Saturday, February 28, 2004

Rush Limbaugh lies again

In San Francisco, a lesbian couple reluctantly tears themselves away from the hospital bedside of their prematurely born child for a brief time in order to take advantage of the chance to be legally married, and Rush Limbaugh tries to spin it into a case of child abuse.

Roger Ailes tells the story.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/28/2004 11:04:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


The Bushes and noblesse oblige

In a post earlier this week, I asked "Whatever happened to noblesse oblige," and wrote that

it's the lack of any sense of noblesse oblige which differentiates the second Bush presidency from the first.

I haven't read Kevin Phillips' new book about the Bushes, American Dynasty, but I gather from Paul Krugman's review in the New York Review of Books that Phillips would take issue with my contention that George H.W. Bush was motivated to public service by a sense of class obligation:

It's a family that has become accustomed to privilege:

By the mid-twentieth century, connections and crony capitalism had become the family economic staple, with emphasis on the rewards of finance, and instinctive policymaking fealty to the investment business. The Bushes have produced no college presidents or stonemasons, no scientists or plumbing contractors—generally speaking, their progeny have become almost exclusively financial entrepreneurs.
As this quote suggests, the Bush dynasty differs from other American families that have mixed wealth with political prominence. While the Kennedys and the Rockefellers may have a sense of entitlement, they also display a sense of noblesse oblige—what one might call an urge to repay, with charitable contributions and public service, their good fortune. The Bushes don't have that problem; there are no philanthropists or reformers in the clan. They seek public office but, if anything, they seem to feel that the public is there to serve them.

I'm more than happy to bow to Phillips' vastly superior knowledge of the Bush family. Perhaps I was fooled by the ability of Bush pere to hide his cravenness under a veneer of service to the public, I'd certainly buy that.

On the other hand, his son doesn't even bother to try.

One thing that Bush pere and fils certainly have in common is that they both vacation for an extraordinary amount of their time in office. I recall distinctly that Bush the First took an extended vacation immediately after winning the election (and Clinton provided a sharp contrast to that by immediately going to work after his win), and that he always seemed to be on hiatus somewhere or another. Bush the Second has continued in this family tradition.

On uggabugga there's an excerpt from an August 2001 article in the Washington Post which calculated that up to that moment, Bush had spent 42% of his time in office on vacation. This estimate is used to compare the number of hours Bush spent vacationing prior to 9/11 against the one single hour he has allowed to be interviewed by the chairmen and vice-chairmen of the commission investigating that calamity. Take a look at the graphic, it's quite illuminating.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/28/2004 08:05:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


An "October Surprise" strategy

I continue to believe that the evidence we have available to us points to Osama bin Laden being dead (or, at the best, severely incapacitated), but in a comment on Calpundit, Mr. Furious has what I think is a very good idea for the Democrats regarding a possible "October Surprise" announcement of his capture, timed for maximum effect on the election:

It's time to start changing the conventional wisdom on this subject, right now. If Bush has an "October Surprise" in the works, all discussion and debate will be drowned out in the absolute chaos that will be the coverage of that event. We need to start pointedly demanding where the hell OBL is, and why he hasn't been captured.

I don't care if it's shrill or anything else. This is the only way to trump Bush's ace in the hole.

If this gets driven home hard enough and successfully, public sentiment will shift. Bush & Co. hope that this will save them from the fact that everything other issue reflects badly on them. Make this another one of those issues. This is actually Bush's Achilles Heel and biggest weakness! We need to actually use it on him, not run from it.

If and when OBL is captured (and I doubt he will be alive), the response needs to be "It's about fucking time." Well, that needs to be the sentiment anyway. Bush doesn't get three seconds to bask in the glow or take credit for that.

Democrats need to start framing it this way now, for that attitude to take hold in the general public.

