Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Crisis: Precipitation and Management

Martin Luther King, Jr. precipitated Crises through his oratory, through marches and demonstrations, and through massive rallies. These Crises became Crises of Conscience for Americans. King used the lofty rhetoric of our Founders, of the Constitution, of our most honored thinkers, jurists and Presidents as catalysts to shame Americans for their willingness to oppress or allow the oppression of Americans in America, the millions of not-White Americans who had long been condemned to the margins, to the underbelly, to dispair.


Our Enemies Abroad -- at that time, the World-Wide Communist Conspiracy -- were only too eager to exploit America's shame and hypocrisy, to play up every aspect of the Civil Rights Movement and its suppression. Every firehose, dog, and bludgeon used against peaceful Americans advocating the rights guaranteed to all in the Constitution was played up for everything it was worth in the Communist propaganda media of the day. Proof, they said, of the Fraud that was America.

J Edgar Hoover's FBI considered King and his ilk to be traitors and dupes of the Communists, spied upon them, and eventually would infiltrate and act as provocateurs within their organizations.

Racism was a fundamental tenet of American political, social and economic belief. It was at the root of the American experiment. From the beginning, it was almost impossible to imagine America without a racist core belief.

Yet King and his allies went against it directly and forcefully. And they won.

Well, they won the Battle. Whether they have truly won the overall war is yet to be seen. It will depend in part on who is designated the Enemy du Jour once this Muslim business is done with. If we wind up in a permanent state of War On Terror, and The Terrorists continue to be defined as easily spotted individuals who don't join the Consensus of Autocratic Rule and openly and devoutly cheer the Leader, who speak different languages, have different religions, and don't necessarily have an approved appearance, we may well find ourselves back in the racist morass we thought we had emerged from. We are nearly there as it is given the widespread antipathy toward and fear of The Muslims.

In the context of his times, King was contending with a highly reactionary Southern culture, which could not conceive of its very survival without full-on racism, White Supremacy, segregation, and ruinous racial discrimination and exploitation of the Black underclass. Of course many white Southerners at the time had actually long since got beyond that primitive way of thinking in their individual lives. But the Southern Culture was seemingly immovable, frozen in time. Many of the racist attitudes in the South were commonplace throughout the country as well. Segregation was a way of life; racial discrimination was simply what one did, wherever one was. Law may not have enforced all these practices, but custom most certainly did. While King's struggle was mostly in the South, nowhere in the country was entirely free of the taint of racism and racial discrimination.

King was contending with Southern Culture, but he was also contending with a largely oblivious governing system, in the localities, in the States, and at the Federal level. That governing system was nearly entirely Progressive -- long since adopting the basic tenets of Progressivism.

As I attempted to point out earlier, Progressivism is not an ideology; it is an operating system for government. The adoption of Progressive operating systems in the United States got going in earnest near the turn of the 20th Century, becoming all but universal by the end of World War II. As an operating system, Progressivism had adopted many of the beliefs and customs current at the time of its first successes, including racism. There is little doubt that White Supremacy was taken as an article of faith by early Progressives, and a whole other detailed examination of that aspect of the Progressive Movement needs to be made, but for now let's just say that the way most government was organized and operated at the time of King's major efforts was deeply and intimately racist.

Changing that proved somewhat easier than changing the racial customs on which the Progressive governing systems were based. That's not to say it was easy, just easier.

Part of King's genius was to understand that if you tweak the operating system -- change the laws and the way the system works -- customs can be changed as well.

But the question is where and how...

For generations, Blacks had struggled for equality through the courts and legislatures and essentially gotten nowhere until 1954, when the Supreme Court ruled that segregated schools were not "equal" -- undermining the premise of legalized segregation and inspiring a fierce reaction. Attempts at integration did not proceed easily in many areas, not solely in the South, and progress was slow to say the least.

Government was of little help, with the exception of those few occasions when troops were sent in to cities in the South to enforce integration. Needless to say, Whites did not respond positively.

Congress had passed some Civil Rights legislation, including the Civil Rights Act of 1957, but enforcement was lacking.

It took King's precipitation of Crisis and the subsequent management of that Crisis to force a Change of Conscience (particularly but not exclusively among white Southerners) which led to the decline and near-ending of legal segregation and racial discrimination in most aspects of public life in the South and throughout the country.

And it took a Crisis of Conscience within the Progressive governing system to ensure the enforcement of Change. That was a somewhat more complicated situation. The catalysts for that Crisis and subsequent Change included Dr. King and his work, but it also included the nation's self-examination following the assassination of President Kennedy, and its subsequent rededication to become a better America, a Great Society as it were, under President Johnson.

To be continued...

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


This picture headed the front page of Huffington Post yesterday linking to the news item announcing the endorsement of Barack Obama by Caroline and her uncle Ted Kennedy, endorsements filled with evocations of John and Robert Kennedy. It gave me the willies.

We know what happened to them.

Political assassinations have a long and inglorious history in this country, and the potential for the assassination of Barack Obama has been a factor from the outset of his campaign. It's something that's rarely mentioned, but it's always there.

This picture, though, draws an explicit comparison between the three men, and unfortunately it leads the mind directly to the horrible dénouement.

There are times I wonder if Obama is deliberately daring potential assassins to try it. This is not to blame him if something does happen. There are only so many ways one can attempt to avoid the perils of American public life. It is instead linked to my understanding of Obama as a candidate who offers Redemption to a nation that has long been on the wrong path.

Redemption and Sacrifice are too intimately linked to separate.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Crisis. Internal or External?

Crisis is central to Change.

One of the most frustrating aspects of the Post-Reagan, and especially the Bushevik Era, has been the monopolization of Crisis->Change by the right wing authoritarians. "Leftists" -- so-called -- have been essentially unable to gain any headway, make any positive changes, for decades. Many of the reforms of the Progressive Era have been undermined or rolled back, sometimes against very weak or absent opposition, and there's been relatively little enthusiasm and energy put in to advancing -- or even articulating -- a contemporary Progressive agenda in the face of the right wing onslaught.

Socially, culturally, politically Americans have been going backwards for a generation. It's one of the most remarkable reversals of the modern era.

What do we do about it, and as importantly, how do we do anything about it?

Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders saw a congruent situation developing for Blacks in the South and elsewhere in the country (segregation and legal discrimination against Blacks extended far and wide prior to the mid-1960's) and they took radical action. As detailed earlier, Martin Luther King took the notion of Crisis leading to Change from the example of Gandhi's efforts to liberate India from the oppression of the British Empire, applied it to the South in specific, concentrated, non-violent actions, precipitating Crises, which -- suprise, suprise -- led to an end to official and lawful segregation, and at least a mitigation of racial discrimination, and a far wider extension of civil and political rights than the nation had ever known.

But the success of the Civil Rights Movement (and its ancillaries -- the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley, the campus revolts of the '60's, the Anti-War Movement, etc.) caused a reaction that is with us today. A reaction that is crystalized in Bushevism.

The Crisis King sought -- and largely achieved -- was external. He sought to precipitate conditions, in concentrated situations, which would shine a bright light on the Powers That Were, bringing shame to them; he hoped that the spotlight and the shame that occurred because of the direct actions he and the Southern Christian Leadership Council took would cause a Crisis of Conscience, which would force the Powers either to negotiate or to yield outright. His efforts did not bear immediate fruit.

Resistance in the South was very strong, despite the success he and other civil rights leaders had in bringing attention to the issues of segregation, discrimination, and voting rights. White Southerners, apparently, were willing to live with the shame of their laws, attitudes and behavior toward their dark-skinned brothers and sisters. There was a Principle to uphold, and Sacred Honor. White Supremacy was a matter of deeply held belief, of faith, and the struggle to maintain it was worth nearly any cost to the Southern Believer.

