Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Anger is getting louder...and louder...

I'm beginning to think that the readers of this blog and myself are NOT alone in our disgust with Democrats who act like Republicans....Christy Hardin Smith over at Firedoglake vents a bit for all of us. She starts off with a Fable....which goes like this:

I heard this tale in India. A hat seller, on waking from a nap under a tree, found that a group of monkeys had taken all his hats to the top of the tree. In exasperation he took off his own hat and flung it to the ground. The monkeys, known for their imitative urge, hurled down the hats, which the hat seller promptly collected.

Half a century later his grandson, also a hat seller, set down his wares under the same tree for a nap. On waking, he was dismayed to discover that monkeys had taken all his hats to the treetop. Then he remembered his grandfather’s story, so he threw his own hat to the ground. But, mysteriously, none of the monkeys threw any hats, and only one monkey came down. It took the hat on the ground firmly in hand, walked up to the hat seller, gave him a slap and said, “You think only you have a grandfather?”

And then....then she DRIVES IT HOME!

"The moral of the story: You want my vote? My phone banking time? My door knocking abilities? My knowledge of my community — and that of every person who reads here or any other online blog or for any other progressive political group? You earn it. Every damn day. "

I'm glad to see this kind of indignation coming through....remember the old rule about playing poker? It goes like this, "If you look around the table at a poker game and can't spot the "rube" (fool, pigeon, target, etc), then YOU'RE the Rube!" We've been the "rube" for far too long. It's about time we started holding these people accountable for our vote.

Christy has some good examples about just how they can "earn our vote, every damned day" and I suggest you read the whole post.

Way to go Christie!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

With apologies to Garrison Kellior

In "another life" I attended the live performance of "A Prairie Home Companion" and, as luck would have it, it was their "Spring" show. Garrison did a song which I think was called (appropriately) Another Spring in Minnesota. Most of the lyrics were nondescript except for these words which I found strangely appropriate for well as Spring.

Come, dance with me old friend

This time, I'll hear the music.

As I get a little older, I'm determined that I'll dance with my wife and companion of 30+ years, and, yes, this time I will listen to the music.

And this is the "music"

Gimme your me...I'll do the right thing...


Friday, September 21, 2007

What will it take?

I had coffee this morning with a very, very loyal Democrat who is so pissed off at Congress over the MoveOn fiasco that he swears that they'll never get another dime from him.

But you know what?

I don't think the Democratic Office-holders care...

I posted about why I believe that before but now I'm almost completely convinced.

The arrogance of 25 Democrats to ignore the grass roots and vote against MoveOn is unbelieveable....

I'm personally disgusted.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


This is an excerpt from the book I will endlessly write and never publish.

I'm printing it here because it relates to what we've been talking about, namely how elected officials behave once they've been elected.

In my days as a Chief Executive Officer, I prided myself (hubris actually) on being a "man of the people". I proudly proclaimed an open door policy and any citizen that wanted to see me could do so as long as I wasn't already occupied. All were welcome into the "inner sanctum".

The trappings of a small town Mayor are intoxicating. How ego-fulfilling is it to have a councilman bring his out-of-town nephew into to meet you and insist on having your picture taken with the How heady is it to have the local Cub Scouts ask to have their picture taken with you? Pretty neat huh?

As you can see, it was not only good management to meet and talk with citizens, it was good politics as well as a tremendous shot of ego gratification, so it was with a great deal of personal self-satisfaction, that I instructed my secretary to usher into the inner sanctum an elderly lady and her ever-present companion, her dog.

The lady's name was Hazel and she was somewhat of a fixture around town. Everybody recognized her and Spanky. Spanky should have been a Collie. In fact, he looked every bit like a collie with the tan and white long coat and the beautifully shaped collie snout, but fate cruelly mixed Spanky's collie genes with the genes of a basset hound. As a result, Spanky had very, very short legs.

When Hazel came in I offered her a seat and then came around to the front of the desk to talk to her. She was very concerned about the sidewalks on the the streets that she used commonly as routes to the drug store, the grocery store and the Senior Citizens Community Center. Some of them, she said, had large cracks in them or were uneven (because of frost heave I assumed) and Hazel was very afraid she would fall and break a hip. I assured her I would have the Public Works Department look after those sidewalks right away and told her we would like to replace more sidewalks but we also wanted to keep from raising taxes so we were only replacing a few per year.

She thanked me and then said, "You know, I didn't expect you to listen to me because, you know...I didn't vote for you." That took me aback for a second, if only because I wasn't expecting it, but at the same time it flashed back to the memory of election night.

