We Are the "War Room" that We Have Been Waiting For

By Al Giordano


Last summer, former Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis offered some sage advice to his 2008 successor in an interview with the New York Observer: To utilize a grassroots precinct-level organization not only in the traditional manner of getting out the vote, but as a message machine to beat back the kinds of smears that he and other previous nominees knew all too well:


"I'm talking about every precinct," he said, "with a precinct captain and six block-captains that make personal contact with every single voting household. And I mean starting a year in advance. I'm not talking about parachuting in with two weeks to go. That's baloney. And these people are people who've got to be from the precinct, of the precinct, look like the precinct and talk like the precinct."


The way he tells it, this was the missing ingredient in his 1988 effort-a powerful and utterly economical tool that, if properly deployed, could have blunted the Bush campaign's character-assassination-by-paid-media, and one that could spare Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama his ultimate fate.

True to his technocratic roots, Mr. Dukakis has the idea of replicating, on every street, avenue, and rural route in the country, the kind of personal relationships that once powered big-city political machines-with precinct captains calling on their neighbors every few weeks, asking them about their concerns, talking up their candidate and following up on any questions they might have. Mr. Dukakis' vision is rooted in good government-making sure, for instance, that a neighbor's concerns about school vouchers are satisfactorily addressed.

That kind of personalized operation early on, Mr. Dukakis believes, can keep voters from believing the worst when the Willie Horton and Swift Boat campaigns begin.

"There's a chemistry there, which is hard to describe unless you've done it," he said. "Otherwise, it permits your opponent to paint you as something you aren't. It happened to me. It happened to Kerry. They tried to do it to Clinton. They'll try to do it to anybody."


Obama - beginning in the Democratic primaries with the "kitchen sink strategy" of the Clinton campaign - bore the brunt of bizarre accusations thrown at him that weren't ever attempted on Caucasian candidates before him: a whisper and anonymous viral email campaign about his religion caused 13 percent of Americans to believe, four months ago, that Obama is Muslim (a difficult falsehood to fight back against without creating blowback from those that will then accuse that to do so is to perpetuate the very bigotry it's based upon). This month, the same Wall Street Journal-NBC poll shows that number reduced to eight percent, while more Americans tag Obama as a Christian than ever before.

This progress sure isn't due to the non-existent clarity in the commercial news media (when even the nominee's purported friends - for example, at The New Yorker - are so prone to go off message). It's occurred because the Obama campaign has largely heeded Dukakis' advice and harnessed its grassroots organization to fight back from the bottom up. They've done it with the Fight The Smears website, where supporters get the talking points to respond to email falsehoods and other attacks.

The direct mail flyer, part of which is posted above, produced by the AFL-CIO and sent to 600,000 of its members in key battleground states, is an excellent example of utilizing organization to do the fact-correcting job that the news media simply doesn't do, or doesn't do well.

Jed calls it "the best anti-smear message of the campaign" to date:


In late June, Professor Sam Wang, a neuroscientist at Princeton (mindgeek at Daily Kos), penned a New York Times op-ed describing how debunking falsehoods by repeating the falsehoods can in fact strengthen the original falsehood. Consequently, the best way to spread the truth is by leading with the truth to debunk the smear. For example, emphasize that  "Barack Obama IS a Christian" instead of saying what he is not...


As you can see, instead of answering each smear in the negative, the mailer instead poses questions that can be answered positively. In this fashion, the flier is reinforcing who Barack Obama actually is instead of who Barack Obama is not.


You - and any neighbors, co-workers or relatives are walking around with false impressions in their heads - can see the whole flyer here. (The next logical step would be if folks on the grassroots level simply took that .pdf to the printer and made even more copies to distribute on the ground.)

The Howard Dean campaign showed in 2004 that the Internet could be utilized to raise millions of dollars in small donations, ending dependence on the "influence donors" that so destroyed the Democratic Party in recent decades. In 2008, the Obama campaign mastered that technique, and now pioneers its use as a messaging sword for those small donors and grassroots volunteers to make false rumors die the death of a thousand cuts.

Politics has thus evolved from the centralized "war room" of the 1990s to a decentralized one that exists in a million or two homes right now, of which bloggers and independent media are a new kind of precinct captain that needs no orders from headquarters nor permission to take initiative. We saw that at work last weekend in the rapid response from the bottom up to the McCain campaign's false claims in a television ad about Obama's European trip. Only four days later, the McCain camp has backed down.

And that's a large reason why the Chicken Little proclamations that we so often read and hear elsewhere - the petulant demands from armchair campaign managers that the Obama fight back in specific ways - are so silly:  Surrogates almost always make the better counterpunchers and anybody with a modem or a network of friends or neighbors is now as much of a surrogate as the big names that can garner mass media attention. When you can do something yourself, it's just plain infantile to call upon daddy or mommy - or the presidential candidate or political leader upon which you project that role - to do it for you. Hopefully, one of the lasting results of 2008 will be the emergence of the more grown-up form of political activism in which rather than calling on others to do things for us we simply do it ourselves.

Update: The Obama campaign is using a martial art technique with this new ad now on the air, turning McCain's recent attacks back at him:





Thank god you made a post on this.

