A Few Suggested Guidelines for Democrats

November 17, 2013

As you will quickly see if you read my other posts, I am not a fan of the modern (further and further right) Democratic Party. They do a good job of pretending to be less crazy than the Republicans, but since they continue to pursue the same policies as Republicans on most fronts (the sole exception seems to be Gay Marriage, where some Democrats aren’t in agreement with the Republicans) this is pointless.

At the present moment, I refuse to vote for another Democratic candidate. I used to do so; in fact right at this moment I am registered as a Democrat. But there have been too many disappointments; until the party not only fixes its problems but has a consistent track record of doing the right thing they aren’t worth supporting. If I’m not going to get what I want, I might as well vote my conscience, which means Independents and Greens. The Democrats are unwilling to work towards any political goal which I consider important, and if there’s no quo, there can’t be a quid pro in the form of a vote.

But it seems churlish to say that without offering any advice, so here we go. Things the Democrats (and their increasingly pea-brained apologists) need to do to get me — and, hopefully, others like me — to trust them again.

  1. Stop defending Obama. The guy isn’t on your side. As mentioned in a former post, he was actively working to undermine Democratic policy all along. It would not be surprising in the least that some of his other “poor performance” was actually intentional on his part as well. He tried to keep us in Iraq, failed, and the lied about it, claiming he had negotiated a pullout, he was instrumental in keeping the Public Option out the Affordable Care Act, he keeps up with the drone bombing even though even the CIA admits that it causes more terrorism than it potentially stops, he defends the NSA spying program which breaks the fourth amendment and outrages all our allies… in practically every respect, he’s a right-winger. Yes, I know — first black president, very exciting, you got carried away by enthusiasm and proclaimed him the greatest thing since sliced bread. Accept that you were wrong. The guy is a traitor to your party and you would have been better off… no, cancel that, the other major contender was just as bad. Still, you should stop pretending Obama is decent. He isn’t. Start working on doing better next time.
  2. Drop Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton, in terms of policy, is just Obama melted down and poured into the “Caucasian Woman #6” mold. All those nasty policy positions which Obama has held — some of which I cataloged above, but which are more numerous than that by far — are Hillary’s as well. She has spent the last several years going around the world giving speeches on behalf of Obama to other countries which more or less form a catalog of hypocrisy; the broad theme could be called “do as we say, not as we do”. I know you get pleasure out of the fact that the right wing hates her. But we really need to choose candidates based on good policy, not spite.
  3. Stop pretending the right wing matters. Every time Obama pushes things further to the right, the Democratic Party and its apologists excuse this by saying “he had to do this to placate the Republicans”. Guess what: if that’s your justification, it hasn’t worked one bit and you should stop. None of the rightward movement has made the Republicans more reasonable or helped accomplish any goals; on the contrary, giving in to the Republicans (again, and again, and again) has simply fed their insanity. If they’re going to claim you’re a Communist Socialist Muslim Gay Terrorist Drug Abuser even if you do what they want, then there is no publicity benefit in doing what they want. Stop caving in, all of you, and grow a spine.
  4. Prosecute the bankers. The national-level Democratic consensus is that the big banks are “too big to fail” so nothing can be done to prosecute them for their role in crashing the economy. That’s false — either an outright lie or merely blind acceptance of what the (guilty) bankers claim — but fine, let’s not have that argument. There is no reason whatsoever why the individuals who brought about the mortgage frauds and derivatives trading which crashed the market can’t be prosecuted individually and sent to prison for a long, long time. It would, in fact, be wildly popular, and might help stop the bubble from reinflating (which apparently it is doing — according to an interview with Thomas Hartmann, the derivatives market has pushed back up to $700 trillion — out of the $800 trillion it was “worth” at the time of the crash).
  5. Stop defending the military and “security” agencies. You don’t like “austerity”, you say? You hate the fact that social programs are being cut? But you have a problem arguing in favor of expanding the deficit? Then it’s time to aggressively push for cuts in military and “security” spending. In 2012, more than 60% of the federal discretionary budget went to that part of the government. It’s not keeping us safe — the NSA has been unable to demonstrate even a single case in which their spying via overreaching programs like PRISM has actually captured a terrorist (they claimed to have a bunch, but it turned out they made those figures up — meanwhile, they didn’t catch the Boston marathon bomber, haven’t stopped any shootings, etc. etc. etc.); drone bombing is creating more terrorism; Afghanistan is a war without a game plan (what would it even look like for us to “win”?); everything we’re pouring money into is pointless and stupid. Time to fight for some cuts — if we had cut military spending in 2012 by 25%, we could have raised spending on everything else by 25% and still have decreased the deficit. Democrats need to push for this. (It’s probably too much to ask for them to ask for the abolishment of the NSA, even though that would actually be good policy on all kinds of levels; the agency has no effective oversight, undermines our foreign policy, breaks the Bill of Rights, and is staffed by scumbags. If the Democrats were ethical, their funding would be gone.)
