Sunday, December 31, 2006
After upwards of 100 Viagra and similar spams a day, I've finally had to abandon the old VichyDems email address and replace it with a new one (without the link). The new general VichyDems contact email addy is:
Vichy (at) Safe-Mail.net
Thanks for keeping current!
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Thursday, December 21, 2006
Jeez, I wish Lamont had won! At least Kos and crowd are on the story. But now definitely is the time to stand up for true Dems and stand against the Vichys; as the new Congress forms, the soul of the party is being reshaped, and hopefully in the right way.
While we're on it, anyone else have the thought that the current Newsweek cover (Hillary v. Obama 2008) actually is displaying the centrists' dream ticket (Hillary-Obama '08)? I don't think Barack is making a serious bid for the Presidency; he's just trying to prove to Hillary that he's electable in the no. 2 spot, and will make his big move in '16.
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Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Following up on my post about backcountry rescue costs: Now noted athlete and outdoorswoman Rosie O'Donnell sounds off about rescue costs, getting every single fact, as well as the overarching principle, wrong. Aaaargh. And personally, I'm not aware of any significant mountains where my skills would be useful in New Orleans, even though I'd love to go there.
Kudos to KATU for raising the right counterarguments.
UPDATE Dec. 23: A nice opinion piece in the Chicago Tribune also gets it right.
UPDATE Jan. 11, 2007: As does this Salon.com article, quoting my friend Steve Rollins.
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Tuesday, December 19, 2006
NeoProgBlog (my other blog), Nov. 27, 2005: This Administration, in particular, had no and still has no intention of withdrawing substantial numbers of troops from Iraq [as they are promising]. They are still building 14 permanent bases on Iraq's sandy soil, and a permanent presence in Iraq -- to replace the airmen and other soldiers we pulled out of Saudi Arabia in capitulation to Osama bin Laden's demands and to secure a backup oil source in the event the Saudi royal family is overthrown -- is a key part of the neocon foreign policy and energy strategy. They will, of necessity, rotate exhausted, three-tour units home, but they will not willingly do more. If they do do more, it will be a capitulation to Congressional Republicans worried about their seats, and is not likely to last past next November. (Post: Bush Administration Claims Credit for Troop Reduction Plans.)
VichyDems, Mar. 14, 2006: “President Bush vowed for the first time yesterday to turn over most of Iraq to newly trained Iraqi troops by the end of this year, setting a specific benchmark as he kicked off a fresh drive to reassure Americans alarmed by the recent burst of sectarian violence. Bush, who until now has resisted concrete timelines as the Iraq war dragged on longer than he expected, outlined the target in the first of a series of speeches intended to lay out his strategy for victory. While acknowledging grim developments on the ground, Bush declared "real progress" in standing up Iraqi forces capable of defending their nation.” [Quoting from and linking to the Washington Post] I call bullshit. This is Nixonian politicking of the crassest, cruellest kind. The only troops coming home are those already due to do, some after two or three tours in-country. And after the election, forces “beyond his control” will force Bush to ramp troop levels back up.... [N]o serious, well-informed person actually believes that Iraq is anywhere close to self-sufficiency, or that Bush plans to bring our troops home soon. The only reason Bush is raising our soldiers’ and their families’ hopes is to bolster Republican chances in November. And raising false hope based on self-serving propaganda is a damnable thing to do, even for a Republican politician.... (Post:
Washington Post, December 19, 2006: "President Bush said today that he plans to expand the size of the U.S. military to meet the challenges of a long-term global war against terrorists, a response to warnings that sustained deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan have stretched the armed forces to near the breaking point. In an interview with The Washington Post, Bush said he has instructed newly sworn-in Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to report back to him with a plan to increase ground forces. The president gave no estimates about how many troops may be added but indicated that he agreed with suggestions in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill that the current military is stretched too thin...."
Frankly, I wish I had been wrong a year ago, and that Bush had kept his promise. And I'm shocked, shocked that the MSM isn't pointing out Bush's "reduce troops by end of 2006" pledge... could it be they're not fair and balanced?
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Wednesday, December 13, 2006
(Caveat: the following post is purely my own opinion; I'm not speaking for any official rescue unit, the Mountain Rescue Association of America, or anyone else. Just me. Okay?)
I'm shocked, shocked to report that Bill O'Reilly might be about to fudge the truth tonight. As some of you know, in addition to my full-time job (hah!) writing VichyDems, I also am a mountain rescue volunteer in the Pacific Northwest. According to an email I just got from a colleague, O'Reilly's Fox News Channel program tonight will debate the question, "Shouldn't the federal government close all trails and backcountry areas on Federal land in winter, so that the government doesn't have to pay for expensive rescues?"
This is a recurrent conservative meme, unfortunately believed by most of the public: that rescues, especially of mountaineers, incur huge costs to the federal government. And it's flat-ass wrong. Here's why:
In the last month, I've searched (unsuccessfully, I'm sad to say) for a lost child at Crater Lake National Park (who wandered away from his father as they played near a public, not "backcountry", road). I've also searched for James Kim, the online editor who was trying to find help for his family after their Saab got stuck on an Oregon logging road after they accidentally turned off a regular road in a wild but not "backcountry" area (we found him too late). Other members of my two mountain rescue units have been searching for three climbers who are currently stranded on Mt. Hood (we're holding out hope, and praying the weather will break so we can search higher up), and for two snowmobilers near Mt. Bachelor (a private ski resort leased from the federal government; they found one dead, one alive, and rescued him successfully).
Of these four incidents, only one involved mountaineers. Only one involved truly backcountry federal land (the others were either not on federal land, or were on federal land leased to private enterprises like a ski resort, and/or were accessed by regular, mapped highways). Although many people blame "mountain climbers" for racking up rescue costs, only one of these incidents involved mountaineers -- but mountaineers were called in as volunteers to assist in all four; in other words, the mountaineering community more than pulls its weight.
Ignored by folks like O'Reilly is the fact that the federal government normally isn't involved in mountain rescues even on federal land (each county sheriff has that responsibility). Most rescues are of people in cars, snowmobilers, lost hunters and mushroom pickers, and other non-mountaineers -- sometimes even of O'Reilly viewers!
Most importantly, almost all the legwork is done by volunteers. The main "federal cost" is the occasional helicopter from the Air National Guard or the Air Force Reserve -- and those folks tell me that assisting in civilian rescues, especially in inclement weather at high elevations, is a huge part of their training. There's no way that the 1042nd air rescue wing based at Salem, OR could do mountain rescues and evacuations of soldiers in Afghanistan (as they've done) if they hadn't "practiced" in civilian rescues in the Oregon Cascades in conjunction with the local sheriffs and innumerable volunteers, from dog trackers to snowmobile clubs to mountain rescue units.
So the "rescue costs" question is a red herring, and I hope Media Matters, Atrios or someone else more prominent than me refutes O'Reilly if he blows this one, as they do so well when he tells fibs about more political matters.
There. I feel better now having prebutted the myths I'm sure will be told on Fox tonight.
12.14.20006 P.S.: There are some good photos showing the route the climbers took (Cooper Spur) here, here, here, and here. Check the comments for more discussion of this. Thanks to everyone who's visiting and worrying about the climbers on Hood!!
12.19.2006 update: My condolences to the families, following the discovery of Kelly James' body and evidence suggesting the other two climbers may have fallen to their deaths. Climbing is a wonderful, but sometimes dangerous, sport, and I can only trust that the adventurous lives these men lived were so full of challenge and beauty that, even cut short, they were fuller than the lives of the Barc-a-lounger crowd. In that regard, I'll quote former Supreme Court justice William O. Douglas, who answers the critics who ask, why do people climb mountains?
"[T]he spirit of adventure... is a measure of the vitality of both nations and men. A people who climb the ridges and sleep under the stars in high mountain meadows, who enter the forest and scale the peaks, who explore glaciers and walk ridges buried deep in snow -- these people will give their country some of the indomitable spirit of the mountains." Douglas, Of Men and Mountains, p. 328.
Also, for those who are interested, here's a nice post containing an audioclip of Bill O'Reilly's idiocy on this topic.
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Ciro's is a long story. He initially was a good Democratic representative from a relatively liberal district in Texas (yes, they do exist), and a chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. But his district was eliminated in Tom Delay's illegal gerrymandering of Texas' House districts. (You remember this movie of the week: Texas' Democratic state legislators boycotted the redistricting hearing so that the Republicans wouldn't have a quorum to pass the law creating the illegal new districts; Texas Republicans ordered the Texas troopers to arrest any Democratic legislators they could find and bring them to the leg to forcibly create a quorum; the Dems fled to Oklahoma to avoid arrest; Delay ordered Homeland Security to track the Dems' plane, claiming it was a national emergency; the Dems finally had to cave in order to get any other business done, since they couldn't stay out of the building forever.)
