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Friday, November 29, 2002
Hope in a Hopeless Time

Interesting polling data in Fox News. The story shows Gore predictably getting trounced by Bush, 54-28. (Interesting side note: only 45% of registered Democrats think Gore should run again--and only 34% of Dems think Hillary! should run.) The numbers look right, since I would be undecided right now--Algore has not comported himself very well over the past two years, and his sharp veer leftward (single payer?) may attract Rick Kahn, but not so much the moderates who actually decide elections.

But the more interesting number is in the generic reelection numbers, Bush v. Random Democrat. Right now in a Fox News poll Bush is pulling 44%. Any incumbent pulling less than 50% of the vote in a generic reelection poll is in critical jeopardy of getting beat. Of course, that doesn't always happen (Clinton in '94 was hovering in the mid-to-low 40's and won handily in '96), but it does show a certain vulnerability in our President.

The question is, can the Democrats find a candidate who can exploit this vulnerability, and if so, who is it?

Wednesday, November 27, 2002
Henry Kissinger, I'm missin yer....

Does anybody think it's a good idea for Henry Kissinger to head the inquiry into intelligence failures on 9/11? Anyone? Okay, you, George Bush. All right, anyone else? No?

Henry Kissinger?!? Secret bombing, Pinochet-backing, Nixon confidant Henry Kissinger? Not only can I think of many better people, including Jesse Ventura, Adam Sandler, Derek Jeter, and Eddie the dog from "Frasier", I can't think of anyone worse. Kissinger has had some success--raproachment with China was good, though cutting Taiwan loose was bad--but his hands are too dirty with actions in Cambodia and Chile to be an effective chair. If President Bush wants to kill and discredit this committee--and indeed, that may be the case--then he's done a good job. But that does nothing to help our nation's security--and quite a bit to harm it.

Quite frankly, President Bush has done a good-to-very-good job on the War on Terror so far. But this is a crushingly, stupefyingly, ridiculousy dumb decision, and it will undermine our ability to prevent future attacks. I'm agog.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002
Huzzah for Gregg Easterbrook!

A truly marvelous piece by Gregg Easterbrook in the latest issue of Wired looks at the decreasing schism between science and religion. More and more, science is becoming a less hostile place for those of faith--at least, those of faith in something. I've already referenced Easterbrook's article on the ten commandments issue, and his Tuesday Morning Quarterback column may be the best column on football--ever. I'd call for him to get a blog, but he seems plenty busy as it is.

Friday, November 22, 2002

Ah, yes, the Miss World pageant is off to a rollicking good start. Of course, when people were suggesting that Nigeria was a bad place to hold the Miss World pageant, what with the theocratic Islamic government, the political instability, etcetera, the folks at the Miss World pageant couldn't be bothered.

Now, obviously, it's not the fault of the pageant organizers that the people of Nigeria are idiots (not all of them, of course--but enough to kill hundreds), but it is the fault of the pageant organizers that they choose Nigeria in the first place. Where is it going to be next year? Baghdad? Islamabad? Riyadh? How about Kabul? I mean, really, why not pick the 20 most hostile nations toward women and host it there? I personally am looking forward to the 2007 Miss World pageant, live from Qatar, broadcast live by al Jazeera.

It'd be funny if it wasn't so flipping sad.

I Was Right!

Five years ago, when the tobacco lawsuits were all in vogue, I told my friends that the next logical exception to personal responsibility was going to be the fast food industry. All the same things were in play--marketing to kids, health risks, companies indicating their product was safe and healthy, the whole shootin' match. And everyone scoffed.

Well, scoff at this.

Andrew Sullivan has taken to calling those of us in the middle as Eagles. According to him:

More revealing, perhaps, is the fiscal-conservative-social-liberal category, in which I think I'd probably be counted....But the war changes the matrix again, I think. There's a new group of people out there who are socially liberal but also foreign policy realists, especially among those who have been awakened to political engagement by September 11.

Indeed. But there's another wrinkle I'd add to the "eagle" position: a healthy respect for personal responsibility.

Remember back in the day, when you were fat because you ate too much, you got lung cancer because you smoked, and you got pregnant because you had sex? Well, now you're pregnant because of health class at school, you've got lung cancer because of the evil tobacco companies, and you're fat because McDonald's made you that way.

