This is the Archive site for Firedoglake. To go to the main site please click on the following link

Saturday, March 11, 2006

FDL Late Nite: Yes, We Scare the Shit Out of Them

The NYT review of Crashing the Gates is dead on:
The netroots' power comes from the same network effect that made eBay a retailing phenomenon. Far-flung political activists now join together on sites like, and inject themselves into matters that used to be settled behind closed doors. The netroots helped make Mr. Dean head of the Democratic National Committee, over several establishment candidates. Now, they are backing Ned Lamont in a primary challenge to Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, who is about as popular among liberal bloggers as a computer virus.

Much of the authors' criticism of the party establishment is dead-on. They rail against political consultants who take 15 percent commissions on media buys while giving bad advice. They are especially incensed by what they see as the self-defeating role of special interests, notably Naral Pro-Choice America's decision to endorse Senator Lincoln Chafee, a Rhode Island Republican, over two pro-abortion-rights Democrats. If Mr. Chafee wins, he could ensure that the Republican Party, which has an aggressive anti-abortion agenda, keeps control of the Senate.

To solve the consultant problem, the authors urge more hires from outside the Washington Beltway and lower fees. To rein in special interests, they point to two successful models. In Colorado, a few wealthy donors called in the groups before the 2004 election and prodded them to cooperate. Ken Salazar was elected senator, one of only two Democratic pick-ups. In Montana, Brian Schweitzer threw out the interest groups' questionnaires and spoke directly to Montana voters. The same day that Montanans gave President Bush 59 percent of their votes, they elected Mr. Schweitzer governor.

For all the talk about having to crash gates, the netroots are well on their way to becoming insiders. Mr. Armstrong is an adviser to the political action committee of Mark Warner, a leading candidate for president in 2008. When dailykos holds an offline convention this June in Las Vegas, Harry Reid, the Senate minority leader, will be a speaker.

The Democratic establishment could not hold the netroots back even if it wanted to. Their ability to raise money, recruit volunteers and shape the debate will make them indispensable. (my emphasis)
The GOP understands the power of the blogs and works agressively with them. The Democrats are terrified of us and generally see us as an extremely threatening presence. Witness the completely patronizing way that Jay Rockefeller's office dealt with Glenn Greenwald. If you were really interested in getting some popular support for investigating the illegal NSA wiretaps, wouldn't you want that guy on your side? He doesn't cost you a dime, he knows his shit and everyone's listening to him.

Christ almighty if he wrote that persuasively in favor of banning abortion or staying in Iraq Patrick Ruffini would have his baby.


Explain This One To Me, John

More Republicans with values:
The California Democratic Party is asking for an investigation of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Senator John McCain for alleged violations of campaign finance law.

The allegations center on a scheduled March 20th fund-raiser in Beverly Hills in which donors have been asked to contribute up to 100 thousand dollars for the governor and the state Republican Party. McCain is the featured speaker at the event.

At issue is whether McCain's appearance violates restrictions on federal officeholders taking part in events that solicit political funds.

Ironically, McCain is being accused of violating a law he helped write.
I never really understood how McCain could go home and explain his unapologetic Bush love to his Bangladeshi-born daughter. You know, the one Bush tried to smear in the South by saying she was McCain's own illegitimate African American child (at least according to McCain's campaign manager).

I guess once you get over a hurdle like that, anything's possible.


Judy, Judy, Judy

I was told last year that Vanity Fair was eagerly courting Judy Miller to write an article for them about her Traitorgate odyssey. According to today's Editor and Publisher, it doesn't seem they were able to get her and instead had to settle for her friend and apologist Marie Brenner (who also helped organize Judy's farewell dinner before she was shipped off to eagerly embrace her martyrdom).

Brenner comes off as a lightweight who doesn't really understand what she's writing about and accepts a rather unsophisticated "journalists vs. bloggers" paradigm hook, line and sinker.

According to Greg Mitchell:
One interesting exchange occurred when Bill Keller, New York Times executive editor, allegedly told Miller back in 2003 that she would have to quit reporting from Iraq because she had become "“radioactive". "You can see it on the blogs." Miller claims she replied, "“Why do you give a shit about the blogs? They do not know anything."” (Brenner relates that Keller disputes this, saying he'’s "pretty sure" he never said any such thing.)

Then she quotes Miller complaining about the lack of editing on the blogs and that sometimes "“slanderous"” attacks on her appear there. But, actually, she is more "“appalled"” by her colleagues "“who believed what they read on the blogs."”

But as time passed, Miller could not escape the blogs, principally Huffington, even though her attorney Floyd Abrams says, "“No one takes this stuff seriously, do they?"” At another point he refers to "the defamation that was running on the blogs."

The article recounts a scene where another lawyer visits Miller in jail and hands her a clip from Huffington, saying, "“You are going to be upset with this."” In view of that attorney, Arianna Huffington and other bloggers were "“passing off speculation as fact" or engaging in "“pure character assassination."” This was a problem because, as Brenner writes, Huffington's blog was "“steadily gaining heft"” and had "“become must reading for the media."

This became particularly troubling when "people at the Times appeared to be talking to Huffington."

Brenner then quotes famed investigator Lowell Bergman as claiming that Huffington'’s idea that Miller was a White House collaborator "“was a fantasy fed by the deep animosity of people toward Judy."
"People at the Times appeared to be talking to Huffington?" Yeah and anyone else who would listen. Judy was loathed by the people she trampled on during her tenure at the Times, people who had to suck it up and take the heat for her crap reporting. She castigates the blogs for passing off speculation as fact? She led the fucking country into war with her quote-unquote "reporting" about non-existent WMDs and then breezily gave herself a pass because her sources misled her (so she says). She makes even the most lowly, conspiracy-theory laden blogger look Pulitzer worthy when compared to what she calls journalism. Blog traffic soars expressly because she is the poster girl for everything that's wrong with traditional media right now.

Judy may have been "appalled" by what people were saying on the blogs, but even our earliest and wildest speculations on the role she played in the outing of Valerie Plame couldn't begin to compare to the reality of the cozy, accomodating relationship she had with the Administration. If she doesn't like the allegations being made about her in the blogs she might want consider the fact that we were only repeating the words of Bill Keller and Maureen Dowd, who all but said she was fucking Scooter Libby. Or the fine people at New York Magazine, who did come out and say she did her reporting with her legs in the air. Nary a blogger in the bunch.

Brenner does get one thing right. The people at the Times were glued to the blogs -- specifically Arianna -- and rubbing their hands together with glee, cackling as they watched Judy finally being held to account for the mountain of bullshit she'd been shoveling for years. If Arianna hadn't taken her on, Judy probably would probably still be working at the Times as if nothing had happened.

Everybody who covered Plame made mistakes as we tried to feed new bits of information into the equation, but relatively little of that happened with regard to Miller. If you go back and read emptywheel's Judy Miller series, definitely the Miller bible in the blogosphere, it holds up remarkably well. Judy was, is and continues to be full of shit and if anyone can find an allegation that was worse than anything she actually did I'd sure love to see it.


The Many Faces of John McCain

Jamison Foser has a very good piece up at Media Matters right now about how the press fawns over John McCain, always looking for the favorable angle even as they let him skate on stuff for which they'd throw a Democrat on the barbecue:
Take, for example, the article Reuters ran about a forthcoming Vanity Fair article in which former Republican lobbyist and admitted felon Jack Abramoff disclosed that he "worked closely with many top Republicans, despite their claims to the contrary." The Vanity Fair article includes this passage:
"Mr. Abramoff flatters himself," Mark Salter, McCain's administrative assistant, tells [Vanity Fair contributing editor David] Margolick. "Senator McCain was unaware of his existence until he read initial press accounts of Abramoff's abuses, and had never laid eyes on him until he appeared before the committee."

