Monday, November 29, 2004

Cities' Limits
A couple weeks ago, I linked to this piece about the need for a new, urban-centric agenda that "Blue America" could call its own. While that article was really speculative (not to mention incendiary), I wonder if the results of Red governance, as described by David Broder here, might help push it from the drawing board into reality:

The blue dots are not just political blotches, however. They are the cities from Atlanta to Seattle, home to tens of millions of Americans. They are also the places where in the past federal programs -- subsidies to schools, police departments, transit systems and, most notably, housing agencies -- were vital.

The impact of these election returns was exhibited vividly and in damaging fashion in the catch-all government spending bill the Republican-controlled Congress cleared three weeks after Election Day.

The legislators who fashioned that bill and the president who will sign it get their votes from red America. The legislators and advocates who counted up the consequences come from the blue-dot city constituencies.
Recognizing this change, the U.S. Conference of Mayors -- the most potent of the city lobbies -- is adopting new tactics. After lamenting the losses in programs that subsidized police hiring and encouraged urban development projects, Tom Cochran, the veteran head of the mayors group, said it was shifting its focus from the cities themselves to entire metropolitan areas -- highlighting their economic power and hoping to harness their political clout with Republicans.
Because business has a huge investment in America's downtowns, the alliance makes sense. By themselves, those who live in -- and lead -- the blue-dot cities are clearly the big losers in this election year. Unless they get help, their programs are on the chopping block.

This is another theme I keep meaning to explore in greater detail: the need for progressives and moderates alike to look to the business community in preserving those aspects of our country that are conducive to a healthy bottom line. There's still a great deal of buying power in the cities--this is the whole concept underlying the efforts of community development corporations to attract big-box retailers to underserved urban areas--and maybe that's the thread by which we can attach the utility of the cities to the engine of national policymaking.

We need something. Because as this Philadelphia Daily News column suggests, in many states the urban/rural divide is getting larger, not smaller--the result of a political division that increasingly matches the long-standing cultural schism:

Philly is increasingly Democratic. The Democratic registration edge in the city jumped this year to better than 4.5-to-1. The Legislature is increasingly Republican. Even as John Kerry carried the state, the GOP hiked its majorities in the House and the Senate.
And as GOP majorities (with core constituencies far more rural than urban) continue to grow, issues of import to the city diminish.

Urban blight, school funding equity, gay rights, gun control and mass transit, for example, are more likely to end up on legislative ice floes than action agendas.

Seriously, would the EU consider a membership application from the Eastern Seaboard megalopolis sometimes known as "BosWash"?
This weekend's retail numbers weren't quite what merchants had hoped, and otherwise the economic picture seems mixed. Increasingly, though, a lot of smart people seem to see a bad moon rising: any article titled "Economic 'Armaggedon' Predicted" is probably worthy of attention, and the view of someone like Stephen Roach, chief economist at Morgan Stanley, is probably less impeachable than that of Paul Krugman (who's been saying this for a year now).

Roach met select groups of fund managers downtown last week, including a group at Fidelity.

His prediction: America has no better than a 10 percent chance of avoiding economic ``armageddon.''

Roach sees a 30 percent chance of a slump soon and a 60 percent chance that ``we'll muddle through for a while and delay the eventual armageddon.''

The chance we'll get through OK: one in 10. Maybe.

In a nutshell, Roach's argument is that America's record trade deficit means the dollar will keep falling. To keep foreigners buying T-bills and prevent a resulting rise in inflation, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan will be forced to raise interest rates further and faster than he wants.

The result: U.S. consumers, who are in debt up to their eyeballs, will get pounded.

Appropos of this issue of the weaker dollar was this article I read yesterday in the Philadelphia Inquirer, making the same argument in more down-to-earth language, while skewering the simplistic thinking of those who urge consumers to "buy American". The key point is that a weaker dollar will lead to more expensive imports, with domestically made goods eventually following suit by raising prices:

There are two ways Americans can respond to rising prices. One is to simply buy less. Nothing wrong with that - as long as the fall in domestic consumption is matched by a rise in production for export.

If it is, then the economy overall grows at about the same rate, and we're fine.

But what if foreign demand for U.S.-made goods doesn't increase, even with a weaker dollar?

That's a possibility: Some Europeans, for instance, have recently talked about boycotting U.S. brands to protest the war in Iraq.

A slowdown in consumption here without growth in U.S. exports could equal a global recession.
Underlying the dollar's fall is a large, and growing, imbalance in the world economy. In short: We consume more than we produce, while our trading partners in Asia and elsewhere produce more than they consume.
Not only have they been aggressive, low-cost producers of the things Americans want; they have also financed our consumption by investing the dollars we send them in U.S. securities.

The only problem with this arrangement is that it can't go on forever. At some point America's debts become overwhelming, and the cycle collapses.

Another problem with dissing "Old Europe" is that they've got the do-re-mi to keep the U.S. economy humming, to the extent that we can't afford to do so ourselves. As personal and shared (government) debt levels keep rising, however, we fall deeper into the trap: only sustained spending keeps the economy afloat, but our individual and collective capacity to keep spending eventually hits a wall ("the cycle collapses").

Krugman's variant of the argument is that eventually our foreign creditors will call in their debts, prompting a substantial spike in interest rates and a sharp reduction in consumer spending. Ever-larger government debt, in part to finance Scial Security privatization, will set the dominoes tumbling:

"The break can come either from the Reserve Bank of China deciding it has enough dollars, thank you, or from private investors saying 'I'm going to take a speculative bet on a dollar plunge,' which then ends up being a self-fulfilling prophecy," Krugman opined. "Both scenarios are pretty unnerving."

Now add in the likelihood--hell, the near-certainty--that Bush's enablers in Congress will authorize "vast borrowing" to support the deformation of Social Security, and I wonder if we're at the leading edge of what I think will become known to history as the "Bush Depression."

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Coming back from an eventful weekend in Philly, I read two articles on the train that I want to link to later on. But first things first: The Eagles are NFC East champions again, improving to 10-1 after a 27-6 win over the fading New York Giants. With Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens relatively quiet, the heroes were Brian Westbrook (two TDs, about 130 total yards from scrimmage), a defense that intercepted Eli Manning twice and sacked him five times while holding Tiki Barder to a merely good game rather than a 200-yard detonation, and an offensive line that included two guards I'd never heard of before but kept McNabb's jersey relatively clean and opened holes for Westbrook and Dorsey Levens. Oh yeah, and the special teams were outstanding, with David Akers nailing two longish field goals when the game was still close and Jevon Kearse blocking a punt to set up Westbrook's first score and essentially remove any doubt about the outcome.

