Something old, something new(ish)

Of whom or what does this remind you?

The spirit of which I speak originates in the most trifling as well as the most important circumstances. The liberties of a nation or the color of a cockade are sufficient to excite it. It creates imaginary, and magnifies real causes of complaint; arrogates to itself every virtue—denies every merit to its opponents; secretly entertains the worst designs—publicly imputes them to its adversaries: poisons domestic happiness with its dissensions; assails the character of the living with calumny, and, invading the very secrets of the grave with its viperous slanders, destroys the reputations of the dead; harangues in the market place; disputes at the social board; distracts public councils with unprincipled propositions and intrigues; embitters their discussions with invective and recrimination, and degrades them by personalities and vulgar abuse; seats itself on the bench; clothes itself in the robes of justice; soils the purity of the ermine, and poisons the administration of justice in its source; mounts the pulpit, and, in the name of a God of mercy and peace, preaches discord and vengeance; invokes the worst scourges of Heaven, war, pestilence, and famine, as preferable alternatives to party defeat: blind, vindictive, cruel, remorseless, unprincipled, and at last frantic, it communicates its madness to friends as well as foes; respects nothing, fears nothing; rushes on the sword; braves the dangers of the ocean; and would not be turned from its mad career by the majesty of Heaven itself, armed with its tremendous thunders.

Senator Edward Livingston, on irresponsible political rhetoric, 1830. To me, it reads like he is quoting extensively from the playbook of the modern Republican Party. I guess there is nothing new about partisanship.

Below the jump, what I hope the Democrats will adopt as their theme song.


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Guys, cheer up! Obama's off to a pretty good start

In the view of this primary Clinton supporter, it is way way too early to start crying over the demise of health care reform or the failed Obama Administration. We can all point to something disappointing about any politician, but I cannot say things would be better off if Hillary had won the primary and been elected President. No doubt things would be better in some areas, probably worse in others, but largely the same.

For perspective, lets just remember: at this point in the previous administration, President Bush's one accomplishment was a giant tax cut for the wealthy with no attempt to pay for it, and W himself was finishing up a month-long vacation at the "ranch" in Texas, cutting some brush, riding bikes, and ignoring his National Security briefings. "OK, you've covered your ass, now you can go back to Washington." In other words, we can - and have - had much worse leadership.

For all the defeatism of my fellow lefties on health care reform, let's keep in mind that there is still an decent chance we will get a good bill in the end. The Obama team seems to finally be engaging, and the bully pulpit is a very powerful tool.

And if we get a crappy bill? Or no bill at all? I guarantee that health care costs are not going away as an issue. We just go back to work on raising consciousness, educating the public, and pressing our representratives for action. If the insurance lobby succeeds in killing real reform this time, the issue will be back with more momentum in a few years. The current system is flat out unsustainable. It would be best to fix it before a total collapse, but it simply cannot continue as it is.

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Cause for Optimism Regarding Jobs

I was looking over some interesting charts on employment history since WWII on this web site. (Yes, I am a geek, so what?) I started playing with the numbers I found there, and what I discovered gave me a very optimistic feeling about the job picture in the coming four years. I know things look pretty bad right now, and GW Bush has dug a pretty deep hole for the US job market. But take a look at the table in the extended entry, and you might feel a bit better about our prospects as a nation over the medium term - say four years.

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My Poli-Sci Breakthrough

The Sarah Palin story borders on the surreal at this point. I mean geez, I took a couple of days over a holiday weekend for some bicycling, barbecuing, canning peaches. And when I got back online, there were so many new wrinkles to the Palin story I couldn't begin to keep them all straight. And if anything, the pace of new and bizarre things just keeps accelerating. And then, of exasperation was born inspiration.

I propose a new unit of measurement, the palin. It can be used to measure political stability and viability.

1 palin = 10 RPD (Revelations per day)

Most politicians would measure their viability in millipalins or micropalins. Anybody who reaches 100 millipalins should actively consider alternate career options.

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A message for all "TRUE" Democrats

On another thread, I pointed out to somebody that they were engaged in the "No True Scotsman" fallacy. tsman

Usually, this fallacy is the province of religious zealots, but there has been a lot of it around MyDD. I thought it would get better after the primary ended, but it just seems to come up in diary after diary, especially from certain commenters.

