Saturday, July 22, 2006

There's a Word ...

So Georgie made a fool of himself at the G8 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia. I've not seen any speculation as to why Georgie acted this way, other than the usual and unhelpful he's a jerk.

Nobody else seems to have said this, so I will. Looks to me like he was drunk.

Time to Drop Anchor

So the DLC is saying that Democrats should move to the right; tringulate, to use their term.


Voters are polarized, to the point that any more movement to the right will lose significant numbers of votes on the left. They may vote for Ralph Nader or just stay home; either way, they're lost. And, because of the degree of polarization, you're not going to pick up any appreciable numbers of voters from the Republican "base", either.

Time to drop anchor. The Democratic Party needs to dig in its heels and not let itself be dragged any further from its own principals. Remember, you never really compromise with a fanatic — you move, the fanatic doesn't.

So what should the core principals are we talking about? Well, let's see:

  • Start with Civil Rights. This means everybody's civil rights — white, black, Hispanic, Christian, Muslim, atheist, straight, gay, whatever. Everybody.
  • War on Terror: Get the bastards. But make sure we're going after the right bastards. We don't need more Iraqs. Also, this will involve more diplomacy (ie, twisting Saudi arms) than military action. Essentially, this is police work with soldiers backing up the cops.
  • Foreign policy: We can't be the World's Nose Wiper. Yeah, there are Bad People in the world. Unfortunately, there's nothing we can do about most of them. Iraq was an attempt to do so; see how well that worked.
  • Fiscal policy: Wants are infinite, resources are finite. Work toward a balanced budget and paying down the national debt. Yeah, this means raising Paris Hilton's taxes.
  • Energy: Start prying the House of Saud's fingers off of our throat. At the same time, we can work on lowering greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Healthcare: While true universal health care is not an option in the next election cycle, we have to start looking toward it. A good start would be to move public programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and their state and local equivalents in the direction of a "single payer" system. The current system is a nightmare; it wouldn't be hard to improve it a lot.
  • Honesty, openness, accountability, and competence. Easy to promise; hard to deliver, and the Republicans' biggest weakness.

Some minor points, and implications of the above:

  • Abortion: Pro-choice all the way. Siding with the anti-choicers in a misguided attempt at "triangulation" will just lose votes from the base.
  • Stem cells: Ditto. The vast majority of voters on all sides are in favor of stem cell research.
  • Iraq: Start working on digging ourselves out. It ain't gonna be easy — the choices I see range from disasterous to catastrophic.
  • Guantanamo, secret CIA prisons, torture, and "extraordinary rendition": They all stop. Now. If this means high-level spooks and generals walk out, so be it.
  • Gun control: Let it drop. The arguments on both sides are all heat and no light.
  • Social Security: It ain't broke. Don't screw with it. Point out that the "privatisers'" numbers don't add up.

Some tactics:

  • Run against Bush. His popularity is down about to the Yellow Dog level. The slogan "Rubber Stamp Republican" is good here. Congressional Republicans have gone along with just about all of Bush's harebrained schemes; call them on it.
  • Yeah, the press is against you. Deal. Likewise, the Republicans are going to be spewing large amounts of slime It's all they have left. Plan for it; have responses ready. Don't get Switboated again.
  • Learn to use numbers effectively. Know when raw numbers are better and when percentages are better. Use familiar analogies — credit cards, car loans, etc.
  • Lose the fruitcakes. We're not going to outlaw SUVs, confiscate guns, disband the military, tear down the suburbs, or commit any other form of ritual suicide. Anybody who wants to is Outside the Tent. Let 'em piss in; you're known as much by who your enemies are as by who your friends are.
  • Lose the DLC. They're the Neocon wing of the Democratic party — and financed by the same foundations that fund the Republican neocons. They're the ones pushing the line "We're just like Republicans, only better". If there was ever a guaranteed loser of an attitude, that's it.
  • Lose the Big Bucks Consultants. They're the ones who have been consistantly losing elections for the last 25 or so years. They also suck enormous amounts of money.
  • Make damn sure everybody knows you're going to fight tooth and toenail over any suggestion of vote fraud, especially anything involving electronic voting machines. And carry through after election day. Don't be afraid to raise a fuss.

Above all, keep in mind that we're in this for the long haul. We don't want to just win this election; we want to force the Republicans to cough up the Neocon - Theocrat furball permanently, like the Democrats threw out the Communists and the white-sheet crowd. This means plan for the long haul, and don't just assume that the NTs, or whatever other group that wants to drag us back to the rule of the Priest-Kings can be ignored just because they're ridiculous.

LATER — Avedon has another tactical suggestion, via American Microphone. Learn how the Republicans run their "big tent". Do it. When somebody is willing to work with you, don't insist that they agree with you on every tiny little detail. My "lose the fruitcakes" comment above refers to either people who try to hijack the party for their own personal crusades (uhh ... jihads?) or who are so far out on the fringe that nobody wants to deal with them I'm lookin' at you, Ward Churchill and Noam Chomsky. Nothing wrong with the granola crowd if they're willing to go along with the program and not claim that, for example, the Democrats will outlaw SUVs. Yeah, I've heard this one.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Center

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world ...

