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The Third Estate
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A Note On Bowers' Creative Class-Black Coalition

Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Chris Bowers has some funny ideas.

Bowers envisions a new black-"creative class" alliance in the Democratic Party to wrest control from the current "Democratic Party Establishment." He defines those in the creative class as non-christian (secular? educated?) whites, who with the added support of African-Americans would be able to win Democratic primaries. Bowers saw Barack Obama as the possible architect of this coalition, and is very disappointed by Obama's indifference to the "netroots."

I think I know what Bowers is getting at. Howard Dean, Paul Tsongas, Bill Bradley, etc. - all the good-government liberal reformers who have run for the Democratic nomination have been undone in part because of their inability to win black votes. Black voters, while quite liberal, or liberal in a very specific way: like union voters and seniors, they are very much aware of their own economic and social interests, and vote accordingly. This is a tale that has been told throughout 2007 - "that Barack is having trouble winning over traditional Democratic constituencies because he talks about abstractions rather than concrete interests. Hillary, like her husband, or Walter Mondale, or Al Gore in 2000, appealed very explicitly to union and african-american interests, and were rewarded with their political support.

Which brings me to the point - African-American voters don't vote against reform candidates because those candidates aren't black, but because those candidates have very little to offer them. The reason the reformers can't win the black vote is the same reason they can't win over unions or seniors. Running a black candidate might accidentally overcome this obstacle, but this would be a temporary fix, not a permanent solution. As soon as the (insert black liberal here) was out of the picture, the alliance would collapse. Poof. No long-term change in the Democratic Party. I think Bowers may subconsciously realize this dilemma, since he says that the black-progressive coalition he envisions can only be created by a candidate, not by coalition members, implying without saying that it would take a black candidate to do so. What kind a movement or coalition is it if it is entirely dependent on one candidate? Not exactly the stuff of political transformation.

The other thing that really bothers me about Bowers' post is that it seems to relegate black voters to a distinctly junior status. What he's really talking about is a renovated 1960's strategy, this time with black liberal rather than white liberal candidates - the coalition that conquered the northern cities for the Democratic Party (a political revolution almost as spectacular as the Republican takeover of the South). I get the sense that Bowers' coalition would inevitably be dominated by the concerns of the white liberal constituency - black voters would be just as used as the religious right is by Republicans. I think african-americans may sense this possibility as well, which is why they've rejected the strategy.

Finally, this is a strange coalition to be attempting to forge, because it is focused solely on the Democratic Party. Let's assume that his strategy works and the coalition takes over. What then? Coalition strategy is supposed to be about contesting general elections - about defeating the other party, building a powerful new governing coalition. The conservative movement was able to crush its Rockefeller Republicans because it brought southern whites into the Republican Party, and with this new strength it destroyed its intraparty rivals and built a national political majority. Bowers' coalition adds nothing to the Democratic Party, which is already based on an alliance of liberals and blacks (and union voters, feminists, gay rights activists, and environmentalists). By the way, what happens to those other coalition members? Or are they already (with the exception of unions) members of the creative class? In which case, who precisely are they taking power from?

I'm all for making the Democratic Party more progressive, but I don't see how Bowers' "creative class"-black alliance gets us there.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 2:43 PM

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Little Obama

Tuesday, October 30, 2007
I have to say I've been pretty disappointed with the Obama campaign. I've been waiting for him to lay out a clear rationale for his candidacy, but so far I'll I've gotten is more soft sepia tones. His handling of the anti-gay preacher flap can only be described as bungling, and his attack on Hillary for not having a plan to "fix" Social Security is just bizarre. It's as if he's decided that his political base isn't the Democratic Party, but the beltway media. The last thing I want to see is him get body-snatched by the likes of Joe Klein.

I'm not convinced Barack is a goner, or that he can't recover from his mistakes. But I do think we are seeing the very real problems facing a candidate who's never run for national office before.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 10:11 AM

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The Constraints of Anonymity

Monday, October 29, 2007
Being anonymous can be a pain.

