Thursday, November 30, 2006

Dean, the Dems, and the Liberal "netroots"

Just got done reading Howard Dean's address to the Canadian Liberal party. I wasn't expecting the guy to switch into French.

Very nice speech, too, focusing on that key thing that the Dems seem to be finally acknowledging (if grudgingly) and the Liberals are having trouble with: the importants of grassroots participation in government. Ideology aside, the Liberals have demonstrated consistently that they really need to work harder to build up grassroots support. (Hell, the unpopularity of the "nation" motion demonstrates THAT.)

Then again, I think the progressive blogospheres in the two countries demonstrate it, too. The American progressive/liberal movement online has developed an impressive sense of self- Kos, Atrios, et al have built up a "netroots" that not only helps to represent a point of view, but a consistent community. It's not about supporting individual candidates or even ideologies- it's about the party as a whole, and ensuring the health of the party.

Sadly, I haven't seen much of that north of the border. By and large, Canadian liberal bloggers have been apologists for various leadership candidates, both overtly and covertly. What positions they take, what beliefs they espouse, what they see as forgiveable or beyond the pale... all is dependent on who they're backing, and there seems to be little sense of community beyond that. You're either with Iggy, or with Rae, or with Dion, or with Kennedy. Even though that will end after Saturday, what bothers me is the possibility (if not likelihood) that all they'll do is just turn into apologists for the leader.

That's not what a progressive movement is supposed to be about. Conservatives, sure: until he self-destructed Bush was fawned over this way, and every self-described conservative in Canada with a weblog fawns over Stephen Harper.

Not progressives, though. Not when there's such a better, more vital model out there, one that gets things done and makes things work. (And raises a little money, too.)

Here's hoping that Saturday serves as an end to the factional BS, and the real northern netroots start growing.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

SotH was still a good book...

But yeesh, what the hell is OSC trying to pull with this silliness? A fantasy about rock-ribbed Republicans blowing up evil power-tripping LIEberals?

What, was he getting jealous of the Tom Clancy oeuvre?

(Then again, were I to start this thing nowadays, I probably would have leaned towards "The Forever War".

(Once again, this here little blog claims absolutely no affinity to OSC or his work. Go here to find out the story of why I'm who I am and why this place is what it is. Funny how times change, huh?)

Monday, November 27, 2006

Even Defter?

I have to admit, I'm starting to waver on the implications of that motion that Canadian PM Stephen Harper made to recognize the Quebecois as a nation. While some of the arguments in favor of it have been strong, others against it have been equally so; especially over that issue of what the resolution means in French vs. English. (I had, when I wrote that earlier piece, forgotten that Canada must publish everything in both official languages. That can lead to difficulty. It certainly does here.)

Still, there was pretty much a consensus that the motion was going to pass; even ardent federalists like Liberal leadership candidate Stephane Dion were backing it, and defending it. (Dion wrote a smart letter to the Toronto Star defending it, saying that such resolutions could be written for any of the many nationalities that make up Canada. Fair enough, although most of them don't want to leave.

Thing is, it didn't really matter, because clearly there was a consensus backing Harper's motion. Now, though, that consensus is gone, as fellow Liberal leadership candidate Gerard Kennedy has come out in opposition of the motion.

Kennedy believes the motion raises expectations of eventual constitutional entrenchment of Quebec nationhood without defining what is meant by the word nation. Moreover, he is worried that the motion will deepen divisions in the country, the source said.

Kennedy, a former Ontario education minister, does not have a seat in the Commons but is issuing his statement in advance of the vote on Harper's motion, expected late Monday.

Kennedy's decision could give him a boost at this week's leadership convention among Liberals who are adamantly opposed to recognizing Quebec nationhood but have no other outlet for their concern.
This is smart, smart politics; Kennedy has now placed himself in the position of the "outsider speaking truth to power", echoing the beliefs of a lot of Liberals and the majority of Canadians outside Quebec.

