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Archive for January, 2005

The Princess of Tides.

Dreams, the Terry Gilliam fansite, obtains a number of quality publicity stills from Tideland. Not much to speak of here, frankly, but it’s nice to see this project still moving along without any (knock on wood) La Mancha-like upsets.

Gutting Gitmo.

In a boon for civil liberties, federal judge Joyce Hens Green declares that the incarcerations at Guantanamo are illegal, since the military tribunals set up by the Bushies violated due process. “In today’s decision, Green said the hearings, called Combatant Status Review Tribunals, are stacked against the detainees, and deny them crucial rights. She said some detainees may indeed be guilty and pose a danger to the United States, but the government must first give them a lawful hearing on the evidence against them.” The judge also called out the Gitmo Gulag on its torture policies and excessively broad definition of “enemy combatant.”

Send back the blood-stained money.

“‘I’m sorry, sir,’ he said to me. ‘I’m sorry for what she’s done.” As pointed out in lecture this afternoon, today’s NY Times includes an editorial on the corporate divulging of ties to Antebellum slavery, spurred by this recent letter of apology at JP Morgan-Chase: “We all know slavery existed in our country, but it is quite different to see how our history and the institution of slavery were intertwined. Slavery was tragically ingrained in American society, but that is no excuse. We apologize to the American public, and particularly to African-Americans, for the role that Citizens Bank and Canal Bank played during that period.” Interesting…research projects into corporate complicity such as this one will hopefully add further impetus for the creation of a National Slavery Museum in the relatively near future — As a whole, we Americans should do a better job in recognizing and remembering our national Original Sin, and I think such a museum would be a great step in that direction. (In fact, the museum really should be on the Mall, not in Fredericksburg, VA.)

Delusions of Grandeur.

As if all the talk of Scalia being our next Chief Justice wasn’t bad enough, it seems the power has really gone to his head of late. “Lamenting his inability to stop the Supreme Court’s slide away from the principles of judicial restraint he espouses, Scalia said he felt like ‘Frodo in “The Lord of the Rings,” soldiering on.’” Excuse me? You, Sir, resemble in no way the Shire-folk, and you’re definitely no Frodo. Perhaps one of the Nine, garbed in black?

Ballots of Baghdad.

Few sights are more stirring than the televised images of Iraqi citizens risking their lives to vote in their country’s first election in a half-century, kissing the ballot boxes, dancing in the streets, and declaring their hopes for a new day of democracy. And yet, the challenges and uncertainties that seemed so daunting last week — about Iraq’s security, society, and governance — are unlikely to turn less daunting next week, next month, or the month after.
After a smoother Election Day in Iraq than feared (thanks in part to a 24-hour ban on motor vehicles), Slate‘s Fred Kaplan surveys the road ahead, which includes the drafting of a new constitution.

Superman’s Pal.

Bryan Singer’s Superman gets his Jimmy Olsen, actor Sam Huntington of Detroit Rock City and Not Another Teen Movie. Well, ok then…just think of the spinoff potential.

Payola III.

The trifecta…The Dubya administration coughs up a third conservative commentator on the federal payroll — Michael McManus of Marriage Savers. How many more before we can call it an all-out flunky epidemic?

Check it with Chertoff.

Rick Perlstein’s recent comparison of Dubya and The Sopranos is given more credence with the revelation that Homeland Security nominee Michael Chertoff also vetted torture law for the Bushies in 2002-2003. “While the details remain classified, one method that he opposed appeared to violate a ban in the law against using a ‘threat of imminent death’…But Mr. Chertoff left the door open to the use of a different set of far harsher techniques proposed by the C.I.A.” Hmmm…and you thought Tom Ridge knew some crazy uses for duct tape.

The Roots Come Alive.

After the general post-election gloominess began to wear off near the end of last year (of course, it hasn’t completely subsided — at times, I think you can still see the cynicism emanating off me like little cartoon lines), I made it a resolution of sorts to start getting more involved in Dem organizing for this upcoming political cycle. So when some friends of mine (and founders of Concerts for Change) alerted me to their forum this evening on “Net Roots and the DNC,” which included A-list lefty bloggers Atrios and Afro-Netizen, former Dean director Zephyr Teachout, Personal Democracy Forum editor Micah Sifry, and NY Dem Party higher-ups Judith Hope and Mark Green, I very quickly decided to go check it out.