This is the fourth straight division title for the Birds, and as they started to celebrate, just a little, it occurred to me why this looked familiar beyond the literal sight: they've become the Atlanta Braves. Now, they're still NINE division championships short of what the Braves have achieved, but in terms of year-in, year-out superior performance, it's a similar type of achievement... and considering the salary cap, injuries, and the theoretical leveling effects of the draft and the schedule, one could make an argument that four NFL division crowns isn't that much less impressive than what Atlanta has done.

What I worry about, though (and remember: I'm a Philadelphian; worry is inevitable as breathing and mispronouncing "water"), is that the Eagles face a similar block against reaching the true heights as the Braves seem to have. Every year, Atlanta towers over their division rivals, dominates the regular season, and then goes belly-up in the playoffs. The Eagles have done the same these last three years, though they've advanced further than the Braves recently have. Just as Bobby Cox always seems to get out-managed in October, Andy Reid has been out-coached in January. The result, in both cases, has been intense frustration.

The counter-argument, which I hope will prove determinative this NFL playoff year, is that while the Braves teams have obviously become less talented over the years--especially with the recent departures of Greg Maddux, Gary Sheffield, Javy Lopez et all--the Eagles have more raw ability on their current roster than they have at any point in Reid's tenure. Owens and Kearse have no ownership of those three NFC Championship Game losses; they have no ghosts to exorcise. Hopefully that will make the difference this winter.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

More Nuance, Not Less
Regular AIS readers (all six of you) know that I've been groping toward a formulation of how Democrats can maintain their principle-based support for abortion rights while being more politically effective in articulating this position. I'll have more to say about the substantive case for this when I get into "Community Values," one of the Democratic agenda pillars I noted a couple days ago, but for now I want to recognize that I'm apparently not alone in trying to think this through--and that Sarah Blustain at the American Prospect has written about it in a much more compelling way than I have, or probably could:
I’m tormented by the idea that even as I support Democratic candidates -- and, yes, on this issue -- I’m turned off by their abortion rhetoric.
To this generation, the “choice” of a legal abortion is no longer something to celebrate. It is a decision made in crisis, and it is never one made happily. Have you ever talked to a woman who has had an abortion? Even a married, intentionally pregnant woman who has had a “D and C” for a dying or dead embryo? A college student whose birth control failed? I promise you, such a woman does not talk about exercising the “right to choose.” You may accuse her -- and me -- of taking such rights for granted, and maybe you’d be right. But mainly she will tell you how sad she is, how she wished she hadn’t had to make that “choice,” how unpleasant the procedure was. She is more likely depressed than defiant.

That’s why liberalism’s vocabulary of “rights” when it comes to abortion rings a little hollow. It’s constitutional, intellectual -- and not nuanced enough to absorb the emotional or even legal complexity... abortion is a right that ends in sorrow, not celebration. It’s not like women’s suffrage or the equal access to public accommodations, rights whose outcome is emotionally unambiguous.
[Democratic politicians should] acknowledge that every woman would rather not have an abortion, and that might enable them to talk more genuinely about the impossible situations women who consider abortion face. It might humanize the mothers, and allow Democrats to argue for all the health benefits to women and their families when abortion is legal, without sounding so darn cheerful about it.

Talking about the human element of abortion also might help lessen Democrats’ dependence on the vocabulary of “rights,” which John Kerry invoked during his campaign... The language of “rights,” Elizabeth Cavendish, interim president of NARAL, told me, mainly speaks to the college-educated crowd. For others, she says, the left needs to talk about women’s health, including sex education and birth control, and about the opportunity to make personal decisions based on personal values.

This makes sense. Much of Blustain's article details her experiences and impressions at the March for Women's Lives, held in DC last April. I didn't go to this event myself, but several friends of mine who work in the reproductive health field did. I was hesitant to talk with them about it because of concerns similar to what Blustain gets into here: as Democrats, we are tone-deaf to the reality that this is a tragic choice, not a joyful one--and we come off as almost ghoulish when we respond to the abortion issue with such vehemence and what I suspect is perceived as insensitivity. We need to acknowledge the complexity of this issue and the valid moral concerns of at least the more principled "comprehensively pro-life" anti-abortion thinkers--and I believe we can do that while still making the argument that abortion rights should be preserved (a view that voter majorities still share, by the way).

Like Blustain, I still think Bill Clinton had it right when he envisioned a country in which abortions were "safe, legal and rare." The "rare" at least sent a signal that this wasn't really something to desire--a key point that has been obscured since the Big Dog left the stage. Further, acknowledging that we are not "for" abortions makes it easier to shift the debate to the hypocrisy of Republicans who seem far more concerned about embryos--or even clumps of stem cells--than real children, post-birth, whose "rights" to housing, equal education, ample and nutritious food, and stable, loving families are transparently of little concern to the moralizing majority.

On a totally different subject, Matt Miller's latest column offers a nice vent at John Kerry's inexplicable and extremely frustrating decision to withhold $15 million from Democratic campaign efforts. I'm with Jody: I want my money back!

Happy Thanksgiving, folks. Back next week.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Angry Cranks Unite!
In some sense, it's probably not as much fun to be a conservative these days as it was in the late 1980s, when they could attack George H.W. Bush for ideological wimpiness while still leveraging his control of the executive to do some things, or the early Clinton years, when the bombthrowers enjoyed both media superstardom and the authentic thrill of insurrectionary politics. Now they control everything, which brings its own pleasures but also confers a wearing sense of reality-based responsibility--or at least, it should...

Here's a cure for those grown-up governance blues: let's waste a federal agency. James Wolcott, Jeff Jarvis and the right-wing blogger Steve Verdon have the target in sight: the Federal Communications Commission.

I love it. The FCC isn't doing what it's supposed to do--regulate the airwaves in the public interest--anyway, unless you define "public interest" strictly in terms of private profit and appeasing a handful of moralists. (Funny how the same people who sneer at liberals for "thinking they know best" don't have a similar problem with those who would define what is and isn't an acceptable standard of discourse...) And Michael Powell's hypocrisy, arrogance and will-to-pander have pissed off people from left, right and center--the campaign against last year's proposed media ownership rules changes included, among others, the Family Research Council, the National Rifle Association, MoveOn, and Common Cause. And now with Powell butting in on "scandals" like the Terrell Owens/Monday Night Football flap, it should be even easier to mount an effort against this pointless and corrupt agency and its junketeer-in-chief.