  6. Stop claiming people have “no choice” but to vote for Democrats, or that voting for third parties/independents is the same as voting for Republicans. Polls suggest, time after time, that Americans are further left than the Democratic party consensus. But the Democrats push further and further to the right seeking votes — a strategy which has not worked very well. If the strategy was working, Democrats would be winning by landslides; instead, races are frequently neck-and-neck against obvious losers (like Romney). I suggest to you that the reason is that, as the Democrats move rightward, voters realize that both parties are increasingly disappointments, and stop voting. (Something is doing it — in 2012, a year with a presidential election, which traditionally means higher turnout, over 40% of registered voters didn’t bother to vote.) If you want voters to turn out for you, you have to actually show that you do things they want, and the voters want you to move to the left. (In fact, that’s another reason to get rid of Hillary Clinton — she’s one of the group which decided, consciously, to push the Democratic Party to the right. Any time I hear a Democrat mention the term “Overton window” to explain the rightward motion of US politis, then I know I can ignore them, because they simply do not know history.)
  7. Your stances should be ethical, not tribal. If something bothered you when Bush did it, it should bother you when Obama does it. (And, more generally, if you are upset when a Republican does something, you should be upset when a Democrat does the same thing.) Bush got lambasted for “Total Information Awareness” — but Democrats are defending Obama for his stance on the NSA. Bush’s war with Iraq (even with Congressional approval) made Democrats angry, but attacking Libya after Congress voted against it doesn’t raise an eyebrow because Obama is the one doing it. Etc. ad infinitum. All this stuff just makes you look corrupt. Be at least somewhat consistent on your positions, please — otherwise, that “not voting” thing starts to look downright reasonable. You’re only worth supporting if there’s a difference between you and the other side.
  8. In fact, purge the DLC. Remember how I mentioned above that the Clintons were part of the group who decided the Democrats should push right? That’s a crucial part to how the right became so out-of-control, not to say deranged. There was suddenly no serious resistance to them. If you want people to take your party seriously, get rid of all the idiots who thought that was a good idea — go look up the membership of the “Democratic Leadership Committee” and kick ’em all out of decision-making positions, because that’s whodunit.
  9. Elizabeth Warren should be your new rightmost limit. I am not willing to vote for Hillary Clinton, because she’s the same package of right-wing failure in a new shape. I would be sorely tempted to vote for Elizabeth Warren, if the Democrats actually decided not to hand Clinton the nomination, because she actually seems to be willing to take a few actions against the status quo (although frankly the performance of Obama has made me so skeptical of the Democratic Party’s ethics these days that it would still be a stretch). From now on, stop accepting compromise candidates in the mold of, well, pretty nearly all the other national-level Democrats. Look at Warren’s performance and say “who can top this?” and run those people instead. (And stop letting the right wing media tell you those people will never win. Warren was already noxious to the banks and to the Republicans before she ran, and she won.)
  10. I’m sure I’ll come up with more later, but this list is a minimum set of requirements. I realize, of course, that since Democrats have turned into tribalists, I will be ignored (and possibly vilified) for this. Who cares? Frankly, if you’re still defending Obama or hoping for Clinton next at this point, you aren’t even worth my contempt any more.

Color me shocked.

April 11, 2013

This post is basically to prevent myself from losing this link:

Obama’s entitlement plan was four years in the making

tl;dr version: Obama planned all along to make cuts to Social Security and Medicare and was actively working against the rest of the Democratic Party leadership to try and make it happen in concert with the Republicans, but because the narrative in the media was that Obama was a liberal, this was never reported.

Gee, I seem to recall saying the same thing a few years back, here and there. And, of course, now he doesn’t have to worry about reelection, so he doesn’t even need to worry about repercussions if he succeeds.

Thank you so much, modern Democratic party and your mindless loyalists, for making sure we have the rightiest of right-wing Democrats in office.

