Monday, November 15, 2004

Addendum: Helpful Source

One of the people on the website argued that the Green Party is out of step and not the right party, in part because it reflects "European"-style politics and didn't come organically from the US and that "Green" issues might work as a theme in Germany, but not here.

Well, my duckies, go to and you can see that the environment *is* important to people -- in fact, a majority of people (in 2002, granted, but I'm not sure that makes a big difference; it was in the depths of the economic downturn, afterall) said that NO economic cost was too high to pay for environmental quality and regulations should be made irregardless of this cost because of the importance of the environment. Now there IS such thing as "soft support" -- I'll say I support it, but you can pry my pocketbook from my cold, dead, fingers -- but you have to admit, this is an IMPRESSIVE LEVEL of soft support. Definitely more than enough of a base to work with.

And I'm not going to Google-research it now, but people, realize that the Internationalist Socialist/Communist Movement isn't a "European"-sprung construct (any more than most of "Western" Culture); just because we killed and jailed a bunch of our Internationalists after the Haymarket Riot doesn't make it any less US. (side note: I love Wikipedia) The continued erosion of this line of thought, beliefs, and values through subversion and accident (see great accounts in Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States (used copies from $10!)) has nothing to do with its genuine US-ness. The automobile was invented in Germany, after all, but 200 or so years later, no one would say it's not sufficiently US based. All we need to do is rediscover, not create out of whole cloth, the Green Progessive-ness here in the US. The seeds are there.

So Bad it's, well, Good


I hate to do it, as it's exactly the type of unproductive anger-mongering I've been decrying, but I have to say that Fuck the South is funny and worth the read.

For all 0 of my conservative readers, I completely agree that this is rude and viscious... but that doesn't mean it isn't full of facts. If you want to get angry, get angry at the man but think about the facts -- do you agree that they exist? And what does that mean if they are true (and they all are based on my research)?

For everyone else (all 3 of you), read and enjoy your guilty pleasure. Or for some of you not-so-guilty, you sarcastic pieces of...

In other news entirely, is a website dedicated to Nailing (taping) Theses on the direction the Democratic Party should take on the Glass Doors (and breaking the glass ceilings) of the Democratic National Committee's headquarters throughout the US. I'm not sure how effective taping them to any of the Brasilian parties' doors would be (even their Right-parties have "Democratic" "Socialist" and/or "Labor" in them), so I'll have to ask you all in the US to do double duty for me. I also posted on there under the thread Support the Green Party Instead. Long-time readers guess whether I was for or against this proposition.

Actually, I think an either/or is ultimately destructive. We shouldn't turn our backs on the Dems to be spiteful or on principle, except on the (to me) very pragmatic and common-sensical approach: don't vote for someone you don't believe in. Ok, everyone thought this was an important stop-gap election. But it didn't work, and that wasn't Nader's fault. So it appears to me that if we're going to lose anyway, or more importantly, win in the long-run, we have to start supporting only those who support our views. And support them explicitly. (More than one J-friend has used argument I used last year that we had to simply trust that Kerry didn't mean anything he said, for instance, about appointing anti-choice judges, drilling "everywhere but" ANWR, sending more troops to Iraq, etc. I think believing this cannot strictly be called "pragmatism", unless by pragmatism you mean "wistful thinking" or "desperate hope".)

Because here's the brass tacks ladies and germs: as long as a candidate knows that s/he will not lose his/her base, they can go and do whatever the fuck they want to. And they will -- i.e. Clinton and Op. Desert Fox, the Pharm. Plant at Darfur, the "Welfare Reform" Bill, the Farm Bill, the increased rate of lumber production (several times higher than lumber production under Bush!), the end of the release of yearly Federal Environmental Quality Reports, the lowest rates of improvements in Environmental Quality in 40 years, voting for the PATRIOT ACT, for the Iraqi War Resolution -- without the near-complete support of the Democrats, Bush COULD NOT have done all of this! Our "politically pragmatic" Democrats did -- but if they were "saving their big guns" or worried about losing an election and supported such things in order to "go with the flow" and fuck over the 60-80% of Dems *against* the Iraq War and PATRIOT ACT, i.e., then when the hell is something important enough to make a stand? If not for War and Civil Liberties, I think it's definitely time there were some repercussions -- and not just losing elections because 50% of the Republican Electorate was unininformed into voting for Bush -- but because the INFORMED Left decided not to support someone *working against our Progessive Interests.*

What's the matter with Kansas, they ask. I ask, What's the Matter with Progressives? (Why do WE vote against our own interests?)

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Kerry had the JoeMo

Have I already recommeded that everyone read Alexander Cockburn's post-election analysis yet? If not, go there now. And while you're at it, read at least 25% of the articles in Don't worry, they're not all about the tiresome topic of this past election. Though in regards to Cockburn's work, hopefully if you find this article to be snotty and overly snide by half, as one J-friend did, please look past this as much as you can into his research.

