Tuesday, February 13, 2007

I Got Yer Unity Right Here ...

Image credit: Screenshot of Cujo by Echte Tunus

Some friends of mine sent me an e-mail recently asking me to join the Unity '08 campaign as a delegate or some such. These friends are a very nice couple who have been politically active for a long time. They feel that it's wrong for politics to be so partisan, that rancor and animosity are bad for politics, and that reasoned discourse and enlightened compromise are what politics needs more of. They're bright people who are engaged in their society and trying their best to make it better. I just think that they couldn't be more wrong about a political movement if they tried.

We'll ignore for now that whenever anyone mentions the perfect "bipartisan" ticket it always seems to include Joe "Hire more thugs. Why is everyone picking on me?" Lieberman, and John McCain, the man who worked for years for a law that would outlaw the use of torture by the American military, only to meekly accept when Bush used a signing statement to gut it. Who couldn't trust the guy who made a big show of opposing the Military Commissions Act, then quietly caved and approved the bill just the way Bush wanted it? I'm just not seeing how this "bipartisan" thing is working for me.

I'll also dispense with all the socio-political mumbo-jumbo about how sometimes a society isn't reasonable, and that the issues dividing it need some form of release short of war, and that politics is one possible arena for such conflict. I don't know squat about that anyway.

It's just that I'm not feeling terribly reasonable right now.

Don't get me wrong. I love reasoned, skeptical discourse and discussion as much as the next Internet persona named after a rabid animal. The best thing that ever happened to Western civilization were the ancient Greeks and the Enlightenment they helped inspire after the Dark Ages. Logic and science, divorced as much as possible from religion and other superstition, are the hallmarks of our civilization. I don't dismiss them, as do many yokels on the left and right. I just don't feel like using them as defined by the people who control the message.

Reason and compromise have come to mean "do it Bush's way", or "do it the way the rich want us to". Neither sounds much like reason or compromise to me.

The last six years have been like a mini-Dark Ages for this country. We've lurched from one failed war (also, here (subscription required) to another, stopping only long enough to take repeated dumps on our own Constitution. It's been deliberate government policy to transfer wealth and income from the poor and middle class and hand it over to the rich. This was all allowed with barely a whisper of discontent in the popular press and in our government. Meanwhile, we've seen a right-wing propoganda machine develop on TV and in the press that alternately ridicules and shouts down the reasonable voices that try to oppose it. People who favor a withdrawal from Iraq, some form of universal health care, an increase in the minimum wage, or any of several other points of view favored by a majority of the population are labeled misfits and extremists by these clowns. Do you really want me to think that there's reasoned debate going on there? Here's Unity08 luminary John McCain in a reasonable, bipartisan discussion [h/t Taylor Marsh]:

Toward the end of the conversation, I raised my hand and asked McCain:

"Given that you've said that you are 'scared to death that it's going to be a very hot spring in Afghanistan,' and given that you have also said, repeatedly, that only a substantial increase in troops in Iraq would make a real difference, why not send the 21,000 troops headed to Iraq, in what is clearly an act of desperation, to Afghanistan instead?"

During his response, McCain equated those opposing his position with "the far left."

"Do you consider Sam Brownback part of the far left?" I jumped in.

The Senator flared and told me that if I'd only let him finish his answer instead of interrupting, we could have "a civil discussion." ... ..

Davos Notes: John McCain Bites My Head Off

Wanting to win at least one of the wars we're fighting is a far left idea. If that's "a civil discussion" of competing ideas, I'm from the planet Triskelion.

Of course, the Democrats are doing their level best to be bipartisan. Former White House Counsel and chief sadist John Yoo, of all people, pegged them thus:

The truth is that the Democrats in Congress would rather sit back and let the president take the heat in war than do anything risky. That way they get to prepare for the next election while pointing fingers of blame and spinning conspiracy theories.

Giving Democrats a pass on ending the war?

Mustn't seem partisan, must we? After all, it's not like people specifically voted for Democrats to bring an end to the war.