Ciro then ran in a different Democratic district to unseat a Democrat In Name Only (and lifetime member of the Vichy Hall of Shame), Henry Cuellar, who sat on the Republican side of the aisle during one of Bush's State of the Union addresses and apparently had a quiet orgasm when Bush lovingly caressed his face with his baby-soft hands. VichyDems supported Ciro, and a number of our friends donated to him via VichyDems' ActBlue site, but Rahm Emanuel's Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee gave Ciro no help (they only, and always, support Democratic incumbents no matter how bad), and while Ciro came close he didn't manage to unseat Cuellar -- a very disappointing loss to everyone, including his campaign staff, who worked their asses off for him.
But then Delay was arrested, and much of his nefarious work was undone. Among other things, the unravelling of Delay's machinations resulted in the judicial creation of a new district in Texas: TX-23. In November, Ciro ran again, this time as the Democratic nominee in TX-23, against Henry Bonilla. Early returns showed him losing -- but now, as numbers keep trickling in, he appears to have won, and the Associated Press has now declared him the winner!
Let's hope it sticks. Ciro will be one of the best we've got in the House (especially since he, more than most, has personally been spanked by a Vichy and knows their foul stench when he smells it).
Kudos to Kos and Atrios for catching this. And congratulations, Congressman Rodriguez and everyone associated with his campaign!
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Sunday, November 26, 2006
But I just stumbled across a couple of nice, albeit pre-election, posts by SillyMonkey with a nice new acid test: whether the Dem in question voted for one of the bills (House or Senate) suspending habeas corpus. (Read the top two posts there.)
Shows how out of it I've been not to have seized on that obvious and excellent test of "our side", and how glad I am to have others out there who are more on the ball of late!
Now that we've won control of one branch, of course, identifying and gutting Vichys is more important than ever, so thanks be to anyone who helps us see clearly who to target.
And congrats on the Monkey's upcoming nuptials!!
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Also noted that, in an interview on Franken's show last week, Obama refused to diss Hillary (a prospective 2008 Presidential competitor) in any way whatsoever, not even to simply distinguish his positions from hers. Nuthin but "she's a lovely woman with firm perky breasts and great policies who would make a great President" or something like that. Anyone care to second-guess my opinion that Obama is gunning for the #2 spot behind Hillary, and not seriously seeking the Presidency himself (yet)?
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ORIGINAL POST: Couldn't be more off topic, but when I was a lusty teenager I had a famous (at least for Northern California) poster in my bedroom for Bear Valley ski resort. It showed an attractive woman (incidentally, the wife of the then-general manager), nude, from the rear, on skis, with a tree branch conveniently covering her heinie. The logo simply said, "Ski Bear" (a play on "Ski Bare"). It was a quintissential 70s poster, representing the wonderful naive iconoclasm of the age, and I would expect someone would have reproduced it, have an old one for sale on eBay, or at least have posted an image somewhere on the Internets -- but I can't find hide nor hair of the fabulous bear.
Anyone remember this one? Not that I want to own it necessarily -- it just crossed my memory and when I googled, nothing showed, which got me wondering. And who better to ask than the most erudite group on the planet?
Obsessively yours (once he starts wondering about a thing) --
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Sunday, November 12, 2006
It's frustrating that the Democrat most worthy to be President is so worthy that he has decided not to run. From a release by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI):
Dear Friends and Supporters,
On Sunday, November 12th in Racine, I will hold my 1000th Listening Session with the people of Wisconsin. Before reaching that milestone, I want you to know that I've decided to continue my role as Wisconsin's Junior Senator in the U.S. Senate and not to seek the Democratic nomination for President in 2008.
Like many Americans, I am excited by the results of the November 7th election. My fourteen years in the Senate have been the greatest privilege of my life and I am extremely pleased with what we have accomplished. During so much of that time, however, we Democrats have not only been in the minority but have often been so deeply mired there that my role has often been to block bad ideas or to simply dissent. That is a very important role but I relish the thought that in this new Congress we can start, not only to undo much of the damage that one-party rule has done to America, we can actually advance progressive solutions to such major issues as guaranteed healthcare, dependence on oil, and our unbalanced trade policies. The Senate of the 110th Congress could also well be a place of greater bi-partisan opportunities for change; something I am very proud to have been effective at in both Republican and Democratic Senates. ***
I have traveled to seventeen states trying to promote the election of progressive Democrats in all states. At every stop from Birmingham, Alabama to Burlington, Vermont, to Ft. Dodge, Iowa, to Las Vegas, Nevada, people have agreed with my view that we need to stand up for a strong, principled Democratic party that is willing to replace timidity with taking the risks of promoting a platform of bold solutions to our nation's problems. Unfailingly, people responded well to my positions: opposition to the Iraq war; calling for a timeline to redeploy our troops from Iraq so we can focus on those who attacked us on September 11th, 2001; my opposition to the flawed provisions of the USA Patriot Act that threaten the freedoms of law-abiding Americans; my call for accountability for the Administration's arrogant disregard for the law especially with regard to illegal wiretapping; fighting for fiscal responsibility including tough common sense budget rules that will help end the reckless policies that have heaped a mountain of debt on our children and grandchildren; as well as my strong belief in guaranteed healthcare for all Americans and substantial investment in alternative energy sources and technologies.
Yet, while I've certainly enjoyed the repeated comments or buttons saying, "Run Russ Run", or "Russ in '08", I often felt that if a piece of Wisconsin swiss cheese had taken the same positions I've taken, it would have elicited the same standing ovations. This is because the hunger for progressive change we feel is obviously not about me but about the desire for a genuinely different Democratic Party that is ready to begin to reverse the 25 years of growing extremism we have endured. ***At this time ... I believe I can best advance that progressive agenda as a Senator with significant seniority in the new Senate serving on the Foreign Relations, Intelligence, Judiciary and Budget Committees. *** while I would strongly prefer that our nominee in 2008 be someone who had the judgment to oppose the Iraq war from the beginning, I am prepared to work as hard as I can ... to maintain or increase our gains from November 7 in the Congress and, of course, to elect a Democrat as President in 2008.
From most pols, this would just be playing coy. From Feingold, it's a conclusive and honest statement of his intention not to run. And, reluctantly, I think he's right. Here's why: he probably couldn't have won the Democratic nomination, given the way power currently is allocated and the sorry state of our campaign finance laws. Plus, he's perceived as too liberal for "mainstream" America (meaning: he's about as liberal as Dwight Eisenhower, only five decades too late). So the best reason to see him run would be to push the discussion to the left -- to raise progressive issues and positions during the Presidential debates and force the other candidates to address them. And that would have been a very good thing.
But Presidential primaries are ephemeral things, with little lasting impact on the trajectory of the overall political culture. To change the trajectory of a thing as massive -- in physics terms -- as our nation's current, too-conservative political culture requires repeated, consistent work, someone shoving it again and again and again until slo-o-o-o-o-wly it curves a little bit from its original direction. And the best way for our nation's truest Progressive is as a leader in the majority party in the (usually) more sensible and influential house of Congress, the Senate.
In addition, Feingold is expressly recognizing that the Democratic Party, as currently constituted, is not prepared to govern well. He recognizes that what voters REALLY want is what he calls above "a genuinely different Democratic party." And there, of course, he's right as right can be. We need brave Progressives like Feingold -- who was the only one with the courage to introduce a resolution to censure President Bush -- to help the party in Congress govern the way it should, and to show that principled progressivism is not a political death knell, even in what until last week looked like a pre-fascist America.
So Feingold is right. He'll do more good as a key senator than as a failed Presidential nominee. Hell, he'll do more good there than Hillary would as a successful Presidential nominee!
So I say, sadly: sit, Russ, sit. Retain your seat in the Senate, and fight, like Mr. Smith, for the things that -- were you able to become President -- might save our nation from its current downward path. Fight so that the next Russ Feingold -- maybe even you yourself, four or eight years from now -- will actually have a chance to win.
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Wednesday, November 8, 2006
My 12 year old daughter: “Now it just depends on whether they’re chicken or not chicken.”
My daughter, unlike 99.99999% of the folks inside the Beltway (specifically leaving only Howard Dean), gets the real issue: are the “Democrats” we just elected chicken, or not?
