Saturday, July 31, 2004

For those who believe that the commercial playing field is level and all it takes is hard work, talent, and determination to make a lot of money and become a big success, here is a test of your hypothesis using a research version of the popular game Monopoly. I will presume everyone knows how to play this game of chance and skill that is based on some of the principles of our economic life. Enlist four players who only need to be reasonably literate, be able to do simple math like add and subtract, and who have the patience to play hundreds of rounds of Monopoly. Play 100 games with the same four players under the established rules wherein all players begin with the same bank of money. Under these rules the outcome of the game is a function of skill and chance. With 100 games and 4 players the outcome should be approximately 25 games won by each player. Now do it again. Another 100 games but this time randomly determine one player to begin with a bank twice the size of that of the other three players. Repeat with one player beginning with a bank 4 times that of the other players. Again with one having 8 times the bank of the others. If you have the patience, you can go to the 16 times condition and so on. It is not even important that the same person have this start-up edge each time. Just be sure to keep the start-up edge condition recorded separately. When the patience of the players is thoroughly exhausted, it will be instructive to plot the win results on a graph. Put the percentage of wins value on the ordinate (vertical) and the blocks of 100 games on the abscissa (horizontal). Then plot a separate line for each player. For those who have played Monopoly, I think you can easily envision the results. The percentage of wins for the privileged player will increase proportional to his start-up entitlement. There will be a decrease in the collective wins of the other three players although the percentage wins of each will be roughly equivalent. If you are so inclined and equipped, you can easily evaluate these results with statistical analysis. This demonstration might be instructive for those who enjoy the fantasy of "level playing field". I think it might also offer some support for the use of an estate tax as a very small facilitator of a possible level playing field.
Of course the time consuming nature of this experiment is a downside, depending on how much you love playing Monopoly and also depending on whether the New York Times shows an interest in publishing your conclusions. Maybe it makes more sense to just work your tail end off for progressive candidates instead.
Jeannette Ward

Friday, July 30, 2004

It's Scott from Artie and the Press Minions over at Jeff Smith's campaign again. First, thanks to everyone! We have great momentum going in to this last weekend. We still can use volunteers and have where we need the most help listed over on the JeffSmith2004 Blog along with radio show call-ins in which you can call-in your support of Jeff.

But most of all, we'd like you to contribute why you individually are supporting Jeff. We have two supporters statements up, but what we'd like is to update that all weekend with personal stories of why you support Jeff.

Either drop me a line at or leave them in comments there.

Most of all. Let's have fun!

Thursday, July 29, 2004

In the last half of the Harper's forum "Liberalism Regained:  Building the Next Progressive Majority", Daniels, Foner, Nader, Phillips, and Piven focus on what holds the factions of conservatism together and what new strategies liberals need to employ.  (See yesterday's blog for the first half of the article.) 
Harper's editor Lewis Lapham points out that:
The reactionary right isn't afflicted with the disease of cognitive dissonance.  It enjoys the services of a propaganda ministry funded over the last thirty years by romantic billionaires who believe that they are rescuing the country from godless liberalism.
Yes indeed, but the question is how they have held together such disparate factions.  As Piven notes:
They're the rifle people, the Christian right and the pro-life people, and the anti-tax people.  They're funded by corporations like Pfizer and Philip Morris.  But nothing seems to hold these groups together, other than that they all want to keep the Bushies in power.
But Lapham thinks he knows what the glue is:
What holds the factions together--the Christian and neoconservative  right, the racists and the homophobes--is their common tendency to believe in such a thing as absolute truth, the bright transcendent line between good and evil, right and wrong.  The religious rather than the secular habit of mind.
Nader has an additional idea:
Now, what is it that binds the conservatives together?  Why does Tom DeLay have six times the energy of Tom Daschle? ... Liberals.  The common enemy.  Conservatives of all denominations want to crush, smash, and vaporize liberals and liberalism in America.  They can't even say the words without a snarl.
Nader feels that:
our message is also missing something else:  the emotional content, in the best sense of the phrase.  One of the reasons is that liberals aren't good haters.  Whereas the agents and apostles of the right, they really are haters.
So.  What should liberals be doing?  For starters, we need to talk to each other and put together a methodical, relentless message that should include emotion--positive emotion.  The Democrats, I notice, have been providing that emotion at the convention this week with statements like "We're all in this together" and "There aren't two countries (red and blue) but one United States."  I'll have more to say on the subject of "our message" in my next posting.  But we cannot expect any message, no matter how consistent, to change the mood overnight.  Successful political movements usually need a lengthy period of gestation.  We do have some means to get that message out, though.  The right has its think tanks and propaganda machines.  Piven says:
All the left has are its social movements.  But they have tremendous communicative power.  Think of the abolitionists, the labor movement, the civil rights movement.  These kinds of movements get a lot of people on the street.  They disrupt things.  And that attracts a lot of attention.
Movements like those need lots of grass roots support.  The Democrats have forgotten the importance of having lots of boots on the ground--and not just during election cycles..  Nader asks:
In 1993, how many full-time organizers did the Clinton-Gore forces have on the ground behind their so-called national health-care plan?  I never counted more than twenty-five, and most of them were on leave from labor unions and citizen groups. ... The Democrats need a whole new generation of people.  There has to be a rupture, in effect, a takeover at the precinct level.  Which is where the party can be captured, because there's so much apathy at the precinct level.
Finally, the participants note that presently no kind of exterior force exists--think tank, social movement, grassroots political campaign--for attracting disaffected Republicans.  I think of that observation as an implicit homework assignment for Change for Missouri and Democracy for America


Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Since our group is all about building a new progressive movement, the cover article for the August Harper's grabbed my eye:  "Liberalism Regained:  Building the Next Progressive Majority--A Forum with Ron D. Daniels, Eric Foner, Ralph Nader, Kevin Phillips, and Frances Fox Piven."  Here are some highlights from the first half of the forum.  The participants agreed that liberals are waking up and taking action in this critical election.  And polls show, according to Foner, that a progressive majority exists on many important issues.  "More than half of Americans believe that the federal government is doing too little to safeguard the environment.  More than half oppose waging preemptive wars.  Almost four fifths believe that it would be worth raising taxes to provide universal health care."  Why, then, does the Democratic Party flop around like a hooked fish, they wonder?  Nader's take on it is: 
Robert Frost once defined a liberal as someone who has trouble arguing his own case.  If you look at the history of our country, the major justice movements have been colored liberal, and their opponents have been colored conservative:  Social security, trade unions, slavery, and so on.  But the Democrats never talk about their victories.  When was the last time you saw a major Democratic candidate brag about how many lives the Democrats saved by pushing through air- and water-pollution laws, auto-safety laws, the Consumer Product Safety Commission Bill?  They don't ever say that.  (Let me remind you here of Tuesday's blog.) 
Given the outstanding history of the liberal movement, their current weakness would be surprising if if weren't so painfully obvious that they aren't fighting the good fight as they used to.  Phillips points out that "Democrats have been anesthetized by campaign contributions. ... Today the Republicans are in trouble, and the main thing they have to keep them from imploding is that the Democrats are not much better." Progressives need a "transformative vision", says Daniels, one advancing the notion that America can be more than it is today for average, ordinary people.  The Democratic Party should advocate a program of basic rights, like the one enjoyed by many social democratic countries in Europe.  Americans really feel that they have the best standard of living in the world.  They don't, but they don't know they don't.  Virtually every nation in  Western Europe has universal health care.  In Sweden, Norway, and Holland, the social bnefits are so generous that poverty has been practically eliminated.  Wages in most European countries now outpace wages in the United States.
Foner appreciates Daniels's vision but wants racial, gender, cultural and environmental issues on the table as well as economic ones.  Nader points out in response, however, that successful progressive movements have had clarity of purpose, in other words a narrow focus."The populist progressive movement, which started in the 1880s, had clarity; it went after the railroads and the banks:  the high price of loans, the high prices of freight." Nader suggests using the living wage for our narrow focus, but the others agree that people who don't make a living wage are often not registered to vote--far less than half of them are.  Stressing that idea is no way to get an electoral majority.  Phillips feels that we stand a better chance of getting an electoral majority by drawing moderates away from the Republican party.  The mess in Iraq, the deficit, campaign finance--all are issues that disturb many Republicans.  He maintains that Ross Perot won 19 percent of the vote, drawing mostly from GOP voters, by stressing concerns about the deficit, imperialism overseas, and globalization.  McCain beat Bush in several states by "attacking corporate misbehavior and Republican tax policies, and by blasting the religious right."  In fact, Phillips says:
If moderate Republicans have one thing besides Iraq that makes them want to vote against Bush, it's all these fundamentalists coming out of the woodwork from Armpit, Alabama.  It's this biblical worldview in which Baghdad is the new Babylon.  The average Presbyterian Republican in suburbia thinks those people are wackos.
Surely Phillips isn't suggesting any ideas we'd have trouble agreeing with.  So why aren't we pulling all those Republican moderates across the line?  They'll discuss that question in my next blog.  

