Read This Now: Liberal Follies

by matttbastard

Thomas Walkom asks a question that’s been on the lips of many Canadians as Iggy and Steve thumb-wrestle over the reins of Parliament: “Who are these ludicrous Liberals? And what exactly is it that they want?”

They say they’d handle the recession differently. But they rarely say how. And when points of difference do emerge – such as the handling of employment insurance – they invariably backtrack.

For the Liberals, the time is never right. They come up with endless excuses for never forcing an election on the minority Harper government: They don’t have enough money; they don’t have enough candidates; their leader is too new; the polls are inauspicious; the weather is too warm; the weather is too cold

In the spring, they say wait until fall. In the fall, they say wait until spring.

When Stéphane Dion was their leader, they blamed him for everything. But at least Dion, with his plan to replace income with carbon taxes, gave some hint as to what he might do if elected.

By contrast, current Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is terminally vague. On the big economic questions, he attacks the government without saying what he’d do differently.

Ignatieff presents this as an asset, arguing that the point of being in opposition is to oppose. But in the context of the worst recession since the 1930s, his failure to articulate a clear alternative simply leaves the rest of us confused.

As they say, read the whole damn thing.

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On Hard Decisions, Afghanistan, and Unshitting the Bed.

by matttbastard

Pale just sent me this link, which has me right back to asking ‘what the fuck are we doing in Afghanistan again?’  Is it to promote civil society, install democracy and fight for women’s rights, as the Harpercons and the Bushies liked to go on about? Yeah, right; Joe Biden recently gave an interview on CNN where he basically said that it was too effing bad that Afghan women are still getting shat upon, but the primary reason why the US (and NATO) is in Afghanistan  is to keep America safe.

Ok, fine–I get that the US isn’t in the democracy promotion business any more.

Really.

I get it.

But, whether we like it or not,  for all intents and purposes,  NATO is the goddamn Afghan government–we (Canada included) are occupiers, with all the legal responsibilities that go along with that designation.  Karzai (aka The Mayor of Kabul) is a puppet; we pick and choose when and how we are going to pull his strings.  And the way the Obama admin is framing this? As I’ve said before, it’s pure Brzezinski realpolitik. We’ve swung from Utopian idealism to cold, amoral realism.

There is no balance.

Also, the manner in which some have been objecting to the ‘surge’ — the fact that Obama is putting in more troops, period–is the wrong complaint. There’s no point in putting in an additional 17,000 US combat troops because it’s JUST NOT ENOUGH.  Afghanistan needs several hundred thousand additional troops to provide adequate security and allow reconstruction to move forward. And even then it’s gonna be a 30-40 year project. Long. Term. So, if anything, Obama deserves to be spanked for trying to lazily emulate the Bush compromise surge in Iraq — a symbolic act to show that we are Doing Something, even if that Something is, ultimately, futile.

In other words, Obama’s Afghan strategy is a political gesture designed for domestic consumption that will do nothing to advance the stated mission in Afghanistan, nor measurably improve conditions on the ground.

So, we (as in ‘countries that make up NATO forces in the region’) face a decision:  do we want to do the Marshall Plan thing — go big, go hard, remake and rebuild Afghan (and, to a certain degree, Pakistani) society, long-term, FOR REAL–or mop up enough juuust enough to declare victory and get the fuck out before the shit hits the fan? I mean, post-WWII Germany, Japan? Decades-long projects, taken seriously without the half-assed measures and mixed messages about what exactly the mission and its desired outcomes were.  IF we are going to take the former route we need to do it RIGHT–or don’t do it at all.  Because we are investing priceless commodities–lives, money, and political capital–into this endeavor.

Problem is, many on the left are still acting like it’s 2002 and Afghanistan is Iraq,  arguing about whether the war and its stated goals (haphazard as they may have been) was the right thing to do. Newsflash, kiddies: it’s already been done–we broke it (oh, how we fucking broke it) and are once again the proud owners of another failed fucking state. Now we need to decide what the fuck we’re going to do with it.

And, unfortunately, sometimes there are no ideal options–merely the least-bad of a truly rotten bunch.

