December 15, 2009 archive

The Scientific Basis for Taking On the Obamabots

To fight or not to fight. That was the question Budhy posed last week in regards to the more venal elements at Daily Kos. To be honest, even posing the question reminds me of a Monty Python script. The city is under siege and the elders are sitting around debating whether to defend it or not. But I understand the dilemma. And there were some good points on both sides. But I believe all questions are answered best by tackling them rationally. So let me address the issue in the most rational way I know how: scientifically.

Much of my educational background is in physics and philosophy. And I want to share with you a really cool way to see human interactions, and specifically politics, through the eyes of physics.  If you’re physics averse, don’t worry. There’s nothing technical here. And as you will see, it is with this understanding of the laws of nature that we can draw some light on whether or not to engage the opposition.

The first thing to understand is that there can be no change without force. This is evident in Newton’s first law of motion:

Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.

In other words, absent an outside force, things tend to want to stay the same. Sound familiar?

Now it may seem a mere curiosity to apply the laws of physics to human behavior. But I assure it is far more important than that. For the underlying principle that governs how things change, and are changed, applies to all things – big and small, alive or inanimate. It even governs politics.

So when you notice that people, like trains, have their own intellectual inertia and will resist changing their minds or behavior unless pressure is applied, it’s not a coincidence. This is a fundamental truth of nature. In almost all cases, whether its atomic physics or molecular biology, dramatic changes almost always occur from an outside force. Maybe that sounds familiar too.

Now, here’s another concept that is important to understand. The measure of force between two objects is proportional to the difference between the properties of those objects. In other words, the bigger the difference, the greater the force. For example, if the two cars are traveling in the same direction (not much difference), their collision wont have much force at all. But if they are traveling in opposite directions (maximum difference), their collision will have a lot of force. This shows that force, and energy itself, is relative.  

In political terms, the political force between two parties depends how much their views differ. This website, for example, has very little, internal, political force compared to some place where say, socialists are put in the same arena as tea baggers. As a result, Docudharma generates relatively little change. Mostly, we are all here agreeing with each other and confirming and refining each other’s views.

Understand, I am not implying that this is not valuable. It is, especially to those out fighting on the front lines every day. It’s a nice place to come home to.

But you are not going to have much impact here. That’s just a fact. If you want to have an impact, and cause more change, you have to increase the force. And that means jumping in to the rough waters, embracing the conflict, creating pressure and friction. It means going where the action is. And guess where that could be.

Daily Kos has some serious potential for force. The reason is, in their limitless attempts to accommodate Obama’s dramatic betrayal of almost everything he appeared to stand for in the campaign, our once dedicated allies have actually embraced pretty much everything many of us (and many of them) had been fighting against for years.

Daily Kos, if you’ll remember, used to be hostile territory for the DLC, Republican-lite segment of the Democratic party. Kos himself frequently took on the Bob Shrums of the world and a consensus emerged that rejected the idea that we had to tolerate selling out the interests of ordinary Americans to achieve electoral victory.

It was a hard fought consensus that involved much conflict, and much political force. I remember back in the early days a commenter accused me of waging “class warfare” by mentioning wealth inequality. Not a “troll”. Not a plant. Just another Democrats who had been brainwashed by the corporate media.

But over time, one argument at a time, we chipped away and Daily Kos, which was quite centrist really when I arrived, slowly became pretty damn progressive. That consensus is gone now.

I can barely even recognize the place. I don’t go there often, but some of the things I have seen there horrify me. And even when the recommended list isn’t filled with cult worship and the intelligentsia’s defense of everything they despised about Bush, it is almost devoid of progressive activism. Rare are the diaries really speaking truth to power now because that power often includes the administration.

If I frame what’s happened at Daily Kos and across the progressive netroots in general as a battle in the war between the Plutocrats and the The People, I would have no choice but to call it a coup. I mean, the formally, pretty progressive Daily Kos recommended list has gone from a place where a lot of positive, progressive change took place to a propaganda front for the corporatist movement. I’m not exaggerating.

A classic example of this is the insipid diary, Let’s thank our lucky stars for big corporate law firms. Suddenly, because Obama was being criticized for appointing a corporate lawyer who represented the terrorist sponsoring Chiquita banana company, hundreds of Daily Kos members voted up this piece of propaganda.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. I have observed a mass abandoning of long held beliefs, all for the sake of realignment with Obama’s corporatist policies.

