September 10, 2008 archive

More About the Politics of Cyber-Bullying.

In my previous entry I described the tactic of whining over perceived offenses as a means of suppressing political dissent — really a form of cyber-bullying.  I’d like to continue along that vein, citing more examples.  This is necessary because until and unless we fully understand how and why this tactic is so effective, we cannot adequately neutralize it.

Terry Michael of The Politico wrote in June that “[a]s Democrats prepare to do battle with John McCain this fall, we need to dispel two comforting but self-defeating myths about recent failed White House campaigns.”  I couldn’t agree more.  What are these myths?  Mr. Michael explains:

The 1980s saw a bigger than usual glut of aggressive young males. Motivated by profits from the black market created by a brainless drug war, urban gangbangers were scaring aging children of the Depression known as Reagan Democrats.

So Lee Atwater and Roger Ailes, aided by minions in the basement of the Republican National Committee, dredged up a resonant metaphor for everything Reagan Democrats loved to hate about crime-coddling liberals: Willie Horton, the murderer sentenced to life in prison, who pillaged his way through Maryland on a weekend prison pass.

Yet that’s not what really happened.

The Massachusetts program, a rehabilitation effort signed into law in 1972, was applied to convicted murderers by the commonwealth’s Supreme Court, and Dukakis, in his first term as Massachusetts governor, vetoed an attempt to overturn the court. After scores of Pulitzer Prize-winning stories by the Lawrence (Mass.) Eagle-Tribune, the law that allowed Horton his pass was overturned in a bill signed by Dukakis himself on April 28, 1988, after the issue was raised in presidential politics at a Democratic debate April 12 in New York by … Al Gore! Yes, the same Nobel laureate Hollywood liberals adore, not some fire-breathing, right-wing nut.

Mr. Michael thinks, apparently, that it was a mistake to ascribe evil motivations to what Atwater and Ailes did, but I respectfully disagree with him on that point; Atwater and Ailes, along with the Republican spinmeisters, had nothing but the basest, filthiest, most despicable motivations for using Horton as a political bludgeon against Democrat Mike Dukakis.  Racism was exploited in order to portray the Massachusetts governor as soft on crime.  Nevertheless, Mr. Michael does catch on to something, as he writes:

The Beltway Democratic geniuses who gave us Kerry were convinced they needed a military hero to carry an anti-war banner against a war-making weekend warrior.

The best and the brightest among the party elders did their best to push Howard Dean off the stage and nominate Lt. Kerry, who reported for duty in Boston with a speech performance that told the nation everything it needed to know: He was for the war in Vietnam. He was against the war in Vietnam. Just as he voted for the war in Iraq but now he was against the war in Iraq.

Or was he? Because, just weeks later, Kerry said he would have voted for authorizing the war, even if he’d known there were no weapons of mass destruction.

Snarky attitude aside, Mr. Michael does make a valid point: Kerry allowed himself to be defined by the opposition; that is, he was afraid to take a definitive stand on vital issues, and so the GOP was able to portray him as someone who is weak and indecisive, someone whose positions change with the political wind.  It didn’t matter that Kerry didn’t actually flip-flop; he allowed the public perception of himself to be portrayed that way.  When the Republicans rose their maniacal voices in fury, he backed down and tried to “clarify” his remarks.  That simply opened him up to further attack.

Let’s go back a little further in examining the politics of bullying.  In 2004 Paul Rogat Loeb wrote on

A former Air Force Colonel I know described the Bush administration’s attitude toward dissent as “shut up and color,” as if we were unruly eight-year-olds. Whatever citizens may think of Bush’s particular policies, what may make him the most dangerous president ever is how much he’s promoted a culture that equates questioning with treason. This threatens the very dialogue that’s at the core of our republic.

Think of Dick Cheney saying a Kerry victory would invite a terrorist attack. Think of the eve of the Iraq war, and the contempt heaped on those generals who dared to suggest that the war might take far more troops and money than the administration was suggesting. Think of the attacks on the reputations and motives of long-time Republicans who’ve recently dared to question, like national security advisor Richard Clarke, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, weapons inspector Scott Ritter, and Bush’s own former Treasury Secretary, Paul O’Neill. Think of the Republican TV ads, the 2002 Georgia Senate race, which paired Democratic Senator Max Cleland with Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein-asserting that because Cleland opposed President Bush’s Homeland Security bill, he lacked “the courage to lead.”

