Saturday, April 30, 2005

Can you say "mercenary"?

A friend inquires, “Why do we refrain from calling the "military contractors" what they really are, mercenaries? Have you seen anyone waxing pissed off about this?"

Yes, I have. On April 1, 2004, Kos wrote about the four contractors who were murdered in Fallujah:

Let the people see what war is like. This isn’t an Xbox game. There are real repercussions to Bush’s folly. That said, I feel nothing over the death of merceneries. They aren’t in Iraq because of orders, or because they are there trying to help the people make Iraq a better place. They are there to wage war for profit. Screw them.

In the ensuing firestorm there was speculation that Kos might go under. Politicians who had been posting there evaporated, and advertisers paused. But he did not. He didn't apologize either, as I recall (Democrats, are you listening? Here is a role model for you!)

I see references to mercenaries here and there lately but the term doesn't seem to be getting a lot of traction. The term "war profiteers" shows up ALL the time. Personally, that's where my head is... on the Halliburtons rather than the truck drivers who can't get ahead in the US and are trying to get a stake together for their families. I've read some of their accounts and they're pretty moving. Often there’s an element of patriotism mixed in as well. No doubt there are crackpots and soldiers of fortune in the mix – but we don’t focus on them because we’re all being so careful this time to attack the war, not the people in it, as we did in Vietnam.

Technically, a mercenary takes a direct part in the fighting and is “neither a national of a Party to the conflict nor a resident of territory controlled by a Party to the conflict”; they are not lawful combatants and are not entitled to the protections of the Geneva Conventions. (They are still to be “treated with humanity,” ahem.) Civilian contractors are a separate legal entity and are protected under the Geneva Conventions.

So a truck driver is not a mercenary. A private armed guard is not a mercenary if he’s a U.S. citizen. But wait, sovereignty has been turned over to Iraq, right? So some argue yes, that armed guard is now a mercenary. And how about the fact that the U.S. did not sign the protocol in question and isn’t following the ones it did sign? Hmmm.

Mercenaries are common criminals, so I’d be careful. I think there are legitimate grounds to use the term (quietly, as a matter of fact, not attached to a Molotov cocktail a la Kos). Using it will reinforce the “war as business” frame and the “war crime” frame. Personally, I’m going to stick with “war profiteers.” They’re criminals, too.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Illiterate and illiberal

The very rich are earning a larger and larger share of our national income. Therefore, fairness dictates that we must cut their taxes.

That's what the Wall Street Journal seems to say in an editorial this week, noting that any move to raise taxes on the rich would be deeply unfair because they "already bear an outsized share of the American tax burden." Or perhaps they're completely inept at math? You decide.

Jonathan Chait provided the quote above along with some helpful analysis:

In fact, the tax rate borne by the very rich has plummeted. In 1979, the top 0.1% paid, on average, 32% of their income in taxes. Today, they pay less than 23%. So what's happening is that the top 0.1% are paying a higher share of the tax burden because their share of the national income is rising faster than their tax rates are falling. The Journal editorial board sees this state of affairs as class warfare against the rich.

At this point, you may be wondering whether it's really possible that professional editorial writers at a first-rate newspaper — people who, after all, are paid to think seriously about issues like this — could make such a simple statistical mistake. Are they really so dishonest or so dumb as to think that you can measure the fairness of a tax code by looking at what share of the taxes various groups pay without considering how much they earn? I can tell you, as a regular reader of that page, that the answer is: Yes, they really, really are.

Indeed, of the many statistical butcherings the Journal employs to defend its various misguided beliefs, this particular device ranks among its favorites. It hauls out some form of this argument — the rich are being mistreated because they're paying a rising share of the tax burden — at least once a year.

Which means that if you get your news from the Journal, Fox News, and Rush Limbaugh, you can be economically illiterate, politically illiterate, and morally illiterate all at once.

