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.

Tonight, we play for all the marbles.

Something else could happen. Osama bin Laden could magically appear. A terrorist strike could occur. But, assuming that neither these things, nor giant shenanigans occur, tonight’s the night.

Tonight is the night we see whether Democrats were right to pick John Kerry. Tonight is the night when we see what the national media has really become. Tonight is it.

History Unfolds Tonight

Usually, when you are certain you are witnessing history (not just the day-to-day mechanics of living, but an event of vital importnace) as it happens it is because you are seeing something very bad such as the 9/11 attacks. Today is one of those rare instances when one can expect to witness crucial history unfolding. Tonight’s debate is the most important in the history of the institution since the get-togethers began to be televised in 1960, and given that this is the most important election since 1860, these are the most important debates since Lincoln and Douglas met seven score and four years ago.

Simply, these debates are John Kerry’s last, best chance to create a substantial swing in the electorate that could make him the front-runner. A draw or marginal victory would leave him within striking distance, but racing against the clock, and a marginal or clear loss might well have him figuratively counting the klieg lights. Because, in all likelihood, at least the medium term (next 5 – 20 years) sustenance of America as a viable Democratic-Republic depends on this election September 30, 2004 is forever amongst the most crucial dates in American history.

The efficacy of America’s democracy is already ebbing. Regardless of how one feels about George W. Bush’s governance of America, no one can deny that it has brought radical change upon America’s economy and foreign policy. That a presidential electoral campaign, a basic exercise in democracy, now 33 days from its completion has not produced any meaningful discussion of these changes demonstrates a harrowing failure of our current system of governance.

Unique amongst TV-age presidents, Mr. Bush has not had to account for the decisions he has made in his tenure, except for a late-summer interview with Tim Russert. Even Mr. Bush’s most ardent supporters considered that interview a failure. It is not for nothing that Mr. Bush has not had to answer for his colossal failures and blunders thus far through the campaign. Beyond the normal “chance for a comeback” dynamic, Senator Kerry has a unique opportunity to force Mr. Bush to answer for his actions, and therefore has a far better chance of staging a comeback then challengers like Bob Dole or Walter Mondale ever had.

I am far too partisan to make an honest assessment of the “winner” or to offer any predictions. Tonight I plan on consuming a massive quantity of gin and hope that history transpires for the better.

The Pledge and the Imperial Congress

Without doing background research to citate the point, I think it’s pretty well established that, though a balance of powers was sought between the three branches, the finger was put on the scale a little bit to give Congress a little bit more power.

Congress can remove the President. Under the original constitution, the Congress could have removed the president and the vice president, and then ruled by enactment, with a Speaker/Prime Minister. Congress can also remove Justices from the Supreme Court and outright destroy the inferior Federal Courts.

The check on Congress was meant to be the people, who (as first set-up) would act through their state legislatures and their direct vote to temper the acts of their representatives and senators.

So, how then can the other branches react to Congress’s largest power-grab since the impeachment? It’s not clear that they can, but there is room.

The House has passed a bill limiting the jurisdiction of the Federal courts, excluding them from hearing cases about the pledge of allegiance. Other bills have been introduced with these jurisdictional limiting elements, including one on gay marriage.

Balkanization presents this argument based on the idea of “two-tiered Article III.” Essentially, this would mean that Congress can’t in fact remove jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to hear cases arising under the Constitution. It’s a textual argument based on a structural one.

I’m not sure I think the Supremes will buy it. No worries, I have something they are probably even more loathe to accept, but the weight of precedent may be much more forceful in this case.

The upshot of this law is to relegate to state courts the interpretation of this particular aspect of federal constitutional law. I believe this violates due process. The due process clause of the Fifth Amendment applies to the Federal government and its enactments, so we’ll be considering it here (it has been held to be parallel to the state limiting clause in the 14th amendment).

First, if there are 50 different rulings, that might be enough. Crossing over state lines with different federal rights could implicate the privileges or immunities clause as well, but I’m not going to get into that–I’m already out on a limb, so I’ll stay off the twigs. It’s not a frivolous argument that 50 different first amendments deny a person to their single right under the constitution.

But here’s my thought. It is established that there are extreme limits on the jurisdiction of a state court to issue orders to federal agencies (I think it can’t be done unless there is aprovision expressly allowing it). So, if someone sought a remedy against a federal agency, no relief could issue from a state court. A right with no remedy violates due process.

So, at least to that extent these jurisdiction limiting acts should be unconstitutional. I think after that it’s a matter of line drawing, and you could build on that predent that there absolutely must be some forum for adjudictaing federal constitutional rights–a backdoor, if you will to the two-tiered Article III argument above.

Kyoto vs. WTO: Inconsistent Approaches

I have been engaged in the trade debate for a long time. Long ago, people were told to buy American cars. This was before the foreign auto makers had much in the way of factories here. (And if you think Wall Street was what made them put the factories here, you’re wrong.) My initial instinct was that this was ridiculous. If US automakers didn’t make a product that people wanted, that wasn’t sufficiently reliable, and fuel efficient, then why should I?

This is the guy-on-the-street level argument to sell free trade. You get more for less. Same thing at Wal-Mart. The thing is, it really only costs you less out of pocket. The externalities are there, you just don’t pay for them. And that I believe is the real effect of conservative economic policies: tax cuts, lower interest rates, and lower prices by putting off all of the cost into externalities. It may cause a famine, a genocide, and a pandemic later, but that’s later. It’s the ultimate it irrational hedonism.

