Monday, November 30, 2009

Madeleine Albright's Friends Need Your Money to Fight Terror

I got an email from Maddy Albright today.

In it, she warned me about how those big, bad Republicans are coming to get me:
Dear Stuart,

Double your impact. Help the DSCC fight the lies and save 20% on items in the DSCC store! Deadline: Midnight tonight. Contribute.

I believe in diplomacy - but sometimes actions speak louder than words.

Tea-partiers and other ultraconservatives are pushing the Republican Party perilously far to the right. They have no interest in working with President Obama as he leads our nation in a way that reflects our highest values and our deepest hopes. They are committed to making sure our president fails - and to regaining control of the U.S. Senate.

We face a choice. We can allow the right-wing radicals to reverse the long overdue progress we have made in the past year, or we can fight back.

Wow...extremism and dishonesty have come to the Republican party! I had no idea!

Thinking back, I guess it first crossed my mind that the GOP had become slightly..."radical" when they admitted to "the sale of weapons via intermediaries to Iran, with the profits being channeled to the Contras in Nicaragua." That sort of struck me as a fairly strange theory of how government should be run, but since there were no consequences for the participants, and nobody in the establishment political press corps talked about it ever again, I guess it just stayed an inkling.

I was reminded of this inchoate impression again when the Republican Congress took the opportunity to impeach a Democratic President over a blowjob. It somehow seemed odd to me that this took place during a period of almost nonstop accusations of (and Congressional investigations into) alleged criminality on the part of the Executive, including the First Lady's involvement in murder.

I just had to wonder a little bit about the Republican right when one of them wrote a best-selling book during wartime in our country called "Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism (Paperback - Oct 5, 2004)," in which I (and millions of my terrified, shoeless-in-line-at-the-airport, duct tape-purchasing fellow Americans) was informed “Everyone says liberals love America, too. No, they don’t.”

I couldn't help but notice that things might have gotten a little bit out of hand on the right when one of their leading online voices published a book entitled "In Defense of Internment: The Case for Racial Profiling in World War II and the War on Terror (Hardcover)," which was not some kind of perverse metaphor, but literally concentration camp apologia that detailed "how both Japanese American and Arab/Muslim American leaders have united to undermine America's safety." I don't know; somehow, when it was proclaimed by Maglalang's blurb-writers at Regnery that these books were meant to "outrage, enlighten, and radically change the way you view the past-and the present," I just wasn't able to put it together that the right was, you know, radical. more. Maddy Albright has opened my eyes.

And, do you know what else? As incomprehensible and shocking as this might seem, apparently the rightists have some kind of organized "message machine," as it were:

Click here to make a donation of $5 or more to the DSCC. Every dollar you give will be matched, doubling its impact, and you will receive a coupon code for 20% off items at the DSCC Store. Give today. Victory depends on it.

Unfortunately, in today's political environment, it is not enough to have better ideas; it is also necessary to get our message across to our fellow citizens. Thus, in order to defeat our right-wing opponents, we must also back our principles with our wallets. The DSCC's November deadline is today, and the committee must raise $98,765 or risk losing Democratic control of the Senate in 2010. Since it is so crucial that we meet our goal, a group of senators will match your timely gift, effectively doubling its impact. In return, you will receive a code worth 20% off items at the DSCC Store, where every purchase helps our candidates.

"Necessary to get our message across"? I had no idea! I thought that folks like Maddy were supposed to go on Meet The Press every once in a while, sit genially next to Huckleberry, and talk hopefully about the Republican President laying out "benchmarks" for the Iraqi government to meet, instead of a deadline to get the crap out. I couldn't have known that, all along, Maddy was just itching to get "our message across" to folks who'd had enough of our kids getting blown up just so that the bipartisan, Serious Foreign Policy establishment could save face.

...And when I think of defeating "our right-wing opponents", the first battalion of unconquerable warriors that comes to mind is the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Isn't that everyone's Family Feud Lightning Round answer?

Q: Name something you stand in line for...

A: Ahhh...Roller coaster ride...?

Q: Name something you'd bring a teacher...

A: Umm...An apple...

Q: Name an organization supremely dedicated to the political annihilation of the lunatic, rightist opposition...

A: The DSCC!

