Friday, March 30, 2007

Message to the Messengers

First an allegory in DK lyrics:

We ain’t goin’ to the party / We ain’t goin’ to the game / We ain’t goin’ to the disco / Ain’t gonna cruise down Main / We’re stealing people’s mail / Stealing people’s mail / Stealing people’s mail / On a Friday night / Drivin’ in the mountains / Winding ‘round and ‘round / Rummage through your mailboxes / Take your mail back to town / We got license plates, wedding gifts, tax return / Checks to politicians from real estate firms / Money, bills and canceled checks / Pretty funny pictures of your kids / We’re stealing people’s mail / On a Friday night / We’re stealing people’s mail / By the pale moonlight / We got grocery sackful after grocery sackful / After grocery sackful after grocery sackful / After grocery sackful after grocery sackful / Of the private lives of you / Ha Ha / People say that we’re crazy / Sick and all alone / But when we read your letters / We’re rolling on the floor / We got more license plates, wedding gifts, tax returns / Checks to politicians from real estate firms / Money, bills and canceled checks / We cut relationships with your friends / We’re gonna steal your mail / On a Friday night / We’re gonna steal your mail / By the pale moonlight / We better not get caught / We’ll be dumped in institutions / Where we’ll be drugged and shocked / ‘Til we come out born-again Christians…
Punk’s not dead / It just deserves to die / When it becomes another stale cartoon / A closed-minded, self centered social club / Ideas don’t matter, it’s who you know / If the music’s gotten boring / It’s because of the people / Who want everyone to sound the same / Who drive bright people out / Of our so-called scene / ‘Til all that’s left / Is just a meaningless fad / Hardcore formulas are dogshit / Change and caring are what’s real / Is this a state of mind / Or just another label? / The joy and hope of an alternative / Has become its own cliché / A hairstyle’s not a lifestyle / Imagine Sid Vicious at 35 / Who needs a scene / Scared to love and to feel / Judging everything / By loud fast rules appeal / Who played last night? / “I don’t know, I forgot. / But diving off the stage / Was a lot of fun” / Chorus: So eager to please / Peer pressure decrees / So eager to please / Peer pressure decrees / Make the same old mistakes / Again and again / Chickenshit conformist / Like your parents / What’s ripped us apart even more than drugs / Are the thieves and the goddamn liars / Ripping people off when they share their stuff / When someone falls are there any friends? / Harder core than thou for a year or two / Then it’s time to get a real job / Others stay home, it’s no fun to go out / When the gigs are wrecked by gangs and thugs / When the thugs form bands, look who gets record deals / From New York metal labels looking to scam / Who sign the most racist queerbashing bands they can / To make a buck revving kids up for war / Walk tall, act small / Only as tough as gang approval / Unity is bullshit / When it’s under someone’s fat boot / Where’s the common cause / Too many factions / Safely sulk in their shells / Agree with us on everything / Or we won’t help with anything / That kind of attitude / Just makes a split grow wider / Guess who’s laughing while the world explodes / When we’re all crybabies / Who fight best among ourselves / (Chorus) / That farty old rock and roll attitude’s back / “It’s competition, man, we wanna break big.” / Who needs friends when the money’s good? / That’s right, the ‘70’s are back. / Cock-rock metal’s like a bad laxative / It just don’t move me, ya know? / The music’s OK when there’s more ideas that solos / De we really need the attitude too? / Shedding thin skin too quickly / As a fan it disappoints me. / Same old stupid sexist lyrics / Or is Satan all you can think of? / Crossover is just another word / For lack of ideas / Maybe what we need / Are more trolls under the bridge / Will the metalheads finally learn something- / Or will the punks throw away their education? / No one’s ever the best / Once they believe their own press / “Maturing” don’t mean rehashing / Mistakes of the past / (Chorus) / The more thing change / The more they stay the same / We can’t grow / When we won’t criticize ourselves / The ‘60’s weren’t all failure / It’s the ‘70’s that stunk / As the clock ticks we dig the same hole / Music scenes ain’t real life / They won’t get rid of the bomb / Won’t eliminate rape / Or bring down the banks / Any kind of real change / Takes more time and work / Than changing channels on a TV set / (Chorus)
Have you heard about the latest craze / That’s sweepin’ across the nation? / All the punks from coast to coast / Have discovered an old invention: / “Your hair’s too long / Man, you’re a queer / You’re too new wave / Put down that beer” / And / Do the Slag - Look at ‘em run / Do the Slag - Hey you scum / Do the Slag - Ain’t it fun / Do the Slag - Let’s all be dumb / Badmouth people we don’t know / Make sure it’s behind their backs / Don’t let new people in our scene / It’s more fun than having a friend / We’ll slag everyone each and every night / So we can pretend that we’re all right / Make those pricks feel just so small / We’ll show the world that we’re three feet tall / Slander their integrity / Doubt their humanity / Talk about their haircuts / Are their politics correct? / Do the Slag! / Don’t let those sissies on the floor / They’re unhip, man, they bought the wrong clothes / Let’s all do the latest craze / ‘Cause having allies never pays / We’ll slag everyone each and every night / So we can pretend that we’re all right / Make those pricks feel just so small / We’ll show the world that we’re three feet tall
Now, it's story time. Just sit right back, while your uncle James tells y'all about a party long ago in a place far, far away:

Back in the day, I was digging on the punk scene. If you don't know what that was, just ask your Uncle Wikipedia. Well, one Friday night, I was invited to a party at a friend's apartment. Just a gathering of punks - hangin' out, having a few beers, checking out some tunes. Now I came along with a close friend of mine at the time (we'll call him J), and knowing the cats who were hosting the evening's festivities, we were expecting a good time. But, as the evening wore on, we just never got that vibe. The crowd was a bit younger - that's cool and all, but somehow I got the feeling that how we weren't quite digging the same scene, see. The epiphany for both me and J came when an old DK tune (Stealing People's Mail) started blaring through the stereo speakers. J and I had an idea of what that song was getting at (hint: don't take the lyrics literally), so we were shocked by what this girl said as the song ended - "oh yeah! that's cool. I love stealing mail!" - as if that's what the song was about. Her young friends were nodding and grinning with agreement. J and I left not long afterwards, bored out of our skulls. We talked a bit as I drove him back to his pad about the state of the punk scene, and pretty much came to the conclusion that punk was indeed dead (or at least comatose), and that for that girl and her friends, punk had been reduced to stealing people's mail for kicks. No questioning of the culture. No questioning of the economic and political situation. Just fucking with people for the sake of fucking with people. We didn't quiz these kids about their understanding of anarchy (they had made sure to wear the requisite circle-A black buttons and t-shirts that night), but I'm guessing that it was different from the sort of anarchy that J and I had grooved on. Of course the signs that the scene was decaying had been around for a while - but that night there was no question and no turning back.

