Saturday, November 08, 2003

this is staggering 

This slipped by me.

From the New York Daily News:

More than 3,000 leaders and members of New York's powerful health care workers union, 1199/SEIU, held an unusual meeting in Baltimore this past weekend to lay plans for an unprecedented $35 million campaign to drive George W. Bush out of the White House next year.

The three-day, closed-door gathering was so hush-hush that even though former President Bill Clinton was the headline speaker and Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean attended, the conference received no media attention.

...As part of the anti-Bush campaign, union President Dennis Rivera has recruited 1,000 rank-and-file members and staff to fan out across the country beginning next month to get an early start organizing get-out-the-vote operations in more than a dozen "battleground" states. Those states, including Florida, Michigan, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Ohio, are considered key for Democrats to regain the White House.

Each of Rivera's 1,000 volunteers will take a one-year leave of absence from his or her regular job - something permitted by many 1199 labor contracts - with the union paying regular salary and travel costs. "No one in the labor movement has ever tried anything as ambitious as Dennis and 1199 are planning," a top AFL-CIO official said yesterday. Rivera's union, with nearly 240,000 members in New York State, has been a political powerhouse for years. It boasts an enormous war chest and its members are experienced campaigners. Nearly half of them contribute to the union's political fund through a special monthly voluntary dues checkoff.

Because New York is considered a sure state for the Democrats in next year's election, Rivera has devised a novel plan to dispatch 1199 members out-of-state to bolster Democratic efforts around the country. It is an expensive scheme. The final tab will be between $35 and $40 million, according to several 1199 sources. "We'll need to launch a special one-time voluntary appeal among our members to pay for it," one union official said.

This is one local union representing 1/6th of the membership of SEIU which just endorsed Dean. Obviously not every local union is going to match this. Not even every international union will come anywhere near matching this, but it certainly does raise the bar. I hope Local 250 the Northern California healthcare workers, 1199P Pennsylvania healthcare workers and 32BJ the New York City building services get competitive over who will be the most bad ass SEIU local in this election.

Expect a legal challenge from some civic minded conservative group.

then there was one 

Both SEIU and AFSCME are backing Howard Dean. It would be hard to underestimate the importance of these endorsements. SEIU is the largest (1.6 million members) most dynamic labor organization in the country. AFSME is no slouch either. These are the most politically active (AFSCME is virtually all public employees and SEIU is mostly public employee and healthcare workers) and two of the most diverse unions. This expands Dean's campaign well beyond the internet activists of and into working class black, latino and asian communities.

Dean has already picked up the endorsements of the 140,000-member International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, and that of the 335,000-member California Teachers' Association. The Painters are an unlikely political powerhouse. Their president James A. Williams has transformed a small trade union into a political shoeleather machine that has earned itself the nickname ' the Army of Black and Gold ' for black and gold satin jackets and relentless work in Get Out The Vote and voter registration efforts.

The endorsement of the California Teachers' Association (I thought that I saw that the Vermont Teachers' Association endorsed as well) is most likely a good indication of how the AFT and NEA might swing. Big stuff. Money, high turn out voters.

I don't know a lot about how AFSCME conducted their endorsement process, but SEIU's was extremely participatory and deliberative. The come out of the endorsement process with ten of thousands of their most active members invested and committed to campaigning for the union's endorsed candidate and most of the union aware of the process and not likely to resent the choice as "the union trying to tell us how to think" but very likely to fall in line and support the union's endorsement.

A number of unions are likely to follow the lead of the politically savvy SEIU and AFSCME, but these four unions are more significant than the twenty that have endorsed the Gepster, whose non starter campaign has been mortally wounded by these announcements. Of the twenty only the Teamsters and the UFCW have much juice and the UFCW has it's hands full right now.

Expect Dean's poll numbers around the country to jump in about six weeks as a few million union households shift from undecided as they start to get direct mail from their union, read about Dean in their union newsletters and hear about Dean from their shop stewards.

Next big union prizes: UAW followed by CWA.

If Dean gets the UAW and the two teacher's unions the rest of the field can pretty much hang it up.


From CNN:

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The international Red Cross is closing its offices in Baghdad and Basra temporarily because of "extremely dangerous" conditions in Iraq, the organization said.

The Swiss-based agency reduced its international staff last month after two staff members and 10 other people were killed in an October 27 car bomb attack on its Baghdad offices.

general wesley clark and the future of the democratic party 

Heynonnyno writes over at the Daily Kos:

No, it finally struck me the other day. Wesley Clark is the perfect candidate for those who buy into the neocon world-view. The War on Terror. Homeland security. The pervasive fear mentality that says the only way to fight terrorism is to attack someone. The only real difference between George W Bush and Wesley Clark, in that case, is that Clark seems to have a better chance of winning. Or at least he would do less harm.

So, some might say, why wouldn't that work? Well, besides the fact that it perpetuates a self-destructive delusion, it won't work because the current administration is still capable of creating an illusion of victory in the terror war. Already they plan to start bringing troops home from Iraq by next spring. And it's not unlikely that they could install a puppet government before next November. (Probably not one headed by Chalabi, but the CIA still has Khazraji in the wings, I hear.) Voila, a declaration of victory and the Pretender is cut off at the knees.There's no guarantee that the deception would play out, of course. Clark could still win on the Better Than Bush ticket. But a President Clark (shades of B5!) still doesn't address the basic disconnect in America between terror and America's use of power in the international arena.

There are other reasons not to back Clark but that's a pretty good one. Two actually.

Both matter. The second reason - Bush is vulnerable on A) the economy and B) Iraq and if Iraq is taken off the table, Clark is screwed while Dean or Kerry would still have the economy to scrap over - should give Clark fans pause.

Really though, the first reason should be really, really compelling for those of us thinking about the long term viability of the Democratic party. If Clark won (and I think he CAN'T) it would mean a (nominally) Democratic president and the continued ascendency of conservative political assumptions. The same problem we had with Clinton only worse. Because unlike Clinton, Clark won't be trying to lead the party to where he thinks it can prosper. I don't think he'll be thinking strategically about the health of the Democratic party. He just joined.

Clark doesn't help us change the debate at all. He provides lib/mod answers to conservative questions, but he won't be posing liberal questions that conservatives must answer. That's the long term equation. The second part of the long term equation is: His campaign is building some political organization ( no where near what the Dean campaign is building) - what will that organization mean for the Party? Here we have a guy in his fifties who had to think long and hard about what party to join, who voted for Reagan and Bush I and an organization of people who had no problem with that.

How does that help us start winning back governorships, state legislatures and Congress?


From Brad Delong:

The estimated number for payroll employment in America in October grew by 126 thousand--that's a rapid enough pace of hiring to, if it is sustained, stop the unemployment rate from rising and the output gap from growing. As far as production and employment relative to the economy's potential is concerned, it's a sign that we're treading water--that we're no longer sinking lower.

Good news!

Well, neutral news. But when the employment news has been so bad for so long, the fact that the news isn't absolutely bad this month is good, sort of.

The fact that we are all happy at two months during which payroll employment grows as fast as the labor force--the fact that we regard this as good rather than bad news--shows us how low the employment-news bar has become, because of how bad the employment news has been for such a long time.

After all, today's employment level is 2.3 million lower than at the start of 2001, 2.6 million lower than the president's Council of Economic Advisers projected back in February would be employed today if the congress passed the administration's "jobs and growth" program, and even 75 thousand lower than the Treasury Secretary projected last month would be employed today.

