March to End the War

September 21, 2007

A shot from the Answer Coalition's web site.

One of the great things about living in DC is that occasionally a progressively-minded acquaintance from college will give you a call and ask if you want to attend an anti-war march that weekend in your city. I was one of the 10,000 (or tens of thousands, or hundred thousand, depending on who you believe) who marched from the White House to the Capitol chanting anti-war slogans on Saturday, dodging anti-peace protesters’ verbal assaults and steely glances.

I can’t say I agreed with all the protesters — their views varied too much for that. Immediate withdrawal is unrealistic; support for the Iraqi resistance is…let’s just say off-message. But it seemed like the group of protesters, contrasted with the counter-demonstrators along the marching route, were a little too representative of the way our democracy is currently (dys)functioning.

For the first few blocks, the streets were lined mostly with supporters, but when we hit Pennsylvania Avenue the scene changed dramatically. Police barricades separated the marchers from the counter-demonstrators, but could block the offensive and inflammatory gestures and words thrown in both directions. Signs on both sides of barricade and issue were occasionally thoughtful, and many were oversimplified, but some were downright mean-spirited (“Traitors,” “Cindy Sheehan is Osama Bin Laden’s Best Friend,” “Hippies Smell” — and those were just from the other side). When the signs on the sidelines got nasty, many marchers started holding up a peace sign – oversimplifying our/themselves. Some people participating in the peace march became, ironically, violently angry. I asked a man in front of me to calm down at one point when he started screaming expletives and epithets at the Vietnam vets we encountered as we approached the Capitol. (He didn’t respond well.)

We all were there trying to make a point about the course our country should take in the future, but there was little unity within opposing factions and little dialogue between them. This is understandable – the crowd consisted of thousands of people with no real plan to rally behind. When our leaders can not communicate and work together to come up with a plan with potential that can be expressed concisely (and thus not by Sen. John Kerry), they give the people nothing to rally behind. That’s not to say that any or all factions of the stop the war movement would be contented with a proposal in Congress; our nation is too diverse and, I would like to think, too skeptical to blindly support whatever plan comes along. But if our leaders don’t take a shot at real dialogue, we will just be stuck, in the middle of the street, shouting at each other in hoarse voices and not hearing a word.

All the Nelson Mandelas were killed in Iraq before we even got there, President Bush lamented in his press conference earlier this week. Now that we’re there, though, all those who could potentially unite our country in its future action are silent in our own, established, self-congratulatory democracy. That’s why I’m also ambivalent toward all the presidential candidates – they are so focused on campaigning with their various messages of change and hope that they fail to foster either in their current roles. If one of them were to stand up with 66 or 67 senators behind him or her, and propose a workable solution that could withstand a Presidential veto – that might get the Democrats a little excited.


An actual Conservative/Progressive Debate

March 23, 2007

The other night on The Daily Show Jon Stewart interviewed former Ambassador John Bolton in a very revealing 9 minutes. It’s really worth the time to download.

While there is a lot to talk about here, and I hope others add to this, I want to start with one of the central tenets of Bolton’s philosophy outlined in this show. He believes that the Executive Branch needs to be filled with ideological twins of whoever is holding the office. By his rationale, “The point of electing the president as head of the Executive Branch is to give the people the chance to to dictate the direction the entire Executive Branch is headed.”

While this is a wonderfully phrased response, what he actually means and what the question really amounts to is “do you believe that the purpose of the Executive Branch is to lead the people in an ideological driven direction or should it be led in a direction that is best for the nation regardless of ideology. By Bolton’s logic any president can and should lead the country in the ideological direction that he has been elected to convey, but the way I see it, is that the President is in charge of the nation, both supporters and dissenters, and subsequently must do his best to lead the country towards to common good, not the ideological good.

Stewart does a wonderful job saying that Lincoln surrounded himself with people who passionately disagreed with his policies and Bolton is wrong to say that it is untrue. Read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Book, Team of Rivals. Surrounding oneself with people who echo your beliefs leads to a) incompetence (see Michael “Brownie” Brown), b) people who represent organizations they disapprove of (Bolton) or c) both (Gonzales). Stewart is absolutely right that it is like naming Captain Ahab the head of the Save the Whales Club. Nothing gets done for the common good.

I hope you enjoy this debate. Two different sets of ideals being articulated, and please comment on what I haven’t mentioned.

I See Bad News A-Risin’

January 31, 2007

Bush Press Conference

I’m reading a book, News: The Politics of Illusion, which broaches the subject of Bush’s at first tenuous, later discredited claims about terrorist connections and WMD in Iraq — a subject the media were glad to continue discussing as possibilities long after they were proven to be fairy tales.