Everybody and his dog knows that the motivation for all of this has been strictly political: Harper wants to regain Quebec support, Ignatieff wanted to reorient Quebec opinion of his leadership away from his disastrous foreign policy, Dion was (until the Harper resolution) using the nation issue as a bludgeon to beat Ignatieff, and Rae was happy to let everybody do it, so long as he didn't get sucked in. Some of these strategies were working (Dion) and some weren't (Ignatieff), but things had gone badly enough that when Harper brought out his cute little dodge, everybody hung on, policy and consequences be damned.

Except, now, for Kennedy. That's why it's smart politics for him. His profile is instantly raised, and nobody had been paying attention to him previously. He knows that his support in Quebec is weak, but (assuming the deal with Dion is in place) will scoop up Dion's supporters if Dion bails out anyway. The harder of the Quebec nationalists will be with Ignatieff, and they'd be impossible for Kennedy to gain, thanks to his weak french and weaker Quebec operation. Where his operation IS strong, (Toronto and the Canadian West) he's likely to get a good reaction from the delegates, as the latter group opposes giving Quebec special status, and the former group lives in a region of so many nationalities that recognizing one would be, well, silly.

People concerned about the Harper proposal may end up shifting to Kennedy from Ignatieff and Dion; if the deal is in place, that would put Kennedy comfortably ahead of Dion, allowing him to absorb Dion's votes and get crucial momentum. If it ends up with him ahead of Rae, and Ignatieff doesn't have his 50%, it's probably over and Kennedy walks away with the prize. If he's behind Rae, he gets Rae to come out against the motion (or at least raise questions), hands his votes to Rae, and Kennedy walks away the kingmaker and THE man to beat after Rae.

Plus, he's now going to be the absolute darling of the growing number of pundits who are opposed to the motion; not the least of which whatzisname, who had no time for Kennedy before and now is praising him to the high heavens. He'll get that badly needed press.

(Not only pundits; every conservative who hates Harper's move to placate Quebecois nationalism is going to take a good hard look at Kennedy. SOMEBODY is going to think "Sure, he might raise taxes, but at least he believes in one nation.")

(That said, there are bunches of people commenting that this will be a disaster. Here, for example, where the prevailing belief is that this will make him a pariah. Perhaps. I don't think so, though. There are simply too many anti-nation Liberals out there for the movers-and-shakers to visibly marginalize them. We'll see, I guess.)

Friday, November 24, 2006

For the Record:

If you want to know about global warming, just go here.

(Especially if you don't understand the difference between blackbody albedo and the albedo of the ball we're all sitting on.)

They know their stuff, and are very good at breaking down the apologists' claims.

The Kiddy Porn Angle

Maybe this is what whatzisname over at the Post meant when he was blathering on about shutting down the Internet:

Canada's biggest Internet service providers have agreed to block hundreds of offending websites in an effort to stamp out child pornography.

Telecom companies such as Bell Canada, Rogers, Shaw, SaskTel, Telus, Videotron and MTS Allstream are partnering with Cybertip.ca to launch "Project Cleanfeed Canada" that will block between 500 and 800 offending websites.

Cybertip.ca, a national child sexual exploitation hotline, will provide the names of sites to be blocked. The hotline relies mostly on tips from the public.


The list of websites will be updated daily and will prevent both intentional and accidental viewing of the sites, according to Lianna McDonald, executive director of Cybertip.ca.

Details of how the automated technical system will work and help filter the sites can't be described for security reasons.
This bothers me. Not the "anti-kiddy porn" aspect, which I imagine most non-NAMBLA types would support, but the underlying philosophy. Canada has had, in its past, some rather draconian laws about erotica; booksellers in Toronto who specialize in the gay market still complain about their shipments being interdicted at the border by over-enthusiastic Moral Guardians. The Internet has been a welcome countering influence to that kind of nonsense, yet I can definitely see it being the next direction that such things go in.

(Not that the US is that much different, as this comparative piece shows, although the US focuses more on prosecution.)

