Seven Degrees from Normal

Two people, eighteen years of marriage, seven college degrees.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Because they are abusers

On the topic of just why the right wing is so mean, Mathew Gross posts a wonderful piece by Mel Gilles, who has worked for years with domestic abuse victims:
We can’t seem to grasp that they will keep hitting us and beating us as long as we keep sticking around and asking ourselves what we are doing to deserve the beating.

Listen to George Bush say that the will of God excuses his behavior. Listen, as he refuses to take responsibility, or express remorse, or even once, admit a mistake. Watch him strut, and tell us that he will only work with those who agree with him, and that each of us is only allowed one question (soon, it will be none at all; abusers hit hard when questioned; the press corps can tell you that). See him surround himself with only those who pledge oaths of allegiance. Hear him tell us that if we will only listen and do as he says and agree with his every utterance, all will go well for us (it won’t; we will never be worthy).

And watch the Democratic Party leadership walk on eggshells, try to meet him, please him, wash the windows better, get out that spot, distance themselves from gays and civil rights. See them cry for the attention and affection and approval of the President and his followers. Watch us squirm. Watch us descend into a world of crazy-making, where logic does not work and the other side tells us we are nuts when we rely on facts. A world where, worst of all, we begin to believe we are crazy.

How to break free? Again, the answer is quite simple.

First, you must admit you are a victim. Then, you must declare the state of affairs unacceptable. Next, you must promise to protect yourself and everyone around you that is being victimized.
There's more: I recommend it. But the first step is the key: Admit (or keep insisting) that it's not right. It's. Not. Right. And fight it. This is not the time for compromise; these are not people for whom compromise means anything other than a chance to cause further pain.

Even when there is nothing that can be done, decent people do something. Do it.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Saving the world, part two

Kevin Drum has a post up summarizing Lakoff's book on framing tactics for liberals. It points up what I think is a pitfall for our framing attempts: liberals have a fixation on the truth that puts us at a disadvantage. And I don't just mean the fixation on facts that Lakoff brings up ("facts don't win arguments"). I mean our belief that the message we come up with must concide with and accurately describe our programs. That's all very nice, but it's not always possible to describe what you're doing, policy-wise, in snappy PR language. And I'm not sure it's always what you need to do anyway. It may work sometimes, but what always works is to float a kick-ass meme and associate it with your product any way you can, and logical connections be damned. Former Dallas Cowboys QB Troy Aikman endorses Acme bricks. What does he know about bricks? I can't even begin to imgine. What does his endorsement do to ensure that I am getting a good brick? Less than nothing. But this isn't about the bricks; it's about getting me to choose them when I build a house.

Is that dishonest? I don't think so. I can probably go find out a lot about Acme bricks if I want to - how they are made, if the company has ever been accused of making a sub-standard product. I could hire an expert to test some of their bricks and see if they're any good. I can go out and find people with houses made of Acme bricks and ask them what they think. As long as the bricks are good, and more, fact-based information on them is readily available to those who want it, there's nothing wrong with getting Troy to endorse them.

In case my anaology has wandered too far afield, here's where I'm going with it: if the policies are good, it doesn't matter what the hell kind of slogan you use to sell them. Am I arguing that the end justifies the means? Possibly - if we live in a world where no one is held accountable for bad policy, real information about policy is restricted, and elections aren't free and fair. That kind of sounds like the system those other guys are busy entrenching right now, doesn't it?

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Hope for the Future

While all of the bad stuff is still going on, there is hope for the future. Some of you know about Giblets on Fafblog! His latest post is great ( its at Breed For Jesus! at . And it brought to me a vision. Yeah, a true vision of the future world!

Today, my family live in a more or les Jesus Free Zone, meaning that while some here believe in God, not all believe in the Republican God. Thus we are able to laugh at Giblets.

All that will change, soon, as W and his Jesus Friends begin to legislate what we can see, hear, and do.

Giblets will be killed by True Christians, and within 4 years Martyred. 10 years from now, when the Republicans have had plenty of time to conduct their Civil War in earnest, a small sect of Anti-Republicans will arise, led by visions of Giblets telling them how to defeat W and his minions (W will still be president - the Jesus people will change the constitution to allow it). Within 2 years, the Gibletsian army will have conquered, and they will usher in a new era of peace, sex, and violent eating that will make of the earth a paradise.

I am now working on the color scheme for the robes that will be worn by the True Gibletsians

So, email me and order your robes now, for the low low price of $19.99! Dont wait 10 years - by then it will be too late!

Scott of the Robes

A day without gay

This post is from the file of "Ideas that Strike you as Really Great after Two Cups of Coffee but May Actually Suck." Timothy Gay's piece in the Star Tribune (his name appears to be merely an ironic coincidence) got me thinking:

In the new world order dictated by champions of "moral values," this wonderful, caring teacher might be branded dangerous. Emboldened by national conservative leaders, the town's evangelicals -- and there are plenty of them -- could well have raised a hue and cry to keep this teacher and "his kind" away from their children. And the town's young people would have been denied the chance to have their lives shaped by a remarkable educator.