What's good about this suggestion is that it works to our advantage whether or not they trot out OBL's capture in October or not. This is an important point since it's my belief that the entire purpose of the current scuttlebutt is to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt among the Democrats and the general public, because they actually cannot produce bin Laden.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/28/2004 05:22:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Status report

There's not been much activity in this quarter lately -- I'm not sure why, but I haven't felt much like posting for the past couple of days. It's a little bit just plain tiredness, and it's a little bit that I'm wrestling with some issues, and I don't want to write about them until I'm a little clearer in my own mind what I want to say. (I know it's very unbloggish to not just jump in and say something about everything that happens at the drop of a hat, and some people can pull that off brilliantly, but they're clearly smarter and nimbler than I am, so I'll stick to this tactic for a while.)

In the meantime, here's a little snippet from a book I just recently read. Amazons (1980) is supposedly the memoir of the first female player in the National Hockey league, but it's actually a piece of fiction written by Don DeLillo. Although it seems to have become something of a (very minor) cult item, I can't say that I thought it was all that good. It had a few interesting moments, but the satire seemed unfocused and much too broad to me.

I did pull out this one quote, though. In this scene an upper-income woman, the wife of a somewhat mysterious and possibly unscrupulous doctor (who specializes in an obscure neurological disorder called Jumping Frenchmen of Maine), is lying on her bed in a pegnoir, surrounded by her cats, drinking cheap wine out of a jelly jar, and watching a bad movie on TV without much caring what's on:

The great, wonderful, healing thing about haze-outs ... is that you don't have to be interested in what you're watching. If a completely different movie comes on after the commercial, it doesn't make the slightest difference. This is the thing about shit. It exists only in the present. We have no memory of shit. This is why TV is the perfect medium for shit. Shit has no place in the theater, the art gallery, the cinema, the bookstore of the library. It belongs in the home.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/26/2004 10:31:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Wednesday, February 25, 2004


My thanks to Publius at Legal Fiction for mentioning unfutz with kind words in one of his posts. (And congratulations on your 10,000 visitor! -- I'm very jealous.)

A belated thanks to Easter Lemming for linking to one of the posts here about the AWOL coverage.

Also, thanks to Howard Labs for joining the very elite club of sites that include unfutz on their blogrolls.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/25/2004 09:10:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE



In the absence of anything to move the story along, such as a real investigative journalist tackling the many holes left by the Bush document dump, or a push by the Democrats, the Bush/AWOL story now appears to be as dead as a doornail.

It's hard to believe that the Democrats allowed this opportunity to slip through their fingers. Perhaps they're looking at polls that show the public pissed off about the allegations, or maybe the new backbone supposedly forced on the party by the Dean candidacy is a sham, but it's really a shame. I didn't believe that the story had "legs" when it first resurfaced, and it appeared to me afterwards that I was wrong, that it was going to go all the way this time, but instead all it did was put a few chinks in Bush's armor. Maybe the Dems think that's enough, but it hardly seems worthwhile for all the benefit that could have flowed from it had someone simply kept it in the headlines for a while linger.

I suppose we can hope that it's not dead, just taking a nap for a while. After all, it's done that before.

Update: Speculation from the right (reported here and here) is that the Democrats let up on the AWOL charge because they're preparing a massive attack on Cheney, on the theory that what Cheney did to get out of fighting in Vietnam "makes Bush look like Audie Murphy".

Obviously, I have no way of knowing if that's true or not, but it makes little sense to me for the Democrats to stop going after Bush in order to take on Cheney, because if things go really bad and Cheney starts to look like an anchor, he can just be dropped and replaced with someone else (like Rudy Giuliuani, as recently speculated) -- something that is decidely not true of Bush. Cheney's heart condition makes it easy to jettison him and have it appear to be for medical reasons -- it would just take an "attack" or two and some high-profile stays in the hospital -- without hurting Bush too much.

But, more to the point, I fail to see why the Democrats should want to risk Cheney being replaced, considering how valuable he is as a target to run against. People may (for whatever ungodly reason) like Bush and think he's an OK guy, but that hardly goes for Cheney. He's vulnerable, and therefore valuable to the Democrats.