Tom Shales of the Washington Post opens up the journalistic can of whoop-tushie on both Powell and the FCC:
"Arrogant" is the adjective used most often in any discussion of Powell and the way he pushes his personal agenda, an extension of the fanatical deregulation that gathered steam under Ronald Reagan's FCC chairman, a reckless loudmouth named Mark Fowler. Basically the theology is this: Commercial interests come first, second and third among priorities, and "the public interest, convenience and necessity," which the FCC is mandated to uphold, straggles in a distant fourth. Powell is much better tailored and milder mannered than Fowler but equally stubborn and self-adoring.

He seems never to have met a media merger he didn't like, which will result in the virtual death of local television and radio in America as station after station is sucked up into one enormous unfeeling conglomerate or another. Powell scorns the pleas of public-minded groups that try to meet with him, critics say, but will rush off eagerly to any luncheon, dinner or cocktail party sponsored by big corporate powers.

When criticized heavily for this during the uproar over Powell's attempts to jettison the rules against media concentration (rules designed to promote diversity in American broadcasting and keep one company from acquiring too much media power, as Fox has now), Powell grudgingly and belatedly scheduled a series of public forums on the matter. "But he skipped half the public hearings he authorized," laments one of his many detractors.

To be fair, Shales' piece is screed, not analysis. But I've read and heard some of Powell's attempts at justification for his water-carrying on behalf of Rupert Murdoch, Viacom and other Big Media heavies, and they don't hold up: his view that major-media consolidation in local markets (or in larger settings) is justified because of the proliferation of cable and online alternatives neatly elides the fact that in terms of numbers, the big players in over-the-air broadcast and journalism are moving toward a position of dominance in newer media as well.

Like many ideologues, he's not lacking brain wattage, and I've heard he was a pretty good antitrust lawyer. But his tenure at FCC is a disaster, and since we know Bush won't fire anyone for ineptitude--and Powell, unlike his dad, won't admit to his own mistakes--let's find the win-win here: conservatives get to feel like revolutionaries again and really "shrink" government, and liberals get rid of this self-important, self-appointed moral scold-slash-corporate whore.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Toot, Toot
Words I wrote have now been published in the New York Times, in Bob Herbert's column today:

A new study by the Center for an Urban Future, a nonprofit research group, found that more than 550,000 families in New York - a quarter of all working families in the state - had incomes that were too low to cover their basic needs.

We just had a bitterly contested presidential election, but this very serious problem (it's hardly confined to New York) was not a major part of the debate.
In its introduction, the study says, "The implied bargain America offers its citizens is supposed to be that anyone who works hard and plays by the rules can support his or her family and move onward and upward."
Franklin Roosevelt, in his second Inaugural Address, told a rain-soaked crowd, "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."

I can hear the politicians in today's Washington having a hearty laugh at that sentiment.

I wrote that introduction. While Herbert is sometimes too predictably left-ish for my colleagues and me, I have to admit it's still kind of thrilling to see words I wrote in the Paper of Record.
Say it Loud, Say it Proud
Over the last two-plus weeks of soul-searching and hair-pulling, I've gradually come to a surprising but increasingly satisfying conclusion: I am a "New Democrat."

This is a group that has been calumnied and villified and distorted and slandered by the "party core" over the last few years, so I want to be careful to explain what this means (to me, at least) and why I think it's actually not accommodationist, as the Howard Dean faction (though not always Dean himself) and other diehards have charged, but instead the best way for the Democrats to get back to where they (we) were from about 1932 till 1978, give or take a few years at the end.

Former President Clinton had an amazing formulation in his library dedication speech last week:

America has two great dominant strands of political thought... conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barrier that are no longer needed or should never have been erected in the first place.

It seemed to me that in 1992 we needed to do both to prepare America for the 21st century: to be more conservative in things like erasing the deficit and paying down the debt and preventing crime and punishing criminals and protecting and supporting families, and enforcing things like child support laws and reforming the military to meet the new challenges of the 21st century.

And we needed to be more progressive in creating good jobs, reducing poverty, increasing the quality of public education, opening the doors of college to all, increasing access to health care, investing more in science and technology, and building new alliances with our former adversaries, and working for peace across the world and peace in America across all the lines that divide us.

This was the core of his politics, and it's why he was a successful president. And it's where the Democratic Party needs to go if we're going to get back in.

The superb Bull Moose blog lamented last week that America is currently lacking a true conservative party. I think this is 100 percent true, and it's amazing how many of my lefty-ish friends are noticing their inner conservatives now: we're upset about the mounting debt (anyone catch what Greenspan said on Friday about the risks of ever-mounting deficits, or how Bush signed legislation last week allowing the annual budget deficit to cap at $800 BILLION?!?) and the foreign-policy adventurism.

The Republicans are "conservative" in the sense that they stand against social change and for (a very limited conception of) "traditional values": gay relationships are sinful, any sex outside of marriage is wrong, we shouldn't say the f-word on TV, and so on. But the Cheney/DeLay/Norquist ruling faction is clearly NOT conservative in their beliefs that "deficits don't matter," that war is an option of choice rather than a last resort for policymaking, and that American traditions of checks and balances--not to mention foreign treaties--are outmoded barriers to the use of power.

(This isn't to say that every international treaty, or even our own traditions of governance, should be accepted uncritically. But the way we properly revisit and revise these things is by open debate and relative consensus, not the political equivalent of smash-mouth football.)

So how do the Democrats--"New" and otherwise--build a message that's more positive than "Anybody but Bush" and more compelling than "what they're doing, but smarter and better"? This will be the thrust of my next few posts here. Basically, here are the four thematic pillars I'm thinking about:

1. Shared Prosperity
2. Community Values
3. Strength and Prudence
4. Leading the World by Example

To be continued.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Miscellany and (More) Self-Promotion
Josh Marshall is doing a great job of both keeping tabs on the DeLay Disgrace--which Republican legislators voted for it and which ones didn't (the "Shays Handful," an appellation that reminds me why I'm glad, in the end, that Connecticut Republican Chris Shays, the campaign finance reform crusader who represents Annie's family, pulled out a close win a few weeks ago). If you haven't been reading it, check it out.

