Huh? Did I Miss the Surrender?

Matt Yglesias and Sam Rosenfeld have a big new article up in The American Prospect, which intends to eviscerate ‘liberal hawks’ on the basis that their only refuge is that – as they put it – “…the invasion and occupation could have been successful had they been planned and administered by different people.”

It’s a thin argument, well-padded, and it pretty much rests on one simple presumption – slipped in a rhetorical flourish in the beginning:

Victory, as John F. Kennedy observed, has a thousand fathers, while defeat is an orphan. Abandoning the orphan that is the Iraq War has clearly been a protracted, painful process for the liberal hawks, those intellectuals and pundits so celebrated back in 2003 for their courage in coming forward to smash liberal expectations and support the war. Long criticized by fellow liberals for failing, amid much hand-wringing and navel-gazing, to express clear regret over their original support for the war, these hawks have started to become a bit more vocal about their second thoughts.

Let’s be clear. I don’t have any second thoughts about the invasion.

I have all kinds of criticisms of things that I wish had not been done or had been done better. I don’t blog about those because – first – I feel like it’s somehow expected of me, and I don’t like rising to that bait, and – second – because I have a finite amount of time to blog, and that’s not how I choose to spend it. Those issues are not, to me, the critical ones today.

But, as an opener in responding to Yglesias and Rosenfeld, did I somehow miss the line of Americans hanging from the skids of the helicopters as they flew away from the Embassy roofs? Was there a surrender as our troops streamed, bedraggled, weaponless, defeated, and under the watchful eyes of their Sadrist captors out to the safety of Kuwait?

When the hell did it become the accepted public wisdom that we have lost this war?

Because, guess what – we haven’t.It’s hard – damn hard. I am in awe continually of the men and women who are prosecuting it – from the sharpest tip of the spear all the way back to the butt of the shaft.

Taking on the arguments in the article isn’t, so I’ll handle that part.

Let me summarize the arguments they make:

* We’ve failed in Iraq.

* Liberal interventionists (like myself) who supported the war are damaging the cause of future liberal intervention by hanging on to their support for the war in the form of “if only Bush had been competent” and “if only we’d invaded Iraq with 500,000 troops.” As soon as we admit we were wrong, we’ll have credibility to suggest that we send troops to Darfur.

* We must accept that we cannot change the world, and therefore limit our military interventions where our efforts “can be justified only in the face of ongoing or imminent genocide, or comparable mass slaughter or loss of life.”

Boy, there is just so much wrong with this that I don’t know where to begin.

Let me start with my own take on where we stand – we’re slowly winning, and will win in time. There will be ebb and flow, setbacks and breakthroughs, but the fundamental characteristic is to make it clear to the parties involved that we have the sitzfleisch to see this through.

I’ve got a simple indicator, and let’s use Vietnam as a good example.

The troops in Vietnam turned against the war before the mass American population did. As a ‘chickenhawk’ (and as a snarky sidenote, given the recent column about the wealthy and tax-avoiding Norm Chomsky – I’ll go back to my Black and suggest that when he advocates that Chomsky or George Soros pay what would be ‘fair’ for his taxes, as opposed to what he owes under law – I’ll gladly make a ‘chickenhawk’ pin and put it on the site), I guess I just ought to keep listening to the troops.

So no, I don’t think we’re losing. We’re certainly not winning as quickly as some had hoped, but here I’ll go to my own record and pass on (again) my own quote from before the war:

We’re in this for the long haul. We don’t get to ‘declare victory and go home’ when the going gets tough, elections are near, or TV shows pictures of the inevitable suffering that war causes. The Marshall Plan is a bad example, because the Europe that had been devastated by war had the commercial and entrepreneurial culture that simply needed stuff and money to get restarted. And while we’re damn good with stuff and money, this is going to take much more, and we’re going to have to roll up our sleeves, work, and be willing to sweat with this for some time.

Next, Yglesias suggests that the strategic justification for the war collapsed with the discovery that there was no nuclear bomb waiting to be primed in Baghdad or Tikrit.

He’s wrong there as well.

First, from before the war again:

So unless we shock the states supporting terrorism into stopping, the problem will get worse. Note that it will probably get somewhat worse if we do…but that’s weather, and I’m worried about climate.

What’s wrong with that? The reality is that even in a worst-case scenario such as I painted in Armed Liberal, our losses would be limited and readily survivable.

But I don’t think our reaction would be. I believe that a sufficiently aggressive terrorist action against the United States could well result in the simple end of the Islamic world as we know it. I believe that if nukes were detonated in San Pedro and Alameda and Red Hook that there’s a non-trivial chance that we would simply start vaporizing Arab cities until our rage was sated.

