Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The Importance of being Okrent

I am by no means qualified to discuss the specifics of the public debate between Paul Krugman and Daniel Okrent. But there was one part of the exchange that struck me as seriously odd. Here's Okrent on why he didn't complain more to Krugman when he he held the position of public editor:

2. This was the first he heard from me on these specific issues partly because I learned early on in this job that Prof. Krugman would likely be more willing to contribute to the Frist for President campaign than to acknowledge the possibility of error. When he says he agreed “reluctantly” to one correction, he gives new meaning to the word “reluctantly”; I can’t come up with an adverb sufficient to encompass his general attitude toward substantive criticism. But I laid off for so long because I also believe that columnists are entitled by their mandate to engage in the unfair use of statistics, the misleading representation of opposing positions, and the conscious withholding of contrary data. But because they’re entitled doesn’t mean I or you have to like it, or think it’s good for the newspaper.

So let me see if I've got this right: Okrent believes that columnits are entitled to "engage in the unfair use of statistics"? What then did Daniel think was his job? Keeping the public engaged while protecting the paper's columnists from criticism?

And speaking of criticism, Okrent apparently felt that Krugman didn't react well to criticism, so why bother doing it?

Why Daniel? Because that was your job! You were the Public Editor of the New York Times! One of the "mandates" of that position is to bring criticism to the attention of the paper's contributors. The fact that Krugman might have bitten your head off in the process and you didn't want to face that only proves one thing: you are a coward!

Good god! Where did the Times find this idiot?

Monday, May 30, 2005

A Common Foe

Read this Charles Krauthammer column (Republicans are the real girly men) and two things are clear:

1. It's a typical example of winger whining that anyone who keeps them from getting 100% of what they want is an enemy of (their vision of) America.

2. That one of the wingers biggest enemies is the same one that many on the progressive side hate: the Washington establishment.

The second sure thing is that the seven Republicans who went against their party are the toast of the Washington establishment. Last Monday night, they came out of the negotiations beaming. And why shouldn't they? They are now being hailed as profiles in courage, prepared to put principle ahead of (Republican) party. We will soon see glowing stories in the mainstream press about how they have grown in office. (In Washington parlance, the dictionary definition of "to grow" is "to move left.") After that, the dinner-party circuit, fawning articles about their newfound stature and coveted slots on the Sunday morning talk shows.

Of course, Krauthammer makes the laughable suggestion that the way to win the hearts of the Washington establishment is to "move left". But many on the left make same mistake in assuming that the establishment favors those who "move right".

The establishment is neither left or right. It is not ideological in nature. It is simply out for whatever makes itself appear to be superior to the rest of the rabble (both left and right).

The establishment considers itself to be the guardians of The Way. They exist, in their own minds, to protect the country from the rest of us who might have a different conception of how things ought to work. They are superior because of their position and they hold their position because they are superior. The Washington establishment is the true center of elitism in this country (and Krauthammer is a lot closer to it than he would ever admit) and nothing is more important to them then protecting their position of privilege.

I disagree with pretty much everything else Krauthammer wrote in his column, but I find it eerie how his criticism of the establishment echoes the bitterness and frustration I hear in left-wing circles.

At least we have one thing in common.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Pro-Life Democrats, Part II

Kos picks up on the Pro-Life Democrats theme I talked about yesterday. It's a fascinating discussion. I'm especially fascinated by the number of Democrats who automatically react to the Pro-Life term as if it is fundamentally incompatible with Pro-Choice. People have been programmed for the last two decades to think of them in oppositional terms. This has been to the Republican's advantage as Pro-Life always beats out any other frame you can put on abortion.

Defeat the oppositional myth on Pro-Life vs. Pro-Choice and we will go a long way towards eliminating a major weapon in the Republican arsenal.

Stop cheering the bad news for Bush!

Results from a new CBS Poll:




34% (49%)

61% (48%)




They need to ask two additional questions:

Does the Republican party share your priorities for this country?

Does the Democratic party share your priorities for this country?

The Congressional numbers don't necessarily indicate that Republicans will lose to Democrats next year. That will only happen if the voters think the Democrats are closer to their priorities. But if this is simply a "pox on both your houses" situation than the most likely result in 2006 will be record low turnout. And as everyone knows, low turnout tends to favor Republicans.

Democrats need to stop crowing less about how bad the Republicans are doing and start thinking hard about how to convince the public that Democrats would be better.

Unquestioning Faith In American Will

There's a heart-breaking diary on dKOS this morning (among many heartbreaking posts) from MarkInSanFran, a parent of a soldier in Iraq. Mark's diary is a response to a post by Juan Cole about what is happening in Iraq and what America should do about it:

There really isn't much to argue with in the above analysis. However where Prof. Cole and I part company (I'm sure he will be saddened to hear) is his prescription for the future:

Therefore, I conclude that the United States is stuck in Iraq for the medium term, and perhaps for the long term. The guerrilla war is likely to go on a decade to 15 years. Given the basic facts, of capable, trained and numerous guerrillas, public support for them from Sunnis, access to funding and munitions, increasing civil turmoil, and a relatively small and culturally poorly equipped US military force opposing them, led by a poorly informed and strategically clueless commander-in-chief who has made himself internationally unpopular, there is no near-term solution.