Also worth noting is how the corporate media is snarfing up the Republican meme that Austin prosecutor Ronnie Earle is engaged in a "partisan witch hunt" against the uber-partisan Bug Man. For the record, Earle has gone after three times as many Democrats than Republicans for corruption over his long career--not that you'd know it from watching Judy Woodruff or her fellow whores (a non-gender adjective in this case).

I was thinking again yesterday about the Thomas Frank hypothesis: Republicans get "heartland" voters in places like Kansas to pull the lever against their own self-interest, by campaigning on "social issues" and then relentlessly deregulating and concentrating wealth once in office. (Apparently Frank was on the Daily Show a couple nights ago; I missed it.) I think this is a substantially compelling theory, but intellectual honesty demands that we acknowledge the Democrats have a version of this too: we could call it "racial resentment politics." It's how, for instance, Marion Barry has survived multiple incidents that should have ended his career: his voters use Barry to raise a figurative middle finger at The Man, a rationale he encourages with his style of politics, but once in office he acts like a classic Machine thug, enriching friends and allies and irresponsibly spending public money. Sadly, the Democratic Party organization in Brooklyn acts much the same way.

If "spite voting"--the phenomenally descriptive and arguably prescient term used in this New York Press feature from last June--is wrong for the Republicans, it's wrong for our side too.

Self-promotion: I recently wrote a book review of Jason DeParle's magnificent American Dream, a sprawling and richly told history of welfare reform that embraces both the headline-making moves of people like President Bill Clinton and Wisconsin Governor/Bush HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, and three Milwaukee women and their families trying to get ahead after welfare as we knew it was ended. As usual when I write for City Limits, there was a little editorial distortion of my perspective--I wouldn't have used the verbiage of "the myths of welfare reform"--but the real point is, you should read DeParle's book. It's a classic, and should be instructive for both left- and right-wing partisans that nobody has a monopoly on wisdom in this complicated area of policy.

The Center for an Urban Future also released the biggest, most ambitious report of my tenure here last week, on low-income working families in New York. I was a lead author on this project, and we tried to strike a similarly balanced tone here, and got great cooperation from (some) Pataki administration agencies as well as folks in the advocacy community and independent researchers. Hopefully this is the start of something big for our organization, and a step on the road to a more thoughtful debate on how to craft policy that better supports people who are working hard but not getting ahead.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Liberal Heresies, Part II
Last week I suggested that Democrats should back off their to-the-death defense of Roe v. Wade and come out strongly for a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. Then I ran away for a few days.

I'm ready to defend my points now. On the abortion issue, I think the Democrats are well past the point of diminishing returns--and I'm not at all certain that they need to push to defend a (badly written) law that, if overturned, could fracture the Republican electoral coalition and undo everything Karl Rove has worked toward in his long years of Satanic servitude. (Hey, I'm just trying to stay in tune with the times.) Check out this Boston Globe piece on the possible ramifications of overturning Roe.

This is not to say that Democrats should speak out against the law--just that it shouldn't be a bright-line issue for judicial appointments or other political prizes. It's a matter of practicality: if Bush wants to overturn Roe, he'll probably be able to do it. So the question is whether this is the right fight to keep waging, given the lack of effective weaponry.

On the Balanced Budget Amendment, I don't think we have anything left to lose here either. The deficit will only get worse in Bush's second term: as Robert Reich points out in this piece, the pork-driven Republican Congress won't discipline itself, and Bush won't act to restrain them.

At some point, this excessive spending will be felt in the economy, and we might tip back into recession or worse. But there's a "values" question in here too, and that's what the Democrats should focus on: Deficit spending is essentially a means by which to defer tough choices. Without any structural constraints, Congress can appropriate funds for bread, circuses, missile defense, corporate welfare, "faith-based" whatever, and other New Deal/Great Society-era programs like Head Start that remain too popular to be directly attacked. Let our grandchildren pay for it, they seem to be saying, unless the Rapture comes first.

Democrats have long bemoaned the seeming contradiction that majorities agree with us in terms of "priorities," but don't vote for our folks. The key to resolving the contradiction might be to bring those choices into much sharper context: a BBA would force the choice between missile defense and job training, subsidizing ADM or investing in schools.

Would such an amendment have any chance of passing? Hard to say. The Republicans proposed it in 1995 and it failed by one vote in the Senate--but that was when they had a Democratic president to face down, and the balance between idealism and power wasn't quite as tilted toward the latter. (To see what I mean, just consider that they're about to rescind the "Rostenkowski rule" to allow Tom DeLay to continue his pillaging despite a pending indictment.)

Still, it would be fun to point out the hypocrisy of the one-time revolutionaries becoming addicted to fiscal irresponsibility--and it would play well with another idea I have, the "Generational Compact." The way this one would work is that a group, preferably non-partisan but left-leaning if necessary, would present all candidates with a pledge not to cast votes that would increase the national debt between when they take office and when they leave. The anti-tax absolutists within the Republican Party have used a similar "pledge" to get their candidates on record; the Compact would merely exert a counterveiling force, and hopefully help reduce the spiking per-capita share of national fiscal obligation.

What do you think?

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Livin' for the Cities
One of my big frustrations as an urban-based policy analyst is that both political parties have all but neglected issues that affect cities in running their national campaigns. Right after the Republican Convention was staged here in NYC, I wrote on the Center for an Urban Future blog that neither party platform nor either candidate's website had anything of substance on urban affairs. This doesn't seem likely to change in the near future; the Republicans won the election without doing well in any city of size, and the Democrats continue to chase the Republicans to the right, apparently convinced that the key to an electoral majority is further genuflection at the altar of "heartland values."

Sites like this one question how worthwhile those values are in an objective sense, but politically maybe it's time for a counterintuitive shift to embracing the cities, rather than shying away from them in apparent embarrassment. today raises the question of a Democratic embrace of states' rights, noting correctly that "'s liberal enclaves that feel threatened by the federal government, and who will likely need to muster states' rights arguments to protect themselves from Bush's domestic policies."

