Saturday, May 31, 2008

What Scott McClellan's Book Means

More than anything else, McClellan called out our weak and easily manipulated press. Though conservative nutjobs still try to portray our propaganda networks as the "liberal media", the reality is, that they have been weak enablers of the worst executive behavior our Republic has endured. Glenn Greenwald has been a lone voice in the wilderness exposing their vapid adherence and support for authoritarian conservatism. And then McClellan comes along and makes Greenwald's point for him.

When a former Presidential Press Secretary basically says to the press, you were what used car salesmen call, "laydowns", you know our Republic has failed at many levels. That MSNBC terminated their most highest rated show, because it was liberal and anti-war (say Phil Donahue), is revealing and highly disturbing. Watching the enablers such as Brian Williams, Tom Brokaw, Tim Russert and others try to wring their hands over their complicity in enabling the Bush administration is both entertaining and disturbing. I knew I couldn't trust Fox (Pravda) News, but now I have reasons to doubt NBC as well.

It is also interesting to see how conservatives have reacted to McClellan's revelations. You see them saying, "why haven't you said anything before", or "he's just trying to make money out of his book", but what I haven't seen yet is anyone refuting what he has to say. Neocons feel they've been betrayed. But not because he was incorrect, but because he undermined them and their objectives. Ultimately, that is the indictment of the Bush legacy. That when someone tells all, they can't refute the truth, but they will attack the messenger. Very enlightening.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Beta Bush and a Rudderless Ship

Admittedly, I have alot of contempt for George W. Bush. Much of that contempt has to do with the fact that he has had trouble telling the truth, had difficulty discerning fact from fiction, and mostly, because he has shown a complete lack of basic morality. However, I also have contempt for him because of his lack of leadership. The more I've studied Bush, the more I've concluded that he is a simpleton, who is easily manipulated by powerful subordinates. That Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and other alpha males were able to dominate him is beyond reasonable doubt. While Rice and Powell were working crosswise with the DOD and Rumsfeld, there is no evidence that Bush ever had the juevos to call them in and make sure they were on the same page, and to solidly define American foreign policy goals.

The results of Bush's lack of leadership are not all bad. Bush's failure to put together coherent domestic policies and to market those policies is actually a good thing for those of us who disagree with most of Bush's objectives. His tax cuts aside, Bush has failed in many of his objectives such as "faith-based initiatives", a reworking of social security, drilling wilderness areas in Alaska, etc.

However, in the foreign policy arena, an area that will cement Bush's legacy, it is apparent in retrospect that Bush allowed others their turn at the steering wheel. Instead of carefully weighing options and listening to countervailing evidence and opinion, Bush allowed his subordinates wrap the evidence around their own policies, with disasterous results. You see one disaster after another, not just in the decision to invade Iraq, but in the prosecution of the war and what should have been a highly coordinated reconstruction of Iraq. This legacy just isn't about making some bad decisions, it is also about an inability to clearly define objectives and put a plan in place to accomplish those objectives.

Beta Bush, was clearly over his head as a chief executive. The evidence for this is overwhelming. Bush's failure to ask difficult questions of his subordinates and to lay out concrete objectives is striking. The alphas of his administration defined the objectives but because they could not coordinate with the other players to acheive them, the Bush administration failed even by standards they should have sought themselves. After the dust has settled and hopefully a new competent chief executive replaces this weak and incompetent President, business schools and public administration programs will examine the lessons learned from the Bush administration.

Also, in the study of personality types, the internal dynamics of the Bush Administration shows the difficulties organizations have when a beta male finds himself with a slew of alpha subordinates. This is a lesson learned the hard way in other historical contexts, such as the weak English King Henry VI being controlled and dominated by his great uncle Cardinal Beaufort and the Duke of Suffolk. A rudderless ship finds itself run aground very easily. Henry VI lost the hundred years war, the wars of the roses and ultimately his crown. Bush has certainly set us up for failure if we don't right the ship quickly.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Gary Pratt- A Tribute

Former Salt Lake County Treasurer, Gary Pratt, died on May 22. I knew Gary Pratt from political circles, and even when I disagreed with him, I found him a real gentleman to deal with. Working with Art Monson at the Salt Lake County Treasurer's office, he succeeded Monson and did a wonderful job, until the idiotic 1994 elections came along and threw out most of the Democratic office holders in the Republican revolution that brought us Enid Waldholtz, Chris Cannon, Mary Callaghan, Doug Short and a whole basket of Republican loonies, many of which remain in office today.

