Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Good morning!

No, none of it's a fool's errand. Yes, we are going to win. Hooah!


Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Thersites2 lets down his guard

Honesty time.

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.


Is There Such a Thing as Conservative Nonfiction?

This delightful nugget is from a conservative interview with conservative novelist Michael P. Tremoglie (who styles himself another Natty Bumpo -- the Hawkeye of Last of the Mohicans. Check out the photo and decide for yourself):

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.


Thursday, May 25, 2006

Sometimes You Gotta Be a Jerk

If the fundamental philosophy of conservatism is "sometimes you gotta be a jerk", and the fundamental philosophy of liberalism is "don't be a jerk!", then sometimes I'm a conservative. For instance, when it comes to confronting the Imperial Presidency, there should be one simple rule for Senate Democrats: ALWAYS be a jerk. Period. The administration nominates anyone to the right of Ed Asner to run the CIA? Then in this political climate, vote no. It's simple.

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.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Go Support Feingold.

C'mon, just one click. Don't you DARE vote for Hil. h/t Egreggious.

Girl Scouts: Culture Warriors

I've been extremely lax about posting lately, despite the fact that there are lots of bright shiny factoids in the news lately that I could riff on. My excuse is that I've been working on a book, about the "War on Christmas" and larger "Culture War" that Fox News et al. keep trying to foist on the American people. Will it be published? Heck if I know. I'm just writing it, based on a few tea leaves suggesting it might have a chance.

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?


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Prairie Muffin Act of 1606

Word today (h/t Salon via Atrios) that the government now is asking all American women to act as if they are pregnant, whether or not they actually are.

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!)

Friday, May 12, 2006

"Let's Help Ourselves to a Roof of Bones"


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

71% of America knows Bush is a failure, and yet the Democrats won't act.  Maybe the Republicans were right about the Democrats, maybe they are the effete elite

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

repeat the approved story, O Tom Bevan, and your name will echo here for eternity!

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. 



Thursday, May 11, 2006

They Violate Our Civil Rights, We Petition For Redress of Grievances.

I'm shocked, shocked to learn that the NSA has been spying a hell of a lot more than it (or President Bush or Attorney General Gonzales or anyone else on the Republican side of the aisle) has been willing to admit. And I'm amazed that most loyal, patriotic American telecommunications corporations have been playing along without a peep:

The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.

The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans — most of whom aren't suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews.

"It's the largest database ever assembled in the world," said one person, who, like the others who agreed to talk about the NSA's activities, declined to be identified by name or affiliation. The agency's goal is "to create a database of every call ever made" within the nation's borders, this person added.

For the customers of these companies, it means that the government has detailed records of calls they made — across town or across the country — to family members, co-workers, business contacts and others.

The three telecommunications companies are working under contract with the NSA, which launched the program in 2001 shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the sources said. The program is aimed at identifying and tracking suspected terrorists, they said.

The sources would talk only under a guarantee of anonymity because the NSA program is secret.

Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, nominated Monday by President Bush to become the director of the CIA, headed the NSA from March 1999 to April 2005. In that post, Hayden would have overseen the agency's domestic call-tracking program. Hayden declined to comment about the program.

Meanwhile, the Executive Branch is has given up pretending to investigate itself without letting itself investigate itself (yes, I know how convoluted that is; I'm just the messenger!):

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government has abruptly ended an inquiry into the warrantless eavesdropping program because the National Security Agency refused to grant Justice Department lawyers the necessary security clearance to probe the matter.

The Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility, or OPR, sent a fax to Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., on Wednesday saying they were closing their inquiry because without clearance their lawyers cannot examine Justice lawyers' role in the program.

What, is America becoming a totalitarian, Big Brother nation that manipulates its citizens with fabricated fears, ignores any semblance of restraint or respect for rights, and exists to serve the transnational corporations that fund and feed our representatives' power? Why oh why hasn't anyone told us about any of this before now?