In other words, King was amply able to utilize the tools of external Crisis in his march toward liberation, but despite his best efforts -- and despite the shame of the brutal and bloody reaction to his efforts in the South -- he was only partially able to inspire an internal Crisis among Southern Whites sufficient to cause them to Change their laws, attitudes and behaviors.

He had more success in Washington, DC, where, in 1963, following his famous March and Rally at the Lincoln Memorial, he was able to convince President Kennedy to back milestone Civil Rights legislation then pending in Congress. Passage of that legislation, however, had to wait for a very different sort of Crisis, that of the assassination of President Kennedy and the extraordinary sweep of reform that occurred in Washington in 1964.

It took a combination of external and internal Crises, on a localized and a National scale, to force the Changes necessary to ensure civil and political rights to all Americans. Many Southerners still resent those changes, but many others would never go back to the way things were. For in bringing Liberation to the oppressed, the oppressor is also liberated.

To Be Continued....

Sunday, January 27, 2008


Central to Martin Luther King's premise and defense of public demonstrations against segregation and racial discrimination in his "Letter From A Birmingham Jail" is the concept of Crisis providing the opportunity for Positive Change. Indeed, he sees Crisis as a necessity for Change.

King says:

You may well ask: "Why direct action, why sit ins, why marches and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?" You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.

The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

This theory of Crisis inspiring Change may sound familiar. It is in some ways the foundational theory of those who practice the "Shock Doctrine" so well-known through the works of Naomi Klein. King, of course, is adopting the road of nonviolent resistance -> Crisis -> Change, a pathway that Mahatma Gandhi laid out in the long struggle to free India from the oppression and exploitation of the British Empire. The "Shock Doctrine", on the other hand, is often characterized by violent imposition from above, not unlike the way British India came into being in the first place. Or, in a more immediate and contemporary sense, the way the brutal Iraq invasion and occupation has transpired and continues.

King sought to create the conditions of Crisis so as to force the Powers That Be in Birmingham to negotiate modification and eventual end of Jim Crow segregation in the city, and he would seek to extend the principle broadly throughout the South and wherever else segregation and racial discrimination was the law or the custom.

He knew from Gandhi's experience that it works. It takes time and immense forbearance and patience, but it works. The oppressor eventually is so shamed by his own acts of oppression, and bystanders are so shamed by their indifference to the oppression they are immersed in, that positive Change becomes a necessity for the oppressor.

What we have to come to grips with is that the Progressive operating systems then in place -- as much in Birmingham as anywhere else in the country (Birmingham was no cracker backwater; it was a modern, thriving, industrial city, on the leading edge of what was even then called The New South) -- had failed to accommodate the growing clamor of millions of oppressed Americans for even the basics of Constitutional rights and liberties, a full century after the Emancipation Proclamation.

Civil rights activists were told to "Wait." And not only in Birmingham.

My own neighborhood in California at the time was segregated. The state legislature passed a Fair Housing Act in 1963 to address the widespread segregation in California, only to see the law overturned through the initiative process in 1964. Just as in the South, African Americans in Progressive California were told to "wait" until the times were "right" for Change.

We see some of that today, too. Activists against the Bushevik regime have long been told to "wait," to used only approved methods, only at the right time, to end the national nightmare of Bushevism. And yet, we see today, the more we wait, the worse, in fact, things become.

King advocated nonviolent direct action to precipitate Crisis conditions that would allow and require Change.

And Change, we note, is the overall theme of this year's election campaign, on all sides.

And the Crisis....?

To Be Continued...

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Back! (Sort of...)

The Water Heater Saga Continues and its consequences will occupy us for some time. Repiping the house and fixing the floors has been put on temporary hold; denizens of Casa Ché are adapting to the new (but not improved) situation. And we go on.

By getting back to my topic, in this case Progressive Ideals and the Struggle of Martin Luther King, Jr. It can, perhaps, stand for much of the struggle the nation went through in the 1950's and '60's; and if we're open to it, we gain a little understanding of the mess we face now.

Just to recap: my premise is that Progressivism is primarily a governmental operating system. It is not an ideology. Starting shortly after the turn of the 20th Century, Progressivism became the Standard Operating System for all levels of government nearly everywhere in the country. That process was accelerated by the Depression and World War II. By the end of the War, there was no realistic alternative to Progressive governmental operations. That situation did not change fundamentally until the advent of the Reagan Revolt, first in California starting in 1967, then nationally with the election of Ronald Reagan to the Presidency in 1981.

Reaganism sought to overthrow and replace the Progressive operating system with another way of doing things that hearkened back to typical 19th Century inefficiency and incompetence, together with massive levels of greed, graft, and corruption. Some of what the Reaganites set out to do was accomplished, but much was not. It was left to the Busheviks to complete the transformation of government into a corrupt, incompetent Autocracy, eliminating, calling into question, or irrelevating, insofar as possible, remnants of Progressive operations at the federal level and discrediting them at the state and local level.

That's where we are now.


1963 was one of the many seminal years of the 1960's; Martin Luther King, Jr. went to Birmingham, AL and organized and protested against long-standing racial segregation, humiliation and violence that characterized the South. He and hundreds of others were arrested and clapped in jail. The Good Citizens of Birmingham, specifically a set of well-meaning white churchmen, wrote an open letter to King pleading with him to 1) go away; or 2) if not to go away, at least stop demonstrating against the persecution and injustice in Birmingham and engage in constructive negotiations with the... powers that be. You may read their letter here.

King, for his part, wrote back, quite publically, to scold the Good White Clergymen for their blind-foolishness, and to remind them not simply of the reasons why the Negroes of Birmingham couldn't wait, but why the Good White ClergyMen of Birmingham could STFU.

King's Letter From A Birmingham Jail is one of the most masterful slapdowns of the status quo and the Well-Meaning-Powers-That-Be ever written. Later in the year (August 28), King would deliver his famous "I Have A Dream" Speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC; arguably, that event was the moment that changed forever the racial animosities and indifference that had characterized much of the nation's history, including the entire history of the Progressive Movement up till then.

Indeed Progressivism was riddled from the outset with racism. King, to his credit, recognized this internal flaw and contradiction in the Progressive Movement and chose to highlight it in order to make or force positive change. He was not anti-Progressive, he was anti-racist. Unfortunatly, Progressivism as an operating system, had built in racial biases that proved difficult to get rid of.

In this regard, the context of 1963 is important. The Civil Rights Movement had been under way in the courts, far more than in the streets, for decades, starting in earnest around the turn of the 20th Century in mostly failed efforts to turn back or prevent the imposition of Jim Crow laws. After World War II, civil rights campaigns took on renewed urgency. Brown v Board of Education (1954) undermined the premises of "separate but equal" segregated schooling, and Rosa Parks sparked rebellion against segregated public services (in her case, public transit) in Montgomery in 1955. Putting an end to legal segregation in all matters became the mission of civil rights activists, but still in 1963, segregation was widespread, not just in the South by any means, and the status quo was still fiercely protected by governments all over the country. And in 1963, throughout the South and spottily elsewhere, blacks were largely prevented from voting. Ending segregation and restoring or establishing voting rights for all Americans seem now to be self-evident Progressive ideals, but at the time they were not.

King says:

We have waited for more than three hundred and forty years for our God-given and constitutional rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward the goal of political independence, and we still creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward the gaining of a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. I guess it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say "wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick, brutalize, and even kill your black brothers and sisters with impunity; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she cannot go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her little eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see the depressing clouds of inferiority begin to form in her little mental sky, and see her begin to distort her little personality by unconsciously developing a bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son asking in agonizing pathos, "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger" and your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and when your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodyness"—then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over and men are no longer willing to be plunged into an abyss of injustice where they experience the bleakness of corroding despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience ...

