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    • How to Stop Russian Election Interference
      Let us take as a given that Russia interfered in the last US election (though many of the accusations are unconvincing, some appear to be be true). I’m pushing this back to the top, for what I assume are obvious reasons. Originally published Feb 1, 2018. Why did they interfere? They most likely did so […]
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Dishonest Intellectuals


I was so busy ranting and raving yesterday that I missed a good one. Glenzilla wrote a good piece on the pervasiveness of Democratic dissatisfaction, and linked to this post by Michael Kinsley at Politico on the topic of intellectual dishonesty:

The blight of intellectual dishonesty is everybody’s problem. What is intellectual honesty? Yglesias seems to think it’s the same thing as accuracy or honesty, plain and simple. But it’s not. Accuracy means getting your facts straight. Honesty means not telling conscious or purposeful lies on questions of hard fact. Intellectual honesty is more demanding: It means being truthful about what’s going on inside your own head.

To start, you shouldn’t say anything that you don’t believe is true. But that’s just to start. Intellectual honesty means that you have a basis for your belief, that you have tested your belief against other beliefs on the same subject, that you have no blinding bias or, at least, have put bias aside as best you can. “Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander”: Your views on, say, the constitutional limits of presidential war powers should not turn on which party controls the presidency. Your views on one subject should be consistent with your views on all other subjects. And if you’re going to base your reelection campaign on your opponent’s 20-year-old arrest for drunken driving, or on how his visits to Washington as a teenager (you visited once; he visited three times and even sent his mom a postcard saying he was having fun) make him too “inside the Beltway,” you need to have handy an explanation of why you believe that this is one of the most pressing issues facing voters.

Glenn had this to say:

It’s fine if someone wants to be a cheerleader, clapping loudly in order to rally the troops. Every Party has and needs those types of people (though it’s strange (though not unusual) that a person who wants to do that would call himself a “journalist”; generally one finds that trait in political operatives and spokespeople).

[…]

The claim that dissatisfaction among Democrats is confined to a “couple of blogs” might advance Schmitt’s political objectives. Given the human craving to make perceptions correspond with desires, it likely makes him feel good to believe that it’s true. But it’s so plainly false that it’s hard to believe that anyone could say it with a straight face, let alone believe that it will help anything — their Party or themselves — to claim it. As a general proposition, papering over serious problems — pretending they do not exist — is never constructive, and that’s certainly true when it comes to a Party’s political failures. Worst of all, making this claim obscures a very important truth that ought to be promoted and amplified, one which the establishment media (“move to the Right!”) will do its best to deny after November: Democrats do themselves no favors when they ignore the wishes, values and agenda of their “base”: i.e., those who are most responsible for their being in power. Quite the opposite is true.


You may have noticed that my most spittle-flecked rants are the ones directed at the A-list progressive bloggers rather than Republicans or right-wing bloggers. The reason for that is best encapsulated by this comment from WMCB:

I do not get freaked out and angry when my elderly dog with a bladder problem keeps peeing on the corner of my couch. I don’t LIKE it, but I sort of expect it.

I do, however, get pissed off as hell if my husband is doing it.


Once upon a time Left Blogistan was a meritocracy. This was back in the days when the Mainly Stupid Media was discussing the distinguishing characteristics of the Clenis and swooning over Commander Codpiece. More and more people started using the internet and some of them started web logs which were basically diaries or journals where people posted their thoughts and ideas.

Some of these “blogs” focused on news and politics. The authors usually didn’t have special sources of information, they just did analysis that was very different from that being done by the chattering classes. A few of these bloggers gained fame not because somebody handed them a megaphone but because of the quality of their writing.

Other writers linked to them, blogrolls were started, and an online community formed. These bloggers eschewed groupthink, were irreverent and took pride in being members of the “reality based community.” Oh, and they said “fuck” a lot and used lots of other profanity too.

Those were heady days, heady days indeed.

I’m not talking about latecomers like Ezra and Matty Y. who went straight from potty-training to professional (paid) blogging. I’m talking about people like Digby, who built her reputation without ever revealing her true identity. In fact, many people were surprised to learn that Digby was a “she,” not a “he.”

Then came the wunderkind (almost all male) who looked at blogging as a financial opportunity and talked about business models. These were guys like Markos and Josh. They were followed by Arianna and other well-funded entrepreneurs who simply bought their way in. Last of all came the Gen X’ers like Matt and Ezra who were just hired and given the online equivalent of megaphones.