I’m not celebrating much today; I’m gearing up for the real battle, which is over the soul (and electoral future) of the Democratic Party, a battle that will culminate in 2008. Since the inception of this site, I’ve said that I want the Dems to regain control of the Congress if, and only if, they’re prepared to govern in an assertive, cohesive, ideologically sound, progressive manner. To regain the majority then govern like a bunch of finger-in-the-wind, triangulating, poll-watching pols will just convince the voters that we haven’t changed, and could cost us the whole shebang in 2008 -- setting us back another 12 years. But to regain the majority and govern like adults (or like my 12 year old daughter), why, that might actually be good for both the party and the country as a whole.
There’s no chicken in Vichyssoise, but there is chicken stock. And there is plenty of chicken stock in this Congress, from the undead Joe Lieberman to the Bush-loving Henry Cuellar to the triangulator-in-chief, Hillary Clinton, and her acolytes, like Rahm Emanuel. And, of course, no one can stop the 2008 Presidential wannabes from watching the polls, officially starting today. So what we’re all watching is whether the rest of this Congress has learned its lesson and actually governs, instead of triangulating.
Let me say that again: do these people understand that we elected them to GOVERN, not to TRIANGULATE? If they get it, they’ll be respected (and reelected). If they don’t get it, then we’ll have a few hearings -- God bless John Conyers! -- but the corporations will continue to run the show, and there won’t be much difference in the end. Or: if they govern, they’ll be allowed to continue to govern. If they stick their index fingers into the wind, on the other hand, the voters in 2008 are likely to reply like the English archers at Agincourt: by sticking their middle fingers into the wind right back at them.
Put still differently: we were elected only because we’re NOT Republicans. But starting today, the test is different. Being “not a Republican” isn’t a governing philosophy. We’ll only be respected, and reelected, if we govern like Democrats.
More analysis later, especially of “winners and losers.”
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Monday, October 23, 2006
The topic under discussion really is this: Obama is now "not ruling out" a run for the Presidency in 2008. My take? If he lucked out and won the nomination, he'd go for the gold -- and might not not be half bad, either as a candidate or even as President. But the scenario he's probably shooting for is less ambitious: to increase his visibility in the primaries as a way of landing a VP spot on the D ticket, setting himself up for a more serious Presidential run in 4 years (if his ticket loses) or 8 (if it wins).
The question is, whose wagon does he want to ride all the way to the Naval Observatory? What Presidential wannabe's coattails has he been tying himself to?
I don't want to see a Hillary-Obama ticket, largely because I like Obama too much to see him screw himself that way. But that's my prediction. He certainly hasn't tried to curry any favor with Feingold or any of the other, more progressive potential POTUSes. No: he's a F.O.H.
I've written a lot about how Obama is a potentially great Dem who unfortunately keeps currying favor with the old-guard centrists who are responsible for the party's sorry state today, who aren't prepared to govern seriously on November 8, and who would either lose, or win only to reconvince voters that we Dems have nothing to offer, in the '08 Presidential campaign. If Obama sheds his allegiance to Hillary, Lieberman, the DSCC, et al., and instead stands tall as a real progressive, he could be great. But if he continues to triangulate, and especially if he doesn't stand up to Hillary as the most prominent representative of those pro-corporate interests, then he's likely to join Colin Powell as just another man who could have been the first African-American President if he hadn't blown it by picking the wrong team to side with.
If you're interested, feel free to punch "obama" into the search box above and cruise through some old posts. And I'll add to the mix this older, but pithy and salient, contribution to the pro/con/huh?-Obama discussion: DownWithTyranny.
As to the VichyDems site itself: I've been AWOL for personal reasons for quite a while, but I'll be back, in full fettle if possible, the day after the election -- the official First Day of the 2008 Presidential Campaign Season. This election, vote D no matter how Vichy the candidate is. The day after the election, start working to unseat the exact same Vichies in the '08 primaries. That's the plan.
See you after the election, if not sooner, and let's keep our fingers crossed that John Conyers soon has subpoena power...
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Wednesday, August 16, 2006
I'm clearly on the side of Democratic National Committee (i.e., the Democratic Party itself) chair Howard Dean, the party-builder who stays out of primary endorsements because he knows that a spirited primary energizes party voters and informs the general electorate, over Rahm Emanuel, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (i.e., the "protect the incumbent Dems and increase their margin") chair who's been tasked, with backing from the Democratic Leadership Council (another "not the Party" group formerly headed by Joe Lieberman) and Hillary Clinton, with triangulating a narrow House victory in November.
Not that I'm against a narrow House victory: as I've stolen from someone on Air America before (DNR who), the only thing better than John Conyers is John Conyers with subpoena power. But in the long run, given the American people's positions on the issues when they're presented neutrally, Dems should have a permanent majority in both Houses and should elect the next fifteen Presidents, and the only thing holding us back, IMNSHO, are the triangulators who keep aiming for a seat here and a seat there instead of adhering to a coherent, intellectually honest, ideologically consistent (not rigid) platform that would, over time, demonstrate to voters that we actually stand for something, and -- surprise, surprise -- that it's the same thing they stand for. So, yeah, win elections narrowly if that's the best that we can do, especially in the Age of Bush -- but that, as "Seven Habits" author Stephen Covey would put it, merely the urgent; the important thing, and the thing we need to salvage all possible resources for, is to really reclaim and build the Democratic Party as a bastion of populist progressivism.
Anyway, in my last post, I laughed at Rahm Emanuel. But for some balance, here's a decent read from E.J. Dionne, who talks about "the polemics over the past few months between Howard Dean, the Democratic National Committee chairman, and Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the leader of the party's campaign committee for this fall's House elections." Anyone struggling to sort out DLC from DNC from DCCC etc., and why I care so much about the distinctions, should read this. Dionne continues:
Emanuel has expressed frustration over how much DNC money Dean has spent in his effort to create strong party organizations in all 50 states -- money that congressional Democrats believe should be saved for this fall's key contests.
Dean argues, correctly, that Democrats will not be truly competitive if they are strong in only 18 or 20 "blue" states. Emanuel argues, also correctly, that this year offers Democrats their best chance in 12 at winning one or both houses of Congress. The party, he says, can't afford to fritter money away on long-term dreams.
There are many underlying issues here, including whether Dean's spending will actually be effective in achieving his goal and whether the national party is demanding enough accountability for the money it is sending the states. Dean defenders, in turn, note that he has directed more money to states with competitive races this year, and that Dean needs to worry about governorships and state legislative contests, not just Congress.
But Dean and Emanuel are both struggling against the same overlapping realities: Democrats have chronically underinvested in building state parties....
Rest of the article here.
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Tuesday, August 15, 2006
(Photo, left: Rahm Emanuel, head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, tries to thumb a ride on the VichyDems Express.)
Check out this hilarious nugget from an email the DCCC leader just sent out, referencing Lamont's victory over Lieberman:
The recent Connecticut primary election illustrated how incumbents are bearing the brunt of the public's frustration and anger with the status quo. Change is what November is about.
We have the political atmosphere that is ripe for change. Energized Democrats around the nation can capitalize on our shared frustration with the government and build the movement needed to win.
Last week, Senator Barack Obama introduced a few of our candidates that are going help us get this country back on the right track. In November we not only have an opportunity to claim a Democratic majority in the House, we have an opportunity to do it on the strength of a new generation of progressive leaders....
Now, understand, Emanuel is a poster child for the protection of incumbent Vichys. He's a fave of Hillary and the rest of the DLC crowd; he couldn't even manage to oust incumbent Vichy Henry Cuellar in Texas, even though Cuellar's the worst conservative Bush-kissing Democrat in the House and faced a formidable opponent in Ciro Rodrigues. And Obama CAMPAIGNED FOR LIEBERMAN AGAINST LAMONT!
So I call bullshit, and laugh my ass off. If Emanuel had been in the Senate instead of the House, he would have been on his knees doing intimate favors for Connecticut voters to keep Lieberman in office.
But the good news is: OUR MESSAGE IS FINALLY BEING HEARD. The 2008 Dem primaries are shaping up to be a lot like the 1968 Republican primaries, with the centrist Old Guard finally catching on that there's a new, less accommodationist crowd in charge and scrambling to stay ahead. (Except that progressive Democrats, currently represented best by Russ Feingold, want to actually govern the country well, whereas the regressive Republicans of '64 and '68, such as the pre-reformation Barry Goldwater and a young, energetic Ronald Reagan, wanted to gut the government. So: similar dynamic, opposite effect.)
