Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Filibuster does NOT equal "nuclear" anything

Using the words "nuclear," "nuclear option," and especially "nuclear war" when referencing the Senate filibuster is the most insidious bit of propaganda I have ever seen.

To make the filibuster equivalent to a nuclear device or nuclear war does two things.

1) It makes the concept more acceptable.

2) It will confuse people when it is used.

Those of you who go along with it's use are the stupidest bunch of brains America has yet produced because when the time comes that an actual nuclear bomb is used, you will holler so loud that you thought they were talking about the filibuster and not about the most destructive power on earth to vaporized hundreds of thousands of people in an instant. And because it is radioactive it will go on killing for weeks, months, and years afterward, contaminating the very air you breath, the water you drink, and the food you eat.

America deserves to be nuked for having such stupid people in it. Maybe then the survivors will know the difference between the bomb and filibuster and will stop using the words improperly as a joke. Hahahahah. The joke will be on you when you need 1,000,000 sun block on a day you thought they were talking about the filibuster.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

On submarines, warfare, guns, and taking on the NRA

In watching a U-boat show on Discovery Channel today, one discussion was on the immorality of submarines in warfare. In WWII submarines were immoral because it did not allow for rescuing any survivors of a sinking ship, which up to this point was considered the moral law of the sea. Rendering aid is a binding moral code, even of enemy combatants. The point here is the breaching of a moral code.

Segue into guns and Japanese sword culture. The Japanese had banned the gun because using a gun does not require the same kind of courage and discipline that is required to be a samurai using a sword in warfare. And let's remember that samurai culture in Japan had existed for a thousand years before the gun got there.

In warfare, use of a sword is up close, personal, and requires skills that have nothing to do with mechanical technology. Whereas, guns, especially machine guns, is killing at a distance and reduces the human to the machine level where only pointing, shooting, reloading, and preventing jamming are the necessary skills of survival. It does not actually take courage to kill someone with a gun. All that is really required is accurate aim. It is far harder to kill a person or to kill as many without the use of a ballistic or explosive device, but I'm not addressing bombs in this essay. The point here is another example of the erosion of morality in warfare and killing because of technology trumping morality.

This is part of the background for taking on the NRA's assertion that "guns don't kill people, people kill people."

While it is quite true that it is a person using a gun that the weapon is made capable of killing people, the use of such a device requires very little moral disciple in order to kill. Particularly when terms like "going postal" or when referencing high school's like Columbine are brought up. The ready availability of such weapons puts a great deal of destructive power in the hands of someone who should not have such access. Try shooting up a post office, an emergency room, or high school with a knife or baseball bat and then see if the fatality rate would be the same as with a gun.

In other words, it is the destructive power of the bullet that does the killing, because if the person with murderous intent were wielding some other weapon they would simply not be able to kill as easily or as many.

I'm not addressing the other argument from the NRA that if guns were outlawed, only outlaws would have guns. That will be for another essay some other time.

For this essay, the issue is owning a gun. The mere act of owning one requires nothing more than its purchase. I'm not even sure one needs to produce a certificate of gun training and saftey to buy one. It especially does not require any moral disciple in the same way that use of a sword by knights or samurai or other warriors required a moral code of conduct while in civil society or on the battlefield.

The only reason to have a gun (as opposed to a hunting rifle) is either out of an artificially created fear against an aggressor, or to instill fear in others. There is no honor, no disciple, and no moral code that goes with mere ownership. It is the gun put in the hands of the insane and ignorant that is a grave danger in civil society and has made war the height of immorality.

Reduced to a soundbite then:

guns = fear and cowardice

The culture of fear that has been created in America leads to shooting first and asking questions later, after it is too late. How stupid can the NRA be?

Thursday, April 14, 2005

The big question

The biggest question I have is how to move debate from single issues to a general direction?

For example, the wingnuts have this "culture of life" crap to address the abortion "issue." But it is obvious that they have anything but a real reverence for life given the atrocities being committed in the illegal war in Iraq, the Bankruptcy Bill, privatizing social security, exporting livelihoods (jobs), preventing universal healthcare, and generally pissing off other countries. The moral outrage on their behavior is astronomical.

So, how can we turn this around and make what they are doing a serious moral failure of leadership?

More importantly, how can we get other groups to start working on the same wavelength, whatever wavelength we can get agreement on?

Hm. Perhaps, this is the one area that the Democrats have truly gone out to lunch on: a sheer lack of unity.

So, strategically, what we need to do is to begin developing unity among the various progressive groups so that we're working on the same wavelength instead of everyone doing their own thing with the result that the whole thing twitches in some apoplectic seizure that everyone ignores.

