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friday, may 13, 2005

Public, Notice II
 
Via Media Matters, catch this Thomas Sowell column. Truly, there are mollusks with more clues than Sowell.
 
"The latest liberal crusade is against the Wal-Mart stores," Sowell writes. Informed of an employee who said he was not making a living wage, Sowell asks, "How is he living, if he is not making a living wage?"
 
Why, taxpayers are keeping him alive, Mr. Sowell. As Media Matters explains,  an unusually high percentage of Wal-Mart employees depend on government programs--food stamps, subsidized housing, Medicaid--than is true of employees of other retail businesses.
 
But here is the best part, IMO: 

Are they [Wal-Mart employees] supposed to be subsidized by Wal-Mart's customers through higher prices or subsidized by Wal-Mart's stockholders through lower earnings?

Subsidized? Subsidized? Does Mr. Sowell think the company's "earnings" are generated by the Profit Fairy? Is it not true that those earnings are made possible by the labor of the employees? And since Wal-Mart workers receive on average $2,103 per year in federal subsidies alone--many receive state subsidies also--is it not true that we taxpayers are subsidizing Wal-Mart? 
 
And why would I want to do that, Mr. Sowell?
 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 
This rightie blogger criticizes the Paul Krugman column I discussed in the last post (the italics text is a quote from Krugman):
The policy model seems grounded in these words:
The average full-time Wal-Mart employee is paid only about $17,000 a year. The company's health care plan covers fewer than half of its workers.

True, not everyone is badly paid. In 1968, the head of General Motors received about $4 million in today's dollars - and that was considered extravagant. But last year Scott Lee Jr., Wal-Mart's chief executive, was paid $17.5 million. That is, every two weeks Mr. Lee was paid about as much as his average employee will earn in a lifetime.
Over and over the message of excessive CEO salaries is repeated, as if this proves redistribution is a viable (dare we say it -- sustainable?) means of reestablishing a deteriorated safety net. As if this proves ideologues won't wind up taxing all the better-off workers in order to support their less-well-off counterparts.
The rightie misses the point. We're not talking about "redistribution" of wealth. In fact, a chunk of my "wealth" is already collected in taxes and used to support Wal-Mart company profits, but never mind that. The whole "trickle down" myth is that if we take tax and regulatory burdens off the backs of business, and businesses become more profitable, that wealth will "trickle down" to everyone else. Well, guess again. Businesses become more profitable, but those earnings aren't trickling down. Instead, workers are told that since times are bad they're supposed to suck it up and not be whiny, while the CEOs "redistribute" more and more wealth to themselves.
 

Although the wages of workers have been stagnant or declining since the 1980s, the wages of corporate chief executive officers (CEOs) have been soaring. The average compensation of a CEO at a major corporation in 1995 was $4,367,000 (Mishel, Bernstein, and Schmitt 1996). This compares to average CEO compensation of $971,000 in 1965. (Both numbers are in 1995 dollars.) The ratio of the compensation of CEOs to that of an average worker increased from 39.5 to 1 in 1965 to 172.5 to 1 in 1995. CEOs in the United States receive far higher compensation than CEOs anywhere else in the world. Even before counting the value of stock options and bonuses, which account for the bulk of CEO pay in the United States, CEOs in the United States on average received pay that was more than twice as high as the average of other industrialized nations. Factoring stock options and bonuses would make the CEOs in the United States appear even more highly paid.

The reality that CEO compensation is much higher in the late 1990s in the United States than it was in the recent past, or in comparison to other industrialized nations at present, should raise serious questions. Have CEOs become so much more productive relative to other workers over the last quarter century? Are U.S. CEOs that much more productive than CEOs in Europe and Japan?

There is no evidence to indicate that this is the case. In fact, numerous studies have examined whether there is any link between CEO pay and corporate performance. These studies have looked at the simplest measures of success, such as the increases in share prices and the growth of profitability. Studies cited found little or no link between CEO compensation and corporate performance (Barkema and Gomez-Mejia 1998; McGuire 1997).