A conservative wakes up

Pundit Andrew Sullivan wakes up to the fact that his beloved conservative movement is insane. He notices that Republicans are shaping social policy to fit the dictates of a highly vocal minority religious sect, and furthermore that this might be a bad idea:

This isn't just about gays, although we've felt the sting of the movement more acutely than most. It's about science, stem cell research, the teaching of evolution, free access to medical prescriptions, the legality of living wills, abortion rights, censorship of cable and network television, and so on. The Schiavo case woke a lot of people up. I was already an insomniac on these issues. ... I'm genuinely troubled by all of it, and by what is happening to the conservative tradition. I'd like to think that a qualified doctor like Bill Frist could say on television that tears cannot transmit HIV. But he could not - because the sectarian base he needs to run for president would not allow it. I'm sorry but that's nuts. [emphasis added]

Well done, Andrew! It's not easy to alter one's self-concept in midlife but you've made a good beginning. Now please tell all your friends, and then do us all one more favor: stop voting for wingnuts.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Ordinary Germans

People check in to see if I’m feeling okay whenever I go after Snowe and Collins. Why so harsh and angry? Have I gone off the deep end? I also get thoughtful written protests with reviews of their voting records included, proving that Maine’s senators are moderate enough. They get high marks for their 83% ratings from NARAL and for voting against their own party on renewable energy, ANWR drilling, tax cuts, and fuel efficiency standards while speaking out on – most recently – mercury pollution and the nuclear option. Writes one ex-Mainer,

By my measure, and using the voting tabulations and ratings from Public Citizen, a site that I find trustworthy and reasonably in sync with my progressive viewpoint, both Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe ARE moderates. That is not to say that they are at all liberal, but that they seem to function with an enough concern for their constituents to choose to vote for the benefit of all people, as opposed to the wealthy or corporate interests, nearly half of the time. When the voting records of the ladies from Maine are compared with those of a few registered Democrats in the Senate, Snowe and Collins have records that are definitely centrist.

All true. I've voted for Snowe and I respect her as a person and I respect her long and pretty honorable career. (Collins I see as more of a party hack, though she occasionally stands on her own.) Both have done a lot for the people of Maine.

But not this time around. Not this Congress, not this president. If they really cared about state and country more than about keeping their jobs, they could pull a Jim Jeffords and divorce themselves from a party that is no longer recognizable. They could be speaking out right now in direct language about corruption, abuse of power, torture, lies, thievery, theocracy, the shredding of the Constitution. In fact, we need them to do this. Democrats speaking these words is like howling in the wind, but they would be heard. They have it in their power to stop our national nightmare – not by mustering a bloc of opposition votes, an unrealistic proposition – but by not participating in it any longer. By speaking up.

These are not ordinary times, and in my opinion there are issues at stake more important than mercury and (God strike me dead for saying this) women’s reproductive rights.

And I agree with this commenter:

Mainstream liberals… don’t get it. They don't understand the depths of evil we are up against: within the Bush administration is a merciless crew that rigs elections, launders drug money, plants fake memos in the press, leaks CIA agent identities, pockets billions in war profiteering, and allows 3,000 people to be murdered in order to create a new Cold War. ..This is not an evil that one calls on the Democratic Party to real and eradicate. That's like calling an unarmed cafeteria security guard to catch the mafia.

If Snowe and Collins had voting records like Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa, I would still despise them for standing on the sidelines today. If they’re so sensible and moderate, what are they waiting for? Jesus Christ, are their jobs that important? How do they get up every morning and go to work? How do they sleep at night?

Remember all those good, ordinary Germans that did nothing in the face of radical evil. Well, that's Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins.

Besides, Maine is a blue state. Those are our seats. I'm tired of making nice to them. I want them out.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

We don't talk good

In today's lengthy post we look at how Democrats talk, drawing on three articles that popped up yesterday. Three writers, three problems, same conclusion. We don't talk good.

Problem #1: We talk too complicated, says Kid Oakland:
It's a complex world. We Democrats see that. We propose complex solutions to the complex, long term problems we see in that world. We love nuance. We love concepts:
  • global warming
  • the right to choose
  • universal health care
  • international engagement and diplomacy
  • respect for difference
  • freedom of expression
Your average Democratic activist can talk George Lakoff (a brilliant man) till we're blue in the face...without ever boiling it down into how we are going to use Lakoff to WIN elections. It's as if "we've only just begun" a thirty year project of sharpening our arguments so that we can engage the nation in an extended nerdy debate that will open the door to Democratic majorities. Trouble is, there's no time. …

Whenever and wherever the Democrats stand for complex solutions to complex problems, the GOP has a very simple strategy: They propose simplistic answers for simplistic world views. They don't have to be right, and quite often they are dead wrong. But they are cooking simplistic comfort food and the American public eats it up.
  • 9/11 = war in the Iraq
  • High oil prices = drill in Alaska
  • Murder = death penalty
  • Teen pregnancy = abstinence
  • Insurgency in Iraq = Bad guys and thugs
  • Advise and Consent = an up or down vote

So. Instead of droning on about universal health care and prescription costs and single-payer systems and portable coverage, we should say, “Our health care system is broken. We have to fix it. Let's figure it out."

