Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Rough Weather Ahead

From Rep. Heath Shuler's (D-NC) district, in a state with unemployment already above the national average:
ASHEVILLE, N.C. — Thousands of people flocked to a western North Carolina job fair this week, backing up traffic on an interstate ramp and more doubling the number of job seekers who came last year.

The Asheville Citizen-Times reported Wednesday that about 2,000 people attended the job fair Tuesday to talk to some of the 56 employers who participated. Last year, about 800 people attended.
This morning ABC radio news and AP (above) reported on it. Photos here. Video here.

Read more at Campaign for America's Future ...

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

On Building a Progressive Infrastructure

The Firedoglake article below was well received around the web. Johnson argues for the grassroots thinking more long term and getting into the habit of funding a "progressive infrastructure" for promoting a broad public agenda rather than specific issues.

I think the Left should be growing a professional cadre of thinkers and activists. The big focus, however, is still on funding think-tank based activities to array against Heritage, Hudson, AEI and Cato, etc. Even given the success of Obama's online fundraising campaign, don't count on millions flowing to progressive think tanks anytime soon. George Lakoff's Rockridge Institute closed this year from lack of funds.

I sent Dave Johnson a little missive on Blue Century's activities. We'd welcome some think-tank help with creating effective messages. But while others are still talking about what progressives should be doing, by staying grassroots we're already doing it.

Don't just think big. Think small, too.

Blue America: Progressive Infrastructure

By: Dave Johnson Saturday December 13, 2008 11:00 am

Monday, December 29, 2008

“You Have Bad Luck”

It's an article of faith among free-marketeers that Americans are overregulated. But most Americans have forgotten what freedom from regulation really looks like.

The Washington Post details the foot dragging and stonewalling of safety enforcement at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration since 2001. The Bush administration took a somewhat different view of the agency’s mission.
The agency's first director under Bush, John L. Henshaw, startled career officials by telling them in an early meeting that employers were OSHA's real customers, not the nation's workers. "Everybody was pretty amazed," one of those present recalled. "Our purpose is to ensure employee safety and health. . . . He just looked at things differently."
Read more at Campaign for America's Future ...

Friday, December 26, 2008

Business Week's Top Ten Worst Predictions of 2008

The Worst Predictions About 2008
10. A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can't Win, the title of a book by conservative commentator Shelby Steele, published on Dec. 4, 2007.

Mr. Steele, meet President-elect Barack Obama.

The House that Jack Bought

The Agonist primer on the financial meltdown.

Read it before you hear about in on the Nightly Business Report

Thursday, December 25, 2008

It's Still a Wonderful Life

This year’s election was right out of Frank Capra. An army of Obama volunteers fanned out like Boy Rangers, knocking on doors, making calls and registering voters. At 11 p.m. on Election Night, when networks called the race for Obama, little guys around the world began crying and chanting, “Yes, we did!”

Capra himself couldn’t have done it better.

Read more at Campaign for America's Future ...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

"Can't Do Anything Right"

Duncan Black's assessment of Imperious Leader. The occasion?
Bush withdraws pardon of Suffolk real estate scammer

White House issues extraordinary statement saying Bush was reversing his decision to pardon Issac Robert Toussie.
What has George W. Btfsplk touched that hasn't turned to excrement?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Landing a Left Hook

Conservatives are creatures of habit. Once they have a play that works for them, they will run it over and over and over again. One reason they continue to do it successfully is that liberal activists are also creatures of habit - predictable, often less prepared and less disciplined. Liberals are still learning how not to play their adversaries' game, and not to bring a knife to a gun fight.

Read more at Campaign for America's Future ...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Are We Safe Yet?

Vanity Fair has a lengthy piece on the Bush torture regime and its effectiveness. Abu Zubaydah, alleged al Qaida kingpin, was basically "a receptionist" for the terrorist group who passed along recruits, but had no operational knowledge. He was among the first tortured. Others, like Ethiopian named Binyam Mohamed, received similar treatment.
“They seemed to think I was some kind of top al-Qaeda person,” Mohamed said. “How? It was less than six months since I converted to Islam, and before that I was using drugs!” After the Americans’ visit, Mohamed said, he was hung by his wrists for hours on end, so that his feet barely touched the ground. Suspended thus, he said, he was beaten regularly by Pakistani guards. He said he was also threatened with a gun.
By chance, he and "dirty bomber," American Jose Padilla, had flown out of Pakistan on the same flight.
Their ultimate destinations were different: Padilla planned to spend time in Egypt before returning to Chicago. But the fact they were starting their journeys together, says an F.B.I. agent who attended official briefings about the case, convinced American agencies that they shared some joint purpose. “It was simply that—flight coincidence,” he says. “I never saw any evidence that Padilla and Mohamed met.”
So when, under torture, Abu Zubaydah gave up information about a dirty bomb plot, intelligence officials connected Padilla and Mohamed to it.
Convinced that the dirty-bomb plot was real, those interrogating Binyam Mohamed assumed that he must be part of it, and if he could not fill in missing details, he must have been covering up. Agents such as the F.B.I.’s Jack Cloonan, who spent years fighting al-Qaeda before his retirement in 2002, had learned that it had an impressive “quality-control system,” which meant “they looked for people with the right makeup, they did their own due diligence, and they would not pick weak guys”—not, typically, heroin addicts. But no one was listening to these agents.

M.I.5 seems to have shared the C.I.A.’s groupthink. Sources in London say that its agents also assumed that anything Mohamed said to try to defend himself must be a lie. One admission he did make was that he had seen a Web site with instructions on how to make a hydrogen bomb, but he was apparently claiming it was a joke. The intelligence agencies believed this was a smoking gun, notwithstanding Mohamed’s bizarre statement that the instructions included mixing bleach with uranium-238 in a bucket and rotating it around one’s head for 45 minutes. Neither the British nor the Americans thought Mohamed’s claim that the Web site was a joke was credible: his “confession” to reading instructions about building nuclear weapons on the Internet was cited in Mohamed’s Guantánamo charge sheet. Yet it was a joke: such a Web site, with instructions about how to refine bomb-grade uranium with bleach and a bucket, has been doing the rounds on the World Wide Web since at least 1994. In 2005, the conservative columnist Michelle Malkin cited it in her blog as evidence of al-Qaeda’s deadly intentions. She was swiftly disabused by readers, who, unlike the C.I.A. and M.I.5, immediately recognized it as satire.
Would that we could laugh off the entire Bush presidency as satire. And it's not over yet.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Every Time a Bell Rings

A Wall Street executive gets a bonus.

Plus a little toxic waste:
(Fortune) -- Kudos to Credit Suisse. Drowning in red ink, the Swiss bank announced it would pay bonuses to senior investment bankers not with cash but with mortgage-backed securities, high-yield bonds, and other forms of the untradeable junk now clogging the world's banking system.

Reportedly, investment bankers at the firm are steaming mad over the plan, but we think the idea is ingenious. After all, if these toxic securities were good enough for Credit Suisse's customers, they should be good enough for the bankers who cooked them up too. Don't you think?
[h/t Terrance Heath at Campaign for America's Future]

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"The Mouse That Roared" was a satire

This is simply insane (from Bloomberg):
Dec. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Goldman Sachs Group Inc., which got $10 billion and debt guarantees from the U.S. government in October, expects to pay $14 million in taxes worldwide for 2008 compared with $6 billion in 2007.

The company’s effective income tax rate dropped to 1 percent from 34.1 percent, New York-based Goldman Sachs said today in a statement. The firm reported a $2.3 billion profit for the year after paying $10.9 billion in employee compensation and benefits.

[. . .]

U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett, a Texas Democrat who serves on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, said steps by Goldman Sachs and other banks shifting income to countries with lower taxes is cause for concern.

“This problem is larger than Goldman Sachs,” Doggett said. “With the right hand out begging for bailout money, the left is hiding it offshore.”
Remember "government of the people, by the people, for the people"? Me neither.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Blue Collars Bad, White Collars Good

How much collateral damage are Senate conservatives willing for America to incur so they can cripple the United Auto Workers? How many lost American jobs are acceptable to resuscitate a failed economic theory?

