Wednesday, May 31, 2006

At Least Someone Understands

Lance Mannion has a great post up, ostensibly about simpering Ann Althouse (I live in a place where the local news has her on as a commentator--"simpering" applies), but that makes the point that every Dem worried about "oh, how, oh, how do we minority of liberals appeal to moderates and conservatives????" needs to have inscribed on his/her forehead.

It’s possible to be conservative and liberal.

Profound, isn't it? Virtually no one is 100% one or the other. Most are a mix varying by context and circumstance of the moment, who will respond to carefully thought and sincerely delivered stories that appeal to either set of values. They will mainly respond to the people most firm in their commitment to those values. Tom Harkin in Iowa has been proving that for years. Brian Schweitzer is proving it now in Montana. So, can we just stop the constant contortions to prove how Dems can be conservative, too? Of course, they can. Most Dems have heaping helpings of conservatism in them already, just as most "centrist" voters, by definition, have virtually equal portions of each. Just state your case better and stop waffling. Convince people you mean what you say and don't bend in every wind. It's simple.

Almost as simple as "It's possible to be conservative and liberal."

[While you're at his place, check out his post on Emerson as well. Articulate, fun, and educational. And tasty, too.]


Welcome Chicks Fans

Shorter The Boy (see below):

If Natalie and Toby Keith were in a cage match, they'd end up pulling the Rexall Ranger out by his alligator boots.


Taking the Long Way Around Country Music

"Just so you know, we're ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas."

I found this
article recently, which talks about the revival of protest songs, which is becoming more well-covered territory lately (though it's always encouraging to read). But in the writer's subsequent blog entry, the writer brings up an important point: the Dixie Chicks' first single, "Not Ready to Make Nice" is not a protest song. In fact, on their new album, Taking the Long Way, there are only a couple of songs that would even remotely qualify as protest songs, and "Not Ready to Make Nice" isn't one of them.

Why do I bring this up (and why do I care)? Because of country music and its double standard. It makes sense when you think about it, since there's the same double standard for The South in general, but in no other genre can an offhand, between-songs comment made at a concert a few thousand miles away cause a group to receive death threats and protests. In the genre of country music, speaking out against conservatives is a death sentence. If there were an equal and opposite reaction to that on the other end of the spectrum, then I would guess that Britney Spears' "We should, like, be nice to the President and stuff. He's, like, trying real hard and we should, like, listen to him," comment would have signaled the end of her reign as the queen of the pop music they produce in them far-off places like California and New York City, right? Granted, her white trash marriage and babyin' abilities took care of that later on, but it's not like she paid any recognizable price for expressing herself.

Let me put it another way: when Toby Keith went from "singer of one of my mom's favorite songs, that cute little 'How Do You Like Me Now?'" to Toby "We'll put a boot in yer ass, it's the American way" Keith, the 1% of me that liked his first hit stopped liking that first hit pretty much immediately. But did I organize a protest and mass demolition of his albums? Not so much. That would seem silly. But even though there are plenty of liberals and Yellow Dog Democrats in the southern states (having grown up in Oklahoma, I can vouch for that), it's pretty much accepted that you don't tread on the rednecks if you want to maintain a career in country. And the media pretty much treats the issue in that way. Nobody covered the Dixie Chicks "scandal" from the "Can you believe how idiotic these backwards-ass rednecks? Death threats? Mass demolitions? Really? They've got nothing better to do in a time of war" No, the coverage was "Can you believe Natalie Maines opened her mouth like that?"

When, as an entertainer, you speak your mind about politics and/or world affairs, you probably know that you're taking a giant risk. It's pretty easy to understand, really. For the purposes of this post, we'll say that the country is pretty much split 50/50 politically, so by exposing where you stand, you run the risk of offending half of your fan base. But within the 80/20 country music genre, speaking out against the President (as long as the President is Republican) is career suicide (Case in point, threads like this). And I mean career suicide to the point of the Red Cross refusing your $1 million donation. But read a little further down in that link:

Taking the Long Way was released May 23. Early numbers indicate the disc may have sold more than 400,000 copies its first week, the band's publicist says.

Taking the Long Way is the No. 1 seller on and among the top downloads on iTunes.
Interesting. Country music radio avoids them like the plague, and yet it's possible that reports of their demise seem to be greatly exagerrated. We'll know for sure when we see how badly album sales tail off in upcoming weeks (when radio play would really help out), but that's a good start, and those conservative bloggers gloating about their "flagging popularity" don't have much of a leg to stand on so far.

As a gigantic music nerd, one thing I've enjoyed about this whole episode is that it points out clearly just how blurred musical lines really are nowadays. The Internet has made music democratic again, and that's wonderful. So what if country radio won't play their songs? It's reaching an appreciative audience anyway. So...does that mean they're alt-country now? I mean, really, there's much sonic difference between the Chicks' new album and the more contemplative but still Gram Parsons-influenced work of someone like Neko Case or Gillian Welch or anybody else who gets on the cover of No Depression magazine. Near as I can tell, the only difference between country and alt-country is where you were born (Case grew up in Virginia and Canada, Welch in New York and LA) and which way your politics might lean, so they're halfway to alt-country already. Adding in contributions from Keb' Mo', John Mayer, Bonnie Raitt, Sheryl Crow, Pete Yorn (though I still resent him for putting on a terrible concert at the Beale Street Music Festival a few years ago), Gary Louris of the Jayhawks (alt-country at its finest), and Neil Finn, and the production work of Rick Rubin, and there's a lot of non-country involved. Which makes it okay that I bought their cd, right?

So yes, I bought my first Dixie Chicks cd the other day. My mother should be proud, though I'll say right now that, being that she loves Alan Jackson almost as much as she loves her son, she's the exception that proves the "country = red state mentality" rule.

What do I think? Well, despite all of the contributors above, this is still a Dixie Chicks cd, and I think that's a good thing. This album is not a large departure from any of their other works, no matter how much they talk about the influence of "Southern California pop-rock of the 70s, some blues, bluegrass touches and roots rock". Really, all this proves is what I mentioned above...musical boundaries are blurred to the point of nonexistence. Labels and genres influence how you listen to something, but from a macro point of view, country music is about 90% similar to '70s Cali pop rock, roots rock, Southern rock, alt-country, and everything else. All they did was say "We don't want to just be associated with country anymore," and that was that. But again, that's a good thing. As an aspiring musician myself (see the "Trip Diary" link on the Other Good Nonsense links list to the left), one of my main goals is to blur those lines as much as possible...prove that there's only a couple of degrees of separation from what's thought of as country to what's thought of as funk or hip hop. It's all pretty close together.

But I digress (sorry, the music nerd in me comes roaring out sometimes).

Honestly, the first four songs on this album knocked me back...I didn't expect to like them this much. "The Long Way Around" starts things off with lyrics to which I can relate uncomfortably well: "My friends from high school/Married their high school boyfriends/Moved into houses/In the same ZIP codes where their parents live/But I could never follow". The music is acoustic and subtle, and it's a really nice way to start out an album that, if it were to follow the stereotype of what the Chicks are supposed to be about now, was supposed to be full of rage and anger.

"Easy Silence" is even more subtle (again, tell me what's all that different between this and Neko Case's music?), though the lyrics are pointed and sad. "Monkeys on the barricades/Are warning us to back away/They form commissions trying to find/The next one they can crucify/And anger plays on every station/Answers only make more questions/I need something to believe in". Again, for a group that's supposed to be angry and outspoken, they know their roots and they take the sentiment in their songs very seriously.

You know all about Track 3, "Not Ready to Make Nice". The only thing I can add to the conversation about this song, other than the fact that it is extremely strong musically, is that it shows some serious balls. It comes across as more sad than boisterous, but the point is very clear: "I'm not going to change what I believe in or what I say because a bunch of idiots are mad at me. Bring it on." That's about 10000% braver than
threatening to kill a country musician who opposes a war.

