Wednesday, December 1


Howard Dean speaks at Stanford.

One of the biggest applause lines came when he challenged the radical right's claim to ownership of Christian rhetoric. Jesus, he declared, was about including the downtrodden, and the Republicans, with their insistence on public displays of religion, resemble nothing more than the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

There's more interesting stuff here, including a preface to the debate, Would Dean better serve the party and the nation as DNC chair, or as candidate for president in '08?

A Deaniac, I opt for the former. Our best people don't always make the best presidential candidates (read: Hillary), but they remain our best people nonetheless. As I said in an earlier post, Dean would be a refreshing and energetic lifeforce in an increasingly moribund party -- we may be right, but we're just not winning the battle for American hearts and minds. Surely Howard can do better than Terry McAuliffe or the DLC. There won't be another Bill Clinton, God love him, anytime soon, but to know Howard is to love him also. As party guiding light, he could make a real difference, and who says he can't still run for president in '08 if conditions change?

Riverbend's blog, Baghdad Burning, has been updated.
Check it out for an updated insight into life for Iraqis in Iraq.


So now we're using napalm in Iraq?

Somebody tell me again why we're there and what the hell we think we are doing.


Listening to right-wing talk radio is a surreal experience. I just got back from a film shoot (lots of driving involved) and grabbed the laptop to record what I heard Rush and Michael Medved say.

First, Rush. Before I tuned in, evidently Rush had said something not-condemning-enough about senior citizens shacking up without benefit of marriage. A female caller dialed in to demand that Rush come right out and condemn such immoral behavior, because marriage is what keeps a society healthy and strong. Rush did so, although almost sotto voce, because he said he was in the mood for "appeasement."

Is his audience not aware that Rush is working on his third divorce while romancing CNN's Daryn Kagan? Do they honestly believe anyone considers him, a caught-and-confessed criminal drug abuser and serial husband, a moral authority, much less an advocate of marriage as the strength of society? The thought that the answer might be "yes" makes my head spin.

(In the For What It's Worth department: my Mac guy also works for Rush and Ann Coulter (how can they be Mac people????), both of whom he adores -- as he does me. The guy may have no discrimination, but he's sweet. The other day, I was coughing so hard we couldn't communicate, so he gave me Rush's remedy for coughing/sore throat when he has to do a broadcast -- sucking chocolate. Night before last I stayed awake until 5 a.m. coughing my brains out, when I suddenly remembered. I found a stray Hershey's chocolate bar in the kitchen -- probably a Halloween leftover -- and took it to bed with me. After the first square, my coughing diminished. By the time I'd finished a third of the bar, I had completely stopped coughing and was able to sleep a couple of hours before having to get ready for work. As my father-in-law used to say, even a blind hog gets an acorn once in a while.)

Now for Michael. I've thought for a long time that this guy is one of the more dangerous of the conservative broadcasters because he gives an illusion of intellect, reason and thoughtfulness. He's not a ranter. When a caller (advertising himself as a Libertarian) challenged Michael's assertions that Democrats just will never accept with "good grace" Republican victories by pointing out evidence of voter fraud in the November 2004 elections, Michael responded by claiming that studies of historical voter fraud prove that "almost all" of those incidents of wrongdoing are perpetrated by Democrats. No citations, of course. But if that is so for 2004, then why in almost all the cases where there is alleged vote fraud, do the election results favor Bush?

Then Michael had the gall to read quotes from Bill Moyers and other liberals about what a poor and dangerous president we have to illustrate how Democrats are "filled with hatred and deceit." (To be honest, I expected him to air clips of Al Gore, Robert Byrd and Teddy Kennedy.) He said he wanted to hear from Democrats who disagreed with him. I tried to call in to tell him he's got some nerve in light of the nasty things said about us EVERY DAY FOR HOUR UPON HOUR by Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Mike Gallagher, Michael Savage, Michael himself, and the majority of guests on Fox news shows, but the line was busy. I never did hear a Democrat respond, so Michael was free to mock Democrats for their calls for vote recounts, especially in Washington state. According to him, we can't bear to lose any election, and "fighting Republicans is to Democrats as fighting terrorists is to Republicans."