One of his most important points, in my opinion, is the fallacy of Kerry as the Senate's "#1 Liberal." My friend pointed out that perhaps he was farther right over his lifetime record -- with decades to be in Senate, he'd doubtlessly made lots of votes out of political pragmatism that would push him right (she doesn't believe that he should be blamed for the political pragmatism that she correctly points out is necessary to maintain high elective office, and that in the Prez's office he would've wielded his newly gained power for good -- needless to say, we disagree). But I found an important point -- the analysis of Kerry putting him in the middle of the increasingly-conservative Democrats (though not to the right of middle as I may have claimed at some point) was *only* from the 108th Congress -- i.e. his past term in the whole. The "most liberal" label apparently is only based on a slim cross-section of issues. Source material here. (Ed's note -- just checked that website -- with the end of the term, it appears Kerry is the 21st most liberal senator out of 48 Dems -- 10 or so places ahead of Joe Lieberman, who may be the best known as a hawkish Dem, though around 30th place he has many lesser-known senators below him; Miller of Georgia is as "liberal" as a Moderate Republican based on votes; Nelson of Nebraska is the most conservative of the remaining 47 Dem Senators from this term. The website's methodology is somewhat complex, it was developed by someone at the University of Houston, apparently. It (the methodology) seems kosher to me from casual glance -- also on Kerry, his attendance record for votes was 8% this year -- ok, duh, election year -- but was 36% in 2003, missing many crucial close votes that Cockburn lists in his article. Primary sources of analyses over at UH again; second source, on Kerry's attendance, for the Intelligence committee here on FactCheck.Org. On a sad side note, my freshwoman Dem Senator, Debbie Stabenow, is farther right than Kerry, in between him and Lieberman I think...)

So 21st most liberal senator, not quite as inspiring. And this is just for his most recent term -- my friend may have been right that his older, pragmatic votes may slip him farther right (and then the question would be over what that means for the Kerry of today -- would he have continued his random walk towards farther Left? (Ed's note -- I, for one, don't think so...).

I hope this doesn't seem like crowing -- it's not. I feel this is an important debate -- just like in 2000 when I was telling people Gore wasn't all that great or much better than Bush (which still inspires righteous indignation; Gore's boss, who most people think is more liberal, is still estimated to have killed more Iraqis than Bush in his first 4 years (remember Desert Fox and non-UN sanctioned bombing, plus the trade sanctions?). If, as the many articles I have read and linked to here for you all, are correct (and no one I know has disputed their research, just the interpretation of it, or rather, said "well, you can't think Kerry actually meant it [when he said all of those Right-ist things]") then not only do we need to keep agitating, WE need to do our homework as much as any of the least-informed Red Staters who we unproductively deride and whose mind we hope to change. If WE, too, are voting against our interests -- and experts like Chomsky and Zinn are buying into it too -- then we need serious, serious re-evaluation, including re-evaluation of this past election. Obviously, I don't think the argument is resolved, though my immense respect for Chomsky and Zinn has not made their arguments seem any less weak to me. But we must sort this out, and quickly -- if the ABB/Centrists are right, and we need to focus on just eliminating the Republican advantage at all costs, then we must convince those of us (i.e. me) of this on the facts (and not on "well, obviously they don't mean it when the spout right rhetoric -- possibly, but a flimsy basis for a political strategy). If those of us who believe that you can't support change by supporting those who oppose real change -- especially if they are only slightly less opposed to real change than their competitor, or in some ways more hawkish, cause more casualties, or are worse for (at least some of) the environment -- are correct, we need to convince more of the Center-Left to follow us out of the party, or at least into voting ONLY for those in party that represent enough of our views to be more clearly distinguishable in rhetoric AND reality than the Imperialist Republi/Crats.

So far, I've never heard an argument for Kerry refuting the facts as laid out, that seem to me to show that he -- and his would-be sherpa guide to centrism, Bill Clinton -- have not been almost as bad as Republicans in some areas and rather worse in others. At best, I would think this averages out to a close call -- one should not easily have been assumed to be a "big damned difference."

Let the argument continue... and tell me where I'm wrong. I can change! Really! All I ask is, you know, facts.

Extra bonus J-Continuum update
Other random cool stuff at Counterpunch, highlighted here for your satisfaction:
Cuba's Response to AIDS: A Model for the Developing World
Reviews Cuba's program and tremendous success at controlling AIDS (0.7% infection), and uncovers (what appear to be) the facts on the forced sanitoriums -- i.e. quarantine -- of those infected with AIDS. In any case, these sanitoriums are now voluntary (since 1993) and reportedly were always places providing food not rationed (as it is for the rest of the country) and counseling in depression and nutrition for those infected. Everything about it now is completely voluntary, and Cuba's program seems to be working -- apparently the model is so successful, the World Bank has sent a rep to Cuba (the US didn't) for their AIDS conference, saying (as reported by Edwin Krales in the article linked above)
...their view is that economic disaster is a fate worse than socialized medicine. She suggested that the developing world adopt Cuba's medical model as the strategy for fighting the pandemic.
. (Though my cynical side says to my rational side that if the World Bank supports it, there's got to be a secret evil catch to their (the WB's) intentions.)

