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August 18, 2004
What I Think

I think Bush would very much like to make this campaign cycle about making war because on the domestic side fewer and fewer people believe that enacting massive tax cuts for the rich is doing most of us any good at all.

(While I'm mentioning that whole war thing, let me say that I am truly appalled by the way the prisoner abuse issue has completely dropped off the USofA media's radar.)

I know the UN and others are desperately trying to avoid the word "genocide" but when I read this, I think of Rwanda.

E-voting with a paper trail.

It was simultaneously an uh-oh moment and an ah-ha moment.

When Sequoia Voting Systems demonstrated its new paper-trail electronic voting system for state Senate staffers in California last week, the company representative got a surprise when the paper trail failed to record votes that testers cast on the machine.

(Via Avedon Carol, whose persistence in keeping this issue on our minds is much-appreciated.)

Actually, the salesmen in the story above have my sympathy. Anyone who has ever demonstrated a new product for a potential customer knows that there's always some kind of weird mishap, it's always an anomaly, and it always gives the impression that the product is buggy.

What Is Conservatism and What Is Wrong with It?

Liberals in the United States have been losing political debates to conservatives for a quarter century. In order to start winning again, liberals must answer two simple questions: what is conservatism, and what is wrong with it? As it happens, the answers to these questions are also simple:

Q: What is conservatism?
A: Conservatism is the domination of society by an aristocracy.

Q: What is wrong with conservatism?
A: Conservatism is incompatible with democracy, prosperity, and civilization in general. It is a destructive system of inequality and prejudice that is founded on deception and has no place in the modern world.

These ideas are not new. Indeed they were common sense until recently. Nowadays, though, most of the people who call themselves "conservatives" have little notion of what conservatism even is. They have been deceived by one of the great public relations campaigns of human history. Only by analyzing this deception will it become possible to revive democracy in the United States.

(Via Avedon Carol, who had her own comments to add.)

(Note: I haven't had time to read either of these thoroughly yet. I will do so this evening, but I'm linking to them here so I have them to reference if I find anything I want to add to the discussion.)

The headline is misleading, unless you see the question mark. "Bush to invite election observers?" If Bush does, in fact, personally extend an invitation, it will be because of pressure from Congress and the media.

Despite the protestations of those who claim that the need for observers is predicated entirely on the idea that the last election was tampered with, as Paul Krugman points out, it's just as important that Americans believe the election is fair as it is that the election itself actually is.

Haven't I been saying that over and over?

FCC greenlights broader wiretap guidelines.

Quoting FCC chairman Michael Powell, a Monitor article from Thursday states, ďItís probably the most significant paradigm shift in the entire history of modern communications, since the invention of the telephone.Ē

What is it?

VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol. To Jane and John Doe, itís doing on a computer what one would normally do on a phone, and for a number of privacy advocates, it could be the latest hot button issue surrounding the FCC since that body approved new rules governing media ownership. Itís also the latest wrinkle in the blanket of measures to come out of the USA Patriot Act, the monolithic anti-terror law promptly passed by Congress in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

According to the article, this isn't to make it "possible" to track terrorists on-line. It just makes it easy. (And, of course, to watch anyone else they're interested in.)

I don't actually know enough about this stuff to offer an informed opinion.

Re-deployment, by Ronald D. Asmus. The opinions are beginning to appear. Steve Celmons has an opinion on the opinion.

And did I link to this one yet?

US children 'abandoned in Africa'

Seven US children have been discovered suffering from disease and malnutrition in a Nigerian orphanage.

The children, aged from eight to 16, were reportedly left there by their adoptive mother.

The three boys and four girls were found by a visiting Texas missionary after he heard their accents, reports the Associated Press news agency.

I think someone ought to go to jail.

Kudos to Kerry for sticking by his principles and condemning the Moveon.org ad cited in the article. (I'm still having moments of cognitive dissonance about the changing view of Vietnam service in this country, but one opinion I haven't changed. If Bush was going to get a pass with National Guard service, he should at least have completed that service honorably.)

If I ever get through even half the books waiting on my To Be Read shelf, I want to do some reading on Woodrow Wilson. This article talks about parallels between it and the Bush Administration's passion for war. (Wilson's bloodthirsty foreign policy shows up again in this George Will column.

I'm glad to read that the the soccer match between Haiti and Brazil is still on. I hope it's the bonding experience it's planned to be.

The dumbing down of USofA politics. It's everyone's fault.

You say Americans get what they deserve.

It is my thesis that the dumbing down is the fault of the politicians -- but not only. It's also the fault of voters because they donít pay attention. And of the press because we don't do a good job. I don't have clean hands. Ordinarily, a book like mine will have solutions. I don't have any. The other day, I was talking to a group of people at a Chicago library. Somebody asked me about the book's pessimistic tone. I said, "You know, if anyone is remotely suicidal, they shouldnít read it."

There are funny parts, and I enjoyed it. But, yes, it's kind of a downer.

It's supposed to be. The people we're electing are terrible.

It's an interview with Jack Germond, author of Fat Man Fed Up. Another book to add to the list, I guess.

The person who wrote this is a lunatic. The only good thing about zuccini is its absence from my dining table.

(Because I'm not always as serious as I should be, the comments here, which should have inspired some Deep Inteleckshul Thot, really only led me to speculate on whether or not what we really need is a word to define what happens when someone has a bit of a speech or article or blog entry or whatever pulled out of context and distorted to be used against them.

Maybe we should call it "being sound-bitten". What do you think?)

Posted by AnneZook at 01:51 PM


"Conservatism is incompatible with democracy, prosperity, and civilization in general. It is a destructive system of inequality and prejudice that is founded on deception and has no place in the modern world."

Okay, but even in right-wing magazines like National Review and First Things, I've read writers who make this point and lament the fact that they can no longer call themselves liberals because the term is no longer understood in the old, 19th century sense. And the above is an old, 19th century, European definition of conservatism. It doesn't map out well to America's current political division of Democrat versus Republican. The entreprenurial spirit celebrated by Adam Smith is clearly part of the liberal tradition, and nowadays it is more associated with the Republican party than the Democratic one. Likewise, it is hard to imagine John Stuart Mill praising many of the hate-speech laws that America passed in the 1990s, laws that were largely promoted by Democratice forces.

I think it's reasonable to say that if we are using old, 19th century definitions of liberalism and conservatism, then both the Democratic and Republican parties have both liberal and non-liberal factions inside them.

Posted by: Lawrence Krubner at August 18, 2004 02:58 PM

You know, the little bit I first skimmed of that article made me suspect it was a case of "then" versus "now."

I'd be interested in seeing a definition of what "conservative" means today. (Of course, we'd have to have a separate definition for the neocons.)

Posted by: Anne at August 18, 2004 03:44 PM

Just speaking of liberal factions, it seems to be that liberalism, in that old, 19th century sense, splits between the Republicans and the Democrats, with the Republicans having a faction that associates with the entreprenurial spirit of Adam Smith and the Democrats having a faction that associates with the social reformism of Bentham. Smith and Bentham were foundational members of the that old, 19th century liberalism (though they both wrote in the 1700s).

But both Republicans and Democrats, clearly, have non-liberal factions. The Christian fundamentalists who think we should live under biblical law are clearly coming from an older, non-liberal tradition, and militant black nationalists, also, are clearly non-liberal.

Posted by: Lawrence Krubner at August 19, 2004 07:09 AM