Friday, February 27, 2004

Don't Wait...

Governor Napolitano promised to veto SB1077, which imposes a 24 hour wait before a woman may receive an abortion.  It hits her desk on Monday morning. Please call her office this weekend and support a veto. 1-800-253-0883.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

US commandos 'closing in' on bin Laden?

The Sunday Telegraph reports thatUS commandos are 'closing in' on bin Laden. Commandos of Force 121 are being tranferred to Afghanistan, presumably to ready for extraction of a surrounded Ossama bin and other leadership elements of Al Qaida.

It seems far too early to spring the caputure of bin Laden as an October Surprise. The timing is not maximally advantageous to the Administration, which is one of the reasons I think there may be actual substance behind this report. The real wild card will be the political effect if bin Laden is not taken alive. There will be extended coverage of his humiliation and trial if he is taken alive. But if the Telegraph's sources are correct, then bin Laden has taken measures to ensure that he is not taken alive and that his body cannot be recovered. With no evidence of bin Laden's capture or death, will people even accept that he is dead? Al Qaida would certainly not confirm it. Might bin Laden find a sort of perverse immortality as a result of his destruction?

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

The Kerry Cascade

Duncan Watts, a professor of sociology explains in "The Kerry Cascade" how a '50s psychology experiment can explain the Democratic primaries.

He says that the choice of Kerry as nominee is not the product of individual judgments by voters, but of a cascade of socially influenced decisionmaking as a result of the outcome of Iowa and New Hampshire - less than 1% of the electorate.

Watts recounts famous experiments in social psychology in which a room full of shills can surprisingly often influence a subject to reject the clear evidence of their senses. In the experiment Watts relates, the subject is shown lines which were plainly not equal in length. 30% of the subjects none-the-less went along with the decision of the group that the lines were equal.

In a similar, but more shocking, experiment subjects were introduced to a waiting room full of shills. The experiment simulated a building fire, including smoke pumped into the room. Many subjects, rather than sensibly fleeing the building, remained in the room because of the seeming unconcern of their fellow occupants. Rather than violate the social consensus to remain in the room, many subjects remained long enough that the fire would have resulted in their deaths.

This experiment shows that even if the decision has truly monumental consequences, social signals, such as the votes of Iowa and New Hampshire voters, can have distorting effects. What is perhaps that most remarkable aspect is that even when participants are confronted with the truth of how they were influenced, they will attempt to rationalize their conclusions with purportedly objective reasons.

This is exactly how voters are reacting to their selection of Kerry. They point to his experience, or his electability, his veteran status, his medals, his foreign policy positions, whatever. The truth is that these are simply justifications for a socially determined decision made for one reason only: an irrational social cascade. There is a name for such a trend - a fad.

There is no basis for the choice of Kerry over any other candidate (well, except maybe Sharpton...), and we would be giving the similar justifications for our votes had the cascade lined up behind any of the other candidates, including Dean.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Democratic Meetup

The DNC announces:

“On March 24, the Democratic Party is hosting a special Unity Meetup to celebrate Democratic unity as we move forward toward our goal of beating George W. Bush and the Republicans in November.

“Join your fellow Democrats from more than 250 cities and various Democratic presidential campaign Meetups as we stand together behind our nominee with our eyes fixed firmly on the White House!”


Well, okay. Maybe…But what exactly does the DNC mean by “Unity?” I certainly plan to vote for our candidate. If that’s all they mean by “unity,” then I’m in. I’m a precinct committeeman, so I’ll certainly fulfill my obligation to that job.

But I’m a Dean, Kucinich, Nader progressive so my sense of “unity” does not include swallowing DNC centrism whole. I’m willing to “unify” with the party, but I would like to see some evidence that the party establishment is willing to “unify” with me…on issues of policy and platform.

I want some evidence that after we elect Kerry the whole game won’t just drift back to the same old routine of cozy accommodation to the way things have been…a too comfortable relation with corporate America, and a failure to fulfill a role as rigorous critic of Republican conservatism.

Therefore, as a first step toward “unity,” I propose that every Meetup write a one paragraph statement of what they believe the policies and positions of the Democratic Party should be. Take one issue the party should address, or a policy the candidate should actively support, and post it to the Open Thread on the DNC blog. Send a copy to Terry McAuliffe.

The blog URL: http://www.democrats.org/blog/


Pentagon proves its worth

Finally, a secret report from the Pentagon, leaked to the press by an unknown party, demonstrates that the defense establishment has a tiny bit of relevance: Pentagon strategists foresee chaos and nuclear war within 20 years as a result of global warming. Cities will sink, ice caps melt, and food and water supplies will become the spark for global war. Good to know what we're in for. Helps in planning one's day.

Monday, February 23, 2004

I'll Never Let You Go...

Many people, both Democrat and Republican, are just now beginning to realize that not only CAN Bush be beaten in November, but that he likely WILL be. Commentators with an ear to the conservative movement describe the mood of core conservatives as fearful for the future. The end of Republican dominance of the Federal government is coming, and they know it. What's more, with a legacy consisting of an ailing economy, massive deficits, and severe damage to America's credibility around the world, the current right wing leadership of the party won't be getting another chance to run things any time soon, possibly not ever. Will January 2005 see just another peaceful transfer of power, or will Republican leaders decide that they cannot risk letting go? Many will face hard questions or official investigation for what they have done. Some will face indictment, imprisonment, and ruin. Might a trapped and desperate right wing of the GOP become an even greater threat to the nation once they are defeated at the polls?

The core conservative base of the Republican party is eroding. Persons of strong religious convictions and rural populations are both declining as a percentage of the population. Fundamentalism is growing, but only by cannibalizing other sects, while consistent church-goers decline as a portion of the population. This Administration is the last gasp of the conservative movement's quest for political power to compensate for declining cultural significance and numbers. It is a truism that elite groups who see their power waning fight the hardest to project and preserve their values through the political process. The proposed Federal Marriage Amendment is an example of such a desperate attempt by an embattled and fading minority to enshrine their values in the Constitution. Can you imaging the founding fathers imagining they needed to protect the meaning of marriage in the Constitution? Rear-guard cultural movements only succeed for a time by becoming increasingly oppressive; and there's the rub.

The GOP does very poorly amongst the fastest growing, most dynamic demographics in America. While it is true that Red states in recent elections have grown and gained electoral college votes, they have done so by becoming more competitive for the Democrats, not by adding populations amenable to the GOP. If the GOP continues to base it's support on it's current demographic segments, they will soon become a permanent minority. The GOP is betting heavily on Hispanics, a family-oriented and largely culturally conservative Catholic population, as the future of the party, but they have not met with much success in courting those votes.

"So what?" you might ask. Even if Republicans lose control, they will eventually rebound; major parties always either rebound or reform, so what's new? That is true, but the policies demanded by the right wing's fundamentalist, ignorant, rural, southern, 'fuck-you boy' core constituencies have become so distasteful to other portions of the electorate that the GOP may need to alienate their base and rebuild the party around more moderate positions to become competitive once again. At the same time, the party has failed to deliver on the right wing's core agenda. The true acolytes of those constituencies, such as Gary Bauer, are now expressing dissatisfaction with what the GOP has rendered unto them. Thus, even though the Republican party will no doubt rise again, the faction of ultra-conservatives that now hold the party hostage will likely not rise with them. View it as a desertion of the party by right wing conservatives, or as a realization by the politicians of right wing that the rest of the country will only stand for so much of the right's agenda, it doesn't much matter; the right wing is headed for the wilderness again. Many in the right wing are going to see defeat in November as a permanent end to their power in the GOP, and thus in America. What if they decide not to let go?