Whatever chaos in the GOP ranks would be caused by forcing Cheney off the ticket would easily be overcome by getting the right kind of person onboard as Bush's new running mate. The new ticket would serve to revitalize the ticket's image and provide them with an endless amount of positive press.

Going after Cheney in that way, at this point, seems like a non-starter.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/25/2004 01:18:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Big tent, all are welcome, even...

I think Digby is right (not an unusual occurence) when he writes:

I still believe that despite Bush's precipitous dip in the polls, this election will end up being very close. Bush is weak, but his organization and war chest are not. And, he has the power of incumbency to shape events in ways that we can only dream of. For all the Democrats' motivation, and it is formidable, I believe that it is more than equally matched by the Republicans' desire to hang on to power. We're going to need every single vote.

This is a theme I've sounded off on ad infinitum until my e-mail friends are sick of hearing it from me.

Yes, I want the Democrats to espouse and promote progressive policies and to move away from the "Republican Lite" formula of the DLC; yes, I was one of those who in the last election played around with the idea that it was OK to vote for Nader in an extremely safe-for-Gore state (such as mine, New York) in order to send a message to the Democratic party that liberals were not at all happy with where the party was going (but in the end I voted for Gore instead); yes, I'd like to keelhaul Zell Miller and his ilk for... well, just for being Democrats and stinking up the party. All that is indeed true, but it all pales in comparison before the only really important goal in this election, which is to defeat George W. Bush and give our country a fighting chance to get back into shape and rejoin the community of nations.

To achieve this overriding goal, The Goal, I'm willing to do, and have the party do, as much compromising as is necessary to win. I don't think we should stoop to just whoring ourselves, but I'm willing to let things go pretty damn far. It's my opinion that purists and ideologues who blanche at compromising and refuse to support someone who doesn't agree with their holier-than-thou ideas of what's right and what's wrong, and instead throw their support to a candidate who's not the Democratic nominee and doesn't have any chance at all of winning, thereby withholding votes from the Democrat (and, quite possibly, helping Bush) are idiots, not deserving of our sympathy or empathy, or even common politeness -- but I'd be willing to converse with even them if I thought there was the slightest chance of changing their minds. (Mostly, there isn't.)

Every vote, we need every vote, so let's not alienate those whom we might be able to convince to come onboard.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/24/2004 03:31:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Theocracy alert

To understand why I sometimes daydream about the Democratic party welcoming moderate Republicans like Snowe, Chaffee and Collins into its fold, as it simultaneously jettisons jerks like Zell Miller, check out David Neiwert's reporting on Orcinus about Miller's attempt to pervert the Constitution by, among other things, eliminating the separation of church and state and taking other steps towards creating a theocratic state.

We're dealing here with people who adamantly opposed amending the Constitution in order to insure equal rights for women (who are over half of the human race) and who would deny to others the right to marry those they love and wish to legally bond to, but will turn cartwheels to fundamentally change the entire basis upon which this country was founded in order to force their own religious views on others. I'm almost to the point where I'm tempted to suggest that if they don't like the principles which form the foundation of this country's political system, they should find an empty space somewhere and go there and start their own country, but that would be unkind, so I won't.

Instead, I'll simply repeat the words that Gandalf spoke to the Lord of the Nazgul at the gates of Minas Tirith in Tolkien's The Return of the King (in one of many memorable scenes that didn't make it into Peter Jackson's very good, but in some ways disappointing, movie version):

Go back to the abyss prepared for you! Go back! Fall into the nothingness that awaits you and your Master. Go!

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/24/2004 02:39:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Edwards gets the vote of Kos

Kos endorses Edwards:

I want someone who symbolizes the future of our party. Someone whose rhetoric inspires, rather than bores. Someone who has run a positive campaign worthy of praise, rather than someone who has used slash and burn campaign tactics against members of his own party. Someone who people actually like, rather than support for some bizarre notion of "electability".

To be honest, I go back and forth on what to do next Tuesday. I've written about my concerns about Kerry, and plan to do so about Edwards soon. I hope that doing so will help me work out who I'm going to vote for.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/24/2004 02:09:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Monday, February 23, 2004

Whatever happened to noblesse oblige?

