who finished the fight and “tamed” the West? That’s right, it was the government. That was mighty big of them, huh? Guess who then parceled out that land for pennies on the dollar to the railroads? The Government once again.

Here’s the deal. The Government has always been big. All that progressives have done is make sure that it acts favorably for average Americans as well as private business interests.

If you want wasteful government that subsidizes inefficient industries and lowers innovation brought on by a competitive government, while redistributing wealth from the poor to the rich, then vote for the Republicans. If you want a government that challenges industry to prosper while respecting the environment and providing a working wage, and that makes sure the tax burden does not fall heaviest on the poor, then vote for the Democrats: Fair Taxes. Smart Government.

The Economic Future

I have been a bear since 1997 when I advised my grandfather to stay away from dot-com stocks. And I have been a member of the Graham/Buffet school of investing since I first played the stock market with my sixth grade class–value investing, and a focus on the fundamentals, and a longer term horizon. Not that I haven’t made some fun plays, like puts on Astra-Zeneca before their renewed patent on prilosec failed.

Perverse and strange things have happened to my portfolio. I made scads of cash in 2000, and even did ok in 2001, even as I rode lower than most, like Mr. Buffet, in the late 90s.

The reason I have been a bear is because the fundamentals of our economy should not be showing the results they’re showing. After years of ridicule, I enjoyed several months of schadenfreude in 2000, but then I thought things would turn around.

They didn’t and there are a few reasons why. First, the obvious. The federal budget deficit has reached record levels and the actual debt level has too. Yet, at least so far, we haven’t seen the kinds of inflation that we should as a result of that. It’s coming. Also, the dollar is still overvalued, because a cartel of asian central banks is boosting it.

Now for some things that I might be wrong about, but that I’ve been observing. I think the CPI is an increasingly bad measure. Many consumer goods are at all time lows in real terms. Milk is cheap. Basic foodstuffs are cheap. This is the result of the Wal-Mart/Global economy. But while this has occurred, housing prices have surged, as have health care costs. College tuition. The kinds of things that define the middle class have become luxury goods, and a lot of them have been purchased on the HELOCs made available by the artificially low rates. Wages have remained stagnant, with the growth occuring in higher quintiles.

To the extent these HELOCs are adjustable rates, we’ll see a wave of bankruptcies (which are already at record highs).

So, here’s some economic reality. With the tax structure favoring the rich on pipe-dream supply-side theories, a war in Iraq, and a sputtering economy still in denial about a housing bubble there are two choices, none are pleasant.

There will have to be a massive tax hike, and it will have to be focussed on high earners. This is more risky than a lot of people think (and not for the Republicans’ reasons) because the market has more or less adjusted or begun to adjust to the Two Americas. Luxury stores are doing well, so is Wal-Mart. But we know this isn’t happening with the Republicans in control of everything. This will have to wait until sucker-do-gooder Democrats get a seat at the table so it can be blamed on them, even though it’s not their mess.

There will have to be massive spending cuts. This isn’t painless either, obviously. More soldiers and fewer weapons systems might be good (how about a policy that we peg our military strength to a factor of the rest of the world’s in terms of kill ratio and only push our weapons technology in line with that?) Anyway, anywhere you cut spending you probably kill the economy of some town or congressional district.

But neither of those possibilities are as diar as the result of doing nothing. Waiting for a crisis could mean the true end of social safety net programs, and the institutionalization of the Two Americas, and the Thirdworldization of our economy.

HBO News – A Proposal

The broad consensus of the election post-mortem is that the Democrats have a superior, more popular set of positions on the issues. Their losses are due to their inability to articulate those positions better. Whether this is because the party lacks an overarching “vision thing” or because John Kerry was not as likable as George Bush or merely because the Republicans “package” their positions better etc. is open to debate. Regardless of this, one obvious means to achieve better messageering for Democrats is to have some parity in television media, which has become a stalwart right-wing megaphone. Several excellent books have already been written on this phenomenon; lets just take it as a given that the right-wing bias in the media means that any “D” candidate is always running up hill.

There has been some thought of a liberal news network, one that would combat the conservatron Fox News in a similar way that the reasonably successful Air America radio counteracts Rush “Hillbilly Heroin” Limbaugh and his demon-spawn. Another denizen of combative talk show, point-counterpoint television, however, will not provide the changes necessary to further progressive causes and points of view. Air America radio has given the underserved left-wing audience a place to hang its hat, but it has not pushed issues and points of view the way the right-wing media was able to. The conservatrons were able to put Kerry’s out-of-context, “global test” statement into the ether after the first debate, whereas Air America and whatever other “liberal media” that exists was not able to nip the slanderous Swift Boat Veterans For Truth brouhaha in the bud.

The model that progressives should look to is not the Fox News Network. It is HBO. Network news is right now where network entertainment was about seven years ago. For the networks then the suppression of creativity forced by the mandates of advertisers and the FCC had created bland, repetitive program that was generally a dull copy of original shows that had established themselves in the late 80s and early 90s. For the networks now, decades of bitching by Republicans with a ridiculous victimization complex, reduced news budgets, and the demands of advertiser and “if it bleeds it leads” has created timid programming with almost no content save for varying degrees of repetition of the Republican party line.

In the late 90s the networks abandoned scripted television for game shows and reality shows. Free of the constraints of networks, HBO concocted daring, high-quality programming such as “Sex and The City” and “The Sopranos.” HBO proved that audiences had not left intelligent television – thousands of new customers subscribed to HBO just for its original programming and not its movies. Conversely, the networks have not had a new scripted hit until this years’ “Desperate Housewives,” which could be aptly titled “Sex and The Suburbs.”

Right now the only people who watch the nightly network news are senior citizens who developed the habit of watching the news before it devolved into inchoate right-wing blather. I posit that citizens have not left the idea of the evening news. Indeed, the growing popularity of the CBC news and The Daily Show – which analyzes issues better than network news does – is a testament to the utility of evening news.

A pay cable, commercial-free news network whose flagship program would be a half-hour telecast that competes directly with the networks’ broadcast, along with other intelligent, investigative programming would be to the news what “The Sopranos” was to scripted television. By doing research and making investigations, this news network would influence the rest of the media in the way a lefty Fox clone could not. By uncovering and highlighting unpleasant truths, it would break stories that the rest of the media would avoid to its peril. Other programming could include documentaries, and news directed towards underserved audiences such as the young.

HBO would be the logical place to do this. It already has an established brand, “Real Time with Bill Maher” is an infinitely better talk show that any of the others on TV, and “Real Sports” runs laps around ESPN and the Fox Sports empire. If they won’t do it than a wise progressive with money should. The network would not have to be officially liberal – Fox is not officially conservative – but suffice to say, I believe that more truth in reporting could only help the progressive cause.

Now They Expect Results?

I’ll be oh so happy to say I told you so.

Evangelicals are staging a “pray-in” to prevent Arlen Specter’s elevation to the chairmanship of the Senate judicial committee. Of course, that’s not just a symbolic post, but he would have to take fairly egregious steps to single-handedly thwart any Bush nominee. It remains to be seen whether he would vote against an anti-choice nominee, especially if that nominee is replacing a Justice that is already anti-choice.

But this furor over Specter may signal an interesting change in the relationship between radical Christian groups and the GOP. For so long, their brazen strategy was to court religious groups by promising to fight unwinnable cultural battles and ignoring the rest of those peoples’ needs. Now, after the reelection of Bush and the widening of his majority in the Congress, they are finally demanding results after 30 years.

I don’t believe the path to the White House for a Democrat lies through courting one-issue anti-abortion voters. I believe there are plenty of people who vote Republican for reasons of security, and the misconception that their economic fortunes are better handled by less government regulation and taxes. Fewer forms and an easier tax system would go a long way to convincing a lot of these folks, who are often culturally liberal is much, much easier. But you would certainly have more time to focus on these voters if the Evangelicals don’t motivate as highly the next time.

You might even be able to chip away at them by promising to reduce abortions without banning them. This isn’t hard, especially in tandem with a tax, wealth, and education fairness platform.

Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think, that the homophobia-manic folks have been getting screwed with their pants on for 30 years by corporate, Paris Hilton promoting GOP Reverse Robin Hoods.

Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think, that it is bloggers and journalists who provide the building blocks for this insight, and not those of the Kerry campaign.