The right wing has demonstrated again and again a complete disrespect for America's civic traditions and legal institutions, not even sparing the prerogatives of their fellow party members. Long standing agreements on cooperation, power sharing, preventing fruitless conflict, and respect for the rule of law have been damaged or cast aside repeatedly by the right wing of the GOP in their drive not just to govern, but to rule. Redistricting in non-census years, twisting and breaking long standing procedural rules and traditions in Congress, Bush's assumption of the Presidency, which is widely held to have been illegitimate, and his war on Iraq, which many consider an unconstitutional usurpation of Congressional authority, are just a few of the ways the right wing of the GOP has proven, again, and again, their contempt for the rules which keep an unruly, competitive polity working somewhat amicably. Such rules are not trivial. They are aspects of a hard won wisdom about coexistence. Recall that this nation once raged with a civil war that ate the souls of a nearly a million Americans. We are not a pacific people.

This Administration will have about 2 months remaining in office once they become lame ducks. What sequence of events might give them pretext to refuse to hand over power? What legal tools and justifications might be used? I really don't know if the many outrageous actions and policies of this Administration's last three years are a well laid plan, or a series of crisis management solutions to rising problems. But either way, the result looks very much like the events and policy choices which led to our clearest model for how to destroy a modern Constitutional democracy: Alberto Fujimori's Peruvian coup of 1992.

The crisis which laid the legal and institutional ground work for Fujimori's coup was also terrorism. Fujimori's responses to crisis pose alarming parallels with our own 'War on Terror'. Fujimori formed 'faceless' secret courts that could try accused terrorists in secret for vaguely defined offenses such as 'justifying terrorism' and 'provoking anxiety'. We, too, have adopted draconian and ill-conceived offenses such as 'providing material support to terrorist organizations', which can encompass almost any transaction with almost anyone who is defined as a 'terrorist organization'. Of course, the privilege to define 'terrorist organization' lies entirely within the discretion of the Executive. Thus, any group or person can easily be labeled as a terrorist, based not on proof, but on media innuendo, secret evidence, and misinformation. Once 'properly' defined, all members, associates, and contacts linked to the accused 'terrorist organization' can be justifiably disappeared. This is how Fujimori's junta justified the disappearance of its foes, and it is how Bush and right wing could legally deal with their critics.

The second tool of Fujimori's reign of terror was to allow the police, prosecution, and penitentiary to operate in secrecy regarding terror cases, beyond the reach of defense lawyers, the press, and the public. The result was thousands of political prisoners and roving death squads. Those who challenged the system too openly could easily be pulled into it. Lawyers and family members too determined in their advocacy and inquiries after victims were frequently also drawn into the system, and imprisoned or killed. The Bush Administration has laid the groundwork for such a secret police force, as well. With secret warrants from secret FISA courts - or even without warrants under PATRIOT or the provisions of PATRIOT II which continue to tiptoe into law - the FBI can search anywhere, investigate freely, eavesdrop on anyone, seize anything, including all of your financial assets, arrest nearly anyone as a terrorist or sympathizer, detain them (more or less permanently), and deny them access to family, lawyers, and the courts. Citizens can then be tried in secret by military tribunals beholden only to the President, and a sentence of death can be imposed, which only the President may review. Non-citizens fare far worse, disappearing on the thinnest of immigration law pretexts, or just mere suspicion, deported to third countries to be tortured, or simply held indefinitely in undisclosed locations until they are forgotten, or die. If you are overseas, American or otherwise, watch your step. The President says the CIA can decide to assassinate you.

Behind this veil of secrecy, lacking the right of habeas corpus and access to counsel, torture and extra-judicial murder thrives. Political critics, bold protesters, and enough random innocents to foster terror and obedience can be liquidated justifiably. It is still unknown exactly how many the Fujimori regime murdered, and the tools and methods used in Peru lurk within our own laws, created out of fear of terrorism. There are strong suggestions that torture has crept back into the toolkit of American interrogators behind the veil of secrecy the Administration has drawn over the detainment camps of Guantanamo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Secrecy always breeds human rights abuses, and frees despots to eliminate their foes and critics away from the view of the public. This system is what we have built in response to 9/11, and it lies wait to enslave us.

How could the kind of naked abuses of the Fujimori regime be tolerated by the American people? Again, terrorism provides lessons in social control. In Fujimori's Peru it was Shining Path Narco-Terrorist attacks around Peru, which so frightened the public that most approved of Fujimori's 'emergency' usurpations of power. In today's America it would surely be 'Al Qaida' attacks on the homeland that would stampede the people over the cliff. It wouldn't necessitate all that much: coordinated attacks over a brief span of time on key infrastructural elements such as airlines, telecommunications facilities, government and military installations, accomplished by an alarming combination of conventional, biological, chemical, radiological, and data weapons, would cause much chaos and fear, even if little actual harm occurred. The media could be counted on to amplify the impact of any attacks far out of proportion to their actual significance. Widespread attacks of sufficient frequency and scope could justify in the minds of many a temporary state of emergency under Executive Orders, both long standing and newly instituted, designed for just such exigencies. The attacks could justify detaining hundreds, or even thousands of possible confederates, collaborators, and supporters of terror, pending investigation or under material witness warrants. Key transportation, communication, and media facilities could be seized under the emergency powers of the Executive and operated by the military. Once the immediate threat passed the Executive would be in control of strategic infrastructural elements allowing it to effectively control all movement and communication. Continuing danger of attacks would justify continuing the 'emergency' conditions, and fear and apprehension of the populace would prevent people questioning openly the Administration's failure to transfer power. The secret apparatus of oppression, now fully in motion, would swallow anyone who dared voice any organized dissent.

Don't think it could happen here? Fujimori dissolved the Peruvian Congress, purged the Courts of justices whose politics he disagreed with, dissolved and rewrote the Constitution, disappeared and murdered thousands, and still enjoyed a 70% approval rating, and reigned for eight years before fleeing to amnesty in Japan in 2000. Bush engaged in a brutal war of aggression against a nearly prostrate foe, killing thousands of innocents, costing taxpayers hundreds of billions and many soldiers their lives. He justified it all with outrageous lies and suborned intelligence, and still enjoyed a nearly 90% approval rating, even though fully half of Americans had only weeks before opposed the war and millions participated in the largest marches seen in modern history. External threats can unite people behind even the most transparently dictatorial actions. Fear can make many willing throw our rights away and despise the Constitution, and even democracy itself.

The GOP has already used electoral fraud and judicial treason to install a President, we mustn't assume they are above a Peruvian-style autogolpe to keep him there. Democrats cannot afford to relax our vigilance when the election is over; not until a Democrat is in the White House, the football's been passed, and the lock has been changed on the Oval Office liquor cabinet, can Democrats begin to feel safe once again. In Peru, the groundwork laid to combat terrorism was quickly built into a fortress for the rule of a Terrorist. That same groundwork has been laid down in this nation. As soon as we are able, we Democrats must destroy every last vestige of it. We will never be safe from tyranny until is gone. Too many people around the world have naively told themselves, "It can never happen here," only to awaken to a kicked in door in the middle of the night. It can happen here. We mustn't make it easier.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

In His Master's Idiom

Rick Renzi responded to Paul Babbitt's announcement speech criticism of Renzi's voting record by conceding the race. He accused Babbitt of using 'smear politics'. Characterizing substantive differences with your opponents voting record as 'negative campaigning', 'smear politics', or 'lacking a positive agenda' is the latest tactic from the Rovian college o' campaigning knowledge. What it signifies is that Renzi is unable to defend his record, and so, lacking ammunition with which to launch a smear campaign, he used the only weapon he had left; lying about Babbitt's campaign tactics. And that means that Renzi's campaign is over before it even starts.

Renzi's remarks are an immitation of the Rovian tactic of characterizing legitimate debate and criticism of an opponent's record as negative campaigning. It is itself a form of negative compaigning, because the charge is completely baseless.