(Digression: buy Glenn Greenwald's damn book, please! At seven nine bucks [the Invisible Hand strikes again!], how can you go wrong?)

President Bush, of course, responds by asking: who are we gonna believe, him or our lying eyes? And nearly all of the Senate Democrats, who ran bravely away when Russ Feingold introduced his censure resolution, are no better than the Republicans: they've forsworn their oaths of office, to support the Constitution and serve the American people instead of their factional interests.

Here, hot off the presses, is the press release from the office of Jay Rockefeller, senior Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee and a good guy on this issue, who had earlier called for hearings into the NSA program but was rejected on a party-line vote:

For Immediate Release
May 11, 2006
Statement by Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller iv

“As I have said for some time, we need the full Intelligence Committees briefed on all NSA related activities. Current congressional oversight is woefully inadequate. Significant questions remain surrounding the legality of the program and whether the White House has misrepresented the program to the public through selective declassification.”


On the first day that Senator Rockefeller learned about the NSA warrantless surveillance program in July 2003, he expressed concerns that the program raised complicated legal and technical questions that required the careful evaluation of the Senate Intelligence Committee. He continues to believe that all aspects of this warrantless program, or any related program, require a great deal of oversight, and that congressional oversight to date is wholly insufficient.

Early this year, Senator Rockefeller pressed for the full Senate Intelligence Committee to conduct an objective, bipartisan review of the NSA program’s legality and effectiveness. Senate Republicans blocked this effort and the Administration only agreed to brief 7 of the 15 members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Regular VDems readers know all about that vote -- the partisan huddle in the hallway outside the meeting where the deal was cut but that no one in the mainstream press reported, etc. We got sandbagged.

So, now, what to do, what to do?

1. Call your own senators and tell them to admit that Russ Feingold was absodamnlutely correct to call for censuring the President, and tell them their constituents want hearings into ALL domestic surveillance programs NOW. Not later. Not after a nonexistent "investigation is complete." NOW.

2. Also tell them: NO on Hayden as new head of the CIA. His previous Congressional testimoney made it clear that he has insufficient respect for and understanding of the Fourth Amendment. J. Edgar Hoover is dead; may he remain so.

3. Call Hillary Clinton and give her an earful about cuddling up to Fox News. It's all part of the same damned corporate oligarchy, and real patriots won't stand for it, whether the enablers are from the other party or their own.

4. Call Russ Feingold and tell him: go, man, go!!!

The Senate switchboard, toll-free, is: 888-355-3588.


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

It's Not the Moderates, It's the Enablers, Dammit.

Glenn Greenwald lays into Richard Cohen nicely today, helping shred Cohen's recent post regurgitating the conventional wisdom about how all us liberal ideological purists are destroying our own party by refusing to tolerate moderates etc. etc. Here's my contribution to that discussion (also left as a comment on Unclaimed Territory):

Another thing that angers ME on this topic is the use (intentional by conservatives, well-intentioned but equally incorrect by liberals) of the term "centrist" or "moderate" to describe the reason behind progressives' discontent with people like Lieberman, Cuellar, Emanuel, Bob Casey, and Hillary Clinton, and faux-centrist organizations like the DLC and the DCCC.

Most of us who vigorously oppose those people's ascendancy isn't based on their specific policies so much as on their accommodationism. For example, Hillary almost always votes with the party, and is strong on the environment, health care, etc. -- but she attended Fox News' anniversary party, and will be feted at a fundraiser thrown by Rupert Murdoch in July; she's asking her donors not to contribute to any other potential Presidential candidates, using Soros' money to create but monopolize a voter-info database that should be available to all Democrats through the DNC, and manipulating backroom politics to rig primaries in favor of her preferred candidates (like Bob Casey, Sherrod Brown, and Tami Duckworth, effectively shutting Democratic voters out of the process. She's plenty progressive on the Senate floor, but she's still one of the bad guys. Similarly, Lieberman isn't bad because he sometimes votes more conservatively than I'd like; he's a bad guy because he goes out of his way to provide Bush with bipartisan cover. Obama is a wonderful candidate, but he's strongly [see comments to post below; I try to be fair] backing Lieberman's reelection, and like Hillary is involved in rigging the primaries.