Lastly, does Daily Kos even matter? Some would argue that it is slipping into irrelevancy anyway and we should just ignore it. On this point I respectfully disagree. Daily Kos, for better or worse (worse I think) is like a hub for the progressive netroots. Not only does it have the most readers (among community blogs), it has the most powerful readers and contributors. A lot of power players drop by to urinate on the Daily Kos lawn. It is true Kos is slipping. But Daily Kos is the face of the Democratic netroots. And until that changes, it is the theater of operations for the fight to reform the Democratic party – or destroy it if need be.

But remember, this isn’t really about Daily Kos the website anyway. Nor is it about Docudharma. It is about the people there. Many are still good progressives. And there are a lot of people who have been mislead. Some sense that they’ve been betrayed. Some are hurt. Others are lashing out. Some are just volunteers or paid operatives who have ulterior motives. They live to attack critics. They sit there sometimes 18 hours a day waiting to attack anyone who is perceived as a threat. Some of them form email lists so they can tag team opponents and exaggerate their numbers. I caught on to that when I was there.

Throughout this essay, as I’ve described the principle of political force, I have only referred to differences of opinion. But what we’re dealing with is far more nefarious. We’re dealing with people who will lie and distort to protect political power. They must be challenged.

I implore you to get back in the fight. Retake the rec’d list of Daily Kos. Stop letting yourselves get bullied and discouraged from participating. Daily Kos used to be the home of People Power. Now it’s just an extension of the PR arm of the Obama campaign and those who benefit from his presidency.

There can be NO CHANGE without force. Without conflict. Without resistance. Without some pain. It’s as much a law of nature as gravity.

Training Tuesday with #org20: Getting Through the Bureaucracy

originally posted by Will Urquhart at Sum of Change

This week, we have something new for our Training Tuesday series. We still have plenty of videos left to come from Democracy for America’s Campaign Academy, but a couple weekends back, we attended the Organizing 2.0 conference in New York. This conference was a unique opportunity for activists to learn about new media and online organizing from some of the greatest online organizers around.

Iraq War Inquiry, Day 13

Iraq – Phase Four, Fissiparous and Catastrophic Success!!

Blair’s critics are asking the wrong questions

Lethal Illusions

In Empire of Illusion, Chris Hedges examines the pervasive ways in which Americans are separated from the complexities of reality and become trapped in a mind-killing, reality-destroying, one-dimensional existence.  For most of them, there is no way out of this corporate capitalist prison; for most of them, there is no escape; they can’t even try to escape because they don’t even know they’ve been locked up. They don’t see the guard towers, they don’t see the walls, they don’t even saw the bars of their own cells.  

Chris Hedges . . .    

We consume countless lies daily, false promises that if we spend more money, if we buy this brand or that product, if we vote for this candidate, we will be respected, envied, powerful, loved, and protected.  Reality is dismissed and shunned as an impediment to success, a form of negativity, it is condemned as defeatist.  Those who question, those who doubt, those who are critical, those who are able to confront reality and who grasp the hollowness of this culture, are shunned and condemned for their pessimism.

Human beings have become a commodity. They are objects, like consumer products.  They have no intrinsic value.  Life is a brutal world of unadulterated competition. Life is about the personal humiliation of those who oppose us.  Those who win are the best. Those who lose deserve to be erased.  Compassion, competence, intelligence, and solidarity with others are forms of weakness.

In accordance with these lethal illusions, progressives are weak and deserve to be erased. Conservatives are strong and deserve to rule.  Capitalism is sacred.  Conformity is sanctified. Dissent is condemned.  The corporate media pounds this narrative into the public consciousness every hour of every day, in every conceivable way, through every visual, aural, emotional, and psychological form of communication ever devised.  The consequences have been devastating.      

Afternoon Edition

Afternoon Edition is an Open Thread

37 Top Stories!

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Eyes of the world are on you, UN chief tells climate summit

by Chris Otton, AFP

1 hr 14 mins ago

COPENHAGEN (AFP) – UN chief Ban Ki-moon said world leaders faced a “defining moment in history” as they balanced their nation’s interests with a global clamour to halt the juggernaut of climate change.

With just over three days left to broker one of the most ambitious, yet also fiendishly complex, deals in human history, conference chair Denmark appealed for all sides to embrace the spirit of compromise.

But China and the United States — the world’s two biggest carbon polluters — brushed aside European calls for concessions on emissions reductions, the thorniest issue of all.

Health Care Debacle

There is a lot of blame to go around over the Health Care debacle. A lot of people (DailyKos) are focusing their anger on just Joe Lieberman or Harry Reid.