Somewhere during the time the blogosphere was becoming”professional” it also became corrupted. Most of us didn’t realize it until about 2008 when we were shocked and dismayed to learn the true natures of many people we had come to respect.

I don’t know if they changed or it was bullshit from day one. Some of both I’d guess.

For years they told us about the moral and ethical failings of the Republicans and Movement Conservatives. We were told we should aspire to more than just winning elections. We were supposed reform our political system by replacing the faux-morality of the right with a true morality based on truth, respect for the law and principles of democracy.

We opposed the war, racism, sexism and other forms of bigotry. We despised the “Village” and government secrecy. We tried to use the internet to organize grassroots activism and counter the influence of the malefactors of great wealth.

So what happened? Obamanation happened.

VastLeft:

This year’s running of the quadrennial horse race exposed — to those who would notice — many flaws in the progressive blogosphere, some as surprising as they were disappointing: bullying groupthink, classism, misogyny, and disturbing appetites for stale rightwing baloney and newly minted Drudgian smears.

Overarching the whole experience was a cloud of truthiness, believing whatever it felt good to believe, facts-be-damned.

The Obama skeptic found her/himself in the Ron Suskind role, the nose-against-the-glass reality-based wonk who “just didn’t get it,” being read the latest edition of the Arthur Jensen speech.


Eric Boehlert:

One of the most interesting things bloggers have told me (often off the record) about the primary season was how clear it became that their readers really did dictate what the bloggers wrote. For years, bloggers and their readers had been in heated agreement about Bush, about Iraq, about the MSM. But in lots of cases they were not in agreement about who should be the Democratic nominee and bloggers mentioned to me how strange and uncomfortable that schism was, and how in the end many of them did just punt. Meaning, they got tired of fighting with their readers and simply didn’t write certain things because they knew it would create a pie fight within the site. They’re not especially proud of it, but they have conceded that they did alter what they wrote. And that for them it was a real eye-opener because they had spent years educating their readers about politics and the press and creating certain narratives together. And then during the primary season, some bloggers felt like their readers just completely ignored those shared lessons (and of course, the readers would say it was the blogger who ignored those shared lessons) that left the bloggers with the uncomfortable choice of essentially rejecting their readers or editing what they wrote. Today, some will admit they opted for the second choice.


How about Digby?:

“I thought it was character assassination,” Digby told me a couple weeks after the RFK controversy had passed. She was exhausted by the toll the campaign had already taken on the blogosphere. She was also aware of the kind of pie fights that would erupt on her site if she posted a condemnation of those who unfairly attacked Clinton for her RFK comments. So Digby, who never endorsed either candidate, simply passed on the story. “I’m a chicken shit,” she said with a shake of her head.


Whether corrupt or chickenshit, the things we saw were more than just disappointing, they were an infuriating betrayal of everything we believe in. Worst of all, things haven’t changed.

These “leaders” of Left Blogistan sold us out on health care reform. They traded away any discussion of single payer in exchange for Obama’s promises on the ambiguous “public option.” Corrente has done a good job of documenting the way all the big blogs acted in unison in squishing any mention of single payer.

So instead of being advocates for us they became cheerleaders for ObamaCare. But Obama fucked ’em, and we got fucked too.

Maybe they thought they were really doing the right thing, but what they did violated basic principles of democracy. We’re supposed to be all about openness and grassroots “bottom-up” action.

What the A-list bloggers did was to conspire in secret (through the Journolist, other listservs, private emails and/or White House conference calls) to suppress open discussion and impose a “top-down” outcome. If wasn’t the first time or the last.

Now they’re trying to use the Jedi mind-trick on us and convince us we’re living in a progressive paradise. Sorry guys, but that only works on weak minds so don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining.

Of course they don’t care what we think because we were prematurely correct and carry the PUMA taint.

Well they can all kiss my taint.


Just say No!

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Elena Kagan and Laura Bush: When Pigs Really Fly

Kudos to the President for nominating another lady to the supreme court. Well done. But something’s not right here. What is it…? Oh, yeah.

I’m really, really glad Obama chose a woman. I really, really wish she were more liberal. I suspect she’ll be okay on Roe and other “social issues,” but her attitude to executive power is alarming.

Also, rumors abound that Kagan is gay. Let’s just pretend for a second that we care….

Glad that’s over.

As for social issues, the President has really given us a treat! He picked someone that is kind of pro-choice! OMG! But wait…

As a White House adviser in 1997, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan urged then-President Bill Clinton to support a ban on late-term abortions, a political compromise that put the administration at odds with abortion rights groups.

