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America vs. The World

The big trouble with dumb bastards is that they are too dumb to believe there is such a thing as being smart. — Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

FEMA: The new F.U.B.A.R.

You know, I don't think the federal government is super popular in New Orleans right now. Just a hunch.

Friday, November 10, 2006

What winning means

Mandasaurus is half of Friday Chick Blogging and wore emerald green heels adorned with gems to Tuesday's DCCC fete.

Winning is awesome. I love the cheering, the celebration, the hop victory puts in your step. I love that on Wednesday (and each day after, I hope) I woke up to a better America.

I feel proud and ecstatic. I was invited (if that's what you call getting an invitation forwarded to you) to the DCCC's party Tuesday night. I stood beside liberals of many walks of life (union guys, staffers, college students, older people with political pins running up and down their outfits - real people) and we cheered. We cheered for the ideals of our new leaders in Congress and for their challenges to the White House. And tipsy (Rahm Emmanuel's open bar might be his best contribution to the Democratic Party) liberals still want cooperation. We hooted and clapped for bipartisanship just as much as we did for the opposition Democrats will create toward bad policy.

See Elvis? He says "A little less conversation, a little more action." He's right. Action.

Winning means we act. We say what we mean and we mean what we say (as Seuss says). We act on our promises and we hold people accountable. That goes for voters too.

Contact your Congresspeople when you have something to say - good or bad. Keep phone numbers for the people who represent you in your phone. It's easy to call them anytime - while you wait for the bus, while you take a walk, while you take your lunch break - anytime!

Keep your eyes on them. I love liberals, but I know that Washington, D.C. can be a naughty place for all politicians. It's so easy to come to this city without representation and just rock out. Lobbyists practically line the street offering steak dinners. Young people wear next-to-nothing and will do whatever politicians say. D.C. is like Temptation Island. Watch the people you send here. Read Media Matters For America and other watchdog sites, as well as The Washington Post and other news to keep up.

Keep thinking. That's easy. You are smart.

And being smart we know that our actions speak louder than our words. Winning means we act.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Just the facts

A lot will be written about this election. A lot already has been. According to various pundits and bloggers, this election is:Of course, Digby has my favorite take on it. Digby always has my favorite take.

I agree with all those assessments to some extent. But to me, the most important thing about this election is that it was a victory for objective reality.

The most frustrating thing about the past six years is the way in which politics has decisively trumped reality. This is not battle we should still have to be fighting. The Enlightenment was 300 years ago, but here were are, still arguing about whether we should use reason and empiricism as the basis for human affairs.

I don't rail against Republicans because I am a partisan. Shit, I voted for two Greens and two Republicans in addition to a whole host of Democrats on Tuesday. I rail against Republicans because, based solely on the facts, they have been bad for our country. Regardless of your ideology, by any set of objective criteria they have failed to govern effectively. They haven't even achieved any of their own stated policy goals! (Alan Wolfe has his own ideas why this is so.)

Yet through a combination of jingoism, scare tactics and plain old ignorance, the majority of Americans have ignored or been unaware of how objectively bad one-party Republican rule has been for the country. It's an unattractive quality of the left to assume that the only reason the public doesn't agree with them is because people are ignorant and uninformed. But in the case of this government, what other explanation is there? We very well may have simultaneously had both the worst president and worst congress in American history.

This neglect of the facts mirrors the way the government itself has been run. The Republican Party has rejected science in favor of religion, facts in favor of opinion, partisan loyalty over ability and experience. The examples are legion.

When Karl Rove was put in charge of policy at the White House, this was the final triumph of perception over reality. As Gordon has said, this would be the equivalent of Bill Clinton putting James Carville in a position of real authority. No sane Democrat would want that.

Rove is just the most extreme example of a cronyism that will be one of the worst legacies of the Bush era. Thousands of key executive-branch positions have been filled with people utterly unqualified for their jobs. During previous administrations, of both parties, positions were filled with people who actually knew what they were doing. There will always be political appointees. But it's a big country. It's certainly possible to find someone who shares your ideology and who's also good at what they do.

I have faith that government can be a force for good in the world, if we rely on empiricism. What are the problems facing us? What are the best ways to fix them? What combination of public and private initiatives can we take to implement those ideas? I addressed this idea a couple months ago and Billy Joe Mills wrote a really interesting in-depth response that I never got around to replying to. I plan to in the next couple weeks.

