You may only read this site if you've purchased Our Kampf from Amazon or Powell's or me
• • •
"Mike and Jon, Jon and Mike—I've known them both for years, and, clearly, one of them is very funny. As for the other: truly one of the great hangers-on of our time."—Steve Bodow, head writer, The Daily Show

"Who can really judge what's funny? If humor is a subjective medium, then can there be something that is really and truly hilarious? Me. This book."—Daniel Handler, author, Adverbs, and personal representative of Lemony Snicket

"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming

August 22, 2008

Glenn Greenwald Interviews Dennis Perrin

Glenn Greenwald just posted an intervew with Dennis. They spoke mostly about Dennis's new book Savage Mules: The Democrats and Endless War.

I agree with Dennis about the Democrats. But I'm also sure that if the Green Party ever reached a comparable level of power, they'd act in exactly the same way, and then he'd have to write a book called Savage Trees.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at August 22, 2008 03:52 PM

Savage Shrubs.

Posted by: scott at August 22, 2008 04:50 PM

I found Perrin to be evasive; he's been arguing with other liberals for so long he doesn't want to leave himself open to attack, I concluded (though cannot definitively prove).

There were two problems. First of all, the question of whether or not the two parties are significantly different is vague. Perrin, however, did himself a disservice by refusing to answer hypotheticals. If he wants to question a particular one, fine, but posit another that gets at the question of the practical differences between Republicans and Democrats. Morally speaking, there is little difference between a serial killer and a mass-murdering soldier, but the practical differences are a matter of life and death for hundreds. Practical differences matter.

I say this despite the fact that I believe that there's an argument for a clearly worse leader -- e.g., put as many Republicans in power as possible to accelerate our economic collapse so that the final collapse is less painful than a drawn-out death spiral would be. (I haven't the constitution to pursue this policy, but it is a rational one.)

More importantly (far more importantly, since not even Nader is really pushing the "they're identical" idea at the moment) was the question asking if change should be pursued via third parties or by democratic reform.

This question was awful, and both Glenn and Dennis treated it poorly.

The fact of the matter is there is no dichotomy between them. Both employing dems and third parties must be used. How can one put electoral pressure on a dem candidate without a third party? Further, good candidates can run both for the dem nomination and for the third party, putting the fear of god in a right-wing dem even if he wins the nomination. There are thousands of tactics available if a strategy employing both dems and thirds are used. Why would we restrict ourselves to one or the other?

Ask it this way: did any of Europe's major third parties spring fully formed from the forhead of one deity or another, or did they splinter off from and manipulate some older party?

A third party needs funding and an organizing apparatus.

May as well use the democrats'. They aren't using those things well, anyway.

Posted by: No One of Consequence at August 22, 2008 05:18 PM

The time for starting a new third party was not the time of the Democratic primaries in 2008, or even 2004, but in 1993. My advice, as a Bangladeshi-Canadian Muslim who does not want to see her homeland go under the sea and who would like to be able to sell out clubs in New York a few years without fear of deportation is, vote for Obama, and start working on that third party from November 3rd.

Posted by: Sajia Kabir at August 22, 2008 07:12 PM

True, framing the issue as a dichotomy is misleading, but the question "should one go with the lesser evil or try something else?" is fundamental, and Dennis made some great points.

To use the sort of analogy that donescobar relishes, if the election had been between Hitler, Mussolini, and Mother Teresa, then obviously Auschwitz would have been blamed on the irresponsible citizens who voted for Mother Teresa and not for Mussolini. I can see the slogan "Save the Jews, Become a Fascist!"

Gore and Kerry lost because they turned to the "radical left" (ie, centrists like Nader) and told them: Get lost! The Dems never meet anyone halfway unless they're Republicans.

Mention peace and social justice and you get excommunicated from the Democratic church. Real Dems talk about "muscularity" and "responsibility," not peace and justice.

What can the left do? They can make the Dems lose until they listen. There's a historical precedent. It's called the Republican party.

The reason Republicans win is that, at Bill Buckley's prodding, they unified all wings of their party into one (incoherent but functional) entity.

Once upon a time, Reagan was the mirror image of Nader in the Republican party. I believe he became president.

PS: if the Dems are really to the left of the Repubs, then will someone please explain to me why Clinton was to the right of Nixon?
How does the geometry work?