In the long run, say 15 years, the Iraqi Sunnis will probably do as the Lebanese Maronites did, and finally admit that they just cannot remain in control of the country and will have to compromise. That is, if there is still an Iraq at that point.

I contend that his conclusion is not a necessary consequence of his analysis. Yes we (and the Iraqis even more so) are screwed. Yes, we can't beat the guerrillas. No, other countries won't help. Yes, if we left immediately there would be a (continuing) civil war.

But god damn it, I have family fighting over there and even an expert like Juan Cole says that the only good they are doing is to keep a partial lid on the civil war while destroying cities and causing hatred of the US to skyrocket! Is that worth my nephew's life or limb (he's a Marine on his third tour in Iraq)? Is it worth the lives of many thousands more americans and many tens of thousands more Iraqis just so we can keep the civil war battles at a more civil level?

I think not. The US should begin drawing down troops under a plan that will minimize the risks during withdrawal, and we should be completely out within a year. We have no moral reason to stay!

Juan's analysis is good but Mark gets to the heart of the matter: the American people simply won't put up with a 5-15 year effort in Iraq that is anything like what we have seen over the last two years. The approval ratings for this war are already down in the 40s. What does Prof. Cole think they will be in 2-3 years, let alone 15?

Eventually, like in Vietnam, the great middle part of this country will demand that the troops come home and politicians will respond (if for no other reason then doing so will grease their way to power). This is pretty much an inevitability at this point. Ignoring this is folly.

The question is which would produce the better (i.e., least sucky) result for everyone involved? (1) We hang around in Iraq at comparable levels to today for the next 5-15 years, eventually pulling out as the willpower of the American people finally cracks under the inevitable weight of the awfulness of it all (and little prospect that that 5-15 years will have produced anything better than what we have today) or (2), we withdraw within the next 1-2 years, still with some measure of dignity intact and we use what little moral authority we have left to try and reduce the harm from the inevitable civil conflict that will be left in our wake?

Honest analysis of this situation must take into account the willpower of the American people to tolerate a long-term occupation of Iraq. The cheeleaders for this war don't want to discuss it because they don't want to even consider the possibility that that will will break. The critics don't want to discuss it because they don't want to look like they are questioning the strength of the American will.

Meanwhile MarkinSanFran, and so many others like him, sit anxiously at home dreading the sound of the phone ringing in case it might be "The Call". How do we respond to them? How long will they tolerate a failure to answer this question?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

I'm a Pro-Life Democrat

Jerome Armstrong gets at the heart of the Democrats problem of framing their views on abortion: no matter how you spin it, being "pro-life" will always sound better than any other description we could use ("pro-choice", "protecting privacy", etc.)

Jerome makes an interesting analogy with the Republicans past problems with environmentalism. Republicans had difficulty overcoming the natural goodness of the Democrat's pro-environment stance with any attempt to spin their pro-business platform. How did they solve the problem? By simply saying they were pro-environment:

Frank Luntz told the Republicans to say that they too were for the environment, that they too were environmentalists. The Democrats snickered, but it worked, and has served to nuetralized that issue ever since. The Democrats said, no you are not. And the Republicans replied, yes I am, I just don't want the government to stifle economic growth through regulation.

Boom. The debate was immediately re-framed over the issue of government intrusion, and Democrats were left holding the bag-- arguing that governmental regulation of the environment doesn't deter capitalism.

The obvious implication: it's time for the Democratic party to become pro-life.

I have no problem claiming the title of pro-life. I reject the claim that my stance on abortion means otherwise. I don't like abortions. I wish they would never happen. But I'm not willing to turn over our most personal decision making processes to a government regulator. That is precisely what would happen if abortion became illegal.

The problem is not that women have the choice to end their pregnancy. The problem is that women sometimes feel the need to make that choice. Addressing that need, reducing that need, is the real pro-life platform.

Turn on the spigots

What's this I hear about Dean's DNC not being able to raise money?

On Monday he put out the call that they needed to raise $250,000 by Friday in order to add another state to the list of those the DNC will work in to encourage development of the grassroots.

They reached that goal in less than 48 hours.

Now Dean is asking for half a million to increase the program by four more states. He's given us till next week.

Cheeky monkey.

Oregon leads the way

It makes you proud to be an Oregon Democrat:

27 Legislators, One Blog.

All 27 members of the Democratic caucus of the Oregon House have agreed to blog together on a single blog. We believe this is the first legislative caucus in the country with a group blog.

Check it out: OregonHouseDemocrats.com

This is a big, big, big deal. It represents a tremendous opportunity for citizens to connect directly with Oregon's House Democrats - and have a two-way conversation with them about the future of the state.

Sure, they're in the minority, but that makes it all the more important.

Last I checked, there were only about 2-3 dozen elected officials blogging (with open comments) in the country. This just about doubles that number.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

More thoughts on Dobson

Jeff Alworth has some good thoughts on the winners and losers in The Deal. He agress that the theocrats are the big losers here.

Dobson is in a real bind now. If he continues to push the no-compromise line he will further fracture the Republican coalition. The Mods have demonstrated that they still have enough intestinal fortitude to stand up to the theocrats. If Dobson does nothing but hammer away then that will just push the Mods to be even more oppositional.

But, if Dobson yields at all to the Mods then his base will rebel against his leadership.

