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September 14, 2006

All this political blogging
Posted by Teresa at 09:22 AM * 63 comments

Over the last year or two or three, I just got so damn distressed that for a long time I could barely bring myself to write about politics and the war. I appear to have finally gotten over that, but there’s a fair amount of pressure backed up in the system. Bear with me.

Comments on All this political blogging:
#1 ::: John Aspinall ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 10:12 AM:

To borrow a hackneyed phrase: "You go girl!" Seriously, if the result of the cathartic impulse resonates with many, as I think it does, it's everybody's gain.

This weekend I'll be burning my cellphone minutes at one of MoveOn's "Call For Change" phone bank parties. I'm taking various blogosphere posts, including some from here, as food for thought.

More food!

#2 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 10:34 AM:

Newsweek's Jonathan Alter provides an alternate history of the last five years. (via Mark Evanier)

#3 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 10:42 AM:

I know tht feeling, I get it with torture. I'm glad you're able to do it again, because this is a nice place to hash things out, even when I'm just lurking.

#4 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 10:57 AM:

Yes, I'm happy too that you're able to write about these things again. Please, please, keep going and thank you.

#5 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 11:00 AM:

I'd like to add my voice to the chorus. The more you write about politics, the more we'll eat it up. Things I've read here have kept me going when the urge was, frankly, to lie down and die. Also I've gotten facts and arguments here that I've used to win arguments for our side elsewhere.

You're making a difference. Please keep it up.

#6 ::: Joe J ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 11:11 AM:

I treasure this place for the honest and reasoned discourse I find here, whether the subject is writing or politics or whatever.

Sometimes I feel alone in the dark in my dread and fear about the world as it is today. It's nice to hear another voice in the dark, even if all it has to say is "It's dark, but we're not alone." It brightens up my day.

Keep "making light" for us all.

#7 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 11:32 AM:

Like Xopher said, Teresa, you make a difference. Keep at it.

#8 ::: Georgiana ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 11:40 AM:

You make a huge difference. Part of my dayjob is moderating a pretty busy discussion board where most of the members have conflicting views from my own. Sometimes I think if I see the words "no worse than a frat house hazing" one more time my head will explode. It's very good for me to come here and see smart people who are as appalled and horrified as I am. It helps keep me a little bit sane. Thanks again for all you do for us.

#9 ::: Mark DF ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 11:55 AM:

Teresa, ditto what everyone here has said...

Whenever I can't decide whether I'm batty or this administration is, I come here. I won't give you the tally of which side wins more often;)

Don't apologize for passion!

#10 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 12:04 PM:

Another "amen": please keep up the political blogging! It's great, and it's important.

SF

#11 ::: Patrick Weekes ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 12:13 PM:

As somebody who sometimes disagrees with what you and Patrick write (I remember getting heated around Katrina-time last year), I really really REALLY appreciate that you do.

It's good, and it's important. I don't think you're going to win over anybody who isn't already on your side, and that's sometimes what I complain about, but in my more enlightened and less pigheaded moments, I can accept that it's not all about winning everybody over to your side. Some people are going to be closeminded and evil no matter how many times you rub their noses in the facts.

And what you're doing is, I think, really important for dealing with those people. It feels to me like you're planting a flag in the ground and rallying others, reminding them that there are opinions beyond those found in the Wal-Mart magazine rack. That's huge.

So keep it up, and good luck.

#12 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 12:17 PM:

Teresa, please do keep it up. I'm grateful to you and Patrick for providing this space and sharing your good sense with us all. (I'm also grateful for your work as an editor, especially as John Barnes is one of my favourite writers.)

What keeps tyranny at bay is that good people speak and are not afraid to do so. That people of decency can say of bad, incompetent, cruel, arbitrary and just plain criminal leaders what Byron put in the mouth of Junius: 'I loved my country, and I hated him.'

#13 ::: Annie G. ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 12:21 PM:

I mostly lurk, but I always enjoy your political posts, and the (for-the-most-part) insightful, intelligent, and enlightening commentary that it provokes from those on both sides of the aisle. So, please, keep up the political blogging!

#14 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 12:26 PM:

Patrick Weekes, #11:
but in my more enlightened and less pigheaded moments, I can accept that it's not all about winning everybody over to your side.

Political discussion is never about winning everyone over to one side or another. It can't be, because, well, some folks are pigheaded (yours truly sometimes included).

