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For those of you following along at home, I’m going through Jehovah’s Witnesses apostate internet postings because if anyone is an expert on how thought reform and cult indoctrination works, it’s an ex-JW.  You don’t even need to have been baptized as one (I wasn’t), just growing up with that stuff and getting away from it makes you permanently sensitized to new bullshit techniques.  And given that we are coming up on an election year, it’s really important that we guard ourselves and learn to recognize when we’re being manipulated so we can avoid making another 2 to 4 year mistake.

Today I’m going to talk about something everyone does because it’s necessary component of human nature.  We categorize.  But because those of us who came of age or worked most of our lives in the internet age tend to broadcast our categories to the public, we make ourselves vulnerable to unscrupulous people who use blogs such as this one and places like DailyKos to data mine and focus group concepts that are later used to persuade us to do one thing or another.

To understand how categorization and trigger words work, check out this video by Cult Free Radio on Social Categorization Theory Part1:

and Part 2:

So, how has categorization been used by politicians in the recent past?  I have one personal example that I’ve shared before but it fits into this topic pretty well so I’m going to tell it again.

When I went to YearlyKos 2 in Chicago in 2007, all but one of the Democratic Party candidates for president attended a Candidates Forum, followed by individual breakout sessions.  Hillary’s breakout session was before the forum because the YearlyKos organizers had screwed with her schedule, “inadvertently”, I’m sure.  I had signed up for Hillary’s session because, even though I went to Chicago as an Edwards supporter, I felt that I should try to evaluate her fairly and she was the only female candidate and her session was open where Barack Obama’s was full and I had already decided to take a look at Obama in 2012 because he wasn’t seasoned enough to run for president.

Ok, so Hillary was pretty good in her breakout session.  She was prepared, overprepared, thorough, and had a command of policy that was impressive.  I am forced to sit through a lot of scientific presentations every year and you get the hang of knowing when someone has done their homework and understands what they are talking about and when they are baffling with bullshit.  I can say that based on my experience, Hillary knew her shit.  She was able to mentally walk around a concept and tell you everything about it.  Not only that but you could ask her any question and she had a policy for it organized in her head like an outline with topic, subtopic, points, codicils, subparagraphs, exceptions, and funding mechanisms.  She was that good, which is one of the reasons I am so pissed off that we got stuck with someone who was at best a beginner compared to her.  But I digress.

ANYWAY, after her breakout session, the Candidates Forum was held in the ballroom.  And that’s when the category shit hit the fan.  It became very clear to me, because I spent a lot of time on DailyKos, that some candidates had figured out how to push a Kossack’s buttons.  Much to my dismay, the worst offender was John Edwards.  I sat there stunned as he played that crowd like PT Barnum.  He knew every category and word that would trigger an emotional response from his audience and he used those words shamelessly.  But it wasn’t just that he used those words that made me realize what a phony he was.  It was the rest of this rhetoric was completely devoid of anything else.  At least Hillary tried to explain herself before she was booed.  Edwards didn’t have to do that.  All he needed to do was say the magic words and the Kossacks leapt to their feet cheering and screaming.  It was disgusting.  I decided right there I could never vote for the man.  What he was reminded me more of one of those charismatic sociopaths than a politician.  Ok, some of you are thinking that they’re mostly the same thing, right?  No, I think that a real politician has substance behind the words and Edwards, um, didn’t.

I’m sure that those of you who read the left blogosphere know what he concentrated on.  He used the words “corporate” and “lobbyist” a lot.  But there were others that I can’t remember right at the moment.  He could have used “nuclear”, “genetically modified {fill in the blank}”, “green”, “organic”, “standardized testing”, you know the drill.  You’ve been there.  You probably respond to that too.  We all do to some extent or another.  The problem is they are mental shortcuts and can be used to associate a person to that concept.  Edwards knew (and I’ll tell you how he knew in a sec based on another phenomenon) that if he said the magic words, the crowd would automatically identify him as one of them.  And they did.

Now, how did he know what words to use?  So here’s the other thing I observed.  The Forum happened in August 2007.  By that fall, Edwards was on the ropes.  I think rumors of his messy private life must have become common knowledge among the Democratic operatives.  So, his funding was drying up.  On DailyKos, his followers had been the first to commit the thing I call “The Rec List Hostage Crisis”.  That’s where a pro-Edwards diarist would immediately get a gazillion recommends and shoot to the top of the rec list.  I think Edwards had some regular folks who did an evening summary kinda thing that always made the rec list but more importantly, there were a shitload of conversion diaries.  They were all written the same way.  “Why I’ve decided to vote for Edwards” and then the body of the text was extolling his virtues {{cough, cough}} and a bunch of trigger words.  He doesn’t take corporate money, he’s pure when it comes to lobbyists, blah, blah, blah.  The more I read them, the more I realized that his campaign staff was checking out DailyKos for some time now and had probably used survey information to figure out what makes Kossacks tick and then applied that to the diaries.

