Dover Bitch

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Who Killed the Electric Car?

Last night, DB went to the movies again because "Who Killed the Electric Car?" opened in select cities. Eventually it will be playing all over.

Go see it.

If the film didn't end on a note of optimism, it might have incited a riot. There are that many well-documented outrages in it and the actual destruction of the electric cars evokes an emotional response not unlike the feeling you may have had as a child when Bambi discovered her dead mother or when Old Yeller met his sad fate.

Today, while visiting Crooks & Liars, DB watched John Stossell attack people concerned about global warming with a dastardly misinformation campaign that ended with this pile of crap:

Let me just say that this, at bottom, it's a hatred of capitalism, a hatred of industrial production. Yes, it's true, we produce more carbon dioxide. But we are also the cleanest country in the world. As we get wealthier, the air gets cleaner. We can afford to do the things that maybe someday, if the globe is getting warmer, we may have to make adjustments. It's our wealth that will allow us to save the world. If we let these socialists control our lives, we'll all be worse off.

DB would like to propose a funding drive and competition, like the X Prize, to create a vehicle specifically to send Stossel to another planet.

"Who Killed the Electric Car?" is a perfect response to Stossel's contemptible drivel. Aside from the fact that "someday, if the globe is getting warmer" is a complete denial of reality, the fact of the matter is that GM refused to sell perfectly good electric cars to people standing outside with nearly $2 million. Instead of allowing supply to meet demand, they refused to renew the leases on the vehicles, refused to sell them, confiscated them and destroyed them. Perfectly good vehicles already built with buyers lined up to buy them.

Not that GM was entirely against making a buck:

"I called lawyers and said, 'What would happen if I didn't turn the car in?' and 'Could we fight this?' I was advised I would be prosecuted for stealing the car! They did an inspection of the car and for every little scratch they charged me. Then they took the car away from me and promptly crushed it."

Engineers, inventors and the people tasked with developing the EV programs were the absolute embodiment of capitalism and "industrial production." They put their hearts and souls into developing a great product and the wealthiest and most powerful interests in America shut them down.

But Stossel says that unless you put all your faith in the geniuses running companies like GM to "save the world," you are supporting socialists who want to "control our lives."

Can there be too much governmental regulation? Certainly. But is all regulation just an attempt at socialism? Absolutely not. When you change phone companies, you can keep your phone number. Is that because the phone companies love us all so much that they wanted us to have more freedom? No, it's because the phone companies lost a long, hard-fought battle with the government. Does anybody who enjoys the freedom to keep their phone number also, therefore, believe that the government should take over all the phone companies and stifle innovation? Ridiculous.

Things happen in the world that affect businesses. Problems in the Middle East affect oil. Cold weather kills crops. These natural and world events do not happen by design. They are not intended to create a positive effect for America. But corporations and capitalists adjust to these things. If they couldn't, the system would fail. But any regulation designed to protect consumers or the environment... these are insurmountable challenges.

If it weren't for governmental mandate, cars wouldn't have seatbelts and airbags and they'd get 10 miles to the gallon. By Stossel's logic, anybody in favor of faucets is against plumbing and water.

Stossel is living in a fairy tale world if he truly believes that unregulated capitalism is going to solve our environmental challenges. GM fought tooth and nail against governmental mandates and, as a result, Toyota is kicking their asses. Enormous corporations are not infallible and they do not encourage competition. They wouldn't have fought so hard against California -- and they wouldn't have completely destroyed their electric vehicles -- if they had any interest in helping America kick its oil addiction.

GM bought controlling interest in a battery manufacturer because the technology they invented was superior to what GM had been using. To whom did GM sell that interest when they scrapped the program? Chevron-Texaco. It's like the end of "Raiders of the Lost Ark," with a huge warehouse of things never to be seen again.

That's what unregulated capitalism yields. A great, innovative and environmentally responsible product with a market ready to buy... dead forever. I guess thinking that sucks makes DB a socialist.

In fact, one reason for optimism at the end of "Who Killed the Electric Car?" is that individual entrepreneurs enabled GM to build an effective electric vehicle in the first place and the hope is that more independent innovation will be on the horizon.

But as long as the government is going to support futuristic and oil-company-approved technologies, at the expense of existing and already acceptable alternative technologies like the electric car, it is hard to see how we're ever going to kick the addiction to oil.

Please go see "Who Killed the Electric Car?" when it comes to your town.

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A light at the end of the fiber?

After feeling down yesterday, when the Senate Commerce Committee failed to pass the Snowe-Dorgan amendment to protect Net Neutrality, DB is feeling better today. Especially after reading Matt Stoller's "The Seventh Inning Telco Stretch."