Abramoff says, "As best I can remember, when I met with him, he didn't have his eyes shut. I'm surprised that Senator McCain has joined the chorus of amnesiacs."
The Reuters article about the Vanity Fair piece began: "Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff said in the latest issue of Vanity Fair magazine that he worked closely with many top Republicans, despite their claims to the contrary."

Yet Reuters didn't mention John McCain at all, focusing instead on comparatively insignificant Republicans like Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) and Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman. The Vanity Fair passage about McCain perfectly fit the premise of the Reuters article -- it shows Abramoff contradicting McCain's claim, through a spokesman, that he had never met Abramoff. If Abramoff is telling the truth, we've learned two things: McCain has ties to one of the most corrupt lobbyists ever to walk the earth, and he's lying about it. McCain is among the most famous Republicans in America, and a leading contender for the party's 2008 presidential nomination.

Yet Reuters omitted any mention of him from its article. Does anyone believe, even for a moment, that any other political figure of McCain's stature -- say, Hillary Clinton or John Kerry -- would have been the recipient of this kind of favorable treatment?
McCain would've signed that South Dakota abortion bill too, despite his carefully parsed caveat about taking "appropriate steps under state law -- in whatever state -- to ensure that the exceptions of rape, incest or life of the mother were included." But that's not what people are hearing from the Tweety's of the world who shut their ears to anything that might tie McCain to an extremely unpopular piece of legislation.

If John McCain is going to be beaten in 2008, cracking open the McCain myth has to start now. One of the ways we built up this blog was to take an issue people were really interested in, Traitorgate, and really dig into it such that we became one of the go-to places for Plame info. If I were going to pick an issue today that could virtually guarantee someone all the links they could eat -- and I don't mean just from us, I mean from all over the blogosphere -- it would be following McCain, digging into his history and covering what he does in depth on a day-to-day basis. Every blog can't cover every issue every day so when something arises you just naturally look to the person who makes it their business to be informed on that particular topic. McCain is already running for 2008, and as of yet there is no significant blog presence mobilizing against him.

Anyone who was willing to put the time in and do it well would have themselves a very large audience in a relatively short period of time, IMHO.

Update: As Atrios notes, McCain's stunt at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference was extremely stupid. He regularly gets away with mistakes like this because nobody really holds him to account. There is plenty of fertile ground for McCain posts; he is hardly the boyscout he pretends to be.


More Joke Line

Now that the Dubai Ports World deal is dead, I guess it's time to admit that Joe Klein was right to be concerned about the massive waves of violence that would be triggered upon its demise. The Islamic world has arisen as one to fulfill the prophesies of people like Klein who suddenly developed such sensitivity to the tender feeling of those they couldn't be bothered to defend when people like Ann Coulter call them "ragheads." We should've listened to them.

Oh wait, sorry, Kobe's been chewing the remote again and I was watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Klein was wrong about this and everything else he's ever opened his mouth to say about Iraq. Joe just didn't fathom that people who become enraged at desecrations to the Koran really couldn't be bothered to take to the streets and kill each other as the result of a slight to a few robber barron sheikhs.

No the violence occurring in the Middle East right now can, in large part, be placed at the feet of addled thinkers like Klein who continue to parade before the cameras pimping for war and pontificating on this shit despite having proven time and time again that they have no fucking clue what they are talking about.

Thanks, CNN.


Roots Pennsylvania, Day II

We got a great turnout for our Roots action Pennsylvania yesterday. A lot of people are appropriately angry about the Intelligence Committee's illegal NSA wiretap face flop and looking to let someone hear about it, and that someone might as well be Arlen Specter -- who can actually do something about it.

Lots of good posts:
Pennsylvania bloggers Chris at Rowhouse Logic, Lambert at Corrente and palady at The Lady Speaks
eRiposte at The Left Coaster
Smitheus at Daily Kos
John at Crooks & Liars
As the eloquent Pastor Dan says:
What we're trying to do is leverage the social network of blogs to coordinate citizen response to elected officials on important issues.

Whew. That's a mouthful. We're trying to find new ways for you to write to your Senators and Representatives, or to write letters to the editor for their benefit. It works, it really does.

Shorter short version: we're trying to create a "virtuous mob."
The list of Pennsylvania papers can be found here, and as Dan reminds us, it helps to live in the area but sometimes papers will run letters from outside writers.

A list of phone numbers for Specter's offices can be found here.

Memorandum covered the Roots project as well, the Hotline Blogometer has written about it on several occasions and I did an interview about it yesterday for In These Times. I think people intuitively realize how effective this can be and that effectiveness only increases with each person who's willing to pick up a phone or work that keyboard.


Friday, March 10, 2006

Late Nite FDL: We're Baaack!!!

Well at least I am anyway. Reddhedd is on a Red Eye tonight and will be back in West Virginia tomorrow. It was quite the whirlwind trip.

We spent yesterday with Kos, Matt Stoller of MyDD, John Aravosis of AmericaBlog, Ian Welsh of BOP, Maryscott O'Connor of My Left Wing, Adam Green of MoveOn and author Roberto Lovato as guests of Working Assets in a workshop on media training. Gawd if there is anything more painful than standing up in front of people and speaking it can only be having a camera trained on you at the same time but we had fun, ate really good food, swapped war stories and learned much. I also got to have an eventful dinner with Swopa but more on that later.

I had to fly back to Oregon this morning but Redd stuck around to give her credit cards a workout and have a reader/blogger coffee with John Aravosis and Maryscott. John blogged about it here and our good friend Steve Rhodes took photos and posted them on Flickr. Redd's the one in the blue shirt and (surprise) red hair. Isn't she a beauty?

I'm still catching up but in the meantime lots of people are getting their copies of Crashing the Gates so if you're inclined to share your thoughts on the topic go over to Amazon and write a review or simply vote for the ones that are already there (I put mine up but it probably won't be on the site until tomorrow). Kos is going to be on Stephen Colbert on March 22 (I think) so political blogging should be in the news quite shortly in a meaningful way, as opposed to a thoroughly useless Hugh Hewitt wanky way.

Thanks so very much to Watertiger, Steve, Taylor, Greg, Scott and Pach for the superlative guest posting they did, and to everyone who was on troll patrol. We really appreciate the fine care you took of our wonderful readers and commenters and never worried for a minute that the blog was in anything but the best of hands.

Happy to be back on the beach with the dogs. Oh and I flashed Aravosis (not that he cared).

Did I miss anything?


"You can't spell 'tyrant'

without I-R-A-N."

AP/Charles Dharapak

U.S. President George W. Bush has called Iran an issue of "grave national security concern" but said he wanted a diplomatic solution to the Islamic republic's nuclear ambitions.

Yeah, where have we heard THAT before? At least he's not advocating the Felafel O'Reilly approach . . . yet.

I'd like to take this moment to thank you FDL readers for being so kind to the substitutes over the past three days. It's been a real pleasure sharing these pages with you.

And thanks again to Jane and ReddHedd!


After SD Part III: The Best Defense of Reproductive Freedom Is A Good Offense

Image hosting by Photobucket

The New State Logo.