There's a number of posts I've considered writing lately - about the problem of executive power, about how we need to stop waiting for a political Savior, about how no one is going to win the Republican Presidential nomination, even about yard signs...but I haven't. Yet. Because in the end they really aren't what I'd like to say.

Blogs are supposed to be about recording one's thoughts, about clearing the internal air in an external fashion. What's cluttering my mind these days is, of course, my dissertation. But I can't write about that in any real detail, because this blog is anonymous. Discussing the specifics of what I've been dealing with would be tedious to everybody, so maybe I shouldn't be writing about it anyway. But if I can't say what I'm thinking, what's the point of having a blog? There are things I don't say because I worry that it will lead people to me, and there are things I don't say in case one day my real identity is revealed. I can't talk too much about what Brazen does for the same reason. Too many specifics are dangerous.

The blog was supposed to be liberating, but sometimes I think all it's made me realize is my own slavery. Not real slavery of course, but the ever-present fear that I'll suffer the fate of some of my fellow bloggers who've been stalked and harassed because they've said something controversial, or who've been fired just because they had a blog.

The blog isn't the cause of this dilemma, of course - it's simply highlighted an unpleasant reality. When you work for others, even your own private time is not your own. If you voice strong and unpopular political opinions, if you discuss the bad things about your life or your job, and the wrong people discover it - you're ruined. We read stories these days about companies googling present and prospective employees, we are given warnings not to say anything that might be embarrassing on MySpace when we're seventeen years old - and somehow this claustrophobia seems normal. People who step out of line are seen as somehow "asking for it."

I grew up believing I lived in a free country. But I can't criticize my employer in public, I must weigh every word with excruciating care like I'm some politician on campaign (and for the very same reason) just in case somebody sometime might want to comb over my archives and use it against me. Companies monitor emails and keystrokes, if I come up with a cool idea my company can claim it, and if I call someone in Pakistan I'm going to be monitored.

Tell me about how free I am again.

I'm going to finish by quoting the ever-quotable Lincoln:

"When it comes to this, I shall prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty - to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure and without the base alloy of hypocrisy."
Posted by Arbitrista @ 9:37 PM

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I was wrong

Friday, October 26, 2007
I really didn't have much appreciation for Paul Wellstone when he was alive. I stand corrected. I'm sorry, Paul. We miss you.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 9:21 PM

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Wake Me When It's Over

Brazen Hussy and I had to get up really early this morning, so I got into work at 630 AM. Determined to make real progress on my dissertation, I made...some(my current model is not going very well). Now I have a ton of very tedious office work today and no motivation to do it with. The office is vewy, vewy quiet, I'm somnolent from too much Chinese food from lunch, and I really don't want to do anything.

Other than that I'm a regular ball of fire. Maybe next I'll zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
Posted by Arbitrista @ 1:23 PM

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This Morning's Conversation

Thursday, October 25, 2007
So Brazen Hussy and I are sitting on the bed drinking coffee and surfing the internet on our laptops - the way we start every day.

Arbitrista: "So apparently none of the Republican candidates have even mentioned the fires in California."

Brazen Hussy: "That's because they don't know about it."

Arbitrista: "I love you."
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:11 AM

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Why Don't I Care?

Monday, October 22, 2007
The Iowa Caucuses are just around the corner...and I couldn't care less.

I'm not sure whether it's my monomania about my dissertation, or the callow nature of most political coverage, or just burnout, but the Presidential election thus far seems about as exciting as curling. I made the huge mistake of watching the Sunday news shows this weekend, thinking I might learn something. Hah. Do yourself a favor and don't waste your time.

I'm sure that come January I'll get more interested, but at the moment nothing much seems to be happening.

Hrm. I think another problem is that, unlike the past several years, I have little influence over or involvement in any election campaigns. Maybe I'm really just a narcissist?

On the plus side, I had a lovely weekend. Friday we had the promised Oysters and Scotch. Saturday I worked on my dissertation (well, that part wasn't so lovely). Best of all, on Sunday Brazen Hussy and I hiked through some beautiful woodland in the state forest. Then she prepared a delicious steak. Mmmm. Aren't I lucky?
Posted by Arbitrista @ 4:16 PM

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There's nothing like a dissertation to make you a manic depressive

Friday, October 19, 2007
For most of this week I've been wallowing, convinced that my dissertation was a piece of crap, one that would remain (deservedly) unfinished.