Kerry's Enablers: The Clinton Cult Factor
Good article further analyzing the Clinton/Kerry axis of using Centrist Politics to make things Worse

Debating a Neo-Con
A GREAT article by a self-described "burned-out commie vet emaciated with an amoeba". He only provides a summary of the Neo-Cons argument -- assumedly because it breaks no ground -- but his amazing and excellent comments should be required reading for anyone who wants to learn about this whole "Changing The World" thing.

Why do they laugh at us?
A good, if somewhat light-weight, article on the growing derision of America -- gone are the Stupid Pols, Greasy Pakistanis, and Jibbering Chinamen -- the Ugly American is apparently the new joke the kids will be telling on the playgrounds in the rest of the world. (Though he doesn't use the term Ugly American, just to note. All ire at the term should be directed at me alone.)

Failing the Test of History in Iraq
Pretty self-explanatory -- reviewing why, in the light of history, our (government's) plans for Iraq não da (lit. "it won't give" -- it won't work or it won't be worth it in Portuguese jiria, mais ou menos).

And with that, I'm getting the hell to bed -- as should you. Sleep and dream of an organized, informed, determined Left.

"Rest well. And dream of Large Women.
--Westley to Fezzik in "The Princess Bride"

**ps. in case the title is cryptic, it's in reference to the fact Kerry is almost as conservative as Joe Lieberman, whose horrible primary campaign was waged with "JoeMentum", apparently.

First Annual J Continuum Contest

Ok, actual, this isn't really a contest and I don't plan on doing it annually. (Sort of like "Everything you are about to hear is true. And by true, I mean false." -- Leonard Nimoy on The Simpsons.)

I just read a, I don't know, startling? article at Anyone reading the site for more than 2 days or so (all three of you) will already have noted my counterpunch-obsession (though Portside also has had a lot of good articles I haven't spent much time reading). But, I think their analyses are right, and so I don't see any reason to stop my obsession.

All 3 of you prior readers will also realize now that I'm about to talk about something against Kerry. Well done. Award yourself 10 points on your Home Game Version of The J Continuum.

Here is an article discussing how, in fact, Clinton was worse than Bush on environmental policy, at least as far as tree felling goes (despite the "goodfact" name of the Healthy Forests Initiative, apparently, 1/5 the rate of the lumber per year that was generated in Clinton's first term has been felled under Bush -- 1.1 billion board feet/yr as opposed to 200 million board feet/year). Also, Frank (the author) asserts that more Iraqis died in Clinton's first four years than so far under Bush (not sure if he's counting sanctions here, though don't forget also that we had Operation Desert Fox and continued bombing in Iraq that was not approved of or under the aegis of the UN). Economic inequality under Clinton apparently increased the most it had for forty years.

Ah, yes, so the contest part. Since I already spend approximately WAAAAAAAYYYY to much time blogging and not enough researching non-blog related thesis work, I challenge any other readers to find the hard facts (realfact) behind Frank's article. Actually, it might be as easy as emailing him and asking his sources, I don't know. If I don't hear from others in the blogosphere, I'll take it on myself, but I'd really like to hear from "readers like you".


Tuesday, November 09, 2004

An Eye Like A Ripe Grape

Got your attention? That phrase is, if I remember correctly, one of the signs of the End Days from Islam -- the Anti-Christ will come, and you will know he is the Anti-Christ because, among other things, he will have an eye like a ripe grape. You wouldn't BELIEVE the amount of time we spent discussing what exactly "an eye like a ripe grape" would be like. At one point, our professor quite reasonably said that the Anti-Christ was not the only part of the signs of the End Days, and explaining exactly what his looked like was definitely not the most important part of the topic.

Speaking of End Days...

I bring this up because the progressive AND center- left, swayed by siren song of beating mediocrity (or stark horribleness perhaps) with mediocrity, voted en masse for a candidate who not only voted to confirm Antonin Scalia, but said he could see appointing "somebody with a different opinion" on abortion than pro-choice (as long as it didn't result in, his example, a Supreme Court with a majority inclined to overturn Roe v. Wade. I still haven't found the primary source Counterpunch.Org used, but here is the Washington Post repeating that he did, in fact say it.

Why is this a sign of end days? Because it's likely that a Republican will be, and would've been, the one to oppose confirmation of anti-choice judges. And this Republican is in line to be the Chair of the Judiciary Committee. That's right, Arlen Specter, being moderately pariahed right now, apparently "[made the comment] last week that anti-abortion judges would be unlikely to be confirmed by the Senate".

So we have a (defeated) Democratic presidential candidate who as prez may have appointed the next Antonin Scalia (now with more scariness!), a Republican Senator lined up for chairmanship essentially vowing that anti-abortion judges wouldn't get to the floor, the Christian Coalition essentially saying that this is *not* what they expected as a result of their fealty ("This isn’t what we worked for,” he said. “It sends the exact wrong message to the core of the Republican Party that helped win this election. No matter what Senator Specter says, there is a complete lack of trust between him and us now, no matter how much he tries to do damage control”), and a pro-choice Republican ex-Senator rejecting the question of whether there even IS a Christian Right, much less whether or not Bush now owes them political favors, and essentially accusing Bill Maher of being a gay-basher, Wyoming-basher, Christian-basher, and Republican-basher.

These are no sun running backwards in the sky (or ripe-grape eyes), but at least they're funnier signs of the apocalypse than last week.