Molly Saves the Day has 20 questions for those who allege that abortion is "baby killing." Ask them to most "pro-lifers," of course, and I'm sure you'll re-discover what you should already know: the number of anti-choicers who believe (or, at least, are willing to act in ways logically consistent with) their alleged premises could fit in a walk-in closet. And, of course, even the few who take a coherent position face the problem that criminal bans on abortion are highly unpopular. And, moreover, to Republican elites the optimal policy is not so much "abortion should be illegal" as "abortion should be illegal, but no quite so illegal that my daughter wouldn't be able to get one." (Because of the way abortion bans are actually enforced in practice, though, even an outright ban in most states can produce this outcome.)

For supporters of reproductive freedom, however, the problem is that American anti-choicers are as clever as they are illogical and unprincipled. They've constructed a very careful strategy of piecemeal regulations that have little impact on affluent women (but, cumulatively, seriously restrict abortion access for women who are poor, in rural areas, and/or in unstable familial relationships) and are politically palatable. And, to go along with this, they're currently in the courts trying to make it much more difficult to challenge these regulations. If this strategy succeeds, it would allow states to construct baffling obstacle courses without paying the political price of banning abortion, and would also have the perverse result of making the grossly inequitable effects of these regulations an argument in favor of their constitutionality. But as important as this legal strategy is, it's very difficult to explain why it matters. While it's almost impossible to defend these policy outcomes normatively, as pure politics it's very hard to counter, and in many cases it's hard to make it clear to the public what's at stake.

Which is the one potential silver lining of the appalling South Dakota law. It has the potential to blow their "reasonable regulation" cover, and make clear what will happen in many states if Roe is overturned: bans on abortion (albeit bans that inexplicably exclude women from punishments, don't have sanctions for doctors logically consistent with the idea that abortion is "baby-killing", etc.) Publius explains:

I'd actually go a couple steps further. I would ask every single Republican candidate up for re-election in 2006: "Do you support imprisoning doctors for performing abortions following rapes, as South Dakota’s new law demands?" If they hid behind the rape exception, then you could follow up with Oliver’s question about whether doctors should be thrown in jail for performing abortions more generally.

The combination of the Alito and Roberts confirmations along with the South Dakota law is, I think, a watershed moment in the abortion wars. The South Dakota law in particular should serve as a wake-up call to the pro-choice movement that its tactics aren’t working and that it needs to make some changes in its long-term strategy. To develop Oliver’s point, if I were a consultant, I would recommend that the pro-choice movement make two major changes: (1) It should shift its emphasis from a defensive legal strategy to an offensive political strategy; (2) It should shift the debate away from abortion itself – and the abstract questions of when life begins – and focus on crime and punishment. In other words, the movement should aim to make an abstract debate more concrete by focusing on criminal sanctions and the imprisonment of doctors and women.

The importance of this insight would be hard to overstate. The South Dakota law is a political opportunity, presenting the chance to make it clear that they mean it: not about abortion being "baby-killing," of course, but about criminalizing abortion as a way of inscribing the reactionary sexual mores of the GOP base into law. But opportunities are not self-executing: pro-choicers have to make it work. And this, ultimately, is what's so frustrating about the Saletan approach. Even before this pro-choicers already had many opportunities, starting with the fact that the national Republican Platform endorses a constitutional amendment that would make abortion first-degree murder in all 50 states. When was the last time you heard a Democratic politician mention that, even though maximizing the public's knowledge of their opponent's most unpopular positions would seem to be Politics 101? Instead, taking the advice of people like Saletan they accept the debate as it has been arbitrarily carved up by disingenuous pro-lifers, getting in sucked into ludicrous ginned-up non-issues like the "partial-birth" nonsense. The Republicans have been masterful about playing both ends, and keeping the debate focused on tangential side issues. The way to counteract this is not to go along with the existing discourse, but to change the terms of the debate, to make clear what Republicans want to do and put the debate in terms of keeping abortion legal, where public opinion massively favors the Democrats. The draconian (and illegal) actions of the South Dakota legislature provide an excellent frame for making this clear, but the Democrats need to start playing some offense.

[Cross-posted to L, G & M.]


Closing the barn door...

um, not THAT one.

Pointing to the experiences of developing countries and formerly Communist countries, where interference with an independent judiciary has allowed dictatorship to flourish, O’Connor said we must be ever vigilant against those who would strong-arm the judiciary into adopting their preferred policies. It takes a lot of degeneration before a country falls into dictatorship she said, but we should avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings.

Hey, Sandra, about that decision you and the majority made back in 2000 -- you know, the one that appointed Bush king? Let me guess. You're not feeling too good about it now, are you?

Atrios has more.


Roots Pennsylvania

Now that the Senate Intelligence Committee has caved like a bad souffle and voted not to investigate the illegal NSA wiretaps it's time to put some serious pressure on Arlen Specter, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. We need Pennsylvanians to write letters to the editors of every major Pennsylvania paper and call Specter in his DC offices to demand real oversight of the NSA wiretapping program by the Judiciary Committee.

Local blog PSoTD has a great post up about this effort this morning. Glenn Greenwald and Anonymous Liberal have been doing a superb job covering the major points of this matter so if you need a talking points refresher you can find it at Unclaimed Territory. And Pastor Dan and rkrider have put together a terrific newspaper contact list at which they will be continually updating, so if you're from Pennsylvania or have a reasonable tie to the state and feel qualified to write a personal appeal please do so. Therisites2 at VichyDems also has Specter's office contact info.

Local blog PSoTD has a great post

I'll be home tonight, thanks to everyone for taking such good care of the blog while we've been gone. If anyone needs to do their good deed for the day they can certainly chalk one up by giving Arlen Specter something to think about.


The Chickenhawk in Winter

Nearly four out of five Americans, including 70 percent of Republicans, believe civil war will break out in Iraq — the bloody hot spot upon which Bush has staked his presidency. Nearly 70 percent of people say the U.S. is on the wrong track, a 6-point jump since February.

"Brother, can you spare a few percentage points?"


OT - Atrios points out this spot-on quote about the Preznit from Graydon Carter:

He speaks to the audience as if they're idiots. I think the reason he does that is because that's the way these issues were explained to him.


Thursday, March 09, 2006

Getcher Hot Links! Late Nite FDL Edition

Image hosting by Photobucket

Since I have a new audience, and many of you may not read all of the stuff I do, a few things of interest from around the intarweb (plus a thread for any night owls out there):

  • More evidence for Barney Frank's dictum that for Republicans, life begins at conception and ends at birth. (Although, in fairness, they now seem to think that life begins again when your cerebral cortex is liquefied.)
  • Once you've compared Charles Johnson to Van Gogh, I think you're several trillion light years beyond self-parody.
  • Earlier today, I mentioned my skepticism about Robert Casey Jr. both on the merits and in terms of the politics. I don't know enough about Pennsylvania politics to comment on his challengers, but eRobin of Factesque has lots of great stuff in support of one of his challengers, Chuck Pennachio.
  • The Ezra awards! All 3 blogs he recommends are outstanding. (See Laura here, for example, noting some innumerate pro-war hackwork passed on uncritically by Glenn Reynolds, and here on blogs and elections.
  • After a similar case ended in an acquittal, it's good that there was a just outcome in the horrifying OC rape case. (Via Fantasy Life.) Background on the case (including remarkably misogynist conduct by the defense attorney--who relentlessly slandered a young woman repeatedly assaulted while unconscious) here.
  • And the wingnut drive to invade Iran gains steam, although exactly what we'll attack them with our troops in an endlessly wasteful quagmire in Iraq remains unspecified.
  • And, finally,World O' Crap on fraudulent war profiteering (and--of course--less-than-zealous enforcement at the DOJ.)