Problem #2: We talk too careful, says Joshua Holland:
The Repubs have become mad with power and are vulnerable to ridicule – a powerful tool long underappreciated among Dems – but aside from Dean, Boxer and a handful of others, all they can say is that Delay and Frist and Robertson are "extremists." The time has come for our Luntz to emerge and start painting the Repubs as the out-of-touch, anti-American screwballs they are. So I'd like to hear “conservative Christian leaders” referred to as “televangelists,” or “greasy televangelists.” They're shysters and snake oil salesmen, and it's time we called them what they are. I'd like to hear a mainstream voice say, “what the hell does Pat Robertson know about faith? He's a TV preacher and a European banker.”

There's nothing to fear. The Republicans don't worry about pissing off the people at Counterpunch and the Dems shouldn't sweat upsetting the folks who consider the 700-club hard news.

I took my own stab at intemperate comments yesterday in my piece on Snowe and Collins.

Problem #3: We talk too embarrassed, says Sarah Posner:

Conservatives have succeeded in their efforts to make liberalism a dirty word, even to a lot of liberals. Why else would someone who identifies themselves as a Democrat balk at identifying themselves as liberal? You don't see Republicans balking at calling themselves conservative, because unlike conservative efforts to identify liberalism with too much government, too many taxes, socialism, moral relativism, enforced political correctness, and the disintegration of the American family, liberals have barely begun to equate conservatism, in the public mind, with religious, ethnic, and sexual bigotry, corrupt government, and reverse Robin Hood-ism. In other words, everything that is unAmerican.

Liberal is a beautiful word and we need to reclaim it. Democratic is a beautiful word. Let’s use both of them with pride.

Let's talk better.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Vote the bums out

Yes! A BuzzFlash editorial puts into words my hatred of Snowe, Collins, and Chafee. I am so tired of genuflecting at the altar of their “moderation” and “courageous votes.” They are sitting in our seats, people! They put DeLay and Frist into power. They campaigned for Bush. They voted for the bankruptcy bill. They confirmed Abu Gonzales. So they’re not frothing at the mouth like most of their colleagues... they’re still Republicans, and right now that’s bad, okay? Here’s BuzzFlash:

When you have a one-party national government, you aren't voting for an individual candidate anymore – even if they were independent – which these three aren't really. You are voting for Bill Frist, Mitch McConnell, and Rick Santorum – the top three Republicans in the senate leadership. And they all report to the White House. You are enabling a Biblical Supreme Court. You are helping wreak havoc on foreign affairs. … These are not moderates; they are just people who want to keep their jobs – even if it's within a morally bankrupt party that's bankrupting America and democracy.

They’re tainted and morally bankrupt. Get them out. Let’s get behind Tom Allen or Steven Rowe or anyone else with the courage to challenge Snowe in 2006. Let's give them our money, our time, whatever we can spare. Believe it can happen: we will take those seats back.

I just knew the media had a role in all this somehow!

Robert Parry solves the mystery of the Democrats’ new spine: it’s the media, stupid. With media access, we start making headway. And how did we get media access? By making a complete end run around the wholly compromised or weak-and-ineffective existing outlets, that’s how.

Parry gives most of the credit to the new progressive AM talk shows now heard in 50 markets. But at least equal credit should go to the growing power of online, interactive media. MoveOn, Democrats for America, Common Cause, and other activist groups have marshaled information, money, and organizing tools in a manner never seen before. And the rise of powerhouse blogs like Daily Kos – a partisan news & discussion group that gets 400,000 hits per day – gives ordinary Democrats a place to connect, vent, and strategize. The result? We know exactly what our elected representatives are doing – and not doing – and we’re talking back. Parry’s observation:

In effect, a political market is emerging that rewards courageous Democrats and punishes wimpy ones. That is why references to Sen. Joe Lieberman bring derisive laughter on progressive talk radio shows because he is viewed as an archetype of the Democrat who seeks acceptance from the Brit Humes and Tim Russerts.

