Left Behinds

The anti-andrewsullivan.com. Or, the Robin Hood (Maid Marian?) of bright pink Blogger blogs.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Tonight for Halloween I'm dressing as this televised debate between Michel Foucault and Noam Chomsky

If I don't stick with "sexy orphaned Jew Teen," I mean.

Full post plus comments

Monday, October 30, 2006

Good Riddance?

More than one in five (22%) Likely New York State Voters (registered voters who plan to vote in this November's elections and have a history of voting in similar elections) are either "very" (7%) or "somewhat" (15%) likely to leave New York State in the next four years, according to a new poll conducted by The Pace Poll at Pace University in cooperation with New York Magazine, WNYC, and WCBS 2 News.

But how has the churn rate increased or decreased over the past decade or two? Isn't part of Giuliani and Bloomberg's reimagining of NY that it's a playground for Middle Americans?

In other words, who's leaving, the annoying New Yorkers or the cool ones?

Full post plus comments

Household Insecurity

Which is the most powerful source of anxiety about the insecurity of American households?

A) Same-sex marriage

B) Angelina Jolie

C) Neoliberalism

According to Richard Kim and Lisa Duggan's classic analysis, the correct answer is C). (though you get half credit for B).

The net effect of the neoliberal economic policies imposed in recent decades has been to push economic and social responsibility away from employers and government and onto private households. The stress on households is intensifying, as people try to do more with less. Care for children and the elderly, for the ill and disabled, has been shifted toward unpaid women at home or to low-paid, privately employed female domestic workers. In this context, household stability becomes a life-and-death issue. On whom do we depend when we can't take care of ourselves? If Social Security shrinks or disappears and your company sheds your pension fund, what happens to you when you can no longer work? In more and more cases, the sole remaining resource is the cooperative, mutually supporting household or kinship network.

But if marriage is the symbolic and legal anchor for households and kinship networks, and marriage is increasingly unstable, how reliable will that source of support be? In the context of these questions, the big flap over marriage in this election begins to make a different kind of sense. If voters are not particularly homophobic, but they are overwhelmingly insecure, then the call to "preserve" marriage might have produced a referendum vote on the desire for household security, with the damage to gay equality caught up in its wake.

According to conventional wisdom, in 2004 Karl Rove redirected this anxiety about household insecurity onto a manufactured threat to households, gay marriage, marshalling his values voters to electoral victory. Critics persuasively argue that the success of Rove's brilliantly Macchiavellian gay marriage strategy is actually a myth, and that the ballot initiatives boosted turnout among both Bush and Kerry voters (both of whom were against gay marriage).

But assuming that Rove was tapping into a genuine anxiety, what happened to it in the past two years? Gay marriage is certainly not central in this year's debate, even with the Jersey decision. Are voters just so disgusted with Iraq and Katrina that they're not focused on how tough things have gotten for their households? How might this anxiety about household insecurity manifest itself more directly?

Full post plus comments

Nancy Polikoff is a Left Behinds Reader

At least judging by this excellent op-ed in which she reiterates an argument I've been making for years: civil union for all rather than marriages for some.

OK, so it's also the argument feminists and queer liberationists have been making since at least the 60s. But I think it's the way to go, and Polikoff makes the argument nicely.

Civil unions for all couples acknowledge that there is meaning in the word marriage, and that it has a dark side.

It's reasonable to hope that someday couples seeking a legal status will go to a county building for a civil union, and those seeking a religious status will go to a house of worship. A couple seeking both would make two stops.

Some advocates for gay and lesbian couples in New Jersey are demanding that the Legislature give them marriage, not civil unions, because a separate status for same-sex couples is discrimination. They're right, but it's discrimination that works both ways. Different-sex couples who want recognition for the family they form should be able to reject the word marriage in favor of a phrase with less baggage.

As a commenter at the Notion wrote,
The opponents of same-sex marriage often like to imply that marriage hasn't changed since the late Roman empire, but the facts just don't support that. Marriage is a social institution like any other, and it changes with society no matter who may try to prevent it. ...
... Put the definition of "family" firmly in the hands of the person whose family is being defined, as it should be.

Full post plus comments

Foley Fallout

This blog basically started because Antid Oto and I have for years been emailing each other our amateur punditry (redundant?). Now we do it in public, and sometimes with pretty pictures.

Not me and Antid Oto (though if it were, I think I'd be the one making the weird face), but rather one of the first Google Image results for "Mark Foley"

So it seems fitting to post an email exchange we had last night about Foley fallout now, a month after the story broke.


on the blog a couple weeks ago you wrote that "what foley did was creepy, illegal, and wrong."

i agree with creepy and wrong, but why was it illegal if the age of consent in DC is 16? because he sent obscene material online? or did you not initially realize the age of consent is so low there? i'm curious which one, because i think it's so bizarre how everyone kept referring to foley's IM-buddies as "boys" and "children," when in fact they were, legally, consenting adults. like there's this real sex-panicked post by some guy ari berman at the nation where he's like "MARK FOLEY IS A DERANGED PERVERT TALKING ABOUT MASTURBATION WITH CHILDREN." i think it's disgusting because mark foley is disgusting and hideous (and their boss), but not cuz he's a "pedophile."

also, can you think of any straight celebrities who flaunt their teenage girlfriends, such as sports stars? i mean, besides R. Kelly.

ALSO, do you think the foley effect is basically over? aside from a few house races where people helped cover him up?

To which Antid Oto replied,

The initial things I read suggested that even if the guy was over the age of consent to have physical sex in DC, it would still be illegal to solicit sex online if he was under 18, according to some weird wrinkle of the law. I've since read that that may not be true. I don't know what the answer is, actually. In any case I think it's pretty clear-cut sexual harrassment if one of the pages complained, and that is definitely illegal.

I do think it's annoying that they're continually referred to as children, pretty obviously because parents get way more freaked out by their adolescent sons having sex with men than with women. I mean, did anyone really give a shit about Debra Lafave? (She is also way hotter than Foley, of course.)

It definitely affected Tom Reynolds' race, for one. He's the NRCC chair and that race (NY-26) was pretty much considered a slam dunk for him; then he got caught covering for Foley, his chief of staff resigned, and now it's within single digits. Also Dennis Hastert is now up only 10 points--unless there's a more recent poll. It probably is also hurting Heather Wilson (NM-01). I think the fact that it's coming out that Jim Kolbe (former Arizona congressman) also may have slept with pages may have brought Pederson a little closer to Kyl in the Arizona Senate race, but that probably didn't matter much.

I do think the effect has faded. Child advocate Patty Wetterling went from behind to 8 points ahead of nutjob Michele Bachman (MN-06) right after the Foley story broke, but now Bachman is back ahead. Reynolds was double digits down in the first polls after Foley; now he's back ahead.

It certainly stopped whatever momentum the Republicans hoped to get from the Torture Bill dead in its tracks. Basically their only hope now from the news is that Saddam Hussein's sentencing is scheduled for two days before the election. Apart from that it's all money, turnout, and cheating.

To which I will only add that there might also be some actual policy effects. There was some rumbling about raising the age of consent in DC (it does seem a bit strange that it's so much lower there than in adjoining states). I don't really care about that, unless they only raise the age of consent for gay sex. Which would be an unacceptable double standard.

As I wrote in the comments somewhere, the practical age of heterosexual consent is something more like 15 or 16, at least judging from the very young teen girls in braces and slutty clothes you see at annoying upscale nightclubs in Manhattan (I don't think it's unusual to see 14-year-olds on the arms of 20somethings at Marquee). Vincent Gallo just went on record about how he has a predilection for "sexy orphaned Jew teens." Emma B., maybe if you put your hair in pigtails and pretended to have really low self esteem you could finally consummate that Buffalo '66 fantasy?

