Monday, October 31, 2005

Time To Face The Music

How long before Scooter Libby is singing like a little girl? My guess is, not long. With a wife and two school age children, legal bills, the prospect of jail and the fear of something far worse will have him crumbling like my morning coffee cake in no time at all. His career is effectively over and his friends may be offering to help now, but that will soon dry up. If Dick Cheney is anything like the previous Dick in the White House, his paranoia will get the better of him and he will cut his former chief of staff loose completely even before Scooter has a chance to talk.

Those who have served in the highest echelons of power know the deal, friendships on the inside tend to deteriorate once you’re on the outside looking in. “I’ve got your back” only applies to those still in power, once the power dynamic shifts it becomes a race to cover your own ass. My husband pointed out that Scooter now understands what it’s like to be a black man in America with his future prospects involving either a violent death or jail. A pretty impressive fall from grace for a middle-aged white man with a degree from Yale.

I for one hope that Libby does sing although his song won’t be pleasant to listen to, even for those of us who desperately want to know the truth. What has happened to our country is ugly. What we have allowed our government to do in our name is shameful. The fact that we must take responsibility for it is a bitter pill to swallow for those of us who have been screaming in an effort to make it stop long before it even began. But accept it we must and we should jump at any chance to atone for the sins we have committed as a country and as a people. It is our failure no matter how you look at it. We didn’t stop our government from killing innocent people so that we could pay less at the pump. We didn’t shout loud enough when our elected (or not, it really doesn’t matter in the end) officials demonized one billion people based on their religion. The awful truth will be hard to face, I just hope we get the chance.

So Scooter, please be careful while crossing the street, remove all the guns from your house, and by all means, stay off of public transportation. Now that you have irreparably damaged the CIA’s ability to track weapons of mass destruction through your outing of Valerie Plame, who knows what the evil-doers may have planned.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Ripe For The Picking

For those of you who are inclined to engage in political discussions with Republicans in your midst, now is the time to go in for the kill. Not to attack them or berate them for their past transgressions, but to bring them over from the darkness and into the light.

Most Republicans I know are not uncaring people nor are they unconcerned with the big issues facing our country. In my opinion, they are simply holding on to an affiliation that is becoming increasingly uncomfortable to defend and aligning themselves with an ideology that has been abandoned by the leaders of their party. Where I used to encounter resistance to my views, I am now finding more common ground than I ever thought possible. Maybe I have become more conservative with age, or perhaps the political middle has moved sufficiently to the right that what I am willing to fight for seems less radical, but whatever the reason, there seems to be an opportunity to communicate on a real and open level that has not existed for some time.

I have a bumper sticker on my car that I love, it reads “dubya dubya dubya dot liar dot con”. Given that I live in Seattle, this is not an act of bravery on my part to say the least. However, I was approached the other day as I was getting out of my car, by a man who smiled and said, “I’m a Republican and I love your bumper sticker. Bush is no Republican.” He walked away after making this declaration and it got me thinking about Bush supporters who seem to come in two varieties. There are Republicans who believe in the platforms of the party and then there are the under-educated, easily manipulated blowhards who listen to right wing radio and take their marching orders like good little soldiers going forth and spewing their talking points. The former are large in number and ripe for the picking, the latter are not worth your time regardless of how many there are.

Before the 2004 election my husband did some research on political contributions and found out that our neighborhood ranked in the top five zip codes in the country in contributions to both the Democratic and Republican Parties. This stunned me because I was out walking the neighborhood every single day and saw Kerry signs in just about every other front lawn with not a Bush sign in sight. This tells me that Bush support among my neighbors is soft. They believe in the ideology but are unwilling to put their full support behind this President. Clearly money is easier to part with than ideals. At a time when I feel that my party has left me, I understand the predicament true Republicans are facing. Maybe there is something to be done about it that will serve all of our interests.

One of my readers posted a comment to my diatribe against the Democrats and asked if voting Green was an option. I have mixed feelings about this as I still have a desire to get my party back and a belief that it is still possible however misguided. But what if there is another way? What if we hand over the Democratic Party to the middle that they seem so intent on courting? There are plenty of middle of the road Democrats and Republicans that have nearly identical agendas. Not religious extremism but religious acceptance. Not out of control spending but fiscal responsibility. Not war under no circumstances ever, but war out of necessity with clear objectives and a winning strategy. Not perpetual welfare, but work opportunities for all. These are noble objectives and an ideology that speaks to the heart of most Americans.