Sometimes, in the course of discussion, the participants learn something about different perspectives, or they acquire information they didn't have before, which may change their views, or cause them to question something they had taken for granted.

Sometimes new information doesn't serve to changes a person's views, and get them "on another side," but may convince them that there's some validity to another side's arguments, that everyone making the counter-argument isn't a radical weirdo, but is a concerned citizen. Sometimes we convince each other of nothing more than that we can disagree civilly.

There's value to all of this.

And sometimes a bit of political speech or writing will grab you by the brainstem and pull, and the next thing you know, when everything's snapped back into perspective and you can think again, it all looks different, and, somehow, it all makes more sense, even if it's in a dismaying way.

And there's value to this too, though it's distressing when it happens.

#15 ::: Jackie M. ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 12:52 PM:

Bear with you, schmear with you -- I think you've been absolutely brilliant.

#16 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 12:56 PM:

I'll add my voice to the chorus. The political conversation here helps me to keep going on the days when rage and fear for my country, which I dearly love, threatens to overwhelm and all I want to do is lie down and pull the covers over my head. (As does the non-political conversation...) As someone said, All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. I believe that speech is action: it encourages, enlightens, informs, warms, warns, provides hope, and helps us sort out what other actions we should engage in.

More, please.

#17 ::: RuTemple ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 01:30 PM:

Thank you, Teresa. Welcome back to your political voice, letting me a many others know we're not alone in thinking sane thoughts in crazy times.
Most of my thinking friends have been near-on to too distressed by the current political zeitgeist to deal with talking about it directly, much, for a while; even while knowing we need to. Even while feeling despair: the State's been taken over by bullies and whatever can we do?
Hold on to our small truths, get back to speaking them aloud, and keep shining our little LED mag-lights into the darkness, I believe is what. It really makes a difference to me to read over here.
I cannot, after all, survive with ignoring what's going on, no matter how tempting it is to curl up well under the bed with the knitting and the Peter Blevgad tunes (which my Worldcon traveling buddy who also reads this, played on the luminous drive back home).

Lise is tickled pink with her inscribed copy of Making Book - thank you again!

#18 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 01:38 PM:

I'm unfortunately still in the "too distressed to talk about it" phase. I can once in a while say or post a sentence or two, but mostly it's outrage fatigue.

I'm not sure I see a way back, and that really, really, really, really, really frightens me.

#19 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 02:08 PM:

You write it, I'll read it (and argue with it, if necessary).

#20 ::: Samantha Joy ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 02:54 PM:

I'm glad you've returned to political blogging.

Here's something new for you to get outraged about, though I'm fairly certain you've already seen it.

My favorite sentence is "The committee report, written by a single Republican staffer with a hard-line position on Iran, chastised the CIA and other agencies for not providing evidence to back assertions that Iran is building nuclear weapons."

The more things change . . . but it appears that the IAEA is standing up for itself and occassionally willing to kick back.

#21 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 03:20 PM:

Teresa,

I'll throw in my support, too. These discussions are important, because politics shouldn't be something that is only discussed on political blogs.

For some reason, mainstream TV and newspapers and radio news sources just don't seem to do much to discuss or digest a lot of the news. I don't know if that's because they're too straighjacketed by internal newsroom politics, or fear of reprisals by political spin people, or fear of offending advertisers or viewers/readers, or what. But someone with the resources of NPR or the Wall Street Journal doesn't ever seem to get around to, say, asking some military interrogators whether torture is really a good way of getting information, or asking some competent chemistry people whether the alleged plot could work, or even doing the legwork of checking a few links or graphing some datapoints and seeing whether someone's claim is complete and obvious nonsense. That happens on the net, but not much in the press. It's important that it keep happening on the net.

#22 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 04:18 PM:

Teresa, I'll also throw in with those saying keep it up. I sometimes go between extremes of Daffy Duck/Lewis Black explosions and asking myself "Didn't we used to talk of other things?"

But I also believe in the convergence of energy. The more people talk and discuss in a civil manner, the closer we come to consensus on the way to proceed. Right now, people (not here, but in general) are yelling at each other, hopefully in two years we all can be back to inside voices.

#23 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 04:23 PM:

Of the different places I read about politics, Making Light is the only one where I don't find myself succumbing to "it's all FUBAR and I just want to pull the covers over my head."