George W. Bush is not responsible for the forces that have been pushing employment down (well, except to the extent that beating the phony Saddam-is-building-nuclear-weapons-to-kill-us-all drum diminished business confidence). But he is responsible for refusing to buy insurance when he had the chance--for pushing tax cuts designed not to boost spending and employment now and next year but to give the $200,000-plus-a-year crowd more money 5, 10, 20 years in the future. He made two bets: He gambled that congress and the press would be too sheep-like and too lazy to challenge story that these tax cuts for the $200,000-plus-a-year crowd were an effective employment-boosting policy. And he gambled that the economy would recover on its own so that a real employment-boosting policy wouldn't be needed.

He won on the first bet (God! Unbelievably sheep-like!).

So far it looks like he has lost on the second.

Friday, November 07, 2003

where its at. i got two turntables and a microphone - beck 

A lot has been made of the new 2004 Political Landscape Pew poll report. Republicans have closed the gap in party affilliation. The electorate is now split 33% Republican, 34% Democrat, 33% independent or other amongst registered voters. Republicans tendency for higher voter turn out gives them an edge. More daunting is that the GOP has made significant gains in key swing states:

Republicans have made notable gains in a number of key swing states. Michigan, Minnesota and Iowa - three Midwestern states Al Gore won in 2000 by very slight margins - have all experienced significant shifts in party ID toward the GOP. And the five-point advantage enjoyed by Democrats in Florida in the run-up to the 2000 election has evaporated. In polling since Sept 11, 2001, 37% of Floridians call themselves Republicans, 36% Democrats.

Not all swing states have moved Republican, however. In Ohio and Missouri, for example, there has been little change in self-reported party identification over this time period.

In a number of the Red states that voted Republican in the 1992, 1996 and 2000 elections, party identification continues to grow for the GOP. Texas, which was divided almost evenly between Democrats and Republicans prior to the 2000 election, now shows a significant ten-point Republican identification advantage. And the Democratic identification advantage in Alabama has completely disappeared since 9/11.

In most cases, Democrats maintain an advantage in Blue states that have consistently voted Democratic over the past three presidential election cycles. Even here, however, the GOP has made some inroads, including a slight but statistically significant change in California. A 41% to 31% Democratic party identification advantage has narrowed to a mere 38% to 33% advantage since 9/11. This was based predominantly on surveys conducted before the gubernatorial recall process was underway.

However, what has not been reported is that Independent voters are tracking closer to Democrats on key issues.

Agreeing with: 'We should pay less attention to problems overseas.' Republicans are heading one way and Independents and Democrats in another.

Affilliation | 99 | 01 | 03

Republica | 77 | 67 | 66
Democrat | 86 | 77 | 82
Independ | 78 | 74 | 78

Agree with 'The best way to way to ensure peace in through military strength' Republicans are tracking with Dems and Independents but the gap puts Dems and Indies together:

Republica | 70 | 72 | 69
Democrat | 53 | 55 | 44
Independ | 50 | 62 | 51

On the home front:

Government should guarantee every citizen enough to eat and a place to sleep:

Republica | 49 | 49 | 46
Democrat | 72 | 78 | 81
Independ | 63 | 61 | 62

Business corporations make too much profit:

Republica | 44 | 46 | 46
Democrat | 65 | 68 | 72
Independ | 58 | 60 | 66

Government regulation of business usually does more harm than good:

Republica | 67 | 53 | 65
Democrat | 50 | 43 | 49
Independ | 52 | 49 | 50

I think that what this argues is that the alarm some liberal hawks have shown over perceived vulnerability on national security issues by the Democratic crop of candidates is misplaced. A candidate who repositions national security from costly and reckless foreign military adventures to diplomacy, multilateralism and vigorous homeland security ( where Bush is vulnerable) can create a majority with a strong message on the economy and domestic issues.

The losses of the statehouses in California, Kentucky and Mississippi cannot be explained away or dismissed. They represent unmitigated disaster. The current situation represents a continuation of the Democrats weakness under Clinton. The reassuring leadership of a charismatic leader with awesome campaigning skills allowed the party to avoid the hard, painstaking work of party building. That can't be addressed over night, especially in a presidential election year. But it can't be avoided.

Reason to Vote for Howard Dean Number 97:

Take a look at the post on Meet Ups in the South below the picture of Huey Long directly below. If Dean wins the nomination, that organization will continue to grow. Most likely it will accelerate. By November 2004 Howard Dean will have built a political infrastructure far larger, more dynamic and sophisticated than the current Democratic party appartatus in the South. If you want to see the Party start reorganizing itself, you might take a look at the candidate that is reorganizing the party.

PS As I've argued recently, the Democrats must work, especially at the local level to purge unnecessary regulations and unnecessary bureaucracy. Half of all Democrats think that regulation of business usually does more harm than good? That's not good for the party.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

bubba that 

Read this and then come back.

Meet Up membership in the South

Birmingham, AL
Dean 281
| Clark 116

Mobile, AL
Dean 92 | Clark 41

Selma, AL
Dean 0 | Clark 0

LaGrange, GA
Dean 2 | Clark 8

Atlanta, GA
Dean 1765 | Clark 586

Valdosta, GA
Dean 15 | Clark 16

Waycross, GA
Dean 6 | Clark 3

Duluth/Gainesville, GA
Dean 225 | Clark 88

Rome, GA
Dean 40 | Clark 19

Marietta/Roswell, GA
Dean 456 | Clark 213

Savannah, GA
Dean 175 | Clark 88

Macon, GA
Dean 71 | Clark 40

Athens, GA
Dean 260 | Clark 71

Columbus, GA
Dean 71 | Clark 39

Anderson, SC
Dean 42
| Clark 13

Charleston, SC
Dean 28 2 | Clark 91

Columbia, SC
Dean 266 | Clark 109 | Edwards 12

Florence, SC
Dean 41 | Clark 8

Greenville, SC
Dean 203 | Clark 58 | Edwards 7

Greenwood, SC
Dean 15 Clark 3 | Edwards 1

Myrtle Beach, SC
Dean 67 | Clark 26 | Edwards 3

Sumter, SC
Dean 6 | Clark 5

Kingsport-Johnson City, TN
Dean 114
| Clark 62 | Edwards 6

Chattanooga, TN
Dean 169 | Clark 118

Biloxi, MS
Dean 61 | Clark 24

Columbus, MS
Dean 30 | Clark 5 | Edwards 2

Greenville, MS
Dean 4 | Clark 9

Hattiesburg, MS
Dean 36 | Clark 16

Jackson, MS
Dean 120 | Clark 46

McComb, MS
Dean 1 | Clark 3

Meridian, MS
Dean 7 | Clark 4

Natchez, MS
Dean 1 | Clark 4

Tupelo, MS
Dean 8 | Clark 8

Asheville, NC
Dean 408
| Clark 98 | Edwards 14

Charlotte, NC
Dean 499 | Clark 185 | Edwards 25

Fayetteville, NC
Dean 60 | Clark 34 | Edwards 6

Hickory, NC
Dean 57 | Clark 22 | Edwards 4

Goldsboro, NC
Dean 3 | Clark 4

Greensboro, NC
Dean 440 | Clark 125 | Edwards 18

Greenville, NC
Dean 58 | Clark 6

This list is by no means exhaustive. Just exhausting. But I think I've made my point.

super citizen 

This report from the annoying PRI show the Next Big Thing is worth a listen. It covers the career of Bogata, Colombia mayor Antanas Mockus who has achieved remarkable things largely through symbolic gestures. He got a handle on the hellish traffic in Bogota through No Car Days and by posting mimes in busy intersections to ridicule bad drivers. He addressed downtown violence by setting a Friday curfew for men - La Noche de las Mujeres - encouraging women to come out to party and men to stay at home with the kids - violence on La Noche was 40 percent lower than on ordinary Friday nights. He went after the water shortage by broadcasting an TV ad of him in the shower showing people how to shower - get wet, turn off the water, soap up, turn the water back on and rinse, get your hair wet, turn off the water... - and then publishing reductions in water use by neighborhood in the newspaper.