But consider a different case. The Bush administration has rejected the Kyoto treaty under the two wrong don’t make a right theory. I agree with them actually, that there are several bogus arguments in Kyoto. The first is the constant comparison of the US’s population to its consumption of fuels and production of carbon. Whatever our percentage of gross worldwide product is should be what percentage of carbon we are allowed. After all, if we make it and they can buy it, why shouldn’t it count against their (whoever they are) carbon quota? All that would do would force each country to have a gross worldwide product exactly the same as their population percentage wise. That’s an egalitarian dream even Marx never contemplated. Second, why should developing nations be allowed to develop at the expense of all of our health?

All of these are good arguments. Kyoto was the best that could be done, and so it should have been accepted as a starting point, but the Bush people used the above arguments as cover for their real agenda which was to externalize the costs onto nature to create fleeting temporal prosperity, then use that to keep power and profit from it. What a heist.

And why do we do that? Because we can — we’re the US, you have to accept our bargaining position as stronger, right?

But with the WTO we make no such pretensions. We act like we’re at the same basic level of bargaining as Brazil or Indonesia. Why? Well, of course the answer is that it’s about making profits — and if we can get the minimum labor cost, the minimum environmental overhead, and put off the externalities on these other countries it’s better than god forbid raising taxes to keep American workers healthy and educated and clean and safe.

So, perhaps the approach is consistent after all: do whatever to put off the costs on others or nature.

But I wonder why we couldn’t strike a better bargain with the WTO. If you want access to the best market in the world, you’re going to have to pay a tariff that will phase out over many years, which we will use to reeducate workers, provide for pensions, and whatever else needs to be done… and each phase will only phase in if we see that things are going well.

Trade is a more controversial issue than is presented. The Democrats may have to accept fault on this too… but can’t this be a winning issue for whichever candidate picks it up and asks “Why could we be given a better deal?”

Between Iraq, oil slavery, and trade, being a hyperpower just isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, I guess.

What if Bush Wins…

September’s Washington Monthly explores a second term for Bush. If I, in my wildest dilusions of granduer, had been asked to write an article to respond to that prompt, here’s what it would be:

The End of America as You Know it

By Jon-Erik G. Storm

Sometimes fundamental shifts in our nation are marked by wars. Sometimes they are marked by Constitutional Amendments. Sometimes, they aren’t memorialized by any one thing you can point to in a book. The passing of Middle Class America will be marked more by the absence of action than any one answer to a future trivia question such as “The Civil War,” or “The Fourteenth Amendment.” Indeed, sometimes the reverse groundswell is stronger than even the most firmly established law or institution, no matter how hard it was won.

Consider the Fifteenth Amendment–the Maginot line of Constitutional law–which was subsumed by 100 years of Jim Crow. Consider also the volumes of laws passed to implement FDR and his successor’s middle class America. Despite being successful in reversing the Great Depression, and winning the Cold War and World War II, a focussed and small, yet rich, opposition can finally look down on the Promised Land of its final ouster.

For a while, people won’t notice because inertia will carry forward the Middle-class society for a while. But it won’t last.

First, Bush’s re-election and the GOP’s continued control of Congress and the Courts will allow Preisdent Bush to institute his “Ownership Society.” Social security will be privatized. Pension plans will all be converted to 401(k) style plans. There will be no tax on capital gains. Labor unions will mostly cease to exist. Things unimaginable will be privatized (did you ever imagine a privatized military like that in Iraq?).

Instead of the so-called Nanny state trying to prevent racial animus, old-age poverty, and provide education and health care in line with the rest of the industrialized world, the Sibling-Rivalry state will tell you to put it all in the stock market and use the earnings to pay for private schools, retirement, trash service, health care, and private toll highways.

And it’s quite possible that this will work–at first, anyway. In fact, it will probably be wildly successful and popular at the outset. Because just like in the 1990s, when low interest rates dramatically raised the amount of captial avaiable for the markets, the Ownership Society will likewise cause a capital glut; and the Fed is unlikely to tame the impending bubble.

Just like the last time, and the time before, and the time before that, it won’t be until the bubble bursts that people wonder what hit them and why. The fallout will be the end of the middle class as we know it, and, as a result, America as we know it.

When the financial plight of a large portion of any society dramatically plummets, that society becomes unstable and predicting what comes next is very difficult. There was never a power so rich, with such a destructive arsenal to undergo such a meltdown. The Soviet Union was close, but its people were used to suffering, not to our spoiled by comparison way of life.

All of the debates we have now about health care, education, the environment, etc. will be mooted when the fallout from Bush’s reforms begin to pollute the air.

In a twisted, delusional leap of bizzaro-egalitarianism, we will all pretend that we are capable of enjoying the benefits of massive wealth, even when the goal is illusory for most. Yes, it appears envy, avarice, and myopia will be the sins that undo us, when everyone was expecting pride. It will be long after President Bush leaves office that this process begins, but when the day comes there will no doubt be a deep regret an any sighting of a “Don’t Blame Me — I voted for Kerry” bumpersticker.

Because we can’t accept that not all of us can be millionaires, not all of us can tolerate the risks of the stock market, and not all of us can keep up with Joneses, very few of us will.

A Return to Gilded Age Social Darwinism

Despite clever “message structuring” and the occasional defeat the over-riding objective of post-Reagan Revolution Republicans has been to cancel the progressive economic reforms of the twentieth century. In “What’s the Matter With Kansas” Thomas Frank argues that the reforms of the 60s and 30s have already largely been eroded and that by creating a flat tax the reforms of the 10’s will be undone as well. After all of the tax cutting for the wealthy balloons the defecit then Social Security will default at around 2012 when many of the Baby Boomer generation retire and suddenly, for all intents and purposes, in terms of the economic climate, it will be 1888 again.