Documents reviewed Monday by The Associated Press show Kagan encouraging Clinton to support a bill that would have banned all abortions of viable fetuses except when the physical health of the mother was at risk. The documents from Clinton’s presidential library are among the first to surface in which Kagan weighs in the thorny issue of abortion.

The abortion proposal was a compromise by Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle. Clinton supported it, but the proposal failed and Clinton vetoed a stricter Republican ban.

In a May 13, 1997, memo from the White House domestic policy office, Kagan and her boss, Bruce Reed, told Clinton that abortion rights groups opposed Daschle’s compromise. But they urged the president to support it, saying he otherwise risked seeing a Republican-led Congress override his veto on the stricter bill.

Oh. But still! Since Kagan is probably a lezbo, she must support gay marriage, right? Wrong.

The meme has taken hold that Kagan is a stealth candidate who has avoided taking positions on important constitutional or other issues throughout her career.

But on one issue of critical importance to the left — the constitutional right to same-sex marriage, Kagan has staked out a very clear and unequivocal position: There is no constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

In the course of her nomination for Solicitor General, Kagan filled out questionnaires on a variety of issues. While she bobbed and weaved on many issues, with standard invocations of the need to follow precedent and enforce presumptively valid statutes, on the issue of same-sex marriage Kagan was unequivocal.

Kagan is a winner in other ways, too:

“Like Harriet Miers, she doesn’t have a record to tell us how she would adjudicate from the bench. They led a rebellion against the executive branch and the same thing should happen here.”

“I object to appointment somebody that has no track record. Corporate power is a big one because of the Citizens United decision, and also Miranda. There are a lot of things where it would be helpful to be able to examine past writings.”

“If I was in the Senate, I would vote no, because like Harriet Miers she doesn’t have the judicial experience.”

“Accepting Kagan just because people like Obama is wrong. That’s appropriate for American Idol, not the Supreme Court. Nobody knows what she stands for but him. It’s just a cult of personality with Obama. This is the Supreme Court.”

There is something fundamentally wrong about this. Everyone is used to Obama constantly rejecting his base. They are like devoted mistresses who constantly tell themselves that their boyfriends will leave their wives–he is just making a compromise right now; it’s a secret game of eleven dimensional chest and during the election time he will come crawling back. But really, why do liberals have to compromise in the first place?

The selection of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to be the nation’s 112th justice extends a quarter-century pattern in which Republican presidents generally install strong conservatives on the Supreme Court while Democratic presidents pick candidates who often disappoint their liberal base.

[…]

Along the way, conservatives have largely succeeded in framing the debate, putting liberals on the defensive. Sonia Sotomayor echoed conservatives in her Supreme Court confirmation hearings last year by rejecting the idea of a “living” Constitution that evolves, and even President Obama recently said the court had gone too far in the past. While conservatives have played a powerful role in influencing Republican nominations, liberals have not been as potent in Democratic selections.

Well, I don’t know. Maybe the blogger boyz just need a reality check. For one thing, Obama is just not that into them.

For another, the notion that Obama is a “Democratic President” is laughable anyway. Democratic Presidents don’t pass Heritage Foundation Health Insurance Reforms and then claim it as the biggest victory of their Presidency. Just sayin.’

The Democratic Party is obviously in trouble, and that is no secret. But they can’t be any worse than Republicans, right? NOTHING is worse than a Republican. I mean, Elena Kagan might not be perfect on social issues, but at least she’s more liberal that Laura Bush!

On her media tour for her memoir, Spoken from the Heart, Laura Bush stopped by Larry King Live, where she opened up for the first time about her advocacy for marriage equality, as well as her belief that Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision regarding a woman’s right to an abortion, should be upheld.

Common Sense and the sensus communis: anatomy of an American pressure cooker

romesenate1

Gay-Lussac

The pressure of a fixed mass and fixed volume of a gas is directly proportional to the gas’s temperature.

This relationship is known as the Gay-Lussac’s Law and a pressure cooker is an example of the law in practice. Cooking under pressure creates the possibility of cooking with high temperature liquids because the boiling point of a liquid increases as its pressure increases. High pressure and high heat can result in delectable dishes.

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Cooking under pressure can be also dangerous because as liquids change phase into gases their volume expands greatly. For example, at atmospheric pressure the volume of steam is about 1700 times greater than the volume of water. To prevent pressure cookers from becoming bombs, relief devices (pop safety valves) are employed that are capable of relieving all of the steam the vessel is capable of producing.