While his work at the time is in the South, in the center of Bull Connor's World, his words are addressed to the nation, not just to the narrow-minded GoodMen of the Birmingham Clergy.

And the reality for Blacks in America that King so eloquently describes in his letter was related to the reality far too many Americans had known throughout the nation's history, including throughout the Progressive Era.

Restricting access to rights and liberty, to peaceful enjoyment of life and family, to prosperity, to education, to opportunity was widely seen as right and proper in America. For many Americans, the Constitution and its many guarantees of equal justice, was a sick joke, perpetrated to fool the masses.

King saw opportunity to fulfill the promise of the Constitution, however, and to fulfill the long-delayed promises of Progress that seemed to come to everyone, especially after World War II, everyone except America's millions of oppressed and downtrodden.

To be continued...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Continued OT!

The new water heater is in. However there is no hot water to speak of.

There is some floor damage to be considered; buckling oak flooring is crying out to be replaced, but once we start that process in the hall, we'd probably want to continue through the rest of the house, which means, of course, over-ending everything, and essentially moving out for who knows how long? In which case, hmmm...

Meanwhile, the absence of any hot water flow is due, as suspected, to the corrosion of the galvanized pipes that were put in when the house was built. When the water heater was changed out, the corrosion which had been kept from completely closing the pipes -- so that there was a minimal but serviceable flow before -- apparently felt free to constrict any future flow to the barest trickle.

So the plumber said, "We can replace your pipes for $10,000." Sticker shock. Doesn't he know house values have fallen by 30%?!! Is he mad?!! But checking around, that's the going rate for repiping one of the houses in this neighborhood, hasn't changed much for years. Most of the houses have already been done, this being one of the few remaining holdouts. It takes two days, the lath and plaster walls have to be opened up, much banging and carrying on trying to winch out the old piping, and then trying to fix all the holes and other damage, and hoping nothing leaks. Oh yes, they did it to the house next door a few months ago getting it ready for sale. It was a trial for the guys who did it. They had to come back several times to re-fix some of the fixes. As it was, the house sold for $40,000 less than the original asking price, in only six months, which the realtor thought was good, given the down market and all.

What to do?

Well, for now we boil water on the stove and contemplate our increasingly restricted options.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


When the Water Heater Goes....

Dateline: Casa Ché, Yesterday -- Was just getting up, getting ready to prepare a post on MLK and the Progressive Ideal when, ay carumba, heard this strange hissing noise coming out of the laundry room. Paid little attention at first, made some coffee, was thinking about toast and jam, and a little tapping in the back of my mind kept saying, hmm, something's not right, and I went to check the hissing again and discovered a growing flood of hot water on the floor of the laundry room. Uh oh. Better turn off the water to the water heater. OK. Sure. Fine. The valve is stuck. Casa Ché is not one of your newer suburban residences, oh no, we're talking Late Depression American Home, mostly in original condition. No remodeling over the years. Even vague Moderne touches here and there.

So. What do you do? Hot water is spreading and getting deeper, the flood growing. Can't budge the valve. Start sweeping it out the door is what I did, and when it seemed like most was gone but more was still coming out, I ran around looking for the main valve, found it finally, and turned the water off to the house. Spent the next several hours mopping up the flood, which had spread to the kitchen and a little bit into the hall. Plus taking everything out of the laundry room and finding someplace to store it while repairs are made. WD-40'd the water heater valve, see if it would work. Finally got it closed (with the help of leverage provided by a 16" screwdriver). So could turn the water to the house back on. Then the whole arrangements to get a new water heater in. Not so easy. Codes have changed since 1940, and gas water heaters have to be on stands, which means all the piping currently there is in the wrong place, many intricate extensions and whatnot, a whole new chimney assembly, endless bits and pieces, takes up the rest of the day, and even then, there's something wrong with the hot water line, nothing is coming out of the faucets on a test run except rust. Uh oh. Maybe have to have new hot water pipes? Oh great.

So, that's today's project. We'll have to get back to our Topic anon, but for the moment, Casa Ché is without hot water -- except what we boil on the stove -- and except for short breaks now and then, your interlocutor will not have much opportunity to post anything.

Such is Life.

Hope the stockmarket meltdown isn't ruining your day!

Sunday, January 20, 2008


The other day I wrote the first of what will probably be a series of posts on the topic of Progressivism -- both Modern and Historic.

I made the claim that Progressivism today is a governmental operating system, not an ideology. It is how you do things, principally in a governmental system. Progressivism is not necessarily what you do at all, though it can involve plenty of what in the getting of something done. But the point is to get something done, not so much what is done.

At one time, the Progressive operating system was virtually universal in American government; every level of government in the US operated on Progressive principles, and all divisions except the electeds themselves -- and sometimes the courts -- were coordinated with one another through common adherence to Progressive principles.

This was true throughout the public sector, and it extended well beyond it. The non-profit sector is largely made up of Progressive minded people and organizations, for example. Whole cadres of Progressive consultants form a class of experts on call to assist any agency or organization research, plan and develop policies and programs in the public interest.

And that last phrase is the key to what this Progressive Operating System is all about.

It starts from the premise that Government exists to Serve The Public Interest, and that Public Interest is found through a combination of Democratic Processes and reliance on Expert Analysis and Opinion.

Democratic Processes -- campaigns and elections, open sessions of elected bodies, extensive debate and discussion, decisions through voting and common consent that the losers will go along with the winners of votes -- play a role, but it is not the only role, in Progressive governmental operations. In a Progressive system Expert analysis and opinion guide the deliberations which are fundamental to Democracy, and in practice, the Experts are often delegated to not only "study" and "opine" about this or that, they are directed to carry out the very programs and policies they have developed and recommended. These Experts may be inside or outside of government. But reliance on Experts (In the Public Interest) is a hallmark of Progressive Governmental Operations.

The question is always "What is In the Public Interest?" In the early years of the Progressive movement, determining the Public Interest was relatively easy, in part because during the previous period of Gilded Age Excess, so much of the Public Good had been neglected in the interests of rampant corruption, greed, and exploitation. It's hard to imagine just what a Third World nightmare the American Experience was for half the nation or more during the period from the end of the Civil War until well after 1900, when Progressive reforms began to settle in.

Those Progressive Reforms started with Good Government, the whole point of which was to end the corruption of government so typical of the previous era. Prior to the Progressive era, Government in the United States, at all levels, was was essentially a bought-and-paid-for private preserve of well-heeled corporate interests.

California, for example, was run as the private fiefdom of the Southern Pacific Railroad until their power was curbed, if not overthrown, by the Progressive revolt of 1911. The railroad had bought state and local governments decades before, and the People were incapable of using standard democratic processes to get it back. It took a natural disasater, the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire, and the accountability trials that resulted (and exposed just how deeply and completely corrupt San Francisco municipal government and state government were) to jump-start the replacement of the broken and disastrous government-by-corporations with a Progressive alternative.

But make no mistake. The Progressive alternative was not necessarily Government By (or For) The People.

Progressive reforms allowed the People to have somewhat more of a say over some aspects of government and society, and they curbed the direct control of government by the leading corporations, but Progressive reforms were not meant to -- and did not -- remove corporations from a leading role in political, social and economic affairs. The reforms were meant to -- and did -- curb some of the more outrageous corporate activities, made the corporations and the rich pay for some of the many advantages they continued to have, and encouraged a somewhat less tilted playing field for the rest of the (white) people.

Women still couldn't vote; blacks and Asians and Brown folks of all kinds were still left out of the mix.

