Saturday, May 31, 2003

Yell it loud, Yell it Hard

Kos gives us a new slogan to shout: Bush Lied People Died Sounds about right to me.

The hits just keep on coming

Straw, Powell had serious doubts over their Iraqi weapons claims Secret transcript revealed Dan Plesch and Richard Norton-Taylor Saturday May 31, 2003 The Guardian Jack Straw and his US counterpart, Colin Powell, privately expressed serious doubts about the quality of intelligence on Iraq's banned weapons programme at the very time they were publicly trumpeting it to get UN support for a war on Iraq, the Guardian has learned. Their deep concerns about the intelligence - and about claims being made by their political bosses, Tony Blair and George Bush - emerged at a private meeting between the two men shortly before a crucial UN security council session on February 5. The meeting took place at the Waldorf hotel in New York, where they discussed the growing diplomatic crisis. The exchange about the validity of their respective governments' intelligence reports on Iraq lasted less than 10 minutes, according to a diplomatic source who has read a transcript of the conversation.
So, what will it take before the media and citizens start to openly question the credibility of the people in charge?

Friday, May 30, 2003

Thinking about defeat

Over on the comments section of the DailyKOS's cattle call someone posted a question to Dean supporters about what we will do if he doesn't win the nomination. Will we be disillusioned? *sigh* This is the thing that frustrates me about Democrats so much: they spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about what they will do if they lose. Do you think Bush supporters wasted much time wondering what might happen if their man didn't win in 2000? Of course not! Democrats have got to get out of this losing mindset. Me, I don't want to waste a minute talking about what might happen if Dean loses because I'm only interested in getting him into the winners circle. Success requires a thousand handmaidens. Defeat will take care of itself.

Graham may also get it

Florida Sen. Bob Graham is blasting away at the Bush administration's suppression of important information, proving that he may be the only other leading candidate, besides Dean, who also gets it.
Graham said the Bush administration has a pattern of keeping secret information that would affect the lives of American people and that the public has a right to know. He was responding to a front-page article in London's Financial Times that said the administration kept a report out of the budget that shows the United States faces more than $44 trillion in deficits as the White House pushed for more tax cuts. The White House denied suppressing the report, with Budget Director Mitch Daniels calling the allegation "probably the most absurd thing that I can imagine." Graham said there are other examples of the administration withholding information, including documents detailing deliberations on Bush's energy policy, memos written by judicial nominee Miguel Estrada, a congressional report on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the projected cost of war with Iraq until it was about to start. He also cited Bush's executive order to keep millions of government documents sealed that were due to be declassified after 25 years. "There has been a Nixonian stench to the continued practice of putting the American people in the dark," Graham said in a conference call with reporters. Jim Dyke, spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said, "Senator Graham might want to spend less time on conspiracy theories and more time developing positive policies."
My advice to Graham: read the motto at the top of this blog, "The snake bites hardest just before it dies", and keep hammering!

Thursday, May 29, 2003

Getting it

Joe Trippi, campaign manager for Howard Dean, lays it on the line in response to a "Can Dean Win?" post over on the unofficial Dean 2004 blog. I'm reproducing it in full here because it says so much about why I like the Dean campaign:
I will take a shot at this. For the better part of 22 years (since at least 1980) turnout has consistently gone down in Presidential elections. At the same time the electorate (those that vote) has become increasingly conservative. The conventional wisdom increasingly has become that Democrats must move rightward in order to win. Well the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. In those 22 years we (Democrats) have lost the House and the Senate. And only one man (Bill Clinton) has won the Presidency. Now here Bill Clinton offers a quandry -- was Bill Clinton successful because of this theory that has taken over the minds of some of our party's best and brightest? Or was Bill Clinton successful because he simply was one of the most gifted politicians and communicators of our times? I subscribe to one of the most gifted along with Reagan. I believe Karl Rove gets this like few do. That in a world in which the electorate is shrinking, a world in which both parties poll -- and the first three questions in the poll are designed to boot out non-voters and only ask sure or probable voters what they think. That in that world you are going to get answers that are more to the right. In this world Democrats begin to move to the right -- to become more "electable". When you do this for over 22 years its called a death spiral. Your base becomes de-energized -- and Karl Rove knows this -- he knows that in this world -- victory for the Republicans requires nothing more than an energized base -- and that is all Bush and Rove are doing every day. Every move they make is aimed at one thing -- energizng their base -- and nothing more. Meanwhile the only candidate that is able to energize the Democratic base is rediculed as unelectable -- by the same folks that have succumed to the one theory that means staying in the death spiral. Did these guys not watch 2002? Did they not watch as Max Cleland a man that risked his life for his country -- lost limbs, medals and all -- and voted with George Bush 85% of the time go down to defeat? George McGovern will be nominated this year -- but his name will be Lieberman, Edwards, Gephart or Kerry. Its not the economy stupid, its about standing up for the America we believe in -- its about standing unequivically for what is right. Its about energizing our party as it has not been energized in decades -- from the grassroots up -- it means millions of Americans standing up and giving $10 or $100 or their time to fight for what they believe in. To win our nominee must understand that this isn't about health care, or tax cuts as much as it is a battle for the future of our country. It will not be the first time it has come to this. Elections like this one come but a few times in 100 years. We break the death spiral now -- and fight -- or odds are Karl Rove and the gang will deliver a massive turnout on the right and a major blow to the future of our party and our country. I don't expect many in my party to get this nor many pundits -- untill it is too late. The Dean campaign will become "electable" after the grassroots has energized and mobilized behind his candidacy and contributed millions of dollars -- and when the grassroots organization that carries him is so large it can not be ignored -- when that becomes clear to everyone -- when we together build that -- then Howard Dean will win the nomination -- and lead the fight to take back our country. And of course by then someone will have said we are electable. (Its the opposite of a death spiral). Trippi
The Democratic leadership has, over the last two decades, completely misread where the electorate in this country is going. I think Joe has it right that the Republicans, under Karl Rove, have not made the same mistake. Here is one clear fact that demonstrates precisely what I mean: for the last several decades, Republicans have consistently outspent Democrats when it comes to running political campaigns. The ratio of expenditures is often 3-4 to 1 (sometimes even higher). Yet, despite this huge disparity in money, Democrats as often as not still defeat their Republican opponents. Why? Because the electorate (meaning the pool of elligible voters) naturally leans Democratic. The Republicans have to spend all that money in order to fool the muddled middle into voting against their best interests. They also spend that money trying to cheapen the political process so as to discourage more and more people from voting. They do this because, as Joe points out, what is left when they leave is a larger core of dedicated Republican voters who will work to put their people into office. When most political analysts look at this they miss the deeper meaning and only focus on the shallow surface. The numbers seem to suggest that the electorate is swinging, ideologically, to the right. Nothing could be further from the truth. This country is as liberal as it ever was. It's just that the core liberal interests have become increasingly disillusioned. They are either fooled into thinking that this or that Republican can represent their interests or, even worse, they just throw up their hands and don't even bother to vote. Joe calls the response of the Democratic leadership a "death spiral". It is a very apt term for what is happening. By totally misreading the tea-leaves, the leadership is pushing the Democratic party along a path that is guaranteed to drive down its appeal among its natural constituency. This will result in increasing number of voters who will either go Republican or just give up entirely. What has to be offered, instead, is a real alternative to the Republican program and so far only Dean has shown that he understands this. Some of the other candidates have been making promising noises but they still seem to be beholden to formulaic approaches and in me-tooism. If they aren't me-tooing for Bush they are me-tooing for Howard Dean. Neither is an acceptable approach. Joe Trippi gets it. Howard Dean gets it. I just hope its not to late for the rest of the Democratic party to get it.