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Old VichyDems slogan:
Patriotic Democrats, Doggedly Resisting the Vichys, DINOs, Triangulators and Accommodationists. Starting with Joe Lieberman, of course.
Updated VichyDems slogan:
Patriotic Democrats, Doggedly Resisting the Vichys, DINOs, Triangulators and Accommodationists. Dogging Joe Lieberman Until He's Festering in His Political Grave, of course.
OK, Franklin's "Join or Die" it's not, but I like it, because, of course, JoeNoMentum's independent run -- while just a craven clinging to power and a setup for future office as a Republican on his part -- could spoil Lamont's chances of actually being elected, and conceivably could even have legs, and makes George Bush and Tony Snow all giggly even when they're not in the back of Air Force 1 orange-bowling and huffing nitrous oxide with the traveling press corps, and so we won't quit dogging the s.o.b. until he throws in the towel for good.
Other than that, the focus now will be on
(a) getting all Democrats elected in the midterms, even if they're Vichy, because the only thing better than Russ Feingold and John Conyers in Congress in Russ Feingold and John Conyers in Congress with subpoena power; and even more than that (since zillions of bloggers and the DNC, DLC, DCCC, DSCC, MoveOn, and zillions of better bloggers than me already are working on that)
(b) 2008, meaning:
i. reforming the Democratic primaries to ban DCCC and DSCC aid to Democratic incumbents when they're faced with good-faith challengers in the primaries;
ii. finding new progressive challengers to attack the Vichy incumbents we re-elect this year out of necessity;
iii. driving a stake through the heart of every DLC-associated Presidential candidate, starting with Hillary Clinton; and then
iv. electing whichever Democrat wins the Presidential primary (unless, of course, Lieberman's unholy corpse gnaws its way through the dirt back to moonlight and runs again for President, in which case I'll vote for Jeb Bush first!)
Sound like a good slogan from now till November? And a good plan from now until Nov. 2008?
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Wednesday, August 9, 2006
Lamont won, and Lieberman -- unlike in 2000 -- displays something resembling a cartilaginous proto-spine and vows to fight on as an independent. Lots of analysis on the net (most of it insightful) and on the mainstream news (most of it completely misunderstanding the real point). I won't waste time rehashing what Atrios, Kos, HuffPo, and a host of others already are saying well, but as an early leader in the effort to identify and oust Vichys -- "starting with Joe Lieberman, of course" -- I'm proud, and have some short points to add:
1. THIS WASN'T ABOUT IRAQ. Well, in part it was, but other Democrats, even now, support the war, and while there's some opposition to them, they haven't sunk to the bottom like Lieberman has. It's about Iraq, but also about Iran, the bankruptcy bill, his unflagging support for Israel drunk or sober, etc. He actually has a decent voting record -- something like 90% of the time voting with the Dems, according to Jon Alter -- but that 10% has been on the most important issues. It does no good to be a good Democrat on some appropriations rider giving pork to a blue state but side with the Republicans on preemptive war. And a lot of us still remember he's the one who covered his ass by running simultaneously for VP and for his old Senate seat in 2000, and reportedly persuaded Gore to cave in early on the recount. So this isn't about Iraq; it's about Lieberman.
2. THIS WAS A VICTORY FOR IDEOLOGICAL, PARTISAN POLITICS -- NOT THAT THERE'S ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT. On the Today show, Lieberman just said that Lamont stood for the "old politics" of partisan division. Well, damn straight!
Look, there are fascists and there are free French, and the fascists are wrong and the free French are right, and the Vichy -- pretending to be the mediators bridging the two -- are nothing but accommodationists without vision or values. I want an America that embraces two parties, each rooted in intellectually honest and fact-based ideologies and values, often in opposition but both committed to the success of our nation, playing by the same fair rules and respectful of the other. And I want each of those parties to play hard, because it's in that isometric tension that America finds its way through hard times. When one party is dominant, the other should act as a brake and a reality check: the two-party system as an unintended part of the "checks and balances" system. That's a major part of what I've labeled "neoProgressivism": an honest, but vigorously argued, political system rather than a tepid, accommodationist one.
The problem with Lieberman and the DLC/DSCC/DCCC crowds are that they are trying to stand in the middle of the tug-of-war and negotiate a compromise, when their role is to stand on one side and haul like hell, trusting that only by doing so will the other side be counterbalanced and something like "neutrality" or "balance" be achieved. Imagine what would happen if, in the middle of a tug-of-war contest, 1/3 of the people on one side suddenly let go and said they were tired of partisanship. The rest of their team would be face-down in the mud, and the quitters would stand there clean as whistles, sweat-free, saying, "see where conflict gets you?" No: that's where dodging the hard work gets you. Lieberman let go of the rope; Lamont grabbed the rope; the rest of the team appreciates Lamont for doing so. Simple as that.
2.5 THE HALF-JOKING, HALF-SERIOUS RELIGIOUS ANALYSIS, SUPPLEMENTAL TO NO. 2 ABOVE: LIEBERMAN LOST PRECISELY BECAUSE GOD DOESN'T LIKE BUCKETS OF LUKEWARM SPIT. Revelations 3:15-16: "I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth." Lieberman is neither hot nor cold, and he was spewed out of Connecticut's maw. Good for Connecticut. Lesson: even God wants people to pick a side -- hot or cold -- and stick with it, 'cause lukewarm spit just sucks. Other "centrist" politicians, take note: God's mad at you.
3. LIEBERMAN'S INDEPENDENT BID IS JUST A SETUP FOR HIS FUTURE JOB AS SECRETARY OF DEFENSE. He doesn't have a chance in hell of actually winning election as an independent unless the Rs rig the election against their own guy, which I doubt will happen. Lots of R money Joe's way? Sure, but only enough to help him split the D vote -- just as Rs donated heavily to Nader, not so he'd win but so that Bush would. So why's he acting all sanctimonious about his "independence"? Just as he did when he dissed Clinton's morality over a minor sexual peccadillo that wasn't 1/100th as bad as what King David did with Bathsheba and Uriah, he's portraying himself as the righteous man for political gain (and to stroke his own ego). He lost, but he can claim he lost in the name of noble bipartisanship. And it will help his career: unlike Zell Miller, he's not interested in a one-shot speech at the R convention and some book sales; he's trying to establish nonpartisan credentials so he can (a) ideally, take Don Rumsfeld's job as S.O.D. (he recently gave an interview in which he very guardedly criticized Rumsfeld but said "it's the President's decision" whether to replace him, hint hint); or, if that doesn't pan out, (b) he can work both sides of the aisle as possibly the highest-paid lobbyist (whether by that title or not) in history.
4. IF WE KEEP WORKING, THIS CAN BE DAY ONE OF THE NEOPROGRESSIVE ERA: Pundits are saying that the "liberal bloggers" will cost Democrats elections by driving the party to the left. Stop, think: what Congressional election have we won since the centrists took power in 1992? None. Zippo. Not one. All the DLC ever did was get Clinton elected -- but he's tremendously charismatic, would have won anyway against the lukewarm Bush 41, and in hindsight Clinton did a lot of harm (e.g., passing NAFTA without environmental or labor safeguards). I'll write more on this later, but the evidence is that when Democrats act relatively progressive rather than accommodationist, they win more. Everyone predicts this new direction for the party -- the netroots-driven, ideologically purer, more combative direction -- will lead to disaster. The liberal Republicans in 1964 said the same thing about the neocons who tried to reclaim that party for conservatives. I pray we never become as extreme as the neocons did, but you have to admit: the centrist Republicans of the 1960s were wrong, the "purists" in their party did succeed in taking control, they've succeeded in taking control of all three branches of government -- and, crazy as it sounds, are talking seriously about securing a "permanent majority" (in Rove's words). That's a pretty good forty-year run; not even the Raiders have managed to put together a streak lasting that long.
Now it's our turn. Kris Kristofferson wrote a great song saying, "I ain't sayin' I beat the devil, but I drank his beer for nothing, and then I stole his song." We're going to steal the Republicans' songs in terms of political stratagy by moving left and actually standing for something for a change, and then we (unlike they) are going to use our power for good, to re-establish an America that works better for Main Street than Wall Street, that balances its budgets and spends its money on its own people instead of on transnational corporations and that combats terrorism by building schools and medical clinics in the Middle East the way Hamas and Hizbullah have (earning people's support) instead of just forts and embassies (which generate enmity and have never worked, ever since the Crusader States fell to the Muslims a thousand years ago).