Please. Look, I'm not unsympathetic. I'm 5'10", 280 pounds, and know full well what it's like to be obese. But I'm obese because I don't excersise enough and eat too much. Ronald McDonald didn't pull a gun on me and make me eat that second slice of pie. I made that decision of my own free will, and if I choose to lose weight, I'll make that decision of my own free will.

The "scolds", as Sullivan dubbed them, or the "nanny statists" as I prefer, don't think you're responsible for anything. Out of money? Evil credit card companies. Cheating on your spouse? Permissive sexual mores in our society. Alcoholic? Those ads that make alcohol seem cool to kids.

Now, I would say it's because you're a free-spending, womanizing boozehound--and that's fine by me, since it's not my problem, but yours. I'm a fat guy, and I hope it's fine by you--because it's not your problem, but mine.

Look, there's nothing wrong with saying, "Hey Jeff, you don't need that second plate of nachos." There's nothing wrong with telling people that they can live their lives in a better way. But there is something very wrong with compelling people to live a certain way, and something sickening with suing when you live life the way you want--and don't like the consequences.

So far, my ultimate prediction has yet to come to fruition: there have been no suits from state Attorneys General, no government action to ban the Big Mac. But it's coming. Give it a few years. And I'm sure it will have the same stellar results as the tobacco lawsuits did.

Oh... Not a Moron.

You can't make this stuff up. Is it a bad sign that our nearest neighbor feels compelled to say this?

Wednesday, November 20, 2002
We Should Have Let Them Secede

Don't know how I missed this, but everyone's favore idiot Chief Justice, Roy Moore of Alabama, lost his bid to keep a 5,300 pound granite statue honoring the Ten Commandments in the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building.

Now, I've never quite understood the people who say that the Ten Commandments are rules that everyone agree on. After all, the First Commandment is "I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other Gods before me." But even if you accept that their prohibitions on stealing, killing, and coveting are universally accepted, we have a little thing in our country called the separation of church and state, and another little thing called the rule of law.

It's clear--abundantly, entirely, painfully clear--that Justice Moore's actions were contrary to established precedent. Now, any first-year law student can tell you that our legal system is built on a series of precedents, each case decided with an eye on the way past judges have decided things. That Justice Moore shows such a wanton disregard for past precedent shows him to be utterly unqualified to sit on the bench, much less sit as the preeminent jurist in Alabama. I hope that if Justice Moore resists this ruling, the Federal government will take the statue out. The Constituiton matters.

Those Dumb American Students

Well, with war a-brewin', we get the obligatory story about how those dumb American students can't find Iraq on a map.

Now, I'm not running down learning. I'm proud to say I can find Iraq on a map, as well as New Jersey and Afghanistan, two other difficult-to-find places.

But does it really matter whether students can pick out Iraq on a map? It's not like we're planning a weekend getaway to Iraq, and need to know how to get there. The survey didn't check to see if students knew, for example, of who Saddam Hussein was--something dramatically more relevant.

Of course, this is part of a generic class of stories that is continually recycled--the "Oh My God, Our Schools Suck" story. The stories always tell us how students in Sweden are doing better. (Of course, a majority of Swedes couldn't identify Iraq on a map either--but I digress).

I wonder every time I see these stories what percentage of the adult popluation could identify Iraq on a map (or name our 8th President, or do differential calculus in their heads, or whatever else the reporter is on about). My suspicion--never bourne out because nobody ever checks these things--is that the general adult population would do even worse. As it is, I don't care if students can't find Iraq on a map. What matters is that they understand what's going on there, wherever it is.

Monday, November 18, 2002
Fox News Biased! In other news, Sun Rises In East, Sets in West

Does Bob Woodward have the smoking gun that finally proves that Fox News is about as balanced as Courtney Love? Well, if Roger Ailes' denial is any indication, he does.

To fill in: apparently, in the aftermath of 9/11, Roger Ailes, President of Fox News, sent a back-channel dispatch to the President through Karl Rove--a stunningly improper thing for a non-biased journalist to do. Ailes' denial is essentially "I did it, but I didn't give advice, but I may have given advice, but it was a patriotic thing to do."

