Friday, January 10, 2003

Americans who accuse their fellow citizens of sympathizing with the enemy merely for dissenting from the nation's war aims are objectively anti-democratic. -- David Neiwart Amen!

Been thinking about Blair in response to a comment John Isbell posted in response to this post from me. What's interesting is that Blair seems to be supported in his actions by none other then Bill Clinton! Now, Clinton doesn't actually supports what Bush is doing. But Clinton realizes that Bush is a dangerous man who would be even more dangerous if he were entirely cut off from any western support. Thus he has asked his good friend Tony Blair to stay close to Bush in the hope that he will be able to moderate Bush's more war-like tendencies. Would Bush have gone to the UN if Blair had not been keeping in close conversation with him? Witness the recent reports that Blair is asking Bush to hold off on Iraq until the fall. If this is the case then Blair is playing an important sacrificial role in international diplomacy: he is allowing his reputation to be hurt by his association with an idiot because to do otherwise might put the whole world in even more danger then it currently is.

For once Gephardt seems to get the simple truth that the way to increase the chances that opposition will stumble is to throw rocks in their path.
WASHINGTON (AP) - In an apparent attempt to press the issue of race, two Missouri Democrats are asking President Bush to renominate the black judge who was the key witness for the opposition during Attorney General John Ashcroft's confirmation hearings.
"In light of this and your party's efforts to repair its image on race relations, we urge you to reconsider Judge White's nomination to the federal bench," Gephardt and Clay wrote in a letter they released Friday. "Such action would be entirely consistent with your stated goal of realizing the promise of America for all our citizens, regardless of race."

What I want to know is why Bush is being so unfair to the $500,000-$1,000,000 crowd.

Thursday, January 09, 2003

Just had another thought on why Bush re-nominated Pickering. They may be expecting that the fight for his nomination will be intense and that, as a consequence, the Democrats won't have any energy left over to fight any other nomination he makes, such as the one for Priscilla Owens.

Lou Dubose, co-author with Molly Ivins of the book Shrub : The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush has a new book out... I haven't read it, but the cover is certainly a winner.

&c speculates as to why Bush would renominate Pickering. They make some good suggestions, but I would like to make another: Bush did it because people were saying that he wouldn't be able to get him through without some serious damage. You see, Bush is nothing if not consistent when it comes to people questioning his will to follow through. It's almost a point of faith with the guy that, once he says he is going to do something, then by God he is going to do it, especially if a bunch of namby-pamby wimps in the media say he can't. That's muscular leadership for you. (Hmmm, I wonder if there might be some clever way to use this in a bit of reverse-psychology?)

Robert Kuttner on the GOP's spin point about double-taxation:
But why special treatment for dividends? Workers pay income tax on wages and salaries, and then they pay sales tax at the store and property taxes on their homes and excise taxes on tickets - all on spending from earnings that have already been taxed once.
The sense of entitlement is never so clear in the Republicans than when they think that their special interests are the only ones who suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous tax fortune.

Score another great foreign policy achievement for the Bush administration!
N. Korea pulls out of nuclear treaty
SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- North Korea has announced its withdrawal from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, according to the official North Korean news agency monitored in Seoul.
Oh wait! It's not the Bushies fault! They can blame it on Bill Richardson! Damn those Clintonites!

Going on TV Over Scandal, Sharon Gets Yanked Off Air Apparently Israel has a law against "electioneering" on the public airwaves in the days leading up to an election. When Sharon went on the air to try and fight back against the charges being leveled against him an Israeli judge ruled that he was violating this law and the signal was cut. Even given the obvious conflicts such a law would have in the United States with respect to the 1st amendment, I can't help but think it would be nice if we had something similar here.

The emperor really doesn't have any clothes! (click picture to find out more) via MWO (thanks for the permalink guys!)

Kos gives us a mantra: "Bush is beatable" I agree. I'm just not sure that any of the current crop of giant killers is up to the task.

So, what is an administration to do when it spent two years putting down the Clinton approach to Korea only to have the whole thing blow up in their face? How about getting a Clintonite to fix the problem?

Mary Landrieu: "Unfortunately, the president's package is very short on stimulus," ... Me Ow! (link leads to Salon premium article, sorry)

Charles Pickering and the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission. (written before his nomination was first rejected) A Bob Herbert column from around that same time on the same subject. And, just FYI, even some conservatives were unhappy with the Pickering nomination as well.

Another I-Wish-I-Was-A-Decent-Artist-So-I-Could-Draw-This moment #212 Scene: a city street with a back alley. Actors: (1) a wealthy FatCat (fat, tux, top-hat, fat, cigar in mouth, fat, dollar-bill cufflinks, fat) walks past (2) George W. Bush, leaning against the alley entrance, dressed like a hooker. George to FatCat: "Care for a stimulus plan big boy?"

There are hopeful signs that Bush's stimulus (bzzzz) package might already be in trouble. But I can remember similar things happening with other major Bush policy initiatives. When faced with real opposition that might actually derail a proposal, Dubya will compromise just enough to get it passed and will then pretend that he never compromised at all and got everything he wanted. If the Democrats and a few moderate Republicans do manage to seriously alter the Bush plan the Dems better be prepared to seize the rhetorical advantage and keep Dubya from playing his typical "I won I won I won" trick.