I’d rather that didn’t happen. I’d rather that San Pedro, Alameda, and Red Hook stayed whole and safe as well, and I believe the answer is to end the state support of terrorism and the state campaigns of hatred aimed at the U.S. I think that Iraq simply has drawn the lucky straw. They are weak, not liked, bluntly in violation of international law, and as our friends the French say, about to get hung pour l’ecourager les autres…to encourage the others.

Now this may seem like a week reed on which to base a war.

But it is stronger than it appears.

First, there is a legitimate case for regime change in Iraq, regardless. I’ll refer the reader back to Salon in 1998

The reality is that positive news has outweighed the negative in the Muslim world recently.

* Support for suicide bombing is declining.

* Support for Islamists is declining.

* Sanity may rear it’s head in Palestine.

* Lebanon has kicked out the Syrians and now wants to kick out the Palestinians.

* The fact that vile, murderous dictators are now seen as vulnerable old men who may well wind up pulled from spider-holes to stand frustrated, arrogant, and powerless in the dock as they await sentencing from those they once terrorized.

So, what am I missing about the failure of the strategic justification?

* The war has left the U.S. isolated, alone in the West and without allies.

Yeah. tell that to Merkel, to Howard, Blair, and to Sarkozy.

So no, Matt and Sam, I appreciate the advice on how to rehabilitate myself, but I’ll just take a pass.

I’ll ignore the simple fact that the only alternative anti-Islamist policy to this one would involve bailing our CIA agents out of Italian jails.

So let’s check in a few years from now, and we’ll see whose reputation needs rehab.

The Elephant In The Room

From the L.A. Times:

Workers at auto parts maker Delphi Corp. will be asked this week to take a two-thirds pay cut. It’s one of the most drastic wage concessions ever sought from unionized employees.

Workers at General Motors Corp., meanwhile, tentatively agreed on Monday to absorb billions of dollars in healthcare costs. Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler employees are certain to face similar demands.

The forces affecting Delphi and GM workers are extreme versions of what’s occurring across the American labor market, where such economic risks as unemployment and health costs once broadly shared by business and government are being shifted directly onto the backs of American working families.

This risk-shifting is only a small part of what is really a slow collapse of wages in the entire manufacturing sector.

Grocery workers at the 71-store Farmer Jack chain in Michigan agreed to take a 10% wage cut to make their operation more palatable to a new owner. Hundreds of workers at a hose plant in Auburn, Ind., approved a $2 cut in their $18-an-hour pay to keep the plant open. Police officers in Wyandotte, Mich., agreed to a three-year wage freeze and to pay more for healthcare.

Jerry Jasinowski, president of the Manufacturing Institute at the National Assn. of Manufacturers, said such givebacks would simply become a fact of life.

“From airline pilots to auto assembly workers, employees need to help reduce their costs,” he said. “We can’t afford to live with the very generous benefits we provided 10, 15 years ago.”

Workers’ reduced leverage has many origins, including a slack labor market and the offshoring of jobs to low-cost countries such as China and India.

Some companies, challenged by low-cost rivals, say they can’t afford more than minimal raises. And even at firms doing well, high premiums for healthcare insurance take away from the pool of funds that could be used to provide raises.

The problem of course, is that part of those givebacks do pay for our modern Gilded Age:

This [2004] was a year of record-breaking real estate sales, with high-end properties pushing through price ceilings around the country. In fact, the average price of the homes on our list jumped from last year’s $25.9 million to $34.9 million, a dramatic increase of nearly 35%.

Significantly, in 2004 the record for the most expensive house ever sold in the U.S. was broken when billionaire Ronald O. Perelman unloaded his Palm Beach estate for $70 million. Perelman, 61, whose holding company MacAndrew & Forbes owns cosmetics producer Revlon (nyse: REV – news – people ) and flavoring maker M&F Worldwide (nyse: MFW – news – people ), sold to Dwight C. Schar, 62, who has been chief executive of Virginia-based construction service company NVR for 18 years, and is a part owner of the Washington Redskins football team. The sale price shouldn’t be too much of a stretch for Schar, who had a paycheck last year of $58 million, making him the fifth best-paid CEO on our annual roundup of executive pay.