That night, while there was a rowdy celebration going on in my house, I had taken some guest's coats up to the bedroom and was walking down the stairs by myself, for the first time that evening, I was alone when the sobering (literally, I think) thought occurred to me that I wasn't elected Mayor for just the folks celebrating downstairs at the moment, I was elected Mayor FOR ALL the citizens whether they supported me or not.

And that's what I told Hazel. "Hazel, that doesn't matter. I'm your Mayor too." I think she actually blushed.

As she prepared to leave, I figured I had one more chance to endear myself to her. I could play with Spanky. I leaned over and petted him and he responded by jumping up on me and placing his paws just above my belt line so I could pet him. I happily did so.

But soon, I noticed that my hands were covered in something "Gee Hazel, it looks like Spanky got into some oil somewhere, I've got it all over my hands.", I said.

Without hesitation, Hazel replied, "Spankys got the mange."

I've always considered that incident to be a cosmic lesson that unless my motives were pure, I'd be punished....sooner or later, I'd be stricken for my insincerity and hubris. It's a lesson that has served me well over the years although I'll have to admit that I have, from time-to-time, fallen off of the humility wagon.

I sometimes wonder if persons elected to higher offices have ever had the same kind of "grounding" experiences. I wonder if they've been filled with so much cocktail napkin conventional wisdom about how to win campaigns and staying on message that they wouldn't recognize such a moment as an object lesson when it happened.

Too bad.

I think every politician needs a lesson in humility like that....maybe more than once.

note to Al and alwayshope....great responses, I'll address them directly in another post.

In Honor of "Talk Like a Pirate" Day

My Pirate Name is

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

More comments from "A different approach"

I'm so grateful for the great comments I got from my post "A different approach". I didn't respond to all of the comments directly but will, in this post, try to keep the conversation going.

What amazed me most about the comments is the wide range of perspectives it drew from all of you....and I think...maybe...that's a hint....

The very question, "Why do people vote the way they do?" evokes a galaxy of opionions and even with research from leading political scientists the anwer is still subject to debate.

But the bottom line is still this....the electorate consistantly votes against its own best interest...time and time again....whether they are mislead by the media (as alwayshope suggests) swayed by massive campaign advertising (reform of which melissam talks about) or whether they are following the charisma of the candidate (as Al suggests), the result is still the same....a one-way ticket to hell because of the choice.

Given these proclivities of the electorate, a politician is faced with some interesting choices. He/she can pander to the perceived whims of the electorate and put on the appropriate dog-and-pony show, knowing full well that its all bullshit....but convinced that "the end justifies the means."


He/she can try to "play it straight" and honestly address issues, political and personal, in an earnest and forthright manner and "let the voters decide".

I think the first option is where 90% of us fall....

What do you think?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Okay....the weekend is over

Time for everybody...



to get the #$%@^& BACK TO WORK!

Even Chief Oshkosh thinks so.....

Friday, September 14, 2007

A different approach?

This morning I had the opportunity to discuss yesterday's post with a good progressive friend....actually a very intelligent progressive friend. He had some very definite opinions about the my concerns in the post and I'll share them with you now.

Generally, we agree with the symptoms....Democratic office holders and party leaders deserting the "grass roots" and going for the "big bucks" of big donors and big corporations... but he goes a step (or two ) farther than I do in the analysis...he proposes that there is an underlying cause for this phenomenom. He believes it's because we (as a party) have become focuses on winning elections as opposed to winning hearts. I told him I'd have to think about that a little bit and I cordially invite you to join this discussion also.

I think I understand what he means by "winning hearts". I think he means that we have to actually stand for something.....we have to represent something....we have to represent something of value to the electorate so that they will vote from the heart as opposed to....

as opposed to ....


Why do people vote the way they do?
There was an interesting analysis of that question in the book What's the Matter with Kansas? but that provided more questions in answers because it was clearly shown that while there has been a conservative "outbreak" in Kansas it is equally clear that voting for conservatives is against the interest of most Kansans. There has to be more to it than are a few attempts (feeble?) to find more satisfying answers:

Here's an eye-opening article by Bill Steigerwald over at Moderate Voice from his interview with the authors of How Voters Decide: Information Processing in Election Campaigns, by Richard Lau and David Redlawsk.

Q: Are voters usually rational when they choose a candidate?

A: Well, that depends on what you mean by “rational.” Can voters give you a reason for why they did what they did? Yes, absolutely. A more formal economic definition of rationality is … to very actively and conscientiously consider the consequences of the different alternatives for your own well-being, however you want to define that, and, in this case, vote for the candidate that maximizes your self-interest, however you want to define that. No. Not very many people do that.