I thought this was interesting. David Pringle posted it on the J.G. Ballard mailing list. It comes from an interview with Ballard:

I think my political views were formed by my childhood in Shanghai and
the years in the [Japanese internment] camp [as a boy]. I detest barbed wire, whether of the real or the figurative variety. Marxism is a social philosophy for the poor, and what we need so much now is a social philosophy for the rich. To Americans that means Ronald Reagan, but I'm thinking of something else, some moderating set of values, whether the noblesse oblige, the obligation owed to the less fortunate, of the old English upper classes, or the Buddhist notion of gaining merit.

From a postal interview conducted by Thomas Frick,
1983, published in Paris Review, 1984.

I think Ballard is quite right, we are in serious need of some set of standards or moral values which will inhibit the rich and powerful from being as selfish or rapacious as they feel like being. In the past, strict religious codes had that effect, but are not nearly as effective now in a society which is increasingly secular, and the concept of noblesse oblige (which itself derives, I believe, from religious values) has almost completely disappeared.

In fact, aside from obvious differences of personality and capabilty, I'd said that it's the lack of any sense of noblesse oblige which differentiates the second Bush presidency from the first. George H.W. Bush had little or no idea what he wanted to actually do as President, what he thought his adminsitration should accomplish (aside from caretaking the "Reagan Revolution") but he certainly was motivated, at least in part, by the sense that public service was an obligation for people of his class and background. That sense of obligation, of being called to duty, is entirely lacking in his son, who took the reins of power more under the assumption that they were his natural due than under any idea that his ascension to power carried with it a burden to serve the country.

(We can also see in his earlier deportment in the National Guard the same lack of a sense of duty and obligation).

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/23/2004 11:22:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Does the Right Pay Their Trolls?

Over on a Calpundit comment thread Roger Keeling (aka MyFriendRoger) floats an idea that's interesting enough that I'm going to repost his comment in full here. He's specifically referring to the antics of "Al," a right-wing "supertroll" who stinks up the place with his numerous little annoying comments, but he's really addressing a larger issue about the scope and reach of the VRWC:

I haven't read all of the comments above -- actually just the first couple -- but I am beginning to formulate a little theory.

If you follow Calpundit at all, and read the comments to many of the postings, you'll see that Supertroll Al has an uncanny knack at posting responses early (and often). Frequently he's among the first 10 or so. Today -- and not for the first time -- he was first in line.

Now that really is remarkable. I know from experiece that on Kevin's more interesting posts, it can sometimes be no more than a matter of seconds before the first comments are posted. To even land among the first 20 or so comments is doing pretty good, actually. How the devil does Al The Troll manage to post comments on so many Calpundit threads, and do it so quickly?

Kevin once asked him directly if he did nothing all day but monitor Calpundit. Good question. Supertroll, naturally, did not deign to provide anything like a convincing answer.

So here's my (vaguely paranoic) theory. As we all know, the VRWC is more than flush with money. Millions upon millions of dollars are provided every year -- from the Moonies, from Scaife, from the corporate world, etc. -- to obsessively and relentlessly promote the rightwing worldview. (Think about the seeming-scores of various conservative think tanks out there, none of which actually generates much revenue or genuine grassroots support, although the Heritage Foundation makes something of a fetish of their aggressive direct mail fundraising programs. I mean, SOMEONE is paying for it all!)

So years ago I was told, in a conversation with a guy in D.C. who worked at one of these places -- I'd not be at liberty to reveal his name even if I could still remember it at this point -- that among their other projects at that time, they were assiduously monitoring and responding to "liberal" letters to the editor in EVERY major daily newspaper in the country, and many smaller ones as well. I also remember (going back even further) how, as a columnist on my college paper, I'd write something that would displease a major industry group (against nuclear power, for example, or in favor of bottle deposit bills like Oregon's), and then like clockwork receive a big package of PR propaganda from the industry in question. This happened repeatedly, and I marveled that they were monitoring college newspapers and spending (in today's dollars) at least $5-$10 on printed matter alone to respond to things that displeased them.