Thoughts on how to get unity?

Monday, April 11, 2005

Bill Bradley & Dem Infrastructure

From the NY Times:

Five months after the presidential election Democrats are still pointing fingers at one another and trying to figure out why Republicans won. Was the problem the party's position on social issues or taxes or defense or what? Were there tactical errors made in the conduct of the campaign? Were the right advisers heard? Was the candidate flawed?

Before deciding what Democrats should do now, it's important to see what Republicans have done right over many years. When the Goldwater Republicans lost in 1964, they didn't try to become Democrats. They tried to figure out how to make their own ideas more appealing to the voters. As part of this effort, they turned to Lewis Powell, then a corporate lawyer and soon to become a member of the United States Supreme Court. In 1971 he wrote a landmark memo for the United States Chamber of Commerce in which he advocated a sweeping, coordinated and long-term effort to spread conservative ideas on college campuses, in academic journals and in the news media.

To further the party's ideological and political goals, Republicans in the 1970's and 1980's built a comprehensive structure based on Powell's blueprint. Visualize that structure as a pyramid.

You've probably heard some of this before, but let me run through it again. Big individual donors and large foundations - the Scaife family and Olin foundations, for instance - form the base of the pyramid. They finance conservative research centers like the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, entities that make up the second level of the pyramid.

The ideas these organizations develop are then pushed up to the third level of the pyramid - the political level. There, strategists like Karl Rove or Ralph Reed or Ken Mehlman take these new ideas and, through polling, focus groups and careful attention to Democratic attacks, convert them into language that will appeal to the broadest electorate. That language is sometimes in the form of an assault on Democrats and at other times in the form of advocacy for a new policy position. The development process can take years. And then there's the fourth level of the pyramid: the partisan news media. Conservative commentators and networks spread these finely honed ideas.

At the very top of the pyramid you'll find the president. Because the pyramid is stable, all you have to do is put a different top on it and it works fine.

It is not quite the "right wing conspiracy" that Hillary Clinton described, but it is an impressive organization built consciously, carefully and single-mindedly. The Ann Coulters and Grover Norquists don't want to be candidates for anything or cabinet officers for anyone. They know their roles and execute them because they're paid well and believe, I think, in what they're saying. True, there's lots of money involved, but the money makes a difference because it goes toward reinforcing a structure that is already stable.

To understand how the Democratic Party works, invert the pyramid. Imagine a pyramid balancing precariously on its point, which is the presidential candidate.

Democrats who run for president have to build their own pyramids all by themselves. There is no coherent, larger structure that they can rely on. Unlike Republicans, they don't simply have to assemble a campaign apparatus - they have to formulate ideas and a vision, too. Many Democratic fundraisers join a campaign only after assessing how well it has done in assembling its pyramid of political, media and idea people.

There is no clearly identifiable funding base for Democratic policy organizations, and in the frantic campaign rush there is no time for patient, long-term development of new ideas or of new ways to sell old ideas. Campaigns don't start thinking about a Democratic brand until halfway through the election year, by which time winning the daily news cycle takes precedence over building a consistent message. The closest that Democrats get to a brand is a catchy slogan.

Democrats choose this approach, I believe, because we are still hypnotized by Jack Kennedy, and the promise of a charismatic leader who can change America by the strength and style of his personality. The trouble is that every four years the party splits and rallies around several different individuals at once. Opponents in the primaries then exaggerate their differences and leave the public confused about what Democrats believe.

In such a system tactics trump strategy. Candidates don't risk talking about big ideas because the ideas have never been sufficiently tested. Instead they usually wind up arguing about minor issues and express few deep convictions. In the worst case, they embrace "Republican lite" platforms - never realizing that in doing so they're allowing the Republicans to define the terms of the debate.

A party based on charisma has no long-term impact. Think of our last charismatic leader, Bill Clinton. He was president for eight years. He was the first Democrat to be re-elected since Franklin Roosevelt. He was smart, skilled and possessed great energy. But what happened? At the end of his tenure in the most powerful office in the world, there were fewer Democratic governors, fewer Democratic senators, members of Congress and state legislators and a national party that was deep in debt. The president did well. The party did not. Charisma didn't translate into structure.

If Democrats are serious about preparing for the next election or the next election after that, some influential Democrats will have to resist entrusting their dreams to individual candidates and instead make a commitment to build a stable pyramid from the base up. It will take at least a decade's commitment, and it won't come cheap. But there really is no other choice.