Cut and Run Republicans, Part 3

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

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Republicans love the military to death... literally. I have written before on the right wing propensity for waving the flag and lionizing our troops when it suits their political purposes; then abandoning our fighting men and women if they are injured (and their families if they die.) In a truly brazen move during a war the signature injury of which is brain injury, a Republican led Pentagon and Republican House and Senate are slated to cut in half the funding for the military's brain injury treatment facilities. The details can be found in the Raleigh News & Observer and in this blog (contains worthwhile action steps). As the Observer reports:

Brain injuries are so common among U.S. troops that they're called the signature injury of the Iraq war, but Congress is poised to cut military spending on researching and treating them.

House and Senate versions of the defense appropriation bill would chop funding for the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center from $14 million to $7 million. The center runs 10 facilities across the country, including one at Fort Bragg that has performed research and treated soldiers' injuries since 1998.

"It's just ridiculous," said Sgt. Maj. Colin Rich, a Fort Bragg soldier who has been legally blind since he was shot in the head while serving in Afghanistan in 2002. "Whoever is cutting the budget must have a head injury themselves."

"With the bombs, the gunshot wounds and everything else, their plate is full," he said. "They need that money."

The Pentagon asked only for $7 million and didn't respond properly when congressional staffers tried to find out whether it needed more money for the program, said Jenny Manley, a spokeswoman for the Senate appropriations committee.

"The Pentagon needs to get behind the things that they want," she said. "Otherwise, we'd just be kind of guessing about what they really need."

Pentagon budget experts did not respond Monday to a request for information on why they had not sought more money.

Working Harder -- Earning Less

Monday, August 28, 2006

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The economic data, as reported in the New York Times this morning, could not be more plain; "Real Wages Fail to Match Productivity." Translation: the middle class is getting clobbered. They're working harder as lay-offs, outsourcing, technological advances, etc., reduce the number of actual employees in businesses across America.

We've all seen how this works. I remember it all too well from my years in corporate America. Every so often a department is cut by an employee or two during an oh-so-necessary lay-off. The workload for the remaining employees increases, but the salaries do not. Thus the "productivity" of the average employee goes up. Stock holders are happy. Top management collects bonuses for their brilliance in extracting more work from people for less money. Average workers suffer the consequences... as do customers of those businesses.

Just last night I was discussing with my husband how much I despise the new self-checkout system that increasing numbers of supermarkets are using. I guess I can see the advantage to consumers who only need a few things and don't want to wait. But in real terms this is how it plays out. Supermarkets employ fewer cashiers so that long lines snake down the supermarket aisles. The self-checkout aisles also develop lines reducing the time-saved by motivated self-serve shoppers. So here's how it shakes out. Fewer people are employed. Those who are work nonstop to accommodate cranky customers who have been standing on line forever. And if you're using self-checkout you're paying the supermarket and working for them for free by checking and bagging yourself. It's another version of the scam gas stations pulled when they introduced self-serve gas and promised that it would cost less than full-serve; then simply raised the price on full-serve pumps. Net savings for consumers: none.

We're all frogs being brought slowly to a boil and, as the Times article makes clear, the water is getting hot enough that we just might begin to notice and start jumping. The economy feels bad enough to ordinary folks that the Republican Party is increasingly worried about the upcoming elections. They would probably be more worried if Democrats were offering a real alternative instead of taking potshots at Wal-Mart, which is not to say that they don't deserve it.

How bad is it for American workers? Here are some of the highlights from the Times:

With the economy beginning to slow, the current expansion has a chance to become the first sustained period of economic growth since World War II that fails to offer a prolonged increase in real wages for most workers....

The median hourly wage for American workers has declined 2 percent since 2003, after factoring in inflation. The drop has been especially notable, economists say, because productivity — the amount that an average worker produces in an hour and the basic wellspring of a nation’s living standards — has risen steadily over the same period.

As a result, wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of the nation’s gross domestic product since the government began recording the data in 1947, while corporate profits have climbed to their highest share since the 1960’s. UBS,the investment bank, recently described the current period as “the golden era of profitability.”

Until the last year, stagnating wages were somewhat offset by the rising value of benefits, especially health insurance, which caused overall compensation for most Americans to continue increasing. Since last summer, however, the value of workers’ benefits has also failed to keep pace with inflation, according to government data....

Economists offer various reasons for the stagnation of wages. Although the economy continues to add jobs, global trade, immigration,layoffs and technology — as well as the insecurity caused by them — appear to have eroded workers’ bargaining power.