Uncompromising extremism works only so long as you keep winning.

Revenge of the Nerds

Another important dynamic in yesterday's deal was what drove the Moderate Republicans to sign on to it. Principle may have played a part of it. But I also suspect there was a little bit of payback involved to.

The Mods have been the nerds of the Republican caucus for several years now. They have seen their influence and stature decline since at least the 1994 Gingrich revolution. They have been the butt of the joke from the new kids on the block.

They have been as abused by their erstwhile comrades as Jim Jefford's was, but they weren't as willing to surrender their party (either through stubborness or simple cowardice).

The Deal was a way for them to strike back at the Dobsonites and Rovians and say that they were still relevent, that they still had power, that they are tired of having their lunch money stolen and being thrown in their lockers.

Mea Culpa Watch

Still waiting.

The Biggest Loser

I agree with The Carpetbagger, James Dobson is the biggest loser coming out of yesterday's deal on judicial nominees.

Dobson invested a huge amount of resources behind an uncompromising fight for the total elimination of the filibuster. Bill Frist signed on to his program in the hopes of getting Dobson's backing for the 2008 Republican nomination. But Frist is such a poor leader that he couldn't keep his moderates in line.

The result: Dobson got nothing that he wanted.

So where does Dobson go now? He can continue to insist that the Republicans refuse to compromise. He could insist that Frist push the other Bush nominees as another test case of the compromise. But he has already expended a huge amount of political capital on this fight. How many Republicans leaders want to go back into the trenches on this fight? How many of Dobson's followers want to go through the whole cycle of fundraising and phone calls all over again? How many of those followers will blame Dobson as much as Frist for this failure?

This could prove to be Dobson's Gettysburg. A monumental defeat in a battle that was supposed to be the crowing victory of his decades long movement.

There are some naysayers who argue that the Democrats are fools for thinking the Republicans won't push at the limits again. I don't say they won't. But I suspect many of them have lost the taste for this fight. They don't want to start it all over again. Certainly the Republicans who were part of this deal don't want to (otherwise they wouldn't have taken such a political risk in pushing for it in the first place).

Meanwhile, Democrats are at least acting elated at the results of this battle. If the trumpet sounds again I think they will be more willing than the Republicans to get back into the fight. The GOP has suffered a defeat. Do they want to risk another one? The Democrats have gotten a taste of victory. They probably wouldn't mind another trip through the food line.

Someone I know compared this to the battle of Midway. I hope the analogy holds true.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Extraordinary Circumstances: What Does It mean?

Over in this post I analyzed The Deal and explained how it is a huge win for the Dems. But I also said that the next stage of this fight is influencing the public perception of what this victory means. We are already winning on this front as the Republicans are acting like they lost and (most) Democrats are acting like they won.

The next step should be getting out in front on the meaning of "extraordinary circumstances".

This is the most nebulous part of the agreement and its future impact will depend greatly on how people come to interpret its meaning. Some have complained about this agreement by saying that the extremism of Brown and Owen are the very definition of "extraordinary circumstances."

I disagree.

I think "extraordinary circumstances" should be defined based on the "circumstances" of the nomination, not simply the characteristics of the nominee. In other words, a judicial nomination "circumstance" is "extraordinary" when the result of that nomination could have an "extraordinary" impact upon the future of the country.

The rulings of a Circuit judge, no matter how extreme, have little impact on the course of our nation. It is how that judgment is further adjudicated up the line that matters. It is how the Appeals Court treats it that will determine how "extraordinary" its impact will be on the "circumstance". And ultimately it is how the Supremes rule on its constitutional muster that will most effect the "extraordinary" nature of the "circumstance".

Thus, a Supreme Court nomination is more "extraordinary" than an Appeals Court nomination is more "extraordinary" than a Circuit Court nomination. Furthermore, if the balance of a appelate court (Appeals or Supreme) is on the line with any particular nomination, then that just makes that nomination all the more "extraordinary". A nomination by a Republican president to replace a liberal judge is more likely to impact the sway of the court and is thus more "extraordinary" than a nomination by that same president to replace a conservative judge. And finally, the nomination of an extremist/activist judge is more like to impact the future judgments of the court than a moderate and thus makes it even more "extraordinary".

I hope my point is clear. "Extraordinary" is defined according to the impact the nomination could potentially have on the course of the nation, not simply on the character of the individual nominee.

Democrats should rapidly spread the idea that this is what "extraordinary circumstances" means. This will lay the groundwork for the inevitable fight when it comes time to deal with Bush's Supreme Court nominees.

The iron is hot folks. Time to strike it!

An Analysis of The Deal


We respect the diligent, conscientious efforts, to date, rendered to the Senate by Majority Leader Frist and Democratic Leader Reid. This memorandum confirms an understanding among the signatories, based upon mutual trust and confidence, related to pending and future judicial nominations in the 109th Congress.

This memorandum is not intended to be a diss of the authority of Frist or Reid. But it's obvious whose authority is being dissed by this document. It is in line with previous compromises offered by Reid that Frist rejected. Frist was in charge of the majority. Frist did not get his way. Reid did.

Winner: Democrats

This memorandum is in two parts. Part I relates to the currently pending judicial nominees; Part II relates to subsequent individual nominations to be made by the President and to be acted upon by the Senate's Judiciary Committee.