The Rovian school of gutter politics holds that using slurs against a man's patriotism and probing for dirt in a man's personal life is legitimate 'contrast' communication, but researching a man's record and criticizing his priorities are off limits (well, at least to Democratic candidates). Of course, it is hypocrisy itself for Renzi to even think of leveling a charge of 'smear politics' at Babitt, considering Renzi's tactics against George Cordoba last cycle. He baselessly accused Cordoba of being a liar, a cheater, and a thief. Renzi's campaign was nothing more than slurs backed by lots of money.

Who would you guess said: "My opponent's blind accusations and false claims only highlight his lack of a positive and pro-active agenda." Sounds like a talking point from Mehlman's BC04 campaign play-book doesn't it? That's because it is. An except from a Bush speech responding to the critiques of one of the Democratic Presidential contenders? No. Renzi statement on Babbitt's announcement.

Renzi is nothing but an eager tool of the far right-wing agenda. He's an empty shirt, stuffed with the reality-impaired rhetoric of the Bush-Cheney-Rove-DeLay junta. His voting record proves it. His response to criticism of that record demonstrates that Renzi is as devoid of values and intellectual integrity as the Bush Administration itself.

Paul Babbitt's Congressional Campaign Announcement Speech

"Over the past several months, I’ve had the opportunity to visit with countless Arizonans who’ve encouraged me to enter this race. They've urged me to run for Congress because they know my record of delivering results for Arizona and they believe it's time for our voice to be heard in Washington for a change.

I am entering this campaign because rural Arizona is my home and I strongly believe we need a voice in Washington.

My connections to rural Arizona communities run deep – I attended Flagstaff High School and one of my first jobs was driving a Coca-Cola truck through the Navajo reservation. I left to serve in the Army, but there was never a doubt in my mind where I would return after my duty.

My wife Mary and I have been proud to raise our family here and we are honored to be a part of this community – that’s why I feel so compelled to serve.

The 1st Congressional District was specifically created to give rural Arizonans a voice in Congress. Unfortunately, our voice has been silent because our representative hasn’t stood up for us. Congressman Renzi has failed to put the issues critical to our communities first.

My roots go deeper in Arizona, I know how to listen, and with your support, we can get things done for all our great communities. I know I can do a better job listening to my constituents—from Casa Grande to Prescott, from Sedona, to Florence, Safford, Winslow, Tuba City, and Flagstaff--- and all across the district.

It’s time for a positive change.

So today, I am launching my campaign for Congress by taking a tour across the 1st Congressional District. I am taking this tour for a reason - to send a message that my campaign will be dedicated to listening to small-town Arizona right from the very start.

We deserve a Congressman who is truly one of us, someone who understands the unique needs of our many different communities. I’ve spent much of my life running our family business and serving in public office. These experiences have instilled me with common sense values and a no-nonsense record of getting things done.

I want to serve Arizona in Congress because economic development, balanced land and water use policies, and improving health care aren’t just campaign issues to me – they are a major part of my life’s work.

I’m proud of the things I've helped accomplish for this community – real achievements like creating Flagstaff’s first senior center, the Coconino Rural Environmental Corps, the Guidance Center and a shelter for battered women – and want to build on this record by serving you in Congress.

Education is the key to our future, and I know we need to do more to provide children in Arizona with the world-class education they deserve. Our students are being shortchanged because of the strains placed upon on our local schools. And No Child Left Behind has given schools additional mandates without all the resources they need to succeed. We simply can’t afford not to do better for our children.

However, we’ve shown we can make a difference by working together. I’m proud of our efforts in the disability community to improve the lives of children like my son Paul. These children will get the chance to realize their dreams because of our work to provide them resources to meet their special needs.

I want to bring that same "can-do" spirit to Washington. I’ll fight for our values by protecting our seniors' retirement security, by fighting to improve Arizona schools, and by striving for balance in environmental concerns. And I will fight to honor our veterans and take care of the soldiers serving America today.

I will support economic policies that actually help families in rural Arizona. I’ll work to fix our broken health care system. And I won’t support more tax breaks for multi-millionaires and corporations that saddle future generations with crushing debt.

Unfortunately, Rick Renzi's priorities just don't reflect our values and don’t address the needs of our communities. He voted for massive tax breaks that provide very little benefit for this district. He’s voted for budgets that shortchange Arizona schools, Arizona seniors, Arizona veterans and that neglect our connection to land and water in the Grand Canyon state.

Indeed, you might ask, "who exactly has Rick Renzi been representing in Congress?" Well, consider this: Renzi has voted with Tom Delay and his Republican leaders well over 90% of the time. Over 90%. Now, if we’ve got a Virginian taking orders from a Texan, who is taking orders from another Texan, then I think it’s at least fair to ask, "When do Arizonans get our say?"

When I am elected we will finally be sending an independent voice for Arizona to Congress.

You already know me as a neighbor who has lived in and served in this District for most of my life. I have participated in local and county government and worked to better our community for over 18 years. As your Congressman, I’ll be just as strong a presence here at home.

My job will be to always listen closely to your concerns and represent you in Washington as best I can. I won't be a Congressman you only hear from occasionally with good news and an over-sized check in my hand.

Frankly, I need and want your ideas for safer forests, for sustaining water rights, and for much better health care.

I am committed to serving Arizona’s 1st District because this is my home and it always will be. I understand the balances our residents strive for – we want to bring in more good jobs, but we never want to lose our character and quality of life and become Anywhere, USA. Our communities are unique, that’s why as Arizonans we choose to live and work here.

I am grateful to all of you for being with us today and am honored by the confidence you've shown in me. I’ll need your help to be successful and I’ll be asking for your time and energy throughout this campaign. And I’ll promise to never let you down.

Simply put, it's time for a change. So I'm declaring my candidacy for the US House of Representatives. Now, let’s go forward and carry our message across Arizona."

Friday, February 20, 2004

The Assassination of Howard Dean

A February 18th story at Alternet.org tells it all, and one paragraph sums it up:

“The pundits claim Dean's "rage" undid him, that voters took a "second look," etc. etc. Nonsense really. The answer is much simpler. Howard Dean was assassinated in broad daylight. Unlike Kennedy's "grassy knoll," Dean's killers are not hiding – it was the Democratic Party itself, and more specifically the DLC, that successfully went after, and sabotaged his candidacy.”

Why? What was it that so threatened the establishment of the Democratic Party?

“In the end, Dean threatened a troika of powerful institutions. He was a threat to the political parties (because he attacked Democrats' centrist drift), to media (because he criticized their cowardly reporting) and to big business (because he would roll back chummy tax-benefits for corporations). All three institutions responded with venom and destroyed Dean's candidacy. In 1968, a sniper's bullet ended Robert Kennedy's anti-establishment candidacy. In 2004, the methods used were more subtle, but just as effective. “

I find I still harbor a simmering fury at the past failures of “my” party that the Kerry candidacy does not cool…but I will vote for him and pray that the emerging activism of the Dean campaign will continue.

There are still primary elections and Howard Dean is still on the ballot. I urge all Dean supporters to vote for Dean in those elections, and continue to gather delegate strength so that we have some voice at the national convention

Read the whole Alternet.org article.
http://www.alternet.org/members/story.html?StoryID=17881

Cross-posted from Ojo Caliente

Scientist Paul Craig Delivers Nevada for Democrats

Nuclear expert Paul Craig testified before the Yucca Mountain technical review board that the facility is unsafe as designed. When combined with Bush's decision to go ahead with the project in the face of his promise to Nevadans to only proceed on the basis of sound science, Craig's whistle blast is a stake though BC04's heart in Nevada. Considered a swing state battleground, the Silver State's 5 electoral votes are almost surely now in the bag considering the narrow margin by which Bush took the state in '00. MoveOn.org is also investing heavily in Nevada, running its Misleader ads in the major metro areas.

