Saturday, August 16, 2008

Five years


Yesterday marked the fifth anniversary of the launching of this blog at its original location. A few name changes, a few staffing changes, and a near brush with Ted Barlow's Disease later, it's still here. Go figure.

I decided to start blogging mainly as a means to vent, after being exposed to way too much Faux News during a trip to visit in-laws in the summer of 2003 - the sheer volume of pro-war and pro-Bush propaganda had just about driven me nuts, and when I got back home, one of my first actions was to get a Blogger account (blogging was a bit different back in the pre-Google days, in some ways better, in some ways worse, but I digress). The blog was launched on what was called "Fair and Balanced Friday" in 2003, originally under the name "Fair and Balanced? Yeah, Right!" I quickly realized that was an awful name and settled on The Left End of the Dial - a somewhat less lame title that made reference to an old Replacements tune ("Left of the Dial") and my favorite radio stations (usually the college run stations located at the left end of the dial, back in the good old days when radios still had dials). After an address change precipitated by a Blogger-induced disaster, and the subsequent readership loss, I began pondering either a Ted Barlow-style fate or perhaps some attempt at revitalization including a name change. The title Notes From Underground emerged as a possibility due to an ongoing interest in existentialist thought, the novella by Dostoevsky by the same title, and a shared criticism of what the protagonist of Dostoevsky's protagonist deemed "men of action" who go through the motions of life without engaging in a critical examination of their surroundings.

I might still have a veteran reader from back around five years ago, but most of the folks in the comments are very recent arrivals. I suspect that once it became obvious that I wasn't going to be a reliable pro-Democrat blogger, that became a turn-off to those who had pro-Democrat leanings. Being anti-Bush might have been one of the few areas where those comprising the so-called "left blogosphere" actually agreed. Beyond that, there may have been some variations along the anti-war theme (I'm basically against all forms of state terrorism, which is what wars amount to) among what passes for "left" in the US, but that's really about it. Really, a lot of the so-called "left" was never all that "left" to begin with - that includes those who are partisan Democrats who seem to be completely down with the program of neoliberal globalist capitalism, as well as some of 9-11 truth folks (such as Kurt Nimmo) who although very consistent critics of the Bush regime tended to associate themselves with some sites and individuals who promote a right-wing perspective that I find more than a little unsettling.

There is not much to add to that, I suppose. The Blogtopia Class of 2003 offered up a number of great blogs, a few of which I'll mention (and please try not to take offense if I leave you out): Enemy of the State (Ductape Fatwa's blog, which went silent a couple years ago), American Leftist, Left I on the News, Mickey Z: Cool Observer, Orcinus, Baghdad Burning, Lotus - Surviving a Dark Time, and I'm sure a host of others who will slip my mind.

As long as I can keep finding access to a computer with Internet access and of course as long as I can draw a breath, this blog will likely continue.

Quotable

Clarence Page sez:
People who want to believe Obama is Muslim or some other deception are hardly going to let something so inconsequential as truth get in the way.
Page gets a bit sanguine about the Obama campaign, but beyond that offers some useful commentary - in particular that quote above. There is a fairly sizable segment of the population that is not only stupid or ignorant (whichever term you prefer), but seems to enjoy wallowing in their stupidity or ignorance. I've considered the cottage industry of urban legends about Obama (and previously Kerry, Gore, and the Clintons) to fall squarely in that category. By the way, as an aside, for fairness and balance, some urban legends are being spread about McCain as well (a couple of which have been falsified). The now legendary "whitey tape" that had the goons on Larry Johnson's blog No Quarter comes readily to mind (along with the rest of the rumor mongering that probably still goes on over there). Jerome Corsi's recent hatchet job is merely the latest.

What has consistently struck me has been the way that the "true believers" continue to go on spreading whatever rumor they're peddling even after confronted with data falsifying their claims. If it's a face-to-face encounter, I've actually seen the smirks on their faces, almost like those of three-year-old who's just done something wrong but proceeds to do it any way. The point of efforts to counter the urban legends that spread is not so much to change the minds of their true believers - those folks are likely completely lost to reason - but rather to provide some food for thought to others who are otherwise thoughtful but uninformed about a particular person or issue. Snopes.com is often a good starting point when in doubt.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Swift Boat Dude is Nutso

We knew he was a racist, homophobic, and just plain wingnutty asshole, from his past behavior (and from what can be surmised, his present behavior as well), but he's also one of the 9-11 "truthers". Hell, the level of fanaticism that many of these so-called "truth-seekers" possess is something to behold - I can bear witness to that. Obama is definitely not "all that" in my opinion, but geez, if you're going to diss the guy, at least do so on actual issues and use credible people. Corsi is a few bricks short of a load.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I guess it sucks to be Nancy

Not only is her book a flop, but now she has to deal with pissed off Americans wherever she goes while promoting said book. Boo hoo. The story from The Public Record:

Halfway through her discussion at The American University of Judaism, where more than 300 people paid $30 each to hear Pelosi speak about her upbringing and her family's impact on her political career as detailed in her book Know Your Power: A Message to America’s Daughters, the topic shifted to Congress's historically low approval rating and how it reflected on Pelosi’s tenure as Speaker.

American University of Judaism's Rabbi Robert Wexler, who moderated the 75 minute discussion, asked Pelosi to analyze a recent Rasmussen poll that found nine percent of voters polled believed Congress was doing a good job, far lower than President Bush's overall approval rating.