Harry Reid tried at least to put in some token amount of reform, but then he knuckled under the pressure — not so much from Joe Lieberman — but from Rahm Emaneul and Obama.

You see, Leiberman knows that he can just walk the thing backwards all day long, because Obama and Rahm Emanuel will never arm twist or pressure him — just as they never pressured the Drug and Insurance Companies themselves.  They will always gut the reform part out of the bill, and instead conspire to please whatever corrupt demands that Lieberman and the GOP make of them.

It is time to understand that Obama is just a theater President.  He likes to create the illusion that he is on the side of the people, but he has really done nothing but place pro-WallStreet, pro-Bankster, pro-Corporatist, pro-NAFTA, pro-War, Pro-Drone, and pro-Bush-NEOCON apologists into the key positions of real control and power to ensure that their crooked agenda always carries the day.

Obama thinks nothing of going to the progressive wing and telling them all “you have to get in line now” and making that demand on them (and the House will now cave-in and vote for this charade just for Obama’s sake).  But would Obama ever in a million years ever go to Joe Lieberman and tell him “Joe, you have to get in line“?

Of course not.

This tells you everything you need to know about Obama, and the Obama Presidency.

Stonewalling of Torture Evidence in Britain

A couple of months ago, the British High Court ruled that a document containing information on the torture of Binyam Mohamed should be disclosed in full.  The original document supposedly contains seven paragraphs which describe the brutal methods used to interrogate Mohamed, including waterboarding and slicing his genitals with a scalpel.

David Miliband, the British Foreign Secretary who has been resisting the High Court’s efforts to release the document, now describes the decision as irresponsible.

David Miliband accused the two senior judges of irresponsibly “charging in” to a diplomatically sensitive area over what happened to former terror detainee Binyam Mohamed while held by the Americans in Pakistan.

Jonathan Sumption QC, appearing for the Foreign Secretary, told the Court of Appeal the judges’ stance was “both, in many respects, unnecessary and profoundly damaging to the interests of this country.”

Mr Sumption added: “I would go so far as to say their views were irresponsible.”

Senator Pwnage: Franken Calls Thune On His Bullshit of “Facts” (w/ Extras!)

(Cross-posted from The Free Speech Zone)

I can’t tell you how many times a conservative professor has thrown me and other students a statistic and used it as a jumping point to push his views on others citing the statistic he handed out.

They’re facts, it has a chart in it, the numbers show i’m right.

My Head Asplode!!

It’s almost funny.  Here comes a bus.  Soon my fellow progressives and I will be thrown unceremoniously under it.  The last ten days it’s almost as if the purpose of going to a bus stop is to be run over by oncoming omnibuses: climate change, health care, Afghanistan.  You name it.  Name a progressive cause and it’s been squished in the past two weeks.  And if it hasn’t, if you can think of one that is not now looking like a beer can reconfigured by an oncoming locomotive, just wait tell next week.

I could react with anger to these developments.  Certainly not with surprise.  For example, I almost reacted in anger just a few moments ago when I read this in the New York Times:

Independent Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman says he expects to support the Democrats’ health care legislation as long as any government-run insurance plan stays out of the bill.

Lieberman has been a question mark on the health care legislation for months. To win him over, Senate leaders said late Monday they were backing away from a Medicare expansion Lieberman opposed. They already had dropped a full-blown government insurance program.

Lieberman told reporters Tuesday that if the Medicare expansion and government insurance plan are gone, ”I’m going to be in a position where I can say what I’ve wanted to say all along: that I’m ready to vote for health care reform.”

Senate leaders need Lieberman’s support to secure 60 votes necessary to advance the legislation in the 100-member Senate.

Isn’t that great?  We somehow went from single payer universal health care (that could never pass, they said) to a robust public option (that could never pass, they said) to a weak tea public option for the select few all of whom live down the block (that could never pass, they said) to a medicare buy-in (that could never pass, they said), to nothing (which evidently Uncle Joe approves and which can easily pass because, well, because it’s nothing and nothing is what we have now so it’s easy to pass).

Remind me if you can why I voted in 2006 and 2008 for Democrats?  Remind me, if you’re really creative, why 70% of the population wants health care and they’re just not gonna get it.  Maybe I’m forgetful.  As I said, I almost got angry about this.