Today I wrote 10 pages and 4500 words, completing half a chapter in about 5 hours. I am triumphant! Time to eat oysters and drink scotch!

Goodness I'm nutty.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 5:58 PM

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Stop Thief!

Paul Krugman has plagiarized one of my posts. Hmph.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:09 AM

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Terror is an excellent motivator

Thursday, October 18, 2007
Lately, I've had trouble writing blogs, or even reading them. Not because I'm not interested - but because there's no room left in my teeny little brain. I have to send a final draft of my dissertation to my advisor by March 4, which means I need to have all the chapters completed by the end of January if I'm going to finish (which would give me a month to let my committee pick it apart).

Cruel math indicates that I have 14 weeks to write the damned thing. So far I have 2 of 8 chapters written - the two easy ones. What with having a full-time job with a steadily increasing workload, it's becoming difficult to see how I get from where I am to where I'm going. I'm absolutely determined (desperate?) to finish on time, but I'm not quite sure how to pace myself - to work fast enough to do everything in time but not burn out in the process. I find myself thinking about my dissertation pretty much every minute of every day. I've even dreamed about it. I think maybe I'm going a little crazy.

So if you read any weird posts in the next few months, know that it's just my dissertation talking. The ungrateful little shit.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 7:27 PM

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A Poisoned Chalice

Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Or..Beware enemies bearing gifts.

There are some Democrats who are excited at the disillusionment of big business with the Republican Party. Paul Waldman, for example, thinks that the Democrats could peel off some valuable pieces of the Republican coalition, wedging "responsible" from "irresponsible" businesses. If he means wedging apart small from big business, then I'm listening. If he's talking about bringing the corporate wolves into the house, then he's crazy. They care about one thing and one thing only: making a profit. They've demonstrated precious little interest in the public good, or even an enlightened self-interest.

The Democrats are raising a lot of money these days, something many on the left are quite excited about. But while some seesthe rise of the "small donor democracy," I see wealthy interests hedging their bets, trying to win influence with the new Democratic majority. This isn't a valuable addition of strength - this is the corruption of progressive ideals. We see the effects of this already, with Democrats in the Congress refusing to tax hedge funds at the same rate as other income.

The fact is that the interests of big business America are fundamentally at odds with liberalism. The only way to salvage the middle class is to re-structure the economy, distributing money away from the top 10% and towards the bottom 90%. We cannot do so while at the same time courting the very same people who are benefiting from the current economic arrangement. You can either help the middle class or big business, but not both. It's just that simple.

We've been here before. The triangulation and passivity of the Democratic Party from the 1980's forward was in large measure due to the efforts of Tony Coelho and others to win corporate contributions. It is no accident that at the same moment the Democratic Party lost any enthusiasm for labor unions or real progressive reforms. I for one am not at all happy that Democrats running for Congress and President are raising so much cash, because I know where most of it comes from - the enemy.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:01 AM

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Light Blogging Weekend

Saturday, October 13, 2007
My mom's been in town since Thursday night, so there hasn't been much chance for blogging.

Thursday I had this post all ready to write, but I spent all day at work rushing around trying to get a proposal out that was due Friday morning. I hate it when my supervisors wait until the last minute to start these things. They've known about it for ages, and don't seem to realize that rushing it makes for a much poorer product, reduces our chances of getting the grant, and makes my life miserable. Oh well.

Mom, Brazen Hussy, and I visited a tourist trap yesterday, and then came hope and watched Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth" in honor of his Nobel Prize. My mom hadn't seen it yet, and she's always liked Al Gore. I also think I've convinced her to run for office where she lives down in Florida. She's a Democrat (although not really liberal enough for me) and just retired, so she has plenty of time to waste on politics. She was all set to run for Congress when we realized that there were already 2 other Democrats running against the Republican incumbent. I also explained that nobody who hasn't been elected to a lower office first every wins a race for Congress. But maybe I can get her to run for the city council or something. That would be fun.

