February 03, 2005

A Long Hard Look in the Funhouse Mirror

Posted by Jeremy Brown

Sometimes a journalist gets so homesick for the truth he's willing to meet it half way, as narrated in this case by Tina Brown in the Washington Post (via Judith Weiss):

Even reporters on the ground in Iraq could hardly believe what they were living through as they watched the power of an idea transmute into the living, breathing form of black-clad women, Marsh Arabs and throngs of Kurdish mountaineers festively making their way to the polls. The father of a young reporter who has spent most of the last two years in Iraq shared with me his son's e-mail from Baghdad. "We journalists are all sitting round and asking each other how we missed what's clearly a far deeper drive for political and societal change than we realized.

Baby steps. But we'll refrain from answering what, unfortunately, seems to be a rhetorical question. The point is, this guy got there. Or did he, exactly?

"It is a measure of our isolation here -- and also, I think, a measure of how the violence and humiliation of the occupation has masked people's very genuine feelings."

Oh brother. Tina Brown is noticing a trend, for the moment, wherein anti-Bush liberals, seeing the touching success of the Iraqi election are trying to find ways to not be so angry. Or something. Where's it going to lead? I think the best we can hope for is that it will lead toward that place where, in the event of a successful Iraqi journey toward stability and increasing democratic freedom, the anti-war crowd will stop saying the word (you know, 'Iraq.')

I think Judith has it right:

"...Iraqis' desires for freedom and national unity were right there in front of you, not masked at all, ready to be noticed and reported on.

But you didn't want to see it."

Posted by Jeremy Brown at February 3, 2005 09:07 PM
Comments

Bingo. Excellent post.

I didn't learn anything about Iraqis from watching this election that I didn't already know. But I'm happy that some people have learned something. Maybe now I can argue with them about something else...at least those who really are beginning to understand - finally - after all this time.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 3, 2005 09:35 PM

Jeremy

still cranking it out? Another human interest story...any chance of any hard analysis? or are we just going to learn about the poor and dishevelled traipsing to the polls until say, mid 2006? a true liberal... easily fooled.

Posted by: Gordon at February 3, 2005 09:45 PM

Karl Rove is paying me top dollar to post this stuff and I don't mean to disappoint. But as soon as the contract runs out I'm going to start contributing to Daily Kos.

Posted by: Jeremy Brown at February 3, 2005 10:01 PM

Another human interest story...any chance of any hard analysis?

Don't you get it? The ENTIRE story here IS the human drama. If you need help analysing human emotions, watch Dr. Phil.

Posted by: MisterPundit at February 3, 2005 10:23 PM

Where's your hard analysis, Gordon? Did Iraq's election render it obsolete?

I don't mean to be an ass about it. Maybe that's exactly what happened and you want to hear what those on the "other side" think. If so, that's great and I appreciate it. But let's wait for the election returns before we go there. I don't think any of us know what to think about the next part of this story just yet. There are too many unknowns, but the election results and the Iraqi reaction to those results will be telling.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 3, 2005 10:31 PM

Eight million Arab individuals voted.

Not all of them are well informed.

Not all of them know what to expect.

Not all of them really believe that they each make a difference.

But they all showed up to mark down what choices they could. Some of them died for their trouble. Others waited until most of the burned meat and blood was picked up, and stepped up to close the gap in the line.

I don't need a percentage breakdown or even the roster of elected candidates to know that this was a milestone, and a crucial success.

They could have stayed home. They could have ambushed those darned Armiri (fictitious, random clan/tribe label) clan S.O.B.'s for saying those terrible things about Our Achmet in the souk last week.

But eight million is a big number. The critical thing to remember is that it is measured in increments of ONE - and to participate is to declare "I will trust this man to speak for me".

And the hope is that those elected will speak to each other, and end the tragedy that has been the only life most of those folks have ever known.

It is not an end. It is a damned fine step in the right direction.

Posted by: TmjUtah at February 3, 2005 11:35 PM

Speaking of Kos. Read the following:

http://weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/005/207exwra.asp

Kos is one the main reasons why the national Democratic Party is finished. He is able to significantly organize and fund the radical activists. American law prohibits shooting him---and it is virtually impossible to marginalize Kos. He is not going anywhere. Thus, the more sensible Democrats must support someone else's presidential candidate.

I said this a while ago, and it bears repeating: the greatest practical threat to the Iraqi people is the Democratic Party! The terrorists are a secondary concern. Don’t ever forget what happened to South Vietnam. Our own liberal establishment doomed those people. The Democrats have been against freedom for at almost the last 40 years. This is nothing new. It's just that now an increasing number of folks are waking up to reality. They can no longer lie to themselves.

Posted by: David Thomson at February 4, 2005 02:08 AM

I can't remember if it was Alaa or Zeyad (Iraqi bloggers, for those who don't know) who wrote it way back when, but to paraphrase:

'The greatest enemy Iraq is facing at the moment is western defeatism.'

Gordon, are you paying attention? That statement is still true today.

Posted by: Fish at February 4, 2005 04:02 AM

Every Bush hater you meet in New York is engaged with an inner struggle of how much to let go of the past. They are like wives midway through marriage therapy designed to reconcile and foster a new beginning with a feckless husband who has perpetually let them down. Hillary Clinton knows what that feels like better than anyone else. Which is perhaps why she has the discipline to hang tough, befriend the enemy and leave revenge to the future.
(emphasis added)

Is it just me? Or does that last paragraph have an ominous ring to it?

Like "Hillary is not abandoning the Progressive Agenda, she is just setting us up for a Trojan Horse?"

Posted by: Dan Kauffman at February 4, 2005 04:22 AM

Gordon - since you're interested in hard analysis - why don't you address the substance of the post, which is about how it is that so many liberals fundamentally misread the Iraqi people's true feelings and so were surprised by the election turnout?

I am thinking here, for example, of that debate that raged in the blogosphere about whether the brothers at ITM were CIA plants, the obvious implication being that they were totally unrepresentative of mainstream Iraqi opinion. Also, why did the left consistently overestimate Iraqi support for the insurgency and so on?

Any thoughts Gordon?

Posted by: Caroline at February 4, 2005 05:26 AM

The truth is there, and Leftist "PC" thought police allow it to be "seen" -- but the PC observer doesn't "see" the same thing.

How many Iraqis are talked to in order to find the most anti-American one, whose rant is then televised?

CNN might note that some 60+ journalists have been killed; and some 12 or so killed by coalition troops. One observer would see collateral damage.

The Leftist Eason Jordan "sees" the US "targeting" journalists; after previously learning of and speaking authoritatively of US tortures.

Leftist Rather sees a document showing Bush is bad, and knows it is accurate -- despite evidence it is fake.

Leftist Kerry supporters get asked if Kerry signed a Form 180 -- and reply that he has made his military records available (false).

A Harvard president suggests that genes "might" explain some of why there are fewer women scientists -- but PC Leftists know this must be false. Without evidence. Most of them are equally sure that a homosexual orientation is, almost entirely, genetic; again without evidence. And such Leftists are often quick to laugh at Christian believers, who are far more honest about believing things, without much evidence other than their Bible.

Judith adds that Tom Friedman is very very good, just now.

He says he's happy -- and you should be too. (Which is what I told Marc Cooper, yesterday! So Tom F must be right...)

Tom F says Bush was right to go into Iraq. But wrong to do it on the cheap (ie "too few troops").

Yet now it more clearly is the Iraqi people against the anti-democracy "Iraqi Khmer Rouge".

I think Bush going for few troops Liberation, instead of heavy handed Occupation, WAS BETTER, for getting to the point sooner of Iraqis "owning" their freedom. No way, ever, to prove this -- but the "more troops" occupation of Vietnam seems a relevant example of what NOT to do.

Be happy, Gordon, that another few countries are moving towards free speech democracy (Tom F points out the need for a free press). Consider complaining about Bush NOT bringing freedom to Sudan, despite the UN non-genocide, no "global test".

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at February 4, 2005 06:23 AM

As to the administration’s utter failure in Iraq… well… that is going to take some more time to fully manifest itself. But it will surely haunt us for decades to come--Marc Cooper

I don't think that the 'last-honest'progressive'gets the Iraqi thing at all.Not at all.If this is what has become of all the left,they really have nothing useful at all to say.
Kind-of-sad.

Posted by: dougf at February 4, 2005 06:57 AM

MJT, why are you, and most of those who post here, so concerned with how the journalists were supposed to "see it?" I swear you guys spend all your time analyzing the reporting from Iraq rather than Iraq itself. Have you not noticed that the journalists who spend the most time with Iraqis tend to be the most pessimistic? This is not all liberal bias, it's quite natural - most of the educated cosmopolitan Iraqis in Baghdad with whom journalists are likely to consort are Sunni, the people who are least happy with US intervention. Journalists on the ground often suffer from "forests for the trees" syndrome. You also ignore the fact that due to our inability to maintain security in the country journalists are not free to mingle with the people and really find out what is going on. If you were stuck in the Green Zone or a hotel all day looking at the ugly mugs of your fellow journalists and Iraqis you're not sure you can trust, how optimistic would you be? It's very easy for people sitting in comfortable offices back in the US to prematurely shout "we told you so." Finally, it seems awfully premature to claim the election in Baghdad and the Sunni triangle has been a smashing success. Should we ignore that fact? Sistani's party currently has 72% of the vote - so a pro-Iranian, anti-Israeli government is coming to power. This is still to the good as the election will probably create pressure for more democracy in Iran, but not necessarily in the Shia-hating Arab world. I can only think you must be taking a lot of personal abuse out there in Portland to be so eager to run around gloating this early.

Posted by: Vanya at February 4, 2005 07:13 AM

See Jerry & Michael, until you get your sorry @sses over there for a while to do some real journalism and endure the constant threat of IEDs and other devices, being hassled both by GIs with itchy trigger fingers and terrorists controlling the streets, as well as mostly being confined to a hotel room for fear of being blown up, not being able to trust anyone except for a few proven contacts - unless you do that, you have no right to pontificate on the honest testimony of a guy who is just trying to do his job the best he can.

Posted by: novakant at February 4, 2005 07:26 AM

See novakant, until you get your sorry @ss off the couch and endure the pressure of running an entire country, being hassled both by a Liberal media with an itchy trigger finger and unruly activist mobs roaming the streets wherever you go, as well as mostly being confined to Secret Security protection for fear of being blown up, not being able to trust anyone except for a few close advisors - unless you do that, you have no right to pontificate on the honest testimony of a guy who is just trying to do his job the best he can.

Posted by: Greg at February 4, 2005 07:47 AM

I just wonder what today's MSM and far-Left naysayers of the Democratic Party (Pelosi, Kennedy, et. al.) would talk about in the late 1770's during the American Revolution. "Quagmire" would be number one I think since the war lasted from 1775 to 1783. There were "insurgents" (i.e. Loyalists and Tories) that fought against the Revolution. The British beat the crap out of the Patriots in many battles - lots of "American lives lost" (giving today's MSM lots of macabre, daily body count stories). And the Revolution needed help and got it from France, Spain, and other countries, it would have been more difficult to do it alone. I'm sure the "wrong war, wrong place, wrong time" people would have been saying the same thing in 1775. Moving from tyranny to democratic freedom takes a long, long, long time, and it can be messy. It took decades for America. Why should we think it should be instantaeous, perfect, and problem free in Iraq? I'm impressed at how quickly the transition has been moving in Iraq even with the many hurdles and mistakes made along the way.

History repeats itself. Some will say that Iraq is a completely different situation than the American Revolution. I say there's more similarities than differences between the two. The Shiites in the southern part of Iraq tried to revolt after the first Gulf War and were crushed. Turns out they needed help and they got it in 2004. I just don't understand how anyone can decry the end of tyranny in any country? It's weird. In Iraq people were systematically tortured and beaten, no freedom of speech, no freedom of the press, etc., etc., and all I hear from the Left is that "the war is bad." How can bringing freedom to oppressed people be bad? I just don't get it.

A war historian friend of mine told me that the MSM and the Democrats never got over Viet Nam, that all foriegn policy thoughts are still based on that war. I think he is right as Ted Kennedy has recently called Iraq "George Bush's Viet Nam." I agree with Fish that defeatism and negativism in the MSM and Democratic party are the biggest threats to Iraq's future.

Let's not settle for mediocrity. Let's not accept the status quo. Let's not be pessimists and defeatists. Let's be optimistic instead. Let's take action and do something. Let's not accept tyranny in the world. Let's not accept terrorism. America is the most powerful country in the world, why not use that power to help bring freedom to oppressed peoples? George Bush wants to do just that, in his SOTU address he said he wants to spread freedom and eliminate terrorism. I don't see that as evil, I see that as a noble mission.

Posted by: Brian at February 4, 2005 07:49 AM

I think it would be very interesting to do a population study of journalists reporting on Iraq. A map with a small dot for the location of every journalist would be informative. Knowing how many journalists are reporting on what's going on in, say Anbar as compared to Babel would be interesting.

I suspect you would notice density clusters in and around Bahgdad and Amman; not exactly hotbeds of Arab liberalism. I can't remember the last time I read a report on the Marsh Arabs. I wonder what they think of recent developments?

Posted by: Dave Scheidt at February 4, 2005 08:18 AM

Please forgive me because I think it’s ingrained in my nature to be an antagonist, but I think rational objectivity should be applied to the entire OIF, particularly now after the reasonable success so far of he Iraqi Election. Michael is dead on when he says “I don't think any of us know what to think about the next part of this story just yet. There are too many unknowns, but the election results and the Iraqi reaction to those results will be telling.”

We’re spinning a lot of plates here people, and I’m hoping and praying that none of them come crashing down. This place Iraq is quite literally teetering on the brink of either civil war, or the greatest Middle Eastern success story in modern history. It could very possibly go either way. The Sunni-Shi’ite division is certainly not the only one in the country, as we’ve already seen with the fractures within the Shi’ite hierarchy. There’s also the division between the Kurdish factions KDP and the PUK, who in many ways are very ideologically opposed to one another; and have fought against each other quite ferociously from time to time. That’s also not to mention the possible suppression of the Assyrian vote, and persecution of non-Muslims in the country. I’m sure there are many more that I am not knowledgeable about at this point in time.

I realize I’m being a pessimist, but let’s be objective here, we’ve ****ed a lot of things up since we embarked on this endeavor. While I have and still do support our Commander-in-Chief and our troops, I’m not ready yet to allow myself to be excited and optimistic. That is in light of all the “bumps in the road” we’ve hit (some more like I.E.D.’s). I’m not a naysayer, and wasn’t opposed to this war, but I’ve been let down too many times

Posted by: Mike T. at February 4, 2005 08:21 AM

History does repeat itself.