So, back to Al: has it occurred to anyone that one or more rightwing think tanks are monitoring the liberal blogosphere, and spending a LOT of money doing it? I can't prove it, but I'd bet dollars for doughnuts it's happening. "Opposition research" is a BIG DEAL to these people -- in fact they crow about it, from time to time, although we usually think of it in terms of national and state elections -- and this would neatly fall into that category.

Going one step further: if someone is assigned to monitor a couple of blogs -- and paid for it -- how much harder would it be to have that person "respond" as frequently as practical, thus making sure they get "their" opinion out here while invariably leaving all of us with the nagging worry in the back of our heads that we are somehow hopelessly outgunned?

Now I certainly don't know that Al is part of such a thing. I imagine it more likely that he's simply some rightwinger on disability, or a retired nitwit, with absolutely nothing better to do all day than monitor the hated Pinkos and drop his little turds into their midst. (Mind you, it's very hard to imagine how he could have ANY kind of gainful employment, or meaningful life, away from his computer given his ubiquitous presence here).

Back to the "paid troll model": let's not rule out the possibility that "Al" is not one guy, but two or more. "Al-1" comes in 8 a.m. EST to his cubicle in the offices of the D.C.-based, Scaife-funded "Foundation For The Annihilation of Liberalism" and works until 5. "Al-2" comes in around 4 and works until midnight. That would certainly be business-like, wouldn't it? And besides spewing their views out here, in an attempt to (over time) act like an acid -- drip, drip, drip -- corroding liberal confidence, and wasting our time as we respond to the trolls rather than focus on actually doing substantive things, it would do one other thing as well: it would serve as both a training position AND a filtering mechanism for future rightwing pundits and PR people.

That, after all, is a BIG part of what the VRWC is about. Young liberal writers, for the most part, must develop their skills on college papers or at free blogs. No one pays them for it. No one organizes them. Sooner or later they have to go find paying work, and THAT rarely entails promoting a liberal worldview. So uncounted thousands of liberal-thinking commentators never get much of a chance to join the battle. They never have a chance to hone their skills, they never have the luxury of researching and writing on these topics without constant money worries, and hence they never even appear on the radar -- down the road -- as potential new hires into the world of the punditocracy.

But it's plainly evident that this is precisely one of the jobs of all these rightwing think tanks. They take young kids just out of college and give them a chance: a modest paycheck, opportunities to "fight for the cause," professional editing and advice on their writing, many platforms to express themselves (including, perhaps, the anonymous platform of "troll to liberal websites"), and the opportunity -- if they're good enough -- to eventually move up higher in the rightwing's hierarchy of shills.

All just a thought for the day.

Roger extended his thoughts in a note to me a little later:

The stories I tell in that comment are true. I always had the sense, when I was in journalism, that there were a LOT of powerful interests making routine surveillance of what appears in all of the media. To a great extent, there's nothing wrong with that: everyone has the right to keep a clipping file, everyone has a right to respond to what they read, and it only makes sense that interested parties (be they non-profits or corporate giants) monitor the media for mention of issues that concern them.

But I suspect that what the conservatives are doing -- and probably have been doing for a long, long time -- is far more organized and well-funded than ANYTHING folks on the left do. I know they monitor the published media, and I see no reason at all to think they wouldn't have expanded that to Blogistan. The real difference between them and us, however -- if it is real, of course -- would be the expenditure of LARGE sums of money toward making such monitoring both comprehensive (covering as many blogs as possible, and in real time for the most popular such as Calpundit), AND in creating some kind of "rapid response system" so that a conservative presence is felt, quickly and almost always, in every possible forum.

