The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Devilstower - Venn Politics

Venn Politics
by Devilstower
Wed Mar 15, 2006 at 06:57:13 AM PDT

See if any of this strikes you as familiar:

...this is more a reflection of a Democratic party that is rudderless... reflect splits within the party about what it means to be a Democrat -- and what a winning Democratic formula will be ... while Democrats have no shortage of criticism to offer, they have so far not introduced a strategy for governing...

Article after article expresses the opposite view of Republicans. Though the recent plummet in Bush's popularity has opened some schisms between the administration and the rest of the party, Republicans are seen as being "united," and "on message," and "delivering a clear platform."

You think that's because Democrats are a big tent and Republicans are just a bunch of white guys who all think alike? Partly right. But what makes Republicans able to march in lockstep isn't their similarity -- it's because they've learned to exploit their differences.

A Confederacy of Opposites

There's a general assumption that politics is about 'coalition building.' Find enough people that go along with a position and you can become a force to be reckoned with. Stitch several of these groups together, and you're celebrating at the inaugural ball. That's all true. Only the idea of what a "coalition" means is often misinterpreted as a bunch of folks with shared ideas, concerns or "values." Nope. All it means is that you can get them to vote with you. These folks can have as little in common as Dick Cheney and a Mississippi farmer, but as long as they're voting together, all their differences don't mean a thing.

On the other hand, a group of people who have shared beliefs can squabble like there's no tomorrow. The worst arguments aren't over the differences between black and white, they're over differentiating off-white and eggshell. When you agree with someone 98.5% of the time, that last one and a half percent becomes like sand shoved down into an oyster -- only it generally gives only the irritation and not the pearl. No one can annoy you like someone you love. Don't believe me? Ask your mom.

Republicans get along because Republicans are a coalition of strangers. And it's always easy to be polite to strangers.

The largest group that makes up the Republican base can be summed up with a two word phrase -- and it's not "lilly white." It's "lower taxes." Some of these people may make a pretense at being libertarian. Some of them are unapologetically avaricious Burnsian hand-rubbers. All of them have made the same Faustian bargain "give me lower taxes, and I don't care what else you do." No matter how much they may sing the song of this right, that right, or the other right, they will follow anyone who promises to reduce the rate on capital gains -- and they'll do it even if they don't have any capital gains. They have determined that there is no sin greater than taxes.

On the great Venn Diagram of politics, the Republican Party looks like this

That larger circle represents the "give me lower taxes or... hell, just give me lower taxes" bulk of the Republican Party. So what's the smaller circle? That's the moralists. That's the part of the party that says abortion is a sin, being gay is a sin, and being non-white or non-American is a punishment from God.

Members of this second group are more likely to know the inner workings of the John Birch Society than the American Enterprise Group. They don't care about scaling back OSHA. They don't have many thoughts on CEO pay. In fact, they don't spare many brain cells for anything not involved in stopping abortion and hating gays.

Which makes the two groups perfect allies.

A new law stopping abortions in South Dakota? Group A, the taxes are sin group, looks at this and says "means nothing to me, but if it helps us get the votes to lower taxes on cigarettes, I'm for it." Group B, the sin is sin group, takes this vote, and returns one on some other topic that they're equally indifferent about.

They're in nigh on perfect back-scratching harmony, because they share almost no overlapping concerns.

A War Among Friends

When we look at Democrats... and aw gee, do we have to? I mean we get Joe Lieberman and Howard Dean and Hillary Clinton and John Kerry and Bill Richardson and John Edwards and my man Russ Feingold into the same room and what can they agree on? Answer: nearly frackin* everything.

On almost every issue of substance, the positions of the most vocal Democratic squabblers land solidly in line. But it's the almost and the of substance that are causing us fits. A Venn diagram of the Democratic Party looks like this:

Got a position on women's issues? Hey, so does every group within the party. Abortion rights? Thirty seven flavors. Environment? We're all in favor of that, and we have eight hundred proposals to prove it. The Democratic Party is suffering from a state of violent agreement.

Part of that's natural. One of the core Democratic tenets really is a support of education, not just in the sense of putting books into classrooms and cutting ribbons on new schools, but education as in being open to ideas and opinions. That openness means we get a party where every master of one field is also an interested amateur in all the rest -- and no one fights to show off their puny packet of knowledge like a dilettante whose depth of experience is exceeded by the thickness of a soap bubble.