New York City was a Tory stronghold during the revolution. And the New York Herald's (a flagship national paper of the time) sorbiquet for Abraham Lincoln was "that Great Ape" right up until the day he was assassinated.

The cast changes but the characters remain the same.

Posted by: TmjUtah at February 4, 2005 08:31 AM

Mike T. -

Part of your post is dead on: that Iraq is teetering on the edge between civil war and being the greatest success story the ME has ever known.

Then you get it wrong: saying the USA has ****ed up a lot in this war. You certainly have captured the CW, but I don't agree and only time will tell who is right. Things like disbanding the Iraqi army or going in with a light footprint may have been mistakes (as many believe), or they may have been the right approach to take (as I believe). The point is that the definitively correct answer to these questions cannot be known at this point.

Posted by: Ben at February 4, 2005 09:05 AM

Once again, a lot of posters reveal a real jones for one-party rule here in America. I happen to agree with T. Freidman on Iraq,too, but must remind again, on behalf of the 59,000,000 citizens who held their nose to vote for a feckless windsurfer rather than endorse your agenda: sorry, not everyone agrees with you, the Democratic Party is not dead, and progressive politics still has a future. Particularly if, thanks in part to Bush, the Middle East DOES democratize and the threat of terrorism subsides. Just like we turned to a Clinton after the Cold War ended, once this present battle subsides, a plurality of ordinary Americans are likely to turn their attention to domestic matters, and gravitate toward candidates who put their own interests ahead of the interests of corporations, the already-wealthy, and religious fanatics.

Posted by: at February 4, 2005 09:18 AM

That last post was by me.

Posted by: Markus Rose at February 4, 2005 09:19 AM

It’s interesting that novakant and Vanya are just brimming with sympathy for the poor unfortunate reporters who are RISKING THEIR LIVES, trying to do an honest job (a job that they freely chose to do, and can quit at any time.)

Where’s the sympathy for Iraqi bloggers like Mohammed and Omar of Iraq the Model who are also risking their lives to tell the truth as they see it. Where's the sympathy for all of the Iraqi bloggers at Friends of Democracy who post about how they want to tell the terrorists to go to hell while those same terrorists could be living nearby? Where’s the sympathy for the millions of Iraqis who risked their lives to vote? Where’s the sympathy for the tens of thousands of Iraqis who protested against terror in December 2003?

Novakant, Vanya, do you remember the details of that protest? If not, you should start reading the Iraqi blogs. They covered it, while “ brave” reporters from places like CNN sat around the hotel ordering room service.

The New York times did a short bit about the protest, and hid the story on page 18. They later apologized

That protest was the first sign that the Iraqi population did not sympathize with the terrorists, but the story was buried. Tens of thousands marched in favor of democracy and the press did their best to ignore it. Wonder why.

Posted by: mary at February 4, 2005 09:24 AM

Here's a quote from an article in the SF Chronicle (similar reports from NY Times):

"Partial results from Sunday's election suggest that U.S.-backed Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's coalition is being roundly defeated by a list with the backing of Iraq's senior Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al- Sistani, diminishing Allawi's chances of retaining his post in the next government.

Sharif Ali bin Hussein, head of the Constitutional Monarchy Party, likened the vote outcome to a "Sistani tsunami" that would shake the nation.

"Americans are in for a shock," he said, adding that one day they would realize, "We've got 150,000 troops here protecting a country that's extremely friendly to Iran, and training their troops."

So, the takeaway is that the Islamic party won, huge, and Iran won, huge. There will probably be a period when things might seem to be going just fine, everyone talking about respect for minorities, blah blah, but the only ones who will swallow that load will be the Americans. So, when Iraq becomes another anti-American Iran, with Kurds and Sunnis in some sort of constant revolt, we can thank Geo. Bush for that. I'm sure the sacrifice of 1200 American soldiers will be well worth it. Perhaps there can be a victory parade in Teheran.

Posted by: Seymour Paine at February 4, 2005 09:34 AM

mary: Where’s the sympathy for Iraqi bloggers like Mohammed and Omar of Iraq the Model...

Are you suggesting that novakant and Vanya are not sympathetic to those bloggers? For what reason? I think that Vanya had a reasonable point to make about the reasons for bias in the media in Iraq and injected a tone of moderation into the analysis.

Maybe you should just ask for their opinions of the Iraqi bloggers.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at February 4, 2005 09:37 AM

New partial election returns show Shiites with strong lead

"The United Iraqi Alliance, which has the endorsement of Iraq's top Shiite clerics, won more than two-thirds of the 3.3 million votes counted so far, the election commission said. Allawi's ticket was running second with more than 579,700 votes.

....

The new election figures represented partial returns from 10 of Iraq's 18 provinces, said Hamdiyah al-Husseini, an election commission official. All 10 provinces have heavy Shiite populations, and the Alliance had been expected to run strong in those areas."

________________

As they say, read it all, it doesn't sound nearly as omnious as Seymore makes it sound.

Although seeing who completely wrong the critics have been up to this point, why should be believe their analysis now?

It is nice to see, however, the admission that the election was more that a "show".

Posted by: TomB at February 4, 2005 09:54 AM

Markus -

"...a plurality of ordinary Americans are likely to turn their attention to domestic matters, and gravitate toward candidates who put their own interests ahead of the interests of corporations, the already-wealthy, and religious fanatics."

And turn to who?

George Soros, politicians who farm votes via income redistribution, race pimps, and postmod philosophers along the lines of Noam Chomsky?

Pard, did you ever stop to consider why the Democrats are approaching the event horizon? I mean beyond the machinations of that retard Bush and Satan's limo driver Karl Rove?

You express yourself well. I just don't understand what world you are posting from.

Oh, and I liked this, too:

" Particularly if, thanks in part to Bush, the Middle East DOES democratize and the threat of terrorism subsides."

In part? Markus, that might sound like thoughtful comment in a "shit happens" world. That is not the case here.

The RealPolitik paradigm for supporting "our" bad guys as proxies, or merely in pursuit of some obscene stability, began even before WW2 and just worsened after. We are paying for that now.

Oh, and we didn't elect "a Clinton". We elected the soundbites that stuck and survived the bad faith, immaturity, malfeasance, and incompetence that followed.

I do not see America making the same mistake for another generation.

Posted by: TmjUtah at February 4, 2005 10:19 AM

Ben,

I'm glad you and I agree to a point, but factually the following are true statements:

Disbanding the Iraqi Army was a major ****up.
Allowing half of Ansar-Al-Islam to escape into Iran was a major ****up.
ABU GHRAIB was a major ****up, Underestimating the insurgency was a major ****up.
Allowing Fallujah to fester was a major ****up.
Permitting Muqtadah al-Sadr to solidify his base into a militia was a major ****up.
Trusting the INC, Ahmed Chalabi, and other exhile organizations and people for our on the ground intelligence was a major, major ****up.
Our military logistics and supply were and still are to a point majorly ****ed up.

Of my opinion, I believe the following are also true statements:

Going in on the timetable we did was a major ****up.
Deferring to "Heavy Metal" Generals like Tommy Franks instead of the Special Forces was a ****up.
Not first securing the Syrian and Iranian borders was a ****up.
Not immediately imposing and enforcing Marshall Law once we occupied Baghdad was a ****up

Now granted, I have the privelege of hindsight, but many of these mistakes would not have occurred had we used more tact, patience, guile, and actually opened our ears and minds to what some people were saying. Namely those who knew the Iraqi people the best, from the inside, people such as Dilip Hiro.

We could have still achieved our goals, and possibly sacrificed less then we have since had to endure.

The only thing I think we can say is positive about the fact that we made all these mistakes is that we had the chance to learn them at a relatively low cost. Had we done the same in Iran or North Korea, the price paid would have been exponentially higher.

The Neo-Conservatives have had a chance to test out their theories and while some proved true and successful, many did not and now we can hope that GWB can shake off some of those who originally misguided him. (i.e. Dennis Feith, and hopefully Paul Wolfowitz)

*it should be noted that I sincerely agree in great part with much of the neo-conservative world view, however not all

Posted by: Mike T. at February 4, 2005 10:41 AM

Are you suggesting that novakant and Vanya are not sympathetic to those bloggers?

I didn’t say that their sympathy didn’t exist, I just asked where it was. If I ask where my keys are, it’s not a suggestion that the keys don’t exist.

Since they both ‘understand’ the situation of American reporters in Iraq, I was also wondering why those reporters didn’t spot (or cover) the anti-terrorism trend back in 2003. Any guesses?

Posted by: mary at February 4, 2005 10:48 AM

Since they both ‘understand’ the situation of American reporters in Iraq, I was also wondering why those reporters didn’t spot (or cover) the anti-terrorism trend back in 2003. Any guesses?

Read Vanya's post again. It's discussed there pretty clearly, and it makes sense.

Also, I don't think that either of those posters said they 'understand' the situation any more than you have said that you 'understand' what's going on. They were expressing an opinion.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at February 4, 2005 10:57 AM

TmjUtah -- I'll keep banging away on this point till I see the slightest indication that it registers in your brain: despite being at war and being in the middle of an economic recovery, nearly 60 million of your fellow citizens voted for George Soros' favorite candidate, while millions more voted for congressional or state candidates of the party that you say is approaching event horizon.

Of course I've spent time wondering why the Democrats aren't doing as well as we need to be doing. I don't have any answers, but I agree with a lot of what Michael Totten says, and a lot of what Thomas Frank says too. We haven't given working class Americans much reason to believe that we will do a better job of protecting them from foreign enemies, or that we will realistically help them deal with the difficulties and injustices that are a natural part of our capitalist economic system.

We'll get it together by 2008, maybe with Mark Warner or Richardson or Rendell, maybe even with Hillary channelling Joe Lieberman.

Regarding your assessment of the Clinton years, as Gore should have told Bush in the 2000 debates: sir, just what is it about eight years of peace and prosperity that you don't like?

And before you go apoplectic on me about our neglect of Bin-Laden, tell me, if Clinton really deserved an F- on dealing with terrorism in the nineties, why is it that neither Bush nor Cheney saw fit to mention the issue at all in the 2000 election?

Posted by: markus rose at February 4, 2005 11:06 AM

That last sentence in my last post should have read "for at least another generation".

The nation that opted for a babysitter after better men had restored our economy and pride from its seventies nadir does not exist anymore.

There are pockets of blue, but they are concentrated around generational fortresses of liberal agenda that have chosen to insulate themselves from cause and effect and the lessons of history.

Why are the young liberal? Maybe because the threshold between adolescence and adulthood is a scary thing. When somebody tells you that YOU shouldn't have to be responsible for your financial security and you face forty, fifty, or sixty years ahead, the tendency to grasp the binky is strong.

There is no shame in committing to do good by your fellow man. Fair play, honest trade, charity...

I do all that. One on one. Every day.

If I accept my role as a citizen as being part of a socialist collective, my free will is gone. My initiative to pursue excellence is over. The ideas (or wishes, really) that are the bedrock of the Democrat message are certainly meant well. They just don't work - and have demonstrably NOT worked - here or anywhere else they have been implemented.

No average Joe wakes up and spontaneously combusts into a shining flame of altruism, selflessness, and virtue. Even if he did, those qualities would do have little practical impact toward getting through another day. Heirarchy exists not only to put down the common man; it exists as a management tool that enables groups to achieve common goals.

If you are already assumed incapable of providing for yourself, what credentials do you have for choosing the heirarchy that will provide for you? And going back to the shining flame meme, who wants to do the organizing, planning, and (shudder) disciplining of the lower levels without some form of higher compensation? Cash is nice, but in some halls nothing will ever take the place of power.

That is our Democrat party today, and that is their message. They are pirates preying on a robust and stable political system little different than in the manner of a George Soros; folks like Soros just got his money all in one lump instead of being a team player and arriving at incumbency over some victim constituency.

Posted by: TmjUtah at February 4, 2005 11:15 AM

Do you remember that moment and intonation when President Clinton said, during his "double-wide on stilts" opening, "Am I the only person in the United States who likes BOTH George Bush and John Kerry?".

No, I'm not parrotting that sentiment (I have too much of a patrician similarity to John Kerry to like him), but in response to Markus Rose's paen to the Democratic Party, I can tell you, I know the DP will be back too. And that's a good thing.

Oh I may not like it -- in fact, I really don't like it --, but I also happen to think that for a country to be fully democratic (small d), Parties must rotate in power. The Norway model, of one party having a strangle-hold for 80 years on the political stage, is simply too dire for words. If it were not a 4 million people stick of a country, it would be an outrage.

It's for this reason that it's no coincidence that the 2000 election mirrored eerily the 1960 election. A popular president was not succeeded by his able Vice-President to continue the happy, prosperous times of the past decade, but rather in a squeakily narrow election, the opposing Party's candidate won out.

The answer doesn't lie with Party politics, or platforms, or the "electibility" of candidates, so much as with people just wanting a change.

I'll tell you one thing though, if the progressives take hold of the Dems, as they threaten to with Dr. Dean as DNP Chair, and Pelosi et al. running the show in the beltway -- God help you. Churchill's Wilderness years will look like an eyeblink compared to your exile from Office.

Cheers,
Victoria

Posted by: Victoria at February 4, 2005 11:30 AM

TmjUtah: your caricature of the democratic message as telling people that they are incapable of taking care of themselves is absurd, to me and to the other 60 million Democratic voters in those "pockets of blue", which by the way are where the wealth and productivity growth of this nation is overwhelmingly concentrated.

You should check out which states are donor states and which are not, in regard to federal taxes paid vs. benefits received. Frankly, maybe we should call your bluff on taxes and stop supporting you ungrateful red state bums.

Posted by: markus rose at February 4, 2005 11:30 AM

Markus,

which by the way are where the wealth and productivity growth of this nation is overwhelmingly concentrated.

Yes, the snotty and out of touch elites live there, and their party is the Democrats. We have a democracy; arrogant and conceited minorities aren't going to carry the day.

Remember the irreplaceable air controllers? If you think folks such as yourself are unique and can never be replaced, think again.

Posted by: chuck at February 4, 2005 11:43 AM

Markus - haven't you been reading Michael Trotten's blog? He has stated many reasons why the Democrats are doing worse and worse. People like Roger L. Simon (www.rogerlsimon.com) will give you reasons too, and why they switched from voting Democratic to voting for Bush. You can find lots of reasons at townhall.com too - the Republicans have figured it out while the Democrats continue to delude themselves. (If you think Richardson is the answer for the Democrats you are truly deluded yourself.) It's pretty simple - the Democrats have been taken over by the more extreme Left and continue to move that way. Who are the spokespeople - Pelosi, Kennedy, Boxer, Kerry, Reid, Michael Moore, and other Hollywood goofballs. I'm not in love with the Republicans by any means - I have lots of differences (pro-choice, gay marriage, legalizing drugs, I lean Libertarian on many issues, etc.) but I relate to the GOPers much more than the anti-war, anti-capitalism, socialistic far-Left of the Democratic Party that are leaders of the Dems. Why is it that the Republicans are popping champaign corks since it looks like Howard Dean is going to be the head of the DNC? A short-fused, angry, bitter, pessimistic, total anti-war, "I hate Republicans and everything they stand for" guy. The Republicans couldn't be happier. How in the world is the Democratic Party going to "get their act together" in 2008 with this bunch of loons running the show?

