The Ham Hock of Liberty

Monday, July 31, 2006

Alive, mostly

I've mostly recovered from the Michigan bar exam. This is the second state whose exam I've taken, and there won't be a third. Even having done it once before, it's a grueling, unpleasant endurance test. That it takes almost 4 months to get the results is the insult added to the injury. Fortunately, I think it went alright and I don't plan to lose much sleep over it.

Now that it's over, I can get back to watching the Connecticut primary, along with the Michigan governor's race. I realize that Jennifer Granholm is not particularly popular in Michigan, but how Dick DeVos has managed to avoid fallout from his job-outsourcing history is a minor political miracle. Of all the states where having a track record of shipping jobs away should be political suicide, Michigan is it. Whether or not the free trade agreements of the last decade have been good for the country, they have not been good for this state. Here in the western end of things, vacant factories are within stones' throws of each other, and many of the remaining factories are operating under constant rumors of closure, as whatever they're producing gets moved to places that don't place quite as much stock in minimum wages, collective bargaining, workplace safety, or health benefits. Seeing the effects of industry emigration first-hand is sobering, to put it euphemistically. And yet, a man who has done the same thing with Amway is getting a lot of support. Whomever his advisors are...the Democrats need to hire them away, and kick Bob Shrum and Donna Brazile to the curb.

Sunday, July 23, 2006


As interesting as it's been writing and reading here lately, this little corner of the left-wing fever swamp will have to go quiet until Thursday. I'm in the final stretch preparing for my second bar exam, which will be held on Tuesday and Wednesday. When I passed the Maryland bar 9 years ago, I had hoped it was a one-time experience. But as some of you know, I was enticed out to Michigan by the woman to whom I'm now engaged. So I get to do the exam all over; it's a big price to pay, but worth it. I'll be leaving town tomorrow to travel to the exam center, and returning in a few days when it's done.

Please see that those responsible for the assorted misdeeds of the last 6 years are removed from power and replaced with sensible adults by the time I'm back, OK?

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Pop Quiz for Pundits

You know who you are. Put away your Lexis/Nexis and Rolodex, and take out your pencils. It's time for a pop quiz.

1. When Connecticut Democrats enter the polls on August 8, they will be voting on which of the following:
        a) Proposition 28: The Democratic Party has no room for centrists.
        b) A ballot initiative holding a referendum on whether Joe Lieberman is a good person.
        c) Whatever Kos tells them to vote for.
        d) Whether they would rather be represented in the Senate by Ned Lamont or Joe Lieberman.

2. Webster's Dictionary defines which word as follows: "a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections:
        a) Blogofascism
        b) Inquisition
        c) Purge
        d) Democracy

3. If the President of the United States is videotaped trying to give backrubs to female heads of state during economic summit meetings, which of the following facts is not relevant to a discussion of this event?
        a) Whether this behavior is appropriate for a G8 economic summit meeting
        b) Whether the rubbing was consensual
        c) Why the President does not treat male heads of state the same way
        d) Whether certain bloggers know that the President was a member of the "Deke" fraternity and not "Sigma Chi"

4. When war erupts in an historically volatile area of the world, and two groups of people are killing each other by the hundreds, which of the following subjects is least worthy of around-the-clock discussion?
        a) What steps the United States should take, if any, to intervene in the conflict
        b) What long-term effects the conflict has on regional stability
        c) What factors lead up to the outbreak of violence, and how those factors affect the resolution of the fighting
        d) Whether a few Americans being evacuated from the region should have to pay for being evacuated

5. When people suggest that you or other journalists should be put to death for lawfully publishing information of public concern, which of the following is the least appropriate response?
        a) Immediately and unequivocally condemn such radical hyperbole
        b) Ignore the radical hyperbole because it is an irrational and unjustified opinion
        c) Discuss the historical and legal basis for a free press in a representative democracy
        d) Invite the people calling for the execution of you or your colleagues onto roundtable television shows, and discuss whether their ideas have merit