What's that one sad little circle sitting all alone within the Democratic diagram? That's African-Americans. They used to overlap with the rest of us, back when Democrats made a pretense at supporting working families and equal rights. Since those things have been pushed over into the "sure, sure, we like that but we're not going to do a damn thing about it" column, African-Americans have been cut adrift.

Democrats have used them a bit like Republicans and their "save the unborn babies, kill the infidels" group -- we make grand speeches to them each election season. Only the Republicans have remembered to actually support their internal allies once they're up there making the sausage. Democrats have a little black hole in their memory that shows a few signs of activity every two years and really warms up every four. Then they go back to squabbling over things that African-Americans don't care about.

So far, Democrats have been able to drag the African American group along, but promises are wearing thin. If the Republican "tax me not" group can figure out a pitch that would lure in African Americans without requiring that one tenth of one percent more be paid on estates over one billion dollars, they'll go for it. Believe me, they're wearing down a lot of pencils on this right now, because they know that, though the African American circle has floated in the Democratic diagram for a long time, it's now held in by little more than the memory of old partnerships. As long as Democrats are offering scarcely more than words... well hell, Republicans can offer words.

Giving up some things to win everything

So what do we do about it? How can Democrats stop fighting their own civil wars over the proper method of crossing T's and dotting I's long enough to win some elections and get some blasted work done?

They have to learn to give up.

Not that we have to give up to Republicans, or surrender our ideals. We have to learn to surrender territory within our own coalition. Democrats are often out to prove how smart they are by coming up with a new angle, a slightly different view on an issue. They want their own position that shows they're informed and innovative. To that I say: please, please stop it.

If someone has a position on abortion rights with which you agree 99%, don't get in front of a camera and talk about the other one percent (and yes, Joe L. and Joe B., I'm looking at you. Bozos.) Don't wait for something better. For God's sake, don't check the polls. Just support it.

If you're not the expert on foreign policy, don't pretend to be. Listen to the folks who have put in the years and come up with thoughtful solutions. Then just nod your head.

You, you personally, do not need to be the champion of every cause and an expert on every subject. Admit your shortcomings confess your own failings and lack of knowledge. Pick a circle. Hell, pick several circles. Work hard to understand the things that are most important to you and to stay informed on other issues. But when someone else from one of those other circles, someone who has worked until their brains are leaking out their ears, asks for something, don't cut them down because you don't like the way they cut their hair.

Learn to be "selflessly greedy." You can get what you want, if you're willing to have other people get what they need and not play speed bump on their road. Scratch some backs, damn it. We're a really diverse group, but the only way we can win is by putting that diversity out there as an advantage, instead of letting our internal fights drag us backwards.

We need to learn what it means to have a working coalition. Look for those things that are in someone else's circle, but not so strongly in your own, and lend them support. It's fine to point out issues that you believe are important, but don't insist that everyone must step completely into your circle before they're on your side. If an environmental group lists saving National Parks as their top priority, don't give them a "you guys better take care of CO2 first" lecture. Don't ignore them until they're focusing on what you believe it the top issue. Just help them. And then look for their support when you push forward on your own issue. You give to them, they give to you, you don't have to always agree. That's what it means to be in a coalition.

Republicans didn't give up on tax cuts because they felt they should be focusing on redistricting, or surrender on abortion limits to concentrate on gay marriage. We can all win at the same time, if we learn to use our differences to help us work together.

Oh yeah, and we better damn well decide that the concerns of African Americans are more than good window dressing for our next set of campaigns, or we're going to wake up one day and find they're decorating windows over at some party willing to give them some real return on their investment.

Now go out there and Venn! Um, I mean, win!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

"The Final Word is Hooray!"


"The Final Word Is Hooray!"
Remembering the Iraq War's Pollyanna pundits


Weeks after the invasion of Iraq began, Fox News Channel host Brit Hume delivered a scathing speech critiquing the media's supposedly pessimistic assessment of the Iraq War.

"The majority of the American media who were in a position to comment upon the progress of the war in the early going, and even after that, got it wrong," Hume complained in the April 2003 speech (Richmond Times Dispatch, 4/25/04). "They didn't get it just a little wrong. They got it completely wrong."

Hume was perhaps correct--but almost entirely in the opposite sense. Days or weeks into the war, commentators and reporters made premature declarations of victory, offered predictions about lasting political effects and called on the critics of the war to apologize. Three years later, the Iraq War grinds on at the cost of at least tens of thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars.

