The power of blogs

September 19th, 2005 – 8:37 pm
Tagged as: Politics

The Daou Report has a fascinating look at the power (or lack thereof) of blogs in the political sphere.

Whereas rightwing bloggers can rely on their leadership and the rightwing noise machine to build the triangle, left-leaning bloggers face the challenge of a mass media consumed by the shop-worn narrative of Bush the popular, plain-spoken leader, and a Democratic Party incapacitated (for the most part) by the focus-grouped fear of turning off “swing voters” by attacking Bush. For the progressive netroots, the past half-decade has been a Sisyphean loop of scandal after scandal melting away as the media and party establishment remain disengaged.

It would seem reasonable to conclude, then, that the best strategy for the progressive netroots is to go after the media and Democratic Party leaders and spend less time and energy attacking the Bush administration. If the netroots alone can’t change the political landscape without the participation of the media and Democratic establishment, then there’s no point wasting precious online space blasting away at Republicans while the other sides of the triangle stand idly by. Indeed, blog powerhouses like Kos and Josh Marshall have taken an aggressive stance toward Democratic politicians they see as selling out core Democratic Party principles. Kos’s willingness to attack the DLC is mocked on the right, but it is precisely the right’s fear that Kos will “close the triangle” that causes them to protest so loudly. Similarly, when Atrios, Digby, Oliver Willis, and so many other progressive bloggers attack the media, they are leveraging whatever power they have to compel the media to assume a role as the third side of their triangle.

Daou’s theory about what he refers to as the triangle (“without the participation of the media and the political establishment, the netroots alone cannot generate the critical mass necessary to alter or create conventional wisdom”) is especially interesting, and, while I don’t agree with everything he says, I think the article is well worth a read.

[via Daily Kos]

The same old thing

September 19th, 2005 – 8:19 pm
Tagged as: Politics

Today’s issue of The Progress Report included an excellent analysis of how Bush and his pals want to use Hurricane Katrina as yet another excuse for pushing the same old economic policies.

How does a nation with record deficits responsibly finance “one of the largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen”? Already, President Bush and congressional conservatives have tried to set the foundation of the debate, claiming 1) tax rollbacks are out of the question; 2) more tax cuts are needed; 3) there is “no fat left to cut in the federal budget”; and 4) spending cuts thus must come from domestic programs that help middle- and working-class Americans. In other words, it’s the same ideological agenda as always: “aggressively slash taxes on the wealthy; run up huge budget deficits; then push for massive cuts in critical domestic spending under the guise of fiscal responsibility.” Or as Newsweek’s Fareed Zakaria termed it this weekend, “business as usual in the face of a national catastrophe.”

No matter how many lives are destroyed, no matter how many people suffer, Bush and his cronies are determined to fulfill their dream of transferring more wealth to the wealthy, and to hell with everyone else.


September 18th, 2005 – 8:39 pm
Tagged as: Health,Politics

If G.W. Bush and his crew can’t handle a hurricane hitting the Gulf coast, how are they going to handle this?

Bird flu, which originated in China and South-east Asia, is being spread by migrating wildfowl, infecting domestic poultry. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation warned this month that it will reach every continent. Last week Russia reported a third outbreak among chickens in Chelyabinsk in the Urals, on Europe’s doorstep.

So far about 60 people are known to have died from the virus, about half of those infected. Experts fear that it will mutate to spread rapidly among people, killing tens – perhaps hundreds – of millions worldwide. Last week Dr Lee Jong-wook, director-general of the World Health Organisation, said the mutation was inevitable and “just an issue of timing”. Publicly the Government says that more than 50,000 people are likely to die in Britain, but privately it is preparing for up to 750,000 deaths. Earlier this year Professor Hugh Pennington, one of the country’s experts, said that the British death toll could reach two million.

Oh, yes, and in addition to all of those deaths, it might well wipe out the economy for those that are left alive.