Ho ho ho

December 18, 2012

Well, golly, it only took Barack Obama until mid-December to announce huge concessions to the Republicans. An announcement of austerity just in time for Christmas! My prediction was off by a few weeks — I thought he’d wait until the new term to start before selling everyone out in the name of “bipartisanship” (a.k.a. giving the right wing everything they want before they even ask for it).

Seriously, can Democratic partisans just stop pretending that the Democrats actually care about anything? The Democrats don’t protect us from the excesses of the right wing, they are just a machine for making excuses for why these excesses are not resisted, and for preventing any real resistance from being put into place.

Not Out Of The Woods Just Yet

November 11, 2012

So, have you heard the news? Everyone in the media with the exception of Fox has decided that Obama’s reëlection was a triumph of liberalism. Now that Romney, Ryan, and a host of Republicans who think that rape is a good thing have been defeated by a couple of percentage points nationally, the right wing is over and done with and we will never hear from them again. The Democrats are the new mainstream, and the only battles left to fight are how far to the left they will move things. (Fox is claiming instead that the Republicans weren’t white and right-wing enough, that the Democrats cheated — everywhere in the entire country at once, apparently — and that Hurricane Sandy was the only thing preventing a Romney landslide.) Isn’t that great?

If it turns out to be true, I will be ecstatic. But I am not so sanguine as the people (such as, apparently, every single writer for Salon.com) who are declaring victory. Read the rest of this entry »

A Mea Culpa and A Sad Realization

November 9, 2012

I have been arguing with some Obama supporters over in the comments section of one of PZ Myers’ posts, and not too long ago, while doing something else entirely, I realized that earlier I had written, and I quote (or, at least, copy and paste):

It would have been really easy to get me to vote for Obama this time around — all it would have taken would have been for Obama to take a stand on even one major piece of legislation (the 2012 NDAA would have been an excellent one, and originally he said he was going to veto it, before once again giving in to the Republicans and signing it) (but let’s face it, by that time, we all knew he was going to do that), and maybe actually make visible efforts to do positive things, instead of declaring defeat before even trying as he did again and again and again and again over the last four years. He wouldn’t even have to succeed, he would just have to give signs that he was actually trying.

I was entirely sincere about that, which is horrifying. I came to the realization a few hours ago that, in effect, this statement is equivalent to:

I would have voted for a man who orders the deaths of random foreigners, most of whom are demonstrably innocent, on a regular basis, provided he pretended he was reluctant about it and occasionally made an ineffectual show of working on something important.

That’s horrifying. I am ashamed of having said it, and I am more ashamed that it is really true. I would have voted for Obama, instead of Jill Stein (as I actually did, so at least I wasn’t that lost to ethics in practice), if he had fulfilled those conditions. Dear everyone: I am sorry for having held your lives in such low regard.

That being said, by using this more blunt phrasing, it has come home to me that 98 or 99 percent of Americans who voted (which is apparently around 60 percent of all registered voters, who in turn make up only around 65 percent of all adult citizens, so we’re talking about somewhere in the neighborhood of 38 percent of eligible Americans) chose to vote for someone who either:

A. Orders the murder of demonstrably innocent foreigners by bombing on a regular basis and who was not only willing to sign into a law a bill which theoretically suspends habeas corpus (the 2012 NDAA*) but has sent people to defend this power from judicial review (this is Obama we’re talking about)


B. Has not technically done any of that, but is an enthusiastic supporter of both, and in fact promised to expand the bombing program (this would be Romney)

*I have seen people claim that Obama had to sign this bill into law in order to get other results. This is not only false — if Obama actually bothered to put effort into things, he would by then have had a long history of sending right-wing bills back with a note saying “I’m not going to sign this nonsense, send me another version without the garbage” and the Republicans would have had to learn to cope with it — but he has since been trying to keep those powers by making the argument that nobody has the standing to challenge it. He didn’t sign that provision into law reluctantly, he signed it deliberately; the reluctance was just an act for the rubes.

The entire primary and campaign process left us with two major parties running candidates who are enthusiastic murderers, and most Americans who bothered to vote chose one of these instead of one of the others. (I have no love for the Libertarians, but at least they didn’t run someone who thinks murder by drone bomb is a good idea.)

And the people arguing with me were telling me that, by rejecting Obama, I was being too perfectionist.

When did American standards for public officials drop to the point where murder is something you just have to learn to accept?

I wish my fellow countrymen wouldn’t keep giving me rhinoceros moments.