He has done nuts and bolts stuff, too. From an excellent profile from the Atlantic:

Indeed, Bogota has been transformed in the past six years by Mockus's combination of street-level politics - he has expanded the city's public parks, launched a modern bus system, and built schools in the city's poorest districts - and symbolic acts. In part because of his imposition of a 1:00 A.M. closing for bars (proclaimed Carrot Hour, from the Colombian slang for someone who is uncool) and his unconventional but effective gun-exchange program (those who turned in weapons received small gifts of appreciation, such as flowers or food, and a certificate commending their act), Bogota's murder rate has plummeted. Some 4,200 murders were committed in the city in 1993; the figure for last year is 2,200.


why doesn't bush apologize for not taking a stand against the confederate flag in South Carolina when he had the chance? 

Carville on how Dean should have handled the flag flap: Sure, I apologize. Why doesn't George Bush apologize for not taking a stand against the Confederate flag in South Carolina when he ran for President four years ago? Why doesn't he apologize for dragging us into a war without a....

I think that Dean was courageous in taking on the challenge of taking the party back into the game in the South. And the other candidates are cowards for taking shots at him for it.

bubba this 

I didn't grow up in the South, but I spent six years living in Atlanta and working for labor unions, mostly in the rural South. I also worked on about a dozen political campaigns in Atlanta.

Both Senator John Edwards and Senator (and former Governor (from my tenure)) Zell Miller have criticized Howard Dean for saying that he wants to campaign amongst the type of Southerners who fly the Confederate flag.

They have criticiced him for perpetuating an unfair stereotype of the South. They are so clearly, willfully misrepresenting his the meaning of his remarks you just want to punch a hole in the wall. That kind of stuff really gets under my skin. That's why I can't read Mickey Kaus. Anyways... What he said was, ""I still want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks...We can't beat George Bush unless we appeal to a broad cross section of Democrats."

He was refering back to his February comments,"I intend to talk about race during this election in the South. The Republicans have been talking about it since 1968 in order to divide us, and I'm going to bring us together. Because you know what? White folks in the South who drive pickup trucks with Confederate flag decals on the back ought to be voting with us because their kids don't have health insurance either, and their kids need better schools, too."

How is that 'embracing' the Confederate flag. It's dishonest and cowardly twist it around that way.

Most criticism has characterized the remarks as clumsy, well intentioned but poorly chosen. "My God. Couldn't he have simply said we need to appeal to the 'Bubba vote' or 'good ol' boy vote?''' asked one member of the Democratic National Committee in South Carolina. But one of the things that has held us back in this country is the inability to speak about race directly and truthfully. Talking about in euphemism may not hurt anyone's feelings - unless your sick of hearing the issue danced around - it is just a straight jackets that frustrates real understanding and progress. We should applaud both Dean's willingness to engage the 'bubba vote' and to call it for what it is.

What's really galling though is that Edwards and Zell then turn around and essentially say that Dean can't make head way in the South because the South won't vote for a Northeastern liberal.

It is EXACTLY this Southern exceptionalism that Dean is trying to formulate a strategy to overcome. There is no other part of the country that requires the kid gloves in a presidential election that the South requires. You never hear that a Northeastern liberal can't win the Pacific Northwest without a VP from Oregon or Washington. California doesn't look askance at a ticket that lacks a Californian. And you would never say that a Southern centrist Democrat will never get traction in New England.

What causes this exceptionalism? Is it all the transplants in Miami, Orlando, Tampa, Atlanta, Raliegh, Durham, Birmingham, New Orleans? I kinda doubt it. Is it the rural and urban black vote that a liberal New Englander might scare away? They still have pictures of JFK next to MLK in their homes and in their barber shops. No, it's the conservative suburban and rural white that the GOP has peeled away over the last four decades. Those are the voters that the Democrats have tried to assure with cultural proximity rather than running on the economic interests of those voters. And of course in the short term that has been marginally successful on a case by case basis. Over the long term it has viscously hamstrung the party.

Since Dean will likely be their party's nominee they should be thinking about how they, perfectly situated as they feel they are, can help him do it. Instead, from Edwards, we get this - "let me tell you the last thing we need in the South is somebody like you coming down and telling us what we need to do." Reinforcing a debilitating conservative Southern stereotype about Northern liberals. And of course, Zell is bolting the party for this election. He's backing Bush. That's a great strategy for helping the Democratic Party shore up it's support in the South. You're a real architect for the party, Zell.

For a look at how Kerry and Gephardt responded and more analysis, check out this article by Joan Walsh in Salon.

PS I have to say that Zell's example of Northeastern liberals getting it wrong - in 1988 [Democratic presidential candidate] Michael Dukakis coming to Georgia and having this rally, and they had all these bales of hay stashed around here and there, like it was some kind of set from the television show 'Hee Haw.' - is pretty embarassing.

i can't make it. but, i have to pick up my bowtie from the cleaners on that day. i'd love to though. 

This is amusing:

Now get this -- the Bush Administration was in the midsts of a PR offensive to convince everyone that things were just peachy in Iraq (until reality intruded). You remember the deal -- schools were opening yadda yadda yadda. I'll let columnist Lawrence Korb take it from here:

The Defense Department invited 21 people to travel to Iraq from November 2 to 7 and told us that they would limit the delegation to 17. Of the original 21 invitees, only three of us accepted. Those who turned down the invitation included Fred Barnes, Jackson Diehl, William Safire and George Will. After they extended more invitations, eventually 10 people accepted.

Barnes, Will, Safire -- some of the administration's staunchest supporters, some of the "pundits" most willing to buy the admininstration's Iraq lies, most willing to whine about the "negative coverage" from Iraq, yet too afraid to make the Baghdad trip to see things for themselves.

So there you have it. Once a chickenhawk, always a chickenhawk.

from the Daily Kos.
Chickenshit is more like it.

God, I wish they would invite me. I'd go in a second.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

i'll trade you a zell for a leach 

From YahooNews:

DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) - Iowa Republican Rep. Jim Leach, once an aide to now-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, said on Tuesday White House policy-makers had made one of the most misguided assumptions ever in U.S. strategy by not planning for a decisive withdrawal from Iraq.

"The current (administration) thinking is that we'll be there six or seven years, people will realize that we're saviors and they'll want us to have many (military) bases and that this will be a bulwark in the Middle East for an American presence," said Leach, a 13-term House of Representatives veteran.

"I think that is one of the most misguided assumptions in the history of United States' strategic thinking," he added.

In a conference call with Iowa reporters, Leach said his views on Iraq were not the "majority sentiment" inside the White House. He said the administration of President Bush (news - web sites) was on a "slow slog" in Iraq, instead of announcing a "decisive" withdrawal of U.S. military forces by the end of next year.

"If we stay longer, we are going to have more, not fewer, problems in Iraq, and ... consequently more problems around the world and potentially in the United States as well," Leach said.

The reality of the situation is starting to sink in, bleed through. People's alignments are turning topsy turvy. Democrat hawks bolting or ready to bolt the party for this election. Honest Republicans getting fed up with the Administrations recklessness and deception.

