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Saturday, June 30, 2007

For Those Inclined To Tilt...

Harry Reid
Then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, center, flanked by Sen. Charles Schumer, left, and Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., describes his reasons in November 2005 for forcing a closed-door Senate session.
...I offer thee this windmill.
Remember that glorious moment in November 2005 when Harry Reid, then the Senate Minority Leader, forced Majority Leader Bill Frist, et. al. into a closed session in the Senate? Well he's Majority Leader now, and we expect bigger things.
Go sign this petition:
Senator Reid. Like you, we're frustrated that a conservative minority continues to obstruct reforms that most Americans support. We think it's time this minority pays a price for thumbing its nose at the American people. We urge you to bring essential reforms to the Senate floor, and KEEP them there until this minority yields, or takes deserved heat for obstructing progress. We pledge to help you stand up to the conservatives standing in the way of progress!
Not only do we need to hold feet to fire, well, as Digby says:
...the Democrats need to know that their voters have their backs on these issues. This is one way to do it.
If we do nothing, we've got no right to bitch. And we do like to bitch.

The Living Religion Series

Athiest Eve
Image "borrowed" from The Athiest Community of Austin
I haven't been moved to post on this subject for awhile, but I intend to. In the meantime, I wanted to percolate this series back to the top of the blog for any curious readers.

  1. On Belief
  2. The Self
  3. Discerning Good - Where Does It Reside?
  4. Discerning Good - What Is It Good For?
  5. The Urgency Of The Sacred
  6. Deconstruction And The Ecstacy Of The Aporetic Oscillation
  7. Walking The Walk
  8. On Judging Our Fellows
  9. The Fallacy Of The Goal
  10. Benefficiency And The Blinking Red Self-Bullshitting Meter

More coming (I hope) soon...

Dickwatch

The Big Dick
David Broder gets a clue:
...He used his intelligence and his grasp on the levers of power -- and most of all he used secrecy -- to outflank and outwit others and thereby shape the Bush administration's agenda.
OK, well, almost gets a clue:
It was not illegal, and it was not unconstitutional...
Yea, we'll see about that, won't we? I'll take your mea culpa, though, for what it's worth:
Where I thought, mistakenly, that it would be a great advantage to Bush to have a White House partner without political succession in mind, it has turned out to be altogether too liberating an environment for a political entrepreneur of surpassing skill operating under an exceptional cloak of secrecy.
As Josh says, however:
...when it comes to recognizing Cheney's profoundly damaging effect on American constitutionalism as well as his guiding role in essentially all of the administration's most disastrous policies, the train already left the station some time ago.

Sorry.
I'm not. Let's take this creep down.

Update: More piling on, please (emphasis in original):
I don't think Bush needs impeaching anymore. If you want to do the most good, impeach Cheney.
Yes.

Moyers On Murdoch



[thanks, once again, Crooks and Liars.]
This is worth a post.
...he's accustomed to using journalism as a personal spittoon...
Looks like the WSJ reporters are pushing back.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Kucinich

I've posted on Dennis before. He really is the most visionary of the currently announced Democratic primary candidates.

While I'm not committing to a candidate yet, I'm pretty certain that he'll get my primary vote - barring other circumstances.

If you have a blog, consider becoming a 35 Percenter. They put together this funny, but pointed, response to Glenn Beck's idoicy.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

A Krishnamurti Moment

Krishnamurti

Emphasis mine:
So the first thing for all enquiry, for all new life, for all understanding and comprehension is freedom. But you do not demand freedom, you demand security. And the moment you want physical security you plan to create it; which means you establish various forms of authority, dictatorship, control, while at the same time you want freedom. So the conflict begins within the mind. But a mind which is aware of its conflict must find out which is of primary importance - freedom or security. After all, is there such a thing as security at all? You may want it, but is there such a thing? Events are showing that there is no such thing as security. Yet the mind clings to the idea. If the mind demands freedom first then security will follow, but if you seek security first you will never have freedom and so you will always have different forms of conflict, misery and sorrow. (J. Krishnamurti - Madras, India - 2nd Public Talk, 26th October 1958)
Important words to ponder in these modern times. It is interesting how the juxtaposition of freedom and security finds itself in the Western mind:
The average man does not want to be free. He simply wants to be safe. - H.L. Mencken
With statements like that, it is clearly and erroneously seen as an either/or proposition. It is not.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Dickwatch

It's my unrequited love, after all!!
Tucker Carlson: Why is he so disliked? ….People hate Cheney on this visceral level. What is so hate-able about Dick Cheney?