Posted by: Brian at February 4, 2005 11:52 AM

David Thomson: the greatest practical threat to the Iraqi people is the Democratic Party! The terrorists are a secondary concern

I dare you to go over to the Iraqi blogs and tell that to them.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 4, 2005 11:53 AM

Markus,

Please, please tell me you weren't referring to my esteemed former Mayor and now present Governor Ed Rendell for presidential candidacy in 2008 were you?

If so then you really need do some serious research because if you thought, even for a second, that Willy was slick, then you haven't met Fast Eddie. This guy is shadier than a white kid driving a Saab through West Philly. He actually had college kids gathering absentee ballots from prisons, while he simultaneously attempted to deny concessions allowing overseas military personnel (including those in Iraq) to get their absentee ballots in on time.

One of his reasons: There weren't enough military ballots to sway the election results and therefore didn't justify changing the rules or the schedule in order to allow them to get their votes in.

Allow me to make it abundantly clear, Ed Rendell placed greater importance on the ballots of Democratic felons, than he did our own soldiers' ballots, whom which presently engaged in a conflict zone. What could his motivation have been? Allow me to speculate; pure blind partisan loyalty, and a total lack of ethics.

Oh yeah that's not to mention the condition he left the Philadelphia public school system, or his endorsement, support and collaboration with his successor who is now a person of interest in a federal corruption investigation. An investigation that has already resulted in guilty pleas and convictions, and every day swirls ever closer to the man in charge of City Hall.

Posted by: Mike T. at February 4, 2005 11:59 AM

chuck -- Elites? 59 milliion is a hell of a large number of elitists!

Your majority is a narrow one: 51% to 48% at best. If we Democrats can regain our credibility in the war against radical Islam, and if we nominate a non-windsurfing non-patrician as our standard-bearer, your majority disappears.

Posted by: markus rose at February 4, 2005 12:05 PM

David Thomson: the greatest practical threat to the Iraqi people is the Democratic Party! The terrorists are a secondary concern---
I dare you to go over to the Iraqi blogs and tell that to them.---MJT

Much as I value the opinions of our host,I just cannot understand his fixed belief that the Democratic Party is redeemable in its current incarnation.
In the sense in which David T,made this comment,it deserves a bit more analysis than afforded by involving the Iraqi blogs.I am sure that most of them(as do we) understand quite fully that the head-hunters are the most pressing 'immediate'threat to their future,but it is also true that we came within 120,000 votes of having J*K as President.Not only would we have had that cipher in charge but we would have had the loons in charge of the Dems as well.To say that the current Democratic Party represents a danger to the long-term FREEDOM of the Iraqi people is IMHO nothing more than an observation of objective reality.You just had to watch the replies to the SOFU to see what a disaster the Democratic Party really is.
Good comment ,David.

Posted by: dougf at February 4, 2005 12:09 PM

If we Democrats can regain our credibility in the war against radical Islam,--MR

If I develope wheels,I might be able to make some extra cash as a bus,but the odds are greatly against it.For you to regain your credibility at this point involves a large-scale(MM sized actually) purge of the Party of its lunatic leftist factions.That show would be well worth watching but it's not going to happen.The ONLY principled man in the whole rotten structure appears to Joe Lieberman,and he might as well just follow Zell to the exits.

Posted by: dougf at February 4, 2005 12:18 PM

Brian -- I STATED that I agree with a lot of what Totten has to say about the Dems. Roger Simon, too. They're both Johnny one-noters for the most part, saying that Dems need to be much tougher against radical Islam, much more willing to use American power. As I also stated, I agree with them on this, more or less.

Your general view that democrats have been taken over by the extreme left is only correct if you are talking about opposition to the war. Otherwise, it has no basis in fact.

Mike T. -- I'm not sure what the point is about having a discussion with you about Ed Rendell. You're not going to like ANY Democrat running for President anyway. I'm from western Pa., not Philly, but I've spent some time there, and I've read A Prayer for the City (one of the best books on urban policy over the last twenty years). He WAS a damn good mayor, particularly in his first term. The problem with Philly schools have to do with the problems of black America, problems much bigger than him. Ditto his lame successor, although as you note Street is NOT the subject of the investigation.

Rendell has done OK as governor so far, too, and will likely be reelected in 2006.

However, my understanding is that he does have a reputation as a bit of an excessive tippler and ladies man, and this might hurt him.

Posted by: at February 4, 2005 12:22 PM

dougf: For you to regain your credibility at this point involves a large-scale(MM sized actually) purge of the Party of its lunatic leftist factions.

Jeez Doug, I can only pray that you no longer live in Manitoba under the oppression of the jackbooted socialists in charge of the province. NDP policies make the left wing of the Democractic Party look like conservatives.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at February 4, 2005 12:28 PM

I wrote the previous comments.

DougF -- "The ONLY principled man in the whole rotten structure appears to Joe Lieberman..."

Bullshit. If you mean supporting Bush's general thrust in the Middle East, Joe Biden, Evan Bayh, B. and H. Clinton, Feinstein, and Daschle before he was defeated all come to mind in the Senate.

Posted by: Markusrose at February 4, 2005 12:31 PM

Markus - you say you agree with Totten but then say you don't have any answers for why the Democrats are doing so poorly, which tells me that you don't really agree with Michael. If you agree then you would have some of the answers. Confusing.

As for you comment that the extreme Left of the Democratic Party only relates to the war....hmm

I don't know that you can find anyone much more to the Left on any issue than Pelosi, Kennedy, Boxer, or Kerry.

Howard Dean, future head of the DNC, recently stated in public that "I hate Republicans and everything they stand for," so I guess the Democratic Party leadership doesn't want ANY votes from Republicans ever. That might make it hard to win very many elections in 2006 or 2008.

Posted by: Brian at February 4, 2005 12:48 PM

Dougf: If I develope wheels,I might be able to make some extra cash as a bus

That was funny. :)

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 4, 2005 12:54 PM

Brian -- When I wrote "I don't have any answers", I meant to say "I don't have any FINAL answers." I hoped that this was obvious since I went on to give some reasons why I thought we were doing poorly.

Like I said, we're doing poorly because we lack credibility on military matters and the willingness to use force, because we refuse to offer more than token responses to the economic insecurities of the working-class and the middle-class, and because we nominate aloof patricians like Gore and Kerry to run for President rather than down-to-earth Americans.

Posted by: Markus Rose at February 4, 2005 12:58 PM

I was just reading this interview with Nathan Sharansky (a former Soviet dissident) at frontpagemag

The Case for Democracy

and I thought his following comment was relevant to the issue of reporters misreading Iraqi support for the insurgency:

"Fear societies are inevitably composed of three separate groups: True believers, dissidents and doublethinkers. True believers are those who believe in the ideology of the regime. Dissidents are those who disagree with that ideology and are prepared to say so openly. Doublethinkers are those who disagree with the ideology but who are scared to openly confront the regime.

With time, the number of doublethinkers in a fear society inevitably grows so that they represent the overwhelming majority of the population. To an outside observer, the fear society will look like a sea of true believers who demonstrate loyalty to the regime, but the reality is very different. Behind the veneer of support is an army of doublethinkers."

He thinks this is true of the Arab world in general and is very optimistic re the prospects for democracy in the ME. Anyway, I think the reporters on the ground in Iraq could have done a better job in trying to guage the fear level of alot of the people they were interviewing instead of taking many of their statements at face-value.
Vanya commented that the reporters could be forgiven for their misreading of the situation at least partly because of the fearful atmosphere in which they were working. I'm surprised they didn't take that same fear into account among the people they were reporting on.

Posted by: Caroline at February 4, 2005 01:24 PM

Caroline -- maybe just maybe Sharansky (and Bush) are right to be optimistic about the prospects for democracy in the ME. I hope so. It's a shame (and perplexing) that someone can be so strong on this issue, while being so committed to denying self-determination to those Arabs unlucky enough to live in Gaza or the West Bank. He is a strong supporter of the settlers and other religous chauvanists, and a leader in the right wing opposition to Sharon's Gaza disengagement plan. In other words, he is a hypocrite.

Posted by: markus rose at February 4, 2005 01:35 PM

Vanya:

This is not all liberal bias, it's quite natural - most of the educated cosmopolitan Iraqis in Baghdad with whom journalists are likely to consort are Sunni, the people who are least happy with US intervention.

Well, since we were talking about how journos were surprised while bloggers can sit back and say "I told you so", this doesn't seem like much of a defense. Someone covering the US Presidential campaign by talking only to Manhattanites would have been pretty shocked by the election here, too. A journalist's job is to try to cover all the angles on a story, and that's seldom possible from the middle of an echo chamber. Sheer slopiness.

Posted by: Mark Poling at February 4, 2005 01:40 PM

Markus - you are obviously more familiar with the guy than I am. Gotta catch a bus now and haven't read this yet but here's Hitchens debating his ideas at frontpagemag today:

frontpage symposium

Posted by: Caroline at February 4, 2005 01:46 PM

Both Democratic and Republican parties are incredibly weak right now.

The bicameral system works because normally it inexorably forces the two parties towards the center in order to win. This prevents political extremism (e.g.fascism). Right now the two parties are both moving away from the center at equal rates maintaining a temporarary balance(although parts of the SOTU seemed to lurch back to the center). This is unstable, if they don't come to their senses one of them will go the way of the Whigs when a centrist third party emerges.

Republicans: You had a war-time president fighting a legitimate enemy (Islamo-fascism); you ran against a horrible Democratic candidate and 51% is all you can get! A little soul searching is in order.

Democratics: You ran against an inarticulate, uncharismatic president who ran up a huge deficit in the middle of an economic downturn after 8 years of democratic economic bliss and he cleaned your clock. This was because you didn't get your message out? Please.

Democracts:

Posted by: Dave Scheidt at February 4, 2005 01:54 PM

Mark: A journalist's job is to try to cover all the angles on a story, and that's seldom possible from the middle of an echo chamber. Sheer slopiness.

Spoken like someone who doesn't have to risk his life to get a story. As MJT cancelled plans to even travel to Iraq because of the dangers there, I think you're speaking from a pretty privileged position.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at February 4, 2005 02:03 PM

David Scheidt: The bicameral system works because normally it inexorably forces the two parties towards the center in order to win.

I can buy into 90% of what you posted, save for the above statement. While it does at times have the effect you describe, the bicameral system doesn't work so damn well. I causes for obligatory alliances between varying interest groups instead of negotiated coalitions. This virtually extinguishes fresh new thought and political vigor, and the system begins to stagnate once the major party players become entrenched along with the groups which paid the highest bid for their vote.

What's the difference between Democrats and Republicans? Different monkeys serving different masters, rarely for the best interests of the people who elected them in the first place.

Posted by: Mike T. at February 4, 2005 02:16 PM

Ah, the Chickenhawk Gambit! Thanks, DPU.

What makes this even more humorous is that of course much of Iraq outside of Baghdad is safer than Baghdad, so going to areas more sympathetic to the Coalition would decrease the fear factor. Which of course reinforces the logic of my argument, but since it comes from a chickenhawk it can be safely ignored.

Posted by: Mark Poling at February 4, 2005 02:22 PM

Dave S.: A little soul searching is in order.

A little soul-searching is usually in order. An effort at integrity and impartiality from the left-leaning media wouldn't go amiss, either. (And I say that as a non-Republican)

Markus R.: Like I said, we're doing poorly because we lack credibility on military matters and the willingness to use force, because we refuse to offer more than token responses to the economic insecurities of the working-class and the middle-class, and because we nominate aloof patricians like Gore and Kerry to run for President rather than down-to-earth Americans.

Thank you, Markus. I do hope your words take hold. I'd like to be able to vote pro-choice again.

Posted by: Achillea at February 4, 2005 02:27 PM

Ah, the Chickenhawk Gambit! Thanks, DPU.

Touchy much? I didn't say you were a chickenhawk, and to say I did would pretty much be the strawman gambit. If you disagree with what I said, then deal with that, and please don't put words in my mouth.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at February 4, 2005 02:32 PM

DPU: As MJT cancelled plans to even travel to Iraq because of the dangers there

Just so you know, I have been tentatively invited to visit a relatively safe part of Iraq. And I just might go. It's in Iraqi Kurdistan, not Baghdad. I am seriously considering it. I ran it past my wife and she's cool with it. I don't ask her permission for anything - we don't have that kind of relationship. But this really is different. I am not going to be a reckless selfish asshole, and this decision rightly can't be made by me and me alone. The same is surely true of anyone who is married and/or has children and seriously considers a trip to Iraq. This isn't all about me, and it certainly isn't about earning "street cred" with anti-war leftists who will always find some reason or another to dismiss what I have to say.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 4, 2005 02:35 PM

From Chris Allbritton's reports from North Iraq, it sounds like a good place, and I'll look forward to your reports if you go.

As far as my remark about cancelling your earlier plans, I just brought it up because it was a reminder to people who may have been assuming that media can go wherever they want. Iraq is a dangerous place, as even Iraqis (like Zeyad) say they can't travel certain places because of roadblocks, etc, I think I can cut members of the media there some slack. They value their lives as well, and have families, and are certainly potential kidnap and beheading targets, as anyone who read Allbritton's blog knows.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at February 4, 2005 02:46 PM

DPU – if reporters are afraid to report the truth about oppression (terrorism, despotism, etc) then what do you think is the point of their being there in the first place?

Put another way, if they're just going to hold the microphone for terrorists and despots, if they're just going to put an American face on the propaganda spewed by oppressors, wouldn't they do everyone a lot more good by staying home?

Posted by: mary at February 4, 2005 02:55 PM

DPU – if reporters are afraid to report the truth about oppression (terrorism, despotism, etc) then what do you think is the point of their being there in the first place?

I didn't say they were afraid to report the truth.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at February 4, 2005 03:06 PM

DPU,

I understand exactly what you mean, and I totally sympathize. Baghdad is a rough place to be a reporter. I wish a few more were based in Suleimaniya, in Kurdistan, which is where I will be going if I do go.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 4, 2005 03:08 PM

I didn't say they were afraid to report the truth.

No, Eason Jordan said that. Reporters are influenced in Iraq - first by Saddam and now by terrorism.

It's entirely reasonable to worry about their safety. I'm just not sure what purpose they serve by being there.