My real concern, though, is that this could extend beyond the boundaries of sexuality. Take the infamous fight between McDonalds and protestors, as seen in this excerpt from No Logo. McDonalds attempted to shut down protestors using libel claims, and the whole thing wound up in court. In that particular case, the courts sided with the protesters, but as we've seen numerous times in the past, the courts can make utterly wrongheaded decisions that end up being reversed shortly thereafter by a saner court. The problem, of course, is that trying to shut down free speech like this is difficult-at-best on the Internet, for all those reasons that I'm not going to belabour. That's a strength, not a weakness.

This ruling provides a new avenue for shutting down free speech, by blocking people at the ISP level. Previously ISPs wouldn't really do this; they wanted to be seen as "common carriers", not responsible for what they carry. (Hosting is different, but we're not talking about hosting here). Now, of course, that's pretty much out the window, and ISPs have implicitly claimed responsibility for what they carry and the ability to block it.

Of course, it's unlikely that protester sites would be blocked right now. A clear path from point "A" to point "B" can be laid out, though. It starts with kiddy porn. It then moves to other objectionable kinds of porn- that disturbing "Max Hardcore" degradation stuff, which is (as far as I know) technically illegal in Canada. Having established that blocking has little to do with kiddy porn but the illicit nature of the material, the next target is everybody's favorite whipping boy: the pirates, as the Canadian equivalents of the RIAA and MPAA rush to have all those nasty torrent sites blocked.

(Since you can't block bittorrent traffic nowadays, thanks to the legitimate users, you have to target the sites.)

After that, the "illicit information" angle is clear, and the blocking extends to both "hate sites" (a favorite target of censor-happy folks, thanks to their odiousness), and then, as night follows day, unacceptably radical political speech, just as soon as the lawsuit hits the air.

Not that any of this is new, of course. This is the reason WHY ISPs want common carrier status, and why it's important for them to have it. The thing is, since child pornography is so terrible, it's easy to lose sight of that in the rush to protect, and soon enough the race is on to block Greenpeace from Canadian ISPs.

The problem, though, is that doing something like this isn't going to prevent child pornography. There's simply no way to block all those sites, and no way to block other channels (like, say, Freenet) which are legally and technically designed to evade such blocking. The only possible way that this can work is exactly what I mentioned earlier- a "whitelist" of sites that you CAN go to, with everything else blocked.

That would be disastrous.

I was right, and still am right, about the pointlessness of a group like the CRTC or FCC (or, for that matter, the cable companies) trying to regulate and filter the Internet as a whole. It's going to screw with fundamental freedoms while only slightly inconveniencing the real bad guys, who should be pursued with tools (like criminal investigation and prosecution of big child porn producers and distributors) far more effective and appropriate to the task.

Apparently, though, that's not going to stop them from trying.

Deftness

I must say, my lowering interest in Canadian politics (now that the Liberal leadership race appears to have about as much to do with the future of modern liberalism as Nancy Pelosi's choice of breakfast muffin) has somewhat rekindled over the marvelously deft move that the current Canadian PM, Stephen Harper, made over the issue of whether the province of Quebec is a "nation".

To forestall further embarrassment, and quite possibly save Michael Ignatieff's hide, he put forward a motion stating that Canada recognizes "the Quebecois as a nation within a united Canada."

VERY deft. Why? First, look at the word in question: it says "Quebecois", not either "Quebeckers" or "Quebec" itself. That's important- in English, a distinction is drawn between the sociological group "Quebecois" and those who simply live in the province of Quebec. Certainly the French speaking (and predominantly Roman Catholic) group known as the Quebecois count as a nation- they've got rather a lot of history and cultural distinctiveness to support that. Thing is, that doesn't make them different or special, as there are other nations within the province of Quebec that fit that bill too, including many native nations whose claim to the land predates even the oldest "Quebecois" settlers. Of course, in French Quebecois is more akin to the english "Quebeckers", implying simply those who live in Quebec, but the resolution is in english, and the term "nation" tends to mean "sociological nation" in French anyway, and even the most ardent seperatist isn't going to claim that, say, the Cree Indians are part of the sociological group "Quebecois".