Jonah Goldberg: I have no, I really…I truly have no idea...
Jonah goes on to have an idea:
[smirking]...I think one of the things that bothers them is that he doesn’t care! The opposite of love isn’t hate—it’s indifference - it drives stalkers and some hardcore lefties crazy. He just doesn't care what they think about him.
He's got me. If only the Big Dick would stop screening my calls (and I recognize those roses in the White House dumpster, Dick!) all would be bliss. I am a bird lover, after all.

Oh signal me...

Update: Think this might get his attention?
The Senate Judiciary Committee subpoenaed the White House and Vice President Dick Cheney's office Wednesday for documents relating to President Bush's controversial eavesdropping program that operated warrant-free for five years.
Whee.

Monday, June 25, 2007

What She Said

Excerpt of Barbara O'Brien posting at Crooks and Liars:
...I’ve been hearing this charge my whole long life. In the 1960s, it was “Why don’t you dirty bleeping hippies protest the Communists?”

I can’t speak for the “international press,” but for me, the answer is “because I’m a patriot.”

[snip]

...It is what a
patriot does.

I concede I haven’t blogged much about human rights abuses in Iran. I haven’t blogged much about human rights abuses in China, Cuba, Uzbekistan, or the Central African Republic, either...

But when I think my country is abusing human rights, I blog about it. I do this because I think I’m more directly responsible for what my country does than for what some other country does...
This is why writers, be they bloggers or otherwise, are so important. I thank Barbara for eloquently and succinctly making the point. This is a rhetorical arrow I gratefully add to my own quiver of persuasion. Without shame, I admit that I will steal this work of hers.

Peruse her always insightful blog.

You've Got It, Jane

If you haven’t bought Glenn’s book please do so. If you’ve got a blog, no matter how small, please put up a link. It actually takes a ridiculously small number of books (relative to total sales) to push a book to #1 on Amazon and that plays a big part in his ability to get on the NYT best seller list and gain wider notice and recognition for the tremendous amount of work he did to put this book together.
So says Jane, so it shall be.

Digby hosted a fantastic Book Salon with Glenn yesterday, and I thoroughly enjoyed lurking about there. Some amazing people showed up.

He is also the author of How Would A Patriot Act?, which is a clarifying deconstruction of this administration's assault on American civil liberties.

Support Glenn's work, and catch his column at Salon.com as well.

Dickwatch

Hooded Vulture w/ Chick

[image courtesy of Honolulu Zoo.]
I was reading Anonymous Liberal over at Crooks and Liars' take on the Wapo series on Big Dick:
Conspicuously absent from nearly every important scene described in these articles is the President himself. Time and again we see the Vice President making decisions, attending meetings, and handling situations that really should be handled by the President personally. We also see the Vice President continually limiting or otherwise manipulating the information and advice that reaches the President’s ear. We see him secretly intercepting memos intended for other cabinet officials, keeping key officials out of the loop on important decisions, and using other officials to disguise the provenance of advice originating from his office...
It brought to my mind an image of pre-digested food being gacked into the Decider's craw, whereupon he could then shit his, well, decisions.

I think a Hooded Vulture is more attractive than the VP, but it will have to do for now.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Dickwatch


Looks like Cheney has another Dick on his tail. Ahem.
I sincerely hope the Vice President will make it clear, in the week ahead, that he is finally going to comply with these executive orders - that he is going to make sure that we protect classified information moving through his office - so that we don't compromise this important intelligence data that keeps America safe...
Yea, that's gonna happen. He's been angling for this showdown since Watergate, Senator Durbin. Although, since things have become so bungled up, he has a heaping helping of additional motivation: Stay out of prison.