According to the results of the July poll, 72 percent of voters believe Congress is more interested in furthering their own political careers. Fourteen percent believe members of Congress are genuinely interested in helping people.

Pelosi responded to the statistics by defending her performance and the performance of her Democratic colleagues in Congress.

"I preside over the greatest collection of integrity and idealism," Pelosi said.

Prior to her appearance in West Los Angeles Monday evening, CNN’s Larry King interviewed Pelosi. She told King she was willing to drop her staunch opposition to offshore drilling and would likely allow the House to vote on the issue.

She said, in her opinion, the reason behind Congress’s historically low approval rating was largely due to the fact that Democrats could not muster up the votes to end the Iraq war, which the Democratic Speaker from San Francisco said she could not do much about because of the Democrats’ razor-thin majority in both Houses.

Wexler, however, continued to press Pelosi to elaborate on her response given that the Rasmussen poll suggested that a wide-range of issues beyond the Iraq war was responsible for Congress’s single-digit approval.

Pelosi, visibly flustered, said she was well aware that “much more work needs to be done.”

In November 2006, Pelosi explained the significance behind the record voter turnout that helped shift the balance of power in Washington for the first time in 12 years.

“People voted for change and they voted for Democrats who will take our country in a new direction,” Pelosi said during a victory speech in San Francisco on Nov. 8, 2006.

But Pelosi, who became House Speaker, never managed to exact the change she promised. She explained that she and her colleagues tried vigorously to pass legislation to end the war in Iraq.

"The public doesn’t want to know about process and 60 votes, they want outcomes, they want results," Pelosi said, explaining why Democrats could not end the war as promised prior to the midterm 2006 elections.

But Pelosi’s comments appeared disingenuous to many, since she was largely responsible for crafting an appropriations bill in backroom discussions with House Democratic leaders, passed in June, and then worked secretly with the White House budget director offering up concessions on Iraq war benchmarks if Bush would agree to the domestic spending attached to the final bill with little debate preceding a vote on the measure.

In fact, since the electoral victories in November 2006, the Democratic-controlled Congress has approved more than $300 billion in emergency spending bills for Iraq and Afghanistan without the benchmarks or withdrawal timetables that Pelosi and other leaders said they would demand.

When Pelosi launched into the reasons an administration led by presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain would be dangerous for the country, identifying the candidate's support for an endless war in Iraq and his intention to uphold many of the questionable constitutional interpretations relating to torture and civil liberties during the Bush administration, Pelosi said the only way to "dig our way out" is by electing Sen. Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee.

“Whether it’s the deficit or the challenges to the constitution we have to dig our way out,” Pelosi said, adding “this election is like death for life on this planet as we know it today."

Her response led Peter Thottam, founder of the LA Impeachment Center, to demand Pelosi "do her job" and pursue impeachment hearings against President Bush for launching a war on false pretenses.

"Who gave you the right to take the constitution and shove it down the toilet? Who gave you the right to take impeachment off the table? Nobody told them to do this,” Thottam shouted at Pelosi moments before Secret Service agents removed him from the packed auditorium and turned him over to officers with the Los Angeles Police Department. “One million Iraqis are dead. Five thousand Americans are dead. You have destroyed the First, Second, Fourth, Fifth and Eighth Amendments."

Pelosi seemed stunned by the outburst, but the way she addressed Thottam’s charges further fanned the flames and led to additional verbal protests over her decision not to hold the administration accountable for what many individuals in the audience believe are High Crimes and Misdemeanors by President Bush.

When a member of the activist group Code Pink stood up and insisted Pelosi brush up on her reading regarding evidence of the Bush administration's long list of alleged constitutional violations, Pelosi reacted angrily.

"I take an oath of office to uphold the constitution of the United States and don't tell me that I don't do that,” Pelosi said, using hand gestures to emphasize her disdain over the impeachment demands. "Why don't you go picket the Republicans in Congress that will not allow us to have a vote on the war. This is not very effective. Not very effective."

"As Speaker of the house, the third highest office, first is the president, then vice president, and then Speaker, I take my responsibilities deadly seriously,” Pelosi said. “I try to promote bipartisanship but that's not what the other side wants."

Before Election 2006, Pelosi declared impeachment “off the table,” in part, to avoid alarming centrist voters. Now, with Democrats hoping to gain additional seats in Election 2008, a similar political calculation applies, fearing a backlash against a last-minute drive to impeach Bush and Cheney. Bush knows that Pelosi long ago rejected impeachment proceedings, the one instrument included in the Constitution for Congress to wield against a President who has abused his powers.

Pelosi's refusal to consider impeachment hearings or cut off funding for the Iraq war prompted antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan last year to launch a campaign for Pelosi's congressional seat. On Monday, San Francisco election officials said Sheehan has obtained enough registered voters on her petitions to be placed on the November ballot. Sheehan, whose son Casey was killed in Iraq in 2004, is running as an Independent.

At the conclusion of Monday evening’s presentation, Pelosi signed books but refused to answer questions about her policy decisions. The Public Record asked Pelosi whether she would authorize the full House to vote on contempt charges against former White House political adviser Karl Rove, who has refused to comply with a congressional subpoena to testify about his role in the alleged political prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, a Democrat.

