Friday, March 10, 2006

A bird in the head is worth two in a bush.

Jacob Weiberg's inane piece in Slate on "The Three Stooges" of Pelosi, Reid and Dean has already been eviscerated by better than myself but I do find myself in agreement with one small portion of his screed. He writes "...But Democrats do not have a charismatic schemer like Newt Gingrich to lead the way. Instead, they have Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Howard Dean." Except for the "charismatic" reference to Newt (ick) the leadership of the Democratic party is laying the groundwork for a pending defeat from the jaws of victory of epic proportions in the 2006 mid-terms. This defeat won't come because Democratic leaders like Pelosi are too liberal ("...Washington's answer to Barbra Streisand") or because Dean's too angry ("...what he stands for in the minds of most people is incandescent rage and upscale socialism") but because they aren't too anything. They don't stand for a damn thing.

Matt Stoller on MyDD nailed the problem in a take-down of Pelosi's House Democratic Caucus:

A few weeks ago, Representative Louise Slaughter came out with a report called 'America for Sale' on the cost of Republican corruption. The link is no longer working, and I'll explain why in the next paragraph. The report itself was well done, and actually quantified the cost to taxpayers of what has been so obvious for so long, the looting of America by corrupted elites. The report elicited attacks from Republicans, who smeared Slaughter with charges that writing the report itself was an unethical use of taxpayer funds. Now, Louise Slaughter is a member of the House Rules Committee, so documenting the costs of corruption was completely reasonable. What is truly remarkable is that not one Democratic member stood by her. Not one issued a statement. No one from the progressive caucus - most of whom are in safe seats - came forward public to stand by their colleague. I'm sure there were pats on the back in private, but then, that's kind of the point.

And now, in a final insult, the report was removed from Pelosi's leader web site, apparently because of worries that the Republicans will file ethics charges against Pelosi for hosting it (it supposedly violates House Franking rules, which are incoherent and a huge mess and part of the tyranny of Republican rule in the House). Enough is enough. Whoever made the boneheaded decision in Pelosi's office is just out of touch. Leaders serious about ending corruption do not hang out to dry members who stand up against the looting of the country. Leaders serious about governing and wielding power do not scurry in hiding every time Republicans talk about ethics. They do not try to obey arbitrary incoherent rules that are written by Republicans and broken by the other side at will.

If Democrats win in 2006 (which is quite uncertain), Pelosi does not sound like she can do what is necessary to save this country. She acts like a small-minded summer camp councelor for spoiled Democratic members, and unless we are vigilant and aggressive this mindset is going to carry on over to whatever gains we make in 2006. Right now, there's this half-joke among Congresscritters that members don't speak in caucus meetings without first thanking everyone in the room. Members waste each others' time. Staffers are kept out of the loop, and lie to each other in vicious and pointless turf wars where the only goal is to get better offices. This diseased culture comes from years of being smacked around by Republicans, with little indignities like Republican Committee staffers getting better Blackberries and big indignities like Republicans changing rules whenever it suits them. The way to reverse this culture is to have leaders who do not back down.

There's something to be said for tradional political strategy best embodied by the phrase "giving one's opponent just enough rope to hang themselves." But if this is the strategy that Reid and Pelosi (I'll leave out Dean for the moment) are hoping will carry the party to victory this year then they really are on an extended trip to candyland with a stopover in leprechaun city. As has been demonstrated time and time again; if you give Karl Rove enough rope he'll use it to fashion a giant ropey weapon thing (I'm currently at a loss for metaphors) and beat you over the head with it. Not only have the leadership of the party blown signifigant political opportunities on issues like the Dubai ports deal or the NSA spying scandal but it's becoming clearer and clearer that the administration will move on Iran sometime this year and Pelosi and Reid had better get out in front of that or risk getting steamrolled yet again.

If they're not too busy spinning on the floor going "woo, woo, woo, woo, woo" and poking each other in the eyes, that is.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


If there's a line of reasoning that I could do without hearing ever again from our side of the political spectrum it would the lefty version of the butclintonism. Butclintonism, if you'll recall, is a Pavlovian response bred into Republicans from an early age and suffices as a get-out-of-jail-free card for conservatives who've painted themselves into a rhetorical corner in a political catfight. As conservatives, by definition, aren't the brightest of bulbs when it comes to presenting a reasonable argument butclintonism winds up getting more than it's fair share of use.

