Wednesday, May 31, 2006


It's not the digressions that kill you, it's the footnotes.

Answers to questions from a reader

Thank you for the e-mail, anonymous, it had some good advice. I'll answer two of the questions because I can. Others will have to wait till I've thought about them.

Why are your posts so long?

I'm no professional writer, obviously. Every run-on sentence probably cries out "college paper". And, as I found out on my third day, A man who has himself as his own editor has a blogger for a client.
Another reason is that the subjects require fill exploration. My chosen themes are what went wrong for the left, what we are doing that is counterproductive and how we can fix those. I could say, "just use plain language (to which you'll answer, look who's talking), or "stop asking for the impossible" but it takes longer than that.
I know that length cuts down on readership. digby, the best writer I know on the leftist blogs, doesn't seem to have the number of readers that some of the others have. I suspect it's because you actually have to read his articles. The quality of his comments show that he's got serious readers that make up for the smaller numbers. My topics are more limited and I'm not as good a writer. Maybe I'll learn to be more brief with experience.

Why aren't you posting on today's news?

I didn't think it was a good idea to try to reproduce what Buzzflash does so excellently now. They are my first source for news and I recommend them to everyone I can.

The blogs that post mostly on the current news are even more numerous. That beat is covered. I love those blogs and their commenters but a lot of them have essentially two messages: "Ain't it awful," "If those Dems don't do what we want right now we're not voting for them,". The first we already know, the second is complete idiocy that has worked to weaken the left and put George W. Bush into power. And it's gotten old.

I would rather have fifty readers who are doing something useful than a quarter of a million people who are just going to sit around and type the same old things into the internet. I hope you find some useful ideas here and that they help you to take effective action. If you don't, please find them and let me know so I can read them too.


Some of the modern conveniences are taking a while to install on this blog. The reason is that I compute on a level that the average second grader could outdo, hands down. And I'm a scardy cat about it. But they are coming.

In a discussion yesterday about gay marriage on another blog I got the feeling that the other participants misunderstood my point about not insisting that Democrats in the Congress and Senate, not to mention state legislatures fall on their sword over the issue. I am and have always been in favor of full and equal rights for all of us. Including the rights of two adults to have their marriage receive the full protection of the law. It's the people who make the agreement and commitment that are the marriage, it's the protections of the law that are missing.

The question is one of what we can get and how soon we can get it. I reject the idea that being realistic and pragmatic about the issue is a lesser commitment to full equal rights. Marriage is a right, it isn't the only right. It isn't a right that everyone intends to use. We can't get it right away. There are other rights we can get sooner. If we insist that the Democratic Party try to do the impossible, deliver a right immediately, a right that doesn't YET have the support of the majority of voters they will lose even more elections. They will lose them to Republicans who not only won't deliver marriage rights any more quickly, Republicans are using anti-gay bigotry as the cornor stone of their campaign. The Republican Party is the party of gay bashing.

Insisting on Democrats committing political suicide over one right that it is clear we will have to wait for is a position that will put off the day when we have our full rights. I don't see how anyone could think that being realistic about that is a betrayal of gay rights. It's the exact opposite of a betrayal.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Does anyone still "go ape" over something?

Having tried several times to begin a piece on the awful topic of regionalism and having no results, I want to take this chance to say a few words on one of the more obvious phenomena of our time.

Anyone who looks at this blog knows that I've been influenced by Molly Ivins, and who hasn't. Her writing is the light that lets us see good sense on just about any topic she covers. If people are around to read her, people will remark on her pointed insight and her warm humor for centuries. Her insights into the human comedy based on the antics and the noble acts of the Texas "lege" have led me to believe that similar lessons could be learned in any of our state houses, we just lack the writers. I don't live in Augusta, Maine and so can't try what she does even though I do make a stab at humor. Not that a New Englander, not even an Irish New Englander, has much of a chance to compete with a Texan there.
One thing she has failed to do is to make me see George W. Bush as anything but a criminal and a swine. Maybe he behaves better in Texas than he does here in York County, though it might be that I'm not as polite as Molly Ivins is.

She by herself would constitute a gift to humanity but she is one of a group which, before some scholar can demote them to being "The Texas School", I would like to call "Those Smart Texans". Part of the group centers around the magazine The Texas Observer. Ronnie Dugger, Jim Hightower, Larry McMurtry, Larry L. King (not to be confused with) and many others who are listed in Molly Ivins'' tributes to the magazine have enlightened us all on many topics. Ivins' obituary of Clif Olafson, who I don't believe ever wrote but who was their business manager, makes me think he probably belongs in this group too just for keeping them afloat. She makes me certain that he is someone I would have liked to know.

But the list of "Smart Texans" is a lot longer than that. Bill Moyers redeemed himself of his brief period in government and went on to become, I hold, the greatest broadcast journalist we have had in English. I know we're supposed to say it was Murrow but I believe a comparison of their work will favor Moyers. Since his ouster from his brief but amazing period on NOW we don't get nearly enough of his work. His speeches, such as we can get over public radio, are documents of insight and erudition rare today.

Politicians like Sheila Jackson Lee, who should be one of the stars of the Democratic Party, Lloyd Doggett, (the same), Ann Richards, and down to Jim Wright, who while only very slightly a grifter, provided the ONLY effective congressional opposition to Ronald Reagan, would have to be listed along with many others.

And even among our own bloggers, Holden Caulfield would go on my list. His originality in crafting a beat for himself is truly pioneering.

Anyone on the left who makes stupid statements about ditching "the South" should ask themselves if they really would like to live in a country without these people.

I'm going to stop now before this turns into another 900 worder and because they are expecting thunderstorms here. No one would mistake me for an expert on the subject of Texan culture or politics. But I wanted to show that a Northerner could appreciate them from afar.

IDEALS v. PRACTICALITY The fight we all lose

Tena, a valued poster on the blogs, came up with a good formula the other day. Political progress is 3/4 vulgar practicality, 1/4 ideals. Exact proportions aren't essential but the range seems about right to be going on with. I don't know if she would endorse all of the following but here goes.

There is nothing idealistic about insisting on ideals that have no chance of becoming reality right now and refusing to compromise on those ideals. People are dying now for lack of practical relief that a Democratic Congress would provide, even a compromised Democratic Congress. There is no good in ignoring death, disease, hunger ignorance and pollution while holding out for something purer in some glorious, remote future. The theoretical ideal might never be achieved and even if it could be, the lives of those who could be saved are here now. They need saving today. To insist on your ideals or principles instead of a compromise that is better than the status quo is to wager on their lives. Their lives aren't ours to bet with.

If you want to put it in stark terms, how many days are you willing to go without food for your political ideals? Are you willing to die when the odds might indicate that your ideals stand little chance of being achieved? If you imagine that you are willing to die then how many of your children are you willing to sacrifice on the same long odds? For a person facing starvation it isn't just a matter of their own life. Children are even more vulnerable than adults in most cases. If the answer is that you aren't willing to see yours die but you are prepared to take a chance on other peoples' children then you have to believe that yours are more worthy of life than people who you are betting on now. For us it's a matter of imagination. They are looking at the skulls of their children showing through their skin.

The all or nothing fixation, the worst kind of this idealism, is a form of self-satisfied preening. It has been with us for as long as one leftist could attain personal status by being the most leftist in the room. It has helped lead us into the disaster we find ourselves in today. And it has produced nothing. Nothing. Rigid, uncompromising and insistent idealism is sterile and useless in the real world. It would be better to call it what it really is, vanity.

The period of most rapid progress in the sixties was full of compromises, some clean, a lot of it pretty grimy but progress was made. The progress seems to have moved some on the left into the kind of competitive arrogance that leads to folly. The folly in this case was pretending that our individual interest groups were in a stronger position than they were. Saying so didn't make it true. We started demanding the premature delivery of the presently unobtainable and our politicians couldn't deliver. We started attacking them for not being able to do the impossible. And doing that is just plain nuts. Working coalitions with the center and among competing parts of the left fell apart. In reality were we were only as strong as the coalition based on compromises of ideals.

