Friday, July 30, 2004

Who is a liberal?

Well, me, for one ... as Strawberry likes to remind MaplewoodOnline readers. I'm proud to be classed with the movement that gave us Social Security, Medicare, the 5-day 40-hour workweek, universal suufrage, universal education, and many other things Americans now take for granted. For the last 30 years there's been a spectacularly successful effort by the right to stigmatize the word "liberal," to the point where few people are willing to define themselves this way even when their positions can't be described as anything BUT liberal.

As they demonstrated at the DNC this week, the mainstream Democratic Party is not yet ready to resurrect and reclaim "liberal." Howard Dean, one of the more liberal mainstream Dems, describes himself only as a member of the "Democratic Wing" of the Democratic Party. Others now eschew "liberal" for the less resonant "progressive." It was really noticeable (to me, anyway) that the single most visibly liberal member of the Senate, Wisconsin's Russ Feingold, the only Senator to vote against the constitutionally dubious PATRIOT Act, was neither seen nor heard at the DNC.

There are some signs that that the tide may be turning. New Jersey's own Jon Corzine ran for the Senate, and won, while claiming the liberal heritage.
"You can call me liberal," Sen. Jon Corzine (D-N.J.) said yesterday. "I define it as reaching out to make sure that everyone has access to the American Dream, no matter what color, economic status or background. I reject how it's been defined by Republicans."

Corzine ran for Senate in 2000 as one of the nation's most aggressive liberals. He advocated universal health care, college scholarships for any student with a B average, and abolition of the death penalty.

I'm proud to be a liberal - what the White House calls "The Coalition of the Wild-Eyed." We're the ones still standing up for what we were taught in school was "The American Way," and if Strawberry, Craig Calder, or anyone else doesn't like it, they can kiss my butt.

Hubris Goeth Before a Fall

I've been reading "Imperial Hubris" by Anonymous (now known to be Michael Schuer of the C.I.A.), and one of the points he harps on is that Al Qaeda's leadership is just as interested in bringing down America economically as it is mass death, by exploiting the economic vulnearabilities that have been increasing because of the policies of the Bush Administration.

Which brings us to this useful article from Sunday's Washington Post:

Just as Scary as Terror:
Has Anybody Seen our Economic Policy?

by David Rothkopf

Last month, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development released figures showing that last year for the first time, China supplanted the United States as the No. 1 destination for foreign direct investment worldwide -- that is, money that goes into factories, equipment, real estate or existing companies. And in a blow to fans of "freedom fries," No. 2 was France. Though other major economies also suffered a drop-off in this category , no nation fell as far in percentage terms as the United States.

While such numbers fluctuate and foreign direct investment is just one type of capital flow, this dramatic swing can be seen as further evidence that in the 21st century, America is going to have to fight hard for its piece of the global investment pie -- money that translates directly into new jobs and the industries of tomorrow. Clearly, the world economy is shifting around us and our place atop it is being challenged. . .

Even as our efforts to combat terrorism continue -- as they must -- we need to regain enough perspective to put economic issues back among our list of top priorities. Just as a National Security Strategy is mandated by law, having a National Economic Strategy should be mandated by self-interest and common sense. Failure to view these twin aspects of our security as interlocking pieces of a single whole will hand our enemies around the world the kind of victories they can't achieve on their own; it will erode our strength, deplete our resources and undercut our way of life.

In case you have a few dollars laying around...

The convention is over, Senator Kerry is now Candidate Kerry, and the $75 million in federal campaign funds have kicked in, so no more contributions directly to the Kerry campaign. There are other, equally important races at the national level, in both the House and the Senate, so how about giving some money to help make the Congress one that can help, rather than hinder, President Kerry.

Send money to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (chaired by our own Senator Jon Corzine) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Wresting control of the Senate away from the Republicans is within reach and, while taking the House is a real long-shot, it's not impossible either. Both these organizations need money to campaign, and most especially important this year they need it to get out the vote. That will be the key - getting people who don't really believe that their vote will make a difference to get out there and cast one anyway.

A good speech

John Kerry's speech last night, accepting the Democratic Party's nomination for President, was a good solid effort. After Bill Clinton's speech, and Barack Obama's, and Al Sharpton's, there were fears that Kerry's would seem pallid and boring. And after his advance billing as, at best, a plodding, indifferent orator, he seemed much better than good. I could have done without the emphasis (not just last night but throughout the convention) on military matters, but I understand its purposes - convince the undecided that the country is safe in Kerry's hands and, even more importantly, let people compare and contrast Kerry's commitment to America to George Bush's dubious (at best) military record and draw their own conclusions.