I’ve oft-quoted Neil Stephenson when he said (in Snow Crash):

When it gets down to it–talking trade balances here–once we’ve brain-drained all our technology to other countries, once things have evened out, they’re making cars in Bolivia and microwave ovens in Tadzhikistan and selling them here, once our edge in natural resources has been made irrelevant by giant Hong Kong ships and dirigibles that can ship North Dakota all the way to New Zealand for a nickel, once the Invisible Hand has taken all those historical inequities and smeared them out into a broad global layer of what a Pakistani brickmaker would call prosperity–y’know what? There’s only four things we do better than anybody else: music/movies/microcode (software)/high-speed pizza delivery.

once the Invisible Hand has taken all those historical inequities and smeared them out into a broad global layer of what a Pakistani brickmaker would call prosperity” – has a kind of accurate ring to it, doesn’t it?

The rub, of course, is that a bunch of people in America are going to buy record-breaking numbers of record-breakingly expensive mansions while Jane and Joe America worry about paying the heating bill on their two-flat apartment.

That’s not inherently evil, and I’m not someone who believes that those who get don’t deserve.

But I do believe that if those who get don’t understand the social compact that allows them to keep getting and to enjoy what they’ve got, the consequences for our polity will be massively destructive.

It’s simple; we’re in this together or we’re not.

As my health plan, Pacificare, looks to consummate a sale to a larger health care organization, the CEO stands to make over $180 million in the transaction. Good for him, bad for us.

Cramming cutbacks down the throats of employees, while budget crises in local government limit their access to education for retraining, cutbacks in public health and local hospital networks limit their access to health care, and restrictive zoning and planning requirements limit their access to housing is a pretty clear signal that the answer to that question today is “not.”

When the largest group of voters wake up and see this, and their answer becomes “not,” too, the kind of demagoguery masquerading as populism won’t be anything we want to hear.

I’d like to forestall that, and I think we can.

Directors of California’s giant public pension fund voted Monday to oppose $345 million in payments that top executives of PacifiCare Health Systems Inc. would reap from the sale of the health insurer to UnitedHealth Group Inc.

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System, or CalPERS, holds a small fraction of PacifiCare shares, but it is the first institutional investor to take a position on the proposed $8.1-billion acquisition. Shareholders are scheduled to vote Nov. 17.

The deal, proposed in July, would grant payments to 39 top PacifiCare executives, including about $180 million to Chief Executive Howard Phanstiel. The payments include accelerated vesting of options granted by Cypress-based PacifiCare and signing bonuses and other incentives to executives who stay with UnitedHealth, the nation’s second-largest health insurer, for several years.

Good for CALPERS.
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Adam Bellow Explains Everything

Adam Bellow (to whom I still owe a review) answers my question below and explains what the **** Bush was thinking.

The problem for W is that the ethic of friendship and loyalty that the Bushes cultivate and that brought him to power is threatening now to bring him down. He has made the common dynastic mistake of confusing loyalty and merit; in his eyes, the merit of people like Michael Brown and Harriet Miers consists in their being his friends. They are loyal to him, and their loyalty must be rewarded. Thus in Bush, the very loyalty that was a private virtue has become a public vice. His greatest failing is his inability to hold people accountable for their errors. Because they are his creatures, he seems unable to disown them or even to see their faults. This is an inexcusable failing in a democratic leader. As the Machiavellian FDR would be the first to acknowledge, aristocratic virtues have no place in the modern executive. For while Americans do love a prince, they want nothing to do with a king.

OK, that’s a gotcha, for sure.

If This Missed Opportunity Doesn’t Piss You Off, You’re Just Not Paying Attention

Yes, I know that the equipment is in use in fighting terrorists, and that the troops are stretched thin…

…but it ought to be really, really bothersome that:

…the footsoldiers of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, one of Pakistan’s most prominent Islamic extremist groups, have been at the vanguard of the relief operation for the October 8 disaster.

One of the reasons the perception of the United States has risen in the Muslim world was out generous and rapid response to the tsunami.

Were we only as visibly rapid and generous now.Hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis are homeless, starving, and freezing right now.

The U.S. contribution hasn’t been insubstantial:

Following are details on the material assistance that has been provided as of 4:30 PM EDT, October 12.

Emergency Relief Supplies:

* 10 Emergency Health Kits are scheduled to arrive in Pakistan on Friday, October 15. Each kit serves 10,000 people for three months.
* Two C-17 aircraft, four C-130 aircraft, one Mi-8 aircraft and one UC-35 aircraft arrived on October 12, carrying medical supplies, relief supplies, water, cots, doctors, and humanitarian assistance personnel.
* Two C-17s carrying relief supplies arrived on October 11.
* A IL-76 carrying initial USAID/OFDA relief supplies arrived on October 10, including 250 rolls of plastic sheeting – sufficient for approximately 2,500 families – 5,000 blankets, and 5,000 water containers.
* USAID/OFDA has allocated $9.3 million to the UN Consolidated Appeal Process s part of the initial $50 million contribute toward Pakistan relief.
* USAID/OFDA in Washington, DC has committed $1 million to be provided through the American Red Cross in response to a Preliminary Emergency Appeal issued by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. This was in addition to the $100,000 announced on October 10 by the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad.