6. If you answered anything besides "D" to any of the above questions, either during this quiz, or as part of your punditry, you should:
        a) Give up punditry and go back to reporting news for a while, and try to figure out how you became so confused
        b) Give up punditry, move to Tibet and try to figure out how to atone for your damage to the very notion of rational thought
        c) Write an article about how those uncivil and crazy liberal bloggers just don't "get" your maturity and wisdom
        d) A or B, but not C

Thursday, July 20, 2006


This article by Peggy Noonan was actually published in the Wall Street Journal. This is, amazingly, the type of logic and argument that shapes our discourse, and to a lesser extent, policy-making:

You would think the world's greatest scientists could do this, in good faith and with complete honesty and a rigorous desire to discover the truth. And yet they can't. Because science too, like other great institutions, is poisoned by politics. Scientists have ideologies. They are politicized.

All too many of them could be expected enter this work not as seekers for truth but agents for a point of view who are eager to use whatever data can be agreed upon to buttress their point of view.

And so, in the end, every report from every group of scientists is treated as a political document. And no one knows what to believe. So no consensus on what to do can emerge.

Figuring out where to start untangling this logical, factual and rhetorical mess makes the Gordian Knot look like a shoelace. There is no serious debate that climate change is happening, that it's been happening incredibly rapidly, on a geological scale. There's no actual debate that increased levels of CO2 and assorted "greenhosue gases" in the atmosphere can trap the earth's infrared radiation. And it's almost self-evident that increased population, increased power consumption and decreasing forestation all increase the level of CO2 in the atmosphere. Dramatically.

But because partisans, ideologues, and those with vested economic interests in the continued output of CO2 would like to confuse people such as Peggy Noonan, for their own self-interests, a fictitious "debate" gets created almost out of whole cloth in the popular media. In the scientific, peer-reviewed media, of course, the debate ended long ago. And so you end up with opinions like La Noonan's, which are notably free of references to exactly -which- scientists are "politicized," or how the conclusions of individuals and groups with no identifiable bias or self-interest are unreliable. But Peggy reads the Journal's editorials and concludes that there's still a disagreement. As a coup de grace, she blames "scientists" for her inability to distinguish fact from fiction, because she doesn't believe they're speaking with a unified voice.

They are, Peggy. The Journal editorial writers are not, but the scientific community is. If it hasn't been made clear by now, someone with a masters or even PhD can be found to advance almost -any- proposition, if someone else is sufficiently motivated to find a "scientist" to advance a claim that person wants advanced. Witness the "debate" about the causal link between cigarettes and lung cancer, and how long it took to overcome the mud thrown up in the air by the industry that had a vested interest in denying that causal link. This "debate" is no different, and as long as useful idiots like Peggy Noonan are given column inches in widely-read newspapers, we'll continue merrily digging our own graves.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Hearts and Minds

According to a report just released by the U.N., 14,000 Iraqis have been killed during the first 6 months of 2006.

A recent estimate of the Iraqi population puts it at 26,780,000. The United States population is roughly 298,440,000.

As a percentage of population, the number of killings in Iraq through June would be equivalent to 312,000 killings in one year, in this country. By way of comparison, the entire population of Wyoming state is about 500,000.

Remember this, the next time Rep. Peter King tries to claim that Iraq is safer than Washington, D.C..

Thunderstorms Win

Nasty nasty thunderstorms in my neck of the woods last night repeatedly knocked the power out, and kept my cable offline until about 10 minutes ago. The sky almost looked like a strobe light from lightning, in fact...

Anyway, I'm seeing what's been going on in the world while we were cut off from the collective; I'll try to update in a bit if there's anything worth saying.

Sunday, July 16, 2006


Yes, yes, we all know the plural of anecdote is not data. But it's still worth seeing some of the tangible results of global warming, to remember that this is no longer an abstract threat. Or, just stick your head outside today. Chances are, if you live in the northern hemisphere, you're in the middle of another heat wave....

Utah fire departments struggling with record heat -- July 16, 2006

Temperatures up to 122 in California create record energy consumption and severe fire danger -- July 16, 2006

Extreme heat alert from record highs in Canada -- July 16, 2006

Record heat in Wisconsin causing roads to buckle -- July 15, 2006

Minnesota's last 12 months the hottest ever recorded -- July 15, 2006

The first half of 2006 the hottest six months ever recorded for Kansas

The first half of 2006 the hottest ever recorded for the U.S. - three degrees above the average for the last century. -- July 14, 2006

Record heat in Bismarck -- July 13, 2006

Phoenix has the hottest June ever -- July 4, 2006

Record heat in Washington State -- June 28, 2006

Five people drown in Oregon trying to beat record heat -- June 26, 2006

and on a more global scale...