Gary was a loyal Democrat who helped many candidates over the years. He was also heavily involved in the Jaycees, and did a great deal of community service through that organization. Gary took seriously his job as Treasurer and wanted to make sure that people who qualified for certain exemptions from taxes received them. He was especially interested in programs that would help the poor and indigent.

Though sad to hear of his passing, I'm glad his struggle with Alzheimers is over. This insidious disease took Gary from his family and friends long before his heart failed him. We Democrats have lost alot of great people during the past few years. So many stalwarts who fought the brave fight against incredible odds. Rest in peace, my old friend.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Chris Mathews Smacks Down Right-Wing Nutjob

Admittedly, I'm not much of a Chris Mathews fan. However, the exchange from the below link is hilarious, as right-wing nutjob and radio talk show dufus, Kevin James is truly something that tickled my funny bone. When confronted with a question he couldn't answer, he did what all right-wing nut jobs do, they increase the volume in order to try to hide their basic ignorance. Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

"Terrorist Loving Liberal"

Every once in a while, I get fan e-mail per my blogs or my book reviews on Amazon. An individual who I won't out, e-mailed me concerning my book reviews of "Fiasco" and "The One Percent Doctrine", in which I basically restated what the books said regarding the behavior of the Bush Administration leading up to war in Iraq. Here are some quotes from the e-mail I received.

"You libs sure are quick to judge the Pres do (sp) to the lib media, and you lib losers in cyberland help to this unamerican activity. You and your terrorist loving liberal friends are destroiying (Sp) our country by undermining our president. I hope the next terrorist attack kills you or someone you love. You libs hate america as much as Al Qaeda, and Al Qaeda loves you too. If it were up to me, you libs could join the terrorists and (at?) Gitmo and get you out of the way so america can become the country of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, not Jimmy Carter and Teddy Kennedy."

My smartass response is below.

"Wow, even by e-mail I can see the vein in your neck, your bulging eyes, and the puffed up hairless chest. For the record, I found it interesting that you capitalized Al Qaeda, but not America. I'll assume that it was a lack of education rather than a love of Al Qaeda that was being articulated. I also find it interesting that you would wish harm upon someone who has done nothing to you. I see a pattern in this conservative thinking. Thomas Jefferson once said, "dissent is the highest form of patriotism." Dissenting to a poor President is not only the highest form of patriotism, but blindly supporting a bad President is flat out dangerous to our Republic."

"As for being a "terrorist loving liberal", first you need some definitions. What is a terrorist? Terrorism is a tactic, not a philosophy. Is terrorism basically anyone who doesn't work lockstep with the United States? Think about it. As for liberal, I willingly accept that I could possibly be considered a liberal given my political viewpoints. But so could people like Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln and many others. Liberals are generally for change, to try to make things better. Conservatives are tied to the past traditions and see change as threatening. So if you want to link me to Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln, I'll willingly allow you to link me with Ted Kennedy and Jimmy Carter."

"As for me ending up at Gitmo, I have no doubts that some conservatives think liberals should all be locked up, or sent packing. However, I'm confident that once we've been dealt with, conservative neurosis, given what it is, will find other demons to fear and hate. You might want to approach this logically and list all the groups you would like to obliterate, prioritize them and start laying out your plans. That's what Hitler did."

"Best regards."

I welcome his response.

Monday, May 12, 2008

State Democratic Convention- My Thoughts

First of all, let me say congratulations to Wayne Holland, Rob Miller and the other leaders and volunteers who put on a wonderful convention. More than anything, I enjoy the convention for the opportunity to see so many old political friends from campaigns past, to talk to and get to know the candidates running this time around, and to give my respects to those who currently serve the public holding elected office.

I was really struck this election with the incredible excitement and energy among Democrats. Everyone I talked to who like me had attended these things going on our third decade, can scarcely recall such optimism. The most inspiring part of the convention for me was attending Congressional District 1 caucus to select Obama delegates. I was genuinely inspired by the conviction, excitement and optimism of so many of the thirty odd candidates. Though the room was hotter than a family values politician’s second or third wife, the energy of the candidates, all of them, made it worth the time in the sauna. There were people such as Glenn Wright who had donated so much time and energy to the campaign, I was disappointed he didn’t win a delegate spot. Kathy Snyder stole the show with her impassioned speech and there were too many to mention in a blog post that I would have loved to see have the opportunity to serve as a delegate.

Among the candidates I have been especially impressed with, Morgan Bowen for Congress 1 and Jean Welsh Hill for Attorney General are two I am especially impressed with. One experience I’ll always remember, is the lady who was a Clinton supporter picking up a couple of Obama bumperstickers. She told me sheepishly, “I’m a Hillary supporter, but I’m also a realist, and frankly, we don’t need John McCain.” Now that is the “audacity of hope.”