In the left's version of butclintonism the butclinton is usually thrown out as a counter to some or other mindless righty defense of President Bush's abuse of executive power. Generally it sounds something like this: "Sure the idea of the President being able to wiretap our phones without a warrant may sound fine, but would you trust the same power in the hands of a President Hillary?"

This would have been a perfectly logical approach to debate twenty years ago but it's pretty darn meaningless under today's rules of arguing politics. Ask a wingnut what they would do in the event of a Democratic President utilizing some of the authority Bush has seized during his tenure as President and they're probably telling themselves "Yeah, right, like THAT will happen. A Democratic President? Pshaw. Silly liberal." Or something along those lines.

The strange thing is that if you stop and think about it there are a lot of us here on the left that would agree. Because of voting irregularities and Diebold we'd join our conservative friend in rating the chances of another Democratic President getting elected up there with the chances of an alien invasion dropping down on Kansas City, or the discovery that Sasquatch is alive and well and selling auto insurance in Seattle, or that Governor Schwarzenegger has finally learned the correct pronunciation of the word "California."

But let's assume for the sake of argument that Hillary wins the Democratic nomination (itself an improbability as she supported the Iraq war-resolution but that's another issue) and beats John McCain and is sworn to office in January of 2009 facing a Republican controlled House and Senate. Could anyone seriously argue that the Republican Party wouldn't immediately have a very public epiphany along the lines of "Oh THAT constitution and rule of law. We thought you were saying 'rule of slaw' which didn't make sense because who wants to bow down to cabbage and mayonnaise?"

The reality is they'd pull all of the power Bush has accumulated faster than the time it takes K-Fed to knock up Brittany. They'd say NSA wiretapping was suddenly illegal and unconstitutional and a grave threat to the republic. They'd suddenly become proponents of congressional oversight of the executive. They'd actually hold hearings to investigate White House errors on intelligence or personal indiscretions. They'd advocate that the Senate may have a constitutional role in advice and consent on judicial nominations afterall. They'd do a complete philosophical 180 without batting an eye.

And if you tried to call them on it they butclinton you upside the head.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


The Senate Intelligence Committee voted not to investigate illegal NSA spying. No surprise. Olympia Snowe caved to administration pressure and voted against investigating. Again: no surprise.

I can't help but wonder how our "moderate" Democratic Senators would vote if the roles were reversed and it was a Democratic Administration that had proudly tossed out the constitution and thumbed it's nose at congress. Actually, I don't need to wonder. We saw how Lieberman and crew fell all over themselves to enable Republican investigations of Bill Clinton.

Now, with the tables turned, Olympia Snowe votes for cover-up. There's a lesson here once again for DLC/ moderate pussies: you can't fight a war with one hand tied behind your back.

The religion the Almighty and me worked out betwixt us.

Kevin Drum, Atrios and Digby all took turns yesterday whacking on Amy Sullivan's "When Would Jesus Bolt" article in the Washington Monthly. In her piece Sullivan presents an opportunity for the Democratic party with evangelical Christians focusing on environmental and economic issues. She argues that the numbers are there to affect real electoral change, especially in the purple states.

The reaction to Sullivan's thesis ranged from apathy (Drum) to quasi-agreement (Digby) to derision (Atrios.) For my own part I'd say I think the efforts to broaden the party are always a good thing as long as it doesn't entail the party sacrificing it's core values. Any attempt to accomodate evangelicals at the expense of the party's positions on abortion or homosexual rights, for example, will simply piss-off a good portion of the base and prove once again party leadership doesn't get it. We are tired of mealy-mouthed weenies representing us. We are tired of being taken for granted.

The Democratic party leadership often seems to forget that it doesn't have to remake the wheel when it comes to emphasizing religous values. The party has a long tradition of working for real social change in conjunction with religous leaders on labor issues, civil rights, social justice, etc. If the party wants to appeal to religous Americans they might emphasize more of this. Peace is the ultimate Christian value.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Cracking cheese, Gromit!