Immediately following his query to Pelosi, The Public Record's Alan Breslauer was grabbed by Secret Service and dragged away from the table where Pelosi was signing copies of her book. The Speaker did respond to Breslauer's question, however, saying a vote on contempt charges against Rove is "up to [House Judiciary Committee Chairman John] Conyers."

More here and here. There are some choice quotes in that article. I'm assuming that the quote of Pelosi saying “this election is like death for life on this planet as we know it today" is a typo, albeit unwittingly accurate nonetheless. Currently, if one goes to the usual Dem blogs, such as Daily Kos, one can be treated to the usual bunch of Nancybots trying to defend their Dear Leader, often resorting to being superficial and pedantic in the process. No matter what, there's still no getting around the basic facts that Pelosi's reign has been an abysmal failure from the get-go, from the rubber-stamping of Junior Caligula's war funding requests (that have only escalated the genocide in Iraq, and further destabilized Afghanistan), but has failed to impeach the Bush/Cheney regime, failed Americans on issues of basic civil liberties, and failed at spending at a more sustainable level. No wonder that Congress' approval rating is now just a few percentage points away from a statistical dead heat with leprosy. Sadly, Nancy's one selling point is bringing pork back to her district, and she'll probably be reelected on that basis alone, although some of the latte sippers in her district might feel just a twinge of remorse about voting for one of Bu$hCo's most reliable enablers over the last couple years (after all, she is a Democrat, and that seems all that matters). I wonder, too, how many of her Code Pink detractors will still continue voting for her and for fellow party members who have been just as shamelessly enabling this regime's worst offenses. Call me cynical.

Oh yeah - let's risk involvement in another quagmire

Junior Caligula is committing troops to Georgia (the nation next door to Russia, and not the state next to Florida), either the stupidest move on the planet or a dreamed-of opportunity for our political class's warmongers or a combination of both. If nothing else, the occasion also offers the excuse for a bit more good old-fashioned American hypocrisy:
Oh, by the way: Butt-Thumper [i.e., George W. Bush] took the opportunity of the Georgian mission announcement to condemn the Kremlin once again for invading a sovereign nation and occupying it with military forces. And once again -- inexplicably -- the earth didn't immediately crack open and swallow him up out of sheer embarrassment that such a blood-soaked, mass-murdering hypocrite is allowed to walk around in comfort and safety and privilege and power.
Don't forget: Obama is once more showing his "progressive" side by being about as warmongerish as the rest of 'em in DC.

Gitmo on the Platte

Jeralyn sez:

Welcome to Gitmo of the Rockies, or as Denver locals are calling it, Gitmo on the Platte (for the nearby Platte River.)

Denver's CBS4 News reporter Rick Salinger scores an exclusive on Denver's plans for arrested protesters in the event of mass arrests -- as proof, he and his camera people got inside and shot this video before being asked to leave.

The facility is a city owned warehouse.

Inside are dozens are metal cages. They are made out of chain link fence material and topped by rolls of barbed wire.

"This is a secured environment," Capt. Frank Gale of the Denver Sheriff's Department told CBS4. "We're concerned about how that's going to be utilized by people who will be potentially disruptive."

More....

Each of the fenced areas is about 5 yards by 5 yards and there is a lock on the door. A sign on the wall reads "Warning! Electric stun devices used in this facility."

Denver is expected to make an announcement about the facility next week. The ACLU of Colorado has concerns now:

The American Civil Liberties Union says it will ask the City of Denver how prisoners will get access to food and water, bathrooms, telephones, plus medical care, and if there will be a place to meet with attorneys.

As I wrote on 5280 yesterday, Denver courts will be open during the convention, " with lighter dockets to handle convention-related matter."

This is reminiscent of Manhattan's Pier 57 dubbed Guantanamo on the Hudson, during the 2004 Republican convention. It was a fiasco that ended with a judge ordering the release of 470 protesters or face fines of $1,000. per prisoner per day. Here's one detained protester's story. More details of the grimy conditions are in this AP article.

Will Denver make the same mistakes? Hopefully not, but Salinger's discovery is not promising news. There are ways to avoid this, I recapped several from the ACLU report on Pier 57 here.

On a related note, here are my pictures of the Fleet Center in Boston when the Swat Team came out to play.

Just as a reminder of the infamous Manhattan Pier 57 fiasco, my friend Nezua discusses his experience of being one of the RN 1800:
I SOMETIMES MENTION being one of the RNC 1800, and the 50+ hours I spent in jail behind protesting the Republican National Convention in NYC in August of 2004. This was when I was living in Kensington, Brooklyn and commuting through Manhattan to go to work each day in Postcard Town.

I didn't go into the city that day planning on being arrested. I went back to Union Square planning to pick up another upside-down elephant shirt. But it was my fate to run across an anarchist marching band and to put my feet where my heart was. I was furious that the Republicans—who knew damn well that New York was, for the most part, anti-Bush with a fury—would think of holding their expensive and gaudy convention on the same ground where thousands of people were killed, as if the smoldering grave of so many human beings was nothing more than a for-rent billboard upon which they might scrawl their electoral graffiti. I still feel repulsed by the notion.