Late Nite FDL: What You Can Do. . . NOW

Last night I wrote about social movements and how they develop. That's all well and good, but social movements don't develop on their own. The part left out of last night's discussion was how you can make our progressive movement successful over the long haul.

Social movements unfold through the power of social networks. My training is in psychology. I know all human change happens in the context of relationships. As a student of social change and personal influence, I know the most powerful, influential people are those who have diverse social networks.

What does that mean?

Let me put it to you this way: You regulary interact with a pretty stable number of the same people every week. That's your core social network. Some people have networks of people who mostly don't even know each other. Some people occupy worlds of closed networks, where most of the people in their core group all also know each other.

It turns out the people who have the most influence - the most ability to "infect" others with new ways of thinking - are those with diverse networks. And furthermore, the more "loose" contacts you have with people, the more influential you can be as well. I can see that in my life: I can more easily persuade people who know me as an acquaintance than I can my partner, who certainly has his own way of thinking, thank you very much!

The big job we in the netroots have from here on out is to move beyond our closed networks in real life to meet new people. We need to get involved in something that is different, where we can talk to, work with and get to know others we do not know today. The beliefs and biases of most voters form long before election season starts.

What are your interests? Join a baking club. Better yet, get involved in local politics or political parties. That's what the fundamentalists did. They literally stopped preaching to the choir and got involved in local councils and school boards. That's how they built their movement, bit by bit, until they became the voting engine of the Republican Crime Syndicate and got the two Supreme Court judges they wanted.

We are often accused of speaking to each other in an echo chamber, and sometimes it's true. But more and more, netroots activists are pushing to have an impact in the real world. The joint effort arising partly from this site to coordinate local letters to the editor targeting specific senators is a case in point. Those efforts, and others like them, are just the baby steps, just the beginnings of the work we have ahead of us. They are great, but we need more.

Writing letters, sending faxes, calling representatives, contributing money. . . these are all good and necessary things. But we become exponentially more powerful when we can build relationships with those who eventually might jump in with us when we ask them to. We can still congregate online to get fresh information and up-to-date news. But that's not enough: we need to make new friends offline.

Some of you may be scared to venture out that way. But we can coordinate here and share stories and tips with each other, encouraging each other, helping each other maximize our impact. Heck, I'll be glad to pitch in. I coach executives, and I'll be glad to coach activists. You won't be in this alone.

I get frustrated when I hear people make comments about how hopeless the Dems are or how hopeless political trends are, in their view. I take a back seat to no one in pressuring the Dems, as I think my writings demonstrate. But matters are not hopeless if we (you!) act.

I'm more loyal to a progressive movement and its ideals than I am to the Democratic Party, but I know there's no way to have an effective progressive movement without pushing and infiltrating the Democratic Party, bit by bit, year after year. That means making tough choices.

I don't expect newly announced Dem senatorial candidate Webb will be very strong on gay issues, and here in Virginia, my family lives under a particularly nasty apartheid-like system of family law. Gay issues are very personal and important to me, believe me. But those issues will fare better with a Majority Leader Reid and Dems chairing all the senate committees than they will with George Allen and the GOP Crime Syndicate in charge. What's more, a damaged Georga Allen from a tough campaign is a weakened presidential candidate.

As tempting as it will be to sit the Virginia senate race out, I'm going to pitch in. If he's elected, I'll hold Webb's feet to the fire later. Gay issues can't even come to a vote in a Republican held senate. And with Webb, we can probably do better on health care, Iraq and a host of other issues that may not affect me as directly, but which affect us all a lot. Being part of a progressive movement means banding together with your allies to be successful, rather than be picked off and steamrolled separately due to the purity of our devotion to our most personal causes.

I sympathise with those who have little stomach for these kinds of compromises. These compromises are peronal, and for many, they are painful. But I also think it's fair to say this: if you're not willing to take action, then don't complain. If you don't act, don't waste anyone else's time with your negativity.

The rest of us have work to do.

We hope you'll join us.

Graphic by Pachacutec


Attention: Senate Democrats

Don't Be So Fucking Polite!

The Senate is a funny place.

And I don't mean "funny" as in boogers flying, laugh-your-ass-off funny.

Collegiality and all that. People who hate each other - and I mean HATE each other - refer each other as "My good friend. . ." or as "The Gentlelady from (fill in the state)." On the inside, they're all roller derby eye scratchers, but on the outside, they satisfy Church Lady Brady's Rules for Pleasant Cocktail Chatter®.

Now, I understand and appreciate Senate tradition, and the importance of respectful dialogue in the halls where political opponents come together to govern a diverse nation.

But, dear Senate Dems, have you noticed that your "friends" across the aisle don't give a flying fuck about working with you? Have you noticed they don't give a flying fuck about governing? Or about the public good? Have you noticed they are fucking currupt as shit? Is my swearing fucking bothering you?

Excuse me while I douche my mouth.

Enough already with being polite when it means the president asserts the right to ignore the fucking law and the Constitution.

From Glenn Greenwald:

No matter how strong of an immunity one thinks one has constructed against being shocked and disgusted by the acts of national Democrats, it always turns out that it's never actually strong enough. On Tuesday, after the Intelligence Committee vote not to investigate the President's illegal eavesdropping on Americans, Sen. Rockefeller angrily said that the Committee was "under the control" of the White House.

What a difference a day makes. Here is the description from The New York Times of what Sen. Rockefeller did yesterday:

But on Wednesday, the Democratic vice chairman of the committee, Senator John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, issued a conciliatory statement, saying that while he favored a full investigation, a committee decision on Tuesday to appoint a seven-member subcommittee to oversee the N.S.A. eavesdropping was "a step in the right direction."
This is not the only example of senatorial sqeamishness we've seen. Even former boxer Harry Reid has succumbed, after he wrote this (emphasis added):

I have been in public service for over 40 years and never been as disillusioned as I am today. In 1977, I was appointed chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission. It was a difficult time for the gaming industry and Las Vegas, which were being overrun by organized crime.

During the next few years, there would be threats on my life, FBI stings and even a car bomb placed in my family's station wagon. What is happening today in Washington is every bit as corrupt as when Las Vegas was run by the mob, but the consequences for our country are worse.

These Republicans have created the most corrupt government in our history. Their "K Street Project" is a shakedown machine that would make the mafia blush. We cleaned up Las Vegas, and we will clean up Washington DC.

Enough with the Queensberry Rules, people. If you stand together, speak the truth and risk insult (gasp!) to your fucking criminal brethren, the voters will respect you.

And then we can fucking win.

Update: I'm not saying Senators should swear at each other. I'm swearing like a sailor here for rhetorical, dramatic effect. I just want them to speak the truth plainly, bluntly, even when it stings and "poisons" the air in the Senate.

This is one of those periods in history when being blunt will work for you politically. But you have to agree to do this together. When you leave one of your own stuck out there ahead of the crowd, you let the other side brand him or her as an angry lunatic.

Howard Dean's candor does not hurt you. But when you leave him out there to draw fire without backing him up and defending him, you hurt the party. When the establishment Dem consultants tell you not to look weak, well, in spite of their timid counsel, this is how you do it.

Graphic by Pachacutec


BushCo., Inc. - Where Every Day is Groundhog Day.

Despite Hoelscher’s apparent total lack of professional management or security experience, the press release announcing his appointment praises his qualifications and claims he will now be providing “strategic counsel” to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff...