The momentum carries through to Track 4, "Everybody Knows". What impresses me about Natalie Maines is that she's an outspoken Texas girl (I know the type), but when she shows a bit of vulnerability, it comes out in oil gushes. "Steppin' out/Everyone can see my face/All the things I can't erase/From my life/Everybody knows"..."Standing out/So you won't forget my name/That's the way we play this game/Of life/Everybody knows/I am just barely getting by". Her voice is about 1 centimeter away from being all whine, but that 1 centimeter ends up giving her one of the strongest voices in music. It's always close to breaking down, but it never does.

After these few songs, the album kind of settles into a nice, alt-country groove. Honestly, I enjoy artists like Gillian Welch and the Jayhawks, though they manage to lull me to sleep sometimes. It's pretty much no different here (rockers like "Lubbock or Leave It" aside), though the lyrics are absolutely top-notch. "Silent House" hits on a topic close to home for me, Alzheimer's. "I will try to connect/All the pieces you left/I will carry it on/And let you forget" is a very heartfelt, succinct way of watching the breakdown that Alzheimer's causes. That's probably the biggest highlight left on the album until the finale, the gospel- and Keb' Mo'-tinged "I Hope". Use gospel songs correctly (and conservatively), and they're perfect. I'm not a fan of full gospel albums, but this gentle, bluesy touch ends the album and once again reminds you that the Dixie Chicks aren't the caricatured, angry "Dixie Sluts", but a group of women with talent, heart and a wide range of influences that serve them extremely well, whether or not country music wants them. I guess this means they're now the best, highest-selling alt-country group of all-time.

UPDATE 11:14am - Apparently the projection of 400,000 album sales the first week was off. By about 125,000.

UPDATE 6:33pm - I've gotten a few very well thought-out responses to this at Check them out.


Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Tuesday Pirates Rant™ – Best 17-34 Team in the League!!

Well, the Pirates had a week that was quite contrary to most weeks this season so far. First of all, they went .500. That’s rare. Second, they actually lost the game after the Tuesday Pirates Rant™ (making them 5-2 following Rants™ this season and 12-32 in all other games) and then actually won 3 of 5 the rest of the week. That’s even more rare. Anwyay, despite the hot streak (and yes, a week of .500 ball this season qualifies as a hot streak), there were as many negatives this week as any of the season.


* Where to ‘bout we start with the manager saying the poor performance is
in no way, shape, or form his fault? Yeah, that’s a good place to start. Yes, Jim “Jose Hernandez is as important to this team as Craig Wilson despite being worse in every way and much much older” Tracy says he doesn’t “hit, field, throw or catch” and is therefore not to blame for this crappy team. That’s right, Jim “Jeromy Burnitz may be old and suck, but by god I’m going to play him every day” Tracy.

* Another fun thing that happened this week was Craig Wilson
blowing a gasket (relatively speaking...he’s as mild-mannered as they come) when talking about how he knows he’s going back to the bench when Sean Casey comes off the disabled list despite being about 100 points better in every offensive category than Jeromy Burnitz.

"I'm not real excited about it," Wilson said. "I think everyone here wants to play, and sitting on the bench is not really an opportunity to play. You want to go in there and play. Not one at-bat. The whole game. You want to play."

"Obviously, if I wasn't starting when everybody was healthy, I won't be starting again. Am I happy about it? No, not at all."
Neither are Pirate fans, Craig.

* The Pirates once again proved that they’re actually not capable (mentally or physically, not sure which) of winning three games in a row. A week after they blew a 6-0 lead against the Reds in their quest for their first 3-game win streak of the year, they blew a 4-0 lead to the Astros in the 9th inning alone. I could mention that Jim Tracy sent Oliver Perez (more on him later) out to pitch the 9th inning even though he had already thrown 120 pitches, and I could mention that he brought Mike Gonzalez in to rescue Perez in the 9th even though he’d thrown two innings about 15 hours before in the previous night’s 18-inning affair...but I won’t. Because Jim Tracy doesn’t hit, field, throw or catch, and therefore he’s got nothing to do with this.


* Any list with “good” and “Pirates” in it has to first focus on the tear that Jason Bay is on at this moment. Bay had hit HR’s in six consecutive games, the most in the majors since 2002. If I’m not mistaken, Bay’s batting average had actually fallen into the .250s a few weeks ago, but then he started seeing the ball. And by “seeing the ball”, I mean he’s now batting .306 with 16 HR’s...ten of those coming in the last two weeks or so.

* Since the pitching coach (Colborn, whom I actually like) skipped his turn in the rotation a couple of weeks back for more side sessions and adjustments, Oliver Perez has come back with three solid decent one, one good one, and one least it was a masterpiece (8 innings of shutout ball) until Jim “Grady Little” Tracy sent him back out for the 9th. This is very encouraging. He was getting worse with every start until he was skipped, and now something seems to have clicked. It’s still too early to see if Ollie V.2004 has returned for good, but being that the same sort of “click” seemed to happen right before the season started in 2004 (when he suddenly went from erratic to dominant), maybe there’s reason for optimism. He still can’t find the 3-4 mph on his fastball that he misplaced over the winter of 2004, but it’s a start.

* After starting 3-17 against their division opponents in the NL Central (yes, 3-17), the Bucs have actually won 6 of their last 8, including series wins against the Reds (missing a sweep by blowing a 6-0 lead) and the Astros (missing a sweep by blowing a 4-0 lead). It’s far too little, far too late, but hey...their win pace is up to 58 for the season! Woohoo!


A quick rundown of my favorite bits from my favorite Pirates blogs...

Charlie at Bucs Dugout
states the obvious, which is that Tracy not only deserves his third of the blame (along with the management and players, who do indeed royally suck), but a little more as well.

Jim Tracy has been, if anything, worse at his job than most of the players, so his attempts to distance himself from the Pirates' performance are misguided as well as cowardly.
Billy at Romo Phone Home tells the worst sports columnist in America to, well, shut up.

Pat at Where is Van Slyke? has a picture perfect rant about the 5-4 loss to Houston on Sunday. And while we're at it, Bones at Honest Wagner pitches in by calling out Tracy for calling out Mike Gonzalez after that same loss.

And finally, in this post, Bucco Blog a) goes into massive detail about the 5-4 loss (as he does for every game), b) shows screen caps of the “Posse De Perez” fan club that has begun to congregate for Ollie Perez’ starts, and c) points out that the Pirates last had a 3-game sweep in July 2004. Ggh.


Monday, May 29, 2006


Well, be careful what you wish for, I guess. We want Democrats to stand for something, and this is what we get...from the comments of this FDL thread, I found this:

Just as the old neocons wanted to expel the McGovernites, so the new ones want to rid the party of the types and move it to the right. As [Peter] Beinart puts it, "whatever its failings, the right at least knows that America's enemies need to be fought."
The Right labels something (in this case, The Left gets scared of the label and runs as far to the right as possible. Rinse, repeat. *sigh*


Another journalist seriously injured...

...a CBS news reporter and two of her crew were riding in a Humvee when it was attacked in Iraq. As Attaturk (h/t) points out, this is the second journalist critically injured (her two crewmen were killed) in just a few months. But I guess it's their fault since they weren't reporting all the "good news", right?


PNAC Endorses Dems

(h/t Booman) Because Dems have been out of power so long that they're naturally defensive and isolated. Or something like that.

The last time the Democrats were in office, the world seemed a comparatively manageable place. They have not yet had to deal with the post-Sept. 11 world. Since the only post-Sept. 11 foreign policy Americans know is Bush's, many believe -- especially many Democrats -- that if only Bush weren't president, the world would be manageable again. Allies could be easily summoned for the struggle against al-Qaeda or to bring pressure on Iran or to replace American troops in Iraq. Threats could be addressed without force, through skillful diplomacy and soft power. Maybe some of the threats would disappear.

This is fantasy. The next president, whether Democrat or Republican, may work better with allies and may be more clever in negotiating with adversaries. But the realities of the world are what they are, and the imperatives of U.S. foreign policy are what they are.
Yes, because apparently the threat of terrorism didn't exist until mid-September 2001. Anyway, this is definitely interesting least if you have a strong morbid curiosity, a strong gag reflex, or a strong urge for The New Republic to have more power and influence. If not, then nevermind.

