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Why There is No Populist Alternative on the Left

Before the 2008 election, I stressed the need for a progressive party. The Democrats were not addressing our concerns and Obama, as most progressives acknowledged at the time, was not and never had been a progressive. I was told the important thing was to elect Obama and put an end to the bad days of the Bush era. Well, we can all see how well that turned out.

There has been a lot of talk about how the left has been veal penned. But I don't think it is understood how much of its organizations have been. The healthcare debate is a great example for this. You had large swathes of the traditionally liberal Democratic blogosphere like dkos and Huffington Post that were essentially in the bag for whatever the Democrats/Obama came up with. This also included HCAN, a veal pen creation put together by other veal pen groups, including unions.

But beyond these, there were co-opted veal penned progressive groupings. These were the public option supporters, like firedoglake. The PO was never more than a contentless, read into it whatever you want, hook to keep the rubes quiet while the real sellout was going on.

These were the positions of most of the liberal/progressive organizations and groups going in. Noticeably absent from all these was the only truly progressive program of single payer universal healthcare. This already exists in various forms in most of the industrialized world and delivers better outcomes at substantially lower prices. What is so interesting about this is that not only did Obama and the Democrats never put this on or anywhere near the table, neither did almost the whole of the organized left. Single payer proponents were ostracized, banned, and viciously attacked, not just by Obama and the Democrats, which was to be expected, but by this much larger veal pen of liberal Democrats and independent progressives.

When it was all over, the public option was exposed as the PR sham it was, and had always been. Some progressive groups belatedly opposed the healthcare bill, but most did not. By then it didn't matter anyway. It was a done deal. Yet to this day, most of the rancor of these groups remains directed at the single payer supporters, the only people in that whole sorry mess who got it right on both the policy and the politics that were going on.

So what does this have to do with a new progressive party or populist movement on the left? Well, everything. All the liberal and progressive groups that could have done so much to create a real debate on healthcare yet did so much instead to suppress that debate are playing the same role here. dkos and Huffington Post could be powerful tools for organizing a populist progressive alternative to the two parties and the Tea party. But this would be to overlook that they operate as virtual adjuncts of the Democratic party. So their hostility to anything independent or third party is expectable.

What is less expected, and actually quite pernicious, is how so many progressive blogs take a similar if not so obvious position. There the attitude, as I have often heard, is go out organize a third party, get it up and running, on the ballot, and start winning elections, and then, and only then, will we maybe come along.

You have to understand these are the same groups that in 2006 and 2008 pushed hard the theme of "more and better Democrats" and eagerly sought out potential forward looking Democrats and organized for them. Many of those Democrats lost, done in by the Establishment Democratic machine, but even those that won without exception sold out their progressive supporters and turned their back on them at the earliest opportunity. Yet these groups, despite being burned and burned again, continue to concentrate on and favor Democrats. When it comes to backing actual progressives, people who won't burn them or scuttle the progressive agenda, they vary between indifferent and hostile.

So if you want to know why there is no populist alternative on the left, the answer is that huge chunks of the left continue to be controlled by the Democratic party, fairly overtly. Independent progressives are similarly dominated by Trojan Horse groups, progressive in name but Democratic in orientation, which suck all the air out of progressive organizing efforts. The result is that progressives are largely shut out, even on the left, even in those organizations that should be most supportive of their ideas, even among those that say they support those ideas.

There are a few progressives who have rebelled and are trying to build new organizations. But it is hard. Look at it this way. There is a periphery between traditional Democrats and liberal Democrats. There is another between liberal Democrats and progressives, and there is yet another between veal pen progressives and true independent progressives. Progressives have a good message and good solutions, but it is difficult to get it to an audience in a recognizable form past all those veal pens.

(This post began as a comment at Naked Capitalism where, as Yves would say, mirabile dictu, it would not load. I thought to attach it to lambert's orginal post which brought this to my attention, and then thought it could stand alone as a post of its own.)

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Submitted by lambert on

At least based on outcomes from 2004, 2006, 2008, 2009, and 2010.

The hippie punching is simply another manifestation of the increasing nakedness and coarseness of Versailles culture; they don't even bother to pretend any more. The reality has been the same since the Washington Consensus took hold in the mid-1970s, but there used to be a pretence. I take this as a sign of fragility, rather than the reverse, in the same way that people who feel the need to censor or shout are generally losers on the issues.

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Submitted by mass on

to divorce themselves from the Democratic Party. They also have to stop elevating wealthy people who say things they like. The hero worship of the Arianna Huffingtons and the Warren Buffet and the Mark Zuckerbergs has to stop. These people may agree with liberals on some issues, but I think it is very dangerous to try and make them heros of the middle class. Look at Arianna Huffington, apparently the new voice of the middle class. She is embracing the most neoliberal domestic policy to come out of this administration, the vaunted Race to the Top, all while bemoaning neoliberalism, and using her site to promote the entire merit pay/anti-union/pro-privatizing education policy. If you took a look at her site you would think that WAS the progressive position on education. Warren Buffet pushed for and benefitted from the bank bailouts. Zuckerberg has literally positioned himself to design the Newark education policy, which is completely anti-democratic, while arguing schools need to be run like start-ups(START-UPS!) not "government bureaucracies". I'm not saying wealthy people can't be part of a genuine grassroots progressive movement that put the economic majority first, but I sense a real split in attitudes emerging as we've seen the wealth gap grow and too often I think people are looking to the powerful to be their voice.

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Submitted by mass on

One really has to wonder about the intelligence of today's average billionaire.

Submitted by libbyliberal on

I saw hope in Edwards' discussion and focus on populism but his movement got short shrift among the faux-progressives, establishment and media and his personal life was simultaneously unravelling which was all pretty depressing.

So many I assume assumed that Obama would do the right thing since Obama was an African American man and how could he not empathize with the plight of the under-privileged in this country? Yeah, that come-uppance slogan about "ass-uming". Sigh. Assumptions made about Hillary being female, too, helping women as an underclass.

In 12 step recovery they say that you can't recover until you do step 1 --surrender to reality. Rigorous honesty as to how out of control things are. Overcoming denial if you want to move beyond step 1. Not partial denial. Full surrender. Dem party hasn't done this. So much demonization of Bushco the Dems wimped by on a pass and never took their own inventory and WHAM Obama gets in there and shows us how corrupt the eclipsed second war/money party is.

The other thing as I was reading your blog was the power of "cronyism". We are such a sports-oriented country. Power and competition such important values in our hopped-up-masculinized anti-feeling culture, that partnership and cooperation are not valued. Go team. Military teams. Political teams. Issue teams. Website teams. Go radio program team host. Etc. Cronyism.

Cronyism pays. Rove knew that when he got the strict Catholics to bail on the Dem party over abortion for example. Many hated Bush, but that wedge issue ... how could they not vote against the devil party defending the right to abortion.