Posted by: mary at February 4, 2005 03:17 PM

Sorry for not joining the conversation -- I have had a much, much too busy few days. But:

Dougf: If I develop wheels, I might be able to make some extra cash as a bus

Cara and I laughed out loud over that one.

Posted by: Jeremy Brown at February 4, 2005 03:27 PM

No, Eason Jordan said that. Reporters are influenced in Iraq - first by Saddam and now by terrorism.

Not reporters - CNN management. Different beast.

It's entirely reasonable to worry about their safety. I'm just not sure what purpose they serve by being there.

Reporters can never report "reality", they can only report what they see and know. If you're saying that unless every single possible viewpoint be reported then it's not worth having a media, then I'll have to disagree.

But the bias goes two ways. For example, why was the media not reporting on the Abu Ghraib abuses months earlier, when the story was broken by Iraqi bloggers? Why have we not seen more reports or pictures of civilian casualties? They're common enough in the media of other nations, but are absent or rarely shown in the US.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at February 4, 2005 03:43 PM

DPU - was the Abu Gharaib story broken by Iraqi bloggers?

I'm not saying that every single viewpoint has to be represented or the media is worthless. But, Eason Jordan's admission was proof that reporters living under a dictatorship cannot report what they see as the truth.

Reporters who choose to stay in their hotel rooms due to a reasonable fear of terrorism also cannot report the whole picture. They're risking their lives just by being there, but what good does it do?

Posted by: mary at February 4, 2005 03:59 PM

was the Abu Gharaib story broken by Iraqi bloggers?

Riverbend posted about a family friend that was falsely accused by a neighboor with a grudge, imprisoned in Abu Ghraib along with her family, was beaten, and heard someone being raped, three full months before the photos came out. It was ignored by almost everyone. While Glenn Reynolds publicized (but was skeptical) of Zeyad's story about his cousin being murdered by US Forces, it was because Zeyad had been very vocally supportive of the US. I think Riverbend was ignored because she wasn't, well, politically correct.

But, Eason Jordan's admission was proof that reporters living under a dictatorship cannot report what they see as the truth.

I never assume that I'm getting the full story from the media if they're reporting under coercive circumstances. That applies to both reporters talking about Hussein while Hussein's men stand around them, or to embedded reporters with military forces, or reporters in a Baghdad hotel.

Are you suggesting that unless reporters can freeely move around that they don't report? If that were the case, most us wouldn't have heard about what was going on in Rwanda. Some news, even filtered news, is better than no news.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at February 4, 2005 04:17 PM

Dave: “The bicameral system works because normally it inexorably forces the two parties towards the center in order to win. This prevents political extremism (e.g.fascism)”

Personally, I am the same kid I was in kindergarten when I looked at the see-saw. My instinct is to sit on the side that is sitting way too high up in the air to bring it down and make it more level. As an adult I will continue to do that. Aim for balance on the schoolyard– basically what I learned in kindergarten.

MJT: “This isn't all about me, and it certainly isn't about earning "street cred" with anti-war leftists who will always find some reason or another to dismiss what I have to say”

Puhleese! (Is that the way to spell it?). Leftist street cred is utter BS. I know this from years of listening to my radical lefty Portland sibling (remember her?). These folks wear an arrest the way hipster athletes wear their ski lift tickets on their jackets months after returning from the slopes. They’re getting arrested for the night. They have a 2 pm business meeting the next afternoon and are freaked out that their cell phones have been confiscated. If they ever endured 12 months under a real despotic regime a whole bunch of them would just shut the hell up. By the way – what did ever happen to all those “human shields”?

Mary: “No, Eason Jordan said that. Reporters are influenced in Iraq - first by Saddam and now by terrorism.”

Whatever happened to the simple idea of reporting on what you know? John Burns did that right before the invasion. He was roughed up and intimidated and he reported it. If reporters can’t get the story because of intimidation then report on that. Who is intimidating you? Who is intimidating your sources? Maybe intimidation IS the story!

Posted by: Caroline at February 4, 2005 04:21 PM

Dougf: "If I develop wheels, I might be able to make some extra cash as a bus"

Just curious Dougf - but are you "calorically challenged"? Just cause taxicab - rather than bus - might have come to mind :-)

Posted by: Caroline at February 4, 2005 04:53 PM

“David Thomson: the greatest practical threat to the Iraqi people is the Democratic Party! The terrorists are a secondary concern

I dare you to go over to the Iraqi blogs and tell that to them.”

I’m sure that the more astute Iraqis who have studied American history would agree with me completely. The national Democratic Party pulled the rug from underneath the South Vietnamese. They have every intention of doing the same to the Iraqis. How do I define “national?” Howard Dean, Ted Kennedy, and Terry McAuliffe are the top leaders of the Democratic Party----and you know that I’m right!

Posted by: David Thomson at February 4, 2005 05:21 PM

but must remind again, on behalf of the 59,000,000 citizens who held their nose to vote for a feckless windsurfer rather than endorse your agenda: sorry, not everyone agrees with you, the Democratic Party is not dead, and progressive politics still has a future.
Posted by Markus Rose at February 4, 2005 09:19 AM
*************************************************
Yes but close only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades, the reality is there were more votes on the other side and the trick to political victory is to convince those who did not vote for you in the last election, that YOU have a BETTER idea, NOT to continually tell them how stupid and ignorant they acted.

No, the Democratic Party does not have "a" future, it has several and among these are "Change" or "Go"

Posted by: Dan Kauffman at February 4, 2005 05:26 PM

David Thomson,

The Democratic Party is out of power right now, and will remain so for at least the next four years. They don't set the Iraq policy, nor do they have anything to do with the Iraq policy. They only bitch about it. Bitching isn't completely harmless, but I'll take it seven days a week over terrorism, thanks.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 4, 2005 05:41 PM

Puleese ( again - is that the correct spelling?)

Anyone who still thinks that the solution for the Dems is to move farther to the left is seriously deluded. If a significant number of Dems still think that then I think a serious intervention is in order.

For starters, from a demographic POV - the Dems are eliminating themselves through their own progressive pro-abortion and pro-homosexual agenda. Just like the Europeans are. Blue=European. Isn't that pretty much an established fact? I'm not saying its a bad thing - just pointing out the reality of it. I leave it for the Dems themselves to weigh.

Or - from a more interesting perspective - whom precisely are the Dems counting on in the long run to pick up the slack for their declining numbers (from a constituency POV)?

Posted by: Caroline at February 4, 2005 05:44 PM

DPU – as Caroline said, the intimidation is a story. Why did Eason Jordan wait until after the threat was gone to report the intimidation he was experiencing?

The threat of terrorism is another story that Iraqi bloggers are willing to report. Paid Western journalists ignore it. It doesn’t say much for their skills.

MJT’s posts on Libya provided a more accurate view than any New York Times article I’ve read. Iraq the Model accurately reflected pro-democracy/anti-terrorist Iraqi opinion. Even the anti-Democrat Riverbend told a few truths. “Filtered” news from paid reporters hiding in hotels in the world’s hotspots is just not competitive.

Posted by: mary at February 4, 2005 06:23 PM

Caroline -- dems note that most job growth will be in high density metro areas that tend to vote Democratic. Those little islands of blue in the sea of red america that people point out -- well, that's were most of the jobs are and were most of the people will be moving to live.

Hispanics also still vote overwhelmingly Democratic (although Bush made progress for repubs in the most recent election), and they have a much higher birthrate than non-Hispanic whites. California and Illinois have have moved from toss-up to solid Democratic, and New Mexico and Colorado have moved from solid Republican to toss-up, as a result of Hispanic growth. Dems see Arizona and Texas becoming toss-up states in the coming decades -- provided that they hold on to the Hispanic vote.

The Emerging Democratic Majority by John Judis and Ruy Tuxeira paints this optimistic scenario. But it is all dependent on Dems holding on to the women's vote, and the Hispanic and black votes.

Posted by: markus rose at February 4, 2005 06:26 PM

Just curious Dougf - but are you "calorically challenged"? Just cause taxicab - rather than bus - might have come to mind--Caroline

I find that 'politically incorrect'in the extreme.If I were "calorically challenged",your mention of that fact might well have driven me into a self-destructive binge.Shame,shame,shame !!
Boy, I have half-a-mind to waddle on over there and tell you a thing or two.

Posted by: dougf at February 4, 2005 06:33 PM

The Democratic Party is out of power right now, and will remain so for at least the next four years. They don't set the Iraq policy, nor do they have anything to do with the Iraq policy. They only bitch about it. Bitching isn't completely harmless, but I'll take it seven days a week over terrorism, thanks--MJT

You are the man,Michael.The new campiagn slogan that will save the Dems from Whigdom-------

--- BETTER THAN TERRORISM !!!!

Posted by: dougf at February 4, 2005 06:38 PM

mary: Why did Eason Jordan wait until after the threat was gone to report the intimidation he was experiencing?

Because if they reported it while the threat was still there, sources in Iraq along with their friends and family would have been imprisoned, tortured, and killed.

I don't agree with CNN's actions here, as they were putting business interests ahead of journalitic integrity, but they're a business, so I'm not sure what else people should expect.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at February 4, 2005 06:52 PM

"But you didn't want to see it."

and still don't want to see it. too painful, too embarrassing. paradigm shift required, help.

Posted by: Carlos at February 4, 2005 06:56 PM

Michael - Would you be going to Suleimaniya as a political reporter or would you be doing "Holidays in Hell" sort of travel writing? (actually,Kurdistan doesn't sound all that hellish)

I hope the visa process isn't as hellish as Libya's.

Posted by: mary at February 4, 2005 07:01 PM

Dougf - mea culpa - BUT - just in case - you big old canuck teddy bear - you! :-)

Posted by: Caroline at February 4, 2005 07:29 PM

DPU - "Because if they reported it while the threat was still there, sources in Iraq along with their friends and family would have been imprisoned, tortured, and killed."

That seems to have summed up the story even after Saddam was deposed. Evidently the threat was still there. Honestly reporting the situation confronting ordinary Iraqi's who were still afraid to speak out might have provided a more balanced picture as opposed to giving the false impresion that the average Iraqi supported the insurgency.

Posted by: Caroline at February 4, 2005 07:46 PM

Mary: Michael - Would you be going to Suleimaniya as a political reporter or would you be doing "Holidays in Hell" sort of travel writing?

That would depend entirely on who pays me to go if I get an assignment. I'd rather do a travel piece, but that's just me. Either would be fine, really. I could possibly get two assignments out the same trip, which would be ideal. But I'm nowhere near that point yet...

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 4, 2005 08:29 PM

Thanks for the link, guys!

"Have you not noticed that the journalists who spend the most time with Iraqis tend to be the most pessimistic?"

Names? I can think of one who actually travelled around Iraq and is very optimistic: Steve Vincent.
Also most of the milblogs and Iraqiblogs were optimistic - the journalists could at least read those and try to interview their authors. In fact, many military report being interviewed and any optimistic story not being used.
No, the journalists just wanted things to go wrong and dismissed anything that didn't confirm their prejudices.

"This is not all liberal bias, it's quite natural - most of the educated cosmopolitan Iraqis in Baghdad with whom journalists are likely to consort are Sunni, the people who are least happy with US intervention."

Actually, the Iraqi urban liberals are most happy with our intervention. The tribal Sunnis are the least happy.
I have heard from many Iraqis in the blogs and news reports that they are more nationalistic than our media paint them. Everyone has relatives from the other ethnic groups, they intermarry alot, and a significant portion of them think of themselves as "Iraqis."

"due to our inability to maintain security in the country journalists are not free to mingle with the people and really find out what is going on."

Oh bullshit. Steve Vincent travelled, John Burns travelled. Whatever happened to the concept of "war correspondent"? You know, the two-fisted hard-drinking fearless journalist who goes anywhere for a story? Those wusses do not deserve the excuses you are making for them.

About the Sistani group winning: According to DEBKA Allawi is talking to the Kurds (who came in second) about making a coalition to counter-balance the Shia. Ah, politics! If they're too busy wheeling and dealing in the halls of their Congress to have a civil war, we will have won.

Also, Sistani's people do NOT want an Iranian-style theocracy. There is huge consensus across Iraq that is not the way to go. Their brand of Shia thinks the Khomeini brand of Shia is a heresy.

You see, you can't conflate all these things into black and white. You have to have more nuance.

Posted by: Yehudit at February 4, 2005 08:56 PM

Markus,

>We'll get it together by 2008, maybe with Mark >Warner or Richardson or Rendell, maybe even with >Hillary channelling Joe Lieberman.

The one thing each of these (relatively) excellent candidates have in common with each other, and regretably with neither yourself or the bulk of today's Democratic Party (personified by your incoming chair), is that they understand that their opponents are comprised of a far wider swath of the American electorate than can be characterized as:

"corporations, the already-wealthy, and religious fanatics."

I'm am none of the above, and am far from alone. Contempt may hurt us all; blind contempt mainly hurts it's holder.

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at February 4, 2005 09:46 PM

"Like I said, we're doing poorly because we lack credibility on military matters and the willingness to use force, because we refuse to offer more than token responses to the economic insecurities of the working-class and the middle-class, and because we nominate aloof patricians like Gore and Kerry to run for President rather than down-to-earth Americans."

Well put, Markus. Now, if you'll continue to stop talking like an aloof patrician yourself, you'll have a better chance at regaining my vote.

But not if Condi runs...

;-)

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at February 4, 2005 10:00 PM

Joe Biden was mentioned back up there a ways.

In the spirit of the title of this thread, "A Long Hard Look in the Funhouse Mirror", I offer a glimpse at the really funny mirror that returns an unrecognizable whorl of blobs with this link:

Here's the money quote:

"Senator Joseph Biden said that even if Iran was a full democracy like India, it would want nuclear capability, like India. What the world needed to address was Iran’s emotional needs, he said, with a nonaggression pact."

Joe, buddy, they aren't anything remotely capable of being recognised as a democracy. We aren't dealing with "Iran", which in our cultural context must only be meant to communicate as "the people of Iran". The ambitions and interests of about a hundred otherwise unemployable mullahs and imams are what must be dealt with.

Now I'm sure there is an emotional component. They are terrified that Bush is going to end their run and even now are telling themselves that one or ten or twenty bombs will give them a hunting license.

They are wrong. If they had a shred of sanity to share among them - say like the witches who passed around one eye when they watched the soaps - they'd know that the smart thing to do would be to fold their nuclear tent until we slack off and elect a Kerry. But they don't have that option.

There is no benefit in signing a paper with a terrorist, and Iran is corporate headquarters for Terror, Inc.

In an alternate reality with a Kerry as president we'd surely see that paper, though, no doubt in my mind. And the look on his face getting off of Air Force One after the signing would be priceless; all those flashes and the packed media pen shooting spittle and tears. It would be peace in our time.