Play it again, Sam

I'm sure my friend Mark at A Cautious Man can tell me what Springsteen song that was last night propelling John Kerry into the Fleet Center. I'm just not enough of a devotee of The Boss to know song titles. And, after hearing U2 serenade official candidate Kerry out onto the campaign trail, I await the nut jobs starting in again on the nonsensical "Kerry pretends to be Irish" meme .

Update from Mark:
Happy to oblige - it was "No Surrender":

We made a promise we swore we'd always remember

No retreat no surrender

Like soldiers in the winter's night with a vow to defend

No retreat no surrender

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Atrios outed? A bit of blogosphere gossip.

I saw a blog entry yesterday by Tom at Corrente speculating that über-blogger Atrios is actually a guy named Duncan Black.
Duncan B. Black holds a PhD in economics from Brown University. He has held teaching and research positions at the London School of Economics; the Université catholique de Louvain; the University of California, Irvine; and, recently, Bryn Mawr College. He also has been involved with grassroots political activism. Black is a Senior Fellow at Media Matters for America.
Link(scroll down a bit).

Turns out he's right. Today at Eschaton, Atrios' blog, there's a note at the bottom of the page that says "Eschaton -- a weblog by d u n c a n b l a c k"

Hey, John Ashcroft!

I've been hearing the cool new song "Hey, John Ashcroft" by the Brooklyn-based American Ambulance. The key line is "Hey, John Ashcroft! Kiss my New York ass!"

I couldn't have said it better myself - unless I said "New Jersey ass" instead. Check 'em out.

What was that you said? (from the Dept. of Ambiguity)

"The township committee has made a decision on the police station and is committed to a democratic decision-making process," said Mayor Fred R. Profeta Jr. "The township is also always willing to listen to the citizens of Maplewood."

-- from
today's New Jersey Star Ledger, in an article about the grassroots protest against tearing down the Bette White retail center.


After months of buildup, Barack Obama finally had his national debutante party last night, and I think he made a great impression. His Democratic National Convention keynote speech was excellent - inspiring, inclusive, and illustrative of the basic principles of the Democratic Party. It's probably way too early to speak of him, as some are already doing, as a future Presidential candidate - the speech was rich in rhetoric but light in substance - but he's a shoo-in for the open Illinois US Senate seat. You can be sure we'll be seeing and hearing a lot more from Mr. Obama. His tenure in the Senate should give us a picture of what he thinks and how he goes about the business of government. If he lives up to his billing, he could be a real contender in 2012.

Does Cheney understand what he's saying?

Dick Cheney says that America must avoid giving the perception of weakness, lest we invite more terrorist attacks. I can't read anyone's mind, least of all a terrorist's but, assuming Cheney is right, the Bush administration has done more to place us in harm's way than any US government since 1941.

The Iraq war, in which the US has deployed a bare 130,000 troops, plus the 20,000 or so in Afghanistan, has so depleted the personnel resources of the armed forces that many of the troops are reservists. Those troops, especially the reservists, have been poorly equipped, poorly provisioned, and even poorly fed. There aren't enough troops on the ground to effectively maintain an occupation (and yes, I know that the occupation is supposedly over, but that's merely a convenient fiction) and fresh troops aren't available to allow the overstressed, exhausted ones in-country to rotate out.

Everyone knows that the United States holds primacy in the world when it comes to sophisticated weapons - it's true enough, and in that way we DO project strength - but it's strength at a distance. If we get ourselves involved in a campaign like the '91 Iraq war or the Bosnian campaign, where most of the force is applied from aircraft and by artillery, we do pack an incredible wallop. But when called upon to settle in and not just win territory but garrison and hold it, we have demonstrated that we do NOT have what it takes. That's why there's so much talk now of re-establishing the draft - without large numbers of soldiers on the ground, doing not just combat but policing, public relations, administration, and all those other things that our armies USED to do, there's no way for us to project anything BUT weakness.