This is a big deal. It's a good sign for the upcoming midterms, it's a wake-up call for the seven dems in the Gang of 14, Landrieu, Feinstein, Ben Nelson and all the other lukewarmers, and more broadly, the start of a new era, not a liberal one but a neoprogressive, fairer one. I'm happy and, for all you who've supported this effort, proud. (And a little proud of myself, too: what was the first site to label this loser as "Lieberman, Joseph (V-CT)"? VichyDems! So let's avoid calling him an "I" and be sure everyone labels him a "V".)
5. KEEP GIVING MONEY TO LAMONT! He'll still need it, all the way up to the general election. I just received my first AdSense check from Google (after half a year!): $100.41. It's mostly going to Lamont (with a little to Menendez, a good first-year Dem from New Jersey who's going to have a tough time in the general election). Please do the same; you can donate here.
And most of all: thanks, gang. The dream of today's result is what started VichyDems in the first place, and it'll keep us going despite my recent hiatus. I'll be fully back in the saddle soon, taking aim not at the general election but at retooling the Democratic political apparatus before the 2008 Congressional and Presidential primaries. As far as I'm concerned, 2006 is now over. Happy New Year. Let's go to work on 2008.
Monday, July 3, 2006
My disappointment: it appears he actually told Fitz about it, instead of lying to him. (My prophesies here, here, here, here, here.) But the pesky details (e.g., that he didn't know Plame was involved; yeah, right!) may still bite him in the butt.
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In Lieberman's mind, this is good campaign strategy, because he thinks that an independent bid would split Democratic voters in the general election, handing the race to the Republican challenger. He'll try to bully Connecticut's Democratic primary voters into handing him the nomination to prevent the seat from falling into Republican hands.
The truth? Lieberman's such a neocon these days -- simultaneously planted so firmly both in the rear wallet pockets of big campaign contributors and in the pasty white rump of Karl Rove that I get a headache trying to sort out the contortions that posture requires -- that he's as likely to split the conservative vote as the liberal vote; his independent candidacy will be a wash. And as to the primary, if this announcement doesn't unite Connecticut's Democrats behind Lamont, well, we don't deserve to win. (If you need more background or additional reasons to call Joementum the backstabbing Vichy he really is, surf these posts.)
So the title of Big Baldfaced Loser o' the Day goes to Joementum Lieberman, issuing his Declaration of Dependence on corporate money and the Bush White House to retain his nominally Democratic seat. And tomorrow I'll hoist a beer to celebrate the good citizens of Connecticut, whom I expect are independent enough to hand Lieberman his hat on primary day and again in November. Good riddance to bad rubbish. Please DONATE TO NED LAMONT HERE!
Now I'm going to go wash my hands, since I had to type the name "Liberman" so many times.
Happy Fourth, everyone. It's going to be a better second half of the year.
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Saturday, July 1, 2006
My own input: Michelle Goldberg on HuffPo, h/t Atrios, on why Obama IS FUCKING UP by (maybe even unintentionally) buying into the radically unsuccessful DLC/Accommodationist line. Maybe if more people (besides me) say it, those entranced by Barack's centrist spel [yes, sic] will wake up and join those of us who see real potential in the boy, and are screaming for him to tell the triangulators to go to hell, and start carving out a true leadership course. Know how Colin Powell could have been the first African-American President if he'd declared as a Democrat instead of as a Republican? Barack's the evil twin: he might get himself nominated (my bet: as VP on Hillary's ticket), or even elected, but so what? If a man loseth his soul, what shall he gain? And if Obama joins the Carlyle Group, who gives a rip whether he's a "black" President? Better a Cheney or a Wolfowitz, so we can at least take aim at them directly without feeling conflicted.
What about me, you ask? Two months invested in the Christmas/religious wars book, all the good-looking chances at getting it published appear to be disintegrating, family and financial responsibilities (which are hitting redline after being neglected for two months) are dragging me away from finishing it, and now our landlords -- whom we used to like -- are acting like jerks, so we may need to move in the next month or two instead of staying put until my wife finishes school and my younger daughter graduates from elementary school. Which, of course, will put the finishing bullet in the book. I'm an unhappy, lost and bewildered camper. But it appears I do have friends, and a little bit of righteous anger left. Thanks for that.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Due to deaths in my own sprawling, extended family (including one in Fort Worth, oddly enough), I missed this obituary for one Doyle Willis.
I am ashamed to say I never heard of the man. I'm old enough that I should have. Along the way, I discovered an interesting voice in Texas politics, one Bud Kennedy at the "Startlegram."
'For all the working-class people of Texas, Doyle was our guy'By BUD KENNEDY
In My Opinion
FORT WORTH - Taps sounded Monday for the all-time champion of Texas veterans, a former state senator buried at 98 in a custom pine box.
When Doyle Willis was born in a Kaufman County log cabin, cars were still new and the Texas Capitol had been open less than 20 years.
He served there off and on for half a century, arguing and scrapping if necessary for the needs of police officers, firefighters, schoolteachers, children, older adults and most of all, Fort Worth.
Back then, a Democrat would fight. Willis brought four years of World War II combat experience and a Bronze Star medal to Austin, and never abandoned his fellow American veterans or their families whenever they needed help from Austin.
Whoa, there! I can take that one of two ways, "a Democrat would fight," and one way makes those fighting words.
As I read on, I understood that Bud Kennedy was not making the mistake that Democrats largely aren't veterans or won't fight (you hear that a lot these days ... from people who never served). No, instead the author was talking about Willis' mission as a public servant, so I put my hackles back in their box and chided myself for being too quick to raise them.
The people and issues Doyle Willis fought for are our priorities, or rather when they are our priorities, Democrats win:
As an honor guard stood ready to fire a salute, former Texas labor leader Gary Horton of Galveston listed more Texans who counted on Willis.
“He was the friend of the carpenters, the plumbers, the pipefitters, the autoworkers,” said Horton, a former AFL-CIO official. “For all the working-class people of Texas, Doyle was our guy.”
Men in shirtsleeves and women in print dresses mingled with former state lawmakers and leaders at his funeral, a simple service that drew mostly old friends from his home neighborhoods of Oakhurst and Riverside to the First United Methodist Church of Fort Worth.
The attendees of Doyle Willis' funeral are very much the beneficiaries of his public service. Let it be said, the guy was a mensch. He also abided by Boadicea's second criterion of leadership: he prepared his successors.
Former House Speaker Gib Lewis of Fort Worth and I shared a row of honorary pallbearers, along with Star-Telegram columnist Bob Ray Sanders. Willis wrote us both letters on a 1927 Royal typewriter, but Lewis said we definitely weren’t the only targets of Willis’ advice.
“Doyle took a lot of people under his wing,” Lewis said with a grin, remembering a 1976 election when a young Lewis staffer named Mike Millsap won a Texas House seat.
At 6 o’clock on the morning after Millsap won, his home phone rang.
“Mike, this is Doyle Willis,” a voice growled on the other end.
“Congratulations. Now here’s what you need to do in Austin,” and Willis delivered a 30-minute early-morning lecture on the inner workings of the Texas Legislature.
By then, Willis had already served off and on for 30 years, chairing four special commissions that helped write Texas laws on child abuse. He also wrote the Texas civil service laws that protect police officers, firefighters and other government workers from arbitrary or political firings.
OK, so seeing as how Gib Lewis was the future then and is the past now, what about the future of Texas Republicans? Well, while I was trying to figure out if Bud Kennedy's dig about Democrats who would fight was a goad or a gloat, I found this story from Mr. Kennedy about the recent Democrats' convention up in Fort Worth:
Even the party's ticket is younger than usual. Bell, who spoke Friday night, is 46. Today, the convention will hear from lieutenant governor nominee Maria Luisa Alvarado of San Antonio and U.S. Senate nominee Barbara Ann Radnofsky of Houston, both not yet 50.
"The difference between this year and when we came here six years ago is like the difference between night and day," said David Van Os, an Austin labor lawyer who is running against Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican.
"Six years ago, the party leaders had a defeatist attitude. They were afraid to speak out. ... Now, there's a lot of enthusiasm."
This is still the Democratic Party that seems more like a gathering of microparties, from the Motorcycle Rights Caucus and the Environmental Caucus to the Progressive Populist Caucus and the Stem Cell Research Caucus. The exhibit hall has not one but two booths devoted to changing marijuana laws.
But six years ago, I don't remember a Pro-Life Democrats booth.
And I don't remember anything called a Christian Democratic Network, or the Network of Spiritual Progressives Caucus, which calls for restoring "religion and spirituality" to political leadership.
