Saturday, January 31, 2004
Dishonest Dubya Action Figure
From this link . Damn funny.
posted by Green Voicemail 1/31/2004 04:37:00 PM
Help is on the Way!!
From The Monterey County Herald in California. It looks like the Republicans are paying people to run as Green candidates in close elections. Of course, it looks like the guy the Republicans are running is a pseudo-Green -- somebody who will call himself Green so he can file and someone who isn't endorsed by the local party.
My first question: how come the Greens didn't run a candidate of their own? My second question: if I want to run for office as a Green locally, will the Republicans pay my way? Cool!!
posted by Green Voicemail 1/31/2004 01:05:00 PM
Bush May Lose Dick in 2004
Was linked to an interesting article in The Dissident Voice discussing the movement to dump Dick Cheney from the Republican Ticket. Supposedly, the movement is secretly headed by George Bush the First, who wishes to make sure that his son is being guided by the *right* keepers, and who takes the position that Cheney has pissed off our allies across the world and fucked up the United States royally.
So I hit "Dump Cheney" on Google and who do I bump into but mad cow Maureen Dowd who says we have to Dump Cheney Now! I suppose the spin to her "writing" -- which goes all over the place before it gets to the point (I graduated from the Maureen Dowd writing school) -- is that Cheney somehow was wrong and was managing to deceive everyone else who was right, as if the entire government were held under the thrall of Dick Cheney.
I'll be interested to see if the "movement" takes wings. However, I found this paragraph interesting:
"(Bush and Saddam) both had copies of "Crime and Punishment" — Condi Rice gave Mr. Bush the novel on his trip to Russia in 2002, and Saddam had Dostoyevsky down in the spider hole — but neither absorbed its lesson: that you can't put yourself above rules just because you think you're superior."
Heh. I wonder who was assigned to read George's copy to him.
posted by Green Voicemail 1/31/2004 09:56:00 AM
Friday, January 30, 2004
An Unorganized Party
A long time ago, I saved a magazine article from Life Magazine -- not the old and grand Life, when magazine photography really mattered, but the new and listless Life that can't get anyone's attention ( are they still publishing it? ).
The pictorials were taken at various Democratic and Republican events. The author hypothesized what he thought the difference was between the parties; it is a discussion that has always stuck with me. It explains the strengths and the weaknesses of both parties.
The first thing the author said is that the Republicans were really a party of ideology. There is a sort of baseline republican philosophy that Republicans believe in. Republicans, if they talk to you, will mention "freedom" and "liberty", but if you were to demand specifics from a Republican, the four cornerstones of republicanism are:
1. A belief that capitalism is the best economic system in the world. It is the work of Republicans to promote free markets both in the United States and elsewhere.
2. A belief not just a strong, but an ACTIVE military is necessary for the security of America. The military is an honorable profession, one which is to be given the benefit of the doubt.
3. A belief in the "traditions" of our forefathers. This third cornerstone is being coopted by a reinterpretation of the term "traditions" to mean Christian fundamentalism. America needs to get back to its "traditional roots".
4. Sadly to say, RACISM. Part of the reasons that the Republicans became a majority party is because disaffected Southern Democrats turned Republican. Before 1970, you COULD be a Democrat and a racist; now you can't. The Republican party is of two minds about this development. One mind is to simply attack "affirmative action" and "political correctness" in a nebulous sort of way and ignore the racist connotations. The other mind is to attack both concepts specifically with race in mind. But both minds are eager to keep those voters in their camp.
Herein lies the strength of Republicanism. This is the Republican Bill of Sale, and you get exactly what you pay for. There is very little doubt of what Republicans stand for, and among Republicans you will find very little doubts as to the truth of any of those four positions.
I remember with glee the "Big Tent" of the Republicans of 1992. It was time to show that the Republican Party was open to all comers, so the story went. Then Pat Buchanan was given a zippo lighter and burned down the big tent. It was an embarassment.
And frankly, the embarassment resonated with people because people knew that Buchanan's fiery "cultural warfare" speech was the truth as far as it concerned what the Republican party was all about. The Republicans are not a big tent party.
This, more than anything else, is the STRENGTH of the Republican Party. Republicans have a common language about certain positions with very little room for argument in it. Indeed, the Republicans are the
closest thing to a party having a philosophy.