A Challenge for Democrats

November 7, 2012

Okay, you won the election. You can’t complain about the Green Party spoiling the election, because it didn’t. So, time for you to actually put your money where your mouth has been: for the last month, Democrats have been saying, in effect, vote for Democrats, they’ll do good things this time, we promise, not like the last couple of decades. So: act on that. Here’s a list of stuff you could try; I’m betting we won’t see more than one taken up with any seriousness.

Actually investigate the systematic voter fraud the Republicans were undertaking in multiple states, and follow it up with punishments for those involved and legislative action to prevent it from happening again. If that means a national code, then so be it. You have two years before the next election and four before the next presidential election.
Reason it won’t happen: the Democrats don’t want to get too far into subversion of the vote, or else they would reveal how they tied up with the Republicans to exclude any and all third parties. Oh, and since it was Republicans doing it this time, Fox News will squawk if anyone investigates, and Democrats are too chickenshit to actually brave that out.
Either eliminate the filibuster in the Senate or require that filibusters actually involve non-stop talking as the popular imagination has it. This will let you actually accomplish things in the Senate, even if the House is still screwed up by the Republicans.
Reason it won’t happen: the Democrats need an excuse for why they aren’t actually doing anything. Being able to blame their own lack of action on the Republicans is perfect for them.
Shut Gitmo down. According to our own military, about ¾ of the prisoners there are innocent. We have actionable evidence against the rest. There’s no reason whatsoever to keep this blot on our reputation around.
Reason it won’t happen: the Democrats have been complicit in keeping it open so far; to admit they were wrong will draw attention to this. And Obama loves authoritarian measures. Besides which, Fox News will squawk.
Break up the “Too Big To Fail” banks. They’re just disasters waiting to happen (again).
Reason it won’t happen: Obama is in the pocket of the banks, along with about 90% of the other national-level Democrats. They contribute a lot of money, and are instrumental in ensuring that retired politicians always have lots of good opportunities. Obama would sooner put his wife in jail than your average bank executive.
Put an end to the “faith-based initiatives”. They are mostly likely unconstitutional, they are fairly controversial, and everyone who has examined them in detail has concluded that they actually do a worse job of helping people than ordinary secular government programs.
Reason it won’t happen: Fox News would claim it was persecution of Christians.
Drop marijuana from the list of federally controlled substances. The science shows the stuff is vastly less harmful than alcohol or cigarettes, it has legitimate medical applications, we could get huge tax revenues out of it, keeping it illegal is filling up prisons for no good reason, the ban helps destabilize other governments, and by making marijuana as illegal as other more serious drugs we give dealers a reason to push those other drugs — which are more profitable — on drug users, which does more damage. Pretty much every aspect of the whole thing is bad policy. (And, incidentally, I have never smoked marijuana. I also don’t drink or smoke, not that that’s relevant. I have no horse in this race, beyond a hatred of transparently bad policy.)
Reason it won’t happen: Obama loves authoritarianism, remember? And, of course, the prison-related interest groups are among the strongest in American politics. They control a lot of votes and a lot of money.
Pull America out of Afghanistan, plus all the other countries where Congress hasn’t approved deployment (which is more than you would think). We don’t even have a clear set of conditions for what it would mean to “win” in Afghanistan; it’s just a money pit. If you’re concerned about the people left to the Taliban, offer all the women a ride to the U.S., a decade-long pension, and citizenship. It will still cost less than the million dollars per soldier per year we’re paying to stay there right now.
Reason it won’t happen: no president is ever willing to end a military occupation, because the opposition will claim that they were the reason we “lost”. Unfortunately, that’s the only lesson American politicians learned from the whole Vietnam debacle.
Actually cut the military budget. And by “cut” I don’t mean the usual weaseling “we’re still going to raise the actual dollar amount of funding, but by less than we thought we would”, I mean actually lower the dollar amount year over year, with no post-budget debt-based appropriations bills. A nation which is shutting down schools and letting people starve has no business spending trillions on the military.
Reason it won’t happen: Obama loves the military. He loves having command, and he fully approves of authoritarianism and curtailed civil rights. He’s actually deployed the armed forces to more countries than Bush did. And besides, Fox News would squawk if the flow of taxpayer money to rich military contractors started to shut down.
Build concentrating solar power stations across the country. (Not high-tech photovoltaic cells, which are filled with toxic chemicals and involve power storage problems, concentrating solar power.) It’s a remarkably safe technology, it would create lots of jobs, it definitely works, it has no carbon footprint, the stations don’t wear out or turn toxic, and it keeps generating power when the sun has set (unlike photovoltaic solar systems). We could generate enough power for the whole country’s power grid using a total surface area which was a fraction of the wasteland in west Texas; spread out, the land usage would be almost unnoticeable.
Reason it won’t happen: Democrats don’t actually want to solve global warming. Not when it’s such a great rallying point. Besides, no doubt Fox would come up with talking points against it, and the whole “chickenshit” thing comes up again.