Open Thread

NASCAR Dads Give Bush the Finger

If you have any doubt that Bush is in troublelook no further than the vaunted NSCAR dads. Seems a number of these guys and gals are pretty fed up with Bush's crap. In fact, Bush's visit to Daytona, reported by a clueless, lickspittle press as a love-fest for Bush, was in fact an impromptu protest once you looked beyond the pit.

As it always the case, Bush brought his bubble of denial with him and all was well in range of the cameras, but in the stands brewed resentment and rage. Beyond the shouting, the slogans, and cat-calls, hundreds of middle fingers stood in not-so-solemn salute as Bush's motorcade drove by the stands. It seems that if you kick a loyal dog often enough, even he'll eventually get sick of it and bite you in the ass. Democrats need to reach out to these abused and abandoned Republicans and bring them back the fold. Lower income, rural Americans are the Democrat's natural constituency; we must take them back if we want to regain a decisive majority.

Reagan was able to pull away millions of working class Democrats from the party, despite his policies horribly deleterious effect upon them, simply by cultural appeals. Democrats need to de-metrosexualize their image, and project a virile, pious, family-oriented, values based, protective image combined with a cogent and forceful explanation of our policy preferences.

We don't have to bash gays or play to racists to do this; believing that appealing to low income rural voters requires such tactics is itself a classist prejudice. We do have to affirm more stongly mainstream values. We don't have to legislate to protect those values. We don't have to attempt to punish minority groups. Nor even stop helping the oppressed or marginalized gain equal rights. One can genuinely express approval of and admiration for a set of values without basing policy around them.

The Republicans cut taxes, reduce the size of government, are fiscally responsible, support a strong defense, support a positive business environment to provide jobs, and dislike entitlements. Almost any America can give you this list in some form. Of course, most of it is untrue, but it is simple, cogent, and semiotically appealing. What do Democrats do? Raise taxes, create big bloated programs for the benefit of union cronies, are wasteful, skimp on defense, create entitlements that people don't deserve, and snivel about the enviroment at the expense of people. Well that doesn't sound very good. We have been semiotically mugged by the Right. We need to ambush them back. They don't do the things they say they do, we don't get the results the claim we do. We need to be better at communicating these facts forcefully to the least common denominator.

Dean does a fairly good job of explaining policy priorities in an appropriate manner, and Edwards does a very good job of talking about race, values, and class in ways that appeal to rural and lower income voters. Kerry and Clark do a good job of projecting a virile, protective, and patriotic image. Lieberman is nothing if not pious. Between them, many Republicans have taken notice of what is on offer in the Democratic party and many will like what they see in contrast to the empty rhetoric of Bush. Our primary process may do more to secure the eventual victory of the nominee than anything he'll do himself in the primary. Certainly, any reasonably intelligent nominee is going to make sure that these candidates remain in the field adding the appealing aspects of thier own platforms to the Democratic message. Only by opening the party wide to new influences and styles, and by embracing those cultural cues which Republicans have exploited, particularly patriotism and religious values, will we retake the White House, conquer Congress, and return Democrats to their position as the big tent majority party.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Open Thread

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

February 18th - Memorial Day for the Roots

In mourning today. But the fight continues tommorrow. Now more than ever it is critical that the grassroots movement which grew around Dean's candidacy stays vital and strong now that Dean is simply our first citizen and our inspiration, not our next President. We have the power, now the challenge becomes deciding how to use it.

Suggestions are welcome.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

DFA the 527

According to the Boston Globe, Dean is considering morphing DFA into a 527 to defeat Bush, promote the Dean agenda of balanced budgets, universal access to health care, and a diplomatic and multilateral foreign policy, and elect Democrats to Congress. I gotta say, that sounds like exactly what the grassroots should embrace.

Kentucky Bluegrassroots

Kentucky's Vote to replace Rep. Fletcher may signal the nation's mood, and the mood of the South. In a region whose strength of support for Bush is key to his chances for re-election, the contest between Democrat Ben Chendler, the state's former Attorney General, and State Senator Alice Kerr is a bellweather for November.

Right now, with 98 percent of districts reporting the results are:

Chandler (D): 54.6
Kerr (R): 43.6

Chandler is kicking Kerr around the district. Of course, Kerr is a talentless hack who brings nothing to the office except a blind obeidience to the GOP leadership. As such, she is a perfect reflection of support for Bush. Even dyed in the wool Republicans see voting for Kerr as more of a mandate for Bush and his policies, than a vote for a person of independent judgment. Of course, in the estimation of the current crop of GOP leaders, such as Tom DeLay, whose fundraising organization is being investigated for violations of Federal law, the more blindly loyal, empty vessel, a tool is sent to the Hill by voters, the better. Apparently, voters feel differently. The election of Chandler, who recieved extensive support from the grassroots with internet money and feet on the street, is a signal that Southern voters, too, are looking past the Southern Strategy to their own self interest and the interests of the Nation.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Impeaches and Cream

Over 383,000 have signed a petition to impeach Bush. They are selling Bumper stickers, t-shirts, and signs bearing the url ImpeachBush.org. But can it work? Could impeachment actually be used to remove Bush? No. The GOP's hold on Congress is too tight, and many of those in Congress owe their political viability to Bush. Impeachment is still just a political tool, not a judicial one, and the President is immune to criminal judicial process while in office. None-the-less, you will find my name on that petition; I've been wrong before.

There very well may be a factual basis upon which to impeach Bush, but it will never happen so long as the GOP retains control of Congress. The Democrats may have been gullible enough for several to vote for impeachment, but the GOP are nothing if not loyal to their own. More than one can say about some Dems, who are more than happy to eat their own fallen.

Impeachment of Bush is a pipe dream. Voting him out and putting a Democrat in is the only way to end the national nightmare of the Second Bush Regime. I certainly hope we've learned our lesson this time. No more damned Bushes in politics! The atomsphere of aristocracy in American politics is thick enough already. These days unless you can boast a relative who held the post before you, you can hardly get people to take your candidacy seriously. Well, it's hyperbole, but know know very well the number of sons and daughters who follow their parents into politics. It is nearly as bad a Hollywood, were instead of a screen test, these days they just give you a DNA test at your call back. Considering that both professions are really about name recognition more than talent, I don't suppose the similarities should be surprising.

I generally do not hold with judging a person by their family, but in the Bushes' case, thrice bitten, time to get out the repellant. Pappy, W, and J.E.B. What more evidence do you want that this family is a gaggle of souless opportunists, feeding off the worst tendencies of the American political economy?

The project couldn't be done justice yet, but someday, when these three stooges have gone to their overdue, and richly deserved, rewards, and their records are all unsealed, archivist film-makers will make a feature about how two generations of psychopaths took the reigns of power in America. And we'll all heave a sigh of relief that, except for 537 of us, and counting, we all survived it.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

The Politburo Strikes Back

Recent currents are defeatism and understandable disapointment have been swirling into Dean discussion groups. It's understandable. After months on the ropes the DLC's Politburo Apparatchikis are back in the saddle (Kerry's) and feeling their oats. Deaniad's defeatism is counterproductive and damaging to our cause, however.

A few points:
1) I don't want to belong to any club that would have me as a member: the wisdom in this little Grouchian nugget is the contrapositive, if they want to throw you out, that's exactly where you should most want to be. If the Politburo wants us Deaniacs to get the hell out of the Party, it is the clearest sign that we are on the right track. They are afraid. Keep them that way, and never let them drive you out short of pitchforks and napalm.

2)Duverger's law is a stone cold bitch: there are only two effective parties in America. They may morph, shift and change names, but there are only two games in town. Luckily they are both big tents, and if you have enough carnies and lots of money you can build your own tent
that encloses the old one and steal the ticket proceeds.