AIPAC knows the power of lobbying for cronyism.

Lots of examples of cronyism.

Yes, principle and opinions but how reinforced they are by one's TRIBE. And in our A.D.D. culture who doesn't rely on other people's judgements, people we respect rather than following up on doing our own critical thinking and listening from the horse's mouth.

And legacy Dems endorse other legacy Dems and I used to listen hard to this. Now I realize how played we all are by all of them.

And then you have the severe black-out of truth, reality by the media which is so super insidious, and is our robotic, hypnotic covert crony each and every day. Nuanced and not so nuanced assertions of propagandized commentary. Look at the power of Oprah. Imho she made the diff for Obama.

Astroturf vs. grassroots. Astroturf seems to be winning, doesn't it? The single payer movement was real grassroots and was not small in terms of numbers. Its defeat was so very telling to what bad shape we are in. How strong the enemies of the people are. They divide and conquer and the common good is lost. The public trust not even n the political vocabulary any more.

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Submitted by jumpjet on

Which I think reveals the answer to the problem: illusion isn't real. Therefore, it is inherently fragile. Lambert has always made the point that the political establishment relies on enormous engines of obfuscation and deception to maintain their control. The Washington Consensus is built on lots of systems with lots of moving parts. It's vulnerable to disruption.

By contrast, truth exists. Truth has substance, to use the old scholastic vocabulary. It can never really be destroyed- just lost, or suppressed, or forgotten. But it always endures, waiting for us to return to it. And it's always inherently simple.

Submitted by lambert on

It was central to the media critique of the blogosphere, and also there's Chomsky's "manufacture of consent." The WMD episode before Iraq, where so many of us played whackamole with manufactured evidence from the administration, was really formative. I think what's unique to us isn't the concept, but constant posting of the detail of it, day by day, in a very intimate fashion.

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Submitted by basement angel on

knows that she has a long and effective resume of advocating for working class women. And based on her history of accomplishment, I would assume that would remain the same. Do not mistake your lack of awareness of what she has done, for her lack of accomplishment. They are two very different things. What I find so disturbing in the left is the unwillingness to recognize genuine liberal accomplishment when it's part of the historical record. Dollars to donuts, you can't tell me one thing she got done as First Lady of Arkansas. I liked Edwards too, but unlike Hillary, he had no history of getting things done for ordinary people - other than winning law suits. That's it. But you go back through the years with Hillary and there she is from the moment she's out of law school, getting things done for ordinary people. She's had one of the most liberal voting records in the Senate and was far closer to Boxer than to Feinstein. I can't understand how so many women are so blind when it comes to her history. It really reads as sucking up to the patriarchy.

Obama won by cheating - it's that simple. First he cheated in the caucuses. In Indiana, he transported under age high school students around to vote at early voting places. Once it got to the Rules and Bylaws Committee, the CEO of a health insurance company simply arranged to dock half the delegates from two of the states that voted for Hillary, and to further, give all the uncommitted delegates to Obama from Michigan as well as four of the delegates Hillary won.

You might want to ask yourself why Wall Street and the health care industry supported Obama so overtly against Clinton if she's what you think she is.

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Submitted by ms_xeno on

...,It's "Sucking Up To The Patriarchy...?"

I don't think so.

Seeing her record as SoS is more than enough to tell me that she's no friend of women, unless my definition of "women" stops at the U.S. borders.

basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

Afghanistan would beg to differ with you. In fact, the majority of Afghanis that don't want the US to pull out disagree with you. When we do, there are going to be people slaughtered by the hundreds of thousands. The women's organizations in Afghanistan are terrified and they regard Clinton as one of their strongest allies. Can you find a prominent feminist group IN AFGHANISTAN that opposes her actions as SOS? Just one group? And I don't mean some random westerner. I mean, an actually Afghani group that will stay there, because they are born there and that's where there families live, when we leave.

It's not that you think for yourself. That's certainly not my impression of what you do. It's that you have bought all of the patriarchal rhetoric about Clinton hook, line and sinker and have never questioned it even once. You don't know her history. You don't know her voting record.

It's just so weird how many women cannot acknowledge Clinton's tremendous impact as a feminist. It's like you're terrified to admit that there is somone out there advocating for ordinary people - which she does over and over again. And dollars to donuts, you can't name a single thing she's ever done for average people.

Go ahead - tell us what you know about what she did in Arkansas that improved life for average Arkansans. Bet you can't name one thing.

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Submitted by ms_xeno on

...bomb women overseas to smithereens along with their families, in the guise of "liberation." Using the arrogant notion that my government gets to decide whether or not people they don't know are better off dead than alive under the Taliban.

It does not impoverish American women in the process, by robbing America's coffers and destroying its future-- along with the families, friends, and neighbors of American women.

For me to give Hillary a pass because she threw some crumbs to a comparable few women here and around the world would be like my giving Kucinich a pass for what he's done in Ohio-- even as he lured the rest of us into taking it in the chin from his Demo overlords. It makes no logical sense.

It also cracks me up that Hillary is essentially Obama's right arm on the world stage, and yet I'm somehow supposed to vilify him while lauding her. Else I am "a tool of the patriarchy," or somesuch rubbish.


Your neo-liberal interventionist feminist poster girl isn't mine. I don't care for what she and her well-heeled interventionist sisters (and brothers) sell on the world stage, don't buy it, won't have it.

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Submitted by basement angel on

of thousands of them slaughtered. You're not dealing with that. This is dead children. Dead mothers. Dead fathers. The people who will get killed are loved very deeply by someone. What makes you think that you're on the side of peace?

The situation is horrible and we created it. But when we pull it out, it will immediately get worse and probably will be worse for decades. There are a lot of good people trying to find ways to prevent or minimize that inevitability. But the lefties advocating for immediate withdrawal aren't among them. Their solution is simple tolerance of thuggery - look the other way, It's none of our business. Well yes, it is - we created this mess.

It just sounds like a lot of cheap sophistry to me. We pull out. People get slaughtered and the people who pushed for withdrawal feel sorry for the dead. . It's really kind of demented.

Warren Christopher once said that diplomacy is about constructing a hall of dignity for your opponent to exit through. That's why it frequently doesn't look as enlightened as we'd like and why processes that do look enlightened frequently fail.

The Afghanis are facing down some incredible bad guys - bad guys that we created. But in the years after the Soviet withdrawal, 800,000 Afghanis perished. That's what they're afraid of facing again. That's why people are trying to find a way to prevent what we fear is the inevitable. And I cannot see how anyone who accepts that eventuality as superior to us staying for a while longer with a different set of policies that Bush's killcentric approach, is an advocate of peace.

The Taliban are immensely unpopular. In the region from which they come, they have a 21% favorable rating. It's lower - much lower - everywhere else. And that's because everyone knows what the Taliban will do once we leave. This is a life or death issue for them.