The fact is, for the past several years worker productivity has risen much faster than wages (see, for example, these comments from Brad DeLong). The fact is, the wealth generated by the labor of workers is being redistributed to those with the power to do the distributing. We all appreciate that people who take the risk and the initiative to create and grow a business should be rewarded, but where does rewarding end and exploitaton begin?
 
Theodore Roosevelt had something to say about reward and exploitation. Here TR is quoting Abraham Lincoln (emphasis mine): 

"Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration."

If that remark was original with me, I should be even more strongly denounced as a Communist agitator than I shall be anyhow. It is Lincoln’s. I am only quoting it; and that is one side; that is the side the capitalist should hear. Now, let the working man hear his side.

"Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other rights. . . . Nor should this lead to a war upon the owners of property. Property is the fruit of labor; . . . property is desirable; is a positive good in the world."

Nobody is talking about rounding up the capitalist running dogs and sending them to work in rice paddies. But we're out of balance. A powerful few are able to reward themselves with more and more riches, because they can, whether their companies are even profitable or not; but the workers who generate the capital are slapped down and told they are being selfish if they ask for more.
 
TR continued:
At many stages in the advance of humanity, this conflict between the men who possess more than they have earned and the men who have earned more than they possess is the central condition of progress. In our day it appears as the struggle of freemen to gain and hold the right of self-government as against the special interests, who twist the methods of free government into machinery for defeating the popular will. At every stage, and under all circumstances, the essence of the struggle is to equalize opportunity, destroy privilege, and give to the life and citizenship of every individual the highest possible value both to himself and to the commonwealth.

TR's "New Nationalism" speech is well worth reading. Some of you might appreciate this part--

The Constitution guarantees protection to property, and we must make that promise good. But it does not give the right of suffrage to any corporation.   

But back to "redistribution." One of the reasons communism never caught on in the U.S. is that as the Communist movement was growing around the world, we in the U.S. had the Progressive Era and labor unions and the Square and Fair Deals, which blunted the hard edges of capitalism. Most people would rather make their own way and own their own stuff, and capitalism combined with progressive government makes that possible. But capitalism without progressive government means most of us get screwed, and the wealth we create with our labor gets "redistributed" into fewer and fewer pockets.

 

 
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Public, Notice
 
"...workers in the world's richest nation can no longer count on the private sector to provide them with economic security."
 
The words above are from today's Paul Krugman column. These are true words. 
 
I realize that many people will disagree that American workers can no longer count on the private sector for economic security, but the evidence says otherwise.  The Financial Times says that "Real wages in the US are falling at their fastest rate in 14 years." (For more about real wages and why we should be worried about them, see Stirling Newberry.)  Pensions are at risk. Our health care system is in crisis.
 
I don't believe the general public is yet fully aware of the danger we're in. Of course, many people will not see the danger as long as the system is working for them. They're like sunbathers on a beach watching a tsunami roll in; as long as they're still dry, no problem. I think increasing numbers of people sense that something's going wrong, but many are still in "it must be my fault" or "this is just bad luck" or "maybe it'll turn around soon" phases. And their employers and political leaders are not explaining the danger with true words. Instead, they're offering excuses and empty promises. 
 
People don't yet see that what's happening is a systemic change. It's not going to turn around unless action is taken to make it turn around.. And there will be no action until the public demands it.
 
The U.S. auto industry, Krugman writes, is "weighed down by health care costs for current and retired workers, which run to about $1,500 per vehicle at G.M." Other companies are going the Wal-Mart route. Krugman writes that while General Motors declines,

Today, Wal-Mart is America's largest corporation. Like G.M. in its prime, it has become a widely emulated business icon. But there the resemblance ends.

The average full-time Wal-Mart employee is paid only about $17,000 a year. The company's health care plan covers fewer than half of its workers.

Note that many Wal-Mart employees rely on Medicaid, which of course is facing massive budget cuts.
 
For years the right-wing mantra has been that the private sector can provide economic security for all more efficiently than government, and government safety-net programs were wasteful "entitlements." Well, folks, the Right is wrong. Maybe the private sector could provide for the economic security of its workers, assuming our health care crisis is resolved, but it won't without government regulation. 
 
But regulation is, the Right says, an evil liberal plot to destroy America. You've heard the one about government being the problem, not the solution, right? Truly, as long as the American public believes this, we'll remain on the Road to Penury.  
 