Full post plus comments

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Effect of Ballot Initiatives on Man-in-the-Moon Elections

Richard Kim, who is being interviewed tomorrow morning at 11:30 am on 99.5 FM, draws a lot on some polling analysis in this excelent article about the hype surrounding the right-wing reaction to the NJ marriage decision and eight ballot initiatives.

In the article, ABC's analyst Gary Langer writes that

My own analysis of the 2004 exit poll results, presented at Stanford University on Nov. 9, 2004, found no consistent boost in turnout by pro-Bush groups — conservatives, Republicans, and churchgoing white Protestants — in states with gay-marriage initiatives.

An effect, to be an effect, should be consistent.

Nationally, Bush's greatest gain in 2004 came not among the highly churched, but among infrequent churchgoers. That election was about terrorism. [EA]
No consistent boost in turnout between 2000 and 2004.

But if his argument is that the ballot initiatives didn't consistently increase Republican voter turnout between 2000 and 2004, my initial retort is that those same voters might have had other factors driving disproportionate turnout in 2000 (such as, say, inaugurating an evangelical Christian Bush scion and defeating the "liberal" Clinton legacy they'd been resentfully living under for a decade). Factors which were absent or less motivating in 2004.

There are so many factors affecting turnout that it's hard to say "A was associated with Z one year, and M was associated with Z the next year, therefore M did not significantly boost Z in the second year." Without a control, it's hard to say if those Bush supporters would have been motivated to turn out in such huge numbers in 2004 without the ballot initiatives.

I.e., perhaps Rove's secret weapon in 2000 was Clinton, and in 2004 it was ballot initiatives. That seems plausible to me, and it's not clear that Langer's analysis contradicts it.

Does that make sense?

I'm just processing this info now.


As I reread the original article, the methodology seems pretty clear. I was really tired when I wrote this post.

Full post plus comments

Bareback Mountin'

I've dated two very cool Germans, and I've always wanted to visit Berlin, but this discussion on a British blog gives me pause.

I just came back from the Hustler Ball in Berlin, I must say the liberal approach to bareback[ing] is frightening. I assume that this is because the drugs are so good to fight HIV infection that nobody gives a shit anymore.
OK, it's not totally surprising that unsafe sex is common at something called the Hustler Ball (whatever that is), but then check out this reply to that post.

Yes, in Berlin bareback is the rule, not the exception, and not just at the big events, but every day, in the bars, clubs, etc. If you use a condom, people assume you are a tourist. Many accept it, however, though some insist on bareback.
That's disturbing, but it's consistent with my impression of younger guys who have sex with guys even in New York.

I am committed to avoiding sexual moralism, but when this behavior becomes the rule among young queer guys, there needs to be a public health response. New, non-stigmatizing safer sex messages need to get out there.

A young friend of mine just found out that he seroconverted within the past six months, and he already has AIDS (i.e., his T-cell count immediately became so low that he technically has AIDS). Who knows how the drug cocktails will work on his virus. I am crossing my fingers they'll beat it, but to be honest he seems to have caught a really bad strain of HIV. And he practiced safe sex except with one guy who he was dating.

The virus is mutating and that message is not being communicated to young men who have sex with men.

Sorry, I can't think of a fun, Left Behinds-ey spin on this.

Full post plus comments

WBAI Monday Morning

There will be a good show on OUT FM on WBAI 99.5 FM this Monday (tomorrow) from 11-12.

There will be an interview Alison Duncan, the Green Party's candidate for lieutenant governor, then Richard Kim (third hottest gay journalist in New York) will discuss the New Jersey marriage decision and the various ways queer issues are playing out in next week's election.

Full post plus comments

Saturday, October 28, 2006

I don't care that the joke is like 5 years old.


Via Liza.

Full post plus comments

Friday, October 27, 2006

30 Rock and the City

Now that Project Runway and Flavor of Love have finished (well, one more must-see reunion episode of Flavor this Sunday), I'm not watching much TV, but I am, on a reader's advice, giving 30 Rock a try.

I like it, but the most recent episode (which you can watch here), while funny, basically lifts its entire plot from two episodes of Sex and the City.

(Spoiler Alert)

In this episode, Tina Fey freaks out about being a single woman after she nearly chokes to death alone in her apartment. Exactly like Miranda did in season 2, episode 5, "Four Women and a Funeral" (and similar to bits from "Sleepless in Seattle" and "Bridget Jones' Diary"). Yes, Alec Baldwin, who is surprisingly hilarious throughout the show, delivers some very droll lines about it, but Miranda staring down her cat after she chokes was exactly the same as the 30 Rock sequence, but funnier.

After choking, Tina acquiesces to getting set up by her boss, who accidentally assumes she's a lesbian. Exactly like Miranda did in season 1, episode 3, "Bay of Married Pigs." And they both toy with the idea of pretending to be a lesbian. Granted, Tina Fey being dumped because she's painfully neurotic was funny, but that was the only variation from the Sex and the City episode.

Sure, everything's been done before, but this was done very recently, in almost exactly the same way, on a show that spawned a thousand phoned-in trend articles and a million women aspiring to live the impossible dream. Considering that Tina Fey is on the record saying "I loved Sex and the City," maybe she should stick to workplace comedy, since the anxiety of Miranda's influence has proven a bit overwhelming.

Miranda playing dyke, or Tina?

The following feminist analysis of the choking episode is way dry and a bit clunky, but it's worth thinking about the politics of these shows.
In actively confronting the mythologies that stigmatize the single female household and the ownership of property by single women and exposing their irrationality, this [SATC] episode differs from mainstream chick flicks that tend to uphold such mythologies even while subjecting them to gentle comic treatment. For instance, in Sleepless in Seattle [1993] Annie’s (Meg Ryan) staunch insistence that the claim that a woman over forty is more likely to be killed by a terrorist than to get married is "not true," is met with her friend Becky’s (Rosie O’Donnell) rejoinder, "But it feels true." ...

... Most often vehicles "for the propagation of a conservative social message of female accommodation to a reformed patriarchy," [sentimental female friendship films popular in the 1990s] tend to fortify patriarchal constraints through an identification system in which women’s shared experience of these constraints makes them appear inevitable and even rewarding. "Sex and the City" endeavors to value female friendship without capitulating to such social norms.
Unlike the SATC episode, which as always ended with an affirmation of how the gals' friendship would last forever, 30 Rock ended with Tina Fey making fun of some guy at a bar who hits on her after he overhears her getting 'dumped' by the lesbian. I don't know if that's subjecting stigmatizing mythologies about single women to gentle comic treatment. Does it propagate a conservative social message of female accomodation to patriarchy? If so, is there any way of depicting single straight women that doesn't propagate a conservative social message? I guess 30 Rock lacks SATC's 'sisterhood is powerful' theme, but instead it makes Miranda rather than Carrie the central character. Miranda as written by Woody Allen.

Full post plus comments

Thursday, October 26, 2006


The stupidest article I've ever read predicting politics.

Our analysis -- based on a race-by-race examination of campaign-finance data -- suggests that the GOP will hang on to both chambers, at least nominally. We expect the Republican majority in the House to fall by eight seats, to 224 of the chamber's 435. At the very worst, our analysis suggests, the party's loss could be as large as 14 seats, leaving a one-seat majority. But that is still a far cry from the 20-seat loss some are predicting. In the Senate, with 100 seats, we see the GOP winding up with 52, down three

We studied every single race -- all 435 House seats and 33 in the Senate -- and based our predictions about the outcome in almost every race on which candidate had the largest campaign war chest, a sign of superior grass-roots support. We ignore the polls. Thus, our conclusions about individual races often differ from the conventional wisdom. Pollsters, for instance, have upstate New York Republican Rep. Tom Reynolds trailing Democratic challenger Jack Davis, who owns a manufacturing plant. But Reynolds raised $3.3 million in campaign contributions versus $1.6 million for Davis, so we score him the winner.