(Apologies to berlin for posting a WaPost link...but this was just too weird for words)


Sunday, May 28, 2006

Thinking in Time

Like The Boy, I don't have much to add to the cheering of our side of the blog world for Greenwald's How Would a Patriot Act? Firedoglake is doing a book group on it that will be more interesting and provocative than anything I can say. What I would like to second is the praise it's getting for pulling together the historical record of the long trail of abuse of freedoms which have led us to the state we're in now. It's not just a well-made argument, it's a factual reprise, the best possible use of history for understanding and shaping political response.

I hope Jennifer Nix, Working Assets, other progressive agents and publishers will use Greenwald's work and success to start pulling more of these efforts together. We are bad about understanding the historical context of most of our complaints about Bushnev and Politburo or about the past works that already spelled out what we see with light bulbs going off over our heads lately.
Atrios has a post up today about Faludi's Backlash from the early 1990s, which, long before Lapdogs et al., spelled out media cupidity. He also links to Mark Hertsgaard's On Bended Knee, which was What Liberal Media? two decades ago. Two decades ago. We've had a recent George Lakoff phase, but he was putting out accessible works two decades ago also. Framing? Check out Robert Reich's Tales of a New America. Almost two decades ago, he outlined our basic template stories that we Americans tell about ourselves and others, our histories and our futures, that should be laminated and pasted to the cover of every progressive speechwriter's laptop. It's been frustrating over the last few years watching wheel after wheel be reinvented when these and similar materials have been there to ground effective political action on.

In a sense, this should lead to the tirade against American historians that is still in the boiling stage and will likely find posting soon. In the meantime, let's look briefly at a book that reflects both problems and whose use now would guide and save a lot of valuable time. That book? Richard Neustadt and Ernest May's Thinking in Time: The Uses of History for Decision Makers.

Published in 1986, these two Harvard types spell out, through case studies and exercises, how history can and should be used to make effective decisions, to understand the situations facing decision makers and what likely consequences will follow likely actions. What is especially important for political types, the authors counsel against moving directly from "we have something we don't like" to "here are our bullet points for our favorite, pre-fab solutions." They strongly argue for careful analysis of the problem itself and of similar situations in the past. They DO NOT say that history repeats itself, but people tend to create and respond to problems in predictable ways that should be carefully considered prior to action. Analogies of various kinds with past situations can be developed, with subsequent careful listings of how they reflect and differ from the situation at hand. I especially liked how they recommend that decision makers ask their advisors to "tell me the story," which will break away from powerpoint talk (my phrase, they did not say "powerpoint" in 1986), and to ask what kinds of information it would take to move the advisors away from their recommendations or how much of their own money they would bet. The obvious application for Iraq and everything else warped by Bushnev and his Politburo alone should make the relevance of the book clear.

Thinking in Time is still found and used in academe, but you'd be hard pressed to find references in actual policy making or among the sources we in the blog world cite to back our own recommendations. It's a good read just in itself, but its greatest utility would be to sensitize us to the needs to use history well in our policy discussions from problem definition through program formulation, approval, and implementation to evaluation of effectiveness. Imagine if Greenwald's book had been disseminated to Dems prior to the Patriot Act votes, the court nominations, etc., the way Firedoglake organized the Crashing the Gate giveaway. Well, actually, the Dems still would have likely folded up like puptents like they did and still do. But the response to that well-honed cowardice would have been ready. Greenwald is still timely and Nix and Working Assets give us hope for the future. Thinking in Time will show us how to start thinking about the other key issues out there, especially the weather, water, energy triumvirate that will control our politics in the next few years. Hunting it down online or in your bookstores will be good thinking in time.


Betty La Fea Mas Bella Update IV

"La Fea Mas Bella" (The Prettiest Ugly Girl"), the Univision remake of Telemundo's "Betty La Fea" (uh . . . Betty the Ugly Girl), has been on enough now to settle in, and, for the most part, it has done it well. As I mentioned in previous posts, "Betty" was one of the best and most popular telenovelas of all time, Ugly Duckling meets Cinderella, a Colombian masterpiece of comedy and melodrama in that format so successful that Univision has copied it and ABC apparently is going to work American magic [sic] on it in the fall. The Univision version is pretty much a faithful copy of the story and characters, both of which are so good that you'd have to be really bad to screw it up (hear that, ABC?).

It always takes a bit for even really good series to get the characters fixed and the chemistry rolling, and that was true for "La Fea" at the start. My wife never saw "Betty" and accepted everything quickly. I'm a harder case, but I'm watching and enjoying, especially seeing how the new version compares with the prototype. One of the things I've liked lately ironically demonstrates how the show fails. In the ending credits, a live band (sorry I haven't gotten the name) plays a frighteningly contagious song about "La Club de las Feas" (The Uglies' Club, in which pretty girls are excluded and derided). Originally, as the credits roll, they just showed the band and dancers. Now, the heroine Lety (get it, rhymes with Betty?) has joined them in her frumpy costume, dancing and pining with them, a funny and feisty, if horrendously unviewable, participant. This portrays her character in the show well, as played by long-time telenovela starlette Angelica Vale (whose mother Angelica Maria is a telenovela legend and plays her mother in the show--check out their noses in profile).

The problem is that I at least cannot imagine Betty being part of such a concluding number. As played by the incomparable Ana Maria Orozco, Betty was a waif with unibrow, braces, and thick glasses to complement her awful hair and clothes. You wanted to take her under your wing and protect her. Her growth and empowerment were more real because you knew how easily she was, and had been, injured. Lety, on the other hand, is funny and feisty and has already faced down the same antagonists who, in "Betty," had wounded her to her core. She's still entertaining, but her eventual transformation won't be, can't be, as magical and fulfilling, because she just doesn't have as far to come. Vale is a very good actress and has done well, but she's no waif and is wise not to play one. But, after seeing Orozco, a waif is needed to get this done exactly right. "La Fea" is good, but it will never be "Betty."


Please Forgive Me, Jane

No one has been a bigger fan and supporter of Firedoglake since it exploded on the blog scene. If Jane Hamsher were the head of the Dems, this country might have a chance. That said, she recently said something I wish she would think through far more clearly in her treatment of Fred Rogers testifying for PBS in response to possible funding cuts in the 1971:

Fred Rogers makes a very direct and compelling case for public funding of children’s shows and it serves as a great model for progressives/liberals as we try to learn how to clearly state what we believe in, what our "values" are and what we think the role of government should be.

As I have noted in previous posts, this is exactly wrong. Fred Rogers was a wonderful human being, and his prescription for the world was absolutely correct, if the world and this nation were Sesame Street or his Neighborhood. Unfortunately for all of us, the world and particularly this nation right now are Republican Back Alley. I can't stress enough how the view of how to deal with what we have faced, frankly, since Rogers made his appeal to stop Nixon's cuts, that PBS and those children's shows have espoused to our kids has contributed mightily to our inability to fight it effectively. It might have been a very good thing for Rogers to have lost that battle and saved 35 years worth of children from thinking that the best way to stop a steamroller is to understand it and ask it nicely.

Rolling out Misterrogers as a PR move in 1971 was, as Jane states, good strategy, and he was effective. But, as she also notes, PBS has won the battles for the most part without Rogers since. It does have virtual "Social Security" status, especially Big Bird. He's PBS' "Bambi." So, even if Rogers was effective at messaging then, it's not clear that he should be a model now. We really need one more "let me explain how we should all get along" person out there?

If we have to have for "role model" today a small guy with dark, slicked-down hair, I have a different suggestion, went by the name of Bogart. Imagine if he'd been the one staring Nixon down in 1971, or Bushnev down today. Face these neo-Politburo types straight up, get them in their cages, and then let Fred Rogers and Big Bird bring their blessings. Until we get this ship turned around, though, praise them for their dreams, but do not let them do more damage to the perspective of the progressive side until the hard, confrontational work is done.