I’m experiencing an eerie sense of familiarity with a few articles in the “liberal” media in the past weeks — starting on Jan. 26, “Bush Defends Moving Against Iranians Who Help Shiites Attack U.S.-Led Forces in Iraq,” with this lede (preempting criticism, yes, it’s spelled that way):

President Bush and his senior aides on Friday justified American actions against Iranian operatives inside Iraq as necessary to protect American troops and Iraqis, and said they would continue as long as Tehran kept up what they called its support for Shiites involved in sectarian attacks.

A full ten graphs down the page comes some detail I would have appreciated a little sooner, and which most readers never hit:

President Bush kicked off a campaign of escalated rhetoric against Iran during a televised address to the nation on Jan. 10. For months, officials from across the Bush administration have accused Iran of supplying Shiite militias with high-tech explosives and training them to carry out attacks with roadside bombs.

Administration officials have thus far provided little detailed public evidence to support these claims. Officials said that Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador in Baghdad, is planning a news conference for Wednesday during which he will present a dossier of Iran’s efforts to fuel sectarian violence in Iraq.

Incidentally, Khalilzad spoke of trying to help increase security and open a bank, but that’s neither here nor there — the US is giving Iran the silent treatment, anyway. In today’s “Iran May Have Trained Attackers That Killed 5 American Soldiers, U.S. and Iraqis Say”, it gets better.

BAGHDAD, Jan. 30 — Investigators say they believe that attackers who used American-style uniforms and weapons to infiltrate a secure compound and kill five American soldiers in Karbala on Jan. 20 may have been trained and financed by Iranian agents, according to American and Iraqi officials knowledgeable about the inquiry.

The officials said the sophistication of the attack astonished investigators, who doubt that Iraqis could have carried it out on their own — one reason a connection to Iran is being closely examined. Officials cautioned that no firm conclusions had been drawn and did not reveal any direct evidence of a connection.

The worst part of the Bush’s lies in the run up to Iraq is that he cried wolf. And the worst part about the media is they keep loading their shotguns, reporting suspicions as facts, then only later revealing they lack substance. Bush should learn a different way to deal with hostile nations, and the press should think about the implications of reporting such claims as news– otherwise the U.S. is in for another round of hype, topple, truth, and quagmire.

Cheney Hates Wolf Blitzer

January 27, 2007

It’s very sad that the best analysis of this administration often comes in the form of satire. Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert have been the only people I’ve heard who discredited the Bush Administration when they ask for “another plan” in Iraq by mentioning umm…the Iraq Study Group? Where news fails, fake news steps in.

This interview between Blitzer and Cheney was really something to behold. But the only thing being discussed on the MSM (and I’m gracefully including you Faux News) is one question Blitzer asked about Mary Cheney. Jon Stewart a) analyzes the interview for 10 minutes b) notes that when the GOP platform and the president have sponsored cruel and inhumane family policies, that question is fair and c) splices past and recent videos to show administration lies (why don’t others do this???)

The right will often flippantly brush aside both the youth vote and the gravitas of the Daily Show et al… but they may be the only ones shining a light on what is happening in the political world.

Substance, Style, Medium & Message

January 22, 2007


Marshall McLuhan famously wrote that “the media is the message” and I wanted to analyze the exploratory announcements of some of the presidential contenders. What I’m looking at is the manner in which they announced rather than what they said:

Barack Obama announced here that he was running and what is noticeable about this announcement is almost more how it didn’t happen than how it did. Several days before, Obama spoke at Ebeneezer Church where Martin Luther King preached on the national holiday in his name, and many political insiders believed that this would be where he would announce to the country his presidential plans. Obama instead said that this was not an appropriate time to make such an announcement. It can be argued that Obama does not want to be seen as simply the “black” candidate, and while there would be something symbolic about an MLK day announcement, it would be equally limiting in its national exposure. While Obama will not downplay his race, I believe he will talk about transcending race and culture to bring America together.

Obama’s use of the internet to make the announcement is also important. He wants to portray himself as the youthful and envigorating candidate. Howard Dean began the use of the internet with his phenomenal fundraising efforts in 2003-2004, but 2006 and youtube (Macaca anyone?) has placed a newfound importance on viral video and the internet. By making such an important speech purely online, Obama is riding the new political wave for all it is worth.

Hillary Clinton’s notification of her presidential aspirations began here. Similar to Obama the announcement is done online but rather than a closeup shot of the candidate as done with Obama, Clinton’s pronouncement is done with far softer lighting and on a floral couch. I think this is clearly done to “soften” the admittedly hard or polarizing image. While her gender will also play a role in the campaign, this annonucement (its’ language eerily similar to Obama’s) is meant not to focus on being a woman, but to focus on being an approachable human being. In a direct dichotomy to President Bush who everyone wanted to have a beer with, Clinton may be seen as too professional and too smart and thus unapproachable. The timing of her announcement is also interesting…something anoodle and I discussed here.