We have agreed to the following:

Part I: Commitments on Pending Judicial Nominations

A. Votes for Certain Nominees. We will vote to invoke cloture on the following judicial nominees: Janice Rogers Brown (D.C. Circuit), William Pryor (11th Circuit), and Priscilla Owen (5th Circuit).

This is the concession the Dems had to make in order to get the Moderate Repubs to sign on. Without this there would have been no deal. It would have been nice if the Dems could have blocked the most egregious nominees (Owens and Brown) but by giving them the worst of the lot the Dems have given the Mods at least some cover with the extremist wing.

Winner: Republicans

B. Status of Other Nominees. Signatories make no commitment to vote for or against cloture on the following judicial nominees: William Myers (9th Circuit) and Henry Saad (6th Circuit).

Myers and Saad are toast. I think you can expect their nominations to be withdrawn rather than face the indignity of another fillibuster. At first I thought of this as a draw, but then it occured to me that by giving the Dems even one nominee to filibuster the Mods have conceded the point as clearly as possible that filibustering judges is an acceptable practice. That is a pretty substantial precedent.

Winner: Democrats

Part II: Commitments for Future Nominations

A. Future Nominations. Signatories will exercise their responsibilities under the Advice and Consent Clause of the United States Constitution in good faith. Nominees should only be filibustered under extraordinary circumstances, and each signatory must use his or her own discretion and judgment in determining whether such circumstances exist.

This is the "extraordinary circumstances" circumlocution that is tying so many people in knots. Just what the hell does it mean? Well, like most freshly baked legalistic terms, it remains to be defined. How will it be defined? By how it is used in the future. It is not insignificant that the agreement explicitly leaves the meaning of "extraordinary circumstances" to the "discretion and judgment" of the signatories. In essence, this is a big punt to the future and has little meaning for now. It neither ties nor frees the hands of anyone. Which might lead to the conclusion that this is a draw. But the Wingers were insisting that there could never be an "extraordinary circumstance" under which a judicial filibuster was allowed. By conceding that such a thing might exist, the Mods have sided with the Dems on this issue.

Winner: Democrats

B. Rules Changes. In light of the spirit and continuing commitments made in this agreement, we commit to oppose the rules changes in the 109th Congress, which we understand to be any amendment to or interpretation of the Rules of the Senate that would force a vote on a judicial nomination by means other than unanimous consent or Rule XXII.

Big win for the Democrats here. The Mods have effectively told the Wingers to shut the hell up about the Nuclear Option. Furthermore, they have said that they will oppose any such attempt at an unlawful rule change in the future (though that opposition is contingent on the Democrats abiding within the "spirit" of the memorandum).

Winner: Democrats. Big Time.

We believe that, under Article II, Section 2, of the United States Constitution, the word "Advice" speaks to consultation between the Senate and the President with regard to the use of the President's power to make nominations. We encourage the Executive branch of government to consult with members of the Senate, both Democratic and Republican, prior to submitting a judicial nomination to the Senate for consideration.

An even bigger win for the Democrats. It has been a hallmark of Winger philosophy that "Advice and Consent" does not mean that the Senate gets to have any input into who gets nominated. Wingers insist that the "original intent" of the founders was that the Senate got an up or down vote on nominees and that is it. The Mods have knocked that contention way out of the park with this one. They have sided with the Democratic position that the Senate holds a co-equal responsibility with the Executive branch when it comes to the appointment of members of the Judicial branch. They have sided with the balance-of-powers argument and, in the process, re-established the power of both the judicial and legislative branches.

Winner: Democrats. HUGE!

Such a return to the early practices of our government may well serve to reduce the rancor that unfortunately accompanies the advice and consent process in the Senate.

We firmly believe this agreement is consistent with the traditions of the United States Senate that we as Senators seek to uphold.

There is very little doubt about it. At least on paper, this is a big win for the Democrats. They got pretty much everything they wanted: an agreement that filibustering judges is acceptable, an agreement that the "Nuclear Option" is not acceptable and an agreement that the Senate is more than a rubber-stamp for the President. In return the Republicans got three extremist judges with no concessions that future nominees will find an easier path to the bench.

It remains to be seen which side will be able to play this as a win in the public arena. That will be the big test for us over the next few days. But we should take heart in that struggle that, at least on paper, this is a big win for the Democrats.

The Deal

Opinions are all over the map on dKos as to whether The Deal is a winner for the Dems.

My opinion: you can't tell how good the cake is right after you take it out of the oven. You have to let it cool before you can taste it.

The Deal is to fresh for us to know if it is a winner or loser. The real winners will be those who can spin it to there advantage in the future. It could days, if not weeks, before we can really judge it.

Until then, I'm content to sniff.


think I should be a little more forceful here. While it remains to be seen whether this deal is a winner for the Dems, those who are screaming "SELLOUT!" on the Dem side are not doing us any favors. As I said above, the real winners will be those who can spin this to be a victory for their side. Democrats won't be able to do this if the loudest chorus consists of people screaming that the deal stinks and it proves that Dems are wimps. Talk about re-enforcing negative stereotypes!

So please, those of you who are convinced this is a bad deal, take a deep breath, walk away from your computer, come back in a few hours/days, and then let us know what you think after absorbing it a while longer. If it is a stinker we will know soon enough. No need to make it so by way of your criticism.