A large campaign war chest is a sign of superior grassroots support? Are you shitting me? This is just wilfully stupid.

Full post plus comments

Somebody at Columbus State Community College Just Searched For This Image on the Blog

Which, out of context, strikes me as hilariously random.

What image search would yield that result? "Does Anya Kamenetz eat yogurt or cereal in the morning?" "Has Anya Kamenetz ever endorsed any dairy products?" "Which actress/legendary child abuser would Anya Kamenetz most like to photoshop her face onto?"


Full post plus comments

DMI and Corporate Giveaways

DMI blog has audio and video online from a roundtable the Institute conducted last month about increasing accountability for economic development subsidies.

The featured speaker was Minnesota State Senator John Hottinger, who "sponsored Minnesota’s groundbreaking law instituting new standards of transparency and accountability for state and local economic development subsidies. The 1995 law and its subsequent enhancements required that companies who receive public subsidies but fail to reach job creation goals repay the subsidy with interest."

Adrianne Shropshire and Assemblyman Brodsky

The panelists were Hottinger, columnist and Atlantic Yardsist Errol Louis (boo!), Jobs with Justice's Adrianne Shropshire (yay!), and State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (good on this issue).

Here at Left Behinds we discuss corporate subsidies all the time. We have focused on the land giveaways, but the same problems apply to economic development subsidies (i.e., millions and millions of dollars of corporate welfare) supposedly spent to keep corporate jobs in the City, even though the jobs are often never generated and the money is seldom recouped. Who makes an investment in which you're almost guaranteed to lose money?

I personally hope this is the beginning of a campaign to advocate for legislation like Minnesota's, which has led to millions of dollars recouped from reneging corporations. It's good goverment and not anti-development, just anti-waste.

Full post plus comments

Baby names

Full post plus comments

Reaction to the New Jersey Decision

The stalwart Richard Kim has done such a great job parsing this decision that I don't really have anything to add, for the moment at least.

In terms of the November elections, while conservatives like James Dobson of Focus on the Family (FoF) have railed against the decision as "a travesty," it's also clear that they can barely hide their disappointment at not getting the base-galvanizing, pro-marriage decision that they were dreading/anticipating.


Try as they might, these right-wing attempts to ratchet up the gay marriage fear factor come off as rather lame. By leaving it up to the legislature to decide between gay marriage or civil union, the court dodged a bullet. And all signs indicate that the Democrat-controlled legislature and Gov. Corzine will take the easy way out and pass a civil union bill (like Vermont's or Connecticut's). It's hard to see how even the right-wing machine could turn the incredibly slim chance that the NJ legislature would pass a gay marriage bill into a viable election issue. It's a local issue now, not national. As I pointed out earlier, only same-sex marriage outright would create the possibility for gay couples to sue in federal courts for broader marriage benefits.

Full post plus comments

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

So Said Said

According to one of my favorite journalists, the new Edward Said documentary "is less minimalist than merely insubstantial. At times it awkwardly blends the talking-heads format with dollops of cinema verité in its interviews, and Sato’s voiceover narration sometimes smacks of the grade-school primer (“Israel is without question the country of the Jews”). No question, it’s good to see that Said’s work lives on and it’s interesting to think what the material would look like in the hands of other filmmakers too—a sharp-eyed collage of found footage by Errol Morris, perhaps, or a melancholic cine-essay by Chris Marker."

That's too bad, because I was thinking of seeing it. But since Errol Morris and Chris Marker are definitely, definitely Left Behinds readers, this is a veritable call to arms.

Full post plus comments

Harold Ford: He's Just Too Black to Vote For

Or, as Josh Micah Marshall summarizes this absurdly racist campaign ad, "Harold Ford is an uppity negro who does the wild thing with white women."

As radical lesbian blogger Alana Post wrote today,

i want to put out an anti obama ad that is a bunch of monkeys crawling over a very pale aryan woman's nude body while words flash on the screen like subliminal message style


at the end this soft light glows in from off screen and the monkeys scatter away screeching and the republican competitor flies in on angel wings and wraps the woman in a blanket. and the word PEACE flashes and stays on the screen.


And in case you missed it, THESE ARE THE STAKES (less hilariously panicked about miscegenation, but I enjoy the faceless Arabs practicing their round-kicks).

UPDATE II [Antid Oto]:

Jesus' General worries that the anti-Ford ads might be too subtle. He offers the following clarification.

Full post plus comments

Debbie Does New Jersey

Argh I am so impatient waiting for this decision on gay marriage from New Jersey's Supreme Court (which will be Chief Justice Deborah Poritz's very last decision before retiring). The decision is supposed to come in at 3 pm, less than three hours from now.

Judge Deborah has a touch of Janet Reno about her, if you know what I mean.

As Richard Kim wrote in The Notion,

What are the implications nationwide? With Christian conservatives threatening to stay home, and with the Foley scandal still occupying front page real estate, is this the GOP's last chance to rally its family values base? If NJ does go the way of Massachusetts, Bush will almost certainly reiterate calls for a federal marriage amendment. But is it too little, too late? Eight states have defense of marriage amendments on the ballot this November, but polls from some of them -- Wisconsin, Arizona, Colorado and South Dakota -- indicate that the issue has lost some of its punch.

In a cynical way, I'm tickled pink that gays are now seen as sand in the electoral machine -- first gay marriage in '04 and now Foleygate in '06. Homosexuals: we're the equal opportunity spoilers, the Ross Perots of the new century. We're here! We're queer! And we will ruin your elections!

Full post plus comments

October Surprise?

Atrios says the Jersey Supreme Court will legalize gay marriage tomorrow. Details here.

Full post plus comments

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Random disclosure

I said I wouldn't give to the Democratic Party this election, and I haven't, but I have donated to some individual candidates. Don't know if that's relevant to anything, I'm just saying.

Full post plus comments

Ignore this post

It's an easy piece of internet activism, most of it below the fold. Explanation here if you're really curious.

UPDATE (from Solomon): I've noticed that Google doesn't include our text that's below the fold, so I'm going to put this above the fold, but in very small print. And readers should go to that link and do the same on your blogs -- it's a simple way to manipulate the Google results for various right wing freaks.

--AZ-Sen: Jon Kyl

Rick Renzi

J.D. Hayworth

John Doolittle

Richard Pombo

Brian Bilbray

Marilyn Musgrave

Doug Lamborn

Rick O'Donnell

Christopher Shays

Vernon Buchanan

Joe Negron

Clay Shaw

Bill Sali

Peter Roskam

Mark Kirk

Dennis Hastert

Chris Chocola

John Hostettler

Mike Whalen

Jim Ryun

Anne Northup

Geoff Davis

Michael Steele

Gil Gutknecht

Michele Bachmann

Jim Talent

Conrad Burns

Jon Porter

Charlie Bass

Mike Ferguson

Heather Wilson

Peter King

John Sweeney

Tom Reynolds

Randy Kuhl

Robin Hayes

Charles Taylor

Steve Chabot

Jean Schmidt

Deborah Pryce

Joy Padgett

Melissa Hart

Curt Weldon

Mike Fitzpatrick

Don Sherwood

Lincoln Chafee

Bob Corker

George Allen

Frank Wolf

Mike McGavick

Dave Reichert

Full post plus comments

Monday, October 23, 2006

British cop shows

I watch some Brit crap along with my regular American crap, and in the last couple of months I've now seen two shows in which some fundamentalist Christian sect gets out of control and starts committing murder and mayhem. A) I think it's damn obvious no such episode could ever be aired in the U.S., and B) to our British readers, is there a particular reason why British popular culture these days should be more paranoid about Christian nuts than usual? Or am I reading too much into two episodes of TV?