All the more reason, I think, to support Dean for DNC chair.

The Da Vinci Code

I see today that Tom Hanks will play the lead in the movie version of The Da Vinci Code (Or, “Foucault’s Pendulum for Dummies”).

I haven’t read The Da Vinci Code, though everyone tells me it would be right up my alley. Unfortunately, my sense is they are “misunderestimating” my intellectual snobbery.

Having said that, I probably should check it out and make notes, because I’ve become interested in writing a book review not about books like this, including Illuminatus!, Foucault’s Pendulum, and (I guess) The Da Vinci Code.

I’d like to explore the “secret group that controls civilization” myth — it’s fascinating, almost a form of deism.

Save it.

Dear “Progressive” Community:

Shut up.

Please, for the love of God, shut the fuck up. We barely enough senators to survive a cloture vote, and we have an inevitable confirmation fight to wage. Arguing over the meris of tinfoil hat voter fraud conspiracies, the non-relative merits of the new attorney general appointee (can he really be worse than Ashcroft? really? Of course not).

At the federal level, we have very little political capital to spend. You’re not going to use it to fight the Iraq war; a window for that may or may not present itself, but until it does it can’t be made an issue. You won’t be able to use the filibuster to shut down the government and not have it come back on you, so budget and tax fights are useless.

No, the only thing we can do is try to prevent an ultra-right nominee to the court. That is the one thing that can’t be undone if the government is restored in 2006 or 2008. Save it for that. That’s not to say that there should be no criticism, or even that there should be no “no” votes. Keep voting against them to build a record for future elections. But at this point, their agenda is inevitable. The best strategy is to let them overreach, as they surely will, without looking as acquiescent as in 2002.

In the meantime, shut up and let the Republicans make the bed they will have to sleep in. They are now in charge.

(Getting Democrats to play smart strategy is about as easy as herding cats. sigh)

The Phases of Grief

1. Shock – Started about 7pm PST, 11/2.

2. Denial – Most lefty blogs are still here, trying to assert that “Kerry won” and we wuz robbed.

3. Bargaining – Harry Reid will call for filibusters! Does the Supreme Court have a quorum rule?

4. Guilt – Did I give enough money? What else could I have done?

5. Anger – Fucking Kerry was a jerk. The Iowa / NH primary system is bogus.

6. Depression – Should I even have children?

7. Acceptance and hope – [Candidate Name] 2008!

One thing I don’t see a lot of people mention is sort of the opposite of some of the Dem-hope-spin. I heard Pelosi say yesterday that Kerry got the second most votes ever. That means that Bush got the most votes ever. It means that a few years ago, this election would have been a Kerry blowout, but there has been a rightward turn in this country.

I don’t think a lot of people dispute that, but I also don’t think a lot of people, especially on the left side of the Internet are really taking it too seriously. They pay lip service, sure, but when the chips are down, they’re willing to put their hopes and prayers on a candidate like Kerry, whose only hope to win was a high turnout in his favor. He was never going to start a movement unless he won and was a preisdent for the ages; in other words, his candidacy had no chance of this.

The problem is, a movement candidate, like Nader or Dean, has little chance of winning.

Lots of people talk about Goldwater and the seeds he sew. I wonder if LBJ hadn’t botched Viet Nam, or even if he had just run again, if we would be having this discussion. Today, of course, we have the very real likelihood that Iraq will end up being worse than Viet Nam, if not in actual combat fatalities in terms of everything else.

But, whether or not it had anything to do with Goldwater, conservatives were able to build a movement in response to the social uphevals of the times, and the reflexive latter-day New Deal government program for all that ails you mainstream political culture.

They knew what their mission was. And we’re starting to identify what ours is.

Hey! Don't you know there's a war on?

“We have become too civilized to grasp the obvious. For the truth is very simple. To survive you often have to fight, and to fight you have to dirty yourself…. Those who take the sword perish by the sword, and those who don’t take the sword perish by smelly diseases.”

– George Orwell

“Looking Back at the Spanish War” 1943.

“I am overjoyed by the outcome of the elections. The moral majority has prevailed in a war against secular humanism…. The academics and Hollywood lost in their bid to redefine morality in accordance with their humanistic and fallen views…. The war of morals will continue in this country and in the world.”

– Dan Sickler of Medford, Oregon

“Letter to the Editor” in the Oregonian November 9, 2004

I have taken Orwell’s words way out of context. He was talking about fighting in an actual shooting war, with real combat and death, whereas this bit of opinion is about electoral politics. Be that as it may, it is likely that Dan Sickler would agree with Orwell’s point, even though Orwell was one of those damn secular humanists. For all of the eschaton-lunacy implied in Mr. Sickler’s letter, at least he recognizes that he is fighting a war. It may not be a real war, but it is an honest battle over the government and meaning of the United States of America, the world’s lone superpower, it is not just a difference in opinion.

For all of the passion, and yes anger, of blue America the comfy professionals who ran the Kerry campaign did not appear to realize that the battle was joined. They ignored the figurative war here, and wanted to ignore the shooting war abroad.

The Bush team never bothered with a Rose Garden strategy. They barely aired any positive television commercials. Instead they first spent a fortune to “define” Kerry and then – through their “Swift Boat” appendage – spent a fortune to slander his war record and then ran a campaign based almost purely on fear.

The Kerry team’s response was to first hope that the self-evident contradiction of the Bushies scare tactics with their “help is on the way” slogan would turn people around. This strategy was undercut, however, by the inability to articulate anything meaningful about the war on terror and the war in Iraq. In The New York Times today some Kerry advisors lamented that events in Iraq stopped the economy from being the focus of the campaign. Well of course it did! How could it not? The war on terror and Iraq are the profound events of our times. Polls showed that Bush’s strongest attribute was his perceived ability to fight terror. That perception had everything to do with the SCLM treating him like a demi-god after 9/11, and little to do with his foolhardy strategy of trying to start a proxy-war against terrorism in Iraq. Kerry only began to make a comeback in the election when he took on the Bush-is-fighting-terrorism-well myth. Once he did, the gap between Bush and Kerry on “ability to fight terrorism” shrank. If this had been the strategy from the beginning then Kerry might very well have won, after all, the truth was on his side (unlike the Swift Boat group).

There was a time when Democrats were nasty SOBs. Whether it was attempting to pack the court or emasculating “Cactus” Jack Garner, FDR was not afraid to take names and kick ass. Truman gave ‘em hell; JFK out-hawked Nixon; LBJ stole a senate seat and stopped at nothing to gain power; and Clinton never started it, but he always finished it. The great progressive gains of the twentieth century were accomplished with a lot of sharp elbows. Do you think that Dan Sickler would balk at having the “secular humanists” wrung up? You can’t reason with such a man, you have to beat him. Unfortunately, Dan Sickler, and all that he represents, is fighting with a sword, and progressives have been left with smelly diseases.

Prophecy?

I wrote last January

Pseudo-liberals like Mickey Kaus proclaim to the audiences of Slate.com and NPR that most Americans don’t share liberals’ hatred of Bush. We have a hard time remembering a similar Conservative Cassandra in the late ‘90s warning Congressional Republicans to soften their approach on Clinton (which forgetfulness puts us in line with most Americans who seem to forget the intense hatred of Clinton stoked by the Right just a few short years ago when discussing “Bush Hatred”). But Kaus gets his spotlight from being the alleged liberal that criticizes liberals, and there is no such analog on the other side. That alone should inform.

Even if you accept that all of the mud flung at him hardly stuck to Clinton, at the dawn of 2004 we must ask how much of Clinton’s legacy is left. The vitriolic right took Congress, hamstrung Clinton’s circuit court appointments, and lubricated Bush’s 2000 victory on many levels.

Can anyone credibly state that the take-no-prisoners techniques of the Right are a failure? Can anyone therefore credibly argue that the Center and Left should take the high road and expect victory as a result? The answer is no. Non-conservatives from moderate Republicans to radical leftists need to do some soul searching. The Far Right agenda of the administration is not a majority position in America either, yet the passion of their beliefs has carried them into a governing majority; indeed, a near Constitutional-amendment majority. Everyone else needs to decide how seriously they believe what they believe and ask what they would do to win that victory. Untold thousands have given their lives for our freedom—is it too much to ask merely to lower one’s standards for the sake of all of us? Principled victory is only available against a principled enemy.