Now kiddos, I know you're wondering what the moral of the story is. I'll leave that for you to figure out. Sleep on it. Just remember, some day down the road, you'll have to decide where to draw the line. Sweet dreams.

For those unclear on the concept

I thought I'd repost Ductape Fatwa's inaugural post at MoBetta META as a friendly reminder regarding this blog's purpose:
Welcome to Mo Betta META!

Has that annoyingly transparent DLC/CIA/Mosaad operative just chewed your last nerve?

Are you absolutely positive that your head will explode if HappyDem08 over on Progressives for Advertising Revenue replies to one more news post about atrocities in Lebanon telling you that if you will only send Russ Feingold money that at least maybe some of them will be exterminated in a more humane manner, and that's a pretty good and progressive start, and he's a DEM?

Would you be rich if you had a dime for every time you have wanted to type HELL NO I DO NOT SUPORT THE DAMN TROOPS, when in the wake of this or that new atrocity that has somehow made it into US corporate media, you are treated to responses about a few bad apples and most of them are really helping grateful Iraqis?

Have you despaired and stopped posting at one or more places because whether you post your actual opinion or a page from the Jakarta phone book, the replies will be the same?

Do you have something you really need to say about blog behavior but you are sick and tired of threads about people dying and the fate of nations turning into METAPaLoozas?

Well, this is your place! Have at it!

Name names, post links, but remember, they can read it too.. .
It's about as close to a mission statement as I can find here. Hell, that's pretty much what I signed on for. Just sayin'.


I thought I'd died and gone to heaven when I discovered the liberal/progressive blogs. I spent many wonderful hours reading and conversing with intelligent adults. I ate up so much wonderfully astute political commentary that taught me so much. I reveled in the in depth discussions on so many topics I was hungry to discuss with civil, reasonable folks.

How I admired those who had the tech skills and fortitude to set up and take on running the "Community" blogs, and yes, grateful for them too, as one who is mobility limited and can no longer move so easily around the outside world. The internet is a literally blessing to people like me: it widens horizans endlessly. I had this long list of blogs I visited daily. You get familiar with folks who write on regularly visited blogs: many you come to respect over time.

You can get very attached to online "communities", to the point where they seem almost more real that the life one lives in the face to face world. As a recovering alcoholic, I can clearly identify the periods in my own blogging history, where "addiction" was the only accurate term to describe my own behaviors.

In fact some of those memories now make me cringe a bit. (Ok, ok, a lot! ) Like actually having physical withdrawal symptoms like sweaty hands and increased anxiety, when my dial up connection went down or my computer fell ill. Or the days and days I didn't eat right, exercise enough, or get anything else done, because I couldn't tear myself away from the latest flame war or blog drama. Even if I wasn't participating in them, I HAD to read those threads all the way through to the bitter end, ever one of them, AND follow all the links to whatever "evidence" people were presenting of someone else's bad behaviors!

Far far into the night I'd sit, glued to the screen until some bodily pain or function would penetrate my brain enough to get my attention! (Uh oh! I seem to be frozen in place AM I going to get off this chair?! ) Then fall into bed, only to awaken with the obsessive need to get back ONLINE to see what I'd missed while I slept, which, more often than I care to admit, meant most of another day hunched over this keyboard, especially when I WAS involved in whatever current conflict was happening. Oh, the "high" of besting someone with a really snarky insult! Or coming up with an winning point that clearly scored points!

During those internet binges of mine, the cat was lucky to even get dinner and I ate , when I remembered to eat, whatever I could hold in one hand while working the mouse with the other! Wasn't all that different than the old days, when drinking was more important to me than paying attention to my kids.

There were many uncomfortable, bleary eyed moments, when realizing another five hours, six hours, seven hours at a time had"disappeared" somehow, another whole day was gone..and I'd not done one thing BUT sit in front of this screen, I knew this was out of control. I'd vow to not DO this anymore! How stupid is it to spend ones life living out soap opera type dramas over and over and over?! Yet, invariably, in my worst of times, guess what? Yep. Just one more mouse click, check just once more to see if X or Y or Z has responded to my last clever jab, and.... oops..there goes some more life hours down the crapper.

And oh, the internal emotional misery all of this caused me at times! Over and over, (I see now, but couldn't see then!), old emotional triggers within would get tripped, and my reactions to whoever was online became all tangled up in unresolved reactions to real people or trauma, in my past..and I suffered the same old hurts over and over. Now I can see it wasn't much different than some forms of self continue to subject myself to those who seemed to be mirror images of real people I had long ago detatched myself from, in order to get healthier!
Like picking open healed wounds, over and over again. Old patterns like this can get reactivated, I find, if I don't pay good enough attention to my own behaviors. And they did, big time, through the internet "bingeing" I was doing then.

Now that I have some distance from those days, I honestly can't see a whole lot of difference between the effects of my addictive internet behavior, and the effects of the genuine relapses back to active alcoholism I suffered for so many years before finally staying sober. The people in my face to face word got nothing of me. I didn't take decent care of my body or my mind. Nothing got done. Everything went south, except my driving need to read read read, type type type some more.

I'm better now, thank goodness. But just as with my a1coho1 addiction, I wi11 have to remain vigi1ent about not getting hooked back in. Because I am sort of 1ike this keyboard, on which the 1etter that comes before "m", has just quit working, having succumbed, apparent1y to one too many coffee spewings, forcing me to use the sma11 number "1" instead in order to finish this. I too, am not perfect, nor am I power1ess. I am vunerab1e to a11 sorts of human frai1ties 1ike everyone e1se is and I just need to remember this, and assume responsibi1ity for my own choices.

Now I sha11 view the 1oss of one of my 1etters as a "sign" it is now time for me to get up and go c1ean the 1itter box, so I can fee1 good about getting that done before I go out for 1unch with a friend, who actua11y has a face I can see!! :)

Monday, March 26, 2007

the Masturbatorium - a primer

The cast:

- the nararrator, a 12 year old boy named Augusten
- Augusten's mother, Deirdre
- Deirdre's shrink, Dr. Finch (sometimes shortened to Dr. F)
- Dr. Finch's receptionist & daughter, Hope

from Running With Scissors, Augusten Burroughs (St. Martin's, 2002, pp. 33-36)

(Note: this is a work of fiction & any resemblance to real meat is sheer serendipity.)

Dr F offers mother & son a tour of his backroom, to which, he explains he often retires . . .

"Between patients. After patients. Sometimes if a patient is particularly tedious, I will excuse myself to the Masturbatorium."

Our allegorical curtain now rises:
But opening the door to the Masturbatorium revealed a surprise. Hope had left her post as receptionist and was napping on the seedy couch.

"What is this?" Finch bellowed. "Hope!" he boomed.