The social side of this transformation was revealed at the Republican National Convention when Arnold Schwarzenegger derided people who are unsatisfied with America’s lethargic economy for being “economic girlie men.” By implication, those who are having difficulty making ends meet these days are not decent folk doing their best to get by, but weak, damaged losers who do not have what it takes to prosper in the land of opportunity. Schwarzenneger’s “economic girlie men” derision is the most direct statement of the Gilded Age style Social Darwinism that the Republicans want to return to. That the enver popular actor-turned-governor made this statement is also telling, for this social structure only works if the masses of the new poor can be convinced that the social order is cool and that the wealthy are wealthy because of their skill and good looks, not nepotism.

Polls indicate that a majority of Americans favor the repeal of the estate tax (Or “Death Tax” as the conservatron messege-spinsters have dubbed it) even though it only effects a fraction of the very wealthy because they are convinced that they, one day, will be amongst that elite two tenths of one percent of the populations and when they are they do not want the Fed taking their money.

The Genesis of the progressive reforms of the twnetieth century were poor farmers who, despite their ethic of self-reliance, realized that they had to organize and use their power to fight interests that were too large for them to fight as individuals. The government was alread big back then. All that the progressives accomplished was to make government big for both railroads and for typical citizens. When government becomes big only for vested interests once again will hard working, proud, independent Americans band togehter to take on forces that are too big for them to face alone, or well they be so mesmerized by the one in five hundered thousand successes of athletes, rappers, lottery winners and other modern Horatio Alger characters and so bothered by the spectre of abortion and gay marriange that they will not want to be “economic girlie men” by demanding a better lot in life?

Worth quoting fully…

From Altercation:

Name: Tim Kane

Hometown: St.Louis

A Game Theory Review of the Neocon/Isreal problem is most disturbing:

The overlooked and most troubling aspect of the Israeli/Neocon phenomena is

the fact that Neocons benefit from extremism. Moderation and rational

policies are going down the tubes in a self feeding frenzy of extremism begeting

the need for more extreme policies untill we end up in tyranny. And

extremists on both sides cooperate to keep extremism going at the expense of

moderates.


All of this is best understood through the eyes of Game Theory:

Most lay people were introduced to Game Theory by the movie “A Beautiful

Mind,” a story about the mathematician John Nash who’s work provided proofs for

certain aspects of Game Theory. The major concept behind Game Theory is

explained in simple language in a seminal work titled “The Evolution of

Cooperation” by Robert Axelrod, an economist at University of Michigan.

Axelrod asks, then answers, the question, “When (under what conditions) does it

pay cooperate?” In short cooperation is a rational response when two

egoist (parties) are in a prolonged game (relationship) with an indeterminable

end.


Axelrod demonstrates that cooperation will often break out (and is a

rational response) under these conditions between two parties, even when they do

not communicate, even when they are hostile to each other, even between species

in nature. Using a simple game scenario, he then asks the question, “What

is the second best strategy to cooperation under these conditions?” The

answer is the similarly simple “tit-for-tat” strategy which often will lead

parties back to cooperation. Another and very important finding is that if

one knows that a game will end (that is if one can foresee the game ending, even

if it is many moves from now) it pays to stop cooperating immediately.

Those who see their end coming are thus likely to be the first to end

cooperation. (It is important to point out that Game Theory explains much

about human behavior, but not all, ideology and belief systems can alter

otherwise rational responses).


Game theory explains a lot. It explains why I can trust my grocer, or the person who cuts my hair, or a neighbor to not cheat me, but why I have to be guarded about someone selling me a used car: ongoing relationships encourage civility and cooperation, short term relations don’t. It explains why religion can cause persons who might otherwise not be virtuous to be virtuous: relationships between each other and between the self and God don’t end at death, without a determinable end, the rational reaction is to be civil, cooperative and virtuous. It explains why term limits have spawned animosity in my state of Missouri’s state politics: All politicians know that there is a future determinable end to their relationship in the

legislature, so their is little reason to cooperate.


Game Theory also explains why Mutually Assured destruction theory in the cold war facilitated detente: Since neither party could prevail against the other party, and both parties rationally pursued survival, it meant that both parties would be in a

continuous relationship with an indeterminable end -thus bringing about

cooperation and a lessoning of tensions. Game Theory also explains the

animus of domestic politics characterized by the neocon movement:

(Perhaps) they saw their (near) end (extermination) in the 1964 election –

facing termination they abandoned civility (cooperation) in political discourse

and started playing an extremist game of elimination or hegemony over their

opponent (a hallmark of arriving at this point is when one suddenly

characterizes the enemy as Evil [singnaling a desire to terminate] [as Grover

Norquist has of the Democrats], and reacts by going into a fundamentalist world

view).


Game Theory also explains why hostility breaks out or can’t be solved:

In the Israel/Palestine situation – events are being driven by extremists

(meaning end game strategists) that want to eliminate the other party. In

fact extremist on both sides seem to be cooperating to eliminate moderates, as

when an extremist Israeli Jew killed Prime Minster Rabin. Worse, in the

Israeli/Palestine situation we get little to no news on the active efforts there

towards nonviolent, civil disobedience and moderate efforts at peace that are

currently going on both sides (following the Gandhi/Martin Luther King model for

peaceful nonviolent change). There are sizable numbers, if not majorities,

on both sides that seek a rational Game Theory accommodation, sizable because

this is a rational approach to the conditions there. The lack of news

coverage of the nonviolent civil disobedience movement there implies that

extremists are emplaced in the establishment, blocking awareness: nonviolent

civil disobedience’s power is the appeal to a broad, almost universal,

collective conscience. If it is denied publicity it cannot succeed –

condemning the participants to a bloody “tit-for-tat” outcome.