You really can't dissent too much from any of the core Republican positions and remain a Republican. #1 is virtually fixed: how many socialist or anarchist Republicans do you know? Nothing short of laissez-faire pro-corporatism could ever be the truth to a Republican on economics. #2 is also fixed, to a point. There is no real "peace movement" among Republicans. #3 is also fixed to a point. There is the Libertarian/Objectivist wing of the party that are either a) atheist Republicans or b) free speech Republicans. There are also gay Republicans. But each of those groups has only marginal influence in the party.
As for #4, Republican attempts to attract black voters have been a dismal failure. Certainly the Republicans have high-profile black leaders but none of that has translated into black votes in any way. I leave it as an exercise to the reader to figure out why that is so.
In short, the strength of the Republican party is its agreement on general principles. But that strength is also its weakness -- its ideological inflexibility.
Depending on whatever the state of the leadership of the Republican party, it tends to repel people from the party who aren't ideologically pure enough. If it can't repel them, it will give them a hard time.
It doesn't respond particularly well to new challenges. Stem-cell research and flexibile, mobile fighting forces ("fourth generation armies") cause a lot of confusion among Republicans. Is stem-cell research a great chance at investment (#1) or is it killing babies (#3)? We can't leave the Iraq because (#1) it's a good energy investment, (#2) America never runs from a fight, (#3) we must fight the Islamofascists, and (#4) they're all a bunch of sand monkeys anyway. Thus the quagmire continues.
Strength implies brittleness. A wall can be strong, but if you strike it hard enough, it will shatter into a million pieces. Parts #1 and #3 of the Republican core beliefs are in direct conflict. Part #1 is about making a lot of money. Part #3 is about a religious interpretation of the world, and conventional Christianity says that the love of money is the root of all evil and that one should be merciful to the poor.
Despite the creative spins that fundamentalists put on things, parts #1 and #3 often come in conflict. These ideological conflicts are not the only source of Republican weakness.
The Democrats, on the other hand.... well, there is no real Democratic philosophy. A better word for Democrats would be "non-Republicans". Republican is a religion; Democrats are the atheists.
Indeed, you'll find many people in the Democratic Party who are in the "Republicans BUT" category. For example, blacks. Most American blacks are religious, social conservatives. However, they don't intend to belong to a party that wants to keep them second-class citizens, so voting Republican is out of the question. The same with gays. Gays come in all shapes, sizes, and ends of the political (and even religious) spectrum. For out-of-the-closet gays, however, the fundamentalist Christian "abomination" interpretation of homosexuality means that the Republican Party is no safe refuge.
Generally, many Democrats have only one thing keeping them out of the Republican Party. As a result, the Democrats cannot coalesce around any particular set of core ideas and seem to be in a perpetual state of disorganization with the need to keep all of its separate identity-based core groups in line. However, this weakness is paradoxically the Democrats' strength -- the Democratic Party is truly the open tent; all you have to do to belong is to NOT be Republican or committed to some other ideology.
Here is how the Republicans have been taking over the United States:
1. "Conversion". The same way the churches and Mormons did it, the spreading of the Republican "gospel" to the undecided. The Republicans are willing to spend big money to do this, like any church. They now have their own television news networks, talk radio, well-financed college groups and a book-publishing industry designed to overwhelm anyone on the undecided side of the fence.
The Republicans, indeed, are big evangelists, and they are beginning to borrow a tactic from the Democrats -- fire-and-brimstone evangelizing. Witness Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity. The Democrats -- the non-Republicans -- as it were are do not have a difference of opinion. They are objectively and morally EVIL, according to the Republicans. Republicanism is now a spiritual political philosophy and the Republican/Democrat fight is now seen as a battle to save souls.
This evangelism WORKS in the same way that fundamentalist Christian evangelism works -- one raises the anxiety level of the target to the point where the target succumbs in desperate relief from the anxiety. It might be fear-mongering and hate-mongering, but it works, and to the Republicans, this is a moral war and that's really all that matters.
2. "Picking Up the Pieces". The goal is for Republicans to try to collect what pieces of the Democratic coalition still exist. Since these groups are only loosely bound, the idea is to appeal to each group that the Republicans are the better party.