It also doesn't provide much room for grounding seperation, thanks to that "united Canada" line. It reiterates that the Quebecois are a part of Canada, not something seperate from it. I imagine most federalist Quebecois would accept that definition, even if the seperatists loathe it.

It still would have been better had this sideshow not reared its ugly head, and Ignatieff is still likely to be punished for doing so. Still, I will admit that Harper managed to thread that needle rather well.

If only he were anywhere near as competent at, say, foreign policy.

Edit to forestall an objection: Paul Wells complained that Harper's preference for "in Caanda" is meaningless- a nation is a nation no matter where it is. Well, yes, and were the Quebecois willing to seperate without the lands held by the Cree and without Montreal, there might be something to that. As it is, though, any attempt to use this to justify seperation can be easily responded to with a simple "what about the nations that don't want to leave?"

Recognizing one nation does not preclude the existence of others. Indeed, considering the natives are referred to as "first nations" in Canada, there's already an implicit recognition there.

Seriously Odd

I've gone on about the guy before, but even more than his inability to create permalinks, this really does cement Warren Kinsella as the oddest blogger I've come across.

Yes, odder than Steven Den Beste, with his apocalyptic visions of cultural warfare. Read on.

This piece is about the CRTC- the Canadian Radio and Television Commission. Roughly similar to the FCC. It's on his National Post blog, instead of his regular one, so I can be reasonably sure the permalink will work. Here's what he said:

This writer, who still regards himself as a liberal if not a federal Liberal, intensely dislikes the CRTC. With the Internet awash in child pornography and hate propaganda – with the Internet facilitating the daily doings of stalkers, perverts, and the likes of al-Qaeda – this writer and other na├»ve liberals had clung to the primitive notion that the CRTC (which has the mandate to regulate Canadian telecommunications services) would have regulated, um, the Internet (a telecommunications service found here and there in Canada).

In May 1999, the CRTC declined to do so, claiming that “Canadian laws, industry self-regulation, content filtering software, and increased media awareness” would do the trick. Ask any Canadian parent, teacher or librarian how that one worked out.
The rest is a complaint about regulation of VoIP- I'll save you, and just get to the last bit.

For those of us with an historical antipathy to the CRTC, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch of guys and gals. Could the private sector do better in limiting access to child pornography, hate propaganda and other such filth? It certainly could not do worse than the CRTC has done, in recent years.
Catch the problem? Yeah, me too. It can be summed up in one simple sentence:

How in the name of GOD is the CRTC supposed to regulate and police the INTERNET?

No, really, how? China can't do it, and they're a communist dictatorship. Is the CRTC supposed to erect some kind of firewall around all of Canada, and keep out all the nasty pornography and hate propaganda and Islamists and whatnot? Should they just run a "whitelist" of sites that Canadians are allowed to visit?

This is manifestly impossible and everybody knows it. Except Warren, for some bizarre reason, who missed all that folderol from the 1990s about how the Internet "interprets censorship as damage and reroutes around it." Sure, it never quite worked that way, but it's a good rule of thumb. Ought Implies Can, which is why anybody saying that the CRTC or FCC or whoever ought to censor the nasty stuff on the Internet is usually laughed out of the room.

(Maybe he was too busy being all punk to read an issue of Wired back in the day.)

Hell, I'll do you folks one better. Notice that Kinsella seemed to think that Al Qaeda being on the Internet is one of the reasons it should be censored. Yet the facilitation of the "daily doings of... the likes of Al-Qaeda" would happen even if Canada had some sort of Chinese-style "Golden Shield" surrounding it. They don't operate in Canada, or at least not solely in Canada. What, exactly, is the CRTC supposed to do about THAT? Are they supposed to reach out their mighty Canadian arm and swat Al Qaeda from the whole international Internet? Apparently so.

