Is it possible to conceive of a hypothetical situation as bizarre as this one:
1. A leader of a major world power subverts 100 years of international law to argue that pre-emptive invasion of foreign countries is justified merely by vague fear.
2. The leader promotes an invasion with a sovereign country, ignoring the globe's warning that such an invasion is unjust.
3. The leader uses as his sole justification the "evidence" that the threatening country possesses Weapons of Mass Destruction, despite a UN report saying none can be found.
4. The leader invades the country and finds no WMD.
5. The leader is re-elected.
No, it's not possible to imagine the hypothesis actually playing out, and yet, thanks to a final report out today, the first four have come to pass.
Via Atrios, more heterodoxy among the polls.
The Harris poll, conducted by telephone Sept. 9-13, shows Sen. Kerry leading Mr. Bush 48% to 47% among likely voters nationwide. The poll also found that a slender 51% to 45% majority doesn't believe that Mr. Bush deserves to be re-elected.
It's another interactive poll, and the numbers look a lot like Zogby's. I think what we're beginning to see is a battle of the methodologies. Who's right? Tune in November 2 for the results . . . .
Andy Sullivan is thrilling pacifists and lefties lately with his scorched-earth critique of Bush, but a post today shows why we all hated him last year:
KITTY: Mike Crowley has the goods on Kelley. I think of her as a slightly less reliable National Enquirer. Which puts her one step above CBS News.
Right, CBS News, which has one black mark on its stellar 60 Minutes franchise--actually, call it a gray mark until the story is finally complete--is less reliable than the National Enquirer. It's worth noting that Kelley practices a form of journalism that was popular a century ago, in less, ah, discriminating times, but ol' Andy's clearly just using it as a sap to bean Rather with. When he goes around the bend, he really goes around the bend.
More on Polling
Everyone says polling--particularly given how highly divided the electorate appears to be--is mostly unreliable this year. But instead of looking at different polling models, like Zogby's got going on with the interactive polling, they just parrot back the findings of any poll that comes down the pike, never mind the methodology. But let's assume that the polls aren't actually reflecting voter sentiment (they've been off alarmingly in the past two elections). Why isn't anyone looking at Zogby? According to that polling, Kerry's winning going away, carrying every state Gore carried, plus four of eight that Bush carried. Bush, by comparison, isn't taking a single Kerry state.
We have good reason to believe three things about this election:
1. people mostly gave Bush a pass in 2000;
2. far more people who have switched allegiance this time are moving from Bush to Kerry than Dem to Bush;
3. that more people will vote, a fact that has always benefited the Democrat.Given that, doesn't it make sense that Zogby's onto something?
State (Voted in 2000) [Leading on 9/7] Margin
Arkansas (BUSH) [BUSH] 1.7
Florida (BUSH) [KERRY] 0.3
Iowa (GORE) [KERRY] 3.7
Michigan (GORE) [KERRY] 6.6
Minnesota (GORE) [KERRY] 6.8
Missouri (BUSH) [KERRY] 0.4
Nevada (BUSH) [KERRY] 0.6
New Hampshire (BUSH) [KERRY] 4.7
New Mexico (GORE) [KERRY] 9.7
Ohio (BUSH) [BUSH] 10.9
Oregon (GORE) [KERRY] 9.7
Pennsylvania (GORE) [KERRY] 2.8
Tennessee (BUSH) [BUSH] 9.6
Washington (GORE) [KERRY] 8.5
West Virginia (BUSH) [BUSH] 9.0
Wisconsin (GORE) [KERRY] 2.4
Thirty years ago, the well-off had a look at their IRS forms and frowned. They felt put upon. Like any Wall Street trader after a run of good fortune, they figured it was time for a little profit-taking. Enter the cabal of voodoo economists who have chipped away at what the rich pay, shifting the burden on the poor. Taken as a whole, it's a remarkable accomplishment.
The Times has an editorial about the latest installment, the doublespeak-named "ownership society" Bush hopes to foist on an unsuspecting (and generally nonvoting) Wal-Mart nation.