Blair learned well from his masters in the Bush administration

Looks like the U.S. government wasn't the only one leaning on its intelligence agencies to spin its reports as more damning of Saddam Hussein:
U.K. dossier on Iraq weapons 'unreliable' By Al Webb United Press International From the International Desk Published 5/29/2003 10:46 AM LONDON, May 29 (UPI) -- Britain's dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction was rewritten on orders from Prime Minister Tony Blair's government to make it look more dramatic in the months leading up to the U.S.-led war against Baghdad, a top intelligence official said Thursday. Blair's office rejected the British Broadcasting Corp.'s report, which cited an intelligence source. "Not one word of the dossier was not entirely the work of the intelligence agencies," it said in a statement.
That's what is known as a non-denial denial. They weren't accused of putting words in the document. They were just told to re-write it in order to make it "more dramatic". So the words may have all come from within the intelligence agency. But they didn't get published until they passed muster with the head office. That's called politicizing your intelligence agencies and its a bad idea regardless of who is doing it.
"The classic example," the BBC quoted the intelligence officer as saying, "was the statement that weapons of mass destruction were ready for use (by Iraq) within 45 minutes." In the dossier, Blair had warned that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein could activate a chemical and biological arsenal in that time -- a suggestion that became a pillar of Britain's rationale for going to war alongside the United States against Baghdad. "That information was not contained in the original draft" that had been prepared for the prime minister, he said. "It was included in the dossier against our wishes because it wasn't reliable."
Here's what probably happened: Blair's people got the "unsexy" report and didn't think it was "dramatic" enough. They also saw rough-draft reports that included an "unreliable" report that Saddam could be launch ready in 45 minutes. Blair's people sent back the report telling them to include the 45 minute report, overruling the objections that it wasn't reliable. So, the "45 minutes" phrase may have originated within the intelligence agencies, but it was an unreliable report that was played up for "dramatic purposes". You see how this works?

Time for a re-write

American soldiers continue to die in Iraq at an alarming rate, 9 this past week alone (link courtesy Atrios). Yet it barely merits a mention in our establishment press. Why? Because it doesn't fit into the script. It really is that simple.


Mark Bowden, the author of "Black Hawk Down", has come out with a column saying that Bush should not be let off easy if no WMD are found:
Events have moved so swiftly, and Hussein's toppling has posed so many new pressing problems, that it would be easy to lose sight of this issue, but it is critically important. I can imagine no greater breach of public trust than to mislead a country into war. A strong case might have been made to go after Hussein just because he posed a potential threat to us and the region, because of his support for suicide bombers, and because of his ruthless oppression of his own people. But this is not the case our President chose to make. Truth in public life has always been a slippery commodity. We expect campaigning politicians or debating journalists to pitch and spin. Facts are marshaled to support arguments and causes; convenient ones are trumpeted and inconvenient ones played down or ignored. This is the political game. But when the President of the United States addresses the nation and the world, I expect the spinning to stop. He represents not just a party or a cause, but the American people. When President Bush argued that Hussein possessed stockpiles of illicit and deadly poisons, he was presumably doing so on the basis of intelligence briefings and evidence that the public could not see. He was asking us to trust him, to trust his office, to trust that he was acting legitimately in our self-defense. That's something very different from engaging in a bold policy of attempting to remake the Middle East, or undertaking a humanitarian mission to end oppression. Neither of these two justifications would have been likely to garner widespread public support. But national defense? That's an argument the President can always win. I trusted Bush, and unless something big develops on the weapons front in Iraq soon, it appears as though I was fooled by him. Perhaps he himself was taken in by his intelligence and military advisers. If so, he ought to be angry as hell, because ultimately he bears the responsibility.
As testimonials like this come out it is hard to resist the urge to grab these people by the lapels and scream in their faces, "You Idiots! Of course Bush shouldn't be trusted! This is what we've been trying to tell you all along! How could you be so gullible?!" But we have to resist this temptation because we need people like Bowden on our side. The biggest danger to Bush is the conversion of former defenders into his harshest critics. They will have a standing to get their criticism heard that none of us who have always opposed the man could ever hope to achieve. If we just ridicule them for their initial cluelessness then we will only discourage them from admitting that they were scammed. So let's welcome Mr. Bowden with open arms and not rub it it in.

And by their words you will know them

billmon has produced a devastating collection of quotes demonstrating the evolution of the WMD theme from the Bush administration. Go read it now and pass it on to everyone you know. There are liars and then there are liars. Those who would lie in order to put the lives of American soldiers at risk should be removed from power at the earliest possible moment.

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

The Google News Democratic Presidential Poll for 5/28/2003

Time for the 2nd edition of the Google News poll. I've added a 2nd column to display the previous weeks results and rankings.
John Kerry(1) 2760(1) 3250
Bob Graham(2) 2320(2) 2590
Howard Dean(3) 2200(3) 2470
Joe Lieberman(4) 2220(5) 2070
John Edwards(5) 2080(4) 2230
Dick Gephardt(6) 1640(6) 1820
Al Sharpton(7) 1090(7) 1130
Dennis Kucinich(8) 1020(8) 1020
Carol Moseley Braun(9) 732(9) 749
The numbers for all the leading candidates are down this week, probably because of a lack of focus on the Democratic race as a whole what with increased coverage on Bush's tax cut and his push on the Middle-East roadmap for peace. Lieberman bumped off Edwards, possibly because of his involvement in the story about the abuse of Homeland Security by the Texas Republicans. Wampum does a much more thorough analysis of news coverage of the various candidates here. She has much more patience with this than I do. My system is simple number crunching. However, he ranks Dean much lower than the Google News poll does.

Democrats have no plans for this country?

A common criticism of the Democratic party is that it has no comprehensive plan to counter the Republican agenda. All they are about is criticizing what the Republicans are doing. To a certain extent, this is correct. But if you consider that the Republican plan is to essentially keep doing the same things that have made life in this country worse for nearly everyone (both economically and with respect to national security) is focusing on criticizing that plan all that bad a thing? After all, if you are heading towards a cliff and the driver's response to this information is to step on the gas, yelling "STOP!" and grabbing the wheel sounds like a pretty good plan to me. (Note: I don't actually by the media myth that the Democrats have no plans. They do, they just don't get the coverage that the Republicans do because of the advantage of Bush's bully pulpit.)

Around the blogs

Oliver Willis, an Edwards supporter, posts some very positive comments about Dean.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003


Atrios hits on something that has been a pet peeve of mine for quite some time:
It's clear that the infamous Dean Broder is Dean of nothing more than an ethically challenged press and the Moron-Americans that dominate our discourse. Suddenly he discovers that maybe the 5 year plan of Dear Leader might actually cause a bit of pain and suffering. Well, at least Bush didn't wear Earth tones you useless relic.
David Broder represents an institutional form of journalism that believes that it is more important for journalists to keep the system from falling apart than it is to uncover the truth. For example, in 2000, regardless of who he thought was the legitimate victory in the election, he would never say outright say it was Gore. He wouldn't say it because he knows that the Republicans would bring more chaos to the institutions of government if their man did not get into power. So he was willing to let them have it for the sake of the unity of the country. Bah! This is the same kind of paternalistic attitude that suggests that it was better for the country that Ford pardon Nixon because having him go on trial would have torn this country further apart (profiles in courage my ass!) No, you idiots. Putting Nixon on trial would have proven to all Americans, and the rest of the world, that we mean it when we say that all of us are equal before the eyes of the law. Broder is what happens when journalists become part of the systems of power instead of just reporters on its machinations. They become the enablers of that system, its courtiers, more interested in keeping the illusion of a well-ordered system running than in pointing out the faults that will inevitably bring it crashing to the ground. Broder and his ilk are a sickness on the body politic and the sooner they are removed from positions of influence the sooner this country will be able to restore some of its greatness.