Here's what Republicans of conscience have to understand about the machinations of Karl Rove and company. Fear isn't some emotion that can be easily bottled back up after it's been -- viciously -- unleashed. It isn't a once-every-four-years vehicle that can be wheeled out for a few months, then stowed back in the garage to be retooled for the next election cycle. Encouraging fundamentalist preachers to pound their pulpits and inveigh against gay people has consequences. It puts men and women in communities nationwide at personal and professional risk. There's nothing more despicable than creating a phony political issue (just how many gay couples are clamoring for marriage certificates in the state of Ohio, anyhow?) and preying on people's prejudices.

I really liked his warning about future consequences here; but it started me off on another track. I'm sure there are plenty of hate-wingers out there who would love to make sure the gay teacher Gay writes about never got a chance to teach. Or run a bank. Or build a bridge. Or do any of the other things "normal" people with "faith and values" are privileged to do. How to show them the error of their ways?

Did anyone see the movie A Day Without A Mexican that came out this year? In brief, it tracks a day in California when all the Mexicans disappear. And basically, no work gets done.

I know the GLBT community has occasionally done economic boycotts and things, but how about taking a page from the workers of the world and simply not showing up one day? Don't go to work. Don't buy anything. Don't contribute meaningfully to society in any way. In other words, for twenty-four hours, just leave a big, gay-shaped hole in the heart of America. Let the faith and values people see if they can make it without their gay real estate agent to finagle their mortgage points, their gay mechanic who fixes the radiator leak in their Ford pickup, the gay cop who shows up when their suburban fortress is burglarized, the gay doctor who biopsies that disturbing lump. Let them try to run the world for just one day without gay people. They would be shoeless, filthy, and blubbering by 4 p.m.

Wouldn't that be cool?

Sunday, November 21, 2004

They begin to eat their own

Funny, I thought it would be the moderates who began the internecine warfare. I see I had it wrong. When the spoiled, willful children are running the show, each one wants to be the only star.
Intelligence Overhaul Bill Blocked
House Conservatives Deal Blow to President, Speaker in Rejecting Compromise

By Charles Babington and Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, November 21, 2004; Page A01

Long-debated legislation to dramatically reshape the nation's intelligence community collapsed in the House yesterday, as conservative Republicans refused to embrace a compromise because they said it could reduce military control over battlefield intelligence and failed to crack down on illegal immigrants.
I hear it wasn't tough enough on gays, either.
The impasse, which caught congressional leaders by surprise, was a blow to President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and others who had personally asked House conservatives to accept the measure proposed by House-Senate negotiators early yesterday. It also marked a major setback for the Sept. 11 commission -- whose July report triggered a drive toward overhauling the nation's intelligence operations -- and for many relatives of victims of the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Sad -- and scary, of course; for the next four years, just assume we have no functioning intelligence apparatus in this country, and modify your behavior accordingly ('cause the CIA's also being purged, remember).

But this is good:

Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), the chief Senate GOP negotiator, told reporters she was disappointed and surprised that Bush's support of the compromise -- which he expressed via White House statements and telephone calls to a few House Republicans -- was not enough to obtain its passage. "It's surprising," she said, "and what's so frustrating to us is that this bill has such widespread support."

Collins called its collapse a victory for "the forces in favor of the status quo," and said Bush will have to redouble his efforts if the measure is to pass this year.

Associating the GOP with the "status quo" is excellent, and here it's a Republican senator doing it. Bonus points!

Speaking of name association, check out Oliver Willis' "branding efforts" -- he's making T-shirts, and pdf-printable posters would be good too, don't you think? Write and tell him so.

Happy Thanksgiving

I guess we should be thankful it's not our kids.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

I'm ready!

I was ready for the Spongebob Squarepants Movie even before I read the NYT review:
In the wake of the recent election, there's been some talk of healing, but until today no single figure has emerged with the capacity to repair the deep fissures in the body politic. We are so hung up on blue states and red states that our only hope may lie in the primary color that has been left off the map. We need something - or someone - yellow, and also absorbent and porous enough to soak up the ill will and scrub away the lingering bad feelings.

Now more than ever, the country needs SpongeBob SquarePants, and starting today, in theaters everywhere, he answers the call, with a big-screen rendition of the nautical nonsense that has been delighting Nickelodeon viewers - including a great many grown-ups without the alibi of children - for the past five years.
. . . .

SpongeBob is weak, indecisive and easy to ridicule, but he is also loyal, decent and optimistic (and always neatly dressed) - a walking, singing reproof to the glowering, vengeance-seeking macho types who hog all the attention. If you're tired of their bluster and swagger, SpongeBob is your man.


From Martin Van Creveld comes this riveting piece on Moshe Dayan in Vietnam. If you want to know what is happening in Iraq, read it, and weep. If you just want to feel slightly suicidal this weekend, read this excerpt:

In other words, he who fights against the weak – and the rag-tag Iraqi militias are very weak indeed – and loses, loses. He who fights against the weak and wins also loses. To kill an opponent who is much weaker than yourself is unnecessary and therefore cruel; to let that opponent kill you is unnecessary and therefore foolish. As Vietnam and countless other cases prove, no armed force however rich, however powerful, however advanced, and however well motivated is immune to this dilemma. The end result is always disintegration and defeat; if U.S troops in Iraq have not yet started fragging their officers, the suicide rate among them is already exceptionally high. That is why the present adventure will almost certainly end as the previous one did.