Trade unions are much weaker than they once were, while the buying power of the minimum wage is at a 50-year low. And health care is far more expensive than it was a decade ago, causing companies to spend more on benefits at the expense of wages....
Average family income, adjusted for inflation, has continued to advance at a good clip, a fact Mr. Bush has cited when speaking about the economy.
But these gains are a result mainly of increases at the top of the income spectrum that pull up the overall numbers. Even for workers at the 90th percentile of earners — making about $80,000 a year — inflation has outpaced their pay increases over the last three years, according to the Labor Department.

“There are two economies out there,” Mr. Cook, the political analyst, said. “One has been just white hot, going great guns. Those are the people who have benefited from globalization, technology, greater productivity and higher corporate earnings.

“And then there’s the working stiffs,’’ he added, “who just don’t feel like they’re getting ahead despite the fact that they’re working very hard. And there are a lot more people in that group than the other group.”
[emphases added]

The rich are getting richer. Everybody else is getting poorer and working harder. Great.

Big Three: Meet the Free Market

Saturday, August 26, 2006

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Michigan Republicans are said to be in a tizzy that their Republican president won't give any face time to Detroit automakers. The Big Three are facing "declining fortunes." Though the LA Times doesn't state it very directly, automakers are hungry and need a snack from the government trough. And they are increasingly disheartened that Bush wants to let market forces work their magic. I love the way Republicans worship at the altar of the free market when it means not raising the minimum wage or laying people off to keep stockholders happy. But when it means shutting off the corporate welfare tap, they're not so enamoured. When they need an infusion of capital, they rediscover the need for big government to meddle in their affairs.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos lashed out at the White House this week for not having set up a long-promised meeting with executives of the Big Three automakers, which are being squeezed by high healthcare costs and shrinking market share.

"We're being ignored here in Michigan by the White House, and it has got to stop," DeVos, who is challenging Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm, told reporters.

"It is wrong, and the behavior is inexcusable," DeVos said in a written statement Thursday. "The president needs to meet with the Big Three, and it must happen soon. Jobs are at stake."

Yes, the President must "meet" with the Big Three because otherwise jobs will be lost. Let's rewind a bit and recall that it was less than two months ago that GM announced it was laying off a quarter of its work force. Well, let's be more specific: their blue collar work force. And let us also recall that a Wall Street Journal report at that time demonstrated amply and painfully that for all their whining about pension costs, the pension programs of their rank and file workers were in the black. It is, in fact, the pay packages to top-tier executives that are breaking the bank. But GM's solution wasn't laying off the executive millionaires who are draining their coffers. It was to fire the little guys whose pension plans were not only paying for themselves, but for the company's other losses. And now they want to go hat-in-hand to the federal government for more money so that they can continue to hand giant pay packages to top tier executives who make genius decisions like continuing to make gas guzzling behemoths that a public in full-blown gas pump sticker shock doesn't want and continue kicking their labor force to the curb when they inevitably face continuing short-falls.

Bush himself made clear in January that he was not inclined to bail out troubled U.S. auto companies.

For once I agree with him.

Hillary's Cash & Carry Election

Friday, August 25, 2006

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If you doubt that the US is devolving into an oligarchy where powerful corporations and other moneyed interests control the political process, look no further than New York state. There, an unholy alliance between Hillary Clinton and TimeWarner has seized control of the electoral process by taking away the microphone of her opposition. I first learned about this in Matt Taibbi's most recent take-down of the DLC.

Remember 2000, when Ralph Nader was not only not allowed to debate with Al Gore and George Bush, but wasn't allowed in the building -- not even allowed in a second, adjoining hall in the building, not even when he had a ticket? Well, we have a replay of that proud moment in our history going on now, with Hillary's Senate primary opponent Tasini being shut out of debates by New York's NY1 TV channel (owned by TimeWarner) which is insisting that qualified candidates not only reach 5 percent support in the polls (Tasini is at 13 percent and rising) but raise or spend $500,000. Said NY1 Vice President Steve Paulus: "All Tasini would need is for each [New York state registered voter] to send him a dollar. Right now, with the money he's raised, he does not represent the party he claims to represent."

So a war chest is now the standard for representation? In order to get on television, you need a dollar from every voter? (Are we electing a Senator or holding a Girl Scout raffle? What the fuck?) And this is decided by . . . an executive for a corporate television station?

