"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

Groping For Meaning

There's a serious problem in this country when paragraphs like this appear from prominant (Maureen Dowd) columnists in major (NY Times) newspapers with regards to the recent re-revelation of gubernatorial candidate Ahhhnold's shabby treatment of women:

Now Republicans who thundered against Bill — not Arnold, who scorned impeachment as a waste of time and money — argue that peccadilloes are not relevant to governing. And feminists who backed Bill are ushering Arnold gropees up to the Democratic microphones.

Let's get something fucking straight. Bill Clinton received consensual oral sex from an intern in his office, and while this wasn't an issue in the attendant media circus, I'll bet he reciprocated too. Arnold Schwarzenegger on the other hand made several specific, aggressive, crude, unwanted, unsuccessful and non-consensual advances towards women, detailed quite sickeningly here. These are completely, utterly, and indisputably different sets of actions with absolutely separate moral content and value. One guy I understand, the other makes me ashamed to have the same gender.

You can argue that Clinton abused his power in an indirect way with regards to his affair w/Ms. Lewinski, but the situation still boils down to two consenting adults having fun with one another. He's a playboy in a long tradition of playboys, and while I wish dearly he'd have had the spine to admit it at the time (might have dragged this country forward a step) I still maintain that he didn't do anything all that wrong. He fucked around with someone, and that is essentially personal -- between he and his mistress and his wife.

Arnold's actions, on the other hand, showcase a completely different set of values. He's either a straight-up abuser, or he doesn't have the human sensibility to know when his advances are unwanted, goes around humping people whenever he feels like it. Looking at his sum total history, one gets the sense that a lot of what he does is about power, and that his crudely aggressive sexuality is an extension of that. His blatant use of power -- both physical and professional -- to sucessfully perpitrate these ugly sex pranks really makes the whole thing take on a dark tone; it's not fun or good or happy. It approaches the realm of evil.

And if he weren't an enormously powerful man, he would have been kicked in the nuts several times by now and probably learned his lesson. But he hasn't, and his attitude towards women is not funny, right, nice or even excusable. He's a fucking dick, the guy at the party everyone just wants to leave, and his behavior enrages me personally as a man.

The fact that his past actions are being paralelled with Clinton's would be laughable if it weren't so sick underneath. Are we still too puritanically straightlaced to be honest about sex and power? Do people seriously not see the difference between consenting sex (even if it is adultry) and aggressive harassment? If so, that's pretty fucking degrading. It's a shameful reflection of this nation's maturity and still-lingering misogyny that these two types of sexual interaction are being equated in the national political press.

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Roses are Red

So Tom Tomorrow as the text of a poem by our Commander in Chief. What's the worst part? The carrier reference? The fact that he referrs to his wife as "lump in my bed?" I don't know, but it makes me feel uneasy in new and perilous ways.

I havn't been pushing out the same quantity of political observations lately. Partly that's because I've moved and have lots of personal observations that I think are worthwhile. Partly that's because I'm kind of fulltime on politix and I don't always have as much mojo left at the end of the day. Partly it's because I'm reaching for a mannifesto; trying to build something up that's more than a couple paragraphs of the same old same old. We'll see.

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Thoughts on a Movement

My underwriter buddy Britt Blaser is continuing to pound out some righteous bits:

My concern this Presidential election cycle is that the free trade of ideas and their stakeholders may be as threatening to politicians as to entrenched commercial interests. That's why I've established the Free the Internet Contribution page at Dean for America. Dean is the only candidate with a vested interest in a free and open Internet, so he's the only candidate we can trust to defend it against the establishment.

That's what it is, friends. My man Howard Dean is set to raise more money this quarter than any other Democrat has ever done in the same period, and it's being done largely on the backs of small contributions; average size hovering around $100.

Imagine the implications here. I was taking the train today with some people on their way back from an anti-occupation protest, one fellow with a "tired of being fucked by politics?" button depicting hot Elephant on Donkey action. While I don't take that stance, I do see where this kind of frustration comes from. If we can maintain the momentum and growth of the Dean campaign, we'll be well on our way to making that particular brand of apathy obsolete.

There was one protester who had to borrow a couple bucks on the BART to pay his way out -- part of the eccentricity of that particular mass-transit system -- but most of the sign-carrying folk were well attired and had an air of material comfortability about them. So I wanted to ask them to get their hands dirty and buy a share of the process, but I didn't; too tired. But I wish I had. This time around everyone's a tycoon if they want to be.