Popcorn time?


Update: Christy at FireDogLake on the recent WaPo article by Barton Gellman and Jo Becker:
...What is stunning about the Gellman and Becker report is that people were willing to talk, on the record on occasion, about Cheney. He’s overplayed his hand, and with the end of the Bush administration’s tenure in the White House, a weakened Cheney enforcement apparatus with the loss of Libby, and with the weaker position in which Rove finds himself, I think we are going to be learning a whole lot more in the days ahead.
I sure hope so. Enough is enough.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Really, Al...


...if you don't plan to jump in this fall, maybe you should tell us sooner rather than later.
We know Gore can do the job. And we know we want Obama. Imagine these two smart, visionary people leading the country back to where it belongs. Back to greatness. Do you believe in justice? Do you believe it's possible? Do you believe that we can make dreams come true? Do you believe we can make America great again?

A constituency of broken hearts is not a very useful constituency.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Peak Oil And Collapse



[YouTube discovered at The Oil Drum. There are other interesting things to explore at that site.]

Time to go look at another great Dmitry Orlov presentation, Closing the 'Collapse Gap': the USSR was better prepared for peak oil than the US. Dmitry was an intrepid eye-witness to Soviet collapse, and he has useful things to say about the United States' predicament. It is an irreverent and witty presentation, with much optimism counterintuitively submerged in his discussion of economic disaster (emphasis mine):
It's important to understand that the Soviet Union achieved collapse-preparedness inadvertently, and not because of the success of some crash program. Economic collapse has a way of turning economic negatives into positives. The last thing we want is a perfectly functioning, growing, prosperous economy that suddenly collapses one day, and leaves everybody in the lurch. It is not necessary for us to embrace the tenets of command economy and central planning to match the Soviet lackluster performance in this area. We have our own methods, that are working almost as well. I call them "boondoggles." They are solutions to problems that cause more problems than they solve.

Just look around you, and you will see boondoggles sprouting up everywhere, in every field of endeavor: we have military boondoggles like Iraq, financial boondoggles like the doomed retirement system, medical boondoggles like private health insurance, legal boondoggles like the intellectual property system. The combined weight of all these boondoggles is slowly but surely pushing us all down. If it pushes us down far enough, then economic collapse, when it arrives, will be like falling out of a ground floor window. We just have to help this process along, or at least not interfere with it. So if somebody comes to you and says "I want to make a boondoggle that runs on hydrogen" – by all means encourage him! It's not as good as a boondoggle that burns money directly, but it's a step in the right direction.

I told you he's a hoot.

I have other posts which complement this discussion, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Those Permanent Bases Of The Iraqupation

I have written before about the permanent bases in Iraq, in February here ("Danger Dick"):
We know [the neocons] want to control the region, we know they want permanent bases. The fact that the locals have turned out a bit more randy than they expected doesn't change that - hence the ongoing slaughter. Be certain that they will have their permanent base - if it means genocide, they'll blame the ungrateful Iraqis and Iranians. If this Congress does not stop them, well, we have not seen the depths of the ugliness to come, regardless as to whether we are beaten back out of the region or not.

...and again in March, here ("Pentagon Insider Verifies US Ambitions", quoting retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Karen Kwaitkowski):
...However, many in Congress, and certainly in this administration agree, and this is Democrats and Republicans, like the idea that we have gone into Iraq, we have built four mega bases, they are complete...

We’re in Iraq to stay...

I bring ths up because of this Korea Model which is being sold as a "new" idea or approach to the problems of the Iraqupation. There is nothing new about it at all, of course - the White House is just softening us up to accept those permanent bases there, which have been planned all along. Construction began on day one, following Shock and Awe, when the Iraqis were looting the palaces and museums.

That's why I said I wasn't holding my breath on Bill Richardson's initiative. There are too many powerful players in America, in both parties, who are transfixed with the ambitions of Empire and the seductive idea of American Exceptionalism to allow a political solution to the Iraqupation.