3)Talk of leaving the party is the same as talking about commiting political suicide: if you hear a Deaniac talking about an exodus to a third party, hold an intervention. We can only change the party from the INSIDE. OUTSIDE all we can do is wither and die.

4)Follow the money: there is a very good reason why the Politburo protect their turf; that green is money. The organs of the party are where the decisions about how the money is spent are made. Building our own thing inside the party is fine, as long as you can get it
funded; otherwise we need to muscle into the existing power structure where ever possible.

5)Don't be afraid to fight hard for control if it wins the grassroots a tangable prize: the Aparatchikis want us to be too intimidated to fight for the goodies. If the the grassroots are ever to take over the party, we must also take over the power structure. Too many grassroots activists distain occupying even the most rudimentary positions like P.C., let alone executive positions. The open secret, which the Politburo hopes we don't see, is that most positions of power in the party are democratically determined - which is why our numbers scare the crap out of the cockroaches.

So, keeping all this in mind, don't let any Dean supporter duck out of the party, stop being active in the party, or be intimidated out of claiming the power that the grassroots deserve. Not voting in protest will only get Deaniacs used as scapegoats by the Politburo if they wind up losing in November. Nothing would suit the Apparatchikis more than for we Dean Supporters to end up as reviled among mainstream Dems as the Greens are for thier perceived contribution to the 2000 debacle.

We can take back our Party, our government, and our country! You just gotta believe.

Engage, Mr. SOTU!

Bush's 2004 State of the Union Address was a real disappointment. Here is the minute by minute skin conductance figures which demostrate what a sleeper it was. There is also a comparison between the 2003 and 2004 SOTUs which clearly demonstrate what a clunker this one was.

Let's hope that the President continues to turn in such dudly performances. Perhaps if he does choose to accept UofA President Peter Likens' invitation to give the 2004 Commencement address, he'll put the graduating class to sleep.

Friday, February 13, 2004

The DFA list

DEAN LEADERS AND OTHERS IN OUR GRASSROOTS:  PLEASE READ THIS AND SHARE YOUR
COMMENTS IN EMAIL FORM.  THIS REFERENDUM ASKS THE DFA TO SHARE THE NAMES AND
EMAIL ADDRESSES  OF DEAN SUPPORTERS WITH THE DEAN GRASSROOTS!  THIS IS OUR CHANCE TO BE HEARD IN UNISON.

PROPOSITION:  That the DFA must provide the  Dean grassroots organizations with Dean Supporters' names and email addresses.

RATIONALE. Over 600,000 Dean Supporters have signed up with the DFA via DFA.com and other websites, as well as at MeetUps and other gatherings. These Dean Supporters signed up with the intention of helping out at election time.  But all of us have been rebuffed when we asked the DFA for access to the names and email subscriptions by Dean Supporters.  This has created great problems.

In many states, having or not having those names and email addresses can and has made the difference between successful canvassing and campaign failures. Remarkably, there are 10 times as many Dean Supporters whom we have not contacted as there are Dean Supporters now accessible to us!

Contrary to reports we've received from some DFA officers, the published DFA Privacy Policy does NOT prevent the DFA from sharing Dean Supporters names and email lists with us.  The relevant policy regarding grassroots organizations getting access to the information is this clause, online* and available to anyone who supplies info to DFA:

"We use your e-mail address to send you Dean for America updates. We may use your zip code and state to send you e-mail messages about upcoming campaign events in your area. You may remove your e-mail address from our lists by emailing us at unsubscribe@deanforamerica.com. We do not share our mailing lists with non-political third parties; however, we may share your information with other like-minded Democratic candidates and organizations."

I examined the FEC regulations and believe it is fair to say that the FEC does not prohibit these lists being shared, either.  The rules deal with the sale and rental of email lists to third parties, but not loans to "like-minded Democratic ... organizations."

In other words, nothing except its own reticence prevents the DFA from sharing supporters' names and email addresses with us at the grassroots.

Should the DFA provide us with supporters' names and email addresses?  I believe so. Please let your opinion be known and share this referendum with other Dean groupings, so that they can express themselves too.  I'll convey the results to DFA with pride.

* The entire DFA Privacy Policy (regarding user names, email addresses, contributions, etc.) is at:

http://www.deanforamerica.com/site/cg/index.html?type=page&pagename=privacypolicy

Contact bluefire@well.com with your opinion.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Muddied Waters

As Kerry's nomination takes a turn for the inevitable, the DeLay-like substance is starting to hit the fan. Kerry has lined up the support of former rival Gephardt, and now Clark is moving toward endorsing Kerry. But the scandalous tidbits are also starting to pile up. On the opposite side of the aisle, Bush is taking such a hammering that the White House and GOP leadership has decided that the best defense is a blistering offense. Look for Bush's proxies to begin an all out assault against any critics of the regime, and that certainly includes Kerry.

Running for Congress in his first bid for power, Vietnam-Era Kerry Saw a Military Led by U.N., not a terribly uncommon utopian dream in that era. But, so much for the credibility of Kerry's charges against Dean that he would allow the UN a veto over the United States' use of the military. Kerry apparently dreamed of the day when our military was directly controlled by the UN at one time. Of course, Kerry was young, and his views have surely evolved, or perhaps devolved is a more accurate term, but certainly his hypocrisy in trying to twist Dean's statements about the use of force and the U.N. is now abundantly clear.

Kerry was photographed near Hanoi Jane at a Vietnam protest. What this is supposed to imply, I haven't any idea. The picture might be doctored, but even if it isn't, so what? They were at the same rally. BFD. Of course they were. Tempest in a hookah pipe. Not an issue. It won't affect Kerry's appeal to Vets.

It is rumoured, by baseless rumour monger Matt Drudge, that a young staffer fled the country as several mainline news sources focused in on her as a Kerry's paramour. Could be true. There have always been stories of Kerry's infidelities. Whether they stem from a basis in reality, or his footloose bachelor days, is not clear.

But everyone has a story. Heck, one of the people close to the Dean campaign here in Arizona claims to know someone who had an affair with Kerry. It seems possible, even likely, that this rumour, true of not, may provoke a flood of other allegations. How Kerry deals with it will be a determinative factor in whether he is able to capture the nomination. Even if Kerry has enough delegates, what is the likelyhood that they will allow Kerry to lead the Democratic party into the general election with a number of stinking albatrosses around his neck? If the rumours are more than rumours, the extremely strong ABB meme, and the drive of Democrats to nominate only a candidate who can beat Bush, might cause Kerry's delegates to think seriously about breaking their agreement to caucus for Kerry and jump ship if it looks like it is serious danger of sinking. Will Democrats allow the nomination to someone who looks crippled and doomed even before the Convention? I suspect not. It is widely felt that these rumours about Kerry's very skeletony closet are what caused Dean to reverse field on his decision to drop out of the race if he could not prevail in WI. Dean is determined to be the last man standing as an alternative to Kerry. And why not? We Dean supporters are certainly willing to continue financing the campaign as long as Dean feels he has a hope of winning the nomination.

Commencing W: Update

It seems that there is about a 50% chance of W giving the commencement address to the 2004 UofA class. The reason is obvious; Arizona is a swing state this year and Bush knows he has to hold on it our electoral votes. Several of the faculty are protesting the idea of W coming here. As I recall, commencements don't always go so well for Bush. If Bush does come to UofA, a repeat of the Turn Your Back protest seems like a very good idea, indeed.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Commencing W

I just learned from a reliable source that The Resident Bush will be the commencement speaker for the UofA class of 2004! I can't verify that that this is absolutely certain, but it is very likely to be true. If that's the case, it is time to start laying plans to make W's visit a very uncomfortable one indeed.

Birmingham Post-Herald: Deep in the heart of the 'Solid South' questions remain

Release of Bush records doesn't silence skeptics who feel that Bush shorted his duty to the Guard. Plenty of veterans and southerners are left with the foul tang of hypocrisy after a taste of what the White House is shoveling. It is clear that the records released still have problems.