Is our "good friend" Tony Blair finally starting to balk at his close association with Bush?

Hendrik Hertzberg has a nice article in The New Yorker summarizing the Korean situation: how we got here and what we are up against now.

Advice to Democrats regarding the Pickering fight: don't make an issue of Bush's own racial feelings. If you do you will lose. Bush and Rove know this and will try their damndest to lead you into that trap. The point of this fight is not Bush's racial disposition. You will have a hard time convincing many people that he is racist or bigotted. The point of this fight is to show that the GOP pays lip-service to civil rights while, at the same time, offering a safe-haven to the cockroach contingent. The Pickering nomination is nothing more than a sop to sheetheads and proves that the southern strategy is alive and well. Remember, the reason the GOP was so quick to jettison Lott was not because they feared he would jeaopardize their standing with blacks. Rove and Bush are smart enough to know that their standing with that constituency is about as bad as it has ever been for the Republican Party. No, what the Republicans are afraid of is that the middle-class, white, suburbanite contingent of the Undecideds will recoil at anything associated with the sheetheads and will start looking around for a more comfortable alternative. The Democrats have to (1) make it clear that southern strategy is alive and well and that the Pickering nomination proves this and that (2) the Democrats can provide a more comfortable fit. To repeat: the issue is not Bush. The issue is the continuing strategy of behind-the-scenes appeals to the cockroaches. Turn on the lights and watch them scatter!

Dana Milbank and The Note both bring up essentially the same point I made in my previous post:
"When Bush won the disputed presidential election while losing the popular vote," Milbank reminds us, "expectations in both parties were that his $1.6 trillion tax cut was dead on arrival. But Bush demanded it all — and got 85 percent of it."
"When world opinion this summer appeared inalterably opposed to Bush's view on Iraq, Bush demanded U.N. Security Council support — and got it unanimously, with few concessions."
"With history working against him and political sages saying he had no 'coattails,' Bush plunged himself and his reputation into the midterm congressional elections — and scored an unexpected victory."
"Democrats warn that Bush's in-your-face tactic ultimately will backfire … But that has not happened, and Bush aides say there is no such danger."
The M.O. of the Bushies is plain for anyone intelligent enough to recognize it: 1. Demand the moon. 2. Never compromise one bit. 3. Until, that is, it looks like you might lose. Then, make as many small compromises as are necessary to get past the temporary patch where it looks like you might lose. 4. When the policy is eventually written in stone, act like it is exactly what you were always asking for and declare complete and total victory. 5. Rinse...Repeat Many in the media and in the Democratic leadership have been consisently expecting him to opperate under the more concilliatory pattern they are used to. They took him at his word when he spouted all that nonsense about being "bi-partisan". The real question is whether the media and the Democrats will ever wise up to what is going on in this country. Or will they continue to give Shrub the benefit of the doubt over and over and over again.

After the 2000 election fiasco a lot of pundit breath was wasted on claims that Bush would have to run a coalition government because of the narrowness of his "victory". Bush, instead, ran his administration as if he had won the greatest landslide in American history. He got most of what he wanted. After the Trent Lott fiasco a lot of pundit breath was wasted on claims that Bush would have to work hard to overcome the image of the GOP being a safe haven for sheetheads and sheethead sympathizers. Bush, instead, has re-nominated Charles Pickering as if his questionable civil-rights record has nothing to do with what the GOP stands for. Will Bush again get most of what he wants? Will the media evern learn? Will the Democrats ever grown a spine? Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

Max brings up an otherwise unexplored aspect of the Bush stimulus plan (why do I keep wanting to make a buzzzing sound when I read those words?):
EVERYTHING'S COMING UP DIVIDENDS. You might think exempting dividends from tax "simplifies" the income tax. Nothing could be further from the truth. What it threatens to do is open up a huge avenue for tax avoidance, insofar as income can be recharacterized as "dividends." What are dividends, after all? Well, they are whatever the law says they are. For instance, under current law interest payments and short-term capital gains from money market funds are reported as "dividends." Will they be tax-exempt as well? One never knows, do one?
Are there any tax lawyers in the audience? Just how fluid is the definition of "dividends"? Could this proposal be the opening of a massive loophole in the tax code? One of the commenters to Max's post describes the following scenario:
Entity E1 creates entity E2, which buys entity E3, "liquidates" E3 (possibly by selling it to entity E4), distributes 100% of the proceeds as "dividends" to E1, and expires worthless, manifesting a 100% short-term capital loss on E1's original investment.
This thing has the potential to make Enron and WorldCom look like petty theft.