Monday, May 26, 2003

Republican's have earned the right to be smug

Dave Johnson of Seeing The Forest posts some interesting thoughts on the different ways right-wing and left-wing philanthropists spend their money on political causes:
Here's how the right manages to have such an infrastructure in place, while progressives and moderates are left struggling with each other and barely getting their messages out to the public. There's a lot of money out there on the right, but there's also a lot of moderate and progressive money out there. The difference is that the right uses its money to provide general operating funding to "advocacy" organizations that exist to come up with ways to convince the public to vote Republican. The organizations on the right are funded just to exist, and the money continues year after year, so they do not have to spend so much of their time raising money, instead concentrating on effectively carrying out their ideological objectives. On the other hand, moderate and progressive philanthropists have traditionally provided money for specific programs with the intent of doing good in specific ways. This system of "program funding" evolved as the best way to apply scarce resources to projects with goals for which there was a general public consensus of support. This system evolved at a time when helping the poor, protecting the environment were all widely supported by the public.
I found this interesting because it ties into a lesson I learned from an online acquaintance during the course of the Clinton Wars. I used to be a "candidate, not the party" type voter. I thought political parties were passe and only non-thinking individuals just voted straight party tickets instead of examining the candidates and finding out what they really believed in. This acquaintance corrected my thinking on this matter by pointing out the simple fact that we can never really know what any candidate believes in because they all say whatever they need in order to get elected. Even their own spouses probably don't know what they really believe in. However, if you vote by party affiliation, you have a much better chance of predicting what it is they will accomplish once they are in office. For one thing, they will naturally ally themselves with members of their own party when it comes to drafting public policy. There may be the occasional outlier, like a Zell Miller for the Dems or a Lincoln Chafee for the Republicans, but their mere presence in the chamber gives their party leadership one more voice in the chorus. When you vote for David Democrat or Ronald Republican you aren't just voting for the individual. You are also giving power to the entire political apparatus that they are connected to. If you generally find that the one of the parties is closer to your ideal of what the country should be like than the other than you should always vote for that parties candidates (with the usual caveat that all rules must have there exceptions). I am a registered Independent. I am socially liberal but economically conservative. I have never, in the past, tied myself to one political party or another. But I have to admit that I believe this world would be better all around if Democrats were in charge more often than Republicans. Yes, even incompetent Democrats are usually better than Republicans (especially competent ones, who might actually do some real damage). I think Dave Johnson has hit on something important in his post: right-wing philanthropists do not focus their money on specific issues because they know that if they can just get Republicans in charge than most of what they want will come to pass in the natural course of time. This is equivalent to Solomon wishing for wisdom over riches and getting rich in the process because he was wise. Left-wingers and moderates, as Dave points out, waste money on issue advocacy, in the course of which they lose the bigger battles of who actually gets to set the agenda for discussing those issues. You can't get your legislation passed if you can't get it past a committee chair that is occupied by a member of the opposition. Every left-wing and moderate philanthropist and organization needs to understand this: their particular issue is, at this moment, irrelevant, because as long as the Republicans have a strangle-hold on the system they will never get a fair hearing. It's pointless to even push for something like single-payer healthcare until we have a political establishment that is willing to give the idea a fair shake. You will just be wasting your time, your money and delighting an opposition who will be laughing at you to your face because of your blinkered stupidity. The 2004 election will quite possibly be the most important election of my lifetime (God please let me never have to go through this kind of shit again). It is important that we not get bogged down on the question of whose bread is getting buttered this week. There is no single issue that is more pressing on the body politic than removing George W. Bush and the rest of the Republican, right-wing apparatus from power. All other issues take a distant 2nd place. The Republicans learned this lesson back in 64 with the defeat of Barry Goldwater. What will it take for the Democrats to learn it as well?

Sunday, May 25, 2003

Which Democrat Will Speak Fiscal Truth?
By Roger C. Altman ... Juxtaposed against the gargantuan Social Security and Medicare actuarial deficits, [Bush's tax cuts are] ruinous fiscal policy and even worse social policy. But in raw political terms, it is brilliant. It paints the Democrats, and particularly their presidential candidates, into a corner. They are forced to support even larger deficits or call for a rollback of certain tax cuts or accept the utter absence of budget resources to pay for any new initiatives, from health care on down. Each of these choices is politically excruciating, just as the White House planned it. But, perversely, there is a bright side. Problems this big lend themselves to simple approaches, such as these: (1) The Bush tax cuts are excessive and, in part, should be rolled back; and (2) future budget deficits should be smaller than the president is proposing. A Democrat with the courage to adopt these principles and communicate them effectively becomes the truth-teller and could go far.
Gov. Dean, meet Mr. Altman. Mr. Altman, meet Gov. Dean. I can tell from recent news reports that Howard Dean is still below the media radar for much of the establishment press. For example, the other day I was watching Chris Mathews (I was just surfing, honest) when the topic of Robert Byrd's recent floor speech came up. Mathews, Gergen, and some other woman all said that Byrd represented an old style of Democrat and that NONE of the Democratic candidates for President had the courage to stand up and say the kind of things Byrd was saying. To bad Howard Fineman wasn't there. He might have mentioned that Dean has been saying the same things that Byrd said and has been doing so for more than a year. What we might be seeing here is not just a case of Dean's lack of name recognition but the adoption of yet another "storyline" by the mainstream press: Bush is on fire and Democrats are hapless (except for ineffective examples like Byrd). Anyone who doesn't fit this storyline (such as Dean) is ignored because journalism is so much easier if all you have to do is regurgitate the same story that everyone else is doing. Fortunately, this habit of the press could be used to Dean's advantage. There are few things the press loves more than a David vs. Goliath story and the Doctor is out there swinging his sling just waiting for an opening.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

The Democratic Truth Squad

I highly recommend this Steve Soto post over on the Left Coaster. It is a proposal for the Democratic Party to put together a "Truth Squad" to follow Dubya around to ALL of his public appearances and give shadow press conferences in which the truth behind Bush's obfuscations will be revealed. The best thing that Terry McAuliffe can do at the DNC besides raising money right now is to create a “Truth Squad”. Such a concept would be comprised of a cadre of tech-savvy volunteers or pre-law grad students who would be a part of a team that follows Bush to all of his appearances, along with the Party’s designated mouthpiece on that subject on that day. Since all of Bush’s appearances and most of his remarks are announced by the press office in advance, it would not be too difficult for the DNC to plan these rebuttal press conferences with facts and figures ready to go in rebuttal to what Bush just said. The national media would already be in town for Bush’s event, and more importantly so would the local media, so the DNC would have a built-in audience for their “shadow” press conferences. At these press conferences, the DNC would trot out the mouthpiece(s), who would need to be articulate “up and comers” in the party who could appeal to a broad range of folks. The mouthpiece would provide a point-by-point challenge to what Bush said based on his actual record and the up-to-the-minute research that the tech geeks had just pulled off of their laptops. The mouthpiece would make the point that Bush was lying about his tax cut, lying about AIDS funding, lying about whatever issue Bush was talking about. And they would be doing it based not on partisan rhetoric, but the actual Bush record from material already in the media. This is a really great idea. I think the Democrats have to, as a group, commit themselves to run a non-stop campaign against Bush from now until election day. They can't attack him in half-hearted potshots from the crowd. They have to go after him every single day in every way that presents itself as an opportunity. And they must NOT listen to the media who will squawk about how whiny they are being or that they are being shrill or any of those other pejoratives that they have used for years to beat down any attempt by the Democrats to fight back. The Democrats must be on the offensive every single day of this campaign. By the time next November rolls around Bush should look like he has aged 20 years and Rove should be afraid of his own shadow. It can be done folks. It just takes the will to do it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Two quick links

The words of a truly great American, Sen. Robert C. Byrd and An interview with another great American, Gov. Howard Dean I highly recommend you read both to get an idea of what this country could be like if we were lead by people of honor and decency.

Bush unbeatable?

CBS News/New York Times Poll. May 9-12, 2003. N=910 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3 (total sample).



"If George W. Bush runs for reelection in 2004, do you think you will probably vote for George W. Bush or probably vote for the Democratic candidate, or don't you know yet?"

Bush Democrat Don't
Know Yet
% % % %
  ALL 34 21 44 1  
  Republicans 72 1 27 0  
  Democrats 7 46 46 1  
  Independents 22 18 56 4  

The Google News Democratic Presidential Poll for 5/21/2003

I've decided to coordinate the release of the Google News Poll with the release of the weekly Cattle Call over on the DailyKOS (every Wednesday). You can consider this the first "official" instance of this poll.
John Kerry3250
Bob Graham2590
Howard Dean2470
John Edwards2230
Joe Lieberman2070
Dick Gephardt1820
Al Sharpton1130
Dennis Kucinich1020
Carol Moseley Braun749
The rankings haven't changed, though everyone's numbers are up slightly by about the same amount. No analysis at this time. grubi, over on the American Dissent blog has combined these results, the Cattle Call, and a few other "polls" to produce a single "poll" of his own.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Rationing health care

Adam Smith discusses one key exchange in the Dean Town Hall this past Sunday that dealt with the question of rationing health care, particularly to those with fatal illnesses: In Sunday’s forum, Gov. Dean had a frank discussion with a questioner about making the hard decisions on how we will have to decide how to spend limited health care dollars. In it, he discussed how important family/doctor discussions about plans people should make about quality of life at the end of their lives are and the need for encouraging those discussions as a part of the national discussion on health care. Most people run away from listening to these “morbid” discussions. I started paying attention to the issue of death with dignity after having briefly been knocked into a coma after an act of random violence that ended up putting me on Social Security disability for the past decade. The idea of being hooked up to a rack of machines and tubes to lengthen lives isn’t just distasteful for most Americans. It’s horrifying. It’s that image that started the “death with dignity” movement in the first place. I thought this moment was the most powerful of the entire town hall because it was obvious that Dean really cares about this issue. He had the entire audience spellbound while talking about a very tough issue. He made the point that the very thing that makes America great is the very thing that makes our healthcare so expensive: our innate belief that we can fix anything if we just apply ourselves hard enough to the problem, including death. I think Dean's point in bringing this up was to say that the biggest flaw in our health care system is not the cost, per se, but the fact that fewer and fewer people have a close enough relationship with their health care provider that they can feel comfortable talking to them about this issue. Instead, many people are treated like defective parts on an assembly line run by managers who are convinced that they can fix anything that is wrong with them (the America way!) The doctors and nurses in industrialized medicine simply don't have the time or the training to deal with the human side of medicine. The result is that the most expensive treatments are ordered even in those cases where the recipients, if given a choice, might actually decline them. It's a tough to sell the proposition that one way to reduce health care costs is to encourage people to think about NOT getting medical care and I applaud Dean's courage for bringing it up. Of course the Wurlitzer will probably try to distort his statements and make it sounds like he is advocating cutting off medical care to the aged (Grannies health care eating through your budget! Pull the plug and save today!) Nothing could be further from the truth. If people want the care, even if the prospects are hopeless, they should have access to it. But they should also be fully informed and be allowed to make the decision NOT to proceed with the care. I wonder what the good Doctor's position is on Oregon's Death With Dignity law.