I am not a fatalist on this, however. Too many things happened way outside of the adventurers' expectations for this to be considered a foregone victory. Things which went wrong so early in the execution to have put a dangerous wobble in their centrifuge of power. I note with sadness, however, that this means we have a violent failure on our hands, one that could have been avoided if our press had kept the American public honestly abreast of the true ambitions of this administration. The lies have permitted a "solution" of projected power to proceed without the oversight to avoid the manifest incompetence which has lead to this disaster.

For an excellent and detailed breakdown of the history of the "reporting" on the permanent bases, I recommend Tom Englehardt's diligent reporting at TomDispatch.com.
Finally, the great American disconnect may be ending. Only four years after the invasion of Iraq, the crucial facts-on-the-ground might finally be coming into sight in this country...

So, the public may be waking up to what has been treated as tinfoil-hat territory for so many years. Is it too late?


Update: Scarecrow at FireDogLake.com is on this as well. And please review my post on the Iraqi parliament's vote for the U.S. to get out.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

De-Authorize The [Iraqupation] Now

I'm not holding my breath on this one, but it is time to support the bold. Sign Bill Richardson's petition to strip the Executive branch of the ill-advised authorization for aggression in Iraq which has been so recklessly abused (and preempt a calamity in Iran). I did. 'Twould be a fine Christmas present for our beleaguered troops.

This is how to run an opposition campaign, BTW - go Bill. (h/t Siun at FireDogLake).

Hamsher On Lieberman: Cut. Him. Loose.

Banging Head

This is one of those occasions in which I become melancholy that I don't have a readership, as I would like to significantly pile on the contemptuous, and contemptible, warmonger Senator Joseph Lieberman, Republican-nee-Independent-nee-Democrat. Jane, in an open letter to Harry Reid:
I realize you’re dealing with all that Senate collegiality stuff which is completely meaningless to the rest of us and doubly so to all those who are, you know, dying in Iraq, but it’s time to remember what Democrats were elected to do in November and reclaim it from Dick Cheney’s marionettes. Every time Joe Lieberman opens his mouth he exacerbates tensions in the region and takes a sledgehammer to the Democratic brand. It’s time to exercise some leadership and send a message that Democrats are ready to stop being roundheels for the Bush administration.

Time to make a public example and say “enough” to being held hostage by Dick Cheney’s pet warmonger.

Cut. Him. Loose.

Yes. And there's this, earlier in her post:
...I know that when Democrats recently voted to give George Bush everything he wanted and more for his pet war with absolutely no restrictions whatsoever this move was sold to us as a shrewd political ploy to give the Republicans ownership of the war. I guess this was supposed to drive Bush’s poll numbers into the shitter while the Democrats, coated with some sort of Teflon, could sit there and shrug “well, not my problem.”

Forget for a moment just how cynical this sounded even as the
dead bodies continue to pile up... [my emphasis]

This is the most disgusting aspect of the funding. As I wrote in April:
...By the same token, I hope that thousands more will not die so that one party can gain some electoral votes in 2008 by keeping their rivals branded as the "party of incompetence" by taking half-hearted measures which only pretend to end the occupation, thus keeping it fresh in the minds of voters, come ballot time.

I have tried to think about this with an open mind, but the arguments for providing funding only make sense with the above strategy in mind. And that is, literally, a bloody shame.

A Perception Problem, And Shaken Belief

Colin Powell on Meet The Press today (emphasis mine):
Guantanamo has become a major, a major problem for America’s perception as it’s seen, the way the world perceives America.

[snip]

...And so I would get rid of Guantanamo and I’d get rid of the military commissions system, and use established procedures in federal law or in the manual for courts martial. I would do that because I think it’s more equatable and it’s more understandable in constitutional terms.

(Ya think? Gee, thanks for that, Colin).
But I’d also do it because every morning I pick up a paper and some authoritarian figure, some person somewhere, is using Guantanamo to hide their own misdeeds.

And so essentially we have
shaken the belief that the world had in America’s justice system...