CalPundit has tasked the liberal blogosphere to come up with a way to respond to the brilliant PR campaign the Bushies have put together for their boss' stimulus plan. Kieren Healy has a useful suggestion:
How to respond? Kevin's reaction --- "You mean seniors like Martha Stewart and Ken Lay?" --- is an excellent start. Another one springs to mind. Yesterday Kevin complained that statements which conflated the effects of variables or got their causal sequence backwards made him want to "just scream at the entire profession of sociology". (Bugs the living shite out of me, too, Kev.) The solution, for James Carville as for Sociologists, is to ask questions that separate the effects of those variables.
In this case, ask: If you wanted to maximize your chances of benefitting from the Bush plan, would you rather be old or rich? Take your pick. I know which I'd choose.
This is good. I can remember when I was heavily into the anti-drug-war movement a few years back that one of the most effective strategies I found for dealing with those who supported the drug war was to ask them questions about its effectiveness. For example, I would ask them how many people would have to be put in jail before we could consider the "drug war" to be "won". And, if they were strong Christians, I would ask them which they thought Jesus was more likely to do in response to drug use: build more prisons or more hospitals. In other words, engage people in a dialogue where you put the onus on them to explain why their position is the right one. So, if you encounter people who are buying into the Bush PR line, don't scoff at them or throw around negative comments about Bush. Ask them honestly to explain why Bush's proposal appeals to them. Then ask them to explain the details behind those parts of the proposal that appeal to them. Then ask them even more questions. Get them to start the digging into the details. I find that it is easier to convince people when you can make them think that it was they who came up with the idea. Lies are easy to hide under layers of obfuscation. Many people don't know how to navigate their way through those obfuscations. Many don't even realize that there is obfuscation involved. But, once you start trying to get them to explain what it is they support, the deficiencies in the proposal start to become apparent. The key here is to not be snide and insulting while doing this. Try to be as unthreatening as possible. Try to be as interested in the other person's point of view as you can be. Don't try to sell your point of view. Get them to convince you.

Perhaps the Democrats might do well to start throwing this particular graph around (Click on image to read more). Economic Stimulus Proposal Graph

Plan Gives Most Benefits to Wealthy and Families
Mr. Bush's tax plan to eliminate dividend taxes overlooks a huge population of taxpayers: more than 40 million people who put money into tax-deferred individual retirement plans like the 401(k) plan.
Neither the money set aside in a 401(k) plan nor the dividends that accumulate are subject to any tax until a person withdraws the money after reaching retirement age.
But when a person does withdraw money, the government taxes all of it as ordinary income — regardless of whether the money came from dividends, stock market profits or the person's original contributions.
In effect, that means that people who buy stocks and accumulate dividends in a tax-deferred retirement plan will eventually be taxed on those dividends. But the much smaller number of people who currently pay big taxes on dividends will get a big new break.
Are we all clear on this? If you can afford to have investments outside of a 401(k) then the dividends on those investments are free and clear according to the Bush plan. But, if you are like the rest of us working-class saps and have your investments tied up in 401(k)s, IRAs and other similar investment vehicles then the dividends on those investments are counted as normal income and you will have to pay taxes on it when you withdraw the money. Looks the only thing the Bush administration wants to tax are the poor, the middle class, and the old maxim that no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.
Today, a senior administration official confirmed that the government would not change the rules and that stock dividends earned in 401(k) plans would indeed be taxed as ordinary income when it is withdrawn.
"They didn't get taxed when it was going in," said the official when asked about the issue today. "It all works out in the end," she said. "Trust me."
You'll forgive me if I don't feel all that trusting right now.

A comment related to the previous item: I am not of the opinion that black Republicans are necessarily self-hating blacks. If we are to have a truly equal society then the percentage of black Republicans should match the overal percentage of blacks in the populace. There is nothing inherent in being black that makes one more inclined to a liberal point of view. But, if one is of a conservative mindset and also black, what is one to do? Joining the Democrats just because they might be friendlier to you is not an option because you don't actually support most Democratic policies. But if you want to be politically relevent you have to be either a Democrat or a Republican. Thus, you have little choice but to join the GOP. I don't fault any black man or woman for being a Republican. But I will fault them if they go out of their way to excuse the blatant pandering to racists that is a key element of the GOP electoral strategy.

The highest ranking African-American in the California Republican Party on Tuesday condemned the racism he has endured working for the GOP.
"Black Republicans are expected to provide window dressing and cover to prove that this is not a racist party, yet our own leadership continues to act otherwise," party Secretary Shannon Reeves wrote in an e-mail to party board members.
He said "the time has come" for Republican leaders to understand what he has had to endure.
"When I travel to speak at Republican conferences and events around the country, wandering through hotels, convention centers and social clubs, as I approach the rooms where I'm to speak, I am often told by Republicans that I must be in the wrong place," he wrote.
"As a Bush delegate at the 2000 convention in Philadelphia, I proudly wore my delegate's badge and (Republican National Committee) lapel pin as I worked the convention. Regardless of the fact that I was obviously a delegate prominently displaying my credentials, no less than six times did white delegates dismissively tell me (to) fetch them a taxi or carry their luggage."
I remember reading an article a couple of years back about the role of blacks in the GOP. The party has several sub-committees set up to deal with various policy issues. This article quoted several black Republicans as saying that, when it came time to dole out assignments to these committees, they were invariably placed on those committees that had some black aspect to them (poverty, racism, low-income housing, crime, etc., etc.) But they were rarely placed on plum comittees dealing with foreign policy that also did not have any obvious black aspect to them (e.g., relations with African nations). The people quoted said that they didn't feel this was being done out of any kind of outright racism but was more the result of an subconscious assumption that black members of the party would be more interested in dealing with black issues. I wonder if this is still the case.