Until the mullahs broke the pact.

Unfortunately, that would only be the setup for the real punch line. A Democrat majority would be constrained by the terms of the agreement because (A) to act forcefully in response would be an admission they were fools to sign and (B) their base would find reasons to blame us for Iran's actions. You think that's a reach?

Read that quote again. A senior U.S. senator is proposing to base our national security posture in regard to a terrorist state with the blood of hundreds of dead Americans and countless other victims on their record, who are acknowledged to be on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons - all this after 9/11 - on the emotional needs of the "people of Iran" (a blatantly dishonest characterization of the parties we are really dealing with).

Biden has been careful to distance himself from the base. The above statement qualifies him to carry the biggest walking head puppet in any parade. And he's got a vote in protecting my family.

I have no time for Democrats.

Posted by: TmjUtah at February 4, 2005 10:09 PM

I am terribly sorry - I accidentally edited out my hat tip to LGF for the link.

My bust.

Posted by: TmjUtah at February 4, 2005 10:13 PM

TmjUtah,

Great post. But try to remember that this guy is a Democrat.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 4, 2005 11:45 PM

Democrats as individuals are all over the map, Michael.

You are where you are, and despite our doctrinal disagreements you at least recognise the vital points, i.e., life or death, and prioritize your life accordingly. We walk the same road on the power of democracy as a tool for peace.

We recognise that it will take measures beyond U.N. resolutions and non-agression pacts to make it happen.

Berman gets most of it, too.

But Berman isn't a senator. And the Party is emphatically incapable of pouring piss out of a boot where national security is concerned. That's all I need to know to keep on sending checks to the RNC.

And ideologically, they don't recognise that our strength resides in limits on the reach of government into private lives. The corollary to that is they just don't trust the citizens, and because of that they damn well don't trust an America that has denied them primacy.

Dean at the DNC. In two years there will be a tax code that doesn't require a two billion dollar industry to figure out and a viable social security reform package that will remove the piggy bank from income redistribution. I look for the nuclear option in a shot if the Donks filibuster.

Which they will. They're driving at night wearing sunglasses.

So there will be a Federalist streak throughout the judiciary, including the USSC.

Oh, and Iran will be holding elections. Real ones. Mark your calendar.

What will the Democrats run on in 2008? For the nuclear option to be a threat to the Republicans, they have to think that they might fall to minority status within a foreseeable timeframe. With the state of the Democrat party right this second, and the events about to unfold both here and across the world, I don't see the Democrats ... shucks, I don't see them outside of speaking tours. Honestly.

"When your enemy is intent on destroying himself..." etcetera, etceterahhhh...

'night, all.

Posted by: TmjUtah at February 5, 2005 12:26 AM

“But not if Condi runs...”

I have have just purchased a Condi for ‘98 bumper sticker and will be putting it my car as soon as I get it. She merely needs to be on the ticket. I can’t see her getting less than 20% of the black vote---and that relatively low estimate is enough to send shivers up the spines of the Democratic strategists.

“David Thomson,

The Democratic Party is out of power right now, and will remain so for at least the next four years. They don't set the Iraq policy, nor do they have anything to do with the Iraq policy. They only bitch about it. Bitching isn't completely harmless, but I'll take it seven days a week over terrorism, thanks.”

Richard Nixon was in the White House when we abandoned the South Vietnamese. The Democrats and their fellow liberal establishment cohorts demoralized the nation. They made it virtually impossible to continue supporting our allies in Southeast Asia. We do know this much: the national Democratic Party despises the Iraqi people and will do everything possible to damage them. People like Ted Kennedy, Howard Dean, and Nancy Peolosi will not be satisfied until this occurs.

Posted by: David Thomson at February 5, 2005 12:57 AM

I'm sure the Condi for '98 bumpersticker will be a smashing success, hope you got a nice discount at least, roflmao.

Posted by: novakant at February 5, 2005 04:36 AM

What the world needed to address was Iran’s emotional needs, he said, with a nonaggression pact."

And John Kerry wanted to fight a "sensitive" war on terror. I'm starting to see a pattern here.

Could it be true that Liberals ARE really driven by their emotions? I know it's an accusation nobody takes very seriously. But could it actually be true?

Posted by: Carlos at February 5, 2005 06:06 AM

Carlos - yes I think there is a great deal of truth in that accusation. But it seems to me that too often the emotion that takes precedence is guilt. That's how so many well-meaning liberals wind up with out of control kids walking all over them. Funny thing is - alot of times their kids are really miserable. On the whole, I think liberals could use a little more understanding of the concept of "tough love".

Posted by: Caroline at February 5, 2005 06:35 AM

Markus: "dems note that most job growth will be in high density metro areas that tend to vote Democratic. Those little islands of blue in the sea of red america that people point out -- well, that's were most of the jobs are and were most of the people will be moving to live."

Markus - just my personal observation from frequent travels to the DC metropolis where I grew up (I have lived in NC for 22 years now): The commuting times into major metro areas like DC are becoming so ridiculous as to make for an unsustainable model for the future. Now we have the growth of the "exurbs" - like the Maryland corridor outside DC. Businesses are locating there, along with the accoutrements of self-sustaining communities that will make it unnecessary for commuters to have to make their way into DC. (Personally, as someone who learned to drive at 16 on the DC beltway, it is utterly shocking for me to go up there. I practically need valium!). Anyway - one apparently underrreported constituency that contributed to Bush's victory were these "exurban" voters. Karl Rove knew they were out there - apparently the Dems completely overlooked them.

Posted by: Caroline at February 5, 2005 07:23 AM

Caroline,

Another way to look at the blue bastions is to regard them as castles with the lords in their penthouses overlooking the serfs in their Section 8 housing shopping with Food Stamps. All overseen by civil service union members.

Dems have little to offer the exurban voter who may be forced by employment exigencies to tolerate the stench of the city but who flees to (and votes in) a community reflecting her/his values - not the values of the idiots who sited a building close to their penthouse for security reasons.

City life may be exciting to those under thirty-five (especially those without children). Many of those who have children and means will flee. And vote accordingly.

Posted by: Rick Ballard at February 5, 2005 09:49 AM

Hi all, back after hiatus.

Interesting thumbnail history of the media wars by, of all people, Pat Buchanan.

Richard Nixons Revenge

Posted by: jdwill at February 5, 2005 09:57 AM

Apparently, while on hiatus, my href coding skills have rusted.

Richard Nixon's Revenge
(again)

Posted by: jdwill at February 5, 2005 10:15 AM

Mike T –
I disagree that your statements are undisputed “facts.” For many, I don’t think the correct answer is knowable yet, but consider:
1. “Disbanding the Iraqi Army was a major ****up.” The Iraqi Army was viewed by many people as being the pillar that supported the Hussein Regime. Many people believed, quite reasonably, that disbanding the army was an essential first step in building trust. They may have been correct.
2. “Allowing half of Ansar-Al-Islam to escape into Iran was a major ****up.” After it became impossible to launch a northern front through Turkey, it’s not clear how this could have been prevented.
3. “ABU GHRAIB was a major ****up.” Agreed. How was this the President’s fault?
4. “Underestimating the insurgency was a major ****up.” Yes, if true. No plan survives contact with the enemy, so it matters less what was planned for in advance than how you adapt to changing circumstances.
5. “Allowing Fallujah to fester was a major ****up.” Not necessarily. Collecting the enemy together as a prelude to crushing them is a very smart tactic. In addition, it was necessary to concentrate on other things first.
6. “Permitting Muqtadah al-Sadr to solidify his base into a militia was a major ****up.” The intent was to strengthen Sistani by letting him deal with it. It appears to have worked in the long run, as al-Sadr is not a problem now.
7. “Trusting the INC, Ahmed Chalabi, and other exhile organizations and people for our on the ground intelligence was a major, major ****up.” Would it have been better to go in without having contacted anyone in advance? Who were the alternative points of contact?
8. “Our military logistics and supply were and still are to a point majorly ****ed up.” Our military logistics and supply has performed miracles by historical standards. There is always room for improvement, but I don’t see how this is a true statement.
9. “Going in on the timetable we did was a major ****up.” Our timetable was determined by numerous outside factors. The only way we could have gone earlier was to cut short the diplomatic dance. In hindsight, this is probably what we should have done, given that it is now clear that France and Russia were going to oppose this no matter what. At least that way, we would have had the advantage of surprise and may have gotten many of the weapons smuggled out of the country and/or disrupted Saddam’s plans for an insurgency. Going later was not an attractive alternative. A delay of a few weeks was not possible, because weather conditions would have required a delay until fall, at the earliest. A delay until fall was not desirable because we would have had to maintain our forces in the region on a war footing (which is very difficult, if not impossible) and because it would have given Saddam even more time to prepare.
10. “Deferring to "Heavy Metal" Generals like Tommy Franks instead of the Special Forces was a ****up.” The military campaign was a brilliant success, I don’t understand where you are coming from with this.
11. “Not first securing the Syrian and Iranian borders was a ****up.” This is inconsistent with your prior point, because securing the borders requires more forces, not fewer. Moreover, it would have been impossible to secure the borders before the invasion, without the support of Syria and Iran, which would not have been given.
12. “Not immediately imposing and enforcing Marshall Law once we occupied Baghdad was a ****up.” Again inconsistent with No. 10. This requires more, not fewer, forces. We didn’t have sufficient forces in Baghdad to do this, and it’s not clear it was possible to get enough forces there. (We could have committed more forces up front, but then there would not have been sufficient forces to rotate in later).

Posted by: Ben at February 5, 2005 11:23 AM

TmjUtah -- "In two years there will be a tax code that doesn't require a two billion dollar industry to figure out and a viable social security reform package that will remove the piggy bank from income redistribution."

You're living in fantasyland bud. Not everyone has wet dreams thinking about Ayn Rand. Bush's current Oprah tour has convinced very few, and his ss plan is going down in flames. There's not a single Dem Senator in a tough 2006 race, including Ben Nelson, who is afraid of bucking the President on this. And since corporations love their current loopholes so much, and wall street is so scared about the long-term impact of the bush tax cuts and doesn't want any further reductions, Republicans can't even agree on what a "tax reform" plan would look like. Read talkingpointsmemo.com for a look at how we're going to fight you guys.

Ged --

1. I don't suppose you (or David Thomson) give a hoot about the fact that Condi was considered -- by neocons, anti-neocon Republicans, liberals, just about everyone -- to be a rather incompetent National Security Council director.

2. I'm well aware that many Republicans are not religious fanatics, wealthy or owners of corporations. What I said was that the Republican Party when formulating its policy priorities, puts the needs and wants of these groups (especially the latter two) ABOVE the needs of everyone else.

3. I'm sorry if in fact I write like an aloof patrician. Don't know why I don't come across as the kid of university professors in small town middle America who listened to too much captain beefheart in high school and is now rapidly turning into a cross between paul giamatti playing his "sideways" character and paul giamatti playing harvey pekar in american splendor.

Caroline, Rick Ballard --
I tend to agree with you that Exurbans may start to trend Republican. Ruy Teixera doesn't think that is a problem, and has a long article explaining why here:
http://www.emergingdemocraticmajorityweblog.com/donkeyrising/archives/000994.php

Carlos -- what I've always wondered about the "liberals are driven by their emotions, conservatives are rational" line -- how come us libs are also the intellectual elitists, according to you. How is it that all the folks with the graduate degree vote overwhelmingly Democratic, if its the conservative who vote with their head, not their heart?

Posted by: markus rose at February 5, 2005 12:25 PM

Markus -

I'll skip talkingpointsmemo, and I'll tell you exactly why:

Social Security as it is organized and administered now is impossible to sustain; it will catastrophically fail unless substantive reform is enacted. It was a creation forged against the backdrop of economic collapse, designed on a template of good intentions.

The demographics have changed dramatically since inception; where once 16 contributors funded the benefits to an individual retiree the number has now dropped to three. With the boomers getting ready to check out that ratio is only going to get worse.

I haven't even mentioned survivors' and disabled benefits that have been tacked on over the years.

It's broken. Not only within the cycle of workers paying in/beneficiaries taking out, but also because of accounting games employed by government to include the incoming funds in general receivables, and spent (overspent, actually) accordingly. Add the explosively inflated administrative costs inseperable from government beauracracy and the laughable return on the investment when compared to even the most conservative market/bond investments, the current system is screaming for modernization.

If I go to talkingpoints that's exactly what I'll see. Talking Points. Grandma's eating dogfood, Wall Street windfalls, nefarious robber barons getting sweetheart deals...

That's how they'll argue it. The strategy would probably have worded a decade ago; in 1995 we were at "peace" (unless you were a Ranger in Somalia or worked in an African embassy or flying missions months on end over Iraq - you don't even want to know what kind of essay I almost wrote concerning your "peace and prosperity" characterization of Clinton's failed presidency) and the death of the Bear, the subsequent expanding markets, and the 'net wave of the '90's made it pretty easy for people to assume that leadership was happening someplace.

Democrats see SS like a New Guinea cargo cultist prays to a dead jeep far back on some jungle trail. It is a symbol of wondrous times. Problem is, the times are so far back that only grandpa ever experienced them. Still, folks put pots of food on the hood of the jeep and feverntly hope that someday the treasures will flow again.

The Democrats are going to the mat to defend a broken program. Not a bad program - it is in the national interest to have a last, defined, backstop for times of trouble. Social Security cannot do the job it was created to do. The numbers are public.

Even if the Dem's talking points, think tanks, and pundits get the good press, it's not 1995 anymore. Enter blogs. Enter IRC chats. Enter the bulk of employers and employees who aren't union, don't want to be union, and already actively manage the bulk of their own retirement planning.

Bush hasn't declared the aims of Social Security dead; he's just pointed out that it doesn't work like every president since at least Reagan and then had the termity to actually fix it.

The thing that most enrages the Dems is that he does what he says he will do, every time. He's setting a horrible precedent when you look at presidential promises. That is if you liked the "follow the polls" leadership style of chief executive, of course.

I look forward to the debate. It ought to mean at least two senate seats going Rep in 2006.

Posted by: TmjUtah at February 5, 2005 01:56 PM

for anybody interested in the working conditions of journalists in Iraq here's an informative link:

http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/iraq401/vid22002.html

(Realplayer req., takes some time to load)

Posted by: novakant at February 5, 2005 01:57 PM

sorry, main link is here:

http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/iraq401/

Posted by: novakant at February 5, 2005 01:59 PM

>>>"How is it that all the folks with the graduate degree vote overwhelmingly Democratic, if its the conservative who vote with their head, not their heart?"

Markus,

Education apparently doesn't do much for your common sense. Being emotional/rational has little or nothing to do with your education, and everything to do with your age and maturity.