Now personally, I wouldn't have a problem with Ailes' actions--if Fox News didn't continue to maintain the facade of a "Fair and Balanced" network. Of course, they're about as fair and balanced as Michael Moore. But if they continue to maintain the fiction that they're somehow less biased than the rest of the (admittedly slightly liberally biased) newsmedia, then they're going to be held to the same standards--and that includes not working directly, or through back channels, with the President.

A Party Designed to Lose

So reads the headline on a truly excellent editorial in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. True specifically about Democrats locally, but generally true about the national party. And Nancy Pelosi is not the answer.

Friday, November 15, 2002
Because Everyone Wants Four More Years of Clinton/Gore

Saw the Gore interview. He's running. Just thought I'd note one question Baba asked. When asked if he would select Hillary! Clinton as his running mate, Al said he hadn't ruled her out. Oh, for Christ sake. Okay, listen up: If the Democrats run Al Gore and Hillary Clinton in 2004, I WILL vote for George W. Bush. I don't care if we have 85% unemployment, 1231% inflation, and Iraq has nuked the Eastern Seaboard. Bush fils gets my vote over Gore/Clinton, no matter wat. And I know damn well I'm not alone. Capice?

Misreading the Mandate, Part II

So now abortion foes have scuttled bankruptcy reform. Well that's just great. While this is hardly perfect reform (it seems a bit weighted to the big credit companies), there's no question personal bankruptcy is out of control in our country. Granted, the GOP leadership wasn't involved in this debacle, but this is two strikes, guys. One more time: we elected you on economic and national security issues. You'd think you'd avoid scuttling, you know, the first major economic bill to come up in the House. This, America, is why we Minnesotans voted for Jesse Ventura four years ago--and why we were so disappointed when he screwed it up.

Thursday, November 14, 2002
Hurrah for Unreconstructed Liberalism!

The Dems lost their mind, electing Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to represent them as Minority Leader in the House.

Now, Pelosi is no more liberal than Tom DeLay is conservative. But a party that just got drubbed might choose a first move other than moving further to the left.

Is Nancy Pelosi qualified? Of course. She's been Minority Whip, she's served her (extremely liberal) district well, she's fine. But ideologically, she's the equivalent of making Sen. Kennedy (or the late Sen. Wellstone) the Minority Leader in the Senate. She's just not the person you want as the public face of your party. Even the Republicans have had the sense to make Denny Hastert the Speaker of the House--a man so bland he couldn't electrify a crowd with 100,000 volts, but not a scary right-winger.

Will Pelosi's effect be as damaging as some scribes think? I doubt it. As House Minority Leader, her job will be to be irrelevant and marginalized while the GOP steamrolls her. But it isn't an encouraging sign for 2004.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002
New York? Heck, nothing's happened there....

The etc. blog on The New Republic's site has a great take on Terry McAuliffe, idiot. To wit:

To date, McAuliffe's general incompetence and his special knack for confusing strategic considerations with fundraising considerations have had no discernable result other than to turn the Democrats from the majority party in the Senate to a vaudeville act. They should return the favor and give him the hook.

Good stuff.

Whither the Donkey

Joe Klein has some good ideas for the future of the Democratic party. I don't agree with everything he has to say (I, for one, like the idea of a payroll tax), but he's spot on about the Democrats being "for the people." They aren't.

Harry Potter and the Religious Wackos

Whenever I despair at the conduct of the radical left, I take solace in the fact that at least these nutjobs aren't a part of the left.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002
Misreading the Mandate

Sure, the GOP won big, but hey guys, you might not want to start pushing the hard pro-life agenda quite yet. Although it's nice to see that they've given up on reversing Roe v. Wade, the GOP somehow thinks that they won because of abortion.


The reasons the GOP won are well-documented: popular wartime President, dearth of leadership on the Democratic side, a general sense that the Republicans will be better with your money, etc. Not abortion. Not anti-gay sentiment. Nothing related to the scolds' favorite issues. The GOP succeeded in large part because they muzzled their base the past two cycles. Dare we on the left hope they're stupid enough to make this the all-abortion, all the time Congress? Nothing would help the Democrats more.

Maundering on the Rallemorial

So the rallemorial hurt Democrats nationwide. So can we blame the loss on Rick Kahn and just move on? The rallemorial hurt, for sure, but it hurt more because of the dearth of ideas being floated on the Democratic side.