On the primary-rigging issue, an email I got a while back from Pennacchio's campaign in Pennsylvania, which Hillary and Obama are undercutting, puts it perfectly:

Mrs. Clinton is a creature of the common wisdom of her Party, which is defined by centrism, triangulation, and, in our view, capitulation. Mr. Casey is the poster boy for all of these tactics, especially when you've moved the notion of the center a hundred yards to the right. Mrs. Clinton gave money for the same reasons any Democrat has given money to Bob Casey: he's the Party's choice to run against Rick Santorum and Rick Santorum must be defeated. We see a flaw in that logic, most notably in the fact that the Party as embodied by its voting citizens has not yet spoken on this matter. To presume their choice, to dictate it, is the sort of hubris we see chipping away at the Republicans right now.

Given the choice between a strong team player who understands that Bush really IS the enemy but who on policy is a moderate, or a manipulating, scheming, self-loyal rather than party-loyal triangulationist who usually votes liberally but leaves the reservation precisely when unity is needed (as on the Alito nomination) -- damn it, I'll take the moderate-voting good Democrat over the liberal-voting Republican enabler every time.

So to say we oppose "centrist" or "moderates" is too simplistic. We oppose Vichys and cowards. It's not about purity, but about guts: like real French patriots in WWII, we'd rather eat sauerbraten and drink Liebfraumilch with German-accented but vigorous resistance fighters than eat brie and drink Bordeaux with perfectly-credentialled Parisian collaborationists. Not only is it more pleasant, but it's actually a hell of a lot more likely to succeed than "centrism" (really "triangulationism") is (the DLC strategy has NEVER won 51% of a Presidential vote, lost us the Congress in '94, and has been unable to win it back).

But few people understand the distinction, and when we go after the Vichy, they accuse us of going after the French.

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Arthur Jensen Makes It All Perfectly Clear.

I know. It's hard. But I'm here to help; we're ALL here to help:

Don't understand why Hillary and Rupert Murdoch are buds? Unsure why the Labor Party's Tony Blair and the Tory George W. Bush are playing on the same team? Puzzled why the wonderfully articulate liberal Barack Obama and the neocon Vichy Joe Lieberman not only are in the same party, but are friends? [Feb. 15 '08: why deleted is here and here.] Scratching your head over the "coincidence" that every country that switches from trading oil in dollars to trading in Euros gets invaded (more on that soon in a guest post)? Unsure who the "Wall Street Dems" are, trying to figure out how Bill Clinton made the "mistake" of signing NAFTA without environmental or labor equality provisions, or what the DLC is and why I consider it even more dangerous than the GOP?

Do you want to find the True Religion, worshipping the Primal Forces of Nature?

Watch Network. It was all explained in 1976, but not everyone got the memo. Arthur Jensen will explain it to you. If you haven't seen the movie in the last five years, watch Network. Here's a clip, but you need to watch the whole thing. (The Netflix page is right here.)

Jensen: You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and I won't have it, is that clear?!

You think you have merely stopped a business deal -- that is not the case! The Arabs have taken billions of dollars out of this country, and now they must put it back. It is ebb and flow, tidal gravity, it is ecological balance!

You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples. There are no nations! There are no peoples! There are no Russians. There are no Arabs! There are no third worlds! There is no West! There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multi-variate, multi-national dominion of dollars! petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars!, Reichmarks, rubles, rin, pounds and shekels!

It is the international system of currency that determines the totality of life on this planet! That is the natural order of things today!

That is the atomic, subatomic and galactic structure of things today! And you have meddled with the primal forces of nature, and you will atone!

