Editorial: The Coming Progressive Tidal Change

Here’s an editorial going out later today in the name of the Center for Kentucky Progress. Preliminary version was posted on dKos, for some feedback. Here you go:

The Coming Progressive Tide

I spent most of my childhood vacations at Murrell’s Inlet, a sleepy vacation spot south of Myrtle Beach. In addition to bait and groceries, one of the supplies you always picked up at the all-purpose corner market was a tide chart. I learned, early on, how to read that chart, because many vacation activities — fishing and crabbing, swimming at the beach, taking the boat down the channel — were tied to the tides. “We’ll go when the tide changes” was a familiar response when I asked to do something.

I also learned, as I got older, to read the tides while out on the boat. (If you didn’t learn, you risked being stuck in the mud when the tide turned.) One phenomenon we loved to show “newbies” was the bobber versus sinker trick. At just the right time, you could float a bobber on top of the water and it would show the tide going one direction. Then you would take a second line, weight it with a sinker, put it in near the first, and watch in amazement as the two lines moved in opposite directions. In reality, the tide had already started turning, but under the water’s surface; on the surface it looked as if things were as they had been.

This, I think, is an accurate metaphor for what is happening in this country right now. For decades, the conservative political philosophy has been ascendant. It currently controls the White House, the Senate, and the House, and may very well soon control the Supreme Court. Yet, at this moment of triumph for the conservative movement, I believe that under the surface the tide has already turned.

There is a growing sense of discontent with the direction of the country, and not just from the left. Citizens across the political spectrum are beginning to feel that our government, and our country, is not working. We are supposedly the greatest nation on the planet, and yet we lag behind most other developed nations in education, health care, infrastructure, and basic services. We have become the largest debtor nation on the planet, and the federal deficits have hamstrung our ability to think big and act decisively.

The right has chanted their mantra of “less government, lower taxes” for years, and once in power, they have been true to their word. Since 1980, with a brief respite during the Clinton years, we have seen unending cuts in both government revenue and government expectations. Today, citizens are looking around, and they don’t like what they see. They don’t like the two-class nation we have become. They don’t like a government that functions poorly, or not at all. And they don’t like a system that abandons the poor, the powerless, and the weak.

It is time to stop talking about “big” or “small” government. For some time, I have been speaking and writing about “effective government,” and this seems to strike a chord. We need a government that figures out the problems, figures out a way to deal with them, asks all its citizens to share in the sacrifice, and then deals with the problems effectively. We need a government that invests in all its citizens, not just the richer of the two classes. We need a government that leads, not a government that cowers in the corner, afraid of angering its “base.”

That government is coming. The country is turning, with growing speed, from a far right philosophy to a progressive one. From young and old, left and right, we are hearing calls for healthcare coverage, and education reform, and sustainable growth. Governments that make a difference are highlighted, and programs that work are applauded. Beginning in next year’s elections, we will begin to see the tide turn at the polls, as well.

I began writing this some weeks ago, before Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. After a week of watching and reading, just like all of us, I now believe that this unparalleled national tragedy will only accelerate the tidal change. Americans have watched, with growing horror and disgust, the end result of the far right agenda: a government incapable of dealing with something that isn’t a tax cut. The anger will not soon cool. A new wave of citizen candidates determined to make government actually serve the people, and a greater wave of voters determined to elect them, will sweep the “government is the problem” crowd from office.

The bobber line is still moving inland, but the sinker line is the truth. The tide is turning, has turned, and the conservative movement will soon be left behind, mired in the mud it created. The progressive tide is coming.

Bruce Maples is the Policy Director for the Center for Kentucky Progress, a non-partisan progressive think tank located in Louisville, Kentucky. He can be reached at bruce@progressky.com.

Playing Politics With Terrorism

For too long I have had friends tell me that we need this group of “old hands” in the White House because, as my friends say, “when you’re dealing with terrorism you need the adults, the serious folks, the professionals.” While it has long seemed obvious that the BushCo crowd are professionals at playing politics but rank amateurs when it comes to governing, it now appears their attempt to undermine the Dems may have kept the British from preventing the London attacks.

Remember last year’s political conventions? The White House raised the security level just before the Democratic convention, in order to distract the media from the Dems and focus on the “we need Bush for national security” theme they were working. As part of the security focus, they revealed the name — on background, supposedly — of a man held in Pakistan whose information caused the rise in the level.