Since there is no one better at confrontation than Jane right now, I know she knows this. I'll just chalk her homage to Fred up to her better nature, which will hopefully have a chance to live in the Neighborhood some day. In the meantime, since there are no Bogarts among the Dems right now, I'll settle for someone who already does the best job of knowing "how to clearly state what we believe in, what our "values" are and what we think the role of government should be." Her name is Hamsher.


The Final Word on the Subject

I know the odds of someone reading this blog and not reading Eschaton, but, if you haven't taken Atrios' advice yet and sat down to read the entire piece by Jamison Foser on the double standard that has applied, and will forever until something is done to stop it, to treatment of progressives and Bushnev and his predecessors, you have missed the definitive takedown of the whole corrupt enterprise.


Saturday, May 27, 2006

Digby chips in on the "cultural identity" debate...

...and a great post it is. Berlin mentioned Bowers' post below, and Digby follows up by pointing out, among other things, the lyrics to the new Merle Haggard/Gretchen Wilson song, which pretty much sums up the southern cultural identity in just a few words.

The only thing I can add to this topic is this: this is precisely why the "50-state strategy" is so important. John Kerry's been labeled. Hilary Clinton's been labeled. Howard Dean's been labeled. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, as far people have actually heard of them anyway, have been labeled. Hell, even Al Gore has been labeled. If progressives want southerners (and people from the rest of the country as well) to realize that their core "common man" values are actually better served by Democrats than Republicans, then it's going to take recruitment and money. While I'm not 100% pleased with Howard Dean's DNC work and public relations efforts to date, at least he gets it. His "we need to reach the people with confederate flag stickers on their trucks" idea, while worded relatively poorly and predictably slaughtered by the p.c. police, was still more or less dead on. Democrats will not connect with any kind of inherent racism or anything negative like that (they'd better not, anyway), but their policies better serve the country (which includes the South), and it's going to take a set of new mouthpieces to actually relate that idea to the public.

I'm going to stop myself there because I realize that the South is never going to totally trend back to Democrats, and honestly I don't want it to. The South has enough power as is, and there's a lot of area to the north and west where Democrats will have to focus as well. But only a 50-state strategy, where local Democrats who talk and act and worship like the locals can emerge and start snagging seats here and there, will work long-term for this party. Of course, that would mean new pockets of power within the Democratic Party, and I don't exactly see the current power brokers allowing that to happen.

UPDATE - 3:17pm: I see that Atrios and Christy have chimed in as well. From Christy:

The Democratic party used to stand for the little guy. The Common Man. The underdog that could make good if he were only given a chance. The widow who got squeezed out of her husband’s pension. You know the list.

And they still do — but the problem is that no one, not even me and I’m a big ole Democratic supporter, NO ONE see the Democratic Party as actually STANDING right now. It’s more of a barely raising your hand in class, and hoping just maybe the teacher won’t notice you until she’s already called on someone else, but you can at least get credit for the hand raising part there.

But for the hills and hollers crowd — and really all of the South and the parts of the country where we like our leaders to have some freaking balls — that’s not nearly enough.

Which is why the Feingold censure movement caught fire in the blogosphere. Which is why people still adore Paul Wellstone. Which is why there are old people all over the state of West Virginia who have a picture of John F. Kennedy right up there on the wall next to their picture of Jesus.


How Would a Patriot Act?

So I bought Greenwald's book at Kramer's at Dupont Circle this week and finished it the next day thanks to a long flight delay. Good stuff. For those who haven't read it yet (I might have just about been the last one), it's a quick in-and-out summary of the President's year-long I-broke-the-law-for-your-protection imitation of Colonel Jessup from A Few Good Men. Like a good lawyer, he builds the case slowly and comprehensively, and when he's made his point, he rests his case 120 pages in. Like other bloggers have said, there's not a lot to it that they haven't read on his blog and others, but he simplifies everything to where just about any reader can understand, and that's a good thing. Also a good thing, I think, is that The Butterfly told me a lot of folks who walked by me in the airport while I was reading it did a double take and studied the title and cover before moving on. That, or maybe I just had my fly undone or something.

Anyway, How Would a Patriot Act? has been reviewed by about 4000 bloggers at this point (just read his
front page), so I really only have one thing to add that hasn't been discussed. Throughout the book he does a lot of quoting of forefathers, be it in Federalist Papers or Common Sense or other writings. I'd read most of them before, but I hadn't caught a really really good one from John Adams that he uses in Chapter 5 (Fear as a Weapon).

Fear has never been a defining attribute of the American character, in part because the founders of the country were so aware of its corrosive and toxic effect on liberty. In Thoughts on Government, John Adams wrote:

Fear is the foundation of most governments; but it is so sordid and brutal a passion, and renders men in whose breasts it predominates so stupid and miserable, that Americans will not be likely to approve of any political institution which is founded on it.

With great prescience, these warnings describe exactly that tactic which the Bush administration and its supporters use in insisting that Americans give up their basic liberties in exchange for promises of "protection" from these dangers.

Honestly, I've never read much of Adams, period...he doesn't seem to have been one of the more eloquent forefathers, but hey...eloquence is overrated sometimes. But I think that's a damn-near perfect summation of today's situation. Which is brutally sad, since he wrote that, what, about 215 years ago?


The Bandwagon's Started Rolling

Welcome Matt Stoller to the group of top-tier bloggers who have realized that, with the Senate Dems' rollover on the Kavanaugh nomination, there is absolutely no hope for the party or the nation from the Dems' current leadership:

Power comes from action, from conflict, from strength. It accretes, so one victory leads to another. When Senators allow Bush to reestablish a win streak for no reason, they are losing power. It's just like Harry Reid or Chuck Schumer letting Lieberman lie to them about staying Democrat in return for their support. It's a sign of weakness.

There's no excuse for this. Don't bother looking for leadership in the halls of the Senate or at any of the issue groups. It's not there.


Surviving "Survivor"?

To demonstrate my weirdness, I've never cared for "reality" shows. They're too staged, choreographed, and melodramatic, in other words perfect entertainment for a culture that prefers professional wrestling to reading. Any "show" that lets merit be determined by the votes of people with nothing better to do than redial says more about its viewers than about talent. Watching someone eat a plate of worms was fun when I was eight, and stranding folks in faraway lands when America is so, let's say, not popular right now may one day bring real reality to contestants that may not be pretty (but will top the Nielsens that week).

I know, I know. I'm an intellectual wannabe, an obvious jerk. "If people want to see it, if the market provides, if you don't like it, don't watch," yada, yada. In most ways, I even agree with that. I don't watch and I don't really care. But . . . .

We've just had a second "Survivor" winner get caught in real-life fraud. Chris
Daugherty called in sick to his Ohio Department of Transportation job so he could make another $8000 on a Survivor tour of Europe. "I . . . I was suffering from depression . . . yeah, that's it," he says. Real quote: "I'm fighting it. I survived Vanuatu. I'll survive ODOT." Please. This comes on top of the first Survivor winner, Richard Hatch, being sent to for tax evasion ($1.4 m. worth), for over four years.

Clearly, the show did not cause their criminality. But it rewarded the same skills and mentalities that they displayed in the real world to the net effect of draining our tax dollars. Why? Because that's the kind of people they are and, on top of that, we watched and applauded them.

So here comes the tired old "what does this say about us?" lament? Well, no, not really. We know what it says about us and it's not good. It is just one more case of what an unserious, unreal people we are, a people also unworthy. Unworthy of the real world we were given by the people who built this nation and left us the biggest stock of seed corn any generation has ever been given. Which we are now eating like it will never go away. Maybe one day that stock will get to levels where we'll figuratively have to vote on who gets kicked off the island. And we already know who the winners will be. The American Legacy will be left to the Hatchs and Daughertys.

I wonder what kind of ratings that will draw.


