Friday, November 16, 2007

Hillary: Master Politician, it is OK to admit it.

Crossposted from Left Toon Lane, Bilerico Project & My Left Wing

click to enlarge
After watching last night’s debate from Las Vegas on CNN, I solidified my theory on one of Hillary’s key campaign strategies. She may seem to be equivocating on the issues surrounding foreign policy, but what I think what she is really doing is allowing the rest of the Democratic field to paint her as strong on defense… and the field seems to have fallen right into the trap.

We all know the winner of the next election will be whoever wins over the every growing number of disgruntled independents and even though they may be against the war, as Hillary has said before in public, they may still be on the fence about Democrats being spineless or soft. I can understand why this is since most Democrats are spineless as woolly worms and not as cuddly.

What better way to position yourself as strong on defense than allowing your fellow Democrats to continuously paint you as supportive of the military and strong on defense?

Her pant suit may be flame retardant but her mind is sharp as a tack.

You must hand it to her, she is a MASTER politician.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

What is Hillary Really Thinking?

Crossposted from Left Toon Lane, Bilerico Project & My Left Wing

click to enlarge
This must have been "pile-on week" for Hillary. No one runs a perfect campaign and the longer a campaign goes without a bump, the larger the faux pas will seem when it does happen.

Concerning the double-speak at the last debate about driver licenses for illegal aliens, I didn't think it was that much of a big deal. Frankly, it seemed to be the status quo from the Clinton Camp - not ever really simply stating a position like Kucinich can. Kucinich can tell you what his position is in under 8 words and 99% of the population will understand exactly what he means - they may not agree however. Face it, he is a better communicator.

Back to Hillary, this past week, both sides of the aisle and the great vast "middle-wing" conspiracy of independent populists led by Lou Dobbs all dumped on Hillary and the results were shocking, at least to me. Her drops in polls, specifically Iowa, I think showed how really weak she is as a candidate. Don't get me wrong, she has a ton of cash, and is still considered a front runner, but if a slight mistake like the one in the last debate can cause such a whirl wind of negative results, maybe she is not bulletproof.

Kucinich, now that guy IS bulletproof, but that is another blog entry.

P.S. Credit for today's strip has to go to DKos user Common Cents, from this diary comment. It has been reported by Members of Congress and the media that Hillary can, on occasion, cuss like 20 sailors being waterboarded. However, this is a fictional cartoon and not a direct quote.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Book Review: How To Win A Fight With A Conservative

Appearing at The Jaundiced Eye, the Independent Bloggers' Alliance, and My Left Wing.

The holidays are breathing down our necks and we all know what that means: fighting with relatives. I am blessed to be from a primarily liberal family, as is my husband, so political discussions rarely turn Thanksgiving Dinner into a blood sport. Many are not so lucky. Daniel Kurtzman offers a few helpful tips on political family squabbles in How to Win a Fight with a Conservative. (A companion volume, How to Win a Fight with a Liberal is available to balance out the playing field. I skimmed the latter.)

DON'T let Uncle Buckwald hold the dinner table hostage. Fact-check him right then and there using the Internet browswer on your BlackBerry or cell phone. Counter him point-for-point, fire off contradictory statistics, and apply duct tape as needed. Rembember, conservatives hate facts. They get in the way of sweeping generalizations. It's like sunlight to a vampire.

. . .

DO attempt to recruit impressionable family members to your side, particularly when they're young; for example, give your seven-year-old nephew a copy of the complete Star Wars saga on DVD and explain how Jedis are Democrats and the evil Sith Lords are Republicans -- as identified by their blue and red light sabers.

DO quote the Bible when arguing with your religious relatives, as beating zealots with their own stick can be a blissful religious experience. Be sure to bring up the parts they choose to gloss over, like "love thy neighbor," "the meek shall inherit the Earth," and "thou shall not molest thine underage page."