Yes, for every dollar spent, a "a group of senators will match your timely gift." Hmm...a "group of Senators" somehow so recently flush with cash that they could give up their own money to help the cause of re-electing other incumbent Senators...would that be members of the Finance Committee, perhaps? The Gang of Six?

Our reputation abroad is finally beginning to heal. Each day, President Obama is sending a message that America wants to work as a partner with friends around the world to build a future based on law, justice, human rights, and a commitment to peace. We cannot afford to lose all that we have gained. We have a duty to show the world that the real America - the best America - is back.

Holding the line will not be easy. The Republican Party is more energized now than it has been in years. Only three times since the Civil War has the party holding the White House gained congressional seats in midterm elections. We cannot let the Republicans surge ahead.

Please click here to make a donation of $5 or more to the DSCC and receive your coupon code. It must raise $98,765 by midnight tonight to defend our Democratic majority in 2010. Every dollar you give will be matched, doubling its impact. Progress depends on your donation.

The president is doing his part to move our country in the right direction; we need to do ours. President Obama needs help from Congress to bring about the change that he promised. He needs a Democratic Congress.

Oh! I get it!

How do we finally know after all this time that the Republicans are radical rightists?

They're preventing Democratic Senators from helping President Obama "bring about the change that he promised."

"Energized" Republicans are undermining our brave President's plan, message that he wants to someday "build a future based on law."

"Progress depends on your donation"..."We cannot let the Republicans surge ahead"..."we can fight back"...

Get used to it. Get just as accustomed to this line of attack as you've become to taking your shoes off at the airport. Get used to being afraid --very afraid-- of Democrats "losing control of the Senate" because you fucked up and didn't support centrists like Blanche Lincoln through your contribution to the DSCC.

Get used to being blamed for your lack of enthusiasm for President Obama, because you were stupid enough to read his "hope n' change" message too literally, you stupid ideological purist, you. Stupid! Purist! He never said that! You obviously heard what you wanted to hear! How could have possibly done all of those things? He's not suicidal! What about those terrifying, radical, right-wing Republicans? Aren't you afraid enough of them to shut up right now about our President Obama?

Didn't you watch Olbermann or Maddow last night? They bring guns to political support the radical idea that the Second Amendment applies to them! They are scared of the federal government that invaded the wrong country and killed a hundred thousand innocent people! "Tree of Liberty!" "Blood of Tyrants and Patriots!" Normal people who are angry enough to become political activists! Be afraid! Be tribally afraid of these other Americans!

Don't criticize your own. Hate the other. Be afraid. It's your fault that they're winning.

Get used to being told to shut the fuck up, lest you blow it for everyone. Get used to being told to put your principles in the back drawer until we get 2010 wrapped up --then told to "back our principles with our wallets."

What if you were to linger a moment too long on what exactly Maddy means by "our principles?" What if you fail in your responsibilities as an ATM for the DSCC? Don't you realize that "Victory depends on it?" You and your shameful, negative, perhaps unconsciously racially motivated ideological purity and stubborn naivete are the reason why the Democratic base will be insufficiently enthusiastic for the midterms! You simply aren't afraid enough of Republicans to properly appreciate just how wonderful Democratic Senators are!

Thanks, Maddy, for these terror-inspiring...sorry, sober and pragmatic words of political wisdom. To think that I might have forgotten how radical and right-wing the Republicans have become in the 13 months since they started to criticize President Obama! They're so much scarier than the Democrats who won't do what we elected them to do...

There is no other option.


Madeleine Albright

That's right. With the New Democrats fully in control of the Democratic leadership, there really is no other option, is there?

We go to war with the Democrats we have, not the Democrats we wish we had. It's not like we can, you know, somehow change the Democratic party's leadership with all of our money, and effort, and time, and words and votes...correct? We need to be more terrified of the Republican right...not the Democratic center?

I'll be sure to send my hard-earned money to the DSCC right away.

Won't you?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


SZ's view that that "moderate" and "centrists" are not synonyms, even though they are used that way in the traditional media, is something I have found a hard time wrapping my head around. There is, for me, cognitive dissonance in the phrase "radical centrist," which makes the argument difficult to understand.

This is, of course why this brand is used. How can "centrist" be a radical position? It also feeds directly into the media's love for the "center" and for "balance."