Thoughts from the DFO Summit

This weekend I attended the Democracy For Oregon Progressive Leadership Summit. Here are some of my quick thoughts on what I heard:

* First, congratulations to the people who organized this event. Sal, Ginny, Jenni, Ruth, Joan, Mac, Moses, etc. You should all be very proud. You've done right by Oregon. I am also listed on the Summit Organizers list, but I really didn't do very much before the Summit (organization has never been my forte). I helped out with the AV during the summit but that contribution pales in comparison to the work of this fabulous crew.

* Jim Dean was the first keynote speaker. He really does sound a lot like his brother. He is fully on board with DFA as a vehicle for doing for the Democrats what Ralph Reed did for the Republicans in the 80s and 90s. He described several examples of how DFA efforts boosted Democrat efforts nationwide. He pointed out how DFA helped candidates as much by getting volunteers out for their campaigns as they did giving them money. Probably even more so. He talked about how even a "losing" race can boost Democrats when a competitive candidate can bring 1000 more Democrats to the polls who will also vote for other candidates on the ticket. My thoughts: We have to redefine our conception of "winning" and "losing" beyond the simple calculus of who actually comes out on top in any particular race. I have always said that Howard Dean did not "lose" the race in 2004 since his primary purpose in entering the race was to change the direction of the party (he never really expected to get the nomination). Few would argue that he failed in that goal. Therefore Howard Dean was a winner.

* Rep. Earl Blumenauer was up next. He talked about the changing roles of "Ward and June Cleaver" in our society and how Democrats need to speak to those changing needs. I must confess my mind wondered a bit during Earl's speech so I can't comment on it very much.

* My first breakout session was messaging with Jefferson Smith. Jefferson is one of if not THE driving force behind the oregon bus project and the new progressives. Anyone who has met him knows how dynamic an individual he can be. He is a bundle of energy that could provide the power for a small planet. His big thing right now is to work at distilling the Democratic/Liberal/Proggressive message down to its most compact form. The idea being that that compact form can function as the foundation of all subsequent discussion and policy formulation. He ran a commercial he had developed for the new progressives that presented his attempt at that compact message: "Not Bigger Government, not Smaller Government, but Better Government. Not left, not right, but forward. The New Progressives. Voters Wanted." Its an argument that says that we need to get beyond the simple partisan battles of left vs. right and get back to thinking about government as a tool for making a better society.

Jefferson also came up with what I consider an excellent foundation for a national defense policy: "We will only be secure when people don't want to kill us. We will not be secure if we piss off the people who can help us." (paraphrased).

* I missed most of Thom Hartmann's lunchtime talk about corporate personhood. But I caught enough of it to hear how much of the case law on corporate personhood was based on a mistake. Go to his website on this, Unequal Protection, to find out more.

* The hilight of the summit for me was State Rep. Peter Buckley's afternoon keynote speech on The Oregon Contract of Responsibilities and Rights. This is based on FDR's new bill of rights from his last state of the union address. Buckley is a low-key speaker, but that didn't stop him from giving an inspiring speech that awoke the spirit of Bobby Kennedy in much of the audience. I talked to him afterward and said that the Republican program was based on convincing people that there was no hope of ever really solving the problems of poverty and injustice so we might as well all just look out for ourselves. This cynical acceptance of the bad things in life has become ingrained in our society and its about time that people started asking whether it really has to be that way. Will it be hard to solve the problems of poverty? Yes. Is it impossible? Why does it have to be? Why are the Republicans so pessimistic about the ability of humans to overcome their difficulities through cooperative action? Why do they have such a low opinion of mankinds moral structure?

I related to Peter a story I read out of Jim Wallis' new book, "God's Politics". Wallis talks about a woman he knows who works on a soup line in Washington, D.C.. Every day the woman starts her day with a prayer: "Lord, I know you will be on line today. Please help us to help you." This prayer is based on the teaching that Jesus gave where he said, "whatever you do for the least of you, you do for me." Peter told me about a minister he knows who tied that teaching to the teaching that "no one comes to the Father except through me." If no one comes to God except through Jesus and Jesus is represented on Earth by the least of us then no one comes to God except through what they do for the least of us.

The path to God is through service to the least of us.

* For the afternoon session I attended the "how to deal with the right-wing hate machine" panel with Thom Hartmann. Thom talked about the state of progressive radio today and where it might be heading in the near future. Progressive radio is one of the hottest commodities in the radio bizz today. EVERYONE is interested in it. Air America and Ed Schultz have proven that there is a market for it. We will soon start seeing major radio markets with MULTIPLE progressive stations (Thom said that an announcement of such was already imminent). Once that starts to happen, and it proves to be commercially successful, the impetus will be there for the development of a 24 hour cable news channel to counter FOX. This could all happen within the next 2-3 years.

There are potential pitfalls, of course. For example, much of progressive radio is carried on Clear Channel stations (something like 80% of it). If Clear Channel ever wanted to flex its muscles it could seriously harm the development of a progressive response to right wing hate radio. Fortunately, CC is more interested in profits than ideology. Thom said that CC has yet to make any attempt to alter content on KPOJ. That isn't to say that they couldn't do it. But if progressive radio becomes big enough, even Clear Channel might have difficulty killing it. If CC were to throw the wrench on KPOJ there are other competitors in the Portland market who would be glad to take up the programming. They might do so anyway even if CC doesn't interfere.