I've done most of my best thinking the further away I get from college and grad school. My impulsive/passionate college days I attribute to my youth, not the garbage they were pumping into my head. I outgrew both, but other people don't. They stay Liberals. You know Churchill's saying about being Liberal as a youth, and growing up to be a conservative right? It's true.

As an aside, you probably think there's a connection between art and morals too, don't you. Libs try to sell that one too, i.e., Blue states have more museums, therefore they're on a higher moral plane because art elevates us above the apes, etc. It's easily debunked. Would you care to take a shot at it?

Posted by: at February 5, 2005 02:25 PM

Carlos

Posted by: Carlos at February 5, 2005 02:26 PM

Actually, if you would go to Josh Marshall's site, you would see that he's the one arguing the facts in this case, and you're the one arguing the emotion. If you go to the blogs and the oped pages, you'll see the Bradford DeLong, Krugman, Josh Marshall and the like are the ones talking numbers, while the privatizers are saying vapid stuff like "wouldn't you rather own your own nest egg rather than have the government, blah, blah, blah...

The fact is, Social Security is a defined benefit program, meaning you're guaranteed to get a certain amount back. Bush for philosophical reasons wants to turn it into a defined contribution program. But it is NOT broken in its current form, and any shortfalls in the program can be made up by increasing the payroll tax cap. The cost of making the Bush tax cuts permanent is THREE TIMES the expected shortfall in SS over the next 75 years. We're the ones with the numbers on our side.

Posted by: markus rose at February 5, 2005 02:28 PM

Carlos -- No, Carlos, I'm not an idiot. Having grown up around and dated lots of artists, creative people, I'm quite hypersensitive to their faults. I don't see a connection between art museaums and morals.

Posted by: markus rose at February 5, 2005 02:31 PM

>>>"If you go to the blogs and the oped pages, you'll see the Bradford DeLong, Krugman, Josh Marshall and the like are the ones talking numbers,"

Markus,

that will be refreshing. I'm up to my eyeballs in Dem rhetoric about "sacred trusts" and "generational warfare" etc.

How much money am I going to get. That's all I want to know. Whoever can get me those numbers has a big leg up.

Posted by: Carlos at February 5, 2005 02:41 PM

Paul Krugman? Josh Marshall?

Like I said, their pundits will be right there in the trenches. Unfortunately for them, Donald Luskin and scores of others will be pulling the lanyards on the siege mortars.

Posted by: TmjUtah at February 5, 2005 03:03 PM

TmjUtah -- I've gotta admit, Luskin is good.

I'd like to see a cage match between him and Krugman.

Posted by: markus rose at February 5, 2005 03:05 PM

I'll drink to that, Markus. At the rate that pundit shows are flaming out, who knows?

Cage match. I like that.

Posted by: TmjUtah at February 5, 2005 05:38 PM

Who said it:

"We have a great opportunity now to take action now to avert a crisis in the Social Security system. By 2030, there will be twice as many elderly as there are today, with only two people working for every person drawing Social Security. After 2032, contributions from payroll taxes will only cover 75 cents on the dollar of current benefits. So we must act, and act now, to save Social Security." Gore, Kennedy, Boxer, and Gephart were all by his side with this message.

Bill Clinton February 1998. Also, later that year Clinton suggested that SS money be invested in the stock market. (http://edition.cnn.com/US/9812/09/social.security/index.html).

Funny that Bush saying similar things today it is considered to be terrible bad.

On another note, two very good articles in the National Republic you all should check out - see what you all think.

An Argument for a New Liberalism. A Fighting Faith.
http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=20041213&s=beinart121304&c=1&pt=whKP5U%2BbbaxbirV9FQhQuh%3D%3D

The Demcratic Divide. The Outsiders.
http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?pt=GC1nbWBk1KawulpqPq3uRR%3D%3D

Posted by: Brian at February 5, 2005 09:29 PM

I think you mean "The New Republic"

And if any televised debate about social security should take place, I think we should limit it to real economists and leave hacks like Luskin to their own devices. An Irwin Stelzer or an Arnold Kling or even a libertarian like Virginia Postrel would hold up the right half of the debate much better than a faux-economist like The Donald,(or any of the clowns writing the economic beat for The National Review)

As for SS: Private accounts yes, George Bush's currently proposed plan; hell to the no.

Posted by: Epitome at February 5, 2005 10:38 PM

An Argument for a New Liberalism. A Fighting Faith (from the New Republic*

It is a faith. Everybody needs a religion. Conservatives have christianity, Liberals have Liberalism. If you reject God you have no home, and you have to go somewhere. Liberalism is a home. So arguing with either of them about their religion might be fun, but it's a complete waste of time.

Human beings crave meaning, and religion has traditionally served that purpose. Have you ever wondered why conservatives don't take to the streets in vast numbers like Libs and the Left do? Because they're in church on Sundays, that's where they find meaning. Or they're in silent prayer as they lay themselves down at night. Libs don't have that luxury. Yet they have the same need for meaning in their lives. They channel that into their politics. Talking to a committed Liberal about politics is like talking to a committed christian about his faith. You do it to learn what HE thinks, but it's by no means a two-way street. Libs have a well established Orthodoxy and you have to stick to it.

Posted by: Carlos at February 6, 2005 07:27 AM

"Conservatives have christianity, Liberals have Liberalism."

Ummm, how about us atheistic (mostly) Libertarians who trend Republican right now because Liberals seem to have abandoned reason?

You're on the track of something significant, but I think the "conservative=Christian" postulate will prove fatal to your theorem.

Posted by: Mark Poling at February 6, 2005 10:27 AM

Mark,

Libertarians aren't religious in their ideology. You are utilitarian rather than ideological. Therefore you are a "mule", and you defy my theory. And that explains why you can go both ways. Independents also fall into your category of non-ideological.

That is not true of Liberals and conservatives however.

Liberals and conservatives are ideological. But Liberals channel ALL their religion into their politics. That is not true of conservatives however. They have other outlets.

Liberals are truly fanatical about their politics. Look at their activistas. Look at their protesters. They are extremely religious, as you can see, and do not separate their religion from their politics.

Posted by: Carlos at February 6, 2005 10:56 AM

Carlos, I agree with you in the main about where the heat comes from within the Kos/Atrios/Moore/Kennedy/etc. community. I simply think that by your definitions, what most people think of as a "political independent" would by default be a conservative. A key problem with many political analyses is the tendency to speak in dualities. Political orientation strikes me as a multi-dimensional, and too many arguments are based on single-dimensional thinking.

BTW, only my friends call me "mule". :)

Posted by: Mark Poling at February 6, 2005 01:14 PM

Markus,

"Read talkingpointsmemo.com for a look at how we're going to fight you guys."

Markus - what the f*ck ever.

When you and your pathetic buddies decide to stop acting like third-graders, look me up.

Let me tell you - it takes a LOT to make me mad, so congratulations.

What is it with you people that you can't tell friend from enemy? I DON'T WANT TO FIGHT!!!

I want to work together to make OUR COMMON COUNTRY better. And again, I'm not alone.

Jeez, Markus, I've never used all caps before. Now I'm a little embarassed.

= )

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at February 6, 2005 01:34 PM

Carlos - I think you mean leftists rather than liberals in your formulation. In any case, it was Marx who called religion the 'opium of the masses' and implied that the masses were forced to look for happiness in the next world because of economic injustices that prevented them from finding happiness in this world. So I imagine that to some extent the political left (the activistas), following Marx, is hostile towards religion for this reason and simultaneously obsessed with seeking economic justice for the masses. But you are certainly correct that the dogmatic way in which the leftist clings to his utopian beliefs resembles the fervor which the religious proselytizer displays in his concern with saving our souls. I guess the difference is that one has given up on this world while the other hasn't.

Posted by: Caroline at February 6, 2005 02:07 PM

Ged....gentle Ged,

The elephant in Markus' living room is simply this:

In any case of public policy conflict, any proposed solution that fails to conform to the existing Left/left/progressive/Dem/dem talking points will not be considered anything other than an attack, and must be rejected.

If it so happens that the conflict manifests as a cornerstone of progressive orthodoxy, step one is to deny there is a problem. Step two is to impugn the motives of the messenger. If step one proves unsellable despite the megaphone of media and the vocal, even frenzied, support of All The Smart Folks, repeat step two plus impugn the messenger's supporters, too.

Sounds simplistic, almost silly, doesn't it?

I've watched the Democrats run that play off of third and long then forth and even longer for most of my adult life. They should really consider punting in spite of the challenge they face trying to get the ball back inside the stadium from the parking lot.

Luskin a hack? I'm no economist. I've never pretended to be one. What I do get from Luskin is intelligent commetary and links to the words of Krugman and others that allow me to form my own opinions about a very complex subject. Now that didn't happen overnight. I've spent the last couple of years forming my opinion in increments - increments measured in days, not the weeks of months it might take me to stumble across a magazine article or worthwhile punditfest on TV that happened to coincide with the subject.

Information is the flux that strips the rust away and allows the welding of ideas into solutions. The supply of information is no longer delivered in controlled amounts at the whim of a few large media organs...

No, I won't learn how to predict trends by reading Luskin. I can look back at Krugman's track record over the years and state unequivocally that if his livelihood depended on accurate predictions he'd have starved to death sometime in the late eighties.

Krugman is a classic case of talkingpoints think; he has to be making six figures at the Times and has been a fixture there for decades. He's a professor, too, and even took time off after the election to "finish writing a textbook". Or maybe he was pricing condoes in Toronto? Who knows? The Times confuses office, title, and rank with quality - just like the political wing of the Democrats love to do - and have stood behind Krugman for so long that there's nothing Krugman can be screwed up on that will threaten his job - because he's reliably on script. Check out Luskin's blog, especially the long- running interaction between Luskin and the Times, lately in the person of Daniel Okrent. It's a real hoot.

Posted by: TmjUtah at February 6, 2005 02:16 PM

I should add that there are many leftists who are explicitly religious. Although I don't know that much about it - "liberation theology" combines the leftists concerns with economic justice with Christianity (I think it evolved from Latin American catholics during the 80's?) and would seem to hold out the most promise for the political left to reclaim the religious "values" voter from the Republican camp. I think this sort of leftist particularly despises Bush because they view him as somone who really does use religion as an "opiate for the masses", while simultaneously ignoring real issues of economic justice.

Posted by: Caroline at February 6, 2005 02:26 PM

sigh

How about "fourth and longer" back up there in my football analogy; yes, I'm ducking back and forth between the pregame show and here, my silicon electronic opium den...

The train station in Provo, Utah, will never win an award for architecture...

Posted by: TmjUtah at February 6, 2005 02:55 PM

In any case of public policy conflict, any proposed solution that fails to conform to the existing Left/left/progressive/Dem/dem talking points will not be considered anything other than an attack, and must be rejected.

Tmj,

that's because Markus is the classic religious Liberal I'm talking about. Not only adhering religiously (pardon the pun) to core Lib values, but even to their every policy, which is taken as a sacrament of faith (it's a fighting faith too). Notice his fevered defense of the social security status quo. You'd think he was an expert. But he's not an expert. He's a true believer.

He's got a church, he has priests, high holy days, and an apostle's creed which he will not deviate from. It's fun to debate true believers, but you won't make a dent in their faith, because it's faith.

Which means he isn't listening. He's like the character "Bartleby" of Herman Melville fame. He is comfortable exactly where he is and you can't budge him. He simply would prefer not to.

Posted by: Carlos at February 6, 2005 04:13 PM

Caroline,

Liberation theology had its hayday in the '60's. The priests it produced are still among us although the theology has been muted in Catholic circles. It's still alive and kicking in mainline Protestant denominations and is very easy to identify. If the denomination has been in steady and accelerating decline for over twenty years then it is still married to a variation of liberation theology.

Another tip off is a focus on collective rather than personal responsibility. The moment that you hear "we must do something" or "we are all responsible" from someone professing to be a Christian you can have a relative high degree of certainty that you're talking to a mainliner.

Posted by: Rick Ballard at February 6, 2005 04:36 PM

Rick - why is that the case? i.e that subscribing to liberation theology would signal the decline of a denomination? I am a lapsed Catholic myself but the basic concepts of liberation theology are precisely the part of Christianity that I still subscribe to - Do unto others and all that. I thought it was central to Jesus' message that we ARE all responsible and that we all should do whatever we can to alleviate the suffering of our fellow man. Granted - I last went to confession at age 13 and last went to mass about 20 years ago and have never actually read the entire Bible back to back (although I listened to weekly sermons for a good 20 years)- but what am I missing here? I would have thought that liberation theology was exactly what Jesus was talking about.

Actually I am a little embarassed to be so ignorant about the religion I was raised in but I welcome any clarification as to how liberation theology is at odds with what Jesus taught...

Posted by: Caroline at February 6, 2005 05:23 PM

Liberation theology is what is called a "social gospel," which is not the same as Christ's gospel. Jesus didn't go around fighting for economic justice. He said to not seek after these things as the heathen do, but to trust in God. Lay up treasures in heaven, not on earth. Jesus's main focus was not to solve poverty, but to change men's hearts and eternal destiny. The liberation theologians have taken the part where you feed the poor and applied it to political systems. This is appealing to the poor who would love to see the rich overthrown, but regular folks have no stake in that faith. That's why it's dying. Liberals like it because it matches well with their secular religion, and it feeds their need for God. But most Liberals are atheists, so it's no way to grow a church.

Posted by: Carlos at February 6, 2005 05:35 PM

Well Carlos - I must say - that reminds me of a lyric I recall from Jesus Christ Superstar: "There will be poor always, pathetically struggling, look at the good things you've got."

Funny thing that that lyric has always stuck in my head! I think it stuck there because I didn't get it. What do ya mean - "There will be poor always, pathetically struggling?"

I don't get it. Obviously I don't understand the religion I was raised in. I must be a closet "liberation theologist" or something! Funny thing is that my radical lefty sister from Portland is obviously one. For well over a decade I listened to her laments about what was going on in Central America. She's a Quaker now. Maybe that's what I absorbed. But wherever I got the notion - it's a hard one to shake - that somehow that is what Jesus was talking about. Not just the next life but doing what we can in this life to help our fellow man. Otherwise, what's the point? it's just another stupid belief in the hereafter - like Islam. Maybe I'll brush up on my Buddhism. Someone has to have gotten it right. :)

Posted by: Caroline at February 6, 2005 05:56 PM

Caroline,

I don't want to minimize Jesus's concern for the poor, and I don't want to disrespect your sister's and your concern for them. But it's all in the emphasis, and in the approach.

Jesus did say there will always be poor. But he didn't mean by that to ignore them. Far from it.