But what are we talking about here? We are talking about a public/private partnership between large oligopolies and the Federal government. The goal of the is partnership is to hold down wages, set prices at monopoly levels, and increase the share of productivity growth going to capital holders and senior management.

They have largely succeeded in the endeavor:

But in recent years, the productivity gains have continued while the pay increases have not kept up. Worker productivity rose 16.6 percent from 2000 to 2005, while total compensation for the median worker rose 7.2 percent, according to Labor Department statistics analyzed by the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal research group. Benefits accounted for most of the increase.

This is a profoundly unbalanced policy regime, one that could indeed be fairly described as "radical."

In fact, what we call a public/private partnership to create monopolies that operate at the expense of workers and consumers is "fascism." Since this word is normally associated with the Nazis, it is a label seldom used.

Of course, the Nazis also engaged in foreign aggression and made scapegoats of a religious minority group as a populist distraction, using media sources like Bertelsmann to distributed propaganda on the part of the government.

So unlike the United States...

Oh wait!

There is still the Holocaust, of course. But "fascist" is a much more accurate word than "centrist" for these radical policy positions.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Can We Stop with All the Self-Congratulatory "Crazy Right" Crap Now?

Commenter shepherdwong at Swampland says this about the difference between our threats to primary centrist Dems, and the rightists' dissatisfaction with the comfortable establishment GOP:

Anyway, "conservative" "ideological purity" just makes the Republican Party even crazier and less responsive to middle class issues, our purges make the Democratic Party more responsive to average voters and more small "d" democratic. That's no eff-up.

I respectfully disagree. I think that the Republicans do speak to middle class issues, and very effectively in comparison to most Democrats. It is probably only that they've been such naked, catastrophic failures over the past eight years that they've lost credibility and majority power.

I believe that there is a large constituency that is sympathetic to populist conservatism, mostly because liberals have yet to effectively address that population. Liberals haven't had the opportunity to speak, have our ideas debated and prove ourselves through successful governance because the Democratic party is controlled by a centrist faction (the DLC and New Democrats) who are largely hostile to liberalism, liberals and popular accountability in general. We can't get a fair hearing. The people who speak "for us" on Meet The Press are centrists --either politicians or journos-- matched up against movement conservatives.

Also, the right has an established messaging infrastructure all to themselves, while we largely depend on institutional media, which are dominated by centrists or their corporatist allies. The left has nothing analogous that's that large and organized...yet. Liberals who do make their way up the establishment ladder do so by appealing to elites, and looking the other way when press corps hierarchy and conventions damage our interests.

The whole "crazy Republicans" thing is a way for the centrists who control our discourse to demean populism, period. The only reason they're "crazy" now is because they're accountable to their base, which the political-media establishment despises and fears.

We fucked up, because "our purges" will be portrayed by our populism-fearing political press corps as identical to the right's, and indicative of our decline. The whole idea of being "responsive to average voters" in a way that doesn't come from Madison Avenue techniques is alien, and will be denounced as subversive, just like the tea party movement ultimately was --not because it was portrayed as inauthentic astro-turfing, but because it was portrayed as authentic, angry people demanding things from politicians.

It's not that the people at the Post and NBC hate the right and believe they're wrong on the merits when they mock the tea partiers, it's that they don't have respect for normal people expressing themselves in an unmanaged way --right or left. When they mock the tea partiers, it's just another version of their contempt for us.

Does anyone really imagine that elites like Chuck Todd and Andrea Mitchell, or David Gregory and Brian Williams, or Joe Klein and David Ignatius, or Rick Stengel and Ruth Marcus think there's any difference between the "activist, liberal base" of the Democratic party --people who opposed the Iraq war in 2003, for example-- and the firearms-at-rallies popular right?

We fucked up.

When the rightists demanded the Republican party be accountable to the folks who reliably turn up and vote, and who donate their time and effort to elect candidates and spread messages, and who show up across the country and in the capitol at political rallies, we should have cheered, not screamed "Oh my god, look at the crazy people carrying signs and demonstrating!". We should have said "Good for them! That's democracy in action," not "They're crazy to think that politicians should be accountable! They're sure to lose elections!" We should have talked about how it would motivate the Republican base in 2010, instead of reciting the anti-populist, centrist CW script about how people "naturally gravitate toward the center."