Today’s Democratic Party is the party of the middle and Republican voters should embrace it as their own as they had a lot to do with its current incarnation. Once this happens, true radicals like myself will be free to leave it knowing that it is in safe hands. I am not a middle of the road kind of gal and would have no use for a party that is content with the status quo. I would finally be free to vote my conscience and mark a ballot that truly reflects my highest hopes for this country and its people. I could vote Green without feeling like my vote helped bring into power the bloodsucking Republicans who are looting our treasure, squandering our potential and implementing imperialist rule over the rest of the world. The corruption and cronyism that is the current Republican Party would end up as marginalized as the true liberal left. A fair trade if ever there was one and pretty much back to square one, which at this point in our history is the best this liberal girl feels safe in hoping for.

So go forth and expend your energy to convert those soft Bush supporters into Democrats. Convince them that they don't have very far to go and when they join the fold of the Democratic Party, they will find a new home to replace the one they lost. A home that has all of the comforts they seek, all of the common ground they need and close the deal with a promise to leave them with like minded people since you will be leaving for more fertile ground. By bringing one Republican into the Democratic camp, you earn yourself a ticket to Green(er) pastures.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Walking The Plank

After listening to Patrick Fitzgerald's press conference, it seems clear to me that he believes the underlying crime of knowingly leaking a covert agent was committed but since Scooter Libby lied to the grand jury, it was not possible to fully determine his intent, therefore it was not possible to charge on that point. The fact that he is continuing his investigation implies that there are still avenues open to him that could provide sufficient evidence to prove the necessary intent on the underlying statute. Not just on Libby, but on others involved in a possible conspiracy to commit that underlying crime.

I think this is the worst possible outcome for the White House because not only does it reflect badly on the President and Vice President, it also ratchets up the interest in the case by the press as well as the American public. Now that Libby is facing 30 years in prison, it may also inspire other’s who are potential targets or witnesses to the leak, to begin cooperating with the prosecution. I’m sure other White House officials or ex-officials are not chomping at the bit to join Libby on the plank, especially considering that Libby’s loyalty to the Vice President appears so far to be a one-way street.

Fitzgerald did make it clear that his mandate does not extend beyond the national security breach committed through the outing of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame. He cautioned those who may be looking to his investigation to provide evidence in the fraudulent case for war that he did not consider that to fall within his prosecutorial powers. But even the MSM seem to be making the connection, so maybe they will begin to do their job in earnest and investigate the larger issues surrounding why it was so important to Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney and others in the White House that Joe Wilson be discredited. Congress must also do their part in investigating the manipulation and possible manufacturing of intelligence that led us to war in Iraq, and hopefully the indictment of Scooter Libby will provide the political cover they think they need to move forward.

The five-count indictment handed up by the grand jury today feels almost anticlimactic, but really it is not. What we know now is that the Vice President’s Chief of Staff, leaked confidential information about a CIA agent to the press in an attempt to discredit a critic of their rationale for war. That is a big deal. A much bigger deal than Clinton getting a blow job in the oval office and lying about it. This is the most senior member of the Vice President’s staff and his closest advisor, risking national security for political payback. Presidencies have been brought down by less and maybe, just maybe, we are witnessing the beginning of the unraveling of this case and of this administration.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Tip Of The Iceberg

As we wait with bated breath for our dear superhero Patrick Fitzgerald to announce what charges he will bring against the Bush administration, there are signs that the CIA leak case may be just the beginning. It looks as if he will make some sort of announcement tomorrow about indictments that have already been filed but are under seal or indictments that will be filed in open court. The Washington Note claims that Fitzgerald has leased new office space in DC and rumors are flying that he may convene a new grand jury to look into the forged documents that bolstered the administrations case for a preemptive war in Iraq.

By all accounts, Friday is the day. I am still prepared for the possibility that nothing much will come of this, but I am also having a hard time ignoring the signs. In these, the last days of the investigation things are getting pretty hot for those who are about to be indicted. There are husbands and wives screaming and crying and begging their spouses not to go down for this administration. The prospect of jail and exorbitant legal bills will most likely prove daunting enough for many to give up what they know. I'm sure James Carville frog marched his wife Mary Matalin down to the prosecutor's office himself. With all of the new information Fitzgerald may be receiving in the last days of his investigation, it is not out of the realm of possibility that he could convene a new grand jury.

If on Friday, Fitzgerald announces indictments of Scooter Libby and Karl Rove (and possibly others) and at the same time, announces his intention to convene a new grand jury to look into other crimes uncovered during this investigation, I think it's game over for the Bush administration. George W. Bush can weather a few indictments of his staff, if he handles it the right way (by firing everyone involved and bringing in new people). But if this in any way starts to look like the tip of the iceberg, he's done. The MSM will turn on him at that point, because they won't need the scraps that the White House will be passing out when they have a parade of Fitzgerald witnessess to talk to instead. And Republicans in the House and Senate won't be able to get away from Bush fast enough and the word impeachement will finally be uttered. There may even be a stampede to be the first Republican to bring it up.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Frank Luntz: The Devil In Disguising Language