I didn't plan on becoming part of the nation's first mass-arrest and detention action, where 1800 citizens were swept up in orange nets and held in inhumane conditions for days; where violations that would lawfully merit a summons would instead earn us incarceration in overstuffed pens of fencing and barbed wire. I didn't plan on sitting down in the street, but that was only after the pigs corralled us into a mass of frightened people who had nowhere to go. And don't bother telling me they ain't pigs or that Some Cops Are Nice Doodes™ because I was there. I saw the way they manhandled both men and women. I saw the sneers and hostility on the faces, the sticks they used, the way they stamped on the band's instruments for no reason but because they had the might and nobody could stop them. Sure, there were both friendly and passive cops, as well. Did they differentiate? Did those "nice" pigs let us go? Did they give us a chance to disperse and go home? No. They all wore the same uniform with the same shape badge given power and pay by the same agents. This dark blue mass of sticks, cuffs, helmets and guns swept up protestor, press, bystander, American, foreigner, and people who were unlucky enough to have stopped to watch or who were just shooting photos from across the street. They scooped us all up—nice protestors and otherwise—put us all in riot cuffs that were so tight they hurt at the very least, and cut off circulation at the worst ("sorry, I can't loosen them, I don't have the tools to do that" one said next to me) and kept us in them for hours. So fuck them. I don't differentiate either.

Many of us couldn't understand why they were treating us as if we had committed some violent crime. Why they would put us in such conditions. Why they were locking up people who had nothing to do with the protest, or who were press members, even. We were inclined to think cynically by nature of the demographic, and concluded that they planned it for various reasons, one of which was to keep us off the streets until the Decider (not yet named so) was done with his corpse-exploitation, and his disciples had finished spending their money in our city, leaving confetti and an foul stench of ignorance behind them.

The police department had a code-name for its plan to cope with the invasion of tens of thousands of protesters who were expected to take to the streets during the 2004 Republican National Convention: Operation Overlord II. The name is an apparent reference to the secret plan for the Allied invasion of Normandy, which was codenamed Overlord.

—nysun.com, Operation Overlord II: NYPD Planned RNC Arrests

Yes, "invasion." Because we didn't have the right to protest. Because those who believed a group using a tragic mass-death event in a city that is overwhelmingly liberal for their own political gain didn't have the right to take to the streets and say so. Oye, hermano: I lived in that city when the planes hit and when they locked down the island and when they wouldn't let us move where we wanted. I couldn't sleep at night for days without help. I would fall off sidewalks when I would hear a plane above me, even years later. I breathed those burnt bodies into my own and felt physically ill from it. That shit affected me, man. Bad. Some pretender to the throne idiot manchild wants to grab a bullhorn and make like he's a hero atop a crime still not prosecuted? Some Raskolnikov-sans-conscience wants to prance his fancy ass into my town and hold an election party on a mound of bones and ash and molten steel and you expect me to stay civil? Pah. "Civilized" people will be the death of us all.

But that part about the cops' feelings is true—they didn't feel we had the right. You should have seen la chota. They were horribly offended that we would dare do such a thing. Granted, one of them was a man who gave me a few bites of his apple because I was starving and had been in cuffs for about five hours by then and was losing my mind and needing to pee so bad I couldn't keep quiet about it, and I am hypoglycemic, so when I get hungry it's an event. And the womancop who finally took off my cuffs rubbed my shoulders after I screamed at the sudden release and the cramping of my muscles let go all at once. But the pigs who worked down in the Tombs despised us. They treated us with disdain, ignored medical complaints, wouldn't write them down, and told us we were scum for daring to confront the system in such a way.

As the hours and days went by, and many lawyers put pressure on the city to let us go—and the news began to filter in to our cells that we had massive support, and people in the streets demanding our release—I had the pleasure of leading loud chants from my cell and staring right in the cops' faces as we did it. I'll never forget those moments. They were very satisfying ones.

The city currently faces lawsuits from hundreds of the 1,800 protesters who were picked up in mass arrests and detained for as long as three days at a West Side pier. The police commissioner, Raymond Kelly, has praised his officers for their handling of protesters at the convention.

The document, dated May 2004, is a report detailing the items discussed at an April 27, 2004, meeting of the NYPD Mass Arrest/Prisoner Processing Subcommittee.

"No summonses will be issued," one of the bullet points on the memo reads.

—nysun.com, Operation Overlord II: NYPD Planned RNC Arrests

So now there is proof, it seems, that they never planned on doing anything but arresting us. Oh, shocker. Maybe for the masses that has been debateable or a point of coffee table conversation. (For those who knew about it. We also learned there was a blackout on much of the media from even reporting it at all.) For those of us who stayed up for days because we couldn't sleep on an filthy, oily, bus garage floor (Pier 57), or an overcrowded cell in the Tombs (literally overcrowded, the legal limit was posted outside the cell) it's a "yeah, so?" moment. The cops never once acted as if there was going to be any other option than what happened. It was clearly the act of people who had made plans for the exact situation that unfolded. Yeah, "plans." Sort of like the Iraq Invasion "plans." Where nothing happens the way they thought it would.

Such a policy would appear to contradict what other officials in the police department believed to be appropriate policy. A previously disclosed police document, 'Legal Guidelines for the Republican National Convention,' says desk-appearance tickets and summonses may not be denied merely 'because a person was arrested at a demonstration.'