In this last case, it didn’t matter that Cleland had lost two legs and an arm in Vietnam, while the Republican who eventually defeated him had never worn a uniform. Nor that Republican strategists nearly defeated South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson in the same election, with similar ads, although Johnson was the only person in Congress whose child was actually serving with the U.S. military-and would see active duty in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It’s hard to talk about such intimidation without sounding partisan or shrill, but we need to make it a central issue, because if it succeeds, it becomes impossible to discuss any other issues [emphasis mine].

Pay close attention to the bold type.  As long as we on the left allow ourselves to be defined and bullied by the opposition and members of our own ideology, we cannot stand against it.  George Lakoff, a professor from the University of Berkley, has spent the past few years trying to explain how far right-wingers frame the debate so that we on the left are forced to accept their terms for discussion.  In a 2003 Berkley interview the author, Bonnie A. Powell, writes, “by dictating the terms of national debate, conservatives have put progressives firmly on the defensive.”  Lakoff himself points out:

Language always comes with what is called “framing.” Every word is defined relative to a conceptual framework. If you have something like “revolt,” that implies a population that is being ruled unfairly, or assumes it is being ruled unfairly, and that they are throwing off their rulers, which would be considered a good thing. That’s a frame.

Poll Dancing, and Hyperventilating Over Lipstick

From Steve Clemons at The Washington Note on Monday:

Now we’ve had a few days to see that in fact Sarah Palin has revved up a lot of Republicans.  She has also animated a lot on the left who fear her, and Barack Obama’s coffers are filling up fast with donations in response to the McCain/Palin ticket.

But among many progressive political junkies, of whom I consider myself one, a real depression has set in.

They see poll numbers showing a significant bounce for McCain — with one poll showing him 10 points ahead.  CNN has McCain ahead by two and the Washington Post has McCain and Obama in a dead heat.  But most other polls show McCain ahead at this point — and that is making a lot of pundits, writers, and activists hyperventilate.  

Guardian US editor Michael Tomasky wrote a note to me and a few others today encouraging folks to calm down.  I quote him with permission:

Let’s calm down a little. Let’s not live and die by the last poll or the last thing that Candy Crowley said. This will be decided by 1) debates 2) field and 3) ads, in that order.

Tomasky is wise.  There is a long way to go in the race.  I remember when John Kerry and Michael Dukakis were considerably ahead at this point in their races, and they were still defeated.  The same fate could befall McCain.

But this site seems to do a better job than any others I have seen of not getting seduced into the laziness of national polls.  It uses state polls to sort out what might happen in the electoral college. notes that there is new polling in five key swing states and after sorting it out, the analyst notes that McCain has made some modest inroads but that Obama still wins if the election was held tomorrow.  298 to 240 electoral votes.

Open Thread


If you don’t eat yer meat you can’t have any thread!  

How can you have any thread if you don’t eat yer meat?

Reverse Poll-arity

I’m thinking about Reverse Poll-arity this morning.

Honest to God, the addition of Barracuda to McSame’s ticket and the inflated Poll numbers to ease the election fraud makes me MORE likely to vote for Obama than I was a few days ago.


Random Sidebar:

Yesterday I tried my googlest best to find the lyrics to an old Roy Rogers song to no avail.

I just had this riff going about “Palin, you no Pal O’Mine” to the tune of “Palamino Pal o’Mine” and nowhere to go with it.

That song so pre-dates even my old ass, I have no idea why I even know it, and yet I found it hilarious snark, and wish I had been able to parody the lyrics. The refrain is all I remembered.

Ok, back to the wonky shit.

The Morning News

The Morning News is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Democrats question Fannie, Freddie CEO exit pay

By John Poirier and Kevin Drawbaugh, Reuters

Tue Sep 9, 4:50 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Democrats on Tuesday criticized the multimillion-dollar pay packages awarded to the former chief executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac at a time when taxpayers could foot a massive bill for the companies’ bailout.

In a joint letter to Fannie and Freddie’s regulator, Senators Charles Schumer of New York and Jack Reed of Rhode Island said the combined pay and bonus packages of about $24 million should be revised.

“We find it way out of line,” they said in the letter, saying the severance pay for former Fannie Mae CEO Daniel Mudd and former Freddie Mac CEO Richard Syron should be questioned especially if any financial losses could have been caused by errors in management.