This morning Buzzflash guest contributor Jeff Cohen connects the dots.

The cover story in the new issue of TIME, the flagship publication of the Time Warner media empire, informs readers that Hillary Clinton has "virtually nonexistent opposition for her senate seat."

Hold that phrase in your head. Because at another outpost of the Time Warner empire, decisions have been made that help ensure Sen. Clinton will have "virtually nonexistent opposition." Time Warner's NY1 TV news channel ("the CNN of New York")adamantly refuses to host a Democratic New York Senate debate. Despite protests over its decision, NY1 says it is giving incumbent Clinton a no-debate free pass because her antiwar challenger, union leader Jonathan Tasini, has not raised enough money; the channel arbitrarily set the bar at a half-million dollars. This despite the fact that Tasini has reached 13% in polls. (NY1 first announced its no-debate ruling just as Ned Lamont -- given no chance months ago -- was defeating pro-war incumbent Joe Lieberman in Connecticut's primary.)

Ironically, NY1 has already hosted and televised a Democratic New York gubernatorial debate between frontrunner Eliot Spitzer and a Democratic challenger who was at only 10% in the polls. But that candidate had raised about $6 million. So spending millions to get just 10% in popular support was rewarded by Time Warner's channel, while building a more effective grassroots campaign, largely of volunteers, was punished. (One wonders how much of the money went to NY1.)

Did I mention that Time Warner's PAC is one of the many corporate PACs that underwrites Hillary Clinton's reelection campaign against the "virtually nonexistent opposition"? Or that conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch has also raised funds for her reelection? Or that Hillary Clinton doesn't criticize a media system now dominated by a handful of (JonBenet-obsessed) entertainment conglomerates -- while Tasini wants to see those conglomerates broken up? [emphasis added]

And there you have it. Hillary is the TimeWarner candidate, not the people's. And, in a bout of unintentional honesty, TimeWarner has admitted what it thinks elections are about: Money.

Sore Loserman

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

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I never thought I'd want repeat that slur, but what else can you say about a man so totally ungracious in defeat. My expectations of Lieberman are never high, but listening to his "concession" speech last night on the news, I couldn't believe my fucking ears. He dropped below even my lowest estimation of his character. It was a flagrant display of narcissism and naked self-interest.

The first red flag was dropped the minute he opened his mouth.

Thank you so much for standing by me in this tough race, for your all work, for all your confidence.

Joe still thinks this is about him. He doesn't understand that running for public office is about representing his constituents; "we the people." I heard more use of the word "me" in that speech than the New York Times included in its "excerpts" of the transcript, but even their abbreviated text stands as a testament to the man's self-absorption.

The only words I heard acknowledging the victor were:

Just before coming out to see you, I called Ned Lamont and congratulated him on his success today...

From there he immediately launched into his campaign speech. By barely acknowledging Ned Lamont's victory, he is disregarding the 52% of his own party who showed up at polling stations to vote their conscience. Well I'm sure they're all just far-left, wacko bloggers. They're not real people. They're not "Team Connecticut."

Lieberman came not to concede to Ned Lamont but bury him; to accuse him of polarizing rhetoric even as he vows to split his own party by running as an "independent Democratic."

I expect that my opponent will continue to do in the general election what he has done in the primary … partisan polarizing instead of talking about how we can solve people's problems, insults instead of ideas. In other words, more of the same old partisan politics that has assailed Washington today.

I will continue to offer Connecticut a different path forward. I went into public service to find solutions, not to point fingers. To unite, not to divide. To lift up, not to tear down. To make my community and country a better place to live and work.

It was a speech worthy of the hypocritical "I'm a uniter, not a divider" President to whom he has bowed and scraped since his premature concession in 2000. If that isn't the height of irony! Well actually, it isn't that surprising. Lieberman is fairly consistent in his distrust of anyone who raises legitimate questions about GOP ethics. So now we understand the Lieberman formula: Pointing out any wrongdoing of Republicans is divisive partisanship. Bashing members of his own party, like Clinton for instance, is brave and noble. Standing up to Lieberman, himself, is tempting the Lord Your God.

A gracious man would have conceded his loss last night, congratulated the victor, thanked his campaign team for their hard work (not for indulging his ego), and honored the voters who turned out to the polls. Even if he wanted to pursue an independent run, he would have alluded to it, and promised to expound on it at a more appropriate time. That's what a gracious man and a truly savvy politician would have done. Instead Joe Lieberman chose to insult every voter in Connecticut who did not invest in his personal ambition.