Here's an incidental insight that might reflect on this. When I [worked] with environmental organizations [...] one of the things we got used to was how the corporate and rightwing interests would outspend us on EVERY issue. Be it a ballot initiative, election, lobbying campaign for legislation, hearings, or a court case, our opponents invariably -- ALWAYS -- spent anywhere from 10 to 100 times as much as we did. We could only estimate, of course (it's not as if they ever had to reveal their budgets), but there were ways to get a sense of what we were up against on any given matter. One of the things that helped us was recognition of how much of their money they tended to squander. And they did, boy! People got paid more, MUCH more, than we did, and they hired a lot of them, and they tended to fund anything and everything they could think of whether or not it would help their cause. We always figured that had we routinely been able to reach a 1:5 ratio on dollars or somesuch, we'd probably have won nearly every battle simply between the benefit of two advantages: (1) that we spent our money more effectively in general; (2) that we were fighting for things that were far more obviously true and right than the other side.

Anyhow, just as the CIA was always charged with simply gathering intelligence, but could never entirely resist the romance and allure and fun of carrying out actual operations, so I am sure that the rightwing's Opposition Research folks cannot resist the urge to go beyond watching us and enter the realm of dirty tricks and field operations against us.

And so while I cannot offer a single shred of real-world evidence to support it, my intuition tells me that a lot of the trolls we see at the various liberal websites are -- in fact -- being paid to be there. If I were a working journalist backed by a well-funded publication willing to support investigative journalism, and if I had a clue how to wriggle into the various rightwing think tanks and op-research operations, I'd be all for following my nose on this to see if I could prove it to be true.

I'm not sure what the lesson from all of this is -- except perhaps to take more seriously the "Do Not Feed The Trolls" advice of folks like Kevin Drum. Or, perhaps, the lesson is that we ought to warn liberal posters at virtually ALL liberal blogs to not be fooled by the numbers of trolls who appear in our midst to be any meaningful measure of their real-world frequency.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/23/2004 09:18:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Tall tale

Not to worry, apparently the election is already in the bag. The Presidential Height Index predicts that the taller of two candidates will win in Presidential elections (it doesn't work in primaries). In that case either Kerry (6' 4") or Edwards (6') has it made over Bush (5' 11").

So, no sweat, we've got this one all sewn up.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/22/2004 06:47:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Memories unbidden

Flipping channels just now, I came across a public access program which had videotape of a local broadcast channel from the morning of 9/11. One tower of the World Trade Center was on fire and, before I could change channels, the second plane flew into the other tower.

I've tried as best I can to avoid watching those images, and they still hold for me a horror that hasn't quite left, over two years later. My memories of that morning are still crystal-clear to me: the phone call from my wife telling me to turn on the TV, watching the towers burn on TV, looking away for a moment and then looking back and realizing that the tower just wasn't there any more (which provoked a short bout of near-hysteria), my son (2 years old) getting upset so we went outside, turning the corner on Fifth Avenue to see people staring downtown in shock, some standing in the middel of he street, and realizing the the second tower had gone down as well.

Things get a little blurry from there. I know I asked my wfe to come home early from work so we could be together, but I don't have a clear recollection of the rest of the day. I know that spent some time on the phone contacting the dancers I was working with to see if they were all OK, and trying to locate the production manager for the arts festival that performed in front of the north tower, to make sure that the stagehands there had all survived. (We, the dance company, had been scheduled to perform on that stage the night before, on 9/10/01, and had in fact rehearsed there all day, only to be rained out.)

I've avoided seeing those images both because I didn't want to watch anything that has such horrific connotations, and because I wanted them to remain powerful and not be neutered by over-exposure.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/22/2004 03:20:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Less than human

You know, sometimes I'm really as dumb as a post, something that I don't often like to admit to, but which my wife would certainly verify, if needed to. Even so, although it may take a while, I can usually find my way to see things clearly, given enough time.

I say this because it occurs to me that when the right starts to make the "slippery slope" argument about gay marriage or sodomy laws -- that allowing same-sex marriage or civil unions or gay sex acts sets us on a slippery slope which ultimately leads to allowing bestiality -- the clear implication is that gays are not quite as human as everyone else. I mean, the slope runs down, doesn't it, from activities or relationships between fully human beings (i.e. heterosexual men and women) down to forbidden behavior involving non-human beings, such as animals. In between, the implication is, are gays, not animals, of course, but not quite as human as you and me.