Admittedly, he could just believe that Canadians shouldn't be permitted to see and hear anything Al Qaeda says or writes. Honestly, I think I prefer the "long arm of the Mounties" theory, though. It's just bizarre, instead of terrifying.

Like I said, seriously odd.

(Then again, considering his ignorance of the tradition of pseudonymity on the Internet, maybe it's not surprising that he still doesn't understand the medium too well. I'd love to introduce him to a Cyperpunk sometime. After five minutes with someone who takes Internet privacy really seriously, I expect his head would explode.)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

"I'm Not Saying They're Traitors"...

Governments may come, and governments may go...



...but wingnuts' eliminationist attempts to call liberals treasonous for disagreeing with them?

That's forever.

Friday, November 10, 2006

A Word of Advice to Dems

As always, don't listen to conservatives proffering advice, as people like Brooks had absolutely nothing to do with your victory.

And, honestly, what's sadder than a conservative babbling about how this is all "a win for the centrists", in a desperate attempt to try to save the ideology that is his bread and butter?

Yes, some conservative Dems won. No, it wasn't all conservatives, and some were pretty damned liberal. Yes, Lieberman won. No, Lieberman's victory wasn't a victory against Kos. it was an embrace of the Republican party without the "R" to bring him down.

Hell, Brooks (along with many other pundits) doesn't even get that Kos doesn't care about ideology, and never has. He just dislikes Lieberman because he takes shots at his own party to get ahead. It works for Joe, but harms the party, and thus can't be held up as an example to Dems pretty much by definition.

I'm quite aware that this whole thing is just a way of setting the groundwork for battering Democrats as "out of the mainstream" again when the actually try to get something done. It was inevitable, and all things considered, it's pretty weak.

I just hope Nancy and Harry know it as well.

Who Gets Credit, Rahm Or Netroots? Neither.

Over at TPMCafe, they're doing a roundup of "who won: Rahm Emmanuel or the netroots"? Leaving aside nonsense about Lieberman winning (he won because of Republicans due to a weak Republican candidate, nothing more)...

...neither won. Howard Dean won the election.

Why? Well, two reasons, really. One I already mentioned earlier: Dean's "fifty state strategy" ensured that there was already at least the beginnings of Democratic organizations in states that the Powers That Be had pretty much given up on. While that wasn't intrinsic to the success in many of the races, it was successful in bleeding Republican cash away from tight races so that they could defend safe seats, especially in situations like this one where "safe" is a relative term at best. This election shows that you have to at least make an effort to compete everywhere, because every race you leave uncontested is a race that they don't have to spend a dime to win, and incumbents tend to spend disproportionately.

The second reason is more ephemeral, but more important. Dean was anti-war. That isn't to say that an anti-war stance would have won in 2004--it wasn't tried--but what it did do is cement a connection between an anti-war position and at least part of the Democratic party. That matters, because if the Dems had had absolutely no anti-war candidates in the primary, we would have almost certainly seen alienation between the party and those who disliked the war. I'm not sure if they would have fled to, say, the Green party, but they may well have sat 2004 out, and been too disconnected from the triangulating Dems to really bother with 2006.

That they did find a candidate in Dean, though, means that they were forced to develop all those nice "netroots" tools that helped so much in 2006. The meetups, the online fundraising, the network of mutually supportive and resolutely partisan blogs that went beyond conservative-style repetition of talking points, the willingness to blend on-the-net and on-the-ground activism... all these things that the "netroots" contributed in 2006 were developed in 2004.

Without Dean, none of that would have happened. Without Dean, the Dems would probably just be happy right now with having reduced the Republican majority. Without Dean, there would probably be a divided left right now in the United States, just as there is in so many other countries. Without Dean, people would still think that Instapundit actually speaks for the blogger community.

So sorry, folks, but this is Howard Dean's party, and we're all just living in it. To our great good luck.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A Netroots Victory?

Very good piece on the media's misinterpretation of the Democratic victory by your hero and mine, digby.