We took our eye off of the ball, and let ourselves be manipulated. Look, how can we call the GOP crazy, and then say that the goal of legislation should be "finding common ground" with their representatives in Congress? Let's not kid ourselves: the Republican Party isn't being called crazy on our behalf --Krauthammer, Gingrich, the Cheneys & co still have platforms, don't they?-- it's that ordinary people are being called crazy again, and this time they're Republicans.

We fucked up because, when it comes right down to it, so many of us just love to hate the right, so much so that we forget about the center who hates us even more. We so predictably love to hate the right so much that we just can't seem to get our minds around the notion that such reactions are being manipulated largely to keep us out of power.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Centrists on Fiscal Responsibility

At this point in the health care reform legislative process, we've seen all kinds of games being played with deficit numbers, especially with the more-expensive Senate bill, all of which --most notoriously having the CBO score benefits starting in 2014 (not the House's 2013)-- revolve around getting reporters to stick with the now-familiar storyline: centrist Dems are "fiscally responsible".

How "fiscally responsible" are the centrists ( link to the DLC's "New Democrat of the Week" )?

DLC | New Dem Of The Week | April 16, 2001
New Dem of the Week: Mary Landrieu
U.S. Senator, Louisiana

Committed to fiscal responsibility and debt reduction, Sen. Landrieu has also joined those in the Senate leading the way in bipartisanship negotiations over the President's tax cut and budget resolution. She worked with fellow Louisianian Sen. John Breaux and a bipartisan group of Senate moderates in crafting a compromise between the President's $1.6 trillion tax cut proposal and the Democratic alternative.

"Today I joined with Sen. Breaux in voting for a $1.2 trillion tax cut," said Landrieu in a press release -- "the product of a bipartisan team of senators working together to produce a tax cut that all Louisianians and Americans can be proud of, while leaving room for investments in defense, education and debt reduction."

The story of centrist spending discipline is truthy, not true.

We can't let centrist Dems get away with labeling us the fiscal profligates, and themselves the sober, Serious kitchen-table planners.

There's a lot we can say about Republicans looting the treasury when they're in charge, but there's a lot more we should be saying about New Democrats' record of budget-busting, the first of which would be:

"How dare they..."

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Our current political and policy discourse is profoundly broken.

Beginning in the first two weeks of May, Obama took harder lines on government secrecy, on the fate of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay and on the prosecution of terrorists worldwide. The President was moving away from some promises he had made during the campaign and toward more moderate positions, some favored by George W. Bush.


Indefinite detention without trial or charge is a "moderate" position? The routine monitoring of everyone's phone and mail is a "moderate" view?

The Overton Window now puts the Constitution into some crazy left wing corner in the attic?

Friday, November 20, 2009

For the MSM, AEI is the New FiveThirtyEight

At Swampland, Jay Newton-Small posts "Landrieu for $100 million", in which she references this Bloomberg piece calmly reporting another huge take-home win for one of the centrists who call the shots in the Democratic Party, this time Mary Landrieu (DLC, Louisiana). Apart from the odd, blasé nature of a piece describing dollars for votes --something most Americans have a problem with, at least conceptually-- there was the equally blasé passing on of poor reporting.

Hard as it might be for readers to believe this, I feel that a response is necessary.

Jay Newton-Small:

Perhaps the most egregious problem in the Bloomberg piece is this example of He Said/She Said:
Landrieu, Lincoln and Nelson have all criticized a central element of the legislation, a new government-run insurance program to compete with private insurers like Hartford, Connecticut-based Aetna Inc.

The three lawmakers “all represent states where Obama is pretty unpopular, and they will at least need to split their votes on health care, casting some key skeptical votes,” said John Fortier, a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

First of all, everybody knows what the American Enterprise Institute is, right? We're all aware that it's not a political analysis house, but a conservative agenda policy factory?
The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI) is a conservative think tank founded in 1943.

AEI scholars are considered to be some of the leading architects of the second Bush administration's public policy.[2] More than twenty AEI scholars and fellows served either in a Bush administration policy post or on one of the government's many panels and commissions.[3]

Among the prominent former government officials now affiliated with AEI are former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton, now an AEI senior fellow; former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities Lynne Cheney, a longtime AEI senior fellow; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, now an AEI senior fellow; former Dutch member of parliament Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an AEI visiting fellow, and former deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz, now an AEI visiting scholar.