Isn’t that great? And by the way, the nuclear option is tanking in the polls, precisely because people are paying attention, and Frist is stuck between a rock and a hard place.
[UPDATE] And he just lost to Reid in a game of chicken.
[UPDATE II] And Juan Cole has written a crystal clear piece on the difference between Old Media and Blogistan.

Thank you for your attention.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Reid to Frist: I see your nuke and raise you one manifesto

From Senator Reid a challenge to Frist, and oh, it is beautiful. Go nuclear? Okay, we'll make you vote against the troops... and lower gas prices... and veterans... and, well, read the list. Using an obscure "Rule XIV," Dems lined up nine bills last week to "help America fulfill its promise." If Frist wins on the nuclear option, Reid will use the rule to bring every one of these bills to the floor and force a vote:
  1. Veterans' Benefits (S. 845). "The Retired Pay Restoration Act of 2005" will assist disabled veterans who, under current law, must choose to either receive their retirement pay or disability compensation.
  2. Fiscal Responsibility (S. 851). Democrats will move to restore fiscal discipline to government spending and extend the pay-as-you-go requirement.
  3. Relief at the Pump (S. 847). Democrats plan to halt the diversion of oil from the markets to the strategic petroleum reserve. By releasing oil from the reserve through a swap program, the plan will bring down prices at the pump.
  4. Education (S. 848). Democrats have a bill that will: strengthen head start and child care programs, improve elementary and secondary education, provide a roadmap for first generation and low-income college students, provide college tuition relief for students and their families, address the need for math, science and special education teachers, and make college affordable for all students.
  5. Jobs (S. 846). Democrats will work in support of legislation that guarantees overtime pay for workers and sets a fair minimum wage.
  6. Energy Markets (S. 870). Democrats work to prevent Enron-style market manipulation of electricity.
  7. Corporate Taxation (S. 872). Democrats make sure companies pay their fair share of taxes to the U.S. government instead of keeping profits overseas.
  8. Standing with our troops (S. 11). Democrats believe that putting America's security first means standing up for our troops and their families.
  9. Women's Health Care (S. 844). "The Prevention First Act of 2005" will reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions by increasing funding for family planning and ending health insurance discrimination against women.
"Abusing power is not what the American people sent us to Washington to do. We need to address real priorities instead – fight for relief at the gas pump, stronger schools and lower health care costs for America's families," said Senator Reid.

They think we're corrupting THEM

Bob Burnett looks at “faith voters,” the roughly one third of the electorate who went for Bush despite their economic anxiety or even extreme economic pressure, like being one paycheck away from the edge. These are the people we tried to reach with programs – childcare, health insurance, tax credits. Thomas Frank in Kansas tells us such voters are economic simpletons, blinded by faith to the logic of their own self-interest.

Howard Dean says no:

Dean observed that faith voters typically spend so much time at work that they don't have the opportunity, or the money, to provide their children with adequate supervision. As a result, the parents are obsessed with the notion that television, other kids, or lefty teachers will corrupt their sons and daughters. Driving to and from work faith voters constantly hear conservative commentators rail against the liberal "media elite," whom they accuse of advocating various forms of immorality: drug use, free love, abortion on demand, and so forth. Because they live in this environment of fear, faith voters accept wild accusations as the gospel; for example, that the National Educational Association has an agenda to teach homosexuality as a lifestyle "choice."

…Democrats are too quick to dismiss the behavior of faith voters. He noted that this group truly believes that a liberal Democratic elite is corrupting America. Dean's analysis was that in the last election, faith voters trusted George W. Bush to do the right thing to stem the tide of immorality; they accepted Bush's campaign rhetoric, "The Democrats don't respect you. They don't understand your problems because they are the elite. But I do respect you. ... I'm just a regular guy."

This puts yesterday's Injustice Sunday in Louisville in a fresh light. I don’t think they realistically expect to gut the filibuster this time around. But so what – they still win! Every time these rabid rightwads get together to slander Democrats as Jesus-hating, amoral death-lovers, we lose more ground with one third of the electorate.