While this Magazine surely engages in analysis of policies and their logics (developing a new progressive agenda) that can result in criticism of liberal policies, unlike Mickey Kaus we find it hardly productive to give aid and comfort to our enemies because our allies are “making the sausage” in a way that turns our stomach. Call us Machiavellian; call us utilitarian, but we take our beliefs seriously enough to fight for them.

This is why we endorse Howard Dean for the Democratic nomination and the Presidency of the United States. We are certainly not taken by all of his policy planks, many of which smell “governorish” and will need tweaks on a national stage. But, if presidents were elected for their policy-savvy, Al Gore would have won in a landslide. Presidents are elected on their aura more than anything else.

It should be added that despite this endorsement, we find any of the Democratic candidates preferable to Bush. Indeed, even a Bush I-restoration would represent a giant step forward for America. General Clark is an admirable man with an impressive resume. John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich are also praise-worthy. But certain other Democrats have revealed an ego-mania that is sickening, hoping to put a hex a campaign that represents our best hope. The Liebermann and Kerry campaigns represent the lack of unity and prep-school arrogance that turns off so many voters to Democrats.

Dean, on the other hand, generates energy whenever he speaks. Dean is also a scrapper. And for these reasons, he is the enemy of the “reasonable” Democratic establishment who have “reasonabled” away our government to the Far Right.It is time for a fight. Later generations will wonder why the opposition stood by so idly, being practically the hand-maiden of those who killed the American dream. Even in defeat there will be more honor.

And Now….

With all the passion. With Nader not being a serious factor. With liberal radio. It still was not enough.

My predictions were wrong. Although I am not sure about the percentages, it seems that turnout was fairly high. Still, Bush won a substantive share of the electorate, and the electoral college by about 120,000 votes in Ohio. It was not a total blow out, it was not Mondale or Dukakis… but still. All of the verve; everrything that had been building for four years was not enough. And whatever minor voting problems there were the election was fair and square – regardless of my worries about literal fights at the polls. No one can call 2004 a Coup D’etat like 2000.

Now comes a big choice. It is easy for Democrats to say that they really won in ’00, and if not for 9/11 they would have the presidency and perhaps a majority in the senate now. It is no small thing to unseat a president after an event like that. Even if that president has been as incompetent, foolhardy and terrible as Bush.

To me it seems that the Democrats can continue on the moderate but inchoate course they are on now and fight a long and slow war of losing attrition, slowly having great plains and southern senators picked off while losing presidential elections by 5 – 8 percent, yet winning the west coast and the north east.

Or, they can dream big and start talking about huge ideas that time will prove necessary, just as it did with social security, farm price controls, desegregation and medicare. How about reforming the economic system so the ingenuity of the free market reponds to the problems of pollution and global warming, so that subsidies do not prop up old, sedentary industries like coal? It may mean giving up West Virginia from the first, but who cares? How about arguing for the federal decriminalization of marijuana? Which will be the first state to “legalize it” to gain back revenue lost from the “drown the beast” mentality to taxes coupled with the desire to have high quality schools and services? For a long time the west coast and parts of the north east might be a lone blue bastion, but these ideas are necessary enough to sweep the nation, when worst finally comes to worst as it did in the Great Depression.

Having united, passionate liberals was just not quite enough this time. Of course it wasn’t fair. The so-called “mainstream” media is a right-wing megaphone. But so it goes. Having a credible candidate that could not defeat a president as terrible as Bush is a sign that the core needs to change.

9/11 won’t go away, and the media will not become balanced any time soon. The left must be brave enough to fight a high stakes battle, or else be slowly whittled away into a long winter of irrelevancy.

Last thoughts.

I may expand on this later, but I’m taking an extended vacation from politics. Which calls into doubt the existence of this blog.

But, for now.

I’m sure there is already a chorus of “Kerry was the wrong candidate” and another chorus of “don’t blame Kerry in a knee-jerk manner.” Here’s my view. Kerry was the wrong candidate for 2004. The alleged basis for picking Kerry was that he was “more electable.” I never believed that for one minute. If we were so hot and bothered for a military man who had few campaigning skills, we should have picked Wes Clark. But Democrats are utterly unqualified to pick credible candidates for red states based on their idea of who is more electable. I’m getting convinced that it wasn’t Dean either, though there’s a good argument he should have been the bottom half of a ticket. Where was Edwards? We hardly saw him after the DNC.

The gamble with Dean would have been that the Iraq war would have had to go bad. If Abu Ghraib had been broken in December, Dean would have won the nomination for better or worse. Dean had a message and was forceful. Dean could have credibly argued that Iraq was a mistake in the war on terror (as he had been the entire time).

Yeah, I know. Don’t blame the candidate. I’m not. I’m blaming idiot Democrats for picking him on the basis he was more electable. Stupid.

We were so worried about Dean being McGovern that we implicitly rejected the belief that the Iraq war was a mistake. You can’t have it both ways. That’s sort of the problem with Kerry. To many, he looked fake whether he was or not. I’m sure a lot of them though he was a sheep in wolves’ clothing, so to speak. Clark could have done that too. Edwards, Gephardt, and Kerry were all stained that way.

It sounds like a big gamble. Put all your chips on the war. But if you don’t, you won’t be able to convince most people to change presidents in the middle of a war. If it had been going well, only a much worse economy than the one we had could have done the trick–and that would be a gamble too.

So now, with precariously situated red-state senators like Max Baucus, the Republicans will have an almost filibuster proof majority on cultural issues. We will have a radically conservative supreme court for 20 years.

For all our talk about accountability in the Bush administration, if heads don’t roll in the party right now (this means you Mr. McAullife, you and about 10 others) then we’re a mockery.

At the Chestnut Tree Cafe

Total numbness.

Well, so let it be. We’ve got Bush and his Congress. They’re going to press his agenda.

Here’s what the problem is. I’m a professional, with an income between me and my wife of nearly six figures. I’m a white male. I’m married. I’m nominally Christian (in other words, I celebrate Christmas and I’m not jewish or islamic.) I’m not going to need social security probably. I’m probably not going to need welfare ever. I have all the education I can stand. I have an excellent heatlh care plan. I don’t have any children (yet) that need public schools.

So how or why on earth am I a liberal? Because to me, I feel that a more productive society can be had if we nuture our “talent pool” and get the best prospects, no matter what their background. This goes for children in education, small businesses versus big business. I also think that it goes against this kind of meritocracy to allow trans-generational wealth to be pushed too far. And I think all of that work for the future is moot if we are constantly at war and destroying our planet.

So, my beliefs were repudiate by most of America today, but, strangely my identity was not. People like me will survive, perhaps even thrive for a while, under the conservative regime, but more and more will be left behind.

Voter Turnout

The plural of anecdote is not data, but I’ve seen an awful lot of anecdotes. Maybe the asymptotic approach to data comes with tons of them. Dunno. Anyway…

People in line were commenting that they’ve never seen a line like this in 30 years. It took me 45 minutes to vote and I showed up when they opened. Heavily liberal area where I live.

My Predictions

States for Kerry, in approximate East to West order: ME, NH, VT, NY, MA, CT, RI, NJ, DE, MD, DC, FL, PA, OH, MI, WI, IL, IA, MN, NM, CA, OR, WA, HI.

State for Bush in approximate East to West order: VA, WV, NC, SC, GA, AL, TN, KY, IN, MS, LA, AR, MO, TX, OK, KS, NE, SD, ND, MT, WY, CO, AZ, UT, ID, NV, AK.

Kerry EVs: 311

Bush EVs: 227

Popular Vote:

Kerry: 50.2%

Bush: 48.6%

Nader: .7%

Others: .5%

Rational: I looked at aggregate state polls since Oct. 30 in states I considered close (PA, NJ, NH, FL, OH, MI, AR, TN, NM, AZ, CO) and I corrected slightly for the Strategic Vision polls (which are done by the GOP) and the Gallup Polls that are based on an assumption of LOWER turnout amongst mioriities. I gave Kerry the win in most states where he was generally within the margin of error. Why? Because all indications point to this election having a monumental turnout. This means that both more Democrats and Republicans will vote, but the fact is that there are more Democratic voters to turn out than Republicans. That is why Republicans are doing all they can to “challenge” new Democratic voters (while also making an earnest and decent effort to get their voters to the polls).

