Monthly Archives: July 2004

Forget the drug "war"; win a battle first.

From the immigrant neighborhoods of Hawaii, to the rural states of the Mississippi heartland, there is a scourge besetting America, especially it’s lower middle Class areas: methamphetamines.

Of course, America has been at war with drugs for decades, and the problem has only gotten worse. Years of racist sentencing laws, spy-on-your-family Gestapo tactics, and almost incomprehensible failure to understand the pressures of child- and adolescenthood combined with an obscene failure to communicate with our kids have netted nothing and given up much. How many billions are spent each year imprisoning non-violent drug offenders? how many familes riven by the prison sentences?

Before 9/11, an agitprop campaign against ecstacy—legal in the overregulated UK until 1985—began as its use spread. Shortly after 9/11, around the 2002 Super Bowl, the inevitable conflation of drug use and terror began from the ONDCP.

Yes, as long as it’s “illegal” (read: used for pleasure) a drug must be dangerous and supportive of terrorists. Bullshit.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t dangerous illegal drugs. Heroin. Cocaine or Crack. Methamphetamine in any form. These drugs can turn you into a wraith, destroy your moral compas and your life; yet to our drug warriors, there is no difference between these killers (and nicotene for that matter) and marijuana.

Terrorists have never devised a scheme so ruthless and destructive as the pox on our house that is methamphetamines. Spend an hour anywhere near a courthouse and you’ll know what I mean. And the fact that the nation’s anti-drug energies are spent at all on a few teenagers smoking joints, or a few upper-middle class college kids at raves is sickening.

You can pretty much count on market forces and geography to keep heroin and cocaine expensive and limited; but meth is made from household ingredients, and requires none of the exotic ingredients of heroin, nor the chemistry-skill of ecstasy. Marijuana, as study after study reveals, is benign and would be a welcome replacement for alcohol and nicotene.

This is not to dismiss the problem of crack in inner-cities; it is equally as threatening. However, because, again, of the narrow channels of its originating ingredient, police should be able to enforce crackdowns on the supply.

But what do we do about this? I don’t know. I’m not a drug policy maker. I’m not in law enforcement. I just know that the people that might know the answer, or who are capable of coming up with one, are too busy figuring out how to bust Tommy Chong.

Forget the drug war, we lost that one. Try fighting a small focussed battle that might be winnable, or at least do some good first.

And so it begins

[Again my apologies for the meta-blogging, but this is just an exemplar]

Over on DailyKos reactions to Kerry’s speech are mixed. Far from the politically-savvy crowd that can be present on dkos, this crowd was pissed that there wasn’t enough of the right kind of class warfare…

Katrina van den Heuvel at of The Nation is also starting to show cracks in the Kerry coalition. The more assured Kerry’s victory is, the more this kind of commentator is going to be critical.

Republicans aren’t wrong to suggest that the base of the Democratic party is far to the left of Kerry’s speech. They’re just hypocritical, because Bush was far, far, far to the right of his own campaign rhetoric. However, the truth is, more real Democrats support a guy like Howard Dean and know that they have to accept this kind of dialog because of wishy-washy arrogant, superior whiny, demanding of cock-suckery “independents.” (ie those to whom both political parties are supposed to pander because they, despite their lack of interest the rest of the time, control elections in a two-party system)

But in our present situation, we aren’t faced with a choice between a centrist and a progressive like we might have been in 1952. We are faced with the most right wing president ever, and a centrist. In order to pave the way for a progressive movement of any kind, we have to restore sanity first. So, on behalf of Democrats everywhere, I would like to apologize to whiny constituencies in all wings of our party for our attempt to build a winning coalition (ie rebuild the Clinton coalition that abandoned the Democrats in 2000).

Howard Dean would have probably build a movement not unlike Barry Goldwater–but do we really have 16 years for a movement to come to fruition the way the conservatives did? How stupid were Democrats in 1968 to squabble when they could have had a debate within their party without giving up on everything else that was important to them. How stupid were they to nominate McGovern, Dukakis, and Mondale?

We’re supposed to be the educated ones aware of history, right? So let’s act like it. We need to get control first, and then have a debate within the governing party. This idea that we can only have ideologically pure candidates is fucking bullshit.