Transportation Assets:

* Eight U.S. military helicopters now in country (five CH-47 Chinooks and three UH-60 Blackhawks) continue to deliver regular supplies of tents, medical supplies, water, meals ready-to-eat and other desperately needed relief supplies. The aviation task force has flown about 150 missions since arriving October 10, moving 250 people and 45,000 pounds of supplies and equipment. Some of the most severe damage from the earthquake has been sustained in remote areas not easily accessible by road.
* Heavy equipment such as bulldozers, dump trucks, and forklifts, and support systems, such as water purification systems, portable generators, and medical support are being dispatched from within the Central Command region.

Emergency Management Assistance:

* Eight members of the nine-person Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) arrived in Islamabad on October 12. The team’s mission is to assess humanitarian needs, assist with targeting and coordination of U.S. assistance, and provide technical assistance as needed.
* A 23-member Contingency Support Group from McGuire Air Force Base arrived in Islamabad on October 12 and will be involved in planning and logistics support.
* Department of Defense announced on October 11 that Navy Rear Admiral Michael Lefever has been designated to coordinate the Disaster Assistance Center in Islamabad.

But it’s behind-the-scenes help with materiel and logistics; the kind of help that is vital, but often invisible.

I can well understand the security challenge of placing lots of boots on the ground in an environment like this.

But I can also see the massive and long-term win that we could generate – throughout the Muslim world – with the simple image of U.S. medics helping the wounded, U.S. uniforms distributing shelter.

The social-service arm of Hamas is the engine that drives it’s legitimacy. It ought to be our engine, not theirs. We should be better at this than they are.

Mr. President, Exactly What the **** Were You Thinking?(tm)`

I’ve decided that I’ll make my fortune by creating a reality TV show based on a topic I’m positive will draw an immense audience- the opportunity to go find people who’ve made confounding decisions and ask them, after the fact – “What the **** were you thinking?”

“When you noticed the helicopter overhead and the nine police cars following your 1970 pickup truck loaded with gravel and bricks, and you decided not to pull over…just what the **** were you thinking?”

I know the show will be a hit, because everyone I talk to has the same question.It’s broadly applicable…when Gerard Levin swapped Time Warner stock for immensely overvalued AOL stock…”what the **** were you thinking?”

And you can go on.

Here’s a case where I really, really want to ask Bush – “When you nominated Harriet Miers – in the face of sagging popularity, a somewhat rebellious Congress, you nominated – who? To the Supreme Court? What the **** were you thinking?”

I have no doubt that Miers is a competent – possibly even an extremely competent lawyer. I know lots and lots of competent lawyers and Superior Court judges.

The fact that Bush is President and I’m not doesn’t make her more qualified than they are.

The reality is that there are probably a thousand or so lawyers and judges who figure in the public legal life of the country at this point. Before ideology, loyalty, or proximity, I’d suggest that as a basis for consideration. I’m hard-pressed to imagine why picking one of them wouldn’t have been a better choice, and why it won’t be a better choice after this nomination fails or is withdrawn.

So,Mr. President – what the **** were you thinking?

Voting ^2

I was going to write about the LATimes op-ed by Ethan Rarik, acting director of the Center on Politics at the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies (echoed by Mark Kleiman) that would gladly sacrifice my rights as a California voter to the well-being of the Democratic Party.

I was pretty outraged when Rarik wrote:

The big problem with Proposition 77, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ballot measure to create a new system for drawing legislative and congressional boundaries, is that it’s much too fair.


Here’s why. I’m a Democrat, and while I don’t think that the nonpartisan redistricting would have much of an effect on the legislative majorities in the California statehouse (where Democrats are likely to keep control of both the Assembly and the Senate), I do think a nonpartisan redistricting could reduce the number of Democrats in California’s congressional delegation, lessening the chances that Democrats will ever be able to regain control of the House of Representatives.

