super hanc petram

Monday, January 31


Salon looks at the state of the Mac today, and there is a good deal of commentary to be mined. Hitting closest to home for me was this quote on the difference between Windows and Mac users:

Perhaps the answer lies in what Jason Snell, the editor of Macworld magazine, says is the essential difference between Windows people and Mac people: Mac people love their computers on a personal, emotional level. Windows people, on the other hand, prefer to think of their machines as office tools, gadgets no more special than the stapler. Windows users don't expect much in the way of quality, beauty or elegance from their machines; if they did, they'd be Mac people. Instead, they expect their PCs to perform a great many tasks, and they've resigned themselves to having to labor over those tasks.

No sentence fragment could better describe my computing experience since I first switched from Mac to PC than, "resigned [myself] to having to labor over those tasks." And it is indeed labor. Most recently when I bought Crusader Kings. Great game, but I spent two full days trolling message boards trying to get it to work. Now that it does, I'm quite content as I like the game a lot. And yet, I'm just tired of putting up with this kind of thing. I'll never forget helping my dad to set up his, at the time, new computer. Windows 2000 had just been released and he snapped a great new machine and brought it home. Being home for the holidays, he asked if I was game to help get the thing running. Five full days later we finally got it going, though without getting the new printer running also since the drivers for Win2000 hadn't been released yet. Around the middle of the second day of this tribulation, while I was on hold with MSFT support, he said, "you know what I'd really like? Instead of getting 3 years of phone support, I'd pay to have someone from MSFT here so I could beat the shit out of them." Whenever I fight back adware, spyware, or WinRot I think of that.

In the Salon article, one commenter noted that part of the barrier for people switching from Windows to Mac was, "[I]t involves learning a new operating system, transferring files, and buying new, expensive software to replace the software on your Windows machine." But that is mostly the case when I buy a new Windows machine anyway. My personal data has to be hauled over to the new machine and reclassified in whatever manner MSFT feels is newer and better. The software is mostly a non-issue since the latest versions are included in the purchase price of the new machine. So for me anyway, the barrier was never transferring files. As for learning a new operating system, I liken this comparison to driving stick vs. automatic. You're still driving a car, the experience is just a lot easier.

I had ported over to Windows because that's what everyone else was using. And in the mid-90's it mattered a little more that I have the same OS as everyone else. Part of that was a social phenomenon. Games were coming out for Windows a lot faster and I wanted to play them as my friends were playing them. Email and the internet were growing rapidly and it was easier to be using Outlook rather than Eudora since, again, that's what everyone else was using. Now? Now I use gmail for email, furl for documents and I look longingly at ITunes and IPhoto since organizing music and photos on Windows is such a gigantic pain in the ass. In short, I depend on my OS now more as a vehicle for accessing the online community and organizing some of my larger data files. I don't need Windows and its attendant hassles for that. My hope is that the Mac we buy in the next few months will carry us for at least 3 years if not a little further.

At that point maybe some of these issues will be closer to resolution:

The problem with the modern personal computing environment is that, in some fundamental sense, it's a broken business. "There's a poison in the computer industry," Hertzfeld says, "and that is the fact that the common software base is controlled by a predatory software company with a lack of ethics." In case you didn't get the reference, Hertzfeld is talking about Microsoft, which, through Windows, controls the underlying software development base for the PC industry — essentially, it controls the standards, the keys to empire. "Microsoft is not a good steward of the standards," Hertzfeld says, and if Microsoft is to be beaten, and if a company like Apple is to exert more dominance in the PC world, Microsoft has got to first lose control of the standards. Hertzfeld actually believes that this is occurring; Microsoft is in fact slowly losing its grip on the software development standards, he says. "But I don't think Apple is the driver of that dynamic — I think the free software movement is pushing that."

One postscript. As I think back more on why I switched from Mac to PC, at the time (1996) Mac simply wasn't keeping up with the technology I needed and remaining competitively priced, and the support community was difficult to access. It's possible that this could happen again. It certainly seems as though Mac has broken away from some of the habits that made it difficult for users like me to stay with them, but one never knows.

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Blessed are the Children  

The graphic tells you all you need to know.

Many teeth will be gnashed and garments rended over this study of high schools students' opinions on the first amendment. I have not yet read the study, and only became aware of it from the most viewed images section on my yahoo. But looking at the graphic I am unsurprised by the finidings of the study.

Let's look at two lines of the graphic. "Newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without government approval of stories. Students: 51% yes; Teachers 80% yes; Principals 80% yes." Much shok and awe about students freely giving away their first amendment rights. And yet, the last line of the graphic, "Students should be allowed to report controversial issues in their student newspapers without the approval of school authorities. Students 58% yes; Teachers 39% yes; Principals 25% yes." Why do students not much care about the first amendment? Perhaps because in their experience it doesn't mean all that much. And, as we see, extending the freedom of the press to student newspapers isn't something the faculty and staff at schools finds particularly important either.

The headline could very easily read, "Teachers and Principals Gleefully Trample Students' Rights." But that headline would be nonsense. Teachers and principals want children to take their rights seriously. They also realize, however, that if students were allowed to publish newspapers free of faculty approval, something quite inappropriate (or worse) would be printed. And perhaps that would be a good lesson for the students, except for the fact that when the shit hits the fan, the kids aren't going to be only ones who face the consequences. Principals and teachers would confront very real threats to their livelihood even though they had no control over the publication in question. For in the eyes of parents, their children are innocent. It's not a new phenomenon.

These students will probably grow into adults whose opinions on the first amendment fall in line with average adults today. It's just that right now they spend their lives (as all children have throughout the ages) being told what they can and cannot do. They lead very structured lives under near constant supervision. To me the lesson is one for adults. If you tell a person they have certain rights and then use your authority to abuse those rights, that person will start to view those rights as either unimportant or non-existent. Children do not need the ability to publish an unsupervised newspaper (that's what blogs are for!), but they would benefit from the example of the adults in their community guarding their liberty carefully. And in this case, as in so many others, responsibility for setting that example should fall on the parents, not the teachers.

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Sunday, January 30

Election Evaluation  

Juan Cole posts his thoughts on the election in Iraq:

With all the hoopla, it is easy to forget that this was an extremely troubling and flawed 'election.' Iraq is an armed camp. There were troops and security checkpoints everywhere. Vehicle traffic was banned. The measures were successful in cutting down on car bombings that could have done massive damage. But even these Draconian steps did not prevent widespread attacks, which is not actually good news. There is every reason to think that when the vehicle traffic starts up again, so will the guerrilla insurgency.

The Iraqis did not know the names of the candidates for whom they were supposedly voting. What kind of an election is anonymous! There were even some angry politicians late last week who found out they had been included on lists without their permission. Al-Zaman compared the election process to buying fruit wholesale and sight unseen. (This is the part of the process that I called a 'joke,' and I stand by that.)