But in tax terms, "ownership society" means only one thing: the further reduction, if not the elimination, of taxes on savings and investments, including taxes on dividends and on capital gains on stocks, bonds and real estate. That, in turn, means, by definition, a shift in the tax burden onto wages and salaries - or, put more simply, a wage tax.
It's a great plan, unless you don't happen to own anything. Hey, let us eat cake.
But instead of weeping over our ill fortune, we should take notes. The circumstances leading to this proposal are instructive. Thirty years ago, to have argued for a tax cut for the wealthy, followed by a repeal of the inheritance tax, de facto repeal of corporate tax, privatization of huge sectors of the federal government (including the military), all followed up by yet another shift to the wealthy through an IRS shell game--well, it would have been a nice way to cleanly get out of politics. But by increments and with a hefty layer of pancake makeup, the transfer of federal revenues to the wealthy has become regular business.
To reverse this, the rebel alliance (read: the bottom 90%) must offer a similarly clever plan. It must be comprehensive in scope, but targeted in practice. It must be incremental. And it must be accompanied by a complementary rhetorical assault. The comprehensive plan is for those, like Grover Norquist, who saw in the mid 80s where they wanted to go. The incremental plan allows for steady small gains, each by itself unthreatening. And the rhetoric must be used to argue, at each stage, in very general, vaguely moralistic terms, to appeal to the largest possible audience.
So: Progressive taxation, expanded labor rights (organized or not), targeted incentives for small business, re-regulation of industries to ensure an even playing field, rules punishing multinationals that dodge taxes--that's the comprehensive plan. Incremental plans should be guided by political expediency. Kerry is right to go after the worst of the corporate giveaways--in the post-Enron age, even hardcore conservatives are embarrassed by the obscene corruption.
Finally, the rhetoric is simple. Americans have always been torn between the twin, competing ideals of the nation--equality and liberty. Following the gilded age and the roaring twenties, the nation recognized that unrestrained focus on liberty lead to to devasting inequality and corruption--leading to the New Deal and Great Society reforms. Norquist and his band of raiders recognized that they could exploit our desire for liberty at all costs--never mind the results. It's time to shift that back and point out that what looks like liberty to the wealthy looks a hell of a lot like an entrenched aristocracy to the rest of us. For us to have true economic liberty--the old Horatio Alger American Dream liberty--we have to have fairness and opportunity.
The country might have been founded on the notion of "life, liberty, and property." That's what Dubya offers with his "ownership society"--natural rights for the landed aristocracy. Instead, Jefferson, father of liberalism, slipped in a little of the old American Dream: "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." For the rest of us to pursue happiness, we must not be driven to penury. That's the message.
The man who lives across the street from me has surreptitiously mounted a Bush/Cheney bumper sticker on the ass of his Jeep. In our enclave of liberal rebellion, our old wooden homes and perennial gardens, my neighbor has his own enclave-in-an-enclave: a 60s ranch home with an emerald lawn of razor lines.
His is the face of Bush Nation. I've studied it well and have come to a conclusion about the nature and propensity of voters in Bush Nation. But first, a little background on the neighbor. He drives a delivery truck for a living, owns three four-wheeled vehicles and one two-wheeler. He is not wealthy. His neighbors on both sides are black, and his girlfriend is Filippino. He lives in a major city on the West Coast and presumably avoids discussion of politics with friends and relatives who, if the odds hold up, voted by three-quarters against his man in the last election.
(I should also stop to mention that according to political scientists, only ten percent of Americans have a coherent political philosophy. Understanding politics is apparently a complex effort, and even very intelligent, educated citizens have failed to accomplish this modest task.)
So Dwayne (as we'll call my neighbor) works for peanuts, illicitly screws his Asian girlfriend (anyway, I see her leave his place in the morning), and is exposed mostly to liberals. Dwayne is our problem. Dwayne is the front line of the revolution. Dwayne is never going to be politically aware, but in a different era, he would have voted for FDR, Adlai, and Kennedy. So what gives?