America the Beautiful Pressure Cooker

The political pressure cooker is beginning to heat up. The power brokers and institutions that drive the nation have arrived unannounced on the doorsteps of America like a gaggle of unwanted, high maintenance relatives that demand hospitality for an unforeseeable time and that won’t take no for answer. Furthermore, they’ve announced that more relatives are on the way. Whatever plans America’s householders had, they’ve just gone out the window, with their household budgie and the relatives’ cat in hot pursuit.

People are justifiably angry with this incursion. Their budgie might not have been much, but it was “their budgie”, nurtured from birth into what it had become. Justifiably angry householders are trying to work out why the relatives arrived on their doorsteps and why they brought their fucking cat. Continue reading

Power in the USA: political string theory in US politics

Puppet_Master
How are power relations shaping the U.S. political sphere? From the primary campaign to the tea parties and the raucous healthcare forums, Americans are out in force. Regardless of their political stripe, are their actions in their own best interest or are they being played? What influences are determining how people perceive the issues, what aspects of the issues are open to debate, and what aspects are not open for consideration? Whom is mobilizing whom and for what?

Steven Lukes, in his classic “Power: A Radical View” offers a framework for analyzing the types of power relations that shape policy and society within democratically-oriented nations. The overly simplified summary that follows is intended as a tool to direct our discussion.

Power, oversimplified, is the capacity of individual or collective agents to achieve their intended outcomes by getting others to act for these outcomes, even when these outcomes are against their own best interests. In achieving these outcomes the three dimensions of power tend to function in a complimentary fashion.

The first dimension of power is the capacity to realize one’s aims in decision-making situations. This is the capacity to acquire a representative majority, whatever form that may take, be it a simple plurality or a Presidential veto. For example, the Democrats now control the House, the Senate, and the Presidency because they acquired a representative majority in all of these areas in the last election.

The second dimension of power is the capacity to determine the agenda, that is, the scope of decision-making situations. This is the capacity to contain and direct deliberation within parameters wherein first dimension power can be exercised to achieve one’s aims while concurrently foreclosing considerations that could undermine one’s first dimension power. An example of the second dimension of power at work is that President Obama and many ranking Democrats, even with their filibuster-proof majority, have effectively excluded single-payer from the healthcare reform options.

The third dimension of power is the capacity to secure prior consent to these decisions by manipulating how people perceive their parameters of choice. In harnessing their choices, one either harnesses their actions, the choices and/or actions of others they have power over, or both. In this way, according to Amartya Sen, the ‘most blatant forms of inequalities and exploitations survive in the world through making allies out of the deprived and the exploited.’

Propaganda, i.e. political spin and sloganeering, for example, exists to seep, and/or be ground into, people’s consciousness to influence their decision making, as Goebbels noted. “Government should not interfere with business“, “Socialism (or capitalism) is evil”, “Free trade brings freedom”, and “Healthcare forum disrupters are all astroturfed Republicans” are examples of such sloganeering propagandizing and Rove and Axelrod practise propaganda architectonics.

Social signs of third dimension power relations include overtly inequitable distributions of natural and cultural social goods within a community; a relative acceptance of these social relations among those disadvantaged by these relationships; and evidence of mechanisms in play that have prevented the disadvantaged from perceiving their circumstances as potentially otherwise. From the perspective of a single payer advocate, for example, I perceive the clusters of people who are making statements about keeping the government out of Medicare as being in the same boat as those who are pushing for Obama’s bait-and-switch private insurance debacle while thinking they are getting a publicly-funded cost effective model. Both groups are actively working against their own interests.

Assuming that the three dimensions of power are alive, well, and very much involved in the continuing mass transference of wealth from the middle class to the elite, what can be done to reverse this trend? As bloggers, and blog participants, what can and should we do?

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The Great Astroturf War of 2009

astroturf

The traditional August recess during non-election years is usually like going cold turkey for political junkies (and bloggers are political junkies.)  These dog days of summer drag by at an excruciatingly slooooow pace, with Congress and the President out of Washington and nothing happening to talk about.

Not this year.

This summer may even turn out to be more fun than last year’s, since Palinpalooza didn’t start until September and that was when the real fun started.  This year it looks like we’re gonna see mob vs. mob action at townhall events across the nation.

If you cruise the Kool-aid blogs you’ll see that all the trouble is being caused by tea-bagging birthers who are being led by Rush Limburger and Glenn Beck.  If you visit the winger blogs you’ll learn that Comrade Obama has deployed union goons to prevent good, patriotic Americans from exercising their constitutional rights.

Grab some popcorn and let’s take a closer look at a few showdowns:

Continue reading