But then, Edwards started to fade away.  His campaign was tanking and even Kos said it was a lost cause.  When he finally threw in the towel, the Rec List Hostage Crisis was taken over by Obama people. Same tactics, same fricking buzzwords and trigger words.  The change was so obvious to those of us who were paying attention that there were only a couple of possibilities: A different set of operatives were using the same Edwards’ campaign’s focus group/data mining tools and applying them to the Obama campaign,  or they were the same people.  Actually, I’m betting that it was both.  The Edwards team (and by this I mean a “paid internet campaign staff”) moved over to Obama without missing a beat.  Up went the conversion diaries and all of the love bombing, and the categories and buzzwords and trigger words were beaten to a pulp.  Oddly enough, Hillary’s people didn’t do this.  Maybe we were just not as politically ruthless or we were not interested in platitiudes and categories or Hillary’s campaign wasn’t as active on DailyKos and wasn’t into button pushing or Kos himself had already been bought and paid for by the anti-Hillary elements of the DNC, whoever those people were, and he wasn’t going to let Hillary supporters gain too much of a foothold at DailyKos. Since many Hillary people started to lose TU status at about that time and our diaries didn’t make the rec list in spite of them reaching the recommendation threshold that put diaries on that list, I suspect Kos and his frontpagers made a conscious decision to put the thumb on the scales for Obama and decremented Hillary diaries.  Hope that baby grand piano was worth all of the suffering the country has gone through by defeating Clinton, Markos.

But let’s not be bitter.  DailyKos will not be playing the role it did in 2008.  It shot its wad on the historic election of Barack Obama and you can’t do that one twice.  Besides, the damage has already been done.  The rest of the blogosphere has been analyzed carefully and you can bet your sweet ass that whoever the campaign operatives are this election season have already categorized all of us and have in turn figured out what categories and words we respond to.  They know that Creative Class ninnies respond to Whole Foods and West Elm and financial products and the value of their 401ks and tenure and stuff like that.  They like the idea of social and economic justice but try not to get too cold at a rally.  They like green as long as it can be bought in a store that features renewable bamboo sheets and towels and flooring.  They know lefties hate the words corporation but fail to distinguish between financial service corporations and other corporations, executives and rank and file.

There is some light in all of this.  I’ve noticed that during Virtually Speaking’s A-Z with Jay Ackroyd and Stuart Zechman, there is a genuine attempt to avoid using buzzwords.  (Anything Virtually Speaking with Dahlia Lithwick is worth listening to as well.  She’s very articulate and tends to avoid buzzwords) Jay and Stuart make a conscious effort to break down words, concept by concept, so that we all know exactly what we’re talking about and the mental shortcuts we use to categorize ourselves are minimized.  Stuart still has some problems with centrists and the DLC which I tend to tune out because he’s still thinking that those organizations are important and I don’t think he’s breaking that down carefully enough or has looked longitudinally to see how the original goals of those entities have changed over time.  Besides, the Democrats don’t need the DLC anymore.  They can tap their funding sources more directly these days without having to pretend they have an ideology.  But I have hope for Stuart.  I feel like a light has clicked on for him and he has a clearer picture of the political landscape than he did even a year ago.  He realizes now that the party is in the grip of a high control group of bad actors.  Whether those actors are just political opportunists or sent in from the finance industry’s central casting, they have turned the party into something unrecognizable to the voter who votes based on core Democratic principles.  And those people have to be opposed and not rewarded or we will not get our party back and that could be a serious blow to our democracy as we know it.

Am I right, Stuart?  Yep. You finally reached the point where we were almost 4 years ago.  Welcome to the club.

Bottom line: there are operatives watching every site.  Wave “Hi!” to them.  They are both Republicans and Democrats.  They are trying to sort through the categories and words that they can use to short circuit your thinking  process.  They know that you will make very quick judgements about what you hear because you have categorized a word and either chosen to add it to your identity or assign that word to another identity.  And they know that you do this unconsciously at a super fast speed and don’t even know you’re doing it.

So, make sure that you use your words carefully.  Avoid jargon as much as possible.  When someone uses the words “green” or “energy” or “pro-choice” or “nuclear” or “triangulate” or “corporation” or “capitalism” or “socialism” or “communism” or “muslim” or “fascist” that you stop and ask yourself, what does this word actually mean in this context?  Is someone trying to bamboozle and hoodwink me?  Can the person who is using this word explain what it means to me in a way that makes sense?