This thing was more like a referendum than an election. It was a referendum on which major party list associated with which major leader would lead parliament.

Many of the voters came out to cast their ballots in the belief that it was the only way to regain enough sovereignty to get American troops back out of their country. The new parliament is unlikely to make such a demand immediately, because its members will be afraid of being killed by the Baath military. One fears a certain amount of resentment among the electorate when this reticence becomes clear.

The most difficult aspect of evaluating this election is that something genuinely good did happen in Iraq, but the mendacity, the American and Iraqi body counts, the cost in treasure and legitimacy to our country and Iraq simply doesn't reconcile. Moreover, I think it is extremely important to note that this election was neither unique nor even particularly new for the Middle East. Prof. Cole: "But this process is not a model for anything, and would not willingly be imitated by anyone else in the region. The 1997 elections in Iran were much more democratic, as were the 2002 elections in Bahrain and Pakistan." Further complicating the reactions of any American is the hysterical invective thrown by some commenters on the right at anyone who has the audacity to make a measured evaluation of the situation on the ground. Could any of these Bush seraphim admit to the public that their pet project in Iraq has been, thus far, less democratic and less legitimate than the stumbling steps toward freedom that have been taking place in Iran for the past decade and more? The comedy of their ambition to march on Tehran is tragic indeed.



Books: The Politics of War | Chapter Two  

Note: Reclamation of post to my dKos diary.

Chapter 2 of The Politics of War details how, in response to popular fury against economic and political corruption, President Cleveland tried to take the country to war with England.  His ambition would be thwarted, but the issue of rebellious insurgents in Cuba would be waiting in the wings for another president inclined to distract the people from their domestic fantasies.

It was in Februray of 1895 that the revolt that would eventually lead to the Spanish-American War began on the island of Cuba.  The headquarters of the revolt were, however, over a thousand miles away in New York City.

The main objective of the rebels' guerilla warfare was to create conditions so atrocious in Cuba that the United States in due course would intervene.  Securing that intervention was the second prong in the rebels' twofold assault on Spanish rule.  For this purpose the civilian arm of the rebellion, the so-called Cuban Junta, set up its headquarters in New York to raise money, purchase arms, and carry out a campaign of agitation and political lobbying for American intervention, the rebels' only secure hope of success.

To say that this objective was a long-shot would be a profound understatement.  Of the two major parties, the now imperialist-leaning Republicans were not going to support the cause of guerilla insurgents whose aim was anti-imperialist (i.e. securing Cuban independence from the Spanish Empire) while the Democrats (the party of White Supremacy) who were, "fulminating against the Populists for threatening the South with 'Negro rule,'" could not be expected to support a rebellion being fought by black ex-slaves.

While the particulars of the Cuban revolt were not attractive to either party, the broader concept of a foreign war very much was.  After the 1894 off-year elections, both parties had had just about enough of the independent muscle the electorate had been flexing.

Since the onset of the political crisis [in 1890] Republican leaders had been determined to transform America into an active world power and thereby make foreign affairs the preeminent factor in American politics.  Politically speaking, it was to be the permanent functional equivalent of the no-issue politics of the precrisis years. The Republicans' "large policy" … had as yet no support in the country.  Aside from unconvincing talk about controlling the "Pacific Trade" — an economic figment of politicians and party scribblers — the "large policy" offered no inducement whatever to the American people. … Even on its own terms it was not a means but an end in itself.  Its essential purposelessness was well expressed by [E. L.] Godkin in a May 1895 issue of the Nation.  What its advocates really wanted, he wrote, was to bring the United States "into contact with considerable foreign powers at as many points as possible."  The object of the large policy was to have a large policy. … To gain popular support for so useless a policy Republicans were unrelenting in their efforts to arouse jingo sentiment in the country.

One might expect that such a dramatic and politically expeident shift, indeed one that went against the anti-imperialist foundations of our own revolution, would have been mocked and derided by the opposition.  That such a policy was instead supported by the Democrats and the President (who had been abandoned by the people and his party) was a measure of how desperate all politicians of standing in the counrty had become to stop the people from daring to demand that government act as an agent of the people.

If Democrats, too, wanted to "get up a foreign war, if possible," they did not share the Republicans' far-reaching objectives. … In the aftermath of the 1894 elections the Democratic Party was literally fighting for its life. … Shotguns and fraud had failed to halt the southern Populists' advance, but the Democratic Party, risen like a phoenix from the ashes of civil war, had no intention of being sent to extinction by an upstart party of rural stump-speakers, farm journalists, and untried politicians of no great political acumen.

The only hope of the Democrats was to convince the Populists to fuse with the Democrats and form a single national reformist party.  Democratic leaders wanted no part whatsoever of general reform (economic, political or otherwise) but they would prefer a little reform to total extinction.  To that end, they glommed on to a single reform that was, in the context of the total Populist package, fairly minor.

The major element[] in the Democratic plan [was] to unleash across the rural South and West an intense and minutely organized propaganda campaign designed to persuade poor farmers that the free and unlimited coinage of silver bullion at the ratio of 16 to 1 to gold (twice the market value) would cure all their ills and remedy all their grievances.

The Dems would then make this issue the central tenet of their 1896 platform and, finally, convince the Populists to nominate the Dem candidate at their own convention and thus "fuse" with the Democratic party.  This strategy was a profound and dangerous departure for the Dem leadership.

[I]t would set a perilous precedent for genuine party rebellions in the future; it would attract to the Democratic Party agitators and reformers  of every sort and description.  Most important, it was forcing the southern Democrats, mainstay of the national party, to reverse the very policy on which their power for a generation had rested, that of keeping the rural populace in a stage of apathy, despair, and inertia. … Crying up free silver sa a revolutionary measure lured angry farmers from the People's Party, but it left them no less angry. … Little wonder, then, that [the southern oligarchs] looked forward to "swapping off the free coinage of silver for the Cuba question."

The final remaining piece needed to set the country on a war footing was President Cleveland himself.  Cleveland wanted no part of the Cuba issue, but the prospect of free silver truly terrified him.

To Cleveland, the free coinage of silver was the ultimate economic menace, the final proof, as he had put it in September of 1894, that his party was "returning to wallowing in the mire."  He had no direct means of stopping the Democrats.  Cleveland's power in the party was now virtually nil.

Old Grover did notice, though, that both parties were agitating for some kind of war to "knock the 'pus' out of this 'anarchistic, socialistic and populistic boil.'"  While he wouldn't go to war with Spain over Cuba, Cleveland didn't mind going to war with England over Venezuela.