Full post plus comments

Final oddsmaking on the election

Last time I prognosticated, right after the Torture Bill debacle, I insisted the Democrats would win no more than 8-14 seats in the House. Of course I didn't know that immediately afterwards the Republican Party would be caught in cyberbed with a live boy.

Senate first, because it's easier. Democrats are currently leading in Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Montana, and Ohio. To win the narrowest possible control of the chamber, then, they need to win two out of the following three states currently tied or close to it: Tennessee, Missouri, and Virginia. So call it 2:1 against, maybe a little worse because those are all Republican-leaning states.

Now the House. Looking at the big picture, everything seems to be going the Democrats' way. The problem, though, is that Democrats didn't start even, they started behind. After all this great movement in their direction, looking at it race by race they've now gotten all the way to even. For example, CQ Politics is now projecting Democrats ahead 209 to 207, with 19 seats rated No Clear Favorite, all Republican-held. So Democrats have to win at least 50% of those Republican-held seats. In 12 the incumbent is running for reelection; the open seats are in Republican-leaning districts. Even if incumbency doesn't provide nearly the usual overwhelming advantage once a race gets competitive (and I'm told it isn't), incumbents still do have important long-term relationships in their districts, in particular with organizations capable of mobilizing people. And keep in mind that Republican Party already has a clear edge in identifying and turning out voters.

In addition, as I complained a few days ago, the DCCC continues to target races very narrowly, as confirmed in yesterday's Times:

“On the House side, it makes sense to be focusing on 25 seats to win 14, not 50,” said Steve Rosenthal, a political and labor consultant with close ties to the party, who described many Democrats as “overenthused.”

“If we had unlimited resources it would be different,” Mr. Rosenthal said. “But we have to be careful.”

Mr. Emanuel said he was polling to see where the party might move next. But he said that barring some last-minute infusion of money, he was considering a relatively limited increase in the number of seats where Democrats would spend. In the past week, Democrats have expanded their field to just over 40 races from about 35, running advertisements against Republicans they consider newly vulnerable in Florida, Minnesota, Nevada, upstate New York and Washington State.

See the link to a few days ago for why this logic is bunk. For now what's important is that the fewer races the DCCC targets, the higher the percentage Democrats must win to retake the House. Targeting fewer races basically puts a ceiling on Democrats' gains.

In other words, looking at everything I'd put the odds of Democrats barely retaking the House at just a hair better than 50-50.

Now for the fun. We have enough readers here to start a pool, I think. Everyone put in a number for the House. Current House breakdown is 230 R, 201 D, 3 vacancies (2 R, 1 D), and Bernie Sanders (I, caucuses D). I'm going to put in the first claim: Democrats net 15 seats for a final result of 218 D, 217 R. Make your bids in comments. Closest wins a date with Solomon, a t-shirt, or something else awesome.


Senate revision. I was asking the wrong question. It isn't "Will the Democrats take the Senate?" but "Will the Democrats have the Senate when Congress comes into session?" First, Joe Lieberman is going to win his race. He's up by 12, and no one makes up 12 points in 2 weeks. I don't believe Lieberman will become a Republican Senator--he'll have all the chairmanships he wants as a Democrat--but I'm sure you all already know that if Rumsfeld finally does resign, Lieberman is considered the leading candidate to replace him, meaning Jodi Rell would appoint a Republican to fill his seat. The pressure on Bush to do so would be acute if Democrats take the Senate and not the House: simply by firing Rumsfeld he could forestall all those terrible hearings on the war.

So to guarantee control of the Senate next year Democrats either have to take all three races listed above or Lamont has to beat Lieberman. It helps if they win the House. New odds of Democratic Senate control, at least 5:1 against.

Full post plus comments

Friday, October 20, 2006

More on Quinn's Cop-Out

Will at onNYTurf had a much more appropriate and incensed reaction to Quinn's mealy mouthed appraisal of the NYPD's attack on free speech than I did. I have to admit I had not read the NYPD's proposed rule changes, which is part of why I didn't realize the extent to which Quinn was copping out.

Quinn says this is a substantial improvement from the rules the NYPD tried to create in August. Lets try the smell test! Here are the rules the NYPD tried in August:

Any group of two or more cyclists or pedestrians traveling down a public street, who violate any traffic law, rule or regulation can be arrested for parading without a permit.

Any group of 20 or more cyclists must obtain a permit and approved route from the NYPD or would be subject to arrest

Every group of 35 of more pedestrians must obtain a permit and approved route from the NYPD or would be subject to arrest

So, they increased the threshold at which j-walking becomes an arrestable offense from 2 to 10. And they rounded the last two points. Is that a substantial difference?

Smells the same to me. Quinn must NOT have read the same NYPD statement everyone else did today, or she has a real reading comprehension problem.

This also [raises] the question why Quinn wanted to be leader of the legislative branch in the first place if she's not going to lead on legislating in area which clearly calls for it. The NYPD plain and simple should not be making dramatic rule changes that effect fundamental civil liberties. The representatives of the people should.

Full post plus comments

Update: Colbert Dances With Me

As expected, Colbert delivered the funny when he interviewed congressional candidate John Hall last night.

John Hall's the cub in the center of this poster found tacked next to Dennis Hastert's bedroom mirror

UPDATE [Antid Oto]:

Embedded for your convenience.

He looks more distinguished without the beard.

Full post plus comments

How Long Before Gibbons Blames This On Alcoholism?

If you haven't already, you should read about Jim Gibbons, the Republican candidate for governor of Nevada who just tried to rape and kill someone he picked up in a Vegas bar.

As Wonkette writes, "Hilariously, Gibbons told the gal his marriage was 'boring' and his hotel was so close that they could 'crawl to it.' Gibbons’ wife, Dawn Gibbons, [was] running for the congressional seat he’s abandoning to run for governor."

I appreciate that in the victim's 911 call she turned to dark humor as a coping strategy.

911: Alright. He didn't seem like he was under the influence of anything other than alcohol correct?
MAZZEO: Um, probably power (laughing). ... But I don't know ...

I also giggled at this Wonkette comment:

Q: "Qualifications?"
A: "Rape, murder, arson, bigamy and rape".

Q: "You said rape twice?!"
A: "I like rape."

Full post plus comments

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Confession: I'm kind of feeling Jeanine Pirro

As articulated in this ad from the five minutes when she was running for Senate, Pirro is for gun control, abortion on demand, and mandatory gay rights (I love the "mandatory" in that phrase). My biggest problem with her is that she's so pro-death penalty. But I think I am more offended by how utterly unqualified Cuomo is. Plus there's the fact that she's a woman, and Lebanese, and talks forcefully about gay rights at every opportunity.

This is the first time ever that I am considering voting Republican. Of course, she's currently down 55 – 34% among likely voters, so in the sense of endorsing an inevitable loser I am completely consistent with my voting record.

Full post plus comments

Sigh. One step forward...

Much excitement on liberal campaign-focused blogs over the last few days about the DCCC possibly going millions into debt to take full advantage of this "historic" opportunity. As Jonathan Singer writes, though:

That said, if the committee is going to the bank to borrow money for these second and third tier races, the money should go to them -- not contests in which both parties have already sunk hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars already. (I'm looking at you, Illinois 6!) In races in which the price tag for each campaign has already topped one or two million dollars, the next $50,000 or $100,000 isn't going to have the same type of impact it would in an emerging race that has thus far been less costly. Even $500,000 for more television ads in a multi-multi-million dollar race could not possibly have the same effect that that same amount of money would have on one of the less-watched races.

So, what is the DCCC doing?

