Thursday, February 08, 2007

A Whiff of Futility 

It's been more than two years since I last posted to this blog. Following the re-election of President Bush, I really didn't see any particular purpose to keeping up with this blog. Debate the merits of a Kerry presidency all you will; I think the case for electing him over Bush overrode Kerry's faults as a candidate. And, in the end, I think that the past two years have borne out this idea. Being the lesser of two evils is not what a candidate wants to be, but when the evil you are lesser than is such an overwhelming one, perhaps that tag of lesser is well worth having.

Then came the elections of 2006. Congress was retaken on a wave of anti-war sentiment. So come January 2007, the piper would be paid for the mistake of the election of 2004.

Oh was I wrong. The President could care less that the country disagrees with him. His paternalistic "I know better than all of you" demeanor makes the bile rise in my throat. And then, on the heels of that, the Senate can't even get it together to discuss the war, much less take action to bring it to conclusion, regardless of the President's stance.

So I ask this question: why should I bother any more? We demonstrate that Bush is incompetent and he is re-elected. We demonstrate to Bush that he is wrong, and he couldn't care less. We attempt to utilize our electoral win to force some change and it stalls out. What exactly is the point of trying? When we lose, we lose, but when we win, we still lose. I feel like a passenger on a train whose brakes have failed. I'm along for a ride, but any actions on my part are simply done to make me feel like I am doing something. The actions themselves are a theater piece that has nothing to do with how my country moves forward.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Exceptionalism as Foreign Policy 

Let me offer a (probably) simplistic view of the differences in foreign policy between conservatives and liberals.

Conservative voters, I think, tend to view America as an exceptional land. As such, the foreign policy of our country must perforce be, if not perfect, at least the best attempt at it. The view of liberal voters is that it is only due to the actions of our country that we are exceptional, as because of that, we need to be sure that we take actions that make our exceptionalism a positive, and that it is way too easy to "go to the dark side" and use our exceptionalism as a borm of bullying.

To put it even simpler, a conservative believes that because it is our foreign policy then we need to support it. A liberal believes that because it is our foreign policy it is crucial to turn the most critical eye upon it.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Next Moves 

Okay, I have spent the best part of a week revising and reviewing what has happened. I've also read a number of the "What do we do next?" articles. And, there are some good ideas, some crap ideas and a lot of shirt rending and hair pulling. I've thought and thought some more. There are a lot of good thoughts about what the Democratic Party stands for. I think this sort of introspection is useful, whether in victory or defeat. But, while we sit and think, events are moving forward. And while it would be useful to develop a complete ideological framework and then place world events into that framework, the pace of world events is not going to give us the leisure to do that.

So, I have thought some more and come up with a list of soon to be coming issues that we should be preparing to confront as well as my thoughts on how to go after them. I'm not going to bother with the minutiae of various policy moves afoot by the Republicans. There's precious little that can be done to stop/change any bills the Republicans come up with, and I think the nuclear option of filibuster should be held back unless the issue at stake is a judicial nomination. No, the things I think Democrats and Progressives (hereafter referred to as the opposition) should focus on are broad sweep sorts of issues, nothing that has yet got a bill attached to it, but rather longer term issues that are clearly upcoming on the agenda, if not quite enunciated yet. Enough prevarication - here is my list.

These are three of the larger issues for the Bush presidency. I think our national die has been cast in Iraq. I think the desire of the citizenry for more panacea tax cuts is clear. Between holding the line on the radical judciary and stating a strong moral case for the above three items, I think the Democratic party will have an effective battle order for the next two years. In 2006 we try again to make our case. With a strong vision on the above issues, we can make ourselves Democrats, not anti-Republicans.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Okay, Now What 

Good question, really.

There's a part of me that wants to blow town. Go to France and become a cheese eating (supposed) surrender monkey. I want to run away to a place that has the beliefs I have. I want to be a part of a nation that believes in fundamental fairness. I want to be somewhere that believes that families shouldn't have to have two wage earners going 45+ hours a week just to barely make it. I want to be in a country where . . . where this election didn't happen.

But it did, and running away is the worst idea. If what I think America is about is at all dear to me, it is up to me not to run off in search of some simulacrum of it in a different country, but rather to stay here and do what I can to make it the country I think it is.

Frankly, though, I'm tapped for ideas. I cannot conceive of a more cohesive Democratic party than the one we saw the last six months. From MoveOn to ACT to CommonCause to the Deaniacs to Rock the Vote . . . I thought we had the soul of the party. And we not only lost, but we lost devastatingly.