God Wants You to Vote for Joe Lieberman

Monday, August 07, 2006

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As the New York Times reports:

“Joseph had faith that God will take care of the haters and I have a certain faith that this Tuesday God will take care of the voters.”

Yes, that' s right. God is on Joe Lieberman's side and will surely deliver the votes in the primary. So if you're planning to vote for Ned Lamont, be advised that you are falling for one of the Devil's many tricks.

Lieberman's campaign has been punctuated by one narcissistic, self-referential statement of victimhood after another. The Times article goes on:

When one preacher at the Bridgeport church asked, “Anybody going through hell right now?” Mr. Lieberman leaned over to tap a woman sitting to his left and began to nod his head with a smile.

Get it? Now he's Job, tried and tested by God. You get it woman sitting next to me? You get it members of the press? I'm being tested by God!!

A similar theme emerged in a Washington Post article a week ago, when Lieberman acknowledged the well-financed Ned Lamont, who is daring to run for his seat.

"I felt all along I would have a challenge," Lieberman quipped. "But I was hoping God would send me a poor one."

Yes, God is surely testing Holy Joe. But the Almighty is still on his side, making sure that Connecticut's Democratic voters -- the "most difficult part of the Connecticut electorate" for him -- do not have the temerity to vote their conscience.

The Real Joe Lieberman

Sunday, August 06, 2006

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As much as I hate to dwell on a political race I cannot vote in, I can't take my eyes off the spectacle of Holy Joe. As much as I despise his cheerleading for the illegal war in Iraq and his corporate toadying, I think what I hate most is his faux "nice guy" routine. He's a thoroughly smarmy, political animal and every so often the toothy veneer slips just enough to show the naked careerism that truly drives him. This morning's appearance on "This Week" revealed such a moment. He bobbed and weaved through George Stephanapolous's queries about his stated ambition to run as an independant if he loses the primary. Many bloggers have taken Lieberman to task for the utter disrespect for the democratic process evident in his disregard for the voters in his own party come primary day. But if his decision to keep running no matter what his party's voters want weren't enough, this morning he made a statement that could only be described as extortion, and I think it deserves a bit of examination. In attempting to brush off Stephanapolous's question, Lieberman retorted:

"Well on the last point I say to them, the way to overcome that concern is to make sure I get the Democratic nomination."

And there you have it; the real Joe Lieberman. The implicit threat: Vote for me in the primary or I will be a spoiler. Voting me out is not an option. The only way to get what you want is if you want I want, so you might as well lie back and enjoy it.

It's called extortion. He's attempting to hold Democratic voters hostage to his ambitions. It was all of a second in a slickly handled interview, but it gives the lie to every other high-minded thing he spouts.

Watershed Moment?

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A page one story in the Sunday Washington Post raises the specter of a watershed moment for the Democratic Party. As I said before, the Lieberman/Lamont race in Connecticut is emblematic of the fundamental problem in the Party. Put simply it is about whether or not they continue to be the Republican Lite party. Lieberman is so much the embodiment of an opposition party in the thrall of Republican domination that the most right leaning of Republican activists are currently batting for his team and suggesting, as many Democratic voters have, that he simply switch parties. As The Nation explains, Tom DeLay, Bill Kristol, and Ann Coulter, have all come out swinging for Lieberman, so he's got that goin' for him.

The Post describes the collision of entrenched power and righteous anger.

The passion and energy fueling the antiwar challenge to Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman in Connecticut's Senate primary signal a power shift inside the Democratic Party that could reshape the politics of national security and dramatically alter the battle for the party's 2008 presidential nomination, according to strategists in both political parties.

A victory by businessman Ned Lamont on Tuesday would confirm the growing strength of the grass-roots and Internet activists who first emerged in Howard Dean's presidential campaign. Driven by intense anger at President Bush and fierce opposition to the Iraq war, they are on the brink of claiming their most significant political triumph, one that will reverberate far beyond the borders here if Lieberman loses.

As Chris Dodd, of all people, points out, this is more than simply opposition to an unpopular war. It's appeasement of Bush Administration radicalism that is driving a good part of the backlash from the netroots and beyond.

Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) said it is a mistake to contend, as the Republicans are doing, that the Democrats have been captured by left-wing, antiwar activists, saying the Connecticut race most of all reflects discontent with Bush rather than an ideological awakening. "This is really about Bush," he said. "It's deeper than an antiwar thing."