(and now I'm really, really actually going to work on my thesis...)

Monday, November 08, 2004

Tapdancing around awful truths....

So much rage… Michael Moore’s “The Awful Truth” is so good; but so bad.

So brilliant. (See for yourself.)

Confrontation, unfortunately, even (perhaps especially) brilliant confrontation, will not work for us.

It should. One should be able to say “Look, Tobacco Company/Lobbyist/Security Guard, your product is killing people; shouldn’t you re-evaluate what you’re doing?”

But no one wants to be a killer. No one will engage you if they feel guilty (even if they ARE guilty). More proof of the moral relativism of the Right. (How’s that? Isn’t smoking about personal responsibility? Sure – as much the responsibility of tobacco companies for a) lying about the health problems for decades, as internal documents and common sense have shown, b) lying about the addictiveness of smoking, and c) marketing to children on purpose to generate lifetime addictees. Some measure of personal responsibility falls to the smoker who “chooses” to set foot on the road to addiction; but the argument that it’s all THEIR responsibility rests on one of three premises: 1) awwww, they should’ve known better than to believe what the companies told them, 2) well, companies always lie, so we can’t blame them for lying just like everyone else, and 3) well, bygones should be bygones. NONE of these is a responsible argument for why Tobacco should get away with lying without taking THEIR personal responsibility for it. They already have you say?... What about the tax breaks they’re getting this year, supposedly in exchange for “allowing” the FDA to regulate nicotine… except the nicotine regulation part of it was taken out of the bill…)

Just like it’s been found you can’t encourage safe sex by “scaring” people into it (USE CONDOMS OR YOU DIE! AIDS AIDS AIDS! doesn't work) because they people generally unconsciously push negativity out of their mind before sex, you can’t win an argument by demonizing, or often even lightly ridiculing your opponent.

Sarcasm is a sharp sword for the Left – it cuts both ways. (Interesting tidbit: an ex-girlfriend, when we were dating, asked me if the Right had comics like “Doonsebury” or “The Boondocks” – it occurred to me that they probably didn’t, because comics like those lie usually on the irony of some Right foibles because we find them intellectually inconsistent; the things “they” often find ironic about us is, for example, our concern for parenting yet our stereotypical parental permissiveness. I speculated that a Right Doonsebury would be something we think of as POSITIVE, like a mom coming home and seeing her 18 year old daughter with a piercing, or coming out as a lesbian, and the mom saying “Great! I’m glad you’re your own person” or something like that… turns out, this pretty much IS their version of it – the only Right “political” comic strip she could find was “The Leftersons”, about, natch, naively permissive parents too intent on useless social causes. Make your own judgements here.)

Oh, but back to “The Awful Truth” – after seeing 3 of them, I wonder if they do more harm than good? Yes, it feels REALLY GOOD to see those who’ve lost their vocal cords to smoking sing “Voicebox Christmas Carols” to smoking lobbyists and execs, but what do you bet that we not only won no points with them (to be expected), but lost points with those security guards, and secretaries, and police officers who had to push Michael Moore out? While we who agree with Michael see the humor, and get enraged (or at least, my blood was/is boiling), I bet those functionaries just saw it as a hassle, and perhaps even had their heart hardened to “the cause.” The banality of evil, if you will.

As tiresome and logically unnecessary, the Left must “validate” the starting point of the Right before we start; the internalization of post-modernism by the mainstream means before you can argue about who is correct, you have to acknowledge everyone’s right to their opinion, and reassure them you respect it, before arguing against it WITHOUT mocking them (I lost a high school debate that my team AND the other team thought we won; the judges thought we were too “snotty” and awarded it to the other team; when I asked them about why, they couldn’t think of a logical reason – “I guess I just felt that they won,”) (also, I’ve taught the class “Biology and Human Affairs” – believe you me, students hate the idea that they are factually wrong, and even those most stridently against moral relativism will unconsciously resort to it, saying that “they have a right to their opinion”, or “you don’t respect them”, or even “they get points taken off if they don’t agree with your [political] views” – all arguments that may be valid, but many treat them as if they are always valid whenever they are argued against; as someone said, everyone has a right to their own opinion; they don’t have the right to their own facts – the inobtainability of “realfact” being a whole ‘nother issue…)

Achem. So. Yes. My point here is, unless I’m wrong, I think we face a very real choice between having to, in soothing words and pliant tones, ease our fiercest opponents into debates, using the dulcet sounds of mutual relativistic respect, before we can engage in “winning hearts and minds.” Sadly, I think the only way “The Awful Truth”-style confrontationalism can work is if we start a violent uprising (and as Sally Forth said, “Revolutions can be messy”). Of course, it might also work if it creates more new activists than it turns off people on the other side. A balance of the equation I don’t think anyone’s done… especially Michael Moore. (Well, other caveat – the guy who got a pancreas, and the change in Humana’s policies (supposedly) to allow diabetics pancreatic transplants – if this kind of turn around on a small victory was common to “The Awful Truth” – that satisfying result offsets some additional enemies, imho.)

What to do? What to do?

”The truth is, folks, that jokes in actuality defuse criticism of a politician rather than erode his support.”