Turning Iraq into a constitutional democracy, favorable to the West where we are welcome to have military bases is a ten to fifteen to twenty year proposition. And the first seven are definitely gonna suck.

Link via the Agonist

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

strike three your out 

The boyz over at "" have worn out their welcome in my blogroll. Their preoccupation with the trees and failure to acknowledge the forest has finally put me over the edge. They are out. Gone. Fini. I'm done with them. At first I liked the detailed nitpicking and digging they did to get to a 'factual basis' on issues that the left and right were engaged in rhetorical slugfests over. I knew that they had an unacknowledged conservative bias. (Maybe only because conservatives are in power and for reasons I'll explain in a moment, their approach favors whoever is in power.) But, I am always looking for clever honest cons to push my thinking in new directions and give me challenging content for the blog.


In recent weeks, a debate has raged over the phrase "imminent threat." Many liberal critics have asserted that a central claim in President Bush's case for war in Iraq was that Iraq posed an "imminent threat." They argue that it's now clear that no such threat existed, and thus the President's argument has been revealed as deceptive or illegitimate. Conservatives retort that Bush never actually used the phrase and in fact specifically used language indicating that the threat was not imminent on several occasions.

As a factual matter, conservatives are largely correct and liberal critics and journalists are guilty of cheap shots or lazy reporting. However, the evidence is not completely clear and both sides are guilty of distorting this complex situation for political gain. Specifically, while there's some evidence indicating the Bush administration did portray Iraq as an imminent threat, there's much more that it did not. Those attempting to assert that the White House called Iraq an imminent threat are ignoring significant information to the contrary. Similarly, those who say the Bush administration never used the phrase or implied as much are ignoring important, though isolated, evidence...

The column goes on in their usual manner to parse out the details over where both side are SLIGHTLY astray from the EXACT record of what the Administration said.

What they miss is the EFFECT of what the administration said.

Corn argued that, "On several key occasions, [Bush] did all he could to suggest that there was an imminent threat."

He points out, for instance, that in September 2002, Bush repeated a since-discredited British claim that Iraq could launch a biological or chemical attack in as little as 45 minutes. It was indeed irresponsible of Bush to repeat this claim, which was backed by only a single source and appears to have been shown to be false by post-war investigations. However, Bush never alleged that Iraq had the means to launch an attack with these weapons against the United States, which lies on the other side of the world (although Cheney and others did suggest Iraq was developing such technology).

The EFFECT of what he said was to scare the bejeezus out of a good 70% of the country. Most likely, Condoleeza Rice's comment that 'we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud' wouldn't pass their muster as a statement that Iraq posed an imminent threat either. Well a couple dozen million Americans walked away sure thinking that there was an imminent threat.

A need for nuance

As we have pointed out before, many of the arguments for war made by the Bush administration were deceptive or false. However, critics who make it appear that the Bush administration's case relied primarily on claims of an imminent threat distort a more complex argument that painted Iraq as an intolerable, but not imminent, threat. Those unfair attacks do not make it legitimate for Bush supporters to jump on any critic who uses the phrase, however, or claim that nobody in the administration ever suggested Iraq could pose an "imminent threat." Complexity is not an excuse for cheap shots from either side.

Gimme a frickin' break. It is absolutely fair game for liberals to portray the Administrations characterization of Iraq before the war as an imminent threat. And I think it's fair game for conservatives to try to play semantics to discredit that characterization. But Spinsanity's call for nuance misses the larger truth which is that the Bush administration created a false bogeyman to goad the country into war that the Admin wanted for other predetermined reasons.

When Spinsanity defended the Admin from charges that Bush was referring to Nigerian Yellow Cake Uranium when he simply said,"The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." I said OK, I think they are missing the underlying story and relying too much on the public record, but I can live with that. They work hard. They dig. I can dig that. (Of course it will be argued that they also criticised Admin defenders for going to far in attacking critics of the admin. Who cares. The damage is done by the time they get to that. And it still let's the admin off the hook unfairly, on a technicality.)

Then they weighed in on the phone call Clark got right after 9/11 exhorting him to link the attack with Iraq.

A careful reading shows Clark never said the White House had anything to do with the call he received. Instead, he describes the call in reference to his statement that pressure also came from "all over," which is why he mentions "Middle East think tanks and people like this." But because he referred to the two so closely together, some viewers reached a hasty conclusion that Clark said the White House made the call.

A careful reading of how politics works will tell you that the directive to launch this angle by people around the Admin almost certainly came from the Admin. We know that that is what they wanted. We know that it served their interests and goals. We know that they are the most likely one's to launch such a campaign.

But Spinsanity would have us wait thirty years until the complete record is released. It would be irresponible and ultimately dishonest if journalists didn't connect the dots based on what can be inferred, who benefits from what and what the effects the administration's statements have on public opinion and policy. Especially with a Admin that specializes in misleading millions and correcting itself to thousands. As long as Spininsanity continues to hold both sets of statements as equal they are banished from these pages. That's it. I'm putting my foot down. Am I scary when I'm angry? No? Well fuck you. Who needs you.

open mouth, insert foot. call for jaws of life 

My buddy Barry at the Big Picture has an amusing post on making a fool of himself with a Nobel Prize winning economist.

Everyone has problems, judge yourself on the quality of your problems. I make a fool of myself in front of waitresses and baristas, I only wish I got the opportunity to make a fool of myself in conversation with Novel Price Weiners. (Real life. The blog doesn't count.)

I post this grudgingly because Barry's been on a roll lately and it's embarrassing how many times I've linked to him in the last two weeks. Not to mention just ripping him off outright without credit.

Goddamnit. I just realized that I just gave him 4 trackbacks. Oh well. Class of 2003 needs to stick together.

another joppolo 

Margaret Wente writes in the Globe and Mail:

For security reasons, I can't use their real names. I'll call the (Iraqi) general Mazin. The American has achieved a modest fame because he keeps an on-line journal ( about daily life in Iraq. He has a silly sense of humour, and calls himself Chief Wiggles. Forget any images you may have in your mind about Iraqi generals or American intelligence officers. These two men don't fit them.

Chief Wiggles belongs to Utah's 141st Military Intelligence Battalion. He is tall and lanky, pale-skinned, pale-haired, sentimental and kind. In his spare time he runs a toy drive for Iraqi kids. Until July, his main job was to debrief Mazin and the 13 other generals who had surrendered at the beginning of the war.

He talked with each of them for days and days. Gradually he began to build a fragile sense of trust. He got them news of their families, and arranged for the families to visit. He dropped by to see them most nights in the pen. As time went on, some of the talk got more personal. He and Mazin spoke about their families, their hopes, their fears, their faith. Both men are religious; both are passionate about ridding Iraq of a great evil and making it a better place. They found much common ground.

The generals thought they'd be sent home quickly, and Chief Wiggles thought so too. They had surrendered immediately, just as the Americans had urged them. They had been completely co-operative, and many wished to continue working with the Americans. It was clear they weren't Saddam's men; they'd had little or no choice about serving in his terrible regime. And yet, long after the rest of Saddam's army had disbanded and been sent home, nobody in the U.S. chain of command was willing to let the generals go.

The irony of their fate sat hard with them. They'd trusted the Americans, and now they were being punished for it. Chief Wiggles was dismayed. "These are highly educated men, with special skills and abilities, prime candidates for positions in the new government and the new military," he wrote in his on-line diary. "But what we have done with them since is a travesty."