The Republicans try to make inroads to the gays to some extent, and blacks to a greater extent. Latinos, the greatest extent of all since Latinos tend to be more religiously conservative and marginally more acceptable to the racists, who really really hate blacks. The Republican Party will occasionally make appeals to each of the splinter Democratic voting groups, at least as long as the purists aren't noticing too much.
Currently, strategy one seems to be the better working strategy for the Republicans. "Don't recruit new Republicans, CONVERT them."
So here's the question: should Democrats pick up their own philosophy?
Should they raise up a fortress on the other end of the ideological spectrum, leaving the undecideds to wander over to one castle or the other?
How about this for a set of Democratic values?
1. We believe that every one has the right to be heard in society. Our elected officials are accountable to us; not vice versa. They are CITIZENS first; congressmen, senators, and judges second. Their power is only what we decide they should have.
2. WE do not believe that there is such a thing as a "second-class citizen". Not by race, not by gender, not by religion, not by sexual-orientation, not by origin. In particular, not by gender, since we are divided into two groups by our genders, male and female. Our policies and our leaders will reflect diversity to the fullest extent of our being.
3. We believe in economic justice. We believe in the rights of labor. We believe in the right to belong to a labor union. We believe in the right to strike. We believe that everyone should be paid a living wage that reflects the value of their work. Workers are to be valued as much as managers; perhaps even more so.
4. We believe in ecology. What in nature we have destroyed or despoiled, we should heal. The environment is the resource we hold in trust for our children. We should not undo what nature has done except when absolutely necessary.
5. We believe in the promotion of non-violence. There is a place for a strong military -- but we should see every military solution to a problem as a failure at some level. Non-violent resolution of disputes should be taught and made a matter of public policy.
So who could really dispute that? Furthermore, all of the parts of the Repulican philosophy are repudiated in one measure or another by these core values. Indeed, the five values above could be spread out to as many as ten, could be differentiated and fine-tuned, but I would say that those values above represent the clearest alternative to the Republican philosophy.
Here's the problem though, for the Democrats, and it's a big one.
Those values are GREEN VALUES. They are the the values of the Green Party of the United States .
If the Democrats don't get their act together -- if they don't decide what they stand for, if they don't offer a clear and distinct alternative to the Republican Party -- then they will fade away at some point in the future. The Democrats can evangelize, but they will have to stand for something first. They might be able to pick at traditional Republican groups, but they Democrats have to stand for something.
Saying, "I'm not a Republican" isn't standing for something. It's true, Republicanism is an odious philosophy in its present form; who could stand for it? George Bush is that philosophy in most twisted and corrupted for -- its bigoted, rich-get-richer, Kill-'em-all-and-let-God-sort-'em-out kind of philosophy.
We are voting for John Kerry; as Greens, I feel we have a duty to vote for Kerry only because George Bush represents a future world as dark as anything out of a Neal Stephenson world, the world of Blade Runner with pockets of wealth among wide swaths of squalor in a mined-out, polluted, and dying world. The last four years have proven that. We are voting for Kerry because he can at least slow the juggernaut down.
However, we are not Democrats. If there were a party bigger than the Democrats who could pick up more Bush-stopping votes, our votes would go to that candidate. The present situation should not be seen as a vindication of the ideas of the Democratic Party (whatever they are today), and absolutely not the ideas of the New Democrats. John Kerry is merely a not-Republican, and really, a not-much-of-anything-else-either.
This will probably be the last time I vote Democratic. The only reason I vote Democratic this time is I fear I might not get the chance to vote again if we fail, we will live in a permanent state of Threat Level Reds and emergency decrees and government by crisis; it will happen so gradually that we will become used to it. If either side wins in 2004, I will be voting Green in 2008: if the Democrats win, to give people an alternative to the Republican philosophy; if the Republicans win, to resist it.
posted by Green Voicemail 1/30/2004 04:23:00 PM
Wednesday, January 28, 2004
From The New York Times . I guess 39 to 26 is an "overwhelming defeat", but when I think of "overwhelming defeat" I think of something like 39 to 8.
Think of it. If the Patriots beat the Panthers 39 to 26, would they call it an "overwhelming defeat"? Hardly.
posted by Green Voicemail 1/28/2004 08:23:00 AM
Tuesday, January 27, 2004
Evil Stradiotto Retires from the Liberal Coalition
And I ask these questions:
"Oh uncaring God! Why do you let your children suffer? Why do you inflict this on us? The nation is going down the tubes. We are in SEVERE danger of four years of the grinning jackal!! And now, the Good Evil Mr. S types through the agony of trigeminal neuralgia!