And if you don't have the cash to spare that's allright too; you probably have time and friends and a spark of ingenuity. In spite of how easy it is to imagine a massive populist war chest -- just a million people giving a thousand each -- the likely reality is that Dubya will be able to outspend anyone. The difference is going to be made up by soul; by volunteer hours and word-of-mouth advertising; by human-centric processes happening over bi-directional networks, both personal and packet-switched. The difference is going to be individuals who've awakened to their agency in the process and who are exercising their right to be participants, to be producers of politics and not just consumers. The difference will be you and me.

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Landed; Off and Running

I'm in California now. Working it full-time double plus. I live and breathe the revolution for a year now. Light updates for a while as ramp-up begins. If you can, give money to Howard Dean. The amount you spend on a night at the bar is enough to make a difference.

Also, on Dean and Clark and the Eisenhower precident, Britt's got some interesting analysis from a friend. I tend to think that this election cycle has no real precident, but if people are going to shuffle through history, they might as well get it right.

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Negative Campaign Websites

Dick Gephardt's campaign is the first to launch a negative campaign website against another Dem candidate. See deanfacts.com for all the ugly business. There's also another site -- waffle powered howard -- which does about the same thing with less accuracy and without attributing its source, but a whois query tells us it's registered to Eric Huebner, who also runs this pro-kerry site so I think that mystery is solved.

Hopefully these are the last, but I fear that won't be the case. This is total bullshit for three reasions:

  • Going negative, especially this early, against another Dem is bad for the party -- it's free ammo for Bush
  • The quotes are circa 1995 -- if we wanted to dig through everything anyone said over the past 10 years, we'd probably find some things that conflict with his or her positions today
  • This tactic is intended to supress participation -- to keep people dispirited and out of the process

The last reason is the one that really gets me. This election is about whether or not we can break the cycle of fear and non-participation that has dominated politics for so long, and become intolerable over the past few years. Gephardt's campaign and at least one member of Kerry's grassroots are giving in to the dark side. Let's keep our eyes on the prize, and let's keep turning people on with participation.

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Krugman For Dean!

In an interview with the Guardain, Paul Krugman -- my own American Idol -- appears to give a non-endorsement endorsement of Howard Dean:

. "One of the Democratic candidates - who I'm not endorsing, because I'm not allowed to endorse - has as his slogan, 'I want my country back'," Krugman says, referring to the campaigning motto of Howard Dean. "I think that's about right."

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Brooks Slams Dean Again

David Brooks sure does have it in for my man Howard Dean. In his last column, he went after the Doctor Governor for being too similar to Bush, attacking Dean's populist base of support by painting him as a playboy elitist. I debunked that here. In todays NYT, Brooks devotes his second consecutive column to attacking Dean, this time by putting forth the notion that the GOP would love to face him. It's a shrewed attack, but utterly baseless.

First of all, Brooks is an opinion columnist and a known GOP operative, not a journalist. He's playing for the other team, so the fact that he's attacked Dean twice in a row and is trying to push the notion that Bush is laughing at the prospect of facing off with Ho Ho should be taken with a shaker of salt. He doesn't name names or quote anyone. His objective is quite clearly to sew doubt among Dean's base of support.

Secondly, Bush is polling consistantly in the low 50s. An internal White House poll pegged him at 49%. He's not laughing at the prospect of facing anyone right now.

David Brook is attempting to sew Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt among the ranks of Democrats with regards to Dean. It's a pretty blatant and transparent attempt, so I don't think it will work. Mostly, it's up to the rest of to laugh this kind of BS off.

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VT Safari

Speaking of my dancing feet, it's Dean season and I just got my tags. I'm headed up to Burlington tomorrow with Britt Blaser and he tells me there's not a hotel to be booked in the whole damn town. Summer tourism is done and the fall leaf tours have yet to begin, so what's drawing the crowds to Vermont? I'm thinking it has something to do with the next president of the United States.

Britt and I will be friendly IT Angels, helping out with whatever needs doing. I'll also be connecting with Deanspace honcho Zack Rosen (who works for DFA) and try and spread the word about Music For America. Hopefully it will be a fun time. It should be.

Britt and I are going to be doing some kind of co-blog of our official adventures. We'll probably co-post some of the same content. We're also taking suggestions as to things we should plant in the ears of the Dean campaign. Let me know if you have any gems.