Friday, May 26, 2006

Thank You, Senate Dems, and Other Items

I'd like to thank all those Senate Dems who voted for Hayden and the latest lifetime appointment Kavanaugh for proving right what I said yesterday:

What is undeniably true, as shown time after time after time on appointment votes, acceptance of unconstitutional actions and rationales, waffling to prove themselves "tough," etc., the current Dem leadership, the 21st Century equivalent of the final Roman elites, are not up to the task. No point in lamenting it or trying or trying to reverse it. The Repubs may give them one or two more "victories" that they end up losing, but the fork is in them, the thermometer has popped up. They're done.

People might not have believed me.

Here are some quick hits you should check out:

AMERICAblog catches Krugman echoing points I've been stressing here lately:

But can the sort of person who would act on global warming get elected? Are we — by which I mean both the public and the press — ready for political leaders who don't pander, who are willing to talk about complicated issues and call for responsible policies? That's a test of national character. I wonder whether we'll pass.

Read my review of Stealth Democracy in our Good Books to find out the answer.

Speaking of voters not worthy of the label "citizen,"
Chris Bowers has a great post showing US counties by predominant religions, which mirrors the red-blue divide well. He also concludes wisely:

I reproduce this map not to argue that certain religions are inherently liberal, and that others are inherently conservative. Truthfully, I do not think that is the case at all. Rather, as we approach election season, I reproduce this map because the progressive netroots is composed of political obsessives. Most of us spend an inordinate amount of time focused on current events, legislative policy, abstract matters of ideology, infrastructure, media narratives, electoral activism, and general strategy. Sometimes, I feel that because we are so obsessed with politics online that we often lose touch with what truly motivates voters. 80% of the country has no idea who Ann coulter is. Hell, 60% of the country has no idea who Harry Reid is.

Over the past year and a half, I have slowly developed an argument that the electorate is, in general, non-ideological, not interested in policy, and generally unmoved by the day-to-day minutia of political events that, within the blogosphere, are treated as cataclysmic events. Sure, most people hold general political beliefs, but in general national voting habits are motivated by something else--something more basic. As we look for ways to motivate voters in November, we need to remember the powerful role that identity plays in political decision-making. As progressives, we shrug off concepts such as the "battle of civilizations," but if you look closely at demographic data,
maybe it is a battle of civilizations taking place after all. We may very well be living in an era of identity politics. Who knows, maybe every era of American politics is an era of identity politics.

Motivating voters and pulling off a landslide election will require a gut-level change of attitude about the two parties among millions of Americans. For all of the great policies everyone will suggest Democrats to run on this fall, ultimately winning will be based just as much on how Americans view their identity in relation to the image of the two coalitions as anything else. We need to avoid falling into the wonk trap of assuming that people are motivated by policy details. It is the identity, stupid. We need to explore ways to motivate voters for progressive causes with that in mind.

Let's give
Paul Waldman props when he deserves them, and he does today, although you should read the whole thing:

The truth is that if anything, Democrats work too hard to be "respectful" to the people of the heartland. Yes, they talk to them like they're children. But not because they're looking down on them - no, it's because they're trying so hard, after being prompted again and again by the press, to be "respectful." I love you and your heartland values! You people are so down-to-earth, so real, so genuine, so posessed of common sense! Please, please vote for me - look, I can hold up a hunting rifle! Was that good enough for you? No? Then let me milk this cow! Did that do it? No? Then I'll go to a stock car race! Will you vote for me now? Will you, huh, will you?

Democrats need to stop the pandering. The way you treat people in the South and Midwest with respect is to talk to them like adults. An essential part is not to pretend you don't believe what you believe. Because when, out of "respect," you try to hide who you are, guess what happens? People come away thinking you're a weak, pandering politician who doesn't know who he/she is.

And when push comes to shove, they have to have the strength to say, I'll give you a hundred reasons to vote for me, but if you're not going to, then that's just too bad - I'm not going to get down on my knees and beg. Because that does nothing but make everyone everywhere - in red states and blue - think I'm a wimp.

For the hundredth time: Does anyone think Karl Rove sits around wondering how the GOP can win the votes of cultural studies professors in Berkeley and Cambridge? So why is it that Democrats gnash their teeth about winning the voters who hate them the most? Maybe they should just stop worrying about whether they're being nice enough and start campaigning with some spine.

ScienceDaily has a summary of a study of networks that looks at who links to what blogs. The authors found that liberal blogs linked to liberal blogs, conservative ones to conservative ones. Who knew? Still, it's a nice use of network analysis and shows that blogs have become a focus of real academic study, not just derision in J-Schools.

Finally, if you're looking for something sure to spew soda out your nostrils to get the holiday weekend off to the right start, check out
AttaTurk's rendition of what Lincoln would have been like if he and Bushnev really were soulmates, as Chris Matthews masturbated on-air last night. The sensation leads to results that aren't pretty, but are oddly pleasurable.


Friday Link Roundup...

...we'll call this the "I'm too drained from travelling to come up with any original ideas, so I'll just pimp our blogroll instead" edition...

Alicublog explores the outrage (!!!) of the right stemming from the media's outrageous liberalness (liberality?) in recalling Lloyd Bentsen's most well-known moment in various obits. How dare they.

AMERICAblog talks about how impressive it is that the Religious Right is actually using Mary Cheney's name to spark fundraising.

We have our work cut out for us as you know. In the past few weeks, the media have been filled with appearances by Mary Cheney and others who are working to undercut the importance of marriage to our survival as a society.

The media have delighted in the fact that Vice President Cheney's daughter publicly opposes the very convictions that brought her father's political party into the White House.

At Atrios, it appears Ricky doesn't live here anymore.

All I can say to Avedon is, I feel your travel pain. Your trip might have actually been worse than mine. I actually got my bags.

Billmon admires spats (who doesn't?).

Booman points out that Bush actually admitted a mistake...sort of. Meanwhile, Attaturk makes the mistake of listening to Chris Matthews (seriously, this one's really really bad). Meanwhile, Wolcott talks about the Bush/Blair p.c.

Bush seems to have drifted away from Cheney's clenched certitudes...tapering off in his own aimless direction. For the good of the country, let's hope he doesn't become orphaned and imprisoned within his own presidency, giving us a replay of the embittered, Watergate-haunted Nixon at the end of his rope, when the drapes in the Oval Office began to resemble druid's robes and portraits on the walls became his only companions. We don't need to relive that horror movie again. Not with the glaciers melting, and other, bigger horror movies threatening to unfold.

David finds that Republicans are running out of bribes for the public.

Demosthenes sees Warren Kinsella bragging about the size of his, well, blogstats.

Alan Hartung talks about the one team worse than my Pirates.

Digby finds the Pentagon actually admitting that what happened at Haditha was really really bad. And in his spare time, he's written a great post at Firedoglake about the liberal media taking down Hilary (and all other Democrats). And while we're at it, Echidne chimes in on the Hilary thing too.

I'm confused. Are the two sides of Hillary Rodham Clinton her great knowledge base and her lemon-yellow pantsuit or are they her great knowledge base and the question how often she and Bill have sex? Or does she have three opposite sides: intelligence, pantsuits and Bill's penis needs? All of these seem to frighten Broder. It would probably be better to have a female candidate who is not smart or knowledgeable, who wears pinstripes and who has no husband at all. But then these journalists would write about her hidden lesbianism. Oh wait, they already do that with Hillary...

Broder is wading into some no-no areas here, unless he's willing to do a similar analysis of the marriages of male candidates for the job of the president of the United States. And yes, I know that the Clintons' marriage has been fair game for over ten years now, but it's still wrong to respect the privacy of other political marriages while attacking one of them.

Next we have Holden pointing out that the press corps took a pass on grilling Snow about the Lay/Skilling convictions. And really, why should they bring something like that up? It's not like Lay was the major Bush '00 fundraiser or anything...

Nice. Matt Blunt "doesn't recall being aware" of something. I'm not a big Jay Nixon fan, but here's to hoping he's the next Missouri governor in two years.

At Gadflyer, Josh Holland breaks it down to the most simple components.