Other prominent individuals affiliated with AEI include David Frum, Kevin Hassett, Frederick W. Kagan, Leon Kass, Irving Kristol, Charles Murray, Michael Novak, Norman J. Ornstein, Richard Perle, Christina Hoff Sommers, and Peter J. Wallison.[4]

Does anybody who works in journalism understand the professional need to fact-check claims?

Let's see, how about Nebraska, where "Obama is pretty unpopular", according to the rightist think-tank guy (Link to Lincoln Journal Star):
Obama gets 57 percent approval in Nebraska

By DON WALTON / Lincoln Journal Star | Posted: Tuesday, August 11, 2009 4:20 pm

President Barack Obama enjoyed 57 percent job approval in Nebraska in a Gallup Poll released Tuesday.

The daily tracking results were compiled from January through June and were billed by Gallup as the president's "half-year approval rating."

Obama's disapproval score in Nebraska was 32 percent.

OK, but I can hear you saying "Well, the rightist propagandist goofed on NE, but what about Arkansas, Lincoln's state, or Louisiana, Landrieu's?"

So what does Gallup say about those states (Link to Gallup state breakdown)?
Arkansas: Approve 56, Disapprove, 31

Louisiana: Approve 55, Disapprove, 34

Oh horrors! A mid-fifties approval rating!

Only in the minds of people who would bestow the laughable title of "visiting scholar" upon the fool ideologue Wolfowitz do these numbers signify that "Obama is pretty unpopular" in these states.

I know that you don't work there anymore, Jay Newton-Small, but is it possible for you to mention something to James Rowley and Kristin Jensen, the authors of that eye-rollingly bad piece, if you were to still be in contact?

Could you maybe point out that when journalists turn to the AEI for political analysis on politicians' votes on a "government-run" anything, they should probably expect something along the lines of "that would be bad politically" --even if the Senator were, say, Dick Durbin of Illinois?

Thanks so much in advance for letting your former colleagues know that many of their readers aren't idiots, Jay Newton-Small!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Abortion: Why We Lose

A few days ago, I put in my two cents on the dynamics behind public support for abortion restrictions:

The energy and funds spent by the Beltway pro-choice lobby could be even better spent persuading Americans that this is not what their tax dollars would be used to promote (link to rightist scoundrels demonizing "loose" women):

Abortion as Birth Control

Abortion is no longer primarily an act of teenage desperation; instead, more and more it is the calculated choice of adults unwilling to accept responsibility for their behavior. Abortion is becoming more “rare” among the nation’s teens, but a larger percentage of women in their mid to late 20s –– women who are supposed to be responsible, mature and informed –– are, to put it bluntly, using abortion as a form of birth control.

According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, 6 million American women become pregnant every year — almost half of them unmarried. The abortion rate for unmarried women is four times greater than that of married women. Obviously, these women engage in irresponsible and risky sexual behavior with men who are poor candidates for marriage and even worse candidates for fatherhood. Of those 3 million unmarried pregnant women, almost half have an abortion and almost half become single mothers. Very few of them marry the father of their child or give the child up for adoption.

In summary, over the past couple of decades, abortion has enabled women to engage in sexual activity without marriage or any other commitment –– regardless of whether either person is able or willing to commit to a permanent relationship and regardless of whether either person is willing or able to take responsibility for the consequences. That’s the driving force behind the so-called “pro-choice” movement.

Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse is Senior Fellow of Concerned Women for America’s Beverly LaHaye Institute.

This is what we're up against.

To argue past these people is to forfeit the debate, IMO.

Who in the Democratic party are the standard-bearers against this frame? Who in the Beltway lobby speaks to this rhetoric at all?

Who's getting up on their elected perches, and telling Americans that abortion isn't about promiscuous women defying their communities' moral codes? Who is standing their ground on the position that public funds should be available for abortion, because tax-payer support does not mean promoting irresponsible, immoral behavior in young women?

(I say this to point out that the two sides keep talking past each other, with the result being that the anti-choicers are winning the public debate.)

When we argue the issue in terms ("over 500,000 families have a child who went hungry") that lie outside the rightists' core proposition, I believe that we're avoiding the real fight.