Look, you could say something about dirty politics in any age, but the challenge of ours is the necessity of overcoming the influence of Big Money in elections. Now that we have plural generations raised to think that being a sociopath is virtuous, this is a toxic combination for our democracy. Candidates are bought, law is sold. This isn't a matter of left versus right, or even liberal versus conservative (and even Republicans are now switching to Democrat). The challenge is to build a middle-class party that can fight for the interests of most Americans while defending America and its principles from enemies foreign and domestic. In the simplest terms, this means rediscovering the party of Doyle Willis.
Concretely, that means building a progressive Democratic party that can beat the GOP and the DLC, the corporate party whose appearance of bi-partisanship is really just bi-parasiteship.
Before I leave you, let me show you a recent Bud Kennedy piece on the state of the Republicans. It gives you a notion of the problems the Republican party is having, now that their little game of exploiting the incurious by braying about boogeymen is starting to unravel. Compare:
One of the top-selling Republican keepsakes at the state convention this weekend is a T-shirt with an unmistakable message of border bigotry: "Keep America Beautiful! Put Up the Wall!"
Three blocks from the Alamo and an earlier failed wall, Texas Republicans are building all sorts of barriers, dividing not only nations but also fellow Republicans.
The same souvenir stand is selling a button with a wishful thought: "Wouldn't It Be Great ... McCain-Perry 2008."
A Houston-area delegate wrinkled her nose.
"I think that stinks," Betty Callaway said.
"Both of them."
At their first state convention in 14 years without a George W. Bush to elect or re-elect, some Texas Republicans have returned to their feuding ways.
"McCain lacks character," Callaway said, adding that Gov. Rick Perry should not have signed off on a new business tax system.
"I don't have any use for him," she said, unfolding a campaign handout giving Perry credit for Texas congressional redistricting and saying that he "led the way to develop a new, fair map."
"When Tom DeLay was investigated over this, Perry didn't lift one finger to help," she said. "Now, he 'led the way?'"
If DeLay seemed like old news in a convention more worried about Laredo than Washington, Bush seemed almost like an opponent for his wall-free, worker-friendly immigration reform plan.
The "Keep America Beautiful" T-shirts were selling at a rate of about one per minute, according to vendor Jim Lewis of Blue Sky Advertising in Austin.
"People are buying three or four at a time," he said. "They want anything about the border."
On the other hand, the McCain-Perry button was a flop. Lewis brought 200 but had sold only a few.
"They don't like McCain's position on the border," he said. He made the button after reading McCain-Perry speculation on the Web, he said. "I thought people would like it. They don't."
Meanwhile, at the other end of the vendors' aisle in the convention center, three Houston Republicans sat almost shunned.
While delegates lined up at U.S. Rep. Ron Paul's booth -- where T-shirts called for protecting America's borders, language and "culture" -- almost nobody stopped to talk with representatives from the Republican National Hispanic Assembly.
In about 10 minutes, I saw only one person stop to talk with delegates from the largest organization for Hispanic Republicans. Some delegates walked around the stand in an obviously wide curve as if the booth featured live alligators.
"I've been cussed out a couple of times already," said Jerry Bustamante of Houston, secretary of the state RNHA.
Yeah, "they want anything about the border." Kinda like these guys.
Two parties headed in opposite directions.
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Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
I am a 44 year old, happily married, church-elder, liberal, family-man, heterosexual American male. I hold a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Davis in English, with, had I filed in time, a minor in Political Science, 1984, and a Juris Doctor from the same school (1987). I went to law school because I realized that I knew nothing at all to write about -- knew nothing of life -- as of 1984, and I thought that law school might lead to a career that would teach me about life. I was right: 15 years as a civil litigator (and a short stint as a special prosecutor for the Multnomah County, Oregon D.A.) taught me more about human nature than 100 years of "civilian" life would have.
I always assumed that a law practice would lead me to a career as a novelist -- but, instead, it led me to great joy, great competitiveness, and ultimately to great pain as I took my clients' pains upon myself. I finally had to quit, and five years ago quit my litigation practice and became a mediator, arbitrator, and writer.
Lately I've been working on a book that Jennifer Nix, editor of George Lakoff's "Don't Think of an Elephant", Kos' "Crashing the Gates", and Glenn Greenwald's "How Would a Patriot Act" thinks has promise: rebutting and mediating the "War on Christmas" and "Culture War" being mounted by the Right against the principles of egalitarianism, parity, and freedom enunciated by the Founders.
The problem is, I don't have a formal "book deal." Jennifer is supportive of the idea, and is pitching the book to Working Assets Publishing (her new employer), but it's not a guarantee. Meanwhile, since I want the book to be released in the Fall, I'm working on it day and night, setting aside my work as a litigation "neutral" and as a homemaker (my wife is a student at the university of Oregon at age 51), in order to do so. And, incidentally, neglecting VichyDems.
Ergo, my infrequently-updated blog, and your highly-stressed blog proprietor.
I care about this project deeply. It's my life's work, when you get down to it, especially since I'm a mediator by profession: reaching across the divide to the good people who honestly believe in God and America and who are being misled by demagogues and false prophets and who should, if they understood the issue, be Democrats (at least, if Democrats were worth following, as Dean is and Ms. Clinton is not). So I'm giving everything to it.
But tonight, with a daughter frustrated at her inadequacies at softball, another who has tested as a genius but is receiving C2 and C3s in school because she cannot get it together to turn her homework in (and her dad can't get it together to provide her with adequate support) -- I'm frustrated. Is this (the blog, the book) just a fool's errand? Or are we --- all of us together -- going to change the world, and get the pendulum swinging back our way? It's certainly time. But sometimes, it's hard for even the cheerleaders to fathom how the home team is going to come back and win.
So: community: help. Is this going to work out?
Don't worry. Tomorrow I'll be back to telling you that it is.
I love you guys. Time for another martini.
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Conservative non-fiction has been very successful. There are many best-selling books from authors that span the continuum from Russell Kirk to Ann Coulter. While there are publishers of conservative nonfiction, Regnery for example, there are virtually none for conservative fiction, a venue that will reach a wider audience.
Hint: here's a link to the largest publisher of conservative fiction.
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Thursday, May 25, 2006
So while in normal times General Hayden might be a good choice, in these times, with fascism looming, he's not. He ran the NSA's domestic surveillance program, so we vote no. It's just so fucking simple.
Yet our party's leaders don't understand it -- not even Jay Rockefeller, who disappointed me on the Alito filibuster but since then has seemed to be on board.
Glenn Greenwald wrote about it. Please read.
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Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Here, to keep the blog alive, as a sort of personal diary, and as a teaser for the book, is a very rough draft of the first part of the Preface (not the whole thing). It will change; it may be abandoned altogether and replaced with a different approach; but it's what I've got on paper at present. I'm open to any constructive feedback.
As I sit and write this Preface on a stormy Monday afternoon, my mind keeps returning to last weekend, which I spent with my two daughters, ages 10 and 12, at a beautiful National Forest campground on the Oregon coast. Just my daughters, me -- and about 150 of their fellow Girl Scouts, other parents and troop leaders, at the annual Girl Scout Camporee.
The weather was uncharacteristically cooperative for Spring in Oregon: just warm enough, just dry enough, the dragonfly-sized mosquitos present but not yet in full force. The kids were delightful: enthusiastic, inquisitive, energetic (!), and silly. The other adults were a joy to be around: all of them committed to their families, overjoyed to be spending time with their children, committed to helping all the scouts learn to be stronger people and better citizens, both by teaching and by example. Everyone pitched in selflessly: adults drove carpools at their own expense; everyone worked together to haul luggage from the cars to the various campsites several hundred yards away; older Juniors and Cadettes helped teach and care for the little first-grade Daisies on their first Camporee. After meals, everyone cleared their dishes, wiped their tables and swept the dining hall floor. On Saturday, all the girls rotated, by troops, through different educational stations. One father from my girls’ troop, an experienced rock climber who used to live near Yosemite, rigged a (low-to-the-ground) slack line for the girls to walk across and a “zip line” where they could hang from a pulley and zoom on a wire between two trees. Other parents taught the scouts how to set up different kinds of tents and improvise shelters from tarps and tree branches. Since I’m a search and rescue volunteer and a certified Wilderness First Responder, I taught the girls basic first aid and survival skills, including how to apply pressure to a cut to stop the bleeding, how to improvise first aid tools from ordinary materials (for instance, making an Ace-type bandage by cutting a T-shirt in a long spiral), and how to recognize and help a friend who might be showing early signs of hypothermia (they were VERY pleased to learn that chocolate is part of my recommended treatment!). The girls also went swimming, boating, and put on a series of skits to entertain us all. During the skits, one troop of very young girls parodied my first aid instruction: “Today we learned to respond to emergencies calmly. This was a test of the Troop 157 emergency response system. Had this been an actual emergency, it would have sounded like this: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!”, with much running around and screaming.)