The most

frightening thing is that extremism is in Bush’s best interest – as demonstrated

by Cheney’s “Vote Bush or Die” platform. We see now that Putin is leaning

towards this same position. Create war to generate job security. It

seems there are no reasonable problems to deal with real issues today.

Just a fanning of the flames of extremism. Most troubling – nothing for

the white rabbit to do but run and hide in a very deep hole and pray for rain to

put the flames out.

The Mother of all Flip-Flops

At first, I was startled that Bush was giving what seemed to be an honest assessment: we cannot win the war on terrorism. Even if we construe that to mean what it really means–a geopolitical “warm” war between secular western technocracies and reactionary Islamic jihadists–it could not be won militarily absent the greatest genocide in recorded history.

Bush’s mistake was that he framed this “war on terror” as something that could occupy his entire eight-year term, thinking it would be a political capital ATM, when instead its very vagueness has rendered it a road with no mile markers, except for the capture of Osama bin Laden. If he had simply said, “We will destroy al-qaeda” he could have made history as fighting a not-hot, yet not-cold “warm” war against non-state terrorist groups that could have defined 21st century American triumphalism.

Instead, Bush followed a Victorian-era riff of imperialism. And why not? This isn’t really about defeating terrorism. When was the last time we concerned ourselves with Preuvian terrorists, or even the goings on in Central America, much less Africa?

No, even if this isn’t directly about oil, it’s only about terrorism near oil.

But instead, Bush engaged in the mother of all flip flops (“MOAFF-2004”). He declared today, that we will win the war on terror. Even the John Kerry of the imagination of late-night comics never made anything to compare with the MOAFF.

But, snickering a haw-haw I told you so, and he does it too isn’t going to do any good in a double-standard media world. (Where the outing of a New Jersey governor dominates several news cycles, and the gay-sex-chat of a homophoic bornagain congressman makes no headlines.)

There are two places we can be in, say, 2030. The democratic nations of the world, having rejected the use of fossil fuels, are mainly engaged in suppressing environmental security threats–such as the illegal importation of oil by developping nations–and other non-military destabilizing forces like poverty, water-scarcity, and ethnic strife. Or … we can be living in a time when the twentieth century is looked back upon as a Gold Age that frittered away in a Gilded one, where two different non-state actors, corporations and terrorists, war against each other.

Is Iraq The End of Globalization?

I’ve never been able to fully commit myself to either a pro- or anti-globalization position. On the one hand, I find it hard to believe that we will ever return to an era of isolationsim, and I do believe that trade can open up societies. On the other hand, you don’t have to look very far to see the negative consequences at home or abroad. Plus, any free-trade regime inevitably drifts toward oligopoly, in a sort of Aristotelian way (ie the way pure democracies become oligarchies etc.)

So, in the end, I come down supporting “fair trade” or some variation of it, whereby we keep the trade but have the kinds of international institutions that we have in the US. To the industry side, this is the same as isolationism, because it denies the benefit of multinational status: limited regulation

But, one of the unofficial “institutions” that has had to enforce trade arrangments, formal or informal, has been the US military. Protest all you want, but the only reason Iraq is on our radar, the only reason that Islamists might target us, is because of our history of exploitation in that region, which is, at least over the last 100 years or so, been connected with oil (as opposed to slavery before).

And to be sure, once we’re done fighting over oil, we’ll find something else… water maybe, to fight over, so long as there is a growing population in a limited and ever more used-up world.

But, given the present situation, there will probably have to be another 9/11 level event with a clear source to get the US politically ready to mobilize for another trade-poicing action again.

Given that, I ask, is the Iraq situation the end of globalization? Is it (if Viet Nam wasn’t) the end of American exceptionalism?

Willie Horton Was Real; SBVFT Aren't

Michael Dukakis, perhaps the Jove of the 20th century pantheon of Democratic losers, didn’t think he had to reply to Bush’s Willie Horton ad. He could have pointed out, for example, the furlough program that the federal government had used. He could have pointed out a dozen other ugly things about Bush, and, in the end he might have preserved his 20 point lead. But, he was a douche. Just like Mondale, just like Gore, just like McGovern… and the rest of the crew up on Loserlympus.

The image of a [fnord] black [fnord] felon [fnord] getting out of prison to desecrate your milky-white daughter was enough to forget Iran-Contra, the “Wimp,” the deficits, and Black Monday.

The thing is, whether or not that should have been, anyone with a brain knows that that kind of image would terrify white America. It was an effective, if dirty and racist, ad.

John Kerry is a different kind of Democrat. First of all, he has some balls. He’s killed people within a small radius of himself. I think the last Democratic presidential candidate to have done that was … ok, I’ll ask KenJen from Jeopardy, but I’d guess you’d have to go back a ways. (Submariners and air force pilots don’t count. I’m talking shooting someone with a gun). Well, ok, besides Vernon Jordan, if you’re a Republican.

In fact, I think Kerry baited the Republicans into attacking his Viet Nam record — how could he lose as long as anyone was smart enough to compare Bush’s [lack of[ service? They took the bait. And now Bush is, I daresay, flip-flopping on his response to the ads.

Above all else, these ads are simply untrue. Kerry saved that guy. Kerry had war wounds. End of story.

Apparently people agree. Look at the latest Zogby poll. If the election was held today, Kerry wins in a landslide.