THank you AL! Over at dailykos and other blogs, everybody was screaming like5 year olds trying to get daddy and mommy Obama campaign to make the greatest counter attack ad ever! "He needs to attack now!"


They need to get a grip. No drama.

War Room Rapid Response

Thank you Mr. Giordano,

I appreciate your insight and intelligence.  This is my first post, but I have been reading this site for months and it has assisted me greatly in staying calm and focused.  We (the American Voters) cannot keep doing the same thing and think that America will continue to be a progressive and successful country.

I appreciate your commentary about the "decentralized war room" from the internet communities and bloggers.  Who knows, if the internet communities and the people of this country keep up the good work of fighting misinformation, we may actually get the MSM to do something they have not done in many years, think for themselves and remember they should report the story, not the talking points of opinion.



Excerpts from a Wellstone handbook

“A good field operation harnesses the power of a campaign's base by turning supporters into volunteers, and volunteers into activists and leaders. Field organizing is the definition of grassroots, done primarily by volunteers from the bottom up. A good field operation gives a campaign energy, gives it a human face, reflects the campaign's values and can make the difference between winning and losing.”


“When volunteers are treated the right way and feel a sense of ownership, they become activists and leaders who add vitality and energy to the work.”

"more grown-up form of political activism"

Al...I am with you.  Let us be grown ups about this and handle it ourselves.  I am so damn tired of the chicken-littling that bombards me on blogs these days.  Instead of whining about what I think Obama should do I have learned to do what I believe must be done myself.

For instance, my boyfriend is a "one issue voter".  He is a hardcore gun enthusiast (and thankfully he's reasonable!).  So he asked me about Obama's gun control views and I pointed him to information both positive and negative and I engaged him in discussion.  Has he said he'll vote for Obama?  No.  But that's okay because he respects me and my intellect.  Moreover, he hasn't shut himself off to either candidate.  (He is truly a "swing voter".)  My interaction with him represents my activism at work.  I educate and elucidate.  I'm not waiting for Obama or his campaign to do it.

Plus...I have gone out to register new voters!

Only we can take this country back people.  Let's get to work.

I don't worry about the

I don't worry about the judgement of the Obama campaign.  But I am beginning to fret about the actions of various Secretaries of State regarding dumping voter registrations and the Real ID act, not to mention hinky voting machines/counts.

Attacks aren't going to work this time!

We can see by today's CNN poll that McCain is looking like the unfair attacker-remember what happened to Clinton in the primaries? People are tired of attacks and falsities-they want the truth and they want help. We are facing harsh consequences of having a leader for eight years who lacked leadership ability and economic intelligence.  People are waking up....slowly in some cases.

Al-You know I love it when you empower us! Thank you....

We should all remember this great quote should we doubt the daily decisions coming out of the campaign or start feeling like a chicken little? Yes, "We are the ones we have been waiting for!"


I like it

It's a good start.  I hope the AFL-CIO makes it the first of a series. 

Knock down the big boogeyman myths first, then start talking issues once your audience is ready to hear them, after Labor Day.

Chess vs. Checkers

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe Al made the analogy during Clinton's "Kitchen Sink" gambit, that Obama is playing chess while Clinton was playing checkers.

It seems to apply even more to the McCain campaign.  The Obama campaign looks a couple of moves ahead, they plan with game theory what ifs.

So, the McCain campaign accuses us of "x".  OK.  How much is it hurting us?  How much is it hurting him (e.g., he looks like a tired, old whiner; the accusation is untrue, so he looks like a lier, etc.).  What's the best way to respond (e.g., lower level campaign staff put out a response, let the bloggers and other surrogates go crazy on it, keep the Man himself above the fray).


McCain is playing the game the way it was played by both sides during the last couple of elections.


Obama is playing a different game entirely.  And maybe it won't pay off, but it sure looks good so far.

"Low Road"-New Obama Camp Ad Just Released



What do you think? I like it a lot! The Obama camp always uses the classy approach.

"Low Road"-New Obama Camp Ad - What do I think?

Good ad, except that I would have used the image of McCain hugging Bush for the McCain/Bush/together image. I had to watch twice to see if they tied McCain in with Bush somehow. Completely missed it the first time. Enough to wonder why not.


I was starting to read a diary on Daily Kos about that ad until I got to the sentence "Obama must do much more". As always, Al is very timely with his posts! The constant "Obama must do this", "Obama must do that" is very tiresome.

For instance, with the whole thing over the cancelled visit to Ramstein, it is much more effective when the media and other third parties criticize it than if it was just one campaign against the other. Yet the armchair campaign managers on the blogs don't seem to realize this and want Obama to have done the entire response himself. If he had followed their advice, he would be worse off than he is now because he wouldn't have the quotes he uses in that ad, the media would have treated it purely as a dispute between him and McCain.


Lots of squawking across the web about how Obama MUST COUNTER-ATTACK NOW! to this ridiculous series of ads from John McComplain. Today, when asked about them, all Obama really had to say was that he didn't watch John McCain's ads. It was a response that is now becoming the Obama standard: benign and passive on its face but calculated to underscore a central tenet of Obama's presidential style. He is unflappable. And he can dismiss his detractors without breaking a sweat.