Am I getting through to you, Mr. Beale?

You get up on your little twenty-one inch screen, and howl about America and democracy. There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM and ITT and AT&T and Dupont, Dow, Union Carbide and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today.

What do you think the Russians talk about in their councils of state -- Karl Marx? They pull out their linear programming charts, statistical decision theories and minimax solutions and compute the price-cost probabilities of their transactions and investments just like we do.

We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr. Beale. The world is a college of corporations, inexorably deter- mined by the immutable by-laws of business.

The world is a business, Mr. Beale! It has been since man crawled out of the slime, and our children, Mr.Beale, will live to see that perfect world in which there is no war and famine, oppression and brutality --one vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work to serve a common profit, in which all men will hold a share of stock, all necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all boredom amused.

And I have chosen you to preach this evangel, Mr. Beale.

Beale: But why me?

Jensen: Because you're on television, dummy. Sixty million people watch you every night of the week, Monday through Friday.

Beale: I have seen the face of God.

Jensen: You just might be right, Mr. Beale.


Fox News To Host Fundraiser for Hillary

(Photo: Hillary Clinton and Rupert Murdoch, ultra-conservative founder of Fox News, at Fox News' 10th anniversary party. As this post explains, Murdoch later threw a campaign fundraiser for Clinton.)

: For more on Hillary's ongoing support by, and support for, Fox News, check here. Thanks.


No, it's not a joke. For everyone who rails at me for railing against Clinton and the DLC:

Tuesday, May 9, 2006 8:37 a.m. EDT
Rupert Murdoch to Host Hillary Fund-Raiser

Rupert Murdoch, head of the News Corp. empire that includes conservative favorites like the Fox News Channel and the New York Post, will be hosting a fund-raiser for 2008 presidential wannabe Hillary Clinton.

The Murdoch event be held by July on behalf of News Corp, reports London's Financial Times.

"They have a respectful and cordial relationship," a source familiar with the event told the Times. "He has respect for the work she has done on behalf of New York."

The source cautioned, however, "I wouldn’t say it was illustrative of a close ongoing relationship. It is not like they are dining out together.”

Still, news of the Hillary fund-raiser follows close on the heels of last week's report in the New York Observer, which announced that ex President Clinton had accepted Murdoch's invitation to speak at the Pebble Beach Golf Club in August.

"We have a good relationship with the former President," a News Corp. spokesman told the paper.

And last month, Mrs. Clinton turned heads when she turned up at a Fox News 10th anniversary party in Washington, D.C.


The two-party system works best when there are two parties. In the Senate, I will work for progressives in the primaries but will support whichever Democrat gets the nomination -- except Joe Lieberman. (I still sort of like Hillary where she is.) For President in 2008, I will work for Russ Feingold but will support whichever Democrat gets the nomination -- except Hillary Clinton.

Most of all, this increases my resolve to see anyone but Hillary get the nomination, and to work hard for that.

Update: P.S.: Ditto to Markos. And hear what Arthur Jensen has to say about it.

Monday, May 8, 2006

Query for Dem Sens: What Happens When the Military, Not Civilians, Decides Which Wars to Fight?

Glenn Greenwald has a good post pointing out which "Democrats" are providing cover to the Administration for nominating a sitting general to head the CIA. This proves you don't need to be (a) any kind of political scientist or historian, or (b) attuned to the will of your constituents to be in Congress.

PoliSci 201: No one is stupid enough to attack the United States openly. Even bin Laden initially denied responsibility for 9-11. This means that modern wars are instigated not in response to an enemy's overt action but through murkier intelligence operations: we learn through intelligence that someone has attacked or is planning to attack us, the President sells the war to Congress by selectively disclosing cherrypicked intelligence, Congress falls for it, we go to war.

Shorter: He who controls the intel, controls the military.

In America, civilians are supposed to control the military. The military doesn't get to decide which wars it wants to fight; it obeys civilian orders. That's part of the Founders' genius.