Relying on reason is not hard. I'm not saying the Democrats are or will be paragons of clear thinking. But the Republicans have wandered so far from the ideas of the Enlightenment that anything will be an improvement. If and when Democrats act like this, I'll rail against them.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Five things to look at in mid-term aftermath

1. The 50/50 states. Virginia and possibly Montana may witness a long, drawn-out recount in the next few weeks. Experts at CNN insist the democrats’ margin of victory is more than enough to hold up, but we all may have to wait just a little longer for that elusive feeling of closure. (If that’s the case, Buck can wait a few more weeks before I pay him for our election bet.)

2. The independents. Joseph Lieberman is at least 90% democrat, but in a 51/49 senate, it’s all the ways he’s not a democrat that will make things interesting. Expect both sides to court the hell out of him before the end of the year—he should expect some pretty high leadership position offers, and he may get a few bones from Republicans as well.

3. Rummy’s replacement. Rumsfeld is out. Robert Gates is in. A former head of the CIA, Gates has served several presidents of both parties with distinction. But much like we witnessed with recent Supreme Court nominees, look for his record and character to be put under the microscope over the next few weeks. We should hear more than a few references to the Iran-Contra affair. Fun fun!

4. Obama’s presidential bid. He’s going to review his options, but by January we should know if everyone’s favorite Barak is running for president in 2008. As a moderate progressive from Illinois, it would be my wet dream if he won. Happy as I am that the democrats won yesterday, their leadership doesn’t thrill me; I can do without Hillary and Nancy, and Harry Reid couldn’t inspire his way out of a paper bag.

5. The first 100 hours. Forget the first 100 days—Nancy Pelosi has laid out a gameplan for the first 100 hours in power. Minimum wage increase, 9/11 commission review, healthcare… should be a helluva couple of days, unlike anything we’ve seen in Congress in over a decade. But will Bush veto anything, and if so, what?

It finally happened

Almost 30 House seats. Likely control of the Senate. Six governorships. At least nine state legislative chambers. Do you know what this means?

It means I finally won a political bet with Gordon!!!

Savor it, America. And check out this video compilation that I can't stop watching.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

You know what to do


I have absolutely no idea why Election Day isn't a national holiday. Hell, in Illinois we get Pulaski Day off so Polish people won't feel left out, but have to work the one day when time off would serve a purpose other than extra time for sleeping.

If you want to do more than just vote today, here's some ideas. If you want to know what's at stake in this election, read this. And finally, here's some voting music to get your toes tapping as you step on down to the polls:

Mandasaurus adds:

I love today. I love visiting school gymnasiums and asking old ladies for ballots and "I voted" stickers. This is the best day.

Here's why:
  • You get to be heard! And it's your right. Your workplace must give you time to do the deed! (According to Wildman Harrold — which is a law firm, not a crazy dude named Harrold, unfortunately.) Most states require employers to give you time off. And since you're reading a blog in the middle of the day chances are you wouldn't be missing much anyway.
    If you live in some states you can even tell your boss that he can be sent to jail if he doesn't let you go vote. I would love to do that, if I wasn't the boss at my work. (And, yes, I've already given many people time off to vote tomorrow.)
  • It's easy. And don't use that tired excuse about not knowing where to vote. Let me help you!
  • I know you and your silly reasons why you can't vote. Don't know enough? Read up. It's fast and easy.
  • Most of you get to vote for Congressional Representation (you know, Senators and Reps, Sharks and Jets). Residents of Washington, D.C. (including me) do not. We are taxed without representation. This is wrong. In fact, your representatives allegedly look out for our best interests. They don't do that. They look out for the best interests of the people who vote for them. Not D.C. residents. We're kinda screwed, although we do have awesome monuments. You should vote for us, please.
  • You get a sticker. The kids at my work are utterly in awe of stickers. You are too.
  • People who hurt America don't want you to vote.
  • When you go to your polling place you can be a lookout to make sure people aren't discriminated against. And you can stand up for them.
  • You will feel like a proud, important part of what America is all about. And that's exactly what a voter is. Thanks.
Happy Election Day, voters. You make us all proud.

e•lec•tion [i-LEK-shun]—noun. A political enema.

I always feel particularly patriotic on Election Day; considerably more than I do on Independence Day, no doubt.

(I’m sure this is affected by my being born outside the U.S., having only earned a vote after my parents waited in countless long lines for well over a decade.)

So I thought I’d channel my inner patriot by sharing this quote from Noah Webster who, back in 1781, beat the British twice—once on the battlefield and once in the library (his dictionary single-handedly spawned American English).

In the nascent years of the Union, Webster explained what he saw as the enlightened American mindset:
America sees the absurdities—she sees the kingdoms of Europe, disturbed by wrangling sectaries, or their commerce, population and improvements of every kind cramped and retarded, because the human mind like the body is fettered and bound fast by the chords of policy and superstition.