Meanwhile, the McCain campaign - in an astonishing miscalculation - starts negative campaigning so early in the season that by the time fall rolls around they will have completely drained independents, undecideds, and wavering Republicans of any enthusiasm for and genuine interest in their candidate. He's wearing them out, and the conventions haven't even happened (side note: the Republican convention is going to be really interesting to watch this year). By October it'll be, "Ugh, there's McCain bitching and moaning again."

Meanwhile2, the Obama campaign plays the game on the ground, while the candidate continues to radiate light, change, hope, better days, good judgment, and that remarkably calm and presidential demeanor.

I like it.

I just posted on

I just posted on another blog that this was solid ad, but I bet we'll see many of the chicken littles and handwringers saying that the ad was too late, or not strong enough, guess I was right.

This is a solid ad. Instead of 3 or 4 contradicting ads the Obama campaign has released just 1, that can be used to combat all the previously released McCain ads.

Notice that the ad does not try to respond to any particular McCain ad. It's aimed at all the attacks, and brings the issue back to the economy which as I said in an earlier thread is Obama's message for this week.

This is how you respond to these type of attacks, McCain has so many ads up that can be either debunked or totally dismissed that I tend to think it dilutes his message.

Anyway, good ad.

And notice the use of a key word...?



Aikido indeed...  :-)

On The Money

 I love the new ad! This is another in a series of posts as to why Al Giordano is the only journalist/commentator I would ever donate to.

@Trinity-Don't give up on your man, sex is a good way for him to relax and open up.

@Nepat-I could not have said it better, I agree with every word.

@Ezzy-Did you join Fieldhands yet? I will be knocking on your front door soon. Luv ya!

chicken littles

The squawking isn't just localized to the web. I was listening to America Left on XM (powered by Air America, or so they say) during my ride from Phoenix to South Carolina (my move) this past week and Ed Schultz was one of the biggest Chicken Littles! He spent much of his three hour show on multiple days complaining about the lack of response and how Obama needs Hillary as VP in order to counter the attacks becaues he doesn't have the balls to do it!! Basically, he ranted on and on about how Kaine or any other choice won't do and that it must be Hillary to counter these attacks because she proved that she could parry attacks so well during the primary... Uh. What attacks? She was the one DOING the attacking.

Anyway, just wanted to point out that the freaking out is DEFINITELY not contained to bloggers right now. I believe Schultz's exact words regarding a potential swift boat were that "the boat is idling in the water right now" but that Obama was in dire danger of being swiftboated by that ridiculous McCain ad about his playing basketball instead of seeing the troops.

I wish there was someway to get the media to stop parroting McCain's narrative - especially the liberal supposedly progressive media! You don't see the Repubs tearing each other up in public, even though they may be less than enthused regarding their candidate.

Great ad!  Indeed, I like

Great ad!  Indeed, I like Obama's style--definately a break from the past.

What I really like is the way that Obama allows McLame to flail about, swinging but not connecting any decent punches.  Obama appears above the fray and level-headed.

Again, O-man is going after independents and moderate Republicans that have come to the realization that the rightwing, neocon policies are extreme and harmful to the health of the nation.

About the grass roots, door-to-door organizing, I will say that this is more hype than it is action.  There is nothing close to what Dukakis described above happening at the organizational level in my area (as far as I can see--and, mind you, I am swamped with my small  business and farm work this year).

My personal theory is that in the old days, politics was more starkly tied to economics, and some degree of left-progressive-liberal organizing was engaged on the part of unionized working class folk.  In times like these, with increasing inequality and the Democrat party as coopted to corporate power as are the Republicans, the mass of potential voters is rather apathetic.  The natural constitency of the left is thouroughly depoliticized, dumped down, and/or willfully ignorant/tuned-out.   This makes for a much more challenging grass-roots organizing environment than anytime in US history.

More, so as not to spook the likely voters--independents and moderate Republicans--Obama has to tone down any economic populism that should/could be part of the campaign.  If Obama did not gradually shift to more centrist discourse that doesn't challenge coproate hegemony and the generalized austerity that the public has been inculcated into accepting, the plutocratic media machine would slit his throat.

Indeed, Obama is engaging a fine dance--but given the economic conditions, the endless war, the deteriorating ecological health of the earth, a left-progressive should be fifteen points ahead of McLame at this point.

No, I can't say how I would do anything differently, given the constraints and the ideological inertia.  But recognizing these constraints compells me to be more assertive (voter registration, meeting with the Obama supporters of my area, etc.) going into the home-stretch of this race.


Al gets it

As usual, Al is one of the best interpreters of what the Obama campaign is doing. Those who like to wring their hands and carp will do so regardless. But luckily, it seems like finally the Democrats have nominated someone who is not going to veer around switching strategies, afraid of his own shadow. He will follow his plan, and the Chicken Littling won't stop him. Meanwhile I predict at least one big major overhaul in McCain's campaign before November, as well as a lot of leaks, grumbling and undisciplined inconsistent focus.


Just saw the new Obama ad.