Andrew Sullivan takes on the Joan Didion article I talked about yesterday.
Reading Joan Didion's recent essay-cum-speech in the New York Review of Books is an enlightening exercise. It's enlightening not because it persuades. There is no argument in it, no prescription for American foreign policy now, no alternative proposed for countering the murderous terrorism that has already killed thousands of Americans. In this, Didion perfectly represents a certain type of decay in thinking on the intellectual left. Their argument about where we should go from here is essentially, "We shouldn't be here in the first place."
Still, you can glean a few hints from Didion's prose about what she actually proposes for our current predicament. Among them: allow Saddam Hussein to get nuclear, biological and chemical weapons; abandon Israel to its fate; withdraw from Afghanistan; have a national discussion about how America is the real source of the world's current problems. I don't want to put words into her mouth; but since she won't explicitly state what she thinks -- a style that seems far more appropriate when she's observing pop culture than foreign policy -- I don't have much of a choice.
I am reminded by this of one of the frequent complaints I have about movie reviewers: they often spend more time criticizing a movie for failing to be the movie they wanted to see instead of reviewing it for what it is. I am guilty of the same fault. I was vaguely unhappy after my first viewing of The Two Towers because I was jolted by some of the liberties Peter Jackson had taken with the source material. But I went and saw it again with the resolve to take it for what it was and review it on that basis alone. I was much happier with it on my second viewing. Andy makes the same mistake. He wants any article of the kind that Didion wrote to be of a certain type: prescriptive. But Didion's article was not meant to be prescriptive. That's not and, as far as I know, never has been her style. She uses the country's reaction to 9/11 as a jumping off point for an analysis of the way our modern political state often fails to come to terms with some of the broader implications of terrible tragedies like the attacks on the WTC and Pentagon. She is not prescribing what should be done. She is pointing out the deficiencies in the prescriptions that have been made. Particularly, Didion notes that our political life has become more and more a kind of "why solve today what can be put off until tomorrow" philosophy. The "moral clarity" philosophy is incompatible with this approach, yet few of its advocates want to acknowledge or even appreciate the disruptive impact this change in philosophy will have. I don't think Didion so much asserts that this disruptive impact is an argument against change so much as she is saying that those who advocate the change shouldn't be surprised when the disruptive impact becomes manifest. Andy seems to believe that reflecting on the failures of leadership and the society being lead is nothing more then a sign moral squishiness, especially when those reflecting on it are liberals and the ones being reflected upon are conservatives. A muscular political leadership does not waste time on self-examination that might otherwise weaken its determination. And anyone who advocates that they should do so is just trying to sap the leaderships strength, weakening them to the point where they can then be vulnerable to political overthrow. I once made the observation that there is a class of individuals who believe that the natural state of man is conflict and that anyone who works to reduce or eliminate conflict is, wittingly or unwittingly, working to undermine mankind and make it more vulnerable to destruction. This is why people like Andy can assert with a straight face that people who waste time on reflection are the beginnings of a "fifth column" and thus worthy of ridicule. There really are people who believe that the mere act of questioning strong leadership is just the outward sign of a subversive conspiracy to undermine America so that it can be destroyed by outside forces. Of course, Andy goes on to completely miss the point of Didion's article when he asserts that Didion is arguing that:
...those who actually do not blame the United States for the 9/11 massacre are somehow historically illiterate or incurious. She bemoans a culture of stupidity and jingoism that allegedly puts some topics off-limits:
"There was the frequent deployment of the phrase 'the Blame America Firsters,' or 'the Blame America First crowd,' the wearying enthusiasm for excoriating anyone who suggested that it could be useful to bring at least a minimal degree of historical reference to bear on the event ... Inquiry into the nature of the enemy we faced, in other words, was to be interpreted as sympathy for that enemy."
Of course she does not say that the anyone who is historically literate will blame America first. She is arguing that the reflexive dismissal of any attempt to understand America's role in its own travails is itself a failure on America's part. Reflection is as essential to the formation of a healthy political state as is muscular leadership. They are not incompatible with each other, even if they are often at odds. Didion is not arguing in favor of reflection over strong leadership so much as she is suggesting that one without the absence of the other will ultimately be as destructive to the state as any outside attack. At least, that's the conclusion I come to from reading her work.
She approvingly quotes a Berkeley professor (yes, there are self-parodic moments in her essay) to the effect that "On September 12, the shelves were emptied of books on Islam, on American foreign policy, on Iraq, on Afghanistan." But she's horrified when the result of that reading and thought turned out to be a consensus that the problem lay with Islam's closed universe of growing extremism, not the evil lurking in America.
Horrified? Sounds more like she is saddened by the reflexive desire of some to shout down any attempt at reflection. If, after reflection, people come to the conclusion that the fault lies more in the stars then in ourselves then so be it. But what Didion is arguing is that that natural reflective state was not allowed to run its course. It was instead shouted into silence by the muscular types who view any type of reflection as a sign of weakness. The initial rush to answer the reflective question "why do they hate us" was turned into the cowed question "what's wrong with them that they don't like us?" Remember that Andy was one of the first to scream about potential "fifth column" activity. How are people supposed to come to reasoned conclusions about how we should respond with people like Andy calling into question their patriotism? It is precisely this kind of attack that Didion is talking about. Is it any surprise then that Andy doesn't get it? For me Joan Didion's thesis couldn't be clearer: the desire of some to shout down certain questions because they might weaken the muscular resolve of the United States will, in the end, weaken our country. It will sap us of the vital faculties that make us rational human beings and will, instead, turn us into mindless minions of the muscular maximum leader. Andy seems to think that there has been a full and healthy debate on these matters already and that the time for questioning has passed. Didion (and I) disagree. Further, she asserts that the debate has been squelched in favor of the illusion of solidarity behind the sweaty leadership of the current resident of the White House. Living a lie only makes the liar weaker in the long run.