See, it's all about the perceptions and beliefs the world has about America. Look, I know this is an important and persuasive point to offer amoral, knuckledragging, realpolitik trolls, but I really would appreciate more mention of the fact that it's just fucking wrong to treat human beings that way. The world isn't having a perception problem here, they are clearly seeing evil behaviour. Like, it's really happening.

If only the world would just perceive us the way these bedwetters do, if they would just understand that this is the only way to prosecute the "War on Terror," why, then, this would be a non-issue.

Asshat.

A Long, Hot Summer

Another great post linked to by Blue Gal outlines and explores the challenges of the next few months. It really is a mind-boggling list, and as you read through the litany of malfeasance, incompetence, mendacity and sheer fuckery of this administration's "accomplishments" you may feel an eerie sense of emergency. That would be appropriate. Richard Power at Words of Power (emphasis mine):
Will they actually get away with it all? Looking the other way before 9/11. Lying the country into an invasion and then turning the ensuing occupation into a debacle. Indulging in criminal negligence before, during and after Hurricane Katrina. Suppressing the truth about global warming, and wasting seven years that the human race could not afford to waste. Gutting the coffers and plunging the nation into deepening debt. Politicizing the US Department of Justice. Prostituting vital government agencies like the EPA and the FDA. And so much more. Will they actually get away with it all?

[snip]

We wander in a wasteland between Reason and Madness.

The euphoria of victory was fleeting.

The slim majorities garnered in the 2006 mid-term elections did not deliver enough votes to override the sociopath in the White House or outmaneuver the Cult formerly known as the Republican Party in the halls of Congress.

Fear, disillusionment and uncertainty are rising again...

Or Fear and Loathing. It seems a little silly, but I can't help but feel that this is the endgame of a battle which boiled to a peak in the 60's-70's and has been simmering ever since. If so, it's a-boilin' again. I recommend the read, if only to add a little body to your hair - it'll unfailingly raise it.

Blog For Peace

Got a blog, and common sense to boot? Sign up for One Million Blogs For Peace. (Kindly brought to my attention by Blue Gal's Blog Round Up at Crooks and Liars.)

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Dick Durbin's Fair Election Act

I've gone back and forth over the years regarding public financing of elections. Here in Arizona we have a cobbled version of it, Citizens (sic) Clean Elections Commision, which only adds to the confusion. The idea of using "my taxpayer money" to elect these bastards just can seem so distasteful.

I have come down on the side of publicly funded elections, for reasons oulined in my letter to my representatives, after the link.

Support Senator Durbin's Fair Election Act. Feel free to borrow liberally from my points, below, and thank you, Jane, for steering me to the site.
If we insist upon equating money with speech, and thereby bestowing upon it the nominal honor of the First Amendment, then it is important to distinguish corporate speech from public speech. For the former, a conglomerate of profit-driven special interest, is simply not interested in the execution of government for public priorities, but rather access to the largesse of government power, in subsidies, favorable regulation, and government contract.

While publicly funded elections will probably have its share of unintended consequences, I insist that a bright line between profit interests and public interests be drawn, especially in these times. We have gone too far down the path of corporate/government alliance, and the people are being treated as so much cattle.

It is easy (and correct) to point to the intrinsic cronyism of the Republican Party as being to blame for today's excesses, the fact is that the efficacy of money in elections also snares Democratic candidates, however reluctantly.

Return the voice of government to the public, where it belongs! Please support Senator Durbin's Fair Elections Now Act.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Iraqi Parliament to U.S.: Get Out

It appears that a majority of the Iraqi parliament have called for the U.S. to set a timetable to end the occupation of their country. You won't hear this story in the corporate media. You see, the Iraqi Nationalists who carried this vote are considered the bad guys by our government and its toady media.
...Asked about the Americans' reaction to the growing power of the nationalists, Mutlaq said, "We're trying our best to reach out to the U.S. side, but to no avail."

That appears to be a trend. Iraqi nationalists have attempted again and again to forge relationships with members of Congress, the State Department, the Pentagon and the White House but have found little interest in dialogue and no support. Instead, key nationalists like [Moqtada] al-Sadr have been branded as "extremists," "thugs" and "criminals."