In the May 10 Atlanta Journal Constitution U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) wrote,

What kind of an America do we want to be? Do we want to become a government that offers benefits and breaks for the rich but does not use its collective power to support working families? Yes, we value fiscal responsibility, individual responsibility and efficient spending, but does that have to lead to an America that leaves children, the elderly and the sick to fend for themselves? I think not.

As Americans, we value our integrity as a nation and our commitment to democracy more than that. We believe there is a point of compromise where economy meets justice, where careful spending enables fairness.

What kind of America do we want to be? Over the past 50 or so years the Right has persuaded much of the American middle class that "entitlements" and "safety nets" amounted to taking money away from virtuous working people to support a parasitic underclass. The middle class took its own safety nets for granted. Well, folks, sometimes you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.
 
We value work, initiative, and self-reliance. But government is necessary to maintain a system that rewards work and initiative and facilitates self-reliance. Left with no government oversight, our corporate overlords would soon turn America into a place where labor is ruthlessly exploited, and in which people who depend on a paycheck are crushed into hopelessness.
 
Welcome to Sharecropper Nation.
 
Congressman Lewis writes, 

Conservative Republicans want to do away with that middle-class support system because they believe it costs too much. They believe corporate America and the rich have to pay in too much of their profit to support programs that have benefited so many citizens — student loan programs, teacher enrichment programs, gifted and talented programs, Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid, just to name a few.

In the name of "individual responsibility" and "shrinking big government" they are reshaping the lives of millions of middle-class Americans, not just the poor. Most of us do not even realize it is happening.

No, I don't think most even realize it is happening. But I do think the realization that something is very wrong is nagging at the edge of public consciousness. If we can find a way to reach the public with true words, I think now the public will listen.  
 
 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 
Spotted at TomPaine.com:
 

We Like Ike

"Should any political party attempt to abolish Social Security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are...a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid."

President Dwight D. Eishenhower, 11/8/54

 

 
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thursday, may 12, 2005

Remember the Reuben James
 
Recently Vladimir Putin claimed that the Soviet Union "liberated" eleven European countries in the final push against Hitler's Germany in World War II. This was an outrageous thing to say, considering the oppression these nations suffered under Soviet occupation.
 
Although perhaps Putin was using the word liberated in the sense of "to overrun another country and occupy it with one's own troops." A lot of that going around.
 
But it gets worse. Putin's remark inspired the great Nattering Nabob himself, Pat Buchanan, to once again trot out his theory that the U.S, France, and Britain should not have fought Germany in World War II.  
 
The Nabob's provocative ideas always provoke deep and probing questions, like "WTF?" In this case, Buchanan says that if only western Europe had just allowed Hitler to take Poland without objection, then Hitler wouldn't have invaded France or Britain, or anywhere else in western Europe. And since Poland was screwed anyway, what was the point? Pat asks,
If Britain endured six years of war and hundreds of thousands of dead in a war she declared to defend Polish freedom, and Polish freedom was lost to communism, how can we say Britain won the war?
I like this part:

In 1938, Churchill wanted Britain to fight for Czechoslovakia. Chamberlain refused. In 1939, Churchill wanted Britain to fight for Poland. Chamberlain agreed. At the end of the war Churchill wanted and got, Czechoslovakia and Poland were in Stalin's empire.

How, then, can men proclaim Churchill "Man of the Century"?

Winston Churchill started World War II. Who knew?
 
Curiously, the Nabob gives grudging approval to Neville Chamberlain, who in 1938 had attempted to appease Hitler from warmongerng by allowing Germany to take a section of Czechoslovakia called the Sudetenland. "At least the Sudeten Germans wanted to be with Germany," the Nabob says, although no one seems to have explained that to this lady
 
Chamberlain's policy of appeasement worked so well that in 1939 Germany (which had already "unified" with Austria) attacked and occupied the rest of Czechoslovakia in March and Poland in September. But the Nabob thinks more appeasement would have been just the thing.
 
Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, and on September 3, Britain, France, Australia and New Zealand declared war on Germany. Canada declared war a few days later. The Nabob says this was a big mistake.