We need to be just hammering Republicans on their immorality. Porn empires, ethics sleaze, Gannongate, war profiteering, torture, and carnage are immoral. Installing a male hooker in the White House is a security risk AND it’s immoral. Lies, cheating, and stealing are immoral. Cover-ups are immoral. Slander is immoral. Americans – what are your children learning from these people?

And while we're at it, let's keep after the media for their role in all this.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Just so you know

where I stand, here's my score on the World's Smallest Political Quiz:

CENTRISTS espouse a "middle ground" regarding government control of the economy and personal behavior. Depending on the issue, they sometimes favor government intervention and sometimes support individual freedom of choice. Centrists pride themselves on keeping an open mind, tend to oppose "political extremes," and emphasize what they describe as "practical" solutions to problems. (Sounds pretty accur... [snore!])

Historical amnesia

I'm working on several pieces right now – one on how to change minds and one on why I am a Democrat. Up popped this excerpt from Joe Conason’s knockout of a book, Big Lies. You’ve seen the piece; post-election it was emailed around under the title “Thank a Liberal.” I’m posting it because today is a rainy day, because I need the inspiration, and because it bears repeating. Over and over and over.

If Americans have a common fault, however, it's our tendency to suffer from historical amnesia. Too many of us have forgotten, or never learned, what kind of country America was under the conservative rule that preceded the century of liberal reform. And too many of us have no idea whose ideas and energy brought about the reforms we now take for granted.

If your workplace is safe; if your children go to school rather than being forced into labor; if you are paid a living wage, including overtime; if you enjoy a 40-hour week and you are allowed to join a union to protect your rights – you can thank liberals. If your food is not poisoned and your water is drinkable – you can thank liberals. If your parents are eligible for Medicare and Social Security, so they can grow old in dignity without bankrupting your family – you can thank liberals. If our rivers are getting cleaner and our air isn't black with pollution; if our wilderness is protected and our countryside is still green – you can thank liberals. If people of all races can share the same public facilities; if everyone has the right to vote; if couples fall in love and marry regardless of race; if we have finally begun to transcend a segregated society – you can thank liberals. Progressive innovations like those and so many others were achieved by long, difficult struggles against entrenched power. What defined conservatism, and conservatives, was their opposition to every one of those advances. The country we know and love today was built by those victories for liberalism – with the support of the American people. – Joe Conason, Big Lies.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

The gospel according to Emo Phillips

A find by Kaleja over at Kos.
I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. I immediately ran over and said "Stop! Don't do it!"
"Why shouldn't I?" he said.
I said, "Well, there's so much to live for!"
"Like what?"
I said, "Well ... are you religious or atheist?"
He replied, "religious."
I said, "Me too! Are you Christian or Jewish?"
He replied, "Christian."
I said, "Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?"
He replied, "Protestant."
I said, "Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?"
He replied, "Baptist."
I said, "Wow! Me too! Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?"
He replied, "Baptist Church of God."
I said, "Me too! Are you Original Baptist Church of God, or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?"
He replied, "Reformed Baptist Church of God."
I said, "Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915?"
He replied, "Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915!"
So I said, "Die, heretic!" and pushed him off the bridge.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Three more things

to help yourself, your community, and your country... right now!

Three things you can do...
  • Rally to save the courts. Next Wednesday, April 27, 5 PM, Edward T. Gignoux U.S. Courthouse, Portland. Because Snowe and Collins are swing votes, Maine is a critical state for stopping the right-wing judicial takeover. (I know this is true because I keep getting creepy automated calls from Focus on the Family!)
  • Give $10 to somebody who’s fighting for you. The Maine Democratic Party, the Maine Progressive Caucus, the DNC, Boxer’s PAC for Change. If you’re like me, you get so buried in funding requests that sometimes you forget to say “yes.” Pick one and send them something – anything! You’ll feel better. They’ll feel better.
  • Visit BuzzFlash and get an eye-opening summary of the news you don’t get from the corporate sources. Also, their titles are hilarious.
...and three things you might want to know.

Equal time

I'm feeling a little guilty about yesterday's rant on conservative history, so in the interests of providing equal time to opposing voices... ladies and gentlemen, I present Bob Boudelang.
He's very thought-provoking!

Happy Earth Day

I'm not a gardener, but even I appreciate the daffodils coming up, the spring weather, and the opportunity to enjoy our brief interlude outdoors before the black flies hit. So happy Earth Day, everyone!