We all know that the other path of folly was the Vietnam war. As Martin Luther King pointed out, with spending for the war Democrats stopped being able to deliver incremental progress both for the poor and for the middle class. It might not be an accident that was when the Party began to lose support in the general population. The result was Richard Nixon and the rise of the far right. He had to deal with the old coalition and since he was most interested in playing his demented version of the great game he let it have some of the last of the great reforms it has put into law. But he also began the Supreme Court appointments that would doom many of those.

Amidst it all the rigid idealists presented the Republicans with a very useful tool. Republicans and their media, fixing on the most extreme of the radical idealists, made the rest of us into a cartoon. And the show liberals were gratified and encouraged. Even Phil Donahue who was supposed to be a liberal turned the word into a synonym for "flake". Conservatives have used this cartoon to deflect attention while they were ending the middle class, stealing everything they could for their wealthy patrons. Tricked by the media, the general population has adopted the lie to their own disadvantage, as has been pointed out many times before.

I will confess that I was taken in by idealist fundamentalism for a lot of that time. We were standing for the soundest of principles. To compromise our ideals was to betray them. Eventually, somehow, even as we faced repeated defeat, it would make us stronger to remain intransigent. Some of those hucksters have a mighty good act. But in the end it's producing results that is really idealistic. The impatient left has been waiting for that glorious, instantaneous millennium to dawn for way too many lifetimes. The bodies of those who could have been helped by moderate assistance during that period is a pile too big to tell. Don't bother waiting any longer, it's never going to get here that way. We've never been farther from it in our liftimes. The futile insistence on having it all now is a block to reaching those ideals. If some progress is made, incrementally edging closer to the final goal, the ideal stands a chance. If people who aren't on the left start seeing modest success instead of our present complete failure they might just think we're on to something. Especially if some of that success improves their lives. We might start building a larger coalition instead of seeing it shrinking all the time. The perfect really is the enemy of the good and it's also its own worst enemy.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day 2006
for my parents

All of the dead, some in uniform, parents, old, children too young.
Holes in families, empty houses. Shadows on people. A name in rock.

A person remembers someone. A town, a life.
Countries give speeches. Speeches about speeches.
Speeches about people. Too far away to know.

And I can't tell you. You had to see them. In their towns. Both sides.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

It seems like there is a lot of gloom on some of the leftist blogs today. Why today and not some other one isn't exactly clear but it does give me an opportunity to announce that this blog has a motto:

Leave 'Ain't it awful,' behind.

For anyone who needs an explanation please read below, AGAINST DISCOURAGEMENT and the unnamed post which begins with a bunch of exclamations.

I hope you're feeling better soon. And if not better than at least ready to fight.


I will only post once in the morning of May 29th instead of two or three times. I hope to get back to a fuller schedule on Tuesday. I hope everyone enjoys the holiday.


The past twenty years has been unusual in number of monuments erected. The memorial movement unquestionably began with the dedication of the Vietnam Memorial designed by Maya Lin. Memorials to veterans and others will be one of the lasting legacies of our generation. It being Memorial Day weekend it might be time to talk about two monuments in particular, one extraordinary in its absence, the other to be discussed later.

Wars are horrible as veterans and their families know, despite movie bravado to the contrary. Even those of us whose family members came home ambulatory and able to lead some kind of normal life know that its effects are permanent. Pretending that the survivors aren't the victims of a horrible experience isn't any service to them or the truth. Even the best movies are inadequate to show what it's really like. An experience that huge and over that period of time can't be condensed into two hours. No monument can give a sense of the sacrifice some of war's victims give ever day they and their family members live.

Among the most numerous victims of a war are civilians whose deaths and injuries are reduced by our media and those it serves in a series of the most offensive euphemisms ever coined. "Collateral damage," is the most often cited. It's easy for people sitting in studios and hearing rooms in DC and New York to let those be the final words on the subject. But as we are seeing in Iraq today the victims brushed away here are remembered somewhere else. And more than a handful of those who don't forget them want revenge in our blood. Today's economic reality, transportation and the ocean of weapons provided by arms manufacturers and dealers make that revenge not only possible but increasingly likely.

Will it take a national monument of the mall toremember the myriad of civilian victims of all wars? Our civilian dead and those who die in our actions abroad? Whatever it takes, the public relations induced amnesia that blots them out of our national discussion has to be broken through. Most importantly it's matter of morality. Our souls. It's also a matter of our own security. Ignoring them will cost us in blood again.

In definitive contrast to this absence is a monument of a different stripe altogether. One which ubiquitously blights the face of our country. I hear that a recent example was set up by Senator Larry Craig on C-Span's Washington Journal last week. In discussing possible laws to prevent the funerals of veterans from being disrupted, a measure endorsed here last week, he repeated one of the right's favorite lies. He said that it was needed to keep anti-war protesters from dishonoring dead veterans and thier families. In the quote I saw he gave no examples of this happening. I'm told that the moderator didn't challenge the lie. As my piece last week said, the most prominent disruptions and threatened disruptions of funerals have come from the Phelps family. An obvious right-wing, "christian" fundamentalist group which has more in common with the Senator from Idaho than it does with the most aggravatingly tone deaf anti-war groups in the world.

We had one of these incidents in my state last month so the m. o. is fresh in our memory. A week of worry for the family as they prepared for the funeral. A week of publicity for a right wing hate group. A region braced for the spectacle of a funeral being turned into a diatribe of anti-gay hate by outsiders. And then the cancellation. Why take the bother of traveling when you can get the publicity free. Lying about this being done by anti-war groups provides the hate group with more cover than they probably would welcome.

Republicans and conservatives have spread these lies, from the urban myth of returning Vietnam veterans enduring a rain of anti-war spittle to this fabrication. And their motives are entirely corrupt. Their motive is to cover the coffins of returning soldiers with lies . They dishonor their memory more than all the complete, combined antics of the lunatic fringe that plagues real anti-war efforts. The media is an active participant in the lies.

John Ashcroft's covering of "The Spirit of Justice" was an action of symbolism so appropriate that he didn't get it. The Republican Party is covering up the dead of their war in an act of cynicism that dishonors all of the war dead and their families. And they not only get it, that's the plan.

Saturday, May 27, 2006


A warm night in spring.
Oh, no not another one.
BOOM - Look at - BOOM --- ME!


Stay with me two paragraphs, that's all I'm asking. One of the most important and ambitious of those fabled experiments on the state level is in really bad trouble. Dirigo Health of Maine, a well planned try at providing affordable health insurance to the uninsured and the soon to be uninsured, is under full attack by the insurance industry and its Republican spearhead. Those who wax romantic about the states as test tubes always leave that part out. When progress is made in one of the fifty Petri dishes instead of all of them, it's easier for industry to kill the culture. And Maine is a mighty small dish.

For those who are already turning away, let me reassure you, this is not going into the details of Dirigo Health, though those aren't as complex as an income tax form. A lot of the trouble Dirigo is in comes from the same source as what plagues so much of the Democratic agenda. .

The explanations of Dirigo from its supporters are just awful. They are detailed, they are truthful, they mention all possible roadblocks and turns. They are delivered in so much insurance industry and policy jargon that not one in a thousand of those paying attention can understand what's being said.

John Baldacci, the incumbent Democratic Governor of Maine, has done some things I don't like at and has appointed some people I don't like but he hasn't been a really bad governor. For anyone who needs reminding, Jock McKernan, now better known as Mr. Olympia Snowe was the gold medal winner of bad governors. But John Baldacci has appointed spokesmen for Dirigo who can't seem to get three words out not guaranteed to make eyes roll from Kittery to Fort Kent. The program is under attack from Republicans who have two things to say about it, "costs money", "socialized medicine". They just took out the talking points handed to Ronald Reagan in the 60s by the AMA and the insurance industry and are going to bury an experiment that has a real chance of doing it. A model for the nation.

For the Democratic Party in other states and on a national level, you've got bright people making the same STUPID mistake. I know they are brilliant with real degrees in real subjects from fine universities. I know they love the feel of those words coming out of their mouths with perfect diction. I know that if they close their eyes they see C. J. and Toby. But remember all of those plots where these brilliant, jargon fluent, policy wonks got into trouble when they tried to speak in public? There is a reason for that. It's because anyone who takes five minutes from their frantic schedule and looks knows that policy wonkery as public relations is guaranteed to do three things:

1. Confuse the public that would like the program if they understood it,
2. Embarrass them and make them hate you for it.
3. Provide the decisive opportunity for the lying servants of your enemies to master the debate.