England and Venezuela had been quibbling for a half century over the precise boundary of British Guiana.  In December of 1894, Cleveland notified congress that he intended to take up the cause of Venezuela.  Earlier that same year, when asked by the Venezuelans to intervene in the dispute, Cleveland had stoutly refused.  Eleven months and one electoral ass-whooping later, Cleveland came around to their point of view.

The lame-duck Democratic Congress, however, took the President's cue with alacrity. … It is doubtful if anyone in Congress knew how far Cleveland intended to go, but the nation's legislators clearly approved the direction he was taking.  Trouble with Britain was the one species of international wrangling that was certain at any time to win the electorate's approval.

That the US would avidly inject itself into a boundary dispute bewteen England and Venezuela was astoundingly odd.  In order to get the country totally behind him, Cleveland needed to make the issue about America rather than England & Venezuela.  To that end, he reached back in time over 70 years to a speech given by President James Monroe.  Cleveland's righteous hammer against England would be the Monroe Doctrine.

The Monroe Doctrine, as it came to be known, had long held an honored place among the public sentiments of the American people, although it had been honored but intermittently by American administrations and had never been formally recognized by any act or resolution of Congress.  Committed in the past to a restrained foreign policy, Cleveland himself had shown no interest in the Monroe Doctrine. … From Monroe's speech he now saw implications that no previous President had hitehero detected.  It had not occured to anyone before Cleveland that a mere boundary dispute between a [South] American republic and an established European colony could possibly violate the Monroe Doctrine.

Logical failings were of no consequence to the country's legislators in 1895, however.  The full rot of the American political system had come to fruition in the early months of that year.  In January the Supreme Court invalidated most of the Sherman Antitrust Act, with the tacit complicity of the Attorney General.  In February Cleveland, "made a private gold-buying deal with J.P. Morgan and August Belmont.  Forcing the President to accept harsh terms, the two bankers netted themselves a windfall profit of some $7 million within a matter of hours."

[O]n April 8 the Supreme Court declared a federal income tax on landed property an invalid "assault upon capital" and ultimately decided on May 20, in one of the worst decisions in Court history, that no federal income tax was valid. … Millions of Americans, thrown into yet another spasm of rage, now saw their worst suspicions confirmed — the government, the laws, the Constitution itself, were no longer the people's.  The rich and the privileged had appropriated everything, and the Supreme Court had become their shameless tool.

In short, Cleveland & the parties needed a war, and they needed it now.  Cleveland put facilitating war with England in the hands of one Richard Olney.  Olney's risible letter to England on the Venezuela issue said that if the British refused arbitration, the U.S., "would conclude that the British had committed an 'invasion and conquest of Venezuelan territory.'"  For themeselves, the Brits "noted, correctly, that Monroe's Doctrine had undergone a 'strange development' in Olney's hands and that the disputed frontier of Venezuela 'has nothing to do with any questions dealt with by President Monroe.'"

England's defiance of Cleveland's nonsensical claims whipped the country at large into a proper jingo fury.  The people may have had problems with the oligarchy, but they would damned before they'd roll over for England.

It was only the movings of Imperial Germany that caused England to turn away from its raving, unhinged former colonies.  However, as Karp notes, the damage had been done.

With his Venezuela adventure Cleveland had forced a major breach in America's traditional foreign policy; he had endorsed with the prestige of the presidency the proposition that it was America's duty to right wrongs abroad; he had laid sweeping claim to American hegemony in Latin America.  Most important, he had revealed to the nation's political leaders that the American people could indeed be diverted from their domestic concerns if the right sort of foreign crusade was offered.

One thing that has not yet been discussed in this diary, but that Karp makes very clear in his book, is that the media of the time were totally complicit in the designs of the political leadership.  The press was totally partisan and with both parties agitating for war, there was no voice of reason in the media.  It is sometimes advanced that the media were the driving force behind the Spanish-American War, and the McKinley acted reluctantly, but in response to great popular outcry.  As Karp will later show, this is not how it happened at all.



Books: The Politics of War | Introduction  

Note: Part of my writings aggregation project. First post on The Politics of War in my dKos diary.

In the August 2003 issue of Harper's Lewis Lapham used a brief discussion of the fiasco in Iraq (and its hoodwinking casus belli) to recommend a book and bring to light some of the facts that led to an even more deplorable foreign boondoggle; the Spanish-American war.  The book is The Politics of War by Walter Karp.

As Lapham so ably notes:

The Politics of War brings to bear the clarity of hindsight on the chicanery of the present, and by so doing answers questions never asked by the Wall Street Journal or dreamed of in the philosophy of CNN. Just as Operation Iraqi Freedom was not about the rescue of the Iraqi people, so also the Spanish-American War was not about "the sacred cause of Cuban independence," and our entry into World War I not about making the world "safe for democracy." Presidents Wilson and McKinley sought to punish foreign crimes against humanity (the ones committed by villains in Brussels and Havana) in order to make America safe for the domestic crimes against humanity committed by fine, upstanding, corporate gentlemen in Boston and Chicago. If by 1890 the Industrial Revolution had made America rich, so also it had alerted the electorate to the unequal division of the spoils. People had begun to notice the loaded dice in the hand of the railroad and banking monopolies, the tax burden shifted from capital to labor. A severe depression in the winter of 1893-94 brought with it widespread unemployment, vicious strikes in the Pennsylvania steel mills and West Virginia coal mines, hobo armies on the march in the Ohio Valley and the Appalachian Mountains. The demand for social and political reform prompted the angry stirring of a Populist movement across the prairies of the Middle West, and as a cure for the distemper of an aroused citizenry—"something," in the words of an alarmed U.S. senator, to knock the "pus" out of this "anarchistic, socialistic and populistic boil"—the McKinley Administration came up with war in Cuba, the conquest of the Philippines, the annexation of Puerto Rico, and an imperialist foreign policy deemed "essential to the greatness of every splendid people," necessary "to the strength and dignity of any nation."

I recently picked up the book and I can attest (having read 100-odd pages) that it is a sweeping history and indictment of the politics of the late 19th century.  As embroiled as the US now is in the affairs of the world, it is hard to imagine just how antithetical our 19th century forerunners would have found our current international disposition.  Indeed, the 'splendid little war' that launched American imperialism was the most stark, contrived and (at the time) un-American reversals of our country's foreign and domestic policy.

My next 14 diary entries will cover the chapters in the book and my thoughts on them as I read through.  This book is important for two reasons.  First it reminds us of how cynical incumbents are and how desperate they are to hold on to their power.  This is not a tendency that is particular to any party.  As Kos has pointed out the current minority leader in the senate is running on his ability to funnel federal dollars to his home state more effectively than his rival could.  It is a political fact that incumbents and power brokers will do whatever they think gives them the best chance at retaining their seat.