This is probably giving his campaign too much credit, but could they have been waiting for this kind of opening just so they could hit McCain with:

- "politics of the past"

- "same old politics"


If McCain had been keeping to the high road, could the Obama campaign get away with these obvious shots at McCain's age?

McCain will look like a whiner (and a whussy) if he complains.

I mean, come on Grandpa.  If you turn the hose on the kids when they weren't even close to your lawn, don't be surprised to find the Buick's tires slashed in the morning.

Al, Noam Chomsky has some

Al, Noam Chomsky has some very timely and enlightening things to say about this election---but I am not sure that you would want to depart from the mainstream net-roots conventional wisdom and publicize Chomsky's views. To be honest, I am underwelmed by much of the 'progressive' blogosphere precisely because of the habitually truncated nature of much of the political discussion. Yes, I browse these blogs--but there's not much 'there' there.

In fact, so many of these discussions border on farce when the parameters of acceptable thinking are swept away.

Becoming enthralled in the horse-race and conventional wisdom is nice and all (and it can be entertaining in a passive consumerist, sports type of way)--but I have to agree with Chomsky to a large extent: given the parameters of the discourse, and how real policies are given short shrift compared with side-show 'character' issues, etc., well, I have to say that it is hard to be a 'true believer'.

Chomsky helps me better understand the parameters of the corporate cage--so that I can more efficiently work to expand these limits with my own larger projects (e.g., ecological restoration and our farm).

This election is playing out just as so many others have. Progress on pressing issues simply doesn't happen becasue an honest discussion isn't even engaged. Decades go by--and the plutocracy becomes more entrenched, and the general population becomes more dumbed down and apathetic--while poverty levels rise and government austerity proceeds apace. The US population is more atomized and disengaged than at any point in US history.

A recent interview where these issues are discussed can be found at The Canadian Dimension Blog. The person interviewing Chomsky is Pampeu Fabra University professor Vincent Navarro.

No, you don't have to post any comments on this--and I will understand if you don't. But--I'm just say'n... Chomsky will not likely be around much longer--and we will ignore him to our common disadvantage (certainly the liberals during my tenure as a graduate student/teaching assistant were none to eagar to engage Chomsky's thinking.)

Personally, I think all authentic progressive folks could benefit from reflecting on Noam Chomsky's analysis of this campaign.

Given the prevailing conditions, Chomsky does emphasize that the US is a left organizer's wet dream. But when popular progressive bloggers won't even engage Chomsky's thoughts on issues--well, this inclines me to be a bit skeptical of these designated 'progressives'.

Just as with my stint in academia, what passes for intellectual engagement leaves me wanting in a big way.

(And meeting an Obama fellow here in Orlando, a young unversity gal, that thinks Uribe is a hero and that Chavez is a dictator--well, you get the picture. The level of sheer delusion is off the charts.)

Seriously, I back Obama only with the 'hope' that I will be pleasantly surprised. But after Clinton, no, I won't be lulled into true-believership. And I don't see anything in the Obama organizing campaign that translates into taking on un-democratic corporate power on any substantive issues. I just don't see it--and the Obama supporters that I have come across thus far don't even have a rudimentary knowledge of history or policy. Un-democratic structures of power, propaganda, and corporate power are some of the key issues--but there doesn't exist the discourse or the policy discussions that can function to change the status quo.

No, I don't even bother arguing in the face of this generalized ignorance. What good would it do? None--because there is a willful/passive component to it.

No, I am not a chicken little. The sky has already fallen, the earth's health is in a chronic phase--but we are too sheepled to pull ourselved away from watching that episode of 'Friends' (a show about nothing at all) for the umpteenth time to do anything to change the equation--at least not in any collective sense.

The most we will do is identify with 'our guy/team', and then return to our regularly scheduled programming. The passing of time is only noted when the next celebrity faux-person dies, and we can pretend to care and be agreived. Sigh.

The McCain Vapid Response team

I love that Keith Olbermann is referring to McCain's ad campaign group as the Vapid Response team.


Steven,  Funny you bring up Noam.  I've been holding out hope that Obama would seek his counsel one of these days.  He's bringing in ex-Boosh economics folks and ex-DLCers like Goolbee and Furman, which is cool, but this "balance" hasn't included Chomsky or others like him, which has been disappointing.

I suppose I can understand how this would be portrayed in Conglomerate Media and in turn how sheeple would interpret it, but Chomsky is amazingly insightful, just ask Pat Tillman.  I get the feeling Obama has read and listened to Noam a bunch over the years, at least I'll believe that to feel a little better.

An era gone by unfortunately:


True Believership

Is not recommended whether it's a total belief in Obama... or a total belief in Chomsky.

The latter phenomenon also exists in certain academic left circles.

Obama is playing Chess

McCain is playing tiddlywinks.

To Understand Chomsky is to be the 'un-true believer'

when it comes to official, sanctioned, popularized conventional discourse.

But how could an honest, healthy human being be an 'un-true believer' in modes of thought and action that exand human well being, peace, and overall ecological and social health.

Cynicism is knowing what is wrong, base, and dishonest--being 'in-the-know' but not finding strategies and avenues to alter these conditions for the better.