"If there WERE a just God, BUSH would have trigeminal neuralgia and Evil Mr. S would have a ranch in Crawford, TX. But why listen to the pain of your children now?"
posted by Green Voicemail 1/27/2004 11:30:00 PM
Sunday, January 25, 2004
Faces of the Enemy
The big question that's being asked is "Is Dean electable?" Clearly, the answer to that question is in doubt. Whether he really DID "go nuts" or whether he was just trying to rally his disspirited supporters is not the point. The fact is, the media has now created the perception that Dean has gone nuts and what actually happened in Iowa isn't important anymore. You can't post-mortem a myth. The meme has stuck.
The reason that the meme has stuck is one reason and one reason only: the American media. The media, frankly, had never been friends of Howard Dean and dogged him with questions about his electability since the campaign started. The idea was that Dean was too "angry" to be elected president -- which, oddly enough, was also said about Ross Perot, John McCain, Ralph Nader. To paraphrase the thinking of another blogger, "isn't it a coincidence that anyone who presents a threat to the status quo is considered to be too "angry"?"
The media was looking for a chance to fulfill its own prophecy. It has now found it, and we are now faced with uglier questions such as "Is Kerry electable?", "Is Clark electable?", "Is Edwards electable?"
Under normal conditions -- if the Republicans had a competent candidate -- the answer to those questions would be, "no, no, and maybe". I was fortunate enough last night to watch George W. Bush address the United States Conference of Mayors. It was quite illuminating.
It didn't seem like the usual stump speech, or if it did, it seemed like a bad idea at the time. Undoubtedly, Bush felt free to speak extemporaneously since the American media would tape only nine seconds of the speech, and Karl Rove would decide where that cut was made. Bush, as a speaker...well, for the first time in a long time, I felt sorry for the man occupying Al Gore's chair.
Clearly, not all of the mayors were Bush fans. The half that were Republicans dutifully applauded every one of Bush's points, the Democrats either applauded briefly, or not at all. One man sat with his elbow on the armrest, his head resting on his hand during this "rousing" speech.
I think it got to Bush. Bush is just awful as a speaker...he was trying to speak from the heart, and he can do that very, very well but I feel that Bush was sensing the flop sweat. He was visibly shrinking, his shoulders rising as if his head wanted to retreat into his body. He was all over the place, unorganized, playing Bob Dole and saying that the United States Government had all the money the mayors ever needed if they would just reach out and take it. It was a horrible, horrible speech, and I think everyone was glad it was over, Bush, his detractors, his supporters, everyone.
I can't emphasize it enough. He looked like an eighth grader giving a report on "The Scarlet Letter" when he'd only read the book the night before. In a no-holds barred debate, Joe Lieberman could kick this guy's ass, and I'd give Michael Dukakis even odds.
We, however, will not have this no-holds barred debate. The League of Women Voters doesn't run debates anymore; it's almost to the point where debates are called "joint campaign appearances". The American media likes it when both candidates approve of the questions beforehand; they don't want to get in trouble with their bosses by asking something provocative. Or "angry". In the primaries, they can ask any sort of shit they can think of; in the presidential debates, it won't be that way.
So how is Howard Dean going to get himself out of the hole the American media put him in? He could wipe the floor with Bush. indeed, his entire campaign is predicated on being the voice of anti-Bush, a voice that Kerry Edwards only managed to find when he was down by fifteen points. Sure, the push polling hurt Dean -- I'm surprised to find out that he didn't think of the same -- but the media's continual meme has hurt Dean most of all.
So how will Howard Dean make his message heard? Well, I'm beginning to believe that it won't be easy. Reading Saul D. Alinksy's "Rules for Radicals", it discusses Gandhi and his attack of passive resistance against the British and why it worked. The British idea was a lot of tolerance for the colonials and a way to coopt revolutionaries in the colonial ranks by buying them off or throwing a title or a conference to them, to shine a little sunlight on them. As a result, Gandhi's means of passive resistance gave him a chance to be heard and for him to turn the tide.