Considering the well-documented (at least in the blogosphere) phenomenon of "Blue states" subsidizing "Red states" with federal tax dollars, this seems fair to me. Some argue that this atomization of the country should be taken even further, as the Seattle-based publication The Stranger calls for the "United Cities of America" to turn inward and essentially build a country within a country:

It's time to state something that we've felt for a long time but have been too polite to say out loud: Liberals, progressives, and Democrats do not live in a country that stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Canada to Mexico. We live on a chain of islands. We are citizens of the Urban Archipelago, the United Cities of America. We live on islands of sanity, liberalism, and compassion--New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle, St. Louis, Minneapolis, San Francisco, and on and on. And we live on islands in red states too--a fact obscured by that state-by-state map. Denver and Boulder are our islands in Colorado; Austin is our island in Texas; Las Vegas is our island in Nevada; Miami and Fort Lauderdale are our islands in Florida. Citizens of the Urban Archipelago reject heartland "values" like xenophobia, sexism, racism, and homophobia, as well as the more intolerant strains of Christianity that have taken root in this country.
If Democrats and urban residents want to combat the rising tide of red that threatens to swamp and ruin this country, we need a new identity politics, an urban identity politics, one that argues for the cities, uses a rhetoric of urban values, and creates a tribal identity for liberals that's as powerful and attractive as the tribal identity Republicans have created for their constituents. John Kerry won among the highly educated, Jews, young people, gays and lesbians, and non-whites. What do all these groups have in common? They choose to live in cities.

...Democrats need to pursue policies that encourage urban growth (mass transit, affordable housing, city services), and Democrats need to openly and aggressively champion urban values. By focusing on the cities the Dems can create a tribal identity to combat the white, Christian, rural, and suburban identity that the Republicans have cornered. And it's sitting right there, on every electoral map, staring them in the face: The cities.

At the least, it's a pretty interesting argument. I can tell you from my own policy work that transit, housing and services are the issues, along with "quality of life" (a phrase that embraces transit, services, crime and cultural amenities) and sustaining a good business climate, that matter most to city-dwellers. Republicans are capable of doing some of this--but it seems pretty clear that Mike Bloomberg, Richard Riordan and Rudy Giuliani are fairly exceptional within the Republican Party. They all won by running away from their national party; I hope Bloomberg manages to do the same next year, though I fear that New York is going to be delivered into the hands of a clueless machine Democrat just out of voters' spite over the results this year.

What would a "politics of the cities" look like? The Stranger article offers some good thinking, mixed in with rhetoric that we'll chalk up to ongoing pique about the electoral outcome:

To red-state voters, to the rural voters, residents of small, dying towns, and soulless sprawling exburbs, we say this: Fuck off. Your issues are no longer our issues. We're going to battle our bleeding-heart instincts and ignore pangs of misplaced empathy. We will no longer concern ourselves with a health care crisis that disproportionately impacts rural areas. Instead we will work toward winning health care one blue state at a time.

When it comes to the environment, our new policy is this: Let the heartland live with the consequences of handing the national government to the rape-and-pillage party. The only time urbanists should concern themselves with the environment is when we are impacted--directly, not spiritually (the depressing awareness that there is no unspoiled wilderness out there doesn't count). Air pollution, for instance: We should be aggressive. If coal is to be burned, it has to be burned as cleanly as possible so as not to foul the air we all have to breathe...

...Liberals in big cities who have never seen the inside of a Wal-Mart spend a lot of time worrying about the impact Wal-Mart is having on the heartland. No more. We will do what we can to keep Wal-Mart out of our cities and, if at all possible, out of our states. We will pass laws mandating a living wage for full-time work, upping the minimum wage for part-time work, and requiring large corporations to either offer health benefits or pay into state- or city-run funds to provide health care for uninsured workers. That will reform Wal-Mart in our blue cities and states or, better yet, keep Wal-Mart out entirely. And when we see something on the front page of the national section of the New York Times about the damage Wal-Mart is doing to the heartland, we will turn the page. Wal-Mart is not an urban issue.

Neither is gun control. Our new position: We'll fight to keep guns off the streets of our cities, but the more guns lying around out there in the heartland, the better...

We won't demand that the federal government impose reasonable fuel-efficiency standards on all cars sold in the United States. We will, however, strive to pass state laws, as California has done, imposing fuel-efficiency standards on cars sold in our states.

This progressive "urban federalism" strikes me as a smart policy response to a federal government dependent upon tax revenues that originate in cities but somewhere between indifferent and outright hostile to city policy goals. The problem is that what would be good for urbanites would not be good for the Democratic Party; unless this urban agenda proved electorally compelling to folks living in those smaller municipalities of between 50,000 and 500,000 people too, such a strategy could never lead to an electoral majority. (One reason Bush won is because he did okay in the suburbs, and great in the "exurbs"--those regions that are largely economically dependent upon cities but are culturally much closer to rural America. As the above suggests, their issues ain't our issues.)

Personally, my loyalty is to the cities and what's best for people who live in them; the Democrats haven't done much for us aside from taking our money and racking up our votes. Any political party is a means to the end of good public policy, not an end in itself--something I wish the more thoughtful Republicans that remain such would keep closer in mind.

Zell Miller's manifesto for leaving the Democrats (in fact, if not in name) was titled A National Party No More. The crowning irony of this political year would be if new electoral realities, and the need to preserve something, led the party to actually embrace his formulation.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

The Fundamental Things Apply Themselves
Ah, bliss. After arguably the two worst weeks in my life, when I felt both a profound philosophical disappointment (the election) and a terrible health scare for my brother, I think I saw a sign tonight of better things to come. Thomas Pynchon ascended to the ranks of Phil Hartman, Jon Lovitz and Albert Brooks, returning as a semi-regular guest voice on the season premiere of "The Simpsons."

Culturally, this is as good as it gets for me. Ever. This is my Stravinsky meets Picasso meets Brecht. (Okay, maybe if Husker Du reunited, or better yet were teleported across time, to rock out with Pynchon and the Simpsons, that would be my Stravinsky meets Picasso meets Brecht. Call this my Picasso meets Einstein. Hercules Einstein!) Admittedly, this thought is both exhilirating and a little depressing.

They say tragic times lead to great art. It's on. "V-licious," indeed.

edit: Here's a great New Yorker cartoon related to the issue at hand, drawn by Roz Chast.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Groundhog War
Seems like the "battle for Fallujah" is receding from the headlines, pushed out by mass-media mouth-breathing over the Peterson verdict and whatever is going on in the world of celebrities. Don't worry, though: if you missed it this time, or the first time, the odds are you'll be able to catch Round Three in a few months' time.