Conflicts like the Oct. 27-29th weekend; a time period just a week out from the election on which he was assistant manager. It makes no sense at all that Bush would take time of the campaign at such a critical juncture to train with the guard. It flies in the face of common sense- a sure sign of a fabrication. One thing is for sure, this issue is only going to be resolved by testimonial evidence from neutral eyewitnesses. Without that, the issue will continue to dog Bush through the entire election - and it's about time, considering how easily he dodged it last time.

I just have to say, "Thanks Michael Moore and Peter Jennings!"

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Federal Gov't Subpoenas College for Info on Peace Activists

Democracy Now! | Federal Gov't Subpoenas College for Info on Peace Activists. Some may have been following this story.

The lastest news is that the subpoenas have been quashed:

All of the subpoenas have now been withdrawn and the gag order has been lifted.  I can now fully comment.  Although we have now won this battle thanks to the bravery of the activists who were served with the subpoenas, many of whom have been my clients, and to the National Lawyers Guild which came forward to protect the Drake chapter and publicize the outrageous actions of the federal government when I was under a gag order.  Now we will be looking into possible civil causes of action and calling for a congressional investigation into this and any other investigations of peaceful protest and student organizations so that we can make sure that
this does not happen again.
Thank you all for your support.  It's been a really crazy week.
Sally Frank
Drake Legal Clinic
Des Moines, IA

IT Conversations: O'Reilly Digital Democracy Teach-In

IT Conversations: O'Reilly Digital Democracy Teach-In

Joe Trippi, former campaign manager for DFA, appeared on Monday in San Deigo for a Digital Democracy Teach-in associated with the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference.

Joe was the keynote speaker and also led a Q&A session with attendees. Here are those presentations, along with some other insightful commentators, in full. Enjoy

WMD = W's Mounting Deficits

Bush's recent interview with Russert is almost universally recognized to be a complete disaster, with only the most abject lickspittle apologists trying vainly to spin the appearance as a political triumph - and hoping that people didn't see it.

I think that a very strong strategy for the Democratic nominee is to distribute an annotated, hyperlinked DVD version of the interview to demostrate just how many times the President lied, or fudged the truth, or simply stonewalled. There are so many opportunities in it to show how mendacious and manipulative of the truth W is. These should be sent to the few Democrats and remaining Republicans who still think this President is trustworthy. The Democrat would win by a margin large enough to give him whopping coat-tails, too.

The most eggregious lie came in response to Russert's inquiry about deficits:

Russert: But your base conservatives and listen to Rush Limbaugh, the Heritage Foundation, CATO Institute, they're all saying you are the biggest spender in American history.

President Bush: Well, they're wrong.

Russert: Mr. President

President Bush: If you look at the appropriations bills that were passed under my watch, in the last year of President Clinton, discretionary spending was up 15 percent, and ours have steadily declined.


What, what, what?!! Now, I don't much care what W might believe or what he thinks, which are his usual modus operandi for lying through his teeth, here he's making an objective, unqualified claim that discretionary spending has declined each year under his watch before the entire country. Bush may be capable of believing 10 mutually contradictory untrue things before lunch, but this is an objective, and verifiable, claim for the purpose of establishing his own innocence: and it does not check out.

He claims that, 1) Clinton's final discretionary spending increase was 15%, and, 2) that the rate of increase in discretionary spending during his term has, a) declined from Clinton's rate, and, b) declined year to year during his term. All horsefeathers. Clinton's last budget increased domestic discretionary spending by 4.56 percent; not 15 percent. LIAR. Bush's first budget increased it by 7.06 percent. This is not a decline from Clinton's 4.56 percent rate. LIAR. His second budget increased it by over 10 percent. "Ours have steadily declined"? LIAR. Three lies in a single breath; not bad, but likely not a record for W.

Why do we let such baldfaced liar continue as President? There is simply no way that the President of the United States, even one as inept as W, is unfamiliar with these basic facts. Clinton went before America and told people that he didn't have sexual relations with Monica Lewinski. Bush went before America and told people that he didn't steal all our credit cards and run them up to the limit. Just as there was a reckoning for Clinton's folly, there must be one for Bush; especially since his lies actually matter to the goverance of the nation. But it will never happen until people force the media and the benchwarming idiots in Congress to start demanding answers and treating stonewalling as an admission of guilt rather than as vindication.


Sunday, February 08, 2004

America as a One-Party State

America as a One-Party State. Robert Kuttner. For any Deaniacs out there who are feeling that perhaps you should stay home rather than vote for anyone but Dean, you MUST read this article.

I hope Dean is able to jump-start the electorate in MI and sweep up most of the Super Tuesday delegates. But if that doesn't happen, Kuttner's clear exposition of the stakes should give you pause, lest you do anything stupid, like voting for Nader, or sitting out election day, or letting anyone you know sit out election day.

This is the most imporant election in nearly a century, certainly the most important of our lives so far. I would vote for a syphillitic chimp in preference to Bush... hmmm, perhaps there isn't enough contrast in that example... I would vote for a plucked parrot addled by glossolalia in preference to Bush... wait, this is harder than one would think... I would vote for a pimple on the ass of a mad-cow addled milk cow... aw heck, you get the idea. No matter what happens to Dean, the idiot prince must be deposed.

Keep your eyes on the prize: a future without that hateful pretender babbling out of the idiot box at you while he actively works to destroy your country, your future, and that of your progeny. Focus, and hold fast to your fellow Dean supporters and to Dean. We will be every bit as powerful if Dean drops out of the race as we were with Dean in the race. Dean won't disappear in a puff in smoke. He will not be lost to us; we will all simply be freed of the constraints of running for President.

We will still be Dean supporters, but his purpose, and ours, will cease to be Dean's election, becoming instead to help elect an acceptable President, and to eradicate a terrible one, as well as the Wrong Wing-nuts that have infested our government.

Imagine a tag team address to the nation by Dean and Gore on the danger that this Adminstration poses to our democracy on an hour of prime time paid for with our donations. Now imagine such an event every week until the general election. Imagine the cast growing to include the most respected public figures from across the political spectrum who see that the course Bush, Cheney, Rove, and DeLay have set leads to ruin. Imagine an army of DFA financed candidates crashing against those 'safe' gerrymandered districts and pulling the corrupt and the complicit out of their seats by the scruffs of their necks. Imagine how our voices will grow and our ranks will swell as we become the conscience and the backbone of the party, and of America. Imagine how Dean's undistorted message of hope and rebirth builds into a mantra against fear, eminating from every throat, from every corner of our nation.

We will win. We will take America back. If you give up on the Dean campaign, you are not giving up on a failed candidate, you are giving up on yourself. Even in defeat, we can be victorious. You just gotta believe! Dean does not have to become President for us to succeed. As he has so often said, this campaign is not about him - it's about us. Realizing our power as citizens. Coming together to save our nation. Overcoming every obstacle, even the loss of the nomination. We only change our fate by taking responsibility for it. Come on people, let's take back America!

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Is Social Software Bad for the Dean Campaign?

Demockracy: Is Social Software Bad for the Dean Campaign?

Some say that the highly integrated and and communicative nature of the Dean campaign, resulting from employment of social software such as blogs, deanlink, and mailing lists, proved to be a weakness. It encouraged supporters to speak to each other, rather than the harder task of speaking to undecided or other candidate's voters. I say that's a bunch of bunk, click through to learn why...

AFSCME Union to Withdraw Support for Dean

AFSCME Union to Withdraw Support for Dean. Gerald McEntee, head of AFSCME, grumbled last week that if Dean was unable to score a win in the Super 7, he was going to start looking for another candidate. It seems that he has persuaded the rest of AFSCME to follow his lead in dis-endorsing Dean. With AFSCME and other union support key in the getting out the vote efforts in WI, especially internet votes, this is a serious blow for our campaign.