In 2000 Al Gore basically gained 3.5% points of the national vote on election day, despite not having enough money to mount a challenge in some states (Ohio especially), having a stronger Nader campaign that threatened to sap his strengthand enthusiasm in several states and having less than enthused backing amongst supporters. Did he get the big election day bounce becuase of the Bush DUI story, was it because of his ground game, or some combo of both? The last option is probably true (along with some last second changes of heart by Nader voters). This year Kerry has a much weaker challenge from Mr. Nader and record numbers of canvassers and an enthusiastic following – if they are more for Bush’s defeat than Kerry’s victory, it makes no matter.

Another factor that favors Kerry is early voting. Early voting has already ameliorated problems like the 60,000 “missing” absentee ballots in Florida. It has given voters who are most likely to be disenfranchised a better shot at having their vote count, that is not to say that all voters who voted early are Democrats, but the Republican early-voters were going to have their votes counted no matter what, that is not the case for the Democrats. This is why I have moved FL to the Kerry column after feeling for weeks that the Bush Junta would be able to steal it once again. Also, expect Tennessee – which has had a surge of early voting – to be surprisngly close.

Finally, there is the youth and college vote. The writers of The Note said that any campaign that counts on youth votes should be terrified, and they are generally correct. As I have written several times before, however, this year is unpredented. Young people are taking the resurrection of the Draft much more seriously than the Baby Boomer media. There has already been a surge of registraion and voting on college campuses where more people are voting early now than they did at all in last election.

Switching Ohio and Florida would change this election to Bush. Expect both races to be tight and for the GOP to challenge several thousand votes immediately after the polls close.

Also, expect Kerry to win Oregon by about 9%.

Here is a final predictive element. Approximately 50% of registered voters cast a ballot in 2000. That number is expected to rise to 55% in this election. If over 58% of all eligible voters cast a ballot, expect Kerry to win, if it is under 58%, odds favor Bush the further the turnout is away from 58%.

A final post-script for this election:

“America is not a wicked country; we cannot abide a wicked government.”

– Frank Church (D-ID) 1972.

UPDATEMap:


Prediction Time

I posted a prediction on Kos a few weeks ago that I think is pretty good, but I’m going to post one last one tonight with just 48 hours left.

Popular Vote:

Kerry 49%

Bush 48%

Electoral Vote:

Kerry 296 (Gore +FL +OH +NH -WI -NM)

Bush 241 (The rest minus one faithless elector in WV)

Senate:

Democratic 50

Republican 49

Independent 1

House:

Republican 226

Democrat 211

Indpendent 1

UPDATE I’m going to go out on a limb and say that while there may be a few voting problems here and there, this election isn’t going to be close enough to steal in the end. However, knowing that the Republicans are the way they are, I predict the Grand Shenanigan of 2004 to be a lame duck recess appointment to replace Chief Justice Rehnquist.

UPDATE Map:

The Coup D'etat of 2004?

The Conservatrons are in trouble and they know it.

Sure most Americans think Bush will win (no doubt because CNN and USA Today use the flawed Gallup Poll that assumes that minorities will vote in LOWER – percentage – numbers than 2000), but most polls showed Bush with about a 3% lead on election eve in 2000 and he still lost. What happend? Beyond the drunk driving charge (as if that is worse than being a deserter from the military) the polls underestimated the Democratic ability to get out the vote. A high turnout still favors Democrats and every early indication is that the turnout in 2004 will be much higher than in 2000. Moreover, self-evident concerns about the draft have increased the youth (18-24) vote, which favors Kerry by a 2-1 margin (according to the LA Times) and is underepresented in polls because many youngsters have not voted before or else they use cellphones, have no landline, and are thus unavailable to pollsters.

Another wildcard that favors Democrats is the overseas vote. By all accounts, record amounts of non-military Americans abroad are voting this year. The GOP has tried to ameliorate this by guaranteeing that almost every active military personnel (a group that still favors them – although not by as much as in the past) will vote, but an even split on total overseas votes still favors Democrats comapared to years past.

Bush has not been able to break fifty percent in most national polls. His Nature Conservancy/Terrorism ad featuring adorable wolves (Vote for George Bush or else John Kerry will restore ecoloical balanace and allow predators their appropriate place in the ecosystem. You see, evolution states that the overall health of a species is actually helped, over time, when a predator is able to thin out the sick and weak… and, I mean, be afraid; wolves; scary; it’s hard to be an Idaho rancher. Vote Bush! Terrorism! Yeah. Be afraid. Oh the baying of the hounds! Awooooooooo! Werewolves of London!….) has been ridiculus to the point of parody.

What would you do if you were in the Conservatrons’ shoes and you loved power but hated Domecracy?

The registration fraud, missing ballots, poorly designes ballots and other chicanery are red herrings in this election. The real potential for fraud lies in the “challenegers:” groups of GOP lawyers who will sit in polling stations to make sure that no one votes inappropriately.

Right.

In the highly charged, vicious atmosphere of this campaign, thoudands of voters, many of them minorities, who have never cast ballots before will be voting. They will arrive in polling stations, accompanied by their knolwdegeable get out the vote personnel, only to find a person to challenge their fitness to carry out their role as a citizen and vote. Throw in a few N-bombs, some pushing and shoving, and it is not difficult to imagine violence breaking out. A large-scale fight would then complicate the voting for everyone else at that particular polling place.

Prepared for the meelee, the GOP echo-chamber would no doubt be in full Willie-fnord-Horton mode. One can almost ˙ear MSNBC:

Conservatron Hack: “Y’know Chris {Matthews}, it just goes to show, people who haven’t voted before, they just aren’t aware – aren’t familiar with some of these fair election laws. In districts that typically have high turnout there have not been problems. But traditionally lower income – whioch are lower turnout areas – that is where you see these irregularities popping up. And it’s a shame that they do not care about – do not understand the law.”

Matthews: “So you are saying that confusion lead to the riot.”

Conservatron: “Yes Chris, we haven’t seen these problems in areas that always have a very high turnout, it’s just a misunderstanding of the legality of the vote……..”

Al Smith once said, to paraphrase, that the problems of Democracy can be solved by more Democracy. Michael Moore has promised that he will have cameras at the ready in voting precnts, especially those in minority areas, across America, ready to record any intimidation that takes place. Starting a fight at a polling place is the best way for the GOP to steal this election; it leaves no “paper trail” of unsent ballots or fradulent convict lists. If the video cyclops of Democracy is upon polling places, however, the images that come out of this fights may appeal to many Americans latent sense of equality, rather than their latent racism. And that may be enough to stop this dirty trick before it starts.

100,000 Dead

When all of the adrenaline, nerves, clouds, and so forth settle from the election, I’m sure that the fact there are 100,000 dead Iraqis will depress me more than anything. This is tragic. Where does it stop?

Pat Robertson Told Me I'm A Prophet – A Parable

After the first round of the baseball playoffs I decided to bet ten dollars on the proposition that the Boston Red Sox would win the World Series. Mathematically they had a 25% chance, but I thought they honestly had more heart and soul than the Yankees this year and that defeating the New York Baseball Hessians would give them the confidence to get over the top. Yeah, I know, what about “The Curse?” Well, the 2-1 odds (I bet ten dollars to win twenty, most bets involve betting 11 dollars to win 10) made the expected value of the bet high enough for me to make it, curse or no.

After three games my reasoning looked poor. For unrelated reasons, I decided to unwind with some vicodin and six shots of rum one night when I was abruptly visited by Pat Robertson. He was a gaunt and terrifying figure, sitting in a rickshaw made purely of diamonds that glistened like the white eyes of a mako shark before it bites a tuna. Pat was being pulled around in slow circles by an emaciated slave on loan from his African mining plantation. He told me that he had been having one of his regular conversations with God over maple scones and peppermint lattes at Starbucks the other day, and God had told him that the Red Sox were going to win the World Series.

“You’re shitting me, Pat,” I said.

“God didn’t shit Jesus,” Pat replied and with that he blew crystaline diamond dust into my face and disappeared with a poof.