2005 was the hottest year ever recorded --
but so far, 2006 is even hotter.

Of course, it was only 3 summers ago when heat in Europe killed 35 to 50 thousand people.

Our grandchildren are going to have mighty interesting summers in 30 years. Maybe we owe them some apologies in advance.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

More on You-Know-What

Who among us does not love writing and reading about Connecticut 24 hours a day, every day?

Unfortunately, it seems that there are only two stories making the rounds today: the beginning of Armageddon in the middle east, and Vladimir Putin laughing in W's face, after W told him that Russia should be more like Iraq. I'm not qualified to say anything intelligent about the former, and the latter speaks for itself.

So, let's all just enjoy more of the slow-motion train wreck in Connecticut, courtesy of the NY Times. Joe continues to blame his constituents for his electoral vulnerability, rather than himself. Meanwhile, John McCain thinks it's sad that conservatives can't stump for Joe, without making him even less popular among Democrats...

Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona and one of Mr. Lieberman’s closest friends in the Senate, called him “one of the most decent men I have ever known” and simply shook his head when asked about his friend’s situation. “I hesitate to say anything nice about him, for fear that it would be used against him,” Mr. McCain said. “And that’s a terrible commentary on the state of politics and the political climate today.” . . .

Mr. Lieberman was scheduled to attend a Puerto Rican festival in Bridgeport last Sunday, but his campaign canceled his appearance upon hearing a report of a stabbing there that afternoon. The festival went on, drawing over a thousand people (including a Lamont supporter holding a “Kiss this, Senator Lieberman” sign). It was Mr. Lieberman’s only scheduled campaign appearance on one of the few Sundays left before the primary. Mr. Lieberman said he made an impromptu trip to an Italian neighborhood in Bridgeport instead, after Italy’s soccer team won the World Cup.

And then the piece closes with another back-hand to the non-Irish voters of Connecticut:

“Irish-Americans have been great supporters of mine,” Mr. Lieberman said in remarks to the small crowd, between prelunch sips of Guinness. He seemed, at the moment, every bit in his ethnic political element — a backslapping, blog-free retail setting characteristic of the Democratic Party he grew up in.

“The Irish tend not to be fair-weather friends,” Mr. Lieberman said. “They’re with you all the way.”

That's right, Joe. The voters are betraying you, and not vice versa. They owe you loyalty, you know...just because. Lieberman either has the worst tin ear or the worst advisors in the country today, because there isn't much more he could be doing to hand the primary to Ned Lamont, complete with silver platter.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Wilson v. Cheney et al. For Dummies

A .pdf of the lawsuit filed by Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame against Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, and John Does 1-10 is available online. I read the complaint last night, and then watched John Dean and Lawrence O'Donnell on Olbermann's show explaining their take on it. Dean seemed to think that the Wilsons had a strong case. O'Donnell thought it was weak. I think it's somewhere in between.

The Wilsons brought eight counts:
  1. Violating the Wilsons' first amendment right to freedom of speech

  2. Violating the Wilsons' fifth amendment rights to equal protection.

  3. Violating Plame's right to privacy under the fifth amendment.

  4. Deprivation of property without due process under the fifth amendment, as to both plaintiffs.

  5. Conspiracy to deprive the Wilsons of their civil rights under 42 usc 1985(3).

  6. Failure to prevent deprivation of civil rights under 42 USC 1986.

  7. Public disclosure of private facts.

  8. Civil conspiracy.

I'm a little surprised there was no defamation claim, based on the "Joe's trip to Niger was a nepotism vacation" attack, though.