Muse in the Morning

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Muse in the Morning

A Transition through Poetry V:

Art Link

More Blues


Tears cloud the vision

Silence enshrouds the ears

Touching is denied

Taste and smell are dulled

Pain pierces the heart

Loneliness hammers at the brain

This is how a friendship ends

–Robyn Elaine Serven

–June, 1992

◊  ◊  ◊

Honey, You Stink Like Old Fish

Connect the dots.

I won’t even use the term ‘man’ to describe this trash-talk. This is someone who describes his female opponent as a ‘piece of paper called change’…’wrapped around a piece of old fish’…that ‘stinks’. At this point, calling Palin ‘garbage’ would be a step up.

It’s that bad. And the worst of it is that so many in the media know exactly what’s happening and are scared to death of being branded as ‘racists’ for questioning the honesty and the integrity of this loathsome individual.

‘Stinks like a piece of old fish’. I was brought up to never make comments about fish and odor when women are being discussed, under any circumstances no matter what, for reasons that are so frigging obvious they don’t bear elaboration.

Many of the folks in the Obama camp, however, do not blink when the terms ‘b*tch’ and ‘wh*re’ are used in daily discourse, or in music, or in films.

Misogyny? What’s that? Throughout the long, bitter primary battles the Obama camp denied that their candidate ever attacked his primary opponent using gender. And now that a mother of five is kicking butt up and down the block out come the sexist slurs once again.

Times have changed. The good news is that nobody who heard Obama  follow the ‘Palin-Pig’ comparison with his “stinks like a piece of old fish” believes there is anything innocent at all about the candidate of change. It remains to be seen whether a media so inured to sexism will rise up to call the crud to account. An apology is, of course, impossible.

It won’t much matter. Few women, I suspect, find anything remotely inspiring or funny about comparing Sarah Palin to a `stinking piece of old fish wrapped in paper’

The Obama campaign will simply deny any derogatory attack ever took place and play the victim.

Female voters, I suspect, will be pitiless. Except those who don’t mind being  compared to ‘pigs’ and ‘stinking pieces of old fish’, of course.

WWYMNHHO: Adolfo Bioys Casares, The Invention of Morel

cross posted from The Dream Antilles

Wonderful Writers You Might Not Have Heard Of (WWYMNHHO) is an occasional, erratic, idiosyncratic series.  It’s like an island that floods at high tide and migrates in the turquoise sea.  Sometimes it appears.  But I digress.


Adolfo Bioys Casares (1914-1999)

Adlofo Bioys Casares’ 1940 novel The Invention of Morel is a short gem.  Jorge Luis Borges, Bioys’ mentor, wrote in the prologue, “To classify it (the novel) as perfect is neither an imprecision nor a hyperbole.” And Mexican Nobel Prize winner Octavio Paz wrote, “The Invention of Morel may be described, without exaggeration, as a perfect novel.”  Given this kind of praise, it seemed imperative to read it.

I have no intention of spoiling this book by revealing the plot.  I will tell you this much: Morel is a person and not a mushroom, and the invention is his, it is not that he is invented.  This is the kind of thing that happens when better translators than I render La Invencion de Morel as something other than Morel’s Invention.

The narrator has escaped from a crime to an island with peculiar tides.  He hides.  Sometimes there are two suns; sometimes, two moons.  Events appear to repeat on the island; perhaps there is some fatal disease there.  At some point, Faustine appears and without ever talking with her, watching her carefully from a distance, he falls in love with her.  It is a love of the idea of a person, a love for an image of a person, a love of a phantom.  It’s not quite real, but it’s very deeply felt.  And Bioys manages to convey this mystification, if it’s fair to call it that, beautifully.

There is more, much more to this.  But it’s just not fair to give it all away.  If you’re going to read the book, try to avoid the Wiki on the book and the one on Bioys (though I’ve linked to them).

The book is only 103 pages long.  You could gobble it up in an afternoon or evening, or you could read it in small bits over a week, as I did.  There is enough going on to ponder that a slow reading can be especially enjoyable.

Adolfo Bioy Casares was born in Buenos Aires, the grandson of a wealthy landowner and dairy processor. His parents were keen alphabet enthusiasts, which explains their choice of his initials “ABC”. He wrote his first story (“Iris y Margarita”) at the age of 11. He was a friend and frequent collaborator of Jorge Luis Borges and wrote many stories with him under the pseudonym of H. Bustos Domecq. He won the Gran Premio de Honor of SADE (the Argentine Society of Writers, 1975), the French Légion d’honneur (1981), the title of Illustrious Citizen of Buenos Aires (1986), and the Premio Miguel de Cervantes.


