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.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Next man makes a move, the country gets it!

The new, improved GOP -- less reality-based than ever! Glenn Greenwald dissects the "Hollywood liberal" haters' new Hollywood-based Internet ad promoting the Protect America Act. All that's missing is Kiefer Sutherland:
Impressively, the ad dramatically packs every component of GOP politics into one minute: There are dark, primitively omnipotent Arab Terrorists lurking darkly and menacingly, planning to slaughter you and your whole entire family right now. You have only a few seconds to live, literally or metaphorically. The clock on your life is counting down right now. You are in severe danger.

We want more unchecked government power. You better give it to us, or else the Terrorists will kill you all. Give up more power to us, do what we say, and you can lay your head down on your pillow at night without a care in the world, knowing that we love you and are keeping you Safe and Protected -- Keeping America Protected -- like a baby snugly embraced in the womb. You want that, don't you? We want to give it to you. The House Democrats want you dead.
Come to think of it, alluding to Mel Brooks is too flattering. They've become more like campy, lipstick-smeared Tallulah Bankhead, the crazed religious fanatic out to "cleanse" others' sins and herself of self-loathing for her incestuous impulses.

Die! Die! My Darlings!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Come on Wall Street, don't be slow . . .

Why man, this is loans a-go-go!
There's plenty good money to be made
Enticing home buyers with adjustable rates...

Froma Harrop reminds us we've seen heard this song before (Originally Published on Thursday February 14, 2008):
Schemes We Have Seen

During the push to privatize Social Security, the idea's foes were accused of not trusting the American people to manage their own money. The naysayers prevailed, and aren't we glad.

How interesting that the buildup to the mortgage meltdown employed many of the same sales tactics as the Social Security privatization scheme. Resentment, fear, flattery and hype — plus scant details on fees and other costs — all went into the pitch.

When a former Fed official called for rules to tame the subprime mortgage business, the peddlers howled. This was an attack on low-income people, particularly those of color, they said. Without lax lending practices, fewer minorities would have enjoyed the blessings of homeownership.
(Worth reading in full, if the link lasts.)

So, hello subprime paradise.

Bye, bye, Miss American Pie.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sunday Sermon

“The New Narcissism,” Peter Marin’s October 1975 opus in Harpers described the banality of the trendy human potential movement therapies on the rise in America in the 70s.
. . . I listen for two hours in a graduate seminar to two women therapists explaining to me how we are all entirely responsible for our destinies, and how the Jews must have wanted to be burned by the Germans, and that those who starve in the Sahel must want it to happen, and when I ask them whether there is anything we owe to others, say, to a child starving in the desert, one of them snaps at me angrily: "What can I do if a child is determined to starve?"

That, precisely, is what I am talking about here: the growing solipsism and desperation of a beleaguered class, the world view emerging among us centered solely on the self and with individual survival as its sole good. It is a world view present not only in everything we say and do, but as an ambience, a feeling in the air, a general cast of perception and attitude: a retreat from the worlds of morality and history, an unembarrassed denial of human reciprocity and community.
I re-read much of Marin’s 1975 piece after remembering how much the conservative obsession with personal responsibility mirrors the narcissism of the human potential and New Age movements.

“For if we are each totally responsible for our fate,” Marin wrote, “then all the others in the world are responsible for their fate, and, if that is so, why should we worry about them?” Writing about what is generally considered a liberal worldview, Marin observed:
That is what makes our new therapies so distressing. They provide their adherents with a way to avoid the demands of the world, to smother the tug of conscience. They allow them to remain who and what they are, to accept the structured world as it is-but with a new sense of justice and justification, with the assurance that it all accords with cosmic law. We are in our proper place; the others are in theirs; we may indeed bemoan their fate or even, if we are so moved, do something to change it, but in essence it has nothing to do with us.
It's the same disdain for the fate of others perceived as not as "responsible" as ourselves that is reflected in much of what I hear from conservative colleagues. It's dog whistle politics, code-speak for saying these Irresponsibles have made choices that place them outside the velvet ropes of middle-class convention, including - and rarely mentioned aloud - poor choice of parents, national origin, religion and skin color.

Bill McKibben’s “The Christian Paradox” in the August 2005 Harpers explored the political right’s amalgam of movement- and Christian-conservatism, noting the same self-referential, “I’m all right, Jack” morality:
. . . the softfocus consumer gospel of the suburban megachurches is a perfect match for emergent conservative economic notions about personal responsibility instead of collective action. Privatize Social Security? Keep health care for people who can afford it? File those under "God helps those who help themselves."
Popular megachurches preach a reassuring prosperity gospel which tells well-heeled believers that their good fortunes are a sign of God’s favor. Others’ misfortune is their own fault – the result of bad choices for which they alone must bear the weight of personal responsibility. How else will they ever learn and grow up to live lives of personal responsibility in 7500 well-earned, God-blessed square-feet on the seventh tee? Like moi?

McKibben observed,
How nice it would be if Jesus had declared that our income was ours to keep, instead of insisting that we had to share. How satisfying it would be if we were supposed to hate our enemies. Religious conservatives will always have a comparatively easy sell.

[. . .]

Taking seriously the actual message of Jesus . . . should serve at least to moderate the greed and violence that mark this culture. It's hard to imagine a con much more audacious than making Christ the front man for a program of tax cuts for the rich or war in Iraq. If some modest part of the 85 percent of us who are Christians woke up to that fact, then the world might change.

[. . .]