I just find it striking that this excellent interview of Noam Chomsky, his insights into this election and the state of the world, will likely be submerged by most notable 'left' bloggers.   This gives insight into the political condition of the nation, in very pertinent, telling ways.

Who is Noam Chomsky?

 Steven Hunt,

It would be very kind of you to include a link for us simple folk new to this world of politics. I am intrigued by the comments and would like to read up on the latest of his writings you are speaking of. I have watched the utube link. How old is this guy today? Does he still think the same as 1969?

Speaking of beauty contests

You know, McCain is not the first presidential candidate to try to tap the cult of celebrity in a political ad this season. Ron Paul played the same card on McCain in the primaries (tapping into America's beauty pageant celebrity obsession), if you recall -- absent the clear racial undertow in McCain's latest effort.

(After all, if you want to compare Obama to a celebrity, why use young white women?)

So, for a trip down memory lane, here's the Ron Paul ad.

Pretty scary, right? I suspect it's not a fond memory for the McCain camp either.

The truth is, both McCain and Obama are celebrities. That's what the media does to presidential candidates. McCain's camp seems to think, with their latest ad, that they can succeed in pulling a Marshall McLuhan by trying to convince voters that Obama is the media, absent a message.

And the irony of it is that McCain's spin patrol has to turn to an ad that is all media absent a truthful message.

That's the difference in this election cycle, given the power of the Internet, as Al alludes to in his post ... McLuhan is dead.

We are now the message. ... "We are the 'War Room.'"

Christie, when I am interested in a topic, I do google

As is usual, I read many allusions and historical references that I am compelled to research through internet search engines and the like.  It is like a global library, going to the index card system.

I mentioned the blog and the interviewer, it should be easy.

Indeed, I like making people go through some hoops--it weeds out the intellectually incurious and the apathetic.  They wouldn't be interested in what Chomsky or Navarro have to say anyway.

Yawn, pass the cheez whiz and crackers...

@ Steven-I expected nothing less

 Somehow I knew you would make me work to find info. I guess it will have to wait for another time if it arises. I wish I had the time that some farmers have, could spend it googling history of someone mentioned in a blog, but alas I have a big family who depends on me for dinner, cable, schooling and a roof over their heads. My life has been spent furthering my off-springs education with no time for me. Good for you for being so smart & time for self education.

Ha, ha, nice..

Nice observations Bill, but, nonetheless, both camps bring a lack of substance to the game--it is designed that way.

How do you think an air-head barbarian like McLame (Romney, gaaawwwd!) gets this far. Really, it's pathetic, and it is wearing on me.


And, indeed, what is it with linking Obama with vapid, hyper-feminized, Republican-leaing pop-culture bimbos? What's up with this shit? Brittney and Paris? This is crazed and brazen.

"Psst...Harold. Call me" LOL

Sorry for being impolite

Sorry for being impolite Christie.

You ask "Who is Chomsky?"

Well, let's just say that he is like holy water thrown on the collective psyche of the undemocratic forces of rightwing reaction and obscurantism.

But, seriously, the interview with Navarro is quite impressive--for a really old dude.  Gives aging farmers and organic/authentic intellectuals hope.

@ Steven Hunt

 Btw, I do enjoy reading your comments.

One thing! Have you ever wondered if you are arrogant?

Only recently, I have wondered about my label in economic terms. Maybe I am elitist and did not know it, being spoiled by a Father who died too young and worked very hard. Just trying to make a difference for people not as lucky as me. What about you?

Don't put words in my words


I purposely said we are the message for a reason.

And, on your observation about a lack of substance, well, you never really get full substance through the media. It's always edited, framed, and little more than shadows on the wall, to allude to Plato's cave allegory.

Behind the scenes (where the fire exists that casts those shadows), both camps have substance in what they will do once they attain power. Don't full yourself or attempt to full anyone else on that front.

That's where your analysis falls short. If we buy your line, we shouldn't care, because it will make no difference whose brand of power is imposed on us.

I suspect you believe that. But it's a surrender I'm not willing to concede. 

Like I said, we are the message, but only if we act on that power. Your way only divides us and assures our substance will never advance, that we will in fact have power imposed on us from above, as opposed to the hope of change created from below.

In that light, you can choose which candidate is more likely to have a tin ear to the people and which is more likely to recognize where his power comes from ultimately -- even if that is only a practical recognition.

If we take your approach, it seems we are left with little choice but to whine about the shadows on the walls.

That's my two cents.

Bill, you are putting words

Bill, you are putting words and imputing my character.

Indeed, there is a marked difference between the left and right wings of the corporate ruling class--I simply say that the parameters are vociferously policed.

Grass roots change?--I am living it.

What frustrates me is that policies aren't really being discussed in ways that help organize the majority of the population behind a decisive set of policy goals. And I know why--because if Obama tips a progressive hand he will be villified, becasue to make any change in the substance of this neoliberal austerity some corporate and plutocratic oxes will be gored.

My comments have nowhere asserted that there is NO difference between these two wings of the corporate business class and their respective politcal parties.

Please, at least glance at the Chomsky interview--he speaks directly to this point.

Again, be careful imputing positions and beliefs/cynicism to other folks.