But that's not hate talk. That's just the "truth."

Don't you love the way conservatives love to dissect and analyze liberals? We don't do much quid pro quo -- maybe that's because we hesitate to try to explain the inexplicable.

Now I have to address Darrell Ankarlo's show this morning. He went off on an unmarried teenaged girl whose principal had to apologize for reading a poem over the P.A. system mocking her election as prom queen. Forget the principal and the prom queen stuff. What I objected to was Darrell's ensuing tirade about how every time he sees an unmarried, underaged pregnant girl he feels the necessity to lecture her on her "shame" (Darrell thinks she should shrink from polite society in shame for an unspecified number of years, presumably in atonement for her sin), and who cares if her parents are offended? They must by definition be terrible parents, it's their fault for not teaching her right from wrong, etc. I was so incensed by this I could barely complete the drive to work. As the Christian grandmother of a precious child born out of wedlock (yes, our daughter had just finished high school at 17 and the kids couldn't afford the hospitalization so they waited to marry until a couple of days after the birth so our daughter would still be covered under our insurance), I thought, "You judgmental, hypocritical jerk." Remember, Darrell is on at least his second marriage (he refers to his ex every now and then -- she's a liberal, so she's fodder for his cannon). Don't these people realize that their attitude is partially to blame for the high number of abortions? Girls (and parents) who fear retribution from society are far more likely to have abortions than those who have a supportive, nurturing circle of family and friends. Once again, it's a case of "my sin can be justified but your sin cannot."

It's the hypocrisy, folks. As Democrats/liberals/progressives, we have a tendency to withhold judgment; the conservatives love to practice it. The irony is, red states have much higher divorce rates than blue states and considerably higher teenage pregnancy rates. I'll hazard a guess as to why: love, which is merciful, forgiving and accepting, is liberal; judgment, in many ways the opposite of love, is conservative.

Guess which one Jesus commanded us to do and which one he commanded us NOT to do.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention Sean Hannity's show. (Like I said, I was in the car a lot today.) Sean had a caller who showed evidence of "pity" for us poor Democrats because we aren't listening to that good conservative advice that we should be moving more to the center. It's sad, because we need a two-party system to have a real democracy, the caller said. Sean's reaction? No, that's great, let's sit back and watch the Democrats destroy themselves and then we'll have the government we want and know, run by fundamentalist/evangelical Christian hypocrites like Ken Mehlman, Rick Santorum, Rudy Giuliani, Dave Dreier, Bill Frist, etc.

Sunday, November 28


Catching up on my reading and bloggin post-Thanksgiving, I'm reminded of why I decided to put it all aside until after the holiday: I'm once again disturbed, depressed, upset, aggrieved.

Foremost thought/conclusion:

IT'S ALL ABOUT THE MEDIA. All this talk about what Dems have to do to start winning again is in equal parts maddening, dumb and ridiculous. What we have to do is develop progressive media outlets as an alternative to right-wing talk radio and Fox. There is no middle way. It's all about the medium, not the message. We have the right message; our voters understood Kerry's positions and agreed with them. Bush's supporters were so confused by the mixed and/or deceptive messages they got from Bush/Cheney themselves and the pervasive and powerful right-wing media that they voted for the Shrub while overwhelmingly mistaking his stances on the issues.

There can be no overestimating the power of integrated media. It is an unaccountable echo chamber reinforcing each message ad infinitum, creating a credibility perception almost impossible to overcome. "Independent" TV network and cable news channels, print media and radio have proven they cannot be trusted to provide a truly objective, fact-based source of information for the public.