That was one weird dream, I thought as I awoke in my chair, still wearing last night’s clothes, with granules of sugar all over my face for some reason.

Weirder still, the Red Sox won the next four games and the series in one of the great comebacks in sports history.

The night of the final game I decided to put sustainable practices to work by cooking some cacti that I had bought from a shaggy gentleman who had a stand set up outside of the local CostCo. “I harvested them in the Oregon desert,” he had said. By purchasing them I was keeping my money in the local community. As I finsihed my stewed cactus I began to think on how cactus does not actually grow in the Oregon desert. Just then Pat Robertson appeared. He was atop his diamond-riskshaw, being pulled by his slave. He was eating a pizza that was constructed entirely out of diamonds, his scabbard teeth crushed the diamonds with a sound like dry snow crunching beanth heavy boots. The diamond shards cut his gums and maroon blood spilled down his chin like ice cream melting on the face of an over-exicted toddler.

“Still think God is shitting you, biatch,” Pat said, droplets of blood splicking out of his wrinkly mouth and landing on my shirt.

“What else does God have to prove to me?” I asked.

“Baseball is America’s past time,” Pat explained. “Of course the World Series has to come down to Massachusettes versus Texas. The Rocket and the ‘Stros are gonna’ deck the Cards, fool.”

I awoke the next morning with a terrible cough. I was all stuffed up and achy and my shirt was covered with stains from pomengranite seeds for some reason. After I laid down my ten dollars (to win $10.80) on Houston I began to take Robitussin, but the cough and cold just would not go away. I turned on the ball game. I was starting in on my third bottle of ‘Tussin when the Cards broke through on Clemens and scored four runs. Any keen watcher of sports knows when a team is beat. And the Astros were beat. I chugged the third bottle of Robitussin and suddenly Pat Robertson’s slave dragged his diamond rickshaw through the television screen and into my living room. Pat was wearing a leather dog collar with pointy diamonds the size of kiwis studded all around it.

“What the hell, Pat?” I exclaimed. “The Astros are over.”

“Oh, I was just doing shots of buttery nipples with God, and he decided that the Cardinals are going to win.”

“Wha…?”

“I am a Prophet,” Pat said as he unscrewed one of the pointy diamond studs from his collar. He began to carve the words DEF LEOPARD into his arm. “Sometimes God tells a prophet what he is going to do. Sometimes, when all evidence points to the contrary of what God said, God just arbitrarily changes his mind to correspond with what all of the factual evidence indicates.” The maroon blood from Pat’s arm was collecting in a writhing pool on the wood floors. It turned green, began to bubble, and coalesced into a Hobbit. The Hobbit began to do an Irish jig. “Being a prophet means reporting what God says when he changes his mind. A year ago God told me that Bush would win the election in a landslide. Lately, God has been looking at the polls and has has told me that the election is actually too close to call. Even further back God told me that the new war in Iraq would be easy as pie. Then last week, God reminded me that he actually told me that there would be lots of casualties. God’s works are mysterious, but now you know their magic, so you are a prophet. God tells you what he believes, and then changes his mind until the facts agree with him. As one who speaks for God, it is your job to predict events, and then change your prediction until it is correct. After all, God cannot be wrong.”

“But I bet ten dollars on the Astros!” I cried.

“Enough!” Robertson snarled. The green Hobbit began to kick me in the shin. I tried to retaliate but I was frozen to the chair. The Hobbit was relentless and just as the pain became too terrible to bear the world went to black.

I awoke the next mornning with bruises covering my shins. The pain was sharp and I could barely walk. For some reason there was a sticky pool of Jagermeister on the floor next to a knocked-over bottle, but at least my cold was cured.

Bush Knows Where Osama Is But Won't Get Him

From a speech given at the alma mater of the authors of this blog:

Bin Laden is living in South Waziristan in the Baluchistan Mountains of the Baluchistan Region, Lehman told The Sun after delivering a keynote speech on terrorism at Pitzer College in Claremont to kick off the university’s three-day writers festival.


In the exclusive interview, Lehman said, “There is an American presence in the area, but we can’t just send in troops. If we did, we could have another Vietnam, and the United States cannot afford that right now.’

When pressed on why the United States couldn’t send troops into the region to capture the world’s No. 1 terrorist, Lehman said the Baluchistan Region of the country is filled with militant fundamentalists who do not recognize the legitimacy of President Pervez Musharraf, a close ally of the United States. “That is a region filled with Taliban and al-Qaida members,’ he said, acknowledging that Pakistan’s security services also are filled with many who agree with bin Laden’s beliefs and would aid him if U.S. Special Forces entered the region.


“Look,’ Lehman said, “Musharraf already has had three assassination attempts on his life. He is trying to comply, but he is surrounded by people who do not agree with him. This is not like Afghanistan, where there was no compliance, and we had to go in. We’ll get (bin Laden) eventually, just not now.’

In other words, we can’t go get him because OUR FUCKING ARMY IS I-FUCKING-RAQ.

How can ANYONE vote for this FUCKER? aaaaaAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!

Tough on terror my ass. Safer my ass. F#$% you, Mr. President. You are letting a murderer get away so that you can fight your Book of Revelation Oil Corporate Crony Imperial Iraq war.

Unfuckingbelievable.

The Crystal Ball

Right before the Swift Boat debacle and the attendant drop in the polls, I wrote this:

I think Kerry’s strategy of sitting back and let Bush screw up is going to start costing him in the coming weeks. I’ve seen encouraging polls from Florida and Michigan today, but I can’t help but freak out a little bit. It’s looking too good and there’s still too much time left.

The Bush attack machine is getting traction on Kerry’s war record. Stupid, yes, but they are.

I’m going to predict this: we’re close to tied after the RNC, and the debates better do some good for Kerry in Florida (I don’t see how Bush can win without Florida and Ohio).

Not bad, eh? I did freak out. And I continued to freak out until the first debate. But since then, I can just feel it. We’re going to win. I could go into all the reasons why I think this is so, but mainly I just think that it comes down to this: even his supporters know that Bush has basically fucked up. They don’t have the energy level that Kerry’s supporters do. Independents are for Kerry. Ohio is for Kerry. I think Kerry is going to close the deal in the next week.

Malkin

OK, I shouldn’t be baited. I was one of the easiest kids in school to pick a fight with because I can never “let it go” or whatever. I know better than to care about this bitch, but seriously…

From her column. (ugh)

But Rosie [the Riveter] is gone. And in her place, we have Hysterical Women for

Kerry. They are self-absorbed celebrities who support banning all guns (except the ones their bodyguards use to protect them and their children). They are teachers’ union bigwigs who support keeping all children hostage in public schools (except their own sons and daughters who have access to the best private institutions). They are sanctimonious environmentalists who oppose ostentatious energy consumption (except for their air-conditioned Malibu mansions and Gulfstream jets and custom Escalades).****

They are antiwar activists who claim to love the troops (except when they’re apologizing to the terrorists trying to kill our men and women in uniform). They are peace activists who balk at your son bringing in his “Star Wars” light saber for the kindergarten Halloween parade (but who have no problem serving as human shields for torture-loving dictators). They are ultrafeminists who purport to speak for all women (but not the unborn ones or the abstinent teenage ones or the minority conservative ones or the newly enfranchised ones in Afghanistan).

There are enough straw-(wo)men there to thatch Versailles.

(1) Anti-gun celebrities who want armed bodyguards.

No, see, they’re not for there not being guns anywhere. They’re just against you being able to buy an uzi in Wal-Mart.

(2) Teachers Union Members With Private School Children

Right. Those rascally rich teachers.

(3) Greens with LearJets.

Because two wrongs make a right.

(4) Anti-war activists who love the troops

Because supporting the troopse means “send them to fight the wrong enemy with no equipment.”

(5) Human-shield Peaceniks

Raising your kids to be violent is better! lol.

(6) Ultrafeminist Excluders

Because

If this was just Malkin I’d let it go, maybe. But the fact is, this kind of proto-nazi garbage is worse than telling you what to think, it’s telling you what other people think. Of course anyone in their right mind is going to disagree with the kind of straw-men hypocrites cited above.

Unfortunately for Malkin, the world would be a terrible place if everyone had to be perfect. Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, but his writings inspired freedom later. And maybe Sean Penn has an armed body-guard, but I’m not sure that puts him a position where he can’t hope that inner-city children don’t get shot.