Words used to have meaning. We had the dictionary that we all agreed provided the definition of words and by a social contract, we all agreed to use them properly when trying to convey an idea. If we used them incorrectly we were either wrong or we were lying. But that was then and this is now. Words mean nothing since Frank Luntz came along. For those of you who don’t know who this sinister man is, he is the founder of Luntz Research Companies and as it states on his website, he provides “Strategic Consulting and Message Development” as well as “Surveys, Focus Groups and Instant Response”. His group of companies are some of the most powerful in Washington DC. You may have seen him on television during the Presidential campaigns providing instant viewer response to the Presidential debates. He’s a harmless looking fellow with sandy blond hair and a cherubic round face with an excitable demeanor that makes him seem almost childlike. But he is not as harmless as he appears. In fact he is one of the most ruthless political operatives in the Republican camp. Not ruthless in the way that Karl Rove is, willing to destroy political opponents by any means and at any cost. No, Luntz is ruthless simply in his pursuit of the perfect tool of manipulation. In some ways Frank Luntz is more dangerous than Karl Rove, because Luntz has found the key to duping a huge segment of the population. And he’s found it with their help.

When Luntz does one of his televised focus groups, he provides the viewers with handy little buttons that they can push when whatever is being said makes them look favorably or unfavorably on the candidate in question. His little demonstrations are featured on news shows after the debates and they are pretty interesting. You can see the graph line move up and down in real time as the viewers react to what they are hearing. I can see the value in studying the response of the citizenry to what politicians say they will do or what they believe in. The problem is not the research, but what Luntz does with the knowledge that he gains from these little focus groups.

If you have ever wondered why a bill that allows more pollution into the air is called the Clean Skies Initiative, the answer is Frank Luntz. How can a bill named Leave No Child Behind, be leaving so many of our children in the dust? You can thank Frank Luntz for that too. He has made his life’s work studying words or more importantly how words make average American’s feel when they hear them. In the 80’s Ronald Reagan figured out that what you say is less important that what the viewer sees on his television screen when you say it. Peggy Noonan, one of Reagan’s speechwriters, has talked about this often. She would advise him not to say something and he would tell her it didn’t matter because he’d be smiling in front of a happy crowd when he said it. Frank Luntz has taken that idea a step further and promoted the idea that you can say whatever you want as far as content when you use his pre-tested words to convey the message.

This manipulation of language has freed the Republican Party. They can promote all of their favorite causes as long as they use Luntz’s words to do it. If you want to repeal the Estate Tax, rename it the Death Tax. If you want to cut taxes on high-income earners, call it abolition of the marriage penalty. If you want to open up public lands to timber companies, call it the Healthy Forests Act. And on and on it goes. The one time they forgot to ask Luntz for the magic words, their proposal to privatize Social Security went down in flames. He tried to help, but switching from “private accounts” to “personal accounts” so late in the game failed to take hold and convinced no one. I shudder to think what would have happened if Frankie boy had been on the case from the start. If he had, we would all be looking at pretty bleak twilight years I’m sure.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Welcome To The Party: Pay Your Admission At The Door

On the eve of indictments of senior members of the Bush administration it is of course a happy day for Democrats, a long overdue comeuppance for a reckless group of neo-cons drunk with power. But what have we really learned as a party?

Politics may be a spectator sport for many of us, but it’s time to face the fact that democracy is not. We can no longer sit on the sidelines and watch a false competition between two supposedly opposing teams. Politics today is nothing more than an exhibition game arranged by multi-national corporate sponsors for the sole purpose of keeping the populace distracted and entertained. We the people are sitting in the bleachers enjoying the game but certainly not participating in it. We may believe that our shouts and cheers influence the action on the field, but we are just fooling ourselves. We are a captive audience in a controlled environment, forced to pay exorbitant prices for our sustenance and to wait in long lines in order to utilize the facilities. America is now one giant professional sports stadium. We, the taxpayers, subsidize its construction and are allowed to participate in the events if we are willing to pay for the privilege. The cost is spread amongst many while the benefits go to the few. This is the “democracy” we live in.

The Bush administration will be dealt a serious blow in the coming days and I hear tales of the Democratic Party leadership hammering out a strategy to maximize the damage to the GOP, but what will really be accomplished? Crippling the current administration will certainly slow down the damage, but it will take much more than criminal indictments and sharp criticism from the left to change the direction of the country. I hear a lot of talk about accountability in government, but I hear little about accountability of party. George Bush and Congressional Republicans are now seeing a backlash from their base because of their reckless economic policies and the embattled nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. In effect, they have bitten the hand that feeds them and they are beginning to feel the sting. The problem for the Democratic base is that we have no leverage with our leaders. The corporate hands that pass out the cash during election season feed not only their party but our party as well. Unfortunately for us, Democrats are unlikely to make the same mistake their “opponents” have. We are not the hand that feeds them, so should we really be surprised when they fail to serve our interests?