Imagine my surprise this morning, twelve years later, as Democrats come back into the majority in the House with a huge, decisive victory and the Senate is poised to tip as well and the press seems to be interpreting this election as a .... repudiation of the soft and squishy hated liberals. (Again, they are taking their cues from Rush Limbaugh who is also spinning the election as a loss for liberals.) The narrative is suspended in amber.

It's wrong, of course, just as the earlier one was. This election proves that the Democrats are the mainstream political party. We just elected a socialist from Vermont and a former Reagan official from Virginia to the US Senate. We elected a number of Red State conservatives, true, but we are also going to have a Speaker of the House from San Francisco. We cover a broad swathe, ranging from sea to shining sea with only the most conservative old south remaining firmly in the hands of the Republican party. The idea that this is some sort of affirmation of conservatism is laughable. It's an affirmation of mainstream American values and a rejection of the Republican radicalism this country has been in the grips of for the last 12 years.

And I'm sorry to have to inform all the kewl kidz and insiders, but this is largely due to the re-emergence of an active, vital, progressive base. Despite the fact that we aren't goosestepping around shouting about our Victory For The Homeland the way the Gingrich Jugend did in 1994, a revolution --- not of ideology, but necessity --- is underway.
He then extensively quotes Rick Perlstein at TNR, who points out that while the hand-picked DCCC candidates were defeated as often as not, the "netroots" was pretty thoroughly successful, and the successful candidates were often hardly the "Conservative Democrats" that the media seems to pretend they are. Best example is right here:

It was a pattern repeated across the country. New Hampshire's 1st District delivered Carol Shea-Porter, a former social worker who got kicked out of a 2005 Presidential appearance for wearing a T-shirt that said turn your back on bush. That might have been her fifteen minutes of fame--if, last night, she hadn't defeated two-term Republican incumbent Jeb Bradley. For the chance to face him, however, she had to win a primary against the DCCC's preferred candidate, Jim Craig--whom Rahm Emanuel liked so much he made the unusual move of contributing $5000 to his primary campaign. Shea-Porter dominated Craig by 20 points--and then was shut out by the DCCC for general election funds.
Digby's basic point is absolutely valid- that this shouldn't be considered a victory for the "New Democrats", or "Centrist Democrats" or whatever label they're trying to haul out. To be blunt, they didn't do a damned thing.

It was, first and foremost, a loss by the Republicans. The Dems kind of backed into this victory, which was handed to them by a party so absolutely unable to govern properly that even a deathgrip on the public discourse, a huge cash advantage, and well-worn talking points couldn't support them. The Republicans lost, and nobody can forget that for a second, because they're going to be much more effective now that their weakness at governance isn't an issue.

(Paradoxical, but true.)

It was also victory for Howard Dean and the netroots. Yes, Holy Joe won; incumbency and massive Republican support gave him the edge. The netroots still helped get people elected, though, by funnelling money and support to candidates that needed it, who had a shot, and didn't have the imprimitur of the Powers That Be. Howard Dean, on the other hand, provided the 50 state initiative, which ensured that the Dems had the support to compete in states that they would have been completely helpless in only a year ago. If anything this election was a vindication of Dean's strategy. If anything, this is his victory.

It's going to take more than one election victory, however, to get the media to change its tune. This was just a first step. Welcome though it is, there's a lot more to do.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

RUMSFELD'S OUT! (and Bush is dying on the vine)

It's on CNN. Bush is employing his best turd-polishing skills in a speech to that effect right now.

Hoo Nelly, what a bodyblow to the neocons. Wolfowitz is over at the World Bank, Rumsfeld is out on his ear, Iraq is synonymous with disaster, the Republicans got walloped in the election...

...and it's all thanks to the "let's go kick some ass so Americans will feel nifty about themselves" crew. They're punching bags for the next two years, at least.

Kinda like with Saddam, couldn't have happened to nicer guys.

