The Democratic Centrist-Progressive Alliance Hinges Upon Build Back Better

“At a certain point, we have to trust one another,” Representative Peter Welch (D-VT), said as he left a meeting of the Progressive Caucus meeting. Progressives had just acquiesced to President Joe Biden’s pleas that left-leaning House members sign off on the $1 trillion infrastructure spending bill they’d been holding up in order to pressure the chamber’s centrists to support their own $1.75 trillion package of social programs.             The progressive bloc extracted a written promise from five key centrists to vote for the Build Back Better bill assuming that the Congressional Budget Office verifies the math behind the spending.             The question grassroots progressives are asking themselves is: is trust wise? Will the corporatists deliver? Or are we just rubes who about to get rolled again? The immediate electoral viability of the Democratic Party depends on the answer.             Progressive voters and activists who form the ideological base of the party and provide most of its energy believe they…
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Democratic Moderates Aren’t the Answer to Right-Wing Republicanism. They’re the Cause.

            Another election, another shellacking. Democrats are returning to the political reality that predated the quantum singularity of Biden’s anti-Trump coalition: adrift, ideologically divided and, as always, arguing over whether to chase swing voters or work hard to energize their progressive left base.             At the root of the Democrats’ problem is rightward drift. The 50-yard line of American politics has moved so far right that Richard Nixon would be considered a liberal Democrat today. How did we get here? In part it’s due to the moderates who control the party leadership—not just because they don’t fight for liberal values hard enough (though that’s true), but because of an intended consequence few people focus upon: their campaigning reinforces the right.             Washington Post columnist Megan McArdle wrote an essay a few weeks ago that’s still rattling around in my brain. It’s about a topic that students of politics often wonder about: what’s the smartest way forward for Democrats?             In…
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Graying, Gen X and Generational Leapfrog

            Youth culture lives. But some women are aging against the machine.             It means more than you think.             Girls can go gray as young as age 13. Teens who go prematurely silver are abandoning what would have been the standard shame-based response of the past, racing to buy hair dye. Now gray-haired teens and twentysomethings are joining their black- and red-haired, blonde and brunette brethren—and what would have prompted stares a decade ago suddenly seems normal. Letting natural silver and gray grow out predated the pandemic by several years, but what Glamour calls “the gray-hair revolution” exploded during the 2020 lockdown. “I do remember just feeling like that was a silly thing to be concerned about right now,” a 39-year-old Texas woman who’d previously dyed her mane every three weeks told The Washington Post. Countless women dye so often that they can’t imagine what natural would look like. “The curiosity took over. I think one of the things…
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Colin Powell, Moral Weakling

            If Colin Powell’s life has meaning, it is as a cautionary tale about the perils of going along to get along. Rarely has history offered such a stark example of a human being offered a clear existential choice between right and wrong. Hardly ever has so much hung in the balance for humanity and for an individual’s soul, as when then-secretary of state Colin Powell spoke to the United Nations to make the case for war. It would be impossible to overstate the import of Powell’s February 2003 speech, in which he claimed that the United States had amassed a stockpile of evidence that proved that Iraq had retained chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction in violation of its commitments under the 1991 Gulf War ceasefire. Iraq’s government, Powell argued forcefully, presented such a clear and present danger to its neighbors that the international community—led by the U.S.—had a right, even a duty, to remove it with an…
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Why Is Stalking Legal?

           Activists harass White House officials and senators as they eat dinner at restaurants. Another senator was recently stalked into the ladies’ room, where her pursuers shouted derision at her stall. Many other politicians have suffered protest demonstrations at their homes. Now that they’re beleaguered, this may be the perfect time to convince lawmakers to act to protect Americans’ most personal information: their home address and phone number.             Type your name into a search engine. Odds are, a few of the results will include private companies that reveal your home address or part thereof, your phone number or part thereof, employment and education history, along with information about “known associates” like your friends and family members. For a fee, these personal search services offer to fill in the gaps with data culled from public records such as those of the Department of Motor Vehicles, marriage records, voter registration rolls and consumer credit reports.             Easy access to mountains of…
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Taliban Fashion and Why It Matters

