Archive for November 24th, 2006

by Jay Stevens 

In the Billings Gazette story on Dennis Rehberg, which tells what the minority-party Representative will do with his spare time, I saw something I’d like to comment on, namely Rehberg’s comments on partisanship in Washington DC:

Stressing bipartisanship, Rehberg took note of the closely divided state and federal lawmaking bodies.”I think the people of Montana and the nation have spoken pretty clearly. They don’t want the partisan bickering, they don’t want to see the gridlock, they want to see things get done.”

Fascinating quote. What are we to make of it? On one hand, it could be a bald attempt to set up the rhetoric for the next election where Rehberg, either running for another shot at his House seat or for some other, as of yet undeclared seat, can claim that the Democrats are a bitter partisan bunch because they didn’t listen to him in the 110th Congress.

On the other, this could be a genuine statement, because…well…it’s true that voters rejected partisanship by voting for Democratic candidates. This gibes with another report (no link, sorry) that claimed Rehberg was courting the economic populist vote with his opposition to Bush’s recently proposed energy rate hikes. In other words, he might be an ally in the House for Medicare having the ability to negotiate with Big Pharm on drug costs, ethics and health care reform, rollback of tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy, and other useful and popular measures that would take DC out of the hands of corporations and the ultra-rich. If so, it’s a little late, but we could still use the help.

But based on his voting record, color me doutful.

Like Max Baucus, Dennis Rehberg has two years to show if he’s learned the lessons of the 2006 election. Let’s see how he votes.

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by Jay Stevens 

So there I was, having a nice, quiet holiday, completely unaware that my conservative fans were lacing my comment threads with their usual reality-challenged revisionist interpretation of history, as if somehow everything good and American that has come before leads directly to President Bush and his cadre of loyalists.

I’m talking Thanksgiving. In my T-Day open thread, I got the following comment from Big Swede about the real meaning behind Thanksgiving: American capitalism!

I’m thankful that at this time in the year back in the early 1600’s a small group of 50 pilgrims stood with their head bowed in prayer over a bounteous feast. A year before they had been twice as many but those had succumbed to sickness, exposure and starvation. But I more thankful that Gov. Bradford had the foresight to see that the “commune” style of government was failing and to be successful and reward individual effort settlers were given a plots of land to improve themselves. With its biblical roots thus began capitalism and the success that is America.

Imagine how little surprised I was to find that this was a slimmed-down version of Rush Limbaugh’s retelling of the Pilgrim story. (Or, as he calls it, “the Real Story of Thanksgiving.”)

That’s right. Long before Karl Marx was even born, the Pilgrims had discovered and experimented with what could only be described as socialism. And what happened? It didn’t work! Surprise, surprise, huh? What Bradford and his community found was that the most creative and industrious people had no incentive to work any harder than anyone else, unless they could utilize the power of personal motivation! But while most of the rest of the world has been experimenting with socialism for well over a hundred years – trying to refine it, perfect it, and re-invent it – the Pilgrims decided early on to scrap it permanently. What Bradford wrote about this social experiment should be in every schoolchild’s history lesson. If it were, we might prevent much needless suffering in the future.[snip]

They unharnessed the power of good old free enterprise by invoking the undergirding capitalistic principle of private property. Every family was assigned its own plot of land to work and permitted to market its own crops and products. And what was the result? ‘This had very good success,’ wrote Bradford, ‘for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been.’ Bradford doesn’t sound like much of a…” I wrote “Clintonite” then. He doesn’t sound much like a liberal Democrat, “does he? Is it possible that supply-side economics could have existed before the 1980s?

(Big Swede, it’s usually good form to cite the source you “borrow” from in these things.)

By this same logic, then, the lesson of Jamestown and the Virginia colony was that indentured servitude and slavery works and should be hailed today.

This view of Thanksgiving exploits the holiday for partisan politics, of course, where the original event was a harbinger of Reaganite and Bushian ideology of unfettered corporatism. It’s the story, not of giving thanks to God or to the ether or a simple moment to meditate on your fortune and family, it’s an ueber-patriotic call to conservative arms and an American Capitalist Empire!

Ugh.

There are only two accounts of the original Thanksgiving, and neither of them mentions using the holiday to contemplate the benefits of capitalism, the possibility of an American Empire, or any such rot. Mostly it was about eating and being grateful to God for having food to eat.

Edward Winslow:

Our corn [i.e. wheat] did prove well, and God be praised, we had a good increase of Indian corn, and our barley indifferent good, but our peas not worth the gathering, for we feared they were too late sown. They came up very well, and blossomed, but the sun parched them in the blossom. Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.

(No condemnation of those unrepentant socialists, the Indians.)