The right is good at using categories.  One recent, particularly egregious example of the use of categories and words was from our good buddy, Glenn Beck, who warned his audience to avoid churches who use the words “social justice”.  It’s hard to understand how anyone could oppose social justice.  It would be like trying to make STDs sound cool.  How do you do that??  If we break down what social justice actually means, it’s equal access to the court system, unbiased treatment in employment, starting life on a level playing field (see Finnish baby boxes), access to a good education regardless of your race, gender, national origin, etc and stuff like that.  And who in their right mind, even in the Fox News audience, has a problem with any of that?  Well, Glenn and his backers do and they wanted to put “social justice” in a category where Glenn Beck viewers will fear to tread.  So, if an Occupier holds up a sign that says “Social Justice for all”, the Glenn Beck viewer now knows to avoid OWS and stop any good thoughts about them.  Maybe Occupiers should try to be more specific on their signs but there’s only so much cardboard you can carry around.

While I’m not going to insist that you should restrict your access to any source of information, consider that radio and television have the advantage of sound, which is very fast.  It is much harder to shortcut the brain using the written word.  Yes, you can back up radio and TV now and replay what you’ve heard but one of the reasons we use radio and audible and TV is so that we can multitask.  So the words go in without careful scrutiny.  When you read, you have to slow down and figure out the word in context.  That’s why I don’t watch or listen to TV and radio news programs anymore.  During the 2008 election year, I had become so sensitized to listening for the trigger words that I found the messaging was driving me crazy.  I felt like I had propaganda autism.  You can’t get away from it in a sound format.  So, I just shut it off.  Maybe you’re stronger people than I am and if you are, load up on as much broadcast information as possible.  You should never cut yourself off from information sources.  Just question EVERYTHING.

The other thing I avoid is too much of the social networking tools.  I have a facebook account but I rarely use it.  I get facebook invitations from people I don’t know and I don’t accept them.  If I don’t know who these people are, why should I invite them into my house?  There is no question that political campaigns are going to use social networking tools like twitter and facebook to promote propaganda and shape election narratives in 2012.  That’s how the vast, unwashed masses are going to get the information that will affect their election decisions in the future.  They will get messages from their friends  who were targetted with a well designed, data mined youtube ad campaign that went viral on Facebook.  You know it’s going to happen.  Again, be very careful and question everything.

So, you think, no where is safe, how am I going to get the information I need to make a decision?  Well, I can’t emphasize this enough but there is no better way to evaluate a candidate than to see that person in person.  (The same thing applies to movements.  Don’t take anyone’s word for it.  Go and check it out yourself) If you have a chance to see a candidate in person, and not in the atmosphere of a debate where they need to more carefully construct their sentences, then go.  Your impression of that candidate will be clearer when there is less of a filter between you and that candidate.  You will be able to tell whether they are comfortable with the material, how often they are pinging you with trigger words to get an emotional response, whether they can field questions on any subject to your satisfaction and whether they project confidence on a physical and mental level.  I can tell you that Obama did not project comfort or confidence at the candidates forum, in my humble opinion.  He looked out of place in a physical sense, as if he was wondering, “what the hell am I doing here up on stage??”   I really felt he needed more seasoning.  But you would only know that if you saw him in person.  Why were the other Kossacks not sensitive to this?  I think they were overwhelmed with carefully constructed messaging from Edwards and they were whipped into a mob frenzy and were drunk with their own power.  A year before, they were just dirty, hippy bloggers.  A year later, presidential candidates were kissing their asses.  That kind of thing tends to go to your head.  And candidates know that and the more ruthless ones will play you like a two bit fiddle.

Ok, I’m going to get some coffee now.  Categorize away.

Sunday: It ain’t over until the balloons drop

Electoral caviar?

The New York Times reports that Obama is starting to make his first campaign sweeps through the country, focusing on swing states and states he carried in 2008:

Fifteen months from Election Day, Mr. Obama is gearing up his re-election effort with unemployment stuck above 9 percent, economic growth faltering, financial markets gyrating and faith in Washington depressed by the partisandebt limit fight. Now the creditworthiness of government bonds has been downgraded for the first time ever by one of the ratings agencies — a development with symbolic meaning as well as potential practical impact.

Mr. Obama’s approval ratings are below 50 percent in electoral battlegrounds like Iowa, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to recent polls there. His party’s political infrastructure has been weakened in crucial states where Republicans won statehouses last year, though the White House sees potential benefit in a reaction to the unpopular policies of new Republican governors in states like Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Despite an intensive effort by the White House since last November to recapture the political center, Mr. Obama continues to struggle to win back the support of moderate and independent voters, polls show. Having won with their help in 2008 in states where Democrats for years had not seriously competed — Indiana, North Carolina, Virginia and some mountain states — Mr. Obama will now have to struggle not just to duplicate that feat but also to prevail in traditional swing states like Pennsylvania.