—nysun.com, Operation Overlord II: NYPD Planned RNC Arrests

Yeah, there may be "proper procedure." There may be "democracy" somewhere. But in gangs like these—Army, Navy, Marines, Police—there are orders that come down from above and that's what is the Deal. This time, there were orders from the Decider and his handlers to get us off the streets. So it didn't matter what any individual Nice Cops® or "law"-abiding cops thought. Just like in a war. You can claim there are Good Soldiers doing the killing and who should be somehow forgiven for their part in the worst of what goes wrong. But I look out and squint at the camo and steel, and hell—I just see killers. To use a popular story, in the fable of God/Heaven/Hell, is there a question form at the gates of Hades where sinners get to declare whether or not they sinned on someone else's orders? I've never heard of that one. When they lock you up in an American jail, does the judge excuse you if someone told you to kill before you took their cash and ideology and did it? Did the judge ask us, when we stood in front of him, whether or not someone told us to protest? Exactly. If there is something that you personally feel is wrong, you don't take part in it. If you are okay with the deal, you stay and participate. Period.

Another document, from June 9, 2004, suggests that the 1,800 arrests from the four-day convention did not exceed the number police had expected to make. This document calls for the development of a "doomsday" plan to be used for processing more than 5,000 arrests. The document, signed by the police department's then-deputy commissioner on counter terrorism, Michael Sheehan, did not indicate whether such a plan was formulated. [...]

Over the city's objections, a fraction of the police documents from the months before the August convention are expected to be made public in the coming days, following a recent ruling that lifted a protective order over them. The New York Sun has obtained several of those documents.

—nysun.com, Operation Overlord II: NYPD Planned RNC Arrests

Good. Let the truth come out. Not that it matters to me at this point. I know what I know. I lived it.

"Operation Overlord II." Interesting analogy they set up with that name. Interesting that they didn't mind being the Nazis in that metaphor.

It's important to have this sort of living history recalled, as Denver threatens to repeat history later this month. I'm sure that in the minds of our plutocrats, the protesters are little more than untermenschen, and concerns about humane treatment thereof would barely register. The city of Denver seems to have taken the gulag theme to heart for the upcoming DNC convention, not only with plans to cage massive numbers of protesters in squalid conditions, but to cage even those protesters not arrested. This, my friends, is the so-called "freedom" that our propagandists love to crow about.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

And now for another edition of "Point/Counterpoint"

Point
Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN): Jesus saved the planet.

Counterpoint
Ministry: Jesus built my hotrod.


And now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Crusader Axe is right

When your government rules by fear after a terrorist incident, the terrorists win:
The news that the NYPD is planning to treat whatever arises on the World Trade Center as a cross between the Green Zone in the capital of our 51st and first predominately Arab State, the Brandenberg Gate beyond Checkpoint Charlie (the primary legal Berlin Wall crossing, children) and the Forbidden City in Beijing under the Manchus just plain old fashioned pisses me off. A few years ago, when I was running a nonprofit in Seattle, we discovered that our maintenance guy was stealing from us. I fired him. He threatened me and everyone went nuts. They wanted restraining orders, a police bodyguard and I don't know, a cordon of nuns surrounding me at all times. I told them to get fucked -- I refuse to live my life in fear.It's a shame that those who want to protect us supposedly and lead us depend on fear and fear alone to accomplish their goals.
Good old Homeland Insecurity strikes again. Of course our rulers envision a world of Red Zones and Green Zones, the latter of which the rest of us who comprise the Great Unwashed Masses will be barred from since we'll be perceived as threats. One of the sad ironies of the national "security" apparatus that these folks wish to build up is that rather than make anyone feel more secure, they'll actually feel more insecure. Paradoxically, those who try to build up the walls and the prisons end up imprisoning themselves. To say that this is a crappy way to live is of course an understatement.

A musical interlude

This is pretty cool. The clip is from something called 88 Boadrum. As ludditerobot (proprietor of Emo as Fuck) sez:
The Boredoms-led coalition responsible for last year’s 77 drummers performance (on 7/7/07) took the reasonable step of assembling 88 drummers for 8/8/08, in both NYC and L.A. List of NYC drummers here, and an NYC clip below (via Brooklyn Vegan):



I love drums and percussion, and of course I happen to dig on the stuff the Boredoms have been doing (a friend of mine used to call it space rock - fitting enough as their music draws a bit from 1970s Krautrock). Vision Creation Newsun is still my personal fave from that crew.

Enjoy the music! This one is truly something to be savored.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Yes, partisan Democrat bloggers use the Dolchstoßlegende

I seem to be in a bit of a meta-mode right now, so please in advance forgive me. I came across a diary over at Daily Kos that seems to have been motivated out of frustration that not only did Cyndi Sheehan actually manage to get the signatures to get on the ballot to challenge pro-war Democrat Nancy Pelosi, but that there are still a few folks over at Daily Kos dare to endorse Sheehan. The title of Eternal Hope's diary was Cindy Sheehan, backstabber, and included the following passage amidst a semi-coherent rant:
Cindy Sheehan backstabbed us -- she used us to catapult herself into fame, and then she stabbed us in the back when she had no more use for us.
There's some revisionist history there to be sure - some revisionism that Eternal Hope has been repeating ad infinitum in recent days. The characterization of Sheehan as a "backstabber" seemed eerily reminiscent of what many of our nation's right-wingers have been doing when mentioning opponents of the Iraq War. Basically what Eternal Hope is doing is utilizing a rhetorical device once used by the Nazis to demonize their opponents during the waning days of the Weimar Republic and of course during Third Reich: that is the Dolchstoßlegende, which I initially described three or so years ago:
The Dolchstoßlegende or Dolchstosslegende, (German "dagger-thrust legend", often translated in English as "stab-in-the-back legend") refers to a social mythos and persecution-propaganda and belief among bitter post-World War I German nationalists, that lay blame for the loss of the war upon non-Germans and non-nationalists.