Read more at Campaign for America's Future ...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

No Mea Culpas

My post this week at Campaign for America's Future got posted on between pieces by Joe Stiglitz and James K. Galbraith: flattering to the point of embarrassing. Both of their post are worth a careful read. Stiglitz wraps up his thumbnail history of the econonomic crisis with this gem:
The truth is most of the individual mistakes boil down to just one: a belief that markets are self-adjusting and that the role of government should be minimal. Looking back at that belief during hearings this fall on Capitol Hill, Alan Greenspan said out loud, “I have found a flaw.” Congressman Henry Waxman pushed him, responding, “In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right; it was not working.” “Absolutely, precisely,” Greenspan said. The embrace by America—and much of the rest of the world—of this flawed economic philosophy made it inevitable that we would eventually arrive at the place we are today.
Don't expect any mea culpas from the Randians who promoted that philosophy for the last several decades. Many people read Atlas Shrugged in high school. Not all of them grow up.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Who needs national health care anyway?

Losers. Just like the half-million irresponsible deadbeats who suddenly lost their jobs (and health care) last month. As a co-worker says, "Now why should I pay taxes to provide health care for people who don't even pay taxes?"

Why indeed?
Ms. Darling, who was pregnant when her insurance ran out, worked at Archway for eight years, and her father, Franklin J. Phillips, worked there for 24 years.

“When I heard that I was losing my insurance,” she said, “I was scared. I remember that the bill for my son’s delivery in 2005 was about $9,000, and I knew I would never be able to pay that by myself.”

So Ms. Darling asked her midwife to induce labor two days before her health insurance expired.

“I was determined that we were getting this baby out, and it was going to be paid for,” said Ms. Darling, who was interviewed at her home here as she cradled the infant in her arms.

As it turned out, the insurance company denied her claim, leaving Ms. Darling with more than $17,000 in medical bills.
Ah, freedom.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

What Republicans Taught Me

During early voting, my wife described having the feeling that after eight, long years, the country's fever was beginning to break. But that's not the same as being healthy and whole again.

I've been following the discussions about what Obama and the Dems should do (or not do) about prosecuting people involved in the Bush torture program, and I realize that getting control of our country back is not the same as America being back. There is a lot to repair. Bush/Cheney is determined never to be held accountable, and they have good reason to believe they won't be.
Holding The Country Hostage

by digby

Jack Goldsmith tells us that if there are any prosecutions or further investigations into the torture regime the lawyers who give president's legal advice in the future will feel constrained and we'll all be killed in our beds. This is, of course, the same thing we were told about the warrantless wiretapping: we have to allow these telcom industries to have amnesty or they won't cooperate in the future and we'll all be killed in our beds. Or, as Goldsmith reiterates at some length, we have to let the CIA be immunized for torture and kidnapping because if we don't they'll be afraid to be "aggressive" and the terrorists will kill us all in our beds. Again and again, we are told that the only way to keep us "safe" is for the government to be allowed to "take the gloves off" and break the law with impunity. This is blackmail. Allow us to do whatever we want or the country gets it.

. . .

I do not accept this idea that in order to keep the country safe we have to allow all these people to break the law and suffer no consequences. It's a complete inversion of the entire system. The reason we have a constitution and a bill of rights in the first place is to keep the citizens safe --- from the government. If you can throw it out because some nutcase blows up a building it's very hard to see why the police can't throw it out when they are dealing with gang members or drug lords or common murderers. After all, their job is to "keep us safe" too. Why is that any different?
I see similar behavior even inside the Democratic Party, with those habituated to wielding power thinking they can get the rest to back down on command: Let us do what we want, or the Party gets it. Democrats have to do more than re-learn how to win. They have to re-learn how to fight for what's right when there may be a political cost. "All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing." -- Edmund Burke
Why can't we hold torturers accountable and still find out the truth?
By Dahlia Lithwick

And that's the crazy-making bit in all the talk of bygones and goodwill. Nobody is suggesting that those who authorized torture and wiretapping were sadists or brutes. But they did a lot worse than mix stripes and plaids. They broke the law. They violated domestic and international laws, and they committed war crimes. They did so deliberately and with the "cover" of cynically bad legal memoranda. And those who have been entrusted as the nation's top law enforcers now claim that public disapproval is punishment enough.
Digby again:
Torture Zombie

by digby

There is absolutely no reason to believe that the next time a Republican is elected to the presidency he or she won't pick right up where they left off. That is the story of the last 40 years and until there is some price to pay they will keep right on doing it, escalating each time. For all the Colin Powell's who have come over from the Dark Side, there a many more who were trained in this worldview during this long conservative era. At some point they will try to keep power permanently. All it would take is just the right kind of crisis for them to justify it. After all, the precedents are all lined up --- normalized and legalized each step of the way by Democrats who didn't want to spend their political capital to stop it.
And that's what I keep coming across now that it looks like Obama may be more bipartisan than transformational - the desire (in online progressive circles, anyway) for Democrats to stop being spineless, to stop going along to get along and stand up to these guys, to stop doing the smart, political thing and start doing the right thing again.

One thing I've learned from the last dozen years of watching Republicans is that they respect power and scorn weakness. Because Democrats tend to avoid conflict, the GOP sees them as weak and exploitable, featherweights who can't take a punch. Once you throw in the towel, you're their bitch.

The most miserable example of this was in 2005 when they got Sen. Dick Durbin to cry and apologize on the floor of the Senate for comments about prisoner treatment at Guantanamo. The right had gone into full torches-and-pitchforks mode over Durbin's comments. The point of the right's outrage was to get Durbin (and the Democrats) to roll over on their backs and pee in the air. With Durbin, they succeeded. And as long as they get away with it, they'll keep doing it, as Pres. Bill Clinton observed in 2004. It's about establishing dominance - a game of chicken - and they think Democrats will always blink first.

Jonathan Turley alluded to this behavior while on the Rachel Maddow Show discussing whether or not Democrats will pursue Bush officials over the torture program (emphasis mine):
TURLEY: No. I don't believe that anyone seriously believes in the administration that what they did was legal. This is not a close legal question. Waterboarding is torture. It has been defined as a war crime by U.S. courts and foreign courts. There's no ambiguity in it. That's exactly why they have repeatedly tried to stop any court from reviewing any of this. And so what's really happening here is a rather clever move at this intersection of law and politics, that what the administration is doing is they know that the people that want him to pardon our torture program is primarily the Democrats, not the Republicans. Democratic leadership would love to have a pardon so they could go to their supporters and say, "Look, there's really nothing we could do. We're just going to have this truth commission. We'll get the truth out but there really can't be indictments now." Well, the Bush administration is calling their bluff. They know that the Democratic leadership will not allow criminal investigations or indictments. And in that way the Democrats will actually repair Bush's legacy because he'll be able to say there's nothing stopping indictments or prosecutions but a Democratic Congress and a Democratic White House didn't think there was any basis for it.
Democrats have shown little stomach for prosecuting the Bushies, in part because Nancy Pelosi (and others) probably wears a scarlet "A" for Accessory underneath her business suit. They want this issue to just go away. Democrats want to play nice, all bipartisan and non-confrontational. The GOP knows this. And they've learned that by puffing and thumping their chests, they can get Democrats to roll over - for the good of the country, or whatever - should Democrats begin to grow spines.

The electoral smackdown earlier this month hasn't killed the zombie. It just stunned it. It has to be put down. That will take Democrats not just growing spines, but deciding that some issues are important enough that they stop acting like politicians and do the right thing. That's change America can believe in.
TURLEY: You know, Rachel, there has never been a brighter line. This has always been a crime. It's always been a war crime. It's always been immoral. The question is not whether the act is immoral, but whether moral people will stand forward and say, "We're not going to act like politicians for once. We're going to act like statesmen and we're going to stand by principle and we're going to say, 'Yes, let's investigate.' And if there are crimes here, let's prosecute."

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Coming Down

Post-election, I don't come down from running on coffee, chocolate and little sleep until mid-November. I spent Friday afternoon and yesterday in bed trying to shake off the traditional post-election cold. My wife says, with Obama's election, it feels as if the country's long fever has finally broken.

But not completely. Stephen Towe's piece this morning in the Asheville Citizen-Times (sorry, no link) reminded me of what Bill Maher said Friday: "The hard core Republican base is like a stalker. Rejection just makes them crazier." Towe's probably out stockpiling guns.