The Democratic Party continues, at its peril, to underestimate how divisive a figure Bush is and how much resistance there is to the man and his policies. The disconnect between the party powerful and the people is growing and the Lieberman/Lamont showdown should be serving as a wake up call.

Arguing for the continuation of Republican Lite policies is, unsurprisingly, DLC operative Will Marshall.

"Candidates know they cannot appease [antiwar] activists if they are going to run winning national campaigns," said Will Marshall, president of the centrist Progressive Policy Institute. "It will intensify the tension inside the Democratic coalition as we head into two critical elections."

Let's rewind for a moment to reflect on who Will Marshall is and what he stands for. Marshall is quoted at some length in the Matt Taibbi column I referenced the other day, on "Why the Democrats are still doomed."

Marshall is the president of the DLC's Progressive Policy Institute and owns the distinction of being the first public figure to use the term "body count" in a positive sense with regard to the Iraq war ("Coalition forces still face daily attacks but the body count tilts massively in their favor"). He wasted no time in giving me the party line: "What we're seeing is an ideological purge," he said cheerily. "It's national effort by the left to get rid of somebody they've decided to demonize . . . we have concerns about narrow dogmatism. . ."

We went back and forth for a while. I noted that his conception of "narrow dogmatists" included the readers of Daily Kos, a website with something like 440,000 visitors a day; I also noted that recent Gallup polls showed that fully 91 percent of Democrats supported a withdrawal of some kind from Iraq.

"So these hundreds of thousands of Democrats who are against the war are narrow dogmatists," I said, "and. . . how many people are there in your office? Ten? Twenty? Thirty?"

"Well, it'd probably be in the thirty zone," sighed Marshall.

I asked Marshall if there was a publicly available list of donors to the DLC.

"Uh, I don't know," he said. "I'd have to refer you to the press office for that. They can help you there . . ." (Note: a DLC spokeswoman would later tell me the DLC has a policy of "no public disclosure," although she did say the group is funded in half by corporate donations, in half by individuals).

"So let me get this straight," I said. "We have thirty corporate-funded spokesmen telling hundreds of thousands of actual voters that they're narrow dogmatists?" [emphasis added]

He paused and sighed, clearly exasperated. "Look," he said. "Everybody in politics draws money from the same basic sources. It's the same pool of companies and wealthy individuals . . ."

"Okay," I said. "So basically in this dispute over Lieberman, we have people on one side, and companies on the other? Would it be correct to say that?" I asked.

"Well, I guess if you live in a cartoon world you could say that," he said.

That's the DLC in a nutshell, and sadly, because of the corporate money they bring in, it is also the voice of the Democratic Party establishment. When Lieberman and Lamont face off in the upcoming primary, Connecticut voters will have an opportunity to speak directly to the smug visage of a party that shows contempt daily for the voting public. As the Post points out, it's a message that may reverberate.

Taibbi Explains Why Dems Are Losing: It's Not the Sierra Club

Friday, August 04, 2006

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Earlier today I went off on Paul Krugman for his Kosesque soliloquy on why the Sierra Club (NARAL and other left-leaning issue groups) should put aside their non-partisanship and stop endorsing non-Democrats. Krugman's point, like Kos's, is that we should support Democrats at all costs because Republicans are ruining the country. The reason I can't sign on to this idea, aside from the fact that it means asking organizations to violate their own charters and stated goals to become nakedly partisan, is that it ignores the fact that Democrats are also ruining the country. Krugman implies that Democrats keep losing because they are not mimicking the soul-less authoritarianism of the Republican party. When a reader responding to today's column writes that she's in a dilemma about voting her conscience because she likes Chafee's voting record but does not like the rest of the party or want it in power, Krugman responds:

The strength of the conservative movement is that it rarely agonizes about such things.

So the poltical left would be "stronger" if we stop voting our conscience and become mindless party cogs?

But my disagreement with Krugman on this is not simply about the importance of principle. I think he has misdiagnosed the cause of the Democrats losing streak. We need to stop blaming the voters for the manifold failings of the Democratic Party. Matt Taibbi absolutely nails the Democrat problem in the new issue of Rolling Stone. In his analysis of the Lieberman/Lamont race in Connecticut, he offers some of the most targeted, insightful analysis of the larger problem I've read to date. He pulls apart Lieberman's black church "I met Dr. King" stump speech and exposes the cynicism of his DLC, faux populism.