Van Creveld is the author of The Transformation of War; sez:
Van Creveld, who teaches history at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, argues that the theories of Karl von Clausewitz, which form the basis for Western strategic thought, are largely irrelevant to nonpolitical wars such as the Islamic jihad and wars for existence such as Israel's Six-Day War. In the future, he prophesies, wars will be waged by groups of terrorists, guerrillas and bandits motivated by fanatical, ideologically-based loyalties; conventional battles will be replaced by skirmishes, bombings and massacres. Weapons will become less, rather than more, sophisticated and the high-tech weapons industry (which "supports itself by exporting its own uselessness") will collapse like a house of cards. A bold, provocative, frightening book.
You don't say. This theory is called "fourth generation warfare," and I find it fascinating, in a ghastly sort of way.

Van Creveld's piece comes via James Wolcott, who depresses us realists even further by summing up:

So thick is the euphoria and triumphalism post November 2nd that I wonder if most of our media, never mind the bovine American public, have any inkling of how ghastily Iraq is going down the drain, and taking the American military with it. We've been so bombarded with "Failure is not an option" that few are willing to assert, as van Creveld and Lind do, that failure may not be an option but it damn well may be the outcome, and quicker than anyone contemplates.

Andrew Sullivan and Thomas Friedman can petition for more troops all they please. It's too late for more troops. We don't have troops to spare as it is, but even if we did, it's too late. It's too late for everything. The blundering mistakes that were made in the first days and weeks of the occupation can't be reversed now--they're incorrectible. The window of opportunity dropped like a guillotine while Donald Rumsfeld was regaling the press corps with his pithy wisdom.

Support our troops. Get them the hell out, now.

Something you can do

Kerry's asking ordinary citizens to "co-sponsor" a new Senate bill guaranteeing health care to all American children. This is a no-brainer policy-wise, plus it will help make the Republicans look like the nasty bunch of bastards they are when they vote it down. Go sign up, and spread the word.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004


Another great headline, this one from The Onion:
Ashcroft Loses Job To Mexican

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Best Powell pun out there

. . . is the title to this Roger Ailes (the good one) posting, Powell Movement:
No, I won't miss Colin, the man who wasn't there. He claimed to have principles but was never seen applying them or standing up for them. His commitment to affirmative action extended only as far as getting his otherwise unemployable son, Michael, a patronage job as America's tit monitor. His devotion to integration of the military was only skin deep. Powell once may have had integrity, but he's long since cut it off and killed it.
And he didn't even stoop to using the man's first name.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

I feel safer

Don't you?

Deputy Chief Resigns From CIA
Agency Is Said to Be in Turmoil Under New Director Goss
By Dana Priest and Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, November 13, 2004; Page A01

The deputy director of the CIA resigned yesterday after a series of confrontations over the past week between senior operations officials and CIA Director Porter J. Goss's new chief of staff that have left the agency in turmoil, according to several current and former CIA officials.

John E. McLaughlin, a 32-year CIA veteran who was acting director for two months this summer until Goss took over, resigned after warning Goss that his top aide, former Capitol Hill staff member Patrick Murray, was treating senior officials disrespectfully and risked widespread resignations, the officials said.

Yesterday, the agency official who oversees foreign operations, Deputy Director of Operations Stephen R. Kappes, tendered his resignation after a confrontation with Murray. Goss and the White House pleaded with Kappes to reconsider and he agreed to delay his decision until Monday, the officials said.

Several other senior clandestine service officers are threatening to leave, current and former agency officials said.

The disruption comes as the CIA is trying to stay abreast of a worldwide terrorist threat from al Qaeda, a growing insurgency in Iraq, the return of the Taliban in Afghanistan and congressional proposals to reorganize the intelligence agencies. The agency also has been criticized for not preventing the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and not accurately assessing Saddam Hussein's ability to produce weapons of mass destruction.

"It's the worst roiling I've ever heard of," said one former senior official with knowledge of the events. "There's confusion throughout the ranks and an extraordinary loss of morale and incentive."

Friday, November 12, 2004

Saving the world, part one

You must never so much as think whether you like it or not, whether it is bearable or not; you must never think of anything except the need, and how to meet it.
- Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross
In the List post (see below; I'm too lazy to link), I outlined a pretty impressive set of scandals that will/may/already have dogged Bush in term two. I stopped at 18, even though I think of additions to the list practically daily. And items from the list are already appearing in the press pretty regularly. Whether the press will follow up on any of them, or do more than say "unnamed sources speaking for the administration denied any problems," remains to be seen. What else can we be doing while we watch the scandals bloom?

Anyone who wants to undo the damage Bush has done needs to offer a compelling alternative. And as I keep saying, this doesn't mean offering logical, well-reasoned, or even moral or ethical reasons to vote for people who are not Bush and who will work against Bush. People who respond to that approach are already on our side. The reality-based community knows what's going on. We need to address the fear and other psychological -- not logical -- factors that have driven some folks over into the Bush camp.