I'd like to hear what Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State has done specifically that you feel has cost lives in Afghanistan. Not what Gates has done. Not what Obama has done. What policy of Clinton's has made life worse for Afghanis. You obviously don't know the first thing about her history so what makes you think you know what she's doing here?

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Submitted by ms_xeno on

We can justify brutality because somebody else was brutal first? Our brutality is more high-minded than that of the Taliban?

What a sick joke.

This is why liberals by and large are useless in the anti-war movement. Historically, they love war, so long as their own figurehead is in charge of it. So long as there's something lucrative to be extracted from the country in question, they can justify any intervention, no matter how ugly.

OTOH, they can turn their back on countries without any material profit to offer as readily as their GOP buddies. Haiti, anyone?

That you can ask, over and over again, what Hillary has done to harm women around the world-- when she is at present the PAID RIGHT HAND of the president you claim to abhor, just floors me.

But I get it. It's about the personalities, not the institutions, for you. Fine. Whatever.

But those of us who look at institutions first and personalities second are not anyone's "tools." Least of all patriarchy's. If there's any institution in this country more patriarchal than the military machine, any institution that's a greater drain on "humanitarianism" at home, I'd sure like to hear what it might be.

Meanwhile, don't expect to impress us by continuing to lob that accusation our way. It won't wash.

basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

Bush's policies were horrific and cost way too many lives. And as bad as they were, it still wasn't as bad as it was under the Taliban. That's how bad the Taliban are. And looking the other way as bullies slaughter a population just doesn't make one a peace advocate. It' just doesn't.

Two questions and I bet you can't answer either:
1. What well-known human rights groups in Afghanistan, composed of Afghanis, are demanding that we leave immediately?

2. And what policies that Clinton herself has advanced (she's opposed Obama plenty of times) do you feel has cost lives in Afghanistan? Specifics, please. Not Gates policies. Not Obama's policies. Clinton's policies.

I don't think you know the first thing that's going on over there. I don't think you know what efforts are being made to stabilize the country. I don't think you know what's being done to improve lives. I don't think you understand that the surge resulted in far fewer civilian deaths. I don't think you know that McChrystal, when he made the comment about us killing an "amazing number of people", was using those deaths to bring the special forces which were responsible for the amazing number of deaths into the policy realm that was seeking to (and has successfully) dramatically decrease the number of civilian deaths. I think you think he was bragging. He wasn't. The actions he took before he made that comment resulted in an immediate decrease in civilian deaths - that matters.

Life matters. Policies that save lives matter. We made the mess. Throwing our hands up and pulling out, because Bush was a sociopathic fuck up of the first order, and allowing innocent Afghanis to be slaughtered so we can say we're at peace is bullshit.

When people actually do stuff to make life better referring to it as throwing scraps is bad. If 400,000 lives are saved because we stabilize Afghanistan sufficiently to withstand what it will go through when we withdraw, that matters. You're saying it doesn't. I'm saying it does.

More people will die - hundreds of thousands more - if we do what you want. That's a bad policy.

Submitted by Lex on

I don't think you understand our history in Afghanistan or what's being done there right now.

I don't think you understand that the surge resulted in far fewer civilian deaths. I don't think you know that McChrystal, when he made the comment about us killing an "amazing number of people", was using those deaths to bring the special forces which were responsible for the amazing number of deaths into the policy realm that was seeking to (and has successfully) dramatically decrease the number of civilian deaths. I think you think he was bragging. He wasn't. The actions he took before he made that comment resulted in an immediate decrease in civilian deaths - that matters.

Actually, i know you don't because you wrote the above paragraph...which is full of, well, it's full of bullshit.

Submitted by lambert on

So why not settle that factual issue first?

IIRC, the last COIN discussion -- if COIN is indeed the right term for our current Afghan strategy -- was light on linky goodness. As are the comments on this thread, so far.

Resolved: That counter-insurgency strategies adopted by US forces in Afghanistan have reduced civilian casualties.

Yes? Or no? Make your cases!

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Submitted by basement angel on

who think that we're just over there slaughtering people by the thousands. I don't believe that was ever the case, though Bush's execution of the war is indefensible all the way around. But even if we were doing that earlier, we aren't doing it now. I think that's what drives a lot of this - we're still haunted by the ghastly images of our war in Iraq and are applying those images to Afghanistan currently. That's wrong.

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Submitted by basement angel on

This past year, the percentage of civilian deaths due to the conflict that are caused by "pro-government forces" has fallen as opposed to the overall number. Now, if you go back a couple years, my original statement is correct. We were killing a lot more people just a few years ago than we are now.

But so far you haven't demonstrated even a sliver of knowledge or awareness of what we're doing over there - so that's not impressive. It's kind of like you're just belching up the latest lefty talking point with no fundamental awareness of what real people, who are on the ground over there, are trying to accomplish.

Here's an article from the Afghanistan Conflict Monitor:

"The human cost of the armed conflict in Afghanistan is escalating in 2010. In the first six months of the year civilian casualties – including deaths and injuries of civilians - increased by 31 per cent over the same period in 2009. Three quarters of all civilian casualties were linked to Anti-Government Elements (AGEs), an increase of 53 per cent from 2009. At the same time, civilian casualties attributed to Pro-Government Forces (PGF) decreased by 30 per cent compared to the first half of 2009. Between 01 January and 30 June 2010, UNAMA HR documented 3,268 civilian casualties including 1,271 deaths and 1,997 injuries. AGEs were responsible for the deaths and injuries of 2,477 civilians or 76 per cent of the total number of civilian casualties for this period. Suicide and IED attacks caused the most civilian casualties attributed to AGEs including 557 deaths (61 per cent of civilian deaths attributed to AGEs) and 1,137 injuries (73 per cent of civilian injuries attributed to AGEs)." Afghanistan Mid Year Report 2010 Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan, August 2010

So, if these trends continue for 2010, we'll be looking at around 2500 civilian deaths with around 600 of those caused by us.

But, if you go back to 2007, you'll find this:

At least 1,060 Afghan civilians have been killed in fighting between Taliban insurgents and Afghan security forces backed by international troops since April, the UN's Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) news service reports. "Civilian deaths in military operations conducted by international forces - particularly US troops operating outside NATO writ - and their Afghan allies have roughly balanced that of the Taliban," the article states. The death toll comes from a confidential report prepared by Afghanistan's Ministry of Interior. According to UN sources, the number of people dying in conflict-related violence has doubled in the last two years.

Between April and August of 2007, we were responsible for around 500 deaths as were the insurgents. If those numbers held, that would put Americans responsible for around 1000 deaths in 2007. That's about 70% more than this year.