So, in the mode of Bill O’Reilly, shut the fuck up Katrina.

Will they get away with this one?

This article appeared in The New Republic four weeks ago:

A third source, an official who works under ISI’s director, Lieutenant General Ehsan ul-Haq, informed tnr that the Pakistanis “have been told at every level that apprehension or killing of HVTs before [the] election is [an] absolute must.” What’s more, this source claims that Bush administration officials have told their Pakistani counterparts they have a date in mind for announcing this achievement: “The last ten days of July deadline has been given repeatedly by visitors to Islamabad and during [ul-Haq's] meetings in Washington.” Says McCormack: “I’m aware of no such comment.” But according to this ISI official, a White House aide told ul-Haq last spring that “it would be best if the arrest or killing of [any] HVT were announced on twenty-six, twenty-seven, or twenty-eight July”–the first three days of the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

And then this happens today.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) — Pakistan says it has captured a high-level al Qaeda suspect in a stand-off involving hundreds of police.

Fortunately, this didn’t spike Kerry’s speech, but the question remains: will they get away with it?

A Brief History of the Party Convention

All of the commentators who are dismissing this years party conventions as unimportant are ignorant  of the  of the party convention. Over 175 years the meaning of the conventions has changed, but it is normal for an institution to flux over the course of decades. Today the conventions are just as pertinent as they were 175 years ago.

The history of the party conventions is the history of the competing American tenets of Democracy and elitism writ small. In 1824 Universal Male Suffrage ended the political reign of land-owning disinterested (meaning, in today’s parlance, not belonging or beholden to an interest group} gentlemen, who previously comprised the government. In the place of disinterested gentleman were democrats who responded to a “call from the people” to take higher office, rather than an obtuse “calling” to reluctantly leave their property and lead for the good of the country.

By 1840 the elites came upon the convention system as a means to have greater control on the presidential selection process. Rather than putting their party support behind a candidate who had demonstrated his popularity with the public at large, the parties would hold a convention where they would select a candidate and then present him to the people with the full backing of the party’s organizational apparatus. To garner the backing of a party a candidate would have to develop relationships with key party leaders in each state rather than with the general citizenry.

After the progressive era reforms of the early twentieth century citizens had an increasing influence on the convention by having primaries where they could make their desires known. These primaries were not, however, absolutely binding. So the romanticized “smoky room” still largely determined who the candidates would be. Another important aspect of conventions was the determining of the party platform. This was done openly and it allowed an avenue for little know figures to influence the national party. The most compelling example of this occurred in the 1948 Democratic Convention when Hubert H. Humphrey, who was then the mayor of Minneapolis, made an impassioned speech for a strong civil rights plank. Mr. Humphrey’s speech succeeded in placing a civil right’s plank in the Democratic platform, launched his national career, and ultimately began the process of making Democrats the party of Civil Rights and Republicans the party of drugstore truck drivin’ men. Today, with the emphasis on “unity” in the conventions, it is unlikely that a lesser-known figure like Lincoln Chafee could make a speech at the Republican Convention that would lead to a reversal of their extraction-oriented environmental policy.

The birth of the modern Convention came in 1972 and 1976 when delegates began to be firmly appropriated according to the results of the primaries and caucuses. Now, the only way a convention could truly decide the presidentail and vice-presidential nominees is if the assigned delegates were split amongst several candidates and no one had a majority.

In their history conventions have transformed from a way to take the choice of presidential candidates out of the hands of “the people,” to being a place where party factions would argue out their differences, to being a rehearsed coronation of the people’s choice of their candidate. This does not mean that the conventions are not important. In 1992 the exuberant Democratic Convention and an excellent acceptance speech catapulted Bill Clinton past President Bush the First into a lead that he never relinquished. In 2000, Al Gore’s acceptance speech injected some mojo into his foundering campaign and helped him to a win that was stolen by the GOP putsch in Florida.

Critics kvetch about how the “packaged” quality of the convention, but they do not give enough credit to an American populace that has taken in countless commercials. Americans know that how a performance is packaged can be revealing. In 1992 the Republican Convention’s emphasis on “culture war” terrified many Americans, so in years since their conventions have turned into soft-focus minstrely shows. This year, the Republican’s ability to “package” their convention’s pomp with the patriotism of the third anniversary of 9/11 in manner that is not too obviously cynical and nauseating will have an important influence on the election.