Strength is not the only component of competence

Over on the unofficial Dean blog Ezra Klein posts some thoughts on the recent DLC dustup and how Governor Dean should approach the issue of national defense. The conventional wisdom says that we must appear strong on national defense. I think that is semantically incorrect. We must appear highly competent on national defense. We do not have to be war mongers, but we must be able to deflect the war monger's attacks. The best way to look at it is we do not want to be the bully, but if we're not going to be the bully than we damn well have to be the karate master. I like Ezra's idea of contrasting a "strong" national defense policy vs. a "competent" national defense policy. Bush's policy is all about projecting strength while being rather incompetent in the choices of where to apply that strength. You can have the biggest hammer out there, but it won't matter for shit if you can't hit the nail. In fact, you can cause a lot of damage in the process. It's competency that has to guide our use of force and I think Dr. Dean can make a strong case that Bush has been incompetent in his use of America's military and economic might.

Monday, May 19, 2003

The Google News Democratic Presidential Poll (improved)

Thanks to Steven Gibson for giving me an idea on how to improve the poll results. He suggested I put quotes around the names. Here are the updated results:
John Kerry3020
Bob Graham2420
Howard Dean2250
John Edwards2030
Joe Lieberman1920
Dick Gephardt1710
Al Sharpton1070
Dennis Kucinich937
Carol Moseley Braun685
It does appear that this reduces John Edwards' common name boost. Update: Looks like I mispelled Braun's name. I've fixed it and updated the results. She's still last, but with a much less embarassing result of 685.

Dems finally starting to attack Bush on national security?

As you all know, I'm a Dean fan. But I applaud Sen. Kerry for his comments taking the Bush administration to task for its failures in the war on terror. "Al-Qaeda never went out of business ... and I think that the triumphalism of this administration, the president's comments and others' about al-Qaeda on the run has really exceeded reality," US senator and presidential hopeful John Kerry told NBC's "Meet the Press" program. "What's happened is we broke the beehive, but we didn't kill the bees and we certainly haven't killed the queen bee." "This administration has been disengaged in the Middle East, lackadaisical about the relationship with Saudi Arabia. And I think we could be tougher and I think we could be smarter in how we protect Americans." I just wish it hadn't taken the Riyadh and Moroccan attacks for some Democrats to find the courage to attack Bush on such an obvious point. Hesiod has some excellent comments on this over on his blog.

Sunday, May 18, 2003

The Google News Democratic Presidential Poll

This afternoon I read a comment by someone online that Howard Dean's name was getting mentioned more and more often in the news. His visibility has certainly increased since the attacks on him by both Kerry and the DLC. I was curious just how many stories out there were talking about Dean, so I went over to Google News to check it out. To be fair, I decided to compare the resulting numbers against the numbers for all the other candidates. Call this the first edition of the Google News Democratic Presidential Poll. My methodology was simple: I typed in the name, as listed below, and asked for results by most recent and then used whatever number came up. I make no claim as to how relevant these results are to reality. For one thing, I don't know anything about how Google puts together its search database (the first story I got for "John Edwards" was a story listing graduates at a local high school where one student had a last name of Edwards and another had a first name of John). If you click on each name you can repeat the search. Naturally it should produce different results since the underlying database is constantly changing.
John Kerry4370
John Edwards3610
Bob Graham2950
Howard Dean2590
Joe Lieberman1980
Dick Gephardt1720
Al Sharpton1050
Dennis Kucinich948
Carol Mosley Braun14
These rankings come down about where I would expect them. Kerry, as the nominal front-runner, probably gets an honorable mention in almost any news story on the campaign. Edwards appears to be making a big splash as well, though for what I'm not exactly sure. Graham has probably been getting a lot of ink for his direct attacks on Bush's handling of national security issues (and I applaud him for that). As a Dean supporter I am very pleased by the Governor's respectable showing. The DLC dustup probably has a lot to do with that. Lieberman and Gephardt, according to this, look to be having some trouble getting coverage. Of course, they have enough name recognition at this time that they probably don't need the press as much as does Howard Dean. Sharpton, being Sharpton, probably has a high number of stories about him just in the right-wing press. Kucinich is doing surprisingly well coming in so close to Sharpton. Braun is just pathetic. Update: I did a little investigation into this and I think the reason John Edwards comes in so high in this poll is because his name is the most likely of all the candidates to be shared with other people. Thus, any story about a random "John Edwards" will be counted in his column while the other candidates are less likely to get this kind of boost. I'm not sure how to refine the search to eliminate this problem. Any suggestions would be helpful.

This is not your father's war

Steve Gilliard has a powerful post up on the DailyKOS that I recommend everyone read: Every time Bush makes one of his cowboy statements, Al Qaeda laughs. Osama and now Saddam know exactly what the limits of American power are and they operate outside of it. We cannot "hunt them down" or bring them to "American justice". They know this. They laugh at our words and know the weakness behind them, the squabbling and incompetence. The indolence and stupidity. The day we close Guantanamo, try those we think are guilty in open court and agree to an international tribunal for Osama and Saddam, will be the first day they will know we are serious. That we will no longer treat him as an exception and instead subject him to the true rule of law, in daylight and with protections. Not in the night of some jury-rigged military tribunal with laws created on the spot. As long as we remained captivated by the trauma of 9/11 and not the realities of an interconnected world, we will remain Osama's captives, trapped not only by his gaze, but by every idea and thought he issues. Until we can break free, accept our losses and fight Al Qaeda on our terms, in our way and accept a world of risk, we will continue to lose. Thank you Steve. Of course, it will be hard to convince the average American that whomping Saddam's military is not, in fact, going to make us safer. A good ass-whipping makes us feel so good at a visceral level, but in a war like this it accomplishes very little and produces many more problems then it solves. The American people, like so many in this administration, are still trying to force this war into an old mold. They are still trying to fight the last war. This is not a war that will be won on the battlefield. There may be times when we will have to resort to force, but this should be reserved only for those times when immediate threats have been identified. For the rest of the time, this is a war that will have to be fought in diplomatic courts, in board rooms, in churches and mosques, on trading floors and in the market square. It is like no other war we have had to fight before. It will make the "battles" of the "cold war" look like a bonfire on a hot day. It is a war that is in nearly every way, shape, and former completely contrary to the type of war that Bush wants to fight. The more he swaggers around on the world stage in his flight suit the more powerful the terrorists will grow. This is a war that America cannot and will not win on its own precisely because we think our military might is sufficient to keep us safe. The longer it takes us to realize this the longer this war will last and the bloodier it will be.

Friday, May 16, 2003

Why I like Dean

Maybe it's about time I explain this. The Democrats for the last decade (even longer) have had more than enough reason to be angry at their treatment by the Republicans. They have been abused, harassed, called traitors to their country, hounded by inquisitors, dragged through the courts, IMPEACHED, smeared endlessly in the press, had the deepest elements of their character slandered, been disenfranchised and just generally laughed at to their face. And in response the Democratic leadership has just sat back and taken it. Except for a few rare, very rare, exceptions they have never demonstrated the least bit of anger at this abuse. We, the masses, the "activist elite", are angry that our political system has been hijacked by screaming harpies and bellowing blowhards. We are angry that the Democratic leadership acts like wilting pansies against the onslaught. We are angry that they are dominated by appeasers who keep preaching that if we just play nice then the GOP and the media will eventually play nice with us. Bullshit! We've tried that route. It hasn't worked. If the leadership won't stand up and say, "Enough!" then we will just have to go out and find new leadership. Such is Howard Dean, a man who demonstrates on the stump the same level of anger that the rest of us are feeling. To the leadership I say get on board, get angry, or get out of the way. Rolling over is no longer an option. We didn't start this war but by god we are going to finish it.