Restore the Hetch-Hetchy.

The Sacramento Bee, which is quickly becoming my favorite paper for all things California, starts a series today on restoring the Hetch-Hetchy valley. (Depending on how you look at it, Hetch-Hetchy is either the other Yosemite valley, or San Francisco’s Mono Lake.)

I’ve been interested in this cause since I was younger than 10. It makes sense on many levels, and it may actually be reality one day. It may not even signify a single step towards a saner water policy in the west, but it at least remedies one of the ill-effects of the myopic decision to abandon the riparian system. (Too much water in Hetch-Hetchy, water at all in the Central Valley, no water in the Owens Valley, and the existence of Los Angeles are some of the bizarre effects of this policy.)

Update: This article was actually posted yesterday. The next in the series should be next Sunday.

EXTRA! EXTRA! Read all about it! NEWS NEWS

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – One-third of President Bush (news – web sites)’s tax cuts have gone to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans, shifting more burden to middle-income taxpayers, congressional analysts said on Friday.

Gee, I was just waiting for someone to announce this, since I had no idea.

Time to worry.

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).

Fed Hike: Call me "Stunned in San Luis"

Back in the days when you had to wear a tin-foil hat, hang out with Ayn Rand, and despair at the over-regulated ways of the Hoover administration, it was considered mainstream to believe in the twin pillars of the Fed: price stability and full employment.

Now, of course, every economist looking to make his name post-Keynes has developed more and more Ptolemaic gobbeldygook that has old Occam, rolling in his grave, despairing that his razor can’t be used to kill him again. And a big part of that theory is that full employment is really secondary, after all, to inflation control.

Because if you’re on the side of capital (as all supply siders are) you don’t want your capital to bleed away into oblivion. And, ahem, the richer the capitalists, the more money there is to trickle down, if only we could quit paying those silly taxes!

Of course all of that is nonsense, and none of the economic models that these ideas are founded on hold up to the data without above-said Occam-sickening epicycles.

Eventually we are just going to have to realize that we have to pay for some things. If we don’t want full employment, then we have to have a Euro style safety net. Otherwise, America will be a sewer.

That said, I haven’t seen him in a tinfoil hat lately but I know that he hung around in [sic] Ayn Rand, and I have seen Hoover restored in him: Alan Greenspan. The pure insanity of yesterday’s rate hike has me stunned here at home in San Luis Obispo.

Of course, not doing it after he had signalled he would would have made it clear that this is no soft patch, and probably cancelled irrevocably Hoover II’s second term (oopse, I mean Bush II).

Nader's Prophecy Comes True For Everyone – Except Nade

When he was not asserting that there is no difference between Al Gore and George W. Bush during the 2000 Presidential election, Ralph Nader presaged the radicalism of a Bush presidency by arguing that it would unite progressives and this would be a benefit of a Gore loss.

Now, almost four years later, it is safe to say that Mr. Nader was correct. Progressive groups that did not even prominently operate in 2000 like Americans Coming Together and MoveOn.org are making Herculean efforts in the 2004 elections on behalf of John. Michael Moore is backing Kerry, even a non-progressive like Howard Stern is on the bandwagon. From environmentalists to union members, from Hollywood to to the Bronx, from veterans to hippies everyone is lining up behind John Kerry to end the Bush (P)residency.

Everyone, that is, except for Mr. Nader who is engaging in another foolhardy presidential campaign that will, at best make the 2004 campaign too close to call (but close enough to steal), and at worst will guarantee that Mr. Bush, who embodies the antithesis of everything that Mr. Nader believes in, will be able to extend his occupation of the White House. That Mr. Nader needs Republican support to get him on any ballot should tell him all he needs to know about his candidacy. It is time for Mr. Nader to admit that he was right and do all that he can to make sure that George Bush loses this election – that is, he should be doing nothing.

The Fractal Nature of Geofinance.

Benoit Mandelbrot, the author of the epoch-making The Fractal Nature of Geomerty, recently released a tome entitled The (Mis)Behavior of Markets: A Fractal View of Risk, Ruin, and Reward.

This book challenges some of the first principles of economics and finance that underpin modern theory. If you’re a finance or a math geek, this book is for you. But there are also radical implications for politics contained in these shifts of the postualtes of financial theory.

Over the coming weeks, I will explore some of these implications including:

  • How we finance the national debt
  • Social security
  • Regulation of corporations and the security markets
  • Labor
  • The explosion of the efficient market theory and laissez-faire.
  • Globalization

I believe that this work will form the economic basis of a new progressive ideology, much the same way that “butterfly” economics have.

Stay tuned.

A Tie?

Scenario:

Bush: AK, ID, MT, WY, UT, AZ, CO, ND, SD, NE, KS, OK, TX, MO, AR, LA, IN, OH, KY, TN, MS, AL, WV, VA, NC, SC, GA, FL = 269 electoral votes.

Kerry: HI, WA, OR, CA, NV, NM, MN, IA, WI, IL, MI, PA, DC, MD, DE, NJ, CT, MA, RI, NY, VT, NH, ME = 269 electoral votes.

That’s a pretty plausible scenario. It’s 2000 with the updated 2004 electoral vote distribution, NH and NV to Kerry, where he has at times led in the polls.

Then it goes to the House, be delegation that would be 30-16 for Bush, unless there’s a big change. If the Senate swings Dem, John Edwards would be VP.

Imagine: a two term president with each term having an asterik next to it!

Justifying the internment.