“…so maybe I’m punkin’ you all…”

--Jon Stewart (from a Rolling Stone interview -- full version not online)

Great Analyses by people who just happen to agree with me, in part or in whole

For reasons surely based solely on quality and not on the fact that they agree with me (well, no, seriously, I think these are very good analyses AND are better than the ones I don't agree with), I highly recommend the following several links:

Voting Without the Facts (by Bob Herbert, who I've never heard of before but will be following closely now, on; registration required)

The Radical Centrist Fringe (on J Continuum Blog-friend Geoffland)

Why Americans Hate Democrats—A Dialogue: To win, you have to fight (by Laura Kipnis, on J Continuum news mainstay,

Of course, the facts as presented in Herbert's and Kipnis' articles have to addressed... er, delicately, imho. See the next post to see why (though probably in an only semi-coherent form).

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Interludes and Examinations... Oh, and A Call to Arms

Oh, yeah…

Hooray for Air America Radio (AAR?) – if I’m not mistaken, one of the most downloaded programs on the internet, and a better ratings-earner than Bill O’Reilly’s radio show (ok -- found old source showing that they were projected to out-compete Rush in April 2004(registration required). Don’t hear any news stories about it these days, do you though? At least I can't find any.) All those “this will never work, there’s no market for liberal radio, these people are delusional and don’t know what they’re doing” – where did all of those stories go? Have they all admitted they were wrong while I wasn't looking? No? ...Sigh.

(Other only partially informative and out of date link here showing that Air America raised the station it was on two places in rankings in Denver -- an increase of about 5,000 people -- over the two months it was on. Gee, aren't we lucky the liberal media is so closely following the fortunes of a genuinely liberal, yet genuinely fact-based radio station? I'm practically weeping at our good fortune.)

So it (AAR) seems to be a success to me. More importantly, now that I have internet at home again, I can listen to it, and verify that it still seems like a success to me in the most important way – despite Franken and many of the the other hosts’ DLC-centrism, they still use the facts.

All of this Democratic soul-searching that I’ve been reading the past few days seemed a little… misguided to me. I mean, we lost, and we lost big in terms of popular vote and seats in Congress, and now all of the party faithful are asking, “What did we do wrong? What must we change to win again?” Of course, as Tom Tomorrow points out in the article Why Americans Hate Democrats, A Dialogue: The party's message is low risk, low reward,
and J blog-friend Geoff have pointed out, asking “why does the US hate Democrats?” is RIDCULOUS and emblematic of our problems in allowing others to frame questions unfavorably, considering at least 55 million US citizens DON’T feel that way. (Not to mention the millions of people who didn't vote who are usually assumed to be the poor, the minorities, and others who feel they are ignored by the mainstream but would otherwise be "Democrats".

And all of this “moral values” claptrap seemed a bit off to me too, and solid analyses in Slate and the NY Times (in op-eds by David Brooks and by Gary Langer, ABC director of polling), among others, were able to articulate why I felt that way. “Moral values”, put simply, is an ill-phrased category for a response to the question of “your most important issue as a voter”! All of the other exit-poll questions were specific, i.e. jobs, economy, Iraq, War on Terrorism – these all have relatively unambiguous meanings; but moral values? The fact that the News Media is interpreting this as Gays and God (and maybe Guns) in the face of good counter-analyses (see Geoff, Slate, and the NYTimes), in face of the fact that Bush didn’t do that much better in anti-gay-ballot-intitiative states than he and Republicans have done in the past, but made big gains in other states on national security issues, the fact that only 8% of people said they voted for their candidate based specifically on religious issues, and the fact that if you were a strong Bush supporter but felt that the other options didn’t adequately represent your reasons, “Moral values” could be a catch-all – the News Media is doing us the great disservice of making that great, classic faux-liberal argument, “We’re just morally superior, and they don't appreciate it, and that’s why we lost.”

Now, granted, I think we’re morally correct on the issues where we stand up for gay rights, and against invading sovereign countries on false pretexts to depose a dictator we formerly supported and supplied with weapons, but that doesn’t mean we’re superior; if anything, it means we have had a terrible time doing a terrible job of making our argument. And gee, with a candidate unwilling to take a strong stand on God's place in government (hint: S/He is NOT and should not be Sec. of Defense) or Gays, much less against the War, against the PATRIOT ACT, and against the incoherent War on Terrorism, I wonder why?

Which brings us back to Al Franken: without being judgemental (as he was, a bit) about it, those that voted for George W. Bush, by a majority, had a fundamental misunderstanding, or at least, a fundamentally unsupported view of the War on Terrorism. A majority of them STILL thought that Iraq was directly involved in 9/11, that WMDs were found in Iraq, and that, in fact, the final Duelfer Report to the government, saying that NO WMDs were found, in fact, CONFIRMED that WMDs were found*. And this is just the tip of the iceberg – from the conservative tactics distracting from the fact the GW doesn’t seem to have actually fulfilled his duty to the National Guard to the fact that some of the evidence for this was shaky or forged (despite much STRONG evidence backing it up and near-universal admission of of the underlying facts), to the “Global Test” meme (where Kerry basically said when we engage in pre-emptive war, we need to be able to prove it’s necessary and that our evidence is true, to which GW, almost literally, said “We need to pass some kind of truth test? I don’t think so”, or how 'bout "We don't need no stinkin' test"?**), to the fucking Swift Boat Veterans (why in dear goodness’ name did Kerry let that float unrefuted for so long?) – objectively speaking, the Bush campaign used more lies/obfuscations/errors where the facts were concerned than the Democrats, and used them more consistently, more effectively, and in the end, more convincingly than Kerry could sell his milquetoast version of the truth.