Yesterday the DCCC pumped a staggering $11,859,818.68 into 32 races in 17 states, new filings with the FEC show. ...

Notably, almost half of the cash — $5,042,707.45 — was spent on three House races in Pennsylvania alone, on ads targeting incumbents Jim Gerlach, Curt Weldon and Mike Fitzpatrick.

It's worth returning to the logic behind Jonathan Singer's unfulfulled hope. From an article by Jonathan Krasno and Donald Green, excerpted at Ruy Teixera's site:

Because of diminishing returns, we know that a large investment in an expensive race will bring few votes, while a small investment in a cheaper race may bring many. Parties shy away from the latter on the grounds that hopeless candidates are hopeless causes. But the math says different. Suppose that we could increase the odds of twenty candidates from 5 to 10 percent for the same cost of helping two candidates with 45 percent chances get to 50 percent. By helping the twenty hapless candidates, we would increase the expected number of victories from 20 x 0.05 = 1 to 20 x 0.10 = 2. By helping the well-heeled candidates, we would increase the expected number of victories from 2 x .45 = 0.90 to 2 x .50 = 1. The first investment portfolio has an expected return of 1 additional victory, while the second one is just one-tenth of an additional victory.

The DCCC is stuck in the same type of conventional logic that has NFL coaches punting on fourth down too often: Every play carries some nontrivial risk of costing you the game. If you make the play conventionally perceived to be riskier, even if you can show mathematically that it's less risky, and you lose because of it, you will be blamed. But nobody's going to fire you for sticking with conventional wisdom, even if you lose.

This logic doesn't only apply to elections and football games, of course.

Full post plus comments

Quinn's Mealy Mouthed Endorsement of Free Speech

I was a little disappointed by Council Speaker Christine Quinn's statement about the NYPD's ongoing attack on free speech (the subject of that little yellow banner on the upper right of this blog):
The New York City Police Department's proposed regulations for when and what activities will require parade permits are a substantial improvement over regulations proposed earlier.
New York City is a symbol of creativity and free expression for people around the world. It is difficult to balance the protection of civil liberties with the need for public order. We believe that the newly proposed rules have struck a better balance. We hope that the Police Department will carefully consider all the comments that they receive from individuals and groups during this public comment period. We hope too that the Police Department will be open to additional suggestions of ways to better balance the competing interests at stake.
This is from someone who was the executive director of a major grassroots activist group. I guess she has to be balanced and inoffensive in order to get the job done, but I'd have liked a stronger articulation of how fundamental the right to free assembly is.

Full post plus comments

Know Thy Opponent, NY 19

John Hall, who's running for Congress in Westchester, NY's 19th district, will be on the Colbert Report tonight.

When: TONIGHT, OCTOBER 19 at 11:30 p.m. EST.

Where: The Comedy Central TV channel. (Channel 50 on Cablevision. Check your local listings.)

Three weeks ago Hall taped a “Know Thy Opponent” segment for “The Colbert Report,” a popular late-night TV show hosted by Stephen Colbert which mixes politics, current events and humor.

Hall is a session musician and former member of the band Orleans, who supposedly have two rock classics, "'Still The One' and 'Dance With Me,' which have been certified for over four million airplays each in the U.S. alone." (though I've never heard them)

I'm expecting lots of jokes about aging hippies and soft rock. Could be funny. Oh, yeah, plus Hall's opponent is a right wing fundamentalist incumbent who really needs to be defeated.

John Hall in the 70s

Full post plus comments

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

This is not a parody

It should be, though. It's freaking awesome.

Via Sadly, No!

Full post plus comments

The Children's Hospital

I read a fun new McSweeneys novel called The Children's Hospital by Chris Adrian. I loved and agreed with the following brief review in V:

When is a hospital not a hospital? When it becomes a post-apocalyptic Noah’s Ark inhabited by stentorian angels, deformed messiahs, and harried, horny nurses. The Children’s Hospital, published by McSweeney’s, is a dark, hilarious novel about “the strange and horrible new world” after God floods the earth with 7 miles of water and the only people remaining are the denizens of a hospital that is somehow left bobbing at sea. The author, Chris Adrian, has a pedigree that includes medical school, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and Harvard Divinity School, and he writes about pediatric medicine and theodicy alike with precision and exhaustive detail. “I started writing in high school,” he said in an interview with Ploughshares, “after I realized that I had no talent for painting, and that I had better give that up before I hurt myself or someone else with my sloppy, gruesome studies of malproportioned nude women.” This epic novel is hardly sloppy, but it can be gruesome—just about every theological interlude is interrupted by either a nude woman’s petit mort or her vomit. In the first chapter, apocalypse descends just as the heroine has surreptitious sex with a fellow medical intern; the hospital’s physical unmooring exactly coincides with her own best orgasm ever. After the deluge comes the nation-building, and the novel really gets going when the hospital becomes a Platonic city-state whose citizens must devise their own new laws and social structures—with the inevitable corruption and injustices that follow any good idea.

Full post plus comments

Adam Green is going to ease me back into discussing NYC politics

Full post plus comments

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

If there is such a thing as pop analytic philosophy,

Then it probably involves the question of consciousness and artificial intelligence (AI).

As John Searle (if there is such a thing as pop analytic philosophy, then Searle is its Madonna) writes in this good book review in the latest NYRB, "the subject of consciousness has become fashionable. Amazon lists 3,865 books under 'consciousness,' a number of them new releases of the last year or two."

Searle slams a Harvard professor's book called Seeing Red: A Study in Consciousness, which is, roughly, about the mind/brain problem and recent philosophical advances in making sense of what exactly consciousness is and how we can explain it. In the beginning of the article he gives a nice, succinct summary of the basic problems of consciousness as Searle's (influential) school of analytic philosophy has approached them in the past 50 years. He's basically taking issue with a somewhat technical but not too unwieldy aspect of the author's approach to the problem. Basically, Searle disagrees about which states can be classified as conscious, and in which way, and how to best approach explaining them. There's some interesting "whoa, man" stuff about what it means to visually perceive a color.

For me, the most interesting application of philosophy of consicousness involves AI. Fundamentally, these questions are relevant for AI (think Blade Runner and Pinocchio) because there will eventually be real public policy problems involving how we treat artificial beings that claim to have consciousness or that humans ascribe consciousness to. It's not just Philip K. Dick/Ethan Hawke silliness, it's an almost inevitable public policy problem.

I've been interested in this since college (or, really, since reading a lot of sci fi books as a kid) but haven't paid too much attention to the academic developments of the past 5 years, and I'm kind of heartened by Searle's optimistic conclusion:

Some traditional philosophical problems, though unfortunately not very many, can eventually receive a scientific solution. This actually happened with the problem of what constitutes life. We cannot now today recover the passions with which mechanists and vitalists debated whether a "mechanical" account of life could be given. The point is not so much that the mechanists won and the vitalists lost, but that we got a much richer conception of the mechanisms. I think we are in a similar situation today with the problem of consciousness. It will, I predict, eventually receive a scientific solution. But like other scientific solutions in biology, it will have to give us a causal account. It will have to explain how brain processes cause conscious experiences, and this may well require a much richer conception of brain functioning than we now have.

So Searle believes that as we develop a richer understanding of the causal mechanisms of consciousness, the ethical and political problems of applied philosophy of mind will seem much more manageable. We will be able to rationally explain to Pinocchio why he is not a real boy. Just before he and a swarm of pseudo-conscious nanorobots exterminate the human race, I mean.

Full post plus comments

Speaking of Closets, Mario Vasquez

My old friend Mario from BiGLYNY (Bisexual, Gay, and Lesbian Youth of New York) has a top 20 hit with this song Gallery. It's a little cheesy for my taste, but I like a couple of his other songs, and he has a really smooth voice.