Many Germans who supported, fought in, or had otherwise known people lost in the enormously costly war, believed the causes for the German/Austrian involvement in the war were justified. They had hoped it would bring a restoration of past glory and a unified German nation-state. Instead, the war caused the deaths of 1,770,000 German soldiers and 760,000 German civilians, devastated the economy, and brought losses in both territory and national sovereignty.

Conservatives, nationalists and ex-military leaders sought others to blame. The common scapegoats were Weimar Republic politicians, socialists, communists, and "international Jewry" — a term referring to Jews with a perceived excess of wealth and influence. These "November criminals", nationalists alleged, had "stabbed them in the back" on the "home front," by either criticizing the cause of German nationalism, or by simply not being zealous-enough supporters of it. In essence the accusation was that the accused committed treason against the benevolent and righteous common cause.

[snip]

Nevertheless, this social mythos of domestic betrayal resonated among its audience, and its claims would codify the basis for public support for the emerging Nazi Party, under a severely racialist-based form of nationalism. The anti-Semitism latent in Germany society was intensified by the Bavarian Soviet Republic, a Communist government which ruled the city of Munich for two weeks before being crushed by the Freikorps militia. Most of the Bavarian Soviet Republic's leaders were Jewish, a fact exploited by anti-Semitic propagandists to tar all Jews with the brush of Communist treason.

[snip]

Due to the highly potent imagery of a "stab in the back", and the common perception amongst political conservatives that politically hostile homefronts defeat otherwise winnable wars, the stab in the back legend is a common legend in a number of modern societies. In particular, the stab in the back legend is often used by conservatives to explain the defeat of the United States in the Vietnam war. In the context of the US involvement in the Vietnam War the stab in the back legend is part of the Vietnam Syndrome complex.
Not only did the Nazis utilize the "stab in the back" legend to its advantage during its rise to power and of course in maintaining its grip on power, but our own right-wingers have been relying on the same basic approach since the Vietnam war ended. I'm sure if I had a nickel for every GOP politician who has used that strategy since the early 1970s, I could retire in style. The "stab in the back" legend has been most recently utilized by our own hardline nationalists in order to silence dissent regarding the Iraq debacle. These folks are bound and determined to spread the myth that shining a light on Bu$hCo's lies to get our military sucked into what is now Mess o'Potamia as well as shining a light on the debacle that the war has truly become is somehow a "stab in the back" to those unfortunate souls who got shipped over there. The true stab in the back to these men and women was committed by the very White House and Congress critters who had that jones comin' down for a war in the first place.
Oddly enough, it's usually the anti-war folks who get targeted by those who invoke the Dolchstoßlegende. It is also the case that former darlings of the Democratic Party have quickly found themselves on the outs once they began to oppose some current war in which the US government was invested. Martin Luther King, Jr., for example, was well-regarded by the Democratic party establishment until he had the nerve to vocally oppose the Vietnam War and US imperialism more broadly. As I described around the 40th anniversary of Dr. King's famous anti-Vietnam War speech:

The speech, which was indeed a classic - and one from which Americans have yet to learn much of anything - was part of a transformation in his thinking that occurred during the last year of his life. From Ahmed Shawki's book Black Liberation and Socialism(pp. 200-204):

King began to see the connections much more clearly between racism at home and racism abroad, in particular between the economic inequities at home and the war budget. King also started to rethink his understanding of violence. He was keenly aware that the growing urban unrest in the North was an expression of the frustration and impatience that existed among Blacks - and a corresponding sympathy and openness to more radical solutions. After the Watts riots, King declared, "It was a class revolt of the under-privileged against the privileged." In 1967, he concluded, "after Selma and the voting rights bill we moved into an era which must be an era of revolution.... The whole structure of American life must be changed."

King now made clear that there was a great deal of difference between the violence of the U.S. state and the violence of those rioting in urban centers across the country, and he began to use a different vocabulary to describe his tactics, referring to "massive nonviolence," "aggressive nonviolence," and even "nonviolent sabotage."

Trying to overcome the collapse of the coalition he built to challenge Southern segregation, the apparent failure of the movement in the North, and the growing impatience among Black activists and Blacks more generally, King formulated a new strategy:
Nonviolence must be adapted to urban conditions and urban moods. Non-violent protest must now mature to a new level, to correspond to heightened Black impatience and stiffened white resistance. This high level is mass civil disobedience. There must be more than a statement to the larger society, there must be a force that interrupts its functioning at some key point.... To dislocate the functioning of a city without destroying it can be more effective than a riot because it can be longer lasting, costly to the larger society, but not wantonly destructive. It is a device of social action that is more difficult for a government to quell by superior force.... It is militant and defiant, not destructive.
King's most powerful indictment of the war came on April 4, 1967, exactly one year before he was murdered. In a speech at New York City's Riverside Church, aptly titled "A Time to Break Silence: Declaration of Independence from the War in Vietnam," King declared:
Since I am a preacher by trade, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor, both black and white, through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.