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Color Of Dissent: Preparing For The Stolen 2006 Mid-Term Elections

In November 2004 the election results were in and there were discrepancies between the exit polling and the official results. There were widespread reports of voter fraud and voter intimidation. Collin Powel said in a press briefing, “We cannot accept this result as legitimate because it does not meet international standards and because there has not been an investigation of the numerous and credible reports of fraud and abuse." The White House issued a statement saying that the United States is "deeply disturbed by extensive and credible indications of fraud in the presidential election”. George W. Bush went on to say, "These elections ought to be open and fair. The position of our government is that the will of the people must be known and heard.” Of course, they were not referring to our election, but rather the election in the Ukraine.

When US policy demands that a democratic election be overturned in a foreign country (on those rare occasions when we are unable to rig it before hand) we use exit polls and immediate activation of organized “protests” by the people to do it. One must only look to the election in the Ukraine to see how it works and how effective it can be. While our own election was riddled with fraud and our exit polls indicated there were serious problems with the official results, instead of watching Americans up in arms and demanding a fair accounting of the election process on television, we watched Ukrainians doing it in their country. The protestors in the Ukraine had two important things that those who protested the election here at home did not, strong organization and more importantly, an easily identifiable marker of dissent.

The CIA knows that in order to get the number of protestors to swell, they must make it easy to identify and easy to join. That way, those who are inclined to add their voices, can add them to an already robust choir. A flourishing movement will sweep people up, trying to get one going, now that’s the hard part. In the Ukraine, it was as simple as the color orange. Orange signs, orange shirts, orange armbands and orange hats were on display everywhere. Ukrainians who were inclined to challenge the election were able to look out of their window, see the orange all around them and know that they were not alone. They could walk outside, join the sea of orange and have their sense of solidarity increased as they were immediately handed an orange armband of their own, now marking them as one of many in a fight against injustice. No one wants to be the lone dissenter against the power structure, but most of us are energized by the act of joining a crowd with a common cause.

For those of us who believe that the next election is only going to bring more of the same, we should start preparing now to fight the injustice we know is coming. We should be stocking up on bright orange shirts and hats and hording bright orange fabric and start sewing away on those armbands and flags that people can attach to their car antennae (we know how much Americans love to decorate their cars). Orange paper to print up flyers to pass out on the street and post up on every telephone pole and orange banners to place on freeway overpasses and orange stickers (you know, for kids). By having an easily identifiable marker of dissent, an instant community is created. After the 2004 election, those of us who knew there was something fishy going on, were left alone to wander the streets scowling at people around us wondering, “are you one of the idiots that voted for this jerk?” Imagine instead walking down the street and having our eyes drawn to all the orange t-shirts and bumper stickers around us, pointing out all of the people of like minded dissent. Instead of a feeling of hopelessness, we would all be comforted by the knowledge that we are not alone and fueled by the possibility that our numbers will grow.

So we must prepare for the next election by making sure we are registered to vote or by knocking on doors for candidates or issues that we believe in or by writing to our elected officials telling them we have no intention of voting in unverifiable elections, but whatever else we do, let’s give some thought to what we will do after the election results come in. Hopefully we will have no need for orange in our future, but let’s also hope that if we do, there will be plenty of it visible from our windows and that it spreads like wildfire all across the country.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Death By A Thousand Cuts

My best friend recently asked me how I thought the current political climate is affecting women. A great question indeed! Here are a few things that immediately come to mind.

When politics become this divisive, many important issues get shut out and alliances that would be natural in a more civil environment, become non-existent. When it becomes necessary to play to the base of the Republican Party in order to stay in power, crossing party lines to act on legislation that many moderates would approve of becomes simply impossible. When bipartisanship dies, so too does the agenda of women’s issues. There are plenty of Republican women who believe that providing healthcare for poor children is an important issue. They may also agree with expanding affordable childcare so that women with children can pursue a career without spending up to 75% of their income on securing a safe place for their children to be while they do so. Instead of acting in the best interests of their constituencies, Republican women in the House and the Senate are instead voting in lockstep with the white male Republican leadership in order to help them hold on to their waning control. God forbid any of them should show up with a positive rating from NOW or the League of Women Voters. That would certainly put a damper on fundraising in the mega churches.

The other trend I see is that the neo-conservative and neo-religious rhetoric coming out of Washington has emboldened Republicans around the country. Religious fanatics are bringing their religion to work and trying to change corporate policy and state legislatures are pushing bills that further their agenda of restricting women’s reproductive rights. With Roe v. Wade solidly supported by the majority of the country, the radical right has decided to use the same strategy they employed to get creationism into their school curriculums, they are going local. Check your state legislature and you will most likely find a bill that has either passed or is pending that allows pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control pills and emergency contraception if it goes against their religious beliefs. Most of the bills go even further and prohibit hospitals from discriminating against anyone who refuses to participate in any procedure that they believe goes against their religion. You better hope you don’t find yourself in a private hospital suffering from an ectopic pregnancy, one of these laws could very well kill you.

