Friday, May 28, 2004

From Matthew Yglasias' blog by way of Eschaton..

On the left, the College Democrats are treated like shit, the think tanks do approximately nothing to help their young research assistants move on to bigger things, the junior staffers on the Hill get no support and encouragement to stay involved in politics, and in general no one seems to give a damn whether or not there will be a next generation of professional progressives.

This simple point illustrates one of the major reasons why the Conservative/right-wing movement has been so succesfull in gaining ground in an increasingly modern society. While many of the major groups have strong differences of opinion and often give different issues varying amounts of importance (gay rights and fiscal responsibility are two good examples) they hold true to the old axiom, "a rising tide raises all boats."

By banding together to ensure people that fall under their broad umbrella are able to achieve positions of power, they are able to create a more favorable environment in which to push their own agenda. Their ability to brand themselves ensures greater success come election day.

Certainly the fiscaly conservative Republicans who work to preserve the environment in places like Montana and Alaksa are less concerned with the fundamentalist pro-born again lifestyle agenda in places like Texas and Alabama, but they recognize that a Republican congress is more amenable to both their positions.

This cohesiveness (shaky though it is) trumps most Democratic/liberal attempts at organization. Too often the different groups are too busy sniping at each other ot realize that they factionalism leaves plenty of room for the right to walk right on in.

This is not to say that the ability of the left to understand and appreciate the nuance and difficulty involved in creating effective policy is a bad thing, it is simply that the right has been able to paint the left and themselves with a broad brush. Their simplicity is seen as an asset, "common-man, every-day, church-goin joe six-pack type of elected official working for you and yours."

There are certainly many, many intelligent operatives on the right who know the issues inside and out, but they are able to do so and avoid the label they so often use on those on the left who publicly display their knowledge of an issue, the "wonk".

The right has been able to do what every campaign attempts to do, they were able to define the left before the left could define itself.

This may be an impossible mission. Attend any anti-war rally and inevitably 20 different groups are their pushing their message, "Free Palestine", "Leagalize It", "Hands of My Body", etc. Not that these shouldn't be events in which different groups should come together, but they should come together under one banner.

Matt's point focuses mostly on the college students and those about that age who are already involved, but they need to understand the importance of linking up under a defined message, one that states in simple terms what we are working for, not against.

The Republican Party is in full-time campaign mode, there are no non-political decisions made. Everything this administration has done in the past three years has been about politics. Everyone from the state rep to the President has a set of talking points and they go from there. Their orgnization is incredible and it has brought them success despite the obvious flaws in their policies.

Republicans: Cut taxes -> more revenue!
Reality: cut taxes + increase spending -> defecit
Solution: Blame the war, cut spending on social policies (negligible fiscal impact, but good repub politics) talk about something else, pass the buck.

We don't need to be cynical to play the game, we just have to be organized. We need to expose the shell game for what it is.

To achieve our ends we need to win back the White House, and win back the Congress.

But doing that only buys us time. We need to take back the state legislatures. The Republicans know that the national scene will change. They won big in 1994, then lost seats in 1998. They are want the school boards, the city councils and the state legislatures. In those arenas they can extend their power with an even freer hand (see the resurgence of Creationist chatter and the recent rash of redistricting).

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

The Guardian has a piece out today about U.S. intelligence concerns about the Chalabi/INC-Iran connection. The piece even goes so far to suggest that Iran, working through the INC was able to draw the U.S. into going to war in Iraq.

Whether the overall implication is true, or if Iran was simply using the Chalabi's intelligence chief Aras Habib as a source of U.S. intelligence is really of little consequence. If it's true that high-level sources in the Defense Department and the Vice-President's Office (the two offices who had the most cozy relationship with Chalabi and the INC, and were the biggest cheerleaders for this war and Chalabi) have been providing the classified info that is making its way to Iran, the implications are enormous.

Messing around with an intern is bad judgment, attatching the fate of your fellow countrymen and the future of U.S. legitimacy to a group of con-men and double agents is downright criminal.

Laura Rozen has a comprehensive look at Chalabi and his history over at her blog "War and Piece".
Kevin Drum over at the Political Animal has a pretty good rundown of some assorted information on Chalabi and how many people have been burned by him.

As more and more information comes out, the Neocon dream of a new, democratic middle-east sinks deeper and deeper into the mud.

Unfortunately, the U.S.'s legitimacy and our hard-earned respect get pulled down right with it. There's little doubt that the administration couldn't have done this much damage if they tried.
A few of the reactions to the President's speech last night...

St. Louis Post Dispatch: Words Don't Do It: more won't help.

L.A. Times: Fewer words more plans

Chicago Tribune: Bush Stands tough, ready to give Iraq back

New York Times: Bush is walking in his own footprints, give us a plan.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Many of the bloggers and several editorials have come to the conclusion that the President's uneventful speech was, well, a failure. It has been written of as PR, and it is, as Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo said,
"Finally, finally , the president has decided to confront the root problem in our troubled occupation of Iraq: the spin deficit."

It seems at first that the main point of the speech was PR. There are no policy changes, and he certainly wasn't addressing the Chalabi-Iranian agent issue, so there was no meat to the speech. It was simply an attempt to show the President being, well, Presidential; to show he is involved and cares what happens.

Yet the White House apparently only asked for air-time on CNN, FoxNews and one other channel, but none of the major networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS). While cable is pretty ubiquitous at this point, the effect of pre-empting prime-time programming for a Presidential address is a bit of show that gets attention. If you are shooting for PR, this is the attention you want. However, if you want to make an empty gesture because you know you have nothing substantial to add, then this would be one way to do it.
Similar to having a press conference and picking only those journalists who you know will toss you softballs.

There is nothing wrong for drumming up some good press for your policies, its when you refuse to answer tough questions publicly and toss of carefully constructed non-speeches that you begin to look calculating. If these speeches are as important as the White House would have us believe, then they would have put it on the networks.

There will be four more of these speeches in the coming weeks. We'll have to see if the President is willing to make some major policy announcements in these speeches, or if he will stay with the non-speech speech.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

The BBC World News did a short story on the mercenaries that were arrested in Equatorial Guinea and Zimbabwe. While the report didn't clarify much about the intentions of the group of mercenaries, it did mention that a number of them were former black members of the South African army, apparently a notorious battalion that fought in the Bush Wars in the 70's and 80's. After the fall of the apartheid government, they were pretty much left out in the cold. Many of them live together in a poor community near the border with Botswana.

Here's a link to the BBC story...

There are also a number of related stories on the same page.

It's an odd, twisting story. The men will apparently be charged in Guinea and may face the death penalty. They U.S. intelligence services and MI6 have been accused of helping the plotters in Guinea, and it goes on from there.
There is the question, still of who owned the planes, of course.