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Never a boast or a brag

Though many of our awesome representatives in D.C. are willing to let Net Neutrality die because it's "a solution in search of a problem," they have no problem debating a Constitutional amendment to ban flag burning. Go figure.

Even though this entire debate is a waste of time and taxpayer money (love those self-voted pay increases) because there is clearly no danger of losing all our flags -- or even, say, three of them -- to crazy flag burners, it strikes DB that the opposite would be equally true.

Imagine that American flags were being burned so often that Congress would be debating something that actually happens all over the country. Think how bad things would have to be in this country for that to be the reality. If these same Senators ever live in an America like that, it's their own fault.

Of course, nothing says you believe in your country, Constitution and freedom of expression more than the confidence that it will survive any tiny gesture, including the burning of its very symbol. In short, you don't have to like the pieces of crap who burn flags. But it doesn't say much for your belief in freedom (or understanding of irony) to fight against expression in order to save it.

What happens if they succeed in passing this law? Will nobody burn a flag again? Doesn't it seem likely that someone angry enough to burn one today might still do it? OK, so now you can throw them in jail, but the flag is still toast and the gesture is no longer empty. That person's not just some jerk, but someone willing to make a real personal sacrifice in order to make whatever point.

Or maybe they'll just burn maps of the United States. Or the presidential seal. Or a photo of the president. Or maybe an "American flag" with the wrong number of stars or stripes. Will we be so uptight to amend the Constitution for all that?

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Analysis paralysis

According to Raw Story, the New York Times will report soon that the Democrats in the Senate are irritated by Kerry's strong stance on Iraq.

"When John Kerry was their presidential nominee in 2004, Democrats fervently wished he would express himself firmly about the Iraq war," writes Kate Zernike.

"Mr. Kerry has found his resolve," Zernike continues. "But it has not made his fellow Democrats any happier. They fear the latest evolution of Mr. Kerry's views on Iraq may now complicate their hopes of taking back a majority in Congress in 2006."

Russ Feingold called for censure of the president last March and stood up for the rule of law... and his colleagues ran to the AP to give unattributed quotes about how we need more investigations and how Feingold screwed up their big plans to talk about the Dubai ports deal and then pivot off that topic to something else. Today, Dubai still controls those ports and nobody has been held accountable for any of the violations of our Constitutional rights. Way to go Democrats.

John Murtha stood up with a plan and called for a redeployment of our troops. Practically nobody in the Democratic establishment stood with him. Months later, the majority of Americans are in favor of a timetable for withdrawal and the Democrats still can't convince the country that they have a plan. Way to go.

Now Kerry takes a strong stand and they go whining to the press again. Unbelievable.

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Chairman to nowhere

It's important, while considering Net Neutrality, to consider who is fighting against it in the Senate: Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens.

The Commerce Committee is set to vote on the latest Net Neutrality bill on Thursday. We cannot sit back and wait for the results. Keep calling your senators and getting the message out to the public.

Although he "threatened" to quit the Senate last December, Stevens is still handing out taxpayer money and resources to his corporate buddies.

First, a quick review of just the last year of Stevens' highlights:

He introduced and passed a $3 billion subsidy for digital TV tuner manufacturers. He spearheaded the delay in getting our first responders the communications frequencies they need until 2009. He threatened to deny our troops funding by inserting his repeat-failure ANWR drilling provision into the defense bill -- a move called "disgusting" by his colleagues -- after having previously claimed that it had no place in such a bill. He swindled $223 million from the American people for a "bridge to nowhere."

Oh yeah, and he was one of nine in the Senate who voted for torture.

Now he's messing with the Internet. Among the latest news is this gem:

In a change favorable to cable, Stevens stripped from the bill language that would have forced Comcast Corp. to sell its Sports Net Philadelphia to DirecTV Inc. and EchoStar Communications Corp. Also gone are provisions allowing competitors to file FCC complaints to gain access to regional sports networks not owned by cable operator but to which a cable operator has exclusive rights.

Bummer for Stevens. His "Sports Freedom Act of 2006" is a no-go. But why did he want to interfere with teams' and leagues' contracts with cable companies anyway? After all, in an article about Net Neutrality, the Washington Post dutifully reported:

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) is open to consumer protections but is loath to interfere with commercial deals among phone and cable companies and the content providers, a committee staffer said.

You just cannot take this man at his word. Ever.

So now he's floating a new "compromise" for Net Neutrality: An Internet Bill of Rights, which is actually a toothless smokescreen, intended to appear as if there's any real protections for Net discrimination. If you can prove your ISP is messing with the services you use, you can complain to the FCC. Eventually, they may levy a fine up to $10,000.

