If there’s one must-read on the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, it’s Kurt Eichenwald’s op-ed in the New York Times, in which he illustrates the extent to which intelligence agencies had warned the Bush administration of Osama bin Laden’s activities on American soil. The most striking detail is the fact that the infamous August 6 memo—“Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.”—was preceded by a series of documents, stretching back to the spring of 2001. For example:
The article of the day is Jon Chait's piece in New York addressing the question of Hollywood's liberalism. To simplify it a bit, Chait argues that conservatives are basically right in their belief that Hollywood liberals are warping our minds with left-wing propaganda, though they seem to have all but stopped bothering to complain about it. I find it hard to disagree with the first part of Chait's premise: Hollywood is, indeed, dominated by liberals. There are a few high-profile conservatives there (Bruce Willis, Tom Selleck, Clint Eastwood), but they're a small minority. It's not hard to figure out why. Any industry that is made up of creative people is going to be dominated by liberals. Most novelists are liberals too. I'm sure most graphic artists are liberals. There's a whole lot of psychological research demonstrating that liberals tend to be more tolerant of ambiguity, open to experience, and interested in change than conservatives, while conservatives tend to be more conscientious and drawn to hierarchy and order (Prospect alum Chris Mooney details all this in his book The Republican Brain; there's a short version here). In other words, artists are going to be more liberal. Conservatives may not like it, but that's how it is and how it's probably always going to be.
The next question is what values are communicated by the products those liberals produce, and whether we have a problem with them...
The most recent episode of the Prospect podcast is a conversation with my colleague Abby Rapoport on voter identification laws.
One thing that we begin to talk about, but don’t spend enough time on, is the normative argument against voter identification. So far, liberals have devoted their time to showing the rarity of in-person voter fraud—the kind ostensibly prevented by voter-ID—and the low likelihood that it would affect the outcome of an election. Tactically, this makes a lot of sense. The push for voter ID usually comes with stories of massive voter fraud, that play on public distrust toward government. If you can counter those stories with facts, you can make voters think twice about implementing an additional burden for voting.
In one of those now-frequent "I can't believe we're actually going to argue about this" moments, conservatives have now decided that the United States government did not actually have any meaningful role in the creation of the Internet, despite what everyone, including all the people who were there at the time, have always known. Why have they suddenly come to this revelation? All you need to know is that Barack Obama has recently been using the Internet as an example of where government can create conditions that allow private enterprise to flourish, and as Simon Malloy says, if Obama says something, "that, ipso facto, makes it false." Part of what's so crazy about this is that the tale of the Internet's creation and development is actually a story of public/private partnership that both liberals and conservatives ought to be able to celebrate.
It’s taken me almost my entire life to come out of the closet as a liberal. In college at the end of the 1970s, I was no revolutionary, but I thought of myself as a radical. Working at “the independent socialist newspaper” In These Times in the 1980s, I tried on actual socialism, with some relief at having a name for what I thought I believed. Later I became a progressive, when that term came to stand for the Paul Wellstone-Howard Dean “Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.”
The TANF web site, apparently still using its 1996 design.
If I told you that Ron Paul (remember him?) said that Secret Service protection for presidential candidates is "welfare" and he didn't need it, what would you think he meant? Why of course, you'd think he meant that the kind of protection the Secret Service provides is necessary, but sometimes a candidate has fallen on hard times and can't afford to pay for it themselves, so the government steps in to do it for them. And if Paul doesn't need it, it's because his campaign, unlike those of his rivals, is on sound financial footing. That's what you'd think he meant, right?
In our November issue, John Powers compiled a glossary of terms conservatives use in ways that don’t match standard dictionary definitions (“The Right Word”). Reader Riley Simpson wrote, “I think this glossary should become a website (perhaps Wackipedia) that could be added to and edited by whoever has a new observation of ConSpeak to offer up.” He may be onto something, because an appeal to readers to help expand the list garnered a huge response. Here are some of the suggested additions. You can contribute yours at BelowtheBattle@gmail.com.
AMERICAN DREAM: A fantasyland in which the unprivileged are entitled to a home, education, and health care. —Beverly Weiss
Socialism was supposed to create a new socialist man—a fellow or gal whose labor was unalienated, who was freed from want, who had time off to read, to fish, to play, to parent. He would be healthier, longer-lived, better educated and wiser than his counterpart under capitalism. To a considerable degree, social democracy (or even its attenuated American cousin, New Deal liberalism) has accomplished some of those goals (higher pay, more time off, widespread education) if not all of them (unalienated labor, widespread wisdom).
(Sipa via AP Images) President of France's far-right National Front party Marine Le Pen gives a press conference after protesting a French National Assembly vote that authorized a 15 billion euro aid package for Greece.
The epic financial crash of 2007–2008 should have produced a massive political defeat for the conservative ideology whose resurgence began three decades ago. Its signal achievement, liberated finance, did not reward innovation, enhance economic efficiency, or produce broad prosperity. Rather, the result was a speculative bubble followed by a severe crash. Along the way, the super-rich captured a disproportionate share of the economy’s gains, while other incomes stagnated. In the aftermath, ordinary people have suffered large losses of earnings, assets, social protections, and hopes for their children.
I'm finally reading Rick Perlstein's Nixonland, and I laughed out loud when I read this passage about the vulnerability of Jerry Voorhis, the California Democrat who was the first victim of Richard Nixon's red-baiting:
Voohris possessed an added vulnerability: He had once been a member of the Socialist Party. Not a Communist, but for the upright burghers of Southern California's suburbs, to whom property was as sacred as anything in the Bible, the distinction was sufficiently arcane to be moot.
Richard Florida has a post in The Atlantic that sees the number of people who self-identify as conservative state by state as evidence that "America is an increasingly conservative nation, by ideology and by political affiliation." Let's leave aside the obvious point that Americans telling us they are "conservative" is essentially meaningless in terms of sussing out the ideological bent -- if any -- of the country. Florida asks a more interesting question, which is why some states are becoming more conservative, looking at a variety of possible correlating data.
It's often said that a liberal is someone so reasonable he won't take his own side in an argument. At a time when we hear a lot about "the extremes on both sides," Gallup has some interesting poll results to show (via Jon Chait):