What strikes me about this implicit argument is how closely it parallels ideas that whites had about blacks throughout much of the history of our country, and, more specifically important in our current circumstance, in the objections people had to the repeal of anti-miscegenation laws. Black and whites shouldn't marry, because blacks were somewhat less than human.

It's the same thing Hitler and the Nazis preached about Jews, Gypsies and, yes, homosexuals, and which allowed them to put into effect the Final Solution. Demonization and dehumanization, reduce the people you object to to a lesser status, not quite human, you know, like you and me.

It's disgusting, and it's wrong, and that people who express these opinions can be taken seriously and accorded any iota of respect and legitimacy in this country is profoundly disturbing.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/22/2004 03:04:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Why are they still Republicans?

I just watched (or, actually, listened to) a program on C-SPAN in which historians discussed the books they had written about various US presidents. I picked it up near the end, with Kevin Phillips talking about William McKinley and John Dean about Warren G. Harding. What caught my attention was Phillips' intro, in which he referred to the other people on the panel as "Democratic historians" and himself and Dean as "Republicans." (He also forcefully disavowed any respect at all for Bush, and apparently Dean has an anti-Bush book coming out soon as well.) It got me wondering how the heck an intelligent and peceptive guy like Phillips can still think of himself as being a "Republican," given that the party as currently constituted seems to have no interest in upholding the values I assume that Phillips believes in. If he can't bring himself to see himself as a Democrat, perhaps he should at least pull a Jeffords and go independent.

And what about those few moderate Republicans still around, such as those in the Senate like Chaffee, Collins and Snowe -- why are the still in the party? What is it about identifying yourself as a Republican that holds them back from breaking with a party that truly doesn't give a shit about them anymore? Is there some way that the Democrats can make it easier for these people to change their colors, without diffusing the party so much that it becomes too weak? (But how is that possible in a party that has a Breaux and a Zell Miller in it?)

Don't these folks look at Bush and Ton DeLay and shudder? How can they look themselves in the mirrror?

Maybe we could do a swap with the GOP?

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/22/2004 02:31:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


A Popular Front needed

As is usually the case, Billmon has some very good stuff on his site, in particular this essay about the potential for the right-wing to become truly fascistic, and how that can be prevented:

The key to stopping them, in my opinion, is to revive a venerable lefty concept: that of the "popular front."

Progressives need to be willing to participate in as broad a political coalition as possible, in order to take back the White House and narrow the GOP majorities in the House and Senate. That may be the best that can be hoped for in this election cycle, although if the backlash against the Rovian agenda is strong enough, and the congressional elections get "nationalized," it's conceivable the GOP might lose its grip on the House. That would be a huge victory. I'm not saying it's likely, because it ain't, but it may at least be possible.

In the short run, which means for the duration of this particular election campaign, the key to building a winning coalition is to appeal to swing voters and to less committed Republicans on economic issues -- jobs and "outsourcing" in particular -- much as the Clinton campaign did in 1992.

Like most fascist or quasi-fascist movements, the social conservative coalition is brittle, because it inherently requires so many of its core loyalists to place their cultural "values" ahead of their economic interests. Of course, you could make the same argument about the affluent liberals on the Democratic side. But, being affluent, these folks usually have more leeway to vote against their own wallets.

That's why the Republicans have no choice but to continually stoke the fires of the culture wars. It's an essential ingredient in their particular brand of faux populism. In good times, or in war time, the strategy usually works well. But in hard times, the economic pressures can become too strong for the culture warriors to contain. And the problem is getting worse, because the appeal of Reaganomics has long since faded for many middle-class and lower middle-class voters.

Edwards understands this, which is why he's built his entire campaign around his brand of economic populism lite. Kerry, with his neoliberal credentials, is having a harder time fitting into that groove. But he's working on it. Assuming he wins the nomination, he'll have plenty of time to steal Edward's platform and make it his own.