Fortunately for us, ranking Democrat Daniel Inouye isn't fooled.

"The new draft's provisions on net neutrality utterly fail to protect consumers and preserve an open Internet," Inouye said in a statement.

"Under the current language, network operators will have the ability to dictate what the Internet of the future will look like, what content it will include and how it will operate.

The question is whether the general public will be fooled. Pick up a phone and call your senators. Call your local radio stations. The clock is ticking.

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Monday, June 19, 2006

It won't open a black hole, either

CNN just did a story on the unmanned aerial drones that may be patrolling the skies of Los Angeles soon. After allowing a USC law professor to suggest that the police, who do a great job in his words, might be tempted to take this technology too far in invading privacy, CNN responded with footage of killer drones in "Terminator 3" and a comforting pledge from the police that the drone will not behave similarly.

DB feels much better now. Thanks, CNN!

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Being a senator is difficult

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo has been all over the Net Neutrality issue and finds this gem:

Others on the committee questioned the need for "preemptive" action against a problem they're not convinced exists. If the discrimination that Net neutrality advocates fear does occur, such a public outcry will develop that "the chairman will be required to hold this meeting in this largest room in the Capitol, and there will be lines wandering all the way down to the White House," said Delaware Democrat Joseph Biden.

First of all, if the discrimination DB fears will occur does in fact come to fruition, the public outcry will be stifled. That's the entire point. And this blogger, for one, doesn't look forward to standing in a line to demand that Congress get off it's ass to restore the public's ability to communicate freely over the Internet. When they take away our rights, they don't give them back.

Then there's this:

[Arlen] Specter, for one, indicated that he would prefer looking at the issue on a "case-by-case" basis rather than issuing a "general rule" about what network operators can and cannot do--an approach favored by Internet companies. He said it may be more productive to negotiate less formal "standards" for network access with the players involved because writing new laws is "extraordinarily difficult, candidly, when you have the giants on both sides of these issues."

Are you kidding? Case-by-case? Where will they find the time with all the flags that have to be flame-retarded and gays that have to be kept single? Or will they leave it up to the "trial lawyers" and "judicial activists" to decide?

But by all means, don't write a new law, especially if it's going to be "extraordinarily difficult." Even if Senators Snowe and Dorgan have already written one for you.

And the worst part of Specter's nonsense is "when you have the giants on both sides of these issues." Maybe for just once in his miserable term, Specter ought to think about the people who aren't giants. Like the small business owner who won't stand a chance if Wal-Mart has paid for the Internet traffic to come their way.

In fact, the giants on one side of the issue wouldn't even exist today were it not for the level playing field that created the opportunities for them. If Specter wants to punt on the issue, then he should vote for the Snowe-Dorgan bill and leave the Internet the way it's been since the Web was born.

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Monday, June 12, 2006

A blue wheelbarrow: Part I

A good poem forces the reader to ask questions. That's how they teach us about ourselves. But what about a great poem? Let's play a game: Read "The Red Wheelbarrow" by William Carlos Williams (1962) and ask yourself, What is the key question this poem begs us to ask?

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

Do you have a question in mind? If not, think about it before reading any further. Read it again, anyway.

(Scroll down to continue...)

OK. So you have a question in mind. DB is going to go out on a limb and guess your question:

What could possibly depend upon all that?

But what's the answer to that question? Rain is important. Food is important. Farms are a good thing. By now it may dawn on you that this question is a dud. Maybe the question is "Why? Why does so much depend upon all that?" That, at least, is a more interesting question.

And as long as were asking that, why did we immediately ask "What?" Maybe we were tricked!

Look at the first two words, "so much" -- a quantity... a quantity of what? Look at the poem as a whole -- a wheelbarrow, chickens, red, glazed with water. You can visualize the entire setting easily. Look again at the way the words were laid out on your screen. You don't even have to. You can close your eyes and see it.

You can see the words. You can see the chickens. You can see everything.

We were tricked. We were supposed to ask "What?"

And now the real question -- Why? Why are we so easily seduced? Why did Williams want us to ask the wrong question?

Maybe he wanted to show us just how easy it was to fool us. Maybe the point is that we depend upon all those things. The human brain does. Our minds need to visualize in order to comprehend. We need to create mental models in order to understand our universe.

That's what depends upon the red wheelbarrow. Us. And you can't answer the question "What?" without asking "Why?"