If enacted, Proposition 77 would also rob California’s dominant Democrats of the power to dictate a partisan gerrymander after the 2010 census. I want Democrats to retain that ability, no matter how unseemly it is to say so. It’s not that I don’t want to be fair. I do. But why should California Democrats be fair to Republicans when they have no guarantee that Republicans in the rest of the country will behave likewise? I will support a nonpartisan redistricting of Democrat-dominated California on the same day I can be assured of similar fairness in Republican states.

Why am I outraged? Because Rarik is perfectly prepared to screw all California citizens rather than lose his partisan advantage. It’s not that we’re all in the same boat; it’s that he’d rather sink the boat than risk losing.

California politics is paralyzed (which is why we elected another B-movie star and keep doing these propositions) because we’ve institutionalized gridlock. Partisan gerrymandering has rendered the general election meaningless for legislators; the primary is what counts. And since the committed partisans – typically the most ideologically pure – control the levers of the local and state parties, the primaries are won by the most ideologically pure.

That’s why Brad Plumer’s criticism – while at least morally sound – is still off target.

This looks dubious. Under the second guideline there, the judges drawing the boundaries could end up packing the majority of urban voters into a few concentrated, ultra-Democratic districts. (The first guideline might, equally, pack Republicans into conservative “counties,” but I can’t tell without data, and am guessing this would be a smaller effect.) Schwarzenegger’s plan wouldn’t necessarily lead to more competitive districts either, as is widely hoped. Since “[j]udges must maximize the number of whole cities in each district,” you’d have a handful of ultra-safe single-city seats that would vote overwhelmingly Democratic. If you wanted more electoral competition, then you’d try to create a bunch of districts that, say, combined parts of “blue” urban areas with parts of “red” suburbs. Schwarzenegger’s plan does the exact opposite.

Now his plan would give representatives more “natural” regions to represent (i.e., it makes sense to represent a whole city rather than parts of two different regions), but that’s a different goal from either a) ensuring competitiveness or b) making sure that voters have anything like proportional representation in Congress, and should be sold as such. Plus it looks for all the world like a naked, calculated power grab, rather than a solid reform that just happens to hurt the Democrats. (I’d happily support the latter; not so much the former.)

The issue to Brad is that how many seats have a -D or a -R behind them is not only a consequence of fairness but is the primary metric of fairness. That seems senseless to me; I’m a Democrat, but I’m a Californian first.

The goal ought to be seats in which the ideologically pure are less likely to triumph. In which the compromisers, the folks who don’t think ‘moderation’ is a dirty word, have a chance to win.

I’m not at all sure I buy Plumer’s point that breaking district lines at existing political boundaries creates clear Democratic and Republican enclaves. I am sure that these will be less ‘ideologically pure’ than the gerrymandered seats we live with today – and thus that we will get more legislators who are familiar with the art of compromise. I’m equally sure that there is a way to model districts that would optimize the electoral balance between parties. But I’m equally sure that it would be incomprehensibly complex and opaque, and so as subject to manipulation as the BCS rankings.

Districts that reflect existing political boundaries are transparent and hard to manipulate; that’s a good thing.

I’ll be voting for Proposition 77; I’d like to bring actual politics back to California politics. Maybe we can start here and spread it around the country.

Update: Corrected the spelling of Brad Plummer’s name.

The Vote

Constitutions matter, because they confer legitimacy.

Dan Darling talks below about the Iraqi constitutional referendum, and points out that while a success for the Iraqi political process, it certainly doesn’t mean that the terror will stop.

The war certainly isn’t over.

But we’re moving toward one of the key preconditions for it being over, both in Iraq and more widely.

And that is an increasing rejection of the legitimacy of terrorism, and even Islamist politics … within Iraq and the broader Arab world.

This is critical, because as commenter DJPR points out (in suggesting that the election wasn’t all that, with or without the bag of chips):

Max Weber stated that the monopoly on violence within a given delinated territory is the fundamental definition of a government.

In the mid-to-long term, can the Iraqi Government achive this in any sort of meaningful way?

DJ makes a common mistake (not unlike going against a Sicilian when death is on the line); he misquotes Weber.

What Weber actually said (as I discussed a while ago) was that:

Today, however, we have to say that a state is a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory.

The question isn’t whether there is terrorist violence within Iraq, but whether that violence is perceived by a substantial part of the population as legitimate.

The recent Pew study (cited in the L.A. Times) suggests that terrorism is perceived by the Muslim world as less legitimate than it has been in the past:

The percentage of people holding a favorable impression of the United States increased in Indonesia (+23 points), Lebanon (+15), Pakistan (+2) and Jordan (+16). It also went up in such non-Muslim nations as France, Germany, Russia and India.