James Wolcott, whom I think is likely to join Paul Krugman and Josh Marshall in the pantheon of thinking lefties in the bad times to come, puts it pretty concisely:

The US assault on Fallujah is a prime example of what [Emmanuel] Todd calls "theatrical micromilitarism." I mean, calling it "Operation Phantom Fury"--it's a sick joke. What's "phantom" about it? For months the US has been touting this incursion and publicly built up forces outside the city for weeks, giving the enemy plenty of time to rig explosives and/or skip town. Billing it as a "decisive battle"--another fraud. Guerrilla warfare operates on an entirely different set of rules; as has been oft pointed out, America won every major battle during Vietnam and still lost. What's unfolding is not a decisive moment but a ghastly production that trains hellfire on a symbolic target and "plays well" to American citizens as a flex of muscle, as witness the NY Post cover today of an American soldier with a cigarette dangling from his mouth with the headline "Marlboro Men Kick Butt." Civilian casualties, the destruction of homes and livelihoods, the absence of any significant capture of insurgent ringleaders, these are secondary to getting good action footage over which benedictions can be said.

I've had a chance to listen to the news more in the last couple days, and this seems to sum it up, stripped away of official equivocations and the veiled language of those who prefer to remain on speaking terms with the powerful: the insurgents left, we blew stuff up, we'll soon leave, and the displaced and collaterally damaged population in the town will be ever more hardened against the United States and all its works. But the Post got its headline--and even got to make a pro-smoking statement. That inebriated idiotic Aussie who writes the belligerent columns, Steve whateverisnameis, must have all but soiled himself.

I'm no expert on military affairs. But it just seems like basic logic that there is no way to defeat an insurgency without convincing the population that the invaders/occupiers/liberators are offering something much, much better than what was there before. I actually happen to believe we're offering it (as we were, in a sense, in Vietnam--but even more so this time, I think), but I've seen nothing to suggest we're convincing anyone. So all the insurgents need to do is wait us out.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Liberal Heresies
I won't be able to post for a couple days owing to personal affairs in Philadelphia. But I wanted to leave the half-dozen or so (maybe I'm giving myself too much credit) whom I know are looking in with two thoughts for the reorientation of the Democratic Party in the years ahead, as suggested in this cogent and smart Bruce Reed op-ed and elsewhere.

One: The Democrats should let Roe v. Wade go, as a matter of law, and shift focus instead to the principles of equity that underscore why at least some of us who are ambivalent about abortion supported it anyway.

Two: The Democrats should come out foursquare for a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution.

Back with my reasons why next week.
Let There Be More Darkness
Three days before the election, and a day before I left for Ohio, I went to the Brooklyn library and took out a wide enough range of books so that whatever the election outcome, I'd have something fitting the mood. I'm about halfway through Paul Roberts' The End of Oil, which despite its hyperbolic title offers a surprisingly balanced and lucid view of the energy issues we're facing now and in the decades ahead. I'm actually less worried about this problem after reading half of Roberts' book than I was before.

The other book I'm working through seems even more appropriate to the time. It's Darkness at Noon, by Arthur Koestler. I think I first became aware of this book after hearing Bill Clinton, Al Gore, or both make reference to it in relation to their political travails. 100 pages in, this seems extremely melodramatic and self-aggrandizing to me, but the analogy might make more sense as I go on.

What I do find striking about the book, which depicts the fall from official grace of a lifelong revolutionary operative who seems parallel to Leon Trotsky (a historical figure who has always fascinated me in his combination of idealism, brilliance, ruthlessness and hypocrisy), is that it seems resonant with certain current political realities. One can't read much about Grover Norquist and the right-wing "movement" for long without seeing references to Lenin. And this passage, written in the voice of the protagonist, Rubashov, struck me as particularly relevant to the forces now driving our politics:

We have learnt history more thoroughly than the others. We differ from all others in our logical consistency. We know that virtue does not matter to history, and that crimes remain unpunished; but that every error has its consequences and venges itself unto the seventh generation. Therefore we concentrated all our efforts on preventing error and destroying the very seeds of it... We were held for madmen because we followed every thought down to its final consequence and acted accordingly. We were compared to the inquisition because, like them, we constantly felt in ourselves the whole weight of responsibility for the superindividual life to come. We resembled the great Inquisitors in that we persecuted the seeds of evil not only in men's deeds, but in their thoughts. We admitted no private sphere, not even inside a man's skull. We lived under the compulsion of working things out to their final conclusions.

I make no comment upon Koestler's personal life, which evidently was repugnant in many respects. But his passionate repudiation of the Bolshevik vision holds true today for the ideologues of the other side, whom I believe have similarly set themselves up as responsible only to history and unbound by ethics or the norms of politics.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Interview with a Form Letter
I got an e-mail this morning from "Terry McAuliffe" (the quotes are meant to represent that, of course, someone else wrote this thing, and it was sent to presumably millions of people, not just me). It included a link to a form in which users could provide feedback about the just-concluded election. In the interests of encouraging folks to take the party up on this kind offer, I here submit my own responses. The form is available online here.

1. How did you participate in this election?

Gave money. Gave time. Gave hope.

2. Is this the first time you participated in election activism?


3. How would you like to continue to stay involved? (Volunteering, phonebanking, fundraising, local organizing, etc.)

Don't know yet. I don't think I'm interested in your failed party, though.

4. Did you feel the actions you took were effective?

No. We lost.

5. Was it a good experience for you?

Yes. The value of what's fought for isn't determined by the success of the fight.

6. How would you make it better?

How much time do you have? The first thing I would do is fire Terry McAuliffe. He's got all the charm and integrity of WWE empressario Vince McMahon; unfortunately, he lacks McMahon's charisma, imagination, and will. He embodies everything that's wrong with the Democrats.

7. Please share other thoughts and comments you have about the 2004 election and what Democrats and the Democratic Party should do going forward.

Read Thomas Frank. We must re-establish ourselves as the party of economic justice--and show how the values that underlie this vision are more consistent with the foundational moral principles of western civilization than the Republican "morality" which embraces crony capitalism, lying as a common practice of statecraft, and the "tactics" of Abu Ghraib.

This does NOT mean giving ground on gay rights or other social justice issues--but it does mean making the case for these priorities in a forthright, unapologetic way.
After the End of the World
First, let me face reality up front: this post is, kind of, about politics. It's really about reacting to politics, rather than fulmination, insight or observation about issues. So, yeah, I'm going back at least somewhat on what I said in the last one. Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself...