Hope startled awake. "Jesus, Dad. You scared the shit out of me." She blinked against the light. "Oh my God, what's the matter with you?"

Finch was furious. "Hope, you have no business being in here. This is my masturbatorium and you're using my blanket." He pointed at the colorful crocheted throw Hope had wrapped around herself.

The tassels along the edge were stuck together.

"Dad, I was just taking a nap."

"This is not the place for naps," he bellowed.

My mother turned around to leave. "I think I'll get a fresh cup of Sanka."

"Wait a minute, Deirdre," Finch said.

My mother froze. "Yes?"

"Do you see how Hope's behavior is wrong?" he asked.

My mother brought her cigarette to her mouth. "Well, I really don't know."

Hope sat up on the couch.

"Deirdre, answer me," Finch demanded. "Do you see how Hope's sneaking in here and invading my private space is wrong?"

After a moment of thinking about it, my mother said, "Well, I can understand not liking one's space invaded. I can understand how it would be upsetting to have somebody messing with your things without asking."

"Then confront her!" Finch directed.

I stood back, not wanting to get sucked in.

"Well, I . . ."

"Deirdre, speak up! Tell Hope what you feel."

My mother looked at Hope as if to say, What can I do? Then she said, "Hope, I don't think it's right for you to disturb your father's space without asking."

"This is none of your business, Deirdre," Hope said. Her eyes were squinty with anger.

My mother took another long drag from her cigarette and tried to leave again. "I really think I'll just get another cup of Sanka."

Finch grabbed her arm. "Just a minute there, Deirdre. Are you going to let Hope walk all over you like that? Jesus Christ, Deirdre. Are you going to be Hope's doormat?"

My mother turned sharply to Finch. "I'm not Hope's goddamned doormat, Finch. This just isn't any of my business; she's right. It's between you and your daughter."

"Bullshit!" Finch shouted. "That's just pure evasive bullshit."

"It most certainly is not," my mother said. She tossed her cigarette on the floor and mashed it out with the toe of her sandal. "I am not getting in the middle of this." She brushed imaginary lint off the front of her black turtleneck.

Hope said, "Dad, you're overreacting. Leave Deirdre out of this. It is between you and me."

"You," he said, pointing at her, "Stay the hell out of this."

Hope shrunk against the back of the sofa.

"What do you think, young man?" he said, looking to me.

"I think you're all crazy," I said.

. . . The office was stuffy, hot. There was a fan in the window that was blowing out. I wanted to turn it so it blew into the room, but Hope insisted that it was better to blow the hot air out of the room, as opposed to sucking the warm air in. "I hate my life," I said.
George Oppen, in section 20 (the half-way point) of the highly pertinent poem from the late 60's, "Of Being Numerous":

—They await

War, and the news
Is war

As always
That the juices may flow in them
Tho the juices lie.

Great things have happpened
On the earth and given it history, armies
And the ragged hordes moving and the passions
Of that death. But who escapes

Among these riders
Of the subway.

They know
By now as I know

Failure and the guilt
Of failure.
As in Hardy's poem of Christmas

We might half-hope to find the animals
In the sheds of a nation
Kneeling at midnight,

Farm animals,
Draft animals, beasts for slaughter
Because it would mean they have forgiven us,

Or which is the same thing,
That we do not altogether matter.

The Blogosphere Experiment

These thoughts come solely from personal observations of, and experience with groups of all kinds, in many different venues, over many years, rather than on any academic basis, so as such, are totally subjective. However, studying human behaviors has been a lifetime fascination for me, and one I have delved deeply into, online especially, over this past ten years.

When people "group themselves up" in any setting, they all bring baggage with them. Every single one of us have bags full of unresolved issues of one sort or another, some we know about, some we don't. So, there we are, in the midst of a group, and as we interact on more and more intense levels, some of those suitcases will pop open, and stuff will spill is inevitable. Conflicts arise. Misunderstandings, mis-perceptions, over reactions, projection super defensiveness, attack/counter name it, it is GOING to happen, in any group, sooner or later, no matter how "cohesive" it seemed to be at the start.

This has gotten labeled as "dysfunctional" in this label loving, disease oriented culture. I don't think it is, although I used to. Now I see this as a "process" through which we learn HOW to get along: what works and what doesn't, to learn more about who we are..and how we are..through the feedback and reactions of others. To learn more about others. Messy and sometimes painful as hell? Certainly. So is childbirth. So are all developmental growing pains, to some degree.

Anyway, the likelihood of this kind of process getting kicked off in any grouping, go up astronomically in a limited medium like this, where all we have of each other to work with, is written communication and NO non verbal cues at all!

Non verbal communication is by far and away more impactful than spoken or written words, and here are trying to make do with only about 30 to 40 percent of the info we need to fully communicate with each other. It's a wonder we get as much decent communication accomplished as we do!

Ok. Back to what is considered "dysfunctionality" in groups, (that I see more as a learning process.) No two of us are ever at the same place in terms of being "ready to learn" things. Or to take in new info. Some are ready to hear honest mirroring and feedback from others, and many are certainly are NOT at that stage of their lives yet, and will perceive it as an "attack" instead.

And many have no CLUE as to how to offer objective feedback in non threatening or non-judgemental manner. Thus they are almost guaranteed to trip trigger points right and left and engender immediate "defensive counter-attack."

And to make it almost inevitable that things will deteriorate if all of this goes on too long is this simple fact: most of us cannot make the simple differentiation between a persons "behaviors" and a persons 'intrinsic worth" as a human being. So we end up attacking each others basic character and/or integrity as a human being, based on written words said on a screen.

That's it. That's all we are reacting to. Words on a screen. A persons visible behavior of the moment, that may or may not reflect who that person truly is at all, if we were to come to actually know them. It took me a long time to "get" that simple reality.

My behaviors are one thing: my worth as a human being is another thing. They do not always match. There were many times in my life when my behaviors were rotten and hurtful to others, because I had no insight into myself at all at the time and my baggage was in charge of me, not my essential core self. I know now my core self was never really "rotten," Just misguided. Ignorant of truths I had yet to learn. Affected by an addiction I was not ready to own and traumatic issues still stuck where I couldn't see them yet. That made me a fallible human, not a "rotten" one. A" fixable" human being, once I was ready to do it.

Ok. So one way or another, we find ourselves in these groups that feel and seem to be falling apart at the freaking seams. all around our ears. Some of us panic, not wanting to lose whatever measure of belonging we had found..and attack the hell out of any visible outsiders that might be "causing" this fracturing. Or we may turn on each other. Or we may decide to walk away altogether. All of these are understandable human behaviors given wherever we each are at in our own lives.

But sometimes, this dynamic seems to escalate and takes on a life of it's own. It begins to spread, like a virus, from place to place. Once it gets inside of us, we can end up carry it like any contagious viri, wherever else we go outside our own "group"..and infect others along the way. Until it can reach an epidemic stage.