If the bellicosity of Cheney and his (titular) boss have done anything, they have shown to the world - terrorists and sovereign nations alike - that we are anything but strong. The preemptive strike against Iraq demonstrated not only that the US is weak AND KNOWS IT (the truly strong do not need fight to prove they are strong), it also is serving as a guide to others. Iran, North Korea, and other countries on the edge, have been taught that to appear weak, as Iraq did, is to invite disaster. Why choose Iraq, when Iran and North Korea are so much more a threat? Simple - they have nukes (or we think they have nukes, which from their poit of view is just as good). Holding the nuke card, as North Korea is demonstrating, is the way to avoid Iraq's fate. Is it any wonder that Iran is anxiously trying to draw one of those cards from the deck while we're still busy raking in the Iraq chips? Nukes in the hands of nut-jobs like Kim Jong Il and anybody else who can get 'em before we notice surely doesn't make us safer.

The bin Ladens and Zarqawis and McVeighs of the world aren't impressed by military strength. Armies are of little use in a "war" against individuals and small cells. Terrorists, most of the time, do nothing at all. They're not interested in conquering territory or aquiring resources. They, by definition, exist to sow terror. The only techniques that will work against them are intelligence-gathering, intelligence-analysis, and traditional flat-foot police work. The 9/11 commision's findings show that our government, especially on the Bush watch, just isn't very strong there either. And by pursuing the Saddam chimera while Osama was gamboling in the caves of Tora Bora, they've shown that they really don't care much about terrorists anyway - terrorists are too hard to deal with for people who understand the world only through the lens of the Soviet Cold War.

So - Cheney says we must project strength to protect ourselves. He may very well be right. If he is, he's making a hell of a case for putting himself out of a job and replacing the weakness-projecting Bush adminstration with one that better understands how the world really works today.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

I'd STILL vote for him

If it does nothing else for John Kerry or the Dems, by its example Bill Clinton's speech last night at the Democratic National Convention served as a reminder to America that George Bush is a fumble-tongued dolt. Even if you ignore what Clinton said, the virtuosity of its delivery stands in sharp contrast to Bush's usual bumbling, stumbling delivery. Capping off an evening of speeches, including ones from Al Gore and Jimmy Carter, Mr. Clinton's speech was a memort refresher - that the best of America is not in jingoistic "Bring it on" rhetoric, but in clear-sighted, intelligent assessments, leavened with humor and the occasional self-importance-popping needle. Remarkably for Clinton, he managed to tie his speech up in a neat package in his alloted time of 20 minutes. It was not, perhaps, an important speech, but it was one of the best purely political speeches I've heard in a long, long time.

Of course, the quality of Clinton's speech was not just in the delivery. Clinton, who probably (as has been his custom) wrote most if not all of the speech himself, painted an inspiring picture of the America he sees, John Kerry sees, and that we want to see. It was good to hear the Big Dog again - his speeches - the best of them, anyway - have always balanced erudition and the common touch. Last night's speech was in that class - rousing, inspiring, funny, serious, self-deprecating - and it did what it was intended to do, paint a vivid picture of an inspiring, patriotic, strong, decisive John Kerry. An excellent introduction to the American electorate for Senator Kerry, in sharp contrast to the attack ads the Republicans are pumping onto the air in the battleground states (does it annoy anyone else that we in NJ are so taken for granted that even campaign ads mostly pass us by? Or are we better off that way?).

Hey, I'm back

Back from vacation, tan, fit, and ready. I'm prepared to serve, and awaiting the call from Boston...

Thanks to rabbit.ears for holding down the fort. I'm hoping that those floppy ears will continue to listen, and those fuzzy little paws will continue to type those posts, even when I'm around.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Who's that blogging in Boston? You can find out here and, 

ith apologies to
Emily Dickinson, that reminds me:

I'm Nobody! Who are you?
Are you--Nobody--too?
Then there's a pair of us?
Don't tell! they'd advertise--you know!

How dreary--to be--Somebody!
How public--like a Frog--
To tell one's name--the livelong June--
To an admiring Blog!

Sunday, July 25, 2004

A Dozen Fun Ways to Avoid the Republican Convention

The Film Forum on West Houston in New York City has got a great line up for the end of August and on into September. Since the trains are running into Hoboken, it's easy enough to take the Path and you're almost there.

Luchino Visconti’s THE LEOPARD Friday, August 13 - Thursday, August 26

They Came from Toho: Godzilla and the Kaiju Eiga
Two Weeks! 21 Films!
Friday, August 27 - Thursday, September 9

MURNAU — Eleven Days! 13 Films!Friday, September 10 - Monday, September 20

Special Events!
Tuesday, September 21 - Thursday, September 23
3-D Tuesday Tuesday, September 21
A History of ColorWednesday, September 22
Vitaphone MoviesThursday, September 23

Gillo Pontecorvo’s BURN! Friday, September 24 - Thursday, October 7

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