Jeez, mention Chomsky and all hell breaks loose.

If we can refer to Alinsky, then why is Chomsky submerged so assiduously in the progressive blogosphere? Oh yeah, NPR and NYT also refered to Alinsky. Guess he has been vetted, and he is already dead.


Not your character, just your propaganda


First, spare me your snide comments. Your line is only one among many.

You said:

My comments have nowhere asserted that there is NO difference between these two wings of the corporate business class and their respective politcal parties.

Look, I'm familiar with Chomsky, the linguist, who is an intellectual expert at putting people in boxes with words. I choose to entertain his theories, but not be confined by them.

I don't buy the paradigm you insist we accept as a premise of your theory of politics --  that there are clear-cut left and right wings of the corporate ruling class that are somehow in total control. It's a great linguistic trick for framing the world, but it's simplistic and out of date -- and leaves on the sidelines the vast swath of America.

My take is that, at least in the U.S., since the 1980s, we have seen a stovepiping of the class system in this country. The middle class has been pushed down toward the belly of that stove, and a thin slice of high net-worth folks remains at the top. 

Our political leaders, almost without exception, come from the top of the stovepipe. But in order to get elected, they have to depend on support from the belly of the stove, or divide/suppress the power of the folks in that belly to achieve a marginal victory -- hence the close elections in recent years.

Take a look at this graphic of social stratification in the U.S. -- from a book by Stephen J. Rose

The chart represents income distribution in the U.S., and as you can see, the middle class is essentially gone. We go from the bulge of the lower classes right into a stovepipe to the top.

So your way of thinking is outdated in my view, or at least not very useful. 

Clearly, those at the top of the stovepipe want to stay there and protect, or conserve, what they have, and given that our political leaders tend to come from and reflect the values of that stovepipe, it is only natural that they reflect that reality in the organizations they create or lead — what you refer to as the "corporate ruling class." But since corporations aren't people, let's break it down to what it really is — high net-worth individuals at the top of the stovepipe. 

Within that group, some are more "liberal" or "conservative" than others, but they all have the very human inclination to want to preserve their standing in life. But they have to do that in the context of now realizing they are vastly outnumbered in a democratic sense.

So to maintain power in a democracy, they have to convince the folks in the belly of the stove that we are all in the same boat. That task was not so hard decades ago when there was a vast middle class in the U.S., since that middle class shared many of the characteristics of the upper class, in terms of wanting to preserve their standing and being generally satisfied with their quality of life.

But, as you can see from the graphic, the times have changed. Therefore, much uncertainty exists at the top of the stovepipe as to what happens next, because short of a military dictatorship, the stovepipe dwellers no longer have a wedge (like they had with a large middle class) with which to maintain power.

I believe Obama understands this new dynamic, despite rhetoric he uses at times that might offend you in some Chomskyian sense. This so-called "corporate ruling class" you speak of has to change, expand the stovepipe, or it will surely be snapped from the belly. It's simple economics, and played out once before in our history in the wake of the Great Depression.

And so the gamble in this election isn't over left or right, but over expansion or contraction of the base of power and economics in this country. I don't believe someone in the upper end of the stovepipe is automatically an enemy in the conspiratorial sense you advance. The smart ones, out of pure self interest, will act to assure the great American stove is not fractured into a thousand burning pieces, since that spells doom for them as well.

The less enlightened among them will cling to the old politics and risk the very future of the nation in the process.

So lighten up. You are not as important or smart as you think (just like the rest of us), nor do you have a monopoly on political paradigms.

I choose to see things as I do; you can do the same. Time will tell whose recipe cooks up best on this stove.




My favorite Chomsky book is: Manufacturing Consent

thanks again for the 'linking lesson' via Pam ;)

Bill, do I have to go, line

Bill, do I have to go, line by line, to point our where you cross the line and impute positions on my part that I simply do not hold.  Really, man, I have admired some of your writing, but, please, tone down the condesension.

I don't think that Chomsky 'puts people in a box' with words--it seems that there are flexible parameters with language and concepts.  Much of the political battle is defining the parameters of debate, how language is used, etc.

Just back up a little and think a bit before you attack my discourse and create facile strawmen so that you can swing your dick around to demarcate the heirarchy on this blogspace.

Where did I say that everyone in the ruling and managerial classes are 'the enemy'?  Give me a break.

I cop to being angry.  When you see decent folk die from lack of proper medical care, folks thrown out of their homes, immiserated into homelessness, etc.--this is where I come from. Where I live people are being thrown out of work and losing their homes--and small contractors, like our company, find it hard to get steady work becasue we pay a living wage.  Super exploitation has been the reality in my field of work for decades now.  I don't need an effing graph (that is too small to even read) to tell me about what is happening in my country, in my region.

Again, you are long on the verbosity and high on the condescension.  Swing your dick all you want, but, for god's sake, back up a little bit.  Don't ascribe ideas and positions to me that you cannot back up with examples and rational argument--that is simply being rude and bombastic.

The 'media is the message', blah, blah, blah--good on you!  Submerge yourself in those parameters all you want, it's simply developing metaphors to describe a version of what you percieve as reality that works for you.  If you think you "see perfectly" the source of the shadow dance, then make your argument--I'll still see your 'reality' as simply your interpretation.