Around the same time as Hume's speech, syndicated columnist Cal Thomas declared (4/16/03): "All of the printed and voiced prophecies should be saved in an archive. When these false prophets again appear, they can be reminded of the error of their previous ways and at least be offered an opportunity to recant and repent. Otherwise, they will return to us in another situation where their expertise will be acknowledged, or taken for granted, but their credibility will be lacking."

Gathered here are some of the most notable media comments from the early days of the Iraq War.

Declaring Victory

"Iraq Is All but Won; Now What?"
(Los Angeles Times headline, 4/10/03)

"Now that the combat phase of the war in Iraq is officially over, what begins is a debate throughout the entire U.S. government over America's unrivaled power and how best to use it."
(CBS reporter Joie Chen, 5/4/03)

"Congress returns to Washington this week to a world very different from the one members left two weeks ago. The war in Iraq is essentially over and domestic issues are regaining attention."
(NPR's Bob Edwards, 4/28/03)

"Tommy Franks and the coalition forces have demonstrated the old axiom that boldness on the battlefield produces swift and relatively bloodless victory. The three-week swing through Iraq has utterly shattered skeptics' complaints."
(Fox News Channel's Tony Snow, 4/27/03)

"The only people who think this wasn't a victory are Upper Westside liberals, and a few people here in Washington."
(Charles Krauthammer, Inside Washington, WUSA-TV, 4/19/03)

"We had controversial wars that divided the country. This war united the country and brought the military back."
(Newsweek's Howard Fineman--MSNBC, 5/7/03)

"We're all neo-cons now."
(MSNBC's Chris Matthews, 4/9/03)

"The war was the hard part. The hard part was putting together a coalition, getting 300,000 troops over there and all their equipment and winning. And it gets easier. I mean, setting up a democracy is hard, but it is not as hard as winning a war."
(Fox News Channel's Fred Barnes, 4/10/03)

"Oh, it was breathtaking. I mean I was almost starting to think that we had become inured to everything that we'd seen of this war over the past three weeks; all this sort of saturation. And finally, when we saw that it was such a just true, genuine expression. It was reminiscent, I think, of the fall of the Berlin Wall. And just sort of that pure emotional expression, not choreographed, not stage-managed, the way so many things these days seem to be. Really breathtaking."
(Washington Post reporter Ceci Connolly, appearing on Fox News Channel on 4/9/03, discussing the pulling down of a Saddam Hussein statue in Baghdad, an event later revealed to have been a U.S. military PSYOPS operation [stunt]--Los Angeles Times, 7/3/04)

Mission Accomplished?

"The war winds down, politics heats up.... Picture perfect. Part Spider-Man, part Tom Cruise, part Ronald Reagan. The president seizes the moment on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific."
(PBS's Gwen Ifill, 5/2/03, on George W. Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech)

"We're proud of our president. Americans love having a guy as president, a guy who has a little swagger, who's physical, who's not a complicated guy like Clinton or even like Dukakis or Mondale, all those guys, McGovern. They want a guy who's president. Women like a guy who's president. Check it out. The women like this war. I think we like having a hero as our president. It's simple. We're not like the Brits."
(MSNBC's Chris Matthews, 5/1/03)

"He looked like an alternatively commander in chief, rock star, movie star, and one of the guys."
(CNN's Lou Dobbs, on Bush's 'Mission Accomplished' speech, 5/1/03)

Neutralizing the Opposition

"Why don't the damn Democrats give the president his day? He won today. He did well today."
(MSNBC's Chris Matthews, 4/9/03)

"What's he going to talk about a year from now, the fact that the war went too well and it's over? I mean, don't these things sort of lose their--Isn't there a fresh date on some of these debate points?"
(MSNBC's Chris Matthews, speaking about Howard Dean--4/9/03)

"If image is everything, how can the Democratic presidential hopefuls compete with a president fresh from a war victory?"
(CNN's Judy Woodruff, 5/5/03)

"It is amazing how thorough the victory in Iraq really was in the broadest context..... And the silence, I think, is that it's clear that nobody can do anything about it. There isn't anybody who can stop him. The Democrats can't oppose--cannot oppose him politically."
(Washington Post reporter Jeff Birnbaum-- Fox News Channel, 5/2/03)

Nagging the "Naysayers"

"Now that the war in Iraq is all but over, should the people in Hollywood who opposed the president admit they were wrong?"
(Fox News Channel's Alan Colmes, 4/25/03)

"I doubt that the journalists at the New York Times and NPR or at ABC or at CNN are going to ever admit just how wrong their negative pronouncements were over the past four weeks."
(MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, 4/9/03)

"I'm waiting to hear the words 'I was wrong' from some of the world's most elite journalists, politicians and Hollywood types.... I just wonder, who's going to be the first elitist to show the character to say: 'Hey, America, guess what? I was wrong'? Maybe the White House will get an apology, first, from the New York Times' Maureen Dowd. Now, Ms. Dowd mocked the morality of this war....