That opens a box of questions: How much do we depend upon what we can visualize? Are we too dependent upon visualization? How much are we missing because we can be tricked so easily? How much of what is unseen is holding the true answers to all of life's mysteries? How much do other people depend upon what they can see? How much more effective would we be at communicating if we used analogies more often?

The answer should be obvious. A picture is worth a thousand words.

The opposition is coming at us with concise oversimplifications. The only way to beat that is with a crystal-clear analogy.

For example, John Kerry said he believed he could "fight a more effective, more thoughtful, more strategic, more proactive, more sensitive war on terror that reaches out to other nations and brings them to our side and lives up to American values in history."

Dick Cheney and the Republicans campaigned over and over that Kerry wanted to "show Al-Qaida our soft side."

That's where Kerry wasted weeks detailing the places we could use diplomacy better, etc. All he had to do was paint a picture like this:

"Maybe Dick Cheney never noticed that his heart surgeons wore gloves and washed their hands. They did it for Reagan, too, and it wasn't to show the bullet their soft side."

They came at him with flip flops and bandaids. He should have portrayed them as having a sledgehammer in one hand and an empty toolbox in the other. And then he could have described them trying to fix a stained-glass window.

Maybe there's better analogies out there, but the Democrats rarely seem to come up with any. It's a failure to recognize a key element of human nature. William Carlos Williams figured it out.


Saturday, June 10, 2006

Arianna, please

DB was wrong.

Unhappy about having to miss a fun weekend in Las Vegas, this blogger decided that it wasn't that bad after spotting super-blogger Arianna Huffington at Al Gore's movie.

Turns out, Arianna went to Vegas after all. But that's not the worst part. She left the movie theater before DB could chide her for focusing on Gore's attire in 2000 instead of on the substance of his message.

But from this post from Vegas, it looks like she's still more interested in what people are wearing than what they stand for.

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OK, but how do we win?

Following up on the Brute existents post below, DB would like to call attention to another excellent post by Digby on the subject of partisanship and politics of division.

Digby, as usual, gets it better than anybody. But again, the question is what do we do about it? Pointing out that the GOP divides people is only half the battle. Coming up with a strategy for mitigating these tactics is the other half, and at this point, the most important part.

This is not a criticism of Digby in any way whatsoever. It is a criticism of the people responsible for Democratic campaigns. They've had plenty of time to move from the "Hey, that's a divisive issue!" phase to the "Here's how we're going to win" phase. And they haven't.

This blogger believes the answer lies in two areas:

  • More intelligent use of language
  • Better party discipline.

More to come on these topics later.

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Friday, June 09, 2006

Net Neutrality is fundamental

DB posted the following in the comments section of FDL. Don't have time to really write this as a proper post, but it's important enough that it deserves some play, so here it is. This post will eventually be replaced by a more thoughtful missive.

Another thing about Net Neutrality because I’m not sure I really made the point I wanted to make (in case anybody’s listening)…

When the Bill of Rights was being debated, there were some people opposed to adding rights. Not because they were against freedom or speech or the right to a fair trial, but because they were afraid that some people would interpret the inclusion of certain rights as an open door to deny other rights that aren’t there.

We see evidence of this all time. When Alito was confirmed, Sen. DeWine asked him if the word “abortion” appeared anywhere in the Constitution. Alito could have pointed out (of course, he didn’t) that the Ninth Amendment states that it doesn’t matter if a right isn’t explicitly in the text; That’s not a good enough reason to limit a right.

The Ninth Amendment was the compromise. It states that “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

But they needed to make a compromise and include this amendment because it was clear to the Founders that without certain rights being untouchable — rights like the ability to openly discuss the actions of our government — there would be no hope of preserving any rights at all.

So this brings me back to Net Neutrality. It’s great that Yearly Kos is happening and everybody is inspired and ready to change the direction of this country. But without the freedom to discuss these issues on the Internet, that’s the end of all of this.

Freedom to share ideas on the Internet is, for our generation, the same as freedom of speech. And the GOP is limiting that right by handing it over to some corporations. These companies, who are already doing the NSA’s dirty work, have the potential to completely eradicate our ability to influence the direction of the country.

It is the fundamental issue on which all others depend.

UPDATE: For full disclosure as much disclosure as you're going to get here, DB's employer will likely be negatively impacted by the defeat of Net Neutrality. This blogger has not heard anything about the topic mentioned by any company executives, but it still seems clear this would be the case. On the other hand, Net Neutrality helps our competitors, too.

In any event, this issue is here on this blog because DB feels passionately about it's ramifications on the future of our democracy. And of course, by its very nature, this blog benefits from Net Neutrality. There are other things that could be blogged about here to help DB's employers, but that's not the purpose of this blog.


