The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Month: July 2010 Page 1 of 3

Netroots Schizo

I had a good time in Vegas, so I didn’t spend a huge amount of time at NN, but I did spend enough time to take in the mood, and it was schizophrenic.  About half the people there are some combination of angry, disappointed and bitter with Democrats in general and Obama in particular.  This group sees him as not a heck of a lot better than George Bush, and in fact the Democrat who extended some of Bush’s worst policies, especially in  civil liberties.  This includes a lot of feminists (angry at what they see as betrayals on abortion), many Hispanics angry at the continued harsh enforcement of immigration laws, gays who feel Obama has betrayed clear promises on gay rights, anti-war activists saddened by escalation in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and a mishmash of folks who think health care reform was a dog’s breakfast and that the general way the economy and financial reform has been handled is a disgrace.

Then there are the folks who would characterize themselves, in general, as hard nosed pragmatists and “realists”. These range from the “Obama is the greatest liberal president since FDR” types, who think that the Obama is just wonderful and those progressives and liberals who don’t agree are simply delusional to those who feel that a lot of what he’s done has been watered down pap in general but that it’s certainly better than nothing and that those who are disappointed are unrealistic idealists who simply don’t understand the constraints Obama and Congressional Democrats are working under.

As regular readers know, I tend to the first camp, but I’m not going to go into why, I simply want to note that this divide is very real.  It’s occasioning a lot of anger on both sides.  The first sees the second as tribalistic sellouts, willing to excuse horrible things they would never excuse in Republicans so long as they are committed by Democrats and lacking an understanding of just how bad Democratic policy has been.  These are folks who tend to sneer at the “wins” as either illusionary or so underwhelming as to be a parody of the lesser evil argument.  (Reminding one inevitably of the t-shirts which say “Why Vote for the lesser evil. Cthulhu 2008.”)  To many of these folks the other side are, crudely put, sell-outs.

The second side is angry at what they parody as fairy tale thinking and deeply unrealistic.  “Obama couldn’t fix everything, but he’s better than the Republicans will be if they get back in power” is their mantra, ranging from “really, he’s wonderful and you’re insane for thinking otherwise” to “well, yes he sucks but he sucks less than what the Republicans will do when they get in power.”  Either way, they see the attacks from what they consider the “purists” as deeply damaging.  Democrats may or may not be a ton better than Republicans, but either way, they are better, and there is a moral case to be made for sucking it up one more time and working hard to elect, as the old progressive battle cry runs, “better Democrats”.  This is a two party state, with those parties having an unbreakable oligopoly on power.  Dissing Democrats just helps the even worse party win, at which point they will do even worse things.  So get over your problems, whether they are with economic policy or Obama’s continued shredding of fundamental civil liberties like Habeas Corpus, jump back into the trenches with your bowie knife or bayonet and fight for Democrats, not against them because by constantly bad mouthing Dems all you do is make it more likely that Republicans will win, and if they win, well, that will be baaaaddddd.  Very, very baaaaaddddd.

To put it crudely and unfairly to both sides, it’s the sell-outs without principles against the purists without realism.  And many of them do put it that way.  The netroots are split, in a very real way.  Life was easy when we could all agree that Bush was the worst American president in over a hundred years and all turn our guns on Republicans with the occasional shot at what we considered apostate Democrats like Lieberman.  The in-your-face discovery that people not much better ideologically than Lieberman run the Democratic party and determine its policies has split the tribe and turned brother against brother.  It’s not all-out war, not even close, but there is a disdain, bitterness and contempt between the two sides which is very real, and very dangerous.

This isn’t the Netroots of years past, it’s a Netroots torn by the question of what it means to be pragmatic: get what you can versus get what some feel the country actually needs or what they feel they were promised.  It is a Netroots torn by the question of bedrock values: of what is non-negotiable, and what isn’t non-negotiable.

It is, fundamentally, a Netroots which is learning that it isn’t one big happy family, that it does have internal disagreements which are serious and which can’t be papered over.

What that means in the short run is simply that the enthusiasm and support which has been there in the past for Democrats is no longer as strong as it was before.  2010 will see a lot of the Netroots at best tepidly pro-Democratic.  “Well, they are very slightly the lesser evil, so yeah, vote for them I guess”.  In the long-run, we’ll see.  It could be that a new consensus will coalesce, especially if Republicans win in 2010 and 2012.  It could be that this is the new normal.  Or it could be that the splits will continue to widen and become even more bitter, till the tribal identity is completely destroyed.

But last week, in Vegas, I found a Netroots that is more divided than I’ve ever seen it in its short existence.  I think, contrary to what the “realists” might say that this isn’t entirely bad. It is a real split, over real issues, and thrashing it out is worth the pain, because until we do, we won’t know what it really means to be a modern Netroots liberal or progressive: what our bedrock values are, and what we’re fighting for.

Moronic Facebook Security

So, I’m in Vegas,and being the creature of the internet I am, I get the laptop hooked up.  Someone has left me a message on Facebook.  I go to log in.  Facebook notices I’m not logging in from my home computer and decides to play security games with me–which apparently means showing me pictures tagged with “friends”.