Ultimately, getting out of Iraq requires airplanes and ships. Everything else is conjecture, often by people with no real understanding of what's going on in the country and sometimes by the same folks who thought it would all be a grand adventure in the first place.

Glenn Greenwald finds the Hindrocket saying that up is down. A newspaper finally admits that something it printed was false, and Hindrocket says it was basically true.

Matt at Great Society locates one more reason to Feel the Nedrenaline, while Matt Stoller says that Ned and Tester have mojo.

Chris at Interesting Times reads that Dubya is just too darn nice. And ahead of his time.

Lance Mannion has a long post, partially about Gore (which is obviously worth reading), but partially about Claire McCaskill. And anytime a Missouri politician gets mentioned, I'm all over it.

This is very interesting, but I'm too braindead to add anything, so I'll just say that I was married at 27, my wife at 28. Take that for whatever it's worth.

A-Team member (which member of the A-Team he is is your call) Steve Soto gives us the primary list of Democrats who don't care about our rights. None of these names are even remotely a surprise.

At Pandagon, we find Newsweek retracting a dumbass story...and only 20 years later.

Upyernoz flies to the land of cheese and berlin niebuhr (for now, anyway).

And finally, Susie points out a smirk I really didn't need to see.

Ahh, I feel better now. Now it's back to work I go...


FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING!! What We Feel Like Edition...

...just got back from DC (supposed to get in last night, but flight got delayed...I've now officially spent more time in Reagan National Airport than all other airports combined in my lifetime...bah). But anyway...the cats are doing what we wish we could be doing right now...but now I'm off to work...


Thursday, May 25, 2006

Life to Death Cycles and Future Dems

The A-Team of progressive bloggers--Digby, Hamsher, Greenwald, and Soto--has weighed in recently on the impotence of Democratic leadership and the futility of expecting anything meaningful from them before or, more importantly, after the 2006 and 2008 election (Soto seems to think things will get better with victories, but he's wrong). What is missing from these realistic appraisals is recognition of the process at work here and why, if there is to be hope at all for the American Legacy of personal freedom and opportunity and responsible and democratic government, that hope will only be realized by either the disappearance of the Democratic Party itself or such a reconstituting of it that it bears virtually no resemblance to what is happening today.

As I've pointed out in my posts on the importance of anchors as the poles within which meaningful debate and change can take place, the current Dems rose to power in the 1930s on ideas and proposals seen as radical in the decades before. Once in power on those ideas and proposals, watered down by politics but still more creative and purposeful then what had been in place before, the Dems began the familiar life-death cycle common to all organized systems. They went through their pre-power formative stage (pre-'30s), birth and growth ('30s-'40s), maturity and stabilization ('50s-'70s), and have in decades since ('80s-present) been finishing their decay and death stages. In social organizations, as the growth and energy stage in the form of commitment and action fades, it becomes institutionalization, inertia and lethargy, and corruption and abuse.

That's what was clearly happening to the Dems by the mid-'70s. Too interested in maintaining their power through increasingly corrupted alliances, they forgot their commitment to the principles of the common good for common Americans that had brought them to power over the Republican decay/death stage ideology of privilege which marked the end of a similar 60-70 year cycle for the Repubs. Jimmy Carter gave them a chance to recover by lasering in on problems evident then but too easy to deny and ignore. A recommitment to marshalling "New Deal"-like forces to maintain and pass on the Legacy would have likely revitalized the party and the nation. Instead that "genius" Tip O'Neill told him to stop sending new policies to Congress because they didn't have time to handle everything.

Didn't have time.

O'Neill, that totally overrated drunken uncle we love at holidays, also gave his followers that idiotic slogan, "All Politics Is Local," which may be true but short-sighted in the short run but pulls apart any hope of building a party on common dreams and accomplishment. (Have you never wondered about O'Neill's "lion" status in the party when he's responsible for giving us Chris Matthews?) O'Neill was the one Reagan's "Revolution" rolled over, again and again, displaying the rot and corruption, the old guard inability to think in the new ways necessary to offset the birth and growth stage of the Repubs, who were taking previously "radical" anchors of ideas (supply-side economics) and individuals (Reagan) from pre-birth to current control.

The problem for the Dems now is that the final stage of their cycle has not played completely out, in large part because they and their remaining props in the DC Establishment have not yet realized that their day is done. They still hold to the "good old days," like all royalty just before the guillotine, and think a Restoration is still possible. It's not. These Dems only "win" when the Repubs manage to lose and then, as Greenwald is particularly good at describing, fail to use their occasional victories to clear the ground for new growth, letting the Repubs hang around unchastened to recover and roll the Dems again.

Yes, the Repubs are on the back side of their own life-death cycle right now, but they've got a generation or so to go before they hit where the Dems are now. The current Dem leadership can't make true headway against them because they still want what today's Repubs have; they can still remember when it was theirs, money in freezers and all. They are completely inadequate for the job that really needs to be done, that nurturing of "out there" anchors that seed the ground with the new possibilities and approaches that are absolutely vital if the American Legacy is to survive in tact the challenges facing us in the next decades.

There is no guarantee that those anchors will take root. Few "names" among the Dems have shown any ability to recognize they're finishing a long predictable cycle that ends badly for them. Wellstone might have been a guide. Feingold is seen by some, but he's going to have to do better than "censure" and walking out on Specter (although that was a nice first step). Edwards, with his "Two Americas" and campaigning for living wages, might get there if he can get past that face and not become his VP debate experience. Dean seemed to be getting a clue before the death-throe Dems and dilettante media hacked him down. His "50 State" strategy is a no-brainer except for those with no brains, but broadening the infrastructure, while providing the needed supports, just plows the field. The seeds for new growth, the necessary anchors and more acceptable derivations don't get planted.

Hillary? Warner? Kerry? Please. Biden? Bayh? Dodd? Not even worth a Please. Clark? He voted for Bushnev the first time, not really a sign of a clue. VP maybe, but he's shown no inkling of anchoring.

Which brings us back to the heavy-set, earth-tone clad, Internet-inventing elephant left in the middle of the room. Can Gore's defeat [sic] in 2000 have freed him from the calcified, degenerated last breaths of the old Dem guard? He's already known for his own anchors--global warming, Internet, Iraq, people media, as Soto notes--and he has nothing to lose by championing them and more. He might be better suited as an outsider setting the needed anchors and mentoring their banner carriers, but he could also step immediately into the lead.

Could he lose [sic] again? Sure. The media heathers are still there and, as the rigor mortis starts to set in, the Repubs can be expected to flail even more violently to deny it. Plus, it could be too late. That's hard to conceive or accept, but one great nations have always failed as they failed to renew themselves well or consistently enough to offset the inevitable life-death cycle. Maybe this is just our time.

What is undeniably true, as shown time after time after time on appointment votes, acceptance of unconstitutional actions and rationales, waffling to prove themselves "tough," etc., the current Dem leadership, the 21st Century equivalent of the final Roman elites, are not up to the task. No point in lamenting it or trying or trying to reverse it. The Repubs may give them one or two more "victories" that they end up losing, but the fork is in them, the thermometer has popped up. They're done. The questions are, with the Repubs not far behind, what comes next?, and is there anything we can still do about it?


The Tao of DeLay

That Tom DeLay has been citing Stephen Colbert, apparently seriously, as supporting the common cause has caused hilarity and incredulity among those of us on the correct side. But, before we get carried away, just remember, the best way to negate Colbert may be precisely to take him seriously and start quoting him loudly and proudly as speaking the truth even if he's too stupid to know it. That is, satirizing the satirizer, if done well, can bring them down to size and, in DeLay's case, the best way to do it may be simply to be too stupid to know what you're doing. No, I'm not kidding. Does it really matter where the message comes from as long as it gets repeated, and repeated, and repeated? "Really, he thinks he's being funny, but think about what he's saying . . . it's really true. Think about it."

Still, it was funny to see him do it.