The Wilsons sued all of the Defendants in their individual capacities; no actual governmental entity was named. As a result, the million dollar question will be whether Cheney, Rove and Libby are immune from being sued for their actions. Unlike the Paula Jones/Bill Clinton lawsuit, this one involves actions taken by the defendants while they were in office, acting on the job. Because most of the claims here are based on the improper deprivation of Constitutional rights, whether or not Cheney/Rove/Libby can be sued will depend on how the District Court applies the relevant line of cases - most importantly, Harlow v. Fitzgerald and Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics Agents.

To oversimplify a little bit, the rules for suing executive branch officers is that some executives are absolutely immune from suit, while others have only a qualified immunity. The President, in the past, has been held to have absolute immunity. To the best of my knowledge, the Supreme Court hasn't explicitly stated whether the Vice President is absolutely immune, but it's likely that he is. So, Cheney is probably safe.

Lesser executive officers including Presidential advisers, however, don't get absolute immunity. When an official is performing a "discretionary" act, that official is immune from suit if his or her conduct "does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights." The conduct here is discretionary (as opposed to "ministerial," which is basically something that an officer is mandated to do as a basic part of her job), so the wrangling should come down to whether Rove and Libby violated "clearly established statutory or constitutional rights" when they outed Plame. The Wilsons have tried to frame their complaint with that in mind - they alleged that their rights of speech and equal protection were violated. It's a decent claim, but the hurdle is still a high one to clear, because courts are generally reluctant to allow government officials to get sued for their on-the-job conduct, even if the conduct is inappropriate. This issue really could go either way, in my opinion.

IF Libby and Rove don't get the case knocked out on immunity grounds, however, I think they're in trouble. The facts are damning and relatively straightforward. Of all the specific injuries alleged by the Wilsons, I think the strongest is probably Valerie Plame's claim to deprivation of her job without due process. The law is pretty settled that if you're a public employee who can't be fired "at will" (and I assume that Plame was not, as a CIA operative), you're entitled to a certain amount of due process before you lose your job. By outing Plame and making it impossible for her to do her job, she was essentially fired without the process to which she was entitled. The conspiracy and free speech claims are probably the next strongest, with the equal protection and public disclosure tort bringing up the rear.

The bottom line: Cheney will probably be excused on absolute immunity grounds. Rove and Cheney have a good chance of being excused on qualified immunity grounds, but -probably- won't be. If they aren't, they're in trouble.

Quote of the Day

Courtesy of Karl Rove's toady:

Without even having had a chance to review the complaint, it is clear that the allegations are absolutely and utterly without merit,'' Rove spokesman Mark Corallo said in a statement."

Spin 101: How -not- to be taken seriously.

More on the lawsuit itself after the caffeine kicks in.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

You don't say....

Master of the Gaggle, Holden, found this fun quote from Tony Snow yesterday:

Q Was the President frustrated [by Iran], too?

MR. SNOW: No, the President doesn't give into frustration. To be frustrated is to waste your time stomping and fuming, and when you're President of the United States your chief objective is to get things done. So as the facts on the ground change, you try to figure out proper ways to get people working in concert to get the result you desire.

I realize Tony is new to the job, but maybe he needs to do a little research:

10.24.2005 -- WASHINGTON - Facing the darkest days of his presidency, President Bush is frustrated, sometimes angry and even bitter, his associates say.

6.01.2004 -- "It's a process debate that takes places up on Capitol Hill rather than a results-oriented debate. If you're a results-oriented debater, you say, all I care about is making sure that the addict receives help. And if it takes changing a person's heart to change addiction, we ought to welcome the power that changes a person's heart in our society. (Applause.)

So I got frustrated and signed an Executive Order. (Laughter.) And it said that -- it directed the federal agencies, which are run by some of the folks here, that we will reverse regulations that discriminate against faith-based organizations. "

3.28.2003 -- "President Bush has "some level of frustration with the press corps" for accounts questioning the U.S. and coalition war plan in Iraq, and he finds it "silly" that such skepticism and questions were being raised just days into a conflict he says is going quite well, according to a senior administration official."

3.20.2002 -- " Q. Mr. President, are you frustrated by the continuing violence in the Middle East, that looks -- one day it looks good, the next day it's --"
" THE PRESIDENT: Of course, I am. I am frustrated by the violence in the Middle East, and so are a lot of people who live in the Middle East. I know there are some people who do not want us to achieve any kind of peaceful settlement of a longstanding dispute. And they're willing to use terrorist means to disrupt any progress that's being made. And that frustrates me. It frustrates mothers and dads who happen to be Palestinians and Israelis, because they want to raise their children in a secure environment."