This is a good time to mention the American Progress Action Fund. They maintain a set of talking points on lots of hot-button issues: Iraq, Social Security, the budget, energy, media manipulation, and so on. Each piece is pretty short – usually just three bullets – but provides a good intro to the topic, with links to more info. It’s a handy reference to know about. Here’s a snip of today’s entry:
Earth (to Bush) Day
Today is Earth Day and President Bush plans to visit the Great Smoky Mountain National Park to tout his clean air policies. True to its name, Great Smoky has the worst air pollution of any national park in America. Despite a 2000 campaign promise to improve air quality in our parks, President Bush's policies have actively undermined air quality in national parks and their surrounding communities.
  • The president's "Clear Skies" initiative means more hazy parks. The administration's Clear Skies Act eliminates a key provision of the Clean Air Act program that requires old, polluting power plants to install modern emissions controls. ...
  • Rather than eliminating air pollution, the White House wants to shift it around from state to state. The Clear Skies Act effectively eliminates the possibility of states situated downwind of pollution sources from implementing any remedy until 2015. …
  • Expect the nation's parks to get more polluted in the upcoming years. According to EPA's own estimates, even after full implementation of CAIR's sulfur dioxide reductions, only one of Tennessee's six counties that now fail to meet clean air standards for sulfur-dioxide related "fine particle pollution" will be brought into compliance. ...
Read the full piece here.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The sorry history of conservatives

It sounds like such a good word. “Conserve.” You think of land stewardship, lovingly restored furniture, thoughtful manners. Carefully tended gardens, the hard-working paperboy saving his coins, a handed-down recipe for cherry jam. Those conservatives really care about things, don’t they? Important things. It’s right there in their name! We all owe them some respect, maybe a little gratitude, for their contribution to our American way of life. Right?


Conservatives have opposed just about every positive advance in American history. Starting with the Revolution itself, they supported George III over George Washington. They supported slavery, the nullification of federal laws they didn’t like (regarding slavery), the repeal of the Missouri Compromise (over slavery) and the destruction of the Union (ditto).

They opposed the transcontinental railroad and the Homestead Act because they didn’t want small farmers – nonslaveholders – settling in western territories. They opposed the 14th and 15th amendments, civil rights, voting rights, unions, anti-trust legislation, and child labor laws. They opposed public education, women’s suffrage, the League of Nations, the UN, minimum wage laws, agricultural subsidies, the TVA, the REA, Social Security, the 8-hour workday, and worker safety regulations.

They opposed US entry into World War II, traded with Nazis during the war, opposed the GI Bill, the Marshall Plan, and the interstate highway system. Shall I continue? They fought Medicare, FHA mortgages, and the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. They supported right-wing dictatorships in Iran, Guatemala, Cuba, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, the Congo, Chile, Brazil, El Salvador, the Philippines, and Indonesia.

Meet the Conceptual Guerilla, source of the above list and coiner of the term “cheap labor conservative.” A former trial lawyer and master of rhetoric, he can take any position of the right and reduce it to its cheap-labor underpinnings in 40 seconds flat. Social spending? No; the more desperate the workforce, the cheaper they’ll work. Globalization and free trade? You bet; third world workers are really over a barrel and work dirt cheap. Demonizing gays? Encouraging racism? Yes! All forms of bigotry sow dissent among workers and distract them from their common cause as wage earners.

Conservatives will find a million faults with his history – how do you define “conservative,” the Civil War wasn’t about slavery, Nixon supported the environmental regs, there were Democrats who took some of those same positions – but it will be nitpicking. It’s a compelling list. Conservatives are on the wrong side of American history.

Here’s another take from Philip Agre at UCLA. He asks two simple questions:

Q: What is conservatism?
A: Conservatism is the domination of society by an aristocracy.

Q: What is wrong with conservatism?
A: Conservatism is incompatible with democracy, prosperity, and civilization in general. It is a destructive system of inequality and prejudice that is founded on deception and has no place in the modern world.

Conservatism is the antithesis of democracy. This has been true for thousands of years,” says Agre.