For the love of Mike, stop it. You've got to use plain language, you've got to finish talking about step one before you jump to step 49 no matter how much of an inter-relationship there might be. Train two people on your staff to speak English on the subject, on that subject alone and let ONLY them talk on that subject to the public. Come up with simple accurate words and phrases to replace the industry terms that no one understands. If you want to know what those are ask the experts. The janitor, the lunch counter person, your doctor who has only been pretending to understand them all these years. Don't use the words the insurance industry invented to confuse their customers in the first place.

You have made a noble choice to serve the public. You have decided that the sacrifice is worth it. But if it is worth serving the people you should have enough regard for them to explain things. Getting them to understand isn't an exercise in vocabulary building. They've got all the words they want to know. Use those and show the world how smart you really are.

Friday, May 26, 2006

It's strange how hearing about Desmond Dekker's dying comes as a shock. He's not someone I thought of a lot, never having owned one of his records and not knowing anything about his life other than his having come from Jamaica. But hearing his one song that was a big hit during the 60s, "Israelites", on the radio today brought me up abruptly in a way that almost none of the other popular music of that period does.

A small, white, New England farm town didn't prepare me for ska. I don't remember the first time I heard it but can't imagine that it didn't make a huge impression. That rhythm, the intricate guitar lines and Desmond Dekker's high tenor voice, those entirely unfamiliar lines jumping from one modal implication to another. And then ending in the phrase "the Israelite". I didn't understand the lyrics, our radio was an old plaid AM radio with one speaker that you didn't' t think of in terms of response. Maybe that made it more impressive.

I didn't follow ska other than to have heard some of the well known bands popular in the 80s. I wasn't a great fan of reggae, with rhythms that seem inflexible to me. But Desmond Dekker must have meant more to me than I knew. I am sorry that his career had a down period, he was a very good musician and singer. I am glad to hear that when he died he had come back and a lot of work was lined up. Musicians like to hear about musicians getting paid work. I'm sorry that he died at such a relatively young age.


He was the softest, glidingest, stealthiest man I ever see, and there warn't no more smile to him than there is to a ham.

Mark Twian, Huckleberry Finn

I suppose this could fill in for the cats.


Pursue the possible, eschew the unobtainable.


Dear Ms. Rehm,
Great show, NPR's best. But Friday mornings. You have got to stop handing it over the the DC based press. As another great voice of authentic journalism has said, they all say the same thing. And we've heard it all before.

Bill Kristol, smiley face on the jackboot.

Try someone from Chicago, Des Moines, anywhere. But dump the Press Corps chumps.

A great day at this blog. I got Blogger's spell check to work. We have joined the 80s.

A curious observation, apparently it doesn't know the words "blog" or "blogging". Um. Someone might want to take care of that little lapse in its education.

Necessary actions for winning elections

Accentuate the practical
Forget the theoretical
Get rid of the cynical

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Whatever sentence Ken Lay gets he has put himself in the running for the Richard Nixon Torch Song Trophy. His post conviction press opportunity was one of the more revolting displays of false religiosity in recent years. And the competition is always getting tougher.

I know we in New England are heathen infidels but give us credit. If one of ours started bringing Jesus and God into his peak moment of shame we would turn away in nauseated embarrassment. A real New Englander wouldn't have had a Jim and Tammy moment, they'd have put a jacket over their head and fled the cameras.

As if Lay and Skillings hadn't taken enough. Couldn't the world have been spared this spectacle of plastic piety?


Ken Lay and Jeff Skillings earned their convictions. There isn't much doubt of that. While I'm pleased to see that much of justice done it is inadequate. Not that they deserve more punishment than they could get for their crimes, that the charges fell entirely short of producing justice.

They are largely convicted of defrauding investors. While I've got some sympathy for people who lost their pensions or other group investments not in their control, my sympathy for individual investors is not complete. They exercised choice. They chose to use Enron as a means of making money off of other peoples' work and from people who would be paying for energy. They were prepared to take a good chunk of that money for themselves. I don't include the employees of Enron who, no doubt, felt some pressure to invest with their own company.

A large part of what is covered by "economics" isn't science. Though aspiring to science it is more like theology, striving for rational explanations within a given set of beliefs. The basis of the beliefs are supposed to have a foundation in the laws of nature but a lot of the givens in economics are pure faith. Even more so the foundations of business law. They rest on the visions of the prophets of political economics and the pieties of con men.

Investors are the primary beneficiaries of the current economic religion. Their interest is the only one blessed with the full acknowlegement of the dismal science and the law. Someone can buy stock in a company, lending money to the company. They keep the stock and receive returns on the money lent. Even if the money is paid back in full with a reasonable amount of interest, the investor keeps the stock which gives ownership rights over the business. They can sell the stock to another person who then owns the rights over the business. No new investment needs to go into the business in this transaction. The stock can change hands any number of times without new money invested but the ownership rights remain. Marjorie Kelly has fully described this in her book, "The Divine Right of Capital".

Not noticed in this scheme are the employees who may have worked in the business, quite possibly, from the time before the stock mentioned above was first issued. They produce all of the value of the company, minus the original investment. The money would never have been paid back without their labor. But while they may have invested a lifetime with the company, giving it labor worth more than the compensation given to them in wages and benefits, perhaps even sacrificing personally in order to see the business succeed, they have no rights of ownership.

If the 31st generation of investors decides that their jobs could be done more cheaply by slave labor in another country they can vote to send the jobs away. The now unemployed workers could even see their promised pensions and benefits taken away for the benefit of the investors. These things are not extras given out of the good will of the owners and managers, they are compensation due on the basis of a legal agreement. But that doesn't matter. Look around, it's happening every day.

And the rate payers in California. Did they have a choice? Their state was blackmailed, huge amounts extorted from them. They will pay for the massive theft for years to come.

The workers have few, if any, rights in a case like Enron the rate payers had few rights. I have yet to hear an explanation of why they don't have rights at least as valid as those of the investors. Would someone like to explain this to me? Explain it, not just repeat the usual drill in more or less detail. Where is the justice?

Please note: This was a draft posted prematurely. I will be replacing it with a revised version. Since it was already posted I will leave it up until then.

In editing the piece below, and there IS an attempt to edit this blog, I came across a typo of interest in an upcoming piece. Typing "raverand" instead of the customary spelling raises the last issue of so called "political correctness" that the enemies of so called "political correctness" feel entire free to exploit. The "Southern question". I was tempted to leave in the typo but took it out.

Yesterday in one of the finest blogs, Hullaballo, tristero raised the question of language. Apparently some readers have objected to his writing. I admit that defending him is partly a matter of self interest, if someone can object to his writing mine is an even easier target. When beginning this blog I had decided to avoid cussin' because it is so often used to deflect attention from the serious issues at hand. I have used, if I count correctly, three terms indicative of bigotry. I did so because I firmly hold that they are shorthand for attitudes common on the right. While hoping that they do not offend members of the groups so referred to, I hold that they are entirely useful to the purpose of exposing the mental habits of conservatives.

Please let me know what you think.


When the Arabic news service, Al Jezeera announced recently that it was going to start an English language service the cat calls in the English language media went up. While those took many forms they all boiled down to, "The nerve of those wogs. A news service that doesn't say exactly the same thing we say. And now they're going to say it in English,". Perhaps what went unsaid was, "Jesus, competition,".

To make matters worse Al Jezeera was hiring the veteran quasi-newsman David Frost to take a prominent role in their English service. This was an occasion for high indignation and low humor. And it can't be denied that there was a bit of ammunition there. While he has had some interesting coups in his career, the post pardon rebirth of a new, new Nixon being the most famous, it had to be admitted that David Frost was a bit of a show boat and that he could be a real pain in the ass. In the 60s and 70s he wasn't your most serious newsman despite having been on the legendary news show, "That Was The Week That Was,".

Ah, but the times.

Take one of his least serious jobs, his afternoon talk show. I remember one afternoon David Frost had on the Rev. Carl McIntire, now forgotten but one of the foremost radio reverends of the time. He is perhaps most famous for his objection to confirming Nelson Rockefeller as the fill-in Vice President. Ignoring the slaughter at Attica, dumping the mentally ill on the street, and Rocky's already disastrous drug policy, in those quaint times McIntire told the Senate committee that Rockefeller was entirely unacceptable due to his having been divorced before he married Happy. Reagan hadn't made the office safe for Republican divorcees yet. But I digress.