Q: What kinds of information or forms of persuasion are voters most likely to be influenced by?

A: They’re most likely to be influenced by two things. To the extent that they have strong prior political beliefs — whether they’re Democrats or Republicans or liberals or conservatives — they really are going to see things in light of their own backgrounds, which is the nice way to say it, or their own biases, which is the less nice way to say it. If you’re a Republican and Dick Cheney tells you something, you are a lot more likely to believe it than if you are a Democrat — and then you’ll listen to Hillary Clinton. That’s one very big factor. The other factor — which those of us in political science tend to overlook a lot because we often don’t have the evidence — is people that you talk to: your friends, your family, your neighbors. If somebody you trust says, “That Mitt Romney is a real jerk,” then it is going to be hard for you — particularly if you don’t know enough about (Romney) to counter that information or argue against it — to reject that person’s statement.

Interestingly enough, it all boils down to just a few items when it comes to choosing a candidate.
You're more likely to choose a candidate if:

  • The candidate "confirms" what you already believe.
  • The candidate belongs to "your" political party...sort of a short cut to deciding if the candidate is suitable.
  • And amazingly, candidates are usually chosen based on LESS not MORE detailed information about the issues. If I knew how to make those words flash I would.
So "winning their hearts" may mean manipulating the message and the issues to fit into what Lau and his associate found about voting may mean fitting the entire campaign into that framework.
There are some good articles on the subject, here, here and here, or, in this abstract of a paper...

Abstract. The traditional class approach to politics maintains that the working class 'naturally' votes for left-wing parties because they represent its economic interests. Such traditional voting patterns have, however, become less typical, giving rise to the 'Death of Class Debate' in political sociology. Against this background, using data collected in the Netherlands in 1997, this article examines why so many people, working and middle class alike, vote for parties that do not represent their 'real class interests'. Critically elaborating Lipset's work on working-class authoritarianism and Inglehart's on postmaterialism, the article confirms that 'natural' voting complies with the logic of class analysis. 'Unnatural' voting, however, is not driven by economic cues and class. Right-wing working-class voting behaviour is caused by cultural conservatism that stems from limited cultural capital. The pattern of voting for the two small leftist parties in Dutch politics underscores the significance of this cultural explanation: those with limited cultural capital and culturally conservative values vote for the Socialist Party ('Old Left') rather than the Greens ('New Left'). Breaking the traditional monopoly of the one-sided class approach and using a more eclectic and open theoretical approach enables political sociologists once again to appreciate the explanatory power of the class perspective.
This article is cited by:
Marcel Lubbers

I've got to think about this for a while.....

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The System is broken.....

My progressive friends and I travel in somewhat different circles which intersect, happily, at our belief in the ideals of the old progressive movement and an almost child-like belief that the whole point of electing Democrats and Progressives to public office is to make things better.

But electing Democrats to office...(let's face it, who was and when did you see a "progressive republican?) hasn't worked out quite the way we wanted it to....

For instance, one the federal level.....

We can't even mention the word "impeachment" in front of our Congressman. Our Congressional leadership won't discuss it and marginalizes any Democratic Congressman who dares broach the subject.

Our Senate leadership has "caved in" on ending the war...cutting off funds for the war...or putting any kind of restriction on the Oval Office's misbegotten war.

Both Houses "caved in" on authorizing an increase in domestic surveillance...and then told us it was a "technical mistake".

On the State Level:

"Our" people have supported that ridiculous "right to carry" law....they supported the Republican sponsored "liability limitation" law...and they're backing down on the State-wide smoking ban....It's getting so you can't tell the Democrats from the Republicans anymore.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about:
I've mentioned before that I sometimes have a conversation with a die-hard conservative friend of mine...for the sake of making the conversation more understandable, lets call this conservative friend Slats Grobnik....who is, Mike Royko's old fictional conservative buddy so he might as well be mine too.

Anyway...I was talking to Slats last Tuesday night and he asked me, "Hey...what's wrong with your Democrats?"

Me: "Whaddya mean, wrong?"

Slats: "Well...they're voting just like I don't mean just once or twice but all the time...."

Me: "Oh.....that....well, I'm not very happy about it either."

Slats: "You know if you're going to elect Republicans, you might as well vote for the real thing, instead of a wannabe. That way you'll get the gen-u-wine article."

I don't know what I resented more, the smirk on his face or the fact that he was speaking the truth...and we both knew it. Good thing football season started because it's now acceptable to end every barroom political discussion with, "How 'bout dem packers hey?"

Slats was right because Federal, State or Local, the progressives/ Democrats we elect now betray our wishes with veritable impunity.