When the chain of command remained unmoved, he urged Americans to start a write-in campaign. In a letter to President George W. Bush, he wrote, "I have personally found these men to be some of the most honorable men I have met. . . ." Sometimes, to keep Mazin's spirits up, he would talk about the day that he would be a guest in Mazin's home.

By a happy accident, I was there when that day came. The two embraced, as is the local custom, and kissed each other twice on each cheek...

Link via Citizen Smash

For more on another exemplary officer in Iraq check out these two posts on Major General David Petreaus who has done extrordinary work in Mosul. 1 2

new from sega: the crying of lot 49 

From Game Girl Advance:

An excellent and forward-thinking article in the Wall Street Journal articulates exactly why I started GameGirlAdvance. Just the other day I wrote a note to myself for a future article: "Videogame reviews must move beyond product recommendation - I am no longer interested in whether or not to buy a game, but rather in what the game means socially, historically, politically, personally."

From the WSJ:

The U.S. videogame industry today is larger than Hollywood's domestic box-office receipts and is closing in on music sales. Doesn't a sector that size deserve sophisticated mainstream critique, even academic study?

That's what industry boosters are saying. A call for a "third way" of game criticism, beyond jargon-filled reviews and advertorials, is being heard from a growing cadre of academics around the world who themselves have begun serious research on videogames

...Some of the academics complain that the videogame industry lacks the sort of critical media eye that has accompanied the development of cinema, and has acted as cheerleader for more creative and important -- if less financially lucrative -- films.

Without such legitimate critique, they argue, the industry will take few chances on things besides violent fare, sports games and half-hearted ripoffs of Hollywood. If the games industry is ever going to get beyond its current fascination with heavy ammunition, high-speed chases and pixelized hot-tub vixens, their argument goes, the public has to hear from reviewers who can call the game makers to task or applaud loftier offerings -- and do it for a new, bigger audience.

Instead, videogame reviews are stuck in the Pac-Man era. Matteo Bittanti, a researcher in Italy, says games are still judged on graphics, sound, longevity and playability. That would be like film critics writing only about a movie's audio track and special effects.

That reminds me of the moment in Ken Auletta profile of Barry Diller in the Highwaymen when Diller was trying to decide where to take his career next. He was visiting 3DO, the electronics company that made John Madden's football. They were showing him a preview of a Sherlock Holmes mystery game:

"How long does it take to play?"
"Eighteen to twenty-two hours," responded the technician.
"Really? How do you know where you are in the process?" asked Diller.
"Huh? You just know when you are finished," the technician said.
"Have you ever thought of putting act breaks?"
"That's a great idea. I'll have to work on this a lot longer."

As a budding screenwriter with 3 act structure drilled in my head I could see how crucial that would be to crafting a real gaming experience. The only game I have any experience with is Blade Runner and that is broken into 3 acts but it isn't really three act structure.

The point Journal article makes is dead on and that's why, although I don't play video games, I keep GameGirlAdvance in my margin and read it from time to time. Video games are becoming a larger and larger part of the culture and no one is looking at them critically.

Of course if they started making critically significant games that could spell Doom (<- pun) for my blog, my screenwriting career and several other fragile segments of my life.

das iz true 

From Daniel Drezner:

My first TNR Online essay back in February disputed the notion that the Bush administration was instinctively unilateralist. In Reason this week, Jonathan Rauch picks up this theme in "Bush Is No Cowboy," a critique of Ivo Daalder and James Lindsay's new book, America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy. (link via Glenn Reynolds). The key grafs:

Obviously much of the world opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq, but to speak of America as isolated or Bush as unilateralist seems an exaggeration, to be charitable. The administration tried hard to get the Security Council to put teeth in its own resolutions against Saddam Hussein. It went to the council not once but twice, when unilateralists said the right number of times was zero. It received support from dozens of countries, including some European biggies (Britain, Spain, Italy, Poland). It sought and obtained the Security Council's blessing for the occupation. It received $13 billion in reconstruction pledges from many countries. It is getting help from 24,000 foreign troops in Iraq, most of them British and Polish, but with support from more than 30 countries. (More than 50 foreign soldiers have died in Iraq.)

And on other fronts? The administration is insisting on a multilateral approach to North Korea—not grudgingly, as NPR's Shuster would have it, but in the teeth of allies' reluctance to get involved. It is trying to mobilize the United Nations on Iran. It has set up a multilateral Proliferation Security Initiative to interdict weapons, with France and Germany among the eight European participants. It recently won a multilateral agreement with 20 Asian and Pacific countries to curb the trade in shoulder-fired missiles.

Bush is not going it alone. He is setting his agenda and then looking for support, rather than the other way around. That is what presidents and countries typically do.

I completely agree that in terms of style, Bush's diplomacy has verged on God-awful. However, Rauch is correct on the substance.

It's just that they've been so inept at multilateralism. That's the thing.

Big big post on foreign policy and security brewing. Hopefully Thursday night. Very busy. Hope I can get it togeter.

Monday, November 03, 2003

blogonaut forum 

As some are aware, a few weeks ago I published an Open Letter to John Podesta with my thoughts on how a liberal think tank could be most effective. The letter was inspired by the Matt Bai article in the New York Times Magazine. I used that post as a point of departure to invite liberal bloggers to get in their two cents worht of suggestions for the Center for American Progress.

Here is the beginning of my Open Letter to John Podesta:

Dear Mr. Podesta:

Congratulations on the successful launch of the Center for American Progress. The article profiling the creation of the Center in the New York Times magazine last week has sparked a lot of discussion in the last week. I'd like to take the opportunity to steer that discussion towards constructive input into your undertaking.

Here are my proposals, suggestions and thoughts on just such an enterprise (dispensing with the unnecessary and hampering fig leaf of non-partisanship):


1 Citizen Citizens

I think the Democrats need to help Americans identify themselves as Citizens. Before identifying themselves as Taxpayers, Consumers or Workers, we must think of ourselves as Citizens. Every policy proposal, every speech, everything we do should make Americans think of themselves as Citizens - PROUDLY. Conservatives have relentlessly cast us as Taxpayers. Business relentlessly helps us self identify as Consumers. Unions remind us that we are Workers.

No one inspires us to think of ourselves as Citizens. After 9/11, in perhaps the greatest moment of civic opportunity since FDR's "Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself" speech, President Bush exhorted us to get back to shopping. It was the kind of opportunity that Kennedy made with the New Frontier and the challenge to put a man on the moon. It is no surprise that planning for the Twin Towers began when it did.

It is impossible for the Democratic Party to pull the nation together behind the broad goals of liberalism effectively without a strong feeling of Civitas. The organized constituencies of the left can only play defense unless the Party puts across a galvanizing, forward looking vision for the nation. Bill Clinton touched on this, but his success resided more in his extraordinary personal charisma and temperament than in his policies.

2 Service, Activism and Entrepreneurialism

Looking back at the Civic accomplishments of this country we see Central Park in NYC and Balboa Park in San Diego, the great public lodges like El Tovar at the Grand Canyon and the Timberline Lodge at Mount Hood built by the CCC, the Eisenhower Highway System, the Apollo Space Program, the Civil Rights Movement of the late 50's and early 60's. It calls the question, what are we poised to accomplish as a nation today?

Where ever possible Democrats must champion dynamic activist solutions over bureaucratic entitlement oriented solutions. Often these will be to bolster and energize not replace entitlement programs. Service, activism and entrepreneurialism capture the imagination and the American character in a way that entitlements never can. Reawakening a spirit of Civitas will make defending necessary entitlements far easier...