And just like he ran against Sarah Palin in 2008 instead of his actual Republican challenger, he’s planning to run against a Republican House in 2012:

“He has to show independents, conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans — all of those votes are still up for grabs — that he’s still a strong leader,” former Gov. Edward G. Rendell of Pennsylvania said in an interview.

At the same time, Mr. Obama is expected to begin a nationwide effort to warn the country of what Republican leadership, in his view, looks like, Democratic advisers say. That means the president will single out Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin — three states where Republican governors clashed with civil servants, for instance — as a warning of what could happen if a Republican takes the White House. (“Get those nurses and firefighters who lost their job on television,” one Democratic adviser said.)

In those three states and others, like Pennsylvania, where a disproportionate number of voters are older, Mr. Obama will hold his Republican rival responsible for proposals to replace Medicare with a smaller voucher system and to make Medicaid a limited block grant to the states.

But even with the advantages of incumbency — including the ability to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for his campaign, employ the trappings of the presidency and call on a network of allies to attack Republicans and amplify his message — he still faces a daunting environment as long as the economy remains the nation’s main preoccupation.

“Obama’s an incumbent below 50,” said Mark Penn, chief strategist for President Bill Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign and for Hillary Rodham Clinton when she opposed Mr. Obama for the 2008 Democratic nomination. “Don’t confuse the Republican Congressional ratings with the presidential ratings. The Republicans in Congress won’t be running against Obama.”

In other words, Obama’s campaign strategy is going to be based on fear.  The Republicans will be soooooo much worse.  Hokay, how about we get rid of Obama and vote in some left of center Democrats to the House and Senate?

We already know what to vote against.  What is it about Obama that we are supposed to be voting *for*?  And why is he spending so much time courting independents, who make up their minds based on who whispered in their ears just before they go to the voting booth, and conservative Democrats, who socially are indistinguishable from Republicans?

Stuart Zechman went off on the musings of a Senior White House official the other day.  According to the unnamed official (Plouffe?), Americans have ALWAYS distrusted government.  The New Deal was an aberration.  Obama’s not in the White House to reinforce the New Deal.  He’s there to provide you with opportunities.  What the f%&* does that mean?  It’s much easier to become an entrepreneur when you know that you won’t be on the street as an elderly homeless beggar if your big idea fails.  And what about Germany?  They have a nice solid safety net, they protect their industrial and research infrastructure.  That doesn’t seem to have harmed their opportunities.

Does Obama really think he can lie to independents and conservative Democrats and tell them that a Republican government is going to take away their New Deal programs at the same time he is talking to his “creative class” about all of the unique opportunities they will have when all that New Deal stuff is gone?  That sounds like generational warfare to me.  And what about the rest of us well educated New Deal Democrats in Exile who have seen our quality of living decline in the last three years and who now fit into the lower middle class?  We’re going to be relying on those social safety net programs even more now.  That’s what happens when you focus on everything but unemployment.  I don’t want more opportunities to lose my shirt.  I want a job where I can work my butt off doing the things I love to do.  It isn’t my goal in life to become filthy rich and not everyone should be focussing all of their attention on that goal.  If it happens through hard work and dedication, great.  If it doesn’t and I manage to contribute something to society anyway, that’s fine too.  Besides, I have seen what the money driven persons are capable of and I don’t want any part of that back stabbing, underhanded, unethical, selfish lifestyle.  Really.  We don’t all aspire to be cutthroat businessmen.  Some of us just want to work in a lab and do the best work we can.

But anyway, it’s still early.  The convention is 15 months away.  Oh, sure, the DNC can say they’re sticking with Obama now, but that doesn’t mean that the political environment won’t be very different in 2012.  And those of you who keep telling yourselves and us that there will be no primary challenger should ask yourselves:

  • Does Obama represent the best that the Democrats can put forward as president?
  • Is the party suggesting that their bench is so shallow that there is no other politician who could do a better job and represent the principles of the party better than Obama?
  • Or is the leadership saying that they have tailored their preferences so narrowly that only Obama is capable of fulfilling them?
  • And if that is true, what makes the party think that overriding the preferences of millions of Democrats with the selection of a handful of white male Ivy League graduates with majors in philosophy or other soft liberal art is going to resonate with the electorate a second time?
  •  Is it right for the small group in the Democratic leadership to discount the legitimate economic concerns of the “old coalition”?  Seriously, isn’t that what it comes down to?  If you’re a middle aged woman, or only have a high school diploma or are working class or elderly, should you be disenfranchised because some male coterie of the Democratic party doesn’t consider you fuckable anymore?