Now, here's a source that lists the various news reports of how many people were killed during Soviet occupation, in the immediate aftermath of occupation and even during the 90s. According to the Christian Science Monitor, 400,000 were killed in the 90s alone. Lots of other sources have the figure far higher:

What you seem completely unaware of, is that there are a lot of very smart people trying to prevent the kind of blood bath that Afghans experienced in the not-to-distant past. Counter-insurgency is a war-to-peace transition strategy. The idea, as I understand it, is to build up civil institutions and local communities to the point that they can withstand the forces that will be arrayed against them once the occupying force withdraws.

Submitted by Lex on

For one, we don't really count casualties all the time/very well. It doesn't take much looking to find reports half-buried about deaths that we don't count. But anyway, as of Aug 10, 2010 the UN said:

"The number of civilians killed in the Afghan war jumped 25 percent in the first half of 2010 compared with the same period last year, with insurgents responsible for the spike, the United Nations said in a report Tuesday."

Of course there's never a definition of "insurgent" or "Taliban". Further, the DoD is notorious at this point for calling anyone it kills an "insurgent".

But that's not the point i was making in the original reply. McChrystal didn't make the statement to put the policy "in play" or whatever. It was his goddamned policy. He got famous for running night time SF raids that have a long track record of killing women and children...sometimes even digging the bullets out of their bodies so that it doesn't look like US forces did the killing.

And i replied to the wrong comment so i cannot look at the statistics presented.

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Submitted by basement angel on

In January, he order coalition troops to avoid night time raids. If they felt a night time raid was necessary, they were ordered to bring Afghan forces with them:

In February, this happened:

On Feb. 12 in a village near Gardez, in Paktia Province, Afghan police special forces paired with American Special Operations forces raided a house late at night looking for two Taliban suspects, and instead killed a local police chief and a district prosecutor when they came out, armed with Kalashnikov rifles, to investigate. Three women who came to their aid, according to interviews with family members and friends, were also killed; one was a pregnant mother of 10, the other a pregnant mother of 6.

And in March, he brought Special Forces directly under his command:

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top American commander in Afghanistan, has brought most American Special Operations forces under his direct control for the first time, out of concern over continued civilian casualties and disorganization among units in the field.

And here is McChrystal's complete comment where he talks about how we have killed an amazing number of people. This is in response to a question asked of him by one of our military:

GEN McChrystal: "That's a great point. I don't know if we have, but we certainly ought to be doing that. We have so many escalation of force issues, and someone gets hurt in the process, and we say, 'They didn't respond like they were supposed to.' Well, they may not have known how they were supposed to respond, so as they approached an area or checkpoint or whatever, they may have taken actions that seemed appropriate to them, and when a warning shot was fired they may have panicked. I think this is a great thing to do, to engage people and tell them the kind of behavior on their part that would lower the chance that they would run into problems.

"I do want to say something that everyone understands. We really ask a lot of our young service people out on the checkpoints because there's danger, they're asked to make very rapid decisions in often very unclear situations. However, to my knowledge, in the nine-plus months I've been here, not a single case where we have engaged in an escalation of force incident and hurt someone has it turned out that the vehicle had a suicide bomb or weapons in it and, in many cases, had families in it. That doesn't mean I'm criticizing the people who are executing. I'm just giving you perspective. We've shot an amazing number of people and killed a number and, to my knowledge, none has proven to have been a real threat to the force."

It may not be in response to the night time raids, but he is talking about his drive to reduce the number of civilian casualties.

Submitted by Lex on

What else is he supposed to say? The fact of the matter is that all the people already killed, disappeared and tortured can't be brought back to life. All this happy fuzzy talk might play well for Americans but it isn't going to change a damned thing.

It was a fool's errand on the afternoon of 9/11 when anyone with half a brain and a decently used library card could have predicted that we'd be in this situation ten years on. It's a fool's errand now. There will never be a self-sufficient Afghan National Army that holds a monopoly on violence, not under the regime we're developing (continuing to arm unaccountable factions). By which i mean one that the Afghan government can afford.

We're going to be doing exactly what we're doing in Afghanistan in another decade and we won't be any further along than we are right now.

Submitted by Lex on

You just go ahead and hero worship a guy with a huge amount of blood on his hands, blood spilled in some awful ways. This is why i refuse to be a member of the Democratic Party or have any association with it: same old imperial foreign policy that the GOP plays. Same military hero worship. Same shit, different rationalizations.

Submitted by Lex on

I like how you throw all those stats without the disclaimer that the Afghanistan Conflict Monitor uses:

"The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) is also collecting data, but the efforts of both agencies are hampered by insecurity and a lack of resources. As a result, figures released by these agencies likely represent a substantial undercount."

basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

The fact of the matter is that far fewer people are dying now than will die if we pull out. You know it's true and you don't care.

Submitted by lambert on

Was that shown on this thread? Even if COIN means fewer casualties that doesn't mean more deaths if we pull out, no? Have I missed an exchange?

basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

of COIN - finding ways to stabilize a country sufficiently so that it can withstand the waves of violence that are unleashed in the aftermath of an occupying force leaving. The Taleban are already escalating their level of violence as the above links demonstrate. What we're trying to do is build both their civil affairs divisions and their communities up sufficiently that they will be able to rebuff the Taleban.

This isn't about some George Bush fantasy of democracy. The people who are developing COIN are liberals who are trying to find ways to decrease violence and death. We can't always prevent a lunatic like Bush from going to war, but we can try to find ways to make our disengagement less violent and costly to locals. There are huge efforts going on in Afghanistan all over the nation with military civil affairs and international aid groups trying to rebuild as much infrastructure as possible, while rebuilding communities organically that will hopefully have the strength to withstand the Taleban. Is there lots of corruption as Lex is alleging? I"m sure there is. But farmers are still getting their irrigation ditches cleaned up and repaired. Local mosques are being rebuilt and repainted. New schools are going up and broken windows are being replaced at the old ones. There is a structure being built that's worthwhile. Imperfect but worthwhile.

If you don't read Abu Muqawama, here's the link:

What I read in these discussions is a lack of awareness that we really have changed policies. Now, we still have a massive amount of people with guns over there so there will still be problems. But for the 60%+ of Afghanis who don't want us to leave, it is a far more manageable problem than the Taleban.

Submitted by Lex on

It doesn't work without a legitimate host government. I mean, it probably doesn't work at all, just like all the great mystery religions, but that's a different topic. It cannot build a legitimate government. Besides, we're not actually practicing COIN at the moment, we're doing colonial pacification operations.

At this point, the ISAF/US is having to admit that turnout for the parliamentary elections was waaaay down and violence was waaay up. The whole point of the surge II, central Asian bugaloo was to pacify for the sake of elections. In other words, fail...again.