That afternoon the reverend gentleman was David Frost's guest speaking in support of the policy of bombing North Vietnam. Calling for continuing to bomb that tiny country with more bombs than were dropped during the whole of World War Two. Speaking with eloquence for destroying the lives of thousands of Vietnamese civilians as the planes of righteousness bombed the crap out of that tiny country, incinerating children in the name of THE lord, Jesus Christ.

While any of our modern talk shows would have balanced the Reverend with someone who could be counted on to be slightly less enthusiastic or slightly more secular - with all due deference - as they regretfully supported bombing the tar out of Vietnam, David Frost's next guest was John Kenneth Galbraith. He began his part of the conversation by saying to McIntire, "I'm intrigued by your theory of Christian Bombing,". I don't remember exactly how the discussion went on after that, though I know for a fact that McIntire on the best day of his life would have been entirely outclassed by Galbraith entirely comatose. And Galbraith was famous for having the last word.

Ah, yes. There was a time within living memory when the afternoon time slots taken up today with Ellen Degeneris proving that while a lesbian can have a talk show she cannot also demonstrate that she has a brain were filled with the likes of John Kenneth Galbraith holding forth on policy. In the hours when Wolf Blitzer blathers what has all the appearance of being scripted for him by Karl Rove's lesser staffers, David Frost had on people who would likely be blacklisted by commercial television and likely not be invited more than once a year on PBS today. Judge Judy might be Frost's toughest contemporary competition in that time period, with guests more civilized and informed than Bay Buchanan, but remember, she's only in syndication.

Why David Frost isn't treated with more respect than the casts of all of the cabloids combined isn't due to the superficiality of his past work. In the context of today's media, He's a news god.

NOTE: I'm working from memory here, OK? Some things just can't be googled. Though the chances of this having been on Merv Griffin are slender at best.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Could this be why Bush Co. doesn't see a down side to global warming?

Hurricane forecasts push crude oil prices over $71 (AP)

Some of you will have heard the Oilfinger theory before, but it's short. Stay with me.

If you have something that's valuable you can either try to get more of it or you can make what you already have more valuable. It's what the movie "Goldfinger" is based on, well, apart from James Bond's boundless sex appeal.
The oilgarchs, of course, have oil. It's expensive to get more of it and is always getting harder to find. But that's the hard way to do it. Their wealth can increase if oil gets to be more expensive. A war in the Middle East, a really bad hurricane season. Both can be relied on to make the oil barons a lot richer. As this AP story shows, just the prediction of hurricanes can have that effect.

E-mail change.

The old address wasn't working so it has been simplified to:

as before please send text only, I do not open attachments.

Oh, oh..... you just know it's a' coming, ..... can't win...... always the way it is. They always get away with it..... Oh, they're...... they're coming up right behind..... 's nothing we can do..... OooooOhhhhh!

Heard enough? Tired of the hand wringing and moaning about how Karl Rove is going to turn everything we do against us and win? Every single opportunity fate sends us, every Republican scandal, every Republican disaster, every split in the Republican ranks is accompanied by the bleated warnings that if Democrats so much as allude to their crimes and screw-ups the omnipotent Karl Rove is going to use his magic mirror of Republican refraction and send it back at us, an intensified death ray. If it had happened as often as the sirens of doom had sounded we'd have been pools of ash a decade ago.

This attitude could be one of two things, professional Democratic doomsters getting into a swivet on cue or Republicans getting the Democratic doomsters worked up. On cue.

It's time to tell our Cassandras to dry up. That part of the routine doesn't depend on what we do. We don't have to do a thing. If we don't do anything the Republicans just make up a story and snivel and moan about that. "Travelgate", "transition vandalism" Oreo peltings"? If we sat quietly with our hands folded and smiled pleasantly while they drove a tank over us it wouldn't matter. Republicans and their media whores would say that we were being nice to them in the meanest possible way. You'd hear Chris Matthews say it. Anyone know if he has yet?

The most absurd form of this is when Democratic pundits council strategic losing of entire elections. Claiming we can gain advantage by losing. As if that's been such a success. If you could lose your way to political victory the Democratic Party would be set for a run of fifty good years. Here's a bit of news for them, winning an election is not an optional preference. It's essential. If we give up before we get to the track the effect is exactly the same as it would be if we made the worst series of political blunders in history and lost it all. The Republicans have made the worst series of blunders in history. Do you hear their pundits advising them to give it up? Maybe it's not the blunders, its the dunderheads who council capitulation.

If we're going to pay a political price for doing nothing why don't we try doing some damage to them in the process? Are our nervous nellies afraid that we'll get into trouble for giving the Republicans a bloody nose? Are they afraid of the terrible consequences of winning a fight? Any Democratic pundit who tells us to win by losing might have made their cabloid career but that's no reason for us to listen to them. Traitors or idiots, the results are the same. Put them out, never let them get away with having a "D" under their name on the screen again. Throw them out of the party.

Rarely there might be reasons for Democrats to lay low, the certainly of setting off the Republican lies-o-matic isn't one of them. Never is Republican victory so certain as when the Democratic worry trolls wrap it up and hand it to them with a bow and a bow.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


In the piece posted here yesterday are four items that Democrats have every right to require of a Democratic candidate. You don't have to accept all four items, you don't have to limit yourself to those four. But you, on your own, without official approval, have every right to make your candidates pledge their loyalty to Democrats. In pubic, on the record, before the nomination is decided. Joe Lieberman has given you ample reason to wonder where he is headed.

Please ask Joe Lieberman to make a binding promise to you, as Democratic voters, that he will not stab you in the back. Make him put it on the record. If her refuses to make a binding pledge of his loyalty, you will know he has other plans. And ask his opponent to do the same so Joe can't whine about being singled out and change the subject.

Democrats in other states should feel free to ask their candidates too.


When that stooge of the first Bush regieme, Violetta Chamorro, was elected by the defeated population of Nicaragua in 1990 I had one of those crises that plague leftists. Nicaragua had successfully overthrown fascism for a government which instituted literacy and child nutrition programs, abolished the death penalty and began to give the coungry back to its citizens. They had known that they were going to be targeted by the Government of the United States which had never been able to stand a good example springing up in Latin America. They knew they were in for a long struggle against the most powerful country on Earth. It being the Reagan-Bush I administration, a covert campaign of terror against the people of Nicaragua was as certain as the sunset. After a decade of heroic resistance they were forced into accepting an aristocrat with no governing experience, the figurehead for people who were openly in league with a foreign government which had waged a campaign of terror against them. The Reagan-Bush terrorism campaign had worked.

I mention in passing that Violetta Chamorro is the matriarch of a family of journalists. So much for that guarantee of the peoples' freedom.

In my depression that followed, I heard Noam Chomsky talking about it. He pointed out that a tiny, impoverished population had held out against terrorism longer than the population of the United States would in a similar situation. Prophetic words, as the reaction to Sept. 11th has shown.

I wondered how he did it. How did he keep up the fight decade after decade. I wrote to him asking him how he did do it, apologizing for taking up his time and excusing him from answering, if he didn't have the time. An answer came in less than a week. It wasn't a secret at all. There wasn't a remedy. He said:

"I don't have any right to become discouraged".

That was the totally unexpected and entirely appropriate answer. Discouragement is a self-indulgence as much as it is a reaction to bad news. And it is one that makes the leftist's mind into a tool of the right. Dwelling on my state of mind was not going to help and as a citizen of the United States I had a responsibility to do something useful. I will always be greatful to Chomsky for that kind slap in the face.

To this advice I'll add two more pieces. After M. Ivins. Action, deliberate, practical, effective and unself-interested action is the best remedy to discouragement. It can take as many forms as you can think up but the most practical ones will be the most therapeutic. Everything from writing letters to your representatives to those much less promising ones to NPR. Unglamorous labor, as most of the really important work is, such as working on a voter list or working the phones will do more to fix the hole in your heart than dwelling on it. But you can't get your hopes up too high, you will often fail. That's just the way it is but as a leftist you don't have a choice but to take the chance. If you need comfort, a lot of important change is incremental and the progress is often too small to notice. If that isn't enough, then comfort yourself that at least you're fighting fasicsm.