So don’t come waving your flags at me.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Boiling point

Digby says we're frogs being slowly boiled to death:

Ann Coulter is not, as Howie Kurtz asserts today, the equivalent of Michael Moore. Michael Moore is not advocating the murder of conservatives. He just isn't. For instance, he doesn't say that Eric Rudolph should be killed so that other conservatives will learn that they can be killed too. He doesn't say that he wishes that Tim McVeigh had blown up the Washington Times Bldg. He doesn't say that conservatives routinely commit the capital offense of treason. He certainly doesn't put up pictures of the fucking snoopy dance because one of his political opponents was killed. He doesn't, in other words, issue calls for violence and repression against his political enemies. That is what Ann Coulter does, in the most coarse, vulgar, reprehensible way possible.

Moore says conservatives are liars and they are corrupt and they are wrong. But he is not saying that they should die. There is a distinction. And it's a distinction that Time magazine and Howard Kurtz apparently cannot see.

He goes on to compare the gradual coarsening of our culture, which gets lots of attention, with the close-to-boiling-point coarsening of our leadership, which doesn’t.

Meanwhile, there's a piece at Kos today on the actual boiling to death of a human being – done in our name by torturers in Uzbek on behalf of US and British intelligence services. Craig Murray, the British ambassador who reported the atrocity, was promptly removed from office.

When Sy Hersh warned us a few months back to start moving cash and buy that property in Tuscany, it was a jolt. Hersh is pretty hard-bitten. He’s seen a lot since his days reporting My Lai, and he’s saying it’s time. We’ve been taken over by a cult; we’re headed for economic collapse; there’s no one in power to stop them; it’s time.

But the apocalyptic vision isn’t what’s getting to me. It’s that coarsening. It's that gradual-boiling-to-death thing.

I just read Thomas Jefferson and the other founders on the subject of religion and state. Their thinking is so… free... it’s actually breathtaking, and sad. Flash forward 250 years and they’d be under death threats. So what kind of a nation, you have to ask, would elect the leaders we have today? And then stand by as they threaten violence, practice torture, lie with impunity, loot the treasury, rig elections, and stifle dissent? What kind of citizens think Fox News is a good idea, want to kill “towelheads,” and think W. is a godly man?

The answer is us. Gradually, this is what we have become. And that’s when I wonder again about leaving.

Monday, April 18, 2005

The Ten Commandments of Bertrand Russell

With thanks to kmak for the find....


  1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
  2. Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.
  3. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.
  4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.
  5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
  6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.
  7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
  8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent that in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.
  9. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
  10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool's paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.

The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell, 1944-1969.


Hey, you know what I think?

…it's UNAMERICAN to lie to the American public about the necessity for war in Iraq, and then to revise the reasons for going to war every time one is proven wrong.

…it's UNAMERICAN to threaten judges with removal from office or even violence if they don't vote the way you want them to vote.

…it's UNAMERICAN to force schools to teach religious creation stories and beliefs as the equivalent of well established biological and physical science.

…it's UNAMERICAN to call someone a traitor merely when they dissent from the policies of the current government.

These are just a few selections from an excellent diary by Steven D. You can see the whole list here and find even more examples in the comments section. I propose we think up our own examples – it won’t be difficult – and start using that word at every opportunity.

Because what they’re doing to our country is UNAMERICAN.

The seven stages of framing

Check out The Seven Stages of FrameWorks Learning - I just found this site and it's replete with short, useful pieces and how-to's for all of us framing geeks out there.
  1. Denial, in which you can't believe that what you've done in the past doesn't work, even though you know better, and can only dimly see how you might do it differently.
  2. Wonder and Ah-Ha!, in which suddenly everything you see is Framing! Framing! Framing!
  3. Paralysis, in which you are afraid to frame because you know the bad frames are in you.
  4. Assimilation, in which you hunker down, read and think more, and try to learn how to get yourself unstuck.
  5. Awkwardness, in which your frame has the head of a cat and the tail of a dog, but you recognize it and keep trying.
  6. Integration, in which you successfully reframe a piece and it works, and you keep doing it, and it works better.
  7. Conversion, in which you realize that you had better share your knowledge with your colleagues and coalitions or their frames will undermine yours.
I think I've been in stage 3 for a while and am about to begin stage 4. I'll also be posting about the larger issue (to me, anyway) of how to change minds.

Dangerous radicals

Here are a few quotes on the topic of church and state from "dangerous radicals" like Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Ben Franklin, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, JFK. I wonder if any of them appear in today's civics textbooks.