War's Cost May Dwarf Stimulus Effect
Fumed Rep. Charles B. Rangel (N.Y.), the ranking Democrat on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, "Never in a time of war have we reduced the tax burden on the most privileged."
Even some of Bush's allies in past tax fights expressed exasperation yesterday, given the gathering clouds of war.
"I understand you can't just put everything on the back burner and ignore it," said Sen. John Breaux (D-La.), a key ally in the battle over the president's 2001 tax cut. "But what you can do is take modest steps, and $670 billion is more than modest."
"More than modest" John? Bush's stimulus plan is akin to a horde of Wall Street traders running naked down Pennsylvannia avenue shouting, "Spring is here! Spring is here! Spring is here!"

Some people have entirely to much time on there hands. The Brick Testament The Lord of the Peeps

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

More interesting but unpublicized poll results courtesy of Zogby:
A slim majority (51%) says Bush deserves re-election compared to 36% who say it is time for someone new. Another 13% are not sure. In October, 49% said Bush deserved re-election and 35% said it was time for someone new.
Slightly more than one in three voters (35%) say they would vote to re-elect President Bush regardless of who he runs against, compared to 56% who would not vote to re-elect Bush regardless of who he runs against.
The mighty Bush Juggernaut rolls on.

One more item from Didion's article. Didion goes on to describe how the early questions that people had about "why they hate us" were short-circuited by those who didn't want to go there:
I was struck by this, since it so coincided with my own impression. Most of us saw that discussion short-circuited, and most of us have some sense of how and why it became a discussion with nowhere to go. One reason, among others, runs back sixty years, through every administration since Franklin Roosevelt's. Roosevelt was the first American president who tried to grapple with the problems inherent in securing Palestine as a Jewish state. It was also Roosevelt who laid the groundwork for our relationship with the Saudis. There was an inherent contradiction here, and it was Roosevelt, perhaps the most adroit political animal ever made, who instinctively devised the approach adopted by the administrations that followed his: Stall. Keep the options open. Make certain promises in public, and conflicting ones in private. This was always a high-risk business, and for a while the rewards seemed commensurate: we got the oil for helping the Saudis, we got the moral credit for helping the Israelis, and, for helping both, we enjoyed the continuing business that accrued to an American defense industry significantly based on arming all sides.
I agree with Didion's point, but I hope she doesn't think this is something that began with Roosevelt. Most of United States history is filled with periods where difficult questions were continually put off for later because trying to resolve them would cause to much grief. Slavery was among one of the most obvious. Unfortunately, as history shows, these issues have a way of eventually breaking through the obfuscations and force some kind of resolution. We can only hope that such future resolutions won't require bloodshed on a scale comparable to the Civil War.