I think this is because (for the most part) the commenters here are intelligent, express themselves well, come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences, and (most important) think it's important to remain civil to each other during discussions.

It's only partly due to the dinosaur sodomy.

#24 ::: Mark DF ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 05:08 PM:

#23 Lexica.

Damn. I missed the dinosaur sodomy. Was it left wing or right wing?

#25 ::: dolloch ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 05:08 PM:

Teresa, please post as much about politics as you need! You have the unique ability to not only bring together disparate resources and get to their true meanings and implications, but also to do so in a manner that is clear and concise. Unlike that last sentence...

I've learned more about writing and logical argument here than in my formal schooling. Your example helps me to be a better thinker. Plus, your posts are evocative and cause other skilled thinkers and debaters to join the discourse, which is always a Good Thing.

#26 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 05:27 PM:

Mark (24):

Well, it involves sodomy, so you'd think it would be left wing. On the other hand, dinosaurs are somehow related to oil, which makes it right wing. But dinosaurs can't exist because the world is only 5000 years old and besides they were all washed away by the flood (no doubt for their wicked sodomy), so it must be a left-wing conspiracy. But dinosaurs probably eat Islamofacists, so....

#27 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 05:37 PM:

albatross #26: "But dinosaurs probably eat Islamofacists"

Paraphrasing a few of my English instructors:

"Fossil records inconclusive. Faulty extrapolation. Please back up your claims with evidence."

#28 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 06:06 PM:

It was neither left wing nor right wing. It was a Stegosaurus.

#29 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 06:17 PM:

Ah, Nancy C, but the sodomizee was a pterodactyl...and it had both a left wing AND a right wing.

#30 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 06:59 PM:

Taking back the USA...

========

Komodo dragons grow large enough to eat people, and some have.

#31 ::: Madison Guy ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 07:01 PM:

Teresa, thanks and keep it up. That's what I appreciate about Making Light -- intelligent discussion of poltics and the war by people who know there's more to life than politics. It's not a game here.

A lot backed up in my system, too. I would rather write about science, photography, art, books (1491 -- yes!), life -- but I keep circling back. For example, to British writer Ellish Sharp's brilliant "Dead Iraqis."

"Dead Iraqis" -- fifteen years later. A reminder that, unlike "Saturday Night Live," real satire isn't bland. At its most outrageous, it can take you by the hand, spin you around till you're completely nauseous and disoriented, kick you in the gut, and then leave you gasping on the ground in the wreckage of your beliefs and assumptions.

#32 ::: Madison Guy ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 07:43 PM:

I'm not quite as drunk as my writing sounds -- that's Ellis Sharp, of course.

#33 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 07:46 PM:

You and Patrick have, often, been the only people I hear or read who have rejected despair over our current political situation. The other political blogs I read seem to retreat to game-playing strategy analysis, or total cynicism. As Madison Guy (#31) said, "It's not a game here." That is more valuable than rubies.

I'm still in the "distressed" phase, wherein I occasionally shout, but most of the time it all just seems too big for me to even try to tackle, in writing or in speech. I feel too powerless to even be angry.

When you write, I don't.

#34 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 08:24 PM:

Teresa, you are to the blogosphere what Jon Stewart is to cable, and Air America is to A.M. radio. NEVER lose the spark, and NEVER apologize for giving it voice...

I'd rather be buggered by an ambidextrous rubber pterodactyl than give up Making Light.

#35 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 09:10 PM:

Teresa:

If I may deviate from the other comments or advice here - or rather, focus on a different part of it - I totally understand why you weren't commenting on politics for a long time. I haven't commented on politics much lately because I've been, as you say, "distressed" (read: horror-stricken, numb, shell-shocked....)

I hope you feel equally supported by your admirers and friends, either way around.

#36 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 09:24 PM:

Saw the most disgusting commercial this morning, sponsored by "progressforamerica.org" that called anyone who disagreed with the presnit and his buddies unpatriotic. How withdrawing would be 'cutting and running, what the terrorists want us to do.' Full of images of Muslim men, the towers blowing up, etc. etc. etc.

The Web site has the commercial. I don't know how to look further for where their funding is coming from without getting myself into spam mail territory.

No, I respectfully reply they're the ones doing what the terrorists want, dismantling our democracy from within, while enriching their cronies.