The scene says everything you need to know about the modern Democratic Party. It spends its weekdays sucking off the Pentagon and Wall Street and the pharmaceutical industry, and on the weekends it comes out and spends five minutes getting teary-eyed for the "I have a dream" speech and thinks you owe it your vote because of it. Some party members agree, but quite a few don't, which is why Joe Lieberman—the hawkish one-time vice-presidential candidate who has made himself the most visible symbol of the "new" Democrats—is facing a surprising primary challenge on August 8th. Like Lieberman himself, the "I was there in the Sixties" act is finally getting old.

"I hate the Sixties, and I'm tired of hearing about it—what have you done for me lately?" says Regina Meade, one of the churchgoers. She shakes her head. "I lost a cousin in the war. Twenty-nine years old. What about that? What about that?"

While Lieberman is one of the most vulnerable of the old guard Democrats, his campaign is emblematic of a much deeper problem. That so many beltway Dems have run to his rescue, despite his smooching with Bush, should tell us everything we need to know about where Democratic Party alliances really are. As Taibbi states, they're not with voters.

Of course it's fairly obvious where it's coming from. Even the most casual Democratic voters understand by now that there is a schism within the party, one that pits "party insiders" steeped in the inside-baseball muck of Washington money culture against . . . well, against us, the actual voters.

The insiders have for many years running now succeeded in convincing their voters that their actual beliefs are hopeless losers in the general electoral arena, and that certain compromises must be made if the party is ever to regain power. [emphasis added]

This defeatist nonsense is sold to the public in the form of beady-eyed party hacks talking to one another in the opinion pages of national media conglomerates, where, after much verbose and solemn discussion, the earnest and idealistic candidate the public actually likes is dismissed on the grounds that "he can't win." In his place is trotted out the guy the party honchos insist to us is the real "winner"—some balding, bent little bureaucrat who has grown prematurely elderly before our very eyes over the course of ten or twenty years of sad, compromise-filled service in the House or the Senate.

This "winner" is then given a lavish parade and sent out there on the trail, and we hold our noses as he campaigns in our name on a platform of Jesus, the B-2 bomber and the death penalty for eleven-year-olds, consoling ourselves that he at least isn't in favor of repealing the Voting Rights Act. (Or is he? We have to check.) Then he loses to the Republicans anyway and we start all over again—beginning with the next primary election, when we are again told that the anti-war candidate "can't win" and that the smart bet is the corporate hunchback still wearing two black eyes from the last race.

That's why the Democratic Party is imploding faster than a Republican Party that has detatched itself from discernable reality. Not because the Sierra Club, NARAL, and some kooky Independants aren't behind the Democratic Party right or wrong.

Taibbi goes on to describe, in dirty detail, Lieberman's corporate whoredom, but he could be describing any one of a number of beltway Democrats.

He is everything a Washington insider loves in a politician. He is pompous, pious and available. Routinely one of the very top recipients of campaign donations from the insurance, pharmaceutical and finance sectors, and a man whose wife, Hadassah, is a pharmaceutical-industry lobbyist for Hill and Knowlton, Lieberman has quietly become one of the greatest allies corporate America has in Washington.

For example, Lieberman, who as chairman of the DLC in the mid to late Nineties presided over an organization heavily subsidized by companies such as AIG and Aetna (the latter of which also contributes lavishly to his campaigns), sponsored a bill that limited auto insurance suits by permitting the offering of lower rates to consumers who forfeited their right to sue. He has fought for similar anti-lawsuit laws for tobacco, for HMOs, for pharmaceutical companies. Victor Schwartz, general counsel for the American Tort Reform Association, once bragged that "if it were not for Lieberman, there would never have been a Biomaterials Access Act"—a 1998 law that protected companies like Dow Chemical and DuPont (also big DLC contributors) from lawsuits filed for the production of defective medical implants. Yes, that's right: Joe Lieberman fought for the principle of manufacturing faulty fake tits with impunity.

In a move that was perfectly characteristic of everything he stands for, Lieberman in 2001 offered a piece of legislation, S. 1764, that purported to provide incentives to companies that develop medicines to treat the victims of bioterror attacks but, more important, extended the patent life of a wide range of drugs for several years, delaying the introduction of more cost-friendly generic drugs. Shilling for the socialist subsidy of drug companies while masquerading as a Churchillian, tough-on-security Democrat in the War on Terror age: That's Joe Lieberman, and the modern Democratic Party, in a nutshell.