Joan Didion went on a book tour to promote her book ">Political Fictions (a book I highly recommend) just seven days after the 9/11 attacks. She relates some of what she experienced in her latest article for The New York Review of Books. In particular, she noted how quickly people saw the through the bullshit that was leaking out of Washington.
All I can say about the rest of that evening, and about the two weeks that followed, is that they turned out to be nothing I had expected, nothing I had ever before experienced, an extraordinarily open kind of traveling dialogue, an encounter with an America apparently immune to conventional wisdom. The book I was making the trip to talk about was Political Fictions, a series of pieces I had written for The New York Review about the American political process from the 1988 through the 2000 presidential elections. These people to whom I was listening—in San Francisco and Los Angeles and Portland and Seattle—were making connections I had not yet in my numbed condition thought to make: connections between that political process and what had happened on September 11, connections between our political life and the shape our reaction would take and was in fact already taking.
These people recognized that even then, within days after the planes hit, there was a good deal of opportunistic ground being seized under cover of the clearly urgent need for increased security. These people recognized even then, with flames still visible in lower Manhattan, that the words "bipartisanship" and "national unity" had come to mean acquiescence to the administration's preexisting agenda— for example the imperative for further tax cuts, the necessity for Arctic drilling, the systematic elimination of regulatory and union protections, even the funding for the missile shield —as if we had somehow missed noticing the recent demonstration of how limited, given a few box cutters and the willingness to die, superior technology can be.
These people understood that when Judy Woodruff, on the evening the President first addressed the nation, started talking on CNN about what "a couple of Democratic consultants" had told her about how the President would be needing to position himself, Washington was still doing business as usual. They understood that when the political analyst William Schneider spoke the same night about how the President had "found his vision thing," about how "this won't be the Bush economy any more, it'll be the Osama bin Laden economy," Washington was still talking about the protection and perpetuation of its own interests.
These people got it.
They didn't like it.
She also talks about what she experienced when she returned to New York City.
There was much about this return to New York that I had not expected. I had expected to find the annihilating economy of the event—the way in which it had concentrated the complicated arrangements and misarrangements of the last century into a single irreducible image—being explored, made legible. On the contrary, I found that what had happened was being processed, obscured, systematically leached of history and so of meaning, finally rendered less readable than it had seemed on the morning it happened. As if overnight, the irreconcilable event had been made manageable, reduced to the sentimental, to protective talismans, totems, garlands of garlic, repeated pieties that would come to seem in some ways as destructive as the event itself. We now had "the loved ones," we had "the families," we had "the heroes."
And much much more...
There was the open season on Susan Sontag—on a single page of a single issue of The Weekly Standard that October she was accused of "unusual stupidity," of "moral vacuity," and of "sheer tastelessness"—all for three paragraphs in which she said, in closing, that "a few shreds of historical awareness might help us understand what has just happened, and what may continue to happen"; in other words that events have histories, political life has consequences, and the people who led this country and the people who wrote and spoke about the way this country was led were guilty of trying to infantilize its citizens if they continued to pretend otherwise.
I think Didion puts her finger on it here. What I experienced after 9/11 was a demand that I arrest my normal questioning reflexes and just accept, as a given, that our leaders knew what was best and that we should just trust them to do what was right. I was patted on the held and told, like a child, that there is right and there is wrong and that is all that there is. I wish I lived in a country that treats its citizens like adults. I wish I lived in a country that expects its citizens to be adults. Instead we are given a boy king who will leads us with the raylling cry of "moral clarity" down into the valley of destruction. I reject that option with all of my being. God gave me a brain so I could think. I'll be damned if I'll let some frat-boy coward and his minions take it away from me.

The Washington Post printed some analysis of the Bush Stimulus plan by various economists. Andrew Sullivan complains that the Post didn't mention that one of these economists happened to be a donor to the DNC. Matthew Yglesias posts an interesting response to that complaint:
I suppose they could have mentioned it, but the idea that for an economist to be objective about economic policy he must be nonpartisan is just absurd. After all, what if you looked at the economic policies of the Democrats and Republicans and decided that, while both involved some pandering to political expediency, one party's policies were consistently better than the others. What if that party was the Democrats? Why on earth wouldn't you decide to support the Democratic party?
This is the precise problem with media "objectivity" I've been complaining about. The Bush plan either is or is not an effective means of stimulating the economy. It's a cut-and-dry matter of fact. Saying "this is a tax cut plan masquerading as a stimulus plan" is not media bias any more than saying "North Korea is on the verge of commencing plutonium production."
This sparked an interesting train of thought: if you spend any time analyzing the political parties and find yourself supporting one more then the other, it is only natural that you would more likely come to support that party in other ways (financially, etc.). But, if modern journalism really does require a strict form of "objectivity", then the personal support of one party must be discouraged. The logical conclusion of this train of thought is that only journalists who have no fixed political opinion of their own can be allowed to report on the political issues of the day. This sounds very close to the previously mentioned Undecideds (or Moron Americans). Now, I previously asserted that the Undecideds cannot be appealed to on the basis of political ideology because, quite simply, they don't have any. Instead, they have to be won over by force of personality. You have to tell them what they want in a fashion so convincing that they will come to believe that what you are selling is what they want. You have to win them with spin not reason. All of which leads to a further conclusion: if the standards of "objectivity" results in a press corps dominated by Moron Americans, it's not surprising that so many of them are charmed by the shit Dubya is selling.

Notice the use of snake oil hedge words in the following:
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the plan would provide 92 million taxpayers with an average tax cut of $1,083 this year and that a family of four with $39,000 in earnings could save about $1,100.
How many of us have seen advertisements that say we could save up to $100 dollars. Only to find out that that is only the theoretical maximum under circumstances that apply in only 1% of all cases.

Pandagon has an interesting suggestion: insteading of attacking GOP tax cut proposals as benefiting mostly the rich, start going after the loopholes in the corporate tax system instead. After all, as Pandagon points out, while half of the tax cuts may benefit the top 1%, we live in a country where fully 40% of the people think they are in that top 1% and thus will be benefiting from it themselves. But, again repeating Pandagon, while many people may be under the delusion that they are rich, few of them think of themselves as corporations.
Rebelling against individual tax issues is not a winner - it too easily plays into Republican rhetoric. However, in the current environment, framing corporate taxation as a pro-individual policy seems like a positive step - especially if you can entangle a little distrust of the government in the mix.