#37 ::: Mac ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 09:27 PM:

Teresa, you're one of four or five people I can think of who could write about navel lint, and be interesting. When you choose a subject you're passionate about, you're even better.

Whatever you choose to write about, we'll be here, reading.

...No pressure, though. *g*

#38 ::: Paul Weimer ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 09:31 PM:

Making Lint, the next book from TNH? :)

#39 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 09:35 PM:

Thanks. This kind of thing makes me shy; but thank you very much.

Back to the writing.

#40 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 09:45 PM:

Here's the complete text of that ad:

These people want to kill us.

Whether called Al-Qaeda, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah,

They're terrorists who want to kill everyone who don't submit to their extreme ideology...

...submit to a system where women have no rights, where innocent civilians are political pawns.

Many seem to have forgotten the evil that happened only five years ago.

They would cut and run in the Middle East, leaving Al-Qaeda to attack us again.

Many times before 9/11, Al-Qaeda attacked America, and we took little action.

The first World Trade Center bombing...

Our embassies

The
USS Cole

But after 9/11, we struck back, destroying Al-Qaeda terrorists in
Afghanistan and
Iraq.

Terrorists like Zarqawi who want to kill us.

Now, we have narrowly escaped "another 9/11,"

...using proven surveillance that some would stop.

The War on Terror is a war for our country's freedom, security and survival.

===============

It's pretty pathetic. I wonder if they realize that the "proven surveillance" used to stop the Brit would-be liquid bombers didn't include widespread warantless fishing expeditions. It was broken with standard old-fashioned policework, the kind of thing that Rumsfeld wants to stop.

Did they notice that up until the invasion of Iraq there weren't any al Qaeda terrorists there, except for the ones hiding out in the Kurdish region, protected by our no-fly zones?

I like how they turn "concentrating on al Qaeda (the people who actually attacked us) using standard police methods (the ones that have been proven to work)" into "cut and run ... leaving Al-Qaeda to attack us again."

#41 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 09:50 PM:

More on "Progress For America."

"Progress for America, Inc. ("PFA") is an issue advocacy/grassroots organization committed to representing a diverse coalition of concerned citizens, businesses, nonprofit organizations and community leaders who promote public policies that improve the lives of every American...During the 109th Congress, PFA will advance a conservative legislative agenda to reform Social Security, confirm President Bush’s judicial nominees, overhaul the tax code and end lawsuit abuse..."

Why didn't they just call themselves "Evil, Inc." and have done with it?

#42 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 09:57 PM:

Progress for America's president is Brian McCabe, who is an employee of DCI Group.

#43 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 10:00 PM:

From Daily Kos, yesterday:

Progress for America is run by:

Progress for America, a "friends of the party" organization "operated by Tony Feather, the former political director of Bush-Cheney 2000 and a close friend of White House political adviser Karl Rove, is described by some Republicans as a new group dedicated to corralling outlawed party soft money," Steve Weismann, Associate Director for Policy at The Campaign Finance Institute wrote (http://www.cfinst.org/disclosure/pdf/IRS_Comments_012803.pdf) January 28, 2003

#44 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 10:06 PM:

Paula Murray, here's SourceWatch's page about PFA. I'm reasonably sure no spam will emanate from it.

#45 ::: Anarch ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 10:08 PM:

Not that my encouragement means much but: keep fighting the good fight. You're doing a great job here.

#46 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 10:09 PM:

The thing I like about poli-blogging here is the controlled outrage. Thank you, Teresa and Patrick.

#47 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 10:11 PM:

And Talking Point Memo reports that Bob Perry (who paid for Swiftboat Veterans) has given $3 million to PFA, and $5 million to 'Economic Freedom Foundation'. Which explains the kind of ads these groups are running.

#48 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 10:24 PM:

Teresa: "If you can't terrify them to death, depress them to death" can be dreadfully effective. As far as I can see, the only effective defense is Stubborness. You do Stubborn very well (when it's based on reason), and you're good at encouraging this in others. Please continue.

#49 ::: Lux Fiat ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 11:58 PM:

I don't comment nearly at all, but I read Making Light almost every day.

I can't figure out how to be concise and eloquent about it, but yeah, when you write about politics, and the regulars comment, I can think that my despair may be premature. That the death of my civilization may not precede me. Maybe. Jeanne D'arc at Body and Soul, when she wrote, gave me the same hope. As long as there are people who ferociously advocate for generosity and conscience, it makes it easier for me to decline surrender, too.