True, U.S. and British troops liberated France, Holland and Belgium from Nazi occupation. But before Britain declared war on Germany, France, Holland and Belgium did not need to be liberated. They were free. They were only invaded and occupied after Britain and France declared war on Germany – on behalf of Poland.

When one considers the losses suffered by Britain and France – hundreds of thousands dead, destitution, bankruptcy, the end of the empires – was World War II worth it, considering that Poland and all the other nations east of the Elbe were lost anyway?

The Nabob believes that at some point Hitler would have been satisfied and would have stopped invading other countries. The Nabob would have sat on his hands while German territories and resources grew, figuring Hitler would be sated eventually and stop invading people. Remember that in the spring of 1939 German signed a "Pact of Steel" with Mussolini's Italy (which was much admired by the American Right at the time). In April 1940 the Nazis invaded Denmark and Norway, which (I'm pretty sure) had not declared war, but that doesn't seem to bother the Nabob. Hitler would have stopped on his own. In spite of the fact that Hitler's biographers say unanimously that Hitler was largely driven by resentment of the way France and Britain had treated Germany after World War I, it never would have occurred to him to invade Fance and Britain.
 
Of course not.
 
The Nabob doesn't mention it in his current World Nut Daily article (linked above), but in the past he has made much of the Hossbach Memeorandum of 1937, in which one of Hitler's generals says France and Britain should not "appear in the roles of our enemies" while Germany was taking over Austria and Czechoslovakia. If Hitler wasn't planning to invade Britain and France in 1937--or wasn't admitting to it, anyway--then he wouldn't have done it once his conquest of eastern Europe was complete, huh?
 
The Nabob has also argued, elsewhere, that the United States should not have gone to war with Germany after Pearl Harbor. This ignores the fact that Hitler declared war on the United States before the U.S. declared war on Germany. Further, from the beginning of FDR's Lend-Lease Program, which played a large part in keeping Britain from falling into Nazi hands, there was escalating hostility between the U.S. and Germany. German U-Boats began to attack U.S. Navy ships; the destroyer U.S.S. Reuben James was sunk by a U-Boat on October 31, 1941, more than a month before Pearl Harbor. Of the 160 crewmen, 115 were lost, including all officers.
 
I suppose the Nabob could argue that we could have let Britain fall to the Nazis. Of course, once the Nazis had established air bases in Britain, bombing runs to the U.S. eastern coast would have been a breeze. Maybe we could have appeased Hitler by letting him have Maine.
 
As for the Nabob's and Bush's criticism of the Yalta Conference, I'll defer to David Greenberg. He explains it nicely, IMO.
 
Winston Churchill wanted to stop Hitler after the invasion of Czechoslovakia because he realized that Hitler was a crazy sumbitch who would not be appeased. And Churchill was right. History is full of ambiguities, but this is not one of them. And Britain won because there still is a Britain, and because there is no warmongering fascist German state sitting smack in the middle of Europe today.
 
So how senile and/or crazy does one have to be not to understand this? Good question! Let's shove the Nabob into a petrie dish and run some tests!
 
 

 
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wednesday, may 11, 2005

The Liberal Mystique
 
In 1963, Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique argued persuasively that 1950s American culture had robbed women of their identities as individuals. Immersed in a society that defined her in rigid, limited way, the American woman ca. 1960 had lost herself. Second-wave feminism was born of the efforts to uncover the unique, individual selves of women that culture had buried.  
 
I think something like that happened to liberalism. We know that the "L" word has been demonized and distorted by the Right, but more pernicious is the fact that liberals themselves lost touch with the foundation principles of liberalism. Attempts to side-step the "L" word and call ourselves progressives did not help, since progressivism and liberalism are not synonyms. Although most liberals are progressive, IMO progressives are not necessarily liberal.
 
Case in point: Recently The American Prospect published this definition of liberalism, which I liked:
Liberals believe our common humanity endows each of us, individually, with the right to freedom, self-government, and opportunity; and binds all of us, together, in responsibility for securing those rights. 
However, the crew at Winds of Change were appalled.
Can someone can tell me why that wouldn't work as a motto for the AEI??