Perhaps the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would never live on the same block in Detroit. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.

My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettos of the North over the last three years, especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked, and rightly so, what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.
These kinds of views were not welcome by many of the liberals who had previously praised King in the struggle to end Jim Crow. As [Michael Eric] Dyson observes:
King's assault on America as "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today" elicited a predictably furious reaction from the White House. The news media was even harsher.... Richard Lentz notes that Time magazine had, early in King's opposition to the war, characterized him as a "drawling bumpkin, so ignorant that he had not read a newspaper in years, who had wandered out of his native haunts and away from his natural calling." Newsweek columnist Kenneth Crawford attacked King for his "demagoguery" and "reckless distortion of the facts." The Washington Post said that King's Riverside speech was a "grave injury" to the civil rights struggle and that King had "diminished his usefulness to his cause, to his country, and to his people." The New York Times editorialized that King's speech was a "fusing of two public problems that are distinct and separate" and that King had done a "disservice to both."
Once King began to attack a war that many "respectable" liberals had deemed necessary, he became public enemy number one among the establishment PC police of the day. Not too surprisingly, the White House, along with the elite media organs of the day began a smear campaign against their former ally.

If King were alive today and making similar speeches about the current Iraq and Afghanistan wars, I have little doubt that the "Support the Troops" crowd (not only on the right-wing of the nation's political spectrum, but also among the nominally "liberal" and "progressive" wings) would be attacking King as "uppity" and bordering on "treason" and no doubt being "irresponsible" to the civil rights cause.

If King were alive today, I also suspect that he too would be reflecting on how little we had learned in the last four decades.
In almost so many words, establishment pundits of the day were accusing Dr. King of stabbing his movement in the back, if not outright stabbing the troops in Vietnam in the back. Most recently, both McCain and Obama seem more than happy to use the Dolchstoßlegende for their sordid purposes; it appears too that we have a few authoritarian-minded folks over at Kos who likewise have no qualms about using the Dolchstoßlegende when an anti-war candidate has the nerve to oppose a pro-war Democrat. Keep in mind that those invoking that particular rhetorical device to diss Sheehan and her supporters are showing their authoritarian colors. I am saddened, but unsurprised to witness the use of right-wing rhetorical tactics at Daily Kos. In fact, I would say it was ultimately quite predictable as I hinted at back in August of 2005, when Sheehan was still held in high esteem among establishment Democrats:
Stan Goff had a very spirited column in Counterpunch that expresses some of the frustration I share with regard to the Democratic party and much of what passes for its leadership. Apparently, it has dawned on the party hacks, such as Tom Hayden, that there is a rekindled anti-war movement - and rightly so, given the circumstances in Iraq that were created by the White House with little more than a whimper from the Dems. Sheehan's Camp Casey has ignited something at the grass-roots level that got lost sometime in 2003, hence the need of the party elites to douse those flames before they spread uncontrollably. Some excerpts:
For the Democrats, of course, of whom exactly one elected offical (Maxine Waters) has deigned to visit "Camp Casey," this presented quite another problem -- the same problem that the whole movement against the war presented prior to the last electoral farce in 2004. The masses were moving to their left and threatening to expose this moribund Weimar formation as the waste of both money and oxygen that it has repeatedly demonstrated itself to be. But Joshua Frank did an excellent job recently on this site of describing the Democratic Party.

I want to talk about something more specific, and that is one of the tactics being employed by the partisans of this rotting political edifice to try and contain the newfound energy that exploded onto the scene at Crawford and threatens to fill the DC Mall with malcontents on September 24th.

And that is the "exit strategy" proposal drafted by Tom Hayden and being vigorously pimped by by policy-encrusted liberals all through cyberspace, the print media, and soon enough on television. This is the oral fomulaic appeal to "reasonableness and realism" of weak-kneed liberals every time a mass movement threatens to gain any momentum -- we have to present a "reasonable" alternative (always a POLICY alternative, of course), and we have to face the fact that we can't "move" "our" agenda without accepting a "realistic" (read: watered down) approach. You kiddies have acted up enough now; go on and play; leave the rest of this to Daddy and Mommy in Congress.

[snip]

The Democrats are already grooming a few 2008 candidates, including the execrable Hillary Rodham Clinton who has stated her desire to beef up the war against Southwest Asia. Let's not forget that her husband presided over an Iraqi holocaust that George W. Bush is still trying to match. The Republicans are secure for now with their white nationalist popular base. An active and increasingly militant left is a more immediate threat to the Democrats ­ who have prospered from Repubilican reaction for decades now by capturing social bases that feel they have nowhere else to go. That dilemma is real, but it is also predicated on the notion that to "go there" we need to contain ourselves in electoralism and pluralist policy fights that are engineered by corporations and NGOs.

That's why Sheehan and others who propose the radical option of simply leaving Iraq are now being surrounded by the friendly faces of "progressives" who will try and redirect this newfound mobilization along the acceptable policy-debate paths.