Just asking.  I mean, this is your party.  If you’re telling the electorate that you don’t really like the guy but you feel helpless to change the ticket, well, that’s hardly a winning and empowering campaign message, is it?  “Rah-Rah-Rah!  We don’t like him either but vote for him anyway!”  Don’t think that someone from Fox isn’t going to pick up on that.

Because whether or not the party considers them at all, those voters still vote.  And this year and the next, they will be paying very close attention.  The Democrats can’t afford to ignore any of their traditional voting blocs, especially college educated women who they blew off in 2008.  We vote.  You may not think we are significant now but wait until the election gets closer and the party has done nothing to court us.  Fear isn’t going to work.  We already know what we’re going to get with Obama and it’s no more reassuring than it is with Republicans.  If the Democrats don’t want us to sit it out or join the Greens or write someone in, they’d better start paying attention.  Obama is polling under 50 now but unless the economy gets a lot better and the country regains its economic reputation, running against the Republican House will be the least of his problems.  He’ll be running against his own party.

Can we really afford 4 more years of Obama?  Think about that.  If the Republicans take the Senate and are only slightly edged out by Democrats in the House, what kind of four years would we be looking at?  What kind of coattails does Obama have?  Judging by Coakley and Corzine and the Republicans taking back the House in 2010, they’re pretty short.  If I were the Democrats, I’d be looking around for a replacement.  And forget about precedence and history.  We are in a critical period of time.  Anything can happen.  In 1968, Lyndon Johnson, the guy who gave us medicare and signed the civil rights act, bowed out after he lost a couple early primary states.  You never know.  And the biggest entitlement we need to end is the one that says that the incumbent is entitled to a second term, no matter how much of an incompetent, craven, banker’s ass kissing, ideologically-opposed-to-his-own-party’s-values he is.

It ain’t over until the balloons drop at the convention.

Addendum:  Paul Krugman tells the Obots that they were willfully blind in 2008 in his new post, Stuck in the Muddle.

The one thing I might say is that we shouldn’t really wonder what happened to Obama — he is who he always was. If you paid attention to what he actually said during the primary and the election, he was always a very conventional centrist. Progressives who flocked to his campaign basically deluded themselves, mistaking style for substance. I got huge flack for saying that at the time, but it was true, and events have borne it out.

Just to forestall the usual (or to try, anyway): no, we don’t know that Hillary would have been any better. And John Edwards turned out to be a worse person than one could have imagined. So I’m not trying to rerun the primary. I’m just pointing out that a lot of people were remarkably blind to the warning signs.

I had hoped that Obama would rise to the occasion, but he keeps not doing it. And no, I have no idea what progressives do in the near term.

Ahem, here is my reaction to the presidential candidate’s forum at YearlyKos in 2007:  Edwards was the reincarnation of PT Barnum, all emotion, buzzwords and as phony as a $3 bill (and mind you, I wen’t into that ballroom as an Edwards supporter.)  Barack Obama looked enervated and bored, sitting onstage like he was hanging out at some sidewalk Paris bistro.  He didn’t impress me as much of anything presidential or un.  He was simply taking up space and had mass.  Hillary Clinton was alert, a litte tentative and extremely well prepared.  She got over her nerves after a few weeks.

Do I think Hillary Clinton would have made a better president?  Well, I nailed the other two, didn’t I?

Saturday: Too much news

More beach, less news

July is supposed to be a slow news month. Everyone is on vacation and nothing much is going on. But for some reason, the powers that be, who may also be the idiots in charge, have decided to misbehave and act up and basically do things that piss us off. Too much of this stuff is interesting. Such as:

* Obama has deep sixed Elizabeth Warren as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Speculation is that he is going to appoint some dude named Raj Date who used to work for a bank. Becaaaaaauuuse that makes so much sense from a Consumer Protection POV? Call me skeptical. I know, I always have to be the one who just has to be different but not appointing the woman who created the agency in the first place seems like a really bad idea. I’m sure the usual excuses will be rolled out to justify this: the Republicans were being mean and wouldn’t let me appoint her, she doesn’t have any experience running an agency (variation of the Penis Years argument), and my favorite, she doesn’t have the personality for the job. People found her abrasive and “not a team player”, ie she wouldn’t kiss someone’s ass and actually took the description of the job seriously or she was determined to get the job done in spite of the guys who refused to cooperate and she did not disguise how impatient and displeased she was about their unhelpful behavior. Queue the talking points! In another display of mean spirited misbehavior, the Republican House is trying to pass a bill that would prevent recess appointments to federal agencies from getting paid. (Check out the pic of Warren on this link. Yep, they’re going with the personality excuse) So, unless you’re independently wealthy, you will have the same pay as an unpaid intern. That should encourage plenty of the altruists and experts to apply!