A widespread argument is that the Progressives were a counter to the rising Populist tide sweeping rural America at the end of the 19th century and the growing anarchist and revolutionary fervor within many of the immigrant-packed cities. This is true enough, but it doesn't quite explain why Progressivism was adopted so quickly and almost universally. There are a couple of neglected aspects of the story:
  • 1) Theodore Roosevelt became our first Progressive president upon the assassination of William McKinley in 1901. The shock of the assassination helped to goad Americans into accepting Roosevelt's Progressivism.

  • 2) Further, the United States had recently become an overseas imperial power with the seizure of the remnants of Spain's empire in 1898. The Philippines were proving troublesome, however, as the Natives were demanding independence and fighting for their liberty; the struggle was fierce and brutal, with American troops committing multiple atrocities in an effort to subdue the Natives. Americans in the Philippines had a hard time proving their good intentions under such circumstances, and reforming the corruption and hypocrisy at home and tempering the brutality of the unwelcome occupation of the Philippines became something of a necessity.

To Be Continued...


Well. Kinda. Seems the Former First Lady gets one fewer delegate than Senator Obama out of her Nevada Win due to the Silver State's Arcane Rules for Awarding Delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

So it's a Win-Win.

Or maybe not. It depends. Well. Delegates from Nevada aren't really pledged to Candidate X or Y. And apparently the State Party is furiously manoeuvreing to give Clinton a lead or perhaps all of Nevada's Democratic Delegates, Rules or No Rules.

Hardball, eh? Or???

Ain't politics grand?

Saturday, January 19, 2008


Video from Blog Roger Jones [Chica bum, chica bum, chica bum, bum, bum! Chic.]

By now everybody knows about DNI Mike McConnell letting the cat out of the bag:

"All your internet traffic are belong to us."

Interesting way he puts it, too:

The President has not announced it yet.

The obvious implication is that all internet traffic has been and is being monitored, without warrant and without exception, kind of like all the telephone traffic in and out of the country and much of the domestic telephone traffic is apparently being monitored, without warrants and contrary to law.

McConnell also helpfully points out that FISA is the most serious and outrageous impediment to serious surveillance "reforms."

Oh my.

And what will our dauntless Congress do? In the face of yet another fait accompli? Hm? Well, we already know, don't we? The House will go along with anything the DNI proposes. Senator Dodd will manfully stand -- almost alone -- on behalf of the Constitution and the Rule of Law. Sixty votes will be found to shut him up. And the New Homeland Security State will expand.

Lawrence Wright discusses it with Matt Dellinger: MP3

Note, Wright has been surveilled himself, knows it, and when McConnell claims Americans would not be surveilled, Wright says, "Well, I've been surveilled." His story on the podcast is chilling, though Wright tries to make light of it.


Seems like our perpetually dismal prognosticators (like Uber-Gloom-and-Doomer Bonddad) may get their wish -- or if not a wish, an expectation -- fulfilled. The United States economy may well be headed to a hard landing indeed, perhaps the hardest since 1929-32.


The signs, of course, have long been with us: unsustainable personal and corporate debt, combined with corruption levels not seen since the age of the Robber Barons, combined with war and defense spending that far outstrips anything known during the Cold War, every bit of it financed with borrowed money, borrowed from our friends in China for the most part, paid for with bonds, which now, with the collapse of the dollar on world markets, may be getting close to worthless. Needless to say, our Chinese friends may want some satisfaction.

You know just how serious this economic situation may be when the President Himself is moved to act -- by demanding that Congress pass a Stimulus Package Forthwith, consisting of more tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, and some sort of check or something to the Masses to keep them from revolting outright. You know it is serious when the Presidential Stimulus Package Directive is double that of Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama, and almost double that of Populist Presidential Candidate John Edwards. You know it is serious when even Avowed Socialist Candidate Hillary Clinton's Stimulus Package pales in comparison to the Presidential One.

You know it is serious when oil prices have fallen (at least temporarily), and surprisingly and highly uncharacteristically,gasoline prices have fallen somewhat as well. Yes, yes, the claim is made that January gas prices are "always the lowest," though given the way the petroleum markets are manipulated, that's quite an absurd observation. Time of year has been almost completely divorced from consumer petroleum price.

It's serious when banks figure out it is more in their interests to work with mortgage customers than to keep pulling the rug from under them and forcing them into foreclosure.

It's serious when Civil Society in this country begins the process of turning on the predators and looters and plunderers who insist that they have a right to profit no matter what, while the value of Civil Society's holdings plummets.

A 30% drop in real estate sales and values around here (mirrored in many other parts of the country) is starting to cause some sleepless nights among the remnants of the American Bourgeoisie. The report I saw yesterday said that real estate values in California are now about where they were in 2005, before the Boom took off. Those who didn't buy at the inflated prices after 2005 are still sitting relatively pretty, but millions upon millions did buy -- and they were not necessarily fools to do so -- and are now sitting on swiftly depreciating assets.

Unemployment is rising and is expected to keep rising at least through the first quarter of 2008; how convenient for electoral politics. But high unemployment means the economic slump is sent into a worsening spiral. Few people working means less consumer spending, which fuels more unemployment, and so on.

The only bright side right now is that interest rates are not expected to rise. At least not in the short term. They may fall to rates not seen for some time. But the effects of Federal Reserve rate cuts under Bernanke seems to be the opposite of the Greenspan years.

In other words, there may be deeper flaws in the economy than the Usual Actions can remedy.

All of which has long been predicted, but the upshot of the Coming Crash is still a Mystery.

Sara Robinson over at Orcinus has been blogging on the impending 2008 catastrophe since the beginning of the year. She's said quite a bit about it, and the following struck me as key:

The upshot of all this is that we're at a point where it's all up for grabs. When the center fails to hold, the right to define the new reality belongs to whoever can move in their first with a big, compelling idea, and get people to start organizing around it. It's a moment of creative chaos that's bursting with new energy and tremendous potential -- for those who are ready to jump in there and lead.

These have always been the moments when progressives throughout history were able to make their biggest gains -- to seize entire nations, and drag them off in radically new directions. The future belongs to the group that gets there first, with the best plan and the biggest vision. If we miss this one, none of us are likely to live to see another chance like it again.

But, as usual, opportunity comes with the potential for crisis. The churn of change also leads to vast economic and political dislocations that provide perfect conditions for authoritarian movements, too. Alongside all the other problems bearing down on us, that's a very real risk that we need to keep at the front of our minds. If we don't step up and fill that yawning hole with something that brings out the best in people, inspiring them toward hope and progress -- well, then, you can bet that somebody else, selling a very different future, will get there first with something that will bring out the worst, and drive them toward madness and death. Either way, our grandchildren will be living with the consequences a century hence. It's not a moment we can afford to screw up.

As some people have pointed out, the economic mess we're headed into has been predicted for years, and actions to stave off the worst of it have been proposed from the sidelines for as long, but nothing substantive has been done. Awaiting the Presidential Command?

Or is it something else? Some hesitation about getting ahead of any curve, of being out of step with the mainstream, or of not being heard?

Now that government and candidate proposals are out there, they all seem to be too little, way too late, and, unfortunately tilted to saving the rotting asses of corporations and the upper classes while throwing what amount to scraps to the Masses. All dedicated to preserving the Palace Culture and the status quo, even though all of it may be swept away in a tide of Change like we've never seen before.

It's not so much that our Rulers are clueless (which, unfortunately, they are and they demonstrate every day), it is more that they are Rulers, and most of them have no business being in that position.

A Change is [Surely] Gonna Come.

But who will lead it? Or will it come, finally, from The People themselves?