Howard Dean has pointed out that for some time now the Dems in Washington have been engaged in little more than damage control.  As a result, they largely hold on to the power they have and propose little inspiring or principled legislation.  The chapters of the book decsribe how the Democrats of an earlier age engaged in similar, though far more cynical, behavior.

The second reason this book is important is noted by Karp himself in the preface; for an unknown reason, most historians treat foreign & domestic affairs as entirely separate matters.  This is both strange and unfortunate.  As Karp puts it:

[N]o substantial connections have ever been made between the turbulent domestic politics of the [Gilded] age and the increasingly ambitious foreign politics of that age.  It is as if they were two separate historical sequences, each flowing through its own watertight channel, one labeled "domestic" and the other "foreign."

Such is the was American history — ideological, Marxist history excepted — has come to be written.  The diplomatic historian traces the history of foreign affairs as if domestic politics were offstage disturbances; the historian of domestic politics treats the explosions of war as if they were offstage disturbances.  The historian who copes with both in the confines of a single book puts them into alternate chapters, as if it were virtually unthinkable that domestic and foreign politics could possibly be elements of a single unified history.

I say "as if" because no one, so far as I know, has ever argued explicitly that foreign affairs and domestic affairs could not possibly be related.  Stated baldly, the proposition is absurd.  Were it true, we would have to believe, for example, that Presidents who have faced a mounting sea of troubles at home have nonetheless conducted their foreign policy without the slightest regard for those troubles.  We would have to believe, in other words, that individual American Presidents were themselves divided into watertight compartments, one labeled "domestic" and the other "foreign."  We would have to believe, too, that public men faced with a dangerously divided country could not possibly want to see it united by a patriotic struggle against a foreign foe; that men of power forced to cope with bitter and burning domestic questions would not wish to change the question before the country by pushing foreign affairs forward.  Such propositions are not only contrary to common sense, they are falsified by the overwhelming evidence of history, for the political history of mankind records innumerable examples of rulers using foreign affairs for domestic ends.

Walter Karp, The Politics of War (Franklin Square Press, 1973, 2003), xv-xvi.



Books: The Politics of War | Chapter One  

Note: In the four years I've been blogging, I've contributed to a number of different sites, both my own and others, but never kept a single storehouse of all my various writings. Some are clearly lost in the ether, but I hope to find and aggregate as many as I can here. Some, like those on PolState I'm content to leave where they are, but others like this one from my Daily Kos diary, I'd like to keep. There are two other posts on this book that I posted to my diary that seem to have disappeared. Not finished digging however. And I need to call Stu to get access to the FE posts. Some good pre-Iraq thinking done there as I recall.

This was originally posted to my dKos diary on January 16, 2004.

Chapter 1 of The Politics of War covers the political turmoil that confronted the two major parties from the 1890 elections through the 1894 elections. 1890 heralded the end of the strong party identity that most voters had held since the Civil War. By 1894 both parties had controlled the presidency and the congress only to be summarily and resoundingly rebuked by the electorate on election day. The turmoil was extended and affected both parties because instead of reacting to the demands for reform voiced by the electorate, the leaders of the parties fought tooth and nail against the people. This combative strategy led to the creation of the People's Party which, by 1894, was in a position to sweep away the Democratic Party almost entirely.

Until 1890 the American electorate had been, for a generation, a predictable and readily managed body of voters. In the off-year election of 1890, however, they delivered a stunning rebuke to the long-dominant Republican Party, reducing its House majority to a mere rump of 88 representatives and sweeping the party out of power in states that had gone Republican since the first election of Abraham Lincoln.

Because the people had for a generation, 'voted as they shot,' in the Civil War, party leaders had become almost totally divorced from the concerns of the voters.

The electorate's fidelity to party enabled the leaders to pursue on the state and local levels corrupt and self-serving policies in the certain knowledge that exceedingly few of their supporters could stomach the prospect of voting for the rival party. It enabled them to overawe independent-minded politicians with crushing assaults on their disloyalty to the party that had chosen to advance them. Most important, it allowed the two national parties, for almost a generation, to keep significant economic issues out of the political arena — issues that might split a party organization and weaken its hold on the voters' elected representatives.

It would be the Republicans that later (under McKinley) got economic issues off the table with Spanish-American War. Until then the leaders of both parties would stop at literally nothing to thwart the collective will for reform coming from the voters. In contrast to the Democracy, the Republican Party was the principled, liberal party that had won the civil war, freed the slaves and extended (to a certain extent) long suppressed freedoms to them, and presided over the huge industrial expansion of the late 19th century. Yet by 1890 that expansion was over and the high tariffs that had for so long protected American industry now served only to enrich the business elites that reaped the excess profits from the protectionist policies.

By dispensing corrupt tariff favors, the [Republican] party leaders expected to enjoy not only the fruits of office but irresponsible oligarchic power, the power to control the dominant party in the country.

With these self-serving considerations in mind, what the Republican-controlled Congress did in 1890 had the quality of sheer, brazen impudence. Knowing full well the political risks they were running … the Republican leaders in Congress raised the tariff rates higher than ever, deliberately bestowing on the privileged manufacturers even greater windfall profits than they had previously enjoyed. That the Senate Republicans killed a House bill to protect Negro voting rights in the South in order to win votes for the 1890 tariff only underscored the waning virtue, to put it mildly, of the erstwhile party of Lincoln.

Voter disgust led to the ouster of the party of Lincoln in late 1890. However, their replacements would prove no better, if for different reasons. Even when handed control of the Congress and the Presidency in the 1894 election, the Democratic Party would do nothing to respond to voter calls for reform. Indeed the nomination of Grover Cleveland (a politician guaranteed not to enact any kind of reform, or almost any legislation at all) led to the creation of the People's Party.

The Democracy was helpless because it was in many ways the inverse of the Republican Party. Where the Republicans were organized into a quasi-national party, the Democrats were simply a party of the opposition. That meant that Democratic politicians from different parts of the country stood in polar opposition to their ostensible co-partisans on the major political issues of the day.

In its essential, stripped-down, irreducible historic core, the Democratic Party was a mere congeries of local parties, principally a number of urban strongholds in the North and several state-ruling "rings," as they were known, in the old Confederacy. Each local party satrapy survived by making appropriate local gestures to its voters, often with scant regard for the contrary gestures made by party colleagues elsewhere.

Therefore, in order to stay a party at all the Democrats, when in power, had to attempt to accomplish as little as humanly possible. In contrast to the Republicans who refused to take action, the Democrats were unable to take action. To defend such an indefensible legislative strategy (and thus attempt to retain legitimacy) the Dems resorted to pure bluster.

Since almost any national legislative program would swiftly sunder so motley a band of political allies, the central national tenet of the Democrats was the principle of doing nothing, which party leaders often described as "True Democracy." Democrats dressed up the principle in a number of wrappings. They preached it as the very essence of constitutional rule: "states' rights … home rule" and "strict construction" of the Constitution ostensibly forbade the general goverment from doing almost anything.