What accounts for this shift? The answer varies by country, but analysts point to waning public anger over the invasion of Iraq, gratitude for the massive U.S. tsunami relief effort and growing conviction that the U.S. is serious about promoting democracy.

There is also increasing aversion to America’s enemies, even in the Islamic world. The Pew poll found that “nearly three-quarters of Moroccans and roughly half of those in Pakistan, Turkey and Indonesia see Islamic extremism as a threat to their countries.”

Support for suicide bombing has declined dramatically in all the Muslim countries surveyed except Jordan, with its large anti-Israeli Palestinian population. The number of those saying that “violence against civilian targets is sometimes or often justified” has dropped by big margins in Lebanon (-34 points) and Indonesia (-12) since 2002, and in the last year in Pakistan (-16) and Morocco (-27).

The success of the elections in Iraq is independent of the outcome; what matters is that all parties – Sunni and Sh’ia alike are engaged in a political struggle over the direction of the state.

They are granting some measure of legitimacy to the state; that is exactly the outcome that the Islamists sought to block.

We’re not done yet. But the things that we need to see happen do, in fact seem to be happening.

In January of 2003, I said:

We’re in this for the long haul. We don’t get to ‘declare victory and go home’ when the going gets tough, elections are near, or TV shows pictures of the inevitable suffering that war causes. The Marshall Plan is a bad example, because the Europe that had been devastated by war had the commercial and entrepreneurial culture that simply needed stuff and money to get restarted. And while we’re damn good with stuff and money, this is going to take much more, and we’re going to have to roll up our sleeves, work, and be willing to sweat with this for some time.

There are no good examples of this that I can think of in history. The postwar reconstruction of Japan comes the closest, and it’s not necessarily a good example, because the Japanese by WWII were a coherent, unified, hierarchical society that could be changed by fiat from the top. I don’t think that Germany is a good example, because once we de-Nazified, there was some tradition of liberal politics to work with. The Robert Kaplan-esque world we’re moving toward doesn’t have any of that.

That’s true today as much as it was then.

The Mainstream

I get email…this from the owners of the website www.democrats.com (note: they are not affiliated with the official Democratic Party)

Blogcall10 will feature David Swanson of AfterDowningStreet.org discussing the netroots-funded poll that found a virtual majority of Americans – 50% to 44% – want Congress to consider impeaching President Bush if he lied about the war in Iraq. Yet despite these astonishing results, the poll received absolutely no coverage in any mainstream media outlet – just one more example of rightwing media bias.

AfterDowningStreet.org commissioned the poll (by the non-partisan firm Ipsos Public Affairs) because the major media polls refused to include an impeachment question in their regular polls, citing various non-credible excuses.

AfterDowningStreet.org has a second poll in the works to keep up the pressure on the mainstream media. And Democrats.com is increasing its efforts to persuade one or more Members of Congress to introduce Articles of Impeachment.

While there is tremendous netroots support for Articles of Impeachment, there is also opposition from unexpected places. On Wednesday, Bob Fertik debated the merits of impeachment with Randi Rhodes during her show. Randi argued that House Democrats should not introduce Articles of Impeachment because they would fail and hurt Democratic candidates in the 2006 election; Bob argued that Articles of Impeachment would rally the Democratic base and help win those elections, even if the Republican majority defeated the Articles.

Join us for Blogcall10 as we discuss Impeachment Polls and Activism.

So the point of the open conference call is to let the blogging community know – and hopefully jump on and trigger a media push on impeaching the President.

Now I’m pretty comfy saying that this is a view pretty far out of the mainstream, and one that pretty much nails the basic points that I’ve been making for a few years and that Obama made in the Kos piece that I enthusiastically linked to.

And when I make the point that lots of serious Democrats hold looney positions like that, reasonable people take me to task and say “No real Democrats hold positions like that; that’s a strawman position; the mainstream of the party is much saner than that.”

Let’s go the resumes of the guys who launched this site:

Bob Fertik, President

Fertik created the Internet consulting firm I-Progress, which specialized in Internet development consulting for non-profits. He is the co-founder of the Pro-choice Resource Center, Eleanor’s List, Political Woman Newsletter, Women Leaders Online, and the Women’s Voting Guide.

David Lytel, Co-founder

Lytel was the co-developer and managing editor of the award-winning White House Web site, called in 1995 by Hotwired “easily one of the best sites on the Internet.” … Note: in 2003, Lytel left Democrats.com and launched the Committee to Re-Defeat the President (www.redefeatbush.com).

These guys aren’t running the DLC, but neither are they aggrieved grad school dropouts who work in a tofu factory in Bellingham, far from the levers of Party power.