I gather from e-mails that the blog world on the left is starting to hum with accusations of fraud and cheating. I don't find this hard to believe--Greg Palast is a smart guy and a dogged journalist, and he has an admirable willingness to face unpleasant possibilities that the corporate media won't and never will. Maybe Bush did take Ohio, Florida and New Mexico through shenanigans and shady doings.

I still don't think it really matters, in a "scoreboard" sense. Despite James Baker 3d and Ted Olson in 2000, I do think victory in the popular vote count confers legitimacy, and I have yet to see anything remotely suggestive that they stole three million-plus votes. The concerns about electoral fraud really have more to do with the sense I think many people now have: that our democracy is a game, that cheating is essentially acceptable because "both sides do it," and that integrity in the process is an unreachable ideal. I maintain that the spread of this view is corrosive in ways we can't yet totally comprehend, but to the specific question of the 2004 vote, it's not a central issue.

So, what to do? I feel very fortunate to have a girlfriend with Canadian citizenship, a stroke of amazing good luck that spares me from considering this sort of thing. I'd rather not have to uproot and just declare the Free City of New York, for the reasons set forth in the satirical Felber quote below; the truth is, neither secession nor expatriation is super-likely. I badly wanted to change my political reading habits; after almost a week, I find that I can tolerate the subjective but, I think, honest opinings of Josh Marshall and the Bull Moose (see links to the left), but I don't want to read Daily Kos or MyDD, or listen to the ranters on Air America Radio--the ultimate example of becoming what one claims to hate, except that they don't have any power.

And guys like Stan Greenberg and Ruy Teixeira... I've been reading some good stuff on Buddhist thinking this past week, about the absurdity of desire and all that. But I'm still harboring the desire to kick Ruy's deluded ass. (Yes, this is a Simpsons joke I've appropriated for my own purposes. I do this a lot.)

So all this signifies nothing. I still don't know what to do. I'm not quitting my job. I'm not giving up on public policy. Camus justified his getting involved with the French Underground after the Nazi occupation, a move that seemed to contradict his whole philosophy, as giving in to "hopeless hope." This always struck me as a sort of cop-out, a neck-up justification for a gut-level reaction. So be it. I'm doing the same thing. I just want to find, one, a smarter way to fight that doesn't involve further concessions to a worldview I find ugly (the revelation that Kerry disdained Clinton's advise to demagogue the gay marriage question increased my admiration for the man considerably--though it probably would have helped him); and two, ways to better live with the results whatever they are.

Here are two quotes that struck me as the best things I've read since the election. First, my uncle--a moderate Republican who mostly hangs around with Democrats:

...the real issue here, I believe, is how out of fucking touch the people running the DNC are, as it pertains to the reality of politics in the real world - which, while maybe I'm missing the point of the process, to me translates into getting people elected to forward your values and ideals.
You had a sitting President, a stagnant economy, rising unemployment, a record deficit, skyrocketing health care costs, long-time allies that hold us in contempt (if not outright ridicule), the threat of nuclear (or nucular - which I just LOVE) proliferation among people who still ride camels to work, and an unpopular, tragic, and expensive war with no real end in sight.
And the Democrats allowed the Republicans to make this election about terrorism, gay marriage, and right to life!!!!
Am I stupid - or does this look like NO ONE in the Democratic Party knew what the fuck to do - or how to go about doing it!!!
I am of the belief that if the leadership, brain trusts, and strategists of the Republican and Democratic Parties were reversed, the Democrats would have won! Maybe in a landslide, and more likely than not, have taken at least one of the houses of Congress with them.
Now, I admit that it would be naive to dismiss the conservative bent of 'red' America - after all, terrorism, gay marriage, and right to life DID resonate there.
But to allow those issues to be the predominate ones that 58,000,000 Americans based their votes on, is almost unbelievable! And unconscionable.
The Democrats have only themselves to blame for the mess they've made of the Party that Bill Clinton left them.

Chip goes on to suggest that the Democrats should look to appropriate "moderate Republican issues." It's smart thinking, but it's already been done: in terms of fiscal responsibility, moderate foreign policy and environmental rule-making, and much else of what constitutes "the issues," we're there already. This was the completion of what Bill Clinton started 12 years ago. But, as I wrote back to him, I don't think most people voted on "the issues." I think the message Bush voters sent with their votes wasn't an endorsement of endless deficits, nine Scalias on the Court, unilateral war for any reason, or anything else we're all tearing our hair out over; that message was "keep us safe, and advance our values."

It's not a bad message; it's actually something even we godless heathens on the coasts can get behind. The only problem is that Bush, Cheney and the rest of the crew will take those votes as a full endorsement of deficits, unchecked aggression, zealots on the bench, and so forth.

Here's the other, sent to me by Dr. Catloaf. It's not very "constructive," but it does accurately reflect my frustration with the severe double standard of "morality" and cultural tolerance we've seen in many election postmortems: the coasts must respect the heartland, but the heartland is fully justified in shitting on the coasts, glory be to God, world without end.

I concede that I misjudged the power of hate. That's pretty powerful
stuff, and I didn't see it. So let me take a moment to congratulate the
President's strategists: Putting the gay marriage amendments on the
ballot in various swing states like Ohio... well, that was just genius.
Genius. It got people, a certain kind of people, to the polls. The
unprecedented number of folks who showed up and cited "moral values" as
their biggest issue, those people changed history. The folks who
consider same sex marriage a more important issue than war, or
terrorism, or the economy... Who'd have thought the election would
belong to them? Well, Karl Rove did. Gotta give it up to him for that.
[Boos.] Now, now. Credit where it's due.
There are some who would say that I sound bitter, that now is the time
for healing, to bring the nation together. Let me tell you a little
story. Last night, I watched the returns come in with some friends here
in Los Angeles. As the night progressed, people began to talk
half-seriously about secession, a red state / blue state split. The
reasoning was this: We in blue states produce the vast majority of the
wealth in this country and pay the most taxes, and you in the red states
receive the majority of the money from those taxes while complaining
about 'em. We in the blue states are the only ones who've been attacked
by foreign terrorists, yet you in the red states are gung ho to fight a
war in our name. We in the blue states produce the entertainment that
you consume so greedily each day, while you in the red states show open
disdain for us and our values. Blue state civilians are the actual
victims and targets of the war on terror, while red state civilians are
the ones standing behind us and yelling "Oh, yeah!? Bring it on!"