I may add some more in the coming days.

As I said: even though these are all good ideas, my firm belief is that the Democrats won’t even try to do most of them. At best, there may be some action on one or two. (Probably the vote fraud thing, because it endangers their ability to get elected. But they won’t take the investigation all the way to the top, just put a few small fry in prison.)

Election Called

November 7, 2012

So, instead of the guy who would let the rich remain untaxed, do nothing about global warming, increase our dependency on oil, help the banks continue to commit fraud and get away with it, expand our already incredibly bloated military funding, escalate a needless and endless and wasteful “war on drugs”, assassinate people without due process or oversight, erode civil liberties, and probably get us into a needless war with Iran, we elected a guy who will let the rich remain untaxed, do nothing about global warming, increase our dependency on oil, help the banks continue to commit fraud and get away with it, expand our already incredibly bloated military funding, escalate a needless and endless and wasteful “war on drugs”, assassinate people without due process or oversight, erode civil liberties, and probably get us into a needless war with Iran.

But he’s black, or at least black-ish, and he has promised to stop trying to hurt gay people, or least not as much as he was, so it’s all okay, right?

Democracy is a mixed blessing.

Spoilers Ahead

November 6, 2012

I am not voting for either of the two major party candidates for president this year.

It goes without saying, actually, that I won’t be voting for Romney; the man has demonstrated that he’s dishonest and evil. To say nothing of the fact that he’s in a transparently false religion, which he seems to want to force on people. (And his running mate actually manages to be a worse person than he is.)

But I won’t be voting for Obama, either, despite being a registered Democrat who has in past elections only voted for Democratic presidential candidates, and I’d like to go on record with the reasons why, before the election is over, so that one way or another I can refer back to this article afterwards.
Read the rest of this entry »

On Bechdel’s “Are You My Mother?”

October 19, 2012

I am just now reading Alison Bechdel’s Are You My Mother, which is (at the moment) her latest book. Bechdel is, in my opinion, one of the greatest living American cartoonists, so getting a copy of this is a treat. (I had seen a pre-publication blurb, but no notice that it had actually been published, so it was a surprise to see it in a bookstore.)

I’m having somewhat mixed feelings about the content. Don’t get me wrong; I’m enjoying it — I would rather read a hugely insulting one-page cartoon by Bechdel (or the other cartoonists on my short list) than a hundred pages of material by lesser cartoonists. (Come to think of it, although I am unaware of any cartoons by Bechdel which I find insulting, I have read every book of hers which I have owned more than a day at least twice, while I have never made it all the way through the treasury of New Yorker cartoons my parents gave me as a gift a few years ago.)
Read the rest of this entry »

Why Libertarians Are Fools, Part MMCMXVII: Violentacrez and What’s Sauce For The Goose Is Sauce For The Gander

October 17, 2012

For those who haven’t come across the story yet, “Violentacrez” was an anonymous account used on Reddit for all sorts of vile behavior, some of it deliberate trolling (attempts to make people angry and be disruptive) and some of it sincere (if still vile). A journalist/blogger/whatever at Gawker named Adrian Chen discovered, by simple investigation, the real-life identity of Violentacrez (Michael Brutsch of Arlington, Texas) and wrote an article which exposed that identity. (You can read that article at http://gawker.com/5950981/unmasking-reddits-violentacrez-the-biggest-troll-on-the-web, but in summary: Violentacrez spent years trolling and posting borderline-illegal porn; he failed to protect his identity well enough to keep it from anyone who cared to investigate; Reddit decided to grant him authority over shady sections of their site to avoid having to cope with it themselves; Chen managed to dig up his name and published it; Brutsch has been fired from his job at a payday loan and pawnshop holding business; Brutsch is 49 and has a seriously ill wife and a teenaged child, and will lose his health insurance and possibly get in trouble on his mortgage because of his job loss.)

Right now, you will find self-proclaimed Libertarians writhing in frenzy over this state of affairs. Which is utter, utter foolishness, as nobody who has ever had to deal with a Libertarian (meaning the big-“L” political persuasion, not people who are merely civil libertarians, another kettle of fish entirely) will be surprised to hear. Read the rest of this entry »