Thank You!


Your the best!

Truce, Please, Gentlemen

Steve and Bill - One of the reasons why we decided on chronologically ordered comments here rather than the "threaded" conversations that appear at some other places is to encourage commenters to address their comments to everyone rather than merely each other.

You both know that I don't mind a good typewritten battle (and I might have been nastier than anything you guys have written here if I was in either of your shoes) but I think this one has played itself out and risks hijacking the thread if it continues. That said, if you want each other's emails to press on, I'll be happy to hook you up!

- Al


Submitted July 30, 2008 -

"Btw, I do enjoy reading your comments.

One thing! Have you ever wondered if you are arrogant?"

Christie, I work for very wealthy people on a regular basis, for over a decade and a half.  yes, when I tell these people, point blank, that what they are doing is hurting our ecological health, I am accused of being 'arrogant' (by some).  And I have lost work because of this.

I've learned to be, shall I say, 'more diplomatic'--but when with the incontrovertible 'facts' of the destruction and pollution are right in front of our eyes...well, it makes it a tad it pointless to signal to the obvious.

Becasue I try to live my life and develop our organization with a higher level of awareness and ethics than is the norm, we have garnered the support of a good many people that I know don't share my politics.  But, at some level, we have common goals and concerns.

I can be critical without being hateful.  Indeed, if I thought the situation was pointless and didn't deeply love my country and its people I would stay silent and try to stuff my pockets.  It's like when you rebuke and punish a kid--a healthy person does this out of real love, trying to set the kid straight.  What is unhealthy is to smack the kid around, as a way of displacing one's own, submerged anger and anxiety.

In the bigger picture, I am sure that everyone that doesn't simply go with the flow of society is called 'arrogant' and 'bad' at some point.

But you would be suprised how servile and obsequious I can be when the chips are down, and the larger goals for which I strive are at stake.  Back in the day,the smartest slaves plotting revolt or escape were very shrewd at fooling the master.

I like to analyze concepts and terms with what I can understand as their opposites--and then thnk about the nuanced gradations of many of the possible permutations.

I love refesh, honest thinking.  One person that I am becoming familiar with now is a philosopher named Mark Edmundson--he does some really compelling work with Sigmund Frued and authority.

And back to Bill, no Chomsky for me is not a 'god', not beyond criticism.  But I have to say that he is one of the more impressive thinkers that have been developed from "the American" experience. Noam Chomsky helped me get my head and ethics straight during some very difficult times for me during undergrad and grad school.   He helped me better understand my society because I could use the well-sourced historical record as a comparision of what I was being inculcated and prodded into accepting as 'the norm'.  I found the institution of the academy wanting.    MLK, Jr. is another one--and I was raised by a black woman from Georgia that saw King as a hero for her people.  One of my earliest memories was being four years old and watching MLK's funeral on televison with 'my nanny' (which was the closest thing to mother that I had).  Her husband flirted with the Black Panthers around that time, and I have an abiding respect for what that movement tried to accomplish.

The well being of a number of families depends on how sucessful my organization and farm can develop in the so-called 'market-place'.  But I cannot and will not candy-coat the reality of the rampant ecological despoilation and destruction.  What we can do is help people engage better practices and save monetary and precious natural resources at the same time.  The logic of our program--based in ecological principles--cannot be trumped by the barbaric bottom-line, crass and stupid approaches of what has heretofore been the status quo.

Similarly, when you look at Obama's discourse, indeed, his organization's political approach is situatiated in a more healthy, less insane, way of engaging politics in this country.

If you read closely what I wrote above--I was simply voicing some of my concerns with the way political discourse is truncated.  Indeed, I also made clear that I understand completely the constraints that compell Obama to stay within certain limits.  The corporate media would slit Obama's throat if they could classify him as a far-left socialist.   Hey, look what these effers did to King and Jesus.

Please, let's be sane--don't misconstrue my criticism's with antipathy for Obama, the best possible candidate for president, and the smartest politician that I has crossed my path in my lifetime.  At the same time, given the corporate hegemony and the truncated discourse, the depoliticization of the population, etc.--I will be pleasantly surprised if we actually start turning the country around toward a more positve, healthy direction.

Indeed, my own project(s) are teathered with the failure and sucess of the progressive project.  The individual and society have a multi-dimensional reciprocity that is dynamic.  Becoming merely cynical would mean that the project and potential for sucess would be still-born.  And what the hell good would that be--that would mean that we have let down the older folks that will need our support, as well as the children that deserve a healthy environment and a sane, meaningful existence on their life-horizon.


Interesting dialogue

Though it devolved, as text-based dialogues tend to do, to personal attacks, I did enjoy reading the exchange between Steven and Bill.

As one who has worn the badge of arrogant prickdom with honor in many such exchanges, it was interesting to watch one play out in which I was not personally involved.  I found it instructive and prescriptive, and for that I thank both of you.

And Steven, I am probably not the first to tell you that your tone of world-weary sophisticate, exhausted with the mental feebleness and insufficiency that one of your superior sensibility must endure, is antithetical to the goal of gaining converts to your more enlightened way of thinking.  But then, by making assumptions as to your intent, I have probably defamed you.