We elect these folks on their promised commitments to issues we hold dear: Universal Health Care, Education, Workplace equality, civil rights and on and on and on... And time and again, we're betrayed.....they vote WITH the conservatives...they back down when the going gets tough...they capitulate when the right-wing noise machine fires up. And time-and-again....they get away with it.



Because we....those who did phone banks and doors, gave money, volunteered our time and efforts, don't have any other choice but to vote to re-elect them....Our choice is always between a Dem who sometimes votes the way we elected him or her to vote OR a Republican who will NEVER vote the way we expect them to vote.

These elected types know this....and they know some other things the most important political truth they can understand......and the one that bothers me the most:


Once elected, they become the focus of attention of PACS, lobbyists and corporations who will generously reward them for their favorable votes....the money...the donations they get from us local yokels is chicken feed to them and while they're grateful for it, it's just not as important as a $5,000 check from the NRA or WEAC or WMC or any number of "interested parties". And, of course, once all that money starts flowing into the campaign coffers, then they definitely DON'T need the grassroots anymore. They can hire their own phone bankers, they can hire their own "robo-calls", they can buy mailing lists and do their own direct mail solicitations that used to be done by volunteers going door-to-door. They can (and do ) say: SCREW THE GRASS ROOTS!!!! I've personally heard those exact words from people in party leadership positions and elected officials too.
Oh yeah....and in case you didn't get it....once they don't need you anymore....they don't have to listen to a single word you say.

The system is broken.
The system needs to be "rebooted".....The question is how do we "reboot" it?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I'm back

I was gone for four days....four very enjoyable days...(except for the 12 hour "bug" that got me on Saturday morning)...

I'm luckier than most people, I think.

I have family who I actually ENJOY spending time with...I couldn't ask to have married into a better family of good, honest, moral people(not religious, mind you, MORAL...there's a big difference). I enjoy being in the company of people who read; who create; who understand creativity and perspective; who understand philosophical concepts and are capable of seeing those concepts at play in the larger society as a whole; who know the lessons taught to us by the great writers and artists of the past and who can apply them to modernity.


It was great.

Now if somebody could do something about the Illinois Tollway traffic.............

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Because I'm lazy, that's why.....

I'm going to cross post this because...

well, because I'm too damned lazy to clip and paste and edit.....

here's the linky-thing

Oh yeah...neat picture huh?

But personally, I like this one too...from the Japanese Anime'

Sumari Champloo

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

"the Battleship Potemkin"

This story in the Washington Monthly doesn't surprise anybody....even the press is starting to recognize that the visits by "dignitaries" to Iraq are nothing but well-staged dog-and-pony-shows. This article points it out well but puts it in a context that resonates with me and points to a much bigger problem...

first..lets look at a snippet or two from the article about the Dora Market in Baghdad:

....After the delegation left, Maj. Ron Minty , 36, said that the generals had wanted 300 shops open for business by July 1. By the day of the delegation's visit, 303 had opened....Still, the Dora market is a Potemkin village of sorts. The U.S. military hands out $2,500 grants to shop owners to open or improve their businesses. The military has fixed windows and doors and even helped rebuild shops that had burned down, soldiers and others said...."The Americans are giving money, so they're opening up stores," said Falah Hassan Fadhil, 27, who sells cosmetics.

We knew that the markets were "fixed" in the sense that they were show places that received special treatment....even when Lieberman and Senator Lindsey (Huckleberry) Graham visited the market, they had to wear flak jackets and be accompanied by a platoon of Marines...even in a false environment created by the military. But this is beyond what I imagined in my most paranoid dreams.

The phrase Potemkin Village rings a bell with me and I think I should explain exactly why it does.

The Battleship Potemkin (Russian: Броненосец «Потёмкин», Bronenosets Potyomkin), sometimes rendered as The Battleship Potyomkin, is a 1925 silent film directed by Sergei Eisenstein and produced by Mosfilm. It presents a glorified version of the Battleship Potemkin uprising, a real-life event that occurred in 1905 when the crew of a Russian battleship rebelled against their oppressive officers during the Tsarist regime.

Potemkin has been called one of the most influential films of all time, and it was even named the greatest film of all time at the World's Fair at Brussels, Belgium, in 1958.
Eisenstein wrote the film as a revolutionary propaganda film, but also used it to test his theories of "montage". The revolutionary Soviet filmmakers of the Kuleshov school of film making were experimenting with the effect of film editing on audiences, and Eisenstein attempted to edit the film in such a way as to produce the greatest emotional response, so that the viewer would feel sympathy for the rebellious sailors of the Battleship Potemkin and hatred for their cruel overlords. In the manner of most propaganda, the characterization is simple, so that the audience could clearly see with whom they should sympathize.