Bush is strong on national security? Ha!

Paul Krugman makes the same point I've been making for months, though much more eloquently than I, that the Bush administrations alleged strength in national security is nothing more than a glass jaw: The administration's antiterror campaign makes me think of the way television studios really look. The fancy set usually sits in the middle of a shabby room, full of cardboard and duct tape. Networks take great care with what viewers see on their TV screens; they spend as little as possible on anything off camera. That glass jaw is ripe for the breaking should anyone have the courage to step up and take a swing at it again and again and again (hint hint Dr. Dean). George W. Bush: he's not a leader, but he plays one on TV.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

A small correction regarding the DNC

While I stand behind what I wrote below, I should make it clear that there is no evidence, at this time, that the DNC supports the DLC in their attack on Dean. That was just part of the original rumor I reported. The DLC part of the rumor has been confirmed, but not the DNC part of it. So, at this time, let us reserve our ire for the idiots at the DLC. My warnings to the DNC remain. If they in any way try to encourage a campaign to destroy the Dean candidacy they will cause far more damage to the Democratic party than they could ever have feared from Howard Dean. Don't do it.

Dean has limited appeal?

My favorite comment so far over on the unofficial Dean blog regarding this whole DLC mess comes from Elliot: I'm an elitist activist! I'm a peace-marchin', colleg graduatin', Chomsky readin', anarcho-syndicalist, post-modern super-genius. I have a condescending tone and arrogant intellectual demeanor! I voted for NADER! As such, I think I speak for all my utopian-ist friends when I say that Howard Freakin' Dean is NOT an elititst. He is definitely not super liberal. This cat is as straight down the middle (as long as the middle's still the middle. These people keep pushing the middle so far to the right and the ACTUAL mainstream says screw it.) as you can get. I want to see an end to the drug war, end to corporate personhood, %100 estate tax, single-payer healthcare, free housing and higher education. I want No More Prisons and an end to the death penalty and reparations for slavery. Is Dean going to give me that? NO! Do I still support him? HELL YEAH! Why? Because he can take Bush out. Pure and simple. I've got anarchist buddies who will actually take Bush out if Dean doesn't, but for now, he's got my support and the support of a lot of people who are much much normaler than me. Dean's the Bushwacker of the bunch. If the DLC wants to run that Lieberman dog again, why don't they just give up and join the Republicans. Their the winning team anyway... If Dean can appeal to someone like Elliot as well as conservative Republicans who are scared to death of four more years of Bush (I've met more than a few of them at the meetups) then we may be witnessing the beginning of a real political phenomena. Update: Just wanted to make one thing clear to anyone reading: by posting Eliot's comment I am NOT endorsing his statement that he has friends who want to "take out Bush" if Dean should fail to do so. My purpose in posting this was to demonstrate that even some anarchists have found something to like in Howard Dean. My point in posting it was to refute the contention that Dean has limited appeal. Perhaps this point would have been better presented if I also had quoted a conservative Republican in support of Dean. I know they are out there because I have talked to several of them.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Luck is where you find it

Here is an interesting thought to consider regarding the DLC dustup. The Dean camp has to consider themselves pretty lucky to have Bill Clinton placing the title of "New Democrat" on Howard Dean not more then a few hours before the Washington Post printed its story about the DLC proclaiming that Dean is anything but a "New Democrat". In fact, I have to wonder if luck had anything to do with it. Bill Clinton has a lot of inside knowledge about what is going on in the DLC. He is their greatest success story. As such, he had to know well in advance that From and the others were going to issue a statement that was harshly critical of Howard Dean. Yet only a few hours before they do so he manages, in a few short words, to completely short-circuit the main thesis of the DLC statement. Coincidence? I think not. I think Clinton did it on purpose. Not necessarily because he is endorsing Howard Dean (I'm sure he's not ready to go that far yet) but because he understands better then the rest of the idiots at the DLC that what they are saying is total bunkum. He probably tried to stop them from saying it and lost the battle. This was his way of hitting them back. A fallout between the DLC and Bill Clinton? Now that would be a big news story!

Is the Democratic party about to make the biggest mistake of its entire history?

There's a rumor going around in the comments section of the unofficial Dean blog that the DLC and the DNC have decided that they should work together to destroy the presidential campaign of Howard Dean before it gets any bigger. If they do this they will prove themselves to be the biggest group of imbeciles we have ever seen in American politics, dwarfing even that king of imbeciles, Tom DeLay. If they do this they will affirm forever that they care nothing about the rank-and-file of the Democratic party. If they do this they will destroy ANY chance the Democrats have to win ANY kind of electoral victories for the next couple of decades. And I say this not just as a Dean supporter. I say it because I see, as these idiots do not, that Dean is the ONLY candidate that is lighting a fire under the rank-and-file of the party. If that rank-and-file see their own party leadership going out of their way to destroy the only candidate that says what they want to hear then they will demoralize Democrats more effectively then Karl Rove and the leaders of the Republican party could have ever dreamed (and all without them ever lifting a finger). This has, since I became interested in Dean, always been my single greatest fear. Bush CAN be defeated in 2004. But he cannot be defeated if the Democrats in charge are more interested in protecting their privileges and their egos than they are in actually working on behalf of the people they allegedly represent. If the Democratic leadership is going to do this, and I have a strong feeling they will, then they are an even more immediate threat to the welfare of our nation then is George W. Bush. They must be stopped. Update #1: Even Bill Clinton doesn't seem to buy into the idea that Dean is a threat to Democratic efforts to retake the White House. If the current crop of candidates is judged on what they accomplished before running for president, the field is strong, Clinton said. And some of those accomplishments contradict the image candidates have earned in the presidential race, he said. Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean is described as very liberal by many following the presidential race, Clinton said, "but look at what he did as governor of Vermont." Clinton described Dean's accomplishments with health care in his home state and his proposal to promote a national health care plan with a modest price tag as "New Democrat" positions. He was referring to the moniker the Democratic Leadership Council puts on Democrats who can blend moderate ideas that appeal to swing voters with traditional Democratic themes. And Clinton didn't hesitate when he was asked the overriding question: Can Bush be beaten? "You can always be beaten," Clinton said with a smile. "I could have been beaten in 1996." So, according to Clinton, Dean is a "New Democrat" in the same mold as himself and he certainly doesn't seem to be ruling out the idea that he can beat Bush. Update #2: Looks like the rumors are true, at least as far as the DLC is concerned: In case there was any doubt, the New Democrats don't like former Vermont governor Howard Dean and they definitely don't want him to win their party's 2004 presidential nomination. More than 50 centrist Democrats, including Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner, met here yesterday to plot strategy for the "New Democrat" movement. To help get the ball rolling they read a memo by Al From and Bruce Reed, the chairman and president of the Democratic Leadership Council. The memo dismissed Dean as an elitist liberal from the "McGovern-Mondale wing" of the party -- "the wing that lost 49 states in two elections, and transformed Democrats from a strong national party into a much weaker regional one." "It is a shame that the DLC is trying to divide the party along these lines," said Dean spokesman Joe Trippi. "Governor Dean's record as a centrist on health care and balancing the budget speaks for itself." Amazing! These guys gather and sniff their noses at Howard Dean and then accuse HIM of being an elitist! The sooner Al From and the rest of these bastards are drummed out of power the better. Update #3: Looks like the Dean campaign is coming out all guns blazing against the "Divisive Leadership Council" (heh). They have formed a mailing list called the Dean Defense Force through which they will distribute suggestions for things Dean supporters can do to counter the kind of bullshit being put out by From and company. They point out, like I did above, that Bill Clinton, the most successful New Democrat, thinks Dean qualifies for that label. They also point out that Jim Jeffords, a model held up by the DLC, has endorsed Howard Dean. This is something I did not know until now. Great news! I am really impressed with the responsiveness of the Dean team on this. Good job guys! Update #4: There's also a great posting over on the official Dean blog about all this crap. Howard Dean has said the Democratic Party needs to stand for something. Under his leadership, it will. His executive experience, common-sense policies, and proven record on tough issues are exactly what the Democratic Party needs to come together and, with the help of independents and Republicans, defeat George W. Bush. But Democrats don’t have to stand for people who want to divide this party to advance their narrow agendas. We don’t need to take this any longer. This is our Democratic Party, and we want it back, and in 2004, Mr. From and Mr. Reed, we Democratic “elites” as you call us are going to be at the Democratic convention, and we’re going to defeat George W. Bush in November 2004 because we have brought the party back together, because we have brought the progressives back into the party and the working people who don’t have health insurance back into the party and the senior citizens who want sound Social Security and not just lip service back into the party and the Independents who would like their 4th Amendment back and the Republicans who want some fiscal responsibility back – and yes, even Third Way Democrats such as yourself will be back—because we’re the party that stands for openness and inclusiveness, we’re the party that stands for peace, prosperity, and hope instead of war, recession, and fear—we’re the Democratic Party, and we’re not going away, so shred the memos and the polls, fellas, because we’re going to win the White House in 2004 with Howard Dean as the Democratic Nominee. Huzzah! Now that's the kind of fighting spirit I like to see in my political leadership! It is about time that the Democratic party expel the cancer that From and Reed represent. Let the bloodletting begin! Update #5: To be fair, here's the original DLC memo.