The other piece of advice comes from me. Take up meditation. Breath counting is a good place to start. Get a good pair of hearing protectors if you can't find somwhere quiet enough. Cover those with clean socks if you sweat a lot. Metta mediation is after that.

But it's the action that will really change things.

Monday, May 22, 2006


But not everyone can comment whore. From a thread at digby's Hullabaloo:

Joe Lieberman would like people to believe he's a "high minded centrist,". He's not. Boudica

Are you sure? He always seems like "your mind on drugs" to me. olvlzh

If you don't believe it's me, note the typo.


The Democratic Party is owned by the members of the party, not by the leaders of it, not by the connected beltway bright things looking for their next press opportunity and handout.

The election and the seat won through it are owned by the voters, not by the candidates.

While the party has no right to require a guarantee of ideological conformity, especially since there is no Democratic ideology, there are things which a Democratic candidate owes to the members of the party.

1. Democratic candidates must make a binding promise that they will not leave the party for another one while holding an office gained as the candidate of the party.
2. If a Democrat leaves the party while holding office they must agree to vacate the office.
3. A Democratic candidate will accept the results of the nominating process.
4. A Democratic candidate will fight a crooked election.

A person who holds office has an obligation to represent all of their constiuents, they cannot be bound by the party to a given position on an issue. That is a matter of trust between the office holder and their consituents. But a person who holds office through the Democratic Party takes on additional obligations to the party. Through their own actions they have asked for our support and so have made it a matter of honor that they will not betray us.

No candidate who asks the support of the members of the party should be allowed to flim-flam us. If they don't gain the nomination through the rules of the Democratic Party they have to accept that. They should be required to promise at the beginning of the nomination process not to act as a spoiler in the general election by being a candidate outside the party or by campaigning for a rival of the party. No office holder who has gained a seat through the Democratic party should be able to leave the party while holding that seat. All candidates should be required to make these promises to members of the Democratic Party from the start as a pledge of trust. If they refuse? Democrats will know what to expect of them and can vote accordingly.

I am sure someone will ask about Jeffords. Much as I respect him, that's not out problem. His party left him and he had an R after his name.


Employees of the Democratic Party in any of its branches and people employed by Democratic politicians should sign a contract stating that they will not go on the cabloids or other news and alleged news outlets to slam the party, its members, its candidates or its motives for three presidential election cycles after their employment ends. Russert, Matthews and the guy with the hair are stinking quislings who would be nobodies without the patronage of fools who trusted them. If the party doesn't learn from their example and institute contractual remedies to prevent the production of more of these it can expect more of the same.

Any Democrat who has anything to do with the likes of Dick Morris should be put up against the wall.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The "D" Word

for Echidne of the Snakes

From time to time it is good to bring up a topic of seemingly lesser importance and to give it a once over. While this can be a useless exercise you can find unexpected symptoms of an underlying problem. Sometimes it leads to a fun fix-it project.

The misuse of the word "Democrat" as in "The Democrat Party" or "The Democrat Candidate is something we should start calling them on right now, from today onward. "Them" used to be Bob Dole, that charmer from Kansas. The one who Walter Mondale summed up so well in his own turn of phrase, "Republican hatchet man,". He is the first person I noticed using it. And so distinctively. From his mouth it gives you the same kind of feeling you get while watching a white man spit on a black child. Assuming there aren't any conservatives reading this. Apparently our media was impressed similarly because even on the most allegedly non-Republican venues you can hear it being used today. If without some of Bob Dole's singular skill.

"Why get upset?", some of our otherwise most picky adherents of the Code of Liberal Ethics might be expected to ask. There are bigger issues, it is true. But as with the words "nigger" and "kike" the language does matter. Given where the use of "Democrat" first gained currency it wouldn't be at all shocking if it wasn't often used in phrases with those and other examples of greater invective. Though not on broadcast. At least not on the low end of the FM band.

It matters because it is a term of disrespect. That should be enough for members of the Democratic Party to insist on our media calling our party by its real name. It matters because Democratic candidates have won the right to contend for offices of the greatest importance. We should insist on equal treatment for our candidates and office holders. If they are shown respect they might start standing up for themselves, their party and their supporters. And if you can't summon the regard for our candidates themselves, they represent the rest of us. To diss them is to diss us. It matters because the Retuds would insist on the same if a Democratic Vice-Presidential Nominee used a term of less than fawning respect for them. In fact, you could count on its use being a major campaign issue with many hours of discussion on Washington Journal with talking points passed out to frequent callers on the Retud line and the Retuds who call the Democratic line under false pretenses. It matters because Democrats certainly deserve that level of respect.

If you need another reason. It's fun for a beleaguered group to call them on it and watch their oppressor squirm for a change.

Saturday, May 20, 2006


Good Lord Weekend Edition. What I said last week about the oysters, "Howl", ditto.


Some ideas are so common that they are only mentioned in passing as an obvious truth or they go without saying altogether. One of these conventionalized truths is that someone who opposes the death penalty is disqualified from the discussion of it. "Of course x is opposed to the death penalty," is often treated as the last that needs to be heard of x on the subject. It often goes unsaid but its assumption has fundamentally distorted the discussion of the imposition of capital punishment.

I belive that this attitude was consciously adopted by politicians and prosecuting attorneys becuase it effectively eliminates oppontents of the death penalty from being heard. It is inconvenient for them to have this vehicle for career advancement alwys coming into quesion by people with a moral or eithical opposition to it. And, let's say it, in most places for politicians and prosecutors, an association with the death penalty is a career builder. Having opponents excluded from the discussion removes a potential factor that could lessen the value of their past work.

I believe that it is also adopted by the media for reasons of profit. Our media love the death penalty. It adds drama to their coverage of trials, it becomes a most easily reported story within itself. Even anticipation of the failure to impose it can provide an occasion for a show of dramtic outrage in the reliable clack of cable conservatives. And it is as much of a boon for the entertainment division of our media conglomerates as it is for their loss leader, the "news". I don't for a second believe that any of these people actually cares if someone is put to death or not. The issue is entirely one of utility for them. They hardly want to risk dissipating dramatic tension with rational discussion of the issue.

In the courts, themselves, the exclusion of death penatly opponents from juries is an obvious injustice. The population contains large numbers of people who oppose the death penalty. To exclude them from the jury pool on that basis is to stack the jury. It excludes a large segment of the population, perhaps even entire religons. The reason given, that death penalty opponents will not be impartial is exactly the reason used to exclude black people and others from juries. And in allowing the exclusion the allegedly impartial judicial system promotes the increased liklihood of a given outcome. It unquestionably guarantees a less than representative jury pool even in the guilt phase of the trial. A prosecutor doesn't have a right to a jury biased in favor of a given outcome.

Most death penalty opponents come to that position after careful consideration of it. To exclude opponents of the death penalty from juries could result inless careful, less thoughtful juries. There should have to be a compelling, overriding public interest stated with factual support to allow this kind of exclusion. But I don't believe that has ever been done. It is possible that the prosecution could benefit from more thoughtful juries as well as the defense.

Maybe it is that judges love the death penalty too. In the Rumpole stories it is said that judges used to order muffins in their club after imposing death. Who can doubt that some of our Supreme Court members would be quite capable of that. Scalia, apparently one of those who got the giggles in the discussion of whether condemned prisoners in Florida have equal rights to about-to-be-put-down pets, said that there is no right to a painless death at the hands of the state. Muffins at his club would be less depraved than that, certainly among the foulest things said by someone sitting on that bench in its history. I regret that no one could have asked him if that would include death by dismemberment. No doubt his answer would have allowed the hilarity to continue.

This is the end of the first week of this blog. Whatever else could be said, it has the cleanest comment boards around.

I am still learning the most basic parts of the software, the spell check hasn't worked even once. With my computer and my skills that is no reflection on the software. All of the defects and faults are mine alone.

Since my innocence of basic computing has delayed the blog roll, I would like to thank several who have encouraged me and inspired me.

First, the most subtle and original Roger Ailes of Roger Ailes blog, not the other one, was the first blogger to ever react to something I posted. He has my thanks for his encouragement and the model of blogging he provides.