Right-wing cunt-witch Michelle Mankin’s latest Coulteresque toilet-screed, In Defense of Internment, tries to defend the internment of the Japanese during WWII. She alleges that intercepts of Japanese messages were used to intern the Japanese, nevermind Generals claiming they couldn’t tell the good Japs from the bad, and Idaho governors demanding concentration camps for them, and Wyoming governors promising many a bended branch with hanging yellow man should concentration camps not be used–all of whom had no access to the Japanese intercepts.

(Wasn’t there something in the Right-Wing Bitching Guide® about “revisionist history?” Oh, I forgot–element one of the Right-Wing Bitching Guide® is that the standards contained herein do not apply to attacks from the Right.)

But to get lost in the historical inaccuracies of any toiletribe of this kind is to chase the stinkiest of red herrings. You do not destroy such a tapestry by pulling it apart thread by thread. You have to burn the whole damn thing.

This book is digging up old wounds under the shield of Anti-Politically-Correct Political Correctness and analogizing the evil liberal mistake to present times. Not only was it correct to intern them darn Japs, we should be using racial profiling against Arabs in the present day. Ah! Them libruls are week on terrur! The meme strikes again! Of course, anyone who doesn’t want to kill every Arab is “weak on terror.”

I could go on about the ineffectiveness of racial profiling, and the fact that ultimately, AQ will come up with terrorists of other nationalities (perhaps those Indonesians that bombed a night club?) , but why bother?

If it takes an analogy to the internment of the Japanese in WWII to justify Mankin’s solution to the war on terror, then she’s discredited the whole concept by doing so.

Another Failure on Terror

“We must understand that the kind of information available to us today is the result of the president’s leadership in the war against terror.”

-Tom Ridge Announcing a Terror Alert about possible attacks on New York City, Washington DC And Newark, New Jersey.
Is this terrorist alert in earnest? Or was it timed perfectly to scotch John Kerry’s post-convention momentum? No one can know for sure, but the fact that the question exists in most everyone’s mind and that Mr. Ridge has to defend his annoucement <

A Conservatron Pounces then he Bounces

Yesterday, on the HBO show Real Time with Bill Maher David Drier, the conservatron Congressman from California (who is, unfortunately, my former representative during my college years) duked it out with Michael Moore. In the middle of the fray was the former Prime Minister of Canada, whose name I do not remember. Their exchange, and Mr. Drier’s reaction to it, reveals what happens to conservatrons when they are thrust into a situation that has not been pre-choreographed to be advantageous towards them.

The fun began when Mr. Drier asserted that Mr. Moore’s notorious documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11, was based on “patently false information.”

“Have you seen the movie,” Mr. Moore asked.

“No,” Drier replied, and the apparently majority left-of-center audience howled in laughter.

Mr. Moore and Mr. Drier leaned towards each other and began hollering over each other as though they were in a Robert Altman movie as the former Canadian PM sat in silence between them.

Mr. Drier attempted to assert that one of the Congressmen, whom Michael Moore asked to volunteer his children for Iraq War II, apparently had a nephew who is serving. Simultaneously, to the delight of the crowd, Moore continuously asked Drier, “Would you send your child to Iraq?” Mr. Drier never answered.

Eventually Maher and the Canadian PM cut off the argument and segued into a conversation with Bill Owen, the Governor of Colorado who is being groomed as the next faux-moderate conservatron to run for President. Although Mr. Owen successfully parried Maher’s questions about why the GOP are keeping their demon piglet standard bearers like Tom Delay out of sight at the convention whereas the Democrats gave prominent speaking slots to Ted Kennedy, Al Sharpton and other liberals, his discomfort was evident in his shifting shoulders and uneasy smile. The sight of seeing a Conservatron cornered and taken to task was rare and seemed to have made Mr. Owen’s pulse rate rise.

The next segment of the show focused on the famous seven minutes of Bush sitting in a Florida elementary school classroom staring into the camera like a lost fawn after being told of the terrorist attacks. Mr. Drier tried to stick to the talking points about Bush not wanting to scare the children and deciding that he needed to project calm for the nation. The prescient arguments of Moore, Maher and the Canadian PM, however, had Mr. Drier tap dancing as though controlled by a puppeteer on meth: “He is the President; he is target number one, every second he stayed there he was endangering those children.” “Would you be calling Clinton a stern leader if he had stayed for seven minutes?” “He is the President; it is his job to know what to do in that situation.” Mr. Drier stuck hard to his pre-recorded script and then pleaded that the situation was too tough for anyone. But there was no out for him in that studio. Maher is more of a libertarian than a liberal, but he has a stand up comic’s BS-detector and he was not about to let Drier off the hook, Moore was obviously going to let him have it, the Canadian PM was not acerbic, but she was clearly unsympathetic, and the crowd was not on his side. By the end of the exchange, Mr. Drier’s face was flushed and he was visibly flustered.

Ralph Nader was the next guest, and after a hilarious scene where Moore and Maher got on their knees and begged him to exit the race, Maher finished the show with his “New Rules” segment. As the camera pulled away Drier’s seat was empty, and not even tucked in. Somewhere between Nader’s introduction and the of “New Rules,” he bounced.

What was refreshing about the exchange is that for once it was the conservatron who had to beat back the forthright rhetoric of several liberals. When most cable and radio talk shows are not featuring a group of conservatrons talking amongst themselves; they generally have a lone liberal put into the position that Mr. Drier found himself in. If it is a one-on-one tet-a-tet then the moderator will never press either side on their argument. It is very easy to deal with the media for a Republican, all you have to do is memorize your talking points, say them and let the echo-chamber repeat them. It is too much to say that Drier cracked or in anyway made a fool of himself. His argument that Mr. Bush was being assuring and resolute by staring blankly into a camera during one of America’s darkest hours was, however, revealed as the nonsense that it is, and Mr. Drier’s flush face and subsequent retreat was proof positive that Conservatrons have to sweat when they are forced off their game.