The reason these arguments get traction is because ad hominem attacks work best on people who are uneducated. They look at a man’s “ethos” and not his “logos.” Arguments are only compelling if you understand the facts around them. People intuitively think that men of bad character in one aspect (say, men who cheat on their wives) are incapable of being so in another way.

This is fucking bullshit. No one is perfect. Jesus said “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Malkin and her ilk want to cast a lot of stones, but none of them are without sin.

Flu vaccine? Sigh.

The Mary Cheney business is replaced with . . . flu vaccine? And no — this isn’t about health care or even drugs from Canada. Just flu vaccine — as sure a senior ritual as golf and breakfast at 4:30 a.m.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch: Al-Qaeda ranks swell as Zarqawi movement pledges allegiance; stock market dips below 10,000 on oil prices over $50/barrel; less new jobs than new people every month; 45 million Americans without health insurance; CO2 levels rising faster than expected; more Americans than ever living in poverty; America’s reputation around the world diminishing. . .

If it quacks like a duck. . .

The mainstream media (Okrent) and conservative commentators love to make fun of the left for calling anything to the right of McGovern “fascist” or being more shrill, or whatever.

I’m not going to write a piece here explaining how the Bush Republicans “really” are fascists, but I will say that the difference is being relegated to the details, not the substance.

We can go around for hours defining the term “fascist.” No point. Let’s just ask ourselves a few basic questions.

(1) Was the current leader fairly elected?

Even the least shrill among us would say the election was “disputed.” The wise among us would say that Congress, not the Court should have decided the election in 2000.

(2) Do people, in general, have more or less freedom than before?

Think PATRIOT Act and the detention of citizens in violation of the Constitution and trial before “tribunals.” This mentatlity resulted in the abu ghraib scandal.

(3) Notwithstanding the rights of the accused, are people more or less able to act freely in the absence of law enforcement activity?

Five interests control the media. Ari Fleischer told us to “watch what we say, watch what we do.” Opponents of the President are derided as “unpatriotic,” thereby chilling dissent.

(4) Are those in power held accountable for their mistakes?

Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Rice, and Powell are still in their offices. As are Wolfowitz and Feith. None of the Generals–only the non-coms–have been indicted for abu ghraib. O’Neill wasn’t removed for his failure to create jobs; nor was Lindsey. They were fired for not parroting about Iraq and other things.

(5) Does the government conduct secret business?

Right off the hop, Cheney conducted meetings on energy policy with oil company flacks. The President opposed the 9/11 commission. And now . . . . . . . the CIA is refusing to release its own 9/11 report before the election.

(6) Are the “proletarian” classes channeling their anger at the correct target?

Instead of focussing on the loss of quality jobs for working class Americans, and the attendant moral decay, many working class Americans are blaming it on a “homosexual” agenda (cf. Jewish agenda) and other failures to behave Biblically. Of course, our leaders never ask them or anyone to render unto Caesar that which is his.

So, we don’t have goose-stepping legions and book burnings. We don’t have people snatched away at night and killed. But in substance if not style, and in direction if not in actual position, America has grown more “fascist” under Bush.

A Slip of Truth?

In The Bush Dyslexicon Mark Crispin Miller undergoes a painstaking examination of George W. Bush’s bass ackward, agonizing prose and comes to the conclusion that W actually speaks concisely and clearly on issues related to retribution and punishment. He only gets tongue-tied when talking about compassion, broad philosophy and specific policy. The kicker, according to Mr. Miller, is that often Bush accidentally says the truth in these situations, only to reverse himself in midcourse and blurt out his breathless canned-Karen-Hughes-generated phrase. The “Bush Dyslexicon” then is both W’s accidental articulation of the truth, and our media’s inability to call him on it.

Witness today’s reaction by Mr. Bush’s to Senator Kerry’s charge that continuing our present course in Iraq will necessitate a draft: “Our all-volunteer army will remain an all-volunteer army. My opponent seems to be willing to say almost anything he thinks will benefit him politically. After standing on the stage, after the debates, I made it very plain we will not have an all-volunteer army. And yet this week… . We will have an all-volunteer army.” {Emphasis added}

To anyone 25-and-under, please heed the following bumper sticker:

VOTE DEMOCRATIC
THE ASS YOU SAVE MAY BE YOUR OWN

Winning an Undecided.

An ex-girlfriend of mine from a swing state called me last night. We caught up a little bit and then talked about what our friends were up to. Slowly but surely, the conversation drifted towards the election.

Trying to define in simple terms her political ideology is not possible. She was raised in a broken home and is surrounded by all of the fallout of it. Her mother is on her fourth–I think–husband (not counting my ex’s biological father). Her sister is a drug addict who is giving up her latest child for adoption. It’s all around her. This has turned her into a social conservative in many respects. She has a child of her own, and, after being pregnant, she says you can’t convince her that’s not a life in there, even early on.

But she is not homophobic. In fact, early in college most had pegged her as a lesbian because of her pink triangle displays, which were really just a show of support for her then-best friend. So far as I know, she’s not into institutionalized religion, but she said she was turned off by Kerry’s remarks about his catholic faith not dominating his policies.

On “bread and butter” issues, she is more likely to be brought into the fold. She scoffed at the token tax rebate from Bush’s summer of love as barely paying one bill. She worries about the wages her family makes and the disappearance of jobs and about the education of her baby in the future.

Her husband was in the military, and at least at one point they were worried that he would be called back into active duty, even though he was on “fleet reserve.” I’m not sure if that point has passed yet.

She does not like Bush. She doesn’t appear to be stoked about the war in Iraq, probably mostly because of the lies about it. But she says she doesn’t think she can vote for Kerry. I asked her what the main reason was, what was about him that turned her off so much.

Then she scared me, because her response was pure Rove. She thought he was hypocritical, and “at least I know where Bush stands” and couldn’t understand how he claimed to be Catholic (even if she has started going to church, she’s not Catholic) and be pro-choice.

I went to work. I said the Democrats are the center party, and they have been since Clinton, and Carter was too, even if the Congress then was liberal. I said that all of these “cultural” issues aren’t really what’s at stake here–what is is record deficits, tax cuts for the rich (she expressly rejects supply-side economics–how can we be losing people that reject supply side economics?! she also is pro-New Deal and pro-FDR!!!) and the “bread and butter” issues for your family. If you want the budget balanced, and you don’t want to be taxed to death in the future, put Kerry in there.

I told her that I thought it would be preferable if there were no abortions (I didn’t have the stat that abortions have risen during Bush’s tenure) and somehow it could be prevented (she’s very, very pro-birth control, too) and if not, that it should have been decided by the legislature, not the court. I explained that the reason it was arose out of a libertarian fear of Nazi controls on procreation (the Skinner case) but that it was kinda out on limb. I told her that I didn’t think that issue was going to change one way or the other.

I told her that I was catholic too, but I’ve been alienated by their attitude towards gays and early-term abortion. I told her, except Ireland, most of the predominatnly Catholic countries have legalized abortion, and they have catholic presidents and prime minsters for the most part. She’s not Catholic, so explaining this further would have been complicated.

We left the conversation with her sounding concerned about the economic issues, but unconvinced on the cultural ones.

You see, the cultural issues served as a “gateway” to fill her with spin about Kerry being a flip-flopper and so forth. The more I talk to people like her, the less I think Democrats need to learn how to talk about religion (Thomas Frank) or talk about values (John Edwards) but simply to make sure that people understand the connection between Democratic values and their positions on the economy.

Need more proof? Look at this article discussing abortion rates and economics.

The Draft

I get the mass e-mails from the Dean organization. Today, I got another one about the draft. The thrust of the message is to “demand truth” about the draft, but the link is to a site called http://petition.democracyforamerica.com/page/p/nodraft .

From the point of view of pure politics, this is genius. Young voters have the interests and idealism that makes them easy pickings for the left, but they never vote. The Dems have been looking for years for a way to mobilize them; and the Greens count them among the “majority” who don’t vote who will one day put the Green party into power. Feh.