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Colin Powell Calls Out Sarah Palin and the GOP Over “Small Town Values”

by matttbastard

I’m sure by now you’re all overwhelmed with nostalgia for the 2008 presidential campaign (you betcha!) I mean, it’s been, what, just over a month since the election, right?  So, to help satisfy your endless electioneering jones, check out this clip of Colin Powell, in an interview with Fareed Zakaria that will air on CNN this Sunday, goin’ all South Bronx on Gov. Palin and the GOPizzle:

Partial transcript:

Gov. Palin, to some extent, pushed the party more to the right, and I think she had something of a polarizing effect when she talked about how small town values are good. Well, most of us don’t live in small towns. And I was raised in the South Bronx, and there’s nothing wrong with my value system from the South Bronx.

And when they came to Virginia and said the southern part of Virginia is good and the northern part of Virginia is bad. The only problem with that is there are more votes in the northern part of Virginia than there are in the southern part of Virginia, so that doesn’t work.

Apparently small town value systems apparently don’t take into account demographics and simple mathematics. (Hint: there are a lot of eligible voters–many of them *eek* not white–in the Bronx.  And in Arlington. To say nothing of Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Miami, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Cleveland…)

Pshh.  Wevs.

Who needs complicated statistics and a viable long-term political strategy when you have fresh moose-burgers and a collective annual oil stipend (which, btw, is so not socialism) to cling to, along with guns, religion and marginalizing resentment?

h/t Think Progress

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More on Obama, Celebrity and Miscengenation

by matttbastard

Re: the recent McCain campaign ad labelling Barack Obama a celebrity (and not-so-subtly juxtaposing the junior senator from Illinois with Paris Hilton and Britney Spears), Adam Serwer (aka dnA of Too Sense and Jack and Jill Politics) believes that, contra yours truly and other commentators, the racial subtext of the advertisement isn’t actually miscegenation. Rather, he contends that the McCain campaign has constructed a Nixonian paean to white resentment provoked by the undeserved success of an uppity person of colour:

The Britney ad is a result of the ongoing meme in this election that Obama’s success, like that of “overpaid black athletes,” is an affront to hardworking white people everywhere. The ad never mentions Obama’s race as the source of his celebrity, but it doesn’t have to — it’s been part of the campaign long enough for the point to be implicit. In short, this ad is Geraldine Ferraro’s attack done “right,” in the sense that it does not directly implicate the McCain campaign as exploiting racial tensions.

The McCain campaign’s apparently race-neutral approach, and its subsequent accusation that the Obama campaign is playing the race card, is a well-thought-out strategy — it is pure Nixon. In his recent chronicle of conservative political history in The New Yorker, George Packer describes Pat Buchanan’s plan for exploiting political divisions, particularly ones of a racial nature. Buchanan’s assessment was that they could “cut the Democratic Party and country in half; my view is that we would have far the larger half.”

In a dispute about race, the McCain campaign knows it will end up with the larger half. For the most part, most white people’s experience with race isn’t one of racial discrimination. They can only relate to racial discrimination in the abstract. What white people can relate to is the fear of being unjustly accused of racism. This is the larger half. This is why allegations of racism often provoke more outrage than actual racism, because most of the country can relate to one (the accusation of racism) easier than the other (actual racism). For this reason, in a political conflict over race, the McCain campaign has the advantage, because saying the race card has been played is actually the ultimate race card.

Because of this advantage, dnA (it just don’t feel right to call the brother by his real name) further argues that, instead of tackling these racist attacks head on, “[i]t’s in the Obama campaign’s interest to keep the conversation on matters of policy, where it has an advantage not yet reflected in the polls”:

[Democrats] need to resist the temptation to engage in protracted battles with the McCain campaign about racism directed at their candidate, because the nation’s demographics and the circumstances of Obama’s rise make it difficult if not impossible to win the argument. Instead, they should attempt to focus the conversation back to policy questions. Democrats have a candidate who is sophisticated in his understanding of policy, and Republicans have a candidate who is still largely running on his biography as a war hero, whose only coherent and consistent remaining policy position is support for offshore drilling. Driving home that point will become increasingly difficult if McCain is re-energized by the presence of white voters who are themselves anxious about being seen as racist. From their point of view, Obama’s presence on the national stage is proof that any charge of racism on their behalf is frivolous. This is nonsense, but there’s nothing really that can be done about it.