I really do need another hobby, don't I?

Today we're going to wander around Big 10 College Town. Mom's going home tomorrow, so Brazen and I will have Sunday afternoon to chill. I know I should probably work on my Dissertation, but this week has kind of been a waste and I'll just work extra hard next week. How's that for the feeble rationalizations?

My dog Gatsby is in love with my mother. He won't get more than a foot away from her and likes laying in her lap. He's been whining all morning because she's still asleep. It's cute, but I'm kind of jealous. I thought I was his favorite!
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:27 AM

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Well gee no one saw that one coming

Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Except anyone who was paying attention, that is. I remember talking about the Iraq War to a class I was teaching, saying that what really concerned me was what happened with the Kurds & Turks. Well, it looks like the almost inevitable Kurdish-Turkish conflict is beginning. Now remember, the Kurds are our closest allies in Iraq. And Turkey is a NATO ally that we are bound to defend. So what do you think happens if our client and ally start fighting?
Posted by Arbitrista @ 12:59 PM

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Sign Me Up

Tuesday, October 09, 2007
There's no way in hell that they're going to get 67 votes in the Senate or 290 in the House, but count me as a fervent supporter of Chuck Schumer and Arlen Specter's constitutional amendment to overturn Buckley vs. Valeo. Via Adam B in Kosland, the amendment would look something like this:

SECTION 1. Congress shall have power to set reasonable limits on the amount of contributions that may be accepted by, and the amount of expenditures that may be made by, in support of, or in opposition to, a candidate for nomination for election to, or for election to, Federal office.

SECTION 2. A State shall have power to set reasonable limits on the amount of contributions that may be accepted by, and the amount of expenditures that may be made by, in support of, or in opposition to, a candidate for nomination for election to, or for election to, State or local office.

SECTION 3. Congress shall have power to implement and enforce this article by appropriate legislation.'.

Sweet. I can dream, can't I?
Posted by Arbitrista @ 3:50 PM

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Wingnuts Are Despicable

In case you haven't heard, the Democrats had a 12-year-old boy give their Sunday radio address. He spoke about how the only reason he's alive is because of the CHIP program, which gives state-supported health care to children. What does Michelle Malkin and her ilk do? Why, smear him, of course. Check out Digby's takedown here.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 6:45 AM

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Happy Hemispheric Genocide Day!

Monday, October 08, 2007
That's "Columbus Day" to the uninitiated.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 4:17 PM

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May 2008 is too long from now!

Sunday, October 07, 2007
We are seeing this movie on opening night. No matter how geeky Brazen Hussy thinks it is.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 5:12 PM

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What Happened to Me?

Saturday, October 06, 2007
Sorry for no posts this week. I was attending a pointless conference for the last three days. It was a 2 hour drive away, which means I was in the car 4 hours a day. I am never driving again.

The other "what happened to me" question I'll mention is how I got to be such a liberal . I started out as a pretty conventional centrist Democrat, and now I have the distinct unpleasure to be fellow travelers with the likes of Matt Stoller. I'm sure part of it is my greater sensitivity to feminism and the environment due to my exposure to Brazen Hussy. Another cause is that I just know more than I used to - some of my old positions were just wrong. But the real reason I'm such a ferocious partisan? John Cole (a former Republican, of all things) puts it best:

That is why the Republican party is in shambles. The majority of us have decided that the movers and shakers in the GOP and the blogospheric right are certified lunatics who, in a decent and sane society, we would have in controlled environments in rocking chairs under shade trees for most of the day, wheeled in at night for tapioca pudding and some karaoke.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 10:26 AM

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Enough.

Thursday, October 04, 2007
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free burma
Posted by Arbitrista @ 11:00 PM

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You Know You Want To

Wednesday, October 03, 2007
The Great Mofo Delurk 2007

As seen everyplace.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 4:31 PM

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Feel the Hate

Tuesday, October 02, 2007
In response to the Webb-Clinton amendment attempting to block an attack on Iran, the Bush Administration had this to say (via Balkinization):

The Administration also notes that provisions of law that purport to direct or prohibit international negotiations, covert action, or use of the armed forces are inconsistent with the Constitution’s commitment exclusively to the presidency of the executive power, the function of Commander-in-Chief, and the authority to conduct the Nation’s foreign policy.