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

   I am a fortunate person. I was able to watch the entire Democratic Convention last night on C-Span 1 without talking-head commentary and I could also pop over to CNN from time to time and check out their coverage.  I was very moved and inspired by the spirit of the people and the proceedings.  It was great to see Gore, Carter, and the two Clintons being themselves and speaking their minds.  Also the reaction of the crowd was thrilling.  When I switched briefly over to late night local news (Channel 4) to catch the flavor of their treatment of the convention, I was appalled to learn that the broadcast networks are covering only a few hours of the conventions of both parties. I think they said one-hour per night for three nights.  Then I heard a local (SLU, I think) professor of political science explain that the broadcast networks were not covering the conventions because they were NOT NEWS!  He said that the parties just wanted to get free advertisement by having the broadcast networks cover their conventions.  As though this was some sort of "rip-off" of the networks!  I was really shocked and angered.  I know there are many people who don't have (can't afford?) cable or satellite feed for their TV viewing.  I thought about the impoverished coverage of this election that will be available to these people, people who likely can't access the internet and may not even be able to afford newspapers.  Of course, most will have radio and so can access Rush Limbaugh and his ilk.  It is the pure greed of these broadcast networks that impels them to force the political parties to "break the bank" raising scandalous amounts of money to pay for expensive TV ads.  The need for these large amounts of campaign money contributes to the corruption of our political system.  Someone needs to remind the broadcast networks that they only exist because the government has granted them the licenses that allow them to use the people's airwaves and get rich.  It is apparent that the time is long past for increased regulation of these greedy, unpatriotic corporations.  We must press the FCC to establish stringent requirements for news coverage of important political events, free coverage in the interest of a free and informed populace. 
Jeannette Ward 

Day in the Life of Joe Middle-Class Republican A TvNewsLIES Reader contribution. By John Gray Cincinnati, Ohio - - July - 2004 Joe gets up at 6:00am to prepare his morning coffee. He fills his pot full of good clean drinking water because some liberal fought for minimum water quality standards. He takes his daily medication with his first swallow of coffee. His medications are safe to take because some liberal fought to insure they'd be safe and work as advertised.  All but $10.00 of his medications are paid for by his employer's medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance.  Now Joe gets it too. He prepares his morning breakfast--bacon and eggs this day. Joe’s bacon is safe to eat because some liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry. Joe takes his morning shower reaching for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labeled with every ingredient and the amount of its contents because some liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained. Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because some tree hugging liberal fought for laws to stop industries from polluting our air. He walks to the subway station for his government subsidized ride to work; it saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees. You see, some liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor. Joe begins his work day.  He has a good job with excellent pay, medicals benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joe’s employer adheres to these standards because Joe’s employer doesn’t want his employees to call the union. If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed, he’ll get a worker compensation or unemployment check because some liberal didn’t think he should lose his home because of his temporary misfortune. It's noon time; Joe needs to make a Bank Deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe’s deposit is federally insured by the FSLIC because some liberal wanted to protect Joe’s money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the Depression. Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae underwritten mortgage and his below market federal student loan because some stupid liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his life-time. Joe is home from work.  He plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive to Dad's; his car is among the safest in the world because some liberal fought for car safety standards. He arrives at his boyhood home. He was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers Home Administration because bankers didn’t want to make rural loans. The house didn’t have electric until some big government liberal stuck his nose where it didn’t belong and demanded rural electrification. (Those rural Republicans would still be sitting in the dark) He is happy to see his dad, who is now retired. His dad lives on Social Security and his union pension because some liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn’t have to. After his visit with Dad, he gets back in his car for the ride home. He turns on a radio talk show.  The host keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. (He doesn’t tell Joe that his beloved Republicans have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day)  Joe agrees: “We don’t need those big government liberals ruining our lives; after all, I’m a self made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have”.
By John Gray Cincinnati, Ohio - - Published July - 2004