"A Change Gon' Come" is Barack Obama's theme song, and on him has been put the dreams and aspirations of millions of Americans. He speaks such a positive and hopeful message, yet his proposals have a distinctly right wing cast to them, and in that, I see echoes of John F Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt, both of whom ran to the right of their Republican rivals on many issues, won the Presidency, and governed more from the left, especially so in the case of Roosevelt.

Are we about to see it again?

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Just a reminder: Progressivism today is functionally an Operating System for government in the United States and widely around the world.

It is not an ideology.

Until the Reagan Revolt, Progressivism was the nearly universal Governmental Operating System in the United States, practiced nearly everywhere, and at every level of Government.

Reagan's Revolt was largely against this Progressive Operating System. He and his minions sought to replace Progressive institutional operations with something vaguely remembered from a less regulated and wilder, more corrupt and supposedly more creative laissez faire past.

The Reagan Revolt was partially successful in removing regulations and exempting much of the upper class from taxation, but Progressive Operations remained the standard in most Governmental affairs until the Busheviks sought to overthrow the whole edifice of Progressive Operations and the Democratic Republic it served and replace it with an Autocracy. At the Federal Level, the Busheviks have nearly succeeded in replacing the Standard Progressive Operating System with a version of a Pre-Enlightenment Monarchy, in which Governmental Operations are a matter of the Personal Will and Direction of the Autocrat.

Progressivism still remains the Standard Operating System for most state and local governmental affairs, but something quite different has come to the fore at the Federal level. The Federal Government has for all intents and purposes become the means for the implementation of the Personal Will of the (Autocratic) President. All branches are under the direction of the Presidency, and they all yield more or less completely more or less quickly to Presidential Command.

Under Bushevik rule, the Progressive Operating System has been essentially extinguished at the Federal level with the active cooperation of the Congress and the Courts. Much of the focus of the Democratic political effort since 2004 has been the restoration of that Progressive Operating System at the Federal level (and its preservation at the state and local levels), but Democrats have been almost completely unsuccessful; in fact, typically they yield to more Autocratic usurpations rather than stage a showdown, or in some cases even a fight.

Consequently, the Restoration of Progressive Operations has to wait, we're told, until there is a Democrat in the White House and a supermajority of Democrats in both houses of Congress, and (usually unmentioned) the Courts have been realigned through resignation, retirement, and appointment of Progressive jurists.

In other words, there will be no restoration, and those of us with a Progressive set of ideals and beliefs should start thinking about something else, coming up with something new and creative.

Some further discussion:

Paul Krugman: "To Arms!"

Jack Balkin's 1995 Paper at Yale

Campus Progress: "What is a Progressive?" and its blog

Wednesday, January 16, 2008



Here's something you won't see in the major mainstream media in this country:

How the Pentagon planted a false story

By Gareth Porter

Asia Times

WASHINGTON - Senior Pentagon officials, evidently reflecting a broader administration policy decision, used an off-the-record Pentagon briefing to turn the January 6 US-Iranian incident in the Strait of Hormuz into a sensational story demonstrating Iran's military aggressiveness, a reconstruction of the events following the incident shows.

The initial press stories on the incident, all of which can be traced to a briefing by deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs in charge of media operations, Bryan Whitman, contained similar information that has since been repudiated by the navy itself.

Then the navy disseminated a short video into which was spliced the audio of a phone call warning that US warships would "explode" in "a few seconds". Although it was ostensibly a navy production, Inter Press Service (IPS) has learned that the ultimate decision on its content was made by top officials of the Defense Department.

The encounter between five small and apparently unarmed speedboats, each carrying a crew of two to four men, and the three US warships occurred very early on Saturday January 6, Washington time. No information was released to the public about the incident for more than 24 hours, indicating that it was not viewed initially as being very urgent.

The reason for that absence of public information on the incident for more than a full day is that it was not that different from many others in the Gulf over more than a decade. A Pentagon consultant who asked not to be identified told IPS he had spoken with officers who had experienced similar encounters with small Iranian boats throughout the 1990s, and that such incidents are "just not a major threat to the US Navy by any stretch of the imagination".

Just two weeks earlier, on December 19, the USS Whidbey Island, an amphibious warship, had fired warning shots after a small Iranian boat allegedly approached it at high speed. That incident had gone without public notice.

With the reports from Fifth Fleet commander Vice Admiral Kevin Cosgriff in hand early that morning, top Pentagon officials had all day Sunday, January 6, to discuss what to do about the encounter in the Strait of Hormuz. The result was a decision to play it up as a major incident.

And so on.

Of course we've sensed this story is a fraud from day one, and we've listed all the reasons why: unarmed Iranians, doing nothing threatening, bogosity of the verbal "threat", PissyPants in the Gulf showing off, etc., etc. It was obvious from the beginning. And the walkback from the military was an exercise in NewSpeak-DoubleSpeak such as we rarely see even from them. The military that has such a tenuous relationship with the concepts of "fact" and "truth."

Yet when the story was placed in the Major Media, they ALL ran with it (even McClatchy) without an iota of skepticism. The Pentagon says -- we repeat verbatim. Yes, SIR!

Of course the Blogosphere was alive with "Gulf of Tonkin!" allusions from the moment the story broke. Skepticism was fundamental in that realm, while the Major Media had none at all.

And over the course of Emperor SmartAss's Progress through the Gulf, Major Media pounded the drums of belligerence, adding flashes and flourishes even as the story was falling apart.

And, as is so often the case, the Iranian Devil Enemy released their own version of events, which showed nothing particularly untoward, and our military, while continuing to bluster and fulminate, essentially acknowledged that the Iranians had it right, there was no particular worry about the incident as it happened, and everyone went on about their business as usual. BUT the Iranians ARE EVIL and MUST BE destroyed. Yadda, yadda.

And here, Gareth Porter comes up with a highly plausible scenario of what happened, how, and why. Which we will never see detailed in our own media, because that media, of course, was an active partner and participant in the fraud, as they have been throughout the Bushevik era of Misery and Destruction. It is what they do.

My question is two-fold: Why, after all the horrendous lies the Regime and its Pentagon handmaidens have told, do the Major American Media still, uncritically accept and repeat just about everything the propaganda mills churn out, and why do the American People continue to fall for it?

What will it take to completely discredit the White House and Pentagon Propaganda Ministries and the Media Outlets that continue to unquestioningly serve them?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


What has this Race Thing between the Dem candidates been all about, anyway? Disrespecting civil rights leaders, Martin Luther King, Jr., Obama and Hillary going after one another hammer and tong, Big Dog spoiling for a fight, Jesse Jackson, Jr. throwing his considerable Chicago clout around, leaders on the left of us, leaders on the right proclaiming this or that Truth to be Self-Evident, and the rest of y'all are gonna burn in hell.

Come on.

It's a ratfuck. Right out of the sinister right wing playbook. It should be obvious to anyone who's experienced it before (Missus Clinton, have you forgotten?) Big Dems fall for it every time, I don't know why, but they do; and the field troops follow right along uncritically and unthinkingly. And they seem to be powerless to resist anything negative about the other candidate that shows up in the New York Times. It's like catnip. There's a slam story about Obama, Clinton, or the Nameless One from The South Somewhere in the Times? Time for the partisans to parade it around in triumph, proof! proof I tell you, that the Other Guy/Gal Sucks.

Our Rovian pals on the other side know that Dems can't resist ratfucking -- and some of those Rovians are playing on Dem teams this cycle, you mark my words.

Dems have got to buck up and just say no to this shit. Or are they, like the Bourbons and the Bushes, incapable of learning? At least, for the moment, Clinton and Obama have agreed to bury the hatchet only half-way in one another's backs.