I was tickled to see Nick Park pull off an Oscar for "Wallace and Gromit: the Curse of the Were-Rabbit" last night. I've always enjoyed Wallace and Gromit. It's sweet, creative and a touch subversive. Some of the best children's entertainment out there.

Having not had the time to see any of the movies nominated for Best Picture I was excited about the show just the same. My main interest lie with watching Jon Stewart host. I'm a big "Daily Show" fan and wanted to see what Stewart could do on such a huge stage. He didn't disappoint although I have to say the live audience, with the exception of Jamie Foxx, seemed like a bunch of wet noodles. I'd always thought performers would be the last people that would have trouble with a put-down. Watching Joaquin Phoenix's sour expression when Stewart referred to "Walk the Line" as "Ray with white people" pretty much summed up Stewart's reception.

I am getting a kick out of all the Righties that were apocalyptic at the thought of Stewart hosting the awards finding him tolerable, even funny. Stewart's always seemed to me to be more of a Will Rogers ("I'm not a member of any organized political party -- I'm a Democrat") than a Michael Moore progressive. Stewart sees himself as someone who mocks the powerful. He rarely makes fun of the Democrats because they simply don't have any power. Indeed; he told Larry King in an interview last week that Democrats "... have 49% of the vote and 3% of the power. At a certain point you say guys, pick up your game." I don't doubt for a second that a President Kerry would be skewered nightly on the "Daily Show." I have a feeling even the seemingly humourless Kerry wouldn't have problem with that.

That is unless he'd just starred in movie as the irreplaceable Johnny Cash.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Look up, Hannah. Look up!

Chaplin got it. Sixty years ago and this is still just as relevant.

I'm sorry, but I don't want to be an emperor. That's not my business. I don't want to rule or conquer anyone.

I should like to help everyone if possible; Jew, Gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other's happiness, not by each other's misery. We don't want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone, and the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way.

Greed has poisoned men's souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge as made us cynical; our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.

The airplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men; cries out for universal brotherhood; for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women, and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people.

To those who can hear me, I say, do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish.

Soldiers! Don't give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you, enslave you; who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel! Who drill you, diet you, treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder. Don't give yourselves to these unnatural men - machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines, you are not cattle, you are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don't hate! Only the unloved hate; the unloved and the unnatural. Soldiers! Don't fight for slavery! Fight for liberty!

In the seventeenth chapter of St. Luke, it is written that the kingdom of God is within man, not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you! You, the people, have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.

Then in the name of democracy, let us use that power. Let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give youth a future and old age a security.

By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfill that promise. They never will! Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people.

Now let us fight to fulfill that promise. Let us fight to free the world! To do away with national barriers! To do away with greed, with hate and intolerance! Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men's happiness. Soldiers, in the name of democracy, let us all unite!

Hannah, can you hear me? Wherever you are, look up Hannah! The clouds are lifting! The sun is breaking through! We are coming out of the darkness into the light! We are coming into a new world; a kindlier world, where men will rise above their hate, their greed, and brutality. Look up, Hannah! The soul of man has been given wings and at last he is beginning to fly. He is flying into the rainbow! Into the light of hope, into the future! The glorious future, that belongs to you, to me and to all of us. Look up, Hannah. Look up!

Hello? Hello? Anybody home? Huh? McFly?

John Bolton's reign of error over the United Nation's Security Council ended last Thursday as Argentina took over the rotating Chairmanship. If you're not familiar with the story, Bolton made it a personal crusade to "run the Security Council like a business" and start the meetings promptly on time. He brought the gavel down on the start of his first meeting as Chairman to an empty chamber. It didn't sound like it got much better from that point on.

Of course Bolton was left trying to put the best face on his short, inconsequential tenure:

Bolton has described the U.S. campaign to reform the United Nations as an "irresistible force" pitted against an "immovable object."

Putting aside the concept that reforming the United Nations begins with punctuality, Bolton really is making this more complicated than it needs to be. He's an Ambassador from a country that's made itself a worldwide pariah in it's slapdash foreign policy who arrived at the U.N. without the support of congress through a recess appointment and sporting a reputation for being what is euphemistically referred to as "a colossal jerk."

It could be that the reason delegates couldn't show up on time to the Security Council meetings because they had busy schedules. There could be cultural reasons for the tardiness.

Most likely they were just dissing him.