The basic pattern (which I have repeated multiple times with different interlocutors) goes like this:

Person 1) [insert incendiary comment]
Person 2) You are a troll.
Person 1) I am not a troll, you are.
Person 2) You are not a real Democrat. I know because [insert random flimsy reasoning]
Itsthemedia) You are committing a fallacy. You want person 1 to not be a real Democrat because you disagree; you are not reaching that conclusion from any real evidence.
Person 2) Whatever. [perhaps some more flimsy reasoning]

So by "whatever", does person 2 mean s/he knows s/he is indulging in a fallacy and does not care, or s/he does not think s/he is indulging in that fallacy? I will assume the latter, because if it is the former, there is no way for us to have a rational discussion.

Lots of Dems say "DEMS" for short. Plenty even say "Democrat Party", especially in the south, where the use of the term has been most ubiquitous since Newt Gingrich recommended its use about two decades ago. Sadly, there are Democrats who vote for the Republican candidate in every cycle, and this year will be no exception. The way to minimize it is to try to engage those voters, not reject them and tell them they are not welcome. Lastly, taking issue with the candidate on some issue is not the same as trashing him. Likewise, hating on those who have more faith in Obama and are willing to cut him slack on certain issues is the other side of the ideological purity trolling coin. Dissent is not treason, either to the country or the party. There are millions of Democrats whose first choice was not Obama. That does not make this cycle unique by any stretch, but the challenge before us is unity, not purification.

My message to the "TRUE" Democrats out there:
You do not get to say who is a "real" Democrat. You just don't. The fact is that anyone who is legally entitled to vote can register as a Democrat, and that registration is the only criterion that may be legitimately used to classify who is a Democrat and who is not. If you can't handle a party with a big tent, you can't handle being in the Democratic Party, because that is the ONLY way the Democrats have ever won, and they are not going to change to satisfy your notions of ideological purity.

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Profiles in political courage - with poll!

I agree with the very mixed feelings many have expressed over Obama's response to the open letter from supporters regarding his FISA flip-flop. I will stipulate up front that:

1) Obama is flip-flopping to position himself for the GE, not really stabbing his supporters in the back on purpose. He is not going out of his way to gut the 4th Amendment, but said Amendment happened to be in his way.

2) Arguing about Constitutional rights is a political loser, because the Constitution was written at a college reading level, and modern American political campaigns are carried out at about a 5th grade level.

3) Once Dodd dropped out of the race, our chances of getting a President who really cares about these issues were close to nil. Dodd's number one issue was "restoring the Constitution". He never rose about 1% in the polls. Enough said.

4) I will stipulate to anything else, within reason. ;-)

Now, in keeping with my maddeningly unjournalistic style, I will finally get to my point. After the break. :)

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Sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me

I cannot speak for all Clinton supporters, but if I read their comments right, what they are looking for the most at this point is the one thing Obama supporters have the hardest time giving them. In a word, respect.

"Give it up", "Get over it", "You lost", "We don't need you", "Your time is over", "What do you want from us?", "Her campaign was incompetent", "You have to support Obama or else XYZ", "You are not a real Democrat", etc., etc. What is sadly lacking in all those attempts at reconciliation, or communication, or huliliation, or whatever they are intended to be? Respect. Respect for the 17+ million voters who came out to vote for Hillary, respect for the blood, sweat, and tears expended by volunteers on her behalf, respect for the candidate herself, who has withstood the scorn of the media and the right wing and now the opinion-makers in her own party, and is still standing.

Now, lets flip it over - in all the Clinton supporters attempts at reconciliation, or communication, or whatever, to Obama supporters, what is the one element that I most often see lacking? In a word, respect.

We will start to heal as a party when we collectively find the maturity within us to respect each other. To be honest, I am shocked that I would have ever felt the need to point that out to a group of self-described Liberals and Progressives. I have always thought of Liberalism as the most "grown-up" political philosophy around, but the past few months here on MyDD have me doubting my assessment.