[snip]

Let me just say something about how to withdraw. This is my plan. Hey, if Tom Hayden is qualified to write up exit strategies, why not an old grunt like me, eh?
The Plan: The National Command Authority orders all US forces redeployed out of Iraq within one month and out of the theater in two months. Any commander that fails to meet the deadline will be summarily relieved, and replaced with a commander that will thereby be placed on a shorter timeline. I can promise anyone who has no experience of the military that this is perfectly feasible, and that with that kind of command emphasis, the mission can and will be accomplished.
Here, of course, is where we discern the liberal pre-occupation (pun intended) with "overseeing" disengagement and other such poppycock. Oh Gasp! they will delcare. What then will become of these simple-minded brown people who want nothing more than to drink each other's blood? At the end of the day, a liberal can be every bit as much the white nationalist as any rock-ribbed Republican Confederate. They really believe that the United States is the beacon of civilization because we have sitcoms and theme parks, and that the brutality of the US military occupation is an aberration -- the antithesis of our true nature. Under all this verbiage is plain, Anglo-American Kiplingesque white supremacy. Remember the "white man's burden to civilize the dark races?"

Tom, here is a delivery from the cluetrain. Iraqis were doing algebra and astronomy when some of our European ancestors still believed that a bath would leave you vulnerable to evil spirits -- number one clue. Having smart bombs doesn't make you smarter. It just makes you meaner. Get over your chauvinist self. Number two clue -- the primary catalyst for the intensifying violence in Iraq right now is...the US military presence. Tom, you say this yourself later on in your proposal, which only makes this protracted and abstracted "disengagement" thing all the more remarkable.

[snip]

So let me get this straight. The US authorities should be replaced... by a different US authority, renamed, of course, an "envoy." And the the envoy would be the countryman of... the occupying military. This bait-and-switch is... a "political settlement." Wow, I'm really getting the hang of this now. I'm beginning to feel like I might be able to CLEP out of Weasel Wording 101.

Tom reminds us that "[n]either the Bush administration nor the news media have shown interest in these voices [of the antiwar movement], perhaps because they undercut the argument that we are fighting to save Iraqis from each other."

Huh? You yourself are proposing a plan with this assumption at its very core.
But even more astonishing is the attempt to lay the blame for this war at the doorstep of Republicans (and of course the news media). There is an entire party allegedly in opposition to the Republicans -- your party, Tom -- that hasn't shown any interest in the voices raised against the war, until of course two things happened: (1)The polls shifted against the war, and (2)large numbers of non-Republican people became disenchanted with the utter and gutless capitualationism of the Democratic Party and started listening to actual leftists.

Some of us were saying all the way back when that Arkansas horseshit-huckster was in the Oval Office that Iraqis were being killed off by the hundreds of thousands in a war (and its sanctions) that started -- by the way -- in 1990 and has not ceased for one moment since. That war went on all the way through both terms of that sexually exploitative (It DOES matter!) prevaricator, who bombed Yugoslavian bridges and aspirin factories with the same enthusiasm that Bush the Younger has displayed in bombing Afghani weddings and Iraqi hospitals. Where were the Democrats listening to "these voices" then?

Here's another voice the DP can listen to. "You're over." More and more of us are learning that we can never let you take us for granted again. And we can fight Republicans on our own terms... by any means necessary.
Pretty angry stuff that hits on something critical. Where were the Democrats in 2002 when Bu$hCo had the jones real bad for an Iraq invasion? With very few exceptions, nowhere to be found. For that matter, where were the Democrats when Bu$hCo was hellbent on ramming that piece of crap neofascist legislation called the "Patriot Act" through Congress? Or try this one out: where were the Democrats when something fishy was happening with the vote count in Florida in 2000? Or how about the equally fishy vote count in Ohio last year? How about that bankruptcy bill that a bunch of Dems gladly went along with the Rethugs in passing? Get the picture?

If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything. And that, as I see it is the real problem with the Dems. The "base" that the party takes for granted has no clue as to what the Dem party actually stands for. Folks periodically ask me what the Dems believe, and I have to say in all honesty that God only knows, and I'm sure even He is a bit puzzled. What we do know is that the Dem party leadership falls hook, line, and sinker for whatever b.s. the White House demands for fear of being labeled "obstructionist," "unpatriotic," and possibly "losing next year's election." That isn't exactly an inspiring approach to representative governing.
Cindy Sheehan has done something that the Dems have largely failed to do with regard to Iraq: she asked the question "why are we there?" If the Dems want to capitalize on the increasing dissatisfaction with the war, they would be well advised to ride the wave of dissent rather than try to contain it. Adding more troops (impractical) and looking for ways to exit with "dignity" (a term that in this context smells of American machismo) aren't going to cut it. Besides, to take an a line or two from an old David Bowie tune, "dignity is valuable, but our lives are valuable too." Tell it straight up: it was the wrong war, at the wrong time, fought for the wrong reasons; and it's high time to get the hell out and stop making even more of a mess of things in the region. There are no good reasons for Americans or Iraqis to keep dying. The party might generate some cross words from the Rush Limbaughs and Ann Coulters of the world as a result, but that would have happened any way. In the process, the Dems might even gain a bit of the respect and trust that they've lost over the last couple decades. Otherwise, folks like me (just one of the "base") will keep on eying the third party scene for a better deal.
As I said, the handwriting was on the wall even then. Once it became obvious that Sheehan would not be contained, those friendly faces among the Democratic politicians and punditocracy became decidedly unfriendly as the memories of Sheehan's August, 2005 protest at Camp Casey faded. Just how ugly needs to be exposed once more, as the comments to her last diaries speak for themselves.