Let me make another suggestion as a guy who’s made a buck or more selling a domain name, and who had dealt with issues around domain name vs copyright for a while; if the content of democrats.com was truly reprehensible to the Democratic Party, they’d shut it down.

They don’t, not because they legally can’t (see PETA v PETA), but because they choose not to – because the 400,000 pageviews the site serves up represent people whose loyalty they Democratic Party seeks.

And the site operator represents one of the political apparachniks who make up the apparatus of – and the substance of – the Party.

How Do Democrats Get To The White House? Praxis, Praxis, Praxis

Kevin Drum riffs on a conversation we had (along with some other folks) at Brian Linse’s house over the weekend.

The basic question is “why do Democrats keep losing?” Kevin, of course, poses it better than I do:

…if all this stuff is so popular with the middle and working classes, how come we don’t have any of it? Can it really be solely because our positions haven’t been loud enough and forthright enough? Because we haven’t fought hard enough?

The issue is, simply, why it is that a number of American voters either vote against their expressed and actual interests, or don’t come out and vote for them?

The question, which is followed up in great detail over on Kevin’s site by authors and political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, who are pushing their new book “Off Center.”

The arguments seem to break out into three reasonable strands (and a bunch of unreasonable ones, which I’ll ignore):

* The policies aren’t good enough expressions of the principles behind them (the more-think-tank-money theory);
* The people expressing the policies aren’t tough enough advocates of them (the why-don’t-we-have-a-Lee-Atwater-let’s spend-more-think-tank-money-and-grow-some theory);
* The institutional process is stacked against us by (conservative think tanks, corporate media, election finance policy, the fact that we don’t spend enough on think tanks).

Hacker and Pierson vote for Door #3. I’ll guess that they do work with think tanks…

I’ll suggest something different, on a couple of fronts. Let me – to borrow a phrase – reframe the argument.

Instead of arguing from principles, and letting policies emerge, liberals tend to want to argue policy. I think this is partly institutional – liberals tend to come from places where policy is actively studied, argued, or practiced. Ideas are usually expressed in policy – it’s not concrete otherwise.

As soon as Kevin & I started discussing it, his issue was: “What would the winning policies be?” (and my responses, when pinned down like that, were relatively lame – as you can see on his blog).

It’s the wrong question.

The issue in politics ought to be “what are the principles” and “why do I trust you to carry them out?”

Let me get back to that.

The issue with policy is the belief that somehow, someway, if I locked myself in a room and took my meals while reading every book ever written on healthcare, and corresponding with everyone who knows anything about it, and getting my third doctorate in medicine, following the ones in public policy and business administration, that I could somehow sit down in front of my computer and walk out with a policy so perfect, so brilliant, so incontrovertibly right that the voting public would not only pass it, they’d etch it into stone tablets and erect them outside Alabama courthouses.

Wrong answer. Wrong belief.

It’s an answer that matters … good policies work better than bad ones … but the reality is bounded by two immutable limits.

The first is Horst Rittel’s “wickedness.” Sorry, this is a wicked – untestable, unsolvable through analysis – problem. There is no single right answer. All these issues of national policy are wicked problems. There are a series of answers, better and worse, that we evolve as we go. And helping good policies evolve is a cause, a calling, a good thing to do.

The other is to mistake that diligence and hard work and cogitating – working to approximate that unreachable “right” answer are what this is about. That we’ll be rewarded for our good homework by a teacher, who singles us out for praise. I’ll talk about that “good student” theme in liberalism sometime soon.

Look instead in Hannah Arendt’s direction.

The answer is praxis (quotes from “Hannah Arendt: The Recovery of the Public World” by Hill).

“For Arendt, the activities of labor, work, and action collectively constitute praxis. Each is indispensable. Without labor, neither the individual nor the species can survive; without work and the world it builds, man is lost in the cosmos and does not develop a distinctive human identity; without action, his life lacks meaning and he does not develop a sense of personal identity.”

Labor is, to Arendt, simple effort – dumb animal effort. Work layers technique (craft, technology) onto labor to create a ‘made world’.

Action is somewhat more complex. But it is the expression of agency through activity, and ideally, activity in the public sphere.

“…political action is its paradigmatic form, and the organized public space its ideal home. In political life man acts amongst his peers, whose very presence and critical judgement bring out his full potential.”

So I’m looking at two moderately obscure dead Germans and talking about Democratic politics. What exactly am I serving up?

Let me add another layer to the cake.