And how will the war's supporters for the sake of human rights feel when Karzai (as corrupt as they come - which is the only way they're going to come in Afghanistan after 30 years of war) starts making deals with the Taliban/AGI? Because it's coming...not that the Afghan government we're fighting to protect isn't already full of war criminals and mafioso. And he'll cut those deals with or without us, though at the moment it sounds like Petraeus is for it. One must save face i suppose.

So COIN is good because "liberals" are developing it, but leaving Afghanistan is bad because it's an argument made by "Lefties". Am i missing something?

The bigger problem with COIN is that it makes a convenient excuse for armed intervention based on pie-in-the-sky moral purposes. But in the end, it is a tactic not a strategy. And if it were to be done well, it would not be done how we're doing it with the tools we're using.

Submitted by Lex on

A great many Afghan women are being slaughtered right now. They are not significantly more free than they were 10 years ago. And all of it is happening under the watchful eye of the USG. In fact, violence of all sorts has only grown under the Obama escalation. The Taliban (in the loose definition that the USG uses) has now gotten a strong foothold in northern provinces where it had none before.

And then there's all the Afghan women and children that we're killing.

Besides, the real Pottery Barn rule is: You broke it, you bought, and get the fuck out of the store...not you bought it and would you like to redecorate while you're here.

There is nothing, nothing, in the current US strategy that is even designed to increase long-term stability in Afghanistan.

The warlordism and violence is a feature, not a bug.

basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

Us. Not the Taliban. And how close is that number to the hundreds of thousands that died in the years after Soviet withdrawal?

You seem to think 800,000 dying is no big deal cuz we're killing people now, so let's see it. Let's see where, say, 50k civilians have been killed by US troops in the past six months, or so.

That's the thing about people who advocate immediate withdrawal. They never seem to have any awareness of what the numbers actually are. They don't seem to know about the vast efforts going on between the military and NGOs to create an Afghanistan that can withstand the rage that will flow once we leave. Nor do they seem to care. They seem to have this idea that we can withdraw and life will get better - well, no it won't.

Over 60% of Afghanis wants us to stay. There are very good reasons for that.

Submitted by Lex on

Your entire argument rests on the fact that we haven't been responsible for as many civilian deaths as the Red Army? Hurray!

So we're going to never mind the fact that Carter authorized the covert destabilization of Afghanistan six months before the Soviets entered to provoke them to enter? We're going to ignore that at it's peak, the US was putting close to $1B (inflation adjusted) into promoting the Afghan-Soviet War, matched by Saudi Arabia and not including "charitable" donations to the cause.

We're going to ignore that when the Soviets left, there was an agreement with the US that both sides would stop arming factions. An agreement that Bob Gates convinced Bush the Greater to abrogate because he was sure that Najibullah would be swinging from a lamp post in a matter of weeks. So we shipped captured heavy weapons from the First Gulf War into Afghanistan. How long before Najibullah actually swung from a lamp post?

Don't give me the "we can't abandon Afghanistan again" line. We never abandoned Afghanistan, we've been meddling all along. And the same people who were doing the meddling then are still in charge of doing it.

I'm not giving you any "Lefty" talking points about how we should withdraw. I knew full well that this is where we'd end up when this whole thing started. We should have never "invaded" to "topple the Taliban" in the first place. (Quotes because "we" didn't do any of the toppling. We armed the NA and various warlords and claimed the victory as our own.)

Why don't you provide some numbers (i already know them) for what percentage of aid/reconstruction/etc. money actually stays in Afghanistan and doesn't get recycled in the great national-security-socialism scheme.

Why don't you explain why it has never been a policy to disarm the population, but instead to arm certain factions of the population. Like building up an unaccountable "special forces" of Afghans to be the next generation of warlords.

Why don't you explain why the US can't decide if it wants a strong central government or decentralized power structures based on local it simply tries to do both. And follow up with how that will "fix" Afghanistan.

This is not now, nor has it ever been about helping the people of Afghanistan or creating a stable Afghan state...which isn't to say that individuals involved in the effort aren't working in hopes of that. It certainly isn't about helping the women and children of Afghanistan. If it is then we might want to stop killing them (and, sorry, but a drop in killing them...according to USG not the same as not killing them).

Imperialism dressed up as humanitarianism is still imperialism, and the 21st Century white(wo)man's burden is just as bunk as it was in the Victorian era.

You wanna help the Afghan people, you do not do it with the US military. Do. Not. Because it A. isn't any good at this sort of thing and B. is going to lose. Occupation forces never defeat local insurgencies over the long term, not without incredibly brutal tactics.

basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

Our policy in Afghanistan from Carter until very recently was atrocious. Immoral. Inhumane. Short sighted. You want to hear that shit defended, go somewhere else. But right now, you've revealed that you aren't reading or comprehending what I'm saying. Is your problem ego? An inability to think and reason? Or a simple lack of humanity that doesn't allow you to understand that saving lives matters more than you being right?

I'm correcting the misinformation you've spewed about a war to peace transition effort that began several months ago - that's what I'm doing. I'm trying to participate and encourage a dialogue that may help prevent hundreds of thousands of Afghans from being slaughtered again.

This is about saving lives - that's all it is. And that doesn't seem to be something that matters to you. My argument is about the fact that if we pull out now, hundreds of thousands more people will die than if we stay for a while longer. Those hundreds of thousands of lives matter. At least to me. Maybe not to you.

Submitted by Lex on

This is about politics and imperialism. You cannot say how many people will die if the US left Afghanistan today. And by your reckoning to "save lives" we'll just have to stay in Afghanistan forever. Look how the parliamentary elections went...and not the initial press releases from ISAF/US.

Besides, the US will cut and run* as soon as it can save face. That will come when Karzai cuts deals with Hekmatyar, the Taliban (though nobody bothers to define that word anymore) and various warlords.

Democracy cannot be spread by a military unless a military is removing a foreign occupier. Sending an offensive military into a situation like this is just becoming an occupation force and/or embroiling a foreign army in a civil war. And if this action was for the benefit of the Afghan people it would not have been done as it was or as it is.

Nor is this about pacifism or isolationism. Don't start wars you can't win, and don't start wars without a clear objective. Hell, ten years into this one and we still don't have a clear objective. But we can be sure that what we call the Taliban will still be in Afghanistan long after we've left.

*We'll keep permanent bases and airfields forever, but those are there for the ability to harass Russia and China. This is Afghanistan, all the same Great Game rules and gambits are still in effect. It has always been the pivot point for dominating Eurasia. That's why we went in. It never had, nor does it now have, anything at all to do with window dressing served up to the American people as justification. So this isn't about me being "right". It's about the Afghans being, once again, stabbed in the eye with the sharp end of the great power game stick.

basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

There is nothing, nothing, in the current US strategy that is even designed to increase long-term stability in Afghanistan.

That's delusional.