Dwayne's the kind of guy who consults the ancient part of his brain, the part that goes back to when we were lizards, and forms his oppinion based on the same criteria he chooses a football team. For Dwayne, it's all about who cracks heads the best.
(Don't go there. I understand that Dubya is a mincing aristocratic chickenshit who neither worked an honest day nor fought a single battle on his own, but that's an argument for someone with a political philosophy, not Dwayne.)
For Dwayne to come back into the fold, the liberals must start cracking heads. We're not in the towellhead cracking business (to employ a phrase that appeals to Dwayne's lizard brain), so that won't do. Ah, but all is not lost.
During the days of broad shoulders, when FDR was head Nazi head cracker, liberals were known for having the balls to put the wood (literally) to Wall Street aristorcrats who refused to pay their workers a living wage. Start cracking a few rich heads, and you're in good with the Packer crowd.
Until then, I gotta look at that goddam Bush/Cheney sticker.
Different brain, same conclusion
Via Avedon, here's some startlingly sharp commentary from a generally genteel gent. But it offers roughly the raison d'etre for this blog (and most others):
The Union is what needs defending this year. Government of Enron and by Halliburton and for the Southern Baptists is not the same as what Lincoln spoke of. This gang of Pithecanthropus Republicanii has humbugged us to death on terrorism and tax cuts for the comfy and school prayer and flag burning and claimed the right to know what books we read and to dump their sewage upstream from the town and clearcut the forests and gut the IRS and mark up the Constitution on behalf of intolerance and promote the corporate takeover of the public airwaves and to hell with anybody who opposes them.
This is a great country, and it wasn't made so by angry people. We have a sacred duty to bequeath it to our grandchildren in better shape than however we found it. We have a long way to go and we're not getting any younger.
Dante said that the hottest place in hell is reserved for those who in time of crisis remain neutral, so I have spoken my piece, and thank you, dear reader. It's a beautiful world, rain or shine, and there is more to life than winning.
RE: Kitty Kelley
Sound of glassware tinkling, laughing. Out-of-focus lens jerking around a room of revelers. Slow focus in on a table with lines of cocaine.
Voiceover: Mr. President, some allege you were snorting coke of the naked breasts of underage cheerleaders at Camp David with Neil and Jeb. These are dark, disturbing allegations. If they're so untrue, why do you refuse to deny them?
If the tables were reversed, it would be about 24 hours before that hit piece would appear.
What the hell's wrong with Wisconsin? Recent Gallup polls put him up by as much as 8 points, when as recently as two months ago, Kerry enjoyed a comfortable 4-5 point lead. Doesn't the Badger State have a strongly divided population, spill-the-blood reds and girly-man blues? And doesn't the state further have a growing population of the latter? And didn't the state go Gore in 2000? What gives?
Even Zogby's interesting interactive poll, which tilts far further blue than any other tracking polls, has Kerry with only a marginal lead. Trippi discussed it today. His analysis:
Wisconsin is a must win state for Kerry.
The problem for John Kerry now is not just winning Wisconsin – it’s bigger than that. The problem is that spending time and resources to win Wisconsin will mean less time and fewer resources for other battleground states such as Ohio, where Kerry is down by 8 points, Florida, where Kerry is down by 4 points, and Pennsylvania, where Kerry is down by only 1 (statistically insignificant) point.
Come on Cheeseheads, get your act together.
For some reason, incompetence is no longer a liability. To wit: Porter Goss, who is a former CIA agent and was on the Congressional Intelligence Committee, is more culpable than nearly any other member of Congress in the two greatest intel failures in American history: the failure to gather intel that might have prevented the 9/11 attacks and the success in gathering bogus intel (read: propaganda) that led to the invasion of a non-threatening sovereign nation.
Instead, everyone's focused on Goss's partisanship. Admittedly, this is enough to disqualify him as head of the CIA--if such a position shall even exist six months hence. His crimes aren't particularly that he's an attack dog for the right, but that he's got the stink of ass on his cheek, having spent so long in Dick Cheney's back pocket. That stink is, I suppose, yet another aroma of incompetence wafting off this nominee.