The study used a giant computer model of the British economy. It found that even a relatively mild pandemic, with 50,000 deaths, would cut Britain’s GDP by a staggering 8 per cent or £95bn, cost 941,000 jobs, and “affect every aspect of life in Britain”.

Professor Thea Sinclair, who led the research, says that a more serious pandemic, killing hundreds of thousands or millions of Britons, would have “truly catastrophic” effects on the economy.

This simulation was just for the British economy, but you can probably extrapolate the results pretty well for the rest of the developed world. Of course, while President Bush has started making some noises about preparing for the problem, watching these guys make a total mess of both Iraq and Hurricane Katrina has firmly convinced me that their ability to actually do anything effective (other than spinning things for the press) is pretty much non-existent. It would be nice if the mainstream American media could actually try and inform people about it though, so that there’s at least some hope of government action.

You can find more information of the bird flu (aka avian influenza, aka H5N1) here and here.


September 18th, 2005 – 1:52 pm
Tagged as: Miscellaneous

In an effort to make the information on this weblog a bit more timely, I’ve added an item in the right column called Noteworthy, which is a feed of the entries I’ve most recently added to my Furl page (there’s also a RSS feed available). Furl is a site I’ve recently discovered that’s been useful for helping me keep track of various articles I want to remark on, but since I often don’t end up posting about all of them, I thought it would be a good idea to at least share them so you can have a look for yourself.

Bush policies still getting Iraqis killed too

September 14th, 2005 – 7:44 pm
Tagged as: Iraq

While the focus is on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, things are still going pretty badly over in Bush’s other big screwup.

The death toll in Wednesday’s eight bombings in Baghdad rose to 150, with one bomb in Kadhimiyah accounting for about 114. I can only imagine that hundreds were wounded. It is the second biggest one-day toll in guerrilla violence since the fall of Saddam (only March 2, 2004, was worse). Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of Monotheism and Holy War, announced a “war” on Iraq’s Shiites by radical Sunni Salafis. The operation was apparently in part revenge for the US/Iraqi government attack on the largely Sunni Turkmen city of Tal Afar in the north.

Although Iraqi government officials tried to put the best face on the disaster, saying that it demonstrated that the Tal Afar operation had in fact deeply threatened the Sunni Arab guerrilla movement, I fear I would draw the opposite conclusion. The guerrillas in Tal Afar cleverly slipped away, and the US troops never even fought a major battle with them. The use of Kurdish troops and Shiite informers leant an ethnic cast to the campaign. Most people in Tal Afar just left the city, for all the world like New Orleans refugees in Texas and Mississippi. So as an operation, it did not amount to much, though it displaced a lot of innocent civilians. And while the US and Kurdish troops were chasing down empty streets in Tal Afar, the guerrillas blew up Baghdad.

GYWO: Katrina

September 14th, 2005 – 7:32 pm
Tagged as: Politics

It’s the Hurricane Katrina edition of Get Your War On. Some of them are funny, some of them are angry, and the last one is just poignantly sad.

The future of New Orleans?

September 13th, 2005 – 10:17 pm
Tagged as: Economics,Politics

Witness the priorities of the rich.

Remember Hurricane will be used to drive out the black poor? Well, the Wall Street Journal has news for you:

The power elite of New Orleans — whether they are still in the city or have moved temporarily to enclaves such as Destin, Fla., and Vail, Colo. — insist the remade city won’t simply restore the old order. New Orleans before the flood was burdened by a teeming underclass, substandard schools and a high crime rate. The city has few corporate headquarters.

“The new city must be something very different,” Mr. Reiss says, with better services and fewer poor people. “Those who want to see this city rebuilt want to see it done in a completely different way: demographically, geographically and politically,” he says. “I’m not just speaking for myself here. The way we’ve been living is not going to happen again, or we’re out.”