Honestly, based on rhetoric I heard in the last weeks before Election Day - thoughtfully reprised by Mr. Towe - if Obama won, walls would bleed, closets would eat children, rivers would turn to blood, and we'd all spew pea soup. Well, none of those Election Night events were reported by the press. Leave it to an MSM in the tank for Obama to suppress the truth.

It's the GOP's turn to do some soul searching, if it still has one to search. Commenting on the Special Prosecutors and "trumped up" investigations of the Clinton years, Maher said, "If Republicans really want to look into something for the next four years, my suggestion, try a mirror."


Sunday, October 12, 2008

No Confidence

From today's NYT:
Two weeks after persuading Congress to let it spend $700 billion to buy distressed securities tied to mortgages, the Bush administration has put that idea aside in favor of a new approach that would have the government inject capital directly into the nation’s banks — in effect, partially nationalizing the industry.

As recently as Sept. 23, senior officials had publicly derided proposals by Democrats to have the government take ownership stakes in banks.

The Treasury Department’s surprising turnaround on the issue of buying stock in banks, which has now become its primary focus, has raised questions about whether the administration squandered valuable time in trying to sell Congress on a plan that officials had failed to think through in advance.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Six Degrees of Desperation

If you should receive any Bill Ayers/Obama e-mails/links, I'd like to see them. It's suddenly being talked about around my office. It seems to be part of a big push (by Palin, Rove, Davis & Co.) to knock the floundering U.S. economy off the front page. The Ayers/Obama "terrorist" connection is suddenly all over the Internet on conservative blogs, though not much in the MSM .... yet. (First Little Green Footballs, then the world!) They're obviously trying to earn free media for it. The Daily Show just called the ploy "Six Degrees of Desperation."

The McCain campaign is losing air like a sighing balloon. now projects NC for Obama by +1.4 pts.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Creative destruction for the better half

From Greenwald:
Anyone arguing that [the people's] views should be ignored, that their judgment be overridden by the decree of the wiser, superior ruling class (see David Brooks and Kevin Drum as good examples), is simply endorsing the continuation of the predominant framework for how our country has been run for the last decade, at least. Whatever else that is, there's nothing "wise" about that framework. Even if one believes in principle that the country is best entrusted to the elevated wisdom of a magnanimous and superior ruling class, and that majoritarian opinion should be systematically ignored, our ruling class -- the one we actually have -- is anything but wise and magnanimous. It's bloated, incestuous, reckless, inept, self-interested, endlessly greedy and corrupt at its core. Ye shall know them by their fruits. It's hard to imagine anything less wise than continuing to submit to its dictates.

Liberation from -- one could say "destruction of" -- the system run by that ruling establishment class is of critical importance.
Yesterday was the first shot. Round one.

Tomorrow, the Senate.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Wall Street's Lifeboat Ethics

I hear on the news that the Obama campaign already has an ad out using clips from last night's debate. Entitled "Zero," it highlights the fact that McCain never once used the words "middle class." Implication: The omission speaks volumes about McCain's priorities. That, and having his campaign staffed by lobbyists.

More striking was this clip of an exchange this week between Larry Kudlow (CNBC, National Review; formerly with the Reagan administration, Freddie Mac and Bear-Stearns) and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders:

Sanders mocks free-marketer Kudlow as a socialist for supporting the disaster capitalist bailout of Wall Street. Ordinarily, government expenditures designed to help Main Street pay bills or provide health care for families are non-starters for Kudlow and his fellows. Benefiting Main Street is irrelevant. Such actions are un-capitalist. They present a moral hazard and tilt the country towards socialism. Conservatives oppose such actions on principle. "Oh, no!" Sanders mimics. Yet here Kudlow argues, "Every twenty or thirty or fifty years, I'm okay with it." Yes, when it is his friends in peril.

Kudlow argues [1:59] that a taxpayer-funded bailout of Wall Street moguls will "first and foremost help Main Street, middle-class people." Why the sudden concern for you and me?

"Wall Street went bust! I mean, look what happened. Bear-Stearns went under. Lehman Brothers went under. Merrill had to sell," argues Kudlow [3:58]. When Wall Street is in trouble, government must not blink before rushing to the rescue.

Uh, huh. When New Orleans went under (water) and people drowned, conservative pundits and bloggers argued that taxpayers had no responsibility for bailing out people who "irresponsibly" lived in a town established below sea level in the eighteenth century. Bush promised help. New Orleans is still waiting.

These are Wall Street’s lifeboat ethics. As the titanic U.S. economy lists badly, Wall Street brokers, bankers and speculators of the second Gilded Age want those of us in steerage to buy them lifeboats - to the tune of $700 billion - promising to come back and pick us up after the ship goes down.

We have seen that movie.

Friday, September 26, 2008

If BS were currency

"If BS were currency, Palin could bail out Wall Street herself." - conservative columnist Kathleen Parker, National Review Online

Parker has thrown in the tiara, and calls for Palin to step aside for the love of her country and good of her party:
Palin’s recent interviews with Charles Gibson, Sean Hannity, and now Katie Couric have all revealed an attractive, earnest, confident candidate. Who Is Clearly Out Of Her League.

No one hates saying that more than I do. Like so many women, I’ve been pulling for Palin, wishing her the best, hoping she will perform brilliantly. I’ve also noticed that I watch her interviews with the held breath of an anxious parent, my finger poised over the mute button in case it gets too painful. Unfortunately, it often does. My cringe reflex is exhausted.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What Do You Say?

Paulson: "Drop your opposition! Now! You have no chance of escape! Come forward with the $700 billion! If you wish to save your economy! This is your last warning! The choice is yours!"

Colonel Trautman: "What do you say John?"

Rambo: [loading his gun] "Fuck 'em!"

Saturday, September 20, 2008

What Have They Got That I Ain't Got? - Part 2

The Times of London has it straight from recent studies, that a person's positions on hot-button political issues "can be predicted accurately from the way their bodies respond to frightening stimuli."
The results, which are published in the journal Science, revealed significant differences in both responses, which corresponded with people’s political views. Those with “markedly lower physical sensitivity to sudden noises and threatening visual images” tended to support liberal positions, while those with strong responses tended to be more conservative.

This would fit with the hypothesis that people who have more fearful responses to perceived threats are more likely to be conservative, while those who have weaker responses develop more liberal views.
I have noticed an obsession with fear for some time now among leading conservatives. Weakness, especially showing weakness or fear is a cardinal sin. The world is a tough place, goes the thinking. So you'd better grow up quick and grow up mean, so your fists get hard and your wits get keen (a political philosophy with all the sophistication of "A Boy Named Sue"). Thus, the Bush/Cheney/Rove/Palin obsession with not "blinking" or "cutting and running," with issuing belligerent statements and making John Kerry seem "French," etc. It is a projection of their own weakness, something I was getting at (less scientifically than Science magazine) with this post from last week.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Been there? Done that?

"Losing your job is more than a state of mind. It means staring at the ceiling and wondering how in God's name am I going to pay the mortgage payment and not lose my house. It means looking at your pregnant wife saying how in God's name am I going to come up with the thousands of dollars just for a normal birth, and God forbid I have a premature child that's going to cost me $250,000 ... Ladies and gentlemen, it's not a state of mind. It's a loss of dignity. It's a loss of respect, the loss of more than just your economic well being." - Joe Biden, this week in MI. (19:25)

Monday, September 15, 2008

A record to run on

From Andrew Sullivan, 53% of Americans favor a ban on torture.
A new survey of global public opinion [PDF] reveals the appalling truth. Americans are now among the people on earth most supportive of government's torturing prisoners. The United States is in the same public opinion ballpark as some of the most disgusting regimes on the planet:
Support for the unequivocal position was highest in Spain (82%), Great Britain (82%) and France (82%), followed by Mexico (73%), China (66%), the Palestinian territories (66%), Poland (62%), Indonesia (61%), and the Ukraine (59%). In five countries either modest majorities or pluralities support a ban on all torture: Azerbaijan (54%), Egypt (54%), the United States (53%), Russia (49%), and Iran (43%). South Koreans are divided.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Biker for Obama

I stopped by the local Obama HQ yesterday to drop off the name of a volunteer who wanted to be on the e-mail list. A big biker with arms like hams walked in, smiling broadly. He was on his way home to Yancey County after his ride and had seen the Obama sign. He just had to stop in, he said.