This wasn’t a problem over GAYS (Geoff and others point out that 60% of US citizens support either civil unions or same-sex marriage; the amendments were primarily over marriage, even though some also banned civil unions), this was a problem over framing, and our (the Left, or more specifically, Kerry) inability to make the truth sexy (or really, in Kerry’s case, even acknowledge that the truth might be a useful tactic even if it’s viewed as “negativism”).

(Franken just pointed out that most Bush supporters believed Bush is for the Kyoto Treaty – I have to find his numbers! He also pointed out that most supporters believed that if there weren’t WMDs, and if Iraq wasn’t involved in 9/11, we shouldn’t have been in Iraq – INCRÍVEL! I really have to find his sources.) (...done: The Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) Report from August has the results of over 40% of people believing various things demonstrably false about Iraq... articles discussing it here and here.)

Franken’s guest right now of course is conflating this with the idea that we think “Red-Staters” (is anyone else beginning to really hate the red-state/blue-state meme too?) are stupid; which, is easy, because many of “us” are heard to say this in real life. Doh. But frankly, thinking someone is wrong, or was conned, is not the same as thinking they’re stupid – I think people believing the things above were conned by an extremely efficient Republican machine – just like I think many liberals were conned by the relatively inefficient Democratic machine to vote for a guy who doesn’t strongly stand for what we (Progressives) believe in. In this case, I think liberals voted against their interests as well, just like “Kansasians”. (Franken’s guest is decrying the condescension in the title of the book “What’s Wrong With Kansas?”. Although I agree with Franken that there is a non-condescending point to the book – that people are voting against their economic interests out of perceived moral similarity with the Republicans – I think his guest is right that the title doesn’t fully express this free of any kind of derision, without the “What the fuck is wrong with Kansas?” connotation and not just “I think the analysis of Red State Kansans is somewhat in error despite their wisdom as fellow US citizens.” And of course, his guest’s point as well that they DO believe that “moral issues” are more important than their pocketbook is well taken; I think the extended argument needs to be the Republicans by and large only give lip service to the important parts of morality, say, helping others and not invading sovereign countries and killing their civilians, and not lying and not accumulating unsightly wealth, in favor of nice, easy, issues like “gays bad; Bible says so.” Not to mention that religious freedom should go both ways – they should have the right to be very conservative, and others should have the right… not to be very conservative.) (And then there's the whole lying/misconception thing to go back to...)

But until the same type of massive pre-election blitzes of evilness and deception are shown in the Kerry Camp, such as has been pointed out from the Bush Camp -- including further examples such as passing out leaflets saying Kerry would ban the Bible if elected (also pointed out on Franken’s Show), the numerous accounts of Republicans either refusing to register people wanting to vote for Kerry, or “accidentally” signing them up as registered Republicans, or the piles of Dem. Registration cards ending up in dumpsters – we were Outfoxed kids; their tactics won, and their tactics were lies. And I’ll stand by this barring proof to the contrary – proof that people didn’t think there were WMDs, that Bush voters weren't by and and large convinced that Iraq was involved in 9/11, etc. We realized these issues were being distorted YEARS ago, but we let it fall by the wayside, in our rush to jump behind Kerry and his absolute refusal to critique the real problems behind the Bush Administration, and his talk about “reporting for duty” and being a Viet Nan Vet and… what the hell did he talk about of substance? Even I can’t clearly remember.

Wake up kids. Based on THE FACTS, and based on PRINCIPLE, and based on STRATEGY, the key is NOT to move right, to move left, to sell ourselves, to whore ourselves, to fight dirty, to fight more clean simply as electioneering TACTICS – the NEED is to FIGHT our GENUINE FIGHTS. Kerry didn’t fight, he defended. He didn’t stand for our principles, he squirmed from them. We need to say what we mean, mean what we say, and live or die by our issues – if we can’t find a Democrat that is FOR same-sex equality and AGAINST draconian PATRIOT measures, then dammit, we DON’T support him/her next time. We find someone who will MAKE THE CASE for our beliefs, and MAKE THE CASE for the truth. I don't believe in the various "tactics" put forward by many of the Slate-ers, or others, because they are just that -- based in tactics and not in strategy or beliefs. Will Saletan thinks we need to show we can speak morality too -- and kill terrorists just like everyone else without worrying about what the int'l community thinks (Will -- your hard-nosed swift-sword-of-death conservative underbelly is showing...)