Beyond the political posturing that demeans women’s issues and the pushing of legislation that attempts to strip us of our rights, are the real life effects of Republican policies. Real wages have dropped by about $1700 a year and over a million people have slipped into poverty since George W. Bush took office. It will come as no surprise that women are baring the brunt of his failing policies and this flailing economy. In the 80’s the single mother was used as a scapegoat for all of the nation’s social ills. If only women would stay married and stay at home to raise their children, the country wouldn’t be suffering with rising teen pregnancy rates and escalating violence in our schools. At least 20 years ago we were talking about the difficulties faced by single mothers. Now they slip silently into poverty without a thought to anyone in government or the media.

So I guess the short answer to my friend’s question is, the current political climate is killing women, literally and figuratively. For most of us it’s not a sudden death by a fanatical Christian pharmacist refusing us the medication we need because he finds it immoral or a nurse walking out of the operating room at a critical point in a life saving procedure because of his religious beliefs, instead it is a death by a thousand cuts. The loss of a voice in the political realm, the loss of the right to self determination when it comes to our own bodies, the loss of real wages that allow us to provide for our families and the lack of attention by the media on any of the issues that concern women most. They are killing us softly and in the dark with no one left to shine a light on the suffering.

Friday, October 21, 2005

My Hardball Hangover

It feels like the calm before the storm. For the past several weeks there has been a continuous stream of tidbits coming out of the CIA leak investigation and by Wednesday, everything seemed to dry up. Ironically, that's when the mainstream media (MSM from now on) finally picked up on the story. I hadn't watched Hardball since the election, but I was tipped off on Wednesday that Chris Matthews was doing wall-to-wall coverage of the story so I tuned in. I felt a little dirty from the experience, but it was nice to see the scared faces on the screen. Even David Gergen isn't bothering to look on the bright side.

And poor Chris looks positively wrung out these days. When I last saw him, he reminded me of a jolly-faced schoolboy who's best friend had just been elected class president. There was so much optimism spilling out of him. He was positively glowing with the prospect of finally being in with the cool kids. I would feel sorry for him if I wasn't still filled with unmitigated rage over his coverage of the 2004 election (by February I had finally stopped sending him emails when I ran out of alternative names for his show. I knew when I hit Pin(head)ball, it was time to stop). It must suck to abandon everything you believe in and put your credibility on the line to shill for a frat boy who promises you the moon in return, only to be ditched by the side of the road as he speeds away from the store he just robbed (leaving you holding the bag of course). I hope testifying against him in court will give poor Chris the closure he needs. Although I did hear a rumor that Rove called Geraldo and said "Chris is fair game". Sorry honey, but I heard you trash Joe Wilson (again) tonight and what goes around, comes around and a simple dose of penicillin isn't going to get rid of what he gave you this time.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

When You Don’t Believe Your Vote Counts, What Does It Mean To Be A Democrat?

Being a liberal these days is tricky business. When you live in a democratic society, the free exchange of thoughts and ideas is essential. Conversations must take place, within our homes, our communities and within the halls of power so that the best ideas can be tried and tested, argued over and honed to achieve the ultimate goal of being implemented to the betterment of society as a whole. This is the process by which leaders are made and the vote is the method by which we hold them accountable. But how do we influence our leaders when the vote is compromised?

One of the fundamental problems with the Democratic Party is that it has moved too far to the right and it has done so out of fear. Fear by the leaders of the party that they will not raise enough campaign money. Fear that they may appear weak or worst of all, fear that conservatives will call them un-American and religious zealots will deem them Godless. But instead of fighting the charges and raising their voices to shout the ideals of our party to the people, they instead acquiesce and become the very things that they fear the most.

Liberal ideals are the same as they ever were. Liberals believe in a strong social safety net, a strong educational system for our children, health care for all people, dignity in old age, job opportunities and a living wage. Liberals understand the need for strong environmental protections, strong unions and international cooperation on global issues. Liberals fight for equal rights and protection under the law and the continual expansion of civil liberties rather than restrictions on them. Some of these issues are discussed by some of our leaders at one time or another. The problem is, all of our leaders are not discussing all of these issues all the time. But again, how do we hold our leaders accountable if our votes are not counted fairly and openly?