I don't know the solution. Really, I do not. First of all, we have a fundamental schism in our party. There is the social justice crowd, with pro gay, pro gun control, pro abortion and pro environment positions. Then there is the economic justice crowd with issues like fair pay, overtime regulations, affordable healthcare and pro union power. The problem is that people are more strongly opposed to the social justice issues than they are motivated by the economic justice issues. Part of the reason is the unmitigated crap we are fed about how tax cuts give us more money to spend. Part of it is that many believe the life of a tycoon is only a lottery ticket/Survivor appearance/American Idol appearance away. On the other side of that equation, the social justice issues are not just issues of pragmatism, they are issues of fundamental belief. Abortion and homosexuality are not just political issues, not just matters of life and death, but matters that can save or damn a soul for eternity (not my belief). So, these social issues are of much greater relevance to these voters.

How do we overcome this? I wish I knew. I know I believe that neither half of the party can win by itself. And, I'm having a hard time working out how to reconcile these two halves of the party. So, for the moment, I am lost.

A Time To Vent 

Ahh damn it.

In some ways I look at this as a referendum on Evangelical Christian morality than anything else. That and fear.

Fear first. I know that the events of September 11, 2001 were devastating. As I noted before, I lost a family member and was scared nearly out of my mind about a dear friend that day. I've got a handle on how scary the idea of terrorists are. I also understand the desire to strike back and fight them, both as a need for vengeance and to offer some semblance of security. And, I support the war in Afghanistan - the Taliban were well warned by two presidents that one more alQaeda linked attack would mean their asses were on the line (per Richard Clarke's book). But somewhere along the way, the fight we are fighting has ceased to be a war on terror and has become something else. I think facts have adequately established that the war in Iraq bore no relevance to the war on terror. I do not want to play a guessing game as to the motives the administration had in going into Iraq - it is irrelevant. We are there. Moreover, there is a large part of the populace that has not accepted these facts: Iraq had no part in 9/11, Iraq had no relationship with alQaeda, Iraq had no WMDs, and Iraq had no extant WMD programs for the last ten years. These are facts, but they are facts that a large part of the country has not accepted and maybe never will. As such, I'm not sure it matters if they ever do. Worse than all that, we have allowed the situation in Israel to deteriorate and we have created a lot of angry people with our adventure in Iraq. That does not bode well for a war on terror. So, to me, there is more reason to fear now than there was four years ago (or, perhaps more relevant, three years ago).

Now morality. I'm not an Evangelical Christian, nor do I ever plan on becoming one. As I have grown older, particularly since I have gotten married and had kids, I have found in myself a developing relationship with a spiritual higher power. I note that I do some serious semantic gymnastics to not say "God" there. It's not that I do not think God is the thing that I am becoming close to. It is much more that saying I have a developing relationship with God makes me feel that I am placing myself in the company of people whose beliefs I reject as wholeheartedly as I possibly can. My God does not believe in intolerance, manifest destiny or the various ways that many Christians have developed a sense of insularity - that everyone else is "them". Here is what I believe and I think my God wants the world to believe.

I think that gay people deserve every single right that straight people do. I think that Muslims and Jews deserve the same respect that Christians do (as do Hindus, Buddhists and so on. I mention those two specifically because to some extent American antipathy is focused to an extent on these groups). I believe that one can regulate guns without taking away the right to hunt or protect oneself adequately. I believe that the phrase "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear" is one of the most dangerous ideas in history. I believe that a corporate based economy is a very bad thing, and that the benefits of large corporations to workers are due to inefficiencies in the corporate structure and as these inefficiencies are corrected, the workers get less and less (more on this another time). I believe that there is a delusion out there that there is a strong flow of people from lower to middle class and from middle class to upper class. In reality, the flow is nothing like that - the flow is from middle to lower and upper to really upper. I believe that peace not war is the solution to terror. I belive terror cannot possibly be solved by violence, only by removing the causes of hatred.

So here we are. In my next post, I will go over what next.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Civil Discourse 

Well, I suppose it was inevitable that our Kerry/Edwards sign was stolen from our lawn this weekend. I suppose I should be more upset about it, but I can't muster up much more than a despairing sigh. To whomever took the sign Saturday night (early morning actually), you've gone and confirmed my worst suspicions about current political supporters on either side of the debate. Disagreement is not permissible in our country, apparently, because both sides seem to view those who differ from them as misguided at best and deliberately destructive at worst. So much for an open market of ideas.