Second, the legendary and mysterious "Horse" of Media Whores Online, who knew me by another name. Also for encouraging me before going undercover. I believe that as long as we who had our view of the media sharpened by "the Horse" are alive, MWO lives on.

Echidne of the Snakes, Phoenix Woman, of Mercury Rising, digby of Hullabaloo and others I thank for their acknowledgement, their encouragement, their wonderful writing and constant variety.

Special thanks must go to Atrios of Eschaton, my blog du jour for the past several years, if mostly for his putting up with an at times trying presence on his enormously long and wonderfully numerous threads.

The comment boards of blogs have taught me a lot about writing and thinking on my feet. It is a hard school, maybe a fool will learn in no other. One of the things which has helped is the swift and sure hammer of the person who can prove that what you have just said is wrong or who is not hesitant to tell you what you are full of. Though not immediately edifying sometimes this spurs the commenter to sharpen their argument, sometimes to sheepishly admit that they are wrong. If the traditional media would listen to its serious critics instead of ignoring them to take in the flattery of people they are supposed to be covering, their employers and each other "the Horse" wouldn't be so sadly needed today.

That the blogosphere and its supporting infrastructure is under attack by the corporate media and their corporate masters is evidence that we've got them worried. I don't know if they will succeed. We are vulnerable due to the weakness of our infrastructure caused by the exigencies of the corporations that own it. Answerable to their investors and their own ambitions, they way cave to the oligarchic pressure to make the new media impossible or, as they do with all of their critics, insignificant. But this is the future of the news. If it is destroyed the news that is left will be an empty fraud.

Friday, May 19, 2006

for Molly Ivins

On first hearing that the "christian" right had come up with chastity rings, fingers weren't the first appendages to come to mind. Know what I mean? Then I heard about their even weirder sister. Ceremonies in which very little girls, indeed, symbolically give their reproductive organs to their daddy for safe keeping. He then is to hand them over to the groom at her wedding. I might not be the most financially savvy guy but this is sufficiently brazen as to glow like the sun. Electra becomes money. Keepin' it is a growth industry.

For those who might find this neo-folkway just too strange or the overhead too high there is the alternative of abstinence "education" carried out by private contractors at public expense. In this alternative, misinformation and all too temporary fear take the place of custom jewelry. The short history of this quaint idea is complete with evidence that it doesn't work very well. It also seems to have the unintended effect of leading young people who just can't keep it to engage in more dangerous activities than protected sex.

This evidence doesn't seem to bother proponents one little bit. They deny the evidence but I suspect that even if they did accept it they wouldn't mind much. If the recent stories about sexual moralists' opposition to the most recent vaccine which will prevent potentially fatal venereal disease is any indication it would seem that they might see it as another mark... ah, teaching opportunity. Making certain that the wages of sin are death would seem to be their goal.

Much as I'd like to turn this into a piece about the statistical evidence of their depravity, that will have to wait. My purpose is to investigate the morality of traditional sexual taboo from a different angle. Incorporating the outcome.

The traditional moralist holds that it is essential to issue a flat ban on prohibited activities, end of question. A flat ban with no exceptions. No alternative consideration is necessary for morality to be satisfied. In fact, to consider anything else would weaken the flat ban and thus be wicked in itself. That experience has shown throughout recorded history that the ban will not be followed doesn't matter. That enormous suffering and even death result from to impossibility of many, if not most people keepin' it within the confines of monogamous, heterosexual marriage is not a downside to the traditional sexual moralist. They just ignore it. Deaths of women who bear their eleventh child before they reach the age of thirty, venereal disease, children who can't be cared for, grinding poverty, ... all taken in stride by the traditional sexual moralist. Even those who don't find this suffering good in the sight of the Lord find it insufficiently awful to reconsider a single word of the flat ban.

Well, here's a thought. Any moral proclamation that causes suffering, disease and death is evil. Any moral teaching that willfully ignores the pain it causes is phony morality and should be junked. For those who think the left has no moral absolutes, there is one for you. Replacing scientifically based sex education with this kind of exercise in sadistic pseudo-morality is evil. No matter how longstanding, it is superstitious and evil and destructive of the public good. It should be prohibited for public money to go to this pseudo-religious clap trap. And a clap trap it is.

This kind of stuff isn't confined to sex education. Ending needle exchange programs is another clear example. Drug addicts exchanging HIV and hepatitis is a direct result of needle exchanges being made impossible by the War on Drugs industry and their moralist camp followers. We have ample evidence that needle exchange programs work to lessen the horrors of disease among drug addicts. Addictive drugs, and some which aren't addictive, are allegedly banned because they cause suffering and in the case of addictive drugs that is true. To assert that you are banning them to prevent suffering and then to ignore HIV transmission is to be the direct cause of suffering more awful than the addiction. Treating addiction as a moral failing punishable by death instead of a treatable disease has led us into the obscenity of the war on drugs we find ourselves in today.

Many children being born with HIV are a direct result of the lies of the chastity industry and the drug moralists. Their suffering is taken with remarkable equanimity by these protectors of public morals. Any feeling person with an intact brain can see that their suffering is morally unacceptable. Any person of good will can see the calm acceptance of children and adults dying of entirely preventable AIDS is absolute proof of the moral decay of traditional sexual moralists. These facts definitively impeach the moral pretensions of religious conservatives and it would be entirely immoral for the left to let them get away with it another minute without a fight.

How about this for some real sexual morality. Ignoring preventable suffering resulting from the inability of people to go without sex is evil. People who ignore suffering and so help more of it into the world are evil. Ignorance is a leading cause of suffering. So is discouraging the use of condoms.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Senate Hearings Haiku

Take some comity.
Add old football metaphores.
Aural ipecac

Tearing Our Hair Out Over You

It's one of life's aggravations, what to do with those frustrating Democrats. Especially those in the Senate who could actually do something, the ones in the house being powerless to do much but complain - not that there's nearly enough of that over there.

Maybe it's always this way when the only tools available are lousy. Maybe that's the way to look at them, as the only tools we've got available.

It's not very inspiring but since the roof is caving in on democracy we've got to try.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Why are the fundies upset that this movie reportedly shows Jesus as married, with children?

I guess there's no pleasing them.

I won't be fair to fascists. I won't be nice to Nazis. I will not give them a fair hearing. They've had their hearing and on their own terms. We've had their message aired universally, enthusiastically supported by conservatives here and abroad, and we have abundant examples of what happens when they achieve power. The combination constitutes probably the most ill-advised test of time given in recent history. And they've failed the viability test. We know the catalog of their crimes and we know that those crimes are the only part of their platform that they deliver on. They promise to kill people, to enslave people, to exclude people and to plunder the property of their victims. And that they can do. That is they can until either their own population or another has had enough and overthrows them. Victory, a higher standard of living, what they promise their supporters will be bought with that blood? No. They're not so good on that despite the lying Luce line.

Why anyone who pretends to be a liberal spends a second of their lives, though they live to be a hundred, being nice to them or defending their rights is one of the more idiotic results of the Code of Liberal Ethics. They've had their rights, as noted above. And their victims have had the full benefit of their exercise of those "rights". Why these liberal niceness scolds spend a second on the rights of fascists that they could spend on the rights of the victims of fascists is an exercise in ego of the worst kind. I will get to that in a minute after pointing out that I have made no guarantee of being such a nice person. No fascist should ever live in the expectation that they are going to see a benevolent smile from me. No liberal or leftist should expect me to be patient with the insistence that we be fair to them. As if the fascists were all going to attend a Developments in Contemporary Fascism seminar which will make living with them possible. Socialism develops, fascism has already found their true religion, racism, violence, slavery, theft and war.

If this apostasy isn't bad enough, it gets worse. I am an NMAS free speech absolutist. That, after L. Hansberry, means No More After Skokie. There is no reason for anyone on the left to come to the defense of the free speech rights of fascists.