At first, he said, he wasn't so sure about Obama (being a black man, and all). But he started listening to him and realized he was the man. Let's hope there are many more like him at home.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Conservative patriotism

We stopped for a half gallon of milk last night while walking home after eating cheap Mexican. My wife chit-chatted with the store manager and lamented the early appearance of Halloween candy.

“It all comes from China,” he explained. They have to order it early. It comes in shipping containers, and since the warehouse isn’t air conditioned, they end up with it in stores early to prevent it from melting. Christmas merchandise, too, comes from China and must be ordered early.

Sarah said it was a shame that we didn’t put more Americans to work in factories making it here instead of sending our money to a “communist” country. It seems like, for the cost of shipping, we could pay Americans to do it.

“We couldn’t get people to show up,” the manager explained, “and they expect too much money even before they prove what they can do.” On the other hand, Hispanics are hard workers, he observed. They’ll do anything you ask them. But they’re illegal. If we could just make them legal...

Let’s recap. All flag-pin rhetoric to the contrary:

• Americans workers aren’t the best, most competitive workers in the world.
• Americans workers are slothful and greedy.
• The immigration issue is about the legal risks for employers hiring illegals.
• Illegal workers are more desirable than American workers because they work hard, come cheap, and do what they’re told.

Conservative patriotism.

Friday, September 12, 2008

What Have They Got That I Ain't Got?

A guy I once worked with fancied himself quite the stud. Trim, he wore a combed-back, black mullet. In his cubical he kept photos of himself water skiing barefoot. He made guttural noises in his throat when women walked by his cube. He also made extra money on weekends as a male strip-o-gram. But walk by his desk and lisp, “Hey, sailor. How’s it hanging?” and he would jump right out of his skin, fists clenched.

Thong riding up there a little, cowboy?

Those obsessed with displays of manliness are sometimes, like the Cowardly Lion, deeply unsure of their own. The thing liberals never seem to grasp is that for leading conservatives and neocons these electoral contests are not about issues or what is best for the country. They are about seeing which dog can pee highest on the tree. Power is like heroin, and the only thing that keeps what they fear most at bay - and it is not liberals.

One word from Obama would set the neocons and their enablers into crimson-faced spasms of rage: COWARDS. Far more than al Qaida, the thing they fear most, the thing they cannot face in themselves nor abide in others is weakness. Weakness is unpardonable. It is why they take such delight in tactics meant to emasculate their rivals. Find an opportunity to drop the C-bomb and watch their heads explode.

Push the button, Barack.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Type, Baby, Type

Tom Friedman was just on Meet the Press, hawking his new book in his usual full-of-himself way. He said that the next, great revolution beyond the IT revolution will be the the ET revolution: Energy Technology.

We'll need a mix of technologies going forward, including oil (as everyone agrees). The GOP's mistake is placing oil at the center of their energy "plan." When the GOP convention exploded in chants of "Drill, Baby, Drill," he said, imagine how the Chinese, Venezuelans and Saudis would have responded had they been sitting in a sky box.

Conventioneers might as well have been chanting, "IBM Selectric Typewriters! IBM Selectric Typewriters!"

Monday, September 01, 2008

At the Fair

I walked the Hendersonville, NC Apple Festival parade route today beside Democratic senatorial candidate, Kay Hagan, and her daughter, and behind Congressman Heath Shuler, who walked carrying his daughter (at least part of the way). I've done the parade before, but this time I saw no "thumbs down" or scowls, and the only "boo" was kidding from somebody's friend. Still, I noticed that there was a good bit of applause heading into downtown. It tapered off and got quiet in the thicker crowds in the middle of Main St. Then the applause picked up again as we headed out of downtown. The folks on the fringes tended to look less well-to-do.

On the way back up the parade route, I got my first-ever glimpse of Sen. Elizabeth Dole. She was with Republican gubernatorial candidate, Pat McCrory, riding high above the street on a colorful float.

We walked. They rode.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Smears? You ain't seen nothin' yet!

Republican Group Releases Radio Ads Exposing Obama As A Radical

"We released these eye-opening ads," said the chairman of the National Black Republican Association (NBRA), Frances Rice, "because the 2008 election will be about character and judgment, and Senator Barack Obama's actions and record show that he is not fit to be our next president." Rice stated that the ads will be aired on radio stations which target African Americans, particularly in battleground states. )

Video, billboards, radio.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Chasing Spamalot


Dr. Danielle Allen's investigation into e-propaganda, in a profile Saturday by the WaPo:
"What I've come to realize is, the labor of generating an e-mail smear is divided and distributed amongst parties whose identities are secret even to each other," she says. A first group of people published articles that created the basis for the attack. A second group recirculated the claims from those articles without ever having been asked to do so. "No one coordinates the roles," Allen said. Instead the participants swim toward their goal like a school of fish -- moving on their own, but also in unison.

Obama's campaign, for better or worse, is writing the manual on combating this new asymmetrical guerrilla warfare. Obama has not shied away from the rumors -- he mentions them frequently. "Before I begin," he told a pro-Israel group this month, "I want to say that I know some provocative e-mails have been circulating throughout Jewish communities across the country. . . . They're filled with tall tales and dire warnings about a certain candidate for president. And all I want to say is -- let me know if you see this guy named Barack Obama, because he sounds pretty frightening."
Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

We are the microgeneration

A new government report to be released Monday mirrors a Conservative Party policy announced six months ago advocating "a decentralised energy revolution," according to The Independent of London.
The government-backed report, to be published tomorrow, says that, with changed policies, the number of British homes producing their own clean energy could multiply to one million – about one in every three – within 12 years.

These would produce enough power to replace five large nuclear power stations, tellingly at about the same time as the first of the much-touted new generation of reactors is likely to come on stream.

[. . .]

The 130-page report . . . has been produced by a consultancy, Element Energy, after a wide-ranging survey of public attitudes on installing household renewable energy systems. It has been financed, and steered by, 14 official and other bodies including DBERR, the official Energy Savings Trust, five regional development agencies, British Gas, the Micropower Council and the Ashden Trust.
After some hemming and hawing over energy policy in Britain, including entertaining building more nuclear stations and reducing support for microgeneration that leaves Britain well behind the rest of Europe, the report may offer a change of direction:
The report offers a very different future, as do the Tories, who see microgeneration as central to their philosophy of redirecting power to individuals. David Cameron sees "decentralised energy" as "a key part of our political vision, energy for the post-bureaucratic age". He believes microgeneration could make Britain, and individual communities, "self-sufficient in energy".
Post-bureaucratic? Decentralized? Self-sufficient? What kind of conservatives are they growing over there? Real conservatives know that the only way to cheaper gas and more freedom is drilling, drilling and more drilling. Clearly, British conservatives are a looney bunch of DFHs. Call Bill O'Reilly to have them arrested.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

When was the last time you heard "lily-livered"?

Sir Simon Jenkins, writing for the Sunday Times of London, declares al Qaeda beneath the dignity of James Bond:
Oh do pay attention, 007, this enemy simply isn’t worthy of you.
Jenkins traces our need for a great enemy and laments that al Qaeda simply doesn't measure up to Cold War-inspired villains of the Bond books.

But the histrionics of the neocons, Bush and Blair has been a boon to this ragtag troop, Jenkins says, inflating al Qaeda "into a body of fiendish efficiency and global strength. Its cells had to be everywhere, its influence titanic, its fanaticism superhuman." They all but painted bin Laden with a mechanical hand and a white cat.
The West has not curbed Al-Qaeda.

The movement has been honoured by Blair, the neocons and the military industrial complex as the global antithesis to the once-vaunted new world order. Never can so wretched an outfit have been awarded so vast a dignity.

Al-Qaeda is thus an Orwellian classic, a necessary enemy. As portrayed by Philip Bobbitt in his new book, Terror and Consent, it is the ultimate Smersh, terrorist without aim or purpose, secretive, fanatical and blessed with an awesome arsenal on the brink of going chemical, biological and nuclear. Its alleged goal is to create mayhem as a prelude to some notional world theocracy.
Now if the loutish Yanks at Halliburton would just deliver that new Mach 2 jetpack, Bond could kick some Islamofascist butt . . . after a few, quick hands of Baccarat.