I believe this is what we're seeing now, in the liberal blogosphere. Not only did we all bring our own personal "baggage" to these blogs, which in itself is a hell of a growth challenge, we also were all facing head on, the visible proof of the internal demolition of our entire country unfolding before our wide open eyes.

Now THAT one hell of a load to place on humans who are only connected via 30 -40 percent of our ability to communicate with each other, folks. Maybe an impossible load to expect fallible human beings to handle. I will posit that it is an impossible load at this time in our evolution.

Blog owners, whether big or small, are first and foremost, imperfect human beings at various stages of maturing. Yet somehow, the expectation seems to exist that they ought to be some kind of highly advanced species, suddenly able to do what has never been done successfully in any group of humans: please everyone and never make a single mistake! Good luck with that.

Community members who loyally align themselves with these "community" type blogs, also seem to expect something that has never yet been perfected in human history: a peaceful, collaborative, community with little to no serious conflict or disruption! Good luck with that too..especially when communication with just written words that are often interpreted differently by nearly everyone reading them! And with public doorways wide open to whoever wishes to wander in!

So my conclusions are that "community political blogs" have been a necessary, valuable and fascinating " step ahead" using new technology, in the overall human search for better ways to come together and relate effectively.

I think this "step" has served pretty much served it's purpose quite well, and is now in process of ending itself naturally so people can pick up whatever they have earned from it, and use it for the next step ahead, whatever that will turns out to be.

I am pretty darned sure what it will take online, is a separation between "political blogs" and "community blogs". I do not see the two goals as compatible at all. You add politics, or religion for that matter, as a focus point in any "communal gathering" and stand back..fireworks are inevitable.

Politics is only one of many ties that can bind us together in some sense of "community".
"Debate" is not the only satisfying from of human interaction. But those who love these things most, would still have them everywhere, on political discussion boards.

Those who, for whatever reasons, desire the sense of having online "community" with others they wish to maintain connection with, can also choose to build those kinds of sites on line, in whatever format works for them.

But as far as I can see, mixing politics and "community" is an experiment that has proven impossible to maintain, due to the levels of toxicity and pollution that they have produced, and it's time to pack up and move on to the next experiment. :)

It is what you make of it...


Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Blogroll Purge Fallout Continues

When I signed up for one of those aggregators that I wanted to be a part of a while ago (you know, the directories that you show you belong to by adding their little button to the sidebar of your site), I also subscribed to a blog marketing newsletter (which I hardly read anyway - but I do come across some interesting stuff in it now and then).

The other day, the newsletter included a link to an article about how Google rankings work which included info about the effect of being included on the blogrolls of popular sites. I decided to send that link to skippy because he's been very involved in blogging about the blogroll purge. He posted the info on his site and throughout blogtopia (y!sctp!) including over at BooMan Tribune where BooMan partly rebutted skippy's post with this. (You'll recall that BooMan was very forgiving of kos after his site was purged from the Almighty dkos blogroll).

markos gave every diarist their own blogroll, thereby immensely increasing the number of bloglinks emanating from his site. i don't know how powerful those links are compared to the homepage, but it would seem he has greatly increased the potential for helping google rankings and taking himself out of the decision making process.

skippy, being the investigative kangaroo that he is, then contacted the author of that Google rankings article and has posted his response and it's not good news, nor does it support BooMan's suppositions - a fact BooMan is not very happy about. Nor should he be. (You'll notice that a kos defender™ has predictably shown up in that thread to stand up for King kos' now-tarnished honour. Those minions work so hard. I wonder what they get out of it - besides absolutely nothing from kos and egg on their faces).

In a nutshell, for those who are less technologically inclined, the shorter version of the author's answers is that there certainly is a big difference between being linked to from a blogroll on the main page of Daily Kos as opposed to being included in an individual's blogroll. In fact, the way kos and his technical team have things set up behind the scenes, the "bots" that search his site have actually been disabled in a way that totally obliterates the recognition of the blogrolls of individual Daily Kos members.

the diary owner's blogrolls are being disallowed to googlebot by the robots.txt files. the url structure of the diary owners' blogrolls is like this:

because of this line in the robots.txt file - "disallow: /user" - google isn't allowed to visit those diary users' blogroll pages, and index them, and follow the links upon them. in terms of ranking value for these user blogrolls, there is none, because google isn't allowed to visit those pages.

So, there you have it.

The individual blogroll compromise that was offered by kos after Blogroll Amnesty Day is worthless in terms of how your site might be picked up via a Google search. Overall, that does affect your site's rankings and your ability to use those rankings to do things like justifying a higher ad price if you're into the money-making end of the blogosphere.

And yes, skippy and others certainly do have the right to say "I told you so". Good work, roo. That's why you're skippy and others...are not.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Politics of Powerlessness

There are many times when the personal and the political cross paths in life, leading us to seek answers to deal with individual and/or collective grievances. Less seldom though comes the opportunity to quickly understand the roots and solutions in a way that's immediately helpful and enlightening - allowing you to think outside of the box by realizing a paradigm shift that's actually practical and useful.

I was lucky enough to have one of those moments today.

The idea of writing about the politics of powerlessness struck me after posting what should have been a rather benign personal admission on my blog yesterday in reaction to Budget 2007.

I wrote:

I hesitate to add this because some might think it's selfish or that I'm unable to see the impact on society of some of the larger measures announced but, as a mid-40s woman on permanent disability living well below the poverty line, there's nothing I can see in these announcements that will have a directly positive impact on my daily life or standard of living. It's been that way every year for a long time now. I think too many of us are too often forgotten...

Now, I'm not naive enough to believe that, as a poor person, I could write something like that without being attacked for it. You see, the only people who have the right to comment on government budgets are those in the business community, the middle class, CEOs, financial consultants, politicians and anyone who pays taxes. They are the acceptable spokespeople who have that right in this society. If you are poor and sick, somehow you forfeit that right and any comment coming from you constitutes whining and ingratitude, especially if you live on a social assistance program provided by the government (regardless of how pathetic the amount may be.)

That attack came in the form of insults from someone who knows me personally - someone who hasn't said anything they included in their now deleted comment to me in real life. Someone who is in a position of power over me. That is being dealt with privately.

I was already feeling crushed by powerlessness last nite after writing about the 4th anniversary of the Iraq war - a war that those with governmental power seem in no mood to end anytime soon. I'm a strong person. I'm also antiwar. I had thought that when the Democrats regained power, they would move as quickly as possible to use the power that they had in every way they could to end that illegal and immoral war. They haven't. So, when insult was literally added to a pre-existing injury on Monday nite - that feeling of despair was compounded. It was agonizing. Yes, I do have weak moments. We all do.

That brought the intersection of politics and powerlessness that I've grappled with the last 24 hours.