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at August 22, 2008 07:44 PM

The two major parties have promoted laws in the various states that make it exceedingly difficult for other parties to get on the ballot. Petitions have to have thousands of signatures, on a certain color paper, with no typos on the page, etc. They have also restricted media access as well as debate participation.

So what we get is two me-too parties with only slightly nuanced differences. Many citizens are thereby unable to find a party which represents their views, and so they either hold their noses and vote or stay home, which half of them do.

The solution, then, is not a third party per se but uniform, sensible ballot access laws and a better election scheme. Proportional representation, say. I was in Ireland last year during their election when they had twelve parties running -- much more interesting, and more reason to get involved and vote. Labor, Socialists, Greens, you name it. You vote your top three choices, the lowest vote getters get shucked sequentially, and you wind up with a winner. Wouldn't that shake up the R/D party regulars. Democracy!

But, hey, we're the best and we don't need to change anything, right?

Posted by: Don Bacon at August 22, 2008 08:01 PM

I have not read Mr Perrin's book but I heard the interview. To me, it seemed like "Bashing Perrin" rather than interviewing him ( though I do like Mr Greenwald's writings).

IMO, in reality there is not much difference between the democratic and the republican party though there may be some differences between the candidates which may be minor on some issues and signicicant on others however whether that translates into a different way of governing whether a republican or a democratic candidate is elected is doubtful( because of certain limitations imposed by the consitution ).

But in the final analysis, how we want the country to be governed ( whether by a democrat or a republican ) will need fundamental changes, right from grade school in how the children are taught to think of themselves as Americans. They will have to unlearn, America has to be the most powerful country, We have to lead the world, We can never lose, Other countries have to do our bidding, Individualism is the greatest virtue and community does not matter, Might is right---I could just go and on ( do not get me wrong-this country has wonderful things to offer but it does not include evryone ). Only then, with a new generation with a differnt way of thinking, fairness, equality, justice, peace will become issues in an election.

And finally, I do not expect the republican party to mention it and the democrats keep talking about the middle class. Most disappointingly, they have not said a word about how they are going to change the status of people belonging to "Pemanent Underclass" in our society.

Posted by: Rupa Shah at August 22, 2008 09:12 PM

VOTE DIGBY-CLARK-2008---VOTE THE INTERNET too late, third party's already here and YOU're in it. Now all WE need is to get some INTERNET FOLKS elected.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at August 22, 2008 11:07 PM

...they'd act in exactly the same way...

Too far.

Posted by: John Caruso at August 23, 2008 03:01 AM

Oh for Pete's sake Mike Meyer, cut it out already.

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at August 23, 2008 03:07 AM

Glenn Greenwald and Dennis Perrin seemed to be talking past each other during the whole interview. The best part was toward the end when Dennis discussed the powerful interests that control the Two Party System (tm), and Glenn said in the past powerful interests had been overthrown. Would it make the most sense to overthrow the Two Party System in its entirety?

On the viability of third parties, I think the most political action one could take in the Electoral System (tm) is to NOT vote. Why lend legitimacy to a corrupt and undemocratic system by settling for what one considers to be the lesser of two evils? Why lend legitimacy to the undemocratic system by voting for third parties when you know the vote is meaningless to begin with? Why vote?

If enough people do not vote, no government (Republican or Democrat) could claim legitimacy or a mandate. The heads of the political and media elite would certainly explode in that eventuality. People should vote by taking to the streets and demanding a new constitution. Morning in America, motherfuckers.

Posted by: Ticked-Off Wisconsinite at August 23, 2008 03:17 AM

I'm in agreement, Bernard. Look, I think Dennis is more than completely right about his facts. I despise the Democratic party and would happily see most of its leaders sent up for treason -- after their Republican comrades warm the dock up for them.

That being said, false dichotomies are extremely dangerous, especially when one has few resources and little room for mistakes (as do patriots in this country). And the question you posed , "should one go with the lesser evil or try something else?" is simply too vague to stand. Going with the “lesser evil” can mean many things. Vote for the sonofabitch wholeheartedly (Obamaphiles and Clintonites – damn, politics sounds like a Hellraiser sequel), oppose him 'till zero hour in order to force his policies out of asshole territory, and so on.

Going with “something else” -- need I point out how vague that is?