Anyway, the draft is a perfect way to mobilize the young, especially this generation. Hyperactive, over-stimulated, over-sugared, self-centered children of Generation Y unite against doing anything that might help authority or others! The generations before us had FDR and JFK to call them to service. The Boomers, however, already having lucked out by the toil of their parents, were the beginning of this trend; until they were betrayed by Viet Nam and Watergate, they were still more likely drawn to service, but the fallout, as expressed in their children is amazingly different than the Greatest Generation.

There is a difference between being for the draft and being for war in general or any specific war. First of all, while I supported returning weapons inspectors to Iraq, after they found nothing and the rationales shifted and the adminstration was obviously lying, there was really no reason in my mind to support a war in Iraq at that point. We hadn’t finished the job in Afghanistan, and these elections notwithstanding (who cares about who is the de facto mayor of Kabul anyway?) there is still much work to do there. And, as has been pointed out at length, there is much work to do elsewhere.

Second, I did support the war in Afghanistan. I did support the first Gulf War–not in the abstract–but given the geopolitical and economic realities of the time, and given that it was well carried out. I am not a pacifist. Ideally, I would like to see world peace; realistically, I know we need defense.

But defense policy is carried out at the behest of a large array of interests that do not generally reflect either (a) genuine self-defense, or (b) the genuine pursuit of the interests of the population at large. It’s possible for this to be done because of the fact that many of these interests control the Government and to the extent they need military back up, they are offered a large and powerful army full of people who feel their purpose is to “defend” America, and want to be used, not shielded (in case you wondered why the military is pro-Republican). Shielding the military makes them feel weak and useless–which is why Democrats have been smart to emphasize this time around putting the blame at the top in Abu Ghraib specifically and in Iraq in general and to talk about the fact that the lies broke the promise to them to use them only when necessary.

So, as if now, we can have war without “sacrifice” (i.e. death of impressed soldiers, higher taxes, rationing, etc.) , we will have war and it will be war that is basically not diplomacy by other means, but trade by other means.



The draft could kill two birds with one stone. It could instill community values in a generation without them. It could instill caution into foreign policy that isn’t.

The argument against is that drafted armies are (1) immoral and (2) ineffective. First, anyone with a bona fide moral objection should be allowed to do AmeriCorps instead. (2) Wasn’t Abu Ghraib the exact kind of thing that trained soldiers were supposed to not do? We have an army of “independent” contractors out there that I doubt are more useful in general than draftees…. plus, it should be part of a democracy that the army is a real cross-section, rich and poor, of the country. No deferments. And it was deferments that kept the children of the powerful and decision-makers weren’t at risk.

If you went to the young in America and said–do one year in the army or AmeriCorps and we’ll pay for college, as is done in Europe, I think you’d get an overwhelming positive response.

Flip-flop Jiu-Jitsu

OK, please tell me if I missed something, but the way to handle the flip-flop thing isn’t to point out Bush’s own waffles. The way to handle it is to say, Mr. President you said you never made a mistake except Paul O’Neill… do you ever change your mind? I do. I’m a human, living on planet earth — what planet are you on?

For the Record.

Here’s a prediction that I just want to get down before I forget it.

If Kerry wins this election, and for one of the following reasons is not super-successful, I predict that the Republicans (a la Cleveland) will re-nominate George W. Bush in 2008.

Factors that will make this more likely: (1) Kerry winning with less than 280 EVs; (2) Major Democratic loss in 2006; (3) a major terrorist event in the US; (4) failure of Kerry’s plan in Iraq; (5) a precipitous drop in the economy. Granted, most of these would actually be Bush’s fault, but we know how it goes…

Look, it’s not like Bush is old, and it’s not like he’s going to go run some foundation for world peace or AIDS or something like that. He’ll just go fester around with his corporate buddies. They will have to fight a internecine battle within their party in order to regroup for 2006. If the McCain faction can’t win, or if the Bush/DeLay faction otherwise hangs on to power within the GOP in 2006, there won’t be anything better for him to do. No matter what else happens, if Bush loses, there’s going to be a “moderate” running in 2008, be it Giuliani, McCain, or perhaps even Ahhnold. But there are some also more conservative candidates out there: Gov. Evans of Colorado, maybe Frist, maybe Mitt Romney, but none of those latter candidates are going to do very good in blue states.

Corrolary prediction: Cheney won’t be his running mate.

Stomping on "Cockroach"

While working in the Ford White House Dick Cheney’s propensity for operating behind the scenes earned him the nickname “Backseat” from the secret service. A more appropriate nickname for Mr. Cheney would be “Cockroach.” Like a cockroach, Cheney’s very appearance suggests evil borne of squalor and disease. Knowing full well that his hideous form and all he stands for incites primal disgust Cockroach Cheney anonymously festers in “undisclosed locations” quietly and efficiently doing the dirty work of a wretched creature. One hundred years from now historians will marvel at how a man with a miniscule demographic base in Wyoming, holding an extreme to-the-right-of-Newt-Gingrich ideology, and almost completely deficient of charisma was able to be one of the most influential men of late 20th and early 21st century America.

In the television era, to the best of my knowledge, the only Vice-Presidential debate to have a meaningful impact on a Presidential election was in 1992 when Admiral Stockdale’s befuddled performance raised legitimate questions about H. Ross Perot’s judgment in picking him. Otherwise, even Lloyd Bentsen’s bitch slap of Dan Quayle in ’88 had only a negligible impact. We are, however, living unprecedented times and Dick Cheney is the most powerful and influential Vice-President in American history. Like President Bush, Cheney has inconceivably not had to account for most of his actions. John Kerry did not win his first debate with Bush because he spoke concisely and Bush looked like the Grinch that stole Christmas; he won because the truth was on his side. When Bush repeated his stock innuendo that he was striking at those “who attacked us” by invading Iraq Kerry finally said what any journalist worth his salt should have said three years ago (to paraphrase): “Osama bin Laden attacked us, not Iraq.” Bush stammered back “Osama bin Laden attacked us – of course I know that” and suddenly the Wizard of Oz was revealed to be a smug twit. (The media has actually cleaned up that phrase for Mr. Bush, in reality he said,” Sadd – Osama bin Laden attacked us…” as Mark Crispin Miller so brilliantly demonstrated in The Bush Dyslexicon, these verbal misfires are quite revealing!)

On Tuesday night Dick “Cockroach” Cheney will skitter out from under the fridge and onto the florescent-lit linoleum of American television for the only time in this campaign. Senator Edwards should not make Lieberman’s mistake and attempt to debate the monstrosity as a gentleman. When Edward’s (hopefully) confronts Cheney’s lies and secrets, Cheney will not pout and make foolish faces like Bush did. It does not matter. With the full illumination of accountable Democracy upon him, Cockroach should be revealed for what he is and America will follow its primal instincts and want to stomp him out.

The Ressurection of the Anti-Nuke Luddites

Bobby Kennedy Jr. has apparently decided he has an issue to raise his profile. It combines the fear tactics and stand-uppishness of the Bush administration’s war on terror with the righteous, almost reactionary, urgency of fringe environmentalism: nuclear reactors. In “Indian Point: Imagining the Unimaginable” RFK Jr. and Rory Kennedy spin a terrifying yarn about a terrorist crashing a plane into the spent fuel pools at Indian Point. They suggest it could render a Chernobyl-disaster sized area, including New York City, uninhabitable. (while they do point out that a Chernobyl style disaster is, by design, not possible in a US reactor, they do the Saddam Osama bin Hussein Laden Iraq 9/11 thing[1][2][3][4] by cutting to a map of the same size of the Chernobyl disaster over the tri-state area…)

For me, one of the first litmus tests of anyone claiming to be an “environmentalist” is if there is even a tinge of NIMBY-ness about what they are saying. The first would actually be if they are funded by an industry group, but NIMBY has to be up there. Kennedy suggests that New York s a bad place for a nuclear generator because the incident would cripple the world’s financial ystem. That may be true, but I’m not sure that the residents of [other place] give a shit about that compared with their own safety. They, of course, never suggest where it should go (the subtext is that there should be none). They never suggest that all nuclear power plants should be replaced with the latest generation plants that are much, much safer. They never suggest that gas/oil/coal burning plants would have to pick up the slack. They also don’t quite make it

clear to the layman that merely turning these plants off won’t resolve the high-level waste situation there or anywhere, so, why turn them off?