Jenkins concludes,
What I cannot do is join the pessimists in claiming that western civilisation is so enfeebled by immorality, as the Bishop of Rochester implied last week, as to be structurally vulnerable to bomb explosions, devoid as they are of any political programme or local support. Because a terrorist claims to attack western culture does not make the claim plausible. Conrad’s terrorist was equally grandiloquent in his demented ambition. This is childish fear-mongering.

I have more faith in western democracy than the lily-livered neocons. I believe in the robustness of its institutions, its traditions and its liberal outlook. They beat the real threat of communist totalitarianism. Nothing on the present horizon is remotely comparable to that. I rather agree with the St Petersburg comrades. That some people need the emotional prop of a Great Satan does not make Satan any more real.
Lily-livered, yet. All things old are new again.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Chairman Mao, Inc. is watching you

File it under "free markets and free people go hand in hand."

Naomi Klein writes, in her current Rolling Stone piece that China's new surveillance infrastructure, Golden Shield, is almost ready to protect China's "market Stalinism."
This is how this Golden Shield will work: Chinese citizens will be watched around the clock through networked CCTV cameras and remote monitoring of computers. They will be listened to on their phone calls, monitored by digital voice-recognition technologies. Their Internet access will be aggressively limited through the country's notorious system of online controls known as the "Great Firewall." Their movements will be tracked through national ID cards with scannable computer chips and photos that are instantly uploaded to police databases and linked to their holder's personal data. This is the most important element of all: linking all these tools together in a massive, searchable database of names, photos, residency information, work history and biometric data. When Golden Shield is finished, there will be a photo in those databases for every person in China: 1.3 billion faces.
Golden Shield (which Klein dubs Police State 2.0) must be inducing surveillance envy among higher-ups in the Bush administration, both for its domestic spying and profit potential. Former Bush CIA chief, George Tenet, is already on the board of Connecticut-based L-1 Identity Solutions, the biometrics firm vying for the contract to supply China with the technology for Police State 2.0. Supplying police-state technology to China is probably illegal under U.S. law, Klein notes, and has been since shortly after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.

U.S. business consultant, Stephen Herrington, a former military-intelligence lieutenant colonel, tells Klein that what he's seeing in China scares the hell out of him.
"I can guarantee you that there are people in the Bush administration who are studying the use of surveillance technologies being developed here and have at least skeletal plans to implement them at home," he says. "We can already see it in New York with CCTV cameras. Once you have the cameras in place, you have the infrastructure for a powerful tracking system. I'm worried about what this will mean if the U.S. government goes totalitarian and starts employing these technologies more than they are already. I'm worried about the threat this poses to American democracy."

Herrington pauses. "George W. Bush," he adds, "would do what they are doing here in a heartbeat if he could."
If he hasn't already. "Ready for export to a neighborhood near you," Klein quips.

What’s more ironic is how this new Homeland Security industry isn’t some poster child for free-market capitalist innovation, but constitutes another kind of arms industry. Companies like L-1 Identity Solutions developed their technology using taxpayer dollars. Their principle clients are government agencies funded with taxpayer dollars. And their efforts at getting around export restrictions so they can sell these new "arms" to a lucrative Chinese market are defended by a growing Homeland Security industry lobby funded, again, with taxpayer dollars.

Klein observes,
The global homeland-security business is now worth an estimated $200 billion — more than Hollywood and the music industry combined. Any sector of that size inevitably takes on its own momentum. New markets must be found — which, in the Big Brother business, means an endless procession of new enemies and new emergencies: crime, immigration, terrorism.
Homeland Security player General Electric controls major media in this country and Cisco Systems, a supplier of security hardware to China, is a sponsor of television's 24. For both, fear is their business. Maintaining it makes business sense.

In a sidebar, Klein considers what China's security apparatus means for us.
"... they're becoming more like us and we're becoming more like them. I think this urge to know as much as possible about what people are saying and writing and doing, this is something the police around the world share. They generally want as much information about people as possible. The way I put it in the piece is that there seems to be this global middle ground emerging, not to say that we are like China now, but you do have a glimpse of catching the future and of course it's the future that we've imagined many, many times in every Hollywood movie."

Sunday, May 18, 2008

When Bush pardons himself

The Bush administration did not have an exit strategy for Iraq, but you can bet they have one for themselves. With the nation distracted by the election, few are discussing what steps Bush might take before leaving the White House for avoiding the Big House. Or what secret, pre-planning is likely going on as we speak to address that.

We all expect a flurry of preemptive presidential pardons for Bush’s pals before he leaves office. But unless there is a Republican following him in the White House, who pardons Bush?
“He couldn’t pardon himself,” my wife said yesterday.

“We’re talking about George W. Bush,” I replied. Who would have foreseen a president voiding habeas corpus, authorizing torture or any of his other offenses?

Sure, there would be a firestorm of criticism, but if it is between public opinion or George doing time, has he ever cared what we think? They have already granted themselves retroactive immunity for past war crimes in the Military Commissions Act.

With our president’s history, it would not surprise me for Bush to pardon himself. Barring impeachment, the constitution does not forbid it. At worst, Bush might worry that someone will challenge it before the Supreme Court -- the Roberts Supreme Court.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Empathy 101

Barack Obama won North Carolina by 14 points on Tuesday, but not here in the NC-11. Hillary Clinton won in this conservative district by 16 points, except in Buncombe County. Liberal activists in Buncombe will be grinding their teeth over that for weeks.

Last week, Jeff Greenfield had a piece in Slate that feeds into what I've been thinking about regarding activists and the "elitist" label that gets attached by conservative elitists to liberal ones. Greenfield quotes George Orwell from 1937 on the failure of socialism to take root in England. Orwell brands socialism's supporters as its worst promoters, commonly bearing "the worst stigmata of sniffish middle-class superiority."

Greenfield paraphrases:
Real working-class folks, he says, might be drawn toward a socialist future centered around family life, the pub, football, and local politics. But those who speak in its name, he says, have a snobbish condescension toward such quotidian pleasures—even condemning coffee and tea. "Reformers" urged the poor to eat healthier food—less sugar, more brown bread. And their audience balked. "Would it not be better if they spent more money on wholesome things like organs and wholemeal bread, or [raw carrots]?" Orwell asks. "Yes it would, but the point is that no ordinary human being is ever going to do such a thing. The ordinary human being would rather starve than live on brown bread and more carrots … a millionaire may enjoy breakfasting off orange juice and Ryvita biscuits. An unemployed man doesn't."
The amusing thing about insistent activists everywhere is how smart they think they are about their pet issues, and how dense they are about people -- voters they are asking for the privilege to represent.

With this week's results in NC-11, I'm bound to hear local activists dismissing more conservative Democrats as ignorant or uneducated, the kind of people who still believe Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11. The question they should ask themselves is, Why do they trust George Bush rather than you?

Because elections aren't about issues. They're not about programs and policies. Essentially, they are about identity and trust. Greenfield explains:
The perennial struggle of Democratic contenders to appeal to ordinary Americans seems very much of a piece with Orwell's sharp descriptions. Election after election, Democrats argue that once Joe and Jane Sixpack fully grasp the wisdom of the latest six-point college-loan program, or of an 800-page health-care scheme, they will come to wave the Democratic banner. And, sometimes, these voters do just that—provided that the candidate in question has demonstrated a sense that he or she is not treating them as the subject of an anthropological study. Bill Clinton had a full steamer trunk of domestic programs; he also was a product of Georgetown, Oxford, and Yale Law School. But his 18 years in the vineyards of Arkansas politics gave him the tools to compete for support on a more visceral level. Then there were Clinton's obvious tastes for earthly pleasures—from Big Macs to more intimate diversions—which made it very hard to label him as an aloof elitist.
It's their own wonkishness that separates the activists from average voters. Voters want first to vote for somebody who they can trust, for somebody who thinks like they do. This is Empathy 101.

Or as I wrote a couple of weeks ago,
. . . with more and more Americans feeling as if they are treading water amidst a flotsam of bills, soccer practice, commuting and longer work hours, throwing them a candidate survey or a stack of position papers isn't helping. They need a lifeline. Like it or not, many voters just want some way to participate that doesn't require that they master the arcana of the legislative process. That's what they have representatives for. They just want some shorthand way of choosing candidates who will legislate in their best interests. A party they can trust. A party who thinks like they do.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Brings tears to my eyes

First from Alex Knapp:
Both Matthew Yglesias and John Cole agree that the Obama/Clinton proposal to tax the “windfall profits” of the oil companies is a bad idea, and you’ll get no argument from me. However, one thing that I did notice when I was doing a little google-fu on the issue is that there appears to be approximately 20 to 50 billion dollars spent by the federal government per year on direct subsidies (as opposed to tax breaks) given to the oil industry each year.