He went to Laguardia and was in City Kids for years, and notice how in the post-performance interview he moves the mic stand off camera. He's an old pro.

I'm just really looking forward to his coming out of the closet. Pop needs an openly gay heartthrob.

(back to political commentary soon, I promise)

Full post plus comments

Monday, October 16, 2006

Radio Killed the Hip-Hop Star, and Other Monopolistic Tales

The discussion at Steve Gilliard's about this article can be roughly summarized as follows: No matter what you listen to, the version of it they play on the radio sucks. The wave of radio consolidation that concentrated most radio stations in the country into the hands of a few owners hasn't just made them politically reprehensible, it's made them downright unlistenable. For now there's Pandora and independent stations like WFMU.

But this brings up a broader point. One thing not mentioned on the Ezra Klein "What Makes a Liberal" list I linked earlier is a belief in trustbusting: the government must make sure no corporation gets too powerful or else democracy suffers. Read, for example, Barry Lynn's argument that Wal-mart must be broken up not because it mistreats its workers, breaks union drives, and has shitty benefits, but simply because it is too big and powerful for the good of the nation as a whole. This is exactly the sort of activist government conservatives hate the most, but it is more important than ever that liberals reconnect with this 100-year-old legacy of the original Progressives.

Full post plus comments

Sunday, October 15, 2006

If Only I Had Teeth Down There

Last week I wrote that "[closeted Republican Ken Mehlman] looked like he'd rather have a big scary vagina dentata in his face than be discussing Foley on Fox News." A friend asked what a vagina dentata was, which prompted me to Google it, which led me to this.

It's the Rapex Anti-Rape Condom. It is a female condom (inserted like a tampon) with tiny razor sharp teeth inside that need to be surgically removed once they're attached to the penis of an attacker. The idea is that the pain from the barbs would give the victim time to escape

There's something sort of funny about it (the same way Lorena Bobbitt is funny in a dark way), but it has been rightly criticized as medieval and gruesome. But reclaiming the misogynist myth of the vagina dentata is so girl power!

According to Wikipedia, "The concept of a vagina dentata is rooted in ancient myth and had previously been explored in fiction, e.g., in Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. Ehlers [the inventor of the Rapex] has also admitted that she was inspired by speaking to a rape victim who said, 'If only I had teeth down there,' and also from seeing 'a young man was admitted to hospital for getting his penis caught in his trouser zip and was in excruciating pain' when she was a blood technician."

It supposedly goes on sale in late 2006 in South Africa. I.e., now.

Full post plus comments

What Do We Make of Flavor of Love?

The finale is in less than 12 hours, and I've been meaning to blog about it (I haven't had internet access the past week, hence my radio silence).

I am already on record calling it one of my top three favorite shows. It is also, of course, politically troubling in terms of race, class, and gender. Critics call it the latest nigga spectacle, the new Amos n' Andy minstrel show. It's bad for women, it's bad for black people, it's bad for anyone who watches it.

But Flav isn't really Amos or Andy. In fact, it's not really about Flav. He plays the same supporting role as he did in Public Enemy: the funny guy who interjects wisecracks from the sidelines. The show is really about the women, and really it's about one woman, one gloriously fucked up woman in particular: New York.

I can't really do her justice, so I'll just let her speak for herself.

I have to think more about why I love the show.

For now, I'll just leave you with this brilliant commentary (pay special attention to "A Civil Body Poli-trick" and its comments).


Judging from NY's Myspace page, it seems she doesn't "win" Flavor of Love. Which only makes tomorrow's episode all the more a must-see. Imagine her reaction to losing for a second time. It is going to be sublime.

Full post plus comments

Friday, October 13, 2006

See, this'yere is what I'm talking about.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote in response to Neil the Ethical Werewolf, who dropped by to comment on my giving a big fuck-you to his ActBlue page and (everyone else's too):

We need to think about how not just to reform the Democratic Party's electoral machinery and oust its current crop of incompetent managers, but also how to reform it ideologically so that it is willing not just to check the worst excesses of the Republicans but actually to roll them back.

Clunky writing. Ugh.

Point is, while I do want a Democratic majority in the House after this election, in the long term I simply don't trust this element of the Party:

Does he not make you want to reach into YouTube and throttle his fat little neck? Even if this year I may hope for practical reasons that the guy gets elected, can you all understand why I also hope he doesn't stick around long enough to accrue any seniority or power?

My complaint about liberal blogs made use of Neil's collection, at Ezra Klein's blog, of what I thought were bad apologies for Democratic cowardice on the detainee bill. Now, to give credit to the same source, Ezra himself has launched an interesting discussion of what it means to be a liberal. After we all hold our noses and vote for Democrats like Steve Kagen, we'd better keep thinking about liberalism and how we can replace the Kagens of the Party with people who believe in its principles, even if they remain afraid of the word itself.

Full post plus comments

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Screw Chuck Schumer

I said it in February: if Chuck Schumer didn't have an idiotic vendetta against Eliot Spitzer, if he didn't talk Tom Suozzi into a pointless run at Governor, maybe someone could have convinced Suozzi to run against the odious Peter King. And King is vulnerable. How vulnerable? The latest poll (PDF) has him up just two points over far-less-well-known County Legislator Dave Mejias. I wish Mejias all the best--he's obviously running a solid campaign to be so close. But Suozzi could have wiped the floor with King, no doubt.

Poll via TPMCafe's Election Central.

UPDATE: I just noticed Mejias's slogan on the front page of his site:

"Peter King said he thanks God every night that George Bush is our President. I say Peter King needs to wake up."

I approve.

Full post plus comments

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Broke my heart a little

This Kiri Davis piece is a pretty good short film in and of itself, but watch in particular for the reenactment of the doll test about halfway through. If it doesn't break your heart, you don't have one.

Via Jill Tubman.

Full post plus comments

The Death of Cursive

Keyboards are killing it. The few blogs I've read on the topic all agree that "hey, no one writes in cursive anymore anyway, right?"

I handwrite in cursive, typically for an hour and a half a day (though I aim for two hours). I am a very fast typist, and when I type I can reach the end of a thought very quickly; writing by hand slows me down so that by the time I reach the end of a sentence, my mind has already begun to formulate the next. I think it also forces me into a sparer style, which I end up having to correct by expanding on revision. Many other writers, by contrast, describe revision as mainly a cutting process. Finally, when I am stuck I use free writing to overcome problems (a debased form of automatic writing), and I can't imagine doing that on a computer.

Am I alone? Do any of you use cursive regularly?

Full post plus comments

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Mindblowingly unsurprising

U.S. Citizen Jose Padilla has filed a motion to dismiss the charges against him (charges which are extremely vague and not related to the reason he was supposedly locked up in the first place), claiming that he was tortured for almost the entire three and a half years he was detained without charges on U.S. soil.

Seriously, read the brief (excerpted at the first link above, .pdf here). It will blow your mind how implausible it isn't.

Via Glenn Greenwald, who points out that:

...all of the treatment he describes are part of the "interrogation and detention techniques" which the President now has the legal authority to invoke pursuant to the so-called Military Commissions Act of 2006 -- enacted by our Congress just ten days ago. Thus, everything Padilla describes is now perfectly legal in the United States -- even when applied against individuals charged with no crimes of any kind.

Full post plus comments

Sunday, October 08, 2006

What the fuck?

"Did Carville Tip Bush Off to Kerry Strategy"? Just read it.

Full post plus comments

A Vast, Gay Right Wing Conspiracy

That, according to fundamentalist ideologue Tony Perkins on Fox News Sunday just now, is what's really to blame for the Foley scandal.

There's a network of gay staffers who we have to investigate to see if they knew about this and covered it up. ... It's a symptom of a larger problem not only within the party but within the culture.