Billmon has an excellent breakdown of the stupidity that is the Bush stimulus package. It makes a nice main course to the previous appetizer from Paul Krugman. I think there is really only one reasonable response to the Bush proposal: laughter. These guys should never be taken seriously again (except where it comes to their willingness to do whatever it is to seize and hold on to power). America is currently being run by the same kind of yahoos who came up with the brilliant business plans that defined Enron and Worldcom. They've just scaled their plans up from billions to trillions.

You know the drill...
An Irrelevant Proposal By PAUL KRUGMAN
Here's how it works. Faced with a real problem — terrorism, the economy, nukes in North Korea — the Bush administration's response has nothing to do with solving that problem. Instead it exploits the issue to advance its political agenda.
Nonetheless, the faithful laud our glorious leader's wisdom. For a variety of reasons, including the desire to avoid charges of liberal bias, most reporting is carefully hedged. And the public, reading only praise or he-said-she-said discussions, never grasps the fundamental disconnect between problem and policy.
And so it goes with the administration's "stimulus" plan.
The evolution of Paul Krugman has been an interesting sight to see. I can remember first reading his columns early in the 2000 election. How refreshing it was to find someone who looked at the Bush economic plans and said the same thing that I said: "Huh?" Of course, Krugman is working from a very strong economic background, so he can back up that "Huh?" much better then I ever could. But, what was even more interesting, at least to me with my strong animosity towards the establishment press, was to witness Krugman's steady progression in his attitude towards his new companions in print and on TV. It is clear to me now that, coming from an academic background, Paul expected that his columns would garner the kind of back-and-forth debae any similar type of column would have received in various economic journals. When this didn't happen, when most of the mainstream press essentially ignored the simple questions he was laying out, the sound of his head-scratching could be heard all the way out here in the Pacific North West. I think it took him time to realize that he was dealing with a culture of individuals that played by entirely different rules then what he was lead to believe. In other words, he bought into the press' myths about themselves. Eventually, over time, it began to dawn on him that many in the media didn't pay attention to the obvious questions because they just didn't see any profit in it (and a lot of potential drawbacks, especially for their careers). Over the last one to two years Krugman finally broke through and came to a full realization of just how corrupt the establishment media has become. That awareness has permeated his columns ever since. It's nice to have him on our team.

Monday, January 06, 2003

I'm more and more convinced that the DLC was never the great power that it was made out to be but was instead just living off the reflected glory of a great individual (Bill Clinton) who helped found it. Once he moved on they have done nothing but founder ever since. Bill Clinton was the third way.

Never mind

Sunday, January 05, 2003

Update: this came from TIME by the way.

Digby says:
Meanwhile, just a little over a year ago we got attacked by terrorists who used low-tech box cutters to destroy Americas most vivid symbols of economic and military power. We got attacked on our own shores and thousands died and the success of that action absolutely guarantees that it won't be the last. For this administration to basically sideline that issue into bullshit "homeland security" with a color coded danger chart and bogus manhunts to pretend they are doing something--- in fact, to exacerbate the danger by provoking all manner of violent and unpredicatable global reactions with their swaggering bullyboy rhetoric --- mainly because they refuse to relinquish their cherished vision of themselves as astride a great global military Colossus, is about as irresponsible a position as I can imagine.
Dammit Digby! How can the rest of us hope to compete in the blogosphere if you go and write such damn good shit?

A man with experience in coverups is appointed to 9/11 commission. What a surprise.

First John DiIulio, now David Frum (courtesy of the Drudge Report, caveat emptor):
Frum, who left the White House less than a year ago, is set to launch THE RIGHT MAN: THE SURPRISE PRESIDENCY OF GEORGE W, BUSH on Tuesday with a high-impact media tour, giving the speechwriter and journalist a platform to elaborate on his Bush insights.
Among the White House staff, there was a "dearth of really high-powered brains," Frum, a neoconservative, writes in RIGHT MAN, obtained exclusively by the DRUDGE REPORT.
"One seldom heard an unexpected thought in the Bush White House or met someone who possessed unusual knowledge."
"Bush was a sharp exception to the White House code of niceness. He was tart, not sweet," charges Frum.
I wonder how long before Frum comes out with an apology?