Do these idiots not understand that many Facebook friends aren’t real life friends?  That they aren’t people I’ve met?  That I don’t know what they look like?  Do they not understand that this is true of much of their customer base?  (Heck, one picture was an abstract picture with no people in it at all, I’m supposed to guess who got tagged in it?)

What happened to asking me questions about, oh, myself?


(Staying at the Encore in Vegas.  So far, it is very nice.)

Off to Vegas

and Netroots Nation 10, tomorrow.  Decided to go early and return a bit late so I could spend some time in Vegas, see some shows and help Vegas’s economy by losing some money at the tables.

If you’re going to be at NN, or you live in Vegas, and you’d like to meet, feel free to drop me a line at iwelsh-at-ianwelsh-dot-net.

There will be some updating while I’m there.

Of Course Politicians Don’t Listen to Ordinary Citizens. Why Would They?

So, apparently 68% of Americans think that the political class doesn’t listen to them.  After TARP, where calls were running between 100:1 to 1200:1 against, passed, the failure of Congress to get out of Iraq after 2006, the failure of the 70%+ supported public option, and on and on, the only mysterious thing is why it’s only 68%.

But why should the political class listen?  They get the majority of their reelection funds from corporations and the rich.  Their spouses and children are given good jobs by such donors, and if ordinary people do actually ever vote them out for not looking after their interests, well, as long as they went down doing what they were supposed to, they’ll still be very well taken care of.

Get elected, do what your corporate masters tell you to, and you’ll never ever have to worry about money ever again.

Only a sucker or an idealist would do anything else.

This is the fundamental problem with the US.  There is no accountability for the political class.  They and those who take care of them have made sure of it.  Go to war with a nation which has never attacked the US based on a big lie propaganda campaign, or spy on millions of Americans, or torture, or deregulate the economy so that Wall Street can cash in and crash the economy, and hey, so what, there’s no cost for you.

And as long as there is no cost for them, they’ll keep doing it. Just like Wall Street, having been bailed out after crashing the world economy, will do it again.  They got rich doing it, why wouldn’t they do it again.

They’d have to be suckers or idealists not to.

Geithner and the White House’s Panglossian Never-Never Land


Geithner endeared himself to Obama and senior White House advisers by advocating a response to the financial crisis that later proved correct.

Seriously, the White House lives in some alternate dimension, some reality known only to the initiates of their esoteric cult, a world where the banks aren’t still lending less, aren’t hurting the recovery by gouging customers, where small banks aren’t still going belly up at a frantic rate, where foreclosures aren’t hitting new highs and where unemployment isn’t still through the roof.

Must be nice to live in the White House’s Panglossian alternate dimension.

War on Iran?

Pat Lang seems to think so. This may be a case of cry wolf.  No one believes it anymore, because it hasn’t happened despite warnings yet.

But remember, when the boy cried wolf the second time there was a wolf.

We’ll see.

Blaming the blogosphere for Democratic Failures

So.  In response to a Politico piece in which the authors and White House whine about the left wing blogosphere not being happy with all of Obama’s “wins” and not caring about potential losses in 2010, Kevin Drum writes:

Here’s the good news: this record of progressive accomplishment officially makes Obama the most successful domestic Democratic president of the last 40 years. And here’s the bad news: this shoddy collection of centrist, watered down, corporatist sellout legislation was all it took to make Obama the most successful domestic Democratic president of the last 40 years. Take your pick.

Here’s the thing.  What matters is whether policy works.  It does not matter if what Obama did was more left wing than anything that’s been done in a while (though in absolute terms I would argue it mostly wasn’t left wing, the health care plan, for example, was essentially a Republican plan from the 90s), what matters is if it was left wing enough (big enough stimulus, smart enough health care plan) to improve people’s lives enough that they noticed.

It wasn’t, and that’s all that matters. Policies such as the stimulus were not done well enough, and everyone from Nobel prize winners with good predictive records like Stiglitz and and Krugman, down to nobodies like me, predicted it at the time.  The President hired the wrong people to give him advice, didn’t even do as much as many of them wanted, and now we all pay the price.

Sometimes half doesn’t work.  Half-assed rarely does.  All Obama’s half assed “left wing” policies have done is discredit the left for another generation.  Combined with the ability of the media, Republicans and hysterical Tea Baggers unable to use a dictionary to define him as a “socialist” this means that Obama’s policies are seen as left wing, and left wing policies are seen to have failed.

I don’t want Obama doing anything I agree with, because he will screw it up and discredit it.  In this respect he is like Bush.  He is poison because he is incompetent at policy.

As for the original Politico post, the hysterical ranting at the peanut gallery the authors clearly don’t even read, says more about them and the White House than it does about the left wing blogosphere they try to blame for Democrats own failures.

Your Liberal Media

So, I’m at the gym, which is the only place I watch TV, and as I’m walking out, I see on CNN, a big headline

Obama, Hitler and Stalin

I have no idea what the hell they were talking about and I didn’t stick around to find out, but as anyone with any sense or media training knows, if you stick those three names together people will start to associate the three no matter what you say.

I suspect it was probably some right wing idiot saying “Obama is just like Hitler and Stalin” and CNN deciding “hey, let’s discuss that.”

Are CNNs producers stupid, or evil?  No wonder Americans believe so many lies.  They are fed propaganda every day.

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