"Well, he knows how to use email."

REUTERS/Linda Spiller


After South Dakota Pt. II: Stand Up For Roe

Image hosting by Photobucket

Drink to his health.

As most of you know, pro-life rhetoric in the U.S. is, more than anything, focused on diversion, using the language of states' rights or "reasonable regulations" to advance their agenda of banning abortion entirely. Perhaps the most common strategy is to argue that "everyone knows" that Roe is wrong, and therefore everyone should agree that it's illegitimate (although, mysteriously, this rhetoric temporarily vanishes when a Supreme Court confirmation hearing is in progress.) It's important for pro-choicers to understand that most of these claims about Roe are false. In the course of his celebration of South Dakota's legislature using illegal means to compel young women to give birth to their own sisters, Captain Ed offers a typical example, arguing that "[n]o one these days defends the basic legal framework of Roe, with even Justice Ruth Ginsburg noting its legal flaws." First of all, is it true that "nobody" defends the "basic legal framework of Roe? Sadly, no! (TM) As Justice Stevens pointed out while explaining the egregious unconstitutionality of the cutting-edge anti-choice diversionary technique of passing irrational bans of what they call (using a scientifically meaningless term) "partial birth abortions":

Justice Ginsburg and Judge Posner have, I believe, correctly diagnosed the underlying reason for the enactment of this legislation–a reason that also explains much of the Court’s rhetoric directed at an objective that extends well beyond the narrow issue that this case presents. The rhetoric is almost, but not quite, loud enough to obscure the quiet fact that during the past 27 years, the central holding of Roe v. Wade has been endorsed by all but 4 of the 17 Justices who have addressed the issue. That holding--that the word "liberty" in the Fourteenth Amendment includes a woman’s right to make this difficult and extremely personal decision–-makes it impossible for me to understand how a State has any legitimate interest in requiring a doctor to follow any procedure other than the one that he or she reasonably believes will best protect the woman in her exercise of this constitutional liberty.

And who are the judges who joined or voted to affirm a holding that every reactionary call center manager in the country knows to be indisputably wrong? These radical Trotskyites include 3 of Nixon's 4 appointments, Ford's only appointment, 2 of St. Reagan's 3 appointments, and 1 out of the first Bush's 2 appointments. That's one far-reaching conspiracy to subvert the law! Morrissey also is highly misleading about Ginsburg's argument. Ginsburg never disputed the correctness of the holding in Roe; she just argued it would have been preferable to decade the case on equal protection grounds. It's true that most people have serious criticisms about the quality of Blackmun's opinion in the case--I certainly wish that the opinion had been more along the lines of Douglas' opinion in Doe or Stevens' devastating rebuttal of White in Thornburgh--but the fact that an opinion doesn't exhibit perfect craftsmanship (which is hardly unusual, even among landmark opinions) is not to say that the outcome of the case is wrong. So why does Morrissey think that the opinion is indefensible? In an earlier post, he says:

And in all honesty, Roe was bad jurisprudence, no matter what one thinks of the outcome. The reasoning behind Roe allows any Supreme Court at any time to declare anything unconstitutional, as long as five jurists can find an emanation from a penumbra of a out-of-context piece of text that may or may not have anything to do with the issue at hand. It certified a procedure that should have a fancy name in Latin, but it would nonetheless mean "making it up as we go along". Without a doubt, the South Dakota legislature would not have attempted to do this ten years ago with the composition of the Supreme Court at that time, but now they feel they have as receptive a panel as they are likely to ever have.

First of all, as many of you know the "penumbras and emanations" language appears nowhere in Roe v. Wade. While the decision cites Griswold (the case where the language actually appears), Blackmun's analysis (such as it is) relies not on Douglas' majority opinion but on the due process reasoning of the concurrence written by Warren Court house conservative John Marshall Harlan. This helps to clarify what Morrissey and so many armchair critics of Roe are up to. He is not making the perfectly reasonable "pull the thread" argument against Roe, which accepts that court's decades-long recognition of a fundamental right to privacy but simply argues that it does not apply in the particular case of abortion. Rather, he's saying that any structurally inferred right to privacy is nonsensical. In other words, to Captain Ed, forced abortions, forced sterilization, bans on the use of contraception--all perfectly legitimate exercises of state power because the Constitution does not prohibit them in exactly those words. He's welcome to this view, but to claim that virtually nobody disagrees with him is ridiculous.

And so, of course, as I explained in excessive detail last year (1, 2, 3) Morrissey's claim that "The reasoning behind Roe allows any Supreme Court at any time to declare anything unconstitutional" is just ahistorical nonsense. Reasonable people can disagree, but to argue that applying long-established rights involving educating children, forced sterilization and contraception to the directly related area of abortion provides unlimited judicial power is silly. The holding in Roe is a perfectly logical application of precedents that are well-established, and there's no reason for pro-choicers to be defensive about it.

And, of course, under the second Bush administration the accusations of "judicial activism" (i.e. "judgifying I don't like") ring especially hollow. It's not just that the conservatives on the Rehnquist strike down more acts of Congress than any Court since the New Deal, or have no problem playing in the penumbras and emanations of the 11th Amendment in order to assert that the state universities have legal immunities similar to those of 17th century British monarchs. There's the decision that put George Bush in the White House. The completely indefensible Bush v. Gore 1)was entirely unprecedented, 2)involved a majority putting narrow partisan interests ahead of long-held legal principles (including two justices who read the equal protection clause so narrowly that they don't believe it applies to gender discrimination but invented a new right to have ballots cast under different systems counted under uniform standards), and 3)was so unprincipled that not only did they decline to apply the newly-minted right to future cases but weren't even willing to provide a logical remedy in the case itself. None of these things are true of Roe v. Wade: it applied an extensive body of relevant precedent, was an expression of sincerely held (though contestable) legal principles, and the justices in the majority logically applied the principle in both that case and future cases. So if Roe v. Wade is illegitimate "judicial activism" that state governments are right to nullify, Bush's presidency itself is something well beyond illegitimate. Somehow I don't think we'll be hearing this from many of Roe's amateur critics.

Pro-choicers have no reason, in other words, not to fight for Roe. The decision was right, and many of its critics have no idea what they're talking about. Don't back down.

(Cross-posted to L, G & M.)


C'mon General Washington.

You know you want to.

Reuters/Jim Young


Why I Don't Care About What Paul Begala or James Carville Think About Anything

Image hosting by Photobucket

Stunningly, It Could Have Been Worse

Michael Berube reminds us, in the wake of South Dakota's brand spanking new abortion ban, about how the reactionary vanity candidate who handed the 2000 election to George Bush was saying at the time about how little difference it made who occupied the White House, while repeating the myth that overturning Roe "would just send the issue back to the states" and wouldn't result in any major restrictions on choice. Oh-oh spaghetti-o's! (In fairness, though, I too wouldn't label Nader a "closet" cultural conservative; actually, he's quite open about it.)

Still, despite my unyielding contempt for Nader, even I was sympathetic to one argument advanced by some friends who voted for him: their revulsion at putting a check next to Joe Lieberman's name. I can't deny that this was hard to stomach. What's amazing, though, is Michael's archival find--the alternative suggestion advanced at the time by Paul Begala and James Carville, the Democratic Party's self-appointed saviors:

By choosing former Georgia governor Zell Miller as his running mate, Al Gore could add intellectual brainpower, rhetorical firepower, and lots of plain old populist piss-and-vinegar to this staid election.