Did I ever mention that I think Tom Toles is a genius?


FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: STEPHEN CHAREST, (402) 477-7357 EMAIL: -- WEBLOG EDITORS ORGANIZE VIRTUAL MARCH TO SUPPORT THE TROOPS Lincoln, Nebraska -- May 13, 2003 -- Webloggers of the left, accused of not supporting the troops for questioning or opposing the war in Iraq, are responding by organizing a "Virtual March on Washington" on May 22 asking Congress to restore cuts in Veterans' benefits, to show that they do support the troops. The budget proposed by President Bush as augmented by the Senate proposes:
"to cut VA spending by $15 billion over 10 years, starting with $463 million slashed from next year's budget. Legislators claim they're cutting fraud, waste, and abuse. But Joe Fox Sr., head of Paralyzed Veterans of America, who calls the cuts "an in-your-face insult to the veterans of this country," says the reduction will slam the poorest disabled veterans and cut GI Bill benefits for soldiers who are currently serving in Iraq. The plan could also mean the loss of 9,000 VA physicians in a shorthanded VA system, he says. . . . [Bush's budget] includes a $150 million aid cut to schools attended by military dependents and support for billions in VA reductions." (Seattle Weekly, April 9-15, 2003)
An unofficial, loosely knit coalition of weblog editors is encouraging a "Virtual March to Support the Troops" on May 22. May 22 is one of the last business days for Congress before the Memorial Day weekend. On that day the webloggers are asking their readers to call, write, or email their representatives in Congress to restore funding for the VA and for schools for military dependants. The webloggers are also asking their readers to contact local organizations of all political stripes and ask for their help to make the welfare of our soldiers and veterans a top legislative priority. Example weblog postings: "Support the Troops" at "VIRTUAL MARCH TO SUPPORT THE TROOPS" at

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Health care a homeland security issue?

This is what Aziz, over on the unofficial Dean blog, suggests. Imagine the following scenario: a terrorist attack releases a biological weapon in downtown Chicago (much like the the terrorism drills conducted today). Many people are infected with a dangerous disease. However, a large fraction of these people are uninsured. Some of the uninsured will go to county hospitals, and the exorbitant cost of their treatment will be borne by the taxpayer. The lack of insurance will stretch already-strained resources and the overall capability of the health care infrastructure to respond to the attack will be undermined. And some of the uninsured will simply not seek medical care, thus enabling the biological agent to continue to spread. We have seen how the Chinese government's failure to isolate suspcted SARS cases has led to an explosion in the infection rate - imagine how much worse the situation could be were the virus a weaponized virulent agent instead of a natural one. Biological attacks may take days to unfold before authorities become aware of them (look how long it took before the Anthrax attacks were taken seriously). Imagine all those uninsured people wandering around town with coughs and rashes, infecting everyone they meet, because they can't afford the cost of going in to the doctor and having it checked out. The lack of universal coverage leaves us more vulnerable to biological attack.

Monday, May 12, 2003

Playing to your apparent weaknesses

Digby has an interesting post up about the impact that the homosexual issue will have on the 2004 election. I've been saying for quite some time that Dean's stance on civil unions may prove to be a net benefit for him politically. He may lose some votes from the rabid homophobes, but he could gain many more votes from the swingers (heh) in the middle who could respond favorably to an appeal to vote for what is right rather than what they are comfortable with. Put it this way: in the 60s there were many whites who would have been uncomfortable with their daughters dating black men. But they would have been even MORE uncomfortable with laws that made it illegal for black men to date white women. If you frame the issue right you can get people to sign on to your platform even if they are a little squeamish about some aspects of it. One thing that impresses me about Dr. Dean is that he doesn't hesitate to confront his alleged weak points head on. People tell him that his anti-war stance will hurt him now that the war is "won". So he goes out and directly speaks about that stance rather then trying to hide it. People tell him that civil unions will damage him with social conservatives. So he leads many speeches by talking in detail about signing the legislation into law. People tell him he can't win in the south. So he goes into the south and challenges them not to give into the stereotype that they are bigoted red-necks. By confronting his apparent weaknesses head-on the doctor is sending the message that he isn't afraid to take on tough battles and that he knows he can win them. People respect that kind of toughness even if they might not agree with his stand on a particular issue. From that admiration swing votes can be won.

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.

I wonder if Dubya has studied this part of his bible lately: Proverbs 16: 1 - 33 1 The plans of the mind belong to mortals, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. 2 All one's ways may be pure in one's own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit. 3 Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. 4 The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble. 5 All those who are arrogant are an abomination to the Lord; be assured, they will not go unpunished. 6 By loyalty and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord one avoids evil. 7 When the ways of people please the Lord, he causes even their enemies to be at peace with them. 8 Better is a little with righteousness than large income with injustice. 9 The human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps. 10 Inspired decisions are on the lips of a king; his mouth does not sin in judgment. 11 Honest balances and scales are the Lord's; all the weights in the bag are his work. 12 It is an abomination to kings to do evil, for the throne is established by righteousness. 13 Righteous lips are the delight of a king, and he loves those who speak what is right. 14 A king's wrath is a messenger of death, and whoever is wise will appease it. 15 In the light of a king's face there is life, and his favor is like the clouds that bring the spring rain. 16 How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver. 17 The highway of the upright avoids evil; those who guard their way preserve their lives. 18 Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. 19 It is better to be of a lowly spirit among the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud. 20 Those who are attentive to a matter will prosper, and happy are those who trust in the Lord. 21 The wise of heart is called perceptive, and pleasant speech increases persuasiveness. 22 Wisdom is a fountain of life to one who has it, but folly is the punishment of fools. 23 The mind of the wise makes their speech judicious, and adds persuasiveness to their lips. 24 Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. 25 Sometimes there is a way that seems to be right, but in the end it is the way to death. 26 The appetite of workers works for them; their hunger urges them on. 27 Scoundrels concoct evil, and their speech is like a scorching fire. 28 A perverse person spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends. 29 The violent entice their neighbors, and lead them in a way that is not good. 30 One who winks the eyes plans F56 perverse things; one who compresses the lips brings evil to pass. 31 Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life. 32 One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and one whose temper is controlled than one who captures a city. 33 The lot is cast into the lap, but the decision is the Lord's alone.

What will win it in 2004

I was thinking some this morning about the fears of some Democrats that a Dean candidacy would lead to a Bush blowout of historical proportions. They are convinced that the only kind of Democrat who can win in 2004 is one who runs from the center right, what some have derisively called "Bush-Lite" position. There are many who have argued against this position by pointing out that the strategy of running to the right has, so far, not worked (witness 2002). I happen to agree with this argument, but it just doesn't seem all that convincing to those who are themselves convinced that it is the rightward leaning policies of this administration that are in vogue right now. And that, I think, is the fundamental mistake they are making. Bush is not winning because of his policies. He is winning because he is Bush. Bush does not equivocate. Bush does not search around for winning strategies. He just does what he wants to do and dares anyone to criticize him for it. Back in my single days I used to get into discussions with fellow travelers on the newsgroup about the Nice Guy(tm) phenomena. Why, we asked, did the women seem to gravitate to the assholes when they knew there were a bunch of Nice Guys(tm) over there leaning against the wall who would never dream of treating them like shit? The short and simple answer is that assholes are self-confident while Nice Guys(tm) tend to be insecure wimps and self-confidence is attractive. People will be attracted to an asshole as long as he is strong enough in his presentation of what he wants because, for the most part, many people just lack their own sense of self-confidence. The same rule applies in politics. If people voted what was in their best interest then Adalai Stevenson probably would have been elected and Al Gore would have won in a landslide. But all the best intentions and policies are for shit if you can't sell it and Bush can sell it. The problem for the Democrats is that they are to focused on the product and not enough on the marketing. Clinton was successful because he understood this. He could be wonky when he wanted to, but he knew enough to be firm in his stand and stick to what worked. Gore tried out the marketing side, but he just looked like a desperate man hunting around for the right message. He needed to find that message right from the beginning and stick with it. Bush is a guy who sticks with it. Even when sticking with it means pursuing policies that are self-evidently ridiculous (tax cuts on dividends will add jobs to the economy? who actually believes that bullshit?) In order for the Democrats to win in 2004 they don't need to adopt the policies of the Republicans. They need to adopt the personality of the Republicans. Dean has that personality down much better then any of the rest of the Democratic field, which is why I support him. If Bush can sell a right-wing agenda as a centrist policy then why can't a Democrat sell a left-wing agenda as a centrist policy? Answer: he can, just so long as he sticks with a consistent message and doesn't waver the first time the heat starts to turn up. It's the tenacity stupid.