Given their stated intentions and their history it is bizarre that any leftist would entertain considering the free speech rights of fascists. Why should any leftist give them the time of day never mind a fully paid legal representation? The old reason given by the most easily stomached of our fairness monitors is that, "if they are silenced then we can be too". This argument has the virtue of replacing absolutist prissiness with an appeal to practicality. But it is empty. They haven't been silenced, they are all over the place. Ann Coulter's insane performance art is certainly not silent. And she's only one of the slew of dispund that fills the airwaves and makes it into print. We, dear friends, are entirely frozen out. Effectively blacklisted. The real left appears only slightly less often than plate spinners on our media. There is the pantomime of liberalism presented but it is such a transparent farce that even dismissing it gives it more attention than it deserves. Free speech sermons by liberal scolds is one of the more popular scenes of the farce.

As our friends in Canada sometimes point out, free speech is a right, it isn't the only right. Rights exist in tension, they don't exist outside of people and their owners don't exist in a vacuum. All rights may be absolute until they impinge on the rights of someone else. It is when they do impinge on other peoples' rights that things become less absolute than lends itself to facile philosophical contemplation between commercial pods and the length of a Village Voice column.

Let's take a variation on a classic. There is no right for a person to stand in the road outside your house and yell abuse at you for extended periods of time. Especially not at night. I doubt that someone could get away with standing outside your house and yelling adoration at you for several hours in the afternoon. It wouldn't be surprising if long and loud proclamations of affection met with a quicker and more forceful response by the police after your terrified call for help fifteen minutes into the incident. I have never heard a free speech absolutist defend this kind of speech and risk their own domestic tranquility. Why should a random night of sleep enjoy more protection than the one and only opportunity of an entire family to exercise the right granted by common decency, to hold a funeral free of the publicity stunts of hate cults? If a family can't bury their dead without the likes of the Phelps tribe turning their grief into a media availability, I don't want to be a part of your "free speech".

Free speech absolutists believe that they are acting out of high principle, I fervently want to believe it of some of them. There are free speech absolutists who I not only respect but love. But when you make free speech into an overriding absolute, an inflexible absolute, the principle becomes a petty scruple. It becomes moral schtick which includes the absolutist's imagined right, by virtue of their constitutional purity, to dispose of other peoples' rights without their consent and often in the face of their vigorous disapproval. The worst of them appropriate as the raw material of their media careers as "defenders of the constitution" the lives and rights of the victims of fascists, both past and future. Who the hell died and made them God?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

This just in on Eschaton

Specter Caves

I hate to say I told you so but I did.

I hate to say it because I'd really rather say, "Boy, oh boy. Was I ever wrong about Specter this time,".

The position of principled non-voters is a lot more interesting to them than it is to anyone else. While this form of self-indulgence is given a microphone once in a while on such venues as NPR, it is filler, cranberry relish. But no one really cares other than the principled non-voter being intervewed. Politicians don't care. Why should they? Voters don't care either. These people are voluntary non-entitites in the real world of politics. Even other principled non-voters don't care except to envy the moment of attention which, in their hearts, they know should be theirs.

Their analog is found on most blog comment boards, where the mic is open to anyone. I've read a lot of them and in the past have engaged some of the ones who seem less silly than the others. But I've never heard an argument from them that begins to make sense.

Democracy is the most complex kind of politics, relying on the collective wisdom of the general population. And it is a gamble. It bets that the majority of the people are more likely to come up with the right decision and will also prove less corruptible than a favored few. But no one should go into the business of gambling with their eyes closed. The results will often favor the house. Gamblers should never forget that while they are lying bets other people are too and other players stand a chance of winning, especially if they cheat. And we know they do. You can increase your chances by looking at the situation as it is, not betting it all on a hunch, not losing your temper, watching everyone and calling them on their dirty dealing. The only alternative to taking the gamble and fighting to keep the game honest is to give up.

In normal times I might like some people who aren't willing to make the bet and join the fight. I might make small talk with them but these aren't normal times. I don't have time for anyone who is giving up. They have removed themselves from the possiblity of bringing about positive change. I will not bother talking to someone who is not going to exert themselves to bring about positive change. Other than as an exercise in attention getting, I don't know what they are doing on political blogs. They'd be happier elsewhere.

Monday, May 15, 2006

"Berger's approach to politics flowed from his understanding that there was no immediate prospect for a transition to socialism in the United States -- of, for that matter, in any other part of the world. That led him to take the long view, and to seek alliances with other reformers. Among other things he was a leader of the Milwaukee local of the International Typographical Union and editor of the Milwaukee Federated Trades council's official publication. This approach led his detractors to call Berger a "sewer socialist" -- a reference to the Milwaukee local's promise to build a sewage system designed to last fifty years. In fact, the sewer was built, and it was only a part of the local reforms and stable electoral organizations that Berger championed -- all of which helped to make him the party's most successful politician." [James Weinstein: 2003 The Long Detour]

Of course, in those days sewage and safe drinking water were life or death issues. Having bad water meant serious illness or a horrible and rapid death. No antibiotics. Often the purity of the water improved with income, sometimes not. A good sewage system meant life. While his more ideologically pure contemporaries might have scoffed at these reforms, perhaps believing that they were unworthy of their lofty goals, or for their exalted persons, Victor Berger helped get the sewer built. One assumes that this action saved lives, improved lives, perhaps made people stronger to fight for their rights. One of the most important political results would have been that it provided a tangible example of what the left could do for people. Nothing impresses people like not having to worry that the water is going to kill their children. Avoiding such vulgar projects, the pure of heart felt a higher calling. Which produced talk.

Victor Berger might have failed to enter the pantheon of the more legendary leftists, he was not a failure with the voters. Milwaukee sent him to the congress in 1910, the first Socialist to be elected to the congress and seated. It elected him twice more, though by then he had been convicted of essentially opposing the First World War and was not allowed to take the seat. But even that one time he did serve in congress he racked up a record that betters most of the more remembered leftists in our history. And after winning the right to his seat in court he was reelected twice in the 1920s.

What does this mean for us a hundred years later? Berger's practicality, of facing the situation without wishful thinking and of working with the means possible to produce real improvements for people is the model we need to follow. Nothing contained in the most brilliant minds with the highest ideals with the greatest daring and the most solid commitment to the cause is as radical as a bill voted on and made into a law that overturns a bad law. No brilliant idea, rigorous in its logic and comprehensive in its supporting facts is as good as a small civil service project that improves living conditions for people. It is only when the idea is made into law by people who hold elected office that the truly radical can happen, lives improve. Words, true and well chosen, only matter when they are put into effect and change material reality. It is simply a fact that political change relies on politicians who are dependent on the consent of the governed. If the governed see results they will support the politicians who deliver them.

Feet of Clay Words of Steel

You could be forgiven for getting it wrong. I certainly did. Some of us thought that the self evident crisis in journalism today were the cumulative repeated, uncorrected errors in fact, the inventions of quotations, the verbatim stenography and similar violations of the ever adjustable Code of Journalistic Ethics -- "Gore claims to invent internet, " being the poster example. We assumed that the orverarching crisis was that the corporate consolidation of the media had rendered our journalism a tawdry pose fit only to fill up spaces on the cable band so the best in rerun sit-coms could go premium. But we were wrong.

The great crisis facing this foundation of democracy, itself, is that someone has been at the cooky jar, someone's been staling their snickerdoodles. The great flood of plagiarism is the real danger that faces the nation, with front page stories and network news segments presenting in indepth report on the rolling crimewave. A rather flashy and enterprising Harvard co-ed (having read some of 'her' words I think she has earned the title) has borrowed from an even more eminent auteur of her genre. An executive at Raytheon has taken time off from producing engines of mass death to pilfer the wisdom of one of the ancients of his tribe. And now, we are told that a nameless intra-network jegg has broken into the word hoarde of the fictitious President Bartlett of "The West Wing" applying the stolen phrases to the real life news story of an heroic horse trainer. This may be the first instance in history of words written for a fictitious president to say, we assume written by fictitious ghost writers, being applied to what passes as news on our major networks. Though that might be too much to hope at this stage of our politics.
Given that the typical West Wing script is full of references to numerous works other than the script writers' the big deal on this one escapes some of us. A point made online before it was also made on a certain Boston TV program the other night.

Um, hum.

Understand this, though. The press has seen enough. It will act.