Yes, there are lots of people trying to figure out how to stabilize Afghanistan and a lot of those people are in the military and in the State Department. There's also the UN and lots of aids groups working their ass off over there - frequently in conjunction with US efforts - to build Afghan communities up and stabilize them.

Submitted by Lex on

Please provide data on how much reconstruction/aid money actually stays in Afghanistan. Maybe some data on how many projects are being run by Afghans after being designed by Afghans.

You know what happened the last time the US was in Afghanistan "building up" communities? Our hydroelectric/irrigation projects salinated the soil in most of Helmand province, making it nearly unfarmable for anything but poppies. Sorry if i'm not ready to hold my breath for things being different this time.

Oh, and the embassy complex guarded by Madame Secretary's mercenary forces. That's fucking helpful. Just blatant imperialism.

basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

I'm not making that point. I'm simply pointing out that there is work being done. I'm sure there is tons of corruption. But there is still work being done.

I don't think anyone believes that hard and fast numbers can be had on the number of civilian deaths. But I also don't believe the numbers are misleading. You got the whole McChrystal thing wrong - not me. You talk a lot but there doesn't seem to be much there besides "I told you so". I don't see a shred of concern for the people of Afghanistan and i don't see any real comprehension of the dilemma the Afghan people face.

And you aren't on the ground in Afghanistan so it costs you nothing to advocate against those people lives - which is, of course, what you're doing.

Submitted by Lex on

I'm working on McChrystal's long track record as the man who ran covert SF operations. You're taking him at his word after one comment. Part of his job was message control. I'm not going to believe anything a guy like McChrystal says to the press until there's a long, solid proof behind it.

The website you quoted from said that the deaths were almost certainly undercounted, not me. I'd question the tallies as they relate to "civilians" versus what ISAF/US classifies as "insurgent". (And of course DoD would have no reason to lie or undercount, now would they...)

Oh, i have concern for the Afghan people. I'm concerned about them being subjected to a foreign occupation that supports a very long list of warlords with a very long track record of crimes against humanity. And you're pretending that because civilian casualties may be down over the last six months that the previous 9.5 years just don't count. I'll bet that they count for the Afghans who lost family, eh?

basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

people's mouth. The sad truth is, of course, that you don't care about death - neither the ones, nor the ones of the past. You don't talk about tragedy and human consequence. You talk about how you knew what was going to happen. And apparently, you think good people should get out of the way of your prediction. afterall, you couldn't possibly be wrong about anything.

Submitted by lambert on

As BA points out, that goes to intent, which is very difficult to show from text alone (absent a direct admission).

How exactly do the disclaimers undermine these precise figures? All figures are a bit fuzzy edged in the fog of war, so how are these disclaimers different from that?

basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

interviewed for our respective documentaries. We Will Not Be Silenced is online, of course, and I believe that she's included.

Her 16 year old grandson and several of his friends were fed breakfast and bussed to an early voting site. They were given a palm card that indicated for whom they should vote. After he and his friends finished, they were returned and given lunch. Maybe an Ipod as well, but i could be wrong about that. He gave the palm card to his grandmother and she turned it over to the Clinton campaign.

basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

I'm not one of the better writers here but that line was a direct result me of not wearing my glasses while I type. I'm one of those people who always wants to make a single sentence do the work of ten.

Ok, "After he and his friends voted...."


Submitted by lambert on

... or at least not a negative one. "Finished" is the exact right word, and very bleak it is, too.

Submitted by lambert on

I couldn't disagree more (I think) on our imperial mission in Afghanistan, but that movie is great, and a great testimonial (all senses of that word).

So this stuff about political views can get complicated, can't it?

jeer9's picture
Submitted by jeer9 on

A billionaire "liberal" could do a great service to this country by bankrolling a legitimate third party. The majority of people in a recent poll supported the idea, and it's the only way we'll ever get a real choice. Until then, you're stuck with the Dems and their use of Karp's "indispensable enemies" obstruction of reform, or you don't vote (which the oligarchy applauds), or you vote selectively for local candidates (knowing it doesn't mean much in the long run). I am reading Yves Smith's Econned right now and can't recommend it highly enough. She destroys the pretension of economists and their allegedly scientific scruples to reveal the political machinations beneath. I don't see things getting much better for the ordinary citizen until they get a lot worse.

jumpjet's picture
Submitted by jumpjet on

Not unless they inherited their money. A social liberal, perhaps. An economic liberal/leftist? Not with that much money.

My family likes to demonize George Soros as 'extremely liberal.' But Soros made his money destroying currencies and wrecking economies, didn't he? Some 'liberal.' Well, I suppose he's a liberal in the continental sense of the word.

mass's picture
Submitted by mass on

"A billionaire "liberal" could do a great service to this country by bankrolling a legitimate third party."

That's not going to happen. A real grassroots movement will happen from the ground up. It won't be bankrolled.

Submitted by Hugh on

As said above, there are no liberal heroes or saviors. If there were, we would already have seen them by now. It is rather the likes of the Koch brothers behind the Tea Party or Michael Bloomberg considering an independent run à la Perot with which we have to contend. The problem is that no one becomes a billionaire by being a populist. They become one by being a pirate.

ms_xeno's picture
Submitted by ms_xeno on

"Old Days," in this case, being about eleven years ago. I was sternly lectured one day by the wife of a wealthy land developer. She said she was a proud liberal, and when I said that the problem with elected officials --including those in my "liberal" stronghold-- is that they don't ride mass transit, struggle to pay off student loans, live in rental housing, and so on, she laughed at me.

She told me point-blank that anyone who reached adulthood and was still doing any of these things was clearly unfit to hold office. For her, it was all about material trappings. There was no differentiating between material good and moral good. For the good liberal like her.

The less-than-affluent were allowed charity and a few Federal crumbs, if she and Mr. Developer were in the mood to offer them up. The less-than-affluent, however, could never be permitted the kind of access come election time that would enable them to sit at the table with important, successful people, such as herself and Mr. Big-Time Developer. Nobody wanted to hear the stories of the less-than-affluent, unless they were down on their knees while telling it.

It was a very revelatory discussion, which is why I still remember it after all these years.

A government run at the behest of billionaires and their wannabes will always be missing something crucial.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

commenting community today. i'm sorry to say that's the first time i have dipped in and joined the mix there. they're as smart and articulate as Correntians! wow!