— William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming, 1919

The Common Wisdom in politics is run to the center. Supposedly, Bill Clinton was the master of triangulation; moving enough to the Center to get what you want by giving the other side some of what they want. This used to be called compromise, but that word seems to be out of favor now.

Mathematically, opinions are usually on a normal distribution — the familiar bell-shaped curve. In this situation, the candidate that's closest to the center of the curve will get the most votes. Undecided votes are considered to be in the center.

Note that I said usually. If everybody pulls back into their own side of the argument, the opinions become polarized. This is represented by two overlapping bell curves. If they are far enough apart that there's a dip between them, moving to the center will lose votes.

Currently, it looks to me like our polarized curves are not only far apart, they're in different universes. The one on the left is the traditional Liberal-Conservative distribution while the one on the right might be thought of as the Neocon-Theocrat axis. There's simply no way to appeal to both. Unfortunately, right now, the N-T axis is controlling the terms of political discourse and attracting a good chunk of the right-hand side of the left (L-C) curve.

Yo! Democrats! Stop moving to the Center (which doesn't really exist) and you can pick up the whole left-hand curve — practically everybody. Your friendly average "conservative" (yes, they really do exist) has no interest in massive deficits, giveaways to Halliburton, foreign empire building, gay bashing, or Christianism.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

"Them" and "Us"

One of my first blog posts was about Them. The point of the post was that everybody has a Them, and everybody's Them is different.

This post is about Us, as opposed to Them. In normal social/business activities, it's pretty easy to tell the difference between Them and Us. After all, They are Them because they're Not Like Us. Now, as the groups get bigger, it gets harder to draw the line. It's easy to tell who's one of Us in a bowling league; it's a lot harder with, say, a religion or political party. By the time we get up to the State or National level, the concept of Them isn't useful any more — it's all just Us.

From an anthropoligical point of view, the strongest sanction that a group has available to it is expulsion from the group. This converts one of Us to one of Them. Nowadays, on a State or Federal level, the only way to "expel" somebody is to kill them. The alternative of exile is not available any more, as there are no real State controls on movement, and even the most backwater countries has passport control. Jails? Prisons? They're still here. Prisoners may be isolated from non-prisoners, but they're still here. Their "Us" is now other prisoners. Eventually, most prisoners are released and go back to being one of Us, although a lot of people seem not to like this.

What brought this up was a video (via) dated 1947, from the War Department, talking abot what we would now call "diversity". It simply points out that the US is one big Us, and anybody who tries to break us up into little warring cliques is up to no good. The example used (from those carefree pre-Godwin days) is the Nazis. Remember, this was 1947, and the memories of the horrors of WWII were still very fresh.

Another thought on this fine (until it storms again) Fourth of July is the idea of Tolerance, which goes hand in hand with Diversity. Some claim that Tolerance is self-defeating, because it means that the Tolerant have to be Tolerant of the Intolerant, who can then do anything they want to the Tolerant. This is based on a bad definition of Tolerance.

Tolerance is a two-way street. The only way I can "tolerate" you is if you "tolerate" me. If you don't tolerate me, the proper phrase for what I'm doing is "putting up with", or "trying to ignore", or some such. The reason to put up with the hate-spewing Dividers is simply that most folks recognize the tricks and ignore them. Helps that the groups that the hatemongers are trying to drum up support against (gays, Muslims, Democrats) are too big to be safely charactertured. It's very easy to work up a good hate against a group that you don't know any members of. When you say "they're talking about my friend Charlie", you've taken the first vital step to seeing through the hate. Now you can ask the question, "Why are they saying that?". This way lies freedom.

So go out this Independance Day and enjoy the burgers and beer and fireworks with all your wild, crazy, and, yes, Diverse Fellow Americans. Let's hear it for Us!

UPDATE -- that link for the War Department video is dead. Another one is here. Go watch!

Friday, June 30, 2006

The War is Over

You can do anything with a bayonet except sit on it.

— Talleyrand

The War is Over. We won.

Which war? The one in Iraq, of course. Remember "Mission Accomplished"? That's as good a point as any to declare the war "won". The Iraqi army had been completely smashed, Saddam Hussein was in hiding, and the US military controlled the entire country.

But aren't we still fighting? Well, yes, but we aren't fighting a war. We're conducting an occupation. Big difference.

Isn't it just a matter of semantics? Well, it's certainly a matter of semantics; I question the "just", as if semantics don't matter.

War is active. Fight battles, capture territory, force the enemy leaders to surrender. An occupation is passive. Keep order, prevent the old enemies from regrouping, try to return the occupied territory to a semblance of normalcy. The aim is to turn the place over to a "legitimate" local government.

An occupation is essentially an administrative matter. There's no "won" or "lost"; it's all a matter of definitions and degrees. Did you make your quarterlies? It's generally pretty miserable for people in the occupied territory. Battles are generally fought Somewhere Else; the occupation is here.

Right now, we have the most powerful army in the world, running around Iraq, waiting for Rommel to show up. He ain't gonna. Treating the situation in Iraq as a "war" leads to messes like Falluja. American soldiers are terrible as occupation or peacekeeping troops. Fighters, yes. Occupiers, no.

So if we pull the troops out of Iraq now, we're not "losing" anything. We're not "cutting and running", except to get out of the way of a low-intensity civil war with about a zillion different sides.

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by