*Rupert Murdoch’s media empire continues to crumble. Two of his long time generals, Rebekah Brooks and Les Hinton have resigned under fire. Check out The Guardian UK for the latest fallout to this scandal (Oooo, it just allowed the use of the word *fu^&ed* in a quote on the front page. It must be serious.) The Guardian seems to think that the spread of the scandal to the US through the phone hacking of 9/11 victims phones is going to spell the end of Fox News here. It cites the creation of an investigation of the matter at the FBI. That sounds serious and very promising until you read the news article that says…

*Republicans are holding up the extension of Robert Mueller’s appointment as head of the FBI. He’s been serving a long time, 10 years long, in fact. He needs a special dispensation to serve longer and the Republicans are not going to give it to him. In particular, Rand Paul, the Libertarian nut, has filed a stay of the extension. We can only speculate why but the repercussions are clear:

There may be significantly less time to complete the steps necessary to avoid a disruption at the F.B.I. than had been generally understood.

The widespread understanding has been that Mr. Mueller’s term will expire on Sept. 3, because he started work as F.B.I. director on Sept. 4, 2001.

But the administration legal team has decided that Mr. Mueller’s last day is likely to be Aug. 2, because President George W. Bush signed his appointment on Aug. 3, 2001. Coincidentally, Aug. 2 is also the day the government will hit a debt ceiling if Congress does not raise it.

So, there ya’ go. Mueller could go out with a bang if he ramps up the investigation of News Corp in the three weeks he has left. Scratch that, I read somewhere that the debt ceiling crisis really happens on July 22 because the legislative process takes a certain amount of time to work its way out. Soooo, thanks Rand Paul for leaving this position unfilled on the 10 year anniversary of 9/11! Good job. And how conveeeenient for Fox News. How much you wanna bet the Republicans are holding out for a guarantee that the Fox News investigation goes nowhere? Hey! Maybe this is a good time to call your cable or satellite company and insist on them dropping Fox News from the lineup until the investigation gets to the bottom of the matter. We need a little righteous indignation here. And if I were Democrats who were serious about changing the narrative, I would bring this up at every opportunity.

*And while the Republicans and Obama fiddle with the debt ceiling, Rome burns. Governors of various states are very worried that they will not be able to meet some obligations, such as Medicaid and unemployment benefits. The last one is rather near and dear to my heart at the present time so I am most seriously displeased. Note to the still employed: have at least 6 months savings on hand and a Plan B in the event that your government decides to screw you over. I’ll do ok but I worry about others who have been out longer than me. And, NO, I don’t think we should be forced to fork over our future Social Security and Medicare bennies to satisfy the serious peoples’ desire for a Brave New World without a Safety Net for average American Workers, although this suspiciously looks like a pressure tactic to make the poor and desperate even more poor and desperate. I find this terror tactic completely unacceptable. I want Obama to soak the rich, stop letting them separate themselves from their patriotic tax obligations, or instruct air traffic controllers to redirect their private corporate jets to the Cayman Islands where they can spend more time with their money. Please include an air and naval blockade, landline internet with 512 kb DSL and only the base package cable featuring all the reality TV the bonus class can eat.

*Virtually Speaking last night was pivotal. Stuart Zechman went all PUMA. (I can almost see Stuart flinching as he reads that) But really, Stuart, what you suggested at the end of the program was what we recommended 3 years ago. We told voters to remain undecided. That was particularly important for Democrats in Exile because so many disenfranchised voters were mad enough to jump to the Republicans. I have always felt that Friends don’t let friends vote Republican, even though I personally logged a protest vote for McCain at the very last second in the voting booth. I cried, Stuart. I was so upset that my former party forced my hand and I wasn’t going to reward them for it. It wasn’t a racist thing. I don’t have that in me and Obama has never struck me as particularly black, to be honest. I just had to draw the line. So, I applaud your sensible suggestions to the new unterbussen to remain undecided. Now, you are partially responsible, as are we, for what comes next. We have to a.) stop people from panicking and screaming “Oh My Gawd We’re All Going To Die if a Republican is Elected!” and b.) we have to find a replacement. We need to identify a different candidate to endorse or draft. You know my preference because it’s actually possible and will put the fear of God into the Democrats but if you still have a strong objection, let’s find an alternative that all Democrats, not just the “creative class” can endorse. You need the people who left the left for the Tea Party (um, that would not be us. We were liberals before, during and after 2008). Welcome to the unaffiliated independent Democrats in Exile. I don’t recommend you actually use the term “Democrats in Exile” in any official capacity as the acronym is not terribly uplifting.