Now, I don't think everyone who voted for Bush is reachable. Some people are, frankly, either too dumb or too mean to see the dangers the man embodies. But even some of the ones you want to throw up your hands about could probably be enlightened. For an extreme example, I give you this little tragedy from Daily Kos:
I work at a domestic violence shelter in a rural conservative district in Mich. that is has had its economy gutted by NAFTA and where Christianity dominates the culture.

Yesterday while reflecting about 4 more years of Bush I was talking with a woman staying in the shelter. I will give her a fake name, lets call her Laura B. Laura is 28, pregnant, (never considered an abortion). She finished highschool and did a year of college before dropping out to have a couple of kids with her military husband. Living in Virginia on base with her autocratic mate (he doesn't allow the boys 3 and 4 to say "yeap" they have to answer "yes sir") drove her crazy and she was hospitalized for suicidal thoughts. Military dude divorced her and has custody.

She came home to Mom in Mich and ended up at our shelter to try and sort out her life. (Mom has no money either and her own problems.) We, like all secular agencies, have seen a steady erosion of funds.

Laura B. has found a job working in the kitchen at a local faith based Christian College. She makes $6/hour. She drives a dying Ford Escort wagon pays $2.15/gallon for gas. Her latest crisis is her insurance expired on Oct. 9 (her ex-partner cancelled policy). She needs to come up with $211 to get insurance for one month or face a $1,000 fine if she gets caught driving with no insurance. We have some public transportation, Dial-a Ride, minibus runs between 7 am and 6 p.m., M-F $1.50 one-way. She has to be at work at 6am.

She has been walking to work lately but it is about 2 miles she is 5 months pregnant, it is dark at 5 am, and winter is coming. Solution? Go begging at the churches who seem to have money for these things. They will give her the money if she attends bible school. So last night she was at bible school until 9 p.m.

She has never attended our domestic violence support groups as she is too tired at night and goes to bed early but the bible study was not optional.

She was excited about "God's message" when she came back.

This week she moves into low income subsidized housing. Her newest crisis is she has found out when the college is closed for the Christmas holiday (one month) she has no employment. She is hoping to find temporary employment as a seasonal retail worker if the Christmas sales are brisk to tide her over. She doesn't know what she will do when the baby is born, hopes she can work up till the last week (she is on her feet all day with this job). She will be eligible for subsidized daycare.

She voted for Bush because of his "family values."
Horrifying, yes? On a listserve I belong to I recently took a stab at addressing the problem of reaching this woman and other, less extreme, examples of people who support Bush against their obvious better interests -- even against their deeply-held values.

Caveat: I only have limited experience here -- I have taught self-defense at a women's martial arts school and our school has a special concern for survivors of violence and abusive relationships. I've also taught rhetoric and composition for years at the college level, and done a bit of free-lance research into propaganda analysis. But from this experience, I can say that what I have seen work is helping people feel and appreciate the personal power they really do have -- power to make choices, to stand up for themselves, to say "no," to be a person. When people feel empowered they are essentially inoculated against the sort of fear-mongering that the Bush crew uses so often. They ask more questions because they feel they have a right to information and, moreover, they trust themselves to make good decisions once they have that information. When they know they are capable of handling real threats, they are better able to distinguish real threats from imagined ones. They do not need to rely on God or the President or Daddy to keep them safe, because they know they are responsible for their own safety. And they also know that there are worse things than being unsafe, such as ceding control over their lives and minds to entities that will betray and abuse them.

I think my experience actually extrapolates well to the current political situation, because the election made me feel like I'd just witnessed a battered woman moving back in with her abusive spouse or boyfriend: How can she do this?

From what I have seen, the kind of empowerment I'm describing happens primarily through one-on-one interaction and modeling, and it's a slow process. It has to be taught and practiced. And I think you really need individuals who embody the ideal to act as models. So is it a workable strategy for progressives? Obama's landslide victory certainly makes me hopeful.

On the rhetorical side, the promising thing is that this model of the empowered, questioning, confident individual parallels so many "old-fashioned" American ideals:

  • America is strong, not just tough. Strength implies wisdom.
  • We are good, trustworthy friends (remember the cries of disbelief after 9-11: "Why do they hate us?" We desperately want to be popular, even if we have no clue how we should go about earning popularity).
  • Americans are savvy - we have an eye for a bargain and we aren't easily fooled.
  • Americans are clever and resourceful. We are good problem-solvers.