Grrr. I will respond in the simplest way: the Constitution.

Here's the bit that Bush is relying on for to claim unfettered control over foreign affairs and the army:

Article II, Section 1:

The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.
and

Article II, Section 2:

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States...

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur...

But notice that the powers of commander in chief and foreign policy are in a different section, AND that the Senate shares part of the treaty power. They aren't part of the grant of inherent powers established in Section 1. This is made more clear by looking at Article I:

Article I, Section 8:

The Congress shall have Power...

To declare War....

...To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

...To provide and maintain a Navy;

...To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;


These clearly state that the Congress decides who we attack - they share in the operation of warmaking.

Article I, Section 9:

No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law


In other words, Bush can't use money to supply troops for any action without the express authorization of Congress. If he does he should be impeached.


But then we knew that.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 3:26 PM

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Edwards and Public Financing

Kos is really going after John Edwards for adopting public financing limits in the primaries. I get why he's annoyed. If Edwards wins the nomination, he'll face the same problems that Dole did in 1996: having to go dark while the other party pummels him. And I figure if Edwards was doing this strictly because of principle, he would have said so ages ago.

But.....it's very, very hard for me to criticize anyone for adhering to public financing. It's sort of my pet issue. And Kos is totally off base in attacking Barack Obama for being willing to adhere to the limits in a general election. In that instance the playing field would be even. Are you really that convinced that the Democrats can out-raise the Republicans? Maybe they can, but it'd be a first.

Kos has never really taken campaign finance reform seriously, which is weird given his so-called "people-powered politics." He's under some sort of delusion that small donations can outweigh large ones. The reality is that even Barack is raising most of his money from large contributors. As long as money is the currency of politics, the wealthy elite (re: Republicans) will have an advantage. You'd think Kos would have figured that out by now, but he's thick about some things.

"Libertarian Democrat." Puh-leeze. And don't even get me started on his attitude about abortion rights. Or women generally.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 2:54 PM

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You Decide

Monday, October 01, 2007
So Rick Santorum is thinking about running for Governor of Pennsylvania in 2010. Ol' Ricky won a wopping 41% of the vote in 2006, losing by nearly 19 pts to Bob Casey. Pretty crazy, right? So I'm sitting there laughing, when I wonder when was the last time an incumbent Senator lost that bad. "Hmm. George McGovern in 1980, maybe?" Then I scroll through wikipedia's Senate Elections pages and look at the margins of victory - and sure enough, George McGovern is the last Senator to lose by a bigger margin (he got shellacked 58-39 by James Abdnor).

The fact that I knew this factoid made me feel really cool - for like 10 seconds. Then I thought, "Hey maybe knowing something like this actually makes me really lame."

Which is it?
Posted by Arbitrista @ 9:17 PM

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Burma

I'll admit that I haven't been paying much attention to the atrocities in Burma. I could excuse myself by saying that I'm obsessed with my own stuff right now (my dissertation, my dissertation, and oh, did I mention by dissertation?), or that I'm numb to all the endlessly aggregating horrors of the world. The real reason is that I know that no one is going to do anything about it. Here's what's going to happen: there will be sanctions, international condemnations, and a lot of hot air. For a few years the people of Burma will suffer (even more) from an insecure dictatorship and the lack of foreign trade & assistance. Then Burma's vote will be needed in the UN, and/or the military junta will release a few prisoners, and/or they'll discover oil there, and the sanctions will be lifted. No one who did these things will be punished. Nothing will happen. Okay, maybe a general or two will be forced to flee into exile, or go on trial, or even actually suffer some consequences. But most of the perpetrators will never pay for their crimes, because the reality is that there is very little that the world is willing to do for a suffering people. Unless of course somebody's profit margin is at stake.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:14 PM

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