Bush wants a political victory, and the Dems are going to give it to him. Their calculation: he'll lose in November and no harm done. It's a hefty risk, and if their dice come up craps, we'll have to deal with yet another high-ranking political flack, as competent as Doug Feith, Johnny Ashcroft, and Paul Wolfowitz overseeing American intelligence during an intelligence war.
Props all around, folks.
Something like 85% of the supporters of both candidates are absolutely certain whom they'll vote for. The "undecideds," who may not actually be (theoretically, if they ain't in the Bush camp, they're in the Kerry camp), are a tiny minority. The true shift may come from those who are loosely in favor of one or the other candidate.
What are the qualities of these voters? Ignorance. Other trends may be present, but these voters are definitionally ignorant if they cannot distinguish between the two candidates. Again and again and again, we allow our elections to fall in the hands of the ignorant. A fine way to govern, ain't it?
Talk of the Nation is now reviewing the effects of negative ads, which all Americans decry as the scourge of politics, and which political scientists likewise know are the only truly successful ads. They are successful because the ignorant, in the absence of countervailing information, are susceptible to whatever information they receive during the ads on The Apprentice.
Sad but true.
Morning blog roundup...
Atrios still hates him, but Andy's fun to read now that he's on the Bush warpath.
BUSH'S WAR STRATEGY: His brilliance as a war-leader, so heralded at the New York convention, bears new fruit. The Iraqi government is beginning to lose control of Baghdad now. I think the Rove political strategy must now be simply to hope that no one notices anything that is happening in Iraq before they vote in November. Just say after me: 9/11, 9/11, 9/11. If anyone brings up Iraq today, just put your fingers in your ears and start singing loudly.
Jesse on trial lawers:
Like liberal media bias, Iraq's threat to America, or the idea of people who aren't tourists voluntarily putting heaps of Cheese Whiz on food that's meant to be consumed, the specter of trial lawyers over the American landscapeis vastly overstated, almost uncontrollably demonized, and based in large part on the assertion that it must be true, and anyone who denies it is simply blind, lying, or both.
FLAG BURNING....Still no budget? Who cares? As promised, it appears that the Republican leadership in the Senate plans to waste time this session bringing up a cynical flag burning amendment whose sole purpose is to make Democrats fidget.
“I wasn’t surprised by Bush’s economic policies, but I was surprised by the foreign policy, and I think he was, too. The real distinction of this Presidency is that, at its core, he is a very weak man. He projects himself as incredibly strong, but behind closed doors he is incapable of saying no to his biggest financial supporters and his coalition in the Oval Office. He’s been shockingly malleable to Cheney and Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz and the whole New American Century bunch. He was rolled in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. He was too weak to resist it.”
“I’m not of the school that questions his intelligence. There are different kinds of intelligence, and it’s arrogant for a person with one kind of intelligence to question someone with another kind. He certainly is a master at some things, and he has a following. He seeks strength in simplicity. But, in today’s world, that’s often a problem. I don’t think that he’s weak intellectually. I think that he is incurious. It’s astonishing to me that he’d spend an hour with his incoming Secretary of the Treasury and not ask him a single question. But I think his weakness is a moral weakness. I think he is a bully, and, like all bullies, he’s a coward when confronted with a force that he’s fearful of. His reaction to the extravagant and unbelievably selfish wish list of the wealthy interest groups that put him in the White House is obsequious. The degree of obsequiousness that is involved in saying ‘yes, yes, yes, yes, yes’ to whatever these people want, no matter the damage and harm done to the nation as a whole—that can come only from genuine moral cowardice. I don’t see any other explanation for it, because it’s not a question of principle. The only common denominator is each of the groups has a lot of money that they’re willing to put in service to his political fortunes and their ferocious and unyielding pursuit of public policies that benefit them at the expense of the nation.”