Sunday, July 25, 2004

It's not Wal-Mart, but Wal-Mars.  We've been invaded by the Wal-Martians.  So says Barbara Ehrenreich in her Sunday New York Times column.  But the greedy sci-fi monster may be sowing the seeds of its own destruction:  With hourly wages declining throughout the economy, its sales are going soft, and it's facing two class action suits.  Go Costco!
Since I'm having some trouble creating links on the blog this week, you'll have to copy and paste the URL if you'd like to read Ehrenreich's column:

Friday, July 23, 2004

I listened to a young woman ask Rush one day about all the immoral behavior among twenty-somethings.  She thought he ought to upbraid parents for not dutifully teaching youngsters about good morals.  But Rush disagreed and went on a fifteen minute rant about how public school teachers are ruining the nation's youngsters.  Hmpf!  A few months later, I was making calls to Dean supporters to announce Dean's visit on Jeff Smith's behalf.  I told one woman I called that he taught at Wash. U., and she said, "So he's smart; that's good."  With that much encouragement, I mentioned his being co-valedictorian at Ladue High School and Phi Beta Kappa.  "Better and better," the woman said.
I thought about these different attitudes toward education as I read the chapter on anti-intellectualism in What's the Matter with Kansas?" "Anti-intellectualism  is one of the grand unifying themes" of what Thomas Frank calls the "backlash"--hatred of liberalism among socially conservative lower classes.  He says that Rush Limbaugh considers himself a "symbol of 'middle America's growing rejection of the elites,' by which he means 'professionals' and 'experts' including 'the medical elites, the sociology elites, the education elites, the legal elites, the science elites ... and the ideas this bunch promotes through the media.'"  That statement, by the way, offers a clue as to how conservatives could possibly see the media as liberal.  Every article on what this or that research study shows--and, therefore, how we ought to change our attitudes because of what THEY say!--is further proof of liberal bossiness.
How did this happen, this scorn for what David Brooks calls "'Resume` Gods'"?  Frank offers a short history lesson on the subject:
Anti-intellectualism in its present form can be dated back to the thirties, when President Roosevelt turned a flock of college professors loose on the economic structure of the nation.  Intellectuals designed the New Deal's regulatory apparatus, they set up Social Security, they did studies and wrote reports, all of which was regarded by the business community of the time as inexcusable and arrogant meddling with the rights of private property.
A second anti-intellectual efflorescence came in the fifties, when U.S. senator Joe McCarthy led his Republican rebels in unearthing a leftist conspiracy that involved not some radicalized proletariat but instead an assortment of spoiled ingrates born to the highest-ranking families and educated at the finest universities:  condescending intellectuals like Alger Hiss, the upper-class, Harvard-educated New Dealer who may well have been a Soviet spy.  Whittaker Chambers wrote that when he made his famous accusation against Hiss, he exposed a "jagged fissure" running "between the plain men and women of the nation, and those who affected to act, think, and speak for them.  ...
This was a fairly novel suggestion at the time.  The intellectuals were the ones betraying capitalism, while the working class--once the object of conservative dread--was standing tall for the American way.  Thanks to endless repetition in the decades since then, however, this vision has become common sense, something we all know instinctively.