*Avedon Carol found a post about the end of Harry Potter. Let’s face it, it was all about Hermione. What she really thinks of her fellow Gryffindors is truly priceless:

In the final book, the girl has to wipe her parents’ memory of any trace of her so they’ll be protected. Essentially orphaning herself. But do people feel bad? Do they start going all Harry Potter on her? No. They are like, “Oh, hey, Hermione, all of my friends and family who still love me and still know who I am are getting together for a massive party. You can come if you want.” and she’s like, “Jolly, fucking jolly, assholes”

*Finally, this one is for katiebird. Guerilla knitting is something we bitter knitters can get behind. My favorite is the lava-esque emanations from the crack in the pavement. I also like the knitted tree, which looks like one badass Fu^&ing fractal.

Yes, that *is* yarn

* Oo, Oo! I nearly forgot. Brook made me go to an arty indie movie theater last night to see Tree of Life. It was the most incomprehensibly beautiful film I have ever seen. Still have no idea what it’s about but I recommend it anyway. I seriously want the kitchen in that movie.

One final thing: for you new unterbussen who are just tuning in, you may be wondering when we lost the New Deal. I periodically replay this video to show you when it happened. Forget Hillary Clinton for a moment. The two candidates could have been Barack Obama and John Edwards for the purposes of this exercise. Keep that in mind as you watch it and take note who the speaker is. A more potent symbol of the New Deal does not exist. Harold Ickes Jr. Is the son of Harold Ickes, FDR’s right hand man and “get it done” guy for implementing the ABC programs during the Depression. Ickes was a Chicago Republican who Roosevelt converted. He was a witty smartass who helped to execute some of the most successful programs in American history. I’d like to think his son shared that commitment to the American people. In any case, he knew exactly which principles were being violated in May 2008 and that has been our downfall ever since.

The RBC limited the number of Clinton supporters in the venue and gave most of the seats to Obama supporters. We had two front pagers attending the meeting who were lucky enough to get in and report from the inside. The whole thing was a travesty and miscarriage of justice from start to finish. And that is how we got an anti New Deal president. The party is not unified to this day. Many former Clintonistas left for the Tea Party, not from stupidity but out of anger and confusion. And we need those people back.

Here’s the clip:

One step ahead makes you a leader…

…two steps ahead makes you a martyr.

So, in recent appearances at Virtually Speaking on BlogTalkRadio, Ian Welsh and Stirling Newberry, not to mention Stuart Zechman, all seem to be on board with the concept of rejecting the current batch of Democrats in order to reclaim the left.  They now believe you won’t get the Democrats’ attention if you complain bitterly about their antics but vote for them anyway.  It’s nice to see they have finally come around after three years.  They are now *exactly* where we were in June 2008.

Check it out here.  Someone must be reading it because that post is one of our top hits even three years later.

Of course, this will not stop the Ian, Sterling and Stuart types from running away from us screaming like we have cooties.  That’s because both parties did a number on the word PUMA, which stood for “Party Unity My Ass”.  Party unity my ass is pretty much the attitude I’m picking up from Ian, Stuart and Sterling now.  Correct me if I’m wrong guys.  When you say, “Oh, no, we’re not like you at all”, please show me where we now differ.  It would behoove them to pay attention to the faction they are writing off. Maybe they could even read the post to see how close we really are.  Or they could read all of the posts from 2008 and see how we evolved from loyal Democrats just watching the primaries starting in January to disenfranchised voters in May 2008. (I can almost see them squirming in their chairs)

We were once Democrats.  No one represents us now.  I think the proper term for us is “unaffiliated Liberals”.  We are not Tea Party people.  Nope.  Not even close.  We never signed onto the birther fiasco.  We didn’t like the way the left was demonizing Sarah Palin because it was sexist, boorish behavior that wasn’t going to change anyone’s mind.  It’s a pointless distraction and she plays her role as a shiny object to lefty magpies very well.  Nevertheless, we don’t support her or her politics.

If there was a new independent labor movement, we would be likely to join it, right there beside Ian, Stuart and Sterling.  I don’t think it will spell the end of the Democrats.  If a labor movement could seat a significant number of candidates in 2012, it could start pulling the Democratic party to the left again since presumably, those seats are going to come out of the Democratic Party’s ass.  It’s worth a shot.  But if the Democrats fail, there’s going to be a power vacuum and someone will step in to fill it.

Consider us the vanguard martyrs.  No, no, don’t thank us for taking the gratuitous hit from our own party.  We wouldn’t be in this mess if you had paid attention three years ago.