I have to say that I am terribly disappointed by this weak-kneed retreat. I have always considered endorsements, even institutional endorsements, to be a vote of confidence in the candidate's message and ability, not an investment in the campaign's electoral success. An endorser should go down fighting with the candidate to the bitter end. If Dean fails to take the nomination, his endorsers will be free to move on when he declares his withdrawl, not before. I have to worry what the worth of labor's endorsements are if their leaders cut and run when the going gets tough. This is a sad day for organized labor, and may signal a turn toward the cynical by AFSCME, which mirrors the worst tendencies within our party.

This failure of AFSCME's leadership to stand by their word reflects a desire to put their resources at the service of Kerry's front-running campaign, and stop 'wasting' time and money on Dean. McEntee and others in the union leadership have clearly decided that they have to get their chips into Kerry's pot, so that they won't be coming to the table when the game is already moot. Otherwise, Kerry may feel no compunction to heed the call when the time comes to cash those chip in.

Friday, February 06, 2004

The Bush Legacy


This tells the story with perfect clarity. Send it to your reality impaired Independent and Republican friends.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Dailing for Washington

You may login now at the Washington Voter Management System: http://wacaucus.r2ci.com to activate and begin using your existing AZ DTL account.

If you do not have an Arizona Dean Team Leader account, you can sign-up for a caller account with the Washington campaign, at http://washington.deanforamerica.com.

Get out those cell phones with free long distance and start dialing for an impressive showing in WA! We have not yet begun to fight!

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Delegate Count

The delegate count is no longer a justification for Dean supporters to claim a continuing lead, even if none of our superdelegates are re-evaluating the race. We now have 121 delegates, including superdelegates, and 27 earned delegates. Kerry, Clark and Edwards all have more earned delegates, and though we are still 2nd in overall delegates, Kerry outstrips us there by more than 2 to 1. We are decidedly the underdog once again.

The campaign will be decided for Dean on the battlefields of WA and WI. Dean must win, or at least place 2nd, in WA, which it appears we are on track to do. Though we have had key endorsements in the state for months, and have one of the most solid state volunteer organizations in the country there, Kerry just picked off the endorsement of the State's governor.

Conventional wisdom says that a win in WA will translate into mo' in WI, which in turn sets up for Super Tuesday. I question that thesis. The demographics of the Democratic electorate in WA are much more favorable to Dean in WA than in WI, based on recent performance. WA's Dems look much more like other coastals such as CA and NY, while WI is much closer to the demographics of IA, and other riverine states. What this means is that WI is a far more important test of General Election strength. The battleground states in November will be the riverine states of the midwest, not the coastal states.

In short, WA is overrated, both as a bell-weather and as a mo' machine for WI. A win in WA would be great and would demonstrate continuing viabiliy, but it will not translate into significant mo' in WI, nor elusive 'electability'. Only two viable candidates will emerge from WI in positions 1 and 2. 1 will be the presumptive nominee, and 2 will be the Anti-.

If Dean, Clark or Edwards are to make it into Super Tuesday as more than a footnote, one of them must win, or place 2nd, in WI. The only possible exception is Edwards, who could remain viable with a lower showing in WI if he wins both TN an VA and forces Clark to retire from the field prior to WI. Neel is making a major media buy in WI and the Letters tool at DFA is spitting out WI voters only, so the game is afoot. Sharpen your pencils; let's deliver some votes!

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Media Assassination

The media's coverage of Dean has been so overpoweringly biased, nasty, and repetitive that it is tempting to find a conspiracy to derail Dean's nomination, thereby. Indeed, Dean's own vows to redress corporate domination of the media and to breakup media conglomerates seem sufficient motive for a conspiracy among the media elite to stop Dean at any cost. The key role which media distortion played in cutting into Dean's bandwagon support almost begs the question of whether the media had it out for Dean. I thought so myself, and I still think that at the policy level, there was and is a bias against Dean.

But as media insiders will tell you, the truth is a lot less impressive. The sad truth is that there are a lot more hacks and morons in journalism than there are journalists. The result is pack-journalism that follows on self-generated conventional wisdom, and pseudo-analysis which focuses obsessively on analyzing other press, rather than reality. Add to this the fact that bytes, moments of sound and image that reinforce and encapsulate a simplistic story frame, are nearly irresistable to a budget concious industry with a pipe always hungry for product, and you have the recipie for injustice and disaster which needs no villainous conspiracy to set the whole cruel shit-storm in motion.

Hence the appologies. Like children playing with a mouse who get carried away by its squeals, they meant no real harm; but more power than wisdom was given them by circumstances. The parents are ultimately responsible. The editors and executives of the major media failed to check the biases and trends that were clearly and demonstrably developing are ethically culpable. They failed to insure unbiased coverage and to correct bias such bias with sound editorial policies. These trends toward terribly biased coverage, so obvious to even an outside observer, should have been addressed. The fact that they weren't, at least until it was too late, is evidence enough of intent for me.

While I cannot reasonably claim that Dean's treatment constitued a media assassination of a leading Presidential nominee, I do assert that the mouse has a case for negligence, perhaps even with a malicious intent, against those who are ultimately responsible for promulgating and enforcing the ethical and professional standards that are supposed to prevent our media from becoming mere propagandists.

Botoxic

Whether Kerry got Botox or not, is really the most trivial thing imaginable. It is the direct equivalent of Clinton's hummer; an embarrassing personal matter of aging male vanity that throws no light upon issues of character related to the job of President. I personally could not give a flying fart whether Kerry got Botox, who told him to do it, or whether he is lying about it. It's his own damn business, and, heck, he does look better. That can only be a good thing for Dems if Kerry ends up with a highly undeserved nomination - might even improve our metrics with femail voters and youth. Anything which improves anyones odds against Bush is good. It may be a symptom of a disturbing superficiality in our politics, or just the unfortunate collision of monkey dominance psychology and the primacy of media image in politics. We want our leaders to be mature, but not old. Distinguished, but not craggy. It may be a sign of creeping metrosexuality, or the sexualization of the Presidency, but I don't think it says a damn thing about Kerry's character. If he did have it done, he should have come out with it, but if he wants to keep such trivial personal matters secret, then by all means, let him.

If you want to find flaws in Kerry's character, you need look no further than his voting record and financial disclosures. The man is a legislative light-weight and a wholly owned subsidiary of the telecom industry. Cash and Kerry. Have at that. But leave the Botox alone; not only does it trvialize the more important issue of special interest money in our political life, and the other serious issues about Kerry's career and character which are likely to emerge, but it contributes to the unfortunate trend toward making the personal political. This sort of nonsense only plays into the hands of GOP, who are all too glad to substitute such hypocritical little morality plays for substantive policy debate. One can hardly take the ethical highground, which is the only place from which to win such mud fights, if one was slithering around, gleefully eating mud pies yourself.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

John F. Kompromise

How does supporting George W. Bush 75% of the time foster real change in America? Voters rushing to embrace John Kerry's 'electability' must consider if good hair, a few unthrown ribbons, and a mausoleum mannerism can overcome Kerry's consistent support for major aspects of Bush's legislative and foreign policy agendas. Do voters really want a slightly less reckless version of the status quo? Kerry, the largest recipient of special interest contributions in the Senate, whose Presidential campaign is fueled largely by $2000 donations, not to mention his personal 6 million dollar life preserver, is certainly not going to demand significant changes in the role of special interest money and wealth in American politics. He's better intentioned and more honorable than Bush, no doubt about it, but he owes his place, and his fealty, to the same interests. Do we really want an election between the Moderate and Right wings of the Skull and Bones party?