Did you notice how little effort Suzy Shore had to expend to encourage Christi's desire to learn more about Chomsky?  And how many more words you expended in dismissing her?  That's all I'm saying.

Sorry, Al, nuff said on this

Sorry, Al, nuff said on this topic.

Bill, I like your work (for years now), and I don't think that we should get off on bad footing.

Suffice it to say that we are on the same team.

Al, what the hell is up with this Paris Hilton BS?  She's an effen rightwinger.

Is this the Harold Ford strategy?  Sick stuff--beyond insane.

McLame is reaching for new lows.

In an alternative universe, Obama would feature add with Vietnamese maimed by McLame's bombing runs.  But McLame is a 'hero' (barf!).


"tone of world-weary

"tone of world-weary sophisticate, exhausted with the mental feebleness and insufficiency that one of your superior sensibility must endure"

Allan, that made me laugh.

I would love to see a sit-com set back in the day's slavery--with a slave that was secretly educated by a dissident, closet abolitionist professor.  LOL

The comedy would revolve around a super educated slave that had to play along with the game--having to suffer the stupidity of the over-seer and the master, and secretly helping these dolts get out of jams.

Kind of like the British comedy "Black Adder" set back in the middle ages.

Anyway, when I read your well intentioned criticism this image flashed in my mind.

Yes, I am old-school--I think that some of the sit-coms from the era of the 1970s--replete with social commentary--is far more compelling than the shlock that we are forced to endure today, with three hundred channels as opposed to only four back in the day.


I'm a Monty Python fan myself

and I'm glad I gave you a chuckle. 

"I'm not dead yet!"

Don't change on my account!  I truly am well-intentioned, as you correctly inferred.  I learned a great deal about myself when I read Covey's Seven Habits, and the one that I take most to heart, and ignore at my own peril, is "Seek first to understand, then to be understood." 

I'm a bit of a pedant ("a bit?" I can hear my husband interjecting), and when I launch into automatic lecture mode I'm continually surprised to see people begin to edge away, eyes darting for the nearest exit.

When a Republican starts losing Wall Street Journal..

Is John McCain Stupid?

This is a WSJ headline, no kidding. Almost 5 months after nomination, the base is still not with him. Spread this article. Here is the link..



The lowest of the low roads

 McCain is now accusing Obama of playing the race card. I am so very disappointed in McShames campaign. Will they now start playing the race card against Obama?  Looks like they took the advise to run HRC's type of campaign. Don't they know she lost?


@Christi 12:53 p.m.

You can thank the hacktastic Jake Tapper for McComplain's racism charge. John Cole skewered Tapper but good over it here (warning: NSFW).

Thanks Nepat

 I love the Golden McPenis award, is NSFW not safe for work????

I knew Jon Voight was a moron but sheesh, Blech!

Netpat, clearly this was a

Netpat, clearly this was a calculated move by Obama (in my opinion)--and the rightwing took the bait.

This comment does refer to the historical nature of Obama being the Democrat nominee, and the fact that some folks simply won't back the guy becasue he ain't white, he doesn't look like other presidents.

Obama can't say this bluntly--and he is letting the rightwing howls of indignation function as the looming question mark ("Am I racist?"--the average Democrat-leaning, or independent, consumer might ask herself)  This tempest will allow some of the population to reflect as to whether bigotry is still present in the psychic economy of their systems of ideological coding.

To me, yet another masterful stroke of political genius.  Obama and his team as masters at this chess game (so far).

McLame continues to flail and look petty.

But, as I said earlier, I think that it is striking how the entire horserace coverage is consumed by the petty focus of style, and these types of never-ending tempests.  On issues of policy, Obama and the Democrat policy goals are clearly more aligned with the majority of the US population.  The fact that Gore and Kerry's policies would benefit the working classes, the majority of the US people, more than Bush was what was so depressing about the outcomes of the past two presidental elections.  However, the US public was swift-boated--deprived of any substantive policy debates.  To be fair, both parties play along with the same.  Live by the sword, die by the sword.

The other aspect of this is that the MSM will not let this become a blow-out--because they need to stoke ratings by making this a gossipy contest that compells us to breathlessly tune in to the latest ad hominem scuff-up.

Yes, to me all this is vaugely entertaining, but maddening. Sulk.

Really, given all of this--is it any wonder how folks like Bill C. and Al can waltz north of the border and kick vapid pundit ass during a presidental election cycle?  LOL  A bit like shooting fish in a kiddie-pool, but necessary nonetheless.

If we see Michelle and Barack burning Ludicrous CD's with their daughters, then we know that this has gone too effing far.  LOL

Christie, Joh Voight is off

Christie, Joh Voight is off the deep end.  My guess is that the man is on crack.  (But even crack-heads have a clearer notion of reality than does Voight.)

As I am somewhat pop-culturally retarded (since I killed my tv over a decade ago and switched to the internet), I didn't realize that Angelina Jolie was the man's (estranged) daughter.  Good to know that we don't have to be replicas of our family's wing-nuttery. Thank Dog for that.

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About Al Giordano


Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.

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