The invitation went out to a few dozen liberal bloggers. A few polititely declined, a few didn't quite get their entries in and two responded.

Professor Amitai Etzioni submitted this article from the Christian Science Monitor:

It is very difficult these days for friends and foes alike to find out what the Democratic Party stands for. Although there is one less voice in the cacophony of the Democratic presidential race - following the withdrawal of Sen. Bob Graham - confusion still is high indeed.
Is the party for or against the war in Iraq? Opposed to all tax cuts or only some of them? Which healthcare or drug- benefits plan does it favor? How do the Democrats figure on saving Medicare?

One major reason the Demo- crats' collectivevoice is so muffled is that they've bought into a comforting illusion that the problem is not the message but the messenger.

Democratic leaders hold that if they just had their own Fox TV network, a liberal Rush Limbaugh, or a pollster as talented as Frank Luntz, then their message would take the country by storm. Al Gore is trying to launch a liberal cable TV news network, and various fat cats, including Jon Sinton, CEO of AnShell Media, are reported to be raising money for one liberal network or another. Al Franken's new book blames the Democrats' election losses on the media, which he claims have been taken over by conservatives.

But it is the Democratic message, not the voice, that is the problem. Mario Cuomo, an outstanding orator, and Jerry Brown - no slouch, either, in the speaking department - each had a radio show that petered out. Nor is Al Sharpton exactly inarticulate. Those liberals who remain on the air - for instance, the highly subsidized Bill Moyers and lesser-known personae such as Neil Rogers and Alan Colmes - fail to catch on because of what they say, not because there is no place for them to say it.

The reason liberal messages are not resonating isn't because they're unheard, but because they're out of touch with the majority of Americans. In 2000, the proportion of Americans who identified themselves as liberals - including those who see themselves as "slightly liberal" - amounted to only 1 in 5. And that was no fluke. Since 1972, National Elections Studies polls show Americans labeling themselves liberal have never topped 23 percent.

So how did the Demo-crats get elected? By running on a centrist - not liberal - message, as Bill Clinton did in 1991. He took the Democratic party toward the political center, drawing heavily on ideas formulated by centrist "New" Democrats. Responsibility and community have been among their core themes, not traditional liberal buzzwords such as inequality and racism. (The current President Bush won in part because he did the same for Republicans: He moved them toward the center.)

One would think that the formula for a winning message for the Democrats is clear: anything but liberal. Yet many left liberals - including the same Democrats who voted for Ralph Nader, thus helping to defeat Mr. Gore - have become particularly influential in the party since 2000. They're still smarting from what they consider to be the usurpation of a presidency that was theirs. They're furious with many of the policies that the Republicans are pursuing overseas and at home. And, as a minority that cannot get traction, they're becoming ever more frustrated, vociferous - and extreme.

Whoever the Democratic candidate finally is, that candidate cannot win without embracing a centrist message - unless Iraq continues to look like Vietnam, or the economy is failing. In other words: The only way Bush can be defeated is if Bush defeats himself - a sad way for a great party to win the presidency.

The other blogger who responded was Pessimist. He took considerable time with the project and has posted responses both to my letter and to the Matt Bai article.

Pessimist has posted his responses at both To the Barricades and on The Left Coaster. He has interpolated his comments into the text of each so it is easier to visit his site and read them. Nevertheless here are the highlights...

From his critique of the Matt Bai article:

We're down to the new and bolder policy agenda. This is the path to success, and we don't need to wander about the wilderness in order to find it. Just as US Grant realized that he had another path to follow besides retreat after the brutal battle of the Wilderness (sorry, too obvious to avoid!), so too do the Democrats have to face that same realization.

We liberals have taken some serious hits in our strength, as did Grant, but we don't have to retire to a safe corner and lick our wounds until we once again become brave enough to venture forth once more. We instead can quickly resume the assault on another field, renewed and reinforced, for we have the numbers to win victory if we have the leadership to pursue it. This isn't to say that, like Grant, we won't have a Cold Harbor in our future, but the ultimate victory will be ours if we keep to the task of returning control of America to the American citizens.

[Bai then proceeds to recount the victories and strengths of the Right though relating its history, but he couches his statements in the glowing terms made popular for use in presenting Republican Conservatives. This use of language as an image builder is VITAL to any future success of the Democratic Party. Need proof? See how the language of the Right tears down their opposition. Listen to Rush Limbaugh if you can stand the abuse.]

The disarray Podesta faces as he tries to build a counterweight to this behemoth is not so different from the landscape Weyrich and Feulner surveyed in the 1960's. Not only have Democrats lost their hold on Congress, but they also seem to have lost their hold on a larger vision for the country.
TRUTH! The Democrats lost their vision with the fall of Richard Nixon. Were this not so, Ronald Reagan would have been shown to be the empty fraud he was and lost in 1980. Much of the resultant history could not have happened.

At least in these early stages, the 2004 presidential campaign highlights the stagnation of the Democratic idea pool. The leading candidates spend their time debating questions that were put on the agenda by Republican think tanks, like tax cuts and pre-emptive first strikes, while proposing programmatic variations on old ideas, like universal health coverage and national service -- worthy notions, certainly, but no worthier than they were when Clinton put them forward 12 years ago.

''In my view, the ideas are most important,'' he said. At a meeting of liberal interest groups, most of whom were chiefly concerned with message, Podesta put it this way: ''We're constantly operating on the way Bush has set the table and on the way conservatives have set the table. We need to reset that table, and the only way to do that is to start with the substance.''

More TRUTH! Can you begin to see that we don't have to wander the Wilderness to see that Truth stares us in the face? All we need do is realize this and act upon it.

Transformative agendas spring from the emotion of a national moment. The New Deal seized on the anxiety of the Depression; the so-called Reagan and Gingrich revolutions played off a growing distrust of government among a newly prosperous middle class. Given the extraordinary current moment in world affairs, the conversation among Democratic candidates thus far is as notable for what has not been offered as it is for what has: no new framework for the Middle East, no clear doctrine on when and where to undertake military or humanitarian missions. While the Democratic candidates uniformly attack Bush's plan for ''personal savings accounts'' (which is another way of saying the privatization of Social Security), no one seems to have an alternative, 21st-century retirement plan that would save the nation from what looks like an inevitable fiscal crisis.

Still more TRUTH! Are we to expect our candidates to ask Matt Bai to run their campaigns for them? WHY DON'T THEY SEE THESE POINTS THEMSELVES?

From his critique of my Open Letter to John Podesta:

B) Corps of corps
I would propose a raft of National Service Corps

I think we should go beyond a quaint program like Americorp and think big, along the lines of WPA and CCC. Bigger. One of the most frustrating things in current American life is that we seem unable to muster the political will to solve any of our problems even when we have social consensus on their importance. Everyone is agreed that we have crises in education and healthcare yet we are paralyzed to address them. Democrats must be able to say we can solve these problems and we will solve these problems and this is how.

* Good strategy. But how to muster the political will if the public expects the other guy to take the first step? The last leader America had who inspired a lot of volunteerism from the American People was John Kennedy. Until we have such a leader, and right now I don't see his successor, this isn't going to change.

Some of these programs already exist. I would argue that their funding has been so anemic and their profile so low that championing them in a renewed and principled broad program elevates them from being merely warmed over policy proposals and creates the oportunity to create vital and dynamic new policy.

* This isn't accidental. Such anemic funding is to demonstrate that the public sector cannot handle the job, which should then be turned over to the private sector. Check out the Philadelphia School system for a perfect example.

Champion and support the Army Reserve and National Guard.