Taibbi expounds further in the first installment of his new web-only column, in which he demonstrates the curious parallels between the DLC and neoconservatives like David Brooks. The column is worth reading if only for commentary like this:

Brooks worships the status quo because he has no penis and wants to spend the rest of his life buying periwinkle bath towels without troubling interruptions of conscience.

But his larger point, that the DLC has gnawed away the core of the Democratic Party and turned it into a party of corporate toadies, bent on convincing the 91 percent of Democratic voters who want us out of Iraq that they are the lunatic fringe.

The DLC are the lowest kind of scum; we're talking about people who are paid by the likes of Eli Lilly and Union Carbide to go on television and call suburban moms and college kids who happen to be against the war commies and jihadists. On the ignominious-sellout scale, that's lower than doing PR for a utility that turns your grandmother's heat off at Christmas. And that's pretty bad -- but with enough money and enough of the right kind of publicity their side still might win in the Lamont/Lieberman primary on August 8th.

Which tells you just about everything you need to know about the modern Democratic Party. Why is anyone surprised that the Republicans never lose?

I, for one, am less and less surprised. Mr. Krugman and Markos Moulitsas can blame the Sierra Club if they want, but it seems like a race to the bottom of the self-defeatism pond to me. We need to stop assuming voters are idiots who need to be shepherded into the Democratic flock, regardless of whether or not party leaders demonstrate that they can actually lead us back from the cliff.

Put it this way: If the Democrats gain only five rather than six Senate seats this November, Senator James Inhofe, who says that global warming is “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people,” will remain in his current position as chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. And if that happens, the Sierra Club may well bear some of the responsibility.

Think about that for a minute. The Democratic Party can't win against a party represented by the obvious insanity of a Senator who compared environmentalism to Hitler's "big lie" and it's the Sierra Club's fault? A party that can't make hay of what Republicans have become and offer a reasonable alternative doesn't deserve to win.

I Expect Better of Mr. Krugman

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I am very disappointed in my favorite New York Times columnist, Paul Krugman, this morning. He seems to be pitching for Kos's team today. In the most wrong-headed column it has ever been my displeasure to read under his byline, he has taken up the cause of attacking the Sierra Club for not being partisan hacks. This is one Krugman column that should probably stay behind the wall, but here's a peek anyway. After listing detailed examples of glaringly idiotic and self-defeating acts of blind party support from right-leaning organizations, Krugman writes:

It’s possible that the federation’s leadership has been misled by Heritage Foundation propaganda. But it’s more likely that, like the chamber, the federation believes that its interests are best served by acting as a loyal servant of the Republican electoral effort. And both organizations are probably right.

Now compare this with the behavior of advocacy groups like the Sierra Club, the environmental organization, and Naral, the abortion-rights group, both of which have endorsed Senator Lincoln Chafee, Republican of Rhode Island, for re-election. The Sierra Club’s executive director defended the Chafee endorsement by saying, “We choose people, not parties.” And it’s true that Mr. Chafee has usually voted with environmental groups.

But while this principle might once have made sense, it’s just na├»ve today. Given both the radicalism of the majority party’s leadership and the ruthlessness with which it exercises its control of the Senate, Mr. Chafee’s personal environmentalism is nearly irrelevant when it comes to actual policy outcomes; the only thing that really matters for the issues the Sierra Club cares about is the “R” after his name.

In other words the Sierra Club should be idiotic and self-defeating, too. Great plan.

I have written extensively, on this issue, in response to Kos's endless bloviating.

This morning I wrote to Mr. Krugman as well. Here is the text, which may or may not appear on their feedback page.

I never expected such an idiotic column from my favorite New York Times columnist. I'm very disappointed. So your plan is that the Sierra Club should be as cynical and unprincipled as any nakedly partisan right wing hack? And in this way, we will somehow restore dignity to the process? Let's pretend for a moment that Democrats don't share substantial responsibility for the current mess; that they haven't dropped the ball every time it mattered and been complicit in enabling the same corpororate-sponsored, military-industrial-complex controlled agenda. Even so do you really think it serves anyone for issue groups to play the same shameless game the right wing is? If you think getting behind a bunch of weak-kneed Democrats by co-opting the methods of moral cowardice perfected by the authoritarian right is the answer, you're just drinking a different flavor of Kool-aid.