Frank pretends we dislike intellectuals "instinctively", but he made me wonder:  Do people in most cultures tend to mistrust those who are obviously intelligent?  The Chinese and Japanese don't seem to.  Is scorn of eggheads just an American eccentricity?  If so, call me un-American because I respect people who are more intelligent than I, especially if they use their smarts for the common good--as Jeff Smith and Howard Dean do.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Occasionally, Bill McClellan, the Post-Dispatch columnist, accuses liberals of being a whiny bunch.  That charge never made sense to me.  Do any in this group think we're whiny?  But now, thanks to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Thomas Frank, I get it.Monday morning's paper said that Ah-nie is in trouble for calling state legislators "girlie men"--sexist AND homophobic in just two words.  According to the Post, state senator "Sheila Kuhl, a Democrat, said the governor had resorted to 'blatant homophobia'".  Well, of course, he did.  He's Arnold.  And if I were Ms. Kuhl and a reporter asked me about it, I'd grin ruefully and say, "What do you expect?  We're dealing with Arnold here."  I think her self-righteousness tone is a tad whiny. 
Now for Tom Frank's contribution to my education:  In What's the Matter with Kansas?, he stresses how much the Red Staters hate political correctness--and any whining about it.  It's one of the many themes they love to rage about.  If you think we know how to sputter and moan, listen to Frank's description of our counterparts:
As culture war, the backlash was born to lose.  Its goal is not to win cultural battles but to take offense, conspicuously, vocally, even flamboyantly.  Indignation is the great aesthetic principle of backlash culture ....  The result is what we will call the plen-T-plaint, a curious amassing of petty unrelated beefs with the world.  Its aim is to infuriate us with dozens, hundreds, thousands of stories of the many tiny ways the world around us assaults family values, uses obscenities, disrespects parents, foments revolution, and so on. ...  The plen-T-plaint is the modus operandi for that cyberspace favorite, the political-correctness scoreboard, in which ridiculous examples of liberal intolerance (hypersensitive minorities, discrimination against Christians, silly mascot issues) are heaped up by the thousands. ...  Who knows what "precedent" the Supreme Court will pull out of its ass next?  Or which figure of everyday speech--the word "pet", the word "wife", any reference to Christmas--the commissars of political correctness will criminalize, even as they enlarge the list of swear words permissible for broadcast on TV?
Considering that Ms. Kuhl is probably already memorialized on several of these plen-T-plaint sites, I wonder:  is it possible to convince backlashers to see beyond these petty complaints?  In other words, is it possible to make them aware of our common ground?  In the short run, probably not.   It makes more sense to concentrate for now on communicating our vision of economic fairness to those receptive people who will help us rebuild a Democratic party that speaks for ordinary Americans instead of for corporations.  

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

This past Sunday morning on the Washington Journal (C-span 1), a newspaper article was read about John Kerry's brother, Cam Kerry, going to Israel as his emissary to assert that Kerry was 100% behind Israel's safety and right to defend itself including the building of the wall. What's going on here? Is this really Kerry's position: the Israeli government is right no matter what and the Palestinians are not worth talking to? I'd hate to think so.  That would make it hard for me to vote for him.  But I can't help suspecting that something else is going on here.  With this news coming on the heels of the brouhaha about his being Catholic and supporting pro-choice and also knowing that the rightwing is beginning to vigorously rally its fundamentalist base, I wonder if this info is being promulgated by the RNC or the White House. 
One possibility is that this is just another example of the RNC trying to make the point that there are no differences between Bush's positions and those of Kerry. Another possibility is that this is the RNC playing the religion card in a different, and very strange, way. First they come after Kerry as a bad Catholic. Then they make him out to be a closet Jew, even suggesting that he like his brother, might convert to Judaism. Are they here hoping to tap into what is a not-very-latent anti-semitism in some parts of this country? What is worse for these people? Being Jewish, being French, or perhaps being a French Jew? For myself I don't care what religion he is as long as he keeps it out of government.
Interesting aside: They characterize Kerry as Jewish even though only one of his grandparents was Jewish. Reminds me of how a person is characterized as black even though that person has only a small proportion of African-American heritage, the implication being that the least "taint" permeates the whole. It sounds racist to me! Finally, unless I am mistaken, Orthodox Jews do not consider a person Jewish unless his mother is Jewish. As I understand it, Kerry's Jewish heritage comes from a grandfather who converted to Catholicism. So, what is the RNC up to? Are they trying to make a point or just muddy the religious waters?
Jeannette Ward 