So it's up to us. George Soros, Theresa Heinz-Kerry, Bill Gates Sr., and all you other billionaire progressives, it's time to put your money where your mouth is. Fund progressive media, BIG-TIME. It's the only way to start winning again.

Oh my God. You won't believe (or maybe you will) what Rummy told his fellow defense ministers at the Quito meeting.

See anything about this in the mainstream media? I didn't think so.


Seymour Hersh is full of good news:

Hersh's message is simple and frightening: "(George W.) Bush is an ideologue, a Utopian," Hersh said. "He wants to clean out the Middle East and install democracy. He doesn't care how many body bags come back home. There's nothing more dangerous than an ideologue who is completely bonkers and no one is going to tell him."

President Bush is committed to perpetual war, Hersh said.

"He risked his presidency on this war," Hersh said. "He could have gotten more votes if he backed off. But he insisted he hasn't made any mistakes."

Hersh has talked privately with many in the military and CIA, including some who have recently resigned. All told him that if the Iraq war had gone "right" - say, if the Americans had been greeted as liberators - our military would have marched "right and left" - to Syria and Iran.

Oil is a big factor in this war, Hersh said, and so is Israel, but to the President it's about ideology: "Whether this man communicates with God, or is on a crusade, or really is a neo-con, or if he thought that his father's not taking Baghdad was a mistake - in any case, I think he is absolutely committed to staying in Iraq to the end."
Then what could the good news be?

"The good side - and I promise you I'm not selling uppers - is that there will be direct attacks on the Supreme Court, a change in the filibuster rules, it's going to be down and dirty, a complete hoe-down, but there won't be anything subtle," Hersh said. "It's all going to be out in the open."

We must let events take over, Hersh said.

"We have put ourselves in an enormous hole," he said. "There's no magic story to get us out. The market will crash. Maybe people will come to their senses. Maybe some Democrat will step forward to do the right thing. And maybe the Easter bunny will turn out to be real."


Nicholas von Hoffman warns against empowering the pious:

Once the flames of sectarian conflict are ignited, it takes a thousand devils to stamp them out—and that is 999 devils more than the Democrats have at their command. Religion is absolutism, and absolutism goes to war with anything it abuts. Turn on the Christian television—cable is full of it—and listen to them denounce "humanistic relativism." What is relativism? It is moderation, it is accommodation, it is the rule of reason, it is acknowledgment of others who are different, it is a repudiation of dogmatics—but dogmatics are what religion is built on.

Given the history of this party, given thousands of its members in the past who have been the prime targets of faith-based hatred, Democrats will do better in every way to leave the dogmatics to the Republicans. There are worse things than being accused of humanistic relativism and a proclivity for the rule of reason. Who knows, the D’s may be in for a surprise: On occasion, those who are true to themselves have been known to win an election.

Von Hoffman is right. Those Catholic bishops who contemplate refusing communion to voters for pro-choice candidates should rethink their alliance with the fundamentalists. The Southern fundies I grew up among (which include nearly all of my extended family) despised Catholics as much as they did Jews, and often referred to the Roman Catholic Church as the "whore of Babylon." Nothing's really changed. They may welcome Catholic support for their right-wing religious agenda NOW, but just wait until they're confident in their power, and watch them turn on the Catholics. Fundamentalist politicians may swoon over Mormon "family values" and embrace the LDS faithful as natural allies in their religious crusade, but Mormons should take a peek at Southern Baptist training literature, replete with anti-Mormon films, tapes and reading materials. Fundies scorn Mormons as anti-Christian. Our theologies are as different in "fundamental" ways as Christianity is from Islam.

The very nature of Christian fundamentalism is certitude, absolute confidence in its rightness. This is understandable (what else is faith?), and I myself exhibit this in my own private religious beliefs. However, this has been taken to the extreme such that every position taken by evangelical leaders and pastors is perceived by their congregations to be the Word of God and thus inviolable, in direct contradiction to Christ's admonitions that we focus on what unites us and not what divides us, and that each individual rely on the Holy Spirit, not man, to instruct us in interpreting the scriptures. The central characteristic of Bush's candidacy and presidency, and a great part of his appeal to the Christian right, has been certitude. He's never wrong, never mistaken, always confident.

