It is a time of freedom and fear, of Gaia and of borders, of many paths and the widening of a universal toll road, emptying country and swelling cities, of the public bought into privacy and the privacy of the public sold into invisible data banks and knowing algorithms. It is the time of the warrior's peace and the miser's charity, when the planting of a seed is an act of conscientious objection.
These are the times when maps fade and direction is lost. Forwards is backwards now, so we glance sideways at the strange lands through which we are all passing, knowing for certain only that our destination has disappeared. We are unready to meet these times, but we proceed nonetheless, adapting as we wander, reshaping the Earth with every tread.
Behind us we have left the old times, the standard times, the high times. Welcome to the irregular times.
continuing the conversation
Friday, December 05, 2003
To continue the conversation, then, Mother Davis, I accept that principles and tactics are distinct. But such a rendering of the question reduces the problem of the Democratic Party to one of marketing (should Bill Clinton play a sax? Should John Kerry ride a motorcycle and wear leathers? Should Al Gore dress in earth tones?). Fine. I agree that Democrats are rotten marketers of themselves right now. They need a new self-presentation. But that's hardly a fundamental criticism of who the Democrats are, and I think that the people behind the "Why Don't Democrats Have Any New Ideas?" question sound like they're interested in making fundamental criticisms.
The second version of your response is that principles and policies are distinct. Bush's going to the Moon again would be a stupid policy, which is no surprise. But why? Because it is a policy bereft of the original Kennedy/Roddenbery principle: Boldly Go Where No Man [sic] Has Gone Before. Because the concrete policy doesn't match underlying principle, returning to the Moon looks like, smells like, acts like and, okay, is a stupid move on the part of the Bush team.
The lesson from Bush's flight of Moon fancy? Policies should be founded in principle and not in precedent. Fundamental principles don't change over time, and so to the extent that any party, Democrat or Republican, needs to change at all, it is to re-evaluate policies to make sure that what's being proposed still lines up with the principles at the heart of the matter.
Mother Davis wags her head lightly as she disagrees slightly with what her kind colleague has to say about old ideas.
You know, Theo, I agree with you that there's nothing inherently wrong with things that are old (referring to the blog entries made below). You and I are getting on a bit, for example, and I like us both.
There is a distinction to be made, however, between the worthiness of old principles and old ideas. As I read your blog entries of today, it seems to me that you are really writing about the value of old principles - the ideals that the Democratic Party has long stood by and and, we hope, will continue to stand by in the face of Republican elitist cynicism.
Old ideas, however, are often of very limited value. Ideas are not the same thing as ideals. Ideals and principles are general and deep guiding tenets which transcend the relatively superficial changes that time brings to life. Ideas, however, in the political realm, may be thought of as more tactical. For example, when Bill Clinton decided that he could appeal to young voters by going on the Arsenio Hall show and playing the sax while wearing sunglasses, he had an idea, not a principle. The same idea, done today, might not work so well because the idea is old - and politicians appearing on popular television shows has become a worn cliche.
Reliance on old ideas can show that a politician is extremely out of touch with the lives of ordinary Americans.
For example, let's take the latest idea of the Bush White House about how to become popular with Americans again. They say they're going to do something big... and bold... and surprising...
They're going to send a spaceship to The MOON!!!!
If you're greeting this announcement with a puzzled confusion more than a feeling of jubilant excitement, you're not alone. You see, it just isn't a big deal to go to the Moon anymore. We've been there. We've done that. We stopped going to the Moon a long time ago, because, well, there really wasn't that much to do there but collect rock samples, drive big white buggies and bounce alot. Americans got tired of the big price tag and lack of results from the Moon landings and are not feeling any particular itching to go back.
It's not that there's anything wrong exactly with sending a spaceship to the Moon. It's more that there's not much of a point anymore. It's an old idea. It was inspiring when President Kennedy announced that America would land on the Moon within 10 years, but, although George W. Bush and his aides seem not to have noticed, it is not the early 1960s anymore.
Bush might as well try to inspire the American people by announcing that we will:
- Invent a new kind of stone tool!
- Revolutionize industry with the power of steam!
- Circumnavigate the globe AND discover Australia, all on the same trip!
- Buy Louisiana from the French!
- Drive the mammoths extinct again!
Time-tested principles are wonderful guides that can lead us to new ideas. When a President tries to inspire us with ideas that were specifically designed to the political that existed nearly two generations ago, however, we can see that his days are numbered.
Getting ready to introduce Jello to the American consumer,
My own reaction to the "why can't the Democrats come up with a new idea?" question:
Policy is not fashion. Ideas do not work because they are new. Ideas work because they are right. If the Democrats have an old idea and it's the right idea, there is no need for a new idea.
The very question, "Why can't the Democrats come up with a new idea?," presupposes that the Democrats' current crop of ideas is not sufficient. Because that supposition is incorrect, the question is irrelevant.