I also almost got angry last night when I heard two Democratic Senators on Maddow and Keith explain how much progressives had helped with the HCR bill and how even if it didn’t have a public option or a medicare buy in or anything else of any value to people who actually need health care and insurance, it was still an enormous victory because, get this, it will provide a foundation for the future.  And in the future we can build upon the foundation (if you like this metaphor).  And soon on this foundation there will be a 1700′ tall, glistening sky scraper, a beacon to the nation if not the world, called Universal Health Care and you, my dear friends, can even go in an visit the lobby of this edifice.  Soon, of course, is a term of art.  It means a time between now and the next, distant ice age.  You can visit the magnificent structure for which you have provided the foundation if you can live to be 200 years old without adequate health insurance.  I personally am not taking this as a bet. Are you kidding me?  This is truly a case in which legislative nothing is claimed to be governmental something.  So I was almost getting angry.  And thinking of things I could do to get even (I’m like that.  I don’t apologize for being like that).  I’m a Buddhist, but revenge did cross my mind and perch on my eyebrows like a carrion vulture.

Then I recalled some recent pacifying remarks by Pinche Tejano.  His remarks were to the effect that it was all just a computer game and should be treated as such (his analysis was far more eloquent and intelligible than this very basic boil down of his very subtle and correct idea).  So I began to think about all of this electoral politics as just a game.  I couldn’t get mad about a game that was obviously rigged so that I couldn’t get to the next level, so that I would have an EPIC FAIL.  What’s to get mad about that?  It happens all the time.  Especially to people like me with no game skillz.  No game cred.  In a word, losers. Suckers.  I’m used to being pwned by games.  I don’t like losing, but I don’t get mad about it.  It beat the hell out of being almost angry about politics. Yeah.  All of a sudden all of this electoral politics and senate politics and astroturf movements and Joe Lieberman made sense.  It was all just like son of Pac Man.  It was finally sensible.  Even to me.

And that’s when my head asploded.

It’s just like this:

How did I know that Strongbad was so prescient?  How did I know that Home Star Runner was really equipping me for the future of politics?  My head asploded.


simulposted at The Dream Antilles

It’s Not About Your Feelings

It’s about the issues.


Any serious blogger who writes to cater to the feelings of their readers…is not a serious blogger. Because serious blogging is about issues, is about change, is about influencing the Overton Window, subverting the Dominant Paradigm and moving forward on Things That Matter.

And I am sorry to have to be the one to tell you, snowflake, but your feelings aren’t in any of those categories.

Except for the fact that I am going to have to read through you whining about how horribly offended you are and how terribly disappointed you are that I am willing to hurt you so, your feelings just don’t concern me that much.

Not compared to people dying in Afghanistan, people dying for lack of health care, the fact that the US of A fucking tortured a bunch of people to death and the fact that families are getting kicked out of their homes and children are starving.

When I stack that up against how what I say in critique or condemnation of the System that continuously perpetrates these outrages for no good reason makes you …..feel, well GOSH Jimmy. Guess which comes out on top of my list of priorities.

I know your feelings are critically important…to you. I know that because of that fact you expect me to take your Very Important feelings into consideration when writing about Obama or the Democrats or pooties or whatever….but really get over yourself. There are 6 million, nine hundred and ninety nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety nine other life forms on this planet that are remarkably similar to you, coppertop. Get over yourself.

I am generally a nice guy, so I will try to ‘hear you’ and try to have some understanding and compassion for you, if I have time.

But I care more about the people that are dying and suffering and starving than about the blog persona your (most likely) privileged white ass has created to make you feel important.


The issues are important.

The solutions to the problems posed by those issues are important.

The Cause of moving Freedom, Equality and Justice forward in this crazy world is important.

So if you want to be important…..grab a mop. Contribute something important. Say something that moves us froward on the path to Progress. And here’s a clue, telling everyone that you are offended…..again….when MOST of what you do is sit there and WAIT to be offended so you can tell everyone how that (whatever “that” is today )makes you feel, does not fall into those categories.

This isn’t frikkin Oprah, this is politics.

Get over yourself.

And get to work.

On the issues.

Open Prairie


Throwing It All Away

From TPM

Hoyer: House Will Accept Public Option-Free Bill

House Democrats can’t always get what they want, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters today. But if they spin it right, he said, they just might find they got what they need.

Faced with a likely public option-free health care reform bill from the Senate, Hoyer said House Democrats will vote to move the reform process forward without government-run insurance included.

Much as his colleagues in the Senate Democratic leadership did last night, Hoyer said the political reality in the Senate means Democrats have to look past things like the public option to the “guts” of the bill itself.

“[Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid does not have the votes for a public option, obviously,” Hoyer said. “In a world of alternatives, you have to take what you can get.”

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