My 9/11/01

I was working for a bar owner at 44th St. & 9th Ave.  He had the news on both TVs.  And people started streaming in as large buildings were closed all over town.  One guy I knew perished.  Another, made it out of the twin towers alive, and walked uptown.  Another woman was late for work: she got to the ground zero area in time to see the second plane fly into the second tower, turned around, and caught what was probably the last subway uptown out of that area.

Here’s what I remember about that day:

Shortly before 9 a.m. EDT, I went into the hardware store to buy some paper towels for the sister bar.  The store owner, who knew me from similar errands in the past, said, “Did you hear?  A plane just flew into the World Trade Center.”

I gaped at him; said something like, “You’re kidding.”  It didn’t register, at first: I mean, small planes do fly into big buildings on occasion but…

He said, “No, it’s on the radio,” and turned up the volume.

Liars named to Palin’s ‘truth squad’

At least two confirmed liars have been named to Sarah Palin’s new “Truth Squad.”

Former Wisconsin Lt. Governor Margaret Farrow, who was widely criticized by state and national media for lying about a former Supreme Court Justice’s record last spring, was named to a Republican “truth” squad to defend the GOP VP hopeful.

During a nasty Supreme Court race, Farrow penned a fundraising letter that falsely claimed that Justice Louis Butler wrote a decision releasing a sexual predator into the community. In fact, the offender never left confinement.   Newsweek, among others, called Farrow on her lie.

Scot Ross, executive director of One Wisconsin Now, which exposed Farrow’s lie, said:

This is a perfect assignment for Farrow, never known to let facts get in the way of her partisan agenda.

Then there’s Jane Swift, former governor of Massachussetts.   Time reports:

It came out last summer she’d lied on her marriage license” to hide the fact that she’s the fourth wife of her husband, Chuck Hunt.

How many more liars made the team?

Quote for Discussion: The Libertarian Case for Barack Obama

War is the antithesis of the libertarian philosophy of consent, voluntarism and trade.  With every war in American history Leviathan has grown larger and our liberties have withered.  War is the health of the state. And now, fulfilling the dreams of Big Brother, we are in a perpetual war.

A country cannot long combine unlimited government abroad and limited government at home. The Republican party has become the party of war and thus the party of unlimited government.

…Have libertarians gained on other margins in the past eight years? Not at all. Under the Republicans we have been sailing due South-West on the Nolan Chart – fewer civil liberties and more government, including the largest new government program in a generation, the Medicare prescription drug plan, and the biggest nationalization since the Great Depression. Tax cuts, the summum bonum of Republican economic policy, are a sham. The only way to cut taxes is to cut spending and that has not happened.

The libertarian voice has not been listened to in Republican politics for a long time. The Republicans take the libertarian wing of the party for granted and with phony rhetoric and empty phrases have bought our support on the cheap. Thus – since voice has failed – it is  time for exit.  Remember that if a political party can count on you then you cannot count on it.

That is GMU Economics Professor Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution.  Read the whole thing.

We often speak about the case for or against Obama based on the merits of the Obama campaign alone, or based on its preferable comparison to a McCain administration.  I think that both those models are false.  While Tabarrok ought to also address the question of why vote at all, he makes an excellent case why people who are not inclined to vote for Obama still ought to support his candidacy.  

A tendency to lie will be her undoing: Palin on video Oct. 2007

It is her facility in lying, her habit of lying, that is so bad. It’s second nature to Palin, self-professed Christian, to lie when convenient, when it would get her people’s sympathy or votes or good opinion.

Lying is perhaps the biggest liability for the “pistol packin mama.” Her tendency to rewrite her own history to gain advantage. She’ll get tripped up in debates when she does this. It’s her habit, as seen in interviews she’s given prior to her getting tapped by McCain.

Before long she’ll be forced by revelations to come out and say it was due to media glare, please feel sorry for me! Alas, that will be yet another lie. But she is now deeply trapped in the lies she has told us so convincingly.

Will America be fooled? It is not just recent behavior under the glare of the national media as VP candidate. Interviews prior to her selection, and from 2007, show that her lying behavior is ingrained and pervasive, as easy as flipping the mooseburgers.

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