Saturday, January 29, 2005

George W. Bush's shower song, by Calvin Trillin

Every morning, George W. Bush sings:

It's all just hunky dory in Iraq
Yes, thanks to us, they've got their country back.
We showed the folks who thought our nerve would crack
And folks who were reluctant to attack-
those girly men like Schroeder and Chirac.
Yes, things are really hunky dory in Iraq.

Annals of Outrage

The dismal record of the Bush Administration's first four years has produced such a richness of foul deeds that we tend to forget, immersed in the morass, the individual outlines of misdeed. Katherina Van der Heuvel, of The Nation, reminds us of the most egregious, lest we forget.
Annals of Outrage

Turning Up the Heat on Bush

We all agree that the Democrats and other progressives have to find a formula to reestablish the interests of the people as the driving force of this nation. The fight for the chairmanship of the DNC is a marker of how this strategy will evolve. Already those that would like the Democrats to eschew any "extremist" positions, in order to ensure continued corporate funding for their Senate and Congress seats, are writing off grassroots movements like MoveOn and Democracy for America.
Now The Nation (one of the oldest newspapers in the country), which I am increasingly in tune with, printed the following article, well worth reading and acting upon
Turning Up the Heat on Bush

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Whence Democrats?

"Rebuilding a national political majority will mean distinguishing between positions that contribute to a majority and those that detract from it."

Please take the time to read this insightful article by Paul Starr, Associate editor of the American Prospect, the foremost Democratic thinking person's magazine. After the last two elections, the liberal Democrats would do well in rethinking what it means to be a Democrat. Paul Starr does some of the thinking for us. Please comment, give me your thoughts.
January 26, 2005


Winning Cases, Losing Voters


Princeton, N.J.

AS Republicans revel in President Bush's inauguration and prepare for his agenda-setting State of the Union address next week, many Democrats would like to consider almost anything but the substance of politics as the reason for their defeat last November. If only John Kerry had been a stronger candidate. If only the message had been framed differently. If only the party's strategists were as tough as the guys on the other side.

The limits of candidates and campaigns, however, can't explain the Democrats' long-term decline. And while the institutional decay at the party's base - the decline of labor unions and ethnically based party organizations - has played a role, the people who point to "moral values" may not be far off. Democrats have paid a historic price for their role in the great moral revolutions that during the past half-century have transformed relations between whites and blacks, men and women, gays and straights. And liberal Democrats, in particular, have been inviting political oblivion - not by advocating the wrong causes, but by letting their political instincts atrophy and relying on the legal system.

To be sure, Democrats were right to challenge segregation and racism, support the revolution in women's roles in society, to protect rights to abortion and to back the civil rights of gays. But a party can make only so many enemies before it loses the ability to do anything for the people who depend on it. For decades, many liberals thought they could ignore the elementary demand of politics - winning elections - because they could go to court to achieve these goals on constitutional grounds. The great thing about legal victories like Roe v. Wade is that you don't have to compromise with your opponents, or even win over majority opinion. But that is also the trouble. An unreconciled losing side and unconvinced public may eventually change the judges.

And now we have reached that point. The Republicans, with their party in control of both elected branches - and looking to create a conservative majority on the Supreme Court that will stand for a generation - see the opportunity to overthrow policies and constitutional precedents reaching back to the New Deal.

That prospect ought to concentrate the liberal mind. Social Security, progressive taxation, affordable health care, the constitutional basis for environmental and labor regulation, separation of church and state - these issues and more hang in the balance.

Under these circumstances, liberal Democrats ought to ask themselves a big question: are they better off as the dominant force in an ideologically pure minority party, or as one of several influences in an ideologically varied party that can win at the polls? The latter, it seems clear, is the better choice.

Rebuilding a national political majority will mean distinguishing between positions that contribute to a majority and those that detract from it. As last year's disastrous crusade for gay marriage illustrated, Democrats cannot allow their constituencies to draw them into political terrain that can't be defended at election time. Dissatisfied with compromise legislation on civil unions and partner benefits, gay organizations thought they could get from judges, beginning with those on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, what the electorate was not yet ready to give. The result: bans on same-sex marriage passing in 11 states and an energized conservative voting base.

Public support for abortion rights is far greater than for gay marriage, but compromise may be equally imperative - especially if a reshaped Supreme Court reverses Roe v. Wade by finding that there is no constitutional right to abortion and throws the issue back to the states. Some savvy Democrats are already thinking along these lines, as Hillary Clinton showed this week when she urged liberals to find "common ground" with those who have misgivings about abortion.

And if a new Supreme Court overturns affirmative-action laws, Democrats will need to pursue equality in ways that avoid treating whites and blacks differently. Some liberals have long been calling for an emphasis on "race neutral" economic policies to recover support among working-class and middle-income white voters. Legal and political necessity may now drive all Democrats in that direction.