Wednesday, May 24, 2006


From Bill in Portland Maine at Kos, last year's winner of "Survivor: Funny Blog," we get Lloyd Bentsen's response to Dan Quayle in their infamous 1988 vice-presidential debate:

Quayle: I have far more experience than many others that sought the office of vice president of this country. I have as much experience in the Congress as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency. I will be prepared to deal with the people in the Bush administration, if that unfortunate event would ever occur.

Judy Woodruff: Senator Bentsen.

Bentsen: Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy...

Quayle: That was really uncalled for, Senator.

Bentsen: You are the one that was making the comparison, Senator---and I'm one who knew him well. And frankly I think you are so far apart in the objectives you choose for your country that I did not think the comparison was well-taken.

Everyone remembers, at least those of us over 30, uh, 50, the first part of the exchange, but what I think is most relevant to today's Dems is the second response. Quayle was blowing the pure Repub BS that was still bold and new in those days, and Bentsen hit him with the JFK retort we recall. But then, like Repubs today on those rare occasions when Dems respond effectively, Quayle plays the "you're not being civil" card. Did Bentsen pull back as the Broders and Matthews shriek at them to? No, he lowered the boom harder.

How on earth could he ever recover from such despicable behavior? Surely that's what made the ticket lose in 1988, not those oh-so-civil Willie Horton commercials and ACLU as traitors memes.

Except . . . read the obits over the last couple of days. The man went out with the dignity and respect accorded to those who actually accomplish things and give service to their nations and communities.



Martin Luther King's Advice to Today

Frosty Troy at the Oklahoma Observer (not online but read it if you ever get the chance) reminds us of a quote from Dr. King that, if followed, just might get us through the reality that faces us as a nation and assure the American Legacy the way history has assured his own:

Cowardice asks the question: Is it safe? Expediency asks the question: Is it politic? Vanity asks the question: Is it popular? But conscience asks the question: Is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor political, nor popular: But one must take it because it is right.


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

So I'm enjoying a lovely evening in DC...

...on a lovely 70-degree evening, The Butterfly and I took in a quick Nats-Astros game at RFK Stadium with a friend of mine from high school, now a republican congressional staffer, and a friend of his, a democratic congressional staffer. We're talking about a few general political issues, but nothing major, and for the first time since we started Good Nonsense, I'm actually not thinking about what to blog next...and then The Butterfly's mom calls and tells us that the University of Missouri is abuzz because Ken Lay asked for his $1.1 million donation back (he went to school at Mizzou). We laaaaaaaaaughed and laaaaaaaaaughed and laaaaaaaaaughed...and not surprisingly, the University said I don't think so.


Intelligence, Yes--Smarts, No

Now that our US Attorney General, who has proven himself worthy of the "nuclear option" while we wait for Roberts and Alito to do so (thanks, all you Dems), has informed the press that their freedom is gone (to which they haven't said anything, which says, of course, "thank you, sir, may I have another?"), there can be no more illusion what Georgi Bushnev and his Politburo and Pravda-ites intend for this nation. It's time to stop discussing things "rationally," it's time to stop splitting hairs and issuing tomes documenting their abuses, as valuable as they are for future historians. Fatigue sets in on the audience. It's time to get on message and simply repeat, repeat, repeat every time Bushnev and his buddies open their mouths.

The message? 9/11 could have and should have been stopped. With the existing system we had without any endangerment of our freedom, the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution, 9/11 could have and should have been stopped. That's it and that's all. No more citing statutes or clauses. No more debating the merits and demerits of making grannies take off their shoes at the airport. Whenever Georgi and his neo-KGB (hello, there, NSA e-mail reader/website monitor), neo-Izvestia types open their mouths about anything even remotely related to "security" or "terrorism" or "freedom" or their related non sequiturs, don't even consider a rebuttal. Just chant, over and over--"9/11 could have and should have been stopped, 9/11 could have and should have been stopped, 9/11 could have and should have been stopped . . . ."

One talking point, who could imagine?!! For once, a bumper sticker that encapsulates rather than emasculates reality. Let's put it on the t-shirts and coffee cups. Sing it loud and sing it proud. Everything that has come after, everything we love to scream about and protest and assert our righteousness against, everything that has put the American Legacy at such dangerous risk, all of it can be seen for what it is by even the dullest if we just get the point across. We had all the intelligence we needed to stop the attacks without touching one hair on the Constitution and without installing, not an imperial presidency, but a General Secretary, Politburo, and Pravda. We had the intelligence to stop the attacks, we just didn't have the smarts. That could have been fixed without moving toward the Soviet Union, fixed elections and all. It's not too late, if those on our side will develop the smarts to turn it around, not a sure prospect right now (aka Hillary and the DLC). Like Bushnev's crew, we now have all the intelligence we need. Will we interpret it wisely and react accordingly? Remember the first thing we have to do.

"9/11 could have and should have been stopped, 9/11 could have and should have been stopped, 9/11 could have and should have been stopped . . . ."


TUESDAY PIRATES RANT - Washington DC edition!

Blogging from DC (The Butterfly will have the orchid blogging to prove it this evening), so this will be a short rant. Things to do, people to see.

What happened since last Tuesday's Rant? Well, the Pirates won the next game, making them 5-1 following a Rant. They then won again, setting up an opportunity for their first 3-game winning streak (and first series sweep) of the year. In that third game, they scored 6 runs in the 1st inning...and lost 9-8. That's fine, teams blow leads...nothing new. What was 'more things change, more they stay the same' about this game? Well, Jose Hernandez went 0-for-4 to lower his average to .152. Craig Wilson didn't play...didn't even pinch hit.

However, against the Indians over the weekend, Jim Tracy actually FREAKING PINCH HIT for Craig Wilson with Jose Hernandez over the weekend because Hernandez had a "long history" against Indians pitcher Bob Wickman. If I'm not mistaken, that long history consisted of 3 hits in 7 AB's. Yeah, Hernandez sucked and the Pirates lost.

Since beating the Reds those two games in a row, they've now lost 4 of 5. More of the same. They're now 14-31. The good news is, those two wins upped their win % to where they're now on pace for 50 wins this season!! Woohoo!!

Oh, and centerfielder of the future Chris Duffy, who batted .341 last season in limited playing time, was sent down to the minors after failing to get his BA over .200 two months into the season. Before he left the club, he went on a tirade, complaining that manager Jim Tracy had tried to change his game and alter his approach before even meeting him, and since he's "too coachable" he let him. And then he decided not to report to the AAA team for a while because, well, he's just too darn stressed out.

And one of their AAA pitchers was suspended for 50 games for using performance enhancing drugs.

I was going to take a trip through the Pirates blogs, but I figure I'll do everybody a favor and skip that this week. I'm on vacation (sort of...I'm here for work starting later today), and that means I should take a vacation from the Pirates too, right?


Monday, May 22, 2006

Dems Can't Count on Corruption to Save Them

As the story on William Jefferson, the Dem Congressman from LA, plays out, it will demonstrate the point that lying low and hoping that "corruption" and "Iraq" will be enough to put Dems back on top somewhere, somehow is truly a risky, risky strategy. It will allow the Repubs to do commercial after commercial of a black man taking bribes and playing into racism as well as "everybody does it." It will also help to stunt turnout that will already be put off in some places by the quality of the "sure thing" campaigns and candidates playing it safe and to the mythical "center" (see posts below).

It is more important than ever not just to clearly and loudly repudiate all the Dem corruption that
gets brought to light, even at the cost of adding to the noise, but also to develop meaningful, resonating themes of renewal and progress toward restoring the American Legacy that the DC culture, in which corruption is by nature of who has the power, which is still predominantly Republican, can't even imagine right now, much less pull off. Keeping cool and waiting until the election's over to show what you're made of shows what you're made of, and that's just not a message this country needs right now.


Sunday, May 21, 2006

A war hero mocked? How despicable!