"Do you all remember Scott Ritter, you know, the former chief U.N. weapons inspector who played chief stooge for Saddam Hussein? Well, Mr. Ritter actually told a French radio network that -- quote, "The United States is going to leave Baghdad with its tail between its legs, defeated." Sorry, Scott. I think you've been chasing the wrong tail, again.

"Maybe disgraced commentators and politicians alike, like Daschle, Jimmy Carter, Dennis Kucinich, and all those others, will step forward tonight and show the content of their character by simply admitting what we know already: that their wartime predictions were arrogant, they were misguided and they were dead wrong. Maybe, just maybe, these self-anointed critics will learn from their mistakes. But I doubt it. After all, we don't call them 'elitists' for nothing."
(MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, 4/10/03)

"Over the next couple of weeks when we find the chemical weapons this guy was amassing, the fact that this war was attacked by the left and so the right was so vindicated, I think, really means that the left is going to have to hang its head for three or four more years."
(Fox News Channel's Dick Morris, 4/9/03)

"This has been a tough war for commentators on the American left. To hope for defeat meant cheering for Saddam Hussein. To hope for victory meant cheering for President Bush. The toppling of Mr. Hussein, or at least a statue of him, has made their arguments even harder to defend. Liberal writers for ideologically driven magazines like The Nation and for less overtly political ones like The New Yorker did not predict a defeat, but the terrible consequences many warned of have not happened. Now liberal commentators must address the victory at hand and confront an ascendant conservative juggernaut that asserts United States might can set the world right."
(New York Times reporter David Carr, 4/16/03)

"Well, the hot story of the week is victory.... The Tommy Franks-Don Rumsfeld battle plan, war plan, worked brilliantly, a three-week war with mercifully few American deaths or Iraqi civilian deaths.... There is a lot of work yet to do, but all the naysayers have been humiliated so far.... The final word on this is, hooray."
(Fox News Channel's Morton Kondracke, 4/12/03)

"Shouldn't the [Canadian] prime minister and all of us who thought the war was hasty and dangerous and wrongheaded admit that we were wrong? I mean, with the pictures of those Iraqis dancing in the streets, hauling down statues of Saddam Hussein and gushing their thanks to the Americans, isn't it clear that President Bush and Britain's Tony Blair were right all along? If we believe it's a good thing that Hussein's regime has been dismantled, aren't we hypocritical not to acknowledge Bush's superior judgment?... Why can't those of us who thought the war was a bad idea (or, at any rate, a premature one) let it go now and just join in celebrating the victory wrought by our magnificent military forces?"
(Washington Post's William Raspberry, 4/14/03)

"Some journalists, in my judgment, just can't stand success, especially a few liberal columnists and newspapers and a few Arab reporters."
(CNN's Lou Dobbs, 4/14/03)

"Sean Penn is at it again. The Hollywood star takes out a full-page ad out in the New York Times bashing George Bush. Apparently he still hasn't figured out we won the war."
(MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, 5/30/03)


"This will be no war -- there will be a fairly brief and ruthless military intervention.... The president will give an order. [The attack] will be rapid, accurate and dazzling.... It will be greeted by the majority of the Iraqi people as an emancipation. And I say, bring it on."
(Christopher Hitchens, in a 1/28/03 debate-- cited in the Observer,

"I will bet you the best dinner in the gaslight district of San Diego that military action will not last more than a week. Are you willing to take that wager?"
(Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly, 1/29/03)

"It won't take weeks. You know that, professor. Our military machine will crush Iraq in a matter of days and there's no question that it will."
(Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly, 2/10/03)

"There's no way. There's absolutely no way. They may bomb for a matter of weeks, try to soften them up as they did in Afghanistan. But once the United States and Britain unleash, it's maybe hours. They're going to fold like that."
(Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly, 2/10/03)

"He [Saddam Hussein] actually thought that he could stop us and win the debate worldwide. But he didn't--he didn't bargain on a two- or three week war. I actually thought it would be less than two weeks."
(NBC reporter Fred Francis, Chris Matthews Show, 4/13/03)

Weapons of Mass Destruction

NPR's Mara Liasson: Where there was a debate about whether or not Iraq had these weapons of mass destruction and whether we can find it...