Monday, July 19, 2004

What a Day!
Okay, so I wasn't there--I was stuck in the undisclosed location, but about 250 people came to Jeff Smith's organizing convention and made it a huge success. This wasn't just a get together and hear about Jeff day, this was a day to plan how to make Jeff the next Congressman from the 3rd District of Missouri.  There was great energy in planning 10 town halls to bring voters out to meet Jeff where the hardest working man in politics will leave no question unanswered!  We'll have details to come, but remember two League of Women voters forums are happening. The first is tonight in Arnold which is just over the line in Jefferson County. 
League of Women Voters Debate #1
Monday, July 19, 2004 - 7:00 pm
Fox School District Rickman Auditorium
747 Jeffco Blvd.
Arnold, MO 63010
Next Monday will be the second Debate and it will be in the Saint Louis City.  One of the biggest helps you can be between now and then is to talk up Jeff and the opportunities to see him whether it be debates, coffees or town hall meetings.  Because once someone sees Jeff, they become hooked! 

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Robert Reich thinks workers ought to--and might very well--demand higher taxes on corporate profits and lower taxes on wages. Now he's talkin'. Seems like a good solution to me.  Except for one problem:  it ain't gonna happen without a lot of progressive, grassroots-funded congressmen to vote for it.  Most Dems today wouldn't dare offend their campaign contributors.  But that's what we're here for, right?  To get the progressives elected.  Click here to get the details of Reich's article.

I was disappointed a year and a half ago, when John Sherffius left the Post-Dispatch as its editorial cartoonist. Many a morning, I opened the Metro section of the paper and said to myself, "He's hit the nail on the head again." Take a look for yourself. He's now working at American Prospect. Just click here, and after enjoying the first cartoon, click on View Cartoon Archive.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

What are you doing Saturday?

From the beginning, we have tried to run a different kind of campaign. Thanks to you, we have been able to run a true grassroots alternative to the traditional big money campaigns. Now it's time to try something no campaign has ever done before.

You built this campaign; now we want you to decide what we should do next. On Saturday, July 17, from 2pm to 4pm, come celebrate our success and help us plan for the future. This is our chance to thank you for your support. It is your chance to shape this campaign and make it a grassroots movement we can all be proud of. And it is our chance to show the press and the public that we have what it takes to put a true progressive in Congress.

At the end of July, the Post-Dispatch will decide who to endorse in the 3rd District Primary. At the same time, more than 80% of voters will be deciding who to support. We need to show them that this campaign can win. By taking two hours to celebrate with us, you can show the strength of this campaign and prove that a grassroots campaign can beat the traditional campaigns.

We need to know how many people to expect, so we can let the press know and so we can plan. Please RSVP right away by replying to this email with your name, your address and your phone number. If you have any questions, or if you would like to RSVP by phone, call 481-5333 and say you are calling about the Jeff Organizing Convention.

Thanks for your support,

Sam Simon
Field Director
Jeff Smith 2004

PS Posted by Scott the Blogger from an undisclosed location and one of Artie's ever growing legion of minions---I'm back and posting again so c'mon over to Jeff Smith 2004 for new postings---well mainly the above right now, but more to come soon.

Monday, July 12, 2004

I received a call for action recently from United For Peace and Justice. They have been planning a massive protest in New York City during the RNC convention for over a year now and are having considerable difficulty with the city officials. This protest is supported by many groups and promises to be a truly massive showing. I am sending this link along for your information, but also to raise some questions.

First, I must admit I adore protests. It makes my heart sing to see citizens in the street putting their physical presence where their thoughts are. You don't actually get to see many of these on commercial TV. Worldlink channel on satellite TV showed quite a bit of footage of the war protests around the world and also the WTO protests and even some of the protests that surrounded the Bush inauguration parade. Regarding the parade protest, I heard from friends a lot of juicy details that were not on the news, but the best and most moving footage was that shown by Michael Moore in "Fahrenheit 911". In short, I love to see the protests, but it is hard to find good coverage on the news. If they are not well covered by the media, does this in part defeat the purpose of the protest? Also, given that the administration is now hyping the threat level and it is said security at both conventions will be at an all time high, I fear that the push-back against the protestors by the authorities could be draconian.