I manage projects (including software projects) for a living. My involvement with this blog came at a time when I was getting much more interested in “4th Generation warfare” as expressed in project management – agile processes.

There is a group of software developers who have created what is called the “Agile Alliance.” They have a manifesto, which I think has the right flavor:

We are uncovering better ways of developing
software by doing it and helping others do it.
Through this work we have come to value:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on
the right, we value the items on the left more.

The ‘other side’ of the debate is the Project Management Institute, which has formalized and institutionalized policies around managing projects into the PMBOK – the Project Management Body of Knowledge – which is as you can imagine, big, and convoluted, and arcane.

A Guide to The Project Management Body of Knowledge – Third Edition (also called the PMBOK® Guide – Third Edition) identifies that subset of the Project Management Body of Knowledge that is generally recognized as good practice. “Identify” means to provide a general overview as opposed to an exhaustive description. “Generally recognized” means that the knowledge and practices described are applicable to most projects most of the time, and that there is widespread consensus about their value and usefulness. “Good practice” means that there is general agreement that the correct application of these skills, tools, and techniques can enhance the chances of success over a wide range of different projects. Good practice does not mean that the knowledge described should always be applied uniformly on all projects; the project management team is responsible for determining what is appropriate for any given project.

If I study it long enough and take a test, I can be certified as a serious practitioner of Project Management. The problem, of course, is that the guys running the Big Dig in Boston all passed that test.

The arcane and complex policies we suggest – like the ‘kludge’ that Hillarycare represented – are suspect by the American people, not because they aren’t smart enough to understand them, but because they are smart enough to be suspicious of this kind of effort. The track record for grand policy just isn’t very good. And average people may want more accessible health care, but they also don’t like the idea of Tom DeLay or Hillary walking into the Congressional clinic while they fill out the fiftieth copy of a nine-page form for the third time in order to see a specialist.

And so what I’m suggesting is simple. Shelve policy debate for a while. Simplify things.

Talk first about principles. Create a manifesto. Something vaguely like this:

First and foremost, the American principles of liberty, equality, freedom as have really not been enjoyed as well in any other place or time.

In the context of those principles, and not in lieu of them – there are other principles that defend the weak against the strong, the poor against the rich, the few against the many.

Those principles ought to be foremost. They should be coherent, clear, and compelling. Those are – in my belief – the “liberal manifesto.”

Then talk about how they get devolved into policy, and how – in dialog with supporters and opponents, in the messy, chaotic wonderful process that was created for us by our Founders, and which we intend to keep up and hand down to our children, we intend to create policies that meet those principles.

Let the policies emerge. Let leaders emerge who understand the principles, and can guide the creation of understandable, useful, workable policies.

Let them convince voters that they can uphold the principles because of their personal histories, their accomplishments, the ‘self’ they present in action in the public sphere.

Personally, I’m interested in some “4th Generation” social policies; ones that veer away from command and control, and from heavy-handed intrusion into people’s lives – and still meet the principles I set out; they help the weak, the poor, the few. What would a welfare program run along Special Forces lines look like?

To be honest, I think the GOP is far better at expressing principles over politics. They’re not necessarily better at translating those principles into policy…

…and if nothing else, there’s an opening for the Democratic Party.

The Ministry of Information

This post was going to be titled “Terry Semiel Has To Cooperate With Local Laws.” and be about the beating death of a pro-democracy activist in China, as reported by a reporter from the Guardian who eyewitnessed it (I’ll post on that in a moment).

But first I’m sure there’s an innocent explanation for this, and would love to hear from someone what it might be. UPDATE: No, I don’t think there’s an innocent explanation. Go down and read the end of the post.

I was Googling for the CNN comment on their need to release information about an Internet user to the Chinese authorities, looking for this quote:

“Just like any other global company, Yahoo! must ensure that its local country sites must operate within the laws, regulations and customs of the country in which they are based,” Yahoo spokeswoman Mary Osako said in a statement e-mailed to Reuters by the firm’s Hong Kong arm.

And found it quickly enough, using the Google search “Yahoo China statement”

But it’s what I found next that’s interesting. Below the fold are two screenshots…and yes, I do use Pimpzilla…showing that CNN has removed the Reuters story cited.

Google still has the cache, which I show as well.

And of course, both of them clearly show the logo of CNN’s search partner.

Yahoo!

I’ve sent a message to the webmaster, asking why there is a missing page. I’ll share the response.

Not Found.JPG

Google_Cache.JPG

UPDATE: I followed some of the other related links in the search that led to CNN. Take a look:

2nd story.JPG

2nd story cache.JPG

and

CNN Student News.JPG