#50 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 12:38 AM:

Thank you all. I hate starting my day feeling physically ill but I did after hearing/watching that ad. It made me so mad I wanted to bite nails and that's just not good for me.

Lying liars need to get exposed and I'd love a way to do that easily but I'm guessing there isn't.

Nothing more than Weather Channel from me in the mornings from now on....

#51 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 01:50 AM:

Teresa, I'm with all the other voices here commendending you for your political posts. I'm glad to see you writing them (but I also understand about the feelings of burnout).

#52 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 02:05 AM:

Quoth albatross @26:

But dinosaurs can't exist because the world is only 5000 years old and besides they were all washed away by the flood

Sheesh, albatross, haven't you ever read Beowulf? "Most dinosaurs are extinct now or almost so, but now and then some sightings show that a few survivors remain in the world."

#53 ::: Sarah de Vries ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 04:50 AM:

Don Fitch at #48, Yes. Yes, squared. That.

#54 ::: Francis ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 06:09 AM:

Teresa, thanks and keep it up. That's what I appreciate about Making Light -- intelligent discussion of poltics and the war by people who know there's more to life than politics. It's not a game here.

At some levels I couldn't agree more, and at others I couldn't disagree more. I definitely agree that I appreciate that it isn't a game and that the pure partisan mudslinging is ... irritating. But I think that the sentiment that there's more to life than politics underrates what politics is.

To use some examples, the appointment of "Heckuvajob" Brownie to FEMA was politics. But it was a matter of life or death for far too many of the inhabitants of New Orleans. Tort reform is a matter of politics, but insulating CEOs from mistakes that cripple or kill others is a matter of life and limb. Whether Bush should have invaded Iraq is a matter of politics - and a matter of life or death for Iraquis and servicemen, both. Whether socialised healthcare should be provided is a matter of politics - and one of life and death.

And what I see here is a reflection of both sides of this coin. Yes, it's all politics. No, it isn't just politics.

#55 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 10:45 AM:

Re 27 --

Birds are theropod dinosaurs.

Vultures are birds.

Vultures will eat dead almost anybody.

#56 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 04:30 PM:

Teresa, for whatever it's worth to you, the discussions of politics on Making Light are one of the main reasons why I remain convinced -- despite the mainstream news coverage in the UK -- that most Americans are still basically sane, if somewhat bewildered and/or pissed off by what's going on inside the Beltway.

Random morbid question: is the number of US soldiers killed in Iraq expected to equal the number of US civilians killed on 9/11 before or after the election?

#57 ::: "Charles Dodgson" ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 05:19 PM:

Charles Stross @#56 ---

Unfortunately, the most you can properly conclude from the discussions of politics on Making Light is that there are enough sane Americans left to keep the (heavily moderated) discussion forums of one blog intermittently humming. No matter how many times Keith Olbermann dings Bill O'Reilley as "the worst person in the world", O'Reilley still gets much better ratings...

#58 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 05:33 PM:

Charlie - if you count civilian contractors it's already passed it.

#59 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 09:38 PM:

Bully for you! ...and you are just in time for the midterm elections.

#60 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 12:58 AM:

Signing up with the US military, Guard, or Reserves these days is like going for a visit to Hotel California, "You can check out any time you like but you can never leave."

#61 ::: kjs3 ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2006, 07:33 PM:

On the contrary, over the last several months at least I've found myself saying "don't they write about writing any more? Will they ever again?". I guess the answer is no.

#62 ::: Paul ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2006, 07:03 PM:

I have to confess I'm mostly with kjs3 here - the political entries really don't do anything for me (for a whole bunch of reasons), and I've found that I'm checking Making Light less and less often over the last few weeks.

Mind, this isn't to say you can't write whatever you want - it's your blog, obviously. :-) Just consider this a plaintive plea for some variety...

#63 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2006, 03:42 AM:

Even if you never wrote about anything other than American politics (And where is the Galactic Patrol to do poll watching when you need it?), there are still the Sidelights.

But it's almost a pity that they did the Star Wars thing with just a Pope. But I suspect, compared to the glitz of the Roman Catholic Church in full dress, a Presidential Inauguration would be more like a graduation from the Imperial Stormtrooper Academy.


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