For a primer on why our votes are irrelevant, read this and this by, Bob Fitrakis, Steve Rosenfeld and Harvey Wasserman of the Ohio Free Press who have tirelessly researched and reported on the stolen 2004 election. Then do a little research of your own, because in order to participate in the marketplace of ideas, we must continually educate ourselves in order to affect real change. So if we believe our votes do not count or may not count at the whim of a corporate executive (after all, isn’t the effect the same), how are we to influence our leaders? How do we begin to pull the party back from its current state of offering nothing more than Republican lite? How do we bring the focus back to the issues that matter to us, the real Democrats? Do we vote in elections that we don’t believe in? Do we stop voting altogether? What are we supposed to do?

We go back to basics. We start sharing ideas and acting in ways that we can, however small. We force our leaders to accept the framework that we want to work in instead of accepting theirs. They are reluctant to discuss voter fraud and intentional voter disenfranchisement, so we must start buzzing at the bottom until the sound is so deafening, they can’t help but hear it. They know what the problems are and they have seen the effects up close. For decades Corporate America has, in large part, had the power to determine who gets to run for office and how long they remain there, simply by the power of the purse strings. With the implementation of electronic voting and proprietary vote counting software, we have handed over the counting of votes to them as well. We don’t even require that they share with us, the people, the methods they employ to do it. Any idiot can see that this is not a good idea, and most of our party leaders are not idiots. Misguided? Yes. Unprincipled? Perhaps. Stupid? Not likely.

They know that the system must be changed if we are to continue to call our country a democratic Republic, but like us, they feel powerless. Since there are more of us than there are of them, we have a better shot at coming up with the right answers anyway. Maybe we need to re-define what constitutes a Democratic Party Leader. If elections are not the way to endow them with power, then elected leaders are not appropriate vessels for change. Instead of encouraging great leaders to participate in a corrupt system, we should encourage them to change the system from the outside as activists, writers and speakers, even citizen lobbyists if necessary. If the way they get inside the system compromises them and the way they stay in compromises them further, how much good could they possibly do anyway?

It is time to start thinking outside the box. We can either continue to be disappointed by the likes of the DLC or we can take the control back. Give support to the few in Congress who are doing the hard work of actually speaking out about voter fraud and stop supporting those that are working against our best interests. Share ideas and support non-politicians who are taking actions that make a difference. We are Democrats, but our elected officials do not define our party, we do. They may sit in the seats of power and we may not be able to remove them by the vote, but we can strip their power by starving them of our support and more importantly, our ideas. Left on their own, they don’t stand a chance. If the system is corrupt, build another one. The Republican Party is unstable and about to come crashing to the ground. The Democratic Party structure is not much better. If we start building supports that are broader and stronger, those left clinging to their power within the old structure will eventually move to firmer ground. And when they do, there will be a stable base on which to stand. Although they may not get access to center stage, most likely that space will already be filled.

I'm ProsecutorMan!

By all accounts, the White House is currently bracing for the worst as Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation into who leaked the name of Valerie Plame draws to a close. With word coming out of Fitzgerald’s office yesterday that he has no intention of releasing a report, the options are narrowing as to the outcome. Now we’re left with indictments or an end to the investigation with no criminal indictments and no public disclosure of his findings. For a liberal political junkie, this is exciting news indeed! Just imagine the political scrambling and media feeding frenzy that will ensue, you can almost smell the fear and envision perfectly the mug shots that will undoubtedly be leaked to the press. Imagine television screens across the country tuned in to Republican operatives with their rumpled shirts and sweaty foreheads talking non-stop, desperately trying to spin the indictment of a sitting Vice President as “no big deal”. The news is almost too good to be true, and maybe it is.

Before we run out and buy champagne, clear our calendars and plan impromptu parties to celebrate the big day, let’s stop and take a collective breath. What if we’re reading all the signs wrong? What if we’re about to be caught off guard like many of us were on election night 2004? A sobering thought I know. Maybe we’ve turned the Special Prosecutor into a superhero. Perhaps we’ve pinned all our hopes for the redemption of our country on one lone lawyer. We’re holding one man responsible for finally bring these thugs in the White House to justice. We’ve turned Patrick Fitzgerald into ProsecutorMan! Able to bring down corrupt regimes in a single investigation, to restore democracy with his big brain and miraculous ability to practice law! This is not good.

We can hope for the best, but just like the White House, we should brace for the worst. On that dark night in November 2004, the myth of America was shattered. In the ensuing days, many of us cried and raged as the blinders were ripped from our eyes and we were forced to face the fact that our country had been hijacked and that the means to get it back had been ripped away from the people and handed over to private corporations. For many of us, it took months to become functioning members of society again and once we adjusted to life without our rose colored glasses and learned to live with the distracting peripheral vision we were now forced to see 24/7, we vowed never to put ourselves in that position again. We would now look at America both as it is AND as we want it to be.