Do one good thing, Tom...

... Please take Joe with you.

Over at Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall has posted his first observations on the rise of Ned Lamont as he attempts to take over for Joe Lieberman. He discusses Lieberman's unwillingness to stand with the Democrats on Social Security:

In the end it just seemed like a desire to be in the mix for some illusory compromise or grand bargain, an ingrained disinclination to take a stand, even in a case when it really mattered. There's some whiff of indifference to the great challenges of the age, even amidst the atmospherics of concern.

Illusary is right. Marshall makes a bunch of good points, but this is the best. (Marshall deliberately decided not to harp on Lieberman's position on Iraq, which actually is refreshing because there is so much more to why many on the left oppose him.) The death of bi-partisanship is the biggest reality to which Lieberman is apparently blind.

Nobody says it better than Digby:

The grassroots of the Democratic Party see something that all the establishment politicians have not yet realized: bipartisanship is dead for the moment and there is no margin in making deals. The rules have changed. When you capitulate to the Republicans for promises of something down the road you are being a fool. When you make a deal with them for personal reasons, you are selling out your party. When you use Republican talking points to make your argument you are helping the other side. When you kiss the president on the lips at the state of the union you are telling the Democratic base that we are of no interest or concern to you. This hyper-partisanship is ugly and it's brutal, but it is the way it is.

The way it is indeed. And lest you doubt it (that means you, Lieberman), just read Tom DeLay's last words on the floor of Congress:

"You show me a nation without partisanship, and I'll show you a tyranny," Mr. DeLay said, adding, "It is not the principled partisan, however obnoxious he may seem to his opponents, who degrades our public debate, but the preening, self-styled statesman who elevates compromise to a first principle."

Republicans crowded the chamber and applauded. But many Democrats, who listened at first, exited noisily to show their displeasure, though a few dozen stayed. "Bitter to the bitter end," said Representative Rahm Emanuel, Democrat of Illinois, who heard out Mr. DeLay.

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Thursday, June 08, 2006

An inconvenient media

With so many bloggers in exciting Las Vegas this weekend, DB was feeling a little bit down about having to stay home. What to do for fun? How about a movie about the destruction of the entire planet? That should be good for some smiles.

So, this blogger decided to go see Al Gore's "An Incovenient Truth" with fellow blogger Arianna Huffington.

OK, DB didn't technically go with Ariana Huffington, but she was seated just a few seats away. Unfortunately, when the lights came on at the end, Arianna was gone, depriving yours truly of an opportunity to caustically ask "So do you still give a shit how many buttons are on Gore's suit?"

DB's companion left the movie "sad, but inspired to act." DB left angry. Maybe that anger will turn into something more productive. But for now, it's just anger.

While the airwaves are filled with debates about Ann Coulter's near-pathological lack of empathy and tact, people like Chris Matthews continue to discuss Al Gore in the context of "Why did he grow a beard after the 2000 election?"

The public deserves a real dialog about things that matter. Hopefully, the energy in Las Vegas this weekend will be an extra push for the efforts of those of us who are online, trying to overthrow the stranglehold our media corporations have on the national debate. To her credit, Arianna Huffington seems to be on the right side of history at this point. DB is optimistic about our chances.

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Monday, June 05, 2006

Brute existents

The dragon tipped up his great tusked head, stretched his neck, sighed fire. "Ah, Grendel!" he said. He seemed that instant almost to rise to pity. "You improve them, my boy! Can't you see that yourself? You stimulate them! You make them think and scheme. You drive them to poetry, science, religion, all that makes them what they are for as long as they last. You are, so to speak, the brute existent by which they learn to define themselves. The exile, captivity, death they shrink from - the blunt facts of their mortality, their abandonment - that's what you make them recognize, embrace! You are mankind, or man's condition: inseparable as the mountain-climber and the mountain. If you withdraw, you'll instantly be replaced. Brute existents, you know, are a dime a dozen.

In 1971, John Gardner authored a fantastic novel, "Grendel," which is currently being performed as an opera at Los Angeles' Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. "Grendel" is the legend of Beowulf, told from the monster's perspective.

A terrifying creature with nothing but hatred for the world and everything in it, Grendel, visits a dragon who, in between coveting his own treasure, shares with Grendel his life philosophy. Grendel enters the dragon's lair looking for a reason for being, and leaves enlightened, understanding that humans, not unlike Grendel himself, have a tendency to define themselves not by what they are, but by what they are not.