Edit: Bush's press conference is going about as well as the war he's defending. He's not just a lame duck, he's a duck with a thousand knives poised to carve him up and serve him out. He knows it too.

On some abstract level, I think I should feel sorry for him. I don't. I probably never will.

Dems Win, to Varying Degrees

From worst to first:

Worst: Connecticut, where Lieberman did indeed pull it out. Over on Kos it was attributed to a simple problem:

Despite all the blogosphere opinion, Nutmeggers saw this race as between two Democrats, and Lamont's inability to change that perception and counter Lieberman's bipartisan sales pitch was why he lost. He could not compete in the suburban areas that gave him the primary win.
I don't like this, obviously, but it's the logical analysis. Iraq was front-and-center in this election, but Lieberman couldn't really get swept up in the anti-Republican wave thanks to his insulating "D", so the moderate Democratic support and fairly enthusiastic Republican support got him the seat.

It may be academic: the Dems haven't won the Senate. Or they have. We're not sure yet, thanks to Virginia and Montana, where Webb and Tester are leading their Republican counterparts by razor-thin margins and where both seats are necessary for the Dems to pull off the 50 seats they need.

(No, I'm not lumping Lieberman in there, "caucus with Dems" or otherwise. His time as a Democrat is over.)

So they may not have the Senate. Of course, at 50-50 they don't necessarily need it- all they need to do is sway one Republican for important votes and they're set, and every Republican in the Senate knows which way the wind is blowing. I've heard speculation about party switching; although I find that unlikely, bringing people over for votes will prove far easier.

The good news, though? The house is won. The Dems (leaving aside recounts and the like) have 231 seats and Pelosi will be speaker. This is great, great news, both for the country and for progressivism. Hell, it's good news for the Democratic process itself- around a year ago nobody was expecting the Dems to retake the House until, what, 2010? Maybe? With the Republicans' history and the incumbency protection that the House enjoys, it's quite likely that it'll remain in Democratic hands at least until then, if not longer.

Most importantly, the Dems now have a chance to uproot the Mighty Wurlitzer of the conservative echo chamber, and start getting a progressive voice heard. While the DLC types might take solace from Lieberman, the fact remains that the issue that they cringed from and avoided, Iraq, was the one that handed the Democrats the House and quite possibly the Senate. "It's the Economy Stupid" and all that triangulation nonsense about foreign policy is dead.

In any case, congratulations and good luck, Democratic Party of America.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Vote Early, Vote Often: 2006

Welp, here we are again. Election day in the U.S.A. I'm sure every blog even remotely concerned with American politics is saying "go vote", so I won't worry about it.

What I will say is that it's a very different election than the last bunch. For the first time in a long while, it looks like the Democrats are poised to kick some ass and take the House at the very least. It's quite possible that they'll take the Senate as well, depending on how things shake out.

And yet. I can't help but feel a little unease about all of this. I feel like the Dems aren't in the great position that they think they're in.

The first and most easily apparent reason is Holy Joe, the quasi-Dem. To be blunt, he should have dropped out after the primary, even though I was pretty certain he wouldn't. He's putting his party in an impossible position if he wins. If he doesn't hold the balance of power, then no big deal; the Dems can caucus with him or not as they wish. Sucks, but they can always say "sorry, but you aren't actually a Dem."

It's quite possible that he will hold the balance of power, though, and that raises the question: where do the Democrats draw the line? I'm not talking about Joe's foreign policy positions, naive and untenable as they are. I'm talking about the impact on the party itself when it is made obvious that they can't say "boo" to Joe without handing votes to Cheney to tie-break. Joe will become incredibly powerful, and everybody will know it, and the Dems will be at the mercy of a man who has been about as loyal to his party as Guy Fawkes was to his country.

(To use a relatively topical non-American reference for this time of year.)