In the Budget 2007 thread, one of my regular, invaluable and very knowledgable commenters named Scotian expressed exactly what I was feeling:

I can relate, oh how can I relate. While my medical condition is different than yours the overall similarities you and I both experience in the referenced quote above is basically identical. To look at me one would not know aside from the fact I walk with a cane that I had much wrong with me since all the damage is to the soft tissues and the nerves and circulatory system. I just love when people start trying to tell me they know how I feel because they had a surgery, or some minor long term disorder, why is it some people feel the need for pissing contests as to who has suffered the most pain or is the most impaired/disabled/etc? I mean really, what is up with that? I am sure you know of exactly what I am referring to in your own life.

A week without pain, eh? These days if I work up without feeling any pain I'd be terrified I was dead, it has been my constant companion for so long. Seriously though, I know what you mean. Watching the way these budgets leave people like you and me to fend for ourselves is not exactly a comforting feeling, is it. Like yourself I never asked to be incapable of working/providing for myself, and I hate having to accept "charity" from the taxpayers, but it is either that or literally death for me, so what else I am supposed to do? Yet that is enough for many to brand me as some sort of parasite and a waste of tax dollars, which is one of the reasons I rarely mention my own health issues. It is not worth the grief.

I am so tired of having people tell me I should be so grateful I get to live without working, that I am so lucky. Well, they should try living what I term a standard of existence (not living, that is much better than mere existence) or being a single person living on 7,000 a year or a married person on 12,500 a year and then they can tell me how privileged I am and how lucky I am. Blogging and being able to keep my mind active via the use of the internet is really all I have going for me, and my health is one of the main reasons why I can be so sporadic at Saundrie and indeed overall online. There are days that while I can handle the reading I know better than to write because the pain I am in will infect my work/writing and that to my mind does me no service/favours.

He knows my challenges because they are his challenges too. Reading those words was like reading an echo of my life. We share the same frustrations about those who somehow seem to think they know by osmosis what it's like to live in our bodies on a daily basis. They have no idea. And, you see, we're not supposed to talk about it because a) people think you're just complaining; b) don't want to hear about it; and then c) think they then know regardless about what's going on in our lives based on what they're able to see.

It seems that unless you have a large, visible wound or a tumour you can flash on an x-ray, they simply cannot accept that you might actually suffer from pain and other equally annoying symptoms every day. And, even if we did have those things to show them, they seem to always come up with a story - either theirs (which is not similar) or someone else's (like Lance Armstrong's amazing feats, for examples) as proof that you should just get over it, rise up and live a normal life. You're either a loser or a hero. There is no middle ground. Oh, and the fact that you can write a few words on a blog is apparently proof of your power to have a career in journalism or professional writing. (Little do people know about the agony that intermingles those blog posts).

They're wrong.

The effect that sort of attitude has is the infliction of oppression. That's the broader topic here - that there will always be those with more power who use it to demean and attempt to control others.

As I struggled with this today, I came across a free online book called PowerUnder: Trauma and Nonviolent Social Change by Steven Wineman which I've begun to read because it deals with both of the issues that brought me down: the personal and the political effects of powerlessness.

This is a psychological and political place from which we are incisively aware of the ways in which we have been acted upon, victimized and harmed, but from which it can be difficult or impossible to gauge the impact of our enraged behavior upon others, or even to maintain our awareness of the core humanity of those defined
as Other.

As someone who has closely watched the Amercian big blog scene, I have had several online conversations with people who have been shunned for various reasons as being "other" than. People who are seen as too liberal, too radical, too ideological for thinking that non-violence and an end to war are actually possible. People who don't fall into the privileged, middle-class white man class. Women who have been marginalized and written off as being hysterical. Latinos and African-Americans who have been ignored or horribly slighted and offended. Foreigners, like myself, whose opinions on Amercian politics are unwelcome. Poor people - well, just look at what happened to the people who suffered in NOLA after Hurricane Katrina to figure out how they are seen. You'll notice that they're conveniently invisible again. People of faith, especially Muslims, who have been lumped together in monolithic groups for paranoid, hateful people to loathe and mock as belonging to a death cult.


And when those others dare to have an opinion, those who need so desperately to maintain the status quo because they believe their very survival depends on it (see the outcry against same sex marriage, for example), the knee-jerk reaction is that they must be suppressed and oppressed to keep the balance of power - a power that destroys cultures.

So, where does all of this come from and what's to be done about it? That's what was on my mind today.

Wineman's short book reminds us that we are all victims of trauma in our lives to varying degrees - yes, even those middle (and upper) class white guys who hold most of the power. We know that there comes a point in life when those who have been oppressed by someone else will either continue to be a victim, will become a perpetrator or will choose to do everything possible to heal. What's harder to distinguish, however, is who will choose (subconconsciously or consciously) which path to take.

He uses the example of the effects of what happened on 9/11 as a partial example of how trauma affects people differently. We all saw the outpouring of sympathy from the world bestowed upon America after that horrible day. But we were also witness to how those in power reacted when they decided how to deal with it. (Who knows what previous traumas people like Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld might have been playing out once they found themselves with the ultimate power to exact revenge in a situation many felt could have been dealt with as a police action). They launched their wars. They assumed they'd be victorious. They became oppressors. They perpetuated more trauma and powerlessness and refused to allow a terrified Amercian society to heal by continually reinforcing that everyone ought to live in paralyzing fear of the other who might show up to blow up their shopping malls or their childrens' schoolbuses. There was no opportunity to heal - not while America's sons and daughters kept dying for a lost cause in far off countries. So, there was trauma compounded by trauma. And it served a very useful purpose by those who held the power because they were then able to use that oppression to strip away civil and legal rights as they slowly tore up the constitution. The traumatized, the fearful were kept in a convenient state of shock and terror to enable that process. That wasn't an accident.

Those of us who refuse to take that path of revenge, who actually believe in things like the courts (the open courts), justice, human and civil rights, diplomacy, the power of dialogue, the understanding of root causes, the need for peace, the use of reason over might, quickly became the radicals, the traitors, those who gave comfort to the enemy. We became the enemy. The Other.

What Wineman tries to point out in his book is that we all need to recognize our life traumas and how they impact the choices we make every day.

There has been a lot of discord in the American left recently due to tensions surrounding the seeming inability or unwillingness to address the crimes of the Bush administration.

Wineman writes:

Understanding trauma can help us to overcome divisions that chronically plague progressive social change movements. The left has been repeatedly weakened by internal divisions and fragmentation,[16] both in the form of in-fighting within social change organizations and through the inability of different oppressed constituencies to form robust and sustainable coalitions. There are many reasons for these divisions that have nothing to do with trauma. These range from principled ideological differences to unprincipled power struggles; from the complex ways in which multiple oppressions create divisions in our society to the divide-and-conquer strategies utilized by forces aligned with the status quo in the face of unrest and social change activism.