The most important feature of the modern convention is that they are an event. Because they are an event, people watch them. That means that in this disengaged, short attention span era, they are the only chance that most Americans will get to hear ideas from their candidates that are more complicated than a five-second sound byte and more intelligent than the amorphous praise and venomous fnords of commercials. For the GOP this means that the conventions are just one more hollering voice in their media echo-chamber, but for Democrats the conventions are a once-every-four-years opportunity to get their message across essentially unmolested by the Conservatron Hate Machine. For that reason, Senator Kerry’s acceptance speech tonight, in midst of the most important election sicne 1860, will be the most pivotal moment of the party convention’s modern history.

Labor Reform

Sorry for the meta-blogging, but Kevin Drum raises an interesting issue about labor.

Labor is an important issue, but, this blogger believes that labor requires some serious 21st century reforms; not pro-industry reforms, but reforms nonetheless. I plan to make progressive labor reform a central issue in my future writings from Polemic.

Kevin talked about card-counting versus elections, under the Employee Free Choice Act. There are a lot of reasons why this is and isn’t a good idea, but this will probably only be received as a fradu-prone countermeasure to declining union membership.

I believe there are a lot of cases where collective bargaining is a positive thing, and some where it’s not. A great incentive for employers to accept unions would be to allow collectively bargained contracts to trump any provision of wage and hour law, or even any provision of any employment law. Leave the protections in place for unorganized workers, but let the union folks agree to whatever they want, but in exchange, ask for some agility in companies in return. It could work, but you’d have to leave old models behind. Unfortunately, the only reform models I’m aware of are either so sickeningly pro-industry or old-school that they don’t advance the issue at all.

If only it were somehow possible to unite shareholders and employees… (oh, wait! There is!)

The fact is this: there is a strong correlation between historical trends in real wages and union membership.

Genius idea.

My wife had a genius idea (spurred on by The Man’s speech tonight):

Change the 22nd amendment from 2 terms max to 2 terms, then a mandatory term off, then you can have two more. The term off provides the kind of check on a long, long term. And if the people want the guy back, why not?

Perhaps just nostalgic for Bill, but it sounds like a reasonable change to the Anti-FDR amendment.

An Important Convention

As usual whiny media Baby Boomers and their elders are lamenting the loss of the political convention as a dramatic spectacle that actually decided who the presidential nominee of a given party would be. Today, the conventions are truly no more than political infomercials and usually present little more than empty calories.

This is no ordinary time, however, the election of 2004 is the most important that America has faced since 1860 not because of what vision may be realized should Mr. Kerry win the election, but because of the terrifying dystopia that would result from another Bush conquest. This convention marks Senator Kerry’s best chance to present himself to undecided, or uncertain voters, and position himself for victory. If opinion polls are to be believed much of the electorate is uncertain about Mr. Kerry, but Mr. Bush’s failings have left them willing to give Mr. Kerry a once over, and this is an opportunity that previous challengers like Bob Dole and Walter Mondale were never afforded.

So, by all means, keep your eyes glued to the infomercial. Although it will do nothing to determine the Democratic Presidential nominee, it may help decide whether or not he becomes president. 

Liberal Porn Reviews

Farenheit 9/11 – This is the Long Dong Silver of Liberal Porn. It covers all the biggies except the environment: race, class, war, and corporations, but it does so in a way that’s compelling. It’s a well put together flick, that grabs ahold of you and doesn’t let go. Five Peace-sign dildos.

The Corporation – An ivory-tower psychological deconstruction of the corporation that touches on all of the usually Chomskyish attacks on the corporation: limited liability, no conscience, and externalities. I would have like to have seen some economic data on limited liability. I have never seen, from either side, any extensive study that confirms the proposition that limited liability benfits society by encouraging entrepreneurship. It’s just an accepted postulate of economics. This move is laden with liberal fnords, and it is just preaching to the choir. Two Peace-sign dildos.

The Hunting of the President – This movie starts out great. It has great interviews with important figures. But it seems to need to be twice as long; it seems to just stop at the end. I would have liked to have known more about the “vast right wing conspiracy.” Two Peace-sign dildos.