Compare the following:
"If called on by the commander-in-chief today, two entire divisions of the Army would have to report ... Not ready for duty, sir." -- George W. Bush, Republican convention acceptance speech, Aug 3rd, 2000.
To the following:
“We can easily win a war on two fronts, Korea and Iraq,” -- Donald Rumsfeld, Dec. 23rd, 2002
Amazing the kind of turn-around the Bushies have achieved no? Speaking of which, compare the above with this from an Aug 20th, 2001 TIME article on Rumsfeld and his apparent failures to change things at the Pentagon:
In seven months as Pentagon chief, Rumsfeld has managed to spook the military, alienate defense contractors, mobilize much of Capitol Hill against him--and even make some in the White House question his toughness. It's usually a Democrat who puts the Pentagon on a wartime footing, but Rumsfeld, 69, is an armor-plated Republican and a military man to boot (he served as a Navy pilot). He has stirred up these problems by launching a much needed but oddly secretive review of the U.S. military that until last week threatened to sink ships, ground planes and retire soldiers in order to reduce U.S. forces overseas and free up money for more research in areas such as missile defense. "This is one of the most interesting situations I've seen in a long time," says Representative Norm Dicks, a pro-military Democrat from Washington State. "He says he wants the military to stop saying they can fight two wars on two fronts simultaneously. But he has opened more fronts in Washington than any Defense Secretary in memory."
Fortunately for Donald, much of this would change a few weeks after this article was published.

Billmon has an excellent post up on The Daily Kos that really hilights the problems with trying to use The Lord of The Rings as a model for how we should handle our current geo-political problems. He points out that those who would use it as the model for how "moral clarity" is necessary in the fight against evil forget that our opponents in our present age are not as clear-cut as the apparent evil that is Sauron. We are fighting other human beings, not orcs. Yet "moral clarity" can produce in us a tendency to see everyone who is not "with us" as being sub-human and thus worthy of slaughter. For me the most inspiring element of LOTR is Gandalf's chastising of Frodo when Frodo wishes death on Gollum. "Do not be so quick to pass out death and judgement," he advises, "even the very wise cannot see all ends." Many on the right would call that bleeding-heart squishiness. That doesn't mean it isn't true.

The horse is out with a take-no-prisoners manifesto on what Democrats and liberals need to do in order to win back the support of the Moron-Americans.
Anyone who hopes to determine the best strategic direction for Democrats need only consider ever so sincere and earnest offerings of "advice" from the likes of Hannity and other wingnuts, and heed the opposite.
The truth is, of course, that Americans consistently reject Republican policies and ideas, and favor those put forth by Democrats.
However, elections, particularly national elections, do not ultimately hinge on a mere battle of ideas. While policy is important to a majority of voters who do vote their pocketbooks and their conception of the national interest, an election cannot be won without appealing to the 10-20% of voters who are swayed not by the message but by tone and attitude of the candidates, as well as the general "images" of the parties. Gene Lyons recently referred to this important voting bloc as the "Moron-American community." (They also comprise the contemptible "late deciders" who make national election outcome predictions impossible until election day - when they make their voting decisions.)
This reminds me of something I talked about a few weeks back about how it was a mistake to waste time trying to figure out what the undecided voters want because, quite simply, they don't know what they want. They have to be told what they want in a way that is convincing and decisive. The Republicans understand this better then the Democrats and have taken full advantage of that understanding. Lincoln once said you can't fool all of the people all of the time. What the Republicans understand is that that isn't necessary. All you have to do is fool enough of the people enough of the time. (btw, for all that I like the above manifesto, I think it would be better to use the term "Undecideds" instead of "Moron-Americans" because, if for no other reason, it will be difficult to win them over to your side if you keep calling them morons.)

I wanted to test out my thesis in my previous post, so I decided to extract the Gallup polling data for Bush and Clinton from two equal time periods of their presidencies. For Clinton I chose the period from just prior to the outbreak of Lewinsky mania to just after the impeachment trial concluded. For Bush I chose just prior to 9/11 to the present day. Here are the results: As noted in the previous post, Bush's approval ratings now are no better and sometimes worse then Clinton's were at the height of the impeachment. But, as I also suggested, Clinton was able to maintain a steady approval rating over the course of his crisis while Bush has pretty much blown all of the goodwill he received from being the President during a time of foreign attack. Now, it must be noted that no one expected Bush to maintain the peak he had immediately after 9/11. But you would think that he would be able to maintain at least some of that popularity if he were actually as good a leader as his press says he is. I have to wonder, again, how Bush would do if he were under the kind of constant attack that Clinton had to deal with. Somehow I doubt he would be able to hold up under the pressure.

Andrew Greeley (courtesy of Atrios) on Bush's alleged popularity:
Yet last week's issue of Time--which celebrates the Bush-Cheney team like it is Michael and Gabriel--provides data that runs against the notion that Americans are enthusiastic supporters of the administration. The president's approval rating has dropped to 55 percent. The country is split between those who say they trust the president (50 percent) and those who don't (48 percent). No one seems to have noticed that the 60 percent approval rating the media have celebrated all these months is about the same as President Bill Clinton's at the time of the Lewinsky scandal.
Actually, Clinton's approval ratings were, in some cases, higher then 60 percent at the time he was impeached. The media likes to talk about how amazing it is that Bush has sustained such popular support over such a long time. This is absurd. Bush's approval ratings have been dropping steadily over the last year and a half and have now reached the level they were at on 9/10/2001. Yet, over an equivalent period of time, Clinton maintained a steady level of popular support while his presidency was under attack from all fronts. Bush can't even maintain a popular support level commenserate with Clinton's at a time when America is under attack. What does that say about his leadership abilities?