Respect is earned. Obama and Clinton have both earned my respect. I do not have to like Obama, or trust him, but I can respect his skill and his accomplishments, and to some extent, his vision. Even if you hate Hillary Clinton with a passion, if you have any intellectual honesty in you at all, you can find something in her that deserves respect. "Give the Devil his/her due," as they say.

I can likewise respect that subset of Obama and Clinton supporters here on MyDD who have earned my respect. One of the ways you earn respect is by showing you understand the concept. And the bare minimum requirement for understanding respect is to show courtesy.

Courtesy is owed.
Respect is earned.
Love is given.
-- Kinky Freidman's mom

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Take the itsthemedia challenge

The phenomenon that Bob Somerby calls "the cult of the offhand comment" has ruled this election season just like it has ruled every election season for the past 20 years or so. The media pundits have loved regaling you with bittergate, Tuzlagate, fingergate, wafflegate, and a hundred others. Now this latest kerfuffle. When candidates give 20 speeches and 50 interviews a week, and those candidates are human beings - surprise! they are going to say something wrong and/or stupid from time to time.

I am trying to think of the last time the media or the supposedly thoughful online community spent any time on an actual issue. The last one I can recall was the great gas tax debate, and even that hardly counts. It's a minor issue at best, and the coverage was all about breathlessly cataloging the latest sound bite zinger from each side, with no effort at all to talk about energy policy. To listen to the media accounts of that debate, one would think that Clinton's entire energy policy consisted of taking money out of one pocket, and putting it into another, and that Obama's counterproposal was to do nothing at all. The concurrent foodfight here on MyDD was barely more enlightened and erudite.

Itsthemedia's challenge -- I DARE YOU to write a diary or make a comment that is not about personalities, or outrage, or clever put-downs, or rumors, or delegate counting, or poll watching. I dare you to write about ideas, policies, issues that matter to real people's real lives.

BONUS: If your substantive diary also promotes party unity, put a pointer to it in the comments to this diary, and I will award you bonus "Unity Unicorn (TM)" points!!

PS. "Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people." -- Eleanor Roosevelt.

PPS. Take the poll!

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New Game! Please play!!!

This game is called "What I like About Your Candidate". The rules are simple, but I expect many MyDD readers may find it really challenging.

*****UPDATE: Wow you guys, I am SO impressed!

I was expecting this thing to devolve into yet another food fight, but with one notable exception (you know who you are), everybody played the game wonderfully! As a reward, make yourselves your favorite dessert, and go watch "Heidi", or "Pollyanna", or your favorite sappy, feel-good movie.

And to the one person who just never seemed to figure out the rules, it's OK. I'm sure if you work very hard, you can one day say something nice about an adversary and really mean it. Remember: bunnies! rainbows! candy canes! ponies!


1) Just leave a comment describing one thing (or more!) that you like, admire, respect about your candidate's primary opponent - soon to be GE ally.

1a) You can also say something nice about the opponent's supporters if you want.

2) Try to avoid back handed compliments, such as "I admire candidate X's courageous yet losing battle against halitosis." Go for something real, from the heart.

3) If you can't say something nice, go spew your bile in some other diary.

4) Insults and snark about the media and Republicans are fine, but try to do it in the context of saying something nice about your primary opponent.

I'll go first, below the fold ...

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I feel like I am back in Junior High School

When I was a 7th grader, it seemed like all of the 7th graders were picked on by the 8th graders. As a skinny, chess playing math whiz, I was certainly no exception. I remember on the first day of 8th grade, some of my friends saying "This is great! Now WE get to pick on the 7th graders." I didn't understand that attitude then, nor did I realize that some folks never outgrow the Junior High School mindset.

I don't like it when Obama supporters twist Clinton's every act and utterance into proof of her unfitness for office, and I feel that Clinton supporters should have the intellectual honesty not to do the reverse.

Please, for your next diary or comment, write something positive about your candidate, or something analyzing the campaign ahead or behind, or if you must write a negative diary or comment, write it about something that affects actual peoples' lives. Clinton and Obama supporters can work together to make MyDD an interesting site again.

One more thing, and it is important. It is too easy to ignore protests coming from the other camp. We need to put our own houses in order. Clinton commenters of goodwill need to start calling out the out of control anti-Obama diaries. Obama commenters of goodwill need to start calling out the out of control anti-Clinton diaries.

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