Alinsky asks if Gandhi could have defeated the Nazis the same way, through passive resistance. Alinsky's answer? No. Nazi society didn't work the same way. The Nazis didn't even believe in the EXISTENCE of dissent; they were totalitarians. Gandhi would have been taken care of by a Gestapo bullet before you had even heard of him.
In order for a dissident campaign to work, one has to learn how America silences dissident voices. In the early part of the century, dissidents could still be arrested. Union organizers could be deported, thrown in prison, printing presses could be smashed, "uppity" blacks could be lynched. There are more subtle methods now. And the tool that will used to silence dissent is the American media.
America is a geographically huge country. There is no true "word of mouth on the street", we depend on newspapers and TV to do the job for us and what a crappy job they do. Fox is more or less a conservative mouthpiece, a means for transmitting hard-right conservative messages to make sure that the have-a-littles come to resent the have-nots. The rest of the media makes sure that the messages of anyone who might want to challenge the way things are done is being distorted.
They are made out as madmen. Perot, McCain, Nader, Dean. Or they are made out as silly people with not a lot of common sense. Whenever there was a march against the Iraq War or a protest against the World Trade Organization, the media would always choose the scruffiest, looniest, craziest protestors it could find and claim that they were the respresentatives of the movement. Face it, if the message isn't heard on TV and on the radio, it isn't heard at all. Progressive messages will be either ignored or distorted.
So what to do? The first thing to do is keep blogging. The media doesn't own the Internet, not yet, and it can certainly put down bloggers and pick and choose the worst excesses of blogdom as a representative of all of progressive blogging -- but progressive blogging doesn't go away. Our words will remained fixed on the page; like messages in a bottle in a hostile ocean of media, we hope that the right people will come across them.
The second thing to do is to recognize that the media are the enemy. The reporters are okay, for the most part. The editors, on the other hand, ask themselves "will it play in Peoria?" I'm surprised that NO Democratic candidate has really played hardball with the American media. During the most recent New Hampshire debate, the candidates finally got their hackles up a bit; promising, but I'm not too impressed just yet. A winning Democratic candidate must make it clear -- any hack-jobbery by the Times or the WSJ or the post will mean REAL consequences in a Dean/Kerry Edwards administration. Reporters like Blitzer cut off from political press conferences. Television networks not taken on trips. Audits of conservative talk radio. This is what the Nixon Administration did, this is what the Bush Administration does; this is what we have to do. Before someone whines about the ends and the means, I remind them that the press doesn't respect anything we have to say. The American Media only respects power, and if we don't use it, they have no need to respect us. These people are not motivated by truth or justice.
The third thing is to forget outreach to conservative bloggers. Their minds are made up. It is not my job to convert conservatives to progressive thinking. We are out to convert the unreached, those potential middle-class progressives out there, and it is our job to make the conservatives look like the morons that they are. This isn't a "fair and balanced blog"; make no mistake about that.
The fourth thing is to think long term. Progressives need to think in terms of fifty years down the line. Face it, we may not be alive to see the revolution in thought when it comes, indeed, things may get worse during our lifetime and I suspect they will. But EVERY move must be fought. Every new Patriot-esque act, every new security measure that is proposed, every faith-based fundie intiative, every proposal for a new war, every attempt to name a new enemy, every attempt to make us afraid.
The fifth thing is to hit Democrats. Democrats have become as soft and mushy and comfortable from public scrutiny as Republicans. Someone said in another blog that the reason the marches of millions against the Iraq War failed is that we were speaking to the wrong man. We were speaking to George Bush, and he just simply ignored us. We dwindled. We should have been speaking out against the Democrats, to move them into action, but we did not. We must not make that same mistake again. Kerry, if he gets the nomination, has to be HIT, and HIT HARD, or he won't move against Bush if he feels that it's more comfortable for him to stay put. We must literally fight our own candidates if we are to get anything done.
I do not wish to think much more about the election of 2004. It is a short term solution; and the second Kerry Edwards wins my temporarily alliance with the Democratic Party in general and Kerry Edwards in PARTICULAR is over. I'm interested in progressive causes, not pseudo-Progressive spokesmen. It's time to vote Democratic in 2004. But that vote is for a GREEN Future, not a Democratic one.
posted by Green Voicemail 1/25/2004 11:37:00 AM