Are you beginning to understand why the film is considered so influential? Film makers of the time (1925) were just beginning to understand the power of the new media...this thing called "movies"...and Eisenstein sensed, quite correctly, the power that editing could have in evoking emotions from the audience. In fact, he understood that a story edited with simple images could evoke incredible responses.
The event that the movie was based upon, the uprising of sailors on the Battleship Potemkin, actually happened, but the images Eisenstein created, the sympathetic and lovable leader of the rebellion, the cruel and immoral officers and petty officers, the heart rending funeral of the leader of the rebellion, the bloody and (at that time) terrifying Odessa Steps sequence (which has been copied in thousands of movies in one version or another since 1925)..all those were fabricated to evoke the emotional response that Eisenstein wanted the audience to experience.

But Eisenstein wasn't the only one wanting that response...the Bolsheviks wanted it more than anything to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the uprising and remind the masses of exactly why they had to sacrifice under the new regime.

By now you've guessed my larger point.....

Everything the Bush Administration has presented to us has been a staged "Potemkin Village" event. And I'm not talking just about Iraq has been everything...every speech is properly staged with the appropriate props....and on the "prop" front the Bushites have absolutely no shame...they'll use Soldiers (a favorite of the "War President"), children and also the BUF....which stands for BLACKS UP FRONT,(where the camera can see them) in order to prove that he's "the Civil Rights President".

But it's all a sham.
It's all staged for our uncritical, undemanding, uneducated masses. We're not supposed to question anything we see. We're not supposed to look for substance behind the image...we're only supposed to look at the image.
And emotion.
Today is September 3, 2007. In one week we will be observing the 6th Anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Our emotional strings will be pulled hard and the Bushites will remind us in so many subtle (and some not-so-subtle) of the images, techniques, and ethic of The Battleship Potemkin.

We can safely predict:
The term "hero" will be thrown around cheaply to evoke the same sympathetic images that Eisenstein put forward in Potemkin.

We will see countless replays of the towers collapsing in much the same way that we see the "Odessa Steps Sequence"* in Potemkin.
We will see our wise, sorrowful, and valiant leader offer us words of encouragement.
We'll see false, misleading and deliberate attempts to link Iraq to the fall of the towers and we will hear, once again, the chorus of right wing radio talk hosts, parroting the "We're fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them over here." bullshit.

Finally, we are seeing some in the the Washington Weekly article challenge the Potemkin Village that Bush has created for us.

Maybe....and just Maybe...we'll become a "reality-based" country yet.

*About the "Odessa Steps Sequence". Here is Wiki's excellent description of it:

The most famous scene in the film is the massacre of
civilians on the
Odessa Steps (also known as the Primorsky or Potemkin
). In this scene, the Tsar's Cossacks in their white summer tunics march down a seemingly endless flight of steps in a rhythmic, machine-like fashion,
slaughtering a crowd, including a young boy, as they attempt to flee. After the
boy falls, his mother picks up his body and yells at the soldiers to stop firing. They do only to shoot her minutes later. Toward the end of the sequence, the soldiers shoot a mother who is pushing a baby in a
. As she falls to the ground, dying, she leans against the carriage, nudging it away; it rolls down the steps amidst the fleeing crowd.
The scene is perhaps the best example of Eisenstein's theory on montage, and
may have influenced many of
Leni Riefenstahl's similar images in the Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will. It has been endlessly referenced in many motion pictures, with famous homages occurring in Francis Ford Coppola's The
, Brian De Palma's version of The Untouchables, and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. It was also spoofed in Woody Allen's Bananas and Love and Death, Terry Gilliam's Brazil, and the ZAZ film Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult
I was privileged to see "Potemkin" in college in a History of the Motion Pictures class. It was unforgettable. It was made even more remarkable when we understood the state of the technology in 1925 and the imagination of Eisenstein and his willingness to experiment. Who knew that it would become the template for all propaganda films to follow?

Monday, September 03, 2007

Really, really busy...

And this week is going to get worse....much worse.

In the meantime, please check in with The Existentialist Cowboy and this great post about the upcoming Petraeus report.

Also...Bush made a "surprise visit" into Iraq today...Into Anbar Province where relative peace has been achieved by arming the Sunni Faction to fight the AQ faction and "other hositle forces" (according to NPR.) we're arming the Sunni faction in Anbar...and the Shiite faction in Baghdad....

The Sunni and the Shiia are "at war" with each other.


This should turn out well (insert sarcasm logo here)