Most "liberal values" have never been problematic to the bulk of Americans; they've just been re-defined by the right in unattractive ways. That can be countered -- and it will be doubly easy now, because all the bright shiny words that the Republicans chose for their own have now been so sullied by Bush that they have lost the glow that made them attractive to the masses in the first place. "Tax reform" means record deficits; "freedom" means dead American soldiers and endless battles dragging on in a place where we can't even keep the names straight; "moral values" means vilifying people and telling them what they can and can't do, and so on. I want to post a list of terminology here, describing some basic values that resonate deeply in America, and how they might be "re-branded" by the Democrats/progressives, but this post is getting hugely long and I need to leave for work. So I'll try to get to that this weekend. In the meantime, let me float the beginnings of a plan: what might happen if small groups of people who practice and embody the qualities I've described here (and they don't, by any means, have to be superheroes -- I'm talking about realistic, confident people, is all) could find a way to work at the state and local level to associate themselves, their attitude, and their beliefs with Democrats and Democratic candidates? What if they made organized efforts to speak to clubs, groups, or whatever? What if they found ways to be involved in community events, or even entertain people? Could that make a difference? Could they at least start to float some of these ideas and gauge whether people are as hungry for optimism, strength, kindness, and real compassion as I suspect they are? What would that kind of project look like? Would it involve formal or informal ties with the party itself? If so, at what level? How could you focus the mission of such a group? How could you measure its success? Lotta questions, I know, for a lady who says she has a plan.

Anyway, I'll close with one last hopeful though: fear is exhausting. People can't keep it up indefinitely, and I think they will eventually welcome an ideology of hope, of personal strength that does not hinge on hatred of others (also exhausting). We all need a rest. But progressives are going to have to dig a little deeper and find the energy to get the bulk of Americans feeling optimistic again. We're all at a pretty low ebb right now but if we really believe in the Good and the True than we should naturally be the ones who are able to function when times get rough. Those beliefs have to be sustaining or they aren't any good anyway, right?

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Fuck the south

A former dean at my institution shared this not-safe-for-work gem.

Gimme gimme

So, the Shining Boy now wants

  • Social Security privatized
  • Taxes "reformed," as if he hadn't done anything to the system in the last four years
  • The Supreme Court stacked

. . . all in the name of the "people," whom he claims have requested his agenda by electing him in such a landslide.

And for heaven's sake, the line-item veto?

Will anyone say no to this guy? He's like a toddler on a rampage through Toys R Us.

Henhouse follies

So Bush wants Alberto Gonzalez to be the next Attorney General. You know, the obliging lawyer who wrote those handy one-page summaries that made it so easy for Bush to execute 152 Texas convicts?

Of course, since our previous AG has solved the problems of crime and terrorism already, I guess pretty much anyone will do, right?

Or . . . is it just possible that Gonzalez's authorship of the torture-authorization memos is a factor? After all, as we've pointed out, those memos make Gonzalez, Bush, and every member of the government who helped implement their policies culpable in a federal crime for which they could receive the death penalty.

No, no . . . I'm sure that has nothing to do with it.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Don't blame me, I voted for reality

Getcher bumper stickers here!

Or, more precisely, at our Cafe Press store.

Tell the whole world (or at least the guy behind you) "Don't blame me, I voted for reality."

Also T-shirts.

Ladies' tank has the bonus slogan "He's still lying, they're still dying" on the back. That's Scott's bumper sticker creation, but Cafe Press only gives you one style of each item in the cheap stores. Perhaps we can get him to open his own store.

Sunday, November 07, 2004


Rove carries the news, no less.

Somehow I doubt I'll be able to keep up with the avalanche of failure we're about to see.

List item #4

The Washington Post starts us off -- let's see how long this stays in play, aand whether the talking heads expend much tongue-power on it:

Iraq Declares Martial Law Amid Surge of Violence
21 Iraqis Killed in Latest Insurgent Attacks West of Fallujah
By Karl Vick Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, November 7, 2004; 12:03 PM

BAGHDAD, Nov. 7 -- Iraq's interim government announced a state of emergency on Sunday, imposing martial law on a country braced for a massive U.S. military assault on the city of Fallujah.

The order, read before cameras by a spokesman for interim prime minister Ayad Allawi heightened a sense of crisis in Iraq and fueled fears that an offensive on Fallujah would unleash counterattacks that insurgents appeared to have already begun elsewhere in the country.

Later, Allawi, in a brief meeting with reporters, said the emergency law will be implemented "whenever and wherever is necessary."

Saturday, November 06, 2004

The list, cont.

I'm continuing and condensing the list I started earlier. So far, we have:

1. Abu Ghraib/GITMO investigations
2. The CIA's 9/11 report
3. Valerie Plame
4. Iraq -- many variations; see below
5. Texas re-districting/Delay subpoenas
6. Indian Gambling hearings in the Senate

Let's add a few, and then I'll lovingly polish the brighter gems to a high gloss of potential scandal.

Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly wants us to watch

7. The Senate Intelligence Committee's second report, concerning political responsibility for prewar intelligence failures.
8. The pending resignations of several Supreme Court justices (and subsequent appointment battles in the Senate).

An astute reader of the Austin Chronicle also brings up some good items:

9. Next al Qaeda attack on U.S. soil (and I'll amend this to add "or rumors thereof, with corresponding hysteria")
10. Iraq elects radical anti-U.S. fundamentalist Islamic government
11. Number of kidnapped and murdered civilian hostages in Iraq tops 100
12. War with Iran, Syria, or North Korea (I'll add "or threat of")
13. Deficit tops $10 trillion.