As always, dnA’s points are compelling and well-thought out. He certainly has me thinking about how I’ve reacted to the calculated racism that has been–and continues to be–employed against Obama throughout the campaign. In other words, read the whole damn thing.

h/t Jack and Jill Politics

(photo: Barack Obama, Flickr, used under a Creative Commons License)

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The Human Touch

by matttbastard

When it comes to successful anti-racist activism, Carmen Van Kerckhove of Racialicious reminds us that facts and statistics aren’t enough to instill change; focusing on the human dimension is a more effective method of inspiration:

When I think back on how my own views about race have evolved over my lifetime, I realize that some of the most profound shifts in my thinking resulted not from reading theoretical treatises, but from learning about specific individuals’ experiences.

Before I read Jonathan Kozol’s book Amazing Grace: Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation, for example, I was a staunch believer in rugged individualism. It was Kozol’s unflinchingly vivid portraits of the day-to-day experiences of black and Latino children in Mott Haven that made me realize just how self-righteous and privileged I was to believe we were all on a level playing field.

We can (and should) talk all day long about employment discrimination, racial disparities in sentencing, redlining, disproportionate healthcare, voter suppression, segregation in public schools, the prison-industrial complex, and more.

But by solely discussing racism in such aggregate and abstract terms, I worry that we will lose sight of the real reason all of this matters. Racism is a problem not merely because it represents some abstract sense of societal injustice. It’s a problem because of the hurt, pain, anger, and suffering it causes to individual human beings.

[…]

If we want to mobilize people to take action against racism, facts and statistics are not enough. We need to put a human face on these issues.

As they, read the whole damn thing.

(Oh, and congrats to Latoya Peterson, new editor of Racialicious! Check out this open thread for some examples of what Peterson has planned for the future, and to put your two cents in, too.)

Related: Terrence McNally talks to clinical psychologist Drew Westen, author of The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation, on how progressives need to appeal to the emotions of voters to be successful in political endeavours. Also check out this in-depth three part series by Sara Robinson, who contends that, by studying, emulating and appropriating the strategy and tactics of movement conservatism, USian progressives might possibly regain control of the national discourse from the right.

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Liberal Heresy

by matttbastard

Via Greg Sargent:

dnA speak, you listen:

Lord I really don’t like Ronald Reagan. And despite how much I hate the Clintons right now, Bill was a better president than Reagan, by a long fucking shot.

With that said, I dunno if I’d go so far as to single out Obama as a “Lieberdem”, as Natasha Chart does. Now, as Noam Scheiber notes, despite utilizing narcotic, substance-free transformational rhetoric about hope and change that can intoxicate even a perpetual cynic like yours truly, “rather than tacking left, the Obama campaign went straight up the middle, where a much larger universe of potential voters awaited.” And it is a matter of record that Joe Lieberman mentored Obama in the Senate.

ZOMG, d’ya know what this means?! Obama, a proud member of the not-even-remotely-Progressive modern Democratic Party, is just another pro-establishment pol! Please, no earth-shattering revelations about wet water or Popes wearing funny hats; I don’t think my delicate constitution could take any more.

Still, the DLC-Dem charge seems ironic coming from a self-professed “spiteful” Clinton supporter. Um, so, let me see if I’m following: Chart, who claims to have always “disliked Democrats who tore down the Democratic brand, trashed progressives, and praised Republicans”, is standing up to the establishment by supporting a Triangulating perennial DLC favourite/defender (who counts Newt Gingrich as a fan club member) whose husband endorsed Joe Lieberman in ’06 and, during his tenure as both Governor of Arkansas and POTUS, essentially wrote the book on kissing GOP ass (when politically expedient) and eating your own (again, when politically expedient) in order to stake a claim on the mushy middle. All “out of spite”.

*blinks*

Shit, show me a viable Donkey candidate in this election cycle who isn’t a “Lieberdem.” And don’t say “John Edwards”, whose voting record belies his recent populist re-branding as Huey-Long-in-wingtips. Hopefully somebody somewhere is drafting a wide-ranging eulogy for common sense and intellectual consistency during this primary season–to say nothing of bullshit detectors.

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