The second severe limitation of many environmentalists on the far left is their inability to deal with priorities. Even if we max out on renewable energy sources, we will still require a baseline, consistent load generating supply at some level that is not contingent on natural events. While I can’t help but chuckle at the inefficacy of America’s nuclear power policy, and I can’t help but squirm at the possibility of a nuclear accident, it just reinforces the out of sight out of mind issue with global warming.

Nuclear accidents are spectacular and sudden. They irrationally evoke the horrors of nuclear war. But, on the slight bright side, they are relatively localized, and can often be mitigated.

Global warming is slow and only perceptible in certain places at first. But for the thousands killed by record heat in Europe a few summers back, and the thousands of species going extinct that are quite literally destroying our web of life, the melting of ice shelfs, and the increasing violence of tropical storms, it is no joke. Because of the vague and slow progression of global warming, the best response mustered by the world is the deeply flawed Kyoto Protocol.

Yes, it’s a utilitarian calculation, but if you take global warming seriously, you have to grin and bear the possibility of nuclear accidents, even Chernobyl level ones. Because they pale in comparison to what may be coming our way in a few short decades.

Every time I roll out this chestnut, I get a bunch of flames from the left-flank telling me about how I’m a shill for the nuclear industry, they’ve brainwashed me, and that I’m drinking their glowing Kool-Aid. Nonsense. At least, it’s no more sensical than the suggestion that those who oppose nuclear power on any level in any form are de facto shills for the fossil fuel industry.

[1] DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT 9/24/2004

NORVILLE: Another big concern is — and you open the film with this possibility. Instead of heading down the Hudson and aiming for the World Trade Center, the terrorists could have as easily aimed for the big sitting duck, Indian Point.

RORY KENNEDY: Yes. American Airlines flight 11 flew over Indian Point on its way down to New York City, and had that plane banked left, you know, it’s really scary to think what New York would now be if that had happened. And what I can tell you is what we know from Chernobyl,[fnord] is that a 100-square-mile radius became permanently uninhabitable around Chernobyl [fnord] after that accident. And New York City is 35 miles south of Indian Point. But the heart of New York City, 42nd Street…

NORVILLE: And 20 million people live within…

RORY KENNEDY: A 50-mile radius.

NORVILLE: … presumably, the affected area, if…

[2] Hardball MSNBC 7/8/2003

MATTHEWS: Have they gone too far in exploiting September 11? Joining us is Robert Kennedy Jr., River Keeper’s prosecuting attorney and also Angie Howard of the Nuclear Energy Institute. Bob, is this an accurate depiction of what would happen if that nuclear power plant were hit by a terrorist?

ROBERT KENNEDY JR., RIVER KEEPER: The…

MATTHEWS: Well, the…

KENNEDY: Absolutely. Every fact — the thing that’s scary is not the ad. The thing that’s scary, Chris, are the facts. Every single fact in there has been rigorously verified by government agencies, like the National Research Council, Brookhaven Laboratory, and the intelligence agencies. Here’s what we know. We know that there are 17 times the stored radiation at that plant that was released at Chernobyl. We know that a terrorist attack could cause a spent fuel pool fire at the plant, and according to the federal agency, the National Research Council, 100 percent of the radiation would be released. If that were true, around Chernobyl there was 1,000 miles uninhabitable. Brookhaven lab and Princeton University estimate about 3,000 miles around Indian Point would be uninhabitable.

MATTHEWS: So, when you blow up a nuclear power plant, you create a nuclear event. Is that right?

KENNEDY: There’s a release of radiation, Cesium 137, which is stored there, which would make it unsafe for human beings to live in that area. Now…

MATTHEWS: Would it be a nuclear explosion like we just saw in the ad?

KENNEDY: It would not be an explosion. There would be a release of radiation. I don’t think that’s an explosion. I think that that’s a release of radiation.

MATTHEWS: Well, look at this person just coming apart there. Looks like they’re coming apart, these people.

[3] CNN LIVE SATURDAY 12:00 6/28/2003

WHITFIELD: And Mr. Lyman, we showed in the piece the ad campaign that started. Some are criticizing it as really striking fear unnecessarily in Americans. Do you believe it is fair to provoke these kinds of emotions with that kind of graphic advertisement?

LYMAN: I don’t think the issue is provoking emotions. I think the issue is a comprehensive and accurate risk assessment to let the people of New York City know what the potential health consequences are to them. Entergy is not providing that, and Riverkeeper may be going in the other extreme. I think the truth is somewhere in between, but it’s certainly closer to Riverkeeper’s claim, because there are credible terrorist events which could cause a core melt- down, lead to a breach of the bypass of the containment and a Chernobyl-style radiological release that could have a significant impact on New York City. There are simulations to show that the FDA requirements for recommendations for potassium iodine could be exceeded by 100 times.

[4]CNN Target Terrorism 3/2/2002

SNOW: What happens if a plane, God forbid, a terrorist, decides to go after a nuclear reactor. What happens if a plane heads towards a nuclear reactor?

LYMAN: Well, I firmly believe that the evidence shows that if a fully fueled jumbo jet, like we saw on September 11, crashed into the containment building at a nuclear plant or the spent-fuel building, where the highly radioactive discharge of the plant is stored, or auxiliary control rooms, that there is a very good chance that you could have a serious Chernobyl-type accident.

What about North Korea?

Bush has not shown the skill to pull off diplomacy and war. But, nevertheless, I have to admit I agree with him about North Korea. Of course–don’t be silly–debates are about eye-rolling and handshakes, not substance. But, again, Bush is right about North Korea, at least on that point about negotiations. His inaction is wrong. His loss of focus on North Korea to Iraq is wrong.

If ever there were a case for the Neo-conservative style approach, this might be it. Of course, there’s no oil in North Korea. . . but this is really the brutal, murderous, stalinist regime of our nightmares, and it does have atomic weapons and strategic weapons. It is a destabilizing force in Asia, which is as important now to our economy and will be more important in the future than the Middle East.

Bilateral negotiations reward bad behavior. They know that they can misbehave slightly and get more food and energy to prop up their regime.

What makes North Korea the only member of Bush’s “axis of evil” to be truly evil is that it is a state that it truly at war with its people. Iraq may have been run by a Sunni minority, but at least some large chunk of the population was invested. Islamist Iran too was created by a popular uprising. Bush’s axis of evil, and its unspoken member, Cuba, are merely old enemies of the US. There is another set of nations that are truly evil, intrinsically. North Korea is the only crossover. (This, to me, is the fundamental flaw of the Neo-Conservatives. If you’re going to be exporting “liberty” then you should do it to places that really need it, not places that we don’t like because of “old shit.”)

No, North Korea is truly a regime at war with its own people in the Orwellian sense. Millions of people there wer slaughtered as a result of a government induced famine. And in a near instant they could vaporize Seoul, South Korea. This is their barganing chip. But why do we listen?

We listen because we don’t want to piss off the Chinese. That’s why they need to be in on the discussions. If it really came to it, we could use nuclear weapons to prevent North Korea from being able to strike the South. And our army could easily grind down theirs if the Chinese don’t supply them this time.

This is no joke. I’m not saying let’s just push the button on them and go for it. But we shouldn’t reward their bad behavior either. We should do a little pushing. And if it means we have to destroy their nuclear facilites, then that’s what it means. This can’t go on forever.

This is serious folks. This isn’t Bush lying to the UN about WMD, this is real. They have ’em and they can hit the US with them.

But, in order to make this situation resolve, we need the Chinese to be on our side (whatever buying off it takes).

He won. Now what?

Bush did not quite “shit the bed” as Kerry’s advisers were hoping, but he didn’t do a good job. He stuttered, he was angry, and he was preachy. He even tried to be “professorial” about North Korrea (why does Bush need a permission slip from China to defend America?). Kerry was succinct and clear.

Three polls show Kerry won. We know that much. Now what?

Kerry had to win to survive. The reason this race was important is that voters prefer Kerry on almost every domestic issue; foreign policy was supposed to be Bush’s strong suit. And while a better performance in the next debates might provide a great spin-line, it won’t change as many minds as this one.

Kerry should take the lead in the horse-race polls with in 7 days, and eek out a slim electoral lead.

The DNC is much more well prepared for the spin-dynamics this time around, hopeful this at least neutralizes the other side’s games, and at best sets the storyline.