One of the fundamental differences between liberals and conservatives in America is that liberals seem to instinctively reject that claim or, at least, seem to be either unwilling or unable to embrace it. Perhaps this is why Democrats have no apparent propensity for coming up with wedge issues that they can rally around.

As President Bush takes another giant step towards solving all our nation's problems today -- by pushing for a constitutional ban on gay marriage -- Democrats are already calling the move what it is: A cynical ploy to divide America and drive right-wing extremists to the polls to vote Republican. Some Democrats are calling the move desperate.

It's times like this that DB must fight not to get dispirited.

Bush may be down in the polls and the fact that none of the GOP's policies have made America safer or stronger may be creeping into almost everybody's skulls by now. But this move is anything but desperate. Ask yourself, if Bush was at 50-60%, would he still push for this? Of course he would. It's an election year. It's straight out of the GOP playbook.

Clearly, this is not the first time the Republicans have had a divisive issue to use in a campaign -- race, abortion, the death penalty, separation of Church and State, taxes, military spending... and now gay marriage.

It took a long, hard look at the South, at Nixon's and Reagan's success there and at the issues of race and taxes for Democrats to identify that the Republicans have a proven formula for dividing America in their favor. A tremendous amount of energy by incredibly smart people has been devoted to analyzing the evolution of the Republican Party's southern strategy -- a strategy for which RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman recently apologized.

Democrats recognize these issues instantly and slap the "wedge" label on them immediately. Then they convince themselves that enough Americans will see these things for what they are -- cynical ploys.

A lesson to learn from 2004: The "wedge" label is not good enough.

It's a bitter pill to swallow. Losing that election was bad enough, but to realize (or at least perceive) that a "wedge" issue may have been a major contributor to the loss is salt in the wound. As representatives of the Red States' voters spilled onto the airwaves after the election to let the liberal "elite" know that they were tired of being insulted, people in the Blue States began to think that, to the contrary, they had been giving Red Staters too much credit.

But the truth is that the Democrats never really made their case and instead seem satisfied to be able to simply identify a divisive issue.

It's like the scene from Mel Brooks' 1968 comedy, "The Producers," when Max Bialystock, Leo Bloom and Franz Leibkind set out on a mission to blow up the theater where their play is running:

Franz Liebkind: Gentlemen. Ve have here a technical problem. Hmm? I do not know if vat ve have here is ze quick fuse or ze slow fuse. Ja, ja, I must find zis out.
[snips dynamite fuse]

Franz Liebkind: Zis is critical.
[lights fuse with match]

Franz Liebkind: Ha ha ha, ja ja, you see zis? You see zis here vat I have told you? Yeah, zis is an example of smartness here. I have said that zis is ze quick fuse. Huh? And zis IS ze quick fuse.


Democrats must accept, first and foremost, that those tactics really do work, and second, that not everybody sees wedge issues as inherently evil.

This difference between liberals and conservatives was well illuminated only two days after the 2004 election, when Pat Buchanan sat in for host Joe Scarborough on MSNBC's "Scarborough Country" and discussed a recent column by Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne with conservative talk show host Lawrence Kudlow:

PATRICK BUCHANAN: All right, well, I want to come back to that in a minute.

But right now, Lawrence Kudlow, now, E.J. Dionne is a very bright man. And he's a good columnist. He was an outstanding political analyst. But here he is "The Washington Post" on Tuesday's results.

He says-quote-"Let's be honest. We are aghast at the success of a campaign based on viscous personal attacks, the exploitation of strong religious feelings, and an effort to create the appearance of strong leadership that would do Hollywood proud. And we are disgusted that an effort consciously designed to divide the country did exactly that and won."

Now, Lawrence Kudlow, I thought a campaign's purpose was to divide the country into Republicans and Democrats and get more than the other fellow. You may have debated at Oxford. I have. But, at the end of the debate, you divide the house. Part of it walks out to vote for one side and the other stays in the room to vote for the other side.

It seems as though the Democrats are just completely outraged and exasperated that the president on a personal level ran a tough campaign and simply won by a going-away margin.

LAWRENCE KUDLOW: Well, Pat, I agree with you. I think E.J. Dionne, it's a very uncharacteristic and unseemly rant on his part. Politics is about divisions. It's about a clash of ideas. It's about a conflict of thought.

And that's what makes democracy so great is, we can settle this peacefully. I rather liked what Mayor Brown said before, because I think the Kerry Democrats in this campaign deserted many long-standing Democratic positions, particular with respect to cultural values or moral values.

What happened here is, John Kerry and John Edwards surrendered their party to Whoopi Goldberg, to Michael Moore, to George Soros and people of the far left. And Americans are not stupid. They saw it and they didn't want any part of it.