And a few more I came up with:

14. Gaps in Homeland Security
15. Blatant abuse of the Patriot Act
16. Fall of the dollar and spiking interest rates
17. Continued limping of the economic "recovery"

I want to expand on #s 4, 5, 14, and 15.
4. Iraq
  • Renewed focus on Iraqi casualties -- When will they hit 1500? 2000?
  • The wounded -- will they become more visible, the grievous nature of their disabilities more graphic?
  • Will the inadequate nature of veterans' support and healthcare be highlighted? And how the Bush administration has sought to, and actually, cut those benefits?
  • Iraqi civilian deaths -- will they become any more visible, especially after we flatten Falluja?
  • Draft -- will we have one or will we cut and run? Those are the only two options -- will the cleft nature of this stick be made clear?
  • Troop mutinies -- I expect these to increase, unless we get the hell out. Will they be publicized?
5. Texas re-districting/Delay subpoenas
  • Delay won re-election with only 55% of the vote. With the continued accretion of scandal from the TRMPAC investigation (illegal campaign contributions), he is a ripe target for picking off in 2006. Texas Dems will be watching and working this one hard.
  • The re-districting of Texas, which TRMPAC paid for (it was, in fact, TRMPAC's raison d'etre) is in court and may not stand -- the Supremes themselves said it needed to be reconsidered in light of an earlier judgement that Colorado could not re-district at will simply to alter partisan balance. God knows what happens if the re-districing plan in place is overturned -- do we revert to the original lines in the next election? At any rate, it will make life more difficult for the GOP and could well result in a thinner Republican majority in the House. That, coupled with some major work on the '06 elections, could tip the balance of power to the Dems in Congress. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
12. Gaps in Homeland Security
  • Continuing shortfalls in airline security staffing and training.
  • Lack of appropriated funding to fix the problems.
  • Specific incidents pointing this up: "Journalist boards plane with stun gun," "Mentally ill passenger found sleeping in cockpit of US Air passenger jet." You know the kind of story I'm talking about.
13. Blatant abuse of the Patriot Act
  • Specific incidents of civil liberties being stomped.
  • Comments from administration officials demonstrating their disdain for civil liberties -- we know they make them, hopefully they'll be even more arrogant and careless now. Let's catch some of them on tape!
  • Outcomes of NYC protest trials. A preliminary ruling in the cases of the thousands of GOP convention protestors ordered the city to pay each one $1000 for locking them up without cause. If this stands, NYC is looking at a bill of several million dollars. Think they'll ask the RNC to cover the tab?

Now, why does this list even matter? Well, for one, I function best as a spoiler anyway, so it's natural for me to look for all the possible screw-ups on the horizon. But I'm also thinking about the millions of non-evangelical, non-homophobic Americans who voted for Bush because they are scared, because they were guessing and hoping he would somehow outperform his record and actually keep them safe, that he wouldn't use their approval as an excuse to make things worse while further enriching his buddies. We need to keep rubbing those people's noses in their mistake.

At Daily Kos, they say it this way:
This is going to be a very unpleasant ride. Those who didn't want this didn't win. Some voted for Bush because this is what they wanted (be careful what you wish for). Those who voted on the idea that Bush would 'fix' these problems in some vague way (and there were lots of those) are also the ones to watch. I am not one to believe that these are permanent Republican voters. They weren't ours this time, but reality is still out there (think Iraq), and Clinton is getting tougher to blame for everything. Schumer isn't giving up. There will be Republican setbacks despite this election. Political capital is gone once it's spent.

That's our job now. Keep all these things in play. What that means for starters is: watch for stories on these items -- and not in the major media. They will likely appear in small independent papers, radio, and the Web. They then need to be forced into the mainstream press where they will be noticed by those who had hoped Bush would magically become competent. So, email those stories to your friends, write letters to the editors of papers asking for more information on them, talk about them every chance you get. When major media do cover those stories, write and tell them they did a good job. Write follow-up letters to the editor filling in additional information or context left out of the original story. Support their sponsors.

I admit, that's not much in the grand scheme of things, but after all I'm not Seymour Hersh. We need to couple this kind of work with work on legislative races at the state level, with an eye toward taking back Congress in 2006 and possibly impeaching. That's the other side of this coin. It's not about sour grapes, or being spoilers just for the fun of it. It's about leverage. I'll get another post up on that topic soon, I hope. In the meantime, give me your suggestions for additions to the list. What will you be watching for in the next two years?

UPDATE: Let me go ahead and add #18: Pushing radical "reforms" that the bulk of Americans demonstrably do not want, such as Social Security privatization. And can I point out that #s 4, 8, 16 and 18 are in the news at this very moment? I should start a Google news alert system linked to this list, I guess.

Friday, November 05, 2004


My friend David writes via email:

Blogger seems to be bogged down and won't accept comments, so I'm sending you mine: amen to your assessment of the "I will work to earn your support" bullshit. I was deeply offended when I heard that, for reasons not dissimilar from yours. As for the chicken-killing trick: that only works if the dog can smell. Recent results suggest that more than half the dog can't: how much worse will the chicken have to stink before that half notices? And how much should the olfactorily-abled have to suffer because they don't/can't/won't?