It was at this time that the Republicans first adopted the principles of what would become known as the large policy. With no desire to respond to the calls for reform, party leaders decided that their course of action lay in distracting the populace from their domestic concerns. To find a national cause big enough to sweep the people into a proper jingo fury, they reached back half a century to the concept of manifest destiny and adopted it as a part of the Republican Party platform in 1892.

For their part the Democrats managed to so infuriate the populace that in 1894 they were electorally annihilated in the off-year elections.

[The Republicans] expected to ride the depression to victory anyway, since Cleveland and his party had performed the singular feat of alienating virtually every major category of voter. Even so, the results of the 1894 elections were electrifying. It remains to this day the most sweeping rebuke of any President and his party ever suffered in an off-year election. Punished by a volatile electorate, the Democrats lost a total of 113 seats in Congress. In the Northeast, the Democrats' congressional contingent was reduced from 88 to 9; in twenty-four states the party no longer had congressional representation at all. In the South, despite the Democrats' increased use of terror and corruption, the People's Party now stood on the verge of victory throughout the Old Confederacy. Whatever else lay in store for the country, the post-Civil War party system had been destroyed forever.

I hope to make the chapter reviews a little shorter than this one, but initial chapter does a great job of laying out the political turmoil that led party leaders to attempt to wag the dog. For truly, that is the only way to describe the course of action upon which McKinley would launch the country. Throughout the book, I have been most struck by the total contempt in which the populace was held by the politicians they elected. Rather than as representatives and agents of the collective will, congressmen saw themselves as rulers of the country. The will of the people was to be fought at every turn in order to hold onto the levers of power. The idea that goverment in general was in no way responsible to the people was to be developed further over the ensuing decade. People who demanded that the goverment fulfill its responsibility and be more responsive to collective will would be derided as beggers. At every turn the reforms that would be enacted were made with as little good faith as possible, and the truly principled politicians would lose many more battles than they won.

The poltical corollaries between that age and this make the book endlessly fascinating for me. I'll attempt to draw some of parallels that I see more clearly in the future, but for the moment, I wanted to lay out Karp's presentation of the facts with a minimum of input.

Daily Kos and other sites that are gaining popularity and noteriety could become that modern day muckrakers that forced the issues of reform to the surface in the early years of the 20th century. The book lays out well just how steep the uphill slope is for anyone that wishes to make things better for the majority of the people.



Reflections on Michael Powell  

Note: Dredging Google's cache of the FE, I came across this post on an op-ed of Michael Powell's from July 28, 2003.

Michael Powell makes one good point today. "Yet there is a distressing lack of consensus, and even some basic misunderstandings, over exactly what problem Congress is trying to solve." The rest of his opinion is a rambling attempt to refute the opposition to the FCC's recent rule change. He cites some statistics and zooms in and out from micro to macro perspectives of the national media marketplace. In the process he does more to discredit his own ambition to loosen national market ownership rules than to help it. Let's go to the videotape.

If the problem is lack of diversity among the media, then the fact is that the United States has the most diverse media marketplace in the world. There are more media outlets, owners, variety and diversity now than at any point in our nation's history. Moreover, our nation's media landscape will not become significantly more concentrated as a result of changes to the F.C.C. rules.

Powell plays a nice rhetorical game here. Has anyone said that diversity is a problem with media control? Perhaps, but the word "diversity" means many different things in many different situations. In the media realm it could connote the number of different owners, the size of owners, the race or gender of owners or the number of different media outlets controlled by an owner. As we shall see later, the word control is also very slippery in Mr. Powell's hands. In the final sentence of this graf, Powell makes a nice declarative but meaningless statement. "[O]ur nation's media landscape will not become significantly more concentrated as a result of changes to the F.C.C. rules." Says who? According to Powell this is true, but we know that since he's the one promoting the rule change. However, to blunt his critics, Powell throws in the universal qualifier of "significantly." Very serious and like-minded people can disagree about the meaning of that word. Its effect is to render this sentence meaningless.

Some say the problem is media concentration, and point out that only five companies control 80 percent of what we see and hear. In reality, those five companies own only 25 percent of more than 300 broadcast, satellite and cable channels, but because of their popularity, 80 percent of the viewing audience chooses to watch them. Popularity is not synonymous with monopoly. A competitive media marketplace must be our fundamental goal, but do we really want government to regulate what is popular?

Huh? Powell here diverges into a question nobody asked, or is asking. This is a Rumsfeldian quirk that seems to be seeping into other realms of this administration. One of the reasons I oppose the rule change is precisely what Powell states. That five companies control 80% of what the viewing audience chooses to watch. I don't want that number to climb any higher through mergers or cross-ownership. Powell points out that popularity is not synonymous with monopoly. That's true because the government prevents media companies from leveraging their popularity into monopoly by virtue of (among other things) the market cap. The piece now diverges into a truly risible screed.

Much of the pressure to restrict ownership, I fear, is motivated not by worries about concentration, but by a desire to affect content. And some proposals to reduce concentration risk having government promote or suppress particular viewpoints. The solution proposed by some in Congress is to rescind the ownership cap and restore the status quo. These are the same ownership rules that governed during the time of widespread public discontent with television. It is hard to see how the status quo will produce the results some in Congress say they want.

One harbinger of logical doom is when an author starts flinging pronouns with abandon. Who are these insidious "some" that seek to curtail our freedoms with their devious proposals? Powell doesn't tell us. The final sentence of this pronouns section is a masterpiece, "the reults some in Congress say they want." I defy you to explain what the fuck he is talking about.

Powell then drops his ultimate justification for forcing this rule change. Whenever he gets pressed on these issues, he pulls this bad-boy out. "Keeping the national ownership cap on television stations at 35 percent is also a rule previously struck down by the courts." He does not cite a case or the circumstances. Please, Mr. Powell, tell me the case so I can look it up and read just which court threw out the FCC's 35% national ownership restrictions. And if it threw out the 35%, why would that same court allow a 45% restriction?

Powell now throws in a little sleight of hand. "Yet not one of the four major networks (CBS, NBC, ABC or Fox) owns more than 3 percent of the nation's television stations." This is just disingenuous. While "technically true" (a favortie buzzterm in the administration of late) it seeks only to deceive. All four major networks as cited by Powell are themselves owned by gigantic conglomerates that in turn own massive amounts of media outlets. CBS=Viacom; NBC=GE; ABC=Disney; Fox=News Corp. These individual sites tout their media dominance to the investor.

Taking a right turn, Powell now concerns himself with the smaller markets in the country, and identifies an actual problem with FCC ownership rules.