...hell, you get the point. Just Google "Bush frustrated" if you need a few thousand more.

Take that, "Atrios"

Mr. Noam Scheiber at The New Republic has discovered that U.S. Senators don't read every post on liberal blogs:

Whaaa???!!! You don't read Atrios, Senator Obama? I mean, as a U.S. Senator, isn't it kind of your obligation to keep up with who's a "whiny ass titty baby" and who's just a "wanker"? Unbelievable.

Zing! Down goes Atrios! Down goes Atrios!

Well, Mr. Scheiber, you've managed to pack a lot of straw AND irony into 2 rhetorical questions, and a bonus sentence fragment. However, you left out a few other salient points: Atrios sometimes uses cuss words; people who post on liberal blogs sometimes use cuss words; and popular blogs like Eschaton sometimes have open threads.

I've said this before and I'll say it again: sandbox fights with bloggers are pointless and make you look just as petty as the caricatures you're attacking. Hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of intelligent, informed adults read and contribute to blogs. If you prefer to dismiss the entire phenomenon with a wave of your erudite, non-cuss-word-writing hand, rather than try to understand the demand for which lefty blogs are a supply, the TNR is going to continue its rather precipitous decline in circulation. Remember, we're supposedly on the same side here.

So, at the risk of being a juvenile and unserious blogger who does not appreciate the shining light of mature civil wisdom from The Plank: stop being a whiny-ass titty baby.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

NARAL and Planned Parenthood: It's the Honesty, Stupids

Jane Hamsher has been beating the drums about NARAL and Planned Parenthood's endorsement of Joe Lieberman in Connecticut, and has concluded that they're full of it. She's right, unfortunately. Even more unfortunately, the episode illustrates a much bigger problem with the state of politics, and special interest groups' role in it.

Let's start with a few premises:
First, Joe Lieberman is, in fact, more pro-choice than most Senators.
Second, Ned Lamont would be even friendlier to the interests of NARAL and Planned Parenthood, were he in the Senate.

Now, if Ned Lamont's beliefs are more aligned with NARAL and PP, what in the world would make these organizations endorse someone else? The responses haven't exactly been compelling: They can't figure out the significance of a cloture vote on judicial nominees and Lieberman has generally voted well in the past. The problem, of course, is that the election is not a referendum on Joe Lieberman, it's a choice between two alternatives. And neither NARAL nor PP has, nor possibly could, make a compelling argument that Ned Lamont would be more hostile to reproductive rights than Joe Lieberman.
So what's really going on? Steve Gilliard and Matt Stoller are probably right. Why rock the boat? If you jump ship on the incumbent, and he wins, you might find that incumbent a lot frostier to you in the future.

It's not rocket science, but unfortunately, the folks at NARAL and PP seem to think their donors and supporters are too stupid to figure out what's really going on. One of the frequent complaints about bloggers and online activists is that they're simply too naive to appreciate the realities of the political process, and idealism doesn't really work too well in Washington. I disagree. Look at the articles linked above, and the responses in the comments. It's very well understood what's going on; the problem is that the angryliberalbloggers do not tolerate this system any longer. There are only so many times that a "representative" or special interest group can compromise its principles and sell-out their supporters, before those supporters get fed up. There is no good reason why the system has to be the way it is; if Joe Lieberman will be more hostile to NARAL or PP because they didn't scratch his back during the primary, then he's not principled on the issue - he'd be engaging in the exact sort of petty quid-pro-quo sandbox fights that corrupt the entire democratic process. By playing along with these rules, NARAL and PP are just reinforcing them. And they shouldn't - not just because the whole concept is miserable, but because they're telling their supporters outside of Congress that they don't have the strength of their convictions. Even worse, they're lying to their supporters when they try to soft-shoe around the real reasons for their compromises.