And while we're on the subject, from a recent article in The Nation:

The three accomplishments Jefferson was proudest of – those that he requested be put on his tombstone – were the founding of the University of Virginia and the authorship of the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. The latter was a truly radical document that would eventually influence the separation of church and state in the US Constitution; when it was passed by the Virginia legislature in 1786, Jefferson rejoiced that there was finally "freedom for the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mohammeden, the Hindu and infidel of every denomination" – note ­­­his respect, still unusual today, for the sensibilities of the "infidel." The University of Virginia was notable among early-American seats of higher education in that it had no religious affiliation whatever. Jefferson even banned the teaching of theology at the school...

Though for public consumption the Founding Fathers identified themselves as Christians, they were, at least by today's standards, remarkably honest about their misgivings when it came to theological doctrine, and religion in general came very low on the list of their concerns and priorities – always excepting, that is, their determination to keep the new nation free from bondage to its rule.

Bucky says, don't be superficial or static in your thinking

Geez... did you guys ever read this? A serious and very relevant essay from R. Buckminster Fuller. It's dated but still mind-blowing. I need to read it about 20 more times. I had the privilege of hearing Fuller speak when I was at Penn. I didn't know much about him at the time except for the geodesic dome and the buckyballs. But I remember thinking, "This guy is a human being in the fullest sense of both words."

Friday, April 15, 2005

Lakoff speaks out against theocracy

Hooray! framing guru George Lakoff emerges from the shadows, responds to odious Frist campaign:
The right-wing frame is now complete and Bill Frist has signed on with Tom DeLay: "The filibuster was once abused to protect racial bias, and it is now used against people of faith." This is not just the nuclear option; it is the thermonuclear option. The implicit claim is that every religious person is a right-wing conservative.

Filibustering against horrendous right-wing judges is repudiating all believers in every religion – and being racist to boot. The national campaign is on. Sunday April 24 is booked for national TV at a Kentucky megachurch and called "Justice Sunday." We must respond. We will call April 24 "Social Justice Sunday." We must show that spiritual progressives are alive and well and willing not just to speak out, but to shout out….
While I'm not convinced this is the the most perfect frame for our response - I like "Enlightenment Sunday," myself - I am thrilled to see Dr. Lakoff leaving the academic safety of Rockridge Institute and posting on DailyKos, a partisan site that gets 300,000-400,000 hits per day. Even better, he's aligned with 65 progressive religious organizations who began organizing a matter of hours after the unveiling of Frist's campaign.

I encourage you all to read the full story here and check out all the great links in the comments. My two favorites are Reid's Statement to Frist and the positive response of a small Episcopal church in Ohio to the upset of the November election. (Special bonus link: the hilarious Unitarian Jihad also appears, a must-read if you have not already seen it. Don't miss Brother Flaming Sword of Moderation!)

Heads up to religious leaders: you may be getting some phone calls this weekend....

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Saying no to obscenity

No, not that kind - the real kind. It seems that some wealthy Americans have looked up from their own bank accounts and noticed that the health of the nation just might be in jeopardy. (Not Wal-Mart heir Alice Walton, certainly.) They're calling Bush's repeated tax cuts for millionaires during a time of war and uncertainty "obscene" and "irresponsible" (Some of America's Richest Say 'No, Thanks' to Bush Tax Cuts).
Some of them are actually donating their Bush-created windfalls to organizations fighting for "responsible, fair, and adequate" taxes.

This sounds like good news to me.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Republicans love war, hate soldiers

Here's a list of every senator who voted against the Murray amendment yesterday. Huh... all 54 of them are Republicans! Special thanks to Snowe and Collins for piling on, and extra credit to McCain, who should know better, and Warner, a former Secretary of the Navy.

Murray (D-Wash.) proposed adding $2 billion in funding to Bush's $80 billion Iraq expenditure request to treat the 10,000 + vets that have been wounded in this war, rehabbed and sent to the VA. The measure was defeated 54-44 along party lines.

Retired Lt Col Ralph Peters, a Fox/NY Post columnist, said in testimony that the planning/strategy going into Iraq was "criminally" incompetent or mishandled. Then he repeated the word "criminally," emphasizing: "I'm choosing my words very carefully." ... "To the point of treason," he added. And " I'm in one of my mellower moods." C/SPAN:Defense/Security video archive.