* Considering Bush's abuse of both, this isn't going to be easy. One good way to support both would be to prohibit job loss due to service. This is not currently the case. Too many Reservists and Guardsmen will return from Iraq to have to job hunt because their employers "couldn't wait for them to return to their jobs".

What is more American than a citizen army?

* This opens the door to Mandatory Universal Service. Are you ready to go there? The sort of warfare that the US will be facing is not going to be like storming Festung Europa in 1944. The ear of the large army vs large army model is just about ended.

* Another aspect to look at is: if we had such a system in place, how many more wars would Bush be waging? Might we not already be at war with Iran, Syria, and North Korea if enough forces were available?

The importance of older, more experienced and highly skilled Reservists has been brought into sharp focus by the war in Iraq. A multilateral defense and foreign policy that embraces nation building will put them at the center.

* Historically, America will rise to the challenge presented no matter how ill-prepared they are. While the military certainly needs re- alignment to meet the modern challenges it faces, I'm not yet convinced that this is the answer. In addition, considering how much is asked of them in return for the little given them in return is going to make retention of experienced personnel most difficult.

This is an important and unassailable backdoor for providing education opportunity and retirement security to large numbers of Americans. Democrats should scream bloody murder when Republicans send our troops into combat while cutting their benefits.

* Agreed, but funding certainly is an issue. How will this be paid for? Americans are in a "Don't raise my taxes" mood.

HealthCorp: Need financial aid for med school or nursing school? We'll trade you for four years of service in the nation's toughest public hospitals and county health departments for modest wages. Over time this will produce a more civic-minded breed of doctor as well as providing a shot in the arm for our healthcare system.

* Basic concept is fine. Issues: funding and administration. If the government hospitals and medical services were the initial employer of all graduates, this might lessen the load. Otherwise, without sufficient funding, the heavy administrative load will collapse the financial support, leaving us in the same mess we now have.

* Anti-socialists won't like this idea, but why do so many countries we don't like, Cuba for instance, have better medical systems than we have? Sure, maybe not so high-tech, but there's no shortage of doctors.

EdCorp: Need financial aid for a degree in Education? We'll trade you for four years of service in the nation's toughest public schools. This could also be used to close the gap in math and science teachers by trading four years of teaching for financial aid towards degrees in math and science.

* Teachers are not Indiana Jones! Adventurism isn't naturally a part of a teacher's make up. Forcing teacher candidates to only work in the toughest schools will only drive them out of the profession. One of the main reasons so many teachers have gone into private industry has been bettter wages and working conditions. One of the worst working conditions is the mass crowding of schools.

* Bill Gates has an educational plan being implemented where the size of the individual school is reduced, with more schools being created. There would be some specialization of the curriculum at each school. I tend to support these ideas as being realistic, provided that the choices aren't limited exclusively to a certain curriculum once chosen.

This is a perfect example of why these programs cannot be floated piecemeal. The AFT and NEA would never stand for what I've proposed. Recent grads working for less than prevailing wages and benefits, outside the bargaining unit? Forget about it. But if it was tied to a major paradigm shift in the platform of the party with broad support and their input in developing implementation...

* Talk to teachers and you might be surprised. Many would rather educate than teach to a mandated test standard as many now do. There wouldn't be an issue over loss of jobs, because any truly educational change would actually create positions. The ones who would not like this would be the administrators, most of whom are completely useless to the educational porcess. They would lose control, status, power - and very high remuneration packages.

GreenCorp: This could range from physical conservation work to research and theoretical work or inspection work. Also tied to financial aid. These could also function as starter jobs the way Americorps does.

* Specifics would be needed here. There would also be a lot of opposition from corporations who wouldn't want anyone in a position to see how they are raping the land.

BizCorps: Perhaps a mix of recent BBA's, MBA's and retirees, this group could be working in targeted communities helping start up businesses. Example: when you get a minority loan you are assigned someone from the BizCorp who has a caseload of 3 or 5 or 10 start ups who works as an adviser or as an assistant, depending on their experience and the businesses need. If we had this, they could be in Iraq right now helping Iraqi companies bid for reconstruction work, etc.

* Basic strategy excellent. Specifics could be worked out if the will and the means were there. Certainly one incentive would be to reduce the taxable amount of income earned once retirement begins, provided there was participation in such a program. One problem that arises is that trust issues will have to be dealt with. I doubt the community will easily accept direction from the very personality and demographic types that won't hire them now.

Arrangements could be made for top execs to take sabbaticals to consult with government agencies to improve delivery of services.

* Isn't this what we have now? Cheney still receives money from Halliburton, and all he did was provide them with some no-bid contracts. Is this where we want to go? Don't corporations already take enough through such means?

CopCorps: I wish I could find the excellent New Yorker article on the National Academy that has been established for police. CopCorps could function in many ways. Financial aid for criminal justice degrees could be traded for a training period at the academy and time spent in the nations toughest precincts.

* You would be throwing the sheep to the wolves by doing this. Better that they can work the less-intensive police jobs, such as traffic control, freeing up more experienced officers to deal with the hard-core in the toughest precincts. Besides - they would want a better, more forceful moniker.

Exemplary officers could be given sabbaticals of sorts to act as instructors. The academy could also act as a clearinghouse for effective techniques and for departments around the nation to trade exceptional officers in an exchange program. I personally would like to see more mentoring and sponsoring stuff like nighttime youth basketball. I also thought that Tucson's bike cops were way cooler than the car cops.

* All good plans, but when does such an officer have a life? This has been one of the reasons such programs have collapsed in my area. Only so many cops can participate, and they get burned out. There is also the cut backs in staff funding, forcing the termination of programs like DARE because the officers involved are required for street duty. There might be better means of providing staffing for such programs than to use cops.


If I had to choose one point in our educational system as a fulcrum to try to gain leverage, I would choose PRINCIPALS. Given limited resources I believe that bolstering excellence in our school principals will go farther than anything else in bolstering excellence in our schools. Their ability to interact with students, effect discipline, ciriculum and mentor teachers puts them in a unique position of multiplying their talents.

* Too many of these are really bureaucrats in teacher's clothing. Principals already have a huge workload, requiring that they give short shrift to everything each time some crisis arises. Even if all the routine duties could be performed by assistants, there is still a great deal that would require their attention more than they now can provide.

* Education has to be rethought entirely. Locking a student's progress to the group, paced by the slowest learners, is one of the reasons education is not as effective as it might be. There is far too much technology (becoming more affordable all the time) and enough computer-literate educators out there (and not all of these are teachers!) for things to remain in the mold of the past. Large, inaccurate text books and boredom-inducing rote education must be replaced by CD-ROM and DVD technologies filled with the latest, most-accurate information. Such resources must be implemented in an independently-tracked curriculum, where a student can learn at his own pace. Tie performance to rewards like field trips and free cultural events and see what kind of an improvement can be achieved!

People closer to these issues than I could tell us how to support principals through policy. However, if I was running a well-funded think tank I would give awards every year to exceptional and effective principals. I would publicize these awards and use them to amplify the efforts of these folks. I would publicize their efforts to re-value the public service that they render and hold up their profession as noble and desirable in order to attract more and better candidates to the field. I would host retreats for exceptional principals in the summers and sponsor revolving fellowships so that they can engage in deeper thinking about what they do, why they are effective and how it can be done better.

* Will we Leave No Principal Behind?

Obviously it would be great to do these same things with teachers and superintendents. But given limited resources, I would start with principals.