It was, in other words, a wonderful, cooperative, healthy, moral, family-oriented, community-oriented, all-American weekend.
“Great!” I can hear you say, “but what does this have to do with Christmas?”
The answer is, it has nothing to do with Christmas -- but it has everything to do with how Americans should respond to the “War on Christmas” and “War on Christians” that we hear more and more about every year. My daughters’ Camporee was a perfect example of how Americans can work together despite their superficial differences, and how the whole community benefits when we do. Whether you believe there’s a War On Christmas, or whether you believe it’s a deception being practiced by political manipulators, the solution is the same: act more like the Girl Scouts and their parents on that Camporee.
Some of the girls at the Camporee were white; some were Asian; some were African-American. Some were athletic and self-confident and handled the physical challenges with ease; others were less sure of themselves, more gangly, more fearful. Some of the girls (mine included, thankfully) come from intact families; others have divorced parents; others’ parents were never married in the first place but still share parenting duties and love their kids. My wife stayed home while I went; some husbands stayed home while their wives went; some couples both attended; in at least one instance both divorced parents came, setting aside their differences for the good of their child. I know, from my involvement with the Scouts for the past few years, that most of the girls’ families (including mine) are Christian, but that one word covers a lot of territory: some of those Scouts’ families are theologically conservative, others theologically liberal, all under that “Christian” banner. Other families were Jewish, Unitarian, atheist, agnostic, Buddhist, “I believe in some sort of God but don’t belong to any religion” Deists -- and mixed. Most of the parents were straight; at least a couple (and probably more than a couple) were gay or lesbian. It didn’t matter. We didn’t debate religion or discuss our sexuality around the campfire after the kids went to bed; we laughed and told funny stories about the day and praised each others’ kids. We didn’t speak of family values; we all were there living them, boots-on-the-ground.
Here in Western Oregon, there are more political liberals than political conservatives (though not by as large a margin as some people might think; in 2004, Kerry won Oregon by only 4%). Some of the parents were Republican conservatives, as you might expect whenever families and Scouts and camping and volunteering are involved; I also know that many of the parents were Democrats who oppose most of the current Administration’s policies, including the war in Iraq. Yet everyone there was an American, and every night and every morning of Camporee we held a flag ceremony. The older scouts formed an honor guard, raised and lowered the flag according to correct protocol, and everyone, liberals and conservatives alike, held their hand or their hat over their heart and reverently recited the Pledge of Allegiance.
Before meals, one of the leaders would lead everyone in saying grace, but using words that gave thanks without saying exactly who or what we were saying thanks to; simply showing gratitude, and knowing in our own hearts who we were grateful to, was more than enough. The children from religious homes didn’t need to be told it was God they were thanking, and the children from non-religious homes were taught both that gratitude is an appropriate response to all the good things we are given, and that it’s normal and proper for people to give thanks -- in other words, they were both taught and shown tolerance.
There was no cross anywhere in that federal camp, and no Christian prayer or ceremony, but neither was there anything that seemed un-Christian. There was more than enough goodwill and self-sacrifice and love in that place to remind my children and me of God’s obvious presence, without having to be reminded. One time when I saw my daughters laughing with a group of children, and another time after kissing my daughters goodnight (Girl Scouts aren’t embarrassed to kiss their fathers in front of their friends!), I felt overcome by a sense of joy and gratitude and simply, impulsively bowed my head and quietly said thanks to God. I didn’t advertise it, and I don’t know or care whether anyone saw me praying or not; I wasn’t proving a point like a wide receiver dropping showily to a knee in the end zone; I just felt comfortable and did it.
My family and I didn’t need anything overtly “Christian” or “straight” or “married” or anything else to make us feel like we belonged in that place. If there had been more overt Christian prayers or symbols, I wouldn’t have been any happier, or felt more comfortable. And I would have been tremendously upset -- I think everyone there would have been upset -- had someone else acted in a way that highlighted Christianity or heterosexuality or marriage or anything else in a way that made those who weren’t Christian, straight, married, or anything else feel like they DIDN’T belong; for instance, if someone had tried to erect a cross at the flag ceremony, I think all of us -- including Christians -- would have objected. We all were Americans; we all (even the fathers!) were Girl Scouts; we all knew in our own hearts how we felt about God and our families and our nation; we all belonged in that community. That was enough. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
This book will address many things -- the history of Christmas in America, the swirling dynamics of faith and politics, the complicated and carefully-wrought system of laws that tries to accommodate the sometimes-conflicting Constitutional rights of freedom of religion and freedom from religion -- but in the end, I really just want to ask my readers a simple question: What if America could be like a Girl Scout Camporee on a beautiful weekend in May on the Oregon coast?
What if America could emphasize the things that matter to all of us -- our children and our community and our respect for each other and our need to work together -- instead of worrying about the things that make us different? What if, in our National Forest campgrounds and dining halls and our other shared places, we all focused on the work that needed to be done, the luggage-hauling and dish-clearing and floor-sweeping, instead of looking sideways and complaining that someone else wasn’t, in our opinion, doing their fair share? What if we all felt moved to be thankful without having to argue about which God we’re being thankful to, all helped teach each other’s children without caring whether their parents are different than we are, all loved and served our nation and respected its fundamental principles no matter how much we disagreed about the political brouhaha of the day?
What would a Girl Scout Camporee Christmas look like?
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Wednesday, May 17, 2006
On the one hand this makes good sense: some children, as we all know, are indeed the result of unintentional pregnancies, and it would be healthier for those children if their mothers were healthy to start with. I'm all for having women in general, and mothers in particular, be healthy. It's virtuous. It's nurturing. It's American. Heck, it's even attractive.
On the other hand, it's hard not to see this as yet another harmless-seeming but nevertheless sinister step toward government domination of women's wombs. This is an administration that sees no difference between religious dogma and public health: Catholic hospitals don't need to offer contraceptives to rape victims; Christian pharmacists don't need to fill birth control prescriptions even if the Rx is for irregular menses; a fundamentalist Christian OB/Gyn who routinely drugged and paid his wife for anal sex (and claimed he only engaged in the sin of sodomy because he couldn't tell the difference between an anus and a vagina) singlehandedly blocked over-the-counter sale of Plan B.
After enough instances of that kind, it's hard not to suspect that at least some of those responsible for unveiling this initiative (after 20 years of discussion) are doing so, not solely because it's healthy for women and children, but because it helps establish government dominion of every woman's womb as a potential temple of Life.
Yes, every right-thinking woman in America should watch her weight and quit smoking and drink only within reason. Yes, women who may become pregnant should be even more careful about those things than men should, for the sake of any children they might have -- as an ethical matter, not a religious one. For the same reasons, everyone who cares about the health of mothers and children should also work to reduce mercury levels in fish, protect clean water, oppose industries that emit lead and dioxins, and, in general, vote Democrat. But that last set of initiatives doesn't do anything to dhimmi-ize women, so they get short shrift from theocrats.
In other words, be healthy, but also be clear that it's because you choose to be, not because a bunch of Christian Nativists are telling you to.
So let's call this what it really is: a really good public health idea that we hope helps women and children be healthier, that's at least partly based on religious dominionism, not public health. Being rational and uncrippled by cognitive dissonance, we can simultaneously support maternal health AND recognize this as the U.S. Government's official adoption of the Prairie Muffin Manifesto, which begins:
1) Prairie Muffins are committed to obeying God's law in every area of life, as they are aware of its application to their lives and circumstances.
2) Prairie Muffins are helpmeets to their husbands, seeking creative and practical ways to further their husbands' callings and aid them in their dominion responsibilities.
3) Prairie Muffins are aware that God is in control of their ability to conceive and bear children, and they are content to allow Him to bless them as He chooses in this area. ***
(It gets better after that!)
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Friday, May 12, 2006
in which, for the sake of the blogsphere, I dispense with the notion of respectable discourse once and for all
Jennifer Nix and Tristero have recently dug up some liberal corpses and induced them to speak by the necromatic power of the internets. What these corpses have to say from beyond the grave is sobering. Even with a majority, we cannot win. That's what they have been taught by their enemies, and that's what they have come to believe themselves.
They work for Karl Rove ... for free.
Obviously, the Democrats are disconnected from what the right likes to call "Real Americans." Real Americans hate Bush.