To really crack the GOP coalition, though, economic populism has to be wrapped in something larger -- like the flag. I'm coming around to the view that the winning theme for the Democrats in this election -- the one that could really tear the bark off Bush (to borrow somebody else's phrase) is "economic patriotism." The Dems need a rhetorical and substantive program that ties the job/trade issue into a broader set of arguments about the privileges and obligations of citizenship, the relationship between fiscal stewardship and national strength, and the enduring worth of basic American principles like opportunity, community and fairness. And they have to contrast those priorities with the increasingly warped values of the corporate crony capitalists and their Republican water boys in Washington.

In other words, the Democrats need to make the case that the GOP has been selling ordinary hard-working, middle-class Americans down the river - and thus selling the country down the river.

Combine that populist stance with a strong - but sensible - strategy for fighting terrorism (one that doesn't actually try to turn it into World War IV) plus a full-court press against the Bush adminstration's fuzzy foreign policy objectives and raging managerial incompetence, and I think the Democrats could create a message that would peel away a lot of the GOP's "soft support" -- isolating the social conservatives and driving them back on their Deep South/Plains States base. It's a strategy that should play particularly well in the Rust Belt states - Ohio and Pennsylvania in particular - and in the Midwest heartland - Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri. And if the Dems are going to win this election, those are the places where they're going to have to win it.

He goes on to discuss possible strategies for creating an electoral majority for the long term. Hop on over and read the entire thing.

Ed Fitzgerald | 2/22/2004 02:14:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Ed Fitzgerald

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Democrats 230 (+27) - Republicans 205

Democrats 233 (+30) - Republicans 201 - TBD 1 [FL-13]

Democrats 50 (+5) - Republicans 50

Democrats 51 (+6) - Republicans 49

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what I've been reading
Martin van Creveld - The Transformation of War

Jay Feldman - When the Mississippi Ran Backwards

Martin van Creveld - The Rise and Decline of the State

Alfred W. Crosby - America's Forgotten Pandemic (1989)
bush & company are...
class warriors
con artists
hostile to science
lacking in empathy
lacking in public spirit
not candid
not "reality-based"
not trustworthy
out of control
without integrity

Thanks to: Breeze, Chuck, Ivan Raikov, Kaiju, Kathy, Roger, Shirley, S.M. Dixon
recently seen
Island in the Sky (1952)

Robot Chicken

The Family Guy

House M.D. (2004-7)
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Elliott Abrams
Steven Abrams (Kansas BofE)
David Addington
Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson
Roger Ailes (FNC)
John Ashcroft
Bob Bennett
William Bennett
Joe Biden
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Alan Bonsell (Dover BofE)
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Bill Frist
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John Gibson (FNC)
Alberto Gonzalez
Rudolph Giuliani
Sean Hannity
Katherine Harris
Fred Hiatt (WaPo)
Christopher Hitchens
David Horowitz
Don Imus
James F. Inhofe
Jesse Jackson
Philip E. Johnson
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by Joel Pelletier
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Chris Matthews
Mitch McConnell
Stephen C. Meyer (DI)
Judith Miller (ex-NYT)
Zell Miller
Tom Monaghan
Sun Myung Moon
Roy Moore
Dick Morris
Rupert Murdoch
Ralph Nader
John Negroponte
Grover Norquist
Robert Novak
Ted Olson
Elspeth Reeve (TNR)
Bill O'Reilly
Martin Peretz (TNR)
Richard Perle
Ramesh Ponnuru
Ralph Reed
Pat Robertson
Karl Rove
Tim Russert
Rick Santorum
Richard Mellon Scaife
Antonin Scalia
Joe Scarborough
Susan Schmidt (WaPo)
Bill Schneider
Al Sharpton
Ron Silver
John Solomon (WaPo)
Margaret Spellings
Kenneth Starr
Randall Terry
Clarence Thomas
Richard Thompson (TMLC)
Donald Trump
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Donald Wildmon
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Bob Woodward (WaPo)
John Yoo
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