Miller would bring to the ticket a compelling personal story. In an election in which the final four candidates were the sons of a bank president, an admiral, a senator, and a president, Zell Miller was the son of a teacher--a teacher who died when Miller was just two weeks old. Raised by his mother in Appalachia, in a rock house she built herself, Miller found his focus in the United States Marine Corps, and his unabashed patriotism, combined with his down-home populism, makes him an American classic.

Zell Miller is also a world-class campaigner and orator. His keynote address to the 1992 Democratic convention ranks with Barbara Jordan's and Mario Cuomo's as one of the finest examples of powerful rhetoric and partisan passion.

At a time when politics seems moribund, Zell would bring energy. When people are looking for heroes, Zell's the real thing. And when Democrats need someone who's not afraid to open up a can of whupass on the radical right, they need look no further than Zell Miller.

Oh yes, what a fantastic idea for the 2000 ticket--the right-wing-even-for-a-Republican-Senator-Zell Miller. (At least Holy Joe has a nominally decent voting record.) I suppose one person's "down-home populism" is another person's vile Dixiecrat demagoguery, but frankly I thought that this was kind of "powerful rhetoric" the Democrats abandoned after LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act. (I can't deny Miller's "partisan passion," but generally one prefers it not to be directed against one's own ticket.) Anyway, I'm not sure it's possible for me to give less credence to their support of take-our-word-for-it "populist" Bob Casey Jr., but I certainly am not going to modify my position on the issue. That Begala is telling anyone who will listen what a great catch Casey is counts as another strike against him in my book....

[Cross-posted to L, G & M.]


Oooh, unicorns and fairy dust!

"The plan is to prevent a civil war, and to the extent one were to occur, to have the — from a security standpoint — have the Iraqi security forces deal with it, to the extent they are able to," Rumsfeld said.

"Nah, it's good. I've got a reality check at 1:00 I'm going to blow off."

AP/Dennis Cook


"I don't get it.

Why is Marmaduke wearing a raincoat?"

AP/Eric Draper


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Help Chris Muir Find TEH CONSTITUTION!

As a follow-up to Amanda's long-running series, we can perhaps help Chris Muir out by pointing him to an obscure document he seems to be unfamiliar with, the United States Constitution. As you can see, in his latest attempt to be as didactic and unfunny as Mallard Fillmore in a more pretentious way, Muir's reactionary stand-in responds to a claim that the press should have the final decision about what to publish by quipping: "I don't quite recall when the press was directed to run national security." Ha-ha! You see, national security requires that the government get the final say about what's publishable, not those silly editors. One minor problem, however:

Amendment I: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.

Strange. While the press indeed was not "elected" to "run" national security, it was given the right to report information important to the public. Oddly, there isn't a "national security" exemption. The reasons for this were very effectively explained by Hugo Black, when the Nixon administration--Muir surely would have approved!--tried to suppress the publication of the Pentagon Papers:

In the First Amendment, the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government's power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell. In my view, far from deserving condemnation for their courageous reporting, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other newspapers should be commended for serving the purpose that the Founding Fathers saw so clearly. In revealing the workings of government that led to the Vietnam war, the newspapers nobly did precisely that which the Founders hoped and trusted they would do.


The word "security" is a broad, vague generality whose contours should not be invoked to abrogate the fundamental law embodied in the First Amendment. The guarding of military and diplomatic secrets at the expense of informed representative government provides no real security for our Republic. The Framers of the First Amendment, fully aware of both the need to defend a new nation and the abuses of the English and Colonial governments, sought to give this new society strength and security by providing that freedom of speech, press, religion, and assembly should not be abridged.

As fashionable as it is nowadays to use "national security" as a universal solvent which instantly dissolves the restrictions on executive power contained in the Constitution, I find Black's reading of the First Amendment rather more persuasive.

(Cross-posted to L, G & M.)


Late Nite FDL: The GOP Is An Organized Crime Racket

-- "Fucking Abramoff! I think we're fucked."
-- "Yeah. Gimme some fucking lube."

Atrios alluded to this earlier: the whole Republican Party is an organized crime syndicate.

From Wikipedia (emphasis added):

Organized crime is crime carried out systematically by formal criminal organizations. The Organized Crime Control Act (U.S., 1970) defines organized crime as "The unlawful activities of ... a highly organized, disciplined association...". Some criminal organizations, such as terrorist organizations, are politically motivated. Mafias are criminal organizations whose primary motivation is profit. Gangs sometimes become "disciplined" enough to be considered "organized". The act of engaging in criminal activity as a structured group is referred to in the U.S. as racketeering.
Sound like anyone we know?

Wait, there's more (emphasis added):
Criminal organizations keep their illicit actions secret, and members communicate by word of mouth or telephone. Many organized crime operations have substantial legitimate businesses, such as licensed gambling, building construction, trash hauling, or dock loading enterprises, which operate in parallel with and provide cover for drug trafficking, money laundering, prostitution, extortion, hijacking, fraud, and insider trading, among many other possible criminal activities.
To which list we can now add many other organizational structures, campaign PAC's and charities, like this one from Rick Santorum:
Santorum's charity got a $25K check from a real estate developer at the same time that he was working to win as much as $8.5M in federal aid for one of the donor's projects.
Charity begins at home, eh? That's just one of a jillion possible examples. But Wikipedia has even more illuminating stuff (emphasis added):
In order for a criminal organization to prosper, some degree of support is required from the society in which it lives. Thus, it is often necessary to corrupt some of its respected members, most commonly achieved through bribery, blackmail, and the establishment of symbiotic relationships with legitimate businesses. Judicial and police officers and legislators are especially targeted for control by organized crime via bribes, threats, or a combination. Financing is made easier by the development of a customer base inside or outside the local population, as occurs for instance in the case of drug trafficking.
Now that's a mother lode of information!

The GOP crime racket buys support from the public through fraud. These fuckers distract large swaths of the electorate with their lies and bogus non issues, like the existential threat of Jake and Ennis settling down, and then run a cash and carry operation raiding the public till.

The latest attempt at distraction? Why, the line item veto, of course!

The game has long been to use the fundamentalists (one "customer base" as described above) as get out the vote shock troops while selling government to the highest corporate bidder (the other "customer base"), with kickbacks to all the GOP pols who grease the skids. When pesky pissants like Hagel and Snowe threaten to blow the lid off, their arms get turned into pretzels behind closed doors, and presto!, the Senate Intelligence Committee will hold no hearings on presidential assumption of the power to ignore the law. Though of course, it's quite possible Snowe and Hagel did not cave to pressure, but that they just maximized their leverage to shake down the company for the best deal. Entrepreneurialism, and all that.

And speaking of fraud, though we do not have the smoking gun to prove ballot box fraud yet, we sure do know how dirty voter supression works in the GOP Crime Family Playbook, now don't we?

Wikipedia further observes:
In addition, criminal organizations also benefit if there is social distrust of the government or the police.
In the Republican case, the fifty year effort to discredit and demonize the government itself has provided the cover the crime organization has needed to gain sufficient support from the public. But with Patrick Fitzgerald's efforts to blow the lid off the organization over the Plame leak, w've had Crime Bitch Barbara Comstock attacking the "out of control prosecutor." Seems police and the "rule of law" are no longer sunny topics for a crime family under serious pressure.

And make no mistake, they are under serious pressure.

Though they hold the keys to the media, what with Time Warner going along for the deregulatory ride, and they can fix some election results, they still need a majority of the public to remain duped to hang on to power. But poll after poll shows us the public is catching on. The public is way ahead of the war profiteers and tinkerbell-clap-harder-for-unreality crowd. John Murtha, God bless 'im, keeps pointing this out.