The Golden Rule that Matthew identifies has served humanity for thousands of years. It may be an oldie, but it's definitely a goodie.
Dick Gordon, on NPR's The Connection, is currently asking the stupidest question I've heard in a long time: Why can't the Democrats come up with a new idea around which the Party can be organized?
This is a question right out of the Republican playbook, and it's a trick question. The real answer is that the Democratic Party doesn't need to come up with a new organizing principle. The Democrats have an old one that does just fine. On The Connection, Mario Cuomo identifies it as "we're all in this together."
That's a nice phrase, and it's true, but what it comes down to is much simpler:
The Democratic Party stands for the Golden Rule: Do Unto Others as You Would Have Them Do Unto You.
The Golden Rule makes sense not only because it is nice, but because when others (whether they are individuals or nations) are treated with respect they tend to become respect-worthy. When others are treated with fairness, they tend to act fairly. When others are treated with accountability they tend to take responsibility. The Golden Rule works to build more stable, more prosperous, more tightly interwoven and more just societies.
Meanwhile, the Republican Party stands for the Rotten Rule: Do Unto Others Whatever You Can Get Away With.
The Rotten Rule erodes trust, encourages venality, fosters violence, encourages fear, ignores justice, and wastes our energies on destructive gambits.
What the Democrats need to do is stop cringing, stop apologizing, stop trying to pretend that they're Republicans, reject the Rotten Rule and embrace the Golden Rule loudly, proudly and with vigor.
That's it. That's all. Nothing else.
As of last night, the Irregular Times Boot Bush Project had listed 500 reasons to boot Bush!
That means that we're over 25% of the way to our goal of 2004 reasons to boot Bush before Election Day next year. We couldn't do it without your help, of course, and so we're asking again for our readers' ideas about why Bush should get the boot. Send them on in, folks, and we'll get them up on the list!
Bush: What a Turkey
Thursday, December 04, 2003
The Washington Post (December 4, 2003) reports on the pretty photograph of George W. Bush holding a turkey on a platter to serve the troops on Thanksgiving Day. I'm sure you've seen it -- the White House staff made sure you saw it. Well, folks, it turns out that the bird in the photo was a ready-made prop, not the real deal. That makes for two fake plastic turkeys in one picture.
Votes That Count, Town By Town
Some interesting information comes to me this morning from the League of Conservation Voters.
In the 2000 Presidential election, Gore would have won Florida if he had gotten just one more vote per town.
In Oregon, Gore won by only a margin of 28 voters per town.
In Wisconsin, the difference between Bush and Gore was just 9 voters per town.
In New Mexico, less than 4 voters in every town made the difference.
So, yes, this is a message to the supposedly principled non-voters who think that the system is so big that they can't make a difference. It's also a message to others who have a habit of voting, but don't get involved in the political process in their area. Each person only has one vote, in a strict sense, but a person who is able to convince just one other person to vote has, in real terms, two votes.
Don't be a one vote dullard. Your second vote may be the one to prevent Bush from getting another 4 years in the White House.
Reason #494 to Boot Bush
Wednesday, December 03, 2003
Reason #494 to Boot Bush
When his Medicare bill seemed in doubt in the Congress, George W. Bush's team pulled out the big guns, offering a $100,000 campaign bribe to Representative Nick Smith for him to change his vote from No to Yes. When Rep. Smith refused to change his vote, his son (who is running to replace him in office) was threatened: Rep. Smith was told that campaign contributors would send extra funds to his son's competitors if he were to vote No. Rep. Smith stood his ground and voted No. After the vote, a number of Republican members of Congress (including perpetual twerp Randy Cunningham) approached Rep. Smith and let him know his son's candidacy was effectively over.
This is the "honor and integrity" that Bush promised to restore to Washington? (Source: Chicago Sun-Times November 27, 2003)
Mother Davis looks through the catalogs for a gas mask as she considers,
As if putting more arsenic and human sewage in Americans' drinking water isn't enough, George W. Bush and his White House aides have come up with a new poison to let loose, into the air this time.
Yup. George W. Bush and friends have acknowledged that they plan to let their friends in big energy corporations pump more mercury into the air that drifts through American neighborhoods in small towns, cities and even the countryside.
Breathe that in, will you? Read all about it in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Loving that "clear skies" promise Bush made. You can't see Mercury - get it?
Laughing all the way to the hospital,
Wesley Clark Sticks it to Fox News
Wesley Clark Sticks it to Fox NewsGot broadband? Watch Wesley Clark catch Fox News and beat them at their game. Quite impressive.
Hey, Ralph: Explore THIS
Tuesday, December 02, 2003
Hey Ralph: Explore ThisSo the scuttlebutt is that Ralph Nader has formed an "exploratory committee" to begin organizing a run for the Presidency.