In any case, the national cap does not limit the number of stations one can own; it limits only the number of people one can reach. If a company owns a handful of stations in populous markets like New York or Los Angeles, it will bump into the cap quickly. But if the stations are in smaller markets, it can own many more. This oddity is why so-called local affiliate groups own many more stations nationally than the networks. Fox Network, for example, is over the 35 percent cap with 35 stations, but Sinclair Broadcasting is well under the cap (at 14 percent) with 56 stations. One can see why many local broadcast groups support the national cap — it allows them to own more stations than the networks. It does not prevent a company with headquarters in Atlanta from owning stations in Muncie, Ind., no matter what numerical limit is drawn. Such has been the case for decades.

Does Powell propose to fix what is quite clearly an issue within the smaller markets of the country? Or does he feel that allowing companies to aquire even greater dominance in the rural areas of the country will actually help this problem? I don't know, he doesn't say. Somehow dominance in local markets by single owners is supposed to make us want these companies to get bigger.

"At the same time, the current debate has ignored a disturbing trend the new rules will do much to abate: the movement of high-quality content from free over-the-air broadcast television to cable and satellite." How will allowing the companies that own these large sections of the media to own a greater share of what we see induce them to put it on their free outlets and not their cable outlets? I just don't follow. Finally, Powell ends his descent into madness with this bit of dribble.

Quality prime-time viewing, long the strong suit of free television, has begun to erode, as demonstrated by HBO's 109 Emmy nominations this year. Indeed, for the first time ever, cable surpassed free TV in prime-time viewing share last year. If they can reach more of the market, broadcasters will be able to better compete with cable and satellite.

HBO is owned by AOL/TimeWarner. Have a little fun clicking on those divisions to see just how many companies AOL/TimeWaner owns. My favorite is Time, Inc. Tell me, Mr. Powell, if AOL gets to merge with Viacom, how will that allow CBS to take a bite out of HBO's 109 Emmy nominations?

All of this demonstrates that media ownership is no easy issue. When striving to promote the public interest, we must also honor the values of the First Amendment. That's why, following the 1996 mandate of Congress, the F.C.C. armed itself with the facts and spent an exhaustive amount of time and resources to strike this constitutionally important balance. Let's have a national debate, but let's keep it in focus.

A wonderful end to a litany of disingenuous twaddle.



Iraq's Election  

And so Iraq held its first election under the US occupation. I'm eager to see the full results come in for two reasons. First, it will be very interesting to see who voted. According to the CNN story, turnout varied highly by region and by ethinicity. Second, I am curious as to which slate of candidates polled the best because as far as I can tell each had fairly different ideas of how best to move Iraq forward. I will, as always, be depending greatly on Professor Cole for this information. I note that Bush has already deemed the election a "resounding success," which is about the level of detatched, grandiose language one has come to expect from him. The actual act of holding an election is not the barometer here. Recall that before the invasion, Saddam held an election in late 2002 and polled quite well. Of course, that election was a joke because Saddam was a tyrant before the election as he was after it. The Ukraine also held an election late last year. Er, two elections. Shit even Uzbekistan held an election.

Anyone can hold an election, but it is the circumstances that lead up to and follow an election that give it credibility. The pre-election circumstances in Iraq were very much a mixed bag. On the ballot were slates of candidates that represent different ideas about what Iraq is and where it should go. Violence and brinksmanship, though, disrupted the pre-election conditions. Violence against candidates was so bad that they were instructed to keep their names and their candidacies a secret, so it's difficult to call today's polling "free and fair." The withdrawal of nearly all Sunni candidates from the ballot, whether for legitimate concerns or simply in an attempt to cancel the elections, further tainted the pre-election ground.

But still the election went forward. And a parliament that would be thought laughably discredited in any western country will convene to ostensibly do the work of its people. It is during this period that we'll see if this election was credible at all. Expectations are that Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani's party will do quite well indeed today. Al-Sistani has some very strong and very independent-minded ideas about the future of Iraq. Ideas that will not sit well with our own mullahs here in the US. I don't expect that Bush will allow any credibility to take root around this parliament. For were they to be left to their own devices, they might start to act uppity. Nothing pisses off Bush more than lesser people getting uppity. John Negroponte and his death squads will ensure that the situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate and that the new Iraqi constitution (which this parliament was elected to write) look eerily similar to the current ruling law.

Those latter two predictions are why I think this election (tainted though it was) was important. Some measure of the Iraqi populace (hopefully a majority) has put its collective faith in a specific group of people (none American) to turn this situation around. How that faith is abused and leads to civil war is the story over the next 6 months to a year. Let us remember, then, that it could have been different. As with pre-war preparation, post-war stability operations and the transfer of sovereignty, this could have been a moment when something genuinely positive occured, but did not.



Saturday, January 29

Books: Blink  

I'm a huge fan of Malcolm Gladwell's writing. His article The Art of Failure was, at that time, the most thought provoking piece of magazine writing I'd read in years. Since then I've eagerly looked for Gladwell's byline in each issue of the New Yorker. A couple of weeks ago, Gladwell published his second book, Blink : The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.

Blink is concerned with the very smallest components of our everyday lives — the content and origin of those instantaneous impressions and conclusions that spontaneously arise whenever we meet a new person or confront a complex situation or have to make a decision under conditions of stress.

To me, the most interesting part of his discussion concerns the messages our faces send unconsciously depending on our reaction to a situation. He had previously written about this in a 2002, The Naked Face.

Perhaps the most famous involuntary expression is what Ekman has dubbed the Duchenne smile, in honor of the nineteenth-century French neurologist Guillaume Duchenne, who first attempted to document the workings of the muscles of the face with the camera. If I ask you to smile, you' ll flex your zygomatic major. By contrast, if you smile spontaneously, in the presence of genuine emotion, you' ll not only flex your zygomatic but also tighten the orbicularis oculi, pars orbitalis, which is the muscle that encircles the eye. It is almost impossible to tighten the orbicularis oculi, pars lateralis, on demand, and it is equally difficult to stop it from tightening when we smile at something genuinely pleasurable. This kind of smile "does not obey the will," Duchenne wrote. "Its absence unmasks the false friend." When we experience a basic emotion, a corresponding message is automatically sent to the muscles of the face. That message may linger on the face for just a fraction of a second, or be detectable only if you attached electrical sensors to the face, but It's always there. Silvan Tomkins once began a lecture by bellowing, "The face is like the penis!" and this is what he meant — that the face has, to a large extent, a mind of its own. This doesn't mean we have no control over our faces. We can use our voluntary muscular system to try to suppress those involuntary responses. But, often, some little part of that suppressed emotion — the sense that I'm really unhappy, even though I deny it — leaks out. Our voluntary expressive system is the way we intentionally signal our emotions. But our involuntary expressive system is in many ways even more important: it is the way we have been equipped by evolution to signal our authentic feelings.