Brit Hume: No, there wasn't. Nobody seriously argued that he didn't have them beforehand. Nobody.
(Fox News Channel, April 6, 2003)

"Speaking to the U.N. Security Council last week, Secretary of State Colin Powell made so strong a case that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is in material breach of U.N. resolutions that only the duped, the dumb and the desperate could ignore it."
(Cal Thomas, syndicated column, 2/12/03)

"Saddam could decide to take Baghdad with him. One Arab intelligence officer interviewed by Newsweek spoke of "the green mushroom" over Baghdad--the modern-day caliph bidding a grotesque bio-chem farewell to the land of the living alongside thousands of his subjects as well as his enemies. Saddam wants to be remembered. He has the means and the demonic imagination. It is up to U.S. armed forces to stop him before he can achieve notoriety for all time."
(Newsweek, 3/17/03)

"Chris, more than anything else, real vindication for the administration. One, credible evidence of weapons of mass destruction. Two, you know what? There were a lot of terrorists here, really bad guys. I saw them."
(MSNBC reporter Bob Arnot, 4/9/03)

"Even in the flush of triumph, doubts will be raised. Where are the supplies of germs and poison gas and plans for nukes to justify pre-emption? (Freed scientists will lead us to caches no inspectors could find.) What about remaining danger from Baathist torturers and war criminals forming pockets of resistance and plotting vengeance? (Their death wish is our command.)"
(New York Times' William Safire, 4/10/03)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

McJoan - Censuring the President 101

Censuring the President 101
by mcjoan (Dailykos)
Tue Mar 14, 2006 at 08:31:37 PM PDT

We're living in a PowerPoint world. We've become a bullet-point-dependent society. If it can't be summed up succinctly in a handful of slides, then it must not be worth saying. If you're a Member of Congress with a dozen issue briefings to get through every day, then you're more reliant upon the bullet point than anyone.

In that light, let's try a new approach in information presentation to our representatives.

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
# Passed in 1978, provides the executive branch with clear authority to wiretap suspected terrorists inside the United States
# Amended since 1978 to expand surveillance authority of the executive branch and address new technological developments
# It and the criminal wiretap law are the "exclusive means by which electronic surveillance" may be conducted by the United States Government
# Makes it a crime to wiretap individuals without complying with it's provisions
# Permits the Government to initiate wiretapping immediately in emergencies as long as it obtains approval from the FISA court within 72 hours of initiating the wiretap
# Authorizes wiretaps without the court orders for the first 15 days following a declaration of war by Congress

The Congress
# Passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force that became law on September 18, 2001
# Was requested to, but did not grant the President the power to authorize wiretaps of Americans within the United States without obtaining the court orders required FISA in the AUMF

The President
# Has a 34% approval rating
# Authorized and continues to authorize wiretaps by NSA of Americans in the United States without obtaining the court orders required by FISA
# Has a 34% approval rating
# Failed to inform the full congressional intelligence committees about this program, as required by the National Security Act of 1947
# Has a 34% approval rating
# Lied to Americans prior to the public disclosure of the NSA surveillance program by saying his Administration was relying on court orders to wiretap suspected terrorists inside the US

* April 20, 2004: "When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so."
* July 14, 2004: "the government can't move on wiretaps or roving wiretaps without getting a court order"
* June 9, 2005: "Law enforcement officers need a federal judge's permission to wiretap a foreign terrorist's phone, a federal judge's permission to track his calls, or a federal judge's permission to search his property. Officers must meet strict standards to use any of these tools."

# Has a 34% approval rating
# Lied in saying that the program was necessary because the executive branch did not have authority to wiretap suspected terrorists inside the United States

* January 25, 2006: "When terrorist operatives are here in America communicating with someone overseas, we must understand what's going on if we're going to do our job to protect the people. The safety and security of the American people depend on our ability to find out who the terrorists are talking to, and what they're planning. In the weeks following September the 11th, I authorized a terrorist surveillance program to detect and intercept al Qaeda communications involving someone here in the United States."
* January 31, 2006: "The terrorist surveillance program has helped prevent terrorist attacks. It remains essential to the security of America. If there are people inside our country who are talking with al Qaeda, we want to know about it, because we will not sit back and wait to be hit again."

# Has a 34% approval rating

Clear enough?