I also spot discussion on this in a Bangladesh financial paper, but our vaunted media?

*crickets*

This is why Americans can't make informed decisions. (This is also why "net neutrality" is so important - as access to the Internet becomes more universal, maybe the citizens will become gradually more awake.)

You see, the "bad guys" here are the ones who want to unify an independant Iraq and retain control of its natural resources resource: oil. The "good guys" are the puppets and toadies who are in league with the wealthy corporatists - y'know, kinda like the White House. But worry not:
...The administration, along with their allies in Big Oil, has pressed the Iraqi government to adopt an oil law that would give foreign multinationals a much higher rate of return than they enjoy in other major oil producing countries and would lock in their control over what George Bush called Iraq's "patrimony" for decades.

Al-Shammari said this week: "We're afraid the U.S. will make us pass this new oil law through intimidation and threatening. We don't want it to pass, and we know it'll make things worse, but we're afraid to rise up and block it, because we don't want to be bombed and arrested the next day."

He's talking about the U.S. government, our government, and isn't that just desperately sad? Bombs for not agreeing to a contract?

That's the American Way, I guess.

Bloodthirsty Enough?

Watching the Republican candidates debating - I know, glutton for punishment. I'm amazed at how many of them, without a blush, express a willingness to use "tactical" nuclear weapons. Either these guys are completely out of touch with the public, or I am underestimating the decency of the public.

Oh, now they've moved on to bashing the brown people (immigration). Gawd, these are some ugly men. (BTW - I am completely unmoved by the immigration issue. The "problem" is actually a symptom of much wider economic issues and, like all symptoms, it is stupid to try to tackle directly.) Rudy wants a database of people - I'm shocked.

And while we're at it, let's make sure that we know that the anti-war Republican, who's getting a lot of progressive attention, has another side, and it ain't pretty.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Kucinich

Just like at the town hall at MoveOn.org last April, I still like the straight shooting of Dennis Kucinich at the New Hampshire debate tonight, and I grok his world-view.

Anderson Cooper said that while the other candidates tried to be "diplomatic" about the issues raised, Gravel and Kucinich went for "the jugular." IMO, there are a lot of "jugulars" to be got to, and diplomacy is for foreign policy, not domestic. Cooper, of course, consigned this to the fact that they are third-tier candidates who had nothing to lose by being shrill. Not because they were speaking truth to power, no, nothing like that.

Dennis Kucinich will continue to be marginalized by the corporate media, and that's to be expected. I'm a decent guy myself who's inclined towards peaceful and substantial resolutions to problems, but by the current standards of media discourse, I'm a bomb-thrower, too.

No sweat, though. There's a certain someone who approaches Kucinich's honesty that should be stomping in, in about, oh, three or four months...

I'm sorry (no I'm not), but while the other first- and second-tier are saying a lot of the right things, I still smell an unacceptable level of corporate fealty there. (I know that Gore is pretty plugged in as well, but there's something about what he's gone through and been doing since 2000 which is, to me, evocative of something good. A person dreams.)

Dickwatch


...we've had an administration that doesn't believe in diplomacy... occasionally they even send Dick Cheney, and that's hardly diplomatic, in my view...[laughter]

LOL! h/t Jane Hamsher, for so quickly posting my favorite line of the debate.

A Tough Question From Christy

Before I address the subject of this post, I want to take a moment to marvel at the ability of bloggers I admire to post as much, and as deeply, as they do. As a fledgling blogger myself, I am all too aware of how much reading is necessary for intelligible and marginally relevant posts to be developed. I don't even come close to some of the "bigs" in this respect, and I read my ass off (and I quit my job last year, so I have no excuse. BTW - I am struggling, and any purchases or donations are wildly appreciated.)

For example, I read FireDogLake.com every day (since Katrina) - and I am now mustering to respond to a post which has already been supplanted by another on that site. Because I am "behind," I am doing so without taking the time to review the over 250 comments - so far - to Christy's post, something I would normally do to get a sense of what the "firepups" are brainstorming up. Most of the time, that community has the subject well-covered, and after a good lurk I usually decide that I have nothing illuminating to add, and I move on.