(Pssst! Haven't you heard? McCain still has a Black Baby. Shhhh!)

Monday, January 14, 2008


On the Rectification of Names

Tsze-lu said, "The ruler of Wei has been waiting for you, in order with you to administer the government. What will you consider the first thing to be done?"

The Master replied, "What is necessary is to rectify names."

"So! indeed!" said Tsze-lu. "You are wide of the mark! Why must there be such rectification?"

The Master said, "How uncultivated you are, Yu! A superior man, in regard to what he does not know, shows a cautious reserve.

If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things.

If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success.

When affairs cannot be carried on to success, proprieties and music do not flourish.

When proprieties and music do not flourish, punishments will not be properly awarded.

When punishments are not properly awarded, the people do not know how to move hand or foot.

Therefore a superior man considers it necessary that the names he uses may be spoken appropriately, and also that what he speaks may be carried out appropriately. What the superior man requires is just that in his words there may be nothing incorrect."

(Analects XIII, 3, tr. Legge)

We live in an age of euphemism. "Harsh interrogation techniques" = torture; "controversial theory" = anything the Regime doesn't approve of or believe in; "provocation" = anything the Regime fears (like blue speedboats in the Straits of Hormuz) and so on.

Yesterday, one of our favorite bloggers, Glenn Greenwald, offered up a real doozie, proposing that an investigation of a complaint to the Human Rights Commission in Alberta, Canada, was "tyranny" on its face. Much arm waving and running around shouting about Free Speech and whatnot then ensued.

And yet at no point was the case that the investigation was "tyranny" or "tyrannical" ever made. Much like the Busheviks have long done with "9/11" and their various Enemies, merely associating the incident in Alberta with the term "tyranny" in the same post was enough to get all the First Amendment junkies up in arms and hollering about suspension of civil rights and what have you.

As I said at Glenn's place, and I'll say it here, the investigation of a complaint is not on its face tyrannical.

Glenn's issue was with the proliferation of Anti-Hate Speech law in Europe and Canada and how it criminalizes various forms of unpopular political speech, and how, in the end, criminalization of political speech of any kind under the authority of the state is by definition tyranny.

But the case he used to illustrate his point had nothing to do with criminalized speech, political or otherwise. And an argument can be made that criminalizing certain kinds of speech (political or otherwise) is not necessarily tyrannical, either.

In a democratic system, the people can choose, through their representatives or directly, to limit and/or prohibit certain forms of speech they deem dangerous to the public welfare. Arguments can and should continue over whether the prohibition or limitation is right or wrong, but the decision is not on its face tyrannical.

In the case in question, nothing was occurring except an investigation of a complaint brought by a citizen against another citizen. There was no criminal complaint by government, nor in fact any obligation of the citizens to cooperate with the investigation. Apparently the fact that this investigation was being conducted at all, by a quasi-independent commission and not by a government agency, was sufficient to trigger an automatic response among some people, without ever investigating what was really going on.

Rectification of names becomes necessary.

And we see this sort of thing everywhere. Few things and events and actions are named properly or honestly, and so people act irrationally. That may in fact be the intent of people and institutions in positions of power and influence -- who, in other words, have the naming power -- but if it is, it has a highly negative cumulative effect, as Confucius warned more than 2,500 years ago.

There is a legitimate question about whether More Speech is the appropriate corrective to Speech the public doesn't like or doesn't want to hear. There is a legitimate question about whether the vaunted Marketplace of Ideas is in any way a free and fair, open and accessible forum for presentation, debate and discussion of issues and ideas.

Some people assume that the Confucian Rectification of Names that heads this post is a form of propaganda, in that when a new ruler comes into power it is incumbent upon that ruler (in the manner of the Busheviks) to alter the language, essentially renaming things, in order to secure and extend the ruler's power. But Confucius is saying the point is to correctly name things, so as to ensure domestic peace and justice. The implication is that over the course of the previous reign, naming had become a matter of artifice and euphemism and that in turn led to tumult, lawlessness and injustice. The point of Rectifying names is to return matters to their correct names so as to restore peace and justice.

We're actually long past the point at which our language should be rectified. Since the Gingrich Revolt, our names for things have become more and more bizarre, euphemistic, and inappropriate, to the point where very little has any real or agreed upon meaning.

In the blogosphere, "Progressive", is perhaps the most obvious and obnoxious example of a name that needs Rectification, in part thanks to the absurdity of Jonah Goldberg's "Liberal Fascism" now making the rounds of the wingnut welfare agencies.

When there is so much confusion of basic terminology, nothing can be carried on to success.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

OMG! What if he wins?!

The Huck Effect [Nod to Eli at FDL for the idea]

David Sirota waxes intrigued by the Mike Huckabee candidacy.

"The uncool subject is class," author Bell Hooks once wrote. "It's the subject that makes us all tense." What an understatement, considering the two leading "change" candidates in the latest presidential polls.

Barack Obama is contending for the Democratic nomination as a candidate who avoids focusing on economic class. He asks us to believe — nay, to "hope" — that the interests of Wall Streeters underwriting his campaign can somehow be "brought together" with the interests of workers harmed by corporate America's wage, job and pension cutbacks.

By contrast, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is competing for the Republican nomination on a call for proletarian solidarity. Next to John Edwards (D), he is the "classiest" presidential candidate, explicitly deriding "plutocracy" and "the Club for Greed" that he correctly says runs Washington.

"There's a great need in this country to elect someone who reminds [voters] of the guy they work with, not the guy who laid them off," Huckabee thunders.

Well. "Thunders." That's a bit of hyperbole. For a Populist demagogue, Huckabee is as mild-mannered and slick as they come. But that's as may be. His comment resonates with a lot of Regular Folks, moreso than some of the Progressive nostrums heard on the Democratic side.

It seemed self-evident early on that your Presidential contest would be between Hillary and Mitt, Mitt winding up the winner after beating Hillary like a rented mule. The two of them, it seemed obvious, were the Corporate Choices to offer the Public, and as we have seen in the past, once those choices are made in the boardrooms, the American People go along with them with more or less enthusiasm, few (muffled) complaints, and the Republican pulls out a victory, even if that Republican is running as a Democrat. Mitt would win because it's still a Man's World, and Hillary Is Shrill and Nobody Likes Her. Tweety would have his aneurysm if Hillary pulled out a victory, and we can't have that.

From a Leftist perspective, both Hillary and Mitt are "Moderate" Republicans anyway. Hillary was a Goldwater Republican back in the day, never forget, and Mitt was the twice elected governor of The People's Republic of Taxachussetts. These candidates are nothing like the Socialists or Reactionaries they're made out to be. Both serve corporate interests (she from a legal perspective, he from inside the boardroom itself). Neither really has much of a Common Touch, but then the Bushevik years have shown that one isn't really necessary. Bullheadedness seems to serve quite well.

But on the way to the nomination, both of the Corporate candidates ran into not quite as subdued and apathetic a Public as their handlers had told them to expect.

Mitt is falling down the rathole fast, as St. John McCain surges and thumps his chest and Hayseed Huckabee goes about his business overthrowing the bounden tenets of Republican Corporate Misrule. He's got the Good Republican Upper Crust all in a lather, too.

Meanwhile, the Democrat's own Populist candidate, John Edwards (no Sainthood for him) finds the going slippery to say the least, as he faces constant harrassment from his own Party and the Liberal Media who are intent on his prompt withdrawl from the race. Which he refuses to do.

And in the Democratic Party race, the Corporate blessing has shifted between Hillary and Barack, depending on who showed the greatest staying power and who could build the biggest Movement.

Barack has the Movement Thing down, but Hillary is far from out of the game. She is nothing if not tenacious. And her squeaker victory in New Hampshire after her disappointing showing in Iowa demonstrated there's some life in her campaign yet.