I believe we could benefit from adding trauma to this list, not as a competing explanation but as one that is typically ignored to the detriment of social change movements. If we can recognize that social change movements and constituencies are made up largely of traumatized people, many of the difficulties we encounter dealing effectively with difference and conflict become much more understandable. Internal conflicts blow up and become unresolvable in part because we lack a common language and framework for recognizing the effects of trauma, and lack practical tools for managing the traumatic rage that we all too readily direct at each other.

When trauma is unnamed and unrecognized, its presence – at once palpable and invisible – can cause an enormous amount of damage. We need to develop shared understandings of the politics of trauma that bring awareness of trauma into the room in the same way that feminism has brought awareness of power relations involving domination into the room. By this I mean an awareness that people may carry the effects of trauma – victimization, subjective powerlessness, traumatic rage, and so on – into any situation: any meeting, any organizing effort, any coalition-building project, any conflict.

It is only through the emergence of consciousness and a common language to describe the politics of powerlessness that we can create possibilities to interrupt and counteract the damaging effects of trauma within our social change organizations and movements.

I agree and I think that Wineman's perspective is vital to the success not only of progressive movements but to the advancement of individual healing as well.

The idea of the "politics of trauma" is new to me. Ironic, since I've been dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for over 10 years now. The focus of that healing, however, has been personal and there was a connection missing with relation to how that affected my political dealings and beliefs in a broader sense - except that I always knew that my compassion for powerless people came from a strong, personal identification of that status in my own life due to my personal experiences which I've had to explore and come to terms with.

I'd recommend that others read Mr Wineman's book and ponder how it might apply to the many conflicts we are all trying to deal with in such a hyper-charged political atmosphere. As I've written, he notes that all of us - even those who have power - eventually express various aspects of our lives according to those unresolved or unrecognized traumas that continue to haunt our current decisions and actions. It's not easy to have compassion for people who so obviously abuse their power but if we're going to move ahead with any sort of clarity, we need to at least be able to understand them. That's one of the hardest challenges, next to acknowledging how we express power and powerlessness in our own lives.

I believe that everything happens for a reason - in everything there is a lesson. I'm grateful to Mr Wineman for making his book available free online so I could find it when I sorely need it. It's helped me to find at least a measure of peace. I don't know anything about him besides what I read on his site today. I suspect there are political ideas we disagree about. Regardless, his ideas about trauma and powerlessness have helped me to move outside of myself and my anger and that's been invaluable.

I've also been reading another, older book recently: Skid Row: An Introduction to Disaffiliation by Howard Bahr. As someone who used to work with homeless addicts/alcoholics, I found Bahr's examination of various "skid rows" across America very insightful. Even though much of his data came from decades preceding the 1970s, he writes about disaffiliation and "internal colonialism" in a way that still, unfortunately, applies today. It seems social change in some circles moves at an absolute snail's pace - especially for the invisible people. I doubt anyone would disagree with the idea that a society is judged by how it treats it weakest members. Making the leap to actually rectify the wrongs however is an ongoing struggle of massive proportions. The powerless cannot be continually ignored without consequence. That is the lesson that still needs to be learned.

As I'm fond of saying: compassion is not a vice.

Related: For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence by Alice Miller. Excellent book.
(crossposted from my place)

Friday, March 16, 2007

US Social Forum - Atlanta, GA, June 27 - July 1, 2007

Does the thought of YearlyDross dawg you 'til you're blue? Looking to connect with progressives working for real change in this country?

Hope for our future, I'm convinced, lies in this sort of local, grassroots internationalist organizing:

The US Social Forum is more than a conference, more than a networking bonanza, more than a reaction to war and repression. The USSF will provide space to build relationships, learn from each other's experiences, share our analysis of the problems our communities face, and bring renewed insight and inspiration. It will help develop leadership and develop consciousness, vision, and strategy needed to realize another world.

The USSF sends a message to other people’s movements around the world that there is an active movement in the US opposing US Policies at home and abroad.

We must declare what we want our world to look like and begin planning the path to get there. A global movement is rising. The USSF is our opportunity to demonstrate to the world

Another World is Possible!

Ted Glick, of Truthout:
. . . there is an important initiative underway that has the potential to advance a different kind of unity- and alliance-building process across lines of race, culture, issue and geographic region - a process that we desperately need: the United States Social Forum, happening in Atlanta, Georgia, June 27th to July 1st.

Organizing toward this event was initiated by Grassroots Global Justice, an alliance of over 50 grassroots organizations representing people of color and low-income communities in the US. Over the last couple of years, it has been putting the pieces in place to make this major event possible.
. . .

This first national social forum in the US is coming at a particularly auspicious time. Bush, Cheney and the Republicans are on the defensive, struggling to maintain support for their agenda of wars and occupations for oil and empire abroad and, at home, the destruction of basic constitutional rights and cutbacks to education, health care, Social Security and other human needs. Yet there is also widespread, popular dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party and with corporate, big-money domination of both major political parties.

Jerome Scott and Walda Katz-Fishman, leaders of Project South: Institute for the Elimination of Poverty and Genocide, a key group within the leadership of the US Social Forum process, recently summarized its importance in this way:

"The social forum process was initiated by social movements of oppressed and exploited peoples in the Global South; and no one group in the US 'owns it.'

Second, the social forum is being brought home to the US by grassroots organizations - with people of color and low-income-led organizations in the leadership.

Third, the social forum is a convergence process of all our fronts of struggle; it is multi-issue and multi-sector, and inclusive of all who are struggling for justice, equality and peace

Fourth, the social forum is a space where a broad range of political analysis is welcomed - from progressive to revolutionary.

"This is why the US Social Forum is the place to be this summer if you are a movement builder, if you have a vision of another world, if you want to make it happen!"

Let's make it happen. See you in Atlanta!
I'm sure Murray Bookchin would have approved.

(excerpted from Constellations)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Future of Blogging

The Project for Excellence in Journalism has released its annual report on The State of the News Media. I haven't read it all, but this caught my eye:

Blogging is on the brink of a new phase that will probably include scandal, profitability for some, and a splintering into elites and non-elites over standards and ethics. The use of blogs by political campaigns in the mid-term elections of 2006 is already intensifying in the approach to the presidential election of 2008. Corporate public-relations efforts are beginning to use blogs as well, often covertly. What gives blogging its authenticity and momentum — its open access — also makes it vulnerable to being used and manipulated. At the same time, some of the most popular bloggers are already becoming businesses or being assimilated by establishment media. All this is likely to cause blogging to lose some of its patina as citizen media. To protect themselves, some of the best-known bloggers are already forming associations, with ethics codes, standards of conduct and more. The paradox of professionalizing the medium to preserve its integrity as an independent citizen platform is the start of a complicated new era in the evolution of the blogosphere.