Friday, May 09, 2003

PNAC: The flaws of missionary zeal

In the latest MoveOn bulletin there is a link to an April 5th article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal that provides an excellent summary of the Project for a New American Century. I note, with interest, the following summary of what PNAC stands for: In essence, the neoconservatives argue that national sovereignty is an outdated concept, given the overwhelming power of America, and the U.S. should do all it can to impose democracy on countries. Some have called this approach democratic imperialism. It echoes the do-gooder impulses of Woodrow Wilson, the Democratic president who formulated the League of Nations as a solution to war, then paradoxically blends it with American military might. Hulsman dubbed it "Wilsonianism on steroids." In a world where nuclear weapons are proliferating, the neoconservatives argue, you can no longer put the genie back in the bottle. "The hard truth is that unless you change some of these regimes, you're going to be hard-pressed to get rid of the threat," Schmidt noted. "Liberal democracies don't go to war with each other." The theory behind this, developed by Michael Doyle, professor of international affairs at Princeton University, is that democratic governments are reluctant to go to war because they must answer to their citizens. And the history of liberal democracies, though comparatively short in the grand scheme of history, tends to buttress his point. PNAC is arguing that America should force other countries into democracy, possibly at the point of a gun, so that they will be less likely to attack their neighbors. Yet they fail to note the irony that this might require America, an alleged "liberal democracy", to attack its neighbors. Does this disprove the PNAC thesis that "liberal democracies don't go to war with each other?" Or does it show that, in order to use the might of the United States to force "liberal democracies" on other nations, it will be necessary to undermine our own "liberal democracy"? But for critics such as Hulsman, democracy arises from the bottom up and is "intimately connected with local culture and tradition. It can almost never be successfully imposed from the top down," he contends. Neoconservatives cite Germany and Japan, but Hulsman noted that Japan is "98 percent ethnically homogenous," unlike Iraq, which is split among three major groups. Yet Japan still required five years of American occupation after World War II before it became an independent democracy. The mission of democratizing the world may have no end, Hulsman says, because "there are always barbarians to convert." But whatever his disagreement with it, Hulsman called the neoconservatives' approach "the first new thought in foreign policy for some time." Is it really that new? Or is it just a repackaging of the old idea of "the white man's burden"? There is a missionary component to the PNAC program, with Democracy being the religion the conquerors will bring to the heathens. The trappings of this philosophy are new but the idea is as old as the idea of nation states. Every dominant power goes through a phase where it thinks it is the standard-bearer of civilization and therefore has an obligation, perhaps even a holy commission, to bring that civilization to the lesser souls around it. Unfortunately, as in all past experiences with imperialistic missionary spirit, that mission is often used as a mask to obscure what really happens: the exploitation of the people and resources of the conquered territories. While the missionaries preach to the heathens the leeches work in the background to suck the country dry. The difficulty in fighting this philosophy is that many of the chief proponents may actually believe what they are saying. Wolfowitz, Pearle, Bush and the others may truly see themselves as liberators. The part of them that knows what is really going on behind the curtain is safely locked away in a little part of their minds, never to be examined. You can accuse them of being perfidious, but they will be able to defend themselves, in all honesty, against the charge because they simply don't see themselves as doing what you are accusing them of doing. And the American people are willing participants in this delusion. They want to feel that they are doing right in the world and the Good News of the PNAC mission is that America is bringing Democracy to the lowly savages and that cannot be anything but a good thing. Right? You're not against Democracy are you?

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Over in the comments section on the DailyKOS one poster, DrFrankLives, had a suggestion for an advertisement the Democrats could use against Bush. It was too good not to pass along. In March 2001, George W. Bush told the Boys & Girls Clubs that he supported them. The NEXT DAY, he slashed their budget. In September 2001, George W. Bush told NY Firefighting heroes that he would make sure to pay them back for their sacrifice. By December, he had cut funding to New York's firefighters and policemen. In May 2003, George W. Bush stopped an aircraft carrier to use the sailors in a photo op. He didn't tell them he had slashed veterans benefits and cut funding to their kids schools while they were away. Now, George W. Bush is telling you he wants you to elect him President. Watch your wallet. Vote Democrat in 2004. Bravo!

Keep 'em on the ropes

I heard an interesting suggestion (can't remember where, sorry) for how the Democrats should handle the photo-op fuckup: if the Republicans continue to insist that it wasn't done for political purposes they should respond, "Ok. then will the President promise not to use any image from the event in the 2004 campaign?"

The snake bites hardest just before it dies

Looks like Robert Byrd has really hit a nerve. Frist: Byrd's KKK Past a Legitimate Issue Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., broke a cardinal rule of modern Washington politics Wednesday afternoon when he dared to point out that Sen. Robert Byrd's 1940s membership in the Ku Klux Klan might be a relevant issue. Asked whether Byrd's night-riding, hood-wearing days were an appropriate target of criticism in light of last year's Trent Lott fiasco, Frist told nationally syndicated radio host Sean Hannity, "It's fair, it's fair." "We always have to be careful in politics to draw too straight a line from the past. But I think the facts are the facts and they say something about the person. And therefore, I think, of course it's fair [to bring it up.]," the Senate's top Republican said. Frist suggested that Byrd's criticism on Tuesday of President Bush's decision to visit the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln last week was tainted by his former membership in the anti-black hate group. This has all the marks of desperation. It is a clear attack-the-messenger-not-the-message attempt to distract attention from something they KNOW will hurt them. This should be taken as a sign by Democrats everywhere to INCREASE the pressure. "Clearly a person is their past combined with the reflection of statements that are being made at any point in time," he told Hannity. Does the same rule apply to Dubya, Dr. Frist? Do you really want to go there, Dr. Frist? (And all those Democrats who think it is a mistake to go after Bush on this can just stuff it as far as I'm concerned). Update: The more I think about this the more I realize that Frist's attack is totally off-base, irrelevent and a clear sign that Byrd and the Democrats have struck gold on this issue. The Republicans are SCARED folks. They know that they be hurt if this story continues to get airplay. So they go around growling at the Democrats expecting them to cower like they usually do (see my previous comments about the cowards in the Democratic party who want to do just that). Let's surprise them shall we?

More Democratic foot shooting

(warning: big time major profanity-laced rant coming) Ship Carrying Bush Delayed Return Carrier That Spent Night off San Diego Could Have Gone Straight to Home Port ... White House press secretary Ari Fleischer called the criticism "a disservice to the men and women of our military" and said the carrier "was not kept at sea for an extra afternoon, evening or a night." A senior White House official said Democrats were making a mistake by trying to draw more attention to an image that Bush's aides see as emblematic of his strength on national security. "This is not an issue that Democrats want to keep alive," the official said. "We're happy to argue with them about defense -- any day." A Republican leadership aide on Capitol Hill said the questions being raised by Democrats were "uncomfortable," but noted that the discussion "at least means they're not talking about Medicare or the economy." Several senior Democrats agreed that the dispute is a loser for them. "It was live on CNN for four hours," a Senate Democratic strategist said. "You can't pay enough for that. Who cares about a few stories later?" One Democrat moaned yesterday as he watched cable news programs replay hours of footage of Bush on the carrier, with audio about Democratic complaints. "I'm watching him get high-fived and buzz the tower again," the Democrat said. "The White House should have thought of this controversy themselves. AAAARRRGGGHHH!!!! Assholes do vex me! Who are these fucking idiots (pardon my freedom) who say things like this? They should be shit-canned immediately! Never NEVER EVER take political advice from the opposition. In fact, pay attention to what they say you shouldn't be doing because that probably means they are afraid what you are doing might actually work. These idiots simply don't understand that the only way to defeat Bush on this matter is to confront him directly on it. You can't win by playing it down BECAUSE BUSH AND ROVE WON'T ALLOW YOU TO PLAY IT DOWN! Stop running away from the fight you fucking cowards! What you have to do is play it up while redefining the rules of the debate. You have to repeat the message that this was a shameless exploitation of our military men and women for political purposes ad nauseum (literally, until people puke). You have to repeat it over and over again so that every time those images play on TV the voters can't help but think, "Nice photo-op, but what have you done for me lately?" Get a clue or get off the boat! We don't need you! We would be better off without you! YOU are the reason the boat is sinking!