If they play ball with the man and let him play Democrat, it'll be a message to everybody in the party that says "we don't care about what you think, or who you pick. Primaries are a fiction, and you might as well not bother." The party is supposed to choose its own representatives, and the whole point of primaries is that you choose your own representatives directly. Letting Joe run the show will be a big neon sign to everybody watching saying that the Democrats are exactly as weak and unprincipled as everybody believes they are.

Yet, the other alternative is a Republican Senate propped up by the New Zell. That's also untenable. That's why Lieberman should have quit. Even if he hasn't, though, it's the reason why Lieberman can't have the "D" beside his name, and why the Dems need to make it clear that they're in the driver's seat, not Joe.

The other issue that bothers me is the reason why the Dems are poised to make these gains. To be blunt, they haven't been that inspiring. No, really, they haven't. Their campaigning has been competent, but the Republicans have demonstrated through both fair means and foul that they're still the better campaigners and still have the national discourse by the jugular. The only reason why the Republicans are slated to lose is because of their incompetence at governance and because of the perfect storm of the Foley scandal. The Dems haven't really sorted through their issues; the brewing storm between the "Democratic wing" and the "New Democrats" hasn't gone anywhere.

Even if they win, those divisions are going to loom large, especially with the large number of somewhat conservative newbie Dems likely to join the House. They'll be acutely aware that Iraq and Foley will not get them reelected. They'll also know that the gerrymandering and discourse control that kept the Republicans in power is going to work against them. They could easily do what Dems so often do, and freeze, hoping that the bad Republicans will just go away if they act really quiet and still, just like a little mouse.

Case in point: the investigation issue. Already the Republicans are setting the groundwork for loud exhortations for Democrats to leave the past alone, and that any attempt to investigate the Republicans' many and sundry sins of governance would be partisan witchhunts. The Democrats' first instinct is naturally to deny that any such thing will take place; that is also exactly the wrong thing to do. Far from being politically unwise, congressional investigations are the best tool the Dems have to hammer home just how bad the Republicans have been, why "bipartisanship" with such a crowd is a quixotic goal, and why they shouldn't be given the tiller again for a good long time.

Yes, the usual suspects will shout and rave, but they're not the ones that need to be convinced. Hell, they shouldn't even be listened to. No Democrat should ever base their decisionmaking on what people like Rush Limbaugh, Michael Ledeen, and Robert Novak think, no matter how big or influential an audience they seem to command.

What's important is that Americans will finally start hearing some truth, and the truth is the last thing the Republicans or their mouthpieces want to get out.

The Democrats have been lucky, and have known enough to exploit that. There's been little indication that they've grown that spine. If they haven't, if they don't, this will be a short-lived victory at best. We'll see, I suppose.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Saddam Will Hang

Unsurprising. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, but I still think (like most of the western world) that the death penalty is a throwback and best discarded as such. Somewhere in Iran, a mullah is telling a scientist to redouble his efforts.

As for the fallout in Iraq... well, I'd say that there's a danger the country could fall into chaos, but Bush 'n co seem to have done a bang-up job on that without any help from Saddam.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

North Korea Back to Table

Not really a big surprise; China's clearly been putting on pressure, and North Korea really exists on China's sufference. The DPRK probably knows that they're in a better negotiation position than they were before, too- promises of a "hard line" by the U.S. and Japan will run right into the reality that North Korea has a lot more chips than they used to, chips that the Koreans will almost certainly used to gain concessions.

Still, I think at this point that there's only one concession that really means anything to Kim Jong-Il- the assurance of non-hostility and security by the United States. This whole mess started because (among other reasons) the United States has waffled back and forth between killing time until the DPRK falls and threatening to do the job itself. I'm sure that Kim is looking for some proof that his regime is safe; everything else, including the economic concessions, is secondary.

For its part, though, the U.S. may not be willing to offer this pledge. After all, if Kim cheats, the United States could see North Korea end up with nuclear-tipped ICBMs, and clearly they don't want that and will preempt it if they can. Yet it's that fondness for preemption that helped create this mess in the first place, and they can't simply set aside Kim's concerns.

It'll be interesting to see where this goes.