Things are looking up!

A National Defense Policy

We will only be secure when people don't want to kill us. We will not be secure if we piss of the people who can help us. (not my coinage btw. Heard it this weekend during the DFO leadership summit. More later.)

Friday, May 13, 2005

Owning Morality

I had an interesting conversation about the topic of morality the other night. One of the people I was talking with said that the Democrats were the real Moral Party. I agreed with him. But I said that while the Democrats are the real Moral Party, they have a hard time publicly proclaiming any ownership of morality. It's almost as if Democrats have been trained that such claims are antithetical to our beliefs and therefore are bad. No one "owns" morality, Democrats think, so for us to make any such claim would be wrong. But this is a misconception. The problem is not claiming ownership. The problem is claiming exclusive ownership.

It is the ceding of the battlefield that has allowed Republicans to paint themselves as being the only Moral Party. Yet their claim to being the Moral Party is based entirely on their ability to talk about Morality. It's not that they ever actually do anything about Morality. But they sure talk a good game.

(Frameshop has more on this)

Reckless Driving

There is a special conflict felt by any politician who loves their country at a time when they belong to a party that is not in control of that country. The conflict is this: how do you attack the leadership of the opposition party sufficiently enough to weaken them for electoral defeat without also weakening the country you love in the process.

The problem is that, as much as you might believe your party would be better suited to drive, until the next election rolls around, the other party is the one that has their hands on the wheel. Do you attack them for their driving so much that they can't keep their eyes on the road just as that 18 wheeler is coming down the opposing lane?

Partisanship, the kind that everyone hates, is when politicians attack regardless of the impact those attacks may have on their country. It is the back seat driver who keeps banging the cabby over the head with their purse. That kind of blind assault, while it may feel good to those who have no real power, doesn't do anyone any good.

But isn't there an equal danger to sitting quietly back as you see your driver heading the wrong way down a one way street? Partisanship is not always bad, especially when your driver is drunk.

The solution to the quandry of the patriotic opposition is this: fight back is good when not fighting back creates an even more dangerous situation.

Democrats have tried for years to work with Republicans as they have steered the nation into the future. As much as they might have disagreed with their political philosophy, they were patriots and didn't want their differences of opinion do any further damage to their country.

But the Republicans are driving the wrong way down a one way street. They have driven through several traffic lights. They have raced a train through a crossing signal. They have played slolom with a bunch of school kids. And they are racing down the highway at 90mph with the top thrown back and a cold one propped between their legs.

Taking the wheel away from these yahoos is the only patriotic option left.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Master of the Senate

Sensei Reid:

"Do you want to confirm judges or do you want to pick a fight?" Reid challenged Republicans.

My admiration for Reid's tactical skills continues to grow. Note how Reid issues this challenge. He knows very well that "picking a fight" is precisely what the Republicans want to do. But he doesn't outright accuse them of that. Instead he veils the accusation in a rhetorical question. By doing so he plants the seed in the mind of the audience that "picking a fight" is precisely what the Republicans are doing but he doesn't give the Republicans a "your just being negative" response that they could use against a direct accusation.

I'm beginning to think that Reid may yet rival LBJ when it comes to being a "Master of the Senate". Of course, it remains to be seen if Reid is as good tactically when he leads the majority. But I'm ready to give him the opportunity.

No more enabling

Matthew Yglesias and Brad DeLong both endorse my "Judgment Is The Issue" approach (though they fail to acknowledge my authorship, but that's okay by me.) Both Mathew and Brad point out that Social Security is the least of our problems right now. By meeting the President halfway on his proposals we would be tacitly endorsing his decision to place it at the top of the agenda where it simply doesn't belong.

Traditionally, the political classes defer to the President when it comes to setting the national agenda. But when that President repeatedly demonstrates poor judgment in setting that agenda, it is the responsibility of others to step forward and steer it back on course. To do otherwise is to simply enable his bungling. It must stop.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Can I get an Amen?

Isn't it just like Democrats to respond to an outrage like the excommunication of party members from a North Carolina church by talking about taxes?

The head of the North Carolina Democratic Party sharply criticized the pastor Friday, saying Chandler jeopardized his church's tax-free status by openly supporting a candidate for president.

''If these reports are true, this minister is not only acting extremely inappropriately by injecting partisan politics into a house of worship, but he is also potentially breaking the law,'' Chairman Jerry Meek said.

eriposte has it exactly right:

[...] You have to also fight back on religion with religion. You have to fight religious extremists by pointing out that they are charlatans who are distorting their religion. You have to point out that they are deeply un-Christian. [...]


In a nutshell, the word immoral is tremendously underused by Democrats. It's time to change that because you can't win on "moral values" if you are unprepared to say what is moral and what is not.

When Bill Frist announced that he was going to speak to the "Justice Sunday" crowd, Harry Reid rightly expressed outrage at his actions. But Reid didn't talk about separation of church and state. He talked about how Frist's action insulted Reid as a Christian! Even Christians who don't agree with Reid politically can sympathize with him on religious grounds. Frist's actions were an insult to all Christians who don't follow the doctrinaire line that the Dobson crowd is pushing (i.e., the large majority of all Christians). But if Reid had attack him purely on the grounds of mixing church and state he would have quickly lost that battle. By making accepting that the fight was about religion and fighting back on those grounds he put Frist in the uncomfortable position of siding with the inquisitorial branch of the church.