I take this as a sign of fragility, rather than the reverse,

This +1000. i've been doing some reading on the Reformation and yes. it's just like the "humanist" movement of the pre-Lutheran era church (our democrats, that is). rich, comfortable social liberals in rome (the Village of the day) telling starving angry poor masses in germany that "it's ok. you're starving because the church is bleeding you dry, but look at this great new painting the pope just bought. it's got naked pagan people! see, everything is getting better!"

re: Edwards. you know, i'm starting to reverse my opinion about him. i really don't give a fuck about who he fucks and fucks over in terms of his private life. some of you would likely hate me if you could read some of the nasty emails that my ex lovers send me. but the fact that i may or may not abuse the occasional lover of mine has nothing to do with my progressive political stance. or rather, i know powerful men abusing women is a sign of patriarchy, but even a radical like me doesn't expect a politician to take an active stance opposing that, not even HRC. edwards wanted to run with 'the brand' of populism. given how bad obama has turned out (as we here predicted, natch) i think i'd rather be experiencing a "controversial" edwards administation passing one or two progressive bills in the midst of impeachment for sex circuses.

jumpjet, i think you're just wonderful. just so you know.

and jeer: one is not allowed to become/remain a billionaire if one is too legitimately populist. those people usually get killed by their own kind before they can help any little people.

Submitted by lambert on

... by the two Americas rhetoric and the presence of Elizabeth Edwards. I see the whole affair issue as another bad judgment (what were you thinking?) and it counts because Elizabeth was part of the appeal, explicity (unlike, say, Teresa Heinz Kerry). I also really really didn't like the way he threw his support to Obama, first because it was to Obama, and second because it was crystal clear that the promises Edwards extracted were hollow, and by now they've been forgotten.

Now, I can posit a scenario where Hillary, for whatever reason, dropped out, Obama still ran the caucus strategy, and Edwards was forced to confront and win the real base, just like Hillary did, and he too might have grown and done quite well. Bu that's not knowable.

gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

This bothers me. A lot. No lefty bothers to discuss Edwards' record. Ever.

I had personal experience with one of his anti-poverty student "organizations" and it appeared little more than cosmetic. Also, as someone who's primary interest in politics is reduction of child poverty, Edwards rhetoric was very intriguing. But I actually spent a fair amount of time looking into what Edwards was actually doing beyond talk. His poverty institute, even though it was set up several months by the end of 2007 had yet to put on a single event other than the kick off. That should tell you all you need to know. And his record as Senator? Don't get me started. I don't mind politicians changing their views, but it rarely happens over time or without solid reasoning.

People "fooled" by Edwards clearly didn't spend much time looking at his record. His sleaziness was more obvious to me than Obama's.

basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

so that they are hesitant to rat them out. That's all that happened.

The lefty blogs stood by as the Obama thugs behaved like brown shirts towards Clinton supporters. They looked the other way at the overt sexism and dishonesty on display. And then they didn't say a peep when the Obama camp and the DNC disenfranchised voters in two states that Clinton had won, and handed all of the uncommitted delegates to Obama as well as four of Hillary's. Last and most importantly, James Roosevelt, the CEO of Tufts Health Care, chaired the meeting which behaved in such an grotesquely undemocratic fashion and in return, apparently, got the very health reform plan that he asked for in an opinion piece. Have you heard anyone on the left besides myself, Lambert and a couple others discuss this? No, you haven't. And the reason for that is that they knew at the time what the R&BL Committee meeting did was wrong, but they did not complain - so now they can't complain.

You want to see Obama change? Have the nerve to admit that you backed the wrong candidate, that you believed lies about Clinton and that she would have been a far superior candidate. That's the one thing that Obama will not be able to abide. But no one will have the nerve to do it because it reveals their own culpability.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

For most lefties/liberals/progressives, the emperor's new clothes truth -- that "PO" was a placebo offered (well, force-fed) when a real and obvious cure was urgently needed -- remains wholly elusive or too painful to own up to.

mass's picture
Submitted by mass on

I don't think we need a Party. We need a real movement. Parties get to power and become corrupted. Movements push Parties, they don't become them. MLK Jr. was easily the leader on the most impactful movement of the last century, but he wasn't the leader of a political Party.

Submitted by lambert on

I had an interesting conversation last night, and there are in fact two great movements to look at:

1. The Civil Rights movement, and

2. Gay... Rights or whatever (I'm not sure of a name since the movement is so much broader than, say, gay marriage).

And it couldn't be more clear that the right is fighting a losing battle against both.

One might also view #2 as a big victory for slow politics. It took a generation, and is still going on, but successes are already huge and I don't think anybody would go back -- except for the closet cases in Versailles. One might also note that although both movements had money, they didn't need billionaire funding at all, so the lament that "the right has FOX, the think tanks...." doesn't really hold up.

But "Middle Class Rights"? Not so sure about that. What's the equivalent of coming out of the closet? (Aside from admitting you were a Hillary supporter, of course.)

And the other thing... The terrain. Obviously, as we see with the anti-Iraq marches, marches aren't enough. And in the 30s with sit down strikes, you had giant factories in an industrial economy. And in the great middle class buildup after WWII, you had millions having gone through the collective experience of the war. We don't have those venues for solidarity today.

So although the what (class warfare) and the who (The 0.01% and the rest of us) and the why (not being treated like animals) is clear enough, the where and the how are by no means clear. One 60s example that could be emulated, however, is the teach-in. Perhaps about money and how it flows.

Submitted by lambert on

That way, they'd show up on the calendar and in the sidebar, and at least they'd get some attention -- and possibly inspire a post or two by local people at the event, or the organizers.

Use the "Publicize event" button (same as for the bowling....). There ought to be a map, but in the grade server migration, the mapping hamster got confused, and I have yet to straighten it out....

koan's picture
Submitted by koan on

" have chosen the path of.. PAIN!"

No, really. Gay Rights is where it is today for one reason and one reason only: the horrific, infectious, gruesome and speedy deaths of what is now 600,000 otherwise healthy, largely white, young, American men.

Thats four HUNDRED THOUSAND horribly sickened and then dead white Americans before Ellen came out on TV in 1997.

Americans may think Gay is, well, icky, but wave upon wave upon wave upon wave upon wave of beautiful, affluent young American white men dying suddenly, here at home.. in public.. gets people's attention.

Gosh, and to think that was all it took.

Civil Rights for Black Americans came against a backdrop of 400 YEARS of continuous gruesome atrocities.

And both of these came in the context of economic expansion: Civil rights in the wake of 20 years of postwar gains by the Middle Class, and Gay Rights really crested into the mainstream in the mid '90s Clinton boom.

Im sorry folks, 'movements' are horrifically expensive. I dont wish for one any more than I wish for anarchy or other dissolution of ordered rule of law. This is what democracy is FOR, to give us the opportunity to mold society without requiring the deaths of some tens of thousands of 'unfortunates'. Deaths, not bankruptcies, not financial ruin, not intense personal pain. Deaths, is what makes these movements happen.

No thank you. Bring on a Third Party, however lame and stupid. For gods sake do not romanticize social movments, I beg of you all.