Christy's post is about perception, specifically on how Republicans do so well in "branding" themselves, and she is exploring the whys and wherefores of how Democrats utterly fail in this. This has come up often in the prog-blogosphere, and it is a real problem. Being a deconstructionist, I sop up subjects like this with relish.

The problem with this whole question is - wait for it - the framing (surprise!) Very quickly, the frame is that "marketing works," and how do we get some of that?

The problem with this frame is simple - marketing may "work," but it is inherently disingenuous. Serious people don't market. Period. Oh, in a society as complex as ours, you can separate the wonks from the salesmen - theoretically leaving space for the serious folks to do policy, while the song-and-dance men can then put the pretty bows and shiny jangles on it for the public. I think this is what is implied by trying to find that emotionally binding "core value" which will "sell" the party.

I personally feel that the only reason "branding" works at all is if your target audience is cynical about policy. This is the true "core value" which binds the Republicans with their base - the salesmen and their target audience both embrace cynicism with a nod-and-a-wink and - voila! - they are on the same page. They are bound by mutual cynicism, they understand each other, they trust each other, however despicable that may be under the circumstances. Form over substance flourishes in this way.

The only way for Democrats to emulate such "success" is to become as cynical as the Republican party is - basically to become the Republican party. Which they are rightfully accused of whenever they become triangulating centrists, and the liberal (serious) base of the party rightly fillets them for it every time.

I think Al Gore understands this all too well. The constant anti-intellectual denigration he suffers is a direct outgrowth of this nod-and-wink cynicism. He understands that the only way for honest, serious policy to prevail is the hard work of education, education, education. There is no Madison Avenue shortcut to awakening people to honest, serious thinking. The shiny objects may be a formidable competition to this end, but the way will never be found by adopting such disingenous, and frankly contemptibly undignified, means. Seriousness is boring and therefore Al Gore is boring (well, not to me, but I'm one of those boring intellectual types myself.)

So my answer to Christy, for whatever it's worth, is I think we have to drop that whole idea and continue with the hard work. You folks at FireDogLake.com have done some amazing things, and all of your successes have come from serious, boring-ass, policy and issue work. You have not stooped to marketing and shiny-object creation for your most successful achievements (OK, "The Kiss" Liebermobile was pretty fucking funny - I'll admit. But that was comic-relief, and a bit of a distraction in the whole Lamont campaign. It was worth it, though, because it illustrated how seriously the opposition takes branding.) Bottom line is that you guys are the grown-ups and the grown-ups always - sigh - have to do the serious, boring stuff.

I just hope the kids have fucked the sandbox up so bad for now that there will be some true space for the serious to get some well-deserved consideration.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Neuroscience And The Beatles

Christy turned me on to this online Washington Post op-ed by a professor of music and psychology. It's a great read and, for me anyway, stimulates the same neural networks that the music he discusses seems to:
Great songs seem as though they've always existed, that they weren't written by anyone. Figuring out why some songs and not others stick in our heads, and why we can enjoy certain songs across a lifetime, is the work not just of composers but also of psychologists and neuroscientists. Every culture has its own music, every music its own set of rules. Great songs activate deep-rooted neural networks in our brains that encode the rules and syntax of our culture's music. Through a lifetime of listening, we learn what is essentially a complex calculation of statistical probabilities (instantiated as neural firings) of what chord is likely to follow what chord and how melodies are formed.

Skillful composers play with these expectations, alternately meeting and violating them in interesting ways. In my laboratory, we've found that listening to a familiar song that you like activates the same parts of the brain as eating chocolate, having sex or taking opiates. There really is a sex, drugs and rock-and-roll part of the brain: a network of neural structures including the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala. But no one song does this for everyone, and musical taste is both variable and subjective.

Go read the whole thing, and stop by for Christy's post for a link to a vintage Beatles performance (among other things) - TV lip-synch aside, it's still fun.