Your Reagan example is a good point. The Republicans used a variety of strategies to turn their party into the Pit of Crusty Anuses that now graces our society. They eschewed many "lesser evil" strategies (plural, as they vary) many a time (a lesson decent people need to learn, we all agree), but they didn't take the arrow out of the quiver.

That being said, if patriots were to absolutely refuse ALL lesser evil strategies it would be less bad than if they insisted on using them even a bit too much. It is a dangerous, and, generally speaking, weak gambit. But you cannot see this without first eliminating shoddy thinking. False dichotomies must go.

Don said:

The solution, then, is not a third party per se but uniform, sensible ballot access laws and a better election scheme.

And we won't get uniform ballot access without a third party. See the quandry?

Third parties are like parasites, like scavengers. They must operate like the Sci-Fi channel's cheeziest monsters, growing from a host. We must push the Dems -- hell, push the Republicans when we can -- while building a third party.

Part of the problem is is that there's no real "seed" to begin with. The Greens are, well, narrow. Plus, their name sucks, imo. Labor would be better.

Posted by: No One of Consequence at August 23, 2008 01:50 PM

I think the powers that be will operate happily about there being no mandate. Do not forget the power of the "nonvoters are satisfied" lie. Even more obvious lies dominate our culture.

Not voting is not the answer. The answer is local control. We should use what little time we have (if any) to get control of schoolboards, mayorships, and so on. From there go for governorships and -- the holy of holies -- secretary of state.

Without local control, without police harrassing good citizens, we not only can get better laws and actually patriotic law enforcement, but we can blunt the effects of fascists at the federal level. Finally, no one here would doubt that having good people in control of a state would seriously affect the outcome of a federal election as well.

THAT'S how you fix the problems in the U.S.

Two other salient points;

• When the economy collapses, what level of government will be most important for the comman man? Local.

• When building a third party, what level of government is the media through which a party grows? Local.

• When creating a grassroots movement, what level of society is the basis for turning public opinion? Here's a hint: what did the Republicans target? Local groups, small political units, distinct geographical units.

It's all the same answer because, if you looked at these issues clearly it's all the same question.

And that's why I thought this problematic, if not train wreck, of an interview between two very useful progressives did not succeed. Both sides refused to get past the nonsensical rules they had creaed for each other when discussing the issues.

Posted by: No One of Consequence at August 23, 2008 02:03 PM

Watch out, Jonathan V. One day you'll be spending a quiet weekend with your girlfriend in a cabin at Terror Lake. Then the power will go out mysteriously, and you'll be sorry you ever ticked off Mike Meyer.

Posted by: saurabh at August 23, 2008 02:33 PM

DIGBY-CLARK ARE NOT THE LESSER OF TWO EVILS, in fact they're a hell of a lot better than what the two hosrsesasses and buggy parties are running. I contend they are both intelligent and honorable people who are widely respected by INTERNET bloggers at least.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at August 23, 2008 02:35 PM

THE NET SELLS--- justt from odds alone from posting some people will be voting for DIGBY-CLARK, maybe not many but some will. I post on the wing nut sites too, they have to hold their noses to vote for Mccain and damn sure won't vote for a dem. They're looking third party also.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at August 23, 2008 02:45 PM

Duly noted, Saurabh. I won't take my girlfriend to Terror Lake no more.

No One of Consequence, you offer many salient points. You should get your own blog or consider joining me at Dead Horse in September.

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at August 23, 2008 03:14 PM

NOC: local vs regional vs federal. all quite tricky. federal power is for plutocrats and local power is for racists. and i'm NOT even talking states' rights here.

i believe that property taxes are the single most powerful vehicle for institutionalized racism.

at the same time, 99% of what's good in this country happens at the local level.

to take new jersey, i'd like the state of nj to take over all property taxes.

the wealth discrepancies in my state, and the racial segregation that goes with it, are off the charts.

lovely princeton is 30 mins from camden, the 2nd poorest city in america and almost certainly the best place to get cancer in the whole country.

i pay unbelievably high property taxes, so the middle school gets its own olympic-size swimming pool and our streets have flower beds. ain't it lovely?

meanwhile, 30 mins south you've got kids who've never seen a swimming pool, let alone actually use one. but it's ok because the garbage in princeton gets processed in camden. as does all the garbage in south jersey.

we get the flower beds, they get our garbage. sounds fair, no?