If NARAL or Planned Parenthood are going to lie through their teeth while they're asking for money, they shouldn't be surprised when their donors start doubting whether they can be trusted to use that money to represent and advance the donors' interests. So why not just be honest about the endorsement? I don't know, but I assume it's for the same reasons they make the endorsement in the first place - if they admit they're supporting Candidate A over a stronger Candidate B, just because they don't want to incur Candidate A's wrath later on, presumably Candidate A will become upset and retaliate. And we're back to square one.

The netroots are not as naive as conventional wisdom believes. We understand that compromises are made, and that favor-trading is de rigeur in Washington. We don't care. The system does not have to be that way, and many of us expect more from our representatives and advocacy groups. If Joe Lieberman (or any other Congressman) wants the support of pro-choice voters, then he should have the strength of character to support pro-choice groups, regardless of whether they showed him sufficient fealty during the last election. And interest groups should have the same courage of their convictions, to at least not lie to the people for whose interests they are supposedly fighting. Is that really asking too much in a democracy?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Just a few more Friedmans....

More hearts and minds...

As night fell on Baghdad, however, in a pattern seen for the last few days, there was more violence. A car bomb in the western Alam district killed five and wounded 17, police said, while clashes erupted between militia fighters and residents in the violent Sunni area of Amriya.

Addressing a heated parliamentary session on a day in which at least 30 other people were killed around Baghdad and an Iraqi diplomat was kidnapped, Ali al-Adib, from the prime minister's Dawa party said: "The country is sliding fast toward civil war."

U.S. ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad acknowledged that a security crackdown in Baghdad had not yet curbed violence.

"It has not produced the results they expected so far. The plan is being reviewed and adjustments will be made. No, it has not performed to the level that was expected," Khalilzad said in Washington in an appearance at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"I believe that securing Baghdad is critical," he said. "Violent sectarianism is now the main challenge ... It's imperative for the new Iraqi government to make major progress in dealing with this challenge in the next six months.

There's something oddly familiar about the ambassador's assessment.....

Once more on Connecticut

Unfortunately, it's been a slow news summer, and Left Blogistan is turning into a 24-hour Lieberman Watch as a result. Almost all of what can be said has been said by now, but there's one last argument I'd like to see, ah, purged from the discussion. This quote is a little stale, but it comes straight from the DLC, and has been repeated a lot by the punditry that is getting the vapors from the mean kids with blogs:

A party with no room for Joe Lieberman -- or for that matter, such occasionally lonely dissenters on the left as Russ Feingold or Bernie Sanders -- is a party with no prospects for a majority. It's the worst possible time for Democrats to make that choice.

To the DLCs and David Brookseses and Jason Zengerles of the world, the CT Senate race is not just a choice between two candidates, but it is a referendum on the ideological purity of the Party (and yes, only two candidates are in this election; no matter who wins the primary, a Republican will not have the seat in 2007, Jon Chait's handwringing notwithstanding).

It isn't about ideological purity.

When Connecticut voters go to the polls in August, they won't be voting on whether the Democratic party "has room" for dissenters, war supporters, or even those who think rape victims should have to hospital-shop in order to find emergency contraception. That question is not going to be on the ballot, literally or figuratively. Connecticut voters will be voting on the very narrow question of whether they think they will be better represented in Washington by Joe Lieberman or Ned Lamont. Even the "fever swamp" of crazed bomb-throwing liberalswithblogs understands that Democrats will not be in lockstep on every issue, particularly the big ones. To suggest otherwise is a pretty obvious and pretty weak strawman.

The question that Connecticut Dems will be answering in the ballot box is not about the Party. It's about Lieberman and Lamont. One or the other. If Lamont wins, it will be because Connecticut Democrats agreed with more of his positions than Joe Lieberman's. No matter how much you love or hate Joe Lieberman, the election is not being held in a vacuum. It is not a theoretical referendum on loyalty. It's a narrow question on the beliefs and the ability of the two men on the ballot. No amount of hand-wringing from David Brooks about ideological inquisitions will make a primary voter pull the lever for a candidate with whom that voter disagrees, when someone else is on the ballot that better represents the voter's values.