The books are at turns glib, cliched, and surprisingly insightful. Kurtzman, who defines himself as a liberal, explains the companion books as an attempt even out the debate. Despite his lighthearted approach, he clearly takes politics seriously. While he offers basic information on rhetorical devices and tips for spotting weaknesses in arguments, he also includes talking points and step-by-step guides on some of the more longstanding issues, such as "Iraq: Why It's a Catastrofuck."

Especially good are numerous Cosmo style quizzes designed to help you pick your battles and assess your own strengths and weaknesses before you wade into the fray. They're fun, humorous, and very much on target. From the first quiz, "What Breed of Liberal Are You?" I learned that I am a "label-defying iconoclast." Okay. No shock there.

If I have a single bone to pick with Kurtzman's approach, it's in his section on internet flamewars. Some of us take flaming quite seriously and will want to shun such as advice as: "feel free to invent your own facts" and "pretend to be someone you're not."

I also think the simplistic, binary, Democratic=liberal, Republican=conservative format of the books limits the potential for a truly constructive political dialog. But then, I am a "label-defying iconoclast."

Score one for the "netroots"

Via Huffington Post

Score one for the Netroots! Newsweek has just announced that Markos Moulitsas, namesake and founder of the Daily Kos website, will be a contributor for the mag's 2008 election coverage.
I wish I could think of something to say, but I seem to have sprained some sort of irony-related muscle.

So I'll just go with this...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Redistributing wealth the Republican way: A new socialism

(Cross-posted at my blog, Rants 'n Reviews)

So it seems that the oil men running our country (Bush, Cheney, and Rice!) have had something up their sleeves that we didn't know about: They're all for redistributing wealth. They want your money in their pockets! You see, they're Republican Socialists. Don't ever let them tell you otherwise! They say the proof is in the pudding. Here's the pudding.

The link below takes you to a Washington Post article that tells the story of oil wealth gone wild.

Oil Price Rise Causes Global Shift in Wealth -

In the United States, the rising bill for imported petroleum lowers already anemic consumer savings rates, adds to inflation, worsens the trade deficit, undermines the dollar and makes it more difficult for the Federal Reserve to balance its competing goals of fighting inflation and sustaining growth.
Our dependence on oil has been foisted on us by a government that likes it. From not raising CAFE fuel economy standards since the early '90s to starting a war in an oil-rich nation that could only lead to higher fossil fuel prices -- and threatening another -- we've been duped into giving our money to members of the government rather than the government itself.

Rather than being "handled" by "tax and spend" Democrats, we're being molested by "don't tax but raise our cost of energy and spend more" Repugnicans.

It's time to take our country -- and our money -- back.

The first step: Take them to task for paying for their ill-conceived and carried-out war -- a war -- at least Iraq's reconstruction -- that was to be paid for by Iraq oil revenues! In this sense, we're being taxed twice: Once in terms of tax dollars to pay for the war and a second in terms of higher prices at the pump, at home, in the grocery store, at the hotel, on the plane, and every conceivable place possible.

I'll leave the second step for another day and another post. Rant over.

Why the troops will stay.

Crossposted from Left Toon Lane, Bilerico Project & My Left Wing

click to enlarge

We have heard it a million times, once the surge is successful, Bush tells us he will bring the troops home, "when the job is finished."

So why are they still there?

The Right Wing press has been suffering seizures over the lull in violence in Iraq, exclaiming how "liburls are hand-wringing" over "Bush's success." But why aren't they asking the NEXT question? (they never ask the next smart question) Why did the violence slow down?

There are a multitude of answers. The first being the fact that Moqtada al-Sadr's Madhi Army has declared a cease fire.

The recent "pact of honor" made by two of Iraq's most influential Shiite clerics, Moqtada al-Sadr and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim—aimed at preventing violence and helping to maintain the "Islamic and national interest" of Iraq—appears to signal a significant shift toward stability in Iraq.

The second reason violence is down is due to the fact that there is hardly anyone else left to ethnically cleanse. Much of the work of the Sunni/Shia Death Squads has been completed. The "unpure" Muslims were either executed or they have fled.