Over on the R side, Huckabee's Iowa victory is contrasted with his relatively poor showing in NH, which is taken as a sign that crusty New Englanders are not about to put up with Huckabee's Southern backwoods hick ways. Oh no, not them. They believe in Evolution. And Huckabee doesn't.

But Huckabee does such a great sales job, they say, and he's getting the job done for cheap, too (Mitt has spent how many millions of his own money? Wow. And here I thought John Kerry was going out there by lending his campaign $6 million, which was paid back, from his substantial fortune in 2004).

Huckabee keeps getting shown the door in the Republican contest, but he won't leave, and somewhat the same thing is happening with John Edwards on the Democratic side, though the Democrats are somewhat crueler about it (John Kerry, could you be more obvious a shill?), and the Media is intent on making Edwards go away by shunning him, whereas they at least give Huckabee a podium from time to time -- only to mock him and deride him and call him names and denounce his supporters after he's finished speechifying.

But Huckabee just keeps on keeping on, playing his bass and rocking the house, delivering his little Evangelical homilies and firing up class issues and resentments long dormant in Republican circles.

While he's focusing on attracting Republican votes for the nomination, he's obviously trying to pitch his appeal to Democratic Evangelical Populists as well by tapping in to their own class issues and resentments, and curry their favor with high-flown phrases about Christian Charity and all that.

If he's successful at his efforts, Democratic Corporate Progressives will have to recalibrate their own appeal if they intend not to lose to this hick from Arkansas, whose pitch to Americans in general is simplicity itself: "You've been done wrong, and I'm gonna fix it."

We might be looking at an upset here...

Then what will we do?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Shut It Down!

Wearing Orange today helps people identify one another in the constant (and often seemingly futile) effort to undo some of the damage done to the Republic since the installation of the Bushevik Autocracy.

Identification and mutual recognition may be all we can accomplish right now, as apparently the Bushevik regime has no interest in accommodating the Will of the People regarding Guantánamo or anything else -- barring a major uprising against their rule, which isn't going to happen.

But just the knowledge that one is not alone in the struggle can be a powerful force.

Wear Orange today.

Meteor Blades writes about it as powerfully and eloquently as anyone on the planet.


The Pentagon has a well-known problem when it comes to basic concepts like, you know, Truth and such. Of course the American People understand that the Pentagon is engaged in War on Their Behalf, and the constellation of Enemies against which the Pentagon wages War includes the Devil Regime of Iran (a regime which has been At War With Us since 1979. If Rick Santorum says it, it's got to be True!) Psychological warfare and Information Operations (which includes fabrications and lies) are part of the arsenals marshaled against Our Enemies, and so, from time to time, the Pentagon, at the direction of its civilian superiors or on its own, trash-talks the Enemy du jour, and comes up with lies and fabrications and misdirection in order to make its point.

We all understand this. Don't we?

So. Over last weekend, there was an Incident in the Gulf, during which some Iranian vessels dashed to and fro near American warships entering the Strait of Hormuz. Apparently the Iranians asked the warships identity, which, surprisingly enough, was provided. The Iranian speedboats then sped away.

As it so happens, His Imperial Smartass was then planning to Go To The MiddleEast, to direct his Little Brown Brothers in the fine art of Negotiations. Given the tensions of the times, no such Progress Through the Realm can be made without threatening the various Enemies thereabouts, and so, it seemed meet to create an International Incident, rattle the sabers, beat the wardrum a time or two, just to let the Devils in Tehran know who's The Boss.

Except that within hours the story coming out of the Pentagon fell apart, and the Incident turned out to be far less interesting, let alone "provocative," than Pentagon and the Imperial State Security Apparatus was saying. The Pentagon itself admitted as much, even as His Imperial Mischief Maker was in the region going on about how the Devils in Tehran were trying to force his Peaceloving Self to bomb the shit out of them.

What's curious here is that apparently the Pentagon came up with this Incident and characterized it as Threatening and Provocative and appended some dreadful radio transmission of someone saying something drôle into a microphone to enhance the Threat Posed by the speeding speedboats. The Pentagon even claimed, apparently falsely, that the Iranians were so Threatening and Provocative that the Imperial Warships were about to fire on them. The Imperial State Security Apparatus then ran with this clumsy fabrication, throwing down gauntlet after gauntlet, and the American media uncritically reported as fact what the Pentagon and the ISSA were telling them about Deviltry from the Perfidious Enemy.

But Doubts immediately arose, and "Gulf of Tonkin" was heard in the land. (The Gulf of Tonkin Incident -- which never happened -- was the shameful precipitating excuse for the American air war against North Vietnam.) And shortly the Pentagon backed off its claims about Threats, but still insisted on denouncing the Provocations of Iran, though this obviously didn't quite mean War. The ISSA and the Imperial Motorcade in the Territories apparently didn't get the message right off, and kept throwing its hissies over Iranian Perfidy, and issued more of its boilerplate threats against Tehran.

Meanwhile the Iranians release their own tapes which seem to show that there was no Incident at all, it was a purely routine encounter that happens -- without any gnashing of teeth or rending of garments -- every day.


Glenn has more.

Can we stop this dangerous nonsense now?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

O-Bama, Hey-Bama, Bama-Bama, O!

Bama-Hay, Bama-O, Ba-ma!

One of the things that's bothered me about the Obama campaign -- which on the whole has pleased me a great deal -- is the growing messianic quality of it. In American politics, any messianic politician is a potential danger to our ruling classes, and one who will be watched very carefully. If he rises too high in messianic fervor, he will be "taken care of." As they say.

I hate to be so cynical, but that has been our history. Again. And again. And again.

Of course, Obama's personal safety has been a concern of many for as long as he has been running for the Presidency. This nation has a long and shameful history of dealing with Uppity Negroes (and Women, but we'll get to that in another post) that everybody knows and nobody wants to talk about. Whether Obama is immune due to his African as opposed to his American Negro heritage, remains to be seen. Up till very recently he's taken more grief for his supposed religious heritage and upbringing and his Muslim name than for his race. Some would call that Progress. I laugh. I laugh to scorn. No, it's a substitution. Because Muslims are the sub-humans du jour, calling him a Muslim is a way to avoid calling him an N-word. At some point, you've got to recognize the equivalence of the slurs. They are the same damb thing.

But I was watching some of the coverage of the Obama campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire and New Jersey, and I was struck by how much Mr. Obama is coming across as a Preacher now, and how passionate his devotees are. They seem to be in a kind of religious ecstacy, and Obama seems to be encouraging their fervent belief -- in him, yes, but in his Message, even more than him. Oh man.

You just know where this is leading, and it's not necessarily a good place. It ought to be a good place. But we've been down this path before. And it frequently doesn't turn out well.

Hillary's "upset" victory in New Hampshire may have put a temporary damper on Obamamania, but I don't expect it (or her, for that matter) to squash his campaign, or in fact affect it in any substantial way. I have the feeling he believes he's got the formula that works, and she's still trying to find one.

Paul Rosenberg has an interesting discussion of the populist appeal of Barack Obama's campaign over at Open Left (h/t bystander), and he posits something I think is true: Obama himself and his policy prescriptions are in a classic Progressive mold, at least to the extent that he makes any specific proposals -- which has long been noted he doesn't much. But Obama's presentation is fully Populist, in the long tradition of American Populism. This is somewhat at variance with Obama's supporter demographic which tends to skew strongly toward the elites. (Reminds me a lot of Dean supporters. I don't think I ever saw such a collection of PhDs, LLDs, MDs, JDs, and other assorted Doctors of This and That, and all kinds of other professionals, concentrated in one campaign in my life. They were, by no means, your Ordinary Joe SixPacks.)