Commissar is a right-wing blogger and long-time Bush supporter. He originally supported the Iraq war but some time last year finally came to the conclusion that the war has been a failure and was a mistake from the start. He acknowledged his own errors in judgment in supporting the war and, in the midterm elections, he supported and voted for Democrats because (like many voters) he wanted them to take over Congress and put a stop to the war.

Giving Democrats a pass on ending the war?

Oh, well, who cares about that? Darned partisans.

Being reasonable hasn't gotten us anything but shouted down by brainless little assholes like Sean Hannity, or told to shut up by a guy who still doesn't know who massacred whom at Malmedy. Do these people sound reasonable? How about David Broder, who lectures Bill Clinton about how his indiscretions had "trashed the place" (the "place" he's referring to is Washington, DC, believe it or not), but who still hasn't objected to any of the excesses of the Bush Administration or its enablers? Broder also was recently responsible for this little gem:

One of the losers in the weekend oratorical marathon was retired Gen. Wesley Clark, who repeatedly invoked the West Point motto of "Duty, Honor, Country," forgetting that few in this particular audience [the Democratic National Committee] have much experience with, or sympathy for, the military. ...

The Other Democrats Weigh In

Broder very conveniently forgets that of the thirty or so Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who ran for Congress this last time, all but one were Democrats. Maybe he never checked on that fact, or any other facts that are the least bit relevant to his slander of Democrats. This guy is often called "The Dean" of Washington correspondents, because he's so non-partisan and trusted, don't you know. I think The Dean is in serious need of some vocational education, and I'm just the unreasonable, partisan Internet persona to Google it for him:

Journalists should:
— Avoid stereotyping by race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance or social status.
— Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context.
— Distinguish news from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two.

Society of Professional Journalists: Code of Ethics

Speaking of folks who don't have much sympathy for the military, does George Will lecturing Sen. James Webb, a Vietnam vet whose son is serving in Iraq, about civility when Webb just stood up to Bush's clumsy attempts at bullying him represent politeness to you?

The news wanting to appear "bipartisan" has allowed thugs like Joe Lieberman to act like victims with little or no challenge from the very people in the press who should have checked on his stories:

the US Attorney for the State of Connecticut, Kevin O'Connor (a Republican whose name was bandied about as a replacement for Alan Schlesinger, before Karl Rove put out the word that the GOP should not put up any opposition to Lieberman), the FBI and State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal have concluded that the whole "site hack" accusation was pure fabrication with no basis in fact.

And Fairies Ate His Pants

Good thing there weren't any "partisans" in the press who might have checked up on that site hack story before they just credulously repeated Mr. Bipartisan's claims. We got dangerously close to informing the voters about the character of the person they were voting for.

If you disagree, consider this - a study done last year found nearly two-thirds of the overtly partisan guests on political TV talk shows like "Meet The Press" and "Face The Nation" were Republican or conservative leaning. Why is it that whenever we hear from people who are "religious authorities", they're almost inevitably conservative?. When were Rev. Jesse Jackson or Rev. Al Sharpton last asked about their views on particular religious subjects? Why are they more "partisan" than William Donahue?

Fuck reason and bipartisanship. Whenever I think about what this raving group of losers have done to this country, and how little it's even been mentioned, let alone opposed, I want to rip someone's lungs out. How much more bipartisan can this country get before there's no such thing as a publicly aired difference of opinion? Talk to me when the country is once again run by people who don't think the Constitution is "just a goddamned piece of paper", and we have a press that wants to dig into stories and not just repeat the latest gossip. In short, I want people in charge who remember that this is our country, and they just run it for us. Until that happens, I intend to be as unreasonable and partisan as I can manage.

NOTE: If you're interested in reading about what Unity08 is really all about, I'd suggest stopping by here. They have all the symptoms of being an astroturf organization, they're insisting that they're only taking small donations but have a list of $2,000 plus contributors, most of whom live near Washington, DC, and they're already trying to violate Federal Election Commission regulations. I voted for Nader in 2000 because I didn't want people like this running the country.