This falls into the category of "what were they thinking?"

Look. Liberalism is about using the power of government to make sure that the powerless get a fair deal. There's obviously a useful and important set of arguments to make over what "fair" looks like. But if this - combined with laughable Lakoff-ian attempts at rhetorical devices - are what the Democrats plan on running under, I'm wondering exactly how old I'll be before Democrats start winning national races again.

Judging by its blogroll, Winds of Change is hardly a liberal site. And as for how the TAP definition parts company with the American Enterprise Institute, that's easy. When AEI talks about freedom and rights, they don't really mean "freedom" and "rights," exactly, but about things that might pass for freedom and rights within a narrow spectrum of behaviors and conditions as set out by AEI. And some restrictions may apply.

I suspect TAP uses the words freedom and rights to mean "freedom" and "rights." Radical stuff, these days. 

"Using the power of government to make sure that the powerless get a fair deal" is progressive, certainly, but it leaves out an essential element of liberalism. That element is contained in what I call the "forgotten clause" of the Declaration of Independence. You know that every rightie loves to recite this part:

We hold these truths to be self-evident:  That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;

But righties never go on to the next line:

that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed;

This goes to the heart of what the American Revolution accomplished. When Jefferson wrote these words nearly all of Europe was ruled by monarchs. There were republican governments in The Netherlands and in the city-states of Italy and Switzerland, but conventional wisdom of the time said that republican governments were weak and unstable, and downright untenable in a large nation. What Jefferson and his buddies set out to prove was that a people in a nation could govern themselves--without a King, without a dictator, without an oligarchy or committee or party or any other Other. We, the People, govern ourselves. Government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Government 'R' us.

This understanding of government is essential to liberalism. It's possible, I suppose, for a government that takes its authority from something other than the people to be as progressive as all get-out, but it would still not be a liberal government.

In the past several years, the Right has worked mightily to make us forget about government of the people, by the people, and for the people, except as an empty phrase. They say they believe in such government, but some restrictons may apply. Void where prohibited. And it depends on what you mean by "people."

Reagan's "Government is not the solution, it's the problem," hammered home the meme that "the government" is an alien beast clinging to the Atlantic coast, not "of the people," or "by the people." Further, government can't be expected to do anything "for the people."  More recently, rightie pundits chirp ceaselessly that rights come from "the Creator" and not from government, and therefore people don't need government to secure their rights. God will secure them for you. Next time the Right wants us to liberate another nation, maybe we should just send God. But if an omnipotent God secures human rights, why would anyone need to be liberated?

Are we being set up, do you think?

Is the Pope German?

My shorthand definition of liberalism is "the belief that people can live as equals and govern themselves." And by governing themselves I mean in a collective sense, through representative government.  The word collective sets off alarm bells these days, I know, but the fact remains that republican government is a collective enterprise. It's something we all do together. Or it should be, anyway.  

The biggest distinction between liberalism and libertarianism--both of which value liberty--may be that liberals believe government can legitimately be used to secure the rights of citizens, whereas libertarians seem to think that if only government would butt out, there would be no oppression and no need to secure rights. A ten-second glance at human history shows us that oppression can come from all kinds of places beside government, however. And I wonder if atheist libertarians believe rights are secured by the Human Rights Fairy? Just askin'.

Over at Altercation, Eric Alterman is starting up a dialogue on what liberals believe. The great thing about the Blogosphere is that we liberals, finally, can reach out to each other and have these conversations. I've been thinking about how it is liberalism lost itself, and one of these days I want to write about that. In the meantime, however, please join in the effort to bring liberalism back home.

 

 
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tuesday, may 10, 2005

The Surgical Option
 
Retired Senator George Mitchell (D-Maine), a former majority leader of the Senate, writes in today's New York Times:
I am reminded of the words spoken 55 years ago by Senator Margaret Chase Smith of Maine in her famous "Declaration of Conscience" against the tactics of Senator Joe McCarthy, a member of her own party.
 