Faced with limited power and a common "enemy," many different confident-in-their-own-righteousness groups have united to affect a common social agenda. But let them win, and you'll see a mighty splintering of the alliance as each group battles for supremacy.


Watched Gone With The Wind for the fortieth time the other night and had some new thoughts. While I always enjoy the typical elements of drama so well done in this film, the romance, conflict, humor, performances, direction -- I also have always taken away a horror of the feudalistic society the South harbored for so long. Our kids, though born and raised in the South (as I was), reflected our teachings well enough that Silmarill once asked at about the age of eight or nine, when watching the movie with us, "When are they going to make a movie about our side?" I was suffused with laughter, but got out an explanation that this WAS a movie about our side (The South), only Our Side, to us, meant Home, since Our Side was clearly in the wrong morally and politically.

I think, though, that many Americans, maybe even a majority of non-Southerners, identify with the ruling class both in this film and in reality. They either fantasize about becoming one of "them" or think that in their own way they ARE one of them. This partly explains why so many vote against what would seem to be their own interests. When you oppress another class or group of people, when you condescend to them and treat them as less than equal to yourself, you in effect declare yourself as a part of an elite, or superior, group. Venal businessmen/industrialists and cynical politicians have used this tactic to their advantage forever in the unreconstructed South; it works to keep lower-income white Southerners pacified with their own pitiful economic lot in life by giving them a still more disadvantaged class to sneer at, whether it's blacks, gays or heathen Yankees. It's a pride-builder, and there are few emotions more motivating than pride and self-respect.

Unless it's hatred. And that's the other greatly effective Southern tactic the Repugs have adopted: use of religion to demonize groups of people and ideas, further dividing the populace.

These devices are clearly working for the Repugs. And now some Democratic strategists are suggesting that we can't win unless we adopt some of the same tactics. To this I say: absolutely not. First of all, pragmatically, we can't do it because we're not that kind of people; we can't beat the beastmasters at their own game. Second, it's wrong, it's against everything we stand for. Third, if we try it, we'll lose our best citizen supporters (including me) to a third party or a cynical dropping-out of the political process.

When they said, "The South will rise again," I thought it meant we'd revitalize our cities, bring in new industry, improve our standards of living, etc. I didn't think it'd be this way, that the whole nation, at the beginning of the 21st century, would adopt the worst excesses and eccentricities of the nineteenth century feudal Southern states.

Revenge of the merdes:

The Confederate electoral strategy consists of manipulating working class Americans to become accomplices to their own demise. This cynical goal is accomplished by economically depriving blue-collar voters and then producing scapegoats that are identified with the Democratic Party. The whipping boys keep changing – the targets have included gays, feminists, immigrants, and the perennial favorite, blacks – yet the sleight of hand remains as effective as it is ancient. While people are being robbed of their freedom and treasure, they must be distracted, no longer with bread and circuses, but instead with fairies and darkies.

The Confederates face no relevant opposition in their quest to corporatize and theocratize every dimension of society because the Democrats are unwilling or unable to confront them...

In the aftermath of the election, Senate Democrats have prepared for future battles by replacing their defeated feeble red state minority leader with an even feebler red state minority leader. They are publicly musing about abandoning the party’s stated principles, specifically its commitment to equality for gays. Despite being on the side of a human rights struggle that is inexorably gaining ground and destined to achieve victory, the Democrats fail to appreciate that the acquisition of equality is an agonizing process rather than a glorious event. They are on the verge of unilaterally surrendering the moral high ground in a futile attempt to compete with the Confederates for the votes of bigots.
Things are bad in America, and they are about to get much worse. The Confederates finally have the power to remake the country in their own image. They are determined to fulfill their longstanding dream of destroying the crown jewel of the New Deal, the Social Security program that since its inception has been deeply offensive to the right wing. The reactionaries long to codify their religious beliefs and prosecute a culture war that features the blacklisting of art they deem to be subversive. They also intend to revisit the 1964 Civil Rights Act because it provides equal legal status to those whom Confederates consider less than equal.