On the other hand, John Edwards, who is running as fully a Populist campaign as one can run these days, doesn't seem to have the personal appeal that Obama does, and so, despite Edwards's policy prescriptions that most closely reflect the needs and aspirations of America's 80%, his campaign seems to be faltering. Media neglect is only part of the problem Edwards faces.

According to some statistics, it is Hillary who is actually attracting the more or less Populist leaning voters. Rosenberg gets into this aspect, too, but it has been heavily mentioned in most of the analysis of the New Hampshire Democratic vote.

But back to my original point: Messianic campaigns tend not to turn out well in America.

Let's hope Obama's is an exception.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

How Dare You!

Over at Glenn Greenwald's Place, there's quite a discussion going on about the DogAwful treatment Hillary received from the media (especially from Tweety Matthews and his handful of acolytes and devotees) and their current state of stupefied bewilderment that the voters of New Hampshire chose Hillary over Barack in the primary yesterday.

Matthews fully deserves every bit of the criticism he's getting today, yet he's said to be lashing out at the voters of NH for their betrayal. After all, the polls all said that Obama was in the lead, perhaps way in the lead, and when the results came in, nobody on the air could believe it. "Betrayal" is only half the problem. These voters apparently didn't even listen to the crap being spewed by the high and the mighty Media News Stars.

David Brooks on PBS was apoplectic. He said over and over he "didn't believe it." Voters were "defying the polls." Defying him, as he had only that day anointed Obama on the pages of the NY Times, and all over Wingnutistan, "President Obama" was the lead story after Iowa. Well, the voters may or may not have ideas of their own.

How. Dare. They.

If I dare hope anything from the coming maelstrom it is that Our Media Stars get the comeuppance they have so richly earned.

Pitchforks and torches sound pretty good right now...


I have only one thing to say:


Oh gawd.... we're in for it now.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Dems in Disarray! Stalwart Repubs Choose Mac!

This is so funny, watching and listening to the coverage of the NH primary. Hillary might win! Which means, of course, the Democrats are in Disarray, as always.

And McCain's decisive Victory means the Rs are hitting on all cylinders again. Goo-bye Mitt, Goo-bye Huck.

Make it stop.

St John v Obama!

The Conventional Wisdom is jelling fast around a general election contest between St John McCain and the New Kid in Town, Barack Obama. The alleged collapse of the Hillary and Mitt campaigns has opened the way for something else altogether. The Crotchety, Crusty, Old Warrior against the Young, Untested, Charming, Inspirational Organizer. Now this is a contest our Media Stars can get into.

Brooksie opens the door:

Both Barack Obama and John McCain attract independents. Both have a candor that appeals to voters and media-types alike. Both ask their audiences to serve a cause greater than self-interest. Both offer a politics that is grand and inspiring.

But they are very different men. Their policies obviously conflict, but their skills, world views and moral philosophies set them apart, too. One man celebrates communitarian virtues like unity, the other classical virtues like honor.

Obama’s great skill is his ability to perceive and forge bonds with other people. Everybody who’s dealt with him has a story about a time when they felt Obama profoundly listened to them and understood them. One of mine came a few years ago.

I was writing columns criticizing the Republican Congress, but each time I’d throw in a few sentences slamming the Democrats, subconsciously trying to make myself feel good. One morning I got an e-mail message from Obama that roughly said: David, if you want to critique us, fine. But you’re just throwing in those stray sentences to make yourself feel good.

I felt like a bug pinned down in a display case.

The key to the quote is the last line, and it helps explain why Media Stars are captivated by Obama. He nails them -- in a way they like. The other candidates, particularly Hillary and John Edwards -- criticize the Media, but so what? Everybody does, and with the same tired old complaints about "bias" and "obsession" and whatnot, who cares? Brooksie reveals why Obama does so well with the Media and why they listen to him: he "knows their heart." It's not about what they do. It's how they feel.

Powerful insight.

This could be a lesson for all the blogospheric Media Critics. Fret less about what the Media Stars DO and write, and pay more attention to how they FEEL. Maybe they'll start to change their ways. Then again, maybe not.

And Brooksie has this to say about St John:

McCain’s weakness is that he flies by the seat of his pants. If elected, he will have to live in the cocoon of the White House and build an organized and predictable administration. As a pilot, he got used to taking off from aircraft carriers. But as president, he’ll be the guy steering the aircraft carrier.

And who does that remind us of? And the nation wants more of that? We've already had eight years of seat of the pants piloting; how has that worked out? Do we really want to maintain the status quo, more bloodshed, more debt, more despair -- because it's been so good to us so far?

Brooksie may not have realized what he was writing there, just feeling the moment and all, but we should not forget. Ever.

The Obama Surge (as they say) is breathtaking, his crowds are huge, his presence (at least when he is "on") is electrifying. Sounds Dean-ish to me, but Dean was never able to translate the Performance into votes. As has been pointed out, young people said they'd turn out for Dean in Iowa, but ultimately they didn't do it, and there was no real post-mortem to figure out why.

Obama, on the other hand, has not only marshalled the young, he is drawing them into the game by the truckload, and they are going out and casting their votes. Is it because they know now what the consequences are for not participating and they don't want to make the same mistake twice? Or is it something else?


Could be. Mostly, Americans just want the Bushevik nightmare over.

The Times tries to posit and equivalent Youth Appeal between the Codger and the RockStar, but the result is an ugly piece of fiction at best. The equivalence is found at Dartmouth where some hundreds turn out for St John, while some thousands turn out for Obama. See? Youth Appeal! Well, nobody showed up for Rudy! and John Edwards only draws an older crowd, so nobody needs to pay attention to him. Hillary? Hillary who?

But still, there might be some merit:

Mr. Obama challenges young people daily, urging them to prove pundits wrong by turning out in vast numbers. Booming applause greets his words.

“It would be such a shame after seeing the great turnout in Iowa if we weren’t working as hard as we could to make sure that story continues, because I think that was the biggest story out of Iowa,” Mr. Obama told an audience on Monday. “That transcends any individual candidate.”

The precise alchemy of this attraction is uncertain, as often is true in politics. It owes perhaps to Mr. Obama’s youthful look and multicultural persona, his soaring words and a message tinged with liberal politics and talk of uniting partisans.

“It’s not something he’s doing.” Professor Bafumi said. “It’s something he’s being.”

Being or Doing? You decide.

While the Codger plots and plans and makes much of the fact that his Surge in Iraq has saved American lives, the New Kid is working the Kenya Problem to save African lives and maybe a whole lot more. If he can pull it off, what's to stop him from going all the way to the White House besides Mr. Testy Flyboy, whose legendary Anger Management problems will likely get us into four more wars before he keels over from his stroke in the White House Bunkers if he's elected. Then one supposes St John's VP, Rudy! (wouldn't he have to pick him for "balance?"), would inherit the Autocracy and start speaking from balconies and such.

Do Americans want that? No. Obviously not. But will they elect Barack Obama in November?

That remains to be seen. First he's got to get the Democratic nomination; then he has to survive the pack of media hyenas that will dog his every word and act; then of course there will be the endless brickbats, maybe poorly aimed, from the R candidate (and if it is McCain, they'll probably stink to high heaven, too); and then of course he'll have to dodge the resurgent racism of the outraged Confederacy -- which is by no means confined to the South.

If he can get through that, sure. The People will happily elect him. Now the question will be: will their votes be counted?

The questions never end.

On the other hand, even if they reject St John's warmongering and temper tantrums and all the rest of the baggage McCain will bring to the election, would the American People really reject him when the chips are down? Could they?

Great expectations....