Since the days of Constantine, emperors and rich men have sought to co-opt the teachings of Jesus. As in so many areas of our increasingly market-tested lives, the coopters – the TV men, the politicians, the Christian "interest groups" – have found a way to make each of us complicit in that travesty, too. They have invited us to subvert the church of Jesus even as we celebrate it. With their help we have made golden calves of ourselves – become a nation of terrified, self-obsessed idols. It works, and it may well keep working for a long time to come. When Americans hunger for selfless love and are fed only love of self, they will remain hungry, and too often hungry people just come back for more of the same.
The left/right parallels are striking enough that McKibben accuses neither left nor right, but the culture at large,
These similarities make it difficult (although not impossible) for the televangelists to posit themselves as embattled figures in a "culture war"- they offer too uncanny a reflection of the dominant culture, a culture of unrelenting self-obsession.
And yet, that culture may be beginning to change as American wake up from the shell shock of the last eight years. It is the belated observation of the punditocracy that in this election year voters are hungry for authenticity again, for an America that is once more about something greater than ourselves.

Voters have had their fill of the slash-and-burn, divide-and-conquer, zero-sum politics of the last dozen years. They've seen their home values plummet and their purchasing power shrink along with America's middle class. Weary of being told whom to vote against, they desire something to vote for. Something better than business as usual.

Friday, February 08, 2008

“There’s no ‘business class’ in law enforcement." - ACLU

Au contraire.

First, there was Pinkerton. Now there's InfraGard!


Sunday, February 03, 2008

"Living is easy with eyes closed...."

Received another of those right-wing pass-it-on emails today. It doesn't matter what the subject of these electronic tracts is. The object is to sow unreasoning fear, prejudice and distrust.

And what a patriotic thing ethnic hatred is when shared among friends. Just the way Tom Paine or Samuel Adams would have if they had had computers, the Internet and little knack for critical thinking.

A friend wrote to ask what I thought about these things, saying:

It makes me crazy.

During this election season, hatred and bigotry rise up from the mouths of people I have known and I am just shocked.

I guess I am just that naive to think that times have changed and that it shouldn't matter whether you are a man or woman or person of color when it comes to choosing a president to lead the nation.

It just makes me sad.

Indeed. The fact that this particular, unoriginal screed was attributed to some retired general who hadn't written it should surprise no one. As the Chicago Reader noted, the truth doesn't matter 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.”
In Nixonland, presidential candidates of the Republican party that insists that the world irrevocably changed on 9/11 are falling over themselves to reinvent 1980s Reaganomics.

In Nixonland, Republicans who impeached a Democratic president accused of perjury allow a Republican president to decide for himself which laws he'll obey.

In Nixonland, two successive Bush Attorneys General refuse to answer whether waterboarding is a crime -- the same practice we prosecuted as a war crime when perpetrated by the Japanese in WWII. Say no, and the Republican A.G.s become international laughing stocks. Say yes, and they'll be asked why they haven't pursued Americans who have practiced it lately, and their own bosses who authorized it.

Comedian Lewis Black has observed:
... there has to come a point, where Democrats and Republicans, where we see a piece of footage and we just agree on what the fuck reality is. And the fact is you cannot shoot video of a Land Rover running over a cat and then say... the cat was trying to kill itself.
Unless you're a movement conservative ... and the truth is inconvenient.

This is what Barry Goldwater's party has become. Blogger and Goldwater expert Rick Perlstein writes about Allen Raymond's How to Rig an Election: Confessions of a Republican Operative. Raymond did jail time for jamming Democratic party and union firefighters' phones for the RNC -- arguably, under instructions from the White House -- in New Hampshire on election day, 2002:
"The mouth-breathers who decide GOP primaries might allow people who steal their money and send their children to impossible wars to get away with anything, but they'll cut no such slack for baby-killers," Raymond writes.


If that's the contempt he harbors for RNC members—the party elite—you can imagine how he talks about "the Jesus-loves-guns crowd" with their "pro-life, snake-handling babble" and "religious doggerel." In one memorable phrase, he regrets he did it all just "so some platitude-spewing hack could be elected Grand Cyclops"—thus, from the inside, weighing in on the debate over whether today's conservative movement is racist or not: "Grand Cyclops" is the title for the leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

He's rather thrilled to be able to demonstrate just how authoritarian-minded these "knuckle-draggers" are, picking up his cell phone from the Republican convention, telling [a friend on the other end] to watch his TV set, then barking "U-S-A! U-S-A!" while pumping his fist in the air.

Soon the whole section has picked up the chant: "That shit's fucking scary, man!" his friend says. Responds Raymond: "What else do you want them to say?"
I'm reading the Raymond book now. It's reminiscent of Jack Abramoff colleague, Michael Scanlon's appreciation of the usefulness of getting unwitting "religious whackos" to do their dirty work. Perlstein writes:
... Raymond is quite explicit that "both sides do it" is a myth: " When it came to playing in the gutter, we were the professionals—the Dems weren't even junior varsity."
Raymond himself writes:
In GOP circles in 2002 it seemed preposterous that anything you did to win an election could be considered a crime. For ten years I'd been making phone calls with the intent to manipulate voters; hell, I'd been handsomely rewarded for it. In my business, communication devices were all lethal weapons—and every fight was dirty.... Even the guys who didn't expose undercover CIA operatives, proposition congressional pages, and send other people's children off to die in an impossible war wouldn't rat on the ones who did.... I was truly beginning to understand how few metaphysical limitations a person is up against once he decides that the truth is what he makes it. From then on, two plus two would equal whatever sum I found most useful."
The party that routinely accuses its Democratic rivals of advocating moral relativism has become, not just comfortable with, but skilled at situational ethics.