[. . .]

Not only would that generate more revenue than the “windfall tax” (estimated to be $15 billion), but it would do so without getting the federal government into the problematic business of deciding how profitable companies are allowed to be.
Kevin Drum puts icing on the cake:
Anyway, this really ought to be the liberal rallying cry: forget a windfall profits tax, let's work first on getting rid of the massive corporate welfare infrastructure we've constructed for an industry that really, really doesn't need it. Not as sexy as a gas tax holiday, maybe, but it makes a helluva lot more sense.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

"Somebody who thinks like me"

If Democrats want a stronger hand in guiding America's future, they need to strengthen their brand identity among busy and beleaguered American voters.

For decades, too much emphasis has been placed promoting programs and policies -- or attractive personalities -- over deeper brand identification. There are a lot of folk myths about the 1950s, and maybe this is one of them, but I think I remember a time when brand loyalty made for Democrats' success. A time when, if someone mentioned a candidate's name, the first question someone might ask was, "Is he a Democrat?"


"That’s all I need to know." And that meant another vote for the Democrat.

Democrat meant, he thinks like me. He believes what I do. He’s on my side. You didn’t need to know his or her position on snail darters or NAFTA or gay rights. Or even his name. Democrat meant something.

But how many events have you been to where someone starts talking about what Democrats stand for? And they unroll a laundry list of programs and policies anywhere from forty to seventy years-old. It’s like a K-tel commercial for Democrats’ Greatest Hits. “Can anyone forget the rocking, G.I. Bill?” Proud accomplishments, okay? But they don’t say anything about the beliefs behind those programs, nothing about our passions or ideals, about who we are.

Coke, the Chicago Cubs, Nike, the Marines. Images, feelings and associations are more important in brand loyalty than particular features, and Democrats have neglected brand-building for too long. Behind the argument echoed in Thomas Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas? -- that many working class voters vote Republican against their own economic interests -- is the assumption that economic interest is (or should be) the basis for casting a ballot and for party identification.

One of the disconnects in American politics between Democratic activists and typical voters arises from activists' focus on the wonky details of programs and policies that busy non-wonks haven't the time to master, even if they have the interest.

Early primary voting is underway here in NC, and yesterday my wife went out to vote with a group of friends. They turned to her to tell them who they should vote for on the down-ticket races. To some degree, they just wanted to vote for Clinton or Obama and the other races were afterthoughts. They wanted, at minimum, to do their civic duty, but were too busy be more informed. For that, they trusted her to advise them.

Why? Because they respect her, trust her judgment, believe she's like them and on their side. They identify with her. As a party, Democrats have to rebuild voters' confidence that that is just as true of the party as a whole.

Democracy isn't supposed to be easy, but with more and more Americans feeling as if they are treading water amidst a flotsam of bills, soccer practice, commuting and longer work hours, throwing them a candidate survey or a stack of position papers isn't helping. They need a lifeline. Like it or not, many voters just want some way to participate that doesn't require that they master the arcana of the legislative process. That's what they have representatives for. They just want some shorthand way of choosing candidates who will legislate in their best interests. A party they can trust. A party who thinks like they do.

That’s all they want to know.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A stark choice

A friend in the clergy just forwarded a noxious e-mail along with comments expressing his frustration and anger. The e-mail labeled that went out to NewsMax readers was labeled Christian Response (to Barack Obama). It was anything but (and not worth dignifying with a link). But then, what would you expect from the fine people who brought you the famous Willy Horton ad?

Future GOP leaders may see this year's attack ads as their "Civil Rights Act" moment, when they lost every minority voter in America for a generation.

Tactics like this one and the one mentioned above could easily backfire. The Roves and the Attwaters of the GOP have been feeding their attack dogs under the table for decades. But as these ads show, they won't be able to control them in 2008 if Obama is the Democratic candidate. Attacking a minority presidential candidate without alienating every minority group in our increasingly multiethnic country requires a scalpel. These guys carry bludgeons. They don't have much finesse.

Do we?

The trick for Democrats may be to not overreact. This is a change election and these tactics are anything but. It will take great confidence to stare down such opponents without becoming like them -- confidence the White House of Bush clearly hasn't shown in dealing with suspected terrorists. Democrats have to show integrity and strength in responding firmly, but also strength of character in not responding in kind. We may have to hold fire until our opponents begin to collapse under withering public outcry and plummeting poll numbers. With the GOP flogging the GWOT for all they're worth, it may look a bit "Gandhi" to frustrated activists itching for a fight, and to nervous pols anxious about looking tough for November.

But standing in the middle of the ring and drawing more blood than our opponents doesn't win elections. Winning over the crowd does. Americans are sick of the "fear and smear" politics of the last decade. If they are seeking a better alternative -- if enough are, that's the catch -- we have to show them we are it. Accentuate our positives, illuminate (but not flog) their negatives, and let the stark contrast speak for itself.

Let's hope it doesn't get much more stark than this.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

“Psyops on steroids” - Col. Ken Allard

Awhile back I posted a letter at Salon about an article I'd received from David Horowitz's FrontPageMagazine. In June 2005, a week after Sen. Dick Durbin made a well-publicized criticism of conditions of detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullu (Ret.) was flown to Cuba on Vice President Cheney's plane with other retired military officers as part of a "Department of Defense trip." Upon returning, he wrote "What I Saw at Gitmo" -- consisting largely of what he'd been told at Gitmo.

The New York Times has a lengthy, front page piece this morning that mentions that flight in the summer of 2005:

Some of these analysts were on the mission to Cuba on June 24, 2005 — the first of six such Guantánamo trips — which was designed to mobilize analysts against the growing perception of Guantánamo as an international symbol of inhumane treatment. On the flight to Cuba, for much of the day at Guantánamo and on the flight home that night, Pentagon officials briefed the 10 or so analysts on their key messages — how much had been spent improving the facility, the abuse endured by guards, the extensive rights afforded detainees.

These ' “message force multipliers” or “surrogates” ' in Pentagoneze were part of an "information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance," the Times finds.

... members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access.

A few expressed regret for participating in what they regarded as an effort to dupe the American public with propaganda dressed as independent military analysis.

“It was them saying, ‘We need to stick our hands up your back and move your mouth for you,’ ” Robert S. Bevelacqua, a retired Green Beret and former Fox News analyst, said.

Kenneth Allard, a former NBC military analyst who has taught information warfare at the National Defense University, said the campaign amounted to a sophisticated information operation. “This was a coherent, active policy,” he said.

As conditions in Iraq deteriorated, Mr. Allard recalled, he saw a yawning gap between what analysts were told in private briefings and what subsequent inquiries and books later revealed.

“Night and day,” Mr. Allard said, “I felt we’d been hosed.”

You can find photos of Lt. Col. Cucullu being hosed here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Bill Kristol's gift for spiritual discernment

In his NYT editorial, Kristol dissects Obama's "guns or religion" gaff. Quoting Marx and explaining how Obama's "mask slipped," Kristol peels away the layers of exoskeleton for us - a la Independence Day - to uncover the "real" Obama.

Andrew Sullivan punches back,
"Kristol is deliberately distorting to paint Obama as a cynical manipulator of religious faith for political ends, rather than as a genuine Christian. He's calling him a lying, Godless communist.

[. . .]

A non-Christian manipulator of Christianity is calling a Christian a liar about his own faith. That's where they've gone to already. And it's only the middle of April. What are they so scared of?"
Perhaps with "manipulator," Sullivan is lumping Kristol in with the likes of Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff-associate, Michael Scanlon, who reduced the GOP's attitude towards conservative Christians in America to this little nugget:
"The wackos get their information through the Christian right, Christian radio, mail, the internet and telephone trees," Scanlon wrote in the memo, which was read into the public record at a hearing of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. "Simply put, we want to bring out the wackos to vote against something and make sure the rest of the public lets the whole thing slip past them." The brilliance of this strategy was twofold: Not only would most voters not know about an initiative to protect Coushatta gambling revenues, but religious "wackos" could be tricked into supporting gambling at the Coushatta casino even as they thought they were opposing it.
Please, Bill. The mask is off, all right. And it's yours. Allen Raymond, one of your own, put it better than I could (after getting out of jail):
"When it came to playing in the gutter, we were the professionals—the Dems weren't even junior varsity."