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at August 23, 2008 03:52 PM

Sittin' in sunny NJ at the moment. I'm not a native of the northeast but I'm learning what you're talking about fast.

Property tax bullshit here sounds like how it works down south, too. It is despicable. As I child it took me years to wrap my head around the idea that the state could tax you for just living in a fucking house.

Income tax and tarrifs are the primary ways a government should raise revenue, imo (with bonds here and there). Property taxes on any residence below a certain size is absurd.

Oh, and as for local racism, let's not forget zoning laws which have led to worse segregation in the modern day than there was thirty years ago.

Bernard's points tie into mine. Plutocrats are much harder to crush than local bigots and powermongers. The aristocracy can play one side off another. They don't "shit where they eat" -- they don't live in your neighborhood so the consequences of a political fight need not burn them. They are aloof yet influential.

The local thug can be undermined, however. If you think I'm being too optimistic about local politics, I'd counter, indirectly, that it's impossible to be too pessimistic about the federal level. The House and Senate are a goddamn lock. And the Presidency is a sick joke. Nothing of quality is getting in those places -- the Supremes have nixed far too much campaign finance reform to make it happen. The local may not be "easy," but the fed is impossible.

That's why Perrin's points aren't merely truthful, but profound. Remember kids: the national party is NOT the local party.

Jonathan Versen -- is Dead Horse a blog or a convention?

Posted by: No One of Consequence at August 23, 2008 05:06 PM

Since Kelo v. New London property taxes are only another way to STEAL land and should be done away with totally. Replace them with a state lottery.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at August 23, 2008 06:29 PM

The argument Republican v. Democrat is almost useless, not because there aren't differences between the parties, or between individuals in the parties, but because the executive branch has been controlled by, to use the euphemism, the military-industrial complex. I think that a better measurement is to compare how much more conservative every Democratic President has been than his Congress. Consider how it was Clinton and the Republicans who pushed NAFTA through, for example.

Since Nixon was dethroned on the testimony of "former CIA" employees, ruined in the news by information leaked by an FBI bigwig (Felt) to a "former ONI" (Woodward), we had two conservative Dems from the South (one from the Navy's nuclear program, and I do believe that the Clintons have been intelligence assets all the way back to their time at Yale), Gerald Ford, known as the CIA's best friend in Congress (and a member of the Warren Commission to boot), Reagan, who was the mouthpiece for a CIA Nazi importation program back in the fifties, Bush I, the former head of the CIA, and Bush II, the son of the Director of Central Intelligence.

That array of rogues is no accident.

The game is fixed because in our system the executive branch has power to rejigger the permanent government. It's necessary for for the executive branch to be under the control of the MIC. (Think of how the country would be different if the FBI were reporting to Congress over the last eight years and think of how long it will take to fix all the screwed up federal agencies.)

It's necessary to recognize the consonance of our political parties' bestial international behavior. It's necessary to understand who benefits. (I remember something written by Peter Dale Scott where he listed all the coups around the world in 1964 alone which benefited American oil interests.)

But it's necessary to see how far apart the average Democrat on the street and his foreign policy is than a Democratic President's. If you take the average Democratic voter and then follow the trail up through political office from the local supervisor to the Presidency you can see the disconnection between what the average citizen wants and what comes out at the top. At each step money further divides the common will from the end result. The MSM works to further frustrate the common will. The levels of propaganda fed to Americans is amazing. And then our spies constantly have the dirt on politicians, to blackmail them, to prosecute them if necessary. And if that doesn't work, and there is some politician who wants to do the right thing and gets anywhere near the top without being destroyed in the media or the corrupt wheels of injustice, well, then he must be killed.

That's what Americans are up against.

Posted by: Bob In Pacifica at August 23, 2008 09:46 PM

Bob in Pacifica: AGREED. I contend that a third party can sidestep those influences by those bureaucracies merely by not existing beforehand.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at August 23, 2008 10:07 PM

still talking about democrats ... sigh ...

Posted by: petey at August 23, 2008 10:55 PM

"To use the sort of analogy that donescobar relishes, if the election had been between Hitler, Mussolini, and Mother Teresa, then obviously Auschwitz would have been blamed on the irresponsible citizens who voted for Mother Teresa and not for Mussolini. I can see the slogan 'Save the Jews, Become a Fascist!'"

Beautifully put.

Posted by: Sam at August 24, 2008 07:06 PM