"You must have had the experience where somebody comments on your expression and you didn't know you were making it,"Ekman says. "Somebody tells you, "What are you getting upset about?' "Why are you smirking?' You can hear your voice, but you can't see your face. If we knew what was on our face, we would be better at concealing it. But that wouldn't necessarily be a good thing. Imagine if there were a switch that all of us had, to turn off the expressions on our face at will. If babies had that switch, we wouldn't know what they were feeling. They'd be in trouble. You could make an argument, if you wanted to, that the system evolved so that parents would be able to take care of kids. Or imagine if you were married to someone with a switch? It would be impossible. I don't think mating and infatuation and friendships and closeness would occur if our faces didn't work that way."

Ekman slipped a tape taken from the O.J. Simpson trial into the VCR. It was of Kato Kaelin, Simpson's shaggy–haired house guest, being examined by Marcia Clark, one of the prosecutors in the case. Kaelin sits in the witness box, with his trademark vacant look. Clark asks a hostile question. Kaelin leans forward and answers softly. "Did you see that?" Ekman asked me. I saw nothing, just Kato being Kato — harmless and passive. Ekman stopped the tape, rewound it, and played it back in slow motion. On the screen, Kaelin moved forward to answer the question, and in that fraction of a second his face was utterly transformed. His nose wrinkled, as he flexed his levator labii superioris, alaeque nasi. His teeth were bared, his brows lowered. "It was almost totally A.U. nine," Ekman said. "It's disgust, with anger there as well, and the clue to that is that when your eyebrows go down, typically your eyes are not as open as they are here. The raised upper eyelid is a component of anger, not disgust. It's very quick." Ekman stopped the tape and played it again, peering at the screen. "You know, he looks like a snarling dog."

As Gladwell discusses in the book, our brains catch and react these fleeting expressions. The overall concept is something he calls "thin–slicing." That is, our brains evaluate people and situations very quickly, and that subconscious evaluation greatly affects our own behavior for that limited time. With training, we can learn to not only recognize these reactions in ourselves and others, but alter our response to them.

Needless to say, I enthusiastically recommend Blink. The overall concept Gladwell discusses in the book is something he calls "thin&$8211slicing." That is, our brains often evaluate people and situations very quickly, and that subconscious evaluation greatly affects our own behavior for a limited time. Like Gladwell's previous book, The Tipping Point, Blink is not a rigorous scientific study of a phenomenon. Both, however, are highly though provoking and great quick reads.



Friday, January 28

Just Let It Go  

I haven't been following the most recent NHL lockout very closely because I think the league should be shut down completely and restarted free of the tragic missteps it has taken over the past 12 years. I grew up playing hockey in Massachusetts. I lived and breathed the sport for close to 20 years and played yearround sometimes on three teams at the same time. My dad and I logged thousands of miles in the car around New England and up to Canada. He did the same with my older brother and younger sister. The pond in our backyard was where we all learned to play the game. I get chills when I think about the Miracle on Ice and furious when the name Ulf Samuelsson is mentioned or written. Do you know where the Pet Brick is in Slap Shot?

The point is that it wasn't easy to turn my back on the NHL, but the league gave me no choice. I wrote about all of this a while ago, but an article on ESPN today has me thinking about it again. The owners are without question at fault in this case. One example, the New York Rangers signed Bobby Holik to a 5 year $45 million contract in July of 2002. Bobby Holik is a lot of things, but in no sense is he worth $9m a year. Owners like this don't need a salary cap, they need a semblance of intelligence. Hockey sense, you might say. Why would you pay Holik $45m when you could have had Iginla for less money? Again, this is just an example, but it illustrates why the game is so terrible and former die-hard fans like myself don't miss it at all. Foolish contracts are only a small part of the problem. The game expanded too quickly and gleefully ditched its small market Canadian franchises for bizarre locations in the southeast. Explain again why the Hartford Whalers moved to Carolina. These combined to dilute the talent pool and alienate fans in all markets. The league has teams in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee. It just recently put one back in Minnesota after the disgraceful move to Dallas.

So blow it up, I say. Let the owners and players that are serious about a league put out a new product. All the needed elements are at the ready; bad businessmen are the only ones standing in the way.



My Inner Daffy  

Some great work being done here by Professor Anderson (via Prof. DeLong). An increasing number of people on the right have fallen under Grover Norquist's anti-taxation spell. Some hold their anti-taxation opinions quite genuinely and deeply, most others simply nod in agreement when someone screams "It's your money." When I get my paycheck, I have a very strong reaction to the numbers on the piece of paper. There's the gross income number, and then further down the page, there's my actual takehome pay. It seems to me, when I'm looking at that page, that I'm taking home far too little (though still the majority) of the gross income. I'll call this my Daffy Duck reaction.IT'S MINE!

However, it isn't all mine. And this simple fact is what sends Norquist and many others into their little paroxysms of rage. When I look at my paycheck I think about the work that I put in to earn my money. And therein lies the rub. I did not labor in a vacuum. A highly structured framework is in place; it is that framework that allows me to earn anything at all. Freaky rightists will hollar that I believe very deeply that the state is entitled to tax all of my income. This is laughably silly, and made even more so by the gritted teeth and sweaty, quivering hand with which it is declared. Lunatics aside, this framework, and the right of the state to tax us for it, is the founding premise of our country. Simply:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Those are some pretty lofty goals. And they don't come cheap. The preamble also enshrines the necessary balance between the state's right (granted to it by those that live under this Constitution) to create a framework through taxation and everyone's inalienable right to the Blessings of Liberty. What is the right apportionment between state and individual? There is no single answer. This concept is as lost on the leftist central planners as it is on the rightist proponents of infanticide. (Mr. NORQUIST: I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.)

The reason we have the political forum is to continually negotiate that balance. Government is a heavy hand, and it is easy for it to overreach. Corruption is everywhere in our society and we must watch for it in both the public and private sector. I think about corruption when I look at my paycheck. How many of my tax dollars are being pissed away? Some, certainly. Some are being directed to projects that I think are fruitless or, worse, counterproductive. But that's why I vote, why I'm politically active. I think our framework is pretty good and I'd like to make it better. The Constitution sets the bar for our society very high, and it's taken us a long time to get it hitting on all 6 of its cylinders. The price of living in the US is the difference between gross and net income. Gross income is the total earnings from both my labor and that of the society I live in. My Daffy Duck side would dearly love that this were not so, but unfortunately for him and those like him, it is.