It's fine for an ex-general to hold high office: Dwight Eisenhower and Colin Powell didn't violate the principle I've enunciated, because they weren't in uniform when they held their positions in the civilian government.

But General Hayden is a sitting officer, responsible to the President. He cannot serve two masters. He cannot tell the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, for example, things the President tells him not to. Sitting officers have no discretion to disobey lawful orders, and under military law, "lawful orders" has a very, very, very broad definition.

Hayden's confirmation to the CIA will mean that (a) the President will, even more than he has previously, cut Congress utterly out of the intelligence loop, and (b) the military will effectively be in charge of justifying its own wars, cutting even the President out of the loop he's trying to create.

Any Senat0r who doesn't understand that doesn't deserve to hold office, and is no loss to the Democratic Party. Dianne Feinstein? Jane Harman? Hello?


Of Geese, Ganders, and Pink's "Dear Mr. President"

A mainstay of the conservative "War On Christmas" and "War On Christians" whining is that schools aren't letting Christian students sing Christmas songs in holiday concerts or say Christian prayers during graduation ceremonies. Nearly all of the examples conservatives cite aren't actually true, but setting that aside: it's their allegation, at least, that the First Amendment protects a child's right to sing what she damn well pleases without government, in the form of public school officials, censoring it.

So how delightful it is that public school principal in Florida has barred a 10-year-old girl from singing Pink's "Dear Mr. President" at a school talent contest, based solely on the principal's perception that the content is inappropriate. The child doesn't seem to be focused on the risque stuff, though (the principal doesn't like the word "hell"):

Molly said Thursday she thought the song was "really cool" because it spoke about important subjects like war and homelessness.

Molly said she liked the way the song addressed the president directly.

"He should try to listen to what other people say, not just himself," she said.

So I'm pinging Matt Staver of Liberty Counsel, which spearheads most "War On Christmas" lawsuits and the current Jerry Falwell-backed "Friend or Foe: Graduation Prayer" campaign: where do you stand on this particular instance of student self-expression? Is the word "hell" only OK if it's in a Bible quotation? Are you filing a lawsuit to protect this student's rights?

[sound of crickets]

That's what I thought.

Saturday, May 6, 2006

U.S. Warns Russia to Act More Like A Democracy

Russia, having publicly made a tactful response, retires to its private chambers and laughs its ass off. Really, you can't make this stuff up:

The Bush administration has warned Russia that the upcoming summit of the Group of Eight nations in St. Petersburg could be a debacle unless the Kremlin takes specific actions in the coming weeks to demonstrate a commitment to democracy, according to U.S. officials.

The administration has privately identified to Moscow concrete steps it should take before the July meeting, such as registering civil society groups that have been harassed, as a way of deflecting criticism that Russia has no business hosting a summit of democratic nations. And administration officials have sharpened their rhetoric about Russia's backslide toward autocracy.

(Photo: Vlad Putin reassures Bush that he still has the good soul Bush saw deep in his eyes back in '01. Really.)

Please take a look at VDems friend Glenn Greenwald's new book, "How Would a Patriot Act? Defending American Values from a President Run Amok", if you need a comprehensive, lucid, non-hysterical overview by a Constitutional lawyer of all the ways the U.S. isn't acting like a democracy these days -- and what to do about it.

Libby Prosecution Won't Tell Us the Whole Truth

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has made it clear that he won't tell tales about anyone he doesn't actually prosecute. Nor will the Libby trial -- if it even occurs, rather than Libby pleading out and hoping for a pardon on Bush's last day in office -- tell us the details of the administration's deceptions about Iraq:

At a hearing, U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton did not formally deny Libby's request for all records related to a 2002 trip by former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV to Niger. But he said the material is not directly relevant to the case and could only distract the jury.

"I'm just not going to let this case turn into a judicial resolution of the legitimacy of the war or the accuracy of the president's State of the Union address," Walton said.