Let us hope that Patrick Fitzgerald is able to bring about the beginning of the end of this criminal administration, but if he doesn’t, we will still be okay. History is filled with big names and big events, but real and lasting change is brought about by little people doing little things that when added together create a movement. Moving us toward a better way, toward a more perfect union perhaps. A little outrage never hurt either, so regardless of what the news brings next week, let us remember that we the people still hold the power. The trick is to figure out how to use it. Each of us has a role to play. It’s not up to ProsecutorMan alone.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Digging Deep

For over a year now, the FBI has been investigating the forged documents that were used by the Bush administration as the smoking gun of Saddam’s nuclear ambitions. In particular, the FBI has been trying to ferret out who forged the documents in the first place. Could it be that they have tracked down the source of the forgeries? Could it be that the trail leads to Dick Cheney’s office? And is it possible that the evidence is now in the hands of Patrick Fitzgerald? As the Plame leak investigation comes to a close, information is seeping out from all sides and at this point it seems anything is possible.

In early October 2003, there was a bare knuckles brawl going on between the Vice Presidents office and the CIA over the intelligence surrounding the claim that Saddam was trying to buy uranium from Niger. Bush was to give a speech in Ohio and they were going to use the uranium claim. The CIA went into overdrive and got the reference taken out of the speech. Of course those 16 words resurfaced months later in the State of the Union address. What changed between the Ohio speech and the State of the Union? Two days after the Ohio debacle, a miracle occurred. An Italian businessman gave a reporter documented evidence of Saddam’s uranium deal. These documents proved that Saddam was seeking uranium and it bolstered the Bush administrations case for war. The only problem was that the documents were forgeries.

The Bush administration, when faced with an obstacle to their agenda, has two ways of dealing with it. Roll over the top of it and crush it, or go around it then shoot it in the back. The former is the tactic used with Joe Wilson and the latter seems to be the favored method when dealing with reporters, for example Judith Miller. Here’s the circular method of validating information that the Bush administration has perfected:

1) Give Reporter (Judy Miller, Novak, etc.) unverified claim that will boost the case for war.
2) Reporter then writes investigative piece (for say, the front page of the New York Times) citing “senior White House officials”
3) Send White House officials (Cheney, Condi, Rumsfeld) to the Sunday news shows to hold up said newspaper and declare, “Look, the proof’s right here!”


The forged documents may very well have taken a similar route. If they did, and Patrick Fitzgerald can prove it, the story becomes NOT who’s going down, but who could possibly be left standing when this scandal breaks wide open.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Demolition of a Party

In the spring of 2000 there was a controlled demolition of the Kingdome in Seattle so the city could make way for a new stadium worthy of our Mariners. I’m not big on destruction, yet even I was drawn to the freeway overpass with a view of the impending collapse. It was truly amazing to watch something so carefully constructed brought down to the ground in a matter of seconds. As the dust cloud rose into the sky I thought of the people who had worked so hard to build the Dome and wondered if they too watched it reduced to a pile of rubble.

Five years later, I’m standing on the sidelines, watching an uncontrolled demolition this time. Not of a building, but of the Republican Party. Like the Kingdome, the GOP has been carefully constructed, but instead of years of hard work, the Republican infrastructure took decades to build. I wonder, as I did then, how those who did the hard work feel watching it come crashing down.

It’s hard not to be gleeful, watching the pillars of the party scatter in all directions leaving an unstable base of support for the massive weight of corruption at the top. Sitting back and watching the Republicans destroy themselves is certainly entertaining and a fine short-term strategy, but we need to look past the trashed landscape before us and see the possibilities beyond. Yes, politically Democrats must find the best way to capitalize on Republican failures but we must also put our vision into words so that the American people will be able to see what we hope to create. Then we must do the hard work required to make that vision a reality. Not just the leaders of the party, but all of us. History teaches us that minor actions by ordinary people often create the spark for greater events that follow. Our small actions make a difference when viewed in that light.

On that spring day in 2000, once the dust settled, anyone within five miles of the Kingdome had some cleanup to do. There was a fine layer of gritty concrete dust on everything. It was a bummer, but it was easily cleaned up with a wet cloth. The cleanup from the GOP collapse will take a little longer. Slime tends to smears when you try to mop it up and it leaves a sticky residue even after several cleanings.

Harriet Miers: The Cover Your Ass Theory

It may be that Harriet Miers is a born again Christian who opposes same sex marriage and will vote to overturn Roe v. Wade and will ultimately satisfy the fringe right, but that’s not why Bush nominated her to sit on the Supreme Court. She is the “Ace in the Hole”, the “back up plan”, the “cover your ass” nominee.

While the blogisphere is abuzz with the impending Plamegate indictments, and the 24/7 (used to be)news channels are busy pumping out the regular fluff that fills our collective head like Candy Floss in the parade of crap news, Bush sits it wait hoping that Miers gets through before the indictments do. If he can just get her on the court, if he can just make sure that she’s the deciding vote on the shit storm that is about to hit, he’ll be okay.