The GOP is weakening. Later this month, when Abramoff is sentenced, he will sing and name names as part of his plea agreement. In fact, he's already begun to sing to Vanity Fair (pdf alert!).

Are you looking forward to HBO's sixth season of The Sopranos? As amazing as that series is, reality has it beat. Get your popcorn and stay tuned.

The entire Republican Party is an organized crime racket, and it's about to get a lot more exposure. But I sure as hell would like to hear our elected Dem leaders talk about the Republican Party as an organized crime racket, repeatedly, without apology or qualification.

Can you hear me, Nancy Pelosi? How about you, Harry Reid? Ready to draw some fire again, Governor Dean? (Ready to STFU, Joementum? Or are your still playing smoochie with John McCain?)

In the end, the only way the GOPpi (not "Gotti") Crime Family will truly be held accountable will be for us to change the country. More on that, perhaps, tomorrow night, here on Late Nite FDL.

Photo by Craig Blankenthorn


Is It High Tide Yet?

Social Movements Come In Waves

People have been asking me about the big picture: when will we start winning?

Well, just to let you know, we already have, in a small way. From Chris Bowers:

I would like to point out that Republicans still haven't won anything new on the electoral front since 2004. While we it looks like we were unable to defeat a Democrat who sucked up to Bush, over the past year we still have a pretty good streak going of defeating Republicans who suck up to Bush. . . [snip]

Netroots electoral wins may seem few and far between (Chandler, Obama, Herseth, Dean for DNC), but the only way we are going to get more of them is if we keep trying.

There's something else you need to understand about social movements: they happen according to a predictable path of progression (this model is adapted from Everett Rogers' Diffusion of Innovations).

They start with Innovators, who make up just 2.5% of a population. Think of a bell curve. They are waaaay out on the left side. Quirky, even flakey, they support a lot of ideas that never make it. But they are great experimenters.

Early Adopters monitor the Innovators. They pay attention to ideas that might work, but are discriminating. They general favor change, but not just any change. They make up about 13.5% of a population, and function as leading edge opinion leaders. They are a highly influential minority.

Moving across the bell curve of the general population, the next group is the Early Majority, so-called because when they adopt a change, the change has moved to the big time. They make up a fat part of the bell curve, 35%, and once you have all these three groups on your side, you have 50% of a whole population. Cut the curve in the middle; that's where you are now. Early Majority members trust and follow the lead of the Early Adopters.

The next group, on the right hand side of the curve, is the Late Majority, or what I call in a forthcoming business book I've written, the Skeptical Guardians (so-called because they guard the old way of doing things or seeing the world). These people are generally change resistant. They like the tried and true, the familiar. Like the Early Majority, their mirror image, they make up 35% of a general population.

The last group on the bell curve is the Laggards, or what I call the Confirmed Traditionalists. About 15% of any population, they will never believe in the new way. They may grit their teeth and comply with a new way, or just resist and never sign on. Dead enders, as it were.

What does this have to do with politics and the progressive movement?


Some points:

  • The most recent great wave of innovation in American politcs was the conservative "revolution," often traced to Goldwater and moving through Reagan to the present day. That movement has reached its apogee and is now moving past its peak. Evidence for a turning of the tide is all around us.

  • What evidence? Well, for the first time in the post-Viet Nam era, to the best of my knowledge, more Americans trust Democrats on national security than trust Republicans. That's seriously revolutionary.

  • The institutional strengths of the conservative establishment mask how strong we are. That's because the creation of conventional wisdom still lies in their hands, as they control the media. They worked hard, starting in the 1980's, to gain that control. Now they have it. But already, it's slipping. We are cracking it up, along with Jon Stewart and other cultural forces.

  • The conservaitive revolution took a long time to build. The funding came from the corporate side of the coalition, but the grassroots passion came from the fundamentalists, who decided to move out of their own social circles to run for small, local offices, and move stealth-like into the mainstream. That also really took off in the 1980's.

  • As a progressive movement, we are about where their side was in the late 1970's, before Reagan became president. And yet, the pace of our progress in the last two years has put their early progress to shame, probably because our ability to use the Internet to dissemminate information and to communicate alters the pace of social change generally.

  • As a progressive movement, on the issues, we already have the Early Majority on our side, but we have to close the sale in the midterms and consolidate it in the '08 presidential campaign. The media will follow our progress, and not see it or give it credit in advance. That's because the media is in the hands of pro-establishment forces.

  • To maintain strong majority governance, we don't need to win over any more than a solid, sustainable 5% of the Skeptical Guardians. Sometimes we will have more than that, sometimes less, but if we can keep a solid average above 50%, obviously, we dominate. Forget the Confirmed Traditionalists, the flat earthers. We'll never win them and we don't need them.

  • Even once we win more Democratic seats in '06, we still need to push the party to stand for progressive ideals. The fundamentalists actually kept pushing the Republican party for 20 years before becoming the party establishment, or at least its co-establishment. It won't take us as long, I think, but it will take at least two more election cycles, I figure.

  • We win by erosion and consistency. Thats' why I chose the graphic I chose. But I think we can cover the ground the conservative revolution covered in thirty years in much less time: more like ten years.

  • Malcolm Gladwell wrote a popular book caled The Tipping Point. That was all about moving a product in the market from the Early Adopters to the Early MAjority, and he said that's the hardest part. And it is. But get this: we've already past that point. The electoral results will follow. Katrina was a tipping point. So is the Dubai Ports deal. The collapse of the American effort in Iraq, now apparent to a majority of Americans, is a tipping point.

  • Finally, to sustain our gains, we have to tell America a new story about what America is and what we need. Government is not the enemy. Public service with accountability serves the public interest. "Together, We Can Do Better" is not a bad branding statement, overall. The narrative, which underlies all the stories Americans tell themselves, is up for grabs now. We have to fill that void with our story. And we will.
So, in this long post, I'm saying, see the big picture, Social movements progress according to a predictable cycle, and the polling data tell us where we are. Don't let losses like Ciro Rodriguez get to you. We pushed the edge and took a no-run candidate and made a tough race for an incumbent. In another election cycle or two, we will win those races. In the meantime, we continue pushing like the tide, reshaping the political landscape.

Photo by Derek Dobbie


"Wow, the Twins really kicked it up

for Mardi Gras!"

AP/Charles Dharapak

Just like their daddy. Maybe he should get them jobs already?


The U.S. diplomatic effort

encapsulated in one facial expression:

AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta


"Why isn't it spelled


AP/Charles Dharapak

BTW, I've been remiss in thanking jane, reddhedd, and the firedoglake community for allowing me to take up valuable bandwidth here with my snark. Thank you.


"Hey, no tongues!

What did I tell you about gettin' too friendly with the help?"

AP/Charles Dharapak

Looks like Bush is wearing his kevlar diapers again.


After South Dakota, Pt. 1: The Side of Principle

Image hosting by Photobucket

Hi all--this is Scott from Lawyers, Guns & Money. Many thanks to Jane and ReddHedd for letting me post with so many excellent bloggers!

Between the confirmation of Samuel Alito and the appalling recent legislation passed in South Dakota this is a grim time in many respects for pro-choicers. For Blog Against Sexism Day, over the next three posts I'll point out why the pro-choice position is more coherent, principled, and popular than the pro-criminalization position, why pro-choicers should not be reluctant to embrace Roe, and why the South Dakota legislation may be a political opportunity.

