S.M.B. - Logic and Rhetoric
Saturday, January 17, 2004

The semester is starting up on Tuesday, my favorite candidate is Dennis Kucinich, Ricardo says that he's voting for Dean absentee in the New York primary. I guess we're a couple of left wing wackos. In case you've been living in a hole, I'll tell you what's happening in Iowa. John Kerry and John Edwards have caught up to Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt.

The mass media is underestimating the ability of Dean's and Gephardt's grassroots campaigns to pull them through the four way statistical dead heat, and they are also hyping the importance of the Iowa Caucus relative to Dean's campaign--even if Dean loses Iowa by a slim margin, the guy has so much money and the other primaries are so close, that I just can't see how the other guys are going to turn around and beat Dean in the other states, especially if they run out of money.

Nonetheless, the race is now wide open. I've gotten into a few conversations about the virtues or "stupidity" of voting for Dennis Kucinich. To me, the bottom line is that this is a primary election, and I'd be standing with the guy who would stand with me on the important issues, and it sounds corny and cliche, but that's how I feel about it. Leave the "rally behind the nominee" for November, right now is the time for me to say who I think has the best IDEAS, and who's done the best job, not who is most electable.

Electability on a national scale, by the way, is not necessarily representative of principle. Presidents are watered down versions of their hardcore supporters. The problem with the Democrats is that they're more watered down than the Republicans are, that's where a lot of the passion behind Howard Dean or Dennis Kucinich, or even Al Sharpton comes from.

Local politicians kiss local ass. They get used to pandering and opposing all of the same forces and understand how to manage them well enough to win. When the local politician enters the national political arena, he can't spend the same amount of time kissing all the same ass, he must kiss more ass in less time, and thus, the quality of each kiss suffers. The guy who wins on the national stage is the guy who can convince the most people that his ass kisses were heart felt and sincere, regardless of the reality.

Yep, regardless of the reality.

Monday, January 12, 2004

There are two dominant streams of thought in the Democratic Party today.

The most dominant part of the Democratic Party is the Democratic Leadership Council, commonly called the "New Democrats." They are dominant, not because they have assembled a mass of grassroots or popular support, but because some of the most prominent leaders of the Democratic Party have embraced the D.L.C. political ideology, which is often called the "third way" abroad. The D.L.C. has been led or embraced by people such as President Bill Clinton, Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator Joe Lieberman and Vice President Al Gore.

The less dominant philosophy in the Democratic Party is liberalism. Liberalism has been fading as the dominant philosophy in the Demoratic Party since the early 1970s. The most problematic aspects of the Democrats' liberalism has been its relative inability to appeal to a sizeable majority of Democratic elected officials or broaden its hardcore appeal past certain constituencies like blacks, hispanics, labor, feminists and gays and lesbians. Despite being led by the likes of Senator Ted Kennedy, Senator Walter Mondale, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and more recently by people like Representative Charles Rangel, Representative Dennis Kucinich, and Senators Paul Wellstone, Tom Harkin and Russell Feingold, liberals have not been able to win the Presidency.


Based upon the writings of third wayers themselves, in the Democratic Leadership Council and elsewhere. Former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, wrote candidly about the "third way" philosophy in the American Prospect recently. The chief priorities and views of the D.L.C. and other "third way" groups are:

1.) Deregulation; regulation cannot keep up with technology.

2.) Facilitating globalization, which is inevitable.

3.) Encouraging wage "flexibility" (the ability of employers to increase and decrease wages and jobs).

4.) Costs of social safety nets should be trimmed; welfare, "as we know it", must be ended and able bodied people must be put to work.

5.) Budget deficits must be eliminated.

*.) Economically and socially displaced people must be included in economic "modernization" and "globalization." Those people that lose jobs pr those who are otherwise harmed by free market policies must be given means to adapt to the new economy. Since globalization is inevitable, and the economy and economic factors (wages, regulations, taxes, interest rates and government spending) will change, then everybody should have the means to change with the economy.

**.) "LEFT"== activist government that "preserves and protects" entitlements and "outdated" regulations and institutions.

"RIGHT"== absent government that "allows people to drown" under the pressure of an economy that changes and leaves them behind.

The "Third Way" bridges the gap between left and right, and combines progressive sensibilities about fair economic justice and opportunity with the reality that markets are more efficient when costs are low and when they are least taxed and regulated.

Taken simply on the first five points, this ideology is not progressive at all; it mirrors the goals of right-wingers everywhere. But this political philosophy assumes certain preconditions that are seen in the later points. Despite all of the great philosophy, I think the "third way" and the "New Democrats" are naive. I think history has proven that unfettered, unregulated capitalism does not serve progressive ideals and that protections are necessary for the public interest. It is no coincidence that the forces that have opposed regulations, labor unions, progressive taxation since capitalism's beginnings are the same forces that stood to gain the most money by preventing regulations, unions and fair taxes. I think the New Democrats are trying to castrate progressive politics and policy. More on this later.