That said, a final question I would like to raise is this: are protests always a good idea? This question was put to me recently by a friend who felt that the Kerry/Edwards ticket was gaining such momentum and the Bush regime was doing such a great job of "deep-sixing" itself that an RNC convention protest at this time, particularly a very vigorous one that could appear violent, might be counterproductive in giving the RNC more grist for its mill and driving away potential swing voters. Should the Democrats concentrate on being the "good guys", those of sanity and high moral purpose, or should we just let it all hang out and allow everyone to have their outraged "say"? Should strategy count here? How much does perception count as opposed to reality? I'm still chewing over this one and would appreciate opinions from commentators to the blog. Thanks, Jeannette Ward

On Saturday night after election day 2000, I attended a party of twenty or so people. The host had mentioned to me previously that he thought discussing politics at that sort of function was in poor taste, so I knew enough to keep my mouth shut. I wish he'd said the same to some of the Republicans. Three in particular started ranting about how Gore was trying to steal a state Bush had won. They angrily held forth while I gritted my teeth. But even if I had responded, I wouldn't have been yelling. Their hatefulness impressed me.
Fast forward to Monday, July 12. The headline of Mona Charen's column is "What some call charisma is really smarmy salesmanship: Edwards claims to help the 'little guy,' but it was ambulance-chasing that made him rich." There's no left-leaning columnist in the Post who's inclined to ad hominem attacks, but that kind of strafing is the main ammunition of Charen, Cal Thomas and Charles Krauthammer. Then there's talk radio and Fox. What haters. Now for the left. Molly Ivins lambastes Republicans regularly--with wit and style. Ditto Ariana Huffington. As for Krugman's columns, they are fact filled and thoughtful. And check out Barbara Ehrenreich at the New York Times. Okay, okay, I'll admit that Fahrenheit 911 is a polemic. And a damn good one. Go Michael!
Moving from pundits to politicos, we have Catharine Hanaway's bunch at the state level and, oh god, don't even let me start on Cheney, Rove, et. al.
People mourn the passing of civility now that we lefties are angry, but there comes a time when we have to push back. If I'd stayed any longer at that party, they'd have heard a piece of my mind. Maybe I should plan a party this fall for that same group--on November 7th. If I'm not grinning and complacent, I'll be angry enough to speak up this time.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Republican leadership in the Senate is trying to crack down on moderate members of their own party. They intend to punish those who don't toe the party line.
What prompted this thinking is the trouble Republicans are having as they try to pass a budget. Arizona Sen. John McCain, for example, has said he wants to see the Republican Party adhere to fiscal discipline. Rather than compromising, conservatives prefer to dig in their heels and change the system. There's talk, for example, of assigning committee seats not by seniority but by having Frist award positions.
The quotation above is from a short article in American Prospect. Click here to read the rest.

NPR hourly news Thursday had a snippet from Ken Lay's attorney, basically saying that Mr. Lay founded Enron, nurtured it and watched it grow. He would never do anything underhanded to jeopardize his creation; in fact, he lost millions when it went bankrupt. I couldn't help but think of that statement again when I came across a New Yorker cartoon of a small man in a business suit sitting across a table from an outsized, angry creature--a hybrid of a dragon and Satan himself. The man is protesting defensively: "No, no, I like you. I only meant that we have to make you likable to a jury."
They wouldn't want me on that jury. I don't favor capital punishment, but for a man who ruined the retirement of thousands of ordinary workers, I'd consider it.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Whether John Kerry wins in November or not, a Democratic senate is crucial--to give him some support or to block Bush's extreme agenda. So what are the chances of that? The July 12 issue of The Nation analyzes them. Here's the math.
--Five Southern Democrats are retiring. One Republican said that situation "would put Democrats in a 'Custer's Last Stand' position in the Deep South. But Democrats have come up with strong contenders in four of those five states. Only Georgia looks undoable.
--Democrats stand a good chance to pick up four seats outside the South. Three Republicans are retiring, and another is vulnerable. Barack Obama is sitting pretty in Illinois. Salazar in Colorado and Knowles in Alaska are leading in the polls. Carson in Oklahoma is running even.
--A few other Republicans are somewhat vulnerable. Democrats may yet threaten three incumbents. Nancy Farmer in Missouri, Dan Mongiardo in Kentucky, and Joe Hoeffel against Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania can point to poll numbers that indicate they might have a shot. Oh, and in New Hampshire, Doris "Granny D" Haddock, just entered the race and "can be expected to mount a colorful challenge to Judd Gregg, the GOP incumbent.
If the Democrats re-elect their incumbents, hold three of the five Southern seats and win the four GOP-held seats outside the South,...they're at 51. It's doable, but [nobody's] popping champagne corks [yet].