Robbing Peter to pay Paul because Buffy and Biff need a new Yacht

Word association: Dick Armey

It is too early in the morning for this crap but here it is, splashed all over the NYTimes: Tax Deal Suggests a New Path for Obama.  Bull$@%#.  This is the same old Obama.

I can imagine how the “negotiations” with Republicans went:

O: We need more stimulus.

GOP: And that affects us…how?

O: Money’s got to come from somewhere.

GOP: Get it from Social Security.

O: Is that the best you can do?

GOP: Do you have any bourbon?  This coffee shit just isn’t doing it for me.  Wow, would you look at the time.  Gotta go.

O: Do you have to leave right now?

GOP: Yep.  I have a massage with a full release scheduled with my Lobbyist buddy from the oil bidness.  Write it up, send it to my guys.  See ya.

So, Obama wrote it up.  We get a break on our payroll taxes.  Woo-hoo!  That’s like eating our seed corn.  I can’t wait to explain it to my senior relatives some years down the road as to why we just slashed their benefits:

“See, back in 2010, Obama couldn’t think of anywhere else to get the money for the stimulus because he wasn’t as smart as he thought he was and he had no imagination.  So, instead of throwing a fit about the irresponsible Bush deficit increases or demanding that employers stop siphoning money away from the employees who work their asses off for them, or lobbying to get the Paycheck Fairness Act passed, which would have been a very popular way to add money to womens’ paychecks, he cut us working people a break and that pittance money went into the general economy and came back to the treasury as general revenue when the people who we bought stuff from paid their taxes.  And those taxes paid for stuff Republicans wanted like a huge bloated Homeland Security department and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  But it also meant that Obama could almost afford the money Bush granted to the rich with those irresponsible tax cuts.  So, that’s why you have to give up eating fresh fruits and vegetables.  Buffy and Skip needed a new yacht. Yes, I’d love to go to the beach this summer but I can’t retire.  Ever.”

By the way, Stuart Zechman, you shouldn’t be surprised at all about Obama.  You just weren’t paying attention.  And your obsession with the nefarious “Third Way” reminds me of the Da Vinci code.  If we listen to you and your friends, you would think there’s some mysterious, pagan cult that engages in group sex while chanting “D-L-C, D-L-C” to a fevered pitch.  Oh, sorry, that was the Obama supporters back in 2008.

I don’t believe in the Third Way boogieman (or woman).  But if there was one candidate in 2008 who embodied all you feared, It was OBAMA.  Here are a couple oldies but goodies from our archive:

The Audiology of Hope: Dogwhistle Economics- by Ronkseattle.  That was from January 2008.  Ronk was waaaay ahead of the curve.  He wrote another summary of Obama’s economic advisors which I am having trouble finding.  But when I do, I’ll post a link.

Here’s another from May 2008 called Friday Foibles, which cites Paul Krugman’s growing discomfort with Obama’s economic advisors.  By the way, I challenge you or anyone else to find anything racist about what we wrote back then.

Cokie Roberts Sees the Light.  When even Cokie Roberts is disgusted with the Democratic primary system, you know you’ve got a problem.  Oh, but she was just a stupid, old, uneducated working class woman, right?

That’s just a smidgeon of the stuff we posted on Obama in 2008.  I suggest you go back to the beginning and watch the transformation of this site’s authors from being mildly annoyed at Obama’s followers but not willing to write off Obama to full scale disgust with him and anyone who followed him.  I’d dig it up for you but the wordpress archive is flaky and our tags weren’t very precise back then.  So, please, be my guest Stuart.  Go back and read our posts and see what you were missing while Obama’s crack team of psychological manipulators and marketing specialists were messing with you.

And can the Third Way! hysterics.  No one here gives a flying F@#$.

In other news:

It appears that a some of the CEO’s in the Pharma industry have no background in the sciences.  Jeffrey Kindler, the guy who just got canned from Pfizer, oh, I’m sorry, is taking a sabbatical to rest his frazzled nerves after he laid off 19000 employees in the wake of a $68 billion merger with Wyeth, used to be CEO of McDonalds.  No, that’s not some pharma you’ve never heard of.  That’s the fast food chain.  And the guy who runs Glaxo Smith Kline used to be in the ketchup business.  In fact, there are pharma CEO’s who have never set foot in a lab.  It is very difficult to understand how people like Kindler make intelligent decisions about how to run a company based on R&D if they think there is even the remotest analogy to flipping burgers. See Derek Lowe’s blog, In the Pipeline, for more news on Jeffrey Kindler, and check out the comment section which just goes to show that even geeks have a sense of gallows humor. (Tsk-Tsk)