All in all, it made for a partial yet intriguing glimpse into the State of the Party 2005, and one I found at turns dispiriting and encouraging (and far more often the latter.) The panel itself was decently engaging, with most of the discussion centered around the imminent battle for DNC chair. (While there were a number of Simon Rosenberg buttons among the attendees, the panel seemed to split between Dean enthusiasts and DNC agnostics, who felt the upcoming election wasn’t of much import regardless of who wins.) There was also some discussion of the role left-leaning bloggers might play in helping to keep the media more attuned to right-wing spin jobs, but, alas, no one figured out how to square that circle just yet.

Former mayoral candidate and Nader Raider Mark Green, charismatic enough in that politico way, closed out the forum part of the evening with some clever but clearly canned remarks for the Young People into that Newfangled Technology stuff. (For example, he advised the crowd to “choose your mentors well,” which, c’mon now, is the same hoary advice Strom Thurmond gave 1000 of us at Boys’ State when I was 17 years old.) He also regaled us with a short US history lesson, which I’ll give him a B+ on — he was spot-on with George Washington plying his constituents-to-be with rum and George McGovern and direct mail, less so with the Lincoln the “real Log Cabin Republican” quip.)

As I said, I found some elements of the evening somewhat discouraging (and not just because I soon realized that my limited socializing skills at these sorts of things had further atrophied since entering academia.) For one, at times I felt the discussion seemed on the verge of degenerating into the worst kind of New Left-era identity politics, whereby the gender and ethnicity of the new DNC chair was somehow more important than his or her vision for the party. [This was driven home by a (white) fellow in the back hijacking the conversation at one point (does this sort of thing happen at GOP events? I always wonder) and loudly enumerating the few minorities in the room (By which he meant black people — Latinos and South Asians went under the radar), all to suggest that the event was somehow a charade and a farce for its lack of proportional representation.]

This is not to say that issues of gender and ethnicity aren’t central to our party’s core principles, or that the all-white-male slate for DNC chair isn’t a disappointment — to suggest otherwise would be imbecilic…even, dare I say it, Summers-esque. But, to my mind, it’s a question of focus. White, Black, Asian, Hispanic, male, female, straight, gay, or bisexual…we Dems just got our asses handed to us by the predominantly white male GOP. At a certain point — hopefully soon — we’re going to have to learn to deemphasize these differences among us and reemphasize our commonality as left-leaning citizens of the republic, rising up together against the corporate-sponsored avarice, imperial ambitions, and narrow-minded bigotry of today’s Republican Party. In other words and IMHO, rhetorically we need to start thinking 1933, and at times I heard way too much 1972 tonight.

(Also, and I know this is a goofy history-geek semantic distinction that I’ll just have to get over, but people kept throwing around ‘progressive’ when they meant ‘liberal.’ Not the same, y’all.)

All that being said, however, my general impression of the evening was quite favorable, mostly because of the energy, exuberance, and organizational acumen on display from the attendees. We may have lost the recent battle in 2004, but much of the online community-building infrastructure seems intact…and, indeed, seems to be here for the duration. I was reminded of the recent scholarship on the rise of the New Right (by Lisa McGirr, Rick Perlstein, and Matthew Dallek, among others), which ably demonstrates how conservatives, soundly defeated in 1964, managed to capture the California governorship only two years later, once Reagan had replaced Goldwater at the top of the movement. For now, the wheels are definitely churning at the grass-roots level…if we can just get the party machinery in order, find a standard-bearer willing to abandon the protective camouflage, and, most importantly, work on a way to articulate our democratic values against the corporate ministrations of the GOP, we might actually get somewhere.

If nothing else, it speaks volumes that conservative direct-mail pioneer Richard Viguerie is worried about what he sees from the online left — he’s a guy who knows a thing or two about political organizing, and how quickly the worm can turn. Matt Drudge and GWB, we’re coming for you.

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