But if you look at his example and that of his disciples, it was all on the personal level, not political. He wanted to change men's hearts so that they would bear good fruit, including feeding the poor. Jesus said render onto Caesar what is his, and to me what is mine. Paul was careful to admonish early christians to respect the political authorities. It wasn't a political movement.

And if the rich are overthrown, but no hearts are changed, will there be good fruit? Just look at all the examples of that throughout history, e.g., the communists. Changing political systems won't change people, or create utopia.

But changing men's hearts certainly could. Again, it's emphasis, and approach.

Posted by: Carlos at February 6, 2005 06:12 PM

Caroline,

I could do a simplistic thumbnail sketch for you but it would be much better for you to read Mark, Matthew and Luke (in that order) with a critical eye towards what is actually written rather than what you believe that He said based upon what you heard in sermons. You are absolutely correct that he charged his followers - personally - with responsibilities for caring for the poor. But it is very hard to argue that He was very interested in peoples material comfort in this world at all.

Marx's dictum concerning the "opiate of the masses" has to do with endurance of the often insupportable in the sure and certain hope of a better life to follow. Marx was simply reiterating lessons that he took from the "Higher Criticism" that was much in vogue at the time. That fad has faded as Marxism has faded as socialism will fade. I wish I could place a bet collectable by my descendants 200 years from now concerning whether an 'ism or an 'ity were then prevalent.

Posted by: Rick Ballard at February 6, 2005 06:18 PM

Carlos: "The liberation theologians have taken the part where you feed the poor and applied it to political systems. This is appealing to the poor who would love to see the rich overthrown,"

If that is the assessment of what its about then my intuition is that there has been a misunderstanding about what Jesus taught. As I'm not that familiar with liberation theology in practice I am perhaps not qualified to say how far they have actually taken it.

But I see no conflict with what I understand about my Christian upbringing to say - do everything you can to feed the poor but also have no envy whatsoever for the rich. If liberation theology aims to bring down the rich in order to feed the poor then I am not a liberation theologist. And frankly there is nothing in Jesus's message that would endorse envy or bringing down the rich that I can recall. I am a subscriber to the practical notion of the rising tide floating all ships, including the little dinghies. What does that make me now - a Republican? :-)

Posted by: Caroline at February 6, 2005 06:21 PM

Carlos: "And if the rich are overthrown, but no hearts are changed, will there be good fruit?"

No Carlos - I agree. It's why Socrates said "Know thyself". It starts with the individual's consciousness. One consciousness at a time. I guess that puts Jesus's teachings in line with those of the "Perennial Philosophy". Buddhism clearly falls into the same tradition. But I would have to say that the transformed individual consciousness would in fact do everything they could to help the poor. But I see what you mean. No compulsion.

Maybe I did learn something from my upbringing after all - plus a little reading on the side. :)

Posted by: Caroline at February 6, 2005 06:47 PM

"Luskin a hack? I'm no economist."

And you shouldn't be ashamed not to be one either, but in matters of discussing the potential hackery of a Luskin or a Krugman for that matter, balanced views and economic literacy are of importance.

"I've never pretended to be one. What I do get from Luskin is intelligent commetary and links to the words of Krugman and others that allow me to form my own opinions about a very complex subject."

Yes Luskin is a sort of self-appointed stalker in chief of Paul Krugman, but this is a perfect case in point as a majority of the alleged criticisms of Paul Krugman leveled by Donald Luskin have been refuted in the economic blogosphere, in particular Brad DeLong (Luskin doesen't like him either) and many of his economic beats in NR have been savaged by economists of all political stripes.


"No, I won't learn how to predict trends by reading Luskin. I can look back at Krugman's track record over the years and state unequivocally that if his livelihood depended on accurate predictions he'd have starved to death sometime in the late eighties."

I'm really not familiar with every little titter Luskin has raised about Paul Krugman or much of Krugman's work pre-90's, I do know from reading him that he is a peerless economist, one who has done terrific work concerning the labor market, globalization, rent control and the 0% interest rate and one that I find to be almost always right (75-80%) of the time.

Of the work I've read of Luskin, I can tell that not only economics, but many times simple arithmatic escapes him; he doesen't know what an exchange rate is, can't read a CEA report, either lied or doesen't know that a yield on a bond is an interest rate, his characterization of an economic groth rate which ranks 10th in the last 14 administrations as a 'boom'

In addition to that, other actions that should call Mr. Luskin into question; he accused David Brooks (of the NY Times) of being a traitor to his party( I guess he swore a loyalty oath) for pointing out that the Bush administration sometimes lies, bends the truth and is not always very forthcoming (all of which he agreed with Brooks on); claimed that George Soros would try to crash the market on October 31st 2004 (he must have great sources), accused Robert Blumen of the hard libertarian Mises institute (a real economist) of the unholy crime of being a 'Krugman Sympathizer' because he used some of Krugman's well revered work favorably in a study for the institute,

"Krugman is a classic case of talkingpoints think; he has to be making six figures at the Times and has been a fixture there for decades."

I'm not sure what 'talkingpoints think' is but from what I've read of him he doesen't seem to think any differently than any other economist or non economist for that matter. I also believe that Krugman hasnt been a 'fixture there' (the times) before the year 2000.

"He's a professor, too, and even took time off after the election to "finish writing a textbook". Or maybe he was pricing condoes in Toronto? Who knows?"

I don't know, but his status as a professor and the great mystery of whether he's writing a textbook or secretly pricing condoes seems much more interesting to you than it does to me.

"The Times confuses office, title, and rank with quality - just like the political wing of the Democrats love to do"

Don't follow you, and don't think I was mean't too.

"- and have stood behind Krugman for so long that there's nothing Krugman can be screwed up on that will threaten his job - because he's reliably on script."

oooooohkay

"Check out Luskin's blog, especially the long- running interaction between Luskin and the Times, lately in the person of Daniel Okrent. It's a real hoot."

I've been to poor and stupid, it was a rather underwhelming experience. You should check out Brad Delong or Max Webers blog, or evem any of the econ blogs by right and libertarian economists that know what they are talking about.

Posted by: Epitome at February 7, 2005 03:57 AM

Carlos -- thanks for the coffeetable psychoanalysis. Your claim that I adher[e] religiously...to core Lib values...[and] even to their every policy" has no basis in fact.

I don't accuse you, TmjUtah, Ged, Thomson, or any conservative or neoconservative of blind dogmatism or of "not listening", when you passionately defend your conservative viewpoints, or of "not listening" when you are unpersuaded by my arguments. I'm assuming you think things through I do, and have just come to a different conclusion. In other words, I RESPECT YOU, and I expect the same in return.

I think what really pisses you off is the same thing that pisses off many dogmatic leftists: you really hate a good argument.

My deviations from liberal orthodoxy are many, and include my critical support for much of Bush's foreign policy, particularly his emphasis on the importance of Arab democratization, support for free trade, and hostility towards most racial identity politics, towards things like "hate crimes" legislation, and towards much of the agenda of public employee unions.

But even if I agreed with everything Jesse Jackson or Ted Kennedy says or does, who are you to tell me that my views or their views are any more "religiously" based or any more close-minded than , say, Rick Santorum.

Read my lips, Carlos: fuck you.

Posted by: markus rose at February 7, 2005 08:19 AM

carlos -- Well if I had waited five more minutes before sending the last post, I definately would have erased that last sentence. Letting someone like you, whom I don't even know and in all likelihood never will know, get under my skin is pretty weak. I'm trying to convince you that not all liberals are closeminded ranting idiots, and starting to rant myself is counter to that objective. Sorry.

Posted by: markus rose at February 7, 2005 08:59 AM

I love a good argument. I'm here, aren't I?

You did read the top of the stack at the Luskin link I supplied, right? You noted where Krugman posted a correction when he was caught out? Not his paper, but a blog?

That's just the top of the link. I do understand the difference between opportunity costs and loans, too. Krugman clearly doesn't, or mischaracterized the facts surrounding Bush's reform proposal to bolster his argument against it.

I said I wasn't an economist. I didn't say I wasn't paying attention; far from it. I do spend a fair amount of time following up contrarian views - more than you probably think. The obscene amount of time I waste soaking up information I will never have truly practical use for makes it necessary to recover some of the difference elsewhere. I choose to present my conclusions more often than the process by which I arrived at them... mainly because I believe the weight of the historical evidence in the as- free- as- possible market v. controlled economy/socialist model argument is solidly on the side of the free.

The character and competence, or more honestly the lack of both, on the part of the partisans on the latter half of the above conflict is just more reason for me to resist their efforts to return to majority.

Posted by: TmjUtah at February 7, 2005 10:50 AM

Letting someone like you, whom I don't even know and in all likelihood never will know, get under my skin is pretty weak. I'm trying to convince you that not all liberals are closeminded ranting idiots, and starting to rant myself is counter to that objective. Sorry.

LOL! how true indeed. Consider your rant forgotten.

I have seen your posts on social security, and they were pretty ideological, so I drew an inference, that's all. I don't know your other deviations from Leftist dogma, you were just a stand-in for the purposes of my psychoanalysis.

I still believe in my basis premise though. You should look into it.

Posted by: Carlos at February 7, 2005 11:26 AM

Carlos -- I have some experience with your point in regard to discussing Chinese politics with my Chinese girlfriend. Can't seem to get beyond the fact that she's Chinese, I'm American, and therefore I just don't understand. But I still take strong exception to your main point when it is directed at liberals. I can point to several issues on which most Democrats have deviated from liberal orthodoxy and moved towards the center, in response not only to political realities but also in response to the recognition that their old orthodoxies were substantively wrong in some way. Welfare reform, gun control, trade policy, regulatory policy are a few that come to mind. I predict you'll see growing support for class-based, as a opposed to race-based, affirmative action in the coming years among 'liberals.'

I'd also add that there is an evangelical left not nearly as extreme as liberation theologians. Liberalism for them is NOT a substitute for their religion, but rather an extention of it.

I see less flexibility among conservatives regarding their own dogmas. Of course, the arrogant response is that conservatives don't need to reexamine their beliefs because they all happen to be correct ones!

I read a lot of stuff written by conservatives and neocons. Much more interesting to me than liberal stuff, most of which I already agree with. Occasionally, I'm persuaded by something a conservative has to say. Or partially so, anyway. Bush, with help from Tom Friedmann and Totten, too, has sold me on a lot of what he's trying to do in the Middle East. But with Social Security, I simply haven't seen anything that convinces me that it should be turned into a defined contribution program from a defined benefit one. If I do, I'll feel a bit sad at having to abandon one more previously held liberal dogma. Maybe Lupkin can do it. But it hasn't happened yet, and honestly I don't think it will. (Bush hasn't convinced a number of Republicans, either.)

Posted by: markus rose at February 7, 2005 12:17 PM

TmjUtah -- I haven't gotten to Luskin in depth yet. I wonder what his response is to this recent Krugman column, excerpted here:

"Schemes for Social Security privatization, like the one described in the 2004 Economic Report of the President, invariably assume that investing in stocks will yield a high annual rate of return, 6.5 or 7 percent after inflation, for at least the next 75 years. Without that assumption, these schemes can't deliver on their promises. Yet a rate of return that high is mathematically impossible unless the economy grows much faster than anyone is now expecting...

Which brings us to the privatizers' Catch-22.

They can rescue their happy vision for stock returns by claiming that the Social Security actuaries are vastly underestimating future economic growth. But in that case, we don't need to worry about Social Security's future: if the economy grows fast enough to generate a rate of return that makes privatization work, it will also yield a bonanza of payroll tax revenue that will keep the current system sound for generations to come."

Posted by: markus rose at February 7, 2005 01:36 PM

Markus -

I'm skeptical about next week's weather forecast.

What kind of economy will we have without a festering mideast crisis? Without North Korea? With a democratic China?

My limited experience with Africa makes me shy away from predicting anything about that unhappy continent...

The numbers RIGHT NOW paint a picture of blowout where Social Security is changed. I use "blowout" on purpose because I always associate that word with anyurisms. That's a diagnosible (no, don't know if it's a word; don't care, either), almost always treatable condition that is often overlooked until the artery wall fails and plants dad on the floor in the garage.

We cannot continue to fund Social Security with the demographics we have to work with. As soon as I hear of a productive counterproposal I'll be happy to read up on it.

Posted by: TmjUtah at February 7, 2005 04:48 PM

The numbers RIGHT NOW paint a picture of blowout where Social Security is changed.

No. They don't. Swear honest to Pete, my lips to God's ears, they do not. And if you believe nothing else I ever say in my entire life -- if you go for the rest of your days believing that I am going to hell for my mendacity -- please believe this: Social Security is basically fine, and anyone who tells you differently is either lying to you to frighten you or has been frightened by liars.

Posted by: Kimmitt at February 8, 2005 02:01 AM

Kimmit -

AARP's in-house study puts failure at 2042. Best case scenario. They have the strongest (organized) lobby voice in this fight.

Link here.

SS has been the "third rail" of politics since I've been a voter. I see no benefit in NOT attempting to modernize and strengthen the system, especially by removing individuals' capital beyond the reach of government.

I fully recognise the political and philosophical sacred cows at work here. To privatize social security removes the great income redistribution mechanism that survives from the New Deal. It also takes a big chunk out of the funds available to congress for accounting games.

I am satisfied that the system is at best inefficient in accomplishing its mandate. I also believe that it will fail, whether it be in ten years or fifty, I don't know, but I believe that early, principled debate and action now is a better strategy than the panic a collapse will surely entail.

Why does congress (and Galveston, Tx) have a private account system? I'm reading up more on Galveston today, as time permits.

A pleasure to disagree.

Posted by: TmjUtah at February 8, 2005 06:13 AM

"No. They don't. Swear honest to Pete, my lips to God's ears, they do not. And if you believe nothing else I ever say in my entire life -- if you go for the rest of your days believing that I am going to hell for my mendacity -- please believe this: Social Security is basically fine, and anyone who tells you differently is either lying to you to frighten you or has been frightened by liars."

I'm not frightened. I just don't think it's fair to confiscate the capital of young working (often minority) families and then either give it to not-so-old non-working (often non-minority) seniors, many of whom are far from poor.

I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the concept of my government forcing the former to pay for the viagra of the latter, but that's another issue.

Of course, Kimmitt would apparently assure these families that they'll get their money back when they retire, and Kimmitt seems reasonably trustworthy, if strangely oblivious to the nature of the problm at hand, so we'll take his word. Which is: the rich get to invest their capital in a 401K and can expect 5 to 15 % rate of return. The poor are forced to accept the near zero of social security.

Let them eat cake, says Kimmitt!