John Kerry, with his establishment credentials, his newly purloined populist message, and his 3 point lead over Bush in early polling, seems to many likely to deliver the White House back into Democratic hands. But recall the drubbing that Dean absorbed over his few short months as the front-runner, and consider how Kerry will stand up to such scrutiny of his voting record, finances, personal life, and character. Kerry's only response to Dean lastest salvo regarding independent reports about Kerry's methods of funding his campaigns was to make an ad hominem attack on Dean, rehashing old charges about his time as Governor of Vermont, and to claim that he viewed all donations as individual donations, incapable of influencing him; such a beligerent response and transparent sophistry are sure signs that Kerry hasn't any real defense. Kerry has only begun to be tested and already the cracks in his craggy facade are hard to ignore.

Johnny F*** Kerry's main appeal is that he is a great compromise. He seems a good way to split the difference and hedge bets to many Democratic voters. He may not be a four star general, but he is a war hero, and as a hedge he's got some political experience. He may not be honey-tongued Southerner, but he is an elegant, if sometimes magniloquent, orator, and as a hedge he's got a number of years in the Senate and a Lieutenant Governorship under his belt. He may not be a flinty, rip-snorting New England reformer with a record of executive success who's out to transform American politics, but he is pretty darn flinty, and he can talk the talk, even if he can't walk the walk, and as a hedge he seems unquestionably stable and unthreatening.

By dint of his 'good enough' combination of attributes, Kerry becomes the guy that most Democrats can agree is 'good enough' to take out Bush. This primary season is shaping up to be much more of a recall election for Bush, than a nomination for a Democratic President. The bandwagon effect and the 'electability' perception are trumping all issues and all substantive qualities of the candidates. Anyone who is 'good enough' to do the job will get it. Just as Arnold's media profile and showmanship were judged by voters to be 'good enough' to overcome Grey Davis' incumbency, regardless of the fact that he had no real agenda, Kerry's split-the-difference attributes are held to be 'good enough' by voters to take down the W.

The problem with acting as if this process were a recall is the time frame involved. In a recall, the time frame is so short that the normal deliberative process is cut off. The audition and the performance are one in the same show. In a recall, the guy who advertises most convincingly to be the right guy for the job, is the best guy. There is no time to kick the tires, do the due diligence, and read the Consumer Reports articles. There is no time for the target of the recall to mount oppo on his challenger, because he hasn't any clear idea who it will be.

In the general election things are different. The W has months and millions to pour into oppo. Voters have months to decide whether they like a candidate and his policies. The media has months to pick apart a candidate and magnify every pimple into a molehill, and thence into a mountain, and finally into a mountain range.

The press has long since decided they don't like Kerry, only they've set aside their earlier judgments in favor of horse race coverage. Voters long since decided that Kerry didn't wear well, only many new voters, as yet unfamiliar with Kerry's less savory traits, are now flooding into the process and making Kerry the front-runner by dint of the very same superficial characteristics that made him front-runner originally. My fear is that during the long slog of the general election, under fire from the GOP's blazing guns, the media and the voters will rediscover all those judgments about Kerry that they've already made. Too late, voters may discover that rather than betting on 'electability' as if this were a recall sprint, they should have chosen the candidate with the most substantive policies, the toughest mind, and the most indomitable spirit, to carry the torch to Marathon

Will Dean's Rebel Yell Resonate in the South?

Dave Shiflett writes on Dean's Rebel Yell on National Review Online. Surprisingly, I think NRO may have published something insightful. Since Iowa, I have thought that Dean's Rebel Yell (as I, too, have consistently called it), while shocking to many, mostly due to the press play it got, will actually be a long-term asset among many of the demographics which Democrats want, but have been unable to crack with appeals to self-interest alone.

The Rebel Yell shows that Dean is as human as they come. He has a never-say-die attitude, and the soul of a born ass-kicker. There is nothing that appeals to a southern boy more. I speak as a the son of generations of Missouri Ozarks red-necks; I know what my Daddy considered to be admirable about a man's character, and share many of those values. The 'Fuck You Boys' and 'Fuck You Old Men' demographics may not all flock to the Dean standard - Dean's foreign policy promises restraint, not cans upon cans of whup-ass - but Dean's Rebel Yell will give them all something to think about when it comes time for Dean to butt heads with Bush.

Every Southern boy knows, just looking at Bush, that his Texan facade is only an inch deep. For all his brush cuttin', truck drivin', dressed down, quail huntin' pose, the man's blood is as blue as it comes. But at least he's representing Southern manhood, no matter how shallowly, in national life. Dean, on the other hand, may have an affinity for Southern voters which belies his Yankee Doc, South Hampton, Wall Street heritage. Dean's got some genuine Johnny Reb in his soul.

One can see a certain in-your-face cussedness that drives him, even in the face of a damaging loss, to throw a Rebel Yell at fate. In the face of a return to under-dog status, and sudden reversal of fortune in his fight against a host of overwhelmingly powerful foes, Dean thrives; indeed, he seems to derive a deep satisfaction from the chance to prove himself against the odds. Southerners often see themselves this way, too. The more Dean unleashes his Rebel Soul, the more Southerners will come to admire the man.

This is not some simplistic, looking-down-the-nose anthropology. People do vote on the basis of cultural affinity and cues. Bush is a master of throwing out the right superficial cues, with his talk, his dress, his manner, and his bluster. That is how an East Coast establishment, prep-school, Yale-Harvard grad has managed to reinvent himself as a Southerner. The trick for Dean will be to never affect anything overtly Southern, especially not his overly earnest and disasterously analytical approach to including a faith component into his profile, but instead to simply let his admirably Southern soul shine through.

If Dean can demonstrate the personal qualities which Southerners admire - resilience, spunk, faith, family, love of community, and a self-confident bravado (not bragadoccio) - without attempting to don any self-concious trappings, Southern voters will respond. If Dean can make Bush seem like a phony in comparison, by harping on Bush's similar background, his ridiculous unproductive movie set of a 'Ranch', his little cowpoke-soldier costumes, and blustering braggart outbursts such as "Bring it on!", then Dean can make inroads into the hearts of white Southern voters and prime them for appeals to self-interest.

Kerry's mistake is that he sees an outburst such as "Bring it on!" as just another political message to be re-spun to suit his purpose. It is quickly becoming his campaign slogan. Huge mistake. It seems even less genuine in his mouth than in Bush's. Bush's outburst is fundamentally unattractive to the Southern mindset because it is a taunt, not a statement of defiance. The U.S., being vastly militarily superior, issuing such a challenge to the nearly chrushed resistance to our invasion, hasn't any élan; it is a spiteful and boastful pronouncement of a Yankee conqueror. It is a slap in the face by carpetbagging foreigners, challenging the underdogs to try to do something about thier unjust subjugation.

I'll be the first to admit that this reaction may not be the first impulse of Southern Fuck You Boys and Old Men, but I submit it will be the lasting one. Kerry's absolute tin-ear for the Southern soul will be his downfall. In fact, it may be his use of the phrase which drives home it's essential nastiness to Southern voters, but not to his benefit.

It is the mark of a great general that he is able to exploit his mistakes as well as his successes on the battlefield. Only the next few weeks will tell, but I suspect that Dean will be able to use the Rebel Yell to his ultimate advantage among Southern voters.

News and Opinion Roundup

iNet: Senator Kerry Among Top Recipients in Congress from Special Interests...Not just rhetoric, folks, Kerry is that stiff from having his hand out all the time...
iNet: MILabor Endorsements for Kerry in MI and WA...including MI's largest teachers union? Haven't they heard of NCLB?
Lansing, MI: Problems with 12K MI VBM ballots...what proportion of those are Dean votes, I wonder?
Los Angeles, CA:(Subscription Req.)Dean Spent Much of 41 Million on Staff...good work if you can get it...




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