The Mr Reiss in question is a James Reiss, an upper class resident of New Orleans. “When New Orleans descended into a spiral of looting and anarchy, Mr. Reiss helicoptered in an Israeli security company to guard his Audubon Place house and those of his neighbors.”

10,000 dead, a million homeless, tens of thousands deliberately starved so that the government could send in troops, and the evacuees aren’t welcome back. Repeat after me: America doesn’t have a class system; American doesn’t have a class system; America doesn’t have a class system… No, Toto, we’re not in New Orleans any more.

Four years later

September 11th, 2005 – 1:27 pm

Juan Cole on this fourth anniversary of 9/11.

Bush has given us the worst of all possible worlds– a half-finished job against al-Qaeda, an Iraqi imbroglio that could still explode into civil or even regional war– and which serves as an al-Qaeda recruiting tool–, a government starved for funds, an enormous windfall for the rich at the expense of the middle class (which saw average wages actually fall recently), and an inability to respond effectively to a major urban catastrophe.

Four years after September 11, al-Qaeda’s leadership should have been behind bars or dead. Four years after September 11, Afghanistan should have been stabilized. Four years after September 11, the government should have been ready to save lives in an urban disaster.

Bush recently started likening his poorly conceived and misnamed “war on terror” to World War II.

What his handlers have forgotten is how long World War II lasted for the United States.

Four years.

In four years, Roosevelt and allies defeated Nazi Germany and imperial Japan. In four years, Bush hasn’t managed even to corner Bin Laden and a few hundred scruffy terrorists; or to extract himself from the deserts of Iraq; or to put the government’s finances in good order so that it can deal with crises like Katrina.

Four years. I think about the victims of 9/11, and now 7/7. We have let you down.

Go and read the whole piece for an excellent overview of how Bush has bungled the so-called “war on terror” since 9/11/2001.

No First Amendment in NOLA?

September 8th, 2005 – 8:57 am
Tagged as: Media,Rights

From Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo we have this:

At first the evidence was scattered and anecdotal. But now it’s pretty clear that a key aim of the Bush administration’s takeover of the NOLA situation is to cut off press access to report the story.

First, there were the FEMA orders barring members of the press from photographing anything to do with the recovery of the bodies of the dead.

Perhaps there could be guidelines about photographs which in any way clearly identified the deceased. No one wants to get first confirmation of the death of a loved one by seeing their body on the nightly news. But a blanket ban serves only to prevent the public from knowing what really happened last week. And the right of FEMA or any branch of the federal government for that matter to issue such a ban on American soil seems highly dubious to me. It’s one thing with military casualties: the military operates under its own legal code and not under normal civilian rules. But this is happening on American soil. This isn’t a war zone. Nor is it any longer a situation where police or National Guard troops are in the midst of retaking control from mobs or looters. This is a recovery from a natural disaster.

Now comes this post from Brian Williams, which suggests a general effort to bar reporters from access to many of the key points in the city.

Take a moment to note what’s happening here: these are the marks of repressive government, which mixes inefficiency with authoritarianism. The crew that couldn’t get key aid on the scene in time last week is coming in in force now. And one of the key missions appears to be cutting off public information about what’s happening in the city.

This is a domestic, natural disaster. Absent specific cases where members of the press would interfere or get in the way of some particular clean up operation, or perhaps demolition work, there is simply no reason why credentialed members of the press should not be able to cover everything that is happening in that city.

Think about it.

The woman who raised G.W. Bush

September 6th, 2005 – 7:38 pm
Tagged as: Politics

I guess we know who to blame for at least some of President Bush’s callous indifference when it comes to the lives of the poor. His Mom had this to say while touring the Astrodome in Houston yesterday:

What I’m hearing which is sort of scary is that they all want to stay in Texas. Everybody is so overhwlemed by the hospitality.

And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway so this (chuckle)–this is working very well for them.

Yes, Barbara, I’m sure they were all thrilled to be able to exchange their homes, possessions, and sometimes families, for a few handouts.