We have to be able to look ordinary folks in the eye and say

"Young women who get pregnant in bad situations and have abortions are taking responsibility for their actions. It's the responsible thing to do. Abortion is about saving women from all the things that can go wrong in people's lives, from medical concerns to future-ruining mistakes to family survival.

That's why it's legal in the United States and around the developed world, because people have always known that these things happen to us when we expect them least. That's why public money should be available to help women do the responsible thing in bad situations, however they ended up in that doctor's office --because sometimes it's the only responsible decision to make.

Nothing less will do until this issue is confronted head on, in my opinion. People understand "Girls Gone Wild", but child hunger statistics? Not so much.

If the professional liars in the pro-life lobby can get away with doing this --with persuading most Americans who aren't firmly convinced abortion is murder to their core that it encourages irresponsibility and immorality, then we're going to lose, period.

If the debate were had honestly, on its merits, Americans would be confronted by this frame:
Q: In terms of pregnancy and birth, do you know when a baby is a baby, exactly?

A (anti-abortion): From the moment sperm touches egg.

A (pro-conscience): I don't know. I don't think we can know that for sure.

Q: If you were in a burning hospital with a test-tube full of 10,000 fertilized eggs on the one hand, and a single newborn baby on the other, and you had to choose one to save, which would it be? The test-tube with 10,000 potential babies, or the one live baby?

A (anti-abortion): I don't know. I don't think we can know that for sure.

A (pro-conscience): The baby.

If that were the sober discussion, whose side do you really think most Americans would be on?

Instead, they are presented with "Concerned Women for America" telling them a story about something that concerns their lives every day, i.e. young women having sex and making Moms and Dads uncomfortable, and a pro-choice lobby that seemingly would rather talk to itself than deal with that story.


I was gonna put up a tweet noting that the controversial issue of government paying indirectly for abortion is much less controversial, in terms of popular opinion, than paying directly for killing civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But it turned out this is not unequivocally true.

CBS News Poll. Nov. 13-16, 2009. N=1,167 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3.

"Which of these comes closest to your view? Abortion should be generally available to those who want it. OR, Abortion should be available, but under stricter limits than it is now. OR, Abortion should not be permitted."

Generally Available 34%
Stricter Limits 40%
Not permitted 23%
Unsure 3%

This is very depressing. It reminds me of the stories clinic workers tell of women who picket the clinic, and then one day walk inside. For an abortion.

On the one hand, three quarters of Americans think that abortion should be legal and available. It is hard to believe that the restriction that comes to mind of the 40 percent is that the procedure should not be paid for by the government. Stuff like parental notification or restrictions on third trimester abortions (which Roe itself permits) are probably what the respondents are thinking of.

But I am absolutely certain that all of that 40 percent, and a good chunk of the not permitted 23% would discover that when they or their daughter were pregnant at a time when a child would be a bad idea, for the woman and the kid, they would have the abortion.

These polling numbers spook politicians. And they lead to a distortion of public policy. The Stupak-Pitts amendment rests on these numbers. The Village thinks this is much ado about nothing because they, and their daughters don't have to worry about access to reproductive health services. So, they say, make the women who can't pay for abortion out of pocket be forced to bear a child.

Joe Klein once agains brags about his Civil Liberties Cluelessness

I don't have much patience for legal niceties when thousands of innocents are being targeted and killed.

Read more:

I responded with a hypotheitical:

We've always loved that about you Joe. Unfortunately legal niceties are the only thing that stands between civilization and chaos. Lets pretend for arguments sake that a rogue group of true believing neocons, started engaging in terrorist-like activities like perhaps sending Anthrax spores to people in the mail. Let's further assume that a prominent lobbying group with foreign connections was found to be involved.

Certainly the nature of the threat would dictate that waterboarding would be an appropriate tool for investigation and that failing that, preemptively arresting and permanently detaining the members of that lobbying organization would be AOK. And of course providing 'material support' for that organization in the form of monthly donation checks would itself be a prosecutable offense.

They might even come after YOU!