Before Sen. Wellstone's death, the Dems were basically running as the "We're not Republicans! We're going to protect social security and prescription drugs! we mentioned we're not Republicans?" party. At the rallemorial, the Democrats said what they were for. Social Justice! Welfare! Political Correctness! Higher Taxes! Socialized Medicine!

Now, those of us who lived in Minnesota and voted for Paul Wellstone always felt safe doing so because 1) he was very up front about being pro-higher taxes and pro-welfare, and 2) we knew there were 99 senators to the right of him, so we felt confident that he'd be at worst a lonely voice for liberalism--and we were okay with that.

But nobody really wanted Paul Wellstone's agenda to become law, except those few folks who control the DFL caucuses. Take a look at the Oregon referendum on socialized medicine--when you can only draw 20% support in Oregon your liberal idea is dead.

But of course, the rallemorial was a celebration of Paul Wellstone's life, and as such, it celebrated all the liberal causes Paul backed--like welfare, like universal health care. And if you were a moderate guy watching it, you found yourself shaking your head sadly when Tom Harkin gave his "Say yes!" speech, and apoplectic when Rick Kahn delivered his boneheaded call for Republicans to step aside so Ambassador Mondale could be elected to the senate.

And if you don't have any idea what the Democrats stand for, and you're watching Tom Daschle, Bill Clinton, et. al., cheering the cause of liberalism, well....

Hey, the rallemorial didn't beat the democrats. The idealogical vacuum did. But nature--and politics--abhor a vacuum, and it was filled up by the populist/progresssive patois of the Wellstone memorial service. And America today is decidedly not populist.

Monday, November 11, 2002
The Smoking Gun

Did the Wellstone memorial hurt DFLers? Yep. But did it hurt democrats nationally?


Goodbye, Independence Party

Alas, alack, the Independence Party is dead. Oh, sure, they have a sitting senator--for a while, anyway. Oh, sure, they've got a sitting governor--one more than the Democrats have had since 1991. And fine, they just elected their first state legislator. But hey, they're done because Tim Penny fared worse than expected.

Yes, the IP did worse than expected. But bear in mind that Tim Penny was in a statistical dead heat in the Governor's race--until Paul Wellstone's untimely death. That event seemed to polarize the race, and sent a number of leaning DFLers and Rs back to to their parties (more Rs than DFLers, in fact).

And still, the IP can count Kiscaden's election as an important step forward. Yes, Penny's campaign was generally mismanaged. And Moore ran a distant third (though given the circumstances of the Senate race, that's unsurprising). But it's a little early to be burying a party that has shown the ability to garner double-digits in the polls. Hell, if electoral viability was an issue, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party (one more time: last Governor elected was 1986) should be long dead.

Friday, November 08, 2002
Get on the Bus

In honor of Rick Kahn, I will deliver my analysis in the style of a speaker at the Wellstone Rallemorial.

My friends, today is truly a sad day. The Democratic party has had its butt whipped from Massachussetts to California, from Louisiana to New Hampshire. They lost in Georgia. They lost in Missouri. They even lost Paul Wellstone's seat in Minnesota.

And still, my friends, Democrats will claim that they lost narrowly, and they did. And they will claim that if one or two races had just swung their way, they would have won...and they would be right.

But they will fail to see, as they have failed to see, that it was not luck that lost them the Senate, and it was not luck that lost them the house, and it was not luck that lost them the Governor's mansion in Minnesota and Maryland. They lost for many reasons, but luck was not one of them.

The Democrats lost because they sent lawyers to precincts to contest races, and not workers to precincts to get out the vote.

The Democrats lost because they spent time arguing about alleged republican shenanigans instead of the issues.

The Democrats lost because they ran simultaneously for and against the war with Iraq, for and against the Bush tax cut, for and against George Bush.

They lost because they did not articulate a reason--any reason--to vote for them. They gave only reasons to oppose the republicans, and you cannot win simply to negate the other guy.

They lost because they have become the party of the past, not the future. Their campaigns are about Social Security and Medicare. The Republicans campaign on education reform and jobs and the war on terror. The Republicans may be wrong on these issues (and they may be right), but they are not wrong that it is more important to lift up the newest generation of Americans than to help out the richest generation of Americans.