Buchanan, when not boasting about having debated at Oxford, makes the assertion that "a campaign's purpose was to divide the country." But a liberal believes that a divided country is merely a consequence of an election. The purpose of the campaign is to attract people to a set of values and ideas.

Kudlow couldn't even stop doing it after the election was already over. "John Kerry and John Edwards surrendered their party to Whoopi Goldberg." Hollywood. The elite. We're not that, no sir.

There's a reason why Ronald Reagan's comparison of America to a "shining city on the hill" is a statement that resonates with all Americans, liberal and conservative. Americans want to be inspired by the light, not scared of the dark.

But in practice, the Republicans have no qualms about turning off the lights every now and then to remind people to be scared of the dark, and the difference between a divisive election and a divisive campaign is too subtle to bother them -- especially when avoiding the distinction has helped them gain control of every branch of the government.

So what if it's true? What if liberals reject defining themselves by what they are not, while conservatives don't care how people come to identify with them?

The point is that the debate over wedge issues as a tactic is a loser for Democrats. It's not enough to point out that Bush's gambit on gay marriage is a cynical ploy. It's not enough to read the polls and call the move desperate. Democrats need to wake up and realize that they need an actual strategy for fighting against Republican wedge issues. They can start by inventing some of their own. The exploitative and criminal GOP has given them plenty of examples of qualities most Americans would want to use in a definition of what they are not.

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Friday, June 02, 2006

Grim reflections

The read we get on the people of Iraq is there is no question but they want to get rid of Saddam Hussein and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that. -- Dick Cheney, March 16, 2003

Tonight on "Hardball," the Hot Shots segment was actually watchable. Fill-in host Norah O'Donnell was joined by Joe Scarborough, Margaret Carlson and Craig Crawford.

DB has heard plenty of people on television talking about how the soldiers at Haditha might have "snapped," but nobody on the old brain vacuum seems to be discussing the mental health of our troops and the disturbing way in which soldiers with mental problems are being sent right back into the heat of battle, sometimes immediately after receiving drugs that require weeks of monitoring.

But there were some excellent points made (not the least of which was O'Donnell's continual usage of the phrase "Failure of Leadership," which is coincidentally the title of DB's lengthy post on the subject).

The best part of the segment:

CARLSON: It's not "a few bad apples" as everyone wants to say as much as it's good apples who are in horrible situation where they're scared to death almost every minute of the day. And what Haditha does, in a larger sense, is it shows how the nature of this war has changed so that we have military forces fighting in a situation that they aren't trained for. It's a police action. It's neighborhood by neighborhood. It's house to house. Your comrade gets killed and you go into the nearby house and you go crazy because you don't know what happened. Now, this looks like it went further than that because there were children and women in their pajamas in the house.

But the nature of this war is now so terrifyingly awful with the secret militias. Not just the Sunni insurgents. Nobody knows who the enemy is and where they're hiding. Haditha is I think a bigger story even than the possible criminal behavior.

O'DONNELL: War is always ugly, but this is a particularly ugly incident. Craig, how much do you think, that this is, in some ways, a failure of leadership? That our troops have been put in a terrible situation?

CRAWFORD: Very much so. I think it's even more of a failure of leadership than the individuals who may have perpetrated this, as much as they probably should be punished. We have a situation over there, as Margaret and Joe have talked about, that is very difficult for people who aren't trained for what they're asked to do. The American military did what it's trained to do and what it was expected to do. They invaded that country, they got to Baghdad in short order and they eventually got Saddam Hussein. They did what the military was supposed to do. Now, for almost two years now, we're asking them to do something they're not prepared to do and that is to be policemen.

They nailed it. Not just policemen, but prison guards. Regardless of how we got into this war (sigh), there was a turning point -- a key moment when the war changed from taking down Saddam to the quagmire we've been stuck in for two years. A key moment when the situation changed not just from fighting to rebuilding, but from a war our troops were prepared and equipped to win into a mess they were asked to clean up without the neccessary support or tools.

It's probably foolish to pinpoint the exact moment in time when the situation shifted, but DB has an eye on what this blogger would call the prime candidate. No, not "Mission Accomplished." Not the fall of the Saddam statue or when they pulled him out of the spider hole.

No, the turning point was Dec. 11, 2003. The president had already denied that the "mission accomplished" banner behind him on the USS Abraham Lincoln referred to the entire war effort (and just six weeks earlier he blamed the Navy for putting up that banner).

After a cabinet meeting, Dec. 11, 2003, the president made it clear that, despite what he said about the banner, in his view the war was essentially won.