Outfoxed – This doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. Fox is run with an agenda; is anything but fair and balanced; and is anything but journalistic. The only thing that really adds any meat to this are internal Fox memoranda and interviews with ex-Fox employees. I got bored with this one, because, again it wasn’t shocking to me, and I had the feeling that, unlike F911 it has little chance of reaching the audience on whom it would have an effect. Three Peace-sign dildos.

Uncovered – Like Outfoxed, the audience for this movie is the choir and MoveOn is doing the preaching. Everything in this is to be found in the pages of the Washington Post or the New York Times, if you’re looking for it.  Two Peace-sign dildos.

All of these movies except F911 suffer from the same flaw: they are echo-chamber fnord flicks.  Until a slightly diet-cola version of one of these makes it onto Dateline, don’t expect many minds to change.

AP Strikes Again

The AP strikes again.  

Their speeches, designed to rouse Democrats for a tough campaign, are sure to bring comparisons between the aloof, wooden Kerry and forceful, charismatic Clintons.

At least they have apparently received permission to stop bashing Clinton.

Electoral College and the "new math"

“The race is still fundamentally tied, and the Electoral College map reflects that,” said Bush strategist Matthew Dowd. “But there is beginning to be a slight tilt toward us with Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri and Arizona no longer being seriously contested.”

…the AP reports.

Funny then that a July 10 Zogby poll shows Bush leading by only 2% in Arkansas, another Zogby poll on July 1o shows Tennessee tied at 48% each, and a July 20 Market Research Institute poll from July 20 shows Kerry leading in Missouri 46%-44%, and a July 18 ASU poll shows Kerry leading 42%-41% in Arizona.

None of that is a convincing win for either side. To say those starts are no longer being seriously contested implies that Bush has them locked up. The data do not support than contention.

Neither do they support the AP’s headline: Kerry Trails Bush in Electoral Votes.

The report goes on to add, ominously, that:

Of the states won by Gore, Pennsylvania is by far Bush’s top target. The president has spent millions of dollars in the state on commercials and has visited it more than any other contested state — 30 trips since his inauguration.

For Kerry, losing Pennsylvania would create a virtually insurmountable electoral vote gap.

Of course, a July 21 LA Times poll shows Kerry with a 10 point lead there. If you follow the actual recent polls, the loss of PA still leaves Kerry in the win column. And this is all pre-convention, with most of the undecideds likely to break to the challenger. Nice spin by the Bush people.

Clinton said in his book that he wished that the survey data showing his giant lead in October 1996 hand’t come out, and that he feels that probably cost him the 50% lead he wanted. Spinning it that way, this could be just what Kerry wants: his supporters to continue to feel a sense of urgency. As for me, I’m tired of bullshit from the media.

Kristof & Environmentalism

From the NYT today (Kristof):  

Yet the environmental movement is wrong to emphasize preservation for the sake of the wolves and the moose alone. We should preserve wilderness for our sake – to remind us of our scale on this planet, to humble us, to soothe us. Nothing so civilizes humans as the wild.

This has to be the environmental theory of a new progressive ideology. While E. O. Wilson and others have shown the delicate web woven by evolution and how we depend on other species for the biosphere we live in, this will never come to pass unless people understand that it is as much for our sake as for the sake of the owls, the whales, or the wolves that we are preserving the Earth. Man may not be the measure of all things, but for most voters that is their measure.

We need these species and they need their habitat; it’s tantamount to farmland. Without it, the web of life cannot persist, and we will not be able to grow food. It’s really that simple.

Of course environmentalism is not ab ovo a progressive or left-wing movement. It requries the consolidation of property and the limiting of resources, especially for the working class. Of course, in the last 40 years, environmentalism has replaced labor as perhaps the most identifiable lefty proposition. That has more to do with the who and not the how or the why. So, in some sense, it’s difficult to work out a theory that doesn’t undo or limit the basis of underclass prosperity.

The place to start, however, is to figure out, like the quote above, how to relate it to the benefit of man, and not man versus wolf.

PolemicBlog

Sometimes we have some good ideas and discussions that we’d like to get down quickly, and out there. We evolved the Polemic design after experimenting with blogging, but this new interface is so slick and simple that it’s impossible to say no to.