Fewer people to shoot at. Bush's war has created a silent disaster that is rarely reported on - the existence of over 5 million refugees, half of which have fled the nation entirely. There are over 1.2 million in Syria, there are 750,000 Iraqi refugees in Jordan, 100,000 in Egypt, 54,000 in Iran, 40,000 in Lebanon, 10,000 in Turkey and 200,000 in various Persian Gulf countries, according to the UNHCR.

So why are we still there? The answer is obvious, Iraq is not stable, it is far from stable and I doubt will be stable in the next decade. Why is it far from stable? Why will Bush keep troops there?

The cease fire from the Madhi Army is only for six months, it expires in January, 2008.

Refugees are returning home because they are out of money to support themselves and their families. Which means the ethnic cleansing is far from over once these "cleansed" neighborhoods begin to fill back up with the original inhabitants.

Oh yeah, they still have oil.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Zimbardo on "nurturing the heroic imagination"

Psychologist Philip Zimbardo (photo courtesy of The Lucifer Effect web site) came to speak at a community college here in Columbus last month. I recorded the whole talk, which was an hour long. The whole thing was fascinating, but I set myself the modest goal of transcribing only the last eight minutes. Those last minutes of the lecture were the uplifting, hopeful part, and, I don't know about you, but I sure could use more of that in my daily life.

"The line between good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being", says Aleksander Solzhenitsyn. ... "It's a decision that you have to make every day in various ways."

So what I want to do, is I want to end on a positive note, because I know I've depressed you. When I was writing this book I was so depressed, going through all this horrible stuff, and being immersed in this "evil shit", if you will. (Laughter) But the positive note is, heroism as an antidote to evil, by promoting what I call "the heroic imagination" in every man, woman, and child in our nation.

What I mean by that is, here's Joe Darby. He's the guy who exposed the Abu Ghraib abuses. His friend gave him a CD with those pictures and more--he looked at them and said, "This is terrible! We're supposed to bring democracy to these people, and we're humiliating them!" He took that CD and brought it to the senior investigating officer. He was a private in the Army Reserves. That's a thing you never do. And he knew that his buddies were going to get in trouble. But he said "I had to do the right thing." They had to put him into protective custody along with his mother and his wife, because everybody wanted to kill them. ...He is the most ordinary person, G.I. Joe, and he did the right thing.

And there's also the guy in China, in Tiananmen Square, where students were having a peaceful demonstration to promote more freedom, and here was a line of tanks trying to crush them. He jumped in front and said, "We are all Chinese, we all want freedom! We want the same things--please don't do this!" And he turned around. And so here's a powerful physical hero. Darby was a whistleblowing hero. So I want to refocus away from evil to understanding heroes.

Hannah Arendt, in her analysis of the banality of evil said, you know what, evil monsters like Adolf Eichmann, who orchestrated the deaths of millions of Jews, before he went to Auschwitz, was normal. When we see him in this trial, he's normal. You put him in a situation, and give him power, and permission to kill, you know what? He does his job very well. And she said, the problem with evil is that the perpetrators of evil look like your next door neighbor. They don't look like the comic book monsters that we're led to be afraid of as kids. That's the danger--that they're terrifyingly normal.

So I extend her concept to the "banality of heroism". There are two kinds of heroes: there's Nelson Mandela, there's Gandhi, there's Mother Teresa--but these are the exceptional heroes. They built their whole lives around heroic deeds. They had a call, a mission, to serve humanity. They are the exception. Most heroes are like Joe Darby--ordinary guys, who only once in their lives do a heroic deed. And never again--almost every hero is a one-time hero. And so I'm going to argue that everyday heroes are ordinary people who do extraordinary deeds. There's nothing special about them. And I want to argue that the same exact situation that inflames the hostile imagination in some people, and makes them do bad things, that same situation inspires the heroic imagination in other people.

And for most other people, it renders them passive. I call that "the evil of inaction". Most people do what your mother said, "Mind your own business and don't get in trouble!" You have to say, "Mama, in this case, you're wrong, because humanity is my business."