Sunday, April 13, 2008

What did you expect?

From corporate-bred politicians who view governing through a corporate lens?
WASHINGTON - Bush administration officials from Vice President Dick Cheney on down signed off on using harsh interrogation techniques against suspected terrorists after asking the Justice Department to endorse their legality, The Associated Press has learned. (Emphasis mine.)
And the president approved, telling ABC's Martha Raddatz on Friday,
"Well, we started to connect the dots in order to protect the American people." Bush told ABC News White House correspondent Martha Raddatz. "And yes, I'm aware our national security team met on this issue. And I approved."

As first reported by ABC News Wednesday, the most senior Bush administration officials repeatedly discussed and approved specific details of exactly how high-value al Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the CIA.

The high-level discussions about these "enhanced interrogation techniques" were so detailed, these sources said, some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed -- down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic.
Glenn Greenwald cautions against placing too much emphasis on John Yoo's as the author of the just-released "torture memo" referenced at the top of the post. Yoo was doing what he was asked, to deliver a legal justification for illegal acts.
Yoo wasn't opining in a vacuum. He knew that these techniques were already being used and that the highest level of our Government wanted him to create legal protections for what had happened and to enable more of what they wanted to do. He bears substantial culpability, but certainly not exclusive or even principal culpability. (Emphasis mine.)
There is a pattern here.

Greenwald points to Yale Law Professor Jack Balkin's observation that the 2006 Military Commissions Act "effectively insulated government officials from liability for many of the violations of the War Crimes Act they might have committed during the period prior to 2006."

There is a pattern here.

It is the triumph of corporate thinking applied to governing. The corporation exists -- as a style of organizing a business -- to shield its principals from personal responsibility for actions they take on its behalf. Why wouldn't our CEO president and his board members take the same approach to their roles in the executive branch?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Spam, spam, spam, spam . . .

Friends at the Asheville Citizen-Times get lots of spam:
Now, people can believe what they want to believe; got no problem with that. The problem I do have is that the wild claims in chain e-mails keep popping up in letters to the editor or in calls to the newsroom carping, “Why aren’t you printing this?’’

Short answer: ’cause it isn’t true. Tracking down rumors about whether Barack Obama is Muslim or Target is unpatriotic is a public service, I suppose, but it eats up a lot of hours in the day during the political season, especially for letters editor Dave Russell.
I couldn't resist responding:
The saddest thing about what I call "right-wing spam" is that people who forward the e-mails don't care that they're lies. They have no skeptical "Sixth Sense" and don't want one. They only see what they want to see.

The irony is that in less time than it takes to attach that buddy list to the forward, you can debunk the majority of these things ... if the truth still mattered. Sadly, truth has become a casualty. Facts have such a way of messing up good propaganda.

I've seen a couple versions of Obama-the-Muslim-sleeper-agent. I expect any day now to get Obama's-Christian-church-hates-America -- forwarded without a hint of cognitive dissonance by the very same people who forwarded Obama-the-Muslim-sleeper-agent.

Outside the Bill Clinton event last week, two women in line told my wife that if Obama won the nomination, they would vote for McCain. See, they didn't like Obama's church because the choir wears African garb. His church isn't American enough.

[My wife] asked if they'd voted for Kennedy. They had. She didn't point out that, like him, I grew up in a church where the services were in a dead language and the clergy wore sacramental gear dating back to thirteenth-century Italy. They only see what they want to see.

[. . .]

One more thing. Have the people who forward these things never heard of a blind copy? Some of the mails I receive have as many as 75 addresses attached in the multiple forwards. And they wonder why they receive so much spam.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Limbaugh fans join Earth First and the Merry Pranksters

(I wonder who brought the drugs?)

A radio campaign by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce last year called voting "as sacred as the Constitution." Now Rush Limbaugh is using the public airwaves to urge listeners to join "Operation Chaos" and corrupt Democratic primaries. 4,000 Americans dead in Iraq to "plant democracy" in the heart of the Middle East. Limbaugh and his listeners honor that sacrifice by demonstrating to the world how sacred they think democracy is.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Thanks for something

Gordon over at Scrutiny Hooligans has a post up that lists the earmarks Congressman Heath Shuler has brought to NC-11. The first item grabbed my attention. So this, cross-posted at Scrutiny Hooligans:
$282,000 AdvantageWest (Henderson/Buncombe)
I thank the congressman for funneling some money to our local development agency. But I’ve had my eye on AdvantageWest for years. In my estimation, they have consistently underperformed in achieving their stated goals.
Chartered by the North Carolina General Assembly in 1994, AdvantageWest is a non-profit public-private partnership whose primary focus is marketing the North Carolina mountains to corporations seeking to relocate or open a new facility, expand an existing business within our region, and those who might otherwise improve the quality of life for citizens within our region through activities such as filmmaking, entrepreneurship and tourism.
Or maybe, they’ve simply underperformed in achieving attracting good-paying manufacturing jobs to this area (to replace the thousands we’ve lost).

I was [an observer] at AdvantageWest in 2004 when the governor parachuted in to take some of the credit for Jacob Holm locating a nonwovens plant on Sandhill Rd. 70 jobs - sweet. And since then?

Coats North America (Cherokee County): -98 jobs, 2008
Stanley Furniture (Graham County): -450 jobs, 2007
Western Forge (Cherokee County): -170 jobs, 2006

1,400 jobs were lost in 13 days in Haywood, Buncombe, McDowell and Mitchell back in 2004.

Recently, a friend who wants to start up a small CNC machine shop asked the Asheville Chamber of Commerce what help they could offer him. They offered him the door. Manufacturing, it seems, is too blue collar, and not the kind of “new economy” business they want within the city limits.

AdvantageWest, the Asheville Chamber and local leaders need to get a clue: thousands of laid-off factory workers won’t likely land filmmaking jobs, or “new economy” jobs writing software in trendy Biltmore Ave. storefronts. Our local economy is slowly being hollowed out to where only those who don’t need work (or bring theirs with them) can afford to live here.

Worst of all, that may not change until local moguls awaken to find a shocking shortage of waiters and housekeeping staff.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The guy can give a stump speech.

Former president Bill Clinton spoke in Asheville last night, promoting Hillary Clinton's bid for the White House. Cross-posted from Scrutiny Hooligans:
Pres. Clinton was convincing, and sold Sen. Clinton well. Good speech and good points. Most telling was when Clinton asked for a show of hands: “Raise your hand if you know somebody without health insurance at all.” Somewhere from 40-50% of the crowd raised their hands.

Clinton surveyed the crowd and said, “This is the only country in the world where you could get that answer - the only rich country. This is the only country in the world where anybody could ask the question at election time.”

Mrs. Blue and I went without in 2003 and 2004 after I got laid off and COBRA ran out. He got me where I live.

I visited the new Obama HQ earlier in the day and was frank about going to hear Bill to fish for volunteers for the fall campaigns. 2500 potential volunteers in one place was an opportunity not to be missed. I’ll be at the Obama event at the Orange Peel on April 17 too, for the same reason.

Hillary Clinton supporters we met last night who said they would vote for McCain before they’d vote for Obama might want to think that through some. That goes equally for the Obama supporters who say the same. You want to shoot yourselves in the foot? I’ll loan you the gun.

Both our remaining candidates and their supporters owe this country better. We owe the world better. Republicans win when Democrats who don’t get their way take their balls and go home. Bill Bennett probably has probably placed bets on that happening - with good odds.

For all of the wonky policy talk to make any difference, we first have to win. We have to pull together when this nomination is resolved. And we have to work together to get out our vote.

Ideals are nice, but to both Obama and Clinton supporters I’m frustratingly practical. I don’t care that Obama has the chance to be the first Africa-American president. I don’t care that Clinton has the chance to be the first woman president. I don’t care which candidate claims the most experience, or who gives the best speech or whose husband does. They’re nice perks. But I want the candidate who has the most potential for energizing volunteers, for attracting new and crossover voters. I want the candidate who has the most potential for coattails, for helping new Democrats win office on the local, state and national levels. I want the Democrat who is going to make turning out our vote this fall the easiest. I want the candidate who is going to make the GOP’s job the hardest.