Observation

Why does “libertarian” really mean conservative who’s too brainy and elite to watch NASCAR? If I said I was a lower-case “green” would anyone take that to mean a left-wing environmentalist that doesn’t eat organic foods?

Forget the drug "war"; win a battle first.

From the immigrant neighborhoods of Hawaii, to the rural states of the Mississippi heartland, there is a scourge besetting America, especially it’s lower middle Class areas: methamphetamines.

Of course, America has been at war with drugs for decades, and the problem has only gotten worse. Years of racist sentencing laws, spy-on-your-family Gestapo tactics, and almost incomprehensible failure to understand the pressures of child- and adolescenthood combined with an obscene failure to communicate with our kids have netted nothing and given up much. How many billions are spent each year imprisoning non-violent drug offenders? how many familes riven by the prison sentences?

Before 9/11, an agitprop campaign against ecstacy—legal in the overregulated UK until 1985—began as its use spread. Shortly after 9/11, around the 2002 Super Bowl, the inevitable conflation of drug use and terror began from the ONDCP.

Yes, as long as it’s “illegal” (read: used for pleasure) a drug must be dangerous and supportive of terrorists. Bullshit.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t dangerous illegal drugs. Heroin. Cocaine or Crack. Methamphetamine in any form. These drugs can turn you into a wraith, destroy your moral compas and your life; yet to our drug warriors, there is no difference between these killers (and nicotene for that matter) and marijuana.

Terrorists have never devised a scheme so ruthless and destructive as the pox on our house that is methamphetamines. Spend an hour anywhere near a courthouse and you’ll know what I mean. And the fact that the nation’s anti-drug energies are spent at all on a few teenagers smoking joints, or a few upper-middle class college kids at raves is sickening.

You can pretty much count on market forces and geography to keep heroin and cocaine expensive and limited; but meth is made from household ingredients, and requires none of the exotic ingredients of heroin, nor the chemistry-skill of ecstasy. Marijuana, as study after study reveals, is benign and would be a welcome replacement for alcohol and nicotene.

This is not to dismiss the problem of crack in inner-cities; it is equally as threatening. However, because, again, of the narrow channels of its originating ingredient, police should be able to enforce crackdowns on the supply.

But what do we do about this? I don’t know. I’m not a drug policy maker. I’m not in law enforcement. I just know that the people that might know the answer, or who are capable of coming up with one, are too busy figuring out how to bust Tommy Chong.

Forget the drug war, we lost that one. Try fighting a small focussed battle that might be winnable, or at least do some good first.

And so it begins

[Again my apologies for the meta-blogging, but this is just an exemplar]

Over on DailyKos reactions to Kerry’s speech are mixed. Far from the politically-savvy crowd that can be present on dkos, this crowd was pissed that there wasn’t enough of the right kind of class warfare…

Katrina van den Heuvel at of The Nation is also starting to show cracks in the Kerry coalition. The more assured Kerry’s victory is, the more this kind of commentator is going to be critical.

Republicans aren’t wrong to suggest that the base of the Democratic party is far to the left of Kerry’s speech. They’re just hypocritical, because Bush was far, far, far to the right of his own campaign rhetoric. However, the truth is, more real Democrats support a guy like Howard Dean and know that they have to accept this kind of dialog because of wishy-washy arrogant, superior whiny, demanding of cock-suckery “independents.” (ie those to whom both political parties are supposed to pander because they, despite their lack of interest the rest of the time, control elections in a two-party system)

But in our present situation, we aren’t faced with a choice between a centrist and a progressive like we might have been in 1952. We are faced with the most right wing president ever, and a centrist. In order to pave the way for a progressive movement of any kind, we have to restore sanity first. So, on behalf of Democrats everywhere, I would like to apologize to whiny constituencies in all wings of our party for our attempt to build a winning coalition (ie rebuild the Clinton coalition that abandoned the Democrats in 2000).

Howard Dean would have probably build a movement not unlike Barry Goldwater–but do we really have 16 years for a movement to come to fruition the way the conservatives did? How stupid were Democrats in 1968 to squabble when they could have had a debate within their party without giving up on everything else that was important to them. How stupid were they to nominate McGovern, Dukakis, and Mondale?

We’re supposed to be the educated ones aware of history, right? So let’s act like it. We need to get control first, and then have a debate within the governing party. This idea that we can only have ideologically pure candidates is fucking bullshit.

So, in the mode of Bill O’Reilly, shut the fuck up Katrina.

Will they get away with this one?

This article appeared in The New Republic four weeks ago:

A third source, an official who works under ISI’s director, Lieutenant General Ehsan ul-Haq, informed tnr that the Pakistanis “have been told at every level that apprehension or killing of HVTs before [the] election is [an] absolute must.” What’s more, this source claims that Bush administration officials have told their Pakistani counterparts they have a date in mind for announcing this achievement: “The last ten days of July deadline has been given repeatedly by visitors to Islamabad and during [ul-Haq’s] meetings in Washington.” Says McCormack: “I’m aware of no such comment.” But according to this ISI official, a White House aide told ul-Haq last spring that “it would be best if the arrest or killing of [any] HVT were announced on twenty-six, twenty-seven, or twenty-eight July”–the first three days of the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

And then this happens today.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) — Pakistan says it has captured a high-level al Qaeda suspect in a stand-off involving hundreds of police.