"Our people risked their lives. Friendly coalition folks risked their lives, and therefore the contracting is going to reflect that."

Aside from the fact that giving billions to companies like Halliburton is in no way a reflection of the sacrifices made by our troops, the president's use of the word "risked," in the past tense, highlights that he felt that the risks had already been taken and it was time to enjoy the rewards.

The president had an opportunity to bring other nations into the crucial and more difficult phase of stabilizing and rebuilding Iraq, but he didn't want to share the profits. So he told the rest of the region and the rest of the world to take a hike. It was this greed and the administration's immense misreading of reality that essentially doomed U.S. forces to be left to defend Iraq against the insurgency all alone, without sufficient troop levels, body armor, mental health resources... the list goes on.

When the airbags on television talk about bad apples and complain that the troops are getting a bad rap, just remember that the troops are in the situation they're in because of greed and hubris in the White House. This is why Haliburton is a scandal. Not because of a couple million for that lowlife in the Vice President's office. No, it's a scandal because of the high price in blood and souls that the world is paying for Bush's buddies to have an exclusive deal.

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DHS: A bad news onion

The news about New York's Homeland Security funding cuts is like a disturbing onion... layer upon layer of bad news. And like an onion, peeling away each layer makes you want to cry.

Layer 1: The Orwellian double-speak of the Bush Administration and their constant campaigning has made it impossible to take anything they say seriously. The "War on Terror" or whatever they are calling it these days is not just nonsensical when parsed, but the way they've incorporated all their schemes into it has obscured the fact that there really are people who want to continue attacking us. The administration has turned a great challenge for our nation into a political graveyard of sensational rhetoric. On both sides of the political spectrum.

Layer 2: The one thing the administration has said consistently, despite the ever-changing rationales for why we went to Iraq, is that we are fighting them over there so that we don't fight them here at home. If our leaders were so ill-prepared for a conflict for which they actually planned, how much confidence can we have that we are prepared to fight if the conflict returns to our own soil. Katrina gave us a few days' warning. How did that work out for us?

Layer 3: Slashing the budget in the New York and Washington have given Americans even less confidence in our leaders because the public seems practically unanimous in believing those cities to be the most threatened. Even if other cities need money, a 40% reduction is hard to accept.

Layer 4: The nonsense about New York and it's lack of icons makes you wonder if anybody at DHS has ever even been to New York. Was the GOP so scared during their convention that they never went outside?

Layer 5: What if DHS knows something we don't? It doesn't seem likely that this administration knows anything because they've been wrong about so many things. But consider this:

For instance, in the late 1950s, many senators thought President Dwight Eisenhower was either a knave or a fool for denying the existence of a "missile gap." U.S. Air Force Intelligence estimates—leaked to the press and supplied to the Air Force's allies on Capitol Hill—indicated that the Soviet Union would have at least 500 intercontinental ballistic missiles by 1962, far more than the U.S. arsenal. What the "missile gap" hawks didn't know—and Eisenhower did—was that the Central Intelligence Agency had recently acquired new evidence indicating that the Soviets couldn't possibly have more than 50 ICBMs by then—fewer than we would. (As it turned out, photoreconnaissance satellites, which were secretly launched in 1960, revealed that even that number was too high; the Soviets had only a couple of dozen ICBMs.)

Presidents can be right about things even when they seem wrong. Is it possible that places like Omaha and Louisville may be under a threat? If so, what are they going to do with that money? It seems like a great deal of the money that goes to places outside of our biggest targets ends up as pork. Remember bulletproof dog vests for Ohio? Or air-conditioned garbage trucks in New Jersey?


The Human Behavior Experiments

It's 3:00 a.m. and this blogger should be asleep. But by complete happenstance, DB discovered that Sundance Channel is showing a documentary entitled The Human Behavior Experiments.

Suffice it to say DB is completely stunned right now because the documentary reveals with absolute clarity exactly what was written here in the last post -- that the crimes at Abu Ghraib were certain to occur in the environment created by Rumsfeld, Cheney and his crew. It even shows the testimony of our leaders calling the crimes the acts of "a few bad apples."

You must watch this documentary. At the end you will have no doubt that it has been common knowledge to anybody who could be in charge of prisons and intelligence gathering that even the most moral individuals would abuse prisoners in the sort of environment the Bush administration encouraged.

It will air again, on Sundance, on the following dates:

  • Saturday 06.03.06 at 02:00 PM
  • Monday 06.05.06 at 07:45 PM
  • Monday 06.12.06 at 10:00 PM
  • Wednesday 06.14.06 at 12:00 AM

    It is a real eye-opener.

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