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at February 8, 2005 07:40 AM

TmjUtah -- here a productive counterproposal:

Some combination of the three:
1) Eliminate the cap on SS payroll taxes. (Correspondingly, the rich who would end up paying more would end up receiving more as well -- fair is fair.)
2) Invest a PORTION of the Trust Fund in higher-yielding equity markets, like state and other public pension funds do. But do it collectively, to minimize risk for individuals. This is what Clinton proposed in 1998.
3) Mandatory private personal accounts in ADDITION to Social Security. (This is what Moynihan, Bob Kerrey, John Breux and all the other pro-reform Democrats Bush mentions were actually in favor or.)

Posted by: markus rose at February 8, 2005 07:42 AM

Markus,

A. If Democrats were offering proposals like these, instead of spending all their time impugning the motives of everyone else in the debate, that would be a vast improvement.

B. There are no risk-free investments. Our governments' (state and local included) fiscal discipline record does not inspire confidence. Governments can go broke just like companies do (see South America). To minimize risk, one could invest the entire fund in highly-rated bonds that give a higher return than the current system.

I never thought I'd say this, but some Marxist analysis is actually applicable here. The Surplus Value theorem, as I understand it, critiques capitalism with the claim that profit is surplus value confiscated from workers.

The Social Security system, as it currently functions, confiscates the surplus value of the workers' investment capital, and gives it to the government. The governemnt makes use of this huge pool of investment capital without paying any interest to the investors. A forty-year float adds up.

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at February 8, 2005 08:22 AM

Ged -- the government has never,ever defaulted on the repayment of a Treasury Bond. What is more likely, the earth getting hit by a huge asteroid, or whomever is in the White House and in Congress in 2018 approving such a default? I'd say the asteroid is more likely.

The "surplus value" that the government "confiscates" in the form of payroll taxes goes to today's senior citizens, 60% of whom use it as their primary source of income. They appreciate it -- keeps them from having to eat cat food and ketchup soup.

I do agree with you that us Dems should be playing offense, not just defense, on this issue. We should put forward a counterproposal and I disagree with Josh Marshall and others, who aren't particularly concerned that we do this. Unfortunatey, impugning the motives of those who disagree with us is part of the political game these days, an essential part of a defensive strategy. Republicans, not Democrats, have perfected this art. Don't you remember that people who opposed the war did so because they really want the United States to LOSE the war on terror?

Posted by: markus rose at February 8, 2005 10:30 AM

"The "surplus value" that the government "confiscates" in the form of payroll taxes goes to today's senior citizens, 60% of whom use it as their primary source of income. They appreciate it -- keeps them from having to eat cat food and ketchup soup."

That 60% figure seems fishy to me - I've seen reports that the poverty rate is highest among the young and lowest among seniors. These same senior citizens also elected representatives who have already speant the trust fund that is supposed to finance the payments to my generation when we get older. So my skepticism about that trust fund magically appearing from thin air at that point would not seem unfounded.

Neither I nor anyone else I'm aware of is advocating kicking grandma to the curb. I'm just advocating that my generation refrain from screwing future generations in the manner that previous generations have screwed us. The AARP can keep screwing us, if that's what it takes to correct this travesty.

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at February 8, 2005 12:33 PM

"Unfortunatey, impugning the motives of those who disagree with us is part of the political game these days, an essential part of a defensive strategy."

First rule of being a grown-up:

Johnny's bad behavior is no excuse for my own.

The moral high ground is not a given. It was earned the hard way. Abandon it at your peril.

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at February 8, 2005 12:37 PM

Markus -

Your above recommended proposals are immenently worthy of debate. Ged made the key point - they haven't been suggested by the minority team on the field.

I am reading a lengthy article by Ramesh Ponneru (National Review) on Social Security. There are also a few other sources I want to check out as well. We have probably beaten this thread to death already, but somehow I think the subject will come up again.

If Michael should put up an appropriate post, or I force myself to do enough research where I can make an intelligent originating post of my own, you can bring the cards and I'll bring the chips. Gotta wonder if Ged's got a green baize table cloth...?

Posted by: TmjUtah at February 8, 2005 01:27 PM

Somehow, I think green eyeshades would be more appropriate for this debate.

I will say that the glimpses of humanity and insight shown by Markus in this conversation have changed my estimation of the other side of the debate. Yes, Kimmitt, until hearing Markus, I had thought that opposition to reform was likely mendacious.

I have no sense that Markus is operating with any but the best of intentions. Now let's see if he can convince me. He's gotten me to listen - thet's something.

But if you told anyone who knows me that I hate an argument, they would have a good laugh...

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at February 8, 2005 08:36 PM

AARP's in-house study puts failure at 2042

Best case scenario.

Not the case; the 2042 "failure" scenario is under their "intermediate" assumptions which include:

1) Our fertility rate will drop to below replacement within 10 years.
2) Immigration will decline by 50%
3) Life expectancy will rise by another four years by 2042
4) Productivity increases will decline from 2.5% these days to 1.9% starting next year, then down to 1.6%
5) Inflation will be 2.8 percent annually.
6) GDP growth will be 2.9 percent, rather than its historical average of 3.3 percent.

These are very pessimistic assumptions. If any of them is violated, Social Security becomes pretty much fine.

Seriously, Social Security is basically fine. The problem is with Medicare.

I've seen reports that the poverty rate is highest among the young and lowest among seniors

The poverty line is so low that Social Security benefits, however small, are often enough to pull a household headed by a senior out of it. That is, the fact that poverty is lowest among seniors is a measure of the success of the Social Security program.

Why does congress (and Galveston, Tx) have a private account system?

I don't know about Galveston, but Congress has a private account system for the same reason the rest of us have 401(k)'s -- as a supplemental retirement program.

So my skepticism about that trust fund magically appearing from thin air at that point would not seem unfounded.

I agree; we are going to have to raise income taxes to cover the change. That was the plan back in 1985, and it should be the plan now.

Posted by: Kimmitt at February 9, 2005 09:47 AM

TmjUtah, Ged: thought you might be interested in an email exchange that I had with Josh Marshall today:

Josh -- I appreciate your recent work on social security. But I agree with Kristoff, Dionne, Rahm Emanual and others that we need to do more than sack the quarterback on this issue. We need a forced pass and an interception. Apologies for the excruciating analogy.

Bush has persuaded 65% of the country that we have a crisis, and whenever we beg to differ, the press rolls tape of Clinton, Moynihan, Kerrey and others saying what sounds like the same thing. At the same time, a majority of the country is opposed to Bush's proposed solution.

I think we are making the same mistake we've made in response to Bush's implementation of Wolfowitz's 1992 Defense Planning Guidance: criticism, with no serious counter-proposal.

On SS, we should be talking about raising the cap, investing a bit of the Trust Fund in equity funds, maybe ADD-ON private accounts or something like Kerrey's "Kid Save". In other words, talk about this issue like Bill Clinton would if he was still prez.

Otherwise, we further solidify the emerging view of the Democratic Party as the party of the pessimists, cynicis, realists and naysayers.

Josh's response:
Markus, I'm not sure we disagree on more than timing. Before that though I don't think what you're recommending is at all what Kristoff was recommending. He's recommending getting behind carved out private accounts. As I said, my disagreement is a small one of timing. I think Bush has to first be clearly defeated on the carve-out issue before we can move toward our own proposals. Without a framing the contrast in very stark terms I think a president with majorities in both houses will simply role right over us. I think Dems do have a counter-proposal. I've hinted at it some in recent posts and have more coming. But I think it is only because of solid Democratic opposition that private accounts aren't already a done deal. Josh

Posted by: markus rose at February 9, 2005 11:29 AM

investing a bit of the Trust Fund in equity funds,

Eek, no, please! That's an awful lot of corruption opportunities, and we'd have a hell of a time being responsible shareholders. Rent-seeking behavior, hardcore.

Posted by: Kimmitt at February 9, 2005 12:35 PM

Oh, and I forgot to mention: The article cited was the SSA's projection set; there are no internal AARP projections which have been published, so far as I can tell.

Posted by: Kimmitt at February 9, 2005 12:39 PM

Kimmett -- state government pension plans invest in equities, as does the federal government's own Thrift Savings Plan...I think it can be done, as long as they entity doing the investing is free from political interference.
Found an old McNeil/Lehrer transcript from the good old days, the Clinton era, in which they discuss this proposal.

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/health/jan-june99/socsec_3-3.html

Posted by: markus rose at February 9, 2005 02:29 PM

>I agree; we are going to have to raise income taxes >to cover the change. That was the plan back in >1985, and it should be the plan now.

This is indeed the crux of the issue.

Those taxes, however, will come due on a generation that currently lacks representation. The generation most pasionately advocating this policy was the one that salted away money for their retirement, then elected representatives that pissed it away.

I'm not entirely confident that the former generation will be willing the finance the profligacy of the latter. Perhaps my generation will take the hit for our kids. I just ask that you please refrain from dismissing our concerns on this matter.

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at February 9, 2005 02:58 PM

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I'm not entirely confident that the former generation will be willing the finance the profligacy of the latter.

Meh, we've been spending our entire lives cleaning up after the messes our Baby Boomer parents left us. If we can survive and repair two Bush terms, we can eat a Social Security tax hike.

Let's keep in mind that Social Security is scheduled to start merely breaking even in ten years. Meanwhile, the non-Social Security portions of the Federal budget are more than $500 billion in the red. The insane idiocy of the Republican Party and their relentless quest for national bankruptcy isn't Social Security's fault.

Posted by: Kimmitt at February 10, 2005 12:32 AM

"If we can survive and repair two Bush terms, we can eat a Social Security tax hike."

Sure, we can. As I said, we'll probably take the hit for our kids. I'm no sure sure they can. They'll be the ones struggling to make it through their twenties, when their earning power ain't all that great to begin with.

If we actually save for our retirement, instead of making our kids pay for it at the point of a gun, they won't have to clean up for us like we have to clean up for the boomers.

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at February 10, 2005 09:05 AM

That should be:

I'm not so sure they can.

Not so sure I don't need a better proofreader too.

= )

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at February 10, 2005 11:52 AM

Markus,

What do you think of this article (from a Democrat):

http://www.washtimes.com/commentary/20050209-082408-2175r.htm

And, yes, I'm aware, Kimmitt, that the Washington Times is a fascist rag. At what temperature should I burn it? About 451?

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at February 10, 2005 12:37 PM

It's not a terribly convincing article:

Interestingly, many who today criticize Mr. Bush for using the word "crisis" today were among a chorus of supporters when President Clinton warned us about Social Security's impending crisis seven years ago.

Our view of likely productivity gains has changed in the past seven years.

They don't dispute that the current system will experience a cash flow crunch by 2018 (caused by the retirement of the huge Baby Boom generation).

Well, yes, that's the point of the Trust Fund. To have a cushion for the cash flow crunch.

It is also universally acknowledged that within a few short decades the system will collect enough payroll taxes to pay only 75 percent of benefits.

This is flat-out false; this fact is not universally acknowledged.

Obviously, acting sooner than later is the wiser course of action. That is all the president and reform advocates are trying to say.

Again, false. The President is saying that the entire system should be massively changed, not that there are issues which could be dealt with now. He is also advocating a default on the full faith and credit of the United States of America, which is pretty much vile.

First, opponents insist reformers are out to "privatize" Social Security

It's not demonization to use the word that you used a year and a half ago.

Younger Americans have come to believe traditional Social Security is a Ponzi scheme in which they will end up paying a lot more and getting a lot less.

Yes, because we've been lied to a lot. I used to think this, too. Then I got over it.

Posted by: Kimmitt at February 10, 2005 04:07 PM

"Well, yes, that's the point of the Trust Fund. To have a cushion for the cash flow crunch."

Um, what Trust Fund?

It's already been spent. That's the problem (or part of it).

I'm sympathetic to private (I woulda thunk that those who trumpet, with some justification, the right to privacy found within the emanations and penumbras of our Constitution would not say the word with a sneer in this not so different context. But I would largely be wrong.) accounts because they might possibly keep the money out of the hands of our representatives, who:

A. have shown themselves incapable of putting the money in an actual Trust Fund and

B. have no right to take a forty-year float on the people's capital. When the bank let's you take care of their money for thirty-years, a practice commonly known as a mortgage, they certainly don't accept a zero percent rate of return. Why should we?

If one wanted to make sure folks save for retirement, one could pass legislation requiring just that. Such legislation would look much like the private account idea.

We already have welfare programs for those who fall through the cracks. If you're concerned that evil Republicans would cut these programs to the bone, well say so, and we can have that debate. I share some of those concerns, so safeguards would have to be included. But that's a far cry from preerving the travesty as it exists today.

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at February 10, 2005 10:18 PM

When the bank let's you take care of their money for thirty-years, a practice commonly known as a mortgage, they certainly don't accept a zero percent rate of return. Why should we?

Because it's not a loan, it's an insurance premium. And insurance companies don't feel obliged to give returns because they're providing the service of managing your risk.

Social Security isn't a welfare program for those in the cracks. It's insurance against old age or disability. We all pay in to avoid the adverse selection problem. That's it.

Posted by: Kimmitt at February 11, 2005 10:39 AM

Actually life insurance does ofer a return on your investment. I'm sure you can find a friendly local salesperson who will be more than happy to fill you in on the details.

;-)

"Social Security isn't a welfare program for those in the cracks. It's insurance against old age or disability."

Could not have said it better. If only this were how it actually worked. Instead we get struggling young families paying the wealthy non-so-elderly's
third yacht.

That Trust Fund is full of IOU's. The problem is that the relevant "I" is neither the people who ran up the debt nor our generation, who could probably make a dent in it. It is our kids generation. We've already had one revolution about taxation without representation. I don't imagine they'll be too happy when they discover the lay of the land.

You are right that Medicare is bigger than SS, but same basic problem. Saturn eating his kids...

BTW, Kimmitt, you've been more reasonbale than I in this conversation, for which I am grateful. Your arguments are getting to me to some extent, I just still don't get how the current arrangement is at all just.

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at February 11, 2005 11:42 PM

I understand your perspective, I really do. But the simple fact of the matter is, there is a set of things we cannot do:

1) default on Federal debt.

2) default on our obligations to our parents and grandparents.

Given that, the only solution is to suck it up and pay higher taxes for a while. I guess it evens out; we all didn't have to fight WWII or Vietnam, so we end up with a stagnant standard of living for a while as we push ourselves over the demographic hump.

Posted by: Kimmitt at February 13, 2005 01:50 AM

Kimmitt,

You're clearly good people. Just hope that you can concede that there are others, who have the good of our country at heart, who are coming at this question from a very different perspective.

Appealing to their (very real) sense of duty would be a productive approach, as long as the sacrifice you call for holds out hope that their children will not be forced to shoulder the same burden.

These are the kind of folks who took care of the elderly before there ever was such a thing as social security, so accusations of bad faith are not only ineffective, but ring a little hollow.

We are a progressive nation at heart. Show us what progress looks like, not the same old deal we got 80 years ago.

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