I CAN HANDLE (losing based on) THE TRUTH! But what’say let’s try that – because we haven’t, we didn’t, and we lost. We had the strongest machine in recent memory – but we had a candidate as unwilling to call the President a liar when he knew he was lying -- unfortunately, just like "journalist" and my current nominee for "traitor to the truth" Jim Lehrer is. We can’t continue to let the Republicans get away with the same horrible, mushy post-modern relativism they accuse “intellectuals” of using – of our side saying something, and their side saying something, and leave the truth to sort itself out. As we all know, Kerry had plenty of ammunition – but he feared calling Bush a liar, despite ample evidence that he WAS.

This is the true battle. Anything else is DLC boilerplate or a distraction. We can’t decide that playing better politics is going to get us any farther as long as we continue to let all the petty lies (and some big, important, cardinal lies) accumulate without response. I am willing to lose based on what may be decried a bleeding-heart liberal “nuanced” wimpy unilateralist one-worlder agenda – AS LONG AS IT REALLY REPRESENTS MY AGENDA. If we lose based on the facts, it means we have to keep arguing. If we lose based on lies, it means we have to find someone who’s not too craven to call a lack of WMDs a lack of WMDs.

Let us live or die by our values, and by fighting them in their real terms and not in News Media-controlled memes. That’s something I’m willing to go down in the trenches for, and who knows, we might even make progress. But we can't do worse standing on our own values than we've now done standing on a guy one step removed from a President who could barely be farther removed from our views. So,


*Reading the Duelfer report's key findings also turn up this tidbit: He concluded the Hussein's nuclear weapon program-related-activities (to use David Kay's much trumpeted phrase) were primarily aimed at deflecting IRAN; "balancing Israel and the other Arab powers" he states were "secondary" goals -- so where does using them against the US come in? 3rd place, or maybe 4th place after "To Build an Authentic Diorama of Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove"? This is great, just great, not only are Bushies misinterpreting their own results on the presence of a threat, but even if the threat were present, the US isn't in the TOP 3 of the threat list of their own assesssor.... WTF, I say, WT Royal F.

** From Saletan's article:
...don't have to argue the point anymore, because last night, Bush confirmed it. Here's what he said at a rally in Oregon, according to a White House transcript:

Once again, last night, with a straight face, the senator said—well, shall we say, refined his answer on his proposed global test. That's the test he would administer before defending America. After trying to say it really wasn't a test at all, last night he once again defended his approach, saying, I think it makes sense. (Laughter.) The senator now says we'd have to pass some international truth standard. The truth is we should never turn America's national security decisions over to international bodies or leaders of other countries. (Applause.)

You heard that right. The president explicitly refuses "to pass some international truth standard." Because evidence is the fundamental test applied in France as well as in the United States, Bush thinks he shouldn't have to back up his claims or decisions with evidence.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Reflections and Recriminations

I have a lot of thoughts on this just past election (most of them virulently against the type of things said on Slate and new J Continuum blog-friend HopefulCynic), but I will save it for another time.

I just want to say, in a bit of a serious, somber, but also snide way, What did we gain in supporting Kerry????

By "We" of course I mean the Progressive Left, those of us off the Democratic Leadership Council's scale, those 60% of "Democrats" (I no longer count myself as a Democrat) who opposed the Iraq War all along and had no voice in our country's leadership (let's see, Dennis Kucinich was starkly against the war, and he's the politician given the most deference by the media and the people, right?). We supported a 'compromise" candidate to win the battle, hoping to have a stop-loss on the way to a real war strategy.

In all of my arguments against Kerry, I completely forget an important one: An "Anybody-But-Bush" approach has little or *no* value in the case of a Kerry *loss*. We lost even more than we lost from 2000, where Gore wasn't so strongly backed by even those "Democrats" strong-willed and intellectually honest enough to call themselves Socialists, Liberals, Communists, Anarachists, or other "Bad Names" in the US (like "Reader of Chomsky").

What would we have gained had the True Left (or Far Left or Real Liberals or Progressives or Greens) went all out for Nader (or pushed Kerry left or gone for Kucinich or Sharpton)? Can you IMAGINE the heartening feeling we wouldn've gotten for having a real liberal at even 30%? What if Nader got 20%? Or Kerry, running on a stringently anti-imperialism platform still got 49%? GREAT! "Our" views would've been heard, and we would've seen we shouldn't be so DAMNED afraid of them! (Tim Noah of Slate dismisses the idea of the Democrats moving farther to the left -- as well as farther to the right -- because it's clear that the US is moving to the right and left ideas won't win -- maybe yes, maybe no, but hey, no one big's made a big argument for them, remember? Not to mention the 1000s or perhaps MILLIONS of poor, minority, and/or women voters who just DIDN'T TURN OUT -- apparently Anyone But Bush didn't seem to reassure them the Demopublican Elite wouldn't continue to FUCK THEM OVER. Hey Tim, maybe we SHOULD ACTUALLY move left, or at least figure out why those in our society WORST OFF tend to VOTE THE LEAST. Could it be 100% of campaign rhetoric aimed at the "middle class" and approximately 0% at the "lower" class, the poor, the disenfranchised, the inner city, the farmer being squeezed out by Big Government (Republicrat) Policies of subsidizing agrobusiness???? For cripe's sake, Noah.)