Democrats: Republicans do not own religion. Don't let them claim they do.

God is not partisan.

Fight fire with fire!

Judgment is the issue

Jerome Armstrong comments on Bill Clinton's suggestion that it is time for Democrats to put forward a plan for Social Security:

Clinton will be dead and gone before Social Security needs to be changed, but he's decided that he's had enough of seeing Bush get his ass kicked by Democrats over the issue of Social Security. Did the Republicans come up with a plan when the Clintons tried to reform Healthcare?  No, and that's why Bill Clinton got the Democratic Congressional leadership's head handed to him after the '94 midterm election. Now though, Clinton is supplying Republican talking points:

Former President Bill Clinton: "[I] Think [Democrats] Need To Come Up With A Plan Of Their Own." (ABC's "Saturday Good Morning America," 5/7/05, Via ABC News' "The Note," 5/5/05)

President Clinton: "I Think The Democrats Should Say What They Are For On Social Security In The Next Couple Weeks ... The Democrats Should Have A Plan And They Should Talk To The President And The Congressional Republicans About It." (ABC's "Saturday Good Morning America," 5/7/05, Via ABC News' "The Note," 5/5/05)

Let me guess, Hillary has a plan; let me guess, it raises taxes; let me guess, the Clinton's are going to find a way for themselves to shine while the Democratic Party gets beat again.

The Democratic Plan is already in action-- it's called Social Security.

The Democrat's problem has been that they have been all to willing to lend the Republicans a helping hand just when they are most in trouble. They don't have the killer instinct when it comes to taking advantage of the blunders of the opposition. Does this mean that they are wimps? No, it just means that they, generally, think beyond the simple calculus of political advantage over the opposition and factor into it the greater needs of society (i.e., they are the more responsible of the two parties). Clinton's suggestion that Democrats should have a plan for Social Security is not, in itself, a bad thing. Democrats should have plans for all the major issues of the day.

So what is the problem with Clinton's suggestion? Is it simply, as Jerome suggests, that Clinton is trying to use the situation to the advantage of his wife at the expense of wider Democratic goals? I prefer to leave questions of motivation out of this. Clinton may honestly believe that it is to the Democrats advantage to counter Bush's privatization plans with plans of their own. Unfortunately, like so many short-sighted Democrats of recent years, Clinton doesn't appear to understand that just offering a counter-plan provides justification to the Republican initiative.

And that, I think, is where Democrats get into trouble. It's not that Social Security doesn't have problems that need addressing. It's that Democrats allow the Republicans to frame the terms of the debate and to set the agenda of what will be debated.

Regardless of whether Democrats take up Clinton's suggestion or not, they will still give the appearance of being purely reactionary in their public policy. Bush made Social Security his #1 domestic issue. By offering a counter proposal, the Democrats would, more then anything, validate Bush's assertion that it is the #1 domestic problem facing the country today. But by offering nothing they will also be validating that agenda, albeit indirectly, by ceding to Bush the authority to set the agenda.

This is where Democrats need to fight back, not on whether Social Security needs to be fixed but instead on Bush's placement of it at the top of the domestic agenda. We need to question Bush's judgment when it comes to setting priorities. Why has Bush devoted so much energy to this issue when there are much more pressing problems clamoring for attention (e.g., health care, the national debt, etc.)

And Bush's questionable judgment isn't limited to Social Security. Dubya has a habit of focusing on the middling problems while shoving off the bigger problems to someone else to solve. We see this domestically, but we also see it in foreign policy, where Bush chose to move Iraq ahead of issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, North Korea and yes, even international terrorism (though he used the latter as an excuse to justify his invasion of Iraq).

Bush repeatedly demonstrates poor judgment when it comes to setting the agenda of the US government, both foreign and domestic. By offering a counter-proposals to Bush's initiatives, Democrats are simply validating his agenda decisions. By ceding to him the authority to set the agenda the Democrats are giving up on the most devastating critique they could make of his Presidency.

Social Security faces problems, but they are not the most pressing problems we face domestically. Bush has chosen to make it the #1 issue through a combination of incompetence, ideology and as a payoff to the special interests that back him.

Iraq was a problem, but it wasn't the most pressing problem we faced internationally. Bush chose to make it the #1 issue through a combination of incompetence, ideology and as a payoff to the special interests that back him.

Judgment is the issue.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Save Paris Hilton's Inheritance

"Don't Tax Me Because I'm Filthy Rich!"

How long until Bush is deified?

Being a Republican or a Democrat isn't just a matter of faith. It is an actual faith.

At least that's what Dick Cheney says:

[snip] If we don't do anything at all, if we just stay where a lot of people have said we ought to stay -- there are a number of members of Congress of the other faith who have said that we don't need to do anything -- well, if you don't do anything, the net result will be, for somebody today, say, in their 30s, by the time they get to retirement age, their benefit levels are going to be cut some 26 percent or 27 percent. Automatic, that's what will happen with today's existing law.

There's more at the link.

These two politicians walk into a bar...

What Democratic politicians can learn from standup comedians from someone who has spent years trying to win over hostile crowds. Highly recommended.