Needless to say he will dismiss such concerns as contrived and unlikely but the whole reason we like to refer to "blind justice" is because the key to the law is that it can stand independent of the identities of the perpetrators and victims. It's sad to note but the current debate over whether it's appropriate to try KSM in New York is based on simple bigotry. If there's any more evidence necessary then we need simply ask why the anthrax letters didn't result in wholesale detainee abuse and an unofficial declaration of war. (FBI stalking doesn't qualify!)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Centrists on the Up or Down Vote

Jay Newton-Small put up a post called "Trigger Happy" at Swampland late this evening, in which she dutifully stenographs DLC-ers ideas on procedure:

...if you talk to centrists the only word you hear is trigger: there's the Snowe trigger, the “hair” trigger and something Senator Tom Carper, a centrist Delaware Democrat, is calling the “hammer.”

Carper is trying to build centrist unity around his idea in order to offer it as an alterative if and when the opt-out public option fails – a provision, he says, that just doesn't have the votes to pass the Senate. “We'll see what comes out of Reid's bill but I think at the end of the day we may need something along the lines of what I'm suggesting in order to finish debate on the bill and report [the bill] out,” Carper said.

Carper is meeting with centrists such as Joe Lieberman, Olympia Snowe, Mary Landrieu, Ben Nelson, Evan Bayh and Blanche Lincoln asking them what kind of a trigger they might vote for.
So the problem is preventing a Democratic filibuster of a Democratic bill, making sure that the centrists don't join together with the Republicans against the disorganized (and apparently brainless zombie) liberals, and that they will vote for cloture --ensuring that the bill gets a straight up and down vote:

“What we're asking centrists is: 'What concerns do you need to have addressed to vote for cloture?'” Carper said. “And the two concerns that we hear over and over again is government run and government financed.”

OK, "government run" is what the Republicans say over and over again like jack-in-the-boxes --check. "Government financed" is what the health insurance industry complains about over and over again --check.
Yep, they've just got to filibuster and obstruct the business of the Senate.

Hmm..."cloture"..."filibuster"..."straight up and down vote"... I'm sure I've read those words somewhere before...

The seven Republicans made a commitment to vote against a nuclear maneuver for the rest of this Congress. The seven Democrats agreed to reserve filibusters against judicial nominees to "extraordinary" cases, which aptly captures the extraordinary nature of filibusters themselves. The two sides compromised...[Nebraska Senator and New Democrat Ben] Nelson said[,] "Now the Senate can move forward and get to important business."

So...the last time it was beautiful and principled for centrist Democrats to join together with Republicans in an orgy of bipartisanship, it was to promise not to filibuster, so that "important business" could proceed.

Now, of course, they absolutely must filibuster health care reform, so that they can hold the flag of bipartisanship high once again (and satisfy the DLC's corporate "partners", just like all principled Third Way Democrats do), and important business cannot proceed.

Centrists do have principles, but just like conservatives' opposition to big government (except when spying on citizens en masse or torturing "suspects" in secret prisons or looting the treasury for war profiteers), those principles certainly do appear rather contradictory at times to folks of other political persuasions.

Monday, November 16, 2009


One of the more brilliant bits of marketing language is "Intellectual Property." "Property" conveys the notion of permanence, while "Intellectual" conveys the sense of of seriousness.

Here is what the Constitution says (pdf) about copyright and patent:

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

As always, the Founders recognized that times change, and that it is best to draw broad guidelines rather than precise definitions of stuff like how long monopolies on developments in science and useful arts should be in place. But they did clearly say "limited."

Current law doesn't reflect any notion of "limited" times.

The duration of copyright in these works is generally computed in the same way as for works created on or after January 1, 1978: the life-plus-70 or 95/120-year terms apply to them as well. The law provides that in no case would the term of copyright for works in this category expire before December 31, 2002, and for works published on or before December 31, 2002, the term of copyright will not expire before December 31, 2047

So Mickey is good until 2048, at which time Disney will have gotten another renewal.

The entire point of having patents and copyright exist for a limited time is so that the work can eventually enter into the public domain, that the creators get a period of time where they exploit their ideas in a monopolistic environment, but, at some reasonable time after their invention or creation, the work becomes publicly available. The idea of copyright and patent is to protect innovation, for long enough that it encourages such innovation, but not so long that it remains out of the public sphere.