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

200,000 Votes That May Have Sealed the Deal

Yesterday, Barak Obama narrowly lost in Indiana, and received a solid win in North Carolina. Over 200,000 more voters voted for Barak Obama than they did for Hillary Clinton, despite some of the most difficult publicity Obama had to face regarding Rev. Jeremy Wright. This very well may have been the final major test Obama needed to pass to show that he is the presumptive nominee of the party. For superdelegates or some sort of Clinton machinations regarding Michigan or Florida, to overturn both the results of the popular vote as well as the pledged delegates would destroy the Democratic Party. Despite Rush Limbaugh's efforts at getting Republicans to vote for Hillary, Obama has shown the resiliency he needed to show.

Hillary at this point needs to step back and examine not only what is best for our party, but what is best for Hillary. For her to continue on would seem more like rage, than courage. The time has come for Democrats to lick their wounds and unify their message and their resolve. It's time for Obama to start contemplating Vice Presidential candidates, and strengthen his organization with some of Hillary's most savvy advisors.

And more than anything, it is time to shine our focus on John McCain and clearly show that a vote for McCain is a vote for a third Bush term. It is a vote for more illegal wars, illegal detentions, spying on Americans and tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. It is time for Barak Obama to step back and put a winning strategy together to beat John McCain and to end the reign of error, terror and incompetence that we've faced for two terms.

And for us Utah Democrats, let's all get together this Friday and Saturday and break bread and enoble our candidates locally and nationally. Metaphorically, we are the Rohirian horsemen bravely facing a more numerous and better funded foe, but we hold the high ground, and we will prevail.

"Ride for Ruin, and a well won day."

Thursday, May 1, 2008

More Thoughts on Authoritarian Thinking

A while back, David Miller in his fine blog “Pursuit of Liberty” made some good observations regarding where people stand in the political spectrum. One of the key axes in that determination is the degree to which someone is an authoritarian. Those who have followed my blogs know that my perceived growth of authoritarianism in our country is one of my biggest concerns. Conservatism, whatever that actually means in today’s world, has become more and more authoritarian. The growth of authoritarianism in the United States puts at risk many of the fundamental characteristics of our Republic.

Authoritarians come in two different stripes: the authoritarian follower, and the authoritarian dominator. The majority of authoritarians are the followers, the people willing to submit to what they consider to be legitimate authority. The word “legitimate” is the key word here. In their mind, only the legitimate authority deserves their unabashed support. Religion by its nature is authoritarian. The devout theist perceives truth, not by the evidence, but by what their “legitimate” authority articulates as the truth. Mormons may hang on every word of their prophet, or read diligently the words of Joseph Smith to find new kernels of truth, but they most likely will give no more than a passing glance to what the Pope has to say. The same could be said of devout followers of the Pope regarding their recognition of the legitimate authority of the Pope, and the lack of such authority from the Mormon prophet.

Authoritarians regarding their government may have no trouble with unlimited and unaccountable power given to their legitimate President. However, if the other party is in power, unlimited and unaccountable power is the last thing you want to give if you are an authoritarian. Principled individuals will seek checks, balances and accountability on both Presidents, because to the principled, the loyalty is to the principle, not to the authority.

Authoritarian dominators tend to end up the “legitimate” authority that authoritarian followers gravitate to. Dominators, are by their nature sure of themselves and that self-confidence garners support from followers. However, dominators have a tendency to be amoral, selfish, intolerant, and discriminatory. The rules that apply to the rest of society, doesn’t apply to the true dominator. They view their role as special. Power to the dominator is the end, not a means to an end. With power as the goal, the dominator focuses on the strategies to gain, and maintain power. Dominators know that to be successful, they have to give, take, manipulate and use various devices in their quest for power.

The simplest and most effective authoritarian strategy for gaining power is to rally authoritarian followers against common enemies. Authoritarians both create and accentuate a Manichean world view of “good” and “evil”, because authoritarians, pretending to speak in behalf of good, seek to be given power to combat evil by their authoritarian followers. Think of the most notorious authoritarians, and you see how they focus on enemies. For Hitler, it was the Jews, communists, intellectuals, and all those who didn’t share in Hitler’s dream of an Aryan dominated world.

President Bush, though an authoritarian is dwarfed by his power-hungry and amoral Vice President Dick Cheney. Dick Cheney has been the de-facto President of the United States since Bush’s inaugural. Cheney’s power, opinions and the power of his staff has dwarfed that of George W. Bush on every major issue that has beset this administration. More than anyone else, Cheney may be the most powerful authoritarian our Republic has ever witnessed.