So the coverup is due to the fact that Republicans allowed closeted gays into the House? What?

More than 50% of the electorate believes Hastert knew and covered up something. I guess Perkins is trying to control damage among his base, who are desperate to instinctually gay bash (they must be experiencing some major cognitive dissonance the past week). But as David Corn just pointed out on ABC This Week, a number of "Velvet Mafia" closeted Republicans have gone public that they brought Foley's folly to the leadership's attention years ago. Nobody obsessively protects their rep like a closeted gay, and somehow I doubt the Roy Cohns of the world are going to gracefully take the fall for this one.

Overall, this spin is pretty weak. I can't see it working on anyone other than, say, certain members of the House passionate for some mysterious reason about cracking down on openly gay gays and child porn.


It's been amusing watching well known closeted gay Republicans come out this morning to give perfunctory spin. The anxiety in Ken Mehlman's face as he talked about party unity was hilarious. He looked like he'd rather have a big scary vagina dentata in his face than be discussing Foley on Fox News.

UPDATE II (Antid Oto):

From The Daily Show's latest rundown on Foley, a diagram of the conspiracy.


Stewart noted that "The gay staffers network, they control everything, except, apparently, our government's policies toward gays."

YouTube from which I captured the above here.

Full post plus comments

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Goddamnit I love Wanda Sykes.

Full post plus comments

What you need to be watching this fall

Veronica Mars
The Wire
The Venture Bros.

You may watch other things if you insist (I enjoy several others), but if you do not love these three you are A Philistine.

What the hell, here's what I can remember off the top of my head of my "enjoy" list, if you're looking for recommendations:

Dexter (Michael C. Hall!)
The Office
Everybody Hates Chris
Laguna Beach

Gilmore Girls should be on the list, but if I can judge by the first two episodes of the season, the writing has fallen down a deep hole with the departure of the show's two cocreators and primary writers.

Full post plus comments

Friday, October 06, 2006

Weekend reading

For our two or three readers (and Solomon) who like super-wonky New York State policy analysis, Larry Littlefield's new series "What I Would Do About [Stuff]" is well worth reading. You'll almost certainly find plenty to disagree with, but it's careful, thought-provoking work.

Medicaid, Part I
Medicaid, Part II
State education funding

Full post plus comments


Will at onNYTurf has asked us to help spread the word that his main site and mail server are down. Updates here.

UPDATE: He's kind of back.

Full post plus comments

Somebody around here claimed David Brooks wasn't as dumb as Thomas Friedman

I propose that when he appears to be even a little smart, he's just coughing up Washington-cocktail-party CW. When he thinks about things on his own, it comes out really stupid. Remember, he's responsible for the whole Red America/Blue America idea, which is substantively false even if it appears superficially compelling.

Either that or he's deliberately disingenuous all the time. I don't think that's a distinction that matters. Both are performatively stupid.

Full post plus comments

A last hurrah

Before we do change the tagline.

Via The Poor Man.

Full post plus comments

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


Am I the only one utterly bored with Foleygate? Who finds the endless repetition of the phrase "every parent's greatest fear" just plain gross? Or who finds it ridiculous when soft-handed Paul Begala claims "If somebody sends an email like that to my kid, they're going to deal with the law firm of Smith & Wesson. It ain't gonna go to no page court." (No, I'm not embedding it.)

Meanwhile, the House half-assedly gave the President the green light to bomb Iran, and the NLRB stripped the right to form a union from 8 million workers by calling them "supervisors."

Via Arthur Silber, Dave Lindorff:

It's a sad commentary on the state of American democracy, on the instincts of the American citizenry, and on the standards and judgment of the American newsmedia that the unsavory advances of a pathetic Florida congressman can have the nation in high dudgeon, while the ramming through of a patently illegal piece of legislation undermining a crucial 13th century civil liberty (habeas corpus), and the Fourth and Eighth Amendments of the constitution, and the secret planning for an illegal and catastrophic attack on Iran, both merit almost no complaint or mention.

Full post plus comments

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Liberal Blogosphere Lays an Egg

This week has seen a sad display of partisanship over principle by the major liberal blogs over the Torture At Will/Habeas-Corpus-B-Gon Act of 2006 (or as tristero calls it, the USA Mengele Act). To review, as I wrote in a comment elsewhere:

[T]he reason so many are pissed off at Democrats ... [is] that they stupidly, idiotically, stood back and let “moderate” Republicans fight for them, bragged about not getting involved, and taunted Republicans for not being able to come to resolution. Then, when “moderate” Republicans reached “compromise,” they stood around trying to pry their jaws from the floor and their thumbs from their asses before they figured out what to do next. As it turned out on the last day of debate, when a lot of people made pretty, meaningless speeches, most of the Democratic caucus was opposed to this bill. So why the fuck didn’t they say so three weeks ago when it was introduced? Why didn’t they explain from Day One why they opposed it in the terms they used yesterday? If they’d lost under those circumstances it still would have hurt, but to lose after they spent two and a half weeks announcing that they weren’t even going to try, that’s infuriating.

Get it? This isn’t about counting the votes that were or weren’t there. The votes themselves are meaningless (especially if the boast is going to be that most of the Democratic caucus voted the right way). It’s about the fact that Democrats proudly did nothing for the entire time leading up to the vote. I don’t care that they didn’t mount a doomed filibuster: they didn’t mount a goddamned campaign.

So what was the reaction from the liberal blogs? First outrage, as I described earlier. And then, after the bill passed with only token opposition, suddenly there emerged a consensus that really, since the right people to blame for introducing the bill in the first place are the Republicans, this can all be solved if we just work harder than ever to elect Democrats!

Yay! Elect Democrats! Give! Volunteer!

Apart from the fact that "Yeah, this was a tough loss, better fight harder next time" is a totally inadequate response to your government legalizing torture, fuck you and your ActBlue page.

I was going to surf around and find some of the more annoying of these reactions, but Neil the Ethical Werewolf has saved me the trouble. Of course he saved me the trouble by linking to them all approvingly, but thanks to him anyway.

Let's start with The Editors (go to their place if you want all the links):
It’s true, “the Democrats” didn’t send this awful, anti-Democratic bill to defeat. But, then, they didn’t have the votes for it. Nor, indeed, did they fillibuster the bill. But, as Sen. Reid confessed, and as the final vote proved out, they didn’t have the votes for that, either. But they should have made a futile gesture! you complain. Well, many Democrats did make futile gestures, futile speeches even, even crappy Hillary Clinton. But they should have made the futile gesture I wanted them to make! Well, perhaps they should have, but I fear we this discussion may now drifting from political commentary into interpretive dance criticism. The bottom line is the votes weren’t there. The day was lost.

Scott is right as usual:
this is a Republican bill, and it would not have passed if Democrats controlled Congress.
The most basic error that people who want to put most of the blame on the Democrats make is the assumption that you can infer voting behavior when you control the agenda from voting behavior that occurs after the agenda has been set by someone else. But this is foolish. The fact that John Kerry voted for the Iraq War does not mean that he would have sought to invade Iraq if he had been President

Chris Bowers lists a bunch of issues on which most Senate Democrats voted right. It's a long list with plenty of important stuff. He continues:
I am not sure if there has been a single issue in the Senate over the past four years where the majority of Senate Democrats did not side with the progressive position and oppose the Republican majority. Would it have been better if all Senate Democrats had stood united on all of these issues and stopped any one them from passing? Obviously. But to characterize an entire party because of the actions taken by a minority in that party is simply unfair.

Amanda forcefully explains why not voting for Democrats is really dumb:
if you start howling at them for not controlling what they have no power to control, you’re making a joke of yourself. Telling people to pull our support from them when they’re all we’ve got is, like torture, self-defeating. If you’re so gung-ho about people not being complicit with the Republicans, the first step is to quit being complicit with Republican attempts to hold onto power by telling people to abstain from voting the Republicans out.