I don’t think for a second that Bush is running anything for real, but I do believe that he believes his little toy steering wheel is driving the car. What he understands of the presidency is what my nine-year old daughter does. That it’s a powerful job that kids will be reading about one day. It’s like the kid who wants to be a rock star, but gives no thought at all to being a musician. The difference between Tommy Lee and John Lennon, is akin to the difference between (I’ll be fair here) Dwight D. Eisenhower and George W. Bush. Sure there are other motivations beyond making the world a better place, but it should be about more than having your name in a print and having girls think you’re cool.

If Bush can get good ol’ Harriet on the Supreme Court, his crimes will never be fully realized and surely never fully accounted for. It’s like Tommy Lee having the president of his fan club as the foreperson in his spousal abuse case. Both stories end the same, the bad boy doesn’t have to go to rehab, he just keeps on abusing. At least Tommy only hit his wife, Georgie beat the shit out of all of us and he will get away with it if Harriet gets confirmed. She is not the long awaited for payback for the stampede to the polls by the religious extremists; she is the lovesick schoolgirl who will erase his crimes. Bush may not know a lot about how government works (we all saw the disaster within a disaster that was the federal response to hurricane Katrina), but he knows how to get the ugly girl to vote him homecoming king. Just smile your rich boy smile and intimate that there’s more where that came from. Too bad it doesn’t work on the Senate (with the exception of Kay Bailey Hutchison, of course, who may soon be joined by Katherine Harris, but that’s a post for another time).

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Bush Crime Family?

According to Wikipedia, “The act of engaging in criminal activity as a structured group is referred to in the U.S. as racketeering.”

Does this mean that Patrick Fitzgerald may have the option of charging the White House Iraq Group, also known as WHIG, with racketeering under the RICO statute? I know that the act of bringing charges under the RICO statute involves a lot of hoop jumping and clearance from the Attorney General’s Office (read: you must get past Alberto Gonzales first), but it seems to me the possibility is there.

Do I think Fitzgerald will charge the Bush Administration with racketeering? No. But the fact that it may be possible should concern us all.

The Rats Start Jumping

Wow! According to Raw Story, The New York Daily Post is set to report that someone inside the White House is now cooperating with the Special Prosecutor in the leak investigation! Could it be that Bush and Rove have decided to throw Cheney under the bus? At this point, Bush needs Rove a heck of a lot more than he needs Cheney, so it is a possibility. Orange jumpsuits for Everyone!

Speculation On The Plame Leak Investigation

Now that it's clear Patrick Fitzgerald is going to indict both Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, the real speculation can begin. There are hints that the investigation is widening and will likely ensnare members of the White House Iraq Group in addition to Rove and Libby. Now that the news has come out the Vice President Cheney may very well be the target of the investigation (and I would guess Bush is as well), it becomes more difficult to determine exactly what crimes Fitzgerald is looking to charge them with. Clearly Rove and Libby will get slapped with perjury charges and possible obstruction as well, but what about Cheney? What about Ari Fleisher, Condi Rice, Andrew Card and my personal favorite (and number one suspect for the original source of the leak to both the Prince of Darkness Novak and Judy Miller) John Bolton?

The Financial Times is now reporting that the case seems to be widening to include not only the conspiracy to discredit Wilson by outing his wife, but also the use of intelligence in the lead up to the war. This is interesting news indeed! Does this mean that other evidence will be, or has been, reviewed by Fitzgerald? Like, say, the Downing Street Memo's? Wouldn't that be something? Many of us on the left have been calling the war in Iraq an illegal war from the beginning, but wouldn't it be great if charges were actually filed against those in power who perpetrated this shameful crime? I know it's almost too much to hope for but when speculating, I figure, aim for the stars!

The other big mystery is the original source of the leak. Like I mentioned above, my money is on Bolton, although I had a thought last night that it might be George Bush Sr. I know this seems far fetched, but let me flesh it out for you. Bush 41 once said that Joe Wilson exhibited "courageous leadership" in dealing with Saddam Hussein in the lead up to the first Gulf War. It's possible that Bush 41 had a hand in sending Joe Wilson to Niger in search of evidence to bolster the case for war. It's not like Pops is just sitting around in idle retirement. He's still got his sticky fingers in plenty of the tills that swelled to overflowing since the start of the Iraq War. When Wilson came back empty handed, and even worse, started talking to reporters about there being no there there! Poppy would have been pissed and he may have known about Valerie Plame from his close ties to the CIA or from his time in the White House. Then he could have fed the information to Novak, knowing that the Evil Soulless One would have no qualms about outing an undercover agent.

I love the irony of Bush 41 breaking the law that he himself fought to get passed, but my money's still on Bolton. He had motive and opportunity. Plus, that kind of retribution is right up his alley.