This idea has been lost. Walt Disney is long dead. He isn't around to take advantage of his ability to develop a new Mickey Mouse character. The corporate inheritors of his legacy of genius are stifling innovation, in violation of the intent of the Founders. But they are well-funded, and fund their legislators to keep Mickey, and every other work that took place after Mickey, out of the public domain.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Shilling 2.0

Every so often, one hears of these flacks and operatives that supposedly go through commentary in establishment media sites, and will post agenda-advancing comments posing as ordinary readers. I hadn't seen one for myself until today.

This is one of these shills in action up at Swampland, in an important lobby-busting post from Karen Tumulty on a Times article on corporate influence called "Our Chatty Cathy Congress" (the hyperlink to the post is given the helpful URL ""):

Why is the headline linking to this story entitled "How the Drug Industry Pulls Congress's Strings? Once you review the actual article it becomes a discussion of the standard operating procedure of lobbyists and elected congressional representatives. Nothing in the story raises even a hint of an industry wide scheme of manipulation, never mind anything untoward at all.

The industry isn't perfect, but then I challenge you to find one that is, and I'd ask you to start with the profession of journalism. I long for someone to merely present me with the relevant facts so I may make my own judgments and conclusions, and weary of a focus on the sensational to the complete absence of presenting all sides of the issue.

Why has the Times chosen to denigrate an industry? Can I trust media if they don't present all sides of a story? You are supposed to present information, not simply tar industries, groups, individuals, with a brush and a label such as the one leading into this article. Don't you understand, I can't tell the difference between you and Fox; neither of you will give me the facts without bias or even give me all the facts.

Time, prove yourself journalists, and write an article about the good in this industry and the people who labor in it, rather than just focus on the negative aspects. The costs of prescription medications gets loads of press, but have any of you ever stopped to calculate and compare the annual costs of blood pressure medication vs the cost of treating a stroke. If you don't write this story, please change your tabloid, sensational tactics.

Give me Joe Friday and just the facts please.

Posted by: mdfstx
November 15, 2009
at 5:30 pm

Wow...What naked propaganda. How fucking stupid do these jackals think we, the politically engaged public, are?

This was my response:

The industry isn't perfect, but then I challenge you to find one that is...

If by "perfect" one means "unwilling to subvert through material influence the democratic processes our nation has preserved with the blood of patriots", then no, there doesn't seem to be a "perfect" industry in sight.
The challenge isn't to find an industry that's "perfect", but to find and implement the system through which industry influence is minimized, and public influence is raised to its proper level. To do so necessarily means to weaken the power of corporations.
...and all the yelling of "Bias! Bias!" is so much cheap working of the refs. The press should be biased --biased toward the public interest where it conflicts with industry's. Dutifully presenting "all sides of the story" has no public value whatsoever when one side is the public interest, and the other is industry interest. Only a shill or a fool would demand that the tobacco companies' point of view be given equal time and emphasis along side lung surgeons' in a piece on the dangers of smoking.

Time, prove yourself journalists, and write an article about the good in this industry and the people who labor in it, rather than just focus on the negative aspects.

That's a truly ridiculous demand, completely at odds with what the problems of journalism actually are. Balance for balance's sake (or to satisfy the criticisms of industry PR shills) isn't synonymous with presentation of the truth. Real journalists don't "balance" negative aspects of a story for the sake of deflecting criticism. There either is significant equivalence, or there isn't. The industries themselves are more than capable of buying advertising time and public relations expertise testifying as to "the good in this industry and the people who labor in it", something of which ordinary folks are well aware.
Luckily for the institution of journalism, this kind of bogus criticism can now be countered by so many more engaged news consumers demanding an end to He Said-She Said. Luckily for us, most of us see this kind of demand for fake balance for what it is, and can tell journalists directly to reject it on our behalf --which they are starting to do.

I've always thought that this sort of sock-puppetry was more urban mythology than everyday reality, but I'm starting to reconsider.

Here's some video of mdfstx expressing another honest opinion at an "Americans For Prosperity" rally (he's the man in the top hat passing out fliers):

If you see bogus calls for "balance" and silly invective involving "bias" that doesn't emanate from the rightist "liberal media"-bashing crowd, it might make some sense to take thirty seconds to add your two cents about how journalism that seeks refuge from criticism in balance is useful to public relations shills --and nobody else.