Monday, September 20, 2004


I just finished readin Nicholson Baker's Checkpoint. It wasn't much, just 128 pages, and frankly I wasn't all that impressed. It was, for the most part, a long rant without any corroboration or supporting reference. I'm pretty familiar with the "butcher's bill" levied against this administration, so there wasn't anything new or shocking. Moreover, whatever shock value might have been derived from the one character's stated intent to kill the president came across more as the raving of someone who was a beer short of a six-pack, rather than someone who was genuinely brought to that depth by something resembling despair. In such a short time, it was hard to draw any conclusion from the character other than he was just fundamentally bat-shit crazy. Honestly, I feel termendous futility regarding the administration. The premise of the novel, that this futility leads to thoughts of violence is sort of silly, or, at least, ridiculous enough that it sort of causes the particulars of the novel to pale in comparison. So, the premise of the novel makes the content of the text, the list of offenses done by this administration, fade into the background.

And oh what a list it is. I honestly cannot think of anything that was done by this administration that produced a positive result. In some ways it is impressive, George W. Bush has invalidated the idea that even a blind squirrel will occasionally find nuts. This squirrel has found nothing and is proudly touting the fact.

But I've moved beyond anger and despair at the actions and arrogance of this administration. For nine months I viewed them with bemused contempt. After 9/11 I was prepared to give them a chance to lead, but they managed to even more arrogantly bungle everything they touched. Bemused contempt changed to angry contempt. The particulars were there for all to see. An economy, that regardless of the numbers, was not serving anyone with less than $100K per year income. A "war on terror" that was abandoned in Afghanistan before it was concluded. A second "war on terror" that was begun on evidence that was either specious or manufactured, and likely was known to be so. This second war resulted in an objective positive, the removal of a very bad guy, but at the cost of 1000 American lives and uncounted Iraqi ones. Furthermore, the ultimate price tag of that war will not be wholly known for years. The scandals of Enron, Adelphia and MCI. The utterly corrupt Medicare bill, corrupt in debate (muzzled evidence), corrupt in passing (strongarm tactics against fellow Republicans). Nothing, nothing at all has been done with even marginal competence by this administration.

But, you know what? I've ceased being angry. You know why? Because no one is listening. Because a good 40% of the electorate will vote for this man regardless of the circumstances. That means that Kerry has to collect around five of every six available votes, and that's simply too tall an order. I genuinely believe Bush's base will vote for him no matter what happens, and I think I have good reason. He's abandoned all the precepts of conservatism, as least as I know it. Our government has bloated, not shrunk. He has spoken words about securing the nation but has committed neither time nor political capital to causing real reform (unless bloating the government by creating the mostly impotent Homeland Security Department counts). He has carried out ill-conceived war plans that have killed American soldiers needlessly. He has impugned the patriotism of good, brave men like Max Cleland and John Kerry His credentials as a conservative are arguably worse than Bill Clinton's, yet his base is still rock solid. This fact is prima facie evidence that Bush's conservative base will not leave him. If they haven't by now, they ain't gonna.

When 40% of the electorate are willing to compromise their own stated beliefs about what government is and how it works, then the burden of blame shifts from the betrayers to the betrayed. The electorate have abandoned reasoned, responsible voting in favor of knee-jerk selection of a man because he was put forth as a standard bearer for his party. It is as near a cult of personality as has been seen in this country in its history. Bush's base have ceased being good citizens and have become nothing more than easily led sheep.

In channel surfing this weekend, I caught a moment of "Meet the Press" where Tim Russert's guest stated that the anger and disbelief that Democrats are feeling is the mirror image of what the Republicans were feeling during the Clinton years. I beg to differ. The anger the Republicans felt was based in part on Clinton's infidelity, in part on his being a member of the baby boom sixties generation and in part on his dissembling about Monica Lewinsky. There were even some who believed him to be a rapist and perhaps a murderer. These latter allegations are baseless of course, but even if they were true, let us be clear. These would be crimes committed by a man against another human. The crimes of this administration have been lies and dissembling writ large, crimes against the nation as a whole. And do not feed me some crap about Clinton's lies eroding the nation's moral fiber - the lies of Dubya were at least as noxious to the shared belief that is our country as anything Clinton even allegedly did.

Despite all this, despite every little thing, despite the utter failure of this presidency, 40% of th electorate will vote for him. It is an act of wilful blindness that may be the most criminal act of all.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Sicker and Tireder 

Reading Paul Glastris take on Democratic tactics against Nader, I noted Glastris' desire to fight the political fight based on the issues. I thought I'd take a moment to clarify my take on the issues.

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