Al Gore, New Yorker, 4 September 2004
Before starting this blog, I hosted another, more publicly, for almost two years. Toward the end of that span, I was convinced the reign of George Walker Bush was near its end. I was convinced that only a deeply passive, ignorant, lazy, and intellectually corrupt citizenship could allow an incompetent thug like Bush to remain in power. No democracy, surely, is that slack-jawed and submissive.
It appears our democracy is in fact that slack-jawed and submissive, as Bush retains a slight lead with 50 days before the election.
Whether he wins or not makes little difference in the larger scope. America, ripe for a revolution, may not have the balls to accomplish it. With Bud Light, a Cowboys game, X-Boxes and free internet porn, we have been adequately pacified. If Bush wins, it will signal a far longer and more dangerous revolution. If he loses, and we can, by some strange circumstance, manage to govern ourselves responsibly again, perhaps the revolution will be shorter, less dangerous, possibly less violent.
This blog is a call to revolution. Many blogs follow the atrocities, dig up lesser-seen news, exhort a wired readership to keep its eye on the ball. Other blogs attend to specific spheres of catastrophe. Excellent. But lest you need to be reminded--and you do--none of it makes a good goddamn unless some of us are ready to put aside the porn and pick up the baseball bat (or keyboard) and wade into the battle.
We fucked up, folks. We elected George W. Bush. But let us not wallow in shame--it's not the first time we've fucked up. We kept humans as slaves, we nuked Nevadans, we grinningly sprayed DDT on our tulips. But we managed to snap out of it in time. We just nuked ourselves again. Time to snap out of it.
The Eleventh Revolution
The first American revolution happened long before there was an America--when the notion of something better was worth risking everything on a leaky boat and the Atlantic Ocean. The second American revolution was the big one, 1776. For the new country, now a pissant agrarian democracy at the far side of the world, the third revolution came in 1928, when the peasants elected their first commoner President. Fourth, a civil war. Fifth, the rise of the northern aristocracy and a gilded age. Sixth, a progressive reaction, the first flowering of true equality as suffragettes, anarchists, socialists, and communists pushed for the rights of women and workers. Seventh, the re-emergence of capital in the roaring twenties. The eighth revolution was one of the greatest, as the FDR administration remade the notion of modern government, realizing the hopes of the progressives 35 years earlier. The ninth revolution tried to wash a historical stain of institutionalized racism (and succeeded, partly).
The tenth revolution was the reaction by the aristocracy to sober, reasonable, democratic rule. With the election of Ronald Reagan, the new conservatives began to reverse 50 years of equality. In the next 25 years, conservatives launched an all-fronts assault on the nonwealthy, the nonwhite, the nonChristian, and the nonAmerican, rolling back gains of FDR, the Great Society, and the civil rights movement. They waged a number of optional, pre-emptive wars and set up a military presence across the globe. They sold off most of what was publicly-owned to private, multinational corporations that, in turn, fed billions back into their political machine. They deregulated broadcast media and then bought up all the stations. By the election of 2004, conservatives controlled majorities in the House and Senate, had appointed 75% of the federal judiciary with mostly activist judges, controlled the majority of statehouses, and had seized the White House in a quasi-coup.
The Eleventh Revolution is hypothetical. It requires an activist population willing sacrifice in the manner of the champions of previous revolutions. It requires informed resistance. It requires a patriotic risistance. It requires men and women of spine, in the manner of Jefferson, Paine, Franklin, Lincoln, Gompers, Stanton, Goldman, Addams, Parks, King, and Johnson. It requires will and strength and confidence.
If history is a guide, the ardor and insight of the American revolution will sufficiently erode so that sloth, ignorance, and corruption will swamp it. The revolutionaries will be too few and too weak and the country will collapse, as all others have. The presidency of George W. Bush is a harbinger that sloth, ignorance, and corruption have arrived at the gates of the republic. He will happily take his place as the American Caligula, laughing gleefully as the country rots from his party's influence. The only way to prevent it is by revolution.
The Eleventh Revolution.