For Congress to wait "until the investigation's done" before looking itself into the Administration's misconduct will just give the Republicans the chance to tell the convincing lie that "the prosecutor already looked into it and the President did nothing wrong." Only one body has the Constitutional authority, and obligation, to initiate an investigation: Congress. Only two Congressmen have mustered the cojones to fulfill their duty: John Conyers in the House, Russell Feingold in the Senate. (Don't try to tell me Arlen Specter is in that group: he talks, then he collapses under pressure. He'd make a great Democrat.) Our continuing job is to butt-kick the rest into falling in line behind them.


Tony Blair Daintily Partakes of More Texas Kool-Aid

(Photos: Blair drinks the "medicinal" beverage offered him by his friend, George W. Bush; Blair feels strangely euphoric and manipulable afterward!)

Politically, British Prime Minisher Tony Blair -- the only other world leader to wholeheartedly embrace war with Iraq despite knowing that "the intelligence was being fixed around the policy" -- is suffering; recent elections dealt his party a major setback, and his poll number, like Bush's are tanking.

So, of course, just like Bush, he reshuffled his cabinet to make it seem that he was making substantive changes. His message: we're reasonable, we've learned, we're ready to lead sensibly again. Right?


No, no, his cabinet shuffle appears intended to send the message, "We're ready to invade Iran, too! Ha ha ha ha ha ha! And you can't stop us! Here, take two or three of these, they make you feel great! Ha ha!"

The removal of [Foreign Secretary Jack] Straw, who has enjoyed strong relations with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, was a surprise. Some analysts cited tension with Blair concerning Iran's nuclear program -- at a time when Britain and the United States are trying to pressure the country, Straw has publicly called a military attack on Iran "inconceivable."

With the purge, "Blair has pulled out the dagger for the first time and wielded it with gay abandon," said Ben Page, managing director of Ipsos MORI, a polling firm. By elevating several long-trusted allies, he is signaling to skeptics in the public and within his own party "that he is still absolutely serious about trying to deliver on the remaining parts of his legacy."

*** Bush and Blair have maintained that all options remain on the table in dealing with Iran. But in addition to calling an attack inconceivable, Straw has called the reported consideration of a U.S. tactical nuclear strike on Iran "completely nuts."

"All options remain on the table in dealing with Iran"? They should have the imagination to change more than one letter -- from "q" to "n" -- when they deliver their propaganda. And "deliver on the remaining parts of his legacy?" Blair's legacy, to his party and his nation, is debt, loss of respect around the world, and a seemingly intractable, permanent war in a region where Britain has always, always, always, throughout all history, since it participated in the First Crusade in 1089, LOST. Blair's legacy is to now continue that proud tradition in Iran. British voters should terminate his leadership -- with prejudice -- before it's too late.


Friday, May 5, 2006

VichyDems Slowing But Not Stopping

(Photos: Loyal VichyDems Readers Wait for Thersites2 to Post Something)

Dear Readers:

VDems regulars may have noticed that my posting has slowed down considerably in the last couple of weeks. The reason is that I'm working on another progressive political writing project that's on a relatively short timeline, which is taking me away from the blog.

For the next month or so, I'll be posting to the blog less than normal -- but I won't stop altogether, so please don't give up on VichyDems!

If you're frustrated at coming here daily only to find that half the time there's nothing new, there are a couple of options I'll ask you to consider.

One is to use Bloglines or another rss feed service to subscribe to the VichyDems feed; they're great tools that digest all the unread posts from all your favorite sites on a single page.

The other option is to subscribe to the periodic update I send to "regulars" by email: just email me at the link to the right (or just use vichydems *AT*, with "subscribe" in the subject line, and I'll send you an occasional email (never spam!) letting you know when new posts are up.

Thanks for your patience. I'll try to keep things as interesting as I can, and I'll let you know more about the other project as soon as I'm more confident that it's actually going to come to something. I appreciate your loyalty.