            The British tabloid The Daily Mail is taking small-arms fire for publishing an article bearing the headline: “It’s the trendy Taliban! Young fighters accessorize their traditional clothes with sunglasses, stylish trainers and own-branded baseball caps — while cracking down on Western dressing.” Though the piece took note of the brutal comportment of Afghanistan’s new and former rulers, woke journos at the Independent, Guardian and Politico slammed the very idea of talking about the wardrobe choices of the world’s most notorious insurgent army as “ridiculous,” a “puff piece” and “a Godawful take.”             “Call me old-fashioned but the thing that stands out from the photos isn’t their fashion choices but that they are carrying MASSIVE GUNS,” the Politico railed.             They’re not looking hard enough. If big guns defined the Taliban, I would be more worried whenever I see heavily-armed soldiers at Penn Station.             Fashion matters more than you think and less than the fashion industry knows. Meryl Streep’s…
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Who Lost Afghanistan? H.R.

            Congress, the media and many voters are asking military officials this week: how did we lose the Afghan war? I’ve been reading a book, “The Afghanistan Papers,” by Washington Post reporter Craig Whitlock, that shows how America messed up its longest war. (Every now and then, corporate media hypes something that’s actually worth reading.)             What it does not show, and what Pentagon leaders don’t seem to understand, is why. Whitlock’s book reads like a synopsis of the many essays, books and cartoons I produced over 20 years, which were rejected by most newspapers and news websites because editors and producers refused to publish content that criticized the war. For instance, Whitlock echoes my longstanding insistence that the Taliban posed no threat to the United States: “The Bush administration made another basic mistake by blurring the lines between Al Qaeda and the Taliban,” he writes. “The two groups shared an extremist religious ideology and a mutual support pact, but…
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Taliban Cops Aren’t as Bad as American Cops

            Journalism needs a new rule. Are you reporting about a human rights violation in another country? If the United States commits the same offense, you should be required to refer to that fact in your article or broadcast. Criticizing how a nation treats its prisoners or responds to internal dissent implies that the behavior being discussed falls outside international norms. If your own country does the same thing and you don’t mention it, your lie of omission strips your story of context. There have been many examples of such journalistic malfeasance in coverage of the Taliban since their takeover of Afghanistan. “Taliban fighters used whips and sticks against a group of women protesting in Kabul,” CNN reported September 9th. “The fighters also beat a number of journalists covering the demonstration, according to witnesses.” This is terrible. Violent suppression of peaceful protests should be covered and widely circulated, as was this story—although it’s hardly surprising that a brand-new revolutionary government…
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Democrats Share the Blame for Afghanistan

           Joe Biden is taking heat from Democrats, not for his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan—that’s popular—but for his haphazard pullout that, self-serving Rumsfeldian stuff happens, wars end messily platitudes aside, could have been executed more efficiently. They blame George W. Bush for starting America’s longest war, arguing that what he began inexorably led to our most shocking military defeat and its humiliating aftermath.             I am sympathetic to any and all criticism of our intervention in Afghanistan. I was an early critic of the war and got beaten up for my stance by media allies of the Bush administration. But the very same liberals who now pretend they’re against the Afghan disaster stood by when it mattered and did nothing to defend war critics because Democrats—political leaders and voters alike—went far beyond tacit consent. They were actively complicit with the Republicans’ war, at the time of the invasion and throughout the decades-long occupation of Afghanistan. Now the deadbeat dads…
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20 Years After 9/11, We’re Still Morons

           If crisis creates opportunity, we couldn’t possibly have squandered the possibilities presented by 9/11 more spectacularly. We certainly couldn’t have failed its tests more completely. Twenty years after 9/11, it is clear that the United States is ruled by idiots and that we, the people, are complicit with their moronic behavior.             We had to do something. That was and remains the generic explanation for what we did in response to 9/11—invading Afghanistan and Iraq, directing the CIA to covertly overthrow the governments of Haiti, Venezuela, Belarus, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and a bunch of other countries, lamely legalizing torture, kidnapping via extraordinary rendition to Guantánamo and other concentration camps, building a drone armada and sparking a drone arms race.             Acting purely on speculation, news media was reporting as early as the afternoon of September 11 that Al Qaeda was responsible. That same day, Vice President Dick Cheney argued for invading Iraq. We began bombing Afghanistan October 7, less than…
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