More than 40% of you Bush voters still believe that Saddam Hussein had
something to do with 9/11. I'm impressed by that, truly I am. Your sons
and daughters who might die in this war know it's not true, the people
in the urban centers where al Qaeda wants to attack know it's not true,
but those of you who are at practically no risk believe this easy lie
because you can. As part of my concession speech, let me say that I
really envy that luxury. I concede that.

Healing? We, the people at risk from terrorists, the people who
subsidize you, the people who speak in glowing and respectful terms
about the heartland of America while that heartland insults and
excoriates us... we wanted some healing. We spoke loud and clear. And
you refused to give it to us, largely because of your high moral values.
You knew better: America doesn't need its allies, doesn't need to share
the burden, doesn't need to unite the world, doesn't need to provide for
its future. Hell no. Not when it's got a human shield of pointy-headed,
atheistic, unconfrontational breadwinners who are willing to pay the
bills and play nice in the vain hope of winning a vote that we can never
have. Because we're "morally inferior," I suppose, we are supposed to
respect your values while you insult ours. And the big joke here is that
for 20 years, we've done just that.

It's not a "ha-ha" funny joke, I realize, but it's a joke all the same.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

November 3
I wrote most of the following last night around 2:30 in the morning, 21 hours after I woke up in Cleveland to do get-out-the-vote work with two friends for Move On, and about 11 hours after we left Cleveland for the long drive home to New York, buoyed by our experiences and the reports of record voter turnout, and fairly brimming with confidence that our efforts would help turn the tide in the election and change the course of our country.

Through the eight hour ride that followed and the news we've now all heard, this proved not to be the case. I trust many of the people reading this share the same mix of fear, sadness, anger and plain incomprehension that troubled me all through the evening and deep into the night, and that I'm still feeling this morning. Our hopes have proven to be self-delusion. We amplified and echoed them through god knows how many websites, well-argued polemicals and urgent calls to action, until we came to see those hopes as facts just not yet revealed. We fooled ourselves into thinking this country is something it is not, and now we are stranded in a reality we didn't choose, but which will impose grave costs upon us.

The people have spoken, and what they said was: Fuck you. The popular vote is not in doubt, and I trust it is an accurate reflection of the priorities of the country.

The thought of all the smart, earnest progressives out there, trying to rationalize our loss and explain how it happened and what it all means, strikes me as the cherry on top of our collective hubris and misapprehension. It would be a vast understatement to state that such an exercise misses the point. A way to sum it up--sparing us all the excruciating details of a future of endless debt, the ongoing shift of the taxation burden from wealth to work, codified and officially sanctioned homophobia, unchecked corporate consolidation and deregulation, an ideologically driven right-wing Supreme Court and federal judiciary, more foreign disasters and increasing international isolation, and continuous division, demonization and dehumanization of "the enemy" at home--would be that everything the ruling faction of the Republican Party has done over the last ten years was validated on November 2.

For much more about all that, you can visit any of those well-intentioned, ultimately toxic and pointless websites where liberal preachers will pronounce unto their demoralized choirs. Several of these are linked, for now, from the left column of this page. I'll be taking them down soon, but not quite yet. With one exception which I'll explain below, I have nothing more to say about any of this right now, and I don't imagine I will for the foreseeable future.

I feel like I reached out to the country, to the world as I know it, and was met with the harshest possible repudiation. In the face of this, I see only two possibilities: one, nurse resentment and a sense of grievance, try to rationalize the outcome and perhaps, eventually, find a reason to hope and believe again that our ideals will triumph at some point. I'm sure that's what many of the hundreds of thousands who feel the same way will do, and I don't judge them or blame them for this. It's what I've done in the past myself, after similar disappointments.

The second possibility, the one I find more compelling at the moment, is to re-examine my own character, my system of values (not beliefs, as I state below), and--I think most importantly--the ways I behave. I wanted to find meaning in the world of collective political choices, a reflection and affirmation of the things I hold dear. That world did not accommodate, so perhaps instead I should search for deeper meaning elsewhere.

What does this entail? I don't think it means changing my core beliefs: all those things I wanted to defend by becoming politically active this year still seem entirely worth fighting for. I'm glad that I went to Ohio and tried to make a difference, and I'll always be grateful to my two friends who went with me--it was a unique and deeply worthwhile experience. But rather than reacting emotionally, taking it personally, when the world seems not to share those beliefs, I want to revisit what I care about.

Maybe an analogy will help explain this. I think my eating habits resemble my life writ small: I don't put a great deal of thought into what I eat, the bulk of it isn't very healthy, and while most of it gives me momentary pleasure, it's of little lasting satisfaction, and it doesn't make me happy. I exercise quite often--four or five times a week--but on the whole I'm not pleased with either my body or my physical appearance. In my mind, I've wanted to change this for a long time, but I have never taken effective action.

Much the same is true, I think, of my mental consumption habits. The time I while away watching TV, or playing video games, or aimlessly surfing the Web, or (most pertinent to the question at hand) reading about politics, is not in the end very fulfilling. Much as with my junk food eating, I do these things out of habit and convenience, and I think I make more of them than they are.

This is what I'd like to change. I want to live with more intent--more conscious planning, above all more discipline. I want to spend more time doing truly satisfying things, rather than the activity-equivalents of "empty calories". Perhaaps above all else, I want to prove to myself that I can make these changes--that I have the persistence and strength of character to do it.

In this way, maybe I can wrest something of value from the wreckage of all these hopes. There's something liberating in this despair, a sense of relief--not least that it's simply over--and a glimmer of understanding that, as the world changes in ways that seem dark and tragic, I must change within myself to remain viable in it.

I haven't turned the TV back on since around 1:30 am. I haven't looked at any web sites. A couple colleagues in my office said something about provisional ballots in Ohio and some thin thread of hope involving courts and lawyers--as if that whole system isn't rigged against us anyway. Then, I understand, Kerry conceded sometime this morning.

As mentioned above, this is probably the last time I'll be writing about politics on this page for a long while. The one possible exception, and I don't know if I'll be doing this on AIS or somewhere else, is that I plan to write about my experiences in Cleveland. It was worth setting down, and for those who intend to go in the other direction--trying to figure out how to win this fight--maybe it will have some value for learning.

Otherwise, this blog will probably become something more like a cultural diary. Baseball and football, books, movies and music--things that give me pleasure and satisfaction instead of more impotent pain. I think this is how I can keep some value in this exercise.

Thanks for reading this.