Under continued Confederate rule, the poor will get poorer as the wealthy get wealthier. Government polices will be designed to benefit rich white people at the expense of impoverished black people, and anyone who notices will be marginalized for playing the race card. As the economy worsens, it will require the stimulus that can only come with upper income tax cuts and elimination of regulations on big business.

The most influential religion of the country will continue to be a version of Christianity in which Jesus Christ bears a striking resemblance to Tom DeLay. Children will be taught biblical facts such as Creation Science in lieu of being indoctrinated with mere theories like evolution. The federal judiciary will be overflowing with people who prioritize the word of God over the word of man, including the words of the men who wrote the Constitution.

The environment will increasingly be used as a corporate cesspool. The endangered species list will continue to shrink as more and more endangered species become extinct. Global warming will be airily dismissed as a manifestation of liberal hysteria, even as the temperatures soar and the oceans rise.

Marriage will be reserved for heterosexuals, ensuring that this nation’s deeply held set of Judeo-Christian family values (seventy percent adultery rate, fifty percent divorce rate, twenty-five percent spousal abuse rate, ten percent child abuse rate) will be protected from the homosexual agenda. Gays are reviled by the bible thumpers, and they will continue to serve as the bogeyman that keeps the right wing rank and file in a state of frenzy.
Although homophobia was the conduit to electoral success in 2004, the primary targets of the Confederates will be women. Americans consider themselves to be highly civilized, but human beings are just a few millennia removed from the caves, and just a few years beyond the time when women were officially the chattels of men. American conservatives, both male and female, have never accepted the sexual revolution that granted women control of their own bodies. Consequently, there is going to be an all-out assault on reproductive rights, driven by the unexpressed but very real intention of coercing females back into the status of brood mares.
Liberals are forever seeking comforting rhetoric to obscure their compulsion to capitulate: “the need for bipartisanship”, “seeking to raise the level of political discourse”; “refusing to stoop to the other side’s gutter tactics”, “holding ourselves to a higher standard”, etc., ad nauseum. It is all transparent camouflage for a lack of toughness. The Confederates may not be particularly bright (or sane) but the right wing does possess resolve. It took guts to impeach a president when the polls showed two thirds of Americans were opposed, and even though the motives for the action were entirely malicious, the Clinton impeachment was a show of backbone that is foreign to the invertebrates in the modern Democratic Party.

The Confederates will continue riding high until they overreach and self-destruct; their only real foe will be lack of discipline. Eventually, the zealots are going to be so intolerably provocative that desperate liberals will nominate a presidential candidate who identifies conservatives as the reprobates they are. It is impossible to know when the point of critical mass will be attained, but Democrats are still not even close to relinquishing their delusional goal of achieving national unity. There is going to have to be a cataclysm before progressives are willing to fight fire with fire.

Until that time, America will be governed by hatred and fear. The Confederates are keenly aware that they must hoodwink the electorate by brandishing a loathsome domestic patsy and an imminent foreign threat - the last three elections that lacked these factors resulted in the Republican presidential candidate losing the popular vote.

Over a century after his death, the United States has degenerated into a nation that Jefferson Davis could deeply respect, a land where the gentry control society by skillfully manipulating the prejudices of the public. Ironically, if Davis were alive his political upward mobility would be limited in this environment. The leader of the Confederacy was an advocate of raising taxes to balance government budgets, so the old slave master could not become the president of America as it exists today.

He would be considered too liberal.