Just thought I'd put this up for discussion. For those of us following the evolution (or devolution) of the blogosphere, this simply confirms and reflects what we've been talking about.

Monday, March 12, 2007

We're Not Buyin' It

In order to stimulate discussion, I'm giving this campaign its own post:

We're Not Buyin' It: National Boycott To Impeach For Peace and Justice.

This is a week-long campaign starting April 15th and running through April 22nd, 2007.

...Conservative estimates of the amount of money that could be drawn away from corporate accounts for the week of the protest range from tens to hundreds of billions or more, representing what could potentially be a serious threat to the economic well-being of the nations wealthiest class. Given that over 87% of Americans in the last MSNBC poll (out of 422,614 response) favored impeachment that could translate into more than 60,000,000 registered voters taking part in a boycott with the potential to shut down the economy...

Personally, I'm very intrigued by this idea. While I appreciate the "charge" (no pun intended) people experience at marches and protests, I admit to having soured on them since watching the anti-war movement do its Cave For Kerry routine three years ago. Marches start to seem like merely cosmetic solutions that the masters were happy enough to let us have-- so long as they are permitted, well-behaved, and dominated by those content to stay within the Democrats' veal pen.

Of course, a lot of folks will probably make the exact same arguments about a national boycott. Here a commenter wonders why there can't be a call for a permanent boycott of major corporations in the U.S. Heh. I'm guessing that a week without going to Starbucks, using one's debit card, or pulling into BP for gas would be enough of a challenge for a great many folks. It's also noteworthy that the call for the boycott has gone out during the season that more than one religion calls for the faithful to "do without" a particular food in the name of remembering the struggles of their oppressed ancestors;In order to stimulate thinking about struggle and reform in the present.

...Lew Brown stated that, "This is not a top down organization, "We Are Not Buying It" is an idea that people take to their homes and workplaces and work to implement within their own community. As coordinator, all I can do is answer questions and provide resources; the actual campaign is decentralized and democratic in the best traditions of American political activism. People aren't just signing a petition here, they are committing to do whatever needs to be done to change the course of history". With over 600 organizers working around the country and more than a month to go before Tax Day "We Are Not Buying It" might have an impact far beyond that of a march, a vote or a petition-at the very least it provides another way to put pressure on decision makers to move forward with impeachment...

(All quotes courtesy of Portland Indymedia)

I'll be looking into local organizing for this action soon, and if you all want to get involved or just share your own thoughts on the idea, please do it. Of course, U.S. corporations operate all around the world, so no need for the Canadians and Aussies to sit this one out if you find the notion appealing, too.

Some additional thoughts here as well.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Open Thread

Meta away.

I really did want to title this - "On Open Thread" in homage to Martin, but realized it was just too ridiculous even for snark.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Open Thread

You know what to do.

Monday, March 05, 2007

BBBs and the Disaffiliated

Daily Kos has an image to maintain. Any perceived threat to that image is therefore considered a threat to the entire community and some members there have absolutely no qualms about defining what they deem to be unacceptable.

Exhibit A:

Exactly what I did (0 / 0)

when I walked away from MLW and BT. And why I fervently hope the purveyors of impeachment porn at this site will get tired of it and go somewhere else, or else force Markos to boot them and ban that kind of mindless shouting at the rain.

When the signal-to-noise ratio drops to 1 or less, it’s time to move along. That hasn’t happened here yet, but it’s well past that at MLW and BMT–or was when I left both places.

So explain to me why I would particularly want to have them on “my” side? Especially since it just makes it easier for the MSM to mischaracterize blogs and bloggers as a temporary annoyance instead of a true threat to their traditional dominance of the field of news and opinion.

Musing’s musings

by musing85 on Mon Mar 05, 2007 at 11:15:49 AM MST

Exhibit B:

People that stand in the way of electing (1+ / 0-)
Recommended by:musing85

Democrats because of their addictions to drama and constant conflict have found their homes at MLW, Booman Trib, and other sites filled with malcontents that would like to collectively destroy dkos effectiveness and mission. The malcontents need to be shown the door so that they can not contaminate dkos.

Politics is the business of dkos, personality and discontent is the business of the sites Musing mentioned.


WWYTR? “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend” MLK

by PaintyKat on Mon Mar 05, 2007 at 04:22:43 PM PST

During the 80s, one of my favourite bands The Clash (yes, I really did like them) had a song out which some of you might remember - Red Angel Dragnet - which was inspired by the De Niro movie Taxi Driver. The lyrics included this:

All the animals come out at night.
Queens, fairies, dopers, junkies, sick venal.
Some day a real rain will come and wash all the scum off the streets.

Thank god for the rain to wash the trash off the sidewalk.

For those who don't know, The Clash was a counter-culture band...well...I won't write a thesis on the subject, but if you want an idea of what they were about, read this wiki piece about their song Straight to Hell. That should help you understand their message.

Anyway, when I see comments like those above, the words of The Clash come to mind because they were meant to fight on behalf of the disenfranchised, the disaffiliated, the contaminated, the purveyors of [impeachment] porn which mainstream society chooses to shun at every turn in order to keep its neighbourhoods clean and scandal-free (they hope, while hiding their own dirt under the rug).

Read those comments again and let the parallels sink in.

There are some who prefer to ghettoize the dissidents - to put them in convenient virtual cardboard boxes where they simply don't need to be dealt with, heard or looked at - where they can no longer contaminate the conversations of those who believe their opinions are so vastly fucking superior.

That is why we talk about the big box blogs as being like gated communities here - and it's more than just dkos that has that attitude. Their desire to insulate protected, valued members from the "scum" is no different than the bigotted policies of the most backwards institutions in society like those exclusive little country clubs where your money speaks more about your worth than your character does.

"Malcontents" who "want to destroy" dkos.

Yet, some of the most vicious and vindictive words and actions that surely will destroy that overblown, cherished image are spewed by the revered elders day after day. That's acceptable though. They are the members of privilege - much like the rich, drunk kid who kills someone in a car accident and gets a slap on the wrist while a poor African-American kid in the same circumstance is jailed for 20 years.

Anyone who's ever been marginalized or discriminated against should be able to see these situations on the BBBs for what they are. Yet, even some of those people choose to participate in the derision in some warped attempt to heal their wounds.

Membership has its priviliges - for a select few.

And they wonder why people like me are disgusted...or, frankly, they just don't care. Why should they? They've obviously got what they want - everybody else be damned - and so they are.

Even BBBs can practice internal colonialism. They can be more than a reflection of the society that they're a part of, but they actually have to start acting like it first and that responsibility is left to every single member to take on - yes, even at the risk of being thrown out into the street until that rain comes.

People think we're the blight.


We're actually the light.