UPDATE: For an insight into how credulous the news is these days when it comes to right-wing originated smears, read this International Herald Tribune article:

Jeffrey Kuhner, whose Web site published the first anonymous smear of the 2008 presidential race, is hardly the only editor who will not reveal his reporters' sources. What sets him apart is that he will not even disclose the names of his reporters.

But their anonymity has not stopped them from making an impact. In the last two weeks, Kuhner's Web site, Insight, the last remnant of a defunct conservative print magazine owned by the Unification Church led by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, was able to set off a wave of television commentary, talk-radio chatter, official denials, investigations by journalists around the globe and news media self-analysis that has lasted 12 days and counting.

Anatomy of an anonymous political smear

Can you imagine some news outlet just copying what I write here without first checking it out, or at least finding out who I really am? I can't, but this seems to be perfectly OK with broadcast news organizations these days, as long as the "news" has a right-wing slant.

UPDATE2: Here's what the Society of Professional Journalists has to say about anonymous sources:

Journalists should:

— Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible.
Always question sources’ motives before promising anonymity. Clarify conditions attached to any promise made in exchange for information. Keep promises.
— Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information except when traditional open methods will not yield information vital to the public. Use of such methods should be explained as part of the story

Society of Professional Journalists: Code of Ethics

[emphasis mine]

Funny how the most visible journalists these days seem to be the ones least able to remember these rules.

UPDATE3: (Feb. 15) Here's what Glenn Greenwald had to say about anonymous sources this morning:

Why is it so hard for the media to understand that its role is not to simply echo what Bush officials tell it? That is what P.R. representatives and official spokespeople do. That is what Pravda did, and it is what other government-controlled media outlets do. The Bush administration does not need Michael Gordon or Barbara Starr to be a megaphone for its claims because it has the capability to voice its views and arguments without newspapers and television reporters reciting those claims as their own reporting.

The media is continuously violating its own anonymity policies re: Iran

Worth a read, I think. He clearly explains what's wrong with the press allowing government officials to credulously spread propaganda anonymously.

[late Feb. 15 - added words in italics to clarify].

UPDATE4: (Feb. 16) Glenn Greenwald deconstructs The Dean like a crowd of hungry cavemen ripping apart a Thanksgiving turkey.

UPDATE5: (Feb. 17) David Broder didn't have the sense to accept the first ass-kicking Glenn Greenwald gave him, so Glenn gives him another.



Well said cujo ... Well said.

G.Natural said...

Great stuff, 'Cujo'. Its for goddamn sure that excessive civility hasn't gotten the left very much so far (for those who would point to 11/06, lets not forget that that was a vote against more than a vote for anything).

On a minor point, I do think you may have missed a timely opportunity to name the piece Not Ready To Make Nice. (Maybe a mp3-clip could play in the background, with Cujo snarling over it..?)

Cujo359 said...

You're right, G.natural, "we" won as much because folks were tired of how the Republicans were governing as they were buying what Democrats were selling. I think Speaker Pelosi, at least, is determined to make people glad they voted Democratic this time, and I hope she can do that. I'm not too optimistic the Senate will keep up its end, unfortunately.

I'm not quite ready to make the leap to multimedia, but I do like the song (and the Chicks).

David said...

Little late in reading this, but I wanted to respond briefly, as a member of the naive "enlightened negotiation" crowd. Listen, to some degree its just a matter of personality-- the truth is I could have written this post from the opposite side just by changing a few words. I'm sure it has more to do with biological tendencies than we'd all like to admit. However, emotions notwithstanding, I believe that the proud partisan crowd is empirically incorrect. The tortoise wins this race. And you need look no further than George Bush, who has been the ultimate "negotiations get us nowhere" president. For example, it felt great for some people to declare the "Axis of Evil" and chide the "soft-liners", but ultimately Bill Clinton and his foreign policy ("appeasement") have been wonderfully validated by history. Take notes. And thank you for being the rabid partisan who neutralizes the other rabid partisans so that the sane people of the world can do the real work.