Liberalism in the progressive, modern sense is less of an ideology than the 'third way' embraced by President Clinton and his closest supporters. Liberalism is more of a general thrust of left of center politics than it is a set of specific policies and political positions. For this reason, liberal politics has been very messy, especially since the 1960s. In the United States, liberalism has been embodied by a coalition of disenfranchised groups seeking greater access to rights and opportunities, public workers and labor union supporters, and social liberals. The first group, the "disenfranchised" folks break down further into racial, economic, and other subcategories.

The diversity of the liberal coalition has led to in-fighting concerning priorities, representation and policy. Because of the lack of a more coherent liberal American politics, many groups within the tradional liberal coalition focus mainly on how to achieve their main political objectives absent the support, solidarity and assistance of others. The flaws of liberalism are not necessarily flaws of policy, but of discipline, loyalty, coalition building and cooperation.

I am a liberal, through and through, and am extremely frustrated by the failure of my principles to be truly understood and applied effectively despite what I perceive as the superiority and popularity of liberal policies. I believe that liberal political leaders, unlike their third way counterparts like the Clintons or Joe Lieberman, tend to moralize the quest for economic and social justice in an urgent manner.

I believe these are some of the core principles of liberalism today:

1.) Expansion of individual rights, liberty and opportunity. Liberals believe that all citizens should be accorded the same rights and that preferences should not be given to majority groups--this point can be seen in liberal support of abolition and desegregation, womens suffrage, and gay marriage.

2.) Balance and separation of power is imperative; concentration of power is undemocratic. This power can be political or economic. Labor unions must balance corporations, citizens must balance government, political parties must balance eachother, prestige must be balanced (or equaled) with strong public institutions like schools and hospitals.

3.) Balance between economic efficiency and economic justice is imperative; capitalism is successful when all people in the economy bear the fruit of their labor; the social safety net protects capitalism by ensuring that people do not fall below basic living standards and lose faith in the system.

I think these are the basic ideals that informed the domestic policy thinking of Presidents like Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson. The DLC can say that supply side economics, deregulation and the end of welfare are the heritage of the Democratic Party, but history does not support their assertions. The modern Democratic Party, domestically speaking, has been led by liberal ideas, and its dominance in the middle of the 20th Century correllates with the dominance of the American economy and the success of liberal initiatives.



This dude, Jack Kelley has been writing for USA Today for over 20 years. Word on the net is that this guy did some very bad things in a lot of his stories along the lines of plagiarism or fabrication.


Right-wing talk show host, Rush Limbaugh, is getting a helping hand from the American Civil Liberties Union.

"Yes, Mark Rosenbaum, ACLU legal director, claimed that minority voters are too stupid to figure out punch card ballots..." -Rush Limbaugh, September 16, 2003

Sunday, January 11, 2004

The big media story is going to be that Sharpton "attacked" Howard Dean for never having appointed a single non-white person to his cabinet in Vermont. I blogged on the Blog for America open debate threads; I signed my name "memorybanker" or "banker." And was engaged in a discussion about the fairness of Al Sharpton's offensive against Howard Dean on this issue.

I don't think that Sharpton's point was unfair. I think it was extremely valid, and frankly, I was disappointed by the reaction of Dean's blogging supporters who became offended, dismissive and nasty toward Sharpton, as they were hidden behind their own computers.

Too many white Liberals think that their commitment, and their candidates' commitment to fighting racism is unassailable or beyond scrutiny or question just because they may support the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or the Voting Rights Act of 1965. That's nonsense.

Racism is deeper than law. Racism is a culture, an attitude, a barnacle stuck to the ass of American culture and life. Racism cannot be fought on all levels until it is unmasked, recognized and slaughtered. Howard Dean was the Governor of Vermont for 11 years, he did not ever have a single cabinet member who was not white. That does not make Howard Dean racist, but it does mean that non-white perspectives were not inherently part of Vermont's executive worldview.

For Sharpton to ask Dean to justify or explain his own record is not an unholy attack on Howard Dean, and it is not an accusation of racism. On Dean's blog I witnessed dozens of liberals take offense to Sharpton's question, and even make personal attacks against this man. They did not sound much different from the likes of Sean Hannity or Bill O'Reilly who mention the Tawana Brawley wrongful rape charge every time they mention Reverend Sharpton. Ever since the Brawley affair, which Rev. Sharpton was wrong for perpetuating, the white media has written him off.

George W. Bush has more credibility with the American people than Al Sharpton does, even though George Bush's lies and/or ignorance have caused the deaths of thousands of Iraqis and hundreds of Americans. Al Sharpton was lied to, acted on an instinct to help a woman who claimed that she was raped, tarnished a man's reputation but had his reputation battered in turn.

It is time for the Democrats to stop running away from the race issue. Rather than dismiss Sharpton and say that he's "race baiting," Democrats should understand that racism--institutional and otherwise--exists in every quarter in our society, in liberal and conservative circles, and black and white circles, in rich and poor circles.

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