When I heard Rich Lowry of the National Review was shocked and appalled by John McCain's treatment at the New School Commencement, one specific thought passed through my head. Unfortunately, Glenn Greenwald already shared that thought, so I'll just him take it away:

Apparently, heckling a war hero during a speech is a despicable act. But it's perfectly OK to waive purple band-aids at decorated, wounded war veterans; and it's fine to accuse them of being soft on Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein even after they voted for the Iraq invasion and co-sponsored creation of the Homeland Security Department; and there is nothing wrong with going to the floor of the House and labeling a war hero a "coward" and then following it up with a year's worth of accusations that they are also a traitor. Calling into question a war hero's patriotism, their courage, the seriousness of their war wounds, and their allegiance to the United States is all perfectly fine. Just don't boo them at a speech.

Oddly, Rich Lowry's Chivalrous Code of Conduct for how a War Hero should be treated wasn't much in evidence when he penned
this column back in July, 2004 -- entitled "Max Cleland, Liberal Victim -- in which Lowry snidely dismissed complaints about how Cleland was treated during his election defeat with tough-guy, suck-it-up, politics-is-tough sermons like this:

If you can't criticize the Senate votes of a senator in a Senate race, what can you criticize? . . . If John Kerry wants to surround himself with veterans like Max Cleland, fine — their country owes them a lot. But, please, stop the whining.
Today, though, Lowry is effetely lamenting the fact that McCain was booed at a highly politicized college by liberal students when McCain praised the Iraq War. John McCain is running for President, but he's a war hero, so no booing him.


I'm just waiting...

...for a DLC type to tell us that dissent against Joementum is a bad thing for the party. Via Atrios, here's one of many "Lieberman's in serious trouble" columns coming out of local CT if you didn't know, Atrios is covering the Lieberman thing in great detail, along with many many others...

By now, the Lieberman crowd was beaten, even with 65 percent of the vote. A curiosity in January, the Lamont campaign has become a growing army that could overthrow the incumbent in the Aug. 8 primary. For 90 minutes, party loyalists who have known Joe Lieberman for decades rose and turned their backs on him in favor of an engaging stranger.
I probably naive for thinking this, but even if Joementum wins (which is still the most likely occurrence...much less likely than it was a couple of days ago, but still at about 60% likely), this is a good thing for the party. It's May of an election off-year, and voting Democrats are energized. Now...if Lieberman loses and decides to run as an independent, that's a whole 'nother story...but for now I don't think he will, no matter what he says to the media.


An Inconvenient Truth or Two about Al Gore and Us

I've made clear in several posts how overrated (by Dems anyway) Bill Clinton is as a former President. If he's lucky, I believe he might be seen by history as another Grover Cleveland. If he's lucky. Instead of understanding the flows of history and how they return to those with solid, reality-based steadfastness, he hemmed and hawed and "moved to the center" so much in fear of losing that what was won only looks good in comparison to his successor, who was only the successor because of Clinton himself (and the Supreme Court, yes, I know--but it shouldn't have come down to FL). One of the greatest raps on his legacy will be his cowardice in addressing aggressively the clear evidence of global warming and in establishing American leadership in meeting the challenges. In an administration of one lost opportunity after another (and, yes, the Repubs are rabid, but there WAS that stain on that dress that let the gasoline be poured), the global warming piece will be seen historically as the greatest.

Who do we have giving testimony to that now? Bill Clinton.

In a speech yesterday at the Johnson School of Public Affairs at UT-Austin, Clinton told graduates, according to Reuters, that

"Climate change is more remote than terror but a more profound threat to the future of the children and the grandchildren and the great-grandchildren I hope all of you have," Clinton said.

"It's the only thing we face today that has the power to remove the preconditions of civilized society," he said. "I am not one of those who is pessimistic about the future of the world, assuming we get off our butts and do something about climate change in a timely fashion."

It being Clinton, you can't help being skeptical that he is trying to immunize his spouse and up her cred in the face of the lionization Gore is already getting for getting out front with the same message. Still, it being Clinton, that message will resonate as much or more with his saying it. So let's give him props but focus on the key statement:

"It's the only thing we face today that has the power to remove the preconditions of civilized society," he said.

I disagree, actually. Warming is only part of a triumvirate of issues that will change the face of humanity as we know it if we don't respond quickly. The other two are water and energy (tried desperately to come up with a "w" word for energy so I could cleverly do a 3W thing, but couldn't do it--open to suggestions). All three are interrelated, of course, and could be subsumed under one overarching term by someone brighter than me. But the point is that humanity truly is at a point where it could tip backward into another Dark Age, and having Gore (the leader) and Clinton (the follower) take the stage to sound the alarm is already an historical moment.

If you want a good reason to slash your wrists, read these three books in relatively close proximity:

Morris Berman, Dark Ages America
Eric Larsen, A Nation Gone Blind
James Howard Kunstler, The Long Emergency

All of them tackle the same basic theme (my wrists are better, btw), that is, that we have passed the point of no return on being able to deal most effectively with the three symbiotic emergencies facing us. Berman, to his credit, points to Jimmy Carter and his calls for intelligence, prudence, and determination in addressing energy as the turning point (noting that those things were too hard and too much work and we turned to their antithesis, Ronald "the future will be laughing at all the things named after me" Reagan). Gore and Clinton, of course, deny that it's too late, and it is truly a debatable point. In nonlinear times you never are too sure where you are on the suddenly steeply sloping curve until you're able to look back later. But at least the issue is on the table and no one will be able to say that important American leaders didn't try, once again, to warn and mobilize us.

There is a point here that neither Gore nor Clinton have made it to yet and that's this. If these three life-threatening dangers, magnitudes above anything terrorism or anything else out there short of nuclear war could do, need our full attention and NOW, what does this say about our politics NOW?

We need to pull together, clearly, and we need to embarrass and laugh off the stage all those who pretend that these things aren't there, aren't threats. That includes full-scale boycotts of every business like the Exxons and GMs and Fords that support the "think" tanks that push the opposite, self-serving, destructive message. That's not to say censorship or violence. It's just to say, "You have lost credibility to speak. If you choose to continue, you will be met with such withering criticism and such dramatic economic hardship that you will not be able to withstand." There really is a difference.

But here's the harder part of what it means. To pull us together and focus, we will need to sweep virtually every other issue off the table, put them all on hold, accept a status quo and worse for things heartfelt and important to us as people and as a nation. It will have to be the spirit that motivated us through WWII but on a grander scale. There will, in other words, have to be a moratorium on the issues that divide us. Carter tried to inspire action by invoking William James' "moral equivalent of war," which has the unfortunate acronym of MEOW, which is how the public responded. But surely our spinmeisters of today can do better.

What is the alternative? Gore and Clinton are right in their long-term prognostications of the social impact and that the status quo has to change, but keep in mind as well that, in periods of scarce resources, authoritarian regimes historically are the norm. The more scarce the resources, the more authoritarian the regime. To maintain the seeds of democracy and freedom that will be needed after the crises have been resolved, we will ironically need strong, effective leadership modeled on Washington and Lincoln, who used the virtues of Cincinnatus as their own guides. We will also need an educated and informed community able to understand the nature of the problems and propose solutions and able to keep on hold their personal divisions to the demands of the times until the crises have passed.

Can it be done, or are the authors above correct, that it's just a matter of whether the denouement is sooner or later, if not already a done deal? Is there anyone out there who might provide the knowledge and leadership necessary to mobilize us and give us a chance? There might be. He has a movie coming out. Do you think it might catch anyone's attention if that movie became a best-seller? If it became one of the biggest box office hits of all time? Do you think that might force the political and business and media "leadership" of the nation, of the world to figure out this needs to be on our agendas? It's not death stars or whipped Saviors, but there has seemed to be an audience for Ice Agers and penquins.

So plan on seeing Gore's movie, "An Inconvenient Truth." See it more than once. Take your friends. Take your enemies. The ticket's on you. Take your softball team. Take your softball league. Get the ticket sales and DVD and whatever else sales up to the stratosphere. Make the people who can make a difference take notice. If Gore knows what he's talking about here, there's still time. And, if he knows what he's talking about, what does that say about who should be leading us?