America laughs at their folly and shuns their errors. She founds her empire upon the idea of universal toleration. She admits all religions into her bosom. She secures the sacred rights of every individual. And (astonishing absurdity to Europeans!) she sees a thousand discordant opinions living in the strictest harmony.

It will finally raise her to a pitch of greatness and lustre, before which the glory of ancient Greece and Rome shall dwindle to a point, and the splendor of modern Empires fade into obscurity.
The verdict is in: democracy rocks. So go vote already.

Monday, November 06, 2006

It's almost over

(updated below)

I don't think this election is what the Founding Fathers had in mind.

Thank God election day is here — I'm sick of talking about pure politics with no substance behind it, and I'm sure you're tired of reading it. But then, that's what American politics have become, isn't it? I'm only 29, so my personal experience is rather limited. But I can't imagine there have been many election seasons more nasty, spiteful and absolutely substance-free than this one.

Has there been a single discussion of actual issues anywhere? Oh sure, there's been debates, and Q&A sessions with the candidates, and you can go on the candidates' Web sites for their stances on the issues. But the national and local media has been dominated by sound bites and slogans with nothing behind them.

Cut and run. Rubber stamp Congress. Handouts to illegal immigrants. Stay the course. Soft on terrorism. Too conservative. Too liberal. Right. Left. Blah blah fucking blah.

These are abstractions — while there might be some seed of truth buried deep down, they don't really mean anything anymore. They're all just code words now, and they all seem to come down to "Vote for this guy, and a giant crack will open up in the ground and suck the United States down into oblivion. Or worse."

Here's an illustrative quote from an independent Republican group paying for millions of Democrat-bashing, automated phone calls to voters around the country:
Mr. Swift said his group had tried to report each candidate's views accurately. But, he said, "it is very challenging to take something as complex as a person's background and track record and communicate it in a 30-second sound bite."
Ummm, yeah, it is. That's why you shouldn't try to do it. The democratic process is predicated on creating an informed electorate, not 30-second sound bites. My grandmother is actually trying to choose between candidates based on commercials, because her vision isn't great these days and she doesn't use the Web. Ugh.

The entire system seems to be groaning under its own weight. There's nothing but negative ads as far as the eye can see, with a good dose of outright lying for good measure. I've been out canvassing, and the sense of disillusion with the entire democratic process was almost palpable in everyone I met, no matter what their party affiliation.

There's a common misconception that both sides are equally culpable for this atmosphere. While the Democrats certainly aren't innocent, it's never been clearer which side are the bad guys, and we don't even have to talk policy — their techniques in this election have revealed the Republican party to be utterly amoral.

Let me give you a simple example that tells you all you need to know about the Republican party as it exists today. The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) has been dumping millions of dollars into automated calls in tight races all over the country. Here's Josh Marshall's succinct description of this tactic:
What we're seeing is an apparent coordinated effort from the NRCC — the House GOP committee — to place calls that appear to be from the local Democratic candidate and then automatically call the same number back as many as seven or eight times each time the caller hang-ups. If the caller listens to the whole message it goes on to bash the Democratic candidate. But if the caller hangs up prematurely, the computer calls right back. Hang-ups are the achilles heal of robo-calls. So this seems to be an attempt to cover for that weakness by making those who hang up think the Democratic candidate is basically harassing them with phone calls. The GOP wins either way.
I heard several people complain about these calls while canvassing for Tammy Duckworth, and did my best to explain that they did not come from her. But there's really no good way to counteract it, and anecdotal evidence suggests it's turning off a lot of likely Democratic voters.

Think about what this says about the Republican party. This is clearly a tactic intended to discourage people from voting and make them frustrated with the entire electoral process in general. Six, seven calls in a row! The phone ringing at 6 a.m.! How would you respond?

Yet the Republican party has not only admitted to this behavior (which is apparently legal in most states), but claims there's nothing wrong with it. In fact, some Republican candidates have asked the NRCC to stop the calls, but they've refused. Maybe I'm naive, but I like to think that even if tactics like these were used in years past, the perpetrators at least had the decency to look ashamed when they were caught. Now it's done right out in the open.

Issues, policy, substance? Screw that! We're just going to make everyone so disgusted that only our hard-core supporters vote.

I don't know how we got here. It might be as simple as evil, amoral self-obsessed men seizing the reins of Republican power — maybe things will return to some sort of normalcy once the party purges itself of Tom DeLay and Co. But I doubt it.

Does anyone have any ideas? Come what may tomorrow, we've got a long road ahead of us before we can once again claim that American democracy is functioning as its designers intended.


More substance.

Try to imagine what was going through the minds of the people who produced this ad.

Republican values.
Jeff Goldstein is a wanker.