Social Security Endgame?

Paul Waldman suggests a possible endgame to the Social Security fight. Bush will push both private accounts and progressive indexing. When it is clear that the Democrats won't budge on the private accounts, he will offer the "Grand Compromise". He will drop private accounts (the Dems #1 demand before negotiations continue) in exchange for some form of progressive indexing (which will turn Social Security into a welfare program and will eventually cripple it so that it can be killed later). If Democrats refuse they will be painted as the intransigent ones who aren't serious about "fixing" Social Security.

This is a real possibility, if we are to believe that Bush's primary motivation is an ideological desire to kill Social Security. But I'm not as convinced of that as I used to be. Oh sure, Bush, like any Good Republican, wants to put a stake through FDR's signature program. But Dubya's unrelenting drive on private accounts over the last few months leads me to believe that it is that which is the primary motivation for Bush putting so much of his political capital behind this push. Why? Because crippling Social Security, while ideologically nice, won't pay any quick dividends.

Private accounts, on the other hand, will bring about the almost immediate transfer of billions in Social Security trust fund dollars into the coffers of the investment world. That's a nice pay off for Bush's backers. But even more important, it will act as a pump to the economy going into the 2006/2008 election season.

The truth of the matter is that Republican economic policies have been disastarous for this country. But Republicans, being good businessmen, have been able to mask most of those problems by that old standby of the investment world: fresh infusions of cash. The Republicans have transferred huge somes of money from government coffers into the economy in a desparate attempt to keep the economy affloat. Tax cuts on the wealthy have been the primary method of bring about this transfer, but that particular well has almost run dry. The Social Security Trust Fund is the last big pile of cash left to be raided. If the Republican's don't succeed in turning that money over to Wall Street then they risk the truly awful effects of their policies becoming evident to all.

Private Accounts are absolutely necessary for Republicans to continue maintaining the illusion that they are better managers of the economy then Democrats. And that is even more important than the wet dream of abolishing Social Security completely. The fact that Private Accounts will also lead to Social Security's destruction is just an added benefit.

Dazzled by numbers

Typical. All they pay attention to is the numbers (3 million!) without looking into the substance of the claim.

Maybe someone should simply comission a poll of Kerry supporters to see if they think he should run again?

Myth Busters

Let me start this by saying that I understand Ruy Teixeira's basic point that Democrat's fascination with certain "myths of renewel" are just another example of avoiding the hard work of real renewel. I agree that we have to guard against buying into a fad or a quick-fix solution.

But I think Ruy goes to far when he dismisses various Democratic renewel efforts as "myths". None of the "myths" that Ruy describes (Framing, Innoculation, Unity and Mobilization) will, by themselves, solve the problems Democrats have. But that does not mean we should dismiss those efforts as being unproductive. Just because some latch onto one particular project as The One True Renewel Plan does not mean that those projects are pointless endeavours.

For example, while Framing by itself will not solve our problems, a failure to understand the importance of good framing will hobble our efforts. This is really the main point of Lakoff's latest efforts. He has never claimed that framing alone will solve our problems (that claim comes more from his critics, who make it just in order to debunk it). He is just pointing out that Democrats often shoot themselves in the foot by pursuing a Reason Uber Alles approach to public policy debate. The point is simple: good ideas won't matter for shit if we don't know how to communicate them.

Ruy is correct that anyone who thinks that any of these approaches alone will solve our problems is pushing a myth. But Ruy is himself pushing the Better Ideas Myth. This myth says that if Democrats just come up with some better ideas then everything else will fall into place.

Ruy does a disservice to Democrats by dividing advocates of different approaches against each other. Instead of belittling the pursuits of others as "myths" Ruy should use his considerable talents to find ways in which these various approaches can be melded into a cohesive whole.

That could go a long way towards killing the One Solution To Our Problems Myth.

Trivial Pursuits

Instead of railing against the media's obsessive pursuit of stories like the Runaway Bride, why not, suggests Steve Gilliard, turn the public's fascination with these stories to our advantage?

Do you know what was the most popular post on this blog, the post that brought me the most hits? A picture of George Bush with green hair! Which only goes to prove that even those of us who rail against the trivial are sucked in by it as well. Steve is right that there is a bit of snobbish elitism mixed in with the mockery we heap on the establishment media. What if, instead of simply mocking, we used the trivial as a trojan horse for talking about the issues we care about?

Conservatives are very good at this. They know how to turn the public's fascination with Michael Jackson into a wider debate about social morals. We, on the other hand, sit around bitching about how the Jackson story steals oxygen away from stories about Iraq or Social Security or Health Care or whatever.

Steve makes one truly excellent point (amongst several excellent points):

The folks are Romenesko were debating why they covered Krispy Kreme openings a couple of years back. They complained that it was just free advertising for the company. Now, while these folks had their noses up in the air, you had hour's long wait for these donuts as they hit new markets in the Northeast and West. The snobs missed the point that this was news. This company had a product which people were willing to wait in the early morning for. If 50 people line up for a fucking donut, asking why is a good start. You cover what happens, not what you think should happen, and goddamnit, if people stand in line at 5:30 to get hot dounts, you should find out why, even if it is a free ad. (emphasis mine - Chris)

Instead of screaming at the wind isn't it about time that we learn how to use it?

There's a dKos discussion on this as well.