Submitted by lambert on

I guess I'd like to focus on the courage of people coming out in ones and twos for years and years and years. And was the only driver pain, or also love?

koan's picture
Submitted by koan on

A large white middle class was feeling affluent, and had also spent fifteen (15) years watching its uncles and sons and ex husbands and cousins die unspeakably horribly and in their thousands upon thousands.

That was enough to get Ellen some mild martyr status, if not actually any work for many years. But they did let her do the episode, let the Gays onto the TV for the first time, let the cat out of the bag. The 400,000 dead is what bought that foothold. Compare 4 years earlier when Roseanne tried to put the Gays on TV, and AFA boycotted Kraft Foods into driving it right off the air. Same year, Clinton had DADT crammed back down his throat, to general widespread approval. Only 240,000 deaths by then.

What Im saying is, it has been completely an accident of history that we have any substantial gay rights now. Illness is the great threat to the American faith, and Medicine is our church. If we are all self-made people, then a body that fails us and stumps modern Medicine is the worst imaginable thing. All white Americans can identify with a hopelessly sick and dead son or brother or friend, and feel that failure of Medicine as an Real Injustice, the other great American tenet of faith.

It made us (white) Gays human. I dont know what else could have.

By contrast bad things happening to brown people is mostly ["shrug"] just the Way Things Are, cf 400 years of suffering previous. A charismatic leader can puncture that, briefly, but any real humanity has come via a White (Kennedy) face along with it.

You just do not get Movements in a country as big, wide and dense as this one, without paying up front. Nothing moves that kind of inertia except broad based personal misery and death. Unions, OSHA, work week, voting rights, social safety net, hell consumer protection and food safety, all of it. Levered up by quantities of ugly wasteful misery and death.

Thats why we keep pounding on this stupid democratic process, because as bad as it is its still orders of magnitude cheaper than waiting for A Movement.

Submitted by Sandero on

First Hugh, Thanks for all your great work presented on FDL. I am participating less and less on political blogs for a couple of reasons - one they are essentially navel gazing and lead to nothing but at best informing a few souls who read them and who hadn't a clue and all the stuff swirling in an around the American political system is premised on the notion that the system is essentially good or at worst neutral and only takes on the character of those who control the levers of power.

While this is demonstrably true the system itself has clearly become one which acts like a self fulfilling prophesy and all roads lead to Rome. D, R, progressive Libertarian etc. will not do what democracy was sold to us - a means to get our government to respond to our needs and by our I mean the vast majority of people and by needs I mean some of the basic things like decent food, housing, education, work conditions, health care and so on.

From limited perspective and understanding of history I see a stream of failed political systems cast over the people and they all seem to lead to their continued oppression and exploitation with some small elite privileged group acting as "leaders" and typically they are entrenched in that role.

So what we tend to do is peck at what amounts to be little stuff; this bill or this court ruling, or that report and so on. The entire effin system is rotten to the core and nothing will change until it's all taken apart. We will go to hell with this incremental stuff.

Two choices: Struggle or drop out, but picking at the monster and playing HIS game is like a flea bite on a en elephant.

I suppose the good news is that capitalism seems to be in end stage and so the guys with the guns will decide how to manage the pissed off herd we call humanity and their solution is likely to be very much in line with how they solve all problems - violence, domination, killing etc. This promises to get nasty when the sh*t hits the fan.

Obama is just one of a long line of egotistical power freaks who believe the BS they come up with and expect others to believe it too.

Submitted by Hugh on

basic things like decent food, housing, education, work conditions, health care and so on

I would add retirement, or an old age without fear, or actually any age without fear, but that is a nice statement of the progressive agenda. It is basic social justice. And it will never happen as long as the top 10% are allowed to own two-thirds of the nation's wealth and control or buy up all the levers of power.

nihil obstet's picture
Submitted by nihil obstet on

Rather than trying to find the candidate, I think we ought simply to set up the defeat of candidates whose actions we don't like. For example, if the lame duck Congress cuts Social Security, we ought to have ads screaming "Thief!!!" run against every legislator that voted either for the cut or for the bill establishing an up-or-down-no-amendment vote in the lame duck session (none of this hiding behind procedural stuff).

People care about Social Security. Tag every non-lame-duck legislator that enabled the cut with the "He/she stole your Social Security." Start the day after the vote. That gives Congress two years to reverse themselves. Meanwhile, you don't have an opposing candidate who can be cast as the greater of two evils. You don't have the vote-for-the-2%-better candidate. You don't have the strictly electoral issues. All you have is "This legislator cut your Social Security!"

The same procedure can be followed on other issues. If we've going to govern with campaign ads, let's have them out there all the time, tagging politicians with their policies. The whole electoral process is too expensive in money and time either to set up a viable third party or to try to play against big money in the two party system.

But raising existing legislators' negatives in ways that would be difficult to overcome in the next election? I think it might make some legislators straighten up and fly right.

Submitted by JuliaWilliams on

real supporters of our social safety nets, full employment, ending our imperialistic wars, social justice, etc, all the true liberal, left values. (Like Greens, for instance). I find it energizing to have something to reach up for, while I'm fighting to keep our society from spiraling down.

nihil obstet's picture
Submitted by nihil obstet on

We've already got the "support this good candidate" approach. I'd find it more energizing if I saw it actually working to produce things I want. Instead, I see that it has helped elect a few better legislators in some other districts. That's not a total wash, but the record of legislative improvement has de-energized me.

Submitted by JuliaWilliams on

groups. That's not what I said. I said support 'true liberals" (like the Green party), which precludes voting or supporting Dems, eh?. if you just work for the legacy party, you'll get what we're seeing now..not pretty, is it? If you work to elect me, I guarantee you CSpan will be "must-watch TV", at least when I have the floor.

Submitted by lambert on

I guarantee you CSpan will be "must-watch TV", at least when I have the floor.


nihil obstet's picture
Submitted by nihil obstet on

And I'd love to see a really liberal third party winning enough seats to make a difference. I guess I'm having a failure of the imagination -- I agree with Hugh's post on which we are now commenting that getting a third party up and running is not a realistic goal for any time soon. So at the risk of being repetitive, I would argue that we should put the fear of god into current legislators. Rather than getting into disagreements about "Who's the good candidate? What if the candidate is great on financial regulation, but wants to maintain big military bases around the world? With limited money, how much should we put into this race that's closely divided between Ds and Rs, that race which appears to be an R lock, or the third race that appears to be a D lock? When should we start running ads for candidates? The day after the election, giving the oppo plenty of time to dig or create dirt?" Etc.

I'm saying hit the current legislators hard on issues where they vote against the wishes of the electorate. Start the day after the vote, hitting over and over again, "This legislator voted to cut your Social Security." or "This legislator voted to give taxpayer money to big corporations who used it to pay executive bonuses." There could be a simple test, like "Legitimate polls must show over a period of 6 weeks that at least 60% of the electorate wants x, and the legislator voted against x.

This creates politics, not just elections.