Dave Neiwert also reminds us that the Pilgrims were neither the first European settlers or the first North American colonists and thinks the message we should take from Thanksgiving shouldn’t be that of “American destiny” (let alone unfettered corporatism):

When you look at the full scope of North American history, the image of Thanksgiving as a holiday of U.S. exceptionalism becomes much harder to sustain. The Pilgrims were not the first European settlers, as many Americans believe. (Cortez’s Spanish troops were.) They weren’t even the first English settlers (several English colonies had been doing very well in Canada for decades). Plymouth was not the first European city in the New World (Cuernavaca would have a decent claim there); nor even in America (as anyone from either St. Augustine or Santa Fe will tell you). And theirs was far from the first Thanksgiving. In truth, they were latecomers to a long-standing party that had already become a New World tradition from Montreal to Mexico City.Living in Canada has given me a bigger view of Thanksgiving. It’s not a holiday celebrating American uniqueness and destiny, but rather one that connects us in history to all the people of this continent — those who came on the boats from Spain, then France, then England to brave a world they could not imagine; those who met the boats and lost the world as they knew it; those who have come in the centuries since from every corner of the planet; and those who share the continent with America now, and are as bound to her fate as surely as we are bound to the brothers and sisters we’re feasting with today.

And the Notorious Mark T reminds us that the American colonists’ in New England (and elsewhere) owed their success not to character, religion, or capitalism, but to disease. If anything, I thnk that’s the message we should take away from the Pilgrims’ successful experiment in New England, that most of our fortunes as Americans – and even being Americans – is purely accidental. We should be grateful to God, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or to random chance that it’s all worked out the way it has and that we lucked into our lives, our family, and even our country.

This isn’t a holiday for arrogance, it’s a time for humility. The original Pilgrims died at an astounding rate. They were cut off from all of their friends, family, and tradition in a hostile environment surrounded by an alien people. Their crops were inconsistent, disease and death were rampant. The survivors knew how tenuous their hold to life was. We should do the same and find inspiration from that feeling, not anger or fear or aggression.

Links…

Pete Talbot mulls the 2008 election landscape; in the post, blogswarm finds an opportunity to slam Max Baucus’ staff.

Memo to Max: you’re even more popular when you play ball with economic populists like the Good Guv and JT.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post got its hands on an email to Big Pharm executives saying Jon Tester “is expected to be a problem.” That’s exactly why we put him there!

The Billings Gazette writes a puff piece on Dennis Rehberg that explains what he’s going to do with all his new-found free time, now that he’s a member of a bitterly divided minority party.

The Missoulian editorial staff calls Montana GOP outcry about redistricting “hyperbole,” and makes the outrageous claim that the elections were all about issues and candidates.

An Idaho editor was fired for endorsing a Democrat in the recent election. “Liberal” media?

Western Democratic state party chairmen meet, and praise Howard Dean’s 50-state strategy.

Bill Schneider on hunting wolves.

Krugman and Dionne weigh in on Florida’s 13th District voting mess: “It may be asking the impossible, but Democrats and Republicans should not make this a fight about which party picks up one more seat. Instead, they should conduct a joint inquest into this contest to provide a basis for bipartisan legislation creating national standards for improving our voting systems.”.

Why Glenn Greenwald hates the Bush administration: “Everything they accuse others of doing — exploiting national security for domestic political gain, being ‘unserious’ about war matters, playing games with the mission of the troops — is what they do as transparently as possible.”

Remember the anti-reproduction-rights hack the Bush administration appointed to the “population affairs” in the Office of Family Planning? Dr. Eric Keroack. Well, the dude has a nutty powerpoint presentation aimed at children to show that women who have a lot of sex can’t fall in love.

Craig points out that today is “Evacuation Day,” the anniversary of when the British New York City in 1783, and thus effectively ending the American colonies’ war of independence. There’s a lesson in here about Iraq, isn’t there?

Barbara Tuchman’s March of Folly is getting quite a few reads lately. Richard Clarke: “In The March of Folly, Barbara Tuchman documented repeated instances when leaders persisted in disastrous policies well after they knew that success was no longer an available outcome. They did so because the personal consequences of admitting failure would be very high.” It’s interesting that a lot of Bush supporters too still cling to obviously wrong assumptions about Iraq, especially the hysterical bloggers on the right. Do they recognize their own culpability for the war? Certainly to continue banging the drum in the face of reality only will make them look worse when the dam breaks.

Speaking of Iraq, why did an Austrialian wheat company find out about the Iraqi invasion 13 months before it happened? Surely this requires some Congressional inquiry…

Good thing that the Senate Judiciary Committee, soon to be led by Vermont’s Patrick Leahy, is to demand documents from the Bush administration on its detention policies.

Pelosi expects to start legislating immediately after the Congressional swearing-in ceremony, a break with tradition. Kevin Drum likes the aggression, and so do I.

Rumsfeld’s feelings hurt by sacking. Boo frickin’ hoo.

Why does the Bush administration hate libraries?

Colorado’s Tom Tancredo goes over the edge on immigration — again. And you wonder there was a 30-point swing among Hispanic voters in favor of the Democratic Party?

Colby pores over the world’s best functioning democracies and sees the U.S. down on the list. An explanation ensues.

Jonathan Singer looks at the 2008 Senate field — and likes what he sees!

The Pentagon’s top weapons research comes up with a whacky plan that would solve global warming — and you wouldn’t have to stop using your SUV!




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