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Knives Out: David Brooks Smears Dean

The Long Knives certainly are coming out against my man Dean. In today's NYT, conservative columnist David Brooks pens an artfully crafted attack at Deans base of support entitled "Bred For Power," an attempt to link Dean and Dubya on a number of points vis-a-vis their upper class backgrounds. It's quite a hack job, if I do say so myself.

First of all, like any good smear, this column contains some kernel of truth, giving the overall impression that the author is being, well, fair and balanced. Brooks is correct that Dean's family background is similar to the Bush's in WASPy stature. From this base premise, he ventures off into the attack zone.

Most egregiously, he compare's Bush's and Dean's "Prince Hal Phase's:"

Bush drank too much at country clubs. Dean got a medical deferment from Vietnam and spent his time skiing in Aspen. Both decided one night that it was time to get serious about life and give up drinking. Dean was 32; Bush was 40.

This almost offhand comparison makes it sound like Dean and Dubya have comparable young-adult biographies. Thankfully, this is easily refuted by the facts.

Howard Dean reported to a military doctor for a physical examination as required by draft law at the time of his graduation ('71) and was rejected from service, plain and simple. As a recent college grad in a disillusioned time, he went off to Aspen to ski for about a year before returning to New York to work on Wall St.

By contrast, George W Bush used family connections to get into the Texas Air Guard as a way around serving in Vietnam. He then went AWOL from his position for nearly a year after being transferred to Alabama, and has never attempted to explain that decision or account for how he spent the missing time.

Dubya was by all accounts a serious alcoholic, drunk at noon and picking fights. It's also tacitly understood that he abused cocaine for a spell. Talk to anyone on the inside during the 70s or 80s and you're bound to here some good stories. I have.

Dean by his own admission "partied pretty hard" in college, but you'd be hard-pressed to say he was at any point a drunk. Dubya dried out in a 12-step program, part of a total born-again conversion. Dean simply stopped. He says he, "didn't like who I was when I drank."

The rest of Brooks' piece is a hazy endorsement/indictment of the WASP establishment into which both Dubya and Dean were born. He links their leadership styles and boldness as being products of a privileged yet competitive upbringing, but makes few other definitive assessments. Personally, I get the sense that some part of Brooks actually admires the good doctor, or at least wishes they were on the same team.

However, there's a lot to be gleaned from the two hard biographical data points Brooks references. Dean did what was required of him with regards to service in Vietnam. Bush used family connections to get a do-nothing assignment, then ditched that responsibility too. Bush was only able to beat his drinking habit by being born again. Dean, by then a medical doctor, made a decision based on the facts.

These basic paradigmatic distinctions -- along with the fact that Dean possesses an engaging and curious intellect -- make all the difference in the world when it comes to comparing and contrasting these two men in their capacity to perform the duties of President.

One man has a long track record of taking responsibility seriously; the other has a record of dropped balls, some admitted but mostly not. One man has a fact-based outlook on life; the other takes a faith-based approach to policy. One man struck out to make his own life and his own career in a place where his family name meant little; the other partied until he was 40 then drifted into the family business, starting a pattern of cronyism that would follow him into public office.

Brooks's basic premise that both men come from privilege and were put through an educational system meant to groom them for leadership is essentially correct, but the meaningful similarities between Dean and Dubya stop there.

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We are on the move

It's a different feeling this time around, the annaversary of the national tragedy. Last time I was pretty distressed. This year, I feel like we're coming around. Which is not to say there still aren't plenty of sad notes, but the tone now is passion and progress, not mute pain and mourning.

Some people are still figuring out what a royal screwjob the post-trauma handling was. For instance, 24 months after the fact, we now know the air at ground zero was poisonous, which explains why my man Archie -- vetran NYC EMT -- at the corner bar mentioned that his lungs are fucked up the other night. Folks are starting to get a glimmer of an incling that the current national leadership might not be the best for guiding us forth from the mire we've wandered into, and I'm finding acres of purpose and a new career in helping that consciousness emerge.

So it's my hope we can figure out how to organize under a big banner of hope and community, avoid the flags of fear or anger or ego. It's going to be a challange over the next year, but I can think of no better reason for getting up early and staying up late. If we want a better tomorrow, it's going to come because we worked for it, not because someone offered it to us.

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