If there was any question of whether the advice of Vichy pro-choicers such as William Saletan and Amy Sullivan to fight for reproductive freedom by accepting the anti-choice framing of the issue and by capitulating on everything but the formal legality of first-trimester abortions had any value, its endorsement by the folks at RedState should remove all doubt. Trying, no doubt, to be a selfless good sport, one Leon H. Wolf wonders about why pro-choicers won't take Lord Saletan's sage advice:

Saletan is one of the few pro-abortion writers who can manage an argument more cogent than "you pro-lifers just don't want women having sex!" His advice, if the pro-abortion forces in this country are smart enough to listen (they aren't) is that it is time for Roe to go, that defending second trimester abortions is an ever-increasing political loser which raises (gasp) ever more serious moral questions as fetuses become viable at earlier stages of development. In other words, second-trimester abortions are the anchor which threaten to drag down the entire pro-abortion movement.

Politically speaking, Saletan is right. But it is also a virtual guarantee that those whom he is defending will not listen. First, they are generally of a stripe that does not understand that sometimes, as a matter of strategy, you must surrender untenable ground to solidify your overall position. Second, while Saletan's position is a winner politically, it creates an internal incoherency that the forces which drive the pro-abortion movement cannot abide: it provides legal rights to some unborn humans, while depriving others of the most basic human right, the right not to be killed.

I agree with Wolf about one thing: the pro-choicers who argue that abortion should be nominally legal but burdened by a number of pointlessly burdensome and grossly inequitable regulations are taking an incoherent position, although Wolf's own example is inept: it's perfectly rational and defensible to say that the state has a greater interest in protecting a viable fetus than a non-viable one. (And, as I will get into in a second, these contradictions are trivial compared to those of the American pro-life movement.) But the rest of this is just nonsense. In particular, as I explain in detail here the implication that "grave moral questions" are being raised because technology is making second trimester fetuses viable is just a flagrant lie, and nor does he provide any evidence that it's a "political loser." (He also, of course, ignores the fact the abortion regulations he urges pro-choicers to support make second trimester abortions more likely by making it harder for women to obtain abortions in a timely manner.) The fact that Saletan is willing to advance these evidence-free arguments proves nothing except that many pro-choice pundits have the remarkable ability to fall into every rhetorical trap, false claim and diversionary non-sequitur floated by the forced pregnancy lobby. I urge supporters of reproductive freedom to avoid doing this. When somebody claims that second trimester fetuses are becoming viable, the appropriate response is to point out that it isn't true, and pro-lifers are lying about it as a part of a disingenuous smokescreen in order to camouflage their extremely unpopular agenda of using state coercion to force women to carry almost all pregnancies to term.

But, wait, it's about to get a lot worse:

The pro-abortion forces in this country are thus faced with a choice. They can either continue to defend wildly unpopular abortion practices, or they can render their position internally incoherent, and bank on the hope that the American public will not notice. It's not a very enviable position to be in. By contrast, all that the current pro-life position in this country demands is that the states be allowed, on a local basis, to set abortion regulations in accordance with local norms and practices. This is an eminently reasonable, and increasingly popular proposition, especially as the American public grows more educated about what exactly Roe stands for, and the monstrosity it entails.

This is far too much to bear. First of all, the claim that Roe is becoming unpopular is, again, simply a baldfaced lie: Roe remains extremely popular with the American public, and the position that abortion should be criminalized is highly unpopular, which is why the GOP did everything it could to obfuscate Alito's opposition to Roe. But even worse is his critique that the pro-choice opinion, if not absolutist, could fail because it is internally incoherent. Really, being lectured by an American pro-lifer about incoherence is like being lectured about ethics by Duke Cunningham, or having Orson Welles piously inform you that you're letting yourself go. Take Wolf's purportedly "eminently reasonable" position that " the states be allowed, on a local basis, to set abortion regulations in accordance with local norms and practices." Except that earlier he claimed that "unborn humans" have "the right not to be killed," and you're unprincipled if you believe that this right varies at all during pregnancy. If this is true, how on earth could it be acceptable for some states not to respect this right? According to Wolf, in Mississippi a fetus has an inalienable right not to be killed--but this right vanishes entirely if a woman boards a plane to New York! To state the obvious, this argument and the word "principle" should not even be mentioned in the same sentence. It could not possibly be the policy advocated by someone who really believes in the right of "unborn humans not to be killed."

But, of course, most American pro-lifers don't believe it, or at least are not willing apply this position with even a shred of consistency. American pro-life politics is in fact a moral, legal, and ethical shambles, defined by risibly illogical arguments and comically transparent internal contradictions. To cite a few examples, first of all according the GOP platform, abortion should be first degree murder in all 50 states--but women should not be punished at all for obtaining one. (The SD law also makes this indefensible distinction, which is straight out of late 19th century law, when women weren't seen as responsible enough to practice law or vote.) They attach scary names to morally neutral medical procedures in order to pass wholly arbitrary and irrational regulations. They oppose policies that would unquestionably reduce abortion rates, while unquestioningly supporting the highly ineffective policy of criminalization. Which is why Wolf wants to pre-empt arguments about the obvious importance of the regulation of female sexuality inherent in abortion laws. Whatever individuals have subjectively convinced themselves, it is self-evidently true that while the policies supported by most American pro-lifers don't make a shred of sense if they were trying to protect fetal life, they certainly do make sense if seen as an expression of discomfort with the ability of women to have sex without the "consequence" of pregnancy.

None of this is to say that pro-choicers will never need to make any compromises, or that there's anything wrong with Hillary Clinton's strategy of pointing out that the bundle of policies favored by pro-choicers both promotes female autonomy and happens to lead to lower abortion rates than those favored by pro-lifers. But pro-choicers need to go on the offensive. Our position is popular, it is right, and it is also far more principled than the "pro-life" position as it manifests itself in American politics.

(Cross-posted to L, G & M. Graphic from Liza.)


"I wouldn't call it a civil war, per se.

It's more like a big disagreement."

And, as usual, it's the media's fault.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Tuesday there has always been a risk Iraq could plunge into civil war but he accused the news media of exaggerating the gravity of the current situation.


"I do not believe they're in a civil war today," Rumsfeld said of Iraq, but added "terrorists" want to foment one. "There's always been a potential for a civil war. That country was held together through a repressive regime that put hundreds of thousands of human beings into mass graves."


"From what I've seen thus far, much of the reporting in the U.S. and abroad has exaggerated the situation," Rumsfeld said. "The steady stream of errors all seem to be of the nature to inflame the situation and to give heart to the terrorists and to discourage those who hope for success in Iraq," he added. Asked whether these "exaggerations" were intentional, he added, "Oh, I can't go into people's minds."

Yet he feels free to make baseless accusations. Curious.


Bush flies 1500 miles to vote for DeLay

Okay, okay, so he's not in DeLay's district. But has anyone ever calculated how much these little jaunts aboard Air Force One costs taxpayers? Surely, it's more than the 39¢ it would've cost for an absentee ballot.

Ah, but he's going to tour the Gulf Coast today to see how the reconstruction of Trent Lott's porch is coming along.

"We're going to be tearing down the black neighborhoods here and here..."

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque


We're Off!!

Redd and I are going to be in San Francisco from Wednesday through Friday. We'll be leaving you in the capable hands of:
Steve Gilliard
Taylor Marsh
Scott Lemieux
Greg Saunders
Pachacutec (who will be handling Late Nite)
Our only worry is that when we return you'll be so spoiled that you won't take us back.