Adam Newton points out that the electoral vote map ( has a nice one, with results viewable by county, in shaded colors, even) is blue only on the coasts and in the midwest--in short, where people actually read, the state is blue. It's actually laughable how much the red states match the stereotypes of them as havens for redneck hicks. Bottom line: I'm not taking a job in any county that isn't at least white on that map, if not sky blue or darker.
You can see a more detailed, county-by-county map here; it's a fascinating look at how the electoral college skews the popular vote.

The bulk of the red states are also "deadbeat states" -- they get more federal dollars back in the form of subsidies, military spening, pork, and other programs, than they put into the federal pot through taxes. They essentially live off the productivity of the blue states. But boy, do they hate big gubmint!

As far as the dog analogy -- yes, it does suck if you have to live with the dog while that chicken is festering. But the alternative is to shoot the dog. Not an option, politically, I'm afraid. In terms of the Lincoln quote I posted earlier, I didn't turn my back on the fire, but I still have blisters. That's the downside of living in an organized society, I guess -- other people's actions affect you whether you like it or not. Makes a nice, quiet cave seem pretty attractive, ddoesn't it?

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Thoughts for the day

I'm working on a longer, detailed post concerning long-range plans. In the meantime, some thoughts:
"This may be the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves; finally just lay back and say it - that we are really just a nation of 220 million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns, and no qualms at all about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable." - Hunter S. Thompson, from Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, November 1972

"When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall - think of it, ALWAYS." - M. Gandhi

And also from Gandhi:
"Everything you do will be unimportant, but it is very important that you do it."
What to do then? Read this gorgeous message by Clarissa Estés if you need a shot of hope and inspiration.

And Molly Ivins tells us how to cure a chicken-killing dog:

Some people think you cannot break a dog that has got in the habit of killin' chickens, but my friend John Henry always claimed you could. He said the way to do it is to take one of the chickens the dog has killed and wire the thing around the dog's neck, good and strong. And leave it there until that dead chicken stinks so bad that no other dog or person will even go near that poor beast. Thing'll smell so bad the dog won't be able to stand himself. You leave it on there until the last little bit of flesh rots and falls off, and that dog won't kill chickens again.

The Bush administration is going to be wired around the neck of the American people for four more years, long enough for the stench to sicken everybody. It should cure the country of electing Republicans.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Fuck reconciliation

So Bush makes a token plea for reconciliation before plunging into his post-mandate spree of depravity. You want my support and my trust? You and your minions have called me, in the last three years, "unpatriotic," a "deluded apologist for evil," "weak," "immoral," and "radical." You've arrested those of us who dared to wear T-shirts that named your political opponent, or even championed civil liberties. You've stated that friends and relatives of mine are less than human because their sexuality differs from yours. You've embroiled our nation in a pointless war, squandered the capital of goodwill toward America engendered by 9/11, made us less safe, indebted our children, and denied any culpability for anything that's gone wrong. Please keep strongly in mind that 49% of voting Americans hate you with a deep and abiding passion. You cannot blackmail us into giving our consent, "for the good of the country." You should have thought about the good of the country long ago; it's too late now.

Margaret Cho says it very nicely:

The Bush administration will be sorry they won this battle, for they now look forward to losing the war. Ultimately, a government cannot defeat its people, no matter how much power they assume or how corrupt they are. Even though today feels like a defeat, there is no loss. There is only opportunity. Now we have the chance to challenge everything, fight everything. The possibilities are tremendous.
I like to fight. Thank you, Mr. President, for giving us such a huge and varied target as your second administration promises to be.

Number 6 for the list

The Bull Moose has some encouraging day-after thoughts. And in his succeeding post, he notes that we should
keep an eagle eye on the Indian Gambling hearings that will resume in the Senate next week. This ugly matter involves key players in the Republican establishment including cronies of Tom Delay, Ralph Reed and other political scoundrels.
Good advice. I'll add it to the list.

Onward and downward

Elections belong to the people. It is their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.
-- Abraham Lincoln
The first entry ever on this blog (two whole months ago) was titled "If Bush wins." While we still don't know that that's the case, I'll assume for the moment that Mr. War President will be in place for at least another two years, depending on impeachment and other proceedings. What to do?

First, what not to do:

Despair, blame, wonder what is wrong with the Democratic party and the nation in general. I can tell you in one word what the problem is: fear. People in this country have been scared shitless for three years and they are not rational. I say this as someone who 1) suffers from anxiety disorder and has learned to recognize and manage fear, both rational and irrational; 2) has taught personal safety and self-defense, where people's perceptions of their safety and their control over situations are crucial; 3) has done a fair amount of informal study in propaganda analysis, tangential to teaching rhetoric and argumentation at the college level.

So what we're seeing in election results, I think, is actually a slowing of the fear factor -- two years ago the midterms were essentially a stampede to the party of Daddy Will Save Us. That slowed considerably this year. As reality continues to erode the Bush storyline of successful leadership, people will be able to consider their fears more objectively. They will become more rational. Not a lot more; this is America, after all. But we went into this election with a huge psychological handicap. It won't be at this level forever, Terror Threat Warnings notwithstanding.