Monday, July 05, 2004

My husband and I have a new euphemism for the F word. We got the idea from a column by Joe Klein in the July 5 issue of Time:
Bob Woodward reported that [General Tommy] Franks once called Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith, who was charged with postwar planning, "the [Cheney expletive] stupidest guy on the face of the earth," and some defense experts are wondering if Franks, who has a reputation for candor, will elaborate on that [in his soon-to-be-published book].
So now when we want to cuss politely, we don't bother with the word "expletive". We've just shortened it to "Cheney", as in: "Our Cheneying president is going down next November."
And by the way, "Cheney expletive" isn't the only entertainment to be had from Klein's column. Click here to read the rest.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Late last January, just before our primary, I went through the checkout lane at True Value with my scarf partially obscuring my Dean button. With a bright smile, the checkout lady asked: "Who's Edward Dean?" I pulled the scarf away and said: "Howard Dean." She replied: "Oh, who's Howard Dean?" I explained and asked if she would be voting in the primary. She said, of course, she always votes. Depressing. Then last week, I discovered that my brother-in-law, who usually votes Republican, didn't know who Karl Rove is.
Do we need a test before people are allowed to vote? I'm not talking about one that asks them the three branches of government, either. I'm talking basic knowledge of current events. Here are the first five questions I'd use if the election were being held today. (Anyone who can answer all the extra credit questions correctly gets to vote twice). Feel free to add others.
1. Who is President Bush's top campaign manager?
a. Richard Perle
b. Karl Rove
c. Tim Russert
d. Wes Clark
(Anyone who answers Wes Clark is to be immediately ejected from the polling place.)
2. In which state did Supreme Court justices recently rule that gay marriage had to be legalized?
a. Massachusetts
b. Florida
d. Connecticut
e. Colorado
Extra Credit: Name a state that already has civil unions for gays.
3. What is the name of the American proconsul who has been in charge of Iraq this last year?
a. Paul Wolfowitz
b. Douglas Feith
c. Donald Rumsfeld
d. Paul Bremer
Extra credit: Name the new ambassador to Iraq now that sovereignty has been turned over to Iraqis.
4. Ahmed Chalabi is:
a. an Iraqi exile who urged Bush to attack Iraq
b. Osama bin Laden's second in command
c. an American born Muslim who is accused of planning to use a "dirty bomb"
d. the new head of the Iraqi governing council
Extra Credit: Name the Middle Eastern country where Chalabi embezzled millions of dollars and from which he had to flee in the trunk of a car.
5. What criticisms did opponents of the new Medicare Bill offer:
a. There was no provision for bargaining with drug companies for lower drug prices.
b. Drug prices were not locked in for people who bought prescription cards.
c. Drug companies could import Canadian manufactured drugs and sell them at twice the price in the United States.
d. all of the above
e. a and b
f. a and c
This one's not so easy. Maybe it should be extra credit. Here's the new #5:
5. One of the following statements is pure fiction. The others describe secrecy in the current administration. Which one is imaginary?
a. Vice President Cheney refused to surrender the records of the secret meetings of his energy commission.
b. For more than two years, Attorney General John Ashcroft refused to release the names of prisoners taken in Afghanistan.
c. A government accountant was threatened with firing if he revealed the true cost of the Medicare bill before Congress voted on it.
d. President Bush refused to appear before the 9/11 Commission, in public or in private.
Extra Credit: John Kerry embarrassed himself by denying that:
a. he owns an SUV, when, in fact, his family owns several.
b. he owns union busting Wal-Mart stock, when in fact he owns 2000 shares.
c. he accepted a contribution of $2000 each from Chinese companies applying for permits in the U.S. Kerry did accept them.
d. His daughter frequents a gay bar, and he is aware of the fact.