 "I don't believe the American people will uphold any political party that puts political exploitation above national interest," the senator said. "Surely we Republicans aren't that desperate for victory. While it might be a fleeting victory for the Republican Party, it would be a more lasting defeat for the American people. Surely it would ultimately be suicide for the Republican Party and the two-party system that has protected our American liberties from the dictatorship of a one-party system."
Then, addressing the "nuclear option" to change filibuster rules, Mitchell writes,

In 1968 Republican senators used a filibuster to block voting on President Lyndon B. Johnson's nominee for chief justice of the Supreme Court. During the debate, a Republican senator, Robert Griffin, said: "It is important to realize that it has not been unusual for the Senate to indicate its lack of approval for a nomination by just making sure that it never came to a vote on the merits. As I said, 21 nominations to the court have failed to win Senate approval. But only nine of that number were rejected on a direct, up-and-down vote."

Between 1968 and 2001, both parties used filibusters to oppose judicial nominees. In 2000, the last year of Bill Clinton's presidency, Republican senators filibustered two of his nominees to be circuit judges. They also prevented Senate votes on more than 60 of Mr. Clinton's judicial nominees by other means.

So much for the assertion that filibustering to prevent votes on judicial nominees is a new tactic invented by Senate Democrats.

Yeah, so much for that. But you know the righties will continue to repeat the lie, anyway. You can wave facts and data and empirical evidence in their faces all day long, and it will do know good. The designated talking points will be honored.
 
I remember reading that Joe McCarthy used to get around confrontations with truth through use of local news media. He'd tour the country and give speeches to local chapters of the Lion's Club or VFW, and these events were written up glowingly in the home town newspapers by reporters whose previous Big Story was about the new highway that would bypass the old business district. And if anyone noticed McCarthy's facts were unsupported or his numbers didn't crunch, by then he'd have gone on to another Podunk in another state. A few Washington-based reporters caught on to McCarthy's scam, but most folks didn't read the Washington newspapers. Truth didn't catch up to McCarthy until the Big Gun, Edward R. Murrow, exposed McCarthy on national television in 1954.
 
If you think about it, the righties are using the same tactic today. The only difference is that "local" is determined by ideology and not by geography. The right wing can repeat the same old lies to Wolf Blitzer or Chris Matthews or anybody on Faux News without fear of contradiction, and the lies will be picked up and repeated as gospel by sycophant bloggers, and if one repetition gets smacked down by facts, nine more repetitions will get straight through to public ears unhindered.
 
But I digress.
 
comradecopy.jpgE.J. Dionne writes in today's Washington Post that what the GOP really wants to do may be less nuclear than, um, surgical. He quotes Grover Norquist:
"Once the minority of House and Senate are comfortable in their minority status, they will have no problem socializing with the Republicans," he told Richard Leiby of The Post. "Any farmer will tell you that certain animals run around and are unpleasant. But when they've been 'fixed,' then they are happy and sedate. They are contented and cheerful."
"Republicans are seeking to establish themselves as the dominant party in American politics," Dionne writes. "Essential to their quest is persuading Democrats, or at least a significant number in their ranks, to accept long-term minority status." And they'll do whatever it takes to make that happen. The surgical option is just part of the plan to establish one-party rule.
 
Yesterday, President Bush issued a statement from Europe demanding an "up-or-down vote" on Priscilla R. Owen and Terrence W. Boyle for seats on appellate courts. Jim VandeHei and Charles Babington write in today's Washington Post,
The president, who initiated the conflict by renominating judges whom Democrats had blocked during his first term and demanding new votes this year, is essentially guaranteeing a showdown that is as much about the power of the presidency as Democratic obstinacy, according to numerous government scholars. The result could be a more powerful White House, a weakened Congress and the possible erosion, if not end of, the most powerful tool available to the minority party, the filibuster, the scholars said.

"This is being done to . . . help a president achieve what he wants to achieve," said former representative Mickey Edwards (R-Okla.), now a scholar at the Aspen Institute. "It's a total disavowal of the basic framework of the system of government. It's much more efficient [for Bush], but our government was not designed to be efficient."