And so, with the psychology of heroism, we want to encourage children, families, everyone, to develop the heroic imagination. To think about yourself as a "hero in waiting". And that, to be a hero, you don't have to be more religious, you don't have to be more compassionate. All you have to do is be ready to act when others are not, or when some people are doing bad things, and you have to be ready to act on behalf of other people. Being have to stop thinking about yourself and what will it cost you or what will you gain. To be a hero you've got to act, and you've got to act on behalf of other people--that's all you need.

And so what we want to do is have curriculum--I'm working with people to develop curriculum, starting in the fifth grade, getting kids to think about what it means to be a hero, who are the heroes in your life, what have you done that's heroic. What skills do you need--because some kinds of things you really have to know something, like first aid skills. So when the time comes--and I tell you, it's only going to come once in your life!

So I want to end with this wonderful story that some of you know about. A guy named Wesley Autrey, who's the New York subway hero. He was in a train station with 75 other people. A white guy falls on the tracks. The train is coming, and it's going to cut him in half. He's (Wesley) got a reason not to get involved--he's got two little girls. He's got no personal connection. Instead, he jumps on the track to try to save the guy. The train was coming, it could wipe him out. So I'd like you to actually see this in action.

(He showed this video)

So one day, you will be in a new situation, and there's going to be three paths before you. Path 1: you join in and become a perpetrator of evil. Not Abu Ghraib evil, but teasing, bullying, spreading rumors, spreading gossip. Path 2 is you become guilty of passive inaction. You're home at Christmas, and Uncle Charlie starts telling a racist or sexist joke, and you don't say, "Uncle Charlie, please don't." Or you're in a cab in New York, where they do it all the time, and you say, "I find that insulting. Please stop." If you don't do that, you allow this person to think "Everybody likes it. Everybody thinks it's funny." You have to take action.

Path 3 is to go straight ahead and do the heroic thing. You challenge authority, you challenge the system. And so I hope we are all ready to take that path and celebrate being ordinary heroes--heroes in waiting. Waiting for the right situation to put our heroic imagination into action. We have to think it--by thinking it, it increases the probability of doing it. We know from psychology that if I convince you that everything we know about you means that you're really more generous than most people. Next week there's a blood drive--you know what? You're going to give more blood than him. Next week there's a charity drive--you know what--you're going to give more money than somebody else.

I think that promoting a heroic imagination in our schools--just thinking about it--because it's only going to happen once! Wesley Autrey never did it again, he never will--he's not going to be in that particular situation. Joe Darby, never did it before, and he's not going to be in that situation again. So the point is, you always want people to be primed--ready for the situation where things are going to happen, you're prepared, and you're going to be the one to take the action.

I feel another Lou Dobbs Rant coming on.

Crossposted from Left Toon Lane, Bilerico Project & My Left Wing

click to enlarge
A ship carrying cargo for the China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO) hit one of the pylons of the San Francisco Bay Bridge this past weekend and spilled 58,000 gallons of oil into the sensitive Bay area.

Evidence that the Chinese don't have a clue about PR (public relations) is shown in their weak-assed press release.

As advised from the ship operator, the subject-mentioned vessel collided with a support tower of the fog-shrouded Bay Bridge of Oakland on Nov. 07th, 2007. COSCO takes this opportunity to emphasize that COSCO Container Line and any other COSCO subsidiary companies are not the Shipowner, Manager, Operator, bareboat charter and/or time Charterer etc. of the vessel "COSCO BUSAN".

Love the heart-felt apology for all the people in the Bay Area who are left holding the bag. Note that COSCO's name is part of the ship name. Why is their name on the boat? I wonder what was so important in those containers?

The ship is probably owned by owned by Regal Stone, Ltd. of China and was carrying cargo for COSCO. Hanjin shipping of South Korea seems to have no connection to the mishap other than having it's name on the side of the ship which could just be a failure to remove it before they sold the ship to Regal Stone.