So while the Cheney and Bush crime syndicates steal everything in sight, waging wars of conquest abroad, stealing elections and the U.S. Treasury here. As they hand out patronage money and the public schools to any hallelujah peddler with an R after their name. As they dismantle the national parks and turn them into franchise operations for extraction industries we can rest easy. Even as the free press watches the Republican Party donate the internet to the telecom industry, the media can be counted on to provide protection. For their words. Their intellectual property at so-many-cents apiece, down to the most putrid swill issuing from the conservative nepotism newslets, will be made safe from those who would borrow them without attribution and compsensation.

Note: Officially, Al Gore pointing out, correctly, that he had a hand in founding the internet is over the top, the Republicans stealing it for their campaign contributors is just swell. Just for those who like to keep track of current ethics. Also note: Since on one gets killed, no one loses their pension and no wildlife habitat is destroyed in the act, plagiarism is a moderately naughty thing to do and at times actionable. This piece is not an invitation to commit crimes or violate the rights of authors to just compensation for their work. Since a "journalist" may read this I should point out that it is an invitation to the press to do their jobs.

A man who has himself as his editor has a blogger for a client.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

In light of the post below, I would like to point out that in my several years of posting on various websites I have always identified myself as a gay white male in late middle age who falls on the far left side of the political spectrum. And such I am.

I am, in fact, so far to the left that I want to see the agenda of the left made into law, put into effect and for the people at large to enjoy its results. That is the purpose of this blog, to try to find out what is possible and to do it.


Look at it from the position of a liberal to moderately liberal politician. They've done the hard work of winning an election. For liberals in most places just winning the office is proof of an enormous commitment to social change.

A politician has a lot of different constituents, supporters and those who would like to turn them out of office. In a district without a safe majority the office holder has to consider all potential supporters and opponents, trying to figure out how to please supporters and not anger the others sufficiently for the office to be lost. No politician out of office can make good political change. Even a moderately wishy-washy politician can sometimes do good in office. If only by preventing someone worse from holding the office. There are few Democratic politicians who do not believe that they are in it for the general good. It would be unwise for anyone who has fought a hard campaign to win office to act in ways they know will lose it to someone who is reliably worse. Few of ours are so stupid.

Given these facts, what can the left do to make itself a stronger factor. What can we do to change the situation? First, we can face the truth about the left's political weakness and its causes. Here are two examples.

Nader took on the mantle of the left in the last three presidential elections, two times with the support of the Green Party, explicitly a party to the left of the Democratic Party. He openly played spoiler and helped put the worst president in our history into office in 2000. In his typically modest fashion he claimed credit for electing Democrats lower down on the ballot while accepting no responsibility for the disaster he brought about. The exercise was an attempt to "move the agenda". Then he tried to do the same thing in 2004, well after any sane person could see how well that had "moved the agenda". Rational Greens had had enough of him by then but some Nader cultists formed a rump effort. Though less of a problem, they were certainly no help. In other races similar actions of "the left" have been less than helpful in the effort to prevent right wing hacks from taking office. I believe it was Ronnie Dugger who once commented on the folly of the race that had put John Tower into office. Given this personification of "the left" as back-stabbing spoiler, is it any wonder that Democrats who hold office would be somewhat ambivalent about working with "the left"?

Politics contain an agreement between the candidates and the people who support them. They promise to promote issues in the agenda of the people who put them into office. A politician has to hold office to do that, out of office they are powerless to make real change. Any politician knows that the entire agenda of their supporters won't be put into effect. And their supporters have to accept that as a given. Sometimes there are conflicts in what supporters want. Choices have to be made on the basis of possibility and practicality. Democrats in office have a good excuse to be skeptical of the support of "the left" even as they try to do what is impossible in the present situation of total Republican control, hold the gains of the past. The frankly bratty response of many leftists to just about anything Democrats do, even as they hopelessly support bills and amendments closer to what "the left" wants, must give our politicians pause. Given our recent history and the present situation "the left's" insisting, beyond any connection with reality, on having it all does nothing to help the situation. Anyone who doesn't start off realizing that we are not going to get more than a part of what we want should consider it now.

Any thinking leftist supports the right of gay people to marry. It is a personal right and a matter of equality and basic decency. But there isn't a single right people have, the exercise of which isn't conditioned by the situation they find themselves in. Many rights are impossible to exercise due to societal attitudes that take years or longer to change. That is a sad but plain truth. When the state court in Massachusetts forced the implementation of that right a lot of us knew it was a disaster for real progress on all issues, despite our agreeing with the decision. By that time it was clear that John Kerry was going to be the nominee and that this issue would be used by religio-fascists to defeat him, making it impossible to remove the worst president in our history. The rights of lesbians and gay men, not only to marry but in all areas, would be hurt around the country by this decision. And Bush staying in office would also hurt the rights of countless others. Even the decision of the court seemed to be a temporary victory and could be overturned by the voters, something that for the president seems to be less of a danger than it did then. Our fears about every other issue involved have turned out to be entirely true.

Short of the most drastic emergency, no politician in their right mind will attempt to do the impossible and end their career in the process. A few leftists in safe seats, almost all who happen to be in the congress, are ale to push items that would spell political death for more moderate politicians. They provide a service to the truth but their ability to do more that raise the issues is limited by the publics acceptance of them. Unlike the Supreme Court, or at least the long gone Warren court, the legislative branch can't go beyond the electorate's acceptance to do the right thing.

The supreme example, the Warren court's civil rights decisions, were obviously not that far ahead of the possible. Truman's integration of the army and the fact that it hadn't been destroyed by it must have given them the confidence to do what they knew was right. But even those decisions contained language that made the process much more gradual than it should have been. Black children always had the right to attend any school but it was not possible for them to exercise that right before conditions in the entire country allowed them to do so with some safety. Lesbians and gay men have had the right to marry for just as long but the conditions which will allow the exercise of that right are not here. The history of "marriage protection" laws around the country demonstrate that. It is worse than a waste of time to insist on our politicians falling on their swords over the issue. It prevents them from winning elections, doing part of what we want and so really "moving the agenda". The self-defeating attempt to force them to do the impossible deflects us from the hard work of laying the essential groundwork in the general public.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

NPR Watch

Good Lord Morning Edition, haven't you milked that Rocky Mountain Oysters story once too often?

To start with, there are two things about the Code of Liberal Ethics that bother me. One, that we are supposed to be entirely fair to everyone and especially in instances when that would put us at a disadvantage, will be dealt with later. The one I will deal with first is the assumption that liberals must get it right every time, not only right but correct. That liberals and leftists, such as myself, must be purer than pure or relegated to the tip, is something I'd better address right now in this first post.

I have no intention of getting it right every time. I begin with no expectation of getting it entirely right a plurality of the time. No guarantee of such is given or offered. I will not allow considerations of the possibility of failure from keeping me from action. On occasion I'll plow straight ahead if conditions seem to warrant it. I, friends, am the thoroughly bad sort and claim as mine, as the sacred possession of every liberal and leftist, the absolute right enjoyed by the rest of humanity to get it wrong. And not only this but I claim as the birthright of leftists to present our side of things to the advantage of our side. I have absolutely no intention to be fair to fascists either, but that's for another day and I hope that Nat Hentoff doesn't die before I get to it.

The Code of Liberal Ethics is a standard operating setting required in every organ of the media. It is applied without consideration, without thought, as a matter of habit. It is a solid state component of the minds of far too many liberals. It is a weapon used exclusively against liberals and leftists and is applied to no other segment of the political spectrum. Everyone, from mushy moderate to rabid fascist is allowed their failings and their biases. But not liberals. Certainly not leftists.

No more. Here, today, I issue our own manumission, my fellow leftists. We have shaken off the chains of perfection, we are free of the lash of faultlessness. We claim our right to consider our own opinions superior and worthy of dominance. Never again will we present the arguments of conservatives as if they merit equal treatment. We will scorn their folly and expose their lies and their entertaining hypocrisies without apology. We will get off our knees and kick every fascist where it counts. In all seriousness, our lives, the lives of our loved ones, the life of the biosphere absolutely depend on it. We must crush out of ourselves and our kind the remains of these mind forged manacles and wipe their residue from every voice and their assumed existence from every ban. Friends, we have nothing to fear. We are free.

Disclaimer: I make no pretense of being a journalist. At best, if someone wanted to insult me, they might claim me as a columnist, an unskilled occupation of which I do not claim to be a part. I would never want anyone to assume that I pretend to be a real journalist, a reporter.

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