Republicans are leaving themselves open to this kind of strategy. Their party is far more ideologically driven and more beholden to the Christian right than it was even during the Ronald Reagan era. This is the source of the party's energy, but also its vulnerability. The Democrats' opportunity lies in becoming a broader, more open and flexible coalition that can occupy the center.

In the long run, Democrats will benefit from their strength among younger voters and the growing Hispanic population. But the last thing the Democrats need is a revived interest group or identity politics. As the response to Senator Barack Obama's convention speech showed, the party's own members are looking for an expansive statement of American character and national purpose.

Secure in their own lives at home, Americans can be a great force for good in the world. That is the liberalism this country once heard from Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy - and it is the only form of liberalism that will give the Democratic Party back its majority.

Paul Starr is the co-editor of The American Prospect and the author, most recently, of "The Creation of the Media."

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The New Republic Online: Speechless

After a brief hiatus I am resuming the task of pointing out to you some of the more interesting opinions of columnists in various media. I will begin with this thoughtful piece out of The New Republic about President Bush's eloquence (or lack thereof) establishing new standards of political discourse, seeking to blur meaning, and distance the speaker form the issues into the fog of banality.
The New Republic Online: Speechless

Thursday, January 06, 2005

The New Yorker: Shouts and Murmurs

The New Yorker: Shouts and Murmurs
Now that Delta Airlines has set the industry on its ear, here is Bruce McCall's sneak preview of things to come at other airlines.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

The New Yorker: The Talk of the Town

The New Yorker: The Talk of the Town
Rebecca Mead calls her column on Bernard Kerik "Meltdown": "Officials have gotten into trouble for sexual misconduct, abusing their authority, personal bankruptcy, failure to file documents, waste of public funds, receiving substantial unrecorded gifts and association with organized crime figures. It is rare for anyone to be under fire on all seven of the above issues." Read on, it is delicious.

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Contributor: No Pain, No Savings

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Contributor: No Pain, No Savings
More on Social Security. "The Administration's tax cuts already save the richest 1 percent of Americans nearly 100 billion dollars a year, an amount that over time would keep Social Security solvent for 75 years."Gene Sperling here argues for transforming Social Security into a kind of Universal 401(k) savings account for all Americans, including the rich and the very rich.

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Contributor: Choose and Lose

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Contributor: Choose and Lose
This is the best explanation of the reasons why the kind of Social Security reform that President Bush seems to favor is not a good idea. Barry Schwartz explains why choice is often not an incentive for action. Also he points out that the costs of administering a system of private investments accounts are from 10 to 30 times higher than the present. Social Security, and this is Bush's great equivocation, is not an investment system but an insurance, aimed at equalizing risks and rewards for all. That is the main reason why Republicans hate it so much: a Government-run system that works well.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

The New York Review of Books: Death in Texas

To start the year thinking about death is nobody's pleasure. Sister Jean Prejean (remember "Dead Man Walking") has written this chronicle of Governor George W. Bush's record of clemency during his stint in Texas. Whether you are for or against the death penalty (I am against, as much of the rest of the civilized world), the cavalier and hypocritical way that W went about executing criminals (130 during his tenure) even shocked Tucker Carlson, that brattish conservative journalist on "Crossfire". Now W is appointing Alberto Gonsalez, his Texas Attorney General, to succeed Ashcroft as U.S. Attorney General, and position him to take Rehnquist's place on the Supreme Court. Mr. Gonsalez also became (in)famous for his memorandum describing the Geneva Convention's provisions against the torture of war prisoners as "quaint." Well, Sister Prejean describes the relationship between W and AG quite well. /href="">The New York Review of Books: Death in Texas

Saturday, January 01, 2005

The New York Review of Books: How Bush Really Won

A big thanks to all of you that have been coming to read the posted articles and whatever I have to say about them. Let us continue in the New Year of 2005 to walk on the progressive road, comforting each other in a cold world of Bushism. If you feel that the world that you would like to see is walking away from you, and that no battle seems to be going our way (are we in step with anyone?), believe that there are as many people who think like you do, as people who hate your guts. You are not alone, you wimpy, latte-sipping, Volvo driving, morally derelict Democrat. If we continue to build community, to work on a more just society, to oppose big business and corporate group-thinking, many others will travel with us. Do not forget that those that the Gods want to ruin, first they drive crazy. The second Bush Administration, with a bit of luck, will do unthinkable evil and expose themselves for what they are. It has already begun.
The following article, a bit long, is worth reading. It is a clear-eyed dissection of the trends in the election of past November.
Happy New year!!! Sursum corda! Up with our hearts!
The New York Review of Books: How Bush Really Won