Bush's recent trip to Russia provided imagery that was beyond ironic. Back in the old Soviet days, every year on May Day the Kremlin leadership, pasty-faced men in overcoats, would stand in line to review the troops. These men were the ultimate leaders of the Soviet Communist Party, and the composition of the line, including who was standing next to whom, provided a glimpse, a fleeting moment of near-transparency, into Kremlin power struggles. This year, albeit for a slightly different event, an American president stood in that line. And back home, his surrogates struggle mightily to establish one-party rule.
 
President Bush speaks passionately about the importance of spreading democracy around the globe. Meanwhile, Putin speaks wistfully about the Soviet Union and continues to consolidate power in what is looking more and more like a return to autocracy.
Yep, these two guys are very different. Putin, at least, means what he says.
 

 
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sunday, may 8, 2005

The Kool Aid Stand
yellowrose.jpg
 

I'm not sure I've ever seen anything quite as odd as the right wing's insistence that global warming does not exist. I'm not a climatologist, but I can read what they're saying. In fact, they're screaming it. Rush Limbaugh is not a climatologist, either; nor are any of the rest of these pinheads who seem to think the whole thing is some figment of liberals' imagination.

There's nothing liberal about global warming. It's science. There seems to be some element of childish spite in the refusal to recognize it -- "Boy, we can drive the liberals crazy by pretending it's not happening, ha-ha-ha."

If you read right-wing blogs, you find a kind of Beavis-and-Butt-Head attitude about the subject, a sort of adolescent-jerk humor. What's astonishing is finding the same attitude among members of Congress. Head-militantly-in-sand is not a solution.

Along these same lines, this weekend Bobo the Vegetable, John Tierney, and Charles Krauthammer wrote columns claiming that Bush's Social Security privatization scheme would work our well for middle class citizens and/or is a necessary and prudent solution to a looming crisis. Predictably, rightie bloggers consider these columns to be vindication for their faith in George W. Bush. And predictably, leftie bloggers and columnists say otherwise. See, for example, comments from Brad DeLong,  other Brad DeLong, Paul Krugman, and Robert Kuttner (all economists), plus News Hounds, Kevin Drum, and Armando. You can find links to other blog comments through memeorandum, here and here.
 
Please, look at what the righties are saying. Then look at what the lefties are saying. Notice the difference in the quality of the arguments. Lefties write long posts full of data and figures. Righties link to the columnists they want to agree with, then say yeah, see? What he says. Democrats stink.
 
As we all know, the purpose of right-wing think tanks is to think up excuses for pernicious rightie policies. And the purpose of rightie columnists is to tell the faithful what they want to hear. Essentially, the think tanks mix the Kool-Aid, the columnists fill the cups, and the rightie bloggers line up to drink.
 
In other news: Michael Kinsley reminds us that you can't swat a fly with a computer. Ron Chernow writes about the Founding Fathers and the judicial system. Adam Cohen suggests that bloggers adopt some ethics. Columnists first, I say. New Frank Rich.
 

 
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Regarding the RSS Feed: My web host insists it works. Cendron J. at Tech Support wrote me the following:
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as the blog reader by entering the url http://www.mahablog.com/blog_rss.xml
The blog link should work as long as your blog reader can read xml."

Good luck.


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Radio Archive

Ben Merens, "Conversations with Ben Merens,"
September 9, 2004, WHAD Milwaukee, 90.7 FM

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September 15, 2004, 90.1 FM.

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The Loyalties of George W. Bush

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"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." --Theodore Roosevelt, 1918

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The War Prayer

I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!... He has heard the prayer of His servant, your shepherd, & will grant it if such shall be your desire after I His messenger shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause & think.

"God's servant & yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused & taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken & the unspoken....

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed, silently. And ignorantly & unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is completed into those pregnant words.

"Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.

"O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended through wastes of their desolated land in rags & hunger & thirst, sport of the sun-flames of summer & the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave & denied it -- for our sakes, who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask of one who is the Spirit of love & who is the ever-faithful refuge & friend of all that are sore beset, & seek His aid with humble & contrite hearts. Grant our prayer, O Lord & Thine shall be the praise & honor & glory now & ever, Amen."

(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! -- the messenger of the Most High waits."

·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·

It was believed, afterward, that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

[Mark Twain, 1905]

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Copyright 2003, 2004 by Barbara O'Brien

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