One definite gain of this election was the apparatus of groups like MoveOn (though the Republican tarring of them as radical groups makes my head throb -- they're as radical as the Democratic Leadership Council for cripe's sake... which is to say, NOT radical; CERTAINLY not socialist as Rush Limbaugh and Hannity and similar talking heads tarred them; you realize how doubly bad that is? FIRST, it's already granting "socialist" as an evil thing, which I don't believe I am, conflating it with the State Capitalism of the USSR which had oh so little to do with the actual diversity of thought in socialist philosophy, and SECOND, MoveOn is NOT socialist, even if *I* think it *should* be...) Michael Moore, MoveOn, and others mobilized thousands of voters. This is good. I can only hope and assume they also moved voters to not just vote for Kerry out of reactionism, but to Get Involved and Do Their (Electoral) Homework.

So good things there. (Though as Tom Tomorrow on Slate points out, we REALLY have to stop letting conservatives set the terms of the debate -- read this with me again -- MOVEON IS NOT RADICAL, IT IS CENTRIST. And while we're at it -- this is a dangling thread for HopefulCynic and others -- MICHAEL MOORE AND F 9/11 WERE NEVER SHOWN TO HAVE MORE THAN ONE FACTUAL ERROR -- that is, Richard Clarke said afterwards that he *did* clear the Saudis for flight personally after 9/11, though it is my understanding he said differently in his book, making this a dubious factual error -- THAT IS, YOU CAN DISAGREE WITH HIS INTERPRETATION AND IMPLICATIONS, BUT STOP CALLING IT LYING DEMAGOGIC PROPAGANDA, especially without any kind of proof or nuanced analysis. Just cuz you hate it doesn't mean it's wrong, just like just cuz we hate W's policies doesn't make his backers stupid. (I may believe they are horribly incorrect, but that is different and far less condescending, neh? After all, they believe the same of me.)

All this is to say, a defeat with a candidate we believed in would've shown us there is strength in our views, we just need to work even more on convincing people. (Though of course the DLC and it's ilk probably would've and probably will always view any loss, or any win for that matter, as reason to move right -- an idea that, as Tim Noah points out, only even works on paper if you assume there is a limit to how far right the Republicans can move in response, a dubious prospect.)

Ignore, for god's sake, ignore all of those who say this proves that the Left's Agenda is Not America anymore. It is not 59 million US citizens, but hey, you know what, it IS 55 million of us. Hey, if you believe the studies, it's FAR MORE THAN THAT, in that the poor, minorities, non-voting women, and young voters have been repeatedly shown to skew Left; so it's LIKELY that culturally, we're STILL in the majority (though of course highly debateable), it's just that the majority of that, er, majority, doesn't vote because they haven't seen any real help for their conditions since, oh, maybe Nixon (who actually had some of the best policies on Race Relations of our presidents, and perhaps good policies on poverty as well; it was he who hired Maya Angelou as his advisor on race relations, not Kennedy, for example). This is NOT a GOOD THING.

I don't know if we can "win", I don't know if we can convince others that our agenda is superior and more in the spirit of the values we profess to believe in (religious freedom should include atheism, neh? How many atheist politicians do we have? Democracy would imply we wouldn't have invaded, or at least not stayed, in a country where 75% of the populace wants us gone; it would imply we wouldn't have had ProConsul Bremer dictating that partial elections were in fact democracy in progress and not anathema to democracy; we wouldn't have 1000s of dead foreign nationals on our hands, from the Sandinistas to Iranians during the Coup to the Kurds Hussein gassed while acting under our aegis with "weapons of mass destruction" supplied by US... and on and on....) I don't know if we can convince them that we can't kill every terrorist, for good, such that no terrorists ever arise again, such that we don't further inflame rage against us, such that we don't worsen the very conditions in the world that do not necessarily GENERATE extremism, Islamic or otherwise, but AIDE and ABET them in finding recruits, in taking root and prospering. I don't know if we can convince them that, logically, John Kerry was RIGHT in arguing to reduce terrorism to a NUISANCE, for the simple fact that you can't kill a method, you can't kill an IDEA -- terrorism is a tactic, and winning it completely as Bush wants to do means not only killing all terrorists, but killing all people who would THINK to use terrorism, or detaining them, or spreading "democracy" in a way FAR better and FAR DIFFERENT than in Iraq and Afghanistan, two countries sagging under the weight of our ineptitude, if you believe Bush's theory, which is of coruse bunk because DEMOCRACY PER SE doesn't seem to make people better off or happier, and certainly not FREE MARKETS or CAPITALISM, but substantive EQUALITY -- which is no more common in democracies than in autocracies it seems to me.

But I do know -- at the conclusion of all of that rambling -- that we can't hope to win ground for our ideals if we fight instead on the idea of averaging our ideals with "theirs" -- we may not be right, we may only be partially right, we may be all right or all wrong, but the only way to determine reality is not to fence off along partisan lines, nor is it to become the party whose ideals we oppose, but to have a genuine debate on our differences. To debate best tactics in "the war on terrorism", to debate the SANITY of the war on terrorism. And we may lose -- as good ideas often do -- but losing in and of itself is not a refutation of what we believe, and we must start to realize that. If we don't, all is lost and we have learned nothing.