Elections are a numbers game. Bottom line: 50% + 1 wins. If on November 5th, there is a Republican president-elect, none of the trash talk about which Democrat is better or more qualified ain’t worth squat.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

One step forward, two steps back

Study: N.C. family needs $42,841 a year

The average family of four in North Carolina requires $42,841 per year to provide for basic needs, according to a report from the N.C. Budget & Tax Center.

And it's even worse west of Statesville.

Although per capita income for the Asheville MSA for 2006 was approximately $30,789, the last time I looked it up, the breakdown showed that figure significantly inflated by rental, retirement and investment income. People earning wages earned proportionately less.

My guess is, that hasn't changed.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

False Witness

As campaign season ramps up, we'll be seeing more and more political spam in our in-boxes. If my in-box is any indicator, 98% will be distortions and lies. What's increasingly disturbing about this information superhighway trash is what its proliferation says about our relationship with reality itself. Truth, it seems, is now an endangered species.

New York Times Magazine weighed in on Sunday, March 16. Internet rumors such as Obama-is-a-Muslim die hard:
The Obama-is-a-Muslim rumor does not seem to have hurt the candidate’s fortunes, at least not yet. But the myth’s persistence illustrates a growing cultural vulnerability to rumor. Journalists typically presume that facts matter: show the public what is true, and they will make decisions correctly. Psychologists who study how we separate truth from fiction, however, have demonstrated that the process is not so simple.
Psychologist Ian Skurnik studied the phenomenon at the University of Michigan, using health claims, finding . . .
. . . it helps to know how our brains suss out truth from fiction. To determine the veracity of a given statement, we often look to society’s collective assessment of it. But it is difficult to measure social consensus very precisely, and our brains rely, instead, upon a sensation of familiarity with an idea. You use a rule of thumb: if something seems familiar, you must have heard it before, and if you’ve heard it before, it must be true.

The rule obviously invites many opportunities for error. The seniors in Skurnik’s study couldn’t remember the context in which they had heard the health claims (research shows that we are quick to forget “negation tags,” like whether something is said to be false or a lie), so they relied, instead, on a vague sense of familiarity, which steered them astray. Repetition, psychologists have shown, easily tricks us. Kimberlee Weaver of Virginia Tech recently found that if one person tells you that something is true many times, you are likely to conclude that the opinion is widely held, even if no one else said a thing about it.
Some say, FoxNews?

But it's the enthusiastic distribution of scurrilous Internet rumors I find disturbing. Among the right wing, electronic poison pen letters go around like wildfire. Some I receive have had as many as seventy-five e-mail addresses attached. (Have none of you people ever heard of a blind copy? Your e-mail addresses are being compromised. Got it?)

After years of lies and propaganda from the highest levels, the ability to distinguish truth from fiction has itself been compromised. Point out that they're being used as propagandists by propagandists, and friends and relatives still persist in spreading lies. Either because they can no longer distinguish them from the truth, or because the lies are more fun, or because they just don't care what the truth is if it conflicts with what they'd rather believe.

As Rick Perlstein observes in his new book, we have arrived in Nixonland.
Nixonland, which will be published by Simon & Schuster, takes its title from a coinage of former presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson, who once described “Nixonland” as a place with “no standard of truth but convenience, and no standard of morality except sly innuendo, the poison pen, the anonymous phone call.”
The greater irony is how many of our friends among the religious Right gleefully play along. You know, the people convinced that liberals are to blame for the decline of values in this country. The ones who quote Matthew and caution that we "become what we behold." The people obsessed with putting displays of the Ten Commandments in courthouses. Including the Commandment about not bearing false witness.

Until recently, what I receive came from the Right. But even that may be changing. This weekend a friend reported receiving one of the poisoned-Barak letters. Only not from a right-winger, from a relative.

After my friend pointed out that the entire thing was bogus, his relative replied, "I know, but I'm a Hillary supporter, so I forwarded it anyway."


Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Man Between War and Peace

Thomas P.M. Barnett profiles head of U. S. Central Command, Admiral William "Fox" Fallon, in this month's Esquire.

With a cooler head than the administration's war cheerleaders, Fallon has earned the ire of the Bush administration for opposing Bush's Iraq "surge" and for not joining in on the saber rattling over Iran. (Emphasis mine.)
As with Pakistan, Fallon keeps his powder dry when he deals with Iran. He doesn't react like Pavlov's dog to inflammatory rhetoric from inflammatory little men.
Goodness, to whom could Barnett be referring?

Described by Secretary of Defense Gates as "one of the best strategic thinkers in uniform today," Fallon is too busy trying to find answers to problems than to demagogue them.
On this trip, he's been shepherding a new bridge that links isolated Tajikistan with Afghanistan. The potential here is huge: Tajikistan is 95 percent mountainous and extremely food dependent. Its main asset is its untapped hydroelectric capacity. Afghanistan presents just the opposite picture--food to export but most of the country lacks an effective electric grid.

So what should America be pushing first in both states? Free-and-clear elections for massively impoverished populations, or whatever it takes to get Tajikistan's resource with Afghanistan's resource? Which path, do you think, would scare the Taliban and Al Qaeda more? To Fallon, there isn't even a question to answer.
No wonder neocons don't like him.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Primary Calculus

One of those now-infamous Superdelegates emailed the other day asking for thoughts on who to vote for at the DNC convention, and received something much like this:

The outcome of this election will come down to turnout. The large primary turnout so far is no
no indicator of success. The question for us is who is the most likely Democrat to win against John McCain? As much as we wish it were different, a candidate’s qualifications do us no good if they are not able to win.

Regardless of the Democrats’ candidate, John McCain is a negative for GOP turnout. The GOP’s base may not come out to vote for McCain, but they will come out in force to vote against Hillary Clinton. A Clinton nomination is a gift to a discouraged Republican base. It in no small measure erases McCain’s negatives and gives the GOP a fighting chance against us, as early polls show. It’s less clear that Clinton’s appeal to women voters is strong enough to pull GOP women to vote for her in numbers large enough to offset that.

The word from the streets suggests that the GOP base will not come out in the same numbers to vote against Barack Obama, an African-American Democrat, and in fact may simply stay home. Disaffected Republicans may even cross over to vote for him, fewer for Clinton.

Two days in a row this week, Sen. McCain tried to call down more exuberant members of his party for written and verbal attacks on Sen. Barack Obama. The hard Right will declare open season on Clinton if she's nominated. That's a given. But worse for both McCain and the GOP,
these not-so-rogue elements spoon fed on Limbaugh, Drudge, Savage, Beck, Coulter, etc. will publicly expose the unflattering underbelly of the GOP in a way McCain and party leaders will be unable to contain or disguise. Whatever McCain may say, faced with the Democrats' first African-American presidential candidate, creatures of the GOP's own making will unwittingly aid Democrats and alienate droves of minority voters this year and for years to come.

On the Democratic side a critical question is, what will conservative Democrats do? If Hillary Clinton is the nominee, most will vote for her. But this may not offset the increased GOP performance generated by a Clinton nomination. A few Reagan Democrats may cross over to vote for McCain, but they will not stay home in a Clinton-McCain match-up.

If Barack Obama is the Democrats’ nominee, some conservative Democrats will vote for John McCain, as they would in a Clinton-McCain race. But since many registered Democrats in WNC tend to vote Republican in federal elections anyway, is not a net negative for Democratic performance.

Also heard on the streets, rather than vote for an African-American for president or for McCain, some Reagan Democrats will simply stay home, lowering Democratic performance.

The variables in this election season calculation will give fits to Las Vegas odds makers -- too many to manage. In the end, however, the Democrat/Republican performance ratio will favor an Obama candidacy, as early polls on a McCain match-up already show. In an election year in which voters are inclined to “turn the page,” Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton isn't a winning formula for Democratic success here or nationwide.

Then there is the "wow" factor an Obama candidacy has already generated. As the Democratic Party experiences a slow changing of the guard, engaging new, young voters generated by Obama’s candidacy is an opportunity for party building Democrats cannot afford to miss. We have a party to build and they want to help build it. Let’s welcome them by nominating a leader from a new generation.