Turns out the man was part of a sting operation being run by British intelligence, and that when the man’s name became public knowledge, the terrorists in Britain that MI-5 had been tracking knew they were in trouble and fled. Some were caught, but some got away. Now there is speculation that the London bombers may have been some of the ones who escaped.

It’s becoming harder and harder to find words adequate to the damage this administration is doing. The Rove outing of a CIA agent for political gain is just another example of the lengths they will go for political gain. It seems obvious they leaked the Pakistani security news for political purposes. Did they call the Pakistanis to see if doing so would cause any damage? Did they think to check with their allies the British to see what impact sharing this name would have? I bet not. I bet they looked around and said “We need a win in the news this week so the Dems don’t have all the headlines. I know — let’s use the old barn and put on a play! Let’s share the name of someone in custody so it will look like we’re doing something!” Unfortunately, the name they shared was a mole, and by sharing it they cost us time and intelligence — and now they may have cost the lives of terrorist victims in London.

I agree with my friends who say we need adults in charge. Unfortunately, our current “leaders” are not adults; they are petulant kids who are playing war without seeing the deadly results of their adolescent political games. May this country find some true adults, true leaders, before it is too late.


  • ABC News story here.
  • DailyKos post here.
  • Ameriblog post here.
  • Radamisto post here.

Journalism 101

I am the son of a journalist, and have always had a strong interest in both the product and the process. Both are becoming more and more suspect.
    Time after time, I read stories where it is obvious that the reporter did not ask any follow-ups. There has been no research beyond the press release facts. The writing is pedestrian, the structure mundane.
    The same goes for more and more editorials. It seems that someone on the editorial page staff sits down with 15 minutes left until deadline and proceeds to throw something on the page without thought or research. All vent and no verity (or verification).
    We’ve always had “press release journalism,” and the reporter as mere scribe is not new. What strikes me is how pervasive it is becoming. The formula seems to be: (1) Read the press release and decide to do the story. (2) Call the originating entity and get a statement. (3) Call the opposing entity, if any, and get an opposing statement. (4) Write it up.
    It’s “balanced” because both sides have statements. Never mind that what one side says is exaggerated, distorted, or an out-and-out lie; there’s no time or resources to track that down. Just throw it on the screen, slam it into the page, and rush to do the next one.
    The dramatic cuts in reporting staffs is the great untold story of our time. Corporate news organizations are demanding higher profits, and one way to do that is to cut staff. So, instead of a reporter working a “beat” (as my father did with city/county government and the courts for over ten years), we have “writers,” not “reporters.” They can write, but they can’t do the work of a reporter: do the research, ask the questions, dig out the truth.
    Ultimately, each of us is the victim in this tale. We have lost the protection of an energetic press, of reporters and editors not afraid to pursue truth, no matter where it takes them. With executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government under the control of one party, a press capable of standing apart is critical to democracy. Unfortunately, the fourth estate is looking less like an estate and more and more like tenant farmers.

Is Bush To Blame for 7/7?

Today’s C-J already contains the point-counterpoint about the relationship between the Iraq war, the Bush administration, and the 7/7 London attacks. At the risk of stating the obvious, I want to pose and answer a few pertinent questions.
    Is Bush somehow responsible, indirectly, for the London attacks? Not to put too fine a point on it: Are you nuts? Of course not. The London attacks are the responsibility of seriously deluded people who believe that killing innocent people for a cause is justifiable. No amount of Bush-bashing, of which I am certainly a regular participant, can move this act of terrorism into his column.
    Has the war in Iraq increased the likelihood of such attacks? Again, no. It is simply not possible to show a strong causal relationship between one and the other. If it wasn’t Iraq, it would be Afghanistan, or Palestine, or somewhere else. Terrorists don’t necessarily need a good reason.
    Have our policies in the Middle East made such attacks more likely? Ah, now you’re getting somewhere. As has been amply explained by Richard Clarke and others, the US has pursued a set of Middle East policies that has vacillated between ignorant and arrogant. We have propped up repressive regimes (don’t forget, Saddam Hussein was our friend for years), we have looked the other way when democratic groups were repressed, and we have ignored both the culture and the religion for decades. We say we are for democracy, yet support non-democratic governments when it suits our interests. It is a complex foreign policy problem, and the “they hate us for our freedom” canard has been played much too often.
    Is Bush to blame for making us less secure? Again, not to put too fine a point on it: Absolutely. Take a look at the Cost of War counter in the right column of this blog. That ridiculous exercise in lying about WMDs so we can try out the ideas of the PNAC gang is costing us $8-9 billion a month. Do you think we’d be safer if that money had been spent on, say, mass transit security? How about border security? How about port security? How about hiring more “human assets”?
    This is where the real responsibility lies. The Bushies have wasted billions of dollars and thousands of lives on a fake effort to rid us of WMDs (when the real point was to establish military bases in Iraq), while at the same time taking their eye off the terrorism ball. We are less secure because of the Iraq war, and the responsibility for that lies with only one man, and he’s not living in a tent somewhere.