It is often difficult trying to track down the actual owner of a ship.

An experienced San Francisco admiralty lawyer, who did not want to be named because he has many clients in the shipping world, said ships and their owners and operators sometimes cloak themselves with dizzying layers of paperwork "to avoid liability. If you can't find who owns it," it is more difficult to file a lawsuit.

Hanjin Shipping, which is chartering the Cosco Busan, said in an e-mail Wednesday that the vessel is owned by a company it identified variously as Synergy Maritime Ltd. or Synergy Marine Ltd., of Cyprus.

Raajeev Singh, technical manager for Synergy, said the ship was run by a ship management agency in Hong Kong, whose name he did not provide.

A woman who answered the phone at Synergy in Cyprus referred queries to Darrell Wilson, a spokesman for MTI Network in Stamford, Conn., which handles "crisis management" for the shipping industry.

Wilson said the ship is owned by Regal Stone Ltd. of Hong Kong, managed by Fleet Management Ltd. of Hong Kong, and its crew and technical support are provided by Synergy Management Services.

The guy actually piloting the ship was no winner either.

Capt. John Cota, the veteran master mariner who was piloting the container ship Cosco Busan when it hit the Bay Bridge on Wednesday, has been involved in a number of ship-handling incidents and was reprimanded last year for an error in judgment when he ran a ship aground, state regulatory documents show.

I just hope whatever was on that ship was damned important enough to damage the Bay for decades to come. With our luck, it was a boat load of Barbie heads coated with arsenic paint.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Conservatives Have No Clothes: An Interview With Greg Anrig

The topic below was originally posted in my blog, the Intrepid Liberal Journal as well as the Independent Bloggers Alliance, The Peace Tree, Wild Wild Left and Worldwide Sawdust.

To paraphrase former President Ronald Reagan, conservatism is not the solution to the problem; conservatism is the problem. In the recently published book, The Conservatives Have No Clothes: Why Right-Wing Ideas Keep Failing (Wiley & Sons), policy expert and journalist Greg Anrig indicts right-wing ideology and examines their legacy of insipid governance.

It’s a familiar tale of woe for liberals at this point. The conservative method over simplifies problems such as terrorism with misguided fear mongering about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Domestically conservatives will distort the root causes of why inner city schools fail by demonizing the entire public school system or make false claims that Social Security is poised for imminent collapse. In terms of obtaining and holding onto power the conservative method of marketing distortion has been highly effective in most national elections since 1968.

The consequences for the country have been disastrous. Even when Democrats have prevailed, the radical trend of privatization was only slowed temporarily to the detriment of workers and consumers alike. From healthcare, to the gutting of FEMA and the misguided pursuit of empire have left Americans economically insecure and isolated in a dangerous world.

In a sober analysis, Anrig, the Vice President of Programs at the Century Foundation, a progressive think tank and regular contributor to the liberal blog, critiques the conservative record. Specifically, Anrig evaluates the degree that policies championed by conservatives have delivered on their promise to make America stronger and safer and our government smaller and more efficient.

E. J. Dionne, syndicated columnist for the Washington Post praised Anrig’s book and noted:

“Ending the conservative era requires organizing, yes, but also hard thinking and shrewd analysis. When progressives of the future look back at how they triumphed, one of the people they'll thank is Greg Anrig. Drawing inspiration from the work of the early neoconservatives who demolished public support for liberal programs, Anrig casts a sharp eye on conservative ideas and nostrums and shows that many of them simply don't work because they are rooted more in ideological dreams than in reality. Facts are stubborn things, Ronald Reagan once said, and Anrig makes good use of them in this important and engaging book."
Anrig agreed to a podcast interview with me over the telephone about his book and issues such as education, Social Security, national security and the Democrats ineffectiveness at challenging the conservative paradigm. Please refer to the media player below. Our conversation is approximately forty minutes.

This interview can also be accessed at no cost via the Itunes Store by searching for the “Intrepid Liberal Journal.”