Thursday, January 27

Fafnir on PrivatizationPrivatePersonalAccounts  

As only Fafnir can snark:

Q: I ended up with crap stocks, and my private account went empty early. What do I do?
A: You run out of money and starve. But you'll starve in freedom, because you OWN your empty personal account, which means you OWN your starvation!
Q: I feel so free and hungry!
A: A wise man once said it is better to live in freedom than to die in slavery … the slavery of a secure retirement.
Q: Give me liberty AND death!
A: That's the spirit!
Q: Wheeee! *hack hack wheeze*



Advice and Consent  

I'd like to use this post by New Donkey to expand on the concept of "advice and consent" a little more generally. ND notes at the beginning of his post, "I generally think presidents, even those I really dislike, should have significant leeway on cabinet appointments." His opinion is the one that is generally held by most politically active people. The post is about why the current case of Alberto Gonzalez is one in which he doesn't support confirmation. Now if I was a senator I would vote against Gonzalez on principle. That is, I am against torture in principle. The specific caveat to this principle is the "terrorist with a nuclear bomb" scenario. But that is a very specific and rare (almost to the point of non-existence) scenario. I would also vote against Gonzalez on the grounds of his relevant experience and overall competence. Gonzalez (and Rice for that matter) are fairly simple cases of being totally unqualified for the positions for which they've been nominated and only the saddest political hacks would vote to confirm.

Those are these specific cases, though, and I think senators should generally take a much tougher stance on cabinet appointments than they do. Presidents should have leeway, yes, but not so much that they can just install any crony or fool (or combination) they choose. As ND puts it:

It's a familiar argument, but worth repeating: the AG is not just the president's top lawyer, and not just head of a cabinet agency; he or she is the chief law enforcement officer of the United States, supervising a vast array of prosecutors, investigators, and specialty cops. The AG has enormous power to help or hinder the pursuit of justice in this country, every single day. Sure, every AG reports to the president, but I cannot remember an AG nominee who is simultaneously so ill-equipped to show independence from, and influence in, the White House (Bobby Kennedy was obviously not independent from his brother, but he sure as hell wielded a lot of influence with him).

ND's description of the position of AG is dead on, but it is also true of almost all of the other cabinet and many non-cabinet positions. This is, after all, the reason the Senate as a body is given the power to veto nominations. Since these positions affect the broader nation as a whole, these Secretaries must be acceptable to a majority of the people's representatives. And no, just because the majority votes for a candidate, it does not mean that they by proxy approve of every nomination said candidate puts forward.

Does the Secretary of the Treasury have any less a significant role in the US economy than does the AG in the justice system? I would wager that he has a greater relative influence. Secretary of Defense? Homeland Security? And yet for some reason, these secretaries are allowed to pass through, no matter how embarassingly unqualified, no matter how much ruin they bring upon the nation, in the name of presidential leeway. Unless, of course, they hired an illegal immigrant to do chores around their house.

In the case of the current balance of power in the Senate, we know that all nominations are on the fast track to confirmation anyway, so there's absolutely no reason for a Dem senator to vote in favor of a single nominee about whom they have even the slightest reservation. In the case of both Gonzalez and Rice, filibusters are definitely in order. US Senators have some of the best job security in the nation. Wouldn't it be nice if they acted like it?



WWRW? Not If You Want to Win  

Three issues with this post from Bull Moose. Quoth the Moose:

The Moose has also observed a certain cannibalistic tendency emerging on the left that is attempting to purge fellow Democrats who don't follow the party line. The latest example is the suggestion on some prominent lefty blogs to run a primary opponent against Senator Lieberman to punish him for his support for Rice's nomination and the war.

Is the Moose unaware that this cannibalistic tendency did not begin with the lefty part of the party after the election? It was not a proudly liberal Dem that penned:

When liberals talk about America's new era, the discussion is largely negative -- against the Iraq war, against restrictions on civil liberties, against America's worsening reputation in the world. In sharp contrast to the first years of the cold war, post-September 11 liberalism has produced leaders and institutions -- most notably Michael Moore and MoveOn -- that do not put the struggle against America's new totalitarian foe at the center of their hopes for a better world. As a result, the Democratic Party boasts a fairly hawkish foreign policy establishment and a cadre of politicians and strategists eager to look tough. But, below this small elite sits a Wallacite grassroots that views America's new struggle as a distraction, if not a mirage. Two elections, and two defeats, into the September 11 era, American liberalism still has not had its meeting at the Willard Hotel. And the hour is getting late.

Second issue with the Moose's post:

Lefties may have their differences with Senator Lieberman, but he has loyally served the party as its vice presidential nominee and he is a deeply honorable and decent man. Don't succumb to the temptation to become just a mirror image of right wing Freepers. Left-wing cannibalism - an infantile disorder.

There is no question that Holy Joe is a proud Democrat. Unfortunately as (most famously) his performance during the 2000 recount and (most recently) his bashing of Howard Dean on Fox show, Lieberman doesn't understand how to play the current political game. As such, he is unsuited to his current position as a spokesman for the centrist wing of the party. He is not, as the Moose correctly notes, a bad Democrat however. What he is is a pliable politician as well as an unquestioned vote for a Democratic Majority Leader in the Senate. And it is for those two reasons that I wouldn't mind seeing a primary challenge to Holy Joe. Being a pliable politician, Joementum could use a swift kick in the rear from the Democratic base. Joe will cruise to reelection in the mid-terms, but he needs a strong tug from his CT grass roots to reorient him. He needs to be reminded how his constituents really feel and get the bubble of DC politics that surrounds him popped. These two failings a strong primary challenge can correct.

I disagree with Kos that Lieberman must be ousted since I think Joe's lesser political qualities can be corrected, but I also wouldn't shed a tear if Joe were replaced by a Dem who understood the game a little better. That brings me to my third issue with Moose's post:

When Democrats either nominate a Chairman or take a position they should ask themselves "WWRW" - What Would Rove Want. Far more than most D's, the Moose understands the cunning and deviousness of the adversary. Don't make things easier for them.

And yet, Joe Lieberman is precisely what Rove does want. Joe has been rolled by the adversary's cunning deviousness more than any other prominent Dem. Even when the right telegraphs the pass, Joe is unable to see what's happening. Indeed, Joe grounds himself in whatever talking points the RNC produces. He takes those points, softens them a bit and calls himself a centrist. He does this because it ensures that he get invited on the talk shows and fawning comments from the editorial boards. Above all, though, he does it because he thinks it wins him elections in CT. A grassroots challenge in his home state will disabuse him of this notion. Like many DC Dems, Joe needs to reconnect with his constituency.

Dems must absolutely stop this nonsense of trying to decide which position or person will cause Karl Rove to play nice. Rove's game plan is the same regardless of what the opposition says or does. Negotiation is not a part of that plan; not with Democrats or Republicans.

Building a national party does not begin with coopting the talking points of the radical element that is now in power. It begins with opening up our party to the voices of the faithful in each and every state. In essence, it means getting the DC out of our representatives in DC. Asking WWRW means putting more DC in our representatives.



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