Quotes for the Fourth

I thought these might be appropriate for this Fourth of July. I found them in a comment on dailyKos, on the patriotism of dissent:

To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.

— Theodore Roosevelt


Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.

— Thomas Jefferson


Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionist and rebel men and women who dare to disssent from accepted doctrine. As their heirs, may we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion.

— Dwight D. Eisenhower

A Few Quick Links for Christians

It’s almost Sunday, and time for a few links for fellow Christians to check out…

  • Faithful Progressive, a new (to me) blog that looks promising
  • Christian Alliance for Progress, a new site (and organization?) subtitled “The Movement to Reclaim Christianity and Transform American Politics.” I’m still checking them out, so haven’t signed on yet, but if any of you know more, please comment.
  • And of course, there’s always the Sojourners web site, an excellent organization and site.

A Republican Sees the Light

Guest editorial in the Eugene, Oregon Register-Guard from a life-long Republican that begins, “As of today, after 25 years, I am no longer a Republican.” Read it here. Very powerful writing. From near the end:

We’re poisoning our planet through gluttony and ignorance.

We’re teetering on the brink of self-inflicted insolvency.

We’re selfishly and needlessly sacrificing the best of a generation.

And we’re lying about it.

Yet Another Call for Closing Gitmo

Jimmy Carter has called on the Bush Admin to close the detention center at Guantanamo, joining a growing chorus of voices from all sides of the political spectrum. Some want to close it because of the torture and human rights abuses, some because of the whole “enemy combatant” shadowland, and some because the very name “Gitmo” is being used to recruit still more terrorists and insurgents.

Jimmy’s right — close it, close it, close it. Why do we need interrogation rooms with iron rings embedded in the floor? Why do we feel it’s okay to imprison hundreds of people forever, without charges or hope of release? Why do we refuse due process to our POWs?

Ten years from now Gitmo will be remembered as a national embarrassment, like the internment camps of WWII and My Lai from Vietnam. We will ask ourselves, What were we thinking? And the answer will be, for many of us: We weren’t thinking, or feeling.

At least Jimmy Carter continues to be a moral leader for us. Now if only the “moral” folks in Washington will follow his lead.

Neuromancer Redux?

Just finished the latest novel by William Gibson (whom I didn’t know was even still alive, much less writing). I have long thought his Neuromancer was one of the most amazing novels I’ve ever read, especially when you compare his insights into the digital future (which continue to come true) with the date (1984) the book was written. I was hoping for the same reading experience with Pattern Recognition.

It’s close. The main character, as well as many of the others, is well-drawn, and the amazing eye for detail remains. There were many sentences I went back and reread, just to savor the turn of phrase. It is, for the most part, an excellent read, and definitely worth the price paid in money and time.
Yet, the deux machina near the end of the book bothered me. (I shan’t say what it is; you’ll have to read it yourself.) I was expecting the plotlines to be tied up, yes, but not quite as suddenly or artificially (or so it seemed to me). Still, Pattern Recognition is a fun and fine yarn, and should be on your “beach reading” list for the summer.

And, if you have never read Neuromancer, run, don’t walk, to your nearest independent bookseller and get the paperback. (Or the 20th anniversary edition.) It’s an amazing book. If he never writes another thing, Gibson has earned his place in writing history by penning it.

Amazing — An Actual Vote of Sanity

As you can read here on the WP, the Supreme Court has voted 5-4 that capital punishment of juveniles is unconstitutional.

In the midst of a country that apparently feels torture is okay and that killing people to stop killing makes sense, it is like a momentary and unexpected breeze in the midst of a stifling summer day.

The amazing thing is that four of the justices — Rehnquist, Scalia, O’Connor, and Thomas — voted in dissent. Apparently, according to Scalia, the fact that every other civilized country in the world condemns such executions as inhumane is enough reason for the US to keep doing it. God forbid we should agree with the French on anything moral!

The other five saw through that smokescreen, and made the correct call. A small win for morality and sanity, but a win, nonetheless. Be thankful for small breezes.