There are many more examples out there if you want them—just read the icky Kos diaries from around mid-Friday.

Then, after two days of that, Mark Foley shows up and every major liberal blog shits itself trying to do an impression of CNN scandal journalism: WHAT DID HASTERT KNOW AND WHEN DID HE KNOW IT?

Okay, the Foley thing is creepy, illegal, and wrong. He abused his position and sexually harassed an underling. But really, in the great scheme of things, BFD. It certainly doesn't rise to the level of importance of legalizing torture. It doesn’t even rise to the level of me giving a half a shit, and I suspect most of those writing about it most obsessively (for example, John Aravosis) aren’t really offended either—there’s an air of glee in their posts.

I suppose they can be gleeful. Foley’s idiocy could deliver the House to Democrats. But what will that bring us liberals, as distinct from Democrats? At best the current Democratic Party can act as a weak, sporadic brake on the runaway Bush train; they certainly aren’t going to turn it around. How hard have they been trying to turn around the destruction of civil liberties attended on us through the War on Drugs?

Now, I would rather have a weak, sporadic brake than no brake at all, so I hope the Democrats do win. But acting as a scandal sheet to win electoral victories, focusing entirely on party infrastructure and machinery, that will never accomplish the long-term goal of getting the Democrats to stand for liberal values—or even Constitutional ones (except for the nonprivatizing of Social Security, which doesn’t exactly require great political courage).

Digby linked to this interesting analysis of liberal blogs in the Boston Review of Books.

This agenda for reform has many points in common with the left of the Democratic Party. Many in the center-left would like to see a strong Democratic Party that was more willing to stand up to Republicans and better able to deter its members from defecting on core issues such as Social Security and labor rights. However, there are some important differences. If many leftists are interested in structural reforms of American politics, the shared goal of the netroots is more straightforward, less policy-oriented, and less ambitious—a strong party that can win elections.

However, the netroots’ challenge to bipartisanship and the currently prevailing political wisdom doesn’t go nearly far enough. They have a very good idea of what is wrong with the Democratic Party, but they’re only starting to analyze the underlying political forces that have created these problems. As long as their ambitions are turned to reforming the electoral apparatus of the party and preventing individual politicians from defecting and supporting the Republicans on core issues, their impact will be real but limited. In order to really change the role of the Democratic Party in American politics, they need to focus not only on winning elections, but on reshaping the ideological battleground that they play out on.

Netroots activists often compare themselves to the Goldwater supporters who took over the Republican Party in the 1960s and 1970s. But a close reading of Rick Perlstein’s book Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus (which enjoys near-canonical status among netroots bloggers), suggests that the differences between Goldwaterites and the netroots are as important as the similarities. Goldwater’s followers succeeded not only because of their organizational skills but because of their commitment to a set of long-term ideological goals. Over two decades, they relentlessly sought to undermine the ideological foundations of the existing American political consensus, rebuilding it over time so that it came to favor conservative and Republican political positions rather than liberal or Democratic ones. The result is a skewed political system in which Republicans enjoy a persistent political advantage. The issue space that American politics plays out on has been reconstructed so that its center of gravity quietly but insistently pulls politicians to the right. So it isn’t any accident that bipartisanship in the modern era mostly consists of hewing to the Republican agenda.

As Perlstein argued in these pages two years ago, it isn’t impossible to remould this conventional wisdom, although it is difficult and risky. And the netroots can surely play an important role. Their comparative advantage is exactly in framing political issues and controversies so that they resonate widely. Prominent netroots bloggers recognize in principle the importance of the battle over ideas. Kos and Armstrong devote a substantial portion of Crashing the Gate, to discussing the need for a Democratic apparatus of think tanks and foundations that parallels the conservative intellectual machine. Kos writes regularly about how the Democrats need “big ideas” if they are to win. However, because the netroots conceive of themselves as a non-ideological movement, they aren’t delivering on their potential to help provide and refine these big ideas themselves and thus reshape the ideological underpinnings of the political consensus. If the netroots truly want to tilt the playing ground of American politics back again so that it favors the Democrats, they will need to embrace a more vigorous and coherent ideological program.

Ultimately, the most modest of all liberal goals must be to move the country back to where we were six years ago, when we did not use torture and extrajudicial imprisonment openly, as a matter of official policy (not to say that we didn't torture, thank you very much School of the Americas). Such an effort, not merely to retard the descent into hell but actually to begin to climb out of it, will certainly require major changes in the power dynamics of the Democratic Party. But how will that be possible if those who are supposedly the Party's loyal critics refuse to criticize it when it fails so utterly, and on the most important questions? Is Ned Lamont’s losing candidacy really supposed to save the Democratic Party all by itself? Did having narrow control of one House of Congress keep us out of the last insane war?

More practically, what can we little people actually do? Apart from joining the ACLU, I have no idea how to begin.

(For an even more depressed take, check out the always-brilliant Arthur Silber, first in his post "Suffering and Death in a World of Empty Gesture, Form and Symbol (I): Among the Living Dead", and then, for a description of how legislators can take meaningful stands even when they are in the minority (really?), a post employing the example of Bob La Follette.)

UPDATE: Arthur Silber again, of course.

But now we are told that, if and when Democrats take back Congress, they will erase this abominable blot from our nation's record. On what basis are people so certain of that? You hope they would do so, as do I, but you do not know that. On this point, I would be prepared to feel some confidence that Democratic majorities would do the right thing -- if only they were speaking out in opposition to the coming attack on Iran now. In the same way that the Democrats could have educated Americans about the profound dangers in this latest bill well before the battle was finally joined, they should have been educating Americans about the grave immorality and destructive insanity of an attack on Iran for months now, as I suggested at the conclusion of my essay, "Morality, Humanity and Civilization" (which is, I confess, one of my personal favorites; because of the issues it discusses, I implore you to read it). But they have not been speaking out in this manner at all. They merely echo the administration line that a nuclear Iran is "unthinkable" and cannot be "allowed," because we say so. In this manner, they only increase the likelihood of such an attack, rather than decrease it. After the catastrophe of Iraq, after the catastrophe of the Military Commissions Act, the Democrats still do not know how to fight these battles. It is not even clear they wish to. So on what basis are you so confident they will undo the monstrousness of this bill?

Such confidence that the Democrats will do the right thing also rests on what I consider to be a deeply dangerous naivete about the political dynamics in play. In the runup to the 2008 election, we will still be in Iraq. The "war on terror" will be a continuing enterprise. Given the Democrats' overpowering fear of being portrayed as "soft" on terrorism, would they dare undo this legislation in such a climate? I strongly doubt it; I am 99% certain they would not. And if the undoubtedly disastrous after-effects of an attack on Iran are playing out (see this post and the other entries linked there, including this one, for much more on this), the ongoing national hysteria would probably lead to further and still worse legislation and police state tactics, to which the Democrats will probably also accede.

Full post plus comments

Sunday, October 01, 2006

New LB Tagline?

I just visited Andrew Sullivan's blog for the first time in a long time, and I realized that a new Left Behinds tagline is in order. For one thing, he changed the URL from andrewsullivan.com a long time ago, and for another, while I often disagree with him, sometimes I don't, and in any event LB as it has developed has become something entirely other than the anti-andrewsullivan.com.

Besides, if I hadn't read his blog, I wouldn't have been reminded of this. Or seen this youtube of the actual speech.

So. I turn to you, the readers (and Antid Oto). Any ideas for a new tagline? Or topics to be addressed in the tagline?

Full post plus comments
FREE hit counter and Internet traffic statistics from freestats.com