If Lieberman loses (and I don't actually think he will), it won't be because Democrats don't tolerate dissent. It will be because the voters of Connecticut had a choice, and they liked the alternative more. So please, DLC and the rest of you....stop making this election something it isn't. For the sake of your fainting couches, if nothing else.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Attention Pundits

Memo to: Jon Chait, Joe Klein, Lee Siegel, Richard Cohen, and the rest.

From: Some guy with a blog.

Gentlemen, it has come to my attention that your strings of pearls are being worn thin from clutching, at the intemperate and potty-mouthed "fascism" of liberal blogs. Apparently, you don't like these self-appointed kingmakers "purging" the Democratic party of anyone who doesn't toe the line, as seen most clearly in the current Senatorial primary race in Connecticut. You have picked up the whiff of intolerance and fascism behind the near-unanimous support for Ned Lamont, versus the incumbent Joe Lieberman. You think that the full-court press to elect Mr. Lamont is, apparently, almost a crime against basic human decency. And so you have started several sandbox fights with your arch-enemies, the guys (and girls) with blogs.

As you are so fond of explaining to the rabid pre-teens on the internets what is really good for them, let me explain what's good for all of you: NOT calling the exercise of democracy "fascism" or "purging." Some people with websites do not hold the reins of governmental power. They do not direct party funds. They don't run the military. They have, in other words, no actual power. What they have are opinions and some facts. Sort of like yourselves. When they advocate the election of Ned Lamont, the only ability they have to effect this is to convince people that he is a worthy candidate. Worthy of votes, donations, and word of mouth to Connecticut voters. The voters of Connecticut will decide whether they agree. This is the point you seem to be missing. If enough voters in Connecticut decide that their views will be better represented by Ned Lamont than by Joe Lieberman, he should be elected. Right? This is how democracy works. If you disagree, you are just as free as Markos, or Jane Hamsher, or Atrios, to make your argument why Joe Lieberman is the better choice.

Let me suggest, however, that "Joe follows his conscience" and "Joe is bipartisan" may not be compelling reasons for a voter who does not agree with Mr. Lieberman on the substance of his beliefs. And when you attack the rabid lambs of the blogofascisphere, you're insulting and denigrating not the purported kingmakers of the internet, but the people who read and contribute to these sites. This is the second mistake you've been making. Markos, Atrios and the rest do not have monopolies on truth any more than you do, and their audiences are quite aware of this. What the popular bloggers provide is not the shining light of truth, but fora. They're basically glorified party hosts, and if the party ends, or the host starts acting like an ass, the party will go elsewhere. But it won't go away. It could even end up back on your doorsteps, if you had opinions and information that were of interest.

In the meantime, however, I have not seen any of you offer a compelling reason why a Connecticut voter should cast his or her ballot for a candidate that does not represent that voter's views as well as another candidate. Maybe competence or ethics would be a good reason, but nobody has offered any evidence that Lamont would be unethical or inept, apart from the fact that he would be new at the job. Which, of course, every officeholder is at some point.

So, for your own sakes, please consider trying to understand the new media environment a little better. As far as I can tell, none of you does actual investigative reporting, just opinion. Now that instantaneous worldwide publishing is available to just about anyone, you can no longer expect to have an audience simply because of your names, or your employer. There is simply no point in attacking the blogosphere because it speaks out and supports politicians with whom the writers and readers agree, and criticizes those with whom it does not agree. If you continue to perceive this as "fascism" rather than the epitome of "democracy," the next few decades are going to be very unpleasant for you.

Stop focusing on the messengers, and focus on the message. If you believe that Ned Lamont's campaign is misguided, and the voters of Connecticut should have fewer choices on election day, explain why on the substance of the candidates' positions. I'm glad Joe Lieberman has a conscience (which I sincerely believe he does), and that he is willing to break with his party when he does not agree with them. If, however, Joe's conscience causes him to cast votes that make his constituents unhappy, he runs an electoral risk. See the difference? Joe is not being challenged because he has a conscience and does not toe the party line, he is being challenged despite those traits. Because he breaks with the party on issues of importance to lots of people and lots of voters.

"Lieberman deserves support, because he votes against your beliefs and interests." That's basically what you're saying. Think about it.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Reason 9,527 why Al Gore is, in fact, sweet

He's probably the only Vice President who's ever uttered the word "pimpmobile."