2) TEACHERS: Pay for Play. In the interests of space I'll ask you to read Matthew Miller's recent piece in the Atlantic. He makes the case for paying teachers a lot more in exchange for making it easier to fire ineffective teachers. He also proposes paying Math and Science teachers more than Gym teachers.

* And how does one measure performance in such a system? Such measurement is currently defined through compulsory testing. This is why so many school systems are teaching to the test - this is the sole metric upon which Federal subsidies are based. As these subsidies are vital to any functioning school system, there is little incentive to go beyond the minimum necessary because of lack of time or other resources. Another standard needs to be in place before this has any chance of succeeding.


I think that these two areas present our leaders with opportunities to call on the best spirit of the American people the way John F. Kennedy challenged the nation to explore space and put a man on the moon.

* Wrote an article on this very topic!

Americans are nothing if not a can do people. No one has challenged our imagination and determination in a long, long time. The only challenge that we have risen to as a people in the last thirty years was to build a military power the size of the next 15 largest militaries combined.

I was a kid in the seventies and every year for my birthday my grandmother would get me a subscription to World magazine, the kid's magazine that National Geographic published. Every month I was tantalized by a future of foam houses that could be heated and cooled by gerbils. There were articles on wind and solar power, new kinds of cars, new kinds of building materials.

Well now I'm thirty six, its 2003 and we have Tyvek. It is astonishing and disgraceful to me that we still drive gas combustion engines. It is astonishing and disgraceful to me that we still rely on COAL to generate electricity (nevermind lowering pollution standards). We use COAL in 2003. COAL?...COAL!!! That is the most chickenshit example of this country's inability to summon the political will to surmount any real challenge beyond building up our military and leading the world in shopping and eating.

The two most obvious places to start are research and development and the replacement, through attrition of all public fleets with alternative fuel vehicles, electric, natural gas and hybrids. It may be the case that all public works construction should be using Bio-Diesel for their heavy machinery.

* The military is reported to be VERY interested in this, to the point of buying up the bulk of available stocks of Bio-Diesel to avoid a possible oil embargo over Iraq.

These are challenges that could spark the public's sense of imagination, civic pride and social will if presented in an inspiring and forward looking way.

* We have a serious problem here - corporate ownership of patents covering much of this technology! For example Arco, now a subsidiary of British Petroleum, holds the bulk of the solar technology patents issued during the '70s and later. These are being sat on waiting for the time that petroluem is no longer an economic viability. Meanwhile, in Europe companies are developing exciting new technologies that will revolutionize renewable energy. As I see it, Europe will become the dominant player in this market while the US will be allowed to wallow in Dino Swamp muck. There have been lots of news articles on breakthroughs in technology in Europe lately, all concerning sciences America once dominated. Because the only science we as a nation care about anymore is military science, we have lost our technological edge, and may never regain it.

You really need to read the post in full.

For myself I have spent some time thinking about the shortcomings in what I wrote. The most glaring problem is that by and large my specific proposals are not paradigm shifting enough. A lot of them simply argue for a renewed emphasis on things we are already doing like the National Health Service Corps. I plan to do a long post in the upcoming weeks on the State of National Service in the US and am printing PDF reports as we speak.

Also as I noted in my conclusion, I started with the ideas that I already had kicking around in my head instead of starting with the biggest issues facing this country and working from there. I do think our lack of Civitas is our number one problem and we cannot face any of our real challenges until this is reawakened.

Last week I was delighted to hear that my premise, that school principals are the fulcrum from which real change in our schools can be effectively brought about, was bourne out in a radio interview with Dr. William Ouchi from the business school at UCLA. He showed that when Edmonton put control of budget's in the hands of principals the results were dramatic. In 1973 when these reforms began Edmonton was a failing school system. Today principals control 92% of their budgets (compared with 6.1% in New York and 6.7% in LA) 87% of 1st graders read at or above grade level and 92% of twelth graders read at or above grade level. They have put private sector schools out of business and last year two private schools voluntarily joined the public school system. This has been tried in Seattle and Houston with success and is being implemented in NYC and Cinncinatti. There are several fascinating aspects to how it works. You really owe to yourself to listen to the interview. It's the best thing that I've read or heard in the last few weeks. He has a book called 'Making Schools Work'. I plan on picking it up.

A couple bumpersticker ideas:

American First - Taxpayer Second

Support Our Troops - Restore Their Benefits

America: A Sound Investment

Paul Wellstone is my Co-Pilot

Some observations on the Center for American Progress website.

What's up with the URL's? When you type in you are redirected to their home page at{E9245FE4-9A2B-43C7-A521-5D6FF2E06E03}&bin_id={D4279185-2138-4D60-8557-E26508FD8C13} and it just gets worse.

The daily comics are lousy. Why does a think tank dedicated to long term deap thinking need a daily comic?

They have seperate sections for designations for columns and reports but some of the reports are just long dry columns. They are far to topical. The current Podesta column is announcing a bonafide report that the Center is releasing. That makes sense. If a staff member had published a column elsewhere it would make sense to publish it on the site as well. Otherwise, be a think tank. The Talking Points section covers what you should be doing on day to day stuff. You don't need to chase around the days events. Between the Nation, Paul Krugman and the Blogosphere we pretty much have that covered. Step back. Develop real resources for us.

Real resources:

They have release a Report: Strengthening America's Defence's and Medicare Presciption Drug Legislation: What it Means for Rural Beneficiaries. As well they are promoting with a documentary called Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War. Take a look at snippets: trailer 1 2 3 4 5

Those are the kinds of things that we need in order to start to begin to think about starting to begin turning things around.

I'd like to thank Pessimist and Dr. Etzioni for participating in this week's forum.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

sunday magazine 

Keep your bathrobe and slippers on. It's our Sunday Magazine. The TechNation interviews are ABSOLUTE MUSTS. I command thee to listen to the TechNation interviews.

Dr. William Ouchi, who completed the first ever National
Science Foundation study about the whole of education from
strictly a management point of view. A revolution that started
in Edmonton, Canada. Turning control of school's budget to
principals produces staggering results. In Edmonton the private
schools voluntarily joined the public school system.

by Moira Gunn from TechNation

Tracy Kidder's new book profiles Partners in Health founder
Dr. Paul Farmer. Partner's in Health's medical center in Haiti
has made mindbending advances in treating the poor. The
most striking example: the treat an umcomplicated case of TB
for about $200 a patient for a 100% save rate.

by Moira Gunn from TechNation

How the Bush administration's prewar planners bungled
postwar Iraq

by David Rieff from the New York Times Magazine
printer friendly

Little is known of this great dictatorship apart from the
fact that Kim Jong Il has presided over the systematic
starvation of millions of his people. And that he now has the bomb

BY Philip Gourevitch from the Observer

The once and futue music of revolution.
by Greg Burk from LA Weekly

In the country's first green residential tower, a temporary
showcase interior offers lasting ideas.

By Paul Makovsky from Metropolis

Tina Fey rewrites late-night comedy.
by Virginia Heffernan from the New Yorker
printer friendly

by Tony Early from the New Yorker
printer friendly

audio slideshow
by Lee Lorenz from the New Yorker

Testing the limits of vocal ingenuity, throat-singers can create
sounds unlike anything in ordinary speech and song--carrying
two musical lines simultaneously, say, or harmonizing with a waterfall

By Theodore C. Levin and Michael E. Edgerton from Scientific American
printer friendly


from McSweeney's

Sketch comedy
from Olde English

by Johan Soderberg from Kobra

video game

by Electric Six

from McSweeney's

Don't forget to read the comics in the margin. Foxtrot is brilliant this week.

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