The Democrats lost, and they will continue to lose, because they have lost the young and middle-aged suburban voter, the fiscally conservative, socially tolerant, pro-choice, anti-gun voters who are the fulcrum on which our democracy balances. They have passed them up for the iron rangers, and the unions, and the teachers. They have passed them up for the elderly, for identity
politics, for "social justice." And unless they realize that this is where races are won and lost, they will continue to lose, by wider and wider margins.

In Minnesota, my home state, the last DFL gubernatorial candidate to break 40% was Rudy Perpich in 1990. Hubert H. "Skip" Humphrey III couldn't break 30%. The last non-incumbent DFLers to win both endorsement at the state convention and a statewide general election were Paul Wellstone for U.S. Senate and Mark Dayton for Auditor--in 1990.

The DFL has lost its way. They cling to fading glory, seemingly unaware that it's no longer 1976, and Wendy Anderson isn't the governor. They cling to the iron range, seemingly unaware that the iron range is leaking residents like a sieve. And they continue to run Buck Humphrey and Flip Humphrey and Kip Humphrey, and Roger Moe and Walter Mondale and Julie Sabo, because...well, hey, they've got a familiar name, right?

Indeed, only the late Sen. Wellstone has risen as a star in the DFL over the last 20 years. He rose for reasons we understand. He held fast to his beliefs. He gave people a reason to vote for him, not just against his opponent. His beliefs were to the left of where the Democrats should position themselves for victory...but his honesty, his courage of his convictions, and his passion are models of what
the Democrats should aspire to--and not just in parody, as with Roger Moe yelling "We're gonna win this one! We're gonna win this one!"

It's time for the Democrats to move on from where they on, to move towards a new paradigm. It may involve a policy shift, but more important, it will involve a shift in tone and, from negative to positive, from old to young, from past to future, from the sixties to the new millenium. And I think I know how to do it.

The symbol of Paul Wellstone was a green bus. Well, I have a bus of my own, and I want a few people to get on board.

Tom Daschle, get on the bus.

Dick Gephardt, get on the bus.

Terry McAulliffe get on the bus and take your ten thousand attorneys withyou.

Roger Moe, Carol Johnson, and Bill Luther, get on the bus.

Hubert H. Humphrey I-XXX, get on the bus.

Anyone whose mom or dad or grandpa was a Representative or Senator or Governor, get on the bus.

Janet Robert, get on the bus and take your shady ads with you.

Rick Kahn, get on that bus and keep your mouth shut.

Bill and Hillary, get on the bus.

Al and Tipper (especially Tipper), get on the bus.

Jesse Jackson Senior and Junior, get on the bus.

Al Sharpton, get on the bus.

Gray Davis, get on the bus.

We're gonna get you all on the bus--the folks who planned 2000 and 2002, the folks who thought it was a good idea to focus all of their efforts on the lockbox, the folks who told Alan Page his services would not be required for the Senate in Minnesota. We're gonna get you on the bus, and we're gonna drive to the iron range!

And then we're gonna drive to International Falls!

And then we're gonna drive up, up, up, all the way to Yellow Knife. And we're gonna leave the bus stranded there, and we're gonna come back to the U.S., and we're gonna build a party that doesn't run away from its beliefs, a party that's willing to look to the middle, a party that's willing to move from the politics of the past to the politics of the future, a party that can win.

For if we don't, my friends, we will consign the democrats to a generation out of power in places like Minnesota. We will consign them to the minority in the Senate and the House. And we will see them lose the presidency in 2004.

These things may come to pass anyhow. But we must build this party for the future. Because right now, the future belongs to the Republican party, and it will unless the Democrats wake up, stand up, and start fighting.

Welcome to the Blog of the Moderate Left!

This is my attempt to share views from the moderate left. Truthfully, I don't count myself a Democrat anymore; I long ago fell off the right edge of the party, and now happily meander along amongst the independents. Still, I worry about my former party--I worry about the lack of leadership shown by the Democrats in the most recent election, the lack of focus on anything but senior citizens, the lack of...well, any coherent ideology.

Also, I noticed that everyone in the blogosphere seems to be a Republican--and somebody needs to show up on the left, even if it's the center-left.

So there you are. I hope you enjoy my little foray into punditry, should anyone stumble across this. And if you don't, well, tough.