The final announcement I wanted to briefly mention was that of Sen Chris Dodd. He announced in a slightly more traditional way although Don Imus is a weird radio host (both outside the mainstream Washington Beltway and yet respected enough to garner interviews with candidates on both sides of the aisle. To the national community, Dodd has very little name recognition and the fact that he appeared on such a (forgive me) 20th century media doesn’t help expose his face to a national audience. What is also interesting is the decision to not form an exploratory committee but rather just jump straight into the political fray. There is something refreshing about someone ignoring political precedent (and bullshit in all honesty) and simply saying they want to be president.

This will be a year with more concern placed on image and appeal than ever, and it would be a wise idea for us to watch every image that the campaigns want us to see (and those that they don’t want us to see) to examine candidates control the media.

Olbermann is simply the best….

January 12, 2007

olbermann thumb
For those who haven’t been watching, I strongly recommend tuning into MSNBC at 8 pm on weekdays. Keith Olbermann has been the most outspoken journalist against the war, and he recently has started a series of “Special comments” addressing many different political issues, a la Edward R. Murrow . I thought his special comment on 9/11 was outstanding, but tonight’s is simply the best I’ve heard. He delivers it better than it reads, Crooks and Liars has the video, and here’s the link to read it in it’s entirety:

Bush’s legacy: The president who cried wolf
Olbermann: Bush’s strategy fails because it depends on his credibility
By Keith Olbermann
Anchor, ‘Countdown’

Updated: 8:53 p.m. ET Jan 11, 2007

Only this president, only in this time, only with this dangerous, even messianic certitude, could answer a country demanding an exit strategy from Iraq, by offering an entrance strategy for Iran.

Only this president could look out over a vista of 3,008 dead and 22,834 wounded in Iraq, and finally say, “Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me” — only to follow that by proposing to repeat the identical mistake … in Iran.

Only this president could extol the “thoughtful recommendations of the Iraq Study Group,” and then take its most far-sighted recommendation — “engage Syria and Iran” — and transform it into “threaten Syria and Iran” — when al-Qaida would like nothing better than for us to threaten Syria, and when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would like nothing better than to be threatened by us.

This is diplomacy by skimming; it is internationalism by drawing pictures of Superman in the margins of the text books; it is a presidency of Cliff Notes.

And to Iran and Syria — and, yes, also to the insurgents in Iraq — we must look like a country run by the equivalent of the drunken pest who gets battered to the floor of the saloon by one punch, then staggers to his feet, and shouts at the other guy’s friends, “Ok, which one of you is next?”

Mr. Bush, the question is no longer “what are you thinking?,” but rather “are you thinking at all?”

© 2007 MSNBC Interactive
© 2007

When practical becomes politicized

January 3, 2007

After anoodle posted about the polls that show an overwhelming majority of Americans support the upcoming and crucial first undertakings of the Congress, I thought I should add to the information by showing some of the ways that information can be misleading or untrue regarding the initiatives that our government is about to set out on.

Media Matters has listed many of the upcoming Republican arguments we will be hearing during debate on the proposed bills, and while I recommend that everyone read the entire thing some are worth noting in particular:

Minimum wage hike will result in job losses and discourage job creation. Conservatives commonly argue that increasing the minimum wage will negatively affect the economy, resulting in stagnating job growth and higher unemployment. However, numerous studies have examined recent increases in the minimum wage at both the federal and state level and found that higher wages do not result in job loss. One recent example is Oregon, which increased its minimum wage to $7.50 in 2002. Four years later, “Oregon’s experience suggests the most strident doomsayers were wrong,” according to a November 3 Wall Street Journal article. Indeed, private, nonfarm payrolls have increased there at twice the national rate, industries that employ many minimum-wage workers have experienced considerable job growth, and unemployment has dropped to 5.4 percent from 7.6 percent in 2002.

Republicans claiming they care about small business owners and the middle class will constantly claim that a raised minimum wage is unhealthy for the economy…NOT TRUE.

Deficits under Bush are smaller — as a percentage of the economy — than under Clinton. Some conservatives, when faced with Democratic criticism of the Bush economic record, have claimed that the deficits under Bush — when measured as a percentage of the gross domestic product — are half the size of those experienced under Clinton. In fact, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the average federal budget deficit during Clinton’s two terms (FY 1994 to FY 2001) was 0.1 percent of GDP. Meanwhile, during Bush’s first term (FY 2002 to FY 2005), the average was 2.75 percent of GDP.

As the article states, PAYGO (the pay-as-you-go budgetary policy) led to the surplus in the 1990s. It is also worth noting that the middle-class is worse off today than they were five years ago, and that has nothing to do with 9/11. Watch economist Paul Krugman here explain how the middle class is worse off.

Hope when we hear these myths on television and in print, people will be able to respond with fact.