They need to stop acting like De Niro's character, Travis Bickle, as if he's some kind of hero and find some fucking humility before they do even more damage if they're so damned concerned about their image and mission.

"Listen, you fuckers, you screw-heads. Here is a man who would not take it anymore. A man who stood up against the scum, the cunts, the dogs, the filth, the shit. Here is a man who stood up. Here is."

Except that he wasn't, really.

Meta Update: Big Tent Democrat (you all know who he is - wouldn't want to "out" him, after all!) has written yet another GBCW diary at dkos citing "irreconcilable differences with the Management." I wonder how long this self-imposed time out will last. Start the stopwatch.

Mo Meta Update: post by kos

BTD (7+ / 0-)

wasn't asked to leave.

He was asked to be civil in the comments.

He has reacted how he thought was best. It's too bad, because there are few people here I value as much as him.

by kos on Tue Mar 06, 2007 at 12:19:35 AM MST

Click on the link to follow the rest of the soap opera.

Now serving fresh popcorn!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

About that "must-do" list...

Sunday's New York Times editorial board has produced a must-do list, encouraging the Democrats to fight back against the assaults on human rights and civil liberties perpetrated by the Bush administration.

Here's what that list consists of:

1. Restore habeus corpus
2. Stop illegal spying
3. Ban Torture, really
4. Close the C.I.A. prisons
5. Account for "Ghost Prisoners"
6. Ban extraordinary rendition
7. Tighten the definition of combatant
8. Screen prisoners fairly and effectively
9. Ban tainted evidence
10. Ban secret evidence
11. Better define "classified" evidence
12. Respect the right to counsel

As the editors point out, many of these policies were written into law last fall via the passage of the Military Commissions Act which was developed after the Bush administration was rebuked by the Supreme Court.

Even if the Democrats could use their majority status to overturn that act however, long ingrained American traditions would remain.

There's no doubt that Bush has used his unitary executive power to override and sidestep congress every step of the way since he kicked off his so-called war on terrorism, but it's also important to examine how America reached the point where that type of unchecked power could actually come to exist.

Take the actions of the CIA, for example. Since its formation, it has acted virtually unimpeded through its use of covert operations worldwide in order to do everything from causing coups d'etats to carrying out assassinations. The investigations done by the Church Committee in the 70s were supposed to ensure more oversight - a fact that some people claim actually hamstrung the agency and led to the 9/11 intelligence failures.

While the old CIA may have been noted for the “cowboy” swagger of its personnel, the new CIA is, in the words of one critic, composed of “cautious bureaucrats who avoid the risks that come with taking action, who fill out every form in triplicate” and put “the emphasis on audit rather than action.” Congressional meddling is primarily responsible for this new CIA ethos, transforming it from an agency willing to take risks, and act at times in a Machiavellian manner, into just another sclerotic Washington bureaucracy.

The agency obviously didn't stop taking those risks, as we all know now.

That 2001 article by Stephen F. Knott led to this conclusion, the effects of which we are all now witnessing:

The response to the disaster of September 11th starkly reveals that members of Congress are quite adept at invoking “plausible deniability.” They are often the first to criticize, and the last to accept responsibility, for failed U. S. policies and practices. Oddly enough, a restoration of executive control of intelligence could increase the potential that the president, or his immediate deputies, would be held responsible for the successes and failures of the intelligence community. But this is a secondary consideration, for only by restoring the executive branch’s power to move with “secrecy and dispatch,” and to control the “business of intelligence,” as Alexander Hamilton and John Jay put it in The Federalist, will the nation be able to deter and defeat its enemies.

I wonder how professor Knott feels about endorsing that position today.

Regardless of all of the revelations over the decades of the "work" the CIA is doing in America's name, the mythology of the sexy spy with the nifty gagdets whose death-defeating tactics are pushed by Hollywood and applauded by millions won't end any time soon. Who would dare accuse CIA agents of being treasonous (besides people like Cheney and his henchmen who choose to out them when it's politically convenient rather than protecting them, as they're bound to do)?

While it's the job of the Democrats to try to wrestle power back from the Bush adminitration for those items detailed in the NYT's "must-do" list, the public also needs to remember that their party has used covert methods and actions when they thought it would be expedient as well.

As Scott Ritter notes*:

I personally witnessed the Director of the CIA under Bill Clinton, James Woolsey, fabricate a case for the continued existence of Iraqi ballistic missiles in November 1993 after I had provided a detailed briefing which articulated the UN inspector's findings that Iraq's missile program had been fundamentally disarmed. I led the UN inspector's investigation into the defection of Saddam Hussein's son-in-law, Hussein Kamal, in August 1995, and saw how the Clinton administration twisted his words to make a case for the continued existence of a nuclear program the weapons inspectors knew to be nothing more than scrap and old paper. I was in Baghdad at the head of an inspection team in the summer of 1996 as the Clinton administration used the inspection process as a vehicle for a covert action program run by the CIA intending to assassinate Saddam Hussein.

I twice traveled to the White House to brief the National Security Council in the confines of the White House Situation Room on the plans of the inspectors to pursue the possibility of concealed Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, only to have the Clinton national security team betray the inspectors by failing to deliver the promised support, and when the inspections failed to deliver any evidence of Iraqi wrong-doing, attempt to blame the inspectors while denying any wrong doing on their part.

Obviously, this culture of covert corruption has a very long history that runs through the administrations of both of the big two parties, yet we're now expecting the current crop of Democrats (including many longstanding members who have been complicit in these affairs) to turn around and bring everything to light in order to end these types of activities? Isn't that rather like the fox guarding the hen house, as the old cliche says?

This Democratic congress may hold hearings, may investigate the Bush administration's horrendous abuses, may even impeach the president (although Nancy Pelosi has made it clear that impeachment is "off the table"), but do they have the power or the willingness to end the disastrous policies of the CIA? Will they stand up to an administration full of ex-CIA officials who now run the White House? And where does the American public stand on these issues?

It's clear the majority are outraged over the Bush administration's abuses, and so they should be. Are they willing, however, to give up the power exercised on their behalf as members of the so-called "greatest country in the world" by CIA agents and those in the numerous other intelligence agencies that are a part of the US government in order to keep them "safe"? My guess would be that only a small minority would actually demand full accountability and transparency and, even if they did, they wouldn't get it from the Republicans or the Democrats who are so entrenched in the use of those powers that they'd be loathe to surrender many of them in the end.

That's the dilemma the American people face, as do those worldwide who've been affected by these covert actions. It's doubtful they'll find much justice any time soon and time is already running out for the Democrats to deal with all of what Bush has wrought prior to the end of his term. Perhaps they should be spending less time speechifying and fundraising on the '08 campaign trail and more time actually working on the business of the country. As for the CIA, the more it changes, the more it stays the same.

* h/t Madman in the Marketplace whose work you can find at Liberal Street Fighter.

crossposted from liberal catnip