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

An interesting suggestion

Someone over on the Bartcop forum suggested that Scott Ritter should jump into the Democratic nomination race. But, wouldn't it be more delicious if he were to run for the Republican nomination? He is a Republican after all.

How to tackle Bush on foreign policy

There's an interesting article over on Salon by Eric Boehlert about the GOP's "luck" in latching on to the war on terror. Today, in Rove's the hands, the permanent war on terrorism is like a political gold mine. "Everything, including a war, is a potential campaign event for Karl," says James Moore, coauthor with Wayne Slater of "Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential." "He has great a skill at keeping messages simple and accessible. And the message today is the war and economy are wrapped up in security, that there's unfinished business with the war on terrorism and why would you change commander in chief in the middle of war? It's a helluva salable message." It's a depressingly true fact of life that the Bushies have a political goldmine in the war on terror. Anytime the heat starts to turn up on any other matter all they have to do is go "Boo!" and enough of the electorate will reflexively pull Bush's lever to easily guarantee him another four years. It's going to be difficult if not impossible for any Democrat to overcome that advantage. Even John Kerry won't have it easy. Some Democratic strategists are saying that only someone with Kerry's military background stands a chance of challenging Bush on his "protecting America from the bad men" position. But I say that even the most decorated of soldiers would not be enough to overcome Bush's advantage on this point. The Democrats cannot challenge Bush directly on his foreign policy because, as long as it continues to work, the people will support it. Attacking the policy when it is a success will just make those who support him think that they are being attacked themselves. That will make the defensively tighten their support. No, what is needed to address this problem is an entirely different approach. What the Democrats need to do is make an issue of the very thing that this article is talking about: the politicization of fear. They need to make the heart of the campaign be Bush's attempts to exploit the fear generated by 9/11 for political purposes. They need to put one thought and one thought alone into people's heads: Bush is more interested in scaring us into voting for him than he is in actually protecting us. The recent tut-tuts about the carrier photo-op are a good example of how this can be done. Rove was really blatant in his political exploitation of this event and even Bush supporters have had to acknowledge this. The Democrats started to whisper about it whenever they could and then, when it started to look bad for Bush in the media, brought out Robert Byrd to positively HAMMER Bush for the exploitation of America's fighting men and women . Note to any of the campaigns watching: there is the germ of a winning strategy here. You first need to attack the high-esteem which Bush has in the eyes of so many Americans. If you can repeatedly demonstrate that this administration is willing to use the military as a backdrop for its perpetual campaign then you can increase the disgust level people will have in reaction to this. Eventually it will reach a point where people will begin to question the foreign policies themselves. It is at that moment when you sweep in with a "there is another way" campaign. We need to make people squirm at the idea of voting for Bush again.

A Byrd in the Senate is worth far more than any Bush

I'm coming late to this party, but Byrd's speech condemning Bush's carrier photo-op is to important not to be repeated as often as possible. I understand from online reports that this story is starting to get some traction in the establishment press (I don't watch much TV because I consider most of it to be worse then useless). Apparently ABC gave a scathing report about it tonight on their evening news broadcast. This can be nothing but a good thing. Rove was hoping to use this footage for campaign commercials next year. But if enough people express enough disapproval over the whole incident then he can do so only at the risk of bringing the whole matter up again. That sound you hear is Bush's million dollar photo-op fizzling into the sunset.

Tenacity, thy name is Dean

For the 2nd time I find myself in the surprising position of linking favorably to a Howard Fineman column. In this column, Howard is essentially telling his colleagues NOT to write off Howard Dean just because he was an anti-war candidate and he, apparently, came down on the losing side of that debate. Howard identifies two of Dean's strengths: 1) Organization. His is one of the leanest and most efficient out there and it is backed up by the 20,000+ meetup attendees. So far, Dean’s outfit is the most adept at using the Internet, which is to the 2004 campaign what cable TV was to 1992 and direct-mail to 1980 — the new Best Practice for reaching and motivating voters. This week, the Dean campaign’s grass-roots enthusiasts will put themselves on display, gathering in about 250 “Meetups” generated through the Web site of the same name. These events turn traditional organizing on its head: The campaign people go to the meeting, they don’t put it together. 2) Tenacity. He doesn't back down from a position just because the news of the day breaks against him. Then there’s the candidate himself. Howard Dean, at least as a candidate, is a shark in Land’s End clothing. He is always moving forward and always on the attack. Most of his rivals genuinely loathe him at this point, but Dean doesn’t seem to care. He’s looking to inspire voters, and thinks his combative style is what they want. He thinks that Democrats want some anger in their candidate to confront Bush’s Red State triumphalism. Dean appears to draw inspiration from the cutthroat side of the Kennedy legacy, Bobby and Jack in particular. Their rhetoric soared and their ideals were noble, but their tactics were tough. When they wanted to dismiss someone as a nonentity, they called him a “nice man.” I have this feeling that Dean's tenacity and gruffness could serve him well in the future when it comes to answering the charge that he is weak on defense. People may initially say, "He was against the war, so how can he be a strong leader?" But, if they see him tenaciously DEFEND his opposition to the war then people may come to respect him for it and change their opinion about his apparent "weakness" on this matter. I've said it before: Dean has the right message. He may need to hone its delivery, but he should NOT change it. Doing so would be far more damaging than any heat he may take for any particular part of that message.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Dean, health care and incrementalism

I know some people are confused by Dean's health care plan. Both Max Sawicky and Mathew Yglesias are characterizing it as a non-plan apparently because it doesn't provide a comprehensive proposal for solving the health care problems in America. I think that this a deliberate decision on the part of the Dean campaign. Dean is trying to separate the question of coverage from reform. He admits that the health care system as a whole in this country is screwed up. But reforming it is a major battle that should be separate from the question of who gets coverage (this is why he no longer supports what Clinton tried to do in 1993). It is just embarrassing that one of the richest nations in the world leaves so many millions of its citizens completely exposed to medical disaster. The essence of Dean's plan is to first get everyone on some kind of plan and then try to make those plans better. I like this approach. It gets to the biggest problem in health care today (the fact that so many people have no coverage), forces the opposition to discuss the issue on the matter of coverage alone instead of getting bogged down in the details of any particular reform proposal, and lays the groundwork for more comprehensive reform in the future. After all, once everyone has a stake in the health care system, everyone will have an interest in making it better. I think this demonstrates that Dean is has inherited the incrementalist approach of Bill Clinton. I happen to agree with this approach, but I know many on the left who hate it. They think it provides to many opportunities to compromise important principles for illusory results. They are not entirely wrong. It takes courage to carry through on incrementalism and few politicians have the courage to do it. But if it is the only approach that actually gets us on the road to where we really want to be then I am all for it. It is also a steal from the Dubya/Rove playbook. Remember how Bush dealt with the abortion question during the 2000 campaign? He essentially said that while he personally supported banning abortion he didn't feel the political climate was such that the proposal could ever get passed (I agree with that). It was an acknowledgement that it is more important to devote your energies for what could be done rather than waste time on leaps towards the ultimate goal right away that were pretty much guaranteed to fail. Of course he said this in different ways depending on the audience he was talking to. If he was talking to mainstream audiences then he would emphasis the "I'm not going to push for a ban on abortion" message while, if he was talking to the red meat crowd, he would emphasize the "we must not forget the ultimate goal of banning abortion" part of the message. I think Dean could take the same approach to discussing health care. When talking with more left-wing audiences, emphasis the fact that he does support a more simplified universal health care system. But when talking to more mainstream audiences talk about how he supports covering those who are currently uninsured. It is possible to sell yourself to both constituencies without pissing either off (just so long as the the left version of the red meat crowd understands that they won't always hear what they want to hear in the more public dialog on the issues).