Fortunately, this didn’t spike Kerry’s speech, but the question remains: will they get away with it?

A Brief History of the Party Convention

All of the commentators who are dismissing this years party conventions as unimportant are ignorant  of the  of the party convention. Over 175 years the meaning of the conventions has changed, but it is normal for an institution to flux over the course of decades. Today the conventions are just as pertinent as they were 175 years ago.

The history of the party conventions is the history of the competing American tenets of Democracy and elitism writ small. In 1824 Universal Male Suffrage ended the political reign of land-owning disinterested (meaning, in today’s parlance, not belonging or beholden to an interest group} gentlemen, who previously comprised the government. In the place of disinterested gentleman were democrats who responded to a “call from the people” to take higher office, rather than an obtuse “calling” to reluctantly leave their property and lead for the good of the country.

By 1840 the elites came upon the convention system as a means to have greater control on the presidential selection process. Rather than putting their party support behind a candidate who had demonstrated his popularity with the public at large, the parties would hold a convention where they would select a candidate and then present him to the people with the full backing of the party’s organizational apparatus. To garner the backing of a party a candidate would have to develop relationships with key party leaders in each state rather than with the general citizenry.

After the progressive era reforms of the early twentieth century citizens had an increasing influence on the convention by having primaries where they could make their desires known. These primaries were not, however, absolutely binding. So the romanticized “smoky room” still largely determined who the candidates would be. Another important aspect of conventions was the determining of the party platform. This was done openly and it allowed an avenue for little know figures to influence the national party. The most compelling example of this occurred in the 1948 Democratic Convention when Hubert H. Humphrey, who was then the mayor of Minneapolis, made an impassioned speech for a strong civil rights plank. Mr. Humphrey’s speech succeeded in placing a civil right’s plank in the Democratic platform, launched his national career, and ultimately began the process of making Democrats the party of Civil Rights and Republicans the party of drugstore truck drivin’ men. Today, with the emphasis on “unity” in the conventions, it is unlikely that a lesser-known figure like Lincoln Chafee could make a speech at the Republican Convention that would lead to a reversal of their extraction-oriented environmental policy.

The birth of the modern Convention came in 1972 and 1976 when delegates began to be firmly appropriated according to the results of the primaries and caucuses. Now, the only way a convention could truly decide the presidentail and vice-presidential nominees is if the assigned delegates were split amongst several candidates and no one had a majority.

In their history conventions have transformed from a way to take the choice of presidential candidates out of the hands of “the people,” to being a place where party factions would argue out their differences, to being a rehearsed coronation of the people’s choice of their candidate. This does not mean that the conventions are not important. In 1992 the exuberant Democratic Convention and an excellent acceptance speech catapulted Bill Clinton past President Bush the First into a lead that he never relinquished. In 2000, Al Gore’s acceptance speech injected some mojo into his foundering campaign and helped him to a win that was stolen by the GOP putsch in Florida.

Critics kvetch about how the “packaged” quality of the convention, but they do not give enough credit to an American populace that has taken in countless commercials. Americans know that how a performance is packaged can be revealing. In 1992 the Republican Convention’s emphasis on “culture war” terrified many Americans, so in years since their conventions have turned into soft-focus minstrely shows. This year, the Republican’s ability to “package” their convention’s pomp with the patriotism of the third anniversary of 9/11 in manner that is not too obviously cynical and nauseating will have an important influence on the election.

The most important feature of the modern convention is that they are an event. Because they are an event, people watch them. That means that in this disengaged, short attention span era, they are the only chance that most Americans will get to hear ideas from their candidates that are more complicated than a five-second sound byte and more intelligent than the amorphous praise and venomous fnords of commercials. For the GOP this means that the conventions are just one more hollering voice in their media echo-chamber, but for Democrats the conventions are a once-every-four-years opportunity to get their message across essentially unmolested by the Conservatron Hate Machine. For that reason, Senator Kerry’s acceptance speech tonight, in midst of the most important election sicne 1860, will be the most pivotal moment of the party convention’s modern history.

Labor Reform

Sorry for the meta-blogging, but Kevin Drum raises an interesting issue about labor.

Labor is an important issue, but, this blogger believes that labor requires some serious 21st century reforms; not pro-industry reforms, but reforms nonetheless. I plan to make progressive labor reform a central issue in my future writings from Polemic.

Kevin talked about card-counting versus elections, under the Employee Free Choice Act. There are a lot of reasons why this is and isn’t a good idea, but this will probably only be received as a fradu-prone countermeasure to declining union membership.

I believe there are a lot of cases where collective bargaining is a positive thing, and some where it’s not. A great incentive for employers to accept unions would be to allow collectively bargained contracts to trump any provision of wage and hour law, or even any provision of any employment law. Leave the protections in place for unorganized workers, but let the union folks agree to whatever they want, but in exchange, ask for some agility in companies in return. It could work, but you’d have to leave old models behind. Unfortunately, the only reform models I’m aware of are either so sickeningly pro-industry or old-school that they don’t advance the issue at all.

If only it were somehow possible to unite shareholders and employees… (oh, wait! There is!)

The fact is this: there is a strong correlation between historical trends in real wages and union membership.

Genius idea.

My wife had a genius idea (spurred on by The Man’s speech tonight):

Change the 22nd amendment from 2 terms max to 2 terms, then a mandatory term off, then you can have two more. The term off provides the kind of check on a long, long term. And if the people want the guy back, why not?

Perhaps just nostalgic for Bill, but it sounds like a reasonable change to the Anti-FDR amendment.