Disengage. Fatal. I'd like to myself, and I may for a couple of days. It's what They want, of course. Don't hand it to them. We are dealing with people who will never be satisfied with the enormous power they have; they want everything, including all your rights. Moreover, these are people who actually seem to prefer dirty tricks to outright victory and they will just as happily stab you in the back as in the front. If you disengage you will end up worse off than if you fight, no question about it.

Assume you are alone. Over 54 million people voted for Kerry, plenty of whom really didn't care for him all that much. And you aren't alone if you keep fighting. Keep in mind that there have already been a few of the powerful who have thrown themselves beneath the Bush juggernaut: Paul O'Neill, Eric Shinseki, Richard Clarke, Rand Beers, Joe Wilson, Eric Shaeffer, Colleen Rowley, Sibel Edmonds. Some have been thrown there whether they would or no: Valerie Plame, John O'Neill, Max Cleland. There will be others, great and small. They're all heroes to me. Do you want to let these people fight alone, or, if it comes down to that, go down alone? Of course not.

What we should do:

Stay connected. The networked communities and contact lists built by MoveOn and other groups during the last two years are an incredibly powerful tool. They've done much to get us as far as we've gotten. They are fertile ground for future action.

Expect action; demand action. A lot of pent-up investigations are going to burst free now, because people were waiting to see if they could unseat Bush by electoral means. Failing that, they will attempt to run his ass out of town any way they can -- and there are many ways to do this, all of which he richly deserves. Here are a few of the threads to watch:

1. Abu Ghraib/GITMO investigations. Stymied up until now, more people are going to leak material to the press that confirms even more hideous events at U.S. hands. Bush and a number of members of his administration already appear to be candidates for capital punishment based on the memos that authorized torture at Abu Ghraib (note the Conspiracy clause, c). William Rivers Pitt notes that
The Convention against Torture, given the force of American law in 1996, states: "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture." Simply put, there is no rationale available to George W. Bush or any of his people that removes them from the need to obey the law.
2. The CIA's 9/11 report. They've been sitting on this until after the election. Wonder how they will do the damage control when they do let it out? Porter Goss wants them to remove all names.

3. Valerie Plame outing. They will tie this one off at the third tier, I think, meaning no one higher than Scott Libby will go down. But it could play out differently, and it will probably shake up the press corps a bit.

4. Iraq, Iraq, Iraq. Actually, I think the odds are good that flight-suit boy will cut and run within a few months. A draft is inevitable if we stay in and if he starts a draft this country will, in fact, burn. The question is how much egg (i.e., blood of innocents) he will have on his face.

5. Tom Delay subpoenas. Not directly linked to the administration, but germane to the whole GOP apparatus.

Stay reality-based, and watch the trends. One approach to propaganda analysis looks at people's perceptions versus their attitudes (note to real propaganda analysts: I'm a hack, sorry. I've been trying to get into a graduate program for years but can't find one not attached to a Journalism school). Perception and attitude are linked, but the causal flow between them isn't always what you would call "rational." The classic example here is when you have a neighbor who always struck you as perfectly normal, until the police tell you he has a bunch of bodies buried in his backyard, at which point you suddenly realize that, you know, there was something kind of funny about him all along. Your attitude toward mass murderers being necessarily different from your attitude toward non-murderous neighbors, your perception of the guy has to change too, in order to line up with your new attitude.

For example, if I perceive Bush as strong and resolute, my attitude would naturally be positive. (I mean, if we assume that one could perceive him this way). But let's say Bush keeps doing all the same things that made me perceive him as strong and resolute: he talks tough, he looks unworried, he doesn't alter his approach to the war or anything else. My perception of him is unchanged, and therefore my attitude should be too, right? Not necessarily. The causal flow can work backwards as well -- it just does so on a less rational, perhaps you might say subconscious, level. That is, I see the war in Iraq going badly. I see the economy in the toilet. I see Osama bin Laden running free and filming segments for America's Funniest Home Videos. In short, I begin to notice that Bush is kind of a loser and a fuck-up. Being an American, I don't like losers. So my attitude toward Bush starts to go negative. How to reconcile that with my perceptions? Well, my perceptions have to change. I begin to notice that he looks a little shifty, or that he actually is kind of annoying when he makes jokes about missing weapons of mass destruction.

We saw this happening after the first debate. If we had been winning Iraq in any sense of the word, Bush's performance there would probably have had little or no impact on people's perception of him. As it was, lots of folks were (in my opinion), already looking for some traits to justify their growing attitude shift. It was especially noticeable on the right-wing blogs, where people are heavily invested in their attitude toward Bush (winner), and therefore failed to even perceive many of the truly annoying behaviors that the bulk of America picked up on.

This trend will continue. As the shift in attitude alters the perception of Bush, he will become more vulnerable to things that he seemed invulnerable to previously: impeachment, prosecution for war crimes, censure for any number of things. They all become much more plausible if people simply don't like the man anymore.

Gore Vidal has said Bush will leave office as the most hated President in history. 55 million people or so still need to be convinced. Luckily, Bush himself will make most of the case for us. But we should be there ready to point out his failings and press for accountability.

This post has gotten huge, so I'll stop here for now. Later tonight I'll start linking to other groups and people with more suggestions.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004