Reacting to the news, a Green Party co-chair disagreed that a Democratic candidate would be a significant improvement over George W. Bush: "The Democrats are so rotten, there ain't anything left to spoil. That's the position of Greens; that's why we're Greens." (L.A. Times 12/2/03)
Yeah, well, if you buy that line I suppose you're entitled to your belief. Rah, democracy. Rah, freedom of thought. Rah. Go find his website yourself -- I'm not helping you.
On the other hand, if you disagree with Ralph's navel-gazing explorations, you might want to e-mail the Ralph Nader 2004 campaign and make it clear EXACTLY what features of your anatomy he can "explore."
Every now and then, as we swoop over the nation looking for interesting political goings on, we find a Democratic politician who seems to be a Democrat only because he or she just doesn't like elephants.
This morning, we have found one such Democrat in Virginia. His name is Lincoln Davis, and the more we read about him, the more he seems as nutty as a squirrel with a Mars Bar.
Take, for example, Mr. Davis's odd statement on his support for the massive Pentagon pork barrel system:
Maintaining a strong military is crucial to our national defense. As seen recently in Iraq, a well trained, equipped, and mobile military can be efficient and help prevent minimal loss of life.
Folks, take a look at that statement again. Lincoln Davis is saying that the war in Iraq proves that a huge military budget prevents minimal loss of life!
We couldn't have said it better. Out of the mouths of Republicrats come bits of accidental wisdom.
The implication is that if we'd spend as much on building peace as we did on waging war, the loss of life around the world would be a lot more, um, minimal.
We're sure that's not what Lincoln Davis meant, of course. He meant that bloated military budgets ensure minimal loss of life. But then again, what kind of idiot would use the war in Iraq as a model of efficiency and minimal loss of life?!?
To Mr. Lincoln Davis, we have a suggestion. Switch parties now, and just admit that you're a Republican. You'll feel a lot better being honest about it, and we're confident that you'll find that the Republicans have a very high tolerance for your kind of nonsense.
Monday, December 01, 2003
What do you say when a telemarketer calls?
Here's a new suggestion: if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
More than a thousand Election 2004 bumper stickers
Well, we've done it. Today we've busted past the 1000-mark in our offering of progressive Election 2004 bumper stickers. As of right now, we have 1005 bumper stickers to offer -- and that's just on the 2004 elections, mind you. For our more broadly progressive text-only (and hence, searchable!) catalog, click here.
And now, back to sticker #1006...
The Republicans Cruise to New York
Every once in a while, the Republicans forget themselves, drop their act, and let their real feelings show. This is one of those moments.
The New York Times reports that for George W. Bush's coronating convention in 2004, the Republican Party is trying to hire a luxury cruise liner so that its delegates and "special guests" won't have to, you know, STAY in New York City during Bush's coronating convention in 2004. Instead, they'll have the best of amenities and avoid the riff-raff.
You've got to read the article, folks. The Onion couldn't have written it better.
My favorite part is where Charlie Rangel laughs and says, "What is it? They don't want to be contaminated by us?"
And they call the rest of us elitists. Hoo boy.
Sunday, November 30, 2003
Mother Davis reports awful news today:
The month of November has been the deadliest for American soldiers since the start of Bush's war in Iraq. So much for the "end of major combat operations" as declared by Bush way back in May. Of course, the statistic of American soldiers killed this month does not include other Americans who have been killed, civilians hired by the Bush Administration who are not reported as combat losses even when they are shot to pieces in Iraq.
Also not included are the other deaths of people representing Bush's "coalition", like the seven Spanish intelligence agents and two Japanese diplomats killed in Iraq today. Oh yeah, and then there's all the Iraqis who are dying every day, but not reported by the Bush Administration.
We don't think that this is good news. We don't want things to go badly in Iraq. We hate war, and unlike some conservative politicians who use war for political posturing, we know war is not a game.
We mourn these losses, and so we must ask: why won't George W. Bush acknowledge their service and join us in mourning for them? Why won't Bush attend the funeral of even one American who has been killed in Iraq? Why is Bush filling up his schedule with fundraisers instead?
Professional complainers like Ann Coulter accuse American progressives of treason because we dare to ask questions like these. We see it differently. We believe that its much closer to treason for our own President to use lies to gain the power to send thousands of Americans to be killed, tortured, or maimed in an unnecessary war, rushing the job with such sloppy planning that disorder and death rule under the American watch.
We love America too much to let far-right extremists hijack our government and treat American soldiers like toys. Photo-opportunities don't cut it. It's time for America to get serious about the threat that the Republican government has created in Iraq, and if Bush won't start talking straight soon, it'll be time for him to go.
America can't afford another 4 years of poor-planning, secrecy, lies, and defensive denial in the White House. Many Americans won't even survive to see next year's elections. Those of us who do are duty-bound by our love for America to stand up, and vote to replace Bush with someone who is serious and responsible enough to do the work of President.
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