But, since the Democrats don't know anything about Real America, they give Bush a pass, allowing his joint assault on our people and our principles to rack up victory after victory of the minority over the majority. They'll tell you that Democrats must act like a minority even though we're a majority.
The failing print and TV media are at war with the blogsphere for the same reason: we are the America they don't know anything about.
Respectable Democrats are as weak, clueless, and ineffectual as the GOP needs them to be. A respectable Democrat wouldn't dare to be anything else. Who, after all, would be so uncouth and shrill as to actually take a stand for American values at a time when the enemies of those values are so weak?
"Values"? They will laugh in your face. Apparently the Republicans were right: Democrats have no values. Or at least the respectable ones don't. You see, it's important for any Democrat who wants to be taken seriously, by the GOP, by the media that's owned by the same people who own the GOP, and by the DLC, which is owned by the same people who own the GOP, it's important, I say, to live down to the stereotype of the wimpy, nihilistic Democrat.
Anything else would be uncivilized.
I’d shown up for dinner with a bounce in my step, charged up by a number of conservatives-with-cajones stepping forward to take the Bush administration to task over its unwarranted domestic spying program, and claims that W can break any law he finds inconvenient. Republicans like Bob Barr and Bruce Fein were even using the “I” word (and the very next day, George Will would weigh in with his two cents likening Bush to a monarch). I expected that my dinner partners, as progressive thought-leaders and purveyors of information, would be fired up, too. I looked forward to a rousing discussion of how to explain Bush’s law-breaking ways, to connect the dots, and bring historical perspective to recent events.
Alas, I found no urgency, no fervent desire to inform the citizenry of what all was at stake. Instead I was treated to smug defeatism, of the brand so popular today in Washington, DC, even though we were hunched over a tiny table at the House of Nan King in liberal San Francisco. You know the stuff. The political posturing: It’s a losing proposition for Democrats to support censure or impeachment. This Congress will never impeach Bush. We’ll look weak on security. Or the ever-comfortable, elitist stance: People don’t care about these issues. They only care about American Idol. I paraphrase, but you get the idea.
maybe the chandeliers should have tipped her off?
“Are we supposed to stand by and do nothing?” I asked.
They looked at me like I was a five-year-old. Or, perhaps the radical fringe. I remember the book editor saying, “We can only do what we can do.”
If, for instance, we were talking about Arabs in French Algeria learning to think of themselves as French (in French) and to show disdain for their ancestral culture, language, and people, we'd say such sad colonial converts have been "colonized." They have absorbed the values of their oppressors.
This is what's happened to the establishment Democrats in both the press and the government itself. They are incapable of fighting the GOP because they believe what the GOP has told them. You must endorse Bush's failure before you're allowed to talk about it. You must not challenge the premise. By refusing to challenge Bush's disasterous failure on national security, they live down to the stereotypes the GOP has carved out for them.
And they don't dare step outside.
Hazel: Dandelion, why don't you tell us the story of El-ahrairah?
Cowslip: El-ahrairah and his trickery don't really mean very much to us, charming as it is.
Hazel: Rabbits will always need tricks.
Cowslip: No, we need dignity, and above all, the will to accept our fate.
As one of our poets is fond of saying, if I may quote...
Hazel: - Yes, of course. - Please, do.
Cowslip: "Where are you going, stream?
Far, far away.
Take me with you, stream.
Take me on your dark journey.
Lord Frith, take me far away, to the hearts of light.
The silence. I give you my breath."
Respectable Democrats are offended that our response to the GOP's kind offer was nothing more than a sarcastic retort: "Yes, let's help ourselves to a roof of bones."
Such shocking behavior, to refuse the table-scraps offered us by that nice man Karl Rove. He's never as mean to us as the big bad blogsphere, so long as we stay in our place.
This is the meaningless discourse we call "respectable." It's meaningless because it's simply marketing, nothing more. To participate in it, you must reproduce its caricatures and ignore anything that doesn't already fit. You cannot and will not be admitted to the ranks of the professional journalists, commentators, or media consultants unless you are willing to merely repeat the approved story.
Polite people know that you cannot be strong on national defense unless you support the use of Iraq to strengthen our enemies and exhaust our military. The blogsphere knows this and this is why we are so profane. When polite discourse is merely used to discipline an otherwise useless generation of sops and milquetoasts to chant in unison, when it is a weapon used against you, the first thing you must attack is polite discourse itself ... which the blogsphere, instinctively, did.
Why am I so unimpressed with the respectable Democrat act? Why am I not taken in by the phony armchair geopolitics of the "liberal hawk"? Why do I not know my place as someone outside the halls of no doubt well educated power brokers? Well, like all the other regulars at Eschaton, I hold a Ph.D. I am intellectually intimidated by no one. Never have been. My training is in the historical application of religious and other discourses to the legitimation or de-legitimation of authority. I specialize in one country in one century, but I have to be able to teach matters spanning three continents over more than a thousand years. This makes me relatively bullshit proof. While I will always defer to the practical experience of the professional, I know what educated discourse sounds like and let me tell you, it's not polite, it's almost always confrontational. That's how you weed out the weak from the start. People in the Natural Sciences shout a lot, for some reason. Medievalists and archeologists are notorious drinkers. Math people are strangely impatient. The literary types almost never say what they mean, but rather expect you to glean what they mean by asking yourself "why did they say that?"
And, what's more, I'm an educator. All of us eggheads are equally engaged in the challenges of teaching (though some are more equal than others). What I know is useless unless I can apply it and pass it on. There is no excuse for not being able to explain anything to anyone, no matter their educational background. This is why I have nothing but black rage for the phony elitism of the pundits and the Democratic establishment: elitism is always a coward's cop-out of an argument he can't handle.
But, I guess, for phony intellectuals like George Will and Richard Cohen, we don't look like the intellectuals they see in the movies, so they're confused. They, at least, have the decency to act how they think an educated person would act.
So it doesn't matter how wrong they are.
We've been right and they've been wrong for years. Doesn't matter. We're not respectable.
If respectability means surrender, the first thing you must do is reject, in no uncertain terms, the prison your enemies are writing for you.
You must, in short, get in their fucking grill.
This made the wimps who flatter themselves that they are our leaders and gatekeepers very, very nervous. Their arrangement with their abusers is ... complicated and fragile. We who rattle their cages don't know what we're getting into.
We are mocked by those who have surrendered for not surrendering. They have access, in the sense that they have what their abusers see fit to give them, and they think that's the beginning and end of all status. Respectability.
But I will not respect a corpse.
He told us he supported the Bush/Iraq war because 9/11 was a wake-up call and it was inconceivable to him that the Bush administration would lie the United States into an invasion. Another reason: he had been in Cambodia and seen firsthand the capacity of human beings to do evil.
Well, I've never been to Cambodia, but I already knew about the capacity of humans to do evil. That's why I was never stupid enough to support this war.
"Okay, you were right. I 'll grant you that. You were right when the rest of us were wrong..."
Actually, only a minority of Americans supported the invasion (until the shooting actually started). Most of America and all of the world knew better. Here, the corpse is simply chanting one of Rove's satanic psalms.
"No, no, let me ask you a question. How come you, a musician, maybe a good one, maybe a well-read one, but a musician with no training in affairs of state - how come you of all people were right about Iraq but the most respected, most experienced, most intelligent, most serious thinkers in the United States got it wrong?"
A mere musician? You know, someone who words with their hands? How could they possibly know anything? We, in our infinite wisdom, will tell you what's going on and even if we're wrong, at least we're respectable.
This is what I meant about elitism. When they realize the status they've humiliated themselves to attain is nothing but air they'll try to intimidate you with their Grandiose Nothings.
But "serious thinkers" like this idiot are just a bunch of mandarins. That's what their "training in affairs of state" reduced them to. They don't dare think at all. They read the same things, they say the same things, they look alike, they act alike, they dress alike, and all because they're scared shitless to think or act for yourselves. Those among "the most respected, most experienced, most intelligent, most serious thinkers in the United States" who came forward to oppose the war, for instance, were disciplined and marginalized and this "liberal hawk" is participating in that Stalinist excercise by pushing them down the memory-hole.
He honestly can't remember them.
They're easy to scare, easy to discipline, easy to exploit. Therefore, as intellectuals, they're useless. As weaponized wimps, aimed at their own country, however, they are the IED of the mind. They are deployed in a war of attrition against you.
We, the great unwashed, are better informed and more educated than our sniffing so-called superiors in the press and the Democratic establishment. This they can ignore by pointing out that we use the f-word a lot.
Yes, that's what passes for argument in the press and the Democratic establishment.